“Can I have your autograph?”
Polymnia dropped her tools, looking up with a startled expression. Hecate was standing next to her workstation, holding out… the last album she published before deciding to focus on being a superhero.
<Where did that come from?>, she asked.
Hecate shrugged, as if it was nothing special. “Uhh, lots of stuff fits into my pouch. Kind of a… a bag of holding, you know?” She seemed embarassed about the name.
At least she knows her nomenclature. And I guess there’s no harm in signing it. She took the album case and signed it with her cape name. <What brought this about?> she asked as she handed it back. <Not quite the time…>
If she could have seen Hecate’s face, she was sure it would be red. Her heartbeat certainly sped up quite a bit.
“Uh, I’ve been hoping for a chance to ask you all day… but, you know, it’s kind of… impolite. But I guess we both might die shortly, so when was I gonna ask if not now?” she explained as she put the album back into her pouch.
<Don’t be so pessimistic. Your teammate came up with a good plan, and we’re as prepared as w->
“Yeah, sure, Brennus has a good plan. Excuse me if I don’t trust completely in that,” Hecate replied with some venom in her voice.
<What do you mean?> Polymnia asked her. She sounded… conflicted. Angry.
Hecate looked away, her hood turning to the side. “I… don’t get me wrong, Brennus is a great teammate and friend, but… he’s not the most stable or reliable type. I’m just… I’d trust him with my life in battle, but in planning? When he often forgets what day it is because he’s working on his tech, or he forgets… maybe I should stop here,” she rambled with some worry in her voice. Then she suddenly turned fully towards Polymnia, her posture more… wary. “This stays between us, right?”
She nodded with a serious expression. <Of course. Can I ask you something?>
<Why are you doing this?>
<Being a cape. A vigilante. Why did you put on that costume? Why did you decide not to join up with the United Junior Heroes? I don’t believe it just ‘happened’, you know?>
Hecate looked away. “I… I was out on my first night. I’d… I knew about the Snow Queen doing business at the harbor that night and I thought I’d… God above, this sounds so stupid now… I thought I’d take her down, stop her trade, you know?”
Polymnia looked away, readjusting her goggles as she remembered the Snow Queen’s performance in the acre <Definitely not your smartest idea.>
The other girl hunched up her shoulders, turning away. “It wasn’t. So anyway, I found the warehouse – and for the love of me, I can still not believe that she was doing business in an abandoned warehouse – I snuck in and attacked, got my ass kicked around. Brennus had been following a lead there, too. He jumped in, saved my ass, we fought her, got kicked around – then Tyche, who’d just been taking a walk, randomly choosing her direction – barged in and helped us and we managed to win… barely. I got hurt pretty bad, Brennus took me to his hideout to fix me up and we kinda… got talking. Hooked up. In the cape-team way, not the other one.”
<Well, that was quite the series of strange events – though you kind of ignored my real question… why?>
Hugging herself, Hecate fell quiet. Polymnia almost thought that she’d pushed too hard, but then…
“I have… someone close to me used to be a hero. I think I felt like I’d be closer to that person if I did the same,” she whispered. “That’s all I’m going to say about that. Can I ask you a question?”
Polymnia stopped for a moment, digesting the new information. <I can’t promise that I’ll answer it to your satisfaction.>
“Um, it’s nothing bad, I just wanted to know… is Gloom Glimmer always like this?”
Huh? She leaned her head to the side, looking up at her. <What do you mean?>
Hecate made a starting motion, as if surprised. “Well, like that. You know. Off. Creepy. Scary. I had goosebumps the whole time I was around her.”
<What in God’s name are you talking about? Irene can be a little weird, but->
“A little? Polymnia, she’s fu- I mean, darn creepy! Her father didn’t scare me half as bad as she does! Everyone else on your team gets the creeps from her, too!”
She opened her mouth to rebuke her, then remembered that she couldn’t produce a sound that way, which halted her long enough to think it over. Outstep was always really tense around Gloom Glimmer, and so were the others. Bakeneko had stopped even talking around her lately – only Osore acted indifferent around her, and he was a special case, anyway.
<What do you mean, exactly? I never noticed her to be that scary>, she said through her vocalizer. At least not while in company, she thought silently, thinking of that afternoon in her room.
“Her voice, her walk, the way she stands, everything!” said Hecate, now exasperated. This was clearly not what she’d expected. “She doesn’t move right, she doesn’t even stand around right – it’s all off! The way she looks at people, the way she talks, her very voice.”
