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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. 

Machinations - 12. Arc 2, Chapter 2

Iris faced down her grinning opponent. Behind him rested her target. She prepared herself to run. “Ready?” Hermes asked. Iris nodded. “Three, two, one, go!” He ran forward and kicked the ball past Iris.

Iris ran back, watching the world slow around her as she did. She easily caught up to the ball, but before she could kick it, Hermes appeared in front of her. Her power screeched to a halt, trying not to bowl him over. That was an entirely different game. Hermes kicked the ball further and disappeared. Iris groaned and ran forward. Instead of chasing after the ball, she rain straight for the goal box. When Hermes reappeared, she was in full goalie mode. He stared her down with a smile, and then kicked for the alternate side of the goal. That wasn’t enough, though. She caught up to it, grabbing it and throwing it as hard as she could toward the other goal. Hermes watched it soar into the air and then disappeared. Probably heading for the other goal to protect it. She put on a burst of speed.

Halfway across the field, though, Hermes reappeared right above the ball. As he fell, he kicked the ball and it reversed course. Iris skidded to a halt, nearly falling over, and zoomed back to her own goal. The ball flew toward the goal, but it was a bit high. Would it even go in? She stopped just inside the goal box and watched the ball. It bounced off the top bar and Iris caught it easily. She threw it again, but a little higher up this time. Hermes reappeared a little too high off the ground and stumbled when he landed. Iris hurried over. “You all right?” she asked.

“Yeah. Doesn’t feel like I twisted my ankle.”

“Good. You’re not trying to get in the hospital, are you?” Iris grinned at him.

“Oh, that would be horrible. I finally get the surgery approved and it’s delayed because of a stupid twisted ankle. Where’s the ball?” He glanced over his shoulder to see the ball in his goal. “Dang it. What happened?”

“Bounced off the top bar.” Iris shrugged. “That was a pretty cool move, though. Would’ve been impressive if it worked. But you’re okay?”

“Yep. Nothing to worry about here.”

“Good.” Iris headed over to retrieve the ball, but glanced over her shoulder. “Then I can go back to kicking your ass.” She put on some speed and dropped the ball back in the center circle before Hermes had finished opening his mouth. “Ready? Three, two, one…”

“Hey!” Hermes protested, but Iris had already kicked the ball.

They finished with a score of 3-2, Iris pulling off the winning shot with a headbutt that reminded her why she didn’t like headbutting the ball. “Good game,” she said, rubbing her forehead.

“Good game,” Hermes said, grabbing the ball, disappearing, and then reappearing without it. “So, next one is next month?”

“Well, not unless you can play without moving your chest,” Iris said, walking back toward HQ.

“Yeah, I can play like I’m an Irish dancer.” He held his arms stiffly by his chest and tried to do a high kick. Iris had to catch him when he nearly fell over.

It was a shame she’d have to wait a month to play again. Aside from Rainbright, Hermes was the only one who’d play with her. Not that she’d asked the part-timers, but they seemed a bit standoffish. Plus, he was the only one who could keep up if she wanted to use her super-speed. Sure, she could ask Rainbright, but…

“Are you thinking about Rainbright?” Hermes asked.

“Uh…” Iris stopped. “No?”

“You are! You’re blushing!”

Iris felt her face. It was hotter than normal. Stupid skin. It was dark enough that white people gave her the side-eye, but light enough that people could see her blush. “Am not,” she muttered.

“You should ask her out.”

“But… but I don’t know if she likes me!”

“Well, yeah. That’s the point of asking her out. To find out if she likes you.”

“What if she could like me, but I mess it up by asking her wrong?”

Hermes shrugged. “Then she’s too fussy and not worth your time. I mean, at some point you gotta talk to her about it. What else can you do? Pine after her forever and then she finds someone else to date? Like, how could you date her if she doesn’t know you want to?”

“Okay, but if she doesn’t know, then she can’t reject me and I don’t make a horrible embarrassment of myself.”

Hermes sighed. “Then how could you ever date her?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she’ll ask me.”

