By James LaFleur & Gordon Massie

LaFleur
Massie

All Books by 
LaFleur & Massie: 

 

ORDER OF 5IVE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON—EPISODE ONE

The special express elevator stopped on the 103rd floor of the Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan. As the elevator doors slid open, nine passengers were greeted by a small sign painted on the glass door on the other side of the elevator lobby. The sign, in black lettering, proclaimed, “Order of 5ive Headquarters.” A bouquet of colorful helium balloons tied with bright ribbons floated up from a large wicker basket on the floor just outside the glass door. The basket was filled with crackers, cookies, and other snacks along with three bottles of champagne. A small note on the basket read, “Welcome, Order.” It was signed by Senator Kenneth Aldridge.

The seven members of the East Coast Order—five field operatives, codenamed Ace, Diamond, Heart, Jack, and Joker, along with their two leaders, codenamed King and Queen—tried not to appear startled. After years of operating in the shadows, they were still getting used to the idea of working in the open. As far as the public knew, the team of special-ability teenage superheroes, whose mission was to clean up the monsters plaguing the East Coast, had only recently been established.

“Here we are,” announced the man who was leading the team on a tour of their new facility. Marvin Kolodny was a special aide to Senator Kenneth Aldridge, the man behind the Order and its new HQ. Kolodny gestured for his charges to exit the car, and then he and Rachel Swanson, a government information officer, stepped out behind them.

King, Queen, and the five team members gazed around the elevator lobby and peered through the glass door that led to the inner lobby.

“Smells new,” Diamond said.

“Everything is brand new, Miss Stone,” said Rachel Swanson. “Your government wants nothing but the best for you and the team.”

“Shall we?” Marvin Kolodny said as he swiped an identification card past a card reader on the wall next to the door. He pushed the door open and held it for the others. “You’ll have your own cards, of course, and there’s also a special reader built into this door handle that reads the handprints of Order members.” He chuckled. “In case anyone ever loses a card.”

King stooped down and picked up one of the champagne bottles. He handed it to Rachel Swanson. “Maybe you can put this on ice.”

The group entered a reception area and looked around. A television screen on the wall behind the reception desk was tuned to a cable news channel. The sound was off, but the team caught a brief glimpse of some video footage that showed a creature that looked like a cross between a Komodo dragon and a Spanish fighting bull slinking through Central Park. It was one of the few beasts still on the loose in New York since the Order had gone public and begun what the media were calling “The Great Creature Crackdown.” It was only a matter of time before the “cowmodo” would be captured as well. Once New York City was cleared, the team would move to other areas of the eastern seaboard. That was the plan, anyway.

Kolodny took them from the reception area to the main part of the floor. As they gathered in the hallway, Kolodny turned to the seven members of the Order and cleared his throat. Swanson walked up next to him.

“On a personal note,” Kolodny began. “I just want to say how grateful Rachel and I are for what you seven are doing for your country. For you to step forward and volunteer to let your bodies be augmented by our government scientists is truly courageous and remarkable. So thank you. Thank you, all.”

Swanson, who was smiling and nodding while Kolodny addressed the team, spoke next. “I agree completely with Marv,” she said. “To undergo experimental bodily transformations just so you can go out and risk your lives capturing dangerous creatures … well, it’s truly above and beyond the call of duty.”

“Thank you both,” King said while trying not to catch the eye of any other Order members. He was no stranger to intrigue, but the fabricated story of the “recent” founding of the supposedly “new” team was disturbing. He would, of course, be gracious to these two officials, who were most likely ignorant of the schemes and deceptions swirling around the Order of 5ive. “We appreciate your kind words, and we’ll try to live up to your generous praise.”

Joker, who sensed that his teammates were trying desperately to hold in their laughter, made a comment that let them laugh out loud without raising suspicion. “I hear Redrum Games is making a video game about the Order,” he said. One could almost hear the tension go out of the air as his teammates exploded in laughter.

The walk-through continued. Everything—offices, furniture, equipment, decorations—looked and smelled fresh and modern. It was a far cry from their old headquarters in an ancient and abandoned section of the New York City subway system that, coincidentally, had been located below the very building they now occupied. The brain of that operation had been three old subway cars retrofitted to serve as office, situation room, and communications center. The brain of the new HQ was on the top floor of the building, the last stop on the tour.

