Detroit, Just after Midnight
Ted stood at the edge of the skyscraper, the wind howling. He didn’t feel the cold, and the blood was quiet, for the moment.
His silver body glinted in the moonlight of the Detroit skyline. How’d he get here, again? Oh, right.
Two hours earlier
“Are you fucking kidding me?! They… THEY STABBED ME IN THE BACK! THEY DIDN’T BELIEVE ME? I-WE’RE THEIR SON!” He half yelled, half sobbed.
“I know, honey, I know. I’m sorry. I don’t- I don’t know what they’re thinking. They should trust you. I don’t get it either…” Hannah said softly. Her voice always calmed him down. She was rational when he wasn’t, and he was rational when she wasn’t. They were each other’s balancing act.
It helped, listening to her, explaining things, and the blood agreed with every word she said. He wasn’t going crazy anymore. She always pulled him back from the brink, when something bad was happening.
But tonight it just didn’t feel like enough. It wasn’t her fault. The blood in him asked a question, and he agreed.
“Honey, listen… I know… know this is probably a bad idea. But I gotta get out. We’ve been in here a couple days, and…. And We just can’t take it, anymore. Not after that. I gotta get outside, just… for a little bit.”
Hannah looked upset, angry, even. Her eyes were red, and that just about broke his heart. But she took a breath, and looked outside. “Well, it’s night. Don’t be seen, okay? Blood, take care of him, please? Make sure he doesn’t do anything… rash?”
“We Promise! Our host will be safe!” said one of his wounds.
“I swear, you two…” Ted grumbled. Hannah laughed, despite everything, and hugged him, fiercely. “I mean it. Be safe.”
And so he was. He’d walked the streets, kept out of sight from anyone. The blood helped him stay quiet, stay low.
And then he learned a few things about himself, his new powers. On a suggestion from the blood, he jumped as high as he could, and nearly jumped to the roof of a small diner, when the blood said no one was watching. He would have made it all the way, if he hadn’t nearly missed the ledge in shock.
Before his emergence, all this walking would have winded him. Now… he felt good. Fine, even. Better than ever. No asthma. No trouble breathing, or allergies. Spring always killed him when it came to allergies.
He considered, and found a clean looking and jagged broken “you don’t have to worry about infections, anymore, dear host.” pipe, and dragged it along his wrist. Oh god, the pain, it seared him, like fire, and the silver blood dripped out, before expanding, wrapping around him, covering him like a warm, comfy blanket. The pain of the wound dulled as his blood started working on it. It still hurt, but it was… an afterthought. His eyes were different like this, and his senses were too. Everything felt alive.
“Should we run, Host? We should be Stealthy, too.”
“Yeah.” And he took off, a silver streak darkening into a nearly jet black silver across the roof, reaching the end. He didn’t falter, not here, and jumped to the next roof. It was like a small hop. And then next one. And a taller one.
And a very tall building, as he traveled further into the heart of Detroit. His powers were of nightmare… but….
This was like a dream come true. He felt so… alive.
A big building, and the Blood guided him, telling him to reach out an arm towards the roof. A tendril of silver shot out like lightning, grasping and pulling him up like a rocket. He swung up, and tripped a little, falling on his face, but the silver… body armor, that’s what he could best describe it, extended tendrils, catching him.
He lay there a moment, rolling onto his back, laughing quietly, holding his stomach. “That… that was incredible.”
“One of the many things we can do, dear host. We want what is best for you, always. If you exercise, and eat right, we will become stronger, better to defend you, and make you stronger, as well. We want to protect you, and Hannah.”
“You and Hannah always look out for me, don’t you?”
The blood sounded amused when it spoke inside his head, this time. “ALways, and forever.”
Now he’d climbed a skyscraper, the blood allowing his feet to adhere and cling to even the glass, the crevices in the sky scraper. Moving fast enough for anyone working late enough not to see him, and people never tended to look up, even with super heroes around.
And he leapt off.
The wind howled as he fell, spread eagle, slowing his descent. Silver tendrils whipped out from his forearms, and he arrested his fall into a long swing, slowing, a dark silver shape in the night sky. And he landed, breathing heavily, the tendrils and new strength cushioning his fall into a hidden alley.
“That…. Was…. awesome….” he breathed, tired out from this new, and different work out.
