Chapter 220

                The great and terrible thing about the mid-west was that it had space. Long, near empty stretches of highway with little more than a sign telling drivers that there would be another town in a hundred miles or so. And if that “town” turned out to be nothing but a gas station, a stop light, and a burger joint, then a traveler should just be grateful there was actually food to buy. Should one turn off the highway and venture down the farm roads, they might quickly discover how spoiled they were with luxuries like road signs and gas stations. For some, this place was an oasis, an unspoiled area of nature and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. For others, it was a prison, and the moment they could they’d flee to a bigger city, talking about their small town as though they’d escaped purgatory itself.

                For a few, however, the vast amount of empty space was camouflage, providing enough distance from prying eyes and ears to permit for covert meetings between wanted criminals, even ones so hunted that at any given moment there were Heroes actively searching for them. Such a case happened to be occurring on this day, when Crispin and Sherman suddenly appeared outside an abandoned farmhouse. Neither had gone so far as to wear a mask, or even coats since spring had finally begun to claim victory against the chill of winter, but they had donned hats and sunglasses. There should be no way anyone would spot them so deep in the nothingness of the mid-west; however Crispin was not a man to take needless chances. Especially when he was already taking so many necessary ones.

                “You’re sure they won’t be able to find me?”

                “Scarf assured me they’ve got someone on staff who can thwart Supers with tracking abilities. And given that we’ve seen Globe be mobile enough to storm a prison while staying away from capture, it seems likely she was telling the truth.” Sherman felt nervous, more than Crispin looked by a long measure, although that wasn’t surprising. Crispin was adept, smart, and had a power that would always make him useful. If this went bad, Crispin would probably find a way to survive like he always did. Sherman, on the other hand, would have failed at his job, and would no doubt be dismissed. All that was assuming he even survived.

                “I still don’t like the fact that you never got a name.” Crispin was already trudging through the grass, sun high overhead as he made his way to the barn.

                “I never pushed for one,” Sherman reiterated. “They were willing to give in other areas, so it seemed best to pick my battles. We were allowed to choose the meeting place, and that’s a big one.”

                “So big that I worry why they would turn the rights over to us without more protest.” Craning his neck, Crispin scanned the area, searching for potential ambushes. “How are you feeling, by the way? Topped off adequately, or do you need more charge? There’s a chance we may need to leave in a hurry and I can’t have you falling short.”

                Even though Sherman’s body was practically humming with power, he was almost tempted to request more. Crispin’s ability was the thing someone who didn’t understand it would call intoxicating, but alcohol could never match the feeling of what he offered. To be at one’s absolute best, to feel the full breadth of potential realized, it was more than drug-like. It felt like Sherman was the pinnacle of what he could ever be, the true best version of himself, and that sensation was nearly impossible to turn away from once it had been tasted. However, he had to think practically, and letting Crispin juice him up in the open like this was too risky. They didn’t need the other group knowing about Crispin’s contingency escape plans.

                “I’m feeling fine, sir. As though I could teleport a whole mountain. No one short of Zero himself could stop me from getting us out of there.”

                “Let’s hope so. I strongly dislike that we don’t know Globe’s power, or the abilities of who he’s got with him. Too many variables.”

                “Scarf assured me that the only ones at this meeting would be Globe, and anyone required for transport or safety. If we see more than three people inside, I’ll take us out of here immediately,” Sherman promised. “This is supposed to be a simple meeting between the bosses. Once you two are comfortable doing business with each other, we can go back to using proxies.”

                Crispin kept on trudging through the grass, drawing closer to the barn. His neck was on a swivel, scanning his surroundings constantly, but nothing ever appeared. Either Globe had hidden his treachery too well to be spotted, or he was playing things on the up-and-up. Finally, they arrived at the large sliding door on the barn’s front.

                “You know, as inconvenient as this all is, I must say part of me is glad they were so firm about a meeting,” Crispin remarked. “There aren’t many people in the world who understand what it is to be in my position, and even fewer who’ve earned the spot while giving Heroes a black eye. I managed the first successful attack on an HCP campus, and Globe pulled off the first successful jailbreak from the Super-max facility. In a way, he and I have much in common, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to discuss such matters with him. The trouble is, I have worries about trusting anyone who is similar to me.”

                “We can still leave.”

                “And go where? Back to the box I’m forced to live in for my own safety, where I can read the reports of more and more of our few remaining assets being brought down?” Crispin shook his head. “No, I’ve had enough of that. Growth requires risk, that was true when I started the Sons of Progress and it’s true now that I’m burying them. We must take chances, Sherman, if we hope to succeed. At the very least, I don’t have to worry about Globe being in league with the Heroes. I daresay his is the only head they’d like to see mounted more than my own.”

                With that not-so-reassuring declaration, Crispin took hold of the barn door and slid it to the side, revealing a decrepit building with hay on the ground. Interestingly, someone had brought in a pair of couches, a coffee table, and a small array of refreshments. Standing at the far end of the barn, away from the door so as not to seem like she was lying in wait, was Scarf, who still wore her trademark face-covering in spite of the heat. She and Sherman exchanged brief glances, but soon his eyes were drawn to the man sitting on the couch.

                Red coat, bandaged left arm, and surprisingly charming smile… there was no doubt this was either Globe, or a shape-shifter who’d done an excellent job at assuming his image. He waved to them both, rising from his seat as they entered.

                “Sherman, I’ve heard great things about you, nice to finally meet you in person. And Crispin… words can’t express how glad I am that you accepted my friend’s invitation.” Globe nodded his head, and the door behind Sherman and Crispin slid shut. A lot of rumors pegged Globe as a telekinetic, so it wasn’t especially alarming, even if it did feel a bit theatrical.

                “Both of you, please come in and have a seat. We have so much to talk about.”