Railgun turned away from the screen to look at me. “I don’t know if should say this, but all of Justice Fist was descended from Red Lightning’s followers. We’re not them and we don’t have to make their choices.”
“Um-hmm,” I said. “I’m impressed that the Heroes’ League knew that and took you in. Not every team would have done that, and especially not teenagers. Do you know why?”
She frowned, thinking. “Some of us knew each other and liked each other before we knew we had powers, but I think it must have been fighting the Cabal. They joined up with Syndicate L and the Executioners to attack all of us. We worked together with the League to fight them. After that they invited us over when they’d get together to watch a movie or play video games, so we all got to know each other. That was it.”
I looked up at the giant wall screen. At the moment, it displayed windows of all the local news stations plus the major cable news networks. “You watch movies on the big screen?”
Storm King grinned. “And play video games. It’s like having your own movie theater.”
Blue glanced over at it and back to me. “Everyone’s invited. I try to make it when I can. I don’t know who decided to do it or why, but it’s a good idea. We all know each other now, and we see each other for who we are, not who our parents or grandparents were. I’m descended from Dixie Superman. He was a racist. You know that. Everyone knows that. Here, I get to be myself, and we’re stronger for it.”
“Exactly,” Storm King said. “I spent so much time thinking about Red Lightning and worrying about if people would see me as just another version of him, but it didn’t happen. The League sees me as me. The haters can go f—k themselves, right?”
Gravity Star laughed. Railgun turned to peer at Storm King. “Wasn’t that the kind of thing we weren’t supposed to say in front of the reporter?”
“Don’t worry about it,” I told her. “Our readers have seen worse. You should have read my interview with Officer EXXXtreme. That man has a mouth. Besides, the magazine won’t print the word. They’ll leave enough that people will know what he said, but they won’t print it.”
Railgun frowned and her nose crinkled. “I don’t think that makes us look good.”
Blue glanced over at Railgun. “It’s not a big deal,” and then at me. “I’ve got another question. We were told that you had powers and the Mystic told me you were in the army. How is it you became a reporter instead of joining up with a Defenders unit?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why? Are you looking for a job?”
She shook her head. “Not now, but everyone knows about the Stapledon program since the Hrrnna attacked. I’m in college and I know I’ll be serving after college, but I’ll need to get a normal job someday.”
I remembered being that young. I’d seen less than she had at the same age, but I remembered the endless, yawning possibility of what lay ahead. “I don’t know if my story will help you, but here it is. I was normal until college, but I got mugged one night, and it changed my life. I don’t know why it happened then, but my body must have been waiting for the right combination of fear and anger, and when I fought back I nearly killed the man.”
I could still see his eyes widen as I threw him into a brick wall and hear the crack of his bones breaking. The surgeons only barely saved him.
Talking over the memory, I told them, “The military recruited me straight out of school. I graduated, but I didn’t even think about a civilian job then. I was too busy learning how not to break everything around me. When I got out, I started a journalism masters because I didn’t know what to do next as much as because I was interested. I got lucky though. One of my friends got hired by Superhumans Today. He told them about me and I left school to work there.”
I shrugged. “That’s all.”
Blue nodded. “Why journalism instead of the Defenders? I’m sure there are teams who would take you?”
I shook my head. “You don’t want me for police work. I could hire myself out to demolish buildings or sink ships, but not if you care about anything nearby. I’m safe in normal life, but once I start using my powers, stay away.”
Before she could ask another question, I added, “I can do more as a powered journalist than one more superhero. Supers need people to understand their struggles, and they’ll make time for a powered journalist.”
Blue eyed me, probably thinking of more questions. If she went into journalism, she should try investigative even if she didn’t stay there.
She didn’t get to ask me more questions—at least not then. Railgun turned away from the screen to talk to us. “They’re on TV. Look at this!”
All the stations on the giant screen showed a grayish-brown feathered dinosaur seated in a busy room. Screens and consoles hung on the walls and other dinosaurs stood in front of them or bustled around the room.
A mustached man in combat fatigues and a red beret stood next to the dinosaur.
Railgun tapped one of the stations with her mouse pointer and it expanded to fill the screen. As it did, the sound filled the room, amplifying a deep, croaking voice in the middle of a speech.
“—of Earth, you can’t defend yourselves against us. Your governments are joining us as I speak. Your powered fighters fall when they face the might of our soldiers. Our empire spans multiple universes, an infinite army bounded only by our ambition, and our ambition is vast. Even now, our soldiers fight in your capitals. Your leaders will soon be in our power.”
Railgun stared at her screen. “Agent Lim sent us a message. The president is in no danger and the only places under the dino’s control are the capitols of some smaller countries. ‘Don’t even think of surrendering’.”