“This is unacceptable.”
Lately Alpha Dog was repeating the same refrain, but he was usually a man of conviction so this should not have come as a surprise to anyone, if they compared notes ahead of time. Except it was unlikely that the two groups in question would have. His squire Bruin shifted uncomfortably in front of him.
“You are not going to have anything more to do with them,” Alpha Dog continued. “You’re going to quit this, and do everything you can to discourage the rest of them. Immediately.”
Bruin was a large man himself, but there was very little getting around the ego of Alpha Dog. As one of the acknowledged premier heroes of the world, he had every right to think highly of himself, and he wasted no time in devouring such a rating, suffering no fools and strutting around and generally making sure that everyone knew, whether they knew or not, exactly who he was and how important a position he was in. To be fair, a name like “Alpha Dog” doesn’t happen by accident.
The dynamic between Alpha Dog and Bruin was even more codified. Being the best and most important of the two by definition, Alpha Dog controlled everything Bruin did as a superhero, directed his movements and actions, and demanded the best possible performance from him, and hopefully what resulted benefited everyone. Bruin might have a word or two to say about that. You might hear him grumbling about it, and you wouldn’t have to try too hard, either.
For one thing, he wondered why, if Alpha Dog was so great, that he sat back and let others fight his battles for him. He didn’t suffer the excuse that the Council was busy making the policies that shaped the future with any kind of humor. But then, he went by the name “Bruin.”
“I think you’re being unfair and irrational,” he replied.
“I don’t think it’s your place. You can be replaced,” Alpha Dog said.
As crazy as it sounded, the threat was real. There were always other heroes who could fill the role of Alpha Dog’s squire, and what was even more crazy was that outside of his patronage, Bruin was not likely to have the chance to practice his chosen craft. There were few heroes who could afford it. The craziest thing about it was that without sanction, all the ability in the world would not allow someone as effective as Bruin to be a superhero without working within the existing framework.
Of course, what the Witch Doctor had proposed could change all of that, and that’s what Alpha Dog now feared, and what might have changed his dynamic with Bruin, and they both knew it.
“You don’t trust any of your squires,” Bruin said. “You take us for granted. That tends to be noticed after a while. When’s the last time one of yours even graduated to solo status?”
“The last time they earned it,” Alpha Dog. “Mind yourself or you’ll find out what it’s like to try without my consent, or rather, with my blessing. If you know what I mean.”
“You don’t threaten your allies,” Bruin said.
“The Council are my allies,” Alpha Dog said. “You’re just the help.”
“Glad to know where we all stand,” Bruin said.
“You’d better,” Alpha Dog said. “Now, put this nonsense behind you. I expect you to take that look off your face and do as I say, and be happy about it. So be a good boy and play fair.”