Masks 21: Part 12

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Part Twelve

The police, naturally, wanted a full report. All of them. The local county cops had arrived first and claimed priority. Then the state police shortly after, with their super capture vehicle, and claimed priority. As the ambulances were leaving - those bright lights of theirs throwing bizarre moving shadows as the maneuvered - four groups of feds arrived, though only two sets of them were part of an actual law enforcement organization. All of them claimed priority. Oddly, only one of these groups - of non-LEO feds - wanted to make any sort of immediate, substantive release to the press. Blue Impact and Sircada insisted there only be one on-scene statement to law enforcement by the supers, given to representatives of all those agencies at the same time. More details could be acquired at the headquarters of The FX later. Getting agreement from all those government agencies on scene was not difficult; there was still a lot to do there, much of which needed doing soon.

"It's getting downright crowded, here," muttered Gadgetive, as Blue Impact told the others the plan. "Do we really need to stick around? It's getting towards dawn. You had a nice nap before this started, but I'm up hours past my bedtime with no coffee."

"Yes," said Blue Impact. "We really need to stay, including you. If for no other reason, you'll have to explain to the people the company behind this facility send here what Stone did to it. They should arrive shortly. You'll need to work with them to make sure everything is safe."

"You have had three energy drinks in the last three hours, Gadge," said Energia, rolling her eyes.

"Those aren't coffee!"

One topic needed little discussion; the LEOs and supers agreed to wait for the TV news crews - more had arrived just as last of the ambulances was on the way out, actually getting in the way of one of the federal government vehicles as it also arrived - to leave before starting the on-scene debriefing. Soon, though, Sircada and Blue Impact were able to lead the various cops and non-LEO feds to the easiest cavern entrance. This was down the ladder at the tower.

While that was going on, the technical experts from the parent company arrived. They and Gadgetive had a hurried and intense conversation about the tower and the alterations Stone had made. Then she showed them what he had done to their equipment. The underground portions of Stone's setup were off limits to them, since that was not part of their original operation.

* * *

"I'm getting hungry again," said Vic, conversationally, as she and Energia sat on the rear ramp of Tricorne's large apergy flyer. "Did I mention that I had to heal two badly broken legs on an empty stomach?"

"We shouldn't be much longer," said Energia. "Yeah, I see Gadgetive on her way back, now."

Fortunately, she was right. There was still a lot of evidence to gather, but for now the authorities and company techs were through with Vic, Tricorne and The FX.

"Great," said Posey, as the two teams and Vic gathered at the flyer. "One more on the flight back."

"I'll go ahead on my own, this time," said Energia. "You can also put someone up front in my seat, to make it even less crowded."

"Wait," said Posey, outraged, as she finally got a good look through the canopy of the flyer. "There's four seats up front?!"

"Oh, yeah," said Gadgetive, smirking, turning and walking into the vehicle.

* * *

Later that afternoon, Energia, Vic and Michelle were eating in a sandwich shop across the street from the rear of the Fox building. Actually, Vic was doing most of the eating, while the other two women looked on, amused. This was her third large meal since her rescue. The staff and other customers might have gotten used to seeing members of The FX and their guests eating there in costume, but this was something a bit outside their experience.

"Well, I can't blame someone for wanting mates like you," said Michelle, just glad her love had been safely rescued and was in full recovery mode. "I'm also very happy I'm the only one who actually does have you. Maybe it's greedy of me, but I want you all to myself!"

"I can't blame Stone for not wanting to feel alone," said Energia, quietly. "Though I definitely disagree with how he tried to alleviate that situation."

Vic made some muffled noises.

"Don't talk with your mouth full, dear."

Energia giggled. A bit sleepily; they were all still short on sleep, despite getting a few hours after their return from the tower.

"I was just apologizing for us missing most of our vacation," Vic said, after a heroic swallow. She sighed and put an arm around Michelle's shoulder for a brief hug. "Sorry. I did warn you about the life of a superhero."

"That you did. I love you and still want to be with you."

Energia smiled as they hugged more equally, but deep inside felt a pang of absence.

