Helios put his phone down on the seat beside him and adopted a more serious tone.
“Something big”, his posture relaxed but his muscles visibly tensed under his costume. Golden gloved fingers interlaced themselves as the hero stated every fact that he knew about their mission. “ Maria didn’t tell me much, but it’s government business.” With a heavy sigh, Grant folded his arms again. The stone man’s eyes closed and he tipped his head back.
“So you’re tellin me that they want a con and a gun runner on government business? Somethin ain’t right about that.” A small grin etched itself out on the golem’s face as he questioned the man sitting across from him. “Reminds me of the time a capo hired me ta steal from his own boys. Wanted to fence it himself and keep his boss out of the loop. Needed someone who was… what’s the word I’m lookin for.” Grant’s smile turned into a giant grin.
“Expendable.”, Steel chimed in seemingly done with his belt.
The good doctor’s eyes went wide as she looked back and forth between her three compatriots. “They wouldn’t have asked us to do anything sketchy…right?”
“Doubtful, but it’s something they didn’t want the other teams working on” The cloaked figure retorted.
“But, they would ask us to fill in for something that was dangerous enough not to be brought to the other superheroes and something juicy enough not to be on the headline on every show in America.”, Helios spoke.
A rough gravelly voice cut in, “Two criminals that can keep their mouths shut”
“An honorably discharged super soldier and two heroes stuck in the past…”
The door to the cockpit opened with a thunk. A woman stood there. She was clad in blue and white. Blue heavy boots, with white soles. Tight blue cargo pants clung to her legs. Her torso was wrapped in a matching bulletproof vest, emblazoned in the center of the body armor was a white star. Tight blue spandex covered what wasn’t hidden by the vest. The fabric ran just up to the base of her neck, down her right arm up until it met the end of her wrist length white gloves, but not down her left arm. There metal took the place of fabric. The whole length of her left arm was robotic. As her boots thunked against the metallic floor she came to attention in front of the rest of her team. She stood, both hands behind her back as she spoke.
“Good morning everyone. I’m sorry for waking you and thank you for gathering as quickly as you did, but the situation is of the utmost importance.” Her gaze moved across the room as she addressed her allies. From the smiling face of Witch Doctor, the serious look of Helios, the wide grinning Grant, her gaze stopped on the blank slate of The Steel Phantom. His helmet reflected only the image of his belt and the surrounding room, but Lt. Arc’s eyes were focused on the deep slashes and slight burn marks dotting the parts of his suit not covered by his silver cloak. Not to mention damaged device within the hero’s hands. “It would seem some of you came more prepared than others.” Her glare was strong enough to turn hardened criminals into a blubbering b, but the technological superhero just turned his head calmly and replied.
“ At least I’m not impaired.” Immediately after the last word was spoken, the air was filled with crackling sounds and the smell of burnt ozone. Arc walked hastily towards the other hero. Her face showing no emotion, but the slight arcs of electricity across her body said more than enough. Steel stood up to meet Arc. They stood face to helmet. Steel slightly loomed over, but Arc didn’t waiver in the least.
“You know something Steel I don’t like you. I respect you. But I don’t like you. You don’t have any powers, but your tech is first class. Better than most. But, you show up with the tech WE rely on in pieces. It’s one thing to get your ass kicked on your own time, but don’t drag us down with you.” The tone was calm, but the denotation of the words was more than enough to get her feelings across. Helios exchanged looks with both Witch and Grant. The redhead looked concerned, but the hulking brute just sat back smiling. It was like he had been given front row seats to a trashy daytime T.V. show.
For the first time, the seemingly flat tone of the inventor changed. It became rougher, full of ichor.
“First of all, my company is the only reason you and everyone else doesn’t need to sell their likeness to pay rent. Secondly, how badly I get my ass kicked is my business, not yours. Lastly, if you wish to check on the status of my tech all you have to do is ask. One gauntleted hand shot up, its fingers outstretched. A bright white light came into existence within his palm. Fingers closed around the light, tentatively at first and then with force. Soon the light formed into a crude dagger shape, the hilt held firmly within his fingers, while the blade arched about five inches upwards. The tip of the light dagger found itself pointed in Arc’s direction. Not enough to be within dangerous distance of her body, but close enough that the light blade could strike her with a simple single lunge.
Grant looked as if all he needed to complete his entertainment experience was a bucket of popcorn and his favorite easy chair. Witch was in shock, her gloved hands clasped together in front of her mouth. Four fingers interlaced while her thumbs rested just under her chin. Helios was halfway between shocked and pissed. His eyes were wide, but his jaw was clenched. He got up, powerful legs pulling him forward. Thunk, THUNK, THUNK. Every step he took threatened to dent the metal floor. He stopped just before the two idiots. Who were preoccupied with their own standoff they didn’t even turn to regard the angry superpowered man behind them.
