I tried to remember. Had Kid Biohack ever seen my face? I didn’t think so. I didn’t even know his real first name. He’d graduated from Stapledon before I got there. Still, we knew some of the same people. It wasn’t impossible that he’d recognize me if Stapledon’s block permitted them to show a picture to another Stapledon graduate.
On the other hand, he’d shown up the year we fought The Thing That Eats—my sophomore year at Grand Lake University. He probably hadn’t looked at my picture often enough in the last two and half years to recognize me. Plus, Daniel hadn’t been around for much of that while Cassie had only shown up for the end.
Assuming I didn’t shout, “Yo, Kid Biohack, I’m the Rocket!” I was probably okay.
Deciding that standing still and staring wasn’t the best possible choice, I walked up to the flower bed, stopping next to Cassie, and pretended to care that the flowers existed.
Cassie laughed, Yo, Kid Biohack!
As that passed into my brain, Daniel added, You were thinking loudly, but you’re right. This makes everything more complicated.
As I stared down at the flowers—which were definitely yellow—I tracked Kid Biohack’s movements, trusting my sunglasses/HUD to hide my eyes. Zooming in, I could see that he was laughing with two women. If I had to bet, I’d bet that he was flirting with them.
You’d win that bet, Daniel grinned. Better him than me.
With Daniel literally being tall, dark, and handsome, I’d half expected that to cause problems by now, but apparently being a superhero mattered more.
Which is good for our cover, Daniel said.
Kid Biohack and the crowd around him made their way down the hall, disappearing around a corner. He hadn’t seen me, or maybe he’d recognized me, but knew that the moment wasn’t right to make contact.
Closer to option one, Daniel said, he was trying to figure out if he could ask both of the women he was talking to up to his room at once.
Huh, I thought back.
Cassie shook her head, I don’t think anyone in Stapledon ever told us not to have threesomes with strangers while on a mission… How was he doing?
One of the women has a boyfriend and he was right there the whole time. He’s already jealous and angry. Expect an explosion. I don’t think Kid Biohack’s on a mission though. The whole group of them are social media influencers and he’s just one of the crowd. Daniel waved us to start walking.
We did, passing the glowing signs of restaurants, souvenir shops, and banks advertising their currency exchange rates.
As we walked forward, merging into a crowded hall where we were at most a foot away from the nearest person, I thought, Do we just ignore him? If we attack Armory, Kid Biohack might show up in the middle of the fight. I think he’d ultimately be on our side, but it could be a big mess if he shows up at the wrong time.
Daniel glanced over at a shop advertising falafel. I could smell the heated oil. I missed all of that except for the trip to Turkmenistan. I only heard about him afterward. We should talk about it after we figure out what we’re going to do with Armory.
Ditto, Cassie thought back. I barely met the guy before The Thing That Eats infected him and we didn’t talk much after he got better. You’re the local expert, Nick.
Awesome. Let’s try to avoid him then, I said. Figuring out where to find Armory is first priority.
That was the afternoon. We walked around the building, listened to bands, and pretended not to have a care in the world. Cassie was the group’s designated drinker since she couldn’t get drunk. She pretended to, though, hanging on Daniel and me at different times, giving us an obvious excuse for walking away from the main crowds—she needed a bathroom.
She’d stumbled out of the main arena hanging on to me with Daniel following a few steps behind when we had a breakthrough. We’d turned down a hall near the back. Daniel had told us, This feels right. Turn here.
At least twenty feet wide, it was as non-descript as a hall that size could be. All gray concrete with no decoration or anything but smooth walls, it had no restaurants or shops, no blinking colored lights or screens with advertisements. It ended in two big, blue, metal doors.
Cassie pounded on one with her hand—not to the point that she left dents, but she made a lot of noise. People didn’t come quickly, but they did come. It felt like we waited for a minute before a balding man in a button-down shirt and khakis opened the door, “Excuse me?”
Slurring her words, Cassie said, “I need a bathroom. I’m feeling sick. Where’s the bathroom?”
He frowned, looking Cassie and me up and down, “Are you blind? The bathroom’s back that way. How did you even miss it?”
His eyes narrowed. I had a bad feeling that he’d just become suspicious. Moving the arm I had around her waist, I tapped the palm of my hand, activating the sonics and aiming them at her stomach, feeling the device warm next to my forearm.
“I’m feeling really, really sick,” she said as she thought at me, Nick, did you just—
She vomited. Except, as a super, she had powerful muscles all over, so it was more projectile vomit than average. It hit him around the knee, leaving his lower legs covered in beer, wine, and bits of shawarma.
He stared down at his legs and as he did, I got a glimpse of what was behind him. The hallway sank deeper into the ground, ending in a room full of machines. Among them, I thought I saw the upper torso of a mech.