But then there was a low, rapid clicking sound, like a dolphin’s call, but low, and gravelly. Something was crouched low in an alley nearby, little reflective spots of green peering out.
The blood exuded a number of tendrils, each taking on a bladed objects appearance, at the odd sound. A fire axe, suddenly serrated, an ornate spear, a jaw full of fanged, piercing teeth, as Ted whirled towards the sound. His hands suddenly grew into talons, as he thought, “Oh shit.” “WE’RE SORRY! WE THOUGHT WE WERE STEALTHY!” the blood thought back.
The voice from the alley wasn’t quite human—there was a distinct creak to it, and sibilance to its consonants. It did not sound familiar.
“Ohhh. It’ss you. I thought I had to whip another of Vanguard’ss wolvess.”
“Who… Uh… What?” Well, whoever it was, they weren’t attacking. That was good. The tendrils receded back into the silver body, as Ted tilted his head at the voice. “And-and I’m not- Vanguard?”
“If you want to buck thiss ‘ssilver killer’ rep, you may not want to become a murder tree at the faintesst ssign of danger, you know,” the little green lights, flickered, then: “get in the alley. It’ss clear. We’ll talk.”
Ted walked forward, the blood keeping an ‘eye’ out, as they walked further into the alley. The talons receded, as well, as Ted started looking more normal, rather than the murder tree.
“S-sorry. It… my other, it reacts to my fear, I guess. A-and its first reaction is to take whatever it is out, as soon as possible. They’re smart… but not always good with people. And not tolerant of people hurting other people….” He scratches his head, and looks closer at the lights. “P-pariah?”
“Yeah, it’ss me,” the vigilante confirmed. In the darkness of the alley, she was more visible: she had more scales than when Ted had seen her last, and her carriage was much more suited to all-fours travel than standing now. “The Hound ssaid you’d gotten in touch. I’m really glad.”
“Oh… yeah. Thanks. Thank you, so, so much. He saved our lives.” Ted swallowed. “You saved our lives, too. Thank you.”
Ted’s voice was oddly metallic underneath the silver covering, as he looked at Pariah. “Ar-are you okay? D-do you need some help?” Still not used to the whole powers thing, clearly.
“Not until your friend learnss the art of nonlethal takedownss,” Pariah’s mouth stretched into a fanged smirk. “I’ll be all right. What about you? I heard about your parentss. I’m ssorry. They’ll come around once we… clean thingss up.”
Ted opens his mouth, then blinks. “I mean… not… hero-ing. I’m not… that isn’t me. I thought for a second y-you might be hurt or something.”
He paused, and looks away from Pariah. “I thought I knew what… you know, emotional pain, was. Like breaking up with a girl, or feeling sad. This… this was a whole new level. I broke through rock bottom, and… I can’t grab onto anything.”
He sniffs, and one silver hand comes up to his face, rubbing at where his eyes would be. “If it weren’t for Hannah, I-I’d be in total free fall right now. Nothing seems right anymore.”
“Hey,” her creaky voice softens a little, and she paws forward a pace, as if she had an impulse to hold him but realized that it would be weird. “But you have her. Your pain is real, and it ssuckss, but thiss issn’t the end for you. When I emerged, and innossent people died, and the Oathkeeper wass ssearching for me… I thought my life wass over. Then I met the woman who turned out to be the love of my life. Hang in there, okay?”
“I-I’m trying… heh… but… never been one of the most stable people, y’know? I mean, I was good with my kids… oh god, I hope they’ve been sheltered from this…. But… y’know I was a nervous guy, always. Sickly, hated the sight of blood… sorry, I know, I know, I like you NOW, but still.” A tendril extends from his shoulder, and gives the distinct impression of a HARRUMPH.
“I’m trying. And everyone says it’ll get better… but… Christ. This is organized crime, and… and… who knows what else? The Legion, the Freelancers… God, they really do just ignore it, don’t they? Hannah was right about that.” He leans against one of the walls of the alley, sitting down slowly.
“Some partss of it don’t get better,” Pariah admitted. “And there are times when I wonder whether I shouldn’t… give up. Let my fiancée take care of me. Or let her live without me. But sometimes it’ss jusst a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, Ted.”
She sighed like the air being let out of a tire. “Hey, if you ever need another Para to hang around with, hhh. Let me know. I’d love to meet Hannah.”
