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Threat Level: N/A
Destructiveness: N/A
Killability: N/A
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Might: O
Survivability: O
Recovery: O
Mobility: O
Spark: O
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Power Type: N/A
Classification: N/A

 

Even though he’d spent most of the night browsing Power Merchant’s catalogue, Danny woke early the following morning. Even though the power-and-pay packages were tempting and seemed to favour the client, Danny still struggled to make up his mind. Jose’s motivation to get him involved with the Power Merchant had become clear. The villain had an excellent referral scheme and a system in place to further reward employees who let the organisation grow.

The thought of working with or for a villain still made Danny hesitate. He thought about what side he wanted to take to achieve his goals. Taking the wrong path to do the right thing felt wrong. At the same time, Danny worried he was letting his ideals ruin his future.

Since closing the kitchen, doing the ordering and paperwork kept him up late, Kaka slept in on most days. Danny heard nothing through the door. Kaka occasionally complained if Danny left the house at dawn. It was bedtime gangs and villains. Many had histories of taking their anger out on civilians after dreadful nights.

Holloway Road — Green
Arsenal Stadium — Orange
Seven Sisters Road — Yellow
Finsbury Park — Yellow

Danny took a screenshot of the ThreatLevel App before leaving the house. He ensured the image displayed the time and date, too. Then he donned his running gear and left the house.

Unlike Holloway Road, Seven Sisters Road only had two lanes. However, it experienced more traffic in the early mornings. Markets, grocers, butchers, and Turkish supermarkets lined the street. They got their deliveries at sunrise, and small eateries lined up to get the best possible produce. Even though it cost more, Kaka used delivery services to get ingredients for the restaurant. It ensured a more consistent product and made life considerably easier.

No heroes or villains walked the street, but Danny spotted supers helping with deliveries. Super strength or speed helped reduce labour costs and provided a degree of security, too. Villains and gangs rarely bothered super-employing businesses for protection money, too.

While growing up, Danny dreamt of making all of Islington like Seven Sisters Road. He didn’t want to be a national or international superstar but a local hero. Danny dreamt of making his corner of London safe for the otherwise ignored part of the population. It was idealistic and silly, but he grew up always feeling that there was something missing in his life, and he wanted to ensure no one else suffered the same way.

It took Danny ten minutes to reach Finsbury Park. His running route took him past his favourite Jewish bakery. The aroma of fresh bagels and poppy seeds filled the air. On most days, after his run, Danny would stop by the shop for a corned beef and wholegrain mustard poppy seed bagel. Occasionally, he’d go for smoked salmon and cream cheese instead. He had different plans for the morning.

Danny entered the park and ignored the usual running paths. Most people avoided the park’s heart until later in the day, worrying they’d run into an injured villain or a gang member sleeping off the aftereffects of the latest street drug. Danny preferred solitude and trusted the ThreatLevel App. He ran down the winding paths through the park’s heart until he spotted his destination: a food truck selling breakfast sandwiches.

The shop had no name and only a couple of patrons. It only visited the park twice a week and parked far from the entrance even though it wasn’t best for business. It only had a couple of customers when Danny slowed to a stop.

“Grab yourself a water, mate,” the man behind the counter said, wrapping a sandwich and handing it to the woman first in line. Her shorts left her feline legs exposed, and a tail protruded through the hole above her bottom. She accepted the package with a smile before sprinting away on bare paws. The shopkeeper started on the next customer’s sandwich as Danny took a water bottle and then turned to him. “What can I get you this fine morning?”

“A sausage, black pudding, and egg toastie, please,” Danny answered. “On white bread.”

“Do you want it buttered? Any sauces?”

“Just mayonnaise and peanut butter, please.”

“Peanut butter?” The shopkeeper raised an eyebrow, and the customer looked at Danny quizzically.

“Yes. Peanut butter.” Danny sighed, scanning his phone on the HoloPay console.

The only other customer tucked into his sandwich as soon as he received it and walked away without another word. Danny watched him go as the shopkeeper closed the shutters and came out of the back with two plates. A small metal table and two chairs sat next to the truck. The shopkeeper claimed a chair and Danny sat opposite him.

“Please tell me you didn’t actually use peanut butter,” Danny said, sniffing at the toastie’s sealed edges.

“You’re going to have to take a bite to find out,” the shopkeeper replied nonchalantly. He removed his beanie, revealing a headful of ginger locks. Without his staff powered, the shopkeeper’s hair lacked its fiery effect. His skin lacked the signature sheen and the green eyes didn’t glow, either. Danny doubted anyone would recognise him as Druid in his current state. “How did it go?”

“Smooth.”

“I’m surprised you got them to eat the kiwis,” Druid said. “I thought you’d try to plant a seed on him instead.”

“If the kiwis failed, I would’ve tried the seed. However, with Jose present and the henchwoman I doubt I would’ve gotten away with it. Her powers weren’t clear.”

“We still don’t know what Power Merchant can do either.” Druid sighed. “Either way. You did a good job. I lost their trail, but my mushroom men are tracking them.”

“You didn’t find their hideout?” Danny asked, eyes widening. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed and hoped finishing the job would get him what he wanted. “How’s that possible, mate? I thought you were waiting on the gym’s roof last night.”

“Take it easy, Danny. These missions are never easy. I tailed them for quite a bit yesterday as they had dinner and met with a couple of local gangs. Power Merchant walked into a broom cupboard and just disappeared. His hench people, too. My mushroom men checked it out and scanned the area, too. It was on the first floor with no possible tunnels or passageways. They were there one moment and then they weren’t. I can’t sense where they went and my range covers most of North East London. So they either have a A-rank Mover with teleportation powers or someone weaker and a base safeguarded against tracking abilities.”

