I wore my Norma Mortenson identity again. It’s a false assumption for many people that someone who changes their outward identity as much as I do can’t easily keep track of who they really are. The Barbellian, Missile Patriot, Banshee, Norma Mortenson, the Lord of Misrule, any others I’ve missed by now: how can I possibly maintain who I really am? But that’s easy. I know who I am. I’m not my boobs or my penis, but I am the sort who will use both for any advantage they can give me.
Once you know who you are inside, the outside is only icing on the cake.
So I once again became Norma and used my assets against Senator Powers. I may have enhanced the mammary glands a bit, because me and him, baby, weren’t nothin’ but mammals. I didn’t actively flirt, though. He’s not my type. I prefer the innocent and naive, I think.
We stopped at a barbecue place, the Senator having an odd taste for the messy food. Perhaps he just wanted to see fluids smeared all over my face. Eh, probably a power play.
“Good day, Miss Mortenson,” he stood up and offered a handshake.
I smiled as I shook, “Good day to you too, Senator. Thank you for meeting with me.”
“I always have time for prominent citizens like yourself. Please, let’s order first. I’m known for my love affair with the ribs here.”
Not to mention his love affair with Latino masseuse, though I think baby oil factored into it more than love ever did.
I had the salisbury steak myself, filling up. All the physical activity of supervillainy burns a lot of calories and increases the appetite. Then there’s the physical cost of restructuing myself with regenerative nanites. If I use them enough without restoring my chemical energy reserves, I’ll shrink. Priscilla Powers will also be chowing down more than ever, but that’s because she’s got to power her hand and feet. I don’t have that issue. I have a power core embedded in my chest that can wipe out a city if cracked.
That’s a good way to make sure people don’t want to kill you, along with always keeping at least one syringe of nanites on me, though I did compromise a core once to beat Captain Lightning. Temporarily. Still managed to knock some sense into the guy. He thanked me, since he was being controlled by the horror-villain Spinetingler at the time. He even told me he owed me a couple after we managed to save the entire city from being ruled by a villain other than me.
So we enjoyed a filling meal and made small talk about a few topics, like the craziness in Empyreal City, the weather in Paradise City, and how cleaned up Kingscrow had become recently. I guess Mix N’Max liked Vegas, but I realized I hadn’t kept up with him very well. My former druggy partner-in-crime might be surprised to see me now. Then again, I met his brother that time, who I’m pretty sure is his sister now. He may not be that surprised.
Wiping dabbing at my mouth all gentle and ladylike after inhaling the last of my food, I asked, “Now, Senator, how about we get down to business?”
He wiped his hands on his napkin and left it crumpled up in his plate, “Yes, Hero.Net, right? There are rumors that heroes are organizing on it.”
I shrugged. “That’s a strong word for it. It’s like a social network. It makes it easier to share clues, team up, and manage patrols. Plus, it gives them a forum for discussions. This reaches a lot of heroes at once.” I showed him a few screenshots
He glanced over the papers. “You could have made these, but it doesn’t say much about their competence that they’ve organized so well but can’t stop crime.”
“I could say the same about every branch of law enforcement in the U.S., but no one’s trying to abolish the police and FBI. It does seem daunting that the villains aren’t out yet after all that, but that’s easy to explain.” I showed some printouts of The Order. “The villains’ version came first as a remnant of that alliance that briefly took over the entire city.”
“How do you have these?” he asked, apparently convinced of the villainous version.
I held up two tablets, each one logged into one of the networks. “I get access to both. Not only could I help you find heroes and villains for your registration gag, but my servers are trusted by them. Both groups willingly help to keep them more secure. What better place for a registration list, right?”
He gaped. “This sounds like quite the confession.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t hear a confession, but I did hear an opportunity.”
Powers looked around, “I refuse to be a party like yourself. I do what I do for the good of everyone. To make the world a better place. You’re the worst sort of corpora-.”
“Look at your phone.” I told him, smirking. He did, then looked around again, more closely this time. Lots of puzzled people with phones. A frantic hostess at the register, trying to get the machine to process a credit card. For some reason, communications in and out just weren’t working. Except for those tablets of mine. I winked at him.
The Senator settled down, showing no more reluctance to work with a criminal. “You’ve made a very good point about security, but I’ve already made that deal. Constellation has the contract to maintain the security of the list.”
Constellation Consortium. Mercenaries.
I grinned. “Senator, you’re counting on the patriotism of mercenaries? They fight for money. I have plenty of that on my own.”
