Laurel Decker lounged back In her chair as she watched the Heroes walk through the entrance designated for them, quirking an eyebrow as, one of the few that had their eyes visible despite their masks, plainly scanned over every area of the lounge they were in.
Honestly, she’d known her reputation would make any knowledgeable Hero suspicious, but this just seemed excessive; they we’re approaching this as if they were entering a villain’s base, eyes peeled for any potential traps.
She eventually just shrugged, sighed, then got back to work while keeping track of the Hero team displayed on her third monitor out of the corner of her eye. Well, “work”, might have been a strong word for it but any confirmed information gained and confirmed would still come in handy in future business decisions. Laurel looked back at the chat window and its secure connection
* * *
Msg – 4986 – R: You got back fast.
Msg – 4987 – L: Just had to make sure some guests made it in fine.
Msg – 4988 – R: Okay, no problem. I’m sending over all of the current video footage of the situation up in Montana.
Msg – 4989 – L: Thank you. Anything new to be worried about down in Texas?
Msg – 4990 – R: The cartels are having an extremely hard time, basically already retreating. They’re use to bribing and threatening anyone that gets in their way. A tactic decidedly less effective on the average Hero.
Msg – 4991 – L: As expected. There’s no official statement, but I know Gloria Ardiente must have gotten a bit involved since one of their native gangs started trying to reach out even more than usual.
Msg – 4992 – R: Yes, but it’s muted. No media attention considering its just covert exchanges of information to help the DVA and Heroes crack down on the problem before it gets out of control.
Msg – 4993 – L: That’s certainly fortunate for them; the current scandal with Charles Adair has already got the DVA pressed.
Msg – 4994 – R: Need anything else? If not then I’ll need to get back to my own business.
Msg – 4995 – L: I could go for a good date.
Msg – 4996 – R: Goodbye, Laurel.
* * *
Laurel snorted at that, a rare display of genuine humor from her that any of her aides may have flinched at had they been in the brightly lit office; she was currently sitting in one of her local offices up in Manhattan, deciding that being present during the tour itself would have been a bit much. If she didn’t know better, and had an advanced mind check a few years back, she might have guessed that Robert was being a tease. But no; the dear was just unsure of how to handle anything related to romance and was hyper focused on achieving his, admittedly lofty, goals.
‘Not unlike a few Heroes I’ve seen to be honest.’ Laurel thought as she watched the Pristine Strikers and her PEERS team make their way through the luxury and living areas. Well, technically not “her’s” but at a certain level of wealth and influence it wasn’t hard to effectively be in charge of a company without it being official. And the best part of it all was that the PEERS team didn’t know and Brian, at best, merely suspected that taking certain actions would be bad for business.
The sight of Levi starting to walk arm-in-arm with Styx while they moved down another hallway did give Laurel pause though.
That had been an unexpected development to be sure, but not wholly unwelcome. Being the quasi- employer of the person a Hero is smitten with could be very useful. Of course, as has been demonstrated in the past with certain Heroes that decided to work without secret identities, this often also lead to Heroes taking a closer look at where their loved ones worked.
‘Oh well, all that means is that I just need to be more careful than usual.’ Laurel reassured herself. Besides, compared to the three other PEERS teams employed by Riptide LLC that worked in the country, the one in Brooklyn was easily the most popular and well renowned.
Light-Bright, a woman who was a one-woman flare, emergency lights, flash-light, and flash-bang rolled all into one. Fade, able to make any material completely translucent for thousands of feet, even himself and other people. Jerry-Rig, with his grappling system letting him climb almost any surface no matter how vertical and even a few unstable structures, along with his portable construction unit he can use to near seamlessly smooth out any damaged street or side-walk. And Levi, the teams only strong-woman who filled the relatively mundane, yet necessary, job of carrying incredibly large objects and traversing the inside of structurally compromised buildings. She was a bit of a rare oddity in terms of experience though; a year three dropout from the HCP at Korman University. Usually people like her went for the Super Athletics Association, not for a career being a PEERS.
They’ve been around for a little over five years and have already saved well over three-hundred people throughout their careers combined, and have worked with over ten Hero teams during various major emergencies. Which was exceptional compared to only the dozen or so rescues most other teams make per year.
After checking over the news one last time, making sure that the heads up given by Robert were accurate, mostly ignoring the part tour where Levi, Gadreel, and Obsidian Wraith got into a little competition once they hit the training, she turned her full attention back to the screen once they got to the really important part of the event.
Both teams had finished up with the training room and were now waiting to talk with Brian, his personal office was too small to accommodate more than a few people so he had the gathering staged in one of the meeting rooms. He sat at the head of the table, naturally, while the rest sat at the sides, the leaders of each team respectively sitting closest to the head. And Styx had even done the courtesy of taking off his helmet, though his eyes were still that unsettling color of pitch black, which was either a natural side-effect of his Super nature that he couldn’t turn off or just a sign that he was using his power; either way it unnerved most that talked to him face-to-face.