“Well, what if she’s waiting to figure out if you like her first?”

“But she’s not that shy.” Rainbright was so outgoing. She didn’t have to think something over before saying it, she just… said it. It wasn’t something Iris would want to do – after all, Rainbright did embarrass herself sometimes – but she could still admire it. “If she was interested, she’d say so.”

Hermes was quiet for a few moments. “You know, speaking of Rainbright, maybe there’s something we could do for her.”

Iris frowned. Was this a way for Hermes to get them together? As much as she wanted to date Rainbright, she didn’t want Hermes interfering in her love life after the last disaster. “What is it?”

“Well, now that she’s not the newest member of the team, maybe we could throw a party for her? Something to celebrate that she isn’t the newbie anymore. I mean, she hasn’t been on the team for that long and now she isn’t the newest member anymore, so maybe we could give her a chance to ask questions? And, you know, we could make cake. It’s an excuse for cake, basically.”

“That… actually sounds like a good idea.”

“You don’t need to sound so surprised,” Hermes said.

“Vanessa’s 16th birthday,” Iris said.

“I’m not trying to set you up with Rainbright! You need to set yourself up.”

“I’m not talking about this anymore.”

“Okay. So, you think the party’s a good idea?”

“Yeah, I guess.” They reached the building. “She’s free on Thursdays. That might be a good time to do it.”

“Yeah. Gives us time to set it up and it’s not before my surgery, too.” Hermes smirked. “Though maybe I could set up a private party for you two…”

Iris groaned. “No ‘helping’!” She made finger quotes.

“Okay, I won’t help,” Hermes said. Just as Iris was about to breathe a sigh of relief, he continued. “And you said that setting you up isn’t helpful, so that means I’m still free to.”

“Ugh. You’re the worst.” Iris put on a burst of speed, which instantly turned into super-speed. She got back to her room before slowing down.

Unfortunately, her jerk brother then teleported directly next to her. “So, do you want me to tell Rainbright about the party? Or maybe you should talk to her.”

“I’ll do it.” She didn’t think Hermes would tell Rainbright anything, but she didn’t want to risk it. Especially not after the last disaster he’d caused. “Don’t suppose you know where she is?”

“She’s in Angelica’s office. I think they’re having some sort of meeting.”


Jessica fidgeted in the chair before Angelica’s desk. The desk itself wasn’t the problem, though. Angelica was in the desk, giving her a disapproving glare. “So, Rainbright, you know why we’re here,” Angelica said to her.

“Um, no?” Jessica tried.

Angelica didn’t appear to buy it, but she went forward with the explanation anyway. “You have a scholarship through us. In order to keep the scholarship, you have to both work here and keep up your grades.” Angelica set a file in front of her with the transcript.

Jessica didn’t bother reading it. She knew what it said. “Look, I’m trying! But one of my professors hates me! I turn in my work two minutes late, I lose a grade! I turn it in on time, he thinks my work is “uninspired” and if I disagree with him one tiny bit, then I’m completely wrong! And when you pull me out of class, he lowers my grade even more because I wasn’t participating even if I have an excuse for it! He just wants to fail me!”

Angelica glanced at the file. “This would be Timothy Henderson?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“All right, then. What about the other three classes you have a low grade in?”

“Uh.” Okay, she really didn’t have an excuse for the other three. “Well, honestly, I’m wondering if I should change majors. I mean, I like the subject and I think it’s important, but… Mr. Henderson.” Jessica sighed. “He teaches a lot of the higher-tier classes and I don’t think I can survive a lot of classes with him.”

“There aren’t any other teachers available?”

“For most of them, yeah. There’s a few that’re only him, though.”

Angelica sighed. “Well, you’ll need to figure something out. Do you want me to extend the scholarship for the next semester, with the understanding that you’ll need to improve your GPA, or do you want to take a break for a few months?”

Jessica felt a coldness in her chest. Keep going another semester? Or basically admit that she wasn’t up to it? On the one hand, quitting was terrible. On the other, if she didn’t quit, maybe she would fail. Which was worse? She’d never quite figured that out. “Can I think about it?”

