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City of Sabis-Tower of Babel Headquarters
The city of Sabis had been founded only thirty years ago, but thanks to impressive work by Heroes and ordinary citizens the once tainted land underfoot had been replaced by a dazzling modern city with a focus on pre-Malevolent architecture. And at the cities center sat a building known as the Spire, the central hub at the heart of every city around the world where Tower of Babel helped to administrate and protect civilians.
Nestled away in the building was a meeting room that had been set up for a welcoming party of sorts. The smell of actual meat and vegetables hung in the air almost to entice those who would soon enter. Such luxury was near perfectly reserved for Heroes or upper ranked members of the Tower of Babel staff, meant to invoke for those former Heroes entering the room that they weren't suddenly to lose all of their privileges they might have once enjoyed.
For now outside of the food and some tables there wasn't anything else of interest in the room, they would have the run of the place to enjoy before anyone would be there to explain their new roles.
Clack, clack, clack... The sound of a fork trying to pin down a piece of slippery teriyaki meat. The large man sitting by himself adjusting his glasses. His jacket resting by his side.
This man, sitting by himself presently and eating a large meal, was one Tom Vale. Easily six foot three, the young man looked around once, and then kept eating. Have to keep my body stocked up in food, proper nutrition. No chips or candy. Diet has to be on point. Can't have my stomach acting up.
He ran a hand through his hair. Even now he felt...cooped up. Even with this food he could readily get, he felt limited. Tom wondered if his sister was out there enjoying her life without him. Probably so. Their last interaction was not one that indicated she wanted anything to do with him.
"Kayla, please...you're all that I have left. I just don't want it hurting you too—-"
"It's DEAD, Tom. And so is our family. Look at you. You're paranoid. Crazy. Always on about preparation. You're supposed to be the functional man of this house now, and you do shit like this instead. I'm tired of it, and I'm tired of looking at you."
The crack of her slap still readily sounded off in his head, just as well as he remembered the immediate, overwhelming shame when he reflexively almost backhanded her as an immediate response to being struck - only just stopping himself and proving her point.
Typically, Jules would be agonizing about which would be worse, awkwardly ignoring everyone else in the room, or having to interact with someone, but she was occupied by the first good food she'd had since... her expression darkened. Oh yeah. She was doing hero work again. She ignored the sinking feeling in her chest.
There was a tall young man sitting by himself, appearing to be having a panic attack. He could probably kill her, now that she'd burned out. If he wanted to. He looked capable of murder. She was being way too mean. You let people die and didn't even bother to learn their names.
Any distraction would be better than this.
She picked up her overfilled plate and slid into a seat next to him. "What's up." That probably wasn't great as an opener. There was nothing to work with there, and he didn't seem particularly extroverted. Could he tell her pockets were full of stolen food?
Jules took another bite of pasta, not bothering to make eye contact.
This is bullshit.
Normally, Raphael would be sweeping across the room, talking and laughing and generally being the life of the party. Right now, however, he was angrily stabbing at his food with a scowl, not in the mood to talk with anyone.
This is bullshit. My team's dead. (This was true.) I just suffered one of the worst Burnouts in recorded history. (This was partially true.) Am I that important to Babel that they have to keep me on the field? (This was not true.)
He sighed, pressing two fingers against his temple. The doctors had said he needed to avoid overly strenuous physical activity. If that was true, how could they possibly bring him back onto the field?
A few more people entered, and Tom was distinctly aware of one haphazardly stabbing at his food, the other having slid up next to him to try to talk. God, Tom was not sure how to go about this. He looked down at his food, then momentarily glanced over at her, and then back down at his food. He adjusted his glasses when they slid a little, and gulped audibly.
He realized now she would expect some kind of a response out of him. Some kind of words from him. And he didn't know about if he talked to her, if...if that'd mean the revenant would go after her if it returned. If. Don't be paranoid, Tom, it's...it has to be gone.
He finally bit the bullet and turned to look at her, "N-Nothing much. I—-my name is Tom Vale." He then ate another bite of food.
"Cool," she said, bouncing her leg under the table. "My name is Jules Jacobson." Tom looked pretty on edge. Not a great sign.
"So.... what do you do?" She started making eye contact with him, but continued eating. She stabbed herself in the face with a fork and tried to play it off like nothing happened. "Like, ability-wise."
Nancy looked at all the others sitting at the table, and sighed softly and inaudibly to herself. They were all young. Too young, disregarding that she herself had also gotten her powers at a young age. No, they were too young to Burn Out like she had. What had happened to them? What will happen to them?
She disregarded her worrisome thoughts and focused on trying to use her fork to push some tofu onto a spoon. It wasn’t easy, since her bandaged hands were shaking from the pain of overusing her powers (Damn Leadership pussies; they made her go out over and over again until she fairly collapsed on her last mission). There were deep bags under her eyes as well.
As far as she was concerned, Leadership was damned intent on squeezing every last ounce of use out of their Heroes, her included. She would have left, but this pack of pups needed taking care of. And she was willing to stay in order to do it.
