Senator Elton carved another piece of his beef tenderloin. He'd just concluded a very profitable bit of business, and felt he could celebrate by enjoying his meal before getting back to the office and starting on the tedious business of re-election.

His savouring the meal was interrupted by a figure sitting down in the chair at the same table. Damn it, he was supposed to be important enough in this town to have his own private table, lunchtime crush or not.

This figure was short, rotund, sported a monocle, and was holding an umbrella.

"Just who ..."

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Senator ..." the man raised a hand. "Oswald Cobblepot. From Gotham."

Numbly, the Senator took the proffered hand. The name of the city would have made Elton wary enough. However, in the last few days, a military experiment gone haywire had given everyone in Gotham powers on the same level as Superman...

The Maître D' had appeared behind the Gothamite, intent on throwing the interloper of the very powerful patron out. "Excuse me ..."

"About time." Cobblepot took the menu from the man's arm, scanning the items. "The Branzino Del Mediterraneo Al Rosmarino E Verdure with a bottle of the ' 09 Maculan Sauvignon."

Elton nodded to the Maître D', who disappeared.

Then the Senator remembered the name. One of the criminals who plagued Gotham ... the Penguin. Mob connected.

"How can I ..."

"No, Senator. How can I help you. You are still head of the committee in charge of commissioning civilian subcontractors to the U.S. Military?"

"Ah ... yes ..."

"Then this is your lucky day." The Penguin handed a small business card.

" ... Icestorm PMC...? You're representing a Private Military Company?"

Cobblepot smiled. It wasn't pleasant. "Sole owner and proprietor of a security company comprised solely of Gothamite residents."

Elton thought he was going to be blackmailed or threatened ... not made an offer.

While he was adjusting, Cobblepot was making his spiel. "Right now, the President is reducing American forces in Iraq, increasing the need for private contractors, correct?"

"Yes, there is going to be ..."

"Then we are going to be very good friends, Senator."

"But I ..."

"Let's be frank. Yes, I come from Gotham, and might have made a few youthful mistakes that may have made me more notorious than usual, without the toy sales percentage to compensate. However, right now, I am the only licensed and legal operator of a security company which solely employs Superman level superhuman operatives."

The senator had overheard the rumours going around, how a few hundred thousand supermen were bad enough, now there were several million, all with the protection of being American citizens. " many operatives?"

"Sixty-seven. Since this morning."

"This morning?"

"Right now, my people are engaging in a massive recruitment drive. Finding the family with the impossible mortgage payments. The divorcees with crippling alimony debts. The students with multiple maxed out credit cards. The cops who have to moonlight as mall security guards simply to make ends meet. People with military backgrounds who'd love to legally earn more in a week then they'd do in half a year." Cobblepot leaned forward. "I know that the FBI, and every other law enforcement and intelligence agency, once they realise what they're dealing with, will start making similar offers. But my people have started first ... and we have the home advantage."

Elton turned over the card in his hand. Superman had been notoriously difficult to negotiate with, from what he'd heard. Any official who asked him to intervene in a little backwater in order to get business back on track, had a very good chance of having any ... suspect dealing aired all over the press. Usually via telling that rabid dog Lois Lane, who would spearhead a hunt for that elected officials hide, who ignored the typical reporter's need for making and maintaining connections, instead possessing an unnatural desire for scalps, the more high profile the better.

Now he was being offered a chance to control multiple people of the same power who might accept that in order to keep the world as it is, you have to do business with not very nice people.


The Penguin consulted an iPhone. "One hundred and twenty-four. So far. Once word gets out ..."

"How much?"

"To be able to contract Superman-level people?"

"How do we know ..."

The Maître D' arrived with the bottle, Cobblepot raising his glass to be filled without looking. "My dear Senator, while some people my city has been grossly labelled with might enjoy artistic chaos ..." He smiled with pointed teeth. "... I'm strictly about the Benjamins."

The Senator raised his glass. "To business."

"To business."