Sitting around the table, the Patchwork Champions and their friends were relaxed and at ease. The room was crowded – between Lucky, Amber, Nadia, Ash (or at least his shrub), Jhim, Danielle, Blastwave and Josh, there was barely enough room to group around the table. Lucky gestured expansively at the cake that sat there. “Make a wish and blow out the candle!”
“I wish I was done with this.” Nadia grumped, but with a smile. She blew heavily.
“Congratulations.” Amber leaned back with a smile. “You finished your coursework with flying colours.”
Nadia nodded, then paused. “Not that it matters that much, anymore. I don't have the physicals to be an action hero.”
“Not the point.” Lucky leaned in. “You have registration, and in another year your community service will be done. That's worth celebrating, right?”
“Right.” Nadia smiled. “Sorry, I don't want to bring things down.”
“Hey, it's your party, you can cry if you…” Josh lost the end of the sentence in a hail of popcorn and candy.
“Easy, guys!” Nadia waved her hands for them to stop. Josh nodded to her thankfully, as she continued. “I have to clean this stuff up afterwards.”
“I will be managing that today, Miss Nadia.” Ash informed her politely.
“Oh. Well, then.” Nadia looked over to Josh and shrugged. “Carry on.”
“Wha -” Josh's look of surprise was wiped out in a second hail of snacks. “Seriously, I give!”
As she smiled, Danielle felt her cellphone hum at her waist. She glanced across to Blastwave, who nodded in reply, and grimaced. “Business calls. Keep the party going.”
“What, seriously? Can't they do without you for…” Timebender broke off before Wave could speak. “No, of course not. Go ahead – we'll try to still be up when you get back.”
“Sure thing.” As she headed for the door, Danielle wrapped illusions around herself, forming her costume over her street clothes. Wave was already slipping out the window, ready to meet her downstairs. She sighed. The first day off she'd had in three weeks, too.
As she drove to SEA headquarters, Danielle flipped open her cellphone and fitted her mic to her ear. “This is Agent Moonbeam. What's the emergency?”
“We have a Class 9 enemy coming towards us. Full report when you arrive.” Agent Kidale's voice was clipped with stress. “We've already got Eclipse and Highbrow on-site.”
Danielle whistled. “Right. Be there in five.” She cut the connection, and spent the rest of the trip thinking furiously. Class 9 was near the top – anything higher and it would be considered a national emergency. She searched her memory, but couldn't think of a thing that fitted the bill.
Upon arrival at their HQ, the two superhuman agents were hurried to a briefing room where Eclipse and Highbrow were waiting. Blastwave nodded to them with a smile as she entered. “Terry, you aren't getting enough sun.”
“I never do.” Eclipse replied genially. His skin was almost white, and his black hair was brushed back out of his eyes. He gestured, and the shadows pulled two chairs up to the table he was at. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you for getting here so quickly.” Highbrow added. The veteran agent was in full regalia, an eighteenth-century royal garb that looked more fitting to a museum (or a circus) than the sober interview room that the four agents occupied, his white wig carefully aligned on a flourid face and his eyes solemn. “We'll be as quick as we can.” He tapped a slide projector, flicking it on as he spoke. “As you've heard, there is a Class 9 threat in the area, and we believe that it is heading towards Patchwork City.”
Moonbeam sat down in the offered chair, considering the map now being displayed on the wall. “That's pretty bad. Is it Antiheroes?”
“No, rogue villain. One of the worst.” Highbrow's gaze swept over the two. “This doesn't leave the room, you understand. This villain's identity is Clearance Level Upsilon.”
“Understood.” Blastwave nodded impatiently. “Bring it on.”
“Very well, then. Agents, I give you the greatest threat Patchwork City has faced in over a year.” The slide clicked over.
Blastwave and Moonbeam exchanged confused looks. Blastwave spoke carefully. “That's Lucky Lad.”
Highbrow frowned, glancing over his shoulder. “Huh? Huh. So it is.” On the slide projector, Lucky was shown standing at ease. “Someone must have mixed up the slides. Allow me to try again.” Facing the screen this time, he pressed a button, and the slide machine ticked over one. A new image appeared.
Blastwave frowned. “That is still Lucky Lad.”
Highbrow shot her an annoyed look. “No. It is not. Note the goatee.” He tapped the offending facial hair pointedly, and Blastwave craned in to see.
“Oh, yeah, there is it.” She sat back with a sigh. “So, what, Hazard is coming to town? With a new beard? Not that big of a problem.”
“It's not Hazard.” Highbrow said.
Blastwave and Moonbeam shared another look. Moonbeam spoke this time. “Sorry, is this a joke?”
“Absolutely not.” Highbrow didn't smile. “This is one of the most dangerous criminals in the world right now. Agents, I give you… Scourge.”