“I’m sorry, maybe I never explained something to you,” Leather hissed. “You don’t add people to my plan without telling me!”
In the alternate universe coded ⎇001JW, super heroes and villains have been around for decades and tensions are rising between parahumans and their unpowered prosahuman cousins. This is Justice Wing in nadir.
A professional Steve never stands out — that’s the entire point. Supervillains employ Steves to act as lookouts and the Service employs Steves to monitor supervillains. The Steve assigned to the third tier villain called Leather was typical – he wanted to do his job without attracting notice – from anyone. That’s complicated when Leather kidnaps Todd Chapman, a third rate reporter for a second rate magazine, who despite everything turned out to be the worst kind of journalist — one who actually wants to understand his story. And what the Steve himself wants? Doesn’t begin to matter. But then, it’s hard being the Steve.
Being the Steve
An Interviewing Leather Concurrence
In one sense, the prepwork on Tuesday looked entirely different than the prepwork on Monday. Instead of being in heavy motorcycle leathers, the Henches all wore standard maintenance coveralls. Leather herself was in a flat black suit, her hair pulled back into a bun, her mask a bit larger to reduce glare from her face. They were working quiet that night, after all.
In another sense, it was exactly the same. Marco was smoking a cigar. The bagmen were doing their comedy routine. And Leather was freaking out and demanding people recount the plan to her.
Of course, most nights Leather wasn’t directly freaking out at the Steve. That alone made tonight special. “What the Hell is she doing here?” she hissed at the Steve, nodding towards a newcomer at the side of the room.
“She’s a day player. Vetted through the Service. No extra charge to you.”
“That doesn’t tell me why!” Leather looked and sounded legitimately angry. The Steve was hardly surprised — she didn’t like surprises on work nights and she didn’t like women as a rule. The Steve neither knew nor cared why.
“You can’t use the same M.O. over and over again,” the Steve murmured. “It’ll track too easily. So I need different reasons to be in the area. Tonight she’s my reason. As far as the cops are concerned, we’re on a date and then making out in the car.”
“I’m sorry, maybe I never explained something to you,” Leather hissed. “You don’t add people to my plan without telling me!”
The Steve flushed. It didn’t help that he hadn’t wanted the day player in the first place, but he couldn’t say that to the Crook. You never broke cover. Never. “I have to make absolutely sure you’re covered without drawing attention to your op,” he said.
“You think you won’t be noticed?”
“If we are, no one will look twice at you. We’ll get a warning from the cops. It’s a smokescreen.”
Leather narrowed her eyes, then rounded on Marco. “Tell me the plan!” she demanded.
“The Steve and Steph leave for their date. Ten minutes later, we head out to collect the big rig. We drive it to the Circuit City.” The electronics superstore wasn’t a Circuit City, of course. “We set up as though we’re making a delivery, including initial talk to the guard. You kill the security system and take the guards out quietly. We then proceed to clean as much of their warehouse out of high end, high yield electronics, button up the truck and head out before the cops show up or the guards wake up. You provide cover if need be, while we head out to the meeting place where we offload and ditch the truck, get the manifest from the fence, and then head back to base.” Marco sounded calm. Marco always sounded calm in these situations. In a way, that was part of his job.
“Yeah, unless it all gets blown by newcomers.” Leather stormed over to the bagmen. “Tell me the plan!”
Chapman watched her, then walked over to the Steve. “So… who is she?” he asked, looking at ‘the Steph.’ She’d normally just be the Steve at a job like this, but she was the junior, and unlike the bagmen they needed to be easily distinguished.
The Steve shrugged, affecting nonchalance. “She’s just here for the day. Like I said to Leather, we’ll be making out, but angled so I can actually keep watch.
Chapman looked the Steph up and down. She was about five six, with long dirty blonde curly hair and brown eyes, wearing a chunky cable knit sweater and jeans. The Steve himself had on a blue button down shirt over a white undershirt and jeans. Just college kids out on a date.
“Huh. Good to see you have some extra perks now and then?”
The Steve refused to react. He shrugged, instead. “It’s just business,” he said, and stepped away to do deep knee bends. Perks,Chapman called it.
