“You people defend super villains. Criminals. World conquerors. Mass murderers. And you expect me to just let you walk in here—”
“We ‘people?’ Interesting phrasing, Detective Corporal. I’ll assume you mean ‘lawyers.’ And yes, my firm specializes in parahuman criminal defense, because some police officers and district attorneys forget that parahumans get the same rights every other criminal gets. Like — just to throw out an example? The right to a zealous defense. Not all police officers, of course. Not even most. Just some.”
Society has acclimated to the presence of super heroes and villains. New heroic organizations spring up seemingly daily, to the delight of an adoring public. At the same time, tension between the unenhanced prosahumans and the enhanced parahumans are growing, while the world’s military and law enforcement grow increasingly frustrated with the situation. Justice Wing, the greatest heroes on the planet, recognize that the next generation of parahumans – whether they become heroes or not – will need a different kind of education and training, even as prosahumanity needs to learn how to live with their enhanced siblings and children. Still, the sun is bright and shining down on a world that feels protected. These are Justice Wing’s Halcyon Days.
Book One: Mandy
From the United States Public Broadcasting Service in the Capital District, this is USBC-1 News. I’m Madalyn McCartney.
CLEANUP IN GEORGIA
Cleanup continues in Georgia in the aftermath of Anchor’s failed attack on the Atlantic coastline. The villain used a combination of mercenary soldiers, lesser known villains, and autonomous attack robots in an effort to establish a beachhead in the Mid-Atlantic, but was defeated by Justice Wing. Officials from the United States Department of Extranormal Tabulation, Analysis, Investigation, Lockdown and Supervision — better known as DETAILS — are coordinating cleanup efforts with FEMA and several members of Justice Wing. Public Radio Georgia’s Glen Howell reports:
HOWELL/PRGN REPORT: ANCHOR BATTLE CLEANUP
Dawn broke over the third day of cleanup on the site where Justice Wing repelled Anchor’s latest offensive. The malevolent bioengineered life form has made several attacks against the surface world, generally in an effort to establish and hold an above-ground military base, where he can use his advanced weaponry and dark power to complete his long-stated goal: the destruction of the human race. Aided by Malie the Destroyer – a half-shark, half-human monstrosity capable of biting through rebar-reinforced concrete, along with a team of confederates which included long-time Beacon rogues Bandolier, Mirrorshades, and Prybar and several of Whippoorwill’s nemeses from the mystic Fastness of the Pandionidae. His military and robotic equipment bore some of the calling cards of renegade genius Leo Lucas. By lunchtime, most of the wreckage and salvage alike had been contained and moved, but the process of identifying any environmental hazards or unpleasant surprises left behind had just begun. DETAILS Special-Agent-in-Charge Riley Weber explains:
PRE-RECORDED AUDIO INTERVIEW OF DETAILS AGENT R. WEBER
SAIC RILEY WEBER
People think that a villain attacks, they destroy some property, Justice Wing or some other hero shows up and beats them, and then it’s just about sweeping up rubble. It’s not that simple. You never know if the villain had some other agenda or plan. You have to watch for traps, for wards, for anything out of the ordinary. Even if there’s nothing like that, the kind of next-tech weaponry that villains use – be it technological, mystical, divine, extra-dimensional, zero-point energy state or who knows what? A lot of it gives off toxic waste, radiation, mutagenic sorcery and everything in between. We have to sweep the area to be sure.
Several members of Justice Wing have been a part of cleanup efforts, with their leader, Paramount City’s Beacon, being the most prominent. Her energy form can be seen through the day arcing over the cleanup sight, with heroes ranging from Paragon and Freya through Broadhead taking turns assisting with the cleanup. Glenn Howell, USBC-1 news, on the Georgia coast.
THE COAST GUARD UNDER FIRE
On Capitol Hill, a group of lawmakers led by South Carolina senator Samuel Bailey have taken aim at the United States Coast Guard, in the wake of this latest attack by Anchor. In an emergency hearing, Bailey had harsh words for Admiral Tara Tolliver, Commandant of the Coast Guard: Cut to pre-recorded audio of Congressional hearings.
