The morning after…was anything but pretty. I was rockin’ the sex-hair bed-head like I spent the last three days partying with Kid Rock only to spend the morning with Disturbed. Y’know, there’s no good music anymore. I really only listen to the “oldies” but what’s that say about me? I think all the members of Disturbed are dead now and Kid Rock is in cryo until they cure cancer. Or at least that’s what I heard. Linkin’ Park organized a mass suicide in protest of the anti-vegetarian laws. It’s like…all the good stuff happened way before I was born. That’s just not as depressing as it should be.
So I was on my way out to follow-up on a few leads I had generated in last night’s late-night net-diving frenzy when Spirit intercepted me.
“Hazel, a word before you go? I couldn’t help but notice a lot of net activity from you last night. Why were you researching divers and underwater salvage companies? Do you intend to do some sort of salvage operation on the wreckage of the ship? Do you really think that’s wise?”
Well today’s the day that the news will surface…or should at any rate. The SS Crescent Moon was supposed to be arriving at the Archipelago. Last night and this morning there was nothing unusual in the news.
Vigilance Voice," HAZEL! We Sunk It For A Reason!!!!!"
Hazel smoothly replies, “If that reason was to implicate the Tomorrow Legion by leaving 12 eye-witnesses alive and a super villain in a public hospital who can positively identify us…then point taken.” She raised an eyebrow at the interruption.
Hazel looked miffed. “Net activity? Really, Matt? You’re scoping my packets? First and foremost, I have nothing to hide. Research — it’s what I do. Here, I’ll demystify: Last night I delved deeply into the off-band news channels in the deep web. If anything was amiss or anything had been reported it’d have popped up there first. The INSTANT a major loss — $10M or more is reported to an insurance company it makes all kinds of waves. What we’re talking about here — alien technology or ultra-high tech international smuggling shit — rough guesses estimate a loss of more than 10x that — over $100M. That’s not mugging someone at gun-point and taking their lunch-money. Retaliation on that scale is like going to war. Get me? Secondly, what I do — how I act — it’s in the best interest of both the Tomorrow Legion and the people of Century Station. When those actions require approval or consultation you’re the first person I address. If you’re going to call me out on that in front of everyone then I’ll assume your preference is to make this entire discussion public.”
Addressing the entire Legion, Hazel puffs herself up to her full 5’6" height and begins, “Guys, last night we did something incredible. We accomplished something that I never would have thought possible. Hell! Iron Mike probably never would have thought it possible…not from us.” She cringed. "Guys, it’s still very fresh in our memories. The “incident” isn’t even on the news yet — that’s how “young” this thing is. We have no idea what the backlash is going to be. And, with the tools and resources at my fingertips — last night, while the Tomorrow Legion licked its wounds — Hazel pulled an all-night to ensure the INSTANT news broke that we’d be prepared to respond. Hazel, that’s right fellas, the little girl — the WITCH — she sleeps with one-eye-open for us all." Her red hair is frazzled and Hazel holds a hand out to Virgil’s solid arm to steady herself. She looks a little woozy…or over-tired. “The Tomorrow Legion just became more than a thorn in the big dog’s side. We just put our rag-tag motley crue super-hero club ON THE MAP. We just bought ourselves a big ol’ target — and some serious street cred and reputation.”
She stopped for a minute, looks at the floor, then looks around the room at the Tomorrow Legionnaires. “And…I’m scared.”
She let that sink in for a bit. Small tears welled up in her big eyes and she wiped at them, smudging her already haggard eye-shadow.
“You guys mean the world to me. This team — all of us — we risked it big and won even bigger. You guys are like…like, I dunno — my new family. I fit in better here…I like it better here than with my own family. I know you’re all adults and you knew the risks before signing up. I just. I dunno. I’d hate to see something bad happen…and know that I could have done something about it. I can’t rest until I’ve exhausted all the possibilities and all the leads and all the potential pitfalls. That’s just who I am. If it takes another few pizzas and a couple cases of Rockstars then I’m gonna surf the deep web and cover all my bases and make sure The Tomorrow Legion is ready for what comes. Because I firmly believe it isn’t a matter of whether or not the backlash…the retaliation…comes, but a matter of WHEN. We’ve got twelve scared mercs and one pissed off BEND-OVER-haul who got bent-the fuck-over-bawl. We accomplished our mission but I have to wonder…at what cost. Are we prepared to have the proverbial eye of big crime in the city — not just Iron Mike — but the powers that be…scope us out because we’re on the radar.”
