Blades & Barriers: Chapter 11

                With the demonstration over, Bayou, Bloodfyre, and Unseelie all headed off to handle other tasks, while Angela led Brett and Justin on a brief tour of the building. Aside from the gym, sparring area, and conference room they’d already seen, there was also an armory (though they weren’t allowed in yet), a garage with various vehicles, several offices, a massive communal area with a modern kitchen and sizable television, and of course their own bedrooms.

                Brett had tried to keep his expectations well-managed as far as accommodations went. He knew that lots of Hero teams tended to skimp on luxuries, only the more popular and established ones having nice places to lay their heads down. Even among those, the quarters for interns were usually kept bare-bones. It was assumed a new Hero had better places to be than alone in their rooms, be it out on the job or training to improve. So he was pleasantly surprised at the size of his room with the Wayward Wraiths. It was sparse, sure, but there was ample space to move around in. He might even be able to fit a comfortable loveseat inside, if self-furnishing was permitted. All that it came with was a bed, a dresser, and a desk with a plastic chair. Like most people his age, Brett had brought his own computer with him, so the absence of one wasn’t an issue.

                It did have an attached bathroom, which was a perk Brett hadn’t been expecting and was dearly grateful for. Having lived in a dorm with communal restrooms in his freshman year at college, it wasn’t an experience he’d been eager to repeat. Even if one did hope a team of Heroes would be more sanitary than college students.

                “Not much, I know,” Angela said from the hallway as Brett and Justin looked around their rooms. “But it covers the three S necessities: shit, shower, and sleep. Plus, and I’m sure you both knew this, it’s not like you’ll be spending a lot of time here. In fact, if you’re done looking around, we need to get you both over to Danny. Now that you’ve met with your mentors and the team leader, it’s time for your DVA orientation. We’ll swing by the kitchen and get some coffee on the way; the presentation is a bit of a snoozer.”

                “What do we need to know about the DVA that we don’t already?” Brett asked. “The HCP was thorough about teaching us controlled force and how to act based on the threat level.”

                “Cursory shit that barely scratches the surface.” Angela was rocking on her heels slightly, visibly bored as she waited for them to finish with their rooms. “You need to learn about after-action reports, transportation requests, various readiness statuses, and, of course, scheduling.”

                “Shouldn’t this be something that the team walks us through?” Justin asked.

                “Did that sound like the sort of talk anyone would want to give?” Angela shot back. “Nope, Heroes always have something better to do, so this task gets tossed onto the DVA rep. It’s boring as shit, but Danny does his best to keep things light. And, much as I hate to admit it, the information he’s going to give you is necessary. We do work for the government, and you know how they are about red-tape and all that crap. At least knowing what we’re doing keeps us out of trouble. Plus, there’s a surprise near the end of the presentation.”

                Brett left his room, shutting the door firmly behind him. “I take it you’re not going to enlighten us as to what it is, since that would ruin the surprise?”

                “Look at you, keeping ahead of the curve.” Angela patted him roughly on the back. “Keep that up and Justin won’t be the smart one anymore.”

                “I don’t think I ever claimed that I was.” Justin emerged from his own room at the sound of his name.

                “You graduated as a Subtlety Hero, no one who knows that is going to believe that you’re dumb,” Angela said. “Now, do you want to keep piddling around, or did you want to get that coffee? Wait too long, and we won’t have time before your meeting with Danny.”

                Brett and Justin exchanged a brief glance, followed by a quick nod. Angela might be overselling how boring it was; she seemed the type to drift off mid-battle if it wasn’t tough enough for her liking. Still, it was their first day, and the last thing they needed was to make a bad impression by yawning through Danny’s lecture.

                “Let’s hit the kitchen,” Brett said. “I’d rather be over-caffeinated than under.”

*             *             *

                “I’d say its good luck. We needed a strongman, and if Brett’s shield is as powerful as his father’s then he can play the role reasonably well.” Bloodfyre sat a few chairs away from Unseelie, who was between he and Bayou at the sizable table. Behind them all was a screen displaying repeating video of Barrier and Gunk less than an hour before, when they’d shown off their abilities.

                “My concern is not that Brett Rhodes is a poor fit for the team and its current needs. His power is excellent, his record speaks for itself, and he’s clearly had enough training to acquire a good head on his shoulders. What bothers me is the fact that he’s never had that shield of his broken.” Unseelie’s eyes were locked on the screen showing Brett lifting Justin off the ground using only a single hand of his blue barrier.

                “Normally, I’d agree, that would lead to some ego issues, but with his loss to Angela I think he’s realized that even his power has limitations. We don’t need to deflate him, at least from what I can tell,” Bayou said.

                Unseelie shook her head. “It’s not the ego; it’s the lack of information. Ordinarily with a Super who has enhanced endurance, we can engage in sparring sessions, slowly ramping up the damage until we have a sense of how much they can withstand. Brett’s shield, however, doesn’t seem to wear down, only his stamina. While that durability is useful, the simple fact is that until we know how much abuse the shield can take, using it is dangerous. The more we lean on him, the worse off we’ll be when we encounter someone with enough power to overcome his defense.”

                “So what, you don’t want to let him into the field?” Bloodfyre didn’t expect this to be her actual plan, Unseelie knew that benching a new Hero without cause was doing them a serious disservice, and she was nothing if not fair. But all the same, he didn’t care much for beating around the bush. If she had a plan for his apprentice, it was something he deserved to know.

                “Nothing like that, Brett fought his way through the HCP and has every right to learn the trade of a Hero,” Unseelie replied. “However, our lack of information on his tolerance does pose a potential risk to him, the team, and anyone we might be protecting at the time. Given what we’ve seen in Port Valins over the last few months, I’m afraid such a risk cannot be allowed to stand.”

                Bayou squinted at Unseelie, his quick mind putting together the pieces. “You’re saying you want to know how to break him?”

                “Perhaps not break, but thoroughly test.” Unseelie stopped pointed up to the flickering video of Barrier on screen. “To properly train and utilize Brett Rhodes, our first priority is to do an assessment on just how much damage that shield of his can withstand.”