Chapter 2: Plan

The first thing we did was head back to our quarters, to see what everyone else thought about this. I knew what Miracle, or May as we called her most of the time, would say. She’d probably be annoyed, her sister being sent out on her own, with me of all people. Even though I’d actually known the two of them long before any of this rebellion began, we hadn’t kept in touch, and because of how I’d arrived, her trust in me had faltered. She hadn’t exactly been the easiest to get along with back then either, she had always been a troublemaker, and tended to try and annoy me when we were still getting to know each other. It must have been her way of being friendly, because some of the team had similar stories from meeting her. She still wouldn’t say a word to Iris, and getting them to cooperate had been a horrific task for Riley, not at all helped by Iris. She wasn’t pleased with May’s attitude towards me and just getting a basic level of communication between the two had taken weeks.

I stepped through the doorway leading to our lounge, a small round room, perfectly circular. A couch was set into the floor, forming a ring in the middle of the room around a coffee table. Apparently, Lake had once jokingly called it the Doughnut. To his annoyance, it had stuck. I took a seat at the Doughnut, stretching out along the sofa as Riley went and took her seat across from me, sitting rigidly, in stark contrast of myself. I found a small plastic ball sitting on the table and as we waited, I started to bounce it. I’ll admit, I fell into a bit of a trance-like state, and began counting all of the bounces.

*

Two hundred and thirty-three, two hundred and thirty-four. I heard the soft hiss of the door sliding open, and as I turned to look at who was coming in, the ball bounced off of my head. May, in all her kindness, giggled. She then promptly went and sat next to her sister, who looked as if she was trying not to laugh. Lake and Alan walked in after her, thankfully not having witnessed the ball incident, quickly followed by my sister and Penelope. Those two had really hit it off, and were chatting away every free moment. A social chameleon, that’s what Iris was most of the time, well except in cases of extreme prejudice.

Once everyone was sat down at the Doughnut, I looked over at Riley. It was clear she didn’t want us to start, she had that nervous look about her. It was hard to tell what was worrying her normally, because everything did. Not this time though, she was quite clearly worried about how everyone would react, not to the fact that we had to do this, but the fact that she had to do this with me. Of course, Iris wouldn’t care. She barely did anything for the team, she was basically just an extra gun, because her power wasn’t something she could use at the moment, and apparently something she didn’t want to. No idea what it is either, so for all we knew, she was just here because of me. That was May’s theory, at least, which did not help them get along whatsoever.
“Walter gives his congratulations on a job well done,” I told everyone. No-one seemed to care.
“What we did tonight has already begun to circulate in the media. They think we’re superheroes who saved them from gun-toting madmen,” That piqued the interest of Lake at least.
“Superheroes, eh? Guess those code names are more than just something idiotic then,” High praise, considering.
“There’s more,” Riley said.
“Yeah. Walter would like us to live up to that, operate semi-independently from Shade,” Never liked the organisation’s name, it didn’t exactly help the negative connotations they had attached to them, but it wasn’t something I could do anything about.
“They’ll still care for us, but Walter won’t be calling every single shot. That’ll be down to whoever wants to,” Riley looked over at me confused. That was our job.
“Calling it quits, stick-man?” Lake asked me.
“No. I’m no quitter, but if you want to go save people from a burning building, I won’t stop you. That’s all I’m saying,” I picked up the small ball I’d been bouncing before.
“Like you could’ve,” Alan said. There was a murmur of agreement around the room.
“Riley and I have been asked to procure a special form of body armor for the team, It’s something a little special, and I’m sure Walter will have a wonderful time explaining it to you all when we get back, but for now, I need to go make plans,” I stood, jumping over the seat, still bouncing the small rubber ball against the metal floor. It started making small pings whenever it bounced. I caught it in my hand, to avoid making a noise that annoyed me while I walked, and then suddenly, I couldn’t move.
“So just like that you’re going to waltz off? Without telling us anything? Typical,” May said. Of course. She’d frozen my muscles in place.
“Let go of me,” I told her, as calmly as I could.
“No. You’re going to tell me what it is you’re doing, in detail, and you’re going to tell me how you’re going to handle things if Riley has one of her moments,” I tried to turn my head to her, but she seemed to notice, and tightened the vice that was stopping my body from moving.
“Don’t be so patronizing to your sister, May,” Her grip tightened.
“TS Armour. Designed by Harold Lucas, manufactured by the Walsh Corporation. In other words, I’m going shopping,” I told her, and she loosened up a little.
“And what about Riley?” The small rubber ball exploded in my hand, probably from the ridiculous amount of electricity I’d been pumping into it.
“How’s that for a solution?” I left the room, feeling incredibly pissed off, to put it lightly. Oh well, time to call the professor.

