“So…” Suzette timidly said as she and Dirk made their way to the Common Room, “what do you want to do now?”
Dirk looked back down the hall. “I should have grabbed my bag. We could have headed to the library and quizzed each other with my astronomy notes.”
“Is that how you’d normally spend a Friday night?” Suzette asked him.
“Not every Friday. The first Friday of the month is Family Fun Night at church. Man, it’s hard to believe that it was just a week ago, I was getting creamed in Pit, stuffing myself with that guacamole Pastor Dave makes.”
Suzette raised an eyebrow. “Pit?” she asked.
Dirk recoiled in horror. “You’ve never played Pit!?!” he asked, holding open the door for her. “Oh, man…”
“So, it’s a game?” Suzette asked.
“Try ‘The Greatest Game’! It’s this card game, right? Well, you’re like a stock trader, buying up corn and oranges and-”
Suzette grabbed Dirk by the hand and pulled him towards a short bookshelf off to the side. “We have a bunch of board games here,” she said. “I’m not sure what all there is, though…”
Dirk scanned the boxes stuffed into the bookshelf. “How can you guys not have Pit?”
“Hey, Suzie.” As Dirk turned towards the speaker, he spotted Suzette cringing, with her eyes closed as tight as they could.
The catalyst behind such behavior was a tall, thin boy with pale skin and high cheek bones. With him was a girl with reddish-brown hair and green skin. He’d seen them both around the campus—he seemed to recall the girl’s skin being blue though—but wasn’t very familiar with either. “You’re looking good tonight,” the boy said.
“Go away, Remy,” she pleaded.
The gaunt boy chuckled softly. “It’s funny: I was just telling Nikki here about when we used to go out. You know, I still have that video we made. Nikki and I were gonna go back to my room and watch it. Would you like to come, too?”
Dirk looked to Suzette, and was surprised to see her tearing up. “Please, just go away, Remy.”
“Aww, don’t be like that…” He reached out and gently put his fingertips underneath her chin. Softly, he made her look up and look him in the eyes. “You know, my friends… They like you, Suzie. They think you’re cute. I told them about how wild you could get—said you probably wouldn’t mind showin’ them just how wild.” He whistled to three boys—two of which Dirk was familiar with: Abe Chobanian was the one who had banished John to the front lawn, while Greg Foster was the one who controlled Dirk’s mind. The other boy was an enigma to the freshman. “What do you say, Suzie? Think you could make them happy?”
Dirk glared at Abe and Greg—an act that won him more of their contempt. “What the hell are you looking at?” Greg barked at him.
“Language!” Dirk hissed.
The other boy laughed. “He doesn’t like bad words, huh?”
“How’s about you kiss my ass then?” suggested Greg.
“Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to-” He stopped, realizing suddenly that he was outside the school. “Right. Teleporter. Right.”
Dirk began to stretch his body. From where he’d been placed, he still had a clear view of the Common Room. As his body neared one of the windows, he made himself paper-thin. He effortlessly slipped back into the room. Granted, his legs were still being retracted back to his torso, but his upper body was still in the room.
“Jesus teaches that we’re to turn the other cheek,” Dirk said. “So I won’t-” His legs caught up with him as he fell down onto the grass lawn outside the school. “Okay, that’s beginning to get annoying.”
Once more, Dirk stretched across the lawn, slipped under the window, and glared at Abe. “If you do that again, I’m afraid I’m going to have to report this to… the…” Again, he found himself facing the school. “Headmaster.”
Someone appeared out of thin air and grabbed Dirk by the hand. “C’mon, chief!” the boy said. A second later, Dirk and the boy were back in the Common Room. Another boy had planted himself between Suzette and the squadron of bullies.
The long-haired boy was crouching low, with one hand flat on the floor. Bands of darkness shot out of his shadow in every direction, and coiled around Suzette’s ex and the others. “Try me, Remington.”
“Fine,” Remington spat. “Just… just put us down, Miles!”
The shadow-forged tendrils lowered the four boys to the ground and slithered back down their bodies and vanished once more into Miles’ shadow.
They tried to look cool as they retreated—not wanting to lose any more face than they had being beat by one boy. Miles wasn’t about to let them have that. “Oh, and Remington? One more thing…” He motioned for the boy to come closer; Dirk was surprised when the boy complied.
