Hysteria: Part 4

We didn’t break into the house, though we did think about it.

“No,” Daniel said. “We don’t have any justification for it. Sean’s mom and little sister are home anyway, and they don’t know anything.”

We left and went home.

* * *

I ended up going through the whole story with Lee after practice. It wasn’t an official team practice. I happened to know that he was going to be at the studio and rode there after school.

After chaining my bike to the bike rack, I went into the back of the building, glimpsing the kids karate class on the lower level.

Walking up the stairs, I found Lee throwing ping pong balls into the air and slicing them in half with a sword — not a katana either — just a medieval, Western style sword. The sword and scabbard both looked worn.

A number of severed ping pong balls lay near his feet on the wooden floor. At least as many whole balls lay scattered around the room.

Unfortunately, Lee wasn’t in the mood to talk. When I began to say, “I’ve got a little bit of a problem,” he handed me a broadsword and said, “Later.”

We sparred for the next two hours. I use the word “sparred” somewhat loosely because I was only one step above completely incompetent. Lee stopped me all the time, showing me with as few words as possible what I was doing wrong, and then started up again.

His tendency to change form while we fought didn’t help. I saw him as Viking warriors, medieval knights, a long haired man who could have come straight out of the Three Musketeers, and warriors from civilizations too ancient for me to name. I suspected a few of them had to be from other planets.

I don’t think he did it intentionally, but it was distracting.

By the time we stopped, I felt tired, beaten, and had a small cut on my cheek. I wanted to believe that he’d cut me, but couldn’t rule out the possibility that I’d managed to do it myself.

Lee pulled out the first aid kit and cleaned the cut. “You need to learn how to do this yourself,” he said. “You need to learn how to put in stitches, set bones, all of it.”

“Seriously?”

From the studio downstairs, a host of children shouted, “Hai!”

“You don’t have a doctor on the team. First aid will make the difference between life and death one of these days.”

“What?”

Lee shrugged. “You’re training to fight. Someone’s going to get hurt. Plan for it.”

He stopped for a moment. “Which reminds me. You’re going to have to make sure that more of your team shows up more often. You’ve got nine people. We need to practice with nine people. You need to start fighting like a small group instead of a group of individual fighters — that went out with the Sumerians.”

He went on for a while about which small group tactics might work for us before asking me what I’d wanted to talk about.

I told him what we’d done the night before, ending with, “… So we lost them. I don’t know where they are and it’s not like Daniel’s a bloodhound. If there’s not enough of a threat to tweak his prescience, he’s not going to get anywhere.”

“I’ve heard of them. They’re just a bunch of thugs. Listen to the police band tonight and you’ll catch them. I bet they’ll rob a bank.”

* * *

I didn’t have much homework that night. That was a good thing for a lot of reasons.

First of all, I had to phone the whole team and ask them to make it to Lee’s studio tomorrow. While I was at it, I ended up telling them to be ready if I sent a yellow or red to their homing device, and if they could, could they listen to police band?

“God,” Jaclyn said from the other end, “Didn’t we just do this last night? I’ve still got two hours of homework to go.”

As I opened my mouth to reply, she said, “I’m not saying I’m not coming, but last night was enough of an interruption.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“Nick, don’t guilt trip me.”

“I’m not trying to.”

Haley was at work. I left a message with her phone.

By the time I finished that, it was about 7:00 PM. I spent the next hour or two reading up on Spike and his friends, while listening to police band in League HQ and drinking Coca Cola. Sometimes I’d get distracted and think about things totally unrelated, wondering for example, why my grandfather hadn’t ever invented something to stop HQ from smelling like a musty basement.

Anyway, I really did learn a couple things while reading through the FBI’s files on Spike. I learned that he and his twin brother Skewer had started a group called “Blood Money” five years ago and specialized in robbing banks.

Disappointingly, the other two guys in the group didn’t have names that followed the “sharp pointy objects that start with ‘S'” theme. They were called Cold Cash and Payback.

Presumably Spike and Skewer handled the “Blood” portion of the theme and Cold Cash and Payback dealt with the “Money” portion.