*

I woke up the next morning to the delicious aroma of bacon, eggs, and a large helping of pancakes. I pulled my head off of my desk, and checked to make sure I was wearing clothes I could land in. Thankfully, I looked passable for a kid who was rushing to get to school, or something before they were late. I had bed hair, or more accurately, desk hair, as usual, but after last night, I couldn’t be bothered combing it before walking out to eat. One of the bonuses of being so secluded on the Sandman was that we had our own kitchen and cafeteria, well, it was more like one of those old roadside diners, honestly, but it was a nice place to eat breakfast. The other meals? The Doughnut.

I sat down at the counter top, closest spot to the kitchen. I didn’t feel like being stuck in one of the booths with Penelope or Alan. That got uncomfortable fast. Riley walked out carrying a hot plate of pancakes, drenched in syrup. The first time we’d had pancakes, Lake had had the bright idea of using ketchup instead of syrup on the plate he’d intended for me. He realized he couldn’t get to me that easily when I ate it anyway. I hated it, of course, the sauce was far too sweet, but his face when I took a bite out of that was too funny for me to stop. Plus, I won five bucks off of Iris for it, so it was a win-win for me.
“Morning,” I said as Riley handed me the plate, she smiled, but she knew how things worked. Iris and I showed up and suddenly they go from lazy days, sleeping till twelve and having cake for breakfast if they wanted, to hard-core training to master their powers and more standard skills. So, whenever I pissed one person off, or Iris did, most of them considered me off limits for a while, either until they needed me for something, or until Walter called them out on it. Riley was a different case, her irrational fears forcing her to follow along with them, knowing she wouldn’t lose me as a friend if she did. Social anxiety such as that was not something I was unfamiliar with, but instead something I realized was bullshit. Still, they wouldn’t be up for a talk, and I’d probably have to jump through hoops to figure out who I’d ticked off and how, but at the moment I didn’t feel like it. The sole wooden door on this entire ship creaked open, and Iris walked in, coming over and sitting at the booth with Alan, quickly starting up a conversation with him. Chameleon, no doubt about it. They’d gotten over her part in the change to their lifestyle quickly, easier to focus their efforts on me, Iris figured out that avoiding me would benefit her, and so she did.

I finished my plate, and walked over to Iris.
“Professor Beeves sends his regards,” I told her, and then made my way behind the counter and into the kitchen, leaning against one of the benches as the three cooks scrambled around, cleaning up after themselves. It took about five minutes for someone to notice me.
“What are you doing in here?” Lake asked me, surprisingly. I gave him the cold shoulder, as he had done to me so many times. That got Riley’s attention.
“Edward, if you’ve got nothing to say, please leave,” she said meekly.
“One hour. That’s when I’m leaving. If you’re coming to get the armor, be ready by then,” I walked out of the kitchen clutching a small apple.

