Honnete was met with an uproar of applause as he entered the room. He cut a striking figure, suit crisp, face framed by a sharp widow’s peak. He thanked the woman who had introduced him then gave a genuine smile to the audience, welcoming the adulation of the crowd. From where I sat I could make out just how tall he was; there was no platform behind the podium that he stood on, as I had expected, he actually just was that tall.
“Almost his entire staff is here,” Gregor whispered as the crowd applauded. “That suggests that something big is going down, but nobody has any idea what. Sources suggest he’s going to try for something big after his victory with the amendment.”
“Thank you,” Honnete said. “Thank you. I’m glad to see so many friendly faces here, especially after our little, ah, administrative blunder.”
He gave an embarrassed half-grin. A laugh rolled through the crowd, and his smile widened.
“There are a lot of notaries here, way more than there should be for a simple political event, including the chief of police and a good portion of the Mayor’s office,” Gregor continued.
“Joking aside, I think you all know why I’m here today. Before I get to that, I’d like to give a few thank-you’s. First, to the Collswell Convention Center for hosting the event. I prefer smaller venues myself, but what can you say, I draw a crowd.”
The crowd laughed again, and some applauded.
Honnete continued. “And to commissioner Blaine, who took the time to be here tonight. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but it means a lot that you’re here.” Another round of applause. “To the office of Mayor Banks, for not chasing us out of town with torches and pitchforks.” Another laugh, more applause.
He knows how to work a crowd.
Honnete’s voice turned more solemn. “And finally, to the former members of the Wardens of Justice, for their years of service. They were an inspiration to the world.”
He paused for a moment, and the crowd was quiet for once, and for a moment the room was silent.
He continued. “I had the opportunity to work alongside director Jamisson during the drafting of UMBRA, and would like to send my best wishes. Get well soon.”
“Bastard,” muttered Gregor. I was taken aback for a moment by his animosity. Jamisson was put in the hospital by one of them, albeit indirectly, I reminded myself.
“Now, to business. I would like to officially condemn the actions of Brandon Lim and his followers. Their actions were illegal, unjust and, morally abhorrent. Their ideals are not what Virtue stands for. As of this moment, I am permanently revoking their membership with Virtue. We will not condone these acts of terrorism against fellow Americans.”
Terrorism? I wondered, but thinking about it further, I realized that “terrorism” was an apt description. Breaking up the Wardens of Justice, hiring villain teams to try to kill the youth team, I’d say that counts.
“This kind of vigilantism, this conflation of justice and revenge is exactly what we stand against, and any similar actions by any of our members will be met with similar severity. Further, we will not be coming to the legal aid of those responsible for these acts of terrorism and will assist with the investigation in any way we can.”
The crowd had an interesting reaction. Most of the crowd applauded, some even standing, judging from those had marked, but some looked sullen and stayed silent.
Woah, that’s quite a divide. I guess we know who the metaphobes are. Most of the city still loves the Wardens, but it makes sense that a power regulation group would attract a different crowd.
“However,” Pierce said, tone changing, “this leaves the Collswell City branch without leadership. I do not intend to leave this city without a presence to represent our interests. And so, I would like to introduce the new head of the Collswell City branch of Virtue, Mr. Robert Banks!”
“Rob Banks? Really?” I said with a smirk as the crowd applauded. I clapped along for appearances, as did Gregor.
“He’s the mayor’s son,” Gregor said. “Adrian Banks-”
“I know that, I just think it’s an unfortunate name,” I clarified.
“Ha. Rob Banks. I can see it now.” He chuckled under his breath, and continued explaining, “My sources suggest that he’s planning on running for office, though they didn’t have details. I suspect he wants to be president someday.”
“That’ll be the day,” I said. “It’s pretty clear what his platform is.”
“I won’t vote for him,” Gregor agreed. “And besides, his family hushed it up, but I’m reasonably sure his family got contributions from Homo Purum. Word of that gets out, he’s going to lose a lot of votes.”
Up at the podium, another tall, charismatic man joined Honnete, though he looked short next to the leader of Virtue. Robert Banks was well known in the political arena, speaking publicly against metahuman integration into society.
“Homo Purum, that was the hate group?” I asked. When Gregor nodded, I continued. “And they chose this guy to lead the branch? That doesn’t make sense.”
“I agree. You’d think they would choose someone with less extreme views.”
Banks shook Honnete’s hand and turned to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to be chosen by Pierce Honnete himself to lead the Collswell City branch of Virtue. I have a hard task ahead of me in restoring our reputation here, but between myself and the hard work of you dedicated people out there, I think we can do it.”
Banks wasn’t as eloquent as Honnete had been, but the crowd still applauded uproariously.
As Honnete and Banks turned to leave the podium and the sounds of conversation spread through the room, I realized, this is my chance. The crowd won’t be looking at him now. Checking on the sample of the guests I’d marked, I confirmed that most of the tables were talking among themselves now, not watching Honnete.
I extended my arm and covered the paracord that wrapped my arm with darkness, then teleported it to my hand. A slash of black cut through the air between my hand and Pierce Honnete, the tip just brushing the back of his suit. As fast as possible, I pulled it back, tying it back into a bracelet around my upper arm. I quested out and could feel a tiny speck of darkness moving down the red carpet away from me.
Got him! I thought triumphantly.
It was only because I was tracking my marks that I noticed the disturbance in the back of the room, where the people I had marked started leaving their tables, fleeing. I turned and saw what was causing the strange behavior. A figure of indeterminate sex stood in the back of the room, one arm raised.
Holy shit, that guy has a gun!
There was only one person they could be aiming at.