“You worked for the Cabal? When?”

“Not recently,” Lee said. “I helped overthrow a couple emperors during the Roman Empire. Second time around, they didn’t pay me, so I killed the guy they were trying to get in, and took power myself.”

Haley looked up at me. Her expression probably meant, “Is he serious?”

I looked back at Lee. “You were a Roman Emperor? Which one?”

“I didn’t stay long enough to get an official name. Maybe a month, tops.  I figured out that I’d have to do a lot of political bootlicking if I actually wanted to stay in power, and I didn’t. All I wanted to do was piss Magnus off, so I found a guy who did want to do politics and put him in charge.”

“Who?”

“Don’t remember. It was a long time ago. You might not believe it, but five hundred years of emperors all blend together.”

“Okay… Then what about Magnus? Someone named Martin Magnus called me a couple times to propose an alliance against the Mayor. Is that the same guy?”

“It’s got to be. I’d heard he’d left the Cabal.”

Haley looked and me and then at Lee. “Are you going to help us against them?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not part of the deal. Teaching’s part of the deal, and the only part you need to worry about. I’ve got my own projects to keep me busy. I’m not your babysitter. Or Nick’s. You want advice, though? I’ve got advice.”

“Sure,” I said.

“They’re targeting you. Track them down, and take them out. Don’t hesitate, and don’t leave any of them alive.”

“Uh…” I said.

“Imprisoned people eventually get out,” he said. “Yeah, I know you won’t, but if you want advice, that’s mine.”

Haley didn’t say anything.

Lee grinned at both of us. “While I’m giving advice, I’ll give a little more. You guys did pretty well with the Executioner. I wasn’t in town for it, but I read about it, and I’ve got a few sources. When he gets out, he’ll be gunning for you. Start preparing for it. Create safe houses, alternate identities, and make your secret identities air tight. Talk to me as a group, and I’ll give you some guidelines. In fact, call me when you hear he’s out.”

Haley had an odd look on her face. “That sounds like you’re going to give us more than advice.”

Lee laughed. “Maybe. The deal’s mostly teaching, but there are a few other things thrown in. Here’s what you have to think about. Ray and his people’s strength is preparation. When you met them they weren’t prepared. I don’t know why. Maybe they’d gotten too comfortable in Grand Lake. Maybe they didn’t think you were a threat.

“Now, you’re on their elimination list. They’ll go in, find out everything they can, and start picking off your families and friends one by one. They’re not like the Cabal. They’re competent all the time. So… If you keep things separate, he’ll only be able to go after you. And if he only goes after you, my presence around here will be a surprise.”

“Wait,” I said, “are you saying you’re going to stop him yourself?”

“We’ll see. Ray and I have a little history, and I’d like to talk to him first before we… stop him.”

That gave a new twist on the word “stop.”

Haley’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you just said that wasn’t part of the deal.”

“There are exceptions,” Lee said. “When I’m completely sure you’re going to die if I don’t help, I’m in.”

* * *

The next morning, I came downstairs to find that Mom and Dad had already left for a weekend conference.

Rachel sat at the kitchen table in a black t-shirt, and blue jeans. She looked tired, and it wasn’t hard to guess why. She’d been working on something when I went to bed at midnight, and I’d overheard Mom comment recently (kind of loudly) that she hadn’t been getting up before ten in the last few weeks.

NPR news played on the radio while the coffeemaker sputtered and hummed.

“I’m bringing you to school today.”

“I could bike.”

“Have you looked outside?”

Past the sliding doors to the backyard, clouds covered the sky, making it darker than normal at seven-thirty in the morning. Worse, rain fell steadily. I could hear the drops.

“I can drive myself.”

“I’ve got errands to run. I can’t run them if the car’s sitting in the school parking lot.”

“What kinds of errands? You don’t have a job or anything.”

“Don’t you start. I get enough of that from Mom and Dad. I’m meeting with a coffeehouse owner about playing there, and it’s kind of an audition. I’m not going to haul my guitar around in the rain.”

She had me there.

“Which coffeehouse? Not Solid Grounds, right?” If Justice Fist held a team meeting there again, that could get weird.

“No. It’s downtown. Remember Four Friends?”

“Oh, yeah. Okay.”

I poured myself a bowl of cereal, and pulled some milk and orange juice out of the refrigerator. In the background, the radio station had gone from the national news to local.

“–Grand Lake Police Department reports two shootings on Thursday night. The first shooter attempted to fire on members of the New Heroes League and was apprehended downtown. The second shot a member of the recently formed Justice Fist team, and is still at large…”

15 Responses to “Counterattack: Part 3”

  1. Tweets that mention Counterattack: Part 3 -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by shutsumon, zoetewey and Karen Wehrstein, Sharon T. Rose. Sharon T. Rose said: RT @zoetewey: Legion of Nothing updated. Unasked for advice. #weblit http://bit.ly/9o22K5 [...]

