There was a fizzling sound from behind Vince, a noise like freshly poured soda. That was the only cue he got that Thomas’s dome was finally down. Seconds later, a familiar hand came down gently on top of his head, ruffling his silver hair slightly.
“I know you’ve always looked up to me, but this might be taking things a bit far.” Globe was staring at the charred stump of Vince’s left arm, a wide array of emotions twitching through his face. From the ground, rocks and soil began floating upward, forming into a false arm to take the place of Globe’s own missing appendage. “Don’t worry. Hallow owes me more than a few favors from our time together. He’ll put you right.”
“We’ve got bigger concerns.” Vince nodded to the still approaching stretch of guards. Nearby, the Heroes were getting twitchy as well. Angela might have sold them on the idea that Globe was in custody momentarily, but they weren’t going to be fooled for long. Globe was up and moving around, which made him dangerous, and they did have a duty to fulfill.
More attacks were already coming, blasts and bolts, a few guards even risked firing their weapons. They regretted it instantly, as more contained infernos broke out, however the point was clear: they wanted Globe. Scariest of all, the guard who had created the destruction wave was rearing back, preparing to send out another.
Before his hand could open, a golden sword slammed into his chest at the same time his legs were sliced neatly in half by blades of shadow. Letting out a short gurgle, he fell to the ground limply where his ample blood joined that of all of the fellow guards he’d killed. It was a hard thing to watch, yet strangely heartening. Angela and Shane were still with them, this wasn’t a fight they had to handle alone. Glancing back, Vince saw Camille healing Thomas before he could keel over from exhaustion. Together, all of them could do something.
And then, without warning, Globe held up a hand and snapped his fingers. Just like that, every single guard near them dropped to the ground. For a moment, they seemed dead, but as Vince looked closely he could see their chests still rising and falling. They were only unconscious.
“Do you know why everyone, guard and Hero alike, attacked me with all the strength they had earlier? Because they knew if I had enough time to focus and think, this is what would happen. Especially with my range currently amped up. Thanks for the distraction, Charon and our hidden shadow-wielder. Made my job a lot easier. Now, as for the Heroes.”
Globe turned to them, the few who had gathered near the fringes, away from backup, and were standing their ground against a foe who had defeated countless powerful Supers in his day. Not a one ran or even seemed as though they would consider the idea of giving ground. Good. For all the bad in the Hero world, it was clear that the HCPs were still handing the burden of graduation to the right kind of people.
“Heroes, I hereby surrender to you. I will follow in your care to a jail, a DVA representative, or whatever you deem appropriate given the circumstances. I will not use my power to attack or attempt an escape. My only condition is not negotiable, however. If the need arises, I will use my power to keep these students safe. Given how badly the DVA wants me, I’m going to assume that part won’t be an issue.”
Vince grabbed Globe’s sleeve as he tried to step forward. “What are you doing?”
“You were right, Vince. I was tired. I was hoping to take the easy way out. Tearing things down, ripping the truth into the light, those feats are nothing compared to what comes next. Rebuilding. Living with the truth, the fallout, and the consequences. Dying in battle would have been much simpler. But Heroes don’t take the easy path, and occasionally I need reminding that, if only in the eyes of one person, I’m still a Hero. So I’m doing what’s right.”
“No.” The voice came from a guard who had been approaching from further away, near the back of the group. It was a voice Vince recognized, even if he wasn’t immediately sure from where. He didn’t have to wonder long, as the guard peeled off his helmet to reveal the face of Charles Adair. For a moment, they were all stunned, and Charles didn’t waste the opportunity. With lightning speed, he pulled a gun from under his body armor, held it aloft, and then pressed the muzzle to his own temple.
“For anyone wondering, no, my threat here is not mere suicide. Buried beneath this site are four nuclear bombs. There are also monitoring devices on several of my vital organs, and before I came here I gave orders to my tech people to engage our final failsafe system, not that they realized what they were doing. As of now, my life is all that keeps those bombs from going off. I die, and they explode. How many of the Heroes, or students, out there do you think could survive that kind of blast?”
Globe started to move, and Charles instantly tightened his finger on the trigger. “None of that. I know very well what it feels like when you put someone to sleep, and I’ll have just enough time to fire in response. Now you could freeze me, although that wouldn’t do much to stop the cyanide pill in my mouth since you allow people to keep breathing. You could go for that too, but only if you’re absolutely certain I don’t have any other backup methods, which you shouldn’t be. Even if my mundane tools failed, I still have the option of using transmutation on my blood or heart. Maybe you’ll be tempted to take a swing at messing with the devices, if you’re confident you won’t trip the safeguards. But even if you could pull any of that off normally, judging from the way your eyes are having trouble focusing, it looks like you’re downright gassed. I’m not sure you want to risk the lives of everyone here on the chance that you’re faster than me.”
There was no mistaking the fury in Globe’s eyes, yet he stayed his hand anyway. “What do you want?”
“The devices on my organs have a proximity system. Once I’m far enough away, the link between the bombs and my body will safely deactivate. It’s an incentive for everyone to let me walk out of here safely, and you’re coming with me, Phil. Thanks to you and yours, it appears as though I have to go into hiding, and I can’t think of anyone better to guide me than my very own big brother who stayed safely on the run for years. Don’t worry, all you have to do is get me to a non-extradition country where I’ve got some assets and safeguards in place.”
“If you have an escape plan, then why didn’t you use it instead of coming here?” Globe asked.
For the first time, Vince thought he saw a glimmer of sadness in Charles Adair’s expression. “My wife is gone, my daughter rightfully will never forgive me, Jack and mom are both dead. You’re all I have left. If I’m running away for the rest of my life, I wanted you to be there. The things I’ve done are beyond redemption, but you’ve never cared about limits like that. Perhaps, one day, we can find peace between us.”
That was not at all the answer Vince had been expecting, and from the confusion on their faces neither had the other Heroes. Globe, however, was the only one unmoved.
“It’s a nice story, the kind I want to believe. That Chuck is still in there, under all the betrayal, compromise, and lies. That’s the problem; it’s too pleasant a story. There’s no hope in your eyes to go with it, no gaze toward the future. I know that look, because I’ve worn it too. You want out. You can’t bear to face Shelby or Alice or the world now that everything is exposed, and you’re hoping I kill you once it’s safe.”
“Doesn’t really matter either way, does it?” Charles asked. “I’m still holding the entire battlefield hostage. Revenge, release, reconciliation, any or none of them could be true and it wouldn’t change the fact that you’re coming with me. There are people who need protecting, so fulfill your duty, Hero.”
Slowly, painfully, Globe took a step toward Charles. “Vince, I’m sorry. Whatever happens from here on, look after each other. At the end of the day, that’s what makes-”
“Now!” The scream came from the trees, just before the first person ran into view.