Threat Level: E
Powers: Enhanced Sight and Hearing, Sonic Blasts, Durable Arms, Metabolic Regeneration, Desert Jackal’s Reflexes
“I don’t like this at all,” Danny said. “It feels wrong. It feels so bloody offensive.”
“It’s not an easy world, Danny,” Becca said. “Sometimes you need to play every possible card to get ahead. This will appeal to the League and they’ll want to take you on more for PR reasons. It could result in countless deals—”
“For fuck’s sake, Becca, I’m not pretending to be blind! That’s just twisted.”
“You’re not saying you’re blind. Your awakening fixed that! You say you used to be blind and now your eyes are outside of your head.”
“That doesn’t make it any better, Becca. I don’t want to be that sort of hero. It doesn’t matter what quota it would help me fill or what focus groups will find me more appealing.” Danny picked up the mostly solid white mask. The material felt solid but flexible. It had grooves under the eyes which curved up along the noses and connected at the back of the head. The mask covered the bridge and tip of his nose but kept the nostrils open. “Where’s the rest of it?”
Beta placed a white carbon-fibre mask in front of him. It covered most of his nose, cheekbones, jaw, and mouth. It featured an air filter and a voice modulator. Following Danny’s specifications, Beta had added hinged sections which he could open to get food in his mouth. When they opened, blue lights shone inwards.
“The light will mess with most cameras and your skin colour will be indiscernible to unempowered eyes,” Beta explained.
“How about we compromise?” Becca asked. “Don’t ask, don't tell. No one needs to know that you can see through the mask. If anyone asks you a question, you just don’t answer. If people think your alter ego is blind, they’ll believe the man behind the mask is blind, too.”
Danny sighed. “Fine. I think I can live with that.”
“Great!” Becca exclaimed. “We’re finally getting somewhere.” She turned to Beta as Danny tried on the full-length faux-leather jacket that would serve as his outerwear. They had baggy sleeves to hide his thick forearm. Much like the mask, Beta had made it out of stab-proof material. “Tighten the coat around the waist. Danny has a nice v-shape torso. We need to highlight that.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Beta replied.
Danny liked the coat. It almost reached his knees and had pockets for tools and snacks. He had a form-fitting body armour under it. Even though Beta had made it out of carbon-fibre sections, it was much lighter than Danny expected and didn’t hinder his flexibility at all. He sparred with a combat robot wearing it, and struggled to find any complaints.
The trousers were the lightest of all the garments. They had three stab-proof sections. The first protected his pelvis. The other two went around the thighs. It had a metal cap on the knees too. His high boots would protect the lower legs. They had sufficient armouring to protect his shin and calves. It featured metal-tipped tips much like his work boots.
“I’m especially proud of the gloves,” Beta said as Danny tried them on. They were made of the same material as the armoured chest piece and had a ring around the palm just bigger than the mouth. “Squeeze the bit under the wrist.”
Rectangular bits no bigger than Danny’s thumbnail came away when he did as instructed. He saw nothing special about them and clips on the underside appeared capable of attaching to any garment. His palm-mouths detected a constant hum emitting from them.
Beta pointed at the glassy outside. “Swiping across it will activate the emitter. I studied the passive signal your open hand orifices emit. These will help nullify the signal. It might interfere with your hearing through them unless you’re touching a surface, but I’m working on that. I suspect in a couple of months I’ll find a way to neutralise it without hampering your senses.”
“That’s fine,” Danny said. “I intend to use it while in my civvies, anyway.”
“It might come in handy while you’re running reconnaissance, too,” Becca said. Danny thought she had tuned them out after planting her nose in her tablet. “Any decent villain will hire henchmen with enhanced senses to run security.”
Beta took Danny’s hand and pointed at the fingers’ textured underside. “The rough will help with grappling and climbing capabilities.” He squeezed a section of the palm and little hooks rose from the fingertips. “These won’t just give you better grip but can cause some serious damage, too.”
“That’s amazing, Beta! These are perfect for the Stalker role—”
“Don’t interrupt.” Beta smacked Danny’s arm when he tried to pull away. Next, he pointed at a panel near the thumb’s base. “Squeeze that with your index finger.”
When Danny obeyed, it lit up and he heard a buzz followed by a continuous hum. He frowned, inspecting the glove more closely. Metallic studs rose from the knuckles. As Danny clenched his fist, the glove buzzed and electricity arced between the studs.
“It’s a taser. You’ll get three uses out of it every five minutes. You can release a stronger charge from the finger hooks, but they’ll demand twice the charge. The panel will click when it’s charged.”
