(Arise, dead thread)
The flash drive was easy enough to install, it was a matter of what did I want to play it on? I'm a simple man in some ways, there was a screen in Hussar's own room and since we were here, I set it up. I thought about making a joke about getting the popcorn, but Hussar's focus on the screen made me realize that my humor would not be considered fitting or appropriate.
Not that I'm normally knocking my team mates dead in the aisles with my pithy banter. I can hold my own, but that's self defense in the world of super-teams. Some superhero groups are rumored to have borderline hazing like some Frat stereotype. If that's the case, I don't even want to think of the supervillain teams. Now come corporate owned and government teams have to abide by some very strict rules of behavior regarding interaction; rumors there indicate it can get tight and uncomfortable. The New Samaritans? I'd like to think we're in a healthy center ground.
But even here, I had to find my niche in the group, and get with the program, make friends where I could, without losing my individuality while doing it. In the first month or so I felt like I put my foot in my mouth so often I had athlete's tongue. After awhile, they felt out my boundaries, I theirs and the rest, as they say is history.
Being Co-Captain had hurled me back a bit. It wasn't just new people, it was a new position with folks I did not know. And Hussar and I were not getting along. I won't lie, a part of me had been tempted to tell him have a nice life, inform Lady Obsidian he just wasn't a team player, and let it go. But I don't like failing. I know, no one does, but pride, that selfish barbed sin that grooves into you and somehow you treasure it anyway, was telling me that I could do better than just waving goodbye to any rookie who annoyed me. It reflected on me, and how Lady Obsidian would look on me. Like I said, selfish pride.
The more noble reason, and just behind it, was that the world needed superheroes. It needed people with power to try to do the right thing and make a positive difference. If Hussar could shape up, and (literally) fly right, he could help save lives not just in the case of supervillain attack but natural disasters, rescue of those lost on hiking trails, and a dozen other ways that I knew. So, pride be damned, I owed it to the hero he could be to get to know the man, jerk or not, that he was.
I'd been handed something that definitely registered with him. So, I quelled the humor and tried to turn on the attention and maybe even rev up the old empathy a bit. I was a rookie too, once-
A nobler, more earnest and dare I say? more lovable rookie, but that's neither here nor there.
"You got this set up yet or not? It's a flash drive, not rocket science," Hussar groused.
Okay, definitely more lovable. Then again, the only reason he was hanging around instead of leaving was that I had pushed for him to watch this one more time so I guess impatience is forgivable.
"Starting it up," I said giving it a dramatic pause "now."
The footage that unfolded was not smooth and continuous, it was three scenes back to back but quality and style varied.
I watched as a group of four black men in costumes gathered about a table. Their costumes, varied, but had two things in common, The outfits leaned towards the period, a bit more fringe for some, bold colors; less super fabric back then. Each had a stylized word, not large, on their shoulder costume, be it as a belt buckle, shoulder patch, the name Luke was on it, and a date or something? Given the grain and angle of the footage I was lucky to get that.
Hussar piped up "Notice that none of them have a full face mask? Heck some of them bared their arms. They wanted folks to notice they were black or was the term African American then? I don't know."
I had indeed noticed that and didn't mention that the guy with the rather bold afro over his mask was also a clue. Then they began talking.
"So we just hover around city hall?" One with a sunburst symbol on his chest asked, "Surely more than that's needed?"
"And we get ready to protect the protesters. No attacking the cops, but if they break out the hose, we bust the hose. If they send out the dogs again, we incapacitate the dogs..." A taller man started to elaborate, his costume's chest had a symbol that looked like a black shield design.
"And when the cops start beating on little girls and old women? " The third, no chest logo on his dark costume but bronze zig zag patterns on its upper arms and legs, bristled with ire, "Brothers you know we're all good Christians here, but I have a problem with this."
"Then we take the hits" The fourth man in a purple cape says "We don't give the hits. Much as they deserve it. You all know damn well as soon as one super involves himself, blame, we're labeled villains. And it's not us who pays the price for that"
"I hear you," the third man answered with a sour look, "See you at the march"
I knew these guys, or more accurately I knew of them. Super history was a hobby of mine long before I went in a college and that tip of your tongue feeling where you're sure you should have the answers you're searching for was jangling in my brain pan like you wouldn't believe. Fortunately, I didn't need to come up with it myself as the scene flicked to its second part.
Cigarette smoke rose in spirals around a different table, better light with folders spread on out it. The images were clearer. Men in ill fitting suits, many of them with guns under jackets, the whole thing screamed government agents circa old school, "Footage of this meeting gives us nothing on the Widow's Sons. How are we going to keep these super-@##$ off the street?"
The word the guy was used wasn't the worst racial slur you could use, but he said it so casually, with such practiced ease, that yes, it caught me off guard. I suppose it shouldn't have, given the time period.
"Their presence is going to embolden the non powered activists," Said another, and I realized that every guy around this table was of the Caucasian persuasion, "So yeah, we kind of need to."
"We could escalate, provoke a violent reaction?" Another said after putting his coffee down, "We saw on the footage, at least one of them might not be hard to press."
"Too big a risk, sure we could spin it as a peaceful protest being total bull and this proves it, but a violent protest if the ones without powers join leads to it's own complications in the short term," a cigarette was snuffed, I wondered if it was meant to be symbolic as the guy stated at the same time, "We need to bust them first, and make sure they're caught dead to rights."
There was an emphasis on the word evidence that I did not like. In fact I didn't like any of these guys. I'm not a detective like Tornado, but I could read between the lines well enough. They were talking set up.
