The duo landed on top of the building, near the ladder Zero had spotted from below. The top of the building was flat and black, rather ugly considering the beauty of the glass-covered building as seen from ground level. In the center of the roof was a domed structure, which rose above them. Immediately upon touching down, four men, wearing shirts with the word SECURITY printed in bold yellow letters on the back, surrounded them.
“Put down the weapon!” one of the men yelled, looking at Buddy.
Buddy raised his hands above his head, careful to keep from spilling any of the precious liquid out of his cup.
“Put down the weapon!” he repeated, pulling some sort of device from his belt and pointing it menacingly at Buddy.
“I don’t have a wea—“
“In your hand, sir,” he yelled. “Put it down.”
Buddy decided he must be talking about the cup of coffee, as ridiculous as it seemed, and slowly bent over to place the cup on the ground.
“Drop it!” the man screamed. “Now!”
Buddy, reluctantly, let the cup drop from his hands, the brown libation spilling out upon the black rooftop.
The man who was taking charge over the situation raised a radio to his face. “Pete, I’ve got two brightly dressed men up here on the roof. Got anything for me on that?”
“Gentlemen,” Zero began, stepping toward the man with the radio.
“Step back, sir,” said the man, raising the device and pointing it at Zero. “Don’t suppose you two have any clearance papers to be up here on the roof, do you?”
“Hey Clark, didn’t catch all that, what did you want?” the radio squawked.
“Come on, guys,” Buddy spoke, attempting to ease the tension. “Our people are downstairs waiting on us. Just a little publicity stunt, you know?”
“Hold on Pete,” Clark spoke into the radio again. He turned to Buddy. “All official activities are to be screened and cleared before being performed. If I’m not notified of it beforehand, it’s not supposed to happen. And if it’s not supposed to happen, I make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He gestured to the man beside him, who stepped forward and held out a clipboard. “And according to my schedule, you’re not supposed to be here.”
“Come on, pal. We got everything cleared, didn’t we Zero?”
“I’m not aware of there being any problems, sir.”
“This is a pretty big event, right?” Buddy continued. “Surely there’s some chance the paperwork got lost somewhere along the way, isn’t there?”
Clark unintentionally shot a knowing glance at Buddy, but quickly recovered. “Mistakes like that may happen when other people are running things, but when I’m on-duty, everything must be documented and put on the clipboard.”
“Well, someone else must have screwed up then,” Buddy offered.
“We’ll just have to look into that then, won’t we?” Clark asked, pulling the clipboard out of his partner’s hand. “So, who are you supposed to be with?”
“The RLSH, Mr. Clark,” Zero jumped in. “Just our little way of letting everyone know we’ve got everything under control.”
“Not here, you don’t,” Clark said, running his finger down the paper in front of him. “When you’re at my ‘Con, I’m the one who has everything under control.”
“Of course, sir,” Buddy replied.
“Okay, so, we’ve got a few things showing here for the RLSH. I see a parade at 3, a fireworks show tonight, looks like there’s some sort of non-lethal martial arts show later today…non-lethal martia—nevermind. I’m not seeing anything allowing for any sort of roof access.”
“Is there anyone we can talk to about this?” Buddy asked. “I mean, it’s not like we’re causing any trouble here or anything. Just a harmless stunt, right?”
“If I don’t know about it before hand,” Clark said, bringing the radio to his face, “it’s not harmless.” Clark pressed the button on the radio as he walked away from the pair. Buddy could just barely make out what he was saying. “Alright, Pete. Someone’s obviously screwed up somewhere. Do we have anything on file for those real life super hero kids that might not have made it onto the clipboard?”
“Oh come on, Clark. You know those geeks have more stuff going on this weekend than any other group. It would take me an hour just to sort through their paperwork and I’m already swamped with complaints about everything from bathroom supplies to power outages. Just deal with whatever you’ve got up there and get back down here and help me out.”
“Of course, sir,” Clark said, turning back to the group. “I’ll take care of it, sir.”
Clark replaced his radio in its holster and looked Buddy and Zero over once again.
“Anything wrong?” Buddy asked.
“Alright,” Clark responded with a sigh. “I’ll let you kids off with a warning this time, but next time you’ve got something like this going on, can you just check in with me personally beforehand? I really don’t have the time to be running up to the roof for every one of your stupid stunts, okay?”
