Chapter 308

                In a sea of guards wearing body armor, the Hero in the black costume didn’t stand out very much. The trail of bodies he was leaving behind him, on the other hand, were a different matter. Every guard who got in his way as he raced after the fleeing form of the amplifier was dropped, quickly and without hesitation. Supers that should have been able to put up a real fight were easily knocked aside, powers never entering the equation. Anyone with a little sense could put it together: the guy was a neutralizer. They were rare Supers, especially ones of that caliber, but rare and strong was what one expected to find among Heroes.

                The upside to knowing his power, however, was that it opened up options to counter-attack. While the armor he was wearing was clearly of fine quality, a high-caliber bullet from a strong enough gun could still likely get through, and that was exactly why the guard on his trail carried such an item. As a Super with an ability of enhanced physique and nothing more, this was a man who was used to having to outthink his enemies. That was why he didn’t take a needless shot, instead staying on the Hero’s trail, hunting him, waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself.

                There weren’t many windows, this was a Hero who was used to dealing with countless opponents and knew to stay mobile, but sometimes when guards got in his way, the Hero slowed down. Not for long, just enough to deal with the hurdles before him. One encounter at a time, the guard was gradually getting the Hero’s timing down. As the black-armored figure came upon a larger cluster of enemies, the guard knew this was his chance.

                Dropping to a knee, he lifted the scope of his gun, letting out a breath to steady his nerves. One shot. The neck would be the weakest point of the armor, and a bullet through there would take down pretty much any Super out there who lacked enhanced endurance. All of the guard’s focus went into his aim, lining up what would have to be a perfect shot.

                That dedication proved to be his undoing, in the end. He never saw the bone-covered young man being hurled across the battlefield, didn’t notice his heavy landing or sudden sprint. It wasn’t until the last second that he even heard a noise: a single footstep at his side. That was the last he ever heard, as a blade made of bone sliced neatly through his own neck, sending his head tumbling down into his lap. Perhaps as a final action, or simply because his body tightened in surprise as the pain hit, the gun did manage to fire a single shot. It went wide, missing the Hero completely and opening up the chest of another guard.

                Blaine whipped his head around to see the source of the attack, only to find Chad next to a headless guard holding a giant gun. There were few things in the world that could have pried him from Crispin’s trail, but his godson standing over a corpse turned out to be one of them. Knocking out the last guard in his path, Blaine turned and sprinted back over.

                “Are you okay?”

                “I’m fine. But you need to do a better job of watching your rear. If I hadn’t seen him shadowing you when Vince threw me up in the air…” Chad trailed off, his eyes darting to, and then away from, the man he’d just killed. “Sorry, my emotions are a little unbound at the moment.”

                “Vince threw you?” Blaine looked around once more. A timely blast of fire alerted him to Vince’s position, the boy was on a direct path for Globe, clobbering anything that got in his way. Just like that, it all made sense. Most of the kids probably came for Crispin, but Chad would have turned up the minute he heard Globe’s name. If he and Vince crossed paths, they would likely have a firm disagreement on how to handle Globe, one that could easily lead them to blows. “I think I see now. You two had a fight, he got you into the air for an attack, and you noticed this guard sneaking up on me. I’m impressed, Chad. I thought you would have kept going after Globe and assumed I could handle this.”

                A sniff. That was the sole giveaway of how hard the day was hitting Chad, a single sniff as he tried to wipe the blood from his arm-blade onto his uniform and only succeeded in staining his sleeve. “I have spent my life wishing I could get revenge for my father’s murder, and trying to live up to his image. Truthfully, I thought it was the thing I cared the most about in the world, especially once Globe re-appeared. But it’s not worth obtaining if it means burying someone else I love. Someone who has always been there for me, and my mother, from the very beginning. I couldn’t do that to her. And I’m not sure I could bear it either. So please, Blaine, be more careful. Even if you’re only my godfather, you’ve been the only flesh-and-blood dad I’ve had.”

                Silently, amidst the blood and madness of the battle, Blaine pulled Chad in and hugged him, the spikey bones pressing against his armor. “I’m sorry. For a moment, I let anger cloud my judgement and put myself at risk. It’s a bad habit I’ve had even since back in my Hero days. Right now, I am still the dean of Lander’s HCP, and as such it should be my main concern to see all of you, all of us, out of this safely.”

                “Emotions do not lend themselves to practical decisions,” Chad agreed. “But perhaps they do show us what we prize above all else.”

                “Then tell me, what do you want to do now? I might be able to get us to Globe, or we could keep chasing Crispin.” Dean Blaine released Chad from the embrace, taking a step back and looking him square in the eye. “Where do you think we should go?”

                “Wherever will end this fight faster, or help keep our friends safe. I’m not thinking as well as normal, so I’ll trust your judgement. You lead, I’ll follow. At least this way someone can watch your back.”

                Choosing duty to those depending on him over the desire for revenge. Dean Blaine couldn’t have been prouder if Chad was his own; the boy was already making better decisions than he did. Good. Those were the kinds of calls a Hero was supposed to make. If this was what the next generation was like, it might not be so scary to put the future in their hands. Given the scene laid out before them, it was hard to believe any of them could fuck things up as badly as his generation had.

                “Helping the Heroes and ending the fight,” Dean Blaine said, scanning for opportunities. “Shelby is gone, Globe is under fire, and the guards show no signs of backing down no matter how much we throw at them. They are protecting the remains of the bunker though, as if there’s something in there worth saving. Let’s find out what. If nothing else, it will be a good chance to put a dent in their numbers.”

                “Are the two of us alone enough for that?” Chad asked.

                “No. Not without undue risk. But I see some familiar faces not far off, so maybe we can get ourselves a little help along the way.” Dean Blaine pointed toward another section of the battlefield, one with a lot of guards already on the ground, and the few remaining visibly frightened.

                Chad, now looking pointedly away from the corpse he’d created, allowed himself a grim smirk. “Yes, I suppose they might be quite useful indeed.”