Blades & Barriers: Chapter 12

                “…and that pretty much covers the after-action form filing requirements. If you forget anything, don’t worry, it’s all documented in your hand-outs.” Somehow, Danny was still upbeat as the meeting neared the end of its second hour. Meanwhile, Brett was staring into the depths of his coffee cup, wishing dearly he’d grabbed a bigger one as his willpower battled his eyelids in a valiant effort to stay conscious. Justin was sitting stock-still on the other side of the table, moving so little that Brett had started to wonder if he’d managed to fall asleep with his eyes open.

                The fact that Danny was still peppy as he loaded a new slideshow onto the screen made Brett suspect that he was either a master deceiver, a genuine optimist, or was shotgunning amphetamines every time the interns weren’t looking. As Brett tried to puzzle out which was the most likely, he noticed the title of the next slideshow’s topic as it appeared on the flatscreen television hooked to Danny’s laptop. Suddenly, he wasn’t tired in the slightest, and across the table Justin seemed to sit up a little straighter.

                “Moving on, it’s time to talk about your DVA active-statuses as Heroes,” Danny said, clicking a few final keys to enlarge the slideshow program’s display. “There are three standard statuses for every Hero: on duty, on call, and inactive. Your mentors will walk you through some of the complexities within each category, but I want to give you a quick bird’s eye view over what these entail. To start with the most obvious: on duty means that you are actively working on an assignment, be it fighting criminal Supers, secretly pursuing a crook back to their gang hide-out, or even hacking into someone’s system. Anything that would be detrimental to pull you away from categorizes you as on duty. I should note that while you’ll seldom ever be pulled off an active assignment, it does happen from time to time if we’ve got a serious threat and your power is deemed necessary.”

                That made sense to Brett, busting some small time hoodlums paled in comparison to taking down a highly destructive Super. Part of Hero work was about saving the greatest number of people possible, and coping with the guilt of knowing not even super-human abilities allowed them to save everyone. It was a bitter pill; one his father had driven in countless times after Brett declared his intention to be a Hero. Hank Rhodes wasn’t entirely against his son’s career choice, but he’d been vocal about the desire to make sure Brett walked in with his eyes wide-open.

                “On call is the most common status, by a large margin you’ll be registered as it more than the other two.” Danny clicked a button on his computer, bringing up a slide showing a map of the United States. “Essentially, it means what you’d expect from the name. We have people tracking crimes and evaluating threats all over the nation. When one arises that you’re a good fit for, you and your team are tapped to go handle it.”

                “Hang on, I thought we were dealing with Port Valins,” Brett interrupted. He had chosen this town for the frequent action, after all. It would be a shame if he ended up getting cats out of trees in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere.

                “Generally, we do use local Heroes to deal with crimes in their own back yard, but this is a big country, and we only get fifty new Heroes every year.” Reaching up, Danny tapped a knuckle on the flat screen. “Even with the pre-existing ones, that’s nowhere near enough for every major city to have it’s own Hero, let alone team. That’s why every Hero or team without a teleporter in the roster has access to DVA-approved transportation like myself. You’re based in Port Valins, but you work wherever you’re needed.”

                Justin raised his hand politely, and Danny pointed to him. “Forgive me, but that still seems to be spreading it a bit thin. If Heroes are responding to every crime, we should be working non-stop, round the clock, and still coming up tremendously short.”

                “Very true,” Danny agreed. “If we were responding to every crime. However, Heroes are assigned by the DVA specifically to deal with criminal Supers, and there are vastly fewer of those. To start with, our kind represents an almost statistically negligible percentage of the human race. And out of those few, you have plenty who use their gifts productively. They may work ss Heroes, soldiers, PEERS, SAA athletes, EMTs, or any other similar profession. Then you have the ones who simply lead normal lives, their abilities nothing more than a curious quirk about who they are or perhaps a fun party trick. When you boil it down, the number of Supers who turn to crime compose a fraction of a fraction of overall illegal activities across the country. It’s just that when Supers go bad, they tend to make much bigger waves, so it sticks in people’s heads.”

                “But I’ve seen Heroes stop mundane bad guys too,” Brett protested. “There was an article about a super-speeder who caught some muggers back home just yesterday.”

                Danny nodded, cheer unabated by Brett’s questioning. “As I was saying, on call means that the DVA will allocate you as needed to deal with criminal Supers. But at the top of the presentation I told you that this was only your DVA status, what you do as a team might be greatly different. While on call, you could be out in Port Valins, patrolling the streets and stopping low-level crime, or doing charity work, or helping rebuild broken bits of town from the last fight. We call you in when the serious work needs doing; in between those instances it’s on you to determine how you better the world.”

                Although he had more questions, Brett kept them stayed on his tongue. What Danny had said was giving him a lot to think about, it was probably better to wait, process, and listen before he asked something that had an obvious answer. This was a little different than he’d been expecting, the HCP had drilled combat and survival into the students at every turn. Finding out he was going to have to deal with something as unexpected as downtime left Brett a bit unsettled.

                “Last on the list is inactive,” Danny continued. “This is a status you’ll use when sleeping, in official DVA meetings, while undergoing medical procedures or therapy, and however often you choose to take a day off. By law, a Hero is entitled to go inactive one day per week for rest and recovery, although you’re not obligated to take the time if you don’t want to. However, and this is something passed only in the last decade, you do have to take at least thirty days off at some point in the year. We had a lot of problems with Heroes feeling compelled to work non-stop and burning themselves out, so for the sake of your own mental health you must go inactive for at least thirty days in a calendar year. If you reach the end of the year with left over days, the DVA will automatically register you as inactive until the days are spent. Here’s the thing to remember though: inactive doesn’t mean you can’t be called in.”

                Brett’s brow furrowed in confusion; however he resisted the urge to speak up. Counter-intuitive as the statement seemed, Danny was clearly gearing up to explain.

                “Inactive essentially means that you’re on the back of the roster, the absolute last people called in to deal with a situation. However, you both understand that sometimes a threat will arise that cannot be stalled or met with half-measures. In those instances, if you’re deemed necessary then you’ll be called in, status be damned. No one’s time off is worth a tremendous loss of life. It doesn’t happen often, mind you, but it is something you need to be aware of.”

                Danny reached into his bag, resting on the floor since he pulled his laptop out, and pulled free two small boxes. Walking slowly, he made his way around the table, setting one down in front of each young man. Once he’d circled back to his starting position, he motioned for both of them to open the boxes.

                “As for how you’ll be communicating these statuses and getting your assignments, that’s handled by a DVA representative who will always be in your ears. Barrier, Gunk, it’s time for you to meet Dispatch.”