Blades & Barriers: Chapter 37

                The weeks that followed were periods of calm interspersed with moments of sheer chaos. Brett continued to shadow Bloodfyre, learning more about how to interact with the public and handle patrols. He also drilled daily in his free time, working out and practicing to make sure he was ready when violence came, which it frequently did. There were more flare-ups between gangs, although Angela proved to be right: it was infrequent at best. More often they had to deal with Supers robbing people on the streets or causing destruction as part of a brawl. The fights were dangerous, especially given how many civilians tended to be in any given area, but the Wayward Wraiths were a veteran team with powerful members, and they knew how to suppress a situation quickly.

                If anything, the fights had actually been a bit easier than Brett was expecting. The HCP made it seem like death lurked around every corner, waiting for the slightest error to pounce on an unsuspecting Hero. Nothing they’d dealt with compared to the expansive, complex battles with the Sims that he’d fought all through senior year. That was, until the riot by the warehouse district.

                Riot probably wasn’t the right word for it, brawl or gang-fight would have worked better, but that’s not what Barrier had thought of when he and Bloodfyre first arrived on the scene. No, he took one look at the chaos and blood spraying from around them and all he could picture was a riot, people angry and lashing out in any direction possible. The team still handled it quickly, although Barrier noticed that he, Charon, and Gunk were all left to the sidelines more than usual. When the dust finally cleared, both Hammerspace and Bayou needed trips to the healers. That was the day Brett began to understand that the reason the HCP trained them to be ready for hell on earth wasn’t because it’s what they’d see every day, but rather so that when things did go completely sideways he and the other Heroes would be ready.

                It was two days after the riot, days that had been spent doing a lot of patrols and general PR work that ostensibly was meant to let everyone have some time to rest, when Unseelie made an announcement over breakfast.

                “Eat up everyone; word just came down through Danny: our diplomats from United Avalon are arriving in a couple of hours. We’re going to be guarding them in constant shifts starting from today until they depart. Eight hours at a time, two person teams, no exceptions. The DVA has allotted extra teleporters to other teams so they can cover for us while we handle this, we’ll only be called in if there is an extremely serious situation. When you’re not on a shift, feel free to rest, train, patrol, or whatever you like. It’s free time, use it well, we all know what a rare commodity that is.”

                Angela had a hand high in the air, swinging it about so frantically the momentum threated to pull her out of her chair. Unseelie stared at her for a while, pointedly making Angela wait before finally giving the nod that she should go ahead.

                “What about us?” No one was surprised by the question, only Brett and Justin looked over at Unseelie for the answer.

                “Interns will, as per usual, stay with their training Heroes at all times. That means when Bloodfyre, Bayou, and I work, you work. We’ll try to stagger it out when possible so that we spread around the extra manpower, however there’s bound to be a bit of doubling up here and there. Just make sure you use the additional bodies intelligently. And remember: this is a diplomatic mission with a lot of eyes on it. If we aren’t on top of our game there’s going to be hell to pay.”

                This time Justin raised his hand, without the theatrics, and Unseelie motioned for him to speak right away. “What exactly are we expected to do with them, anyway? Bodyguard is something of a broad description.”

                “You go wherever the diplomats want to go, do what they want to do, up until the moment there’s danger,” Unseelie told him. “At that point, you take control of the situation in whatever way will deescalate things and keep the diplomats safe. If that’s suppressing the threat, do it. If that’s getting them to safety, do that. We want any issues handled with as few people injured as possible, including civilians. The exact methods you use to achieve that goal will vary based on the situation and what Supers are on duty. Follow your teacher’s lead and you should be fine though. We’ve all handled this kind of work before.”

                “Do Heroes get handed a lot of bodyguard assignments?” Brett asked, forgetting to raise his hand.

                “More than some think we should.” Bloodfyre didn’t seem bothered by the announcement in the slightest; his attention was still on his omelet. “Most people will just hire private security firms with Supers trained for the work on their payroll. When you need to make a show of our nation’s support, though, there’s no beating the spectacle of having Heroes personally watch over someone.”

                “It’s political maneuvering as much as it is an actual necessity,” Panic explained. “United Avalon is a big, dangerous country that’s very close to our borders. Given that they have some of the leading research on Supers as well as a highly concentrated population of people with powers; it makes sense to court them as an ally if at all possible. They could be highly useful or incredibly dangerous, depending on how they feel about our nation.”

                “None of which concerns us.” Unseelie didn’t sound especially annoyed by the conversation’s digressing, yet her tone made it clear that it was time to listen once more. “We are going to do the job we’re given to the best of our abilities and let the suits worry about the politics. All you need to focus on is keeping people safe and avoiding any fights if even remotely possible. The rest is someone else’s problem.”

                She paused, waiting to see if anyone else would lift their arm or blurt out another observation. Upon encountering no speakers, Unseelie took her seat before continuing. “The first shift will be myself and Panic, but everyone is coming with me upon the diplomats’ arrival. They need to meet their team so that they know exactly who is going to be guarding them. That eliminates the possibility of someone pretending to be part of the team and tricking them into going somewhere dangerous.”

                Brett hadn’t even considered that idea, and it seemed pretty farfetched, but the rest of the older Heroes nodded along like it was solid thinking. Apparently this issue had come up before. He wolfed down his breakfast, hunger no longer crippled by a case of nerves. This was exciting, and Brett wanted to be ready as soon as the call came in.

                After all, he’d never met a Super from outside the U.S. before.