Threat Analysis: Part 8

How do you answer a question like that? It’s not as if I could say the honest one, “About five minutes before you started having sex.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Haley’s hand reach out and turn off the monitor. Deciding she had a point, I turned off the roachbot controller.

“Not long,” I said, hoping Stephanie wasn’t one of those people who noticed lies as easily as breathing.

I supposed that technically I hadn’t been lying, but I’d want to start as soon as they asked what I’d seen, or if I had anything to do with what happened to the computers.

Leaving the roachbots’ controller on the table, I stood up. Tactically that wasn’t the best choice, but walking up to him holding it would be a lot like walking up to him gun in hand.

It wouldn’t make things calmer.

Gordon looked over at Stephanie, and she nodded back.

I didn’t have time to wonder what that meant. I’d noticed that Gordon had stepped into my lab, Stephanie following a few feet behind and to the left. This wasn’t important per se, but it did preclude certain tactical options.

If he didn’t fly himself and Stephanie out, he couldn’t start a whirlwind inside the room. That meant that killing us wasn’t foremost in his mind. He was effectively limiting himself to blowing us over or pinning us against walls.

I could work with that. Haley, I realized, already was. Stepping a few feet ahead of me, she could use her claws to hang on to the floor, and she might be able to jump forward and slash the both of them with poison claws before either had a chance to react.

Gordon met my eyes. “We were printing something out. Did you stop the printer?”

“I…” I struggled to come with a good answer. Technically, I hadn’t but I’d put it in motion by calling Dr. Nation.

Haley cut in before I could finish. Looking first at Stephanie and then Gordon, she said, “Vaughn was kidnapped by fairies, and tricked into sending files the League had collected to Stephanie’s email address. Now you’ve got them and you’re printing them out.”

Gordon’s mouth twisted, and for an instant both Gordon and Stephanie looked at each other. “I knew it was too good to be true.”

He shook his head. “You’ve got to understand, Stephanie didn’t know they were coming. We went to the Castle Rock fireworks display, and after we got back we got the email. We didn’t even know it was from Vaughn. He’s someone in your group, right?”

“He’s Storm King,” I said.

“The Red Lightning descendent. Yeah well, if I’d remembered that, I might not have opened it.”

Haley frowned. “He’s not his grandfather.”

Gordon shrugged. “I don’t have any way to know that. I always heard that your grandparents did the right thing when they put the first Red Lightning down. It surprised a lot of people when the New Heroes League showed up with a Red Lightning descendant. The first one seemed like a nice guy, but he showed his true colors in the end, right? Totally crazy. Are you watching the new one?”

I think my jaw dropped a little at that. “Like Haley said, Vaughn’s not his grandfather.”

Gordon rolled his eyes at that. “Come on, don’t tell me that—“

Stephanie reached out and squeezed his arm. “Hon,” she said, ”I think you’re forgetting something. It came to my email, and I opened it. I knew exactly who he was, and I wasn’t worried. It happens that way sometimes.”

I looked at her. I’m sure I looked confused. “What happens what way?”

Stephanie smiled at me, and brushed her black hair back over her shoulder. “Good question. I’ll tell you. I think it would be better if supers took a more active role in the world, and I’m not the only one. I’ve talked about it a lot, and sometimes it turns out that I reached people I didn’t even remember reaching. When I do, I get things like this—emails with files of information attached and I pass it along to other people who I think might be interested.”

There were so many pieces of information to unravel in what she’d said that I had trouble knowing where to start. Was she the person who’d started Gordon on his “supers over all” kick? Had she been talking to Vaughn? Who else had she been talking to? The most important thing was the last part. Did she mean that—

Haley interrupted my thoughts. “Are you saying that you’ve already passed the emails on to someone else?”

Frowning, Stephanie said, “Trustworthy people. It doesn’t matter who. Look, we’re all the same kind of people here, and I’m not talking about powers. You see problems and you want to fix them. You see people in danger and you want to save them. You see people who are hurting others and you want to stop them.

“So yes, we’ve passed them on. We’re not going to let it continue.”