“Matt, to address your point: I was researching underwater salvage, divers, welders, and equipment because I’m thorough. That kind of specialized trade — it’s rare — even in a city as large as Century Station. There’s only three guys who can do it on the scale we’re talking and one of those guys is in the South Pacific doing a busted oil derrick for the last three months. That leaves two guys. I wanna know who contacts them, from where, how they’re dispatched, how they’re setup, and I wanna know everything that is said in those emails or phone conversations. I gotta be honest, Matt, Virge…I’m tryin’ to think like a BAD-GUY. That’s how we stay one-step ahead and don’t get caught with our dicks…well, your dicks, in your hands. I…um, don’t seem to have that problem. Not that it would matter as I’m the only FUCKING ONE who didn’t put her face in everyone’s memory banks! Next time we shouldn’t even attempt stealth unless the team is equipped to execute it. Things worked out…this time. But if we had tried a full-frontal assault down at the docks with that crazy assassin bitch who tried to convert Diane to the Dark Side and who knows how things would have gone.”
“And, by the way, when those salvage guys return you better believe anything they pickup is gonna be at the top of my priority list. I wanna monitor their radios, their trucks, I wanna know exactly where that shit is going. Guys, I’m prepared for us to be ID’d by the mercs and Overbawl. I hope we’re ALL prepared for “someone” to claim that The Tomorrow Legion sunk a ship loaded with MEDICAL SUPPLIES that were desperately needed for the city’s poorest people who don’t have health insurance. I’m ready for the bad press. The public-relations nightmare. I’m ready for a fight — on our home turf or away. And I’m ready as fuck to face the public…to face Century Station…and show them how our heroism aborted a massive shipment of deadly high-tech weapons that would have turned these streets into a fucking WARZONE. Are we all ready for this? It’s coming. One way or another…it’s coming. Matt, the only contingency I’m not prepared for is the one where the incident stays un-reported, the wreckage goes unsalvaged, and everything gets swept under the rug in radio-silence. The lulling of TTL into a false sense of security — that’s what I’m not prepared for. But I know it could come. And I’m fucking scared."
Hazel plopped herself down, took a deep breath, and her eyes darted about for a half-empty can of HERO-COLA — she had been nursing it since breakfast. She slowly looked around the room and absently wondered, “shit, was I speaking Dragonese?”
Bogart stands up on a chair back and pipes up “A guy like Iron Mike is not going to wage a public war against you guys. His very nature is to live in the shadows. I also doubt he’s in business for revenge, but I will say his balance sheet is not adding up and he’s going to come looking to collect on the difference.”
He jumps down to the floor, “I don’t have that kind of dough. I’m out. Don’t call me.” Bogart flips a coin to Spirit and walks out.
Spirit catches the coin, looks at it in surprise, and palms it. He gives a slight, knowing nod to the detective as he leaves. He turns then to look at the other Tomorrow Legionnaires who have gathered, and sighs.
“I didn’t come down here to ‘call you out,’ Hazel,” Spirit says to her. “If you are investigating leads to help mitigate the situation then I’m not here to stop you.”
Vigilance watches with a sad face as Bogart makes his way towards the door. Pulls the bag of almonds from his pocket, takes one for himself, “Hey Bogart, take care buddy and keep in touch, catch”, and Vigilance tosses the bag over to Bogart.
Vigilance expression changes from sad to a stone face stare as he changes his focus to Hazel, “Lead the way.”
You don’t hear the almond hit the floor or see it anywhere if you look for it
“Sorry to see you go Bogart. You will be missed.” Hazel grimaced. “Verge, there’s no Leader at the head of a Round Table. I’ll do my part — the same as any other Legionnaire. I want what we all want: A safer, cleaner Century Station.”
There’s a small murmur of agreement from the others who are around – including Spirit.
