It was late. I was sweaty, tired, had homework, and one hell of a day in store for tomorrow.
I decided to call Anna anyway.
"Sumerset's gone," I told her. "He's got him."
She arrived in less than ten minutes. We both plunged down into the bunker, side-by-side, while I told her everything.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"What else?" I said. "I'm going to give him what he wants."
"You--you can't!" she said. "He's the bad guy!"
"This isn't a comic book," I told her. "This is real life. Why should I care if he wants to drink some potion that'll make him super-strong and fast? Why should it be any of my business? It's not like the world is at stake."
"But--but he's one of the bad guys," she said.
"And I don't care. He has Sumerset. I'm not letting him die."
"Okay," Anna said, raising her hands up. "You're right. I mean, yeah, you're absolutely right. Saving him is priority one. But, Sue..."
"What?" I said. The elevator clamped down as we landed on the groundfloor; I stalked forward into the bunker, heading toward the laboratory. Anna quickly followed behind.
"You don't know the Scourge. He's done a lot of things, but one thing he never does, Sue--he doesn't keep his word."
"So what should I do? What can I do?"
"I don't know," Anna said. "But, I mean, you can't just walk in there. He'll eat you alive."
I stopped, half-way outside the lobby. I turned to face Anna, opening my mouth to say something.
And then the viewscreen flipped on.
We turned to face it. A play button blinked at the center of the screen. After staring at it for several long, awkward seconds, I moved the mouse over it and clicked.
The screen flickered. Sumerset appeared, sitting in one of the bunker's rooms. Looking as grumpy as ever.
For a moment, my heart jumped. But then he started to speak.
"If you're seeing this, it means I haven't sent an email to the computer in over twelve hours. I'm either dead, captured, or sleeping. If it's the latter, hit pause and kick me until I get my lazy ass off the couch. If it's anything else, listen up."
We both listened up.
"If the Scourge is onto you, call the Bureau of Powered Affairs. It'll mean losing everything--but it's better than you getting yourself killed."
Well, that wasn't an option. We didn't have days--we had hours. 16 of them.
"Otherwise, remember: The Scourge never made a deal he didn't break. Expect betrayal. Plan accordingly."
He leaned back in the chair, making himself comfortable. "In the laboratory, there's a suitcase in the second closet on the left. Combination is 3-2-5. Inside you'll find some special gear. And a phone number of my old contact with the BPA. Now," he said as he reached for what looked like a drink, "onto the unpleasantness."
I felt my body tense.
"About 8 years ago, the Grin--sick, silent fuck--set the Society up with a challenge. Had a trigger surgically implanted next to his heart. Linked it to a bomb--unless his heart stopped in 30 seconds, some poor bastard would get blown to smithereens. Sovereign confirmed it, though he had no idea where or who the bomb was targeting."
"Your mother took exactly one second to make the call, kid. Half a second to pick up the rifle, half a second to fire. Double-tap--one to the head, one to the heart. Never even missed a beat."
"Half the Society wanted to string her up. Half wanted to give her a medal. She wasn't part of them, though, so it worked out. She fled. Government continued to pretend like they were hunting her. Society got to keep its sterling image. And the bomb turned out to have been inside the Grin's small intestine all along."
He leaned forward, his eyes dark and penetrating. "I asked her, once. Asked her how she did it so easily. You know what she told me?"
I tilted my head up to the screen, my eyes locked with his. Dimly, I was aware that I was holding my breath.
"She just imagined that the person he was threatening was you. After that? The rest was easy."
"I ain't saying it's right to kill. Ain't saying you should, either. But your mother would have killed to save you. And so would I. So maybe," he said, "you ought to think of your life as something worth killing for. Because we sure as hell did. Sumerset out."
The screen went black.
Anna broke the silence that followed: "Tell me what I can do."