* * *

Far too few people consider - or are even aware of - the cleanup problems typically involved in super matters. Even those where there is no combat. There was a major bureaucratic battle occurring among different governmental entities about who had jurisdiction over the crimes. Especially concerning who got custody of Stone's equipment. Even the company funding the research was making a claim for that. About the only thing they all agreed on was that no supers should be involved in these negotiations. Something Brade and the Bureau of Special Resources were contesting. Still, as consolation, contacts in various agencies were keeping The FX informed of their progress in the case.

"Among other finds, they discovered a previously unexplored branch of the Subterran tunnels, with a vintage transport waiting at the terminus," said Ma. "We think Stone was using that to access the caves under the facility."

Summer was nearly over. The FX was hosting only a few more panels before Tricorne and Vic had to get back to school. All those present at the analysis of the activities of the past three months agreed on two things: This needed to be done again - possibly with arrangements for educational credit from various schools - and they desperately needed to revise what was taught.

As the meeting wound down, though, the mood became much lighter.

"We definitely need a panel on improvising a disguise when caught without a costume," said Energia, deliberately not looking at Vic.

"Given a choice," said Posey, innocently, "if caught naked, what article of clothing would you grab first before going into action?"

"Mask," said Salamander, whom they already suspected of having an exhibitionistic streak.

"Skip everything and go straight to work," said Blue Impact. "Just keep moving as fast as you can so - hopefully - no-one can see any details."

"Ditto," said Popcorn Dash, nodding sagely.

"That's fine for you super fast ones," said Isarda. "What about the rest of us?"

"Oh, I agree with teach," said Energia, smirking. "Except instead of moving fast I'd just tune my plasma wall to block anyone's view."

"Grab a pair of panties but pull them over my head," said Tone, also smirking. "People will be too distracted wondering about that to note any details."

"I have a public ID and not much to show," said Gadgetive, shrugging. "Grab a weapon."

"Well, as the only one here - I hope; I wouldn't wish that situation on anyone - who has actually had to make a choice of that type," said Vic, dryly, "I'd grab a long t-shirt and pray I could hold the bottom closed."

"*Ahem!*" said Ma. "All right, this is actually a serious subject, though about a situation unlikely to come up often. Yes, if we do this again next Summer, let's consider a panel on improvised costumes.

"By the way," she continued, as she suddenly remembered something. "Did you hear that they were able to pin the geology museum curator's murder on Stone? As well as the murders of the people at the Anomaly facility."

"More good news," said Blue Impact, "if about a couple of bad situations. Though what do consecutive life sentences mean to someone who's already over forty thousand years old?"

"One final complication," said Ma, with a mixture or tiredness and sadness. "Only a few of those Stone altered in his experiments have expressed any distress whatsoever about their transformations. Even those he changed from male to female. The last half-dozen are actually now low-level superhumans, with regeneration. We figure he changed those after scanning Vic. However, he appears to have perfected the obedience implant before anything else. All his victims are likely to remain compliant to Stone for the rest of their lives."

* * *

"Oh. My. God," said Blue Impact, that evening, as she read something in the paper. "They did it. The stupid bastards actually did it."

"What happened to watching out for bad language?" said Gadgetive, smirking.

"What's the matter?" asked Energia, concerned.

"They passed the non-aerodynamic flying bill."

"The which?" said Vic, confused, from where she sat in a recliner, petting Beefeater.

"They didn't," said Gadgetive, who appeared about to do some swearing of her own.

"It's a bit of state legislation which is supposed to be a drone control bill," said Blue Impact, reading through the long message. "They repeatedly sent it back to committee when people kept pointing out serious problems with it. The first version, for example, would have required all vertical lift devices flying over a populated area to stay under an altitude of fifty feet. The legislature finally settled on wording which doesn't actually affect helicopters or drones, but does regulate all super flyers and a lot of our vehicles. Without specifically mentioning them."

"Yeah, the FAA told them, in no uncertain terms, that the first version would not be allowed to stand, since it banned all helicopter flights," said Gadgetive. "That included medevac helicopters, with no exemptions offered or even considered. So after all that work, they came up with a version which only affects supers! Which may have been their goal all along..."

"So I have to fly under fifty feet?!" said Energia, outraged.

