King of Storms: Part 6

The point where the whole secret identity thing begins to get weird is when you start hearing about your exploits secondhand in real life.

I found myself stuck a couple people behind Sean Drucker and Jody on the way to class. Sean moved slowly on crutches. Jody carried his books. Apparently he’d had knee surgery almost immediately after our fight. I didn’t know the details. Anyway, with the hall as full as it was, it didn’t seem worth pushing past him. With my luck, I’d knock him over.

And that’s how I ended up hearing last night’s five minutes of terror and destruction reduced to…

“Captain Commando’s too thin and she’s kind of flat, but I’d do Night Cat. She’s short, but she looks okay.”

“The claws?” Jody asked.

“Well yeah, those are creepy. And the teeth, geez…”

So what would the appropriate response to that be?

I didn’t know. Going up and complaining about it would only blow everybody’s secret identity which, honestly, I couldn’t believe Sean hadn’t already figured out. He knew who Vaughn’s grandfather was. He had to have guessed that Vaughn and “Storm King” were the same person.

The only reason I could think that he hadn’t pegged Cassie or I for who we were was that Vaughn hung out with everybody. If he suspected all the people who hung out with Vaughn of being superheroes, he’d be watching half the senior class.

Absorbed in that thought, I missed anything else they had to say about how hot (or not) the rest of the League was. I did catch Sean say, “Did you see the clip from the end of the fight? When the Rocket knocks that guy out of the air and slams him into the street? That was so fucking cool.”

Jody nodded. “No doubt, but we’d do better.”

Sean shot him a warning look.

Jody laughed. “What? Do you think the Heroes League is going to beat up our grandparents?”

“Stuff it, Jody.”

Jody aimed an exaggerated, fake kick at Sean’s crutch. It didn’t connect.

“Fuck off, Jody.”

I turned in to my classroom, trying to shake the feeling that if they approved of me, I had to be doing something wrong.

* * *

After I got home, I put on running clothes. With Lee being in Grand Lake for a while, I’d decided not to be on the track team this year. Nonetheless, I still went running. Lifting weights wouldn’t make much difference because the suit determined my strength, but, if I worked on the endurance, I’d be able to fight longer.

Anyway, something about putting foot to pavement feels good.

I liked spring days in particular. Sixty degree days were perfect — neither too warm nor too cold.

Sometimes I wore an iPod, but, lately I’d been running without one. I felt better knowing that even if I found myself daydreaming about modifications to the suit or Cassie’s motorcycle, I’d at least have the chance to hear someone trying to run me down with a car.

I ran south of my parents’ house, toward the suburbs. I could have run to Haley’s house, but I didn’t feel like doing a fifteen mile round trip. As it was, I got to see the history of Grand Lake’s expansion as told in buildings — passing out of the blocks with houses from the 1920’s and moving into blocks from the city’s next big expansion in the 1950’s and 60’s.

I actually ran down Jefferson for a little while. The sign on Shorty’s Convenience Mart said “Closed” and a dumpster stood in the parking lot. People carried trash out in wheelbarrows.

Once I turned onto 48th Street and started running through quiet neighborhoods of ranch style houses, I got into the run. Unaware of anything but my own thoughts, I passed kids playing outside and other runners.

Just before the midway point, a horn beeped.

I turned to the source of the noise, already thinking about the best route to escape if it turned out to be hostile.

I hadn’t had the best of luck with people in cars stopping me while running or walking this year.

The car turned out to be a blue Prius — which was a little bit of a relief by itself because I had a hard time imagining anyone who wanted to hurt me being that into saving gas.

The car pulled to the side of the street and stopped. Isaac Lim stepped out, not looking much like an FBI agent at all. Skip the suit and trench coat, he wore casual clothes — a polo shirt, slacks and a light jacket. The bulge under his left arm had to be a gun though.

He went around the front of the car and across the lawn to the sidewalk.

“Hi, Nick, let’s talk.”

“Right here?”

“It won’t take long. If someone comes up, I’m asking for directions to the airport.”

“Okay. What’s going on?”

“The men you fought last night didn’t have any record of working with Mayor Bouman, Magnus or the Cabal. They don’t have any history of showing powers. Basically they’ve bummed around all their lives doing petty crimes and working for anyone who would have them. Well, except for one guy. He used to be an accountant for one of the crime syndicates.”

“So who gave them the…” I searched for a word.

“Juice?”

“That works.”

“I’ve no idea who they got it from. That’s what I’m here to check into. Have you heard of anyone else suddenly showing powers around here?”

“No.”

Isaac sighed. “The last thing I need is to have us discover how to use this stuff, and then have it immediately get into the hands of organized crime. That’s the only lead I’ve got right now. They’ve all got connections to Syndicate L — small ones, but connections.”

“You think Syndicate L has somebody in the FBI?”

“I didn’t say that. Besides, they wouldn’t have to have anyone in the Bureau. All they’d need to have is someone on the power juice project. So, if any of you kids feel like checking something out, you might look into where the juice came from.”

“I could.”

“Just don’t tell me about it electronically. I’ll talk to you in person.”

18 thoughts on “King of Storms: Part 6”

  1. Ha! First!

    What an interesting return to non-super business. And as always, well done stuff, Jim.

    Am I the only one cracking up about how Sean Freakin’ Drucker thinks the Rocket is cool. My, what would he say to learn is favorite superhero is also the guy who kicked his ass.

