Above us, the cloud became darker, extending across the dune toward Grand Lake.
“Relax,” Lee said. “We both know that if I were coming to kill you, I’d have already tried by now.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m training them.” He waved vaguely in our direction.
“Fighting. What else?”
“Given your history, I made no assumptions.”
“Think I might be scamming someone? No. I made a deal with the original Rocket. I’m keeping my end of it.”
“Does this agreement include protection?”
“No, but there’s a limit to how much hurt I’ll allow in training.”
“So in effect, yes.”
Lee shrugged. “You could look at it that way.”
For a little while, neither of them said anything.
Then the King of Storms said, “But he stole my name!” His voice had the same not quite human tone, evoking the sound of thunder and lightning as much as it did human breath, but I couldn’t help but think, “What is he? Twelve?”
That’s about right, Daniel thought back at me. There are at least three major personalities going on under that hood. I’m thinking there might be more than a hundred, but, I can’t be sure. They’re muted.
I looked over at him. Daniel didn’t blink.
Ahead of us, Vaughn said, “I did not steal your name. We went through this already in email. You’re called King of Storms. I’m called Storm King. They’re not the same name.”
“It’s the same words. I’ve been on TV and in the newspapers and… You knew and you just took it.”
Talking through the first speaker, another voice from within the hood said, “What I mean to say is that your use of that moniker is potentially confusing, and, should you behave like your ancestor, it will bring me shame as well.”
Simultaneously with the other two voices, a third voice, (possibly a woman’s) said, “We can’t argue like this in public.”
She said a few other things too, but too quietly for me to catch them.
Vaughn said, “Behave as my ancestor? You are totally full of shit. I haven’t done anything he’s done. If I wanted to behave like my grandfather, I’d have sent a dozen, drug addicted goons to Pittsburgh to waste you. You know what I did? I checked the national names list and I listed myself with the Michigan Heroes Alliance. And you know what? You didn’t list yourself at all. In fact, after you sent me the email, I talked to the Pennsylvania Heroes Alliance and they say you won’t even talk to them. Hell, didn’t you take down a couple heroes while you were fighting Red Rage? They were on your side. Isn’t that shame enough? I don’t think you need me for that.”
The KIng of Storms seemed too floored to speak for a moment.
Then a cacophony of voices came from within the hood. Some shouted. Others whispered or wailed, but on the whole, the main emotion I heard had to be anger.
In the initial blast of noise, the only statement I could clearly make out was, “You expect me to talk to those unnatural things?”
A dark cloud seemed to be forming around him as the voices continued.
“But doesn’t he have a point?” asked one.
Another answered in a language I didn’t recognize, setting off babbling in half a dozen other languages. One of them might have been Spanish.
Next to me, Daniel held his jaw stiffly shut, concentrating on something.
Haley said, “I think we should be doing something.”
Cassie and Jaclyn were whispering together while electricity moved from finger to finger of Vaughn’s right hand. I wondered if he even knew it he was doing it.
To Haley, I said, “What?”
She didn’t answer. The King of Storms’ internal argument had grown louder.
The twelve year old voice (or something near to it) began shouting, “Hold it! It’s my body. I’m the only one of us who’s still alive. You’re all here to serve me.”
He turned toward Vaughn and said, “I’ve pulled it together now. Sometimes they’re as not much help as they’re supposed to be. Back to what we were talking about, the King of Storms has been active in the Pittsburgh since the 1940’s and for at least one thousand years before that. We predate the Heroes Alliance groups and see no point in participating in an all volunteer bureaucracy with no real authority.”
I found it interesting to hear him talk like a normal kid at first, but sound considerably older than twelve by the time he’d ended.
“All volunteer or not, handling it through the Heroes Alliance would have saved everybody a lot of problems because I’m not changing.”
“Nor am I.”