Cool Things: Big Hero 6

It’s time to contradict a rule I shared with you just last month – I’ve only seen this movie once. I’m still okay with recommending it to you.

Big Hero 6 is, hands down, the best movie released in 2014 that I’ve watched so far. For those wondering, other movies of this year that I’ve seen include The Amazing Spiderman 2, The Lego Movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Edge of Tomorrow. And yes, Big Hero 6 is better than all of them. Not by much, in the cases of fellow Marvel property Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Edge of Tomorrow, but still better.

Let’s start with the basics. If you’ve seen any of the trailers you know that, at it’s heart, the movie is about grief. Protagonist Hiro Hamada lost his parents at a young age and his remaining family consists of his single aunt and older brother, Tadashi. Then Tadashi dies.

The sum total of Tadashi’s legacy consists of his younger brother, his four friends from college and his experimental healthcare assistant robot Baymax. Again, if you’ve seen a trailer for this film you already know that the squishy, huggable Baymax is a major character in this story.

Other films and other media have tackled the issue of robots among us before. It may seem hard to believe that there’s any new ground to break. And maybe there’s not but every moment Baymax is on the screen he’s so fun, so charming and so pure-hearted you really won’t care. It may be odd to say but it’s Baymax, the creature of programmed behavior and mannerisms, that comes off as the real hero of this bunch.

Baymax has one purpose in life – to see to the health of the people around him. When it becomes apparent to Baymax that Hiro is suffering from grief and depression he starts working to cure it. Most of the important moments of emotional development in the story are a direct result of Baymax’s actions.

Robots tend to be very flat, one dimensional characters even in their best depictions. But Baymax surpasses that problem in spades and he alone would make the movie worthwhile. Fortunately we get more than just one good character in this movie.

Hiro is a very believable protagonist as well. Sure, he’s a genius and most of us movie goers aren’t but in watching him get caught up in dreams, goals and ultimately grief we see in him a very human, relatable character who’s just trying to figure out who he’s supposed to be in a world that seems very set on taking away all his points of refrerence.

The supporting cast is a lot of fun, too, and better experienced than described. Unfortunately, outside of the mask-wearing villain and Tadashi there’s not much development among them. The movie is already pretty packed and there wouldn’t have been much time for developing them more but it’s still kind of disappointing to have funny stereotypes rather than funny characters. Keep your fingers crossed for a sequel and maybe we’ll see more of them developed.

It’s really hard to talk overmuch about the plot in this film. Most of the villain, from his identity to his goals, is kept a secret until the end so I can’t really say much about it. A shrewd writer will probably see through the twist but the ride is still more than worth it. I will say I like the way the story sets up and then subverts common expectations.

In the end the one complaint I had about Big Hero 6 after walking out of the theater is that I wanted more of it. More fun, more time with the characters, more stories to explore and enjoy. And if that’s the only complaint you have then the movie is obviously doing a lot right.

Thunder Clap: Break Out


I finally managed to squeeze my hands out of the shackles and carefully set them to one side on the floor. Then it was back to the hole in the wall to glance in on Clark. “Alright, I’m out. From the way you were moving around I’m guessing they didn’t bother to tie you up?”

“Just took away all the furniture and jammed the door somehow. If you’re ready to move then so am I. What’s the plan?”

“We need to get out of here.” I drummed my fingers on the wall for a moment. “And if possible, we need to try and wreck whatever system Circuit is using to keep in touch with the outside world. If we can blind him he’s crippled. He was tampering with all those development projects to build a network we couldn’t tamper with, right?”

“That’s a good guess.”

“So where would the connection to that network be?”

Clark thought about it for a few seconds. “Well, in a building of this size it’s going to be somewhere in the basement or subbasements. Probably not down too low, Sykes Telecom wouldn’t have wanted to run too much extra cable through the ground to wind up lower down so I’d guess somewhere in the first basement. Mind you, I have no idea what floor we’re on now.”

