I’d have argued with him except that Rook was just a picture on a cellphone screen.
Pausing, possibly to smirk behind his beaked helmet, Rook continued, “We’ve let the Heroes’ League alone despite our conflicts in the last few years. Why? Because we don’t want to kill a bunch of kids.”
Next to me, Cassie scoffed, “Right.”
“We’ve gone easy on you. There are still some of us here who respect the original League’s idealism and wisdom. Some of us are even former colleagues. No one makes a better villain than a hero—as the original League found out the hard way.
“Still, there are some things that we can’t let go by. This place was important. We invested a lot of money here. We manufactured things that we needed—not anything that we can’t manufacture somewhere else, but you’ve caused me a problem. I’m not going to be able to make my deadline and I don’t like that. A man’s only as good as his word.
“So, now we’re going to kill you and we’re not going to stop there. We’re going to kill everyone who’s worked with you, any connection, whether they’re a superhero or a civilian. We won’t stop until every last one of them is dead.
“You should think about whether you want that to happen. You should also ask yourself if you’ve left any connections between your superhero life and your real one because if you have, we’ll find it. I don’t know who we’ll kill whether it will be your friends or families, but you’ll know.
“And don’t think we’ll stop if we can’t find anyone. I’m confident that we can, but if we don’t, we’ll attack Grand Lake itself. You know our reputation. We have people everywhere and some of them don’t even know that they work for us. One of them will find something. You can count on it.”
Rook paused, making me wonder if he was done and hadn’t thought to stop filming, but then he said, “Expect to see us soon even if you don’t know it’s us.”
The screen of the reporter’s phone went black before resolving into YouTube.
Slipping the phone back into her coat’s pocket, she held out the microphone toward me, “What’s your response? Do you think he can do everything that he says?”
I shook my head or, from what she could see, my helmet, “I don’t know. I know the Nine’s reputation, but we’ve won when we’ve fought them. He can say he went easy on us because he was being nice, but he blew up his base with a nuke when we were beating him there. He attempted to aim a nuke at the League jet while someone was flying it and the only reason he stopped was that I shot his hand.
“I don’t feel like they’ve been holding back at all. I don’t doubt that they’ve been trying to figure out who we are as civilians, but if that was easy, I think we’d already be dead by now.”
I stopped, not sure where I should go from there or even if I should be talking at all.
The reporter looked up past me toward Daniel who was floating Ana and the Amethyst Archer above his head, “And who are they? Are these the people you came here to catch?”
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, “I don’t think we should answer that right now. This still isn’t over.”
Izzy, who walked with the small cautious steps of someone who’d finished a marathon, was between Daniel and Jaclyn. Jaclyn held out her hand to steady Izzy as they walked down the steps behind me. Yoselin walked on Daniel’s other side, watching Izzy as if she was thinking about helping too.
Taking in Izzy’s unsteadiness and burned, blue costume, how Jaclyn’s purple costume had long lines of charred ceramic and lighter char all over, the reporter held the microphone out to Izzy, “Blue, I see that you’re tired. Was it a hard fight?”
Izzy let out a breath, “I am, but I don’t want to talk about it.”
Shaking her head, Jaclyn said, “She’s just been through hell. Leave her be. And no, I don’t want to talk right now either.”
Then, still staying next to Izzy, Jaclyn moved between her and the reporter.
Before anyone could say anything else, a new person spoke—this one with an accent light enough that I couldn’t place it. That said, if Dr. Transylvania was actually from Transylvania, the accent was probably Romanian.
“You should leave that young woman alone. She fought too well to have to stand here and be pestered with questions.”
That’s when the two reporters and their cameramen got a good solid look at who was following us out of the building’s now shattered front doors—Dr. Transylvania, vampire inventor and sorcerer, an undead being who’d been on the verge of conquering the world twice that I could think of.
Following him came Ape Nasty, all fur-covered muscle and simian genius, who’d been at least a henchman, if not a co-conspirator, to Dr. Transylvania on one or more of those attempts.
Stepping around them, the Atoner held up his hands, “It’s nice to see members of the press here. I’d just like to remind you that everyone in the Probationers is doing their best to pay back society for their crimes with service. That’s why we’re here today.”