“How is Rosa Rook still running her big corporation?”
It’s a question that some junior AEGIS agents asked themselves, or their superiors. The answer was always the same: “we’re working on getting her, but we need something that’ll stick.”
After all, Rook Industries had a reputation in the supervillain intelligence world. AEGIS knew about her ties to Rossum. The junior agent they’d put in charge of the Menagerie monitoring had dug up a lot of dirt on the company, and an AEGIS strike team had rescued them from Rook’s goon squad - along with the data. So what was stopping the higher-ups from acting on it?
Rosa Rook had power.
Deniability is a form of power. For example, Rosa Rook had gone in front of a Congressional subcommittee. In front of a line of wrinkled white faces, she’d patiently explained that her company had been suborned by a known supervillain, that the infiltration had been widespread and ongoing, and that she was fully cooperating with the authorities to root it out. And this was true! Experts who’d worked with AEGIS testified that they’d found evidence of mental tampering. And Rosa looked so regretful that such an awful fate had befallen her loyal employees.
Information is a form of power. For example, how did Rosa get those experts to testify? She already knew about Rossum’s capabilities, of course. The AEGIS agents could suppose this, but where did it get them? Could they prove it? Was the scenario where “Rook conspired with Rossum” any different on the outside from “Rossum took advantage of Rook”? Not really.
Entrenched systems are a form of power. Capitalism and technology had the world by the throat. When the only thing separating the peasants from the lords was a guy with a horse and a sword, it was a lot more obvious. When the peasants were convinced they could be lords as well, if only they bought the right horses and swords - and ignore the military-industrial complex, which was arming the right people with much larger horses and swords - the system would keep itself running.
Rosa Rook knew power in all its forms. Whatever power she didn’t possess herself, she acquired via influence, bribery, or manipulation. She couldn’t fire beams from her eyes, but she had people who could. She couldn’t invent a fusion reactor, but she had staff for that.
She knew that the biggest resistance to her program wasn’t other people with power, but people with ideals. If you want money, or love, or control, your loyalty is to the people who can give you those things. But if you want personal satisfaction, you can only find that inside yourself.
One such group - the Halcyon Heroes League - had effectively fallen, by its own hand. The splintered superhero groups that were aspiring to replace it weren’t ready yet. She could keep them busy with her hand-picked group of supervillains.
Another group, organizations like the Quill Foundation, were able to sustain their idealism with the trappings of capitalism and technology. Rook thought it was a shame that Byron Quill was gone. He was such a compromised figure. She could have done so much with him. And unfortunately his son was running the place in a rather more thoughtful way. Right now, to Rosa, the Quill Foundation was Rook Industries’ biggest problem. The two groups were locked in a race. The one that acquired more technology, and more super-thinkers, would win the race. It was her offers of power, vs. the Quills’ idealistic nonsense.
The third group was difficult. This was legally independent organizations like AEGIS. They weren’t idealists in the sense that they thought the world was good and worth protecting. Oh no. They only agreed with half of that sentiment. But they were tightly controlled, ideologically hygienic, with systems and processes in place to purge the disloyal.
Rosa Rook had one advantage there. For all intents and purposes, she owned and controlled the weird tech division of AEGIS, known as “Department 42”. Whatever they acquired, she got a copy of. Whenever they got ahold of a brilliant villain, she got the lowdown. If she were able to just pull Department 42 out of AEGIS and merge it with Rook Industries, the Quill mob would be gone for good. It wasn’t that easy.
Patience is a form of power. She had the resources to play the long game, to maneuver, to take a few losses in order to win the larger war.
Why was Rosa Rook still in charge? She knew the answer. Because she wasn’t done with the world yet. Not by a damn sight.