NOTE: If you only check once a week, there were two chapters posted before this one!
“I don’t get it-it, why do I have to stay inside-side?”
Rachel sighed and looked at her younger brother pouting at the kitchen table. “You know why. Until you get your voice under control you’re at risk. Most civvie’s might not know what it means, but if you run into a prowler or a jaunter outside of costume, they wouldn’t hesitate to take you out.”
Of course she didn’t mention the other reason, he looked enough like his father that a lot of speed or skywalkers would figure it out if they knew about his powers. (‘But I can’t tell him that, not yet.’)
Mitchell huffed angrily and stalked off to his room, slamming the door behind him.
“MITCHELL THOMAS CHASE YOU BETTER NOT DO THAT AGAIN!”
Rachel slumped in exhaustion. She had gotten her first lead on the Elephant in the Room in weeks the night before, and she didn’t get back home until well past midnight. “And to make it worse I have to go into the coffee house today. I can’t wait until Tina can work unsupervised, even if it’s only during the slow hours.”
She straightened herself out and walked to her brother’s door. She listened closely, hearing his TV playing on the other side. With a small smile, she knocked on his door.
“Mitchell, I need to head to the coffee house soon. I left a sandwich in the fridge for your lunch, and remember you’re supposed to meet with Mr. Writer at three. You can stop by the coffee house after you eat if you want to wait there, okay?”
A muffled voice came from the other side of the door. “Okay-kay, I don’t think I’ll go to the store though-ough.”
“Okay.” She started to turn away, but she hesitated, thinking about the conversation she’d had with Will six nights ago. (‘He isn’t ready yet, he’s not mature enough. But…’). “Mitch?”
On the other side of the door, Mitchell paused. His sister hadn’t called him Mitch in years, and she was the only one who could get away with it. Something had to be going on. “Yeah, Rachel-el?”
“I-I just want you to know that I’m sorry about keeping you inside like this. I know you don’t understand right now…but there’s a really good reason for it, okay? Just, just trust me for now. I’ll make sure you understand after this thing with Will is over okay?”
Mitchell felt a small tug in his gut. “Okay, sis-sis. Stay safe-afe, I’ll see you tonight-ight.”
“I’ll see you tonight, Mitch. Don’t forget your helmet.”
Mitchell listened closely as his sister walked away. In truth, he had been planning on sneaking out once she left, but after that conversation he decided it might be better to wait after all.
Will sat down on the bench by the lion’s cage. It was a shame that they couldn’t have this meeting on a rooftop but this section of the zoo was still being repaired from Tigroar’s last fight so they wouldn’t be interrupted. He checked the clock hanging in the middle of the path through the safari zone. (‘If Red Racer’s anything like other runners…’). “Three, two, one, hello Red.”
“Awww-www,” The thirteen year old hero sat on the bench next to Will. “Being able to surprise people is half the fun of being a runner-ner, and you have to ruin it-it.”
Will smirked. “Kid, I’ve dealt with runners for longer than you’ve been alive. Trust me when I say you’ll never surprise me with a trick that simple.”
Red Racer gave an exaggerated pout before he spoke. “So what are we here to talk about anyway-way.”
Will waved his hand dismissively. “We’re not here to talk about anything in particular. The fact is that there are things you may not feel comfortable discussing in the group, and there are things that I would not feel comfortable revealing to the group without your permission.”
“I guess that makes sense-se. So do I start or do you-ou?”
“You first. Are you all right with the group so far?”
Red nodded. “Yeah-eah. Everyone’s real nice-ice!”
“Good.” Will smiled. “You guys need to be able to trust each other for this to work, especially if you want to keep going.”
“Now…is there anything bothering you? Something you don’t feel comfortable talking about in the group?”
Red Racer stared into the lion cage. “Well-ell, I wanted to ask you something about Unimportant-ant, but I wasn’t sure if I could-oud.”
“Don’t worry about being rude here, but don’t be surprised if I can’t answer.”
“Alright-ight. It has to do with that thing you said at the end of the sessions-ions…Tread softly-ly?”
“He was the only one who responded yes. He is likely remembering something from another world, like he mentioned.”
“Right-ight. But if he remembers that, then does that mean he knows other usses-es?”
Will sighed. (‘So the kid picked up on that did he?’). “You’re smarter than you let on aren’t ya kid? Fact is, he might, but you shouldn’t ask him about it.”
“Alternate universes get…tricky. Knowing what you could have been can drive people insane. Take you for instance, say in 20 years you find a you who never got powers. Maybe he became a billionaire, maybe he died, maybe he gets the girl you never had the courage to ask out. Might-have-beens cause enough trouble when you don’t know how it would have turned out, knowing the truth usually only makes it work.”
“But-ut, I’ve heard a lot of stories about heroes teaming up with their alternates-ates. I thought it was a normal thing-ing.”
“That’s only part of it. There are as many good yous as bad yous, as many dead yous as living yous, as many that never existed as exist. Infinites get weird, if you ever get the chance to ask Zero, he’ll tell you. Runners are notorious for it.”
Red Racer went wide eyed at the thought of meeting a member of The Council, especially another runner. “Have you met her-er?”
Will shrugged. “I’ve met a lot of people, but that’s not a conversation for now. This is supposed to be about you, is there anything else bugging you.”
Red shook his head. “Nope-ope, is that it-it?”
Will grabbed Red Racer’s shoulder before he could run off. “Not quite yet kid. I have a few things to ask you about first.”
“First of all, why did you really become a hero?”
“Why not be a hero-o? I have the power-er, I don’t want to be a villain-ain, so why wouldn’t I be a hero-o?”
“Did you think about your age? Your sister? Your friends? Being a hero requires you to give up so much, don’t you think it deserves a better reason?”
Red Racer shook his head. “That would be boring-ing. I waited years to get my powers-ers, why would I wait to use them-em?”
Will took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair. “I understand where you’re coming from kid, but you have to understand too. Being a hero takes more resolve than ‘I have powers’, you need something bigger, something to fight for.”
“Why would I need that-at? I can help people fine as now-ow. I don’t think I need a better reason than that-at.”
“Look Red, I know you think that, but what you’re saying is childish. As good as ‘good for goodness’s sake’ sounds, people can’t live like that. Heroes especially need to have something special, something selfish they can take on themselves. Otherwise, the pressure gets too much, you start blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault. It’s nearly driven some good people insane, and I don’t want to see that happen to you.”
Red smiled brightly. “Don’t worry, it won’t”
Red Racer had already run away.
Will stared at the empty seat where Red Racer had just been.
A few minutes passed before he stood up and walked out of the park, just outside was Jim Hob’s cab.
“So, how’d it go?”
Will leaned back in his seat and stared out the window back into the zoo. “He’s got a good heart, but he’s still thinking about this like a kid.”
“He is a kid, Will.”
“With the mask off, maybe, but heroes can’t afford to be kids. It gets people killed.”
“Maybe.” Jim glanced at Will in his mirror. “Maybe heroes can’t be kids, but sometimes kids make the best heroes.”