Disclaimer: Anyone or anything wasn't in the movie is mine, and anyone or anything that was in the movie is obviously not.

Author's Note: Getting close. And getting writer's block again.

Chapter 54: Brotherly Love

I should've known. I know that Eevee's never handled change well, exactly, but I should have known that this behavior was too extreme. I should have noticed; should've taken care of her. Instead I just let her have her space; let her get more and more distant. She'd always been something of an outcast. I thought maybe she was finally becoming more adjusted and social. I was an idiot. I was blind. I let her down.

It will not happen again.


I quickly grabbed the two unconscious Penny clones and teleported them to the first place I thought of that I knew my mother—sister?—wouldn't check: the Stronghold house. Mr. Stronghold was there, watching old home movies and nursing a glass of scotch. He does that a lot since the divorce, from what I hear. How did things get so messed up without anyone noticing?

I startled him out of his chair, and started talking quickly before he even had time to get up of the floor, "Okay, Mr. Stronghold, I don't have time to explain. No more alcohol. Villains are back; Penny's a villain; I need you to take her to the lockdown. Can't have any clones escaping. I need to get back; Will and I need to get the others together and come up with a battle plan. We'll keep you posted. Take care of this."

With that said, I dumped the two clones on the ground and teleported back to Sky High. I took hold of Will, Warren, and Lash and teleported them to a back dry-storage room in the Paper Lantern—I played poker with Warren and some of the cooks there occasionally. The place looked like what I'm sure you've got in your mind's eye—a claustrophobic little space lit by a single light above the centre table, boxes all around. Seemed like as good a meeting place as any. Conspiratorial. I took a seat on one of the folding chairs around the table and gestured for them to sit as well, ignoring Lash's muttered, "About time…"

I ordered Warren to tell me everything, and soon we were all up to speed on the plan.

"Okay, so we need to move fast," I acknowledged, "Who do I grab? Who do we trust? Who do we… not?"

"The authorities? Your sidekick squad?" Lash volunteered.

"Authorities are out," Warren dismissed the idea, listing them off, "Boomer is a tool. Probably literally. Powers never really trusted Eevee to start with. Medulla's out. Mr. Stronghold's a drunk."

Will made a strangled noise, but we all just gave him a level look before Warren continued, "Zach? Magenta? Ethan?"

"Layla?" Will warbled, and then shut up when Warren directed another flat look at him.

"Not Layla, she's too close. She might even be under the Ghost's thrall. We can't risk it," I explained.

Warren relented with his glare when he saw how deflated his old friend was, saying softly, "We'll get her back after we deal with Eve."

"I think the other sidekicks are still okay enough to bring in," I decided, "I think we could use a bit more firepower. Gonna pick up the band. And, of course, our resident ectopath. Anyone else?"

"Beck?" Will ventured.

Oh crap. Right. She was not going to be happy. This was our sister. Our mother.

"Yeah," I agreed, "This is a family matter… Okay. I'll be right back."

I used that trick that Eevee had discovered to teleport directly to people rather than places, and combined it with invisibility to remain undetected. Magenta was written off because she was hanging out with Layla, but I found everyone else in short order and teleported them back to our little war council room. Some were more indignant than others, but I wasn't going to waste time explaining everything individually so I just snatched them up and dumped them. Once everyone was all together, we did another round of explanations.

Beck was furious that she hadn't be told sooner—like that was possible—and underneath her bluster, I could feel the same sense of guilt that I was carrying. Eve is our sister. I know that she and Beck were never close, but we both felt like we should've known. We'd soon get the chance to rectify our error.

The new girl, Judith, was simultaneously pleased by our speed and displeased with the decision to include everyone without consulting her first. But she got on board quick. Decisive. I liked it.

Before I could begin laying out the plan, Judith cut me off and took me aside, murmuring, "Given the nature of our villain, it is prudent to separate each group for their instructions. She may attempt to control one of more of them—indeed she may already being exerting influence," a quick glance at Lash, "So it is best to keep them in separate cells. If one cell is compromised, we cannot let it affect the whole operation."

I blinked in surprise at the idea, then nodded, "That's, umm… very utilitarian. Yeah, let's do that. You want to start with the sidekicks and work our way up? Lash and Beck ought to go last."

"Most definitely," she agreed, "Pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, queen, and king."

She finished the last looking at first Beck, then me.

"Did—did you just call my friends pawns?" I asked disbelievingly.

She gave me a frank look and replied, "Call a spade a spade. I prefer to think of these operations in terms of chess. I am not saying they are expendable, if that is what you think. They have their roles to play, and of course I will not be sacrificing them. I do not wish to lose anyone. But they are not the enforcers; they are not key players like Lash; and they are not essential like you and your sister. Or me, for that matter. Agreed?"

I nodded begrudgingly. God, she was blunt.

"Good," she replied briskly, turning to face the group, "Game time. Let us get our army briefed and in position."