Fun fact– I totally put off coming up with Kirin’s hero name up until today.
Chapter Thirteen — New Order
Upon arriving back home, Russ received a message on his business phone. Pulling back for now. –Kringle.
Russ didn’t understand his meaning until he realized Ray had gotten the same message– in fact everyone in the Macro Corp. had. Ray pitched his phone hard against the wall, shattering it to bits. No small feat considering the crappy retail version could endure a tank tread.
He messaged Kringle back and got an ‘invalid address’ error. It was official. The feds wrote them off.
“Hey, relax. We just need to catch Negator, then everything will be fine.”
Ray turned, glaring at him. “Call a meeting. We can see how ‘fine’ everything is.”
Russ flinched. It might have been a poor choice of words, but it was his way. When things got ugly, he poured on the sunshine. That’s what good advisors and friends did. He sighed and sent out the message. Meeting room, five minutes.
Russ peeled off his mask, arriving in the planning room. Ray clicked on the main monitor and turned to channel six. As expected, the incident was on the news. The headline staggered him. “Macro Corp. Heroes or Terrors?”
Out of sheer instinct, Russ fired up Tweetspace, thumbing a message. Told you so. Tune in to Channel Six for details. He felt filthy the instant he hit the send button, but he had to keep up masks.
“How is it we can stop a ten ton giant made of stone, yet we can’t stop this?” Ray slammed a hand on the table. A crack crept through the surface.
Russ swallowed back a lump in his throat. “It’s obviously on purpose. Negator can’t beat us straight, so he’s being underhanded. More reason we need to catch him and show everyone we’re not–”
“Dangerous?” Ray said, scowling. “We are dangerous. If we weren’t this wouldn’t be an issue.”
“Ray, don’t say that. It’s buying into his game. Everything we do is for a good cause.”
“Is it? You were quick to accuse Kari of being guilty. Maybe you understand things a little too well.”
“Hey.” Russ scrunched up his nose. “I never said I accused her. I just wanted to know for… hypothetical reasons.”
“Well next time, keep your hypothetical reasons to yourself.”
The rest of the Corp. filed into the room. They took their places aiming cautious glances at the main monitor.
Ray muted it when everyone sat. “So I have some bad news. As of today we’re calling off the investigation after John Seiser.”
The group broke into disorderly whispers. It took Russ a moment to process the words. “What?” Russ stood. “That’s a terrible idea.”
“It’s the only idea. What we’re doing is highly illegal without government support.”
“Illegal? You’re worried about that now? Perjury is illegal too.”
Ray clenched his jaw. “That is a completely unrelated issue.”
“No, it’s really not,” Russ said. “You blow this off and people will get hurt.”
“People already got hurt,” Ray said. “This is not up for discussion. We are not moving a muscle until we are requested to move. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” Kari said. He leaned back in her chair, smirking. “Looks like it’s time for a little vacation.”
“You can’t be serious,” Samantha said. “You’re going to let Negator go free?”
“Nope. I’m just biding my time. I’m gonna enjoy killing that bastard as soon as I get permission. Which I will, eventually. I have no problems waiting for some satisfaction.”
“I hate to admit it,” Joyce said. “Ray is right. Our hands are tied, so all we can do is bide our time. There’s a few things we can do in the mean time. We should put our focus on finding a cure.”
Russ relaxed a bit. Joyce was right. They didn’t need to raid the city with guns blazing to make progress. The appointment with Phinneas had the chance to grant him some leads.
“I need you all to trust me,” Ray said. “I’m not giving up, I just know a losing battle when I see one. We can’t let Negator goad us into a fight by his rules.”
Judging from the looks on their faces, some of the Corp. disagreed. I need to use this.
Most of the Corp. stood and moved to leave. Russ hung around, noting the hesitation of a select few. Ray offered one final glare before leaving the room.
Ray left the room with Jeb, Dave and Rusty close behind. Joyce lingered behind, offering an apologetic look before leaving as well.
