We followed Stephanie down the hall toward the exit while she asked us questions that pointedly weren’t about what we were doing here. Except for her hint, they didn’t make any other reference to the last time we’d been together either. I followed her lead, answering her questions and choosing not to go in directions that might make her listeners suspicious.
As we reached the room we’d first entered—the one with the big TV and the two long couches facing it—she stopped, “I heard about what Cassie’s been doing—organizing multi-team training sessions at your property in the U.P. I think you’ll find plenty of people here who will be interested in working out with you. Personally, I think you’ll want to be careful about who you invite. Some people around here hold grudges. You know how that is.”
Tara watched her, giving a small smile, “I do. Who’s holding grudges? Everybody?”
Shrugging, Stephanie said, “How should I know? Nobody tells me anything. I’ve just got a feeling. Anyway, I’ll let you out. Give me a second. I have to remember the codes.”
She closed her eyes and tapped on the communicator on her left arm. The door opened on its own power as she gave a few additional taps, opened her eyes, and said, “Sorry, I had to send someone a message. Anyway, I’ll see you all later.”
As we followed Tara out, it struck me that I’d noticed a pattern in the tapping. With my implant, I replayed the sound, realizing it was Morse code. She’d typed, “Call me.”
I gave her a wave as the jet lowered from the air to land on the ground in front of us. Stephanie waved back and watched us as we walked up the steps and shut the door behind us. In my last view of her, she let out a breath, slumped for a second, and let the building’s door shut.
The jet floated upward with Cassie flying and Haley sitting next to her at the weapons console. Vaughn stood at one of the windows, watching the Coffeeshop Illuminati’s base. I watched out the window too, seeing the base, the trees, and the rocky hillside around it shrink to become bits of gray and green in the mountains.
No one flew after us. Tapping into the jet’s network, I didn’t see missiles, vehicles, or powered armor following us either. I checked in all directions and kept on checking until we were about one hundred miles away and Cassie asked, “Do want to take over? I can feel you through my implant.”
I shook my head, “Not unless you’re sick of flying. I thought I ought to keep on watching behind us.”
Cassie turned around to grin at me, “Trust me, I know you are. What did you learn there? Something that made you nervous for sure.”
Haley, who unlike Cassie didn’t have an implant, glanced back at me to say, “And what’s Stephanie doing there?” Then she turned back toward the front and the various screens in the cockpit.
Thinking back to how she’d escorted us out and her final, tired or relieved look, I said, “Remember what she was doing at Higher Ground? More of that, I think. Except I’m not sure who she’s investigating. It turns out that Bullet’s been advising or leading the Coffeeshop Illuminati since he left Stapledon and Gifford, Hunter, and Gordon are there plus a bunch of other supers. I don’t know how many. From the seating in their briefing room, I’m guessing at least 20 and maybe as many as 40.”
“Also,” I added, “Gifford said to tell Haley ‘hi’.”
Haley turned back, her mouth twisting, and caught my eye, “Great.”
Vaughn grinned, “Heh. Good to know nothing’s changed there.”
“Not really,” Haley turned back to her screens.
“But there’s more than that,” Daniel said. “We know that the woman who killed Master Martian was once known as the Amethyst Archer, doesn’t visibly age and had a relationship with Bullet in the 80s. We don’t know any more than that about her though. We should probably check into it, but we’ve also got to decide what we do about the Coffeeshop Illuminati. Bullet showed signs of recent Dominator influence and while I’m not sure, I think I saw hints of it in Gifford and Hunter’s surface thoughts. I didn’t have time to get a good look.”
Sitting down, Vaughn took a seat next to me, “I’m still stuck on the fact that it’s the Coffeeshop Illuminati down there. I’d assumed they were all secretly working out of their parents’ basements or something. That looks like someplace my family would buy.”
He paused, but then said, “What about Stephanie? Has she been affected by the Dominators?”
Daniel shook his head, “No idea, but I’m pretty sure she’s got some kind of psi-blocker. If she knows about Nick’s technique for blocking Dominator voice powers, she’s probably safe.”
I thought about that and was about to say, “No idea,” too except that my implant showed me the exact moment when I’d told her how it worked. “Actually, yes. She does. I don’t know if she’s using it, but if she is, she’s as safe as we are.”
Tara said, “She’s got speakers built into her suit. She didn’t use to. I’m almost certain she’s there for the same reason we were—the Dominators. But, I don’t think we have time to decide what we’re going to do about the Coffeeshop Illuminati. I think we need to find Master Martian before the Dominators do.”