One of the side windows on the Garden Terrace Old Age and Retirement home burst into pieces and a blinding ball of electricity spun out and crackled to nothingness in the open air. None of the elderly people sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch a few feet away seemed upset. A large woman, her hair an unnatural shade of black, her mouth a slash of bright red lipstick said, "The man is eighty-three. You'd think he could control his temper by now."
In the rocking chair a few feet away a large man with weathered skin and a gnarled mass of scar tissue on his knuckles rumbled, "Well he wouldn't be here if he wasn't screwed up."
A second rocking chair on the porch drifted back and forth quietly without any breeze. From where they sat they could hear a nurse remonstrating with the creator of the electric ball.
The black haired woman sniffed. "I still say we're not totally useless."
The large man snorted. "You can say that all you want, Hestia, but the next time you have to rip open your own skin to save somebody, you might change your mind about retirement."
Hestia opened her mouth to retort, but instead just watched him as he stood up, stooped but huge, and stumped back into the home. She sighed and sat down heavily in the other available rocking chair.
"Nobody could expect more of Andrew," a light, quavering voice said. "He gave so much."
There was no one obviously on the porch except Hestia, and the empty rocking chairs but she nodded at what the voice said, her hand on her chin. "I didn't mean active duty, Ina. Heavens, I don't want to set myself on fire again, trying to throw a fireball at some gangbanger. I don't know what I meant—but I'm only seventy-seven. That's not too old. Except for some skin grafts and my hip replacement…and the damage from the smoke inhalation, and…well, never mind. I was willing to quit, to be happy, and heal, but it's been five years and now I just want to be part of something again."
"Hestia, we're more than our jobs." Ina's disembodied voice was gently chiding. "We have hobbies now. That's what all retired people do, even ones that didn't work for the government or fight crime or do anything spectacular."
Hestia narrowed her eyes at the gently rocking rocking chair. "Speaking of, where's your knitting needles? I thought you were all excited about that scarf."
"Oh," the voice sounded sheepish, "Yes. Well, I suppose I didn't want to only work on the scarf all day…"
Hestia made a fond "tcha" sound. "Silly goose." She hefted herself out of her chair with a groan. "Well I'm going in for a cup of tea. Care to join?"
On their way back to the apartment they shared, Hestia and Ina approached Apartment 4B, home of Mr. Electro, creator of the recent electrical explosion, and saw Nurse Rigley leaning against the wall outside of his door. Hestia nudged Ina with her elbow (but missed) "Look, it's Jessie. Prepare to be drowned in sugary condescension."
Ina snorted. Jessie Rigley was not looking her usual neat, efficient self. Her hair was coming out of her bun, her face was red, and there was a suspicious shininess in her eyes.
Hestia stalked past her least favorite nurse. Talking to her was like getting dumped in sweet tea, if your sweet tea normally speaks to you like you're a dull three year old. But two steps beyond apartment 4B, she heard a muffled sob, and almost unwilled by their owner, her feet stopped. She turned around to look at the distraught nurse.
"Honey," she said, trying not to let the sarcasm edge its way into her voice, "what's wrong?"
"Oh don't you worry your head about me!" Jessie tried to tuck her hair back into her bun with trembling hands "It's not something you would understand."
Hestia bristled, but felt Ina's hand on her arm and her friend's faint voice said, "You look all upset, dear. Why don't you come have tea with us?"