Network Connections

A Legion of Lawndale Heroes 'Mini', by Brother Grimace

Legion of Lawndale Heroes created by James Bowmen

(NOTE: This Mini takes place about two weeks before the events of A Legion Halloween and Legion of Lawndale Heroes, Chapter 14:1.)

"Mister Mackenzie!"

Mack Mackenzie instinctively tensed for a moment as a very familiar voice rang out from behind. "Uh, hello, Ms. Li!"

"I'm glad to see that the Legion is getting involved in yet another worthy cause – and that they've sent such a worthy representative to be here tonight!" Her cheeks slightly flushed – no doubt, that's far from her first glass of that champagne tonight, Mack thought – Angela Li looked about the ballroom of the Sedimentary Rock Country Club, her eyes shining with avarice. "Oh, the donations here tonight should be tremendous!"

The Legionnaire moved slightly, allowing his former high-school principal to see Legion Tower in the distance, the Legion insignia on the side of the Tower brilliantly lit in pink. "Since this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it just seems right to show our support in every way possible," he told her. "In twenty minutes or so, Quinn's going to present the Quest Foundation's donation. It's a big check."

Ms. Li's eyes glittered greedily as her head snapped around to where Quinn Morgendorffer talked with Jodie Landon and three other girls. "Ah, yes. She's speaking with Miss Brands. She assumed the presidency of the CCHS Legion chapter, once Miss Landon left."

Li finished her drink. "Perhaps I should go and speak with Miss Morgendorffer. It has been a while since I've done so, and with-"

Mack mentally braced himself, and Ms. Li didn't disappoint. "'Lawwwwwn-dale High' soon to reopen, those Legionnaires who have not yet graduated may perhaps see their way fit to return home and finish their preparation for life in a NEW Lawndale High - an institution safer, and far more secure, than any educational facility ever built!"

The exotically beautiful young woman with large, gray, almond-shaped eyes standing next to Mack at the buffet table when Li arrived watched the principal of Lawndale High depart. The stranger had remarkable eyes, eyes that made Mack's knees slightly weak when she focused them upon him. "Who was that?" she asked.

Mack drew back slightly with surprise. Whoa. A girl who looks like this is talking to me?

"The principal at the high school I used to go to," Mack told her, thinking back to moments before when he walked over to the buffet table, and the girl looked up from the warming tray full of mini muffins as if wondering if he was going to try and talk to her. She's barely Jane's height and looks like a supermodel – and she didn't take off when Li cut in to talk to someone else, or simply blow me off? There's got to be a camera around here somewhere.

"That must have been some high school," the young woman said, extending a delicate hand out to him. "I'm Jala Javarti."

"Michael Mackenzie." He shook her hand. "I'm with-"

"The Legion. I know." Jala's eyes never left his, and she had moved well inside his personal space. "I'm a fan. I keep up with the Legion blog, and the online forums. You're so much more - good-looking – in person than you are in your photos, and that's saying something."

Michael looked at her with surprise, and Jala blushed slightly, the added color in her cheeks making her even more attractive. "I'm taking a year off from university, and I'm just doing a bit of traveling – but when I heard about this event from a gentleman at the hotel, I thought that it would be a good thing if I were to come and make a donation," she told him. "My grandmother and aunt both passed away from breast cancer; and my mother's afraid that my sisters and I might come down with it."

"'From university'?" Mack smiled. "You're not from around these parts, are you?"

Jala nodded. "I grew up – well, all over, but I managed to settle in one place long enough to study at Cambridge – International Business and Relations."

Mack's ears perked up. "That's what I'm studying – I mean, I'm doing classes in that area, and I get to spend time at Grace, Sloane & Page watching the way things are done."

Jala smiled at Mack; she turned her attention to another table filled with informational materials – pamphlets, complimentary DVDs and fact sheets – courtesy of the local chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which was sponsoring the event. "I've been involved with Race for the Cure since I was eleven. Every year, no matter where we were, my mother would take my sisters and me to participate in the walks, and I've done the five-kilometer run since I was sixteen. Even my father's involved – 'Three Miles of Men'".

