SG: The League #2 (1/2)

Whistling in the Dark sabre at
Wed Nov 14 12:52:51 PST 2007

First Oaks, Kansas

      The sandy haired man settled in at the small diner. He was at
the table in the back corner. He had a laptop computer, and he wore
a bluetooth transceiver in his ear -- one of the ones that paired
with a cell phone. Which meant he was probably a trucker. More and
more truckers stopped at the diners and truck stops with their
computers, to grab their e-mail. And way more than most truckers had
the headsets. It made talking on the phone easier while on the
highway. He was late twenties, and wore wire frame glasses, jeans
and a red flannel shirt. In the city, he'd be a student. Out here?
Yeah, trucker was the best bet.
      He was the last thought on Amy's mind, though. Jake Morris and
his little posse had just come through the door.
      "Howdy, Jake," Amy said without enthusiasm. "What can I set you
up for?"
      Jake grinned. "You know what I want, Amy. Me and the boys,
we'll have the usual."
      "I know you owe me a hundred and ten dollars and sixty four
cents. While you and the *boys* take up a collection, I'll be glad
to pour you some coffee on the house."
      Jake's grin didn't waver. "You know better," he said. "We're
American heroes, Amy. Back from the war. I'm just glad you're so
supportive of everything me and the troops have sacrificed."
      Amy looked down her nose at Jake. "That's why you get some
coffee while you come up with your tab."
      Jake's eyes narrowed. And then he chuckled. "Or what, Amy?"
      "Or you don't get an egg out of me."
      Jake shrugged. "Seems to me business ain't so hot," he said.
"Between the five of us, I think we can make sure it's ice cold. Is
that what you want? Or do you just want to do your patriotic duty
and get us some breakfast like a *good* little girl?"
      Amy snorted. "I ain't ever been a good little girl, Jake."
      "I'm sure." The ex-Marine leaned in close. "So what's it going
to be? Or are you gonna call a cop?"
      Amy held his gaze. "With your uncle the Sheriff and your dad
the Town Manager? What cop am I supposed to call, huh?"
      Jake's smile grew. "Exactly. You know how I like my eggs, don't
      "You know," came a voice from the end of the breakfast counter,
"I'm pretty sure the woman said she wasn't going to make you
breakfast until you settled your tab."
      Amy blinked. So did Jake. They both turned.
      Amy had thought the only newcomer had been that trucker at the
corner table. This was someone else, sitting at the counter, nursing
coffee she vaguely remembered serving. He was brown haired, with
about two days of stubble on his face. He was handsome -- almost
magnetic. He wore a black turtleneck and jeans and what looked like
a leather trenchcoat or duster, open. He was absolutely relaxed.
      Amy had no idea how she'd managed to forget him before now.
      "Who the Hell are you?" Jake asked. Behind him,the other four
fell into a loose formation.
      "Oh, I'm just here for coffee," the stranger said. "That, and I
heard a pack of punks were terrorizing some of the local
businesses." He took a sip from the cup. "Damn shame, that. Seems
like someone should do something about it."
      Jake snorted. "That someone supposed to be you?"
      The stranger shrugged. "Unless you all want to settle your
      "You know," one of the others said, "you might want to adjust
your tone, boy. We're United States Marines."
      The stranger snickered."No you're not."
      There was a moment's silence.
      "What did you say?" Jake asked coolly.
      "I said that not a one of you is a Marine." The stranger set
his coffee down, and stepped away from the counter. "I know you guys
are liars and bullies, but are you also stupid?"
      Amy jumped out of the way as the five surged forward like one
furious wave.
      The stranger didn't seem overly concerned. He ducked under the
punch of the first and fluidly sidestepped the second's attack.
"Point of order," he said as he slid down, around and into a tornado
kick that threw the third twelve feet into the wall. "Jacob Anthony
Morris, following a lackluster but ultimately successful Boot Camp
at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, was deployed along with his
unit to Iraq, where they were sent to a forward position." He darted
back, driving his elbow into one of their stomachs before whirling
and dropping all his weight onto that elbow right in the center of
