It's been 20 years since the rise of superpowers, but the age of vigilantes and independently financed teams enforcing their own brand of law and order has passed. Now the street level heroes have been asorbed into police departments, and the national level superheros were organized into Crisis Response, a team under the direct control of the Department of Powered Resources. The Old Guard is fading away though, and new generation needs to take their place, and this new gneration needs to be trained, enter Harrington University. It once an out of the way college in Indiana, but now it's the training ground of the next generation of elite heroes, this is their story
“Alright magots listen up”, Rebecca Orin (codename: Knight Errant) said gesturing to the motley group seated in the bleachers. They looked like any other group of college students, besides the fact several were armed to the teeth, several were wearing brightly colored spandex and one was practicing her telekinetic juggling.
“I have four years to turn you sorry bunch into something that might be of use to a law enforcement agency. Right now if a 600 hundred pound, 8 foot tall man who could rip cars in half like tissue paper, and could shoot lasers out his eyes showed you sorry bastards would probably panic, and scream for mommy.”, she said narrowing her eyes at Craig Wilhouse (codename: Invisi), who was appeared nervous at the very thought of such a man.
“Do you have something to say Mr. Wilhouse?”, she asked staring into his to nervous brown eyes
“No ma’am”, he said shaking his head a little too quickly
“ I do not leave things lying around, it’s against my principles, and that includes students. When I am done with all of you, the only emotion you will be feeling is anger that son of bitch had the audacity to interrupt your day. You will be the people they call when some super powered asshole gets it into their head that they are God, and you will remind them that they are not, by any means necessary…”
“Does that mean will we have to kill them?”, Diana Harrington (codename: Justice Angel) asked.
“Yes! What part of any means necessary do you not understand? This is not the silver age, this reality, that is why we allow Quick Draw Mcgraw and the Last Samurai over there into our program”, Rebecca said gesturing to a young man with no less than 4 pistols on his person and a young woman armed with a Katana.
“But…”, Diana started
“If you would like to be Andy Griffith I can write you a recommendation for the police academy. We are the nuclear option ladies and gentleman, they call us when collateral damage becomes irrelevant, when Godzilla, Mothra, and King Kong show up at the same time.We are who they call when someone attacks New York for the tenth time in as many days, we are Crisis Response.”
The First Time
“Alright magots, I’m going to group you up, and you’re not going to complain”, Rebecca Orin (Knight Errant), said.
“Group 1 is Quick Draw Mcgraw, Granola Girl, The Last Samurai, and the nervous kid.” She said pointing to David Locke (codename: Nighttrace), Susannah Williams (codename: Vinelash), Cali Harwood (codename: Blue Blade) and Craig Milhouse (codename: Invisi)
“ Your scenario is that there is a big, bullet proof bastard who’s been eating his cheerios and his gang of mooks are robbing a bank, SWAT already got the hostages out, but you gotta stop’em from escaping, get to the sim room, you’ll have a few minutes to acquaint yourselves”, Rebecca said in a tone that implied she expected them to fail spectacularly. (Transcriber’s Note: Orin is fond of watching gaffes of simulations on her lunch break).
The motley crew entered the sim room, a repurposed locker room rebuilt with Simsense technology (Simsense: Reality is subjective!). The simsense room was the closest you could get to what it was like to be out in the field. Veterans of both the military and Crisis Response said the only difference is that the bodies shattered instead of bleeding when they died.
“So uh should we introduce ourselves? I’m Craig, uh Craig Milhouse, I turn invisible”, Milhouse asked. Milhouse was a scrawny individual, and had the perpetual look of someone who was getting his lunch money stolen. His mother was fond of the saying the blood of Ashoka ran through his veins, but both himself and anyone who he had met didn’t think it was true.
“I’m Susannah Williams, I can manipulate plants”, there was a withering glare from Harwood, followed by an excited look on Milhouse’s face, as he was ecstatic he wouldn’t be the load. The redheaded midwestern girl deciding to be Crisis Response agent was an odd choice to say the least. She had only left her hometown in Ohio to spend time at various national parks with her aunt, a park ranger. Indeed her Great Uncle had remarked that she didn’t have fighting bone in her body before she left.
“I’m Cali Harwood, I go fast, and I kill faster”, she said patting her katana. Harwood looked like your stereotypical California girl, but rather than being sunny and carefree, she was cold and arrogant. She was convinced she was better than everyone else, and nothing had yet to prove her wrong.
“Some who talks about killing so casually has never killed or mentally ill. I’m David Locke, gunslinger.”, Locke was someone who was 40 when he was 4. He carried the weight of two legacies, one heroic, one villainous, and it showed.
The sim room loaded “Generic Cityscape No. 15”, and changed everyone into their uniforms.
Milhouse was stuck with the ill fitting generic gray uniform, having not been able to decide on a costume, despite the fact that he was invisible and the goal was for him not to be seen.
Williams went with the traditional spandex, with vine patterns creeping across the entirety of the green suit.
Harwood was wearing modern samurai armor, the black on red pattern combined with the futuristic sleek look to say the future is now, and it is coming for you (Transcribers note: Computer should be more thoroughly secured to not allow students to edit their own descriptions.)
