SG: The League #2 (2/2)

Whistling in the Dark sabre at
Wed Nov 14 12:53:47 PST 2007

(Continued from Part One Immediately Preceding!)

      Doctor Tirkoff walked down the First Oaks street next to Rip.
Dan had made himself scarce. He could tell this was a private
      "I don't see why we couldn't have talked in that cafe," she
said. "They looked like they had a really good butterscotch pie."
      "I just finished some business in there," Rip said. "Bad form
to go back."
      "I saw." Doctor Tirkoff looked at him. "You *do* know I could
disguise us both, right?"
      "Yup. And I could convince them I was someone else anyway.
There's a bar a block over."
      "You drink?"
      "When necessary. But at this hour they serve coffee."
      "I should have known you'd stake out coffee holes before doing
your little Robin Hood schtick." Doctor Tirkoff sounded amused.
      "Robin Hood schtick?"
      "What would you call it? You wander around the midwest, one of
your older siblings tagging along. You show up in trouble spots and
you unsnarl them. And then you disappear."
      "That's not Robin Hood. That's... I dunno. Zorro, maybe."
      "You don't wear a mask."
      "I sure as Hell don't wear green pantyhose." He led her into
      "That's a little surprising, really."
      Rip looked back over his shoulder. "What does that mean?"
      Doctor Tirkoff slid past him and into a booth. "What do you
think it means?"
      Rip snorted, sliding opposite her. "I'm not your student any
more, Doc. You don't get to Socratic me."
      "I'm almost certain you're using the word wrong."
      "Language adapts to circumstance. It's one of the great
advantages English has over some of the other languages."
      "Is that what Professor Burns taught you?"
      "Professor Burns mostly taught me to sleep with my eyes open."
Rip leaned back in the booth, nodding to the waitress. She nodded
back, already on her way to the bar but acknowledging she'd be back.
      Doctor Tirkoff half-smiled. "You were Memorex when you
graduated from the Academy. I didn't think anything would stop you
from a career in spandex."
      "Memorex is a registered trademark of the Imation corporation
of Oakdale, Minnesota. At this point it's one of the leading brands
of recordable optical media. Use of that trademark would be
potentially actionable and could certainly lead to confusion."
      "That didn't stop you in the 90's."
      "I was a teenager. I gave up copyright infringement alongside
dropping my trailing g's in conversation."
      "So you have no desire to put on a mask and fight for justice?"
      Rip snorted again. "Hi," he said, smiling at the waitress.
"Coffee, two creams, no sugar please."
      "Sounds good, hon," she said. "And you?"
      "Coffee. triple light, triple sweet."
      "Triple good. Be right back."
      Rip shook his head. "I'm never going to understand it."
      "Understand what?"
      "As long as I've known you you've eaten like a five year old.
Even your coffee could rot someone's teeth at ten yards. But seven
years later you've put on a total six pounds, four ounces, and it's
all in good places."
      Doctor Tirkoff smiled. "I'm squishy. You're kind. How do you
know my weight so exactly?"
      "Sampled a carnie back in ought four."
      "Ask a stupid question." She leaned back. "All right. So you
couldn't be 'Memorex.' Why aren't you some other hero? Mnemonic,
      Rip shrugged. "I seem to be doing okay without it."
      "Are you?"
      Rip half-smiled. "You seem to have been tracking my activities.
You tell me."
      The telepath chuckled. "All right. So you've been fighting the
good fight. You wanted to be a *super*hero, Rip. Instead you're Kane
from Kung Fu."
      "Are you nuts? I have a support network. I'm clearly Michael
      "You don't have a talking car."
      "I didn't say I was a very good Michael Knight." He accepted
his coffee from the waitress. "Why are you here, Doc?"
      "You know, you should really call me Elizabeth now. You haven't
been a student for--"
      "Why are you here?" Rip asked, softly. Something in his voice
suggested he wasn't bantering any more.
      Doctor Tirkoff pursed her lips. "I want to offer you a job,"
she said.
      "So this is about the League." Rip kept his gaze level.
      Doctor Tirkoff didn't look away. "Yes," she said. "This is
about the League."

