In stark contrast to how scarce Supers and Powereds truly were, Superhero themed restaurants, fast food places, and bars had practically oversaturated the market after the first decade of active Heroes. Supper with Supers, Capes & Cocktails, Masked Brunch, and Crunchy Champions were just a select few of the more nationally acclaimed ones out of the millions world wide.
Of course, actual Heroes, at least when their agents didn’t schedule PR events there, avoided the horribly tacky establishments. Not out of any real malice of course but attending such an establishment had developed a stigma of looking self-centered among the Hero community.
Hero bars, however, were completely different.
To any normal person they looked like simple, if slightly below average, bars with bland signs and unusually spacious main areas. The flat beer, subpar service, and even worse food served to ward away anyone not a Hero.
Which was why when Shane, Amy, Greg, and Vanessa walked into Fox Copper, a bar with greying and cracked bricks that was only a few blocks away from their base, they felt over a dozen eyes immediately start sizing them up. They were all in casual clothes, arriving in costume would have pretty spectacularly defeated the purpose of the establishment. All of the staff could plainly see that they were all very fit, and that Greg’s golden hair probably indicated he was a Super, but it wasn’t proof that they were Heroes.
“Now what?” Vanessa mumbled as she tugged at the hem of her blue hoodie and looked around.
“J- Spectrum said to meet him and the others near the back in their usual spot.” Shane replied as he ignored the stares and surveyed the patrons, trying to pick out the group’s mentors. He pegged two other younger looking patrons as fellow interns, a young woman with a mousy face and auburn hair and a scrawny twenty-something male with forest green hair, before he finally caught sight of Jack. He and the rest of the team were sitting down with two other patrons, a stout and muscular man with dark skin and a muscular woman with a scar running from just below her eye to her jaw line.
“There they are.” Amy pointed out before Shane could say anything and quickly walked over to the gathering.
The corner they were sitting near was barely lit by an overhead light, the dimness oddly calming to Shane, and the table was large enough to accommodate at least a dozen people and so all four of them were able join with no problem.
“You all took the route we suggested?” Elizabeth asked as she looked over their outfits, the corner of her mouth twitching a little at the pink bunny on Vanessa’s shirt. They’d all been instructed to leave a few minutes after their mentors had; all of them walking and entering together as a group would have been a little too conspicuous.
“I believe some introductions are in order.” Jack prompted and the interns picked up on it immediately.
“Samshiel.”, Greg said with a wave.
“Simikiel.”, Amy supplied.
“Gadreel.”, Vanessa followed along.
“Styx.” Shane said. “Recent sniper survivor.”
“Aha, I knew it.” The burly man said, a wide smile forming on his face. “You look like the kind of kid Jack would like.”
Before any of them could question why this stranger knew their leader’s name, Jack spoke up. “They don’t have on the masks but these two here are Vigor, the leader of Remedy Squadron, and Defensive Dugout, the leader of Landscape Unit.” He said, gesturing towards the dark-skinned man and pale woman respectively.
A waitress came by and the conversation was paused momentarily as the interns all ordered their own drinks.
“Thanks for saving my life.” Shane said bluntly before glancing at the woman. “And thank you for taking up shielding duty, Defensive Dugout.” He added on.
“Just call me Dugout, my full Hero name can get a little mouthy in regular conversation.” She said before taking a small swig of the cocktail she had at her table.
The waitress returned surprisingly quickly and served the new arrivals their own beverages. Amy and Greg immediately took swigs from their cocktails while Shane and Vanessa toke more reserved sips from their beers. Their eyes widened at the surprisingly good taste and they all resolved to visit this place whenever allowed, only to let off steam of course.
Amy decided to press the sensitive topic after a particularly fortifying swig. “It is weird how bold they’ve gotten recently though.”
“True that.” Rikki agreed after she gulped down the rest of her drink. “The job has always been dangerous, make no mistake about that. But this reminds me of my mentor’s stories of the old days.”
“Old days?” Vanessa asked.
“Back when the entire Hero system was still in it’s infancy.” Vigor said. “I’m not so old that I could be counted among those first wave of Heroes but I graduated close enough to feel the after-effects in this city. We basically had to use guerrilla warfare when the criminals tried organizing, prioritizing the really nasty cases before picking off their underlings.”
“My mentor, Grayscale, said that things started running a lot smoother when the Subtlety Heroes became more prevalent.” Dugout spoke up before anyone of the interns could ask how someone as young looking as Vigor had been a Hero for so long. “Being able to take the initiative and track down targets more often really helped the DVA cement the system for good.”
Out of the corner of his eye Shane thought he saw Jack frown a bit when Dugout had mentioned Subtlety Heroes.