Ted laughed, a real one. “She’d love to meet you. She’s been following your career since the… ah, gas station? And then took a real interest when you started going against organized crime and stuff. ‘Finally a hero who does something about the hell pit of the great lakes!’” mimics Ted, taking on a higher pitch, in a bad imitation of his girlfriend.
He laughs again, thinking back.
“She wants me to do that, too. Be a hero….” ted shakes his head. “But right now I can barely see that next step in surviving.” He looks at his silver hand.
“Sorry. Being… mopey. Thank you, really. For everything. You’ve done more than… well. Anything I could have imagined. You and the Hound.”
“Hahh,” Pariah let out a sound that was probably meant to be a chuckle. “If ssomeone hadn’t done the ssame for me… well, I’d probably be dead too. But… you don’t have to be a hero. It wass ssomething I needed, for mysself. But no one should have to live like thiss.”
Ted looked at Pariah. “No. People shouldn’t, should they?”
“No. It is unhealthy for all organisms, dear Host.” said the tendril at the end of his shoulder, in a weird, liquid and utterly inhuman sounding voice.
Ted stayed quiet for a moment, then looked at Pariah. “Listen… I-I know I’m not much, but… if you ever need anything that a… a third grade teacher, or a decent hacker “Hannah is the hacker, not you, you are terrible around computers.” don’t hesitate to ask. Or… my other, can do… We’ll do it. And my other will be good.” “They -SHOT- you. MANY TIMES.” “I know, but still, we… we can’t keep doing that.”
The tendril hmmphs, but less emphatically than before.
“Ah, Ted,” Pariah hiss-sighs again. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. I really do. But you’ve got a lot on your plate azzit iss. I’m literally trying to drive the ssupremacissts out of their own turf. If you don’t want to be a hero… you shouldn’t get entangled with me.”
“I’m not sure there’s much else I can do.” The blood kinda draws itself into his eyes and mouth and wounds, leaving silver traces over the wounds, his eyes still silver shot, and the loose but warm clothing from the Hound. “I’m a wanted felon. Sure, maybe if I joined the Legion or the Freelancers, they might clear it up. But I’ve got charges of murder, and I’m betting the farm that they’ve got someone watching my parents, and probably Hannah’s parents, in case I turn myself into the Legion or the Freelancers. It’d be a death sentence for them.”
“I’m literally broke. Hannah managed to scrounge a little money, but we’re… we’re running on empty. And we can’t keep relying on you and the Hound for help.”
He lets out a long breath. “We’re screwed, if we don’t start taking the fight to them.”
Pariah fixed those shiny green eyes on him. They blinked.
“You’re ssaying you want to join the War for Detroit,” she breathed, disbelief in her voice.
“Like I said. Wanted felon. I think that crook back in Illinois was right, somewhat. If I don’t hit the Family, and their partners, hard enough, the charges are going to stick. Possibly forever.”
“They’ll only stop looking at my parents if they really believe I don’t care one whit what is going to happen to them.”
He looked up into the Detroit night sky. “They’ve got a stranglehold on me. I’ve got to break that, somehow.” He looks back at Pariah. “And Hannah would like this. Want this, even, I think. As long as we didn’t do anything too insane. It’s been an adventure, she says, but she’s scared as well. I owe them for that, too.”
The Pariah bobbed her head thoughtfully. “Thiss iss tricky,” she murmured, “real tricky. You and I both have image problemss. We’re fighting a boguss rap sheet that’ll ssink uss way faster than people with gunss could. The gangss ussed to be more reckless. But I think Jorja’ss in town, and they’re way ssmarter. Uccchhh. We… we need to talk to the Hound more. Work azza team.”
“Yeah.” Ted said, quietly.
“Maybe there’ll be some way to beat this. There has to be. I… I can’t. Not. do something, to help solve this. Running hasn’t solved it. And I don’t want Hannah, or-or me looking over my shoulder, wondering if there’s going to be another guy with a rifle aiming at us. W-we need to be clear of this.” “And if it pleases the Host, we will be more careful with our spikey bits. No promises if the host is actually about to die, though.” “Oh, c’mon, guys.” Ted sighed. He looks over at Pariah. Ted nods.
