Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The SPIA meeting this year took place just outside Stone City. I was a bit dubious when I read Tinliz's directions of how to get there, and even more so when Greyghost and I actually pulled up in front of the place late Friday night. Because it was a Randy's CometLodge.

I wasn't previously familiar with the Randy's CometLodges. Basically it's like a sports bar + video games + convention centre + hotel rooms + slot machines + water slides kind of deal. In other words, it's exactly Greyghost's type of place. So that's amusing. But kind of public for a superhero meeting, I would have thought. On the other hand, when we pulled up, the parking lot was basically empty.

Tinliz--well, Liz, anyway--was in the lobby checking people in. "How come we're here?" I asked her.

"The owner owes me a favour," she said. "We've got the whole east wing to ourselves this weekend, while some guys work on the roof in the main section."

"It's, uh, a little unusual for this crowd, don't you think?"

She held out a clipboard to me. "Billy and I have started a pool. Scarab versus Greyghost in Virtual Pong Warrior--" she gestured at the video games room "--twenty bucks to pick the winner, and by how much."

Awesome. I handed over a twenty, said, "Greyghost by thirty," snagged a couple of room keys and headed back to the car. I unpacked Greyghost's stuff into his room, my stuff into my room, watched some TV and went to sleep.

Next morning we all had breakfast in a little dining room off the video game room. Randy's CometLodge seemed to have provided staff for the event; a short chick with green lipstick, nametagged 'Lana'. Presumably--and I never did get confirmation on this--Liz did some kind of checking on Lana and her ability and inclination to keep her mouth shut.

Everybody I thought would be there was there. Greyghost and me, of course. Bob, Liz and Billy, Scintilla, Whitecap, Mr. Scarab, Glory B, Daylighter, Wildthing. Ms. Moxie was not there, which I wasn't expecting; she may be too pregnant to fight crime but she could still show up for the meetings. But then I did the math and figured that she was actually due to give birth any day now, so she gets a pass. And of course Cassie was there.

I was ready for it to be weird, seeing her again. I wasn't ready for it to be normal. I expected her to sit on the opposite side of the room from me, avoid eye contact, and smile politely if I approached her. I didn't expect her to sit down beside me and start talking like... well, like we used to do. And I didn't expect myself to be able to join in without even thinking about it.

"I paid down forty," she said. "I've got Mr. Scarab by ten and by fifteen in Virtual Thing-Pong or whatever it is. What about you?"

"I just wonder if they know they're playing," I said. And everything was great.

Then the boring part, which was the meeting itself. It could have been cool, with Cassie and I writing sarcastic comments back and forth to each other on the Randy's CometLodge stationery we all got. But no. I had to pay attention, in case Greyghost needed me to remember a point or supply a detail or anything.

The first issue that came up was membership. Billy suggested a guy in Cleveland named Redstart, and Scintilla voted it down. Then Greyghost nominated Prowl, and I shouted, "Whoo hoo!" I knew he was going to do that!

Everyone turned to look at me, naturally, and what could I say? That I had just won a bet with myself?

Moving on.

Daylighter said, "Next point. Nefario."

"How is he a point?" Bob asked. "Greyghost took him down and turned him over to the cops. He's been extradited to France. He's locked up."

"Exactly," Daylighter said. "Which means everyone is breathing a little easier. It means the government is a little more relaxed. They can take the time to think about how much they really don't trust us, and they can come after our funding."

"What do you mean--we should bust the man out of jail so the government will come crawling back to us?" Billy asked. "Exclude me from your plan."

"No, that's not what I mean!"

"Then explain yourself," Scintilla said, "because I heard it the same way Billy did."

"I mean," Daylighter said, "that conditions have changed. We have to be more careful now. The government's going to be paying more attention to our public reputation."

Whitecap slumped down in his seat and sighed.

"Which brings me to Whitecap and the Centuryon," he continued.

"I had no choice," Whitecap said.

"That's not the point," Daylighter told him. "The point is that it makes us look bad. You saw the headlines: "Superhero Kills Nine-Year-Old Girl"."

"That nine-year-old girl," Whitecap snarled, "was seven feet tall, with tits out to here, stronger than me, with a ten foot golden flaming spear she was trying to rotisserie me with. I was fighting for my life. And even then, she only died because her powers cut out on her at the wrong time."

"We know," Bob said. "That's not the point."

"Well, what do you want me to say?" Whitecap said. "This kind of shit happens. And I'm not the only one. Everybody in this room. All of you, you've all killed people."

"I haven't," I said, because that's the kind of jerk I am.

"I haven't either," said Cassie, which I was glad about.

"Me neither," said Lana, as she poured out another jug of water in front of Mr. Scarab. "Although," she added thoughtfully, "it's still early in the day."

"You will," Whitecap said, addressing Cassie. "I can't speak for Dennis or Lethal Lana here, but your day will come. And you'll hate it. But there's no way to avoid it; super-powered fighting is just too dangerous. You can take all the precautions you want but sometimes people will die anyway. And then you get to defend yourself in meetings like this."

"All I'm saying--" Daylighter said.

"Your point has been made," Greyghost said. "Next?"

"Next," Daylighter said, "is Surefire."

"What about him?" Bob asked.

"Where is he?" Daylighter said.

"I've searched for him, when I've had time," Greyghost said. "I've found no trace."

"I'm worried about him," Daylighter said.

"Screw him," Bob said.

"I'm serious," Daylighter said. "The guy's lost his life. Who knows what he's up to now, or what he's thinking? I'm worried he could go off the rails. And never mind what kind of publicity problems that could create for the rest of us. I don't like the idea that this could happen to one of us."

"I'll keep looking. And I'll pass any information along if it seems relevant."

I'm kind of blending these little subconversations together because I can't remember everything everyone said or the order they said it in. So let's say that this is where we broke for lunch.
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