I felt numb and incoherent as I stumbled towards my room. My body was still stiff from the residual effects of Temple’s power.
Temple, I thought. Chaos. I recognize that. The connections were frustratingly slow to form in my mind. He said he was in the army. I remembered now where I’d heard the name before. Commander Chaos. He was a comic book villain or something. He’s Temple? I thought the CEO of Temple Sun was… someone else.
I shambled through the double doors leading into Planchett Hall, thoughts whirling now. I could hear conversation from the entrance into the common room.
Why did he think I would kill Myriad for him? Why didn’t he do it himself? And what was his power? Reminded me of Basilisk. I shivered, recalling the blinding, burning light.
“The nation mourns the loss of a legend today with the death of Paragon, a national hero and role model for the world.”
The somber newscaster’s voice tore me out of my reverie as I walked past the entrance to the common room. I peered through the doorway and saw a group of students clustered around the flatscreen television mounted on the wall. On the screen was an image of Paragon, slowly panning out from his masked face.
Paragon is dead? I froze. How?
The camera perspective changed to show a building toppling in slow motion as a tiny group of heroes tried to deflect its fall.
“The aftermath of the second nightmare attack on Collswell City since 2000 has many questioning whether it is a safe place to live,” said the news anchor.
A nightmare event? How did I miss that?
“It is a statistical anomaly,” chimed in another voice. “And besides, the docks being so thoroughly destroyed so soon before repairs on the subway system are supposed to wrap up will be a serious blow to the city’s economy.”
“Assholes,” said Kevin’s over the sound from the television. “Talking about how this will affect the economy? People fucking died.”
“Yeah, but you do have to consider the long-term effects,” added another student. “Collswell is like, one of the primary shipping ports in the country.”
“Fuck you!” Kevin snapped.
The crowd dissolved into conversation argument, and I could no longer hear the news report over the argument. Probably better to get this online, I thought. I missed too much. I left the common room behind and headed up the stairs to my room.
I entered the room to find Sean lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. His blond hair was plastered to his head, and he spun something small and metallic in his hands- a ring, I guessed.
Oh. Paragon died.
“You know, everyone on this floor is a metahuman,” Sean said, voice flat.
“Really?” I said carefully. I moved into the room and sat on my own bed, looking across at him, trying to gauge his emotional state.
“Yeah.” He paused. “Which means you lied to me,” he said, accusing. “A lot is starting to make sense now. You know I’m Guardian Angel, don’t you?”
I paused. “Yeah,” I said at last, deciding on honesty. “Since the first day we met.”
Sean’s voice turned bitter. “Figures. I guess I really am just that clueless. But I think I have it figured out now.” He flicked the ring up into the air and caught it. “Kevin is Dark Archon. Did you know that?”
“What?” I asked, surprised.
“I guess not. I just figured it out a day or so ago, but it looks like I still beat you on that one. And Wren’s been on Denudine this whole time and didn’t know it.”
“Shit,” I said. That makes sense, strange as it is.
“Yup. Oh, and it turns out Liam worked for Blackwell. A lot of stuff makes sense now. The only missing piece is you. I’m fucking tired. Of secrets, of lies. So don’t make me figure it out.” He raised his voice for the first time towards the end.
“I-” Sean’s bloodshot gaze snapped over to me, freezing me mid-sentence.
“Today, Davy Jones killed my father, and then I killed him,” he let out a breath. “Yesterday, I pushed a man off a building to his death, and then shot someone.”
My instincts screamed at me to think up some clever excuse, some reason why I could be innocent in this. I’m in a band, came to my lips, and it was difficult to stop myself from blurting it out. That’s why I’m gone so often, why I’m behind on homework, why I never go to parties.
“I know I probably shouldn’t trust you,” Sean continued, “but goddammit I need to tell someone this stuff. If your life is at all as crazy as mine, I’d bet you do too, so stop hiding who you are. I don’t care, I just want to know.”
I stayed silent for a while, struggling with myself. Why is this so hard? I know he’s right- we’re both in over our heads. It was so tempting just to fall back on the easy lies.
“I’m Shadow,” I blurted out. Just saying it felt unnatural.
“Hah. Figures. You are related to Denizen, aren’t you? If it wasn’t for the voice I probably could have guessed.” He gave a wry grin. “You know, I expected a lot worse.”
“And there is something I need to tell you,” I confessed, forcing myself to confide. This isn’t something I want to deal with myself. “Temp-” I stopped. Mentioning Temple, I recalled the blinding light burning through me and shivered. Oh crap, I realized. What if he has some kind of mental power? Commandant showed that it’s possible. I can’t mention this to him. Not right now. “Virtue is up to something. They’re naming Rob Banks the new head of the Collswell branch.”
“Yeah? Well I’ve discovered that there’s a psychopathic psychologist out there deliberately turning metahumans into Nightmares,” he countered.
“Woah,” I said. “You win.” I felt queasy at the possibility.
He sighed. “I’m pretty sure that’s not a good thing. Damn it feels good to talk about this, though. Wow.” He sat up. “The worst part is, there are absolutely no leads. We have no idea where he’s going next. We’ll have to wait until he surfaces again, unless we can track him down somehow. And then I’m going to kill that motherfucker.” He paused, then said, “Do the voice.”
“Huh?” I said, surprised by the sudden change in topic.
“Do the voice,” he repeated. “You know, the James Earl Jones thing.”
“James Earl…” I trailed off, finally realizing what he meant. “Oh, right, yeah.” I cleared my throat and let my power into my throat a bit.
I was about to speak, but was beaten to the punch by a knock at the door.
“Hey Sean, you there?” said Kevin from the hall.
“What is it?” Sean asked.
“Wren’s back,” he said.
“Back?” I asked. “He was gone? I mean, again?”
“When?” said Sean at the same time.
“Just now,” Kevin said, ignoring my question.
Sean stood, slipped the ring he was holding onto a finger and opened the door. Kevin stepped in.
“You’re Dark Archon,” I said.
He stopped. “Yeah,” he said. “Is that a problem?”
“You fought for Blackwell,” I accused.
“He also fought against them,” Sean said. “And Blackwell did kind of kidnap Wren.”
That’s right. And I did a job for Blackwell too, even if it was to rescue Charity.
“Okay, but we all need to talk.”
“Later, please. There are more important things right now.” He and Sean started out the door.
I was about to ask what he meant when I realized. He said Wren had been on Denudine. That must mean he has powers. Oh. I hurried after them.
We rushed past the crowd that was still watching the news coverage of the aftermath of the Nightmare attack. I caught one sentence as we walked past.
“-Banks, newly-appointed leader of the Collswell branch of Virtue has pledged to help house those displaced by-“
I wonder if that’s altruism or publicity, I thought cynically before we reached the door.
Outside, it was full dark, and thinking back, it had been when I’d arrived as well. How long was I gone? I wondered.
“This way,” Kevin said, as he lead us around to the side of the building.
“Is he okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, he’s just… not used to having powers. I figured we-” he paused and looked back at me “-could help with that.”
“Yeah,” I said. “What are they?”
“I dunno, but I think it’s some kind of Trump, or a Joker. Something weird.”
“Yeah, it’s too similar to…” Kevin trailed off without finishing the sentence.
“So, uh, what did I miss?” I asked.
“Last night, we searched through Liam’s laptop and found out that it was him who kidnapped Wren for Blackwell, and Wren teleported him away. We weren’t sure-”
“I was here last night. How did I miss this?” I asked.
“You weren’t here last night,” Sean said, confused.