To the degree that they were a multi-team delegation, they weren’t from what I’d think of as the upper-tier teams. The Arizona Defenders had a reputation for being retirees from other teams. This wasn’t all true. Probably half of the team was younger people. This wasn’t all bad since the younger heroes would have competent advice, but also, Arizona wasn’t a hotbed of supervillain activity either.
Shifter’s private team and Mime’s circus-themed team? They were big in Oklahoma City and Tampa respectively but didn’t make national news. I knew that Mime regularly fought someone named Florida Man, but couldn’t name anyone else in their rogues’ galleries.
Overall, the relative obscurity of the groups might be a good thing. It could mean that the big teams were fine with us. It might also mean that the Nine were willing to lose assets on the small teams, but were keeping any influence they had with the world’s big teams quiet until the right moment.
Major Justice reached out and opened the door, stepping inside with a stern look on the lower part of his face, his shield on his left arm. Despite the odd mix of medieval-style shield and modern combat fatigues, he had the look of a man who was accustomed to command. I could easily imagine that he felt that he was here to reprimand an underling.
The man’s air of command took a small ding as the man’s silver shield knocked into the metal door frame with a clanging noise. Major Justice’s natural instinct to step back, away from the door, had an unanticipated side effect in that the door began to close except that the right edge of the shield was past the door—which it hit with a low clunking noise. That was followed by a higher-pitched ting as the other part of the shield hit the door frame again, but with less force this time.
He tried to back up more, but he’d somehow managed to get the left side of the shield past the door frame in his struggle, making it impossible to move backward.
Major Justice muttered, “Damn it,” followed by more words that I could have amplified with the Rocket suit’s sensors, but he didn’t seem to be spilling secrets, just frustration.
From behind him, Shifter growled, “Step forward! Just step forward.”
Near me, Cassie stifled a laugh and took another bite of her donut. Haley managed to keep a polite smile on her face that only slid into a smirk for the briefest moment.
Amy stood holding her spear in one hand and a donut in the other, but still managed to give the impression of an ancient, magical warrior. Unsure of whether that was the result of diplomatic skill she’d acquired as a princess and potential heir or the millennia of memories of other lives, I was still grateful.
I didn’t laugh at all and if I did smile, it was behind my helmet.
All the same, Major Justice finally did step forward, followed by the rest. Before he could speak, Haley smiled and said, “I’m Night Cat. Welcome to the Heroes’ League’s headquarters. You can sit down anywhere you’d like. We’ve also got coffee and donuts right over there if you’d like them.”
Major Justice frowned, “I’d like coffee.”
“It’s right over there next to the donuts,” Haley said, pointing at the counter where the coffee machines, paper cups, and donut boxes sat.
It was probably the nicest way of telling him that he’d have to get his own that any of us could have managed. Of course, she had years of handling restaurant customers behind her.
A few minutes later, everyone sat in chairs next to small tables or taller ones next to the counter. Contrary to my expectations, Shifter had already downed two donuts by then, making up for Major Justice who only nursed his cup of coffee. South Beach Surfer drank water from her own water bottle having said, “I don’t use caffeine,” when offered coffee and declined donuts after Haley answered, “I don’t know. Maybe eggs,” to her question, “Do the donuts contain animal products?”
Mime drank his coffee from a seemingly invisible mug that he’d pulled off of an invisible shelf in an invisible cupboard. Seeing the coffee floating near his hand was a little weird.
I wondered what would happen if he mimed throwing a grenade.
Resisting the urge to check online for videos of his fights, I looked over at Major Justice, who’d placed his cup of coffee on the small table next to him, “Heroes’ League, we have all the respect that any man could have for the achievements of the original team as well as what you’ve been building on their legacy.
“You must understand that when you consider what we have to say next. We respect what you’ve done in discovering the Cabal. We respect your actions as part of the force from Stapledon that repelled the aliens a few years as well as that dragon in Colorado, and whatever it was you did with that company—Higher Ground—how you exposed their connection to the Nine.
“These were great and good things, representing the finest in what supers can attempt to do for those with lesser potential. What you need to understand is that you have lately been involved in wanton destruction both in the streets of the nation’s capital and out in the nation’s heartland.
“This risks everything. Our ability to do good for this country depends on their respect for us, and more to the point, that they don’t fear us. As soon as they start to fear us, there’s a danger that they’ll regulate us, leave us unable to serve them without following crippling rules and regulations.”
Cassie stared at him, “We were fighting the Nine. When you fight the Nine, it gets messy. They have so much power and so many people under their control, that they can throw just about anything at you and they do.”
Major Justice nodded, “Captain Commando, if you were the first of that name, I wouldn’t say this, but you lack the necessary experience to handle the Nine. You lack the necessary subtlety, not to mention resources. You’d give them what they want, a demonstration of power that would frighten the rest of humanity into restricting us into being little more than powered police. You don’t want that.”