People were talking about Turkmenistan the next day. Around noon, Haley and I were sitting in the compound’s cafeteria with Camille, one of Haley’s friends and a Heroes League recruit. We’d taken the van to Castle Rock’s Catholic church—St. Francis of Assisi.
I still wasn’t sure if that had been a good idea.
We’d gone as ourselves, and not in costume. All it would have taken to blow our identities was pictures placing us near the very well publicized Stapledon summer program while the Rocket wasn’t appearing much in Grand Lake.
Still, the Castle Rock church was on the list of churches that the program said were safe, so we went.
Don’t ask me what made them safe. Given the program’s reliance on mental blocks for it’s students, I probably wouldn’t be happy to know.
Camille put down her fork. “So what’s going on in Turkmenistan? I overheard people talking about it, and haven’t had a chance to ask anybody because nobody was up when I got up. Back home we go to the eleven o’clock mass. I can’t believe you dragged me to the nine-thirty.”
Dark haired with light brown skin, Camille still wore the blue dress she’d worn to church. She didn’t look particularly angry. Smiling brightly for a moment, she said, “So, Turkmenistan?”
I didn’t know. I’d seen the news, but the brief touch I’d had with Daniel’s mind last night told me I didn’t know half of what I needed to.
“Well,” I said, “all I know is that since after their last president some kind of supergroup took over. Only now there’s some kind of resistance to their rule, and last night their fire guy burned down a few city blocks trying to take out the opposition. It got attention because it was all residential, so he killed hundreds of people.”
She shook her head. “That’s awful. Is the government doing anything about it?”
“I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway.” I looked down at my plate. Today’s lunch turned out to be some kind of curry with beef in a reddish sauce over rice. It wasn’t something I’d order, but even if it was a little spicy, it was good—whatever it was.
Haley shook her head. “No. They’re not doing anything. It doesn’t seem like they ever do anything with that.”
Camille glanced to the right and left of us. None of the people at the other tables appeared to be watching us. Lowering her voice, she asked, “What about people here? Are they going to do something?”
I opened my mouth to explain, but didn’t get the chance. Haley said, “It’s another one.”
I turned to look at her. “Another what?”
Haley’s lips tightened. “Another thing they wouldn’t know unless they grew up in the League.”
I considered pointing out that none of us had technically grown up in the League since the League hadn’t existed since 1983 when our grandparents had dissolved it. I didn’t, because while true, we’d all grown up around our grandparents. Camille’s grandfather had been a follower of Red Lightning—a supervillain by that point.
I said, “I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be public knowledge.”
Camille’s eyes darted between Haley and I. “As cute as it is that both of you know what you’re talking about, I still don’t.”
Haley sighed and looked like she might be trying to think of a way to explain.
I said, “It’s that heroes don’t operate outside the United States without permission. It never really makes the situation better. Even when US vigilantes ignore the government’s opinion, everyone assumes they’re working for the US anyway. Except then the government’s got to step in and clean up their messes. At that point, you’re basically letting people with powers set the US’s foreign policy. That’s not a good thing, So, the government and all the major hero organizations have an arrangement that vigilante justice stops at the water’s edge.”
Camille cocked her head and looked at me. “Well, that does explain things, but I can’t believe that vigilantes like Vengeance would follow directions like that.”
I nodded. “They don’t, but if they don’t, they often find they get visits from US heroes who beat the crap out of them. Plus, I hear that even the ones that can’t possibly be working for the US have some kind of secret arrangement with our government or a friendly government.”
Camille didn’t say anything for a moment, but then she said, “So then the resistance in Turkmenistan might be ours.”
Haley and I both looked at each other. Haley said, “I don’t think so—“ At same time, I said, “I don’t think any of them are US citizens. Anyway I’ve never heard that anyone’s gone over there…”
Camille didn’t let either of us finish. “I hope someone does. What’s the use of having abilities like this, and not being able to do something about the really bad things in the world?”
“Exactly,” a voice said. I didn’t recognize it.
When I turned my head toward its source, I saw a big blond guy that could have been used for Nazi recruitment posters or to play Captain America in a movie. Weird, how they both went after the same look.
He was holding a tray of food, and wore a dark pink buttoned down shirt and a black tie that hinted he might have gone to church too. “Mind if I sit down?”
At that moment I recognized him as an upperclassman even if I didn’t know his name.
“I’m Gordon,” he said. “You fought my younger brother Gifford yesterday.”