Face Flowed Into Her Eyes
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area
Chapter 2: Deterrence Headquarters, Virginia.
It was a strange sight to be sure: heroes acting like normal people, or at least as normal as they could act given their nature. They had just returned from a funeral, a funeral for allies and fellow heroes. A funeral that was open to the public but was in spirit a private affair for heroes only.
The three heroes were Spirit, Arrowhead, and Diamondback, the first with the power to turn intangible, the second with the power to run at tremendous speeds, and the third with the power to turn his skin into an almost impenetrable rock-like substance.
The citizens could look at the brightly clothed corpses, some of them could even cry but they didn’t have any special tether to them. The living heroes however had a serious and important connection with their fallen comrades. And for one of the few times they showed their humanity by marching slowly and quietly through the parting crowds and back into their Headquarters.
There were four of them present: two women and two men. At their head was Paragon, a veteran hero who had been in the hero business for decades. He had control over electromagnetism, light, and other fundamental forces. His costume had an orange-and-white color scheme and was rather light and functional with armored plates protecting his shoulders, chest, and back and a helmet that allowed him to see special EM signatures.
Most important of his various powers was the ability to manipulate and control ferrous metals and to create powerful EM shields that could easily deflect bullets and stop a speeding train dead. His cape was long but didn’t get in the way and didn’t limit his mobility. Next was Avenger, the only one of them who actually wore black to the funeral.
She was a large woman with long, strong legs, wide shoulders and wider hips, and long black hair that she wore up while in costume. Despite her vigorous physical training and athletic physique she still followed the decades old superheroine tradition of possessing an ample bust which on a smaller woman would have led to severe balancing issues but which on her frame looked quite natural and proportional.
She was an expert martial artist and a lover of tools and gadgets that helped her with her job. These included the night-vision lenses installed into the eye-holes of her cowl and the retractable steel spikes on the tips of her black leather boots as well as many more that she stored in compartments and pouches on her belt and on her leggings.
Some of these tools she designed herself but for the most part they were purchased or gifted to her by various firms with an interest in having their technology field-tested. She augmented her natural talents and equipment with her superpower: the ability to absorb ambient visible light and convert it into pure power and also use it as a protective force for her body.
At full absorption in broad daylight she could amass sufficient power to lift a midsized SUV over her head. This absorption had another, very important side effect: it robbed her surroundings of light. Back in Los Angeles when criminals want to frighten one another, they tell Avenger stories.
Behind her was the Guardian, a massive man who’s power was super-strength and invulnerability which fluctuated based on his mental state. When calm he had far greater than average strength and impressive durability but in combat situations he became strong enough to lift mountains and his body became impervious to everything short of the most powerful nuclear explosions.
Another side effect was that as his strength increased so did his mass, and at average combat strength he tipped the scale at nearly two tons. He was a young man with less than ten years of experience under his belt but he had the potential to be one of the greatest heroes of all time, at least that’s what Paragon always said.
He wore a costume that did nothing to hide his identity (he was too large to be considered “normal looking” in civilian guise anyway) and had a black and gray color scheme. At the rear was the youngest member of the team: Bombshell.
Her name referred firstly to her power which was the ability to create, magnify, and suppress explosive forces and referred secondly to her rather stunning physique and her silky platinum blonde hair. She wasn’t more than a week over twenty-three years old and had just joined the team a few years ago.
She wore a somewhat-revealing get-up consisting of tight navy-blue duralex (an incredibly durable variety of spandex worn by most superheroes) pants that hugged her hips and a short-sleeved navy-blue duralex top that left her midriff exposed.
The married men in the crowd tried not to stare too much as she walked past them, for they knew their wives’ eyes were on them. After a slow and ponderous walk through the parted crowd that seemed to last for hours they returned to their Headquarters and closed the doors on the crowd outside.
And immediately upon entering and leaving the Funeral behind they let go of any grief they had for grief wasn’t something they could afford in their line of work. From the courtyard the assembled masses of civilians could only wonder what they were doing inside. As the door shut behind her Avenger removed her cowl and tossed it to the floor.
