Vignette inspired by: When Presidents Are Accused of Crimes, The Daily Beast, April 11, 2017
THE FOUNDATION’S BASE: AUDIO CAPTURED FROM SMARTPHONE AND LAPTOP MICROPHONES, VIDEO CAPTURED FROM SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS
[Ken leans on the kitchen island as Nathan walks in]
“Hey. How’s your new sword coming?”
[Ken unlocks his phone, taps the screen a few times, replays the recorded phone conversation]
[Nathan whirls around from the fridge]
“Where did you get that?”
[The conversation plays on]
“…gotten worse. Now I can’t even look at Ken without this–this punch of guilt to my stomach. I told myself I broke up him and Johnny so he could put his focus back on the…”
[Nathan hurries over to the phone, tries to stop it, but can’t. Locked, likely. He uses his power to shatter the device]
“I’m sorry, Ken. I am so sorry.”
“Were you ever gonna tell me? Honestly?”
[Nathan looks at Ken, looks down at the remains of the phone]
“Well, now you don’t have to.”
[Nathan walks over to him, starts to reach for him but drops his hand]
“This wasn’t an accident, someone’s listening in on our phone conversations, trying to make us fight each other.”
“But it’s obviously the truth, you aren’t denying what you did, what I heard. You know what I had with Johnny was my first real relationship, the first time I felt at true peace with who I am.”
“And we’re all glad you had that experience, Ken, but it was impacting your performance in the field.”
“Then you should’ve kicked me off the team! I told you I never intended to do this for the rest of my life!”
[Nathan seems to grit his teeth]
“The team needs someone with your unique skillset.”
“That still does not excuse your actions!”
[The rest of the team steps into the frame]
“Every member of The Foundation is here because they want to be, Nathan, you know that. We don’t force anyone to join the team or remain on the team if they don’t want to.” [This from The Givetaker]
“Now I can’t help but wonder if you made a genuine effort to disable King Kaboom’s bomb. Maybe you knew my powers were enough to handle the explosion and didn’t want to take the risk. You might even have known I’d suffer from X-radiation poisoning.
[The Void hugs his arms tight to his chest as he speaks]
[Nathan turns to him, eyes wet]
“Trent, I tried the best I could that day. I’m sorry about what happened to you, but I had no idea things would end up the way they did. I swear.”
[The Suit steps to the other side of the kitchen island]
“With this revelation, we find ourselves questioning your every decision, your every action. We aren’t overlooking the fact that someone sent Ken this information on purpose, the fact that our security has been compromised, but what’s more is we can’t overlook the fact that this team seems to have been compromised long before now.”
[Nathan looks at the others]
“So where does that leave us?”
[The Suit looks at the rest of the team]
“You’re no longer a member of The Foundation. Your security clearance has been revoked.”
[Nathan touches a hand to his pocket]
“And that’s very likely a text message informing you that your Foundation account’s been frozen. I do hope you took my advice when I suggested you siphon some of your earnings into a personal account.”
[Nathan braces himself up on the island by his arms, speaks with his head hanging]
“The Foundation has to have five members.”
“And it will. A new hero named Octo Seven recently arrived in the city and reached out to us regarding membership. I told him what you just told me. Now I can tell him there’s a place for him.”
[The Suit turns and starts to walk away]
“But there isn’t one for you, Nathan.”
The next time Wra and I met it was in a downtown lounge and tapas bar. She allowed everyone to stay this time, sitting down across from me dressed in a mauve affair trimmed in lace cream. “I appreciate the superior results you delivered.” Another indifferent smile pressed across her lips. “Such a genuine pleasure to find professional competence in this day and age.” She paused to order a gin and tonic, settling back into the cushions. She picked up on the curiosity scrawled across my face. “You have an inquiry itching at the back of your head?”
She was more observant than she let on.
“Octo Seven. He’s one of yours, isn’t he?”
Wra tilted her head back a bit. “Your insatiable desire for knowledge is like an irksome infection.” She blinked. “After the work you’ve done for us, I decided it could be beneficial to consider more outsourcing; I’m working on whittling down my stubbornness. Mr. Seven has been tasked with exploiting the weaknesses you’ve laid bare. You operate from the outside, him from within.”
Her drink arrived. She thanked the server and took an easy sip before responding. “Exactly.” She touched the edge of her index finger to her lips and swallowed the chilled liquid. “If you’ll permit me a bit of social indecency, is the reason you specialize in people with superhuman abilities because you hate having them yourself and seek to find reconciliation through inflicting misery on them, or is it simply a matter of financial stability?”
The razor sharpness of the absolute surprise coating her question made my forehead muscle twitch once, conversational acupuncture.
She pivoted her head to the side a few degrees to assess my expression, edge of her mouth pulled and the corner of her eye narrowed. “You mean to tell me you never thought the things you do and the near obsession with which you do them never seemed like a superpower to you?”
Stay in control. Act, don’t react. Keep the expression off your face. Whatever it is welling up, keep it tamped down with everything else. Slow blink. Empty eyes. Even breathing. No exposed vulnerabilities.
“It’s entirely possible that what I can do might be considered a superhuman ability, but how many people do you know who do what I do?”
She threw my trick back in my face, but where my expression was blank, hers was full of amusement and guile. “You’re quite skilled at verbal deflection. You have your way of planting seeds, and I have mine.” She pulled out her own phone, slim and black, tapped and swiped for a few seconds before lifting her stormcloud gaze to me. “I guess a bit of mystery about who we are keeps life exciting. I do hope we’ll cross paths again in the future, Miss Eva Betsy Broker. Or whatever your true identity is.”
A buzz in my hand drew my attention. My final payment. With a generous bonus. I polished off my lukewarm tea as I stood. “I appreciate the opportunity.” I left her laughing. It felt like needled chimes vibrating across my skin along with the implications of her question.
Had I become what I’d beheld? Had I always been what I’d beheld?
A few months later, The Fencer/Ken and Johnny moved in together, and The Void succumbed to X-radiation poisoning when he eventually ran out of hectasoboclapin along with everyone else who had been taking it when Platinumgate Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was unable to keep up with the demand of those who had been exposed to the residual antimagnetic cosmic waves from King Kaboom’s failed bomb explosion.
Soon after that, the remaining original members of The Foundation were ambushed and killed by The Suspense while responding to a chemical fire at the edge of the city, one that burned a bit too perfectly to be an accident. Only Octo Seven survived.
I gathered the online news articles I’d read and compiled them into a computer folder labeled RIPPLES along with other bits of information related to the results of my past work over the years. I like to make myself well aware of what I’ve done and the acts I’ve contributed to.
Before you can start to build your version of the truth, you’ve got to have the right foundation.