Threat Level: E
Destructiveness: E
Killability: D
Might: F
Survivability: E
Recovery: D
Mobility: E
Spark: D
Powers: Enhanced Sight and Hearing, Sonic Blasts, Durable Arms, Metabolic Regeneration, Desert Jackal’s Reflexes
Classification: Bruiser/Stalker

The Asuran Veda had absorbed Beta’s rating system and merged the two. It didn’t include fluff like the ThreatLevel app’s super database but provided concise information on his capabilities. After meeting with Becca and her children, Danny felt better about his overall ratings. He wasn’t as tough as Bheem the athlete and lacked Vish or Mindpunch’s destructiveness. However, Danny was strong enough to survive most minor villains and henchman. It was a good starting point.

After an evening of running deliveries, he awoke early the following morning but didn’t go for his run. Instead, he had an invitation from Jose for a semi-formal affair. Since he had several hours to spend, he played with the costume builder app Beta had given him. Becca and Danny would need to agree on the final design, but he enjoyed playing with the persona. His name, while in costume was a subject plaguing his mind, too. Even though Danny had spent all of his twenty-one years dreaming of becoming a super, he didn’t know where to start.

Danny was sure he wanted to disconnect his persona from his heritage. He’d grown up idolising Vish and Bheem, because there weren’t many other superheroes or athletes with the same skin colour as him. Danny didn’t want such focused attention on his hero persona. He was happy to make money off any endorsements or sponsors he gained, but it wasn’t why he wanted to join the League. People stalked idolised heroes and secrets came out sooner or later.

The news playing in the background caught Danny’s attention.

Breaking News!
Talon, the avian-themed Fabricator hero, is in critical condition.
He apprehended a team of women in white lab coats and black masks during an armoured truck robbery in Hackney.
After he had them in custody, a man in the same costume—
Apologies. My producer says the colours on his costume were inverted.
The villain calls himself Doctor Flux and is a suspected high-rank Fabricator.
The League has refused to make a comment on Talon’s status, but has issued him a Threat Level of B.
Civilians are advised to flee or take cover if they sight Doctor Flux or his Assistants. Their equipment are deemed lethal.

Clips from Holo device cameras and CCTV footage played over the anchor’s shoulder, showing Doctor Flux firing a beam weapon at Talon and clipping his wing. The villain wore a white mask and a black lab coat. The body armour under it blinked with neon lights and he hovered several metres above the ground.

Danny made note of the villain. Hackney shared a border with the Borough of Islington. However, Kaka refused to deliver to it. The area had the highest crime rates, gang presence, and many villains used the chaos to hide bases or safe houses in the region. The League had teams specifically dedicated to keeping the chaos from spilling over into neighbouring areas. Unless desperate or things turned dire, they rarely ventured into Hackney. Even then, they’d send the organisation’s heavy hitters.

The news report didn’t go into why the armoured truck had entered Hackney in the first place. Danny wondered whether Talon had foolishly chased it there and not realised he was entering hostile territory.

“You did it then?” Kaka asked, stifling a yawn. He walked out of his bedroom in shorts and a faded band t-shirt. The bags under his eyes and bloated cheeks suggested he hadn’t been sleeping well. “Already costume planning? Does that mean you’re going ahead with the League’s trials already?”

“Have you heard of the asset programme?”

Kaka shook his head. “Is that like the sidekick programme?”

“Almost,” Danny replied.

“You know the sidekick programme was a disaster, right? The League and sponsors took young, wide-eyed hopefuls and assigned them to fame-seeking heroes that didn’t know the first thing about teaching or mentoring. Those kids ended up dead or crippled.”

“I think the asset programme is their way of remedying that,” Danny answered. “If there are any missions which require long-term presence in the area, the hero leading it will get a list containing all local assets. We’ll know the area better than them and can communicate with the residents better as well. They’ll pick from the list based on our abilities and reputation.”

“That sounds better thought out than the sidekick mess,” Kaka stated. He put the kettle on for tea and prepared two mugs. “It’s good, actually. As long as you don’t end up with a train wreck of a hero, you can get some solid training and maybe build a name. What’s the pay like?”

“Passable,” Danny answered. “After Becca takes her cut my take-home will be barely higher than what I made from the gym. I only get paid while I’m serving as an asset, too. There is no guarantee there will always be a mission for me to help with. It’s a start, though.”

“It is. On the bright side, League pay is tax free.” Kaka smiled, but it didn’t extend to his eyes. Danny saw the poorly veiled disappointment. Yet he felt glad that Kaka kept his opinions to himself.

“I’ve got a few ideas for the costume,” Danny said. “There is one important bit, Beta, and I came up with—”

“Beta?” Kaka raised an eyebrow. “Becca? You’re not talking about Golemancer, are you?”

