A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters.
Alex went straight up. Up as far as the roof, and another forty feet above that just in case there were invisible guys lurking on the roof too. Then she flew in the direction the invisible intruder went. She had no way of finding him unless she got a hint. If he could get out of the hotel without making any noise or moving anything she could see, then she was stuck. But if he made some noise or caused a ruckus, she’d at least have a starting point. She flew around the edge of the roof, about forty feet higher and about forty feet out from the building, looking for places the guy might come out.
There was a large, fenced-in pool area in back, but the guy would have to climb a ten-foot steel fence naked to get out that way. There were exit doors at the two back corners so people could walk out to their parked cars in the back parking lot. There was a wide lobby area in the center of the front, with a covered valet and shuttle area, but every exit door down there was an airlock and the guy would have to get two sliding doors to open for him. Would they even open if he was invisible? She had no idea. And there was a large service entrance on one side with a steel garage door that was down. The guy would give away his position big-time if he opened that noisy steel door and went out that way.
The guy had run toward the east side of the building, but the back-side west door swung open. It was open, and no one came out. She took an infrared picture in the gathering gloom.
Bingo. Naked guy was making a break for it out the southwest exit. She couldn’t see him when she wasn’t snapping pictures on the IR setting, but he hadn’t spotted her either. Not a lot of people checked for someone following them and flying a couple hundred feet above the ground. And the darker it got, the less chance there was of anyone being able to see her.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and speed-dialed Jack. Even though she was about two hundred fifty feet up, she whispered when she said, “It’s me.”
She whispered, “Southwest exit. Heading across the lawn toward the strip mall. Can someone drive my special bag over there and wait for me?”
“We’ll see what we can do.”
She slid the phone back in her pocket and took more snapshots. He wasn’t moving fast, but he was moving. She wondered how cold he was, and how hungry. Could he even eat and not have everyone be able to see the food getting digested in his stomach?
And where was he headed? If it was her, she would be heading back to somewhere safe, like someone’s house where she could get some food and water, and then get some sleep in some warm blankets. But did Grover have anywhere safe like that? Milton was supposed to be dead. The jocks knew about Grover’s house and Cindy’s house. Did that leave him with any options, other than maybe a storage unit?
She flew a little higher and ahead of him, and she peeked at the fronts of the stores in the strip mall. None of them looked like good choices, unless he was willing to eat dog food and curl up with some dog blankets in a big doghouse in that PetCo store. So what was he up to?
She moved back behind him, still taking a snapshot every thirty seconds or so to keep track of him. He detoured around a little pond. She wouldn’t want to fall in a cold pond and then walk around outside naked for hours, either.
Her phone buzzed. “Here.”
It was Jack. “I’m driving the SUV and pulling into the strip mall. I’m parking between the Denny’s and the laundromat.”
“Gotcha. Give me several minutes. I’m following him, and I don’t know where he’s going. I figure five or ten minutes for him to get over near you, if he stays in a mostly straight line. But I have no idea what he’s up to.”
Jack said, “The IR viewers aren’t charged yet, so they’re a big ‘no’. It’s up to you. And I tossed a can of spray paint in the bag, just in case.”
“I’ll sit tight and wait on you. Over and out.”
She followed the invisible guy for another five minutes, until he made it onto the asphalt parking lot of the strip mall. She couldn’t be sure, since she was taking IR-filtered snapshots instead of video, but it looked like he was sort of walking gingerly across the parking lot. Well, that had to be hard on the bare feet, even if there weren’t rocks and broken bottles and other stuff that would be bad if you stepped on it.
And he made a beeline, not for any of the stores, but for the bus stop on the far side of the parking lot. “Oh.” That sort of made sense. If he knew the buses were running in the right direction, and not crowded, he could sneak onto one and sit in an empty seat and be warmer for a while. And he could get across town pretty easy without paying for it.
She kept taking snapshots every thirty seconds. He was moving a lot slower over the parking lot than over the grass. So it took him a long time to get over to the bus stop and huddle inside the flimsy clear-plastic bus stop shelter.
She zoomed over to Jack’s SUV. Jack had the shotgun seat’s window open about three inches, so she went silvery, flew through the opening, and puddled in the shotgun seat before going normal.
Jack grinned, “Man, that never gets old. Undercover meets are never this simple in real life. So… sitrep? I mean, what’s the situation?”
She said, “Jack, I don’t know a ton of military stuff, but I know what a sitrep is. Your 2IC taught me.”
He just gave her a smirk. “She must’ve had a really awesome teacher.”
