Shane, Amy, Greg, and Vanessa were all lined up in the gym. All of them dressed in the Hero suits they’d received before they had even set foot inside their new home.
They stood at attention while Rikki circled them, scrutinizing their suits and subtly using her power to feel the structure and material.
Shane and Greg’s costumes were of similar kind, more like full-body armor than traditional Hero costumes. Shane’s being black with dull grey highlights while Greg’s was a deep orange on his chest and legs, his elbow high gloves and boots a faded black. The difference was more than just cosmetic however; in contrast to Greg’s reinforced cowl Shane wore a full helmet.
Even the composition of the armor was of noticeably different quality. Greg’s thick yet flexible Kevlar combined with heat resistant material looking more like advanced swat armor, as opposed to Shane’s metallic mesh and what Rikki recognized as a variation of Shifter-material made by Tech Supers combined with modern Kevlar; the whole ensemble making him look like a modern-Knight*.
Shane hadn’t been expecting the knight-motif when he first got his costume, but eventually thought it too much trouble to change. And eventually realizing he may be a little at fault as well. His request for, “Black, grey, and sleek full body-armor with helmet.”, leaving a lot to interpretation.
Amy and Vanessa’s costumes were more in line with traditional hero gear, their powers making heavy body armor a non-issue for them. Vanessa in her almost shimmering gold and blue suit, and Amy in her maroon-red with silver outlines and stylized bloody-sword on her chest making it apparent they would be the kind of heroes who attracted attention and drew fire.
Although Amy’s foot wear was made of noticeably tougher material, for obvious reasons.
“Alright, nothing to glaringly bad about these; but you’ll definitely want to make little changes and adjustments as time goes on. Everyone does.”, Rikki remarked, amusement tinting her New York accent.
“Changes like what?”, Greg bluntly asked.
“Changes like the shape of your boots if they turn out to be bad for running; Something you’ll be doing a lot of when you’re fighting.”, Rikki responded as Shane and Amy nodded in understanding. “Now go back to the lockers and put back on your regular clothes. You’ve got the rest of the day to yourselves and your first patrol starts tomorrow, so use the time you have left wisely; you don’t get many free-days in this profession.”, Rikki finished, apparently forgetting or not caring about the optional off-days every Hero was offered by the DVA.
After getting changed Shane decided to take the initiative and offer his fellow interns an opportunity that he knew would take up most of the day: Sparring.
Powers and without powers, the four interns spent the next several hours squaring off against each other; Sometimes one-on-one and other times one-on-two or three. Shane getting the worst of it when he went against all three of his new acquaintances, their practiced coordination and familiarity with each other’s abilities very evident.
In truth, and one that Amy had noticed early on, Shane was using this chance to familiarize himself with how they fought and moved. It was a personal philosophy of his to always learn how someone fought before fighting along side them.
Before they knew it, the day had come to a close and they all dragged themselves to bed after another surprisingly good dinner with their mentors. Elizabeth’s story of how she had broken-up a shootout and Super-fight between the local gangs and the new “White Boars” still fresh in their minds.
The morning after was mostly a blur. The interns and heroes simply going through the motions of stretching, teeth brushing, light exercise, and showering. The only noteworthy event being after they’d all finished eating breakfast.
“Alright, attention everyone, time for today’s assignments!”, Jack bellowed from the front of the table, his plate picked clean as per usual. Everyone of the interns was at full attention from his announcement, Greg having just swallowed the last bit of his cereal.
“Most of us will be going on regular patrol today.”, Jack started, noting how nervous some of them were. “Me and Styx will be watching the north-western part of the city while Crusader and Simikiel handle the east side. Terram and Samshiel will handle the docks; don’t worry about covering the entire area, there’ll be a solo-hero called Intuition that patrols the area to help you out.”
It felt weird for Shane to here someone else say his hero name, he’d chosen the name because he liked what it symbolized but it was still hard to imagine it being something he would or could make famous.
