again, it's a weary sort of tired intimidation, one no sane person would challenge. “Get. Out .” With his wrecked face on display, everybody recognizes Morris Kemp, the great and supposedly bloodthirsty Quiz Master, destroyer of the Persephone Tower and temporary ruler of the alien planet of Ferlo before he obliterated it. They listen to his demand without question.
“Oh, they most certainly will not call the police,” Morris snaps derisively a few short minutes later. I lower the damp dishcloth in my hand, the material stained brown with washed-away blood, and try not to make too childish a face at Morris's declaration. “Did you ever learn anything when you were taking over planets and blowing up buildings? Honestly, Morris.” “There are exactly two police cars in this town, which presupposes eight police officers at most, if we're stretching,” he says, sounding almost offended that I might doubt him. “I've disabled the services of entire city police stations before. I think I can handle terrifying eight power-mad yokels from Mayberry.” I resist the urge to point out that this particular town may actually be smaller than Mayberry, if I'm remembering my classic television trivia correctly. Also, we only have four police officers in town, none of whom are the least bit capable of dealing out a speeding ticket without coming off like tremendous self-important jerks. Morris's assessment of the local police force is unfortunately more apt than it should be. “You don't care that they'll come?” “Vera, come along now.” The condescending way he says my name startles me enough for my hand to pull away out of reflex. “You're registered in the area, of course.” “Of course,” I say, my voice low. Enrolling with the county is never mandatory. Forcing those with superpowers to fight the forces of evil has always been more to the advantage of supervillains and their flunkies than the general populace. Smaller police forces leave superhero registration a strictly volunteer program for those who move into the area. While I haven't used my powers in five years I still signed up for the local volunteer superhero program the first day I moved into the area. Not that I needed to, of course – the east coast superhero teams cover vast areas under their umbrella of protection – but the obligation is ingrained in me thanks to twenty years of private rescue and recovery lessons and my own glorious family history, such as it is. The police may come. They might even bash the door down in a sorry attempt to rescue me. The more likely scenario is that the police will hear the story of what's occurring in the toasty warm interior of Tea and Strumpets, confirm we're the only ones left in the building, and calmly assure anyone who worries about my security that Vera Noble can deal with one pesky beat-up supervillain all on her own. I've certainly handled the others who've tried anything in the cafe in the past few years quite nicely even without using my powers or breaking a sweat. I embrace the loyal faith in my abilities, but it's still a bit disconcerting being left to your own devices at a time like this. “So,” I say far too brightly, swiping at another fleck of blood on the inside curve of the bridge of his nose, “what exactly did you do to yourself?” He winces at the press of the cloth against his blackening eye. “I did exactly what you suggested,” he says, shooting me a glance that silently informs me just how wretchedly guilty I should feel about that. I pause in mid-swipe. “You went to Mom's place?” “I was waiting for them at the penthouse when they returned from their night out,” he says. He doesn't bother to mention the robots. “You did say Everett was with her and suggest I should go take care of it myself, didn't you?” Something feels off about his story already, not even taking into account the unsettling way his eyes shift to avoid mine. I tip my head down