“You have a secret lair? With hidden tunnels leading into it? Dude, how long have you been at this?”, the scarfed girl asked.
“A few months”, Brennus replied, walking down the tunnel. He was not really comfortable with the situation. But then again, he could not leave the cloaked girl to die either. As for the girl in the scarf…
Well, he believed her that her power, whatever it might be, could keep the other girl alive. He was not sure why, but he did. Still, I ought to design a lie detector I can build into the helmet.
They reached the entry to his actual base – rails. And carts. Something to get around faster – and the gate opened. He walked in quickly, aiming towards the makeshift infirmary he had set up in one corner of his lab. It was little more than a table with a high-tech lamp (with built-in microwave emitter, holoprojector and nausea-inducing sonics) above it and some basic medical equipment around it. He’d planned to rework the equipment into automated robots that could automatically treat most injuries. But now he would have to use it himself – and for someone other then himself, as well. Well, let’s hope my power extends to Biology and Medicine as well. He had taken first aid classes and read a few books, but he was afraid that, barring supernatural aid, his decision to protect her secret identity might get the girl killed.
Carefully lowering the girl onto the table, he sent several commands to his computers. He was locking down all controls and ordering some cleaning units to start moving some of his more… sensible projects away from sight. No use in being a complete idiot.
He took off his armor, using the rig he had designed for just that purpose. Underneath it, he was still wearing the black bodysuit. It hid his face and offered some protection, should either of them attack, without restricting his movements in any way.
The scarfed girl looked with obvious curiosity. “Wow, you’re thinner than I would have expected”, she commented.
“Not everyone has the Adonis-set”, he replied, indicating her own perfect body.
She struck a pose that made her clothes cling very close to her body, emphasizing pretty much everything. And she had a lot of everything to emphasize. He could see her grin, even through the scarf hiding her face. “Jealous?”
“Not really. Anyway, we do not have time for this. Do you have at least basic first aid training?”
Again, she shifted from smug playfulness to seriousness in a heartbeat. “I took every first aid and advanced first aid course I could find. How can I help?”
“Come over here. I will need you for this. You have a name I can use?”
“Haven’t come up with anything yet? You have any idea?”
“What is your power? The Adonis-set usually comes along with other powers, rarely independently.”
“I’m stronger, faster, smarter than I was before. I’ve got way more stamina and I heal pretty fast, but not fast enough that I would have to hide it. I don’t get scars, I don’t get sick. But mainly, I just have a lot of luck. Case in point: me noticing witchgirl over there and following her. And you saw how the fight turned around once I got myself involved”, she explained. She was obviously anxious to impress with her power – and quite a bit too willing to explain.
“Hmm. Fortune? No, that is taken. Fortuna as well – I hear the two of them have been at each other’s throats for a while now. Anyway how about… Damn, I’m getting sidetracked, again! I’ll call you Tyche. That’s the Greek name for luck. The Romans took her and renamed her into Fortuna. So. Let us get to business. I am Brennus, by the way.”
* * *
2 hours later…
Nice to know that my power does extend to medicine, Basil thought as he sat down after the operation. Though, admittedly, it had been mostly luck that they managed to fix her up.
The cloaked girl was lying on the table, recovering. He had had to cut her costume off of her, since he had not been able to find a way to get it off her otherwise. Right now, he had covered her with her cloak for modesty. Her face was covered by a black half-mask that left her mouth and hair free. She was still asleep, knocked out by the anaesthetic he had injected her with so she would not wake up in the middle of him fixing up her chest.
Sitting on a nearby stool was Tyche. She was exhausted, though not as much as he was – her exhaustion was mostly mental. She was currently saying the codename he had proposed, over and over again, always pronouncing it a bit differently. During the treatment, she had taken off her leather top (ostensibly to keep it clean), so right now she was wearing a blue sports-bra. He suspected that she just liked being admired. Maybe she had been one of the plain or ugly girls before her manifestation?
He himself was inspecting the cut-off costume of the cloaked girl. It was exquisitely done. Now that he had it in his hands, off her body, he could see that there was a single thread that had been tucked into her sleeves. Pulling on it should have made the whole costume fall off her body at once. Quite useful, though I can’t see how she would put it o- Oh, that way. Nifty. The quality of the costume (and the level of detail that had gone into it – there were subtle decorations, worked into the costume in a slightly lighter thread) would already have been a tip-off, but the evil-eye-protector she wore around her neck under that costume had sealed the deal. Vassiliki a metahuman? But what kind of powers? Her abilities seemed a bit too varied and too fine-tuned to each other and her general approach to the battle to just be a strange set of powers? Maybe-
“Hey, Brennus! You have any idea what her power is?”, Tyche asked suddenly.
