Friday, May 4, 2012

S4: Chapter 05: Everyday Heroes

**Author's note: For those who have not yet read The Phenomenal Larry Stunning by Aeon, please be advised Comic Con has come to Bridgeport and Dustin Kimura will be attending. During this event certain questions are asked of the author that may reveal spoilers. Read at your own risk.**

“I don’t know about this Yvette,” Brett reread the letter and dropped it to the counter beside her arm. “It could be a set up or any number of things.”
“It’s in my mother’s handwriting Brett! She mentions things only she and I would know. Calls me by the nickname she gave me and look, the story passages she included are from my favorite stories; ones she and Scott read to me when I was little. It’s real, it’s from her!”
Scott ran his hand over his face and watched her. Seeing the letter brought back a lot of memories for him as well; emotions he thought for sure he’d been able to hold down but now he wasn’t so sure. “Brett’s right Baby; we can’t be too sure about the meaning behind any of this. And you said it came from Mercer. We have no idea if he can really be trusted, popping up out of the blue after ten years? That day in the cemetery he told me he believed she was murdered as well as his suspicions about the team commander who at the time was a very young, very spoiled and very ambitious Alexander Harrison. He could have confronted him then? Why wait a decade before saying or doing anything? And if this is real…Yvette she was killed because of this stuff. Do you have any idea how much it scares me knowing you’re about to reopen that very investigation as well? I cannot mourn you again. I would not survive that.”
“What do you want me to do? I can’t just ignore it. I can’t just walk away knowing that for the last decade these animals have gotten away with her murder Daddy! I still have nightmares!”
“I still feel it too Sweetheart. It’s as real for me now as it was then. But there comes a time when you have to move on and live. What do you think Katrina would do if she could see you now? She would have sat you down in that beanbag chair you hated and told you to stop stressing yourself out and be the woman she wanted you to be. Live your life; love, get married, have children and take care of your old man,” he smiled warmly as she brushed her hand over his cheek.
“What about you Pop? You haven’t moved on! You haven’t lived. How can you advocate for something when you’re opposing this change as much as I am?”
“I did what I needed to for you. I loved you, raised you, fought through my own emotions in order to protect you and make sure you had everything you needed growing up. And I only want to continue doing that. Besides, I’ve been getting out there again or at least making an effort just like you,” he nodded towards Brett.
The room fell silent and Brett paced the open area behind her seat as Scott poured himself a glass of water. He knew there was no way his little girl would ever be able to get beyond the facts in this case until she could positively point a finger at everyone involved in the matter. And there was no way he could ever allow her to either no matter how much he wanted her to just forget. It was killing her and he hated seeing the light die in her eyes every time she thought about it. If this letter meant that it would bring about the end, then he was all for it. “Alright, I’ll gather as much information as I know about this whole thing and with our combined resources maybe we can end this once and for all.”
“No, no Daddy I’m not going to risk losing you too.”
“And you’re not giving me a choice about whether you stay in it or not so I’m not giving you one either. It’s all or nothing Tumblelina now what will it be?”
She grinned and slid from the barstool approaching him slowly her smile deepening as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders feeling him hug her back just as tight. “I love you Daddy.”
“I love you too Angel.”
Brett glanced at the paper once again, allowing Yvette and Scott to have their moment. “‘But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you.’”
“What did you say?” Yvette pulled away and turned towards Brett as he thumbed the flap of the envelope the letter was delivered in. He repeated the quote hidden within the glue and watched as both Yvette’s and Scott’s faces lit up with recognition. “Dad do you still have Walden?” she asked referring to her mother’s favorite book by Henry David Thoreau.
“Yeah of course, I would never have been able to bring myself to toss it. Let me see that.” Scott took the envelope from Brett and ran his fingers over the word clues delivered by Katrina and left lovingly for her family to follow. He remembered nights at his lake house listening to her read to their daughter and explain to her the moral and spiritual conflicts of self reliance as was Thoreau’s ultimate goal when he took up residence in the woods. “‘Home is home, be it never so homely’.”
“What is she trying to tell us? Go back to the Lake House?” Yvette grabbed the book from the shelf, flipped it open and began reading. ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived’. She’s marked several things within the text, Pop. Did you know that?”
“No, I never looked at that book. But it makes sense; it was always with her.” He watched Yvette scan through the pages knowing there was no stopping the wheels that were steadily turning in her head. “This weekend why don’t we take a trip up to the old place and have a look around.”