Locke wore the sleek battle armor of the long dead Blackthorn assassins and the duster of the long irrelevant Gunslingers (Professor’s note: Although Locke is occasionally referred to as the Last Gunslinger, this not technically true, as the Gunslingers ceased to be a recognized law enforcement organization after the death of Jack Freeman two years ago.)
“You’re an assassin?”, Milhouse said scooting carefully a few steps back, despite the fact that this was simulation. The Blackthorn’s had been well funded, ruthless, and effcient group of assassin’s before they assassinated the leader of the Syndicate, the premiere Underworld organization at the time, after which they were wiped out, leaving only highly secured bunkers and ghost stories behind
“No, I was raised as one, but the Blackthorns were all killed long before I was inducted”, Locke said with the same deadpan passiveness as he said just about everything.
“You’re not just a gunslinger, you’re one of the Gunslingers!”, Williams exclaimed, she like so many people had heard of the longcoated knights of the sixgun, who brought law and order to the wild west of the world with powers. They were gone now of course, they were the first officially chartered hero team, and the last one to be disbanded. They too were just now ghost stories.
“No, I was trained as one, but the Gunslingers are gone, and me using what they gave me is not going to bring them back”, Locke said waving it off.
Harwood was about to make a snarky comment about being the product of two failed orders, but thought better of it after looking out her own equipment.
Triple B (Transcribers note: Triple B stands for Big Bulletproof Bastard, Orin is bad at names) brained a cop with a one of the minimalist lamps so common in banks as the simulation loaded up.
“So none of you are go break and run, right?”, Cali asked drawing her Katana.
“No, of course not”, Milhouse said, like he was trying to convince himself rather confirming Cali’s statement.
“I don’t quit, not while my grave is empty, not while there are bullets in my gun.”, Locke said chambering a round in one of his pistols. (Professor’s note: This is the unofficial motto of the Gunslingers, probably why there aren’t any left)
“It’s a sim right, not like it’s really going to hurt?”, Williams said much better at hiding her
“So we just going barge in their, or do we have a plan?”, Milhouse asked playing with his hands
“Indeed we should at least have some semblance of a plan”, Locke said checking the rest of his equipment like any good craftsman would do, that was what he was after all a craftsman. “I propose you three deal with the ring leader and I’ll deal with his friends”, Locke stated.
“You sure you can handle that?”, Williams asked
“An FN Five-seven holds 10 rounds, I have two of those for a total of 20 rounds, and there are only 5 individuals in that bank, not counting on our large friend, and I’m a firm believer in one shot, one kill, so I think I got it.”, Locke finished with a flourish of his hand.
Harwood didn’t argue, this plan gave her the glory and wasn’t completely unsound. The merry band rushed in. It well at first two robbers fell to Locke’s guns and the rest scrambled for cover behind the stone columns and tellers desks, unfortunately when Locke shot the third one it passed through him and hit Milhouse,who had turned invisible, and was right behind the gunman. Williams was sticking to the walls, trying to sneak close to a potted fern. Unfortunately the plant was fake, and more unfortunately Triple B was packing, which didn’t seem to fair to Williams, as she was cut down in a hail of automatic gunfire. Next up was Harwood who had come in from behind. She had forgotten that bulletproof probably meant knife proof however, and promptly had her bell rung when she struck Triple B with full force. With a sadistic grin Triple B picked and threw her full force against the nearest wall, leaving a Harwood shaped indentation. Locke now faced the problem that had perplexed equipment based heroes for years: What to do when the equipment you brought wasn’t enough? Locke’s answer was the incorrect one as after watching him empty all of his guns into, Triple B added a Locke shaped indentation next to the Harwood one.
“So magots let’s go over what you did wrong”, the hard faced Orrin said as the band exited the sim room. She turned to Milhouse.”Let’s start with you, you didn’t communicate, and you walked into the line of fire, Locke’s a good shot I’ll give him that, but bullets don’t just stop when they hit something, especially something soft and squishy.”
She then turned to Williams “Can’t always rely on your environment, if you need something to work in your magic, bring it with you, I don’t give a damn if you have to carry a backpack with a potted plant in it, just be prepared.”
“Harwood, you’ve got talent and potential, your problem is that you know it, despite what media has told you the Katana is not a wonder weapon, and the samurai were not invincible, think outside the box,”
“Locke, I know Jack had more in his armory than a few pocket pistols, get what you need to do the damn job, I’ll sign off on it if I have to, but that was just the saddest shit watching you plink away at him, and if you don’t have what you need get creative”
After seeing the mixture of embarrassment, anger and passive acceptance, Orrin added, “It was your first run, everybody messes up the first one, if we didn’t think you could do it, you wouldn’t be here, go get yourselves cleaned up, you still gotta deal with Lyle.”