his back, taking him to the floor. "There, the fortunes of war and
bad luck led to the loss of his commanding officer and his top
sergeant. A terrible state for any unit, leaving Private Morris's
squad without the benefit of leadership or enforced discipline."
      "Who the Hell *are* you?" Jake demanded, swinging and missing
      The stranger threw himself forward to the wall, doing a smooth
somersault. He hit the wall feet first and turned it into a hard
kickoff, flying over the group and bringing the fifth down into a
bulldog. There was an unhappy popping sound which suggested the
fifth wouldn't be playing foosball anytime soon. "Now, most squads
would call in their situation, form in, protect each other and try
to survive. That's what they're trained to do. But not your squad,
Jake. No no. You decided this meant that your little village was
your own playground until the Marines got around to relieving you.
Who'd know the difference? They were just ragheads and terrorists
anyway. Who would care?" He rolled, coming up and kicking up a chair
which he balanced with his hand. As two came in on either side, he
blocked and parried, moving his body and the chair like he were
dancing, the chair a cane -- the legs fouling their attacks and the
back of the chair taking one and then the other down. Sadly, the
chair broke with the force of the second but it gave its life to a
good cause.
      "You're dead!" Jake shouted, grabbing out the hunting knife he
wore. Which was probably prudent since he was out of friends.
      "Only as it turns out, the Marines *care.*" He moved fluidly,
letting Jake slash and then stab with the knife, staying out of its
reach, a small smile on his face. "They care  about honor. They care
about tradition. They care so much about faith they made it their
motto, and they caught you Jake." He jumped up, a dead leap over
Jake's head with a stuck landing, kicking the ex-Marine in the ass
and knocking him forward. "And they *caught* you. You and your
cronies. You got bad conduct and dishonorable discharges and you
would have seen jail time if it weren't for technicalities."
      "You son of a bitch," Jake said, pushing up, knife at the
      The stranger moved, hands almost too fast to be seen. He wasn't
playing any more. He struck like a surgeon, hitting exactly the
right pressure points and nerve clusters to send ungodly pain
through the younger man, even as he felt his arm go numb and the
knife clatter out of it. "You thought you could just set up shop
here," he said, not smiling any more. "Your dad was the mayor, your
uncle was the Sheriff and this place was in the middle of nowhere.
Leave the corporate farmers alone and who'd stop you from living a
soft life? You *deserved* it. You were a Marine and a *hero,*
      And then the stranger hit him six times. Striking like a
jackhammer. The pains blended into a symphony of agony, even as the
tough dropped to his knees.
      "You don't get to call yourself a Marine," the Stranger said,
leaning close and looking in Jake's eyes. "They cast you out, and
struck your name from the rolls, and any *real* Marine would kick
your ass just for *presuming* to use their name. Do you hear me?
It's *over,* Jake. No more bullying. No more attitude. No. More.
Free. *Lunch.*"
      "What's going on here?"
      The stranger turned, and smiled. "Afternoon, Sheriff," he said.
"Just pitching in. Doing my bit for community service."
      The Sheriff looked at Jake, then looked at the stranger. "Looks
to me like assault," he said. "Looks to me like someone needs to
learn a lesson."
      "I couldn't agree more, on either count," the stranger said,
grinning broadly. "He and his cronies swung first, after threatening
this woman. You want to arrest them, I'll gladly sign a statement."
      "You don't understand," the Sheriff said. "I'm going to arrest
      The stranger chuckled. "Well, you can try."
      "Is that a threat?"
      "Not hardly. See that man back there?" He gestured to the sandy
haired man in the corner. The one Amy figured was a trucker.
      The Sheriff glanced. The man waved.
      The Sheriff turned back. "Yeah?"
      "That's my brother. And he's got himself a video camera. We
videotaped the entire fight. And he just uploaded it to the
internet." The stranger shrugged. "The wonders of the Verizon
broadband card, huh?"
      The Sheriff frowned. "Is that supposed to mean something to
      "Probably not. But stop and consider for a second." The
stranger leaned closer to the Sheriff. "If you arrest me, after I
