Web of Ruin: Chapter 6

String Theory hovered as a pocket of air a mile above the city. He’d been watching for hours for a sign of Cavalier and Crater responding to a crime with no sign of either. That was no problem, his SEAL training had imbued him with the patience of a waiting crocodile; he could stay in one spot, motionless for the better part of a day without getting restless.

 

He had gone over the meeting in his head a thousand times or more; He was going to hopefully just speak to Cavalier, and explain to him that they were currently doing more harm than good. The fact was, the two of them had developed their techniques during a time where rampant crime by much more powerful people were running around the city. People like the electricity manipulating Transistor and the vicious brute Monster; people who caused enough damage on their own to justify fighting them with reckless abandon.

 

But things had changed. Most of the “super” criminals in the world had moved on to international terrorism and similar crimes, the kind of thing outside of their scope. They were intensely, perhaps even stupidly patriotic, feeling that fighting criminals in America was more important than any overseas affairs. String was fine with that; he didn’t need to two of them complicating foreign affairs with their tactics, either.

 

But he also shared Carbon’s concerns; they were becoming dangerous, as dangerous to the civilians they claimed to protect as they were to the people they were trying to protect them from. He would ask nicely, appeal to his desire to help and protect. Hopefully that part of him was bigger than his rather oversized ego. Cavalier and Crater both lacked any real training, relying on speed and brute strength, not to mention Cavalier’s not-inconsequential powers like flight and x-ray vision, but because of that they lacked grace and efficiency. Others, like String himself, Carbon and Trembler were highly trained.

 

Trembler had been a member of the Army’s Delta Force anti-terror unit, and Carbon was a highly decorated police officer with a martial arts background.Crater and Cavalier were just two guys who developed superhuman abilities in their early twenties and decided that they needed to use them to fight crime, for good but also for glory. Cavalier was a television favorite. he resembled a comic book hero in so many ways that people were willing to overlook his shortcomings for the sheer spectacle of him, and Crater too to a lesser degree.

 

They made great news, the two of them spectacularly swooping in and obliterating criminals. Amateurs with video cameras and smart phones took movie after movie of their exploits, spreading them all over the internet and TV, while the pair of them ate up the attention like they needed it or they would die. Cavalier in particular always made note of any cameras in the area and made sure that he hammed it up for them as much as possible. To the civilian world, they were great heroes.

 

To the people actually involved with the aftermath of their “heroics” they were a massive headache, however. Utility workers and firefighters were constantly put at risk from the fires and broken power lines they caused. The police were getting frustrated with the number of criminals they had to release because they were improperly detained or flat out assaulted by the pair. Not to mention the number of carefully crafted sting operations that were a day or two away from a massive number of arrests with good, hard evidence before the two dropped into the middle of it and either scared away the perpetrators, or resulted in a few low levels arrests while the mastermind got away.

 

String had a tough job ahead of him; how could he get them to lay low and not interfere while convincing them it was for the greater good?

 

A quickly moving shape skimming over the roofs of some of the buildings caught his eye. “Track target, zoom.” The onboard computer automatically locked onto the speeding form and displayed a zoomed-in view in the upper right hand corner of String Theory’s heads-up display. As soon as he saw the bronze helmet, he knew he had finally found Cavalier. String Theory took a deep breath, then changed into plasma and fired off at high speed after the hero.

 

Cavalier skimmed low over the roofs of the city, his eyes opened to any signs of crimes in progress. He peered through the roofs of many of the structures he passed, mindful of any domestic violence or other “quieter” crimes. It had been almost a week since he and Crater’s attack on the gang van, and the story was already beginning to fade in the public’s memory. He had been a little disappointed that crime in general had seemed to slow down a bit after that.

 

With the attack on the meth lab the night before and they the total destruction of the van posse, he feared that maybe the criminal element had gone into hiding for awhile, afraid that they would meet the swift and decisive justice that he had his partner meted out. he supposed he should be happy, that the streets appeared to be relatively clean for the general public. he sighed, thinking of returning back to his fortress when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.

