Guardian nodded back toward the part of the parking lot where the sheriffs’ cars, boxes, reporters, and all of the people from the building stood. There were more people than I remembered and several black SUVs, all of them unlabeled. The people coming out of them wore black jackets and armor with the letters “FBI” placed in the middle of the chest and taking up half of it.
The Probationers, our team, and the Defenders were in and out of the crowd, some of them helping law enforcement, and the rest simply talking. Daniel and Izzy were talking with Ape Nasty and Mistress Madness.
Morgan/Lone Eagle, who I’d first met when she was working for Rook, was helping the Feds load up True in one of the boxes. Cassie and Yoselin stood off to the side with the Atoner, ready to step in if someone tried to escape.
“Two more things,” Guardian said as we walked closer, “Cypher has to get back home to Cuba. Her father contacted me and he wanted her back.”
“If she wants to go, sure,” I glanced over at her. She seemed to be laughing at something with Cassie.
Guardian shook his head, “She’s not going to have a choice. Somehow her presence got passed up the chain and now people are pissed that we’ve got a Cuban national loose in the US. I’m going to send her back home as soon as we get enough of this wrapped up—and hopefully before someone sends in a team to grab her.”
Glancing over at her again, I said, “Then I guess we’d better get that moving. What was the other thing?”
He let out a breath, “This isn’t going to look good. I think it’s great, but it’s not going to come off great. What we’ve got is big property damage, civilians at risk, and a business that put millions of dollars into the local economy. Worse, the visuals are going to be of you working with the Probationers. You know they weren’t doing anything wrong and I know they weren’t doing anything wrong, but the public remembers Dr. Transylvania for the time he attacked Washington D.C. and left most of the Liberators lying unconscious on the National Mall, hypnotized all but a couple of the rest and used them to attack the White House. It’s not the kind of thing that goes over well—not on the same day you have a big fight in D.C. yourself.”
I shook my head, “Only if they’re trying to bury us. They know who the Nine are and what they are. We’re going to tell people that we were fighting them in both places. More than that, I don’t think we hurt civilians. We were careful. We’re always careful with that—even when they’re mind-controlled and trying to kill us.”
Sighing, he said, “You know that. I know that, but it doesn’t matter at all. Someone in the Nine has a talent for putting the right people in the right place at the right time. That includes in news sources. It won’t be anything obvious. It’ll just be reporters asking questions—the kind that make you look bad and pull in the most negative associations. They’re trying to bury you. That’s exactly the goal. They’re trying to remove your public support and make it harder for other supers to help you out of fear of public blowback. Then they can sweep in and kill, control, or discredit you.”
Though Guardian couldn’t see it, I frowned at that, “Everyone knows what the Nine are all about, but you’re right. I’m sure they’ll be subtle and won’t leave anything obvious pointing in their direction. Crap.”
We’d covered half of the parking lot by then, walking up behind Cassie and Yoselin as they stood next to a box as FBI agents stripped one of the True of her armor, cuffed her, and pushed her inside. Leaning in a little, I realized that the box held more people than I’d have expected. I counted at least six, all of them strapped into thick, padded seats that allowed no movement for any limb.
A man and woman wearing blue, padded armor gave each of the True a syringe full of a clear liquid into their arms. I guessed that it might be a sedative.
As I watched, Guardian leaned into Yoselin, “I’m going to send you home.”
Though I could see her lips curl through her helmet, she said, “I know. My father told me. I don’t want to cause them trouble. He said I could come back for the Archer’s interrogation.”
Guardian frowned and his eyes narrowed. I expected that he’d argue, but he said, “That’s the arrangement. I’ll teleport you back to League HQ and then to your home. We’ll bring you back, but it will be brief.”
He put his hand on the shoulder of her suit and the two of them disappeared in a flash. Cassie turned to me, “Why did that happen?”
“I’ll explain when we’re in the jet,” I began except Agent Lim’s icon started flashing in my HUD. I took the call.
Standing next to gray concrete in what appeared to be a warehouse to judge from the rows of plastic-wrapped pallets on each level of the room’s rows, Agent Lim said, “Sorry to interrupt. I’m told that you’re almost done. Get everyone into the jet. I’ve found Magnus’ stuff and it’s going to be much easier to get you a look right now before the media feeding frenzy gets going.”