stepped in to protect a woman and her business, and after they
attacked me *first?* I'll have all the evidence in the world for a
wrongful arrest lawsuit. We'll also have plenty of evidence for a
state investigation into local corruption. And that will lead to
every petty crime your nephew and his little friends have committed
coming out, probably a class action lawsuit against you and your
brother for allowing it to happen, and maybe even jail time for
*you.*" The stranger folded his arms. "Am I under arrest, Sheriff?"
      "Uncle Todd," Jake started to say.
      "Shut up, Jake." The Sheriff's mouth worked. "What do you
      "Well, for one thing these boys owe this nice woman a hundred
and ten dollars and sixty four cents. That should be settled."
      The Sheriff took out his wallet and pulled out two hundred
dollar bills. He held them to Amy. "Keep the change," he said.
      "Thank you, Sheriff," she said, accepting the money.
      "By rights I should insist on them being arrested, but you know
-- I don't see any reason to go there, do you?"
      "Not so much," the Sheriff said.
      "They'll need to make restitution all over town, of course."
      "I'll see that they do," the Sheriff said, his voice tight.
      "And see that they're good little boys from now on?"
      The Sheriff bit his lip. "I guarantee it."
      "I'm glad to hear that. Though you understand if I need to make
sure? I mean, my brother and I are skipping town."
      "What do you mean?" The Sheriff put his hands on his hips,
frowning. There was clearly only so far he was willing to go.
      "Well, I'm going to give the proprietor of this establishment a
phone number of a friend of mine. He's a Sergeant Major, attached to
the Marine Corps detachment at Fort Leonard Wood -- not too far from
here." The stranger's smile grew a touch. "I chatted with him about
your nephew. Made him see red. He wanted to bring a few of *his*
friends over on a weekend pass, maybe discuss a little Esprit de
Corps with these wayward sheep. I told him I'd take care of it." He
glanced at Amy. "If it turns out I *didn't* take care of it, or if
anything happens to Amy or any of the other townsfolk, of course...
well, the thing about the real Marines? You don't want them mad at
you." He looked down at Jake, still on the floor. "Do we?"
      The trucker-like fellow -- the stranger's brother -- walked up
to Amy. His computer was in his backpack now. "We've got to get
going." He handed a card over. "Here's a couple of phone numbers.
Call the first one sometime today -- introduce yourself. You know,
to make sure the lines of communication are open and they can keep
an eye on you."
      "Sure," Amy said, a little stunned. "Who *are* you guys?"
      The sandy-haired brother shrugged. "Just doing what we can."
      "You're heroes."
      He laughed. "My brother's a hero. I work support." He handed
over a twenty. "That should cover my breakfast and his coffee."
      "You... I can't take your money...."
      "Sure you can." He handed the bill to her. "You just did. If
you'll excuse us, I think my brother's done doing the usual rants."
      Amy watched the brothers walk out the front door. The sandy
haired one said something she couldn't hear, and the stranger
laughed. She looked at the Sheriff, who was watching the pair.
      "Cup of coffee?" she asked the Sheriff, finally.
      He looked at her, clearly considering holding a grudge. And
then he shrugged. "Yeah. And a slice'a cherry pie. Not too early for
cherry pie, is it?"
      "Not too early at all. Want me to call an ambulance for your
nephew and his friends?"
      "Nah. Let 'em do their own thing. They're good at that, right?"
      Outside, the brothers were walking down the street at a good
clip. "Chrissy got the upload okay, Dan?" the one in the leather
duster asked.
      The sandy haired brother -- Dan, it would seem -- grinned.
"Yeah. She wants to know if there's any good local potato chips we
can pick up."
      "I swear she just gets...." his voice trailed off.
      "What is it?" Dan asked.
      "Eminence. Two hundred and nineteen dollars a bottle for the
mass market stuff. The *real* stuff is only available to close
confidants of Andrew Goodwin or Chalandra Harkness."
      Dan blinked, even as his brother turned.
      She stood ten feet away. Beautiful. In a blood red skirt and
coat, with a white blouse.
      "Rip Davis," she said with a slight smile.
      "Healer," he answered.
      "Not anymore. We need to talk."

