The Name In Debate Patrol headquarters was located in south Seattle. It was nestled in a warehouse in the Georgetown section of the city.
From the outside it was a smallish normal looking building with a completely mundane, if slightly rundown, look. The peeling off-white paint, dead weeds growing along the base of the walls and in random spots in the cracked concrete parking lot, the large roll up door with its dents, and the several painted over windows near the roof all added to the general feel of neglect about the place.
Crusader pulled his car into the lot just before ten, rechecking his directions for possibly the eighth time, just as the first drops of rain fell from the heavily laden clouds above. He got out of his car grabbing a baseball duffle bag and headed to a side entrance with the words no solicitation written on it with a marker. Walking past a pair of vehicles that were significantly newer then the beat up machine he had arrived in he just sighed and shook his head.
After trying the handle he banged on the metal door when he discovered it was solidly locked and wouldn’t budge.
A little bit later a muffled voice called through the closed door. “Who eis eit?”
He yelled back “It’s the League of Brutal Villainy! Here to take over the city!”
A small pause, “Crusader?”
A small sigh. “Yes Grande it’s me.”
The inside of the headquarters was significantly nicer than the outside. Although it still looked like a converted warehouse, but it was at least well maintained and had a rough functional style. Several second hand couches and an animal bed, with a sleeping white cat in it, sat in front of a big TV in one corner near the large roll up door. Off to one side along another wall was a white board with notes written on it and a large conference table. The opposite wall of that sat a bunch of surplus sports lockers. A small kitchenette was stationed in the corner with the ever present pot of coffee and sink full of dirty dishes. At the back of the room, opposite of the big roll up door, was a hallway that led to several other rooms.
Grande and Sun Wolf were already there, and in the middle of a heated argument, which Grande continued the moment he turned back after opening the door for Crusader.
‘Rain Ceity Renegades.”
“Seriously Carlos, where do you come up with these verbal nightmares?” Sun Wolf asked disgustedly.
“They are not that bad. Tell her Crusader.”
“Ummm,” glancing over at the attractive Russian woman who smirked at him. “Mystic Society wasn’t that bad. But a lot of the others were.”
About then the side door that Crusader had just entered through opened up and a soaking wet girl rushed in. ‘Like, it is dumping like Zeus forgot to turn off his shower or something.” She paused and waved outside at someone, who beeped a car horn in acknowledgement. “My mom gave me a ride.”
She shrugged off her wet coat and threw it toward a wall where it seemed to float over to a locker of its own accord and place itself gently on a waiting hook inside.
“What did I miss?”
“Tasha and Carlos were arguing over team names.”
“Oh, were there any good ones?”
“Nyet. They were pretty much like normal.”
“B, I’ve got your stuff in my bag over here, come get it. I really don’t want to keep it any longer than I have to.”
Betony walked over to Crusader as he fished though his duffle bag and held out the small bundle of her magical belongings.
“Your belongings are returned.”
As she took them from his hand again reality seemed to pause a moment before continuing on like normal.
“Definitely some sort of oath.” Betony murmured to herself.
Grande ignored the banter and sat down at the conference table and began talking before everyone had had a chance to gather. “Ok everyone time to get to work. Crusader here doesn’t know anything about the business and we need to get him up to speed. But first Order of business: We need to know something. What the heck is your real name? I am seick of saying Crusader all of the time.”
They all sat down at the table some more casual than others. Betony putting on her herb belt and placing the amulet into a jeans pocket. The cat even sauntered over and hopped onto Natasha’s waiting lap.
“Oh dang I’m sorry. I really should have done that earlier. My name is Aaron Lakes.”
Everyone smiled or nodded and gave their greetings. “Welcome aboard Aaron.” “Hey.”
“That wasn’t that awkward was it Aaron?” asked Betony
“Not really, the awkward part would be introducing yourself in the middle of a fight. I just really couldn’t find a good time to do that. And why are we getting started? I thought you said someone named Roland was coming back from vacation and was going to join us?”
Natasha smiled. “He is here. In fact he has been here for a while.”
“Is he in back or something?”
The white cat on Natasha’s lap looked up and made eye contact. And a polite voice spoke inside Aaron’s head. “Greetings Crusader, I am Roland. Are you ready to begin now?”
