Nobody and the Spider (14)

How the Game is Played




“The Spiders will continue their reign of terror until you establish points of control, limiting their influence to smaller, more manageable areas,” Beacon said, pointing to a projection on the wall being made with his patented “Beacon Baton”, a gadget that seemed to be the source of his light based powers. “I’ve outlined the best locations for these control points but I’ll leave it to you to decide as your local expertise trumps mine. The most important thing is to present a unified front. People trust a strong authority and will ignore a weak one. Stay on message, coordinate your law enforcement response and get ahead of the Spiders and other agents provocateurs fueling the chaos in your city. You will get through this. I promise.”

Cho distractedly looked out the window. There were smoke plumes coming from the direction of Winter Hills. The din of police sirens flooded the streets as emergency responders scrambled to handle emergent situations as they popped up everywhere. Lucky they had an expert crisis manager here in the flesh to save the day. Leader of the rock star super team the Nationals, Mr. Big Swinging Dick himself, the Beacon.

No that wasn’t fair, he told himself. The man was only here to help. Or was he? He claimed the governor had sent him and a quick call to the governor’s office confirmed this, but was Beacon really here to fix things, or did he have some alternative agenda? Mitch would have said something. He would have at least called! He didn’t send fixers in to clean up like some kind of Mafioso. It didn’t make sense. It was all so cloak and dagger.

Had Mitch gotten “the talk” from Slim too, he wondered? Or a Slim, anyway? A Slim type character? The talk about the way things were? The Status Quo? Was this back room Illuminati shit how politics actually worked in the real world or only in this screwed up city? How high did this go?

The things Slim had told him in this very room turned Cho into an anxious insomniac for about a week. When the previous mayor had been found bent in half in a shack near a railyard, Cho was, needless to say, apprehensive about taking the job. But City Council thought he was clean enough to run things until the next election so here he was. There was also the possibility that the City Council thought he was easily manipulated and Slim was just a guy they rolled out to make sure newbies like him stuck to script. It sounded crazy until one considered that the previous mayor and chief of police were both part of a secret vigilante death squad.

“Mr. Mayor,” Beacon said.

“Yes?” Cho replied.

“I was hoping to discuss some things with you,” Beacon said. People were clearing out of the room, headed back to their posts with Beacon’s words fresh in their minds. Class dismissed.

“Yeah sure. Discuss away,” said Cho. He sounded very annoyed. Because he was. He was running on little sleep, not a lot of food and the security footage was a dead end now that he’d lost Nobody and the rest in the tunnels beneath the convention center which apparently didn’t have any cameras!

“I want to know how you’re holding up,” Beacon said. That surprised Cho.

“I’m pretty stressed out at the moment, considering the city is in the middle of a crisis when it’s supposed to be having the biggest party ever,” Cho said. Beacon nodded. “And you know what? It’s my ass on the line right now. The Office of the Mayor should be a Superfund site it’s so goddamn toxic but I got lucky enough to be the Vice Mayor so now it’s my job to clean all this shit up and… sorry. You don’t care about any of that.”

Beacon thought for a moment, then said, “You keep using the word “crisis” to describe this. Do you understand what that term really means?” His words weren’t threatening, but something about his voice, his tone, the way he carried himself, was. Everything about the man was threatening, but it was never overt. Just an implied sort of menace. Or perhaps it was that wisp of a southern gentleman accent making Cho’s brain think these things.

“What would you call it?” Cho asked.

“A situation. A happening. An unfortunate turn of events. A crisis, Mr. Mayor, is when the men with machetes and hatchets come to knock down your door after your political rival calls for your head. A crisis is when half the city disappears beneath flood waters, or a team of supervillains ransom your state to the US government under threat of artificial meteor strike or the aliens invade or the robots rise or time and space folds in on itself or any number of things much worse than a little dip in the polls. And trust me, you haven’t seen real riots yet. You haven’t seen what true anarchy looks like, how far people can fall. So no, I wouldn’t call this a crisis. And with my help you won’t see anything like that come to pass.”

“Fuck,” Cho sighed.

“Now then, I’d like to discuss your decision to suspend superhero activity in your city.”

“Don’t waste your breath. I never wanted sanctioned super teams running around to begin with. The events of this morning made me remember why,” Cho said.

“Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, Mr. Mayor. It will take time to repair the damage done to your legitimacy and in the meantime there’s a city that needs leading. I fear you may stretch people’s faith in the authorities to their breaking point if you continue to refuse superhuman assistance.”

