“…they told me there’d be a lawyer sent over. I’m not sure I should discuss this with you.”
“Right. Because you want to be loyal to the syndicate. I get it.” Mandy paused, for effect. “You realize that lawyer isn’t coming, right?”
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, even as tension between the unenhanced prosahumans and the enhanced parahumans are growing, and the world’s military and law enforcement grow increasingly frustrated with the situation. Still, the sun is bright and shining down on a world that feels protected. These are Justice Wing’s Halcyon Days.
Mandy Shapiro is a lawyer who specializes in ‘parahuman criminal defense,’ which most people assume means ‘supervillains.’ She has travelled to East Meridian City, Rhode Island to offer her services to Daniel Holland, a young, alleged villain who had been arrested after a destructive battle in East Meridian against local hero and reserve member Vortex. Having encountered resistance to being allowed to see or offer her services to Holland, Mandy has contacted the local DETAILS observation post and called in a ‘717B,’ or ‘civil rights violation by law enforcement against a parahuman citizen.’ While this didn’t make anyone happy — especially Detective Corporal Ellis West, who had attempted to deflect Mandy away from the precinct — it seemed to get a reaction. What sort of reaction, Mandy had yet to find out.
Complicating matters were Mandy’s two daughters, Danni and Evvie. Evvie was on the other side of the country, competing in the Gymnastics America Under-10 division under the guidance of her coach, Iosaf Albescu. But Albescu’s become increasingly unstable over time, and won’t take Mandy’s husband Evan’s calls any more. The pair are preparing to fire Albescu, but know he may have a potentially violent response. That would be distracting enough, but then Mandy’s older daughter, Loredana ‘Danni’ Shapiro, was having a crisis of her own…
Book One: Mandy
East Meridian, Rhode Island
Mandy rolled her eyes, hanging up and hitting star-2. The house line began ringing.
It was amazing how sullen a teenage girl could sound. Mandy was always impressed by it. “Why Loredana Shapiro, as I live an’ breathe. It sounds like you’re not happy as a clam in a bed full’a tomatoes.”
The joke was stupid, but dated back a good thirteen years, when Danni had been three and a little more easily amused. Despite herself, the girl snorted. “Hey, Mom.”
“Hey yourself. How you holding up?” Mandy moved her left hand up to where she was holding the flip-phone with her right, and pushed on her watch face with her right pinky. She saw the background of the dial turn amber. The recording was paused. The recorder would put in a timestamp automatically, so there wouldn’t be any appearance of tampering with the recording. She didn’t love doing that, but Danni’s current crisis really didn’t need to be discoverable as part of the Holland case.
“Oh. Great. Just great.”
“Yeah, you’re not the world’s best actor. Just letting you know that now.” Mandy rubbed her brow. “So have you done any practicing or experimenting?”
“Do I have to?”
Mandy snorted. “No. But if you don’t you’ll regret it.”
“I’m not sure you’re right.”
“Trust me, kiddo. I’m an expert on regret.”
“No, I mean I’m not sure you’re right that I need to practice. It’s… like I can just do stuff. I’d be way better on the balance beam than Evvie, I can tell you that.”
“Don’t tell Evvie. I don’t think she’d react very well..”
“Yeah. All the benefits, but no sixteen hours a day with Frankenstein. I did… I guess you’d call it an experiment. My phone’s got a stopwatch, and I watched the seconds tick off, and then I tried to… y’know. Kick in. And the seconds slowed way down.”
Mandy sighed. Speedster. To go with the strength and agility. And an instinctive talent for using her powers. If she had any doubt before… “How long were you able to keep the clock going slow?”
“Like… three or four seconds?”
“According to the stopwatch, or how it felt to you?”
“Th’stopwatch. It felt like. I dunno. Thirty seconds? A minute?”
“Burst-speed. Yeah. That’s not the most common power but it’s on the list. Let me guess. You’re also suddenly way more sensitive to temperature, to touch, your eyes are suddenly better—”
“How’d you know that?” Danni sounded surprised. Which beat morose, any way Mandy could look at it.
“I represent parahumans in court. I’ve learned a few things. Between your sped-up healing, speed, and agility, that usually means your nervous system’s amped up. Which also can mean your senses are turned up, too.” Mandy chuckled. “Y’know, your Dad really would like to talk to you about all this.”
“I know. I can’t. He’d go all… zen on me and then I’d…”
“You know. Great responsibility. Power. All that.”
