Captive Audience pt. 2

Opinions in Seaside City are sharply polarized when Justicar issues a challenge against Imperious and the Azure Synod. Thankfully, the anticipated showdown fails to materialize.

Imperious sat on the edge of the roof of the high rise. This high up, his concerns seemed so far away, and the ugly world he so despised seemed oddly beautiful, the lights of the city far below twinkling like a mirror to the dazzling stars in the deep dark night above.

He flinched as out of the corner of his eye a familiar set of silver boots with gold and white accents, polished to a reflective gleam, step up onto the edge beside him. He glanced at them, gaze drawn to his faint reflection, and saw the glow of his deep azures dim.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t destroy the young hero beside him at a whim. He was Imperious, the terrible archvillain that ruled over Seaside City with an iron fist. He was ruthless and cunning. Heroes danced in the palm of his hand as he laughed at their floundering performance, prancing about like puppets on strings that he controlled.

Part of him didn’t want to and as much as that infuriated him, it intrigued him just as much, even if it wasn’t something he wanted to admit to anyone, even himself.

The two of them sat there in silence for a while, the blue-eyed villain looking out over the city, the silver-eyed hero doing… Well, Imperious didn’t know, exactly. He was making an effort not to look at the young man beside him.

After a minute or so, the villain couldn’t take it anymore. He turned to the hero, poised to deliver a cutting rebuke when he noticed a strange object in the younger man’s hands, a bowl that had clearly been broken in the past but had been repaired beautifully with gold in the cracks.

Imperious was captivated by the beauty of the piece. He didn’t know where Justicar had gotten the object, much less why he had it with him, but he knew what it was all the same. It was Kintsugi, a classical Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery, meant to represent that there was beauty in imperfection, that brokenness and trauma were not things to hide but rather to accept as part of one’s history.

"I’m sorry."

The words shattered the fragile silence into a million shards that tinkled softly as they broke apart in the night. Sapphire met silver as the two men looked into each other’s eyes.

"What?" said Imperious, tilting his head to the side in confusion.

"I said…" A cold breeze meandered through the space between the two men. "I’m sorry."

Imperious hesitated. There was a sincerity in Justicar’s voice, an openness and vulnerability he couldn’t deny and that made his heart skip a beat. He’d never heard those words before and never knew he’d wanted to. They made his heart ache with the pain of a lifetime spent being reviled and betrayed by a cruel world.

"For what? For being a worthless hero?" Imperious hissed. He swallowed the emotion threatening to pour out of him, forced his handsome face into a mask of indifference and contempt like he’d done so many times before in the face of despair.

"No," said the younger man simply, an odd sort of sympathy glinting behind the silver of his sharp eyes as he looked into Imperious’ blue orbs. "I’m sorry the world was so cruel to you. I’m sorry you weren’t treated better. I’m sorry people turned their backs on you and reviled you when all you wanted was kindness and affection."

Imperious’ words died in his throat. He stared at the silver-clad young man beside him, mouth working wordlessly as he tried to find a refutation to what had just been spoken, but without any success. "T-that is not true!" he stammered in mock outrage, heartbeat thundering in his chest like a horse galloping across the Alamo and pounding in his ears so loudly it drowned out his thoughts. No one had ever made him feel this way before.

"Shh…" Justicar cooed as he set the bowl down on the ledge beside him and leaned over, his fingers gently touching the back of Imperious’ hand.

The archvillain flinched, snatching his hand back only to have his wrist caught in the firm but gentle grip of the infuriating hero that seemed not to know the slightest bit about personal space.

"It’s okay…" Justicar whispered as he tugged Imperious’ hand to his lips and kissed the tips of each delicate finger. "Up here, far above the world and all its concerns, you and I, we’re not hero and villain, we’re just two people. Two people treated very differently by an unfair world. You don’t have to hide from your truth. Not here. Not with me."

Imperious choked back a sob and he stubbornly wiped away the tears welling in his eyes. No one had spoken to him like this before. No one had made him feel like this before. He hated it. He needed it. He craved it. It was so wrong, a hero and a villain weren’t ever meant to be together, but it felt so right.

Justicar interlaced his fingers with Imperious’ filling the spaces between them almost as if to say that he was going to fill the void inside Imperious’ cold, hollow heart, and said, "You’re not alone. Not now. Not anymore. You’ll never be alone again. If you’ll have me."

Imperious wanted to deny it all, he wanted to rebuke it, to throw the words back in the younger hero’s face but he couldn’t, not when his heart had yearned to hear those words for so long. He didn’t fight at all. He didn’t pull back. He closed his hand around Justicar’s and in a moment of passion when hero or villain didn’t matter and all the world could just fade away he leaned forward, wrapped a hand around the back of the silver-eyed man’s neck and kissed him.

A/N: OMG. Guys. I know people have probably been waiting for this chapter for, like, three days already. Srsrsrsrsrsrsrsrsr!!!! I FORGOT I HAD HOMEWORK! LOL. Anyway. I promise the next chapter won’t be so late! And we’ll get to the bumping already, if you know what I mean? It kinda just got away from me. These two are just so hot and I really think it would be so good if Justicar and Imperious end up together, you know?

Justice? Just Kiss. By: Justicarvedmyheartout

Rashidi Jamil Mayor

For Immediate Release 30 October 2145

A Statement from the Office of Mayor Rashidi Jamil

As the democratically elected government of Seaside City mandated to serve, protect, and improve the lives of its citizens, the Seaside City Council asserts that the Hall of Heroes-affiliated esper going by the alias of Justicar does not speak for the citizens of Seaside City with respect to the challenge he issued earlier this morning to the archvillain Imperious and the organization known as the Azure Synod.

