Authors: R.J. Ross
R. J. Ross
Copyright © 2015 by R. J. Ross
All Rights Reserved
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
~Other works by R.J. Ross~
Belle and the Dragon's Curse * Sundance's Syn * Missing: Witch * Destiny Thread
The Winstead Files Series
Courting the Beast * Snow White, Snow White * The Sleeper * Stiltskin
Arcadia Gamers Series
Croc Skins * Coyote Falls
Seasons of the Fae Series
Raven's Return * Death of a Dryad * Water Wielder
Cape High Series
Super Villain Dad * America's Grandson * Hello Kitty * Don't Know JackDaddy's Girl * Aces Wild * Steampunk Time * Fire Hazard * Ditto Ditto * Sunny Daze
TABLE OF CONTENTS
*One Week Ago*
“Listen, Sam, I know we go back a long way, but I can’t go on like this anymore,” the man on the computer screen says. “I’m getting attention that I don’t like--you have to realize, there are things going on--we’re in a middle of a bit of a scuffle--”
“You’re a politician, Herold, you’re ALWAYS in the middle of a scuffle,” Kunnins snaps. He lowers his voice as he sees some of his workers walking past his door a little too slowly. He probably should have closed it properly, but he wants to hear if something unexpected happens. “I have paychecks to pay, Herold, I need equipment, as well. I’m just asking for a little more help. All the money I had and most of my equipment was left behind with that unplanned move.” For a moment he scowls, thinking of how close he’d gotten to being caught. He’d tried to make it look like a minor set-back, but it hadn’t been. He’d lost practically everything he had. He’d almost lost the geneticist, as well.
“I won’t lie,” Herold says finally, running a hand over his face, “I was really hoping all of this was in your past. You told me you’d settled down--taken in a grandson, taken up a hobby--why are we right back where we’ve been for the past century now?”
“They almost killed my boy, Herold,” Kunnins says. “I need your help now, and we both know how much you owe me.”
Herold lets out a sigh, turning away from the webcam and sorting through a few files. While he’s busy, Kunnins looks out the window. “I’m going to need a new place to lie low, soon,” Kunnins says, seeing a streak of color flash through the sky. “There are too many supers flying past my window.”
“So now you want money AND shelter?” Herold demands. “I can do one or the other, I can’t do both.”
“Sure you can, Herold, you run this place.”
“I’m a politician, not a tyrant,” Herold says.
“Just find a place,” Kunnins says as he stares out the window of his plush hotel room. He stands, casually walking to the window, and pulls closed the drapes just as Voltdrain flies past slowly. “I need the coordinates now, Herold, I think they’ve found me.”
Herold lets out a curse before going silent for a moment. “There’s one place--it’s one from my past. I only know about it because I was the one that designed it. Who needs to know the coordinates, you or someone else?”
“Tell me, I’ll pass it on. The less people who know about you, the better.”
“It’s in Texas.”
I lift my hand, letting the wind breeze through my fingers as we drive down the road. Everything except the road is green. Once in a while you see a herd of cattle, lounging next to small ponds or standing under tall trees. This is Kansas. Flat, boring, fields as far as the eye can see. I glance over at my mom, watching her sing along with that CD she’s constantly listening to--this folk singer lady. She’s beautiful, no, not the folk singer--my mom. I still find it hard to believe we got her back.
I guess I should introduce myself, huh? The name is Sunny Rosenthorn, I’m a fifteen year old super that goes to Cape High. My dad’s the principal. His name is Nico, he’s a technopath like my twin sister, Zoe. I take after mom--she’s an elementalist that specializes in plants. Her name is Summer, but the world knows her as Lady Rose. For almost two years she was missing--kidnapped by a very dangerous woman, but we got her back. We also got our father, who we’d never met because he was stuck in the Cape Cells. So now that I’ve done the whole little recap thing, I should probably tell you why we’re driving through Kansas.