“Wonderful. Just a sec.” I crawled over to the door, still careful of my stinging feet, and gave it a once over. It was a wood or faux wood thing that looked hefty enough that it might be useful as something to throw, if I could find enough space to heft it, but probably wouldn’t stop bullets. Assuming I could even rip it off it’s frame without shattering it into something useless. I went back to the wall and asked, “How tall is this building again?”

“Eighty-six stories. Give or take.”

I squeezed the bridge of my nose between the palms of my hands. “And Circuit was pretty far up in the video Helix saw.”

“That’s what he said, yeah.” Clark gave me a worried look through the hole in the wall. “Why? What are you thinking?”

“We could just go straight down from here,” I said, glancing down at the floor before remembering he probably couldn’t follow the action.

Fortunately he caught the idea. “We might, although I’m not going to try and guess what that might do to the building overall. Smashing through eighty floors just to get to the basement doesn’t strike me as the smartest idea if we want the building to keep standing. On the other hand, we might only need to go down a few.”

“Right. The guys who were in here a little while ago seemed like they were overworked. Probably short on people. There’s no way they fill this whole building.” Which reminded me. I waited for a moment, listening to see if there were any signs of life coming from outside. But all was quiet. “I don’t suppose you memorized floor layouts for this place, or anything?”

“No. But Waltham Towers doesn’t have a large footprint, as skyscrapers go. It shouldn’t take us too long to find stairs or an elevator shaft. The real question is did they rig the building in any way? My gut says yes, just because Circuit seems to rig just about everything. If he hasn’t it’s probably a red herring or a trap of some other kind.” Clark thought for a moment. “Five floors. That should put us outside their reach and give me enough time to check over whatever route down we discover before we commit to it. Think you can get us that far?”

That was a stupid question and I answered it by sticking my hands into the hole in the wall, pushing outward a few inches until I touched the joists on either side of it, and said, “Stand back and get ready to move.”

He stood back and got.

One thing you never appreciate about being a human demolition charge until you do it is how dusty the job is. After the first experience or two you either learn to hold your breath really, really well or you get used to coughing and puking everywhere. Tearing through the wall was easy but the bigger mess, drywall pours out huge clouds of dust everywhere and it didn’t settle fast. That meant holding my breath as I stepped into Clark’s room and dropped an elbow on the floor. Under normal circumstances we were supposed to discuss strategy before pulling a forced exit (entry?) like that but the longer we sat around in enemy hands the greater the chance that someone would stumble on us and we’d be in deep.

Breaking through floor is generally less of a mess than walls, it’s mostly insulation, wiring and supports, nothing as powdery as drywall.

The problem is, while I’m pretty muscular my cardio is kind of weak. It comes from not really having to exert much to do anything. While Al’s been working on correcting that in training we haven’t made as much progress as he’d like. And with my feet still in pain and a long night already under my belt I wasn’t exactly in top form to begin with.

So I botched my landing. After coming in through the ceiling I landed in a pile of debris and went down flat, wheezing in a lungful of dust and coughing spastically. I caught a glimpse of a big room, later I’d learn we’d come down in a reception area on the floor below where a singe guard was on station. He couldn’t have gotten a good glimpse of what was going on since one of the light fixtures broke free and went swinging unpredictably through the room on its wiring and casting weird shadows all over the place. The light had just slowed enough that guard man was okay with getting close to see what had happened when Clark dropped through the hole and onto his back, putting him to sleep with a quick follow-up kick.

I didn’t see any of that personally but the dusty footprints on his shirt and sneaker shaped bruise already forming on the guard’s head when I got clear of the wreckage gave me a pretty clear idea of what happened. Clark was frisking him and had already taken his pistol and a spare magazine and was in the process of freeing something else from the man’s waistband. He looked more like the street thugs we’d been seeing all night than the trained paramilitary people that Circuit had used during the Michigan Avenue Proclamation and later at the Chain O’ Rivers state park.

