Plaques were recessed into three of the four faces – the fourth had come free and fallen after the collision. It was impressive.” He nodded, studying me as if trying to find the catch. “I’ll be straight with the police there.” “I’ll stick around for the cops and then duck out.” The police cars had appeared at the edge of the block, but with traffic on the narrow road slowed by the girl’s car, they’d stopped there.Each plaque bore an etching of a face, a name, a date of birth, a date of death, a message. There were as many pillars as there were trees, and there were a lot of trees, enough that the sunlight that peeked past them was dappled. “It’s what I do.” I wanted to say something more, but I didn’t want to push my luck. I’ll go let them know what’s up.” “Thanks,” I said. “She’s a kid who made a stupid mistake,” I said, in case he was trying to come to a decision. The cars couldn’t progress, but the police were getting out.
He had no hair on his head, but he had a five o’clock shadow well before five o’clock, bushy eyebrows and thick hair on thick forearms. I don’t want this to be fun or even tolerable and that requires more supervision.” I let go of the paper, backing up. “People connected the new heroine Fume Hood to her old persona. Enough that they’re hiring people to kick up a fuss, and we don’t know just who or what’s going to happen.” I thought of the people who’d been in the crowd when the pillar had been hit. Heroes showed up, they ran.” “Miscarriage,” one of the new people in the group said, reading from the article. One of the tricks she can pull with them is send them flying off in straight lines.
I wasn’t sure what she’d seen, if it was a motion from someone, a particular emotion on a particular face, but she found the reason to get moving again, getting into the car, slamming the door behind her. I stepped back, hands partially raised in case he started forward again, and to enable me to act if he seemed like he might fall. “We can go grab a coffee or tea, and you and I can talk.” The man looked at me, as if just now realizing there was a person right next to him. “I don’t – I’m not violent,” he said, sounding very small. It was a good outfit, too, more in the dollars that had been put into it than in terms of looks, but that was personal opinion. With all the reconstruction and the lower priority, they’re trying to get through the traffic right now.” “That’s good to know,” I said. He looked deeply disturbed by the one comment he’d heard. A badge, not a personal symbol or icon, but part of the team he belonged to. He walked over to the car, still watching the crowd, and he exchanged a few words with the girl in the driver’s seat. I had my hands full with the old guy and nobody else was stepping up to do it. It’s for his-” I started, looking at the plate on the pillar for a clue. She was in the driver’s seat, both hands and forehead on the wheel. A sports field in the middle section separated the grade schoolers’ area from the theater. Black clothes with some body armor worn over them, and the body armor was recognizable. Maybe it wasn’t fair to blame it on an idiot in charge. Some wanted to feel like they had power, when the capes had dropped the ball. We talked and ran errands pertaining to power stuff. He caught my eye as he said it and he had a gleam in his eye. It’ll be twenty-five pounds of armor if you’re with us for the long haul. “Good.” “Thank you sir.” “Students, if you’ll turn around to see the young lady on the stairs…” The students did. If you’re sticking with us here in patrol block, if her door is open, you can go ask her questions. If you’re not sticking with us and her door is open, you can go ask her questions and we’ll let you cut to the head of the line. We had more kids than we wanted or could use, even though we didn’t pay any wages until they’d been with us at least a year, and we did everything we could to keep them miserable. Because the patrol block had been started up by some ex-PRT folk and Gilpatrick’s speech aside, a lot of people looked at the armor, looked at the guns, looked at how we touched on the power stuff and the portals, and connected the dots. ” he asked me, from the far end of the room, over the heads of hundreds of new students. Wandered from city to city, looking for opportunities or teams to join.
I couldn’t just say the pillar would get fixed, or that things would be okay. I didn’t want to say ‘sorry’, and echo the kid in the car. I stopped myself when I realized the answer could be no. The heads of the crowd turned in reaction to something outside my field of view, and the old man’s head turned as well. Partial discs of metal seemed to intersect his body, forming a look where he looked like a blender caught mid-whirl, axe blades and metal rings jutting from his breastplate, armguards, leg armor, and even his face, with blades running along one brow and cheekbone to frame one eye. The cape stepped away from the car, looked at me and the old man. It was a stage in the old Roman style, slabs of stone set into the ground like stairs, stepping down as they got closer to the stage, where the platform sat. I’ll be right downstairs.” “Just one second,” he said. Try to be done before I send them scurrying off.” I checked the papers. In places, flakes of the letters and symbols that had once been stenciled onto the armor panels in white were still visible, having survived the steel wool and turpentine scrub. When they’d been trying to figure out what to do with the high school kids when there weren’t enough schools and seats for all of them, some idiot in the administration had come up with this. Some of the kids might go on to police, investigate, or study the power stuff, as more informed police officers. You’ll find her office upstairs and to the left.” I hadn’t heard that part before. I gave him a mock salute, then finished descending the stairs, joining the seniors while he resumed outlining things for the new kids. Petty robbery, grand larceny, mischief, vandalism, criminal mercenary work.
‘Pillar’ was the wrong word, but the right word felt wrong.
‘Monument’ implied something huge, but it was barely taller than I was, maybe three feet across at the base, tapering to two feet across at the top.