Ever since Mom recovered from her kidnapping she’s been dragging me out on the weekends to the farms in the area. We help with the planting, with the growing, even help with animals, although neither of us have animal powers. She can’t fly, so she bullied Dad into giving us his old Firebird--after he made it Eco-friendly, and gave it a better stereo system. We have access to all the music on the internet and yet she still keeps listening to this CD over and over again.
“Where are we going today?” I ask her. She gives me a brilliant smile, as if she can’t wait to be up to our knees in whatever dirty job she’s got planned.
“There’s a small farm near Arlington,” she says cheerfully. “They emailed me asking for help with their corn crop--they think it’s going to be a long, cold winter this year.”
“Okay,” I say, leaning back as far as I can in my chair and closing my eyes. Arlington’s far enough away that I can take a nap.
“Honey, no sleeping, we have something important to discuss,” she says.
“Yeah? What?” I ask, reluctantly opening my eyes again.
“Well, Pan called last night--he said you were planning on joining the boys for their summer camp?” she says in a questioning tone. “Honey, I know your father’s an ex super villain, but I can’t say--”
“I’m not doing it to become a super villain,” I say before she can jump to some crazy conclusion. “I… I want to know more about Adanna,” I finally admit, feeling extremely stupid. “And she’s hard to get some stuff out of--a lot of stuff, really, so I figure if I get a bit of training like she got, from her dad, maybe… maybe I can see where she’s coming from better.”
She hesitates, which surprises me. I figured she would encourage me, or something, because I’m trying so hard. She looks over at me before facing the street again. “Honey… don’t you think you’re a bit… young to be this serious?” she asks quietly. “Relationships don’t always work out--”
“I know,” I say, turning to stare out the window again. “But they definitely won’t work if you don’t put in some effort, right? I mean, Dad’s practically bending over backwards for you, right? He offered you a different car, he offered to fly us both, he even made sure this has a fully equipped security system when you insisted on us doing this alone--”
“That’s different,” she says.
“How is it different?” I ask her.
“Your dad and I--we’re--” she lets out a sigh, reaching out a hand and ruffling my hair. “I just don’t want to see you hurt,” she tells me. “I like Adanna a lot, Sunny, but you’re both really young.”
“Yeah? What about Max and Zoe?” I ask. “You don’t seem to be panicking over those two!”
“You’re right,” she says, letting out another sigh. “I won’t get involved--I’ll just support you from the side, as always.”
“Thanks,” I say dryly, feeling a bit irritated. “Do you think Max and Zoe are too young?” I ask, unable to help myself.
“A little,” she admits. “Don’t tell your sister that, though, she questions herself about that sort of thing all the time. I think Max is good for her, actually.”
“And you don’t think Adanna is good for me?” I demand.
“She could be--but without communication a relationship will wither, Sunny,” she says seriously. “You can see how well it went for your father and me when we didn’t communicate properly--he wound up in the Cape Cells and I wound up raising twins on my own.”
“Okay, you’ve got a point,” I mutter, the one to sigh this time. “I’m working on it. Can we talk about something else?” I demand. “Like when you and Dad are going to make it official?”
“Make it--like--like a wedding?”
“You’ve got two fifteen year old kids and are living together, Mom,” I say bluntly.
“We have separate rooms!” she protests.
“Mmhmm,” I say.
“We’re just sharing--” she lets out a laugh. “I see exactly what you’re doing. Fine, relationship talk is over for the day.”
I lean forward, tapping on the stereo a few times and bringing up something a lot faster paced. “If I can’t sleep, don’t play music that makes me sleepy,” I tell her.
“There’s nothing wrong with my music!”
“I can fall asleep anywhere, Mom, but that would make ANYONE snore.”
“You should be growing out of that stage,” she says thoughtfully. “Has your father checked your stats lately?”
“Why don’t we do that when we get home?”
“Sure, why not?”
“So what we’ve got is Kunnins--who somehow wound up with the Tank kid down in Texas,” Nico starts out, his feet kicked up on his table just to annoy Mastermental. It’s bad enough that he forced Double M all the way out to the school campus, he thinks in amusement, but to be disrespectful on top of it! Man he loves his job. “He kidnapped a scientist--Ginger Hanks, who’s a fully trained geneticist, and was using her twin sons as leverage. We know he’s experimented on a dog, caused Star Born to experiment on herself, and has a past of experimenting on norms, as well. This is too much like that episode with Star Born for my tastes,” he drawls.