Kolodny led them to a huge cafeteria with high, slanting windows and a magnificent view of Lower Manhattan. “We hired one of New York’s top caterers to train our people to run the dining hall,” he told them. “You’ll have your choice of anything you want for breakfast—waffles, pancakes, bacon, eggs however you like them, whatever you want—and four hot meals for lunch and dinner, plus sandwiches made to order, burgers, hot dogs, four kinds of soup, a salad bar, and a large array of dessert items.”

“I’m getting hungry already,” Ace said. The smells of simmering chicken soup and roasting prime rib permeated the air.

“Excellent, Mr. Kimble, we have a special lunch planned for you today,” Swanson said.

“You can call me Kayshawn,” Ace said.

Swanson smiled and nodded. “Lunch will be in the private dining room.”

“Which we’ll show you now,” Kolodny said. They followed him to the far end of the large cafeteria and into a smaller dining room. The room’s elegant décor, in muted colors, was simple but elegant. Round walnut tables and matching chairs were spread about the room at discreet distances from one another, and unpretentious but expensive-looking window treatments were hanging open, letting in bright sunlight. A few modern paintings, executed in a spare but captivating style, hung on the walls. As they walked toward the windows, the tobacco-colored carpeting felt plush without seeming extravagant. The room had the same spectacular view of the city.

“It’s lovely,” Queen said. “I hope all this opulence doesn’t spoil us.”

“Your government wanted you to feel appreciated, Miss LeFay,” Swanson said.

“Please, call me Delila,” Queen said.

“What’s the private dining room used for?” Heart asked.

“Well, Miss Zhang, it could be used for luncheon meetings or when special guests are visiting, or if a particular group has a speaker or lecturer,” Swanson said. “It could even be used for departmental celebrations.”

Heart smiled. “Why don’t you call me Grace.”

The group left the dining area, and Kolodny and Swanson showed the team the rest of the 103th floor, which included a 24-hour snack shop, a bookstore that also served as a gift shop and stationery store, offices, conference rooms, and storage areas. There was even a small office that served as a local branch of a credit union that Order members were eligible to join.

A special elevator ran between the top three floors, and they took it to the 104th, where Kolodny and Swanson continued the tour. The first stop was King’s private suite, which included living space and an office. King was somewhat embarrassed at the extravagance of it.

Diamond was about to tell him not to worry, that he’d have it scuffed and trashed in no time. But it occurred to her that she didn’t know how much their tour guides knew. They might know everything, or they might believe, like the rest of the public, that the seven operational members of the East Coast Order had first met only a month ago. She would have to be careful about what she said to outsiders and to the public. They all would.

The five teens perked up when they saw their own quarters. Not quite as lavish as King’s rooms, the team suite had ten bedrooms, a small kitchen and pantry, a lounge with a television, a game room, and a meeting room.

“Pretty nice,” Diamond murmured as they went from room to room.

“Glad you like it, Miss Stone,” said Swanson.

“Call me Vicki.”

“Do we get to choose our rooms?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Mr. Ahote,” Kolodny said.

“Call me Jack.”

Most of the rest of the floor consisted of a large gym, smaller training rooms, a weight room, and a few offices. The 104th also housed the team’s armory and firing range, which was of particular interest to the Order members. Once inside the weapons room, Diamond looked at the handguns, rifles, and submachine guns that were displayed on one wall. A Beretta M9 9 mm quickly caught her eye, but she also inspected 9 mm Glocks and a selection of Rugers, Sig Sauers, Colts, and Smith & Wesson M&Ps. She moved to the submachine gun area and saw UZIs, Colts, Sten guns, and Thompson .45-calibers. She smiled at the last. “Tommy gun,” she said to Heart, who was scrutinizing an assortment of riot guns nearby. “Haven’t seen one of these for a while.”

Ace looked at a variety of manriki-gusaris, and Jack hefted escrima sticks. Joker had particular interest in the rifle scopes, including a collection of the latest night-vision scopes.

“Everything meet with your satisfaction?” Kolodny asked when they were finished.

The team members all nodded solemnly.

They took the special elevator to the 105th floor, the top story of the building. Rachel Swanson didn’t accompany them. “I don’t quite have the necessary security clearance for that space,” she said with a shrug. “I’ll go down to 103 and see about lunch. I’ll wait for you there.”

