Quickly Haley said, “I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but were you planning on going in costume? I don’t think any of us have real clothes along.”
I thought about that, imagining going into restaurant as we were. For all I knew, Izzy might sometimes use what she was wearing as workout clothes. Plus, eating with the Rocket suit’s helmet on was possible, but ugh…
Then I said, “Do you think IHOP does take out?”
She said, “Nick, everybody does take-out.” She straightened up in her seat. “So let’s go. I’m hungry too.”
From behind us, Cassie said, “Good. Because if you were going to say that we shouldn’t get food, I was really going to argue.”
The logistics of buying a stack of pancakes while in costume turned out to be more complicated than you’d expect.
First you’ve got to decide which IHOP to go to, and it turns out that even though one IHOP is pretty much exactly like every other IHOP in the U.S., people still have opinions. My thoughts were that we ought to go someplace in a small town or a lone restaurant next to a highway exit someplace.
I looked over IHOP locations, explaining what I was looking for as I went.
“No,” Vaughn leaned forward, looking over my shoulder. “We ought to go to one that’s in a city.”
I turned away from the screen to look at him. “Why?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Could be fun to see how they react. If we’re supposed to be some kind of big deal now, it’d be cool to see what that’s like.”
Izzy spoke up, and her tone wasn’t happy. “People just died, and you want to see what it’s like to be famous?”
Vaughn raised his hand, the light reflecting off his glossy black costume. “Whoa. I didn’t mean it that way. I just thought it’d be fun. That’s all.”
Daniel cut in before anyone else could. “I’m sure Vaughn didn’t mean anything disrespectful. I’ve got to admit, I’m a little curious if we notice any difference. The League’s already famous—even if it’s mostly because of who we’re descended from.”
Izzy sighed. “That’s the last thing I want to be famous for.”
No one said anything for a little while after that. We were all thinking about how her great-grandfather had been “Dixie Superman” and fought not only the Heroes League, but also racial integration, civil rights, and “miscegenation.” Ironically, Dixie Superman’s son, her grandfather, married her grandmother—who happened to be Hispanic.
Breaking the silence, Vaughn said, “I get that.”
Haley reached across the dashboard to tap on my screen. “There?”
“That’s what I was thinking.” She’d tapped the city of Wood River, Illinois. It was a little north of St. Louis, and it didn’t look like a big city at all.
She reached out, clicked on her screen, and the gravitics gave us more altitude. Even with the inertial dampers, Vaughn noticed the buildings outside the windows tilt, and sat back in his seat, strapping himself in.
“You could have told me,” he muttered.
“I could have.” She leveled out the jet, smiling quietly.
Meanwhile I called the Wood River IHOP. Haley didn’t let the jet go too quickly, or we’d have been there almost instantly. As I finished telling them our order, the man on the other end said, “And whose name should I put on the order?”
I thought about that. “You’re not going to believe it if I say it.”
“Let me be the judge of that.”
“I’m the Rocket.”
“Tell you what,” I said, “if the League jet doesn’t show up out of nowhere to pick up the food, I’ll admit that you’re right.”
So then it was on—kind of.
The Wood River, IL IHOP wasn’t one of those franchise restaurants that sits next to a highway, obscure simply as a result of existing. This IHOP sat close to the edge of town, but on a road next to other chains on one side—Walgreens, McDonalds, and strip malls—and on the other small, suburban houses.
Haley landed the jet in the parking lot of the next building over—an out-of-business Mexican restaurant.
I got up to walk over there, and Daniel got up to go with me. Vaughn popped his straps off as the hatch opened, and followed us out.
“I’m just here to help carry the food,” he said.
The three of us walked across the snow covered lawn to the entrance. The IHOP didn’t have an entrance on the Mexican restaurant side.
I felt a little weird about it. On the one hand, I long ago lost any self-consciousness I’d had about walking around in the Rocket suit. On the other, I could still appreciate the absurdity of the situation.
I couldn’t deny that crossing the snow in the day’s earliest light with Vaughn in his black, multi-pocketed costume, and Daniel in his own black, but sleeker costume felt a little weird.
Plus, anyone inside had to have seen the jet land.
We walked inside. It wasn’t busy. Not even a quarter of the tables had people sitting at them. Well, theoretically sitting. As we walked through the doors, a few of them were walking back from the windows and sitting down at their seats.
Everyone was staring at us.
A local radio station played over the sound system. I don’t know what the format was normally, but this morning it was all talk.
“—don’t know the current death toll, but it appears to be almost impossibly light—“
A slightly overweight, middle-aged man stood behind the podium.
“I’m the Rocket,” I said, “I called in an order a few minutes ago.”
The man said, “I… ah… Well, I didn’t, I…”
I felt Daniel’s telepathic connection in my head. He didn’t believe it was us, so he didn’t put in the order.
They filled the order twenty minutes later. It would have felt longer, but we spent most of the time autographing napkins.