Blades & Barriers: Chapter 70

                Searching the ship hadn’t taken long. Nor had breaking in to the captain’s office and rooting around through his files and computers. DV had even found time to check-in on the interns he was watching over, not than any of them remembered. So far, the cruise was clean. No recent hires or guests that set off any warning bells for DV, although that assumed the files he’d read were accurate. Anyone with access to the money and Supers that United Avalon had could easily sneak a few agents onto this ship without raising suspicion. Hell, that was pretty much what DV and the kids had done, and they had to play by government rules. For someone with less ethics, it would be almost too easy.

                That was fine, however. DV was checking for overt threats, the sorts of things he’d be expected to discover. This was a small part of their journey, a stepping stone to the real dangers that awaited them when they came ashore. Only training and experience demanded he keep searching for something out of place. Such was the curse of the Subtlety Hero. Never could they fully relax or take things at face value. It was impossible for someone who had seen so much trickery and betrayal. One moment of peace, that was all it took to make a mistake. Subtlety Heroes didn’t often live through their errors, not unless they were very strong or very lucky.

                Personally, DV considered himself to be in both camps. His power certainly had its uses, but fortune had seen him through tough situations as much as skill. Still, he took precautions, precautions like not eating dinner at the same time and place as everyone else. That sort of thing would make it too easy for a cunning enemy to slip some poison into his food. Granted, such an act would be a bold move, especially with so many witnesses, yet he couldn’t shake the possibility.

                That was why DV was out on deck, looking at the stars overhead as he chewed down some pre-packed jerky he’d brought along for the trip. The food inside was almost certainly better, and it would be a nice moment to bond with the interns he was supposed to be caring for. The trouble was, DV didn’t bond. It was a hard thing to do when no one remembered him, and that wasn’t a policy he could risk changing anytime soon. Besides, bonds were just things people used to attack from unseen angles. Not always, not even often, but sometimes. And that was enough. Of all the uses DV’s power had, sometimes he dearly wished he could make himself forget things. It probably would have allowed him to lead a much happier life.

                Her approach was quiet, not in an attempt to be stealthy though. No, her steps were naturally soft, as was her every movement. It was the result of training that had gone past the brain, all the way down into the bone. DV noticed her as soon as she began moving toward him, soft steps be damned. Yet he made no move to distance himself. If she was coming up to him, then she might chat a little before making whatever move she had planned. Not only could he pump her for information, but once he slipped away she wouldn’t even realize she’d divulged it.

                “You have the light.” It was a curious opening line, made even stranger by the gentle sincerity in her voice.

                “Sorry, I don’t smoke.” DV patted his pockets to prove the point, even though he could have easily concealed a lighter in them.

                “I do not want a light. You have the light. A blessing, given by the gods. Yours shines brightly, so strong, burning with such ferocity. A powerful blessing indeed has been laid upon you; I do hope you’re using it well.”

                No subterfuge in her voice or tone, she wasn’t trying to play aloof at all. DV had been around the block enough to know that sincerity could be a con of its own, however. Regardless, this was a chance to get some advanced information, and he’d be a fool to let it slip through his fingers. “You know, the people of United Avalon call powers blessings. In fact, they call people with them Blessed, rather than Supers.”

                “Of course I know that. I am from United Avalon.” She was consistent in her approach, if nothing else. The woman bowed to DV, who found himself feeling briefly uncomfortable for the first time in recent memory. “My name is Daphne, and I am blessed with senses beyond the scope of mankind. I can smell war on the wind, hear love ring through the air, and see the light that shines in those who are blessed.”

                “And you just happened to be on this boat?” DV asked.

                Daphne shook her head, still calm and placid. “Certainly not. One of us rides on every such vessel, here to search for those with blessings. We carry a message with us, one that must be passed on to each of our kind.”

                Something in DV’s gut tensed, and he scanned the deck for any potential backup or ambushes that might be about to spring. She was playing the peaceful part to perfection, which was usually how it went right up until guns and powers came out. On the other hand, if she was telling the truth about seeing powers then Daphne could have picked a better spot to take him by surprise. Either way, he had to see this through. “Let’s hear the message, then.”

                With a gentle smile, Daphne spread her arms wide. “Welcome, brother. Welcome home. We await you patiently, and will celebrate greatly when you arrive. No matter what cause brought you here, no matter what agenda you carry with you, in United Avalon you are eternally welcome. We know that the nations of the world may have sent you for any number of reasons, but you need not fear us. As a Blessed, United Avalon is your true homeland, regardless of where you were born.”

                “And if I happen to like the nation I come from?” DV asked.

                “Then by all means, return there, if you like. Our kind are managed, catalogued, and persecuted all over the world. United Avalon will not treat you in such a way. Come and go as you please. Or make a home there, in a place where you are not a commodity to be trained and used.”

                “I notice they put you to work.”

                Her smile only brightened as she shook her head. “You misunderstand. I chose this vocation. Because once, I was a scared young woman fleeing those who would use my gifts to their own ends. United Avalon freed me, kept me safe. I’ll never forget how it felt to finally have a homeland, so I take great joy in spreading that news to others. Doubt me if you wish, good sir, it is only my job to tell you the message. United Avalon itself will prove the message to be true.”

                With another bow, Daphne turned and walked back across the deck, vanishing as she stepped through a door. DV stared for some time, making sure she wasn’t about to run back at him, before looking at the stars. Friendliness was an interesting way to let potential intruders know they’d already been made. It would put people off their game, unsure of how to proceed once their cover was blown. For DV, however, it was an old trick he’d seen before. He wasn’t that worried about Daphne or her cheerful spiel.

                No, the thing that worried DV was what would come once the friendliness stopped.