Rose and Barry leaned against two pillars in the lobby, taking turns glancing at the elevator. They talked vaguely about their current project, just enough to avoid suspicion, and Barry held an unlit cigarette in his hand. Nobody looked at them twice. Barry checked the elevator again.
“That’s him, right?”
Rose stole a glance across the lobby. It was definitely Will, but she had never seen him looking that serious before, even when he told them Burnout had vanished. He was standing straighter, and his stride was longer. His hair was more disheveled than normal, and stress lines were visible around his eyes.
She noticed Will stiffen across the room and quickly turned away.
Barry looked strangely at her, and she quickly signaled him to stop talking.
She glanced in the window to her right and watched his reflection. He glanced once around the lobby; his eyes paused on the two of them for a moment. She avoided holding her breath; Barry was less successful but he hid it by taking a sip of his coffee.
Will’s eyes passed over the room once more, but he continued out of the lobby.
Barry finally let himself breath. “What did you mean?”
Rose watched Will turn around the block. “I’m not sure yet, but I think I need to find out.”
Barry nodded. “Family emergency. Text me in 15; I’ll make sure everyone keeps on schedule, but you probably aren’t gonna be sleeping for a few nights when you get back.”
“It won’t take that long.”
“Sure, sure. I’m gonna buy you a coffee pot for your office.”
“Head to the parking garage. Try to look worried.”
Rose rushed for the stairs. She had to hurry if she wanted to find Will, but she couldn’t do it outside of costume.
The parking garage was secure; you couldn’t get a car in or out without being seen by at least three cameras. But, if you didn’t need a car, the security meant nothing.
She reached a hand into her pocket, and felt for the seeds within. There wasn’t a name for this plant; she had spent the better part of six months designing something completely unique, and it had taken every second she had poured into it.
The largest problem with modifying plants was that any property she tried to give them changed another. She could make it strong, but not without losing flexibility. She could make it light, but not without losing density.
Her staff had been the first attempt to avoid that, but it was only a partial success. This suit had turned out much better. The seed began to sprout, twirling its way around her fingers and over her hand. At first, growing the suit had taken all her concentration for almost 20 minutes. It had been that way for months; then, in three days she had gotten it down to less than ten. Now, she could do it in less than a minute while running.
The plant and grown beneath her clothes, and she could feel tiny vines removing the buttons of her outer layer. She quickly rolled her shoulders back and caught the dress shirt and jacket she had been wearing. The vines beneath it thickened and grew together into the olive green vest of Hawthorne. The pants were harder, but she had figured that out a few weeks ago. A nearly invisible seam of vines split along the sides and she removed them without slowing down.
The next part was the hardest. She’d given up the helmet once she realized how little time she would have to stop by her house after work. She grabbed another seed from her bag and brought it up to her hair. It began to grow and harden, quickly covering her hair and pulling it up towards her neck. It begain to wrap around her head, covering everything but her eyes. Then the color shifted, growing darker until the helmet was pitch black, with a single red rose appearing on the left side.
She pulled a simple, but thick, visor from her bag. It was the only part she couldn’t grow, but it was small enough that she could carry it around without much difficulty. She checked Barry’s truck up ahead; he left the window cracked like he always did.
Hawthorne reached into her bag one more time, letting the remaining seeds within sink into her suit, before she tossed it and her work clothes into Barry’s truck.
Will had been heading west, and he left less than 3 minutes ago. She should be able to spot him from the rooftops.
She launched herself off the parking garage and to the nearest roof.
She scanned the streets below, but she couldn’t spot his messy gray hair among the few people still on the street.
“You caught up fast.”
She froze. It was Will, but he definitely shouldn’t have known she was coming after him.
“You shouldn’t be so surprised. I had you pegged as an office worker on day one, I’ve heard your voice, and your hair was still messy from your trip to the office. If you pay attention, you start to notice how people look when they’ve been roof hopping or flying. Don’t worry, I didn’t take to close a look at your face, and I’m not going to look for your name. But you should head back to work; this isn’t something for you kids to deal with.”
“What’s happening then? You don’t look like you’re out for a walk.”
Will turned away. “It doesn’t concern you. But a friend of mine will be stepping in for the next meeting. Make sure Red, Burnout, and Mach know.”
“And what about Allspades?”
Will started to walk away.
“Will, what about Allspades?”
Will didn’t slow down. “Allspades decided not to be a hero any more.”
Hawthorne gritted her teeth. She pulled a seed to her hand and threw it at his feet.
Will hopped to the side before the roots grabbed his feet.
“He wouldn’t do that. Not without telling us himself.”
Will looked her in the eyes. His eyes were still serious, but there wasn’t any anger in them, not for her at least. When he spoke, she could tell he was trying to be gentle.
“Allspades got called back by his old boss. I have an idea of where he’s going, but there’s not much that we can do about the government’s black suits.”
“Old timer’s term. Agents with powers and the guys who work with them. The previous Council agreed to leave them alone if they did the same. The second generation pretty much kept that going. Allspades was a black suit, and when they called he went back. He’s not a hero anymore.”
“And you’re just going to let it go.” Hawthorne’s voice was flat. She wasn’t sure if she was trying to hide her anger or her sadness, but it didn’t look like Will bought the act either way.
“Heroes can’t do anything against black suits.”
Hawthorne stared in shock. Will had always been a little distant, but he definitely wasn’t the kind of person to abandon them. Any of them.
“Luckily, I’m not a hero.”
Hawthorne looked up. Will’s eyes were still serious, but there was a hint of playfulness behind them.
She made a decision.
“I’m going too.”
Will looked in her eyes. After a moment, he sighed.
“I’m not talking you out of this am I? There’s a thousand reasons I shouldn’t let you go.”
“I don’t care. Allspades is one of us, and I’m going even if the others can’t.”
Will tried to stare her down, but she didn’t budge. Finall, he nodded and led her across the rooftops.