Edited by JumpingFruit on May 2nd 2020 at 2:25:14 AM
The room was quiet. Too quiet. Not "too quiet" as in "there is a monster hiding under the table waiting to jump out and eat your face". Too quiet as in "the somber mood was suffocating".
Eventually, Raphael couldn't take it. He got up, walked across the room to where the large man and the girl were sitting, and slipped between them, grinning.
"Heyo~ Name's Raphael. I'm sure you've heard of me—'Team Sentinel' ringing any bells?" He laughed, pointedly not bringing up what had happened to his team. "Or maybe you've heard of my exceptional feats on the field of battle?"
Tom was silent for about a minute as he looked at her and then back down at his meal. He bit his lip lightly and then nodded, putting one big hand out to the side and letting his ability get to work. At once there was the sound of something like gears turning as a growing number of bright blue hexagons seemed to appear near his hand, flowing into and changing into the substance of something.
A short, elegantly constructed knife with two gear-like constructs at the pommel, the blade shimmering under the light.
"I...I make things," Tom said in a quiet tone, "But they don't last any more." He set that down by his side and went back to eating, checking and making sure his favorite coat was still by his side.
Tom was then taken by surprise by the guy suddenly pushing his way in between him and the known person - the girl sitting next to him - and almost reacted too strongly, only just managing to stop himself. He almost fell off his seat in the course of this. He looked Raphael over for a moment.
He hadn't really paid much attention to other heroes. He had other things in his mindset while he was in active duty. He slowly shook his head and tried to go back to eating.
Edited by NickTheSwing on May 2nd 2020 at 2:39:34 AM
“Leave them alone, Raphael. It’s rude to insert yourself into other people’s conversations,” Nancy’s voice cut in sharply, even though her hands were still shaking and struggling to cut her portion of steak. “Don’t try to startle people, either.”
“We’re all Burnouts, let’s try to play nice, eh?” she continued, eyeing Raphael speculatively. This one would be trouble, she thought. He’d learn his lesson later or die in the process. How bothersome.
Edited by JumpingFruit on May 2nd 2020 at 3:08:40 AM
Raphael rolled his eyes. "I was trying to be social. Jeez. No one's talking to each other." He slipped out from between the two and took a seat next to the girl. "I take it none of you were team players, huh."
Was that rude? Maybe a little. But honestly. If they were going to be part of a team together, they could at least act like it.
Wow, that's way cooler than what I do. Tom's power was intimidating, but at least he seemed to be warming up to her slightly. Until some obnoxious almost gave Jules a heart attack. She choked, coughing for a few seconds and only barely processed what he was saying. He was bragging about... something. When she looked up, a woman about 10 years older than her talking to him. She was being patient, probably more than the smug person grinning at them deserved. Still, she was probably right. Better to play nice.
"I'm—" Raphael was talking over her. Not a team player... well, he's right about that.
"I can't speak for this dude," she said, nodding at Tom, "but no, not really." He doesn't seem like he's in a place to talk either, though.
Edited by tomfool on May 2nd 2020 at 4:32:53 AM
Nancy rolled her eyes as she shakily lifted a mug of cider to her mouth and drank. “Maybe their teams are dead, or something else happened,” said Nancy lightly, looking Raphael right in the eyes. “Maybe we’re all still trying to get over what made us Burn Out, plus the associated PTSD, and we don’t have much energy to interact with random rude strangers?”
“So please, leave us to think in peace, we’ll all start talking when it’s necessary,” she finished, curling over her plate protectively. “And my name is Nancy Weaver. My power is swordsmanship.” She didn’t care to explain more.
Edited by JumpingFruit on May 2nd 2020 at 3:08:50 AM
Tom looked at Raphael silently for a moment, and then finished up his food and got up to go throw the empty disposable containers away. He breathed as he did so. Gonna need to thank Nancy for not just sticking up for him, but for saving that pushy guy from getting hit or something. Tom knew himself well enough to know that guy would probably have kept on, and that wouldn't have gone over well.
He finally felt full, and the large young man looked around at some of the other items available...and then just shook his head and went back to his seat.
Tom looked around and said quietly, in a tone barely above a whisper, "...Just...never been a social person."
Raphael was already about to respond when Nancy spoke.
Maybe their teams are dead.
He froze. The grin slid off his face. The words triggered a series of images and sounds and sensations.
He shut his eyes and took a quick breath, willing the images away. Satisfied, he resumed his confident smile. "Name's Raphael. Raphael Siyan. Former member of Team Sentinel, current member of...whatever this team is called." He looked at the large man. "You might've heard of me—we're around the same age."
And with that said, he fully focused on his plate. After all, he'd been subsiding on nothing but hospital food for two weeks.
A tilt of the head and a nod was all Raphael got out of Tom, who looked around as if asking if anyone else had heard of this guy. Tom once again adjusted his glasses, and then went and put his favorite coat back on. The warm material touching him made him push the areas on the collar closer to his neck. He finally just shook his head when looking at Raphael again.
