Prologue: Part 2

                “Another three have fallen, sir.” Sherman laid the file down in front of Crispin, who snatched it up and began to read. “The Sons of Progress are being ripped apart far more effectively than we anticipated. Somehow, they’ve run down nearly every one of our leadership staff.”

                “It’s not ‘somehow’ Sherman, it was the money. It’s always the money. Part of why I never sully my hands with the stuff. Necessary evil though it may be, in this world it’s too sticky. It seems Nathaniel Evers did not have as secure of sources as he led us to believe.” Crispin lowered the file with a heavy sigh. “But we always knew that would be a risk of working with such an amateur. Other members can be promoted to leadership, and our ranks have swelled thanks to prestige of showing Lander’s weakness. When the dust settles, I think we shall look back on this venture as a net gain.”

                Sherman merely nodded as Crispin reached into his desk and pulled out a laptop. A physical Ethernet cord was plugged into the side and ran to the wall, one drawback to the fact that the small concrete room they were in blocked every kind of remote signal known to man and Super. It was inconvenient for taking calls or staying in touch, but it had the upside of keeping Crispin completely concealed from all the angry Supers searching for him. The tech-genius Supers, especially when given a bit of enhancement, were truly capable of crafting marvelous wonders.

                “There’s something else I’d like for you to look into, Sherman. I’ve been picking up some chatter here and there since we poked the Lander beehive. It seems that their HCP might be a bit different from the others, with an extra-special secret all its own. This might be nothing but rumor and hearsay, but the way it’s being so expertly squashed makes me a bit curious.”

                “Of course, what should I be digging for?” Sherman had followed Crispin for years now; he had complete faith in the man’s hunches and intuition. If Crispin told Sherman to eat a bullet, he’d have trusted it was important to cause and not given it a single second thought.

                “Quite the strange rumor, actually. It seems a bit far-fetched to me, I can’t believe even the DVA and its cronies would be able to keep such a secret. However, if it is true, this represent an opportunity unlike any other we’ve come across. This could, in fact, finally turn the tides fully in our favor. Sherman, do you know off hand how many more Powereds there are than Supers?”

                “It’s hard to get a precise estimate, since many of both groups hide their abilities, but the most educated estimates would say there are two to three times more Powereds than Supers,” Sherman said, pulling up the data from his most recent briefing. This was a skill, not an ability, and one he worked on daily to keep sharp.

                “That’s what I found too,” Crispin agreed. “Now, imagine how the world would change if the Sons of Progress could turn all those Powereds into Supers. Our poor, suffering brothers and sisters would be filled with gratitude to the ones who set them free, not to mention ready for revenge at the world that looked down on them.”

                “It would be quite the boon,” Sherman said. “But no one has ever found a way to turn Powereds into Supers.”

                “Yes, that’s what I thought too.” Crispin turned his laptop around and showed Sherman the screen, a small message board on an out-of-the-way site deep in the internet’s catacombs. “Commit this to memory; it will likely be purged within a day or so. This is what I want you to dig up, Sherman. Find out if they really have cracked the secret. And then, tell me how we can steal it.”

                Sherman nodded as his eyes quickly scanned the screen. “I’ll get right on it, sir.”

*             *             *

                “Sniper.” Roy shoved Vince off the bench where he’d been eating, knocking the silver-haired Super to the dirt below. Vince stared at him, momentarily dazed, then closer his eyes and let out a frustrated grunt.


                “You’ll get there. It’s not supposed to be easy in the first place.” Roy leaned down and offered his hand, which Vince gladly accepted. He easily pulled the smaller man up from the ground, then took the open seat next to him and set down his own meal.

                Sunlight poured down on them as they ate the cold sandwiches at the communal bench and picnic table. Aside from the ones training with whatever Hero or Super had shown up for the week, there wasn’t really a schedule anyone had to adhere to. Hank had given them a set amount of tasks to complete each day, so long as they stuck to those they were free to use the rest of their time as they saw fit. This wasn’t Lander, after all. Here, they determined what the best way to better themselves was.

                “Is Shane still sparring with Hank?” Vince asked as he dusted himself off.

                “Last I checked. That guy seems pretty thrilled to have someone he can fight without hurting. Can’t say I blame him for it, either.” Roy tore into his ham and turkey sandwich with gusto, despite it being chilled from a morning spent wilting in a cooler. “You’ve got the afternoon shift booked, right?”

                “Yeah. I like an invincible target as well. How about you?”

                “Resistance training with Alice. She worked on stopping power last time Titan visited, and now I can barely reach her. All that sparring with Mary probably helps a lot too.”

                Thomas walked over as the discussion continued, quietly scooping a sandwich of his own from the white ice chest filled full of the things. As he headed to the table, he took a quick detour, grabbed Vince by the shoulder, and shoved him off the bench once more.

                “Sniper,” Thomas announced.

                “Crap!” Vince hurried to his feet and did his best to dust off the well-worn clothes he was training in, but it was a losing battle. On the upside, at least his lunch wasn’t going to get any colder, no matter how much time he spent on his back.