The Suffering of Lyle (And the Suffering he Inflicted as A Result)
The students now in casual wear, were more or less paying attention when the spectacled owl faced professor began.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I am Professor Lyle, while my esteemed colleague”, the word esteemed sounded forced (Professor’s Note: I have nothing but the greatest respect for Agent Orrin) (Transcriber’s note: Evidence suggests the contrary.), “Handles the more practical skills associated with Crisis Response, I cover the history of the world with powers and analyze the decisions that have brought us to our current point.”, he then added with, “I also teach media relations, since Spotlight has had to take an extended leave of absence due to an incident involving three monkeys, a trip to Las Vegas, an exotic dancer, a deal to buy a Elvis’ Kitchen sink, and about three thousand U.S.”, he said with a nonchalance that suggested he was used to this type of behavior from his colleagues.
Professor Lyle had been one of the people who pushed for the founding of Crisis Response after the Assault on D.C. by the Powereds for Powers front. They were a small terrorist group, but the incompetent response of the chartered superhero teams led to a lot of them being disbanded, and Crisis Response being formed. Crisis Response had been in the works for years, but the chartered teams were the apple of the public’s eye; the destruction of the Washington monument and the sacking of the Smithsonian quickly soured the public's opinion of them however. Lyle was one of the early adopters, and was ridiculed by his peers for “selling out”, and was forced out after the old guard saw the writing on the wall, and joined up, so now he was at Harrington helping the next generation realize their dream while his own was never realized, he was understandably bitter about the whole experience. (Professor’s Note: I’m not bitter) (Transcriber’s Note: Evidence suggests otherwise).
“I’m not going to insult your intelligence by making you memorize dates and whatnot, just make sure you know the important ones the first powered team was chartered in 2001, and Crisis Response was founded in 2021, only dates you need, let us begin.”
“After the emergence of powered individuals in 2001, both vigilantes and criminals appeared. After a lawless and chaotic period, Sean Baxter, a hot shot young senator, introduced a bill to deputize some of the more prominent and respectable”, he said the last words with venom, but quickly went back to his bored lecturer voice, “Who would like to tell me about the first of these chartered organizations? How about you Mr. Locke?”, he said with a knowing smile.
There was a brief shadow that fell across the sharp featured young man, but it quickly passed, ‘The Gunslingers, founded by Frederick Conrad, they operated in the major cities on the East Coast. They consisted largely of former law enforcement officers, and so they were ideal test subjects for the new program”, Locke knew where he was going next, he wasn’t like other telepaths, able to dig deep in people’s brains, but he could hear the surface thoughts if he cared to listen. “Yes Frederick Conrad was a drunken philander who was arrested on domestic abuse charges soon after the founding the Gunslingers, and leadership was taken over by the more personable Shania Groben, who is usually credited with the founding”, Locke finished clinically, and he started cleaning his nails.
Lyle had a barely noticeable frown on his face, “You should be careful with your talents, Mr. Locke, maybe someday you’ll see something you didn’t want to see.”, Locke continued cleaning his nails.
Lyle continued asking uncomfortable questions. Perhaps steeled by Locke’s example, no one cracked, not even Craig Milhouse, not until he got to Diana Harrington. Lyle had been digging in the files (Transcribers note: These files are in the process of being declassified) looking into his students past, some had no skeleton’s in their closet for him to exploit unfortunately, having lived fairly normal and mundane lives until they heard about an opportunity to risk their lives for justice, fortune and glory. Diana Harrington was not one of these people. Diana’s father had been one of the Crusaders, a superhero team operating out of Los Angeles. The Crusaders had started out as a nationally respected team, but a series of humiliating of defeats and gaffes lead to them having their charter revoked. They lashed out, brutally killing criminals, and once their money was gone they turned to crime themselves. It was said afterwards that the Crusaders were born to be criminals rather than heroes as they did everything from wetwork for Third World dictators to bank heists, and evaded all attempts to bring them to justice. They were eventually killed by several elite Blackthorn assassin teams (Professor’s Note: Who paid the Blackthorns for the hit is a matter of speculation to this day, some say it was the U.S. Government or perhaps the superhero teams themselves, some say it was the Syndicate or another rival criminal group, and some say the Blackthorns did it pro bono, as the tightened security as a result of the Crusader’s activity was making their lives difficult.).
“So Harrington was it? Would you care to tell me about the Crusaders and their fall from grace?”, Lyle asked with an attempt at a disarming smile, years of perpetual frowning had left it looking unnatural.
“I afraid I don’t know much the Crusader’s sir”, she answered trying to keep her voice neutral. That was lie on the level of calling Milhouse confident, Locke personable or Harwood humble.
“Come now, at least do tell us what you do know, it’s alright we’re here to learn after all”, Lyle said with a grin that would have disturbed the cheshire cat.
“I don’t feel comfortable answering the question.”, she said through gritted teeth.
“What the hell is the point of this line of questioning?”, Harwood asked more annoyed than interested in helping Diana.
“Best question I’ve heard all day”, Lyle said his face returning to his normal slack expression, “Why have I been so aggressive in my lines of questioning, any guesses?”
“It’s a media relations class too isn’t it? So you’re asking uncomfortable questions like a tabloid journalist would.”, Milhouse said with more confidence than anyone had heard him speak with up until that point.
“Very observant”, Lyle said without a trace of sarcasm. “I did this because I didn’t feel like doing two separate introductory lessons and to prove a point, you’re being interviewed, especially when your not, you all are dismissed”