He looked up at her. “I would guess that she is a low-level adonis-type and a mid-level contriver”, he explained.
“Huh? I can see the adonis in her – as did you”, she leered in a way so sleazy, it belonged on a middle-aged creep, not a teenage bombshell. “- but a contriver? Wouldn’t she have a bunch of tech-stuff then, like you?”
“I am not a contriver, how many times do I have to say that?”, he complained. “And contrivers are not necessarily using technology for their powers. That is just the most common expression of their power, especially in the western world. If the contriver believes to be a wizard, a witch or something like that, then they can create ‘magic artifacts’ – or whatever else they want to call them. Their creations are just as much placebos as those of the more usual contrivers and they are just as reliant on them – but the aesthetic is completely different. Though that is the only difference. For example, Mama Jama…”
“Hold it, pal. Stop talking. I just wanted to know what you thought her power was – not a whole lecture on contrivers!”, Tyche interjected.
Brennus muttered to himself, but did not continue. Why do people always react like that? I just wanted to give a complete explanation!
“So, anyway, what are you going to do now?”
He raised his head again. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you just brought both of us into your secret base. You could take witchgirl over there out before she wakes up, but I know how to get in and I’ve got a pretty good idea under which part of the city this whole thing is build.”
“First of all, this is not a secret base. This is a secret lair. Secret bases are for dorks.” She raised a questioning eyebrow at that.
“Anyway, what should I do? Kill you guys? Do some brainsurgery? That could… hm, brainsurgery…”
“Don’t even think about that, Frankenstein!”
“Oy, Frankenstein did Reanimation, not brainsurgery! That is a whole different discipline, I bet…” He got lost in his thoughts again. “Hm…”
* * *
4 minutes later…
“… please wake up!”
“Huh? What did you say?”, Brennus asked, trying to get back to the here and now.
“You just zoned out for almost five minutes!”, she accused him.
“Oh, sorry, it is just that you gave me some interesting ideas, and reanimation is really interesting – theoretically, it should be possible to raise a dead per…”
“Oy, no going mad scientist on me! Focus on the here and now! What are you planning to do?”
He was about to answer, when another voice – this one quite irritated – interrupted them: “Maybe he plans to take a drill and just end my misery. Because having my head drilled open would probably be less painful then listening to you guys.”
The cloaked girl – Vassiliki – had woken up. She had turned her head over to the two of them and gave them a very well-practiced glare.
“Ups, sorry”, Tyche said. She did not really mean it and everyone could tell.
Brennus was immediately at Vassiliki’s side, picking a small flashlight from a nearby table. “Look at the light, please”, he said and checked her eyes to see if maybe she had hit her head too hard – you could never know for sure.
After a moment, he backed of, relieved. “Well, you seem ok. Any pains or strange sensations?”
She looked at him with a weird look on her face – at least on those parts he could see. Especially around her deep green eyes. Then she shook her head, which immediately caused her to wince. “No, I’m fine. Headache, otherwise no- hey, why am I naked?!”, she finished.
At that point, Tyche decided to throw her two cents in. “Well, Brennus here had to operate on you, so we had to strip you. Thanks for the show, by the way”, she said, leering again like a man twice her age.
Vassiliki made a peeping sound and pulled her cloak closer around herself. Her face was glowing red. “Where the hell is my costume?”, she asked.
Brennus raised his arms with the remains of her bodysuit. “Sorry, but I had to get it off and I could not find any way to take it off without damaging it. By the way, that mechanism with the string is fascinating. Did you perhaps ever watch Vid-“
“You cut up my costume?!“, she screamed, launching herself at him. Before he could react, he was on his back, with her straddling him, her hands around his throat.
He was not concerned – the bodysuit he was wearing was automatically contracting and hardening around his throat and she did not have enough strength to choke him through it. In fact, he was barely aware of her hands around his throat. What he was aware off, however, was the fact that her cloak had fallen off and, since she had not worn anything under her bodysuit, he was currently straddled by a completely naked (save for the mask) girl with a body that deserved to be painted onto the sides of fighter planes.
