Another thought popped into my head. “Oh, and if we can manage it, we need to come up with some way to track it even though it looks exactly like a normal human when it’s not transformed and the only way a person can know the difference is with magic.”
Chris shook his head. “So what you’re saying is that we just have to do the impossible? Got it.”
I leaned back against the counter. “I’ve been thinking and I might have a way. What do you think about this? The goobots, goo guns are all based on the same technology. Basically the goo changes form on my direction. I’m thinking that if someone can hit Thingy with a goobot, I might be able make the goo and a GPS chip soak deeply enough into his clothing that he can’t see it’s there.”
Nodding, Chris said, “You won’t be able to tag him without finding him at least once, but I don’t see how we’d do anything else.”
I sighed. “Yeah, me neither.”
Chris’ eyes drifted toward a few laundry baskets in the corner where I kept materials for my suit and other projects. They were filled with small gray squares, mostly made of ceramic, with nanotech design elements that were invisible to the human eye.
He turned back to me. “Can you reconfigure the new costumes to include goo guns with a software update?”
“Yes,” I said, turning around to bring a computer out of stand by mode and show Chris the plans for the costume. The program visualized the suit with gray indicating the simpler ceramic parts, red lines that showed where power traveled, blue for data, variations on colors to show different varieties, and altogether different colors and labels to show unusual materials or elements.
At that point, it became a lot like it always had been when we worked. He asked questions (”Why did you do that?”) to the point that it sometimes became irritating, but then he’d point out some way to simplify the design or make it more efficient.
However it had happened, we’d managed to inherit our grandfathers’ basic strengths. My grandfather tended to create breakthrough designs that were idiosyncratic and hard to recreate or maintain for anyone but himself. Chris’ grandfather had been better at making the small improvements that made machines work better as well as designing modular powered armor that almost anyone could modify.
They’d learned a lot from destroying each other’s armor and reverse engineering it. Grandpa credited Man-machine (Chris’ grandfather) for improving the Rocket suit beyond anything he could have managed on his own. Chris’ grandfather said much the same thing back in the old days, but with more of a sneer.
Chris and I had a simpler method. It was saying, “Hey, can you look at this?” Then Chris or I would walk over to the other person’s monitor, ask questions, suggest changes and go on from there. By the end of an hour, Chris had made some suggestions that kept the goo gun’s energy use a little lower and spread out the weight.
He’d also asked me, “What’s the limit on shapes that the goo can make?”
I’d said, “None that I know of,” but that had started me thinking about all the possibilities and what we might do with them.
All things considered, though, it was fun, reminding me of what it had been like to do Science Olympiad with him.
“Hey,” Chris said, “there’s something that happened last year while you were busy at college that I should mention.”
I turned to find that he was frowning a little. He shook his head. “I told Haley, Sydney, Camille, and Marcus when it was all going on.”
Chris stood next to the counter. “Last spring, my grandfather started teaching me about his system for designing powered armor and mechs. That was kind of fun, but last spring was also when I came out as gay to my parents and that didn’t go well at all. My dad was already upset because I was spending so much time with my grandfather… They never got along.”
He shook his head. “I moved in with my grandparents because it had gotten so uncomfortable. Things are better now. I’m thinking maybe I’ll move back home soon.”
I found that I’d completely stopped thinking about the goo’s chemistry. “Wow. I had no idea that you were gay, or well, any of that. I mean, literally no idea.”
Chris nodded. “I know. There wasn’t a great time to tell you. I was dealing with everything about the same time you were taking apart that alien robot which was right after you guys had literally saved St. Louis from being blown up by alien technology… I wasn’t going to interrupt you in the middle of all that.”
Thinking back to the time, I wondered what I would have said. It was probably for the best that he hadn’t told me. I’d been distracted that whole time. I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t have said, “Huh.”
That wouldn’t have gone over well.
We would have talked more about it, but then I received a text message from Haley. “We’ve got some ideas. You want to come over?”