There was no good time to leave behind people she didn’t trust, but a formal dinner was as decent a chance as she was going to get. After spending the day driving around chasing flimsy leads that turned into dead ends, Iliana and Steven had retired back to the hotel they owned to engage in more traditional diplomatic duties. Specifically, they were having a nice meal with representatives of multiple agencies, talking over possible alliances with United Avalon. Unseelie hated to leave those two unwatched, however between all the state and DVA security, not to mention Hammerspace and Bloodfyre, it seemed highly unlikely that anything would happen over the course of the meal. And she had to make use of this time, because much as she didn’t want to turn her back on the diplomats, the idea of letting her interns go off with someone Unseelie had never met was entirely unacceptable.
She slipped away between the soup and salad course, intending to be back by the end of entrees, maybe dessert at the latest. Unseelie followed Dispatch’s directions out of the hotel, down a few back alleys and into a building that could have passed for abandoned if one didn’t catch the telltale signs of squatters. Creeping along the stairs that barely held her weight, Unseelie finally arrived at the designated meeting spot and pushed the door open.
“Slowly, if you don’t mind. I have trust issues.”
The voice came from the other side, and Unseelie obliged the request, both because she needed this man’s help and due to the fact that it was perfectly reasonable. Gradually moving the door, she stepped through carefully. In the shadow of a hallway was a figure that she could just make out as male, although it might have been harder without the voice to tip her off.
“If you’d be so kind, I’d like to see a demonstration of your power. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just proof that you aren’t an illusion. Carve a circle into the floor.”
That was a little more paranoid than the slow door opening, but again he had a point, so she obliged. Pulling out a diamond from one of the pockets on her costume, Unseelie formed it into a dagger, squatted down, and gouged a near-perfect circle into the worn wood of the floor.
“There’s still the possibility that you’re a mimic or some other Super I haven’t heard of yet, but since Dispatch routed you here it seems unlikely. I guess that will do for now.” The man emerged from the shadows, sporting a ski-mask rather than anything Hero-issued.
“That’s an interesting fashion choice.”
He gave a shrug that sent ripples down the worn trenchcoat obscuring most of his frame. “In my day-to-day work, I don’t wear a mask. I bought this one special just for our meeting. Since I have to let you remember it, I’d rather you not be able to pick me out from a crowd.”
“Little time as I’ve got, I think I’m going to have to ask for you to explain a statement that cryptic.”
His eyes blinked quickly, and a short smile poked out from under the mask. “Glad to hear Dispatch is getting better about not giving too much away. To make it short and simple, my power makes people forget about me. How fast it happens depends on how much effort I put into it, but as a rule I usually have the effect working in some capacity at all times. These sorts of moments are a rare exception where I turn it all the way off, hence the precautions. Word was that you wanted to get people in and out of a place leaving as little trace as possible, so Dispatch tapped me to do the favor.”
A Hero that no one could remember… Unseelie could instantly see the usefulness of such a power, and she imagined a man who lived with it would come up with countless more creative ways to wield such a gift. It also seemed problematic, at least potentially so, since someone who couldn’t be remembered would also be hard to hold accountable to his actions. That was a worry for Dispatch and the government to deal with though, Unseelie had her own concerns.
“What do I call you?”
“DV will do just fine. Run the name by Dispatch when this is over if you need to, she’s one of the few people constantly aware of me and what I do. And you’re Unseelie, the Hero sending out interns on a fact-finding mission that is just barely on the side of being allowed. I assume you wanted this meeting to vet or threaten me, to make sure I take proper care of your new recruits.”
“That’s… pretty accurate,” Unseelie admitted.
Another coat-ruffling shrug. “You tend to stick to your profile. Relax, this isn’t my first time doing work that’s barely legal. Sometimes I even get the jobs that fall on the other side of the line. I know I come off a little creepy, but I’m still a Hero. With my power, I could be living in luxury without anyone even knowing I’d committed a crime, and yet here I am in this shithole talking to you. I do this work because I believe in it, and I’m not going to let anything happen to a bunch of rookies.”
It was exactly what she’d been hoping to hear, which made the statement problematic. “You’ve clearly done your research on me, so how do I know you didn’t craft that speech specifically to put me at ease? It felt a bit too on-the-nose.”
The smile poking through the mask grew a touch wider. “You’re smarter than your file lets on, and it doesn’t exactly paint you as a dumb brute. To answer the question: you don’t know that I’m not faking my way through all of this. I’m a Subtlety Hero, and one of the better hidden ones at that. But you’re the one who needs the favor, not me. You can either be okay with this or send someone else, someone who might not be as good at their job, in my place. If you need to trust someone though, trust Dispatch. She’s the one who set this meeting up. Do you really think she would point you to a Hero she didn’t believe could get the job done?”
He had her there. If she was going to start doubting Dispatch, Unseelie might as well hang up the mask tonight. Between assignments, information, and basic communication, all Heroes depended on Dispatch nearly as much as their own powers. No one was better informed about the Hero world or the people in it. If Dispatch thought DV was the right man for the job, then he almost certainly was.
“When can you be ready to go?” Unseelie asked.
“A couple of days, at the most. I’ve got my own case to finish up before I take off on the ‘vacation’ you’ve got planned. Tell your interns to keep their bags packed though. I don’t have much spare time, so when I arrive to start things rolling I expect them to be ready.”
“My interns will be waiting,” Unseelie shot back. “They’re a competent set who just need a little guidance. I’ve got a lot of hope for all three of them, so I expect to get them all back in relatively unharmed condition.”
A soft chuckle escaped DV’s lips as he stepped back into the shadow. “I’ll do my best, but that’s more up to United Avalon than me.”
While I try not to plug things too much on these posts, since folks have been asking I'm going to put up a link to the anthology where DV first appeared. It's not a required read for this book, but if you'd like to know more about him you can see him in action here: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Fight-Scott-Bachmann-ebook/dp/B00KTD4UVI