210 - Balance

Captain Burger is playing host to four superheroes today. Harry Gale, William Eddison, and Andi Fairchild are busy eating burgers, all staring each other down. TK is in the background, glumly picking at the one salad bowl the place has.

CB’s burgers are a rite of passage for young people in Halcyon. They’re super-salty, super-savory, and super-greasy. They will, as the adults say, “stunt your growth”. For close to $20, you get a burger wrapped in paper with the Captain Burger mascot (“saving you from hunger!”), on a cheap non-stick aluminum tray. You also get fries. Condiments, napkins, and soda drinks are over there - serve yourself. You pay your money, get a burger, eat it, and then try to survive the next 12 hours. It is the purest essence of the American fast food experience.

Mercury, Armiger, and A10 have all faced death, danger, and dismemberment. They are Captain Burger veterans. Harry would sometimes bring Andi here, and Andi would bring her team here, but there hasn’t been a group meeting like this. Suddenly, everyone’s gotta check everyone else’s power level.

TK, thumbing idly through his phone between bits of ham skewered between lettuce leaves, breaks the silence. “Any of you lot want to do some actual heroics?”

The three heroes slowly turn to look at him, but don’t stop chewing.

“Just asking! Jesus.”

Harry finishes his bite. “Were you just asking to ask, or do you have something?”

“Some big deal came across YOLOdex,” TK announces, and shows off his phone. Too bad everyone is too far to read it. He realizes this after a moment. “High-tech smugglers and thieves have been hitting local tech shops. Job is requesting an A rank organizer.” He points his lettuce-laden fork at Harry. “That’s you, buddy.”

Harry doesn’t know how he feels about that, so looks at the others, silently posing the question.

“Guess I’m bored enough,” concedes A10.

“Sure, if there’s a fight,” says Armiger.

The three of them look down, see unfinished burger on trays, and keep eating. Heroics can wait a few minutes.


Thieves are raiding warehouses, factories, and technology companies all around Halcyon City. They seem to be doing it randomly - police haven’t found any kind of pattern. So how do you find their next target? Harry doesn’t have any good ideas, so he just spends a night running between every place in town.

It’s mind-numbingly boring, so he spends the time swapping dumb jokes with Andi via the group’s shared comm system.

“What’s the difference between the Blot and Transcendence? Once’s a mushroom, the other’s a fun guy.”

“What’s the first thing Nautilus does when you tell him to save the civilians in jeopardy? Asks you where on land to find the city of Jeopardy.”

“If Oya got crowned queen, would she have a long ‘rain’?”

The jokes give way to light conversation. “Are they ever coming back?” Andi asks, finally.


“You know. The HHL. The ones who went to space, anyway.”


Andi sounds confused. “But like, you were in the meeting, right? You’re one of them.”

Mercury has to think about that. “I don’t feel like one of them,” he admits. “My parents were. But like, my parents saved the whole world from being turned to ice. That’s not, uh, that’s not really me, you know? I just run fast and goof around.”

“Well to be fair…” Andi’s voice slows in uncharacteristic hesitation, as she mentally navigates how much she really wants to say. “Like, the HHL kinda, uh, they weren’t too serious about things sometimes?”

“Yeah, but… They left the world to us.” Harry’s internal stress is rising. “Like, what if there’s another King Winter? Meteor headed to Earth. What do we do? When my parents got involved, I guess there was tidal waves.” He pauses, feeling an emotional bridge he didn’t want to make. “That’s what happened to Leo’s mom.”

Silence hangs on the line for seconds. “Harry, you’ll find a better way. If that kind of thing happens again, you’ll find a better solution. You’re better than your folks, as nice as they are.”

Thank god his peripheral vision spots movement at the nearest warehouse on his patrol route. “I think we got something. Call the others,” he directs, and runs off to investigate.

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Rook Industries has a hand in everything, including criminal incarceration. As a result, they’ve done plenty of R&D on suppressing super-powers or neutralizing such powers’ users. This is theoretically only to be used by law enforcement to contain villains. By now, everyone in the hero community knows that such gear often “falls off the back of the truck” and into criminal hands. More than a few suggest that it didn’t so much fall off as was pushed out.