She said, “Since the other Jack O’Neill has destroyed stuff all the way up to enemy Deathstars, I’d say yeah. And Sam once blew up an entire solar system to take out a fleet of enemy motherships.”
Jack grinned, “Sweet. How do I get that into my resume?”
She said, “It’s got to be Grover.”
“Yep, I figured that one out already. He’s the one with the contacts who knew I was here.”
She said, “He’s huddled in that bus stop shelter near that fat old lady with the half dozen bags. I figure he’ll go on whatever bus stops for her, whether it’s the one he wants or not, because he’s got to be really cold by now. And his feet probably hurt a ton after walking across this parking lot.”
He said, “Well, change into your fighting togs, and make sure he gets on the bus. Then…” He looked across the parking lot at the dollar store that was still open. “…Here’s what we’ll do…”
She flew over the bus, occasionally dipping down lower to check with her camera and see whether Grover got off when the bus stopped. It took about twenty minutes, but finally it was just Grover at the back of the bus, and the driver at the front. She pulled out her phone and called Jack. “Going in… now.”
She swooped forward and came to a halt directly in front of the bus, about five feet off the ground. The bus driver gaped at her and slammed on his brakes. She could see the bus driver’s controls Jack told her about, so she used her telekinesis to grab the big handle by the driver and make the front door of the bus open. Then she flew in and closed the door after her.
She gave it her best Terawatt voice. “Good evening, citizen. I am sorry to interrupt you in your rounds, but you have someone hiding in the back of your bus. It’s imperative for his safety that I keep him from returning to his home, where felons await his return.”
Wow, that was pretty mega-pompous. She really needed to work on her dialogue.
On the other hand, it seemed to work. The bus driver worked his mouth for a couple seconds before words started coming out. “You’re… you’re that superheroine all over the news! Tear-something.”
“That’s right. I am Terawatt. And now, if you would remain in your seat for a few seconds…”
She pulled her camera out of her fanny pack and took another snapshot. Crud. Grover had ducked down and was out of sight, even in infrared. So she went with Jack’s idea. Cans of Silly String™. Only Jack would think of trapping an invisible enemy with Silly String.
She took a can in each hand and shook them, then sprayed them around the seats of the bus as she floated back toward the rear seats. She just hoped she didn’t run out, because Jack only bought four cans at that dollar store.
She said, “Grover Dunn? I know it’s you. I’m here to rescue you and take you to somewhere safe. You have two dangerous felons after you. Your current actions are endangering you, and your girlfriend, and your mother. You need to reconsider your course of action.”
She got all the way to the rear seats, and… nothing. He must have ducked underneath one of the seats to avoid getting sprayed. She whirled around and held her breath.
Something moved a strand of the Silly String as it tried to sneak out from under a seat five rows closer to the front. She flew right over and blasted all over the place there, especially under the seat.
Grover struggled out from under the seat and wiped frantically at all the Silly String, trying to get it all off of him so he could be invisible again.
She firmly said, “Grover, cease and desist, or I will be forced to use the spray paint I brought.”
He didn’t stop. She hadn’t ever tried to grab something invisible with her telekinesis, but she had grabbed plenty of things she couldn’t see, even if it was just because they were in a purse or a backpack. She reached out and grabbed his wrists with her telekinesis. She floated down to the bus floor so she could use all two hundred pounds of force, so he couldn’t pull loose. Then she gave him a good blast from both cans of Silly String, right in the face and hair and upper chest. Because she was not about to spray him down near the boyparts, because who wanted to see that? Yick.
She insisted in her Terawatt voice, “Grover Dunn, please accompany me to a place of safety, so you can meet up with your mother and your girlfriend.” Then she pulled hard with her telekinesis and dragged him down the aisle of the bus and out the door.
As she walked out, the bus driver finally said, “Hey! What about my bus! There’s crap all over it!”
She firmly said, “Citizen, please drive your bus on its normal route and then return to your base station. An official of the U.S. Government will brief your supervisor and explain how you were cooperative under a ‘superpowers’ situation. Also, this is only Silly String, and will clean up with a vacuum cleaner or a dustcloth.”
She kept hold of Grover’s wrists and marched him over to Jack’s SUV. She used a little telekinesis to open one of the rear doors, and she gave Grover a push to get him moving into the car. Then she used her telekinesis to flip the switches on the rear doors so the child locks were engaged and Grover couldn’t open the rear doors from the inside. She floated her gymbag out to her hand, and she said, “Colonel O’Neill, please take good care of Mister Dunn. I expect to find him in good shape when I look in on him later.”
