Blades & Barriers: Chapter 16

                Stepping out of the shower, Brett pulled on some sweatpants and a t-shirt, relieved to finally wash away the last of his long day. Dinner had been a nice cap on the experience, reminding him what the new job was really about, but all those hours with Danny learning DVA protocol were something else. While he’d known about the DVA, and their oversight with Heroes,  Brett had always imagined their role to be more in the background, only popping up when a Hero really screwed up or needed support. Finding out there was so much red tape for the job… well, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise given how rigorous the process just to become Hero-certified was.

                Brett was sitting on his bed, wondering if he should surf the web to do a little more research before turning in, when the knock on his door came. Walking barefoot across the cold floor, a brisk reminder that he might need to invest in a cheap rug, Brett pulled open the door to reveal Angela holding a small cooler. Behind her was Justin, looking a bit confused but still keeping close.

                “With all the team stuff finally done, I thought maybe we could use a drink. Just us interns.” Angela jiggled the cooler to drive the point home, a thoroughly unnecessary gesture. Without waiting for approval, she stepped into the room, followed by Justin who at least had the decency to look embarrassed. Grabbing Brett’s computer chair, she took a seat and then wheeled it over near the bed. “You boys going to stand there all night or join me?”

                “I’m not sure we should be drinking,” Brett said. “We’re on call, remember?”

                “We’re almost always on call, that doesn’t mean we put our lives on hold,” Angela replied. “And besides, we’re about to go non-active for sleep. So long as we stick to a beer each, we’re fine. Now come on, this cooler is a piece of shit and it won’t keep these cold for long.”

                Reaching in to the shoddily made cooler, she produced three bottles. In her free hand, she materialized a golden bottle opener and proceeded to pop the caps off each one. By the time Brett and Justin took their seats on Brett’s bed, the beers were open and being thrust into their hands.

                “Anybody got a toast?” She looked around, waiting to see if either would speak up.

                “You brought the beers,” Justin pointed out. “Don’t you have a toast to pair with them?”

                “Geez, do I have to do everything?” Angela tilted her head back for a moment, then raised her glass. “Fine: to the newest generation of interns. May we all live long enough to become true Heroes.”

                Everyone clicked their bottles together and took a sip of the beer which was, Brett had to admit, a welcome taste after a long day. “I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but wasn’t that kind of a bleak toast?”

                “Think so? Ask me that again this time next year.” Angela took a longer draw from her bottle than either of the other two, draining nearly a quarter of it in a single pull.

                “So, what should we expect next?” Justin asked, clearly changing the subject before the night took a morose turn. “And if you say more meetings with Danny, one of us is going to need to run to the liquor store because beer won’t cut it.”

                “Yes and no, you’re never really past the point of having meetings with Danny, he has a room here for a reason, but today was far and away the worst of it. Starting tomorrow, you’ll be costumed up and put out in the streets to do some good. The Wayward Wraiths do a lot of local patrols and general neighborhood PR to minimalize normal crime in the city. Usually no one is dumb enough to start something with us around, so it’s fairly relaxing work, but you never know when some idiots will get a head full of steam and make some bad choices. Always be ready.” Angela paused to take another long sip from her bottle. “Depending on if everything is put together or not yet, you might also start doing some drills with the team. But that depends on if they can get your power assessment knocked out first.”

                “Damn. Part of me was hoping today would count,” Justin said.

                “That little song and dance?” Brett shook his head. “No way. They’re going to put us both through the ringer before our abilities are considered to be fully mapped. I honestly expected that part to take up all of today.”

                “It was on the docket, until the bank robbery happened,” Angela told them. “That bastard threw a hell of a wrench into the day. Sort of thing you have to get used to, working this gig. If you make any plans, write them in pencil. Chances are good you’re going to have to change them.”

                “Curses, and here I’ve already joined three book clubs and made a half dozen dates,” Justin said. “Kidding, obviously. We all know dating is off the table working this sort of job.”

                “I wouldn’t say that, you just need to find someone who understands what you’re going through.” Angela tilted back her bottle and drained it all the way down to empty. “Speaking of, I’m due to video-chat with the boyfriend pretty soon.”

                Brett and Justin both stared at her, mouths perhaps slightly agape, until Angela’s eyes narrowed. “You boys trying to imply I can’t get a gentleman?”

                “Nothing like that, I think we were both just surprised that you’d want one,” Brett said quickly. “Everything I’ve heard about you and seen for myself made me picture you as someone who would be married to the job.”

                Angela got up from her chair and tossed the empty bottle in Brett’s trash can. “The job is my first and last love, I won’t fight you there, but you can’t let it be what all of your life is about. If you go too far in, if you forget that life is worth living in its own right, then you start losing focus and making mistakes. Gotta have something to fight for if you want to be at your absolute best. Family, friends, lovers, or just the taste of finely crafted beer. Whatever gets you through, hold onto it tightly. This job will take a lot out of you, you’re going to need other things to help build yourself back up.”

                “You sure don’t sound like someone who just started her internship.” Despite the seemingly casual nature of the words, Brett still caught sight of the curious gleam in Justin’s eyes as he spoke.

                “Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot and leave it there for tonight,” Angela replied. “I don’t mind explaining, but it’s a long story and I wasn’t kidding about the video-date. Make sure to turn in after the beers, you do not want to be tired if they set up the power assessment tomorrow.”

                Scooping up her cooler, Angela headed out, leaving the two newest interns on their own. Only once she was far gone did Brett speak again, hoping not to be somehow overheard.

                “For her boyfriend, are you picturing someone like Bloodfyre, only with more tattoos and maybe blood always inexplicably on his hands?”

                “In my head, I also gave him a giant axe and Viking helmet,” Justin agreed.