“Circuit must be at the bottom of the barrel,” I said.

“Maybe.” Clark glanced at the gun. “But it’s not like he didn’t have the tools to hurt us.” Then he hefted his other prize. “And this.”

I rolled my eyes. “Your tire iron.”

He grinned. “My tire iron.”

“Just get ready to drop again.”

He collected the sidearm and down we went.

The next three floors were empty, in fact that guard Clark KOed was probably the outer edge of security in the building. But that didn’t mean we were out of the woods. When he failed to report in Circuit’s people would come looking to see what was wrong and it wouldn’t take them long to figure it out. But we hit kind of a snag when we got to the stairs since Clark didn’t want to go down them.

“Just give me a few seconds,” he said, carefully looking over the doorframe. “If this thing is rigged it will be faster to know about it ahead of time.”

After about fifteen seconds of time wasted he finally decided the doorway was safe and we pushed it open with a desk I grabbed out of a nearby office. Well, more like I threw the desk at the door from about twenty feet away. Nothing exploded or shot out of the stairwell at us so he ruled it safe to go in.

In, mind you, not down.

“Stairs and elevators are part of the skeleton of a building.” He rand his hand absently along the stairwell wall. “The major utility wiring runs alongside them. If we can cut it off here we can cut Circuit’s headquarters off. No electricity or Internet will go a long way to blinding him and helping us retake the city.”

“Do you know where the cables are?” I asked, looking around at the blank walls. “And can I rip them out without hurting the building?”

“Oh, a few holes in the wall shouldn’t be that big a deal,” Clark said. “But we don’t want to cause too many or hit anything loadbearing. It won’t drop the whole building but it probably won’t be great for us.”

“Perhaps I could offer an alternative.”

I froze, quickly examining my surroundings even as my brain told me the voice I was hearing was exactly like Amp’s. Which is to say, it had that weird distant quality and no visible source, it sounded much like a tired old man doing the talking.

Clark recovered first. “Can I ask who’s talking here?”

“I’m Special Agent Stillwater of Project Sumter,” the voice answered. “I heard you break into the stairwell just now and you don’t sound like you’re here to ruin our plans. Which is what you’re very close to doing right now. So, again, might I suggest an alternative?”

Clark and I shared a quick glance then I asked, “What did you have in mind?”

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Genrely Speaking: Parody

So last time around I talked about deconstruction and how it’s all about taking a genre back to basics. This month let’s take a look at another genre that’s very meta in it’s approaches to tropes, characters and story – parody.

Parody is a genre (metagenre?), like deconstruction, that is best when the creator behind it has a deep and abiding love of the foundational genre. While it can be done without that love, parodies that are just done to create a parody have a tendency to feel flat and lifeless at best or downright mean-spirited and petty at worst, frequently lapsing into the third metagenre, satire. Parody is closest to a characteristic genre, because most of it’s scenarios are drawn straight from the aesthetic genre being parodied while the characters toss around more lampshades than a discount furniture store.

The goal of all this nonsense is, of course, to illustrate the nonsense of the genre being parodied. Fun is the name of the game, fun had by pushing tropes to the limit and beyond to see how absurd they are then cleverly tying it all together to give the viewers the resolution they expect but not in the way they expected.

When you see the following, it’s probably safe to assume you’re dealing with parody:

  1. Lampshades. Big lampshades. Everywhere. Part of the humor in a parody is showing how the conventions of the parodied genre don’t actually make a whole lot of sense. And then, of course, allowing your characters to accept that absurdity as a part of their world and move on. In addition to being very funny it offers a valuable life lesson – much of real life doesn’t make sense to us but we still need to accept it to be able to function. Doing it with a bit of humor just makes it that much easier to do.
  2. Characters who are dangerously genre savvy. Since parodies tend to stack up tropes faster than Scrooge McDuck stacks money there’s a real need for the main characters to recognize and deal with the situations as fast as possible, otherwise the story either bogs down horribly or reaches the point where any believable resolution is impossible. Most of the time genre savvy is restricted to just one or two characters in a standard genre story – if more are demonstrating it odds are good you’re in a parody.
  3. As much flair and embellishment as possible. While most genres are trying to keep focus on their own central elements parody expects the audience to bring a functional knowledge of the central elements of its parent genre to the table so it can focus on making the tropes as big and over the top as possible rather than digging in to the depths of potential meaning the parent genre has.

