7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Dani Reyes - Friday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Dani Reyes – Friday


 


 

12:18am


 

Very little stirred in the bitter cold of the night. Far too cold for more snow to fall, but the nearly six foot drifts didn't really need anymore frosty reinforcements to look impressive. The streets of downtown Anchorage were silent in the first hour of Christmas morning, until suddenly they weren't.

"God dammit!" The words were difficult to make out, coming from the incredibly fast reddish blur that streaked into the deserted parking lot of the Northern Lights Mall. "It is CHRISTMAS! And it is COLD! Why would you be doing things like this RIGHT NOW?"

The shadowy form being chased by the reddish blur narrowly evaded the grasp of a clawed hand before leaping upwards to spin and land on the roof, facing its pursuer.

“The Children of the Night have no concern for the c-cold, nor do we care for your mortal holidays. No get yourself away before I destroy you, beast-woman!”

The redfurred catgirl slid to a stop in the icy parking lot to stare up at her dark-clothed opponent in disbelief. “Children of the Night?”

“That is one of the names we go by.”

“As in you think you're a freakin vampire?”

“I do not THINK it, b-beast wom-...”

Before the self-styled nosferatu on the roof could finish his statement, the red catgirl had leapt back into motion, clearing the distance between the two with a deafening bang as her jump accelerated her past the sound barrier. “THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS VAMPIRES!”

The darkly dressed man shrieked in surprise, and more than a little bit of pain, as he was tackled at incredible speed and enough force that the pair fully cleared the mall to land in the parking lot on the far side. Before the 'vampire' could recover he found himself going slightly cross-eyed to focus on a wickedly sharp looking blade his opponent had produced from somewhere to hold less than an inch from his face.

“Say you're not really a vampire!”

“I'm n-n-not a vampire!” It was now more than just the cold causing the dark clothed Super to stutter.

“Say you're sorry for insulting Christmas!”

“I'm s-sorry I insulted C-Christmas!”

“Now roll over!”

The now quite thoroughly terrified man did as instructed, ignoring that doing so pressed his face into a dirty snowdrift in favor of agreeing to anything the impossibly fast shifter with the knife told him to do. There was a loud ratcheting sound and a heavy weight suddenly pulled down on the man's hands. “Now we're going to go back and apologize to that woman you attacked.”

“Kitty Style, this is Dispatch. Just a reminder that taking a perpetrator back to his victim is NOT a recommended course of action.” The Hero frowned at the sudden presence of the accented voice in her ear, but she realized that Dispatch was probably right. It hadn't gone very well the last time.

“Dispatch, this is Kitty Style. Please arrange for a pickup with a containment unit for a physical Super to the... East lot of the Northern Lights Mall?”

“Confirmed. Local law enforcement is en route with appropriate prisoner transport. ETA is 17 minutes.”

“Umm, exc-cuse me? Ms Kitty Style?” Dani looked down at the shivering man at her feet.

“Yes?”

“C-can I get up out of the snow now? It's r-really c-cold.”

“I thought you said your kind doesn't care about cold?”

“That was w-when I was p-pretending to b-be a v-vampire. It's r-really really c-cold.”

After a few seconds of consideration, the Hero reached down and hauled her captive to his feet. “Why'd you pretend to be a vampire anyways? Vampires are gross and scary.”

“It s-seemed like a g-good idea at the t-time?”

This response drew another long contemplative moment from the Hero. “Okay, fair enough. Just remember, when you get out and think something like this might be a good idea again?” Dani leaned in very close to her captive, a frighteningly unreadable expression on her inhuman features. “You didn't break when I hit you this time. That means if it happens again, I get to hit you for real.”

The smile that accompanied the statement was sufficiently intimidating that the poor Super was still making whimpering sounds when the containment unit arrived to take him away.

 

******************************

 

So this was a complete chapter as of about 9 Pacific Time, then I went back to edit it and my computer crashed and this was all that was there.  I have no idea how the rest of the chapter got eaten, but enjoy this teaser while I re-write the rest tomorrow!

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Dani Reyes - Thursday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Dani Reyes – Thursday


 


 

9:00am


 

"Will you stop pacing!" The annoyed shout drew 14 pairs of eyes to look in the direction of dark haired, tall, athletically-muscular young man leaning against the lecture hall's wall and utterly failing to project a look of confidence.

The target of the yelling, a slim red-haired hispanic girl of average height held the taller youth's gaze for several seconds before sticking her tongue out and turning to resume her, to all outward appearances, carefree walk around the room. The young man pushed off the wall with a force that left cracks in the concrete, but he was intercepted before he could make it more than a few steps.

"Dude, David, chill the hell out." The interceptor was slightly shorter and much lighter than the angry dark haired man, but David halted the moment the blond man stepped in his path.

“Whatever. She's not gonna make it anyways.” David glared past the shorter man at the redhead as he stepped back to lean against the wall again.

The pacing girl responded by giggling loudly. “Aw, poor Davie. It's okay to be nervous, just don't take it out on me big guy.”

The blond man sighed and raised a hand to interrupt another outburst from David as he turned to face the mocking Latina. “Dani, you've been messing with David for the past four years. You think you can MAYBE lay off for the next hour until we find out if we made it or not?”

Dani paused her pacing and seemed to consider the matter deeply. “Well, Mark, since you asked SO nicely, I guess I could make today an exception. Just for you!” The redhead linked her hands together in front of herself and leaned forward to bat her eyelashes at the blond man as she replied. She managed to hold the pose for almost five seconds before she broken down laughing, along with the rest of the room.

“Seriously girl, how can you NOT be worried about this? No one has EVER graduated from Professor Miccay's Weapons course since he started at Overton five years ago.” The question came as the laughter died down, from the only other female in the room. Slightly taller than the pacing redhead, but thinner and with plain brown hair and glasses, the girl's voice carried a heavy note of anxiety even as she recovered from the brief bout of laughter.

“What's the point in worrying? I either made it, and Kitty Style will be unleashed to claw her way through the underworld of criminal Supers tomorrow!” Several groans came from around the room as the hispanic girl actually leapt onto one of the chairs as she spoke to strike a 'heroic pose.' “Or they're going to rip my freakin' memories out of my skull, and I won't remember anything that I need to be anxious about!”

“But Dani, think about it.” A small, black-haired youth in one corner joined the conversation with a quietly deadpan voice. “Of everyone in this room, can you afford to lose ANY of the brains you claim to have in that skull of yours?”

Another round of laughter rang out in the room, with Dani sticking her tongue out again briefly before joining in.

It was to this laughter that the door of the room opened, revealing a middle aged man wearing a business suit that strained to contain the muscular body that completely filled the doorway. “Mark Gillesen, please accompany me.” The voice was not loud, but the whole room seemed to vibrate softly with the cadence of the man's words.

“Right away, Dean!” The blond man strode quickly to the doorway before spinning to bow deeply to his classmates. “Looks like this is it, one way or another! See you on the other side!”

And with that farewell, he was through the door. Most of the students turned their attention back inward, focusing on trying to project calm and confidence that few of them actually felt. The effect was rather ruined when the redhaired girl leapt up onto one of the desks and began cartwheeling across the furniture. It didn't take long for the room to break back down into laughter again when she missed the corner at the end of the second row.


 

10:10am


 

“Good morning, Ms Reyes.” Dani blinked a few times in response to the greeting as her eyes adjusted to the slightly too-bright lighting in the room, the she waved cheerfully to the assembled Instructors and strolled over to drop gracelessly into the single chair facing the group.

The nonchalance from the student drew a few brief chuckles from the assembled Overton Instructors. “You seem to be in rather good spirits this morning, Ms Reyes.” Even in the larger room, the rumbling voice of Overton's Hero Certification Dean seemed to vibrate through the walls.

“Of course I'm in a good mood! I just finished four years of college and I got my god damned degree! Do you have any idea how HARD it is to study all the boring stuff?” A couple more chuckles emerged from the Dean, while the rest of the Instructors found themselves staring with more than a little disbelief. “Oh, and I get to be a Hero starting today! That's pretty awesome!”

“You seem extremely confident that you've landed above the cutoff line, Ms Reyes.” The observation from the thin man immediately to the massive Dean's left drew a dismissive wave from the student.

“Of course I'm above the line, Professor Miccay. I'm awesome!”

The response drew a pointed stare from the Weapons Professor, which the student ignored in favor of smiling at the rest of the assembled Instructors. “So, I'm a Hero now. What happens next?”

“Like I said.” There was a note of levity in the slender man's tone as he spoke again. “Completely fearless, completely irreverent, and terrifyingly skillful.”

“So we've noticed, over they years.” The interjection from the lone female Instructor at the far right of the table drew more chuckles and murmurs of assent. “In answer to your question, Ms Reyes, what happens next is we congratulate you for earning the title of 'Hero' and discuss what that will mean over the next two years.”

“Oh, I know that part! This is where I get to be a sidekick! Who am I going to be working with? Is it someone awesome? Like Diamond Glance, or Dreadnaught, OOOH! Is Captain Starlight still a Hero? I th-...”

“BEFORE the matter of your internship.” The Dean finally interrupted the rapid fire stream of chatter from the excited new Hero. “There is the matter of confirming your intended Hero Identity wi-...”

“I already did all that. Brand new Hero, Kitty Style, reporting for internship! I picked out the name two years ago, and finished my uniform design last year! All done already! So who's my Hero?”

“Dani, what Dean Hallen is trying to say with FAR too much tact for you to realize.” It was impressive that Professor Miccay could manage to begin a speech like that without sounding the least bit condescending. “Is that you might want to reconsider your chosen Hero Identity and... 'uniform.'”

“Hmmm.... Nope. I like them both!”

Sighs came from around the table, though a few heads were lowered to hide the smiles that accompanied them. “Please take this matter seriously Ms Reyes.” The Dean's voice was raised slightly this time and the floor trembled slightly as a result. “Ignoring the extremely derogatory jokes that 'Kitty Style' can be made into with no effort at all-...”

“What jokes?”

The Dean stopped speaking and stared at the graduate in front of him, mouth actually hanging open in shock. Dani managed to maintain a completely innocent, puzzled expression for almost ten seconds before she fell out of her chair laughing.

“Right, so you DO see wha-...”

“Try to convince me that Ramrod isn't turned into a sex joke just as easily.” Dani made her interrupting rebuttal from the floor as she got her laughter under control and pulled herself up into the chair again. “Tell me that Superslick or The Wondrous Orbs aren't constantly written into news articles that make fun of their names. Hell, Pants of Power has been an active Hero for almost 8 years. You really want to give me a hard time for Kitty Style? Or think it's somehow gonna be worse than a hundred other Hero names?”

“...point taken, Ms Reyes. Moving on to your uniform.” The extremely muscular Dean reached down to fiddle with a remote that looked like it was about to come apart in his massive hands at any moment, before finally getting a screen on the wall behind the Instructors to come to life. Displayed in impressively high definition, for such a large monitor, was possibly the most bizarre and eclectic collections of different traditional martial arts wear ever assembled into a single outfit.

Dani squee'd with delight at the larger than life image of her uniform, drawing a few more sighs from the table.

“The concern here, Ms Reyes.” The oldest man at the table took the lead this time, Overton's Focus Instructor was closing in on ninety and every one of the seniors had been shocked to see him back again this year. “Is that your chosen 'uniform' might be considered extremely offensive to many of those who diligently practice the martial arts you have co-opted pieces of garb from. Several of the pieces of paraphernalia included represent extreme levels of dedication and hard-work that martial artists spend YEARS achieving.”

“I know all that, Professor Yates. I earned all of them myself, that's why I want them to be part of my uniform.”

The Professor met the declaration with a steady stare, holding the look for over a minute before seeming to realize that the young Hero was not about to break down laughing a second time. “You earned, ALL of these?”

“Yep! I've been practicing martial arts since I could walk. And then once I started shifting and found out how fast I was, I started branching out into more and more styles so that I could find the pieces I needed to finish my own style. Kitty Style!”

It seemed completely impossible for anyone to make such a declaration with a straight face, but there was no sign of humor from the recently graduated HCP student. Dani Reyes made her statement wearing a proud smile and no hint of levity that could be detected.

“Well, I suppose that matter is, in fact, settled.” The Dean reached down to the table in front of him and flipped open a folder. “Ms Reyes, it would appear that you are better prepared than we believed. Having had the privilege of training you for the past four years, I suppose we REALLY should all have known better.” Unmuffled laughter came from around the table this time as Dani nodded her vigorous agreement with the statement. “So it is my pleasure to officially welcome you to the ranks of Heroes, Kitty Style. All the mentors will be meeting their interns in the Ethics lecture hall at one o'clock. I recommend grabbing some lunch and being in uniform and waiting by then.”

The Dean stood to offer a handshake to congratulate the newest Overton Hero, but was nearly bowled over when the shifter opted for a high-velocity tackle-hug instead.

“I'm a HERO!”


 

12:19pm


 

“C'mon Dani, you're going to be late if we don't head back soon.” Dani offered the brown haired girl a disbelieving look in response. “Okay, so you and I won't be late, but everyone else will be. C'mon girl, you can count. There's ten of us here, that's all that make it through.”

“Not always. There've been classes with eleven graduates before when all eleven were ranked in the top 50 between the programs. That's what's happened again this time, Tracy. It HAS to be.”

“Dani, if that were true then David would have been here over an hour ago. Didn't he get called out of the waiting room before you did?” The redhead jerked away as her friend tried to reach a comforting hand across the table.

“There's no way Davie didn't make it. He was ranked fourth in our class. FOURTH. He'll be here.”

Tanya sighed and settled back in her chair to wait with her friend, knowing there wouldn't be anything she could say at this point to change the redhead's mind. “Tell you what, Dani. We'll wait until a quarter til, then we'll rush back together. Maybe David DID graduate and he's just not showing up at the restaurant we picked because he wants to get back at you for all the times you messed with him over the years.”

Dani smiled and nodded in response, then turned to stare down at the tabletop in front of her. Tracy continued to engage her friend with small talk as they sat in the booth and waited, pointedly ignoring the occasional tear that dropped from Dani's downturned face to land on the table between them.


 

1:03pm


 

The woman that strolled, slightly late, into the largest of the Overton HCP's lecture halls drew a great many stares as she entered. Even among Supers, a six and a half foot tall red-furred anthropomorphic cheetah woman wearing a mishmash of a dozen martial arts costumes and twice that many archaic weapons was apparently enough of an oddity to stand out. Dani glanced around the room, showing real nervousness for the first time that day before slumping slightly in depression. She would have recognized the ridiculously tacky gold, green, and white body suit that David had designed for himself at a thousand yards. It was not among the costumes present in the room.


 

Damn, you're a TALL one aren'tcha?” The sudden, friendly voice from directly behind Dani caused her spin around quickly.

Standing in the doorway the red-furred shifter had just entered through was a woman close to a foot shorter than the cheetah-girl, wearing a full dark blue bodysuit with a partially transparent layer over it that did a remarkable job looking like a shifting block of ice whenever the woman moved. “And here I was worried that I was running a couple of minutes behind. You MUST be Kitty Style.”

Dani nodded and wracked her brain to try and figure out who the Hero in front of her was. The costume is not familiar, she is definitely not a local. “That's me! Only giant cat-woman martial artist in the HCP! I'm really sorry, but I don-...”

Don't recognize me, right?” Dani nodded with more enthusiasm than she really should have, but the shorter woman simply laughed at the response. “No worries there, I'm used to it. I'm just a LITTLE bit far from home right now. Cold Front, at your service Ms Style.”

Dani giggled as she shook the woman's offered hand. “Let me guess, you have ice powers?”

Nope!” The shifter felt her jaw drop slightly at the cheerful rebuttal.

Really?”

Really!”

A long pause. “What DO you do then?”

I'm a hydrokinetic. Water manipulator.” The second was added when the catlike face clouded with confusion at the first bit. “I do specialize a bit in manipulating water while it's in solid form, and I can freeze and unfreeze water but I can't get it up anywhere near a boil.”

So... Ice and water powers?”

Cold Front laughed. “Close enough! And you, Kitty, I believe that you're supposed to be a pretty fast speedster.”

A surprised look crossed Dani's feline features. “That's right! Oh! I'm probably distracting you. Who are you here to mentor?”

The short woman gave the tall shifter a penetrating stare in response, holding it for several seconds without getting any reaction from Dani before she started laughing again. “You're absolutely right, I am supposed to be meeting my new intern right now. Maybe you've seen her? Tall girl, cat-form shifter, super speed, Overton's first Weapons focus graduate in five years? Sound familiar?”

That's ME!”

The shorter Hero simply began laughing again. “How did you THINK I knew your Hero name on the day you graduated?”

Because I am awesome!”

Cold Front seemed to consider this for a moment, before shrugging. “Fair enough.” Then the shorter Hero reached up to her face and carefully peeled up the nearly full mask she was wearing.

Dani watched with a little bit of awe as the veteran Hero unmasked in front of her, actually clapping a little when the mask came free to reveal a net that had to be teased free of the shorter woman's hair, causing it to change from a navy-blue nearly the same color as her uniform to a nearly platinum blonde once the net was free. Once unmasked, the shorter woman again offered a hand to the tall shifter. “Janie Philps. Pleasure to meet you.”

Dani glanced down at the hand, then her body began to shifted slowly from six and a half foot catgirl into her less eye-catching 5'7” human form. “Dani Reyes.”

The handshake was cut short when the redhaired Latina let out a yelp and reached quickly with both hands to steady her slipping costume. She shrugged to her smiling mentor as she shifted back to her cat form. “I haven't had time to look into getting some kind of size-changing costume yet. Sorry!”

Janie responded to the apology with a dismissive wave. “Unless you're planning on going out in human-form for some reason I would skip it. Anyone trying to figure out who you really are is going to be looking at people a lot taller than your normal body this way.”

True!”

Well, you should probably say goodbye to your friends and get anything you need packed. Our plane leaves at six.”

Oh! I never remembered to ask where you're stationed! You just said that it was a long ways from here.”

I'm with the Arctic Alliance currently, based out of Anchorage.”

A puzzled look shot across Dani's face. “Where's that?”

Anchorage?” No recognition. “Alaska? The great white north?”

ALASKA??”

Yep, that's the one!”

Dani stood completely still for nearly a minute as she processed this new information, then the shifter reached across herself to rub one of her arms. “Man I hope this fur turns out to be warmer than I think it is.”


 

6:37pm


 

I can't believe we get our own jet!” Dani darted around the cabin now that the small plane was in the air, exploring every nook and cranny she could find on the aircraft. “I didn't think the DVA paid for stuff like this!”

They don't.” Janie chuckled at the younger woman's enthusiasm. “At least, not very often. Our team leader is from one of those fantastically wealthy families. Officially we all work for companies that he owns, so we get to use things like company cars and company jets sometimes.”

Who all is on the team?”

Well, there's me obviously. Like I said before, I'm a hyd-... water manipulator. Control graduate from Sizemore Tech. Currently I'm the team artillery since... for the past couple years.

Our current team leader is Darkstep, aka Landen Moyer. He's a Subtlety Hero, graduated from Lander seven years ago. He calls himself a 'shadowmancer,' and you have to try not to laugh when he does it. He does shadow illusions, can mess with lighting, make himself almost invisible, and he can line of sight teleport as long as there's VERY little light at his intended exit point.”

Your leader is the team sneaky guy? That seems weird.”

The blonde woman shrugged in response. “It works for us. Subtlety Heroes tend to know what's going on and are usually better lateral thinkers than the rest of us.

Our last member is the team Strongman, Showstopper. He's only in the medium-range for strong Supers, but when he braces he becomes effectively un-movable. You'll probably be working around him as often as me since he's Close Combat and you're Weapons.”

This is going to be great! I'm going to have a team!”

Janie just smiled as she watched the redhaired woman continue to bounce around the cabin on what must have been her tenth exploration. “So tell me, Dani, why were you looking so down just before I came up behind you?”

The shift in conversation topics froze the younger woman in place, and she moved to sit down opposite the older Hero without responding.

Someone you cared about didn't make it through, huh?”

The hispanic girl's gaze snapped up to treat the blonde woman to a suspicious glare. “Relax, Dani. I went through the HCP too, remember? It happens to all of us I think. Except the ones that try to go through the whole program as hermits or something. Who was it?”

Dani turned to stare back at her own lap again, embarrassed that she hadn't figured out why Janie had known the cause of her depression. “Davie. David Lucke.”

Boyfriend?”

The redhead shook her head in response. “We were razzing each other from the first day in the program, when we ended up sitting next to each other at orientation. I was... I was going to ask him to go out with me tonight, after we both graduated.”

What's his power?”

He controls rocks and metal and stuff.”

Janie let out a low whistle at that response. “I'm going to assume he was pretty good at it?”

He was. I think he wasn't trying hard enough for the last year though. I think he could have moved up to the top spot in the class except he lost to Mark in a match back in second year, and I think he was afraid he'd lose again.”

So, knowing how the HCP works, I guess there's really only one thing you can do.”

Huh?”

Wait til he applies again for Hero status next year after taking things seriously, and THEN ask him out!”

Dani stared incredulously at her mentor for a long moment, before both women broke down laughing. “So I guess this means you're giving your intern some time off next June!”


 

9:44pm


 

That clock has GOT to be wrong.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of jet-lag!” Janie smiled at her intern as the pair moved to the cargo hatch on the small jet to unload the few pieces of luggage Dani had brought.

Is this it? Shouldn't there be more snow?” Dani looked around at the well lit runway. Amazingly well lit, considering the sky was still close to full daylight. “And shouldn't it be dark by now?”

Ah, poor Dani. You have so much to learn about this insane land you find yourself in. But first let's get you to headquarters so we can get you checked in!”

Why is it that whenever you sound consoling I feel like things are going to get worse?”

No idea. Maybe see a psychiatrist about that?” Janie smiled as the redhead stuck out her tongue at her in response. “Besides, be glad you're up here in the summer. Land of the midnight sun and all that! In the winter we have to deal with the freakin vampires.”

Dani laughed at that, then turn a curious look back at her mentor when the blonde woman didn't join in. Dani's highly expressive face continued to twitch from curiosity to panic as Janie maintained a deathly serious look. “Seriously, there aren't really vampires, right?”

Janie held her expression for another five seconds, long enough that Dani was actually starting to really panic, before she started laughing so hard she nearly collapsed on the tarmac. Dani let out a sigh of relief with the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, and grabbed her suitcases while grumbling.

C'mon now Dani, let's go get you checked in. This is going to be a FUN couple of years!”

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Sunday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Sunday


 


 

9:31am


 

It was a large warehouse, built back in the early 1900's. An immensely solid building that had withstood the test of time quite well, in spite of being left abandoned for years. Unfortunately even the sturdy old building hadn't been built with the existence of Supers in mind, as a massive explosion ripped apart the eastern wall and the whole structure began to shift. A small figure began pushing its way out of the rubble left in the wake of the blast, and was sent airborne by a second explosion.

SON OF A BITCH!” The brown and red leathered woman barely managed to swerve her motorcycle to avoid the human projectile bouncing down the street as she approached the, now slowly collapsing, warehouse. “Dispatch, Mayhem is on site. I think the Adamant might be down though.”

I have you logged on site, Mayhem. The Adamant reports that he's uninjured and will be returning to assist you as soon as he stops bouncing.”

Linda shook her head softly as she tried to figure out how Dispatch could relay statements like that in such a perfect deadpan as often as she did, then quickly abandoned that train of thought as impossible. A quick maneuver left her bike parked a short distance from where she'd seen the blasts, and a silent prayer left her lips that THIS bike would be okay when she got back.

Just so we're clear!” The Hero's voice carried quite clearly through the area. “This is you're only warning to give yourself up peacefully. You can step out and surrender, or take your chances. We won't be pulling any shots from here in!”

FUCK YOU!” The tall brunette sighed at the somewhat predictable response that echoed towards her from the far side of the crumbling building.

Well, the Adamant warned you, I warned you, you've demonstrated a bare minimum of a Demo Class ability, here's to hoping you've got some extra durability kid, I do not want to sit through another force review. The brown and red costumed woman advanced quickly towards the area the voice had emanated from, favoring speed over keeping to cover. Cover doesn't look like it'll help much anyways, judging from the damage this guy has already done.

A brief glimpse of movement on the roof of the collapsing building - Seriously? Who the hell climbs onto the roof of a building that's FALLING OVER? - gave Linda just enough warning to dive into cover and focus her ability on making herself as impenetrable as possible. Not quite enough to completely neutralize the effect of the explosion that left a crater in the pavement where she'd been standing a moment ago, but enough to roll away from the blast feeling little worse than having the wind knocked out of her.

Completing her roll and coming gracefully to her feet the Hero stretch to palm a piece of broken masonry about the size of her head and sent it flying towards the section of the roof where she'd glimpsed her attacker. A startled scream told her she'd at least come close, and the rapid advance towards her target began again.

As Linda came into the trash littered yard that surrounded the warehouse her quarry was hiding in, she slid to a startled halt as she watched one of a Hero's worst nightmares roll into the abandoned area. A news van was approaching, less than half a block from the building where a Super capable of creating building-leveling explosions was engaged in combat with Heroes. “DISPATCH! We have civilian media rolling into the area, WHAT THE HELL?”

Verify it's civilian, Mayhem. Police cordon has not issued any reports of someone attempting to enter the area.”

Linda resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the response. From where she stood she could already see the woman in the passenger seat of the van, holding a mic and directing a man in the back with a camera while the driver wore an expression of resigned terror. “Dispatch, they are definitely civilian and their van says they're from Channel 17. We need to g-...”

Linda's speech died in her throat as multiple explosions ripped through the old warehouse, delivering the building its deathblow and sending a shower of brick, steel, and wooden shrapnel raining out towards the Hero. The driver of the van had enough self-preservation instinct left in him to slam the vehicle to an immediate halt, and the brown and red costumed woman thanked God for the small favor that was as she was buried by a wave of falling rubble.

