“and in other news, it’s a sad day for Metro City as the legendary hero Iron was found dead in his apartment. The rest of Metal Malice couldn’t be reached for comments.” The news anchor took a moment to flip through his notes as the image on screen changed to reveal the mugshot of a rather good-looking man with a look of intense anger on his face. “Viewers may recall that Metro City was the home of Flare who just a few weeks prior went on a rampage that claimed all but one member of his team who was forced to put him down.” The image faded and a man in a suit was revealed sitting near the anchor “These recent events have sparked discussion on the psychological impact of being a hero so we brought in Dr. Phineas Gilbert to tell us a little about the subject.”

“Thank you, Bill. A few years ago when Swift Justice was broken up due to their arrest on drug possession charges some colleagues of mine…” Orpheus tuned the TV out as Katherine and Sarah came through the door.

“How were your Thanksgivings?” He asked them while they dropped their bags by the stairs, to be taken upstairs and unpacked later, and plopped down in their favored chairs. Lily stirred from her nap due to the sudden movement and gave a little wave to the girls.

“The one with my family was a little awkward but no more so than usual I guess.” Katherine answered. “The one with Sarah’s family was much more fun at least from a people watching perspective. It was one of those event dinners and Assassin kept nicking people’s drinks and disappearing into the crowd. It was fun watching some of those lushes try to figure out what had happened.” Katherine chuckled.

“I’m just surprised we didn’t find him passed out after that. I’m fairly certain the amount of alcohol he drank is measured in gallons.” Sarah joked.

“Oh yeah, normal people can’t drink that much in one sitting.” Orpheus feigned ignorance and got a pillow thrown at him, by Lily, for his trouble.

Sarah let out a small laugh as the pillow smacked into him and asked “So where is Jane? I figured she would beat us back since Wizard was picking her up.”

“She did. Her and Tank took the car into town a few hours ago.” Orpheus informed her.

“What happened?” Tank asked as he set the ice cream down in front of her.

“Why does anything have to have happened?” Jane responded.

“You lit up, almost literally, the moment I came by and you immediately asked to come out here.” Tank gestured at the mall around them. “That combined with the fact you were looking at me like you were deciding something a moment ago tells me that something is up.”

“I was deciding whether to ask you about something.” Jane confirmed his suspicion.

“Ask away.” Tank made an exaggerated gesture with his spoon and then scooped up more ice cream.

“After you got your powers did your parents get…I don’t know…distant?” Jane looked a little embarrassed to ask.

“No but my dad was the previous Tank and he gave it to me directly. As for my mom, she left us early on.” Tank put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m guessing Thanksgiving didn’t go like you thought it would?”

“We weren’t super close before the powers but I said I might not come back for Christmas and they didn’t even try to dissuade me.” Jane huffed “It…it just seemed like they were almost relieved to not have me there.”

Tank paused to consider what he should say “My father gave me a bit of advice on this subject that his father gave him when he developed his powers. Think about how you thought of people with powers before you got your own. They weren’t human, were they?” Jane shook her head “That is how you are to the rest of the world now. What’s worse is you left shortly after your abilities developed so as far as your parents are concerned you might not be the same person. Give them time and I’m sure they will come around.”

“It still sucks.” Jane took a bite of ice cream to keep from grimacing. “Oh well, at least I have you weirdos.” She grinned and finished her ice cream.

“Hey, I resent that, Katherine’s fairly normal.” Tank returned her grin and downed his ice cream.

“You know most people would defend themselves as being not weird.”

“No, I’m definitely weird. Not the weirdest mind you, that’s Sage, but I’m probably second weirdest.”

Jane was trying to think up a snarky remark but was interrupted by surprised voice “Fire is that you?” the speaker was Sword; her injuries had healed up and she was practically dragging a demure blond woman along. Shield waved sheepishly from her side and looked rather embarrassed to be there.

“Come have a seat, guys. How’ve you been?” Jane greeted them and motioned to a nearby table that had emptied out.

“We’ve been good, bored, but good.” Sword sat down and Shield went to get the three of them some ice cream, the blond girl went with him. “So, who’s your big friend here?” Sword gestured at Tank “He seems familiar.”

“Tank at you service. You must be Sword and the lad standing in line is Shield. But I have a bit of a question, isn’t the blond girl with you Frost? I didn’t know you knew her.” Tank was calm and took quick note of anyone in the store that might be taking too much interest in their conversation. Once he was convinced no one was trying to hide their interest he turned his attention back to the conversation.

Sword was in the middle of sentence “…came to us after the debrief and told us about what had happened with Flare. Once the paperwork was done and she was part of the organization we were sent out. This is our first time out as a team.” Sword thanked the other pair as they delivered the ice cream and joined her.

Frost sat across from Jane and she felt her heart break a little. Frost had been courageous and always wore a cocky grin on her face. She had seemed confident in interviews and had been one of Jane’s idols. The woman sitting across from her was a shadow of the person she had been. The three prosthetic fingers on her right hand were the only visible scar of the battle but the loss of her whole team had shaken her to her very core and she looked around like she expected an enemy to appear and start attacking.

Jane instinctively wanted to hug her and tell her that everything was alright but held off because it might scare her more. Instead she tried to push the conversation along and so offered “Tank and I are going to go shopping and maybe find a mini-golf place if I can talk him into it. Do you want to come with?”

Sword was going to politely decline, shopping sounded positively droll to her, but Frost answered first “That might be fun.”

Several hours later as they were standing around the entrance of the mini-golf place while Tank wrote a check to pay for the damage to the clown hole that he had caused when he accidentally domed it, Jane got a text. “News just said Flare broke free while being transferred to Tartarus.” Jane read Sarah’s text out loud and instantly regretted it. Frost, who had become more like herself as the evening had gone on, paled and looked like she might cry.

Shield hugged Frost and asked Jane “Would you mind staying around until they get him?” Jane shook her head and Tank came sprinting out and began scanning the sky.

A glowing blade appeared in Sword’s hand “If he comes near her I’m going to kill him.” There was no small amount of venom in her voice and her blade grew brighter as she spoke.

“You won’t get the chance.” Tank was calm and he pointed at what he was staring at. It seemed to be a giant ball of fire shooting through the sky. “He’s angry and not thinking. Showing himself off like that is like signing his own death warrant.”

For a moment nothing happened, then as if an order to fire had been given a half-dozen attacks converged on the ball of fire. A red green laser filled the night sky as the hero by the same name let loose. An object from out of town caused shockwaves as it flew. A bolt of lightning tore through the night. Light spears rained down from above and arced back towards the fire ball if they passed it. The air distorted as a focused sound wave slammed into the fireball. The least impressive of the attacks, a ball of purple energy, would have dissolved away anything that was left of the man once known as Flare if there had been anything left in the first place.

“That was overkill.” Jane gasped as the light from the attacks faded, she had been tempted to pitch in initially but had come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t matter.

“Not exactly.” Tank explained “All those heroes just used that to show any would be villains that if they take off the kid gloves it would all be over in an instant.” Shield was still holding Frost and Tank allowed himself a smile at the kids before continuing “If I’m not mistaken that was every team in the city except Metal Malice. I wonder if they coordinated that.”

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