Chapter 101

“Chad, I think you’re hurting Vince.” Camille’s voice was a stark contrast to the uneasy silence that had fallen over the room when Chad gripped his classmate. Little was said, and tension could be sensed in the bodies of those around them, some worried about what was happening while others were ready to jump into action if the moment called for it. Chad could feel the stares of everyone centering on him, and ordinarily it would have been enough to make him take a step back. Not with this. Even the innocent concern of Camille only resulted in him slightly relaxing his grip, only barely enough to allow blood flow.

“I need an answer, Vince.”

“It was a gift from my father.” Vince had no idea what the hell was going on, but even he was smart enough to see that something was wrong with Chad. The blonde boy had always been reserved in his strength, never lording his superior power over the rest of the class. That didn’t make him perfect, however, and Vince knew firsthand that when someone with real skill lost control things could get very bad, very fast.

“A gift from your father.” Chad’s face looked like it might begin to turn green. “And who is your father, exactly?”

“The man who raised me. I never knew his name; he said he’d cast it away before we met. To me he was always just Father.” In truth, Vince would have preferred not to get into his past in such a public place; but, it seemed like there was no alternative other than to tell Chad the truth. Whatever was happening, lying was bound to make it worse.

“How did he get this?”

“Chad, maybe you want to calm down a little. I don’t think Vince’s history is really your business,” Nick said, eyeing the young man carefully. Hershel had held up a shot of whiskey and Mary had given him a curt nod, so Nick knew both of them were ready to go if things went south. Still, with Chad’s strength, he could rip off Vince’s arm before anyone could react, so diplomacy was currently the strategy of choice.

“How did he get this watch? When did he give it to you?” Chad could hear the other people in the room whispering, but they didn’t exist right now. His world had narrowed down to only himself, a boy with silver hair, and a gold pocket watch.

“All he told me was that it was a gift from a very dear friend. He passed it on to me when I turned thirteen.”

Chad’s eyes narrowed just a hair. “That’s a lie.”

“It’s what he told me.”

“Then he was lying!” Vince winced as Chad’s grip tightened involuntarily, his grimace of pain causing a shift toward readiness in the people nearest to him.

“It’s what he told me, and I don’t see why he would lie. I’ve told you what I know. Now tell me why this is so important.” Vince met Chad’s stare without wavering. There was sweat beginning to bead below his blonde hair and a small twitch dancing in his right eye. For someone whose power was bodily control to show signs of stress this obvious, there had to be a full-scale war waging inside him. At first Vince didn’t think Chad was going to respond. It was only after he felt the super-strength empowered hand release his wrist that Chad began his explanation.

“There are only two watches like that in the world. They were custom made by a man whose power was metal manipulation. They were sold to his apprentices, two young Heroes who had done their internships under him. Each bought one and then gave them as gifts to one another.” Chad reached into his own suit jacket and produced a pocket watch that was a twin to Vince’s own. Had he not displayed signs of potentially coming unhinged, there might have been a gasp of surprise from the room. As it was, everyone just tried very hard to stay quiet lest they accidently stir his unstable state. Everyone, that is, except Vince.

“So, our fathers knew each other?”

“The watches were a symbol of their friendship, of all the hardships they’d endured together,” Chad said, ignoring Vince as he gazed down at the golden timepiece in his hand. “That’s what my mother told me, anyway. See, I didn’t get mine handed off to me like you did. I inherited it as part of my father’s estate.”

“He died?”

“He was murdered by the man who carried your watch!” Chad spat angrily. Dimly he was aware of a crunching sound. Had he looked down he would have noticed he’d just accidentally cracked the concrete floor by shifting his weight. He might have even cared, though by this point it would be hard to say.

“His partner! His best friend! That man drove a spike of energy through my father’s chest and left him to die in the street!”

“Oh shit,” Alice mumbled as she and Nick exchanged a glance. They hadn’t included it in the presentation, but they’d both read up about a man that died in such a way. In an instant they both knew who Chad’s father had been.

“Look, I don’t know what you think happened,” Vince began, but the speed at which Chad whipped his ever-maddening eyes toward Vince stilled the words on his tongue.

“I know exactly what happened. It was extremely well-documented and witnessed. The ‘Hero’ Globe murdered my father before turning on the rest of his team.” This time there were gasps, stifled gasps but gasps none the less. Everyone knew about that incident, but no one had ever realized Intra had a son.

“My father didn’t even have powers. He was a wanderer! For heaven’s sake, we met when I was digging food out of a trash can!” Vince’s own voice was raised as well, and he realized at some point he’d gotten to his feet. There were few things that could easily rile him, but slanderous accusations at the kind man who had taken him in were near the top of the list.

“Which brings us back to how he got that watch!” Chad slammed his unencumbered hand onto the heavy marble table, shattering it at its center and sending half whipping into the air. It began descending almost immediately, its stone surface on a direct crash course with Camille’s cranium.

Vince didn’t have time to think, not that it would have changed things if he had. Flaring temper or not, his priorities remained intact. He grabbed the birthday girl in his arms and threw her to the ground, putting his spine between her and the table. The last thing he saw before shutting his eyes and waiting for impact was a look of terror rippling across her face. It was a look that would never truly leave him.

The table slammed into Vince’s back then slid to the ground with a dull thud.