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Machinations - 11. Arc 2, Identification

Eric woke up to find Coral lying beside him, pink and yellow bracelet in either hand, which were pressed up against the pillow over Coral’s face. He gave Coral a poke. “What’s the matter?”

Coral peeked out from under the pillow. “I must be a superhero and I have no pronouns,” Coral said in despair. Right, today was the day they’d be officially introduced to the team, now that all the boring legal and PR stuff was over with.

“Ah. One of those days?” He tugged at the pillow, which Coral released. “Test?”

“Eh.” Coral looked down at both bracelets. “I guess.”

“All right, then.” Eric propped himself up on his side. “You are my handsome boyfriend.”

“Definitely not,” Coral said.

“Okay. You are my gorgeous girlfriend.”

“Eh. No.”

“Beautiful beanfriend?”

“Not really.”

“Rascally Chaos Goblin?

That surprised Coral into a burst of laughter. “Maybe.”

“Well, now it just sounds like you don’t want to be dating,” Eric said with a grin.

Coral waved a fist in the air. “Relationship anarchy! Return to the bogs of free love!”

Eric kissed Coral’s shoulder. “So, any ideas for pronouns?”

“Default, I guess,” Coral said.

“They/them, them?” Wait, that wasn’t right. “Then. They/them them. Then. They/then them. Augh. Them/them then.” Eric flopped back. “I am too drowsy to operate heavy pronounery.

Coral laughed as they put the yellow bracelet on. “Well, we have a few hours before we need to leave. We could get some more sleep.” They snuggled closer and gave Eric a deep kiss. “Or sleep.”

That sounds like an excellent idea,” Eric said, kissing back.

After a refreshing bout of sleep, as well as a shower and breakfast, Eric noticed Coral scrutinizing him. He waited for Coral to bring up whatever it was. “So,” Coral finally said, “will you be all right while we’re in the Corps HQ?”

Eric frowned. “You mean the power thing? I think I can focus enough for it.”

“I mean Nathan. He kinda lives there. And works there.”

“Oh.” Eric looked away. “That.”

“Are you even still together with him?”

Their last phone call hadn’t been too promising. Eric had yelled at Nathan for giving away their personal information, Nathan had tried to defend himself, and Nathan had not apologized. “We’re not… not together.” Eric sighed. “Even with this, I still don’t want to break up. Still mad, though.”

“If he tries to talk to you, I can run interference.”

Eric considered it for a moment, then shook his head. “I can handle him. Especially if he’s actually decided to apologize.”

Coral looked skeptical. Thankfully, they didn’t say anything about it. “All right. If he comes up to us and you change your mind, just give my arm a squeeze.”

Noted,” Eric said, giving Coral a peck on the cheek.Just about time to leave.”

Out in the car, driving over the bridge, Coral curled up in the passenger seat. “Hey, once we get our first paychecks, we’ll be pretty rich, won’t we?”

“Guess we will,” Eric said. “Got any thoughts about what we could spend our money on?”

“I mean, that amount of money, especially if we stick with it… we could buy anything.” Coral gasped. “We could buy a horse! A superpowered horse that fights crime!”

Coral, we are crime.”

“A morally ambiguous superpowered horse that fights crime that isn’t us!”

We’d need a place to keep it, though,” Eric said. “Maybe a house? One with a nice big backyard for any pets?”

And a secret basement that can be our villain lair!”

“With a secret entrance that looks like a bookcase. Except all the books are real, so nobody can accidentally trigger it. The real mechanism to open it is a hidden pressure switch in the back, so it can only be opened if you push a bunch of books to the back.”

And in the lair itself, we have beanbag chairs and a mini-fridge. No, a full fridge. Of snacks.

I like the way you think,” Eric said.

Great,” Coral said. After a moment, they looked at him. “So, regarding the whole infiltration thing, where do we start?”

Eric actually hadn’t put much thought into that. “Well, I think we should lie low for the time being. See what options we have.”

You haven’t thought about it.”

Damn, they were too good at reading him. “Okay, yeah, I haven’t come up with much. Don’t suppose you have any ideas?” He stopped at the next intersection to look over at Coral, who was giving him a skeptical look. “We’re not infiltration villains, okay? We’re anarchy villains.”

