Thibaud was a middling city in terms of both variant human population, crime, and infrastructure. So, it was only natural that it had only four Hero teams operating in the area, most of them located in sparsely wooded and dilapidated sections. Combined with the plentiful amounts of dew from recent rains that covered nearly ever surface, it gave the area surrounding the Hero an oddly serene feeling and smell.
Which made the smell of smashed and slagged concrete overwhelmed by the metallic sent of blood, as another volley of miniature eclipse struck, an even starker contrast to the Pristine Strikers. The sound like expanding, superheated steam and heavy artillery.
In spite of the sound and heat though, none of the force traveled very far, so none of the tremors from impact reached Spectrum or Styx as they stood on an abandoned warehouse. They were both silent as they looked down at the taken over Hero base, the semi-translucent blue shield that shuddered under from each wave of attacks from Samshiel who was tucked away out of site. Both men deeply regretted that the shield didn’t block smell, if it did then they wouldn’t have to suffer the acrid smell of the lone costumed corpse laying near the base’s entrance, head smashed into red paste. Officially, the rest of the Heroine’s team was being kept back until the time was right, and unofficially because some of them needed to compose themselves after the death of their leader.
Spectrum sighed again as he looked at the now dead Heroine whose body was still clad in a shimmering red and blue shifter fabric. The woman had died before they’d arrived, sparring the Interns from having to deal with any misplaced guilt, and she’d died saving her team, something any leader would consider honorable, but her death still bit at him regardless. The source of the feeling was something some people and most Heroes would understand; fifty Heroes couldn’t die this year, too much was at stake. The amount of fatalities on the Hero’s side during the big battle at Charles Adair’s bunker was bad enough, now every mistake that led to another Hero being taken out of the scene was stressful in a way that seeped into every decision.
Heroes died, that was no secret and a fact that most accepted, but the system was practically built around the fact most were strong, determined, and smart enough to survive for more than a year so that the ten seniors that graduated from the five(now six) HCPs could join and add to the number of Heroes. There had been a very select few years where that wasn’t the case, where so many Heroes died that the next generation were filling up open spots instead of adding new ones. And it did not escape his mind that such years were usually followed by more strife and general chaos among the public. And with the scandal surrounding the DVA and Charles Adair, rumors of Powereds being able to become Supers, and the recent increase in crime around the borders; such an outcome was unacceptable and may very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Some might find this kind of death calculus to be disturbing but he was a leader, and most importantly, a Hero. He’d committed himself fully to protecting society, he had to take these kinds of things into consideration, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be.
Styx’s voice broke him out of his musings as the mercenaries occupying the small Hero base finally made their move; a group of people in ski-masks and dark clothing that came charging out of the base with guns raised and powers charged at the ready as a small hole in the energy-dome appeared for them.
Just as he’d thought; they’d got it into their heads, from Samshiel intentionally arcing his shots from the same position, that they could quickly bum rush the threat to their shield and run back.
This entire situation had spiraled out of control when a group of mercenaries and thieves had got it into their heads to try stealing some impressive looking technology that this team’s tech-Super had been showing off. Not exactly an unheard-of ploy, and they had the right powers to try and pull something like this off. Unfortunately, as usual for amateur masterminds, their plan fell apart in practice, they lacked a proper contingency, and the ensuing brawl had led to this.
“Get ready; we can’t send in our close-quarter partners until the disintegrator they’ve got is taken down. This probably isn’t all of them, but in the chaos of their attackers being taken down you’ll have the opportunity to smash the dome without them dispersing your shadows.” Spectrum could’ve done this himself but not only was this good practical experience for Styx, his torrent of shadows would cause substantially less property damage than the kind of blast he would need to use. Sometimes, despite all the variety gifted to him, Spectrum regretted how restricted his precision was at higher levels of combat.
A flash of silvery-grey caught his eye as one of the Supers on the ground, who he guessed was the disintegrator, fired a blast towards the abandoned building the Samshiel’s blasts had been arcing from. The blasts cored through the building with no problem, turning everything it touched into fine dust to reveal… nothing on the other side, the showy energy blast dissipating after crumbling the wall of the building behind it.
The thugs had just enough time to be confused by all the nothing they saw before collapsing to the ground as Terram dashed from a nearby alley and turned his baleful gaze upon them, instantly burning away their strength and stamina.
Honestly, Spectrum couldn’t blame the thugs; there was no way they could have known Samshiel could manifest his constructs anywhere in his line of sight, or that the intern was actually tucked away on a roof nearly a block away while using his new gear to get a clear target even from so far away.
“Styx.” Was all Spectrum needed to say. In the span of a second the entire block behind the base seemed to distort as every shadow there was animated.
Inky blades rose higher and higher into the sky, hundreds of them rushing upwards so close together the entire mass seemed to be a collective. The array of inky, darkness formed an obelisk that briefly blocked everyone’s view of the sun, casting the entire area in deep shadow.