“Here on the top floor is the heart and the brain of the Order operation,” Kolodny said as they stepped from the elevator into a small lobby that led to a long room with rows of workstations. Most of the workstations were occupied, and the group heard the tapping of computer keyboards and a few muted conversations.

King glanced around, looking for his filing cabinets from the old station, but he wasn’t sure how much Kolodny knew. “Uh, what about filing cabinets?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

Kolodny smiled. “No filing cabinets. Everything here is computer based, and all the files from your former headquarters have been digitized and transferred here. Everything is categorized and prioritized based on the threat posed by the various anomalies.”

So, Kolodny knew the truth. He knew the Order wasn’t a new organization. One of these days King would have to ask Senator Aldridge who knew what so there would be no slipups.

“We have the latest in high-end electronics, manned by highly trained computer operators, radar watchers, folks looking at incoming data from satellite feeds, you name it,” Kolodny was saying. “Whatever forms of data and intelligence the mind of man has been capable of producing, you’ll find it here. This floor also has a science and technology department with a fully equipped science lab.”

Joker was engrossed in the high-tech surroundings and began peppering Kolodny with questions. The man answered as best he could but admitted to not knowing all the details Joker was interested in.

“You’ll have a full intelligence briefing soon, Mr. Kiehm,” Kolodny said.

“You can call me Brandon,” Joker said.

Kolodny took them to a separate room at one end of the floor. They stepped inside the windowless space, and Kolodny closed the door behind them. Silence filled the room. There was barely even a rumor of moving air from the heating and cooling vents, and the sounds from the outer area were completely blocked out.

The seven members of the Order looked around. An array of flat screens was built into the wall at one end of the room, and there were rows of larger screens along two other walls. Docking stations for laptops were built into a long oblong conference table, which also had secure telephones, small high-definition video screens, and other communications equipment.

King and the others were more than impressed. They were speechless, thunderstruck. Their attachment to the old subway station and their train-car command center was quickly fading into a fond memory. Joker was practically levitating with joy.

“If the 105th floor is the brains of the Order’s operation, then this room is the cerebral cortex,” Kolodny said. “This is the command center—and your crisis room, or ‘hot room,’ if you will. It will be manned by four rotating shifts of observation teams monitoring intelligence twenty-four/seven. Each watch team will have at least three intelligence monitors, including a team leader, plus a communications expert and what we call a tagging analyst, who classifies and prioritizes intel and sends it on to other, specialized analysts. Those specialists determine priorities and further rank the importance of each bit of information.”

Kolodny looked at King. “Mr. Benton here is the last link in that communications chain. And of course the people in Washington who need to know what Mr. Benton knows.”

“Quite a place you’ve arranged for us,” King said as he took a seat in one of the plush leather chairs and began swiveling around, getting used to the room. The other six followed suit.

“You can thank Senator Aldridge,” Kolodny said. “He wanted the best of everything for the Order.”

King smiled. “Yes, I’m sure he did. I’ll be sure to thank Senator Aldridge next time I see him.”

“There’s just one more brief stop before lunch,” Kolodny said.

That last stop was the building’s roof, home to a helipad and a helicopter maintenance shop. In one corner, partially enclosed by a latticed cedar fence, was a small garden retreat. It was the last thing Kolodny showed them.

“This little patch is just for you operational members of the Order,” Kolodny explained as the seven team members looked around. There were wooden park benches, and King, Queen, Diamond and the others sat and stared at a tiny patch of heather that was in full bloom despite the cold weather.

“That looks like some of the heather Percy planted,” Diamond whispered softly to King. She put a hand to her face and wiped at a tear that was threatening to fall.

“I think it is,” King whispered back.

The seven members of the Order sat quietly for a few minutes looking at the heather and thinking about their late friend and King’s father, Percy Benton. They all knew, without speaking, that this small place, this simple refuge at the pinnacle of their gleaming high-tech headquarters, would always be a reminder of home.



After lunch, Kolodny and Swanson departed, and King and Queen walked around their new headquarters greeting friends and colleagues from the old subway command center and introducing themselves to new members of the Order support team. Meanwhile, the Five repaired to their suite and chose their rooms. Afterward, they relaxed in the suite’s lounge.

“I hope we don’t get spoiled by all this extravagance,” Heart said.

