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The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 5: The Ice Queen
Blaine Winters rolled through the gates of his family’s Mount Kisco estate a little after sunrise. As such things went, the place wasn’t large—a mere fifty acres or so, set apart from the road by a low stone fence and a long tree-lined cobblestoned drive—but it was home. And for better or worse, home was the only place Blaine could think of to get any perspective on what he’d seen the night before. The world had changed a lot since Blaine’s parents’ day, but they were still connected to the ultra-human community, still the best resource he had for understanding his place in the world.
From the outside, people saw the Enhanced Forces Division, the EFD, as a part of the New York State National Guard, and they thought—as they were supposed to think—that the EFD was under strict governmental oversight. That the government had used the mechanism of the EFD to get the ultra-human community under its thumb after decades of their so-called superheroics had repeatedly torn up half the cities on the East Coast. That the U.S. Army’s chain-of-command had a firm grip on those gifted with more than mere mortal abilities.
The reality, however, was subtler and far less sure of itself.
In truth, the EFD was more like a public/private partnership than it was a true part of the government. True, Blaine wore the rank of a first lieutenant in the New York State National Guard, and as such, he had a commanding officer. He took orders. But against that was the reality was that he was also a very public kind of resource. People knew who he was.
Blaine’s father, the original Centurion, had been a beloved public figure and a founding member of the Diogenes Society. His mother, Emma Jean Winters—the infamous Ice Queen—was, if anything, even worse. She’d come to prominence as a bikini-clad teenager, riding in a robot tripod-tank alongside Dr. Destructo during the Radical Robot Rampage of the early 1980s. The Diogenes Society had ended that crisis and sent Dr. Destructo to a super-max prison somewhere out in the Midwest, but the Ice Queen herself had managed somehow to never so much as see the inside of a jail cell, much less a court room. Instead, she’d ridden off on the back of the Centurion’s motorcycle, and to the eternal delight of the tabloids, she and her erstwhile super-savior had married some six months later. Three decades on, Emma Winters had become the de facto matriarch of the ultra-human community, using the combination of her fame, her personal fortune, and her late husband’s beloved memory to badger both the community itself and the National Guard into compliance with her every whim. Hers was a soft but very real power, and it had a way of expressing itself in Blaine’s life at uncomfortable times. Unfortunately, there was little that Blaine could do about it besides simply keeping himself outside of his mother’s sphere of influence as best he could.
In this case, however, that didn’t seem to be much of an option.
Blaine brought his motorcycle to a halt in the middle of the drive’s roundabout, kicked the kickstand, and drew his sunglasses off of his face. Blaine’s father had ridden a Harley, but Blaine himself preferred Japanese racing bikes, the faster the better. He did, however, share his father’s disdain for helmets. New York State law might’ve declared helmets a necessity, but as Blaine’s mother was quick to point out, it was important to find little ways to remind people who you were. Blaine Winters didn’t need a motorcycle helmet. If that wasn’t true for the “mundies”, well, that wasn’t Blaine’s problem. Plus, he had yet to meet the traffice cop with the stones to write the new Centurion a ticket for Riding Without a Helmet.
By the time Blaine got to the front door, it was already opening. “Your mother is waiting in the salon, sir,” Antonio his mother’s butler said.
“She was expecting me?” Blaine replied. “You’d think she was psychic.”
“I believe that she saw the news this morning when she was taking her coffee. Said something about making sure we had enough in case we had a guest.”
Blaine shook his head. “Very well. I’ll take mine with cream, no sugar.”
“I’ll tell the lady you’ve arrived, sir.”
Blaine took a moment to check himself in the mirror. The new uniforms were annoyingly immune to starch, but although he was stuck with wash-and-wear clothes, experience had long since proven that he would be well advised to at least try to look his best when heading in to visit the Ice Queen. But the uniform was fine, which was convenient since there wasn’t much that he could do with it in any case. He kept his hair in a close high-and-tight, so he didn’t even look mussed from the ride over.
Of course, his mother would still find fault, but there wasn’t much that Blaine could do about that. He was a soldier. His mother would never approve, no matter how well he wore the uniform.
“Mother,” Blaine said as he walked into the salon.
She looked up from where she sat reading the Times, and it felt, Blaine thought, like coming under the gaze of a poisonous cobra. Her expression was placid enough, but her eyes were a hard, icy blue, and Blaine could almost imagine her tasting the air with her tongue, probing for any hint of weakness or fear. Blaine could see at once that she’d been expecting him that morning, and not just because she’d seen the morning’s news. Her white-blond hair was down and curled at the bottom in a hard set, the result of some hours spent with Sophia, her ladies’ maid, and a well-worn curling iron. She was also wearing enough makeup that you’d think she was expecting to do television later in the day.
