Nobody and the Spider (11)

Powder Keg City

 

Previously

 

Cho watched in horror as the Serious Six broke the protestors in front of city hall up with brutal efficiency and in high definition. The news crawl shifted from vague economic forecasts to BREAKING NEWS FROM JET CITY!

“Eric, get someone down there right now. Eric? Where’s the chief?” Cho asked as the war room erupted into chaos.

“He’s in a meeting with the FBI right now. I’m on it,” said a police captain. Her name tag read Mulligan.

“Thanks,” said Cho.

“We got news choppers incoming,” said Janet.

“No! Oh god, this can’t be happening. Uh, call in one of the other super teams,” Cho quickly ordered when he saw one of the Six brandish a glowing rifle on live TV.

“The closest ones are the Serious Six,” said Jackson, looking through his pocket book.

“No! Not them, they’re the problem! And why are they in your pocket book?” Cho asked.

“They’re one of the super teams contracted with the city,” said Jackson.

“They’re what!” Cho shouted.

Several eternal minutes later, after a horde of cops and security personnel had to drag them into city hall, the Serious Six waited in a private room without any windows. Mayor Cho, Captain Mulligan, Jackson and a couple of cops entered the room.

“What’s going on here?” a hero named Thistle asked.

“Yeah, we didn’t need saving,” said a hero named Obfu-Skater.

“We weren’t saving you from them, you morons, we were saving them from you!” Cho growled. “No, scratch that, we are saving you actually! The media’s going to bury you idiots for whatever that was out there and by the way, what was that out there?”

The leader, dressed in black camo pants and military gear painted black, was a man named Delta Black, real name Benjamin Morse. He’d taken his helmet off and security had confiscated his guns and body armor along with everyone else’s. He raised his hand.

“Sir, they were gathered illegally. I told them to disperse. They did not. So I made them,” Delta Black explained in a dead eyed monotone. Cho gathered between that and his hair cut, the guy must have been ex-military.

“And?” Cho asked.

“And what?”

“What else were they doing? Setting fires to dumpsters? Shooting guns in the air? Sacrificing infants on altars?”

“They were gathered illegally. We checked,” one of the Six, named Screamer, said.

“So you charged into a crowd of peaceful protestors?” Cho asked.

“I asked them to leave. Twice,” Delta Black reiterated.

Cho threw his hands in the air and left the room. Mulligan and Jackson followed.

“This is the last thing I need right now. We’re cutting them loose,” Cho huffed and puffed. “I don’t care what legal excuse you have to come up with, Jackson, just get them out of my hair and out of my city!”

“You got it,” Jackson said.

“And review the other teams. This shit isn’t happening again in my city,” said Cho.

“I’m on it,” Jackson said.

Cho and Mulligan entered an elevator while Jackson split off to do a week’s worth of work in an hour. They were silent as the elevator dinged for several floors.

“And thank you for stepping up, Mulligan. You’ve been awesome. Where are you stationed at?” Cho asked, his tone shifting suddenly.

“I work intelligence at the moment. Chief Wright asked me to step in while he was dealing with the feds,” Mulligan replied.

“What do the feds want now?” Cho wondered.

“They’ve started a man hunt, apparently. They’re after one guy. Two guesses who,” Mulligan said. Cho detected an air of anticipation behind her words.

“They should be focused on the Cosmo investigation. What aren’t they telling me?” Cho wondered.

“I can find out for you, if you want,” Mulligan offered.

“Captain Mulligan, I like your attitude. Keep it up and I’ll write you a commendation when this is all over,” said Cho.

“Much appreciated,” she replied.

Cho retired to his office on the main administrative floor, just two doors down from the war room. He felt like he was losing his mind. The Serious Fucking Six. Who the hell vetted those assholes? He made a note to find out later and have whoever it was canned. He went back to the tablet and the security footage. Whatever he was going to find, he had to find it soon. Time was running out for him.

 

* * *

 

May 13

The Cosmo Convention Center

 

The fastest way to get to the transit center was through the World Warriors exhibit in Hall D. There, more people were hiding in place waiting for everything to blow over. The out-of-towners from bigger cities were used to this sort of thing, apparently. Some of them were eating lunch on picnic blankets, streaming videos to their followers in the middle of the hostage situation. Locals and small town tourists, on the other hand, were panicking.

“If you guys see any guns let me know. I need something that shoots,” Tina said.

“You sure about that?” Nobody asked.

“News flash, I don’t have any super powers!” Tina said. She rubbed her face, annoyed. “Sorry. That came out wrong.”