<Now wait a minute, I got quite the ear for sounds and her voice sounds utterly divine to me,> she said. <Can’t say a thing about the rest, really. Ever since my manifestation, I haven’t been any good at body language and stuff. But I’m really good with voices.>
Hecate calmed down, pulling her cloak around herself again. “I don’t know about that. All I know is that she doesn’t seem real, like she’s taking part in a dance but is always a step off. And there’s always this… this air of barely restrained power around her. Like she could blow up at any time.”
You have no idea.
This wasn’t good. She’d never noticed any of this, except when Irene had been out of control. She’d just thought Outstep was being a dick and Bakeneko was a scaredy-cat anyway. <There’s no need to be afraid. She’s really nice, really. Best friend I’ve ever had.>
“Really? What do your other friends say about her?”
<Correct that. Only friend I have right now. None of my friends from before my manifestation want anything to do with me anymore. But even taking my pre-manifestation friends into account, Irene’s been a true friend,> she explained.
“I don’t know if I could be so open. Brennus sometimes acts really strange, but Gloom Glimmer seems to be more like… dunno, something that learned to act human, but never got it quite right.”
<Uhh… That sounds really creepy,> she replied, shuddering as she remembered Irene’s breakdown.
“It is. And damn, now I feel like a bitch for bringing it up,” whispered Hecate.
Polymnia shook her head. <No, I’m glad you told me. Maybe I can help her smooth things out.>
“You’re way nicer than me,” said Hecate with a slightly forced giggle.
* * *
“You look like a mummy,” Harry said with a chuckle as he sat down next to his boyfriend’s bed.
Thomas tried to slap him, but he was quite firmly affixed to the bed by way of the rig his left leg was hanging in. “Shut up, it’s just ma fuckin’ leg,” he replied.
“That’s what you get for trying to go into close combat with a geokinetic monster,” Tartsche admonished him. “I hear the only reason you don’t actually look like a mummy is ’cause Tyche accidentily knocked you into a blast shadow?”
“Hrmph,” grumped the feminine-looking boy on the hospital bed. “Ah’ll admit it, ah got lucky. Anyway, what about Hastur? What’re we gonna do?”
Harry shook his head. “Sorry, can’t tell’ya. Turns out she has some kinda super-clairvoyance, so it’s not safe to talk. But I’ll be off soon.”
A worried look crossed Thomas’ face, but he suppressed it quickly. “Alright,” he said. He wasn’t going to ask him to back down, and Harry loved him for it.
He might have done it, if he asked.
“Take this,” the wounded boy said holding out his eponymous spellgun and a bandoleer full of various shots. “Ah can’t help y’all myself, cuz Gloom Glimmer didn’t get to fix me, but ma gun might be of some use.”
Harry took it with a grateful nod. He knew how much Thomas hated handing out his equipment, even to him.
“I’ll bring it back whole, love. Soon,” he promised.
Rolling his eyes, Thomas admonished him: “You make sure you come back whole. Now gimme a kiss and then off with you!”
* * *
Sprawling on the long couch of the United Junior Heroes’ common room, Tyche thought that they desperately needed some of B6’s upgrade magic on their entertainment equipment.
For one, their television required a remote control. If she wanted to watch something, she’d need to stand up and get it from the table, instead of just saying which channel she wanted to watch.
“Can you give me the remote?” she asked Outstep, who was making sandwiches for the two of them. He’d turned surprisingly helpful once she’d started flirting with him. A shame it doesn’t work on B6, she thought. I wonder why. Plus, she felt bad for his girlfriend. The poor girl would probably have to knock him out and tie him to the bed to get anything fun done. Though that sounded fun in and of itself.
“It’s less than two meters away from you,” Bakeneko replied from down the couch, where she’d curled up as some kind of cat… thing.
“Well, that’s too far! I’m used to voice commands – and automatic preferences, and stuff!” she whined. “I mean, how come B has better equipment than you? You’re all supposed to have super-funds, plus you got your own gadget-geek and a mad scientist!” she continued, poking at him with a grin.
Outstep said: “Calm down, I’m on my way.” He came over to the couch with a plate of sandwiches he’d just made, and he did give her the remote.
“Polymnia doesn’t care much about voice control, if you know what I mean? Plus, she never hangs out, anyway. Always in her workshop,” he defended their equipment before taking a bite out of his sandwich. She took one for herself, and Bakeneko stretched out an arm (over three meters) and took two for herself.
