Pulp thought over her relationship with the Pristine Strikers as she leaned against a wall of the dilapidated building that hid her base. They’d honestly been giving her more trust than she’d expected, especially considering Spectrum’s not-so-secret weariness of Heroes like her.
Sure; Most Hero teams wouldn’t mind the occasional nugget of information from a Subtlety Hero that happened to benefit them, such as information on a gang or new teams planning to come into town. But letting one not part of your team directly influence your patrol protocols, and indirectly vouching for her by cautioning other teams based solely on her info, was a step beyond. Shit, even her last team hadn’t displayed that level of gratefulness.
She kicked the ground the little in frustration at the thought of Wave-Form, her previous asshole team leader, and looked around her. Taking careful mental note of all four of the bloody, broken, yet still breathing bodies that lay at her feet.
“Dispatch, the ambush has been taken care of.” Pulp said before rubbing her partially dislocated shoulder. “Two standard class strongmen, one guy that had pistons for arms that can really pack a punch, and one fire elamentalist.”
<Acknowledged. DVA containment units will arrive in approximately two minutes.>
Pulp nodded her head despite the fact that the gesture was completely unnecessary and looked down at her partially singed costume. She was lucky to have not followed the niche trend of certain female Heroes wearing nigh-skimpy costumes and instead went with the standard flame retardant and tech Super made material suits; the strongman curse of ruined costumes still ran strong, even with the women.
The flame elementalist, a scrawny man in baggy clothes and a shock of red hair, stirred awake then and she almost tensed before purposefully relaxing herself.
The young man looked around blearily before wincing as the pain of his fractured femur and the quickly forming bruise on his temple flared up again. Then his eyes got wide at the very visibly more broken legs of his friend who had formerly had pistons for arms. “W- what the fuck, you broke their legs?”
“He hurt my shoulder first. That’s called equivalent exchange where I’m from.” Pulp thought about kneeling down so that they were eye-to-eye for intimidation but decided against it. It left her a little too open to a surprise attack. “I don’t get out much so I’d appreciate it that while you’re in jail you spread the news; Pulp doesn’t handle criminals with kid-gloves. Think more Styx and less Defensive Dugout.”
Pulp couldn’t quite help feeling a pang of pride and a little jealousy when the thug’s eyes widened slightly at the mention of Styx. It was always nice to see an Intern get off on a running start, the Hero system relied a lot on fear and reputation after all. She just wished she’d gotten such an impressive start during her own internship.
“Y- you know him?”
“We’re acquaintances.” Pulp said neutrally before discreetly scanning her surroundings and making sure that the guy wasn’t trying to concentrate to use his power again. She wasn’t too concerned though; she could usually tell by watching someone’s expression and his fire couldn’t hurt her while she was reinforced like this. What did interest her though was his voice.
‘That accent is maybe from New York, but definitely isn’t Brooklyn.’ She thought suspiciously. What she had planned would be a stretch but that often turned out to be the key when doing Subtlety work, so she went for it anyways.
“Did they at least pay well for this stunt? Even kids like you should know that ambushing a Hero wouldn’t be easy, if not dangerous.”
“My name is Derrick, not kid, and why the fuck should I-“
“Because the more you spill the faster you’ll get healing.” Pulp said. That was a lie, plain and simple; he hadn’t given up before or during the fight which typically barred any Super criminal that wasn’t in critical condition from being treated by a healing Super. She didn’t often like lying flat out when doing deals, it could hurt her credibility among the smarter criminals if it got out far enough, but she needed to follow up on this hunch.
Derrick seemed defiant for a moment before wincing again at the pain he was in and Pulp could see the resignation in his eyes before his mouth even opened. “T- they paid us twenty-thousand grand for the job. We don’t know who they were but they had some pills that made us stronger than usual.”
‘But didn’t make you bloodthirsty like the Minotaur.’ Pulp didn’t let the surprise show on her face as she heard the price and responded with a curt “Thanks.” As the DVA vans arrived and the personnel came out with their containment gear.
