Scene 5 – June 16th
Interior Mansion, Evening
“I can’t believe it’s been six months,” Vivian murmured as she joined me on the couch, curling her legs underneath her and leaning against my side.
“Since…?” I asked, putting an arm around my twin’s shoulders as we waited for the rest of the family to arrive.
“Since we attacked the MLED Compound,” she said. “It feels like we’ve been doing basically nothing since then.”
“Haven’t you and Morgan been searching through the infodumps you got away with?” I pointed out. “That’s not nothing.”
Viv shrugged. “I mean, yeah, but it didn’t really feel like much. We’ve learned a lot about what the Ambrosia Company has been doing and even have an idea of how to stop them, yeah, but… I mean, that deadline is coming up soon. If we don’t do something about it, then Holly…”
“She put together a plan in time,” I said confidently. “I trust that it will work.”
“I trust mother too,” she agreed. “But it’s still a pretty fucked up situation, you know? Having to be supervillains to protect our father and our family, trying to take down an evil corporation-”
“That’s redundant,” our younger brother Percy noted as he entered the room and sat in an armchair near the couch.
“Yes, but still. We’re hoping to take down a corporation to protect not just dad, now, but also our childhood friend, who’s one of the superheroes that will try to stop us!”
“Yeah, well…” I sighed. “We tried to get in contact with her and warn her, but she’s completely incommunicado. Even her parents can’t get to her.” The Kovals had been brought into the plan last month, after Morgan had discovered that the Ambrosia Company was considering targeting their daughter in order to get at the Kovals and force them to break down the wards they had placed to protect dad from the company’s notice. “We don’t exactly have many other options.”
Viv started to respond, but was distracted by mom entering. “Hey mom,” she said, shifting a little against me to sit up straighter. “How… how’s dad?”
Mom sighed heavily and leaned against the wall. “I put him to bed and he’s asleep, but…” She closed her eyes and swallowed with some difficulty. “It’s hard.”
“We know, mom,” I said quietly, “but you do a great job.”
“Thank you, Dom. It’s just… he’s gotten so much worse in the last few months. Sometimes he doesn’t even recognize me…”
Percy stood and went to her, hugging her close, and she clung to him almost desperately.
As she did, Morgan, our other mother, entered. Her eyes widened as she saw her partner’s state, and she raised an eyebrow and me and Viv. Viv mouthed an explanation, and Morgan nodded.
She gently took mom from Percy’s arms and turned her so that she could hold the taller woman herself, pressing a gentle, loving kiss to mom’s cheek as she did so.
“Thank you, Morgan,” mom whispered after a few moments
“Any time, Jenny.”
They released each other after, and Morgan tapped the side of the TV, turning it on and beginning to magically project her thoughts into it. She turned to face the rest of us, then paused. “Where’s Tristan?”
“Finishing his nightly call with the girlfriend,” Percy said. “He’ll be here soon.”
“Still the same girl he went to the beach with?” mom asked.
“Still Molly, yes.”
Mom managed a small smile. “I’m proud of him. She sounds like a lovely girl. Maybe we could have her over for dinner, soon?” she asked Morgan.
The other woman shook her head, the snow-white hair that I and Viv had inherited falling in her face as she did so until she tucked it back behind her ears. “It’s still not safe, dear, you know that.”
“I just…” mom sighed. “I just want this to be over. It’s been so long since we had anything like a normal life.”
“Dad’s a retired supervillain, one of our moms is the greatest mage in the world maybe after Arthur Peregrine himself, and we live in a mansion that no one can notice without being told about,” Viv said dryly. “When did we ever have a normal life?”
Tristan, our youngest brother, stepped into the room, slipping his phone into his pocket as he did. “Sorry I’m late,” he said apologetically.
“No you’re not,” Viv denied. “You would much rather still be on the phone with your girlfriend.”
“Okay, I’m not sorry, but I’m here, at least.”
“Settle down,” mom ordered. “Morgan needs to brief us.”
Scene 6 – June 16th
Interior Mansion, Continuous
Morgan sighed heavily, shaking her head a little. “I want to apologize ahead of time for this, because the plan is… loose, at best. There just wasn’t enough time to put together something as firm as I would have liked, but… well, with Holly in danger if we don’t resurface by the end of the month…”
“I babysat for that girl,” mom said quietly. “It’s been far too long since I’ve seen her, but… we can’t let her be in danger when we can do something about it.”
“So what’s the plan?” Percy asked.