“Speaking of Subtlety Heroes, I hear old Jack has been schmoozing with one recently.” Vigor said. “What finally convinced you to change your mind?”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Jack said simply before his eyes tightened a bit with anger, just for a moment. “I don’t much appreciate people trying to assassinate my teammate.”
‘Ah… this could be problematic.’ Shane thought as he noticed the tone in his mentor’s voice. It was similar to the tone his grandfather would take when ranting about Subtlety Heroes and how they “didn’t belong” in the Hero world. Despite his grandfather’s misgivings, Shane had developed a healthy respect and appreciation for what Subtlety Heroes could bring to the table during his four years at Lander’s HCP. If his mentor rarely even consulted them for advice though, then he’d suffer a lot more than just a few moments of annoyance like with his grandfather. He’d lose out on possible connections, experience in working with them, and possibly even extensive knowledge of the criminal underworld would be on the line.
Shane shot a glance over to Amy and when their eyes met he got the feeling she’d noticed the same thing. Greg and Vanessa looked confused at Jack’s words but not as alarmed as the other two.
“To each there own but I’ve gotta vouch for them; Ever since Rancid joined my team things have been way easier.” Dugout said. “And Subtlety Heroes that are also capable in high-end combat are in whole other level themselves. Trust me, that Pulp lady will definitely surprise you.”
“You’re damn right I am.” A familiar, if slightly slurred, voice said from behind them. They all turned to see a tall woman with dusky skin, high cheek bones, and wearing plain slacks and a blouse stood just a few feet away with a vodka bottle in hand. Despite her slur, the woman’s stride was steady as she drew closer. “Hey guys~” She drawled before taking a seat near the older Heroes while giving the rest of them a wave before focusing on Shane. “Congratulations on surviving. Can’t very well have you die before you lot can thank me for taking down this gang.”
“Pulp? What are you doing here?” Vanessa said.
“Mid-Mission drinking break.” Pulp said simply before looking to Jack. “I’ve managed to make my way in and decided this was best said in person; haven’t got any specifics yet but word is the gangs are planning to try something stupid soon. Something like a collaboration; I would suggest you spread the news around with Dispatch, keep everyone on their toes.” Jack opened his mouth to respond, trying to not snicker at Pulp’s obviously buzzed appearance like everyone else, before she spoke up again. “But that’s enough work talk for now. Didn’t you guys come here to relax for a bit?” She then loudly hailed over a waitress and ordered a truly concerning amount of vodka for the table.
Jack looked over at the interns on his team and their curious stares at Pulp in lieu of her sudden announcement. “She’s right; we can talk about her advice later.”
“And I can clear about anyone’s system in case we get too smashed.” Vigor said before looking at the two imposing bottles the waitress walked back with. “Probably.”
* * *
“So, what about you guys?” Shane chuckled as he finished his shot. “Parents are pretty normal and grandfather was the world’s first Hero.”
“Marigold and Reaver.” Greg said proudly. “Two of the most popular Heroes in Texas.”
“Dian Mu and Mannequin.” Amy eventually relented under Shane’s curious stare. “Not exactly popular but they make up for it with efficiency.”
“My dad’s a DVA agent but I’m guessing you’re just asking about Heroes, right?” Vanessa asked and then sighed at his nod. “Well, mom’s the Hero in the family and her name is… ‘Shake-o-rina’.”
The table didn’t quite burst into laughter but it was loud enough that the other patrons gave them weird looks and Vanessa started to blush before Amy put an arm around her.
“What are you embarrassed for? I know that name, and while she’s not the most popular, her name still gets thrown around, has a lot of power, and is one of the only Heroes I know that can pull off being a quasi-comedian.”
“Yes, I know she’s strong, locally famous, and accomplished. I just wished wasn’t basically the ‘cool mom’ of the Hero community.” Vanessa replied, shoulders hunched. “The second-hand embarrassment has not gotten better over the years, trust me.”
“Isn’t Shake-o-rina the one that deflected a cruise missile down in Florida?” Elizabeth piped up.
“Don’t you guys have anything to share?” Vanessa said in an accusatory tone toward their mentors, quickly trying to steer the conversation from her mother.
“I’ve had a pretty boring life.” Hugh said quickly.
“Ditto.” Elizabeth concurred.
“I don’t think any of you want to hear about my teenage years when I used my power to flip skirts.” Rikki snickered drinking down another shot.
“And I don’t think any of you would believe me.” Jack said.
“Try us.” Greg challenged.
“Okay then; How about the fact that I’m pretty sure my powers are based on Dungeons and Dragons?”
Most snorted with laughter and disbelief. But Shane thought back to a certain Advanced Mind he’d met in the HCP who claimed to be a Jedi that could use “The Force” and seemed to be completely capable no less.
“Meh, seems plausible enough to me.”