“Shit,” Haley muttered. “We have to go out there.”
She’d noticed too, probably before I had.
I asked, “Are you okay with fighting her?”
Haley looked up at me, “She’s not here to fight. We can take her and I think she knows it.”
Remembering their visit, I didn’t think Shifter knew it, but given that I was ignoring Major Justice’s calls, it would make sense that he’d sent her to give us a message verbally.
Haley frowned, “And if she does try to attack… Do you have any goobots?”
I shook my head, “Not really. I’ve got two. So if she’s at all good at dodging, not enough.”
Nodding, Haley said, “I’ll use my dewclaw if you can’t get her, and I’ll bite her if I absolutely have to.”
Then she sighed, “Maybe I shouldn’t have told Blue and Accelerando to go home.”
“There’s a lot to be said for overkill,” I agreed, “but I can at least grab her.”
“That would help,” Haley took a step toward the door and I walked with her.
We didn’t need to talk about much more. We knew how we’d handle the rest. I stepped out of the door first, ready to take a blow as Haley exited behind me all in grey with a cat’s head in black on her chest. A little behind me and to my left, she was in a position to jump in while I engaged Shifter straight on.
Shifter didn’t attack, though her orange and black striped tail did twitch as she watched Haley and I step onto the sidewalk. Assuming Shifter could choose everything about the cat form she’d chosen to use, she’d decided on a tiger. Her orange, white, and black fur was visible in the afternoon sun.
I considered making a joke about Tony the Tiger or maybe Frosted Flakes cereal, but couldn’t come up with anything I felt was funny enough. Did she know that Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes was made in Battle Creek, Michigan? Only an hour away? Or did she prefer Post cereals? They were also made in Battle Creek.
I did have one idea, but I couldn’t convince myself that the risk of accidentally starting a fight over a joke comparing Frosted Flakes to expired Raisin Bran would be worth it.
“Hey,” I said to Shifter, “I’m surprised to see you here.”
She raised a furry eyebrow at me, “Are you?”
“I… just said I was,” I replied, wondering if she was just here to second guess me, but also watching to see if she was tensing to strike. She didn’t.
She looked from me to Haley as cars passed us, one of them making a U-turn and then stopping on the other side of the road as one of the passengers pointed his phone at us.
“I know Major Justice doesn’t have a great bedside manner, but you need to listen to him. You kids grew up in this. You know how supers handle these things internally. We police ourselves. You’re stepping out of line and risking losing the people’s confidence. If you don’t justify your actions to us, all four of us are going to bring in the rest of our teams,” Shifter stopped, waiting for either Haley or I to respond.
The first thing that came to my mind was that she was just rehashing what we’d already said no to, but I didn’t feel like I could say it without sounding irritated.
As I stewed, the door opened behind us. Haley glanced back. I checked my helmet’s 360-degree view to see Vengeance stepping out through the door. The Graffiti Knight and Amothel followed him out. Not seeing Amy I guessed that either she still wasn’t ready to change back into Bloodmaiden or that Vengeance and the others had somehow dealt with her before following us out.
Meanwhile, Shifter’s eyes widened as Vengeance spoke.
Vengeance’s dagger glittered on his belt as he said, “We’re here as representatives of the North American Wizards’ Council investigating an incident in which one of your people attacked one of ours.”
Unless Mime was somehow a member of the Wizards’ Council and he was talking to us, that was not the direction I thought this was going to go.
Shifter stared at him, “Vengeance? What are you talking about?”
Vengeance sighed, “I am Vengeance, but I’m also a champion of the North American Wizard’s Council. We’ve determined that the person you know as Bloodmaiden is eligible for provisional membership in the council. As you know, the Council does not involve itself in the affairs of superheroes and normal humans unless it has to. It does, however, protect its members from persecution. That includes provisional members. This means that if your people attack her, we’ll be obligated to protect her or at the least avenge her.”
Shifter’s eyes narrowed, “This is none of your business. Stay out of it. Don’t think I’m unaware of how little your council wants to stand up for anyone. The only people who ever take action are your little group of champions. We can handle the three of you.”
Amothel’s brittle voice cut in before anyone else, “Don’t assume that. There are conditions where the Council will intervene. You’re nearing one of them. Take my advice, leave and avoid learning more.”
The smile on the elf’s slender face showed teeth, more of which seemed to be canines than I expected.
I didn’t like how this was escalating. We could use the support, but pulling the Council into this mess wasn’t automatically a good thing.