Mega-Girl wanted to meet high up in the sky, but when Law called he left terse instructions for me and Captain Monogram to meet him in the depths of Temple City. He doesn’t know that there is no Captain Monogram any more – just me, Kid Bungee, and I don’t know what to do. The phone, even one as encrypted and secret as the mono-phones (with a discreet “CM” printed on them) Captain Monogram issued to his closest allies, are not the place to be discussing superhero deaths. Instead of just bungeeing down through the streets and into the underground, I decide to swing back home and pick up the mono-mobile instead. It’s the only way I have to make it look like Captain Monogram is still out and doing his hero thing. No one would expect his side-kick to be using it on their own.
I fire up the mono-mobile in our hidden garage. It’s a beast of a machine. Once upon a time it was a VM camper van, before Chris started tinkering with it. Now it’s the mono-mobile, with “CM” deeply embossed where the “VW” used to be, and most of the rest of its skin replaced with black, red and blue armour. He must have had two of the camper vans at some point, because it’s twice the length one should be and has a cockpit at both ends, so we can get out of any situation quickly. I check that the mono-net guns and anchor cables are all fit for use, and reload the water cannon. Incapacitate, not terminate; that’s what Captain Monogram always taught me. That incapacitation can go pretty far before it turns into dead, allowing us to respond proportionately to criminal and supervillain activity. I’d never really appreciated what a hard choice that is, to let your enemies live no matter how bad things get, because otherwise you’re just the same as they are. I thought about this a lot while I drove the streets of Temple City. Being out in the mono-mobile has a dampening effect on crime, just being seen sets thieves and muggers running. Only works for a while though. At some point you have to get out and kick some people. I wonder if it is all as black and white as Chris and Mega-Girl made out, whether having “killing someone” past the red line at the top end of a scale of acceptable violence does make sense. Big Hijack had already done a lot of bad things – we’d put him behind bars several times for robbery and murder – and now he’d killed Captain Monogram too. I’m not saying Big Hijack deserved to die, because I think Chris was right: no one deserves to die. But maybe sometimes it’s the right thing to do. Maybe it’s the only thing to do.
The mono-mobile is fast and tough. With my hands on the wheel and eyes peeled for adventure, we scream down past Temple Park. It’s a notorious hang out for muggers, sleazeballs and the super-wealthy cruising for kicks. I decide to go through the park. It’s slightly quicker, and you never know when justice will be needed. I fling out an anchor cable. It whips around one of the huge, curvy, black gas-lamp-style posts from Temple City’s near-forgotten art nouveau phase of architectural design, and jerks the mono-mobile in a tight 45 degree turn onto the park’s nature boulevard. Almost immediately the high beams pick out a guy brandishing a broken bottle, chasing after a woman running down the side of the path. I flip the sights on the mono-net gun and fire a round at him. The net wraps him up – I wince as he accidentally stabs himself with the bottle – and bounces into the air where it snags in the branches of a tree. I press the button that activates its beacon – the local police precinct will pick him up eventually. I keep on going, with a glance at the woman to make sure she’s OK. Looks like it, she’s making sure she still has all her money in her quite manly wallet. I speed on into the night.
There are a couple more minor incidents, nothing major. I use the water cannon to blast out a bunch of teenagers using the Temple sculpture garden as a skate ramp. They’ll think twice before defiling the statues of our city’s great and good again. It feels good to be useful, cleaning up the streets whether they knew they were dirty or not. Out of the park and I skid into old town, heading for the tunnels that lead into the old abandoned subway system. This is where Law and Order like to hang out. Law always says that being underneath the bad guys is the best way to surprise them. They dwell in one of the lowest areas, an old subway station that was abandoned before it even saw use and was taken out of the network without a train ever having run through it. Thankfully the mono-mobile remembers how to get there. I’d have been lost in the darkness within minutes. Shadows scramble out of the way as our headlights pick out figures and shapes that seem only partly human. Who knows what lives down here in the deeps.
When the mono-mobile rolls up in front of the massive iron door that slices down through the roof into the ground there’s a moment or two before the door begins to be hauled up, a massive grinding sound I can feel in my inner ears. In that moment I know I’ve been scanned, and Law will know it’s just me. The door fully opens, revealing a bright creamy light beyond. I drive through and the door grinds shut behind me. I climb out and am greeted first by Order. By greeted, I mean scanned invasively with various rays and beams intense enough to make my skin tingle. I do wonder if I should wear sunscreen sometimes. Order is a drone, or at least he was, before Law got kicked out of the army and took his favourite sentinel drone companion with him. Hacked, re-decorated and re-armed with both weapons of destruction and tactile arms delicate enough to make a good cup of coffee, Order stands an intimidating fifteen feet at the shoulder. Bulky, intense, exactly what you’d send into South America to terrify an insurrection. They’re also quite friendly, as you can tell from the smiley face painted under their array of eyes.
“Good. To see you. Kid. Bungee,” Order says, offering me a cup of coffee from a manipulator arm hidden behind his back. Maybe they actually have a coffee machine installed somewhere in that metal carapace.
“Thanks Order, this smells great.” The big robot positively beams in appreciation.
“No. Captain. Monogram. Query.”
“Um, no. Just me, sorry Order, I–“
Then Law arrives. Where Order is massive and obviously lethal, Law is a skinny little guy. Chris always said he was probably a sniper dishonourably discharged for shooting far more people than he was supposed to. Chris thought Law was a dangerous vigilante, with much less regard for the rules that he and Mega-Girl tried to stick to. But a very useful ally. The scar that creases Law’s face from his left temple to his right collarbone always makes him look like he’s about to yell at you, and he has a dangerous intensity. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t blink. I’ve never seen his eyes closed, not even for a moment.
“Where’s Captain Monogram, Kid? We need to talk. Big Hijack’s on the rampage, or he’s about to be. Got word from an informant,” he smirks. It’s hard to imagine that informant volunteered the information, but that’s the game they make us play. “Need to coordinate some action with your Captain.”
I knew this was going to be tough. It’s not like I can put an obituary for my foster-father Captain Monogram in the Temple City Recorder. I still don’t know what to do with his body, and the sudden holiday message I sent to his office will only hold for so long.
“He’s gone, Law,” I force myself to say, “Big Hijack killed him. There was nothing I could do.”
Law looks shocked, that big scar makes his face a million years old and full of sadness.
“Oh Kid, I’m–“
“Condolences. For your. Loss,” Order beeps out, and wraps a gatling gun arm around my shoulders, “You’re. Not alone. We are. Your family. Too.”
I can’t help it, I just burst into tears. I guess I’ve been in shock – this is the first time I’ve cried about it all. I didn’t think it would be the big battle robot who would squeeze the tears out of me. Gently, Order guides me over to their living room area – a bunch of old sofas surrounded by big TV screens on the old subway platform.
“Let’s get drunk Kid,” says Law, grabbing a bottle of whiskey off a shelf drilled into the old curving, tiled wall. Above the shelf are seemingly endless rows of rifles, shotguns, pistols and artillery that only Order could carry. “Then we’ll talk about Big Hijack.”