‘Can’t believe I’m doing this.’, Shane reprimanded himself as he dialed the dreaded number. He was sitting on the edge of his bed in full costume, save for his helmet, and listened to the ring-back tone as his call went out. There was a good fifteen minutes of free-time left after the light training with his fellow Interns was done, and Shane didn’t want to feel like he was putting this off.
“Hey, little bro!”, Angela’s bombastic voice came over clear as day from his phone’s speaker, “Sorry about not being able to call you earlier, it’s been real busy here in Port Valins lately. But I heard about what you did; Gotta say, I’m a little impressed. I didn’t think you’d actually swing such a good first impression.”.
Shane nearly let out a bark of laughter at her words, but managed to stifle it down to a chuckle. After all; it was a rare day indeed when Angela DeSoto said “Sorry” to anyone.
“It’s fine, Angela. I was planning on calling and letting the family know I was okay anyways, but I only had time to chat with you.” Shane checked the time on his hardy looking wrist-watch that slid over his body armor, courtesy of Steve’s team, before continuing. “And I don’t see what’s so impressive about me taking down that Super. I’ve always been your better in terms of sheer damage capacity.” Shane was determined to prove himself as the better Hero, but unearned praise just annoyed him.
“Not that, dumbass; though I do want to talk to you about that. I’m talking about that evac work you did during your first patrol. It may have only made small-time news, but I know that having your first public act as a Hero be non-violent means a lot to you.” Her words had softened just a touch near the end, sincerity slipping into her tone.
Angela’s statement struck a chord with Shane, and brought his mind back to recent news he’d heard. The man he’d saved, who had been identified as “Brian Duke”, hadn’t been homeless as everyone had assumed. He was a business man who’d gone missing for several weeks, now presumed to have been intentionally kidnapped based on his horrible physical condition. Police suspected Super activity. Which had Shane hoping he be able to get a shot at whoever was responsible.
And she was right, his first official act as a Hero involving zero bloodshed had made Shane feel oddly… vindicated. Not that he’d tell her that of course. “Thanks, Angela, I appreciate it.” Shane had been expecting a lot when making the decision to call her, but a semi-apology and sincerity hadn’t even vaguely crossed his mind. ‘Maybe field work is getting her to take things a little more seriously?’, the thought filtered through his mind before asking. “And what do you want to talk about my team’s fight?”
“Well, less about the about fight and more the aftermath.” Her barely suppressed snicker was his first and only warning. “The news cameras caught how that Simikiel girl was staring at you, and I was just wondering if you’d already hit that or no-” *click*
“I guess it was nice while it lasted.”, Shane grumbled before shaking his head with a reluctant smirk and sliding on his helmet, fastening it with a snap. “Dispatch, this is Styx, my status is now On Call” Styx said, changing it back from “inactive” during the debriefing and his sleep.
* * *
Styx silently thanked whoever the DVA hired to make costumes for having the foresight to make his cold resistant, as what he guessed was frigid wind hollowed around him and Spectrum.
They’d been dropped off in an alley in one of the less reputable parts of Red Hook, the nigh-dilapidated look of some of the buildings and sidewalks a stark contrast to the polished structures Styx usually saw.
“Keep your eyes peeled, this tends to be a bit of a problem area. Had more than a few dumb crooks think they could get the drop on me before.”, Spectrum supplied as he waved at a man in layers of grimy clothing pushing a shopping cart down the road.
“Right.”, in spite of his usually logical mind, a small part of Styx was half-expecting another giant Super to come barreling around the corner as they took a turn down a side-street.
This patrol was a little different from the first, but not so much as to distract Styx from his practice of feeling every shadow as he walked. Hardly anyone stopped and stared, most just hurrying past or away when they caught a glimpse of the two Heroes. One young man even yelped audibly after turning a corner and seeing them walking towards him.
Styx suspected it was because of how prevalent the gangs were in this area. Plenty of wannabes were hanging out on stoops and had scattered at the sight of them, and he asked Spectrum as much.