“Makes sense. Maybe all g-geeks are like that? B doesn’t really hang, either, unless we force him,” she replied before taking a bite. “Mmh!” This was really good! Turkey, ham, mayonnaise, rye. Another point for the boy. “Then again, he does make me all those wonderful toys…”
“Like your wig? That was just… overkill,” Bakeneko said in between bites.
She ran her fingers through the blonde hair sticking out from the back of her mask. “I thought it was funny. Besides, he insisted that I wear a wig, instead of letting my real hair hang out. Since the fight down in the acre.”
“Yeah, but… boobytrapping a wig? With springloaded, barbedstingers? Loaded with electric charges? That’s just… dunno…” The shapeshifter seemed way too weirded out by it for someone who currently looked like a cat-lizard.
“Oh, come on, that thing’s reaction was awesome. Thought it had me by the hair, then the locks came off and.. zap.” She slapped her thigh with her free hand to emphasize the point.
“Eh, I’ve seen stranger stuff,” Outstep threw in. “Like Vulcan the third’s underwear.”
“Underwear?!” they both asked in unison.
He nodded sagely. “Aye. I remember, when she was our leader – I’d just joined the Juniors – we decided to play a prank on her. She had the hots for… well, for someone and we were gonna dump all her underwear into his underwear drawer. Turns out, a Contriver who specializes in Traps can boobytrap everything. As in, every single piece of underwear, even her lingerie went apeshit on us.” He stopped to take a bite, letting them stew while he chewed and swallowed. “Three of us spent a week in the infirmary afterwards, and Spellgun still has a few scars.”
“Cool,” they both replied. “Can we get some stuff from her?”
He shook his head. “Nah. She died a year ago when DiL attacked the Grand Canyon. She was on vacation there,” he explained. “Didn’t even get to do anything, I hear, just got squashed during the first attack.”
They all fell silent after that.
“Who do you think’s gonna die next?” asked Bakeneko. “I mean, we’ve been real lucky so far, since S-Class events are expected to cause at least twenty-five percent causalties among the defenders.”
Outstep shrugged. “No use thinking about that. Might be none of us – there’s plenty of villains in the city fightin’ her, too. And even if not – you gotta learn to live with this kinda crap, if you wanna be a hero. Or any kind of cape, really. People die. Deal with it.”
They fell silent again, eating while they waited to go out into the fight.
* * *
“The cameras are off?” Prisca asked, tapping one foot impatiently on the floor of the hallway they were in. The ‘metal’ of her boots made a bright, bell-like sound.
“Sure. Their security still sucks,” Basil replied as he created a loop and put Eudocia to warn them in case anyone came their way. “There, camera’s are looped, and we got early warn-“
If there was one thing she really didn’t care about right now, it was the state of security around here.
So she cut him off by pushing him against the wall, her helmet fading away as she ripped off his spare helmet. He had barely enough time to unlock it and prevent any damage, and then it was off.
She pressed her lips to his, finally shutting him up. And then she didn’t care about anything else for a while.
Nor did he.
When they parted again, an eternity later, she felt herself… flushed. Breathing hard. She’d never felt this good. Like her whole body was burning from the inside out, from her shivering head to her curling toes.
“Uhh…” Basil was making strange sounds.
“What? Didn’t you like it?” A sliver of… anger, or fear, entered her voice. She didn’t know why.
He raised his hands, waving them. “No no no, I liked it a lot! Just… wow. Kinda… more intense than I thought it’d be.” She was pretty sure he was blushing underneath his cowl.
“Well, duh!” Of course it was better than before! She wasn’t stuck in that half-dead piece of shit that was her body anymore! “Can’t wait for us to have some real private time.” She winked at him, which made him dry-swallow.
Being hot was fun.
“I… uh… can’t wait…” he replied, apparently losing more and more of his usually extensive vocabulary.
So much fun.
She leaned closer, until their lips were almost touching. He was down to indistinct syllables now, and his eyes looked unfocused.
“Maybe you could tell me how much you can’t wa-“
A ringing tone went off in his spare armor, like a cellphone ringing. He raised his hand to his earbud, his eyes focusing again.
“Oh, uh, Eudocia says the others are ready, so…”
I’m gonna have words with her.
She sighed, rematerializing her helmet. “Let’s go.”