James reported back everything he uncovered during his mission to investigate the new threat. The more he spoke the more grave Sparrow's fears grew. Once he had finished relating everything she ran to her chair and shouted over the intercom for Bella.
In she burst, like a manic, overly caffeinated chipmunk. Papers full of charts and graphs almost seemed to flutter behind her everywhere she went.
"Show her," Sparrow commanded James while pointing to Bella.
He reached his hand out so she could see but rather than look at what he had pulled up on the screen she snatched the device out of his hand and uploaded its contents to her computer.
Images flashed by on her computer and a percentile match bar popped up below giving comparison estimates to each picture.
It stopped on an image that was labeled a one hundred percent match and she displayed the accompanying picture beside it on her screen.
Bella nodded her head as her suspicion was confirmed. Looking over at Sparrow she shared what she knew. "This image is of a stone relief carved thousands of years ago and was found inside an ancient heroes burial tomb."
Sparrow put her hand over her eyes and let out a heavy breath. "So then this means your hunch was correct?"
Bella swallowed a knot in her throat and adjusted her lab coat. "Yes, unfortunately, I was right."
James grabbed his phone and shoved it back in his pocket. "What's going on here?" he asked while looking back and forth at Sparrow and Bella. "It sounds really bad."
Sparrow tapped her finger on the table and stared off into space. Everyone knew not to bother her when she got like that. Interrupting her train of thought was a surefire way of getting chewed out.
She broke the silence with a bold announcement. "Everyone out, I'm contacting HQ about this."
"Seriously?" Falcon cried out. "Is this that bad of a situation that you feel you need to bother HQ?"
Sparrow turned her head to face him and gave him a look so intense it could burn a hole through an iron plate.
"Never mind," he whimpered as he scurried out the door. The rest of the team followed suit and made their way to the exit. James was almost through the door when Sparrow snapped her fingers at him. "Not you James, you stay."
Owl teased him as he walked out the door. "I wouldn't wanna be you right now," he quipped.
James walked over to Sparrow as she furiously tapped against her keyboard.
"Something wrong?" He asked in hopes that she wasn't about to end him.
She shook her head and held her finger up to him to indicate she needed a moment. Once she was done typing she said, "I just need you here in case HQ has any questions they want to ask you directly."
She smiled as she stood up and adjusted the collar of his suit. "You should count yourself lucky, very few heroes have the privilege of talking face to face with a high-ranking official of the Heroes Guild."
Just then the terminal dinged and a massive blue screen materialized in the air. A man in a grey suit popped up on the screen with white hair and tired-looking eyes. James could almost sense the stress and experience exuding off of him.
"Afternoon chief Franklin," Sparrow announced as she stood up to salute him.
"A good afternoon to you Shadow Sparrow," Franklin greeted back." I trust you have an urgent matter to discuss for you to be contacting me on such short notice."
She shook her leg wildly as she sat in her chair. James had never seen her so nervous when talking to another person before. "Apologies for requesting this meeting so suddenly but I felt this couldn't afford to wait."
"I see," Franklin replied, his face now narrowing into a troubled scowl. "Very well, tell me what the situation is."
Standing up, she turned Bella's computer around so it could be seen by Franklin. "I'm afraid it has to do with the Nexus Orb."
Franklin's face turned pale as he looked on at the images on the screen. "Oh my, that is a serious issue indeed," his aged voice cracked as he spoke.
Sparrow motioned for James to come into view of the screen. Then she introduced him. "This is Night Phoenix, he was the hero who investigated the anti-hero meeting that HQ instructed us to investigate. He has information that you will want to hear."
He moved into position next to Sparrow and waited for Franklin to say something.
He gave James a nod and said, "Proceed young hero."
James went through what he heard and saw. The symbols, the crystal, the giant stone carvings, he left nothing out. By the end of his explanation, Franklin was nearly falling out of his chair from anxiety. After thinking to himself, Franklin began to type something into his computer. A ding popped up on Sparrows and as she read the subject line her jaw dropped.
