The girl sitting next to me held her phone in front of her without touching it with her hands. The touch screen blipped as if fingers were brushing against it, flicking across news articles-
“Red alert still.”
“Nothing new, Hands?” I asked her, wearily. I didn’t want to look at mine. Didn’t want to look up the list of fallen heroes I knew was waiting just a few taps away.
“Nothing. Civilians are being kept out.”
“What I don’t understand,” Mary said, from the front seat. “Is how someone could attack this many sides of the country.”
My mouth went dry. “Manny the faces.”
She was driving, or she would’ve fixed me with a glare. As it was, her eyes just flicked up into her rear view mirror.
“The Form Taker?” asked the last occupant of the car. He was elderly, but not the sort that needed a cane to get around. Just aged, wizened, in that way you didn’t want to see across the table from you in chess. “I knew him once.”
“Really?” Hands asked. The D lister looked up from her phone for a moment to look at the elderly occupant.
“Used to be a hero, you know,” The old man said.
“Don’t scare them with old war stories, Gunze,” Mary said, watching the road. Traffic was slow as people looked outside and saw the effects of the lockdown. No heroes to help. The radio blared emergency messages every few minutes.
“It’s scary enough thinking he’s spread information about. He could have information on all of us. Names. Addresses..” She trailed off. “You don’t need to get into war stories.”
Dauphin island was a disaster, and we were caught in traffic fleeing the area.
I couldn’t help but think they had the right idea in the first place. But it was too late now, and we had found another retired B rank to join us, though I had my doubts on how willing it way.
I recognized Gunze from the Purple Capes. A side roster, but there was no reason he shouldn’t’ve answered the first call. Something more was going on there.
“I’ll scare them if I want to,” Gunze said, “Let me be old, I’ve lived a long time just to scare some new capes.”
I looked over at him and fidgetted in the back seat. Every fiber in my body was now telling me this trip was a bad idea, and yet…
There was so much hope attached to the idea that we might find something here. Might discover something that could help us.
Give us stability beyond what few heroes we had scrounge up, half forgotten.
“Do you remember the Hungarian Empire…?” Gunze asked. He saw something in my eyes that told him to continue. “Yes, yes. You remember the S class in charge of it all. Ran a sweet ship, he did. Had them all dancing underneath of his fingertips. First time a world leader was a powered.”
“Bad business what happened there,” Mary cut in. “Go back to Manny.”
“He was a spy. Great spy. Greatest spy. He planted a dagger in the back of that Man in charge, and then danced off. Unseen, into the darkness. Popped up every now and again on some money making scheme to keep him financed.”
“Wretched,” I said.
“No… “ Gunze said, slowly. “I think he just felt like there was nothing greater for him to accomplish. No greater challenge left in the world, then saving it with no back up. Might’ve made him mad.”
“It’s rude to speak about fallen heroes like that,” Mary said, grimly, her fingers clutching the steering wheel.
“It’s ruder to let old names die, Ironmarrow.” Gunze cut in. “If we remain silent about the things we don’t want to talk about, nothing will ever change. We’ll just keep making the same mistakes.”
“You sound like something’s bothering you personally,” Hands said, astutely.
“I’m in a car with a washed up mother, a brat that was useless last time I saw, and a girl whose power is an invisible hand,” Gunze said, crudely. “I think it’d be more insane to think that there weren’t something bothering me.”
“You didn’t have to come,” Mary said, quietly.
“I couldn’t bear to not be there when you died,” Gunze said. “Not when the opportunity was there for me to help.”
I breathed out as we passed onto the bridge. The waters of the bay beat across the pillars holding it up, and it was all I could do to not squint at the horizon, wondering if my father would be there. Wondering if anyone else had seen our predicament. Our panic. Our pain.
The road was closed, and we stepped out onto the bridge and tried to ignore the smoke rising in the distance.
It was time.