The rise of the fat mogul (the defenders saga book 2) (page 2)

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“Dammit.  Someone needs to slip that guy a Valium or something.  Alright Alexa, you ready for this?”  Buddy stood and looked to see where Zero was headed.

“Yeah.  You think he's ready for us?”

“Is he ever not?”

“Good point,” Alexa said as she jumped into Buddy's arms.  “Take me away, handsome.”

“You keep talking like that and you're going to give someone the wrong idea.”

“Who says it's the wrong idea?”

“Cut it out, you two,” Ryan scowled as he jumped off the side of the building.  He fired up his pack and took off after Zero.

“Alright kid, here goes nothing,” Buddy ran toward the two already in the night sky and leaped directly at the barely visible silhouette of Zero. The wind rushed across his face as he flew toward his target.  Buddy looked in the sky for any sign of what had set Zero off in the first place and could see nothing.  A purple bubble appeared around Buddy and Alexa, causing them to slow and fly alongside the costumed vigilante.

“Took you long enough, chum,” Zero whispered.

“Yeah, yeah,” Buddy scowled.  “Wanted to make sure my beer wasn’t going to get cold while I was away.” 

Alexa removed herself from Buddy's hold.  “What’d ya find?”

“Nothing yet, but I know it was somewhere around here.”

“Hey!” Ryan yelled at he struggled to catch up. “Any chance you guys could go just a little slower?  Some of us don't have super powers.”

A crashing noise followed by the alerting of a car alarm sounded nearby.  The group's attention moved from the air to the ground simultaneously.

“There,” Zero exclaimed.  “That yellow figure!  That is what I had seen.”  He decreased his altitude swiftly.

“You know, I still don't understand why people have car alarms anymore. It seems the only time those things go off is in the middle of the night when I'm trying to sleep.”

“It would appear to have been a good choice for this particular car owner.”

“He's got a point, Buddy.” Alexa elbowed Buddy in the ribs.

“Shh,” Zero whispered.  “We should not wish to spook the criminal.”

The group touched down lightly just around the corner from where their bounty lay.

“Why not jump him and get this over with?” Ryan asked.  “I mean, he's just some stupid carjacker.  We can easily overpower him.”

“Rule number one of crime-fighting, Little Red: never underestimate a criminal.  For instance, he was initially not earthbound.  If he has the capability of flight, it is possible he has other abilities that we would not want to be caught off guard against.”  Zero took a look around the corner of the building they stood against and saw a figure lying on the ground, struggling against a large piece of fabric.  Zero looked back at the group, raised his hand to the air and waved it forward.

“You want us to come with you?” Buddy asked.

Zero shot him an exasperated look.  “Yes, chum,” he whispered. “Come.”

The group crept toward the flailing figure and reached his position just as he unraveled himself.  He jumped to his feet when he saw the quartet that now surrounded him.

“Stand back!” he yelled with a shaky voice.  “I have mace and I'm not afraid to use it.”  He reached down to his belt and pulled out a small canister, pointing it rapidly from person to person.

Buddy chuckled to himself at the image before him.  The man was young and tall, but lanky.  He wore a bright yellow, form-fitting suit with black stripes going down the sides.  The suit looked as though it had been home-made.  Across his belt was a series of devices, all of which appeared to be non-lethal deterrents one could easily find in a store, such as the pepper spray he was currently shoving in each of their faces.  He wore a pair of yellow goggles on his eyes and on his back was the large piece of fabric he had been battling with only moments before.

“Chill out, pal,” Buddy chuckled.  “We won't have to hurt you if you just do what we say nice and easy.”

“You can't make me do anything!” the man yelled.  “I'm the Bumblebee!” From his belt he removed another device which extended into a long stick.  Electric sparks sputtered from the end of it.  “Don't make me sting you!”

“Whoa, dude,” Ryan laughed.  “Where'd you get the fancy cattle prod?”

“I'm serious.  I don't want any trouble.”

Alexa sniggered.

