Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

During lunch I found myself standing next to Daylighter. He said, "You're Carl's replacement, right?"

"Since last year, yeah."

"What's he doing now?"

I had promised myself on the drive down here that I'd say this to somebody if I found an opening. (Dennis's First Rule of Dealing With Superheroes: Don't get shoved around; always keep them off balance.) "I'm sorry, that's classified. I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

He reacted well; there was only a split second of him looking at me like I had gone out of my mind before he grinned. "Good to know. Give him my best if you hear from him."

A couple of minutes later the woman with glasses wound up near me. I realized she hadn't been around since breakfast. Part of Mr. Scarab's family? She nodded at the rest of the crowd and said, "Have you figured out who they all are?"

"Huh? Oh. I got eight out of eleven. Nine, now, I guess, because I know the woman in the rainbow outfit is Wildthing. You?"

She had about the same. We compared notes and found that, between us, we had covered them all. The guy with the rollerblade gear was Billy Blue Blazes, a guy from Miami who runs really fast, and the woman with the watch was Scintilla, who neither of us knew much about.

"So, are you here to join up?"

She lost me again. "Join what?"

"Join SPIA. Become a superhero. You know--" she gestured around "--superheroes?"

"That's a frightening thought. No, I'm Greyghost's assistant. Dennis Relser." We shook hands.

"I'm Perseid. Nice to meet you."

"I'm sorry? Per . . .?"

She sighed. "Every August, there's a meteor shower . . ."

"Oh, right! Yes! The Perseids. I get it."

"It's an everlastingly stupid name. I always have to explain it. It's a name with a footnote."

"No, it's good. For a superhero name, anyway. I just didn't clue in."

"Well. If one more person doesn't clue in, I'm going to give up and call myself Star Girl or something. I swear."

"How 'bout 'Stella'?"

"I knew a Stella at school. No thank you."

People were settling back around the tables. "I think we're starting up again."

"Next item," Daylighter said. "New membership. With poor Manxcat gone we're down to eleven. I've already got a candidate for everyone's consideration. Her name's Perseid; that's her in the lawnchair next to Dennis."

Most of the crowd already knew who she was, so there wasn't much in the way of neck-craning. Whitecap spoke up. "I take it she's new to the business?"

Daylighter nodded.

"Then--no offense, sweetheart--I don't see the logic behind her nomination. You don't put a rookie on the All-Star Team before the season starts. You wait until she proves she's good enough."

"I disagree," Mr. Scarab said. It was the first time I had heard him speak; he had a deep echoing voice. "We've accepted novices before, and recently, and both Billy and Tinliz have justified our confidence in them. I see no reason why we shouldn't try it again. If you have another candidate, present him."

Whitecap shook his head.

"This is all subject to Greyghost's approval, of course," Daylighter supplied. Huh? Why does Greyghost have to approve it?

"There is something to be said for experience, though," Glory B said. She didn't sound like a robot at all. In fact, she sounded damn sexy. "We know of many worthwhile candidates who have been doing this for a long time."

"Yeah, and we discussed them all last year, and the year before, and didn't vote them in then, so what's changed?" Bob argued. "There's also something to be said for not being a pain in the ass who already thinks he knows everything about everything. Does anybody really want to have one of these meetings with Surefire in attendance? Say what you want about Perseid's lack of experience; at least she's shown us that she knows how to shut up for five consecutive minutes."

"In any case," Mr. Scarab said, "she sits here before us, as a candidate for membership. Shall we vote?" He paused for a second, and said, "Thank you. Congratulations, Perseid. Greyghost?" Wait, what just happened?

Perseid looked confused too as Greyghost approached her. He said, "Before your membership is complete, I have some questions for you. First, your name."

"It's Perseid. Every Aug--"

He sighed. "Thank you, yes. Your real name, please."

"Cassandra Bay."

"Don't answer for thirty seconds. Do you understand what membership in SPIA involves?" This was starting to sound familiar.

She waited, and answered, "Yes."

"And can you live up to that?"


"And will you?"


Greyghost nodded back at everyone else and returned to his seat. Perseid looked at me for clarification and all I could do was shrug, palms up.

The rest was details. Greyghost agreed to take Perseid back to Empire City to train her in the fine art of beating the snot out of people. Then everybody talked about which supervillains they were in the process of tracking back to their lairs, and that was it.

The rest of the day--weekend, really--was socializing. Greyghost and Mr. Scarab played a game of chess that lasted nine hours. Billy, Daylighter, Bob, Liz and I found a ballgame on TV. It was nice. It was sort of halfway between the Hall of Justice and Walton Mountain.
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