At the sound of the polite voice in his head, coming from a white housecat of all things Aaron Lakes aka Crusader paused had to do a slight mental reboot. “Umm, yeah. Sure. We can start. Totally.”
The rest of the table lost it in laughter, including Roland.
“I am sorry,” apologized Roland after the laughter had died down “but Carlos wanted to see how you would react. For some reason he finds it very funny to see how people react to me the first time”
“Even eif you beat me up eit eis totally worth eit.” Grande replied with a huge grin on his face.
“You’re invulnerable. I don’t think I could beat you up if I tried.”
“Yep, like I said; totally worth eit.”
Roland interjected. “Now that icebreaker is out of the way we should start you on some of the information that you need. I have been informed by our colleges that your career as a crime fighter is a new one and that you lack some of the basic knowledge that most of the group including myself take for granted. Can you give us a bit of what you do know so that we may fill in the gaps in your knowledge?”
“Umm sure, Granite Island specifically? Or just what I know about super heroes and superheroing in general?”
“Please begin with Granite Island. We will discuss the other information after that as it becomes relevant.”
“I wish I knew I’d be taking a quiz today, I’d have studied.” Aaron joked weakly “Ok, after a bunch of internet searching last night after I got off of work I found out that Granite Island is a place where they keep super criminals. And that’s about it. Which, sadly, is probably twice what I knew yesterday.”
“It is a good starting point. Natasha, can you please turn on the projector?”
Natasha tapped the tabletop in front of herself several times, typing in commands and dragging her finger across the touch interface to open programs. Moments later a 3 dimensional hologram sprung out of a small dome shaped emitter in the center of the table displaying an image of an island in the center of a body of water that slowly rotated.
Aaron actually looked at the table for the first time. It was a high tech marvel. Along each side there were several touch pad keyboards and displays inset in the smooth glossy plastic. Near the center holographic emitter lens were multiple access ports of various types, most of which he did not recognize. But to him the coolest part by far was the holographic emitter. The rotating image was crisp and sharp. It seemed to hover in the air at about eye level, semi-transparent so that you could see the person across from you through it.
“Sorry I have to interrupt. Where did you get this table? It is amazing. You pull it out of a mastermind’s lair? Was it given to you from an ancient star faring race for a job well done?”
Everyone else chucked at that.
Betony grinned over at Carlos. “Yes fearless leader, tell him how you got this technological marvel.”
Grande mumbled something under his breath.
Betony leaned in still grinning and cupped a hand around an ear. “What, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“I bought eit at Office Depot with the reward from our first bust.”
“Seriously? They sell these at Office Depot?”
“Actually at the Office Depot Outlet store. Apparently there was not the market for these that they assumed there was. Eit was significantly marked down from the original price, and on a sale at the outlet store. And I had a coupon.”
Aaron paused a moment. “Ok. I gotta know, how much was it?”
“Seix hundred dollars. Wheich was about two and a half percent of the original price. And before you do the math ein your head, eit was originally twenty four thousand dollars.”
“Twenty. Four. Thousand. Dollars.”
“Well eit deid come with these really nice chairs. Real leather with good lumbar support.”
Roland did a polite psychic cough in everyone heads. “If we could resume? Thank you.”
Roland stared intently at the image and the cursor began to move highlighting the complex on the island. The picture zoomed in as Roland continued to narrate. “Granite Island is a massive chunk of solid rock, a type of super dense granite from the earth’s crust that somehow got up-thrust almost intact several million years ago. It is situated nearly in the center of north Puget Sound. Sheer cliffs twenty three feet tall ring the island on all sides except for the southern tip of the island. Where it looks like eons past a portion of the cliff had shorn away leaving a gradual slope from the water to the peak of the island where the prison was built.”
He continued “The prison buildings themselves are constructed out of titanium reinforced concrete. Walls twenty feet high surround the complex and are dotted with searchlights, both high tech and magical monitoring devices as well as Manned and remote guard emplacements. An administration complex for the MCTF sits just outside the walls near the power generators that is where all prisoner access in and out of the complex is located. The prison goes down several layers into the solid stone. No one outside of the complex has any idea of how deep it really goes.”
“It is not just a place designed to hold supervillains and other powered criminals. It is also used to hold dangerous unpowered individuals too, mass murders, cartel and gang leaders and the like. Current estimations have the inmate population at around two thousand.”