While we recognize and are grateful for Justicar’s contributions to the continued security and prosperity of our city, on behalf of the citizens of Seaside City, we strongly condemn the reckless and brazen disregard displayed by Justicar in the issuance of his challenge against some of the most dangerous espers in the Commonwealth.

More than any other city in the Artemisian Commonwealth, Seaside City understands that collateral damage inevitably results from clashes between espers of considerable strength. As the Azure Synod is known to have members of MTD VI and at least one confirmed member of MTD VII, the clash proposed by Justicar may result in billions to trillions’ worth of property damage to personal property and critical infrastructure, to say nothing of the potential human cost.

As such, the Seaside City Council has no choice but to condemn in the strongest of terms, the challenge issued by Justicar against Imperious and the Azure Synod. Furthermore, Seaside City Council expresses its profound disappointment that the Hall of Heroes has chosen to support this reckless initiative without regard for the potential damage and cost to human life.

As of the publication of this statement, Seaside City legal counsel is in the process of seeking a judicial order to enjoin Justicar from following through on his challenge against Imperious and the Azure Synod as well as a separate order enjoining the Hall of Heroes from providing any material or personnel assistance to Justicar as regards this endeavour.

A well-dressed Asian man who looked to be in his late twenties took a deep breath. Things in Seaside City had never been so lively in the past decade. It was exciting since the city had hope for the first time in a while but the potential for disappointment was also mildly terrifying.

He stood up straighter as the executive producer counted down the seconds until live air with his hand. When the red lights on the cameras started blinking, he looked directly at #1 and launched into the introduction he’d done on a nightly basis for going on 6 years.

"Good evening, Seaside City. I am your host Julian Barrett and this is SNN’s Esper Encounter."

Julian turned to the screen as the first of two camera feeds from the evening’s guests appeared. A woman of African descent, who appeared to be in her early 40s seemed to be in a small, well-appointed drawing-room.

She was dressed in a blazer and dress shirt. Besides a pair of elegant earrings, a simple gold chain around her neck, and a button on her lapel, she wore no other accessories.

"With us tonight is Dr. Amnesty Ruther, co-founder of the Together We are Stronger charity, a recognized expert in the history and law regarding Espers, and recently, the recipient of the Jiang Xiulin Foundation’s Allyship Award. Welcome and thank you for joining us, Dr. Ruther, it’s good to see you again."

The woman smiled. "Thank you for having me, Julian. It’s good to be back."

Another camera feed appeared. This time, it seemed to have been set up in an office of some sort. Sitting at the desk visible in the lower part of the shot was a man of Arabic descent.

The man was wearing a tailored midnight-blue suit over a much lighter pale blue shirt. His tie was a solid navy with a gold tie bar in the shape of a fletched arrow. From his left ear dangled a small sapphire wrapped in gold wire and held in place by gold findings.

Behind the man were the flags of the Commonwealth of Artemisia and Seaside City. Notably missing is the "One System, Two Nations" flag widely recognized to represent the enduring bond of friendship between the Commonwealth and the United Earth Council.

Julian nodded to the man and continued his spiel. "Joining us this evening as well is Amir Rockford, Councillor for the Serenity Heights District and Chairman for the Committee on the Public Interest and the Transparency and Accountability of Espers and Esper-led Organizations. Good evening, Councillor. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us tonight."

Councillor Rockford nodded. "Thank you, Jason, and it was no trouble at all. This is the kind of work that is so important for us as public servants. We want to make sure that people know and understand the reasoning we have for the decisions we make with regard to public policy. Especially for times like these, when there is so much uncertainty, it is incredibly valuable that we get a chance to truly discuss what’s going on because sometimes people don’t get the full picture."

Ah, Julian thought to himself. It’s going to be one of those nights, is it?

He steeled himself. "Forgive me Councillor, but if I might ask—who, exactly, isn’t giving the people the full picture?"

Councillor Rockford folded his hands in front of him. "No offense, Julian, but you aren’t giving the people the full picture. The mainstream media. I understand the networks need to make money but the sensationalism around this Justicar issue is beyond the pale."

"Excuse me, Councillor. Sorry, Julian. I just have to ask—have we been watching the same news programs at all?" said Dr. Ruther, interjecting before Julian could respond. "As far as I’ve been able to tell, the media has actually been fairly even-handed when it comes to the Hall of Heroes’ newest protégé."

"Of course you would say that, Ms. Ruther. Everyone knows—"

"Pardon for the interruption, Councillor but before we get too deep into that, why don’t I get the audience caught up on tonight’s topic of discussion? Would that be alright?"

Councillor Rockford took a deep breath and nodded. "Fine," he said, though he looked none-too-pleased.

"Dr. Ruther?"

"Of course, Julian. By all means."

"Thank you," said Julian. "Now, I’m sure you two know what I’m going to talk about but for the sake of our watchers at home, the topic for tonight’s discussion is a now-viral video posted to Chirpr this morning."

Next to Julian, the chirp in question came up on the screen. "The short, 30-second video features Justicar issuing a direct challenge to the archvillain Imperious and the league of villains known as the Azure Synod which has suspected links to the aforementioned Imperious."

With a gesture from Julian, the image was dismissed. "Reactions have been mixed. Many people are encouraging Justicar, saying it’s about time someone took the fight to the villains. Others, however, are saying that Justicar is just inviting more violence and destruction, essentially a second Springtide District incident, and that he should focus on what his job is: protecting Seaside City."

Julian turned to the two guests. "Now, about two hours after the clip went live, the Hall of Heroes put out a statement. Should I read it out?"

Dr. Ruther nodded. "Please, Julian."

Julian smiled. "Alright. Speaking to reporters shortly before noon today, Ajax Polyakov, PR liaison of the Seaside City Hall of Heroes branch had this to say."

