My lab felt cramped, the air warm from body heat, and my sister’s voice cut through the low murmur of people talking.
“Remember when I joked about needing an auditorium? Next time I won’t be joking.”
We’d moved my lab tables to the walls, folded them, put everything I’d been working on into boxes, and it still felt like we had no room. All the chairs had been taken, and people sat on the floor or stood next to the wall.
By people, I meant everyone in the Heroes’ League who’d come to Stapledon, plus Courtney, plus Tara, Rod, Samita, and Amy.
The monitor of my computer showed burning buildings from a distance.
I couldn’t show anything much closer than that, so we were following the news. I’d given Hal permission to send the self-destruct command to the roachbots, and during the last match he’d sent it to almost all of them.
I hadn’t asked why, but I assumed either Turkmenistan’s army or the Coffeeshop Illuminati included a technopath. Maybe both.
A reporter’s voice said, “It appears that an unknown force is attempting a superpowered overthrow of Turkmenistan’s government. We’ve yet to see any of the invaders, but we’ve seen their work-robots, animated creatures that turned into scraps of shredded paper when killed, and even the government’s own vehicles fighting against their owners—“
Rachel shook her head, staring at the screen. “I think it’s safe to say this is worse than if you’d done nothing.”
Standing next to the wall and towering over everyone, Travis shrugged. “You can’t know that. They’ve been killing their people for the last three months.”
Izzy sat on the floor near the back next to Daniel. “We need to do something. We’re responsible for starting this—“
“Nah.” Travis gave a snort. “You guys started watching, but the Coffeeshop Illuminati started this. Have you read their manifesto? They’ve got their head in the clouds, and they don’t understand a thing about the real world.”
Izzy waited until he was done, but no longer than that. “We planted the bots. Hal came up with the plans. They wouldn’t have had anything to work with if we hadn’t. That’s why it’s our responsibility.”
Next to her Daniel’s mouth twitched at the last thing she said. “We can’t. My dad sent me a text telling me—all of us—to stay out of it.”
Izzy’s mouth flattened into a line. “Why?”
Daniel looked at her, and then across the room at all of us. “Well, Dad said that it wasn’t our responsibility, and that we weren’t ready to step into a situation this complex. He’s probably right, but I’m pretty sure I know why he said it. I caught a few things after they turned off the buzzers and the politicians left.”
Everyone stared at him then. This was the kind of thing that made supers grateful to have a telepath on the team, and terrified everyone else.
“It’s no secret that Turkmenistan’s close to Russia. Russia’s government sent our government a message that they’d like the United States to stay out of it. I think that they said more than that, but I don’t know what. The only thing I know is that the Russian superheroes that Izzy… evaded? They’re going in somehow. I don’t know who they’re supporting—“
“Russia,” Vaughn suggested, grinning.
Daniel talked over them. “But if we were to go in in any way, it would become a three or four way fight with major ramifications. So I’d say that we need to stay out of this one.”
Izzy frowned. “So we’re going to sit here and let whatever happens happen?”
Daniel looked her in the eye. “We’re just going to make things worse. We don’t know enough to not make things worse. You know what I mean. People in government have contacts in Turkmenistan and in Russia, and they might be able pull all this back to something less horrible. We don’t know anybody and nobody would negotiate with us. We’d just end up fighting.”
Izzy looked down, took a breath, and looked at Daniel. “I know, but I don’t like leaving this unfinished. I feel like it’s our fault and we should be doing something.”
Daniel nodded. “We can do something. We can actually do something here. Nick’s going to tell us about it.”
Everyone turned toward me. It was unnerving.
“Ah… Yeah,” I said. “It’s like this. A fairy tricked Vaughn into giving our transcripts and plans to Stephanie and through her, the Coffeeshop Illuminati. Rod happened to be there as Adam wished me good luck during the match, and he noticed that Adam smelled of the Unseelie Court—more fairies. It’s not much of a lead, but it’s too much of a coincidence not to investigate.
“The interesting question to me is whether Adam’s using the fey, or whether the fey are using him?”