“Okay. Teamwork.” ((Tag, scene, anything more? 😀 ))((I think this is a good scene point! We should totally, at some point, have the scene where Ted brings The Pariah home to the girlfriend for dinner)) ((YESSS!)) ((Though it might be bringing to Pariah’s home…. Since…. They’re living in an abandoned warehouse right now.))((oh man, that’d be… kind of amazing?? I wonder if Cass would want to do that tonight????)) ((HAH! Maybe! We should ask her!))((set the scene, friendos -C))((SC, why don’t we open the scene with the couple approaching this quaint suburban house just outside of Romulus?)) ((Sounds good!))
Ted looked up at the suburb house with somewhat disbelieving eyes. “Huh. Didn’t… think… Well, I guess it isn’t like the stories at all, is it?”
Hannah squeezed his hand, laughing. “No, of course not, silly! Oh my god, I can’t believe it. Going to meet the Pariah and her fiance!” She squeaked. When Ted had told Hannah, the little latina woman had grinned like a maniac, and tried her very best to make sure her blue and dark brown hair was just right, and tried to make sure she and Ted were presentable. Well, at least as presentable as they possibly could be, on the run and all.
“And you know, this is just perfect. Perfect disguise, no one really would think the Pariah would live out here, but it is close enough to the rest of Detroit…. I’m being too loud, aren’t I.” Ted squeezed her hand back, smiling at her. “No, you’re fine. More than fine, you’re wonderful.” “Shutup.” “Nope.” “traitor.” “Yep!”
Ted snorted in good humor, and knocked politely on the door.
The door opened juuust a little bit, and a bright green glowing eye peeked out at them. “Hey you two!” The Pariah’s voice was less creaky than it had been, but it was kind of quiet. “Please slip on in. Sorry I don’t open the door all the way, I just uhm.”
When they came through the door, they beheld a fully-dressed Pariah, albeit on digitigrade legs and covered in matte gray scales, with a distinct muzzle.
“Hi! You must be Hannah. I’m um. Well I’m the Pariah obviously, but my name is Mariah, and you can call me that.”
Hannah just stood there for a moment, mouth open, eyes wide. Ted nudged her, and then the small woman just started bouncing up and down, giggling. “OH MY GODthisissocoolwhatmutationisthiswhatareyourpowerscanyouflyorturndifferentcolorshowlonghaveyoubeeninthisformdoyoulikei…” she takes a deep breath, then flushes pink. “Sorry. IjustfangirledandIcan’tbelieveI’mmeetingyouand….” She looks at Ted, who is looking quite bemused. There’s a small tendril resting on his shoulder, and both he and the tendril kind of chuckle, until Hannah smacks him lightly on the arm. “YOU KNEW I WOULD DO THIS.” “Yes.” “Evil!” “Maaaybe?”
Mariah laughed sympathetically. “It’s okay, I used to be a big hero fan too. My fiancee Gwen is in the kitchen finishing up whatever it is she’s cooking. She didn’t let me in there.”
Hannah nodded. “Yeah, he doesn’t let me in the kitchen much either when he’s cooking. Mostly because he’s afraid of burning the water when I’m watching.” She leans close, stage whispering. “He’s distracted easily.” Ted turns absolutely pale. “HANNAH.” “And he’s fun to embarrass. SWEET REVENGE.”
Ted boggles, and grumbles. “So, uh, Mariah, h-how did you meet Gwen?”
“Well, I’d just emerged,” Mariah led them to the couch and lowered herself carefully into an easy chair, looking like she didn’t quite understand what to do with her legs. “I was scared and alone, and I’d been running and slept for a while. When I woke up, she was there. She took me to her home and kept me safe, until. Um. Until I couldn’t stand being safe any more, and went vigilante.”
“Are you telling that story?” ‘Gwen’ hollered from the kitchen. There was the smell of something sizzling. “Make up another story. One where I come across as cool.”
Hannah giggled. “That is really cool, though!” she shouted towards the kitchen. Ted nodded, as both of them sit on the couch. Hannah immediately takes Ted’s hand, clearly not minding or caring at all about the line of silver that covered part of it.
“So, why… uhm, Detroit? It’s a bad place, but there are… well, other places, right? You weren’t…Oh wait, Oathkeeper. W-why was she after you?” “Honey…” “I-I mean if that’s all right to ask, I’m sorry!”
Mariah sighed and shook her head. “I think… she actually wanted to calm me down and help? Maybe recruit me? But I’d just exploded a building, and she had her wings and armor on and was scouring the area. Someone said ‘bring her in’, I was terrified, I… I just sort of assumed the worst. I think I was wrong, now, but ultimately I’m glad I ran.”