“Look kid,” Buddy spoke calmly.  “If you don't want any trouble, just put down the, um, stinger there and come along with us.  We just want to have a little chat with you about what you were doing with that car there.”

“No, you're coming with me to talk about whatever it was you were planning to do.”

“I had hoped to not have to do this the hard way,” Zero began, “but--”

“Wait,” Alexa said, placing her hand on Zero's shoulder.  “Bumblebee, sweetie.  What do you think is going on here?”

“Don't get fresh with me, girl.  Just because you outnumber me doesn't give you the right to do whatever you were planning on doing.  I'm not afraid.  I'll take you all on if I have to.”

“Okay,” Zero said, cracking his knuckles.  “If you say so.”

“Zero, chill out already,” Alexa stopped him again.  “Look Bumblebee, my friend here has been itching for a fight for several months now.  You really don't want to give him an excuse.  So, just tell me, what sorts of things are you getting into on this fine night?”

“I am the great Bumblebee--”

“Right, right--” Alexa interrupted, but he continued. 

“Defender of the defenseless, helper of the helpless.  I fight crime in the honor of those who deserve it.  I am--”

“I hate to interrupt a good monologue,” Zero bellowed, “but are you attempting to state that you are a superhero?”

“Of course, I am the great Bumblebee!  All who worship evil's--”

“That's fantastic!” Zero yelled.  “I thought we were the only ones left!”

“Oh, wait,” Bumblebee said with a relaxed voice as he dropped the cattle prod to his side.  “Are you guys with the RLSH?  I should have guessed.  Especially with that sweet cape you’ve got there.”

“Thanks,” Zero replied.

“The RLSH?” Ryan asked.

“Um, yeah, the Real Life Super-Heroes.  Have you guys been members long?”

“All my life, compadre,” Zero laughed.  “Haven't we all?”

“That’s what they tell me.  Honestly, I’m still pretty new.” Bumblebee struggled to return theStingerto its rightful spot on his belt.

“What are you talking about?” Ryan prodded.

“The Real Life Super Hero pro-social movement.  People who care, taking on personas similar to those in comic books, going out and helping people stay safe.  You guys testing me or something?  Hazing the new guy or whatever?”

“Are you saying you don't have superpowers?” Zero asked.

“Um, no, of course I don't,” Bumblebee laughed.  “Or, wait, am I supposed to be doing this in character?”  He straightened up his posture and placed his hands on his hips in a heroic pose.  “I’m the Bumble—“

“I still don’t understand,” Ryan interrupted.  “Why are you dressed like this?”

“Like what?”

“You know,” Buddy answered, “like our pal Zero here--in costume or whatever.”

“Uniform,” Zero corrected.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Bumblebee responded.  “I was about to ask you guys why youweren’tin costume.”

“Uniform.”

“I mean, I thought that’s what the whole movement was about, costumes and justice.”

Zero cleared his throat in objection.

“Still seems a little overdone to me,” Ryan spoke.  “I mean, what’s with the whole dollar store utility belt?  How in the world do you think a little can of pepper spray and some wrist ties will save the world?”

“Hey now, these are very expensive.  I got caught up in a massive online bidding war for this cattle prod.  This is the exact one that was used in the filming ofIdiot Stunts 3.”

“I stand corrected,” Ryan replied.

“Looks like I was wrong again,” Zero spoke sadly as he walked away from Bumblebee and the rest of the group.  “Let’s head back to Maggie’s.”

“Wait,” Alexa disagreed, “we should probably still find out what Bumblebee was doing with the car.  Maybe there’s something we could do to help?”

“Oh, yeah, that,” Bumblebee laughed nervously.  “You see, I just bought this flying suit from a guy who makes them out in Taiwan and was giving it a test run, but, well, I kind of got tangled up in it in midair.  I lost control and landed right on top of the car.  It was a total accident.  I was going to leave a note.”

“See,” Zero said, continuing his exit by rising into the sky.  “Absolutely nothing to see here.”'

A loudpopwas heard and two figures appeared in the street with the group.