Angelica nodded. “Of course. You have one week. If you don’t have an answer then, I’ll have to file it as a break for the next semester. If you don’t return after the next semester, then you’ll need to reapply for the scholarship. Understood?”

Jessica felt sick and cold and not entirely in reality, but she nodded. “I’ll get back to you.” That was the expected response and one that gave her time to think.

“Very well.” Angelica set the paperwork aside, clasping her hands in the empty space over her desk. “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss while you’re here?”

“No.” Jessica just wanted to get away and process things.

“All right, then. You’re free to leave.” Angelica grabbed for another stack of paperwork.

Jessica got up and went to the door. Before she exited, the thought crossed her mind that she could ask Angelica for advice. She paused and glanced over her shoulder. Angelica was now fully absorbed in the paperwork. Fine, then, she wouldn’t ask. She headed out and walked back to her room.

Iris was waiting halfway there. “Oh, hi,” Jessica said.

“Hi, Rainbright,” Iris said, ducking her head. “Actually, um, are you free on Thursday?”

Was Iris asking her out? Yes, finally! She’d been wondering if sweet, shy Iris was interested in her for a while and now she was! Admittedly, Jessica could have asked, but where did someone even begin with asking out a girl? And worse, asking Iris was basically asking out a teammate, so if that went badly, there went the whole having-a-job thing. “Yeah, all day! What did you have in mind?”

“Well, Hermes and I figured that since you aren’t the newest member of the team anymore, we could do something to celebrate it? Honestly, I think he just wants an excuse to do something before his surgery.”

Oh. This wasn’t a date thing. She could feel herself deflating. “That sounds great,” Jessica said, trying not to sound forced. “And you wanted to do this on Thursday?”

“Yeah. In the afternoon, I guess? We should be done patrolling by three.”

“Great. See you then!”

Iris nodded and walked away, Jessica watching after her. Of course Iris didn’t want to ask her out. Iris was way too shy to ask anyone out, and that was assuming she was even interested in dating Jessica, or interested in dating women at all.

Oh well. At least they’d get to hang out at the party. Maybe she’d be able to find out more about Iris there? Jessica knew a few things about her, but not really that much. She should really do something about that.


“So, what’d you do to the kid?”

Angelica looked up to see Grapple leaning in the doorway. “I assume you mean Rainbright?”

“Yeah,” Grapple said, coming in and shutting the door behind her. “She came out of here looking like she was about to cry.”

Angelica sighed. “Scholarship issues. She’s not keeping up. Tried to spin me a line about it all being this one teacher’s fault, even though it was happening across multiple classes.”

“And you think she was lying about that?” Grapple asked, putting her feet up on the desk.

“First of all, feet on the floor.” Angelica glared at Grapple’s shoes until they were out of sight. “And yes. Rainbright does have a habit of blaming others for her problems.”

“Really? I haven’t noticed that.” Grapple shrugged.

“You also haven’t patrolled with her. Speaking of which, why aren’t you in costume? Your patrol starts soon.”

“Yeah, I know,” Grapple said. “It’s in the laundry, so I thought I’d come bug you.”

“What about the backup costumes?”

“Also in the laundry. I, uh, got a bit behind.” Grapple gave her a sheepish grin.

Angelica sighed and shook her head. “Well, as it happens, there is something I wanted to talk about with you.” She pulled the proper paperwork out of the stack.

“Always business, huh, Angie?” Grapple leaned back, arms behind her head.

“Well, yes. I’m drowning in it.” Angelica gestured toward the stack once she had the papers out. “You’ve almost gotten your full community service in.”

“Ah,” Grapple said. “Right. So I’m almost a free woman?”

“Exactly,” Angelica said, looking down at the Community Service contract.

She glanced through it again, though she remembered most of what was there. Grapple’s powers had gotten out of control and she’d ended up demolishing her workplace. Thankfully, since it had happened in the night, there were very few casualties. As it was a first incident, she was given the option to relocate to another city and perform community service. It had taken a while to complete, since community service couldn’t be done on paid hours and Grapple still needed to make money.

