Styx sighed as he leaned back in his chair, the unexpectedly comfortable plastic it was made of bending slightly to accommodate.
It had been about five minutes after the frenzy of questions in the meeting room. Brian had suggested that they should have something to eat on his behalf before they leave and that his PEERS team was welcome to join. So, with muttering still well about, they’d all settled down into the lunch area with an almost garish green and blue design. After a little arguing, mostly between Samshiel and Fade, a big helping of old-fashioned breakfast was selected since it was still relatively early in the day; Stacks of pancakes, scrambled eggs, strips of bacon, sausages, and waffles a plenty.
“Where did Spectrum and Pulp go?”, Light-Bright asked after daintily eating a plate of waffles.
The two Heroes had excused themselves midway into the feast and after ten minutes they still hadn’t returned.
“They’re outside, getting a talking to from Dispatch.”, Styx explained, making sure that he was done chewing some sausage before speaking. The most important, non-Hero related thing his parents had ever taught him was not to eat with his mouth full, and he’d be damned if he didn’t latch on to one of the few casual pieces of advice he got from his family.
“You say that like it’s a name and not just a job-title.” Jerry-Rig while fiddling with what looked like the love child of a Rbuki’s Cube and a clocks internal workings that was covered in camera lenses. He’d finished his own meal early and was now tinkering with some gadget at the table, something that got him more than a few pointed looks from his leader.
“Because there is only one Dispatch that Heroes take orders from, so it’s a little of both. Having more than one individual with such intimate knowledge of Hero business would be unwise to say the least.” Crusader replied.
“Yeah, a foreign gang moving in sounds pretty serious.” Levi agreed, sprinkling some salt and pepper onto her eggs. “They won’t get fired, will they?”
“Not a chance.” Simikiel assured her. “Even if Brian or you guys leak this for some reason, it wouldn’t reveal how we plan to deal with them here.”
“Oh?” Levi intoned, eye’s alight as her attention was piqued. “Is there some secret Hero resource the public doesn’t know about?”
“Nothing so dramatic.” Styx assured her. “It’s actually rather simple, most local criminals just tend not to think that broadly.”
“Yes, we’ve got a distinct advantage over most criminal Super gangs, during expected conflict anyways, that most seem to forget about.” Crusader elaborated. “But I’d rather not say anything more than that Styx brought up the idea first. Trust me; it’ll make for a great surprise when you see it on the news.”
“I hope you don’t plan on calling us in as a last-ditch effort kind of thing.” Fade commented in his particularly thick, Brooklyn accent. The small bits of egg on his mouth standing out even more against his dark skin. “My power won’t do anything to a person besides either making them blind and invisible, or really creepy looking.”
After an inquisitive look from all the Heroes, and a nod from his team leader, Fade touched a single finger to his temple and suddenly it looked as if his clothes and skin had simply disappeared, revealing the blood, muscles, and occasional sections of bone working within.
Gadreel and Styx let out little breaths of surprise as everyone else just stared more, interested by the morbid display.
“Yeah, since my power let’s all light within the visible spectrum pass through a target, any deeper than this would encompass the eyes and effectively blind someone since the light would just pass through their retinas.” Fade explained.
“Man, put that away! I’m trying to eat here!” Greg said in mock anger just before he inhaled another pancake.
Fade chuckled, but deactivated his power, his skin and clothes suddenly becoming visible again.
The lunch lasted for only a few more minutes after that, the two groups having to part ways since they’d only put aside so much time for this event. Such was the nature of their jobs, frivolous activities were few and far between and usually lasted no more than a hand full of hours, lest they be caught off guard when they got a sudden call to action.
“By the way; I’m sorry about what happened at the meeting.” Styx said to Levi as everyone else had their little goodbye-chats on the front lawn around them. Paparazzi had shown up, because of course they would after their rather ostentatious method of travel and it was exactly what Lenny had wanted. Thankfully Maria was now here to give them a far more discreet exit.
“It’s fine; Brian’s a good boss and he looked more surprised than angry besides.” Tanya said with a smile, stepping forward to give his arm a light pat, as if consoling a puppy. “Though if you insist on feeling guilty, there’s one thing you can do that would make my day better.”
She stepped forward then, and before Shane could ask what, Tanya had snaked her arms around his shoulders, settling behind his neck, and brought him past those last few inches between them. A second later, soft, warm lips settled against his. A soft hum of satisfaction and mirth vibrating through him from the contact. The young man was surprised by the suddenness, but quickly wrapped his arms around her in reciprocation, bringing them closer together as the kiss lasted for long seconds.
The embrace wasn’t exactly smooth or elegant looking as their respective costumes would make a too tight embrace fairly awkward, but the emotions felt during the gesture mattered more.
“Booo!” This show of disapproval came from Samshiel and then was quickly taken up by everyone else as the couple separated.
Tanya sniffed at the boo-ing as they held each other, putting on a haughty tone, she said. “The vapid protest from those yet to find love.” Styx just grinned and kissed her nose, her own smiling returned then and she whispered at a volume only he could hear. “Maybe on our next date I can do something that’d really make them ‘boo’.” The older woman waggled her eyebrows at him, a gesture with her features that looked more silly than alluring, before being dragged back to her group by Light-Bright as they walked back to building.
“A Hero should not be distracted by such things.” Amy said, using an uptight tone that was obviously fake as the rest of the team gathered around Maria nodded sagely in agreement.
“You know, years from know when we’re all too old to keep being Heroes you all are going to be very jealous that I’m the only one with a stable, romantic relationship.” Styx shot back as they all started to join hands in a circle that their DVA representative was at the top of.
There were various reactions to that; Gadreel, Samshiel, and Terram looked mildly concerned. Pulp and Crusader looked slightly chagrin of all things. While Spectrum, Obsidian Wraith, and Simikiel just chuckled, either having made peace with the sad fact that being Hero was not career that often fostered stable relationships or having never cared in the first place.
Then with no more fanfare, save for Maria rolling her eyes after getting off the phone with Steve, they were whisked away in an instant. All the cameras caught nothing more than an after image of a pencil-thin streak of light going straight up.
Fifteen minutes later the whole team was back inside their base, specifically the armory. A place the interns had only very recently gotten access to. As soon as the double doors had closed and locked behind them all the lights came on and illuminated the shelves filled with armor and weapons, most of which just being replacements and editions for Rikki’s equipment, even a few firearms that she occasionally rolled with if the situation required it. Though there were two racks in the center that held something different, and bigger, from the rest.
“Alright, I’m sure you’ve all seen the weather reports that the cloudy weather is on it’s way out soon and that we’re in for a sunny few weeks.” Spectrum started. “So, it’s safe to assume the White Boars are going to launch their attack soon, and so, we’ll need to set up the really special armor for Terram and Crusader.” Jake turned and walked forward, the interns following quickly behind.
“Ablative armor.” Hugh said as they approached the rack with silvery armor that had an odd, almost flowing texture to it, as it were solidified water-in-motion. Each piece at least as large as a sewer gate, some larger and curved in places to fit on an actual body, but significantly thicker. “Prohibitively heavy, but I’m strong enough to move around in it and vulnerable enough that the defense will definitely help.”
“Why don’t you wear this stuff all the time?” Greg asked as he took a closer look.
“Because every time I actually need it during big fights it nearly always gets significantly damaged, and despite how good it is, ablative armor gets damaged in such a way that either you need to have it custom-mended back to together or you need to buy a wholesale replacement. Both of which being horrendously expensive even for a team as well funded as ours.
“Same goes for my armor.” Rikki piped up, slapping her own special suit.
If they didn’t know any better, the group would’ve said that this was some kind of tactical, mascot. The material it was composed of looked to be a silvery metal similar to Hugh’s, but with a wavier pattern that shimmered under the low light.
“Let me guess, only someone with a power like yours could practically use this?” Amy asked Rikki.
“Yup. Wouldn’t even be able to get inside without damaging it either.” Rikki said before, with a flick of her wrist, she made a seamless opening in the back. “It’s all a very tight mesh from some mix of alloys that I can never quite rember all the names of.”
“Titanium, reinforced steel, concrete interiorn, carbon fiber mesh near the joins, and shifter material covering encasing the whle thing.” Jack said promptly, as if he’d had to remind her more than a few times.
“Yeah, those.” Rikki acknowledged. All that makes the whole thing heavy as shit and not nearly stretchy enough to be useful to someone of Hugh’s size, but compact like this? I’m damn near a strongwoman in my own right and my power kind of flips the bird to things like structural integrity.”
“And I can enhance them both… to a point.” Pulp said as she stepped between the two pieces of armor. “Condensing and strengthening the carbon inside of materials by tightening bonds is pretty much my power’s specialty. Though there is a point where it starts to make things a little too ridged, even for Rikki.”
“How come we don’t get any fancy suits?” Vanessa said, partly joking as she looked over the myriad of weapons made of ultra-dense material that Rikki would be using her power wield.
“For one, Styx and Amy already got most of you some new toys.” Jake said, gesturing towards the knife strapped to the waist of Shane’s hip and the improved spear-baton that Amy had slung across her back, the weapon visibly more compact and with a more ergonomic grip.
“And secondly, Heroes like us don’t really need gadgets.” Elizabeth said, cutting in. “Just be prepared to hit harder than usual.”
Shane gripped the hilt of his blade and adjusted the position of its holster, a nervous movement that he hoped didn’t turn into an actual tick, and Greg took out and adjusted the monocle-like piece of tech that let him see much farther than humanly possible while also being more convenient than a telescope. “With what we’ve got planned for them, will all this really be necessary?” Greg asked. “We’ve beaten these guys before in every other fight.”
“There’s always the possibility of defeat of when facing new Supers, even if we have a vague idea of what powers they have.” Hugh said. “And so far, we’ve always had the advantage of ambushing them during a fight, and the one time they set a trap for us Gadreel got severely injured and one of the criminals wound up dead. Now they’ve got the opportunity to gather all of their friends together and attack us all at once.”
“Yes, keep this in mind when you need to do something like this during your own careers.” Jack said firmly. “Calling in Heroes from out of town to surprise a gang won’t necessarily make the fight easy, it’ll just cut-down on the amount of dead bodies needed in the end.”