“You’d be right, Styx.”, Spectrum said in a conversational tone. “The gangs have a lot of people here scared of being known as being a ‘snitch’ basically, so they tend to err on the side of caution when they see a Hero making the rounds. Try not to take it too personally; we can’t be around to protect them all the time after all.” Despite the fact that Styx was Spectrum’s first Intern he sounded like he’d given this talk many times before.
For Shane’s part, he hadn’t taken any offense in the first place, but nodded his understanding all the same. ‘I researched a lot about this place, but I evidently need to learn some local behaviors that doesn’t show up in polling data.’
The pair briefly stopped their patrol in front of a small knick-knack shop and prepared to get some lunch. Spectrum spun the restaurant wheel on his phone, and even through his mask Styx saw his expression light-up at the selection. “Alright! Come on, rookie; It’s time for some old fashioned lasag-“ Spectrum’s happy tirade was cut short by a shout from nearby.
“Hey, a fight’s about to go down, I could use some help!” A gruff female voice came from the figure of another Hero clad in a blue suit with black trim, one they both recognized as “Pulp”, running out of an alley and up the street.
They hesitated for all of one second before sprinting after the Heroine, with Spectrum muttering something about “injustice” before they fully got into their stride.
Pulp was a solo-Hero, only five years out of her Internship from Colorado, only having come to Brooklyn a few months prior to Styx’s own arrival. She seemed to act the part of a classic Strong-Woman, though Styx suspected there was more to her abilities than what was shown to the media.
“Styx, care to verify just in case this is some kind of trap?”, Spectrum prompted, breathing still even despite his full-on sprint.
Styx extend his senses and tried to parse out the shadows further away from them, his speed faltering lightly from the concentration needed. “She’s telling the truth; two groups of about a dozen people are facing off in a courtyard down the street, some of them have guns and melee weapons.” His analysis came out in a quick and confident stream of all the pertinent information.
Spectrum didn’t have time to be impressed however, as he outpaced his Intern around a corner while following Pulp’s flowing cape, and got to said courtyard, getting to see just how accurate Styx’s senses were.
“Everyone, on the ground and hands behind your head!”, Pulp shouted as she used the momentum of her run to perform a strongman leap, propelling herself forward rather than up, and landed just a few feet from the two hostile groups.
Both she and Spectrum took in the situation in an instant. At first glance, it seemed like a bog-standard turf war between some White Boar members and another local gang. With knives, bats, and small firearms being wielded brazenly by both groups. But their more experienced eyes recognized the higher grade semi-autos wielded by some of the older looking of the White Boars and the one loan member that stood with no weapons and bare chested despite the frigid weather.
“This is your one and only warning!” Spectrum followed up on the younger Hero’s command as he let two crackling yellow orbs form in his gloved hand and mentally categorized the one shirtless member as a possible strongman. Electricity would be best for a large group with little protection, but he’d have to be careful not accidentally hit Pulp if a fight broke out.
Most of the thugs froze at the sight of two Heroes entering the scene, some of the younger and dumber members continued to still shout and approach each other though. Both Pulp and Spectrum saw some of the one’s who looked like leaders start glancing at nearby alleyways, probably thinking that they could escape in the confusion of their members running away and fighting. A Blaster and a Strongman weren’t exactly optimal for corralling large groups like this, and they knew it.
That train of thought lasted until both gangs saw Styx round the corner seconds after his mentor, sunlight gleaming off of his sleek armor.
Memories of what was seen on the news flashed through all of their minds before they noticed flickering movement from the ground beneath their feet. Everyone went quite as they saw that all of their shadows had risen up behind them as wickedly sharp blades, shadows from the nearby alleys also materialized, further dissuading any opportunistic runners.
“Drop your weapons and get on your knees. Nobody needs to get hurt.” Styx didn’t yell like the other two, his voice carried easily over the now silent courtyard.
