Special Issue SLANT exclusive:
Erica Chase interviews American Dreamer
I caught up with American Dreamer at the Coffee House on Saturday, February 27th, following Dr. Forest Walker's White Night keynote address. For new readers, American Dreamer is an ICoMP operative; he's been active as a paranormal for almost 40 years, beginning in the early '70's as an anti-war protester.
EC: I hardly know where to start...
AD: The beginning is always good.
EC: In your youth, you were firmly anti-establishment; what changed your mind?
AD: I had to face the fact that I wasn't accomplishing anything significant—not the way I was doing things back then. Now I'm part of an organization that makes a difference for America. We actually provide a place and a purpose for individuals with special abilities, and an opportunity for them to use those abilities to help people, without fear of legal action being taken against them. It's a win-win.
EC: Did the availability of psi-clone influence your decision to join ICoMP?
AD: From a legal, financial, and practical standpoint—yes. As a member of ICoMP, I'm allotted a legal supply of the drug to use my powers, for official purposes only. It stands to reason—I'm a mentalist—and I wouldn't be much use to them without it. Before I joined up, I nearly had to bankrupt myself to pay for the stuff, just to get my powers to work for a few hours.
EC: Is there any truth to the rumors psi-clone is addictive?
AD: There are some psi-clone substitutes which are far worse. If it's abused, any drug can create a dependence. And the whole point of using psi-clone is to activate mental powers, which can also be addictive in themselves. Psi-clone itself is relatively harmless.
EC: What would your associate, Imperative, say about that?
AD: Not a thing, he's mute.
EC: Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Ides of March Blast. Has there been any progress made on that investigation?
AD: Actually, I can't comment—that's still an ongoing investigation. You know how it is.
EC: There've been rumors about missing Syndicate operatives—paranormals—who may have survived the Blast. Do you have any comment on that?
AD: Our intelligence places Blackheart at the former Syndicate HQ downtown when the Blast took place—we have no reason to believe he survived. On the other hand, we have nothing on Raptor's location at that time, and we're still actively looking for him, or at least the equipment he stole when he defected.
EC: Speaking of the Syndicate, what's ICoMP's position on their illegal tournaments at the Dome downtown?
AD: What tournaments? Of course, the Dome's proprietors or the City government would lodge a complaint with ICoMP in a heartbeat if something like that were going on, and we'd take care of it immediately. We haven't heard a thing from them, so I really have no idea what you're talking about, Ms. Chase. There aren't any tournaments going on there.
EC: Of course. What about the Syndicate's other activities in the last year? Has the St. Louis chapter really split from the Syndicate proper?
AD: The more things change, the more they stay the same. They still traffic in drugs, illegal weapons and take payments from the casinos for protection. If anything, they've gotten worse under Flashburn's leadership.
EC: Flashburn seems more powerful than ever since the blast—how potent is she now, exactly?
AD: Lucky for us, mental powers still work on her, but otherwise, Flashburn's a serious problem. She can take out a squad of agents with one blast. Even Kiloton thinks twice about messing around with her. Blackout's the only one who can touch her, if you ask me.
EC: Speaking of Blackout, how is she since Vengeance Night, and what happened, exactly?
AD: Blackout was providing 'air cover' for Lady Liberty and myself during a sweep through a refugee center—I won't say which one. There'd been a report of Second Syndicate drug smuggling activity, so we went to check it out. It was dark, and the place was packed tight with rows of those Portable On Demand Temporary Houses—PODTH—so visibility was lousy. It turned out to be an ambush, and before we knew it, Blackout took an arrow in the gut and fell out of the sky.
I spotted Death Vengeance hiding in the dark between two PODTH, but before I could even think about sending him on a trip, we found out he had backup. I got kicked in the head from behind—unfortunately, that was all I remember until I woke up a bit later. Lady Liberty looked like she'd lost an argument with Chicago Cutlery, but lucky for us, the cavalry had arrived. Duster and Technicality were standing there arguing whether either of them had scored a single hit, against Schadenfreude, of all people! Why she'd be helping Death Vengeance, I have no idea.
EC: So, what was the final score?