“Okay. So how do we undermine an archy?”

“By not having a plan. Plans are archy.”

“Seriously.”

Eric shrugged. “Cause chaos until they rethink their bad decisions?”

“That works for me,” Coral said.

Good, because we’re here.”

From the outside, it looked like a fairly normal building. It was maybe a bit more modern and pretentious than the surrounding buildings, with glass sides, a curved roof, and plants creeping up the walls, but still ordinary. Which, he supposed, was the point – he was certainly doubting he was in the right place.

The directions they received told them to pull around to the back. The barrier there automatically lifted as they pulled up to it. “Kinda weird,” Coral said. “Do you think they programmed our plates in or something? Because I didn’t give them mine.”

“Ah, yes. Showing their wonderful commitment to privacy,” Eric said.

There was a parking spot with a banner over it saying New Heroes. Eric assumed that meant them and parked there. “Ready?” he asked Coral.

“Nope,” they said, unbuckling. “Let’s do this.”

***

The costume was more comfortable than it deserved to be. Coral glared down at it. Their other costume was more haphazard. This one fit perfectly. Of course, the other one was storebought and this one was tailored after hours of work. All day, they and Eric been signing paperwork, answering questions about their new identities, and talking to some sort of fabric-controller about their costume preferences. After all that, it had better be comfortable, but they could still complain about the amount of work it took to finish it.

Eric stepped out from his dressing room. His new costume more or less matched Coral’s: both were trenchcoats with pink domino masks, pink fedoras, and blue boots. The major difference was that Coral’s was a gradient from pink to purple with a white sash while Eric’s was from pink to blue with a purple sash. Coral’s coat was also shorter, down to the knee, to give them more leg mobility and that showed off their black leg armor. Eric had the same armor, but it wasn’t visible under his ankle-length coat. Despite that, they clearly looked like a matching pair.

Even behind the mask, Coral could see that Eric looked nervous. His steps were uncertain and his shoulders were hunched just that tiny bit. Coral held up their hands. “Don’t arrest me, Mister Superhero!” they said. “Please, I can’t go to superfashion jail for my superfashion crimes!”

“Oh?” Eric asked, wrapping an arm around their waist, the signs vanishing. “I think you look perfectly lovely. But just to be safe, legally speaking, maybe you should take it off.”

“Well, I of course want to comply with the law,” Coral said.

There was a loud ahem from around the corner, and Angelica stepped into sight. “Oh, good, you’re fully suited up,” she said cheerfully.

“Yes, ma’am,” Eric said, taking his arm off Coral. “Is everyone else ready?”

“Everyone except Enmachina. He’s out on patrol. The rest of them are ready to meet you.”

Coral glanced at Eric. He’d relaxed even more. Nathan was really getting to him. “All right, then,” Coral said. “Lead the way.”

Angelica nodded and gestured for them to walk alongside her. “Now, there are a few things we need to discuss. Firstly, when you signed up, I mentioned the rules about dating teammates. Specifically the clause about having affairs.”

“When you put it like that,” Coral said, “it sounds like the affairs are mandatory.” That was yet another rule they’d disliked, and had demanded numerous reassurances about. “What about it?”

“I’ve spoken with the people in charge of that policy and suggested that they should change the language to accommodate polyamorous relationships. But again, as I said when you signed it, we’ll be interpreting an affair as something that your partner would complain about. It seems that there’s precedent for that in other branches of the Corps, as well.”

“Got it,” Eric said. Coral nodded along. Honestly, as annoyed as they were about the whole thing, Eric had noted that they were desperate for new members and probably wouldn’t fire someone for something that nobody had a problem with. Coral was inclined to agree. Besides, if they did get fired, then that would just let them get back to their regular activities.

“Next, have you noticed any unusual activity? People asking about Nathan or about you, or following you home?”

Coral glanced at Eric, who shrugged. “No,” Coral said.

“Good. If nothing else happens for a few more months, I’m inclined to say that Couronne isn’t actively looking for Enmachina’s civilian identity.”

