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Politics, Pt. 1


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Circa 2013

 

The Man in Black was on time and he knew it as he lounged against the corner of a building across the street from a non-descript warehouse in Peregrine Island. He puffed his cigar once, twice and then flicked it onto the pavement, the embers splashing in the cool night air, contrasted by the little puddles of the recently fallen rain. The only witnesses are the streetlamps glaring down impartially as he crosses the blacktop.

 

As he presents himself at the main entrance of the warehouse he is aware of the high-mounted camera following his progress. He slows to a stop in front of the door and from a speaker set into the wall beside the door there is an automated voice.

 

"Fergus McRae, also known as The Legendary Living Hellfire. You are granted admittance. Please enjoy your visit." The Man in Black smirks, knowing full well that this is hardly a neighbourly visit. Not after all this time, not after all he's done. They wouldn't want to see him at this stage if they didn't want something.

 

The door opens to reveal not a lobby, nor a front loading bay that one might expect of a warehouse. Instead, it's an elevator. He steps inside. There is the inevitable and predictable humming as the lift descends, reaching its stop after a moment or two. The doors hiss open revealing a familiar face covered by goggles, skin-tight suit all red and violet.

 

"Hi!-I'm-Synapse-nice-to-meet-you-welcome-to-the-HQ-I'm-supposed-to-guide-you-to-the-meeting-but-can-I-just-say-how-pleased-I-am-to-meet-you-..." at this point listening to the young man becomes like drinking from a fire hose. The Man in Black finds himself nodding along with the rapid-fire patter of the established hero as he strides along at an inhuman walking speed. The high velocity rambling continues as they walk past security gates with steely-eyed guards and more cameras than there are sticks to shake at them. Gated detector after gated detector, to the point where The Man begins to wonder how much of this security is for show and how much is real. This is the Freedom Phalanx, how much security do they truly need?

 

Corridor after corridor, elevator after elevator as he endured Steven Barry's verbal onslaught. A statement followed by a question followed by an observation, none of which allowed any time whatsoever for a response. The Man in Black followed.

 

"-so-anyway-I-found-the-Trolls-hunkered-in-the-cellar-and-they-were-loaded-for-bear-and-I-just..."

 

"Enough!" The Man stopped, his shoulder dropping slightly. "Enough, mate... I cannae unnerstand a single feckin' werd ye've said"

 

Steve Barry looks somewhat crestfallen "I'm sorry... I talk fast when I'm excited."

 

"It's quite alright, lad, I unnerstand yer enthusiasm, it's jes' hard tae keep up." he pauses, recognizing that he's hurt the younger man's feelings. "Yer a good bloke an' I ken ye mean well, it's jes' a wee bit much, aye? I didnae mean any harm, it's jes'... a lot." Synapse nods, mollified slightly but his embarrassment is clear. The Man in Black would recall his teacher's training and recognize that he failed this young man in that moment in that he did not give him the attention that he needed.

 

They arrive at a door. It's always a door. The hallways is a pristine white. The floor is white, the ceiling is white, the door before which they stand is white. It hisses open revealing a council chamber complete with the V-shaped council table. A lone, armless chair sits square and centre, facing forward at the apex of the table at which sits none other than Marcus Cole, Statesman himself. Synapse is already seated at the far left of the table, doing his very best to appear relaxed.

 

From left to right around the table are Synapse, a bundle of nervous energy. Next is Dr. Raymond Keyes in his metal suit, followed by Citadel the android. From right to left are Michael White, also known as the Back Alley Brawler, an enormous man in a tiny chair followed by Shalice Tillman Sinclair and her husband, the rich socialite Justin Sinclair, Sister Psyche and Manticore.

 

Statesman rises from his throne at the head of the table and motions to the chair obviously meant for The Man in Black. "Fergus McRae, it's a pleasure to finally meet you! Please, join us.".

 

The Man in Black grins back at Paragon City's foremost Hero, reaching into his breast pocket producing a cigar. "Aye, a pleasure tae finally make yer acquaintance." He nods to the assembled heroes, jamming the cigar into his mouth, the cherry burning immediately. He saunters slowly toward the chair indicated and casually shoves it with his toe on his way past towards the apex of the table.

