Jamisson looked up at us as we entered the warehouse we were using as a temporary base. Dark circles under his eyes betrayed how little he had been sleeping. He waved us over to the table he sat at. He shuffled the papers spread in front of him into a loose pile then rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.
“Guardian Angel, Shadow, cards on the table,” Jamisson said when we sat down. “Debriefing time. Nothing makes sense and everything’s falling apart. Let’s see if we can sort this out. You first.” He pointed to Sean, who wore his new, lightweight costume.
“We were investigating rumors that the Anchor Boys had a power enhancer called ‘Randwulf,’ real name Randolph Ermen. In the process, we discovered that they had a tinker-made submarine base, which we evacuated, then told the coast guard to seize it.”
“Wait, what? A submarine?” I blurted out.
“Yeah. When we got back, Randwulf had somehow turned Davy Jones into a Nightmare and vanished in the chaos.”
Jamisson spoke. “Finding him is priority number one, but any leads we might have had were destroyed. We need to get as much information on him as we can from the remaining Anchor Boys.”
“So you want me to keep playing gang leader?” I said, my irritation seeping into my voice.
“We need that information,” Jamisson said. “We got what we could from Ransom, but there’s only so much we can get without crossing lines that I’d rather stay uncrossed. But that discussion can wait. Dr. Mind said you had some information for me about the Virtue conspiracy?”
“Yeah,” I said, then hesitated. I wasn’t sure how much to tell him. Wait, what would I gain from not telling him. Knowing what Temple can do is important. I opened my mouth to speak. but somehow my voice caught in my throat. What is wrong with me? I couldn’t mention it earlier either.
I started easy, explaining the details of the Virtue event, specifically mentioning the Temple Sun security officers, culminating with Savage and I interrogating Pierce Honnete and discovering his apparent innocence and being captured by armored Temple Sun agents. By the time I reached the end of the story, I did my best to silence my instincts to stop and didn’t leave out Temple’s brainwashing ability, and the fact that Oblivion can undo it. I shifted in my seat as I spoke, uncomfortable with sharing so much. Have I always been like this?
“So he has some connection with Virtue,” Jamisson said. “If they were providing event security and they knew when you were in Honnete’s hotel room.”
“Yeah, but he was just as surprised as we were. I think they may have had his room bugged,” I said. “And the security was provided locally, not brought in by the national branch.”
“So it’s possible that Brandon Lim, the Upright Man, was working with Temple,” Guardian Angel said. “Or some of his co-conspirators were.”
“I guess,” I said. “But I can’t see how their motivations line up. Temple wanted to kill Myriad, but Lim wanted to kill Plateau.”
“I think it’s likely that Lim had a longer plan in mind,” Jamisson said. “I’ve been studying the patterns in metahuman activity in the city since he showed up, and there are some odd coincidences,” he said. “I thought initially that he only planned the disbanding of the Wardens of Justice. After his arrest and the resulting media circus, an amendment was passed that lead to the disbandment of the Wardens of Tomorrow as well, which was also part of his stated goal. I got suspicious, and while I was in the hospital, I did some digging. His actions directly lead to to the arrest of the leadership of the Collswell City Specialists, kidnapping Emily to lead the Wardens of Tomorow right to their doorstep. I’m beginning to suspect that he may have planned the death of Davy Jones and now the attempted assassination of Myriad as well.”
“So maybe he wanted to shut down all the metahuman organizations in the city, not just the heroic ones,” I said. “That makes sense, I guess, given his motive.”
“Hold on,” Dark Archon said, breaking his silence. “This is ridiculous. You think the precog guy who was all over the news planned all this? You realize there’s a name for that, right? It’s called the predetermination fallacy. It’s a fallacy. If a precog says something’s gonna happen, and then it happens, that doesn’t mean they predicted it. The observer principle totally mucks with precognition.”
After some deliberation, Kevin had decided to stick with the name Blackwell has given him. Since he hadn’t made a public debut yet, he wanted to wait until he found something that fit.
“Yeah but remember what he used to distract us from his crime spree?” Guardian Angel said. “He arranged for Shatterpoint to demolish the police headquarters so that they were in need of a new building just before the team was getting disbanded-”
“You know what makes more sense?” Dark Archon said. “That it’s not a coincidence. That he wasn’t the only person involved, even though he was the only one you caught. He was a fall guy.” He leaned back in his chair, and folded his arms.
