Month: March 2017

MEMOIRS OF THE SECOND AGE 4: Burnout

Unimportant said you’d be coming.  I’d say sorry for the mess, but I don’t exactly clean up the cave for the one week I use it.

I’d really rather stay back here. I don’t look pretty when I’m like this, and I’ve scared people before. Let’s just get the interview going.

You wanted to know about Will, right? The man at both sides of the Second Age.

I think Unimportant got you to the most important part. There isn’t much to tell until Eclipse attacked, and I think you know more than enough about that.

He disappeared for three months after Jaeger attacked. No, wait, he didn’t’ quite disappear. We all saw him once. He’s walk behind us and we’d see him in a reflection, or lock eyes with use from across the street, but he was always gone if by the time we reached him. If it hadn’t happened to all of us, I would have thought I was seeing things.

We couldn’t have meetings without Will, but by then I don’t think there was any way we were going to stop being heroes. I think Will knew that too, or maybe I just feel less abandoned that way.

We’d still meet up every few weeks, and we’d patrol together when we could. It had become a habit at that point, and it’s always better to have someone watching your back.

If I had to be honest, it was the quietest three months of our careers. After Jaeger and Trump, a lot of new heroes showed up. Nobody you’d know, most of them didn’t last long, but a few dozen new heroes looking to prove themselves make for a pretty good fishing net for everyday villains.

I didn’t mind the help. I’d only been able to harden my flames for a few weeks, and I needed the time to practice.

By the end of those three months, I could keep the armor up constantly, and the wings had started looking less and less like they were made of fire. They had started to become the most recognizable part of my outfit.

The others were just as busy. Hawthorne still had her job, Allspades had started teaching classes at the gym, and Unimportant’s crusade had never even stopped. Red had started patrolling with his sister. I don’t think she wanted anyone to get any ideas now that they knew he was Jaeger’s son.

We did have some time to look for Will, but nowhere to start. He’d cleaned out his apartment, he wasn’t going to any of his usual bars, and none of the heroes he used to talk to weekly had heard or seen anything. We even spent a week taking turns camping out on top of the Kalliope hall. He never showed up.

Will was gone. He had grown up under the head of the largest organization of government paid walkers in the world. He knew how to disappear. Nobody who knew his name saw or heard any hint of him for those three months. If things had happened a little differently, then he might have disappeared forever. Maybe it would have been better that way.

We managed to piece some things together later. After that first week where he showed himself to all of us, he dyed his hair. He cut it too, but it was already short enough that he couldn’t do much about that. He started smiling more, not because he was happy, but because it stretched his face in a way we wouldn’t recognize.

At some point he broke his nose. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but he let it heal crooked anyway.

We found his new apartment after he died. He must have had a lot more money saved away than we thought, because it was three times as large as his old one and in the part of town with so much money you’d swear it was paved with it. It was, of course, the last place we’d think to look.

There were other touches too, I’m sure, but those were the ones he couldn’t change by the time we saw him.

He had decided to start over. And he was doing a good job of it. His neighbors all seemed to like him, he’d quit drinking, he even got a pet. Or at least he was planning on getting one. He had the food and a litter box, but we never found a cat.

The end of the second age started two weeks before Will died. That’s when the weirdness started, but I’m guessing you have enough reports on that.

-Burnout
Memoirs of the Second Age

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Chapter 122: Unwilling

They were laughing. They were all together for the first time since Frankenstein’s attack, and they were taking the chance to celebrate. It was the kind of thing that most heroes never took the time to do.

Will watched them from a roof across from the hospital. Two of them were in hospital beds, and a third would probably be confined as soon as the nurses realized he’d left his room again. But they were alive; they were safe. They’d taken out a villain who should have killed them all.

And he’d been gone. For nearly two weeks.