Pulp was starting really miss her, if limited by the nature of Subtlety, social life. Now she had to worry about, who she suspected were the White Boars, contracting outside criminal Supers. Keep track of, help figure out, and cripple whatever Super or machine they have that makes pills that supposedly enhanced a Super’s power. Potentially clean out her current base and find a new location. All of that on top of squashing the nigh-suicidal team leader killing agenda they had.
And after getting just an eye roll after winking at the stunning DVA healer that had fixed her shoulder, she realized her romantic life had atrophied as well.
She gave a brief description of the fight to the unit manager and made sure to emphasize how forth coming Derrick had been with information; she couldn’t guarantee healing but putting in a good word for him might go some ways.
After all the gang members had been rounded up and the vans had left Pulp looked back at decrepit building that had once hidden her base. Half of it had collapsed completely which, while it did stop the brief fire Derrick had started, did not help concerning structural integrity after his other friends had busted blown out several walls during their assault.
By that time Pulp had already seen and heard the destruction above with her hidden cameras, notified Dispatch of the threat, and snuck out an alternate entrance that lead to a near by manhole outside. The fight had ended rather quickly after she ambushed them, albeit with a not-insignificant injury.
Not really expecting an answer Pulp decided to try winging something else; might as well go for a twofer today. “Hey, Dispatch, you know of any good base locations?”
<Affirmative. There are approximately 34 different locations that would fit your needs for a new base.>
“Than-“ Pulp started to say before Dispatch, surprisingly, cut her off.
<There is also another more streamlined opportunity for you. The Pristine Strikers’s leader, Spectrum, has put in a request for you to join his team.>
“Spectrum? The Spectrum wants a Subtlety Hero to join his team?” Pulp said with a little incredulity. “I don’t exactly dislike the guy, but I kind of find that harder to believe.”
<That is what the report says.>
Pulp decided this was a conversation best held somewhere more private. So, after telling Dispatch to hold for a bit, she stepped over some of the rubble and through what was left of the building before going down the basement stairs and locking herself inside of her pristine base.
She relaxed into the chair behind her desk, booted up her computer, and began typing up a check list of the facts: One; her base location had been compromised. Which meant, despite her extensive efforts, someone had been able to either track or trace her back to the location. Two; It would take at least three days to relocate all of her stuff from here to a new base and even more time to properly fortify the new location. Three; Accepting the Pristine Striker’s offer would significantly expedite the process of moving her stuff and would immediately net her a new base that would be substantially more secure and well-funded than her current one.
Her mouth twisted into a grimace as emotion raged against logic in her mind, momentarily surprising her that it wasn’t just the later that tempted her to make the leap.
<May I offer some advice?>
Pulp sighed. “Go for it.”
<Join the Pristine Strikers. They have resources and connections that would greatly help any Subtlety Hero early in their career. And you already have an amiable working relationship with some of their members and your power is strong enough for you to participate in the fights they usually get into.>
‘Lord knows teams have been formed over less.’ This was pretty much what Pulp had expected; straight forward advice based only on the facts, that was who Dispatch was after all, regardless of how horrific or mundane the situation was.
Except… Dispatch wasn’t finished yet.
<Also, you need to stop half-assing your job.>
Pulp nearly stumbled as she was putting on one of her spare suits, spluttering slightly before responding. “Excuse me?”
<You heard me. Considering your power, experience, and skill in your specialty the Hero Pulp should be making way more of a difference in any city she chooses to be in. But ever since you’ve gone solo you have been performing well below what your records indicate.>
“I… yeah. I- You’re right.” Pulp felt her mind resolve to a decision after processing Dispatch’s words. She was honestly a little ashamed of herself at the realization. Pulp hadn’t gone through four grueling years of HCP training and two scary years as an Intern to act as mediocre Hero. How many people she could have helped should have been priority number one concerning this decision. And… Pulp may have felt a more personal need to help them, some may have called it childish, but she’d always had a problem with bullies; which was why she took particular interest in taking down gangs like the White Boars, people that targeted and hounded what they thought were weak targets.
And the high possibility that they had just tried to do the same to her lit a particular hot fire within her.
“Thank you, Dispatch.”
<I merely did my duty and relayed all of the information relevant to the advice you requested.>
Pulp thought she caught a bit of sass in mysterious entity’s tone, but it was impossible to tell. Regardless, she’d already made her decision.