An abused child suddenly gains superpowers and begins to take revenge on the world. You, as the hero tasked with stopping them, are struggling with the morality of beating up a five year old.
The purple flag of the Mardi Gras republic flew at half mast that day. To the north, the ever burning fields of the central states of the old union kept the sky a dim grey. To the south, the gulf continued its slow mending process, like cells sacrificing themselves to scabs.
But there, where civilization had stubbornly clung to the quick like barnacles, where even the whole of another reality could not purge humanity like so many rats, Lanceur had a problem.
His drones floated across the city, rotors keeping themselves aloft, and occasionally stopped on solar powered charging stations, a brief break in their eternal surveillance, the very surveillance that the burgeoning republic’s tax dollars kept in service. All except for one narrow neighborhood. It’s dim and dusty rows of streets were normal. Animals crowded and caroused, lost, weary, around bags of food and supplies that piled up around the entrance. A few stopped to chew on the corpses strewn just past the entrance.
A small area, but nonetheless, an issue.
Any time a drone passed over top of it, it exploded, a corona of rainbows lancing forth with all the rage and power of god himself.
For the first time, but not for the last time, New Orleans’s villain leadership had a Lost Boy on their hands.
Lanceur chanced a slight grim smile on his face. For all their eternal rebellion, and all their battles, it had still fallen on him, a petty B-rank to do their job. It wouldn’t do for any of the civilians to see their leadership involved in this.
Few really understood that he specifically existed, so of course they’d intervene and use him.
Lanceur leaned back in his chair, all nine fingers pressed into the leather. He’d salvaged it from his burning home in Mississippi. He hadn’t managed to save much. A few kids.
Now he was in the opposite situation.
He flipped his fingers across the various bullets sitting next to him. Association protocol was brutal, and brief, on exactly what to do with an active Lost Boy. Take them out before they cause too much damage. The mind of a child is hard to tamper with when it has already decided on violence.
How does one reason with someone whom morality does not apply to? Who does not understand consequences?
His fingers settled on a proper round, something with respect, and he knelt down and signed it with a marker before walking over to his rifle.
The camera feed for his drone interrupted. Lanceur glanced back at the screen. A grim face glared back at him. Long lines of scars across otherwise pretty skin, and dead set eyes that bore nothing but a deep seated rage. “Lanceur. I know you survived, you piece of shit.”
Lanceur stared at Osteor blankly, and walked back over, carrying the bullet with him. “Bone Witch?”
“You’re the one in charge of that situation over on Fifth Crescent, I’m guessing?” The bone witch asked. Lanceur swallowed. Of all the people to make it through the Crisis, he didn’t want her.
He knew she would’ve, she’d made it through Vietnam, after all, and hadn’t aged a day through it. The brief ultraviolent days they served together in… more recent conflicts had been.
Lanceur was one of the few who knew what it felt like to have the long bones of the legs regrown while he was still awake.
“Osteor?” Lanceur’s voice came through the drone.
Osteor smiled. “I’ll meet you at the intersection in front of it. I have an idea.” She paused, looking behind her into the depths of her house. A door remained shut in the back, where a bedroom might be. “One that doesn’t involve killing kids.”
The bullet tumbled out of Lanceur’s hands and bounced onto the table. “You suddenly have a miracle cure?”
“Not a miracle. An idea, and the supplies for it. The neighborhood’s already evacuated. It’s a new world, and time to experiment. We’re in the Mardi Gras Republic now. Let’s give it a shot to make the world better.”
Lanceur hung up the call and glanced back at his rifle. His uniform sat on the wall, dusty as it had always been. His fists clenched, nails biting into the callouses of his palms.
This wasn’t a request. He was fully aware that Osteor, despite being a registered hero, would not hesitate before growing a spur of bone straight through his sternum and into his heart if he went ahead with the standard protocol.
So he went with it.
At the interview, where the broken bodies of neighbors and rescue parties intermingled like so many petty bowling pins, polished white and picked clean by animals, Osteor sat. She bore no uniform, and beside her, a large capsule, like one might keep an old clock inside sat.
Thin slivers of metal tied up with wires, with a car battery attached to them.
“What’s that?” Lanceur said, raising an eyebrow.
“Makeshift beacon,” Osteor said. “The car battery’ll buy us half an hour to do this. You want to be a hero?”
“A hero wouldn’t gamble with lives like this,” Lanceur said, firmly. “We’re risking the lives of the other neighborhoods.”
“Listen to yourself,” Osteor said. “You’re quoting the Association textbook. The same place that left your state to die.”
Lanceur frowned, and looked away. Because it hadn’t just been the Association. He remembered the firestorm, and the maws of plants. The vines that drink dreams, and the herald of Towassa, where it drifted across his head like cheese cloth. He shook his head and looked on.
“We’re heroes,” Osteor said. “And I’m tired of being told that Heroes have to kill children.”
“You used to be harder than this,” Lanceur said. “You used to be the one to do it.”
“People are allowed to change.” Osteor looked behind her, into the distance. “And I’ve seen too many kids hurt since this started. I don’t want to bury another one.”
“Fine. What’s the plan?”
Osteor looked over at him. “I’m going to walk in and turn on the beacon.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“If I die-” Osteor laughed at that, Lanceur chuckled. Osteor wasn’t going to die, even if she was hit by one of the blasts. “If I’m incapacitated, take the Lost Boy out.”
“Prep your car, we’re taking him to the hospital. They’ve got a better generator, and I’ll have a kid shaped atomic bomb as a bargaining chip.”
Osteor walked the streets, the drone drifting behind her. She wore normal clothes, and walked calmly. Not a hint of fear in her stride, not a moment of hesitation. Under one arm she carried the beacon. Lanceur kept watch.
This drone had enough explosives packed inside of it to take out an entire building. Less… elegant and personal than his initial plan, but.
It didn’t matter.
Osteor walked down the street and the wild animals parted around her. Up the sidewalk, and towards a house with so many holes that the slight rain dripped inside rather than trickle. “Michael?” She asked.
The door opened. A kid walked out. His eyes gleamed with energy, red, blue, yellow. He wore a charred shirt, and his hands shook with the same corona of power.
“H-hello,” The kid asked. Energy lanced off of his body and carved into the side of the building, obliterated atomic matter into constituent parts, ozone, electrons, quarks in free association.
“I’m the doctor,” Osteor said. “You remember me, right? When you broke your arm.”
“A-am,” Micheal said, shivering. Blue drifted across the rug, cleaving it in half. “I in trouble?”
Osteor breathed, and set the capsule on the ground.
She turned it on and turned to look at him. The wave of normalcy projected by the beacon touched him, and the power left him. He wavered, bleeding, burnt, dirty, and fell to his knees.
“No, Michael,” Osteor said. “We’re going to go someplace where nobody will hurt you again, alright?”
Michael nodded once, his tiny frame unable to even support his weight. When had he eaten last? Three days ago? There was only so much food around that a kid could get into, and the house looked so dirty and filthy.
Osteor took Michael’s hand firmly in hers, lifted the beacon and walked off.
Mission accomplished. Lost Boy Neutralized.
Distantly, in a command room that few knew about, Lanceur’s fist clenched back around the bullet that he’d written his name and the target’s name on. Clenched hard enough that his knuckles went white.
And a tear ran down the hero’s face.