Epilogue 4

                From the outside, it looked like nothing more than a high-end pizza parlor and arcade. That was predominantly because it was, in fact, a high end pizza parlor and arcade. Normally, the building would be teeming with children, however today a sign hung on the front door cordially informing potential customers that the building had been rented out to a private event. This would ultimately inconvenience very few people, as there was both a competing chain down the block and limited demand to come here on a weekday afternoon. If someone had managed to make it inside, they wouldn’t have been surprised by all the decorations, Hero-themed with pictures of many famous Heroes past and present dotting the landscape. That said, if the intruder were keenly observant, they might have been a tad put off by how many of the arriving guests matched the exact height and build of the Heroes on the decorations.

                Nick and Alice had arrived first, going over everything to make sure it was both ready and secure. Only once they were sure the site hadn’t been compromised did they give the signal for the others to start arriving. Some came via teleportation, some by the mundane method of driving actual cars, but they quickly began to pile inside. The most important person to show up wasn’t any of the Heroes, though. It was a five-year old with sandy brown hair and blazing green eyes who barreled into Nick and Alice’s legs with a hug the moment he was through the door. They were standing there, waiting for him under the over-sized banner that simply read “Happy Birthday: Chance Gerry Campbell.”

                “It’s so cool! Thank you mom, thank you dad.” Decorum and politeness were lessons both Nick and Alice saw the value in, and their son had taken to it with the kind of ease one would expect, given his bloodline.

                “You’re welcome,” Alice told him. “It’s a big day, you only turn five once.”

                “She’s right,” Nick agreed. “So why don’t you take Leia and start winning some prize tickets while we wait for the others? No time to spare!”

                Chance looked over his shoulder to another child, this one clad in sneakers, a miniature brown trench coat, and a small red tie. “Come on Leia, let’s go beat some skeeball!”

                “Aw man, dad wouldn’t let me bring my screwdriver. We could have made this easy.” Leia was still off like a shot on Chance’s heels as her father walked over to greet Nick and Alice.

                “Thanks again for babysitting, Alex.” Nick shook his friend’s hand firmly, the guy had been a lifesaver today.

                Alex waved it off. “Please, you two watch Leia all the time, and she’s always happy to have Chance over.”

                Turning, Alice watched the tails of the coat vanish around a corner. “Still in her Doctor Who phase, I see.”

                “I don’t want to talk about it.” The pinched expression in Alex’s face said more than the tired tone of his voice. “I’ve shown that girl every film in the catalogue, even the prequels on the off chance she connected with the childish humor, but she refuses to believe that it’s the better sci-fi series. Hopefully when she’s older, it will click.”

                “The mighty Hero known as Knockoff can stop dangerous criminals and save countless people, but he can’t get his daughter into Star Wars. I’m not sure if that says more about you or Star Wars.” Nick patted him gently on the shoulder. “Look at it this way, at least you don’t have to worry about Leia taking after you and getting time lord powers. No Super has time travel.”

                There was a laugh from Alex, but they both noticed a worried expression in his eyes. “Yeah, that’s true. The most we’ve got is a few limited time manipulation abilities like Shutterbug. Not going to be an issue either way, because she will eventually turn to the light side, I’m sure of it.” He started to walk off, following the kids, although not before they heard him mumbling under his breath, “Still I wish I could figure out how she made her toy box bigger on… never mind, not going to worry about it today.”

                Before either of the couple think about that too hard, more guests began piling in. Angela and Chad were next, bringing a long present that Angela swore wasn’t any sort of weapon, this time. Will and Jill weren’t far behind, both clearly coming from work. Will still had pieces of his Technomancer outfit poking out from under his clothes, and Jill hadn’t even bothered to change out of her suit. It was all Alice could do not to accidentally call the woman Miss Tech, as she was used to addressing her when they were on the job. In the wake of the Charles Adair fallout, there had been talk of dissolving the Lamont Company that Jill now worked for, however it was decided that Heroes did still need support. Only now, it was monitored and overseen, to make sure no off-the-books schemes took hold again. As the twins made their way into the pizza parlor, Will paused by the skeeball machine to slip Alex’s daughter a small cylindrical silver device with a blue tip, an item she quickly squirreled away inside her miniature trench coat.

