A note from J Pal

I'd like to thank RageGaze for the awesome review. It brightened my day and my rank is finally climbing again!

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

Beta helped Danny out of his suit after he’d eaten his fill and chugged a litre of orange juice. It didn’t surprise him that one of Becca’s children was an expert chef, running an in-house kitchen for the family and clients. Danny would’ve settled for two pieces of bread with processed ham, packet of cheese, and mustard. Instead, Becca's children served him a surf and turf platter with steamed veggies, a mountain of mash, and a sundae of tropical sorbets.

As the wounds healed, he struggled to remember how he received the clean slice on his right bicep. It looked like a paper-thin blade had slid through the flesh like it was butter. Metabolic Regeneration patched the wound first. The scratches on his forearms closed next.

The hole in his torso took the longest to fix itself. The burnt skin around it dried and flaked off first. A new layer grew over the injury and then the wound closed. It itched as the flesh underneath regrew. Unlike with the gunshot, the wound didn’t disappear altogether. A patch of new white skin remained, leaving a pale scar on his light-brown skin.

“I’m surprised the armour held up against Talon’s rivet gun,” Beta said, studying the chest piece. He removed the segments around the damage section. The pieces had caved in around the impact point, but the projectile had failed to penetrate all the way. By the looks of it, it was heated sections of the armour that had cut and burned him. “It must’ve been low on power.”

“I don’t think Malfunction’s technomancer abilities are all there,” Danny replied. “Everything around her was going haywire.”

“That’s worth knowing.” Beta lay the armour down on a table and removed the entire abdominal section. He sighed. “This was a spare. I don’t think I can make you something as good until you join the League. So I’ll do my best to scrounge up a fix. Let nothing stronger than a shotgun hit you in the stomach. Alright?”

“Believe me, I’d rather get struck by nothing at all.” Becca had warned him that until he started making money through asset contracts or joined the League, he wouldn’t have regular pay. As a result, Beta had no budget. Instead, he’d receive whatever was left after the security and PR departments got their cut. “What about the coat? Can you fix that?”

Beta nodded. “That shouldn’t be a problem at all. I have enough material to make several copies of the coat, trousers, mask, and boots. I planned on adding an extra mesh to their inside lining, anyway. The blood catching abilities need to be better.”

“Blood catching?”

“Yes. Given your healing abilities and fighting style, I prioritised security over defence. The costume is meant to ensure you don’t lose any blood, hair, or any DNA someone could use to track you. You’d be surprised how little it takes. Some trackers need little more than a droplet to find you. They’re rare, but we prefer not taking any risks. Given what you’ve told us about Malfunction, we’re going to need more safeguards.”

After the evening’s events, Danny wanted nothing more than to go home. He needed to talk to Kaka and process everything he had learned. Even though it was likely dangerous, Danny needed to speak to Druid, too. What he’d learned about Power Merchant and the Freaks would likely prove invaluable to them. However, Becca wanted to talk to him after reviewing all the surveillance information and considering the damage and stolen equipment.

As Beta analysed the damaged pieces of the Rev suit, Danny toyed with the gloves. It annoyed him that the taser function had slipped his mind. It would’ve made the battle against Ratling significantly easier.

I need to work it into my fighting style the same way I did the sonic blasts. What good is having extra tools if I forget about them in a fight.

For a while after the battle, he felt disappointed about Malfunction and Ratling getting away. As he thought about it, Danny realised that as long as the Freaks had their Mover, capturing any of them would prove impossible. The super’s powers frustrated Danny. He struggled to remember anything about her besides the purple cloud and the neon pink crack in space. He wanted to know what weapon she had used against him to inflict a cut cleaner than one from a freshly sharpened kitchen knife.

The only methods of dealing with the Freaks effectively involved sedating the Mover or killing them. They’d have to do something atrocious for the League to issue the latter order. Danny struggled to understand why the League avoided such measures. For petty super criminals or those who only indulged in theft with no casualties, it made sense. However, Danny believed that individuals who indulged in murder or sexual misconduct didn’t deserve such mercies. As far as he knew, the Freaks hadn’t crossed either bridge yet. Therefore, they didn’t deserve death. However, Roach and Malfunction had used lethal force against him. So, he struggled to decide regarding where they stood.

The gathered intelligence had put his mind at ease. He didn’t know how much of it was true, but Malfunction’s hatred of Power Merchant felt genuine. When he thought back to the night when he first saw the Freaks, Danny recalled her mentioning their target. Besides feeling glad about not doing business with Power Merchant, he worried about Jose.

They started off as trainer and client, but their relationship had grown friendly over time. Jose liked to talk, and Danny knew about the man’s life. He understood the frustrations that came with being powerless, too. Jose’s chosen path disappointed Danny, but he understood. He wanted to improve his life. The life of a henchman likely gave him more purpose than that of a minimum wage worker. However, the costs involved concerned Danny. If Power Merchant truly kept children prisoner as test subjects, there was a chance Jose knew about it and had lied. Danny worried his former client assisted in keeping prisoners and containing them during experiments, too.

