7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero
Subject: Linda Scoven, Wednesday
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Linda made eye contact across the crowd with the large, happy looking man with his receding hairline and slightly out of date business wear.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.
“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?”
“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?”
“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.
“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!
“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.
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.”