Mandy laughed. “Your father’s got a lot of philosophical influences on his outlook, but I don’t think any of them are Steve Ditko.”
“Who’s Steve Ditko?”
“Never mind. Point’s this, kiddo. He’s not gonna push you to be anything you don’t want to be. And neither am I.”
“He’ll want me to go to that school, right? In Grantham?”
“The Institute? I won’t pretend we haven’t talked about it. But then you know that, because you overheard us with your Danni-hearing.”
“Wh— no! I… I didn’t say—”
“Don’t kid a kidder. And before you throw what your Dad said to me in my face, remember who you’re talking about. Your father’s an expert at taking contrary positions — forcing you to defend your position. Even if he doesn’t believe it. Which makes him a good pair for me, because I’m the best at contrary positions. So we debated the Institute. He took pro, I took anti. Then later on, when we were going out for pizza, I took pro and he took anti. You know what we decided?”
“That it wasn’t our decision. It’s your life, Danni. You’re sixteen. In two years you’ll be a legal adult. Neither of us can dictate your life path to you, and neither of us want to.” She chuckled.
“What’s so funny.”
“Well — bear in mind I’m waiting on cops. I’ll have to hang up without warning—”
“Oh, so it’s a phone call with my mother. Gotcha.”
“Smartass.” Mandy chuckled again. “I was just thinking. When I was sixteen years old… I would have done anything for super powers. This was back in the dark ages, but even back then I believed in that stuff. I wanted them so badly. And then later, when Paragon and Justice Wing appeared, I went nuts over it for a while. I used to pour over books in the library, haunt science classrooms — all that stuff, looking for sure-fire ways to get them. I wanted powers. I wanted to be a hero.”
“And now I’ve got them. I must sound ungrateful.”
“Oh Danni. You’re sixteen. You always sound ungrateful.”
“Hey! That’s ageist!”
“Among other things.” Mandy chuckled again. “Thing is… I’ve had thirty-four years since I was sixteen to think about it. And a lot’s happened in those thirty-four years. I’ve figured a few things out. One thing I know now? You don’t need powers to be a hero. Or a villain. And the opposite’s true, too — just because you have powers doesn’t mean you have to be a hero or villain.”
“Meaning it doesn’t matter if you can compose symphonies at age four. You don’t have to be a composer or a musician. You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. All we’ve ever expected of you is that you’ll do your best in whatever you dochoose to do.”
“…and if I choose to be a super villain?”
“Then you better not get caught, missy. And no knockoff catchphrases. Catchphrases make or break you. But don’t become a super villain. Not because you can’t, but because you’ll suck at it. You don’t have the mindset.” She took a deep breath. “And that’s why you should talk to your dad. The stuff you’re talking about? Morality? Ethics? Responsibility? That’s a philosopher’s bread and butter.”
“This is real.” Danni’s contempt shone through.
“Oh. Well. Excuse me. All right, what’s the answer then? What’cha gonna do?”
“Wh — I don’t know! That’s the whole point!”
“Yes it is.” Mandy’s smirk was audible.
“…fine. I’ll talk to him. When he’s done.”
“Who’s he on with, anyone?”
Danni paused. “How would I—”
“Jesus, Danni. Do we need to do this every time? What do your Danni-Ears hear?”
Danni grumbled. “He’s talking to some guy from Gymnastics America. Apparently there’s… some kind of problem. Evvie’s fuc— screwing up, and Grouchy’s screaming at her a lot. There are complaints from onlookers, so they’re deigning to notice the problem, this time.”
“Where did you learn to say ‘deigning to notice?’”
“Oh, my Mom’s this crazy lawyer type who’s sarcastic as all get out. She says crap like that all the time.”
“My daughter. You know, we’ve already figured out I get you in the divorce, so you’d better be nice to me.”
“Yeah, right. You two won’t ever split up. You’re the only people who understand each other.”
“That’s… actually pretty true, now that I think about it.”
There was movement, and the security door into the foyer opened. West and a woman in uniform, wearing lieutenant’s bars, were walking in. “Gotta go, kiddo. Love you.”
Mandy flipped the phone closed, and tapped her watch face even as she stood up. It flashed green twice then went back to being a normal looking watch dial. It was a custom job. Mandy had some pretty cool friends.
Had. Past tense. But that was its own thing.