It didn't take long to push her way free of the entombing debris. One arm hung broken and limp at her side, and blood streamed down her left leg where a piece of a girder had embedded itself through the armored costume. Her good hand came up to wipe hair, dust, and blood away from her eyes before Linda found herself cursing again. The van had stopped, and the idiot reporter woman had opened the sliding door on the side, apparently deciding that this was a PERFECT time to get an up close view of Super on Super combat.

Somewhere on the other side of all the debris, Linda could dimly make out the male voice from earlier screaming at the van. The news team's only response was apparently to push the camera out on a swivel, so they could get a better angle on the rogue Super. My god, I should LET him...

But instead of finishing her thought, the injured brunette took hold of the piece of metal in her leg and twisted it HARD with her good hand. There we go. And then it took only a thought and the barest of mental flexes to send the news van skidding back down the alley it had approached from. Just in time to avoid taking a direct hit from another explosion thrown by the rogue Super on the other side of the wreckage. Linda winced as the van rocked up on two wheels, and grunted at the exertion of finding the sliding door and forcing it shut before the van could disgorge any of its passengers. At the rate the vehicle slid away from the Hero she couldn't quite keep it righted, but she did adjust the angle it went over at so that it merely tipped onto its side and skidded a few feet instead of allowing it to log roll into another building.

Alright, now that the absolute stupidity is taken care of, let's deal with the actual problem. The rather worse-for-wear brunette dragged herself up towards the highest point she could find in the wreckage around her, and found her higher ground rewarded by her first clean view of her opponent. He was tall, somewhat lanky, and sported a purple mohawk and more facial piercings than Linda had known were possible. Good lord, he's like a street punk caricature.

The Hero saw the expression on her opponent's face change as he noticed her shortly after she'd spotted him. A wide grin split his face, revealing yet more metal to the world at large. “Pretty messed up, eh Ms Hero? Bet you don't feel so high an-...” Linda didn't bother letting the man finish, instead kicking forward into the rubble with her injured leg to dislodge a brick and send it into the man's chest like a cannon shot.

The brunette watched dispassionately as the wet cracking sound of the impact was followed immediately by her opponent's collapse into the rubble. Linda sighed as she noted that he was still, barely, breathing, and began limping over towards the criminal. “Dispatch, rogue Super is down. News crew is also down, we need medical assistance on site.”

Confirmed, emergency services are en route. ETA 4 minutes.”

You have left me with nothing to do again!” Linda smiled at the mock-outraged voice coming from behind her and turned to face the short Hero standing there.

If you'd wanted something to do, you shouldn't have bounced so far.”

My God, where is your mask, woman?” The tall brunette found herself biting back a chuckle at the shocked expression on her old friend's face as he got a good look at her for the first time in a few years.

Never time to see one of the deluxe healers these days, and after it gets to a certain point I think I get more intimidation factor without it.” Clearly visible even through the cake of dust and drying blood, Linda's face was an absolute latticework of deep, angry looking scars.

Well, I suppose that cannot be argued with. Would you like the Super or the van to check?”

I'll take the Super. I might kill the idiots in the van if you leave me alone with them.”

The short Hero chuckled in response and offered a salute, before leaping over to where the van lay on its side and tearing off the back door to get to the battered people inside.

Linda turned back and finished walking over to the downed Super, then leaned against an intact bit of the last wall of the old warehouse as she watched him. A silent sigh escaped her lips as she weighed his raspy, gasping attempts to breathe with the approaching ambulance sirens, and she reached out with her ability to force a few things closer to their correct positions and kept a bit more blood flowing THROUGH his body instead of out of it. I must be getting soft.


 

11:15am


 

WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN SUSPENDED?” The freshly healed, though now even further scarred woman leaned threateningly across the desk in front of her as she screamed at the man behind it.

Mayhem you know how this works, you wrecked a god damned news van!” Glenn Narow, veteran supervisory agent for the DVA, attempted to push back against the forceful personality of the woman across the desk from him. So far, he was failing.

That news van drove past a cordon after BRIBING a couple of cops to let them get in close to the action. If I hadn't launched the damned thing down the street there'd be nothing left of it, or the three people in it, BUT A SMOKING CRATER!”

And they are all being repri-...”

Bullshit. The station is getting a fine, and the reporter is losing a press pass to certain Hero press conferences that she NEVER HAD TO BEGIN WITH. They almost got themselves and ME killed, and they get less than a slap on the wrist. And you want to SUSPEND me?”

It's NOT a suspension. You're being pulled off of active duty for a minimum of ONE goddamned week, so stop being such a drama queen about it. And quit glaring at me, the scars stopped being scary about three months ago.” Glenn smiled as the Hero finally relented and sat back down in the chair instead of looming over his desk. “Now as you are WELL aware, a one week pull from active duty is ALSO less than a slap on the wrist.”

I say again, bullshit. There's no way anything I did warrants actual disciplinary action, and you wouldn't pull me for a week if you didn't have a plan. So I stop screaming and threatening, and you tell me what it is you have planned for me for the next week.”

You'll be getting to participate in one of your favorite inactive Hero duties.”

No. HELL NO even. You are not sending me on another HCP 'guest lecturer' duty. There are at least a HUNDRED Heroes that actually WANT to do that crap. Send one of them.”

You'll be lecturing at Overton for the next week, starting tomorrow. Might want to get packed, even for you, it's a long drive from New York to Texas.”

God DAMMIT Glenn-...”

Not negotiable. Yes, the DVA directors are fully aware that you didn't do anything THIS time that QUITE warrants major disciplinary action. They are also more than a little upset at how close to a MAJOR shit storm you came. This is wholly within the DVA's purview for Hero assignments. Just take your week back to school like a good little Hero, and you can be back out wrecking shit in no time!”

Linda grumbled something incoherent, but nodded and turned to walk out of the office.

Oh, one last thing before you go.” The Hero turned to glare at the man behind the desk but he held up his hands this time in a gesture of surrender. “Nothing official, just that I called ahead and the HCP down there does have someone on staff who can clear out your old injury backlog. Please, take the time to get it done, Mayhem. You need to start taking better care of yourself.”

The brunette's eyes narrowed suspiciously at the sudden change in tone from her supervising agent, but instead of starting another argument she simply nodded and left.

Glenn waited until a soft chime from his desk told him she had exited from the waiting room before picking up his phone and punching one of the speed dial buttons. “Alright, it's set up. She'll be in Overton, and under no circumstances are you EVER going to tell me WHY I sent her down there. I do not want to know.” Without waiting for a response, Glenn hung up his phone and glared at it for a short time. Then the agent pulled another file out of the drawer next to him and moved on to the next Hero on today's list.


 

12:30pm


 

It's not that funny.” Linda sighed as she heard the combined laughter of her father and best friend coming from the other end of the phone in her ear as her bike sped down the I-44. “Seriously, not that funny.”

Of course it's funny, daughter. The DVA has finally figured out that you hate guest lecturing more than every other form of 'disciplinary action' they can throw at you. So now you're doomed to be the roving Hero professor!” Carl Scoven barely got the full speech out before breaking back down into laughter again.

Seriously Linda, it won't be that bad. Don't you have a friend who teaches down at Overton?” Sally's voice came over the line, the teleporter apparently having collected herself and was able to speak clearly for more than half a sentence at a time.

Two friends, one acquaintance. Actually I think Kathy is the Dean now.”

Well there you go! You get to relax and get yourself fixed up, and then you get to hang out with old friends for a week and see what your future has in store for you!”

My WHAT?”

Oh come on now, girl.” Carl's voice came over the line again. “You're too stubborn to die in the field, and you'll never convince me that you'll ever be able to REALLY retire from this life. Hell, I thought I had it bad, but have you looked at yourself over the past few years? We all know you'll end up running one of the damned programs someday, and you'll probably be one of the best there ever was at it!”

That is something that is NOT happening.”

Well not tomorrow or anything, but really Linda; what are YOUR plans for what you'll be doing after another fifteen to twenty years when you just CAN'T hold up to field work anymore?” Sally's question brought a moment of sober reflection to the woman on her bike, and it was several long seconds before she answered.

I have no idea. NOT the HCP though.” The adamant conviction in the woman's voice did nothing more than trigger another round of laughter at the other end of the line. “On a different note, you guys want to swing by for a visit while I'm stuck in one place for a week?”

Probably not. We think Jeff is starting to develop his abilities, and it probably isn't a good time to be traveling.”

Wait, little half brother Jeff? He's not even four yet!” Linda found herself having to abruptly swerve to avoid running into a semi she hadn't noticed slowing down in front of her as she was distracted by the news. “What's he do?”

We think he's got his mom's teleporting, or something similar.” Carl's voice contained a thick note of pride as he spoke. “We're going to have the DVA bring in one of their top assessment teams. We need to find out if he's got anything from my side of the family.”

Pray it's not your looks.”

Hey!” Sally's voice came back loud with mock anger. “That is my husband you are maligning there young lady!”

Oh god, please stop reminding me that my best friend married my DAD. God, why did my life turn into a Jerry Springer episode?”

Not Springer. He's not allowed Super guests any more after what he did to the network's insurance rating.” Linda found herself laughing along with her friend as her father interjected that random piece of trivia into the conversation. “Now quit acting like it's the end of the world and go teach the next generation of Heroes something useful.”

Like, 'get out, get out now while you still can?'”

There was silence from the other end of the phone for several seconds. “Yeah, that's probably about right.”


 

10:11pm


 

"LINDA!" The tall brunette barely had time to brace herself before a redhaired human missile intercepted her as she dismounted her bike. "We heard you're stuck with us for a week! This'll be fun!"

"Hi Dani, been a while." Linda hugged her friend and then began the long process of disentangling herself from the smaller woman's clutches. "How're things?"

"Complete and utter bullshit of the HIGHEST order!"

The tall woman raised an eyebrow at that, then started as she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Not the most appropriate way to phrase it, but accurate nonetheless. It's good to see you again, Linda."

Linda managed to unhook herself from the enthusiastic Latina in order to turn and address the even shorter woman that had snuck up on her. "My, my. DEAN Kathryn Jilles. I'm surprised to see you up so late on a school night."

The petite woman gave a mock glare in response, before cracking a smile and reaching in to hug her friend herself. "Get all your 'old lady' cracks out of your system now, and not in front of the students please. Did you want to visit our healer in the morning before Ethics?"

"Nah." Both the Overton women looked surprised at the response. "I'll get fixed up before I go. Let the kids get a look at what things are really like out there for a few days."

"It'll also make them less likely to hit on you in class!" The cheerful addition from Dani drew an incredulous look from the Hero and a chuckle from the Dean.

"That it will. Now let's head in so we can get you logged in to our security system. Things are a bit... different than normal."

"Oh?" The tall brunette managed to put a remarkable amount of question into the one syllable.

"Heard anything about 'HCP Oversight?'" Kathryn shook her head before Linda could even begin to formulate a response. "Of course not, they want to keep this MOSTLY quiet. Well, let's go hit up James and his liquor stash. This is going to be a LONG story."

"I... do not know if I'm looking forward to this story or not."

"Oh, don't worry about it. You'll only have to deal with it for a week. After that, you can get back out of here and laugh at the misfortune of your friends."

"Linda wouldn't laugh at our misfortune!" Dani rejoined the conversation with a defiant tone of voice.

"Yes I/She would." The Dean and the visiting Hero spoke in almost perfect synch in response to the passionate redhead, causing all three women to break down into laughter.

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven – Saturday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Saturday

 

 

8:44am

 

Lady Mayhem, is this review board some distracting you from other, more urgent business?” The masked brunette seated facing the half-dozen DVA investigators and sub-directors found herself smirking in response to the sarcasm laden question.

Firstly, Mr super-important review board chairperson,” the review overseer, an older man wearing a tweed suit, turned an interesting shade of red at the mocking tone from the Hero looking up at him. “I haven't been 'Lady' Mayhem in almost three months. If you keep referring to me with the incorrect address I'll have to assume you're supposed to be reviewing the actions of a different Hero, and leave you to it.

Secondly,” the brown and red suited costumed woman continued before the angry bureaucrat could formulate a reply. “I do, in fact, have far more important things to do than sit here and listen to another half-assed disciplinary hearing. I likely have to attend more of these than anyone else in the room, and I believe a great deal of time could be saved if the DVA would quit the damned posturing at me and let me do my job.”

A fair point, Mayhem.” One of the younger members of the review, a woman whose name Linda hadn't caught (or bothered to remember at least), jumped in before the overseeing sub-director could stop sputtering in outrage. “This is your seventh disciplinary review this year, in only the month of April I might add. You don't think there might be some deeper issue with YOUR actions that needs to be addressed when you're actions require review more than twice as frequently as the next highest risk Heroes in the country?”

Nope.” The single word response, from the woman still wearing a mocking grin, momentarily shocked the entire review into silence.

Would you care to elaborate on that point?” The question came again from the review chairman, the words forced out in a level tone through tightly gritted teeth.

I wouldn't particularly care to, as that leaves me doing YOUR jobs as well as my own, but in the interest of getting back to work I supposed I must.” The Hero stood with a deeply theatrical sigh as she responded, then nearly broke down into laughter when all six members of the review board flinched away from her sudden movement. What, they think I'd wait til NOW if I was going to start attacking DVA reviews?

I am frequently dragged before a DVA after-action review, in whichever jurisdiction I happen to by occupying on a given day, to give accounting for an action in which lethal force was used, or in which any force at all was used against a non Super or Powered criminal.” There was almost a note of pride in the woman's voice as she recited what was obviously a well-practiced speech. “Over the past three years since I've been a solo act, I've stood before review boards just like this one,” though usually with a little higher average IQ, “a little bit more than three times more frequently than any other active Hero.”

And you thin-...”

ALSO,” Linda offered a glare as she continued right over top of the attempted interruption, “I have been force on twice as much mandatory evaluation or administrative leave in regards to situations I've dealt with, and have been the primary responding Hero to four times as many incidents as the next most active Hero in the country.” A brief pause as the tall brunette suppressed another bit of laughter as half the review board now sat stunned, and the other half was frantically paging through files on tablets or laptops to verify what she'd just said. “Seeing as how I'm four times as active as any other Hero currently, but only have three times as many disciplinary reviews, simple math tells you that I am NOT really the massive risk the DVA constantly tries to paint me as. The reason I'm here so often is because I don't take as many vacation days.”

The tweed suited sub-director started what would likely have been a long and angry tirade in response, but he was cut off by one of the other review members, dragging his attention towards whatever was currently on the younger man's screen. After a several moment of whispered discussion, the man nominally in charge turned back to the Hero, a slightly more neutral expression on his face.

It seems that your numbers do, in fact, check out, Mayhem.” Linda forced her smile back from the mocking look she'd been wearing into something more cordial. “As such I think this review board will be adjourned shortly.”

The tall Hero's smile became a great deal more genuine at that, and she reseated herself to patiently wait through another round of whispered discussion.

Well then, I believe we have a consensus. Mayhem, this review board does find that you were justified in your use of lethal force against the fire manipulating Super, Craig Jensten, on April the 7th. Additionally,” the smile immediately vanished. 'Additionally' was NEVER a good word at these proceedings, “in light of your extreme workload and the potential for a Hero to cause themselves psychological harm when they don't take a proper amount of time to de-stress, this board is making a formal recommendation that the Hero Mayhem immediately be placed on paid leave status for a period of not less than four weeks.”

Four WEEKS?” Linda knew that the outburst was a bad idea, but she couldn't quite keep herself from doing it. “Do you have any idea how many people are goin-...”

That is the finding of this review board.” The brown and red costumed Hero ground her teeth together at the smug look now worn by the sub-director looking down at her. “We are adjourned.”

As soon as those words were out, all six members of the review board stood to move quickly out of the room. Linda sat in her seat for several long moments after they left. A month off. What the hell am I going to do for a whole month?

 

10:01am

 

God dammit Sally, stop laughing.” The brunette scowled at her phone as she sat in the corner of the diner and waited for her late breakfast to arrive.

Nope!” The single syllable was barely choked out over the fit of giggling the teleporter on the other end of the line had fallen into as soon as Linda had called to inform her that she'd been sentenced to a month-long vacation.

Seriously, it's not that funny. What the hell am I going to do for four weeks?”

You could always come and visit your family?” The brunette scowled until she realized that her expression was apparently frightening her server badly enough that the petite redhead was afraid to approach with the breakfast she was waiting for.

Linda forced a smile at the young girl, pointed at her phone and made an angry face, and sighed softly with relief when the server relaxed and brought her food over with a shy smile. “Yeah, visiting family. GREAT idea, Sally. Or did you want me to start calling you 'Mom' again?”

The mock threat drew another round of laughter over the phone as the brunette began salting and peppering her eggs. “You are NOT starting that again. It was embarrassing enough at the wedding.”

You think you were embarrassed? My best friend marries a man almost twenty years older than she is, who happens to be MY FATHER.” Linda would never admit it out loud, but deep down she was happy that the two had gotten together. Even if it made certain things a little weird.

You should at least stop by and say hello to your little brother.”

Weird things like THAT. “Yeah, I think I'll pass until he's old enough to do more than stare blankly at me and poop.”

I thought you LIKED having a little brother.” The tone of the blonde on the other side of the call had changed abruptly.

Right, do not anger Super-mommy with teleporting powers unless you want to get stuck someplace unpleasant for your four-week vacation. “I have to say I was overjoyed when I found out getting a little brother would get my dad to retire so I could finally drop the stupid 'Lady' part from my name. Other than that, c'mon Sally, this is me. I'm great with kids, I'm TERRIBLE with babies.”

The earnest, and somewhat pleading, tone seemed to dispel whatever animosity had gathered on the side of the new mother. “You should still visit. It'd be a short trip if you hadn't decided to stay clear on the other side of the country.”

I'm not staying ANYWHERE, Sally. I travel. I just happen to be in Maryland right now, while you're still staying in Portland for God-only-knows-why.”

And what the hell is wrong with Portland? I was BORN here!” Fortunately the indignant tone this time was of the mocking variety.

Hey thanks! That's what I could spend the next four weeks doing; writing out THAT full list.” Linda joined her friend this time in laughter. “Anyways, thanks for no useful ideas whatsoever...”

You're welcome!”

...but I'm going to hang up on you now before my breakfast gets cold. I promise I'll make sure to visit once the baby grows into something I know how to deal with.”

You'd better visit before then, if you know what's good for you. Bye Linda!” The mock threat drew one final chuckle from the brunette before she hung up and turned back to her breakfast.

Still no idea what I'm going to do with myself for next four weeks though. Linda decided she needed a little more distraction from the gaping hole in her schedule than just the large platter of eggs and pancakes that sat in front of her, and tried to get the attention of her waitress to turn up the volume on the diner's TV. Something on a news bulletin had flashed up about a cruise ship.

 

11:21am

 

Is this what normal people do when things go wrong? Linda found herself almost wondering aloud as she remained seated in the tiny diner FAR longer than she had intended to, now joined by a small crowd of regulars all craning to see more details on the one tiny TV about the breaking story.

A trans-Atlantic cruise ship had been hijacked by an unknown Super about an hour and a half ago. There were a dozen talking heads being brought in to analyze the insane demands of the hijacker, which included a UN recognized sovereign nation for Supers, and to speculate as to why there had been no rescue attempts as of yet. And we run into another failing of the system. The ship is technically in international waters, so no one has official jurisdiction and everyone is afraid of causing an incident. Linda sighed as a DVA deputy director explained to a theatrically outraged Senator, for the third time, that since the ship was of French registry it would create a potential international incident if any US Heroes were to get involved prior to the ship reaching the US territorial waters.

The arguments had all been explored to their full limits within twenty minutes of the newscast starting, yet Linda found herself inexplicably bound to watch the same people have the same arguments with slightly different words over and over. Occasionally a new person was brought in to cycle through the same material, and still the brunette found herself almost unable to look away. Is this what everyday is like for the people who can't go out and try and fix this stuff? Just sitting and watching as people tell you the same story again and again until something changes? I'm going to go completely mad before my vacation is up.

The news broadcast finally switched from pundits to a head shot of an actual reporter, and Linda found herself perking up with the rest of the crowd to listen more carefully. “We have just received word that the French government has granted the US full jurisdiction in this incident, after emphasizing that they are not attempting to set a new international precedent, but instead are simply trying to respond to a current crisis before more lives can be lost. A pair of Heroes from New York, Atlas and Express Route, who were on standby waiting for a resolution on the jurisdictional issues, have been dispatched to neutralize the criminal Super and retake control of the passenger ship.”

Linda smiled as the small crowd in the diner cheered, and finally forced herself to walk away from the TV screen she'd been staring at for far too long. Atlas should be able to handle just about anything out there. See Linda? All that worrying for nothing, there's more Heroes in the world than just you. Even as she mentally chided herself, the tall woman found herself reaching into the concealed compartment between the handlebars of her bike as she mounted the vehicle in the parking lot, subtly removing the small earpiece from within and sticking it into her ear.

Mayhem, this is Dispatch. My records show that you are supposed to be on administrative leave for the next 28 days.”

How the hell is she THAT fast? Linda didn't respond audibly until she had her bike started and was guiding it out towards the road. “I just wanted an update on the situation out in the Atlantic, Dispatch. I'm not trying to sneak back on duty, promise.”

The tall woman suppressed a chuckle as she heard a long-suffering sigh come from the earpiece. “Atlas and Express Route have successfully boarded L'Boreal and are moving hostages away from where they expect to encounter the criminal Super.”

Did the news get his name right?”

Criminal Super has identified himself only as Richter, and only once, before making a long and very unlikely series of demands directed towards the UN and US. No background is available on a Super with that name, he's being officially classed as a Standard threat until more information is available.”

So we have no idea what he's really capable of. At least they sent in the big guns in case he's got an ace or two up his sleeves. “Thanks Dispatch, Mayhem is going back off the grid.”

Linda waited a moment for the disembodied voice to respond, then felt a building anxiety as the mystery woman remained silent for several seconds. That anxiety was replaced with an absolute ball of dread when the faintly accented voice spoke again. “New priority update, L'Boreal situation is NOT contained. Atlas is requesting immediate backup. Express Route is not responding, presumed killed in action.” There was a momentary pause before Dispatch spoke again into Linda's ear. “Mayhem, your administrative leave is officially postponed until tomorrow at the earliest. Get to an area where you can be safely retrieved, we'll have a teleporter there in less than five minutes.”

Mayhem confirms. How bad is it, Dispatch?”

Atlas is injured but functional, the cruise ship was badly damaged, and whatever Richter did registered on seismic equipment along the coast. Richter is being re-classed as a Manhattan level threat, you're being brought in because you have previous experience dealing with a Manhattan level shockwave generator.”

I'll be off the road and ready to go in two minutes.”

 

11:39am

 

Mayhem looked around the hastily thrown together briefing room as she and her ride appeared in the doorway. Seven other costumed forms were already present, and arguing loudly, as the soft voice in her head informed her that she was the last to arrive. A rather harried looking man in a suit was attempting to get the gathered Heroes quieted while he yelled at a speaker phone on a nearby table for a status report.

Dispatch's clear voice rang out from the speaker to the room at large. “Atlas has extricated himself from the lower decks successfully and is moving back to re-engage with Richter. Giving direct audio now.”

The speaker crackled for a split second and a deep male voice replaced the faintly accented female's. “...moving up to the lower outdoor deck now, there's a lot of casualties here. Mostly injured, the shockwaves aren't very directional so there's a lot of collateral. We're going to need a full evacuation out he-... Found him. Richter is on the upper outdoor deck moving towards the bow. It looks like he injured himself with that blast he hit me with, he's dragging one leg behind him. Moving to apprehend now.”

God dammit, Atlas, kill the asshole before he sinks the ship with everyone on it!” Nine sets of startled eyes turned to look at the brown and red costumed Hero as she yelled towards the speaker, but she ignored them. “He's officially upgraded to Manhattan class. That whole cruise ship is going to go if you don't take him down HARD.”

Dispatch, kill outside audio please. I'm moving to apprehend Richter now.” Linda let her head drop into her hands as an exasperated sigh escaped her lips.

Please, God, let him be half as good as he thinks he is to pull this one off.

From the speaker came a rushing sound, followed by a startled yelp and some crashing noises. Then the same deep voice snarled. “Don't even TWITCH you bastard, or I will rip you in half. You understand me?”

Whatever the response might have been was drowned out by a massive burst of static followed by dead air. “Atlas' earpiece is no longer sending or receiving.” The calm voice of Dispatch came back over the speaker.

Update, several seismic monitoring stations in the eastern US and the Caribbean islands have just registered a magnitude 8 seismic event in the vicinity of L'Boreal's last known location. No quake damage expected, tsunami watch in effect.”

Dammit.” The only man in the room wearing civilian clothing was the first to speak again. “Dispatch, patch us through to the NSA and anyone else that MIGHT have some kind of visual on that ship's last coordinates. We need to se-...”

Emergency update.” The new announcement from Dispatch was heard over the speaker phone as well as the earpieces of all the Heroes in the room. A fact that told the more experience Heroes that they were likely NOT the only ones hearing it. “Large tsunami was created by directional seismic event at the cruise ship L'Boreal's location. It will strike across a majority of the eastern US seaboard in approximately 24 minutes. All Heroes able to respond, please be ready to coordinate for sheltering, evacuation, and recovery efforts.”

Then everyone in the room with Linda began shouting at the same time.

 

11:47am

 

This is going nowhere quickly. Several plans had been hatched, examined, and discarded in the few minutes since the incoming tsunami had been learned of. A few teams of powerful force field generators and water manipulators had been dispatched to blunt the worst of the damage to the highest population centers, but this still left well over a thousand miles completely open. Millions of people are going to die. We can't evacuate them, we can't shelter them. We need to stop the wave. Linda listened with less than half her attention as reports came in of several PEERS teams rapidly relocating to the east coast to provide what help they could. Still not enough.

The tall Hero felt her breath catch in her throat as the answer suddenly loomed up in front of her. The words that had been written into a long since sealed file, regarding a special evaluation of her ability's unusual manner of becoming more powerful. What we need is an Armageddon level kinetic controller. I really wish I knew more than one.

