Chapter 245

               Nick was moving through a small hallway, careful to make sure he wasn’t walking into an ambush, when his entire body seized up. This wasn’t a reaction of fear, or an instinct kicking in and telling him to be silent. Nope, this was one hundred percent due to outside influence, as Nick quickly determined by trying to struggle and finding it fruitless. He ran through the class roster and couldn’t come up with anyone who could keep him so effortlessly planted, which meant it was either an enemy or an unknown ally. Enemy seemed the obvious answer, but since he wasn’t dead yet, Nick tried to keep a positive outlook on things.

                Moments later, he saw the air in front of him shimmer and part, revealing a man Nick was intimately familiar with through pictures and video, but had never had the fortune of meeting in person. His tattered red coat hung to his knees, and the mask on his face seemed a bit pointless, since it was even more wanted by authorities than whatever his actual face was. Still, Nick let himself feel a touch more hopeful about his chances of living through the next five minutes. Globe, whatever else he might be, was dedicated to Vince. With his son in trouble, he was more likely here as help than hindrance . . . unless this whole attack had been perpetrated by him.

                “Nick Campbell. I must say, your reputation precedes you.”

                Nick tested his mouth and found it able to function once more. So, this was meant to be a dialogue, not a speech before Globe killed him. “I mean, I could say the same, but it seems a little bit pointless. Your reputation is like, a hundred miles out in front of you. And to the sides. Basically in all directions.”

                “Yet you don’t seem overly worried about meeting me in an isolated hallway amidst an attack on your school.”

                “That’s because I’m not an idiot. I don’t know what happened all those years ago. Maybe you killed Intra, maybe you didn’t—”

                “I did,” Globe interrupted. “Make no mistake, my best friend died by my hand.”

                “Fine, so you killed Intra. But you know who you didn’t kill? Any of the guards at the prison break where you sprang George. Or any of the class, when you had someone break into Lander’s system and steal files. Or any of us, when George was kidnapping Mary as your proxy. That man has a bloody history, and yet, he never even tried to take us out for good. I’m guessing you’re the one who gave those instructions. So one murder, sure, but attacking an entire school? No way is this your style.”

                “Seems like that reputation of yours wasn’t all bluster. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk more casually.” Globe made a motion with his hands, and Nick felt his body be released from whatever iron grip had been on it. Nick’s mind immediately sprang to work. Invisibility and body-binding? No, too disconnected. He must have another Super with the invisibility power nearby that had extended their cloaking to him. Good trick to keep people guessing on one’s abilities.

                “I’m assuming you didn’t stop me just to chat, and time is sort of the essence here, so can we skip the phase where we slowly feel each other out to see how much trust there is? My friends are in danger, as is your son; let’s just take it on faith that we both want this night to end without any HCP bloodshed.”

                “You’re certainly right on that point,” Globe agreed. “Unfortunately, I can’t very well go out there and start dropping people. If people see the terrible villain Globe here, protecting Lander, they’ll, at best, assume Vince has been in league with me this whole time. And at worst, the DVA will assume the entire school is corrupt. None of that will help my own plans either. I can only do so much, which is why I need you.”

                “Not sure if anyone sent you the memo, but I’m actually the lowest Super on the totem pole here. I’m great in terms of strategy, not so much at actual combat. I mean, combat with other Supers. I can handle these mundane assholes all day long. You want someone to make a big difference; I’d recommend one of our heavy hitters.”

                “Funny you should mention how weak your ability is. From where I’m standing, it’s actually quite potent. The ability to affect luck, that could quite easily turn the tide of this battle,” Globe said.

                “Hang on a moment, this has come up so often I actually had some pamphlets made. They’re titled: How My Power Actually Works.” Nick patted his pants in mock search for the non-existent items in question, then threw up his hands in frustration. “Damn, forgot them at home. You get the Cliff Notes version, then, which is that I can only affect the direction and intensity of luck. Make it varying degrees of good or varying degrees of bad. How that actually manifests is out of my hands.”

                “Is it really? You, Nick Campbell, have probably spent less time working on your power than anyone I’ve ever dealt with. You avoid it whenever possible, treating it like a handicap rather than an asset.” Globe gave him a small, knowing grin. “You’re not the only one who can do homework. And I think you have the potential to do more than you have, if only you would push yourself.”

                “Even if you’re right, that does us dick all good right now. I doubt you have any cute techniques or sudden insight that’s going to change what I can do. So again, I have to ask what it is you expect from me here?”

                “I want you to push your limits,” Globe replied. “There might not be any secret technique that can show you how far your potential goes, but there are people with abilities. In fact, the man helping Nathaniel is one such Super. He’s unleashed five amplified minions that are far beyond the capacity of most Heroes to deal with. From what I can tell, they seem to have only one goal: killing everyone in the HCP they come across.”

                “You want me to go to this guy and see if he’ll juice me up too?” Nick asked. He already had an inclination of where the conversation was going, but every bit of information he could extract from Globe in the process might prove useful.

                “No need. I have someone whose ability dwarfs his. That man can push people’s abilities to the breaking points of their bodies. My friend can, when properly prepared, push your power beyond what your body was equipped to handle, and give your body the strength to survive. I’m looking to fight fire with fire.”

                “Personally, I prefer to fight fire with a well-timed CO2 blast, as well as a team of snipers for whoever set the fire in the first place,” Nick replied. “But your way might work in a pinch. That’s your whole plan, though, just amp me up? How do you even know that will be enough to make a difference?”

                “I don’t,” Globe admitted. “But this is the most I can do. When this is all over, Lander will be combed up and down by DVA officials. If they get a whiff of my power, too many things could come tumbling down. My son trusts you, Nick. He trusts you like you’re family. I’ve decided to believe in Vince’s judgment and ask you for help. Perhaps I overestimate your abilities, but I have a hunch that giving you even a slight edge could make a real difference. Being amplified isn’t always a pleasant experience, however, especially not to this degree. I won’t force it on you.”

                Nick made a show of thinking things over, but in truth, he’d made up his mind several minutes ago. This was a bad scene, and if there really were five extra-strength baddies tearing around campus, it made things exponentially worse. He didn’t see how getting more power could make that much difference, but it might make a little. One second faster, one step in the right direction, one moment of insight, they could all be the line between life and death. No one understood that better than Nick Campbell. If he could give those things to his friends, he had to at least try.

                “Let’s just make it quick. I have an old enemy waiting for me to come kill him.”

                Globe made a motion, and the air behind him shimmered again. This time, it revealed a young boy, though Nick found it hard to calculate his exact age, mostly because of the crackling purple energy cascading over his skin and off his body. The kid looked like a generator ready to explode, and when he took a step toward Nick, it dawned on the sandy-haired young man just where all that power was about to go.

                “This is going to hurt like a bitch, isn’t it?” Nick unbuttoned the sleeve of his shirt and began rolling it up past his forearm.

                “Usually, yes, but I’ll help manage the pain. Sadly, I can’t assist on the other parts,” Globe replied.

                Before Nick could ask what “the other parts” meant, the child had grabbed his exposed forearm. All thoughts of the question, all thoughts at all, dissolved from Nick’s mind as awareness fell completely away from him.