Part One: Washington DC
Senator Tobias Alexander Morgan sits in his DC office, watching television.
He looks a lot like his grandfather, or the way his grandfather might have looked in his late fifties, if he’d aged like other people. Although his hair is dark—he takes after his mother in that respect—he has the same square jaw, and his eyes radiate the same piercing resolve that Liberty was so famous for. His appearance did a lot for his political career in the beginning. He knows it, and he doesn’t resent it. There’s no point in resenting an advantage.
Tobias is watching his Schenectady house burn to the ground. The networks still play the footage far more than he likes—not twenty-four hours a day, but it’s still one of their main stories. His staff turned it into a drinking game, and one of them ended up in the hospital.
There’s a new edge to the coverage that’s starting to make him nervous. So far he hasn’t given any interviews, or issued any statements, and the media is asking why. Some are wondering if he’s hiding something. The word “coverup” is starting to be used. He needs to get out in front of this thing, and he’s running out of time.
His phone rings. The digital display shows that it’s Marcus, his aide. He picks up the phone.
“Senator, I’m sorry to bother you.” Marcus is new, and he still sounds nervous on the phone. “I know you said you weren’t taking anyone today, but someone showed up from your VIP list, and—”
“That’s fine,” Tobias says. “It’s all right, Marcus. Who is it?”
“Miss Io—” Marcus stumbles over the name. “I’m sorry. Io… ann…”
“Ioannou?” Senator Morgan sits up straight and adjusts his tie.
“Please send her in.” The senator looks around the room quickly. Nothing appears out of place. “And Marcus: while we’re talking, absolutely no one is to disturb us. Even if it’s someone on the VIP list. Even if it’s the President.”
Mara Ioannou is a beautiful woman, tall and slender, with coppery skin and dark black hair. Her thick curls are pulled back from her face with silver hairpins, and large dark eyes peer out at the world from under thick, long eyelashes. She’s dressed simply but elegantly in a white business suit and a skirt that cuts off just below the knees. The only jewelry she wears is large, double epsilon earrings made of silver.
“Mara.” Tobias smiles and stands as she walks into the room. “It’s good to see you.”
Mara smiles in return, gracious and warm. “I only wish it were under happier circumstances.”
The Senator steps around his desk and holds the back of a large overstuffed chair as Mara sits. Then he closes his office door and locks it.
“How have you been?” Tobias keeps his voice casual.
“I’m well,” Mara replies. “Thank you so much for asking. It’s been a busy year, and I haven’t had much time to relax.”
Tobias nods as he returns to his desk. “I can only imagine. I haven’t had much time to look up…”
He reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a large black globe that looks a bit like a magic 8-ball. He sets it on his desk and twists the top until it clicks. It begins to vibrate, ever so slightly. A moment later it chimes softly.
“OK,” Tobias says. “We should be clear.”
Mara’s gracious, warm smile doesn’t fade, but her posture changes: less ease, more authority. She’s not here to talk to a US Senator, she’s here to talk to an underling, and they both know it.
“I apologize for the delay,” Mara says. “The situation is complex.”
“I can imagine. I have a few questions…” Tobias nods toward the television, still showing a picture of his house burning to the ground. “I’m sure you can guess about what.”
Mara nods. “We think we know who is involved, and we think we know why. It troubles us greatly.”
Tobias waits patiently.
“You know by now that our attempt to contain the leak was mostly unsuccessful. He managed to send the file to an account using a Thorpe domain.”
“I knew that much,” Tobias says. “It wasn’t until after Grandfather’s funeral that I was called into the special sessions and had to go dark. But I haven’t been able to keep in touch with… well, anyone since. I haven’t even been able to go home…” His voice trails off, and he stares at the television screen. “Well, that doesn’t matter now. The sessions went well, by the way. I got tentative agreement from a majority, and the minority don’t object enough to do anything about it.”
“Excellent work,” Mara says. “The Chairman will be very pleased to hear that.”
“In the last update I had access to, I read you brought in a specialized team to track down the leak,” Tobias says.
“We did,” Mara says. “They’re still investigating. However, at this point we’ve been using them primarily to try to track the location of the file in order to contain it. They’ve made some progress on that—based on their work we believe we’ve identified all the civilians and metahumans who are aware of the file’s existence.”
“Metahumans?” Tobias asks. “More than Curveball, then. Who?”
“Regiment. His presence at the Forrest brownstone during the attack makes him a potential vector. There was a gap between the attack and the arrival of agents on the scene when they would have had more than enough opportunity to exchange information. We don’t know what they discussed.”
“Sky Commando—the one who recently retired on disability. We believe Peter Travers passed on some information to him. He disappeared shortly after that. And Crossfire, the recipient of that information…”
Tobias’ eyes widen in alarm. “Crossfire.”
“I’m afraid so,” Mara says. “We’re certain it was Red Shift who broke into your house and triggered the failsafe on the computer. And we know he survived: we have satellite footage of him traveling at supersonic speed to Farraday City, where Curveball is currently operating.”
“Farraday City?” Tobias shakes his head. “That’s an odd place for him to be.”
“Odd, yes. Also unexpected. Also very inconvenient: he and your niece broke into the TriHealth building there and stole some rather sensitive files.”
“My niece? You mean Jennifer? She’s involved in this?”
“Yes,” Mara says. “She’s traveling with him.”
Tobias closes his eyes. He appears to deflate slightly.
“I’m sorry,” Mara says.
“Julie and I were never particularly close,” he says. “I hated that she was so involved in that part of my grandfather’s life. I thought she was a hero groupie, to be honest. In retrospect that was… that was unkind. We’ve never really managed to be more than civil to each other, lately. And now this.”
“There is very little we can do at this point,” Mara says.
“I know.” Tobias shakes his head regretfully. “Sacrifices must be made.”