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May 31st, 2016
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  1. Feather 1.04
  2.  
  3. From that day on, Seven would be a member of The Wards. He discovered quickly that it was a junior league of superheroes who worked between school hours and ordinary life to dress up in costumes and fight crime. It reminded him a little of Judgment from Academy City. It only made him wonder how many similarities that world and this world shared.
  4.  
  5. His identity was out in the open, but he was still expected to take a hero name for himself. And that’s when Seven encountered his primary enemy for his time in The Wards: Public Relations. And a certain fat man named Glenn Chambers.
  6.  
  7. “Okay, but do I REALLY need to bother with a cape name? Or the outfit? Everyone knows who I am already,” Seven said, rubbing his temples.
  8.  
  9. “It’s much more marketable. It gives you a presentable face. Sure, you’re a very strapping young man, but that jacket? That ‘I’m a school boy who doesn’t care’ look? That doesn’t look very heroic.” Glenn said, his hands folded together as he sat back in his chair. “It has to go.”
  10.  
  11. “And a skintight blue and black outfit is an improvement?” Seven asked, pointing to the outfit in question that had been presented to him.
  12.  
  13. “Precisely! It’s gallant, expressive, and uses cool colors to properly show your easygoing attitude. Not a perfect image for a hero, but it’s a good start for a rookie hero.”
  14.  
  15. Seven managed to bite back a snicker.
  16.  
  17. “Every team needs a new kid on the block, a bit of new blood with a lot of potential. That’s what we’ll be going with. So, think of a name along those lines.” Glenn said, opening his arms as if waiting to catch a suggestion.
  18.  
  19. “Seven,” He said immediately.
  20.  
  21. “Why Seven?” Glenn asked immediately.
  22.  
  23. “It’s a lucky number.” Seven said. It wasn’t the real reason he chose the name, but it sounded better to his ears than his own name.
  24.  
  25. “No, no, no. That’s too far away from the image we’re going for. How about...” Glenn thought about it for a second. “Knight?”
  26.  
  27. Knights were nice. It reminded him a little of his own childhood wishes to wield a sword and fight evil when he was still a little kid. Well. One of those had managed to come true, maybe even both on a good day. Still, Seven didn’t want to passively agree to a name.
  28.  
  29. “What about Helm? Is that taken?” Seven asked.
  30.  
  31. “Helm, Helm...” Glenn looked thoughtful before a smile curled up onto his face. “I like it. I’ll be sure to requisition a proper helmet just for that. Make it look gallant, make it stand out, make it...”
  32.  
  33. Glenn continued to excitedly go on about the marketing and the PR while Seven just stared with an increasingly pale look on his face. He liked it better when he was in obscurity. Somewhere, he could hear Spark cackling in some corner of his memories to a chorus of ‘I warned you’.
  34.  
  35. After that, Seven was introduced to the rest of The Wards. There was an initial bit of uncertainty and even fear around him, what with being a sudden new member and already having punched out a major villain in his debut, but exchanging names and banter broke the ice quite easily. Seven wondered how much of that was his perks nudging things in his favor, but he wasn’t about to complain.
  36.  
  37. Clockblocker was the first one he actually ended up having an extended conversation about, mostly joking and bantering about the circumstances that led Seven to join The Wards in the first place. Vista he managed to make a conversation with by sharing complaints over how itchy oversized helmets were, his instincts helpfully informing him that pointing out her age was a bad idea.
  38.  
  39. The point where things started getting strange and uncomfortable was when he spoke to Gallant. His expression changed several times when the two came face to face, like someone who had just been shown a Picasso painting attempted by a chimpanzee.
  40.  
  41. “Something wrong?” Seven asked.
  42.  
  43. “Nothing, it’s just...I can’t read you at all. I mean, I wasn’t trying to, but-”
  44.  
  45. “Woah, woah, woah, reading me? Like, reading my mind?” Seven said, raising his hands defensively. Occlumency was probably the wall he had run into, but it was still a problem if someone could actually see his memories.
  46.  
  47. “No, no! Nothing like that! I don’t think anyone can do that!” Gallant replied quickly. “Just, my power deals with emotions. That includes reading them. And I can’t get a read on you at all.”
  48.  
  49. “Oh, that. No clue. Maybe my powers are interfering with yours?” It was bullshit, but he’d believe it.
  50.  
  51. “Hope not. That would make working together on the field suck. Anyway, glad to have you on board.” Gallant held out a hand for a handshake. Seven was careful to use his left hand.
  52.  
  53. The other Wards took his introduction in stride, with one major exception. There was a young woman dressed mostly in black who was fiddling with a crossbow in her hand. The moment Seven had walked near her, he could feel the taste of iron and blood in his mouth again, making him pause. Her head turned to get a good look at him, and he could see her muscles tense. Recognition? Fear? Hadn’t things been fine until now?
  54.  
  55. “So you’re the new guy.” She said.
  56.  
  57. “That’s me. Helm. Nice to meet you.”
  58.  
