Revolution By Committee
"All right, folks," Lady Justice said, self-consciously smoothing her strangely stylish iron gray hair (Ira couldn't remember the last time it was that neatly done) and mock-cracking her knobbly knuckles. "I certainly have some news, and I get the impression some of you do too."
Madame Destiny, looking better and younger than Ira had seen her in a long time (even before he lost his sight), dimpled in Ira's direction, then sobered and said, "Well, I think most of you know the big news here." She gestured over at X, who, while still immaculately pressed and dressed, looked haggard around the edges. X's cheekbones and jawline were just a little more pronounced than Ira thought they had been, and there was the hint of dark circles under the terribly perceptive eyes. "X has taken on the burden of the Oracle."
Pearl reached for X's hand and squeezed it gently. X turned a wan smile on her and returned the caress.
"How is it going?" Madeline asked. "I remember when we first found you, Madame, back in '62 or '63. Things were rather out of hand."
"Madame has been extremely helpful," X said smoothly.
"One of my issues," Madame said with a smile, "was that the previous 'vessel' had died and I'd had absolutely no introduction or guidance. The Oracle came into me out of the blue, and I'm very lucky to have kept my sanity."
Madeline nodded. "It was touch and go."
"It was," Madame admitted. "But that was a long time ago, and besides, the wench is fine now." She smiled. "The other bit of information is that we have some Mystikai support. Financial support from two of the local Reptilian-Americans, safe houses offered by the Family -- you may not know, but their homes are heavily shielded from emotional emanations by magic -- and an offer of physical participation in any actual combat from the youngest of the Reptilian-Americans."
something," Madeline said, eyebrows high. "I can't recall a dragon getting involved in our doings since the War."
"They're a standoffish bunch," Jane Liberty said from the depths of one of Madame's overstuffed chairs. "And the safe houses are good. Any limitations on who can take them up on it?"
"Not that Zoltan mentioned," Madame said, "but I expect that he'll be the gatekeeper." She gestured to Ira. "Go on, Ira, you're bursting."
"Oh, well," he said, feeling a little abashed. He knew he'd been grinning like a loon through the whole proceedings. "Everyone's probably guessed it. Jane, Madeline, and Lady J took me off and got my silly old eyes fixed the other day."
There were exclamations of delight all around, a clap on the shoulder and a handshake from the burly black man Ira guessed was Tinkermel, applause from the handicapped thirtyish black woman he figured was Kendis, a hug from Pearl, a radiant grin from X, and even a lightly-perfumed kiss on the cheek from the tall, beautiful Hispanic woman who had to be Angelica.
When everyone had settled back down, Andrea patted his hand and smiled at him. It had been a long time since he'd seen her smile at him. Really, had she ever? Since he couldn't remember their married life at all, it was pretty much a new experience to him. She was an angular old lady now, but that smile led him to believe she must have been quite a looker once.
"Well!" Lady J exclaimed. "That was the sort of thing we need in these meetings more often."
"Definitely lifts the energy," Angelica said. "What have you got, Lady J?"
"I've had a messenger from Hel," Lady J said. In response to the very odd looks that came over the faces of Kendis, Angelica, and Tinkermel, she laughed and said, "Doctor Hel Blau, the Sentient Airship."
This only slightly cleared Kendis and Angelica's faces. Tinkermel's face broke into a broad smile, and he said to the two women, "I'll explain later why that's just so
awesome." Ira wasn't sure how a man that big could squeak like that.
"In any case," Lady J continued, "she was able to do a high pass over Wonder City and environs with her cameras going -- she doesn't normally come near the place these days, but did it as a favor to us -- and her messenger brought me not only the photos but Hel's analysis of them." Lady J held up a rolled poster and said, "She's overlaid a map of the city on this set of photos, and marked where they've hidden the major receiving and transmitting station. She also detected that they've got backup transmitters -- she spotted the generators and antennae -- in the tent revival camp."
"Which is horrible, but not much of a surprise," Angelica said. "The Shining Brethren are behind the God Squads roaming my neighborhood and other areas of the city."
