Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thunderhead had only been gone for a minute when I heard a knock on the passenger side window. It was the girl with the backpack. What was this? I leaned over and rolled down the window partway. "What?" I said.

"Could you get out of your car, please? I don't want to talk to you sitting in your car like that."


I got out of the car.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"I don't know who all you guys are or why you're following me, but if I yell my brother and his friends will show up." She really did seem mad.

"Okay," I said.

"I will, too. Except on one condition."


She pulled a small cardboard box out of her backpack. "We're selling these to get new instruments for the school band. You're buying a box."

"Cool. What is it?"

"Chocolate bars. Forty bucks for the box of twenty."

"Oh! Is it the ones with the caramel inside? Those are great."

She shrugged. "They have caramel."

I paid her and took the box of bars. Damn it, there's no way Cruickshank would ever let me claim that on an expense report. Not since I wasn't supposed to be on this trip in the first place. "Listen," I said, "I probably should tell you what we're doing here. I don't know about all these other guys, but we're not here to follow you at all. I didn't even know you existed until a minute ago."

"Uh huh."

"The guy I'm driving around has the idea he's found some magical thing that will take away the super-powers of everyone in the world. I think he thinks you're carrying it around with you. I think he's probably wrong, but that's not the point. The point is, he thinks he detected something, and I guess so did all these other guys."

She just looked at me.

"Do you mind if I ask - do you have any kind of mystical thingamabob that can turn off everyone's superpowers?"


Oh well. I knew it was a longshot, but I really was hoping we'd be able to solve the whole supervillain/superhero problem.

"My other guess," I said, "is that you have some kind of really kick-ass super powers, and that's what my passenger's gadget was picking up on. And all these other people, whoever they are, are here to recruit you or exploit you or something. Am I warm?"

She nodded, slightly.

"Really? You can't, like, turn off other people's powers or anything, can you?"

She frowned. "I don't think so."

"Oh well. Anyway, the other guy is scouting around to see if he can find who's staking the neighborhood out. I don't know what we're going to do. You can take care of yourself, though, right? You can call your brother or unleash wrath or something? Because I don't think you should be here when he gets back."

"I don't like all this," she said, scowling. "I think you should buy another box of bars."

"Aw, come on."

But she was adamant. I got out my wallet again, and as we were transacting, I said, "My name's Dennis, by the way."

She looked at me pityingly. "Your name is Dennis Relser. You work for Greyghost. The other dude is Thunderhead, and he's a famous superhero. You had superpowers once and you're thinking very condescendingly about all the wisdom you can tell me about how to cope with it."

My jaw dropped and she stepped away with eighty bucks of my money.

Thunderhead returned. "Take us out of here," he said, and then noticed the forty chocolate bars. "Breakfast," he said, and unwrapped one.

I drove away. "Find anything out?" I said.

"Yeah. Two groups of supers. One is the Professionals. Ever heard of 'em?"

"Sure. Keyring, Margay and Sugarbear. Mercenaries. They're here?"

"They're here and they've got another couple of guys with them. They're the ones across the street."

"Huh. What about on the roof?"

"Don't know 'em. One guy with a bandolier of soda cans across his chest, and a bunch of kids."

Soda cans... Fountain is here? Crap. "What did the kids look like?"

He sat back, crammed the entire candy bar in his mouth, and thought. "Four of them. I remember one had a kind of ice costume. Another one in power armor. Two other punks in Lone Ranger masks."

No way. He was describing the Defense Posse. Icecap and Fantastic Man and, I guess, Shadow-Falcon and the other guy. With Fountain? What the hell?

I was going to have to think about this.

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