“Back!” Kenzie announced. “Incoming, clear a space!”
I exchanged glances with some of the others. Sveta. Ashley. Tristan. Rain. An unfinished, sensitive topic still hung over our heads.
“Back with a shitload of tacos,” Tristan observed. “Brain fuel for a tinker brain?”
“No, geez. I don’t think I could eat all of this without exploding all over the place. I thought I’d get extra and share,” Kenzie said, as she set the tray down, lifted it up, leaving a second tray on the table, then set it down beside the empty tray. She began dividing stuff evenly across the two trays, taking extra care with drinks.
“I’m not complaining,” Tristan said. “Let me pay you back for what I eat.”
“You don’t have to. I have a stipend, and we’re getting some money now.”
“You’re a tinker. You’re probably paying for your stuff out of pocket. Paying you back means we’re keeping it fair for the team.”
“M’kay, won’t complain,” Kenzie said. She worked her way into the space between the two Ashleys. “What are you guys talking about?”
I met our Ashley’s eyes. She nodded just a fraction.
This wouldn’t be easy.
“Chris,” I said.
“Oh,” Kenzie said. I could see her register that- no hurt on her expression, only a quirk of an eyebrow. She flashed a smile at me, before lifting her taco with its hard, blood-red shell to her mouth, taking a big enough bite that her expression was unreadable.
It might have been fascinating if it hadn’t sucked so much to see.
“We’re going straight to that?” Tristan asked me.
Kenzie held up a hand until she’d finished chewing and swallowing. “To what? Chris? Why not? Because I’m here?”
“Here’s the deal about us talking about it when you’re not here, Kenz,” I said. “We don’t want to leave you out, and I want to minimize the secrets we’re keeping, but this is tricky. So we touch base with each other. We ask each other how best to do this kind of thing.”
“Uh huh,” she said. She took another bite, turning her head sideways. Before biting, she said, “I got you iced tea, by the way. I dented the lid.”
Deflection after deflection. The bite of food, pointing out the iced tea. Would Sveta register that Kenzie was off? Would Rain? Tristan? Erin?
I leaned over. Out of the drinks she’d balanced across the tray, the plastic lids had little buttons that could be depressed to show what type of drink it was. I grabbed the iced tea and didn’t think too hard about how Kenzie might know it was my go-to drink. I’d think on it later.
“We checked with each other before bringing it up. Just like you guys probably talked about how you wanted to keep Amy’s involvement with Goddess a secret at first, because it would have been awkward and unnecessary.”
“That was fine for me. We wanted to figure out if it was fine for you. It needs to be talked about. Is that okay?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Gotta talk about it. One hundred percent. So long as we’re fair. I know he did something weird and betray-y the other night, but I think he would have had to have good reasons.”
“He’s always kept things close to the chest,” I said.
“He had a lot of secrets,” Tristan said. “But when someone like him tells you who they are, believe them. He told us what motivated him. He wanted to dive head-first into the intense, powerful cape stuff. He was grumpy about being left out of the visit to the W.H.Q., and he was perfectly happy to be in the midst of the Fallen thing. Now he’s maneuvered to be in the midst of the Earth-Shin thing.”
“I don’t like that interpretation,” Kenzie said.
“Why not? It’s fair,” Tristan asked.
“Because it makes it seem like he schemed his way through it all. Isn’t it better to give him the benefit of a doubt and be wrong, than to not and be one hundred percent worse than we could pretend he is?”
“Honestly, I like giving him the benefit of a doubt,” Rain said. “I know how shitty it can be to not get it.”
“I’m not painting him as the bad guy here,” Tristan said. “Okay? There’s no need for doubts or benefits of the doubt. I’m laying out basic facts. This is what he always wanted, and this is what he was open about, and it’s what he ended up doing, apparently. Going to where the powers are.”
“The reason I don’t like it is that if you put it that way, it sounds like we were only a means to an end, and I refuse to believe that.”
“That-” Tristan started. I moved my hand, indicating for him to stop.
“Let’s take five,” I said.
“Sure. Sorry Kenz.”
“It’s fine,” Kenzie said, with a shrug.
I’d been able to see Tristan starting to get riled up for a debate. I’d seen it a couple of times before, and my gut feeling was that when it came to facts against feelings, and the facts came from someone as convicted and die-hard as Tristan, the feelings from, well, Kenzie? There was no way it would end well.
Others were taking food from the tray. I waited until people had made their choices, then took a wrap.