Then she slung the gymbag over her back and lifted off into the air. She took IR snapshots of the area for three minutes after Jack pulled out, but there was no sign that she could see that the two invisible psychos were anywhere around. Not that she thought they could have followed Grover to the Hilton, or that they could have kept from attacking him if they did. But you never knew. And Jack had been right about the room steamer and the Silly String and a lot of stuff.
She would really feel a lot better about a bunch of things if she could really trust
Jack and Riley.
Then she flew straight back to Jack’s room with the gymbag. It only took a few seconds to go silvery, duck into the bag, and change back to frumpy ‘Annie’. Then she closed the sliding glass doors and hid her gymbag in a cabinet.
She checked her food. The salad was still cold. The steak and mashed potatoes and green beans and rolls were, well, lukewarm. Okay, the green beans were room temperature. She still ate them. She was hungry, after all. She managed to finish the main course and get started on her salad before anyone else got back to the room.
Stewart got back and sat down and started eating. She was kind of surprised he wasn’t a ‘steak and baked potato’ kind of guy, because he sure looked like it. No, he had fish and veggies and a salad. Maybe he was on a diet.
She was just finishing her salad when Riley got back. He had needed to go off to the bus depot and square everything with the bus driver’s bosses, which sounded like a really un-fun job. He didn’t look like it was any fun. His dinner was no-longer-hot steak and baked potato, and two glasses of milk, which weren’t cold anymore. He told her that anything was better than eating MREs in the field, so he wasn’t going to complain. And he’d had plenty of warm, unpasteurized milk back on the farm, because they had dairy cows and beef cows and cornfields and soybean fields.
She was in the middle of her first dessert when Jack called her on her phone. “Hey, can you run surveillance on our route? I’m on my way back to the hotel with Grover and Cindy and Deborah.”
She chewed really fast and then swallowed the mouthful of cake. “Yes sir.”
He gave her the information about which roads he was coming in on, and she told him she would be checking things in about two minutes. She could have puddled into her gymbag and flown away, but Stewart wasn’t in the know. And she was already pretty unhappy about having to trust Jack and Riley and Graham. So she grabbed her bag and ran down to her room.
She didn’t have a fancy suite with a nice dining room table and stuff, and a separate bedroom. She didn’t have a private balcony. But she didn’t need any of that stuff. She just needed a window she could open an inch or two.
She dropped the gymbag in front of her window and opened the window as far as it would go, which was about three inches. That was going to have to do. It was on the third floor, so it wasn’t like burglars were likely to sneak in. She was probably lucky it opened at all.
It occurred to her that Jack might have made sure she got one of the rooms that did have a window that could open. He did seem to think about stuff more than you’d think from talking to him.
She went silvery, dove into the bag, changed into Terawatt, and headed out the window while she was still silvery. She went up the side of the building between the room windows, so no one was going to see her, and she flew well up above the roof before she went from silvery to normal. Then she headed up the road Jack told her to take, until she spotted him.
She never would have been able to spot him from three hundred feet up if he hadn’t draped something like blue cellophane over his right headlight. He was the only car for a long way around that had mismatched white and blue headlights, and it made it a snap to spot him. Man, was he sneaky.
She dove down and started checking every car behind Jack’s SUV, both looking and using her camera on its IR setting. No invisible drivers, and no invisible passengers or outside riders. Jack did a tricky bit where he turned right, went all the way around a couple blocks, and went back on his route. With her watching to spot anyone tailing him, or anybody trying to do a ‘front tail’, it worked great.
She flew up another two hundred feet and called him. “It’s me. No tails. No invisible trouble.”
“Roger that. We’ll be there directly.”
So she flew right back to the hotel, ducked into her room, changed clothes back to ‘Annie’, and rushed back up to Jack’s suite. It was a good thing the elevators were fast.
She knocked, and took IR snapshots of the hallway, just in case, while she waited for Riley to let her in. Then she went straight over and started wolfing down her desserts. “We need to hurry. He’ll be back with guests in a couple minutes.”
Stewart was already done, but Riley was working on a brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, even if the ice cream had melted before he got back to the room. From the way they acted, she had to figure that getting interrupted in the middle of meals was the least of the things they had to deal with.
She moved all the emptied plates and stuff to the cart the bellman had left, and she cleaned off the table except where Riley was working on his dessert. Then she called Jack again. “Do we need to order food for your guests?”
“Nope. Got that covered. Pulling into the covered entry just about… now. So we’ll be up in a couple.”