AD: Blackout's almost fully recovered; arrows aren't much good against electro-static force fields, I guess. Lady Liberty said Schadenfreude kept asking "Where is he?" over and over again. No idea who she was talking about. The woman's crazy. Fast, though—far as we could tell, neither Duster nor Technicality managed to shoot her.
EC: Do you have any idea who's wearing Technicality's armor now?
AD: Nope. The voice is different; the fighting style's different, too. She doesn't shoot so good, but look out for those high kicks! Still a real hot-head, if you ask me, which doesn't improve things one bit. This town doesn't need another loose cannon vigilante.
EC: I noticed you were at the White Night vigil on campus at Washington University earlier. What was your reaction to Dr. Walker's remarks?
AD: I've admired Dr. Walker for many years—back in his crime-fighting days he was the only member of the Agents of Fortune who wasn't terminally uptight. And up to a point he's supported the basic purpose, if not every policy, of ICoMP. So I found Dr. Walker's 'about-face' last night rather disappointing, although it wasn't a complete surprise.
EC: Could you elaborate on that?
AD: It amounts to what I said before—St. Louis is experiencing an upsurge in vigilante activity, and there's going to be trouble for it. Private citizens don't have the training or the legal background to use paranormal powers without endangering the public. Nor do they have the means to take responsibility in the event that something goes wrong. To hear Dr. Walker, a very highly regarded ethicist, encouraging this kind of reckless, illegal behavior was, to say the least, disappointing.
EC: How do you feel about his assertion that ICoMP needs more help? That more paranormals join the Syndicate than ICoMP? Or even leave ICoMP and defect to the Syndicate?
AD: (smiling) The numbers don't lie, Erica. The Syndicate is recruiting everyone they can get, even if they have to be 'press ganged.' And ICoMP has seen an overall drop in the number of operatives in the last twelve months. But there are a couple of imponderables here: One—the Syndicate will take anyone regardless of how talented they are. Some of their new recruits really aren't all that good, if you ask me. Two—on the other hand, there's a certain selection process going on within the ranks of ICoMP...it's almost Darwinian...so we're left with only the very best people.
So you see, we can handle the Syndicate without a bunch of rookie vigilantes interfering, creating mayhem and extra paperwork for everyone. They're better off just staying out of the way, Dr. Walker's remarks notwithstanding.
EC: Dr. Walker pointed out Ferrous as an example for other vigilantes to follow. He certainly seems to know what he's doing, unlike the 'rookies' you've mentioned. What's ICoMP's official position on Ferrous?
AD: He's obviously had some training, and in the last year, Ferrous has been a great help with the relief efforts following the Ides of March Blast. As far as I know, he hasn't broken any laws or endangered anyone—he's going about using his powers as a private citizen exactly as he should. In the long run, however, he's likely to be the exception that proves the rule.
EC: How so?
AD: Other paranormals, like-minded but less responsible, see what he's doing and decide they should emulate him. Some genuinely want to help, others are just copy-cats looking for attention...whatever. The problem is, the majority of them simply don’t know what they're doing. They're likely to hurt someone, and people like Ferrous, and Dr. Walker, encourage them.
EC: And what would your advice be?
AD: Anyone with paranormal ability, and no criminal record who wants to help us...join ICoMP. We'll provide you with the training to use your powers without causing havoc, and responsible oversight so the public can be confident your abilities won't be abused.
EC: What about those with criminal records?
AD: You mean, like Blackout? She's shown a genuine desire to reform, and use her abilities to uphold the law rather than break it. We took her on as a pilot project, and she's been so successful, we're seriously considering accepting more applicants like her.
EC: Such as Steel Claw?
AD: I think we're done here.
EC: One more question?
AD: What's the question?
EC: What's your reaction to Dr. Walker's call for an observance of the one year anniversary of the Ides of March Blast at the Riverfront?
AD: That area's still off limits to the public, it's still dangerous, and no permits for any type of assembly are being issued by City, County or State authorities. Given that several paranormals have stated their intention to attend Walker's little 'observance', ICoMP may very well be called upon to handle the situation. We're urging the general public to stay away. My personal reaction is, I think it's a real downer, because that was supposed to be my day off.
EC: Thank you.
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