Okay, so after things “settled” with Matt and Hazel’s public discussion, he and Hazel walk away to the Legion meeting room in order to have the private meeting that Hazel requested. VIgilance follows.
The meeting room is much larger than it needs to be, currently. It’s designed to accommodate at least 20 people comfortably with a large conference table, monitors on the far and side walls and the capability for a holographic display in the center of the table. None of that is being utilized at the moment, and it’s just Hazel, Vigilance, and Spirit in the room.
“All right Hazel,” Spirit says. “What did you want to discuss privately?”
“Matt, do you trust me? Have I ever acted in a manner contradictory to the well-being of Century Station or the safety and greater good of the Legion?”
“Verge, care to weigh in?”
“Of course not Hazel,” Spirit responds mildly. “But you also don’t normally seem so tired and…” He trails off for a moment, as if he’s searching for the right word. “…haggard. I can tell the last couple days were very stressful for you – especially you. You can’t blame me for showing some concern.”
“Matt, I don’t blame you for showing concern. In fact, to the contrary, I appreciate it. Look, I said my peace out there in front of the Legionnaires. I am genuinely concerned for everyone’s safety. Are we capable? Sure.”
He looks at Virgil, as if for confirmation, or maybe to hear what he has to say in response to Hazel’s invitation to him to speak.
Virgil," Hazel, I trust and believe you are thinking for the well-being of Century Station and also the good of the Legion.
That is not my question(s). My question is what is the best course of action to take? I have concerns looking for
“riggers” will put up white flags which we may already be past. Why would we want to raise what is left of the vessel? Between the nanites eating it from the inside out and then the explosion I am not sure there is anything left. I can see the concern about the mercenaries talking, but they were in free territory and defending the intrusion of their ship. I have a fear that the man in the hospital has already sent up a flag since I am certain their are informants placed there….."
Virgil pauses as if a new thought comes to mind, but refrains from speaking as he contemplates further thoughts.
“Verge, I can appreciate your concerns. We’re all concerned right now. The best course of action is going to be difficult to find. I think there are multiple courses of action that can be taken and the direction I’ve chosen risks almost nothing and potentially gains a LOT. Raise what is left of the vessel? Where did you get that idea? I told you — as I told the Legion — that I want to monitor these salvage operations and I want to know who’s calling them, who’s emailing them, what they find down there, who wants it back, where it’s going once its salvaged, where the money is coming from, which bank accounts, etc. If we can get Matt’s contact to corroborate more of this information then we’re already a step ahead.”
“Verge, the way I see it. The white flags are already there. And they’re hanging right above the Tomorrow Legion HQ. This one’s a foregone conclusion, buddy. We’re found. But, in my mind, that was never in question. Whether or not we can handle the repercussions of our actions IS. And Matt, here, seems to think we’re capable enough. And he condoned the mission. And he blessed our cause. And he’s had our backs from the start. So if he’s confident TTL is capable…then that’s good enough for me. For now…”
Spirit just says, “Well then, I better stop holding you up. It sounds like you have a lot planned: Phone taps, computer hacks and software to install, surveillance, shadowing, research…” He trails off. “Well, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just… try to pace yourself Hazel.”
He prepares to leave.
“Like you said and we all know, if we haven’t already drawn all this attention onto us then by tomorrow or the day after we will have. I do trust you guys, I did condone the mission – I was even right there with you guys. Just be careful, don’t do anything alone and watch each others backs.”
Hazel put a hand on his shoulder, tugging at him gently as he turned to leave. “Look, Boss, you’re right. I’m frazzled. How did you put it? Haggard? Yeah, I’m running ragged. I’ve been a little paranoid…reclusive (this is part of her insanity, just a reminder), and I really appreciate your concern.” It’s probably a little awkward but Hazel gives him a hug and lets go before it gets weird. She then turns around and punches Virgil on the arm. Let’s go stealth-suit Ninja master — I’m gonna need your help."
Virgil gives a brief smile and then goes back to serious. “Hazel, I want to pass an idea past you……..And I think Spirit may have been a just a little bit sarcastic regarding hacking, wire tapping, surveillance…….not that we are not going to do that….”
…to be continued!