X nodded. "One of my friends refers to the God Squads also as Mod Squads. She says she's pretty sure there's at least one telepath in each group, and they're altering the minds of troublemakers."
Ira wondered what friend that was who had that kind of insight.
Angelica briefly closed her eyes and laid two manicured fingers on the gold cross at her throat. "More reason to avoid them," she said.
"Yes, indeed," Lady J said. "The key here is that we'll need to somehow take out the main transmitter, I think. But I'm not sure what to do beyond that. I mean, they could just replace it."
"We need a coordinated attack," Pearl said. "Not just superheroic action, but information warfare. We need to explain to people what's happening."
The group collectively frowned into silence.
Hesitantly, Tinkermel said, "Well, I think I've got something that might help."
Every head turned to him.
He fished in one of the inner pockets of his biker jacket (it was lined in purple silk, Ira noticed, bemused) and extracted a small plastic ball, about the size of the tip of his thumb. It was strung on a piece of black rat-tail. Inside the ball was a constant swirl of pink glitter. "This," he began.
"Is fabulous," Kendis said, staring at the swirl. "How have you got it doing that?"
"If you hush, girl, I will tell
you," Tinkermel said with a disapproving glower.
Angelica nudged Kendis with her elbow. "Give him his big reveal."
you," he said, then turned his attention back to the ball dangling from his fingers. "This is my Omni-directional Personal Venus Nega Charm. It gives off similar emanations to what's transmitted through those rings, but in a way that interferes with the waveforms. So it significantly reduces the effects of the transmitters on anyone wearing it." He smiled at Kendis. "And the generator vibrates very slightly at the center of the globe, moving the glitter, so you always know if it's working or not."
," Madeline breathed. "You've tested it?"
"You bet," he said, beaming proudly. "I developed a detection device for the emanations, and when I'm wearing the Venus Nega Charm, the quantity of emanations that reach me are reduced by almost 75%."
"Oh!" Angelica exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "Oh, I know someone who could really
"So do I," Ira said, thinking of Simon's sad whine.
"That's terrific work!" Lady J said, rising and coming over to shake Tinkermel's hand, which seemed to daze him. "Just terrific."
"Say," Andrea piped up suddenly, "do you think you could do something like that on a larger scale? Because that might just could help the sort of thing Pearl was talking about, freeing some minds so they'll be receptive to a little knowledge about what's going on."
Tinkermel's massive brow settled into a frown. "I'd need the materials, and a bigger space to build."
"Well, we have offers of financial help," Lady J said. "Think about what you'd need, while the rest of us think about how to get that for you."
"I'll do that," Tinkermel said. "Meanwhile, I've brought Nega Charms for everyone." He pulled out a handful of them, all in different glitter colors, and handed them around with a grin. "You all tell me right away if you have any strange effects from wearing them. I didn't notice any, but I don't have the powers some of you do."
X picked up a silver Nega Charm, examined it for a moment, then handed it to Madame Destiny with a smile and a little shake of the head. Madame nodded and took it for herself.
Ira took a rainbow glitter one and slung it around his neck. He did
"Well, this has definitely been productive and no mistake," Lady J said. "Anyone have anything else?"
Jane stirred in her chair. "I was wondering if anyone had room to put me up for a little while," she said.
Lady J gave her a sympathetic grimace, while everyone else looked startled.
"Dottie and I are great friends," Jane said, "and I'd like us to stay that way. Her place is really only big enough for one, and I'm not the easiest person to live with. So, anyone willing to give an old girl a break?"
"No room," Kendis said briefly, and Ira was startled by the undercurrent of hostility in her voice. He glanced aside at Jane, who smiled, just a little, very oddly.
"We don't have a viable guest room right now," Pearl said. "My partner is coping with all this--" she waved over her head "--by renovating everything."
Ira could practically feel Andrea gathering herself to make an offer -- she'd told him that she and Jane disliked each other from something that happened long ago, but she liked Lady J a great deal -- when Angelica said, "I have room!" with the biggest, most starstruck smile Ira had seen in a long time.
Kendis looked aside at Angelica as if she'd grown a second head.
Jane smiled gratefully at Angelica across the room, and that settled that, then and there.