What are the weaknesses of a parody? Probably the biggest is the basic investment parody expects its audience to have in the parent genre. A high fantasy parody expects us to understand the idea of rings of power or halflings and be ready to be entertained by them, it’s not going to delve too deeply into those concepts it’s going to be contorting them into new and weird shapes in an attempt to make us laugh.

On top of that, parody is a very loud and bombastic genre, very easily coming off as without reverence for the parent genre it is based on. And in some cases that’s true. A genre can suddenly skyrocket to popularity and detractors of the genre will try and show what’s wrong with it by using a parody – an attempt that pretty much always fails. Other times a creator’s idea of what would make a good parody doesn’t resonate with large chunks of a genre’s audience and the parody’s creator winds up loosing a lot of the audience he should be catering most too.

What are the strengths of a parody? As I said in the above point about lampshading, a good-natured attitude towards apparent absurdity is by no means a bad thing and parodies are very good at showing us how to maintain that. Also, the freakish gambit pileups that are often at the heart of parodies can be incredible showcases for creativity and fresh ideas, something genres can come up short on over time.

Most of all, parodies remind creators not to take themselves too seriously. Yes, being a creator is serious business. It’s very hard work most all of the time. It can be very easy to loose sight of the obligations creators have to their audiences, to loose touch with a spirit of fun that can make even the hardest messages more palatable. By bringing everyone, audience and creator, back in contact with that spirit the parody can do it’s parent genre a great service.

Cool Things: Titan A.E

Does anyone else out there remember this movie? Because it was awesome.

It had a pop-punk soundtrack that was either the best or the worst of it’s era, depending on how much you like that kind of thing, and the art, both hand drawn and digital, was beautiful. The CG hasn’t held up that well with time but for a film produced in the 1990s and released in the year 2000 it’s pretty impressive. The hand drawn stuff is just plain top of the line, classic stuff. It’s never going to age or look bad.

Seriously, whether you absolutely love space opera or you’re just looking for a fun, simple primer to the genre, you can’t go wrong with this movie. It’s animated, sure, but the story is not just for kids, the main characters are fun and the animation is gorgeous. Makes you wonder why there aren’t more fully animated space operas – it really solves the problem of aliens looking fake next to their human counterparts.

Okay, enough about how this film looks. It’s a visual treat but movies need to be more for me to recommend them.

Titan A.E. is an incredibly bold movie, a reminder of different times. For starters, look at the title. That “A.E.” part? It stands for “after Earth” and it’s a signifier of time period, like B.C., A.D. or B.C.E. Yes, this film begins with the death of Planet Earth, not from pollution or relentless warfare but planet destroying superbeings! Humanity has somehow drawn the ire of an alien race called the Drej who decide that blowing up our planet is the best way to deal with us. We’re not told explicitly what they dislike about us but we do know it’s somehow tied to a large spaceship called the Titan.

The creators of the Titan manage to get it off Earth before the planet is destroyed but they kind of disappear afterwards. Cale, our hero, is the son of a chief scientist on the project who’s left effectively an orphan. Humanity, with no home planet or interstellar real estate to work from, is left a poor and dying race and Cale is drifting from job to job and focuses on just scraping by.

Then he meets Captain Joe Korso, someone who claims that he knew Cale’s father and shows Cale that his father left him a clue to find the Titan. And in no time we’re off to find the Titan and see if it can still help humanity in some way – after all, the Drej still seem to want it.

In little, tiny pieces or possibly thrown into the heart of a sun.

