I didn't for a minute intend to seriously consider anything Magnus thought he had to offer. It sounded like he wasn't going to be any help in a fight and I couldn't see how cutting off access to the mayor's money would do any good. I would have blown him off immediately except that I had been freaked out by the fact that he'd called me on my cell phone.
Not that I still wasn't a little freaked out by that.
We needed to protect ourselves and our families. How to do it wasn't completely obvious. We couldn't watch our parents all day. Simply having Daniel strengthen everyone's "block" like he'd done for me wouldn't do it either.
I thought about it while getting my pajamas on. Then I got into bed, still running through possibilities.
I couldn't get to sleep.
I got up, pulled my cell phone off my dresser, and turned it on. I called Daniel, knowing that he generally turned off his phone when he went to bed.
"Hi Nick," Daniel answered. "You're up late."
"I know," I said, "I'm trying to figure something out."
For what seemed like the millionth time, I went through what I'd heard the mayor say, the fight with Tomahawk, how Haley, Vaughn and I snuck into Red Lightning's lair, and how Travis and Daniel's dad gave completely contradictory advice about what to do with the recording.
I ended by describing the walk home and the call with Martin Magnus, finally saying, "Magnus knows who we are. His people had the pictures. I think the mayor must know who I am too. We need to do something to protect ourselves before one of them takes us out."
I'm sure I must have gone on for twenty minutes before I got done.
"I knew a bit of that," Daniel said. "My dad told me about the recording, and of course, the fight with Tomahawk was in the news, but I didn't know anything about Red Lightning's lair. Why didn't you tell me about it when you were going over there?"
"I don't know. Everything happened so fast, I didn't really have time to think about it."
"How did Haley end up going?"
"We were talking after school and I mentioned it. I mean seriously, things were busy and I never had the chance to call you."
"Well, okay," he said. "On a slightly different subject, my dad told me that I should remind you not to go out in armor again."
"I was surprised he didn't say anything when we talked."
"He was tired," Daniel said, "and besides he thought making Tomahawk look silly was a great move even if you didn't do it intentionally. Did you read the paper?"
"I looked at the headlines," I said.
"You've got to read the article. More than half the people interviewed were on your side."
"Not that it'll do us any good against Magnus or the Cabal or whoever any of these people are."
"It's popular support. That's worth something."
"Even if it's public support for my grandfather," I said.
We talked a little longer and then I went to bed for a second time. That time I slept.
Daniel came by after school the next day and we went down to HQ. I sat in the lab and assembled more roachbots. Some minor modifications later, they would make great burglar alarms. I probably should have asked people if they wanted their houses watched, but I decided it would be better if I had the roachbots available before I asked instead of asking and then making people wait.
Sitting there at a stool in the lab with hundreds of little metal parts on the counter, I carefully fit the pieces together. It felt good. Repetitive work is like that sometimes.
Daniel went through the past couple days recordings. I could hear them playing over the speakers in the main room. When I glanced out the doorway, I could see hazy images of the mayor's office, his house and sometimes his car. I probably should have gone with higher quality cameras.
The mayor and his guests talked about the usual boring crap -- business zoning, details about contractors for road repair, and issues they planned to bring up to the city council.
A girl scout troop visited the mayor's office. Daniel fast forwarded and the screen blurred into static. I would have too. It was hard to imagine the mayor working against us by placing mental suggestions into minds of girl scouts. What were they going to do? Sell us poisoned cookies?
Turning my attention to the parts in front of me, I went back to roachbot assembly.
Daniel interrupted me after about an hour.
"Nick," Daniel said, "Come in here and take a look at this."
I put down the tools and the bot I had been working on and stepped into the main room. The big screens showed pictures of the mayor's office from several different angles.
I'm a firm believer in redundant robots.
The window behind the desk had been fixed, but I barely noticed that. Superheroes filled the office -- Red Bolt and Future Knight, Tomahawk and all four of the Elementals.
They stood in circles, talking to each other, drinking coffee, sometimes laughing--all except Tomahawk. He looked angry about something.
The moment the Mayor stood up, they stopped talking. He walked around his desk, gazing deeply into the eyes of one and then moving to the next. When he had stopped next to each of them, they suddenly started talking again as if nothing had happened.
"What did I just see?" I checked the time at the bottom of the videos. It showed 11:13:43 AM today.
"He's not strong enough to control them all at once, but he is strong enough to insert commands into their subconscious. I'm pretty sure that's it."
Daniel said it with about the same level of emotion he might show about the weather.
"What do you think they're about to do?" I said.
"I don't know," Daniel said, "but whatever it is, they've had a good five hours to get started."
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.