Month: January 2015

Chapter 40: Discussion

Rachel Chase watched her brother collapse onto the couch. She grabbed some fruit juice and tossed the small bottle at his head.

“Drink it.”

Mitchell grabbed the bottle out of the air and began to drink it.

“I told you not to use your powers too much. You’ll stunt your growth if you keep wearing yourself out like this. What have you been doing all day?”

Mitchell shook his head. “I wanted to see it again. How did Mr. Writer do that-at?”

“You know I can’t tell you that.”

“But-ut…if he can do that, why would he quit?”

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Phil grunted as Jack’s fist slammed into the punching bag again.

“Kid, Will’s not as cut and dry as you. The reason he quit has nothing to do with his power.”

“I saw the way he looked at me when I talked about the Cards. The man who nearly destroyed a mountain had a case of morals when I went after real threats.”

“Hah! That’s what you think? Will may’ve had issues with your history, but your ego needs some work. Hell, if Will had your power, he might still be a hero.”

The ceiling groaned under the force of the swinging punchinh bag. “Bullshit, the man can level mountains.”

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Tina and George walked slowly through the park. George had been awake for two days already, but the doctor hadn’t wanted him to leave until this morning. She finished telling her story

“He destroyed it? The whole cave? I bet people would kill for a power like that.”

“Possibly. But I was more concerned with Sigurd’s familiarity with him. He seemed rather confident that Will could help you. And Will made it clear he was not a mage.”

George stared at her. “Really? I mean that’s weird, but the guy can level a mountain. That’s the only real hint we’ve had for his power. Plus, dragons are weird with magic. I bet a lot of people could have helped if they’d looked into it.”

“Sigurd knew he could help, George. The two of them were at each other’s throats the moment we got there, but they still worked together. Sigurd is on the Council; they don’t exactly take walks with Strollers. And he knew Kalliope too. That’s a bigger hint than his power.”

“Tina, everyone knew Kalliope after Eclipse’s attack. And she was pretty famous before that too. It’s not like he was calling her by her real name or anything. And so what if he knows Sigurd? I know Sigurd now. Hell, I can tell you his birthday. I might be cheating, but if a nobody like me knows Sigurd, and met The Court, then I can’t say that makes him important.”

Tina sighed. “I suppose. But I do not think his power is as useful as you think. I looked into it. A lot of things can cause earthquakes, and none of us saw him doing it. He may have just punched the walls.”

“I don’t think so,” George said. “Do you remember the first meeting? Why he said he quit? Cause I was thinking, maybe he was talking about his power, and he was worried about taking it too far.”

“He caused an earthquake.” Tina’s voice was flatter than normal.

“Well, yeah, but that could be like the minimum of his power. Maybe he’s actually so strong that going all out would destroy the planet or something.”

Tina smiled.

George looked at her strangely. “Did I say something funny?”

She shook her head. “No. But you’re a lot more energetic than you used to be. It is…a good change I think.”

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“I don’t know, Barry. It’s fun to wonder about, but what if we actually figure it out?”

“C’mon Rosie. It’s not like you told me his real name. And even if you had, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave you guys a fake one. Plus, you already told me about the mountain; I’m gonna be wondering about that either way.”

Rose sighed. “Okay, so what is it you think then?”

“Well…a tel could do it.”

“Maybe, but not if he was a reader. They wouldn’t use a reader for the group right?”

“I wouldn’t,” Barry shrugged. “But I wouldn’t put it past anyone. Hey, did you see how he looked afterwards?”

Rose closed her eyes. “He was…tired and he kept panting, but I don’t think he was sweating.”

“So…rule out tank?”

Rose nodded. “And runner, but that really wasn’t in the running.”

“Heh.”

She slapped him. “What’s next then?”

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“Can you help him or not?” Will grunted at Janus.

“He’s not exactly a normal case, Will.”

The solid blue faceplate gleamed under the street lights. Janus was short, and the long golden cape she wore did nothing but make her look shorter.

“We’re talking about a nearly unprecedented power. I can split myself between two universes easily, but I’m still there in both of them. If his powers are slipping and he’s so worried about splitting other people up, then he’s either uncontrollable or out of control. Sliders don’t get a middle ground. You should understand that much.”

Will sighed. “Can you at least make sure he won’t hurt himself with them? You might see something I missed.”

