My jaw dropped as I thought about how close we’d been to each other. He’d been gone by the time I’d fought with the Grey Giant, but he’d have been working when Cassie, Daniel, and I went exploring during the day.
He might know the guy Cassie puked on.
Laughing as he saw my expression, he said, “Don’t be too impressed. It wasn’t fun. I’ve been researching things online and I think I’ve seen armor I worked on being used by Syndicate L and maybe the Nine. I got lucky that the people who broke into the labs didn’t want to kill people. Whoever planted all those bombs chose to blow them up when almost everyone left. It could have been someone who wanted a body count instead of, I’m guessing, law enforcement. The Dixieland Defenders showed up within 30 minutes of the bombing. It didn’t stop Len from disappearing or his house from burning, but it was still a fast turnaround time. They knew something beforehand.”
I glanced over at Mom. I hadn’t specifically told her why I was going but I had mentioned that I was on a mission with Daniel and Cassie before I left last week. Her face showed nothing. She listened, nodding, without a hint of alarm or at least without staring in my direction.
I decided to follow her example, “Wow, that’s pretty crazy. It shows how weird things get even with former supers.”
Uncle Steve grinned, “No doubt. Totally different subject… How’s your grandpa’s friend Larry? Joanie mentioned that you saw him sometimes.”
“Alright. I don’t know if you kept up with him, but he worked at the big GM factory until it closed and then after that, he took odd jobs until he turned his hobby of making beer into a business. He’s brewing craft beer and I guess he’s expanding. He might even need mechanical engineers. I don’t know details, but I guess his equipment is extremely innovative. It’s also his design.”
Leaning back against the wall, he nodded, “I’ll think about it. I’ve never worked in a brewery, but I bet there’s free beer and it’s been years since I saw him last. It might have been back in the 70s when Dad helped him prepare for his PE exam. It seemed like they disappeared to work on that all the time. I didn’t understand that until I took it myself. I’m not sure if you can study enough. Remember that four years from now when you’re taking it.”
“I’m not looking forward to it,” I said. I wasn’t. I didn’t doubt that I knew the material, but I didn’t know the standard terms for everything.
We talked for a while longer, mostly about his different contracts since I’d last seen him and the countries they’d been in. As I prepared to leave, he asked, “You told me the name of your company. Who’s the Cannon in ‘Cannon & Klein’?”
I had a bad feeling I knew where this was going, “Technically, my friend Chris, but also his grandfather Gerald Cannon who put up money to get us going and brought in a client already.”
Uncle Steve’s grin widened, “Gerald Cannon? Formerly Man-machine? I thought he was in jail.”
I shrugged, “He got out after providing a lot of evidence to the Feds. He’s officially off probation as of last year. So he’s giving Chris and I adult supervision.”
Shaking his head, Uncle Steve said, “Better watch out or you might find yourself painting North Korean flags on your work.”
“It’s all legal so far. It’s just auto parts—which reminds me, I should get back to work.”
He put his hand on my shoulder, “You go do that. I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do with your Mom and I’ll be around for a little while. Maybe I’ll drop by your office.”
“Yeah,” I said, “by the way, how did you end up working for Armory?”
“Family,” he paused, letting that sink in. “We’re a family full of engineers. I got that tip from Anastasia—Charles’ youngest.”
“I know who you mean. We talked last Christmas. How’d she hear about it?” I watched his fact for a reaction.
He shrugged, “Work, I think. Someone in her office knew Armory was looking.”
I thought about that, “Where does she work? She told me she worked with nanotech the last time we talked. I never got the name. All I know is that it must be in Chicago because that’s where she lives.”
He frowned, “Good question. I don’t know either. I’ll find her number and get it to you, okay?”
“Sure,” I ran through what I had to do next in my head. This conversation had left me with a list.
A minute later and I’d said my goodbyes to Mom and Uncle Steve and started walking back to my house. Ignoring the warm, morning breeze, the cars passing on their way somewhere, big yellow buses–all of them empty and heading back to the garage after dropping off children at school, I used my implant to connect to my comm and told Hal about my cousin Anastasia, telling him to find out where she was and where she worked.
My next call went to Daniel. He answered, and I said, “Sorry if you’re in class, but life just got a little more complicated.”
“I’m not. Classes don’t start until next week. I’m making breakfast.” He paused and I could hear the sizzle of something in the background. He asked, “Are you talking to me through your implant?”
“It sounds like the way you hear yourself in your head—which is a little different from how it sounds when you talk.”
I decided not to go into that, “Ok. Well, I’m calling because I just found out that Uncle Steve is at my parents’ house and that he was working for Armory when we trashed the place.”
I heard a quick, indrawn breath over the connection, “Oh. That’s bad. I’m guessing you want me to check him out. How much time do I have?”
Thinking back to a whole lifetime of him appearing, staying for a day, a week, or, once, for two months, I said, “I have no idea. When the call for his next job comes, he disappears.”
“Are you sure he’s not a superhero?” Daniel asked. “Don’t answer that. Give me a second,” and the connection went quiet except for the sound of frying.
Moments later, Daniel said, “The chances that he’ll disappear before I’m finished with breakfast are small. I’ll pass by and see what I can get off of him.”
“Thanks,” I said. “After you’re back, we need to start going through Len Jones’ memories. It’s beginning to feel like every piece of my life includes the Dominators right now. We need to find out everything we can. Also, if you happen to notice anything interesting about my cousin Anastasia in his head, check it out.”