Once Remington was close enough, Miles dropped his voice to a whisper. “You may want to go delete whatever copies of that video you have lying around. I mean, unless you want to keep video evidence of statutory rape lying around.” He shrugged. “Just sayin’.”
Remington glared at Miles, then at Suzette and Dirk each in turn. Only then did he stuff his hands into his pockets, and skulk away.
“Sorry for any undue emasculation,” the other boy said, offering Dirk his hand. “Marlon Winter.” He motioned to his friend. “Miles Lancaster.”
Miles grinned at Suzette. “Your boyfriend’s got some major stones,” he said, flipping the hair out of his face. “It takes a lot to stand up to jerks like them—but it takes even more to not succumb to violence.”
“We’re—I’m not her boyfriend,” Dirk stammered as the two boys walked away.
“Well, you should be,” Miles called back. “Don’t wait too long to make your move, man! If she stays single much longer, I just might make a move.”
They had left, leaving Dirk and Suzette alone in the Common Room. “Who are those guys?” Dirk asked, staring after them.
“Miles and Marlon,” Suzette said. “They’re in the same year as me. They’re roommates, best-friends, and teammates.”
“How did he—what did Miles do to them?”
“Miles can animate his shadow to bind people,” Suzette said. “He puts his hand on his shadow, and he turns it into those… those things. They grab people and hold them. If he wants, he can squeeze them, throw them… They’re like an extension of him.
“Marlon just teleports.”
“No, not like Abe. Abe… I don’t know. Marlon only teleports himself. He can take a little bit of mass with him, but not much. And he can’t go very far. I think he can go a couple of miles if he really pushes it.”
“They seem pretty nice,” Dirk mused.
Dirk grimaced. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do much more than make a fool out of myself. I don’t like violence, and hoped that this could have been resolved by talking. Not only did Miles and Marlon take action, they did it without raising a fist in anger.”
Suzette dabbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. When she was finished, she forced a smile for the boy. “So, looks like we have the room to ourselves: wanna play foosball?”
Dirk motioned for her to lead the way. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever played foosball before,” he said, making his way to the table.
“Well, it’s no Pit,” Suzette teased, “but it’s okay.”
Matt relaxed his fingers and the ball flew from his hand. Landing with a thud, the red and gold speckled ball spun done the lane, curving ever so slightly left. Clipping two of the pins, Matt was beaming as he turned back to the face the others.
Jim raised an eyebrow at him. “What the hell are you smiling about?” he asked, pointing to the monitor. “You just finished with a sixty-four.”
Matt continued to smile. “I’m just enjoying myself,” he said, dropping into his seat beside Aisha. “It’s just a game—what’s the point if you don’t have fun?”
As he swung his arm up into the air and then down behind Aisha, her face lit up from excitement. Her hopes were dashed the minute she realized he was only grabbing his drink from the cup holder. “Thank you for inviting me to come along, Cyndi,” he said. “This is a blast.”
“Yeah,” Jim said icily, “thanks for inviting him, Cyndi.”
Cyndi ignored her prospective beau’s rudeness. “Ugh, I can finally take the world’s ugliest shoes off…” Cyndi stretched her leg out towards Jim and wiggled her foot until he relented and took her shoes off for her. “Thanks,” she said musically as he carried her rental shoes back to the counter.
At the sight of what she mistook for chivalry, Aisha hastily kicked off her shoes, and nudged them towards Matt’s feet. Shoes in hand, the blonde boy rose up from his seat, and followed Jim out of the sunken lane.
Aisha sagged in the plastic chair. “Did I suddenly manifest invisibility powers or something?” Aisha groaned.
“You’re trying way too hard,” Cyndi said. “Look at Jim: he’s miserable. He clearly wanted it to be just us tonight. Having you and Matt along, though? It only makes him want it more. It’s going to make him try harder.
“If you want Matt to like you, don’t act so desperate. Play hard to get. Act like you don’t even notice him.”
Cyndi quieted herself as the two boys returned to the floor. Wearing a playful smile, Jim tossed one of Cyndi’s shoes to her underhand, evoking a squeal of surprise from her.
Matt’s eyes fell on Aisha’s rental shoes. “Oh, did you need me to run those back for you?”