Jamisson opened his mouth to talk, then stopped, brow furrowing. “Huh,” he said after a pause.
“Wait,” I said, pieces starting to come together. “Temple ordered the hit on Myriad. Temple Sun provided security at the Virtue event where someone tried to assassinate Honnete…” I stopped for a moment, stunned by the implications of what I had realized. “Maybe Banks is the connection.”
“Adrian Banks? The mayor?” Dark Archon asked.
“No, his son, Robert. He’s the new head of the local branch of Virtue that the Upright Man used to lead- if he was involved with Virtue before, they’ve probably met. Honnete said the event security was provided locally, which would mean Banks probably had his fingers in that, so there’s the connection to Temple Sun.”
Jamisson frowned. “That’s a worrying thought. If that is true, it means whatever their plan is, it needs popular support now, not subterfuge. All the more reason to get in contact with Savage. It’s possible he’s getting into more than he can handle on his own.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “He’s never been good with public relations.”
“So, random question,” Dark Archon said, sensing a lull in the conversation. “How is Temple Sun a legitimate security contractor if their owner is a psychopathic supervillain?”
“Publicly, the company is owned by a man named Mason Briggs,” Jamisson explained, reading off his tablet computer. “Ex-military engineer with a lot of corporate friends overseas. When he got back from his tour of duty, he got together a group to design a less lethal powered armor model for crowd control. They split up partway through development, and when his partners tried to sell the designs to the military, he sued them for the patents, won, and started his own PMC with the money. Temple Sun suddenly became a cheap alternative to designing and building your own riot control armor.”
“What about Atlastech?” Guardian Angel asked. “Don’t they have nonlethal stuff now? I thought that’s what the CPD just got.”
Nonlethal? I thought, thinking back to what I’d seen of them. They demolished a whole building with people inside. That doesn’t exactly scream ‘nonlethal.’
“They do,” Jamisson confirmed. “And between that fact and the sketchy business they got up to in Europe a few years ago, they’ve seen a lot less action in the US recently. Temple Sun contracts are still a lot cheaper than buying and maintaining your own powered armor, though, so you sometimes see them doing corporate security.”
“So are Temple and Briggs the same guy?” Dark Archon asked.
Jamisson turned the tablet so I could see the picture he’d called up. The man in the picture was square-jawed, with steely grey eyes.
“I have no idea,” I confessed. “His face was covered. I doubt it would matter, though. Even if he’s not, he could have brainwashed him pretty easily and taken over the company.”
“Hm,” Jamisson grunted and looked at the image himself. “So he could have been any of them. I don’t suppose any of you have any PMC contacts?” he said with a dry smirk. “Me neither.”
At that moment, his phone vibrated, causing him to jump a little in my seat. He stood and answered it. His eyes widened as he listened he looked sharply at us.
“I need to go,” He said, standing even as he spoke.
While Jamisson took the hypertube to the new police headquarters, I excused myself and made my way to a particular coffee shop nearby. Entering, I could tell that these were not peak hours- the café was all but vacant. There was one person there that I was interested in, however. I recognized her immediately from the strange thrill I got from looking at her. I frowned a bit, uncomfortable knowing that my emotions were being manipulated by her metahuman ability.
Not as if she can really control it, I thought, recalling our conversation at the fundraiser. When she’d called me I was hesitant to respond, until I realized that she might have some insight into what went down at the fundraiser. I crossed the room and sat down at the table across from Amelie.
“So,” I said to get her attention.
“Hm?” she replied, face buried in a menu.
“You called me,” I said, volunteering nothing.
She didn’t respond, and I took the moment to consider her situation. I need her to open up. The metahuman daughter of the world’s biggest metahuman regulation advocate, unable to interact normally with her peers because of her powers… I could appeal to that. Who was I? Arthur Knight, affluent nephew of Gregor Knight, investigative accountant. Interested in politics, especially metahuman regulation. Why would she want to talk to me?
“How did you get my number anyway?” I asked. I kept my tone curious, not accusatory. I didn’t need to scare her further into her shell.
Her eyes peeked over the menu and caught mine, which was enough to lure her the rest of the way out.
