Clean up had been delayed for the block Styx had demolished a field of tech-super turrets on. Such was the occasional fate of areas ravaged by Super conflict in a city that was hit by several at once in a relatively short time-frame. This was of no comfort to the people that had lived in the houses and apartments that had been partially destroyed, though. True, the DVA helped place people that were the victims of such destruction into hotels for temporary residencies until their houses were rebuilt, but it didn’t bring back all of the valuables that had been destroyed, both monetary and sentimental, or take away the trauma of the event.
When Styx, Spectrum, Crusader, Simikiel, and Pulp were teleported in by Maria, they saw that the PEERS team assigned to this job had actually beaten them to the site. PEERS teams didn’t have titles like the Heroes did but Styx did know that this one was employed by a company called Mordent Holdings. A woman in a yellow and white costume with advertisements tastefully interspersed on each part of her body waved them over, exuding the aura of a confident leader as her long, dark billowed in the wind.
“Nice to see you Heroes join us peasants.” She said sarcastically before stepping forward and giving Spectrum a firm handshake. Her voice had a light, yet noticeable, Puerto Rican accent to it. “Seriously though; it’s nice to see one of the legacy teams in this town is still keeping up standards, even while dragging sidekicks in tow. Some Heroes wouldn’t even consider helping out if they knew that some PEERS were on the job.”
“It’s nice to see you too, Light-Bright.” Spectrum said. “Where do you need us to go?”
“Hmmm.” Light-Bright intoned. “It’d be best to split you guys up considering how many of you there are.” She gestured towards a woman in a silvery costume with a see-through cape that had skin care product icons slapped onto it seemingly at random. “Crusader and Simikiel should go help Fade search for how unstable some of the buildings are.” Next was a man dressed like a stylized construction worker with over a dozen pockets and with what looked like a tool-box drone flying around him that was periodically using a tube to suck up dust, rubble, and bits of machinery the DVA hadn’t confiscated. The only advert present on his costume being the name of some tech company displayed in bold on his hard-hat. “Spectrum, you would be best utilized helping Jerry-Rig.” Then finally she directed Styx and Pulp towards a hulking, fish-like creature in a skin-tight costume with a popular sport’s drink icon on her back. “You two can help Levi remove the larger chunks of concrete and some of the wrecked cars.”
Surprisingly enough, despite Pulp’s initial aversion to the activity she vocalized yesterday, she followed the orders given just like everyone else.
The fish creature, Levi, turned around at their approach and gave a smile Styx couldn’t quite tell the intent of due to rows of shark-like teeth. “You the new guys here to help?” Levi’s voice had a shrill quality to it as the gills on the sides of it’s thick neck opened and closed.
“As much as lugging around rubble can help.” Pulp said before hefting up a slab larger than her entire torso and lugging it over to a pile.
“Don’t mind her, she’s new to this kind of thing.” Styx says as he saddled up next to Levi and connected to the shadows around them.
“It’s fine, we’re PEERS, a little exasperation is nothing compared to what we usually get.” The large shifter stood nearly four feet taller than Styx and a yard wider. Levi was layered with nigh-translucent muscle as well, revealing flesh, arteries, and making her seem even bulkier. Levi also had cute, little fins on the sides of its head. The thing that stuck out the most to Styx though were the eyes, they were as pitch black as his became when he used his power. “Besides, this part of the job is pretty dull.”
With a flick of his wrist Styx mentally commanded tendrils of shadows to start picking up medium sized chunks of concrete as he thought. Pulp’s general apathy towards this assignment wasn’t exactly surprising considering how most Heroes thought of PEERS as corporate shills. Which… they were in all honesty, but they were shills that helped keep his city intact, so they were welcome as far as Styx was concerned.
“I’d take dull over what I’ve had to deal with as of late.” The young hero mumbled.
Levi chuckled at that, an oddly wet, non-threatening sound. “Based on what you said during that interview, I’d figured you were having the time of your life.”
