I resisted an urge to shake my head. He couldn’t know. It’s not as if we’d added him to the League’s comm channel. Not looking over at Hunter, I said, “Menagerie added some new features to his… fungus things and they got out of control.”
Even though I wasn’t looking directly at him, I could still see Hunter standing with the rest of the Coffeeshop Illuminati. He didn’t scream it out, but I still heard him say, “Shroomoids. I call them shroomoids.”
Jody snickered. Dayton nudged him, “C’mon man, I’m sure he feels bad enough already.”
Sean stared at Hunter, “Are you kidding? Have you been paying attention? There’s a national alert out for Grand Lake right now. Planes are being redirected. Planes that took off from here in the last half hour are being told to turn around and land at the Grand Lake airport. We’re in quarantine. They’re getting ready to burn us just like that town in New Mexico a few years back. That’s bad.”
Hunter stopped staring at the ground to stare at Sean, “What? Everything’s under control. They don’t need to burn us.”
Sean held up his hands, “Not my fault. They got a bunch of zombie video from news stations and you know what the Feds do with that. They don’t fuck around. We all learned the protocol—respond, quarantine, cure or burn. It’s an extinction level threat. That was in… whatever that class was.”
Sean looked over at Dayton, who shook his head, and then over at me as if I was some kind of authority.
I thought about it, “It was called National Protocols. It was one of the mini-courses. They had us review and test on the material before internships.”
Sean pointed at me, “That. You should know it as well as the Rocket does. I can’t remember the class, but the protocol… It’s important.”
Finding Sean quoting bits of information from our class on national crisis protocols might have been the weirdest event of the day, fungus zombie T.Rexes included.
Hunter’s face reddened, but he didn’t respond. Dayton, however, cleared up the mystery of how Sean could spontaneously lecture people on protocols that we all needed to know.
“Future-men’s contract requires us to review them once a week,” Dayton looked over around the groups of heroes, smiling. “It’s good idea. I’m sure I’d have forgotten most of the protocols by now if they hadn’t.”
Jody rolled his eyes, “Thursday morning is the best day of the week.”
Elbowing him, Dayton said, “Not here.”
Major Justice took a long breath and looked around the crowd. His voice amplified by the mic in his helmet and a speaker in his camouflage covered chest plate, Major Justice said, “Thank you, er… the Power… for making us aware of the national alert…”
Major Justice paused there and his eyes widened, likely fully considering what that meant. Defenders units had had their licenses removed for high profile screwups. Removing or demoting the leadership would be the first choice, but if no one in the unit had protested when the leadership made a series of blunders, there was no reason to stop at the leadership.
“Nonetheless,” Major Justice continued, his voice now steady and plodding forward, “we are here for a reason. We’re here because the Heroes’ League has shown a casual disregard for the lives and wellbeing of both the general public and the criminals they’ve been facing. I demand their surrender for now. After a period of appropriate supervision, they’ll be allowed to resume their independence, but until then, we’ll guide them.”
I don’t know how many of us were ready to argue (maybe everyone), but Jaclyn got there first.
She stepped toward him and Major Justice moved his shield between the two of them, the kind of gesture you might make by reflex even if it was pointless.
Jaclyn didn’t attack, at least not physically, “Whatever you think we’ve done, you’ve done worse. Even if you were right in what you said, we only hurt people who could handle it. People under your command released untested, self-replicating weapons, lost control of them, attacked each other and only stopped fighting internally when it became clear they wouldn’t survive otherwise.”
She turned toward Hunter, “Tell me, did Major Justice know that you’d placed a ‘shroomoid’ hive over there?”
Hunter’s lip curled and began to say, “It’s not a hive,” but as Jaclyn’s eyes narrowed, he said, “Yes. Of course, we had to okay everything with him. It was one of the most important pieces of the plan. There’s no way we’d have a chance against you without them. I even told him that there was a chance I’d lose control and he said he’d take it.”
As he spoke, Major Justice’s eyes darted from Hunter to Jaclyn with nervous energy, undoubtedly realizing that Hunter had just thrown him under the bus.
“Well,” Jaclyn met Major Justice’s eyes, “What do you have to say about that? Remember as you respond that we’re recording now and have been recording everything since this started.”
Major Justice shouted, “That’s blackmail—“
“No,” Jaclyn said, “it’s not. Blackmail would be if I promised to keep the footage secret if you left us alone. We’re not keeping it secret. We’re giving you the opportunity to avoid doing something unforgivable after already doing something terrible.”
I felt like he’d already done something unforgivable, but I wasn’t going to argue. I liked the direction she was going.