Jack was pacing. He was in costume, as any Hero would be while in a base. The pacing was a habit he’d tried to kick ever since his internship but had never quite been able to break when things got stressful. And the current situation with the gangs mobilizing with surprising speed, national level events being announced that even his DVA representative and agent didn’t get any forewarning of, and the recent revelations of a plan to commit a quasi-purge all spoke of an incredibly stressful and dangerous situation just waiting on the horizon.
Sometimes, in spite of all of the people he got to save, action, and fame, Jack missed the relatively simple days of his fourth year in the Sizemore Tech HCP where his biggest worries were making a good showing during the monthly Sim battles.
“If you don’t stop you’re going to wear a groove into this nice floor.” Maria quipped as she strode into the room and took a seat at the round-table, shifting through the stack of reports she’d requested from the DVA and every Hero team based in Brooklyn. “I know things are stressful but your time is better spent looking through all these reports rather than just pulling at what little hair you have left.”
“Thank you, Zaria.” Jack said, ignoring the playful jab as he settled in across from her and began picking through the reports set on the table. “So, how are Shane and Amy doing?” The mentors of the team had taken to keeping a close eye on the two as soon as their rivalry started, just to make sure it stayed at the “friendly” level.
“They agreed to a form of co-leadership early today.” Maria said nonchalantly. “I was honestly a little disturbing about how logical they we’re about. I’m too used to the young Heroes having egos too big for their cowls.”
“Hmmm.” Jack intoned softly as he read. They were the usual reports from Landscape Unit about the low-level White Boar members causing trouble but nothing too major, some sightings from Insight of white supremacist graffiti popping up in the seedier districts but with no concrete connections, and more mundane news of the smarter and non-violent criminals lying low. And most recent, and frustrating, were the incredibly spares reports about Laurel Decker, a senator who’d apparently seriously backed the decision to build the new HCP in Detroit. But nothing in her official records explained how she could have possibly gotten a chance to officially announce it before the DVA did.
Jack sighed once more as he finished. “I just wish we could get information faster than this without having to rely on the other teams too much.”
“That… is probably our fault.” Mari said with some hesitance before her voice firmed once again. “Complacency.” She said the last word with conviction, however, making eye contact with Jack.
“What do you mean?” He asked. Jack wasn’t exactly opposed to criticism, no competent leader could with how prideful most Heroes were, but he expected it to at least be specific.
“This team has become complacent. I was frustrated by the same lack of ease-of-access to information and decided to ask for advice while down at the DVA, and I got some from Graham DeSoto.”
Jack’s eyes widened at that.
Maria continued. “I shadowed the previous DVA representative for this team and then became its official representative four years before you became its leader. Under your leadership the Pristine Strikers has experienced it’s most, relatively, peaceful years of service. The team’s reputation for power and ferocity has kept the smarter criminals from trying to target us and we’ve been able to rely on other teams whenever a group of criminal Supers get a head of steam. But now that were being specifically targeted by a group with a lot of resources and Super muscle, our usual methods just aren’t fast enough.”
Jack looked like he would argue at first, but his face then transitioned to contemplative and then to pensive. “Fine.” He could argue a few of her points, maybe even leverage Rikki’s sparse check-ups on some of the local gangs, but he knew those would be superfluous at best. “Then what do you suggest?”
“That’s the tricky thing.” Maria admitted. “You haven’t made any objectively bad decisions as leader, and neither has your team in their roles.” She began listing off points on her fingers. “Exceptional combat ability, fast response time, squeaky clean records for all current members, and you’ve worked well with your agent to become a community icon. Your team even helped stop two Armageddon Class threats, one in progress and the other preemptively; All of which is largely why you’ve escaped a lot of scrutiny from other Heroes and the DVA. No, the problem is that we’ve fallen into a routine and lack of a previously key asset. You remember the last Subtlety Hero on this team?”
“Yeah, Graves, he went rouge during my internship and I helped take him down.” Jack said, already thinking he knew where this conversation was going.
“Well, you need a new one and I think Pulp will make an excellent candidate. I can have paper primed and ready in less than a week, you just need to convince her.
That he hadn’t expected. “I- It isn’t that simple.”
“We would need to dig up more about her, why she quit her last team, and what she has to offer power wise.” Jack elaborated.
“Already taken care of, I’ve got her record and the report about what happened between her and the Shock Troopers.” Maria countered before sliding over a thick folder. “Her power is something she’ll have to reveal herself. Though I doubt it will be an issue, she is one of the most combat capable Subtlety Heroes I’ve heard off.”
Jack decided to at least look over the documents before voicing anymore complaints and what he saw there was very concerning, his eyebrows climbing almost comically high as he went over each page. “Wow. That’s really shitty. I’m surprised most of them only got a suspension.”
“What they did was unethical and got them a metric ton of scrutiny among the local Hero teams and the DVA breathing down their neck, but not technically illegal.” Maria clarified. “But now you know; Pulp isn’t Graves and you’ve already developed a working relationship with her through your teammates. You’ve trusted her with heading an investigation concerning your team, differed to her judgement, and heeded her warnings to great effect.” Then she slipped one last, single document out of her briefcase and put it directly in front of him; a recruitment request form.
“Now all you need to do is take the next step.”