SEN. SAMUEL BAILEY
For the fourth time in the last five years, Anchor and his terrorist forces have launched a surprise attack against the United States, and for the fourth time they have done so completely by surprise! While we join with a grateful nation in thanking Paragon, the Ancient Mariner, Beacon and all the rest of Justice Wing in yet again protecting us from terrifying danger, I have to ask – where was the Coast Guard during all these surprise attacks? Under Title 10 of the United States Code, the Coast Guard has been classified as one of our Armed Forces! Under Title 14 they are given military authority and – unlike every other branch of the armed forces – are empowered in the day to day to serve as law enforcement! Well, as near as I can tell, the Coast Guard is neither protecting our shores nor enforcing our laws, but relying on Justice Wing to do it for them!
Admiral Tolliver responded forcefully, denying that the Coast Guard had failed to do their duty and calling upon Congress to give them the tools necessary to protect the Nation against super villain threats. Cut to pre-recorded audio of Congressional hearings.
ADM. TARA TOLLIVER, USCG
Every day the Coast Guard conducts hundreds of search and rescue operations, intercepts and seizes thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs before they’re brought on shore, saves lives, assesses the safety and compliance of American seafaring industries from Oil Drilling to Fishing to Aquaculture, monitors thousands of boats traveling through American waters, and protects against terrorist threats both foreign and domestic. We do this, day in and day out, while having significantly less funding than any other armed service and having modernization proposals repeatedly denied in the name of austerity. Now Senator Bailey wants us to take on enemies with weapons and capabilities that defy easy description at the same time and with the same funding, doing the job DETAILS was tasked with a fraction of their budget. If you want us to intercept Anchor’s forces, approve modernizations to our sensory and intelligence that make it possible to predict and detect Anchor’s forces! Or, if you’d prefer, keep falling back on Justice Wing who’ll do it for you for free without oversight and with authority only after the fact – but don’t accuse the Coast Guard of failing at a job when you won’t give us the tools to begin, much less succeed!
ANODYNE PHARMACEUTICALS ANNOUNCES INTELLIGENT INOCULATION
The Anodyne Institute in association with Temple International has announced the start of trials on a new series of so-called ‘intelligent inoculations,’ capable of adapting to multiple strains of influenza and keeping pace with the virus’s own rate of mutation. Anodyne’s Doctor Daisy Whitford says that the inoculations will last five years instead of the customary single year traditional flu shots protect against influenza. Though Anodyne claims that the intelligent inoculations have shown tremendous promise, they caution that there will be several years of research and trials before they will be certified for human use. This is USBC-1 News.
LOCAL NEWS SEGMENT
From Public Radio Rhode Island News in Meridian City, I’m Blaine Logan. A parahuman battle raged across the normally sleepy suburban community of East Meridian, Rhode Island as Justice Wing affiliate and Meridian University Professor Vortex Ortega battled an unknown parahuman villain who combined super strength with intense pyrokinesis and durability. The parahuman, tentatively identified as one Daniel Holland of Meridian Heights, was attempting to safeguard a major drug shipment through East Meridian to the Underlands neighborhood of Meridian City. East Meridian Police intercepted the shipment, leading to a confrontation between Holland and the Police. Sources confirm EMPD based PATER units were dispatched, but Holland seemed to be getting the best of them until Vortex entered the field. There were no casualties and only minor injuries, but property damage in downtown East Meridian is estimated in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. East Meridian Police have confirmed that Holland is in containment awaiting arraignment, whereupon he will be transferred to the Brookfield Tri-State Parahuman Correctional Facility to await trial. This is Public Radio Rhode Island News.
THE LIEUTENANT DECLINES POLITICAL NOMINATION
In other news – Jason McCallister, also known as America’s Top Cop or just ‘the Lieutenant’ – has officially ruled out running for elected office. This despite several parties attempting to draft McCallister as a candidate on the State and Federal level, all the way up to the Presidency itself. Cut to pre-recorded audio of the Lieutenant’s press conference at Excelsior Court, Empire City.
LT. JASON MCCALLISTER
I am honored by the faith and trust that so many seem to put in me by making these repeated offers or requests, but as I have said on many other occasions, my training is law enforcement and my mission is to protect and serve. I’ve been blessed with a renewed opportunity to do so both in terms of my physical condition and in working with both Justice Wing and as the Justice Wing liaison to the Excelsiors. I do not have the training or the temperament for politics, and I know better than to naively assume I could govern better than those who have devoted their lives to governance.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average extended its rally and rose 40.62 to 6,010 in heavy trading, off news that the Producer Price Index rose only 0.2 percent last month, indicating that inflation has remained within tolerable levels. The S&P 500 rose 2.88 to 703.54. The NASDAQ rose 8.09 to 1,256.36. This is USBC-1 News.
