“Where did he get a fucking flashbang?”
“Stun grenade, actually.” Amy corrected.
Greg snorted dismissively toward her before continuing with his rant. “I’m just saying; Shane claims the guy looked surprised even though he had something that seems specifically suited to disabling his shadows.”
“Sure, just talk about me like I’m not here.” Shane said, his voice heavy with sarcasm.
They were all hanging out in the common area, all of the interns lounging on the couch while their mentors stood around or paced in their own little patterns. The television hanging from the wall showed both senators, Robert Burton and Laurel Decker, having some debate or other about all the recent upticks in crime along the coasts of the US. Mostly focusing on the more aggressive cartel activity that the Heroes in Texas had to deal with.
Robert’s usually androgynous form was subtly more feminine than usual, indicating that his power had triggered again, wore a dark red suit, and he talked and theorized with a passion that belied his usual calm demeanor. While Laurel seemed to offset her senior senator with a creamy dress-suit and an almost apathetic tone while listing every single gang, by name, that had started acting up. Laurel Decker supported the largest criminal and prison reform groups in the nation, but no one would claim the woman wasn’t thorough about cracking down on active gangs.
Though Shane’s eyes were mostly glued on the tall, black man in a grey suit that acted as a quasi-mediator for the meeting. Brian Duke, the man Styx had saved on his first patrol, looked substantially better than he had while in the hospital. After retaking the head position of a very successful company from his temporary replacement, Brian looked almost at full strength again. And the company he headed was actually a rival to Mordent Holdings; Riptide LLC. Who also had their own PEERS team stationed in the city.
Of which, he knew every member and their powers thanks to Levi ranting about them the first time he’d brought up the fact he’d saved Brian Duke.
“It’s not exactly my place to say.” Hugh started, after putting down a science magazine about shifters. “But I’m not at all surprised he started carrying around counters to Styx after learning he was Spectrum’s intern.”
“And who’s place is it to explain the rest?” Vanessa asked.
“Spectrum’s.” Every senior Hero in the room said at once.
“And he and Pulp are currently chewing out Rancid and his sidekick for getting Styx cut in half.” Greg’s tone wasn’t even the least bit apologetic as he casually mentioned Shane’s grievous wound.
“Not quite cut in half.” Shane piped up. “The cut barely made it more than half way through my torso.” He lifted his loose shirt and showed the pale line the healer’s power had left across his muscular torso that didn’t quite reach his belly button. There healers strong enough to remove odd scar tissue like that, but he didn’t care enough to ask and the DVA probably wouldn’t spring for it anyways.
Every one of the older Heroes had at least a few such scars as well, even though they had faded substantially with age. All accept for Elizabeth; who opened her mouth just in time to be cut off by the intercom system.
“Everyone get to the meeting room, we’ve got a lot to talk about today.” Spectrum’s voice came across loud and clear through the almost impossibly small speakers situated in the rooms upper corners.
“Show time. Get ready interns; you’re about to hear about Spectrum’s most prolific nemesis.”
* * *
Pulp looked odd today. Which was saying a lot considering how generally odd the tall woman typically was.
Though now they’re newest teammate wore an expression of both excitement and apprehension; an odd blend to witness. She wore her new cowl instead of an entire mask and held a vanilla envelop in one hand.
As Shane gazed at her, for the first time, the young Hero realized he didn’t know her name. Unlike everyone else on the team, she hadn’t volunteered it yet. As for why he hadn’t simply asked the older woman yet; Shane wasn’t sure if it was because she was that good at diverting people’s attention from her or he’d genuinely been too caught up in current events.
Regardless he resolved to at least bring up the topic when he next had the opportunity as he sat opposite his frowning mentor. Everyone else was seated around the table as usual while Maria and Steve stood off to the side, talking quietly while looking over the clipboard, if a little closer than would be considered professional. This was also supposed to be an official DVA meeting, as evident by the fact that Maria was even here, so they were all currently Inactive.
“In light of how lethal and immediate this threat is; I’m not going to waste time.” Spectrum announced. “The man with silver eyes that Styx saw today is called, Stopper. His name was Daniel Norren, before he stopped using it; he is an old nemesis of mine and someone I helped get kicked out of the HCP during my own tenure at Sizemore University. I’d thought I’d killed him the last time he tried to make a move against my team, but it seems I was wrong. Honestly, I should’ve expected it; we weren’t even able to find a body.”