“I just hope the tracking doesn’t fall away before they re-emerge.”

“No. You’re hoping I’ll pass on my recommendation despite the mission remaining incomplete,” Druid said, taking a bite out of his sandwich.

“You’re not wrong.”

“Well, I’ve already had Dryad put your name on the list.” Druid grinned. “Your job wasn’t completing the mission, but getting a trace on Power Merchant, and you did that.”

“That’s brilliant!” Danny exclaimed. “If I can’t help on the street level, at least I can assist through logistics and maybe eventually through Oracle. North East London requires more people—”

“You know you will have no say over what zone you help until you’re pretty far up the ladder, right?”

“I’m aware, but it’ll be a start. I can finally do something that matters.” Danny once again glanced at his sandwich. Even though the run had stirred his appetite, he didn’t give in. Even though Danny had put his life in Druid’s hands several times, he didn’t trust the man not to put peanut butter in the sandwich. It started as a code to ensure no Shifter took his place. However, Druid had a mean sense of humour and had surprised him a couple of times. “So, what’s next? Should I contact Jose and try to get another appointment? Maybe feign that I’d like to be a client.”

“I know you want a power, Danny, but it’s not the way—”

“That’s not what I’m saying, Louis.”

“But—”

“Power Merchant knows your face and name now,” Druid said. “Which means he knows everything about you. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a tail on you now. We can pretend to be old school friends sharing a breakfast. Anything more and they’ll get suspicious. Tell Jose you got cold feet and need more time. Dryad and I will handle this from here unless things change.”

“Fine.” Danny sighed.

“There will be other missions. I need people on the street level that can’t be associated with a hero. You’re doing great in that department. The gym is a great place for information gathering. Continue there until someone from the League contacts you.”

“For how long, mate?” Danny asked. “I’ve got my uncle chewing my ear off and Sal is taking classes away from me. This isn’t sustainable and if the League thing doesn’t work out, I need to move on with my life. Right now, it feels like I’m in limbo. I’m twenty-one and nowhere close to where I want to be. My current position is a dead end, too. I need to know soon if this will never happen.”

“I didn’t want to give too much away, but logistics is already running background checks on you and your uncle. There are blank spaces. That’s why it’s taking so long. It’s likely due to all the records that were damaged when half of Harrow and Wembley burned to the ground. So it’s in the works, but I don’t know whether it will take days, weeks, or months. The takeaway has an excellent reputation and your University professors say good things about you, too. That’s all I managed to get out of them. Dryad says she has a good feeling about it, though.”

“That’s still limbo,” Danny told him, as his stomach rumbled.

“Well, it’s the best I can do,” Druid said. “If Dryad and I successfully take Power Merchant down, the records will highlight your participation in the mission. That’s bound to speed things up. It’ll be any day now. If our suspicions are correct, we know where they’ll appear.”

“You still think they’re working with Doorman?”

Druid nodded as he wolfed down the rest of his breakfast sandwich.

“But he’s never been a villain.”

“He behaves like a hero, but he never registered with the League.” Druid continued the conversation without swallowing and spraying crumbs across the table. “As a rogue hero, he’s barely more than a vigilante. There’s no one regulating or watching him. We don’t know his motivations or his goals. It’s plausible that he got greedy and joined Power Merchant’s organisation.”

“It could be the Freaks, too,” Danny said. “They’ve got too many members and we can’t keep track of their powers. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have a teleporter in their ranks.”

“The Freaks hate Power Merchant,” Druid replied. “Most of their recent attacks have targeted his operation specifically. I suspect they’re stealing from him, too, because the number of gangs hunting the Freaks is increasing every day. It’s possible that Power Merchant is handing out jobs with eventual powers as incentive.”

The conversation ended as soon as more runners appeared on the path. Druid took Danny’s phone into his truck to clone, leaving him with pen and paper. While sipping on his water, Danny sketched Power Merchant and noted as many details as he could remember. He doubted Druid would get much out of the phone’s memory. Danny had connected the device to his computer after the catalogue app deleted itself, and ran a diagnostics. He found no trace programs. However, as a League hero, Druid had access to Fabricator-made tech not available to the public.

Danny often wondered whether there were any other superheroes living in plain sight and using small businesses or a menial job to gather information. Despite his hero persona, Druid spoke and looked no different from a Cockney cafe or sandwich shop owner. He talked and behaved like one with customers, too.

Druid returned the phone after a wave of customers. Most stopped for a drink and only a handful bothered with sandwiches. Most runners didn’t care for the carb and fat heavy breakfast. Workers preferred the bagel place outside the park or the food trucks by the entrance.

I doubt he’s here to make a profit.

As an up and comer in the League, Druid probably got a generous salary. Danny had seen him appear in a couple of commercials, too. Unlike many heroes, Druid’s costume didn’t feature corporate logos, but at the same time, he had an action figure in most supermarkets. It was almost eight in the morning when Danny finished sketching and writing everything down. He left the pad on his chair before heading home.

As he reached the bagel shop, Danny hesitantly ripped open the now-cold breakfast toastie. “Of course he did.” Danny sighed, tossing the sandwich in the closest bin. He bought a poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese, cucumber, and smoked salmon, and ate it while walking home.

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J Pal

  • London

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