"They have the run here in Lawndale every year, too," Mack echoed. "A friend of mine in the Legion – Jane Lane – she's been doing the 5K run since junior high, and my ex-girlfriend's always been involved with the Komen. They're the ones who suggested that we change the lights on the Tower."

"It's an important cause," Jala agreed, so close that her body was barely brushing against him. "Look, Michael – I don't want to seem, well, forward or such, but you're very good-looking, and I was wondering if we could possibly go somewhere later for a bite, or a coffee?"

Okay. Not being 'Punk'd', but still - it'd be tacky to pick up a girl here. Damn. She's cute, too.

Michael sighed. "Look, I have to take off – Legion business, and everything."

The look on the young woman's face registered her disappointment. "Well... if you must. Maybe you could call me some other time-?"

She picked up a pamphlet, and scribbled upon it before pressing it into Mack's hand, and both of them felt the spark of electricity between them. "I'm staying at a local hotel with my sister for the week, but my father also maintains a residence in Boston. I put down both numbers, and my cell, too."

Mack looked at the numbers, and recognized the area code. "Which hotel are you staying at?"

"The Imperium," she said, and Mack's eyes snapped up. "I have indulgent parents. Maybe you'd like to come over and have a lunch with me before I have to leave?"

"I'm not sure," Mack said, surprising himself when he realized that not only was he telling the truth, but that he had some regret about not being able to make any sort of promise. "We've been kind of busy, and we've got our own Legion charity event set up for Halloween."

"Maybe I could see you there," Jala said. "Halloween, yes?"

"Yes," Mack said - and it was only then that he realized that he was still holding Jala's hand; he let go, reluctantly. "It's a costume ball. I'd like to see you there – I mean, if you can make it."

"I'll have to see about getting something appropriate, then" Jala said, revealing a smile capable of reducing a man's IQ by half, "and staying around in town longer. Maybe we could see about that lunch before then-?"

Jala turned, giving him another taste of the smile as she walked away, and the Legionnaire took another drink. "Whoa."

Mack pocketed the girl's phone number when he felt eyes on him; he turned to see Tom Sloane (dressed perfectly for the occasion, of course) looking in his direction from the other side of the buffet table.

"I'm not hitting on her!" Mack felt compelled to say it.

Tom gave his teammate a look of annoyance. "Precisely."

Mack aped his look perfectly. "I'm not a man-whore like you. Dude – picking up a girl at a breast cancer awareness fundraiser? That's beyond tacky!"

"Look - just because you think that I'm a dick when it comes to women, it doesn't mean that you can't talk to girls and date them simply because they're cute and fun to be around." Tom popped a miniature crab buff into his mouth. "She was cute, and into you, and you can always meet her some other time. You and Jodie are over – right? - and you did it on good terms. She'd want you to be happy!"

"Yeah? And what do you get out of it?" Mack gave him a look of distrust. "You're going to wait and score her after I do – snake the girl out from under me - or are you thinking of going to scam her now, after I've given her the brush-off?"

Tom actually took a step back. Damn, Mack. You really don't think much of me, do you? "Mack, I think-"

"No – when it comes to women, that's the last thing you do." Mack took a flute filled with punch from a passing server. "In case you forgot or simply just didn't care – Jane Lane's my friend."

Tom held up his hands in surrender. "Whatever." You self-righteous prick. You probably didn't try because you'd feel inadequate with a woman like that-

His thought ended abruptly as he remembered Mack saying goodbye to Alyssa over on D-159, after the global zombie threat had ended and the many superhumans recruited were making their farewells to new friends before heading back to their own worlds. He had that girl crying because she didn't want to lose him, but they decided that things were for the best if they just let go. That kiss she gave him before she left, and the way they were both glowing blue-

Tom came to a sudden halt, his eyes snapping wide. Oh, hell. She activated his elemental affinity – and it must be either Fire or Air; if it were anything else, he'd have noticed by now. That's why he's – no. If his affinity were Quintessence, that would explain him being able to drain the energy from Maryann and the others so effectively, and why it was so painful for them. He wasn't just draining EM-based energies – he was draining life-energies, too.

Not to mention how easy it's been for Mack to use his flame powers – even in space - as opposed to the rest of us, as if he was always meant to have them – from what I've learned since the Academy trip, even mutants like Julia and David Allen have to train to use their powers at their full potential.