“Oh, wow,” said Ted, softly. “I’m sorry.” Hannah immediately looked sympathetic, and squeezed Ted’s hand. “Yeah. That’d be pretty scary.” Hannah looked nonplussed for a moment, then brightened. “Oh, uh, well… let’s get off bad topics! Uh, w-what’s your favorite power that you’ve had? O-or favorite thing to do now that you’re a super hero?”
Mariah chuckled a little. “My favorite power happened a little bit after Gwen kissed me for the first time. I had a window in my chest, and my heart was floating in it. I was able to fire pink beams of energy powered by the emotion around me. It was actually really wonderful. If you saw the video of me helping PHALANX out, that was then.”
“Oh yeah! I saw that! That was pretty awesome! So, wait, your abilities are triggered by… stuff around you? That’s pretty cool! And always changing.”Hannah says, as Ted nods. “Yeah, I didn’t want to tell you, hon, ‘cause I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.” He chuckles. “No offense, but no matter what anyone does, you’re always going to have a surprise for the bad guys, Mariah.” Hannah nods enthusiastically.
“MY POWERS ARE THAT I CAN PUNCH ANYTHING TO DUST,” Gwen shouted as there was the roar of flame from the kitchen. “IT’S PRETTY RAD.”
“My fiancee’s powers are that she is literally full of shit,” Mariah deadpanned. “Just packed to the gills with it, no organs or muscles or anything. It’s a miracle that she can walk around.”
“NO IT ISN’T – oh SHIT my SALMON –”
“Anyway… yeah. I’m an… obligate shapeshifter, basically. My body and powers adapt to my environment, mood, things that are happening to me. I can control it to a certain extent by changing what I’m doing, but it’s always kind of a wild card.”
Hannah’s eyes were as wide as saucers at first, then giggled as Mariah explained. Ted laughed as well. “Interestin- Hmm?” He turns slightly to the left, to the tendril, and his eyes unfocus for a brief moment. “Oh, my.. Blood thinks that is quite handy and wonderful, even if it is a wild card, your body is protecting you, like mine does.”“Aw, thanks blood.” “Totally agree.” Hannah says.
“Oh, so when did you guys decide to get married? Do you have a date set?” Hannah asks.
“The engagement is only a few weeks old,” Mariah beamed happily, then her look sobers a bit. “But um. We’re gonna wait on setting the date. We both have some stuff to work out, and it’d be nice if we could clear my name first.”
Hannah nods. “The whole marked thing with the bad guys?” Ted listens and squeezes Hannah’s shoulder, gently, just reassurance, but he’s clearly paying attention, too.
Gwen bustles out of the kitchen, somehow carrying an improbable amount of plates. Wild salmon, steamed rice, potato, salad… “Eat, eat, we can talk, but I’ve slaved over this. Eat up.”
“Wow, love, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cook this much stuff,” Pariah blinked her glowing eyes in surprise. “But I guess we never have houseguests.”
A bundle of praise, thank you, and wow this looks so good stream out of Ted and Hannah’s mouths, until they start eating. Then it becomes OH MY GOD REAL FOOD SO GOOD, as they exclaim, and dig in. After nearly a week of eating on the run, and horrible food on the run at that. Ted himself digs in with reckless abandon, and Hannah stops to look at him. “Honey, manners.” “Sowwy, jus’… real hungry.” He swallows. “Thank you so much, Gwen.” Hannah nods as well, being the more dainty eater of the two, now that they both embarrassed themselves a little. “Ooooh this is like…. I can’t even explain it god yummm…”
Hannah takes a moment to pause, and says, “I will have to cook for you sometime, some tamales, or something, to pay you back.” “Her tamales are literally to die for.” “Flatterer.” “yuuuup.” Ted nods as he takes another helping.
Gwen, a short and plain blonde, beams as everyone digs in.
From the kitchen, Tallboy shoots Mariah a quick nod and wink.
Mariah stifled a giggle. “Um… yeah, my fiancee is a pretty great cook. Even if my hands weren’t unsuited for cooking half the time, I’m just not that good at it.”
“Ted actually isn’t all that bad at cooking, he just needs to get off his butt sometimes to do it.” “Hey!” “It’s true. Plus you have more limbs now.” “Eeeeh?” “Let the blood help, silly man.”
