You have no idea what’s going on here, but something isn’t right and your gut tells you that Crexidyne is the key. Also, you have to admit that you’d really like to meet Nancy North. How can you get in touch with her, though? Contact Nancy North, you think. Could it be that easy? Sure enough, an e-mail window shows up on the screen with her address auto-filled. This stuff is awesome. You peck out a brief but urgent message and send it off. You hope that does the trick.
As you’re figuring out how to work the chamber doors, a new message pops up on your glove. “Long time. Meet me in old spot tonight, 10 p.m. — N” Old spot? Maybe there’s something in your wrist computer’s files about that? After a bit of searching, your best guess is that she’s referring to the water tower on top of the New York Globe building. Which would mean it really has been a long time, since Nancy left the Globe for an anchor gig at the NBS Nightly News in the late ’90s. You’ll have to drive all the way through Pennsylvania and New Jersey to get there, though, and you’re not even sure you can make it by 10.
To the Watchmobile, you think. Your wristscreen has no response. Sigh. To the 1996 Ford Taurus.
The long drive offers plenty of time to plan your meeting with the news icon. According to her book, the Nightwatchman always stuck to the shadows and disguised his voice, so if you do the same, maybe you can pull off this charade. And for the record, yes, you’ve read No Nonsense, the 1989 tell-all by Nancy North, cover to cover. You also once mailed her your sprawling, conspiracy theory-filled thesis on the secret identities of the Justice Squadron back when you were in journalism school. She didn’t write back. It wasn’t your proudest moment.
By the time you arrive and find a route up to the water tower that doesn’t involve a grappling hook, it’s almost 11 and Nancy is waiting. “You’re late,” she says. She must be in her mid-sixties by now, but she still looks good. Really good, in fact.
You answer in the deepest, most gravelly voice you can muster. “Had to make sure I wasn’t followed.” That sounds like something the Nightwatchman would say, right? You make every effort to conceal yourself in the darkness.
“Jesus, what happened to your voice?”
At this moment you’re acutely aware of the degree to which you are not the Nightwatchman. “Uh, nothing.” Man, that really hurts your throat, too. “A cold.”
“Seriously, do you want a lozenge? I have some Sucrets.” She starts digging in her purse.
“No lozenge,” you croak. This isn’t going as well as you hoped. “What can you tell me about Crexidyne, the Ox, and Brain Stem?”
“Hmm,” she says. This woman is cool as a cucumber, and you can’t tell yet if she’s buying you as the legendary vigilante. “I know they’re both being tracked by Crexidyne’s top brass. They’ve got some kind of program that keeps tabs on superhumans, and from what I can tell, their interest is spread evenly between heroes and villains. I also know Brain Stem is missing. Is he dead? Is that what this is about?”
You pause for a moment, wondering if you should fill her in. How much do you really know about Nancy North? Can you trust her?
“Can’t talk about that,” you reply. “Tell me more about the surveillance.”
She takes a step back, perhaps trying to get a better look at you. “It goes straight to the top, whatever it is. It has Thorpe’s fingerprints all over it.” As Crexidyne’s CEO, Reginald Thorpe’s name is synonymous with mad power grabs and dirty backroom deals, and even though he’s a normal human, over the years he’s achieved sort of an honorary supervillain status. “And it’s been ramping up,” Nancy continues. “If they did kill Brain Stem, it’s just the beginning.”
You can’t help but wonder if you’re in over your head. “Listen,” Nancy says. “I know you’ve been doing this a long time, but Thorpe has resources that you wouldn’t believe.” A long time? Yes! She thinks you’re the real thing! “If you’re going after him, don’t go lone-wolf. Consider some backup on this one.”
“I’ll take that under consideration,” you say. The five-syllable word sounds particularly ridiculous in your forced Cookie-Monster grumble.
“You know that there’s only one person you can really trust,” Nancy says as you retreat into the shadows. “With the jet, you could be in Broward County in 45 minutes.”
Broward County, Florida? Wait. The jet? Sure enough, your suit’s onboard computer tells you that the Nightwatchman’s radar-invisible stealth fighter is parked in an underground hangar nearby, gassed up, thought-controlled, and ready to take you anywhere on the planet. Something is bugging you about the gaping holes in your predecessor’s security measures, but to be honest you’re too giddy to dwell on it much.
You start thinking about the backup Nancy mentioned. Maybe it’s time to bring Melah and Dale into the loop. They’re both good journalists — they could help you put the pieces together, and with a jet you could be back in Cleveland in no time. Or maybe it’s time to stop thinking like an unemployed reporter and start thinking like a superhero. Besides, you’ve got a feeling that investigative backup isn’t what Nancy was talking about.
If you call your friends and turn this mission into a team effort, turn to page 68.
If you skip right past amateur hour and round up some bigger, preferably superpowered guns, turn to page 150.