"Please, like anyone is going to believe that it wasn't planted?" said the scrawniest man of the bunch confirmed my suspicions, "or whatever?"
"Relax," The guy who was taking lead dog position said, "We got an angel in our corner."
And I groaned "Oh sweet mother of mercy you've got to be kidding me. That son of a -"
"Oh wait, wait, you'll miss the star of our show, the gallant Angelman himself," Hussar said cutting me off, and it was wise that he did because the final section played.
This was the blurriest of all, staticky at points, images of a street scene, a winged figure who could be no other but Angel Man, beseeching and imploring someone "A hostage situation with..."
The sound was lost for a moment as the same four black supers from before came out, some more reluctantly than others and followed him. Once they were gone, a group of non descript men moved with uniform precision, slipping into the building they had left. For just one moment, I saw the satchel one was carrying open up. Within it, a brief glimpse of something I thought I recognized, mostly from old war and espionage movies.
"They set them up," The history coming back to me now, "This is how the Widow's Sons ended up charged with a plot to blow up a police station, Angelman worked with those agents to plant the evidence."
"That's not all he did, but you won't find it on this tape," Hussar snorted but still, he looked impressed, "You actually researched this?"
"It was mentioned in Lady Obsidian's memoirs as a major influence on her life," And it was sinking in, hard, on why Hussar was of interest to her when others in the group were Partials now getting their boost "In the investigation, one superhero came forth claiming he had heard the Sons plotting it. The superhero was never identified, because he never had to bear witness. The trial was one of those guilty until proven innocent farces, but most of the country didn't realize that until years later. Years where four innocent men rotted in jail."
I didn't mention that I also knew how that protest the Widow's Sons were going to attend went down without superheroes. With their heroes accused, the protesters found the sympathy they might have gotten great reduced. Some backed out, the diehard went out. Water hoses, dogs, and night clubs used heavily, two people died; had the Widow's Sons been there? The Sons would have been a living barrier to all that. Two lives saved.
"But he would have," Hussar cursed and snapped, anger in very brief burst of body language, "That hypocritical ass would have put his hand on a bible, sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then repeated the lies they wanted him to say. Angelman was a racist, and not even an honest one. So you see why I won't be taking that name, it's not because it's a cheesy ass name, which it is. It's because I hate the guy, and clone or not, I don't want to be anything like him."
Hussar looked like he wanted to drop kick the screen we had just watched through the wall. Then again, I thought as I looked down at my own hands which had tightened to fists, he wasn't the only that had angered. This so much wasn't about me, it was about four superheroes betrayed and wrongfully imprisoned for years. It was about a clone being told to be a hero like his genetic donor, but who knew the evil that donor had done. It was about a young black girl, a genius, who I suspect was related to one of those four innocent men, stepping up to take on a mantle of justice in an unjust moment in history.
It was in no way about me.
So how come I felt utterly betrayed? Cheesy as he was, I had thought Angel Man was a good man. He and I claimed the same faith, and while I suspected superheroes would always have our share of folks turning to a religion for clarity and spiritual assurance, he was one who was open about it. Heck, the guy was a role model for the longest time to many of the most devout heroes. And it turned out he didn't just have feet of clay, he had deliberately chosen evil while lecturing others on virtue.
I took a breath, and shoved that selfish child like anger away and remembered, The Widow's Sons also had faith. After all, they had taken their name from the Parable of the Unjust Judge and the Widow.
I looked over at Hussar, "You were right."
His head turned, "About?"
"You're ten times the person Angel Man was," I told Hussar, "But that's a much lower bar than I thought it was. Stick around, work with us, we'll work with you."
Hussar was in a grown body, and despite assurances that he was mentally mature as well, it didn't change the fact he had a monkey on his back, a winged monkey at that, in the form of resentment that he had been cast in the image of a fallen angel.
"Why?" Hussar's eyes look at my face as if he were trying to get some clue into my thoughts from my expression, which I hoped was one of sincere confidence.
"So the world will know you're not just the better person, but the better superhero," I smiled a bit, "Wouldn't you like to overshadow Angel Man so much folks go.. 'Angel Man who?'" I held out my hand.
His anger slipped as a smile escaped onto his lips at that, "Okay, that's …. petty, I'm tempted mind you, but it's petty. Got a non petty reason? And don't tell me you believe in me, we both know you've still got doubts."
Ouch. He was right, here I was with my hand out when I still wasn't sure. I looked down at my still outstretched hand, then looked Hussar straight in the eye, "Do it for the other guy. Do it for Mister Dirkly, you heard him on the TV: HE believes in you. He knows how you screwed up, and he still believes. I think that is worth a try. People like him putting their trust in people like us."
Hussar broke eye contact with me, a mix of emotions I didn't need to be an empath to guess at. Shame, introspection, rallying, and then finally resolve, "Fine, for Mister Dirkly."
And Hussar took my hand, we shook.
Then, of course, he had to ruin the moment "I still don't like you."
"That's okay," I told him, just as prone to excessive honesty in times like these, "I still think you're a jackass, but now I know more of your reasons." The hand clasp broke and I patted him on the back to motion him to return to the group.
"Yeah?" He said as we walked down the hall, "What's YOUR Excuse?"
"You've heard of luck? You're pushing it" I told him, but I smiled a bit to ease up the warning rather than answer something like 'a teaching job', "Come on," I told him, "The others are worried about you- believe it or not."
He snorted but more tension drained out of him as we made our way back to the others.