Chapman walked over to the Steph. “Hey there,” he said. “Um, I don’t know if they explained me, but I’m Todd Chapman. I’m a reporter with Amplifer. They’ve — heh. Technically they’ve kidnapped me. Anyway. You’re a Steve like… um… Steve over there, right?”
The Steph turned to look at Chapman, cocking her head slightly. “Why are you talking to me?” she asked with a slight midwestern accent.
Chapman flushed. “I’m… uh… just trying to—“
“I have nothing to say to you. Please don’t write about me in your magazine.” The Steph was cold, her brown eyes glaring.
“…I… will keep any mention to a minimum and obviously won’t include a description or anything—“
“Chapman!” Leather shouted, a touch shrilly. “Get over here — we’re circling up! And bring her with you!”
The Steve nodded the Steph over to him. “Group prayer,” he mouthed to her. She nodded, very slightly, and the two walked over — Steph concertedly keeping the Steve between her and Chapman.
Not that it mattered. Leather positioned herself next to Chapman in the circle, with a Bagman to her left and Marco to Chapman’s right. “Lord,” she said. “Please keep the police well away from our work, following up more important matters. Please make the guards easy to quiet down and keep anyone from getting hurt. Please make the bounty great and the payoff huge. In your name. Amen.”
“Amen,” they all echoed, Steph included. Leather then did her firm kiss on each of them. The Steve noticed his kiss was faster than normal. He also noticed she kissed the Steph the same as the rest. Clearly, superstition trumped personal distaste. The Steph made no protest, of course. You didn’t argue rituals with a Crook and stay in this business.
As the Steve knew all too well.
The Steve and the Steph headed to the car. It was a beaten up Hyundai — blue instead of green, but otherwise almost eerily close to Chapman’s now ruined car. The Steph had brought it with her, of course — the henches had scanned it and found no active signals or responses as it approached, and of course it wouldn’t be coming back to the lair any more than the Steph herself.
“She’s high strung, isn’t she?” the Steph asked as they pulled out and headed down the side road.
“No more than usual. She’s like that before jobs.” The Steve didn’t apologize for Leather’s attitude. It wasn’t his job to mollify other Steves.
“I’ve seen worse,” she said. “Cover name?”
“Alan Hayes,” he said — that was the name on the ID in the wallet he’d grabbed out of the box today. “Twenty-two, senior year at Meridian U. History student, plus community theater where we met. You?”
“Heidi Reese. Twenty, junior year. We were in a production of Donkeys’ Years together, which put us in bed in our underwear more than once over the course of the play as staged. By the end of the run, I worked up the nerve to ask you out, and you said yes. That was two months ago, so we’re in that awkward place between theater-close and first-date.” She spoke smoothly, rattling off elements with confidence.
The Steve nodded. “God, I hate Michael Frayn,” he said, slipping into character. “I don’t know why Gartner keeps insisting we stage his stuff.”
“I did Spies with Gartner last year. You missed that one, right? It was actually pretty intense.”
“Yeah, well — that was a drama. Of course it was better framed. I mean, if we’d maybe done Noises Off instead of Donkeys’ Years—”
“Oh God no. That one’s just an excuse to strip girls down — at least Donkey’s Years strips the boys too…”
By the time the two arrived at the Olive Garden, it was bustling and their banter was perfectly natural. It was the perfect hour for the evening rush, so parking out behind — and getting a view of First Electronics’s loading dock — wasn’t any problem. Neither was grabbing a table in a timely fashion. ‘Alan’ and ‘Heidi’ had decent repartee — anyone who saw or heard them would see two college kids trying to close a deal they both clearly wanted without quite being able to read each others’ body language. The servers no doubt saw it twelve times a week.
It was nigh unto 11 when they slipped out and into the car. It wasn’t technically in the First Electronics lot — there was a strip of grass and a sidewalk between them — but they’d timed it well. There were no other cars close to where they’d parked. A perfect ‘private’ place.
“Are you sure you’re okay to drive?” ‘Heidi’ asked, coyly, opening the passenger side door and sliding in.
“We may want to wait juuuust a few minutes,” ‘Alan’ answered, sliding into his own and pulling the door shut. “I had a lot of wine.” He thumbed the lock, which also soundproofed the car — as with most vehicles from the Service, it was much more than it appeared.
“Oh, well — if you had a lot of wine,” the Steph said, amused, even as she slid over to him, sliding almost across his lap and leaning up to kiss him — all while keeping his view of the store clear.