These guys are definitely kitted out with Rook gear. High-resolution motion detection drones, for use against speedsters, phasers, or invisible heroes. Mess with the drones, and you’ll set off an alarm. Bioweb rifles, to immobilize even strong heroes. J, Q, and T-type force shields, to bounce rays back at supers who aren’t immune to their own blasting powers. The thieves are loading cargo onto a truck, but they probably have other escape routes planned. If any of them get away, they’ll just recruit another few guys and keep doing more jobs.

Perched on a nearby rooftop, Harry is putting together his plan of action when Andi arrives, duffel bag in hand. She unrolls it, revealing Armiger’s sword. A moment later, the man himself teleports onto the scene. Telekinetian levitates gracefully down from the night sky, completing the group.

“I counted eight people,” reports Harry. “There’s probably four or five more inside the warehouse.”

“I’ll find out for sure,” volunteers Armiger, and hops off the side of the building.

“Andi, TK, get me a count of the drones in the air?” Harry asks. “We’ll need to take those out, at once if we can.”

The two others fly off. Harry is pretty sure the plan will work. Let Armiger do his sword-of-kings thing to find the guys inside. Take out the drones to make the thieves scratch their plan and go for a getaway. Round up the guys outside with super-speed - men with guns aren’t a problem for Mercury, not these days. Trust Andi and TK to take care of anyone he can’t find. Hand them over to law enforcement. Get some chips from—

“Halt, evil-doers!”

The voice rings out with authority, shattering the silence of the night.

Who the hell?

Harry peers down from the rooftop, trying to spot the source of the call.

There’s a girl, a couple years younger than himself. She’s got a sword that glows with the stars of the night sky. She’s got a tiara, and she’s standing on top of the thieves’ truck.

Radiance? No - there’s definitely a Sword Princess vibe here, but she doesn’t look anything like her. More like… hmm. Someone cribbing from the same inspirations as her.

Points for entrance, but she just messed up our plans, thinks Harry glumly. At least he’ll get to see how the newcomer handles herself.

The thieves raise their biorifles and start firing. Others take up positions with their shields. They’ve clearly practiced this maneuver.

The girl leaps gracefully into the sky. The thieves aim up. There’s nothing so predictable as the ballistic arc of someone jumping, after all. But too late, they realize - as Harry did immediately - that the leap was performed by an illusion, or a mirage. The real sword princess is crouched on the truck. When the thieves fire, she rolls off it and into a fighting stance, then rushes forward in a heartbeat. Her blade goes through the rifles - good, good, no casualties - and she shoulder-checks two of the thieves into their comrades.

Harry hops off the roof himself. In a blur, he’s running down the side of it, across the ground, into the warehouse yard. He arrives before the falling thieves have hit the ground.

“There’s more inside!” he yells to the newcomer. On cue, two thieves run out of the warehouse, rifles up - and are punched out in tandem by Andi and TK. Armiger is nowhere to be seen.

The sword princess doesn’t acknowledge Harry. Instead, she splits into three illusory duplicates, leaving the remaining thieves to figure out the real target to shoot. The correct answer is “none of them”, and more flashing bladework disposes of the rifles. The guys with force shields raise them against the star-blade, and the newcomer pauses, perhaps wondering how to deal with this.

Harry could easily intervene - end this, if he wanted. But he’s curious. So he watches.

The girl nods to herself, and creates more duplicates. She seemingly charges, and the force shields seem to repel her weapon. Harry, watching at super-speed, sees the trick. The thieves are putting their weight behind the shields, pushing forward in anticipation of resisting a powerful counter-force. Instead, the newcomer’s illusions fade at the last moments, and she catches the men off-balance.

Harry can tell she’s not sure how to just knock a guy out, and a sword isn’t really a subduing tool. Feeling uncomfortable for a reason he can’t name, he finally takes the initiative, striking from behind with karate chops at ultra-speed.

The men fall at the newcomer’s feet. Harry, Andi, and TK converge on her.

“Hey. Are you on ASIST too?”

The sword princess looks confused. “I’m assisting…?” she says.

Okay, she has no idea. Harry tries other names for the app. “YOLOdex? The part-time job? Quill Qids?”

“Quill!” This is a name she knows. “Uh… no? I’m on my own.”

