“Next up is uh… ‘Copacobana’. I wasn’t sure whether to put it or ‘Mandy’ on the list. I checked, and they both sounded equally awful.”
Jaclyn barely let me stop before she responded. “I think I heard ‘Copacobana’ once, but nevermind, let’s get to stage two. Rocket, you’re on.”
Me? Yes, me. Why? Not because of my powers of persausion. It was because I had a built-in PA system.
“Right, I’ll move in.”
I flew in over the crowd with Vaughn. The rain wasn’t bad, but it was steady, falling in large drops.
Over the loudspeakers, Barry Manilow sang, “His name was Rico, he wore a diamond…”
People watched me, looking up with slightly confused expressions on their faces. People sheltered under trees. Some held blankets or backpacks over their heads. A few began to walk away toward the big, brick, lecture halls on the edge of the park.
The monkeys that didn’t huddle around Bongo Boy (who was gathering up the remains of his drums) climbed the trees.
Some were bigger than I’d have expected, more ape than monkey-sized, but they weren’t apes. They had tails. Could they be giant monkeys? Extra-diminsional monkeys? Or, if Bongo Boy were some kind of monkey god, could they be supernatural?
I had no idea.
Halfway across the crowd, I stopped.
The whole crowd stared at me—probably the most people I’d ever knowingly addressed at once. After we’d caught the Mayor I’d been on TV and I’d probably talked to more people, but I couldn’t see them all. It had been a few people plus news cameras.
I probably even knew some of them.
I tried to remember what I had to say. I’d practiced a little. I’d written an outline, but I didn’t have it with me. It struck me that I could have worked out a way to use the Rocket suit’s readouts as a teleprompter.
That would have been better.
“Uh…” I began, my voice amplified, and audible for several city blocks. I was doing great.
“You’re being used,” I said. “I bet most of you don’t even know why you’re here. You saw something happening, decided to check it out and stayed. Some of you probably got called by friends. It seemed important somehow, but you didn’t know why. It seemed like you were striking a blow against something, but you didn’t know what.
“I can’t tell you everything, but right now you’re being influenced. There are real revolutions, but this isn’t one of them. For your own safety, I’m asking you to please go home. Come back when you can tell me why you’re here.”
As the words sank in, the rain fell harder, hitting, and rolling down the front of my helmet.
It felt good to stop, but even better that people began to walk away. In my grandfather’s hands, the Rocket suit had come to represent something a person could trust. I tended to forget it, but I could tap into that goodwill.
“Everybody go,” I said. “This is important.”
The song had changed to “MacArthur Park” during the speech. Over the sound of an orchestra, a man sang, “Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it because it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again. Oh, nooooooooooo!”
“Why’s that guy so worked up about a cake?” Vaughn asked. “And why would anyone leave it outside anyway?”
“I have no idea. Be glad I didn’t choose the disco version.”
“There’s a disco version? Oh man, you should have.”
We flew toward the hill. People ran away, and honestly, it may have been the rain more than anything I’d done.
My heart raced as we came close. Evil Beatnik’s beret was soaked with water, flattened to Mr. Beacham’s head. The ring glinted on his hand. Near him, Mr. Beacham’s girlfriend held his hand, but she didn’t seem happy.
If he’d been alone, or accompanied only by Bongo Boy, I’d have called News 10 as we’d arranged, and exposed Evil Beatnik on the air. He wasn’t alone. The Ice Twins, Mr. Madness, and Dixie Supergirl stood between us. Destruction Boy lay on the hill near Bongo Boy and all the monkeys.
The members of Justice Fist must have left with the rest of the crowd. That bothered me, but I couldn’t think why.
I knew what Vaughn and I had to do—talk them into leaving, make them understand what they served without saying it so many words.
“Make it quick,” Vaughn muttered to me. I thought I caught a little nervousness in his voice.
One of the Ice Twins—White, or, in reality, Cassidy—said, “I’ve got a message for you from our leader.”
“What are we,” Vaughn said (quietly), “Martians?”
Dixie Supergirl snorted, but White kept on talking, “He says leave, or the rest of our people will destroy the power plant. Dig?”