Erin and Rain ducked out, heading to one of the other vendors. A burger place had just opened for lunch. ‘Patty’s Patties’. That took me back – if I had to go back to earliest memories, then fuck, one of my five or ten earliest memories of Amy was from a family trip – would have had to have been, since the franchise wasn’t in Brockton Bay. She had been outright weeping because she’d been so bothered by the decorations around Patty’s – whole herds of tiny cartoon cows marching off assembly-line style through the process of getting carved up and served, then dining on burgers.
Sure enough, the cartoon design had been updated to something more clean around the edges, but right beside the store’s sign was a cartoon cow with knife and fork, disembodied upper body floating over the pelvis and legs, a slice cleanly removed from its middle. Because of the design, it had no expression, only vertical lines for eyes and two circles inside an oval for the nose.
Of all the things to survive the end of the world.
Rain ventured partway back, with Erin hanging closer to the counter. Order put in, and he was close enough to listen in while waiting.
Kenzie took another bite of her food then sniffled once, before reaching for a napkin. She dabbed at the corner of one eye, then wiped at her nose.
“Kenz,” Sveta said. “You okay?”
“This taco is really, really spicy. I had no idea,” Kenzie said, her voice distorted by the spice. She made a small cough, then thumped her fist down on the table.
“It really is,” Tristan said.
Reconciliation? Middle ground by way of hell tacos?
“I was worried you were really upset,” Sveta told Kenzie.
“I don’t get weepy,” Kenzie said. “I am slightly annoyed. Chris had a hard time with people, but he showed he cared in other ways. He cared about my stuff, he listened to me blab on about my work when others would run away. He always was up-front about calling things out the way he saw them. That’s how he cared. Even when things got nasty, he’d usually step in and pull it back to say something nice after taking it too far. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t care.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Damsel-Ashley said.
“Don’t you start. You didn’t even know him,” Kenzie said, jabbing her partially-eaten taco at the projected Ashley to her left. “When he was nice he was so nice. So clever and thoughtful. There was something in there, that he had to keep protected and secret.”
“She’s not wrong. I’ve told you that you have to watch out for people like that,” our Ashley said. “When someone treats you badly nine times out of ten, and treat you really nice the rest of the time, that means they’re bad for you. It’s easy to fake being nice the one time out of ten.”
“He wasn’t nice only one time out of ten, okay? Please and thank you,” Kenzie said. “He was the first friend I ever made that was close to my own age, who stayed with me more than a couple of weeks. He listened to me geek out and watched stuff or read stuff because I mentioned it. He’s one of only a couple of people I ever knew who understood what it was like to be one hundred percent lonely.”
“One hundred percent lonely?” Sveta asked. “I think a lot of people have experienced that.”
“I don’t know exactly how to put it. A bunch of people here probably get it, or they got a taste of it,” Kenzie said. “You don’t get powers unless you don’t have anyone to turn to, or something? But there’s a difference between being totally alone the once and being totally, one hundred percent alone because that’s the way things are, or it’s the way you are, and it’s a pattern. And because it’s a pattern you’ll probably be this alone again in five years or ten years. It’s a loneliness that’s lonelier because there’s no way it can get better.”
“I think you’d be surprised how others relate to that,” Sveta said.
“I guess so,” Kenzie said. “I haven’t thought that much about it.”
“I hope you know that pattern ended here,” our Ashley said. “I’m with you.”
“Except you promised me that and you went to jail,” Kenzie said. She stopped herself, then smiled at Ashley. “Sorry to say it like that. You did stay in touch but you did go to jail too.”
I saw Ashley digest that, then nod.
“Um. Anyway, that pattern? There’s more to it. Chris gets it, I think. He welcomes it, encourages it. We’re different because I don’t want it, but he and I have that common ground. We’ve both nosedived into big projects that you can only really do if you don’t do anything else, and we can talk about those things. That was a me and him thing.”
“Hobbies?” Rain asked.
“‘Hobbies’ feels like too much a group thing. Anyway, I was talking with him about it not all that long ago, especially over the summer when there wasn’t school, and I remember thinking it would be so nice to do that for a long time. It made so much sense because we had that common ground, right? I kind of fell in love with that idea and I fell in love with him at the same time. Not regular love, it was a bit different this time. Maybe crush-love.”
Ah. So that was what she’d been getting at.
“Aw, hon,” Erin said. She’d returned a minute ago, and I hadn’t noticed.
“He said no, by the way,” Kenzie added. “He said we’d never get along and he’s right.”