* * * * * *

      When she was younger, Incandescence had worn a variety of
names. Matchstick was the earliest. Hellfire was the most famous.
But back then she hadn't had the wings or the attitude. She swept
down from the sky, landing in the middle of the pack of O'Stereotype
Gangsters with an explosion of fire, light and concussive force,
driving them back. Her control was absolute, preventing even their
clothes from being singed.
      The Faux Indian was the first to recover. He fired a burst of
slugs from his Tommy Gun. And if Incandescence had been a flesh and
blood woman -- even one on fire -- they would have torn through her.
As it was, the bullets almost seemed to disappear into her fiery
body, vaporizing somewhere deep inside her, her low cut white and
gold jumpsuit -- itself either a part of the fire or containing it,
though it was hard to tell which -- not even getting torn. She
buffeted her wings -- six feet of fiery pinfeathers and pinion --
creating a wave of flame behind her to keep the others scattered
while she darted her fists out. The first strike hit the gun,
slagging the barrel without even heating the clip or setting the
stock on fire. The second was a punch to his face, bursting with
heat and light and causing him a mild burn even as it knocked him
      Two of the others fired into the midst of her fire. A third got
out a blackjack and, being stupid, tried to club the fiery woman
across the back of the head. Sadly, there was nothing Incandescence
could do about people being that dumb, so when his blackjack was
slagged he got a nasty burn on his hand.
      Rather than take a risk at one of the others being stupid,
Incandescence threw herself up, spinning in the air, her wings
spreading behind her. They slammed into all four of the remaining
thugs still standing, each one being hit with a weak explosion
rather than lava-intense heat. Though they weren't really *burnt,*
it hurt badly and put a scare into them, driving them back.
      Incandescence landed in a combat stance, her hands curled in a
kata. The faux Scot leapt at her. She threw a fireball at him -- the
explosion was more force than heat, and it knocked him silly. The
second gestured with the gun. She breathed a cone of flame from her
mouth, slagging the barrel and causing the gangster to faint in the
sudden heat. The third pulled a knife. She didn't deign to even
notice it, focusing on the fourth, who was busy emptying his clip
into her in the hopes of causing some kind of damage.
      "All out?" she asked, as his gun clicked dry.
      "Aye," he said. He was the fake Scot.
      She looked at the knife wielding 'Aussie.' "Do you have
anything to add?"
      "That's... naught a knife?" he asked, somewhat helplessly.
      "I'm not holding a knife," she said, and rose into the air, her
wings beating. She twisted, and a circle of flame rose, surrounding
the five gangsters, whether conscious or not. She took a moment to
make sure the last of their guns were ruined, even as she heard the
sirens begin. "I've got to run, boys," she said. "You be good for
the police now!"
      "Wait," Bill said. "Why does she have to run?"
      "'Cause the cops have orders to arrest her," Rob said.
      "So... they let Atrax and Anansi run the Harbor Islands, the
streets are full of gangs and crooks, there's an alien invasion
penned up in Somerville, and the police try to arrest the
      "More or less, yeah."
      Bill watched as the police got out of their cars. The gangsters
who were still awake had sat down, waiting for the supernatural
flames to die down so they could be arrested. "This city is fucked
up," he said.
      "Yeah. Let's get something to eat."

