Allspades leaned forward in his chair and rested his elbows on his knees. Lux and Miss Mirror had managed to get all of them here, but it wasn’t until Red Racer and Hawthorne had told their stories that he understood why. Lux was getting ready to talk, but he took his time getting to the center of the group.
“We’ve gotten a dozen reports like yours. With the two of you tossed in, half of them are from solid sources. There is no doubt about it; Eclipse is going to attack. If any of you aren’t willing to fight, this is the only chance you get.”
None of them moved.
“Red’s not staying,” Miss Mirror said. Nobody looked surprised but Red, and she kept him quiet with a look.
Lux’s shoulders grew less rigid, but only a little. “We’re recalling everyone we can and getting all of the shelters ready. We can’t evacuate the city, but we’ll keep everyone as safe as possible.”
Lux’s words echoed through the room. The six of them barely took any space in the gym, and it felt emptier with every word. His voice didn’t waver, and he met the eyes of everyone in the room.
Red Racer looked away in moments. Miss Mirror rested a hand on his shoulder and gave it a gently squeeze.
Nobody could quite tell what Unimportant did, but a wave of uneasiness washed over them, and they could hear his chair squeaking.
Burnout and Hawthorne met his eyes, neither flinched, but flames danced along the tips of Burnouts fingers and the vines of Hawthorne’s suit were shifting.
Allspades let the words sink in. He hadn’t seen what Hawthorne and Red Racer had, but he believed every word. Time was looping back on itself. “Anyone who stays in the city could die.”
“We have a day at most,” Miss Mirror said from behind her brother. “A few hundred, maybe a couple thousand, people who have bolt bags ready, could make it out in time. Everyone else will be caught in a traffic jam or overloading trains. There are nearly 12 million people in this city. An optimistic estimate says we’d lose a quarter of them. The shelters are spaced so that everyone can get to one within an hour of an attack starting and can block anything short of a direct attack from Eclipse.”
Lux took over. “Which means that we need all of you to avoid talking about this to anyone you don’t trust. The moment we lose control of this information, Eclipse will have the advantage. All of you are going to be stationed in this neighborhood, you have good power coverage and know how to work together. Miss Mirror has gone through this before; she’s going to be organizing you and the three neighborhoods bordering yours, and we need to give this same talk to all of them. For now, figure out a shift schedule, two of you need to be awake at all times. We told Hawthorne enough to get you started.”
Lux didn’t give them time to ask questions before he turned on his heel and strode out the door. Miss Mirror followed close behind him.
“Mitch,” she said. “I’m stopping by the apartment on my way back here, if you’re not there I’m ripping every one of your suits to shreds, including the one you’re wearing. That gives you 15 minutes.”
The door shut behind her.
Burnout grabbed a stool and put it in the center of the room, he put his phone on top of it. “They’re gone, Mach.”
“I know that everyone is in costume, but I’m really not Mach anymore,” Tina’s voice came from the speaker. “Thanks for letting me listen in.”
“Hawthorne’s idea?” Allspades asked. Burnout and Hawthorne nodded. “Are you sure you want to be in on this?”
“I can’t do much from here,” Tina said. “But there’s a few mechers who put a lot of effort into hacking the street level cameras around the city; Burnout and I managed to sneak onto their feeds. I can help keep an eye out over the next day.”
Unimportant faded into existence. “what about the rest of us?”
One by one, the group turned to Hawthorne. She didn’t stand up; her back and shoulders slowly lost their stiffness and she half-slumped into her chair. Her headgear retracted into her suit and Allspades got a good look at her face. Deep, dark circles rimmed the bottom of her eyes, and she looked paler than she had last week. “It keeps getting worse, doesn’t it?”
“this is as big as it gets…aliens could invade next week and it would feel like a vacation”
“I could go running off to Confluence again,” Allspades said. “Maybe this time, I can go into a club without getting my ass kicked.”
“I’d rather hide in another cave.” Burnout was staring at his hands and flexing his fingers; a small ball of fire danced along them.
“If you find one, tell me so I can hide my suits there.” Red Racer had wrapped his feet around the forelegs of his chair. His eyes were fixed on his lap, and he didn’t look up when spoke. “I wish I could be here with you guys.”
“Mitch,” Hawthorne said. “Rachel’s right. You’re too young for this. So far, the only major threat you fought head on was Frankenstein, and you passed out after getting one hit in.”
“It was a hell of a hit,” Allspades said. “You knocked down a monster that a lot of full grown heroes can’t even hit, but if you tried something like that against Eclipse, you’d be dead before you left the ground. When you’re stronger, you’ll be a force in any fight, but right now, every one of us would be too worried about you to fight.”
Red’s eyes never left his knees. “I know.” His voice was quiet, but everyone heard him.
“I can probably talk your sister into letting you come here,” Tina said. “It’ll get you further from the city, and we’ll both have some company.”
Red managed a half-hearted smile. “Okay.”
“Okay, we’ve wasted too much time already,” Hawthorne’s voice grew sterner, but it grew more tired with every word. “We have three mobile heroes, and two support. Sliders have always been able to tell when Eclipse was emerging into the world for an attack; Unimportant will need to have a line to the rest of us constantly so he can tell us if he feels something. Someone has to be on patrol, and at least one person needs to be awake. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, and there are bunks set up backstage, so we’re going to do six hour shifts. I can-”
“I’ll take the first shift,” Allspades said. “You need to get some sleep.”