Mandy had taken out another business card, holding it in her left hand, as the police lieutenant and Detective West both approached. The woman’s name badge said ‘Berganza,’ and she was carrying a manila envelope in her left hand. “Ms. Shapiro,” she said, holding her right hand to shake. “I’m Lieutenant Lila Berganza.”
“A pleasure,” Mandy said tightly, shaking Berganza’s hand. “Mandy Shapiro, of Jackson, Thompson, Shapiro and Smith. 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.”
West rolled his eyes, but Berganza just nodded. “I understand you want to see Daniel Holland.”
“I do. To offer my legal services.”
“Why? Why show up out of the blue? How’d you know he was even here?”
“We’ve got a couple of paralegals whose whole jobs involve scouring the news for parahuman arrests. I was already in Connecticut for a morning court appearance, so I got tapped to come in.” She offered her card. “May I have your card? And Detective West’s, while we’re at it. He didn’t actually give me one before.”
“Of course,” Berganza said, getting a card out. She glanced at West, who rolled his eyes but reached into his jacket pocket to get one. “And now, my understanding is you’ve contacted DETAILS and reported a possible infraction under the Federal Parahuman Detainment Act.”
“I have indeed,” Mandy said, trading cards. “A 717B. Failure to extend parahumans in custody the same legal rights afforded to prosahumans.”
“I have to say, I resent that.” Berganza’s eyes were narrow. “This was a clean arrest, counselor.”
Mandy affected surprise. “Really? That’s interesting to hear, since Detective Corporal West here told me Holland wasn’t under arrest. He said he was just being detained for questioning.”
Berganza paused, and looked at West. “Excuse me?”
“I most certainly did not claim anything of the sort,” West said, flushing slightly. He was tense and upset. Well, Mandy figured this was a great time to be both tense and upset. “Miss Shapiro’s got no reason—”
Mandy snorted. “Oh my God,” she said. “Really? Really? Detective West — you’ve heard me say I was recording no less than three times. One of those was less than a minute ago, in front of your superior. Are you honestly going to go for hearsay and denial?”
West’s flush intensified. His skin was a warm brown with an almost golden undertone, so the blush stood out.
Berganza’s own skin was more olive. She was flushed too, of course. Rage could do that to a person. “So that’s why we got DETAILS calling in on a secure line, verifying their credentials, and letting us know they were sending an investigator?” She sounded deeply unhappy.
“I’d assume so, yes. I’d made a reasonable and legal request which he disregarded and deflected. And allegedly told a little bit of a fib in the process, though I’m sure that’ll be something for the judge to decide at arraignment. Let me repeat my request. Could I please be brought to your prisoner, and could I please see a copy of the arrest report?”
Berganza was still looking at West. She took a few deep breaths. “Of course you can see the suspect, Counselor,” she said, levelly. “But I’m afraid the arrest record has not been redacted for public release as yet, so unless the suspect does choose to retain your services—”
“Understood. Shall we?”
West’s own anger was beginning to approach Beganza. “Lieutenant—”
“Shut up, West. And be somewhere else. Counselor?”
Mandy nodded, following Berganza. She didn’t bother glancing at West or gloating to West. That served no purpose. Instead, she waited until she was pretty sure West couldn’t overhear and spoke quietly to Berganza. “Why would West even try something like that? I have a hard time believing a detective would blow that call.”
“He’s upset,” Berganza said. “There’s been significant syndicate activity in the city and in Meridian proper, and it’s growing fast. Most of the time, suspects fall under the Meridian City Police Department’s jurisdiction, and… well, in deference to your recorder let me just say there have a number of recurring procedural issues that have hampered a proper investigation.”
Mandy nodded, lips setting, slightly. Berganza wasn’t going to claim that the Meridian police were corrupt, at least on the record. “You said ’syndicate’ activity. Not mob, mafia, or gang. That suggests what the media would term the Calhoun Syndicate.”
“I have no comment on that,” Berganza said, curtly. Which meant ‘yes.’ “I should ask. Does your firm represent a lot of… that syndicate’s accused?”
“We don’t usually get the chance. There’s a number of firms they retain directly.” And owned lock, stock, and barrel. Calhoun and some of his cohorts had been building a tame legal machine for years. “If Holland is allegedly connected to syndicate activity, I’m surprised he doesn’t already have a lawyer.”
“You and me both.” They reached one of the interview rooms. Berganza knocked three times, sharply, waiting a count of three, then opened the door.
