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To the Victor…
Chapter 10: Foundations
by Tog
(Part 1 of 2)

Dawn broke to bathe the city in the light of a new day.  The cold, February frost gave way to the warmth as the sun climbed over the horizon.  It was if things had suddenly changed.  The minions of the Winter Lord had been beaten.  The unnatural cold has been pushed back.  All around were new heroes, fresh from their victories over the frozen abominations.  Some were taking to the skies for the first time.  Others were taking those first tentative steps into places like Dark Astoria.  Still others seemed at a loss as to what to do now that the giant snowmen were gone. 

Above it all… he watched.

~~~~~

Tog stretched his massive frame as he got out of bed.  Today was going to be a lazy one.  Nothing but TV and conversation was on the agenda.  He arrived in the lower kitchen to find Epim hovering over the coffee maker, cup in hand, hair a wreck, and a look that told him the coffee was all hers. 

All of it. 

Hers.

“Long night?” he asked.

“M.A. had me up ‘til four talking about how scared she was to call Beau, and how she felt it was too late for her to start dating, and how there would be all this pressure for her to do certain things and act certain ways but she didn’t know what any of them were.”

“Woah!  This isn’t, like, an official session that your talking about is it?  You didn’t just violate some doctor-patient thing did you?”

“No, it was just girl talk.  I’d look out though.  She hinted that she needed a guy’s perspective, and that probably means you’re next.”

~~~~~

The serene of the morning was shattered in the darkened office by the booming impact of a hand slamming down on the fine oak desk.  His assistant ran in to see the remains of the report floating down from the spot on the wall it had just struck.

“I,” he said with a slight sigh, as if trying to contain his anger, “would like to have a staff meeting today at 10 AM.  Arrange it.”

By 10 o’clock, all department heads were patched into the closed circuit system.  Each small office was set up the same way.  There was a small microphone directly in front of the chair, and a bank of monitors on the wall beyond.  This set up was used to preserve the anonymity of the members.  No member had any idea what any other member looked like.  Due to the voice alteration system, even the gender of the other members could only be guessed.

The red light came on near the microphone, indicating that the feed was live.  In short order, various signs of the Zodiac appeared on the 12 screens opposite the desk.  The leader’s voice came across the speakers and those who recognized his tone sunk a little deeper into their seats.

“As you are all aware, this was not a good month for us.  I would like to know the status of some of our projects as well a listing of how the events at the hotel will affect us.  Start with the people that interfered at the hotel.  Who are they, and what do we know about them?”

“Pisces Branch here, sir.  We’ve been looking into things as you asked and here’s what we know.  The big guy goes by the name of Tog.  His real name is Doug Trellman.  He was born in 1983 in a Fall River, Massachusetts.  His family moved to the outskirts of that town a few years later and had another son, David.  In September of ‘92, His dad beat his mom to death and went to prison.  There was no other family, so Doug and David went to an orphanage where they remained until Doug turned 18.  Shortly after they moved out, their father was released and paid them a visit, killing David.  Doug nearly killed his father but wound up being introduced to a hero recruiter after his father’s trial.  He has no known family and no friends outside the group he’s in here in Paragon City.

“Next subject is known as Lista.  She’s a mystery.  There is no record of her anywhere prior to February 2004.  First record we can find is a police report where she tried to find out who she was.  No family that anyone can find and no real friends outside the group, though she does seem to be quite fond of one night stands.  She is the one that caused us problems at the lake house last October.  She was also the one that came sniffing around the advertising agency last June.

“Finally is Mourning Angel.  We think her real name is Angela, but we’re not positive.  She has a southern accent, but we can’t narrow it down to a specific city or age.  She’s been very good about hiding who she is.  Again, we can find no real friends outside of her group, but she does have some dogs.  Three Irish Setters.  They never seem to leave the base though, so we can’t get to them.”

“Very well.  How badly were we hurt at the hotel?”

“Sir, Cancer here.  We lost four agents total.  Two were captured at the scene and eliminated in their holding cells on the mainland by our operatives.  The others escaped the hotel, but as the heroes knew they were working for a larger group, they were eliminated in the submarine after leaving the hotel.  Our code is known to the opposition now, but only to the degree that it is a code.  They have not broken it yet, though it would seem to be a matter of time now that they know to actually look at it.”

“You’re sure the code is still unbroken?”

“Yes, sir.  One of the first messages was a telephone number placed as a plant.  The only way for anyone to investigate that number is to break the code.  No one has looked into it yet.”

“And the other projects?  Capricorn?”

“Sir, things are going well on our end.  The gel is coming along well.  We should be able to begin full scale production within the month.  The fleet vehicle sales are set to go.  Current data indicates that we should finish phase two of both projects by September or October.  That will put us two or three months ahead of schedule.”

“That is good news.  Aquarius, you’re next.”

“Yes, sir.  We managed to get through the first set of blocks.  There is no reason for the FCC to be involved any further.  Once we get a spot on the satellite, we can begin broadcasting.  It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks at most at this point.”

“Very well.  I’ll get the new version up and running.  I had hoped that the cards would have lasted longer.  There was a lot of set up that went into it.”

“Well, sir, the strength of it was not in the encryption, it was in the stealth aspect.  No one knew to look for it.”

“As was the intent.  The new version won’t be available until we have the satellite broadcast.  The messages will be encoded in the digital noise from the ads for one our silly products.  The ads will be annoying and repetitive so most people will skip them or leave the room when they come on.  The messages should pass without notice.

