Jessica and Adam set the last of Dr. Mind’s boxes on the concrete floor of the warehouse.
“So is this the base now?” she asked, looking around the huge space that had formerly served as their training area.
“I suppose so,” Dr. Mind said from where he stood,arranging an array of microscopes on one of the folding tables they’d carried over. “And my house until I get a proper apartment sorted out. Thank you for the help.”
The door of the warehouse opened, letting in a gust of cool air, and Legion and Jet walked in.
“-thousands of tiny skulls,” Legion finished. “Heya, Doc.”
“I’m not sure I want context for that,” Jessica said.
“But it’s cool!”
Legion grabbed one of Dr. Mind’s rolling stools and sat down.
“So are Nick and Emily coming?” Jet asked.
“They are,” Dr. Mind said. “In fact, Plateau will be leading you, as the most experienced.”
“What about the Angel guy?” Kismet asked as she entered. “Heya doc.”
“Guardian Angel will be working with Paragon for now. Unfortunately, Paragon can’t affiliate with you because of the new legislation, so Guardian Angel can’t either.”
Kismet finished a silent countdown before she replied. “…two, one. That makes sense. You’re not worried about the danger at all? Isn’t this supposed to be too dangerous for minors?”
“I’ve seen you kids in action, remember? You can handle-”
“See, that’s why- ah crap. I was early on that one,” Kismet said. “Continue.”
Dr. Mind took the interruption in stride. “You can handle yourselves.”
“See, that’s why I like you,” Kismet said. “You don’t underestimate us.”
“Well, I suppose it helps that this is the least dangerous of the leads we’re working. Guardian Angel and Paragon are dealing with a possible power enhancer recruited by the Anchor Boys, and Shadow and Savage are investigating the connection between the rogue Virtue branch and the national leadership.”
“That’s dangerous?” asked Legion. “Wait, better question. What we’re going to be doing is less dangerous?”
“Don’t act so disappointed,” Jet commented.
The door opened again and Plateau entered in his ceramic-plated costume.
“No Emily?” asked Jet.
“No. she didn’t want to be involved if we were doing vigilante work.”
“Yeah, and I bet you two were up pretty late,” Legion said.
Plateau suppressed a grimace “Glad to see you’re doing better today.”
“What’s the mission, Doc?” Plateau asked.
“The police found and arrested the tinker responsible for the implants used by the chipheads at your school. I want you to go investigate his lab to see if there are any connections to Metatron.”
“Why not let the feds do that?” Kismet asked.
“We have information they don’t.”
“Then let’s give it to them and take the day off. Problem solved.”
Dr. Mind let out an exasperated sigh.
“She has a point,” Legion agreed.
“Aha! I knew it!” Kismet exclaimed, to the others’ surprise.
“I don’t trust them to not just cover it up,” Dr. Mind confessed.
“They’re fucking with you,” Kismet said to Jessica.
“Yeah, like they covered up the alien invasion last year,” Jet said.
Jessica jumped to her feet. “They what?” she exclaimed.
Jet and Legion broke down laughing, and Jessica scowled at them. “Very funny, guys.” She sat back down, expression dark.
“That was mean,” Adam said
“I did warn her,” Kismet said. “People just don’t listen.”
“Kismet, you’re prelocuting again,” Dr. Mind said.
“I know,” Kismet said in a slow, measured voice. “That was deliberate. I told her they were going to do that and she still fell for it. Fuck causality.”
“I hear ya,” Legion agreed.
“You time-travellers are hard to understand sometimes, you know that?” Jet said.
“Can we get back to the fact that we’re going to be toeing in on a federal investigation?” Plateau said.
“They’ve cut me out of the loop,” Dr. Mind said. “I need to know if Metatron is involved. It is possible that the schematics the tinker used were bought on the black-market, but this could be important.”
“You saw the Cherubim,” Kismet said. “I find it hard to believe that Metatron isn’t involved.”
“That is true, but if any of her agents were involved, they’ll be long gone. They couldn’t afford to be found out. Her involvement on US soil would count as a breach of treaty. As much power as Metatron has, she couldn’t stand up to our military, especially if the international community got wind of her snooping around on foreign soil.”
“Okay, where are we going?”
“I’ve put the address into your comms. It’s out in Redlake.”
“Seriously? Why not ask Tipping Point to handle it?” Legion said.
“He and his team are in the city helping out with the Anchor Boys matter. Even if they could, they still work for the government.”
“When did you of all people stop trusting the government?” Kismet asked.