The Senator pointed at me. “They’re soldiers from the U.S. Of A. that fight for their country, and they use better equipment and receive better pay for their sacrifice.”
I rolled my eyes, “And they run off and let real patriots die in pitched firefights so they can collect their checks.”
The Senator didn’t take kindly to that. “Say what you want, they’re still a security firm and your company is some silly little medical supply company that owns coffee shops.”
“Hey, everyone needs medical treatment from time to time, including mercenaries. Speaking of which, I understand your daughter has recently been given some illicit treatment of her own. It’s why you’re in town.”
“Yes, the doctors are amazed, excited at the quality of the wo-, the limbs. You indicated before you can do better?”
I put up all the tablets and everything, released my little embargo on communications, and pulled out a small flash drive. “Easily. Take a look at these demonstrations. I can give her skin on them, and you won’t have to choose between denying your daughter the ability to walk, or benefiting from superhumans even as you seek to corral them.”
The main points of the meeting dealt with, we quickly got out of there.
Shame about Senator Powers, though. Accidentally emailed some very nasty stuff to people from his office computer and tried to pin it all on a virus of some sort. Real nasty stuff that really let a lot of people down. I guess I’m the only one who found the clowns and their “cream” pies funny, but even the normal ones terrify a lot of people somehow.
Poor fellow. What a political downfall. Thoroughly discredited, even moreso with another email released from Psycho Gecko, and some funny business coming out about his Powers PAC bank accounts transferring money to a non-extradition country.
The next part of the plan, getting a copy of the list, probably won’t be as easy as all that. For starters, I’m dealing with Constellation Consortium. They’re one of those corporations that owns a bunch of smaller corporations. They’re private military contractors made up of ex-military. Mercenaries, in other words, though they mainly do work for the United States Military. They’ve helped with disaster relief, which helps make them look better considering they also bought out Universitas. Universitas used to be Darkwater until they massacred a few civilians and had to change their name. Name brand is important, after all.
I mentioned before Senator Powers dealt with a lot of security folks, so that explains their involvement. I guess I expected the Pinkerton Detective Agency would be involved instead, especially since they employ superpowered operatives. Of course, knowing who I’m messing with doesn’t make it any easier to find out where they’d store a list like that.
And, as much as I’d like to fire off one of Chekhov’s guns and cash in a favor with Captain Lightning, I don’t have his number. Whoops.
And it’s not like Constellation’s mercenaries are easily identifiable. This would be so much easier if they ran around in yellow and green shouting, “Hail Hydra!” But don’t count me out yet. I might have been able to use the stolen phones… if they hadn’t been blown up in my hotel room. I could pretend to be a hero willing to register, but why? With Senators Powers having a really bad day, how would anyone know to contact them about it?
Shot myself in the foot there, I guess.
Luckily, I have ways of getting what I want. Ways like Harlon. He’s a high-up executive of a news organization I’d rather keep secret. A few years back, he had what could have been a bad encounter with me. After killing some of his coworkers, I took pity on him. Every now and then, he and I scratch each others’ backs for information. While a lot of the pundits on news channels are pretty much useless, like that fake CIA agent who got outed recently, their sources are usually legit. I left him a message on my way back to our crack den hideaway.
I saw all the druggies were lying still when I got there. I shrugged and headed upstairs. “Tech, did you kill all the crackheads? I’m proud of you, man.”
I found him upstairs, poring over data on holographic screen projected by his gauntlet. “No, it’s merely a sedative.”
I shook my head. “Someday, you’ll have to learn that drugs won’t solve all your problems. Just look at the people downstairs, for instance.”
“Oh?” he asked, paying the conversation little attention. “What does solve problems?”
“Violence of course. And sometimes blackmail, but always violence.”
I had time to ponder my predicament as I changed out of his sight, having excused my appearance as Norma as just another trick to Technolutionary. Then I stopped my precious nanites in their not-quite-tracks. I had a brilliant idea. It should have been so obvious to me before. I paused the nanites long enough to do some shopping, no doubt shocking people with an my asymmetric appearance. But it worked for me. I just needed a close enough outfit and a car for Moai to drive toward the Capital Complex while my nanites finished setting me up again. I know, why not the armor? Because when I walked past security looking and sounding like Senator Powers, I didn’t need to give them any special reason to stop me. And while it might be hard on an aide or page who forgets their identification, it’s much easier as a known Senator. Same for a Senator needing help to find his own office.
