‘I don’t know why I’m so surprised.’ Shane though as he cradled the lithe, bleeding form in his arms. ‘I should have expected this, I even joked about it with the others.’
Shane was in full costume and kneeling on a sidewalk beside a glass bus stop kiosk, illuminated by the numerous phone flashes and the glow of a street light reflecting off the twisted metal and glass of a wrecked car tipped on its side.
“He wrecked my fucking car!” Came the slightly shrill voice of the man Shane had already dismissed unimportant.
“Sir, you tried to commit a hit-and-run. You’re lucky he took his attention off you after making sure you couldn’t get away.” Spectrum said, putting a hand to the fancy-dressed man’s chest and pushing him back down to where he was sitting on the sidewalk, ruffling his gleaming suit. “Now sit down or will be forced to incapacitate you.” He enunciated the end of his sentence in such a way that anyone with more sense than none-at-all could see the very real threat of violence.
And evidently so did the man as he merely pouted with his arms crossed and turned away, but made no other moves to rise from his position, ass cold from the damp concrete.
“It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, hurts, hurts…” The girl in Shane’s arms kept repeating as she writhed from cuts across her body and her shattered hip. She was teetering on the edge of consciousness and shock as the young Hero tried to console and distract her with hushed assurances of safety.
Dispatch had already called in police and an ambulance, but that seemed so far away right now.
What had happened wasn’t complicated.
Spectrum and Styx had been teleported into an obscure alleyway to start their late-night patrol. Styx made sure to feel the shadows around them before moving forward as per usual and they walked out onto a lightly busy street. And then Styx nearly came face-to-mask with a girl on the sidewalk that had turned to face them after hearing the sound of their approach. In a matter of seconds, the girl bundled up in a jacket took three quick steps back as her face grew visibly paler at the sight of Styx despite her dark skin color.
There was a screech of tires as a red Ferrari that had been accelerating way too fast for the road it was on tried to break and the girl nearly stumbled trying to get out of the way. Fortunately, the swerving car only clipped her, turning would have certainly been a fatal impact into one that merely broke several bones and sent her into, and then through, the bus stop she’d been standing beside.
The driver had skidded to a stop soon afterwards, he poked his head out the drivers-side window and his eyes widened at the sight of the body and widened even further when he saw both Heroes rushing over. The engine roared again as he put his foot to the accelerator and tried to run.
Styx made his shadows strike without hesitation.
And now here they were; Shane wasn’t that mad at the driver, not as much as any normal person would be anyways. No, the lion share of his anger was directed inwards. Sure, the suited asshole had been speeding down a narrow road, but so were literally hundreds of other guys and none his teammates had scared someone into getting hit. No, as far as Shane was concerned, this was all on him; if he’d been a bit more mindful of how his presence would affect people, acted a bit faster, or found way to disable those kids with cutting them, than her fearful reaction and this entire accident could have been avoided.
A few minutes later and an ambulance and one patrol car had made it onto the scene. Two cops arrested the suited man and paramedics place the girl onto a stretcher after a moments hesitation upon seeing the shadow wielding Hero.
After Spectrum is done talking to the cops and both vehicles began driving away, he turned toward his intern who was standing of to the side in what looked like apparent calm. “Come on, let’s get moving. That was a pretty bad start to our night but we’ve still got a patrol to finish.”
“Yeah, I got it.” Was Styx’s only response as he ignored the slight wet feeling around his eyes and started following his mentor down another alleyway, the shadows around him twisting even more erratically than usual.
* * *
“Sounds fucking rough, man.” Came the shrill, gravely voice of in response.
The hulking figure of Levi’s shifted form rippled and strained with muscle as she lifted a slab of concrete as wide as a car. One chunk amongst a veritable sea of rubble strewn about nearly the entire block, the destructive result of a quarter of a quarter of a large building falling away.
It was the next day, next morning really as the time was around six-AM when Styx had last checked, he was tired but this was serious enough that he was willing to forgo a little sleep. Landscape Unit had been responding to a tripped silent alarm for a break in at an ATM company’s office building with obvious signs of their being a Super with high-end blaster powers as the culprit. When the team arrived and engaged the threat things got out of control when another Super with stealth capabilities ambushed them while they were inside the building with the panicking blaster.
The team had won, with only a few sustaining moderate injuries, but not before the blaster had accidentally cut off an entire section of the office building.
“How eloquent.” Styx said sarcastically before directing a dozen tendrils to grab debris and shift them away from the middle of the street. The Pristine Strikers and Riptide LLC’s PEERS team had been called in to help deal with clean up, and Landscape Unit had come in soon after they’d gotten healing and finished their debriefing. Their leader had been smart enough to call for an evacuation as soon as things had started to spiral out of control, so their were only a dozen or so confirmed injured civilians and the Supers had been taken alive, not in small part due to Defensive Dugout’s ability to raise building-high cover.
