Day three of NaNoWriMo. Just past 6,000 words so I’m off to a solid start. If I don’t have a chapter one of these days, I’ll chat about developmental stuff. –Enjoy
Chapter Three — Friends
After lunch, Russ made his way to the training room. Long winding staircases lead into a massive underground room, about a third the size of a football stadium. A large portion of said room housed the training devices they used to gauge their powers.
He spied Ray as he stepped inside, lining up a punch for a pressure plate. Russ strode in and settled a few steps beside him.
“Hey, Russ,” Ray said without turning.
“Working on your Psychic powers too, I see.”
Ray broke stance and faced Russ. This was Raymond Teller, A.K.A. Macro Man. He was seven feet of buff black dude, and even bigger in costume. He wore simple black muscle shirt and jeans, all things considered it was probably more intimidating than his ‘work clothes’.
“Not exactly, it’s a new trick I’ve been working on. If I focus on my surroundings I can feel people coming.”
“Right,” Ray said. “It’s hard to pull off though, might be wasting my time.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
“I saw the news, good job. It’s the right message to send.”
“Glad you approve, Boss. Can I stop being an asshole to my friends now?”
Ray lost his smile. “It bothers you, huh?”
“Yeah, but I’ll deal. I mean I see why we need it to happen. I just think I might be doing too good a job.” Russ tossed him his cell phone.
“Million members, huh?” Ray said, flipping through the details.
“Mostly your people, I might add.”
“Don’t start on that, Russ. Hometown security is important to everyone.”
“We’re superheroes, not terrorists. IF the feds treated us more like Navy Seals or Spec Ops, this wouldn’t be a problem. They seem more interested in the action figure deals.”
Ray chuckled. “For the record. The action figures were your idea. I’d guard those sales numbers though, JJ’d kill you if she realized how popular her Medica figures are with thirteen year old boys.”
Russ swallowed back a lump in his throat. “Yeah. Good call.”
“One more thing,” Ray said. “You might want to sit down.”
“Nothing you say surprises me anymore.”
“I’m adopting Kirin.”
“See. Told you. Sit.” Ray sat on a weight bench, patting the spot next to him.
Russ obliged, “So yeah, I must be going crazy cause you just said you’re adopting Kirin.”
“I am,” Ray said. “Spoke with Kringle about it at length. We need to strengthen her history. So we’re saying she’s a Scottish import, she’s enrolling in High School in the fall.
“What? She’s like… twenty.”
“She doesn’t know anything about the world. We can fudge her through high school as a senior but it won’t fly if she’s a college student. It’s just one year.”
“I object,” Russ said. “She’s not a damn kid.”
“I know. You know. We can hide her wings with current tech, it’s about a year out. It’s the best way we can do this. She’s fine with it. I’m fine with it,” Ray said. “Few weeks from now she’ll legally be Kirin Teller as my ward. It’s not too much of a stretch anyway, she doesn’t actually have a last name.”
“Ugh, I still don’t like this.”
“It’ll be fine. JJ told you about the Fundraiser right?”
“Yeah, tell David if he makes any corny puns while he’s me, I’ll hunt him down.”
Ray clapped a hand on his shoulder and grinned. “You can tell him yourself.”
After a slow day, running always calmed his nerves. He strapped on his training shoes, red ones with a white stripe down the middle– an in-joke no one in the mansion got– and ran for about an hour. He kept it slow through most of the set, a measly sixty miles per hour, but stepped it up to two hundred for the final five minutes.
Russ could perceive time and move faster independently, an interesting detail he learned from his time as a superhero. Of course, that came with risks, like running into walls or other stationary objects, but it removed the jarring sensation of the world slowing around him. Sometimes he just wanted to feel the speed; on a treadmill, he could do just that.
The exercise left him feeling refreshed and it put things in perspective. Life was dull when it played out exactly as expected. After all, he couldn’t run full speed and blind without the risk of falling flat on his face, why should life be any different.
But man, this is one hell of a trip and fall.
After a quick shower, he made his way back up to the main house. Excited chatter filled the foyer. Considering their security, it was no surprise who they could be.
“Hey guys,” Russ said.
All three turned to acknowledge him, and exchanged wary glances. Matthew Heiber, Jeremy Langen and Samantha Lavelle were veritable three Amigos of the Macro Corp. All of them were about the same age, early twenties– a few years younger than Russ.
Matthew was an unassuming guy, white-bread blonde-haired blue-eyed American like Russ. He could relate to him, despite the fact his dad was a big shot fed. He lacked that ‘dude-bro’ edge that infected most of the bar hopping types in New Orleans. His alter ego, Bandit, only benefitted from this low profile. “Hey, Russ, How’s the project coming along.”
“It’s coming. It’s pretty hard to bad mouth a great group like ours but that might change after the fundraiser tomorrow. You guys going to it?”
“Nah,” Matt said, shrugging. “We’re gonna hit the waterfront instead, there’s a concert at the same time. We checked in with Ray, he’s cool with it.”
Russ groaned. “Oh shit, Haberdash is in town. I completely forgot.”
“Tough break, thems the ropes when you’re second in charge.”
Jay watched the exchange quietly. He wasn’t much for words in general. Russ didn’t know too much about him, save for he was Matt’s friend and bodyguard. He had the same profile as Matt, but was olive-skinned with raven colored hair. Russ didn’t know his nationality, his dossier was covered with question marks. Jay’s alter ego, Indifferent Boy– try saying that with a straight face– might have won the award for stupidest sounding name, but he was undoubtedly the most powerful member of the Macro Corp.
