By the next day, the departing Samaritans had loaded up and prepped to go to Port Cascade, but I have to say it was nice that some of them took time to take to hang out with me. In fact, they all had something to say.
"Relax, you got this," Arctic Fox said, "Much as I had to admit it, your instincts are usually good. You saw through my ex," She made a face.
"Well, that might have been because he was hoping to get ride of me personally to create a spot on the team," I admitted.
"So was I," Fox said, "Look, you're a good guy. Annoying, but good. But the fact you and Lady Obsidian have caught the same things at the same time more than once is probably how she knows you've got the stuff. You have similarities where it counts, and enough difference that you're not some mini-she."
"Thanks," I said with a smile.
"Besides, Ariana will probably do the bulk of the work," She said.
"Hey? Lady Obsidian said 'co captains'," I reminded. "I'll do my share."
"Yes, but you and I weren't partials, we weren't always stuck at 'good enough to be a side show but not a superhero'," Arctic Fox said casually, almost callously.
"Ariana is a hero," I said, "She was taking risks even before-"
"Peace, Lover-boy," She held up a hand, "She was a friend of mine before she was your girlfriend. Of course she was a hero, but it's the super part I'm talking about. She was minor league, not because of a character flaw, but because she just didn't have the power level. But watch out, for once a government super soldier program kind of sort of didn't lead to doom, our leader improved it, and suddenly there's a way over that wall. Partials can hang with us. The one percent is now the five percent, and while none of us really think much of it, Ariana is leading that wave. She's the one who has been there in the minors, made it to the majors. She earned her spot, but she still had to work for it. You mark my words, she's going to be the hard ass, not you. "
"Right," I chuckled. My girlfriend was one of the most understanding, sweetest woman I'd ever met, playful sure, and brave and bad-ass, but R.Lee Emery she was not.
"Fine, don't believe me," Arctic Fox said with a shrug.
"This old foes of yours?" I said changing the subject, or trying to, "The three you said old dance partners, one of them you gave a pretty hard look at. Personal business?"
"Meaning you're hoping it's not so you can nose in?" She arched a brow.
"Yeah," I confessed.
"Ice Queen, not only is her name too on the nose for my liking, we're so evenly matched it can lead to some long frustrating drawn out battles. She's like evil opposite with the same shtick."
"She's evil but modest, open, and non-judgmental?" I said in a surprised tone.
"Why Ariana likes you I am still not sure, but perhaps she just decided to bite a bullet to save the rest of womankind," Her eyes narrowed.
At least three responses came to mind, on a bit dirty, one a bit smug, and another probably not as clever as I thought it was. However, as I had already thrown myself into a hole here, socially speaking, I took the fourth option and gave a 'who knows?' shrug.
Now, Valentino giving me advice was a sure thing. He'd been the first of the team to actually befriend me, and while my dating his niece had cause some protective hackles on his part to rise, they'd smoothed over pretty quickly. To my surprise, the nature of his counsel had very little to do with Ariana.
"You've got to get them to know the city, man," he said as we walked plains clothes through a food market of sorts, a bazaar might be a better word. With Mabel detatched, he'd volunteered for some shopping, "you need to give them an appreciation for the cultures, have them spread their patrols through the neighborhoods, meet and greet folks, get to know our fellow citizens."
There was a pause as he motioned to a bag of oranges and spoke in Spanish too rapid for me to follow with an older man regarding price. The haggling that followed seemed to have the older man accusing Tino of being some kind of highwayman robbing from him, and Tino rattling off that if he wanted to be ripped off he could go to a grocery store. It was all very dramatic sounding.
I wanted to cut in and tell Tino to just pay the asked for price so we could move on, but I admit I was too tickled. I'd seen Tornado bantering with supervillains with less intensity back and forth than this. Valentino gestured and make some comment about one of the oranges being oddly shaped, the gent selling it countered something about flavor and I think texture?
I really do know Spanish now, but as fast as they were flying (Figuratively, not literally) I wouldn't just need subtitles, I'd need to slow down the speed of play on this particular bit.
Finally, it seemed Tino found a price he could abide. The transaction was made and with bag of fruit in hand, we went on.
Once I was sure no one could overhear I had to say it, "Is the world safe for reasonable rates on food produce once more, or will the dark shadow of its threat rise again should we neglect vigilance?"
"Macho talk from a guy who once needed help fighting poultry," He shot back good-naturedly, neglecting the part where said chicken was fifty foot tall and superpowered! Before I could think of a clever rejoinder (Hey, a minute or two and I could have come up with something) he said, "But seriously, Caleb, you need to get them in touch with the people."
"Tino," I said, "They're not staying in Costa Sagrado beyond maybe a month. It's train em, then then wish them well."
"Don't be so sure, besides, this is an important lesson period, it's not about the city, it's about appreciating where you are and who you're fighting for. You know how it is for some supers, they live in some secret base on the moon, or at the South Pole, and have enough resources to avoid the Nine to Five rat race that swallows most folks up. For some of those lucky bastards, it becomes all about the next fight, the next villain. Some superheroes get so caught up in 'the struggle of good versus evil', 'us against them', 'white cape dukes it out with black mask' and so on, that they neglect being a part of who they're fighting for," Tino said, "You need to drive home to these rookies that it's not a villain hero only world."
"I'm pretty sure any superhero wants to protect the innocents," I raised a brow, "I mean, it's one of the reasons I'm a superhero and not an act at Sea World."
He smiled at that, but then shook his head, "It's not enough, man. Look, Lady Obsidian likes us to have places to live outside the base. She told you why, right?"
A light dawned, "Right, so we could remember we're part of the population, not above them."
"Exactly," He said, "Same thing. You need to get the rookies to appreciate the breadth of humanity, and hold onto it. Too many folks with power, even outside of superheroes, assume that their position as guardian excuses them acting like jackasses, or bullies. There is a danger in being so focused on protecting your fellow humans that you forget you are one."
As if to empahasise his last point, he spread out his free hand to the crowds in the distance, "They need to be able to relate to all this, wherever they go, not to be better crime fighters, but so they'll be better people."
It was not entirely new advice, but it was damn good advice, and timely, "Thanks, TIno," Then I thought of something, "You ever see some hero forget this lesson personally?"
A frown crossed his features, and he seemed ,troubled, "Angels fall, Sheep Dogs can turn on the flock, and the path from zealous do gooder to delusional villain is not a hard one to find if your'e not looking where you're going."
That was a bit more poetic an answer than I was used to, and I was tempted to ask for details if details there were, but by that time? He was already haggling for avocados..