“For now, the current project for those of you who are not already working on something critical is to come up with a way to dispose of, or discredit those three heroes from the hotel.  I want ideas by next week.  We’re done here.  Pisces, you stick around.  Virgo, you too.

One by one, the red lights flicked off as the department heads left their offices.  When only the two remained, the leader spoke again.  “You’re telling me that with the infiltration we’ve managed, we have nothing more that this to go on?”

“Not quite, sir.  We don’t have much on their past, but their present is looking good.”

“Explain.”

“Tog has been contacting various schools to try and get young people that have yet to actually manifest powers to have an idea where to go and how to get in touch with someone to help them learn.  Mourning Angel may be dating that poker player, Beau.  One or both of these could be turned to our advantage in some way.”

“Oh, that’s very good news,” said Virgo.  “If we can get someone inside Tog’s little workshop, we should be able to get more information.  Even if we can’t, we can still use the young heroes as bait or bargaining chips to get him to do something stupid.  I suggest we get Aquarius working on this angle to come up with some stories about the tragic irresponsibility shown by Tog in allowing children to act as heroes.  Maybe some civilian tragedies, property damage for sure, but something to discredit him and what he’s trying to do.  That should strengthen the bonds to those that stand by him, making them that much more useful as a tool to break his spirit later on.”

“Very good.  I’ll have them start on just that.  I also have a few ideas of my own to get to him.  Now, what about Mourning Angel?”

“Well, sir, if she is becoming involved with Beau, we can either try to turn him, or use him to get to her.  We don’t know for sure how their relationship might turn out, but if we time his death right, it could make for a powerful weapon.”

“Good.  Find out more about him.  If he can be turned, I want to try that first.  If he can’t be brought to our side, I’d like it to look like he is.  I get the feeling that betrayal will be far worse than loss to the little ‘Angel’.”

The remaining lights faded and the leader switched off his station.  He sat for a moment in silence before turning on the television.

“… with a special report is Justine Almage.  Justine.”

“Thank you, Dave.  This story is still coming to us in bits and pieces, as it has been all day, but here is what we’ve been able to confirm.  No less than 17 different reports have been filed with the local police, Freedom Corps, and Hero Corp about heroes going rogue and attacking ordinary citizens.  Most of these reports came from the Skyway City area, but there have been a few from Steel Canyon and at least one from Talos Island.  Other than confirmation of the repots being made, there has been no official statement from the police about the incidents.

“We were told about fifteen minutes ago that there would be an unofficial comment on this matter from Judge Evers.  Judge Evers, you may recall, is the man that was first to speak out against some of the abuses done by heroes in arresting the various gang members in our city.  In his press release last week he said quote, ‘I understand the need for heroes to help police our streets, but they are no more above the law than any police officer in this city.  Those alleged criminals arrested by members of the hero community will get the same trial they would get if arrested by a police officer and the rules governing treatment of the prisoners will not change.  Any hero that violates the civil rights of a suspect may be brought up on charges of their own, and sloppy arrest procedures can result in the release of the suspects,’ end quote.  Ah, here he comes now.  Let’s see what he has to say.”

The camera panned over to a podium at the top of the stairs to the courthouse.  There, Judge Evers was preparing to speak.  He was a distinguished man of average height and build with a thick head of black hair, flecked with bands of gray.  He took his reading glasses from his pocket and looked out over the assembled press.

“Members of the press.  Thank you all for coming out to hear what I have to say.  I want this to be clear, and on the record that I am not speaking to you as a representative of the city, or of the courthouse, at this time.  I am speaking to you as a common man, and a judge.  Today marks the first open instances of the type I warned about last week.  The so called ‘Heroes of Paragon City’ are beginning to act like just another street gang.  Acts of violence and vandalism against this city and its residents will not be tolerated.  Not from the criminals, nor from self-appointed vigilantes.  In the past 60 days, I have had to release nearly half of all the accused to come before me due to either a lack of evidence, or excessive force used in their apprehension.  I’m hoping this message goes out to all of the so called Heroes in this city.  Play by the rules, or else.  I’m tired of cleaning up after you all.  I’m tired of the court’s time being wasted by you.”

“Judge!  Judge!  Can we get a list of the Heroes involved in these incidents?”

“No.  The investigation is just starting.  I don’t even have access to that information since it’s all in the hands of the police for now.  But rest assured that when it comes before me for trial, it will be as public as I can make it.  I understand you all have questions, but I’m really not the best one to answer them at this time.  I would suggest you wait for an official statement from the police.

“I do have one thing to add of a personal nature.  The police have been doing an amazing job lately.  The arrest rate has tripled, and I think that is putting more pressure on the heroes because there just isn’t enough crime to go around.  If I had anything to say about it, there would be a limit to the number of heroes allowed to act in this city.  A limit far below what we have now.  I have nothing further.”

The reporter came back on camera.  “That was Judge Evers reading a prepared statement regarding the reports of Heroes crossing the line this afternoon.  It certainly sounds like a dark day for Paragon City.  This is Justine Almage, reporting from the courthouse.  Back to you, Dave.”

“Thanks, Justine.  In other news, the first batch of new, environmentally friendly vehicles was delivered to the federal government today.”

~~~~~

TO CHAPTER 10.2 >





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