“I’m not supposed to.”
We stood outside another massive house in the same subdivision. This one had probably won some kind of architectural award. I say that because it looked strange. All white walls with huge glass windows that stretched from the first floor to the top of the house, the house curved and bulged all over, reminding me of a collection of toadstools.
A little boy sat on his bike in the driveway. He couldn’t have been more than ten.
“My dad said I have to ask him first.”
Alex crouched, keeping his head level with the kid’s. “Look, you know we’re the good guys. My mom and dad work with your mom and dad, right?”
“So how about I buy you some ice cream and you find Syndicate L’s local headquarters?”
“My dad said you’re not allowed to give me ice cream.”
Alex glanced over at Brooke, and then said, “Did he say anything about popsicles?”
“Can I have a grape one?”
* * *
“I’ve been waiting since I don’ t know how long to try this one. It’s going to be great.”
Vigilante pranksterism aside, we were walking out of Alex’ house to the swimming pool. They kept extra bathing suits around the house for just such an emergency.
I couldn’t say I liked the suit. I might have liked it better if it came with a sign that said “This is Not My Purple Speedo.”
On the other hand, it fit.
“There’s something weird about using a pool when you’ve got an ocean in front of your house,” I said.
“The pool’s heated, but the ocean’s cold today. Trust me on this one.”
I was about to ask him what the water temperature was when he ran across the concrete and dived in, coming up for air next to Brooke. For them at least, the next hour turned out to be all about splashing each other and pushing each other into the water.
I can’t say I didn’t do any of that, but I didn’t do as much.
Mostly, I found myself leaning against the wall in the shallow end of the pool, talking to Jenny.
As Alex pushed Brooke off the diving board, I asked her, “Are they going out?”
“I wish. They’ve been just about to go out for months.”
“Desperately. You know how in movies or on TV they have the obligatory ‘person of color’ best friend who everybody confides in? That’s been me for the last four months. Brooke worries about whether going out with him would ruin their friendship. Alex wants to know what he should buy her for her birthday. I’m living a season of Friends.”
“Totally okay. It is curious. Anyway, I hear you’re going out with… Night Cat?”
“How’d you find out about that?”
“A little research I did while watching national television. She took your hand after the news conference last fall?”
“Oh, right, but, technically we weren’t going out at the time.”
“But you are now, so…”
“Are you asking me to confide in you?”
She splashed me.
Then she said, “We’re just talking right now. If you start confiding in me, I’m getting out of the pool.”
“She’s happy. I’m happy. Um… anything else?”
“You have to have more to say than that.”
So I told her about the night Haley and I fought Man-machine, and how we started talking to each other. After that (and I’m not sure how), conversation turned to their team.
“Right now,” Jenny said, “we’re calling ourselves ‘Three.'”
“And if you get another member, you’re going to call yourselves… Four?”
“I don’t know, if we ever do, maybe we’ll change it. Or maybe we won’t and just let people wonder if we can count.
“Besides,” she continued, “I don’t think we’ll need another member. Our powers complement each other like you wouldn’t believe. If we ever get the chance to do something big, I think we’ll surprise everybody.”
“You’d have the perfect opportunity here. New York and LA are metahuman central.”
“Which makes it that much harder to stand out, and it’s not like our parents let us do anything. They’ll let us tag along, but that’s all. If anything, we envy you.”
“Seriously? That’s bizarre.”
Alex and Brooke walked down the side of the pool.
“Hey,” Alex said, “let’s get out of here. We’ve got to plan.”
They grabbed their towels off the table. Jenny and I pulled ourselves up the side, following them.
As I dried myself off, two kids, a boy and a girl, ran out of the sliding door on the far side of the pool, jumping in just a couple feet from us.
“And here comes the other reason Alex wanted to go,” Jenny began. Alex and Brooke had already slipped away.
The door the kids came through slid open again. A dark haired woman in a black bathing suit walked through, carrying towels and an inflatable raft. I recognized her.
Remembering her costume, I had an easier time identifying her in the bathing suit than I would have in normal clothes. Lady Deathtouch had turned herself in ten years ago, transforming herself from femme fatale to suburban mom in the meantime.
“Hi Sylvia,” Jenny said.
Sylvia came around the pool toward us. She dropped the raft next to the pool and put the towels on the table.
She shook my hand. “You’re Nick? Nice to meet you. I met your grandfather once.”
“I heard about that,” I said. It had been in the early eighties, just before his retirement. She was indirectly responsible for the suit’s air filtering system.
Jenny nodded her head toward the door. “We should catch up with Alex.”
* * *
On the way to Alex’ room, I told Jenny, “She didn’t seem that bad.”
“I don’t think so, but she’s not my stepmom.”
Alex’ room was on the second floor and had a balcony with a table and chairs. We all changed into clothes before meeting out there.
“Here’s the idea,” Alex said, “Syndicate L does a lot of transportation so they’ve got a pile of vehicles. We take anything we can — cars, trucks, whatever, but especially anything illegal — and ditch them all over town.”