The Replacements, Part Five: Strategos

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(December 3rd)

The plane touched down at General Mitchell International Airport at 5:30 PM. It was ten minutes late, but as it happened, Karen Greene's car was trapped in traffic on the highway, and she reached the arrivals area just as Lucky Ladd was picking up his baggage.

“Lucky! How have you been?” Karen stepped forwards with a smile. Her hair was, as usual, tied back in a tight bun, but she had forgone her superhero uniform in favour of a simple jacket and slacks combination.

“Better than you, from what I understand. Thanks for picking me up. What's all this about two teams?”

Karen rolled her eyes. “Mistral's being an idiot, that's all. He actually thinks people will join a team with him as the leader. Calling it the Milwaukee Defense Crew. Here, let me grab one of those.” She took one of Lucky's two suitcases, then turned to lead the way out the door. “Anyway, I can't think of anyone crazy enough to actually join up with him, but I'm worried that he'll find a bunch of yokels and thoroughly embarass himself – not to mention me.”

“Yeah, that's certainly a worry.” Lucky smiled worriedly. “So you haven't heard of anyone joining up yet?”

“Not to my knowledge.” Karen shrugged. “But we've got replacements in place. I appreciate you coming down, but it's not really needed. Bloodline and Stormfront are going to bolster the Victors, and Mistral will realize that he's being an idiot. Or, if I'm really lucky, he'll get frustrated and leave.”

“Stormfront?” Lucky blinked. “Huh. She was applying to the Champions, I think.”

“Yeah, but you guys got Weltgeist – good job on that, by the way.”

“How does everyone know half of that story?” Lucky sighed. “We do not have Weltgeist. She's not legally allowed to be on an American team. Long story. I think she was going to go rejoin the U.N. Superhuman taskforce.”

“Huh.” Karen nodded slowly. “Is it really okay for you to be here, then? Even for a few days?”

“Amber and Ash assured me that they're more than capable of holding down the fort. I've been given a three-day deadline, though.” Lucky chuckled. “Figure that'll be okay?”

“To talk sense into Mistral? I hope so.” As the two crossed the parking garage, Karen shook her head. “He's acting all kinds of stupid.”

“Well… you can get a little harsh on people when they disappoint you. Maybe there was a reason that he…” Lucky broke off as Karen turned to glare at him.

“Maybe there was a reason that he what?”

“Uh… felt that you might have… um… been a little hard on Shion…”

“Shion was a waste of heroism.” Karen shook her head brusquely. “She's doing just fine in medicine, and I wish her well. Mistral's just pissy because he can't take criticism.”

“Sorry, Karen, I didn't mean to hit a nerve or anything. I just heard from Joe that…”

“Joe's a good guy, but he doesn't understand people. You know that, Lucky. Anyway, if he was so all-fired up about me mistreating Mistral, he wouldn't still be on the Victors, would he?”

“That's a point, but I just wanted to suggest that…”

“You haven't been around. Don't go by what Joe says.” Curtly, Karen climbed into the driver's seat, opening the trunk for Lucky to drop his baggae.

“Yes, ma'am. Sorry.” Putting away his luggage, Lucky closed the trunk gently before getting into the car. “I didn't mean to…”

“I know, Lucky. I'm just a little on edge lately.” Sighing, Karen clicked on the radio as she started to drive out of the parking garage. “This whole thing with the Victors has been pretty hard. The old guard trusted me to keep everything running smoothly, you know? I don't want to be the one who let a sixty-year-old tradition go entirely to hell.”

“I understand, Karen.” Lucky smiled. His smile faded as the radio's message came across more clearly.

“…while the team suffered some setbacks, including a backhanded attack from Skulldozer that sent Powerblock flying through a retaining wall, Mistral and Blindsight were able to restrain him long enough for La Brea to immobilize the villain, ending his assault. The action comes as a first for the Milwaukee Defense Crew, which is currently in competition with the resident Milwaukee Victors for the title of official city defenders. Much speculation was caused by Powerblock's presence on the team, given that official documents released by the Victors not long ago had him on the roster, and…”

Karen very deliberately turned off the radio. “I'm going to kill him.”

Lucky started to say something, took a look at Karen's face, and decided that it could wait.

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