*Hey, honey,* Powerstar sent to KXLX telepathically.
Ah! Heather jumped in her seat. Don’t do that!
*Sorry, love,* John thought with a chuckle. *I can’t help it. I love this.*
Heather focused for a moment. *Well, I think you’re pretty cool too, but I am working here. What are you up to, anyway?*
The DJ could feel John frown. *I’m not sure. Rox Studios is having a press conference to address the ‘superhero rumors’ that have been spreading. Naturally, Rox News is giving it prime coverage.*
Heather frowned in turn. *Hm. I’ve got a two-fer of Metal Crusader X coming up.* Her frown vanished, quickly replaced with a smile and twinkling eyes. *Plug me in.*
John blinked, then shrugged. *Okay.*
She — no, John — was floating near the top of a tree looking out over the Rox Studios entranceway. Reporters were milling around a hastily-constructed dais. With John’s "aura sight," she could make out three or four figures standing together in a tent next to the platform. The road hadn’t been cordoned off, exactly, but with camera crews spilling out into the street, "volunteers" were directing traffic away from the event. For a major media announcement, it was surprisingly low-key, especially for Rox.
*Okay, am I the only person in this tree who thinks that’s weird?* the redhead wondered.
*Technically, you’re not in the tree,* John replied. Heather could sense his smile, and sent back a mild raspberry. *Okay, okay, it’s definitely weird. Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Er, metaphorically speaking?*
Heather laughed. *Well, since we’re speaking metaphorically, that depends. Do you see a whitewash coming a mile off?*
She felt John’s fingers drum determinedly along a thick branch. *Yes. And that bothers me.*
*Well, I should hope so,* Heather replied, but John was nervous — she felt it, right alongside her own concern — and she had a feeling that his fears were justified. *It looks like you’re about to get ripped off.*
*That’s not the problem,* John sent back. *Why is Rox taking responsibility for this? I mean, if any actual facts get out, they could be accused of supporting a vigilante. I doubt they’re going to claim to be sponsoring someone with real live powers.*
Heather wanted to make light of the situation somehow, but couldn’t. It was just too serious. *You think that there’s some kind of conspiracy,* she replied slowly, *and you think that whoever it is has connections with the media. Big ones.*
John nodded. She had to work to keep her own head from bobbing. *If we’re talking about connections like that, and powers like mine, the government has to be involved on some level.*
*You’ve been thinking a lot about what I said, haven’t you?* Heather asked. *About what you are, where your powers really come from?*
*I don’t have any answers yet, though.* John’s eyes narrowed. *I want some.* Someone was walking up to the microphone. It was about to begin. He flew forward.
*John!* Heather gasped. It was an incredibly risky thing he was doing. Still, if he was wrong, and there was no conspiracy, this was a great way to come out of the…supply closet?
A tremendous force slammed into John, throwing him powerfully and knocking the breath out of both of them. He landed in a neatly maintained grass field. A pole fell less than ten feet away from him. When John saw the number 14 on a small flag at its top, he frowned. A golf course? Oh, yeah, that’s going to make for a low profile.
Heather, still linked to him, forced herself not to panic. *John, pay attention!*
John looked up and frowned.
Two men and a woman were staring down, making a V formation aimed at him, with the woman on point. The woman and one of the men were riding circular platforms, while the third was floating under his own power. The man on the platform held a large chrome gun out of a sci-fi movie. Worst of all, the lot of them were wearing suits. Black ones.
"Hey, Martinez, I think I can make that putt," the gun-toting man quipped.
"Be quiet, Mr. Harkin. That’s an order," the woman — Martinez — replied curtly.
"If you three are trying to keep this quiet," John noted dryly, "dropping me into the middle of an LA country club wasn’t your best choice."
"Wasn’t it?" Martinez asked with a humorless smile. "The entire area is closed to the public."
"Pest control," Harkin added with a sadistic grin.
Oh, God, Heather thought. They’d been right. She prayed that John knew what he was doing, because suddenly she didn’t have any suggestions left.
NEXT: The Complex, part 2