“Hey, everybody,” I raised my hand to get their attention, “Hal just told me where my cousin Anastasia works. I think I told you all about her—well, except for Izzy. Ana’s the cousin who told my Uncle Steve about a contract to work with Armory, the guy who Cassie, Daniel, Yoselin, and I gave to the Feds. So, she’s got some kind of connection to all of this and it’s probably through work. She’s also an engineer. Oh, and it sounds like wherever she’s working is trying to duplicate the self-repairing feature of my armor. I don’t know what’s up with that.”
Vaughn raised his eyebrow, “I don’t think you mentioned the bit with how they’re trying to duplicate your tech, but what do you want to do about it? Break in or, I don’t know, make an unexpected visit as yourself?”
Giving a sigh, I shook my head, “I don’t know. Given what just happened, it seems like going in costume is just going to give Senator Abrams more ammunition. If the Nine control Eden Tech’s leadership like they did Armory, I think there’s a pretty good chance that everything explodes—not literally. Well, maybe literally, but most likely figuratively. For all we know, they’ve got the Cabal there too.”
Daniel grinned at me, “I have an idea. Let’s do an invisible flyby. Use the jet’s sensors on the building and if that’s not enough, maybe Izzy listens in and I read minds. If we need more, you send in the bots.”
“I’m still resting my abilities,” Tara said, “but I think that’s a good idea.”
“Me too,” I said. “I’m just feeling like I should have thought of it.”
Next to me, Haley bit her lip, “Do we all need to go? I’ll go if you need me, but I’ve got class in less than an hour and I’ll still need to shower and grab my books before I go. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but you know.”
I opened my helmet, letting my suit absorb it. “We’re going to do reconnaissance. We don’t need everybody. We need Izzy, Daniel, and maybe me. A couple of people more might be necessary if things go wrong, but we’ve got the jet. Plus, we might need to have people here at the base. I still think that if there’s going to be a counterattack from the Cabal or the Nine, it’ll come here.”
Nodding, Daniel said, “I don’t have a clear picture of what happens next, but there’s danger whatever we do. It’s hard to say whether leaving people here puts the people going in more danger, but it’s definitely true that leaving people here lowers danger for the city.”
Giving a look around the group, Tara said, “I’ll stay here. With Kayla, Vaughn, Haley, and anyone we can call up, I think we’ll be able to handle things for a little while.”
Stopping only long enough to grab a snack from the base’s refrigerator and for me to kiss Haley goodbye, Cassie, Daniel, Izzy, Yoselin, and I got back in the jet. I stepped toward the pilot’s seat, looking over at Cassie as she followed me in.
“It’s all yours,” she told me. “I’m taking the weapons console.”
Thirty minutes after we made the decision, we found ourselves south of Chicago—which should not at all be confused with the South Side of Chicago. They are very different. The South Side of Chicago feels like a city—Soldier Field, trains, old houses, gentrification, public housing, and the skyline of downtown Chicago above you in the distance. When you’re south of Chicago, at least if you go far enough, you discover that the state of Illinois is more than just Chicago and the suburbs of Chicago.
It’s prairie, but not unused prairie. Acres and acres of corn and other crops that I couldn’t recognize off the top of my head covered the land ahead of us, all except for the campus of buildings that we’d come to visit.
Eden Tech’s campus lay below us. Surrounded by cornfields on three out of four sides, it amounted to two buildings, a massive parking lot, and green grass that wouldn’t have been out of place on a golf course.
Of the two buildings, one stood four stories high and covered on all sides with mirrored glass. From the signs in front of it, I guessed it had to be the office building. It wasn’t just the signs that clued me in, however. The other building was a long rectangle with smooth, white walls and a series of five tall doors large enough that a semi could park inside each one. This was obviously a warehouse even if the white walls and minimalist architecture made me think of how old movies’ depicted the future.
We hung invisibly in the air on the other side of the highway in front of the campus.
“Eden Tech,” I said, adjusting the jet’s sensors. “I don’t see any sign of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, I don’t see very many trees at all.”
“Well,” Daniel said, “since this isn’t Eden any way except maybe metaphorically, the tree might have to be metaphorical too.”
Finishing my adjustments, I aimed the sensors at the buildings, silently asking Hal to tell me if he recognized anything. Hal responded even before I began to analyze the image.
[Abominator energy generator identified]