“Drink this,” Hershel’s father said, placing a clear glass filled by a dull yellow liquid in front of him. “It will make your hand feel better.” He moved into the booth opposite his son and slid the concoction forward gently. Hershel reached for it with his right hand, winced, and switched to his left. It turned out that just because you couldn’t hurt someone with your punch didn’t mean their jaw couldn’t still injure the small bones in your hands. It would mend eventually; one trade with Roy and Hershel would be pain free. That would have to wait, unfortunately. Which reminded him...
“There’s no whiskey in this, is there?”
Hershel’s father shook his head. “Tequila, a few mixers, and a splash of vodka, but no whiskey.”
“Good.” Hershel took two oversized mouthfuls and gulped them down before lowering the glass. He found his father staring at him with an expression of curiosity.
“Whiskey makes you change now, right? After that weird procedure it doesn’t just happen unwanted; you set up a chemical trigger.”
“I see Mom has kept you up to speed.”
“Second year HCP, living as a Super, she even told me about your girlfriend. Of course, nothing she mentioned would explain why you felt the need to drive all the way out here and take a swing at me.”
“The punch wasn’t planned,” Hershel said, though he pointedly avoided anything that would make it sound like he was sorry. “I came out here for a different reason. Roy needs help.”
His father tilted his head and motioned for Hershel to continue, so he laid everything on the table. The wall he’d hit, the inability to break through, the growing frustration as well as the slowly-increasing gap between Roy and the others’ capabilities.
“So Roy is stuck at about, what, eight hundred pounds per arm you said?”
Hershel nodded, finishing off the remainder of his drink. His father had been right; it had indeed lessened the pain in his hand.
“Well, son, it seems to me-”
“What was that?”
“Hershel. That’s my name. Let’s stay away from familial terms, okay? You’re Owen, I’m Hershel, Roy is Roy.”
“Fine,” Owen Daniels said after a brief pause. “I guess I deserve that. Anyway, Hershel, it seems to me you’ve got a pretty big problem. Curling just under a ton would get you through a lot of fights and manual labor jobs, but I’m afraid it won’t cut it if you want to be a Hero.”
“I know that.”
“No, you only suspected it. If you knew it then you would have drawn up a resignation in case I said I couldn’t help. Deep down you’re hoping that with enough skill maybe this wall won’t matter, that there will be another method that will keep Roy as a viable candidate. I’m crushing that delusion right now. Other Supers can get by without massive strength, but they have different talents to compensate. Not ones like us. We hit the living shit out of things, and if we can’t hit hard enough to knock them down then all we are is a liability to our teams. Do you understand?”
“Good.” Owen rose from the table and walked over to the bar with more grace than a man his size had any right to possess. He grabbed a full bottle and dumped a few pours of alcohol into a glass tumbler, then tossed in a trio of ice cubes. He came back and sat down, setting the brown drink carefully in front of him. He took a gentle sip to assess, and from the pleasure on his face, the alcohol seemed to meet his requirements.
“Good,” Owen repeated. “Because I didn’t just say all that to bum you out. I don’t want you thinking that all hope is lost, but I do feel that it’s important you keep your expectations realistic. That said, I can help you past this issue, and teach you how to deal with others of its kind that will eventually surface.”
“How? How can I do it?”
Owen held up a finger. “Not so fast. This isn’t going to be easy, and it isn’t going to be quick. I’m willing to help, but I want you to seriously commit to undertaking this training. I’ll take shit as your father, not as your teacher.”
“I’m sure Roy will-”
“We’ll deal with Roy later. I’m talking to Hershel right now. Roy isn’t some abstract entity, he’s a part of you. So if I’m going to do this, I want to hear you tell me you’ll do whatever it takes.”
Hershel slowly moved his head up and down. “If it will help Roy, I’ll do whatever I can.”
“Good.” Owen slid the glass of dark liquor across the table. Even from a distance, Hershel immediately recognized the familiar odor that wafted up from its depths. “Now drink that.”
“I can’t. That will turn me into Roy.”
“That’s the point,” Owen said, looking unflinchingly at his son.
“That’s not a good idea,” Hershel explained. “If I turn now, Roy will just storm out of here. We need to lay out a plan and outline how to help him before there’s a shot at him playing along.”
“No. You came to me, not vice versa. So I’m not proving myself to you. I know how to fix your problem. You obviously believe that, or you wouldn’t be here. Roy needs to believe that, too. This isn’t a case of fixing the issue and making him believe, it’s a case of him needing to believe in order to fix the issue.”
“I’m not sure he’ll listen,” Hershel said, his uncertainty written across his face.
“I promise, I won’t let Roy leave here. If nothing else, I’ll subdue him until you turn back,” Owen said.
Hershel had zero doubt that he could do it, too. There were many things that had been called into question regarding his father over the year, but the man’s awe-inspiring strength was not one of them. Still, the prospect of shifting right now seemed unwise. In the end, it didn’t feel like he really had a choice. He’d come here to find a solution, and now there was one sitting in front of him. The only thing standing in the way of helping Roy was... Roy. Hershel wanted to help, but this was as far as he could take things by himself. The rest was up to his brother.
In a single, practiced motion, Hershel grabbed the glass and emptied its contents down his throat. He set it back on the table and looked at his father one last time before his consciousness was gone.