“I get it,” said Nobody. Tina blinked, then squinted.

“What do you mean? Do you… not have any powers either?” she asked.

“No,” said Nobody.

“But you have like, training, right? You’re trained to fight?” she asked.

“Sure,” Nobody replied.

“That’s what I need. An equalizer,” said Tina.

“How’s your aim?” Nobody asked.

“Don’t know. I’ve never shot a gun before,” Tina said.

“You could blow a hole in your own foot if you’re not careful,” said Nobody.

“Well I don’t know how to use a long bow or nunchucks either so I guess I’m screwed,” Tina said.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll find something you can use in this exhibit,” Mallory said. That made Tina feel a little better, but she was still very much on edge. James and Mallory were too. Only Nobody was keeping his cool at the moment, but only just. James decided to bury his fear beneath a mountain of nerdy fanboy feelings.

“So these are the very first superheroes, eh? Crime fighters and super soldiers. Wow. Oh snap, they have American Flagg’s helmet!” James said, running up to the display.

“You already have a helmet!” Tina said, chasing after him. Once they were alone, Mallory nudged Nobody’s arm.

“So what’s the game plan?” she asked.

“Get you three out of here. Find out where the Spider’s message is coming from. Kick the Spider’s ass. Ride off into the sunset,” said Nobody.

“You’ll need my help,” said Mallory.

“Not this time,” said Nobody.

“Are you kidding? This is way out of your league,” said Mallory.

“And it’s not out of yours?” Nobody asked tersely. Mallory was surprised by his tone. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t implying you weren’t capable.”

“Yeah, especially since I actually have powers,” said Mallory.

“That doesn’t guarantee much, but that’s beside the point. This is going to require a lot of sneaking around and digital infiltration.”

“You mean hacking?” Mallory asked.

“I mean computer stuff. This is my sweet spot and I operate best alone. And let’s not forget you having to explain to your friend why you’re staying behind when the time comes to part ways.”

“Why don’t you let me worry about that, okay?” Mallory replied, whispering louder than she intended.

“There’s a lot more you can do to help people from the outside. Think about it,” said Nobody.

“I am thinking about it and it seems to me you’re trying to be the cool guy saving the day all on your own while I’m over here probably watching you get yourself killed,” Mallory shot back. “You need back up.”

“I need you three to be safe.”

“What about everyone else?” Mallory asked, pointing out the groups of people huddled against the walls.

“I’ll do what I can to help them too, but you three are my priority,” said Nobody.

“I don’t need protecting but you need my help,” Mallory said. Nobody shook his head no. “Why won’t you let me help you? Seriously, what’s the problem? Do you hate me or something?” she asked.

“No,” Nobody curtly replied.

“Then why? Why are you always telling me I’m going to be a great hero someday but never letting me fight crime with you? Do you not believe in me?”

“No. I mean yes, I do believe in you, but no that’s not why,” said Nobody.

“Then what is it?” Mallory asked.

“It’s nothing. Just drop it,” said Nobody, starting to get irritated.

“No way. If you’re not teaming up with me I deserve to know why.”

“No, you don’t,” said Nobody.

“There is no reason, is there? You just want to hog all the glory for yourself,” Mallory said, testing him.

“I don’t do this for the glory,” said Nobody.

“Sure you don’t. You’re secretive and brooding now, but I bet you’re playing this all close to the vest until your big superhero debut. Then it’ll be all glitz and glamor. New costume, new name, big corporate sponsors. But you have to be a solo act or you only get half the money and bitches and fame!”

“Just because I don’t want to tell you the reason doesn’t mean there isn’t one!” Nobody snapped. He regretted it immediately and turned away, ashamed. “I’m not… I’m not going to get in the way of your dreams. It’s not a lie, I do think you’ll be a great hero someday. But for guys like me… it doesn’t turn out that way. You have a shot at being a bonafide superhero. Unpowered vigilantes don’t last long. About a year on average before we burn out; wind up crippled. Dead.”

“I had no idea,” said Mallory.

“So no. I’m not doing this for fame or fortune or even bitches. Nothing like that is waiting for me at the end of this road,” Nobody said, looking older and more tired then she’d ever seen him. Mallory thought for a bit.

“A year life expectancy. How long has it been for you?” she asked. Nobody couldn’t help but smile. This one was better at prying information from him than the best interrogators he’d ever faced.

“I guess it’s been almost…”

“Hey Nobody guy!” Tina yelled.

“We found something!” James continued.

“We’re not done talking about this,” Mallory said, pointing a finger in his face.

“I know,” Nobody replied.

 

 

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