“Welcome, everyone.” Brian started off, his face open and friendly as usual and his beige shirt complementing his skin nicely along with a brown tie. “I hope you enjoyed the relaxing, tour of our little facility.”
“Thank you for having us.” Spectrum replied, all patience and confidence. “It was certainly a nice change of pace.” And even though Laurel wasn’t in the room, she could tell he wasn’t lying. They’d all come in to the building tense, nearly twitchy, but now even Obsidian Wraith had relaxed and shifted back to human form.
“Don’t you have an offer to make us?” This sudden question came from Pulp, who affected an almost offended look when Spectrum shot her a mild glare. “What? We all know he is.”
Laurel sighed, of all the times for Spectrum to decide to get over his issues and take on a subtlety Hero, it just had to be now didn’t it? A lot of her plans had hinged on the fact that the Pristine Strikers weren’t the best team investigation wise and didn’t often work with other teams when it came to fights. Now she had to adjust resources and goals on the fly, lest Pulp find out the source of the gang plaguing them.
“It’s quite alright, I’m sure that it was obvious when Laurel asked you to come. I would have given the invitation myself, but things were rather hectic when I got back and things needed to be taken care of.” Brian assured everyone. “To put things simply; I would like for your interns to work with my PEERS team for a period of two months. They would be paid handsomely, of course, starting with around triple of their usual salary from Hero work.”
Everyone of them, aside from Brian and Light-Bright, looked surprised at that, even past the masks they wore.
Spectrum and Pulp were the first to recover and asked the same question at nearly the same time. “Why?”
“It’s nothing permanent.” Brian reassured them before anything else, a smart move on his part. “We all know that Heroes are mostly known for taking down targets and rarely get the opportunity for plain rescue work. And while you’re near universally considered a very competent fighting force, except for cases where mistakes are made, there’s still a lot of criticism about you escalating things more often than not. You can think of this as a very involved PR effort.”
“I question the wisdom of sending off nearly half of our current members during the middle of their internship.” Terram questioned.
“Especially when things have been getting pretty crazy with the gangs recently.” Crusader agreed, folding her arms in front of her chest-plate.
“There were times in the past when it was much worse, when there were less Heroes, and back then you didn’t even have an extra Hero of the Subtlety persuasion to help out.” Brian said, as if expecting this line of question and motioning towards Pulp near the end, and then he looked to the interns. “I’m sure, and I assume your interns are as well, that you can handle the upstarts in this city.”
‘This is it.’ Laurel thought. All the ambushes, traps, and fights from the White Boars directed to wear them down, the negative media attention from the inevitable endangerment of bystanders, and the overall chaos caused by a new gang charging in with surprising amounts of fire power. All of it meant to put pressure on the Pristine Strikers, especially their interns, just so they would be tempted, on top of the potential for profit, to take this deal. And unknown to Brian, she’d give the word to the gang to move onto something else once they took the deal; giving some vague excuse about how they weren’t worth the trouble now that they were doing “lowly rescue work”. The people she’d convinced to try their luck in this country weren’t the smartest but that just made them easier to use.
The interns should have looked interested, and she expected at least visible excitement from a glory hound like Samshiel. But…
Laurel was confused as to why they looked so resolute. Why? All of their fights with the White Boars had ended with no casualties for them, they didn’t directly fail to save any civilians, and the same went for property damage. So, what was with the determination despite how exhausting the near constant fighting should have been.
“I can appreciate the logic but unfortunately things aren’t just as simple as a new gang acting up.” Pulp was the first to speak up, and after quick glance at her leader who only nodded in acquiescence, she continued. “This hasn’t been made public news yet, but White Boars are confirmed to be led by foreign criminal agents. The DVA considers such situations an all-hands-on-deck sort of situation, no exceptions.”
“What?” Both Brian and Laurel uttered simultaneously, an eerie and unintentional imitation of what had happened earlier, genuine surprise hitting the business man and a bolt of panic streaking through the politician.
After that the room became an absolute flurry of questions and private whispering among the interns and PEERS team while Brian and the other Heroes tried to calmly discuss things further. Laurel kept watching and listening for anything else until things quieted down and she realized neither Spectrum or Pulp were going to just handout any further secrets the DVA hadn’t made public.
With a sigh, and some concerted effort, Laurel regained her composure, did her usual, relaxing ritual of smoothing out any wrinkles in her suit and combing back her hair. And then she cut the feed, rechecked that all of the anti-spy programs for her network was still running properly, before she picked up her phone and started to make a call.
Whether those idiots she’d let in had stupidly leaked the information themselves, or they’d, in spite of all logic and sanity, had shared the information with one of their underlings who’d been captured. Either way it didn’t really matter.
Now they just needed to die before the DVA managed to capture any of them alive.