Before she could over consider the point, and possibly change her mind, the tall woman turned to the somewhat lost looking teleporter who had brought her in. An event that seemed lost in the past when a small team of Heroes was being assembled as possible backup for the take down of a single Super, instead of just one pocket of Heroes among many trying to stop an unnatural disaster from killing millions. “It's Drop Off, right?” The teleporter jerked a little in surprise at the sudden address, but nodded in response. “I think I can do something about this. I need you to drop me right out in the path of the wave. As close to the center as you can get.”

Mayhem, if you have a plan we ca-...”

No time, Dispatch. My plan either works or it doesn't, either way I'm only going to be borrowing a teleporter for about thirty seconds.” Linda breathed a silent sigh of relief when the voice in her head didn't push for more information, and smiled when she saw the Hero in front of her seem to firm up with resolve.

You have a plan?” The redheaded teleporter spoke softly, but she met the gaze of the older Hero in front of her without hesitation.

Yes.”

How far out do you need to go?”

Linda found herself pausing to do some quick mental math. “At the speed the wave is moving it should be about 140 miles out, drop me at 120 and get the hell out.”

As the woman simply nodded her acceptance and reached forward to take Linda's hand, the brunette Hero found herself wondering if there was anywhere else in the world where someone could make such an outlandish claim as being able to stop a tsunami, and receive instant belief and assistance instead of being treated like a lunatic.

Here's to hoping I'm not just a lunatic, I guess. With that thought, the pair of women vanished.

 

11:49am

 

Linda had arrived to splash into the cold water with a rather undignified squawking sound, then had quickly resurfaced to wave her transport off so she could attempt something impossible.

Mayhem, there are several sources requesting an update as to where and why you appropriated a teleporter that was going to be assigned to evacuation duty.” The normally calm tone of Dispatch was beginning to sound a bit frazzled.

Drop Off should already be back, ready to be assigned to whatever needs doing. Hopefully it won't be necessary.”

What are you planning to do out there, Linda?” The floating woman almost dipped under the waves in shock; this was the first time in all her years as a Hero that Dispatch had ever used her real name.

I'm going to crank my power up to 11, and then I'm going to stop a killer tsunami from destroying the east coast.” Linda barely forced the words out around the lump that had formed in her throat, and withdrew a long, slender blade from a concealed flap on the back of her jacket as she did so. “Do me a favor, Dispatch? Tell Mayhem Sr and Blue Path that I'm sorry I never got a chance to make it back to Portland.”

Message recorded. The tsunami will reach your coordinates in approximately thirty seconds. Good luck, Mayhem.”

The Hero blinked her eyes a few times to clear them, then carefully positioned the long blade against a cleverly concealed slot that lined up with the space between her bottom ribs. This is going to sting. With only a split second's hesitation, the brunette rammed the blade into her own chest, all the way up to the hilt. Pain blossomed immediately through her body, along with a sudden and intense need to inhale that couldn't be met; her lungs were both punctured by the single stab and were filling with blood far too rapidly to allow her another breath of air.

Then, as the floating Hero fought to keep the blackness from claiming her consciousness before her task was finished, all the pain and bodily sensations fell away. Suddenly Linda found herself floating in a far larger sea, one made up of a nearly infinite number of reddish strands showing her how everything moved. Far off in the distance, she could just barely glimpse a massive network of lines that must have been the rotation and revolution of the moon. I think I can... No. It took a massive effort to drag her rapidly wandering attention to the matters closer to her. Linda could feel the entire world spinning, could feel every current in the ocean around her. Even the tiniest eddies created by swimming fish. Farther away she could feel what must have been cars, and even people. Somewhere nearly directly above her she felt the turbulent motions of an airplane soaring past. And finally, she focused her attention directly before her, on the massive surge of red threads that made up the tsunami.

A bubbling laugh was choked forth from the Hero's lips, lungs expelling blood instead of air as she attempted to express the humor her new perspective had granted her. The massive wave, capable of killing so many, was such a tiny force compared to everything she could see around her. But it's the reason I'm out here. Not to play god with the earth and the moon, but to stop this ONE thing. That thought managed to anchor her long enough to reach into the tangle that made up the tsunami, its center now nearly upon her. And with a brief flexing of power that felt completely effortless, Linda pulled the wave back down into the calm of the sea. So surprised was the woman at how easily the wave was dissipated, she found herself pulling just a little too hard, and realized that for an instant she had calmed the entire ocean for hundreds of miles farther than the tsunami stretched. But letting go was even easier than pulling, and a gentle nudge pushed things back to doing what they were supposed to do.

Somewhere a long ways off, Linda could swear she heard someone yelling for her. But she was in the middle of the ocean, slowly sinking now, so that was impossible. Instead she turned her attention as far out as it could go, carefully not touching any of the beautiful tapestries of threads she could see making up the whole of the world around her, until things slowly became too dark for her to see anymore.

 

4:47pm

 

Linda slowly opened her eyes, then found herself blinking rapidly in shock. She hadn't expected to be opening her eyes again, much less to find herself staring at a concrete ceiling with slightly-too-bright fluorescent light tubes on it. A brief attempt to move her head brought several additional wake up calls in the form of nauseating waves of pain shooting through her entire body. It also attracted some outside attention.

You're awake!” The voice was bright with relief, and concealing something else that the bedridden Hero couldn't quite place in her current state. “Thank God. The healers weren't able to get you completely healthy, something about how you enhanced your power kept them from doing more than barely getting you stable.” Anxiety, nervousness. That was what was being hidden behind the bright and cheerful tone.

Linda forced herself to look around a little more, this time using her ability instead of attempting to lift her head. As she expected by her generally awful physical feelings, the brunette found herself getting a great deal more feedback than she normally did when healthy. There were two people immediately outside the door to the room she was in, and one of them had jerked and wheeled to face the room as soon as Linda had started feeling around with her power. That's unusual. No mask on the person in the room with me, not a hospital, and the outfits on the people outside feel like armored fatigues. The Hero took a moment to focus her thoughts before turning her attention as fully towards the figure in the hall that had moved when she began 'looking' around. Why the hell does Force Ops have a Hero in an underground bunker under guard?

There was a moment of hesitation from the figure in the hallway, and the silence had dragged on long enough for the forcefully cheerful woman in the room with Linda to begin to crack visibly with stress, before the door opened and the man who'd been correctly identified as an Advanced Mind by the Hero came into the room.

Thank you for checking on our guest, Sergeant. You can go now.” The no-longer-cheerful looking woman quickly fled the room at this suggestion, closing the door behind her as she went.

I really hope you're cleared to know who I am, Captain.” Linda had to strain a little to make out the rank insignia on the man's fatigues. “I'd hate to have to detain several Force Ops personnel for memory treatments. Would probably create a bit of a political incident.”

I am, in fact, cleared to know things like that, Ms Scoven. As is Sergeant Dillas.” The tall man made a nodding motion towards the door as he spoke. “For both of us it was more a matter of expediency than anything else; our abilities are refined enough, and of the correct type, that the vast majority of secret identities are meaningless to us.”

Fair enough, Captain...?”

Grey. Daniel Grey. I believe you expressed curiosity as to why you're suddenly a guest of Force Ops?”

Yeah, before I had a few seconds to piece things together. I turned my power all the way up for the first time and I'm guessing some of the politicians got scared. Any idea on how long I'm going to be politically inconvenient enough to need to be kept out of sight?”

Daniel laughed in response, a surprised and very genuine sound. “You have most of it correct, Ms Scoven, but not quite all. Are you aware that while preventing the tsunami catastrophe you... overreached slightly?”

That couldn't have been for more than a second, and I put everything back.” Linda sounded faintly embarrassed at the reminder of what she'd done, and all the things she'd been tempted to do, when she'd viewed the world through her power at full strength.

You made a LOT of politicians, not to mention ordinary people, in a LOT of places very afraid for a moment there.” The captain moved to take a seat in a very uncomfortable looking metal chair and turned a very serious look towards the woman in the bed. “People don't like to be reminded that there are Supers out there that could, literally, destroy the world if they wanted to. Between that lunatic on the boat and your own actions in trying to rectify the situation, a lot of people got a very pointed reminder of something they would rather forget about.”

Well, that's lovely to hear. I hope the politicians manage to work things out.” Linda had been gathering her energy and with a very careful combination of small physical movements and the application of her enhanced ability, she swiveled out and rose from the bed. Looking down as she did so, two things became immediately clear; whomever had been brought in to provide her emergency stabilization had been good enough a healer to remove all of her accumulated scars from the past 8 months since she'd last had the luxury of seeing such a person. Also, she was entirely without clothing.

I'm going to hope that my costume is just 'in the dryer' and this isn't some attempt to keep me here out of shyness?” Linda smirked at the rapidly averted gaze of Captain Grey as she stood without making any attempt to cover herself. Never mind that if I make a rapid attempt to cover myself I would probably pass out from the pain of moving rapidly.

Another startled laugh was forced from the military officer in the room, and he managed to look back at the Hero (even mostly keeping his eyes looking at her face) in spite of the deep blush threatening to completely cover his face. “Yes, exactly. You were in the ocean, and your costume is in the dryer now. It just takes awhile to dry armored motorcycle leathers. You know how it is.”

The tall brunette gave the man credit, in spite of his blush and while still obviously recovering from his shock, he managed an almost perfect deadpan. Then the lack of a familiar tickling feeling on her back from long hair resulted in the Hero reaching up to find that her customary wig was ALSO missing. She was not currently a brunette.

That's ALSO in the dryer.” The deadpan voice cracked for just a moment as the Force Ops captain couldn't quite keep the smirk off his face.

Linda responded with her own smirk, and then carefully picked the man and his chair up with her ability so that his head was level with her own, even though he remained seated. There was a single flash of worry on the man's face, but it vanished as he read the words just in advance of her getting them out verbally. “If you, or the sergeant, or ANYONE else in Force Ops EVER breathes a word about my hair, to ANYONE; they will never find your bodies.”

I think it's a very stunning shade of pink, personally.”

Linda leaned in closer. “Never. Find. Bodies.” Satisfied that her point had been made, she slowly lowered the man and his chair back to the floor. “Now get me some clothes, I feel like shit, I deserve a drink for saving the east coast, and I have four weeks of administrative leave to get back to.”

 

7:10pm

 

So you REALLY aren't going to tell me?” The indignant tone from the blonde woman gently rocking her sleeping baby was completely ignored by her friend as the taller brunette continued to gorge herself on the evening meal she had dropped in on unannounced. “Seriously?”

'Swerioshly.” The badly mangled word was forced out around a mouthful of chicken. A few seconds of chewing and a long drink came before any more words were attempted. “Seriously, Sally. I'm not supposed to talk about any of this crap until the politicians and the DVA get together to figure out what the official story is.”

So what's the unofficial story?”

I did something REALLY stupid and it saved the east coast from a tsunami.”

Sally sighed, and then became more distracted as the bundle in her arms began thrashing briefly before returning to sleep. “You have got to give me more details than that.”

Why do you suddenly need details? You're the one whose still an active Hero, I'm just out here taking my four weeks of mandated vacation like you recommended.”

And we're not going to talk about why you're barely able to move? Or why you were dropped off by a military teleporter instead of DVA or Hero?”

He was available, and I think I have a date with his captain next week.”

Are you at least going to get fixed up the rest of the way?” A note of genuine worry had crept in through the exasperation, and Linda responded by giving her friend a genuine smile.

Three healers are all in agreement, jacking my power up as much as I did is making it really hard to finish healing me. It needs a week or so to settle down and then I'll get it taken care of.”

Wait, jacking your power up HOW MUCH?” Sally winced as her raised voice woke the baby, but a quick shout upstairs and a flash of blue and now her son was his father's problem for a few minutes. “You jack your power up by getting hurt, how badly did you mangle yourself in order to not be able to be healed?”

Oh it wasn't that bad. One blade.”

You're lying. I've seen you do one blade a dozen times. I've seen you do up to three, you never had a problem getting healed afterwards.” The concern had completely overridden all other emotions in the teleporter's voice. “What did you do?”

Just one, through here.” Linda pointed to the side of her ribs as she spoke, and tried to ignore the wide-eyed look her friend shot her in response. “Got both lungs pretty good. Needed to, there was a tsunami to stop after all.”

Sally paused for a long moment before she picked the conversation back up. “So stabbing yourself through the lungs was the stupid thing, but it worked? You stopped a tsunami all by yourself?”

And then some.” Linda tried to bite off the reply as soon as it came out, but it was too late.

And WHAT? Oh that is it, you are giving me some details right now if you know what's good for you.”

Or what?” Linda's confident retort was met with a flash of blue light as she realized she was still sitting in the same chair, but that chair was somewhere on the side of a mountain somewhere. Then her phone rang.

Seriously Sally?”

Start talking, Linda!” The sweet response from the phone drew a helpless bout of giggling from the still injured woman, delaying the start of the story further as the pain of laughter nearly sent her falling off the chair and down the mountain side.

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Friday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Friday


 


 

8:18am


 

The tall woman rose somewhat ungracefully from her bed in a somewhat cramped motel room she had called home for the night and glared at the far too flimsy curtains letting in a blinding amount of sunlight. After a few seconds to determine that her glare was not, in fact, powerful enough to dim the sun so that she could return to sleep, Linda yawned widely and stretched instead. A few twinges in the full body stretch served as quiet, yet insistent, reminders that she needed to visit a better quality healer at some point in the future to deal with some of the deeper injuries and scar tissue that had built up over the last 27 months. Shower better have hot water.

Linda flipped to room's TV on to a news channel as she entered the dingy bathroom, a habit that she had picked up from the two year stint where she had pretended to be an entirely new Hero; the Lady Mayhem interning with the current Mayhem after bidding farewell to her previous identity. Carl Scoven, aka Mayhem, tended to operate as a roaming Hero, never staying in one area for too long. After the initial rush of the impulsive decision had worn off, Linda had been somewhat worried about what she'd gotten herself into. Then as she adjusted more to living out of suitcases and constantly being on the move, she'd found she enjoyed this type of Hero work FAR more than the kind that involved having to show up for press events and restaurant openings.

The shower did, thankfully, have an ample supply of hot water. Barely enough pressure to put out more than a trickle, but as hot as she wanted at least. A half step back into the main room was aborted as the light reminded her of the transparent curtains, and the tall woman opted to get at least partially dressed in the privacy of the tiny bathroom instead. Curtains are too thin, bathroom is tiny, towels are rough, and no water pressure in the shower. 1 star, would not stay here again. Linda smiled to herself at the travel review she wouldn't be able to write. At least not without making a bunch of fake identity accounts on the websites, and for some reason the DVA frowns on Heroes having more than just the two identities.

Moderately dressed and with the dark brunette wig firmly in place concealing her naturally pink hair, Linda exited the bathroom and found herself staring at the tiny room service menu on the end table. Am I really lazy enough to think about ordering breakfast in a place like this? A few glances around the room provided the needed reminders. Close, but no, not quite that lazy.


 

9:00am


 

The diner she had found wasn't much better looking than the motel she'd stayed at, but the alternatives had been significantly less appealing. Fortunately, the gamble with this diner seemed to have paid off; the appearance was bad, but the food was excellent. Linda smiled at the somewhat wide-eyed look the teenage boy serving her had as he came to collect the empty plates from her table and refill her coffee. She was quite a bit larger than the average woman, but the physical requirements of Hero work kept her in excellent shape. The tall brunette had become somewhat accustomed to the looks of surprise she frequently drew at restaurants after devouring a meal that looked portioned more for a man a hundred pounds heavier than she was.

Sipping at her latest cup of coffee, Linda turned her eyes to the small TV mounted in the corner and tried to pay attention to the local news show that was playing. I'm in Mississippi now? Damn, I thought I was still in Arkansas. I made better time than I thought.

The local news was an incredibly boring affair, providing her with nothing of real use about the area except the name of the town she was currently on the outskirts of; Southhaven. Doesn't look like there's likely to be any need for a Hero in a sleepy little town like thi-... Linda's found her train of thought cut off by the muffled sound of an explosion from somewhere out beyond the parking lot, followed almost immediately by the sound and presence of shattering glass as something tore through the diner windows a few feet away from her and continued through the building without seeming much slowed by the presence of the large wooden counter, or any of the three walls it passed through.

God dammit Linda, why the hell would you start thinking a thing like that? The tall woman dove quickly for cover after sparing one incredulous glance at the roughly three-foot hole that marked the passage of SOMETHING through the diner at a very high velocity. The room was quickly filling with dust and the screams of panicked diners, which fortunately combined to create enough of a distraction that the Hero had no difficulty making her way out the side door. Wait, did I just dine and dash? Dammit again. Linda felt a smirk creeping onto her face at that thought though. Now I just have to get to the bike and get a little ways out so I can come back as someone SLIGHTLY less civilian.

Fortune again seemed to be favoring the tall woman as she made her way carefully to her motorcycle and noted that she was FAR from the only person seeking their vehicle in order to flee. From somewhere a few blocks away and out of her line of sight, Linda heard several gunshots, followed by several MORE explosions from the same direction. What the hell is going on over there? The Hero pulled an earpiece from the concealed compartment just below the handlebars on her bike and pushed it into her ear as she peeled out of the parking lot.

Dispatch, this is Lady Mayhem. There's some kind of altercation on the outskirts of Southhaven, MS, involving either Supers or someone with some serious military hardware. I need any intel you can give me, I'm getting clear to change out of my civvies now.”

Lady Mayhem, there are no reports of Variant activity of any kind coming from Southhaven. There are some 911 reports of shots fired in your vicinity, but nothing more than that as yet. I'll keep you updated.” The calm response from the faintly accented voice both reassured and worried Linda.

If there's no real reports, than whatever is going on JUST started, so there hasn't been much time for a casualty count to build up. On the other hand, I'm going in blind. The motorcycle accelerated further and turned down a small side road, away from the rest of the fleeing traffic.


 

9:12am


 

The motorcycle rushing through the outskirts of Southhaven looked very little like the one that had fled the diner a few minutes ago. A few carefully designed sliding panels and a change of clothes for the rider made all the difference. Linda had received three updates from Dispatch while changing and returning towards the scene of whatever was going on. The first was some additional 911 calls about the 'cannon fire' or whatever it was that was ripping holes through buildings. The second was that local law enforcement was apparently closer than she was, and already en route. The third update, coming as the altered bike and its rider sped past the wrecked diner, was more a lack of update; no information had gone out on the police band since the time when they SHOULD have arrived on the scene.

The Hero steeled herself for what she expected to find as she raced towards the sounds of gunshots intermingled with small explosions. When her bike pulled around the corner of a large furniture store and revealed the scene before her, she found herself stunned nearly to the point of falling off her bike as it skidded to a stop, entirely unsure of what to make of the scene before her.

In roughly the middle of the parking lot was a young man on his knees, hands raised, and tears streaming down his face as he sobbed uncontrollably. Make that 'boy,' he's barely a teenager. Surrounding the crying boy at varying distances were several armed men, two of which were wearing Sheriff's Deputy uniforms. Some of the men were screaming insults at the boy, the two deputies were yelling for him to surrender. As Linda attempted to make sense of the scene before her, one of the deputies fired a shot at the kneeling, sobbing boy. The situation made a lot more sense to the Hero as she saw the boy knocked off his knees by the shot, followed immediately by an explosion of force as something tore through the pavement AWAY from the kid and into the ground.

Dispatch, this is Lady Mayhem. There's an armed mob here that seems to have the Super more or less in custody, some kind of kinetic ricochet pow-...” The report was cutoff abruptly when one of the other men stepped forward to fire a rifle into the downed boy, drawing screams of pain and another explosion as the apparently redirected projectile blasted up and into the sky. Details that hadn't made sense finally clicked for the Hero as the armed crowd continued screaming their hate at the sobbing child. “Cancel last report. Hate crime in progress, the victim is a Powered boy with an uncontrollable ricochet ability. Eleven armed men, including two deputies, are attempting to kill him at my location. Please get some REAL police out here.”

Report updated and filed. DVA containment and medical team is on its way to deal with the Powered, state police contacted and first responders should arrive in approximately 10 minutes.” Linda nodded her head in acknowledgment of the update from Dispatch, having long ago given up on how the voice in all Heroes' heads could interpret a nod through an earpiece, and dismounted her bike to begin striding angrily towards the mob.

Gentlemen!” The harsh shout immediately drew the attention of the group, with several guns momentarily swinging in her direction before realization set in and the barrels were quickly pointed back at the downed boy. “You are all going to drop your weapons RIGHT NOW and sit here quietly until the state police arrive to take you into custody.” Linda felt herself nearly choke up when she saw the pathetically hopeful look directed her way from the Powered boy in response to her words

Ma'am, we have this situation under control.” One of the deputies holstered his weapon and turned towards the Hero as he spoke, an attempt at a disarming smile plastered across his face. “I know it's stepping on you folks' toes a little when us locals deal with problems like this, but these good volunteers hav-...”

Deputy,” the interruption from the Hero came out nearly as a snarl, “you and your partner are INCLUDED in the group that I am disarming. Drop your guns and wait patiently for the REAL police to arrive and arrest you. Unless you seriously think I'm going to walk away from your little attempt here to execute that kid?” Linda offered her own smile in response to the sudden look of shock that spread across the deputy's face, though there was nothing friendly or 'disarming' in her expression.

You have no jurisdiction or authority here!” The second deputy stepped up, not holstering his gun as he faced the tall woman with an equally angry glare. “This little freak is a THREAT to our town, and we are dealing with that threat WITHOUT 'Heroes' like you.”

So you are NOT planning to disarm and wait for the proper authorities to take you into custody?” The tone of the question seemed to catch both deputies slightly off guard, sounding almost as if the Hero was reciting something from a book.

Fuck off!” The response from the more belligerent of the two deputies was barely past his lips when the leather armored Hero was suddenly directly in front of him.

The tall brunette didn't bother with any more words as the startled man tried to step back and bring his gun to bear. Instead she simply caught his arm and gave the tiniest of twists. Motion for this part goes THIS way, that part goes THAT way, this in the middle doesn't move at all... The deputy screamed as his arm was effortlessly wrenched behind him. The multiple accompanying loud, wet, *CRACK* sounds indicating that it had been broken in multiple places. Before any of the other ten men could respond, the Hero followed up the arm twist with a headbutt, dropping the screaming man to the pavement, unconscious.

Is anyone else NOT planning to disarm and wait to be arrested?” The tone of the question and the expression, barely visible around the mask worn by the Hero, were taken in by the rest of the mob.

There was barely a second of hesitation before the sound of firearms dropping to the pavement echoed through the parking lot and ten men raised their hands meekly in response.


 

10:38am


 

Lady Mayhem, this is Dispatch. Your supervising agent, Glenn Narow, is requesting to be patched through.” There was the barest trace of humor in the accented voice in the Hero's ear. “He seems upset.”

Dispatch, can you confirm with Agent Narow that he is, in fact, the same Glenn Narow that I already contacted to inform that any review of my recent 'interaction' with the Southhaven Sheriff's Department would have to wait until AFTER I respond to the declared emergency in southern Memphis?” The brunette's response came a little haltingly as her focus was primarily on navigating traffic at over 150mph as she sped towards her destination.

Agent Narow has been informed, but he seems to think that it's VERY important to speak with you immediately.”

Linda sighed and jerked her bike in an impossible maneuver to slide past a car and onto the exit ramp she'd been looking for. “Patch him through then, Dispatch. Please inform Agent Narow that he has about 90 seconds of my time before I become too busy to chat.”

This is just a CHAT to you?” The irate voice coming from the earpiece was no longer familiar or female, and drew a second sigh from the rapidly speeding Hero as she worked her way through surface streets towards her goal.

Yes, Agent Narow. THIS is just a chat. Until I have time to submit a full after-action report and it can be evaluated properly, anything we do discuss can't be more official than that. Rules and regulations, you know.” A humorless smile formed on the young woman's lips as she heard the sound of angrily grinding teeth from the other end of the connection. “You have about 70 seconds left, Glenn. Chat quickly.”

Alright, you assaulted a uniformed law enforcement officer and detained a large group of NON-variants for arrest, including said law enforcement officer and his partner. While doing so you completely ignored the threat that ALL eleven men claim was being posed by a very dangerous Powered that was at the scene. Anything to add?” The angry tone had acquired a depth of sarcasm by the end of the supervising agent's statement, the rhetorical question at the end was practically dropping with it.

Is the 'dangerous Powered' in custody?” The completely calm response seemed to catch the DVA agent off guard.

Ummm... well, yes, bu-...”

And he's a registered Powered, correct? DVA case file indicates what his ability is?”

Also yes.” The irritation from the responses was slowly dwindling to be replaced by a note of curiosity. “Where are you going with this?”

And of those eleven 'model citizens' that were simply ASSISTING the Southhaven Sheriff's deputies, how many of them have criminal records involving Supers or Powereds?”

I... don't have that information.”

You should look into it, Glenn. You should also check and see if there are any complaints, official or otherwise, into those two 'law enforcement officers' while you're at it. It was fun chatting, but I have work to do now.”

Now wait! What could possibly be more important to discuss right now then an incident that will have your certification pulled and possibly CRIMINAL charges filed against you?” Linda smirked at the change in tone from her supervising agent.

From ready to crucify me for going rogue to realizing he should be on my side in under two minutes. A new personal best. “There's nothing more important to discuss right now, Glenn.” The Hero dismounted from her bike as she spoke and began running forward to the line of first responders working their way into the wreckage of what had once been an enormous building. “But some asshole truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tower crane in south Memphis, brought the whole thing down on Southhaven mall and trapped a few thousand people inside. Now if you'll excuse me, Glenn, chatting time is over.”

Linda was glad to hear no further words from the DVA agent as Dispatch disconnected him to come back on the line. “I have you logged as on site, Lady Mayhem. The rescue workers have the east side of the mall listed as the highest priority right now. Fix It is already on scene providing emergency stabilization to victims pulled from the rubble, another three Heroes should be arriving in the next five minutes.”

Thanks Dispatch. Please inform the rescue workers that I'm going straight into the east wing and they should be ready to pull out injured as I find them.”


