Will Writer

Chapter 134: The End of an Age

It had gotten cold under the black sky. He’d shoved his hands as deep into the pockets of his coat as he could, but the frigid air was still biting at his fingers.

William Writer walked into the battlefield.

He walked past the injured heroes lying on the streets.

He walked past the exhausted heroes, forced to the sidelines.

Eclipse had stopped using the pillars. If it were any other villain, Will would think that he’d gotten tired, but Eclipse didn’t run out of power. He was just done with his experiment for the day. He had reverted to his older tricks instead.

Most of the heroes were fighting his ghosts. The blackened figures looked like somebody different to everyone who fought them. Will didn’t look too closely. He knew who he would see.

Will stopped. Eclipse would be at the center of it all. He wasn’t in the sky anymore; he would be on the ground to let as many heroes as possible have a chance to attack him. It wouldn’t work. Eclipse couldn’t be hurt by any attack they could throw at him like this.

It had been so simple. He didn’t know how he hadn’t thought of it before.

Will closed his eyes and silenced the world.

His voice rang out over the battlefield, but his lips didn’t move.

Unimportant. Janus. I need your help.

It was a simple, almost mundane use of his power, one of the first things he’d learned to do. It was the kind of thing he’d use to show off as a teenager. He was the only one who could hear anything anymore.

He wanted to let it end there; his message had been sent, but if this was going to work, he would need a clear path. Will targeted the ghosts. He couldn’t hurt them directly-there was too much of a crowd for him to risk it-but he didn’t need to.

Will isolated his power onto the ghosts, and sound returned. With another flex of his power, his power screamed straight into the ghost’s ears.

They weren’t human. They were barely sentient. But Will had fought them for a third of his life, and he knew exactly how much this would hurt.

The ghosts fell back. They didn’t try to cover their ears, they were better than that, but none of their fights lasted long after Will started his attack.

“Janus.”

Even without his powers, Will would have heard her cape flapping in the wind behind him.

“I don’t like being summoned.”

“It’s too late to make you like me. Hello, Unimportant.”

He felt Janus jump as the young hero materialized next to her.

hello will…you showed up”

“I’m sorry.”

“you’re here now…what do you need”

The battle around them had mostly stopped, and most of the heroes were looking his way. Even if they didn’t know who he was, they had to realize he’d been the one to call Janus out. More than a few had already connected the rest of the dots. Soon, everyone would know that Rumor had joined the fight.

“I can stop him. I think I can stop him for good, but I need your help.”

He could have kept it quiet. He could have stopped everyone else from hearing him, but secrets wouldn’t do him any good anymore.

They needed to hurry, but he waited for their answer. He couldn’t rush them into this. No matter how much he wanted to beg.

“Are you sure?”

Will pulled his hands from his pockets and turned around. He’d been getting more sleep in the last few weeks than he’d had in months, but right now he felt more tired than he had in years. Judging by the way the two of them flinched when he met their eyes, they saw it too.

“Yes. I have to do this.”

“what do you need”

“I need you to user your power on me. I need you to split me between as many worlds as possible. All of them if you can.”

No.”

Unimportant’s sudden emergence into reality caused the air to ripple. The only thing still obscured was his face, but the wave of shock and an anger rolling off of him made his message clear.

“You have to. That’s how he does it. We can’t kill Eclipse because he’s barely even here. If we want to beat him, we need to hit him everywhere at once.”

If I do that, you’ll never get back. You may not even be sane enough to do anything once I start.

“That’s what she’s here for. Janus can anchor my mind so that I can keep going long enough to finish it.”

There’s another way.

“No there isn’t!” Will’s power rolled out with his voice, carrying it throughout the city. “Eclipse has killed tens of thousands of people in our world alone. He hasn’t aged since the start of the Cold War. He just killed Red Racer. We have to do this…Please.”

For just a moment, Unimportant let himself appear fully in the world. He met Will’s eyes for the first time since he’d returned from in between. His eyes were red and cracked, whether from crying or from fighting all day. His gaze dared Will to look away, but Will held steady.

Unimportant closed his eyes and let himself fade. “okay

Will looked to Janus.

“You had me at kill Eclipse.”

Will nodded and turned back towards Eclipse, still hovering in the center of the city without a care in the world. “Then I’m ready.”

The two slider’s walked up behind Will and placed a hand each of his shoulders.

Will closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, he was looking at thousands of worlds.

A lot of them, maybe even most of them, looked just like Macropolis. He was in forest. He was on mountains. He was standing on a lake of lava and floating in the emptiness of space. His mind should be in pieces. His brain should be oozing out of his ears. But he focused himself completely on a single thought.

In every world, Eclipse was floating in front of him.

He could see Eclipse clearly for the first time. The cloak of darkness that normally shrouded him from view was practically invisible. Will could see the long slender fingers dancing in the air as if each were conducting its own orchestra. Will could see the same well pressed suit that Eclipse had been wearing the day he got his powers. But most importantly, Will could see the razor thin white line running across his neck.

Will stepped forwards, and Eclipse raised his arms towards him.

“William! It has been too long. And here you are, sitting on the throne of a god, just like I always knew you could. An heir of Mnemosyne deserves so much more than you have given yourself. Even the title you chose was so far beneath your potential that it is almost insulting. Rumor, the master of sound. You are so much more than that.”

Will kept moving.

“I’m here to kill you, Phillip.”

Eclipse laughed. “Kill me? I cannot die, William. You have barely even begun to enter my realm. Even after drinking the ambrosia and spreading yourself so very thin, you are only seeing a tenth of me. And why would you want to? Don’t you realize what you have done? If I were to help you, you could become as invincible as I am.“

“Did you know that I can’t help it? Every day, there are people hurt and killed and every one of them screams for help. And I hear every last one of them. For the last eight years, I have heard the dying words of every person you’ve killed. Every one of them curses your name, and you call yourself a god?”

“And you think that you’ll be the one to stop it? I have seen you in a thousand worlds, fighting millions of battles. You are powerful, but even the greatest of your songs cannot harm me. My experiments will not end here.”

