Shaking his head, Dayton looked Jody in the eye, “This isn’t just about saving the Heroes’ League. We don’t know that’s even on the table. This is about the bigger picture. If we can’t trust that these guys are on the level, we shouldn’t go into business with them.”
Jody’s mouth twisted, “But that’s the thing, it seems like these guys are on the level. We’re considering dropping out of this because maybe, just maybe, they’re going to be taken over by evil people so secretly that we’re not going to notice and then take over us. Right?”
Dayton paused, but then said, “Pretty much, but I don’t think that’s as dumb as you’re making it sound. We know the Dominators have done it. That’s exactly what people pay them to do.”
Jody spoke the instant Dayton stopped, “Yeah, but we’ve got the fix. I mean, we literally just had the best telepath we know of say that if we’re going in, we’ve got not only him behind us, but the Midwest Defenders, one of not just the nation’s, but the world’s big teams. And he’s not telling us to stay away at all. He’s telling us we can make this decision on our own. He wouldn’t be doing that if he thought we were going to become Dominator drones. He’d be telling us to stay the fuck away.”
Raising his hands in the air, Dayton said, “I get it. I know we’ve got support, but we’ve heard heroes talk about facing the Dominators. It’s not easy to recognize their assets and Mindstryke himself has said that it’s hard to fix them. When he visited one of my classes, he literally told us that he’s failed before. We don’t want that to be us if we can avoid it. No money’s worth that.”
Hitting the table with his hand, Jody screamed, “Fuck! We are so close that we can taste it. It’s crazy to give up here. We don’t know that we’re ever going to see this guy again and what did Mindstryke say? Magnus went after Nick and Nick said no. You know what happened after that? Nothing. Nick said no and Magnus left him alone. We can do that. We’ve got more balls than Nick does.”
Turning toward Sean, he said, “Can you talk some sense into this guy?”
What was he supposed to say? He’d asked Dayton how to handle Jody, but right now Dayton wasn’t handling Jody and anyway, how was he going to handle Dayton?
Sean looked from one to the other, “Look, I think both of you guys have good points—“
“Oh, fuck,” Jody shook his head so quickly it blurred. “Are you fucking kidding me? This is obvious. We sign and take the Defenders’ help. That’s all. I’ll come back before the signing. I’m doing it even if you aren’t.”
Then he was nothing more than a human-shaped blur. They heard the condo’s front door slam, followed by a second slam in the hall.
Dayton turned toward the noise as Sean stood up. “Don’t bother,” Dayton said. “He took the stairway. We’re never going to catch him.”
Sean looked down at the comm unit on his costume’s wrist. It wasn’t worth the bother of trying to talk the guy down. Jody wouldn’t come back until just before the signing—if he came back. Sean shook his head. No, Jody would come back. He wanted this to happen.
Sitting back in his chair, he asked Dayton, “Do you really think Jody would sign without us?”
Dayton sighed, “I don’t know. You know how he is, though. It’s not the first time he’s gotten angry and run out of a room. At least this time he didn’t punch anybody.”
Taking a breath, Sean thought back six years, “No shit. Even with Sledge on our side, we all still got detention for that one.”
They didn’t say anything for a few seconds as Sean tried to put everything together in his head, “I’m thinking Jody might be right this time. I don’t want to argue with you because that doesn’t make you wrong. This is a hell of a risk even if it’s not likely. I don’t want the Dominators to take me over and I’ve got to admit, I’m not sure that Mindstryke can protect us as much as he wants to.
“Still, Magnus might just disappear or show up later even if we don’t sign, right? So I’m thinking maybe we sign because I don’t have a plan for what happens next if we don’t sign.”
Dayton nodded, “I don’t have a plan for what we do if we don’t sign either. I know there are other groups like Future-men, but Future-men’s the biggest name. Did any of the others even try?”
Clenching his right fist, Sean said, “Yeah, I got a few other calls, but that was after we were pretty sure about Future-men. I told them no. Maybe we should have followed up on them.”
Dayton frowned, “It looks like that now, yeah, but it’s not your fault. If you’d told me before meeting Magnus, I’d have told you not to bother.”
Opening his hand, Sean nodded, “I’m glad you think so. I’m pretty sure my dad would have talked to all of them and used them to push Future-men Capital for a better deal.”
Laughing, Dayton said, “You’re probably right, but you’re not him and you don’t have to be. We don’t have to scrape for every last cent they’d give us. That pisses people off.”
Sean grinned, feeling some of the tension release, “Yeah, Dad pissed a bunch of people off. He’d tell me about it and then how he’d put one over on them in the end.”
Beginning to open his mouth to speak, Dayton stopped and then started again, “I’m sorry, but that’s the kind of thing I don’t miss about him. Still, it does remind me of something I’ve been meaning to bring up. Even if Jody was right this time, we don’t want to encourage this crap. I’m not pushing for it, but if he keeps on pulling this kind of thing, we might have to kick him out someday—especially if we bring other people in.”