I stared at the screen. “The board? As in the League’s board or the Defenders’?”
Mindstryke shook his head. “Not the Defenders’ board, the League’s. But that’s for later. Right now I’d like you to explain what happened from the point where you first became aware this was possible through to your response.”
We did. Rachel told him about first hearing about the possibility in Infinity City. I described how I’d recognized a clue after months of searching. Then everybody explained their individual part in the plan.
He nodded as we talked, no longer smiling, but taking notes, and asking questions.
After we were done, he said, “Ok, I’ll summarize this, and then we’ll go over what to talk about and what to skip if someone asks you about it.
“First, Rachel hears about it from another version of herself in Infinity City. She tells Lim about it, and even includes the information in her report about what happened on her field trip. Nick and the FBI both search for clues as to who’s trying to blow up St. Louis until Nick makes the connection based on information from the League jet’s alien AI.
“Nick gets no response to what he’s discovered, so he goes to investigate and brings a large team. You discover the bombs, and notify the local Defenders unit. The Mystic and Blue assist the local Defenders. The Rocket assists when the bomb starts counting down, but is mostly occupied by destroying hundreds of bombs with the rest of you.
“In the end, you’re successful in destroying the bombs without significant damage to the city. Blue and the Mystic successfully reduce another bomb’s damage after True Humanity sets it off. Nonetheless it still kills five Defenders and destroys most of a city block. Have I missed anything major?”
There was a general murmur of “No.”
Daniel’s dad nodded, “Good, then let’s talk about how we’ll handle this. First, I want all of you to remember that you’re not obligated to talk to the press. The words ‘No comment,’ will save us an amazing amount of grief.
“Now, some of you will want to talk to the press, or even just to your friends. I’m thinking specifically about Camille. You didn’t hide your identity when you were part of Justice Fist.”
“No, we didn’t,” Camille said, a little louder, and with a little more bitterness than I’d expected.
He nodded. “If you want to talk about that sometime, we can. There are things we can do to make that a little better.”
She didn’t say anything, but she did nod.
“Well,” he said, “let’s talk about what we want people to remember, and that’s easy—you saved people. Talk about the bombs. Talk about the neutron emitters. Don’t forget that they could fly or what they looked like. They could have been used to destroy thousands, probably millions or even billions of people before we caught on. That’s the important part of this.”
I thought about that for a second, “That could really scare people.”
He shook his head. “Maybe not as much as you’d think. Sometimes I think there’s a conservation of worry. Between supervillains, politics, natural disasters, and people’s own lives, there’s not much left over. Now I’m not saying that this isn’t going to be a big deal. It will be, but it’s not going to be as scary as it should be. Whoever supplied True Humanity with these things was going for human extinction, not simple terrorism. True Humanity’s been small time, targeting supers and their families, not cities. I’d be surprised if they had any idea of what they were getting. They’d probably been told that the devices would only kill supers.”
Vaughn cocked his head to one side, “Wait, so why aren’t people going to be scared?”
Daniel’s dad smiled for a second. “I got off track. They’re going to get scared, but it’s not going to stick because you won, and won easily—“
“Easily?” The word came out before I thought about it. It hadn’t felt easy.
“Easily,” he said. “None of you died, and there was barely any property damage. You even let the airports know to redirect planes around where the blast would be. Plus with you taking care of it before dawn on a Saturday, I doubt there will be many civilian deaths at all. If we’re lucky, there won’t be any. What the public’s likely to see is the sad deaths of the Defenders protecting them, but completely successful protection.”
Rachel frowned. “The Defenders shouldn’t be forgotten.”
“They won’t be. They’ll get all the attention they deserve, and maybe more.” Mindstryke adjusted his position in the chair and leaned forward. “And that brings me back to the things that we shouldn’t talk about. Don’t talk about Infinity City. Don’t talk about the jet’s AI. Private citizens don’t own scavenged alien technology. Don’t talk about Lim or the FBI. If someone asks how you found out it was happening, tell them you need to keep that secret.”
Izzy nodded. “And what about the Defenders? What are we supposed to say about them?”
Frowning, he said. “You told me Ronin stopped on the way out to find out how you were doing. Their first team had left, but their second team was with Ronin, and the blast went off then.”
He shook his head. “Don’t explain it except in a long interview. It’s too complicated. Just tell people they happened to be passing through the room on the way out. It was simple bad luck.”
Izzy sat back in the chair, and turned her head away from the screen for a second. Then she said, “I know it has to be this way, but we’re going to avoid talking about more than we actually talk about.”
A few chairs over, Cassie laughed. “What do you want to bet it only gets harder from here?”