Chapter 85

                Tailing the jester proved to be easy, so easy that Will found himself more on edge the longer it went on. Working with Professor Pendleton, other Subtlety majors, and the simulations inside the Blonk had gotten Will used to dealing with cunning, well-trained operatives who would spot him at the slightest mistake. This was so easy it was unnerving, which was inadvertently teaching Will a good lesson about dealing with more mundane opponents. At any rate, the jester seemed to be mostly darting about, hanging to the side-lines and looking for something that she wasn’t finding.

                The longer he watched her, the more sure Will was that he’d seen this woman before. She wasn’t an attendee of the Take Back Lander movement, those faces he’d committed to memory far too well for a simple mask to fool him. Yet there was something fleetingly familiar in her all the same. Playing the odds, that meant it was a person he’d met during his time on campus, or someone from the HCP who hadn’t scored an invite. But they’d made a point of talking to the entire class, so that should have ruled out the latter. Unless, of course, she wasn’t in their class.

                That was when it clicked, and Will realized where he’d caught sight of the woman before. It had been in the hallways, walking between classes. There were so many black uniforms in the early part of the year, so many faces that tended to blend into the background. But Will was smart, and he’d been training for the past few years to do things exactly like recall a face he’d only caught a glimpse of. As soon as he came upon the idea, his mind bubbled with half-lost images, tossing them to the surface and confirming his hypothesis.

                It was a relief, overall. No clandestine spy or cunning opponent had infiltrated their ranks, only a freshman who’d decided to crash a senior party. Truth be told, Will admired how ballsy the move was, he’d have never had the gumption to try something like it when he was in his first year.

                Of course, such things couldn’t be allowed to merely pass. The seniors were supposed to set a standard for the freshman; it would hardly do to let her think she could pull off such shenanigans. The only question now was how to bust her. Will continued trailing her, following slowly, wracking his brain for what method to use.

                Oddly, the question that kept popping up over and over was one he wouldn’t have expected: What would Angela do?

*             *             *

                It didn’t take long for Abridail to reshape the world around them, unlike Mary he had a literal lifetime of experience working in the mental realm. As the new world faded into view, however, Alice began to suspect she’d been tricked. Abridail had said he would show the group where her part of the story began, but there was no Alice to be seen in the bright sunshine of a day long since passed. Instead, it was people in suits, some better fitting than others, all seated and staring up ahead, to a small crowd gathered around…

                Alice’s breath caught in her throat as she understood where they were. The sight of her mother, wearing a grin that would have seemed silly if it didn’t radiate sincerity, dressed in a flowing dress and looking so beautiful actually stole any words Alice might have managed. Mary, however, was able to drag a few up.

                “She’s gorgeous. And she looks just like you, Alice.”

                That wasn’t technically true, seeing her mother in three dimensions for the first time Alice could pick out a few differences. Alice had at least two inches of height on her mother, and her mouth didn’t quite form the natural smile as easily as Shelby’s did. Still, there was no denying that the resemblance was uncanny, so much so that it made Alice’s heart throb with loss. She steeled herself, refusing to let the pain through. This was going to get a lot harder before it got better.

                “Lovely as the bride is, and I do offer my compliments, have either of you noticed how many other familiar faces are in this scene?” Nick pointed to the groomsmen behind a young Charles Adair, a Charles looking more joyful than Alice could ever recall seeing him in modern day. She recognized Professor Pendleton and Professor Hill, or just Sean and Blake at this point in time. They were both smiling, in spite of appearing to be on the verge of tears. It made sense that they would be in the party, since they were Shelby’s brothers, but Alice couldn’t place the person directly next to her father, fulfilling the best man role. He seemed familiar, yet his features didn’t stir any recollection. Such was not the case all around, however.

                Mary’s gasp was audible, and echoed through the scene that they only now realized was completely silent. “That’s… that’s Globe.”

                “Are you sure?” Alice asked.

                “I sat across from him at a dinner table in Vince’s mind without any mask, and that’s not an experience I’m going to forget anytime soon,” Mary replied. “Why the hell is Globe your father’s best man?”

                “They were on a team together,” Nick said. “Although that seems more like it would garner an invitation than being best man.”

                “On that note, this whole wedding seems to be a who’s who for the Class of Legends.” Mary was looking away from the groomsmen now, and as Alice followed her gaze she understood what Mary was talking about.

                Clarissa, the nice woman who’d come to tell them about life after being a Hero, was in the bridal party. Victor, the SAA rep they’d met, was sitting in the crowd, along with Dean Blaine and a man who looked an awful lot like Chad, probably his father. Judging by the wide shoulders and occasional Super hair or eye color, there were probably enough Heroes at this wedding to repel an invading army.

                “Alice, I know Alchemist was a year behind the Class of Legends,” Nick said, carefully taking in the scene. “Have you ever asked your dad how exactly he and Black Hole ended up a team with three of them?”

                “We’re not big on communication in my family,” Alice replied. “The better question is what the hell we’re supposed to get from this.”

                “A feeling, I suppose.” Abridail reappeared, stepping out from behind the old man who was presiding over the wedding. “I needed a few moments while I constructed the first true scene, so I decided to let you see this while you waited. From here, the real tale begins, but I wanted you to witness this moment in time, to know that the story begins with joy. Your mother and father, your whole family, it was filled with so much love, Alice. Try to hold onto that as we go forward. To remember that love, more than anything else, is what motivated these actions.”

                Abridail lifted his arms, and the sunlight began to fade.

                “Everyone, clutch tightly to this moment as we go forward, take comfort in it as best you can. And, if possible, please forgive me for what I am about to show you.”