“Obsidian-Wrath and Gadreel will be doing some aerial coverage of the seedier industrial area where we’ve gotten a lot of reports of new gang activity. If they run into any trouble then converging on their location and providing back-up becomes a top priority.”, Jack continued as he turned toward Shane and Greg. “I want you two to always have your powers active when on patrol and to look out for danger since you don’t have any enhanced durability to protect you from sneak attacks like Simikiel or Gadreel do. And finally; Always listen to Dispatch, even if her orders contradict my own, her authority is higher than mine of course.”, Jack finishes with sigh, clearly not liking to talk that much or long all at once
Every intern still gave him a firm, “Yes, sir!”, and only slightly wilted under his light-glare from their insistence on being formal with him. Most out of respect, one out of amusement.
The suit felt tighter and heavier than all the other times he worn it in his room or when he wore it in the gym. The helmet felt nigh-claustrophobic as Styx looked around the alley that Maria had dropped him and Spectrum in.
“You doing okay?”, Spectrum asked with concern in his voice but not quite visible from his white cowl.
Styx took three deep measured breaths before responding, “Fine, just the jitters. Let’s get going already, no sense in delaying now.”, he said as he stalked toward the end of the alley.
“Just remember to keep that ‘shadow-sense’ of yours on at all times.”, Jack replied as he walked along side him and stepped onto the sidewalk ahead. Styx disliked the name, not because it offended him in any particular way, but because he found the prospect of naming parts of his powers to be… immature.
The streets weren’t too busy under the excessively cloudy sky of the Monday afternoon, the mixture of cloud cover and sunlight making the sky an almost oppressive-grey for miles around.
As he felt and searched the shadows around him, Styx found himself needlessly tensed up, as if he was anticipating an attack. But all he saw were people in rather dark and regular clothes, some staring openly while others took a quick picture with their phones before walking quickly away. The people on their side of the street gave them an especially wide berth as they walked forward.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, even though it wasn’t apparent through his helmet, Styx drew himself up a bit taller and took his mentor’s lead after seeing him wave and pose for a few shots.
“I honestly don’t know why I’m so surprised, I’ve seen Heroes patrol in my hometown before.”, Styx remarked as he gave a thumbs-up to a trio of kids who ooh-ed and aah-ed as their mother ushered them across the street.
“It’s just your nerves. Remember, a big part of patrolling is about exposure and reassurance. A lot of people see you as a sort of representative now, so it’s best to appear amiable. Even if your power isn’t exactly ‘family-friendly’”, Spectrum said easily, not fearing anyone would overhear considering the wide birth they were bring given. “Try to keep watch for anyone trying to covertly take a picture, it’s good practice for spotting someone trying to sneakily pull a gun.”, Spectrum said in a disturbingly casual tone.
The patrol went on like that for a little while. Just Styx carefully watching the crowd and waving or giving some thumbs up to anyone trying to take a sneaky picture. They occasionally passed by some unnaturally pristine and new looking benches, lamps, and sections of previously cracked and stained streets; something that Spectrum explained as a charity working Super that had the power to “renew” objects.
Styx had almost let all the anxiety and tension leave him when a ragged looking figure stumbled out of an alley and made a grab for him. Styx’s ability gave him early warning and plenty of time to side-step the clumsy grab while also animating, what he could now see was a man’s, shadow and wrapping it around him. Arresting his motion, keeping him in place, and pinning his arms to his sides.
The intern risked a glance toward his mentor and saw that Spectrum hadn’t been any slower on the draw, already taking aim at the now obviously homeless man, a dim sphere of orange energy around his outstretched hand.
But as some people ran while others stared at the sudden display, Styx heard something from the man through all the commotion that made him realize this wasn’t just some crazed and ill-planned attack.
The homeless man in ragged and torn clothing rasped out two words from his cracked and blood splattered lips, his sunken in eyes staring desperately at Styx all the while, “Help me…”