It was a mild summer’s day in Washington as Agent Slate pulled into S.P.L.I.C.E. (Society for Persons Licensed to Investigate and Contain Extra-humans) with his partner, Shamus McGraidy. The top level organization was a relatively recent creation, but had proven to be an utterly necessary arm of the Pentagon. They dealt with the superhuman problem so that the average patriotic American could sleep at night.
The year was 1950. The age of superhumans had begun two decades before, and the government had been playing catchup ever since. The first batch had fought crime or instigated it, and then when the war started, they had joined on one side or another. Now that it was over, the heroes that America had come to love were hanging up their capes and cowls. Either they had seen too much, or they had done too little, and they had collectively turned from society and left it to itself.
Problem was, the villains were still out there, and they would never have enough crime or violence or the various and sundry other threats that were possible to be made to the well-being of American citizens.
And so, S.P.L.I.C.E. was born out of necessity. Criminals had to be dealt with, even if the heroes who would have fought them were suffering from weak knees.
Slate left Shamus in the entrance hall. The Director had called them both in, but it was always the unassuming, deceptively young-looking man with the forgettable face that he wanted to see. Penny Pocket, the secretary, gave him a quick wink and a thumb in the direction of the office. “He’s waiting for you, Agent Slate,” she said, “seems like you’ve got yourself a new job.”
The man gave a nod. “What’s the old man’s temperature?”
Penny gave him a coy smile. “Well, I wouldn’t say he was boiling over this morning, but he’s more than lukewarm.”
Slate grimaced. He and the director had an…adversarial conversation language. He nodded again to the secretary before resigning himself to the short walk down the hall and into the smokey office. The Director liked his cigars, and the 68 year old man felt that others should share his passion. The windows of the room were tightly shut.
“Agent Slate. That business in Philadelphia?” Slate nodded, and the Director continued, “Good. About time you got something right. Goddamn commies.” He pulled an article out of a dossier spread in front of him. “Slate, I’ve got another one for you. A big one. You know Central City?”
The agent shook his head. “I’ve heard it on the radio, though, chief. City of wonder. New age of technological breakthrough, blah blah blah. Never been.”
The Director tapped the paper in front of him. “You’ll be seeing a lot of it. I’m assigning you there. We’re getting increasing reports of science gone wonky, and when there’s wild science, you bet your ass there will be supers.”
Slate took the report, skimming through. “Chief, Central is a big place. If there’s this much activity, I don’t think I can contain even the small stuff. Not just me and Shamus. If we get another one like New York-”
The Director slammed his fist on the table. “New York is NOT happening again. You hear me, Slate? We lost our last heavy hitter there, and I do NOT have another Marshal Force waiting in the wings to bail your sorry ass out. No. We’re doing this one smart, and we’re doing it right. We are going to nip this one in the fucking bud.”
He dissolved into a fit of hacking coughs for a few moments, before pulling out another dossier and handing it across. It was labeled Section 9. “That’s a set of names and last known locations for a few new supers who have popped up on our radar. They aren’t angels, most of ’em. At least one definitely missed his flight for heaven, but I think we can steer them away from becoming demons, and maybe we can even make good use of them in the process.”
Slate glanced down at the first name. “I’ve heard of Tempest. She’s here in D.C. isn’t she?”
The Director nodded. “Got an idea that she might be working for our guys in R&D. Patrols the residential areas, mostly. The kids love her, but we think she can pack more oomph than she’s letting on. Hit her up first. The rest you’ll have to go out of town for. I’ve got a travel budget for you.”
Slate shook his head and sighed. “I’m not here ten minutes and you’re sending me away again. Won’t you miss me, Chief?”
The Director shot him a glare. “I’ll shed a goddamn tear every time I think of how you aren’t in arm’s reach so I can beat your ass.”
Slate turned and headed out the door. “You’d have to get up first, old man.” He shut the door behind him just as the director’s chair scraped along the hardwood floor with an oath.