Three: Part 3

“I’m not supposed to.”

We stood outside another massive house in the same subdivision. This one had probably won some kind of architectural award. I say that because it looked strange. All white walls with huge glass windows that stretched from the first floor to the top of the house, the house curved and bulged all over, reminding me of a collection of toadstools.

A little boy sat on his bike in the driveway. He couldn’t have been more than ten.

“My dad said I have to ask him first.”

Alex crouched, keeping his head level with the kid’s. “Look, you know we’re the good guys. My mom and dad work with your mom and dad, right?”

“Mmm-hmn.”

“So how about I buy you some ice cream and you find Syndicate L’s local headquarters?”

“My dad said you’re not allowed to give me ice cream.”

Alex glanced over at Brooke, and then said, “Did he say anything about popsicles?”

“Can I have a grape one?”

* * *

“I’ve been waiting since I don’ t know how long to try this one. It’s going to be great.”

Vigilante pranksterism aside, we were walking out of Alex’ house to the swimming pool. They kept extra bathing suits around the house for just such an emergency.

I couldn’t say I liked the suit. I might have liked it better if it came with a sign that said “This is Not My Purple Speedo.”

On the other hand, it fit.

“There’s something weird about using a pool when you’ve got an ocean in front of your house,” I said.

“The pool’s heated, but the ocean’s cold today. Trust me on this one.”

I was about to ask him what the water temperature was when he ran across the concrete and dived in, coming up for air next to Brooke. For them at least, the next hour turned out to be all about splashing each other and pushing each other into the water.

I can’t say I didn’t do any of that, but I didn’t do as much.

Mostly, I found myself leaning against the wall in the shallow end of the pool, talking to Jenny.

As Alex pushed Brooke off the diving board, I asked her, “Are they going out?”

“I wish. They’ve been just about to go out for months.”

“You wish?”

“Desperately. You know how in movies or on TV they have the obligatory ‘person of color’ best friend who everybody confides in? That’s been me for the last four months. Brooke worries about whether going out with him would ruin their friendship. Alex wants to know what he should buy her for her birthday. I’m living a season of Friends.”

“Just curious.”

“Totally okay. It is curious. Anyway, I hear you’re going out with… Night Cat?”

“How’d you find out about that?”

“A little research I did while watching national television. She took your hand after the news conference last fall?”

“Oh, right, but, technically we weren’t going out at the time.”

“But you are now, so…”

“Are you asking me to confide in you?”

She splashed me.

Then she said, “We’re just talking right now. If you start confiding in me, I’m getting out of the pool.”

“She’s happy. I’m happy. Um… anything else?”

“You have to have more to say than that.”

So I told her about the night Haley and I fought Man-machine, and how we started talking to each other. After that (and I’m not sure how), conversation turned to their team.

“Right now,” Jenny said, “we’re calling ourselves ‘Three.'”

“And if you get another member, you’re going to call yourselves… Four?”

“I don’t know, if we ever do, maybe we’ll change it. Or maybe we won’t and just let people wonder if we can count.

“Besides,” she continued, “I don’t think we’ll need another member. Our powers complement each other like you wouldn’t believe. If we ever get the chance to do something big, I think we’ll surprise everybody.”

“You’d have the perfect opportunity here. New York and LA are metahuman central.”

“Which makes it that much harder to stand out, and it’s not like our parents let us do anything. They’ll let us tag along, but that’s all. If anything, we envy you.”

“Seriously? That’s bizarre.”

Alex and Brooke walked down the side of the pool.

“Hey,” Alex said, “let’s get out of here. We’ve got to plan.”

They grabbed their towels off the table. Jenny and I pulled ourselves up the side, following them.

As I dried myself off, two kids, a boy and a girl, ran out of the sliding door on the far side of the pool, jumping in just a couple feet from us.

“And here comes the other reason Alex wanted to go,” Jenny began. Alex and Brooke had already slipped away.

The door the kids came through slid open again. A dark haired woman in a black bathing suit walked through, carrying towels and an inflatable raft. I recognized her.