“I asked your uncle,” she said. “He’s been helping sort out the transition here, so he’s been around the office a lot with my dad.” She laid the menu flat on the table, and I could immediately see the tension in her body.
So the cover story is still intact. Good, I mused. So that’s where Savage has been, Funny. I expected him to prowl about at night, gathering evidence. I guess that’s the image he prefers. If I expected him to be casually balancing ledgers, the secret identity would be useless.
“Huh. He didn’t tell me that,” I said. I smiled involuntarily, but caught myself and pushed back against her influence a bit harder. “Not surprised, though. He tends to treat everything like it’s dangerous information.”
She fixed me with a curious gaze, but her eyes were still wary, shoulders still tight. Something’s bothering her. “Do you want something?” I said, pointing towards the counter.
“Yeah,” she said, relaxing. She dug into her pocket and retrieved a few bills “Get me a chai latté.”
I took the money and, a few minutes later, returned with her latté and a drink called a “Pre-Spice Mass” that had caught my curiosity. I placed her drink in front of her and sat down again.
The tension in her body had lessened, I noted. I mentally congratulated myself on getting her to relax a bit. I’ll ask an easier question before I get into the hard stuff.
“So does your dad know you’re here?”
She nodded. “I think so. He pretends not to… But I’m pretty sure he knows. I think he realized that he couldn’t stop me from ditching the bodyguard and doing my own thing.”
“Your own thing?” I asked, not totally sure where I was going with this line of questioning, but she seemed comfortable discussing it.
“Yeah. You know I can get free drinks at just about any bar? I don’t even need a fake ID.” She winked.
I laughed. A reflex- in actuality, I was a bit discomfited. Seems like a good way to get arrested for metahuman power abuse, not to mention underage drinking. She didn’t seem to notice, though, despite being an empath of some kind. Odd… but I should still be careful.
“So… What happened back there?” I asked, then clarified, “At the event.”
“I dunno. Usually when stuff like that happens it’s pretty clear-cut, but when security cleaned up, they really cleaned up. No report or anything. Usually I love sneaking in and reading those.” She sipped her latté.
More evidence that Temple Sun arranged the hit. “Does that happen often?” I asked, injecting a bit of worry into my tone.
“More often than I’d like, in that it ever happens, but not too often. This is maybe… Five now? Four?” She shook her head. “Weird that I don’t remember. It sucks though. Knowing that one of these days, one of them might succeed.”
“Sorry,” I said. A platitude, to be sure, but I meant it. Honnete may have been a bit more extreme in his views than most metahumans were comfortable with, but he did spearhead some pretty groundbreaking legislation, like the establishment of government-sanctioned hero teams and a coordinated metahuman emergency response system. No mention of the intruders in their suite, though. Either she doesn’t want to talk about it, or she’s hiding something. My money’s on the latter, given how easily she came out with the rest of it. “You’re okay though, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.” She hesitated. “Thanks.”
“For?” I asked.
“It’s just… You’re the first person who knows what I can do and who I am who’s shown up.” She looked away, embarrassed. “Well, not the first one, but the first who wasn’t really creepy about it.”
Oh my god, is this a date? I was so stunned that I had no response prepared. I’ve been treating this as a fact-finding mission. My surprise must have shown on my face, because she immediately shrunk back in her chair.
“On my god, this is embarrassing,” she said. She buried her face in her hands. “I was trying to ignore it, but I couldn’t miss that.”
Ohh, that explains it, thought the rational part of me even while the rest of me had a moment of panic. She’s been blocking out her empathic senses.
“Are you gay? Is that it?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, flustered. “I’ve never thought about it. So… Probably not?”
She looked taken aback. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, it’s, uh, not something I think about.” I scratched the back of my neck. “At all, really.”
“Wow. That’s a first for me.” She leaned back in her chair.
Wait, I can salvage this. “To tell the truth… I’ve been working with my uncle.” I said. “I wasn’t even thinking of this as a date.”
“Yeah, I know,” she replied, embarrassment vanishing all at once. Woah. What? “You were pumping me for information.” Wait wait wait. My mental gears ground again for a moment before I recovered. Wow, she’s good at this. She leaned in and grinned. “Oh, and I know you’re Shadow. I saw you vanish from your chair at the event.”
Damn she’s good.