Chapter 82: Reign

The library was silent, and Jack was doing his best not to fall asleep at the desk. With the storm raging outside no one had come further into the library than ducking into the vestibule to escape the downpour.

He’d tried going online to keep himself distracted, but after spending the night jumping on the rooftops and stopping a few muggers, he couldn’t concentrate on the screen long enough to stop his eyes from drifting shut.

Bouncing a ball off the high ceiling wasn’t much better, but at least it kept him moving. He kept himself entertained by adjusting the throws to see just how close he could get to the ceiling without touching it.

He kept throwing the ball when he heard the outer doors opening. Even if they came into the library, whoever it was wouldn’t be checking out any books without plastic bags to put them in.

Jack leaned back to catch the falling ball, but just before he could something crashed into it with the force of a bullet and send it rocketing away from him.

Jack slowly looked at the entrance. His eyes widened and he felt his heart start galloping in his chest.


Rose watched the last of her employees rush out of the office before they closed the roads. With the amount of rain coming down, it was a miracle the storm drains hadn’t already overflowed.

She turned and stared out the window; the rain beating against it sounded more like bullets than it did water. She should be leaving too, but there was some paperwork that had to be finished today if she wanted to sleep this weekend. In the worst case scenario, she could leave her car in the garage and take a straighter path home. She could grow something to keep the rain off her if it came down to that.

The nearly blank document on the screen behind her beckoned and Rose bit back a sigh and forced herself to sit down. She tabbed over to a new window and turned up the volume on her computer; it was the only perk being alone in the office was really offering her today.

She typed along with the music as quickly as she could, but she quickly caught her fingers dragging on the keys. She kept typing the same letters over and over again. She couldn’t remember when the song had changed.

Rose felt her eyes grow heavy as a long string of ks began filling up her screen.


John listened to his mother moving around in the kitchen below. After nearly two days of spending as much time with her as he could, she’d finally ordered him to go upstairs and play some games before he drove her insane. He’d obeyed reluctantly. He couldn’t help but feel like he might vanish again as soon as he was alone.

It was a pointless fear; he knew how to return now, but the hollow echo of the Between still lurked in his mind and made his heart clench in his chest.

He had the TV on its highest volume, gratefully listening to every second it didn’t reverberate through him like he wasn’t really there.

John leaned back in his bed and let the sound wash over him. It wasn’t anything he needed to see the screen for, just some over the top action movie he’d seen a thousand times. Instead, he stared at the city map he had taped to the ceiling. Dozens of pins stuck out of it in places all across the city; the feeling of pride that had filled him the day he’d stuck the first one in rushed back into him. His brother’s drug dealer had been a good place to start, but it had only been the first step in his crusade.

For a brief moment, John let himself sink into the memory. The sound of the TV faded into nothing as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.


Mitchell sat on the bus from school, and it was killing him. He could have been back in less than a minute if he ran, but if his sister realized what he’d done then he’d be stuck with granola bars as the dessert in his lunch bag for weeks.

Even though he’d had his powers for less than a year, Mitchell couldn’t understand how people could live with moving so slowly. His teachers always spent so long talking about a single thing he could have read a library book about it faster than they finished. And none of his classmates ever seemed to notice. They took notes on every word as if they hadn’t heard the same thing literally seconds earlier.

He’d lost count of the number of times his teachers had picked him out for a question, trying to prove he wasn’t paying attention when he’d already copied their entire slide of notes before the transition animation was done.

When the bus finally dropped him off, Mitchell had to run slowly enough indoors that the rain would actually get a chance to soak his shirt until it clung to him like plastic wrap. He grimaced and tried to pull the garment away from his skin but it slopped back the moment he let go.

At least there was supposed to be a meeting tonight. Even with this rain they could probably still meet. Everyone there talked slowly too, but at least they were usually interesting, especially with Unimportant back. It was better than he’d been expecting when his sister forced him to go that first night. Even if he knew that he was going to be a hero no matter what, he had started to understand why the others were thinking about quitting. Plus, he’d actually made friends with other heroes. That was something he may have had to wait years to do if he hadn’t joined the group.

Mitchell pulled off his wet clothes and plopped down onto his bed. He’d take a shower before the meeting, but first he wanted to take a nap.


Tina slowly stood up from her wheel chair. The mechanical joints next to her kneed whirred to life at the twitch of her thoughts and slowly lifted her onto her feet. She stood up and almost immediately collapsed back into her wheel chair.

The assister was working correctly, but the amount of conscious thought and physical effort it took to do simple tasks still bothered her. She’d been told a hundred times already that it would become like second nature with practice and that her legs would get their strength back with use. She knew it was true, but it didn’t stop her from wanting to break down in tears every time she had to practically crawl into bed.

Thirty minutes twice a day. It was all she was allowed to practice for the first week. It was the third day now, and she was lucky if she managed to make it twenty minutes into practice before she was too exhausted to continue.

She’ was only ten minutes into it today and she already felt like collapsing. Tina closed her eyes to take a deep breath and was instantly asleep.


“Thomas, you’re…you’re alive!”


Jack easily leapt over the desk and raced to his old friend. Thomas seemed uncomfortable but let his former teammate wrap his arms around him and lift him into the air as easily as he’d been tossing the ball a second earlier. It was almost a full minute before Jack let him down and let him take a step back.

“Where have you been? I thought you were-“

“I know. I would have come sooner but I was…busy.” Thomas slowly ran his hands over the bleach white suit he wore, carefully smoothing any of the wrinkles left by Jack’s manhandling of him.

“Well you took too damn long,” Jack’s smile faded slightly, but still held strong. “You couldn’t have called, sent me a letter, anything?”

“I’m sorry, Mason, but I don’t have time for this right now. I came to give you an offer, and if you accept I promise we’ll have all the time we need to talk about it.”

Jack’s forehead creased as his smile dropped from his face. “What are you talking about Tom?”

“I’m going to change the way the world looks at us, Mason. I’m going to show them what happens when they turn walkers into their puppets like they did us.” For the first time Jack’s eyes locked with Thomas’, and he felt himself burning beneath them. “They treat our kind as if they deserve our protection no matter what they do and how they act. I’m going to prove them wrong, and I’m starting with this city.” Thomas’ smile nearly split his face in two, but his eyes still burned. “And I want you to help me.”

Jack took a step back. “What do you-?”

Thomas shook his head. “I see. You’ve already been corrupted by this notion of hero. I was afraid that I’d be too late. I really should have come sooner, Knight.”

He turned and started walking for the door. Almost immediately, Jack dropped to his knees. Exhaustion flooded through every bone in his body.

“Maybe when you see what I’ve done, you’ll understand.”

“K-King!” Jack managed to call out.

Thomas looked back, for a moment Jack swore that the fire behind his eyes dimmed. “I threw that name away, Mason. When you wake up, tell them to call me Trump.”

Another wave of exhaustion hit him, and Jack fell asleep.


George Sadler ran through the streets. His eyes darted back and forth constantly, looking for a sign that anyone else was still moving.

But it was pointless.

Burnout was the only one still awake.

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