When we returned to the bunker, the first thing we noticed was that Anna was dangling from the highest point of the ceiling.
"A little help," she said, looking rather sheepish.
Well, this explained why she hadn't answered my text messages.
She was attached via a short length of slick black thread. It looked like it had 'splurted' against the concrete, spreading out in a splatter pattern; the slender rope ran down into a small device that Anna was clutching in both hands.
Sumerset went off to get a ladder while I filled her in on the details of the visit.
"Weird," she said. "Blind precognitionist and Inspector Gadget. Not exactly two things I imagined going together."
"Yeah," I said. "So, how did you get up there, anyway?"
"Oh, well, that's a bit of a story. You know you've got, like, a whole wing down here you haven't explored yet? It's full of awesome stuff, like this." She gave the device a squeeze.
"Right. But I'm asking how you got up on the ceiling."
"Getting to that. It's kind of like a grappling hook, only a lot cooler," she said. "See, the problem with grappling hooks is you need to store all that rope--so this thing produces the rope on-the-go. Uses a chemical compound that hardens into a thread on contact with air. So instead of, like, fifty feet worth of rope, you just need a pint of black syrup."
"Okay," I said, staring up at her. "Still doesn't explain why you're up on the ceiling."
"Also, the other cool thing about it--grappling hooks are kind of limited. Y'know how Batman always shoots his grappling hook into the sky and manages to hook something every time? Well, that's just silly--a lot of buildings don't have anything for the hooks to grapple. So, this thing, it weights the front of every length of rope it secretes with this tiny splat-bomb--it's an adhesive agent, right? And--"
"Still not explaining why you're up on the ceiling."
"I fired the grappling hook up here and didn't realize it automatically reels the thread in," she responded, blushing.
"Anyway, you should really check out the vault. There's all sorts of awesome gadgets--I think your mom must have confiscated some crazy science gear from over half the villains in the world," she said. "I mean, really, just cataloging all the stuff would take--"
"Here we go," Sumerset said, returning with an immense bean bag.
"That's... not a ladder," I said as Sumerset threw the it underneath Anna.
"Yeah, figured this way is easier," he said.
"I'm not jumping down into that," Anna said.
"Don't have to," he said. "You'll fall."
"Why do you say that?" Anna asked.
"'Cuz the splat-gun's ropes only have a life-span of about thirty minutes," he replied. "After that, they fall apart."
"What? Seriously? That sounds like a bunch of--"
The timing was suspiciously perfect. The rope snapped; Anna fell with a squeal, landing hard right on top of the bean bag.
I tried not to laugh, but it was a lost cause. "Oh, wow. You're--uh, you're really lucky he got that thing under you in time," I said, grinning as Anna stood up and rubbed her backside.
"Yeah, right," she muttered. "Seriously, Mr. Sumerset--I could have broken my neck!"
"Aw, relax," he said. "Worst that could have happened would be a sprained ankle or broken arm. Anyway, you're fine. Sue, come with me. Need to show you your suit."
We were moving down the hallway when Sumerset stopped. He turned and looked at Anna, who was following us.
"Ahem," he said.
"Ahem," she said right back.
"Look," I told him. "She already knows my identity. On top of that, she saved my life. I feel like I owe it to her to let her--I don't know--at least in on this stuff." That, and it felt good to have someone I could talk to about these things, I realized. I didn't really know Anna, but I trusted her. Plus, I genuinely liked her. There weren't enough people in my life who I did like.
"Dangerous," he said, but then he sighed, shrugged, and went back to walking.
We were heading down a corridor I had yet to explore. As we walked, Sumerset talked. "The suit out in the lobby is the dark suit--designed for general use. Easy to put on, easy to take off. Can wear it under civilian clothes--the only 'important' bit is the helmet. There are a few additional dark suit models down here, too, but nothing too fancy. It's the primary suit your mother relied on when she wasn't expecting too much trouble."
We stepped into another room. Fluorescent lights flipped on. I could make out the sight of suits--at least half-a-dozen--sitting within the niches, framed behind glass. All of them were variants on the costume I had worn the other night.
"Here we are," he said. "Third one on the left is going to be what you're wearing when you go out tonight."
"Tonight?" I said.
"Tomorrow's a school-night. Besides, we need to get this done fast. You've got a normal life to return to. And I've got a couch that's gettin' cold."
I looked at the thing. The dark suit had armor laced into the fabric; this thing was made of armor. All black, but with more texture than the dark suit--still sleek and hard, but with sharp edges. It had a certain thickness to it, too--and the backpack on it was bulkier.
"What's it do?" I asked.
"Blocks small arm fire, among other things," he said. "You won't be as agile in it, but you won't need to be. You're just going to punch this guy until he stops moving."
I looked at Sumerset. "What if he can take it?"
"He can't take it," Sumerset said. "Trust me. I did a little research on this 'Sharkface' character. He's strong as hell, but a few punches with this thing and he'll be out cold."
"I bet he looked up his wikipedia page," Anna said.
"I did thorough research," Sumerset said, glaring.
"Oh, yeah. You totally just looked him up on wikipedia," Anna said with a grin.
Sumerset grunted. "Put the suit on. We're going to run a few tests."