Loose Ends: Part 5

I raised an eyebrow. “How?”

Isaac leaned forward, glancing over at Tara and then at me. “I have contacts all over the superhero community and it shouldn’t surprise either of you that Nick’s not the only one I’ve got trying to infiltrate the Nine. One of them let me know that the Nine were after me about the time that Dr. Hansen tried to mind control you.

“Those of us who are working to find the Nine’s people in our government have escape plans in place. I’m not going to go into details, but we’re prepared. So, when you went in, I’d already notified Dr. Griffin that she was on her own temporarily and that I was in one of our safe houses. I did what I could to keep informed while some of our people watched who was sent after me and traced where their orders came from. Now we’ve got a better picture of who their assets are.”

He smiled, “But I still haven’t told you how you helped me. More than anything else, it was your decision to broadcast everything—even more than the documents you brought back. The broadcast connected the Nine to Hardwick, Protection Force, and Higher Ground’s management publicly—too publicly for them to make it all disappear. And that meant that it wasn’t possible to make me disappear. The people I’m working with have pull of their own, but they’ve got to be careful about using it. We don’t want to call attention to ourselves—which meant that they might not be able to act to save me.

“I’m grateful you did even though I’m sure you had no idea you were.”

I nodded. “I wanted to put Protection Force on the record for anything they did against us. I didn’t know I’d be putting them on record for working with Rook or using Abominator tech.”

Lim nodded. “We had hints of it, but only hints—nothing solid that we could use to arrest anyone.”

Then he shook his head. “You know their leader? Jared Curtis? He survived and we caught him. He was unconscious and our people kept him that way long enough to remove the Abominator relic that gave him his abilities. It was inside him. It made for a nasty surgery, but he’s alive and we’ve got the device.”

Remembering back to fighting him, I asked, “What’s going to happen to it?”

Despite the device that he’d said shielded us, Lim checked around before talking, “There’s a national program for storing Abominator tech. Imagine the big room at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We’re going to send it to them and hope it stays there.”

Despite having my own guess answer to the obvious question, I asked it anyway, “Why do you think that it won’t stay there?”

Lim sighed, “The Nine, but our own military would want it even without the Nine. Plus, I’m sure there are peaceful uses for the technology. Plenty of people know what it can do and want it.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I could even make an argument that I’d made it worse by streaming our fight. On the other hand, you could also argue I’d made the technology look worse. Jared Curtis had lost the fight and to the viewer it probably looked like it couldn’t get through the Rocket armor.

“What happens to Protection Force?” I asked.

Lim shrugged, “Exactly what you’d expect. They employed a former criminal with ties to the Nine that became more obvious during your fight. They attempted to attack you even though you weren’t attacking them and they used lethal force. There’s an investigation going. Depending on how high it goes, it might be the end of Protection Force as a business. If it was just this group we may find ourselves prosecuting, ‘a few bad apples,’ instead of the organization.”

Leaning back in his chair, Lim eyed me. “Out of curiosity, how did streaming work out on your end? I’ve always assumed it made a lot of money for Kid Biohack.”

Nodding, I admitted, “I got a few emails from the people who manage our social media. They’d like us to do more streaming. I don’t know how much money it made, but it did make money. It wasn’t in the same league as the money we make from toys or anywhere near what we make off patents the original Rocket registered, but it’s still noticeable. Also, I guess the group’s social media accounts got a lot more followers. I wasn’t trying for that. I turned it on and got too busy to turn it off. I thought about it a couple of times, but the moment never seemed to be right until the end.”

Isaac laughed. “I’m not complaining. I watched all of it after I heard it was on. There were a couple of times when you blacked out. What happened there?”

I paused. Did I want to let him in on it? Then I said, “I want to tell you, but right now I need more information too. I’ll let you know if it becomes necessary.”

Lim looked me over and nodded. “We all have our secrets. If it turns out to be a problem that keeps you out of the suit, don’t feel like you have to continue. We want you in it, but not if there’s a medical problem that will make it difficult.”

Shaking my head, I said, “It’s not a medical problem. It’s a side effect of one of the things that kept me alive versus Rook’s Abominator tech. It should be better next time. This was the first time in the field.”

Lim nodded, “New technology? I get it. That never goes perfectly. Do you have any other questions?”

“I don’t think so.” I looked over at Tara. “Do you?”

Tara laughed, her face hidden behind her green and white mask. “Me? So many, but Agent Lim answered the ones that he could. He’s actually got me asking your former co-workers questions as they get their things. I haven’t found any that are secretly part of the Nine, but there’s still most of the afternoon to go.”

Lim laughed. “She’s been useful.”

I’d gotten him away from asking questions about the blackouts, hopefully without making him suspicious. Lim had always struck me as trustworthy, but I couldn’t dump the whole story of Lee, his people’s plan for multi-universal genocide of all intelligent life but themselves, and my relation to them on Lim now.

Maybe not ever.

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