Aisha looked the other way. “Oh, did you?” she asked. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Um, okay,” said a baffled Matt. He bent down, picked up her shoes, and jogged back to the counter.
“How was that?” Aisha asked excitedly.
Cyndi slowly shook her head. “Oh, honey… That’s so cute, but it’s also so horrible.” Cyndi turned to Jim and rested her head on his shoulder. “She’s trying to get Matt to notice her. The boy is oblivious, though.”
“Hey, it’s 2025—girls are allowed to be forward.” Jim smirked at Aisha. “If you want him to know you’re interested, make a move. Kiss him. Grind on him. Grab his ass. Whatever.”
Cyndi smacked Jim in the chest. “For the record, I am not grinding on you. Or grabbing your ass.”
“But you’ll kiss me?” Jim asked.
Cyndi smiled flirtatiously. “Maybe.”
Jim smiled. “I’ll take it.” As he leaned down and kissed her, Matt returned with shoes Aisha had never seen before.
“These aren’t mine,” she said, throwing herself forward, and out of the chair.
“Sorry,” Matt said. “It’s just what the guy gave me. I don’t even remember what your shoes looked like…”
“They’re not even women’s shoes,” she whined on a second inspection.
A moment later, Aisha was in the right shoes. Jim and Cyndi—hand-in-hand—lead the way out of the alley. Matt walked alongside Aisha, still wearing the dopey grin he was frequently seen with. Aisha simply stewed.
“Oh, Christ,” Jim groaned, as a man approached them. Matt began fishing bills out of his pocket when Jim barked, “Get a real job!” at the homeless man.
Matt walked up to the man and handed him what he had in his pocket. Aisha clearly spotted a twenty in the wad of legal tender.
“You know he’s just going to use that to buy drugs,” Jim grumbled.
“You don’t know that,” Matt said.
“Why do you think most of them are out here, Matt? It’s because of drugs, or because they’re too lazy to just… go get a real job.”
“Or their crazy,” Cyndi said. “This one time, I went to Chicago. There was this bum just sort of wandering around, screaming at everyone and everything. I couldn’t believe the cops didn’t do anything.”
“It’s not like he was doing anything illegal,” Matt argued.
“What if he hurt someone, Matt?” asked Cyndi. “Those people aren’t well. They could hurt themselves, or a normal person.”
normal people,” muttered Matt.
“They live in cardboard shanty towns,” Jim scoffed. “There’s nothing normal about that.”
“They’re normal people!” Matt thundered.
Cyndi rolled her eyes. “Okay. Whatever you say, Matt. Chill.”
They continued to walk to the corner, when two more men—more disheveled looking than the man Matt had given money to—approached them. “Jesus Christ,” Jim grumbled. “You see, Matt? They’re like pigeons: throw some crumbs to one, and a whole flock swoops in expecting you to throw them more.”
Jim rounded on the duo. “Get lost-” He was cut off by one of the homeless men punching him in the chest.
As Jim doubled over from the shock, screams went up from Cyndi and Aisha. Matt looked up to see two men grabbed them. “Let them go!” Matt roared, taking a few steps forward. When neither man listened to him, Matt held out his arm and unleashed a stream of plasma into the air.
The two men froze. “Let. Them. Go.”
Jim coughed. “See?” he asked. “Nothing normal-”
“Shut up, Jim.” Matt continued to stare down the two men. Thunder rolled in the distance. “I’m not going to tell you again: let them go, or the next one won’t be a warning shot.”
Behind him, Aisha spotted another homeless man sneaking up, clutching a power cord he’d torn off of some appliance or another. “Matt, look out!” she screamed.
Matt turned, and the man brought the cord down like a whip. Matt cried out, and suddenly everything went dark. “Aisha!” Cyndi screamed. “Use my eyes!”
Aisha concentrated on Cyndi. “Cyndi Brightman, Cyndi Brightman, Cyndi Brightman,” she chanted. She imagined her roommate’s face—heard her voice echoing in her head. Suddenly, Aisha shut down her own senses and was able to see perfectly.
She saw Jim flailing at the air, while Matt was down on the ground, futilely fighting off the one with the cord.
Cyndi had broken free in the confusion. She grabbed the guy holding Aisha and his grip loosened. Aisha turned to watching him crumble to the ground; he was lying next to his friend now. “What the-?”