“Oy, witchgirl, calm down”, said Tyche. She put her hands under Vassiliki’s arms and around her chest, pulling her off of him. “The techhead here saved your life. You would probably be dead if he hadn’t treated you.”
Vassiliki looked like she wanted to fight her, for a moment, but then she got herself under control and sagged in Tyche’s arms.
Brennus was up in a heartbeat. “Put her back on the table. She needs to rest.”
When Tyche was done, he spoke to Vassiliki. “Half your ribs were broken and two had punctured your left lung. You were bleeding into your lung. I managed to glue your ribs back together and close the holes. I applied some of those new salves that speed up bone healing. That and your adonis-power should be enough to have you back to prime condition within a week and a half.”
Wrapping her cloak closely around herself, she nodded her hand. “Thank you. And sorry for just now. I guess I’m still a bit out of it”, she said.
“No problem. Rest now. I’ve got a bed here, unless you absolutely have to get home tonight”, he explained.
“Gotta call my friend. She is covering for me”, she said.
“Does she know about what you are doing out at night?”, Tyche asked.
“Of course. She wouldn’t be able to really cover for me, otherwise”, Vassiliki answered.
“Alright, I will get you a phone. My name is Brennus, by the way”, he said, walking towards his communications console and picking up a telephone.
“And I’m Tyche. He kinda came up with my name, ’cause I couldn’t think of one myself and he needed something to call me while I helped him operate on you”, Tyche said.
“Well, then I guess I owe you thanks as well. And my codename is Hecate”, she answered while taking the phone Brennus held out for her.
“Nice meeting you, Hecate”, he said.
* * *
None of the youths noticed a particularly thick shadow under the operating table.
Hidden within his own power, The Dark watched and listened as Hecate called her friend and told her not to worry and that she would spend the night with some new acquaintances. Her friend was, understandably, not thrilled, but relented after a while.
He watched as Basil offered Tyche to spend the night as well and that they would talk in the morning. The girls agreed to share the bed and Basil would sleep on a cot he could fold out of one of the couches standing on the upper level of the complex. With that done, they went to bed – after the boy sent a text message to his sister.
Did we use to be this careless?, he asked himself as he rose from his shadows. The three were already fast asleep, quite beaten down from their little adventure.
He knew the answer, of course. He and the others of his generation used to be worse. At least, the boy had had some background in first aid and medicine, not to talk of a particularly useful power. Not that he had not been forced to lend a hand in order to save the girl – some subtle telepathy, to guide the boy and the lucky girl so they did not mess up.
Still, it amazed him how easily and readily these children trusted each other. Of course, back in the beginning, most had been this trusting. But the world was a different one, now. Ever since the Golden Age of Metahumans ended, he had watched the world become more and more cynical. It was not that it had actually become that much worse – but Desolation-in-Light had torn away the veil that had hid the world’s ugly side. Some days, he could almost love the girl for that – almost. Then he remembered how fun life used to be, and he wished he could kill her. It just was not the same anymore. Somehow, the thought that there were still fools like these children out there, comforted him.
He looked around the laboratory. The scientist in him was drooling at some of the technology that was lying around – the boy had some interesting ideas. He inspected the mechanical ravens – a very efficient design, though he probably would have done it differently. And these computers…
Looking around a bit more, he walked into the reactor room. The contraption Basil had built in record time was a cold fusion reactor – nothing too fancy, by today’s standards, but still impressive. He checked it for any faults, making sure it was safe. And it was, surprisingly.
He went back to the workshop, going through more of Basil’s half-finished or just-started works. Then he hit the jackpot.
Wow. If this is what I think it is…
It took him nearly half an hour to verify his suspicions. Fortunately, Basil had left some of his notes lying around. A quick look into the boy’s mind confirmed all his suspicions. A shame he does not want to join us. But either way, I have to do something about this – it’s too early for something like this.
Calling upon his power, he entered the boy’s mind, seeking out this particular idea and creating a block around it – it would take quite a while until the boy thought about it again.
Then he went to whatever there already was of the invention. He gathered the notes, the parts and everything else he could find, and moved them into one corner of the workshop. Then he cloaked them in his shadows, cutting some of them off to leave here, so they would continue to conceal it. Lastly, he accessed the computers – a quick look into the boy’s mind gave him the passwords – and modified the surveillance footage, before vanishing through his shadows again.