Samantha spent the entire exchange glaring at Russ. Needless to say, she and him got off to a bad start. Samantha Lavelle was Kari’s little sister and brought some mysticism into the Macro Corp. She and her sister both carried the blood of the Voodoo legend Marie Laveau. Her alter ego, Vuhdis, tapped into the arts to aid them from supernatural threats.
“Oh Sam, I have a question for you. Kirin was going on about the Soul of the Forest or something. It seemed up your alley so–“
“Why didn’t she ask me herself?” Samantha said. “Probably not that important then.”
“Oh, I dunno. Maybe she’s just skittish about you. I mean it’s that hold white mage black mage thing.”
“You making a color crack?”
Russ flinched. “No, I meant dark arts and stuff.”
“Voodoo embraces the natural order. Nothing that fairy does is any ‘lighter’ than what I do. She needs something from me she can ask me her damn self.”
Samantha stormed off.
Matt sighed, rubbing his temples. “Seriously, dude. You know how she gets about that shit.”
“Sorry. Just trying to help the forest– or something.”
Matt went off to follow Sam. The front door clattered shut and Russ stood in the foyer, alone with Jay. Awkward silence chilled the air.
“So, uh,” Russ said. “Looking forward to the concert?”
“Yep,” Jay said.
“Well, I’m off to tell Kirin the bad news. Unless, I dunno, you can convince her to help anyway?”
Jay shrugged. “I can try.”
Russ moved to the stairs, even without looking he could feel Jay’s eyes on him. Once out of sight, Russ let out a defeated sigh. He couldn’t help but feel that social outcast vibe closing in.
“Russ?” Kirin peeked out the door to his room.
“So, did you talk to Samantha?”
“I did. She got mad cause I’m a jerk.”
“What? No. You’re a nice person.” Kirin hurried over to him, tugging on his shirt. “This is my fault isn’t it?”
“Nah. I should have known better. I dissed her magic or something. Probably shouldn’t have called it a dark art or whatever. Apparently resurrecting dead people is powered by sunshine and kittens.”
“Well to be fair, Voodoo is technically not a dark art. You can do bad things with any magic. Just… Voodoo is just easier than most to abuse.”
“Oh and I found out you’re gonna be Ray’s ward. That’s awesome news too.”
“I’m excited about it too,” Kirin said, nodding. “He asked me if it would be alright, I’m excited about learning more things about humans.”
Note to self. Kirin does not pick up sarcasm.
“You don’t think this is weird? I mean, Ray and I aren’t even much older than you. If you go through with this, he’ll be your dad.”
She folded her arms tapping a finger on her chin. “Um. I guess it’s a little weird.”
“I think it’s a terrible idea for a lot of reasons. Someone in the media is bound to try and turn Ray into some sick-o over this. Like someone would take in a cute little redhead as ward and try to sleep with her or something.”
“Forget I said anything. This is something I hope you take your time learning about. It’s the reason I have to talk bad about the Macro Corp. If I don’t someone else will.”
A bright flush of pink rose to her cheeks. “T-that’s not what I meant. Who was the cute red-head you were talking about Ray sleeping with?”
“You,” Russ said.
“I didn’t sleep with Ray!”
“Never said you did. I’m saying someone will assume this. People are messed up like that. It’ll be made worse by the fact Ray and Kari aren’t public. The truth won’t matter if a lie looks better on television.” Russ put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a winning smile. “Terrible idea or not, Ray’s got the best public relations guy in the Big Easy to convince everyone how great of young woman you are– and I don’t even need to lie.”
“Go on and ask Samantha about the forest thing, I’m sure she’ll help you.”
She nodded and hurried down the hall.
The theme from Speed Racer blared from his pocket. He scooped up his phone, saw Joyce’s number and answered. “You didn’t guard my sandwich. You’re dead to me.”
“Look, sorry,” she said. “I had to hurry over to the hospital. They got a surge of people coming in with major injuries.”
“Oh, in that case, I’ll forgive you. Only because you’re the most wonderful doctor I know.”
Joyce chuckled. “Flatterer.”
“You’re also the only doctor I know, but I digress. What’s with the surge of patients? Someone spill a bunch of banana peels on Bourbon Street?”
“No, these are all related to assault cases.”
“Huh? How many are we talking here?”
“At least two dozen. All within the hour.”
Russ hesitated. “Hold on, I think I heard you wrong. We haven’t had two dozen assault cases last month.”
“That’s why I’m here. I’ll send you details when I can get them. Ray’ll want to see them I’m sure. I can’t talk any longer, later Russ.”
“Later.” Burt she had already hung up.
Russ rolled his phone in his hand, puzzling over the new predicament. Better send out some people on patrols. This isn’t good.
He dialed out to Dave. If anyone could spot a weird occurrence, it’d be their tech guy David Hasen.
“Guten Abend, Russ.”
“Just feeling a bit ‘frank’ today.” Dave chuckled.
Russ didn’t. Dave’s puns were always deplorable.
“Anyway, what’s up? You only call me when you need something.”
“Yeah, assaults in the city are through the roof. Anything weird around here?”
“Assaults? Hmm… There was this signal I saw about Forty minutes ago.”
“You got a position? I can check it out.”
“Make it… fast,” Dave said. Russ could hear his grin. “Looks like it blinked out two minutes ago.”
“Leave it to me, forward the data Joyce just pinged me, show it to Ray. This might be the big break we’ve been looking for.”