The Steve returned the kiss, putting on a show for any passers-by. He was certain they’d be fooled.
“It’s a good thing you don’t actually perform in bedroom farces,” the Steph murmured, stepping up their ‘passion’ without blocking or obstructing his view. Even as they got into it, the Steve saw the truck backing into place, followed by Leather slipping out of it and moving across the top and up onto the roof, where she’d make her entrance through the HVAC ducts.
“Don’t you like my performance?” The Steve didn’t even bother to sound sarcastic.
“I suppose I don’t have to like your performance,” the Steph said. “So long as it’s convincing from the outside.”
“That’s the idea,” he said, hands moving over her back. The henches were on the move at this point, so the Steve slid one hand off the girl and picked up the signaler, priming it before palming it and continuing. “For the record? I liked the mistake.”
“Mistake?” the Steph asked.
“Spies was a novel. It wasn’t ever a play. They certainly didn’t do it at Meridian, even though they did Frayn plays for the last three years. You’d think a Brit would know that. But then again, you did know it, right?”
“Why, whatever do you mean?” the Steph asked, voice still her Kansas neutral.
“Do we really need to dance around this, Miss James? Or do I call you Moriarty? Or just ‘M?’ Is this where I say ‘formica?’”
The woman giggled, leaning back. Her eyes glittered sliver now, the face under the curls obviously that of the thrillseeking villain. “Oh, I am impressed,” she murmured, voice now rich with the Received British tones of a previous generation. “And all the moreso that you didn’t look away from the job just now. When did you make me?”
“When you walked into the lair. I’m pretty sure the Henches didn’t, and I’m positive the Crook didn’t. She would have freaked.” The Steve drew her close again, still watching. The henches were moving quite a lot into the truck now, with Leather bringing in larger, heavier boxes. “So your alibi is you’re in a Grantham jail?”
“Being Moriarty James is as exacting as being any other Steve,” she replied, shifting and moving in his arms. All part of the act, right? He could feel her body warmth almost as well as he felt his nausea. “I need to be an absurd little tart joyriding through Super-society. And you understand — I needed to get eyes on this situation myself.”
“You didn’t see much.”
“I saw all I needed to see. Leather’s still the insecure little girl Beguile wanted to shelter, but she wants to play in the big leagues. Chapman’s fighting over his weight class and landing more punches than I’d expected — if I hadn’t shut him down so hard, he’d have worked out something about me. I’m honestly curious how this will play out and what kind of response we’ll need to make.” She sounded amused.
“Of course. So what about m— target.” There was movement on the roof. Not the right reflection of light to be Leather’s outfit, either—
A man poked up at the edge of the roof, sighting an arrow along a compound bow in a smooth motion—
“Cape,” the Steve snapped, still holding Moriarty close but clicking his signaler three times in rapid succession. Full Panic Button—
Marco turned and half ducked as the flare arrow burst, incapacitating the bagmen. Moriarty did a convincing shriek and jump out of the Steve’s lap — there’s no way they’d miss that, after all — and they craned to see—
Darkhood — Meridian’s ‘other’ hero — had fired a second arrow. This one tear gas or the like, which made the bagmens’ days even worse, before drawing a third time, drawing, sighting in a new direction, letting fly—
There was a thump as the arrow embedded itself in the Hyundai’s bumper.
“We’re made!” the Steve hissed, hitting the starter.
“How?” Moriarty demanded. Darkhood himself was drawing again, probably to incapacitate the car—
Leather threw herself out the door, hitting the edge of the truck and springing to the roof, slamming into Darkhood and making his arrow fly wide. It burst on the ground – explosive all right.
The Steve jammed the car into reverse with a squeal, pulling around and then slamming into low, gunning to get power before sliding into the hidden gears. Never what they appear — in this case the car had power to spare despite its exterior.
“The arrow in our bumper’s almost certainly a beacon,” Moriarty said, looking over her shoulder.
“I know,” the Steve said, pulling out onto the boulevard and roaring forward. Behind him no less than four police cars with full blue rollers were racing towards them. Not towards First Electronics. Towards them.
“How’s your defensive driving?” Moriarty asked, oddly cheerfully.
