Eventually clean up and evacuation was finished for the day, only a few squatters had been found sleeping in one of the more stable, damaged buildings. They’d all done as much as they could for the area, both Hero and PEERS alike, and now it was time to leave the proper work to actual construction workers.
Though there was one last noteworthy event, at least for Styx. As they said their farewells, Levi un-shifted and revealed its- no her self to be a lithe woman with ebony skin and short, curly hair. That wasn’t the surprise however, what came as a true shock was when, while everyone else was distracted saying their own farewells and talking amongst themselves, she slipped him a small piece of paper during their handshake.
When Shane got back into the team car with everyone else he looked and then smiled to himself as he saw it was a phone number. It was a little more forward than he was use to but it was a nice way to end a rather pleasant day. When on the job Styx usually had to either deal with long patrols, angry criminals, scared and angry victims, violence, or long debriefings.
A peaceful day where he only had to deal with benign clean up work while chatting amiably with not-quite co-workers was a very pleasant change of pace.
Which made it all the more depressing when the next day marked a decidedly grim turn in Styx’s career as a Hero.
* * *
The weather had gotten even worse when Shane woke up the next day. Weather broadcasts indicated that heavy showers and strong winds were going to persist throughout the rest of the week.
Shane sighed as he saw the news and proceeded to get dressed. That kind of down pour would make patrolling way more dangerous and just a pain in general but he’d have to do it regardless. Couldn’t have criminals thinking all they had to do was wait until the weather was bad to have free reign over the city.
Which made his surprise of, after breakfast, Jack telling everyone that patrol was delayed for today and that everyone should put on their masks and go into one of the spare meeting rooms, all the more pronounced. Why would they need another meeting so soon? Had Pulp made a breakthrough already?
The new Hero that greeted him as he entered the room made it apparent that things would not be so simple.
“Heya, kids.” The man in a white and silver costume said to the interns, his voice practically dripping with anticipation for their rebukes. Pulp had been spot-on with her description; Intuition did indeed come off as a bit of a smarmy dick.
Amy looked merely annoyed, but Shane could see that Vanessa and Greg had bristled at the comment and decided to step in. This man taunted like his big sister, Angela, did during fights and he had an inkling as to how to undercut it, at least marginally.
Shane stepped forward, extended his hand for a shake, and then said in his most prim and proper voice. “Hello, Mr. Intuition. It’s an honor to meet you sir.” The tone was practically dripping in honey and Amy had to visibly restrain from laughing, though a small giggle did slip out despite her best efforts.
Intuition seemed to grimace in agony at the words but shook the young man’s hand all the same. “Jeez, Styx. I was just teasing, no need to go for the jugular.”
Whatever response Styx might have made was cut off by laughter as everyone else filtered into the large meeting room and got a slap on the back from Pulp as she walked to the front with her fellow Subtlety Hero.
“I let one onto my team and before I know it there’s another using my base.” Spectrum mumbled as he settled into a seat at the table. “This better be good for you to bring it up on such short notice last night.”
“This is incredibly important, Spectrum, but it may not exactly be a satisfying revelation.” Intuition said.
“Let’s cut to the chase then.” Pulp said, taking charge of the conversation. “We have come to a conclusion; the White Boars make absolutely no sense.”
There was beat of silence before Samshiel pipped up. “Uh, do you mean from a philosophical or moral standpoint?”
“No, she actually touched on something I’ve been wondering about for a while.” Spectrum answered. “I’ve handled determined gangs before, but even by those standards the White Boars are unusually eager to throw their members at us, even after such catastrophic failures.” Spectrum seemed thoughtful, as if something was on the tip of his tongue but he couldn’t figure out what. And by the way Pulp was nodding and Intuition was at attention, he was on the right path.
In the end, it was Hugh who finally got it. The large man with milky eyes snapped his fingers at his personal revelation. “Ah, they’re pawns that don’t know they’re losing.” At most of the rest of the team’s questioning gaze, he explained. “I’ve dealt with something similar a few years before I joined the Pristine Strikers. A gang with a lot of Supers, equipment that seemed beyond their means, and oddly good coordination. All of it was just a distraction, a group of idiots being lead to believe they could win by some rich and much smarter Super using them as a smokescreen for higher profile crimes. The insane bastard wanted to take over the city.”
“Can’t we reach out to the Company if that’s the case?” Gadreel asked. “This seems like the kind of thing they would work with us on.”
“Aside from it’s most basic functions, the Company isn’t going to be of much help.” Maria cut in, her tone exasperated, though it wasn’t directed at the younger woman. “Ever since the Charles Adair scandal The Company and DVA are going through a massive revamp. Hero work still needs to be done of course, regardless of public outcry, so Subtlety Heroes are now more stressed and in greater demand than ever.”
“So, what’s the plan then? All we know now is that it’s either some really competent rich guy or the gangs afflicted with advanced stupidity.” Samshiel said.
“As far as concrete plans go? We got nothin’.” Intuition said in consternation. “Well, nothing besides a few theories.”
“These guys don’t seem like they’re meant to win. Just scare, cause confusion, and lose after a while.” Pulp followed up.
“And let me guess; that’s why they’ve been gunning for you us in particular. We’ve been making them look like chumps at every turn, which is messing up the time-table of whoever employed them.” Crusader said.
“So, just keep doing what we’ve been doing?” Styx asked. “Smack them down whenever they pop up, run down any leads we have, and let our keener colleagues hunt for more.” His words came out glibber than he had intended, but he didn’t regret asking for clarification and wanting to move the meeting along.
“I’d like to remind you that were working off a hypothesis at best but, yes, that is the general gist of it. Though I would like to warn you that when we do crack open a lead you’ll need to be ready.” Everyone noticed the emphasis on “when”, clearly establishing that the White Boars’ downfall was only a matter of time. “While most of you have already moved past the beginning rough patches of the job, there’s still plenty ahead that can make an intern break down for days at a time. And I can’t have that if I’m going to include you in the higher end plans I’ll be pitching to Spectrum.’
The interns looked between themselves for a moment, trying to decide how to respond to such an obvious setup, before nodding.
“Alright.” Styx said.
“You can count on me.” Simikiel concurred.
“No problem.” Samshiel said.
“I’m not gonna lie, I might cry more but I won’t quit when I can still help.” Gadreel was surprisingly firm about her reply, her usually passive tones gone.
There was some good-natured chuckling at that last line before Pulp clapped her hands together and said. “Good! Now then, we can start talking about that ‘enhancing drug’-“
<Pristine Strikers and Intuition, there is confirmed Super conflict between two gangs that is spilling towards your base from the east. Accounts describe what looks like a fight between two shifters and a strongman in a prolonged fight against a kinetic force projector.>
There were multiple sighs of annoyance and grumbles as everyone scrambled to get their gear ready, Intuition flicking his wrist and having a thin sword slide from under his sleeve, an odd blurring affect on the blade. After everyone was ready they all reached Maria and began locking arms.
“This many people at once always gives me a headache.” Was all Maria said before they were gone in an instant, forms compressed and whisked away in less than a second.
The brawl that ensued seconds afterwards, while brief, would be cathartic for many of them at least.