“We need to run!” Cyndi said, grabbing Aisha’s hand.
“Matt can take care of himself! We need to get the hell out of here!”
It was always a hassle to use her powers while moving: she saw the world remotely—from Cyndi’s point-of-view a few feet ahead of her. As they ran, Aisha stumbled a few times, as her own perception was slightly askew. “Why did everything turn dark!?!” she heard herself shout. It was another aspect of her powers: while she was effectively deaf while she used her powers, she couldn’t hear herself to modulate her own volume. Hearing things through Cyndi’s hears helped some, admittedly, but only ever-so-slightly.
“These are my powers,” Cyndi explained, not stopping for anything. “I inherited my powers from both of my parents. My daddy can put up this bubble around him that devours all light. Inside it, he can see perfectly fine. My mother, on the other hand, can sap the life out of any living thing she touches.
“Me, I can only drain something’s life force if they’re shrouded in darkness.”
As it the sky began to pelt them with rain, Cyndi ducked into an alley to stop and catch her breath. “Okay,” she said, “I’m turning the lights back on.”
Aisha released her powers and found she could indeed see again. She looked up to see Cyndi searching through her cell phone. “Son of a bitch,” she growled, “I don’t have a number for the school. The only students I know are you and Jim. Shit, we need to… Do you know how to get a hold of anyone?”
Aisha reached for her purse, only to realize she’d dropped it when they had been grabbed. “I lost my cell phone,” she said.
“No worries.” The two girls spun at the sound of the voice. Cyndi was startled to see the figure walk out of the brick wall. Aisha wasn’t: she knew it was well within the scope of her ex-boyfriend’s abilities.
“Here you go, Aisha,” Ebb said, handing her back her purse. “Now, shall we go home?”
The moment Derryl announced that they were clear, Eric grabbed his arm and stepped from the rooftop to the Jenkins’ living room. He looked to his roommate and pointed to his ear. He wasn’t sure how to mime “are you using your powers to cancel noise?”
“You can talk,” Derryl said. “No one will hear us.”
Eric swiveled his head, taking in the living room. “Well, the headmaster said that Missus Jenkins was found in her bed, so… I guess we’ll start in the bedroom.”
Derryl followed Eric towards a door. Eric opened it, only to pull it closed again. “And that’s the bathroom,” he said.
As Eric moved towards the next door, Derryl continued to stare at the handle. “I feel like we should be wearing gloves,” he said. “Not that anyone would have any reason to suspect you killed her, but… I get the feeling that it might be hard to explain how your fingerprints got all over her house, if anyone found them.”
Eric was too busy going from room-to-room, searching for the Jenkins’ boudoir. “Found it,” he said, waving for Derryl to follow him in.
The bed was turned down, with tiny plastic tents set up on the right-hand side of the bed. Eric crept closer and looked down at the pillow. “Blood,” he said. He scanned the room, only to sigh when there didn’t appear to be much else of note. “I thought maybe that there would be something that’d get overlooked…”
Eric looked back and found Derryl staring at an elderly man, standing off to the side. The man was bald on top, with short white hair on the sides. A neatly-trimmed beard adorned his hard face, half-hiding an angry scowl reserved for the two boys.
The man didn’t budge as Eric ran forward, grabbing Derryl’s wrist and teleporting back to their room in the school. “That was close,” he said wearily.
“It still is.”
Eric and Derryl turned around, only to find the man now standing in the corner of their room. “Go get the headmaster!” Eric said, pushing Derryl back. By merging the administrator’s office with their room, Eric was able to banish his roommate to the first floor, staying behind to hold their guest back.
“Are you the guy who killed Missus Jenkins?”
The man simply stared at Eric, as though he were sizing him up.
“I want answers, old man!” Eric roared. “Start with who you are, and what you’re doing here!”
Suddenly, the man was standing inches away from Eric. “You want answers?” the man asked. He put a hand on Eric’s shoulder. “So be it.”
The school vanished. In its place was a hellish landscape: a plateau forged from molten rock, jutting out into a narrow canyon, under a crimson sky.
The heat was sweltering.