Support for USBC-1 News is provided in part by Temple International. Additional support provided by the Juniper Church Memorial Foundation and by listeners like you.
LOCAL CONTINUITY NARRATOR
Local support for USBC-1 News provided by First Meridian National Bank and Trust. Putting Meridian First. Putting You First. That’s First Meridian.
East Meridian, Rhode Island
Mandy clicked off the radio with one hand, keeping her eyes on the road as she moved from the middle lane over to the fast lane on the left, driving I-95 North into the Meridian City greater metropolitan area, such as it was. After a morning spent in Connecticut she’d planned to drive back down to Bay City — she’d wanted to take the day off entirely, really. Between her older daughter Loredana — usually called Danni — having a ‘personal crisis,’ and her younger daughter Eve — or Evvie — on the opposite coast at a national meet, Mandy really didn’t want to be away.
But then, the law wouldn’t always wait.
Mandy drove a Honda Civic. She liked Honda Civics. She was a Honda Civic kind of person. They were reliable, got good gas mileage, looked relatively decent, and very few people keyed them out of general principle. In Mandy’s day-to-day, the latter was a perk.
She felt a twinge — probably a cop with radar — so she slowed down from 79 to 67, even as she pulled to the right smoothly, so she could take exit 4 into East Meridian.
Three minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot of the East Meridian Police Department. It was a moderate sized brick building — East Meridian was as much an upper middle class neighborhood of Meridian City as it was a city in its own right, though they had their own municipal services. She slid out of the car, grabbed her briefcase, set it on the green car’s roof as she closed it up and locked it up. She opened the briefcase, and slipped out a small silver device with a lens at the top, which she tucked into her lapel pocket. She looked at her watch, and made some adjustments, making certain that it was properly recording. “Shapiro, Mandy. East Meridian Police Department, in regards to recent arrest of one Daniel Holland. This recording is prior to any formal retainment of legal services and is both discoverable and not subject to or bound by attorney/client privilege.” She was always careful about that, for her own notes if nothing else.
The watch face flashed twice in green. It was just a standard watch, from all appearances. Well, a standard stainless steel twenty-five year old Lady Rolex Oyster Perpetual — a gift from a dead guy. Theoretically self-winding, though it actually had a microdot power supply for all the fun bits. Even without its many, many aftermarket additions it was probably worth more than her Honda Civic.
Though to be fair her Civic probably wasn’t worth all that much — it had seen some interesting times.
Mandy verified the audio and video recording, nodded, closed the briefcase, and headed inside.
There weren’t very many people waiting at the department. The front desk sergeant should have looked bored, but instead she looked energized. Well, that made sense. Most of the super-criminals who got arrested in the area were under the Meridian City Police Department’s jurisdiction. Having even a no-name-not-even-fourth-tier parahuman criminal in holding was a pretty wild day.
“Good afternoon,” the dispatch officer said, grinning. She was behind a security wall, even though East Meridian wasn’t a particularly crime-heavy area. “How can we help you?”
“Good afternoon,” Mandy said, setting her business card down at the window slot — bullet proof glass, as always. “My name’s Mandy Shapiro from Jackson, Thompson, Shapiro and Smith. I’m here to offer legal services to Daniel Holland. Please be informed I am wearing a body camera and recording, and please help me appraise the other members of your department so there’s no confusion.” Mandy smiled, tightly. She wasn’t ‘personable.’
The officer blinked twice, then looked at the card without trying to pick it up. It had Mandy’s name and all the usual stuff, along with her status as a partner at her firm. She frowned, looking back up at Mandy. “Why’s a New Jersey lawyer showing up to offer legal services? You know we don’t have reciprocity, right?”
“I know. I’ve passed and been admitted to the Bar in Rhode Island and have also passed and been admitted to practice in the Federal District of Rhode Island. Has Mr. Holland’s current lawyer arrived yet?”
“I don’t think he has a current lawyer,” the officer said, frowning a bit more as she pulled Mandy’s card through the slot.
“Then has his public defender been assigned?”
“Please have a seat, Ms. Shapiro,” the officer said, frowning some more. “I’ll let them know you’re here.”
“Thank you.” Mandy took a seat. She slipped out her phone and flipped it open, hitting star-1.