The room was relatively cramped. Cinder-block construction, tile floor, mirror along one wall. HVAC low or off. Three men, all plains-clothes, were on one side of the table, with the suspect on the other side. Daniel Holland himself looked about six foot two, powerfully built, with almost russet skin — cool deep brown with a reddish cast. He was dressed in the orange coveralls issued to parahuman criminals in custody, with a boxy restraint collar around his neck, two more holding his hands together, and one around each ankle with a metallic cable extending between them. All had the green light showing active restraint was in process.
“Lieutenant,” one of the detectives said, standing as she walked into the room. Two others followed.
“Good news, Mister Holland. Your lawyer has arrived.”
“About time,” the suspect muttered.
“Don’t make assumptions,” Mandy said. “Hello, Mister Holland. My name is Mandy Shapiro, of the law offices of Jackson, Thompson, Shapiro, and Smith. And before we go on you and everyone else in the room should know that I am wearing a body camera and recording, and that everything currently being said is still considered discoverable.”
“Meaning what, exactly?” Holland asked, eyes narrowed.
“Meaning that right now, everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, and this recording can be subpoenaed as evidence. You said ‘about time.’ Are you expecting a lawyer to show up, Mister Holland — just answer yes or no, please.”
Holland looked at her for a long moment. “Yes,” he said, finally.
“Well. They haven’t done so yet.” She pulled yet another business card out of her wallet, then slowly approached the table to the side, setting it down where Holland could see it. “Under the law, if you either retain me as your lawyer or seek legal advice from me while seeking to retain me, our personal communications will fall under Attorney/Client Privilege and will not be discoverable. It’s your choice whether or not you want to seek advice or my services, however.”
Holland frowned. “Wait, are you the public defender?”
“No. If you retain me, you’ll get a bill. But we can discuss those rates while you seek to retain me, if you so choose. I’d highly recommend so-choosing.”
He glanced at the card, then back at Mandy. “I’m not on the hook if I say yes?”
“Not until you formally retain me as your lawyer. Assuming, of course, that I’m still interested.”
He shrugged. “Then I’m saying yes.”
Mandy smiled that tight smile, looking around. “Excellent. Mister Holland, did the good men and women of the East Meridian Police Department inform you of your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present before they began asking you questions?”
“They didn’t read me my rights when I was arrested—”
“The prisoner was informed of his rights at the beginning of interrogation,” one of the detectives said. He sounded tense.
“Will the audio recording substantiate that?” Mandy asked.
“Excellent. Did Mister Holland at any point stand on his right to remain silent or request the presence of a lawyer?”
There was a short pause. “Yes,” one of the other detectives said.
“Good. I’ll work from the assumption that interrogation ended at that point. Please provide Mister Holland and me with a secure room to discuss his case.”
“You can do that here,” the first detective said, scowling.
“In the room with the recording equipment we don’t control, in front of the one-way mirror we can’t see through? You know better.”
“Do it,” Berganza said. “We wouldn’t want the DETAILS agent to frown and fold his arms disapprovingly, would we?”
“DETAILS?” the third detective — who hadn’t spoken yet — sounded confused.
“Ms. Shapiro encountered a misunderstanding when she first arrived,” Berganza said, tightly. “She lodged a report with DETAILS. They’re sending an investigator.”
The three detectives all looked upset. Holland didn’t look much happier. That was the thing about the United States Department of Extranormal Tabulation, Analysis, Investigation, Lockdown and Supervision. Crooks thought of it like it was some kind of super-FBI. Law enforcement thought of it like a Government sanctioned ACLU coupled with the FBI. They complicated things for everyone.
Mandy glanced at the one-way mirror. She couldn’t see through it, of course. Not without doing something unwise, anyhow. She wondered who was behind it and how upset they might be by this development. Still, all she could see was her own face — a woman with a brunette bob-cut, dyed to cover grey. Unusually pale light skin with some age spots here and there, cool undertones, brown eyes. Slim, almost androgynous build — in her twenties and thirties they called her slender when they weren’t trying to insult her, but by fifty she’d leaned into it with her clothing choices. Naturally arched dark brown eyebrows gave her a natural ‘angry’ looking face. Danni’s fourth grade teacher had called it ‘resting bitch face’ when she didn’t realize Mandy could overhear her.
A couple of officers in PATER gear showed up. “If you’ll come with us,” the lead said, a study in professionalism. Mandy wondered how much of that was due to her body camera, now that its existence had finally begun to sink in.