"No," he responded, "...Never heard of you."
Should I know about this guy? We're about the same age apparently. I just haven't paid much attention to who my age group knows. Been too busy dealing with survival stuff.
“Been focusing on how Leadership’s been overworking everyone,” Nancy muttered. “They might be using us. For what, I can’t tell.” This was probably treasonous talk, but Nancy was hearing none of it.
“My peers called you the ‘troublesome one,’” she said to Raphael. “As for everyone else, they’re probably too focused on their own woes.”
Raphael nearly choked on the carrot he was eating. "N-never heard of me?! B-but—"
Then Nancy made her comment, and his eyes nearly popped out of his skull. "The troublesome one?! That's not fair! What have I done to deserve that?!"
He sighed and fell back into his chair. First day on the job and they all hate me. I miss the Sentinels.
“At least I’ve actually heard of you,” Nancy sighed as she protected her poor plate from Raphael’s graceless flailing. “Be thankful for that, at least...”
“As for why they call you that...well, examine your own behavior, will you?” she examined a piece of broccoli and chewed it thoughtfully.
Edited by JumpingFruit on May 2nd 2020 at 3:47:25 AM
When Raphael went if possible even louder and started to ask what he'd done to deserve being labeled the troublesome one, Tom took a moment and just looked at him as he went on this tirade. He nodded once, not even saying anything as he looked right at Raphael. He blinked once, deliberately, and then looked around. He shrugged his shoulders and nodded again.
Probably all this.
Sometimes, Tom did not even need to say anything.
Edited by NickTheSwing on May 2nd 2020 at 3:47:24 AM
Yeah, Raphael seemed pretty troublesome. Jules had ran out of food, and was above eating out of her pockets in front of her co workers, so she turned her attention back to the conversation.
"Using us? Of course they're using us. We're the only people that can fight the Cults, and they're probably interested in keeping their lives. Unless you found something else out." She looked at Nancy inquisitively. She looked strong, less like a depressed or weakened Burnout than what she typically saw.
She was trying her best to ignore Raphael. He seemed like one of those people to assume everything was about him, and she was probably going to lose her temper if forced to hear him say anything else. At least everyone else seemed normal.
When it became clear he wasn't getting anywhere, Raphael hmphed and turned away. Deciding to ignore the others until they talked to him specifically (or mentioned his name, or said something he needed to weigh in on), he took out his phone and started going through his photos.
He smiled a little as he flicked through them. The Sentinels had been the perfect team—they were nice (mostly), intelligent, competent, had complementary powers, and they knew when to shut up and let him take charge. Most of the photos were just of their team goofing off and having fun.
Somehow, he doubted that this group was humanly capable of having fun.
Raphael flicked the screen again, and the photo that appeared gave him pause.
The picture was of a boy his age, with pale skin, wavy black hair, and sea green eyes. He looked a little awkward, but still smiled for the camera, mouth quirking to one side like it always had when he smiled. Neptune.
He stared at this photo for a while, memories of a much better time at the center of his mind. I'm going to find you. I promise.
“I survived this long,” Nancy began. “So I must’ve been someone special, right? I think that’s what Leadership thought. I’ve got more experience than most other heroes. So they just kept sending me out. Over and over again. Just kept giving me mandatory overtime.”
Nancy clenched her hands as a jolt of pain shot up her back. “It was a wonder that I hadn’t Burned Out before now. So I think they wanted to squeeze all the use out of me before I eventually did, or died before that. They say they’re investigating internally, of course. But I doubt they really care about any of their Heroes. You all had better watch out for yourselves and quit if you can, girl,” she said sagely, nodding at Jules. “You can also ask for help. I’ll give it if I possibly can.”
Edited by JumpingFruit on May 2nd 2020 at 5:08:45 AM
Nodding at what Jules and Nancy were saying, Tom thought back to his lengthy experience going back to an exceedingly young age. Apparently it was rather rare for someone that age to get powers in such a way. But if Tom had to choose between powers and his family, he'd choose his family every day of the week. It seemed like Nancy was a strong and competent leader type. Very experienced too.
So he'd make sure to go to her with any concerns he might have. Definitely seemed more experienced than him and more reasonable than the loud guy.
Crossing his arms and checking to see if there was any more food he needed, Tom shook his head.
Edited by NickTheSwing on May 2nd 2020 at 5:05:45 AM
"I actually did quit," Jules said cheerfully. "It didn't stick, though, obviously. Can't just let those people die. Also, I"— she blushed—"really need the money."
She glanced back at Tom, who looked much more involved than previously, and then at Raphael, staring at his phone looking uncharacteristically wistful. Is he...ok?
"You mentioned being a survivor... what can you do? Must have been something pretty good if they were that desperate for your powers."
Edited by tomfool on May 3rd 2020 at 5:07:41 AM
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