10 thoughts on “Threat Analysis: Part 8”

  1. Gah! >_< I'd say they might need to get Hal to go out sniffing… except ke has a habit of adding things. :/

  2. I have to admit, this is a point where it’s frustrating to be in Nick’s head because I think Haley’s head is closer to what most people would be thinking.

    “Is this the part where we fight? Yes, I think this is the part where we fight. Punching time!”

  3. I am immediately wondering how Stephanie’s powers work and what they are? Almost sounds like she has an ability that works without conscious control? Maybe some kind of subtle mind control or influence over some people? Perhaps people with whom she has had “relations”? 😮

    There is also the question of whether Nick and co has any right to be upset at a group of young supers using illicit means to gather information against a criminal state?

  4. This is anther glorious example of how serialized superhero webfiction is taking the premise that comics have so long taken for granted, stepping back, and saying “Hey now, how would this work in the real world, where you actually have to worry about people other than the protagonists and antagonists?”

    This isn’t going to get wrapped up cleanly. There’s not going to be a ‘Mr. Fantastic logs into his super-smartphone and deletes the files from every computer everywhere as well as causing any printer that recieved them to burst into flames and incinerate the building hard copies might be stored in; now for Ask the Editor while the Justice Buddies laugh!’ story. Someone’s gonna take action, someone’s gonna get pissed, people will get hurt, folks will feel bad, faeries’ gonna get busted up, the world will change.

    Now, it may happen that they get in contact with the people they need to, and Politics happen. That’s a sorta worst-best-case scenario, where the League (and maybe others) will get caught up in a ‘don’t do this and we won’t do that’ blackmail-treaty- nothing immediately comes of this, but everybody involved ends up with bad feelings, trust is broken or damaged, there’s a constant threat of ‘what if they don’t keep their word’ and M.A.D. going on. There’s subterfuge and spystuff that happens, and the whole world gets just that much tenser, things get that much more potentially worse.

    Then there’s the Best-Worst situation- this gets blown up Overboard, everybody finds out about it, all the Heroes close ranks as Something Gets Done- a tyranny is deposed, the Nine lose another base of operations and are that much closer to being ferreted out, and a semi-stable government somehow manages to get put in place; the sum total of Utilitarianizm is positive, overall suffering goes down. Teams get a trial-by-fire, people are pissed at each other for getting them in this situation but forgive the guy who just saved their bacon, and it’s chalked up as another one of those ‘hero things’.

    Or there’s the Worst-Worst, where this starts a Worm-like spiral into destruction and chaos for the planet, as the Justice Lords take over and Anarchists/the 9 fight back/to take their own control. Doom, gloom, and in the end, WAR.

    Or Best-Best, and it turns out that the people Steph’s sending stuff to actually [i]are[/i] good guys (either a branch of the FBI or CIA that’re using her to gather intel or maybe some sort of Justice Archon- or just Supers with genuinely good intentions who think things through), the League gets brought into the fold, and everybody finds that with this new information they’re better able to help people, and figure out a way to peacefully get a Govn’t shift in whereever.

  5. An email sent to a large number of recipients about a minute after Nick talks to Hal, and Hal talks to his AI friends.

    Good Day,

    This is Anonymous. We have been forced by circumstance to remove certain data that was not intended for your use. We would like to apologize to the innocent owners of the servers that we were required to corrupt who were likely not even aware of the data that they were harboring. The more secure the appliances were, the more damage was done. We also apologize for the theft of the drones that were required to access and destroy the most secure appliances, paper copies of the data, and handheld electronics with the documents loaded onto them. Most of those drones were returned safely, but some were destroyed by the defenses of the thieves who attempted to keep data they were not intended to have access to.

    Unfortunately, our actions might seem like terrorism to those of you who do not know why we did what we did. We can’t stop you from feeling that way, however, over the next few months we will work to provide compensation for losses by working against the guilty parties whose actions required our drastic response.

    Regards,
    Anonymous

  6. Cat, Bag, Let out of…

    Utilitarianism (consequentialism) is a quite dangerous approach, tends towards reductionism, (modern) Virtue Ethics, where you balance individual values against the sort of society you want to live in, is worth thinking about… What sort of society where super powers exist looks like a good idea?

    I continue to be impressed by this story!

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