Drawing her attention she smiled in his direction. “I think that would be nice. It’s been ages since I’ve seen it.”
“And for now you two should get home, get some sleep. You have a long day ahead of you.”
The news reported that Councilman Delaney would be on air all day as he searched for his missing daughter. He accused the Bureau of not taking the case seriously and that they were dragging their feet when it came to the information regarding her whereabouts.
“Tips are being overlooked and evidence is not being processed,”he insisted to the reporters at the press conference he’d called.
“Regardless of what the Federal boys are doing
I am making a vow now: I will not rest until Melody is home again!”
“Well that just made our job harder,” Dustin croaked watching Scott and the District Attorney on a press conference concerning the mayor’s missing daughter. Pulled in against his will to make a public statement, Scott assured the people that the Bureau was making every effort to locate Melody Delaney.
By working together with U.S. Attorney Jack McEnroe and our law enforcement partners, I assure you we are workingevery possible angle of Miss Delaney’s kidnapping.With the Mayor’s cooperation we will senda swift and strong message that this criminal behaviorwill not be tolerated in this district or any other!
“Woo go Scotty!” Ryan smiled listening to their boss give the mayor a verbal smackdown in the nicest way possible.
“Yeah well for now unfortunately for us, the case has been backburnered,” Yvette announced dropping a stack of case files on the desk.
“What? How can they backburner a high profile kidnapping case?”
“It’s not on the backburner per se. It’s just not our #1 priority at this time. We we’re brought up to speed so that we can be on the ready when needed and as the case develops. For now it’s back to Peters and Douglas. We have an undercover assignment and seeing as how we are the top special team in this building…”
“You mean bureau,” Ryan corrected.
Yvette smiled and nodded. “It’s our job to take care of it.”
“What’s the gig?”
“Meet Michael Fandrake, Investment Banker, Hot Shot Financial Advisor and alleged money launderer for several major corporations in the states. Under the guise of corporate merging and a Greenpeace charity he and his clients have successfully funded about a dozen wet jobs of federal targets within the last seven months. It’s our mission to go in, gather up any information about the mercs commissioned for these jobs and evidence of Fandrake’s connection. We need to stop them before we lose more men.”
“So how are we playing this?”
“Well per our informant Fandrake is in the market for a new techie to help upload some data tracking software into the new federal banking system. He wants to get eyes on several big rolling accounts in order to funnel money from them and fund more ‘executive renovations’. He needs to get in and get out without being detected. His last four attempts have resulted in four arrests so needless to say he’s not very pleased. He needs the best of the best in the biz and he’s getting frustrated trying to locate a prodigy. So we’re going to give him what he wants.”
“What you mean access to the Federal Reserve?” Brett’s eyes shot up in question.
“No I mean if he needs a nerd for the job,” Yvette smiled looking towards Dustin, “We send a nerd for the job.”
“Me? You mean I’m going undercover?” Dustin grinned pointing towards his chest as he stood from his monitor. “My first solo mission? Are you being serious right now Vette?”
“Of course I am. I don’t know anyone more suited for the job Dusty. You’ll do great. I trust you can create a cover story, credentials and whatever else you’ll need. The only thing you need to ensure is that you get the bank accounts he’s been rolling to pay for these hits. We need that in order to prove his involvement. Our informant has set up a sort of audition to find someone for the job later today and you’re invited. The team will be nearby as backup of course but you’re leading this one. Try outs are at two,” she sighed glancing at the clock. “Get to work.”
Four hours later Dustin got to the drop zone and waited outside near a bench as the informant instructed. Several minutes passed before a large black van pulled in and drove him to an abandoned warehouse near the waterway. He walked into the building and was greeted by a dodgy man in need of a good night’s sleep and a shave. “You must be Hyun. Am I saying that right?”
“Actually is ‘yon’ with a short ‘ha’ sound in front of it; sounds kinda like a sneeze. But you can call me Shane.”
“Alright Shane, I’m Robbie, the blonde and your competition over there is Fredrick.” He walked him over to a station and stood between the two men whose backs were to one another.
“You each will have five minutes to use the information on the charts in front of you to gather the amount of money in the envelope and get it to its destination. Whoever finishes first gets the gig the other well…try and finish first. Time starts NOW! Good luck fellas.”
Both men went to work immediately typing in the list of commands to execute the program and move the money around from one account to another.  The beeping and drumming of the keys filled the empty room droning repetition into Robbie’s ears as he walked behind them watching each of their movements closely. “DONE! That has to be a new record! One minute fifteen seconds!” Freddy gloated as he glanced over at Dustin’s screen. He snickered behind him noticing Dustin was still working through the encryption. “I thought you said this guy was good.”
