Amy landed next to me as Samita and Vincent got off my bike and I pushed it into the “garage” off of the elevator circle in the middle. In my peripheral vision, I saw that Rod had slid off Mateo’s and that Mateo was pushing his bike over as well.
Working Man waved everyone down the hall, “Conference room.”
Counting the people in my head, I stifled a groan. The conference room held six people on a good day and four comfortably. There were seven of us. Vincent wasn’t quite human-sized, but he wasn’t much smaller.
This was going to suck.
We walked out of the gray metal and concrete section of the base and into a hall with beige walls that could have passed for the office of a small business. That or maybe the hall that leads you from the lobby of an oil change shop to the bathroom?
The conference room wasn’t much larger than a bathroom.
It probably smelled better, but bearing in mind that everyone in the room had been up most of the night doing heavy exercise, that might not have been true.
Vincent eyed the small room with its round conference table, six chairs, and the wall of grey filing cabinets that covered one side, muttering, “Maybe I should sit under the table…”
I’d been wrong about the number of people. It wasn’t seven. It was eight. V8, or as I knew her, Willa, sat at the table already. She wore a black and red jumpsuit, the kind you’d imagine a NASCAR driver wearing, but with only one logo—hers, “V8” in red.
Though she wore a mask, she’d taken her helmet off, making it obvious that she was in her forties, dark-skinned, and had black, curly hair shorn less than an inch long.
“Welcome everyone, please sit down,” she looked around the room, “I know it’s a little cramped, but we won’t take too much of your time. When we designed the base, we didn’t think we’d need a conference room.”
She shook her head, rolling her eyes, “We were young and dumb. We didn’t think anyone but Working Man and I would use the base. We thought we’d meet in an office or the lab. This used to be a closet.”
She laughed, “But please, sit. Most of you will have chairs.”
“I’ll stand,” I said, partly because I felt I should and partly because standing meant I was that much less likely to bash my head against a file cabinet as I did during the last meeting.
Amy gave me a look as she sat down, possibly retaining enough of the xosk’s telepathy to know that I wasn’t being entirely altruistic. She sat in front of me, putting her in a position to bash her head against my stomach or my solar plexus if she aimed well.
Samita sat down next to her, putting her in line to hit the filing cabinets too. I wondered if her hooded red jacket amounted to armor or if the ring she wore, the one that contained a spirit of luck or something would help prevent her from getting hurt? On the other hand, it wasn’t as if she’d die from hitting a filing cabinet.
Mateo said, “I’ll stand—“ but Working Man waved at him to sit, saying, “No. Sit. I’ll stand.”
Face tightening as if he wanted to argue, Mateo sat and so did Rod and Vincent.
Taking out a bag of nuts from his utility belt, Vincent put them on the table, “If anybody wants some, you’re welcome to them.”
No one else reached into the bag. It might have felt a little weird, but it also might have been that Vincent was the only one not wearing a mask or gloves or both.
Personally, I was wearing a helmet.
Working Man looked over the group, “Let’s hear what happened. V4 and Blue Mask can start from the first vampire victim they looked at. Start from the beginning.”
That wasn’t exactly going to make for a short meeting, but it wasn’t a bad idea. Mateo and I swapped off telling what happened, starting with the very dead man through to the vampire in the marketing firm, the vampiric vegetables, and the annoyed cop in Farmington.
Vincent laughed through the battle with the watermelons. I couldn’t exactly blame him for that. Rod and Amy struggled to keep straight faces.
He stopped laughing when we got to the bit where he and his brothers were serving the vampires.
Working Man nodded along through all of it. He seemed to trade off asking questions with V8, sometimes stopping to say, “Good job,” or in the case of the xosk fight, “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Please don’t tell anybody,” I said. “I feel like it’s barely a power. It mostly just stops things from happening. I’m not saying it’s worthless, but I can do more with straight-up tech.”
Working Man nodded and didn’t make a big deal about it. It wasn’t until the very end that we seemed to get an emotional reaction out of him.
It came when we came to the point where we offered the vampires a deal that Working Man said, “You let them go? Do you know where they went?”