Tear The World Apart, Part 3 - An Old Friend's Welcome

(May 30th, 2008)
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Gregory Thompson looked up from his desk as the Champions entered, looking them over, then stood with a large, patently false grin. “Lucky Ladd, as I live and breathe! What a tremendous pleasure to see you once again!”

“Thank you, sir. It's good to be back.” Lucky stepped forwards, taking the mayor's hand. They shook briefly, and then the mayor took his seat again. Lucky glanced around, and noted that, as usual, there were no other seats in the office - aside from the massive framed portrait of Thompson, a small filing cabinet, and a potted plant in the corner, it was spotlessly empty. “Office looks the same, I see.”

“Well, I didn't see the need to redecorate.” Brushing the comment aside, Thompson kept the broad smile plastered to his face. “Am I to assume that you're re-applying for the team?”

There was a short pause, as Lucky glanced back to Amber with a raised eyebrow. She shrugged helplessly, looking as confused as he felt. Quickly, he returned his expression to the insincerely interested-looking mayor. “Um… sir, I didn't quit. I took a leave of absence.”

“Mm, yes, but that was almost a year ago. Surely it ran out.”

“Not unless you hired a replacement. Sir.”

“Oh.” The mayor's brow furled, and his smile collapsed into a look of vague disappointment. “Well, then. My apologies, Lucky. Glad to have you back.” After a moment, he grudgingly added, “At your prior salary.”

The last was said half under his breath, and Lucky couldn't quite restrain a chuckle as he realized the truth - the mayor had been hoping to hire him as a newcomer. He stifled his amusement as quickly as possible, but not quickly enough - the mayor noticed, and his expression became even more sour. “So, I assume that Timebender has brought you up to speed with current events?”

“Yes, sir. I'm glad to be back, up to date on Malefico's current status, and ready to get back to work.”

“Lovely. Good.” Thompson coughed once, and started looking down to his papers. Amber, rolling her eyes, gestured subtly towards the door; just as the four were about to excuse themselves, he spoke again. “Oh, yes. SEA wanted you to be made aware of a few agents that have been moved into town for the moment. Hush-hush, of course. Don't let this get out.” Reaching into the pile of paper on his desk, he came out with a white file folder, which Amber stepped forwards to receive. “Absolute secrecy. Couldn't even tell my staff.”

“Given that one of your staff actually works for Malefico, that might be for the best.” Amber ignored the mayor's squak of protest and opened the folder. Her brow quickly furrowed to match the mayor's from earlier. “This can't be right.”

“What can't?” Nadia leaned forwards, rising on to her toes in order to peer over Amber's shoulder. In response, Amber started flipping through the pages.

“Eclipse. Flora. Don Juan. Danger Ace. Highbrow.” She kept turning pages, her expression getting increasingly concerned. “Intrepid. Epsilon. Augur. Surge…” Trailing off, she looked up. “There are dozens of agents listed in here.”

“I'm aware of that, yes.” The mayor, eyes narrowed, looked between the heroes. “Is there something I should know?”

“Probably not, if you haven't been told already.” Shrugging, Amber closed the folder. “If anything comes up, we'll be sure to let you know.”

“You'll have to tell the office. As it happens, I'm going on vacation starting tomorrow.”

“Really.” Amber's voice was flat. “For how long?”

“Four weeks.”

“When did you decide on that?” If Amber had asked, Thompson might have responded badly, but Jim's voice was pitched to just the right tone of curiousity that he couldn't tell if it was mocking or not. He settled on not.

“This morning, when I got this folder.” His gaze swept the room. “Any information you need to relay can go through the Deputy Mayor. Any questions?”

“No, sir.”

“Then that will be all. Have a nice day - and welcome back, Mr. Ladd. I hope your timing was good.”

“It always is, sir.” With a cheerful and informal salute, Lucky started out of the room, and the others followed. Once outside, they paused for a moment while Timebender paged through the files. When she finished, she looked up. “I count sixty-two. That's two-thirds of the superhuman agents in the SEA.” She looked over at the others. “I think we need to go home and discuss this. Quickly.”

“I agree.” Lucky thought a moment. “Hey, guys, you know what's in three days?”

The others looked at him, and then got it. Jim spoke. “The anniversary of New York. You think…?”

“I think we need to go home and discuss this. Where we are alone.” Timebender started walking quickly, and the others hurried to catch up.

Around the corner, Spygor sighed heavily, but silently. So near, and yet so far.

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