The gun was nothing more than scrap metal after two of Titan’s blows, both of which were far stronger than were strictly necessary. Though he hadn’t yet turned to make the confirmation, he knew what he’d witnessed while dashing over. Jeremiah was dead, whatever enhanced endurance he might have had wasn’t enough to withstand the laser blast. A hole in the chest was enough to kill pretty much anything, even a Super.
With the remains of the laser throwing off sparks, Titan turned to find the others clustered around Jeremiah, whose blood was soaking into the rocks. No doubt about it, he was dead, likely had been before he hit the ground. Aether’s face was pale, and Deadlift seemed to be sniffling under his mask, the poor kid probably hadn’t lost too many friends in the field, yet. Much as Titan wanted to, and would, mourn the loss of a comrade, Jeremiah’s death meant nothing if they didn’t finished the job.
“We need to-” Titan’s words died on his tongue as Jeremiah’s pooling blood suddenly halted, then reversed direction as it began to flow back into his blown apart torso. As it did, the burned out chunks of flesh lengthened and bones regrew. The whole process took perhaps five seconds, but when it was done Jeremiah’s body bore no sign of any injury whatsoever. If that alone wasn’t disturbing enough, the sound of a rough cough escaped the fallen Heroes lips, and he shook his head as if coming out of a long nap.
“What the fuck!” Aether screeched, turning insubstantial and leaping backward. Even for people who dealt with super-human abilities, someone coming back from the dead was a bit much. Gale and Deadlift both took defensive postures as well, bracing for attack was their default reaction in strange situations.
“Sorry about that,” Jeremiah said, voice as calm as if he hadn’t just had his heart hollowed out seconds earlier. “Little inconvenient, I know, but at least now we know to be on guard for traps.”
“You were dead.” Titan looked around for any proof of the injury, splatters of blood or flecks of bone, yet there was no sign of it aside from the hole in Jeremiah’s shirt. Even the blood stains on the rocks were gone. “This… this is impossible. What you just did goes way beyond regeneration. This is time manipulation.”
“Come on, if I was the first Super to travel through time, you don’t think I’d work on a slightly grander scale than running a team of Subtlety Heroes?” Jeremiah slowly pulled himself to his feet and gestured over to the broken wreckage of the gun that had slain him. “Besides, if I never got shot, then you wouldn’t have beaten that device halfway to electronic hell. Appreciate that, by the way.”
“Jeremiah, we all just watched you die. Regeneration can’t fix death. Do you really expect us to just let this pass with no explanation?” Gale’s eyes were narrowed, her emotions torn between relief and uncertainty of what to make of such a display.
“At the very least, we need to know how much damage you can come back from before we go any further.” Deadlift thrust a thumb down the ravine, where logic said there were no doubt more traps lying in wait for them. “Not to be a dick about it, but knowing what actually kills you tells us who we should prioritize helping if things turn to shit without warning.”
Jeremiah turned the argument around a few times before evidently landing on agreement with the point. “Very well, but I’m only giving you all the cursory overview. As a Subtlety Hero, I know far too well how important it is to have a few secrets kept close to the vest, especially about weaknesses. The long and short of it is that my body doesn’t regenerate, technically. It’s more apt to say that I lock my physical form in at a certain time, and my ability maintains that status quo no matter what happens.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Aether had largely recovered from her outburst, though she was still giving Jeremiah a wary eye as he explained. No one, least of all Jeremiah, blamed her for the caution. Seeing a corpse pull itself back together was unsettling on a lot of levels.
“It means I pick a day when I’m exactly where I want to be. Fit, strong, energetic, and without any aches or pains. Then I activate my power. And until I turn it off, that’s my body, regardless of outside forces like giant robots or laser cannons-”
“Or time?” It was Titan who interrupted, realizing exactly what Jeremiah was describing. Immortality. Maybe not perfect, if he was keeping secrets then there was bound to be a flaw or two in the ability, no power was unbeatable, yet if he really did lock his body like he was describing, it meant aging wasn’t something he had to fear.
The wide grin on Jeremiah’s face answered before he formed the first syllable of his glib reply. “I haven’t had enough years to say for certain yet, but by all accounts going forward, I’m going to look extremely good for my age, whatever that might be. Though at the rate I’m mowing through uniforms, I’ll have a huge clothing bill and a lot of unpleasant death memories.”
“Wait, do you remember dying from the laser?” Gale asked.
“I remember everything that happens to me before the power gets triggered,” Jeremiah told her. “That’s the drawback to my ability, I can recall every single time my life has ended, and let me tell you those memories are not sunshine and rainbows. Still, it’s the gift I have, so I make the most of it.”
“And it sounds like a hell of a good one, but I think it’s about time we started using my power.” Titan turned back toward the direction where the laser gun had sprung up from. “Everyone, stay here. I’m going to see if there are any more traps waiting.”
He began jogging forward, through the ravine’s narrow walls. Within the first few steps, another gun burst forth from the rocks, firing directly into Titan’s torso. The burning energy hit only his already exposed flesh, where it fizzled uselessly just before Titan returned the blow, leaving only shattered scrap behind. A few more feet, and another gun appeared, quickly meeting the same fate. Further in, and an explosion from the ground tried to blow off his leg, succeeding only in tearing up his boot. Titan continued on, undeterred. Seeing a friend die, even if only for a few moments, had been just the kick in the ass he needed to remind him of his role in situations like this. It had been a long time since Titan was doing real Hero work, but with each step forward it was coming back to him. His place was at the front, taking on every attack the enemy could throw, making sure his team stayed safe.
Titan would stand against the full assault, and only when it was spent would he call the others to follow. That was what it meant to be a team’s shield.