 

Something was glowing white with a purplish halo and streaking toward him at great speed. He flew a bit further, pretending not to notice. As the light approached, he veered toward a billboard. At the last second, he stopped suddenly, ripped the giant sign from its base and threw it with all strength toward the streaking form. It stopped, completely dropping all of its considerable momentum, and twin blasts of energy met the sign, blasting it to flaming pieces. Through the wreckage, Cavalier blasted through, delivering a mighty uppercut to his pursuer, who flipped over backwards under the impact.

 

As the person got their bearings, Cavalier rushed in and body slammed them, carrying them off into the night. He had planned to ram the person, whoever they were into a building up ahead before questioning them as to why they were following him, when suddenly they wrapped their arms around him and became so heavy he could not maintain forward momentum. The two plummeted toward the roof of a building below, stopping just shy of impact as the person Cavalier was now being held by stopped an inch above, rooting them both in the air, then settling down.

 

“I was thinking of how best to break this to you, but I think this little incident should speak volumes. Cav, CHILLOUT.” Cavalier blinked, recognizing the voice. “It’s Al, Cav. String Theory. We need to talk.” He gently set the other man down on the roof then returned to the titanium/steel structure his suit normally had. “Cav, man… You and Crater feeling okay these day?”

 

Cavalier brushed off some nonexistent dirt from his white jumpsuit and shrugged. “We’re fine. I’m sorry about that…” he said, sounding a little embarrassed. “I was trying to find you to talk about, well, how you two have been handling things lately. You guys… Well, gang members and bank robbers are not supervillains. They are normal people with guns. They need to be handled differently…”

 

Cavalier held up a hand “String, I know you are a patriot and a good soldier, and I appreciate all you do for this country, but your area of expertise is foreign affairs. Mine and Crater’s are local.” String shook his head. “I may not be a lawyer, Cav, but did you know that almost everyone you and that meathead caught in the past three months has walked?”

 

Cavalier looked him in the face, an angry flash showed. “What? Those slimy, corrupt lawyers…” String held up his hands “No, it’s not that. The police are being forced to release them before they are even charged in some cases, because you and Crater are assaulting them.”

 

“Since when is it ‘assault’ to stop a crime?” Snapped the helmeted man angrily. “It’s assault when you beat the hell out of them before they commit one.” String Theory countered. “Listen, I know you both have the best intentions in mind, but neither of you are law students. Hell, I’m not even educated in law, which is why I follow orders from those who know them, and I rarely even operate in the nation I live to protect. You are endangering many of the people you are trying to protect. Listen, I know this is hard to hear, but you guys need to take a break for a bit.”

 

Cavalier lifted his head and puffed his chest indignantly. “What?”

 

String sighed. “I have it on good authority that one more incident like the one with the van, and the police will be out looking for you two as criminals.” He said sternly. Cavalier cocked an eyebrow. “‘Good Authority?’ What authority might that be?”

 

String crossed his arms over his chest. “Does it matter?”

 

“It does if the ‘Authority’ is a girl who thinks playing police makes her a hero.” he said snidely. String’s head dropped slightly so he gave the impression of looking up from under a furrowed brow. “Carbon was born with her abilities, but she chose to work hard and legitimately before opting to work in the shadows. She deserves as much respect as I do. Maybe more; I am rarely if ever in any real danger.”

 

Cavalier’s hand came up to stop him from talking; he knew this was a dead subject with the man. He didn’t think Carbon was a joke so much as he thought she was in way over her head. To Cavalier’s thinking, women just weren’t as strong or resilient as men. he assumed her input in everything was just to soften her work, to make her more equal to the men. She was a girl trying to play at being a boy. To him, and Crater, women were damsels in distress, and Carbon was going out looking for an excuse to be rescued.

 

String wasn’t disgusted by his attitude, he actually pitied them two men for not seeing what a valuable asset the women in their team were. Not one of them had ever required “rescuing” and in fact, Deadshot owed his life to Lightfoot’s quick thinking and her stunningly powerful natural abilities. But the two heroes just couldn’t see them for their assets beyond those in their shirts.

