"But other countries?"
"Yeah, they had the good and bad, same as us, and it all went international, eventually. Most of the Supers, good and bad, died, violently. Mostly when the East used them in their attack on western Europe. And we had to respond in kind. But some survived that and then died of old age. Scotch, me, Will . . . we may be the last of the lab creations alive.
Kelly nodded. "Right. The super criminals we get these days are are their children and grand children."
"And great-great-great . . . Will's three hundred and eighty-nine. I'm three hundred and eight. Scotch? You're one of the last, aren't you?"
"The last. I'm two hundred and ninety-nine. That I know of, I've got fifty-eight living descendants. Half my kids, you see, didn't get my longevity gene. And thus only a quarter of my grandkids. And it's a weak dominant. People with one copy live to over a hundred in good health, then spend the next twenty years dying." Scotch sighed. "I know of those relatives, but I've only met half of them, know three moderately well."
Ernie shrugged. "I've married twice, had three kids . . . I lost track after the great grand kids. Don't even do Christmas cards any more. You just . . . don't have anything in common any more."
Kelly looked a little sad. "And that's why you liked Doctor Inferno, when you ran into him."
"Yeah . . . it get's lonely when your life is old stuff in a history book." Scotch shook his head. "I dunno why anyone would want rejuvenation."
They all looked forward as the van left the freeway. Vegas proper was dead ahead, but they turned and drove through a mixed batch of businesses and retail.
Harkness was tapping at his phone, pointed. "That's it, right there, and the locals."
"The locals" he was pointing at were two black vans, parked in front of an office. They pulled into a space three cars down and Harkness frowned back at them "Mr. Whitaker, Mr. Snead, if you would please stay in the van until we need your special expertise?"
Scotch nodded, and the rest bailed. Kelly with an armful of electronics.
Scotch shifted around peer through the smoked glass of his window. "Eight locals? But then they cover the whole state and get a ton of tourists. They probably think they don't need us."
"But what could be less threatening than a couple of old men getting a bit of fresh air?" Ernie raised his brows.
"And there's the girl putting on earphones and waving a long rod, doesn't look a bit suspicious, does it. And the guys in suits? They look like a Mafia hit squad. And off they go."
Harkness stepped aside to stick his head in "Stay, this shouldn't take long. I'll leave the van running. Take a nap or something." He closed the door and walked away.
"Take a nap!" Scotch growled.
Ernie watched the suits turn the corner then opened his door. Turned around and reached over his seat to grab his wheel chair and heave the awkward thing up and over onto the seat beside him.
He grabbed the top of the door and managed to stay on his feet while he dragged the chair out. Then a grinning Scotch was there to unfold it and hold it still while Ernie made it down. "So, Seeker, which way?"
"Straight across to the far side." Ernie grinned. "Probably won't work, but let's pretend. I miss working."
They found a white car parked around the corner. Right make and model. Wrong license plate.
Earnie eyed it and snorted. "Give me some black tape, and that C becomes an O, the F is an E and the 3 is an 8."
Scotch looked at the office behind them. Maybe twelve meters across. Two windows flanking a glass door. Blinds closed. Opaque decal on the inside of the door, black with a gold circle: K&T Research.
A faint impression of movement around the edges of the decal, then the door swung open. A woman, eyes on a notepad in her hand, looking up, startled as their presence registered.
She was thirtyish, curly brown hair in a ponytail, skin dark enough to be vaguely ethnic. No makeup, rather plain.
"Excuse me miss." Earnie gave her his not-nice smile. "We'd like to ask you a few questions about a friend of our who died two days ago."
"Died?" A high squeak, eyes wide as her warm complexion managed to pale. "He died?" Her eyes rolled up and she folded.
Ernie rolled closer, looked over at Scotch, leaning on his cane. Looked down at the woman. "I hope she comes to quickly, because neither of us can lift her."
Scotch stepped around and tried the door, pulled it open. "Hello, anyone here?"
A young man popped out, gawped at Scotch then spotted the woman. "Cary!" He darted forward and dropped down beside her. Glared up at Scotch. "What did you do to my sis . . ." he trailed off, baffled, as he took in the two old men.
"I think she fainted. Can you get her inside? I'm afraid I can't help much beyond holding the door." Scotch tried hard to look harmless as the young fellow grabbed his sister under the arms and dragged her back inside.
Ernie rolled in, literally on her heels, and Scotch followed.
"Oh . . . what . . ." the woman spotted them. "Oh no! Travis . . . they said that man died."
Travis froze for a long moment. "That nosy guy? That wasn't our fault."
Scotch straightened. Almost. Enough to loom. "Son, whatever you did, you managed something half the nations on Earth tried and failed to do. You killed Doctor Inferno."
The woman looked like she was going to faint. Again. she laid on the rug, hands over her mouth.
The young man got his mouth shut, swallowed, licked his lips. "I told him about eighty percent of the rats dying. About my need for money to continue my research. Because the twenty percent that survived . . . I don't know . . . he just looked at me and I did what he ordered."
Oh dear. Did Will still have the ability to compel? Or is the boy quick enough to be looking for a way out?
"Show me what you gave him." Scotch focused his gaze on Travis for a moment, then switched to the girl.
Travis swayed. Nodded. "Sure, C'mon back!" His extravagant gesture nearly decked his sister as she climbed to her feet and staggered after them.
Ernie wheeled himself after them, feeling a little tipsy himself. Looks like Scotch has still got it.