Glancing down at the tablet in his hand, Justin read off the statement as it appeared on the screen beside him. "Hall Command does not generally encourage the issuance of challenges against criminal espers and maintains that the primary objective of the organization is the defense and protection of the civilian population."

Julian continued. "However, as the challenge has already been issued, it cannot be retracted. With that in mind, Justicar is being counseled on the best and safest way to proceed."

Dr. Ruther nodded along as the first part of the statement was replaced by the last part on the screen.

"Furthermore, Hall Command recognizes the need to address the rampant and unrestrained streak of esper-induced crime that has dominated Seaside City for the past few years," said Julian.

Councillor Rockford did not appear all too pleased with the statement. He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned as Julian read the last sentence, "Hall Command stands behind Justicar in this endeavour and will commit to providing whatever resources or aid will be necessary."

Having finished, Julian turned to the screen again and addressed the two guests. "Turning it over to our two guests. Do you have any thoughts about the Hall of Heroes’ statement?"

"If I might, Julian," said Dr. Ruther as she raised her hand.

"I certainly have something to say," said Councillor Rockford. If his tone was anything to go by, Julian had his doubts it would be anything pleasant. From the way he’d delivered the line, it seemed Councillor Rockford expected to be afforded the chance to speak first.

"Let’s go with Dr. Ruther first and let’s come back to you in a second here, Councillor," said Julian.

"Thank you, Julian," Dr. Ruther cut in before Councillor Rockford could object. "I think the Hall is being remarkably measured in their response."

She planted her elbows on her desk and steepled her fingers. "I think it’s only natural to be afraid of there being another major incident, especially since the city hasn’t yet recovered from the last one."

Dr. Ruther gestured as she continued, "But Mr. Polyakov is right. Seaside City has been suffering for years. It can’t go on. Something has to break. And Justicar is the best chance we’ve had in a long time for things to break our way."

"But you don’t know if things would break our way, do you?" said Councillor Rockford.

"No, I don’t, but—"

"No one knows! And that’s the problem!"

"But the way—"

"The fact that this video was even allowed to go online at all is incredibly reck—"

"Councillor, Julian invited me to—"

"It’s reckless beyond belief. I don’t—"

"Councillor. Please let me—"

"The Hall of Heroes is poking a sleeping—"

"If you would just—"

"It’s not even a bear, it’s a drag—"

"Please let me fin—"

"It’s a dragon! That’s what it is! A—"


"But they don’t care—"

"Gods help me, I swear—"

Julian cast a glance at the producer in the booth. Things were getting a bit out of hand and he didn’t think he’d manage to get a word in edgewise with how the councillor was insisting on interrupting.

The producer nodded and did a cutting motion across his neck for someone in the production booth. Shortly thereafter, the councillor’s feed was cut.

"Sorry about that, Dr. Ruther. It looks like Councillor Rockford was experiencing some technical difficulties," said Julian. This wasn’t his first rodeo and he knew well enough how to wrangle the situation.

Dr. Ruther seemed taken aback but she quickly accepted the abrupt change in situation and took it in stride. "I see. I’m sorry to hear that," she said.

Julian nodded. "Yes, it’s quite unfortunate. We’re working on getting him back as we speak. While we’re waiting, though, you were saying?"

"Where was I, again?" said Dr. Ruther. Despite her calm demeanor she seemed a bit flustered—not that Julian could blame her.

Julian smiled. "Justicar is our best chance in a long time to have things break our way," he said.

"Right," said Dr. Ruther. "All I’m saying is that the status quo is untenable. Sooner or later, something is going to give—and even if there’s a chance things don’t play out well, it’s better for us to grab the initiative."

"Some people think it’s reckless, though," said Julian. "As Councillor Rockford pointed out earlier. He likened what Justicar did—what the Hall of Heroes is saying—as poking a sleeping dragon."

Dr. Ruther nodded. "I’m sure many of us would sleep a lot better if Justicar hadn’t made that video but it’s out there now. As Mr. Polyakov said, there’s no taking it back.

"You read the statement, though. They’re doing all they can to make sure things proceed safely. They’re promising Justicar all the help and resources he might need. That hardly seems reckless to me."

Julian nodded. He could see where Dr. Ruther was coming from. "Don’t you think, though, Dr. Ruther, that there’s a point to it? Justicar has been having some success dealing with problematic villains in Seaside City, but is it really wise to be going up against the biggest name so soon?"

Dr. Ruther smiled. "I figured you might ask that," she said, nodding. "Don’t get me wrong, Julian. I do think the declaration was reckless. I don’t think that’s in dispute at all.

"And I’m not trying to justify what he did but Justicar is 21. He’s still a kid. I don’t think any of us can say we weren’t stupid and reckless at that age.

"Justicar made a mistake, that’s a fact, but the Hall of Heroes is, in my opinion, doing exactly what I think it needs to do to make sure that mistake doesn’t turn into a major disaster."

"Thank you, Dr. Ruther. Welcome back, Councillor Rockford," said Julian as the councillor’s camera feed returned.

"I’m sorry about that, Jason," said Councillor Rockford, "I don’t know what happened. My screen just suddenly went black."

Julian pretended to press his earpiece in and nodded to no one in particular. "It seems the problem was on our end, Councillor. There was a glitch in the system and we got disconnected from you."

"I see. That’s unfortunate. I’ve still been watching the show though and I have something to say about what Ms. Ruther just said."

Julian nodded. "Before we get to that, though, Councillor. We’ve got limited time tonight so I’d like to call your attention to a statement from City Hall earlier today. I’m sure you’re privy to it?"

Councillor Rockford nodded. "Yes," he said. "A copy of the statement came across my desk earlier today."

Julian tapped the tablet in his hand. "It says in the statement that you, the Seaside City Council, ‘condemn in the strongest of words the challenge issued by Justicar.’ Am I correct in assuming that this is a sentiment you personally agree with, Councillor?"