Eric and Coral glanced at each other again. “Why do you think they’d be doing that in the first place?” Eric asked. “I mean, they follow the unofficial villain rules pretty well, and civilian identities are on that.”

“Better to be safe than sorry,” Angelica said.

Coral felt neither safe nor that Angelica was sorry for violating their privacy. Even if they hadn’t been the threat that the heroes were worried about, there were generally rules about non-immediate threats. But saying that would lead to a big fight, and that would probably jeopardize the infiltration mission. “Is there anything else?” Coral asked.

“One more thing. Would you be willing to show off your powers when I introduce you? Both of you, but especially you,” Angelica said with a nod to Coral.

“My analysis? Sure,” Coral said.

“The testing seemed to indicate that it’s unusually accurate.”

That had actually been fun, though Coral was worried about it beforehand. Fortunately, they didn’t have any analyzers nearby. They’d checked beforehand, but there was always the possibility that they’d called in someone from further away. Instead, they’d gotten a few people out of costume, probably so Coral had no idea who they were, and Coral had told them as much information as they could get from analysis. The consensus had been that of the three measurements for analysis, Coral had no range and no ability to recognize people through analysis, but the informational gain broke the scale. Of course, that probably had something to do with the fact that they could only read powers that they’d copied, but they couldn’t exactly tell the testers that.

“Any information in particular you want me to give them?”

“Full description, if possible, and any applications you can think of. And use the official classification system. You’re aware of it?”

“Of course.” It was a bit unwieldy, so not many people used it outside of official work, but they knew how it worked. There were eight categories: shapeshifting, bodybuilding, hyperintelligence, sensory, warping, kinesis, projection, and metapower. Metapowers were powers that affected powers, of course, like Coral’s trio of powers. Angelica, on the other hand, was a pure shapeshifter: someone who could change the shape of their body. Bodybuilding was when someone could change the way their body functioned without changing the shape, like someone with super strength. It was sort of related to warping, the ability to alter or ignore the laws of physics. Mad Science fell under hyperintelligence, which was pretty much super intuition, where someone could make a lot of accurate guesses with a very low amount of input. Sensory was the ability to stretch someone’s senses, sometimes only expanding one of the normal senses and sometimes creating new ones. Kinesis was about movement: Nathan’s power was essentially the ability to push power into electrical devices, so that was kinesis. It could also be considered a bit of projection, or the ability to project some aspect of the powerbearer into the wider world, often under the full control of the creator. Each had their own subcategories as well, and ways to measure them, but those were the basics.

Eric’s powers were a bit difficult. Projection, warping, and a small dose of bodybuilding. The bodybuilding part was easy enough: he was immune to fire, which fell under invulnerability, which was bodybuilding. He could produce fire and control it, which was projection. Pyrokinesis could also do that, except he had no ability to control fires that he hadn’t produced, meaning that it wasn’t kinesis. His ability to alter light was also not kinesis: he couldn’t move the image of something to somewhere else, like a true photokinetic could. However, he wasn’t a light projector, since he couldn’t produce light. That meant he was a lightbender, which fell under warping.

By contrast, the invisibility of his superhero persona was pretty simple. Supposedly, he wasn’t altering the light that hit him, but his body itself in order to become invisible. That meant that Superhero Eric was a bodybuilder. The category name wasn’t that appropriate in that case, but it started out as a way to describe the classic brick powers, strength and invulnerability.

“You know,” Coral said, “If you want to show off Eric’s powers in a more direct way, then I can think of something that might be fun.”

A few minutes later, they reached the meeting room. Due to the glass walls, Coral could see inside, where the other heroes were chatting. Those glass walls sounded like a horrible idea. Sure, they certainly gave off a vibe, but what happened if a supervillain attacked? Say, a supervillain who had the power to shatter glass with their voice. Not that Coral would ever do that, probably, but Nightingale had pulled off the stunt a few times. Even just an earthquake would be a health hazard.

Angelica opened the door. “Everyone,” she called. She had an impressive ability to project her voice when she wanted to. “We have two new heroes to introduce today. They’ll be working part-time.”