Will didn’t slow down. “Can’t they? Are you sure? After all, you still have that scar.”

“Ah yes, your goddess’s gift. It was the kind of attack that never should have worked on me. But you two did work well together. Nonetheless, it was just a scratch. A fatal blow is nothing to a true god.”

Will was finally in arm’s length of Eclipse.

“For what it’s worth. I’m sorry it came to this.”

Eclipse’s smile only grew wider.

Will reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

It had been eight years since Will drank the ambrosia. After all that time, he had never pushed his power to its new limit. He knew what it would do to him.

Will’s power reached within Eclipse, past the point of sound, into the smallest level of vibration.

Eclipse felt it almost instantly.

“What are you doing?!”

His hand reached to grab at Will’s, but he was too slow. His finger’s brushing Will’s arm just gave another outlet for his power.

Eclipse’s fingers disintegrated.

“No!”

Will grabbed Eclipse tightly and trapped his arms in a hug. He had to, his fingers were going too.

“I’m sorry. But even you can’t survive this.”

Eclipse screamed, but Will couldn’t hear him anymore. His powers were entirely focused on his task.

For the first time in his life, William Writer experienced silence.

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Chapter 133: Grief

“MITCH!”

Rachel Chase flew for the pillar of light. She didn’t slow down for the shouts ringing from behind her. She didn’t stop for the hands that tried to grab for her. She didn’t stop for the walls of fire and rock and wind that sprung up in front of her.

She didn’t stop because 13 years ago she had complained that her parents brought home the little brother she had never even considered wanting.

She didn’t stop because 9 year ago, she had spent four hours scouring the park for the action figure her brother had dropped, and because the smile on his face when she brought it home had been worth every second her parents had grounded her.

She didn’t stop because 7 years ago, she had had to tell her little brother that their parents were never coming home again, and she had promised him that things would be okay, that she would never leave him.

She didn’t stop because 3 years ago, she had spent two months convincing her grandparents that she needed to move out of their house and take her little brother with her. Because he needed to be closer to school and she needed to be in the city.

She didn’t stop because 3 months ago, she had seen her brother do the impossible. Because after watching him lay in a hospital bed nearly catatonic for countless hours, he had broken free and faced down a villain on his own that had taken out half a dozen more experienced heroes in a few short days.

She didn’t stop because she couldn’t believe that anything could happen to him, because she had promised that she would never leave him, because she always believed that nothing would ever take him away from her.

She stopped after light had faded. When she reached the center of the pillar, where the ground had been scoured clean, she fell to her knees.

There wasn’t a mark on him, but he didn’t look like he was sleeping. She grabbed him and hugged him to her chest and prayed for him to fight her off like he’d done hundreds for times before. His arms hung limply behind him. She pulled the helmet from his head and begged him to breathe, to wake up.

His skin had already grown stiff and clammy. His eyes had already grown glassy. He looked like he’d been dead for hours.

She didn’t scream. She hadn’t taken a breath since the pillar appeared. Her sobs were quiet, but there wasn’t any sound to drown them out. Her tears dripped onto his face and she wiped them away.

She didn’t realize she had turned her power off completely until she felt the hands grabbing her shoulders. She gripped onto Mitch more tightly but they slowly pried her away. They were saying something, but she couldn’t understand them.

She let herself get pulled away, but her eyes never left her brother’s body. He had crumpled onto his side when she let go and she wanted to rush forward and put him back onto his back. She stared at him until the crowd of heroes closed up behind her.

They stared at her as she was pulled through the lines. She could see them turning to watch her, and she wanted to shout at them. She wanted to yell at them because her brother was dead and they were staring at her instead of going after the monster that killed him.

A figure retreated into a dark alley, and she knew who he was, but he couldn’t be here.

They finally pulled her back to the edges of the battle, where the injured heroes were laid out. They found her a spot on the curb and sat her down.

Someone was on one knee in front of her, and trying to talk to her. She let her eyes wander to the face and managed to recognize Hawthorne’s helmet.

“-be okay?”

She hadn’t heard most of the question, but Rachel knew what she was asking.

“Go.”  She put all the venom she had left in her into that word.

Hawthorne jerked back.

“Go get that monster. I’ll be fine.”

Hawthorne’s face was hidden, but Rachel knew she was hesitating.

“GO!”

She had started crying again. When she shouted, her tears were flicked off of her faces and landed on Hawthorne’s suit, which drank the liquid thirstily.

Hawthorne still moved slowly but she got up and walked back to the battle, watching Rachel over her shoulder.

Rachel didn’t watch her walk away. Her mind was drawn to the last image of her brother, lying on his side and slowly growing smaller as she was dragged away.

And then there was the man in the alley. He couldn’t be here, but she knew she saw him. Her mind’s eye lingered on the shadowy image and her face grew hot. The tears running down her face started to sting in her eyes before they were finally squeezed out. Her hands clenched into fists, and she slowly rose into the air.

She stormed through the sky. He wouldn’t be in the alley anymore, but she knew where he’d be running.

Away.

He could move fast, but not quietly. He wouldn’t have gone far.

Miss Mirror slammed into the ground in front of Will Writer.

Her fist slammed into his face. She didn’t put her power into it, but he wasn’t expecting the blow. Will went sprawling back onto the ground.

“Hello, Rachel.”

Even now, he sounded calm.

“You bastard. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came-” Will got to his feet as he was talking. “when I saw your brother running to the fight. I’m sorry.”

Her tears had been blown dry during her flight, but she felt them melting her eyeballs from the inside, waiting to burst free.

“Sorry?” Her breath hissed through her teeth. “You’re sorry? You were supposed to protect him.”

Her fist slammed into his chest. There was no force behind it.

“You were supposed to watch him.”

Her fist slammed into him again.

“To make sure he was ready.”

Again.

“And you abandoned him. You abandoned all of them.”

Her fist slammed into him again and her tears finally burst free.

He stood there, still as a statue, taking it all.