Councillor Rockford nodded again. "You would be right, yes. We had a meeting and it was fairly clear what our position had to be. The statement was made explicitly with my approval."

"So, suffice to say, you are not happy with Justicar or the Hall of Heroes, correct?"

"Correct. As I was saying, it is tantamount to poking a sleeping dragon. Setting aside the matter of Imperious, the Azure Synod alone has MTD VI and MTD VII members. Justicar himself is MTD VII.

"No matter if it were an operation months in the making, complete with contingency plans, resources in place, and advance warning to the city about it but to challenge these guys on a whim, on a video on the ComNet? It’s the height of recklessness!"

Julian nodded. Councillor Rockford was still pretty high-strung but at least he wasn’t coming across as nearly as combative as earlier. "Before we continue, Councillor. I know the three of us probably know what these MTDs represent, but some of our viewers might not know what they’re about.

"I know there was some confusion about what MTD stood for on the ComNet earlier this afternoon after the Mayor’s Office released its statement. If you could explain them briefly, that would be great."

Councillor Rockford took a deep breath. He seemed annoyed at being asked to explain MTDs but he seemed resigned to it. "Alright," he said. "So you know how seismic events are typically measured based on their strength with the Richter scale, right?"

"Right," said Julian, nodding.

"The MTD, or Mbazi Tier Designation is a similar scale but it applies to the destructiveness of a super’s powers. An MTD 0 is basically a super that can’t hurt a fly. An MTD VI can cause damage on a municipal scale. An MTD VII, which is what Justicar is, can cause damage on a city-wide scale."

"Thank you, Councillor," said Julian. "So what the City Council is saying is that even just a fight between Justicar and one of the higher-tier espers in the Azure Synod can cause significant property damage and loss of life, right?"

Councillor Rockford nodded. "Exactly so. And that is why it doesn’t matter how carefully the Hall of Heroes go about this; fundamentally, the risk is quite high that a lot of things are going to get smashed or a lot of people are going to get killed if things are allowed to play out."

Julian turned to Dr. Ruther. "Do you have anything to say, Dr. Ruther?" he said.

"I do, Julian. Thank you. With all due respect, Councillor Rockford, everyone knows the Mbazi Tier Designation system is a relic of the past and it simply isn’t able to capture the nuance and variability in the powers an esper can display," said Dr. Ruther.

She pressed on. "Furthermore, even if we were to assume that the MTD was valid, so what if Justicar is MTD VII? Assigning an MTD to Justicar is meaningless anyway. Since he can absorb powers and turn them around on espers that attack him in a form that isn’t immediately harmful to anyone or anything besides the esper he’s fighting, he can theoretically have an arbitrary MTD."

Dr. Ruther raised a finger. "And let’s not forget. People have analyzed Justicar’s fight clips to death and even the experts have concluded that he has the ability to neutralize powers."

"First of all, Ms. Ruther—"

"Dr. Ruther."

The interjection was ignored. Councillor Rockford continued, "It doesn’t matter what experts think, we don’t know exactly how Justicar’s powers work. I’ve watched the clips.

"As far as I’ve been able to tell, he’s had to absorb an attack from his enemy before he could use his ability to dampen or neutralize his opponent’s powers. By then it would be too late!

"Some of the members of the Synod only have to use their powers once to cause a crisis. And even if that weren’t the case, it’s not like the villains would just wait around for Justicar to neutralize them.

"If I recall, Cataract managed to seriously damage water mains and a couple of buildings before Justicar managed to take him down —and let’s not forget he was just an MTD V."

Dr. Ruther shot back, "And that’s why the Hall of Heroes wants to send resources and personnel. They not only want to help Justicar win, but they also want to minimize the damage done to the city in the process.

"But clearly your government is more concerned about the economic impact. I just don’t understand why you would go so far as to file for an injunction to stop the Hall from supporting one of their heroes.

"If your objective is to protect Seaside City from the collateral damage, I just don’t see how that is the thing you choose to do."

"You mean like the last time they sent resources and personnel to Seaside City?" said Councillor Rockford. "Need I remind you, Ms. Ruther—"

"Doctor Ruther, Councillor."

"The city is still reeling from the damage the high-and-mighty Hall of Heroes helped inflict. It’s been six months and the Springtide District is still being rebuilt!"

"And if I might remind you, Councillor, the Hall is paying for 70% of the reconstruction!"

Councillor Rockford slammed his hand on the desk. "As they should. As they should! They should be paying 100% of it!"

Dr. Ruther frowned. "Would you rather they hadn’t done anything?" she said.

"Yes!" said Councillor Rockford. "Leave well enough alone! The whole reason the Springtide District is a smoldering pile of rubble is that an overzealous super trying to make a name for himself went after a bunch of villains he never should have touched!"

"So are we to understand that the Seaside City Council’s position is to, what, leave violent criminal espers alone?" said Dr. Ruther in disgust.

Councillor Rockford’s eyes widened as he realized what he’d just said. "No. No. That’s not what I’m saying at all. By all means, we should be stopping villains when they rob banks or kidnap civilians or threaten to drown the city but what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t be inviting fights that, one, we don’t know we’d win, and two, could destroy the city just by happening."

Dr. Ruther didn’t look impressed. "So what you’re saying to all the espers out there right now is that as long as they’re powerful enough, or as long as they have powerful enough friends that will bat for them if they get in trouble, that they should be able to do whatever they want? That you think the heroes shouldn’t be bothering them?"

"Ms. Ruther, don’t twist my words."

"For the nth time, Councillor. It’s Doctor Ruther. And I’m not twisting your words at all. I’m just saying that’s effectively what you’re saying. I’m just saying, effectively you’re inviting villains to band together because your government will keep getting in the way of the only people who can stop them because it’s too afraid of the potential consequences of a confrontation."

