The Big Leagues
May 17, 2010
The phone was ringing. Cho looked around his office. The light coming through his window was blinding. Had he fallen asleep? He rubbed his tired eyes. It was 10:34 A.M. according to the clock on his desk. He must have dozed off for an hour without realizing. He hit the speakerphone button.
“Yes?” Cho answered.
“There’s a gentleman on his way to see you?” his secretary said.
“Tell him we’re not taking visitors.”
“He says he’s coming on behalf of the governor’s office?”
“I’ll be in conference room one. Let me know when he arrives.”
He entered the war room where what remained of city leadership were either sleeping or working. Wall mounted TV Screens around the room blasted nonstop coverage of the “Crisis in Jet City”. One could hardly tell there was supposed to be a celebration happening right now. A celebration meant to get moneyed interests interested in putting their money in Jet City’s coffers. Besides Hero Fest, Party in the Park, and Jet Streamz, there was a military contractor expo, a joint police/superhero convention, and all sorts of balls, parties and fund raisers put on by the upper crust of the Pacific Northwest to press the flesh and talk shop.
Now though? Now… it was like a completely different city. Everything they had done to tighten security and boost police presence had done nothing to stop what the Spider and his minions had done. And the gang had been busy since the Cosmo incident. Drive-by’s, shaking down local businesses, passing out drugs and guns like it was Crime Mardi Gras; it was insanity and the JCPD could barely keep up. And the voting pubic was noticing.
#ChoMustGo was trending on Twitter, whatever that meant, the national news media, held at bay for days, was starting to notice the clusterfuck and now the Serious Six and their ‘Cape Violence’ had gone viral fueling more protests all over town. Businesses were shuttering their stores in fear of possible looting or mayhem caused by the Spiders or both. Jet City was falling apart right before their very eyes.
“How’d it get this bad this quickly?” Cho wondered.
“Must be something in the water,” Gina said.
“What, like an ‘angry chemical’?” Cho asked.
“Weirder things have happened,” Michael said, nodding in agreement.
“Not since the 60’s. Man, what a decade,” Cho said.
“We need to address the lack of manpower in our police force,” Gina said, putting her business face back on.
“How, exactly?” Cho asked.
“We need supplemental forces,” said Gina.
“Please don’t say more super teams,” said Cho.
“Well, more experienced super teams at least. Names people trust,” Gina said.
“We can’t,” said Cho.
“Why not?” Gina asked.
“This has to be us. It has to be regular cops and regular sheriff’s deputies and regular first responders figuring this out. The more supers we bring into this, the more complicated it’s going to get,” said Cho.
“Look, the Nationals are on our standby list,” Gina said, her voice lowered. “They’re loved by people across America. We should call them in, just to help out. A couple of well known heroes flying our skies will go a long way towards keeping the peace. They might not even have to get involved. Just knowing they’re there could make a difference.”
“We do that and we lose the narrative,” said Michael.
“Who cares? If this gets any worse, the whole city is going to spiral out of control!” said Gina.
The room was quiet save for the TV screens and the occasional phone ringing. Cho wanted to say something, but he didn’t know how to say it in a way that would help the situation.
“We’ve got a riot,” said Mulligan, breaking the silence.
“Where?” Cho asked.
“Winter Hills,” she replied, throwing the live footage on one of the monitors. “Three cars responding now but they are way outnumbered.”
“Of course they’d be the first ones to riot,” Cho mumbled. People exchanged awkward glances at the assertion. “That wasn’t a race thing! No one quote me on that!” he blurted out.
“Mayor Cho, Channel Five News is asking for comment on the Serious Six thing,” an aide said, covering their phone’s receiver.
“No comment. We’re doing no comment right now,” Press Secretary Pink said.
“Someone from CNN is asking about the riot,” another aide said.
“Shit, already?” Cho replied.
“It’s all no comment. Everything is no comment right now!” Pink shouted to the aides. Everyone’s phones started blowing up with texts, missed calls and Facebook alerts as the riot grew in size.
“Someone’s started #BurntheHills, encouraging more people going to show up for this thing,” Valerie said, scouring social media forums on her tablet like a tech wizard.
“What do we do?” asked Gina.
Cho didn’t have any answers and he suddenly realized all eyes were on him.
“I… I um…” Cho stumbled over his words.
“I’ve got it,” Michael said.
“What?” Cho asked.
“Sleeping gas,” he began.
“No. Just no.”
“Well, I’m out of ideas,” said Michael.
“I might have a solution.”
Everyone turned at the sound of the commanding voice. A tall man dressed in a conservative white and gold trim suit and a white domino mask entered, trailed by two… interns? They were gorgeous looking possibly supermodel men, also dressed in white, following his lead. The man’s receding but distinguished white hair could have put him anywhere between 60 and 90, but with his fit physique it was hard to tell.
“What the? Who are you?” Cho asked.
“Me? I am the expert.” The man spoke with a twinge of a Southern accent and carried himself like a dignified soul. It was very off-putting to Cho.
“The expert?” Cho asked, confused.
“A crisis management expert. I’m here at the request of the governor’s office. Here are my credentials,” he said, handing Cho a prestigious laminate folder.
“Oh. Right. You.”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?” the man asked.
