Run-In with a SuperHero

Run-In with a SuperHero

Rep. Harald Baranski, D-Mich., once scoffed at the idea that magic existed. He laughed at the folks who believed in superheroes, superstitions, or anything supernatural.

That was before he met Scarlet.

Baranski was always something of a stiff, anyway. With his balding pate, wire-rimmed glasses and stern demeanor, the Congressman wasn't exactly Man of the Year material. The bureaucratic chaos of the Capitol suited him almost naturally (what a scary thought, huh?), and the countless committee hearings and meetings were more his forte than spending time down at the club. While most folks would find that sort of "recreation" as boring, Baranski found his thrills in the debates on the House floor and bashing his opponents with the help of the scandal-happy media.

But that all changed on a beautiful summer day in Washington, D.C.

You see, Mr. Baranski was very late for a committee hearing that morning, thanks to two accidents caused by his son, Harry Jr. Mrs. Baranski was gone on a two-day ladies' retreat for their church, and he had resignedly elected himself to sort through the mess that Harry Jr. had tried to hide the night before. (Hey, Junior, don't ever try the volcano experiment at two in the morning and think you can get away with leaving the scientific failures strewn all over the kitchen floor. You did this time, but...) By the time he reached the Capitol, it was after one pm and the hearing had ended nearly two hours ago. Needless to say, Mr. Baranski was not a happy man.

He slammed his way into his office, upsetting his secretary and the two college interns compiling information for the latest bill he was trying to push through the House. He ignored them, however, and went into his more private office, shutting the door with an exasperated sigh.

Then he saw the young woman sprawled across his burgundy leather chair behind the desk, and nearly yelled in surprise.

"Shhh," she said in a hushed voice, pointing to the two interns and the secretary, who were now staring at him through the glass door.

Smiling weakly, Baranski waved them off and pulled down the shades. Then he turned around and glared at his surprise visitor. Or should that be intruder?

"Young lady, who the hell are you and what are you doing in my office?"

The woman stretched almost lazily and got up, and Baranski forced himself to tear his eyes away from her beautiful self. Did she always have this effect on all the normal men she came across?

"As a matter of fact, Mr. Baranski, I do not," she replied with a mock-sweet smile. "And if I do...well, I never notice."

"Are you reading my mind?" he demanded.

"Nope. Any telepath within a 50-mile radius could've probably heard that thought. You're broadcasting loud and clear."

Mr. Baranski huffed and planted his hands on his hips. "Please get out of here, whoever you are. I have work to do."

"So do I," she answered, and all the playfulness vanished from her lovely face. "Mr. Baranski, my name is Scarlet. I need your help getting information on a certain persona."

"I'm not a detective, young miss," he retorted impatiently. "You can always go to the FBI and request a FOIA find on your mystery person. Now please leave."

Scarlet went on, undeterred. "Mr. Baranski, the persona in question could possibly be endangering the citizens of this entire country. I know I can go to the FBI or one of the other federal agencies to retrieve this information, but I heard you were an expert in this sort of field."

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"I mean your free tuition bill. I mean college. I mean the students that attend those colleges. You've been doing research on this issue for about seven or eight years now, right?"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Plenty," Scarlet replied flatly. "An amendment to your free tuition bill that you opposed was determining who got the money on the basis of past drug convictions. If a student had a conviction on their record, no money. Well, Mr. Baranski, there happens to be a 27-year-old former genius on the loose who has a grudge against the U.S. government and is threatening to blow up the Capitol building in less than two weeks if we don't give him $78 million. This same man was responsible for the Tuesday bombing in Manhattan. He also used to work for you as an intern four years ago, and he helped with your research on this bill. He specifically suggested this very amendment about drug convictions, and you rejected it."

Mr. Baranski stared at her. Something in her expression told him she was serious. But...

"Why should I believe you?"

"You don't have to. But I think you knew a Shaun Dupries once, right?"

"Well, yes..."

"Mr. Baranski, I need the name of his hometown. I also need to know if he had any nicknames while he worked here."

"But — but that's confidential information." Baranski began to sputter.

Scarlet drew out a long sigh and flexed her hands. "You know, I normally don't resort to blackmail to get what I want, but there's always a first time for everything..."

Mr. Baranski turned pale and managed to keep his thoughts to himself. Now how had she known about that seven month affair with the vice president's wife?

One slender eyebrow rose in question when Scarlet saw the look on his face. "Hmm," she mused with a little smile, "that normally doesn't work right away. The hometown, Mr. Baranski?"

He just continued to stare at her.

"Sir, I'm afraid I'm on a time limit here."

