“Meeting,” Hunch says, as he walks past my door, just as I’m trying to put down my bag.
I pick it back up again and follow him. We end up, like always, in a different conference room than last time, not that you can actually tell once you get inside. I figure it’s supposed to stop us from getting too used to the one room (because it’s not ours in any real sense), but people are sitting around the table the same way they did last time, with Hunch at the front of the room, the teenagers on either side of him, Flight Crew on the left and White Hats on the right, and me, directly facing him.
People toss me a few waves, and I wave back. Arsenal shoots me a quick grin and ducks his head. Boomerang glares at him, and I figure I should have Hunch give him a talking-to, even though hopefully, it’s some sort of jealousy or personal disagreement. Hopefully.
There’s no food this time (which is fine, my stomach already feels like it’s trying to ooze into my shoes), but there’s coffee, and plenty of it, and I wave at Laces to ‘keep it coming’ when he hands me a cup. He laughs. Bartok offers me a few packets of sugar, and I nod to her in thanks.
“So, our focus is going to be mainly on these three warehouses,” Hunch says, circling his laser pointer around fuzzy places on the map.
“I thought there were more than three?” Arsenal says, then his eyes go wide, and he snaps his mouth shut, hand clasped over it.
Hunch flicks a look over to him, hesitates just long enough to make the point Arsenal already got (his hand still over his mouth), which I think is mostly for Boomerang’s benefit, and points out two more. “We’ve got a lower probability on these, but if you don’t see anything at your primary target, try it out.”
Boomerang snorts, because apparently he didn’t get the message. “How do we even know? Last night you had us looking any which way, where the fuck is this information coming from?”
Hunch gives him the full force glare I remember from fucking up on my first night patrol (and now I climb down instead of jumping, each and every time). Boomerang leans back into his chair and every muscle in his face goes tense at once.
“Sorry,” Boomerang gasps out.
“We know,” Hunch says, sweetly, “because night shift mapped out more incident points, and forensics compared those to known hot spots that have gone cold.”
“Okay,” Boomerang squeaks.
“And if you’re really worried,” Hunch says, patting him very softly on the shoulder, “we did have patterns look through it to give us estimates.”
“I believe you,” Boomerang chirps.
“Good,” Hunch croons, and turns back to the map.
“We don’t want to do a stakeout,” Hunch says. “The fact that they’ve so thoroughly evaded us so far indicates either some perception ability or inside information.”
Bartok cocks her head. “Are we sending out for Null Squad?”
Hunch shakes his head. “They’ve got some sort of kidnapping ring in or around Gates, and they’ve only just mapped out what espers the traffickers have on staff.”
I make a little bit of a face at that, and wonder if I should call my family.
Hunch glances at me. “Under ten, with powers; they’re probably safe.”
Since my youngest cousin just turned eleven, he’s probably right, but I still think I should call – I’m certainly not going to interrupt a meeting for it, though. I feel Sass’s hand on my arm, reassuring me, and, come on, I can’t possibly look that worried. She should check on Stranglehold; he seems like he’s about to cry in relief. I nod at him, and he gives me a watery smile. But I’m the only one they want to check on. I mean, half of us are local, what the hell.
“Okay, Null Squad’s not setting up on their own or accompanying us,” Bartok says, moving the topic away from everyone giving me sympathetic looks, “do we need to call in the Jackdaws?”
Hunch shrugs. “If nothing pans out, maybe. If you could feel them out, it might be helpful – Laces, which one did you have a problem with?”
Laces waves a hand. “He transferred to Containment.”
“Shit, they let Urinal Dan into Containment?” Bartok says, choking on a laugh. “They know they’re not getting anyone to court martial in once piece ever again, right?”
Laces just crosses his arms.
Hunch clears his throat.
“We’ve created a list of patrol routes that should sense random to any espers in any of the five buildings,” Sass says, handing out sheets. “Make sure you stick very carefully to that schedule, use the alternate second lap if you need to.”
Boomerang frowns, but shuts up before he can make himself look worse.
“And if we have a leak?” Stranglehold says, then taps his sheet. “How carefully are we keeping this under wraps, or is it a trap?”
“If we have some type of esper we haven’t encountered yet, we shouldn’t see anything out of the ordinary,” Sass explains, “or one of the powers it’s hard to counteract; leaks will probably have carefully planned, maybe staged, random incidents. The route is secret, the how is secret.”
“The patrol isn’t?” I ask.
Bartok shrugs. “Probably better to keep it that way, just in case.”
Stranglehold shakes his head. “I hope you have a telepath on speed dial, Hunch. I doubt it’ll stay secret long enough to catch anyone, even if it holds through tonight.”
“Or they have a memetic,” Boomerang mutters, but everyone ignores him.
“We do, actually,” Hunch tells Stranglehold. “Manipulative Bitch says she’ll vet the staff if it does turn out to be one of us, just as soon as she finishes all the public schools.”
“A freelance telepath,” Laces says, but hesitantly, like he’s had this conversation before.
Bartok just smacks him upside the head.
“She went through the same shit to get her telepathy anyone else did,” Arsenal snaps at him, and, wow, when did he learn to yell, “are you really mad she has integrity?”
Laces holds up his hands, glancing back and forth between Bartok and her unexpected ally.
“Don’t look at me,” she says, “I haven’t even talked to him about it.”
“Arsenal has a cru-ush,” Boomerang sing-songs.
“You know, there are reasons she’d like to get some people fired,” Sass says, “reasons that aren’t leaks, that she can’t reveal because confidentiality and whatever.”
Stranglehold shakes his head. “Yeah, but to be fair, good reasons.”
“I didn’t say not good reasons!” Sass complains.
“Distracting reasons. I’m not saying it wasn’t a problem,” Laces adds, clenching his fists, “I’m just saying she went a little far in –”
“Oh, right, because they were actually listening and trying to solve the problem,” I cut in, before he can start this familiar train of thought. “People definitely always listen when there’s a problem.”
Stranglehold stares holes through the table, Arsenal stares holes through Sass and Laces alternately, Boomerang stares off into space.
“What I’m saying,” Sass says, “is she can’t necessarily reveal what she learns, but she can make it look like –”
“Oh, she’s not trustworthy now, because she has a conscience?” Bartok snaps. “I would think we’d all be on the same side here.
Hunch’s voice carries, even though he doesn’t raise it. “Does anyone want to hear what suspicious activity we’re looking for?”