Joan was fuming, and Clarissa shot Nick a glare that could have withered roses. They were all there, tucked away at the tree line, watching from cover. He’d been in no hurry to arrive, saying their role was a bit off, and even upon arrival Nick told them to stay put. As he explained it, there was a moment when their fortunes were most suited to entering the fray, and that point had not arrived yet. It was hard to stay here, watching their friends fight, seeing Globe take endless fire as he floated around the field drawing attention. Finally, Clarissa’s patience wore thin.
“That’s it, luck or not, we’re going in. I can’t sit here and-”
Her words trailed off as, across the battlefield, she saw a wave of earth rise over a hill, with the telltale white uniforms of HCP seniors riding on the top. Clarissa’s eyes darted to Nick, who was still standing there peacefully. “You knew this was coming?”
“I knew what would happen if Angela DeSoto overheard key information. She’s wild in battle, but predictable in life. And there was a slim chance that she would receive that information. I just gave a little nudge to make sure she got it. Now are you going to charge onto a battlefield where you can’t even use your teleportation powers, or will you trust me a little longer?”
Even she wasn’t sure of the answer until her hand came up, motioning for Joan to stand down. “A little longer. As soon as someone deals with the anchors, I’m getting back out there.”
“Of course,” Nick agreed. “But for now, I recommend you get a good seat. This should be a fun show.”
* * *
“H-how? How are you…” Crispin was sputtering now, the sudden appearance of more enemies was one more surprise than even he could deal with so quickly.
“I heard there was going to be a dust-up, and that sounded fun. Then I dug a little deeper with some DVA contacts and found out that you were here, and that’s a different matter. Because here’s the thing about Heroes: we might compete, and fight, and sometimes genuinely not even like each other, but at the end of the day we know whose side we’re on. Who our people are. You attacked an HCP, Crispin, and you put one of us in the ground. When I told the others they had a chance to come with my teleporter and fuck up your day, I literally couldn’t take names fast enough.”
A figure suddenly hurled itself from the top of the hill, soaring through the air and clearing the battlefield. More followed, paths of dirt spilling down to drop them into the fray. One woman landed, took two steps, and proceeded to conjure a wall of fire that completely surrounded a section of unprepared guards.
“Not just Lander people, either. Today, you get the best we have to offer.” Charon pointed a gauntlet finger back toward the battle. “Shouldn’t you be running by now?”
“So you can stab me in the back?”
To Crispin’s surprise, that drew a genuine laugh from Charon, one that echoed inside her helmet. “Me? No, I’m a stab you in the front kind of gal. And I’m not going to kill you unless you try to escape. The girl you had murdered, Sasha, wasn’t in my class, I barely knew her. You think I’m so cold-hearted that I would steal the chance for revenge from her classmates? A little credit here, Crispin, we’re not all monsters like you.”
The seven swords suddenly lifted from the ground, tips pointing at Crispin and steadily advancing. “I’ll only kill you if you make me. So run, you coward. No hiding out or staying in the sidelines for you this time. You want to survive? Then let’s see how you do on your own, in a real battle.” The swords moved faster, and Crispin took the hint, sprinting away at top speed.
Less than a minute later, a young man in a gray mask that matched the same ones all the others were sporting jogged over to her. “Did you just let him go?”
“No. I made sure he fell into the proper hands.” Charon threw a metal-covered arm around the guy’s shoulder and pointed to a nearby cluster of guards trying to break through the wall of fire. “Now, to me it looks like Slow Burn could use some help. What do you say, little brother? Charon and Styx working together for a change?”
“I haven’t actually earned that name yet,” he reminded her.
“Oh? This looks like a hell of a proving ground to me.” Charon slapped him on the back and began to race over to the flames, with Styx following only a few feet behind.
* * *
Titan sent a shower of dirt into the air as he landed, his mighty legs not even quivering from the force of the hit. While the kids were wearing the blank masks, he, like any good Hero, always kept that part of his costume with him, just in case. Granted, he hadn’t expected Angela DeSoto to suddenly turn up and whip the students into a frenzy, let alone convince Conrad to transport them after teleportation, but going to Lander meant always preparing for some degree of the unpredictable. His plan was to reach Graham as quickly as possible, thankfully comms still worked so Dispatch was able to relay a location, although strangely Graham wasn’t surprised when Titan relayed the message of his arrival. That concern was swept completely aside in Titan’s mind, however, when he discovered his son mid-healing, terrible wounds on his body slowly vanishing.
“Who did this to him?” There was no doubt in anyone present’s mind that if they pointed to someone on the battlefield, Titan would tear apart everything between him and that person, and things would only get more violent from there.
“Some guard who is already dead,” Mary explained. “Roy took the hit to protect the team, and Vince electrocuted the guy before he got off another shot. The guard’s own attack fell on his body and others near him, and when the smoke cleared nothing discernable was left.”
“Always knew I liked that boy.” With Roy in good hands and the attacked dealt with, Titan put his mind back to the task at hand. “Mr. DeSoto, we’re going to need to do a lot of paperwork when this is over. I authorized the kids as temporary emergency Hero assets, but for this many you’ll need to sign off.”
Graham gave a thoughtful nod. “I’ll do that, because they’re impulsive children, but I’m surprised you brought them into a fight like this.”
“They found out Crispin was here, sir. They were coming no matter what I said, so I thought better to at least be here and protect them rather than make them sneak off. And, to be fair, they are all in the final phase of their senior year.”
The sigh Graham let out was that of an old man more than a legendary Hero. “I don’t love it, but we needed the help. Still, I do wish we had a little more than HCP seniors to throw into this battle.”
Nearby, a line of guards suddenly exploded as a brilliant glowing path appeared through them. At the end of that line appeared Victor, wearing his Bullrush mask for the first time in years, yet proving with his initial strike that he hadn’t lost a step in his downtime.
“Oh, I called in more than just students, sir. We couldn’t leave Lander unprotected, but Victor was kind enough to come along. And I might have cashed in some favors for more help as well. We’ll worry about that if they make it in time though. For now, where do you want me?”
“Us.” Roy was sitting now, the last of his burns fading completely. He hefted his slightly warped bat up and put it on his shoulder. “I’m not going down from just one near-death injury.”
Tempting as it was to protest, Titan couldn’t imagine that Roy would listen to any objections he offered, not with friends in the fray. So if he was going to fight no matter what, then the safest place for him was at Titan’s side.
“Correction, sir.” Titan put a heavy hand on his son’s shoulder. “Where do you want us?”