Web of Ruin: Chapter 4

Carbon stood outside the nondescript building that served as the meeting place for the collection of heroes she, String Theory, Cobalt, Crater and many others belonged to. From the street, it looked like a normal corporate office building, complete with a receptionist and a fountain in the lobby.

 

However, beyond the entryway, it was a massive high tech facility with news feeds from around the world. This was a monitoring station that allowed the members of the Patrons of Justice to respond to global threats when they arose, as had happened a few times in the past. Cavalier liked to claim it as his own, but in reality it was provided by the US government and supplemented with funds from several very wealthy investors.

 

Carbon entered through one of the many secret entrances and tried to suppress an angry growl at the PofJ sign that had been painted prominently on the wall of the giant central meeting room. She’s remained tight-lipped about the name for the group, not wanting to be labeled a whiny feminist, but it galled her that a strictly masculine name had been chosen, and not on accident.

 

The good news was that Cavalier and Crater were not going to be in attendance for this meeting, she and String Theory had arranged it. The rest of the group had been asked to attend, however, to come up with a way to curb the actions of the two men. They were becoming more and more brazen in their destructive “crime fighting”, their methods resulting in more and more violent criminals simply walking because they were being apprehended without due process and in many cases, before actually committing a crime.

 

On the other hand, the amount of collateral damage they were causing was quickly outpacing the “good” they were doing. They caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to prevent a bank robbery several weeks before and the gunfight their intervention instigated left three innocent people in the hospital. the worst part was that the robbers had a pattern of not hurting anyone, never taking hostages, and never opening fire. Then a giant white beast of a man smashed in the bank’s front windows and flung one of them outside like a ragdoll.

 

At least one of the bullet wounds on a bystander was the result of Cavalier taking a bullet for Crater, who did not share his immunity to that level of damage. They seemed to be less about “justice” than they were for promoting themselves on camera. The way Cavalier hammed it up for any nearby cameras, even security cameras, made her want to throw up. he was the kind of person others felt shame for because he clearly had none himself.

 

She waited patiently for the others to arrive. First was String Theory, as expected, and with him was Cobalt. That was a pleasant surprise for Carbon. Although he’d initially been uneasy with a woman crime fighter because he was older and in Lance’s original worldview, women didn’t fight, but he’d warmed up to her, seeing her as a fellow soldier with common goals. The similarities between the two suits were uncanny, with Cobalt’s being shorter and bulkier, but both being human shaped and without extraneous bells and whistles.

 

Next were Sharpshot and his protege Ward, a young man named Ward Fletcher who Sharpshot had taken under his wing a few years back because he saw great potential in him. Sharpshot was an amazing marksman and trickshot expert. He often fought crime with dual-pistols, terrifying everyone involved with amazing quickdraws and trick shots that disarmed without killing and somehow never hitting bystanders. He was overconfident in the extreme, but had (so far) managed to avoid ever hurting anyone who didn’t deserve it.

 

Ward eschewed guns in favor of knives, arrows and crossbow bolts. As loud and brash as Sharpshot was, Ward was quiet and thoughtful. He was every bit Sharpshot’s equal with a bow or throwing blade as the other was with a gun. For all she had heard, he had been a big help so far, and had even curbed Sharpshot’s recklessness a bit, but every time he was near, something felt off about him. Carbon shrugged it off as simple distrust; she didn’t know the young man, and she didn’t like not knowing about people she worked with. As a cop, it was a survival trait.

 

Next were Lightfoot and Trembler. They were a married tag-team, Lightfoot had the ability to manipulate gravity, while her husband could cause localized earthquakes. They worked less as crime fighters than as devices of the government, much like Cobalt and String. The pair had the potential to do severe damage to anyone who wound up in their crosshairs. In fact , just a few weeks before, an underground attempt by a terrorist group to develop weapons grade uranium was thwarted by the pair.

 

The men trying to enrich the uranium found themselves stuck to the ceiling of their underground facility shortly before it collapsed, burying them. In a convenient coincidence, the move inadvertently  killed eighty percent of their terror network. They were true heroes, especially compared to the showboaters they were meeting to discuss, and all of their work was covert. They never received medals or huge checks for their work, they were happy they had the ability to make the world a safer place for good people.

 

Last to arrive for this meeting (there were many more heroes that were members, but they had agreed to stay “at work” and allow the others to vote as surrogates in their stead) was Aion. She was relatively new, but had an amazing, nearly godlike power; she could freeze time. She had only recently learned of his ability, and had very quickly been recruited by members of the government with the hopes that the influence of the others in the PofJ would prevent him from abusing his ability.

 

Analysts had done predictive modelling on her based on historical evidence of similarly powered individuals, and the results were potentially horrifying. With luck, people like Carbon and String Theory could instill the same sense of responsibility in her that they felt; no one doubted what a horrible thing it would be if Al didn’t have the disciplined background that he in the face of the power he had at his fingertips.

 

Aion seemed overwhelmed. It had only been a few months since her powers first expressed themselves, and weeks since she’d been recruited. Now she was standing in a room with the kind of people she’d read about in comics. It wasn’t quite what she’d expected. While the two men in powered armor looked the part, and Sharpshot, Ward and Carbon all had stylized suits, she’d expected jumpsuits and brightly colored skin-tight outfits. While Carbon was clearly a woman, she was not wearing anything that showed off her physique, and while Lightfoot seemed fond of v-necks and keeping her top buttons undone, her lean runner’s physique would not be showing off any cleavage any time soon.