“You ran away.”

Her fist dropped to her side and Will stepped back.

“I did.”

She looked up. There were circles under his eyes, and wrinkles on his face that she had never seen before.  He wasn’t crying. He didn’t even look sad. He looked up at the black figure hanging against the black sky.

“That man, comes back no matter how many times he’s beaten. No matter how many times he’s killed. He exists somewhere outside of this world that we can’t reach. There isn’t a hero on any world that can touch him.”

“I don’t care.” Miss Mirror was surprised to hear herself speaking.

Will turned back to face her.

“I don’t care where he his or when he is or if he is literally everywhere. That thing killed my brother.”

She looked at Will, and he was staring back at her, but his mind was somewhere completely different. She was going to punch him again, she could feel her skin starting to boil.

He turned and walked towards the battle.

“Where are you going?!” She shouted after him.

“To end it.”

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Chapter 130: Distance

Even without the binoculars, he could see the glow around Allspades from a few blocks away. The white figure jumped off the roof and dove headfirst into one of the flesh creatures. He vanished from sight as the creature swallowed him whole.

Will gripped the balcony railing until his knuckles turned white. Eclipse was forcing them to kill. He never used the same trick twice, but mutating people like this was something completely new. The heroes were as good as dead as soon as they were fused together, but most of the others weren’t going to be able to handle killing what was left. More than one hero had already been brought to their knees after the bodies reformed.

Cracks appeared in the creature and white light poured out of it. It grew brighter until the creature vanished.

One of the monsters had been under constant bombardment for the last five minutes, and it still wasn’t stopping. These things weren’t smart enough to stop fighting before they died. Each of them had half a dozen minds without a brain cell to speak of. It might have been possible to stop them with a barrier or a cage, but they would just attack it until they bashed themselves into pieces or they wall gave out. Even if they could be contained, there was no guarantee stopping Eclipse would change them back.

The light vanished. Will yanked the binoculars back over his eyes. Allspades had dropped to one knee. He was surrounded by half a dozen bodies but he ignored them and struggled to his feet. He was used to bodies. For once, his history was an advantage.

Hawthorne had done almost as well. She’d frozen when she first saw the bodies hanging from her trees, but she’d avoided Eclipse’s next attack and went straight back to the fight.

Will couldn’t help the light smile tugging at his lips.

Will shouldn’t be here. He should be down in the basement shelter with his neighbors. Instead he was up here, trying to figure out the best way to fight these things.

“You’re not a hero anymore. You’re not even in the same room.”

Saying it out loud didn’t help. The words floated in the air around him, but they felt lifeless. No matter how hard he fought, a part of him wanted to be out there. The sight of Eclipse stoked the rage he’d kept buried for the last three years. But he was done being a hero. Even the kids didn’t need him anymore. He wasn’t going to give up his new life for an old grudge.

A blue comet darted across the sky again and Will focused his sights on the new distraction. Burnout was one of the few heroes who could stay in the sky long enough to attack Eclipse directly. So far they had barely managed to distract him, but eventually he would take enough damage to flee.

Will scanned the streets. He caught himself doing it every few minutes, searching for a tiny red and white blur, but he hadn’t seen it yet. Maybe they’d told him to stay away from the fight. Maybe he’d actually listened.

Miss Mirror was flying too, but she didn’t get anywhere near Eclipse. She couldn’t; he’d have killed well before she could get close enough to punch him. She was stuck getting people away from His attacks and away from the monters’ groping tentacles.

The pillars were rarely hitting heroes anymore. The sliders must have figured out what to look for. But there were still enough of the monsters around to keep everyone busy.

“That’s exactly what he’s looking for.”

Will shifted his gaze up to Eclipse. This couldn’t be all he was planning. It was too simple, too overt. There was something else coming. He focused on Eclipse’s face and watched as closely as he could. His eyes were half lidded and his lips were pressed thin. He turned back and forth until he was looking in Will’s direction. And then he was looking at Will. His lips curved upwards and he raised a single hand.

“What are you planning, Barber?”

Eclipse’s fingers danced in the air, and one of the monsters vanished.

“So they’re more than a distraction.”

Of course they were. They were too big, too complicated, to be just a distraction. If they’d managed to kill them all fast enough, then they could have stopped the plan before it got going.

Will tore his gaze away from Eclipse’s. If anyone down there realized what Eclipse had done, they weren’t spending the time to think about it. Everyone who had been fighting it had split off to fight the others.

Or maybe he had spoken too soon. Hawthorne had left her fight and was talking with nobody. Unimportant must have figured out what was going on. For the second time that day, Hawthorne sprouted wings.

He followed her trail up to Burnout and any flyer she could get on the way. Maybe they would be able to stop it.

Will looked back to Allspades. He had moved in on another of the monsters, but it didn’t look like he would be able to dive in like he had the last one. Will couldn’t tell if he was too tired for it or if he just couldn’t get close enough.

Will scanned the streets again. There were still too many monsters left. If Eclipse unleashed whatever he had locked away, they’d be too divided to handle it.

Will almost looked back at Eclipse before he froze. He panned along the ground quickly. He didn’t want to think he’d seen it, but the way his heart had frozen was all the proof he needed.

A red and white blur was racing towards the battle. A trail of dust followed behind it, growing wider and longer with every step. It moved too fast for him to make out any details, but Will could imagine the goofy grin behind the visor.

Red Racer was coming to fight.

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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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Chapter 117: Empty

The black suit’s breathing became labored, snapping Will out of his memory. He wasn’t being careful enough; the void liked to play tricks on people’s minds, and it was too easy to lose yourself when there was nothing to pull you back.

Without a doorway open, the void between worlds was shadowless. Will and the black suit had been avoiding looking at each other too closely. Without shadows to define them, faces began to look…off. Will glanced at the anchor, unconscious and slung over his shoulder, and shuddered.

It was hard to say whether they moved through the void, or if it was the other way around. It was hard to say if moving between worlds took hours, or if it was instantaneous. Even sound seemed to behave wrongly in the void; you practically had to shout to be heard a few feet away.