He watched as one particularly gruff looking White Boar member, with what looked like a tear drop tattoo, turned toward him… and dropped his weapon before getting down to his knees, hands behind his head. His surrendered was followed quickly by a cascade of bats, knives, and guns hitting the concrete and others making similar gestures of compliance.
Styx wasted no time in capitalizing on their surrender, thickening their shadows into tendrils that restrained them in short order, lifting them bodily into the air and out of arms reach of their weapons. He ignored the few yelps of surprise as he informed Dispatch. “Dispatch, we’ve got… twenty disarmed gang members here, one of them a possible Super.”
<Acknowledged, authorities are in bound. Please provide a description of the suspected Super.> She’d been listening the whole time, and had probably been preparing to call in reinforcement in case the situation had gone pear-shaped, but Heroes still needed to clarify and make official requests when they could.
“I know him.”, Pulp said as she stepped forward and peered at the shirtless man’s face, ignoring the myriad of glares on her. “His name’s Derrick Bailey, just a basic strongman who works as muscle.”, she said with obvious contempt before clamping a hand on his shoulder and giving a hard squeeze. The man grunted in discomfort before she let’s go. “Yeah, just barely bullet proof too.”
<Thank you; ID is positive and record of crime and power is found.> Dispatch’s voice came clearly through all of their ear pieces before they heard the sound of sirens approaching and two DVA vans pulled up.
* * *
Maria was less than pleased to have to conduct another debriefing so soon, but thankfully it was a mercifully short one.
The only one to take any real actions was Shane, and even then, there were no injuries or other complications. Jack and the solo-Hero only needed to relay where, when, and how they got to the crime scene before she called the meeting to an end.
“Nice going, kid. You’ve got a real versatile power there, I’m almost a little jealous.” Pulp said to Styx as he escorted her out of the base. “All I can do is punch hard.” She seemed to prefer self-deprecating humor and had an almost disarming aura of unprofessional-ism about her.
Styx instantly didn’t trust her claims. “I’ll admit, I do like the utility of my power, even if it isn’t exactly inconspicuous.”. He pressed a button on the small remote given to him that unlocked the probably-not-steel doors that led outside. “But I don’t believe for a second that you’re just a strong woman. I’ve read up enough about you to know that you’re a Subtly-Hero and I’ve seen news of you doing things that should be impossible with just physical force.”
Pulp simply shrugged in response before giving him a wry grin. “You’re sharp for someone still in their Internship, but as a rule, I only share secrets with Heroes I’ve at least had two beers with.”
“Not asking for your secrets,” Styx had the courtesy to swing open and hold the door for her, “Just letting you know that you don’t have to waste your breath lying about your power to me.”
She gives a flippant wave over her shoulder in acknowledgement before walking out of the base and into the afternoon gloom.
Shane closed the door behind her and took off his helmet, letting out a brief sigh of relief before languidly stretching, the little pops from his joints and brief strain on his muscles soothing him. Nobody knew- Well, nobody except Jack maybe, knew how nervous he got when in a fight. It never showed as physical ticks, he’d gotten past that long ago, but it still seemed to tire him mentally. Having to suddenly converge with a Hero not from his team, and stopping a gang fight not even a day after helping suppress a high-end Demolition Class threat, certainly didn’t help matters.
“You might want to get that helmet back on.”, Shane’s reprieve was cut-short as the familiar voice of Maria reached his ears. “Now that your off patrol and not training for once, we can finally go meet your Agent.” The DVA rep stood in the entrance to the civilian common room, clad in her usual black suit.
Shane gave a weary sigh before nodding his head in understanding and putting his helmet back on, the snug feeling around his head becoming increasingly familiar. “Alright, we going down to the garage for our ride?”, he prompted.
Maria shook her head before stepping forward and putting a hand on his shoulder, “Why bother with a car when you’ve got the ultimate ride right here?”
Thankful that the helmet muffled his soft snort of laughter, Shane mentally prepared himself as Maria took them away in a whirl of bending space.