 

11:06am


 

David Smythe woke up to a feeling of agony burning through the right side of his body, and an extreme sense of disorientation. It was dark, the air smelled like smoke and dust, and it was difficult to breathe. An attempt to lift his head was stopped after a few inches when the back of his head contacted something solid and cold. Attempts to move the rest of his body brought a series of new, painful explosions to his senses, and he learned that his right arm and leg were completely pinned by something. As his eyes adjusted and his head cleared a little, he realized that he was pinned in a pile of debris, and there was someone shifting underneath him.

There was a crash, the ceiling was coming down. LACEY! Memories came flooding back to the man, who managed to crane around far enough to determine that the small figure pinned under his own body was, in fact, his eight year old daughter.

Lacey... can you hear me sweetie? Can you move?” The words were hard to force out, his throat felt raw and his mouth was completely dry, but the figure under him responded immediately.

Daddy? I'm scared. It's hard to breathe.”

I know sweetie, it'll be okay. People are coming to help us, we'll be alright.” The words were barely a whisper, but David tried to force as much cheer into them as he could muster. We survived whatever the initial collapse was, they'll get people here quick. We'll be alright.

The train of thought was nearly derailed as the rubble around him shifted, a seemingly unending stream of dust and small bits of debris was now raining down on the trapped man and his daughter, drawing a scream of fright from the latter.

Is someone still down there? Make some noise so I can find you!” David nearly fainted with relief at the confident female voice coming from somewhere close by.

We're right... *cough* We're here!” David cursed silently as he attempted to yell back to their would-be rescuer, but his voice could barely get above a whisper. Fortunately his daughter seemed to be not having the same problem.

WE'RE OVER HERE! PLEASE COME HELP! MY DADDY IS TRAPPED!” The trapped man winced at the incredible volume Lacey managed to bellow out to the mystery voice with, but he smiled encouragingly at her.

Just as David was about to ask his daughter to yell again, a piece of debris in front of him shifted several feet to the side and simply froze in place. Behind it was revealed a tall woman in brown and red leather, caked in dust, wearing a mask. “That's a nice set of lungs you have on you, kid. Good job.”

David smiled as he felt his daughter begin nearly hyperventilating at the excitement of being rescued by a REAL Hero, then his expression changed to one of shock as the woman place a hand on top of the concrete slab pinning him down. With no leverage or grip that he could see, he watched the woman lift a slab that had to weigh over a ton with as little effort as he would have lifted a pillow. “Can you crawl out, kid?”

Lacey immediately wriggled her way free and scooted over next to the Hero, then turned back to motion for her father to follow her. “Can you move, sir?” The question directed towards David was met with a tentative attempt that nearly resulted in him blacking out again.

I... I'll be fine. Just need to rest a minute. You can get my daughter out and I'll be right behind you.” David locked eyes with the masked woman for a moment and prayed that she would understand what he was trying to do. Please, please save my daughter.

The Hero met his gaze with an inscrutable look, then shook her head minutely. “Sorry sir, but I'm afraid there's no time to rest. I apologize in advance for the discomfort.” Before the injured man could even begin to wonder what she was going, a gloved hand had grasped his shirt and hauled him up over the woman's shoulder like he was weightless.

No words that David had learned came close to describing the agony that shot through his body as he was moved. But somehow he fought through the pain and kept from blacking out again, even managing to offer what he hoped was an encouraging smile to his daughter.

Alright kid, I got your dad, but I might need a hand free to move some stuff.” The Hero unclipped one of the lights she was wearing and passed it to the wide-eyed girl. “I might need you to help us see our way out, can you do that for me?”

There is no possible way I can ever thank this woman enough. David felt tears in his eyes NOT motivated by the agony he was experiencing as the Hero expertly shifted his daughter's attention away from the terrifying situation and made her a part of the solution. His eight year old had just been given a mission by a Hero, and the girl was accepting her newly appointed duty with all of her attention.

The trip back out through the rubble was a blur to David as he was carried effortlessly on the woman's back and could have taken anywhere from seconds to hours as far as he could tell. All he focused on was the form of his daughter, carefully shining a light wherever the Hero seemed to indicate, and trying to stay awake. Finally a piece of rubble was shifted and he saw daylight again. So did his daughter.

We made it!” The excited shriek from the little girl was accompanied by a mad scramble towards the newly revealed exit, too quickly for the Hero to grab her without dropping her other rescuee.

Wait kid!” David heard the woman cry out to his daughter, and he saw the rebar laced chunk of concrete shift and begin to fall towards the excitedly scampering girl. Then David saw the world blur past for a moment at an impossible speed and felt himself hit the ground, right next to his suddenly startled daughter.

Both looked up to see the costumed woman had stepped directly in front of the falling chunk of wreckage, and David felt his wavering focus snap back fully when he saw the crimson stained piece of metal jutting through his savior's stomach.

You can't run ahead like that, kid.” It was completely impossible that the Hero could still be speaking calmly, but her impalement seemed to have had no more effect than to leave her slightly out of breath. “You have to stay close to me, okay?”

You're hurt...” Lacey's voice was thick with grief, but before the girl could burst into tears the Hero made a dismissive noise and gave a casual wave.

This?” A quick pass of her hand and the chunk of rebar protruding from her stomach dropped to the ground with a clang. A straightening of the woman's stance sent the massive chunk of rubble crushing into the debris behind her as if it weighed nothing at all. “It takes a lot more than something like THAT to hurt someone like me. Now let's get the rest of the way out of here, we're almost there.” And as if nothing had happened, she scooped David back up over her shoulder and took Lacey by the hand to lead them both out into the light.

David blinked a few times as she suddenly found himself on a stretcher, another costumed man with an icon on his chest that looked like a pair of wrenches imprinted over a red first-aid cross. “Sorry I can't do more than the basics, we're pulling a lot of people out.”

David blinked again in shock as he realized he could now feel more than simple agony coming from his right side, the limbs having been put back together enough to appear human again at least. Next to him his daughter sat silently awestruck at having met not one, but TWO Heroes in the same day. David managed to smile weakly at the healing Hero that was still leaning over him, and lifted his head slightly to look for the woman that had pulled him and his daughter out of the wreckage. He spotted her, and felt his jaw drop as she was making her way back into the wreckage again. Protruding slightly from her back were three pieces of bloodstained rebar, clearly visible and yet no one seemed to be even TRYING to stop her.

Why... why is she going back in? She's hurt.” It was still difficult to get the words out, and David gratefully accepted a small cup of water that was pressed to his lips by an EMT that had arrived to wheel the stretcher down to a waiting ambulance.

The healer smiled widely in response. “Yea, I tried telling her that too. But Heroes, we're kinda stupid like that. Until someone shows up to relieve us, we tend not to stand down for anything short of dying.”

As he and his daughter were loaded into an ambulance, David Smythe found himself wondering how many other people would find themselves with a debt of gratitude they would never be able to repay.


 

2:15pm


 

That's all of them?” Linda leaned gingerly against a concrete pillar, leaving a crimson stain on it as she did so, and waited for the confirmation to come in her ear.

Two telepaths are on scene, Lady Mayhem. They've confirmed that there are no more survivors for you to dig out. Now report IMMEDIATELY to Fix It and get yourself treated before we have to add you to the casualty list.” The Hero smiled slightly at the authoritative tone Dispatch used in ordering her to seek medical attention.

Pretty similar to the tone she used half an hour ago really. And an hour before that. Am I really that stubborn?

Yes, yes you are.” The voice from behind her gave the tall woman a brief moment of startlement, then she turned to see a rather petite Hero wearing a purple and gold costume. “And no, it doesn't really count as rude when you were thinking it THAT loudly. Now let's go see a man about you NOT bleeding to death.”

I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced?” Linda decided she liked this one. Much smaller, but the woman definitely felt like she was a few years older than the tall brunette.

I'm Trance, you're Lady Mayhem, and Dispatch sent me to take you to Fix It whether you want to go or not. Can we save the remaining pleasantries for AFTER you stop bleeding everywhere?” The tall woman chuckled softly at the exasperated tone directed her way by the shorter Hero.

Yep, definitely like this one. Linda accompanied the thought by winking at the purple clad Hero, then pushing herself off the wall to stagger off in the direction indicated by her new telepathic friend. “So Trance? I didn't know you were still active. Weren't you mostly an east coast Hero?”

Semi-retired. I'm the Focus Instructor at Overton in my spare time.” The shorter woman fell into step with the taller, making it clear that she fully intended to escort Linda all the way to the healer. “I'm more than a little surprised you heard of me. I was never exactly a big news Hero.”

Well you know, studying up on Heroes is kind of a hobby of mine. And you've actually been part of a couple of case studies on ho-...”

Please don't think you'll be even in the first hundred people to make fun of the costume. I've been a semi-retired Instructor for as long as you've been a Hero, and I've been a Hero almost as long as you've been ALIVE. But please, regal me with your version of how you would have come up with a costume more immune to the changes of fashion over time than I did.”

You know normally this would be where I would pretend innocently that I was going to make fun of something else?” Linda was smiling widely now as the pair rounded a corner and their destination came into sight, then began hurrying towards them.

I am aware of that.”

And now I can't do that because you already knew exactly what I was going to make fun of, before I did it.”

Also correct.” Trance was also wearing a smile now as the healer reached the pair of women.

Just one question I have to ask then; gold embroidered Greek letters?”

Fix It paused for a moment, then opted to ignore the ongoing conversation as the safest course of action and settled in to start repairing what turned out to be a RIDICULOUS amount of internal injuries that tall brunette had suffered over the course of the three and a half hours of rescue work.

It was the early 80's. It SEEMED like a good idea at the time.” The completely deadpan tone drew laughter from both women, and a grin from the healer.

Always a good sign when your patient can still laugh after all.


 

4:00pm


 

The two women that walked through the door of the dive bar in Memphis could not have appeared much more different from each other had they tried. The only commonalities immediately visible were gender and that both had dark hair, though the shorter woman's hair was nearly pure black while the taller's was simply a dark brown. The tall woman wore sneakers, tattered jeans and a faded t-shirt, the shorter wore slacks, loafers, and a deep red blouse. Both were carrying on a quiet conversation and, in spite of their obviously differing appearances, seemed like years-long friends.

Every face in the bar turned a momentarily suspicious look at the newcomers as they made their way to a table, but a casual motion by both women immediately set the room back at ease. Both women had plucked matching tiny earpieces from within their ears, placed them momentarily on the table, then slipped them away to be pocketed.

What'll we be having today?” The large man that had offered a glare that could have sent a serial killer fleeing for his life when the two entered now approached the table with a cheerful and polite manner.

Whiskey, top shelf. Bring the bottle.” The taller woman's order was accepted without even a hint of hesitation and the man turned to look at her companion.

Corrida Anejo. Might as well leave the bottle for that as well. And whatever's good for a meal.” The second order also drew no sign of surprise from the man, though the taller woman raised a curious eyebrow in response.

Tequila? I would not have pegged you for that.”

Whereas I think EVERYONE would peg you as a whiskey girl.” Linda grinned at the shorter woman's immediate comeback.

Linda Scoven.” The tall brunette reached her hand across the table as she realized she hadn't yet introduced herself to her new friend.

I know.” The response from the telepath as she shook the proffered hand drew a rude gesture from the taller woman, followed by laughter from the shorter. “Kathryn Jilles.”

The two bottles arrived at the table as the women released their handshake, along with a pair of glasses that looked FAR too clean to have originated in a bar like this one. “Well then,” Linda spoke as she poured a generous portion of her whiskey and watched Kathryn do the same with her drink of choice. “To new friends!”

Glasses clinked, alcohol was consumed, and both women sighed contentedly for a moment. It was Kathryn that broke the moment. “It's probably not the best idea to plan on emptying that bottle when you have a report and an official review waiting for you.”

Linda glared at the telepath for a moment, but when the older woman only smiled in response she gave up the glare to sigh instead. “This is REALLY not fair you know.”

Of course it's not fair. It also shouldn't be THIS easy for me. You were Subtlety trained, yes?” Linda offered a mildly surprised look in response to that question. “You SHOULD be better at not letting me get anything useful from a casual scan like this, but you're completely twisted up over something that happened before the mall. You... holy shit.” Kathryn paused and downed the rest of her drink before continuing. “You did that to a cop?”

Sheriff's deputy, and he REALLY deserved it.”

Yeah, I'm getting some bits and pieces. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. Tell me the complete and VERY interesting story that I'm getting glimpses of and I will make sure that you have until tomorrow morning to sleep it off and get a PROPER report written for your inevitable appearance before a DVA review board. There's about a hundred tricks I could teach you about these things after all.”

Why?” The genuinely confused curiosity behind the question drew a bout of laughter from the smaller woman.

I'm a powerful telepath that worked primarily on the east coast for over seventeen years. You know, the part of the country with the highest number of politicians per capita?” Kathryn nodded as she caught the realization dawning in the other woman's mind. “I've probably been up before more DVA review boards than most Heroes could ever IMAGINE existing. Considering you seem to be following in your father's footsteps, I figure I can afford to spend an evening listening to entertaining stories and sharing some of the tips about the minutiae of these things that I picked up over the years. Something tells me that you'll need them.” The petite woman paused for a moment before she continued. “And to more directly answer your question of 'Why?' I would have to say because I think the world needs Heroes like you out on the street more than it needs them standing in front of a bunch of bureaucrats defending every action that might cause a blip in the PR.”

Linda considered the offer for a moment before replying. “This isn't exactly the longest or most interesting story you know.”

I'm sure you have some others you can tell me to pass the time. Hang out through enough of the bottle, and you might even get some less relevant and more interesting facts out of ME.”

The tall woman grinned at that thought as she refilled her glass. “Alright then, my day today started when I woke up in a shitty motel room in Mississippi...”

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Thursday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Thursday

 

 

12:02am
 

The area around Woodlawn Park was rapidly spiraling down from simply 'out of control' towards full blown chaos. The Hero on her impossibly fast motorcycle had beaten her ETA by almost a full minute as she followed the directions from Dispatch that led her to the southwest corner of the park and had almost fallen of the bike at the scene laid out before her when she arrived.

Trees along the park's perimeter were fallen and burning, or shattered and scorched by some kind of very powerful blast. Buildings across from the park had suffered similar damage, with a large jewelry exchange seeming the worst off with nearly the entire front of the building destroyed. That was probably the original alarm that brought in Heroes in the first place then. Linda was reasonably certain of her assumption, but she couldn't work to confirm it when she'd arrived, nor could she begin any kind of search for the rogue Supers who'd done this damage. Because three of the five buildings that had been carved into by some kind of intense heat during the battle were occupied apartment complexes, and emergency services was not going to get there in time to get a lot of those people out.

The black and red garbed woman noted the changing scene outside with each trip she made in and out of the burning buildings. She noted when two other Heroes, a speedster and apparently a line of sight teleporter arrived and began assisting her with the evacuation. She heard bits and pieces of the argument going on between various first responders as several of the firefighters apparently planned to join the Heroes in evacuating the buildings, and were being ordered not to by their superiors. Linda wore a grim smile when she noted the wave of men and women in the black and yellow fireproof suits rush the least damaged of the buildings anyways, and turned to follow that group. I can at least keep the building from falling on anyone until we get out of here. Hold on Ed, I just have to get these people safe and then I can come find you.


 

12:31am


 

People moved past the kneeling Hero, giving her a wide berth and carefully averting their eyes when they noticed the tears and the racking sobs. Lying on a pair of gurneys in front of the crying woman were a pair of body bags, zipped open just far enough to show the masked faces of two men. Fast Break and Attitude Adjustment had both been killed before even the fastest responders had arrived. Linda's former mentor had been electrocuted, apparently caught from behind by surprise as there was a handprint burned into the back of his costume. The younger Hero had been beaten to death, massive blunt force trauma. God dammit Ed, how the hell did you let someone get the drop on you? YOU?

Trick Move?” The tentative question snapped the Hero's attention back to her surrounding as she turned red eyes towards its source, one of the EMT's that had arrived only a few minutes after Linda had herself. “Sentry is awake.” The words were barely out of the young woman's mouth before the tall brunette was past her and standing at the back of the ambulance housing the only surviving Hero they'd found so far.

Or she would have made it to the back of the ambulance, if that area hadn't already been heavily occupied. Occupied by at least one form that the black and red costumed woman had never expected to see again. “What the hell are you doing here, Conquistador?” The question, barely more than a whisper spoken from directly beside the huge man, carried a significant hint of a threat.

My retirement is delayed until this is resolved.” The large man didn't even glance down as he responded in a similarly quiet tone. “I know I fucked up, but I'm not dropping out of the world the same day some asshole kills two of us in MY city.”

Thank you.” Those words DID get a reaction from the garishly dressed strongman as he looked down at his former teammate, but he didn't get a chance to respond.

LISTEN UP!” The shout from the front of the crowd that had assembled to hear what the wounded Hero had to say carried an impressive weight of authority with it. The whole group of Heroes immediately went silent. “Five minutes ago we had two deceased, one wounded, and one missing Hero, and no one who could tell us what the fuck did all that and took out most of a city block doing it. Two minutes ago Sentry woke up and our situation went from bad to worse. Solitaire is not MIA, he's gone rogue.”

The silence that had held for the speech was immediately blown away by this declaration. The assembled group immediately began to disperse, most speaking to Dispatch over their earpieces while a few were calling out to teammates that had arrived with them. Linda found herself still standing next to the huge strongman as she attempted to process the shock. Solitaire, the fucking 'One Man Army,' went rogue. But... “Who else was with him?” The shouted question was barely audible over the chatter, and no one seemed to notice. God dammit Linda, this is what you get for crying yourself hoarse when you SHOULD be accomplishing things.

HEY! WHO ELSE WAS WITH SOLITAIRE!” The bellowed question, loud enough to rattle the windows on the nearby emergency vehicles, caught Linda even more by surprise than the declaration of a rogue Hero had. All eyes turned towards the source of the shout as silence descended again. The strongman responded to the attention by pushing the shorter woman next to him forward.

Solitaire couldn't have done all this himself.” Linda found herself now the focus of all eyes in the area as she spoke. “He coul-...”

Who the fuck do you think you are?” The interruption came from inside the ambulance, and the athletically built Hero who'd stood in the doorway as he gave the briefing stepped aside so that the injured man inside see who he was talking to. There was another ripple of shock through the crowd as many of the Heroes and other first responders saw the condition of the injured Shining Sentry for the first time. “You know they call him the god damned One Man Army for a reason. You a rookie or just really fucking out of the loop?”

Linda was amazed that the man could speak at all. Shining Sentry's power was that he could shift his skin into an extremely sturdy armor and he was a mid range physical enhancement Super. His armor was burned cleanly through in several places, and his left arm was just gone. “Neither, I'm well aware of who Solitaire is and what he can do. The trees and most of the buildings, the ones that look like someone took a plasma torch to them, those are probably him. But he can't electrocute anyone with his hands, and he doesn't have enhanced strength. He wouldn't have beaten Attitude Adjustment to death with his bare hands, he just would torched him.” The brunette wasn't sure, but even through the helmet she thought she could detect a change in the injured Hero's expression. Why is he afraid all the sudden? “He couldn't have broken down the front of the building like the jewelry exchange either. He's basically a nearly indestructible walking plasma fountain, and the only scorch marks are what you would expect if he was here fighting AFTER the wall was torn down. What the hell really happened here, Sentry?”

Instead of a response, the athletically built Hero in the dark costume who'd relayed the initial information stepped up into the ambulance and pulled the door closed behind him. Linda had just a moment to see the injured Hero flinch back from whatever he saw in the other man's expression.

So what are you saying, Trick?” The question came from a female Hero in a blue and green costume, completely unfamiliar to Linda.

Everything Sentry just gave us is bullshit. Judging by the buildings... and the bodies,” it took a bit to force the second point out, “the actual attackers are some kind of electricity manipulator and a strongman of some kind.” Like Sentry himself. Linda barely kept from saying the last part out loud, though she was almost certain she was correct.

What now? Where'd they go?” The question from Conquistador took the brunette off guard again, as he seemed to be setting her up for a leadership role. Seeing her surprised look, the big man simply shrugged. “You're the Subtlety Hero, I'm the brute force. We don't have to like each other, but we both know how this works. Your type tells OUR type where to go to get the job done.”

Linda looked around and realized that the other assembled Heroes, all seven of them, were nodding in agreement with her former teammate and looking to her for answers. “All right, we need to move out from here in pairs. Whomever is out there can apparently stand up to Solitaire and they already took out two Heroes, no one goes it alone on this one. Pick branching streets and let's start heading South and East. Dispatch, please coordinate future arrivals to search for signs in that direction.”

Southeast? Why would they run that way? Residential area means there are a lot of eyes that might spot them. We've got people searching the park now, a lot better escape route that way. Get out of sight, vanish, and you have almost ten blocks you can emerge from at will.” Linda didn't even look up to see which of the group had asked the question.

Assuming that Solitaire is in pursuit of whomever did this, and we really have no reason NOT to think that since he's not here and is reportedly VERY hard to kill, then running into the park would be suicide. He did some collateral damage here, though considering he was fighting at least two Supers who had already killed two Heroes I think that can be forgiven, but I've seen what it looks like when he really cuts loose. This isn't it, and if his opponent ran into the park, AWAY from populated areas?” Linda turned and waved dramatically towards the dark, wooded area behind her. “We'd be able to see the light show from here. Only way to keep Solitaire at low power is to keep the potential for collateral as high as possible, that means the residential blocks South and East of here. Pair up and MOVE OUT!” The black and red Hero smirked a little bit as the assembled Heroes hastened to follow the orders from one of the most junior Heroes present.

I guess I'm with you?” The blue and green Heroine floated over to Linda and offered a nervous smile.

I don't know her name.” Linda spoke so softly as she moved to quickly mount her motorcycle and listened that no one should have been able to hear her, save for one person.

Trick Move, Aeromancer, assigned search area NE Bellevue to 13th. Confirm.”

Confirmed Dispatch.” Thank you! Linda turned her bike in the direction they were assigned and saw the younger girl make her own confirmation. “I've got the street then, can you get high enough to watch the building tops?”

In response the younger Hero floated up to a couple hundred feet and waved down. “Dispatch, direct patch to Aeromancer please.”

Direct patch, Trick Move and Aeromancer are now on channel.”

Linda smiled a little as she heard the surprised sound come over her earpiece at that. “Alright Aero, make sure to stay in my line of sight at all times, and do NOT fly in straight lines.”

Ah, copy that Trick. Why not straight lines though?”

Because it makes you an easy target, and someone has already killed two Heroes tonight. No more.”


 

3:00am


 

All search teams, return to staging point. We have located Solitaire and he's being transported back now.” Linda barely paused long enough to make sure her temporary partner had registered the communication before turning her bike around and burning back up the street at close to 200 miles per hour.

At that speed she was among the first to arrive, but no one ever beat the teleporters. Linda forced a weary smile onto her face as she spotted her teammate, Blue Path, having apparently just brought in a man with a costume so charred his Heroic identity was unidentifiable. Process of logic says that has to be Solitaire. Before she could make her way to the pair, the dark costumed Hero who'd been in the ambulance with Sentry appeared with a pair of men in suits wearing windbreakers bearing 'DVA' in large bold letters across the back blocker her path.

Solitaire, I'm afraid we have to take you into custody for the time being.” The shocked looks were evident all around, in spite of how quietly the dark suited Hero had spoken. None of the looks were nearly as expressive as the one worn by the man he was talking to.

You have to WHAT?” The expression on Solitaire's face was halfway between flabbergasted and furious.

Shining Sentry has made repeated statements that the deaths of two Heroes, and his own injuries, are the result of actions committed by you.”

His injuries, yea, I did that. I was trying to get him off that mentalist kid he was fucking beating into the pavement.” He looked about to continue when one of the DVA agents stepped forward.

Solitaire, I can tell you right now that Sentry's story is full of holes and is probably going to fall apart completely as soon as we can bring in a deep mind telepath. But here we have two Heroes, both accusing the other of going rogue. We HAVE to follow procedure to the letter in this circumstance.”

This is complete and utter BULLSHIT, and you know it!” Solitaire turned his attention from the agent to the Hero in front of him. “And you know it too, Scream.”

Warscream, I hate when people shorten my name. And as much as we all know this is bullshit, can you honestly tell me that there's a justification for ignoring the regs here? Anything that would offset the amount of damage that might do to the case against Sentry or any FUTURE cases?”

It was at this moment that Linda decided to make her presence known. “Right, you both agree, and I do as well, that this is all bullshit. As bullshit it's unimportant, unlike the fucking debrief we should have already started. Solitaire, we need a description of the Super you were chasing. Appearance and powers, everything you can remember.”

Stand down Tri-... erp.” The DVA agent the attempt to step in front of the black and red suited Hero found himself held off the ground by his neck, unable to speak but somehow without his breathing being restricted.

You guys are trying to control the PR nightmare of this, I get that. But there is another Super out there who killed a Hero less than four hours ago. Solitaire fought him and chased him, and is the only person other than Sentry who can give us any real information. Seeing as how Sentry is most likely the PARTNER of our unknown Super, that makes any intel he gives us more than suspect. You can get back to your busy job of sweeping this shit under the rug AFTER Solitaire gives us that information.” Turning back to the man in the tattered, charred costume Linda saw he was grinning at her, and how she was holding the agent aloft.

I have always dreamed about doing that you know.”

Don't care. Your earpiece got fried in the fight?” Still grinning, Solitaire nodded in response. “Take mine.” The tiny earbud practically flew out from under the mask and into the woman's waiting hand, as if by its own volition. “Give Dispatch a FULL debrief. It's more efficient for her to get it once and relay it to us than just about any other way we can do it. And this way you guys can get back to your VERY important task of detaining a Hero who was trying to do his god damned job.” With that, Linda turned and stalked away from the group and towards her bike, intent on getting her backup earpiece and getting back to work, only to find her path blocked once again.

Time to take as step back, Trick.” Blue Path spoke very softly to her teammate as the taller woman appraoched.

Fuck that, time to get out there and FIND this guy.” But Linda had no defense against the sudden blue flash that left her standing in the garage of the Guardian headquarters, with her teammate still standing calmly between her and her bike.