“Well, it is just pretty much following a recipe.” Ted grumps. “But yeah, that and handy man. Thinking back, we probably would have had more money if I’d done that apprenticeship as a plumber.” “Yes, but you would have hated it. You love working with kids, “ commented Hannah, using her fork as a tool to emphasis her point. “eeeh?” “Most of the time. Vomit Comet Annabelle doesn’t count.” Hannah smirks, and then looks at Pariah and Gwen. “Well, maybe Gwen could teach you a bit? Thanks again, Gwen. This is awesome.”
“Nooooo problem. I’m just a master at this.” Gwen lied with a great big smile.
“Oh, I dunno,” Mariah shot ‘Gwen’ a look. “I kind of like having someone do things for me every once in a while. Isn’t it nice to have someone do things for you sometimes, Gwen?”
Hannah looked at Ted, who looked at Hannah, small shrug. They both kept eating, watching Mariah and Gwen with raised eyebrows. Mmm, food.
“Oh, you know.” Gwen said, the picture of a non-committal response. “Sometimes.” She grabbed a plate of her own and began to dig in. “So, what were you saying about the whole Detroit thing?”
Ted began “Well, Detroit’s a-” “Kinda crappy place sometimes.” Hannah finished. Ted nodded, “Not how I’d put it… but yeah.
“You’re not wrong,” Pariah shrugged slightly, “but this was my first home after I emerged, and it was clear that things were wrong and nobody was doing anything about it. I felt like… it needed me.”
Hannah nodded. “I can get that.” Ted shrugged, and looked at Hannah. “You’ve lived here most of your life. I’ve moved around most of the time.” Ted shrugged again, and kept shoveling more salmon. A Tendril of silver pointed at some of the rice, and he sighed, and helped himself to more of that, too. Hannah stuck her tongue at Ted, who returned it. “Just because you can’t seem to ever leave the Great Lakes, Hannah… I did tell you, the Ocean is pretty nice over there!” He smirks, and then looks at Gwen and Mariah. “Sorry, we get off on tangents sometimes.”
“We pretty much live a tangent. But I’ve never spent much time on the coasts either, truth be told. Gwen has traveled a lot more than me.”
“Oh, where have you been, Gwen?” Hannah asks. Ted’s finally slowing down on the food, looking quite sated.
“Where haven’t I been?” Gwen muses. “I do a lot of… front lines work. Dangerous stuff. Lots of it is classified. But I’ve been to basically every continent — except Antarctica, of course.”
Ted swallowed. “Wow. You’re a spy. Holy cow.” Hannah snickered, and looked at Ted.
“Honey, you’re pretty much the only person who says holy cow anymore.”
“I blame my parents. So, uh, what can you do, Gwen? If you don’t mind me asking?” Ted looked at Gwen, his plate empty, as Hannah starts to dig in.
Mariah smiled over at Gwen, half-anticipating some kind of elaborate yarn.
Gwen mists up, just a little. “Oh, gosh, you know, it’s just… it’s just painful to talk about. Since The Incident…”
“Oh for crying out loud.”
“It changes you.” Gwen whispers. “Turns you into something… Different. Something colder… Oh! It’s just too much.”
“I agreed to marry this shameful display, for some reason,” Mariah said.
Ted and Hannah just blink, and look at each other, not sure what to say. Hannah chuckles, and Ted looks down.
“Well, she’s funny, and no worries, Gwen. And yeah, Antarctica would be… chilly.” Hannah coughs, and squeezes Ted’s hand. They’re quiet for a moment.
Ted’s eyes are unfocused, and he looks up. “So, uhm. The Stray Hound, that guy. Have you ever met him or her?”
“Him, yeah. He’s alright. Trustworthy. Nice enough. Not a big fan of his whole cosplay deal, but…”
“We haven’t met him,” Mariah shook her head, “but he’s been on the scene during some of my fights. Hauled my unconscious ass into a van after my first… emergency transformation.”
“Weird,” said Ted.
“Smart,” countered Hannah. “He’s probably just a really good hacker with a lot of tech, but he’s not got any powers, or low level ones. Not like you and Mariah. You guys… are all…. What did you say Ted was, Mariah? He said it, but I forgot.”
“Paranormal. And yeah, I think you’re right, the Hound is probably a baseline.”
