You know what’s weird? Weird is when something you were connected with gets its own graphics and theme music on most major news channels.
I sat in League HQ surfing the web with one of the consoles at the table while I had MSNBC playing on the big screen on the wall. I had turned off the big screen’s sound, but I occasionally looked up to check the news crawl or if the main story seemed interesting.
I’d been in taking a final look at the jet. I’d followed Grandpa’s directions, de-mothballed it, and tested all the systems I could. I’d even run the engines a little bit. Now all we needed was a pilot.
In the middle of feeling satisfied that I’d at least gotten that off my plate, I looked up at the big screen. It showed a reporter at a desk. Next to him on the screen were the words “The Cabal” set against a background of test tubes, Red Lightning’s symbol, and a picture of Mayor Bouman.
I turned on the sound.
“… Heroes League captured another member of the Cabal last night. He is now in FBI custody. That brings the number of Cabal members in custody up to forty-seven. The FBI has yet to reveal the identity of the most recent arrest. For some insight on these events, we’ll now go to our guest Dr. Sidney Smith, formerly known as Mr. Menace. Dr. Smith, you fought the Heroes League and allied with Red Lightning when he broke away from them.”
The screen briefly showed a picture of Mr. Menace in a lavender uniform, muscles bunched up, throwing a Ford LTD sometime during the 1970’s. For a white guy, he had a huge afro. Then it cut to him now.
He looked like an old, bald, overweight guy in a suit. Still, he looked nice — as nice as you can be and spend twenty years in costume calling yourself Mr. Menace.
“I did,” he said, “that I did. Great times. You know Red Lightning offered me immortality if I stood with him.”
The reporter appeared visibly skeptical. “Could he do that?”
“Do you think I’d be here if he could? I’d be be in Tahiti with a couple of women and one hell of a fat Swiss bank account.” Then he laughed.
“Well, then what do you think of the Cabal? Related to Red Lightning or not?”
“Related. I always got the feeling he didn’t come up with the potions himself.”
“What do you think of the new Heroes League?”
“They’re a bunch of kids in costumes. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Mindstryke and the Rhino took me down a couple times when they were kids in costumes. Oh, and for anyone still speculating that the original Rocket came back, you’re wrong… Can you run the footage?”
The picture cut to black and white TV footage of my grandfather as the Rocket beating up a bunch Red Lightning’s men in the street in front of City Hall.
“See how he fights,” Dr. Smith’s voice covered over the footage’s muffled shouts, “the original Rocket used the Fairbairn-Sykes close combat style combined with your basic straight ahead brawling.”
“What’s the Fairbairn-Sykes style?” The reviewer asked.
“A hand to hand system used by the Allies special forces during World War II.”
The picture changed. It showed Daniel, Cassie and me fighting Syndicate L’s people just before we ran into the Grey Giant. I wondered where they’d gotten the footage. The Grey Giant had pretty much trashed the building. I’d have expected any security cameras to go with it.
“Now watch the Rocket and the new Captain Commando. They don’t use the same style. They use lots of punches and kicks. There’s bits of aikido and bits of Fairbairn-Sykes too, but it’s totally different and a little bit of a mystery. I’ve encountered it before, but I’m not sure who teaches it or where it comes from. The guy who invented it though? He gets around.”
After that, they talked about Dr. Smith’s autobiography, “My Life As a Menace.”
I missed it. Just as the old man started telling about his origin and how he got into crime, I heard the elevator run.
I got up and walked through the stacked boxes to find Cassie and Kayla stepping out into HQ.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” I said to Kayla.
“I hope it’s OK,” she said.
Cassie said, “It’s fine. It’s not as if you don’t know almost all of our secrets anyway.”
Personally, I would have thought that that would have been bad enough without giving her the location of HQ as well.
I don’t know what the expression on my face looked like, but Cassie caught my eye and then said to Kayla, “I’d like to talk to Nick for a second. If you walk past the boxes to the front, we’ll catch up.”
“Bringing her here isn’t hurting anything,” Cassie said.
I paused, gathering my thoughts.
“Cassie,” I said, “I know she’s your friend, but no one outside the League should know as much as she does. All she’s got to do is let one thing slip and she’s a target and so are we.”
“She won’t slip, Nick. I’ve known her for years.”
“Any of us could slip,” I said. “The difference is if it’s one of us, we’ve got a way to protect ourselves. She’s a sitting duck.”
“I’ll protect her. She’s my friend. She’s my problem. Besides, she figured it out for herself. What can we do about it?”
I knew better than to say the obvious answer.