Chapter 200

               Vince was the first to notice the flames. While his ability to sense energy was dim much of the time, requiring focus to lock onto anything concrete, it was still present enough for him to feel the sudden surges of heat blooming in various locations around the building. For a moment, he took it to be some aspect of the show, perhaps the women would have to do some sort of roasting meat challenge. As the fires grew, Vince’s certainty waned. They were spreading faster than any contained flames should, and his gut told him a fire alarm should have sounded by now.

                “Mary,” Vince said. “Is Roger planning any events that involve fire?”

                She looked at him from across their small table, narrowing her eyes as she sharpened her mental focus. Those same eyes grew wide as she realized what Vince was concerned about, and she quickly looked up at the stage where Roger was calmly standing. After a moment of concentrated listening, she shook her head.

                “Not that I can tell. He seems-”

                Mary didn’t get to finish her comment, as Vince was already sprinting through the crowd, toward the stage. He mumbled apologies as he ran, keeping his shoving as polite and efficient as it could be, but prioritizing speed above all else. Better to leave someone with sore feet and a few bruises than let them be cooked alive.

                As Vince reached the stage, one of the bouncers reached out to stop him. There had been many patrons that drank too much and decided such lovely women were dying for their company, and though the bouncer saw the franticness in Vince’s eyes, he had to make a split-second judgment call as the silver-haired young man sped toward the stage. The bouncer’s meaty hand closed only on air, as Vince side-stepped him so easily that the large man wondered if he’d somehow blacked out for a few seconds. Then Vince was gone, on the stage and running toward Roger. Quick as the bouncer was to turn and try to catch up, he was still many steps behind the nimble young man.

                “Fires,” Vince said, doing his best to keep his voice down as he spoke rapidly at the confused face of Roger Brown. “There are fires in here. Four by my count, and spreading quickly.”

                Vince’s odd declaration might have required more effort to sell to the bar owner, however at that point panicked voices could be heard coming from one of the back area. Roger heard the noises, took a long look at the earnest expression on the Vince’s face, and waved off the bouncer approaching behind the silver-haired young man.

                “Everyone, it seems we a small but serious fire breaking out from the kitchen,” Roger said, his voice still steady and reasonably. “We need everyone here to proceed out of the nearest exit in a calm, orderly manner while the situation is cleaned up. The rodeo will resume as soon as the fire is fixed, and we’ll do a round on the house as apology for the inconvenience. Again, please move calmly to the exit nearest to you.”

                Vince braced for a stampede of half-drunk college students slamming into each other trying to get to safety. Instead, what happened was exactly what Roger had asked for. Every person there looked around, found the closest exit sign, and began filing out steadily. There was some jostling and chaos from the exit near the bathrooms where the first screams had come from, but even that seemed to smooth itself out as the river of fresh bodies poured through it. From that direction, Vince did catch sight of a familiar face battling his way against the current, eyes shining a golden color as he fought his way back into the club.

                Vince was amazed at how peaceful everyone was being. He chanced a glance at Roger, who had a serene, watchful expression on his face. As he looked at the older man, Vince realized that even his own panic had abated. He knew the situation was still dangerous, and he was worried about his friends’ safety, but it was like he was looking at those emotions on the other side of a waterfall of calmness. Most people would have just taken it as an unexpected respond to danger, but Vince was well-acquainted with how his body and mind reacted to stressful situation. He could be detached, certainly; however this was tranquility on a level that he’d never achieved when shit was hitting the fan. As soon as he realized that, Vince knew. It was more hunch than provable fact, but he knew all the same.

                “You’re a Super.” Vince said, half-whispering in case the microphone in Roger’s hand was still one. No one seemed to paying them any attention, most people were too occupied with peacefully exiting the building. Dimly, Vince realized he could smell smoke and see it streaming out of one of the back areas.

                Roger nodded, eyes never leaving the dispensing patron as they emptied out of the club. “I’m nothing too special; I just have a low-level auditory resonance ability. Whatever emotions I put into my voice are mirrored in the people listening. This is about the maximum I can do, though.”

                “Must be a pretty handy talent.” Vince groped about for words, trying to think of what he could say. Roger might know about most of his friends and their powers, but to him Roger Brown was a stranger. There was no sense in revealing his abilities or HCP status to someone he wasn’t cleared to share things with. Luckily, Roger took the discussion out of Vince’s hands before he could blurt out something dumb.

                “Looks like things are clear enough for us to vamoose to.” Roger pointed toward the front exit, which was nearly emptied thanks to the efficient exodus. The only remaining people were Camille, Mary, Roy, and Alex; who’d gotten a good enough view to see Vince still lingering about. Nick hurried across the club and quickly joined them, throwing Vince a vicious glare with his once-again brown irises. They weren’t worried about Vince’s safety, that much was evident. They were there to make sure he didn’t try anything stupid that would get him exposed.

                “Are… are you sure we shouldn’t try to do something about the fires?” Vince could feel each of them. It would take him no time at all to go absorb them, containing the threat and damage they could do. He could end this in a matter of minutes, but if they left then there was telling how much of the club would be eaten by hungry flames.

                “I’m positive,” Roger said, gently putting a hand on Vince’s shoulder and guiding him toward the exit. “These things happen, but I’ve got great insurance and Lander has a capable fire department. The only thing we’ll do by butting in is get ourselves hurt.”

                Vince didn’t like the idea of walking out when he could do something, in fact it made his stomach twist in impotent frustration. But with Roger right on him, and hundreds of witnesses who might be curious about a vanishing fire, he couldn’t see any way out of the situation.

                Since the people were gone, Vince let it go. He couldn’t have walked away if there were others in danger, but with the only casualty being replaceable things, he let himself be led out of the building and into the crowded parking lot.