                Hershel and Mary arrived soon after, the former hauling a hefty present that both Nick and Alice were able to instantly deduce had some kind of workout equipment in it. Hershel apologized as soon as he set it down. “Sorry, it was Roy’s turn to pick, and he keeps insisting on giving Chance an early start. Says he wants to see the little guy show up to freshman year and smoke the… um, poop, out of the first day fights.”

                “Chance hasn’t shown any powers yet,” Nick reminded him. “And even if he does, there’s no guarantee he’ll go Hero.”

                 In reply, Hershel looked all around the room at the Hero-themed decorations, as well as the array of actual Heroes in their downtime munching on pizza and helping themselves to a beer. “Oh yeah, clearly he has no interest in our line of work.”

                “Hush you both, save it for when he’s older. Right now I want to hear all about the next one.” Mary hugged Alice tightly, but made sure not to put too much pressure on her stomach. “Have you found out the sex yet?”

                “Nope, decided to wait this time. Make it a surprise. Also, this way Nick can’t start trying to campaign for a pun of a name before the baby is even born,” Alice replied. She knew why he’d done it, Nick was the kind of man who hid his sentimentality at all times, even in a middle name rather than a first one.

                Nick didn’t even bother looking ashamed. “Hey, you’re the one that lost the bet. And we both know it’s grown on you.”

                “I love our son, the name is loved by consequence of being attached to him. But don’t expect to get your way again, mister. I’m the one birthing this baby, I’m not betting away the naming rights… again.”

                Hershel wrapped an arm around Mary, who hugged him right back as they looked at each other. “We should probably get on top of having one of our own, otherwise all of our friends’ kids will be too old and ours won’t have a playmate.”

                In reply, Mary only smiled. It was still a little too early to tell him, there had been false positives before and this certainly wasn’t the time or place for such an announcement. Tomorrow, though, she’d be able to see a doctor and get real confirmation. For today, she would simply refrain from the bar, as usual.

                The couple headed off to greet their friends, and more came in behind them. Thomas showed up with Violet, to the surprise of no one despite their insistence that they were only rooming together for convenience. Of course, it didn’t take training in Subtlety to notice that Citron and Plummet always worked alongside one another in costume as well. Neither Nick nor Alice tried to understand the dynamics of that relationship, the two seemed happy and that was all they wanted for their friends.

                Lucinda and her wife weren’t far behind. Despite the way they’d initially met, Lucinda had become a good friend over the years, as had most of the competitors from Intramurals. There was nothing like fighting an army before graduation to bond people together, and even Conrad had eventually become tolerable after some time in the field. More fellow Heroes piled in, men and women they’d met on the job who had wormed their way into Nick and Alice’s life.

                Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport, or Luke and Henry as the group now called them, popped into the room a few feet away from a pinball game. With them was Sally Daniels, who was holding Henry’s hand despite the fact that physical contact wasn’t necessary for teleporting. The two were still going strong, and while they’d never married, they had certainly found happiness in one another’s company.

                There was no mistaking the next fellow to come through the doors, his size was a dead giveaway even if they didn’t know his face. “About time, Owen,” Alice chided. “Mary was here forever ago, I thought you two were coming together.”

                “That was the plan, but Hexcellent needed a hand with some tough crooks. Didn’t want Hershel to have to change to and from Roy, so I just handled it. Funny thing, I feel like she probably could have dealt with it on her own, and she seemed a little disappointed that I’m the one who showed up.”

                “Has Roy still not figured out that she’s into him? She and Spyda broke up years ago, back during her internship,” Nick said. “Given that man’s ego, it seems like he would walk around with the baseline assumption that every woman was instantly in love with him.”

                Owen shrugged. “I don’t think he’s ever made the jump from platonic to romantic before, he always starts and stays as one or the other. We Daniels men are not always the best at expressing ourselves emotionally.”

                “Speaking of romance, where’s Jeremiah? I heard he was back from that last undercover mission.” Alice prided herself at keeping up to date on everyone, it was the very least she should be capable of given her training.

                “He’s good, but someone has to hold the fort down. No rest for the Heroes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d better make sure Hershel and Mary know I wasn’t that late before I catch an earful.” Owen headed off into the parlor, his hulking form unmistakable.

