Shane was where he usually stayed when not on patrol, doing PR, or filing after-action reports; training in the gym. His sister had always gotten on his case about how much time he spent just working out but he found it to be incredibly relaxing and it let him think things through. Though he had developed a fondness for competing with someone else while doing so.
Except the person he was competing with now wasn’t his best friend Chad, but with his three new teammates.
He’d come in first for endurance training, second to Amy with Cardio, and now they were competing in, natural, strength. Two at a time of course, there was no need to be unsafe about it.
“And that’s… how you do… that!” Greg grunted after lifting the bar of significant weight one last time, beating Shane by five reps.
“Damn.” Shane breathed from the side, a thin coating of sweat on him like everyone else.
“He’s always been stronger than he looked.” Amy said. “The first time we met I almost thought he was a low-level strong man.”
“Nope; just years of blood, sweat, and tears made these pythons.” Greg commented as he patted a sweaty bicep.
“Boastful as ever.” Vanessa said before flopping back onto to the matted floor, arm draped over her eyes as she basked in the cool air-conditioning. Shane and the others followed suit, sitting or lying down along side her as their muscles trembled with relief. After a few of moments silence Shane finally spoke up.
“You two feeling okay now?”
Greg snickered. “Subtle you are not, DeSoto.”
“I’m not a very coy person, but the question was sincere.” Shane responded.
“Having to detail over twenty times exactly how I bashed someone’s skull in during the debrief definitely didn’t help.” Vanessa said.
“But it is a necessary part of the job.” Amy supplied, giving her free hand a squeeze.
“I get V, but why are you guys worried about me?” Greg asked.
“Come on, we all saw what you did. Hugh got to him in time, but you were shooting to kill there.” Shane said without pause. “And I notice that neither of you have really answered my initial question.”
“It’d be a lot easier if we had any kind of frame of reference for this, I don’t know if what I’m feeling is normal or not.” Vanessa offered.
“Well, I can’t speak from experience but my parents were especially proactive in making sure I would be prepared to do what was necessary. Supposedly, according to them I mean, I took well to their lessons.”
“Hey Shane, didn’t you mention that a friend of yours had close call a few days go?” Greg asked.
“Yeah, he’s an Intern in Brewster called Intra. Not really comparable though.” Shane said, before seeing all of them give a look of surprise. He’d forgotten how infamous that name could be. “Direct descendant, not the original.”
“Ah, okay, but why isn’t it comparable?”
“Primarily because his ‘injury’ was that his entire shoulder and arm got cut off and he reattached it seconds later.” Shane revealed, careful to not tell anything more about Chad’s power. Chad had the same ability as the original Intra, his father, but the DVA still kept a Heroes exact capabilities a secret even after death.
“Yeah. Besides; I have more direct experience with this kind of thing. You guys did better than me though, during Lander’s crucible I chocked when the time came to do what needed to be done.” Shane said honestly. “The other times when I cut down the Super guards at Adair’s base, I didn’t hesitate but I didn’t exactly feel dandy afterwards. Mostly just sad that I couldn’t find a more delicate way to deal with things.”
The sentiment was vague, everyone could see that and both Vanessa and Greg could already understand why. Amy might be prepared to, and Shane had done the deed before, but there was one fundamental thing they didn’t seem to resonate with them about.
But where could they find someone with that kind of extensive experience?
Greg and Vanessa realized the solution to before the question had even finished forming in their minds. They nearly smacked themselves with how obvious it seemed now, the perfect candidates had been, metaphorically, right in front of them.
At least… they hoped it was. Vanessa was willing to do anything to get rid of the constant feeling of inadequacy that had feel over her like a depressive fog ever since last night. Likewise, for Greg and his own self-doubt. Common sense dictated that things wouldn’t stay quite in this city for long and they were in no condition to fight like this.
* * *
The spare, smaller meeting rooms were surprisingly just as comfortable as the main one. Chairs just as comfortable, air just as fresh, and a small television hanging from the far wall that displayed the local news. The only blemish on the otherwise silvery color scheme were the four figures sitting at the table in the middle.
“You know therapists usually do this.” Elizabeth sighed.
“Yes, but this might be a more practical approach.” Hugh said as he relaxed in his chair.
“I’ll go first.” Vanessa offered, just to get the ball rolling. Even if what she was about to say made her stomach feel like it was being tossed. “I guess I just thought when I would need to kill someone it would be out of, well, necessity. Not off of a half-cocked reflex and accidentally caving I- some guy’s head in who didn’t even have enhanced durability.”
“Let me guess, you found out his name?” Elizabeth asked, not missing a beat.
“Yeah. His name was, ‘Ian’. How’d you know?”
“I took up the habit too, dropped it after a while though. But it does help keep you grounded in the beginning.” She explained. “But none of that self-doubt shit.” Elizabeth followed up, voice quickly turning from relaxed to authoritative. “We were all at the debriefing; from what you said those three could and would have killed you if you hadn’t gotten lucky with that reflex. And believe when I say that counter-attacking hard when someone actually manages to hurt you is going to save your life down the line.”
“And to segway off of my good friend.” Greg said. “I didn’t really feel anything. I knew I had to stop that globe guy and I knew that aiming for center mass with my strongest shot would be my best bet, but I didn’t hesitate.” Greg paused for a moment. “Which I suppose is a problem all its own.”
“Not necessarily” Hugh said, curiosity tinting his tone. “Most Heroes do struggle with it, true. But I’ve met a few that can manage just fine afterwards. So long as that apathy doesn’t slip into zeal, you should be fine.” Hugh reached over and gave his intern’s hand a squeeze. “No need to doubt yourself.”
Greg rolled his eyes as at the sentimental gesture but returned the squeeze nonetheless.
Elizabeth snorted a laugh. “What a pansy. I can’t believe you’re the same guy that keg-stands with me last New Year.”
“I don’t see how my softer side exempts me from wanting to appreciate some good beer.” Hugh sniffed.
Vanessa checked her watch, an odd accessory considering her phone could tell her the time just as well. “Well, I do feel a little better and It’s almost time to go out, so I guess-“ She stopped mid-sentence as she looked up and caught what was being shown on the silent television. “Oh. They’re doing the announcement already? I always figured there would have been some kind of warning or fanfare.”
Everyone else in the room immediately looked up at the faintly glowing box at her words, almost in unison.
“What the fuck? How did we not know about this?” Elizabeth said in genuine bewilderment, unintentionally and crassly agreeing with Vanessa’s sentiment. Hugh’s reacted first, keen mind and reflexes fast as ever, grabbing the remote and un-muting the TV so that all of them could actually hear what was going on.
“- this speech was delivered mere hours after the Pristine Striker’s had fierce battle at the docks. As of right now neither Spectrum, the leader, or the DVA could be reached for comment.
“If you’re just tuning in; A gang of criminal Supers attempted to ambush our city’s most famous Heroine, Obsidian Wraith, and her side-kick Gadreel. Causing considerable property damage before the rest of the Pristine Strikers arrived and foiled them.
“And then the very next day our state representative, Laurel Decker, just announced a new Hero Certification Program based in Detroit. We will now replay the clip for any new viewers.
The screen then smoothly transitioned to the image of a woman who was probably considered tall, but who was at least still a head shorter than Vanessa, with a wide smile of perfectly white teeth that was framed by glossy brown hair.
“It is with great pleasure and honor that I announce the official opening of a new Hero Certification Program. Based in Michigan, Detroit and currently housed by Vista University. Their very own top graduate, Simikiel, is now based in Brooklyn. Alongside Styx, the shadow of Lander, I’d say the criminal underworld just became a lot less safe.”