Blades & Barriers: Chapter 35

                Angela hadn’t lied: debriefs sucked. Brett kept alert and attentive as Danny took down statements from the entire team, cross-checking to make sure everyone’s memory was as accurate as possible while he catalogued the progression of events in the fight. At first, it was kind of interesting to hear everyone’s respective vantage point from their own portion of the battle, but as more and more sections crossed over it got repetitive very quickly. Even his own retelling wasn’t all that thrilling, Brett was too worried about remembering every detail to enjoy savoring the moments of his first official Hero battle.

                “…and then Bloodfyre came over, told them that since they’d surrendered they would have their injuries healed, and incapacitated them.”

                “Incapacitated is a general term, Barrier.” Danny’s tone was gentle, even as he interrupted. It was obvious he’d been through this countless times and knew how to massage the details from a Hero’s memory without being combative. “What exactly did Bloodfyre do? For the record.”

                There was a moment where Brett almost hesitated, his eyes darting to Bloodfyre who nodded calmly. In the heat of battle, crippling an enemy had seemed somewhat natural, but now that they were in the peace and safety of the base’s office it suddenly felt excessive. It had happened though, and as a Hero it was Brett’s duty to report that honestly.

                “He used his energy to corrode sections of their ankles. There was no blood, just holes in their legs to keep them from running or wielding their powers efficiently.”

                Danny scribbled some notes into his binder of pages, seemingly unbothered by the events Brett was describing. “Okay, and what happened next?”

                “Danny, I think we might need to take a quick pause here.” Unseelie, who’d been letting Danny have full run of the room since the team arrived, stood from her chair. The team’s attention instantly snapped to her, save for Brett who was still watching Danny as the DVA agent let out a resigned sigh and set down his pen. “Given Barrier’s expression and the way he paused before describing Bloodfyre’s capture, it seems prudent to make sure he’s okay with and understands what just happened. Barrier, are you perhaps wondering why Bloodfyre had to use such a… invasive technique to hold our prisoners?”

                It seemed there was no ducking his head and skirting this one, which in truth Brett wasn’t even sure he wanted to do. This was his job now, and what he’d seen did trouble him, so Unseelie was probably right: better to talk it over openly in hopes of better understanding why it happened. “The thought did occur to me. I mean, the DVA seemed to have a lot of less painful ways to restrain a Super. Why not use those?”

                “Multiple reasons,” Unseelie said. “Some of them are pragmatic, like the fact that much of the equipment used is heavy or delicate, so carting it around requires special tools. Or there’s the simple truth that restraints only tend to work on Supers once they’ve already been knocked out or had their spirits broken. Otherwise you’re just asking for someone to kill an innocent DVA agent by playing possum. But, real as those issues are, they aren’t the true reason the DVA doesn’t let us handle the restraining equipment. That, Barrier, is a simple matter of trust. As in, the DVA doesn’t trust Heroes to play with their toys.”

                “A great over-simplification of a complex series of checks-and-balances.” Danny seemed still cheerful, yet a bit resigned, as if he were too accustomed to this fight to really be bothered by it. “Barrier, did you know that for a long time people with the ability to create brilliant pieces of technology were not considered to be Supers? Thus, they were ineligible to work as Heroes.”

                Brett nodded, not quite certain how essential he really was to the discussion taking place. “There was a kid a few grades below me who talked about that once when flying around on homemade rocket skates. So what?”

                “So, just because they weren’t seen as Supers didn’t mean they weren’t still producing useful innovations that people with money were willing to pay for. People like the government and the DVA,” Danny explained. “Technology has long been the other side of the equation for dealing with Supers. Heroes have their powers, the DVA has technology to restrain or immobilize Supers. There was a fear, rightfully placed or not, that giving the Heroes everything would make them too strong, leave humans with no recourse if they turned against us. The separation of duties is baked into the structure of Hero work: you fight, we capture, you wound, we jail.”

                That… couldn’t possibly be right. It spoke to a deep, fundamental distrust between the DVA and the Heroes who worked for them, yet as Brett scanned the room he found no one disputing Danny’s story. “How is that okay? Aside from forcing Bloodfyre to carve up people’s ankles to keep them down, we’re on the same team. The DVA and the Heroes are a united front, why keep our capabilities limited like that?”

                “What we do doesn’t matter as much as how we’re seen.” It was Bloodfyre who spoke this time, looking across the table to meet his student’s eyes. “You know that, so I think you can figure out why it’s important the DVA and the Heroes always appear to be a perfectly united front. If anyone ever asks you why we don’t handle the capturing, by the way, you tell them it’s so Heroes have their time freed up to respond to more people in need of help.”

                “As for why it happens, you answered your own question: to keep us limited.” Angela seemed unbothered by any of the discussion, perhaps because she’d heard it before. “From the beginning, that’s been half of what the DVA struggles with. They need us, but they don’t fully trust us. We’re different, and even if we’re on their side no one is ever confident we’ll stay that way. There was some discussion, a while back, about maybe allowing Heroes access to more capture-tech. Unfortunately, that was right before United Avalon had their Super revolution. When the dust settled from that event, no one was willing to hand us an ounce more power than we already had.”

                That was a lot to take in. Brett wished Justin was back from his outing with Bayou, it would have been nice to have another rookie (one who didn’t seem oddly jaded to a world she should just be settling into) around as a gauge for what the right reaction should be. The DVA didn’t trust them, which sucked, and in doing so it limited their access to tools that would have made the job easier. On the criminals, if not the Heroes themselves.

                “And everyone is okay with that? I mean, Bloodfyre cored out people’s ankles because no one wants to give us whatever the Super-version of handcuffs are, and that’s not a big deal?”

                “If he’d done it to a human, it might have been,” Unseelie admitted. “But the general public doesn’t care what happens to Supers as long as we’re entertaining humans, protecting humans, or incarcerated. We’re seen as the outsiders trespassing on their ‘normal’ world, and I’d advise you to find peace with that truth as soon as you can. It will make you a Hero better prepared to deal with the public.”