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Thunderbolt, having made his debut, continued trying to get to know the city and his teammates, patrolling regularly and getting the public used to his presence and appearance. He got a phone call one afternoon.
    "Mr. Thunderbolt?"
    "My name's Wendell Jenkins, I'm with Agglomerated MegaPublishing. So, we had heard from the government that you had responded favorably to the thought of being involved in our charity program?"
    "Yes, definitely," he replied firmly.
    "Is there a time you could come down to have an initial photo shoot, meet the staff, talk about directions you'd like your character to go in the comic book?"
    "Two days?"
    "Excellent, excellent! Why don't we say, a one o'clock meeting?"
    "Sure, that sounds fine. I must warn you, I may be late," he added. "You never know what kind of criminal scum I might run into in the streets."
    "Yes, of course. Criminal scum." He sounded disconcerted by the joke.
    A couple days later Thunderbolt made his way to the AMP building without encountering any criminal scum. A very young man met him in the lobby near the elevators.
    "You're Thunderbolt, right?"
    He nodded. "Yes, son, I am. Good eye." Must have been the new costume that gave him away.
    "I'm Peter Paulson, I'm one of the artists working on the... it's such an honor to meet you," he interrupted himself, shaking Thunderbolt's hand enthusiastically.
    "A pleasure to meet you, as well."
    "Why don't you come on up, I was hoping to meet you as you came in." The two got into the elevator. "Nice costume," he commented. "Very dark."
    Thunderbolt had settled on simple black fatigue pants and boots, and a black jacket with a yellow bolt zig-zagging across the front. "Thank you. I hope it won't be difficult for you to draw."
    "No, no actually it should work nicely. I don't suppose Phoenix Talon is coming along?" There was a trace of hope in his voice.
    "I don't believe so, I'm sorry."
    "You know if he's changed his mind at all?" Peter asked quietly.
    "I don't think so."
    "There was an unfortunate incident when we had him here for his initial meeting, which is why I wanted to meet you at the door, make sure that everything went smoothly."
    "I appreciate it." Though one did have to wonder what good Paulson would be in the event of another attack by the Toy Man.
    They stepped out of the elevator and into the AMP offices. Another man approached them, clean-cut, middle-aged, wearing a suit, and with a small scar on one side of his face. He looked more like Paul's mental picture of an ad executive than Peter did.
    "Thunderbolt, hello, we spoke on the phone, Wendell Jenkins." They shook hands. "Come on in, please, have a seat."
    "Thank you."
    They all sat down in a small conference room. "From what I understand from Senator Snow, both you and Mr. Silver agreed to go on with the charity aspects of the project?"
    "That's correct."
    "Any particular direction you wanted to follow in this?" Jenkins inquired. "We can show you some of the layout pictures that we have. Unfortunately, since the entirety of your team did not go along with this, we had to make up some fictional characters."
    "I understand."
    "So it's going to be yourself, as Thunderbolt, who we're hoping to cast as a kind of team leader person, we understand that in real life you have some military background, we'll be trying to incorporate that in, and Scott, and then we have the two fictional characters...." "Yes, the two fictional characters," Paulson repeated tightly.
    "What do you mean?" Thunderbolt asked.
    Wendell explained. "We are able to, by our license with the state government, to get as close as we can to the actual Phoenix Talon and Needle without actually using the images of Phoenix Talon and Needle. Um, so we have these two characters here, an Asian telekinetic who we're referring to as Witchfire, and then the team martial artist, ninja person, who we're referring to as Shadow Phantom, who we see as a kind of amiable bumbler type."
    "Ah, yes, that will definitely help Phoenix Talon choose to go along with this," Thunderbolt murmured under his breath. "I can see that now. But go on?"
    They spent a couple of hours going over sketches, taking pictures, and talking about directions for the comic book. The AMP men were disappointed by Lucky's recent disappearance, since they had been looking forward to the redemptive plotline for the book, but at least they didn't have to worry about her coming by and leveling the building if she didn't like it. And Thunderbolt did fit neatly in the square-jawed, level-headed, military hero sort of mold.
    "Any plans for an animated series?" he inquired.
    "Oh yeah, we're doing the animated series," Jenkins assured him. "That's just a precursor to the actual live-action television show. We're casting actors and actresses right now, would you like to be involved in the casting call for your character?"
    "Truthfully, I don't prefer the live action," Thunderbolt admitted. "It's the animated series I've really enjoyed."
    Paulson nodded emphatically. "I agree completely. I think that trying to get people to play characters of your stature, the importance that you play in society... it just doesn't quite...."
    "Get a grip, son. I'm just a man, like any other," Thunderbolt suggested gently, a bit of military mannerism showing through. At least I don't have to be Lieutenant Photon any more.... Life was looking pretty good.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson