As we sat down at the table, Travis said, “Handle them? We don’t see them as a big threat yet. We don’t want them to know who we are obviously, but they’re not targeting us. The Executioner and that gang? Those guys have to be handled.”
Agent Torres smiled back. “Then I should ask what operations you’re running right now.”
Cassie caught my eye at that. From her expression she seemed just short of laughing aloud.
Given Cassie’s sense of humor, I considered whether Torres had made any unintentional double entendres. She hadn’t. Then I guessed that Cassie had to be responding to the way the question made it sound like we “ran operations” as opposed to getting stuck in big, confusing messes.
Travis said, “Well, let’s see… You’re taking care of the Executioner. That whole team’s in jail, and if anyone isn’t, we don’t know where they are. We’re listening in on Russell Hardwick and the others, and we’re preparing in case that gang we fought a couple times last week decides to strike back. That’s it.”
Agent Torres nodded. “We’re going to have to coordinate our efforts. If you are going to move on Hardwick, we’d like a heads up. For the moment, power juice isn’t illegal, but conspiring to hide an escaped prisoner is. We want anything you can get us on that. As for the gang, if you’ve seen our records, you know that they’re likely a remnant of the Cabal. We don’t currently have a specific reason to go after them, but that could change. Keep us informed about them too.”
Travis said, “We’ll do that.”
“Good. We’ve got one other issue to bring up. You know about the Cabal’s breeding program, and you know that Red Lightning took over their program in Grand Lake. The other populations were located in small towns that we’ve been able to isolate and monitor. Grand Lake is too large for that. We need you to get to know new power juice users, especially the ones who become capes.”
I thought about people I knew who were using it and said, “Why?”
“Superhuman Affairs has two missions. First, it’s to keep criminals with powers in check. Second, it’s to keep all of you people from going at each others’ throats. We’ve found that putting people with new powers in touch with people who have been at it for a while helps them adjust.”
Next to her, Agent Adams said, “You’ll want to talk to that new group that’s forming here… Justice Fist. It seems they go to your school, and they’d be interested in meeting you.”
“I’ve already met them. No.”
Adams said, “The fight. Right. If it’s any consolation, they’re really into you when you’re in armor. Especially the girls.”
I’d never noticed, but then, I spent most of the time I was in armor trying not to die.
Agent Torres raised an eyebrow.
Adams laughed. “He deserves to know.”
Travis said, “He’s dating my sister.”
Adams laughed again. “Then it’s good that he’s not interested. But seriously, you need to talk to these people.”
Travis shrugged. “I guess we could.”
I considered being quiet, and just not saying anything about it until they left, but I couldn’t quite do it. I opened my mouth. “You know that they’re the kids of Hardwick’s group, right?”
Torres nodded. “That’s why we need you to do it. I’ve seen personal quarrels between supers destroy half a city.”
“I don’t think that’s likely. I’ve actually worked with Sean in costume, and I see him too much already. I don’t want pretend to be his friend or something.”
Agent Adams cleared his throat. “In this case, it’s ‘or something.’ I’m sure they think that you’re a kid underneath, but when they look at you, they’re seeing fifty years of history. You’re an authority. Use it.”
“An authority? I think I’d have noticed that by now.”
Adams brushed some hair out of his eyes. “I’ve been using mobile suits for the last five years, and I’ve never had people look at me like they do in this one. Your grandfather… really, all of your grandparents, were legends. Give people a little push and you’ll be surprised at what happens.”
I thought about it. It seemed like cheating somehow to trade in on people’s goodwill toward Grandpa to manipulate them. On the other hand, if it solved problems without fighting, that was good, right?
“Hey,” Cassie said. “You said that power juice was legal ‘for the moment.’ Is it going stop being legal?”
The agents looked at each other.
Agent Torres said, “After everything that’s happened, the Attorney General is going to make it a temporary Schedule I controlled substance soon. Then the DEA will consider adding the drug to the list permanently.”
Cassie nodded. “And after it’s illegal, what do we do then?”
Torres said, “You’ll use your influence to discourage people from using it.”