“You just solved my worries regarding taking in powerless or low-survivability hostiles,” Danny stated.
“That’s the intention.”
Danny donned the entire costume and was pleased to find that it fit like a glove. He did a couple of laps around the training area while wearing it. Then took on a combat drone. When the challenge proved too easy, Becca summoned one of her children to face him. At first, Danny felt uncomfortable fighting a foe half his size, but his worries disappeared when the little blue man ballooned into a hulking mass of muscle.
The latest essence had made him too fast for his opponent to land a hit, but Danny did his best not to dodge all the hits. Instead, he let his opponent hit him just to feel how the armour held up. According to Beta, the blue man had a might-rating of D. The blows hurt and knocked Danny down or backwards, but the armour held.
Stabs and slashes hurt, but failed to get all the way through the coat. Bullets from a standard handgun inflicted no damage through the chest piece and Danny barely felt them. He felt powerful.
“I love it,” Danny said, snacking on a power bar. It washed away the pain from the many minor injuries he had suffered. “We need to do something about the colour, of course.”
Becca swiped her tablet and pointed at the nearby wall, projecting the costume’s image on it. “I think we should keep the coat’s tan colour. With a leather texture, it’ll look pretty fashionable. Black bottoms and boots work great with it. I’ll leave the head and chest up to you, though.”
“Can’t we make it all black?” Danny asked. “It’ll help with the Stalker role.”
“All black is too dark for branding and possible action figures if you ever get big enough,” she replied. “We need something vibrant.”
“How about navy blue?”
Another swipe changed the chest and head’s colours from white to dark blue. “Still too dark. I understand you need functionality, but we need to strike a balance.”
“This is ridiculous,” Danny whispered. Neither Beta nor Becca reacted.
“How about we settle on Azure or Royal Blue?” Becca swapped between the two options.Azure was a lighter shade but less vibrant. However, Royal Blue looked better to Danny.
“Let’s go with Royal Blue but with a matte finish. I don’t want a random reflection to give me away.”
“Perfect!” Becca exclaimed. “Now we need to settle on a name.”
“I already thought about that. What about Beholder?”
“Nope. That’s copyrighted. You don’t want a gaming company suing you, do you?”
“I don’t. What about Echo?”
Becca paused, typing into her tablet. “It’s available, but you’d have branding issues. The former user wasn’t particularly big, but too many people remember her.”
Danny had considered the name Asura, but worried the likes of Vish would make an unwanted connection. Instead, he pondered using another mythology to throw people off.
“How about Argus or Augur?”
“People need words they know or something that will stick in their head. Neither of them fit the bill. I think you’re too stuck on something related to your powers. It might be better to use something unrelated, so people are left wondering about the details of your abilities. Maybe think about the message you want to project?”
Danny sighed. “This is harder than I thought it would be.”
“Building a brand always is, Danny. You’re entering the game at a point where all the good names are taken or have a history.”
Struggling to come up with a name, Danny engaged in another bout with the inflated blue man. Beta called him Omicron. Unlike last time, he faced his opponent with all of his capabilities besides the sonic blasts. He toyed with his opponent, forcing him back with every attack. By the time they finished their bout, two new ideas had come to him.
“Rev or Void.”
"Short for Reverb," Danny answered.
"Makes me think of revving an engine," Becca replied. She frowned, typing away at her tablet. "Too many people have used Void over the years, but I could work with Rev. It can be a placeholder while you make an impression with the League. It’s unlikely you’ll make a big enough impression to get sponsors or endorsements until you get your licence, anyway.”
“Fine. Put it on my asset profile and I’ll think it over. Maybe—”
A blaring alarm interrupted Danny. He dropped to his knees, pressing his palms to the floor. “Shockwaves,” he said. “It’s the aftermath of an explosion on the floor above.”
“How’s that even possible?” Beta asked. “We’ve got six storeys between the ground floor and the sub-basements. There’s nothing connecting them but an elevator shaft. The sensors along it weren’t triggered. The ground floor has nothing, too.”
Dann felt a familiar movement. Among several sets of footsteps, he detected one that exploded. Then another soft explosion followed several metres away, and the footsteps continued. “It’s the Freaks,” he said. “And they’ve got a teleporter that screws with memories.”
Becca swiped on her tablet and spoke into it. “Security to basement one. The Freaks have infiltrated us. They’re targeting the armoury.”
Omicron took off towards the stairs while Beta and Becca disappeared into a side room. They beckoned to Danny, but after hesitating for a moment, he followed the inflated blue man. He finally had a costume and intended to make the most of it.