"The ship?" Kayla glanced across the room toward the big, metal doors to the hangar.

"Might be," Haley said, and sighed. "There's a lot of stuff in the base, and I don't know what a quarter of it is. The Rocket would know. Oh... Could you ask the jet to check out the ship?"

Kayla said, "Ok," and began to move her mouse pointer toward the jet's icon.

She only made it halfway when the jet's square started blinking, and a message appeared.

"The ship above Grand Lake is one of the landing vessels for an Omandan Explorer Class ship. Often used for exploration, Explorer Class ships are often converted into troop carriers or pirate ships. Their landing vessels, which were intended to be living quarters, are similarly easily converted into landing craft for invading forces."

Kayla forwarded the text to Haley.

"Pirates?" Haley sighed again. "The Hrrnna hired pirates. You know what, Control? This might be more about revenge than anything the League's got."

They never told her anything. Kayla frowned at the screen. Would it kill any of them to keep her up to date? "Revenge for what?"

"The Rocket figured out that the Hrrnna were behind St. Louis, and all the aliens that died last week, and the robots that attacked us--everything that happened to us lately."

Kayla's jawed dropped. "Why didn't you tell me we knew who tried to destroy the world?"

Haley didn't say anything for a moment, but then she said, "I'm sorry. It's been really busy. The Rocket told me, but I didn't know who else he'd told. Right now, though, we should concentrate on winning because I don't think we'll get a second chance."

Kayla almost hung up. "You need to tell me things like that. If I'm supposed to help, I need to know what to look for. When you've figured out what aliens are trying to kill everybody, that's a big deal, and I need to know. I thought everything was normal today."

"Look, I get it," Haley said. "He's not very good at paying attention to people. He doesn't tell me everything either, but I'll make sure you know the important things, okay?"

Kayla almost said she'd believe it when she saw it, but she didn't. She stopped at, "Thanks."

Haley probably wasn't trying to leave her out.

"I'm going on the general League channel to tell everybody about the Hrrnna ship, and then I'll meet you in HQ."

"OK." Kayla listened in on the general comm channel as Haley began, "Heroes League, the jet’s sensors have identified a ship decloaking above Grand Lake. It's an Omandan Explorer class--”

Haley's words became background noise as HQ's security system reported, "Entered: Sydney Drucker and Gravity Star."

Kayla shook her head. Sydney still hadn't chosen a codename.

Sydney and Camille entered through one of the sewer doors--the one on the wall to Kayla's right. The metal door unscrewed and then swung open. Sydney pushed it open with one hand even though it weighed at least as much as she did.

Sydney and Camille laughed together at something. Even though Camille was a little shorter with dark brown hair, and light brown skin while Sydney's hair was light blond, and her skin pale, they looked like sisters, or at least half-sisters--which Kayla knew they were.

She could see it in their faces, and slender builds. Camille already wore her orange and white costume. Sydney still wore jeans and a green top that went down to her hips.

Camille waved at her as they stepped inside. "Hey, Kayla. How are things going? They haven't attacked anybody yet, have they?"

"No," Kayla said. "They're just sitting there."

Sydney stopped, staring up at the television screen that took up most of the wall past the room's sole table.

Windows showed picture's from HQ's surveillance cameras, the base's radar, and a satellite view of Veteran's Memorial park, and the neighborhoods near it.

The Hrrnna's landing craft floated above the lake near the beach. A few people stood on the beach, phones in their hands, taking pictures.

Others, more sensible people, Kayla thought, walked, sometimes running away from the beach.

Sydney frowned. "We should be getting them out of there. "

Kayla shook her head. "I don't think that would be a good idea."

Sydney turned to look at her, still frowning. "Why?"

On Kayla's screen, the security system printed, "Entered: The Shift, Man-machine 1, Man-machine 2."

Camille laughed. "Are they really going with Man-machine 1 and 2?"

Almost against her will, Kayla gave a short laugh of her own. "No, I had to give them names, and Man-machine was already in the system, so I gave Chris Man-machine 2 because he doesn't have a codename and I had to put in something."

Camille grinned. "Good idea. Sydney can be The Power 2."

"Dork," Sydney said, "there is no way I'm going with that."

Camille shrugged. "We've got to call you something. Keep on procrastinating, and you're going wake up one morning to find out you're called Railgun Girl."

Sydney jammed her hands in her pocket, and said, "No, just no."

"Hey," Marcus said, expelling from a drain in the floor, and reforming into a human shape. He wore a green costume that shifted from forest green into black between his right side and his left. His mask showed the lower half of his face. As it solidified, it changed from grey to brown skin.

He nodded at Sydney. "I like Railgun Girl. That's classic and simple--like Bulletman, and Tank Girl."

He paused for a moment, adding, "And Squirrel Girl, but she's more of a joke character."

Sydney sighed. "I'm not going to pick a name until I like it, but that's not what's important right now. Why aren't we going out and getting those people out of there?" She pointed at the screen.

"Sorry Sydney," Haley stepped up to the table and sat on it. She was already in her Night Cat costume--grey with a black cat's head on her chest. Her mask hung behind her head.

Kayla hadn't heard her come in.

Almost a head shorter than Sydney, Haley looked up at almost everybody even sitting on the table. "They might be here to kill anyone in the League they can as revenge, so if we go out there, we might do more harm than good."

Silently wishing Haley wouldn't sit on the table, especially right next to her monitor, Kayla asked, "Do you think that's it? Revenge?"

A heavy footfall hit the floor, and an old man's voice said, "I think they're here for something."

A younger voice, Chris' said, "Man-machine 2?"


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About the author


Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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