“Ugh, has everyone watched that interview?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty much blowing up everywhere. And it’s attracted the attention of all kinds of groups for different reasons.” Levi said before patting his shoulder with one of its large, clawed hands. “But don’t get so grouchy, that line of yours is really important to a lot of people. Especially considering what happening in this city, and some of the other Heroes are capitalizing on the upswing in publicity from it.”
Styx sighed before gently shrugging Levi’s hand off. “I know it’s important; I just wish I actually saw the positive affects instead of just hearing from my agent how much money I’ll make or how popular it is.”
Levi let out a full trickle of laughter then. “Jeez, you really are a descendant of Captain Starlight. I don’t know many people that are goody two-shoes enough to have a mentality like that.”
“Any decent Hero should prioritize helping over publicity.” He paused. “And I guess it’s also unbecoming of a Hero to be whining about too much good publicity.”
“Naw, I get it; I may not be a Hero but I’ve been frustrated by seeing nothing but publicity sometimes too. But don’t worry; You’re a Hero, so naturally you’ll be fighting more than you get to peacefully socialize with people you’ve inspired. But If you’re as ruthlessly effective as rumors and news indicate and you keep hounding those White Boar idiots, then I’m sure you’ll start seeing the community improve.”
“You sure do know a lot about this stuff.” Styx said, suspicion clear in his voice.
“Let’s just say I’ve got a clearer perspective than most Supers.” With that, Levi turned away and picked up a partially melted van and walked toward a row of similarly wrecked vehicles. Leaving Styx to his own thoughts as he got back to work.
* * *
Lilly stared in rapt attention at the footage of Styx’s most recent battles once again, a faint shiver going up her spine as she saw the brief moments of brutality whenever he struck. She’d been watching him for a while now, ever since the incident with that Minotaur guy and she’d seen him almost literally flay the Super alive. At first Lily had just thought she was just a bit cape-struck, she’d always found esoteric powers interesting after all, but it had definitely grown into something more over time. Styx, and the Pristine Strikers by extension, had driven her to an unavoidable conclusion.
The White Boars weren’t invincible.
Every day it was a little bit of something more, a few members would be arrested, a little more fear spread through the ranks, and practically every week the Pristine Strikers would take down a group of Supers and drive away potential members. But what had really driven the point home were her recent assignments from Brian, her recruiter and right-hand lap dog of the group, based on what she’d been able to glean with her power. Every time they met, with every new assignment, her handler looked a little less cocky and carefree about their situation; the signs were small but still noticeable. His arrogant quips and smirks were a little more forced and he even stopped with the intensely bad nicknames.
Lily wouldn’t say this week had shown her that the White Boars were wrong, she’d always known that, she’d been willing to stomach working for them from day one if it meant she got the money she needed to help her family. Even if it meant those fucks infested and ate at her neighborhood from the inside out. No, what drove her to finally rebel, and what recent months events had truly taught her, was that their intimidating strength, solidarity, and wealth were temporary at best. The entire gang would be crushed underfoot in a matter of months and then any benefit she might have gotten would be gone, and in the event it was traced back to her, her family would be put in even more dire straits.
The thought of being dragged away and leaving her family to wither away all alone filled Lily with a sudden and intense mix of anguish and rage before she got her emotions back under control.
No, Lily had done what most would consider unforgivable by helping them and now that she knew they weren’t even able to really help her, it was time to pull out and make things right. She wouldn’t pretend that her next actions were anything but selfish, there was no other interpretation. But she would need to be careful and swift if she wanted to extricate herself from the White Boars, strike back at them as she did so, and get protection for herself and her family from them in the process.
And as she looked at her newest assignments and saw the next moves they were planning, for the first time in a very long time, Lily made a minor effort of will and spawned her summon with a smile stretching her freckled face. The admittedly grotesque creature visible only to her eyes.
She had a plan.