“It’s been a while but I try to keep in practice,” the Steve said, drifting around turn onto Braddock, up a hill and through a few twists and turns. The police cars following them would be able to catch them on the first straightaway — especially if they were following the tracker. They needed to make it hard for them.
“The tunnel under Fourth street is shielded and sensor-mined, right?” Moriarty asked, tapping on something on her watch.
“Yup,” the Steve said, tersely.
“How do we get there?”
“Riverside,” the Steve answered, skidding around another corner. The flashing lights were getting closer, damn it.
“That’s — what, down there?”
“Yup,” the Steve said. They were driving adjacent to Riverside, with a hundred feet of steep embankment between them. “Though the tunnel’s Northbound from here and we’re going Southbound.” His voice was tight — and he could see a flashing blue glint off windows ahead of them, meaning they’d be cut off—
“Get us away from those cops and into that tunnel, now!” Moriarty demanded, even as she buckled her belt and grabbed the handrest on the roof.
The Steve didn’t argue. He just made a hard left and slid down the embankment, smashing through trees and hearing thumps of rocks and stumps on the underbody, gunning the engine to try and keep enough momentum going the right way so they didn’t roll—
They slammed down onto Riverside, skidding across to the far side and nearly plowing into a pickup which ditched to avoid them. The Steve dropped the hammer, the wheels squealing as they tore Northbound. “Less than a mile!” he shouted.
“Good! Halfway through the tunnel hit the brakes!”
“Got it.” It sounded crazy to the Steve, but after the pair had managed not to die going down the embankment crazy sounded about right, really. He pushed past eighty, straight into the tunnel.”
“Now!” Moriarty shouted. “Stop and get your shirt off!” So saying she yanked the sweater off her body and threw it into the back, her wig going with it, even as she shook out her brown hair. She was wearing a white bra underneath.
The Steve braked hard, pulling off his shirt and undershirt and tossing it behind him. “Wallet?”
“And phone — lose them!” Moriarty was doing the same. “Get out of the car now!”
There was a roar ahead of them — a powerful engine with a lot of horsepower — as the Steve pushed out of the car. It was a Ferrari — candy apple red, convertible, with two people inside driving it. They skidded to a stop in the Southbound lane across from the Hyundai.
“Go!” Moriarty shouted. “Passenger side!” The two people — a man and woman, the Steve realized — had already jumped out without opening the doors. The Steve dove in — there was a tee shirt and ball cap on the seat, and he grabbed them, wrestling them on.
Moriarty was pulling on a red lycra tee. Her eyes weren’t silver or dark any more, which is all he could tell. She pulled forward, heading Southbound the way they’d come, even as the Steve heard their old car’s tires squeal and drive forward.
Moriarty grabbed the wheel and dropped into drive, accelerating to sixty. “There’s a wallet and Game Boy in the glovebox,” she said, her voice sounding more Northern New England than not at this point. “I’m Jenny. You’re my bored little brother Chad.”
“Right,” the Steve said. He glanced in the wallet — his picture, all right, and ‘Chad Dumont’ as a name. Maine driver’s license. There was a slightly older model handheld game in there too, just as she said. He pocketed the wallet and started the game up, taking a deep breath and doing his best to look bored.
They emerged from the tunnel even as police cars tore the other way. One separated off and pulled over, waving Moriarty to the shoulder. Moriarty pulled to the side of the road like a good compliant driver. The other cars drove hard into the tunnel.
A police officer got out of the stopped car and half-ran to where Moriarty and the Steve had pulled off. “Hey there,” he said. “Are you two all right?”
“I think so,” ‘Jenny’ said, sounding coastal Maine-ish and freaked out, in that order. “What’s going on, Officer?”
“Couple of crazy peoples’ what’s going on,” he said, looking into the tunnel. “What did you two see?”
“I just saw a car — I… maybe a sedan? One headlight out? It was doing… God. Ninety through the tunnel and weaving. I thought he’d hit us.” ‘Jenny’ was breathing hard, like she was working through an adrenalin reaction. “And then we saw all of you and oh my God what’s happening?”
“Don’t worry. You’re perfectly safe right now, Miss…?”
“Dumont. Jenny Dumont. Jennifer. Or Jen. Or you don’t care.”
