Trace (it’s never “Stingray” when he’s on the lacrosse field) sees an unexpected visitor. The rest of the team is breaking up. Daphne Palin. Me. Leo Snow. Shit, how many fucking supers do we have in this sport anyway?
Kid Kelvin, managing to cop an attitude just by walking, is not one of them and never will be. Of course, he reinforces that by opening his mouth.
“You guys out here practicing to lose as usual?”
“Nah, otherwise we’d be scouting you.”
The sniping is a formality. It’s an unspoken game, and there’s no vitriol behind it, only a comforting ritual that neither young man would admit to enjoying under an circumstances.
“Hey, I gotta talk biz.”
“Yeah. Come on.”
Trace leads his fellow JHHL teammate across the field, away from prying eyes. When the two are a comfortable distance, Kelvin opens up.
“Listen, I need you to do something for me. Put the word out, if there’s a fight tonight, don’t interfere until I give the word.”
This is unusual. “Did you get a hot tip about something?”
Kid Kelvin laughs at that. “Hot tip. Hah. That’s good. Yeah, you could definitely say that. Anyway, just fuckin’ trust me for once, okay? And remember the deal. Protecting civilians comes first, always, doesn’t it.”
This is an odd callback, to a topic the JHHL has discussed recently. “Yeah, obviously,” Trace replies. He’s nonplussed, but he’s willing to see where this goes. “Hey, you said put the word out. Does that go for the Q-pie Dolls?”
Kid Kelvin makes a derisive *pfft* sound. “Like I’d ask even you to talk to Jason Quill. Nah, my nem’s takin’ care of that.”
He walks away, leaving Trace with several questions. The most perplexing is one word long.
Nono Rodriguez followed an anonymous note to an empty classroom. By now, she’s reasonably sure of what to expect. There’s a pyrokinetic waiting for her, who goes by the names Emma and Hot Mess, who’s lied and hurt and threatened. And Nono knows, by looking at her eyes, how wounded and scared she really is. It’s still difficult, not going to the Quill people with what she knows about an active supervillain.
“Hey. Nono. Thank you for coming,” her host says.
Nono looks around nervously. What is it to be today? More threats? More offers to join a villain organization and rule the world, or at least the Alderhall neighborhood of Halcyon between 34th and 65th? Temptations, confessions, abductions?
She realizes the villain said something. Her brain retroactively processes it as something like the offers she’s heard before. And the speech she prepared and practiced comes to her lips, sending her heart into a frenzy of fearful pounding.
“Emma - or Hot Mess - or whatever your real name is, I don’t want to be your lieutenant. I’m not going to be evil, and I don’t think you’re as evil as you pretend to be either. I know there’s good in you. I won’t be twisted into some kind of–”
Emma’s voice is quiet, yet it cuts through Nono’s bravado like a knife. “I said I love you, Nono. I want to be your friend, and more. I’m sorry for what I did before.”
“What?” says Nono blankly.
Emma steps closer, uncertain, visibly scared, and reaches out to hug her. “I need you right now. Just, whatever you’ll give me, okay?”
Nono feels her arms slipping around the other girl’s waist before she can think rationally about this. “Okay….”
The two stay wrapped together in silence and mutual terror for a few minutes.
“I need you to tell the Quill people something,” Emma finally says, breath hot in her ear.
Oh no, this was all a setup–
“I’m going to fight Kid Kelvin tonight. Downtown. Listen, they can’t mobilize until we break through the wall, but then I want every robot you people have, with cameras, on the scene. Don’t worry, I can get away on my own. I have a plan. Just - just make them do it, okay? Convince them. You have to.”
Nono pulls back, and stares at this strange girl, trying if possible to read her mind. But it’s not possible, because there’s something really alien on her face that’s getting in the way. It’s a bright, warm, tearful smile.
“I’ll tell them,” Nono promises.
Emma leans close and presses her lips to Nono’s, hard and fierce. Before anything else can come of it, she draws back, grins, and rubs her eyes of tears. “I’ll see you soon. It’s gonna be okay, I promise. I’m gonna be a villain you can be proud of. Just you watch.”
She’s almost out the door, before she turns back and smiles at Nono one final time. “It’s Emma. For real.”
Battle plan formed: Check.
Nemesis consulted: Check.
Three independent authorities (the police, the JHHL, Quill’s superhero initiative) lined up to confirm the human chemical testing happening in the lab: Check.
Plan to break through the walls of said lab “accidentally”, turning the entire god damn area into a crime scene that will take those motherfuckers down: Check.
Apologetic email drafted to the boss, in case he doesn’t approve: Check.
No, really, she should double-check this. How do you verify your relationship status? Is mutual tongue enough? Actually going on a date? Just asking? Guh. This is so vague. There needs to be a plan here, some kind of solid criteria–
This is distracting. Enough!
Okay, so basically, she figures she can milk this nemesis thing for a year and a half before people catch on that she and Kid Kelvin are taking down the real bad guys together. Kelvin’s got the intel sources that indicate shady shenanigans, but only a villain can act with real impunity. The boss was very clear on this point. Villains do what the fuck they want, for the reasons they want.
Say, why is there an incoming secure message from the boss?
Good luck tonight, kid. I’m really fucking proud of you.
Hot Mess - no, shit, she needs a new name now - wipes a tear from her eye and pockets the phone. She’ll need to talk to Nono after this. Maybe a date. Maybe just spike her Pepsi and see where the night goes. Debrief with Kid Kelvin - not a boyfriend, thank God, but an amazing partner.
I really made it!
“YEAH!” she shouts aloud, for the whole lair to hear.
Nearby, Samir and a caged Rook biochemist shrug at each other.
author: Bill G.