“This. Is. Bullshit,” Matt said.
Russ nodded. “Yeah but what can we do?”
“Keep trying that’s what. What the hell is dad thinking? Pulling support just cause a couple of people got hurt?”
Kirin squirmed. “But Ray said…”
“Man, Ray is just being a leader. I don’t blame him. That’s why we gotta do this.”
Russ perked at that. “What are you suggesting?”
“Sam and Kirin can find a way to stop him and we’ll set the trap. We don’t need the others to do this. It’s not like we need to beat people up to keep this going.”
“I’m down,” Sam said.
“Same,” Jay said.
Russ grinned, glancing over to Kirin. “As long as we keep this a secret from the Boss, I’m all for it. I’ll even take the blame when it comes out. I mean I’m already the bad guy.”
“Right,” Matt said. “In the mean time I’ll give dad hell for being a wimp.”
“So, uh, Sam.” Russ cleared his throat. “You think you and Kirin could set aside your differences for the sake of kicking Negaturd’s butt? I think the best bet if for you two to work together.”
Kirin sighed. “I guess… I have been a little unfair.”
“I think it’ll help if we give you a hero name,” Russ said. “It’s time to show Ray how useful you are. And this way we don’t have to put up with terrible name suggestions like Leaflet.”
“Oh! I like that one. It’s– ”
“Not happening,” Russ said.
“Might I make a suggestion?” Samantha said.
“How about Freda?”
“What’s that mean?”
“It comes from Erzulie Freda Dahomey,” Sam said. “She is a goddess of beauty, flowers and luxury. She is a respected loa and Kirin’s vibrant love of life pays fine respect to her.”
Kirin flushed pink. “Y-you think so?”
Samantha nodded. “I don’t typically think highly of forest spirits, they’re more often than not mischievous and cruel, but you are a stark exception.”
“I think it’s great,” Russ said. “Vuhdis and Freda will find a way to undo the damage Negator caused, Bandit and Indifferent Boy will poke around downtown, out of costume of course.”
Matt quirked a brow. “What about you?”
“I have an appointment with someone interested in the website. He says he has proof Kari’s evidence was faked. Considering the circumstances, it would be really bad if that came to light.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
The Macro Corp. was still in business, even if the world didn’t want it to be. Perhaps it was the hallmark of being a real hero, doing what’s right even when it isn’t the safest thing to do.
Russ watched them leave and sent Phinneas a text message. Given the circumstances, I think we should meet tonight.
He waited, staring at his phone with palpable impatience. In only a few seconds he got a response. I agree. Meet me at the stadium in two hours– home side gate.
Russ slipped his phone in his pocket. Plenty of time to get a bite to eat and start the ball rolling towards putting everything back the way it should be. He changed out of his uniform before hurrying back up to the main hall. Ray and Joyce’s shouting echoed down the stairs. When he surfaced, they turned to him, scowling.
“Uh, am I interrupting something?”
“No.” They said in unison. Sometimes they had twin moments.
“Well uh, I have an appointment with that Phinneas guy. I need to keep up the act even if the Macro Corp. isn’t a thing.”
Ray exhaled nosily. “I agree with you, in that at least. Let me know if you find anything out.”
“Of course,” Russ said, smiling. “I’m pissed about this, sure, but I’m not gonna forget who’s my best friend.”
“Thanks.” For the record, it didn’t really sound like a thank you.
Russ left to the garage. He had a pretty good idea what the argument was about. Joyce was no fan of Kari, and likely nagged at Ray to avoid using the time ‘off’ as an excuse to spend a lot of time with her. They were the words of a concerned sister.
Matt and Jay chatted in the garage, giving Russ a sly nod. They were smart enough to hold off on going downtown. The last thing they wanted to do was make it obvious they were defying Mac. Everything was going according to plan, for now.
Russ stepped into his Cooper and sped off towards the city. At the very least he earned an hour of gorging on good Cajun all-you-can-eat.