You aren't acting rationally any more Linda, you need some rest, and you need some time to grieve. You just assaulted a DVA agent in sight of half a dozen news crews, and how long have you been quietly bleeding for a power boost?”

The brunette started to respond angrily, intending to push her way past her teammate and force her way back outside, when the final question stopped her. Fuck, I completely forgot about that. No wonder I've been getting lightheaded. Taking a moment to compose herself instead, Linda went with a different tactic. “I'll head upstairs and get healed first. But I was thinking PERFECTLY rationally when I shut up that idiot agent. They were so focused on containing the PR that they were going to skip the part where we get vital information from the only Hero on scene who could give it to us. He won't even have a bruise.”

I believe the part about the bruise, which is good because it will show you were still in perfect control when you get your hearing later.”

Fuck, they probably are going to pull me in for a review for that aren't they.

But right now you need some rest, and you need to step back and let some of the other Heroes handle it. Street Level has twenty people on the ground looking for our mystery Super, including Wild Grrl. Unless you want to try and convince me that you're a better tracker than she is?” Sally waited a long moment to see if her teammate would respond, before she finally added. “So that's that then. Say goodnight to Maddie.”

Linda barely managed to register surprise at the statement before she felt a hand on her shoulder, and a brief flash preceded everything dropping away into darkness.


 

10:10am


 

It was insubordinate, irrational, and idiotic!” Linda simply blinked sleepily as her team leader continued his tirade at her in the conference room, noting similarly uninterested looks from the other team members that had decided to attend the meeting. Paladin, Jack, and Blue Path were on patrol looking for the Hero killer from last night, leaving the two youngest members of the Guardians with the oldest. “It doesn't matter if you were in the right, if you decide to make your point by being a bully about it then no one will actually CARE what the point was! All the news crews are going to show is a Super using her power to bypass a normal human's objections. Made all the worse because that particular 'normal human' is a federal agent working for the agency that is nominally in CHARGE of Supers like us. Do you have ANYTHING to say?”

Yes. If you're so worried about how the media is going to paint this then we go to them first and release exactly what those agents were doing and the fact that they were preventing us from getting key information regarding a Hero killer in the process.” The completely composed tone from the still tired looking brunette seemed to take Richard off guard. “If you want to be a little nicer about it we can point out to the media that the agents were likely not aware that Solitaire hadn't yet been debriefed and as such didn't know that they were jeopardizing the manhunt by trying to take him into custody so quickly.”

Completely out of the question. The Guardian Elite have always worked hand in hand WITH the DVA to do our job. You want to put us at direct odds with them? You want something like that you should have joined the Outlaws or stayed with Street Level.”

You asked, I answered. You want to work with the DVA on this then collaborate on that media release with THEM. Remind them that what I did, while admittedly a little more blunt than was needed, ultimately saved them from having a lot of egg on their face when someone later asked why we didn't debrief Solitaire before locking him away until the PR is sorted out.”

This is about way more than Public Rel-...”

Bullshit.” The interruption from the auburn haired healer left the team leader looking shocked again, but Linda was more surprised that Maddie had waited this long to chime in. “This is the worst case scenario for the DVA; Heroes are killing Heroes and we don't have an unimpeachable testimony to tell us exactly who the bad guys were. So they have to sit on everything until they're sure they have it right and they release it all to the press in one giant lump. If it was about more than just PR they would have already informed the media about everything up to now, instead of going into blackout mode until they can get a telepath they trust to sort things out.”

And everything you're yelling about, Rich?” Linda rejoined the conversation before the team leader could find his voice again. “You're whining about how the media will perceive what I did and how they'll play that to the public. That is almost the DEFINITION of Public Relations. I told you how to manage it, even gave you multiple options so as not to completely piss off the DVA while doing it. Now if you'll excuse me I need to get out of here and help track down the man who murdered a friend of mine.” There was a great deal of anger in the young woman's eyes as she locked gazes with the older Hero.

No, you don't. You're on monitor duty with Madeline, Linda.” Before either could object the man held up a hand to stall them. “Yes, a little bit because I'm pissed off at how you handled things last night, but mostly because the DVA is pulling you in front of a review board today at one o clock. You have about two and a half hours to prepare before Blue Path comes back to transport you down up to Seattle.”

Why Seattle?” Linda had considered several possible responses, but discarded them ultimately as meaningless. Richard couldn't realistically delay the review unless there was a truly catastrophic emergency, and it made sense that the DVA was attempting to tie up all ends of this current catastrophe as quickly as possible.

Since the agent you 'assaulted' is based out of the Portland office it's the closest site where they can convene a full hearing for an active Hero.”

They're pulling a full hearing? They're going to look like idiots when they realize she didn't actually hurt the guy.” Maddie was far more surprised than her friend at the news. Full disciplinary hearings were usually reserved for questionable lethal force cases and other actions that could result in serious consequences being handed down.

They can't look like they're playing softball with a Hero 'bullying' their agents or the press really will run with a story about Heroes running the DVA instead of the other way around.” Linda stood and stretched as she responded. “So let's grab a bite and go waste some time in the monitor room Maddie, it looks like I have a defense to prep.”


 

4:05pm


 

Linda could barely restrain her anger as she made her way out of the hearing room. In the end, it had all amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Thirty day probationary status where all of her actions would receive extra scrutiny was about what she'd expected when she'd honestly thought about her actions. But that had been the smallest part of the hearing. Instead of defending her actions for the single incident that the hearing had ostensibly been called for, she had instead spent three hours hearing about every black mark her current team had put in her file, and an unending stream of accusations that she was as out of control as her father. I think I finally understand WHY some of the teams set out to establish an adversarial relationship with the DVA.

What had really hurt was finding out how little her current team leader seemed to actually trust her, and again all of that seemed to boil back down to the fact that her father was Mayhem. Information he wasn't even competent enough to figure out on his own, I had to spell it out for him at the interview. Linda had learned that had Paladin NOT backed her up in the recent incident with Conquistador, Starfall would likely have swept the whole thing under the rug and punished HER for not being a team player. Apparently he's more than willing to cash in on my apparent popularity with the public for the team, but it seems our great team leader doesn't trust me much more than he does the criminals we bring in every day. What really shocked the brunette Hero as she strode angrily out of the building and towards her waiting teleporter teammate was a realization that caused her to actually stop and burst out laughing. My God, Scott was more up front with me than Richard was, all these years. I think I owe that misogynistic prick a drink.

So you can laugh afterwards, I'm guessing it went pretty well?” Blue Path sounded a little nervous as she asked the question, apparently having taken note of the abrupt transition between anger and hysterical laughter.

30 days probationary status, about what was expected. The other two hours and fifty five minutes were very... enlightening though.” A plan formed in the taller woman's mind as she spoke, a plan she decided to act on immediately before she could rationalize the day's events away. “We need to go and see Mathias.


 

5:30pm


 

I cleared things as quickly as I could, what can I do for you ladies?” The slightly overweight man that stepped into the waiting room bowed deeply at the two Heroes as he entered. Both found themselves smiling at the over the top, but completely genuine, welcome he always offered.

I'm afraid this isn't a social call, Matt. And you aren't going to like it.” Linda stood as she spoke, trying to project the seriousness of what she was planning into her tone.

Oh no, they suspended you? Worse? I can have the best lawyers in the country here in an HOUR and we ca-...”

No no, nothing like that. I got a 30 day probationary period as a warning this time, nothing serious.”

I could still get those lawyers here. I bet we could get THAT insult stricken from the record as well!” Linda had to sigh to hide another smile. The marketing genius that she had somehow come to think of as a friend over the last couple years seemed to find the idea of her receiving the probation a nearly equal affront as the more serious consequences, and one he was willing to spend just as much energy in overturning if needed.

No, Matt. I was out of line, and I deserved the slap on the wrist. This meeting is about some other things I learned at that meeting. I got a large amount of my performance evals, the ones that get sent in by Starfall as our team leader in lieu of a DVA supervising agent since we're on an established team. I learned some things I didn't know about how he thinks of me.”

Oh? Something scandalous?” The sigh this time was genuine, and from both women. Mathias seemed momentarily heartbroken as their responses told him that whatever was going in, his desire to live vicariously through the Heroes he represented was probably going to have to go on hold for a bit. “So tell me, what is the big event that has you here instead of out there on the streets?” A wave of the large man's hand encompassed the nearly panoramic view from the huge windows of his corner office and waiting area.

I'm leaving the Guardian Elite, effective immediately. I want all merchandise not currently distributed that bears my likeness removed and destroyed, immediately. I'm going to authorize you full access to my accounts to refund where needed and soften the blow so that this doesn't completely screw over the companies you're working with. I only want to burn MY bridges, not yours.” Both the teleporter and the marketing guru stared, apparently so floored by the revelation that the pair seemed to forget even to breathe for a moment. “Effective as soon as you can get the paperwork through for me, Trick Move is a solo act. Since I can't 'officially' take any actions without authorization from my team leader at present, that means I'll be here doing whatever I can to speed the process along until I can get a supervising agent assigned to report that I'm going out on the hunt. Tell me what you need me to do.”

Explain.” The single word came, not from Mathias, but from Blue Path.

Every review of mine submitted by Starfall has me operating at borderline levels. I am apparently not at all a team player, I haven't integrated well with the team even after two years, and it seems that the fact that my father is Mayhem is a MASSIVE concern to both the Guardian Elite and the DVA in regards to my potential for future stability. They want to be worried about it, I've decided to give them something to worry about.”

You are certain that the hearing wasn't simply providing false details to try and provoke a reaction?” The playful demeanor that Mathias usually wore when dealing with anything was gone. His tone was perfectly level and his eyes flicked back and forth as if analyzing something that no one else could see. “There are several regulations that would allow them to mislead a Hero during an active investigation to see if they incriminate themselves, similar to the rules regarding police interrogations.”

I'm familiar with those regs, Matt. I requested to see the files myself after a large chunk of them was brought up as character evidence by someone sworn in. If they'd been making things up with a sworn statement...”

It would have been perjury, the entire hearing would have been invalidated and the DVA would have gotten themselves into a much deeper mess than could possibly have been worth it for a single incident involving a single field agent. Are there any specific details you would like me to know while we set up your transition?”

Linda was more than slightly shocked at that. She had expected Mathias to ultimately help her, but she assumed the man would make at least a token attempt to keep her on the team. Especially as she was, as he put it, the most marketable asset the Guardians had at present. “It was implied that he would have swept things under the rug if Paladin hadn't backed me up on Conquistador's last stunt, and I would have ended up pretty far in the doghouse instead. I think it was worded that way to indicate he didn't completely believe even BOTH of us together, it kinda paves the way for Conquistador to come back more than temporarily in the future.”

Blue Path had remained speechless since asking for an explanation, her next words were not directed at anyone in the room. “Dispatch,” the teleporter's hand rose to her ear as she spoke, “I need you to confirm what Trick Move just told me. You were in her ear the whole time, and I know you can't actually recite what was said to anyone that wasn't present, but please tell me if things are as bad as Trick Move seems to think they are.” There was a pause while the blonde waited for a response, then she vanished in a burst of azure light.

I guess Dispatch couldn't confirm, and she couldn't believe me on her own then.” Linda tried to keep her tone level, but the man across from her could clearly hear the quaver of sorrow hidden behind the impassive front she was trying to put up.

Before Mathias could respond, there was another blue flash as a somewhat confused Diamond Jack appeared in the waiting room. Another flash produced Reset, then Paladin and Blue Path arrived together. “Tell them what you just told me. Dispatch confirmed every word she said is true, and you guys need to hear this before you decide to go back to the team or not.”

Mathias stood and walked from the room as Trick Move began to tell a more detailed version of her story. Leaving the room allowed the Heroes to go into more detail than could be allowed with him present, and the man figured he might as well get a head start on the work. On the downside, he was reasonably certain that this was the end of the Guardian Elite. As much a genius as the marketing consultant was he had always known that the team's leader had been a little less than honest, but he had never suspected the degree the 'Hero' was going to. On the plus side, he figured he would be able to keep at least four out of five of the Heroes currently having a discussion, with rapidly escalating levels of volume, as clients for private image consulting. Mathias hadn't worked simply as an agent for individual Heroes in a while, but he was very good at what he did.

Paige, are you still in the office?” His inquiry to the intercom on his desk was answered promptly.

Still wrapping up some of the accounts, what can I do for you Mr Elben?”

Call legal, tell them we need them back here for a special project. Double overtime is approved on this one because it's a major rush job. I also need you to bring up all of our currently active ad contracts with the Guardians and start highlighting the severance clauses for me. We also need all the DVA transfer paperwork so we can help our clients get that started and finished as soon as possible.”

Yes, sir.” Mathias smiled at the simply acceptance of a request that would have sent many seasoned marketing reps into a screaming panic. He worked with people whose job description involved risking life and limb day in and day out, the least he could do for his clients is make sure his own employees were competent enough to do PAPERWORK for the people who saved countless lives every day.


 

7:18pm


 

Turn on the news!” The shout from the outer office where the least amount of paperwork was spread out on the floor turned all attention to the large screen in Mathias' office which blinked on to show a live broadcast, apparently an overhead view from a new helicopter zooming in to focus on two individuals standing on the roof of a parking structure. One was hard to make out, wearing a dark body suit but constantly emitting brilliant sparks and miniature lightning bolts as the other man walked towards him. The second man's clothing was burned in several places, but the redslashed brown leather was easily identifiable, and the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen confirmed it a second later. 'Mayhem corners suspected Hero Slayer.' The address was only a few miles away.

Everyone in the office, five costumed Heroes and a dozen men and women in stripped down business attire stood transfixed at the scene on the television as the lightning wielder struck out at the man approaching him, the screen whiting out for a moment from the intensity of the blast. When the camera refocused it showed that Mayhem had crossed the distance to his attacker while the picture had gone blank, he now had a hold of the man by the shoulder. Repeated flashes of electricity arced between the two, and the dark suited man began hammering his free arm against his opponent's head as well, all in a futile attempt to break free of the inhuman grip slowly forcing him to the ground.

The another flash momentarily blinded the camera as the captured Super changed tactics, and screams were faintly audible on the feed even over the breathless voice of the studio anchor describing what was happening, as apparently the unidentified Super was targeting anything nearby in an attempt to get the Hero to release him. The camera refocused in time to see the brown and red suited Hero raise his free arm and bring it down with enough force that the rooftop beneath him cracked visibly on the camera. The man he was holding went limp, and no further signs of lightning were visible. A second later the camera feed cut back to the studio, but not before the viewer could catch a brief glimpse of Mayhem standing and pulling away from the unknown Super. His fist had clearly gone straight through the man's chest and into the concrete beneath him.

Everyone stood silent for a moment, before attention in the room turned to the overweight man closest to the television as he began to slowly applaud. The Heroes joined in almost immediately, and with little hesitation the rest of the room did as well.


 

9:30pm


 

To two great men. They were taken from us before their time, but at least they can rest easy tonight.” The toast from the bartender was echoed by everyone in the room. At a glance it would look like the dive bar had somehow managed to host an Olympic convention or something similar, but that glance would be nearly impossible to get as the windows were shuttered and the door locked with a handwritten sign declaring it; 'Close for Privat event.'

Linda raised her glass along with the other occupants of the bar, and downed the bitter whiskey in a single gulp as did most of the others, before returning to her seat and looking at the older man across from her. “Thank you.”

You don't have to thank me, I just did what everyone in here wishes they'd been in the right spot to do.” Carl Scoven's tone didn't carry any of the false humility that one would normally expect from a declaration like that. It was one of the things Linda found she truly liked about her father, having gotten to know him over the past two years again. He said what he meant.

Then thank you for finding that asshole as quickly as you did, for scaring him badly enough that he basically spouted off everything they need to lock Sentry away forever and get Solitaire released in less than a day. Thank you because Ed isn't here to thank you himself.”

The older man nodded, and poured both of them another drink from the bottle of single malt that the bartender had left with them. “So, Trick Move is going freelance I hear?”

Where did you hear something that ridiculous?” Even with the somber mood in the room, Linda managed to crack a smile at the surprised look on her father's face. “Trick Move is officially retiring.”

WHAT?” The outburst drew a few looks, but most of the bar ignored the pair at the booth in favor of their own discussions.

It still creeps me out how Heroes in these places manage to stay out of each other's business so well. “I said Trick Move is retiring, she doesn't exist any more as of about an hour ago. She was a little bit too straightlaced to make it as a solo act.”

Realization and relief both flooded the older man's face. Then a frown returned. “You have any idea how much paperwork and bureaucratic bullshit you are setting yourself up for? The DVA doesn't like it when Heroes want to jump identities.”

It's easier if you're picking up a legacy identity though. Since you're old ass won't retire I'll have to be Lady Mayhem or some shit like that for a few years though.”

Shock returned to dominate Carl's features. “You... you don't have to, I mean I thought we-...”

Linda managed a chuckle at her father's speechlessness. “This isn't about twenty years ago when you told me you wished I could follow in your and grandpa's footsteps. Tonight I finally got what you've been saying for so long. Heroes have the option to use lethal force for a reason, and pretending we can do everything without ever invoking that option is just arrogance that will get us or someone else killed. I'm done pretending to just by a body control Super and trying to skate under the radar by getting underestimated. I spent two years in the trenches with Ed, and I accomplished more in any month of those two years than I have in the past two years with a 'real' team. I signed up to be a Hero, not a mascot. So I'm going to be back in the trenches, and I'm not going to be holding anything back anymore.”

Well then,” Carl raised his newly refilled glass and pushed the other towards his daughter. “To Lady Mayhem, the newest addition to the ranks of Heroes.”


 

11:00pm


 

Linda finally made her way out of the bar and began the trek back towards her apartment, wishing she'd dragged either Sally to skip the walk or Maddie to skip the hangover along with her tonight. Both of them had their own ways of dealing with grief, and drowning their sorrows wasn't on either's list though so alone she was. Alone until a man stepped out into her path roughly halfway back to her apartment. It took a moment for her to recognize the costume her wore, swirling patterns of incandescent blue and white that blended together to look like the man was actually covered in blue-white flames. “Solitaire, I have to say I was not expecting to see you while I was so... underdressed.”

He raised a hand and bowed slightly in acknowledgment of the rebuke; it was generally considered EXTREMELY bad manners amongst those in the Hero community to approach an uncostumed Hero while 'on duty.' “I apologize, I just got out of my last damned interview and I didn't want to waste time changing before I got a chance to talk to you. I saw you one of my other times in the bar, and recognized you earlier today. I wanted to say thank you while I have the chance. I never thought I'd actually see someone do that to one of those arrogant field agent pricks.”

And this couldn't have waited until tomorrow? Or any of the numerous OTHER times it would have been more appropriate?” Slightly drunk, Linda still remembered to keep her voice low so that the two didn't attract too much attention. Fortunately the street they were on was currently deserted, so she figured she wasn't going to be stuck in paparazzi hell with her identity outed quite yet.

I'm leaving. I figured I could work around the bullshit, everything they put in the way of Heroes doing their jobs; but after spending all day in a god damned lockup because the ACTUAL bad guy claimed that I was the murderer, and knowing that if Mayhem hadn't gotten a half a confession from Sentry's partner I would probably still be in there right now, I've decided I'm done. I'm going overseas and going private industry, seeing you cut through the bullshit as much as you did back there, I figured I'd see if you wanted to join me.”

Linda stared at the smiling man in front of her for a long moment, the shock of the man's speech doing a wonderful job of sobering her up. “Just like that? You think it's that easy?”

I dropped my resignation on the desk of my supervising agent on the way out, which means I technically need to be out of this costume by midnight. I also sent a press release which will get delivered around 6am, and settled up with my agent. My flight leaves in ninety minutes, and I bought two seats in case you wanted to come.”

I can't. I can barely understand how you can walk away, Solitaire. But I don't think I have it in me to stop being a Hero til the day I genuinely can't any more.”

Fair enough, just thought I'd make the offer. I wish you the best of luck saving the world.” There was no trace of sarcasm in his tone as the Hero finished speaking and turned to walk back down the alley he'd come out of, waving his goodbye as he went.

Linda's mind was off and racing however, trying to remember all the regulations that were supposed to be followed when a Hero retired from active status, before giving up. I don't know if what he's doing right now is technically legal or not, but after the crap they put him through today he can at least have a head start. The brunette pulled a small slip of paper from a pocket to write a reminder message on it as she resumed her trek to her apartment. 'Call DVA, re:Solitaire.' Tomorrow morning is early enough to waste more time helping the DVA clean up the messes they made.

The note was stuck to her bathroom mirror as a reminder for the next day, as the young woman entered the bedroom to lay back and stare at the ceiling. Everything finally taken care of, she allowed herself to resume the grief-wracked sobbing she'd interrupted while kneeling next to the body of one of her best friends, less than twenty four hours ago.


 


 

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Wednesday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Wednesday



 

8:08am


 

Just relax, and breathe. You've been through worse than this before. Linda carefully schooled her facial expression, glad that the mask made doing so far easier than normal. Two years in the trenches during her internship with the loosely organized Street Level and two more years with the long established Guardian Elite provided the young Hero with a wealth of experience to draw upon as she faced the throng before her. I think I prefer getting blown through a building by a crazed kinetic amplifier.

The small man standing between the Hero and the crowd finally finished speaking, and Linda forced her smile a little closer to genuine as she stepped up and took his place, facing down all the people in front of her with a calm front that she didn't really feel. They really should dedicate at least a semester of the HCP to this scenario though. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the newest Planet Hero!”

The tall brunette barely managed to contain the exasperated sigh as the crowd screamed enthusiastically in response to less than a dozen words spoken to them by a REAL Hero. Behind her she felt Paladin pull the large double doors open, welcoming the crowd inside and managed to remember her next mandated line. “Now everyone inside, breakfast is on the Guardians today!”

In truth it was the restaurant chain paying the Hero team, quite extravagantly she'd discovered, for the publicity of having bonafide Heroes showing up at their openings. Linda thought through all the things she'd encountered, working with the Guardian Elite, that she'd never been exposed to in the training or her internship with Street Level. One of those surprises had been meeting the almost ecstatically bouncing man watching her and her teammate work their way through the crowd. I know it was hinted at that Heroes should consider getting publicity agents, but who knew that Hero teams had marketing departments?

Linda made eye contact across the crowd with the large, happy looking man with his receding hairline and slightly out of date business wear. He responded with an even wider grin and an emphatic thumbs-up. The Hero found herself chuckling softly at the man's enthusiasm. Hell, it would have been a lot easier to believe that there'd BE a marketing department than someone telling me that I'd end up liking the guy in charge.

Mathias Elben was a man that did not bring to mind any of the stereotypical images usual associated with people who worked in marketing. The man was honest to a fault, wore his emotions in plain view, and was genuinely likable. He was also terrifyingly intelligent, to the point where the entire Guardian Elite team was relatively certain he was packing some kind of officially unrecognized Super ability in the Advanced Mind department. And when a man that smart sits you down to tell you that somehow YOU are one of the most marketable members of the team, and actually explains how the breakdown works if you agree to take on more 'mascot' duties versus not, and manages to do all of that without condescending or pressuring, just that insanely cheerful smile. How the hell do you tell that guy 'no' without feeling like you just kicked a puppy off a rooftop?

Linda's gaze traversed across the crowd, pausing appropriately as people approached her to get an autograph from Trick Move so that she could look them in the eye and offer a few words, eventually meeting the eyes of her teammate standing at the other end of the lounge entrance. The Hero carefully bit back another chuckle as she saw the long suffering look he cast her way, knowing that Paladin was in much the same boat she was. At least his mask is a full on helmet so he doesn't have to worry about making faces during these 'event.'

This is Dispatch, priority alert; possible Powered hostage situation at Sterling Bank, corner of 47th and Sandy. Advise if you are able to respond, Trick Move.” A quick glance showed Linda that her teammate seemed to have just received a similar message.

How the hell does she personalize multiple simultaneous messages? I swear someday I am going to track down the voice on the other end of this line. The gesture was unneeded, but it did wonders to indicate what was going on to the people around. Linda brought her hand up to rest against her ear through the mask and responded. “Dispatch, Trick Move in confirmed en route. ETA 3 minutes.” Faintly over the growing crowd noise she heard Paladin make a similar statement, and almost laughed aloud when she say the amount of relief projecting through the man's narrow eye slit.

Sorry folks, breakfast is still on us, but duty calls!” Linda didn't wait for a response as she headed directly for the door, getting there just slightly ahead of her teammate. She smiled a little, hearing only a few faint disappointed noises from the crowd. Most were cheering as the Heroes swept out of the restaurant. Now it's time to do some of the work we ACTUALLY signed up for.


 

10:11am


 

I'm saying you could have fucking waited FIVE MINUTES instead of sweeping in and trying to steal all the glory for yourself!” Linda brought her hands up to her temples, and slowly counted to ten as she tuned out the rest of Scott's tirade.

Enough. Sit down, Scott.” The interruption came from the somewhat strained sounding voice of the team's leader, and other founding member. “We're going to conduct this debrief PROPERLY, and then if you still have any allegations to make you can bring them out.”

Fuck you, Rich. I had everything under control and then she swooped in without a word. Bitch could have gotten people killed.”

And how, EXACTLY, did you have things under control you fucking neanderthal?” The explosion came as a bit of a surprise, echoing from the armored helmet of Paladin. “You didn't inform the authorities on scene that you were in position to make a move, you didn't inform Dispatch that you were responding, and you're power set revolves entirely around breaking things and not getting broken in return. How the fuck were you going to deal with the bomb?”

EVERYONE!” It was rare for Star Fall, Richard when out of costume as he now was, to raise his voice during these meetings. The unexpected yell drew silence more quickly than if he'd smashed through the ceiling with his power. “Enough. Now, Linda, please continue with your summary. And Sally, the next person to interrupt this debrief goes into one of the holding cells until we're finished.”

The teleporter grinned hugely at this instruction and cracked her knuckles, as if her hands had anything to do with her ability. “Understood, Rich.”

Alright, where was I at?” Linda looked over at the team leader who briefly consulted the careful notes he always kept during these 'debriefings.'