There’s a lot of chasing, a lot of searching and a lot of cool spaceships in flight from that point onward. Sure, the story’s not exactly fresh, it basically boils down to a race for the MacGuffin. Sure, Cale’s not a terribly original character and you’ll either love or hate the supporting cast, much like the music, but the whole thing is done with so much heart and cheer that it’s almost impossible not to have fun when you’re watching it.

Titan A.E. isn’t an instant classic but it is a good piece of film trying to do something that animation hasn’t always shot at: Telling honest stories looking at human nature in an straight forward way suitable for all ages. It’s worth seeing on that account alone.

Thunder Clap: Bend and Break


“Clark?” There was no answer so I scooted around until I could turn my head so it faced most of the way into the corner. “Clark, where are you?”

“Sorry, thought there was someone at the door. Best guess is I’m in the next room over. Unless you’ve managed to pick up a few things from Amp when I wasn’t looking.”

Yeah, that had been a silly question in retrospect. “Are you okay?”

“Better than you from the sound of things.” A couple of soft thumps came from the wall. “Did I hear right that you’re in manacles with some kind of explosive dead man’s switch? Can you describe it?”

I looked down at the cuffs on my wrists and thought about it for a moment. “Well, they’re like handcuffs except they’ve got a bar between them instead of a chain. And there’s-”

“What kind of load does the wire carry?”

“Uh…” I picked it up and gave an experimental tug, not that I really learned anything. “It could probably support a couple of hundred pounds, I guess.”

“Not that kind-” He gave the wall a frustrated thump. Yes, frustrated. You’d know one if you heard one. “Look, do you think you could kick in this wall without breaking the wire and blowing your hands off? Or attracting attention?”

“Not breaking the wire is easy.” I looked at the door. “Not attracting attention is probably a pipe dream.”

The wall thumped some more. “Not enough for me to come through it. Just enough to see through. Listen, I think if you position your foot right… here.” There was a firm thump from a half a foot over to my left. “You can go between joists and just shatter drywall. I could do it myself but do it fast enough with enough force and it will make less noise. You just need to be really, really careful to hit the right spot.”

I bit my lower lip. “I don’t know, Clark. My hitting things right hasn’t been that great lately.”

“Just put your boot on it, pull it away and put it right back in the same place. Without sneezing or anything. Just wait a second while I move over a bit.”

I looked at the wall then down at my feet. Being a taxman didn’t mean I was immune to pain and I didn’t think standing on my feet was a good idea at the moment. Kicking wouldn’t be such a big deal, the motion or impact wasn’t really necessary so much as what dad calls projecting force. There’s a lot of image training and stuff that goes into it but the basic idea is, as a battery of energy, all we really need to do to use it is point it in the right direction and let it out to get an effect. So I worked my way around until I was lying on my back and put one foot on the wall about where Clark had told me to break it down. Then I gingerly flexed it so the sole of my foot and thought about trying to jump upwards.

The wall gave way with a sharp crack and my leg lit up with pain like it had been dipped in acid. I let it drop to the ground, wincing, and pulled myself back to a sitting position. Clark was in the process of cleaning loose drywall debris from around the edge of a hole in the wall, about size ten. “Hold the manacles up to the hole.”

I did as he asked and spent the next thirty seconds or so holding the pose as he made quiet “Yes, I see” sounds in the back of his throat. If you’ve never heard these before then you probably don’t watch many mystery movies. Finally, he said, “Okay, I think I see a way for you to get out of those.”

I perked up. “What?”

“The problem is, they couldn’t really put a whole lot of ways to set off the explosives in there without making them too complex and error prone to be practical. So they just explode if the circuit in the manacles are broken.” He reached a hand through and grabbed my wrist that was closer to the hole and stuck his finger between the bracelet and my wrist. His fingertip could only go a half inch or so before it stopped. “Look, if you can work your fingers under the wristbands like this you can probably bend them enough to slip out without actually breaking them and setting the bombs off.”