Will hated the void. But then, everyone hated the void. It wasn’t the kind of place a person went to to keep their sanity.

The black suit released a breath and Will looked in his direction, though, not directly at him.

“Got it.”

A pinprick of real light appeared in the air in front of them, returning shadows to the world. Slowly the light grew into a circular doorway. They had reached the next world the anchor had jumped from.

Will let the anchor a shove. He floated gently through the void until the new world’s gravity took ahold and pulled him through the gate. The man flopped to the ground. Will watched his prone form closely.

The dust from his landing flowed around him, eddying around his hands and heads despite the lack of wind.

Will growled. This was the third wrong world they’d tried to take the anchor to.

“No good, then?”

The black suit’s voice was still calm, but even he sounded tired after the constant sliding.

“He must have been sliding between worlds for months before he was dragged there. Can you find his trail?”

The slider held his hand out and the dust around the anchor began to ripple. The swirls slowly started to change into a new pulsating pattern. Eight circles surrounding a larger rounded square. The suit ripped his hand away from the pattern with a sudden breath.

“Did you get it?” The suit said between breaths.

Will closed his eyes, recreating the pattern in his head and letting it ripple out. “1033. Positive.”

“That’s the smallest one yet. Let’s hope it’s the last.”

Will grabbed the anchor and pulled him back into the void.

With a flick of the suit’s wrist, the doorway closed, and the void became shadowless again.

The memories came faster this time.

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

“Tread softly. We’ll get you out of here.”

Rumor stared at the guard through his draping hair and the glowing bars. His double had stopped bothering to come along at mealtimes, but this was the first time a guard had tried to talk to him.

“You should be able to see it by now.” The guard was doing his best to go through the motions of delivering Rumor’s meal, but if he wanted to talk he wouldn’t be able to get away with that for long.

Rumor could see it. The world was starting to break. It was the only way he could describe the things he was seeing floating in the air. Rumor didn’t think the others could see it. If they could, they wouldn’t be so calm.

“How long do I have?” Rumor’s voice croaked through his dry throat.

“That depends on you. Your home is waiting.”

The guard couldn’t delay any longer. He slid the food into the cell and latched the slot closed behind it.

Rumor stared at the food and began to eat, nibbling at the loaf of bread.

Home.

The thought of going home had barely crossed his mind since the early days. Without Kaliope, the concept seemed hollow. There wasn’t anything waiting for him at home.

He saw his reflection in the glass of water. He didn’t look like himself anymore. His mouth was almost completely hidden by a beard that covered his entire neck, and his eyes barely peered out from behind his thick hair.

He didn’t recognize himself. It wasn’t just the hair either. His face was smooth beneath the beard. He’d had dimples, laugh lines too, but whether it was the food he’d refused to eat or the months of joyless days, they were gone. His eyes looked darker, deeper, and his skin was pale.

He didn’t know how long he had been here. 90 Books, give or take, but with nothing else to do he didn’t know how long it took him to read one. There was another one on the bed now, but the words blended together when he tried to read it.

The bread was nearly gone. Rumor looked at the other options on the tray; there was a full meal there, but he ignored what was left and finished the water.

He stood up to take his tray back, and his clothes cascaded around him. They’d fit well when he first arrived. Now he barely managed to keep them from failing off. Back home, he never would have let himself get this thin. Rumor needed muscles to do his job. But this world didn’t need him to have muscles.

This world didn’t need him to be Rumor.

But then again, his own world didn’t either. It had managed to continue without him. If it had been destroyed or recycled, he would have been pulled back. It was the way of things. He’d heard more than a few people talk about the sliders being forced back into this world, along with anyone they took with them.

Maybe Rumor didn’t have to go home. Maybe he could afford to lose the muscles and let his powers fall out of practice. Maybe he could throw that blank mask into a lake and never worry about it again.

Maybe he could just be Will.

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

A new door opened up and Will pulled himself back to the present. He didn’t say a word before he gave the anchor a push.

The dust rose with the impact and gently settled around him.

“Finally.”

The suit nodded. “We can go home.”

The doorway closed and a new one opened almost instantly.

Will stared at the circle of light. It felt like Home. A smile wormed its way onto his lips.

“How long do you think we’ve been gone?”

The black suit shrugged.

“No more than a couple of weeks. I worked the dilation as best as I could, but they were flowing a lot slower than us.”

Will sighed. “Things can’t have gotten too bad. Thanks for the lift.”

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Chapter 112: Broken World

This world was breaking. If he looked around he could see the way it stretched and thinned to the point where it would split at the slightest touch. It wouldn’t hold together much longer, even with an anchor. But of course, no one here could see it. If he let himself breathe through his nose long enough to smell anything, the air would smell like burnt pie crust and melting rubber. Footsteps and voices echoed awkwardly through the room, and there was a faint crackling dancing through the air.

The tour group started moving and Will kept close to its center. There was no reason the anchor would be here; technically it could be anywhere, but past experiences had colored Will’s instincts, and this was as good a place to start as any.

The tour stopped at the newest display, and Will stared at it. Slipstream’s suit had become the focal point of the entire room, held in a silver case with golden ornamentation. He would have hated it. Will spent a moment staring into the broken eyepiece where Frankenstein killed him.

In this world, the fight had lasted another 30 seconds. The difference was minor, compared to some, the course of the world would hardly change from it, but if it weren’t, Will wouldn’t have been sent here.

His ear buzzed. “If you’re done sightseeing, we need to find the anchor before this…wound starts to fester.”

Will slipped out the door before he answered. “This world’s sliders have only just started to die off. They aren’t going to figure out why for another few weeks. This Council will do everything they can to get the anchor out of here. “

“Maybe, but you only have another 14 hours before we need to pull you out. Otherwise-”

“The decay will start to increase exponentially, and we’ll get to watch this world collapse until it becomes a bite-sized morsel. I am acutely aware of my job here, suit.”

Will’s eyes scanned the air around him. The stretching was starting to focus in, but it wasn’t quite enough yet.