You and Paladin arrived at the scene and were getting the summary from the CRT Officer in charge.”

Right, Lieutenant... Dallen? Daylen? Anyways, Paladin and I arrived from the press event we'd been assigned to attend, and sought out the person in charge. The Lieutenant briefed us on what they had so far. Young male, hispanic, walked into the bank with a heavy coat, and one of those surgery masks. Immediately tripped some red flags, and he got watched. Made his way up to the front and declared that he wanted all the money in the vault, and he could wait for them to get someone to open it. He reportedly then told the teller that he was fine if they hit the alarm, it didn't matter to him. He then removed his jacket, we got to see this part from the closed circuit recording they had available out at their bus, and revealed that he was wearing an explosive vest with what looked to be about five pounds of plastic explosives. At that point he told the teller to inform the police that he was a Powered, and as a result of his condition all of his bodily fluids were incredibly toxic. If he blew himself up, it would probably kill everyone in the bank, everyone within a block, and keep killing people for a long time until they managed to clean all of him up.”

Wait, he volunteered all of this information to the bank teller, while informing her that she could call the police?”

Male bank teller actually, but otherwise yes. The CRT on scene said you could hear the guy in the background of the 911 call offering corrections as the teller called it in, which is where they learned he was using a dead-man switch and it was already pressed when he walked in the lobby.” Linda paused and reached for the pitcher of water in front of her, prompting Paladin to take over the recounting.

So the customers bolted, guy didn't try to stop them. Bank employees stayed because after getting told that the guy robbing you is effectively a small WMD what the fuck's the point of running? Police got a name for the guy, again volunteered it himself, Jose Alamirez, and he's in the system for having received special dispensation funds as a potentially dangerous powered. No criminal record though so we couldn't confirm exactly if his ability was what he said it was.”

And at that point you two came up with a plan and acted on it?” The prompt from Richard was met with nods from the two Heroes in question.

We informed the CRT Lieutenant what we were doing, he agreed that it was probably our best bet since the only way that vault was opening right then is if we flew a executive for Sterling Bank into a hostage situation with a potential walking chemical weapon, and we implemented our plan.” Linda tried to keep her tone as matter of fact as possible, but she couldn't quite resist the urge to emphasize informing the authorities and looking over at Scott's glaring face while doing so.

And the plan was?”

For Trick Bitch there to move in and take all the credit herself.” Scott barely got the sentence out before a flash of azure light lit up his section of the room and left no trace of the large man.

I supposed I did order that, didn't I?”

That you did, boss.” There wasn't even the slightest hint of remorse from the blonde teleporter.

So back to my question then?”

Right, so the plan was that Trick Move was going to amp herself up a bit and move in to restrain the suspect, and I was going to plant the biggest shield I could manage over the front of the bank so that if things went bad it would at least contain the worst of it inside the bank.” The armored Hero also made no point of hiding his obvious glee at the enforced absence of the team Strongman.

To amp myself up I very quietly reworked my costume.” At this point Linda had explained many times how her costume had concealed points where she could stab herself in order to activate her inherited trait of trading injuries for more power. “I went for enough of a boost that I figured it would look like it was all speed either way, found the control in the guy's hand with my 'sense,' and made sure that the button was not going to move anywhere. Then I went straight through the front of the building as fast as I could to get my hands on the guy. The extra bit with the switch turned out to be unneeded since I got to him before he could react. Got a hold of the detonator, and put him out with a power assisted sleeper hold.”

At which point Conquistador came crashing down onto the street and ordered us back here.” Paladin made no attempt to disguise how he felt about THAT particular order either. “We ignored him and stayed on scene long enough for them to get a good containment bus in and get the bomb off the guy, then we came back here as ordered.”

And did Conquistador, Scott, mention why he was ordering you back to base?” The question from the team leader was mostly flat, but tinged with a bit of not quite concealed anxiety.

Linda sighed and looked over at her armored teammate. He shrugged in response, and so she opted to be the one to answer. “He accused us of sniping his target in order to make him look less effective. He also said something,” there was a pause while the brunette woman seemed momentarily unsure before she looked up to meet her leader's gaze and finished her speech. “He said, not really to us but both Paladin and I heard it clearly, that the news crew would have been there in just five more minutes.”

Are you implying that Conquistador, a man who has served as a Hero with distinction for over 40 years, was orchestrating a media spectacle as part of a Powered criminal act?” There should have been a great weight to the words, given the import of what they implied. Accusing a Hero of delaying in an intervention of a Super of Powered involved crime in order to bring in the media was a serious charge. The DVA would likely suspend Conquistador's license were it to prove true, or even worse considering the number of nuisance complaints that had piled up against the man over the years. Instead, Richard's voice just sounded hollow. The tone of a man who knew that his long time friend had truly screwed things up.

We don't have the evidence at this point, but I think both Paladin and I are in agreement that a formal investigation needs to be performed.” She paused long enough to allow the other Hero to offer his agreement before continuing. “I know we would normally keep this in house, at least at first, but since I'm the team's Subtlety Hero and essentially the one bringing the case forward...”

Don't apologize, Linda. You're absolutely correct. This situation requires certain steps to be taken, however as Scott and I have been friends for a very long time I am requesting that you hold off on bringing a formal investigation request to the DVA for now.”

Here we go.” The muttering from Paladin was accompanied by rolled eyes and a head shake from Jack, who had been silent and inexpressive otherwise, and a derisive glare from the team's teleporter.

The youngest member of the team simply maintained eye contact and asked a simple question. “Why?” The word seemed to shock the whole room for a moment. The team leader smiled sadly before responding.

I know you all think I go to bat for Scott FAR too often. If I'm able to be honest, you're probably right. We came through the HCP together and we've been Heroes together for almost 43 years. Not many make it as far as we do without retiring, or...” He trailed off for a moment, but it was well known what he wasn't saying. The majority of Heroes didn't ever get the chance to retire after all. “But that's not what's happening here, I promise you. Scott has done a lot of good over the years, no one can deny that no matter what they think of him personally. So I'm going to make him an offer and see if he takes it; Conquistador can retire without his reputation being tainted by a formal DVA investigation, or he can take his chances with said investigation. If Sally would be so kind as to send me down to meet with my friend, I think you all can understand why I would like this to be a private conversation.”

No one managed to respond for several long seconds, not until well after Sally had collected herself enough to fulfill their leader's request. It was finally Jack Diamond who broke the silence. “Well then, I guess out team can finally get a new Strongman.”

I think maybe we don't get a Strongman for a while.” Paladin removed his helmet, showing a much skinnier and older man than most expected to be lurking under the armor he wore. “Titan dropping off the grid after getting outed. Conquistador forced into retirement, and we can pretend that this is just a normal retirement but people with the resources are going to know enough of the real story to realize that it's another Hero leaving the mask behind in disgrace.”

Mr Furious died a couple months ago, Dreadnaught retired a week before Titan dropped out of sight, this has not been a good year for the Strongmen of the Hero community has it?” The observation from the blonde woman drew slow nods from around the room.

I vote we try to pick up a GOOD healer.” Linda's statement was met with some forced laughter as she rubbed at her arms where she'd stabbed herself that morning. “Daniel is good and all, but he's not a Hero so we have to go in masked, and he does all of jack and shit for taking away pain.”

Something occurs to me, that we should possibly address before breaking up the meeting.” The armored Hero had been pushing himself away from the table when he stopped, a strange expression on his face.

Yes Randy?” The question came from Jack, who was already halfway through the door on his way out.

How is Sally to know when Richard and Scott are ready to be picked up from the holding cell?”


 

12:37pm


 

It is not THAT funny, Ed.” Linda looked down at the shorter, bald man, and tried very hard to keep a stern expression on her face. It wasn't working particularly well.

It is, INDEED, that funny. You cannot convince me that we aren't having lunch together at least, in part, to celebrate that asshole getting fired.” Ed looked odd to the tall woman while in his street clothes. His Hero costume was very plain, mostly shades of grey with little embellishment. In his civilian identity he wore almost eye-blindingly bright colors, clashing even more with the extremely well tailored almost formal style of clothing. “It's something that has needed to happen for at least as long as I've been doing this job.”

He's retiring, not getting fired. And he has been doing this job for a long time, Ed. Give the man a little credit.” The taller woman was not at all sure WHY she was defending Scott to her former mentor, in truth she felt she should be in complete agreement with the man.

All the people that matter know what this is, and it's getting shitcanned even if we have to use nicer words on the official documents. Although since you keep insisting that this ISN'T a call to celebrate the end of an asshole, my mind finds itself wandering through the possible reasons YOU think we're having lunch together.”

You shouldn't let your mind wander so much Ed, it's not as fast as the rest of you is and it might get into trouble it can't get out of.” The short man laughed briefly at the remark, and raised a hand to acknowledge the point, then turned a more serious look on his former intern and raised an inquiring eyebrow. “Oh, all right. We suddenly have a hole that needs to be filled, and I was wondering if you know what Maddie is up to these days.”

The question caused Ed to break down laughing, almost slipping off his stool at the bar where the two were perched. Linda found herself looking around quickly out of habit, seeing if her friend's outburst was drawing undue attention to the pair, but the other patrons at the hole in the wall cafe/bar seemed wholly uninterested. Hero bars still creep me the hell out. How the hell did they ever get a system for off-duty Heroes in place to start with? This many Supers in plain clothes in one place is just WRONG. “You don't think Maddie would be happy to hear from me?” The question seemed to center Ed enough that he got his laughter under control.

No, Maddie would love to hear from YOU, Linda. Your team, not so much I think.”

Are you taking the recent staffing changes into account when you try to calculate how people will react to dealing with 'my' team, Ed?” The question was asked in a sweetly sarcastic tone, and the change of expression on the small Hero's face indicated the answer long before he managed to vocalize it.

Dammit. I guess it never occurred to me that the thing's Scott did could be viewed as useful to the rest of the community. Make me a promise, Linda?”

What's that?”

Don't steal ALL the good ones from us? Please?”

It was Linda's turn to almost lose her seat in a bout of laughter.


 

3:00pm


 

I can't believe you got here so quickly.” Trick Move, full costume and all, greeted her long time friend with a warm smile and hug as she met her in the 'public' lobby of the Guardian building.

It was my day off, and I've been going out with Express Arrival lately, so it's not like it was a long trip.” The shorter Heroine in a costume that was somehow formfitting AND reminiscent of a blocky gaming console returned the hug. “And Break tells me that the obstacle to female employment here has been removed.” Reset took a step back and allowed her friend to lead the way into the private side of the base. “It's not, like, disrespectful or something to be applying to join the team before the paperwork is even officially done on Conquistador, is it?”

Press release went out at 2:00, DVA signed off the final stuff fifteen minutes before the release went out, all of his personal effects were moved out half an hour ago.”

Damn, you guys are efficient.”

Once he saw there wasn't any other way, he opted to expedite things as much as he could. We were happy to help him get moved out, of course.” Even through the mask, the wry look on Linda's face drew a giggle from her fellow Hero. “And welcome, officially, to the Guardian Elite headquarters!” Linda removed her mask as the pair cleared the final inner door and it closed behind them. “And yes, we do get cable on the thirty foot TV over there.”

Wow.” The one word seemed to capture the sentiment Linda remembered feeling herself when she'd come into the building for HER interview. “This is impressive. Do all the teams get stuff like this?”

Actually I think our base is pretty antiquated by the modern Hero team standards. Remember the Guardians are one of the oldest active teams, and they've been in the same HQ for over thirty years.”

This is antiquated?” The disbelief in the healer's tone was thick enough to feel.

Some of our toys are up to spec. Come on, I'll drop you off at the interview room.”

Drop me off? You aren't interviewing me?”

House rules. Senior members only. Diamond Jack passed the five year mark last month so it'll be him, Blue Path, and Paladin conducting your interview. Star Fall has opted to stay out of the process, smart enough to know that he'll probably be biased.”

Ummm....” The sudden stop from Reset and nervous sounds drew a chuckle from her escort.

Relax. There's nothing to worry about, so go nail this interview and then come watch giant cable news with me.”

The healer tried to laugh, but the nervous cough that came out instead didn't seem to be what she was going for. Instead she squared her shoulders and nodded to her friend that she was ready.

Oh, and try not to laugh too hard when Diamond Jack introduces himself.” The words, spoken just before the grey and black costumed Hero made it to the interview door, caused another stop in forward progress, but Linda simply moved past her friend and opened the door anyways. “Lady and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Reset. She's here promptly on time for her interview, and she's a friend of mine so be nice to her.”

Reset managed to give a mocking glare threatening terrible things for her friend in the near future, but the taller brunette simply offered a gentle push that got her friend through the door. Don't worry Maddie, you'll do great!


 

6:00pm


 

Matt, please explain why I'm here.” The red and black costumed Heroine looked up nervously at the giant back-lit sign in front of her proudly proclaiming the building beneath it as 'Supper with Supers.'

Now please, Trick, don't give me that look. When this was all set up initially it was supposed to be Conquistador doing the drop in and greet tonight, you know this. After everything else today, we needed a stand in and you KNOW you're the team's best face right now.” Mathias Elben looked genuinely distressed and sounded deeply apologetic as he spoke. “I know that we've always tried to make sure that no one has to do multiple appearances like this in the same week without volunteering, but I don't think any of us expected this situation!”

Linda sighed, and had to acknowledge the point. Besides the doubling down is a small, one time, price to pay for not having to deal with Scott anymore. “So, standard thing? I walk in like I come in all the time, there's a high top for me in the lounge. Get a drink and an appetizer and just act like I'm coming in for a normal bite to eat?”

You've got this down, girl!”

We're still completely ignoring how insane it sounds that an on duty, in costume, Hero would be stopping into a restaurant and signing autographs?”

With the exception of the kids, and maybe the really not too bright ones, everyone knows this is just a publicity stunt, Trick. It doesn't matter to these people, they get to meet a real honest to God Hero and have a story they can tell their families and friends for years. And it helps sell your brand!”

Linda shuddered slightly at that part. She hated having her own brand to worry about, though she had to admit the ludicrous bank balance it was providing her with was a hefty incentive. And that's what I have left after 80% goes to charity. “Okay, I'm going in. Wish me luck.”

You and Paladin, you both make it sound like you're storming an enemy fortress. I'm almost completely certain the appetizers won't be hostile, Trick. Good luck!”

Linda managed to plaster her most convincing smile across her face, and made her way quickly across the parking lot and through the glass doors of the restaurant before the people outside could register who she was. “Table for one? I'll take a spot in the lounge if you have one.” The sudden arrival of the costumed Hero didn't get much of a reaction from the teenager working at the hostess position when Linda first came through the door. Then the girl looked more closely at the costume, saw the little details like the armor plates, took in the height of the woman in front of her, and looked up wide eyed with shock, and a great deal of hope lurking behind that shock.

Great, they went for a more genuine feel again so the girl up here isn't briefed on what's going on. Time to start the show I guess. “Yes, it's really me, Carly.” Linda stepped forward and slid impossibly up to the small counter the young girl was standing behind as she did so. It was one of the uses of her power that she was publicly known for, moving in a manner that a normal person couldn't replicate with any amount of practice. At the very least it showed she was really a Super.

Carly responded by letting out a soft, “squeee!” and passing out. Linda barely managed to get her arms over the counter fast enough to catch the redhead before she hurt herself.

Ah, Trick Move! A pleasure to host you again!” The booming greeting came from a bear of a man whose name tag identified him as a Manager. The words sounded incredibly fake to the Hero, but the crowd seemed to suddenly become extremely animated. “Let me get you a table, would you like to sit in the lounge or the restaurant?” As he spoke some subtle hand motions got another of the senior staff up to take care of the passed out hostess.

Lounge, please.” Linda made sure to pitch her voice JUST loud enough to carry so that the restaurant's patrons would know where she was. Now I get my free drinks, eat some onion rings, and get the hell out after the autograph crowd dies down.

As was par for the course with these events, the ordinary people in the restaurant didn't approach the Hero in their midst immediately. It was actually several of the waitstaff and servers that first came to her table to request autographs, or just speak a few words at the Hero and stare in wonder when she answered back. Even Linda had to admit that she didn't mind dealing with most of the fans that being a Hero created. Just the ones that treat you with more reverence than ANYONE should show to another human being, and the ones who want something from you. 'Something' varied greatly on a case by case basis. Autographs or a picture weren't a big deal, but several weren't joking when they asked for a date, or a kiss, or a piece of her costume. Or more intimate or more tangible matters.

After half an hour, Linda found herself beginning to grow a little worried. The crowd was being more respectful than usual, with only a few noticeable creeps making their way all the way to the Hero, but things should have been dying down by now. Looking around the brunette was shocked when she realized that there was now a line going out the building, all people with eager and excited expressions on their faces. Son of a bitch. These are supposed to be 'spontaneous' events so that we don't have to deal with huge crowds like this, and always on a night when the restaurant isn't expecting THAT much business. In and out before the mob can form, I'm going to kill Mat-...

It's so wonderful to meet you! I can't believe I'm really here, meeting Trick Move! Can you believe it honey?” To the casual listener the exclamation that interrupted Linda's thoughts was probably nothing more than the vapid excitement of the average Hero fan, but the tall woman could hear something beneath it, and her eyes went wide with shock mostly hidden by her mask when she turned to look at the pair that had just stepped up to her table.

Madeline Guiess and Jack Diamond stood before her, both wearing even wider grins than could be found in the sea of fans around them. Linda locked eyes with her friend and realized what had happened. Apparently Reset was not fond of waiting for revenge, and Linda did have to admit; turning a public appearance into a spectacle felt like an appropriate level of revenge for misleading her friend and dumping her into an interview with three strangers, all of them famous Heroes.

I am still going to get you back for this, Maddie. The Hero smiled and signed autographs for her teammates, and the look that passed briefly back from the healer let Linda know that further escalation was both expected, and welcome.


 

11:46pm


 

Linda barely managed the strength to pull her mask off as she staggered through the entrance from the public to the private side of the Guardian Elite HQ. Five and a half hours. I was stuck there til the restaurant CLOSED. I take it back Maddie, that was NOT a fair retaliation, and you will suffer my wrath! After sleep. Too tired to get properly changed and slip out to her own apartment, the tall brunette simply headed for the couch facing the massive monitor with the intent of sleeping there for the night.

Linda had almost successfully made the trip to dreamland when a sudden buzzing in her ear jerked her awake. Fuck, I forgot to take the earpiece ou-... The train of thought was thoroughly derailed by the urgent words that followed the buzzing sound.

This is Dispatch, top priority for all Heroes in the Portland area, downtown region near Woodlawn City Park. Unknown attack, multiple Heroes down. Repeat, multiple Heroes down. Solitaire, on scene no response. Shining Sentry, on scene, critically disabled. Attitude Adjustment, on scene, no response. Fast Break, on scene, no response. Advise if on route and ETA.”

Linda scrambled off the couch as fast as she could, her fatigue completely forgotten. From further within the base, she heard sounds of someone else scrambling, and cursing loudly, but didn't pause to determine who it was. “Dispatch, this is Trick Move. ETA to Woodlawn Park,” there was a brief pause and a barely audible grunt as a narrow, wicked looking blade was removed from it's concealed place in her belt and rammed into a similarly concealed spot in the side of her leg. “5 minutes.”


 


 

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Tuesday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Tuesday



 

12:44am


 

The tall, dark haired woman sighed wearily as she slowly staggered down the well lit hall, past rows of numbered doors.  Eighteen hour day, no serious calls, but EVERYONE needed me to cover an area for them.  The memories of the day brought a scowl to the woman's face as she fumbled for the key to her apartment, the piece of metal somehow managing to be extra elusive within the light jacket she wore.

Giving up on the key, the woman brought her finger up to the lock and twisted her hand.  The sound of the deadbolt sliding unlocked was faintly audible as the woman remained mired in her own thoughts.  They could have at least remembe-...

"SURPRISE!"  The enthusiastic chorus that came immediately as the door swung open set the apartment's occupant literally leaping back across the hallway to hit the wall with a shriek of shock, followed immediately by a wave of laughter and catcalls at the high-strung response.

Linda Scoven maintained an angry glare in the face of that laughter for about 5 seconds, then she too broke down and began laughing at her own response.  "You BASTARDS.  You made me do all the busy work today, and made me think you all forgot?"

"How could we forget what YESTERDAY was?"  Another glare as the emphasized word reminded the brunette again of the ridiculously long hours she had just worked.  The short bald man that was positioned front and center in the crowd that had invaded the woman's apartment responded to the glare with an amused look.  "Now get in your apartment before you get all of us in trouble."

Grumbling, the brunette pushed off the wall and strode into her home.  The door swung softly shut behind her, at which point the volume in the room easily tripled as everyone began cheering again.  Linda spent a moment wondering how she was going to find the energy to survive the party her colleagues had apparently planned for her, when a gentle hand touched her shoulder and a flash of light left her with a renewed sense of energy as if she'd just awoken from a long and restful sleep.

"Glad you could make it, Reset."  Linda offered the shorter woman a grateful smile as she spoke.

"It's Maddie, Linda.  No uniforms, no silly names.  Now get in there and enjoy your graduation party!"

The tall brunette needed no further encouragement, as she now walked confidently through the crowd towards her abode's kitchen.  Waiting there was a dizzying array of foods, taking up so much space that Linda paused and began mentally pacing off the area she was standing in.

"Yes, it's bigger than normal."  The familiar voice of Ed, the Hero Fast Break, her mentor for the past two years came from just behind her.  "Distortion owed me a favor, so I had him make your place big enough to hold everyone that wanted to come.  That's also keeping the place soundproofed, in case you were wondering why your neighbors don't have the police beating down the door."  The speedster slid past his former intern as he spoke and snagged a platter of finger food to take back out to the main room.

"You guys shouldn't have done this, really."  Linda was surprised to feel wetness in her eyes as she realized how much she was going to miss all the friends from Street Level who had shown up tonight to see her off.

"You think we would let you go without a proper going away?  Have you learned NOTHING of value in the past two years?"

"Eat quickly, there's always going to be an emergency when food becomes available."  The deadpan response drew laughter from Ed, and several others close enough to hear it.  The laughter spread farther around the room as a small man leapt up onto the back of Linda's couch to turn the flippant remark into a toast.

After the noise had a chance to settle for a moment Linda continued the conversation.  "I was hoping for something a little more low key, you know NOT an all night bash when I have an interview at 8am."

"We know about your interview, it's taken care of!"

A hard look came over the tall woman's face, and the shorter man began verbally backpedaling as quickly as he could.  "Not like that, not like that!  We have Maddie, Reset, here!  She will be staying all night, so even if you choose to party until the sun comes up you will be fresh and alert when you go and make the biggest mistake of your short career as a Hero."

Linda's expression softened as Ed explained his meaning, though she completely ignored his attempt to bait her into another argument concerning the team she had chosen to apply for now that her internship was finished.  "Well in that case, why the hell am I still sober?"


 

6:07am


 

"God, please, if you can hear me, kill me now."  The heartfelt prayer that met the sound of an alarm clock going off was met, not with divine murder, but a melodious chuckle.  Linda pulled her head up from the cushion it was nearly attached to and noted that she seemed to have left her hair behind.  The giggle turned into a gasp of surprise.

"Oh. My. God."  Reset, back in costume and simply waiting for the guest of honor to wake up so she could finish her last party duty held both hands up to her face to cover the smile and TRY to keep from bursting out laughing.  "You...  You have..."

"Yes, my natural hair color is pink.  Thank you."  The exhausted and hungover woman turned a glare towards her friend that could have burned a hole through solid steel.  "If you ever, EVER, tell anyone, they will never find your body."

"I don't think it's THAT bad."

"Never.  Find.  Body."  After carefully enunciating the three words, Linda raised her hands to massage her temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing in her head.  "Now fix, please."

A flash of light later and Linda felt fully refreshed.  A quick glare managed to cut off another bout of laughter as she snatched her extremely expensive and realistic wig from where it had become wedged between the couch cushions and headed towards the shower.

"Good luck today, Linda!"  The taller woman sighed as she could still hear the barely suppressed laughter in the voice of the healer in her living room.

Leaning back out from the bathroom, Linda locked eyes with her friend for a long moment and repeated.  "Never.  Find.  Body."


 

8:21am


 

20 minutes.  Five calls from THEM to make sure I knew when the interview was, and to get here early so I could get passed through security.  TWO of those calls yesterday.  And they keep me waiting in a lounge without so much as a cup of coffee for TWENTY MINUTES and they still haven't even TOLD me anything.  Gloved hands reached up and ran through shoulder length dark hair in frustration.  And no matter how this goes, I can't even bitch about it to my friends later because the 'I TOLD YOU SO' I'd get would probably kill me.  Or them.

"Trick Move?"  The speaker next to the impressive looking door that the Hero had gotten time to study in DETAIL relayed the question asked by a polite, masculine voice.

"That's me."  Linda winced inwardly as she tried, and failed, to completely conceal her irritation at being left to wait in the lobby for so long.

"We apologize for the delay.  Please, come in."  As she stood the tall woman tried to decide if she was more perturbed or less that the voice hadn't attempted to offer excuses or explanations over the speaker.

We'll go with 'less' as long as someone explains something in person.  Otherwise I think I'm going to owe Ed a VERY expensive bottle of scotch.  The door slid open revealing a short hallway composed entirely of steel panels, and another matching door at the far end.  Wow, when they said they needed a Subtlety Hero I wonder if they knew how bad.  This is the same security system as they have on the way in.  Anyone that can beat it once isn't going to be slowed down much needing to beat it twice.

The outer door slid silently shut as soon as Linda cleared the track, and the inner door opened before she'd made it halfway down the 15ft long corridor.  At least they aren't going to make me wait to get scanned AGAIN.

Clearing the over-designed entryway, the dark haired woman stopped to look around in surprise at the massive room she had entered.  The walls sloped gently up to a dome shaped ceiling at least fifty feet up, and the wall to her left contained the single largest television, I bet they call it a monitor, that the woman had ever seen; by an order of magnitude.