“God it’s maddening wearing that thing all day.” She said.
“You should try wearing a helmet all day, a ten pound helmet with absolutely no ventilation.” Paragon replied.
“I still can’t believe they’re gone,” said Bombshell from the back of the group, even though she had only known the dead heroes for a relatively short time she was unaccustomed to death and had already begun to form attachments to them. The others had already learned to let go of such attachments to avoid what Bombshell was feeling at the moment.
“Trust me kid,” Said Paragon while removing his helmet, “When you’ve been a hero as long as I have this sort of thing becomes commonplace. That’s not to say it ever gets any easier, but you have to learn how to push through the sadness and remember what you’re here for, to help people.”
“Tell that to the Government,” sneered Avenger, “They seem to think we’re nothing more than weapons to crush their enemies. It’s the same all over.”
“Forgive me, Lorena, but that is weapons-grade bullshit,” said Paragon, relieved to be out of his helmet.
“Well the three corpses outside could have fooled me,” Avenger snarled back.
“Hey now,” the Guardian moved between them in an attempt to diffuse the tension, “In case you forgot Lorena this is the time for mourning, not for arguing about principles.”
“Who’s arguing? Why would I argue with Paragon? After all he’s always right,” said Avenger sarcastically, “Aren’t you Ted?”
“It’s not that I’m always right, it’s just that you’re usually wrong,” Paragon replied dryly.
“Hey guys,” Bombshell interjected, “I don’t mean to break up your little dispute but does anyone know why Mister Magnificent didn’t show up?” The others turned to face her as if she had asked an incredibly stupid question.
“He’s probably busy doing something else, saving a kid in Australia from Dingoes, or throwing some gigantic monster into the sun,” Avenger replied matter-of-factly.
“I don’t think so,” said Paragon, “There aren’t any natural disasters going on right now, and as you know 99% of all super-threats are either dead or imprisoned. I think he didn’t show up for personal reasons.”
“He has been pretty distant for the last few weeks,” The Guardian admitted.
“Weeks?” Paragon raised an eyebrow, “For the last decade he’s been less and less attentive and more distant, it’s only now that it’s starting to affect his performance. None of you were around forty years ago when I first wore the cape. Mister Magnificent back then, well…”
Paragon smiled as memories of simpler times flashed through his mind, “He was magnificent, he saved my life a dozen times before the decade was up and he always had a great big smile, only frowning when it was appropriate. Diamondback was one of his old foes. After being defeated time and time again by Mister Magnificent and being treated with mercy and compassion each time Diamondback was inspired to stop committing crimes and serve on the side of the angels, so to speak. What Mister Magnificent did to the Polar-Man shook me to the core, he would have never even thought of gouging out an opponent’s eye, no matter who it was.”
“That ******* had it coming, if I get the chance I’ll take his other eye,” Avenger spat. She had personal reasons for hating the Polar-Man.
“Whether or not he deserved it isn’t the question,” Paragon countered, “The question is why Mister Magnificent would do it. Would you really feel safe if someone with powers like Mister Magnificent had your approach to dealing with the world’s problems?” He asked Avenger. Avenger was stunned by the idea and after a short few seconds she answered.
“I didn’t think so,” Paragon said.
“Well why do you think he’s been acting like that?” the Guardian asked Paragon.
“He’s probably tired, sleep-deprived; I mean if you were constantly saving people across the world wouldn’t you be exhausted?”
Bombshell suggested. Paragon merely shook his head.
“He’s not tired in the sense that an insomniac is. Mister Magnificent doesn’t need sleep, or food, or water, or air for that matter. He’s flown to the sun and back for God’s sake. There’s a good reason why he’s called Mister Magnificent you know,” Paragon said, “If he has any sort of fatigue, it’s purely spiritual in nature. I would say it’s a mid-life crisis, but he’s immortal so that’s clearly not what’s going on.”
“Then what is it?” Avenger asked.
“I don’t know,” Paragon replied. There was a considerable amount of consternation apparent in both his expression and in his words.
“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."
-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.