“Whoa, holy cow!” Bumblebee exclaimed.  “You guys sure have some cool tricks.  You're going to have to teach--”

“Damon!” Buddy exclaimed at the man who was accompanied by Agent Thomas Kent.  Instantaneously, Zero rejoined the group as they all entered the all-too practiced defense formation Zero had taught them.  Each hero stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a wall between them and their yellow-suited companion.  ”But--”

“I'm so sorry for dropping in like this,” Damon spoke.  “But we are in need of your help.”

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

“I apologize,” Damon continued, “I didn’t think this form of arrival would create such tension.  Perhaps it would help if I introduce myself?  My name is Agent Dennis Murphy.  I believe you already know my associate Agent Kent.”

“The hell you are,” Zero growled as he began glowing a dark shade of purple.  Buddy placed his hand on Zero’s shoulder, causing the large uniformed man to turn his glare on Buddy.

“Quite an interesting response,” Murphy mused.  “I wish we had more time to review it.  Instead, perhaps it would be easiest if I just lay everything out on the table.  We are in need of your assistance and will, unfortunately, be required to utilize whatever means necessary to gain it.  I’d be quite happy if you would choose to come along willingly.  I’m not big on violence.”

“What sorts of terrible things do you have planned for us, Damon?” Zero asked.

“Actually, it’s Dennis.  Although, I’d really prefer it if you would refer to me as Agent Murphy.  It’s rather formal, I know, but seeing as I’m the new head of the Meta-Human Defense Team, I feel I should probably retain some form of formality.”

“But--” Zero began. 

Buddy, placing his hand on Zero's chest to silence him, asked, “What's this all about?”

“Unfortunately, the topics which we need to discuss with you are highly classified.  As such, we would be required to discuss them in a much more secure location.”

“Look, dude, I don't know what sort of crazy agenda you've got going on here, but if you think we're going anywhere with you, you're sorely mistaken.” Ryan stepped forward and raised a metallic device to Agent Murphy's face.

“Oh, such rage,” Agent Murphy smiled, turning to his companion.  “We’ll need to mark that in their files. These four have such amazing spunk.  I would have never guessed it from the debriefing on the Barber Street incident.”

Alexa stepped forward as well.  “Spunk ain't the thing you need to worry yourself about, bub.”

“Please,” Agent Murphy said as he shook in delight.  “This is too much.”

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Bumblebee spoke as he placed himself between Murphy and Alexa. 

Agent Murphy's smile turned into a frown as he looked in question at Agent Kent.  “I don’t believe he was in the file you provided me with.  Who is this?”

Kent shook his head without a word.

“Who am I?  I'm the goddamned Bumblebee, that's who!”

“The who?” Murphy asked glancing down at the plastic gadgets lining the yellow man's belt.  “Nevermind.  You're of no importance to our cause.”  He looked to Kent who then touched Bumblebee's shoulder and disappeared in a loudpop.

“Alright,Murphy,” Zero began, “what's your game this time?  Where's the fire and brimstone you love so much?”

“Oh, Zero Hamilton,” Murphy giggled.  “The note in your file concerning your rather interesting way of turning a phrase truly does it no justice.”

Kent returned, again accompanied by apop.  “Have we cleared this up yet, Murphy?”

“You are right, Mr. Kent.  I had not intended to be out in the open for nearly this long.  I would greatly appreciate it if you would be so kind as to deposit these folks in the meeting room.”

“Not a problem,” Agent Kent said as he touched Buddy's shoulder and they disappeared in anotherpop.

 

Buddy and Kent appeared in a small room filled with only a table and chairs.  The room was drab with yellowing-white walls sporting a couple of forgetful pieces of art and one large mirror.  The mirror, Buddy quickly recognized from every cop drama he had ever watched as being a one-way, probably with a whole host of men in suits sitting on the opposite side.

“Take a seat,” Agent Kent said gruffly and just as quickly disappeared.  He reappeared only a moment later with Zero.  Before Buddy was even able to move to grab a seat, Alexa, Ryan, and Agent Murphy were brought into the room as well. 