“He’s to the north. Nothing more specific yet.”

Will flipped off the comm. His father’s goon could stew for a few minutes.

The people around him moved through like it was just another day. Even after all he’d seen, a part of him still wanted to try to help these people. Their entire time stream was going to vanish the moment he retrieved the anchor, and none of them would survive, no matter where they were.

The movement of the crowd changed; someone was standing still, and Will’s eyes quickly found his other’s. Meeting yourself is always strange, and very dangerous; he’d been lucky not to lose his arm the last time it had happened. But if his father’s man had done his work half as well as he claimed then he was the only one of him feeling that way.

Will kept his eyes moving, as if meeting his other’s gaze was a coincidence. He started to move, walking unhurriedly down the steps of the headquarters and he forced himself to breathe through his nose. His other watched him for half of the trip down the stairs, but eventually his eyes drifted away. Will didn’t change his gait though; his other could keep track of him easily enough without his eyes.

He joined the crowd moving down the street. His other was careful about following, but Will knew he would without checking. He needed to move north, but he couldn’t risk running into the anchor with his other following him.

There was a crease in the air in front of him, much larger than any of the anomalies he had seen before. A man walked through it and, for a moment, he saw his entire head disappear. This world was degrading even faster than he thought. He regretted switching off the communicator, but his other was too close for him to risk turning it on now. His eyes trailed along the crease until he found its edge. It was on the other side of the street. Walking around it or ducking under it would be too obvious, but walking into it would be idiotic. He enjoyed having his head on his body.

He’d have to risk being a bit conspicuous. Will darted across the street. A car passed closely enough behind him to ruffle his coat, but he made it across unscathed. Will didn’t bother looking, he knew his other had abandoned any pretense of going into the building and would be on his side of the street in seconds.

He should be heading straight north, but that would mean leaving the crowd, and his other could catch up to him more easily.

His father’s man was probably getting worried now. Will needed to lose his other before the suit decided it was safer to call in an air strike than wait for Will to handle the situation. Unfortunately, his options were limited. His other would be able to sense anything he tried to do with his powers long before it could reach him.

There was no offshoot of the crowd heading north; this time of day they’d all be heading to or from lunch and the big offices were all straight ahead.

There was a street ahead, it wasn’t busy but it was public. He wouldn’t risk confronting someone there just because they looked a little strange, his other wouldn’t either. His eyes sought out more creases along the road; it was slow, but they were growing stronger.

A glance in the mirrored windows across the street showed his other was still following him, just far enough back that most people wouldn’t pay him any attention. Will needed to disappear.

There was another crease down the alley ahead, even larger than the one before. He’d only have a few seconds where he couldn’t be seen, but that would have to be enough.

The alley was only a few feet ahead now. Will wanted to run for it, but then his other would know something was wrong. He walked into the alley like its where he was going all along. His other picked up the pace, but he wouldn’t reach the alley in time. Will took a deep breath and launched himself into the crease.

There are bonuses to hiding out in a place that’s one step removed from existing outside of the multiverse. For instance, no one can hear you scream. Fire dug beneath his fingernails and started to crawl around beneath his skin.  Every breath felt like he was drowning in acid, and he had already lost feeling in his toes.

He’d only be able to last a few minutes, five if he was lucky. By then his other should give up and search for him somewhere else, if he didn’t quit entirely.

Will forced his fist to unclench long enough to turn his earpiece back on. It was useless inside of the crease, but his father’s suits might get enough of a bleep to know he turned it back on.

He didn’t know how long he’d been in the crease; what felt like hours of pan could be seconds or days I here. He knew he could stay in one for a full hour before he started to lose it, but he had no desire to try to break his record.

With a combination of strength and willpower, Will grasped the edges of the chair and pulled himself out.

His other was gone.

His father’s man started yapping his ear off the second he was out, but Will stopped listening. The world looked even worse than it had before. A few thin spots had grown disgustingly close to tearing. The world was degrading quickly, too quickly. He should have had all the time in the world, but he wasn’t sure if this place would have made it through the next day. But even so, there was only one reason it would be this bad.

“The anchor’s near.”

The suit shut up almost immediately. Will started running. His eyes followed every thin spot and crease, using them to map his way across streets and over cars, until he found it.

An ambulance sat in the middle of the road. The EMT driving it was singing along to the music, completely deaf to the world.

Will reached up and tore open the back doors. The EMT stared at him in shock, but Will’s eyes were drawn to the patient on the gurney. He was completely covered in creases and thin spots. They were wrapped around him, mummifying him in spacetime.

The EMT had an IV going into the anchor’s arm, but Will couldn’t see half the tube.

“I found the anchor. He’s completely covered in near tears, I’m gonna have to wheel him out of here, and I won’t be able to take him far. We’ll need to get out of this timeline ASAP.”

Will grabbed the gurney. The EMT tried to stop him, but Will tapped him on the forehead and he dropped.

The suit was already outside the ambulance. Will didn’t ask how. He watched the world through the doorway once the anchor was brought out.

The world turned grey almost immediately. He couldn’t see much through the window, but  he managed to catch  a glimpse of the way a passing truck’s running lights slowly shift purple before it froze, leaving streaks running through the air around it.

And then the doorway began to crack; spiderwebs of broken reality travelled along its surface until the entire door, and the whole world behind it were covered. And then, it shattered.

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Chapter 109: Disappearance

Will stared at the ceiling.

It had been eight days. More than a few people had knocked on his door, but it wasn’t hard to convince them he wasn’t there. The only one with a spare key was Lux, and he should be out of the city for a few more days at least.

He hadn’t stayed shut in the whole time. He’d helped look for survivors in the wreckage, and he’d found more than his fair share of them. But after a few days, all the searches were done. After that he’d come home and spent the next day sleeping.

And then he’d just stayed in bed. He’d gotten up when he needed to, but he’d never had to leave the apartment. He pretended that he needed the time to think, but he’d spent most of the time avoiding anything he should be thinking about.

