“So, how does this work? I mean the whole being a teen superhero thing.” I said before stuffing fries in my mouth.
As Kenzie had promised two days ago, she’d treated me to dinner, nothing fancy, just delicious, greasy fast food from a no-name greasy spoon.
She took a long slurp of coke before answering. The cashier had probably been surprised when the two of us had ordered enough food for a whole family. One of the quirks of divergent biology was an increased need for food, averaging at six thousand calories daily for a moderately active one. It helped that I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous day’s breakfast.
“It’s kind of like a part time job, well after the initial training, I mean like when you’re a part of an official team. There’s daily training and two or three times every week you’re paired with one of the Guardians for a patrol. We only sortie as a team when responding to emergencies; Gang fights, Villains doing their things, Rogues making a stunt. Those kinds of things.”
“What’s a rogue?”
“It’s a villain classification, superpowered crime is handled differently than normal crime, like you can’t really handle idiots robbing a bank for kicks the same way you handle a murderous racist building an army of neonazi like say Thor and the Sons of Woden in Seattle. So we split them up; Villains are assholes and Rogues are the more harmless kind.
Of course how things are handled kind of really complicated and shady. Don’t go like repeating this stuff, because I could get into a lot of trouble, the truth is that we really do need supervillains, two out of three active capes are villains and rogues, If we round them all up and jail them, we’re out two thirds of our forces when the next Kaiju rise out of the ocean and flattens a city or the next unhinged maniac gets powers and tries to commit genocide.”
A little under eighteen years ago had marked the first appearance of Kaijus, named after japanese monster movie genre, they were gigantic superpowered monsters that appeared a few times every years, never with good results… The first one, Jörmungandr, had razed the entirety of the San Francisco bay area in a few hours with tidal waves, we’d tried just about anything but until the exaltation we didn’t have a reliable way to hurt them. Nuclear weapons had only slightly slowed them down.
“So that’s why we have a understanding, we go easy on villains, give them the chance to escape and don’t just hound them at all time of the day and in exchange they police themselves and don’t allow themselves to feel all lusty when capturing a hero or deciding that the heroes’ significant other or parents would make a killer message when stuffed in a refrigerator.” She took a bite out of a burger every sentence or two as I quietly listened, eating my sundae before it melted. “Like we know that the Russians have a place under a liquor store on the corner of 9th and A street, but we can’t just raid the place without breaking the rules. We have to wait for something to justify intervening. Say something blowing up or a fight starting.”
“That’s a weird way to operate.”
She shrugged. “It works for the most part. When someone decides the rules are dumb and breaks them, then things change quickly; There’s no heroes, rogues and villains, just the world against whomever broke the rules, feuds are off and sides don’t matter until the situation’s been resolved.
You’ve probably seen it, almost everyone’s heard of it but two years ago Hecatomb decided that Liberty wasn’t in a shape to say no. Well, next thing that happened, the San Francisco villains hounded him and the local rogues hung him in public, smack in the middle of the Discovery Arcology.”
“That’s pretty harsh...”
“There are a bunch of videos floating around about it. Rogues are pretty hardcore about the rules, we play nice, they keep villains in check and they help with Kaiju attacks. Some of them more than others.”
“You’ve had problems with villains?”
“You should know, you fucked up the hand of one when we met.”
“Wait, Patricia is a supervillain?”
“Rogue actually, but you know tomayto tomahto. Patricia is actually Burner. Her two friends were actually Grotesque and Limb.”
It was surreal to know I’d hurt a rogue by complete accident. There was a break in the conversation as we both ate some more.
“It was an accident, but you sure looked badass when you form that armored shell around yourself. Ditto that time you went up against Volley and Amarok.”
“Shell… I like that.” I said.
“Uh?” She asked, stuffing more food in her mouth.
“Nothing, how many capes are at our school anyway?”
The current estimate was one in five hundred teen had triggered, our school had a little over a thousand students.
“Just the three rogues and I. Last year only Burner was already there, but this year Limb and Grotesque changed school for some reason. You know, as much as I like talking about capes, we should probably get started on our Div history project.”
“I’d completely forgot about it.” I admitted. “Again.”
“That’s alright, I got all we need here on my computer.” She said, putting her laptop out of it’s bag and setting it down on the table.
“What was the Red Path anyway?”
“They were a superpowered crime group. Virtually all cities have super powered crime, but you don’t need capes to fight drug dealers or loan sharks regardless of their power status. But sometimes things escalate; weapons are brought in, mooks flock to them and they surround themselves with other powered lieutenants. The Red Path was that for Anchorage, they absorbed other gangs and took control over most of the illegal money in the region. To answer that, the Department of Divergent Affairs created a strike force composed of a few guardians, experienced and newbies. The operation was a success and to deal with the remains of the Red Path and the groups who followed, the Anchorage strike team became the official guardian team of the city.”
We continued to chat about history and ideas for the presentation until is was getting late and Kenzie had to go back to the headquarter.