Mandy followed as they led the hobbled parahuman suspect out and down the hall. On her way out, she accepted the manilla envelope from Lieutenant Berganza, who didn’t otherwise speak. Now that Mandy had attorney/client privilege, she could get the unredacted arrest report.
The room they were put in looked very similar. It had a full window instead of a one-way mirror, and that had a shade, which Mandy pulled. She touched the crown of her watch, rotating it back and forth a few times, but saw no reaction. No listening devices detected. That was good. Of course, that wasn’t perfect…
Mandy half-closed her eyes. If someone was trying to listen in, obviously she’d oppose their efforts…
Nothing. No twinge of pain or anything like it. A good start.
“So I don’t mean to be rude,” Holland said. “But they told me—”
Mandy raised a finger. “Not yet.”
Holland froze, then closed his mouth.
Mandy pressed her watch’s face. “End of discoverable recording,” she said. She let go, waited a count of two, then took hold again. “Shapiro, Mandy. East Meridian Police Department, private with prospective client Daniel Holland. This recording is protected by attorney/client privilege, is not discoverable, and will be encrypted.” She let go and turned to Holland. “All right. Now we’re alone, and now the recording I’m making can’t be discovered.”
“You think these guys are gonna care that much about the rules?” Holland asked. He sounded tired, and a little bitter.
“Maybe not, but I’ve taken some other steps, and it’s just a few minutes before DETAILS shows up and ruins their day. Beyond that, if they did find a way to listen in, then we could demonstrate the violation of attorney/client privilege trivially, and that would be the end of their case.”
“Yeah, because it’ll be that easy to dismiss the charges,” Holland said.
Mandy snorted. “I don’t need help to get these charges dismissed,” she said. She looked at Holland. “So. Right now, I’m the one person you can talk to in this building, because unless you actively solicit my help in committing another crime and then try to commit that crime? I can’t be compelled to testify.”
“Right. Sure. So you’re the one Bruce sent?”
“Bruce?” Mandy half-smiled. “You mean Jonah Bruce?”
“Jonah Bruce, consigliere to Robert Farragut, head of the Southern New England territory for the Calhoun Syndicate?”
Holland paused. “…yeah?” he asked, slowly.
“Yeah. I don’t work for them. I’m an actual, honest to Christ criminal defense lawyer, not under retainer to Chattergun Calhourn or anyone like him.”
Holland’s eyes grew wide. “…oh shit, and I—”
“Cool off. I already told you. I can’t tell anyone what we talk about here. That includes talking to mob bosses with terrible dress sense, or telling other people you talked about mob bosses with terrible dress sense.” Mandy took a deep breath, slipping the case folder out of the manila envelope. “So. Thermal powers. You get hotter over time. Durable and super-strong. You go by the name ‘Flux.’ Do I have that right?”
“…they told me there’d be a lawyer sent over. I’m not sure I should discuss this with you.”
“Right. Because you want to be loyal to the syndicate. I get it.” Mandy paused, for effect. “You realize that lawyer isn’t coming, right?”
“…they told me… they told me that…”
“They told you to keep your mouth shut and not say anything stupid. They told you that they’d take care of any problems. They told you they’d have their crack legal team on your side, and pop you outta here with no fuss or muss.” Mandy snorted. “But you’re new. Wet behind the ears. You’ve never seen the process from this side before. So they’re testing you. Figuring out if it’s worth it. Letting you struggle with a public defender. Seeing if you’ll cut a deal with the DA. If you pass, they’ll break out out of jail after your arraignment. If you fail, they’ll make you pay the price while you’re still behind bars. They’ve done this before. But that’s all out the window because this’ll all be dismissed, public defender or not.” Mandy paused. “If you do go with the public defender? Don’t tell him anything about Calhoun or the syndicate. Just give him the facts and the notes I’ll provide for you on my way out.”
Holland stared at Mandy. “If you’re not with Calhoun… why are you here?”
“Because I’m not with Calhoun.” Mandy looked Holland square in the eye. “If you hold off, do the public defender shuffle, and get broken out of jail? You’re committed. They’ll have stuff on you that you can’t take back. That’s why I’m going to give my notes to the public defender, even if you don’t retain me. That way, you do have some options. Real ones.”
Mandy shrugged. “But truth be told? Not great options. Honestly speaking, I’m your last chance, Holland.”
“You act like me getting off is a foregone conclusion,” Holland said, eyes narrowing. “So why are you my last chance?”