Aaron whistled. “That sounds like a very unpleasant and dangerous place to visit.”
“It is indeed. It is believed that the prison is equipped with a containment cells that will be able to handle any possible situation or person.”
“Known examples are magically warded rooms with extra dimensional guardians, hibernation chambers, light opaque force fields and even standard vault doors.”
“Sounds like they thought of it all.”
“Indeed. Well,” continued Roland “Maybe you can fill us in on what you do actually know superheroes now that the Granite Island questions are out of the way. Which will enable us to help you with the rest that you don’t.”
“Umm, ok.” Crusader began “The first real superhero showed up in World War Two, Jonathan Kilroy. If I remember my history lessons he was part of the United States super soldier program and served in the Pacific theater before the accident that killed him at the end of the war. Although according to internet rumors he is still alive and has shown up occasionally to help against overwhelming odds over the last fifty years. His ‘Kilroy was here’ graffiti showing up after those events.”
“It was the first US super soldier program.” Natasha interrupted. “There have been six of them.”
“Six? There were six super soldier programs?”
“No. Six United States programs, not just six in total.”
Under Roland’s direction the table hologram began to search online databases and display the results which he listed aloud. “There have been eleven European programs, two German programs, four Canadian programs, five Russian or Soviet programs, three Chinese programs and two Mexican programs. Not all of which have been successful or yielded any known results.”
Aaron looked over at Carlos. “So were you..?”
Grande looked offended. “No! I am from Argentina. Do I look like I am from Mexico? I am not some experiment. I am all natural!”
“Whoa, Whoa, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry!”
Roland attempted to defuse the situation “Please continue Aaron.”
“Sure, if I remember right everyone was pretty much solo until some major teams formed in the mid Sixties to fight the First Vrall Invasion and most of them are still together in one form or another. We have the Atlanta Action League, The Shadow Syndicate in New York, The Guild in Chicago, the Freedom Force in Washington DC, the Golden Host in San Diego and of course the Emerald City Defenders here in Seattle. Honestly, that is pretty much all l know from when I was back high school or random things here or there. I know there are more teams that just the ones I named, don’t most major cities have at least one? “
Betony nodded. “They do. And what you know is not too bad. But that is mostly history. Do you know about anything current, or anything about laws?”
“Nothing really, pretty much just what I told you guys.”
Natasha began to type on her section of the conference table. “Here’s a quick overview of some laws that pertain to us. Supers don’t have to register their identities until they commit a crime in costume, any crime. That includes a speeding ticket if you are driving a car in costume. I’ve seen how you drive. You need to be careful.”
Crusader hung his head slightly and nodded abashedly. ”Yeah.”
“The bounty system for powered criminals and the MCTF controlling body to oversee their posting and payment went into effect January Fourth, Nineteen Eighty. It was designed to give the powered individual an incentive to help solve problems as opposed to causing them. Of course the state and federal governments do take a cut out of it in taxes.
The rating of each criminal or organization determines the amount of bounty that is awarded, with their ratings being adjusted periodically. The ratings start at the bottom with an E Classification. Which are low powered minions and assistants of the more powerful. All the way to A-Epsilon which as you can imagine threaten the world with their very existence. Fortunately at this time there are no A-Epsilons currently on record.
Also as part of the charter we have to cooperate with local, state and federal law enforcement. Which means we have to share all threats that we learn about and if they request it lend them a hand in capturing criminals and assisting with disaster preparations and recovery. Overall it is not a lot of stuff if you look at it on paper but in whole a lot of responsibility and restrictions.”
The whole table nodded in understanding, even those that had heard this information before.
“Anything else that I should be aware of?”
“That should cover it. I will of course keep you and the rest of the team appraised of any changes as they develop.”
Grande was the first to break the thoughtful silence. “Man, that was a total downer. Let’s do something a leittle more fun. Eis anybody up for some combat practice?”
A chorus of agreement greeted his idea.
Everyone but Crusader went to their lockers and got the gear they needed ready. He just opened up the baseball duffle bag that he brought with him and removed the sword belt with its sheathed blade.
Grande spotted him and with a grin challenged him. “Bring your magic toothpick over here and let’s see what you can do. Five bucks says I can land the first hit.”
Grande got the five dollars.