 

"Smoking is not permitted in this room". The Man in Black ignores Positron as he approaches the internal apex of the table, standing a respectful distance from The Throne he hauls deeply on the cigar, blowing a plume of smoke into the ceiling of the room. The chair continues its roll, as though fleeing the scenario entirely of its own volition.

 

"So yer Marcus Cole, then?" The Man asks. "Yer the leader o'this wee outfit what apparently does very little tae aid the folks o'this wee city?"

 

Statesman pulls himself up to his full height, the smell of ozone in the air. "In this room you will address me as Statesman, Mr. McRae. Please allow me to remind you where you stand. You were invited here as a courtesy."

 

The Man in Black grins and takes the cigar from his mouth, letting it hang from his fingers as he turns slowly back towards the centre of the chamber. "Aye? An' what courtesy is that, Marcus?" He asks pointedly, jamming the cigar back into his mouth, the smoke rising above his hat like a halo. "Ye've clearly done yer homework on who I am, but ye ferget that I was a teacher. I've done me own homework on who ye all are, what ye can do an' so forth. Moreover, I ken jes' fine when I've been called tae the principal's office." He pauses, turning slowly to address the room. "D'ye ye reckon' I dinnae ken a trial when I see it? It's hardly me first."

 

Justin Sinclair clears his throat, his bow cornered against his chair as he leans forward on his elbows, his fingers interlaced on the polished oak. "Mr. McRae I think we've gotten off on the wrong foot. We've asked you here to discuss with you some of the wonderful work you've done in protecting the citizens of this city and, in fact our very reality as we know it." The Man in Black stands motionless waiting for Manticore to continue his placation.

 

"Largely due to the work of Dr. Keyes and Citadel we have analyzed your productivity. Your interventions have all been excellent with high praise from the media and witnesses, your civilian death rate is quite low, surprisingly so given your skill-set and abilities. Even your social media mentions are favourable. Mr. McRae this is not a trial or a a call to disciplinary action, we asked you here in the hope that you would join us."

 

There is a brief pause.

 

"No."

 

That smell of ozone again. "Why?" asks Statesman, still on his feet, his arms folded.

 

The Man in Black draws on his cigar, this time blowing the smoke directly at the apex of the table. "Because ye called me 'Mr. McRae' an' very few folk have the right er privilege o'callin' me that er any other name. Ye dinnae care about me er what I b'lieve. Ye only care about what I can do an' ye wish tae leash me like a dog behind yer precognistic algorithms about probabilistic outcomes."

 

"Make nae mistake, I reckon ye meant well when ye started out an' I've had me encounters with various malefactors, as ye've so ably communicated." With a nod to Positron and Citadel "However, ye've made a critical error, Marcus."

 

"And what's that, exactly, Mr. McRae?"

 

"Ye've corporatized bein' a superhero. Ye've made it an establishment issue an' profession. Ye've established yerself as a resource tae be at least respected by an' at werst funded by public money." The Man motions around him at the impressive conference room ensconced deep within the bowels of the city. "Yer nae interested in aidin' folk, ye jes' wish tae maintain yer reputation. Ye dinnae care a lick fer the average bloke, the average firefighter, police officer er fast-food worker. Ye allow these cretins tae invade yer city, the city ye were sworn tae defend because intervenin' in this er that incursion might harm yer image." The silence is deafening.

 

"An that goes fer all o'ye." The Man in Black scans the table. "O'er the years I've aided all o'ye with yer various tasks an' errands an' nae one time have I see ye engage in defence o'this city! Ye stand at yer posts, crossin' yer arms, baskin' in yer authority an' reputation accomplishin' nothin'."

 

"I'll nae join this band o'layabouts."

 

***

 

The Man in Black steps into the cool evening, the sky above him welcome and inviting. The Legendary Living Hellfire steps lightly into the air, welcoming the lightning as it strikes from the Heavens. A burnt orange streak of Hellfire carves its way into the night sky.

Edited by Living_Hellfire

-The Legendary Living Hellfire

"The newest person in the room is always the most important person in the room"

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