Eric swatted the man’s hand aside and concentrated on the school. He stepped, but nothing happened. “How did you do that?” he asked. As he tried to step away again, he found himself trapped here with the mysterious man. “What did you do to my powers?”
“Nothing,” the man said.
“Then why can’t I step back to the school?”
“Because you’re already there. Look around you, Eric: this is Roosevelt Island.” The man pointed out across the gorge. “There’s Queens. Over there is Manhattan.
“Welcome to Oubliette-6.”
“Matt, look out!”
Matt turned, and the man brought the cord down like a whip. Matt cried out, and suddenly everything went dark. “Aisha!” he heard Cyndi scream, somewhere deep in the darkness. “Use my eyes!”
He could feel the man drop to the ground, and feel for him. He tried to fight the man back, but armed with that makeshift whip, it was difficult. Matt’s kick had connected, but the man reciprocated by raking Matt’s face with the prongs of the cord. He could feel blood oozing over his eye and on his other cheek. It stung, and he wanted to fight back with his powers—he wanted to just unleash a jet of ionized gas at the man—but he suspected there was nothing nonlethal about his abilities, and he just couldn’t bring himself to take another life.
The man used his weight to pin Matt. He could feel the man’s hands fumbling up Matt’s chest and finding their way to his neck. With his leg keeping one of Matt’s arms down, he was able to hold his neck with one hand and pass a length of the cord to it with the other.
The cord dug into Matt’s neck as the man fought to strangle him. “Stop it!” he hissed. “I don’t want to fry you, man, but I will!”
Suddenly, the darkness dissipated. Matt’s eyes rolled up in an attempt to see if Aisha and Cyndi were okay. When he couldn’t see them, he looked back to the man, snarling as he fought to choke Matt.
Thunder rolled in the distance. There was a thud, and the man’s grip loosened. Matt could breathe again, and the man was collapsing atop him. Jim Loder was standing over them, holding a glass bottle by the neck.
Jim caught the homeless man by the neck of his shirt, preventing him from sprawling over Matt in an unconscious heap. Before Matt could register what was happening, Jim brought the bottle down over the man’s skull, sending glass and blood flying.
Matt frantically scooted away, only to watch in horror as Jim thrust the rest of the bottle into the man’s back, and twisted it. “Jesus!” Matt screamed as Jim threw him down to the ground. Jim didn’t stop: he kicked the man in the face, forcing him onto his back. Raising his foot high, Jim stomped down on the man’s face.
Leaping to his feet, Matt grabbed Jim and pulled him off the man. “Jesus, man! He’s down! He’s…” Rain pelted Matt’s face, causing the bleeding wound across his face to run into his mouth. He wasn’t sure if it was the taste of his diluted blood or the sight of what had once been this man’s face that caused him to vomit; he didn’t care.
At the sight of what Jim had done to their companion, the two who had jumped Aisha and Cyndi scurried away. Jim turned and grinned fiendishly at them. “Oh, no, you don’t,” he whispered. Matt followed Jim’s outstretched arm to their retreating backs, and watched in horror as lightning shot down from the skies to strike one of the men.
The sight of the man being flung by the blast caused Matt to look at Jim in disbelief. “Did… did you just…?”
Jim looked to the other man and watched as a second bolt of lightning stopped his flight.
“Jim! You… What the hell, man!?! What the hell!?!”
Jim pushed Matt off of him and bent down to pick up the discard cord. Rising up, he folded it over before stuffing it into his back pocket. Perplexed, Matt could do nothing but watch as Jim leisurely made his way to his next victim. He felt for a pulse before tearing a button off the man’s jacket. “What are you doing?” Matt asked, baffled as Jim rose up from another body, and made his way to the next.
“We should really get moving,” Jim said, pulling the third man’s shoelace through the aglets of his ratty sneakers. “Cyndi and Aisha could be in trouble, and we need to go save them.”
Rising up, Jim slipped the shoelace into his pocket, along with his other two trophies.
Aisha was paralyzed with shock at the appearance of her ex-boyfriend. “Come on,” Ebb said, grabbing her wrist, and pulling her to follow him, “you’re coming back to where you belong.”
When her roommate looked back to her with a helpless expression, Cyndi leapt into action. “Okay, you’re a Neo-Sapien. You can walk through walls. That’s great. Wanna see what I do?”