  2. K Says:

    I’m getting more and more worried about Lee. I’m not sure whether to hope to see him in action since he’ll be awesome, or hoping that we never do because the collateral damage is likely to be huge. And then I worry that any deal is only about Nick and Rachel, not the rest of the group.

  3. Mazzon Says:

    Ouch. I hope it wasn’t Legacy, I kind of liked the guy.
    To quote Dark Helmet, evil will always triumph because good is dumb. The heroes can’t take Lee’s (good) advice, because if they did they wouldn’t be heroes any more, while the black hats can gun down people all they wan^H^H^Hcan and that’s that.

  4. Wanderhome Says:

    Shouldn’t “Ray and his people strength is preparation.” be “Ray and his people’s strength is preparation”?

    Anyway, I liked the chapter. Lee was pretty smart to drop the emperor gig; if that was during the time of the Praetorians auctioning off the throne and other such shenanigans, he’d have been lucky to last a year, immortal or not.

  5. Bill Says:

    And with “Counter-Attack”, Legion of Nothing goes from awesome superhero story to awesome and thought-provoking drama.

    Jim, who is Lee is based on. Just looking at the sheer charisma and menace of the character I assume he’s, at least partially, based on someone you know.

  6. Jim Says:

    K: Whatever happens, when Lee appears, it should at least be amusing. Or maybe horrifying. One of the two.

    Mazzon: The funny thing is that “The Authority” would probably work things out in exactly that way, but they’re something of an exception as heroes go.

    Wanderhome: Thanks for the correction. It’s fixed now. As for the Praetorians… In doing a little research for this, I was amused to find out just how many times the Praetorian Guard killed the emperor.

    Bill: I’m not entirely sure where Lee comes from. I know that bits of him are borrowed from jazz musicians I took bass guitar or trumpet lessons from. Bits of various Tae Kwon Do instructors I had may have snuck in too.

  7. Hydrargentium Says:

    Oh, Bill, isn’t it clear? Lee is Jim’s “Mary Sue” (or, as Dave van Domelen calls it, a “self-insertion character”).

    :P

    Hg

  8. Jim Says:

    That would be nice. As a self-employed web developer, I could use a little more menace and charisma when it comes to clients who are late on their payments… I’ve never had anyone fail to pay, but some people take a really long time.

    Mind you, the people I’ve billed for a lot of money on a regular basis always pay. It’s the people I’ve billed for an hour’s work once in the entire year that are sometimes slow. That’s better than the other way around.

  9. Eli James Says:

    I’m suddenly frightened for all of them. This is good. LoN is starting to really really pick up. =)

  10. Mazzon Says:

    Jim: I’d view The Authority pretty much as a deconstruction of the genre, so it really is pretty much an isolated special case. Great stuff, though, particularly the Ellis run.

  11. Bill Says:

    Hey Hg, it’s been a while, my man.

    **Lee is Jim’s “Mary Sue” (or, as Dave van Domelen calls it, a “self-insertion character”).**

    Lol! I thought I detected shades of Q from Star Trek in there. But I guess there’s something to be said for characters whose sole purpose is to give the plot a kick in the ass from time to time.

    Also, Jim, a question about the business on LoN. I understand if you don’t wish to discuss it here, but I’m curious as to if there’s been a difference since the site started taking ads and donations.

  12. Jim Says:

    Well, here’s one… I got the first donation (just last week), which is very cool.

    As for ads… It’s been interesting. For what it’s worth, I’ve never expected to make a lot of money off them. In the first month, I made about 30 cents (enough for a gumball). In the last month and half though, I made 4 dollars (enough for coffee at a coffeehouse).

    Again, the key point isn’t to make piles of cash, but rather to be able to take out advertising at similarly low prices on the same ad network.

    I haven’t done that yet, but I’m working on making ads. When I do, it’ll be easy to take out low priced ads on other sites. If I keep on doing that (and other things), I’ll likely increase readership to a point that my ads will ultimately take in money worth noticing.

    Actually, here’s something that’s kind of funny: It looks like at least a couple people have come to this site through Project Wonderful (an ad network) while looking for a place to advertise, and then stayed to read the site.

    And that’s kind of cool. Next up? Deliberate advertising.

  13. J Renzo Says:

    Alway love to read your adventures… I don’t comment nearly as much as I should.

  14. Jim Says:

    Thanks. I was amused to listen to your radio interview (along with the rest of the Urban 30′s writers).

  15. Daniel Says:

    And that’s why the good thing to do would have been to turn a blind eye to Solar Flare. A shame this universe doesn’t have a Birdcage equivalent

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