“Can I squeeze in there?” I asked Damsel.
She stepped back from the table. I slid across, and took the seat beside Kenzie, putting my arm around her. She leaned into me hard.
“There’s a possibility he needs help,” I said. “I know you guys got the basics from him in group. Normally we’d want him to share it on his own, as he feels free, but he obviously can’t do that now. I don’t know his background, but I think we need to make sure we all have the information.”
“You want his story?” Tristan asked. He leaned back into the cheap food-court seat.
All around us, the seats were empty. The only people were way off to either side, in the spaces where lines would form, walking to the food stalls, where skeleton crews were working.
“I guess since I’m one of the people who knew him best, I’ll cover this?” Rain asked.
Tristan shook his head. “It’s tricky. He’s dropped contradicting details. I think when he did tell us stuff, he changed particulars around. Keep in mind there might be some misleading details in this.”
“Yeah,” Rain said. “Something like that. I think to hide particulars about the people he had to kill on the way.”
“Multiple people?” I asked.
“His first memory, the way he explained it in group, is that he was changing back from one of his other forms. It was a dangerous form, and a third party was reactivating him.”
“Yeah. Keeping him in a loop of changing into a senseless, dangerous form, letting it start to lapse, and then getting him back in that form by giving him a new target or something before he had his senses again. For a while. A while.”
“This is where we have to read between the lines,” Rain said. “He does really interesting things with biology, and apparently it’s things that outside parties can use. He creates extra mass and stores it elsewhere, he has tissues that heal quickly, he has natural weapons, and he can have materials in his biology that are as durable as a steel alloy. He dropped a hint once. That it was a tinker that sold him or rented him out so others could study his power, or a tinker enclave that kept it all in-house. I don’t know.”
“He talked about brain scans,” Tristan said. “Also the feeding- the forced reactivation I mentioned before.”
“Yeah,” Rain said. “The initial change or manifestation of powers- I won’t call it triggering because I don’t think he remembers triggering, it broke his brain. He doesn’t have much in the way of old memories. He might have tried to survive on his own for a bit, but he got caught and used by third parties.”
“He never fully recovered?” I asked.
“Nah,” Rain said. “But he was working on it.”
“There was a girl from my hometown who got caught and used for her power. I missed the chance to be there when she got out, and I never got to talk to her,” I said. “I hope she ended up okay.”
“It might be happening a lot more than we imagine,” Tristan said. “Resources are scarce, the wealth divide is pretty nuts. Some people got lucky, like Byron and me, we had stuff from back home we were able to salvage and sell in lots, and a lot of that got spent on, uh, insurance. Most others started on the ground floor, wealth reset to zero, and people like some of these monsters out there, they hate being on an even playing field. They’d prey on others if it meant an advantage.”
I took a bite of my neglected wrap, thinking.
“Does he want revenge?” our Ashley asked.
“He never gave me that impression,” Rain said.
Tristan drummed his fingers on the table. “We should keep an eye and an ear out for creeps like that. The kind of people who would traffic in changers for their power, catch tinkers like that girl from your town, Victoria.”
“She was a thinker, but yeah.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe we can get some answers in retrospect. Figure out how to deal with him if we cross paths again. Give him some peace of mind, if it’s eating at him, or get a better idea of who he is and where he came from.”
“Seems risky to pick up prisoners like that,” Sveta said. “Prisoners trigger or second trigger. Or escape. Chris escaped.”
“Yeah,” Tristan said. “Thing is, money? If you have it, it’s easier to make it. If you have more of it than most people, then your money will grow faster than most people’s. Right?”
“Meaning that if we wanted to keep an eye out for people who might know what happened, we might keep an eye out for people with money,” Sveta said. “Or a lot of resources. Like Mortari.”
Jeanne Wynn and her assistant. Citrine and the Number Man.
“Or Teacher,” I added.
“Which kind of dovetails into what we were talking about before,” Sveta said. “If- is that okay to bring up?”
“Yeah,” I said. Let’s minimize the secrets.
People were paying attention, finishing off their meals if they’d been doing a lion’s share of the talking, as Kenzie and Tristan had, or picking at their fries and sides, if they’d been mostly quiet.
“Let’s talk about shifting gears,” I said.
“Shifting gears how?” Rain asked.
Foresight. Shepherds. Advance Guard. The three biggest teams that acted as teams. The Wardens might have counted, but the Wardens weren’t present, and I wasn’t sure they were a team by definition.
