Sean trudged back to the university by the light of the streetlamps. He shivered as a light mist of rain condensed on his skin and clothes. Not heavy enough to be considered proper rain, but still…
He reached down to adjust his gloves, and fumbled at his wrist for a moment, confused.
I’m missing a glove. Where did it…
Sean stopped in his tracks as he remembered.
I killed someone today.
He stood in the gentle, icy rain for a few minutes.
Why don’t I feel more… guilty? Sean wondered, and he couldn’t silence the small, quiet part of himself that insisted, he deserved it. He tried to kill me, and I tried to save him. I did my part. And yet… It was because of the gloves that he fell. Because of my… Vanity?
He started to peel off his other glove without consciously deciding to do so, and let it fall to the damp concrete.
How am I supposed to react to this?
He looked up to the sky for answers, and only got an eyeful of rain.
It had stopped by the time he made it back to the dorm. He saw a speck of white drifting past the light as he swiped his student ID in front of the RFID reader.
He shivered again.
Feels cold enough. It got cold fast this year.
He ducked through the door, eager to get into the warmth inside the building.
“That is one hell of a black eye,” he heard Shasha say. “How’d you manage that?”
“You know, you probably aren’t allowed to just teleport into the dorms without permission to enter,” Sean said, turning to face where her voice had come from, his voice weary.
“Oh, I know, but I don’t think they care,” Sasha said from where she leaned on the elevator door. “They really don’t want to lose students. There are few enough of us already.” Sean understood that she was talking about the metahumans in the student body. “You going to answer my question?”
“I was in a gang fight.” Sean said, trying to make his tone sarcastic.
It’s easier to disbelieve the truth than believe a lie. I think that’s what Will said.
Sasha raised an eyebrow.
“Nah, I wish it was that interesting,” Sean said. “I walked right into a door. Dumbass mistake.”
“I bet you were actually in a gang fight. You’re Guardian Angel,” Sasha said matter-of-factly. “Just figured it out. Like, twenty minutes ago. I knew you were in our class, saw you in the power training classes, and the one time at that party you said you could fly…” She paused and cocked her head. “Plus, you totally have that Paragon jawline. He is your uncle, after all.”
Sean groaned. “No point denying it. We’re both in the Program, after all,” he said, too tired to argue.
“That’s funny. I got the same response-” Sasha stopped herself. “Wait, does Will know? For that matter, do you-” Sasha cut herself off mid-sentence.
“I don’t think so.” Sean said. “Wait, do I what?”
“Nevermind,” Sasha said, too quickly. “How’d you…” Sasha started to say, then stopped again.
“How’d I what? And what was that about a moment ago? Finish your sentences, please.”
Ugh, getting irritable. Too tired to be polite.
“Son of a bitch. Paragon’s you’re uncle. That’s how you got into one of the major teams before you were even done training. Reeks of nepotism.” She wrinkled her nose and kicked off of the elevator door. “Lucky bastard.”
“Hey! It’s the family business,” Sean protested. “What does it matter? And who better to train me than my uncle?”
“I don’t think…” Sasha paused and looked confused for a moment, starting at the floor, then her face shifted into anger. She resumed speaking, more slowly. “…we should be talking about this in the-”
She heaved the bag she was carrying into the air. It stopped suddenly and dropped to the floor with a *thump.* Sean jumped back, surprised.
“Open!” Sasha finished. “Got you! I can feel you looking, fucker.”
The door of the dorm opened, then closed. Sasha sprinted through the door, and after a moment of confusion, Sean thought Hold on, invisibility. Invisabro!
“Liam!” He said out loud, then ran after Sasha.
The scene outside was not what he expected. The air was filled with flickering glints of light, reflected from the lamps around the quad and a flurry of dark shapes spiralling through the air. The upper torso of a figure coalesced from the storm of dark shapes, glinting in the light. A sharp pain cut across Sean’s face as he stepped forward towards it.
Ow! What was that? Glass?
The figure turned toward Sean in an instant. It hovered in the air for a moment staring at him, then dissolved into fragments, which joined the storm of shards whipping around the quad.
Where’s Sasha? Sean wondered. He looked around the quad, but didn’t see her. Or, for that matter, any sign of Liam.
The doors burst open again behind Sean, and he turned to see Wren step out of the dorm.
“What the hell is going on out here?”
The maelstrom of what appeared to be glass shards exploded outwards to cover the entire quad, then converged again to a point across the landscaped park between the residential buildings.
Liam appeared at the focus of the vortex, stumbling and crying out in pain.
“What the fuck is that?” Sasha’s voice asked from behind Sean.
Sean flinched away, surprised at her appearance.
“I think I know,” Sean said. “Dark Archon. I saw him at the raid on Blackwell HQ.” Sean remembered that Wren was there too and added, “On the news.”
“Fuck,” Wren muttered. “He promised.”