“I am good,” Dustin growled as he continued strumming away at the keyboard. “Speed is overrated when it comes to precision and…I…am…R3boo7!” He pressed one final key and the computer screen lit up green with fresh currency inflating the bank account he was given to work with.
“Nice work. Still that was two minutes and twenty-five seconds past Fredrick’s time.”
“Three minutes, forty seconds is under the five you set for this particular exercise. But you go ahead and use Freddy,” Dustin pulled up from the desk and started for the door. “I just hope you enjoy your stay as the state’s guest in the pen.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
Dustin smirked over his shoulder; he had him right where he wanted him. The deal was done merely by the fact that he stopped him from exiting and called him back for more information. Slowly he turned around and glanced towards Freddy’s rapidly blinking laptop screen. “Fast fingers Freddy there didn’t bypass the primary encryption screen or safeguard his uplink to the banking systems. Instead he went backdoor using your connection to the net and pinged off of a server the bank uses for their daily operations. Basically he left a digital trail for the FEDs to follow right to your front door. I on the other hand routed the traffic I needed away from our location and masked the IP through your neighbors hacked WEP so any activity taking place on these accounts will look as though they came from someplace else entirely. It takes an extra minute and a few extra steps but what’s speed compared to efficiency and a clean getaway?”
“Is that true Freddy?”
“Well yeah but I…”
“You fucking idiot! You do realize you were using an actual account right? Those funds are going to be tracked back to me and I promise you I won’t go down for this alone!”
“Well as I said before, enjoy prison fellas.” He backed away and again started for the door.
“Wait! Can you undo what he did? Hide the trail?”
“I could but I wasn’t hired for this gig. What’s in it for me?”
“Look the job is yours if you can fix this and I’ll pay you an extra 2% commission once it’s done.”
“Deal.” Dustin cracked his knuckles and took over Freddy’s seat. Working quickly he rerouted the IP and deleted the last server IDs used on the uplink creating individual masks for each of them and changed the name on the original link source. “Do you mind?” he snapped at Freddy breathing over his shoulder.
As he backed away, Dustin hastily typed in a string source code that he’d uploaded from his laptop to execute on Fred’s computer. The chain stripped the code out of the banking module and created a “skeleton” of it. In essence he slapped tape on a bullet wound. The new template would hide any transactions for as long as 24 hours before the shell faded and the real face was revealed giving the FEDs a clear picture of every activity commanded from his computer. It looked and acted like the original program but it was anything but the Federal Reserve. There would be no clean get away for him and the trail would help authorities track down everyone involved in the scheme. “There. Your last transactions are hidden and the trace deleted. How long was that?” he beamed smugly as he saw the stopwatch tick to two minutes thirteen seconds.
“Well alright the job is yours. You get to meet with the big guy later tonight so be ready when your phone rings. For now get out of here.”
“What about him?” Dustin asked nodding towards his competition. Earlier Robbie had issued an open ended threat regarding the loser’s longevity. Though Dustin was happy not to be in that position he was a federal agent and there was no way he could walk out of the building knowing this man would be executed.
“Don’t you worry about him. We’ll take care of that.”
“Ok but may I suggest something? This job we’re on if there’s even an ounce of danger involved or an inkling I could get pinned up you should consider a precaution, have a backup just in case. Freddy ignored the encryption earlier but he’s since learned that lesson. I’d be willing to share my commission to ensure this thing goes off without a hitch.”
Robbie straightened up visibly considering Dustin’s offer before finally sighing and nodding in agreement. “Fine but he’s getting paid from your cut. Now both of you scram, I got other things to take care of.”
Dustin paced around his place waiting for the phone to ring. He’d already let the team know that he was in and had a meet and greet with their suspect. They were waiting for him to give the go-ahead that he had what he needed before they rushed into his location to pull him out. He grabbed a juice from the mini-fridge and continued tracing his earlier pattern around his living room. The face on his iPhone lit up and he stared dazedly towards it.
Sighing and putting on his game face he answered and was again instructed to meet at the bench in the industrial area. He did and was again picked up by the same van, but this time they drove him to the center of downtown and a large sky rise building in the financial plaza. Grabbing his laptop case and phone he headed to the 14th floor and blew out a breath as the three heavily armed men escorted him to the room on the very end.