Julian stood aside and let the scene play out. There were salient points being made on either side and he didn’t see any real need to stop in. Not yet, anyway.

"Again, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Ms. Ruther, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t willfully misinterpret my words. I don’t see why we’re even here if you’re just going to be arguing in bad faith."

Dr. Ruther looked like she’d about had enough. "Oh, that’s precious coming from you," she said. "I would appreciate if you would address me by my proper title but apparently that’s too much to ask so I’ll ask you this—if you’re so upset by my interpretation, why don’t you tell us what you do mean?"

Councillor Rockford took a breath. "Alright, Ms. Ruther. I will," he said. "All I’m saying is that there has to be some way to deal with the villain problem that doesn’t involve all-out war—because that’s what this is going to turn into if we don’t do anything about it. If the Synod answers the challenge and the Hall sends its best, it will be a bloodbath and nothing will be left of Seaside City but a smoldering crater and a footnote in history if we let it happen."

Dr. Ruther laughed. "I think you’re overstating the potential damage here, Councillor. That is needlessly alarmist. The Hall of Heroes is adept at reducing collateral damage. They have people dedicated to doing exactly that."

Councillor Rockford laughed. "Tell that to the Springtide District, Ms. Ruther."

Dr. Ruther narrowed her eyes. "I will," she said. "How else did all that destruction result in the loss of not a single life and only a handful of major injuries requiring lifelong care."

Councillor Rockford sneered. "I think that’s a bit reductive, Ms. Ruther. All these people had their lives overturned. And I don’t think that’s as good an argument when you realize some of these people need lifelong care.

"What I think is the problem is that you and all the supporters of this idiotic scheme are underestimating the threat posed by espers to our society. Hero or villain, it doesn’t matter. These people have way too much power and have proven themselves far too irresponsible with it."

Dr. Ruther did not like that characterization. "Excuse you, Councillor. I am very much aware of the threat that espers can pose to society. That’s why I support the Hall of Heroes, who are using their powers to protect society."

Councillor Rockford scoffed. "It certainly doesn’t look that way to me. In fact, I take issue with how benign you think these heroes are. What did you say earlier? Justicar is just a kid?

"So what? We should forgive him when he makes a mistake that could cost thousands of people their lives? Espers don’t get the benefit of the doubt, not when they’re having fights that can wipe out entire neighborhoods.

"He knew what he was getting into. He should have known better! And the Hall of Heroes should have known better than to reward it, too!"

Julian heard someone speak into his earpiece. He nodded and glanced at the producer who nodded back at him. "Alright," he said, stepping forward to interrupt the conversation. "Thank you again for coming tonight, Dr. Ruther, Councillor Rockford. You’ve certainly given us a lot to think about but unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for tonight."

"Thank you, Jason," said Councillor Rockford. "I appreciate the opportunity to speak about these matters with you."

Dr. Ruther rolled her eyes as Councillor Rockford spoke. When her turn came, she smiled at Julian and said, "Thank you, Julian. It’s been a pleasure."

Julian nodded and turned to face the audience as the camera feeds from the guests went away. "With that, we conclude tonight’s live discussion but please, feel free to weigh in from home.

"Do you think the Hall should support Justicar’s challenge or do you think the government is right and that this shouldn’t be encouraged? Let us know your thoughts at—all one word. That’s"

"Once again, I’m your host Julian Barrett, thank you for being with us this evening, and this has been SNN’s Esper Encounter."

"Tonight, many Seaside City residents breathe a sigh of relief as the anticipated showdown between Justicar and the Azure Synod fails to materialize.

"Late Wednesday morning, the social media sphere was thrown into an uproar as a mysterious website purported to have been created by the infamous super-hacker N3M0 was discovered with what many at the time thought was an answer to the young superhero’s challenge.

"The page contained a location: high above the Panoply Complex and a 48-hour countdown that ran out just two hours ago. Despite an evacuation order, and a large perimeter manned by police and Hall of Heroes staff, curious citizens would not be deterred.

"Footage from earlier today, as the city awaited the appointed hour with bated breath, reveals just how many people were there to see it happen. Despite the very real threat of danger, thousands of people gathered downtown around the Panoply Complex hoping to catch a glimpse of what some were calling the ‘Showdown of Legends.’

"To the relief of many, and the disappointment of others, the hour came and went without fanfare. An hour later, Justicar departed without a word.

"The Hall of Heroes has yet to make a statement on today’s events, but the Seaside City Police Department has signaled that they are considering an investigation into whether the website that led to all the fuss was an elaborate hoax."

"Found one yet, babe?"

Stefan glanced at his boyfriend, Milo, and smiled. His better half was in the process of stripping down and would be joining him naked in bed soon. "Yeah, I think so," he said.

Milo clambered into bed next to Stefan and kissed him on the cheek. "Think it’s gonna be hot?" he said.

Stefan returned the kiss and grinned. "The previews looked promising," he said, resting his hand on Milo’s bare thigh.

It was their little Monday night ritual, something to take the edge off of the workday. Stefan didn’t really remember when the whole thing started but he couldn’t complain. It worked.

"Good," Milo muttered in a low, husky voice that sent a tingle down Stefan’s spine.

Stefan smiled, sliding his hand further up along his boyfriend’s thigh. "Long day?" he said as the tips of his fingers grazed Milo’s sack.

"You don’t know how much I need this right now, babe."

Stefan glanced down. Milo was hard already and they hadn’t even started yet. "I have an idea," he said with a laugh. "Here we go. Hung College Boy Jerks It for Daddy and Begs to Cum."

With a swipe of his thumb, Stefan transferred the video to the screen on the wall. With a tap, he set it to play.