“When they burst into my lab and carted away my research in front of me, then fired me from my job, took away my equipment, and evicted me from my apartment.”
“They- huh. I guess they did do that,” Plateau said. “Each as part of an unrelated event, but yeah, that’s odd. Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s a setback, but I can make a living off my patents for now. You get going, nowNow you get going. I want you there before the feds can squirrel everything away.”
“I’ll drive,” Plateau said.
The group walked away from where they’d parked the van along the tree-lined suburban street, not all fitting on the sidewalk.
“This is weird,” Legion said.
“What is?” Jet asked.
“Where’s all the traffic, man? Where’d the traffic go?”
“I think there just isn’t any here.”
“Have you never been out of the city?” Adam asked.
“I have. It’s just so much different, you know?”
The group rounded a wide sweeping corner onto another tree-lined boulevard.
“What’s the new tech?” Kismet asked Jessica, indicating the heavy grey backpack studded with tubes and dials the tinker wore on her back.
She pulled the backpack higher up on her shoulders. It strained against the straps, dragged down by something heavy inside. “It’s, uh,” she adjusted the straps again. “It’s a fusion reactor.”
“What the shit?” Legion said, pulled out of his conversation with Jet. “You wear that on your back?”
“Why do you have a nuclear reactor?” Kismet asked, backing hastily away from the other girl.
“And do I have to worry about cancer? I don’t know if my power would fix that,” Legion added.
Kismet snorted a laugh.
“I ran out of a batteries,” Jessica said.
“What?” Jet exclaimed.
“Did you run it past Dr. Mind?” Plateau asked.
“…no,” she confessed.
“So it’s completely untested?” Adam asked, anger beginning to rise.
“No! Of course I tested it! Plus, It’s a Tokamak reactor- they’re pretty safe. It’s not like I designed it myself- I just made it smaller.”
“A what?” Legion asked.
“It’s a reactor designed by some Russian tinkers in the 50’s. The US has been using them for maybe a decade now with no containment failures.”
“Yeah, but you made it out of, what, a colander?” Kismet asked.
“Dr. Mind had these big buckets of parts in the lab, and sometimes he let me take some home. I just had the pieces lying around.”
“This is ignoring the obvious question of why she needs it in the first place,” Jet said. “Unless you plan to bludgeon people with it.”
“Oh yeah! This is cool.” Jessica grabbed the end of a hose that ran from the side of the reinforced backpack to her hip and pointed it away from the others. “I was trying to find a use for the superheated helium ions that the fusion reactor produces, and had this idea when I was messing with my magnetic plasma field containment thingy.”
She pressed a button and a solid bar of white light with a red-orange corona shot from the cylinder, ending about a meter away from the nozzle. The air above the beam rippled from the heat, and everyone nearby could smell the sharp tang of ozone and hear the loud crackling sound it produced.
“Woah! Is that a lightsaber? I take it back. You can have all the fusion you want,” Legion said.
“It’s a weapon?” Adam asked, disappointed.
“Why is it red?” Jet asked. “Jess, are you a Sith?”
“That’s just the color of helium plasma,” she said, waving the blade back and forth in the air.
“Ok good. I didn’t want to have to fight you.”
“It also doesn’t really work like you’d expect. For one thing, it’s like, super hot. I’m not really planning on using this one. But check this out.” In an eyeblink, the white-hot plasma blade retracted, and a flick of a switch on the handle replaced it with a purple-white blade of plasma.
“So you can change the color?” Legion asked. “Why is that important?”
“Now people won’t mistake her for a sith.” Jet replied.
“No, what’s cool is this.” In one casual motion, she swatted Legion with the energy blade. Jet leapt out of the way, shouting in surprise along with the others.
“Ow!” Legion exclaimed as the blade bounced off his unharmed face. “That’s bright.”
“Cold plasma field,” Jessica explained, grabbing the blade with one hand and releasing the handle. “Sustained by an electromagnetic shell. Pretty cool, right?”
“Glad to see you have a non-lethal option,” Plateau said.
“Oh, and I still have my plasma ball thing,” Jessica added. “So that’s cool.”
Kismet and Plateau stopped, and Legion had to step out of the way to avoid stumbling into them.
“This is it,” Plateau said, pointing to the house at the end of the street.
“This is just, like, a regular house,” Legion said.
“Shouldn’t there be police tape or something?”
“I dunno. If they’re covering it up, maybe they wouldn’t want the attention,” Kismet said. “We goin’ in?”
“We’re going in,” Plateau confirmed.