Suddenly, the area was wrapped in a bubble of pure darkness. By using her powers, Aisha would be able to see. They could get away—she just needed to make him let go of Aisha. “Cyndi!” Aisha cried. “Don’t touch him!”
Cyndi grabbed Ebb’s shoulder, and experienced a pain unlike any she had ever felt. Out of reflex, Cyndi pulled back her hand, only to find her fingers missing halfway up. Panic set in, and as the darkness faded, a scream filled the alley.
Ebb chuckled as he turned to face her. “My powers are… well, they’re hard to explain,” he offered. “You see, I don’t just ‘walk through walls’: my ability allows me to destroy matter on a molecular level. I can break myself down so that every cell in my body permeates solid matter, or disassemble myself only to reform anywhere else. I can also heal damn near any injury I suffer…
“But I digress. Your arm… See, my power can also be used defensively, disintegrating whatever touches me.”
Aisha snapped her arm away from Ebb. She threw an arm around Cyndi and hurried her out of the alley. “Can you make it go dark again?” she asked her.
Cyndi only barely registered the question through the shock.
“Cyndi!” Aisha screamed. “We need you to focus!” She stopped when Ebb appeared in her path. “We can’t outrun him, Cyndi, but we can get away if you make it go dark!
“Please! It’s the only chance we have!”
Pushing past the phantom pain, Cyndi concentrated and soon blanketed an area in total darkness. “You need to go big, Cyndi! As big as you can!”
Cyndi pushed her powers to the limit as allowed Aisha to lead her on.
“Okay, Cyndi… I know you’re hurting right now, but I need you to do something else for me, okay? I can only see what you see, so the only way I’m getting us anywhere is if you look forward. You can’t keep looking down, okay? I need you to keep looking forward, so I can see where we’re going…”
Cyndi looked forward, and the two girls pressed on, praying that they had lost Ebb somewhere in the darkness.
“What the hell is this?” Eric asked. “What’s an… oo-blee… what?”
“Oubliette-6,” the strange man said, slowly looking around, and nodding, as though he approved of what he saw. “This is another dimension, Eric. It’s a dimension where things happened a little bit differently than they did on your world, and this…” A heavy sigh escaped him. “This is the result.”
“I don’t think I understand. Dimension? Wait, who are you? How did you even get us here?”
“I don’t expect you to understand. Derryl would, yes, but not you.” The man chuckled. “I think you’d go insane if you knew the things I know.
“Suffice it to say, you’re playing with forces you can’t even comprehend. I don’t doubt that that woman’s death was a terrible, terrible thing. I don’t doubt that she’s leaving behind loved ones—people who will miss her very, very much… but I also don’t doubt that it was a necessary evil.
“You don’t understand, and you probably never will, but your teacher had to die, in order for us to prevent what happened to this world from happening in yours.”
Eric looked around at the horrors that had been unleashed upon New York. “How?” he asked. “I mean, what happened here?”
“A great and terrible force was loosed here. Infinity rose, and no one was strong enough to stop her.”
“Her? So Infinity is a person?”
The man nodded.
“And she does… all of this? She destroys the Earth?”
“You don’t understand,” the man said. “Infinity didn’t just destroy the Earth: she destroyed this dimension. Time and space are fractured here. This dimension—Oubliette-6—it’s nothing. There is no life. No day or night. Nothing.
“Oubliette-513, Oubliette-9410, Oubliette-685, Oubliette-94… They’re all in the same shape. Infinity rose in each of those worlds, and now… they’re just like this one. That is why I had to move. That is why-”
“So, you killed Missus Jenkins!”
“I didn’t not kill your teacher.”
“Then who did!?! Simulacrum? Sanguine? Who?”
“I pray you never find out. I pray you keep the memory of this desolation, and allow us to do what must be done.”
“You’re insane!” railed Eric. “How do you know what must be done? What, you’ve seen the future, or something? Then why don’t you do something else, like, oh, I don’t know, kill Infinity when she’s a baby or something? I mean, you obviously don’t have any issue with seeing innocent people killed, so… what’s keeping you from just nipping this in the bud, huh?”
“My boy, you don’t seem to understand: no one knows who Infinity is! One day she simply shows up, and begins destroying creation! Our only hope lies in giving the universe a savior—one who can fight her on her level.”