“Oh, it’s that easy?”

Clark just shrugged off my sarcasm. “Look, metal’s really elastic. That’s one of the things that makes it so useful. Just don’t overdo it and you should be able to bend it no problem.”

I dropped my hands and glared through the hole at Clark. He probably would have been more impressed by it if his hand wasn’t still sticking through the hole. “Maybe you just forgot the conversation we were having but I’ve kind of been lacking in the fine control department lately.”

“I though that was just hitting targets accurately or using the right amount of force at your top end.” His arm withdrew with a grunt and then the left half of his face came into view. “You mean you can’t even move slowly?”

“What part of lacking precision doesn’t compute?”

He made a face I could only guess was confusion. “So you never used your talent to just pick up and carry heavy stuff?”

“Well, sometimes. But never on purpose until a couple of years ago when talents were outed. Papa and mama didn’t want me getting discovered.” I sighed and leaned my forehead against the wall. “It’s not easy to find the right amount of force to do anything practical. It’s like I’m a giant tank of water and the spigot it’s supposed to pour through has corroded shut. To force anything out at all you have to put real pressure on and then when you finally get something it’s water spraying all over the place. If that makes any sense at all.”

“Yes, I see” noises once again.

I turned my stare back up to glare and said, “Stop that.”

“Sorry.” He sighed and was quiet for a few seconds. “You know, I’m kind of surprised, given your father’s past, that he didn’t want you to follow in his footsteps. Was that a religious thing? No putting women at risk?”

“Don’t be silly.” I norted. “If you’d ever met mama you’d know how ridiculous that is. She expects us all to be ready to take charge and keep our families safe and on track. But it’s kind of right, too, I guess. Papa didn’t like the idea of a job where he half his time lying to people and he didn’t want us to, either.”

Clark smiled with real warmth. “Your dad does strike me as a pretty principled guy. You’re lucky to have him around.”

“He retired for us as much as anything, really.” I smiled back, thinking about all the times I’d heard mama and papa arguing quietly about whether he should train my youngest sister and I to use our talent or not. “Papa used to tell my mother he didn’t teach Zoe or I anything beyond basic self control because he felt it was better to live quietly and justly than to seek power in corrupt ways. Mama could never think of a good way for us to use our gifts without attracting Project Sumter’s attention and she didn’t want that anymore than papa did. She remembers what his life was like before they got married and he went to seminary.”

Clark snorted. “Yeah, that’s something else. How did your dad wind up going from street thug to Federal agent to priest?”

“Minister, technically, and he thought it was a natural progression. Mike – I mean, Senator Voorman’s a Christian, you know.” I laughed at Clark’s amazed expression, or at least the half of it I could see. The whole face was probably more than twice as funny. “We do go into politics sometimes, you know.”

“It’s not that,” he spluttered. “I just can’t see him converting anyone…”

“He’s not good with strangers one on one, that’s all. But he convinced papa that it was a better way to live than street life and then papa took it one step further. He visited a lot, before he moved to Washington.” I absently put my hands in my lap, wondering what Clark would think of the fact Zoe called a U.S. Senator Uncle Mike. The bar of my manacles bumped against my leg in a strange fashion and I tensed. “Clark.”


I looked down at my hands which were now clenched together hard enough to turn the knuckles white. The bar of the manacles was bent into a teardrop shape. “Clark, I just put my hands together.”

Clark smirked. Yes, smirked. “Lots of people do that when they’re reminiscing or talking about family, especially if they’re accustomed to religious rituals or-”

My head jerked back up and I pushed my face as close to his as the wall would allow. “Clark Movsessian, did you start me talking about my family just so I’d absently fold my hands together?”

He froze with mouth open and considered his response for a couple of seconds. “No?”

“Because I could have just blown my own hands off because I wasn’t paying attention.”

“I would definitely not have run that kind of risk. Sounds more like a design flaw in the manacles to me.” All signs of smirking were gone now. “You were nervous and I was just trying to calm you down.”