The heroes looked at Coral, who moved to the front of the room. This was a bit disconcerting. Sure, they’d all interacted when Coral was in regular clothes, but even if they were in a different costume, it still felt like coming up to them in the Echo costume. That was weird.

“So,” Grapple asked, “where’s the other one?”

“Glad you asked!” Eric said from right behind Grapple. She turned around just in time to see him reappear. “Nice to meet you,” he said, holding out his hand. Everyone else looked startled.

Coral was glad they’d suggested this. Seeing everyone caught off-guard was reassuring.

“Back to the front,” Angelica said, though she was smiling. “This is Scanner and Smokescreen. They’ll mainly be working in support roles…”

As she went on, Coral nudged Eric. “Smokescreen?” they hissed at him.

Scanner,” he retorted.

“It’s a perfectly logical name for what I do.”

“Same.”

“I tried to get Gaydar, but that was taken,” Coral muttered.

“And now,” Angelica said, “I would like all of you to, one at a time, come up and introduce yourselves. However, I don’t want you to tell them what your powers are.”

Some of them looked confused. Scope and Grapple, on the other hand, looked as if they’d realized what was going on. Grapple was the first one up. “Hello, my name is Grapple,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Coral said, taking a step forward and taking Grapple’s hand. They swapped out their fourth slot, which had Nathan’s power in it. With the power secured, Coral stepped back and looked at their hand. “Bodybuilding, kinesis. Brick abilities. Strength and resistance to sharp edges, though not full invulnerability. Primary power is telekinesis based on… plant fibers? Huh. I guess that explains why you never upgraded to something more durable for your grappling hook.” Coral considered the power and turned it over. “Could also be used for clothing to trip someone up, but that depends on them not having some of the more common synthetic fibers, so it’s not reliable on that front. Though denim is usually cotton, isn’t it?”

“Correct,” Grapple said. “Let’s just say that ordinary criminals have a better chance of tripping when they run from me. Supervillain costumes tend to be synthetic, though.”

“Of course,” Eric said. “That’s the only way to keep spandex relevant.”

“So,” Grapple said, “power analysis?”

Coral nodded. “Abysmal range, though. I have to have skin contact. Also power sensing, though that’s got a much better range.”

“Oh!” Rainbright said. “That’s why you’re Scanner!”

“Absolutely. I scan other powers.” Though it was based on the machine.

“And you’re Smokescreen because you turn invisible,” she said, pointing at Eric.

“Right. I can only turn my body invisible, though,” Eric said. “Not clothes. The costume does… something? I don’t know what, but it works with me to turn invisible.” He shrugged.

“So are you naked under there?” Hermes asked.

“I would prefer not to answer that question,” Eric said.

“I have a very important question,” Grapple said. “Are either of you a hugger?”

“I absolutely am not,” Coral said.

“Me neither,” Eric added.

“All right, then,” Grapple said, having the grace to not even look disappointed. “Nice to meet you again,” she said, before sitting down.

“Do we have to have our powers scanned?” Iris asked.

“No,” Angelica said. “It may be helpful, though. Scanner was apparently able to produce a few new insights for the volunteers in the test range.”

Coral shrugged. “They were all non-heroes, I think. Or at least newbies.”

“I’ll do it,” Hermes said, popping in front of Coral. They flinched. “Sorry. Nice to meet you!” He held out his hand and enthusiastically shook it.

Coral swapped Grapple’s power out for Hermes. Once they reclaimed their hand, Coral glanced at it. “Warping. Teleportation, obviously. Visual targeting. You can instantly move along line of sight, but you can also go somewhere you can visualize. I’m guessing that’s why it sometimes takes a few seconds for you to teleport when you’re in a fight?” When Hermes nodded, Coral continued. “You can teleport stuff with you, but only when it’s… surrounding, is maybe the right word. So you can teleport stuff that surrounds you or stuff that you’re surrounding. Like clothing, I guess, or a bag you’re holding. If something isn’t surrounding or it’s attached to something else, then you can’t take it with you because it counts that as part of the thing. Like… continual surface tension? I don’t think that’s the right way to describe it.” Coral shook their head. “This power has rules. Though I guess it’s pretty strong. Gotta have some weaknesses. Though I guess the teleport limit does that, too. You can only teleport roughly… 25 times between sleeps? That’s more of a softcap than a hardcap, though. You can keep going after that, but that’s when you start to get tired.”