 

Her mild disappointment was tempered by the fact that these were real life superheroes, and more importantly, she was one, too now. Carbon spoke first “Everyone knows why we’re here. Cavalier and Crater are getting out of hand. They are causing way too much destruction and more and more of the people they capture are not only walking, in some cases those two have ruined any chance for prosecuting the people they catch when they actually do get to trial thanks to them walking and double jeopardy preventing them from being retried.”

 

Sharpshot held up his hand. “Then why don’t you just chop of their head and burn a meth lab down around them?” Ward bit his lip to suppress a laugh. Carbon looked over at Aion and said “It’s good you’re not standing too close to Sharpshot. he might leak some stupid on you.” Now it was Aion who was trying not to laugh. Sharpshot’s eyes narrowed. “I just think it’s hypocritical of you to criticise them when your own techniques so often involve collateral damage. And you actually kill people.”

 

Carbon responded “And so do you. And so do Cobalt and String, but with us, it’s all calculated and minimized. Those two operate with the precision of a cluster bomb. For them it’s less about justice and more just being ‘iconic heroes’. That’s the point of this meeting. They don’t fight for a greater good, they fight for themselves on a pretense.”

 

Sharpshot seemed at a loss in the face of such an argument. String spoke up. “In light of what so far seems like a majority view of the situation, Trembler, Lightfoot, Aion? Would you agree?” The married couple nodded and the newest member just shrugged a little non-committally, feeling way out of her league passing judgement on any of these beings. “We need to discuss what action we should take and how we should enforce it. I can’t imagine either of them are going to take us saying they need to back off lying down, although I doubt they will retaliate either.”

 

Carbon nodded, although she was not so sure they would not, especially if they discovered she was largely behind it. Sharpshot spoke up “What are we going to do, exactly? Ask them politely to stop fighting crime? Bow out gracefully for a while? It’s not like we can imprison them.”

 

“If the police had a means to, that is exactly what they would do, Sharpshot.” Carbon said. “This is as much for their own good as it is for the city. If they get much more out of hand, then the police will get involved. If they hurt a single cop, who do you think is going to be sent after them?” All eyes turned to String Theory. “Do you think he wants to have to subdue or kill those two? I know Cavalier is tough, but he’s not invincible. String can out-fly, out-punch and generally outdo anything Cavalier can. I don’t like him or his friend, not one bit, but we’re all on the same side, right? I don’t want to see them hurt, and I don’t want my friend to have to be the one to do it.” She didn’t honestly care what happened to Cavalier or Crater. Likely the world would be a better place for it, but she knew String Theory would hate having to kill people whom he considered to be “his own”, even if they were careless in their exploits.

 

She sighed. It was always like this for her; mediating what should be done with what needed to be done within the constraints life had erected around her. Cobalt spoke up, and Carbon was instantly grateful. Everyone considered the words of the seasoned soldier sage wisdom, and not even the reckless Sharpshot contradicted him usually. “I think they should be asked to step down for a while. Take a break until they can show they will take a more conscientious approach in apprehending criminals. Something that will result in prosecution, not liability.”

 

“Prosecution, not contusions.” The sarcastic marksman snickered. Cobalt stalked closer to him. “I am not overly fond of you, son, and your little pea shooters aren’t going to do much more than scratch my armor, which will only piss me off more. Now I suggest if you have nothing substantial to add to this, you button your stinking food-hole before I plug it up with your foot.”

 

Sharpshot sobered up a bit with that threat, knowing Cobalt wasn’t one for jokes and he was dead-right about him not having anything that could so much as scratch the mechanical armor he wore. No one noticed Ward glaring at the older soldier as he stepped back next to String. Lightfoot spoke up for the first time since they’d arrived. “What if they don’t want to cooperate? Do we force them to stop?”

 

As appealing as the idea was to Carbon, she shook her head. “Only in a worst case scenario. Let’s not forget there are people like us out there that don’t have the world’s best interests in mind. If we can avoid infighting, we need to, at all costs. We start by asking them. String, I hate to put you in this position, but I think it will have more impact if it comes from you.” String nodded, understanding.

 

Lightfoot looked thoughtful for a moment. “What if they decide to fight, at any point? What do we do then?” Carbon thought on it for a moment. “You could immobilize Crater easily enough, and string could definitely take Cavalier down.” “I could freeze them.” Chimed in Aion. Everyone looked at him. “Excellent point.” Carbon said.

 

“There is a catch, though…” said Aion. “I get about an hour or so ‘my time’ so to speak, until I am too exhausted to keep it up and everything continues on at its original pace.” Everyone nodded, understanding. “In that case, we would need a cage or something like that to put them in, then Cobalt would have to turn it into something they couldn’t break.” Cobalt nodded. “Let’s just hope they can be level-headed about this whole thing.”

 

They discussed their plans for over an hour, then separated, a shaky plan in place. String would confront the two and ask them to take a hiatus for a few weeks, and they would discuss alternative to simply using the city as a backdrop for some sort of destructive game. Throughout it all, everyone had a piece to say, except Ward. Sharpshot seemed uneasy with it all, but agreed to go along with the plan. Ward simply observed, stoic and stone faced. As she left, Carbon thought she caught a smirk on the young archer’s face, but when she looked directly at him, it was gone. She chalked it up to her distrust of new people.

 

 

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