“Right. Just calm down.” The officer smiled. “Look, can I get your license and registration? You take a few minutes—“
“Sure — of course! Chad, get the registration out—“
“Sure,” ‘Chad’ said, popping open the glove compartment again. It stuck — he’d jammed it in closing it — but he got it clear, working through a pile of paperwork. “God, Jenny. You need to clean this out.”
“Oh whatever, Chad.” She accepted the registration, handing it and a Maine driver’s license of her own to the officer. “Thank you, officer.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.” He smiled a bit, heading back to his car. On the other side of the road, another two cruisers flew past at high speed, lights flashing.
The Steve focused on the game. It was a Pokemon game — in real life never something he cared about, but it was easy to pick up the basics. It had clearly been played for hours. He kept looking at the screen… his own reactions buried down deep. In the heat of the moment he’d just done what he was told, but looking back — dear God they should have been killed!
“Do you think it’s drugs?” ‘Jenny’ asked him. “Is this a drug bust?” She poked the Steve. “Chad? Do you—“
The Steve made a disgusted sound. “I don’t know, Jenny. Okay? Sure. I bet it’s drugs.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I bet it’s drugs. I bet— what is that?”
The Steve looked up, as Leather flew across the road high above, hitting a tree down by the river, letting it bend nearly double before it snapped back and she was flung back towards the bank, grabbing the telephone pole in front of the car with her right arm — he realized her left had an arrow driven deep into its bicep — and jumped up on top of the bridge and over.
“Oh my God was that a Superhero?” ‘Jenny’ asked. “Oh my God.”
“I don’t know,” the Steve said, looking around. “Which way did she—“
“Okay, you’re all set,” the officer said, returning to the car and giving ‘Jenny’ her license and registration. “You’re okay, right? We saw Leather jump across but she didn’t get near you?”
“Leather? Wait— the jewel thief?”
“Yup.” The officer shook his dead. “Damnedest thing, and of course Vortex is out of town. Still. Darkhood’s running her down. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay — wow. Just… wow.” She paused. “Officer? Do you have… um… a card or something?”
“Wh— oh, of course, ma’am.” He took out a business card holder and withdrew a card.
“Gimme a pen, Chad,” ‘Jenny’ said. There had been a pen in the glove compartment, which the Steve pulled out and handed to his ‘sister.’ She scribbled on the card, and handed it back. “Officer… this is my cell number. It’s private. If you have any questions or… well, just want to call…”
The officer blinked. “I… really shouldn’t do that sort of thing, Ma’am—“
“Jenny. Call me Jenny. And you aren’t on duty all the time, right, Officer… Daniels?” She smiled winningly.
“Uh… no. Not all the time. Um… you just keep going this way and you should be fine, M— Jenny.”
“Thank you. Seriously. Thank you.”
The officer stepped back, letting ‘Jenny’ start her engine and carefully pull out, driving around the stopped cruiser in the road and then Southbound on Riverside. After about a quarter of a mile, Moriarty thumbed the roof switch, letting it unfold and slide over them. “Well, that was an adventure,” she said, cheerfully. She’d reverted to Received British, the Steve noticed.
“I realize you’re probably my supervisor? But you’re insane, Miss James. You know that, right?”
“I’ve been told,” Moriarty said with a grin. “And I’m everybody’s supervisor. But you figured that out, yes?”
“Yeah, I did.” The Steve took a deep breath, rubbing his temples and closing his eyes. “So you weren’t here for Leather, were you?”
Moriarty chuckled. “Why would you say that?”
“Because you barely spent any time with Leather or Chapman. You spent it with me. You’re here for me.”
Moriarty smiled a bit more. “Clever boy,” she said.
“Because I need clever boys. You’re a solid Pat and a gifted Steve, but there’s plenty of upper management posts that always need filling. You’re far brighter than your current job allows you to be. I was impressed with your report, especially your assessment.” She shook her head. “All right. Tell me your impressions of the Darkhood situation?”
“It was a leak,” the Steve said. “Clearly.”
“How do you know?”
“Because he knew our car on sight. He didn’t even hesitate. The tinting of the window meant he wouldn’t be able to make you out well enough to recognize you, so it wasn’t that — he knew a Steve would be in the area, he knew the basics of the plan, and he knew which car we’d be in. Ergo, leak.”
“A leak we need to find and plug. Who’re the primary suspects?”