A likely story. “Fine.” I took a couple of deep breaths and got a handle on things again. “So I’m calm and I’ve got my hands together in one place. Now I just work my fingers under the shackles, right?”

“That’s all you need to do. Nice and easy, now.” His gave me half an encouraging smile and said, “You mentioned Zoe, so I guess that’s one of your sisters?”

I nodded, running my fingertips along the edge of the manacle and trying not to think about what they were designed to do. “Zoe’s the youngest.”

“So there’s a sister between you two?”

Another nod. “Alicia. She’s the normal one, didn’t inherit dad’s talent.”

“Tell me about her.”

“Well, she gets to run track…”



It was shortly after 8 AM and I’d just gotten off the phone to Washington – again – when Teresa showed up in my office. I looked at her through bleary eyes and tried to remember why I felt that was wrong. I liked it when Teresa was in my office. But for some reason I thought it strange that she was there at the moment. It wasn’t that I thought she didn’t like being there, although I hadn’t seen any sign that she did. But she had her own office to work in when she wasn’t out in the field and-

And my brain is no exception to the rule that the sleep deprivation makes you stupid. “Aren’t you supposed to be out in the field?”

She slumped down into one of the chairs in front of my desk and said, “Sanders called me back when Samson went out. He said he didn’t want too many senior people in Circuit’s area of operations while we still have no idea what exactly he’s doing.”

“That was probably good thinking.” I leaned back in my chair and gave her my undivided attention. “So far we here in the office have covered the same ground three or four times and we don’t know any more than we did out in the field. Different branches of the government keep calling to ask if we’re really sure it’s a criminal we’ve dealt with before and would we like their assistance. It’s getting harder to convince them to focus on cleaning up the other four sites and let us deal with this mess here.”

“Other four sites?!” Her eyes rolled up to heaven in some kind of unspoken plea, then she folded her arms on my desk and dropped her head down into them. “I may never sleep again. I’ll die of exhaustion and they’ll wonder why I looked like a hag when they buried me.”

“You look fine. Better than me for sure.” I stifled a yawn and shook my head in a vain attempt to focus my thoughts. “Anyway, the other attack sites are all outside Midwest jurisdiction so we’re probably not going to be involved in cleaning those up at all. Did you find out anything on the mean streets?”

“We were trying to clean up those EMP stations Circuit’s put out but so far we only managed to take half a dozen. I think Massif was going to try and cut a clear path for emergency response vehicles to move through but I’m not sure how it’s going now. I slept through most of the car ride back here.” She grimly pushed herself back into a sitting position. “We still don’t have much in the way of actual intelligence on what’s going on out there. We talked to a couple of cops who’ve been interviewing those groups of thugs Circuit’s been leaving around but all we really got from them is that there was some guys in combat gear going around and beating the crap out of looters and the like. Looks like they disappeared come daylight.”

“Not surprised.” I sighed. “Maybe we could-”

My phone ringing cut me off. I thought about not answering but the caller ID said it was Jack’s desk phone, not an outside line. So against my better judgment, I answered.

“Mrs. Sykes flight just touched down,” Jack said. “She’ll be here in about an hour.”

“You’re bringing her in under high security, I hope?”

“Triple strength.”

Despite my exhaustion I smiled. “Good. Maybe we can finally get some idea what part Matthew Sykes has in all this. Let me know the minute she walks in the door, Jack.”

“Will do.”

I hung up and glanced at Teresa. “New plan. I’m going to get a nap in the hopes Mrs. Sykes won’t be too frightened of me to answer questions when she gets here.”

“You, trying to be civil? Tell you what, you nap and I’ll sell tickets.” Teresa shoved herself up and out of the chair and headed to the door. “See you in an hour.”

I was worried I’d have trouble sleeping given all the stress I was under but for some reason I was able to relax and fall asleep almost as soon as I hit my cot.

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