And like that, Eric found some clarity: “Simulacrum,” he said, beginning to understand. “You’re trying to prepare him for this.” The gears turned in the boy’s head, as if grinding out the horrified expression now affixed to his face. “Did you kill Missus Jenkins because you thought Simulacrum’s attachment to her would jeopardize what you’re preparing him to do?”
The man sighed. “Yes,” he said, reaching out to touch Eric once more. Eric stepped away: with a thought, there were several yards between them. The bearded man never stopped reaching, however…
Shock flashed on Eric’s face as the man’s arm stretched to impossible lengths. His hand fell on Eric’s chest and gently pushed him backwards, just as Eric had Derryl minutes ago.
Eric fell backwards, only to find himself stumbling into the headmaster’s office. Himura peeled his eyes away from the television set into his bookshelves, startled by the youth’s sudden appearance. Before either could question his arrival, Derryl too spilled into the room.
Eric immediately understood: he had been sent back in time, arriving seconds before he charged Derryl with getting help.
“Sir,” Derryl said, “Eric told me to-”
“It’s fine,” Eric said. Derryl spun around and fixed Eric with a perplexed look. “He’s long gone.”
The headmaster looked from one boy to the other. “Who?” he asked.
Eric groaned. “It’s kind of a long story.” He wasn’t sure how to explain without mentioning their cutting class all day to break into a murder scene.
“It may have to wait,” the man said, turning back to the television. It was a live feed from a helicopter, flying over a massive dome of darkness that looked to encapsulate most of Long Island City. “I suspect that one of your classmates is at the center of this mess,” he sighed. “By any chance, could I ask you boys for a favor?”
Inching their way through absolute darkness, Aisha and Cyndi were flanked by the sounds of chaos. Aisha had no inkling how far Cyndi’s powers extended, but she had to imagine it was far: all around them, she could hear the sounds of Queens reacting to suddenly being unable to see.
The pain in Aisha’s right hand wasn’t helping matters. Unless she used her powers to piggyback on Cyndi’s senses, she would have been just as blind as everyone else. Unfortunately for her, that meant she got to share in the experience of missing the ends of her fingers.
Blinded by pain, she almost missed the sound of Cyndi’s cell phone ringing.
“Is that you?” she asked, nudging Cyndi slightly. Cyndi didn’t react, forcing Aisha to grope for Cyndi’s purse—an impossible task, as she couldn’t feel anything with her own hands. “Okay, hold up,” Aisha said, halting their slow procession back to the school. “I need to stop using my powers…”
Aisha was blind again, but able to feel again. Fumbling blindly in Cyndi’s purse, she was glad for the respite from Cyndi’s pain.
Once she had the phone, she found herself unable to detect how to answer the call. With a sigh and a deep breath, Aisha used her powers on Cyndi once more. Her hand ached, but she could now see the screen.
Sliding her thumb across the screen, she brought the phone up to her head. “Hello?” she asked. She heard nothing, and cursed herself for forgetting that her ears were momentarily useless. Again, she ceased to use her powers.
“-man?” the man on the phone asked.
“Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
“Aisha Stein,” she offered. “Who is this?”
“Aisha, this is Mister Himura—the headmaster.”
“Oh, good! Sir, you have to save us! Some bums attacked us, but Cyndi and I got away, and my ex-boyfriend came to take me away, but Cyndi jumped him, and now part of her hand is gone!”
“We can help you, but we need your help. First, we need you to have Cyndi stop using her powers, Aisha.”
“No!” Aisha exclaimed. “Cyndi’s powers are the only thing keeping Ebb from seeing us, and I-”
“Aisha, we can get you out of there. Once Cyndi powers down, I need you to take a picture of what’s around you, and send it to this phone number.”
“Sir, I can’t-”
“Eric Vaughn is with me. He’s a teleporter, Aisha, but he needs to be able to envision his destination. He can’t just blindly jump to your side unless he has a picture of your location. If you need to have Miss Brightman use her powers again, do it, but make sure you can send us that picture first.
“Eric will come right to you, and bring the two of you back to the school…”
“There’s more,” she said. “Matt and Jim were with us, sir, but the bums got them… They’re in trouble, too!”