A beat heavy of silence passed before Rikki shattered it. “He also tortured me.”
The half-ashamed snorts of surprise that came from Elizabeth and Hugh set everyone else off as well in a morbid domino effect of laughter.
“Are you serious?” Amy asked with chuckling credulity.
“Yeah, but he wasn’t very good it.” Rikki replied with a dismissive wave. “Though most criminals aren’t especially talented in that area either. Remember, it’s usually just a matter of holding out until there’s an opening or help arrives when you get captured.”
“T- this is not a laughing matter.” Jack eventually got out and recaptured everyone’s attention, even though he couldn’t quite keep a few chuckles down. “Although, that does give us a good segway to his power; Stopper has the ability to loop time in a limited area, in small intervals, and so long as he remains conscious.”
Shane wasn’t as surprised as the others as he’d already seen Stopper’s power in action, it was nice to have confirmation though. Supers that could manipulate time were exceedingly uncommon, almost as rare as enhancers, which made them an extremely coveted kind of variant human. The fact that one had not only flunked out of the HCP, but gone into a life of crime on top of it, was extremely odd.
“What did he get expelled for?” Shane asked. There were actually only a select few ways for a student to flunk out of an HCP; lack of determination or physical complications in the first year, a weak power, or a problematic personality.
“He was determined, talented, had serious prior training, and was a complete psychopath.” Jack replied.
“That’d probably do it.” Pulp commented.
“He only managed to get through to the second year; arrogant beyond belief, trigger happy as all hell, tried to bully the “weaker” Supers, and took rivalry about as well as you might expect. And he hates me for how I got him booted as well, there wasn’t even a direct confrontation, I recorded him threatening the human friends of the top ranked Super in our class. I imagine the fact that he didn’t even get to know it was me really ate at him.” Jack explained.
“Wait, how would he even know to remember? Didn’t he get his memory wiped?” Vanessa asked.
“That part of the story is actually the simplest in my mind, and it serve as a lesson to always keep your thoughts at least partially-martialed when fighting Supers with telepathy.” Jack said. “The very first time Stopper fought our team it was by coincidence that there was an advanced mind in his gang. I let my mind wander when I first saw him, they managed to get away, and… well I’m sure you all can figure out how he found out.”
“Telepaths are scary.” Vanessa said simply.
“Amen.” Elizabeth agreed. “It doesn’t help that they’re the second most common Supers around.”
Shane wasn’t sure that last statement was a hundred-percent accurate, but nodded along with the general sentiment nonetheless. Telekinesis was one of the most general useful powers a Super could have, even if most lacked the precision to affect energy, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why telepathy was such a sought-after talent.
Pulp coughed into her fist to grab everyone’s attention then. “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I believe I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough. While you guys were out shopping, Intuition and I caught-“
Suddenly she was cut off by the voice of Dispatch resonating through all of their ear pieces. “Pristine Strikers you are all being formally reactivated for an emergency protocol Forty-Two H outside of your city.”
There wasn’t any hesitation; every Hero in the room stood from the table and began checking themselves over to make sure their costumes and standard gear was in order. While Steve helped take files off of Maria’s hands and recheck that the base was secure.
“Forty-Two H?” Samshiel asked as he latched his newest piece of support gear that Styx and Simikiel had bought him onto his belt.
“Hostiles occupying a Hero base.” Terram said gruffly in response.
As the two continued their conversation, Styx looked over and saw that Pulp and Spectrum were sharing a slightly worried look. “What’s up?”
Pulp spoke first. “This is the second time a meeting about the White Boars has been interrupted by a situation we needed to handle.” She shook her head before continuing. “Though the first time was justified since it was close, I’ve still got a bad feeling about it happening again.”
Spectrum grunted. “Agreed. Regardless, we’ve got work to do and we can’t exactly refuse based on nothing but speculation. Though I would like for Dispatch to look a little deeper if this just so happens to occur a third time.”
“Acknowledged.” Was Dispatch’s only response, a simple affirmation that he had been heard and that she would at least try. And that was what they all would have to be content with as Maria stepped forward, as everyone linked hands, and they were whisked away in less than a blink.