Chapter 17: Who is Willing

“Field trip.”

The group stared at Will.

“What?” Hawthorne spoke first, but Allspades was just behind her.

Will smiled at the group. “Field. Trip. It’s where a group breaks from their regular schedule in order to travel to an unusual location, commonly for the purpose of education or relaxation. E.G. We, the group, are going to Kalliope to hear the symphony. The purpose of this trip will be explained after we get there.”

“Question. How are we to enter the hall?” Mach asked. “Only two of our group, and possibly yourself, are likely capable of entering unseen.”

Will smiled. “We won’t.”


“How do you know a blimp operator?” Hawthorne stared a hole in the back of Will’s head. He could actually hear her eyebrow twitching beneath her helmet.

“Jason’s an old poker buddy. I’m a much better gambler.”

“I still say he cheats!” The pilot called from the front of the cabin.

“He just has a terrible poker face,” Will assured them. “Now, we should be landing on the roof of the hall just in time to hear the start of the show.”

Unimportant tilted his head and a wave of curiosity filled the cabin. “I thought the hall was soundproof.”

“They didn’t try too hard with the roof. Anyone who puts in the effort can listen in for free.”

The group stumbled as the blimp stopped descending and the door open.

Will unhurriedly stepped out first, the rest of the group followed, trying to keep their balance on the ladder while the blimp swayed above them.

When the last member touched down on the roof, the ladder was pulled back into the blimp and it drifted away. The group looked to Will and he gestured for them to sit where they liked.

Will held up a finger to keep them quiet and he closed his eyes. After a moment the music began to drift up from the roof beneath them.

“Beethoven,” Mach remarked. Allspades looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “I was not exactly interested in vocals as a child.”

Everyone was silent for the rest of the song. Red Racer fidgeted throughout, but something in Will’s face had caught his attention.

Unimportant noticed it too, for as much as Will seemed relaxed, he was concentrating exceptionally hard. He checked the rest of the group, but except for Red, the only one paying any attention to Will was Mach. The rest were sitting idly, and Burnout in particular was muttering under his breath and seemed to be drawing something on the roof.

After the first song, Will opened his eyes and looked each group member in the eye. “Now, why do you think I brought you here?”

Red Racer shot his hand into the air. “I know-ow! You wanted to use the music to remind us of what we’re protecting-ing.”

Will chuckled. “You read too many comic books; I’m cliché but not that cliché. Anyone else?” The group looked thoughtful but no one answered. “What are we doing right now?”

“Listening to the symphony,” Burnout said.

“Yes, but what else?”

Another pause.

“We’re breaking the law,” Unimportant answered.

“Exactly.” The rest of the group stared at Will incredulously. “Right now, we are listening to the symphony without paying, and yes that is breaking the law. But it’s not like anyone knows we’re here, and you’re all wearing masks. None of you will be arrested or even sought out for this. I brought you here to help you understand. There is something which all of you probably know, but never thought about. As heroes, as streetwalkers, you are breaking the law.

“When you put on that mask, you are acting as law enforcement without sanction, that is, by definition, vigilantism, a crime. The government does not support heroes, but it understands their necessity. You need powers to fight powers, and if they recruited heroes as law enforcement then suddenly they control more power than anyone would put up with.

“There is an understanding between us and them, so long as we do not cross a line, we are allowed to exist. Unfortunately, that line is vague. Excessive violence is frowned upon, unless it becomes necessary to stop a threat. Stealing is still a crime, unless you need what’s being stolen and don’t have time to explain. Unlawful entry, destruction of property, speeding, there are plenty of laws they overlook because we’re helping. Except one.”

“Murder.” The group looked to Allspades. “When we were on assignment, they made that clear. We had assassination missions, but if we were ever caught, then we would have no protection as heroes or agents. We would be tried as prowlers or jaunters and we would go to jail.”

“Yes,” Will said. “That is one thing that they will not overlook. That is the difference between protectors and enforcers. We can’t kill, because we’re always supposed to have another option, because we’re supposed to be better than normal people, even if we’re not.”

Will took a moment to let his words sink in. No one in the group looked surprised. (‘Like I said, nothing new, just not something you think about.’).

“But…like everything else, there is an exception. There is only one way for a hero to kill another human and still be seen as a hero.” Will took a breath to calm his nerves. “He has to die. A hero who dies while killing a threat will never be accused of being anything else.”

Will led the group to the side of the roof and pointed to the statue in front of the hall. “Does anyone know who this hall is named after?”

“Kalliope was a tel,” Hawthorne said. “She could broadcast her thoughts to anyone who heard her sing.”

Will smiled sadly. “She had a beautiful voice. Three years ago, she died trying to kill Eclipse. For a while, we thought she had done it, Lux swore that he saw Eclipse slice his own throat….She could have done that to anyone, but nobody knew that. She never told anyone that her power would let her do something like that to a person, that her songs had to be calming or joyful, that she could never let anyone know what a sad song could make her feel.”

A tear ran down Will’s face. He quickly wiped it away to stop the group from seeing it. “That’s what it takes. That’s the kind of sacrifice you have to be willing to make to be a hero. You can’t just be a good person. You have to hide everything that could make you look like anything else.”

Will turned away from the statue and walked back to the center of the roof. “Jason will be circling around again to take you back to the meeting place. That’s all for today.”

“Are you not coming?” Mach asked.

Will shook his head. “I’ll make my own way home later. I want to listen to the rest of the symphony. Remember to meet your contact for the next meeting. Until then, tread softly.”


Will watched the group disappear into the blimp’s cabin before it slowly drifted away.

“You can come out now.”

The air to his left shimmered, revealing a man in his late twenties.

“You know you don’t have to keep checking up on me, Lux. I’ve been doing this for long enough.”

“Did you ever think that I was just checking on your new group? You never talk about work at dinner.”

Will rolled his eyes. “Mom doesn’t like it when we talk about work at dinner. You should know, you’ve had to put up with her rules almost as much as I have, and I know Aunt Karen doesn’t put up with it either. Why are you really here?”

“You know what day it is. There’s no chance I’m leaving you alone after last year. We couldn’t find you for a week.”

“That isn’t going to happen again.”

“I’ll make sure of it.”

Will sighed and sat down on the roof. “You aren’t letting this go, are you Danny?”

Lux smiled and sat next to his cousin. “You’ve known me all my life, what do you think?”

Will smiled and leaned back, looking at the stars. His cousin did the same and the two listened to the music drifting out of the hall beneath them.

It was a long time before the music faded.

Will stayed where he was, focusing on a single star shining brightly in the sky. “She was beautiful you know.”

“I know, Will. I know.”


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    1. Technically, that’s the whole point of this. The entire theme of this story is about sacrifices, about what is lost (and what is gained) by being a hero. Of course there’s melancholy. The protagonist is practically driven by melancholy.



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