Spectrum didn’t flinch at the sight, he was too well trained for that, nor was the mood light enough that anyone of the Heroes linked in made a quip, but everyone did watch in awe as the spire of blades seemed to tip forward before the entire thing came rushing down towards the barrier faster than any mass that size should. A few members of the group managed to regain their composure enough to fire a few blasts towards the oncoming tidal wave of bladed destruction. But it wasn’t nearly enough, and with their main damage dealers exhausted and terrified on the ground, what came next was inevitable.
This time, everyone felt the ground shudder as the torrent of shadows crashed into, and then shattered, the entire barrier, narrowly missing the base itself, and carving a trench into the ground. A gout of dust and rubble flew every where as the tremors reverberated for long seconds before finally ceasing.
With the barrier down and the disintegrator and strike group being taken care of by Terram; Pulp, Obsidian Wraith, and Gadreel rushed forward with a vengeful Hero team running with them as they toke on whoever remained in the base, Simikiel and Crusader providing support from above.
The fight didn’t last long. The only noteworthy highlight being when one of the Heroes in a red costume, their second in command “Brockton”, used what looked like telekinesis to shatter every limb of the kinetic-projector that had killed his leader. The kinetic wave of force had been justified considering the intense, if brief, brawl; but Spectrum skimmed that the level of damage done skimmed into the excessive range. But that was for the DVA to judge in what would surely be an extensive debriefing, the now disturbed Hero team called Varmint didn’t need him lecturing at them.
“Good work.” Spectrum said to his intern as they made their way to street level via a fire-escape. “You told us that wielding massive amounts of shadows was where your naturally talented, rather than precision; but it’s another thing entirely to see it in action.”
“Yeah, I knew what the DVA and other Heroes would ask of me long before I graduated from the HCP.” Styx said as they dropped the rest of the way when the fire escape ladder ended. “Though I don’t like to show it off unless necessary; it’ll only come as a surprise once or twice and it’s good for suddenly breaking an enemies’ resolve.”
“Trust me; I know all about that kind of work.” And Spectrum did understand, and it was why this “Class of Nightmares” that Styx was apart of eased his worriers.
Lander always pumped out Heroes of exceptional power, but these kids were so good that they were already helping stow the tide of rising tensions and opportunistic masterminds. A new Intra, a high-end multi-energy absorber, a gravity manipulator, and some new strongman that Titan himself was mentoring; and those were just the ones in Brewster. Of course, these new Heroes didn’t guarantee success; they were just as mortal as any of the other, just as mortal as the now dead Hero that the DVA would need to clean up, but they’d give this country a chance at least.
“That’s why I agreed to be your Intern.” Styx replied as they finished their trek to the battle field, the shrill siren of DVA vans approaching rapidly, before going quite as he saw the corpse and several of the Heroes standing over it. After a few seconds hesitation, he asked a question. “My grandfather gave me a pretty good idea, but he’s been out of the life for over a decade. How do the DVA handles things like this?”
“The procedure hasn’t changed much over the years, but like everything else, it’s become more refined.” Spectrum explained as the sirens of DVA vans approached. “The cleanup crew comes by along with a containment one when a Hero casualty is reported; they completely sanitize and remove all forensic evidence of the Hero in question to protect their identity, then-“
A blur of movement out of the corner of his eye, a yell from one of the local Heroes, and a grunt from Styx was all the warning Spectrum got before one of the downed criminals was on Styx’s back and had a rusty knife pressed up and into the armor covering his neck.
“Now, you all backup or- uff!” Whatever threat the scrawny man was about to make was cut off as Styx flipped him up and over, the knife scraping a harmless, thin line across his armor, and slammed him into the ground in one smooth motion. As the Super gasped for breath from his painful impact, Styx unsheathed his new knife and plunged it deep into where the man’s right socket knee would be.
Spectrum was surprised before he saw the man’s scream of pain tapper off into a whimper of fear as he faced Styx fully, then everything fell into place. “Stay down.” Styx snarled down at the older, and less fit, man as Simikiel raced over dragged the man back to where the rest of the group had been rounded up.
The guy had probably been desperate and just tried to take the nearest costumed figure hostage without realizing who he was grabbing.
“Ahem.” Spectrum said after making sure all the mercenaries were properly cowed and watched this time. “After, making sure all the criminals are secured and put into proper restraints, the DVA sends in a cleanup crew to completely sanitize and remove all forensic evidence from the scene to preserve their secret identity even after death.”
“Sounds about right.” Styx replied as he kept an eye on the groaning man who was being efficiently handled by the DVA personnel that had arrived on the scene in coveralls and with large suitcases. “That first part would be a lot easier if the DVA let us have the more practical containment gear though.”
“Now, Styx, let’s handle one major problem at a time; we’ve already got our hands full with the DVA and Charles Adair controversy, co-existence between the three races of humans, and now the sudden rise in crime in what looks like every major costal city. Let’s just take things one at a time, a Hero can only do so much.”
The Heroes continued to look on at the scene of expertly and barely contained chaos of shouting costumed figures, futuristic technology, and in-human displays of force and power among a broken field of battle and blood.