Kellen Gustke, present day
The portal dispensed us to Central Base, although ironically it was situated deep under the sea off the coast of California. I’m sure there was some parahuman involvement in it’s construction. Nyesha and Ace followed me down corridors and to the central hub where I could see other members of the parahuman unit and senior human officials were waiting. They waited patiently as we all took the seats left around the table. I slide the small external drive across the table to Yvanna, a short woman with blond hair and blue eyes. She looked more suited to a Miss Serbia contest than The Syndicate but she was much smarter than her looks suggested. She quickly stood and took the drive out the room to upload to our own secure servers here for analysis.
I took a moment to take in the other sitting across from us. Marcus was the oldest one here, with greying brown hair. He’d removed his holy cross mask although he was still wearing his ridiculous templar type outfit, although his arms were bare to show off his tattoos. Azra was of mixed American and Turkish descent and a transwoman – part of why she had joined the Syndicate was because her local hero group had been anti-trans. She had a natural dark tan with curly black hair and amber eyes. She had various hennas on her skin at any one time – usually with Magnus’ help. She kept her get up simple – black and white with the occasional purple garnish, cape included.
And finally, Magnus. Who looked as though he was king of the world right now. He wasn’t anything impressive to look at, tall, well-built and looking like your typical all-american boy wonder. Except he was definitely not a good guy. His costume was black with the silver lighting up as he moved, displaying the star constellation of Gemini. Continuing the theme his mask was black with silver adornment, and between his eyes was the simple gemini star sign symbol. Three guesses what his supervillain name was.
“We were short of gathering 100% of the data stored but-” I began looking at the head of the table. Ethan Campbell. He was charged with the organisation of the syndicate in America. His head was also on the chopping block if his specialised parahuman unit failed to deliver appropriately.
“But you screwed up and got caught,” Magnus interrupted me. I felt my jaw clench as I maintained my eye contact with Ethan. His only acknowledgment of any of us as he stared at a handheld device was a strangled bark of laughter.
“We’ve already ascertained that the Legion were alerted by another group. As I said, we gathered just short of 100%. It is still possible we have the information we desire.”
“We better. People will pay handsome sums of money for an effective defense from parahumans. If the government has synthesized anything they’re in no rush to share it with the general public.”
“You almost make it sound like we’re being the good guys,” Ace murmured.
“We are the good guys, giving protection and peace of mind,” Ethan countered, letting the charisma that would win him the local election shine through.
“For the right price,” Nyesha added with her typical rebellious streak. “Is there any point in this meeting? Until we know what’s on the drive we’re just having a pissing contest.” she sent Magnus a pointed look with her last comment.
“Can’t handle the heat of consequences?” Magnus asked.
“I don’t suffer fools,” she replied without missing a beat. “I need to get back and secure cargo.” Ethan gave a nod of dismissal and she left, heels clicking and long ponytail whipping behind her as she walked.
“Ace, was there anything else of use the Legion were thinking?” Ethan asked.
“Mostly just the usual good guy thinking. We knocked one of them down pretty well but I imagine Tachyon will recover in a few days,” Ace said. “And Magnus, at least try to hide your thoughts.” Magnus merely huffed at Ace’s comment. I thought I saw a proud smile cross his features for a moment but Yovanna returned at that moment.
“Unfortunately a lot of the data was still partially encrypted or incomplete. It’ll take me a few hours to get it but I believe it has the locations we require.” Ethan thanked her for her report and she left, returning to her computer no doubt. Ethan made a thoughtful sound as he looked around the table.
“Let’s see how many places Yvanna isolates. Then since, as Nyesha said, this is a pissing contest, I’ll give both teams different locations. First one to get a sample gets a bonus.” Immediately the other two with Magnus grinned, looking far too self-assured for my liking.
“With that out of the way I have a speech to go draft. You’re all dismissed.” Ace didn’t linger, immediately leaving. Magnus took a moment to smirk at me before he and his team left. I stood up and walked over to Ethan who was looking at his handheld.
“Yes?” he finally said, acknowledging my existence.
“Pitting us against each other, really?” I asked.
“You like competition,” he replied dryly.
“Not when it’s clearly just a cover for punishing us. Menagerie tripped them off. I was the one breaking into that building. I tripped no alarms,” I insisted. Ethan lifted his gaze to look at me, a half smile on his face.
“If I thought for one moment you had tripped the alarm you wouldn’t be here Kellen,” he said, the threat in his voice. “As it is you consistently do a good job. It’s just something to motivate people,” he shrugged. He glanced around but it was only the general staff outside the room now.
“Are you busy tonight?” he asked.
“Maybe,” I replied. “I was planning to take a time out to relax before the next mission starts,” I shrugged.
“Hmm…How about a secluded hotel and spa getaway? My treat,” he said, closing the gap between us. I felt a smile quirking on my face and slight blush.
“Tell me where and when,” I replied, leaning closer. He immediately pulled back, the controlled smile he uses at his speeches in place.
“I’ll send you the details,” he promised, walking past me and out the room. I chewed my lower lip and released a tired breath.
I headed back to the teleporter room when my phone beeped with the details. I’d have a few hours to kill so I headed to the training room to beat some dummies. However before I got there the alarm sounded. I immediately raced back to the central hub where I saw armed units heading towards the portal room.
“What is it?” I asked, kneeling next to Yvanne’s desk. Without speaking she brought the cameras up on the screen and I did a double-take. I grabbed her mic and sent a message to all units.
“Stand down. I repeat, stand down.”
“What are you doing?” Magnus asked, appearing behind me.
“He’s not an enemy. He’s Heppenheim.”