“Let’s do it this afternoon,” Alex said.
“Seriously?” I said. “We’re not prepared. I’m not, that’s for sure. Also, I mean, we don’t even have any sense of when the best time would be.”
“Nah. We got all that stuff from Carlos, you know, Technomage’s kid. Brooke, show him.”
Brooke reached across the table and touched my hand, putting us into mental contact.
It felt different than when Daniel did it. I’m not sure how best to describe it. With as many years as Daniel and I had been friends, the mental contact itself felt natural, but we’d connected so often I barely thought about it.
With Brooke, I immediately felt a strong sense of her surprise.
Brooke: You’re sure you’re not a telepath? Because if you aren’t, somebody’s put a lot of work into your head.
Me: I’m not, but I’d bet I’ve spent more time talking mind to mind than most people.
Brooke: You’ve got the rudiments of a shield. Many people who know telepaths do. But behind the shield is something else again. Whoever created it was preparing for all out telepathic war. I’m not even sure I should be in here.
Brooke: Wait. I can do this. As long as you deliberately accept what I’m giving you, it shouldn’t trigger anything.
Me: I’m ready.
I sensed another mind. Not a mind that was there. More of a recording. Carlos’ mind, I guessed — and not all of it, just one very specific memory.
I sensed streams of data. An address. A building. The roads around it. The average number of cars on those roads at any given time of the day. The number of people that entered that building. The time of entry. The number of vehicles that exited that building. Their make. Their model. Their year. Then I had security camera footage from inside the building. Satellite footage of the outside. Building plans…
Aloud, Brooke said, “See?”
She’d withdrawn her hand.
“That was amazing. What else can that kid do?”
“He’s got the same powers as his dad,” she said.
“Right,” Alex said, “I’d say we’ve got all in the information we need. You’ve got your equipment and we can grab ours. This is going to be great.”
* * *
In some ways, I knew better than to listen to him. I knew about his father’s powers. Preserver could heal people, but that wasn’t all. Even when he wasn’t deliberately healing people, his presence did something to the bodies of the people around him, allowing them to work at their maximum mental and physical potential.
It took a little while for it to start, but just having been in Alex’ presence for the morning, I felt good, clear headed and refreshed.
I didn’t trust the feeling. I knew he wasn’t directly affecting my brain, but feeling generally good had to be why I was going along with an idea this obviously bad.
Alex had thought it through though. Thanks to Carlos, we knew everything about Syndicate L’s use of that garage, and during the afternoons, they didn’t use it much. This was the garage with the secret equipment. You don’t tool around town in a car with secret missile launchers without a good reason.
The other pieces of the plan were easily covered by the skills and abilities of everyone there.
So, by the time found myself suiting up, I realized that I was committed. Not that I suited up in the house. I went into the bathroom off of Alex’ room and changed. Everyone else stayed in their clothes.
“All our stuff is at Center,” Alex said
Then Brooke opened up a gateway and we all walked through into a room that reminded me of nothing more than that bit in the Matrix where Neo gets outfitted with guns.
As armories went, it felt less oppressive than I’d expected. It had white walls and a sunroof the length of the room. Unsurprisingly, guns hung on the walls, but few of them were the conventional sort that used bullets. Alex, Brooke and Jenny grabbed equipment and then Brooke opened another gate.
We stepped through. This room looked like a combination rec room and command center. Think round with white walls, painted steel beams, and enormous windows. Downtown Los Angeles surrounded us on all sides — skyscrapers, parking garages, shops… We were at the top floor and at least ten stories up, hanging above a building that had two other towers just like this one.
“This is the South California Defenders Center?” I asked.
“The junior Defenders room,” Alex said. “Give us a second while we change.”
They walked over to a walled off area in the center of the room and went inside. I occupied myself by looking through the room. It had a pool table, a foosball table, computers, and a large TV in front of the walled off space.
I found the remote and turned on the TV just about the same time Alex walked out. SuperTV was showing a studio interview with Guardian. I changed it to CNN.
Alex strapped on his utility belt as he stepped around the corner. He wore a white long coat over a grey, armored jumpsuit, somehow combining the look of a cowboy and a knight. Two guns hung from his belt. Both had flat barrels.
He swung his helmet as he walked, holding it with his right hand.
“I should have asked you before, but what are you guys’ codenames?”
“I’m calling myself Paladin. Jenny’s Flame Legion, and Brooke’s Portal.”
“Isn’t Portal taken?”
“Nah,” Alex said. “The last Portal retired in 1995. We looked it up. It’s open. Well, it was.”
Jenny came out wearing a red jumpsuit, a rifle, a couple guns, and what looked like a very full utility belt.
“Flame Legion?” I asked. “I understand the legion part, but where does the flame come from?”
“My mom’s never been an active hero, but she can do this…” A flame appeared in her palm. “At maximum, I can get maybe a ten foot stream… I’d show you, but the fire alarms would probably go off.”
Brooke came out as Jenny talked. She wore a silvery costume that flowed as she walked.
She saw me staring and looked a little embarrassed. “My dad got it for me as soon as he heard Alex and I were going on patrol sometimes. It’s Xiniti technology.”
It changed from blue to green and then chameleon-style matched the room behind her, making her appear to be a disembodied head for a moment.
“Is there any way I could get a sample?”
“I’m sure my Dad would kill me.”
Alien technology. I made a mental note to watch if any pieces fell off during a fight.
“Alright,” Alex said, “we’re ready. Let’s do it.”
“Just a second,” Jenny said.
There were four of her.
“Now I’m ready.”