* * *
The next morning, the girls woke up in the oversized bed Brennus had in his bedroom. They disentangled themselves from the sheets and stood up. One after the other, they used the adjacent bathroom to freshen themselves up. Then they dressed (Hecate wearing her cloak like a toga) and walked out of the bedroom, only to be greeted by the smell of freshly made breakfast.
At the table they were awaited by what could only be described as the olympic ideal of a breakfast. They both looked at Brennus, still in his black bodysuit, as he prepared the last of the food.
He looked at them and they could see how he grinned under the skintight mask he was wearing. “Why are you looking at me like that? Never thought a guy could make a decent breakfast? Sit down, dig in.”
So they did.
After a minute, Tyche spoke up. “Oh my god, this is divine! Where did you learn to cook like this?” Hecate nodded her head in agreement.
“I have always had a knack for cooking. And it turns out my power applies to cooking as well. So you’re literally eating a superbreakfast right now”, he said between two bites, having pulled up his mask to just over his nose.
The two girls snorted into their food, but continued eating without further comments.
After they were done, the girls helped Brennus clean up and put away the dishes. Then they went to the couch corner and sat down, the girls on one couch and Brennus on the other.
Brennus took the initiative. “Well, I do not know how you feel, but I did not expect my debut to go like this.”
Tyche snorted. “Neither did I. Not that I had much of a debut. You guys did most of the work.”
But Hecate turned to her and objected: “Oh, don’t say that. We would have lost if you hadn’t appeared and given Brennus the chance to finish the Snow Queen off.” Brennus nodded his head in agreement.
“Either way, I have thought a lot about our fight last night”, Brennus continued. “Spent most of the night awake, actually. Hecate is right, we would have lost badly if not for each other. And if I did not have all the equipment down here, Hecate would be dead or unmasked. So, after thinking about it, I have a proposal to make.”
“Oy, honey, I’m all for the kinky stuff, and I love myself a menage-a-trois, but I’m not ready for the whole ‘proposal’ stage”, Tyche leered again.
Hecate rammed her elbow into her side. “Ignore the comments. What’s your proposal?”, she said.
Brennus cleared his throat, trying to banish images of just what a menage-a-trois with the three of them would involve. “I would propose that we team up. Simple as that. I originally wanted to fly solo, but last night was kind of an eye opener. So, I can provide the base and the equipment – including some armoring for both of you – and Hecate has obviously a lot of firepower. Plus, a bit of telekinesis and precognition to tide over a few mistakes we make will help a lot.”
“Oy, oy, oy, hold your horses. I’m not one of those metas who kinda combine unconscious telekinesis and precog for some kinda faux-luck. I’ve got the real deal!”, Tyche interjected quite smugly.
Both of the others looked up at that. “And how do you know that?”, Hecate asked.
“Easy. Four days ago – one day after I got my powers, my momma played the lottery and won enough money to get us out of the damn trailer park we’ve been living in. And, the day before, that fucked up little hellhole that was my school had a fire and closed down, just on the day where I knew that some of my classmates were planning to beat me up. AND, when my momma filed for me to switch schools, I got one of those randomly distributed scholarships to go to Diantha High. I was never present for any of these, so it must have been the real deal!”
The other two were taken aback. Hecate was the first to talk: “Well… that IS a very unlikely string of events. Still, a real luck-power? Is there even a classification for that?”
Brennus took over, here. “There is, actually. If you’re really the real deal – a true probability manipulator – then you’re a Wild Card. And a high-level one”, he explained. “Considering that you’ve only had your power for five days, and that so much happened in that time, I’d rate you as a Wild Card 8, maybe even a 9.” She seemed to get even more smug at that.
“So, anyway, back to business”, Hecate said. “Since we’ve got to explaining our powers – I’ve had my powers for a few weeks now. I got smarter, stronger, faster, more durable and better looking. Plus I can create magical artifacts by using my own blood and spirits I summon and bind.”
“Um, honey, I’m pretty sure Brennus here said you were just a contriver with a magic-fetish”, Tyche threw in, despite Brennus trying to stop her with frantic hand-movements.
Hecate turned towards the other girl with a glare and a scowl. “Just because there are some contrivers out there that believe they are wizards, doesn’t mean I’m one of those hacks! I do real magic!” Tyche raised her hands in defeat, smart enough not to pursue the subject further.