* * * * * *

      "We're calling it Lochaber," Doctor Tirkoff said. "A highly
trained force of men and women, generally with minor paranormal
abilities and the best equipment we can put in their hands."
      "I wasn't aware the Rogers Institute employed mercenaries," Rip
said, finishing off his coffee."
      "There's been a lot of changes since you were a student."
      Rip snorted. "You don't say."
      "Their mandate is to retake the streets of Boston. They're
going to take out the warring gangs and opportunists, reinforce the
army and take down the Lickmi, and restore a sense of sanity and
order to Boston."
      Rip chuckled. "Sure they are. Because it's that simple."
      "I'm not saying it'll be easy."
      "Is it even legal?"
      "We've already got tentative approval from the City Council,
and the same State authorities that are pressuring Rogers to do
something about the League have indicated they'll back it too."
      "That leaves the Feds."
      "The Feds stay out of Boston. They have since--"
      "They have since they ran a black op to hack Intercontinental
Salvage's computer and get them to erect a ridiculous gigantic
series of unfeasible and implausible concrete walls around Boston
and its neighborhoods. Let's not kid ourselves about the Federal
government's interest in Boston."
      Doctor Tirkoff looked down at the table. "The walls contain--"
      "The walls don't contain jack, Liz. The aliens have
*spaceships.* By definition they can fly over even those ridiculous
      "Don't call me Liz."
      "Don't screw around with me. This Lochaber isn't about policing
the neighborhoods. If you want the neighborhoods safe, take those
gigantic eyesores down, make Boston one city instead of a pack of
ghettos where any pack of thugs with a themed tailor can establish
turf, and throw your support behind the League."
      Doctor Tirkoff's eyes narrowed. "We're not supporting the
League. We're taking them down."
      "And that's why you want me."
      "That's right."
      "To be... what? One of the minor paranormals or one of the well
equipped shock troops."
      "Neither. We want you to lead them and train them."
      Rip stared at the Doctor. "You're joking."
      "Do I look like I'm joking, Rip?" Doctor Tirkoff leaned
forward. "It's the closest you'll ever come to being in the A.L.U.
You'll be in a uniform, at the forefront of the most professional
paranormal force Earth has ever or will ever seen, doing some real
good for a city that needs you."
      "And all I need to do is actually wipe out the city's real
      "They're not real anything, Rip. They're renegades. Unofficial
at best. Off the grid. And they need to be stopped."
      Rip frowned. "Why?"
      "They're playing off the name of the A.L.U."
      "Half of them were *in* the A.L.U. Who gets to decide they
can't play off the name?"
      "We do."
      "Why? Trademark rights? A few minutes ago you wanted me to name
myself after discount videotape again."
      "We are the inheritors of Bruce Rogers and his foundation.
Safeguarding the good name of the Adjusted League Unimpeachable is
our responsibility."
      Rip looked at his teacher, and shook his head, laughing. "The
amazing thing is you believe that horse shit."
      Doctor Tirkoff narrowed her eyes. "Rip--"
      "Your city is in crisis, Liz! What's worse, it's in *permanent*
crisis, because that's what someone wants. Whether that someone's in
some government or in Anansi or in some splinter castoff of the
M.I.B. I don't know. Now you and Mandy want to clamp down on honest
to Christ super heroes -- your former friends and coworkers -- out
of some freakish control urge, and you think I'm going to have
anything to do with it? I went to high school with most of them. I
idolized the others. My ex girlfriend is on that team, for Christ's
      "There's a right way to do these things," Doctor Tirkoff said.
"That was the first lesson I taught you. They're doing an end run
around that right way."
      "The second thing you taught us was to consider the
circumstances before the regulations," Rip said, standing up. "You
want a leader for your little cadre? Get Alice to do it. She still
works for the Academy, right?"
      "She won't do it. She won't do anything but search and rescue
and humanitarian relief now."
      "Then maybe you should listen to her."
      "Rip, we need you." Doctor Tirkoff bit her lip. "You have the
charisma, you have the skills, and you're the best tactical thinker
we've had since...."
      Rip looked at the telepath. "Since Trashman," he said, softly.
      "Rip, they're using Trashman's name."
      "I know."
      "But you won't help us stop them?"
      Doctor Tirkoff looked away. "Why not?"
      "Because they're right. Because they're doing what you taught
them to do. Because someone has to help the city, and they're the
ones willing to do it. Because they're my friends. And because you
and Mandy have lost perspective."
      "And even if all of that weren't true? My sister's in the
League, Liz." Rip folded his arms. "Are you honestly suggesting I go
up against her?"
      Doctor Tirkoff looked down.
      "Right. Despite the argument? It's been fantastic seeing you
again. Next time, bring Kirby. I'd love to teach him how to pitch a
fastball sometime." Rip headed for the door.
      "Tell me something, Mem."
      Rip paused. "They don't call me Mem any more," he said.
      "They don't call me Liz any more, but that doesn't seem to stop
you." Doctor Tirkoff looked at Rip. "If you believe all of this...
if you *really* believe all of this... why are you wandering around
the Midwest like Michael Knight? Or are you telling me the League
wouldn't have you?"
      Rip looked at his former teacher for a long moment. He then
turned and walked out without another word.
      "You getting the check, hon?" the waitress asked, walking over.
      "For now," Doctor Tirkoff said, getting out her credit card.
"For now."


There are undoubtedly answers to these questions, and it's clearly
Superguy that has them. Beyond that, it's none of my concern!

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