Dustin took a look around him and noted the level of security surrounding the office and the personal guards the man kept at his side. With what Dustin believed to be a pasted on smile, Michael Fandrake greeted him and offered him a drink that he politely declined. “I hear you’re the man of the hour here, Shane and I want to tell you now the job I have planned for you is for the benefit of our national security and the preservation of our country, you’re doing some good here and I appreciate you taking the time to help.”
“You know sir as long as I’m being paid, I’ll sink a ship in the open sea and do it with a smile.”
Fandrake laughed and nodded. “That’s my kind of guy! And don’t you worry; you will be well compensated for your time. Do you have any questions?”
“Just one, what happened to the last guy?”
“Let’s just say he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and grew wings.” He paused and watched Dustin’s reaction before continuing. “I don’t stand for thieves. I’m a generous guy, just ask and I’ll see if I can be accommodating but you steal, we’re gonna have problems. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.”
Anything?” Yvette asked over the comm. as Dustin finally checked in three hours later. His tracker had him exiting the waterway and heading towards the edge of downtown. It stopped again and started slower into town towards his street stopping for the last time as he walked into his front door.
“Yeah I got it,” he sighed and dropped his stuff at the desk in his office. “What it sounds like is an elaborate scheme that funnels money, sizable campaign and union contributions, through the offices of our prominent financial advisor and target. He uses a complex network of money flowing algorithms from the companies that contract him including the country's biggest subcontractors and passes it off as slush funds for city development and renewal.”
“What I gather about how it works, the heads of these companies set up a number of charities and supposed non-profit organizations that play on the community for support and contributions. These men keep a central mailing address in the city of their headquarters and pull in soft money contributions from well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a huge laundering system. The money, and we’re talking tens of millions of dollars here, gets circulated around to different states by the CEOs, which pay for various odds and ends such as upkeep and overhead of the company including salaries. All while they keep their hands clean because it all appears to be money made from legal contributions to these charities. Boss they are robbing people blind and no one knows it! I mean they could make off with billions under the nose of the IRS every year!”
Yeah and they have no problem getting rid of threats such as the 13 agents they’ve murdered in cold blood for getting too close. The system helps hide the true sources of funding and is giving the appearance of locally used monies to improve their communities. Well that ends now. When are you meeting with them again?”
“Fandrake was impressed with me and said he’ll call once everything is in place which should be by tomorrow. How are we pushing in once I’m inside? He keeps three guards around him at all times. His office is Fort Knox, no kidding. An integrated multilevel defense system with triple redundancies locks into place when a threat is perceived by the sensors on any level of the building. And if that ain’t enough he has guards on every elevator, on every floor and the end of every hall. He takes the word ‘paranoid’ to a whole new level. The encryption key he gave me is like some space device out of this world. It’s rather intricate but I cracked it and to be honest it was kind of fun.”
Nice to know you’re enjoying your job,” Yvette replied with a smile in her voice. “Keep your comm. on when you get to the meet again. Now once you get inside their server rooms you should have access to their buildings defenses to shut them off right? Disable the security, secure the information and we’ll be in there for you before the bullets start to fly.”
“That’s good because from the sounds of things, the last guy working my position was caught taking a little off the top for himself on top of the six figures they were paying him so he took a header off the roof of that twenty story building. I don’t have wings and no plans to grow them any time soon so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen ok?”
We got your back Dust, no worries,” Ryan chuckled. “Besides Mica would probably hunt us down if we let anything happen to you.”
“Come on Ry don’t tell me you’re scared of my girl now.”
Of course I am. Black women have scary tempers! Hell you’ve seen Vette when she…ow!”
“When she what?”
Nevermind, I don’t want to get hit again.”
He screamed again and Dustin moved the phone back from his ear. “What the hell was that?”
That’s your boss kicking Ry’s ass. Get some rest Dust Man, we’ll see you in the morning,” Victor laughed as Ryan ran from the unit room being chased by Yvette.
Dustin barely slept the night as he thought over the security measures Fandrake had in the financial tower. The man was dead set on ensuring nothing like what happened with his former employee could or would happen again. For Dustin that presented a challenge which wasn’t so bad; he enjoyed hacking most when the system was labeled “impenetrable”.
But it also meant that he would have to be extra crafty figuring out how to get the team into the building before one or all of the backup systems kicked in and locked the building down like a vault. The tricky part wasn’t in cracking the system but exiting without a trace. He’d been called once more and escorted through to the server room and three guards were placed on the door to watch him. Anxiously he slid behind the monitor of the center computer and began typing in the information Fandrake had given him on the four bank accounts he wanted to siphon funds from. “Boss you there?”
