The rubble shifted to the side as I stared into the wreckage. A few buildings had collapsed, and now came the time to pour through them. Piece by piece. To see if anyone had been left behind.
Excelsior heaved with his arm and flung the debris to the side, where it joined the pile manned by the series of would be heroes. People who had never seen a battle. Dotting their number were civilians. Anyone willing to help. They avoided me, throwing their backs into their work. I was next to him, arms aching. I wasn’t made for this.
But… I wasn’t made for other things, either.
No, avoided was the wrong word. They stared at me like parade spectators. Unable to tear their eyes off of my figure. Then nervously, I swallowed, licked my lips, and turned to those staring. Gave them my best look, hoped it wasn’t written across my face that I had no idea what I was doing.
“You!” I pointed. “Get over here and help us.” They stared at me with something like surprise. Something inside of me shifted, and I snarled. “Get over here and help! It doesn’t matter if you’re a hero or not.”
A man broke the ranks. Aging, elderly, but still strong of bone and muscle, his grey hair was plastered to his face by sweat. I recognized him as the same man that had carved Faraday’s quote into his tomb. He joined me at my side and looked to me. “How can I help?”
I stared at him for a moment, then looked down at the rubble. “Go get your truck.”
He blinked. “My truck?”
“We need to clear off these roads, don’t we?” I said, with more authority than literally any cell in my body had. “How else are the workers supposed to get here?”
“The workers…” He said, flatly. Somewhat stunned.
My eyes jerked to the crowd, then back to him. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the handful of D and C class heroes we had were all we were going to have at our disposal. That we were less important. Nobody would check in on us. Not until the crisis was over. I gave him a light shove.
Then slowly, more people from the crowd walked over to join us. One by one. I didn’t need to know what they were going to say. I already knew.
“Go on,” I said. “Everyone else, if you have any trucks… anything at all, so we can haul this stuff out of the way, let’s make it easier for the relief crews!”
The center of town was a disaster. Buildings had fallen, melted, been brutalized, turned into rubble. Where people worked was gone. Old restaurants were gone. Scenic bits of the city, bits that had never seen the face of a villain before. Wiped out in a freak attack.
Excelsior’s silent form clenched tightly as he tore up the next bit of rubble. Red ran down his fingers from the crushed body, trapped under the wreckage. Why had they not left when the alarms called?
Why was everyone looking to me? I swallowed as the crowd slowly went into helping. The civilians stared at the body for what felt like forever, until I grit my teeth. “Take it to the side.”
Slowly, the body was laid next to the rubble, as if it were less than the sum and total of a human life, and just another piece of debris. Something else to find a place for. Another grave.
I swallowed and licked my numb lips, reduced to chapped lines on my face.
“Come on! Altogether now!”
Then we moved onto the police station and faced the worst of the carnage.