Blades & Barriers: Chapter 61

                After a full day of digging through files, cross-referencing the few flimsy leads he found, and having most of them chucked out, Brett was resolved to never complain about another gym session for the rest of his life. He would have gladly traded the hours spent rifling around in papers for sweat and strain, because at least with the latter he’d have felt like he accomplished something once the work was done. When Bayou finally declared that they’d been through everything for the day, he had a slender stack of pages in front of him, the few leads that were still viable but probably wouldn’t, in Bayou’s own words, amount to much of anything. Failure seemed to be something that Subtlety Heroes took in stride, and the more time Brett spent around them the better he understood why.

                “So, what’s next for the night?” Brett asked.

                “Dinner is coming up soon, but with Unseelie and other staff members rotating in and out of guard duty it might not be the usual affair. We’re midway through an investigation, and part of our team is committed to diplomat duty, so I don’t see us biting off anything new.” Bayou pulled out his phone and punched a few buttons until he saw what he wanted. “Nothing major on the schedule either. I think you three might just have something of a night off. If you’re already packed and ready to head off to UA at a moment’s notice, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t get to use your downtime. Just remember to keep the comms in your ears at all time. They’re inconspicuous by design so nobody will notice, but if a crime comes up and we need you every minute will matter. Given that the team is already assigned to a diplomat bodyguard job though, we’ll be low on the list for any incidents. Go out and have some fun.”

                Justin cleared his throat to get Bayou’s attention. “Actually, if you’re going to be vetting those files like I suspect, perhaps it might be useful for me to stay at your side and watch.”

                “You already know how to do this kind of work,” Bayou replied. “And team-building is important. Since you three are about to spend a lot of time around each other, a night of fun and getting to better know one another can’t hurt. Stay here and play board games or go turn Angela loose on the local bar scene, I don’t care as long as you three do it together.”

                “I’m a little surprised my reputation precedes me so effectively.” Angela didn’t sound bothered by the comment, closer to proud if anything.

                In reply, Justin and Bayou both pointed to the older Hero’s torso and said in unison: “Subtlety.”

                “Yeah yeah, I get it. Let a lady have a sense of mystery about herself though, allow me to ease these two into the shitshow.”

                “That feels like one of the most compelling arguments for staying in and playing board games I could have imagined,” Brett said.

                Angela laughed, a sound that should have been reassuring yet very much wasn’t. “If that’s what you really want, but I should warn you I only play those games for high stakes. My versions involve lots of shots, daggers, and a mandatory first aid kit on hand at all times. Or a healing Super, if you want to really push things.”

                “On the other hand, there is something to be said for the safety of a public venue,” Justin chimed in. “I bet there are some relatively close bars we could easily get to. Have a few beers, talk about life, return here safe and unharmed.”

                With a roll of her eyes that was downright ostentatious, Angela nodded agreement. “I suppose if you want to keep it safe and simple, that’s an option. I’m not going to fight you on it, I’ve stacked up a few cute outfits that I haven’t had the chance to wear because we’re in here all the time. Just make sure you two put on something decent, otherwise we’re going to look odd if you’re both slumming it and I am shining like a star.”

                “Huh.” Brett didn’t entirely mean for the grunt of surprise to slip out, it came unbidden, but once it broke through there was no shoving it back into his mouth. Regardless of how much he might have liked to.

                “Got something to say about that?” Angela asked.

                “Not especially. Sorry, I guess I was a little surprised. We’ve been working together for weeks now, and you never struck me as someone who cares about their outfit.”

                “Just because I kick a lot of ass in my armor doesn’t mean I don’t know how to work a pair of heels. It’s called ‘work hard, play hard’ and I suggest you learn about it sooner than later.” Angela hopped out of her chair, letting it spin slowly as she walked away. “But you’ve just proven Bayou’s point for him. We don’t know each other very well outside of our narrowly defined roles as interns. When we go to UA we need to be seamless. Coordinated, calculating, and able to communicate with a glance. Part of that means knowing as much as we can about what everyone’s strengths are, in and out of costume. You boys have an hour to prep, then we’re heading out. I’ve already got a few bars in mind.”

                 To her surprise, Justin rose from his seat as well, meeting her eyes at near-equal level if one discounted the height difference. “Who says you get to be in charge of the outing? Maybe I’ve been looking forward to hitting the town too.”

                Halting in her tracks, Angela looked him up and down for several seconds. “Yeah, we’re definitely overdue for this kind of activity. Fine, you want to help, I’m good with that. Say we meet ten minutes early, both bring our top picks for where to go, and hammer it out from there? It goes without saying that if we’ve got any overlap, we’ll just pick one of those.”

                “Sounds fair,” Justin agreed.

                As the discussion went down, Brett sat by, mildly amused. He could tell that more was going on than just debating what bar they’d go spend a few hours at, but for the life of him couldn’t quite manage to care about all of the intricacies. It was obvious that they were really talking about authority and leadership, neither of which concerned him greatly. As a Super who filled a strongman role, Brett had never had aspirations of leading a team. He was happy to let the more tactically minded Supers bicker over that burden, preferring to focus on being the best he could at his particular role. Although, on this one occasion, he wondered if perhaps that nature would come back to bite him.

                Because wild and reckless as Angela could seem, there was something glinting in Justin’s eyes that made Brett wary of what sort of establishment he’d pick as well.