Blades & Barriers: Chapter 15

                The good cheer around the table didn’t evaporate at Milly’s words; however everyone’s hands slowed as they halted dumping food from takeout containers onto their plates. Even Brett, who was admittedly not the greatest study of international politics, knew about United Avalon. It was the sort of event that tended to make headlines, especially among the Super community.

                United Avalon was a small cluster of islands located Northwest of Cuba, just at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico.  Ten years ago, when it was the Republic of Krezic, the place was unremarkable save for its tourism and tropical locales. At least, that was what the international community had believed. Then the rebellion came. It was swift, precise, and incredibly successful. In a single night, the Republic of Krezic fell and United Avalon rose in its place. Only then did the real story begin to trickle out.

                Like most nations, Krezic had reacted to the existence of Supers by trying to implement a governmental program for their monitoring and regulation. As it turned out, however, their leadership wasn’t content with merely working with Supers. No, they wanted to control every aspect of those with abilities, and that included pushing how far their powers could be taken. In the ensuing international investigation by the UN, it all came to light: enslavement, experimentation, torture and blackmail to force cooperation. It was no wonder the Supers had risen up, and no one was able to fault them for overthrowing their oppressors. In ordinary circumstances, that would more or less have been the end of it.

                But United Avalon wasn’t like most countries. By fighting back and taking control, it’s Supers had also created the first nation to be ruled over by people with powers. They hadn’t shied away from that either. United Avalon had immediately begun passing new legislation to make the islands a safe place for Supers. Brett didn’t know much about the specifics, that part had been too boring to research, however he was aware that their leadership and policies had led to hundreds of Supers deserting their home nations to seek a fresh start in United Avalon. Given how rare and precious people with abilities were, that fact alone placed them in a precarious place on the international stage.

                “Why Port Valins?” Justin asked. “Why wouldn’t they go to DC? That seems like the place where diplomats would need to be for business.”

                “They’ve been to DC many a time,” Milly said. “That’s not what this is about. Back when Krezic was still a country, a lot of Supers’ families fled to Port Valins so they couldn’t be used as leverage or killed as collateral damage. They went deep into hiding, so much so that a lot of them remain unfindable to this day. The diplomats have formally requested the right to come in and set up an outreach program, designed to find and relocate those people, assuming they want to return. Even after all these years, a lot of them are still afraid Krezic will rise back up, so the diplomats want to send the message that United Avalon is here to stay and willing to welcome them home with open arms.”

                “That… doesn’t actually sound so bad.” Brett chose his words carefully. It was obvious that this development wasn’t ideal, but he couldn’t quite fathom how that kind of outreach was such a problem.

                “The program in itself isn’t an issue,” Milly told him. “But United Avalon has a lot of people who don’t like their existence. Bringing them anywhere courts trouble. Last year, some Humanity Purist assholes tried to bomb a building where United Avalon was in talks with the government to expedite visas for their human citizens. Thankfully, they were caught and stopped, but the delegation in Britain wasn’t so lucky. Port Valins is already something of a powder keg in its own right; this is like importing a bunch of already lit matches.”

                “We’ve dealt with worse,” Unseelie said. “All we can do is prepare, be ready, and react when the need arises. The rest will be in the DVA’s hands.”

                “Yeah, about that. The DVA has actually requested that some Heroes take on bodyguard shifts during the diplomats’ visit. They aren’t assigning the posts yet, but we both know they will if there isn’t enough coverage.” Milly’s own appetite had evidently grown larger than her concern, as she grabbed a nearby foil container and began scooping pasta onto her plate in large piles.

                Unseelie considered the issue for several moments, taking a few bites of food and draining her water halfway down, before finally giving Milly a nod. “Sign us up for a couple of days’ worth of shifts. You know everyone’s schedule better than I do, so find where we’ve got the space to make it work. If these people are going to be in our town, I’d rather we be the ones watching over them. Just in case.”

                “No problem,” Milly said. “Should I plan for the whole team, or do we need to peel a few off to keep watch over the interns?”

                Brett froze, his fork halfway to his mouth, as he realized they were talking about him. Well, him, Justin, and Angela. Truth be told, he wasn’t entirely sure if he wanted to go do this job or not, protecting diplomats wasn’t exactly the reason he’d worked so hard to become a Hero in the first place. But if it helped Port Valins and made things safer, then he’d do all he could. Besides, he was an intern, it wasn’t like he really had a choice in the matter.

                “Get me the planned schedule for the diplomats’ visit and then I’ll decide,” Unseelie replied. “I want to make sure these two get enough time in the field to properly mesh with the team before we throw them into something that delicate.”

                “With all the details and negotiations still left to handle, I think we’ve got at least a few weeks until they show up, at the earliest. But I’ll put something together by the end of the night for you to look over anyway.”

                Unseelie seemed satisfied by that, and after a few more bites she nodded to Bayou. “Elmer, what about you? Any luck on the new breed of vine?”

                From next to Justin, Elmer began excitedly talking about a new species he was trying to engineer, using words that went past Brett’s understanding of the subject right out of the gate. Brett considered himself a pretty smart guy, he’d managed to keep a high GPA even with his HCP activities, but it was evident that Elmer was working on a whole other level. Then again, the guy lived, breathed, and literally surrounded himself with plants. Elmer should know the subject better than anyone else in the room, if not the entire state.

                For his part, Brett tried to listen politely while shoveling his dinner down. Though not as action-filled as he’d expected, it was a nice evening, all things considered. Intern or not, Brett had listened to his professors and guest speakers in the HCP enough to know that moments of peace were meant to be savored, because they only came along so often. So Brett kept his mind on the food and conversation, trying very hard to quiet the eager part of him that yearned to step out into the field as Barrier for the first time.

                That would come soon. And once it did, there would be no going back to what his life had been before.