"The title sounds promising," said Milo as he reached over to his nightstand to grab his tube of warming lube. He popped the cap and drizzled it all of his cock, spreading the slick gel all over his length as the first few seconds of the video played.

It started out dark. If not for the sound of rustling sheets filtering in from the sound system, Stefan might have suspected the player had encountered an error or something.

After a few seconds, a bedroom came into view. It was a phone camera but technology had advanced enough that it was pretty high quality regardless. The sound quality was nothing to scoff at, either.

There was a hint of a face, too brief to make anything out besides the faint brightness of two blue eyes, as whoever owned the camera made sure it was properly set up.

The camera was looking down an empty bed, which wasn’t empty for long as the subject of the video crawled into the frame. The young man was hot but the video only came up to his neck, hiding his face.

"Shit, he could model with that," muttered Milo, groaning as he stroked himself.

Stefan licked his lips as he lubed up and tugged on his cock. "Yeah, no kidding," he said.

The young man was smooth all over. His muscles were rock-hard—like they were chiseled from a block of marble. He didn’t have a shirt on but he was wearing a pair of sweatpants and he was kneeling on the bed with his knees wide apart and his hands braced against the bed behind him.

The heavy fabric of the sweatpants draped down between the young man’s legs. They betrayed the state of his arousal and the size of his endowment.

"Talk about hung," said Milo, whistling as he slid his back down the headrest of the bed in a vain attempt to compare his hard length against the outline in the young man’s sweat pants.

Stefan leaned over and kissed Milo on the top of the head. "You’re plenty hung for me, babe," he whispered."

The young man placed a hand on his chest. His fingers drifted down, curling around his nipple as his abs tensed and a low groan spilled from his lips. He tugged at the hard nub, the outline of his cock twitching.

"Shit," grunted Milo. "What a little tease."

Stefan chuckled. "Leave him alone, babe," he said as languidly stroked his hardness. "He’s putting on a show for daddy."

"Fair enough," Milo huffed, rubbing his thumb over the head of his cock.

The young man in the video continued. He moved his hand down the front of his body, fingers dipping into the crevices of his abs before slipping under the waistband of his sweatpants.

"Fuck, that’s hot," Stefan breathed.

Milo moaned in agreement.

They couldn’t actually see what was happening but the heavy fabric of the sweatpants gave them a decent idea. They could make out the outline of the young man’s fingers wrapped around his cock, stroking it to full hardness.

"Wish you were here, daddy…" breathed the young man.

Milo chewed on his lower lip. "He even sounds hot," he groaned, his hand flying up and down along the length of his cock, the lube squelching lewdly with every stroke.

Stefan nodded. "Sounds faintly familiar…" he said. "Can’t place it, though…" Not that he cared enough to try and figure it out. It was enough to watch a hot guy playing with himself.

"Look, daddy…" The young man sat up. He hooked the thumb of his free hand into the waistband of his sweatpants and shimmied them down his legs. He shucked them off and they fell out of the camera frame as he slapped his cock against the palm of his free hand. "I’m so hard for you. I’m so horny for you."

"Shit," Stefan groaned. "That daddy’s a lucky guy…"

Milo grunted in agreement. He wasn’t just stroking now, he was humping his hand, bucking his hips into the tight ring of his fingers.

The young man in the video groaned. He angled his cock down, changing his grip so he could stroke it while it pointed at the mattress.

He kept at it for a minute or so, his free hand idly playing with a nipple until he released his cock. It sprang up, rock hard and almost intimidating in its size.

The young man spat in his palm and grabbed his length, squeezing his fingers around the base as he worked his hand up and down his erection. He moaned, stomach tensing and releasing as he pumped his hips and thrust his cock into his hand.

"Daddy…" the young man moaned as he gradually increased his pace. His skin flushed pink as a faint sheen of sweat developed on his arms and legs.

The young man whined, mewling softly and desperately as he worked himself into a frenzy. He grunted and groaned, pumping his hips, fucking his hand—both hands, even, as he moved on to stroking with two.

"Oh, Gods. Daddy. Please. I want to cum. Please let me cum. Oh, Gods. Daddy, I’m so close! Please!" whined the young man.

Without realizing it, Stefan matched the young man’s pace. He groaned, throwing his head back and hitting it on the headboard as he stretched his legs out in front of him.

His back arched off the bed as the pleasure proved too much. His balls drew up against his body, the orgasm tearing out of him in thick ropes that splattered all over his chest and stomach.

Milo wasn’t far behind. The bedframe creaked as Milo dug his heels into the mattress and arched his back and hips off the bed. He thrust his cock into his hands and shot spurt after spurt of thick jism that marked the wall and the headboard behind him.

On the screen, the young man was still going. Now that they’d cum, though, Stefan had mostly lost interest. Milo wasn’t even watching anymore, just staring at the ceiling as he came down from the rush of orgasm.

Stefan closed the video and turned the screen off as he reached for the tissues on his nightstand. "That was hot," he said as he wiped himself down.

"No kidding," said Milo. After a few moments, he pushed himself back up into a sitting position, leaning with his back against the headrest. "Pretty cute that a hot guy like that could be into superheroes, though."

"Huh?" said Stefan. The comment seemed entirely out of place.

"You didn’t notice?" said Milo. "I thought you were, like, a superfan."

Stefan frowned. "I’m not sure what you’re talking about," he said.

"Pull it up again," said Milo.

Stefan saw no reason to think Milo was messing with him so he did as he was told and spun up the screen and the video yet again.

"Look. Over there. In the mirror behind the bed," said Milo.

"I swear to the Gods, babe. I don’t know how you notice…" Stefan trailed off as he realized what Milo was pointing at. It was small and in the background but unmistakable. It was a superhero costume, and not just any superhero’s. It was Justicar’s.

"Oh shit…" said Stefan.