Harry nods. That makes sense. She’s clearly a newbie hero. “I’m Mercury. This is A10 and Telekinetian. No real names, we’re not in a safe place. But what can we call you?”

The sword princess hesitates. “Listen, I gotta go,” she says suddenly. Starlit wings, of the same seeming nature as her sword, emerge from her back. “Uh. Um. Call me Peri!”

With that, she launches herself into the sky, leaving the three heroes with both captives and questions.

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Andi asks the question really casually. “Hey, Harry. Did anything about how that girl looks grab your attention?”

Ancient mammalian danger signals percolate through Harry’s system. This is not the sort of question you want from your relationship partner. He can answer honestly, but still nervously. “Uh, no, not really…?”

Andi shrugs. “Weird. She looked familiar to me somehow. Thought you mighta recognized her, maybe.”

Oh thank god.

Telekinetian approaches. “I’m more curious how she knew where to come. The raids really do seem to be random. We brute-forced our way to the answer with a speedster who can just be everywhere. But she definitely gave off newbie vibes. Does she have some kind of special senses? Precog?”

Harry isn’t sure how to respond. These are all good questions, and he has no answers. For now, he shrugs and smiles. “We got the bad guys. They’ve probably got a boss, or a fixer, or someone. If the police can’t get them to talk, we may have more investigation to do. And if she’s got a reason to chase these guys too, maybe we’ll meet again and figure it out.”

Armiger finally comes out of one of the side buildings. He’s got a serious look that worries Harry.

“This whole thing is dodgy, team. There’s dark forces at work here, I can feel it. This isn’t just industrial theft.” The swordfighter hefts his blade over one shoulder, not even showing a hint of the effort required to lug a dozen pounds of metal so casually. “I don’t think the cops will get anything. We should start running this down immediately.”

“Do you have a lead?” asks Mercury.

Armiger reaches into his hoodie’s pocket and comes out clutching a cell phone. “Nicked this from one of the lads inside. I figure we know some big brains that can do something with this.”

“Anty, did I do the right thing?”

Jordan is laying on her bed, looking up at the coloring book she’s holding overhead. It’s all Disney princesses, and they all just wear dresses and smile. Jordan thinks that’s kind of boring. But, she asked for the book, Mom got it, and she felt like she had to color it in to be grateful. Now she’s not sure what to do with it, or herself.

You received a mission briefing from the Void Shadow Collective. You executed the mission with my assistance. You sustained no damage in the process.

“Yeah, but…” Jordan isn’t sure how to phrase her question. “So, who did we help?”

Analyzing. Your actions benefited the owners of the warehouse, and the material contained there. By halting a theft of property, you ensured that those owners, and the eventual recipients of the material, would be able to continue normal operations.

Jordan isn’t dumb, but she’s also seven. She tries to come up with another question that’ll help quell her chaotic feelings, but it’s difficult. “Would they have been sad, if we hadn’t stopped the bad guys?”

Analyzing. Human beings experience fear, anger, and related emotions when deprived of property. It is possible that they would have been sad.

“Okay…” She drops the coloring book on the floor next to the bed. “Well, I guess that’s good then…”

Sablestar found it a simple matter to locate and hire thieves. This planet must be a paradise for political and economic oppression, to drive such people into jobs with such high danger and low payout. She picked sites at random, instructed and equipped her hirelings, and sent them forth. After a few jobs, she notified Antares Alpha-One of the next target.

Seeds sown, yes? The harvest hasn’t been entirely positive. For one thing, other Earth heroes poked their nose into this little business. For another, Jordan herself is unhappy with this kind of work.

Sablestar smiles to herself. Well, the second problem is easy to solve. if it’s not enough to threaten property, her next patsy will have to threaten innocent humans. Maybe even hurt some, to show that the situation is serious.

She starts hunting for the negative emotions she’ll need, to craft and motivate her villain.

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The gang of thieves, in addition to being well-equipped, were quite savvy. Nobody thinks about a cell phone sitting in a breast pocket. Nobody thinks about a phone whose camera lens peeks out over the top. And a phone that’s recording video doesn’t have anything to give away that fact. As a result, the superheroes have literally everything they need to incriminate the person who hired the gang. Everything, that is, except an actual subject.