“Because that public defender will let you head out onto the streets, and Calhoun’s men will pick you up, shake your hand, and welcome you to the big time. Which will still be a lie but less of one than the last time they did that. I’m your last shot at leaving all that behind and not getting either yourself or your loved ones killed in the process. And maybe, just maybe, doing some good while you’re at it.”
Holland looked at Mandy, then snorted, and looked away. “So how exactly am I getting off?”
“When I showed up, they tried to obstruct my access to you. Which… honestly? Nothing new. But then, one of the detectives claimed you weren’t actually under arrest, when you were. In fact, his name’s one of the ones on the arrest report. At that point, that was an intentional effort to deny you your constitutional rights to representation and a potential violation of Habeas Corpus, though that depends on a bunch of other things. And then he lied to his superior about doing it, and I have all of it on tape, so… yeah. This went from a clean arrest to a dirty one. Which is weird. He’s not a rookie.”
“S’not that weird,” Holland said. “I bet it was Ellis West? His kid O.D.ed on shit that passed through the syndicate’s suppliers. I don’t think Jonah Bruce knows I know that, but I do. People get squirrelly when their kid is involved.”
“Tell me about it. My nine year old daughter’s at a national gymnastics meet right now, and her coach is melting down the rest of the way into being a monster. I’m angry enough to shoot him in the head, and damn the consequences.”
“Exactly.” He snorted. “She being pointed at the Olympics?”
“Maybe someday, and maybe not. Today? I’m pretty committed to not, but we’ll see.”
“I hear that. Still. My kid brother? Fifteen years old, but already shooting for the Ireland Games. Heh. Literally.”
Mandy arched an eyebrow. “What sport?”
“Damn. Good for him. I hope it’s a little cheaper than gymnastics for the rest of your family.”
“I’m the rest of his family. And I’ll let you know if the bills stop coming in.” Holland sounded vaguely annoyed. “So West lost his cool so they’d have a chance to sweat me a little?”
“Pretty much. Did you actually ask to speak to your lawyer?”
“Yup. Said I wouldn’t say anything until I spoke to my lawyer, then asked if they knew when he’d get there.”
“Did they offer you a public defender?”
He shook his head. “They talked like they were gonna drop the charges, though.”
“Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. Either way, they screwed up and they know better than to do what they did. But… yeah. Son of a cop being involved? I’ve seen it before. Either way, it’d be open and shut to be dismissed most of the time. With DETAILS coming in to investigate and audit? There’s no chance in Hell you’re going to trial. Honestly, if you retain my services? I’m probably going to meet with the Prosecutor today and they’ll probably drop the charges immediately.”
“Because they know it’s going to be dismissed, so it’s either they hold onto you for up to — how long have you been here?”
“I dunno. Seven hours?”
“We’ll call it six to be conservative. So, either they can hold you for up to another sixty-six hours, then go to arraignment and watch your attorney move to dismiss, with all the costs and trouble involved, or they can cut their losses and cut you loose now and seal the record. No lie, they’d probably hold you the sixty-six hours if the prosecutor’s as invested as they seem to be, just for the Hell of it, but given DETAILS being here? They’ll shuffle you out ASAP. Honestly, they’d probably try to do it right now if the prosecutor was available, so you wouldn’t still be here when DETAILS arrived. ‘Cept, of course, that I’m going to hang around to see the agent, and I won’t negotiate with the prosecutor until I do, because I want them to have to sweat it.”
“Wait a sec. Go back. They’re gonna seal the record?”
“To a degree. Right now, you’re only allegedly the parahuman super criminal called Flux. I mean, sure. They know that’s who you are, but under both the Justice For Heroes Act on the Federal level and the Protect Our Heroes law here in Rhode Island, they can’t officially tie your real name to your villain name in public records unless you’re convicted of a crime.”
“Oh. So no one knows it was me?”
“No, everyone knows it was you. The news had your legal name, not your villain name — so no one knows it was Flux. Next time, wear a mask. Or get a different line of work. But there’s a world of difference between everyone assuming you’re Flux and the East Meridian Police confirming it.”
Holland paused, then looked down. “Right,” he said, softly.
Mandy waited a moment before speaking — watching the parahuman’s shoulders slump. “So what did you call yourself before?” she asked, softly.
Holland blinked, looking up. “What?”
“When you were a hero. What’d you go by, and did you use a mask then?”