What he really wanted was a distraction, and it had come in last night.

Will was hiding and he knew it. But he was also waiting. His father was calling in the favor he owed, and that meant that some time in the next few hours, he’d be answering the knock at his door.  And then he’d be put on a plane that would fly in circles for a few hours to try and keep him from figuring out where he was going.

The last time he’d owed his father a favor, he’d had to take down an underground base that his father refused to confirm belonged to aliens, despite the fact that he’d met aliens multiple time before. The time before that he’d ended up at a party spying on some annoyingly rich people his father thought might be funding criminal organizations. Before that his father had taken him fishing.

That one had actually been the worst. Even halfway across the country, he could occasionally feel his father’s powers influencing him; tiny ideas and emotions would pop into his brain for no reason. When they got too close, his father’s powers became a constant buzzing in the back of his head. He could ignore it, just like most people did without even thinking about it, but it was a constant nuisance and he hadn’t been able to sleep for the entire three day trip.

Technically, he had only offered one day. But his father would use that day for all it was worth. And the day didn’t technically start until the mission did.  A one day debt could keep him gone for a week if it was spread out enough.

There was a knock at the door.

Will took his time getting out of bed. He grabbed his crumbled coat off the ground and shook it out. There was another knock, more insistent this time. Will grabbed a drink from his refrigerator and took a long sip before he opened the door.

A black suit stood on the other side. He held his tongue professionally, but there was extra effort going into his stoic face that made Will feel a little better.

“Time to go,” Will said.

The suit turned around and led Will down the hall and to a plain black sedan.

It was time to see how long his father would make the day last.

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

Rachel Chase waited outside of her brother’s hospital room. She’d spent as long as she could inside, but she couldn’t stand it any longer. He spent most of his time staring blankly at the TV, whether it was could barely even get him to eat, and he’d left half his meals unfinished.

She needed to move. She turned down the hall and went to Tina’s room. Visiting her had been one of the few things that let Rachel stay at her brother’s side without breaking down. But that wouldn’t last much longer. She’d be checking out in two days, and Rachel would lose the only distraction she had left.

Rachel paused outside the room. Voices floated through the cracked door.

“I know you haven’t been able to leave the hospital, but we’re asking everyone who’s had contact with him recently. No one has seen him in a week, and when they finally got into his apartment, it looked like he was preparing for a trip.”

She recognized the voice, but she couldn’t remember his name.

“No, he didn’t stop by. I haven’t seen him since before the attack.”

“I thought as much, but people are starting to worry. He hasn’t disappeared in quite some time, but when he does, something usually ends up happening.”

“I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Thanks for stopping by, Aidos.”

Rachel heard him walking towards the door, but didn’t move. He didn’t look at her when he passed by, he just turned the other direction and walked away.

Rachel waited a few seconds before she walked into the room.

Tina turned toward her with a smile, but it quickly fell away. “You haven’t gone home yet, have you?”

Rachel froze and, eventually, shook her head.

Tina sighed. “It’s been a week. Driving yourself crazy isn’t going to do him any good.”

“What am I supposed to do? I can’t leave him here.”

“Mitch isn’t going anywhere. When he comes out of this, do you think he’ll want to see you looking like that?”

Rachel shook her head.

“Good,” Tina laid back in bed. “If you go now you’ll avoid traffic. We can talk then.”

Rachel turned to walk out. But she paused.

“What was that guy in here before me talking about?”

Tina turned back. “He was my contact for the meetings. The Council has been sending people out asking if anyone’s seen Will. They’ll probably ask you too.”

“Will’s missing? Who could-“ Rachel paused. Tina didn’t know who Will used to be. She hadn’t heard the same stories, or at least didn’t know he had anything to do with them. It didn’t sound like anyone had taken him against his will, but if someone had managed to do it, and been able to do it without raising chaos, then that meant someone was planning something huge.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Rachel said. “Will can take care of himself. They didn’t trust him with you guys for no reason.”

She wished she could be so sure.

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Chapter 106: Beneath the Surface

Will snapped his fingers and the man went flying into the wall.

Will had been worried that the mercenary Allspades and Unimportant had captured was more loyal to, or afraid of, Trump than he’d be able to work through. Apparently, being stuck in a trunk for a couple of hours wasn’t enough to get him talking, but it looked like he’d reached his limit.

“Where’s your mage? No one could do this if they weren’t in the city.”

“We hired an earth mover to dig some tunnels near the center of the city. The mage is meditating in the center of them. They’re under the-”

“I know.”

Will gripped the man’s shirt and pulled him to his feet.

“You have ten minutes to get out of my sight.”

He didn’t waste any time in running down the block. Will watched him until he turned the corner. He wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon.

The key was still in the jeep.

Five minutes.

It would take Will at least five minutes to reach the tunnels. And then they’d have all the heroes they needed to take down Trump.

They would be able to hold out that long.

They had to be able to hold out that long.

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

Trump’s focus was on Hawthorne. She’d dug her staff into the ground and was trying to hold onto it, but Allspades could see her grip slipping.

Allspades decided to try one of her tricks. He grabbed as much of the glow as he could and shoved it into the ground.

He could feel it digging, but without being able to see it, he could only guess at how close to Trump he’d gotten.

He glanced at Hawthorne just in time to see her lose her grip on her staff and fly backwards. Trump’s head slowly swiveled towards him. He had to be closer enough.

The glow erupted from the ground a few feet behind Trump. His eyes had time to widen slightly before it slammed into this back and sent him into Allspades’s outstretched arm. There was a satisfying gasp of air that was quickly covered up by the wind rushing past Allsapades as he was thrown straight up into the air

As he rose above the battleground, Allspades got his first breath of fresh air since the fight ahd started. The dust cleared from his lungs, but the clean air let him feel the way the dirt and sweat had coated him like a second layer of skin. He flexed his fingers and felt it cracking.