Of course we are D. Are you in?”
“Yeah I just started. You have pen and paper ready?” He rolled off the routing and bank numbers to each of the accounts he was given and waited on confirmation before he entered into the Federal system to begin the trace on the funds. “I’m only going to have about five minutes to get this in and out of there before the alarms start Boss. In the meantime I’m lowering the defenses now so that you guys can get ready to get in here.”
What entrance are you opening? There are five different entry points and the one least guarded is the south entrance near the lake. Will that be an issue?”
“I don’t have that one mapped. It looks like it might actually be a black hole. Give me a minute to run through the blueprint and check out the buildings’ layout.” Typing rapidly through the keys, Dustin went over the different levels of the building mapping out the best route for the team. Finally locating one in the maintenance section of the bottom floor he began removing and disabling the locks that kept it secured. “I found one near the south entrance through the ventilation shoot.”
The what?” Ryan croaked unamused. “You can’t seriously think we can all crawl through a vent and get to you in time Dust.” Hearing their nerd laughing over the comm. he added a smile to his voice. “Ha-ha very funny just for that we’re leaving your ass in there.”
“Alright but just expect my Meeks to have something to say about that.”
I took on Yvette last night; I think I can handle her too. Tell her to bring it. Ooohf,” he exhaled in feigned agony. “Nevermind, I was wrong.”
“Got hit again huh? Yeah that’ll learn ya! Three accounts down Boss but I just picked up a tracer on my keystrokes.”
What does that mean Dustin?”
“That means you have all of 30 seconds to get your asses in this building before it’s completely shut off from penetration from the outside. Someone’s watching me virtually and they might have seen me disable the back doors and…” More typing sounded furiously over the comm. as Dustin worked quickly to hide his next step and get the team through the building before marking the fourth account. “Shit.”
“What?” Silence filled the comm. as Yvette waited to hear from Dustin again. Heavy breathing on his end caused the tiny hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end and she called for him again with more urgency. “Dustin? What’s happening in there?”
“Oh nothing I just think I may have tripped one of the redundant security levels. There are a dozen bells and blinking lights going off in here. I may not have as long as I thought after all. Listen, I’ve shut off the main floors security cameras and traps you can get in here but you have got to hurry before…”
Before what? Dustin?
“The Boss wants to see you,” one of the guards he’d seen earlier barked behind him.
“Sure just let me finish this…”
His comm. went silent and Yvette held her breath as she and the team slid along the outer wall listening for any sounds on Dustin’s end before static entered the earpiece. “Fuck! Let’s move!”
“Listen up, we’re going in hot and we’re moving blind so everyone watch your backs and be on the lookout for nonhostiles. Let’s go!” Shattering the plate glass windows of the lobby, the team charged headfirst into the building.
Unsure of what floor Dustin may have been on in the 23-story tower, they took the elevator to the second floor together and moved out armed and ready. “Victor, you and Brett take the stairs and head up, Ryan and I’ll continue up on the lifts, when you find a friendly get them to safety but remember, Dustin is our number one priority right now.”
Nodding their agreement, the team broke in half and moved along the corridor towards the stairs. Taking them two and three at a time they hurriedly cleared floor by floor knocking them out as quickly as possible. Time was of the essence and with Dustin’s comm. still down they had no idea what fate awaited him and were not taking any chances. Anyone with a gun was taken out with extreme prejudice or shot and left screaming in agony; they’d sort that shit out later. There was no time to wait for their surrender or work through numerous stand-offs; lives were at stake.
“Boss wait,” Ryan pulled Yvette back and motioned towards the escape hatch on the roof. Taking notice of the deafening silence just outside the door, she nodded and he boosted her up and out of the elevator. Pressing the open door button, he quickly jumped through the roof joining her on top of the metal box. They moved quietly over the cables and up the portal leading to the floor above them.
“Vic, Brett, they’re on 15 they have eyes on the elevator not sure about the stairwell. Ryan and I are moving up and around them.”
Alright Boss just say when and we’ll be right behind you.”
Ryan drew in a breath and nodded to her. Counting down from three she kicked open the door and Ryan jumped through emptying his clip towards the four armed guards situated on the ends of the hall. Rolling out behind him Yvette blasted rounds hitting another two men as Brett and Victor joined them in the narrow corridor.