“I’ll see what I can do to keep that from happening,” Diamond replied.

“It’s still hard to believe that we used to be under the World Trade, hiding like rats, and now we’re public figures living large on top of the Freedom Tower,” Joker said.

“Seriously, a guy could get used to this,” Jack said as he looked around the lounge and settled back in a leather recliner. “I hope it doesn’t take the edge off our skills and our, you know, daring.”

Diamond, who was sitting on a leather sofa, launched herself at Jack and tipped over the recliner he was sitting in. “Yeah, I see what you mean,” she said as she untangled herself from her startled teammate and pulled the recliner back onto its base. “I hope you’re not slowing down.”

Jack disappeared in a blur and reappeared on the sofa where Diamond had been sitting. He picked up her soft drink and noisily gulped it down. Diamond picked up the recliner, held it in one hand, and said to Jack, “Is this yours?”

Ace sent a surge of electricity crackling around the room, and Heart held out her hands, which were turning bright red. Joker did a cartwheel across the floor and leaped into the recliner that Diamond was still holding aloft. She set it down gently and went to fetch herself another soft drink.



The next morning, King called a brief meeting in his office. As soon as the other six were seated, he began.

“As you know, thanks to Senator Aldridge, who I could choke right about now, I’m handling both the East Coast and West Coast divisions of the Order.”

“So you’re going bi,” Diamond said. “Bicoastal I mean. I guess you’ll be logging a lot of flight time.”

“Not just yet,” said King. “The West Coast kids have come east.”

“They’re here now?” Ace asked.

King nodded. “They’re getting the grand tour of the place as we speak. When they finish their walk-through, we’re supposed to introduce ourselves and make them feel at home.”

“Newbies,” Diamond said with an evil grin. “Can’t wait to make them feel at home.”

King glared at her. “I’m glad it makes you happy. As for me, I’m not afraid to admit that having to run both divisions is more than a bit overwhelming. It was hard enough dealing with just one gang of unruly teenage troublemakers.”

“Which unruly teenage troublemakers are you talking about, King?” Diamond asked with a straight face.

“Very funny.”

The telephone buzzed and King picked it up. He listened for a moment and then said, “Please escort them to the team suite. We’ll meet them there.”

Diamond rubbed her palms together and glanced at Ace. “Come on, partner,” she said. “Let’s break these wimps in properly.”

Ace grinned back, and they all got up to meet their new colleagues.

Only three of the five West Coasters had showed up, which annoyed King even more. Diamond considered it an advantage. “We can torture these three losers first, and then have a whole new contingent to abuse,” she happily explained as she and her four teammates walked with King to the team suite. They met the three in the team lounge, and King made the introductions before leaving the newcomers to their fate.

Diamond wasted no time. “So, run those names by us one more time,” she said to the three teenage boys, who were sitting together on one of the sofas. Diamond had pulled a chair to a position in front of the sofa and was facing them like the Grand Inquisitor. The other four East Coast members were scattered around the lounge, waiting to take their lead from Diamond.

“I’m Dylan Severn,” answered the boy in the middle, a slender youth about Ace’s height with a slight lisp and a shock of brown hair that kept falling over his forehead. “Code name Deuce.”

“Douche?” Diamond said with a puzzled look. Her teammates snickered behind her.

“Deuce,” Dylan repeated. “I have sonar power.”                 

Diamond scowled at him. “Sonar power, huh. So, what, you can track submarines, maybe find a school of herrings in case we want to pickle something? Sounds really useful, dude.”

“Maybe he can find the rubber ducky Jack lost in the Bahamas,” Heart said to another round of snickers.

“What about you?” Diamond said to the teen on Deuce’s right, a muscular blond who looked like a gymnast.

“Garrett Larson, code name Trey. I’m an acrobat of sorts.”

“Ever garrote anyone, Garrett?” Ace asked.

Trey looked puzzled.

“Never mind,” Ace said. “What about you,” he said to the third boy.

“Oscar Bland. I can freeze time.”

Diamond and Ace looked at each other. “Oscar Bland,” Diamond said. “There’s gotta be a gag in there somewhere, but I’m not coming up with anything.”

Ace scratched his head. “Me neither.”

They turned back to Oscar. “Code name?” Ace asked.

“Ace.”

