Invites. Invites? What does this Lannis girl think she is getting herself into – a knitting club? There I am on Bouvier Street, Foundry City, rooftopping, having a ball in the quiet end of town, when a cop on guard outside the Baudelaire Hotel waves frantically at me. Thinking something must have gone awry with the Peruvian diplomat who is staying there at the time, I wander down to the sidewalk and nod to him.
“Starlight.” He kind of half-salutes (new cops are always ultra-polite to metas) and hands over a letter. “A citizen asked me to give you this. I’ve run it through the FCPD diagnostic scanners, and it’s clean.” I thank the cop solemnly, and head over to sit on the hotel roof to open the envelope. I’m not crazy about lounging around in comfortable clouds nowadays, because of the potential for power glitches.
Dear Starlight. Good start. You may remember me; you saved my life about a year ago. If I remembered everybody whose life I’d saved, I’d have more friends in real life than Mark Zuckerberg does on Facebook. And my friend and I helped you out the other night. Again, honey, if I remembered everybody… We’re both metas too – Sure you are. And we’re starting a teen metahuman club – kind of a support group. Sure you are. I just wondered if you’d like to join us some night. We’ll be at the coffee shop by the park. Yours sincerely, Lannis Raehe. Well, if you can get caramel macchiato, it won’t be the worst hangout I’ve ever heard of. Not by much, anyway.
But a meta support group? What are these kids even thinking? No, wait. First questions first. Are these kids even thinking? Metahumans have three options, and only three. Be very good, in which case the wider community will become aware of you; be very average and stay anonymously in the shadows; or be very bad, in which case the wider community will still become aware of you, though maybe not in a way you’d enjoy.
Me, I’m pretty well respected by some of the top metas in the world. I admit that’s partly because of Mother, but I’ve done well alone too. When the powers blip off altogether, sometime in the next couple months, I’ll carry on without them until I can find time to track down Rhadamanthus.
Now wait a minute there, Starlight girl. These kids could use the help. Hell, I could use the help, if it comes to that. Mother told me I’d be working alone until I died or quit, with the rap she could lay on me all over the community. If I can pull this off, I can prove her wrong, and then proceed to rub her retroussé metahuman nose in my success.
But first, I have to pull it off.
Calling in the time pips through my earpiece, I pause to consider. Ten at night means that kids waiting for a nocturnal super will still be waiting. Or should be if they have any sense. I conduct a quick survey to see that I’m looking like a super, not a bum. Mask straight. Gloves clean. Gauntlets unscuffed. Cape intact (most unusual for me). Hair reasonably tidy, and off I go to the coffee shop on the edge of the park.
I could find my way through the park blindfolded, I’ve been there often enough and kicked enough would-be rapists in the man-bits, in the trees around there. Odd that I’ve never noticed a coffee shop before. But it is definitely there, with a twee little bell that jangles as I push open the door. I do not like bells.
And surprise, surprise, “Phoenix King” is sitting at one of the tables, drinking what smells like a vanilla latte. I know perfectly well that my earlier dreams about caramel macchiato will go unfulfilled. Can’t afford to leave lip prints on things. Not safe. That’s just one of the things I know that these girls don’t, just one of the things that will get them killed. And after all, part of what I do is preventing people getting killed.
“Ladies,” I say, quietly, aware that I don’t need to get their attention, because they’re all staring at me anyway. “Which of you is Lannis?”