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John walked. For the first time in months, he walked down the street with his powers completely off. He caught himself flinching whenever anyone got too close.

The thought had been stuck in his head since the cave. He didn’t want to know, but he couldn’t not know.

Could he really leave someone split like that? Would they know what had happened? Or would they just fade away?

“Do you want to know?”

John turned. The man was…average, his mousy brown hair and glasses identifying him, but not distinguishing him. His smile was large and gentle, and he wore a simple button up shirt.

“You do don’t you?”

John felt his heart clench.

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“I just hope he doesn’t meet him anytime soon.”

“Who?”

Janus looked at Will. “Every slider meets him eventually. He never does anything just talks, but it was still the most frightening thing I ever experienced.”

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John ran.

The man didn’t follow.

 

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Chapter 39: Consequence

Will sat on top of the concert hall. The music drifted around him, through him. It was quieter this time, but there wasn’t anyone else to listen to it.

He had always felt comfortable here. Rooftops were the domain of heroes in general, but Kalliope’s was always barren. It was comforting.

It was quiet.

The music would end soon, and he wouldn’t have an excuse to stay any longer. He wondered how long it would take them to come and get him; he wondered who they would send. He knew they’d forgiven him, but that didn’t mean they trusted him.

Lux was the obvious choice. His cousin was one of the few people he wouldn’t brush off. But Lux was also the one they’d have the hardest time convincing that they needed to talk to him. He had always defended him, always urged them to trust him again.

Slipstream might show up. The mecher wasn’t exactly a friend, but at least they could hold a civil conversation. But if he didn’t want to go, then Slip wouldn’t be able to make him. They wouldn’t expect him to resist, but they wouldn’t risk it either.

He could hope for Janus. He had only known the slider for a few months before the incident, but he had wanted a chance to talk with her for a few weeks now, and he doubted he’d get another any time soon.

He knew they wouldn’t send Adamant or Sigurd. They’d never gotten along with him, and if he was going to resist, sending them would just encourage him.

If they actually thought Meister would show up himself, they might send him. But, despite his massive amount of power, Meister was lazy. You never knew if what you were seeing was him, or just him making you think he was there. Will was one of the few who could tell the difference, and Meister wouldn’t be able to force him like he could most.

Zero was out of town, but that didn’t mean much for her. She hadn’t left the county, so she couldn’t be more than 10 minutes away. Plus, she was one of the few who’d never blamed him. He’d always been grateful for that.

The Court didn’t owe him a debt anymore, so they wouldn’t hesitate to send him anymore. Plus, he was one of the only two who he could guarantee would be there tonight.  If it wasn’t Lux, it’d be him.

But in the end it didn’t matter. He’d used his powers to cause an earthquake, to collapse part of a mountain. Even if they knew his reasons, they still had to make it official. Which mean he’d have to explain himself to at least two Council members, and one of them had to be able to tell if he was lying.

His own powers negated one of their abilities in that regard, and he’d learned to block out another’s years ago, so those two didn’t technically have to show up. They might anyway; just so they could convince everyone that it was being taken seriously.

The music below him faded.

“Time to go, Will.”

Will turned. Lux and Zero both stood behind him. He smirked a little. “Two of you? Didn’t know I deserved that kind of treatment.”

“You don’t,” Zero said. “I’m here to make sure you have clean clothes for the tribunal. It’s a small room, and you’ve been up here for almost a full day now. If we had time, I’d drag you home and make you take a bath. So am I gonna have to break into your place?”

“Sweet as ever, Addie, but no.  I guess that means you drew the short straw, Luke?”

Lux nodded. “They had to send someone.”

“Then let’s get this over with.”

 

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Will entered the shadowed room and heaved a sigh. “I know it’s tradition, but do you really have to do the whole shadowy council thing? I know who you all are anyway.”

One of the figures before him lazily waved his hand and the room lit up.

The Council stared down at him, the 8 most well-known heroes on the planet, each representing a different power classification. They were also the only legitimate form of oversight that could be placed over walkers.  If they decided you went too far, there wasn’t a court in existence that wouldn’t agree with them.

Will had been here more than once before; the last time had been two years ago. He’d been released, of course, but he’d declared his retirement in the most public place possible.