“And we’ll save them, too, but right now, we’re going to focus on saving you. Right now, I need you to focus on doing what I told you. Can you do that?”
“I-I think so.”
“I’ll see you in a moment, Aisha.”
The call ended, and Aisha saw to explaining the plan to Cyndi. “We’ll be able to help you, but you need to stop using your powers for a bit…”
Cyndi nodded in compliance and the darkness receded back into her. Immediately, Aisha took a picture, and set about to sending it to the number the headmaster had called her from. “Okay, go ahead and use your powers again,” Aisha said, watching as the image was sent.
Cyndi summoned the darkness once more, and once more Aisha borrowed Cyndi’s senses, letting her scan their surroundings for any sight of Ebb.
Just as the headmaster said, Eric appeared out of nowhere, and he’d brought the cavalry: the headmaster walked out of thin air, leading her Biology, Painting, and Dance teachers, amongst others: while she knew Doctor Himura, Mister Reagan, and Missus Meinstein, the two men with them were strangers to Aisha.
“Miss Brightman?” the headmaster asked. “Miss Stein?”
With some urging from Aisha, Cyndi once more powered down. “Get them back to the school, Eric,” the headmaster said, scanning the street for any signs of trouble. He nodded to the two men whose names Aisha didn’t know. “Eli. Joshua.”
Gale force winds came spilling down the street, caught the two men, and took them up and into the sky. “They’re going to head towards the storm brewing west. They’ll call once they have eyes on the boys.”
Eric wrapped his arms around the girls, and suddenly they were in the infirmary, located in the school’s sublevel. “Which is the one with the injury?” asked a gaunt man with graying hair and glasses.
Aisha led his attention to Cyndi’s hand. “What happened?” he asked.
“My ex-boyfriend,” she explained. “He’s a Neo-Sapien who destroys matter on a molecular level. Cyndi touched him, screamed, and when she pulled back her hand…”
The doctor set about to bandaging her hand. “Young man,” he said, without looking away from his work, “what is the range of your ability?”
“Uh, maybe… two-thousand miles, if I push it,” Eric said. “Why?”
“The leader of the Vienna branch of Vindicators has some healing abilities. If we could bring him here in time, he might be able to save this girl’s hand.”
Eric grimaced. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“For what?” asked the doctor.
Eric looked confused. “For… not being powerful enough to step across the Atlantic Ocean?”
The doctor grinned at him. “Oh, you may not be able to get from here to Vienna in a single teleport, but you could still do it in bursts.”
“Whoa!” Eric barked. “Are you telling me that I should just… what? Step into the middle of the damn ocean?”
“That’s one idea,” the man said, rising up from his stool.
“I don’t think that’s going to work. I mean, maybe you missed this part, but… I don’t walk on water.”
“Of course you don’t,” the doctor said, making his way to the sink. “That’s why you’re going to take me with you.” He turned on the water, then made the stream flow diagonally up into the air, forming into a sphere that floated beside his head. “Doctor Peter Titus,” he said, smirking back at the freshmen. “Give me a minute to call over. I’ll let Fluxx know his expertise is needed, and then we can get moving.”
John opened the door for Kim. “Are you, uh… doing anything tomorrow?” he asked.
Kim grinned at him. “What did you have in mind?” she asked.
“Well, I thought we could actually watch the movie this time.”
Kim laughed. “You mean, you don’t want to spend tomorrow night making out, too?”
“Well, I do,” John said, “but I also wanna watch the movie.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, leaning in to kiss the boy goodnight. “Wear somethin’ sexy.”
As she turned to head back to her own room, the door to the hall opened, letting in a boy John had seen around the campus.
He couldn’t have been more than a year John’s senior. Armed with his crew cut, clothes straight from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, and smug aura, he bore an uncanny resemblance to everyone John didn’t like in junior high.
As he made his way down to his room, he flashed Kim a devious grin. “Hey, Kimmy,” he said without breaking his stride.
“Who’s that?” John asked, raising an eyebrow at the boy.
“You know how I told you about Suzette—how this boy just asked her boyfriend if he could have her? That’s him.” She began to blush. “That’s my ex-boyfriend, John.
“That’s Jim Loder.”
To Be Continued... wrote:As the freshmen get assigned their training squadrons, Matt warns Cyndi about Jim...