I hope it’s not true.

It was late in the evening when Becca sent someone for Danny. Before leaving Beta, he took the emitter tags from his gloves and clipped them to his jacket sleeves. He worried the Freaks would have people among them capable of tracking his signal just as Sasha had. He spared the machines making his new coat a glance before taking the elevator up to the main building.

An unnamed blue woman led him to Becca’s office. It wasn’t the consultation room where they’d first spoken, but somewhere near the top of the building. The blue woman rushed to close a door connecting to the office. Danny glimpsed an apartment. It didn’t surprise him that Becca used the building as her home as well. She claimed her golems broke down rapidly if she travelled too far from them. He assumed the floors above served as their quarters.

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Danny,” she said, eyes glued to the screen in front of her. “This breach has everyone rattled, and I need to figure out how to explain the event to my other clients.”

“Tell them the truth,” Danny said. “We know how they got here, and they only stole old armour pieces and weapons, right? Beta said they got nothing that can connect to a superhero.”

“That’s not good enough.” Becca sighed. “You’re new to the game, so you don’t know yet, but heroes are a paranoid, egotistical bunch. We have no evidence to support what Malfunction told you. If they found us once. They could again. The basement levels are no longer secure. To be safe, we’re moving Talon’s old gear and all repairs to a new location.”

“But they stole nothing that can connect this to your other clients?”

Becca shook her head and shovelled pasta into her mouth. “It would take someone with psychometry-type Mind powers to figure out the connection. Historically, there are only five recorded supers with the power set. We sanitise everything that goes in storage, remove power cells, and wipe its memory.”

“Then don’t tell them.”

“That…” Becca’s eyes narrowed as she looked at Danny. “That would be unethical.”

Becca didn’t elaborate. After their conversation about playing a blind superhero, Danny doubted she cared about ethics. She continued to eat, watching him.

“I’m impressed. We all are. Everything you did today is almost textbook.”

“But we didn’t capture anyone.”

“That wasn’t the task. We had a major security breach. Your mission involved repelling the infiltrators and ensuring nothing gets stolen. Capturing a Freak would’ve been a welcome bonus. However, it’s not what’s expected of you. In fact, wasting time on capture could be considered a deviation from the mission parameters. Your conduct paints you in a better light. As far as the League is considered, at least.”

“Thanks,” Danny said. He struggled to decide whether sticking to parameters alone filled him with pride or not. Capturing villains felt like the bare minimum he should do, and the League, considering it a deviation from the mission made no sense to him.

“Honestly, people expect little of heroes that join the League through agencies.” Becca continued. “Often they don’t start with adequate training. By that, I don’t mean martial arts. Agencies and the League often spend thousands on teaching recruits on how to handle themselves in mission. Discipline, decision making, and sometimes common sense needs to be drilled into new people. After Sasha’s report and seeing how you handled yourself today, I think you’re mission ready.”

“What does that mean?”

“Are you familiar with Fenrir?”

Danny nodded. “He’s a Master and a Bruiser. He summons spectral wolves and then pulls them into himself to improve his close-range fighting capabilities.” Danny had studied up on the hero when looking up supers similar to Rakshasa. “Fenrir started his career in South London then got sent up north where he took care of the drug lords in Liverpool. Now he’s back and high in the League’s roster.”

“The League contacted us about assets regarding a local mission,” Becca said. “It involves Power Merchant and Fenrir is in charge.”

“Taking over from Dryad and Druid?”

“He’s essentially taking Dryad’s place while she is out of commission. Druid will be his number two and he contacted us for a couple more locals. If you’re willing, I’d like to suggest you for the position. Given your performance and everything else, it would be a good fit and an excellent opportunity.”

“When would I need to start?”

“If you accept and they approve—which they might not since you’ve not worked with the League or had any official field missions, then Fenrir will contact you for a team meeting. The League will take over and we’ll deal with your suit and pay.”

“I’d like to go ahead with it,” Danny said after taking a moment to think about it. “Fenrir has an interesting track record, and I know Druid. He’s a good hero. Is there anyone else I might know on the mission?”

“They want two assets, and we’re listing six candidates for the slots. It could be anyone.” She paused. “I will suggest you in pairs, though.”

“Is my partner someone I could be familiar with already?”

Becca sighed. “I suppose it’s not that big an issue since you’ve probably already seen the tech, but are you familiar with Mista Fista?”

“Isn’t he the kid with one giant gauntlet? He got in trouble with the League for vigilantism and robbing electronics stores.”

“You don’t know half of it.” She chuckled. “The League gave him a choice. Either he joins the asset programme until he’s of adult age and has an official League licence or he ends up in juvenile detention. Mista Fista picked the former and we have the pleasure of watching him, and providing a safe workspace for his Fabricator needs. The boy is headstrong and has his eccentricities, but your level-headedness should balance things out.”

“So I wouldn’t just have the stress of my first mission, but would also need to play babysitter?” Danny asked.

“Welcome to the hero life,” Becca replied, and they ended the meeting.


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About the author

J Pal

  • London


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