“Witch, lock em down!”, he yelled. Haphazardly the mage stood up, nearly tripping over herself as both hands furiously went to work drawing sigils of light into the air. Neither target had much time to react as the bright sigils turned into chains of bright golden light. The golden light shot out and ensnared both of the heroes. At first Lt. Arc and Steel attempted to dodge, but the magical bonds followed them. Soon they were bound, unmoving, deciding to not even try to struggle.
A deep labored breath issued forth from Helios as he just shook his head. “Listen. I know you both have issues, but you’re not going to kill each other now or ever. You’re gonna do what I and everyone else does at work. Be cordial. Then talk shit about them later!”
“Come on!” Grant roared, “Let em fight it out!”
“Listen, Grant, I’m not about to..”
“I think Grant’s right, they should hash it out!” The redhead mousily spoke up. “Speaking from a strictly psychological standpoint. The more their bad feelings for each other fester, the worse their teamwork will be. So they should at least clear the air so to speak. Non-violently of course.” Witch looked down and twiddled her thumbs, while grant howled for a fight. The leader of the group took it in for a second and made his decision.
“Well, doctors orders. Go for it!”
The Spanish woman was the first to speak.
“I’ve said this before. Your skills I respect, but your attitude is something else. You may pay some bills, but none of us know what it is or what you do.You’ve sold your tech to villains and other less than reputable people. Grant will at least tell us he’s having drinks with an old friend. You act like your business isn’t our business. But IT COULD EASILY BECOME our business. I’m a soldier. I don’t like that. If you have a problem you can trust us. I trusted you.” Her gaze moved from Steel to herself. Her eyes darted down to herself and her robotic left arm.
“ This isn’t the army.” Steel replied. “I’m sorry, but you don’t need to worry about me or what I do in my spare time, besides run a business that funds this team.”
“But we do.” A mousey voice responded. It was shaky at first but gained strength with every word. “You’re a member of our team. The best at obfuscation. The guy who keeps us all safe from the shadows. We care about you and every time we see you with new wounds from nobody, we get worried.”
Forlorn expressions on everyone but Grant whose face had just gone blank. For the first time, the master of obfuscation seemed genuinely at a loss.
“Someone stole something from me. He’s manufacturing and selling it. I’m taking out his sellers, buyers, anybody in contact with him. I haven’t found him yet, but when I do….It won’t be pleasant. If there’s ever a problem. I’ll call you. All right?”
The tense air within the room dissipated almost instantly. Helios nodded to the doctor and with a wave of her hand the chains disappeared. Arc and Steel exchanged nods after they stretched a bit.
With purpose the lieutenant walked back towards the front of the group, using her right hand to readjusting her ponytail. The former military hero adopted the same stance that her body was positioned in before the argument.
“ Everything I’m about to tell you is classified.” Ever the commanding officer, she took in her surroundings. Each of her teammates was seated paying complete attention to her words. “At 0100 hours Major Frost responded to an incident at a government installation, designed to imprison super threats to the United States and the world at large.”
“The Hollows?”, Grant questioned. All the mirth was gone from his voice.
Eyebrows raised, but no one spoke up until Arc continued her debriefing.
“The Hallows as the security personnel and prisoners call it is a facility that houses level four to level ten threats. Reign was sent there.” Arc looked in Helios’s direction, the name “Reign” immediately affected him. Grief, anger, sadness, and determination played out on his face. The storm settled and the only emotion on the blond man’s face was determination. His words were tonally low but fierce.
“How the hell did he take out Frost?”
Arc’s eyes closed for a brief moment breaking their eye contact and with a heavy heart, she finished her brief.
“With the assistance of seven detainees ranging from threat level, seven to ten Reign instigated an escape. A small scale riot was started. The security forces and automated systems were not in full effect at the start of the riot and automated systems are now down. Frost responded to the incident and after dealing ith several threats was assaulted by Reign and his group. He managed to escape, but the riot is still in action. With Frost’s team engaged in a classified mission, we have been asked to contain the riot and assist in the reclamation of the facility. We were chosen due to our experience with Reign and our skill sets.”
Beep, beep, beep. An alarm jarred everyone out of their jovial mood as Arc made her way back to the cockpit.
“That’s the autopilot telling us we’re near the LZ. Ready up. We’re going to be in for a rough ride and I’m not talking about the landing.”
Arc exited back into the cockpit, the rest of the crew was deep in preparation. Steel double checked his belt. Witch Doctor began digging through her bag making a mental tally of what she found. Helios was on fire. His eyes were focused down on the ground, ablaze with orange light. Muscles tight as if he was expecting a fight right then and there. A shocking contrast sat across from the boiling hero. Grant sat, reclined as far as a seven foot plus man could in the tiny jet seat. His eyes were closed and his chest began rhythmically moving up and down.