There were smaller teams too. The Major Malfunctions. The Lone Wolf Pack. Paint Fumes. Super Magic Dream Parade. The Keepers of Peace. Green and Bear It. The Homonculus Three. The High Road. The Fifth Brigade.
This had started out with just a discussion with Foresight. We’d cooperated the most in the past. They’d been there when Amy had left with the prison population.
From there, it had been a question of selling things to the Shepherds, led by Moonsong, who had her doubts about Tristan, and to Advance Guard, who had their doubts about me.
Once we had the big teams on board, it had been a question of figuring out who would accept, and who would refuse. The Major Malfunctions were easy. Eager, looking to help. Others?
Others were scared.
These guys, who were approaching to stand in front of me and the rest of Breakthrough, looked scared.
The leader was hardest to read, because his bodysuit was skintight, capped off with a helmet that hugged his head, an opaque black visor covering his face. The decoration was also the wiring that connected his nervous system to the enormous portal that he wore on his back, the size of a pair of motorcycles. It was only by the device’s hovering capability that he was able to venture indoors with it, though the pack did scrape up against the sides of any door he passed through. A young teammate of his had a tall, musclebound brute projection around and above her, carrying the weapon that went with the portal. The third member of the group wore a bodysuit that was so heavily decorated that the theme was lost in the jumble, all whites, reds, blues, and oranges, with some revolving segments. The mask looked like a door knocker, complete with a heavy metal ring.
“This is ominous,” Accession said. The machine at his back whirred, as if reacting to his emotions.
I held out the pamphlet we’d put together. One for every team.
“You’re a mercenary group,” I said. “Heroes for hire. You take bids for the most pressing jobs and you do your best to achieve them. If you fail, you refund. Right?”
“Right. We have a pretty decent track record, considering the difficulty of some of these jobs.”
“I would like to improve that track record,” I said. “You’re a tinker, right? You didn’t get the tech from someone else? I know some tinkers do that to stay out of trouble.”
“It’s my tech.”
“Page seven,” I said.
The representative members of the other teams were all gathered, listening and waiting.
“Tinker notes,” Accesssion said. He twisted around to show his teammates.
“Doesn’t mean anything to me,” Mamori said.
“It’s nice,” Accession said. “But you wouldn’t have everyone here if you wanted to trade tinker work.”
“If you think that’s something you can use, you can have it, courtesy of Lookout here. You can also have a turn at looking at the tinkertech of every person here. If you get on board, agree to some rules, you can get an edge.”
“We make okay money. This is stuff I can buy,” Accession said. “I can get it without selling my soul.”
“No soul required,” I said. “Only cooperation and information. We’ve already set up an infrastructure, some loose jurisdictions. We’ve grouped teams by who they’re willing to work with and the ground rules they’re willing to follow. If you’re violent vigilantes, fine. So long as you’re working for the good guys. We’ll pair you with the other violent ones and we’ll leave you to it as long as you aren’t crossing any critical lines.”
“We’re not violent,” Accession said.
“No. But if you’re willing to shoulder your share of the city, we’ll pair you up with people you can get along with.”
“No. Mercenaries are competition,” Tristan spoke up. “Volunteers. Selfless guy heroes who are willing to lend their help to ensure a job is completed all the way.”
I glanced at Withdrawal, who was standing off to one side, glowing teal tonight, not pink. He’d welcome the chance to get some experience, to help out good guys. Hopefully we could get him contacts.
“What’s the catch?” Accession asked.
“If you arrest any of the massive scumbags? Anyone on our lists? Let us interrogate and disappear them.”
“One of our teams has the means of imprisoning them indefinitely. Reasonably safe, reasonably humane. But we’re not sharing. The more people know, the more they can figure out how to break ’em out or try to capture them like they did with the parahuman prison outside of Greenwich.”
“We also require information,” Swansong said. She raised her chin a fraction. She was alone- Damsel was back at the apartment. The lingering influence from her other half still seemed pretty darn apparent. There was more of the imperiousness I’d seen in our initial interactions.
I added my voice to hers. “We’re reconstructing old case files and databases. We’ll need something at regular intervals. It can be old information on current threats, it can be secondhand information, bought from others here and contributed with your own hand. You will have access to these files and databases.”
Swansong added, “You will briefly lose access and other benefits of signing if you provide incorrect information. You’ll permanently lose access and benefits if you provide misinformation.”
She was good at sounding intimidating, at least. I’d have had to use my aura to achieve the same effect.