“Please, please, take a seat,” Agent Murphy said happily.  “I just have to sign you all in with the front desk.  Bureaucracy, you know.  I’ll be just a minute.”

Kent and Murphy left the room.

“What's going on with Damon?” Ryan asked.  “I mean, isn't he supposed--”

“Not here,” Buddy muttered through gritted teeth.  He glanced at the mirror.

Alexa, not noticing Buddy's glance, “Yeah, and where's Parker?  I thought he and-”

“Dearest Alexa,” Zero interrupted.  “I believe Buddy is attempting to state that we could be overheard in this location.”

“Oh,” Alexa blushed.

“Yeah, thanks for keeping it subtle,” Buddy scowled.

“I only aim to assist, chum.”

“Okay, but what do you think they want?” Ryan whispered, leaning forward.

“I don't know,” Buddy replied.

“Well,” Alexa began, “to be honest, I'm not sure what should concern us more, the fact that Damon's back, the fact that he's working with Kent, or, the fact that he seems so happy to see us.”

“Those are most definitely some worthwhile things to ponder,” Zero responded.

“I’ve got the answer to at least one of those questions,” Buddy offered.  “But I’ll have to tell you about it later.  For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that Murphy is a heckuva lot nicer than Memphis ever was.”

“Nicer, perhaps,” Zero chimed in. “But nowhere near as interesting.”

“I don’t like him,” Ryan added.  “I refuse to trust anyone who smiles that much.”

Agent Murphy burst back into the room.  The ever-present smile definitely went a long way toward changing his appearance from the evil man they had faced off against just a few months prior, as did the dirty and wrinkled brown suit he wore.  He also now walked with a bounce in his step, instead of flames on his fingers.  It was hard to believe this was the man who called himself the Angel of Death.

He sat down at the head of the table, placed a file in front of him, looked at the group, and his smile actually managed to grow larger.  After a moment, he spoke.

“I honestly can't tell you how excited I am to have you all here.  I've read all your files.  I mean, the battle you folks had a few months ago with that Damon Memphis fellow, just brilliant.”

“We have no clue what you're talking about,Murphy,” Alexa responded.  The rest of the group nodded.

“Oh, right, don't want to incriminate yourselves.  I get it,” he replied as he placed his feet up on the table.  “But, you see, it's a whole new world nowadays.  We're operating under an entirely new set of rules. In fact, we’re actually here today to discuss how we would like to subsidize your vigilante efforts.”

“What vigilante efforts?” Ryan asked.

“Oh please,” the smile weakened only slightly.  “I am well enough aware of how my predecessor ran things around here, as I believe you are.  If things were not different, you can be certain that just stepping foot into our offices would have sentenced you to living out the rest of your lives in some dark hole.”

“Go ahead and try it,” Zero said through gritted teeth.  “It’s your funeral.”

“But that’s precisely my point, Mr. Hamilton.  I have no intention of bringing about any harm to the four of you.  If anything, I’d like to try to do something good.”

“Look, Murphy,” Buddy said as he stood.  “I don't know what kind of game you're playing here, but we're not interested, okay?”

“Buddy Jackson, the de facto leader of this band of heroes.  I love that you've taken on this role even amid this new world.  I understand how you may distrust me, or anyone in my job.  However, since you’re already here, why don’t you just hear me out?  If you don't like what I'm saying, you can just go along on your merry way pretending we never crossed paths.”

“Yeah, like that's possible,” Ryan spoke.  Agent Murphy gave him a hurt look before continuing.

“How about we start fresh?  Would any of you care for some doughnuts?  You know us law enforcement types.  Never too far from a circle of sugar.”  Murphy made a gesture to the mirror.  Seven seconds later a young lady wearing a suit jacket and skirt walked in and placed a platter of doughnuts on the table.  She exited without speaking a word.

“Please, please. Dig in.”

The heroes did not move.