I walked home alone, thinking about everything I’d learned.
“Hey mom.” I said, opening the door.
I closed the door behind me and walked to the kitchen where my mom was sitting at the table with a book, we were both huge readers but not of the same types of books, as she preferred non-fiction.
“You missed dinner again Paige.”
“Sorry, I was out with Kenzie and we ate out, her treat.” I said, sitting down.
“You two are spending a lot of time together.” She noted to herself.
Maybe, because she’s my only friend. I didn’t say it out loud. “We’ve been working on school stuff for Mr Godric’s class.”
“She seems nice.”
“She definitely is.” I said getting lost in my own perverted thoughts. My mom didn’t seem to notice. She didn't know how I felt about girls...
We sat quietly for a good five minutes with only the low sound of music coming from the radio and the noise of pages being turned to break the deafening silence. My mom chewed on a toothpick, a habit she'd developped after she'd stopped smoking years ago.
“Mom?” I felt a pang of anxiety take root in my stomach as I spoke. I knew what was coming...
“What is it, Paige?” She said, looking up from her novel.
“I want to join the Guardian program.”
She slammed the book on the table, the hard cover making an audible thunk as it did.
“We discussed this when you turned twelve, you are not throwing you life away playing superhero.” She cut me off. I’d brought up the idea when I had reached the minimum age allowed allowed almost two years ago, it hadn't gone well. My dad had just sat in silence as my mom had chastised me. “You’re a smart, beautiful and talented girl Paige and I don’t want you to throw that away.”
“Why don’t you please tell me what am I supposed to do, then? go to a mediocre college with the grades I have? Wait, we can’t even afford it. Get knocked up at nineteen and work crummy jobs like you did? Oh wait, divergents can’t have kids.” My eyes started tearing up and my mouth spewed venom.
“Paige, You’re thirteen.” She said, sounding condescending to my ears. “Everyone feels useless and don’t know what they want out of life at that age. That’ll change; you’ll grow up, make new friends, pick up a dozen new hobbies only to forget about them, you’ll find a boy you like, maybe a dozen. Just because you don’t have your life all figured out doesn’t mean you need to do something stupid and dangerous.”
The idea of getting a boyfriend only made my stomach turn. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted less in the world.
“I just want to help people… But apparently that’s a stupid fucking idea. Something not worth doing…Is it?” I got up, my chin glued to my chest, I was crying.
“Shut up!” I yelled at her. “I fucking hate you.”
I ran to my room, slammed and locked the door and pushed my desk in front of it for good measure before sprawling on my bed, burying my face in one of my pillow, crying until I couldn’t anymore. Despite my heavy sobbing, my mom didn’t see fit to try to talk to me through the door, follow me or anything really. Instead I was just left alone to my own misery.
You’re an awful person Paige… I insulted myself mentally. A weak, pathetic moron. An embarrassment to everyone. It’s a miracle Kenzie even wants to talk to you…
I’d lied to my mom; I didn’t really care about doing the right thing as much as I wanted Kenzie to be proud, to be on her team and above all to not be a weakling in her eyes.
I stopped crying not because I was better but because tears wouldn’t flow anymore, my nose was runny, my eyes burned and my sinus and face hurt. I wasn't any better, it still hurt. The scars on my arms itched…
It was time to refresh them…
I stayed in bed for god knows how long, I just couldn’t sleep.
All I could think of were Kenzie’ words and what Buzzkill had said about Hedron joining the guardians.
I opened my computer and logged on to the Cape wiki, probably the most well known and used website focused on super heroics and villainy.
I skimmed the news first; Superior was getting busy as the posterboy of divergent supremacy after another instance of divergent witch hunt in Africa; Ambusher had just graduated out of the young guardians program and into being a fully-fledged guardian in Chicago; And finally Patriot was in the news once more after saying something inflammatory and racially insensitive… In other words; water was wet.
I left the news page and opened the Anchorage portal, scrolling down to the list of active groups. Both heroes and villains almost always operated in groups, unlike the old superheroes stories, we rarely had the ability to cover every base by ourselves.
Anchorage didn’t have a very active community compared to San Francisco, Houston or New York, leaving only the Heishou Dang, the the Northside Boyz, The Disciples, The local rogues and the Ivanova Mafiya as the sole active villains group. That last one was the one I wanted to know more about.
After Red Star had accomplished his coup d’état and taken control of russia about four years prior, a lot of Russian nationals had fled the country, not wanting to live under the thumb of a mind reading and controlling autocrat. Those of a criminal orientation who had fled to anchorage had cornered the market on weapons and human trafficking. They were scum of the purest caliber.
The wiki listed only three capes belonging to the group;
Koshei was their leader, he had the ability to grow and become super strong with a healing factor. Next was Liven, who could surround himself in a miniature hail filled tornado. Finally there was Bronya who could merge with metal and become a hulking, living tank.
At least I knew what I had to do...