“In short, we give Ambrosia something bigger than us to worry about,” Morgan said. “The information you stole from the MLED served as a starting point for my scrying, and with Viv helping me put the pieces together, I’ve managed to compile a list of almost 2500 heroes and villains across the country who purchased their powers from the company.”
I whistled softly. “That’s what, around a percent of all heroes and villains in America?” 15% of the populace had superpowers of some sort, but only a fraction of a percent had both the power and desire to put them to violent use.
“A hair over two percent, actually,” she corrected. “It’s better than expected in some ways – I feared that they would have a hold over far more of the country’s heroes. But in other ways, it’s worse. Their heroes tend to be in high positions, well-trusted and influential. We know that Canaveral is an agent of theirs here in New Venice, of course, and Starling was as well before he was transferred, but they were also behind names like Widowmark and even Nanoblade – not to mention Legion.”
Tristan shuddered. “I’ve heard about her,” he whispered. “She sounds scary as hell.”
“She’s their most reliable and prolific agent, for obvious reasons,” Morgan said, and I nodded. Along with powerful, unbounded shapeshifting and the ability to absorb organic matter to empower herself, Legion could also duplicate herself as much as she pleased, thus the name. “But they have many others. Despite the small size of the company’s core membership, their tendrils seem to be everywhere. Including,” she gritted her teeth, “the presidential cabinet.”
“Wait,” Viv interrupted, “are you saying that-”
“Yes,” our mother confirmed. “Susan Thornhill, the Secretary of Metahuman Affairs, the woman in charge of the DMO as a whole, not just the MLED, is a member of the Ambrosia Company.”
“I suspected, with the bill she’s been pushing for,” Viv commented, glancing at me – she had been complaining about it earlier today – “but I hoped it wasn’t actually true. And she’s not just any member though, is she?”
Morgan nodded miserably. “No, she isn’t. She’s nothing less than the CEO herself.”
“…can we prove it?” Percy asked after a moment. “That’s a massive conflict of interest.”
“Yeah, if she’s selling superpowers and pushing for the explicit legalization of doing so, that seems like a pretty clear case for corruption,” I agreed.
“And no wonder, I always said the corruption in the MLED went straight to the top.”
“I… yeah, actually, I guess you were right all along,” Viv admitted, and Percy grinned triumphantly.
“We don’t have clear-cut proof,” Morgan said apologetically, “as half of it relies on scrying that’s not considered legally reliable. But, well, politics is all about optics. Even without certain proof, it can still hurt her reputation and force her to focus on the politics for a while.”
“So we leak it to the media, then?” mom asked, but Morgan shook her head.
“That alone wouldn’t be enough. Any reputable source would take too long to verify it, and even if it was released immediately it doesn’t cost Thornhill much to send a single Legion to track down Holly in secret.”
“Unless her intention to do so is part of the leak,” Viv suggested. “She would avoid that, because it would give legitimacy to other parts of it if it laid out a plan for Holly – well, Loki, since we don’t want to reveal secret identities if we don’t have to – to be kidnapped, and then it happened. She could use another agent, but it would still look suspicious”
Morgan bit her lip thoughtfully. “…yes, that might help. I’ll amend the release to include that plan of hers. Good idea, Vivian.”
“You said that leaking it to the media wouldn’t be enough alone,” I observed. “What else?”
“It needs to be a huge political scandal, one that will consume all or most of the company’s resources to deal with,” she explained. “Something that will draw the eyes of the entire country.”
“Thornhill writing a law to enrich herself won’t do that?” Tristan asked.
“That’s just garden-variety political corruption, if that’s all it is,” Viv said dismissively. “What about the kidnappings?”
“Kidnappings?” I blinked in surprise. “Plural?”
“Many of the workers at Ambrosia – all three of the top minds, and a number of the lesser scientists working under them – were kidnapped and forced to work for the company under various threats,” my sister explained. “There was nothing making that explicitly clear, but mother and I are pretty sure of it anyway.”
“The kidnappings will be in the release along with their other crimes, but no,” Morgan said. “Nor will them selling to villains along with heroes be enough. The assassination of various heroes and reporters who discovered this would help, but… well, again, that just puts whoever we sent it to in danger.”
“So send it to multiple news agencies,” Percy said.
“Legion could hit all of them simultaneously,” Viv pointed out, and again, they have other agents as well.”
“I think what Morgan is getting at is that we need to find a way to make sure it gets released immediately,” I observed. “And I think we all know what that means.”
