“I don’t believe you.” Globe was planted in front of Intra, the ground around his feet turned to rubble as he stared at his fellow Hero unwaveringly.
“What more do you need? You caught me on the way to a bank I’m holding blueprints for, and I just told you I came to rob it. Accept the facts as they are, Globe. Face the truth and let’s get on with it.” Intra wasn’t giving an inch either. It was impressive how angry and determined he looked. There wasn’t a trace of fear or sadness in his expression. Clearly he was using his bodily control ability more freely than he had in the meeting with Charles.
“And I’m saying I don’t believe that you would suddenly turn to crime like this. If money is tight, you can always come to me or Alchemist, and I think you know that. What’s really going on here?”
As Globe spoke, Alice’s eyes darted to Nick briefly. She wondered if he was having the same déjà vu as she was. Back during freshman year, when Mary and Hershel were missing, Nick had been the one proclaiming his own wickedness and Vince refused to accept it. Apparently aggressive optimism was one of the many things Globe had taught Vince in their time together.
“What’s going on? Maybe I’ve just come around, did you ever think of that? Maybe I don’t want to keep living on a government paycheck, hoping sales of my stupid merch pick up so I can buy a big enough house for my family. Maybe I’ve realized that we are the strongest of this nation, and rather than serving the weak we should be ruling over them. If the Heroes band together, we can take whatever we want, do whatever we want, and no one will be able to stop us.”
Alice had to give credit where it was due; Intra was really trying to sell this load of bullshit, no matter how little he actually believed it.
Globe shook his head. “You’re wrong about that. I’d stop you, and so would every other Hero who remembers why we fought so hard for this title in the first place. But you don’t believe any of that. I know you, Intra. I know you understand that we protect the weak because we’re the strong. You helped me to see that in the first place. Now please, end this farce already. Tell me what’s really going on and let me help you.”
Despite the fact that this was a memory, and Alice knew perfectly well how things would play out, for the briefest of instants she thought Globe was going to break through to his friend. Intra took a half-step back, seeming to just shift position but in actuality putting himself in a spot that let him see Alchemist. Up on the rooftop, Alchemist stared down at the duo. Briefly, Intra and Alchemist’s eyes met, and Charles Adair tilted his head in the barest shadow of a nod. If one were watching without context, it would have seemed like nothing more than a human’s natural fidgeting, but she understood the gesture all too well. He was commanding Intra to stay the course, to get himself killed no matter what it took.
“End this farce?” Intra was looking at Globe again, his right hand behind his back. Alice caught a flash of red and instantly knew what was about to happen. “You’re right. I thought maybe I could talk you into understanding, make you see things my way. But you’ve always been too stubborn. I’ve known from the start it would come to this, I was fooling myself to pretend otherwise.”
Intra whipped his right arm forward, along with the blood saw that had formed from it. It was a blur of motion that snapped through the air, the blood making an unnatural noise as it moved at inhuman speeds. That was nothing, however, compared to the unsettling thump of something hitting the rubble. No, not just something. Globe’s left arm had been severed only a few inches below the shoulder. It lay between them, fingers still twitching, before the pain finally registered and Globe let out a horrific scream.
“What the hell!” Globe was gripping the stump where his arm used to be, the fabric of his costume already tightening into a makeshift tourniquet. It was fast thinking, minimizing the blood loss while keeping the wound still viable for reattachment. “What are you doing Intra?”
“How much do I need to spell it out for you, Phil?” With that final word, the very air around the duo seemed to grow heavy. Intra had just used Globe’s civilian name out in public, and it was obviously no accident. The implication wasn’t lost on Globe either, who glared up at his friend. There was fury in those eyes now, yet he was still holding himself back. Even an arm down, he didn’t want to believe his best friend had fallen from grace.
“I told you I was going evil, I offered to bring you along, but you didn’t want to listen.” Intra was looming over Globe now, that blood-saw arcing and dancing through the air. “You just wanted to see the world through your same rose-colored glasses as always. Well you can’t ignore this! I’m done with being a Hero, Phil, but that doesn’t mean I’m done with you all entirely. Hell, I’ve got the skill and the knowledge, I bet I can take out a lot of you heavy-hitters before you see me coming. Or at least put pressure on your weak spots.”
Another step closer, exposing his torso to Globe completely. If he wanted to fight, it was a rookie mistake, but if he wanted to die it was a great way to leave himself open. Alice saw Intra’s face slip for a moment, his determination wavering, however Globe was looking at his severed arm during that instant. How different would the world be, if he’d glanced up right then?
“Don’t say that.” Globe almost sounded like he was begging now, begging to be told that there was some, any, explanation for what was happening other than the obvious. “I can’t let even you threaten the people I love.”
“Why? Will you finally do something about it? Your parents are both gone, sure, but you’ve got plenty I can still go after. Clarissa has family alive; I know how you hate seeing her sad, and Blake’s got one parent left. Then there’s Charles. He’s already lost a wife, I can’t imagine how he’d cope if that baby daughter of his-”
And there, Intra found Phillip Adair’s breaking point. In Globe’s right hand, his only hand still remaining, a vibrant spike of glowing energy, like a dagger of plasma, suddenly manifested. He stabbed upward without hesitation, driving the energy directly into Intra’s chest, expanding the shape as soon as it made contact. The whole thing took less than three seconds, and when it was over Intra had a massive, gaping hole where his heart and several internal organs should have been.
“I can’t let you hurt them. I’m sorry,” Globe whispered. He reached out to try and catch Intra’s falling form, but Intra took another step back. Injured as he was, Intra wasn’t dead quite yet. To Alice’s surprise, the Hero flashed Globe a brief, but sincere smile.
“Thank… you…” Intra fell to his knees, raising his eyes upward as he did. This time, there was nothing subtle about it. He was staring at Alchemist, and as Globe followed his dying friend’s gaze he quickly reached the same conclusion. Alice could almost see the wheels in Globe’s head turning. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, but as his eyes hardened it became clear that Globe had realized something was awry, and that Alchemist had a role in it.
Unfortunately, Alice wasn’t the only one who noticed Globe’s hard stare. “He knows,” Black Hole declared from their spot on the rooftop. “Intra’s thanks was a tipoff, it gave him a clue.”
“He doesn’t know.” Alchemist sounded worried, almost fearful. Alice was taken off-guard; she’d been braced for more of the dead-hearted Charles. Apparently that journey hadn’t happened overnight though. There was still a bit of the old one left inside. “He can’t know.”
“Maybe not all of it, but he suspects, and with your brother that’s more than enough.” Black Hole stepped closer, to the edge of the building. “We’ve got a few seconds to decide how to play this. He’s injured, and even suspicious I doubt he’d expect an attack from his own team. If I hit him right now, I can handle this and we can adjust the story. Once Globe’s got his bearings, we’ll probably never stop him. That means Joshua died for nothing, and no one will be left to help Shelby.”
Alchemist looked on for several more seconds before slowly, painfully, giving another nod. “I’m so sorry Phil. You were never supposed to be caught up in all of this. But I’ve gone too far to back away now. I have to fix what I destroyed, no matter what it costs me. Blake, do it. Just make sure you don’t hurt Joshua’s corpse.”
The step back that Intra had taken saved his body, as a sudden orb of darkness manifested directly on top of Globe. It grew rapidly, seeming to engulf the injured Hero completely. When it faded, there was nothing left, just a smooth hole in the rubble where part of the orb had struck.
“Got him,” Black Hole announced.
A soft snort came from under Alchemist’s breath. “Maybe. I’m going to put some search parties out regardless. I’ve never seen anyone underestimate my brother and not learn to regret it.”