Chapter One: Holding Out For A Hero

Part One: Cards On The Table

February, 2011

Katy Lee, Director-General of the Superhuman Enforcement Agency, rapped sharply on the door before opening it, her ankle-length coat swirling around her as she stepped inside. “Hello, Oliver. You have a minute?” She said.

“Absolutely, Ms. Lee. Welcome to my humble office. Please excuse the mess.” Oliver Henry sat back in his old leather chair, gesturing to the boxes and papers scattered around the room. A picture of a pastoral scene hung on one wall, while two more were leaning in corners of the room, and a small ficus bush sat against one wall, but otherwise there was nothing but bankers boxes, Oliver's desk, and the simple chair sitting across from it. “What brings you to Florida? I expected you to be quite busy at home.”

“The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss Atlantean reconstruction, and most of the member nations called in their experts to argue about it.” Katy glanced around with a raised eyebrow before returning her attention to the man sitting in front of her. Perhaps five-foot nine, looking to be in his mid-forties, he had a slight paunch forming, and an ornate walking-stick leaned against the desk next to him. His hair was brownish-red, his eyes were grey, and he slouched slightly in his seat. If she hadn't known him, she wouldn't have been impressed. But when he looked up to meet her eyes, she felt the familiar weight of his presence, and smiled. “Not my idea of a fun afternoon.”

“Missing the old days?” Oliver said with a smile. For several decades, Katy Lee had operated as the superhero known as Danger Ace, before moving into the superhuman policing field as a field director of the SEA. Now, with the agency recovering from its last major war, she was firmly ensconced behind a desk – the Agency wasn't ready to lose another leader.

“Sometimes.” Katy said. “Other times, my bones remind me that I'm pushing fifty, and I don't have any superhuman youth factor going for me. What about you?” She asked, her gesture taking in the boxes. “I hear you've decided to move on to greener pastures yourself.”

Mr. Henry shrugged easily, gesturing to an ornate wooden chair. Director Lee spun it around, sliding easily into it and leaning her arms against its back as she studied him. “I’m somewhat disappointed in my colleagues.” He admitted after a moment of consideration. “I really had hoped that the UNSC would see the value in my proposal, especially after the events of last year. But I was always prepared for the possibility that politics would trump safety. It happens from time to time.” This last was spoken with the dry assurance of a career bureaucrat, and Lee quirked a smile in response.

“Once in a while.” She allowed. “So, no more United Nations Superhuman Commission for you. Where will you be heading next?”

“I’m considering a private practice.” He said.

“Could I persuade you to change your mind?” The director asked.

Mr. Henry’s eyebrows rose to his curly hairline. “Why, my dear Director-General, are you suggesting I come to work for the SEA?” He shook his head. “I’m somewhat past my prime myself, you know. I know that you’re hurting for frontline staff, but…”

Director Lee didn’t rise to the bait. “I’m reinstating Section 13.”

Mr. Henry didn’t speak immediately, sitting back in his chair. “Are you now.” He said softly. “And what prompted this decision? During his tenure, Director Greenburg was rather adamantly in favour of integration.”

“I read your report to the UNSC.” Lee considered her next words carefully. “It was very compelling.”

“Hm.” Mr. Henry leaned back in his seat. “And you’re looking for an analyst?”

“I’m looking for a director.” She said bluntly. “Are you interested?”

Oliver stared down at his hands. “Surely you have better options.” He finally murmured.

“I doubt it, old man.” Katy said with a smirk. “You're probably the world's foremost authority on magic and magical relics. At the very least, you're our foremost authority on magical crime.”

“Hm.” Oliver considered, and then reached into a box next to his desk. “I am intrigued, I admit.” He said. “There would, however, be certain conditions.”

“Color me shocked.” Lee said.

“First, I would like to choose my own field team.” Oliver pulled four slim folders out of the box, dropping them on the table. “I would leave the selection of support personnel up to you.”

Katy didn't take the folders instantly. She looked from them to Oliver. “And you had no idea I was coming?”

“Not at all.” Oliver replied blandly.

“You just happened to have these ready.” Katy added.

Oliver considered for a moment. “Let's say that I was hopeful, then.” He finally said.

Katy laughed. “Alright, let's see.” She lifted the first folder, glancing at it, and her smile faded. When she looked over the second, her jaw set. By the third she was frowning openly, and when she reached the fourth she simply opened it, glanced at the name on the top, and slammed it shut again. “You're insane.” She said, dropping the folders back on the table.

“Nonetheless, those are my choices.” Oliver said.

“They're not SEA agents.” Katy pointed out.

“Well, that should help with your staffing problems, then.” Oliver answered, leaning back in his chair.

Katy looked down at the folders again. “Why is it that all four of your potential agents are on my list of potential terrorist supervillains?”

“Poor analysis work on the part of your team?” Oliver suggested.

“Damn it, Oliver…” Katy started. Oliver raised a hand.

“Ms. Lee, you want me to lead this organization why?” He answered for her. “Because you trust my judgement, I hope. So. Do you trust my judgement?”

Katy winced. “If I say yes, will you pull out a different set of folders and tell me this was a test?” Oliver watched her levelly, and she sighed. “Alright, Mr. Henry. I trust you. But I'm going to be watching this closely. If it blows up in your face…”

“It won't.” Oliver assured her. “Trust me. My team will perform magificently.”

Katy nodded. “Well, then. Welcome to the SEA, Mr. Henry. I'll start try to clear the way for your new recruits.”
“Thank you, Director-General.” Oliver said, beaming. “You won't be disappointed.”

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