Harry is the first to report. “Face match of the boss against crime databases, corporate membership rosters, and that kinda thing, all negative. Nobody knows who they are. Might have been a shapeshifter or illusionist?”

A10 is next. “I went and scouted the place GPS points to, but nothing. It’s another building that got burned down in a villain battle six weeks ago. These goons probably picked it because it didn’t tie back to any of them.”

TK speaks up. “I looked into the stolen goods. Nothing obvious in common between the businesses. I threw the actual parts list at our usual eggheads, and they couldn’t think of anything it would build.” He snorts in disgust. “You could throw a dart board at a map of Halcyon and get a list of targets with more in common than these.”

Armiger’s news seems to be better. “JC dug up a spell I can do. If the building was burned down, maybe it’s got a ghost or sommat which we can conjure up.” He gestures at TK. “You’ll be a help. The spirit can use your psychic vibes to communicate.”

TK pales slightly. “Er. Like, you’re saying the ghost of a building will… possess me?”

Armiger shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not? We’ll find out, okay?”

A two-person villain team, Dyne and Dash, had struck the city. Mercury had dealt with Dash, the speedster, teaming up with Radiance to face off against the electrically powered Dyne. Mercury remembers the powerful stroke of lightning that set the building fire, and remembers also speeding through the interior to pull civilians to safety. It honestly never occurred to him to think about the fate of the building itself. It was just a building. He’s always been taught to worry about life first, property second.

Now the four are gathered here. TK is lounging comfortably in one corner. Andi is thumbing through her phone, bored. Harry is watching curiously.

At the center of a circle of ash, Armiger is reciting words. Every so often he stops, looks around, perhaps to gauge the effect of his incantation. Then he resumes chanting.

Harry breaks the silence with a question. “Hey, uh, did JC tell you anything else about this spell?”

“Yeah. She said not to use it.” Armiger goes back to chanting.

TK sits up abruptly. “Wait, what–?”

The room starts to glow.

Andi pockets her phone and sits up. Harry tenses a little, just out of habit, but doesn’t make a move.

The ash of the burned building rises from the floor, dancing in the edge on an unfelt wind.

“What now?” whispers Harry. Armiger doesn’t respond, other than continuing the chant.

Andi points at TK. “He’s doing this. He’s animating the stuff. Well, not him. I have an idea.” Raising her voice, she addresses TK more directly. “Hey. It doesn’t know what we’re here for. Can you, I dunno, shape that stuff into the group meeting?”

Harry seems to notice TK for the first time. The psychic is in some kind of trance state, but clearly heard and acknowledges his teammate’s command with a nod. The ash coalesces into humanoid shapes, and slowly begins to pantomime the actions from the gang’s video.

Suddenly the ash grows sharper, the shapes more distinct. Harry thinks of it like one of Jason’s nanobot swarms, making a picture out of tiny bits of matter. But he also knows this is the ghost’s doing. There’s details here that weren’t picked up in the video, things TK couldn’t have seen and hence couldn’t have visualized. For example, they can clearly see the face and clothes of the elusive businessman in charge of the gang.

The group watch the silent pantomime play out, watch the gang make their deal and leave. The quality of the visualization has steadily dropped, perhaps due to a strain on TK’s powers to manipulate the ash in such fine detail. He’s certainly sweating. That’s why, when they see the “businessman” transform into another shape, it’s hard to make out a face. But they see enough details to draw a conclusion.

The transformed figure is a woman, with a long sword. The ashen projection manifests wings, which wrap themselves around her like a cocoon. A moment later, the ash itself falls gently to the floor.

Armiger’s chanting halts, and TK slumps to the floor. It takes only a few seconds for Harry to dart away, grab a water bottle from a nearby convenience store, leave money and a note on the counter, and dash back to the building.

Once everyone has recovered, they compare conclusions.



“It explains how she knew where to hit the guys. She hired them, directed them on their mission.”

“But why?”

“Easy way to arrange a hero debut. Set up your own villain.”

“Classic move.”

Harry holds up his hands. “Okay. So let’s assume it was her. We still have to find her. How are we going to do that?”

“We were already on the scene,” Andi points out. “If she’s after a proper debut, she’ll do this scam again. Only bigger, noisier, something in a crowded place during the day.”