"I apologize again for the delay, Trick Move."  Linda turned and barely hid an expression of shock as she saw the man greeting her.  "There was an emergency call from Portland that required Paladin's expertise, and we had to scramble a bit to get a third senior member in to HQ for your interview.  I'm Star Fall by the way, you may have heard of me."  The grin that accompanied the end of the speech drew a slight blush from the female Hero.

Guess I didn't completely hide my surprise.  The man in front of her was one of the founding members of the Hero team Linda was interviewing to join, the Guardian Elite.  The brunette was a little surprised to realize that she stood the same height as the male Hero.  Even though the man had to be pushing 60 by now, he still looked as athletically fit as a fresh HCP graduate, and wore no real signs of age or wear in spite of the decades of hard service in his chosen vocation.

Linda blushed again as Star Fall turned slightly and adopted a pose similar to one seen on the cover of many comic books, and realized she'd been staring for longer than she'd intended.  "I'm sorry, sir. I really didn't expect to be meeting you today.  I've looked up to you for a long time."

"I shall see about getting some thicker boots, so that you may continue to look up to me."  The unexpected joke drew genuine laughter from the female Hero.

"I think you'd look silly in heels."  The response drew a brief chuckle from the older Hero before he turned and motioned the newcomer to follow him.

"We should get this interview out of the way and get you to work as quickly as possible.  To the board room!"  The tone of the final sentence, an almost perfect mimicry of all the over-dramatic catchphrase lines that Linda remembered from Hero movies and cartoons growing up drew another round of laughter from the woman as she followed.

As the two Heroes entered the room Linda was surprised again to discover that she would be interviewed by not one founding member of the team, but BOTH of them.  Though he wasn't wearing anything nearly as iconic as Star Fall's gleaming silvery costume, there couldn't be anyone else on the team over eight feet tall and composed seemingly of nothing but muscles layered on top of muscles.  If they do have a second strongman like that, they must dress them both the same and the media hasn't caught on yet.  The final interviewer awaiting Linda's arrival was also a bit of a surprise to the young Hero.  Blue Path, currently the team's ONLY female Hero, offered a smile of greeting that also seemed to contain notes of both pleading and apology.

"I believe you're familiar with your other interviewers, however to be complete please allow me to make proper introductions.  Trick Move, may I present the Heroes Blue Path and Conquistador, though since he's not masked he'll just be Scott for this meeting."

"A pleasure to meet you, Trick Mo-..."

Blue Path's welcome was cut short by a loud snort from the huge man.  "I still say this is idiotic, Star.  We already met the affirmative action quota with one set of tits on the team."

Suddenly Linda found herself working VERY hard to not do anything that would result in her losing her Hero status.  Like murder.  "I believe you may discover, Scott, that there isn't actually a LIMIT to the number of women that can be on a team."

"Just cause it ain't a rule doesn't mean it's a good idea."

"Yes Scott, your objections to having more female members join the Guardians have been noted and unanimously overruled by the other senior team members."  Linda noted and was somewhat thankful for the apologetic glance the silver-suited Hero threw at her as he made his way around the table and was out of the big man's line of sight.  "So with introductions out of the way, shall we get started?"

"Fine.  I vote 'No.'"  The interviewee wasn't even particularly shocked at the statement from the oversized misogynist at this point.

"Excellent, then you can get back to whatever you were doing with your morning before we had to call you in here for this, and Star Fall and I can actually CONDUCT the interview and see if Trick Move joins the team with a two out of three vote."  The exceedingly sweet, singsong tone Blue Path caused both Linda and Star Fall to chuckle slightly, growing into outright laughter as the Hero in blue and white continued with, "Goodbye!" and the enormous man disappeared in a flash of brilliant azure light.

"I would like to apologize for my old friend, Trick Move.  He's never seen the need to alter his thinking on anything, and I truly don't expect him to start any time soon.  If you think working with him is going to be an insurmountable problem then I'll hold no hard feelings if you want to call it here."  There was a pause, then the smile returned to his lips.  "If the next group you interview with asks what went wrong here, just say 'I met Conquistador' and they'll probably understand."

"If I stay, can you assure me that at some point in the future I will have an opportunity to be in combat training with him?"

"Yes."  Both older Heroes answered simultaneously, and Linda smiled and sat down at the table.  "So, this is the part where you ask questions, right?"

"It is at that."  Star Fall reached beneath the table and pulled a slim file folder from somewhere to place in front of him.  Opening it, he fanned a series of pages out in front of him.  "So based on our basic review when we received your letter of intent to join us, you're a Subtlety major Hero who just finished her internship with the speedster Fast Break working with the loosely organized 'team' known as Street Level.  You're a body control type physical Super, you tend not to cut loose until you take some hits, and your very first day on the job you had to face down a Manhattan level rogue.  Do I have all that correct?"

I thought Ed was unique.  Does NO ONE actually read the HCP files?  "Not entirely accurate, sir.  I refer to my ability as 'movement control' because no one has ever really been able to nail down more specifics than that.  It's only particularly reliable or powerful at very short range, hence I usually just use it as kind of a physical enhancement similar to what body control type Supers can do.  However,"  Linda placed her hand on the table and one of the pages slid across to her fingers as if summoned, then slowly spun around the edge of the table until it returned to its original place. "I can do some other things with it.

"Secondly, 'cutting loose' has nothing to do with escalations of my power."  The brunette took a deep breath as she paused and considered how to approach her inherited trait.  "Are you familiar with the Hero, Mayhem?"

"I think everyone is familiar with Mayhem."  Blue Path's answer came in a politely neutral tone, even as Star Fall's face indicated less pleasant emotions beside her.  "He's a 'wrecking ball' type Strongman, the more and faster he moves the stronger and more resilient he gets.  He also..."  The woman trailed off as she made the connection.

"Also what, Path?"  Star Fall seemed to be a bit slower on the uptake than his younger colleague, so Linda stepped in with the rest of the answer.

"Mayhem is my father.  We don't get along, but we have the same 'trait' that influences our powers.  Grandpa, the original Mayhem, had it too."

"Wait, you mean that's not just some bullshit story the press made up about the man?  He, and you, you really get stronger when you get hurt?"  Star Fall tried to keep his question neutral, but his incredulity bled through his tone plainly.

"It's real, and extensively documented in my HCP training file."  Linda paused and considered if she should continue.  He's been a Hero for almost forty years, and he's the founder of one of the oldest teams in the country.  He'd have access anyways.  "During those evaluations, the best estimates by the HCP staff and independent DVA personnel indicate that at a near death state, my ability scales all the way from its current rating of Standard up to an Armageddon level power."

Linda waited politely for the shock to wear off, as she was well aware that the rarity of Armageddon rated abilities was quite a conversational landmine to set off during an interview.

"I vote yes."  Both Linda and Star Fall turned in surprise at unhesitating statement from Blue Path.  "I would love to complete this interview and get a REAL idea of where your skills and abilities lie, but not matter what you say from this point on I'm going with yes."

"I think I actually have to agree with my overeager colleague.  Which makes it official, Trick Move.  Welcome to the Guardian Elite."

Linda wasn't sure if she could smile any wider than she had when the older female Hero had offered her unconditional vote.  Her face was definitely giving it an effort though.  "So I'm in, for real?"

"Yep.  I'm Sally by the way, in case you get tired of calling me Blue, or Path, or the combinations thereof."

"Richard."  The older man removed his mask as he spoke, showing off an unblemished face that looked at least thirty years younger than it was supposed to.

"So, if that means we're past the part where you guys question me, I think that makes this the part where I question you."  Linda waited a moment for both to nod before continuing.  "So let's talk about your so-called security system up front..."


 

11:00am


 

"I'll be honest, I did NOT think there would be this many papers to sign."  Linda Scoven, aka Trick Move, stared at the depressingly large stack of forms she still had to get through.

"Every year the DVA PROMISES that they're going to digitize more of this, and every year I swear the list of required forms actually gets a little longer."  Sally Danton, aka Blue Path, commiserated with the young Hero as she slogged through the mountain of paperwork.

"On the plus side, you only have to fill all of this out once."

"What if I leave and join another team?"

"Consider all of those forms the incentive to stay on the team you picked, even with an asshole like Scott around."  Linda paused at that, then rubbed at her wrist to get some feeling back into it and resumed her work.

"Is there another stack we could do to get rid of him?"

"You REALLY think he'd still be here if that was an option?  Seriously, I cannot BEGIN to tell you how overjoyed I am to finally have another girl on the team.  I have been the token female for FAR too long."

"So," the taller brunette dropped the pen she was holding as she finished another series of triplicate pages and realized her 'done' stack was now just as tall as her 'left to do' stack.  "Let's take a break and go eat."

"Got any place in mind, and dress up or down?"

Linda started to answer, then paused as the second question tripped her thought process up.  In the two years she'd worked with Street Level it had never occurred to her to go out as a civilian.  Far too likely to get called in the middle of lunch, and end up without time to change into her suit.  I do NOT want to be one of those full time Heroes who goes without a mask and lives with the paparazzi 24/7.  "Dress up, in case we get a call.  And unless I miss my guess, I will bet there's a sandwich truck very nearby where I can get us a free lunch."

"Food truck?"  The younger Hero almost laughed at the extreme note of uncertainty in the older woman's voice.  Her laughter died when Sally continued.  "And don't worry about getting a call.  Honestly you're probably going to be bored out of your skull for the next few months at the very least.  Team rules say that new members and non-combat powers can't do any Super or Powered interdiction without a veteran member present.  You and I will probably be stuck on monitor duty for awhile, but we'll get to know each other REALLY well."

"Wait, why are you on monitor duty?  You're a senior member, right?"

"Non-combat power."

"Can't you force-teleport people in your line of sight?  How the hell is that a non-combat power?  It's practically unbeatable unless you're fighting another teleporter or a null."

"There's a long delay between when I can teleport the same target again, and even though Conquistador gets away with a TON of collateral they tell me I can't use cars and stuff as improvised weapons."

Linda stared at the older Hero for several long minutes, almost as if waiting to hear the punchline of a joke that never came.  Seeing her new friend beginning to wilt under the expectant stare, the younger woman closed her eyes and massaged her temples for a moment.  "All right, let me make sure I'm not as far off on a couple things as you guys were on MY powers before the interview.  You're a long range teleporter?"

"Technically medium range.  My maximum is 993 miles and 8 feet.  Trust me, I have TRIED to get that extra 7 miles to be classed as a long range."

"Right, and you can teleport yourself that distance, or someone else, or yourself AND someone else.  What's your mass limit?"

"I haven't narrowed down the exact mass limit or what it does to my range as precisely, but I have a pretty good upper range.  I teleported a full school bus out of the way of a brawl between Diamond Jack and Monstruo once.  It was exhausting, but I think I could have done it again if I had to."

Linda's mouth actually fell open in surprise at that reveal.  A school bus, full of kids, and herself.  "How far did you move the bus?"  The brunette mentally congratulated herself as her voice sounded perfectly steady to her own ears as she asked the question.

"Five miles, give or take?"

"All right, we need to see Star Fall before lunch.  He is the one we would see about getting any expensive additions approved for the HQ?"

"Um, yeah I guess.  But what do you think we need to add, other than about a million dollars worth of security?"

"8.7 million dollars worth of security upgrades, and trust me, you guys NEED them.  It still won't make this place HALF as secure as an HCP facility but it should make it up to the bare minimum for a publicly known Hero Team Headquarters.  And we need to put in some holding cells."

"We don't actually bring any captures back to HQ, Linda.  We turn them over in the field.  Too much of a security risk to have rogue Supers with access to our base."  Sally definitely sounded a little confused as to why SHE was the one explaining about security protocols of any kind to the younger Hero.  That confusion deepened when Linda nodded her agreement.

"Oh God, no.  The cells will need to be completely isolated from the facility once they're finished.  In fact they should be completely isolated from EVERYTHING so that only a teleporter can get in and out when they're done.  You can familiarize yourself with it during construction so you can get in later."

"Why would I need to... Please Linda, I am not following where you're going with this."

"We build cells designed to hold Supers, in a completely isolated bunker that you have familiarized yourself with.  Then in a fight, you can stick your opponent directly into the same kind of cell they'll be spending time in over at Sanderson when things wrap up."

Sally stopped following the taller brunette in front of her.  Linda turned to see the shorter blonde woman's mouth work open and closed a few times, but no words came out.  Finally, the older Hero found her voice again.  "You mean I... I could... I'll be combat certified.  I'll actually be able to..."

"Honestly I am extremely disappointed that you didn't think of this on your own."  Sally turned a hurt look to the younger woman in response to those words, but her attempt at angst was interrupted when Linda reached out and flicked her softly on the nose, leaving her finger pointing directly at the older Hero's forehead.  "So once we get this thing built you had damned well better go out there and make up for all the time you SHOULD have been singlehandedly making the world a safer place."

"Let's go talk to Richard.  NOW."  And the two women vanished in a flash of blue light.


 

4:57pm


 

"Oh.  My.  God.  I thought NOTHING could be more boring than all that paperwork."  Linda leaned back in the comfortable office chair she occupied, and tried not to growl at the quiet laughter coming from her earpiece.

"Honestly I don't know why some groups still insist on putting their own people on monitor duties.  Ready status I can understand, but I am MORE than capable of handling the monitoring myself."  The normally soothing, softly accented voice of Dispatch in her ear was having the opposite effect tonight, likely because she kept laughing in response to the mumbled complaints from the Heroes stuck on a redundant duty.

"Let's be fair, Dispatch." Linda turned to see her partner on monitor duty for the night, a thin wiry example of the male species that answered to the name of Jack, pour himself another cup of coffee as he spoke to the disembodied voice in all Heroes' heads.  "Groups like the Guardians didn't HAVE you when they first started up.  They were barely able to get reliable walkie-talkie type radios back then.  Give the last of the old guard a bit of a break for not fully embracing the future."

"I'm not objecting, Jack.  I'm simply pointing out that having you there is pointless and you could easily be doing something else."

"Nope.  I'm on probation again and the rookie is a rookie.  Also they have cameras in here."  Judging by the change in tone, the last reason was the REAL reason why the black haired man wasn't abandoning his post.

"Right, so remind me how long we're stuck here for?"

"Your relief shift arrive in another three hours, Trick Move."

"Thank you Dispatch.  And may I say that It's only a LITTLE bit creepy that it was you that answered that, instead of my teammate who really should know the schedule better."

"I will strive to be creepier next time."  The deadpan statement from the female voice drew laughter from both Heroes stuck on monitor duty, followed by a long silence.

"So, Diamond Jack's real name is Jack."

"Yep."

"Didn't feel like being creative?"

"Felt like being a smart ass instead."

"Oh?"  Linda found her attention immediately captured by the word after working two years with the members of Street Level, many of whom had LIVED by that gold standard.

"Full name is Jack Diamond."  The newest member of the Guardian Elite found herself staring in open mouthed shock at the wiry Hero's pure audacity with selecting his identity as he had.  "Best part?  No one that I know of has ever ONCE thought that Jack Diamond might be the Hero Diamond Jack.  Or if they have, they've kept it MIGHTY quiet."

Linda's incredulous stare lasted for several more seconds, before she broke down into hysterical laughter.  For the remainder of her time on monitor duty, the young Hero found herself unable to even look at her colleague without the fit of laughter returning.


 

10:11pm


 

I'm gonna miss this place.  The thought crept unbidden into the woman's mind as she unlocked the door to her one bedroom apartment.  I mean sure, it's got a crappy view, the rent sucks, and... Why am I gonna miss this place again?

"Hello, Linda."  The tall brunette tensed for a split second, before she recognized the voice.

"What the hell are you doing in my apartment?"  Recognition in this case didn't seem to diminish the 'Fight' reflex much.

"I'm sorry I fucked up so much.  I really am.  After tonight, tell me you want me gone forever and I will do my best to never be in front of you again."  The silhouetted figure near her couch reached over to turn on a lamp, since the woman in the doorway was making no move to provide illumination to the apartment.  He stood maybe an inch taller than the brunette, grey hair cropped down to a military like buzz cut.  The man wore an outfit that covered him head to toe in what looked like brown motorcycle leathers, interspersed with vibrant crimson slash marks that drew immediately to mind the image of actual slashing wounds.  The mask over the man's face continued the same color scheme.

"Say what you've come to say then."  Linda finally flicked on the overhead light and stepped fully inside to close the door behind her.

"The first thing I already said.  I am truly sorry for all the times I fucked up your life growing up.  I should have tried harder to be there, to be there when you needed me.  When your mom died..."

"Don't believe it for a second."  The cold tone stopped the man, but he seemed unsurprised by the venom in the words.  "You couldn't be bothered to visit her in the hospital for months, you couldn't be bothered to make it to the funeral.  Why should I believe you now?"

"How much time have you had for your friends, the ones who AREN'T doing what you do, since you graduated?  Two years, do you still talk to Becca?  Or that Myers kid, what was her name?"

"Sheila."  Linda's voice grew quieter as she tried to determine where the man was going with this.  "We kind of fell out of touch when I had to change my identity and switch schools because I fucked up the SI requirement."

"Which you did to save someone, right?"  He paused and waited for a nod before continuing.  "Even though you knew what it would cost, you HAD to help.  Didn't you?"

"What is your fucking point?"

"You've been out there now, for two years.  You've seen what can happen even when we're there, as fast as possible, in our best form.  I got... lost in it.  I couldn't see that I wasn't the only person trying to make things right, and I gave up too much time that should have been shared with you and your mom too.  I crossed a lot of lines."

Linda seemed to consider this for a long moment.  Years of rage at the man in front of her told her she should just throw him out now, that this was some kind of trick.  But he had NEVER been one for trickery.  Never once had he faced any challenge she had ever heard of ANY way other than head first.  "You said that was the first thing.  What else?"  Ultimately it was the tone that decided her.  In all the years she had known her father, he had never once sounded the way he did now.  He sounds afraid.

"I wanted... I NEEDED to say, even if you don't think much of my opinion, how proud I am of you.  Words can never be enough, but you're a great Hero, Linda.  Better than I ever was or will be."

The last words of her father's declaration stunned her.  She had never, EVER, heard the Hero known as Mayhem admit to someone being greater than him.  "You... You're dying?  Something awful, what is it?"

The older man looked up in surprise at the question, then began to laugh.  "I guess, yeah I really can see how you would think that.  I have always been an arrogant son of a bitch, haven't I?"

"You leave Grandma out of this.  She was a SAINT."  The old joke that had previously been shared between her father and mother brought a smile to the young woman's lips, and tears at more memories of a woman long passed.

"I'm not dying.  Or retiring, yet.  I just...  You're my daughter.  And I was stupid for ever thinking I wanted a son instead, and I was MORE stupid for telling you I wanted you to be the third Mayhem.  And I think it took turning on the news one day and seeing the report that a new Hero, Trick Move, went toe to toe with a Manhattan level Super on her first day out and WON.  That's what it took to hammer into my skull that my way wasn't the only way.  You know I'm Street Level too, right?"

"One of the founders, according to Ed."

"Really?  Not how I remember it, but anyways; I watched you.  I watched what you were doing and how you did it.  You got everything done, you saved more people than I could have, and you never once even had to cross into the grey areas to do it.  It took two years to completely sink in that I was wrong, all this time.  So I came here to hope I can get a second chance to be a dad."

"Nope."  The instant response would have been heartbreaking, except the old Hero saw a smile on his daughter's face.  "I don't need you to be 'daddy' anymore.  We're colleagues, and acquaintances.  And you can buy me a drink, as soon as you change out of that ridiculous leather costume."

Carl Scoven felt a deep, genuine smile crease his lips for the first time in a long time.  "Deal, even the costume part.  But one condition;  If I'm buying the drinks, you have to tell me an embarrassing story to go with each round."


 


 

 

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero: Linda Scoven - Monday

7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero

Subject: Linda Scoven, Monday

 

7 am

 

The tall dark haired woman sat anxiously on the edge of the chair and glared at her mildly trembling hands until they finally stilled. Linda Scoven had never expected to set foot back inside the underground facilities of the Hero Certification Program, yet here she was only three days after her graduation. Reaching up to adjust the nearly full-face mask where it opened to leaver her mouth free, and along the top where it constantly seemed to pinch at her hair, the young woman found herself unable to sit completely still. Relax Linda, your mentor is just running a little late. You graduated, there's no reason for you to panic. They can't take that away from you.

Standing to stretch, and barely resisting the urge to begin pacing in the waiting area, the tall woman looked down at her uniform as if to reassure herself of that fact. The matte black material was still there, decorated with the randomly spaced fractal patterns in bright red that Linda found most closely resembled the different way in which her ability let her view the world. To everyone else they were simply an odd pattern to break up the monotony of a jet black costume.

As the battle with her nerves seemed likely to take another turn for the worse, the young woman's introspection was interrupted by a shimmering feeling in the air, immediately followed by an incredibly rapid staccato sound heralding the abrupt arrival of a short, bald man.

“And you must be Kacey!” Only the extremely wide smile and deeply genuine humor in the small man's voice prevented Linda from lashing out at him. She hated the assumed identity she'd been force to live under since transferring to Lander's HCP.

“No.” The frost in the taller woman's voice apparently convinced the newcomer immediately that joking was right out, as he adopted a more serious expression.

Linda Scoven, graduation rank 47th, of Lander University HCP?” The brunette tried, and failed, not to wince at the serious tone and slight emphasis placed on her program ranking. Lips drawn into a tight line, she managed to nod an affirmative response.

“Don't worry about your class rank.” The frank advice startled the tall woman, and she offered a querying look in response. “Seriously, don't. As of last Friday your rank within the HCP means all of jack AND shit. You're no longer a trainee, you're a Hero.”

Linda managed a smile and a nod in response, before her attention shifted back to business. “I'm assuming since you're here, and you seem to have read my files, that you're going to be my mentor for the next two years?”

“Those are two dangerous assumptions young lady.” The humorous tone had returned. “For starters, I NEVER read the full file on any of the rookies I pick up. Just what's written on the jacket. And simply assuming that both of us are still going to be around in two years? Have you actually LOOKED at the statistics for our line of work? First assumption was solidly supported by evidence though. All signs do indicate that I am here.”

The dark haired girl actually had to suppress a giggle at the final line of the short man's speech. “Alright then, since you just admitted that you did GET my file that would make you my mentor, or the man who killed my mentor I guess.”

“And if the latter held true?”

“If you killed him I guess you're stuck with me then.” The immediate and deadpan response drew a bout of surprised laughter from the bald man, which Linda joined in on shortly.

“Name's Ed. In Uniform I go by Fast Break. Like most speedsters, what that actually translates to in a combat situation is 'HEY SPEEDY!'”

With a hand gesture encompassing the black and red costume she was wearing Linda responded with, “Trick Move.”

“Alrighty then, Tricky.” Linda simply rolled her eyes at the unimaginative nickname. “Let's get out of school and into the real world. Walk and talk time.” The speedster turned and set a quick walking pace towards the elevators, but definitely nothing that involved the use of his ability. “So what discipline did you end up majoring in?”

The brunette actually stumbled over her own feet as the question took her by surprise, but she managed to get her mouth working before any 'walking and...' jokes could manifest. “You SERIOUSLY didn't read my file?”

“Nope. Never do. So, major?”

“Subtlety.” The response seemed to surprise the short man for a moment, as he stopped abruptly to turn and examine the taller woman's uniform.

“That's a combat uniform. Armored.”

“Yep.” Linda smiled as she saw the one word answers seeming to confound her mentor.

“So you're extra paranoid?”

“I like to think I'm the right amount of paranoid.”

“What was your minor?”

“Close Combat.” At this response the walk stopped again as the grey suited speedster turned a serious look back at the younger Hero.

“Are you just fucking with me?”

“Completely serious. Was torn between Combat and Subtlety for the entirety of second and third year, finally decided that the Subtlety training would let me do the most good overall.”

“Power?” The walk resumed as the bald Hero seemed to fully accept the answer given.

“I affect... movement I guess. Lot's of people smarter than I am have tried to nail it down better than that, but I can make things move, or stop moving, or easier to move, or harder to move. It's pretty crap at more than a couple feet away most of the time, but I have EXTREMELY good control over my body. As a result I mostly got trained like a physical Super.”

“Most of the time?”

“I have a... condition. Inherited. Third generation even.” Linda paused as she searched momentarily for some additional information she could give without coming out and stating anything definite.

“Wait a sec... Third gen? Scoven? Holy shit, are you Carl's kid?” The young woman's eyes widened in surprise at hearing her father's name, and effectively confirming the short man's guess. “Jesus, small world we Heroes live in. I was three years behind your dad at Sizemore. Worked with him a few times since, he always said he hoped his kid would pick up the mantle someday and follow after him and his dad. Looks like he got his wish.”

“No.” The coldly spoken response came just as the pair reached the elevator, and resulted in an uncomfortably silent pause before Ed reached forward to key the button.

As the silence stretched on, Linda felt the need to clarify to her obviously confused mentor build until something finally gave way. “Dad wasn't just looking for his kid to become a Hero, like him and gramps. He wanted to pass down the name, and everything that goes with it. We haven't really talked since I told him I had no intention of being a Hero 'like him.'”

“Your old man has been out on the frontlines for years and saved a LOT of peoples lives.”

“He's also caused more collateral damage than any other active Hero, he even broke gramps' record last year. More civilian casualties in actions he's been involved in. More lethal force reviews than any other TWO active Heroes combined. He's been suspended, and almost lost his Hero status a dozen times, and those are just the ones I know about.”

“I think you're selling him short. You shou-...” The older Hero stopped mid-sentence and raised a hand to his left ear. “Never mind, more pressing matters. Looks like you won't be waiting long at all to get your feet wet.” The speedster wore an extremely eager look as the elevator doors dinged open.

“Oh, almost forgot!” The short man fished a tiny case out of his pocket and presented it to the taller woman. “Fresh off the line, from the best eggheads the DVA can buy, bribe, or blackmail.”

Linda opened the small box curiously, to see it contained a metallic earpiece. “The things are great. Durable, long battery life, GREAT sound clarity. They fall out sometimes when things get fast. Sounds like your power will help with that though.” The tall woman didn't respond as she worked the earpiece around the top of her mask and down towards her ear, coaxing it carefully into position.