“Can we look this over?” Accession asked. “Talk it over as a team, discuss with our manager?”
“That would be a good idea,” I said.
The floor of our headquarters had a Capricorn-created pad of flat ground near the door. From my altercation with Amy. The building felt smaller than it once had, and I wasn’t sure if it was because she had been here, instilling a claustrophobic effect.
We’d reached out to every team that would listen. We’d used the teams that had been willing or interested to get others to the table. Hours of meetings, of handing over packages where rules and tech were outlined. Erin had been in the back with Rain, printing out and binding the next pamphlet so it would be ready for the next people to come in.
Formalizing deals we’d made in abstract before.
It was done. We were tired, and some of us still had our shopping with us from earlier in the day. Others, myself included, had been weathering the initial storm, re-forging connections.
“There’s not much I can do with my stuff broken,” Lookout said. She undid clasps on her helmet and pulled it off- the helmet itself had been re-styled, doing away with the buns. Even with more allowance in the helmet’s shape to let her hair hang free, it now stuck to her face and scalp with sweat.
“Whatever you can do is great,” I said.
Sveta looked anxious as she passed me, making her way to her station where her things were.
“And I should get back to the institution before it’s too late. They might not care much where I am, but-”
“Curfew,” I said.
“You know, I’d be safer at my old place. I have surveillance over there. I’d just need to find some conventional weapons I could hook up to that surveillance.”
“I think that sounds like a dangerous way to deal with more home intruders. For now, let’s just endure. Let’s get online, make sure we have the sites up so people can contribute info.”
“We don’t have the crazy power outages we were having before,” Rain said.
Tristan was taking off his armor. “It could be because the Wardens are coming home. That means Weld and Crystal.”
The computers were booting. One cube was by the desk, but the other was back in Kenzie’s old workshop, at her parent’s house. The cube lit up and began humming.
There was a clatter as Rain moved a box of his spare parts. Traps, blades, mechanisms and housings for his arms.
We were home again.
“Connecting,” Kenzie said.
The laptops were booted, the screens online. Without the projector system in action, we were limited to the real, actual screens.
“Overlaying to satellite image of the area.”
On the largest screen, a map appeared, just large enough to have the New York district in its bottom left and Brockton Bay in the top right. Icons with their own abbreviations worked into them were scattered across the city, many flowing from the same general point.
“Good for now, but before we stumble onto anything too sensitive, we need to put the unwritten rules protocol in place.”
“I can’t promise it’s going to work perfectly,” Kenzie protested.
She hit a key, and the screen went dark.
We’d brought Foresight on first. Foresight had thinkers, and their thinkers could read people for trouble. We’d scanned all of the heroes coming in, and we, through tags on the pamphlets and tags surreptitiously placed on people, had established a way to track movements for the next few hours.
The screen slowly illuminated again. The map was back, but the moving dots and labels were gone.
“We should get you back for curfew,” I said. “Can we leave the computers running and come back to this in the morning?”
“I might stay,” Sveta said. “You’re coming back, right?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“We’ll hang out, get sorted.”
“Sure,” I said. I smiled.
“Aw, I want a sleepover.”
“There won’t be any sleeping here, Kenz,” I told her.
She was still mock-pouting a bit a minute later when her hand went up, finger pointing at one of her screens.
One circle with initials was back on the screen. It flashed periodically to draw attention.
Accession, or one of his subordinates.
Kenzie hurried to the computer keyboard, and began hitting keys.
The images that came back were blurry, monochrome. Taken from discreet omnidirectional cameras in the notebooks.
“This one was flagged for us because the camera recognized money,” Kenzie said. She tapped the screen.
Accession. He was meeting with someone. Young, female, with a coat worn over a bodysuit, a mask on her face that blurred the shadows around eye socket and brow into a singular black blob. The cash sat on a table, the face of the bills barely visible, obscured by the pale band that encircled each bundle.
“They’re mercenaries,” Tristan said. “Cash is the norm.”
“Yeah, but if you’re a heroic mercenary, you don’t get paid in bricks of cash,” I said. “You crowdfund or you get paid by legitimate channels.”
I knew the silhouette pretty well.
“Besides. Look at that person there. We know her.”
People turned their heads, striving to get a better view of a two-tone picture.
“We wanted to traffic in information. Were we baiting her?” Rain asked.
“No, not really,” I said. “Where is she having this meeting?”
“In the city,” Kenzie said. “Coffee shop.”