The Steve took a deep breath. “From least to most likely? Marco and the Bagmen. Chapman. Me. You. Transport Services.”
“Your working theory?”
“Well — assuming it wasn’t you — I’d bet Transport Services.”
Moriarty laughed. “It wasn’t me — I’d tell you if it were thanks to your saying that. I don’t string along fourth tier heroes — they’re not worth it. I’d have laid a path for Whippoorwill to follow if this had been my idea. I admit I do appreciate the chance to see you under the gun. So why not Chapman?”
“Chapman’s still at the lair. Unless he isn’t — but if he isn’t, then the SWAT team will be. Plus, Chapman didn’t know the actual target, so he couldn’t tip off Darkhood. Marco and the Bagmen aren’t likely — they’ve been on the job for a long while and they’re making good money without much risk most of the time.They’d have no motivation and they all have lives that depend on their income. And me? I don’t have to justify it to myself, and I’m not sure I could justify it to you.”
“It wasn’t you. So why Transport Services?”
“The car came from Transport Services. Same as the truck Marco was driving, and Darkhood didn’t hesitate there either.”
“Fair. Very fair.” She smiled a bit more broadly. “You’re going to like your new job.”
“I haven’t accepted it, yet.”
Moriarty snorted. “You will. You’re not going to stay shackled to dear little Leather any longer than you have to. After all… you can’t stand anything about her, can you?”
The Steve flushed. “Why did you make this a sexual assignment?”
Moriarty chuckled again. “I’d hardly call that sexual. First base petting at most, really.”
“You knew I wouldn’t — you knew I’d… why?”
Moriarty’s smile didn’t slip. “So I could see if you’d do it even if you hated every second. And it was a chance to see if you could push past your distaste and commit to the moment, which you did. Admirable.”
The Steve took a deep breath. “That is a shitty thing to do,” he said.
“Yes it is.” She glanced at him, keeping an eye on the road all the while. “We do a lot of shitty things. We always have. We facilitate theft and assault and murder and terror, and we skim off the top the whole time we’re doing it. We feed the egos of the worst of humanity and put their ill gotten gains into our 401Ks. And what are you going to do now? File a sexual harassment claim? Go to Human Resources? Sue me? We’re criminals. As much as the Crooks, if not more, we are criminals, and we don’t need to be nice about it.”
James smiled a bit more. “So I wanted to see if you’d do your job while I forced you to do something you hated. And you did. I’m impressed but not surprised – after all, you keep doing your job when Leather hangs all over you or kisses you or rubs up against you, and you hate that even more. That was my test.”
The Steve looked out the side window. He wasn’t letting himself tremble.
She laughed. “And then we got to run for our lives, and I got to really see you in action. Oh yes. I’m quite pleased with tonight’s outcome.”
“And I just put up with it,” the Steve asked. It wasn’t a question.
“Precisely. You know how this works. There are things the Guild and Service won’t tolerate, but there’s plenty we do tolerate, and we’re going to continue tolerating them. We tolerate the Jack O’Knaves killing henches — we just warn them and compensate them accordingly. We tolerate Adonis Four’s sexual proclivities. We just make it clear to Guild members that’s part of what they’re signing up for and compensate them accordingly.”
“I don’t get anything extra.”
“Not right now, anyway. And I don’t particularly care – frankly, I have real problems. Fortunately… you’re going to help me work on them. A huge boost in pay, almost no risk, a real challenge—“
“And tongue-kissing on command?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. That was just a test. Though if I need to send you in to mollify a client that way, I will without thinking twice. Don’t kid yourself.” She paused. “Or, you could always stay with Leather, where you know she’ll sexually harass you every bloody day and you’ll keep your mouth shut, because no one tells a supervillain how to run their daily affairs. That’s not your job.” She pulled to the side of the road. “For the record,” she said, turning to look at the Steve, “I’m a supervillain, too. I like you. I want to promote you. But I’m not going to be lectured by a pissant Steve who doesn’t like work conditions any ninety-nine others would kill for. Understood?”
“Understood,” the Steve said, softly.
“Good.” She nodded. “The lair’s about a quarter of a mile that way. I doubt the henches or Leather have gotten there yet. The Service tells me there’s no sign of police, at least according to my own Steve. I’ll be in touch about the job later in the week. I’ll be in the area somewhat longer than Leather, really.”