If he hadn’t, then he wouldn’t be here today. But as far as the walkers at large were concerned, it wasn’t Rumor who’d collapsed the mountain, it was some unknown stroller flexing his muscles.

With any luck this would be over quickly, but he didn’t have high hopes. He’d sat in on more than one stroller’s hearing. Their powers were rarely known, their limits were unexplored; it took a lot longer to judge someone like that.

Meister stood center stage and cleared his throat. “William Writer, you have been summoned here to discuss your conduct two days previous at Mt. Hyrfell. Both you and Sigurd have attested that you are personally responsible for the earthquake that occurred. As you know, destruction on this scale must be confirmed warranted by at least three members of the council, or half of those present, depending on the situation. As such, you have been asked to testify before the Council, with Zero and The Court to confirm your honesty. Do you understand?”

Will nodded. He’d heard it before.

“Very well. Do you deny that you are responsible for the earthquake two days previous on Mt. Hyrfell?”

“I do not.”

“State you’re reasons for those present.”

Will took a deep breath. “I learned that there was an old and possibly dangerous material hidden by a glamour. Due to its size and nature, I deemed it necessary to seal off the entrance to its location.”

“Sigurd, as a witness, can you attest to this?”

Sigurd nodded. “There was a complete set of dragon bones. Will gave them a proper burial.”

“Court?”

“Dragons are highly magical. Their bones could easily be used for casting spells; given the attributes of a dragon, the spells would probably result in large amounts of destruction.”

“Does anyone deny the cause was just?”

No one spoke.

“Good. The cause has been determined as legitimate; we will now discuss the force involved. Your actions caused a large earthquake close to a population center. If you had lost control it could have killed hundreds, including the young heroes under your supervision.”

Will nodded.

“Do you have a defense?”

“I did everything within my power to keep the quake contained within my radius of control. I also asked Sigurd to do what he could to prevent the earthquake from reaching beyond the mountain.”

Meister looked at the paper in front of him. “From what I know of your radius, this earthquake was far larger than you should have been able to control.”

“I was burying the cave in sections. From far enough away, it could look like one earthquake.”

Meister nodded. “Does anyone else have any questions?”

The room remained silent.

“Very well, we shall now take a vote. All in favor of dismissing the case immediately?”

Everyone’s hands rose in the air.

“Very well, the case is dismissed. “

Will raised an eyebrow. “That was quick. Don’t these normally take a lot longer?”

“We all know you, Will,” Lux said. “You’re retired, but you still hold some weight. And nobody thinks you’re that big of an idiot.”

Adamant raised his hand. “I do.”

Zero slapped the back of his head. “Not the time.”

“Enough of that,” Meister said. “If there’s nothing else, I wanna go home.”

Will and Lux snorted.

“As if you were ever here,” They said together.

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Chapter 38: Rebirth

Nothing can’t last forever.

But it can most definitely make a good show of it.

He was having trouble focusing. Even the passing of time had faded into the nothingness surrounding him.

He had given up on talking when he realized he couldn’t actually hear himself.

He had given up on looking when there had been nothing to see for too long.

He had given up on breathing when he couldn’t feel his lungs.

What else was there?

He was still thinking at least. But how long could that last?

Maybe it would be okay to stop thinking? It couldn’t be any worse than having nothing to think about.

Burning.

What was that? Why hadn’t he noticed it before? He felt himself drawing away from it, but that couldn’t be right. There wasn’t anything to run from here.

He pulled himself towards it. It was…different. There was no where it could come from, but he couldn’t have missed it.

It was huge. And it burned.

He reached out a hand he didn’t remember having and grasped it.

Fire flooded his veins.

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Will hurried to the front of the group. He wasn’t sure if Burnout was really here, or what state he’d be in if he was. More importantly, the dragon had managed to give him powers after it had already died, and he didn’t want to know what else it could do.

“Dragon’s dead, Will. You don’t have to do worry so much.”

Will groaned. “You here to add its bones to your collection? I thought you were only allowed to take your souvenirs from your fights. Wasn’t that the deal, Sigurd?”

Sigurd glared at Will. “I’m not a grave robber.  And if you insist on bringing your brats along, you could at least not spoil my reputation. Get over here and check on this kid. You’re no mage, but you’ll do.”