“That explains a couple things,” Hermes said. “If it works between sleeps, then would taking a nap reset it?”

Coral flexed the power a bit. “I think it’s more of an energy regain than a complete reset. You sleep for a couple hours and you’ll regain some teleports, but not all of them. Might get extra teleports if you get more rest than necessary but I think there’s a limit to that.”

“Well, that definitely helps. Thanks. And hello to you as well.” After he enthusiastically pumped Eric’s arm like a jerk, he teleported back to his seat.

Was it a good idea to be helping them with their powers? On the one hand, it would probably endear them to the heroes and help with the infiltration. It would be much more difficult to actually fight them, though. Then again, Hermes usually didn’t confront Echo and Couronne since sending a non-flyer up against a flyer didn’t work very well.

Rainbright jumped up, but Scope got to the front before her. Before he held out his hand, though, Angelica spoke up. “You’ve been looking at your hand while you analyze. Is that necessary?”

Coral shrugged. “Not really, but I take a few moments to process the information. Either I stare at my hand or I stare at the person who I’m analyzing.”

“It’s a bit unnerving,” Eric said.

“Staring at the person might be better than suddenly looking at your hand, though,” Angelica said. “Try it without looking at your hand.”

Coral shrugged. “Sure. Hello, Scope.”

They shook hands and Coral swapped out Hermes. The moment they did so, Scope’s entire body unfolded before them, drowning out all their other senses. Fortunately, Scope pulled back his hand quickly, making the world return. He probably wasn’t any more eager to feel Coral’s body.

As directed, Coral stared straight ahead, putting their hands behind their back. “Sensory, kinesis. Complete sensing of a person’s body and ability to affect areas that the body has highlighted as needing repair. It seems like it splits the body into zones based on what it’s doing? And something that needs extra attention, like for repair work, is highlighted.”

“Is there any way to turn off the sensory input?” Scope asked.

That was probably the biggest issue with the power. Coral poked at the power. “…No, sorry. I don’t think there’s an off switch here.” That was a shame. Healing was extremely useful, but the sheer overwhelming sensory input was a major issue. “Have you considered getting an inhibitor cuff or something along those lines?”

“I’ve tried,” Scope said.

“Unfortunately, inhibitor tech is limited,” Angelica said. “The priority is for criminals or for people who would cause a lot of damage without inhibitors, and even then, we don’t have enough.”

“What about you?” Scope asked. “Do you have trouble with your sensory power?”

Coral shrugged. “Not really. Only if I stretch it for too long, and then I get a headache. One time it was a full migraine.”

“Stretch it?” Angelica asked.

That information seemed harmless enough. “Yeah. Though I’m not sure if it’s that or I just don’t pay attention to it after a certain point. Basically, I can actively feel powers in a room or a house, but if I focus it goes up to about half the city. At least, they assigned me Range Nine, so I’m assuming that’s what it is.” That had been a little less fun than the analysis test. They’d sent someone out over the ocean and told Coral to report when they could no longer sense that power. Coral had to stop due to a headache. “Anyway, sorry,” they said to Scope. “At least it’s not ranged?”

Scope shuddered. “That would be horrible.” He gave both Coral and Eric a nod before sitting back down.

Rainbright was up next, holding out her hand without introducing herself. “Hi,” Coral said.

“Oh, right. Hi, I’m Rainbright. Scan me!”

Well, fine. Coral wasn’t planning on being helpful anyway. Rainbright was becoming one of their regular opponents and was a jerk anyways. Coral shook Rainbright’s hand. “Projection, kinesis. Light creation and flight.” They stood back and didn’t say anything else.

“Okay, and?” Rainbright said.

“And that’s your power,” Coral said with a shrug.

“But you had all sorts of stuff for the rest of them! Tell me more!”

“Rainbright,” Angelica said, “stop demanding and start asking.”

