Jody looked up from the rollup screen on the table, “That name does not ring a fucking bell.”
Shaking his head, Dayton said, “I don’t know who that is either.”
Sean felt sure he’d heard the name before, but he couldn’t say where or when.
Sydney spoke up while he was still thinking, “Nick’s mentioned him. We were talking one time about the Cabal and he mentioned that Martin Magnus was someone he still hadn’t figured out.”
Mindstryke nodded, “Martin Magnus is still on our list of leftover business from when all of you fought the Cabal, but this dates from even earlier when the League exposed the Cabal’s existence to the wider world.”
Sitting up in his chair, Mindstryke smiled, “If you give me a second, I’ll tell you everything we know about Martin Magnus. It won’t take long. We don’t know much.
“Martin Magnus seems to have been associated with the Cabal at least as far back as the Roman Empire, possibly farther. We don’t know when the Cabal began, but it could date to prehistory or whenever the Abominators first started splicing in new genes and taking some humans to space. He split from the Cabal about five years ago, but not before recruiting our last mayor into the organization. While the League was fighting the mayor, Magnus called Nick at least once, trying to recruit him and the League into his service.
“After that, we don’t know what happened to him. We have theories that even though we defeated the Cabal, there might be a remnant still out there. Even if that’s not true, we know through Lee that there’s a loose association of immortals in the world. All of them know the Cabal at least a little. Some of them, like Magnus, used to be in it.
“My bet would be that if we try to get a hold of Magnus through Future-men, we’ll find it impossible—or that we’ll meet with a similar man who’s not Magnus even if he looks the same. From what Lee’s said, the immortals are wealthy and socially powerful. Many have powers in addition to immortality.
“Even with this lead, I’m not optimistic about catching him because they trade favors and each of them, including Magnus, have thousands of years worth of favors to cash in.”
Mindstryke sighed, “So that’s it. I’m going to report this lead to the Defenders and we’re going to chase it down, but that’s all I know. Knowing that Magnus has a connection here, you’ve got to make a decision. Do you sign or not?”
Dayton leaned in over the table, “What would you do?”
Mindstryke frowned, “Good question. If you want to know what I’d do now, I’d contact the Defenders and we’d decide as a group whether going undercover was worth the risk. It might be, but if Magnus or any of his friends have a connection to the Dominators, you could find that you’ve become a Dominator asset before you even realize it.”
Smirking, Jody laughed, “Sure, but you don’t know the Dominators are involved. They might control anybody, but if we’re thinking that way, any one of us could already be a Dominator asset.”
Nodding slowly, Mindstryke said, “In theory, yes. I’d say it’s unlikely because we’re familiar with their techniques and we’ve done everything we can to vet Stapledon students. The Stapledon block was constructed with the Dominators in mind.”
Sean watched as Mindstryke exhaled, his expression unreadable. “But we don’t know he’s got a connection to the Dominators, right?”
“Right,” Mindstryke said, “but if I were working for the Dominators, I’d get someone into Future-men if I could. You’d have access to new heroes without the experience to recognize or resist them. Even if they can’t take you, Future-men would help pick your staff–which means there’s an easy in there.”
Feeling like the whole dream was about to disappear and that they’d be forced to start with whatever money they could scrounge up on their own, Sean checked Dayton and Jody’s faces. Jody scowled. Dayton was biting his lip.
Could he justify signing somehow? In a real way that made sense? He didn’t want to fool himself into doing something stupid.
“Before this,” Sean asked, “was there any reason to worry about Future-men? Did you have any hints of a connection with the Dominators?”
Mindstryke shook his head, “Not that I saw. I’m part of the group that vets these sort of companies for Stapledon students and we didn’t have a hint of it. We didn’t mind scan every single employee and board member, but they do have to pass unannounced mental audits among other things…”
Taking a breath, Mindstryke said, “I know where you’re going with this. You’re right in thinking that this is just a guess on my part, but it’s a guess informed by what I’ll call appropriate paranoia.
“Still, given our security precautions, it’s possible that the Dominators don’t even try using Future-men and that all you have to worry about is Magnus, someone that we want to find—badly. I’ll make a deal with you. If you’re going to sign, we can run this like an undercover mission against the Nine. You’d have to agree to weekly check-ins and unannounced mental audits for your own safety, but that would give you part of the help you’ll need.
“Put bluntly, Sean, you took mostly combat courses. Dayton and Jody did take courses in espionage and deep cover, but you’re the weak link in this. I don’t get to decide it for you, but when the three of you discuss this, you’ll have to keep that in mind.”