The odd thing about Maria’s ability was that, unlike classic teleporters, she didn’t just pop in and out of space. Shane could see they were indeed traveling, although at impossible speeds, to their destination; just in a different form. He could only really describe it as being condensed down to a pin-prick and then hurled through space towards their destination before changing back, all in the matter of a second.
The destination this time being the public office building Lenny owned, one of the best Hero Agents in the country. “I’m surprised that you’re familiar enough with this place to transport us straight to it.” Shane said after taking a few seconds to shake off the dizziness.
“Not really familiar. I’ve just been here a couple times before and decided to set-up a way-point.” Maria then strode up the stone steps and through the old-fashioned looking wooden door without another word of explanation.
Shane was surprised by the sudden new information on her power, but not so much by her lack of follow up. Supers under the employ of the DVA were just as likely to hide the true nature of their powers as Heroes were.
The office was surprisingly empty and simplistic. Standard layout; a table in the middle of the room with magazines about Hero news, a row of conjoined chairs on each wall, and coat racks on either side of the door.
Both Maria and Shane skipped the pleasant accommodations and simply waited to be called on after sitting down in. The chairs were surprisingly comfy and durable, the material and design were reminiscent of the type of chairs made to accommodate Supers of unusual size and weight.
After a few minutes of patient waiting, someone else finally walked out of the office. It was a Hero who’s costume was what looked like a navy-blue suit and matching mask. He gave them the barest of glances before striding out the door.
“Come on in, Styx.” Lenny’s robust voice reached them as soon as the door had opened.
Shane silently thanked his Agent for not using his real name before steeling himself and walking into Lenny’s office. He made sure to firmly close the door behind him before taking a seat in yet another reinforced chair.
The meeting room itself was, while not messy perse, definitely dingier than the waiting room for clients. Abnormally large cabinets that loomed over them and a slightly off looking globe that smelled lightly of wine seemed to complete the whole image.
Though what was truly the most eye catching were the several posters all over the walls, most being of current and nationally famous Heroes, with a select few framed ones of legacy Heroes. Most of them Shane knew to be retired, while a small minority were very much still active.
The garish and clashing colors made Shane pause from the sheer contrast with the dull brown and grays he’d become use to in his new city.
“So,” Lenny prompted once Shane had situated himself. “I hear your having some image issues.”
“Not really,” Shane felt a tad defensive now that he’d gotten down to talking about how he’d like the world to see him, instead of just focusing entirely on the fights and training like he’d been for the past few days. “I just want to know how to handle things when my more… controversial moments are caught on camera.”
Lenny leaned back and laced his fingers over his portly belly, “Well there’s your first problem; Styx the Intern isn’t supposed to handle anything except for learning how to be a Hero. Handling the media and trying to sway public perception is what I’m here for.” Lenny knew how to handle new Interns, all too often they tried to focus on both gaining experience while also trying to tango with the media; something that rarely ever ended well and almost never without undue stress.
“Secondly, what you did was more inevitable than controversial. I told you before; your power would scare people, but I can work with scary.”
“Okay…”, Shane breathed out, not realizing how nervous he’d been about this. “Okay, then what are you planning on doing about this?”
“That’s a toughie because, regardless of how scary that display yesterday was, it was still damn impressive. And the poor guy surviving afterwards gives us some wiggle room to work with.”, Lenny’s was talking about this for Shane’s sake more than anything else. He’d dealt with more than a few upcoming Heroes with terrifying powers, and the solution to nicely mitigating the fear at first was almost always the same. “What we need to do is get the public more familiar with you, make you seem like more of a real person. So far, you’ve barely been waving at people during patrol, but nothing else. So, I’ve made a few small time PR options available for you to participate in with the rest of your peers, along with one big event that’s available next month.”
The grin Lenny flashed then made Shane wary at the greed and cunning he could see in the man’s expression.
“An exclusive interview: Neal Chandler with you and Spectrum. Broadcast and streamed live on every major network.”