Hannah chuckled. “No, no I mean about… something about a tree, he said you said about him. Him and the Blood. Violence tree. Which describes him. And you adapt to pretty much anything. Good for survival stuff, but…. Well, Ted can barely use a computer –HEY!- And I’m not sure about you? This back up, support thing is just as important, I guess?”
“Oh, right. ‘Murder tree’, I think. I see what you’re saying. Yeah, having support that can walk down the street without standing out is pretty vital.”
Hannah nods. “And that’s why I’m going to help you guys, too. I’m sure the Hound could use a second pair of eyes.” Ted started choking on his drink, and started coughing loudly in surprise.
Gwen looked up, one eyebrow raised. “So, like, what’s your… relevant skill set? For this kind of thing?”
“I’m pretty good with computers too. The only systems that I haven’t been able to hack are the Legion and Freelancer top secret computer files. Well, I think the top secret stuff. They’ve got that stuff locked down tight. But most government stuff is so full of holes that I’m sure even Ted could deal with it.” Ted recovers a bit, looking at Hannah.
“You said you gave up your cyber crusading!”
“Only.. most of it. I have to keep my skills up! I don’t actually do anything bad! Cyber security stuff is for those who sell out.” Hannah said primly, as Ted turned very pale.
“You two are a good couple,” Mariah observed, completely sincere.
Hannah beams, and kisses Ted on the cheek, who looks consternated between anger and embarrassment at the compliment and the distraction of his girlfriend.
“We’ll be happy for the help.” Gwen says, looking grateful. “And we’ll do what we can to keep you safe. Both of you.”
“Agreed,” Mariah leaned her head against Gwen’s shoulder as if rewarding her for a sincere sentiment. “Together, we’ve all got a way better chance at seeing this city through until it’s actually a safe place.”
Both Hannah and Ted nod, hand in hand, Ted squeezing Hannah’s hand with a determined smile.
Ted looks back to Mariah and Gwen. “Well, we’ll do our best.”
Hannah nods, and then says, “So, who’s Oathkeeper dating, does anyone know?” Hannah grins at Mariah and Gwen.
Mariah laughed. “Tabitha Armitage. Colonel in the Legion, basically in charge of admin. I think they’re old friends.”
“Gaaaay.” Gwen murmured. “Your face is gay”
Hannah laughed, quietly. “Isn’t that…. Dating at the Workplace! Hee!”
Ted snickered, and rolled his eyes. “Well, I did meet you when you were on call to fix our school’s computers.” Hannah snorted.
“Is it?” Gwen asked, skeptical. “Is it really?”
“I feel like the whole idea of dating at the workplace gets sort of muddy once you’re dealing with superheroes,” Mariah pointed out.
“You’re probably right…” says Ted, quietly.
“Aha!” Hannah fist pumps victoriously. “Mariah agrees with me, and Gwen… I didn’t show up EVERY day at his school. Only…. Every week. Because I planted a virus in his computer so I could keep coming by.” Hannah says, blushing.
“Oh, you’ll make a good vigilante.”
“You’re so nuts, honey.” Ted says, lovingly.
“It gave us stuff to talk about! And gave you time to ask me out!” Hannah grins at Mariah, winking conspiratorially.
“That’s so adorable. That’s so adorable,” Mariah cooed. “Gwen had a very different method of asking me out. It involved rescuing me, then stashing me at her house for several months while I tried to figure out what to do with myself.”
Hannah grinned. “Well, that’s one way to get your attention.”
Ted laughed ,quietly, then sobered. “Not to steer this back to more serious things, but… what’s the next move for Detroit?” He leaned forward, looking at Mariah and Gwen.
“Um, well,” Mariah seemed a tiny bit reluctant to return to the strategy talk, but thought it over and nodded. “We need more intel, honestly. Without more structural knowledge of what Jorja’s organization here is doing, any strikes we make are gonna be fairly useless.”
Hannah cracked her knuckles dramatically. “Looks like I’ve got work to do.” She grinned wickedly.
Ted nodded, and looked at Mariah. “And I’m pretty sure we, and you and I, can get into wherever the Hound and Hannah, can’t.”
“I have a few other connections that may help. It’ll be good to have more allies. Thanks, Ted. Hannah.” A pause. “Now, um, to be honest I’d sort of like to talk about other stuff for a little while. I haven’t had a real dinner party since I Emerged.”