“You have five hours left. If you want, you could do that in a single night.” Angelica glanced up. “Then we need to figure out what happens afterwards.”

Grapple nodded slowly. “Whether I stay on the team, you mean?”

“Exactly.” Angelica put down the paperwork. “You have no obligation to stay with us, but you are an excellent superhero.”

“Aw, Angie.” Grapple held a hand to her chest. “Are you saying you like me?”

Angelica rolled her eyes. “Yes. You’re one of the most effective crimefighters on the team. Enmachina is the only other heavy fighter.”

“Oh, come on,” Grapple said, leaning forward and putting her elbows on Angelica’s desk. “You have to really woo me here,” she said in a quite indecent voice.

Angelica could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks. Fortunately, she was a shapeshifter and could make it go away. “I would be very sad if you left. The team would, too. So would all the kids. You might make them cry. Do you want to make babies cry?”

Grapple laughed and sat back. “Yeah, that’ll do it,” she said. “I have to think about it, though.”

“Of course,” Angelica said for the second time that day. “Just keep in mind that after you complete community service, you won’t be allowed to go out as a hero until you sign on again. Assuming you want to continue. But if you do sign on again, I think we can negotiate a much better employment package, if that matters to you.”

“Maybe,” Grapple said. She was silent for a while. “If I wasn’t your employee, would that change things?”

Angelica looked up sharply. “That was a one-time thing. It shouldn’t have happened.”

That was another aspect to things. She wasn’t technically forbidden from dating a member of the team. Corps dating policies were more lax than other workplaces. Dating outside the workplace often led to complications. Waverly Way, a reporter up in the northeast, kept getting targeted by villains because whenever she did, Awegirl showed up. The villains captured her to get at Awegirl, which led to rescues, which led to more villains assuming they could attract Awegirl’s attention, which led to more rescues. Everyone assumed they were dating by now. It didn’t matter whether they were or not, though, since either way Ms. Way was getting kidnapped. Fellow heroes, on the other hand, could take care of themselves. Not only that, but it was usually safe to tell them about secret identities, and they usually wouldn’t get as offended when it came to a few secrets.

Team captains had even more issues dating. With the demands of the job, captains had very little in the way of free time. If a captain didn’t have a significant other to start with, there was no way they’d be able to acquire a partner. So the decision was made to allow team captains to date members of their team, provided there was a certain amount of oversight. If someone had a complaint that their partner was interfering with their work, then they could go to HR and there would be a full monitoring panel. They would send out a telepath to figure out what was going on. That prevented a significant number of false reports and other types of abuse. They also had to be a senior member of the team who could deal with Corps services on their own, so that the captain couldn’t shut anything off without clearing it with their higher-ups. Grapple had been on more than long enough to qualify. Technically speaking, she could manage her contract herself. She just didn’t want to.

But all of that was beside the point. Angelica was married and shouldn’t be dating anyone else. No matter what her wife may or may not be doing to get back at Angelica for not being a man.

“All right, all right,” Grapple said. “I was just asking.”

Angelica sighed and sat back herself, stretching out her wings. “I know. But the subject is just…” She shook her head. She didn’t want to finish that sentence. “Let me know as soon as you’ve figured out what you’re going to do.”

“I will,” Grapple said.

“Time for your patrol, then,” Angelica said.

Grapple checked her watch and then groaned. “Yeah, I guess.” She stood up. “I’ll think on it. Talk to you later.”

Angelica nodded and watched as Grapple left. The thought of Grapple quitting the team and going away made her chest feel… It would be unfortunate if she left. The team was only just starting to get back to a proper size. Losing another member would be bad. For the team.

If she left, Grapple would probably go back to her home city. She had family there, and maybe friends she’d stayed in touch with. In fact, Grapple could leave anyway. She could move back and then pick her hero career back up there. Why would she stay in Candlelight Cove?

Angelica buried herself in paperwork. Surely there was a hint of another person with superpowers in the city. There had to be someone who could replace Grapple.

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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