Author note: No chapter next week, probably, since I’ll be out of the country again.
A harsh buzz woke me up from a fitful sleep. I opened my eyes and glanced towards the source. My phone, plugged in on the windowsill, vibrated against the wood. I sat up.
“Yo, classes are cancelled,” Sean said from where he sat at his desk. “The city’s in a state of emergency.”
I grabbed my phone and checked the time. 11:00.
“Shit,” I muttered, then turned to Sean. “Did I miss anything?”
“Nope.” He tapped the earpiece he wore. “I’ve been talking with Jamisson and Mind for about half an hour-” he paused. “-and Lazarus, yes. Oh yeah, did you hear? Rob Banks let a bunch of Temple Sun goons into Laztech and uploaded the schematic for the Nullifier to the internet.”
“Yeah, Jamisson told me,” I said, then trailed off. “Oh shit.”
“Yup. We’re gonna be out of a job soon. And that’s not even covering the news coming out of Japan, but that can wait.”
“Wait, news from Japan? How?” I asked. I opened a browser on my phone and checked a random news site.
The first headline read: Breaking: Metatron vanished as rebels seize Japanese capital.
I read the second: MetaTech: Will new tech from Japan save us… Or enslave us?
I looked up and realized Sean was still talking. “-Wardens of Tomorrow, apparently.”
“How were they… nevermind. Rob Banks. Has he recovered?” I stood up and grabbed my own hero-issue earpiece off my dresser where I’d tossed it the night before.
“Not yet,” Sean said.
“That about sums it up,” said a rough but lighthearted voice in my ear.
“I added you to the call,” Sean said. His voice echoed through the earpiece.
“Hello Lazarus,” I said, modulating my voice for his benefit.
Sean grinned at me and suppressed a laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I mouthed at him, and couldn’t help but smile back. While the voice matched the sinister dark blur of my hero persona, I knew seemed really out of place on me.
“Shadow, the ITAB has corroborated what we found yesterday,” Jamisson said. “It looks like Temple and Randwulf have been playing an international game of cat-and-mouse.”
“And leaving a lot of bodies in their wake,” I said.
“The police still haven’t found the stolen swat vans, so-“
“-my son? Where’s my son!” roared a voice in the distance.
“Sounds like Adrian finally showed,” Jamisson observed.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes. Gotta suit up,” I said. I picked up one of the parts of my body armor and pulled it on.
A few minutes later, I teleported to Jamisson.
“Morning, Sir,” I said to Adrian Banks as he stumbled back, surprised at my appearance. “I apologize, I should have given more warning.”
“No, it’s- It’s Shadow, right?” he asked. I nodded. “It’s fine. I’m a bit of a mess right now.”
That he was. His short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair was in wild disarray, and his clothes had probably been selected at random rather than by a focus group. This did little, however, to reduce the mayoral gravitas he’d accumulated over the last term and a half.
The mayor looked back towards his son, still unconscious in one of Dr. Mind’s medical scanners. Dr. Mind himself stood at the controls, monitoring it carefully for changes.
“I suppose I should have known something like this would happen sooner or later,” Adrian Banks said. “I’d thought his time interning at Virtue had helped.”
“I know this is a sensitive matter, Mr. Banks, but helped with what?” Jamisson asked.
“Oh, the boy always wanted to be a superhero. When he got into high school and realized he wasn’t going to get any powers, he joined an anti-metahuman group. We thought it was just a rebellious phase.” He sighed. “I couldn’t have him tarnishing my campaign, so I got him an internship at Virtue. Fool that I was, I’d hoped they’d redirect the hate into something more constructive.”
I didn’t miss the glance between Dr. Mind and Jamisson, and it didn’t take me long to understand it’s meaning. Rob Banks had been an intern working with Brandon Lim and Chastity Haich, the Virtue staffers who’d gone rogue and tried to kill the Wardens of Tomorrow.
“When he told me he got a project management position at Lazarus Technology, I thought it was a good sign, that he’d changed.”
For a moment, the only sound in the room was a gentle whirr from the scanner.
“Well, we have reason to believe that your son wasn’t entirely himself” Jamisson said. “We’re currently tracking a villain who can, well, brainwash people.”
The mayor looked up, hopeful for a moment, but quickly replaced with horror. “He was mind controlled?”
“Yes, but it looks like he’ll be fine,” Dr. Mind said, looking up from the scanner.
“Oh thank god!” Adrian Banks exclaimed, tension pouring out of his body.
“This is very interesting, though. According to my scans, his brain activity is partially frozen. Normally, it would be continuously changing and shifting, but maybe one in five hundred neurons is continually firing, even though he’s unconscious.”
“Part of Temple’s power?” I asked.
“No doubt. Depending on how long he’s been like this, there may be some brain damage. But,” he cut Adrian Banks off with a hand before he could interrupt. “-fortunately, now that we know how it works, it turns out it’s easy to fix.”
“Then do it!” Adrian exclaimed.
Dr. Mind adjusted his glasses. “Sorry, this is awkward. Since he’s not a minor, and this condition is unrelated to his unconsciousness, I can’t treat it until he wakes up and either gives consent, or demonstrates inability to do so.”
The mayor stood, incredulous. “What?” He said. “You can save my son, and you won’t because you’re afraid he might sue?”
“Mind,” Jamisson said carefully. “I think in this case it’s probably safe to say that someone who is under the influence of such a powerful mental suggestion is inherently unable to consent.”
That and having the mayor on our side could go a long way, I added internally.
Dr. Mind glanced back at Adrian for a moment before conceding. “True enough. This will just take a moment.”
As Dr. Mind readied what I recognized as Neuraplast, the tinker-designed drug to enhance neural plasticity, Jamisson glanced at his tablet and then tapped his earpiece.
“Savage just reported in,” he said. “Guardian Angel, get ready to fly.”
“On it,” Sean replied through the comms.
Jamisson walked briskly out of the room, beckoning me to follow. We stepped out into the cool morning air through one of the rear entrances to see Savage, still partially shifted, leaning against a wall. His frame sagged with exhaustion, and his eyes were half-lidded and bitter.
“What did you find?” Jamisson asked.
“Fucking nothing,” Savage spat. “Couldn’t track the van, so I went back to LazTech. Couldn’t track them from there. It’s the nullifier. We should’ve destroyed that damn thing while we had the chance.”
“So we’re still completely in the dark,” I said, frustration growing. I clenched my jaw.
“Here’s a reason for the saying,” Jamisson said. “Villains act, and heroes react.”
“So what now?” I asked.
“Now we go ask the younger Mr. Banks a few questions.”