  59. “Sure.” The girl then immediately went back to what she was doing. And that was the end of that conversation. Clockblocker later told him that this lady was Shadow Stalker, who he described as ‘a bloodthirsty ultrabitch’ who had been pulled into The Wards as a probationary member due to having more than a little bit of a violent streak. A homicidal one.
  60.  
  61. It didn’t help that Seven could feel her staring a hole through him whenever he wasn’t looking.
  62.  
  63. When it came time to test and classify his powers, he did everything he could to hide his actual experience and just made it seem like super strength and dexterity were his bread and butter. He was classified under ‘Brute’ and ‘Trump’, with the scientists observing him being very interested in his ability to disrupt the powers of those he had hit. A small mercy was that they had made a leap in judgment and figured the source of his strength and disruption was a ‘field’ around his body. This was a huge relief to him, even if there was a side of whispering and side chatter where he couldn’t see.
  64.  
  65. He had a funny feeling it wasn’t going to take them long to figure out he was an alien.
  66.  
  67. The next day of school came and he was expected to keep attending. Spark and the others were still busy setting up shop back home, but there was word of unrest in the criminal underworld towards the appearance of a new cape. The bloody kind of unrest. There was no doubt that trouble was brewing, and it was brewing soon.
  68.  
  69. The moment Seven stepped back onto the campus, there was a complete change in the atmosphere. Eyes and heads turned to look at him and there was soon a lot of murmuring. This time it wasn’t just confusion or apprehension, though. The students were all looking at him with either awe or fear. Awe at how a newly-famous cape was attending their school and walking among them, fear for the fact he punched out a dragon bare-handed.
  70.  
  71. That feeling of being a flashlight in pitch blackness had changed into being a bright yellow sun. Still, Seven took it in stride as he went to the first class of the day, planning to arrive early and possibly sneak in a nap. The crowds would thankfully disperse little by little as he walked, onlookers going to their classes. The hallway became quieter and Seven could appreciate a little more open space.
  72.  
  73. “Too many sycophants, huh?”
  74.  
  75. A voice snapped him out of his thoughts as he was walking. There was now a lone teenage girl standing across from him. It wasn’t an expression of curiosity or interest on her face, however. It was more like a territorial animal looking over potential competition, to see if he was worth fighting or not. The taste of iron and dried blood in his mouth was all too apparent. A quick glance at her posture and running the numbers in his head, it didn’t take long for him to deduce who this was.
  76.  
  77. Shadow Stalker.
  78.  
  79. “Pardon?” Seven asked, feigning ignorance.
  80.  
  81. “All of them. They’re all just falling in line to you after you put Lung in the ground. They know you’re not someone to cross. Everyone’s just begging to either get your attention or stay away from you. Doesn’t it make you sick?” The girl asked.
  82.  
  83. Seven didn’t really blame them, actually. Especially if everyone knew what he could actually do, as opposed to a tiny fraction of it. “I never liked attention all that much. Too noisy,” He answered vaguely. This only encouraged her.
  84.  
  85. “And the weakest dogs always bark the loudest. But people like us? We get things done. We’re nothing like the weaklings in-”
  86.  
  87. “Us? Have we met before?” Seven snapped out of his daze and spoke firmly. The sound of him raising his voice made a few onlookers jump. “Because I don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about.” Of course, he already knew who this was. He wanted to see how she responded when he didn’t just roll along with her words.
  88.  
  89. It only made her smile. “There. THAT right there. You don’t take shit from anyone, do you? You just went out and fought Lung to show him who’s boss, didn’t you?”
  90.  
  91. “Is there a point to all of this or can I go to my class now?” Seven asked.
  92.  
  93. “Tch.” That made her frown. “God, you’re slow. More muscle than brains, I guess,” The girl folded her arms. “I’m Sophia Hess. But you know me already, don’t you?” She mouthed the words to him. He pretended to act surprised.
  94.  
  95. “You didn’t say more than one word to me yesterday. Why the interest here and now?”
  96.  
  97. “I don’t buy that whole ‘humble hero’ act you were pulling. I want to know what you’re really about and if you’re just another one of the sheep,” Sophia said. “Like that display two days ago.”
  98.  
  99. “Two days ago?” The girl in the locker. Why was she so interested in that?
  100.  
  101. Sophia had opened her mouth right when a low beep began to go off. Seven instinctively reached into his pocket and took out his communicator, designed to blend in as an ordinary smartphone. Hitting a button, he saw a singular message on the screen.
  102.  
  103. INC TROUBLE - S.
  104.  
  105. Seven’s head darted upwards. Sophia looked annoyed, but she obviously wasn’t geared up for a fight, much less out in the open. Then the school intercom would activate with a brief pitch of feedback, making the both of them cringe.
  106.  
  107. “Hello, hello, is this thing working?” A woman’s voice was over the announcement system. “I apologize for interrupting your dull little morning routine, boys and girls, but I have a very important announcement to make. There’s a little rat among all of you that I want to dispose of, and all of you are going to be good little students and help me with this.”
  108.  
  109. “If not? Then this entire school gets blown sky high.”
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