“As you wish,” Murphy said as he nabbed a chocolate-covered pastry for himself.  “They’re there if any of you change your minds.  Before we begin, it might help to give you all a little background on the current state of the MHDT.  As I’m guessing you’re all aware, the Meta-Human Defense Team was initially created in connection with the Super-Pact to seek out and eliminate all people who exhibited extra-human abilities, as well as those who were known collaborators. 

“However, what you’re probably not all that aware of is how things have changed recently with the new administration in the White House.  I hope you’ll understand that this information is highly classified and I could be considered treasonous just for telling you.  However, I’m willing to risk it, as I think it makes the case much clearer. 

“You see, our new Commander-in-Chief feels that this Super-Pact, the international agreement to rid the world of those with extra-ordinary abilities, does not actually exist, since it occurred prior to The Great Redaction.  As such, he’s come up with a plan.  This plan, to put it simply, is that he wishes to leverage superhuman abilities in the aid of the defense of our nation.  It’s a scary world out there and he aims to use every item within our possible arsenal to keep our borders safe.”

“And that's where we come in, huh?” Buddy asked.  “You want us to be the new nukes?”

“Well, not exactly.  This movement is still in its infancy.  We honestly have no direct plans on how to move forward at this point.  I merely mention it to allow you to understand that there has been a paradigm shift in the oversight of my department and how we have been directed to interact with the likes of you.”

“I suppose that explains why we haven't seen any signs of you guys ever since the whole Damon thing,” said Alexa.

“That is one of many reasons.”

“So, if you're not here asking us to enlist, what do you want?” Zero asked.

“Information.  Information on Arthur Flores to be precise.”

“Sorry, dude,” Ryan spoke.  “We haven't seen him.  He went into hiding right after the events on Barber St.”

“Unfortunately, I know for a fact that this is not entirely true.  Although you may not have seen much of the MHDT since the events at Barber Street six months ago, they’ve seen an awful lot of you.  I have reports stating that there has been at least one of you who has visited the man on more than one occasion since that fateful day.” Murphy looked accusingly at Alexa.

“You sure as hell better not be pointing any fingers at me,” Alexa scowled in return.

“I'd prefer to not have to play the role of a demon by calling you out like this, but you have been visiting with Mr. Flores at least once a week since he disappeared, haven't you?”

“No.”

“What is he talking about, Alexa?” Buddy asked.

“Nothing, Buddy.  He’s just trying to pit us against each other.”

“Oh, but dear Alexa, I have it on good authority that you have been escaping off to some location weekly.  Due to your special talents, I will admit that we aren’t always able to track your final destination, but we have, on more than one occasion, been able to determine your arrival at the supposed entrance to The Defenders Bunker.  Are you trying to say that it is not Arthur Flores with whom you have been secretly meeting?”

“That's right; I haven't seen Arthur for months.”

“You know, I had always wondered about that,” Buddy began.  “I mean, youwerehis right hand woman right up until the end there.  It didn't make any sense to me that he would be--”

“I haven't been meeting with Arthur!” Alexa yelled as she stood.

“This would probably go a lot easier if you just told everyone what youhavebeen up to, sis,” Ryan spoke softly.

“Yes, Ms. Rose,” Murphy said with a dark grin on his face.  “Please.  Tell us.”

“Alright, fine.  Look, I was meeting with Arthur for a couple weeks after the whole Barber Street thing, but that ended months ago.  I swear.”

“Oh, come on, Ms. Rose.  My men have spotted you running off at least once weekly for months now.  Just earlier today, in fact.”

“I can’t believe we’re ignoring the fact that you’re flat out admitting to spying on us,” Alexa yelled.  “What do you think gives you the right to—”

“Now, now, Ms. Rose, you can hardly blame us for wanting to know more about the people who have been protecting our city.”

“Right,” Alexa huffed.

“If you have not been visiting Arthur Flores, perhaps you could enlighten us as to where you have been running off to by yourself so frequently.”

“Come on, Alexa,” Ryan again spoke softly.

“Not here.”

“I don't think you have much of a choice.”

“I'll tell everyone when I'm good and ready.”

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