“What did you expect? I know you won’t listen if I tell you it wasn’t really your fault, so the best I can do is sympathize for now. I can give you a shoulder to cry on later.” Levi said.
Styx simmered on that for a moment then nodded his ascent. He felt a twinge of himself want to contest that she could know what he’d say, but logic won out.
Levi looked out over how much there was still left to clean and gave Gadreel and Simikiel a friendly wave as they and their mentors worked on the other side of the street as she took in the destruction. “Damn, the Super that did this must have been scary strong.”
“Yeah, Demolition Class easily. Same as me.” Styx replied as he continued working.
“Does that mean you could have handled by yourself?” Levi asked, voice tinged with obvious curiosity.
“What? No. The report Dispatch gave said that guy was an energy-based blaster. Unless I got the drop on him he would’ve cut through my shadows like nothing.” During the start of his internship Styx might have been hesistant to give out such information so casually but it was practically public knowledge by now that his shadows were dispersed by strong light sources.
“Then why do you both have the same classification? Isn’t it a power-level kind of thing?” Levi asked.
“Get your head out of the DBZ-gutter.” Styx replied sardonically. “The classification system measures immediate destructive potential. It’s not meant to predict who would win in a fight, just which supers Heroes should prioritize in a fight. And even then it only works most of the time.”
“Would you mind giving me a run down on it?” Levi asked sweetly. Or as sweetly as she could in her monstrous shifted form. As Styx crossing his arms and tilting his head in a way she knew signified slight annoyance, she doubled down on the pleading. “Pwease?”
“Fine.” Styx sighed and began ticking off points on his fingers as they walked toward the next biggest pile of obstructing rubble. “The system starts with NTC; Supers that don’t have propensity for damage higher than a human. Then there’s Standard Class, for Supers that are a threat to life but not a wide area. They represent the second and first most common classifications respectively.”
“I guess that makes me Standard Class then.” Levi said as she picked up and began moving more rubble, the dust in the air not bothering her in the least.
“I don’t know exactly how strong and tough you are, so it’s possible you could be Demolition Class. Which describes a Super who, if given an hour of time, could destroy a city block. Not completely reduce everything to rubble mind you, just break nearly everything. This is usually where strongmen or other very talented Supers lie.”
“Woo, I’m glad we don’t get many of those.” Levi said before shooting her boyfriend a side-long glance. “Right?”
“It’s more common than you think but Heroes usually take them out before they get a chance to really ramp up.” Styx said, needing to raise his voice a bit as the wind howled fiercely for a few seconds. With a flick of his wrist blades of darkness leapt from nearby shadows and dragged and partially crushed mini-van out of the middle of the street, revealing a broken and gushing fire hydrant underneath.
Levi nodded her understanding, not bothering to ask for clarification on what ‘take them out’ meant. “I’m guessing there’s more classes after Demo.”
“Yes, and this where the system is generally talking about maximum potential or and where you stop seeing powereds being considered.” He clarified. “The next one up is Manhattan Class, this is for Supers that could cause damage roughly on par with an atomic blast in one hour. And the final Classification, Armageddon, is unique in that there is no specific time limit and applies to Supers capable of causing damage on a global scale or ending human civilization as we know it.”
“Why don’t we see powereds anymore in the last two? I know they don’t have control, but they’ve still got power. And what about the ‘maximum potential’ stuff?”
Styx shook his head. “Because you can’t just accidentally be those last two. It’d be like a normal person saying they ‘accidentally’ became an Olympic level weightlifter. Powereds simply lack the control to properly train their abilities to such a level. And that doesn’t even go into the fact that most Armageddon threats are multiple, powerful Supers using power synergy instead of just one individual going at it alone.”
“And how often do Armageddons pop up?” Levi asked in a jokingly conspiratorially tone, or as close as a hulking fish person could get.
Styx actually seemed to think about this question for a few seconds before responding. “Around once per decade, based on the stories grandfather and all the other Heroes that helped train me told. That’s the rough interval of time between when someone, or a group, is actually strong and competent enough to try causing extensive global damage or legitimately trying to end civilization. The amount of people that are disillusioned about how much power they have and try anyways are much higher.”
“Yeesh, really? Do they cover it up or something? Because that sounds like something that should get way more media attention.”
“The DVA doesn’t really hide it but they don’t see any point in freaking the public out either.” Styx said.
Levi gave him a look before saying, “Oh, really now?”
“Just think about it; How many times have you heard some variation on, ‘Crazy Supers go on a rampage?’, in the news?”
The young woman made a clicking sound in the back of throat, oddly warbling out through her gills. A sign of annoyance even Styx could pick up on. “Yeesh. I kinda wish I’d stayed in Long Island and ignorant.”
“Aren’t those two things one and the same?” Styx asked, taking the opportunity to tease her a bit.
The punch to the shoulder he received was comparatively gentle for the Levi’s shifted form, but still hard enough to put him on his ass.