Cold Cash apparently had ice powers and Payback manifested some kind of weird force field. A physicist working for the FBI had written a paper on it. I pulled it up and while I was absorbing the finer details, Haley touched me on the shoulder.

I didn’t jump exactly, but I did kind of move upwards. I didn’t leave the chair though, so it didn’t really count as a jump.

Haley giggled. “I wasn’t even trying to sneak up on you. Honest.”

“Crap. I think I spilled Coke on my pants.”

We walked to the kitchen to grab paper towels and I wiped the pop off. It had landed on and around my crotch.

While we were at it, I heard the elevator hum and the door open. Seconds after that, Cassie walked into the kitchen, finding me next to the counter, paper towels in hand, and Haley looking apologetic.

“I don’t even want to know what you’ve been up to,” Cassie said.

Haley and I both said, “Nothing,” simultaneously. Then she started laughing.

“Did you hear me asking?” Cassie said. “Hear anything from the police yet?”

“Nothing,” I said, putting the paper towels in the trash.

“No,” Haley said, “they’re saying something right now.”

So Lee turned out to be wrong about the bank part at least.

Over the HQ’s speakers, I heard the dispatcher’s voice saying, “Suspected masked felony at 2225 138th Street.”

When we looked up the address it turned out to be for a business called “Chemical Supplies, Incorporated.”

12 thoughts on “Hysteria: Part 4”

  1. It doesn’t sound like Spike and his crew, maybe the bullies are robbing the chem supplies to make some juice.

    And Cassie chose a heck of a time to talk into the base.

  2. Hg: Well, I had a choice there… I could make it obvious what the company did or not… And bearing in mind that there really are companies with names that blatant (and with such disregard for clever, market conscious naming), I went with obvious.

    I’ve noticed that it’s mostly older companies that are like this (ones that survived from the 1920’s or 1930’s or even late 1800’s) — which fits the setting.

    daymon: I don’t know about you, but in my life people tend to show up at the worst possible moment.

  3. Y’know Jim, I truly love this “down-time” episode.

    I feel as if we’re getting our first glimpses into Nick’s inner acceptance (or lack thereof) of the true costs of superhero work.

    Lee’s laying it all out in terms of what’s required if our beloved legion is to be a legitimate evil-fighting force was even more effective, imho, than the speech on supers and the constitution.

  4. Thanks. In my mind, Mr. Beacham and Lee do completely different things for the story. In one case you get the overall societal issues. In the other you get the more immediately personal.

    The combination of both gives me lots of threads to pull on.

  5. S’okay, Jim. I wasn’t complaining. I know exactly what you mean about companies like that — we’re seeing a resurgence in such things with new companies owned by recent immigrants to North America from such places as India, China and the Philippines. It sounds gonky to our “sophisticated” 21st-century, soaked-to-the-bone-in-media-and-advertising modern sensibilities, but if we can slough that all off for a moment, shake it all out of our brains, we can see the genuine appeal of the direct, bold statements such company names provide.

    Of course, any such company that started way back when would have changed their marketing name to something like “CSI”, or “CS Inc.”, or “Chem SI”, or something like that. But their legal business name would still be “Chemical Supplies, Incorporated”.

    Hg

  6. I’m with G.S. Lee kicks ass.

    Jim, ur right, Mr. Beacham serves a different function, but in his own way, he’s as thought-provoking as Lee.

    But…there’s something about a guy who gives life-lessons while busting your ass with a sword.

    He kinda reminds me of Pai-Mei from Kill Bill-Volume 2.

  7. Bill: I suppose so (just looked the character up on Wikipedia). Kill Bill is one of those films I intend to watch, but haven’t yet.

    GSW: Lee’s fun. He gives a lot of practical, useful advice. Not a lot of it appears because it would bog down the story.

  8. Jim! Dude! U must watch that movie. Personally, I find it so much better than Part 1, but if you think you’ll need the background, then watch both.

  9. I worked at a company once called Velsicol Chemicals, just as obvious in one way. To this day I still don’t know what velsicol means or where it came from.

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