“We gotta warn people,” says Armiger.

“It may not be her,” argues TK. “Let’s not accuse anyone before we know.”

Harry reluctantly nods. “We can tell the police we have a possible lead on the gang leader, so they’ll know when we have something more definite. And if any of us see Peri again, or hear that she appeared, we’ll confront her.”

The group heads out again, leaving behind the ash and memories of a burnt-out building.

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There’s a dedication ceremony. Jordan doesn’t really understand what that is. She thinks it’s because everyone there looks really dedicated.

As Princess Peri (she has decided this is her name, because it rhymes but rhymes isn’t the right word, but you know, the first letters are the same), she crouches atop a building overlooking the square. Down at street level, the mayor and other important city people are reading something from something. There’s lots of big words.

“Anty, what are they doing?” she asks.

It is a civic ceremony. I do not know the significance. I can analyze it if you wish.

“Yes please.” Jordan knows, firmly and clearly, that protecting the city is important. She kinda gets the idea here. The city is having a birthday, or a party, or whatever. It’s a special day for the city. The folks down there are kinda like the parents. Her dad, and her brother as Concord, work hard and fight hard to protect the city. She figures this is something a princess should do too.

Analysis complete. A new building, honoring a member of the Underground Railroad, is being dedicated at this site.

“I haven’t learned 'bout that yet. Can you, um, can you kinda explain it for me?”

Anty pauses. A hero of the 19th century, who helped many people escape tyranny, is being remembered here today. They are constructing a building and bestowing it with the hero's name.

That definitely sounds worth protecting.

Nobody expected Jeff Goldblum to show up for the dedication. Nobody expected Jeff Goldblum to be twenty feet tall, wrapped in flames, bearing a glowing spear, and descending from the heavens with a ringing voice.

“Ohhhhh, this is nice - is this? This is a dedication. Oh, I love this. I don’t get invited to these, though. It’s that celebrity paradox, you want - if someone is too big, you know, they detract from the gravitas of the ceremony. Distract? Detract? What do you all think?”

The giant hurls his spear at the platform, where civic servants are assembled. They scatter. Behind them, the platform is ablaze with fire. Jeff descends and hovers, with one bare toe inches from the ground. “Let, uh, let the destruction commence, I suppose!”

Princess Peri hurls herself off the building.

Harry’s earpiece gets the message. “Jeff Goldblum spotted attacking a civic event downtown. Peri is engaging with him.”

Jeff Goldblum? Again? Well, Halcyon has seen weirder things.

“Alright, gang, let’s get some answers!” calls Harry, and runs for it.

A10, TK, and Armiger arrive together. Well, Armiger’s sword does. The man himself teleports to it a moment later. Harry is sort of envious. The guy gets to sit around drinking Pepsi while his teammates lug a sword everywhere, and then when he’s read, bam.

They’re in time to see Peri cut through the flaming spear and knock Jeff backward, into a pile of Intermezzo neocrete and other construction supplies.

“Looks like she’s got this,” comments A10.

“For all we know she arranged this. Like those tech thieves.” Harry is already cracking his knuckles in preparation. “We just got the alert, and she’s here fighting?”

“Pretty sus,” concurs TK.

Jeff Goldblum rises again. “Listen, ah, we can settle our differences like two ordinary–” He goes down with a vicious rabbit punch. Peri rises into the sky, and stretches out a hand. “Perfect Purification!” she shouts.

Streamers of golden light lead from the giant to her palm. Jeff shrinks, and changes, until what’s left is a very scared looking construction worker. Peri descends again and leans in. “It’s okay, I took the evil from you.”

She looks toward the heroes, and Harry feels his opening his here. “Hey, you. Peri. We need to talk–”

He’s interrupted as Armiger runs past him, sword out.

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Jordan understood the idea. An unfortunate person was filled with negative energy, and it was building up. She knew where it was, and just had to wait for it to erupt. Then she had to fight whatever it turned into, and finally drain it away from the person. Anty had told her everything.

She’d done that, saw the giant go away, saw the man in terror.

So why is there a guy running at her with a sword? Did she do it wrong?