Mach’s boots gave a quick burst and she leapt to the other side of the cave. Sigurd raised an eyebrow but shrugged and stepped back from Burnout and let her through.

There was a cloth covering his face. She carefully reached forward, but Sigurd quickly grabbed her hand.  “No mask. It stays on.”

“What happened to him?” Mach’s anger managed to force its way through her helmet.

“Magic sleep, I think. He was doing so well, too.”

“So well with what?”

Sigurd smirked. “Trade secret.”

Mach stood up and started pacing towards Sigurd.

Will stepped between them and faced Sigurd. “Do we need to know?” He growled out.

Hawthorne and Allspades were still making their way around the dragon, but Will’s voice made them freeze.

“What in-” Allspades stumbled when Hawthorne slapped across the back of his head. He turned towards her, but he failed to stare her down through her helmet. He grumbled quietly but stayed quiet.

Sigurd’s smirk didn’t waver. “Enough with the theatrics, Will. If I thought it would help, I’d tell you. All I know is that he should have woken up almost half a day ago, and he didn’t. I’m pretty sure its magic, but I can’t move him because I don’t know. Now do whatever weird thing it is you do, and figure out if we can get him to a healer.”

Will glared at Sigurd a bit longer. He growled lowly and turned back towards Burnout. “Allspades get over here,” he barked.

Allspades rushed over, quicker than he normally would have.

“You notice anything different?” Will asked; the curtness had dropped from his voice.

Allspades knelt down next to Burnout.

“Yes? There’s something off about his head. But I don’t know if I would’ve noticed before.”

“Where?”

After a moment, Allspades gestured towards Burnout’s temple.

“Shit,” Will muttered. “Siggy, what do you know about his place?”

“A lot. The mountain’s family property.” The tension between the two felt different than it had before. “It’s got a leyline about half a mile to the north, and a solid source of emotion running through this town. The runoff between them runs right through here. Probably why he chose it; the flow would keep his magic running until it was activated. The cave kept him hidden.”

“Is that keeping him asleep?”

“Probably. But taking him away from it-”

“I know how it works, Sigurd.”

“So do we need a healer or not?”

Will shot Sigurd a quick glare. “Don’t know yet. Could that leyline have activated a dormant spell? Something he had with him?”

Sigurd paused while Will’s question echoed through the cavern. “It’s possible. He was unconscious for a while; the spell wouldn’t have had much to do.”

Will nodded. “If it was cast before now, then the leyline isn’t supposed to keep it going. The spell might be corrupted.”

“Fuck.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t think you liked cursing in English.”

Mach began to tapping her fingers against her arm.

Will grinned nervously. “Right. Allspades can you describe it at all. Is it steady?”

Allspades’ eyes tightened. “No. It’s pulsing.”

“Good, pulsing is good. Leylines are steady. You have to be alive to have a pulse. Allspades I want you to tap along with the pulse, as close as you can.”

Allspades waited. After a moment, his fingers began to move steadily, tapping out a steady rhythm.

Will closed his eyes, and after a moment he began to tap as well.

He waited a moment, making sure he had it as close as it could. The taps were out of sync, but only just; Allspades’ weren’t as even. But he was keeping in time.

The pattern formed in Will’s mind quickly. Allspades’ taps were just a little longer, but they corrected themselves every fifth beat.

Will breathed deeply, and smiled. “We can move him. The leyline is messing with an older spell, but it’s trying to assert itself to his rhythms. Once we get him to a healer, it’ll turn out fine. But we should hurry. Once it gets away from the leyline, it’ll be running off his energy, and he’s already missed a couple of meals.”

Sigurd snorted. “He’s got dragon fire in him. He’ll be fine.”

Will smiled. “Good to know. Now grab him and let’s go. We have to collect the others and get out of here.”

Sigurd grunted at the command, but he picked up Burnout and they left the cavern.

The walk back was significantly quicker; they made it out in less than a half hour.

Once they reached the entrance, Will paused. “You should all go ahead, I think I need to take care of something here.”

Red and Allspades helped Unimportant down the path. Mach had taken Burnout from Sigurd and followed behind them.

Hawthorne turned to Will. “What’s really going on? I doubt you needed any of us here.”