It was Milo’s turn to be curious. It didn’t look like he’d expected Stefan’s reaction. "What’s wrong, babe?" he said.

"I just realized why the voice was familiar…" said Stefan.

A pleasant buzz of conversation hung in the air. Everyone in the room seemed excited and SNN’s Hall of Heroes correspondent Keith Sinclair wasn’t an exception.

A Hall of Heroes press conference was a decently big deal on most days. The network could typically milk at least a day or so of content from each one since the Hall didn’t hold conferences without good reason.

Today’s press conference was an irregularity, though. It seemed normal enough on a surface level but there were bits and pieces of the story that just didn’t add up.

For one thing, the post on the Hall of Heroes website announcing the conference had mysteriously disappeared minutes after being uploaded.

The official story was that the post had been a test of the site’s content management system. It was an excuse that might well have worked on the general public, but not on a bunch of journalists that smelled blood in the water.

One of Keith’s associates had rightly pointed out that the announcement had read too much like an official press conference announcement to have been a simple test. Indeed, it didn’t take long for news to spread through Keith’s media connections that there were crews out at the location specified in the announcement.

The location itself was another reason for suspicion. As far as anyone could tell, the warehouse belonged to a fairly nondescript company and wasn’t an official Hall of Heroes property.

Rather than dissuade Keith and his fellow reporters, the whole situation only made them want to get to the bottom of things even more. This was exactly the kind of story capable of capturing the public’s attention.

A hush fell over the gathered reporters as a man stepped up on stage. Keith looked over his shoulder and motioned for his cameraman to start rolling.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," said the man. He stood beside the podium, not behind it. "I won’t be tonight’s speaker but I just wanted to go over a few things before we begin."

The man was handsome, dressed in a sharp three-piece suit. His dirty blond hair was slicked back, an onyx the size of a thumbnail set in gold on his lapel.

The man chuckled. "You’re all professionals. You won’t mind hearing me out… Will you?" he said.

Keith shivered. There was something about the man’s voice, a peculiar characteristic in his timbre. Keith couldn’t put a finger on what it was but his ears tingled when he heard the man speak.

He added his voice to the murmured chorus of agreement. While the organizers of a press conference were free to make whatever restrictions they liked, it didn’t mean the press had to adhere to them. Still, he could at least hear the man out. He was professional enough to do that.

"Good," said the man. "There is only one thing. Nothing you see tonight will appear to be out of the ordinary. Everything you see and hear will be normal to you."

Keith chuckled. He was joined by the rest of his colleagues from the different networks. The press were going to be the judges of "out of the ordinary."

Still, he couldn’t help but feel a little bit bad. He’d thought there would be a story to chase here but it was looking like the press conference was going to end up being a fluff piece to make the Hall of Heroes look good.

The man at the front smirked. "Very well, then. Let’s begin," he said as he stepped away from the podium.

A door in the back of the room opened. In walked the Hall of Heroes’ newest and brightest: Justicar.

It seemed the hero had had a change of costume, though. Where once the silver, gold, and white of Justicar’s suit covered him from the neck down to his toes, he was now wearing his iconic colors in what appeared to be a leotard thong.

The fabric clung to his body and left very little to the imagination. It covered the middle of his torso, but not much else. The leg holes went all the way up to just under his waist while the armholes went down to just above the waist.

The leotard was just as tight between Justicar’s legs as anywhere else. It captured every detail: his tight balls and the bars of the metal cage wrapped around his cock. The pouch in the front also pushed Justicar’s package up, putting the sizable bulge on prominent display.

The change was interesting, to say the least. Keith had certain questions about the designer’s taste in putting Justicar in such an outfit but he wasn’t sure if such inquiries would be considered gauche.

Either way, it wasn’t really a matter worth thinking too much about. The new costume was novel, sure, but not exactly out of the ordinary.

Justicar walked out to stand in front of the podium. He struck a pose, puffing out his chest, tensing his stomach, and flexing both his biceps in front of the crowd.

It wasn’t the kind of thing Keith expected to see the young hero doing but he would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the show. Tight as the leotard was, all the flexing just made Justicar’s chiseled muscles stand out.

After a few seconds of posing, Justicar turned to his left. He flexed his arm toward the audience, showing off muscles that certainly seemed larger than they had been the last time he was in front of the camera.

It was also then that Keith caught a glimpse of perhaps more skin on Justicar’s back than he anticipated. Again, it wasn’t anything so outlandish as to warrant a story but it was unexpected.

Justicar turned again. This time, he showed his back to the gathered journalists. No wonder Keith had seen more skin than he expected—there was practically no cloth covering the hero’s back.

The two shoulder straps went over Justicar’s back and crossed just under the base of his neck. From there, they continued, spreading apart as they made their way to his waist where they joined the front of the leotard.

At the waist, the two straps "bounced" back across Justicar’s back, meeting just above the hero’s tight, muscular ass. From there, the fabric tapered into a thin strap firmly wedged between the hero’s chiseled cheeks.

All in all, the only fabric covering the back of Justicar’s muscular form were the hollow diamond formed by the extensions of the two shoulder straps and the very thin strap that quickly disappeared between Justicar’s meaty posterior.

Keith whistled softly to himself and watched with no small amount of appreciation as Justicar struck another pose.

Justicar looked over his shoulder and flashed a grin at the reporters and the cameramen. He flexed both his arms in a classic double-biceps pose and slid his legs apart ever so slightly before arching his back, pushing his ass out, and clenching his cheeks so that they swallowed the thong part of the leotard.

Just when Keith thought Justicar was done with his little display of sheer physicality, the young hero bent over in half, grabbing his ankles. In so doing, he made his tight ass cheeks spread ever so slightly apart, but just enough to show off the gold buttplug with a silver jewel buried between them.

