Old Friends & Enemies: Part 1

Bullet frowned, either at the hint of an accent in her voice or because he had no idea who Yoselin was. Maybe both. He didn’t linger on it, though, opening the door for all of us.

We stepped into one side of the big windowed room we’d seen from the outside. It extended into the second story with a walkway going around the edges and another extending across to the other side. While the architect might have intended it to be a living room, I could see hints of another purpose in the layout.

Two long couches and a few freestanding chairs pointed in a rough “V” shape toward the large TV at the front of the room. It could pass as the briefing room of a large team. Noting the number of gaming consoles and controllers on top of the coffee table in front of the TV, I had to bet that it was a younger team.

Leaning toward me, Tara muttered, “You’ve almost got it,” at a volume low enough that I wouldn’t have caught it except that the Rocket suit picked it up.

Before I could respond, Daniel told me, You’ll figure it out in a second.

I decided to ignore them and concentrate on my surroundings.

If I hadn’t guessed it from the outside, the room itself would have told me that someone connected to this team had money and cared what the room looked like. They’d gone with an “expensive yet rustic” look. Thus visible wooden beams on the ceiling and wood-paneled walls, but also paintings and posters on the walls. Even if the posters were of bands and movies, the paintings were real paintings.

The shirt and wadded-up socks next to the gaming consoles hinted that the team might be mostly guys, at least one of whom expected his mother or their cleaning service to pick up after him.

The clutter of empty and half-empty cups and fast-food wrappers on the coffee table added to that impression.

Still, the view out the front windows put the view out of my grandparents’ house living room to shame. Instead of a city block, their windows looked out on a descending mountainside—grass, rocks, evergreens, winding roads, and in the distance, more mountains.

Movement from above caught my attention. Gordon, who I remembered from the Stapledon program, had stepped out of a hallway and onto one of the walkways. When I first met him, I thought he looked like a soldier from a Nazi recruitment poster. Between the blond hair, square jaw, cleft chin, and muscled body, this was still true.

The sleeveless t-shirt and shorts he wore gave everyone a good view of his body as he hopped over the side of the balcony and floated down. Like his younger brother Gifford, he was an aerokinetic.

As he touched down, he smiled at all of us, “Looks like a formal visit. You’re going to find that we’re not formal here at all. We’re trying to adapt to the times we live in. Superheroes have to open up.”

“Gordon,” Bullet said, “they’re here to speak to me.”

Gordon nodded, “Have a good time then. Bullet’s the best advisor we could have. If any of you feel like joining up afterward, we’re always looking.”

“It’s not likely,” Tara said, her voice in the calm tone that indicated that she’d retreated into the True’s analytical mindset. They weren’t emotionless, but in my experience, analysis could distract someone from strong emotion.

Gordon, like Kid Biohack, had been part of the same Stapledon class as Tara back when it had been sometimes less than twenty kids per class, all of them from the same group of families. The chances that he’d been in the group of guys that Tara beat up after what I’d heard was months of harassment were pretty good.

Giving Tara a nod and the rest of us a wave, he stepped back and exited through a hallway midway down the room.

Bullet pointed down the hallway running next to the wall and said, “That way to my office.”

The common rooms of the house were open to the hallway, allowing us to see into the kitchen, dining room, a couple of entertainment rooms, and a gym with professional equipment—all of it adapted to supers.

Five men and two women were using the machines. I recognized a couple of faces from Stapledon, but I couldn’t come up with their names. More interesting to my mind, three of the men and one of the women wore sleeveless shirts that said, “Coffeeshop Illuminati,” above a picture of a cup of coffee.

That’s it exactly, Daniel told me. I knew it the moment I walked inside. They’ve got telepathy blockers all around the building, but not inside. And while they’ve all got blocks or basic shields, enough is visible in their surface thoughts that I’m assuming that they don’t try to hide anything when they’re here. If it’s normally this easy to get around their blocks, they’ve been very lucky and the designer is terrible.

How many people are here? I thought back at him.

I felt Daniel concentrate. In the house? At least 30, but there are more in the basement levels. It’s hard to say exactly how many.  Nick, there’s a data center, training rooms, labs for techies, and a factory to mass-produce their designs. I knew they were big, but not this big.

I thought back to the summer at the superhero compound in Castle Rock, Colorado. The Coffeeshop Illuminati stole information from us and used it to launch a coup in Turkmenistan which ultimately allowed The Thing That Eats to become politically powerful there. Granted, they weren’t trying to help it, but that side effect didn’t show their assumption that supers should intervene in other countries’ politics in the best light.

Adam, alias Dark Cloak, had been not only involved with them, but also with a dragon that he helped take over the compound while we were there. I’d nearly lost my arm in the ensuing fight.

I wondered if the Coffeeshop Illuminati still counted him as a member in good standing.

4 thoughts on “Old Friends & Enemies: Part 1”

  1. This group still feels like an accident waiting to happens. Unless they have wizened up after the whole thing that eats debacle.

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