Will sighed. “It’s not my job to need any of you anywhere. But right now, I need you to not be here. It could get dangerous, and I don’t like it when kids die on my watch. I’ll explain what I can later. But nobody can know where this cave is, understand? I don’t want to know what they can do with dragon bones.”

Hawthorne paused, then she nodded.

Will watched her walk down the path.

“Sigurd, if you can keep this from reaching the town, it would be best. I’ll keep it on the mountain as much as I can.

Sigurd nodded.

Will walked back into the cave.

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Tina stared at the news in George’s hospital room.

“This is the second time that Mount Hyrfell was hit by an earthquake in the last two years. But this time, nobody was harmed. Tonight we have invited Dr. Joseph Caito, who has offered an explanation on the strange localized earthquake that failed to reach beyond the mountain.”

The camera widened to reveal a man with long brown hair. “Thank you, Mary. Now-“

Tina muted the TV.

“Do I know you?”

Tina turned slowly. Geroge’s eyes were open. They had changed. They were always blue, but nothing like this. Tina hoped that was all that changed.

She took a deep breath.

“No. But I think you deserve to.”

 

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Chapter 37: Dragon’s Den

Will led them down the path. He wasn’t quite sure where Burnout had turned off the path, but if he was still in the cave, Will could find it easily enough.

He heard Allspades and Hawthorne whispering behind him again, but he was concentrating too hard to bother listening in. He knew what they were talking about anyway. They weren’t the first to try to figure out his power. Though he hadn’t used it as much around other groups.

‘Maybe I’m getting too nostalgic.’

Red Racer kept popping in and out of his range. The moment they had mentioned the cave, he had decided to run after it. Will had barely been able to tell him to stay close to the group before he vanished into the woods.

It wouldn’t do them much good; Will guessed there was a good chance the cave was glamoured. But there was a chance it wasn’t, and he might find something Will missed.

Unimportant and Mach followed in silence. Mach had volunteered to pull up local maps, but they hadn’t shown anything worthwhile. Unimportant hadn’t talked much since the Asclepios incident. Hopefully he would open up once they had a chance to really go over what happened, but with everything that had happened lately they might not get the chance.

Red Racer flashed through his senses again, he was passing by a cliff of some sort. A moment later he was gone.

Will froze.

Red had run right by it. If they were looking for anything else, Will might have ignored it too. Whatever it was, Red hadn’t noticed it at all, hadn’t even slowed down, and Will probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t run by it at just the right time.

“This way,” Will said over his shoulder.

He stepped off the path. There was a small gap in the trees, the type of thing that would invite half the hikers to explore, and ward the rest away.

There wasn’t a path behind them. The branches barely even let light through, but it was enough for Will to work his way past the trees and to the cliff. Now that he was closer, he could feel the cave stretching back and down, away from the path. The entrance was concealed, like he expected, and a quick check confirmed it was definitely magic.

Red had noticed they stopped and ran up beside the group.

“Why’d you stop-op? There’s nothing here-ere.”

“No,” Allspades said. His face was contorted with confusion, like he smelled something wrong. “There’s something here, we just can’t see it.”

Will stepped to the side and let Allspades forward.

Allspades carefully reached his fingers out towards the wall.

He paused.

He knew in his gut that there was definitely something wrong with this part of the wall, but the glamour was effective. The contradiction between instinct and sense was forcing his heart to tighten in his chest.

“It’s not a trap,” Will said. “Apparently you’ve got something magic about you; you can sense the glamour.”

“Glamour-our?”

“Magic,” Allspades said. “Page used to use something similar. But I couldn’t ever sense anything she did.”

“Maybe you just weren’t trying hard enough.”

Allspades pushed the voice out of his head.

“Can you sense it too?” he asked Will.

Will shook his head. “I know there’s something behind it. Keep this up long enough, you learn not to trust your eyes too much.”

Allspades nodded. He took a deep breath and walked through the wall.

Will looked to the rest and gestured forward. “Glamours reassert themselves if you don’t keep an eye on them. I need to go last.”

One by one the others followed. Eventually only Mach and he were left.

“Will you be able to handle it?”

Mach looked at him.

“I want you to know, no matter what we find in there, you made the right choice. A lot of good heroes have died because people got caught up on stupid things. It’s worth the risk.”

Mach stared at him a moment longer. She walked through the wall without a word.

