At his touch the wall bowed towards him and then he let it go and it blasted outwards, sending debris shooting into the open air. The scent of grass filled his nose for the first time in 14 years. His stretched his arms towards the sun until his joints gave a satisfying pop.
The red lights flashed behind him and the sirens rang in his ear, but it was already too late. It was too late the moment they lost power. They only gave him a second, but that was more than enough time.
By the time the guards arrived he was already gone. The field around him blurred and melded into an abstract splotch of colors as he fled the prison.
Part of him wanted to go home right away, to take down everyone who had stolen his life all those years ago, but he felt his strength leaving him more with every league he crossed. He could be home in hours, but he would be too weak to face his persecutors.
He could afford patience. He had waited for 14 years; he could wait a little longer.
In three days, he would be strong enough to go home, and then he would have his revenge.
Bloodshed could wait. The hunt had already begun.
It had taken nine days for the city to start functioning again. Even then, entire blocks were roped off and scheduled to be imploded. It would take months to get those buildings up and running again.
Burnout floated above the city. A few people noticed him, and more than one had stopped to point him out to their friends. Apparently someone had caught the four of them on camera after the fight. Ever since, none of them had been able to go out in costume without somebody trying to snap a picture.
They might not recognize him without the armor, but that one day had put him further along in using it than the months he’d been practicing with it since the cave. He needed to keep it up. Pretty soon, he might be able to use it all the time. So he left it up, and the crowds noticed him.
Two weeks ago, he would have loved the attention, but now he just wished he could patrol without people announcing his presence to the world.
And in two weeks, he’d be back in school. Last year, he’d barely been able to juggle his patrols with his classes without driving himself into an early grave. He was better now; he had a grasp of the person he needed to be, but this year the classes were supposed to be twice as hard.
His fiery wings unfurled behind him and he leaned back in the sky. Thoughts of school could wait. Sooner or later, he’d find a way to balance it out. Burnout and George Sadler could coexist, and he would find a way to make sure they did.
Something bright and red creeped into his vision. He turned over in the sky. A tree had grown on a nearby rooftop. Red leaves crowned its top, but they weren’t waving. It was important then, but not urgent. Burnout gave a completely unnecessary flap of his winds and glided towards the tree.
As he landed Hawthorne rested her hand on the tree and it collapsed back into a seed. He’d tried watching a documentary on rewind to see if it was anything like what she could do. Her way was much more disturbing. It looked similar enough, but the way the tree cracked and popped as the branches forced themselves back into the trunk sounded more…alive than a tree ever should.
“What’s up?” Burnout let his armor fade into wisps of blue and stepped out of it. It vanished completely behind him.
“If you’re asking then they haven’t found you yet. Will’s disappeared.”
Burnout’s stomach clenched.
“They don’t think he’s in trouble, but apparently no one the Council has talked to has seen him since a couple days after the attack. They wanted to know if any of us had. I’m guessing you haven’t either.”
“No,” Burnout said. “I wouldn’t even know where to start looking.”
“That sounds like what everyone else said.” Hawthorne sighed. “I was hoping that someone would know if he was all right.”
“So what’s the next move?
“Huh?” Hawthorne’s eyes jumped to meet his.
“We’re not just gonna let him disappear right? Are we all gonna meet up or just let each other know if we find something?”
Hawthorne blinked a few times before answering. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do. Apparently, it looks like he was getting ready for a trip.”
“But, we should at least take a look. I’ll get in touch with the others, let’s meet up tomorrow; at the place we had our first field trip.”
Burnout nodded. Hawthorne ran a few steps and launched herself onto the next roof, leaves fluttered in her wake.
Burnout didn’t take off right away. He walked to the edge of the roof and sat down. Will’s disappearance was concerning, but he wasn’t sure why. It was hard, impossible even, to imagine Will in real danger. The man never seemed surprised or worried. Even during the attack, he’d never seemed like he had lost control.
He’d watched Will walk up to a man twice his size and take him down in seconds. What kind of power made someone so sure of themselves that they never even flinched at the thought of going had to head with a tank?
And yet, he hadn’t been surprised by a moment of it. Ever since the first meeting, Will had always been there. A constant presence that helped them through every hardship on the way. Even when they’d separated during Asclepios’ attack, he’d turned up at the end, like he’d been waiting around the corner the whole time, like he’d been making sure that none of them were in enough danger to need his help.
And now, he was gone. The one person the six of them could guarantee would be there to help. Burnout looked off the edge of the roof. It was the same city he’d been flying over a few minutes ago; the same city he’d fought to protect last week. And right now, it felt less safe than ever.