She shook her head.
“Tattletale’s in play,” I announced, for those who hadn’t seen or recognized the blurry face yet. “Always has to make the hard things harder, doesn’t she?”
Kenzie hit other keys, moving around the snapshot to see different angles and mark light and shadow. Breakthrough was gathered, shoulder to shoulder, leaning toward the screen.
“Nothing else that’s useful,” Kenzie said. “That blur might be Chicken Little.”
“You can’t enhance-enhance-enhance?” Rain asked.
Kenzie shook her head. “My tech isn’t all that right now.”
We broke away. I saw one or two people rubbing their hands together and blowing on them. It was an issue with the rushed constructions, that so many lacked good insulation. The snow was coming down outside, and the snow would insulate some, if I remembered right, but I was pretty sure it would have to be a lot of snow.
We’ll have to buy heaters, I thought. I wonder if Tattletale is comfortable where she is, or if there’s a reason she’s this far from home.
“I can take more pictures, but it’s going to burn out the tracker by the third or fourth,” Kenzie said. “Also, it might cause radios or walkie-talkies to sneeze.”
“Sneezing is a funny way of putting it,” Rain said. “If we’re laying low and keeping an eye on things from here until we’re needed, I need a project. You’re okay, Ash?”
“I’m fine,” Ashley said. “No sparks, no twitches, the fingers move like they should.”
“Oh. The tentacles?”
“Yeah,” Rain said. “Do you want something similar? I can adapt. Obviously, I’m limited.”
I was silent, watching the monitors. One with the map, the single blinking icon, moving slowly across the map. Another with the two-tone snapshot of Tattletale meeting Accession.
“Not tentacles,” Sveta told Rain. “What about… something more human?”
“I might have ideas. They’re going to have to wait. The powers are rolling out randomly, ebb and flow, and Cradle got most of them last night. I’m working with baseline Rain tinkertech.”
“I’m not in a rush,” Sveta said.
“I’ll come up with something. For now I’m going to work on arms for myself, but I haven’t forgotten.”
“It’s okay, whatever you do, I’m fine. I’m grateful.”
I watched as the dot continued moving. Faster this time. Car?
“Let’s wait and see where she stops,” I decided.
Kenzie was packed up. The others were settling down, breaking into the weeks-old snacks we’d stockpiled, and unwinding from the day.
Erin was keeping to the background, but when she wasn’t staying quiet while we conducted team business, I could see how animated she was, and how she smiled. I could see, too, how Rain was almost revitalized. He had courage now, opinions, almost a new man. Some of that ‘new man’ veered into jumping to assumptions about what Sveta would want, but that was manageable.
I could see it in Ashley, with her clothes obtained. Her hands were working. She was free. There remained a question about what would happen in the future, but for now, things were good there.
It was Kenzie that was hurting. Sveta needed help.
I’d come here to be a coach and I wanted to guide. I’d come to help the city and I wanted to do that. To pull things together.
As I kept an eye on the others, I kept an eye on the icon. I saw it stop, and I saw it remain stopped for several minutes.
“One more snapshot, while she still has the pamphlet,” I said. “Then we take you back to your place, Kenz.”
One more snapshot. She hit the key.
It was Chicken Little, face close to the camera, making a silly face directly at the lens, cheeks sucked in between teeth, lips puckered.
“Of course,” Tristan said. “Of course.”
She was on to us already?
“Come on,” I said, biting back my disappointment. I’d hoped to have a slight edge in this. “Let’s get you to bed, Kenz.”
She didn’t budge from her seat. She reached out, and she hit the arrow keys.
Slowly, the view panned. It was an omni-directional image, and the image could turn away from Chicken Little’s face.
“Do we know what’s at that address?” Sveta asked.
Kenzie kept the key held down while navigating with her mouse. “Hotel.”
The camera panned. Chicken Little wasn’t the only kid there. There were others. Younger girls and boys, most with dark, curly hair. All with masks and costumes.
And finally, her back partially turned, Tattletale talking to another woman, who might have been Bitch or might have been Foil- only a sliver of the woman was visible.
“She brought troops,” Tristan said.
“Heartbroken,” I said. “And luggage. They’ve left the New Brockton area.”
“Were they driven out?”
I had trouble imagining another reason for them to be gone. New Brockton was their territory. They’d put everything into it for years and now they’d left it? What had happened there, or what was happening here that was pulling them together?
Worrying to imagine, that my old enemies might be cornered or desperate.