“Oh, no, that won’t do,” said Ace, shaking his head. “I’m Ace. You can’t be Ace. Nope, sorry, Oscar, that won’t do at all.”

“Um, you could call me West Coast Ace,” Oscar said. “Or just West Ace.”

“West Ace, West Ace,” Diamond murmured. “Wait, it’s coming to me. Yeah, I’ve got it. West Ace—Waste!”

The five East Coast team members erupted in laughter as Oscar’s face turned pink.

Garrett Larson, the newcomer with the code name Trey, seemed mildly amused by the proceedings. “So, tell me,” he said to Diamond. “What’s your special ability? Wait, let me guess—you insult the monsters to death.”

“Whoa,” Jack said. “This one fights back.”

“That’s good,” Diamond said. “We need people with some fight in them.” Then she picked up the sofa that the three West Coasters were sitting on and dumped them onto the floor.

“She’s real strong,” Joker said.

The three newbies brushed themselves off and sat back down. Trey was grinning. The other two looked terrified.

Jack stood up from his chair and disappeared in a blur. He reappeared in front of the newcomers. “I’m real fast.”

Trey looked at him. “Were you always that fast?”

Jack shook his head. “No, I had to develop the ability.”

“I’ll bet at one time you could only go at about half the speed you can reach now,” Trey said.

Jack shrugged. “Yeah, probably so.”

“So, you were half fast,” Trey said.

The room erupted in laughter, and even Deuce and Waste joined in.

“He’s still half-assed,” Diamond said after she caught her breath.

“What about weapons?” Ace asked after everyone settled down.

“Weapons?” Deuce asked.

“Yeah, weapons,” Diamond said. “You know, like guns and knives, battle tanks, aircraft carriers.”

“Swords, lances, pikes,” Jack said.

“Long bows, crossbows, fighter planes, cruise missiles,” said Joker.

“Manriki-gusari, escrima sticks, boomerangs,” Ace put in.

“Night sticks, dart guns, sawed-off shotguns,” Heart added.

The three West Coasters glanced at one another. “We haven’t had much weapons training yet,” Trey admitted.

Diamond stood up. “Then I guess it’s time you got started,” she said, as her four East Coast teammates rose from their seats. She looked at the newcomers and smiled. “Come with us. You can help us break in the new firing range.”

“Maybe we should start with some martial arts training,” Ace suggested.

“Excellent idea,” Diamond said, visions of flailing bodies boogieing in her head.

The newbies surprised the East Coasters by throwing themselves into the martial arts training with no hesitation, and they took their lumps without whining. Diamond didn’t know if they were good candidates to begin with or simply wanted to prove they were worthy of better treatment than they’d received so far from their hosts. Either way, she was impressed with their spunk and their seriousness. The newcomers’ attitude rubbed off on their hosts, who soon dropped their sarcasm and verbal abuse and gave them a good workout. Clearly, these three West Coasters had potential.

Diamond insisted that the newbies’ introduction to guns be a contest. She chose Trey for her partner, and West Coast Ace paired with Heart while Deuce teamed up with Joker. Ace and Jack busied themselves changing targets.

The competition began with handguns and finished with submachine guns. Diamond and Trey won, but it was a close contest, with Heart and Waste only a few points short of the winners, and Joker and Deuce not far behind them.

After the martial arts introduction and the shooting competition, the five East Coasters looked at their West Coast counterparts with new respect. The West Coasters knew they’d done well, but they also understood they had a ways to go to fully prove themselves.

“Not bad,” Diamond said as she glanced at the three. “I think you’ve earned lunch.”

The eight teammates left the firing range and proceeded to the dining hall together.



There was an all-team video conference with Senator Aldridge scheduled for the following day at 11 a.m. Aldridge had instructed King to be in the conference room alone at 10:30. King was waiting when the call came through and his video screen brightened with the senator’s visage. Senator Aldridge was in his mid to late middle age, a distinguished-looking man with a full head of hair, graying but still showing evidence of its original dark color. His face was deeply tanned, whether from tropical vacations or perhaps a home tanning bed, King didn’t know, but Aldridge certainly could afford either—or both.

“Good morning, Senator,” King said to the image on his vid screen. “The others will be here in thirty minutes.”

“I know,” Aldridge said. “I wanted to talk to you alone before the briefing. There’s something you need to know.”