“Of course, sir,” Zero responded. “It will never happen again.”
Clark looked at Buddy. Buddy shrugged as he added, “Hey, man, don’t worry about me. I wasn’t too keen on doing it the first time.”
“Alright, you two have your passes on you?”
Buddy patted his legs in a useless gesture. “Sorry, sir, I left mine in my other pants. Not much room in these tights, you know?”
Clark sighed. “I don’t have the time for this. Ben,” he said, gesturing to one of the other men, “lead them back down to the convention floor. The rest of you with me. We’ll need to make sure whatever wires they used to get up here aren’t going to cause any structural damage.”
“Yes sir,” Ben replied and immediately walked toward the door on the other side of the roof. “Follow me, gentlemen.”
Buddy and Zero followed Ben to the domed structure and into a door on the side. As they stepped within, the cold, conditioned air hit them like a brick. From this vantage point, they could see a majority of the convention’s booths. Buddy was shocked with the noise which berated them upon entering. The entire room was abuzz with excitement and advertisements and robotic barkers hawking their wares.
“You can return to the convention floor using these stairs,” Ben said, gesturing to a nondescript doorway behind them. “Have a nice time at Super-Con, gentlemen.” He stepped back out the doors and left Buddy and Zero alone.
The duo walked to a railing on the other end of the floor and looked out upon the sea of people. The convention floor was crowded, noisy, and extremely eclectic. Lights flashed from every direction, some from people taking pictures of the enormous sculptures of monsters or people in costume, others from the many displays spread out across the room, ranging from advertisements of movies to sales of limited edition action figures.
Twenty-foot tall posters hung from the ceiling depicting a wide assortment of creatures from fantasy and science fiction. Each one proclaimed limited edition collectibles awaiting new owners. In each corner, temporary walls were erected to reach the ceiling, each with ten foot versions of the logos for companies Buddy vaguely recognized as competitors in the comic book field. Surrounding those booths were the most brightly dressed of individuals, each looking as though they had come clothed in the attire of their favorite characters.
And in the center of it all stood a thirty-foot statue of seven figures in an action pose. They stood with their backs to each other, as if working together to fight back the horde of people who had paid to enter the building. Each one, Buddy thought, looked incredibly familiar. He couldn’t help but feel concerned as he recognized several members of his old team recreated in stone.
“This was nothing like what I expected, chum,” Zero said with a frown on his face.
“How so? Look out there, the masses are waiting for you.”
“But this looks more like a gypsy encampment than a shrine to superheroes. How can one even stand being down there with so much noise and light?”
“I think that’s the whole point, pal,” Buddy said, slapping his friend on the back. “This is the number one place to get over-saturated with information about every single thing going on in pop culture for the last fifty years. For those kids down there, this is heaven on earth.”
“I am getting the feeling those kids may be seriously ill.”
“You’re not the first,” Buddy laughed. “So, what do you make of that statue there?” Buddy asked, pointing at the piece that dominated the room.
“You mean the bronze portrait of The Defenders of America? What should I make of it?”
“Why the hell is it here? No one knows we exist.”
“Oh, well, that’s simple. It’s here because it’s been here for ages. They erected that piece soon after we became a team as a way to show their gratitude for our actions in keeping the city safe. It was a present to us from the residents of Sun City.”
“Isn’t it weird it’s still around? Or that people don’t, you know, recognize us from it?”
“Perhaps. However, seeing as it’s a rather constant figure within these walls, perhaps people have just become accustomed to overlooking it. It is, after all, one of the less brightly flashing items in this room.”
“I suppose. Still seems like there’s more to the story than that.”
“I imagine you are probably correct, chum. But, for now, I believe we should attempt to tempt the fates and enter the madness below. Can you see where we are headed?”
“Yeah,” Buddy said, pointing to an area near the statue, “I see an RLSH sign right over there. He said he should be near them, I think.”
“Alright, then let’s get on our way.”
“One more thing there, chum,” Buddy growled.
“What’s that, Buddy?”
“Keep your eyes open for a refreshment stand. I still need to top off my caffeine stores.”
Go to Chapter Eleven