Franklin began to cough and wheeze before explaining things further. "I sent you and James an invitation to HQ. I want you both here to brief the entire council about your findings."
Sparrow's legs turned to rubber. "The, the council?" she asked in utter shock.
"Indeed," Franklin replied. "First thing tomorrow morning I want you both here with a full written report. The email I sent you had your security clearance and meeting information. Don't be late."
Franklin gave a salute and signed off. The blue screen disappeared leaving a confused James and a star-struck Sparrow alone again.
"So, that sounds big," James remarked, almost as a question.
She looked over at him with her eyes as wide as they could be. "It's incredible!" she exclaimed. "I have been a hero for over ten years and I have never gotten an invitation to HQ. This is unbelievable!"
She began to type up her report immediately, completely forgetting that James was right behind her watching as she compiled everything into a folder.
"What's the Nexus Orb," James asked as she put an image of it in a subfolder.
"Ah!" she screeched. "Oh, James you scared me. I completely forgot you were here."
She laughed and turned around in her chair. "What was the question?"
James repeated himself, "What is the Nexus Orb? It sounds important."
Sparrow hesitated for a moment. She wasn't sure she should be sharing information on such a powerful relic with him. "You know what? You're going to find out about it from my report anyway so I may as well just tell you now." She motioned for him to sit down and asked, "Have you ever heard of the Nexus Orb before today?"
James shook his head and told her no.
"Figures," Sparrow remarked. "The heroes guild has been doing everything it can since the orb was first discovered to make sure it never falls into the wrong hands. That includes keeping it a secret from the world."
She showed him a complex sketch of the orb in the high-tech casing that protects it. James stared at the picture with wonder. "But what exactly is the orbs significance?"
Sparrow smirked as she closed the screen and gave him her full attention. "Do you know what gives us our powers?" Sparrow asked pointedly.
James thought about it for a moment. He had never really asked himself that question as superpowers were as normal as baseball and apple pie on his planet. "No idea," he replied as he looked down at his twiddling thumbs.
"It's the Nexus orb," Sparrow exclaimed. "How it got here we don't know and who could have made it is still up for debate but what we do know is that when it arrived on our world people started gaining extraordinary abilities. Every superhero, supervillain, and monster that has ever existed owes its power to the orb.
"So where is it?" James asked excitedly.
"That," Sparrow exclaimed, "is not something I would know. Only the highest-ranking heroes have access to that information and they are forbidden from sharing it with anyone. Even just asking them about it can get you expelled from the guild."
She turned back to face her computer and again started to type franticly into the keyboard.
He was about to ask more questions but he raised a finger to hush him. "I'm sorry James but I have a lot of work to do before we meet with HQ tomorrow. How about you go freshen up so you smell nice for the meeting. Also, when was the last time you shaved?"
James ran his fingers through his now scruffy-looking stubble and gave himself a sniff. "Wow, good point, maybe a shower would be in order."
"Yeah, yeah, you do that and make sure you are all set for the big meeting. You and I are going to be one of a handful of heroes to ever stand before the entire council!"
James walked out and left Sparrow to her report.
"Hey Kazav, what do you make of all this?"
"I've seen a lot of cultists, zealots, and weirdos in my time, kid, and they all have one thing in common. They are all nuts!"
James let out a gut-busting laugh. "What about this orb? Have you ever heard of something like that?"
"Our kind doesn't interfere with other worlds. It's part of why I am in so much trouble with the judges. But if I think long and hard it does ring a bell. Yours isn't the only planet with heroes on it so there may be more than one of these orbs."
"Well, I suppose it's nothing to get too worked up about. Sparrow has a lot on her mind as it is and I don't need to be the person who makes it worse."
He got out of his suit and took a long, hot shower. He shaved for the first time in a while and picked out a nice suit. After getting everything ready for the next day James slipped into bed and tried his best to get a full night's sleep.
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