“First access recognized. Voice key and identity please.” The sudden words, spoken by a soft female voice, drew a startled yelp from Linda. “Voice imprinted.” There was a definite sparkle of humor in the faintly accented voice that the embarrassed Hero now realized was simply coming from the new earpiece. “Hero Identity please.”

“Um, who is this?” Linda was fairly certain that this was all a standard protocol, and the complete lack of warning was simply another joke on her mentor's behalf, but she didn't feel quite comfortable talking to the disembodied voice without having a name to go with it.

“This is Dispatch. Ah, I see you have Fast Break as your mentor. A very quick summary of all the things he was SUPPOSED to mention.” The faint traces of humor were still present, but they were mostly hidden under a layer of exasperation that seemed to indicate this was not the first time this conversation had taken place. “I'm Dispatch, I coordinate Hero operations across the country. Now I need your Hero Identity so I can officially activate you in the system.”

“Trick Move.”

“Welcome to the Hero world. I assume since you are with Fast Break you are responding to the Super involved gang violence 3.2 miles from your current location?”

The brunette turned a questioning look at her mentor, to see him standing with his arms crossed and one foot tapping impatiently. “Introductions finally done? Good! We've got work to do. You're ability work well as a sub for Super speed or you have a car?”

“South lot.” The slightly confused woman managed to sort through the too rapid speech from the shorter man, then found herself grabbed and carried at high speed towards the area in question.

After the rapid trip and a moment to catch her breath, the young Hero reached up to tap the communicator. “Dispatch, this is Trick Move. It would seem that Fast Break and I are definitely responding to that incident.”

“Acknowledged. Good hunting!”

Turning away from her still impatiently glowering mentor, the young woman sprinted towards a motorcycle that matched the color scheme of her outfit and keyed it to life with a high pitched whine. “Good to go, you lead?”

“You think that thing can keep up with me?”

A smile spread across the woman's lips as she flipped the kickstand up. “Try me.”


 

7:36 am


 

The grime soaked figure taking cover against a concrete barrier bit back a string of profanity that would likely reveal her new location to her adversary before Fast Break got into position to give her a clear shot. What the hell are the odds that a random explosion will launch a mailbox SIX FUCKING BLOCKS to perfectly crush MY BRAND NEW BIKE!

A shimmer red in the air drew the woman's attention outward, as her speedster ally reentered the battlefield at nearly supersonic velocity to put their opponents off balance. One of them makes forcefields, the other one make explosions. That is a really annoying combination. With the battleground rapidly being obscured, she was going to have her best chance to take one of them out in a few seconds. Which one though?

The analytic train of thought was derails as one of the randomly targeted explosions clipped her mentor hard enough to send the short man tumbling painfully. Linda tensed in response, but didn't move quite yet. Ed had been moving away from her when he'd gone down, which both their opponents had heard. The telltale shimmer of the forcefield that protected both men stayed intact though, they weren't letting their guard down. Think think think! That did not sound like a good landing, and they aren't going to take long to find him. The woman's eyes scanned the area around the two man frantically, the eddies of red showing her where things moved and came to rest suddenly brought a flash of inspiration to the woman. With a manic smile, the young Hero got her feet underneath her and leapt, as high as she could manage.

Looking down, Linda smiled as her observation of the moving dust proved accurate. The field protecting the two men was cylindrical, no top. A few adjustments and she should be able to come down into both men.

The impact was vicious, as the falling Hero rotated in mid air to bring her heel down on the collar bone of the taller force field generator while her elbow connected cleanly with the temple of the heavier explosive Super. The destructive Super dropped limply, obviously out cold. The other man let out an ear piercing shriek as bones shattered under the force of the impact. Dammit, that was a little harder than I meant for. Too much focus on the head-shot, not enough on the other guy. The active barrier flickered out of existence as the agonizing injury destroyed the focus needed for the man to use his ability. A rapid punch to the screaming man's head sent him to join his friend in unconsciousness.

A few rapid hand waves later and the dust was suddenly mostly settled, to reveal the form of the shorter Hero sitting and calmly observing the outcome of the fight. “Excellently done, five of five!”

Linda stared in unbelieving shock at her mentor. “You weren't hurt? YOU ASSHOLE! I thought I was going to be picking up pieces of you!”

“Oh please, Tricky. I've been doing this for over a decade. You think I'd be allowed to train you newbies if I could get taken out THAT easily by an amateur blaster like this clown? I don't even think he hit anything except the ground. Obviously no clue how to aim, though it does look like he managed to blow enough mud into the air to cover us both pretty good.”

The still angry younger Hero muttered something in response.

“What was that?”

“I said he took out my BIKE!”

Looking past the taller woman, the grey suited Hero darted down the street briefly to examine the wreckage before returning. “Wow. Mailbox. RIGHT on top of it. Almost seven blocks away too.” It was obvious the smaller man was working VERY hard not to laugh as the local authorities were beginning to approach now that the Heroes seemed to have the criminal Supers under control. “What are the odds?”


 

10:47 am


 

An average looking man wearing a grey suit that screamed 'government employee' even without the shiny silver badge clipped on the left lapel schooled his expression to one of polite interest as he noted the costumed pair arriving at the motorcycle dealership he'd received an 'URGENT' level dispatch to. I swear I appreciate everything you Heroes do, but you have GOT to stop taking personal vehicles on assignments and then crying to DVA to fix it for you.

“Trick Move and Fast Break?” The tone of the question gave no indication of the internal frustration the man felt. As soon as both Supers had looked over in response he continued. “I'm Andrew Liste, from DVA requisitions. I understand there was a vehicle related mishap?”

The shorter Hero in the grey costume bit his lip, and Andrew would swear the man was holding back laughter. The female Hero, slightly taller than the DVA representative, stepped forward offering a handshake. “That would be my bike. Hero identity; Trick Move, it would be my bike that suffered the 'mishap.'”

Andrew shook the proffered hand, a very faint sigh of relief escaping as the woman did NOT attempt to crush his hand to powder. So nice to meet a physical Super that doesn't need to prove their strength to a normal human. “Well ma'am, I'll see what we can do but usually even when it's a 'line of duty' incident that damages or destroys a Hero's personal effects, there isn't a lot the agency can legally do.”

“Oh, right. The bike was actually my registered mode of transportation for Hero work. DVA reg is 38777-0014. Considering I parked it almost seven blocks from the fig-... where the altercation was taking place, I don't think I should take a hit for negligent loss.”

A look of surprise passed across the DVA agent's features before he quickly retook control of his expression. A rookie who actually did the paperwork? Miracles DO exist! “One moment please.” Andrew picked up the briefcase occupying a space next to his right foot and strode quickly to one of the open counter available in the showroom. The case was opened and a slim laptop was produced, followed by rapid typing.

“Let's see here... Ah! Found it!” Andrew tried to keep his tone politely detached, but seeing the look on the tall woman's face he guessed he wasn't completely successful.

“You sound very surprised, Mr Liste.” The Hero's voice was coldly polite, and the man facing her made a quick judgment.

“To put it bluntly, I am very surprised. Very few of your colleagues who have been operating for YEARS bother to remember this sort of paperwork until constant reminders and nagging from my agency finally bear fruit.” Seeing the powerful woman's expression thaw a bit, Andrew pressed on. “According to this you received your certification three days ago and this is your first day on the job. To see that you've actually followed the proper protocols is a definite surprise. A very welcome one.” And now she looks a little apologetic and a lot less like she wants to hit you! Selective honesty is the best policy!

“So, do I just pick out a new bike now?”

“Your account has been authorized up to the full list value of the motorcycle that was destroyed. Um, did you bring any evidence of the destroyed vehicle? I'll need to file it an-...” The agents speech was cut off as the shorter Hero failed his suppression and loud laughter issued forth from the small man.

“Go pick out your new toy, Tricky. I'll show the nice man the photos.” The taller Hero offered a glare at her colleague, but then turned and walked out towards the rows of motorcycles on the lot. Her angry stride had practically become an excited prance by the time she reached the first row.

Andrew suddenly found the grey suited Hero standing directly in front of him, and blinked a few times in surprise as he processed the change in position before calmly asking, “Pictures?”

“One of the police officers at the scene was kind enough to lend me a Polaroid camera.” Reaching into a concealed internal pocket, the Hero produced a thin stack of photos.

Looking at the first picture, the DVA agent found himself struggling to keep his expression impassive as well. Holy shit, a mail box. Or what's left of a mail box, right in the middle of the bike. And she said... seven blocks? Jesus, those have to be some long odds. Looking through the rest of the picture he was momentarily confused by the last one as it seemed to be focused on someone waving at the camera from quite a ways off, until he noted the person seemed to be standing in a blast crater. Oh, so that's where the mailbox started its flight. Yeah, definitely filing this one as a 'No Fault' on the part of the Hero.

As the two men were wrapping up with the photos, Andrew finally relenting and letting the shorter Hero keep one of the pictures of the mailbox smashed bike, they turned to check on the progress towards purchasing the replacement. Trick Move appeared to have found the motorcycle she desired, but was now arguing with one of the dealership's employees about something. Gotta give that man credit, he's standing in front of a Hero certified Super and not backing off at all. Or maybe he's just crazy.

Andrew's thought had barely finished forming when the main door to the dealer banged open loudly and a manic voice screamed, “NOBODY MOVE!”

Both Hero and agent turned slowly to see a large man wearing a filthy green jacket and a ski mask standing in the middle of the showroom and brandishing a shotgun. “ALRIGHT! WHOEVER'S IN CHARGE BRING ME ALL THE CASH YOU HAVE OR PEOPLE START DYING?”

“Is this, do you think this is one of those camera shows?” The grey suited Hero sounded genuinely shocked and curious as he watched the large man screaming at the cowering staff. A glance over his shoulder showed Andrew that the second Hero on the property had also noticed the commotion.

There are two, in uniform, Heroes standing in plain site. At a motorcycle dealership that probably doesn't HAVE any cash. “Maybe? It's also possible that he's just really really stupid.” The short Hero nodded in response to that and began walking over to the seemingly enraged, and very stupid, gunman.

“Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to get down on the floor and wait for the police to come and arrest you.” Andrew noted that the Hero seemed not at all concerned about the firearm, and more interested in something to do with his left ear as he walked across the room.

“Fuck you little man. I know all about you Heroes. I ain't a Super, so you can't touch me!” The dirty man grinned down at the much shorter one standing in front of him as he spoke.

Yep, definitely just REALLY stupid.

“You seem to be suffering from some misinformation, as well as severely deficient personal hygiene. Please sit down and wait to be arrested.” At some point during his speech the Hero had acquired the larger man's shotgun, and had nearly finished dismantling it by the time he finished.

“HEY! That's MINE!” The would-be robber lunged towards the small Hero and pile of shotgun parts, only to stall after a half step and collapse to the ground holding his stomach.

“I really do need you to wait right there until the police can come and arrest you. DON'T try to get up.” The man on the ground only whimpered softly in response.

Damn, I didn't even see him move. “Do we need to call for the police?”

“Nah, one of the employees hit the silent alarm when he kicked open the door. And Dispatch should ALSO have alerted them, assuming she's done laughing in my ear.”

“Good news!” The cheerful tone from the female Hero as she reentered the room drew attention away from the collapsed, gasping criminal on the floor. “Since we stopped a daylight robbery and the sales guy figures the publicity will be great, they've agreed to throw in the custom paint job on my new bike!”

“That's what you were arguing about?” The DVA agent managed to keep a mostly neutral voice, though he was struggling to keep from smiling as he noticed all the dealership employees staring in shock at the three visitors.

“Well yeah. I wouldn't look very professional without it!”

Andrew Liste brought his hand to his face to rub his eyes, and conceal a smile. “Of course, wouldn't want our Heroes looking less than color coordinated after all.”


 


 

12:08 pm


 

“I can't believe how long that paperwork took.” Linda leaned against the side of the food truck they had stopped at as she whined at her mentor. “I mean seriously, one guy with a shotgun and we were filling out forms for forty minutes. It took less than ten when there were two Supers involved!”

“That's the nature of it, Tricky.” Ed smiled as his intern scowled at his persistence with the nickname he'd selected for her. “When a Hero responds to a situation with no call in, they want a LOT more details. I think it was originally to make sure we weren't going vigilante style or something like that.” Grabbing the sandwiches and bottled drinks from the incredibly nervous/excited food preparer at the truck window, the shorter Hero moved to a nearby table and waved the taller woman to follow.

“Don't you normally have to pay for things like that?” Linda sat down at the table with her mentor, and developed a puzzled look when he responded to her question with laughter.

“Didn't look at the name on the truck, didja.”

Turning the brunette raised a hand to shield out the sun long enough to read the banner just above the serving window, 'Fast Break's Fast Break,' before turning incredulously to the still laughing man. “You own a food truck?”

“I own a CHAIN of food trucks! Some Heroes want to see themselves in comic books or cartoons, some of them want their own line of clothing. I wanted something a little more practical.”

“You licensed your Hero identity to promote a chain of food trucks... So that you could get free lunches.” The tall woman still wore a look of shock as she unwrapped the sandwich her colleague had placed in front of her.

“The extra income is nice too.” The grey suited Hero's voice dropped low and became very serious as he leaned forward. “Plus I've got a nice set of surveillance gear hidden on all the trucks. It provides some decent intel for Street Level from time to time.”

“Street Level?”

Ah, right. We kinda jumped right into things without much time to explain. You know most Heroes work in teams, right?” Linda resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the question and simply nodded instead. “Street Level is kind of like a Hero team. We're more loosely organized than most, don't have a single unified HQ, and we don't advertise the way most of the big teams do. Basically we're focused on getting sufficient coverage to have quick frontline responders where ever they're needed.”

“Isn't that kind of the point of having Heroes in general?”

“Not all Heroes want to spend all their hours down in the dirt dealing with 'small fries.'” From the tone with which Ed spoke the last two words, Linda assumed there was a less than pleasant story about another Hero involved there. “We spend a lot less time looking for glory and a lot more time patrolling the streets and looking for trouble.”

“So I see I have an extra glamorous internship ahead of me.” The smile she wore took the sting out of the sarcastic statement, as the brunette finally took a bite out of her lunch. Her expression immediately changed. “Oh god, this is good. This is from a food truck?” She turned to look at the truck behind her as if in shock.

Ed laughed at the response. “I was a culinary arts major, thank you very much. All the recipes are mine, and I demand quality from all my franchises.” The speedster had already finished his one sandwich and was halfway through a second.

Linda turned her attention back to her meal and tuned out her mentor as he started a, apparently, well rehearsed speech extolling the virtues of various ingredients and how they played into menu selection for a food truck business. Both speech and meal were interrupted a few moments later by a chiming sound.

“This is Dispatch with a top priority deployment.” The faintly accented female voice coming through the earpieces contained a great deal more urgency than the rookie Hero recalled from the earlier exchange. Seeing her mentor's sudden change from animated to serious, Linda felt her own anxiety rising slightly. “Confirmed Super attack in Victorville, California, currently in progress. Initial DVA assessment is Manhattan class threat. Repeat, Manhattan class.”

The tall brunette gasped slightly in surprise at that part of the announcement, before she felt the blood drain from her face in shock at Dispatch's next words. “Hero down. Repeat, Hero down.”

The black and red suited woman dropped her sandwich and vaulted over the table in a dead run for her bike, even as the smaller grey suited man brought a hand up to his own earpiece. “Fast Break and Trick Move responding. Fast Break ETA ten minutes.” Ed caught the younger Hero's attention as she swung herself onto her bike, tapped his ear once as a reminder, then vanished down the street in a blur.

About sixty miles, pretty straight shot on the road. Too far, not fast enough. With no sign of hesitation the tall woman produced a short, wicked looking blade from her belt and slammed it into a carefully concealed slot in the left leg of her uniform. That should do it. “This is Trick Move, ETA 15 minutes.”


 

12:32pm


 

The scene that met the rookie Hero as she got closer to her destination was something out of her nightmares. Oh God, that's a school. The attack was at a school. The swirling red lines of motion that her power showed her made it easy to determine where the battle had moved to, as did the ceaseless staccato of small arms fire. If the police aren't falling back, this has to be bad.

Ditching the new bike into an alley as she approached, Linda came charging out into the relatively open street, and got her first look at her target. It was almost unbelievable when she realized that all the destruction was centered around a young girl, not possibly more than fifteen or sixteen. High school was the first attack site. Shit, take away the powers and she'd easily get the part pf 'picked on girl at school' in afterschool special. Where the fuck is Ed though?

As she took a second to analyze the situation, a flurry of red blasted across her field of vision as she realized her mentor was still in the fight, moving in and out at near supersonic speeds to avoid the rogue Super's power, which the girl helpfully demonstrated as some type of massive shockwave generation in a futile attempt to take out the speedster that had just shoved her at high speed further away from the more populated buildings. He's still trying to contain her, and she doesn't even look injured. Gunshots still rang out from a few of the braver, or crazier, police officers still on the scene, but none of them seemed to be having an effect on their target. They're just firing to distract, what the hell is her ability that makes her bulletproof AND Ed can't hurt her?

Another shockwave from the girl standing in the street took out a large chunk of a building near the tall brunette Hero, accompanied by pained screams as some of the shooters were suddenly pinned or crushed by the rubble. No more time for analysis Linda, time to get our game face on.

Not able to come close to matching her mentor's speed, but still far faster than any normal human, Linda charged silently towards her opponent while the girl's attention was grabbed by another close pass by the grey suited speedster. Just a few, more, feet...

The black and red suited Hero's expression turned grim as the girl spun a split second before the taller woman could reach her, and raised a hand. Ah fuck, this is gonna hurt.

Linda pulled all of her focus back to her own body, hardening herself against movement, blocking any motion transferring beyond her skin becoming her sole effort. The force of the shockwave still sent her spinning off the pavement to bounce THROUGH the wall of a diner, leaving her to pick herself up out of the wreckage and assess her injuries. Right leg, broken. Left arm, dislocated at the elbow and the shoulder. At least one cracked rib, maybe two. And I'm bleeding from some new places. Still functional. MY TURN.

There were shouts of surprise from the still present law enforcement officers as they saw the Hero, who had just been blasted through a building, stride out of the wreckage seemingly unaffected by the obvious injuries she now bore. Linda's eyes widened as she reached the street, and her now drastically amplified power showed her the world in greater detail. She saw, almost as if in slow motion, the red trails of the bullets being fired at the rogue Super, and she saw the energy dissipate entirely as it came within a few inches of striking its target. Absorber. She's a kinetic absorber and amplifier. Fucking hell, they're just feeding her! “EVERYONE STOP SHOOTING!” A pause as the tall woman spat out a mouthful of blood. “STOP SHOOTING!”

“Trick Move this is Dispatch, relaying your request to police band and other Heroes on scene and en route.” The voice in her ear startled the battered Hero for a moment, before she smiled at the efficiency of Dispatch.

“In case this doesn't work, relay that the Manhattan class rogue Super is a kinetic absorber and amplifier.”

“Lightshow and The Adamant are less than two minutes out.” Linda continued to walk forward as she processed that update.

“Tell them it'll be over by then, or they'll be picking up pieces of me.”

“Good luck.”

The tall woman hadn't been idle as she'd spoken, instead she had continued to close the distance between herself and her opponent. The young girl seemed even more shocked than the officers at her reemergence from the wrecked building, and didn't manage to mount any further attacks until the Hero had closed almost half the distance.

“Go away!” The scream from the girl was accompanied by another massive blast of kinetic energy, but Linda could see it all coming now. The air around her flowed differently, and none of the motion touched her body as the blast washed over her harmlessly. “GO AWAY!” A second blast, then a third, all struck the advancing Hero without effect. The young girl's screams became more and more unintelligible as the tall woman walked closer.

She's completely lost it. Linda was close enough to see the expression in the younger girl's eyes. No trace of sanity. Does she even realize what she's doing?

The girl didn't run as the Hero closed to within arm's reach, instead releasing a far more massive and omnidirectional blast while screaming incoherently. Linda weathered the blast, then reached forward and placed her hand against her opponent's throat. A few seconds later the girl dropped to the ground, unconscious.

“That was a hell of a trick.” Linda looked over to see her mentor appear, breathing heavily. “Is she...”

“Out cold. We need to get capture unit out here that can keep her sedated.” The tall woman sagged slightly with exhaustion before noting the still questioning look from her mentor. “Movement control, remember? From close enough I can see how things are moving inside the body. I just stopped blood from flowing through the carotid for a few seconds.”

Ed nodded in understanding. “Instant sleeper hold. Well, I have to say this is probably close to a record for a rookie to have to deal with on their fir-...” The speech was interrupted by a rumbling, crashing noise from the direction of the school where the incident had started.

“Oh fuck, are there still people in there?” Linda was already forcing her battered body to move as she spoke.

“At least a couple hundred took shelter in the basement rooms.” The older Hero grabbed his colleague's shoulder and pulled her to a stop. “You need to stay here until she's in custody.”

“But there's-...”

“Nope. You've proven you can take whatever she dishes out, which means if she wakes up it's on YOU to put her out again. I expect there will be plenty of work left for you to do after the pick up.”

The tall brunette nodded in reluctant acknowledgment, and turned to guard her prisoner until relieved.


 

6:44pm


 

Oh God why did I think it was good idea to be a Hero. Linda's body shook with the strain of keeping itself upright as she focused her power into keeping a wall from collapsing while her compatriots dug more trapped civilians out of the rubble. In the aftermath of the girl's rampage five more buildings had partially collapsed, leaving hundreds more people in dire need of rescue before the collapses became complete. We should have more help than this.

The Adamant, a man who stood not more than five feet tall and probably less than a hundred and twenty pounds had stayed on scene after arriving, and was now assisting Linda by forcing his indestructible body into the rubble and using his incredible strength to assist her in clearing paths to the victims. The other slightly too late arrival, the much flashier Lightshow, had examined the capture and declared there was nothing there that he could do better than civilian Emergency Services and left. Linda was still fuming about the dismissive manner in which the egotistical blond had departed.

“Hey!” Linda forced her eyes to focus as she realize she had greyed out for a moment, and the strangely accented voice of the small man in front of her pulled her back to reality. “You push too hard, Trick Moves. You need to go out and see Reset, she put you back together right.”

“Can't see the healers yet.” The tall woman pushed past the much shorter man and forced another wall to return to its proper position and stay there. The nearly immediate cries for help from somewhere on the other side of the newly shifted rubble brought a pause to the conversation as the diminutive strongman burrowed in to find the source, and emerged a minute later carrying an unconscious man with both legs crushed, accompanied by a pair of sobbing children.

“There there little ones. Your papa is a strong man who protected you, he will be okay. Follow us while we get him outside.” The short Hero kept up a litany of calming speech to the nearly panicked children as he continued to carry their father to safety, with the taller Hero staggering along with the group and making sure their escape route didn't fall in on them.

Finally reaching the street, Linda was surprised to see them met immediately by another Hero, a woman wearing a black and grey outfit that looked like it was trying to resemble a computer of some kind. The Adamant offered the woman a grateful expression as he laid his stricken passenger on the street, and she leaned down to place both her hands on his head. A flash of light went through the man, and Linda found herself gawking as all his obvious injuries simply vanished, and he immediately began to groggily sit up.

“Please lay back for a moment and gather yourself, sir.” The healer spoke with a calming, yet authoritative tone. “Your children are right here, please rest a moment, then report to one of the relief stations so they can confirm your identity and help get you taken care of.”

Linda turned to head back into the building as the man began to spout effusive thanks to the Heroes that had rescued him and his children, when she found her way blocked by the tiny strong man and felt a soft touch on her shoulder. The brunette flinched away before the other woman could use her ability, and turned an angry glare on the healer.

“It's time to take a break, Trick.” The healer met the angry look with a calm expression, but the steel in her voice actually rocked the taller woman back a step.

“You don't understand, my abil-...”

“Your mentor explained it to us. However you've been going non-stop for HOURS. I'm also informed that the only food you've had to eat today was about two bites of a sandwich. So...” Before the exhausted woman could move the healer had both hands on her, “you are getting a reset and a rest whether you like it or not.” Linda saw the flash of light as the other woman's power triggered, but then everything went dark for awhile.


 

11:47pm


 

The cot nearly fell over as the tall woman occupying it jerked awake. A frantic moment's examination confirmed that her costume was intact, and a deeper inspection showed that her injuries were gone.

“Welcome back.” Looking to her side Linda saw the familiar form of her mentor, leaning back in a folding chair near where she had been passed out. “Relax, stay on the cot, we're covered.” Leaning down to grab a bag off the floor he tossed it to the still confused looking woman. “Relief shift showed up, all the buildings are clear.”

Opening the bag and seeing it contents caused the brunette's stomach to growl loudly, as she pulled out the chips and sandwich and began to devour them as if they were the greatest food she'd ever tasted. Finally managing to pause after a few minutes of gorging herself, Linda looked back up at her mentor. “How many...?”

“Preliminary reports indicate about six hundred dead, and almost ten times that in serious injuries. We won't now for sure until they finish sifting through the rubble, but we had an telepath drop through and scan to make sure there weren't any more survivors to dig out.”

Linda sagged back down on her cot and tried to keep the tears out of her eyes. “So many...”

“Nope.” The denial was accompanied by a quick palm slap the the moping woman's head, drawing her up with an enraged expression that was met with a look of steely resolve. “Not so many. So FEW. The initial assessment of Manhattan class was confirmed. That girl could have leveled this entire city and there would be THOUSANDS dead. YOU stopped her, faster than anyone would have believed possible, and on your very first day on the job. Don't get caught up in the lives you couldn't save, celebrate all the ones that you DID.”

“Does that really work?”

“If it doesn't work for you, then you'd better find something else and quick. This is a hard life you've signed up for. If you can't focus on the good parts, it will break you in a hurry.”

The brunette sat on her cot in silence for several long minutes before she responded again. “So, is there any more food left?”

Ed laughed at the plaintive question from his young intern. “Come on, I think a couple of my trucks run all night. You can finish that lunch you had to leave on the table earlier.”