Three: Part 6

I didn’t feel quite right about it the next morning.

Parts of the news report stuck in my head — the accidental activation of the weapons, for example. If someone had gotten hurt, it would have been our fault too.

Also, we hadn’t started the fire in the warehouse. Syndicate L must have done that themselves. They’d had something to hide there.

I wondered if we shouldn’t have just given the warehouse’s address to the police.

I got dressed and managed to get downstairs before the hotel’s continental breakfast closed, making myself a waffle with their machine, and sitting down to watch the flat screen TV they’d hung on the wall. The channel was set to a local NBC affiliate, but kept cutting away from the Today show to follow a car chase.

A blue hummer from the Syndicate L warehouse roared down the highway. I could tell because Jenny had spray painted that one too. The back window said, “Syndicate L Sucks” in red. Blue Streak, the cop who had flown over to talk with me the day before, flew after him, sometimes flying alongside, talking to the driver through the window.

The driver had apparently discovered how to operate the hummer’s hidden banks of missiles and fired one at Blue Streak, but didn’t hit.

The chase was still going when I finished my waffle, a danish, and some orange juice.

When I got back to my room, I sent some email and waited for Alex to call.

Instead, I heard Brooke’s voice in my room. “Nick? Do you mind if I open a portal? Don’t say yes if you’re still in bed.”

After looking around for a second, I recognized the silvery outline of a portal hovering above my bed. On the other side of it, I could see Brooke’s lips.

“Go ahead.”

The small circle stretched into a larger than human sized oval. Jenny, Alex and Brooke, all wearing street clothes, stepped through to the floor between the two beds.

I shut my laptop and stood up.

“Have you been watching the news?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Alex said, “I don’t think we’ve done anything that’s gotten this much press before.”

“That’s not really what I meant.” I turned on the television and flipped over to the ongoing chase, watching as the hummer weaved through traffic. “If that guy gets hurt or kills someone, we’re responsible for it.”

Another missile shot off the side of the hummer. It missed Blue Streak.

“Where do you suppose that’s going to land?”

Alex shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Neither do I,” I said, “but if it hits somebody, they‘re probably going to die.”

“Got it. Got your point, but I look at it differently. We stole more than a million dollars worth of equipment from Syndicate L yesterday — and that’s not counting any special modifications they made to those trucks. Whatever they used them for — probably drug running and other stuff that’s just as illegal — they can’t use them now. It’s not like they’re going to go up to the police and ask for their fleet back. No way. They’ve got to put it together all over again.”

“That still means we’re responsible if someone gets hurt.”

Alex held up his hands, “Look, if anybody gets hurt, I will personally heal them. Problem solved.”

“Can you heal dead people?”

“Hey, nobody’s died.”

I looked away from Alex for a second, checking what the others were doing.

Brooke frowned as I glanced toward her.

Jenny said, “Alex, I think he’s right only I don’t think he went far enough. Syndicate L is big. They’re not going to just take this. They’re going to strike back somewhere.”

“I’m not going to worry about it. We were all in costume. They don’t know who we are. Okay, they might recognize me, but none of you have public identities, and I never got out of the hummer.”

“You said you’ve pulled other pranks,” I said. “You don’t think they’ll guess? They had to have seen a lot of Jenny.”

Alex began to open his mouth, but he never got a word in. Brooke talked over him. “Can we just stop talking about this? It’s finished. We did it yesterday. We can’t change it. Let’s just stay out of costume today, okay?”

“Sure,” Alex said. “That was the plan anyway. I pulled a bunch of tickets out of the Defenders’ stash. We’ve got Disneyland, Universal Studios, a bunch of museums, or we could just watch some movies.”

He spread them out in his right hand like cards.

“Why do the Defenders have all that?”

“Donations. Sometimes they give them out to people they’ve saved. Sometimes they pass them out to their families. Good publicity for the donating organization either way. You want to choose, Nick? We’ve been to all of them half a dozen times.”

“Isn’t there a Tar Pit museum or something like that?”

Brooke didn’t look happy. “Not La Brea. I’m not really in the mood.”

“I just went there for a school field trip a couple weeks ago,” Jenny said. “And I’m sick of movies. We already went to movies on Monday and Tuesday.”

“Okay,” I said. “No museums. No movies. Uh… Disneyland?”

* * *

We went to Disneyland. After Brooke portaled us back to the house, Alex drove us in his family’s silver Range Rover, and on the whole, it was a pretty good time.

Basically, if you keep in mind that there will be massive lines, overpriced food, and that while fun, it will not be the mind-blowing experience it would have been if you were ten, you’ll enjoy Disneyland.

To keep our spirits up, we made jokes about the people wearing Mickey Mouse costumes, and I had a brief moment of “inspiration” in which I imagined Mickey Mouse themed powered armor.

