Chapter 303

                Vince’s eyes traveled the battlefield, scanning carefully. It didn’t take long, now that he knew what to look for. Some ways off from the main fight, taking shelter on the sidelines not far from Vince’s current position, were a few guards firing off shots into the fray. One of them was conjuring another ball of dark energy, like the one that had left Roy a smoldering heap. Short of Titan himself, Roy was one of the toughest people Vince had ever met, he could only imagine what that sort of attack would do to normal flesh. The guard had to know that, had to realize what his power did. He was casually throwing out orbs of unadulterated murder, and that wouldn’t stand.

                It was a fair distance off, one further than Vince would have dared try under other circumstances, but he didn’t even pause. Taking precise aim, Vince shot a bolt of electricity directly into the orb-throwers heart, just as he was raising another dark ball to throw. Instantly, the guard collapsed, dropping his orb in the process. Just like the other had, it exploded on impact, engulfing many of his fellow side-line guards in the process. Dimly, Vince realized he’d just intentionally killed someone for the first time. When this was over, when there was time to think, he knew such a fact would hit him hard. Mourning came later, though. Survival was the priority now, his own, and that of the people he loved.

                “We’re safe to move, or at least we don’t have to worry about that guy, so let’s get Roy to the healer.” Vince turned around to find that Roy was no longer on the ground. Instead, he was laid across the back of a floating tree trunk, being held by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport while Mary sat at the front.

                “I may have quit the Hero life, but I’m not leaving you idiots on your own,” she explained. “Medical transportation seems like a good gig to take in this fray. We’ll get Roy over to the healer, you keep doing what you came here to do.”

                “Mind if I bum a ride?” George asked. “I’d be a lot more effective in the air without this busted thruster.”

                Mary’s eyes narrowed, this was the first time she’d seen the man since he tried to kidnap her freshman year. “I hate that I can’t read your mind in robot form. Vince, you make the call.”

                “Globe trusts him, and he gave us a warning before the orb hit. In a situation like this, that’s probably as good as we’re going to get.”

                After several long seconds, Mary finally nodded. “Tree is full, though. I’ll have to drag you along. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to be gentle.”

                Before George could properly protest he was up in the air, floating below Mary and her tree. She paused only to shoot Vince a quick stare. “If I tell you not to go into the middle of the fight, will you listen?”

                “Not as long as that’s where my father is.”

                “Then at least be careful. Think about how you felt seeing Roy fall, and imagine what the rest of us would go through if you died. People are counting on you, Vince, so that means you have to stay alive. Death isn’t a luxury Heroes are permitted.”

                Then she was gone, zipping around the outskirts of the battlefield as she made her way to the giant tree. A few wild shots would occasionally come near her, but Mr. Numbers was tapping her on the shoulder, giving evasive maneuvers as they flew. For the first time since his few minutes in the prep room, Vince was alone. Ahead of him, still some ways off, was the bubble of power moving around the battlefield, drawing the attention of guards and Heroes alike, although it was rapidly turning into more of the former than the latter. To get to Globe, all he had to do was cross a sea of amped-up guards firing at everyone that wandered into their path not wearing the same combat gear. Plus any Heroes who might mistake him for being on the other side. After all, he wasn’t really wearing a costume either.

                “Kinetic is good.” There was no one to talk to, but it felt assuring to hear a voice as he went through his inventory, even if the voice was his own. “Fire is good, as always. Electricity could be higher, but I can manage. Plenty of light, for what that’s worth. Not much of Thomas’s power left though, I burned most of that in my fights.” Minimal shielding options, but lots to attack with. Pretty much the opposite of what he wanted for trying to covertly cross a battlefield. Worse, he wouldn’t be able to rely on absorption much, there were too many different and unique forms of attacks being traded. Even if he could learn to take in the new ones on the fly, and that was giving himself a huge amount of credit, if more than one came at the same time he would be cooked.

                So, all that stood between Vince and reuniting with his father was near certain death or injury. It was daunting, sure, but compared to when he’d thought the man dead this was a relatively minor hurdle.  Crossing a battlefield was at least possible, unlike bringing someone back from the grave. Which meant Vince had to make sure Globe didn’t cross that line for real.

                Taking a short running start, Vince hopped twice to get a rhythm, then leapt high into the air.

*             *             *

                “Anchors, give me a five second drop in three, two, one, now!” The man in a suit, Crispin’s keeper, was on his communicator barking orders. It almost felt like the right time to make a move, but Crispin resisted. There was too much going on, it felt like a set-up. When something seemed too easy, it usually was. So he kept at it, amping up another guard even as his hands were starting to shake from exhaustion.

                In a formerly empty room, a new group of guards appeared. The upside to controlling the teleportation blocking Supers was that they were able to create small coordinated gaps that could be used to bring in reinforcements. Crispin paid them no mind as they received their orders, the same orders every other batch had gotten. Priority one was killing Globe, priority two was keeping the Heroes out of this base until purging protocol could be fully enacted. Globe’s smashing through had damaged a lot of systems, the self-destruction one among them. As soon as it was up and running, they could get rid of the evidence inside, but until then Heroes couldn’t be allowed to get through. The guards would probably die today, and knew it, however the sums their families would receive could change their lives. It was amazing the things people were willing to sacrifice for the ones they loved.

                There was one anomaly in this batch, however, as Crispin’s keeper suddenly began to stammer when a figure not wearing combat gear suddenly stepped into view. “Mr. Adair! What are you doing here, sir?”

                “A leader belongs on the front lines, doesn’t he? Or do you think I’m so far removed from my Hero days that I’ve forgotten that lesson.” Charles Adair made his way over, up to and past the suit who had been keeping tabs on Crispin since the escape. He kept walking, all the way to Crispin, the two men meeting face-to-face for the first time.

                “You look tired,” Charles noted. “You must have been giving everything you had to provide our people with an edge. I appreciate that level of effort, I truly do.”

                “Nice of you to notice. I’d be happy to help more if you have a healer that can restore stamina.”

                “I’m sure we do somewhere, but this is the last batch we’ll be able to bring in, and you already seem to be at your limit. Perhaps rest is the best cure.” Charles Adair smiled, which would have been a clear warning sign if Crispin knew him better. Arm moving like the strike of a serpent, Charles slammed the butt of his gun into Crispin’s temple, sending him to the floor in a crumpled mess.

                “Lander was my school too, you know. More importantly, its where I met the woman I love. Rest well. I hope Blaine is the first one to find you when this is all over.” Turning back to his troops, Charles raised his voice. “Alright, the amplifier is down, but we still have a tremendous numbers advantage. I know the way Heroes fight, and with our superior forces, many of which are still amplified, we can win this day. Just keep your comms on, follow orders, and never give in. Heroes aren’t perfect, they don’t win every fight. I know that firsthand. Today you have a rare chance to show them just how beatable they really are.”