Brennus interjected, trying to steer the conversation into safer territory. “Well, I am a Gadgeteer. Means I do real science, just way faster and better than a normal scientist. I’ve had my powers for just a bit more than three months, but I spent my time getting money and building this lair, plus my equipment, so I just had my debut yesterday.”
“Cool, a gadgeteer. Heard about you guys, you’re supposed to be pretty rare, right?”, Tyche asked.
“Not as rare as actual probability manipulators”, Brennus replied.
“So, you built all of this by yourself? And in just three months? Where did you get the money?”, Hecate asked quickly.
“Yes, yes and I stole it from the mafia”, Brennus replied quickly.
Tyche burst out laughing, while Hecate giggled. “Dude, you stole money from the mafia to finance being a superhero? You’ve got style!”, Tyche said. Hecate nodded in agreement.
“So, what do you say about my proposal?”, Brennus said, trying to steer the conversation back to the main topic.
The girls looked at each other, then Hecate said: “What would such a team-up entail?”
“Well, first of all, we would all have to show each other who we are. Not only to build trust, but also because there is no way we’ll be able to keep it a secret in the first place, if we work together. Also, you would have to agree to keep this place a secret – though I would insist on that even if you did not take me up on my proposal. And, obviously, we would all have to work together with each other on a recurring basis.”
“I’m in”, Tyche said almost immediately. The other two looked at her questioningly. “Well, it sounds smart. We could use the back up, all of us. Plus, a secret lair and some equipment made by a gadgeteer? Count me in, any day”, she elaborated.
Brennus turned to Hecate. “The idea is good, but I don’t know if I want to reveal my identity to you two. No offense, but it is kinda personal”, she said.
“I already know who you are, Vassiliki”, Brennus threw in. That made her jump up in her seat.
“What? How? Did you look under my mask while I was unconscious?!”
“No, nothing like that. That tipped me off”, he replied, pointing at the charm around her neck. She looked down to it.
“How? Why would that tip you o- it is you, isn’t it? Basil?”, she said.
Now it was Basil’s turn to be flabbergasted. He pulled back his mask, revealing his face. “How did you know?”, he asked. Tyche watched, amused by the whole thing.
Hecate pulled off her half-mask as well – not much point in keeping it on anymore. “No one else I know talks like a book”, she explained, which provoced another gail of laughter from Tyche.
The latter proceeded to pull of the scarfs she was still wearing.
Pulling of the upper, black scarf revealed long, curly hair of fiery colour. The lower revealed a face that matched what Basil had already seen of her body, with a perky nose and full, pouty lips. “Let it not be said that I’m unfair. Since I know who you guys are, it’s only fair to share – I’m Dalia Fitzhampton”, she said.
“Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar Brant-Blake.”
“That is my full name”, Basil said.
“Dude, do your parents hate you, or what?”, Tyche asked.
He shook his head. “My parents are not doing anything other than decompose.”
That took the wind out of Dalia’s sails. “Oh. I’m so sorry”, she said, sounding, for the first time, not smug in the least.
“Think nothing of it. Anyway, now that introductions have been made – what do you say, Vassiliki?”
The girl thought it over once more. “Well, you just shot my one reason for not joining to hell. So why not?”
“Great! So, what are we going to call ourselves?”, Tyche asked. That put a pause to their conversation as they thought it over.
Vassiliki was the first to say something: “How about ‘Wand, Wrench and Dice`?”
“Nah, too long, too mundane”, Dalia replied.
“Tech, Spell and Luck?”
“Black, Green and Red?”
“Say, do you think in threes because of your codename or did you chose your codename because you think in threes?”, Basil asked.
“How about ‘The Three Amigos’?”, Dalia proposed.
Both shook their heads. “None of us is Mexican, Spanish or plays any kind of instrument in our costumed identities”, Basil replied.
“How about… no, that’s taken.”
“What a- no, we don’t want a contract war with Disney.”
“I got it!”, Basil exclaimed. “What do you say to – the Wild Pack?”
For that, they threw various nearby items at him.
“Shit, how hard can it be to come up with a name for a team of superheroes!?”, Dalia shouted, throwing her hands over her head.
“Well, how about we put that off until we have had some time working with each other? Maybe we come up with something while out in action?”, Brennus said.
“I agree. This is just hurting my brain”, Vassiliki agreed.
“So, for the time being, how about we get to know each other a bit better…”