"Hey, Mack!" Tom had turned around and called out Mack's name before he'd even planned how to use the information to his advantage – why the hell did I just do that?

The look on his teammate's face wasn't pleasant. "What now, Tom?"

Tom took a breath before answering. "I was just thinking vile thoughts about you-"

"That doesn't surprise me – but you get points for honesty," Mack responded, finishing his punch.

Tom looked around before speaking, to make sure no one was in earshot. "Remember just before we left Zombie Earth to come home, and you kissed Alyssa?"

A ghost of a smile crossed Mack's face before his expression changed into one of defiance. "What about it?"

"You said that she offered you a Defender Ring," Tom continued. "Did she even tell you what elemental affinity you had?"

"No – I said that it didn't matter, because I already had enough power, and it didn't matter," Mack replied. "That's funny – it was just after we got to Nova Valdris that she offered me the Ring, and even after I said 'no', the really senior Ring-types kept inviting me to dinner and finding excuses to get to know me. I thought that it was just because they wanted to know more about the Legion, so I just tome them about my life whenever they wanted to know more about all of us..."

Mack was lost in thought, and came to the conclusion as quickly as a light bulb exploding. Lyssa, I told you-!

He gave Tom a resigned look. "Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, it does," Tom said. "Maybe we should head back to the Tower as soon as Quinn gives them the money... what?'

The look on Mack's face made Tom step back. "I was just thinking," Mack said, "that when you're using your brain to solve problems instead off trying to use just your powers... you make a heck of a Legionnaire. God knows how long we'd have gone without figuring that one out. Thanks for saying something, Tom."

Mack slapped Tom on the shoulder, and for the first time in a long while, Tom found himself smiling a real smile – not one pasted on because the locale or situation required it.

It felt good.


Jala sighed in disappointment as she watched Tom follow Mack over to Quinn and Jodie. "I thought you had higher standards, Jala," a tow-haired girl spoke from behind. "Didn't know that you had a taste for 'possum meat."

Turning, Jala saw a slender, tow-haired girl in her late teens and a young man her age with Latin features approach, both sipping punch. "You're all into what he has to offer, Jala – and okay, he's got a nice build, but he's still a 'possum. We're Elite – and you can do much better."

"I'm not interested in what you consider 'better', Sarasota," Jala said, a touch of sting in her voice. "It's not as if he's not acceptable – after all, people stopped looking down on the Sloanes for Tom dating that Lane girl once they found that she had powers... not to mention that she's got an appropriate bloodline, too. There are Wold-Newtons that have married into the Elite before."

"You've got more important things to think about besides giving the jock some, JJ," Nicho Silvestre said, his voice low, but thick with the Columbian-accented Spanish he spoke. "Focus on what we need. Will you be able to find a way to get close to him at the Tower?"

"Speak English – you'll attract attention otherwise," Jala spoke up, looking him over before sighing." Sometimes, I wish that Sarasota would stop resurrecting you, Nicho – or at least just bring you back as one of her undead. You're much more fun to be around as a zomble. You follow orders much better than you usually do – and your conversation skills become so much better."

Sarasota Myers put herself between the two other young Elite. "Save it for later, you two," she said, her own Georgia (Southern U.S., not Eastern European) accent flavoring her voice with a gentle lilt. "What did you find out?"

"They're having some sort of charity event on Halloween-"

Nicho snorted softly. "We knew that already."

"Oh, and did you know that I have a personal invitation to be there – courtesy of one Michael Jordan Mackenzie himself?" Jala enjoyed the look on her associate's face; I guess your power to fight with martial arts at levels that effectively makes you capable of dealing with metahumans couldn't get you through an assignment this time, hmm? There's more to life than 'chop-chop', you dolt.

"Nice," Sarasota said, her baby-blue eyes shining. "And that problem's taken care of. We need to see about finding a way to get the fourth in our square inside, too. Then, you can do your thing."

"Whatever Alberto wants, he gets," Jala replied, remembering the meeting that her little group of four had with Alberto Valdez several days ago in Houston. "And since he wants to get some payback on Tom Sloane for the Network – then it's payback that he gets."