Frozen Passion spoke first. “I hope you understand why we did this. You looked over the CD-Rom, right?”
I nodded. “You could have asked me, you know.” my voice was cold. I just hoped the hurt didn't show through.
“If you were an impostor you would have denied it, true?” Grace interjected.
“I suppose so. But that doesn't make up for the fact that I am your friend. All of you. We've fought so many battles together......cheated death.....saved countless lives and helped the city.”
Frozen Passion answered “Look, suspicions were high. What happened to you was strange...suspicious even. We all gave you the benefit of the doubt. We did. Until that disk ended up on my doorstep. My doorstep.” She looked at me eyebrows aloft, waiting for me to get it. I didn't.
“I'm sorry, maybe the coffee hasn't kicked in yet, but where are you two going with this?”
“Mental, we believe you now. We really do.”
“Why thank you very much.” my voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Ok, I guess we deserve that. Look for my part in this I apologize....” said Frozen contritely.
“....and I do not.” Grace said defiantly. She was after all an absolutest. The universe was very white and very black. In her world gray did not exist. I became annoyed.
“Grace, I know how you work, and I have always looked up to that part of you. You act with a steel will and you have the strongest of convictions. I get it. But give it a rest, will you? I mean seriously you all acted on impulse without even checking if the source material was valid. Did you think of that?”
“You WERE in the Rogue Islands correct?”
“Yes. I was. Trying to figure out what happened to me. Turned out to be a big dead end anyway....”
Frozen interrupted what was soon to be a heated argument. “Let's not do this. Let's talk brass tax. The truth is Mental, we do believe you and I will speak for the Spartan Guard and say, 'I....we... are sorry.' But we did what we thought was right given the situation. Anyway, Grace and I got talking last night about things. Once it was ruled out that you were in fact yourself, other questions started popping up.”
Frozen and Princess Grace are well know strategists. They often lead our attacks on villains due to their complete understanding of statistics and tactics. They are number crunchers. They analyze previous battles, break them down, and build new strategies around their findings. They see the details, all of them.
“It doesn't make sense." I frowned and rolled my eyes. She obviously noticed. "No, no, not like it is unbelievable. You see we talked and tried to draw conclusions with what we know. Unless it's one enormous coincidence there IS someone behind all of this. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make you look guilty. I mean your powers could have changed and someone could be taking advantage of that fact, but it seems unlikely when paired with your anmesia and the burglary of your apartment. The question is who and why. As a hero it could really be anyone you've fought. Do you really have an arch enemy?"
I shook my head no.
"Right! For the most part you don't do much solo work. You haven't personally annoyed, bothered, captured, fought, whatever....anyone that we haven't. That would mean that your enemies are our enemies too. And nothing has happened to anyone else. What concerns us is the level of access they seem to have. Medical records, transcripts, they even seemed to know when we all were preoccupied enough to pull this off. Notice how hardly any of us were available? We were all conveniently away from the situation."
I nodded in agreement.
"Also the villain groups and contacts so far have been pretty low rung. Someone is using them. The Vahz were obviously hired by Council operatives and my guess is this isn't their doing either. Did you ever follow up on the Council lead?"
"Well actually right when we learned of a possible connection to them I learned of the doctor in the Rogue Islands, der Schepper. Thinking he could help me I'll be honest I just dropped the Council information. I'm sorry I thought it would help and it turned out worthless."
"We need to get on that lead right away." Princess Grace finally interjected.
"Then the question exists: Why you?" Frozen continued, " What is it you have done to make someone want to turn us against you? What benefit would anyone get from altering your powers or even your body? You are for the most part a defensive hero. You protect other people more than you harm. I'd find it hard to believe that you have done anything so horrible even to a villain that would warrant this level of attention. True?"
"Yeah, you would think, but dealing with villains you know sometimes their actions don't make a whole heck of a lot of sense." I said.
"I think we need to start looking away from metas and villain groups, Mental." her tone now softer. She paused, uncomfortable silence then looked away. There is an unspoken law among the heroing community to respect the secret identity. Many heroes nowdays don't really hide behind their masks, now that hero work has become legitimate. There are still many like myself that hide their true identities and live separate lives. Many of my hero collegues do not know who I am and some (those I'm closest to) do know who I am. My father went through great lengths hiding my existance even as a child. Our family was rather influential with the local and world press and as far as the world knew I was never born to one of the wealthiest families of the Northeast. I have since kept the same anonymity chosing to attend only one board meeting a year. Festus serves as my proxy for all other business and consults me for my voting preference when needed. To the world I'm just a PhD that teaches a few classes a semester and studies childhood cancers in a state of the art laboratory. (One funded of course by an "anonymous" donation from a major U.S. corporation.) I have never really felt a need to tell anyone that did know my identity not to tell anyone. The hero world is very tight lipped but they are still human and I'm sure there is gossip.
"My family? Is that what you want to know?"
Grace looked around. "Well you can't really rule it out."
"Mental," Frozen added "You come from a very wealthy and powerful family. I'm sure it's probably pretty certain that the family has it's share of enemies and they are probably capable of obtaining the information on you. Look, I'm sorry to go here I know it's generally frowned upon but...."
"No, don't think anything of it Frozen. I don't blame you it's a very strong point. But the truth is the family is merely a ghost in the history of Paragon City. An almost mythical family that disappeared when my dad left. With it our enemies, or rivals, pretty much disappeared as well. Besides ethics were beaten into the heads of the business by prior generations. Honesty and integrity were vital....the family reputation was more important than the money." I could see the disbelief in their eyes. "Look the 'company' is merely a large trust now anyway. It gives out charitable donations and research grants. The actual businesses were sold off to other interests and conglomerate in my fathers years anyway. By the time he disappeared all that was left was his research company. And when we found out he was, well....you know, dead. It was sold. I would find it hard to believe we even have any family enemies still alive." Then I paused as an image hit my memory. Well one family enemy was still alive. But he was the good guy. THE good guy.
Princess Grace spoke, "Your family does have a rather checkered past with the meta community. I'm sure there are still grudges."
"My father rebuilt many of those bridges that were burnt by prior generations of my family.He didn't hold the same beliefs as the rest of my family. He respected the heroing community. He was a very tolerant man. It is widely known his contributions to a lot of the technology that is being used today to save hero lives."
"I can't rule out my family's past. But if it were about the money why hasn't any been taken? And if its about the meta community then why am I still standing here talking to you?"
"That's exactly what we came up with and why we were so confused." Grace said. "Just try to think of someone that could want to bring you harm. We are here for you. But we need to get out of your way; it is awful early and you are probably beat. I know I am."
"We'll start looking into the Council's connection immediately, if you want."
"Thank you, yes I would. Thank you."
They spent the next few minutes flirting with Festus and praising his culinary skills (two things the old man didn't mind at all)before I showed my two friends to the door.
"No calls. No one. I need to sleep." And I slept for two days straight.