King felt his insides shrivel. Recently, whenever Aldridge had something to tell King it was bad news. He was the one who had told King that the old Order was being shut down and that King would lead the “new” East Coast and West Coast Orders. King looked forward to the day when he’d have some bad news for Aldridge. He knew the truth about the Order’s founding from Riker, a former West Coast Order member who had gone rogue. He also knew that Aldridge was a ruthless foe, not only King’s enemy but also the country’s.

King put his thoughts aside and tried to smile. “Do tell, Senator. I’m all ears.”

“I plan to announce my candidacy for the presidency of the United States in a few days,” Aldridge said.

King was thunderstruck, but he kept his frozen smile in place. “Well, congratulations, Senator, and, uh, best of luck to you.” The phony smile was beginning to hurt.

“Thank you, Eleazar. I wanted you to know ahead of time.”

King wondered why. He hoped the senator wasn’t about to ask him for a donation to his campaign. Whoever wound up running against him would have King’s vote as well as a generous contribution—under an assumed name, of course. The thought of supporting Aldridge’s opponent turned King’s plastic smile into a genuine one. Nevertheless, King knew Aldridge was likely to win the election. No doubt he’d been setting events in motion for his run for a long time. Aldridge was corrupt and power-hungry, but he wasn’t stupid. Meanwhile, if he did win the White House, there was no telling what potential effects a President Aldridge might have on the Order. At the moment, King couldn’t bear to think about that contingency.

The other members of the Order, including Queen and the three newcomers from the West Coast, began to drift into the conference room.

“Good morning, Senator Aldridge,” Diamond said as she took her seat and glanced at her vid screen. “So nice to see you.”

Aldridge flashed his thousand-watt smile—which no doubt would soon become familiar to people across the country—and said, “It’s nice to see you, too, Miss Stone.”

When everyone was seated, the briefing began.

“I hope you’ve all settled into your new quarters by now,” Aldridge said. “I hope you like your new command center.”

The sudden eruption of positive comments from the assembled group sounded just the slightest bit forced. King chuckled to himself. Obviously, the other members of the Order knew instinctively how to stroke the senator’s ego and make him feel their gratitude.

“Very good, very good,” Aldridge said. “Excellent. I … We spared no expense to make sure you have what you need.”

The remainder of the briefing was routine. King wanted to discuss restructuring, but the senator waved him off and dismissed his concerns. Then a knock came on the door, which opened to reveal a teenage boy and girl accompanied by two middle-aged men in gray suits. King thought the suits—government men who owed their allegiance to Aldridge, no doubt—looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place them. He shook his head. Perhaps he was getting paranoid. Or perhaps he wasn’t paranoid enough.

“Ah,” Senator Aldridge said when he saw the newcomers. “I was just about to tell you that the two missing members from the West Coast would be showing up.”

“So I see,” King said.

“The young lady is Melanie Terpak, known as Spade, and the young man is Robert Egan, known as Clubs. They’re replacing the former West Coast Jack and Joker, who, as you know, went missing.”

What King knew was that the former West Coast Jack and Joker were now known as Blaze and Force, and they were working with Riker, who had become an ally of sorts to King and the East Coast Order. It was all very cloak and dagger, King thought to himself. Pretty soon, he’d need a scorecard to keep all the players straight.

“Melanie and Robert will be fine additions to your team, Eleazar,” Aldridge was saying.

King looked over the newcomers, who were taking seats at the conference table while the men accompanying them stood near the door. Then he turned to the senator’s face on his vid screen. “I wonder why they didn’t come with the other three.”

“They only just completed their training,” Aldridge said. “They flew out as soon as they were ready.”

King turned to Spade and Clubs. “Welcome aboard,” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic, or at least not antagonistic.

“Thank you, sir,” Clubs said with a winning smile.

King already didn’t like the boy.

The briefing ended, and the vid screens went blank. The participants shuffled out of the room and went their separate ways, but King remained inside the room. Diamond hung back until the others had dispersed and then went back to talk to King. “So, chief, what’s first on the agenda? Capture the cowmodo that’s been chasing squirrels in Central Park?”

King shook his head. “Later. The squirrels can take care of themselves for now. We need to attend to housework. Tidy your rooms, get the lay of the land, and I’ll see you at dinner. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go smoke a stogie on the helipad and figure out what we’ve gotten ourselves into.”