                             THE LEAGUE
                             Episode 2
                            Eric A. Burns
                Just riding the groundswell, baby!

The Boston Waterfront

      Bill looked out over the water with his binoculars. "Yeah, I
see some," he muttered.
      "Where?" Bill asked.
      "One'a the islands. A pack of guys in blue armor, yellow logos?
Look like spiders?"
      "Those are the Tsuchigumo," Rob said. "Shock troops for
      "Why don't they send the army in to clear them off?"
      Rob snorted. "Because when the Lickmi invaded, they were
crucial in driving them up into the Somerville War Commercial
District. By the time they had the walls up and the direct invasion
contained, the Anansi were entrenched in the Boston Harbor Islands.
If you haven't noticed, crime is rampant in the streets of Boston
proper. You think anyone has the manpower to drive a full on militia
out of an ex National Park?
      "So they just gave them up? The Harbor Islands belong to the
      "More'r'less, yeah. Maybe after the war's over they'll send in
the Marines, but right now they're keeping quiet except when the
Licki try to break out of Somerville."
      "And then?"
      "They reinforce the troops."
      Bill snorted. "So they're not supervillains? They're a
      Rob shivered. "You hear any stories about that Atrax guy? Their
      Bill frowned. "Lotta horror schtick. They say he's married to a
dead chick and he eats people alive."
      "Yeah. They're villains. And they have a couple thousand acres
worth of fortified islands smack in the middle of Boston Harbor.
Even the League don't go out there to stop them."
      "So when the Lickmi are driven out?"
      "Guess who's comin' to dinner." Rob shivered. "C'mon. Let's get
into one of the restaurants. It's almost dusk, and that means one of
the gangs might catch us."
      "Are they really that bad?"
      "Oi! Looks like we gotta couple shrimps on the Barbie!"
      Bill and Rob froze. They turned slowly. There, in badly cut
red, blue and black suits, stood a number of men dressed like
Prohibition Era gangsters.
      "Oh crap in a hat," Rob said. "The O'Stereotype Mob."
      "The... what?" Bill asked. "That sounded like a bad Australian
      "Hey Senors," one of the (clearly Nordic) gangsters said,
adjusting his lapels and speaking with a badly exaggerated Mexican
accent straight out of fifties cartoons. "You maybe got some money
for us, maybe?"
      "Them heap big tourists. Got cash," a third, in a black suit
said. He looked about as American Indian as the average Caucasian
      "You... wait, this is... are you *mugging* us?" Bill asked.
      The last gangster adjusted his hat. He was actually Asian in
ancestry. "Ach," he said in an exaggerated Scottish accent. "Ye
dinnae knew how much y'pissin' us off. Gie us yer money!"
      "...I don't know what you're saying," Bill said. "I'm
desperately confused."
      The men all pulled out Thompson submachineguns.
      "Still confused?" Rob asked.
      "No," Bill said.
      "Good. Get your wallet out and maybe we won't get hurt."
      "Oh, you're not going to be hurt."
      That stopped everyone. It was a slightly amused voice from a
girl wearing a dark red cloak, hood over her head. She hadn't stood
out. Honestly, cloaked girls wandering around the Waterfront was
nothing new.
      "Oi! Someone wants'a barney!" the faux Australian shouted.
      "I thought 'barney' was Irish," Bill said.
      "Shut up," Rob said.
      "Is Aussie too, innit?" the Australian demanded.
      "I'm just saying, I thought that was Irish."
      "They're sensitive about Irish stereotypes," the woman said,
stepping to one side. Drawing the attention of the O'Stereotype mob.
"That could get them in trouble with their boss."
      "Squaw not heap talk about chief," the faux Indian said.
      "Wait," Bill said. "Are we supposed to find these guys
offensive? I mean, they sound like they're in bad community theater
or something."
      "Shut up," Rob said.
      "I'm not sure they know," the woman said. "But they're ready to
run along, don't you think?"
      "Hey, seniorita," the faux Mexican said. "You should maybe not
talk so much, I *theeeenk.*"
      The cloaked woman giggled. "This is your big chance to put your
guns away and leave, boys. I'd take it, if I were you."
      "I'm confused again," Bill said.
      "Shut up," Rob said.
      The gangsters turned. One by one they pulled the cocking rods
on their submachineguns. To everyone's relief, they didn't speak.
      The woman giggled, and threw the cloak back and off. It seemed
to evaporate, even as her body exploded into a cascade of fire.
Behind her, huge flaming wings unfurled, burning white hot, with
pinions of blue and red flame spreading out as she rose up, a
burning angel of retribution.
      "Haggis!" the faux Scot swore. "Tis Incandescence!"
      "Whoa," Bill said.
      "Shut up," Rob said. Though silently, he agreed.

(Continued in Part Two Following!)

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