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    If only he knew. "Anyway. They appear to be clean, but obviously, they would." I shrugged. I probably was being paranoid, but it wouldn't hurt. "If one or two of us want to go and show the colors...?"
    "Hey, free food and alcohol," Phoenix Talon shrugged. "Can we bring a date?"
    "Uh... I don't see why not. You have a date?"
    The whole table was staring at him.
    "Who all d'you think is gonna be there, just like scientists and shit?"
    "Probably local financial people they want to invest, the media, any local politicians they can coerce into coming. And a jazz band. You know, music, food, hobnobbing."
    He nodded thoughtfully. Then he realized that we were all watching him. "What?"
    "So Phoenix Talon, I assume you're interested in going?" I prodded.
    "Thunderbolt, do you want to go, sort of introduce the media to you in a sort of secluded and quiet setting?" I believe this is called "delegation."
    "Why not. Might as well. But I share your caution," he added. "It pays to be cautious in a world like this."
    "Yes. Anyone else have any other agenda items?"
    Paul's an odd one. Doesn't seem fazed by anything, doesn't ask a lot of questions, just observes everything. Not unfriendly, or hidden the way Promethean was, but kind of quiet. I guess he's still adjusting; I was kind of expecting him to walk in here and try to take charge, but that hasn't happened.
    Phoenix Talon started going on about wanting to have Newton x-rayed; for some reason he still doesn't trust my cat. Reilly took that as his cue to leave, promising to see what he could do about finding the Blood Boards gainful occupation.

[Aside: Scott]

July 14

Five tickets for Hamlet arrived in the mail this afternoon, for one of the shows in Boston later this week. Scott, reluctantly suspicious, has decided to attend tonight. Boy, do I hope we're barking up the wrong tree on this one. Somewhat despite myself, I like Larry.

[Aside: Special Containment Area, Boston Jail]

[Aside: Phoenix Talon]

    I heard Phoenix Talon crashing around downstairs, and was uncomfortably reminded of Promethean's skeet shooting habit. I decided to leave him be. Dawn walked past.
    "Oh, hi," she said. "Are you going to the...?" A gesture indicated formality somehow.
    "All right. I was wondering, my father was asking me to make him a tuxedo, I was wondering if you were going to need a formal outfit or not."
    "No, I'm all set, thanks." I tried to picture Phoenix in a tux, and must have looked puzzled.
    "I talked him out of it," she told me. "He's gonna just wear the black costume."
    "Good idea."
    "Do you think Paul would need anything?"
    More crashing downstairs. "He's got a costume, I think he's all set, but you might want to ask him."
    She produced a bow tie with a magnet on the back for Scott in case he wanted to go, too.
    Also in today's mail, and addressed to the whole team, was the package from AMP with the character sketches for the comic book and so forth. We all gathered around the table to open it; I was curious despite myself.
    "I assume they came up with replacement characters?" Phoenix Talon emerged from his subterranean efforts at last. "Who are they?"
    "You're Shadow Phantom, a bumbling ninja—" Thunderbolt began.
    Shushing Phoenix Talon, we read the cover letter from Mr. Jenkins, letting us know that they were still a couple of months away from publication, plenty of time if we wanted to make any modifications. Their treatment foregrounds the two "real" characters, with Thunderbolt cast as the team leader, and Scott as a detective/scientist sort.
    My stand-in, Witchfire, is a mobile pair of breasts, and therefore bears me no resemblance whatsoever, which I don't mind—the less chance of this actually being mistaken for reality, the better. Her costume is almost nonexistent, something about needing to expose as much of her skin to the air as possible for her "hypersenses" to work properly. There were sketches from a number of different art teams; some of them drew her proportions as ludicrous, some as merely absurd. The sad thing is they'd probably draw me like that—I don't rate in the adolescent male fantasy department. I'm alternating between amused and annoyed on the whole issue, though I figured something like this would happen.
    Shadow Phantom doesn't fare any better, coming off as a well-meaning doofus with occasional bursts of violence. Talon didn't look happy at all. Of course, the letter said, if either of us want to change our minds, all we have to do is say so, and we can have much more creative control....
    "There are other ways of exercising creative control," Talon muttered. "Like threatening to disembowel the author."
    "Excuse me, did Lucky die so you could start channeling her? Back off the estrogen," Scott suggested.
    "This is a unique situation," he replied grimly.
    Also included was a personal letter from Peter Paulson, begging the two of us to sign on. He knows we're unhappy with the stand-ins, he's unhappy with them as well, thinks they lack the proper verisimilitude. I haven't met Peter, but from what I hear of him, he's not saying all this because he wants the contract; he really believes we deserve better. We're heroes, after all.
    I wonder where he gets this stuff. I don't think of myself as a hero.
    Under the letter were notes for the animated series and, of course, the movie, which is currently little more than a sparkle in a screenwriter's eye. There was some question as to whether Nicholas Cage would be willing to play Shadow Phantom.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson