After even more hallways and offices Stella and Miriam finally reached their destination. A large room filled with cubicles, printers, computers, copiers, and all the other bric-a-brac of the modern office. Two walls were covered with dry erase boards and monitors, one of the monitors showed a map of North America, and the other two walls had windows and doors into individual offices.
The cubicles in the main room had five other people in them; three women and two men. One of the four offices to the side of the room was also occupied by a very hairy barrel shaped man tapping at a keyboard carefully with two fingers, as if afraid he might destroy it.
“We try to keep at least four teams of four people for our intervention teams, and it’s our job to take care of members of the metahuman community that the normal social services in their states or cities cannot deal with. The department’s more than just us, there are a few dozen case workers, but we’re the first response for incidents like some child spontaneously turning into a mass of teeth, eyeballs, and tentacles when there’s no history of abilities in her family. The poor dear was powered, changed whenever she felt pain past a certain threshold. That’s the most common trigger for powereds, by the way.
“I won’t lie to you Stella. The work has no set schedule, though we’re busier when school’s in. Metahuman abilities emerge when preteens and teens are under extreme stress, and that usually happens at school.”
Miriam suddenly turned grim, “The incidents that happen at night are usually more sad, but I know you have some experience at that sort of thing, so I’ll just introduce you to the members of my team and Frank’s team, and see what people think of you. I’d have loved to introduce you to Linda’s and Jamie’s teams, but they’re out working on incidents right now.”
Miriam walked Stella over to the office of the huge bearded man with the long wild hair. As Stella got closer she saw that he was one of the few that had a strong visible tell of having powers. His fingernails were heavy black talons, and he had what looked like fur on the back of his hands.
“Frank? You got time?”
The big man looked up. “For you Miriam? Always! Is this the new girl?”
“Not yet Frank, but since I want her to be our team’s replacement for Steve, I thought I’d introduce her to you first. Let you find out if she’s got the right skills for the job.”
“Sure… Sure…” Frank said expansively. “I assume Miriam told you what we do generally, but hasn’t exactly told you why you’re here. She’s not overfond of the reason people like me and you are recruited to these teams.”
“What? Like social workers who specialize in abuse cases?”
The big man looked puzzled. “What? No! You turn into living steel, and are incredibly strong and durable. You can hold out of control kids down when their powers get away from them, or deal with a super or powered parent who decides to attack us. In a perfect world we’d have a super who can nullify powers in every team, but they’re incredibly rare, and in huge demand, so we generally can’t get them to work for what we can offer. Don’t get me wrong, the pay is good, but nullifiers can get several times more than what we can offer just working in prisons.
“We’ve learned to build teams of four supers that can cover all the most common situations,” continued Frank. “The teams each have a teleporter for getting the team anywhere rapidly, and for a way of getting really out of control powereds someplace safe. They also have healers like Miriam here for undoing the damage supers and powereds might cause to themselves and others. And we always have people like me and you who can exert a lot of physical force and take a lot of punishment. We try to get advanced minds for the fourth member, but they’re in huge demand everywhere, and telepaths tend to burn out doing this kind of thing. Usually we get supers with some sort of oddball power like Gerald over there.”
“His power isn’t odd at all,” Miriam interjected. “He’s an absorber. Well, sort of.”
“Yeah, like I said, oddball. He’s an absorber with a very limited pool of stored energy, but he can absorb a lot of different stuff, and he can absorb and expel at the same time. He’s also able to sense energy in a pretty big area.”
Stella was confused. “So….”
“Last week we had a powered who was firing lightning bolts all over the place. Gerald was able to track the kid to where he was hiding, and suck up all his lightning and redirect it into the ground until we were able to get the kid into a containment suit.”
“Wow. A power like that and he didn’t make it all the way in the HCP?”
“He dropped out because he was opposed to the idea of killing people. We prefer to recruit people who drop out for that reason. It’s also why heroes aren’t the best option for dealing with kids, because the smarter kids know that heroes are sometimes called on to kill out of control supers, and might freak out when a hero shows up after they accidentally hurt other kids. The DVA created this office specifically so we can log and track as many supers and powereds as possible from as early an age as possible.”
“I don’t get it,” Stella said. “Why doesn’t the DVA leave that to corpies, or hero teams, or even local social service agencies? There are lots of people out there for this kind of thing.”
Miriam put a hand on Stella’s knee to get her attention. “Dear, we work with PEERs teams a lot, so calling them corpies is frowned upon in this department. Now tell me, what do you think would happen if we didn’t try to keep track of as many young new supers as possible from one agency, but instead let a mix of different agencies, charities, and private interests do whatever they want however they want?”
Stella got it right away. “Some of the kids would never get help.”
“And when there’s even the slightest chance of an incredibly powerful super growing up in a bad situation it’s considered to be a matter of national security. Bad enough when a human child of abuse grows up to be a violent criminal, but when there’s even the slightest possibility of a child who can destroy cities growing up damaged it would be a nightmare.”
“Has been a nightmare,” Frank corrected. “Our department was set up after an incident in Kansas spiraled out of control. A girl was abused by her uncles before her powers emerged, I won’t go into details, but it was bad. Her ability caused massive explosions of some kind of corrosive energy. She destroyed a small city in a fit of rage, and heroes called into the site were advised of a Manhattan level threat and killed the girl.”
Frank gave a sad sigh. “Then the hero who did it killed the abusers that’d escaped her rampage, and then killed himself. It turned out that the fact that she might be concealing powers, and the suspicion that she was an abuse victim, had been observed and reported to the state by one of the staff at her school, but the state lost the report. One of her uncles was a minor political figure with some influence, so we think someone stopped the report so social services wouldn’t show up. Since then the DVA has taken a very active role in keeping an eye out for preteen kids who might be in bad situations.”
Miriam clapped her hands sharply to dispel the depressing pall that had come over the room. “Fortunately, cases like that are the exception, and it’s now very rare for kids with destructive powers to escape our notice. Normally, we get a dozen or so cases where we need to investigate in person every week. Usually from schools or other public venues, and typically because a powered or super child has hurt someone by accident. We teleport in, assess the situation, and provide all the support we can for the kids and their families. Occasionally, we’re called in on cases where the families are distrustful, and it takes a lot of careful negotiation and hand holding. Parents of powereds who fear that their kids will be taken from them and experimented on is the usual.”
Miriam gave Stella a look. “It does require excellent people skills and a subtle touch. We’ve had a few cases where kids ran away and disappeared, because their cases were mishandled. There were some notes about behavior issues in your HCP files?”
Stella felt embarrassed, and also the familiar rush of defensive anger that came with stress or embarrassment. “I… Yes. After I dropped out of HCP training I was… In a bad place, but I’d started working at Lighthouse, and they helped with some things. I’m a little better but… They kept me around for security more than anything.”
“Admitting you have a problem is the first step as you well know. Well let’s go meet the others shall we?”
Stella interrupted Miriam, and to Frank said, “What is your power anyway?”
Frank smiled revealing long canines. “I’m a big fuzzy dog.”
Stella felt like Frank was insulting her. “That’s not an answer.”
Miriam gave Stella a stern look. “Actually it is dear, and you are being rude. Frank’s a shifter. He turns into a big doglike thing that little kids adore, and even in his human form he’s good with them. During the holiday season he’ll dye his hair white and wear a Santa suit. Sometimes he can calm a bad situation just by showing up.” Miriam shrugged, “What can you do? Kids love dogs. The only downside is when he shows up unshifted, and they assume that he’s going to take them away to a boarding school for wizards.”
Miriam led Stella out to the main office to introduce her around. Frank’s team consisted of two of the women and one of the men, which had Miriam’s team consisting of the other woman and man. By the end of the day Stella had gotten to know Miriam’s team; the energy absorber Gerald Jones, a big angular looking man in his thirties, and a petite black woman only a little older than Stella named Tiffany King who must have been the teleporter.
Frank’s team were Janet Hu, Matt Lansing, and Janet Smith. Nobody volunteered what their powers were, and Stella didn’t feel like offending her possible future boss and coworkers by interrogating them about it.
What followed was another whirlwind tour through the DVA headquarters with all of Miriam’s team as they filed paperwork, networked with other departments, and lightly interrogated Stella about her work at the women’s shelter, how she might handle a situation like a teenage bully with strongman abilities tearing a teacher’s arm off, and what her favorite hobbies were. To which she had to admit she had none to speak of.
By the end of the day, Stella had been offered the job, and she promised to be back at the DVA the next day to fill out a ‘mountain of paperwork’ according to Miriam. After that she had two weeks to wrap up her affairs in California and move to Virginia.