*

I wasn’t surprised that Riley arrived at the pod bay before I did. As usual, she was wearing the full fatigues and body armor get up, while I was just wearing a casual pair of jeans and a t-shirt. She looked at me and immediately her face was red.
“Edward! What are you wearing? Isn’t this place going to be crawling with armed guards?” I smiled at her.
“Yes, but like I said yesterday, we’re going shopping. There’s no reason for them to attack us,” she seemed upset still.
“We’re dropping in fifteen, that should give you some time to change, should you want to,” she ran off, and not even two minutes later, was on her way back, wearing something more fitting for what we were doing. I strolled into the pod bay, my small pistol slapping against my thigh every so often. That thing was going to leave a bruise eventually.
“Edward, about last night,” Riley started.
“Ah. So I pissed off May,” she nodded. Whenever one of us annoyed the other too much, Riley always tried to bridge the gap. Didn’t help the fact that she didn’t trust me, or the fact that Lake had a social strength that stopped most from speaking to me, let alone liking me, thanks to his personal opinion. They’d followed him and May around for so long, getting along wonderfully, but now things had changed, and months upon months in they still didn’t like it.
“Less annoyed, more, scared,” that was interesting. She got quiet as we walked through pod security, and sat down into the pod itself.
“Really? And how did I, of all people, manage that?” I joked.
“You walked away. She froze you and you just walked away,” That didn’t make any sense.
“No, she let go of me. I simply left,” I could see her waiting to respond.
“Not what she says, and not what I saw. You had this weird green light in your eyes as you did it too. May says it hurt her, but she didn’t notice anything more than she could feel,” Curious.
“Did you tell Walter?” She shook her head.
“We’ll ask him when we get back,” And with that, we dropped.

The sensation of the drop was strange. We knew we were free falling, dropping from a few thousand feet in the air made that obvious, but it was the difference in speeds that really caused the strange feeling. It takes, roughly, a fifteen-hundred-foot drop and around ten seconds for a human body to reach terminal velocity in ideal conditions, and usually a drop like that would cause you to black out, oh and grievous bodily harm if not death on impact. But theses pods work differently to a falling human body. The pod reaches terminal velocity after around two thousand feet, and uses external thrusters to slow down, land and return the pod to its bay aboard the Sandman. For what we were doing, normally it would be expected that you’d use one of the Sandman’s drop-ships, it was much safer and the fuel cost was minute in comparison, well that is if they used standard rocket propulsion systems, and they could land anywhere. But we didn’t need to land anywhere, and surprisingly, this had ended up being the most discreet way of disembarking from the Sandman, even though it was a method designed to be used to drop troops from the outer atmosphere. That, and the feeling of floating was exhilarating.

The loud rush of the engines filled the interior of the pod, accompanied by sporadic banging as stones were thrown off of the ground and against the outer hull of the pod. A sudden shudder rocked the pod, signalling the switch from thrusters to landing gear. I stood, clutching my coat in one hand, and lifting off the safety harness with the other. I discarded the holster on my thigh and stuffed the pistol into my coat, walking out of the pod and towards the house we’d landed beside. It was fifty meters away, it had to be to not burn to the ground every time a pod launched or landed, and it was Shade’s. It was used as a safe house, intended to be used whenever a team ended up out here when the launch crews were off duty, and in case they need to hide out somewhere and call for back up, plus it had a few vehicles stashed in the garage. Anything too big or anything that would normally be military standard would be too conspicuous, so instead, there were two SUV’s and two motorcycles. We had no need for an SUV, and I didn’t have a license for cars anyway, so we were stuck with taking one of the two bikes. Thankfully, there were enough helmets for the both of us, and hopefully Riley wouldn’t mind riding on the back. Only thing to worry about would be her own upper arm strength, which probably meant I was going to be driving with a smaller lung capacity than usual.

I opened up the garage door, and to my surprise, Riley was waiting in front of it. I tossed her a helmet.
“Cars are too obvious. Hop on,” I sat on the bike, twisted on the ignition, and revved the engine. We’d have to stop for fuel along the way, but it wouldn’t be a problem. Riley sat down behind me, quickly finding a tight grip.
“Let’s go,” I flipped down the visor on my helmet, and we sped off down the road.