The Steve frowned. “Why?”
Moriarty blinked. “In case Officer Daniels calls, of course. He deserves his chance to take Jenny out. He was so comforting, after all.” She smiled a bit. “And an opportunity to compromise a police officer essentially for free? Doesn’t come around every day.” She put her chin up. “After all… I’m ready to take one for the team.”
The Steve opened his door, and slipped out, leaving the wallet and game boy behind. “It’s easy to take one for the team when you’re the owner.”
Moriarty smiled again, letting him shut the door before she raced back off into the night.
10 thoughts on “⎇001JW Interviewing Leather: Being the Steve #4”
A. i really need to read more of the justice wing stuff.
C. was that in the behind the scenes plotting when you originally wrote interviewing?
in all seriousness though, a table of contents page with a link to each story listed out in, read this order, order, would be nice. trying to futz around with the categories and site navigation is scooty puff jr.
Fair! That said, each current series has a series link — like this one for Being the Steve, and we’re getting older ones in place as quickly as we can. That said, we need a comprehensive Series page that people can use to jump into any one of them they wish.
absolutely, a link for each series is great, if there was a single page that had them all, heh.
In all seriousness though, thanks for awesome stories. greatly enjoying them.
Did I know the Steph was Moriarty James? Yes. Whether by that name I’m not sure, but yeah — that was always on the table.
Did I know just how much Chapman was being stage managed at the time? Also yes.
I also knew what the Steve did at each of the jobs. However, his personal story and issues I didn’t figure out until later. In some cases, much later.
After reading this series, it’s actually impressive just how much Chapman got out of the whole thing, despite being stage managed the entire time.
But yeah, I’d say that Miss James is one of the most evil of your villains, because of just how much she enables the worst aspects of humanity and her only line is the bottom one. There would still be villains without the Service, but there wouldn’t be nearly as many of them and they certainly wouldn’t have funding, so most of them would go broke quickly.
It’s probably difficult to say just how much influence Moriarty James has on the shape of your setting, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that she’s responsible for a good chunk of the current dynamic between heroes and villains, as well as between Parahumanity and normal humanity.
Makes me almost want to see Cosy Tight end up in the same room with Miss James at some point.
…oh now that would be interesting…
To speak to some of your other points, we know from this very episode that Moriarty James claims at least to be in charge of the Service and Guild alike. That would put her at the absolute crux of relations between villains and humanity. There was a vignette I wrote for Patrons a while back that also shows the Service dabbling in parahuman expression… very clearly in an effort to keep a status quo between heroes and villains from evolving too much.
Is Moriarty James the most evil of the villains? That’s an interesting question. Very few of the villains are wholly evil, because I fundamentally believe that human beings in general balance between good and evil. It’s clear James is playing a very big game, but is her design the darkest? In one sense she seems to be among the most mundane of the elite — right down to convincing the world she’s a poseur, groupie and joke while working to skim off the rest of villainy. Is that better or worse than Beguile, or Chattergun Calhoun, or the Buzzard?
I don’t know, mind. I mean, I know more than you do, but ‘most evil’ is a title up for grabs.
…and that’s not even considering where the Jack O’Knaves falls on that list.
I wouldn’t say she’s the most evil, granted. But I do think she’s a contender for the top ten list, at least partially because she’s winning or has won or whatever you want to call it. And enabling the worst of humanity just so she can have a summer house in the Hamptons and the Rivera seems pretty evil to me, even if it isn’t classic supervillain evil.
Oh, I didn’t mean to imply she isn’t classic supervillain evil. She totally is. She’s a different flavor than Leo Lucas, the Jack, Beguile, the Buzzard, Chattergun Calhoun, or Anchor, admittedly, but then they’re mostly different flavors of evil from each other for the most part anyway.
Thinking more about ‘most evil,’ I think I actually have an answer to that question. The problem is, the answer is ‘Urizen,’ and he hasn’t actually appeared on camera yet. Still, he literally wants to destroy Actuality and kill all sentient nine-dimensional life forms in the process and comes very close to doing it, so… that’s up there.
But then, if our own universe is floating around somewhere in Actuality like all the others… that means Urizen also actively tried to kill you and me, right? So I’m going to be biased about Urizen.