Shit. Want to pretend I didn’t hear that, but I can’t, can I?
“Wren, who promised what?” Sean said.
Wren looked surprised,
“Dark Archon. When I was kidnapped, he was really sympathetic.”
“Bullshit,” Sasha said. “That’s like, Stockholm syndrome 101.”
She waited for a response, and got none.
“Wren, you’re sweet, but you are naive. You were played. Good-cop, bad-cop, except with superpowered gangsters. They’re really tough on you, then one of them slips in and says he understands, that he’s only cooperating because they have his wife hostage or something, right?”
“Sasha, what the hell?” Sean said. Wren was silent, his face passive.
Sasha continued. “And he tells you, let’s see, that he’ll try to get you out, and he’ll go after the guys that took you once he gets his metaphorical wife out?”
Wren finally spoke. “Right on all counts except one.”
“Uh, he actually did help out with the assault on the Blackwell headquarters, and now he’s after Liam, who was the one who abducted Wren in the first place,” Sean pointed out. “He might be legit.”
“He- Oh, you might me right. Woah,” Sasha said.
“It was Liam?” Wren asked. “Son of a bitch.” He looked over at Dark Archon and Liam.
Dark Archon had pinned Liam to a tree, quite literally. Jagged, glinting needles had impaled his coat to one of the trees in the quad and left him struggling to remove it. Dark Archon’s main body approached him, now reassembled. The lights on the buildings glinted off his angular body, his arms ending in rough spikes at the forearms.
“Wait, don’t kill him!” Wren shouted, sprinting across the quad. Sean and Sasha ran after him.
Dark Archon’s upper body rotated to face Wren, while his legs remained stationary. Wren reached the tree and stopped. He stared at Liam for a few moments until Sean and Sasha caught up. Up close, Dark Archon appeared to be made of one solid crystal. Similar, he noticed, to the crystals Felsic created, but darker.
“So it was you?” Wren said. Sean was surprised at how calm he sounded.
“Let me fucking go!” Liam said, struggling against Dark Archon’s spikes.
“No. Did they pay you? Threaten you? Or did you just do it for kicks?” Wren leaned in and inspected Liam with a critical gaze.
“Fuck you, Castor.”
Dark Archon stepped forward, but Wren stopped him with one hand.
“Another non-answer. You really need to work on that.” Wren said. “Let’s see if I remember the official story. You spent a few day snooping around, then replaced my meds with Denudine so you could sneak me out of the dorm during the evacuation without leaving a trail, is that right?”
“Yeah,” Sasha said.
“Denudine?” Liam said. “I never did that. It wasn’t me!” He continued to try to struggle out of his coat. “It fucking wasn’t me!”
“I know,” Wren said as he leaned against the tree next to Liam. “I figured that out myself.”
Liam stopped struggling. “Shit.”
“It’s a funny thing, really. I always hoped I’d get powers. Then I’d have an excuse for being different.”
“Oh shit, you guys, you have to let me go,” Liam pleaded to Sean and Sasha.
“They told me I was diabetic, but that’s not true, is it?” Wren directed this to Dark Archon. “You didn’t swap it with Denudine. It was always Denudine.”
“Wren, what are you talking about?” Sasha asked.
“I’m off my meds.”
A burst of white light blinded Sean for a moment, and by the time his vision had recovered, Wren was gone, along with Liam, and the entire tree.
“Did that just happen?” Sean said, stunned.
He stood at the lip of a small crater taken out of the residential quad where Wren had vanished a tree, with Liam still pinned to it. Dark Archon was gone, though whether he had left while Sean was blinded or vanished along with Wren and Liam was unclear.
“I think it did,” Sasha said. She’d fallen down, and was now sitting on the lip of the crater. “Wren’s a metahuman too. Damn, I was on such a roll. Did not see that one coming.” Sasha started laughing. “You know what’s funny? I think everyone I know here is a metahuman.”
“Huh?” Sean looked at her. She wore a calculating expression.
“They must know, somehow. Put all the metahumans in the same dorms, even if they aren’t all in the hero program.”
“What are you saying? What about Will?”
“Seriously, his grandfather was Denizen of the Dark. Plus, he’s like a compulsive liar or something. Do you seriously believe he’s not a metahuman?”
“I guess…” Sean paused thoughtfully, “not.” He looked to Sasha again, and this time his gaze was harsh. “Why were you so tough on Wren?”
“We haven’t really been seeing eye-to-eye since he got back.” Sasha said.
“What’s that supposed to mean? He’d been abducted! That has to have been traumatic.”
“No, I mean, finding out like that…”
“What, that he has powers?”
“No, that he… ugh. Nevermind.”
“You know what, today had been crazy enough.” Sean waved a hand and started to head back to the building. “I’m going to sleep. I’m going to be raiding a submarine tomorrow.”