The large boom of a shotgun echoed off the walls as Victor burned through one of the men standing closest to him and pinned his back to the wall as the rest of the team took cover around him. Ryan reloaded as Brett and Yvette emptied rounds into the walls piercing through and rocking the four or five men standing on the other side of it.
“Stop shooting please! We’re coming out!” one of the guards yelled out towards them. Cautiously they watched as the last three men tossed their weapons to the side and walked out from around the corner with their hands above their heads. Victor and Brett kept them covered as Yvette and Ryan moved towards them to place them in cuffs.
Gunshots went off towards the back and the team’s attention immediately turned and took stock of every one making sure no one was hit. “Where the hell was that?” Brett continued looking around noticing the doors were all shut around them.
“The back office. Fandrake’s?” Victor asked cuffing a man and leaning him against the wall. “DUSTIN!”
“Shit! Brett take him,” Yvette instructed and tossed lowered her gun from the man nearest the door. “Dustin? Dustin where are you?” Yvette yelled rushing through the doors towards the office as Ryan handcuffed another of the guards and tossed him to the ground with the other three.
“In here Boss!” Breathing a sigh of relief she followed the sound of his voice and threw open the heavy oak door of Fandrake’s office and smiled seeing him holding the young banker at gunpoint on the ground in front of his desk. “Now as I was saying, you have the right to an attorney and if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed.”
She laughed and escorted them out towards the rest of the team. “That was great work Dustin.”
“Yeah it was nice having my own mission.”
“And you did so well maybe you’ll get more in the future.” Ryan drove the van back to HQ and dropped their load off at booking. Their night was looking heavy with mounds of paperwork but the case was closed and the money launderer’s business was completely shut down, not a bad day’s work.
Dustin had called in advance. Anxious and breathless he let himself into Mica’s front door calling out to her to announce his and Tao’s arrival. ComicCon was in town and for weeks he’d been holding on to the tickets for the three of them waiting to share a part of himself with her. Though he was sure she wasn’t into comics he hoped she’d still enjoy herself out with the both of them, Tao was surely ready. Hopeless and impatient, he tapped his foot and kept glancing at the clock on the wall wondering what was taking his uncle’s girlfriend so long to get ready.
“Come on Uncle or we’re going to be late!” Tao groaned as he plopped onto Mica’s couch and started flipping through the channels on her television. Amazing himself over the 300 channels of her satellite he couldn’t decide on “When Animals Attack” or “World’s Wildest Police Chases”. Deciding on both he pinned “Animals” in the top right corner and leaned back attached to the tube.
“Don’t’ tell me, Meeks is the one STUCK IN THE BATHROOM,” he raised his voice on the last part to ensure she heard him up the stairs. Dropping onto the couch beside his nephew he glued himself to the boob tube too waiting for her to finish getting ready.
Ten more minutes had passed before he rose from the comfortable cushions and started for the staircase. Before he could climb the first step he looked up into her eyes as she started for him. “Whoa,” he exhaled slowly watching her descend the stairs. “You look…wow.”
Seeing the superhero clad woman near the front door Tao turned off the television and quickly darted towards her. “Wow Mica you…wow.” His eyes took in every inch of her costume with animated excitement. His tongue licked frantically over his lips as he continued staring at her, his smile growing bigger as he stopped just on her chest. “Wow.”
Dustin watched his nephew ogle his girlfriend shaking his head in amusement. “Alright I think we should get going now before…”
“Wait d-d-don’t you have a lasso? Your magic lasso is missing!”
“Yeah well it was a golden colored piece of crap unfortunately. It snapped when I took it out of the package so this Wonder Woman is Lasso of Truth-less.”
“Well that’s alright you still look…AWESOME!”
“Alright Tao, you were the one moaning about being late, think you can peel your eyes away from her for two seconds to make it to the car?”
Ignoring Dustin’s words, the teenager continued staring at his Uncle’s half dressed girlfriend his eyes still wide in wonder and awe. Dustin opened the door and let Mica out first, grabbed Tao’s arm and dragged him to the car as Mica locked up and followed behind them.
The event was much larger than she had anticipated. The entire coliseum was full of comic book enthusiasts of every shape and size pouring over the stands and displays of their favorite heroes and heroines. Mica walked in first and immediately an entire row of hungry eyed geeks turned towards her fanning their gaze over her getup and pining for a close up of the Princess from Themyscira.
Before Dustin made it a step near her, a small group of three was in her face begging for an autograph and picture. Glancing over her shoulder at the federal agent with his arms folded into his chest behind her, she shrugged and he grabbed their camera to get the picture taken. “Thank you so much!” the stoutest of the trio grinned and darted off towards another booth of comics.
