Will stared at Janus, his lips curling into a frown. “So you’ve actually talked to him?”
“No.” Janus clenched her fist nervously. “I’ve been talked at by him. He seeks out rift radiation, and he knows when someone new is using it. We don’t exactly advertise it.”
“I thought you couldn’t get near him? Isn’t he supposed to scare you all?”
Janus nodded. “Sliders have defenses against each other; we can all sense rift rads. He puts off so much constantly that it makes us sick to be anywhere near him. But he can pop up anywhere. We don’t get much of a warning.”
“What did you do?”
“I ran. Every slider I’ve ever talked to about it did the same. He never shows up again, I think he’s just messing with us.”
Will sighed. “I guess I’ll need to ask him if they’ve met yet next time. Always fun to talk about Eclipse.”
Janus shivered. Will eyed her out of the corner of his eye.
“It’s a name. He doesn’t even like it. It’s not gonna summon him.”
Janus still looked nervous. “How would you know he doesn’t like it?”
Will’s frown deepened and Janus felt a shiver run up her spine. “I know more about that man than I’ll ever want to.” He glanced up at the clock hanging from the chamber wall. “I should get back. Tell Lux I’ll see him next week.”
Will walked out of the chamber before Janus could ask him anything else.
Zero and Janus had secluded themselves to the far side of the Councilate’s bar. Sigurd and Adamant were having a drinking contest on the far side, and Lux was already calling Jim Hob to haul at least one of them home.
Zero shook her head. “You’re lucky he didn’t snap. For a month after Kalliope, we thought he was going to end up killing someone.”
Janus had removed the lower part of her mask to drink. Her lips were pulled into a thin line. “I just think it’s suspicious. He’s talking about…him like their old friends who had a falling out.”
Zero started coughing. She quickly glanced up to make sure no one was looking their way while she shushed the other hero. When she spoke, her voice was notably quieter. “Be quiet when you say stuff like that. There’s a reason he was called Rumor. You’re right about it being a little odd, but there’s a reason we trust the guy. If he wanted to find out more information on who Eclipse was he could. If Lux can be believed, his father used to work for the Walker Watchers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew a few people who can see past the black lines.”
Janus took a big gulp from her drink. “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I don’t see why you all trust him so easily.”
“I think I may need to hear this too.”
Both of them looked up. Miss Mirror waved at the bartender and he quickly poured her a drink.
“I don’t think so. Just because you’re old enough to be here now doesn’t mean you get to listen in,” Zero said sharply. “You have 10 seconds to give me a good reason or get out.”
Miss Mirror glared at her. “If you tell anyone, I’m blasting you into space.” She waited for both of the others to nod. “My brother’s in that group of his.”
Janus looked unimpressed, but Zero’s eyes widened. “You’re telling us this now?” She hissed. “This is kind of important.”
Miss Mirror just stared at her.
“Fine, you’re in.”
Zero got another, large, drink and took a long sip before she started.
“The first thing you have to realize is that Will probably knows the identity of more heroes than any four other walkers combined. He doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter; half of his power is passive. Honestly, if he wasn’t trustworthy, we’d have found out a lot sooner. Lux is related to him, Adamant respects him, and apparently Court’s spirit sense or whatever tells him to. But, I can only really tell you why I trust him.”
*13 Years Prior*
It was before my second speed up. People still called me Minute-Girl, back when the news got to pick our names. Trust me, you’re both lucky you started after that.
The Council back then was almost useless. They were caught up in so much red tape that they could barely even act as heroes; none of them realized quite how bad the city had really gotten. Hero deaths had become so common that gangs were using us as initiation targets.
I was working with another runner then, Hermes, or Speed of Silver, if you preferred the bloggers. We were one of three or four teams that kept the university clear. But it made us easy targets.
We’d been warned a few days before. We’d heard about Rumor, but there’s a reason he earned that name. He was in the background a lot, passing information that he’d heard or picked up on. But we’d never actually met anyone he’d helped, and nobody we knew had either.
He’d passed a message to everyone in the area that the Founders were going to be hitting heroes near the college. It said that they had a couple of Jaunters in the group. It even had guesses about their powers, but nothing solid. He told us to stay off the streets, that he was asking more experienced heroes to step in.
None of us listened.
Hermes was faster than I was back then. Not by much, but he liked to pull ahead when we went on patrol; he would always let me catch up, but never before he was out of sight.
By the time I caught up, it was pointless. Neither of the Jaunters had ever had a codename, but they didn’t need one. They were a typical pair, a tank and a tel, but apparently they were twins. The tel could see into the future, and they shared perceptions almost constantly.
Hermes’ speed counter didn’t work against anything alive unless he told it to. The tel only had to tell his brother where to stand, and Hermes turned himself into soup.
They were waiting for me too. I’m lucky; my counter is almost perfect, even back then. But the punch still broke my collar bone.
If they were the only two there, then I may have still had a chance. But there were at least a dozen more of their gang there. They were standing back, but the moment I stopped, one of them shot me in the leg.
I thought they would kill me right away, just open fire all at once. But the tank brother was calling out one of the members in particular. He pretty much forced the gun in his hand and marched him over.
I watched them teaching the kid how to shoot. Apparently they didn’t let them practice so they would have to shoot the heroes as many times as it took to kill them.
I was going to die, but the tel started shouting that they needed to move.
Will just sort of walked up behind them.
One of the others was going to shoot him, but the tel told him not to. Kept saying how anyone who shot was done for.
Most of them were confused, but the tel looked like he was gonna have a heart attack.
And then Will walked straight up to the tel.
“What am I going to do next?”
The tel fainted on the spot, and the tank was twitching.
“I want you all to understand, no matter how this night ends, you are all going to jail. If you want, you can stop by the hospital first. I’m fine either way, but you’re all responsible for the death of one hero tonight; three others heard the gunshot and are on their way, and I brought two with me. I assure you, none of them will be giving you the chance to surrender.”
The gang looked cowed, but the tank charged at Will. Apparently without his brother he dropped a few IQ points, because whatever came out of his mouth was definitely not words.
Will just stood there. Then there was a bright flash of light and the tank was next to his brother, with a giant burn on his chest. The rest of them dropped to their knees and they were collected a few minutes later.
Will had stopped paying attention though. He was kneeling by what was left of Hermes.
“Do you know his name?”
It took me a moment to realize it was me. But I nodded.
“Will you tell it to me?”
I asked him why.
“Someone has to tell his family. If I had been able to figure out where they were sooner, then he’d still be alive.”
I told him it should be me.
“You’ll be in the hospital. They need to know sooner than that. If you don’t want to tell me, it’s fine, but you’ll have to do it over the phone.”
I wanted to argue, but he was right.
“I had my first drink when I got out of the hospital three days later. That’s when I met Slipstream and Lux. They were the ones with Will that night. That’s why I trust him, because the last time I didn’t, someone died, and a lot more could have.”
“He didn’t even use his powers? He caused and earthquake a few days ago and he couldn’t be bothered to fight them himself?” Miss Mirror asked; her voice had sunk low and grown hot.
Zero shook her head. “Will avoided the active side of his powers those days. Apparently there had been trauma. But even with them on passive mode he could put up a fair enough fight. I think he was trying to build up a certain image with the gangs.”
She looked over to Janus. “That enough for you?”
Janus shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I need to know more before I can be sure. You only know half that story. I think I need to ask one of the others.”
Zero sighed. “Fine, but not tonight. I don’t think Lux is gonna be in the mood to deal with anything after those two.”