“But I…” Rainbright turned to face Angelica, but stopped when Angelica raised an eyebrow at her. She turned back around. “Could you please tell me more about my power?”

“Hmm.” Coral glanced at Angelica, who also raised an eyebrow at her. “All right. When you’re creating hard light, you can make objects of different colors, but they have to be the same object. Also, you can make bright light.” Which was what Rainbright had figured out, but not the full story. The power could make white light, whether hard or not, and split it. Somehow, Rainbright had managed to split her white light to make objects, but not make a white light object even when there was only one object. She also seemed to be under the impression that she could only make six colors. The only criteria was that they had to be different colors, but crimson and vermilion counted as two different colors despite both being red.

The power itself was versatile. It was almost a shame to see it wasted. “Your power is mostly limited by imagination. Think of different things you can do with it and you’d probably be able to do quite a lot.” If Rainbright had to use her imagination, then she’d never be a threat.

“That’s it?” Rainbright asked.

“Pretty much,” Coral said.

“Whatever,” Rainbright muttered, stalking away.

That only left Iris. “Still don’t want to be analyzed?” Coral asked. Super speed could be useful, but Coral could easily find some excuse to brush against Iris’s hand.

Iris hesitated, but shrugged and walked over. “Hi, I’m Iris,” she said quietly.

“Nice to meet you,” Coral said, taking her hand and swapping out Rainbright’s power.

This was… wow. The power wasn’t precisely super-speed. It was emotion-activated time manipulation. The effect was mostly the same, in that Iris could move great distances in very little time, but there was a subtle difference. Speedsters had to deal with negative effects from the world around them, like being blasted with air molecules every time they accelerated and having limbs that were moving far faster than the human body was intended to go. They usually had to have some sort of invulnerability to deal with both of those, which Iris didn’t have.

Time manipulation was different. As far as Iris’s body was concerned, it was going a normal speed. It was just doing so within a time bubble centered on the body. That took care of the impact issue as well, since any air molecules would adjust to her personal time speed upon passing into her time bubble. There was also the fact that time manipulation didn’t rely on motion, while super-speed did: the speedster had to move in order to make an effect, while someone could trigger time manipulation while standing still.

Other than that, there were no big differences. Iris’s time bubble only allowed her to move at a rate quicker than the rest of the world. There was no capacity for time travel, other than moving forwards at a somewhat less-than-normal rate.

Did Iris know about this? That was something Coral needed to consider, except there wasn’t enough ti-- Oh. Coral activated Iris’s power, trying to keep their eyes open as long as possible. Now, if Iris or more importantly Angelica knew and Coral didn’t mention that Iris’s power was time-based, then they might think Coral was lying. That could be something that Coral could talk their way out of, by saying that they had a headache or something. Actually, Coral could in fact feel a headache coming on. On the other hand, if Iris didn’t know, then it could be useful to keep a secret.

If Coral did keep it a secret, then that would give them an advantage. After all, they were using it right now to think through a scenario without anyone suspecting anything. The only problem was that it would make them more suspicious if people were in the know. So then: head it off with an ache.

They turned off the time dilation and rubbed their forehead. “Are you okay?” Iris asked. “You kinda zoned out and started blinking rapidly.” Ah, she noticed the blinking. Something to keep in mind for the future.

“Um, yeah. Apparently I have issues from analysis, too,” Coral said. “Sorry.”

“You can sit down,” Angelica said. “All of you.” Eric helped Coral to a seat as Angelica took their place at the front of the room. “Scanner and Smokescreen may be called out to help you, especially in information-gathering missions. Next order of business: we’ve gotten our assigned team for the Annual Building the Corps event. For those of you who haven’t been here for a year, this is when two teams meet up and perform some team-building assignments together.”

“Ooh!” Hermes said. “Do we get Space Corps?”

“Unfortunately not,” Angelica said. “This year, we are partnered with Brokenpoint.”

“Wait,” Rainbright said. “Isn’t that where they send all the people who can’t behave?”

“Some of them are perfectly lovely people,” Angelica said.

“Who’ve been trapped with the rest!” Hermes said.