Well, she might at that, Blaine thought, if this thing with the Siberian Tiger gets any bigger.
She was not, however, formally dressed. Instead, she wore a white silk dressing robe trimmed in a blue that matched her eyes, along with white fur slippers. That meant she’d dressed specifically for Blaine. Had she been expecting real visitors, she’d have worn business attire—a white pants suit and pearls of something like it.
“Why, what an unexpected surprise,” the Ice Queen said. “To what do I owe the pleasure this morning, lieutenant?”
Blaine didn’t let her play dumb. “Antonio told me you saw the news. I came to talk about Tiffany Trujillo and Dr. Necropolis.”
“God… Titania.” She waved hands outward, as though flicking the very name away. “What a whore. Practically a mundie, and she’d never have been anybody if she weren’t screwing that infernal Puck. Don’t get me started. I mean, Puck was an irreverant asshole, but he at least real had super-powers. He was an honest-to-God ultra-human. But Titania--”
“But wasn’t Puck an alien?” Blaine asked. “I mean, I didn’t think he was human at all.”
“Oh whatever, Blaine. You know what I mean. He was a superhero. A real one. Not some slut off the streets who could barely fly.”
“Well, Ms. Trujillo is an FBI agent now,” Blaine said. “I met her last night at the crime scene.”
“They put her in the FBI?” Blaine’s mother asked. “I’m surprised the FBI’s not investigating her. She and that Necropolis were supposedly as thick as thieves back in the day. There’s another asshole, that Necropolis. He really is a mundie, you know. Another jerkoff scientist trying to play in a world God never intended him for.”
Blaine sat down across from his mother and took his coffee from Antonio. It was rich and bitter--no surprise, all things considered. “Did you know Dr. Necropolis? I mean, back in the day?”
“Phaw! Your father and I might’ve chased him once or twice, but the Diogenes Society wasn’t founded to chase mundies. Your father fought Necropolis’s partner a couple of times, the Siberian Tiger. You know, towards the end of his career. But McGuinness himself was strictly bush-league. We let the police handle that kind of trash.”
“But I thought--” Blaine began.
“Well,” his mother said, cutting him off as though he hadn’t spoken, “I suppose they’ll be sending you after that Siberian Tiger yourself here in a little bit. The EFD may not know their heads from their asses, but it’s the obvious play. Be good for you, I suppose. Get your face in the papers when you finally bring him to heel.”
Blaine blinked. “But wasn’t Puck the one who finally brought Dr. Necropolis in? I mean, if he was just some small time--”
“Oh, please,” the Ice Queen cut in. “You said it yourself. The man was an alien. There’s no telling what went on in that alien brain of his.”
“But it was Puck who finally brought in Necropolis?”
“Yes! Now will you shut up about Dr. Necropolis? You need to worry about the Siberian Tiger. He’s the guy that you need to go after.”
Blaine shook his head. “Agent Trujillo asked me to go with her to see Necropolis tomorrow morning. Up at Sing Sing.”
“What?!” his mother cried. “No! You’re supposed to go after the Siberian Tiger. Why are you wasting your time with that asshole--”
“Because the Tiger found some invention of Necropolis’s. The--”
“Who cares?” his mother said. “Siberian Tiger is just some Russian mobster with a bit of juice in his system. He’s practically an animal. He’s perfect for you!”
“No!” his mother almost yelled. “You stay away from goddamn Frank McGuinness. McGuinness is a delusional psychopath, and he’s capable of anything. You think you’ll be safe just ‘cause he’s in some cell in a mundieprison? The man is a psychotic. You stay away from him!”
“But you just said--”
“Now you listen to me, Blaine Winters. There is nothing for you there, trust me on this. You just worry about going one-on-one with the Siberian Tiger, and you’ll be fine. Do you hear me?”
Blaine shook his head. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I’m serious, Blaine. Stay away from McGuinness. Nothing good can come from getting mixed up with that guy. He is an absolute madman. Let that slut Trujillo worry about him. You need to stay focused on the Tiger. That’s who you need to go after. Not some mad scientist who’s capable of God-knows-what.”
“I understand,” Blaine said.
“Good,” his mother replied, closing the subject. “Make sure you do. Now, tell me who you’re dating.”