It had taken days for the news of Jaeger’s escape to reach the people who needed to know the most. Rachel and Mitchell should have been moved out of the city where Jaeger couldn’t find them. There were at least three heroes near the city with powers that could neutralize Jaeger in the right circumstances. But the information had died before it reached who it needed to.

He hadn’t made his rounds. He’d spent years making sure news made it through the city, but he never realized that he made himself essential. He was supposed to disappear, and instead he’d become just as important as Will Writer as he’d been as Rumor.

Those kids were his responsibility. They never should have been fighting somebody like Jaeger, not when there was another option. He should have been there to stop them, to keep them safe.

“And how far would you have gone?” The voice was loud and clear, but it never touched his ears.

“Stay out of my head, Meister.”

A figure appeared on the roof next to him. Today, he was a walking shadow wearing a green hood held on by a red brooch, but when you weren’t really there, you could look like anything you wanted to.

“Trust me, I’m more than happy to stay out of the mosh-pit you call a brain, but when you think that loudly, you can’t blame people for listening in.”

Will shoved his thoughts beneath a layer of noise, and Meister flickered for a moment.

“That…was rude. And you’re trying to change the subject. When Jaeger came after his son, what would you have done?”

“It wouldn’t have gotten that far.”

Meister snorted. “Even you aren’t that conceited. Jaeger wouldn’t have fallen for any trap you set. He had already taken out the only Council member still in the city, the only runner we thought had a chance with keeping up with him. He couldn’t be tracked. He couldn’t be trapped. He would have found his son. What would you have done?”

Will stared into the hospital room. The nurses had shown up and were trying to get Mitchell to go back to his room. The others were starting to wrap up too. Soon, Burnout and Allspades would be the only ones left in the room.

“It’s my job to keep them safe. I would have done whatever I needed to.”

“Even if it meant revealing yourself to them? To anyone watching? You couldn’t fight subtly against Jaeger. You’d have destroyed everything between you two just to have a chance. And suddenly, Rumor’s back in town. Your name would be on every news reel and headline in the country. So tell me, what would Will Writer do if Rumor couldn’t hide anymore.”

The nurses had finally corralled Mitchell, and the rest of the team was following them out the door.

“Do you see them? Every one of them is still alive. Not because of anything I did, but in spite of what I did. Every choice I’ve made for them has turned out worse than the one before it. And they’ve been hurt, one of them will probably never be further than a few feet form a wheelchair. It’s only a matter of time before one of them dies. And you know what? None of them are even thinking about quitting; not seriously. The trials they’ve faced in the last few months, have made them strong enough to take on Jaeger and come out on top. If I had been there, I would have used my powers, because they will do more good in their lives than I ever will again.

“And then, I would do what Rumor does best. I would disappear. I would go somewhere I could vanish and never look back. Because I couldn’t do anything worse for those kids than staying close to them.”

“You tried that once. You couldn’t stay away.”

The light in the hospital room turned off, and Will finally looked away.

“I didn’t have a good enough reason to.”

Meister’s projection never moved, but it stayed next to Will as he walked for the edge of the roof.

“And what will you do now? Those kids are waiting for you. They spent the days before Jaeger’s attack trying to track you down. They’ll find out you came back, and they’ll be waiting for you.”

Will flooded his mind with noise and Meister vanished. Will didn’t have long; he’d probably be sending Lux over soon.

Will took the stairs anyway. Lux was good at finding him, but Will was better at knowing when he’d be coming.

Meister’s question still lingered in the air. He could go back to his old life. This group didn’t need him anymore; they were heroes, and all of them had realized it by now. But there was always another group; there were kids out there who really did need to quit the job to keep themselves alive. He could wipe the slate; go back to being the person he was before that first meeting.

But those kids had gotten to him. There were heroes out there who needed to quit, and he didn’t think he could convince them anymore.

He couldn’t be that guy again. He couldn’t be Rumor again. He didn’t know who he was going to be tomorrow.

Will Writer walked out of the empty building and climbed into the fist cab.

He never called another meeting.

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