At least I’d gotten the building right. There’s like three of them for the use of Senators. I found the staff packing up in a hurry, the sound of a shredder chewing through documents in the background. “What’s the happy hap, people?” I asked cheerfully, trying my best to maintain his accent instead of mine.
“Senator!” a young man rushed over. “What are you doing here? You said you were going back home after you made bail.”
I raised a finger, “I did say that, my good lad, but I have to wrap up one last thing.”
“Sir?” He almost dropped the file folders he was carrying.
I put my hands on his shoulders. “You are my number one guy on this. I need you to talk to Constellations. You hear me? For God’s sake, you better hear me. I need the list. They’ll know what I’m talking about. I need a copy. It’s my salvation. My own personal Jesus. I need someone to be my friend, someone who cares. Are you that someone?”
Emboldened, the staffer nodded and walked off as fast as his energetic little legs could take him. Meanwhile, I adjusted my phoney bologna tie to keep from choking. That’s when I noticed a group of men and women huddled around a TV, some of them wearing worried expressions. “What’s upizzle in the hizzle? Why so glum? Don’t you have work to do?” I said, putting my arms around a pair of them. One short, plump woman of Asian ancestry turned to me and jumped like she’d seen a ghost. Others looked surprised to see me as well.
That’s when I paid attention to the news coverage, “…if you’re just joining us, Robert Powers, the Senator leading the charge on superhuman registration, was attacked by the supervillain Mary Malady at his home less than an hour ago. The Senator is fine. We go now live to where he is commenting on this turn of events.”
The image then changed to Senator Powers walking away from a house that looked like it’d been eaten by giant termites or something. “This is more evidence of what I’ve been saying in the recent days. There is a superpowered conspiracy aimed at my red, white, and blue American heart because they’re afraid I’ll expose them and their treachery to the world. They’re false friends who seek to stab us in the back. The superpowers are afraid of letting America be the superpower it deserves to be.”
Big talk, saying I’m afraid of being exposed after I jumped out of a cake wearing post-its. But I have to appreciate the brilliant damage control. He must have some way to get people to attack him. Well, aside from being an ass.
I looked around at the people who had seen “me” elsewhere on live TV. I shrugged. “You know they include a delay with live television. What if I’d given everyone the bird?”
Still, good time to leave before my treachery and false face is exposed to the world. And make a note for later: Maybe if I check with the guy who tore up D.C., I’ll find the Senator behind him, too. I headed after the aide I stopped originally. “Yo, yo, guy. Man. Fellow. Buddy.”
I found him in an office down the hall with a big desk and family pictures of the Powers family on the desk. He had set aside his folders and rifled through one of those rolling index card holders. He looked up when I entered. “Senator, I haven’t called them yet. I’m sorry, if you’ll just give me a minute.”
I waved my hand in the air like wiping away something. A grin, maybe. “That’s ok. I need to run, so if you’ll just give me the number now, I’ll handle it on my own.”
“It’s in here somewhere, Senator,” he told me, pleadingly. I glanced down at the index and noticed a picture of Priscilla set on top of the folders. I reached over and grabbed it. “Oh, that! I was just grabbing that to pack up for you, Senator.”
A ringing phone stopped him. He glanced down, then back up at me, then stopped to answer the phone. “Hello?”
I looked over the photo while he took his call. Priscilla looked happy, grinning and showing off her chair with a set of fake spinner hubcaps on the wheels. Word. “Come to daddy,” I said, then giggled to myself.
“Sir? Is this some sort of prank?” asked the unfortunate aide. He held up the phone, showing that Senator Powers was calling. The Senator’s voice asked, “Hello? Kent? Are you there?”
“Just a private joke. In here, you said?” I told him, pointing to the index. He nodded. I nodded too. “Good. I’ll go ahead and relieve you, then. I’m sure you have a splitting headache.”
“Actually-” he started, but didn’t get to finish as I embedded the corner of the picture frame into the middle of his forehead.
“Here’s blood in your eye, kiddo.” I winked at him, then pushed him over and wiped off my face where a spray had gotten me. The phone dropped to the floor, the Senator left talking to no one. I pocketed the index, then slipped out my survival syringe of nanites for a quickie. At least the ill-fitting suit looked appropriate on a random fleeing aide, who had good reason to get out of a haunted Senate office building before Capital police locked it down.
The bad news, I still don’t have the list, and Senator Powers might just recover from this. The good news, I can find what I need with a little more time, and the Senator still has a lot more to lose. If I want to get really mean, I could even knock up his daughter. I mean, I’ve already spent enough time giving her my DNA.