Glenda did not approve of his modern living room. The big wavy lines of the red, gray, black area rug. The big picture with the gray and white mountains, the deep green, almost black pines over the fireplace in the wall of pale limestone.
Gray. Couch. And. Chairs.
"It's the kind of room that works for business entertainment." Will sighed. "I know, I know, I won't be doing any such thing, but delivery people will see inside, and I don't want them commenting on anything . . . unusual."
She gave a dainty sniff. Two hours later a delivery truck backed up the driveway. He slapped on the wig and grabbed his cane to take delivery of a kitchy dinette table, chairs, and china cabinet for the breakfast nook.
The pink flowered cushions on the chairs matched the pink flowers painted on the china cabinet's doors.
Now I'm getting scared.
Chasing a Super
"It's a chartered bus. With a pickup and drop off schedule." Ernie explained. Again. "Three retirement homes get together and set a date, the bus goes from place to place, picking up everyone. Golden Sunshine was next to last on the list, picked us up about nine. It's about four hours to Vegas, we all pretty much nap. So it was two in the afternoon when we got there, and the bus heads home at six in the morning. Or earlier, if we all show up.
"Will was sound asleep and snoring when I got on at five thirty. So, he spent an hour before that in a single casino, bought a drink, then three breakfasts, don't know who he was with . . . was back at the bus at just after five. Which, that time of year is broad daylight."
The other middle-aged guy, whose name was Harkness, nodded. "We ran the plates on the white Chevy that dropped him off. Nevada says it belongs to a red jag. We've backtracked it to a small light industrial complex. They have nothing leased to anyone of the jag owner's name, and their security cameras haven't worked for years."
Loomer--Dallas Higgins--nodded. "So you're headed for Vegas, where you will co-ordinate with the Las Vegas District office." His gaze dropped to Ernie. "Agent Hynes will . . . accompany you."
Ernie looked over at Mike. "So you quit at Golden Sunshine."
"With great enthusiasm."
"That's so insulting."
"You weren't the most cantankerous of the bunch, but you were high on the list."
"Humph. So, are we going to go door to door in this industrial place looking for that car?"
"Well, we'll try to be a bit subtle about it." Mike eyed him. "And you need to behave."
"It's a good thing I'm law abiding. And so old my super powers have faded."
They took an extended van. White--the first sign of intelligence Ernie'd noticed in the last two days--instead of the traditional black. They made Ernie take the back and folded up his wheelchair and put it behind the seat.
Mike drove, with Whatshisname Harkness riding shotgun. Scotch and a rather nervous Kelly Whatever shared the middle seat.
Kids these days. No manners, no proper introductions. Wish I could show them how a Super runs an investigation!
She squirmed around in her seat and eyed Ernie, and then Scotch. "So . . . I was hired to look for electronic interference. I don't actually know a lot about Superpowers. Is there any . . . serious studies about it?"
Ernie rolled his eyes. "There used to be, when there were people of serious strength around. The powers split up four ways. Physical abilities, Mental talents, Energy, and Gravity."
Scotch shook his head. "And the unclassified ones."
"That's just because they haven't figured how how to classify them, not that they don't fit in there somewhere."
Scotch rolled his eyes. "And then a person's abilities are scored, one-to-ten on each of his abilities."
Ernie snickered at the girl's indignant expression. "Or hers. But so many of the powers started as attempts at super soldiers that most of us old strong ones are men."
She hesitated. "But you old ones had multiple super powers, right?"
"Right. Like I've got Super Strength, Super Speed, and Longevity. All Physical Attributes. Plus Super Memory and Aural Tracking, of the Mental Attributes."
"Tracking's Unclassified." Scotch grunted.
Ernie sniffed. "Doctor Inferno was dangerous because of the shear number of powers he had. Of all the Western experiments, he was the most dangerous. He was created by 'The Company' which was a . . . what did they call it, Scotch? Non-compliant? Unreported? Off shoot of a mostly legitimate biotech research institute"
"All, as well as, eventually, illegal. They got their research money from rich old men who wanted to live forever. A lot of them criminals. So they tried for genetic fixes, little bits that could be added to adult chromosomes and well, boost their lives, revunenate them, their brains."
"And then, some Third World wannabe King of the World wanted a Super Soldier bodyguard, and for loyalty's sake, his son. So they doped a fertilized egg with everything they had, and sat back to see what happened."
"And what happened was Doctor Inferno?" Kelly was all wide-eyed.
I guess they don't teach kids anything about us, any more.
"Yep. Of course, right about the time the boy was hatched out of the artificial uterous, the Wannbe King was overthrown and executed." Ernie sighed. "And they kept the boy like an unwanted pet, with occasional tests of his physical and mental abilities."
"No wonder he's evil."
Earnie sighed. "No, he's not evil. Criminal, and strong in every possible way."
"Then." Scotch frowned. "Now? He's three hundred and eighty-nine years old, and if something has triggered a healing, we need to find him fast."
"Right, so, he could throw fire, and he was super strong?" Kelly was looking a bit boggled.
"Super genius, Super Memory, Levitate. Fly. Telepathy, Influence . . . He couldn't fool with emotions, thank God. But Strength, Speed, Memory. He could Emit Energy in any form, I think Fire just came easiest." Ernie sighed. "He was raised so badly."
"Oh . . . but he killed those scientists, right?"
Scotch shrugged. "Criminals, all. Illegal genetic engineering. And after Inferno escaped from them, they started killing any other children who looked like he or she might be just as dangerous. We were after them, they were slippery, always ready to disappear . . . killing locally hired staff and their youngest experiments dead behind them."
He shot a glance at Ernie. "We don't advertise that part."
"Heaven forbid anyone should understand why he killed them all." Ernie shrugged off worry. "He stopped them, very permanently, and took the kids away."
"And brought them up to be criminals just like him." Harkness snapped, from the front seat.
Ernie shrugged. No reason I ought to be his apologist. Or lie about it.
"The kids already had a bad start. But he slid them into the foster home system. He didn't have anything to do with their upbringing."
Kelly eyed them. "But . . ."
Scotch snorted. "The government labs? The University labs? The honest private company labs? All us kids had good parents, good educations, a bit of special training when we hit puberty and our abilities started up. So we learned to be responsible, to control our abilities. The Company kids were older, starting to show abilities, and too many of them were poorly socialized, and went criminal early on."
"So we law-abiding ones were recruited into police forces, and finally consolidated at the federal level."