“What do you think, good or bad?” Alice was so close that Nick could practically feel her breath as they watched the match end on screen, a proximity that would have been inappropriate if they weren’t romantically entangled. “He won, but he had to give away a fair bit to do it.”
“That was always a risk. Vince has been improving; however his straightforward nature still shows itself constantly. So in terms of overall strategic outcomes, this is about what I expected, even if it’s not ideal. That said, you have to remember something key when evaluating his matches: Vince has a different end goal than the rest of you.”
Alice turned slightly, giving Nick more attention now that the screens were dark. “How do you figure that? We’re all trying to win.”
“That’s the mechanism you’re using to achieve your goal, not the goal itself,” Nick replied. “You, for example, want to show that Subtlety students can hold their own, as well as prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to be a Hero since you started out so much weaker than the rest of us. Shane is fighting to live up the burden of his heritage, defeat his rival, and keep the score even with his sister, since Angela won last year. Chad’s main desire has always been to show the world that Intra is a name to be respected, not pitied, although he’s also hoping to settle the score with Shane and do Lander proud. All of you need victory to meet those goals. Vince, on the other hand, is trying to show that he can be responsible and effective with the, frankly, insane amount of power he has. He’s trying to prove to the DVA and the Heroes that he can stay in control, that he’s going to be an asset in the field, not a liability. From that point of view, he had a great showing. He only ever used as much power as was needed for the moment, never going into overkill. Even that deathblow was obviously him trying to safely end the match.”
“Wait, so you don’t think Vince cares about winning?”
Nick let out something that might have been a laugh, if it weren’t quickly muffled into his shoulder by a swift turn. “Heavens no. Of course he cares about winning. Remember, I said responsible and effective. He has to show that he can actually get the job done without losing control. Plus, he knows he’s representing Lander, and have you ever seen Vince take that sort of responsibility lightly?”
He had a point there; even Alice could feel the pressure of knowing she was showing the Hero world what her class was capable of. For someone like Vince, the sense of obligation to perform was probably palpable. “Okay, I see where you’re going with this. Vince wants to win, and that’s important, but he’s better served in the long-term by losing and staying in control than going nuts and scoring a victory. Any fight where he stays composed is a sort of win either way.”
“Precisely. From that perspective, this was an excellent bout for him.” Nick’s eyes wandered across the viewing room, to where Lucinda was in a small circle hurriedly whispering with her Overton classmates. “I just hope he’s able to keep it up for his next fight. I’ve got a hunch that one is going to push his limits a lot more.”
* * *
The portal opened not far from the gas station where the seemingly elderly couple had stopped for fuel and sandwiches only a day before. It was tucked away carefully, out of sight, as figures came pouring out. Globe was first, taking point just in case there were traps or an ambush waiting for them. Only when he was sure it was clear did he motion for others to follow. George came next, already in robot form, though he was rippling with so much energy that sparks seemed to be flying off from his body. Persephone was close behind, dressed in simple tactical gear that in no way resembled her old Mood Swing outfit. After her was Joan, vibrating from all the speed she was containing thanks to Quentin and Adam’s enhancement. Then came Gerard, who actually had donned his Raze costume. No one asked him why, it was his choice how he wanted to meet this day. Adam was next, still shaped like Quentin and crackling with power, but burdened by a hard stare no child could properly emulate. Last was Shimmerpath, who sealed the portal behind them.
“There’s not much time, so I’ll keep this short. Adam has one amped-charge left and so does Quentin. If your power starts fading, get to Adam, unless he’s already used his. In that case, have Shimmerpath open a door back to Quentin. I’ll make sure no one else tracks you or gets through. However, if I’m dead or incapacitated, then Shimmerpath won’t risk going back to Quentin. If we can’t do this without endangering a child, then we can’t do this. Even if the world doesn’t know or believe it, we are the Heroes in this fight, and it’s important that we act the part. Should the attack fail, then you are all ordered to retreat as best you can. I’ll buy as much time as possible. Remember, when we die, so dies the truth, and it is more important than any one of our lives or pride.”
In another group with this kind of power, there might have been someone who questioned even the idea of failure. After all, they were amplified to their physical limits, and most had already been strong to begin with. There shouldn’t be anything in the world that could stand against them. But these people knew what it was to lose, to have their power mean nothing in the face of cunning and betrayal. They knew they might die today, that their efforts might come to nothing. They understood that no victory was certain, no Super unbeatable. And they were ready to face that outcome, if it meant bringing truth to the world.
“Not much else to say, and time is of the essence. I’ll cloak up until we arrive, but with no information on what kind of Supers Charles has guarding the place, there’s no guarantee it will work. So be ready from the moment we lift off to fight, because we only get one shot at this.”
Raising his right hand, Globe made a fist. Below them, the ground started to rumble as a massive rocky slab formed beneath their feet. Dirt fell away as it lifted into the sky, over the tree line, unseen by the town’s folk thanks to Globe’s manipulation of the light in his sphere of control. None of them were entirely sure what his normal control range was, he kept that secret close to the vest, but it didn’t matter in that moment. With Quentin’s juiced up power flowing through him, Globe’s area of control could reach much further than its standard limitations.
Whether it would be far enough, however, remained to be seen. Invisible to the world below, the slab of rock turned thirty degrees and shot off through the sky. Soon, they’d arrive at the lab where Charles had hidden all of his most incriminating secrets.
Soon, the battle for the truth would finally begin.