I didn’t tune the radio to the emergency stations that night. Call it a moment of weakness, or call it a need for respite. Instead, I slowly sifted through the gift bags and baskets and pieced together the fan letters and sat down to read them.
So many people. So many individuals looking at me, asking me for some simple words. That had seen me, in the midst of that disaster. How far would the words travel? How far could they travel?
I pulled out a gilded pen and started signing names. It was better than thinking about what I’d done. What I’d tricked people into doing. What they were doing, outside, in the dark.
I could only pray that there wasn’t any evil in the city yet, for if there were a tragedy tonight, I would not be able to even try to contain the blowback I’d face.
The com blipped on the table in front of me. I watched it, and with numb fingers, how could they not be numb after how stupid I was being, how terrified I was, I took it, flipped it on.
“Attention. All heroes in the Bay Area. Dauphin island is in need of urgent support. I am calling upon all B ranked heroes in the area. I repeat, I am calling upon all B ranks in the area to support, this is an Association base, under attack. We have casualties. Please rendezvous on this position immediately.”
Dauphin island. Not far. Touching Mobile. Hour’s drive.
Couldn’t do it. Had Mobile to consider. Had to protect it, there was nobody there if they shifted their troops. If they broke ranks for any real reason.
But… it was an association base. Best source of news.
But it’d be dangerous. Hellishly so.
My fingers played against the cold steel and plastic, and dipped in against the glass screen. But… whatever was attacking Dauphin island… It was facing harsh resistance. If we intervened now, it was our best chance. There were people still fighting there, if we made it in time, if we just made even the slightest bit of difference. We’d be saving us more work in the future.
It could save us, if we could keep that base up. Keep most of the bottom half of America safe, if we could repel them.
It was a stupid though. We didn’t have a person among us who could even hope to help. Could even dream of helping.
But if we gave up on them now, weren’t we as good as murderers?
The com rotated in my hands, spun across my fingers. And I stood up, slowly.
Because we did have some people who could help. We had people who had helped before, who had been benched before.
The com clicked on as I touched it.
“Mary,” I said.
“Yes sir?” She said, in an airy way that made her sound far less like my mother than she had before. It was still a harsh juxtaposition.
“You still got a fight in you?” I asked. I regretted asking immediately, but…
“I do,” Mary said, slowly. “Depends on the fight.”
I could hear the crackle of Earnest’s com. Repeating the same message we both had received.
“Can we,” I said, softly. “Can we in good faith leave them to what they’re facing? When we’re so near?”
“It’s not a matter of can we, Gale,” She said, flat. “It’s a matter of doing it. If any of us gets hurt… Look at you, you’re covered in bandages.”
I could feel them itch. The scabs on my hand still hurt and ached, and even at the best of times I was still sore. Bad case of road rash from being forced into the ground. The right half of my face was purple from the single hit Negalli had dealt me.
“I am,” I agreed.
“If any of us gets hurt, seriously hurt, there’s nobody here to heal us.”
I clicked my tongue. “I only know one place that would have healers, Mary,”
She sighed from the other end of the comline. “Dauphin island.”
I breathed out and waited for a long moment. My mind spiralled out from here. If we could save Dauphin island… it’d be a bastion. Make our jobs far easier. Nobody would be willing to even touch us, if we could just keep that place afloat. A functioning base… somewhere to keep the powered Crooks around…
It was romantic. Heady, addictive. The idea of having help in this fight. Something to rest on. Actual fighters. Strong people.
People that were left.
And Dauphin island was right next to us.
“Who’ll guard the graveyard?” She asked, grimly.
“Earnest. Whoever you can spare from the patrol. Anyone, really.” My breath was a bit short across the line. I wanted this to work. I wanted this to work so much.
She breathed out. “I… Fine. We reinforce Dauphin island with everyone we can spare. All of our heavy hitters.”
It was around then that it occured to me that they had exactly one heavy hitter. Mary. Would Mary be enough? Would any of the younger capes have anything they could use. Even a C ranker would do, in a pinch.
“That’ll mean you and me, Gale,” Mary continued.
A shiver ran down my spine and I stared down at the com. “We’ll need a few more,” I hedged.
“We’ll check the roster, and move in from there.”
Then the comline went dead, and I stared into the dimness of the motel room and wondered exactly how they were going to pull this off.