Cho didn’t say anything first. “Do you remember the WTO riots? Back in ’99?” he asked.

“The Battle of Seattle. Yes, I remember it,” Beacon replied.

“I had just started working for city council. It was a run of the mill protest. Liberal West Coasters going up against the globalist juggernaut that the World Trade Organization represented. Nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve lived in Seattle long enough. But it didn’t take long for it to turn into an orgy of violence that took the city by storm.”

“So you understand what’s at stake,” Beacon said.

“Yeah, I know what’s at stake. I also know the cost of calling in superheroes to fix your problems,” Cho said.

“You blame us for what happened?” Beacon asked.

“There were anarchists and other shit stirrers trying to turn the protest into a riot for days. Riot police were handling it just fine. But then someone who could throw a baseball with the force of a tank showed up. Instead of trying to handle it themselves, the mayor caved and called you people in. Then everything went to shit.” He sighed, holding his head like it would open up and spill his brains on the carpet. “Millions in property damage. Hundreds injured. They started calling superheroes tools of the corporate oligarchy after that. Respected heroes, not those leather wearing biker wannabes that were running around in the 90’s. The Emerald City Queens. The Nationals,” he said, motioning to Beacon. “Even the goddamn American Hero Society. The American freaking Hero freaking Society, the most patriotic, upstanding organization anywhere was vilified, probably deservedly so. So, no, maybe I haven’t seen real riots. But I have seen what happens when you let superheroes off their leash.”

“Is that what you’re afraid of? Letting us off our leash?” Beacon asked before leaning closer, his visage hardening as he spoke. “Or are you afraid that one day the leash won’t be put back on?” Cho thought he might shit his pants. “Life is a complicated, messy thing and force must be answered in kind. Nobody in the Seattle Police Force could have matched what was being thrown their way. To expect that of them is unrealistic, maybe even cruel by some measures.”

“Then give the cops better weapons, better gear. Relying on superheroes to fix everything leads to terrible, awful things. Maybe not every time, but often enough.”

“Given that fact, why did you decide to sanction several super teams for Centennial Week?” Beacon asked.

“Political pressure,” Cho admitted with a humorless chuckle. “But I made sure the ones who made the final cut were all low tier, low power heroes. That way if something went wrong, they couldn’t do that much damage.”

“Power isn’t everything. Even amateurs can find a way to wreck things way above their punching weight. That’s why you need experience. There’s no substitute for it,” Beacon said.

“You mean like the Battle of Seattle? That kind of experience?” Cho asked. Beacon smiled a thin smile.

“I see there’s no persuading you.”

“It’s this or nothing. I don’t care if the National Guard and Air Force One and all the goddamn super squads the military has to offer come rolling in. No more superheroes.”

“Very well. In that case, you better get working on your speech,” Beacon said.

“What speech?” Cho asked.

“The one you’re to give later today.”

“What am I supposed to say?”

“The people want answers. Give them answers,” Beacon said.


“People want to hear that everything is going to be okay. They want to know that there are people in charge and they’re working on making things better. Even if you don’t have anything to say on the Cosmo or your tepid response to the Cape Violence perpetrated against the City Hall protestors and the Winter Hills rioters, you can still have good news to share. After all, nature abhors a vacuum, and people will fill the gaps with their own narratives if given the chance. So don’t give them more of a chance then they already have.”

“I’m not much of a speech writer,” Cho said.

“No speech writers on staff?” Beacon asked.

“Yeah, but, they all quit.”

“I see. I’m something of a speech writer myself. I could whip something up for you, if you’d be so inclined.”

“Buddy, I’m a fucking mountain I’m so inclined,” Cho replied.

“Excellent. I’ll check in later.”

Cho retreated to his office, sat back in his chair and let the life drain out of him. He needed another stiff drink, but he’d already gone through Peterson’s private stash. There had to be more hiding in here somewhere, he hoped as he rummaged through his desk drawers.

That’s when he noticed the small envelope sitting next to his computer. He wondered who’d left it. It didn’t look like interoffice mail. He picked up the envelope and turned it over. Blank. There something in it, though. He could feel it through the paper. Not thinking much of it, he decided to open it. A fat black thumb drive fell out of it onto his desk. Plug Me In was written on it a sticky note taped to its side in black ink. What the actual fuck, Cho thought to himself.



2 responses to “Nobody and the Spider (14)”

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