“No, but someone was supposed to let me know when you arrived,” Cho said, annoyed.
“My fault. I landed on your roof so as to avoid any unwanted attention. There are a lot of cameras pointed at the front of your building right now,” the man said.
“Yeah. Why, um, what brings you to our fair city?” Cho asked, looking through the folder.
“Thirty years experience handling urban disasters and civic unrest. Twenty five years with the internationally recognized super team, the Nationals. Eighteen years leading said team. Nine years working with law enforcement as part of several joint anti-crime and anti-terror initiatives. That’s why I’m here.”
“Okay but we don’t need a crisis manager expert right now, Mr… um…”
“You’re the Beacon,” Mulligan said, mouth hanging open just a little.
“Mr. Lee is fine, thank you,” the man said.
“You broke up the Vancouver Minh Crime Ring and stopped the Beast of San Francisco Bay from eating the Golden Gate Bridge. I… I admire your work, sir,” Mulligan said offering her hand. Beacon gently shook it.
“I had a very strong team behind me. Couldn’t have done it without them, of course,” he said graciously. He was accustomed to talking to fans. He turned back to Cho. “My name is Paul Russell Lee, but as your colleague pointed out, you might know me better as Beacon.”
“Seriously? How’d Mitch rope you into coming all the way up here?” Cho asked.
“We’re old friends and we’ve worked together on several national security projects. And I owed him a favor.”
“He would have told me you were coming. Sent a text. Something.”
“Apparently he didn’t feel that was necessary,” Beacon said in a measured but deliberate tone. Cho felt the back of his head itch. “And it seems I came just in time. I see a riot has already broken out.”
“It’s fine. We’re handling it,” said Cho.
“About that,” Mulligan interjected. “There’s a developing situation.”
“What situation?” Cho asked.
“Let’s just say the Winter Hills riot isn’t a problem anymore,” Mulligan said, showing Cho the footage from the police helicopter.
There was smoke in the air and glass and other detritus from destroyed storefronts littered the streets. More shockingly, there were bodies everywhere. Not dead, Cho very much hoped, but knocked down, bleeding and crawling away. JCPD was hiding behind make shift barricades, watching events unfold from relative safety.
“Who did this. I know it was another super team. Who was it?” Cho asked.
“It’s complicated,” Mulligan began. “According to eyes on the ground when the riot broke out, a lot of powered hooligans showed up to burn buildings and explode cars. A handful of powered civilians went to stop them. Then JCPD arrived on scene and tried to deescalate the situation but their presence only made things more chaotic. Then a sanctioned super team showed up, um the Lancers I believe, and started indiscriminately fighting rioters and civilians, powered and otherwise.”
The screens in the war room were quickly cycling through news channels as new developments came in. Riot breaks out in Winter Hills neighborhood. Superheroic Brutality caught on camera by eye witnesses. Police stand by as rioters savagely beaten. Cosmo attack an inside job?
“The mayor’s office does not have any official statement to give at this time,” Janet said to some journalist on the phone.
“Wait, Janet, there will be a official statement soon,” Cho said waving for her attention. “Mark it down, we’re going to address this. Everyone else, listen up.” His confidence surging, bolstered perhaps by a need to show Beacon he had control of the situation, he announced that, “As of right now we are suspending all sanctioned hero activity in Jet City. Everyone is grounded effective immediately. Send it out to all your people. Captain, Janet, Valerie, you back there in the olive shirt. Blast it on all frequencies. No more capes in Jet City. Don’t phrase it like that exactly but you know what I mean. This shit stops right now.”
Everyone in the room was frozen in shock.
“You heard the man!” Mulligan said, snapping the everyone out of their haze.
“I appreciate you coming down here, Mr. Beacon, but as you can see we have the situation well in hand,” Cho said handing the folder back. Beacon snapped and one of his interns took it.
“I see you’re doing the best you can with what you have, but may I suggest it might not be enough for what’s coming?” Beacon asked.
“What’s coming?” Cho asked.
“Best case scenario? More of this,” Beacon said, pointing to the TV screens. “But based on my analysis, you have a bigger problem on your hands. I’m aware you’re having a bit of a gang problem?”
“The Spiders? Yeah among other things,” Cho replied.
“My contacts in the FBI tell me there’s more going on there than everyone first thought and after getting a chance to go over the Cosmo investigation this morning I’m inclined to agree.”
“They let you in on that?” Cho asked, exasperated.
“Expert? Remember?” Beacon reminded him. “I’ve come to the conclusion that what you have is a sophisticated enemy, well versed in insurgency tactics and irregular warfare.”
“What the fuck,” Cho mumbled, rubbing his forehead.
“Bottom line, Mr. Mayor, I implore you to use my services while you can because very soon you’re not going to have a say in the matter. The governor has every intention of mobilizing the National Guard and imposing martial law on Jet City if you all can’t get your act together.”
“Shit,” Cho hissed.
“And as I understand it, the President is already being briefed on the situation and you may find US Army Super Squad One on your doorstep before too long.”
“Shit. Shit!” Cho hissed as Beacon’s words began to sink in.
“Quite correct,” Beacon said. “You’re in the big leagues now, son. Here, we play for keeps.”