Will sighed and glanced back at the woods. He quickly scanned the trees for anything he might have missed. Then he stepped forward.

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Mach was able to light up the cave much better than the last time they were underground, but there wasn’t much to look at.

“Didn’t he say the walls glowed?” Hawthorne asked. “Are we sure this is the right place?”

“Magic is fickle,” Will said. “Sometimes it’ll stick around forever, sometimes it vanishes once it’s done. I don’t’ know what the walls were doing, but apparently Burnout was the only one who needed to see them.”

“We are in the right place,” Mach said. “We have to be.”

Will opened himself up again. The cave went further than he would have expected, further than it should in this terrain, but there was definitely something up ahead.

But they weren’t getting any closer to it. Not as fast as they should be anyway.

“Allspades, do you feel anything?”

The rest of the group paused, but Allspades walked a few more steps. After a moment he turned back towards the group. “There’s this itch in my head. Kinda in the back, but up on top you know?”

“Good enough for me. It’s messing with us, making us think we’re moving faster than we are.”

“Can we get out of it?” Hawthorne asked.

Will shook his head. “We’d need a mage. Or we’d have to trick the spell into not noticing us.”

Red Racer scrunched up his face a little. Then he broke out in a wide smile. He turned to Unimportant. “Could you do that-at?”

Unimportant froze, even more than he had before. “i do not know…my power can extend to something i touch…but i have never tried it on another person.”

“You might as well try though,” Hawthorne said. “If you never test you’re power, you won’t get anywhere with it.”

After a moment, Unimportant nodded. “grab my hand…or my shoulder…and do not let go until i say.”

Will nodded. “I don’t think we want to know what would happen.”

Once everyone had grabbed on, Unimportant closed his eyes and concentrated. Fading himself took no real effort, but he had noticed that certain things were harder to fade. A flashlight was easy enough, but making people not noticed the beam was another story.

This was not like that.

It was easy, too easy.

Unimportant quickly snapped everyone back into the one universe.

The moment he could he pulled away from everyone, backing off into a corner.

Red moved toward him, but Will rested a hand on his shoulder.

Waves of fear rolled off of Unimportant like nothing they had ever felt from him. He was breathing quickly, and what they could make of his face was extremely pale.

Will took a step forward. “Unimportant, I need you to listen. You’re hyperventilating, and your heart is beating twice as fast as it should. You are going to pass out if you don’t force yourself to take a deep breath and hold it.”

Unimportant nodded but his breathing didn’t slow.

“Come on. Deep breath.”

Unimportant nodded again and forced himself to breathe deeply.

“Good, now let it out, and once you get your breath back, tell us what happened.”

Unimportant collapsed back onto the wall. He was breathing slower, but his breaths were still heavy and shallow. “I…couldn’t control it…I thought you were all going to vanish. I pulled you back as fast as I could, but I wasn’t sure if I could hold you here.”

Will nodded. “Take a look. We’re all here. We all knew something might happen, and you pulled us back before anything did. You couldn’t have known your power would act like that.”

“I-I don’t think I can move right now.”

Will smiled gently. “Take as long as you need. Red, stay with him. The rest of us need to move on ahead. Don’t touch him for now, let him run through his power first okay?”

The two of them nodded, and Will looked at the other three. “I don’t know how much this thing is messing with us. But it’s messing with our heads. Take longer steps than you’re used to; that might let us walk at a normal speed.”

The four of them walked down the cave.

Red stared at Unimportant for a moment before taking a seat across the cave from him. For a moment their eyes locked.

“Don’t worry. They’ll be back. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Unimportant nodded, and the two sat in silence.

 

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Chapter 36: Breath

“Where am I?

He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to be…

This place was wrong. There weren’t any colors, not even black. Nothing existed here, but he was here anyway.

“Why am I here?”

He remembered where he was. There were…colors? What were colors? He was pretty sure he remembered colors…but how would he know? There wasn’t anything like that here, if colors existed, he should see them somewhere right?

“Who…?”

Now that was an interesting one. Who was he? Was he anybody? Even if he was, what did it matter? You can’t be anybody if there’s nobody to be somebody around, can you?

He was floating…floating?…yes floating. He definitely wasn’t walking or sitting or running or standing or swimming or kneeling or flying or lying so he must be floating. He wondered where he was floating to, but that didn’t matter. There wasn’t anywhere to float to anyway.