Remembering her costume, I had an easier time identifying her in the bathing suit than I would have in normal clothes. Lady Deathtouch had turned herself in ten years ago, transforming herself from femme fatale to suburban mom in the meantime.

“Hi Sylvia,” Jenny said.

Sylvia came around the pool toward us. She dropped the raft next to the pool and put the towels on the table.

She shook my hand. “You’re Nick? Nice to meet you. I met your grandfather once.”

“I heard about that,” I said. It had been in the early eighties, just before his retirement. She was indirectly responsible for the suit’s air filtering system.

Jenny nodded her head toward the door. “We should catch up with Alex.”

* * *

On the way to Alex’ room, I told Jenny, “She didn’t seem that bad.”

“I don’t think so, but she’s not my stepmom.”

Alex’ room was on the second floor and had a balcony with a table and chairs. We all changed into clothes before meeting out there.

“Here’s the idea,” Alex said, “Syndicate L does a lot of transportation so they’ve got a pile of vehicles. We take anything we can — cars, trucks, whatever, but especially anything illegal — and ditch them all over town.”

14 thoughts on “Three: Part 3”

  1. Yeah this is sounding like it’s going to lead to trouble more so now.

    No ice cream, but a popsicle is always good. Probably more so in the heat down there.

  2. “Person of color best friend that you confide in”?!?!? “I’m living a season of Friends”?!?!?!

    Solid GOLD!!!

    Oh snap, I remember that episode when Nick, Danny, and Haley fought Man-Machine and he wondered if anybody would catch on to the fact that they held hands.

    So what’s Jenny’s superpower, a super-keen sense of observation??

  3. What’s anyone’s super power in these stories?!

    Jim does an amazing job of not succumbing to the temptation to just say, “Hey, look at what THIS character can do — isn’t it cool?!?!” The way the characters’ powers and abilities just play out as part of the story is just plain awesome: the mark of a true writer, and not just some kind of fan-boy (or -girl, since they’re out there too).

    Hg

  4. daymon/Parahacker: Stealing vehicles from organized crime…What can possibly go wrong with that? Actually though, in some ways having nothing go wrong while still making it entertaining would probably be a bigger challenge than dealing with problems — not that I’m necessarily going to do that.

    Hg/Bill: I’ve been tempted to reveal people’s powers for each of the last three episodes. I just keep on reminding myself that infodumps are bad and resolve to explain it by action or when Nick would naturally mention it.

  5. I was that friend everyone confided in — one time my friend (I’ll call him Mick) and my other friend (I’ll call her Dora) both liked each other in university. They both came to me within a day of each other and said “You know, um, I think, um, I really like (insert whichever name I made up here).”

    But Dora did it the day before Mick, so when he said it, I was like “Gee, I feel a deja vu. I feel like I’ve heard this before, but from someone else. I bet that, if you talked to that someone else, something good would happen.”

    But he didn’t get the hint. So, the next time the three of us were in the same room, I said “Mick likes Dora. Dora likes Mick. Discuss!” and then I bolted into the hallway and held the door shut.

    I avoided an entire season of Friends with an awkward moment, because three days later they were officially a couple. And yet they credit Dora’s friend Angelica for their coupledom, because Dora hung out with Angelica the day they met.

    Some people just don’t know how to show gratitude, I’m telling you.

  6. That’s funny. You wonder how much of that sort of thing happens in real life and how often anybody bothers to mention it to the person who needs to know (and how often they just skip it and prolong everyone’s agony).

    Personally, I didn’t have that experience exactly. I do remember being on good terms with everyone involved in a love triangle. That was… interesting. Though in that case, the problem wasn’t that people didn’t know. The problem was that everyone knew who was interested in whom.

  7. I say G.S. Williams gets a six-pack of Coronas in recognition of his quick-thinking. It would solve so many problems.

    Jim: It happens. ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME!!!!

  8. I think:
    After that (and I’m not sure how), conversation turned their team.
    Should be:
    After that (and I’m not sure how), conversation turned to their team.

  9. “She was indirectly responsible for the suits air filtering system”. I bet there’s a story there.

  10. Well, if that’s not tempting fate I don’t know what is. Now all one of them needs to say is, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’, and it will be perfect.

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