“I am,” Danny answered. “You knew her secret identity?”

“She didn’t try hard to keep it a secret after retiring. I encountered her during a rift breach long ago. Of all the heroes I’ve met, she is the most bearable.” He paused, adding milk and sugar to his black tea. For Danny, Kaka prepared his favourite: Mao Feng Green. He sat opposite his nephew and looked up at the costume hologram projected on the wall. “If it’s Golemancer and her golems running the agency, I can feel a little relieved.”

“Did you function as a hero or a villain, Kaka?” Danny asked. “What was your code name?”

“I never bothered with any of that,” Kaka asked. “Like any capable citizen if a rift opened. I helped. My face and name stayed away from the cameras and when no one was looking, I used my relic to capture a few specimens.”

Danny was sure there was more to it, but like always he didn’t push it with Kaka. The topic changed to costume ideas, and Danny went along with it.

“Beta and I decided that my gloves will need a few hidden attachments,” Danny said. “The most important of them will be a frequency emitter that nullifies the passive waves my hands are constantly emitting. They might interfere with my detection abilities, but when in civilian attire I can use them to mute the signal.”

“Good thinking. We can’t have Sasha and anyone with enhanced hearing tracking you. Did you bring her up with Becca, by the way?” Kaka shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I was mostly hesitant about this idea because of Sasha’s obvious hate of the powerless. She’ll treat you well now that you’re working with her aunt and have abilities, but that doesn’t change who she is. I’m not sure I buy her excuse. People that struggle to manage their blood sugar don’t suddenly stop being bigots.”

“You’re not wrong.” Danny sighed. “It was tempting, but everything Becca’s agency offers and the security that comes with her golems felt too good to give up. So, I just kept shut about the topic. Sasha mostly works in the field unless she’s training. Even then, she mostly interfaces and helps recruit civilian supers. Becca only represents a handful of heroes.”

“Of course. Civilian supers probably make up the bulk of her business even though they don’t bring in as much money as heroes. It’s vital for the business’s cover.” Kaka paused. He jumped out of his chair and fetched an envelope from the counter. He placed it in front of Danny before reclaiming his seat. “Your friend Jose came by while you were out yesterday. He left that for you. I said you were out making deliveries.”

“How did he seem? Angry? Disappointed?”

“Neither,” Kaka replied. “I spoke to him for a bit. It seems he doesn’t know you were there at all during the Druid-Dryad fight. When I told him you were injured, he looked genuinely surprised.”

“Strange,” Danny said, frowning. “I’d expect Power Merchant to blow the top off such information. Unless…”


“I think the Freaks have a super with Mind and Mover powers. I can’t be sure because whenever I think about it my head goes blank, but my hand-mouths felt her vibrations as she teleported.”

“Why do you think this super is a woman?” Kaka answered.

“I… I don’t know,” Danny said. “I remember seeing the cloud of purple smoke and a figure of pink light solidifying inside it. Looked like a woman to me, but I could be wrong.”

“It’s not impossible. You think this super messed with Power Merchant’s memories and accidentally pushed you out of his head?”

“Perhaps.” Danny opened the envelope and read through the card inside. A lump formed in his throat and his chest tightened.

“What is it?” Kaka asked.

“An invitation,” Danny answered. “It’s for Sal’s wake tomorrow. The family wants me there.”

Because of the chaos of the past week, Danny hadn’t given Sal’s passing and the gym much thought. A wave of guilt crashed down upon him. It wasn’t just that his last interaction with Sal had been a negative one. After getting what he wanted for all of his life, Danny had only thought of himself and his family. Even though they weren’t related by blood, Sal had treated him like a son at times. Losing classes had angered Danny, but he knew deep down Sal only did so for his safety. Yet Danny hadn’t given Sal’s passing and the gym’s destruction much thought.

“He was a decent man,” Kaka said. “Are you going?”

Danny nodded. “I’m not sure how I’m going to face his family, though.” He looked up at Kaka and came clean. “I didn’t tell you the entire truth, Kaka. Jose put me in contact with Power Merchant, not because I wanted to make a purchase. I thought about it, but I’d never go through with such a deal. It was for Druid. He promised to put in a good word with the League’s logistics and intelligence departments if I helped him get information on Power Merchant.” Kaka didn’t say a word. His eyes remained focused on Danny. “Druid told me to stay away from the gym that evening. I didn’t know what was happening, but I could’ve warned Sal.”

“Would you like me to go with you tomorrow?” Kaka asked, placing a hand on top of his nephews. “The company might help, Baba.”

“I’d like that very much, Kaka.” Danny felt his voice tremble for a second as he spoke. “Thank you.”


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About the author

J Pal

  • London


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