On Friday afternoon, as planned, the Heroes League landed on Central High’s lawn.
The Rocket looked exactly right. The Feds had the original design for the World War 2 era Rocket, so it probably hadn’t been hard to come up with something similar looking to the current version.
Captain Commando had Cassie’s build — her mask hid her face and hair, so that was easy too. Whoever put her costume together did a great job since they only had TV to go on. The precise wave of the flag on her chest wasn’t quite right, but would pass, and obviously the sword wasn’t functional.
I didn’t see any major flaws in the Mystic’s or Storm King’s costume either.
We’d talked with them on Thursday over the phone arranging things, and they did what they were supposed to — they went through the school looking for something. They didn’t say exactly what.
With permission from the principal, they checked every classroom in the school, not paying any special attention to us.
It worked perfectly.
I actually saw Mr. Sledge guiding them through the school. They stopped next to the door during my physics lab, and Mr. Sledge looked in while “the Mystic” closed his eyes, concentrated, and then declared the classroom clean.
It took them a while to get through the whole school. They must have been inside when school let out, because they were on the lawn with a crowd of students surrounding them when I walked out.
Sean seemed to be talking to them.
I considered going over to find out what they were saying, but Chris had cornered me, and he wanted to talk.
We walked a little bit down the sidewalk from the school’s entrance, past the buses waiting for students, but not so far that we were past the parking lot across the street.
The key point being that we were out of earshot, standing just across the street from where I’d fought with Sean.
“Who are those guys?” Chris glanced in the direction of the school.
“I don’t know their real names, but someone guessed at some of the Heroes League’s identities, and this is how we’re dealing with it.”
“I don’t think I should say. Believe me it’d make your life more complicated than you want it to be.”
Chris’ smiled for a second. “More complicated than it is? Sean sent one of his buddies, Dayton, I think, to see if I was interested in helping with some team he was forming, and it’s the second time he’s asked. I already know about you, and the Feds dropped by after Justice Fiend left. They asked me if I knew anything about the Ball or the Maniacs or whatever.”
Justice Fiend seemed like last year, I thought, and then another thought struck me — Justice Fist. How hard had Sean been thinking when he came up with the group’s name? Justice Fiend seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn’t take the potential confusion very well at all. I decided not to go into that for the moment though…
“What did you tell them?”
“Dayton or the Feds?”
“I’m assuming you didn’t tell the FBI anything. What did you tell Dayton?”
The expression on Chris’ face told me I didn’t even need to ask.
“I told them no. I don’t like Sean much in person. In costume I like him even less. Did you see that shit? Slamming that guy into the ground? I mean, not like Jack Maniac deserves better, but Sean could have killed him. You think about it for a second, if he’d lost his temper, he might have killed us.”
“I did think about that.”
“One more reason that I wonder whether I should ever put a costume on. I was terrified the whole time. You think about our grandfathers… For them it was second nature. I’m not like that.”
“Me neither. I’m usually scared too. It’s just that I get too busy fighting to think about it most of the time.”
“Yeah? I guess it’s good to know I’m not the only one, but I’m still going to think long and hard before I do anything else. Hey, we were talking about bringing the Ball back. Are you done with it yet?”
“No, but I don’t think I’m going to get to it for a while. I’ll just bring it back tonight, and maybe we can just experiment with it on Saturday or something.”
“Sure. That sounds like fun.”
Shortly after that, Chris took his car home, and I took my bike.
Travis, Cassie and I met them at the Heroes League’s official office. It had a long way to go before everything could be considered fully fixed up, but it worked for what we needed it for.
An old storefront that the League had converted in the late 60’s and used for meeting the public, it hadn’t changed much since the original League retired.
The meeting room had a long, fake wood grain table with orange chairs to sit on. Framed newspapers showing the League’s triumphs, and pictures of the League’s various lineups hung on the wall. At the very least, we’d need to add another picture.
That, and clean out twenty years of dust.
The FBI League impersonators stood on one side of the table. We stood on the other.
“The Rocket” took off his helmet and introduced himself as Duncan Adams. His blond hair reached nearly to his shoulders. Looking at him, I could imagine him as a rock star more easily than an FBI agent.
Next to him, “Captain Commando’s” mask disappeared and the costume turned into a black suit. For a moment the woman’s face did look similar to Cassie’s, but then her cheekbones narrowed, her skin darkened, and the hair turned black, flecked with gray.
Then her body, which had been exactly like Cassie’s, became shorter and stockier.
“Agent Cynthia Torres. Superhuman Affairs. Good to meet you in person.”
As she greeted us, Daniel’s and Vaughn’s duplicates faded away.
“Nice,” Cassie said. “There were only two of you. I never noticed.”
Travis held his hand out to each of them. “Agent Adams. Agent Torres. Good to meet both of you.”
Standing across from where the illusionary duplicates had been and far from the real agents, I held up my hand. “Hi.”
None of us were in costume. It hadn’t seemed worth it. We’d come through the tunnel from HQ, and they knew our identities anyway.
Agent Torres looked the three of us over, and asked, “Is the rest of the team coming?”
Travis shook his head. “They weren’t planning on it. Do we need them?”
“No, but we’re interested in how you’re planning to handle Russell Hardwick and his allies.”