Of the four heroes, Armiger is certain that only he and A10 noticed anything wrong. She thanks to her powers, he thanks to the connection to the world around him provided by Excalibur. And before Peri has a chance to fly away again, he resolves to act.

He doesn’t really have a plan here, other than “provoke Peri into revealing whatever’s going on”. What he’s got is training, confidence in his instinct, and a heavy-ass sword. They better be enough.

Unlocking full combat complement. Switching to automatic defensive mode.

Jordan can feel Anty taking control of her super-princess form. It’s like when Mom is holding onto her, a stronger set of limbs that guide hers into the proper motions, like when baking or learning to punch. “Don’t hurt him!” is all she can mentally say, before the sword comes.

She watches Peri manifest a starblade, sees it block the hooded knight’s charge, feels the impact. Anty lowers her center of gravity via crouching, and she feels surges of power anchoring her in place besides. She’d probably have taken a tumble if that hadn’t happened. That would have been bad!

Harry isn’t sure what to make of this. A10 clearly is itching to get into the fight, but is also looking at him. For what, permission? No - for direction. So is TK, for that matter.

Shit. Responsibility.

Alright then. “Take care of civilians,” Harry orders. “Get that construction worker outta there. Evacuate everyone else.”

“Right.” “Right.”

Harry starts moving as well. Something’s nagging at him.

Armiger remembers the battle against the tech thieves. He’s ready when Peri splits into multiple illusions - he just manifests more and smaller swords, and throws them at every illusion. Meanwhile the world is shouting at him about an attack from behind.

Before the starblade strikes, Armiger teleports to one of the swords he tossed a moment ago. He sees Peri making the downswing, watches her hit nothing but empty air, crouches, and launches himself back into the melee.

“Why don’t we just fly away again?” asks Jordan.

Anty doesn’t immediately respond. Jordan sorta gets the feeling like Anty is talking to someone else, someone who isn’t her.

This enemy may be a lasting danger to you. He should be disposed of.

“I don’t wanna dispose of anyone,” protests Jordan. “I wanna help people.”

He will interfere with your further ability to help people.

She isn’t the one fighting, so she can take time to look at other things. But her head keeps whipping around so it’s hard to concentrate. She does get glimpses and flashes, though. People are scared. There’s superheroes helping them out, making them not be scared.

It’s the same superheroes that came with this one.

They’re helping.

One of them is Harry Gale. Friend of Concord. Friend of her brother Adam.

Harry is friends with the guy attacking her.

Something’s not right.

Something’s not right, Harry tells himself. At this point, rescuing and reassuring civilians is like a muscle memory, something he can just do. It frees him up to think.

The team has assumed that Peri is trying to engineer a successful superhero debut, and has been finding minions and other villains to shill for her in the process. That she’s trying to sell a good impression to the people of Halcyon City.

But if so, she’s doing a terrible job of it. She flew away before any cops or media could show up to give her a spotlight about the tech thieves. She’s not on ASIST or social media - Harry checked. If she was expecting his group to spread the good word, she didn’t say anything about it.

Just who is trying to sell what to whom?

So far so good, Armiger thinks. But he realizes that he may have screwed up in a big way.

Peri did respond. But she’s fighting defensively. She’s not running away, but she’s not escalating either, like he sort of thought she might. She’s doing what an actual hero might do, in a similar situation. And there’s a lot of people watching him fight a person who just rescued a civilian from Goldblumhood. Someone’s gonna have to explain this to the Mayor, who is standing right there, Jesus.

The absolute worst part? Skinner is going to chew him out no matter how this fight ends. That means he needs to win this thing, at minimum.

It’s time to get real clever with swords.

He lets himself be feinted, lets himself lose his main sword for a moment as Peri executes a pretty stellar disarming move. He falls on his back. Peri looms over him.

Armiger grins. “EXCALIBUR!”

The sword isn’t a sword. But it looks like a sword. It’s infinitely heavy to anyone not worthy to lift it. And it can be smaller than what it normally is. It can be larger too.

The flat side of a 35-foot-long barong falls from the sky, straight down onto where Peri is standing.

She’s not under the blade when Armiger pulls it away. Harry hopes that means she got out okay, because he doesn’t really want to see someone squashed like a bug. But more because he’s still not sure what Peri’s deal is.