He spread his arms, arms he was only half sure he had, and waited.

Nothing can’t last forever.

“When?”

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Will raised an eyebrow. Allspades was rarely late, but he’d never been the first one to show up.

“You’re early.”

Allspades shrugged. “Nothing else to do. Figured I’d show up early and try to figure out how we’re getting on a train in costume.”

“Who said we’re getting on a train? Train station’s just a good place to meet. Everyone knows the train station.”

“If it’s a few hours by train…then it would take over a day by anything but plane.”

Will had to stop himself from jumping. He’d noticed Unimportant approaching, but it had nearly slipped his mind by the time the slider spoke. “…True. But if getting on a train in costume seems silly, I’d like to see you try to get on a plane.”

A wave of humor rolled off of Unimportant.

“You excepted.”

“Thank you.”

Allspades was tapping his foot off to the side.

“How are we getting there then?”

“That’s easy-“

A red and white blur stopped just short of hitting Will. “Hey everyone-one­. What’s up-up?”

“Mr. Writer was going to tell us how we are getting to Burnout…Allspades wished to know how we would get on a train in costume.”

“I just assumed we would change out of our costumes-umes. We could always change back when we got there-ere.”

Allspades stared blankly at Red Racer. “How many twelve year olds do you think will be on that train?”

“Oh-oh. Right-ight. So how are we getting on the train then-en?”

“We’re getting on the train? In costume?” Hawthorne walked around the corner.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to find out!” Allspades stomped his foot. “Now, if no one else is going to interrupt-” He stared Will down. “-Will you please tell us how we’re getting there?” The sound of Mach’s rockets flooded the room. “Agh!”

Mach walked up next to Unimportant. “Why is Allspades shouting?”

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The BIT 500 was a train car in that it follows train tracks. It is entirely self-propelled, can travel twice as fast as any train, and comfortably seats 12 (uncomfortably, it can seat 18 and stand 24). Unfortunately, their size and cost make them inefficient for commercial transportation.

Most of the time, they were used for transporting businessmen who liked following their own schedule and could afford to rent one for a week. But they are known for being able to transport a small team of walkers halfway across the country in a matter of hours.

Of course, the kind of emergency that required a team to travel that far that fast didn’t come up very often. But if you had the right connections, you could borrow one at a moment’s notice.

“Adding it to the list,” Hawthorne muttered under her breath. “Right by the zeppelin.”

Allspades was the only one close enough to hear her. He turned his head slightly and raised an eyebrow.

Hawthorne sighed. She made sure to keep her voice low enough that it wouldn’t travel to the front of the car. “I’ve been trying to figure out what Will’s powers are, or were. He seems a little too comfortable with things like this.”

Allspades chuckled. “Okay, I’m game. What have you got so far?”

“Well for one, they trust him with people like us. And they don’t think we need an active walker around in case something happens.”

“True. But I wouldn’t wanna pick a fight with a room full of walkers. I don’t think they’re too worried about that.”

Hawthorne nodded. “He can also get in touch with all of our contacts regularly. I don’t know about anyone else’s, but mine’s not exactly known for being easy to talk to.”

“Then how’d you find him?”

“I impressed him. I think. He’s a little distant. But the point is he’s comfortable talking to Will often enough that he’d recommend me to the group. What about yours?”

“Not gonna help you much. My guy’s pretty open about everything. I don’t think anyone who knows him would have any trouble finding him at all. Did you include how he managed to get the word out about Asclepios’ gas out so quick? We saw a lot of guys patrolling around while we were still on our way to the warehouse.”

“I did, but it ties into my last point. He might know a tel who could get the word out right away.”

“Fair…but did you notice that he’s been staring over here the last few minutes…I think he wants to know how close you are to guessing,” Unimportant said from the seat across for them.

Hawthorne’s clothes shifted, tightening a little. She took a short breath and they returned to normal size.  “Even so, it’s not like him knowing we’re guessing would really change anything. I doubt it’s rare enough to tell us more than we already know.”

Unimportant shrugged and glanced at Red Racer. He was rapidly bouncing between the two sides of the cart staring in awe at the scenery whizzing by.

“It’s moving so fast-ast.”

Next to her, Hawthorne heard Allspades groan into his hand.

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