“Regardless, it’s what we’ve been ordered to do. We’ll report to their base in roughly a month, stay there for a few days, and then return.”

“Wait,” Hermes said. “Who’s going to look after the city, then?”

“Another team will take care of things. And before you ask, I don’t know who they are yet. In the meantime, I’d like to ask you to keep the news quiet. We don’t want any villains deciding that it’s the best time to attack.”

“Question,” Eric said, raising his hand. “Do the two of us have to go?”

“No,” Angelica said. “If the meeting took place in the Cove, then you would. As it is, it’s strongly recommended. And you’ll be given a very nice bonus for attending.”

Coral would have to look up the Brokenpoint heroes. If they had any interesting powers, it might be worth their while to go.

“What about…?” Hermes gestured at his chest.

“You should recover by then,” Angelica said. “Speaking of which, in a few days, Hermes will be taking medical leave.”

“I have a lot I need to get off my chest,” Hermes said with a grin.

Smiling, so it was a good thing? A chest-related thing for a guy? Oh, top surgery. “Congrats,” Coral said. They meant it: even though Hermes was their opponent, the guy did seem to genuinely want to help the city. He was just doing so through a framework that supported a bad status quo. Didn’t mean Coral was going to give him weapons against them, but they could still wish him the best.

Rainbright, on the other hand…

“Now, I believe that’s everything on the agenda,” Angelica. “Would anyone else like to make any announcements?” Everyone looked around, but nobody said anything. “Then I guess this meeting is over. Scanner, Smokescreen, please stay behind. I’d like to give you a tour of the building.”

Indeed, they were given one. The building had quite a few amenities: cafeteria, medical facilities, swimming pool, and a gym. They were given lockers in a locker room. There were more than twice as many lockers as people on the team, and half were unclaimed. The Cove team had more than twenty members before the End Crisis, if Coral remembered right. Half their current members, counting Coral and Eric, had been recruited in the past year, and only Grapple and Angelica had been around for more than five.

The last place Angelica brought them was the living quarters. “We’ve designated a room for the two of you. Whether you stay here or not is up to you, but many of our members find it useful to have a place to sleep after a fight and to launder their costumes. There are basic furnishings inside. If you want to purchase more, then we can handle the moving.”

As they’d been warned, the inside looked more like a minimalist showroom than a home. One that was showing off the colors black and white at that. Whose idea was it to put down a white carpet? Sure, it looked cool, but who was going to clean it? Definitely not Coral.

“I’ll leave you here,” Angelica said. “There’s a map on the coffee table. You can come and go whenever you like, no need to call ahead. Is there anything else?”

“Nope,” Coral said, sitting on the couch. They weren’t a fan of the black faux-leather, but the couch itself was very comfortable. It felt like it was hugging their back.

“Is Enmachina going to be back soon?” Eric asked.

Ah, that was probably something Eric wanted to take care of. Coral looked at the blank wall opposite the couch. That had lots of room for a TV. A big TV.

“He’s on his way back. Barring any more kidnappings, he’ll be in the building in about ten minutes.” Angelica paused. “Would you like me to tell him that you’re here?”

Coral couldn’t see Eric’s face, but his shoulders were hunched in the way that said they were tense. “He is welcome to give me an apology.”

“I… will let him know,” Angelica said. “Good day.” She left.

Eric stood in place after Angelica left, not turning around. He was stewing, wasn’t he? Coral shifted and put their legs up on the couch arm. “Hey, I had a great idea,” they said. Eric turned around. “What if we made this our secret lair?”

“In the middle of Corps HQ?” Eric asked.

“Yeah! A secret villain lair within a secret hero lair! With beanbags!”

“Yeah, no,” Eric said, moving over to the couch and shooing Coral’s legs away. “We’re getting a house and turning that into our lair.”

“I still want beanbags in here.”

“No reason a hero can’t have beanbags.”

“True. Speaking of heroes, though…” Coral sat up straight. “I got some interesting details that I didn’t tell anyone else…”

Copyright © 2021 Flamboyant Chatoyant; All Rights Reserved.

Thank you for reading!

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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