Decisions: Part 8

I barely got to wonder what the yellow light meant before the phone in my suit rang. The helmet’s readout showed it as being from HQ.

Walking a little bit away from Vaughn, I took the call, talking low into my helmet’s microphone.

“It’s Marcus,” said the voice on the other end. “I went into HQ after work, and you won’t believe it. You’ve already hit pay dirt.”

“How?”

“You’re going to have to come back here and listen to it yourself, but imagine the scariest bit of intel ever. It’s a meeting with one of Vaughn’s uncles and a bunch of other people.”

“What are they talking about?”

“The Cabal. The mayor. The gang we messed with, and some super team they’re putting together.”

I turned around to look at Sean and his crew. “Superhero team?”

“For real. Like this city needs more than one, but seriously, hurry. They know more about us than anyone would want them to.”

“Like how much?”

“Like they’re on the right track to figure out all of our real names.”

“That’s bad.”

“You’re not kidding.”

The police started questioning Sean about what had happened. The men from the Box handcuffed the men on the ground, and started taking blood samples — that, or injecting sedatives.

Maybe both.

Telling Marcus that we’d get back as soon as we could, I hung up.

Even as I did it, I noticed Vaughn explaining to an officer that neither of us had been involved at all.

“See,” Sean said, “it was all us. We’re Justice Fist.”

So yeah, not exactly the most clever name in the world, but the policeman nodded, and asked Sean a few more questions.

As ignored as Sean seemed to feel when we’d operated together (or at least in the same fight), I didn’t have a problem giving him his moment in the sun.

It didn’t last.

One of the guys from the Box walked up to me. He was short, and had crew cut, red hair. He was stocky, but had muscle under the fat.

“Different costume, same Rocket, right?”

“Uh… Right.”

“Anything we ought to know about the guys on the ground? Are they juicers?”

I froze, trying to think. “I really don’t know. I got here after everything was over. You’ve got the blood sample.”

“Fair enough. You’re the smart guy. I thought I’d check to see if you knew anything special.”

“I’ve read the formulas, but I don’t know anything about these specific people. I wasn’t even here for the fight.”

He nodded at me, and walked back to the Box.

Sean stared at me. “You’re the Rocket? Where’s your normal costume?”

“I’ve got different suits for different problems.”

“What’s with the guitar?”

“It… does stuff. Hey, Storm King, we probably ought to go.”

“Talk to you guys later,” Vaughn said. “Keep on keeping the peace,” and he gave everyone a wave.

It didn’t take long to make it back to HQ. We flew from Meijer across Grand Lake, landed in the forest in Veterans Memorial Park, and followed the tunnel there back into HQ.

As we stepped through the dark, touching our hands to the wall, and letting it lead us in, Vaughn asked, “What’s the rush?”

“I don’t know. Marcus said it was something big.”

“Marcus? No way. I think it’s the first time he’s done anything.”

“He was there for the fight with the Mayor, and when Vengeance stabbed you. I”m pretty sure he’s been to every group meeting.”

“Yeah, but this is the first time he’s acted on his own. You think it’s because of the field commander thing?”

“I’ve no clue.”

End of the tunnel. I pulled my helmet off, and the retinal scanner glowed red.

The door slid open, and Vaughn and I stepped into the hangar. We walked past the jet, and Night Wolf’s car. Captain Commando’s motorcycle was out.

I wondered what Cassie was doing with it.

We walked into the main room to find Marcus sitting at the main table, hand on the mouse. The big wall screen showed a roachbot’s view of a meeting in somebody’s kitchen.

I needed to work on making the optics better. This was still dark, and still blurry.

When I got a good view of the faces on the screen though, I found it clear enough to make my heart stop.

Well, that might be an exaggeration, but I recognized way too many of the people on the screen. Just for example: the tall, blond guy was Sean’s dad. Next to him sat a tired looking man in a worn, brown suit — Mr. Sledge, my school’s assistant principal. A middle aged women in a black suit (which even to my eyes seemed more fashionable than Mr. Sledge’s) sat next him. I guessed she might be Latino, but I didn’t recognize her.

I did recognize Russell Hardwick though. With the bald head and confident look, he reminded me of pictures of his father, Giles Hardwick. Beyond being Lucas’ dad, I’d seen him on TV. He always seemed to be donating something, and he had some position in the Hardwick family’s businesses. I didn’t know what it was, but it was definitely visible.

There were other people at the table too, but I could only see the back of their heads.

“Uncle Russ?” Vaughn muttered.

Marcus looked up from the computer, and smiled. He seemed a little tired.

“You haven’t even heard them yet.” Marcus moved the mouse, and on the screen, the pointer touched the rewind button. “Give me a second and you can listen to everything. Everything that matters, anyway.”

He stopped playing it twice, hunting for the right spot before letting the file run.

Sean’s dad said, “… I don’t like putting them on the front lines.”

An off screen voice said, “Your son did it to himself. He can’t pass a camera without standing in front of it.”

“We’re hiding behind our kids. That should be us out there!” Mr. Drucker leaned over the table at somebody. His face looked red, but that could have  been the light.

Russell Hardwick held up a hand. “Calm down, George. You know as well as I do that Sean volunteered. Besides, we’re not going let him, or any of our children die. They’re a distraction. They’ll give the remnants of the Cabal’s army something to worry about while we get the Impregnator built. After that, we’ll never have to fear the Cabal again.”

