Chapter 7: 15 Minutes

Mach and Burnout gathered by the door. Nobody was close enough to hear them, but they kept their voices down anyway.

“Are you sure?”

Mach nodded. “Definitively. The likelihood of extreme mental manipulation is incredibly small. Slipstream’s detector has been shown to work in all but one case.”

“What happened that time?”

“A Colorian device designed to hide traitorous intent within low level brain functions. It was destroyed during the invasion.”

Burnout breathed a sigh of relief. “So that means that I can stop worrying?”

Mach shook his head. His expressionless mask made the gesture look almost cruel. “That is ill advised. While the device can detect overt manipulation with ease, it is not guaranteed to detect subtle emotional shifts, especially if they occurred long ago. It is unfortunate, but I can at least guarantee that your decisions after the cave were not out of your control.”

Burnout’s shoulders dropped slightly. “Got it. Thanks anyway, Mach.”

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Hawthorne gestured at her vest and a seed popped out. She gingerly picked it up and cradled it in her palm. A woody vine curled out of the seed and deposited two apples into her waiting hand.

Without looking she tossed one of them over her right shoulder. “Catch!”

She heard a thump and turned to see Allspades rubbing his forehead, the apple held in his other hand. “Come on…Was that really necessary?”

Hawthorne’s lips curled upwards and she suppressed a small giggle. “What? All that covert operative stuff never taught you how to catch?”

“You can’t catch bullets. Well, some people can, but I can’t. And anything important enough to have to change hands that quickly, is way too fragile to risk throwing it like that.”

Hawthorne shook her head. “And what? You and your playmates never tossed around a ball during your breaks? You never tried to throw marshmallows in someone’s mouth? You have to have done something other than train.”

Allspades barked out a laugh. “Yeah. We slept and we ate and we prayed the next day wouldn’t make our muscles hurt quite as bad. And on really good days, we actually had something that tasted remotely like meat. I didn’t have a hamburger for four years, and do you know what the worst part was? It was the memory, the knowledge that that shit we ate was supposed to be made of the same stuff as real food.” His grip on the apple grew harder, and he felt it begin to give beneath his fingers.

Hawthorne flinched back. “Crap, sorry. And I thought what passes for fried chicken in the city was bad.”

The tank took a bite out of the apple. “The first job I got was at a fast food place. I got fired after my first week because I ate more food than I served. Luckily I ‘forgot’ to put them down on my, fake, resume. One of those favors I called in ended up getting me a job at a library. If I say I’m restocking books I can disappear for hours without anyone being wiser. And I can’t eat the paper.”

Hawthorne nodded. “When I first got my job, I had to sneak in naps whenever I could. The entry level shit was easy enough to get through that I could pull it off. But one day my boss caught me. I had a pillow at my desk and everything. I managed to play it off as some sort of medical thing for my neck, but he watched me like a hawk for weeks.”

Allspades smiled slightly. And they sat there munching on the apples. Allspades finished his off and tossed it into the trashcan across the hall. Hawthorne raised an eyebrow and he smiled.

“What? Never said I couldn’t throw.”

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“Here you go-go.”

Unimportant accepted the soda with a muted nod.

“So-so, why’d you choose a name like that anyway-way? It seems kinda-da…mean-mean.”

Unimportant gave a slight shrug. “It is…fitting.” He said deliberately. “I find…there are two ways to enter somewhere uninvited. One…make yourself look so busy and prepared…that you must belong. Two…become someone nobody looks twice at. For some…this means dressing as a janitor…or a mechanic. For me…it just means I have to be myself. Anyone can see me…they merely cannot acknowledge me as worthy of attention.”

Red Racer popped open his own soda. “Still-still. What exactly is your power anyway-way? I looked online-line, and no one seems to have something like it-it. If you were a tel-tel­ it would be one thing-thing, but tel’s can’t really affect me-me. They can read-read, but that’s it-it.”

Unimportant glanced at the runner. “I am…unique. It is…a large part of the reason I am here.”

Red Racer nodded and glanced at the unopened soda in the other hero’s hand.  “Um-um…I was wondering-ring, since you’re the only one of us who said it-it, do you know what that tread softly things about-bout?”

Unimportant looked towards the theater, where their guide still sat. “I…I think so. But…it’s not quite there. It’s something I’ve lost.”

Red Racer looked confused. But the aura given off by Unimportant made him back down.

Unimportant opened his soda.

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Will looked down at the paper in his hand. He double checked the math in his head as he counted back the weeks. ‘Please no. Please no.

There weren’t many raw energy manips, and only one had been active during the time Red Racer had gotten his powers. And he was brought down by a flying tank, who specialize in redirection.

There was no doubt about it; the kid’s sister was Miss Mirror.

Which means Will knew who his parents were.

Worse, he knew who his father was.

A deep groan worked its way out of his throat. “How the hell do I get into this shit?”

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