“Put it out as a manifesto when we make another appearance as supervillains,” Viv said, sounding rather annoyed at the prospect. “Our appearance resets the clock for Holly, and would guarantee that it gets released a lot faster. Do something big to attract attention, then publicly lay the blame for it at the feet of Susan Thornhill and the Ambrosia Company…”
“Exactly,” Morgan agreed.
“How are we going to pull off something that big?” Tristan asked.
“That’s the easy part, isn’t it?” Viv said with a smirk that didn’t reach her eyes. “After last time, we have Excalibur. If it was strong enough to make the Magnificent Maxwell a threat to the city and nearly ruin Anima’s career, it’s strong enough get one of us on national news.”
“Viv is right, as usual,” Morgan agreed. “Although I’m not sure I would call it ‘easy’. I may have designed an enchantment to use it relatively safely, but, well. The keyword there is ‘relatively’. The longer you hold it, the more it will affect you.”
“Then we’ll have to hope that we won’t have to use it for long,” mom said. “Which of us is to carry it?”
“Well, the obvious choice is Dom,” Viv said, and Morgan nodded again.
“That was my thought as well. The terrakinesis that Arthur’s cape grants you is the showiest power that any of you receive from your father’s armor,” she explained to Tristan, who still seemed a little confused.
“Why not you?” my youngest brother asked, tilted his head curiously.
“If I were to appear as a villain, Arthur Peregrine himself would be certain to stand against me – and even with Excalibur in hand, I’m sure sure that I could hold him off. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s not unbeatable, and he has far more skill and practice in battle magic than me.”
“What will Dom do with it, though?” Percy asked, glancing at me. “And when?”
“This weekend, most of the New Champions will be out of town at an event,” Morgan told us. “The only one remaining will be Holly herself, watching over the city as Loki, as well as lead the Journeymen if they’re needed. I enlisted the Kovals to help, and we’ve arranged for invitations – or what will appear to be invitations – to be sent to many of the other villains in town as well.”
“Getting everyone possible out of the city,” Viv said approvingly.
“Precisely. And then…” Morgan turned to me. “I was thinking a wall.”
Scene 7 – June 16th
Interior Mansion, Late Evening
We all bickered for a while, arguing over details of the plan and various contingencies, before we were all finally satisfied – or equally dissatisfied, at least. We were all unhappy with various aspects of it – Percy wanted to go farther with the manifesto, throw in accusations that even Morgan and Viv weren’t sure of rather than just the ones they were certain were true. Tristan wanted to do the opposite, worrying that the MLED as a whole might collapse if we went too far. Mom, of course, was concerned about us all being safe, and Morgan was trying to make the outcome as certain as she could. I, meanwhile, was worried about whether or not I would be able to handle Excalibur for as long as I might need to.
Viv, oddly enough, hadn’t said much, only putting forth a few comments, and more serious ones than usual. I knew my twin better than to think that was normal – normally she had opinions on everything, with half of her contributions being insightful and brilliant and the other have being jokes and hilarious asides to me. Today, however…
As everyone began to leave, heading for their various rooms – mom and Morgan walking off together for dad’s – I caught my sister before she left, keeping her pressed against my side until everyone else had gone.
She raised an eyebrow when I did, but didn’t object, instead just yawning a little and waiting patiently. After even Percy had ambled his way to bed and we had privacy, she asked, “What is it, bro?”
“That’s what I was going to ask you,” I countered. “Last time we were planning this supervillain thing, you were a lot more cheerful. You were joking, having fun. This time…”
“Last time was before I found out that my childhood best friend was fighting for the other side,” she snapped. “Last time, I didn’t think anyone would actually be in danger. Last time…” Viv trailed off and sighed, letting her head fall into her hand, her snow-white hair falling to hide her face. “Last time,” she finished, “I didn’t really understand the consequences.”
I furrowed my brow, confused. “What do you mean?”
“We were using the Magnificent Maxwell – a man who has never caused serious injury to anyone – as a distraction. We ourselves did nothing worse than minor concussions that Anima could heal – that she did heal, the minute that she got hold of Excalibur. And even when she had the sword, the danger wasn’t what she would do it it, but what would happen if Ambrosia took it from her. It never really felt like anyone was in danger,” she explained. “But this time… this time, if we don’t get it right, Holly might… might…”
She swallowed. “I know it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen her. I know that she’s probably forgotten all about us, that she would probably hate us for what we’re doing if she knew. But… I couldn’t stand for her to be hurt, you know?”
“Yeah,” I said, hugging her tightly. “I know.”
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