    And now, time to worry…so it seems Super Red Bull is now on the streets, and is Sean and his stooges turning into LON’s SPECTRE??

    Stay tuned, folks…

  2. 🙂 Dude you used the term Super Juice. I thought you were kidding around when you said you might add it into the storyline, but thats soo cool.

  3. Well, Red Lightning’s name for it (power elixir) was deliberately designed to sound kind of Golden Age of comics and also a little clunky.

    Calling it a potion makes me think of Dungeons & Dragons — which isn’t all a bad thing, but it doesn’t quite fit a superhero story.

    It needs a name that sounds like it could be slang. Juice works pretty well for that.

    Bill: We may get to find out what Sean would say. We’ll see though.

  4. Ah, ok… for some reason the last comment didn’t take. lol.
    Anyway…

    btw, Bill, the only reason you got first is cuz I was without internet, so there!! 😛

    And now here we have the return of Isaac Lim, aka FBI agent… hm… I never actually fully trusted this guy. Still don’t. I dunno, something about him kinda sets me off. I’m not so sure that Nick should trust him that quickly… anyone else agree?

  5. I always felt Isaac was shady – a little too quick with information, a little too convenient — and then not around at all when he might come in really handy. Maybe that’s just me.

  6. Oh, good, so it’s not just me? That makes me feel better, like I’m not some sort of suspicious freak who always picks on everyone and thinks that there’s always someone hiding behind the bush. lol.

    For the record… just cuz it pops into my mind now… I never really suspected Vaughn. Still don’t. I like him.

    So… Isaac is a suspect and Vaughn isn’t? There’s a twist…

  7. See, I think that Isaac Lim is actually probably a decent guy, who’s genuinely trying to do a good job. He can’t be super-high up in the organization, or they wouldn’t have assigned him to a bunch of teenagers in some little hamlet no one’s ever heard of before. (Okay, so maybe it’s not tiny, but it sure ain’t Chicago either.)

    This means that he wants to help Nick and company, because if they succeed, he’ll succeed. However, he’s also FBI, and that means that if giving the kids the raw deal works out better for whatever the FBI has going on, then that’s likely what he’ll do. I’m sure the FBI sees all supers as resources to be managed and/or problems to be solved. Heck, even in our world, alphabet groups like that use people as they see fit to further the country’s (and their own) agendas: scientists, athletes, diplomats, lawyers and politicians, they’re all just things to use.

    So, Isaac’s gonna do the best he can for these kids, because it’s the best he can do for his career and his country. If that correlation ever changes, then his dealings with the team will change likewise.

    Hg

  8. @Hydrargentium: I like your commentary on gov’t orgs and their focus on the “greater good” instead of the “good of the people” and how those two things might not necessarily be one and the same.

    We get a lot of that on a lot of TV nowadays, Heroes, Chuck, 24….

    Jim, I wanted to elaborate further on how much I really enjoyed the writing in this non-super-fight ep.

    As a former runner myself, Nick’s use of running as therapy was classic.

    And yes I did get the joke that Sean thinks Night Cat is a hottie.

    My oh my, to hear that your nemesis has a crush on his ex-girlfriend’s alter ego, aka YOUR girlfriend.

    Genius.

  9. @Hg: I like your take on Isaac’s motives. I can see what you’re saying and all, it does make sense. But… I still kind of have some suspicions for him. It’s not anything he’s doing really. Just instinct.

    And I agree with Bill- your expression of what the gov does is pretty right-on I’m thinking!

  10. At least Nick plans ahead to be distracted by thinking of upgrades he wants.

    And the juice is on the streets, only going to be time before those bullies get there hands on it.

  11. Ooh that’s true Daymon. So… gotta wonder what will happen then, especially with that wonderful twist about the guy having the hots for Cat and thinking Rocket is cool. Hm… wouldn’t it be rather ironic that Nick’s real-life nemesis suddenly teams up with his alter ego superhero? THAT would be interesting.

  12. @Jimney: that would rock! But let’s take it one step further…what if Sean and his stooges are really part of some independent hero group already??

    And…what if they are also on Isaac Lim’s payroll along with Nick and his team??

    This would fit in with this theory of Isaac’s duplicity…

  13. Oh, the places we could go with this one!! Jim you really gotta hurry up with that next post or else I think the story is gonna take off without you!! lol jk. 😉

  14. Jimney: I’d write faster if it weren’t for this thing called work…

    Bill: I think most people find that exercise (running or whatever) is a calming activity. I know it helps me sometimes. Right now though, I’m thinking I should sign up for a race just to give myself motivation to train.

  15. @Jim: yeah, work does kinda make it difficult to sit at the computer all day, doesn’t it? lol. Oh, and I meant to say this before but everyone else kidna beat me to the punch- yeah, I like what you did with the running thing. You’re right, it is a very calming thing. And I’m glad you put such a natural thing into a story full of unnatural superpowers. Makes it seem real. 🙂

  16. Isaac has always seemed comfortable discussing just about anything over a League connection, now he’s meeting the League techie out in the open where the techie’s gizmos aren’t around, and neither are the mentalist or either of the ones with super senses.

    Seems to me like someone is using a power to pretend to be Isaac, and wants to have the League help get more information about juice by pretending to be an authority figure.

    1. In Michigan in the spring, sixty degrees is a heatwave. Ten degrees is cold while getting above freezing shows that things are finally moving in the right direction.

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