Avalanche – Snippet 46
The pair took up position next to Bella and Bulwark as they paused beside the doorway. John crossed his arms, waiting to see what would happen next.
“So,” Bella said. “Have I made the position of ECHO and the CCCP perfectly clear? Are there any objections?”
The room was silent. Some of the hearing members were befuddled. Others were boiling with rage. Most felt embarrassed, at least as far as John could tell through his senses. All of them, though, were cowed. Saving their own skin was a priority for them; political critters thought of themselves first, after all.
“I just want to point out that attempting to lodge any charges against anyone for ‘assault on a federal agent’ will only result in a worse…ah…shitstorm for you,” Spin said, with a Mona-Lisa-like smile. “First, you are going to have to prove that any assault actually took place. Recordings will show that not one of us laid so much as a finger on any of you. And second…we have all those juicy unredacted records. And we have the capability to drop them wherever, whenever we choose. Don’t think of this as blackmail. Think of it as mutually assured destruction.”
“Good. I’m glad we understand each other.” Bella got a look of extreme disgust on her face. “There is not one of you here that is worthy to be scraped off Arthur Chang’s shoe like the dogshit that you are.”
And with that, she turned, and led the way out of the room, Bull’s shield like a halo around them.
After making their way out of the hotel, there had been a CCCP van and an ECHO car waiting for the group. The trip back was uneventful; no cars following them, no sirens or patrol car lights, nothing. John did notice that Mamona was grinning the entire drive back, however.
“I’ve always wanted t’do somethin’ like that. Kind of badass, wasn’t it? Well, ‘cept for the smell.”
“Damned right it was, comrade. Thanks for comin’ to our rescue. Might’ve gotten uglier an’ messier than it already was, if you an’ the cavalry hadn’t barged in when you did.”
“My pleasure! You two ought t’get into trouble more often!” Mamona’s grin widened. “Bella’s got a new trick. Some of us, she can train up with amplified powers. Mostly, it’s us with psion powers, and takin’ ones to two, and twos to three. She reckons I’m ’bout a two and a half now.” Now that was interesting. John didn’t know enough about metahuman power generation or physiology to even make educated guesses at how that worked, other than it had something to do with how people accessed their powers, but still; every tool they could get in the fight against the Thulians was one that John was willing to take.
Both vehicles arrived at the CCCP HQ right after dusk. The entire episode, from getting picked up to getting back to relative safety, had taken up the entire day. John and Sera, exhausted at the start of it, were even more bone-tired now. It was only their shared connection, and the energy that they fed each other through it, that was keeping them going. It took only a minute to get everyone out of the vehicles, through the main entrance and past security, and into the CCCP briefing room. The Commissar and Untermensch were already there, waiting for them.
“So…you are to be explaining why pair of firebombs are allowing themselves to be captured, with not even one of their captors being killed. Or how you two are even captured at all. Da?” The Commissar was chain-smoking through one of her awful packs of cigarettes; a pile of angrily smashed out cigarette butts filled a tray in front of her to overflowing.
“We figured that leavin’ a pile of dead feds in the middle of the ‘hood wouldn’t really help our public relations image, Commissar. It was a better move to hold back, let them show their hand, an’ work our way from there. We weren’t captured, so much as taken for a ride; could’ve left any time we wanted…though there would’ve been consequences.” He paused. “‘Sides. Vix was recordin’ everythin’. Minute they stopped us, they were in trouble. They just didn’ know it ’till Bella made her entrance.”
Natalya sucked on her teeth dismissively. “Fine, fine. Was listening on Overwatch with witch and blue girl. May have been tactical necessity. Question for now is what to do going forward. I know the likes of the running dogs you two were dealing with. Politicians,” she nearly spat the word, it was filled with so much venom, “only want more of what they have; power. You two are power, at least to them. They will come again, no matter what Amerikanski threats they hear.”
“Commissar is right. Snakes like these only know how to slither in the filth; it is what they are accustomed to. Decisive action now may be the most prudent course, to prevent any…difficulties further down the line.” Untermensch had a pile of folders laid out in front of him; John recognized pictures of at least three of the men that had been at the hearing inside the folders.
John held up his hand. “I’m goin’ to say we need some other option. We’ve got enough on our plates with the Thulians; tryin’ to take on the US government, even if we weren’t at war, is usually a shit idea. They’ve got more money, more guns, an’ more lawyers.” He knew that Georgi wasn’t suggesting that they start bumping people off, though the Commissar would probably jump at that notion, but still. It was best to get it off of the table now, before it started seeming attractive.
Bella rubbed her forehead. “I’m open to just about any option short of burning down Congress with everyone inside.”
“Well, maybe for fun. But that’s a hobby, not a strategy,” John added jokingly. Bella stuck her tongue out at him.
Bull patted her knee. “Much as I sympathise, we can’t hit this problem head on. The only choice I see is to be reactionary.”
“Obviously, my forte is going at the public angle,” Spin Doctor mused. “It’s true I haven’t had to do too much, since the Thulians have been doing our job for us, but I can certainly rev the old publicity machine up again. There certainly isn’t much else I can contribute.”
“What about if you go after the legal angle?” Bella asked suddenly. “Get public pressure behind laws to protect metas from exploitation, by the government or anyone else. Get us categorized as a public resource, maybe. They want to use laws to lock us up or conscript us? We’ll get in there first with laws to keep them from doing just that.”
“Oh, I like that,” Spin said, perking up. “I like that a great deal. I’ll get with our legal team and the ACLU, for starters, maybe bring in other groups as we see more options.” He rubbed his hands together. “I can almost see a PSA in my head right now…”
“I do not ever wish to find myself so trapped again,” Sera said unhappily. Her wing feathers were still somewhat “pine-coned” with stress. “How dare they take so much as a single hour away from us, an hour in which we could be missed, in which people could die?”
“S’alright, darlin’. They’re assholes, an’ they don’t know any better.” He sent as much reassurance as he could through their connection; she seemed to calm down slightly, but she was still very much aggravated. “Now, this is all well an’ good…but when push comes to shove, laws are just ink on paper. Some of those bastards, or at least bastards like ’em…they’ll do what they want, law or no law. Especially ones like that Agent Gibson.” John placed his hand over Sera’s, giving it a squeeze. “It’s good that y’all are tryin’ to get this done through the right channels…but it does bear keepin’ in mind that this might turn bloody at some point. An’ fast. Especially post-war.”
If we win, he left unsaid.
“If that day comes,” the Commissar intoned, “then it will being a day of reckoning unlike any those cretins have seen. No one threatens my comrades. Not ever again.”
Uncharacteristically, it was Bulwark that spoke up. “If it comes to that, Commissar,” he rumbled. “You will not be standing alone.”