Jenny noticed me drawing and scribbling equations in a notebook when we were eating lunch (at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port…). “Nick, that’s insane. It looks ridiculous and anyway, Disney would sue you.”

“It’s more a joke than a serious design, but it would work… Did you notice that his buttons are particle accelerators?”

On the whole, it was a good thing that we had Disneyland as a distraction because I didn’t know what I would have done if I’d had to hang out with Alex alone. He spent a lot of time talking about the private school he’d been kicked out of, former bodyguards he’d had, and friends that he had in common with Brooke and Jenny, many of whom were children of famous actors.

Memories of childhood play dates (when his father visited my grandfather) were really all we had in common.

We left the park around ten and it took more than half an hour to get back to the house — well, almost to the house.

The gate didn’t open automatically as we approached, and, looking at the gatehouse in the middle of the road, I didn’t see anyone inside even though the light was on.

“This doesn’t look right,” Alex said.

Just as he began to back the Range Rover away from the gate, a figure ran out of the darkness, and smashed the hood of the SUV, popping both front tires, and forcing the front end into the road.

14 thoughts on “Three: Part 6”

  1. I wonder if it’s a good idea to use tickets donated to the Defenders. Anyone with half a brain can donate specific tickets – say, to a show, and keep a close watch on whoever turns up with said ticket.

    Though, I admit, that’s the supervillian in me talking.

  2. Eli: Good point. I’m going to assume that they probably take tickets only through avenues they can trust and probably only take “general admission” tickets in the first place.

    That being said, it’d be a route towards getting at them. On the other hand, an awful lot of the heroes in California have public rather than secret identities. Alex, for example, has never had any kind of secret identity and thus has had a life full of bodyguards, gated communities and private schools. He’s only been able to go out without bodyguards just recently.

    The upshot of which being, for people with mostly public identities, secrecy becomes less important and good systems of protection become more so.

    Indifferent Curve: Sort of. You’ll find out in the next bit…

  3. And…once again, I finish an episode and find myself thinking, “That was THE best episode ever!”

    Jim, I’ve noticed that your writing seems to be at is strongest a) when you introduce a brand new action sequence. Everything is set up so expertly and then “BAM!”….and cliffhanger. And b) after the big battle, the way your characters realistically decompress, expressing relief, or grief, or confusion – makes it all real.

    I’m truly bummed I have to wait until Wednesday, now.

    Note: Is it me or is Alex another Vaughn? I see a lot of superficial similarities, a rich, blase, almost O.C.-like attitude and little regard to consequence.

  4. I thought this was a fantastic episode worth commenting on, until Eli said there’s a little supervillain in him. That kind of overshadowed everything else.

    Now I’m speculating on whether he ate Mini-Me, or grew a secret conjoined twin, or maybe it’s Baby Doom. WHOA!

  5. Charles: I really like the name Metal Maus. That would be a bizarre hero concept.

    Gavin: Wow, I never would have expected the comments to include speculation about cannibalism…

    Bill: Well, they do have some similarities. Both of them are well off enough to be a little insulated from the consequences of their mistakes for example. That’s the major similarity. Oddly enough, though wealthier, Vaughn is probably the more “normal guy” of the two. Alex has spent about 90% of his life hanging out with wealthy people and famous superheroes whereas Vaughn has no comparatively wealthy peers.

    As for having O.C. like attitude, Alex at least has the very good excuse of actually living near Orange County…

  6. Looks like maybe his house has gotten taken over. I think that last prank was one to many.

    Can anyone else see Nick wearing his Mickey armor say “And the word for today is Justice.”

  7. @ daymon: The first thing that popped into my mind was “Mighty Mouse”. Nick could shout, “Here I come to save the day!!!”

    @ Jim: So Jim, you think Eli can get a cameo appearance as the villainous Mouse Muncher??!

  8. I second Bill’s enthusiasm about your ability to set up a cliffhanger.

    Which is saying a lot, considering I’m effectively out-of-sorts, as far as the story is concerned (I’ve got some arcs to catch up on!)

  9. Mouse Muncher, bwah hahaha!

    Sorry JZ, the chapter itself was totally awesome (I like how Nick has a conscience and plays Jiminy Cricket for his peers, and Alex is even more clueless than Vaughn about responsibility. Having a healing power probably makes him think consequences-shmonsequences!)

    (I can kind of see him growing into a villain maybe, if he doesn’t get his head out his ass)

    But, be that as it may, as awesome as the chapter was, Eli has totally hijacked it for hilarity.

  10. Cliffhangers: Oddly enough, I don’t really think of them as cliffhangers. I tend to think of myself as having a choice between ending on falling action or rising. Ending on rising action is more interesting most of the time.

    In a roundabout way, it’s what one of my trumpet teachers (a jazz musician) recommended when I was taking lessons from him — end your solo on a seventh note. A seventh generally creates tension people want to resolve.

    Mice: From the post and comments, I feel like I could get a series out of mice…

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