“We also know he’s working with Shadowman,” Mastermental points out.
“Which brings in a touch of Collector, whoop-de-freaking-do,” Nico drawls. “At least he doesn’t have a mentally slow version of my old man this go-round. He just has the guy with the ability to kill an S-class tank if he’s sneaky enough.”
“Rather than complaining about dealing with the same situation as before, don’t you think you should figure out how to clean it up faster this time around?” Double M says patiently.
“That’s just it,” Nico says, “this can’t be the same situation as before. We’re dealing with two different people. Something is going to change, or mess up--it’s natural. We need to look at the bigger picture. We know that one of his past goals was to replace or kill off supers, right? Does he still have that goal? And if he does, who would he go after first?” He turns, looking at Mastermental silently for a long moment.
“You do realize I can read your mind,” Double M says. “It takes away from the dramatic pause thing you’re trying to do--and I’m not sure you’re right. While I do see the logic of taking me out first from your point of view, you need to remember that he’s living in the south. If he’s going to take out one of the leaders, it would be Century, first.”
“But I really doubt Century would appreciate us thinking he could be taken out by a norm,” Nico says, willingly going with that line of thought.
“Of course he wouldn’t,” Double M agrees, sitting down on one of the long science tables and crossing his legs. “Which is why we won’t mention it to him--we need something he won’t notice…”
“There’s one option,” Nico says thoughtfully, “of course, it would mean trusting some of my kids.”
“Panther is taking my villains for a week long camping trip. Of course we can’t assume that Kunnins is ready to attack now, but we can find out if he’s sniffing around. Panther and Max are well-versed in seeing plots like that--and if nothing comes of it, they’ll still have their special training.”
“And Jack and Ace?” Double M asks. “I noticed you didn’t include them in your well-versed list.”
“Because Jack hasn’t plotted a thing in his life and Ace is still too new.”
“Are they the only ones going?”
“No. Sunny’s going, too,” Nico says. There’s a long moment of silence as the two look at each other. Nico lets a little grin pull at his lips. “He’ll be just as oblivious as the other two, I’m sure.”
“Have you called your father yet?” Double M asks, changing the subject.
“I’m still trying to talk Liz into being there when it happens,” Nico admits.
“And why is that?”
“I’m hoping to distract him with Mom.”
After a day of using my powers to help “encourage” the corn to grow, I am exhausted. In fact I grunt as Mom nudges me awake, only now noticing that the car’s pulled to a stop. “We’re home,” she says as I reluctantly open my eyes. “You did a great job today,” she adds as I fumble for the car door handle and climb out. I yawn in response, stumbling over to the panel that controls the security field and pressing my hand against it.
My dad is paranoid--I think it comes from his days as a super villain. The apartment building and the school campus down the road are both surrounded by domes of invisible lasers that are powerful enough to damage an S class super hero. In order to get into either of them you have to input your handprint and walk on these glowing footprints through the field. I’m not sure, but I think the panel scans you, to make sure you’re who you’re supposed to be. Either way, he always makes me go in circles with those stupid footprints.
I’m still a little off balance as I get to the front door, but I shake it off and turn to watch Mom come in. I can hear most of the people inside from where I’m standing. I think my hearing’s gotten better lately, which is sort of irritating. Look, I know there’s all these grand stories about being able to hear cries for help and all that, but really, you don’t WANT to hear the Liberty boy’s dog fart on a regular basis--it’s disturbing. I’m just praying that my sense of smell doesn’t get better.
“Look, Nico, I really don’t think this is a good idea.” I jerk, looking up at the top floor curiously as I hear my Aunt Liz “Your mom definitely doesn’t need to meet me. Like, ever. If she never finds out about me I’ll be perfectly happy!”
“Liz, for an S-class super hero, you’re such a chicken,” Dad says.