The phone rang just twice before she heard the click. “Hello.”
“Hey, Evan. It’s me. And you know it’s me because we set a ringtone and you have caller ID. Why do you always answer like I might be selling something?”
“Because you might be selling something, naturally.”
“Fifteen years of marriage and you’re saying it’s all been one long setup for a sales pitch?”
“I’ve seen you go further for less.”
“Well, that’s the truth.” Mandy slipped her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. “How’s Danni?”
“Mostly staying in her room. She doesn’t like talking to me about ‘important things,’ remember?”
“It’s a phase. Besides, she loves me best. You got Evvie. That’s only fair.”
“You make it sound like a divorce settlement.” Evan’s voice was deadpan, like always.
“Are you kidding? If we ever get divorced? I’m going to shear you like a sheep! I’m not gonna leave you the cat, much less one of the kids.” She took a deep breath, using her fingers to push her glasses up and rub the bridge of her nose between her eyes. “Any word on Evvie?”
“They just started day two. She’s not doing great, according to the events coordinator.”
“Events coo— is Albescu not taking your Goddamn calls now?”
“No, he’s not. I’ve cultivated a decent rapport with two of the Gymnastics America staff, but Albescu’s pissed that we cut hours and got Evvie back for all three meals. Jack’s been keeping an eye on their sessions. He’s yelling more. A lot more.”
“We can’t do this anymore,” Mandy said. “Evan, I’m sorry. I know she’s got potential, but we can’t do this anymore. If one of us can’t go to every meet or invitational—”
“We could hire someone.”
“With what money? We can barely afford Albescu. There are three gymnastics clubs within driving distance.”
“None of them are equipped for junior elites.”
“Then we get her into other stuff. Evan — seriously. We can’t do this anymore. It’s not healthy, and it’s sure not fair to Evvie.”
“I know. But you’re at your best when someone argues with you. When they get back, we have to pull her out.” There was a pause. “From every account, he’s never been physically abusive—”
“Good for him. He’s being emotionally abusive. We should have cut this off a year ago—”
“Let me finish. He’s never been physically abusive, but I have no reason to trust that when we meet them at the airport. There could be trouble.”
“If he’s stupid enough to try something—”
“I know my limits, Evan.”
“Which is not the same as staying within them. There’s a reason we made the choices we made.”
“Jesus Christ, Evan. Can we have one conversation where you don’t sound like a philosopher?”
“No, because I’m a philosopher. Just like we can’t trust you’ll stay within your limits when it involves your daughter. Or the right thing to do. Or, occasionally, a bad pizza order.”
“Pineapples are the devil. I regret nothing.” Mandy rubbed the bridge of her nose again. “Right. Right. Look. I can make a couple of calls. It’s… been a while, but I’m sure if I call Nagini she’ll send someone or come herself.”
“I know you want to keep that separation, but—”
The desk officer returned to her station, and a six-foot-two man in a suit with a detective’s badge hanging in a holder around his neck stepped outside. “Miss Shapiro?”
“Ms. Or Mrs. if that’s hard,” Mandy said. “Gotta go,” she said into the phone. “Love you.” She clapped it shut — she knew Evan understood she couldn’t wait on pleasantries — or at least that she wouldn’t. They’d been together quite a while now. She stood fluidly and offered a hand to shake — all five foot nothing of her, reaching up. “Nice to meet you. Please be informed I am wearing a body camera and recording, and please help me appraise the other members of your department so there’s no confusion.”
“Officer Secada told me,” the detective said, not shaking her hand. “That seems… a bit much. I have to ask you to stop recording before we continue.”
“Yes, you do,” Mandy said. “Because you’re not allowed to tell me or order me. So you have to ask me. I respectfully refuse. My understanding is Mister Holland has not yet been provided with Legal Counsel.”
“You’re not his lawyer,” the detective said.
“Not yet. But he gets to have the chance to retain me if he so chooses. And you are?” Mandy kept her hand outstretched. Some people thought Mandy’s height was a disadvantage — they thought she could be intimidated, or thought they could look down on her. Mandy knew better. When she dealt with people, her chin was always up, and theirs was always down. If there was a dominance game going on, she was playing to win.
“Detective Corporal Ellis West.” Almost begrudgingly, he shook her hand.