20 thoughts on “Decisions: Part 8”

  1. Impregnator.

    Sounds … delightful 😐

    Well done man. If that’s not a golden era evil device name, I don’t know what is 😀

  2. Danial: Thanks. Personally, I’m taking people’s general reactions as motivation to start on the next version. This one has both good and bad points.

    Soor: The 40’s had some great words that have since changed their associations. Gay used to primarily mean happy, for example. Another example? I was in a restaurant once and noticed a truck outside. The words on it’s door advertised the “Steel Erection Company.”

    I got a kick out of that one. I looked it up later and found that it was a construction company that had been founded before or just after World War 2.

    Gavin: I like to think that Sean’s got good and bad qualities. Skill with words isn’t among his good qualities though…

  3. So, do you think the blueprints came with a warning?

    Danger: Side Effects may include Paranoia, Insanity, Megalomania, and Spontanious Human Combustion.

  4. Hey Jim,

    Great episode. Noticed three typos, though:

    “They’ll give the remnants of of the Cabal’s army something to think about…” — double ‘of’

    “It’s a meeting with one of Vaughn’s uncles and bunch of other people.” – missing ‘a’ before ‘bunch’

    “When got a good view of the faces on the screen though, I found it clear enough to make my heart stop.” — missing ‘we’ before ‘got’

    Favourite line in this one:

    “It… does stuff.”

    Hg

  5. Jim,

    Excellent post. I can hear the Dun-dun-DUN!/To be Continued playing in the background.

    I agree with G.S. Sean is a major tool, but I don’t know if I’m cool with his Dad using him as cannon fodder to suss out the Cabal. Not to mention, the mere fact that the Cabal is still lurking out there….

    @Luke Licens: Too funny bro.

    @ Jim, I left some notes about the site on the last ep, but for some reason they didn’t post. Basically said that I agree that the last design was stylistically better but this one is much better organized and easier to track points int the story. And I’m glad you finally put up the Donate button, which I will be making use of shortly.

    Keep up the amazing work.

    (Justice Fist. Pure gold)

  6. Hmm, interesting. I’m not quite sure what to think of our little bees and their power impregnator project. On one hand the knee-jerk reaction is a no to unauthorized empowerment but on the other hand these people haven’t done anything bad except maybe associate with a villain long ago and for all we know so far the only thing they want the powers for is self defence. Can’t really fault them for that, goth knows I’d do the same and not think twice about it.

    In other news, my dirty mind is refusing to accept the ‘fist’ in Justice Fist to be a noun… I blame the internet.

  7. I’m with Mazzon on the ‘Fist’ bit.

    Enjoyed this chapter. I recently reread the archives to refresh myself on the other members of the team – I speed read and I’d sort of gotten confused on who Cassie, Travis and Marcus were, as they haven’t been seen much in the past month or three. While I was rereading, I took note of a few general loose ends (like the Impregnator, the people behind the Mayor, etc, etc), and it’s neat to see this chapter drawing a lot of them back together into what looks to be a major plotline.

  8. New site I see and a shiny new donate button. Eenteresting. I’ll have to get some money so I can use it. 😀 Oh and the chapter’s good too.

  9. Thanks everybody for comments about the chapter. This revelation has been developing for a bit (and it’s not quite over yet).

    Hyudra: I try to leave loose ends for a reason, and Magnus, the Cabal, and the Power Impregnator are biggies. There are a few more sprinkled around.

    On donations: People have asked for the donate button in the past, so I thought I’d finally do it and see what happened. Also, I’ve been meaning to try ads and see if it was worth the bother, so there we go. That’s a major reason for the current theme. It’s easy to put ads on in ways that aren’t yet obvious to you.

    Bill: Your comment ended up in the spam bin again. I don’t know why. Stupid program. With any luck, the spam blocker will flag your address as “not spam” from now on.

    In addition to the visible theme change, I upgraded the plugins and software behind the blog too. That might be why.

  10. Hehehe…more info for my super family tree…
    Well, there’s no surprises that the Fists are backed by big money, I’m hoping they work out how to work with the League, though. Chances are that the guy buidling suits for them is the same guy that worked for man-machine and syndicate L…or at least as the clues as to who he is.

  11. PF: I just increased the darkness of the text for the posts… See if that’s an improvement for you.

    Unwise Owl: With as many families as are involved, you should have a lot of material…

  12. Okay, I feel more mature now. But Sean surely tests that whenever he shows up.

    I’m really enjoying how Jim drops little threads throughout the story, with ramifications and plotlines for later. It reminds me of the way Chris Claremont used to write the X-Men — he’d string things along for years, with little background hints and small details. And then when it all came together, BAM! huge effect.

  13. Gavin: I remember reading a fair amount of Chris Claremont era X-men, and I remember noticing all those little details.

    What I’m thinking more directly about as I’m planning these things is the way that Jim Butcher writes the Dresden Files where some detail plays a small part in one book and a big part in the next and there are these constant on-going subplots that cross three different novels sometimes….

    What I’m thinking is that I’ve got to make it easier for readers to remember some of this stuff. Just because I remember small details of a subplot from a year ago, I can’t expect anyone else to.

  14. Still not seeing a hint of them doing anything bad. Defending themselves against the Cabal is right and proper. But Nick should really tell them about the side effects, shame they (rightfully) can’t trust him because of his dislike of Sean and with people getting powers in general.

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