"It won't stand, of course, like Gadgetive said about the first version," said the attorney, flatly. "For one thing, it's not enforceable. How would a traffic cop seeing you fly overhead give you the ticket? Or prove you were too high? What if you were stopping someone leaping from a fifty story roof? Unfortunately, unless a judge orders a hold or until a court overturns the new law, there's likely to be a lot of harassment of flyers and teams with certain types of vehicles."

"Including us," said Gadgetive. She smirked. "I'm really glad we have stealth equipment."

"Yes, but don't say anything about that," said Blue Impact. "Not even to The FX."

"They know your flyer has stealth capability," said Vic, confused.

"Yes, but only because of a brief observation as they exited at the Anomaly facility, and that was at night. As long as they don't really know, if someone asks they have plausible deniability."

"Well, we only have a couple more days of panels," said Energia, yawning and stretching. "Then it's back to school for all of us."

"I'm actually looking forward to getting back to Pine Island and teaching teenagers again," said Blue Impact. "At least with them I know why they don't know anything. Though, like far too many of the adults, most think they know everything."

* * *

One of the last classes was on how to register a mask name and costume. Blue Impact saved this until the final day because she knew many people would be dropping out over the course of the Summer, and the complicated class would be smaller - and easier - then. Unfortunately, she hadn't realized ahead of time that there were many supers in the area who would only be interested in this class. It was packed, and ran overtime.

The final super to leave once the class was finally dismissed was actually already registered, which was why she waited. However, her problem was with the registration process she had already been through.

"I have electrical powers, y'know, and kind'a figured I'd have problems with the name I picked because it's pretty obvious but it went through fine, which surprised me, because I figured someone would have used it before now. Then I find out I misspelled it on the form even though I spell checked it, and they won't let me change it, 'cause they say it's a properly spelled word and it's not profanity or anything and even though it doesn't describe my powers I can't change it unless I pay the fee to register again! That's crazy!"

"Lightening Girl, isn't it?" said Blue Impact, completely without sympathy but managing to maintain a professionally neutral demeanor. "Well, here's a piece of advice. For legal documents, proofread carefully."

"I did! I did! And my spelling checker said it was right! How was I supposed to know that the word I used wasn't the word I thought it was, it's not my fault."

"Uh, yes," said Blue Impact, confused. "You filled out the form. So it's your fault."

"Well, aren't you gonna fix it?"

"How can I correct the problem?"

"You work for 'em!"

"No, I don't," said Blue Impact, flatly. "I'm just telling people how to register with them. I don't have an affiliation with the registrars."

"But you work for 'em!"

"No, I don't. There is no affiliation."

"But you work for them!!"

Blue Impact decided the woman didn't understand what "affiliation" meant, either. She gathered her stuff, said a quick goodbye and hurried away. The young woman stayed where she was but kept whining that it wasn't her fault that she'd used a word that wasn't the one she thought it was and why would they even have a word like that which was so close to a real word, and...

"God spare me from the ignorant but self-important," groaned Blue Impact, later at the lair. Unusually, she had her shoes off and her feet propped up.

"I tell ya," said Vic, slumped bonelessly on the couch. "I never realized how hard a job teaching was. You have my apologies and newfound respect."

"Thank you."

"I heard you dropped the harassment suit against Arlen," said Energia, as she entered the big room from the kitchen.

"Yeah. He, Blue Impact, Tone and I had a long talk with him. Which was a follow-up to a long talk he had with Tone and her other brother and their father. He genuinely seems to realize he's screwed up and wants to reform. Well, we'll see. I'm counting on Tone and her dad to keep an eye on him."

Vic grinned.

"I think it helped that someone told Arlen I have supernatural abilities, to explain how I was able to beat him so easily," she said. "After that lecture by Lieutenant McCorsky he didn't want anything to do with the supernatural.

"Oh; you remember that guy asking about how Pine Island deals with problem students, that first lecture?"

"Yeah?" said Energia, puzzled.

"That was Arlen's older brother, Malcolm. He takes after their mother in appearance, like Tone does. She explained all this to me after I saw him talking to her this morning. He got some low-level powers, himself, but went into real estate."

"So he was looking for advice on how to handle his brother," said Blue Impact, nodding. "Well, whatever they did, it seems to be working. Let's just hope it sticks."



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