Ten Years Later
“Where the fuck do you suggest we run to?” Tensions were short as the bank-robbers paused to grab a quick breath. Shit, it had all gone so wrong. It was supposed to be simple. They had the right power set to get in and out of the bank before the Heroes would ever be able to respond, with an extra guy for muscle just in case one did show up. Of course, that muscle hadn’t meant shit when he arrived. This wasn’t even his town, what were the odds that the Hero to face them would be-
The group’s blood collectively froze as they turned down the alley to find him standing there. A Hero made of muscle, with a simple red and black costume and a thick, extra-dense bat slung casually over his shoulder. Their “muscle” hadn’t even managed to get off a single punch before being knocked out, hard. The Hero took a single step forward, and all of the robbers instantly broke, sprinting off in the opposite direction as fast as they could.
Prepared as they’d been for a heist, they were in no way ready to deal with Ettin. And who could blame them? Last year he’d single-handedly put down an entire gang that tried to attack the Gentle Hammers base before backup could arrive. When the other Heroes came, they found him standing on shattered concrete and a dozen broken but living bodies, complaining about the lack of challenge.
Breath already short, the robbers didn’t have much in the way of stamina left. One of them did have an idea, however. A single Hero could only chase in a lone direction, so the thief went intangible and turned left, racing through a wall. His job had been getting into the vault, but this was a great application of power as well. While Ettin went after the others, he’d slip away to freedom, able to go back to robbing shops with shitty security.
That thought lasted until he let his power go to take a breath, lack of oxygen was the one drawback of his ability. Before he’d finished inhaling, a fist slammed into the back of his head, sending him sprawling to the ground. Just before he passed out, the crook was able to recognize the familiar costume of Intra. Oh hell, there was more than one of them here after all.
Back in the alley, the remaining pair of robbers were racing on while silently cursing their turncoat partner. In truth, they would have made the same move if they had the option, but such was not their fortune. Near them, the sound of street traffic could be heard. If they got out of the alley, maybe there was a crowd they could blend into.
Before they could make it through, however, the shadows near them began to move. A sudden flurry of them formed into blades, striking at their legs with unerring precision. In seconds, they’d dropped to the ground, skidding to a stop just before running into the dark boots of Styx, who had stepped into view to block their way. He looked terrifying as always, dark costume accented with a hood and a cloak adding to the unnatural way the shadows around him seemed to always twitch.
“Oh come on,” mumbled one of the robbers. “You aren’t even on the Gentle Hammers.”
“Nah, but the Honed Blades have a history of working closely with us.” The voice came from Ettin, who had effortlessly closed the gap and was now standing over them. “Word of warning, we’ve got some shit to do this afternoon, so don’t waste any more of our time.” He leaned down, that powerful frame blocking out their view of the sky.
“Now do you surrender, or are you going to try and make this actually interesting?”
Both men had their hands up before the word “surrender” was finished being spoken.
* * *
The board was displeased. Alice had expected that, what she was proposing was unheard of, practically unimaginable. For them, anyway. To her, it was a challenge roughly on par with finding comfortable yet fashionable heels for a gala. Tough, to be certain, but more than manageable with a little forethought and determination.
Edmonton was the one to speak, of course. It was always Edmonton, he was the weasely voice they all hid behind. “Mrs. Adair, what you’re proposing is outside the bounds of charity. It falls into mismanagement of the company. After your father’s passing, this cure was the one good thing he’d created. Losing the overall patent due to the circumstance of its creation was bad enough, but now that we’ve finally refined the procedure into a safe, quick, virtually non-invasive version that we were able to patent, you want us to sell it to Powereds at cost?”
“Below cost, actually,” Alice corrected. “There’s a bill going onto the floor of the Senate this week that will subsidize the procedure for companies willing to offer it at lower prices. We’ll make back our investment, as well as a small profit to appease you all, but this will keep it affordable enough for nearly any Powered out there to have access.”
Edmonton was getting flush in the face, the telltale sign that he was frustrated over her dismissive tone. “Even if this bill passes-”
“It’s being spearheaded by Senator Campbell. There is no ‘if’ when it comes to that man.”
“I am well aware of your husband’s track record,” Edmonton snapped. “That’s not the issue! We could earn billions from this process. After the Charles Adair scandal, we’ve barely been able to hang on. This is our chance to finally make real money again.”
Alice rose from her seat, pushing back a wave of nausea. Villains and criminals she could handle, but morning sickness was a beast that wouldn’t be slain. Only a few more months, and she would be past it, back out there as Legacy with a new face to come home too. A face that, given the heritage of both parents, might very well be born Powered like so many others out there. Others that she was in a position to help. No one stood in the way of a Hero where there were lives to save, especially not men like Edmonton.
“This company only survived because I took on the role of being its face, reassuring people that I was going to use my father’s wealth to make a difference. You’re right, we’ve barely made it through the past decade, but what’s kept us afloat is staying true to that promise. Funding more facilities for Powereds, taking on the onus of refining the cure process, doing every bit of good we could at every turn. But it’s all been treading water. This, right here, this moment is when we show the world whether we meant it or not. If you try to turn this into a profit machine, the public will turn on us and you will destroy everything. I met you halfway, we are making money on the deal. Overreach, and it all comes tumbling down.”
Pouring herself a glass of water, Alice carefully read the room. They were a greedy lot, which at least made them fiscally responsible, but they were also cowards. All of them lived their lives in offices and board rooms, content to see the world through luxury and glass. The collapse of a company, laid right at their feet, would be anchors thrust upon them. No one wanted to hire a failure, especially with as high-profile as this would all be. As bad as they wanted that money, they wanted to protect their status quo more. Whatever doubts they might have had, no one could dispute Alice’s track record. She’d kept the wheels from falling off all this time, so they would trust her on this move like they had on all the other, lesser ones that laid the foundation for this moment.
“Has it occurred to you that perhaps the world doesn’t want Powereds turned into Supers?” Edmonton was still going, not willing to give this up yet. “People are scared, there are groups trying to have the process banned.”
“Let them try.” Alice’s voice came out a bit too strong, some of Legacy bleeding over. “There will always be people afraid of change, but it comes regardless. Intra’s murder was a true tragedy, yet from his death came a miracle. It took my father and his staff years to figure out how to replicate a single chemical from Intra’s brain, and years more before they succeeded in safely making other bodies produce it. Even then, he probably got lucky given how crude his tactics were. Things have changed, though, the information has spread. Our method is safe and will be affordable, however we won’t be the only ones out there. Turning from Powered to Super is a life-changing experience, and one way or another the Powereds will find a way to get the procedure done. It can be something they steal in the night, or something we offer freely as a gift to those in need. But once they are Supers, I think you’ll very much wish you’d gone with my version. Personally, I’d prefer a nation of new Supers to be grateful to me, rather than resentful at my greed.”
Alice took a single sip of the water, then set it down. “You can all keep squabbling over this, the vote is in two days. Give it a lot of thought. The future is coming, all you get to choose is which side of it you’re on. As for me, I have a pressing event that I can’t miss.”
Without waiting for reply, she strode out of the room, leaving the board behind. She wasn’t needed here, the outcome was painted on their faces. Being a Subtlety Hero had a lot of drawbacks when building relations with other Heroes, but it sure as hell came in handy in the business side of her life.
Hey all, Drew here. I've had a few people reach out, and I now realize that the titling here might be misleading for some folks. So for clarity: this is the final bonus chapter, not the last chapter of the book. There is still more Epilogue to come, and more faces to see.