At the peak of his flight, Allspades flipped over. The area around their fight looked ready to collapse. The foundations of the buildings Trump had thrown were half flooded from the broken pipes; the ground around them was quickly turning to swamp. The buildings that were still standing weren’t much better. Trump had thrown the three of them into them hard enough that A few of them were starting to tilt. Broken glass littered the street and the ground at Trumps feet was constantly swirling with dust.

Burnout was on the offensive again. He had gotten close enough to singe Turmp’s shirt with his sword, but he couldn’t hold out against Trup’s push long enough to do more damage.

Hawhtorne was back on her feet, but it didn’t look like she could take much more of this. Trump’s attention was already on her; he wasn’t going to let her get close enough to her staff to reist his push again.

Allspades’s fist tightened. The glow spread out behind him. There was nothing for it to push off of, but he felt his course change just enough.

Allspades dove headfirst to the ground, with his arms at his side and his legs straight behind him. The glow receded to the very edge of his skin, and he shot straight for Trump.

Trump had just raised his hand towards Hawthorne when he paused and looked up at Allspades. He tried to change targets, but wasn’t fast enough to stop Allspades’s descent.

For the second time in as many minutes, Allspades hit Trump, ramming him with his shoulder. This time, the two of them slammed into the ground together. Trump only bounced once, but Allspades kept going, skipping along the street like a rock in the water until he slammed into the next building.

More dust fell on top of him. It filled his lungs and made it impossible to breath without his lungs trying to turn themselves inside out to force the dirt out. He pulled himself to his feet, hacking all the way.

He stumbled his way out of the building. Trump was still on the ground, but Hawthorne and Burnout were nowhere to be seen. The sun was glaring at him; bouncing off the shattered glass and making it impossible to keep his eyes focused on Trump.

There was a brief movement from Trump on the floor.

“Let’s try something new.”

The back of Allspades’s shoulder exploded. A marble sized glob of blood shot out from it and slammed into the wall behind him. Then the pain came.

Allspades screamed.

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

They had all left.  The ground wasn’t shaking as much and enough of them thought they’d be safer at home that nobody was willing to stay. He’d stayed quiet the whole time. None of them had even looked for the kid pretending to be a hero.

Red Racer skittered out from the space between the shelves. The guns had found him there. He had to keep moving; It was the only way to avoid the guns.

He watched his feet slowly take one step after the other. He didn’t know where he was going, but there was a strange comfort in knowing that he was still moving.

He felt the guns fading to the back of his mind, but they stayed there like an that lived beneath his skin so he couldn’t scratch it.

And then he heard the scream.

The guns were right behind him.

He ran.

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Chapter 105: Taking Action

They hadn’t screamed the second time. They thought that if they stayed quiet, they could avoid the end of the world.

He ground his teeth. The silence in between the shockwaves was almost as bad as the shockwaves were. At first, it had lasted long enough that the guns would go away before the next one hit, but now they stayed, a constant reminder.

People were dying outside. Even if he they weren’t screaming, even if he couldn’t see their bodies, he knew that they were dead. There was too much noise, too much destruction.

If something as quiet as a bullet could kill somebody, something as loud as this must be killing thousands.

His legs tingled and itched with a need to move, but he ignored it. If he was too slow to save one person, there was no way he could save anyone.

He wasn’t fast enough.

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

He wasn’t fast enough.

After dropping the others off, Will had taken the copter back to the Council’s HQ. He’d come in too fast and half crashed it on the front lawn, but it had been for nothing; none of the walkers there could fight something like this, and none of them would be any help evacuating the battlefield.

They needed a runner. Actually, they needed four or five runners, and that probably wouldn’t be enough.

There were too many civilians in the buildings around the fight. A lot of innocents had probably already died when the first two buildings collapsed.

For the second time in a few months, Will broke down a list of walkers in a class and tried to figure out who might be able to help.

It didn’t look good. A lot of them were dead, he couldn’t get in touch with the ones out of town, even if they could make it in time, and he’d confirmed a lot of the rest were asleep. Anyone he might have missed would have been out doing something already if they could.

There was only one runner Will knew was awake, and he couldn’t help either.

There was a tingling in his fingers, it was familiar in a way he couldn’t quite grasp. He pushed the feeling away. He had to focus on the problem at hand, and that meant finding someone who could get enough people out of that building. Which meant he needed to wake them up.

The mercenaries had pulled away from the HQ, taking their unconscious allies with them. Given an hour, he could track a jeep down and force them to tell him who had cast the spell.

But there was one lead he hadn’t had time to follow up.

On the scale of walkers, Will wasn’t very fast. Most walkers who put some thought into how to move fast could figure out a way to outrun him. But today he pulled out everything he could.

The warehouse where they’d left the jeep wasn’t far, but he wasted precious minutes getting there. He just hoped that the kids could last long enough for it to matter.

There was a muffled banging from the trunk.

Will quickly popped it open and caught the flailing fist of the man within.

“We need to talk.”

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

They weren’t going to last much longer.

Hawthorne wasn’t sure if the others had noticed, but she was far enough back that it was impossible not to.

They hadn’t gotten a single good hit in the entire fight. Every time one of the others got close enough to score a hit, Trump managed to push them away. Her plants were being shredded as soon as they grew. She’d tried growing them directly beneath him, and he’d shattered the entire street around them before they got close.

Worse than that was the buildings. Trump’s attacks were reckless, shot-gunning bits of metal fast enough that she could spot perfect holes bored into the buildings closest to them.

She was running out of seeds too. Other than a few altered ones, she only had her staff left. She had barely used her staff since Asclepius’ attack. It hit hard, but she’d figured out how to incapacitate her opponents without bashing them over the head.

She pulled the seed out anyway. The staff might actually be tough enough to avoid being shredded by Trump’s attack.

Burnout was charging again. Apparently he couldn’t use any range attacks and keep his armor up at the same time, and he couldn’t survive Trump’s attacks without it.

Now might be her best chance. The roots around her legs moved for her. It still hurt but less than running on her own would.

Burnout couldn’t hold out against the push any longer. He was sent flying backwards and had to scramble to avoid running into a building.