She looked over at Riley and Stewart and said, “Jack has guests. They’ll be coming up any second now. Do we need to hide anything?”
Stewart looked at the infrared viewers charging away, and shrugged. Riley stuffed his face with the last of his dessert and shoved his bowl and spoon onto the cart.
When the knock came, Alex peeked through the peephole and then opened the door a crack. It was the guests she was expecting, so she said, “Make sure Grover checks the hall before you guys come in.”
“Already done,” Jack said cheerfully.
So she opened the door wide and let Jack and his three guests traipse in. Cindy was wearing the same t-shirt and tight jeans she’d had on a couple hours earlier. Deborah was in a frilly dress that was about twenty years too young for her. And heels. Grover was in a dark blue hoodie pulled far enough forward that it wasn’t too obvious he had no face. He was wearing baggy jeans, and socks and sneakers, and gloves, so none of him showed except his invisible face, which most people would probably think was just in shadow.
Jack seated everyone on the couches and chairs. Then he did the introductions, still calling her ‘Annie’ for security reasons. Jack looked at her and said, “Deborah and Cindy already ate, but Grover’s starving. We’ve got tomato soup, pureed potatoes, and a strawberry milkshake on their way up.”
Riley asked, “Is that to speed up digestion?”
Grover nodded inside his hoodie. “If I eat a normal meal, it shows inside me for about four or five hours. If I have a liquid and pureed meal, it only shows inside me for about an hour and a half. If I stick with a couple canned diet drinks, it’s even less than that. And trust me, you don’t want to see my food getting digested inside me.”
Jack casually said, “Oh, I’ve seen worse.”
Deborah asked, “If you’re putting us up at the Hilton, are we gonna get our own keys for the little bottles of liquor and the snacks and stuff?”
“Mom!” Grover protested.
Jack grinned, “Nope, but we’ve got a bunch of energy bars and MREs if you get hungry. Having to eat an MRE will take care of your appetite. For about a week.”
Riley said, “Sir, we should get some unflavored Pedialyte™ for Grover. It’s clear, it’s loaded with sugars and electrolytes, and it digests really fast. We can probably buy several bottles at any pharmacy.”
“Good idea,” Jack said. Then he asked, “So tell me, Mister Dunn. Where do you think your invisible opponents are hiding out these days?”
Grover shrugged inside his hoodie. “I have no idea. They robbed all of their parents’ houses, which is kind of crazy. I don’t know what the heck they were thinking. I mean, if they just went home and talked to their folks, they’d probably have places to hide out, and free food, and beds and stuff.”
Riley said, “We only saw one report of a break-in.”
Grover nodded, “Yeah, only the Thomases reported it to the cops, probably because of what else Donny did. I don’t know what, but his mom was freaked. They have dogs, so I couldn’t get close enough to find out. But I’m pretty sure they robbed the Crosettis’ house and Mike’s stepdad’s place too, but those didn’t get reported ‘cause they knew it was their kids.”
Jack asked, “And what do you think they stole?”
Grover shrugged again. “No idea. They might tell you guys, but maybe not.”
Riley asked, “Would there have been camping equipment? Sleeping bags, cooking gear, things like that?”
Grover said, “Oh sure, Mike’s stepdad is huge on that.”
Stewart asked, “What about weapons? Knives, guns, those kinds of things?”
Grover said, “Pete’s family has a shitload of stuff like that.”
Jack sarcastically said, “Great. Nothing like invisible psychos sneaking around with firearms.”
Alex said, “At least the guns would be visible.”
When the bellman – a completely different guy, this time – brought Grover’s dinner, Jack got the door but had Grover watching the hallway just in case. Grover wolfed all the food down. It was weird watching the food basically get sucked into a clear mouth and get swallowed. Alex wondered if scientists would be interested in watching food get swallowed and digested from the outside of the body.
Jack got another room in his name, and Alex knew it was for Deborah and Cindy, because Jack made sure the keys to the mini-bar weren’t handed over. Then Stewart got stuck with Grover in his room, which at least had two separate beds, because she was pretty sure guys were all weird about sharing rooms and stuff.
But with the chatting with Grover and Cindy and Deborah – which Alex was pretty sure counted as ‘debriefing’ for the military guys – Alex didn’t get to go down to her room until nearly eleven. And she was exhausted. It had been a really long day. She washed the heavy makeup off her face, hopped into her pajamas, and hit the hay. Which was a really weird expression when you thought about it.
And they still had two more invisible psychos to round up.