“Well this is gonna be fun.” He looked down at her legs and smiled rolling his eyes slowly up her body and watching her shift nervously under his scrutiny.
“Nothing. I just hope you’re ready for the hordes of fanboys stealing your attention all night.”
“Aw come on, don’t tell me my Dusty is jealous.” She wrapped herself around his neck; his arms circled her back and tucked her against his chest.
“Jealous? No. There’s no need for me to be jealous because I have a gun and I’m not afraid of using it. Plus at the end of the night I’ll be the one beside you in bed, not them.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips into hers and as he did he heard several gasps behind him. He couldn’t help laughing against her lips before sucking them deeper into his mouth. “They sound jealous though. Come on Princess Diana, you have a crowd of adoring fans to impress.”
“Uncle Dustin look!” Tao pointed towards a red and white booth where a man dressed in a similar colored suit was signing autographs.
“Who is that?” Mica asked following the direction of his gesture.
The Phenomenal Larry Stunning or a likeness rather; the author must be here for the Q&A later! Oh it would so rock if we could go to that Uncle!”
“I’m dying to know if Haze is on the up and up or if she’s plotting behind Larry’s back! She seems so off to me sometimes. Issue #13 where she warns Larry about Crow’s ‘suspicious’ activities really had me questioning if she was trying to steal the mysterious object Crow was after right from under their noses!”
“I doubt the author will give away that kind of information. If anything he’d tease you with more of what’s to come and keep you in suspense to keep you reading.”
“Please?” he begged and pouted his lips giving his best ‘puppy dog’ expression.
“Aww come on Dusty, how can you say no to a face like that?”
“Alright but those events are usually at the end of the night so we might not be able to stay long. It’s a school night and I’m not taking the heat when Grandma Hua comes wondering why you didn’t get enough sleep!”
“YES!” He rushed towards the Larry Stunning booth and hopped in line. When it was finally his turn he dropped three comics in front of the author’s face and merrily shouted, “Issue #14 left me with a lot of questions and I’m dying for the next release! Will you sign these please?”
“Of course, who should I make these out to?”
“Oh it should say: ‘To Tao Choi, my #1 fan, thank you for inspiring me’!” Aeon glanced up at the teenager with a grin as if to say ‘sure kid’ but graciously inscribed the comics per request. “Thank you!” Tao scooped up his books and held them to his chest like prized possessions. “Can I get a picture with you please?”
Motioning towards Dustin, he pulled out the camera and waited for Aeon to climb from behind his table and pose with his nephew. “Why don’t you get in there too Meeks,” he smiled and watched as his Wonder Woman stepped beside Tao. “Alright everyone say Marvel rules and DC drools!”
They continued walking around taking in the different sights and listening to the asinine ramblings about who would win in a fight Hulk versus Thor and Superman versus Larry Stunning. After a few slices of pizza and drinks Tao was off to the food stand once again looking for something else to fill his belly. “Hmm I’ll take a Cotton Candy Swirl Sprinkles please!” He jumped merrily watching the Daredevil complete his order and looked back at his Uncle waiting for his nod and money.
“You want some ice cream Meeks?” Dustin asked sweetly kissing her cheek as he paid for his nephew’s sugar rush.
“Strawberry please,” she smiled and laced her fingers between his as she leaned closer into his body. The night was going better than she thought it would with her costume. After a while she stopped feeling everyone’s eyes on her and was able to relax a little more and just enjoy her time out with Tao and her lover.
Grabbing his cone his zoomed towards the two lookalikes near the Sonic the Hedgehog video game and engaged them in conversation about what their jobs were like and if they got exclusives because of what they did. Curiously he begged them to detail the aspects of their job and whether or not they ever met the writers of their favorite comics. He even asked how much they make per gig. Mica laughed when the Superman replied and Tao nearly choked on his cone. “Uncle! I think I know what I want to be when I graduate high school.”
“Tao that has nothing to do with me. You’re gonna have to run that by Grams and we both know how that conversation will go!”
A man dressed up as James Bond walked towards the stage and tapped the microphone a few times drawing the attention of the crowd. “Oh it’s starting! Come on I wanna grab a front row seat!” Tao again sprinted through the crowds knocking into a few aliens and three Wookiees. He waved at Dustin and Mica until they each took seats beside him.
“Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for attending the Bridgeport’s 2012 hosting of ComicCon. We’d also like to extend our warmest welcome to some of the authors of your favorite animated adventures: Jet Davis the creator of FaeryFire, Aeon creator of The Phenomenal Larry Stunning and Maxis creator of Jimmy Sprocket. At this time I’d like to open the floor for questions from the fans. Please be courteous and allow everyone a chance to speak. Thank you.”
The host exited the stage and the creators each took turns from the audience on various topics ranging from character creation to what’s coming in the next issues of their comics. Tao was beginning to dance in his seat waiting for his turn. Each time he raised his hand someone else beat him to the punch. Finally he jumped up when the floor was opened and Aeon acknowledged his first question.
“In the Special Edition Larry Stunning Origins issue, you introduced us to the Alien life form that gave Larry his powers, my question is who are they and will we see them again? Are they connected to this new device that the Crow found in Issue #14?”
“Oooh, I am glad you brought them up! Yes you will be seeing them again. As for who they are well they are from another planet surely and yes they may have devices they have left around on a planet or two.”
“What really became of Larry’s mother and is it possible she’ll make a reappearance?”
“Larry’s mother is very much alive! That is all I should say about that!”
“During the Robot invasion in Issue #3, Haze asked Crow to talk to Stark but was reluctant to take Larry, why did she want the Crow captured instead of working with her to put a stop to Stark?”
“Not only that but Haze is always very suspicious of Crow and you may say that she just doesn’t plain like Crow. Why this is? It’s very hard to know why Haze does the things she does.”
Mica hid her smile behind her hand as she watched Tao scratch his head. Aeon was doing a great job of avoiding his questions just like Dustin told him he would earlier yet he continued interrogating the author. “Haze is a very interesting character but she seems quite shady as well. It’s obvious she has some feelings for Larry but her sudden appearance, connection with Stark and mysteriousness makes me believe she is up to something. Why did she come to Bridgeport?”
“Yes well as they say...where there is smoke there's fire. I think it is right to be suspicious of her. She comes to Bridgeport for unknown reasons and then interjects herself into Larry's business. I can’t say why she has come to Bridgeport, but shady is a word I'd use to describe her.”
“Has anyone ever escaped the Cowan Penitentiary?”
“Nope, no one has ever, never, never escaped Cowan. There is a lot to learn about this place!”
“Is Stark connected somehow to the new device?”
“Hmmm, no Stark is not connected to the device. If he knew about it though I'm sure he’d love to have his hands on it”
“Oooh then that means we’re in store for another badguy soon?! I wonder who it’ll be and what powers they’ll possess!” Turning towards his Uncle he grinned big and practically screamed with joy as he thought over the new villain. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if it turned out to be Flare because as we’ve seen in the recent issues she’s becoming more and more angry! That’s got the makings of a badass super-villain!” Not waiting on a response he resumed questioning Aeon. “Is Crow going to make it out ok or is the device somehow draining all her powers? OH! Is it possible the device is turning them all bad and maybe working them against the citizens to help break everyone out of Cowan? Is that how Stark will escape?”
“Now this is a question....I just can't answer! What happens to Crow is anyone’s guess! The device is very, very powerful though...if you want to call it a device. As for Stark and his escape...he’s not just sitting around moping in his cell. It’s never a good thing to give that man too much time to think!”
Dustin watched quietly as Tao asked question after question of the author and smiled because knowing his nephew he was far from done with his cross-examination. “That must run in the family,” Mica giggled leaning over as if hearing Dustin’s thoughts. “First me and Grandma Hua and now that poor man and Tao! What’s in your blood?”
“I guess we’re all just curious by nature.” His phone rang and he pulled the small black device from his pocket to answer excusing himself he paced near a wall to hear better.
Dust hey, it’s Vic. I’m sorry to interrupt your date but we got a break in the kidnapping. Local PD just found a scene victim’s clothes were dumped and there was enough blood in the area to make us believe she’s either dead or hurt severely and possibly mortally. We got more movement on her accounts and Scotty wants you in ASAP to reverse trace them or you know what you do.
“Damn…alright I’ll be there after I drop Mica and Tao off.” He hung up the phone and turned back to see Tao’s hand go up once again as he started another flurry of questions for the creator of his favorite comic book. Shaking his head with a smile he motioned towards Mica letting her know to grab his nephew. The disappointed grunt shot in his direction could be heard across town though he was positive the sigh of relief from Aeon could as well.
**Author's note: Special Thanks to Aeon for use of the Larry Stunning likeness and the interview of Tao Choi's life :)**

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