Allspades was still nowhere to be seen, so Trump’s focus switched to her. There was brief pause before she felt the push.

She took the chance and swung her staff, willing it to grow as she did.

Trump’s off hand emerged and shot a few scraps of metal at the staff. The impact travelled up the staff and weakened her grip.

Then she felt the push. It felt like her internals were being shoved to the back of her skin and it only barely held together enough to carry the rest of her along with it.

She slammed into the ground and rolled along the street. Allspades must have come back, because Trump’s push disappeared.

Her staff was on the ground, halfway between her and Trump. She got up to one knee before having to rely on her plants to stand the rest of the way.

“He can only hit one of us at a time,” she said.  “But he knew I was coming when he was concentrating on Burnout. We can’t guarantee he won’t be able to sense you if you get too close, but I’ll need my staff if we want a distraction long enough for you to get to him.”

She got the rest of the way up and found her staff close at hand.

“Thanks. Do you know what you’ll do if you get close?”

I have an idea” Unimportant’s voice echoed.

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Chapter 102: Leap

It’s the kind of sound most people never realize they’re afraid of, the sound of a building realizing that something important is broken and, one by one, every piece of concrete and steel that is only held up by the piece next to it realizes that there’s nothing to support it any more. It isn’t the sound of some artificial thing being broken. It’s the sound of a living creature, a mythical behemoth, giving one last cry before it stops moving entirely.

The entire zeppelin was falling apart. It was being bulged outwards, pushed from a single unrelenting source. If this was a death wail, it was a more painful death than anything natural had ever experienced.

Allspades’ hands slammed into his ears, but his entire skull was vibrating. He was vaguely aware of Hawthorne sliding off of his back as she tried to cover her own ears. He stared into the undulating blob of reddish black light that hovered in the center of the room. He tried to focus on the blob, focus on getting closer to it, closer to King. He managed a step before the zeppelins wailing grew even louder and forced him to a knee. The mercenaries were all pinned to the wall by their weapons and ammo; they were screaming, but it was lost.

Allspades collapsed, his eyes finally dragged away from the blob. There was someone running down the hallway towards him. His mind slipped away, and finally, he couldn’t hear the sound anymore.

Allspades opened his eyes. He was being dragged, and he could see Hawthorne being dragged beside him, though he couldn’t see who was dragging her. He tried to call out; he knew he spoke, he felt the words echoing out of his throat, but the sound never reached his ears. A dull ringing echoed in his head.

The dragging stopped, and he saw Will looking down at him.

“-ou—lk?”

The half formed sounds echoed past the ringing. Slowly, the ringing was replaced by whistling wind.

“Allspades, focus. Can you walk?”

“I think so.” Allspades slowly worked his way to his feet. After a moment, he nodded.

“Good. We need to move. I don’t know how long this thing will hold itself together.”

The whistling grew louder, Allspades slowly turned. The hallway behind him led straight to the lab. The far wall was gone, torn away completely.

“King-“

“Went outside,” Will said. “If we’re lucky, he won’t survive the fall.”

His gut twisted in his stomach. He either felt guilty for letting King die, or for not killing him. He didn’t know which one he’d prefer.

“can you carry hawthorne? i’d rather not have to keep dragging her.”

Unimportant’s presence slammed into Allspades; he flinched, and the ringing gained a little of its old strength. Will and Unimportant stared at him strangely, but he shook it off.

“Yeah…right, we’ll move faster that way.” Allspades easily lifted Hawthorne and cradled her in his arms. He glanced around. “Where’s Burnout?”

“I heard him fighting earlier. We’re going now.”

Allspades almost asked another question, but Will and Unimportant started moving, and he realized how stupid it was to stay still and talk. The thought started the ringing again and spots swam before his eyes and faded almost instantly. That wasn’t good, but it would have to wait.

Will led the way, which was good because Allspades had to focus too much on not falling to think about where he was going.

A blue light filtered through a door ahead. Will headed straight for it, and led them into a massive room.

Burnout hung in the air, armored in flames that moved unnaturally slow. Dozens of mercenaries littered the ground. A few were still fighting, aiming their guns at Burnout with a defeated look in their eyes. Will swept his hand and they dropped their guns as if they were scalding hot or as if they had come alive and tried to bite them.

With their guns gone, Burnout was able to sweep them to the side with his sword.

Will pointed at a helicopter, and Burnout flew straight for it.

“can you fly that?” Unimportanted asked.

“I’ve done it before. We didn’t die.”

“that’s not as comforting as you would hope.”

Will hopped in the cockpit and started flipping switches. Unimportnat seemed to stare at him for  a moment before clambering in back and turning to help Allspades get Hawthorne into a seat.

Burnout’s hand appeared before him with a pair of headphones. Allspades slipped them on and felt better almost immediately. The ringing still echoed in his ears, but there were no other sounds for it to bounce off of. He managed enough coordination to buckle his seat belt, and then he felt the helicopter lift up and out of the hangar. He watched the zeppelin out the window, slowly sinking beneath the clouds. The ringing faded a little more, and he slowly remembered the last few hours.

His eyes widened.

“There were people-“

“They’re fine,” Will said. “Beck employees will be teleported off immediately.”

“The mercenaries?” Burnout asked.

“The computer will do what it can. And there were enough of them conscious to get to some of the other copters.”

Some of them wouldn’t make it. Allspades knew it, and he could tell the others had figured it out too. They sat in silence.

“Uh-“ Hawthorne had shifted in her seat, she had woken up with her head against the window looking down at the city below them. “Is that building sliding away from the street?”

Allspades looked down. It wasn’t just the one. Four buildings were moving, bulging outwards or actually ripping from their foundations. Houses built to withstand earthquakes were starting to fall apart. At the center of the destruction, Allspades could barely make out a single figure walking down the street.

“King’s alive.” Someone said something. Allspades didn’t listen. But he got the message. He unbuckled his seat belt and moved to the door.  “I can get to him the fastest. Get there as soon as you can.”

Allspades opened the door and jumped.

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