 

String stood up straight. He looked Cavalier in the face directly, and allowed the faceplate of his suit to slide up and reveal his true face. “Look, I am asking you as one man to another, as another American with the same goals, you and your big friend back off for a bit. Your methods are like swatting a fly with a rocket launcher.”

 

Cavalier look struck by the last statement. “Are you saying we’re too powerful for regular crime?” String Theory held his tongue, and did a masterful job of not letting his shock at the man in front of him and his hubris. “Sure. We need you to back off. Let the others clean up some of this low hanging fruit. Get some R&R. Who knows, maybe a real villain is waiting in the wings for you two to disappear. They’re maybe too afraid to come out because they know you guys will smack them down before they can put their plans to work.”

 

He was laying it on thick, on purpose, because he correctly assumed Cavalier was too full of himself to see the the sarcasm for what it really was. He could see the other man mulling over his words. “Yes. Okay. I will speak to Crater. We will hold out for a little while. We’ll let the others clean up the small stuff. But as soon as a supervillain raises his head…”

 

“You guys can cut it off.” String Theory interrupted, eager to be done with this, and pleased that Cav seemed likely to play ball, for a while at least. Cavalier stood, obviously conflicted, then looked over at String Theory, offered a small nod, then leapt into the air and flew off. String Theory took a deep breath, then switched back into plasma and took to the skies himself. He was going to inform Carbon and the others of the good news. Then he was going to see if there was a terror cell that needed eradication because he had some extra frustrated energy to work off.

 

Cavalier headed back to his fortress where Crater was no doubt enjoying dinner.He would break the news to him; they would lay low for a while, let the super villains of the world think they were gone. Once they decided to show themselves again, however, Crater and Cavalier would rise up and swat them back down.

 

He landed on one of the turrets of his palatial home located in the mountains well out of the city. It was his fortress, and appropriately shaped like a castle. He strolled into the house proper, removed his helmet and shook out his dirty blonde hair. As expected, Crater was sitting on an oversized couch watching a huge television playing a newsreel about the two of them destroying the van full of gangsters on their way to commit murder. They both loved the media as much as the media loved them. It was a relationship of mutualism, where the news teams got ratings and the pair of heroes got fame, and presumably thrust fear into the hearts of the world’s evildoers.

 

“Eddie, my friend!” Crater sat up and looked back over the couch. “Jimbo, you’re home early. Slow night?” Jim Hodges, Cavalier, smiled and then showed his closest friend a sobered look. “I had a meeting with our friend String Theory. He had some troubling news.”

 

Eddie Law, “Crater” turned to face Jim fully. “What is it?”

 

Cavalier sighed. He waved his hand at the nine foot wide television, which shut off. “It seems that we might be too much of a good thing for the city. By preventing crime instead of reacting to it, we appear to be making it easier for criminals and their slimebag lawyers to skirt true justice and walk free.” Eddie growled, and snarl cutting across his nearly featureless white face. “Gutless cowards…” he grumbled.

 

Jim nodded. “Indeed, my friend. String suggested perhaps we lay low. He thinks there may be a mastermind behind this, one that might come out of hiding if they are sufficiently placated into thinking that we are no more if we lay low for a time and let the lesser heroes clean up the detritus that clogs the streets with lawlessness.”

 

The bigger man looked horrified. “What will they do without us? Would they rely on women and children to keep the streets safe?” he said referring to the likes of Carbon and Deadshot’s second, Ward. Cavalier patted the air in front of him as if to say “calm down.” “I agree. The thought frightens me. But it may work for the greater good if we let the amateurs like the police handle it.”

 

Crater nodded. he could see where Cavalier’s logic was heading, and would have anyway, even if his stilted view painted them as being even greater heroes for standing aside and allowing their “lessers” to take the reigns for a while. “And if, in the meantime, things spiral out of control, we can step in and fix them up before they get too far out of hand.” Cavalier added. Crater nodded and smiled. He turned and sat back down on the couch, and waved for the TV to turn back on.

 

As Cavalier walked out of the room to change into his civilian clothes, he joked “Maybe you can work on your tan, my pale friend!” Crater chuckled and changed the station. Maybe this would work out for the best, in the end.

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