Despite his promise that they would be staying in Alice’s mind, the world certainly seemed to change as soon as Alice gave Abridail permission. The spa vanished as the world stretched outward, the soft glow of the lamps shrinking down in small pinpricks of light. In moment it seemed as though they were hanging in the void of space, racing across glowing bridges that ran between the stars.
He piloted them through the bridges wordlessly, shifting the world around them even though they were technically standing still. As they hurtled through the new realm, Mary was struck by how bright it all was. She’d always imagined space would be dark, the light of star too far away to feel, but out here they burned and pulsed, flickering into and out of existence at irregular intervals.
“Where are we?” Alice was the one who asked the question, her mouth hanging open as she stared in wide-eye wonder at the infinite skyscape around them. It was easy to think that they were worldly and jaded after seeing the marvels other Supers could produce, but standing out there was keen reminder of just how young they were, and how little of the world they had truly experienced.
“This… is my world.” Abridail’s words were heavy, his tone somber as he also gazed up at the sea of twinkling lights surrounding them. Mary supposed the effect never entirely wore off, and she could see why.
“Forgive the slight delay; before I show you your mother’s visions, I need to mentally formulate every detail accurately. While we wait, I thought you might enjoy glimpsing the world as I see it. Every light you see here is a dream. Some last forever as their owners return each night. Others burn only for moments, dying away before they’ve had the chance to reach their true glory. Each is as unique as the mind that summons them. I’ve spent most of my life walking amidst the dreams, and I’ve yet to see two that are quite the same.”
The space between worlds twisted under Alice and Mary’s feet. Neither was sure what he was conjuring, or if it was a good idea to allow him this much power, but they were set on seeing it through. Whatever Abridail knew, it was something they couldn’t walk away from. Not with so few clues as to what was going on around them.
“Earlier, you said we were going to see the futures,” Alice said, her voice falling away after a few feet, as though the darkness between stars was devouring it. “Did you misspeak?”
“I told you before, there is no set future.” Abridail didn’t turn around as he spoke, but his words reached her and Mary without effort. “There are only the most probable ones looming before us. Those are what your mother can see, and what I feel it’s time you were given a glimpse of as well.”
“Why? I mean, why bother telling us this? Why do we get to see the futures?” Mary asked. She dearly missed her telepathy, as she would have given almost anything to poke around in this mysterious man’s head.
This time, Abridail did turn around, though Mary almost wished he hadn’t. The levity that had been on his face since she first walked into Alice’s dream was gone, in its place was a seriousness that made her wonder if he was about to tell her the secret to life itself.
“Because, there is a crossroads coming soon, one that splits the potential futures into two general categories. One of those is something I would dearly like to not see come to pass. And as to why you two are being shown this glimpse, rather than someone else, it only seemed appropriate that you be given the warning.” Abridail turned away once more, but they still heard his next words as crisp and clear as the previous ones.
“After all, you five are at the center of what causes the split.”
* * *
“It was a good fight.” Camille took her hand away from Roy’s face, and as she did he noticed that his cheek wasn’t throbbing with pain. A deep breath confirmed that his ribs were no longer broken, and as he stood Roy could feel his right leg bearing weight once more.
“Thanks. I thought I almost had him at the end. Also, thanks for the healing. You really do some top notch patch-jobs.”
Roy stood to the side, allowing Chad to receive Camille’s healing next. Technically the blond Super could heal his own wounds, but it made more sense to conserve his energy while simultaneously feeding Camille’s arsenal. Chad was mostly uninjured, save for the fractured shoulder that Roy had manage to give him on their last confrontation. It had been meant to crack his sternum, but Chad dodged, and when he hit Roy’s ribs that time it had filled the larger man’s brain with shockwaves of pain. By the time he regained control of his sense he was on the ground with cracked shin and several bruises. It had been close, just not close enough.
“You are a strong son of a bitch, you know that?” Professor Cole walked across the combat cell, a single bandage wound around Roy’s bat as she held it out to him. “If you’d tried to hit anyone else in your class like that, hell if you hadn’t gotten permission from Chad first, I probably would have had to stop the fight for attempted use of lethal force.”
“I don’t know about ‘anyone’ in the class,” Roy said as he accepted his bat. It felt heavy, yet familiar, as he tightened his grip. “Vince could have absorbed it, Sasha could have avoided it, Thomas’s armor probably could have held up against, Violet would have been fine if she was in extra dense mode; when you get down to it a lot of the class would have been fine if I’d hit them.”
“No, they wouldn’t have. What you just listed were three people with methods of not letting the force of your punch reach them, people who would be turned to pudding if their methods failed, and one who might be able to withstand it if she were in the form that gave her maximum durability. You can see why I couldn’t just let you go throwing those full-power punches willy-nilly. You’re stronger than you think you are, which is saying a lot because I know how big your ego is.”
“Too bad it wasn’t enough to make the difference,” Roy said. He’d known going in that he couldn’t beat Chad, their abilities were just too at odds for him to triumph. Still, he would have liked to have seen some sign of progress. Hitting Chad a couple of times was nice, but Roy wanted more. He wanted to know that these last years of endless training had yielded tangible results, ones he could actually see.
“It wasn’t, that time,” Professor Cole agreed. “But there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that your last attack was close, damn close, to landing in Chad’s center mass. If you’d managed to pull it off, the fight may have turned out very differently. Who knows, if you had a re-match with fists you might surprise yourself at what you could pull off.”
“Maybe, but we’ve had a lot of sparring matches during class. I’m pretty sure Chad would find a way to win. He always does.”
“True as I’m sure that is, he’s never fought the version of you that knows how to wield a weapon.” Professor Cole reached out and lightly tapped Roy’s bat with her index finger. “And that’s the second thing to keep in mind. As strong as you are with those fists of yours, this bat makes you a lot stronger. Chad may have beaten Close Combat Roy a thousand times in a row, but this is the first time he’s ever dealt with Weapons Roy. Try to make a good first impression.”