Keith rubbed himself through his pants, a faint flush in his cheeks. He’d come for a press conference, not a show, but he wasn’t complaining.

Part of him couldn’t help but wish something exciting would happen, though. Justicar being a right little slut in front of him and all his colleagues in the news industry was nice and all, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that made the front page.

Justicar turned back around to face his audience. He saw that quite a few faces were flushed. That was good. He’d wanted to send a message by showing off his body, that he was strong, a serious threat, and not someone that could be so casually dismissed.

Mission accomplished, I think, he thought to himself with a little smirk.

Instead of taking his place behind the podium, Justicar sank to his knees. It was unconventional, sure, but he didn’t want to be known as the hero that did everything by the book.

Since the stage was raised, he wanted to be closer to the reporters. To the people he was supposed to be protecting.

Because that was what he wanted to be known as: a hero of the people. It was the good kind of title. Even though he found most ‘normal’ people to be boring and contemptible even on a good day.

He spread his legs. He didn’t want to seem closed off or standoffish, after all. It was a sign of vulnerability. Of trust.

He also made sure to thrust his hips forward. He wanted the people to see the cage fastened around his cock.

If the people saw it, he knew they’d assume he’d taken a vow of chastity until he’d brought all the villains of Seaside City to justice. Truth was, he just enjoyed the feeling of being so horny.

There was only one more thing he had left to do. He had to look heroic. He knelt with his back straight and his chest puffed proudly out and he adopted the stereotypical hero pose: both hands on his nipples, squeezing, tweaking, and tugging on them the whole time.

"Good evening, friends," Justicar began. "Good evening, citizens of Seaside City." He looked at the cameras and angled himself to make sure they caught his best side.

"As you are aware, I recently issued a challenge to the archvillain Imperious and his twisted gang of cronies, the Azure Synod." Justicar’s cock twitched as he rubbed his index fingers in tight circles around his nipples.

"And as you witnessed mere days ago, they proved themselves cravens," said Justicar, speaking with as much conviction as he could muster. "They pride themselves on being the most dangerous men in all of Seaside City and yet when a hero challenges them, they choose to flee, instead. They choose to make a mockery of him."

Justicar grunted as he thrust his hips into the air. "I will not let it stand," he said. "If they will not come to me, then I will go to them!"

Quiet moans spilled from Justicar’s lips as he rocked his hips, humping the air, his caged cock swinging between his legs. "I will bring an end to Seaside City’s suffering. Imperious will go down!"

Justicar released a nipple and grabbed his package, shaking his locked manhood as he continued. "I will serve him justice! And he will eat every bite!"

A low groan escaped Justicar as he threw his head back. "I will take him down, even if it’s the last thing I do!"

Justicar’s head whipped forward. He looked at the camera, resolve burning in his eyes. "Bring it on, Imperious!" he said. "Show me your best. I will take everything you throw at me!

"You will not escape justice! I will bring you in to answer for your crimes!

"And once I have delivered you to the cell you deserve to rot in for the rest of your life, I will go after the rest of your ilk and make sure Seaside City is safe evermore!

"Because let me tell you, Imperious. I am a hero! I am a fighter! And above all, I am tenacious, determined, and relentless!

"Good people of Seaside City, I promise you, I will see this to the end. You can trust me!

"I will never abandon you!

"And I will always fight for you!"

Imperious sat in his study, arms draped over the sides of his plush, high-backed chair as his lovely little thundercloud flicked a video from his phone to a nearby screen.

The subject of footage was kneeling at his feet, still dressed in the thong leotard Imperious had had him wear during the press conference. There was one addition to the outfit, though: a well-made leather collar with a D-ring in the front and a charm in the shape of his old hero emblem.

Imperious idly stroked his fingers through the fallen hero’s hair as he motioned for Corey to play the video. In truth, he didn’t much care for the footage. He just wanted to hear the words that had spilled from his newest pet’s mouth because he was certain they weren’t the same words Justicar had thought he was speaking.

It began.

Good evening… losers. Good evening… feckless sheep… of Seaside City.

As you are aware, I recently issued… a proposition… to the… incredibly hot daddy Imperious… and… his sexy villain friends… the Azure Synod.

As you witnessed mere days ago, they proved themselves… massive teases… They pride themselves on being the most dangerous men in all of Seaside City and yet, when… a slut like me propositions… them, they choose to… string him along, instead. They choose to… be massive cock teases to… him.

I will not let it stand! If they will not come… on me… then I will… throw myself at their feet and beg them to use me like the whore I am!

I will bring… every ounce of sluttiness I have. Daddy… will go down… on me!

I will serve him… like a good little whore! And he will eat… my ass until I beg him to stuff me with his cock!

I will take him down… to bed and beg him to split my slutty muscle cunt open with his big fat villain cock!

Bring it… out Daddy! Show me your… thick hog… I will take every… last inch of your beautiful, domineering cock!

You will not escape… my slutty hole as I clamp around your length! I will bring you… to the edge and milk every last drop of superior villain cum from you with my tight super-pussy!

And once I have delivered… every last dreg of dignity and self-respect I have to you… I will… blast my pathetic "hero" load all over myself!

Because let me tell you… Daddy… I am a… humiliating disgrace! I am a… sorry excuse for a hero! And above all, I am a… degenerate and unrepentant slut!

Good people of Seaside City, I promise you, I will… betray you the instant a villain shows his superior cock to me! You can trust me… to abandon all my principles to get my hole filled!

I will never… refuse a rough, humiliating fuck!

I will always… turn my back on everything I stand for if it means getting a fat, juicy villain load up my hole!

Imperious laughed and waved his hand, dismissing the video. He looked down at Justicar and chuckled. "Such a good pet," he murmured. "I’m certain Seaside City will enjoy this side of their beloved hero."

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