Long time, no see, eh? *sweatdrop* Yeah... I'm so so sorry about the long wait for this latest chapter, I'm still working on my timing. Can I try to (somewhat, not really) make it up to you by giving out a fast fact about the story? Well, here it is if you're interested: The name of the town that this is set in, "Dorad", is based off of the Spanish word dorado, which means "golden". It's a reference to San Fransisco, the "golden gate city", which I'm pretty sure (haven't checked for confirmation) is what Jump City is supposed to be based off of ^_^ When I start adding school scenes later in the story, I'll probably mention the high school mascot as the Golden Eagle – now you know why... corny as that may be...
Chapter Four: Summer Days
Kim's question lingered through the summer air, as the three amateur sleuths soon found that their plans were far easier said than done. In the weeks that followed that fateful encounter, they met up nearly every chance they had, discussing their shared heritage and trying to brainstorm ways to get the information they wanted.
It was far from easy. The only people who knew the locations of the other heroes were the members of AOSSHU – and they were the ones who had forced the Titans to separate in the first place. The organization was secretive and highly secure, as a protection for its "clients" against those who would have them destroyed. Although there was an administrative center in Dorad for the Grayson (and now the Roth) families, and all three of the teens had visited it on multiple occasions, the security protecting its database remained too tight for them to infiltrate.
Getting information on the story behind the big break-up turned out to be slightly less impossible. The three knew the basics, naturally: Over the course of a couple months, the supervillains of the world had stopped showing their faces, as if they had given up crime for good or simply vanished. The heroes had suspected trickery and tried to investigate the disappearance, but to no avail. They had turned to stopping petty criminals and other jobs that they were normally too busy to face, only to find that they were too powerful for these simpler tasks, and did more harm than good. That was when AOSSHU (a civilian association that had been formed a year or two beforehand to help keep the superhero forces organized) had decided that it would be better for the heroes to "vanish" as well.
* * * * *
"Here," Kim announced one afternoon as she set an aged newspaper clipping down in front of her friends. "I found this in the library yesterday. It's about some of the old villains."
Jenna reached for the clipping, eager as always to discover what information it held. She began to read the article aloud.
"City still in the dark as to whereabouts of escaped convicts
"When the "Hive Five" supervillain team escaped Jump City prison two weeks ago, they were expected to soon make an appearance committing burglary, launching an attack on the police force or the Titans West, or spreading general chaos. It was not expected that they would join in the string of sudden disappearances that now seems to be affecting all of Jump City's worst.
"The escape of this long-standing team of villains has been thoroughly investigated, and reports indicate that the job was done by an outsider, who forced his or her way into the prison undetected and freed the convicts within. At the time of the break-in, security cameras were lost to interference, and guards were unable to locate or even catch a glimpse of the intruder. The job is expected to have been completed by a veteran criminal, although the reason for the break-in, as well as the reason for the disappearance of the Hive Five, is still unknown. Further investigations are currently being performed by the police force and the Titans West.
"Although the Hive Five has been a threat to the city since its members were teenagers, it has not participated in many large-scale schemes since the destruction of the HIVE Academy. The team was first formed due to its members' association within the academy, and…
"…Blah blah history stuff we already knew," Jenna concluded. She looked back up at the others.
Matt glanced over the page curiously. "So, these guys escaped from prison right before they went into hiding?" He furrowed his brow. "Doesn't sound like they were giving up crime to me."
Jenna nodded. "Yeah," she agreed, "It sounds like they were planning to be part of something big." She traced over the part about the outsider's assistance with her finger. "And they weren't the only ones planning it."
Kim nodded. "That's what I thought when I saw it." Her face darkened. "Do you think they might not have been the ones planning it at all?" she suggested. "I mean, what if the guy who broke in was some person who wanted to take the law into their own hands? What if they just got the supervillains out so they could…?" She trailed off.
"Kill them?" Matt guessed. Kim nodded an affirmative, but Jenna replied with a thoughtful frown.
"Considering they haven't been heard from since, that is a pretty good theory. But… I don't know; it just doesn't seem to fit." She looked back at the clipping. "If someone wanted to just kill all the baddies, why would they let them out of jail first? Wouldn't it be easier to finish someone off while they're trapped behind bars?"
Matt shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe they just didn't like people with superpowers in the first place, and decided that making the villains 'disappear' would make the public nervous enough that they'd get rid of the heroes as well."
Jenna chuckled lightly. "So we're back to square one now?" she interpreted. "Whoever organized this was trying to get rid of the heroes… looks like that's the most likely reason we can come up with for this whole mess."
Matt grinned as he added, "Or we could just be paranoid."
At that moment, the three heard an outside door open. The discussion halted immediately, and Kim stuffed the bit of newspaper into the handbag that she had brought it home in. They then began an apparently fascinating discussion over what classes they would be taking once school started up again.
After a few minutes, Kim's father "Samuel" appeared in the doorway.
"Now, are you three going to spend the entire evening in this room, or are we going to the barbeque?"
* * * * *
It soon became clear that Kim wasn't accustomed to fireworks.
The girl couldn't seem to decide whether she was enchanted or terrified by the iconic Fourth of July event. She would almost routinely jump back whenever a firecracker went off or a rocket exploded in the air, only to gaze in awe as the starburst lit up the night sky. Of the neighborhood kids who weren't too absorbed in the display to notice her behavior, the nastier ones whispered snide remarks to one another while others simply spared her a curious glance. Matt and Jenna, meanwhile, just exchanged a knowing look.
"We don't exactly have fireworks where I'm from," the Azerathean had earlier disclosed to them, under her breath.
Meanwhile, the adults at the party quickly found themselves absorbed in the topic that their conversations always drifted to – their children.
"It's good to see Kim talking and laughing with the others," Samuel said as he watched his daughter.
Richard Grayson nodded. "She seems like a pretty quiet girl," he commented.
"Yes," Samuel agreed. "She has always been a little shy, so I was afraid that she would have a difficult time making friends when we moved here." He turned to his neighbor. "She's really getting along well with your two."
Richard chuckled in agreement, but as after a moment he folded his arms and sighed. "I just don't get it," he murmured, more to himself than his friend. "Jenna and Matt are outgoing enough, but they never seem to get very close with any of their friends. They mostly just hang out with one another… At least, that was the case until they met Kim. I can't help but wonder… What's changed?"
To be honest, there was something odd about the entire Roth family. He couldn't quite put a finger on it – It wasn't like any of them looked or acted strange, but there seemed to be something overly familiar about them. It was almost as if…
Richard shook his head slightly. No, that was silly. He'd never met any of them until they had moved into the neighborhood. The husband was from Europe, after all.