The FBI symbol appeared on the League's wall screen the moment my hand flipped the first page. Thinking it would be good to know what, if anything, the FBI would be doing to help me out of this mess, I took the call. Then I saw Isaac's face.
"So, no support at all," I said.
"Nothing official," Isaac said. "I've been talking you up, but the boys upstairs get worried about bad press." He stood up and his face popped off the top of the screen. The camera adjusted, zooming in. Given that I was watching him over the big screen in League HQ, it was more of a close up than I wanted. Imagine a twenty foot tall face, pores included.
A bit of popcorn shell had gotten stuck in one of his gums.
"The good news," Isaac said, "is that no one associated with our Hero program is taking action against you. Between Mindstryke and me, the major groups won't interfere and all Mayor Bouman's got is no-names."
"Which reminds me," I said, "do you know anything about a group calling themselves 'The Elementals'?"
"The bare minimum. They operate out of Lansing. Probably Michigan State students. Probably got their powers in Greece. Magic based, I'm betting."
"That's more than I had," I said.
"Are they in this too?" Isaac shook his head as the camera mercifully pulled back. "Nick, you're going to have to watch it. They did a number on those guys in Greece last summer and that was back when they didn't know anything. By now they might be competent."
He stepped back and sat on his desk, pushing a pile of papers and a bag of microwaved popcorn to the right.
"I can't do anything official for you," he said, "but remember this. Your grandfather and the League were among the first superheroes. Even back in the 1950's, there were more powerful people, but the League was the best. People thrill at seeing the costume in action now even though they know it can't be the same guy. Give them a good enough reason and they'll be behind you."
And I'd thought pep talks had ended last week with cross country regionals...
Well anyway, I told myself, I guess his heart is in the right place, but it's a good thing we don't depend on the Feds for a whole lot.
I spent the next few days doing homework, reading, and listening through the recordings sent over by the roachbots. I talked to Haley on Tuesday night. We hadn't set a time to have coffee because Haley hadn't found out her work schedule yet, but on Tuesday we set it for Thursday after school.
If you think that listening to someone else's day to day life sounds interesting, it's probably because you've never done it. The bots only recorded if someone was talking, but that still left a pile of uninteresting crap. I heard the mayor's kids playing (and fighting), conversations with his wife about his day at work, and his actual day at work--including the schmoozing.
I fast forwarded through most of it, thinking that if I'd been smart, I'd have split monitoring up between the group of us. Better yet, I'd have come up with a way to have the computer transcribe the conversations and search for certain words.
On Wednesday afternoon, I trawled through the mayor's conversations for the night and the day so far.
I felt like I knew him a little bit now. I knew he liked his coffee with sugar, but no milk. I knew that he sometimes called his wife little endearments, and that he managed to be home for supper with his family most nights even if he did have to leave for a meeting afterwards.
Around 4:30 pm, I found myself listening to a recording of him talking with his wife in the living room. The bots tagged the time as 11:51 pm Tuesday night.
"Tony says he's closing his sub shop," he said. "He tells me there's just not enough foot traffic downtown--"
That's the point at which I would have fast forwarded--except that his cell phone rang.
"Gotta get this, hon. I'll be in bed in a minute."
The roachbot lost the mayor's wife's reply as he stepped out of the living room and walked into the kitchen. The bot stationed there picked him up, but the reception wasn't perfect. It garbled Bouman's voice ever so slightly and didn't pick up the caller's at all.
"--these guys are after me and you're giving me nothing. My only protection is people who'll throw me in jail the second they know what's going on."
It took a few minutes before I heard anything else. Then...
"How am I supposed to do that? I can't just send the police to raid some kid's house. Not when the trustee is a prosecutor. Think how that will look. If you want the machine, you'll have to send your own people or grab Red Lightning's grandson, and see if you can get him to talk."
"Well I don't know if he's used it. I'd bet yes, but how am I supposed to know?"
... followed by a deep breath.
"No. I didn't mean it that way. I'll do everything, and I mean everything in my power. Just tell the Cabal it will be hard."
Finally, in a softer voice...
"Much easier when we get it. I know... I know. I'll watch for Magnus' people too. I'll kill them if I have to."
I stopped the recording there, stood up, and walked away from the command console. We could use this. I'd just have to obscure the bit about Red Lightning's grandson and the trustee being a prosecutor. They pointed too clearly in Vaughn's and my direction for comfort.
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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.