The woman who showed me around was no exception. Thin with long, dark hair, she wore a gray unitard with the Heroes’ League “HL” logo.
A mask covered the upper half of her face, but her tan, unwrinkled skin told me she couldn’t have been older than twenty.
None of the League members I met that day looked much older than she did—not that she was a member. In a team of adults, her title might have been chief of staff, but on this team, she had another title.
“Call me Control,” she said. She met me by the elevator as The Mystic walked away toward the lab. “If you’d like some coffee we have some in the kitchen. We also have pop, and, water. If you’re hungry, we have some leftover pizza, but between you and me, the pizza’s a little old. I wouldn’t trust it. I think we have cereal, but I can’t promise the milk is still good.”
“I’ll have coffee. No milk. No sugar,” I told her and we walked toward the doorway to the kitchen. “Why are you called Control?”
She laughed, her curly, brown hair, brushing against her shoulders. “The original League came out of the military. They called HQ Command and Control and whoever was back at base Control. We’re using the same name, but believe me, I don’t control anything.”
Then she showed me around their headquarters. It was everything you’d expect out of the Heroes’ League. Placed deep enough underground that I couldn’t guess how deep we were, their headquarters hadn’t been designed to be pretty or impressive. They’d been designed to be functional. From the ceiling to the floor, concrete ruled over all other materials. Gold and silver were nowhere to be seen.
It was as if during the Cold War, someone had attempted to design the biggest fallout shelter they could.
But despite the architect’s indifference to what the place looked like, it was difficult not to be impressed. They’d obviously brought in a professional interior designer recently. The work area where tables of computers stood in front of a massive twenty foot tall screen had a kind of understated elegance, but that was the least of it.
Around the room stood small exhibits and trophies of the League’s past—awards and pictures hung on the walls next to framed news clippings. More than forty years of service was represented there, starting during World War 2 and ending during the Reagan administration.
A piece of a Nazi’s powered armor stood next to a trophy case with the horn from the head of a demon lord. A supervillain’s smashed doomsday bomb sat across from the helmet of an invading alien’s space suit. There were at least twenty artifacts like that.
Control knew the history of each one. “We’ve been scanning in the old League’s records and digitizing them. I think we’ve got them all now. I’ve been reading through all of it. They did some amazing things. I’m not sure that I can talk about half of them even now.”
“You do a lot of work for them. How long have you been here?” I asked.
She cocked her head, thinking. “A little over a year now.”
I pressed the issue. “How did you start?”
In a pleasant, alto voice, she said, “They’re friends of mine and they needed someone to organize everything. They might be superheroes, but they only have so much time.”
We’d stopped next to a circular platform made of black metal. It was roughly ten feet wide. “Do you like working here?”
She nodded. “I… Well… It’s like any job. I like it most of the time. Even on the worst days you’re doing something good, something that helps people. On the best days, maybe you save somebody’s life? It’s funny, because the good days and the bad days are the same days.
“I ended up fighting aliens last year. It was terrifying. I thought I could die at any second, and sometimes when I was fighting they were hunting me. It was horrible and I hated every second of it, but I also helped keeping the world alive. I’m proud to be part of that even if I ended up using Yellow Burrito’s gun during the fight.”
I looked her over, trying to imagine her fighting the aliens I’d seen in pictures of last year’s invasion attempt. The costume and the mask made it easier, but her? I could imagine her organizing a room, but crouching somewhere with a gun and fighting the toothy, claw handed creatures I’d seen on the Internet?
That seemed impossible, but I said, “Yellow Burrito? Wasn’t he the hero who fired liquid cheese at people?”
As Control opened her mouth, something pinged. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I should check that.”
She walked toward the computer tables and the giant wall screen.
The screen filled with charts. The background of one blinked red. Above it were the words, “Extradimensional particles detected.”