Outside of shock, I didn’t have much of a reaction.
When I hung up, I turned to Daniel, who had undoubtedly been listening to both sides of the conversation, and asked, “So now what?”
“We go to the hospital. This is going to be big.”
“Like maybe too big for us?”
Daniel shrugged. “Everything’s too big for everyone the first time. If we get stuck, we’ll call somebody.”
“Think we could get in as ourselves?”
“I doubt it.”
I opened my door and put the phone back in its charger on the table in the hall.
* * *
Daniel drove us down to Grandpa’s house and we changed. I went in full armor. We flew out of the exit in the forest in Veterans Memorial Park.
Even though Daniel couldn’t fly as fast as the Rocket suit, it still didn’t take very long to get downtown to the hospital. We landed on the roof, near the helicopter pad.
As many times as I’d done it, I still thought it was cool to be flying. The city lights dotted the darkness, little islands of human handiwork keeping back the night.
“Just a second,” Daniel said, “I’ll go find him.”
Then he stepped off the edge of the roof.
I waited around for him, hoping I wouldn’t have to explain what exactly I was doing there.
He floated back up in a little while and landed next to me.
“He’s in surgery now. They’ve got a lot to close up. Nick, this is bad. The guy who beat on him was an actual supervillain.”
“How’d it happen?”
“Experience it yourself.”
And then I was there. Keith lay in bed watching Mythbusters. His arm hung in a sling. It surprised me a little that it wasn’t in a cast, but I supposed they might be worried about whether it might expand again unpredictably.
Outside the room, I could hear nurses talking, and something beeping, but none of the frantic running of a bad hospital drama.
In any case, Keith didn’t look too badly off — at least for a little while.
Then the window broke. Glass fell across the floor and Keith made a wordless sound of surprise.
A man climbed into the room. His skin appeared to be metal and a line of spikes ran down the front of his chest, down his spine, and across the bottom of his forearms.
Keith struggled to get off the bed, but fell on the floor.
The metal skinned man leaned across the bed, pulled Keith off the floor like he didn’t weigh anything, and held him in the air.
“I saw you on TV the other day.” The metal man smiled. Even his teeth were metal spikes. “And I said to myself, ‘This kid has potential.’ And you do. You’ve got the potential to put me and my friends in charge of the biggest group of psychos in the Midwest. Do you know who I am?”
Even if Keith didn’t, I did, but it turned out that Keith knew too.
Keith’s voice sounded just a step away from panic.
“You’re a winner. Somebody ring the goddamn bell.” Spike turned his head toward the room’s door. “How about you?”
A policeman stood in the doorway. I pegged him as being in his late 20’s. He held his right hand near, but not on his gun. “Put the boy down.”
“Or you’ll what? Shoot me? Save yourself some trouble and leave.”
The cop had balls of steel though, and in the face of a fight he had to know was unwinnable, he didn’t back down.
“Let’s just step back and talk,” the policeman began, but he didn’t get to finish.
Dropping Keith, Spike struck a blow with one long arm and the policeman disappeared, thumping against a wall in hallway.
Shutting the door, Spike said, “I’d prefer a private conversation.”
Spike grabbed Keith again, lifting him up toward the ceiling.
“We’ve got to talk. Who made the power juice? Was it you? Someone else?”
Keith hung limp in his arms. The skin below his eyes seemed shiny — possibly from tears.
Keith didn’t say anything.
“Protecting the guy? I respect that. It’s not very healthy, but I respect it.”
Spike lowered Keith to the floor, let go with his right hand, but held on to Keith with his left.
Spike’s fingers reshaped themselves into knife blades.
He grabbed Keith’s face, making little cuts on his cheeks and chin.
That’s the point at which I’d have changed the channel if it were on TV or had Daniel stop. Unfortunately he’d just stuffed the memory into my head all at once. I knew the whole thing from beginning to end.
Let’s just say that Keith gave Spike his uncle’s name and address before Spike amputated anything, but after some fairly nasty punches and puncture wounds.
I became aware of myself again as Daniel shook my armor.
“Rocket,” he said, “did you get it all?”
“Yeah. We’d better get over there. It’s probably too late, but… Also, we’ll need everyone else. Spike’s part of a team. There’s his twin brother for one and then a couple other guys.”
“I know. I already sent everybody a yellow.” He held up the old Heroes League ring we’d handed out the first time we’d gotten together as a team. It glowed. With any luck, everyone else was wearing their own trinket.
I plugged Keith’s uncle’s address into my GPS and blasted off, Daniel just behind me.