TK’s already questioned the construction worker who Jeffed out, and relayed what he could find to Harry. Now the Mayor is approaching. Harry has way more questions than answers.

“Mercury! Glad to see you, and your associates. Can you, ah, share with us just what happened?”

Harry sees reporters on their way, mics out. Whatever he says now is going to be the official story. He wonders how his parents would handle this, realizes that they must have had their first time doing so, just like he is now.

Growing up sucks.

“Well, we got here in time to see the individual with a sword siphoning energy away from the rescued civilian. We’ve encountered her once before. She named herself Peri. While it’s clear she has powers, we’re unclear on her motives or mission, and we’re uh,…”

He knows he’s committing himself and the team, but what else is there to do?

“… going to track her down to learn more.”

A question comes from the press gaggle. “Is Peri a hero or villain?”

Harry puts on his best, bravest smile. “Peri is an unknown, but she seems to be trying to help. I think we can help her learn more how to do that, but we need to get in touch with her.”

Another question comes from the press. “Why did your teammate attack her then?”

Damn it, Armiger. Harry has to think extraordinarily fast. “It was clear that the negative energy she absorbed from the Jeff Goldblum construct was affecting her, so Armiger moved to hold her attention while it could dissipate.”

He hates it, hates that he lied, hates not knowing, hates knowing Armiger might not even know, hates that keeping everyone here from panicking requires him to have answers he doesn’t have. Hates the “fake it 'til you make it” advice that others in the HHL gave him, hates that this was the first place his mind went under pressure.

The Mayor is an old hand at this sort of thing. Harry catches the man looking sympathetically at him. Does he understand what it’s like? Maybe he does, because he calls the press’s attention to himself. “We’ll be releasing official details once the dedication ceremony has been rescheduled, and I ask that you all be in contact with my office for that date. Until then, please direct all questions about this ‘Peri’ person to Ms. Pringles Constantine, our superhero-law enforcement liaison within my office. Pringles will be coordinating with Mercury and his team in their investigation. Thank you.”

Everyone here looks relieved, at last, and Harry knows it’s what he said that helped achieve that. Truth and lies, fighting and peacemaking, doing the right thing or compromising yourself to achieve a goal. There’s a balance to everything.


Jordan finds herself in an inky-black space. Everything feels like it’s shifting. Then she pops out in her bedroom again.

“What happened?” Jordan demands.

I complied with your wish not to dispose of the enemy, reports Anty. We enacted a tactical retreat in the face of overwhelming force.

“Well…” Jordan doesn’t like this at all. She knows the feeling of when she’s blamed for something going wrong, and knows what it’s like when a judgy adult looks at you but doesn’t say what they’re feeling. She gets that feeling now.

“Okay. So… this ‘full combat complement’… What does that mean?”

Your power can be channeled in numerous ways. Some of these have been found to be advantageous in combat. Their uses have been codified into a series of procedures.

“Like when I yell, ‘Starblade Power’, a thing happens, like on the shows?” Jordan asks excitedly. She knows all about special attacks.

That phrase is not an activation code for any of your abilities.

“Well it should be.”

Noted. I shall--

“Anty, I don’t want you disposin’ of people, ever. Not at all. 'Specially ones that are friends with my brother.”

The alternative is to compromise your mission.

No. There’s gotta be a way to balance this.

Jordan does her best to calm down. She takes a breath, lets it out. “Anty, show me the full combat complement. We’re gonna make a list of what we can use next time. Okay?”

There’s that feeling again, of Anty talking for a few seconds, to somebody that’s not her.

Acknowledged. First, weapons...

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That’s it for this chapter of the story. We’ll see where the Gang vs. Princess Jordan goes next time :smiley:
A fight between a Grail Knight and a Void Shadow agent is my gift to Mike, merry Christmas


And what a wonderful gift it was. :grin:
The whole story so far (not just here but all of Phase 2) has been delightful. Always makes my day when I see there is a new post in one of these threads. Such a joy to see where you’re taking these characters. :slight_smile:

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Nice, thoughtful use of technobabble.

The “Oh, no!” moment for readers.

I love it.


Enjoying Harry deal with the pains of growing up (and being leader). Also enjoying the different ways both Armiger and Harry are sussing out what’s wrong with this picture. Good show.

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