“You know, normally I bill by the hour. Do you even want to guess how much this mystery guest of yours running late should cost?” Hallow leaned back in the stiff, government-issue chair. Senator Malcolm’s office was a moderately sized one, but he’d never taken the chance to spruce it up much during his tenure. Some thought it was because he spent so little time in it that he saw no point, while others believed he preferred his guests to be uncomfortable. Very rarely were people called to Senator Malcom’s office for positive reasons.
“Sure, go ahead and tell me. Then we can discuss how many flight plans that plane of yours is going to have turned down by the FAA, the tax records I think the IRS needs to do a full audit on, and every other petty inconvenience I can foist upon you.” Senator Malcolm smiled from his own, far more comfortable, chair, spreading his arms out across the wide desk. “I’ve got two days left, Hallow, but I’ve also got more people here who owe me favors than you can count.”
“Here’s hoping your replacement is a little less free with abusing his power,” Hallow muttered, half under his breath.
“What ever happened to you, anyway? I read up on your files, you used to be one hell of a Hero. Selfless, giving, devoted to your team. How did that guy turn into the greedy, self-involved jackass I see before me?” Senator Malcom didn’t seem accusatory, despite the harshness of his words; he more came off as curious. The man had been dealing with Supers and Heroes for a long time; he’d mastered the gently grandfatherly persona to grill them with.
Sadly, Hallow didn’t get the chance to answer, as a sharp knock came from the door. Without waiting for permission, it opened to reveal an old man, at least a decade ahead of Senator Malcolm, with a large cane. He moved in and shut the door behind him, taking care to turn the lock as he did. Only when the entrance was secure did he actually face the senator, and his attitude was anything but gentle.
“Alright, I made the damn trip here, last minute I might add, so tell what the hell is so important that I had to fly all the way to D.C.” The man moved with more speed than his age and the cane would indicate, helping himself to the other free chair in the room, directly next to Hallow. If he was bothered by its lack of comfort, he didn’t show it, which made Hallow feel a touch insecure about how annoyed he’d let himself be by the minor detail.
“Graham, I’d like you to meet Hallow; Hallow, this is Graham DeSoto,” Senator Malcolm pulled a piece of paper from one of the drawers on his desk and slid it across to Hallow. “As you may recall, you’ve signed a non-disclosure for all work done for the DVA. I just want to remind you of that, because trust me when I say that if a single word of today’s meeting leaves the room, I’ll do a lot more than give you a few small problems. You will be leveled, all that money and opulence you’re so fond of traded for a cell. You’d still get to wear white though, so that’s something.”
Despite the warning, Hallow merely rolled his eyes. “I’ve done DVA work before, you can skip the threats. Even I know there are some mistakes money won’t buy me out of.”
“That’s nice and all for you, but it still doesn’t tell me why the hell I had to fly out here,” Graham interrupted.
“Well, partly you’re here for my going away party,” Senator Malcolm replied. “Seemed only fitting, since you were so instrumental in helping set up the DVA back when things first began. Want you to be here for my ending. And I decided to give you a little present while I was at, just something to say thanks for all those years you spent helping us, and me. The man next to you is a healer unlike the world has ever seen. He’s so powerful that he can actually heal the damage from the cell degeneration of growing older. One touch, plus a bit of effort, and you can be back in your prime again.”
Graham raised both of his gray, bushy eyebrows, staring back and forth between the senator and Hallow for several long, silent seconds.
“This feels less like a gift that it does like you trying to get me back into the field.”
“We can’t force you, you helped draft the very legislation that makes compelling a Super into Hero service illegal, but we damned sure would do everything we could to convince you to put the mask back on.” Senator Malcolm looked out his window, onto the sprawling green ground being bathed in sunlight. “Things are bad right now, Graham. Dangerous. Hard. That attack on Lander kicked up a lot of unrest, gave the wrong sort of people too much hope. Folks need to be reminded of why they believe in Heroes, of the trust they have in them. The return of Captain Starlight would put a lot of people’s minds at ease, mine among them.”
Hallow, for all his casual and practiced nonchalance, nearly tipped all the way back and fell from his chair. Captain Starlight, the Captain Starlight? The original Hero, the first publicly acknowledged Super, the one who had paved the groundwork for all of those who came after. That he was still alive was shocking enough, but to discover the old man sitting across from Hallow was the most famous Super to ever don the mantle of Hero… it was all he could do not to grab paper from Senator Malcom’s desk and ask for an autograph.
“The chance to be young again?” Graham DeSoto looked at Hallow with renewed interest, then tipped his head back as if he were picturing how it would feel to have his strong, powerful body once again under his command. “It’s a kind gesture, and I truly appreciate it, but I’m going to have take a hard pass on that one.”
“If you’re worried about getting back in the swing of things-”
“I’m not worried about jack shit,” Graham said, cutting off the senator. “If I took this offer I’d be knocking people on their heads and kicking up a storm in no time. I’ve spent my whole life either fighting or teaching others to fight, getting rusty was never an option. But, as much as I could do, I’m not going to. The time of Captain Starlight has passed, my own granddaughter helped me see that. There is always going to be trouble, always going to be danger circling the tenuous peace we’ve built between humans and Supers. It’s up to this generation of Heroes to keep it safe, just as all those who came before them did. It’s not my place to fix things. All I can do is pass on what I’ve learned and put my trust in the Heroes of today.”
“Guess that’s about as firm of a no as I’m going to get.” Senator Malcolm shook his head, though his disappointment was more the sake of form than genuine. “I knew it was a longshot from the start, but you can’t blame me for trying. Hallow, I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
“Now hang on a minute, I said I didn’t want to go all the way back to my prime. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to squeeze a few more years out of this old body.” Graham smiled, looking down at his cane. “I’ve hated this goddamn thing since the day I picked it up. Besides, I think I’d like to see how my grandkids fare. Something tells me they’ll have a few proud moments I’m going to want to be there for. Can you do that, Hallow? Can you just take me down a couple of decades?”
“Sir, it would be an honor.”
“Well, not a total bust then,” Senator Malcolm said. “And you know, if you ever want to share all that experience you’ve got with more than just the ones who come to you for training, we can always use another teacher in the HCP.”
“Teaching, huh?” Graham paused, clearly rolling the idea around in brain. “Maybe, I suppose that wouldn’t be such a bad idea, though to be honest I sort of had something else in mind.”
“Do I even want to know?” Senator Malcom asked.
In response, Graham gave a wide grin as Hallow reached over and rested his fingers gently on the older man’s hand. A light glow began to spread from the point of impact, enveloping Graham DeSoto only moments after he gave his reply.
“I thought I might try my hand at politics.”