“A pleasure, Detective Corporal. I’d like to see Mister Holland now, and if at all possible I’d like to see a copy of his arrest report. And do you have a card? I like to collect business cards. Call it a thing.” She slipped out another card of her own and offered it to West.
“Mister Holland isn’t under arrest,” the Detective said with a pretty bad fake smile. “We’re just detaining him for questioning. Very important questioning. There’s a lot going on, and we’re at a crucial point in our investigation.”
“He’s not under arrest? That’s odd. I was pretty sure he would be after Vortex smashed him through a brick wall. Otherwise, she committed aggravated assault, and that’s not like her. Either way, that means he’s free to go and I still get to offer my services as legal counsel. And you don’t get to ask him your questions without a lawyer present.”
West rolled his eyes. “Miss Shapiro—”
“Ms. Or Mrs. You have two right choices and three strikes with the wrong choice and the count’s 0 and 2.”
“Before I came out, I pulled a little information about you… and your firm.”
“Did you? Outstanding. I’ll let marketing know their efforts are clearly working.”
“You people defend super villains. Criminals. World conquerors. Mass murderers. And you expect me to just let you walk in here—”
“We ‘people?’ Interesting phrasing, Detective Corporal. I’ll assume you mean ‘lawyers.’ And yes, my firm specializes in parahuman criminal defense, because some police officers and district attorneys forget that parahumans get the same rights every other criminal gets. Like — just to throw out an example? The right to a zealous defense. Not all police officers, of course. Not even most. Just some. And for the record, I don’t actually defend very many world conquerors or mass murderers. There are specialists for that and they charge way higher billable rates. I’m going to ask again — would you please bring me to Mister Holland or give me the name of the counsel who is already with Mister Holland, and may I please have a copy of the arrest report?”
“Why don’t you have a seat, Miss Shapiro? I’m sure someone will get right back to you, promptly.” West’s grin grew. It was the grin of the insufferably smug who was pretty sure his two-pair would beat anyone else’s hand.
“And that’s the third strike. Wow. You’re a really bad batter.” She pulled her phone back out and flipped it open, hitting star-seven, then clicked the speaker mode. The phone began to ring.
“I’m sure I am,” West said. “Excuse me. I’ve got to get back to work, but please make yourself comfortable—”
“DETAILS Rhode Island District Field Office,” the phone said. “Please be aware that DETAILS routinely records phone calls. This is Junior Field Agent Marla Theriault. How may I be of assistance?”
“Hello, Agent Theriault,” Mandy said. “My name is Mandy Shapiro of Jackson, Thompson, Shapiro and Smith. Please be advised that I am also recording. I am at the East Meridian Police Department in East Meridian, Rhode Island, following their apparent detainment of a Mister Daniel Holland. I would like to report a seven-one-seven-bee. I have Detective Corporal Ellis West with me on speaker phone.”
“I see. Detective West, are you there?”
“What— I mean — yes. I mean—”
“Have you taken a Mister Daniel Holland into custody?”
“We are… look, I have no idea if you’re even really a DETAILS officer! I’m certainly not going to do this over some random shyster’s speaker phone!”
“I see. Very prudent. Ms. Shapiro, we will proceed with verification and investigate your report under statute Seven-Seventeen B. May I have your phone number?”
Mandy gave her number and made the other pleasantries. She smiled back up at West as she hung up. “Don’t be sad,” she said. “There’ll be other at-bats.”
“Why… why would you call DETAILS?” the Detective asked. He didn’t sound happy.
“Because they’re the appropriate agency to call when a parahuman’s rights are being infringed. They handle this sort of situation.” Mandy smiled a bit more. “I’m pretty sure you told me to have a seat instead of bringing me to Mister Holland as is his Constitutional right because you had something to take care of. Don’t let me keep you.” She paused. “Shyster? Who still says that?”
“He’s a super villain! DETAILS fights super villains!”
Mandy smiled more brightly. “Alleged super villain.”
“West!” The voice was female, moderately deep, and pissed off.
“I’ll wait here, not being brought to the detained so I can offer him my legal services.” Mandy sat back down.
West glowered for a second, then turned and went back through the security door to the inside of the precinct. Or department. Mandy wasn’t sure East Meridian actually had precincts.
She pulled out her phone, flipping it open and hitting star-1 again. Evan’s voicemail kicked in immediately, meaning he was either on the phone or out of service range. Or he’d forgotten to charge his phone. Again. It was going to be that kind of a day.