Daniel lowered his head, nodding, “I get it, but I felt like it wasn’t fair to hide that I knew you would be in more danger when I knew that it would benefit me.”
Uncle Steve let out a breath, “I get it. I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to let me decide for myself. I don’t think I have much of a choice though. I can’t survive at the expense of my sister, any of your parents who were my childhood friends, or you kids.”
I wanted to say the same in return, but in my case telling him to take the safest route might theoretically kill everyone else I cared about.
“The future isn’t permanent,” Daniel met his eyes. “That’s something my grandfather used to tell me and he’s right. It changes. It’s changed even during this conversation—not with regard to what we’re talking about, but in small ways. An hour from now it will change even more. If we act at the right moment, the risk to your life and ours can disappear as if it were never there.
“What my grandfather also told me was that I should use my prescience to do the right thing and not let the easiest path through a problem become the right thing because it’s the safest way to go.”
Uncle Steve smiled as Daniel mentioned his grandfather and as Daniel stopped said, “I get it. I’ve been in these situations before. I’ve worried and worried that the supervillain in charge will recognize what I’m really doing in his lab. Except then something changed and the guy got distracted. After that, he didn’t care what I’d done. Don’t worry about it. I’ll find a way to handle this. I’m not completely defenseless.”
Then he paused and said, “How’s your grandfather?”
Daniel sighed, “He has dementia of some kind. No doctor’s been able to identify it—in part because he’s a telepath and he’s still with it enough to pick out answers from people’s minds. Privately, we think it’s because he overused his prescience at some point. It’s weird, even using our powers we sometimes can’t find him in the present, future, or past. It’s as if he’s invisible to psychic scrying, but then a little later, he’s back again.”
Nodding as Daniel talked, Uncle Steve shook his head, “I don’t think I have the background to make any sense of that. I think you’d need a physicist specializing in quantum mechanics, but I’m sorry to hear that he’s having a hard time. He was always a kind man, even to his teammates’ kids.”
Daniel laughed, “I don’t think he’s having as hard a time as the rest of the family. He’s as optimistic and happy as he ever was. We miss him or at least the version of him that we remember.”
“I think we all have a little of that. I miss my mom and dad. They missed Giles Hardwick and other members of the team that died over the years.” Uncle Steve stopped, but then said, “I think I should get back to the house before the future changes in the wrong direction.”
Daniel and I walked him back, none of us saying very much. We wore clothes made of nanotech-based technology that could reconfigure itself into costumes on command or just act like armor.
We walked on either side of him, Daniel sensing possible threats with telepathy and prescience. I made do with glasses that allowed me to see in the dark and improved my hearing.
There wasn’t much to see as we walked through the suburban streets. It was mid-October. That meant that the trees were mostly empty of leaves, some of which had been gathered into piles at the side of the road, only visible because of the streetlights. A few lawns had Halloween decorations on the lawn. The most noticeable was a nine-foot-tall skeleton. It hadn’t been taken down since last Halloween and even had Christmas lights on it during the winter.
Even as we passed a lawn with gravestones on it, the sort of place where comic book writers might choose to visually drive home the stakes of the conflict, no one attacked us. I felt Daniel’s amusement as I imagined the gravestones exploding, but half a block later we were home. We didn’t go inside, knowing that we had to get back.
Less than 20 minutes later, we were back at my house and then at HQ, sitting at the table near the giant TV screen in front of the room. It didn’t take long for everyone to show up. Tara and Vaughn joined us in person. Everyone else connected through their communicators. I threw up all their streams to the giant screen on the wall. Then, with almost everyone in the League looking on, we went through everything that happened, starting with visiting Chicago and how Kals had freed Ana, Colette’s death, what we’d learned about Magnus, Sean’s call, Uncle Steve’s problem, and our suspicions that we’d soon be visited by mind-controlled hitmen that know that threatening our parents will help even if they don’t know why.
I watched as the faces on the screen went through emotions, starting with concern, grim understanding of Ana’s state, surprise at Colette’s death, interest in Sean’s call, and finally worry as we talked about my Uncle Steve and what that meant for us.
It felt both strange and normal to see everyone, ranging from Travis, Marcus, Jaclyn, Cassie, and Haley who’d always been part of the team, to Sydney, Camille, and Julie who’d been in Justice Fist with Sean, to Amy, Rod, and Samita, who we mostly knew from Stapledon. That wasn’t everyone either. Courtney was listening, but couldn’t be on screen.
Rachel, of course, wasn’t listening at all. She was still somewhere out among the stars with the Cosmic Ghosts.
Letting Daniel finish telling what he’d learned from sensing Uncle Steve’s future, I said, “So that’s what we’ve got. Vaughn, Cassie, and Amy, if she’s willing, will be trying to find and contact Magnus’ immortal former Cabal founders. The rest of us are going to be here in Grand Lake trying to make sure our families don’t die.”
At that moment, a text came from Uncle Steve that said, “I knew this guy,” and linked to a news article about an electrical engineer who’d died this morning in Columbus, Ohio. That was only five hours away by car from Grand Lake.
I didn’t even need to ask how Uncle Steve knew him. I’d met him myself. Bald, short, and middle-aged, I’d seen him under the arena where we’d captured Armory and fought the Grey Giant. I remembered him because Cassie had puked on him.