Baranski jerkily turned and opened the door a crack. "Jarrod!"

One of the interns looked up. "Yeah, sir?"

"Get me the file on Shaun Dupries, will ya?"

"Uhh, sure."

"I really am grateful for your help, you know," she said quietly.

Baranski turned to regard her. "Why me?"

Scarlet smiled. "Why not you?"

"I think I recognize you from somewhere."

She chuckled, a maddening sound to his ears. "A lot of folks tell me that."

"Yeah, but—"

"Sir?"

The Congressman turned around to find Jarrod the Intern regarding him in an odd way. The younger man held out a yellow file stuffed with papers.

"Thank you, Jarrod," he said absently.

"Um, Mr. Baranski?"

A little irritated, the Congressman turned around. "What?"

"Are — are you talking to someone?"

"Well, of course I am," Baranski snapped back. "I wouldn't be crazy enough to talk to myself, would I?"

"There's a first time for everything," he heard Jarrod mutter before slamming the door in the intern's face.

"He couldn't see me," Scarlet told him, smiling broadly. "Only you can."

"That's not very funny, young lady."

"Not to you, anyway." And before he could open his mouth, she took the file out of his hand and began to pore through its contents. "Hmmm..."

Feeling foolish but unable to do anything about it, Mr. Baranski watched her with a frown. A large part of him still didn't understand why she had come to him of all people for the information she'd needed. If she could get into his office without his workers knowing, how come she hadn't retrieved Dupries's file herself?

The rest of him felt somewhat flattered that such an extraordinary young lady would come to him for help. She obviously wasn't the normal college student, especially after he finally noticed the get-up she wore. There was still something very familiar about her, though...waitaminnit—

"I hope you don't mind if I borrow this," she said almost apologetically, holding up the file.

Mr. Baranski blinked. "Of course not."

"Thanks. I need to get going, but you'll see me around."

"Wait—"

But she was gone.




Two weeks passed.

The Capital building didn't blow up.

And life seemed to return to normal. For Mr. Baranski, though, the perspective had changed somewhat.

Since the surprise visit from Scarlet, he hadn't been able to get her out of his mind. Was it just her assertiveness, or was it just because she could leave a mark on his life without realizing it?

The past two weeks had been a blur to him. He had decided to give his interns a new project to work on: finding as much information as possible on The Crew, as they were known to everyone. They were ten men and women whose real identities still remained a secret to the general public, whose deeds had made them famous throughout the world.

Scarlet was The Crew's youngest member.

Rep. Harald Baranski had once denied their existence, if only because their supernatural abilities had made it impossible for him to believe that a human could use some sort of cosmic power to help a fellow human being.

But now he believed in them with all his heart.

"Mr. Baranski?"

The soft voice made him freeze in mid-step as he was hiking up the stairs of the Capitol building. He slowly turned around.

"I told you I'd see you around," Scarlet said with a grin. "The rest of The Crew says thank you, by the way. We caught the sucker." She held out the file.

Baranski nodded and took the file from her. "All the information in here came in handy?"

"Oh, very handy. I hope you don't mind, but we made a copy of everything in there."

"I don't mind at all," he assured her.

A long pause ensued; Scarlet was the first to break it. "Well, I'd better get going, sir. The others are waiting for me."

"Right," Baranski said quickly. "Ahh, Scarlet—"

"Yes, Mr. Baranski?" Scarlet turned around.

"Anytime you need information...feel free to drop by my office."

Scarlet's eyes twinkled. "I'll keep that in mind."

He watched her vanish from sight, and wondered if anyone had seen her come and go. He also wondered if a passersby had thought him crazy, talking to thin air. Ah, well.

Baranski quietly closed the door behind him, and Jarrod the Intern looked up. "Hi, sir."

"Hello, Jarrod. How's the project going?"

"Pretty good. Cory just finished clipping the last article about last week's arrest of Shaun Dupries."

"Good to hear." He nodded to the secretary on his way to his private office.

"Um, Mr. Baranski?"

The Congressman turned around. "Yes?"

"I hope you don't mind my sayin' so, but you sure do seem a lot less harried since you gave us this project."

Baranski blinked. "Is that a compliment, Jarrod?"

The intern shrugged. "Well, yeah."

"Thank you."

"Uh, you're welcome, sir."

"Carry on." With a little smile, Baranski stepped into his office and closed the door, leaving the intern to wonder where the change had come from. If it'd helped his boss a lot, then perhaps it could help him, too?

And somewhere above them, Scarlet smiled upon "hearing" that thought.

Don't these people realize that you don't have to be a superhero to change someone's life?


4.24.01



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(c) S.M.N.