                The entrance stayed moving as even more Heroes arrived, their own kids in tow, and the pizza parlor filled with cheerful conversation, childish laughter, and shrieks of excitement. At last, the final family arrived, and while they were unquestionably late, they certainly had a good reason for it.

                Around the entrance, air crackled as a hole appeared, a window to an entirely different location. Through it came Phil, carrying a nine-year old girl on his shoulders, with Clarissa at his side. They were followed by Vince and Camille, the former pushing an older gentleman’s wheelchair while the latter held the hand of a girl not far from Chance’s age. Last came Sean Pendleton, pushing another wheelchair, this one holding a woman who looked strikingly like Alice.

                “Sorry, so sorry we’re late,” Vince said the moment they came through. “We got hung up on a job, and then we had to sort out turning her over to the police, and really I’m sorry, it’s all my fault.”

                “Relax, we saw the news and figured you might run behind.” Nick hugged his best friend before looking at the older man in Vince’s care. “Besides, you were all nice enough to portal our guests here which made things a lot easier on us. Abraham, how have you been? Or do you still prefer Abridail?”

                “Only if you catch me in the dreamworld,” Abraham replied, shaking Nick’s hand. Like Shelby, he was one of the first recipients of the Powered-cure when it was finally deemed to be safe, but decades in bed had left their muscles severely atrophied, so they were both at a facility receiving top notch physical rehabilitation in addition to healing from Supers.

                Alice was hugging Shelby already, a little too tightly in honesty, but her mother didn’t complain. “Good to see you too, dear.” Shelby’s words were a touch slow, as though she had to think about and choose each one. Spending so long in a permanent coma of visions had left mental scars as well as physical ones, but she was strong-willed and slowly clawing her way back into real life. The therapy, both kinds, helped, as did having Abraham nearby. In her time trapped within her own power, he’d been the only friend she had, and his presence seemed to help anchor her to reality.

                “Carol, why don’t you take Hope and go find your friends.” Phil set his daughter down and turned her loose, watching as she all-but sprinted away from the adults with Vince and Camille’s girl close behind. “Thanks again for inviting us, Alice. Hard to get out of the house unless it’s for a job or I’m around a bunch of Heroes.”

                “We wouldn’t dream of not having Carol along.” Alice, like most people, had been surprised when Clarissa revealed she was pregnant nearly a decade ago. Apparently she and Phil had spent the night together before the assault on the bunker, and since both expected to die neither worried much about protection. “Speaking of, is she showing any abilities yet?”

                “Still human, as far as we can tell, but not everyone manifests early,” Clarissa reminded them. “My powers didn’t kick in until puberty. Personally, I’m hoping that they never show up. After everything we’ve been through, I wouldn’t mind seeing my little girl get a normal life.”

                Camille chuckled and shook her head. “With words like that, you definitely just jinxed her to get an incredible ability, you know that right?”

                “Hush, let me live in my delusion a little longer.” The smile on Clarissa’s face betrayed the good-nature of her words, even if there was a sliver of truth to them.

                While the conversation kept going, Shelby’s attention wandered, as it was wont to do. She watched the kids run about, playing on the various arcade games, downing pizza at breakneck speeds, and generally being carefree in a way they’d never recapture once they lost it. Near the edge of the group, she spotted the birthday boy at a soda fountain, his cup filled up to a precarious level. It didn’t take future-seeing powers to know what was coming next, as Chance took one, two, three steps with the overfilled cup before tripping and sending it sprawling to the ground.

                On instinct, Chance reached out to grab it despite the fact that the liquid was already on the carpet. To his shock, the soda flowed back into the cup, which shot up from the floor and planted itself directly in Chance’s extended hand. His eyes went wide and he looked around hurriedly to see if anyone had noticed, quickly making eye contact with his grandma. Shelby smiled at him, then carefully placed one finger to her lips and winked. Chance, already a smart boy, took the cue and headed off, pausing only to dump out the contaminated soda into a trash can.

                Her time in the coma was spotty, hard to remember or fully make sense of, but some of the more recurring elements stuck out. She knew the conflict was still coming, when she dared peek ahead that still remained true. And there were so many ways it could happen, so many paths that could send the world into destruction. Still, she did feel optimistic about the odds for humanity, Supers, and the soon-to-be changed Powereds. Although Abridail hadn’t correctly understood what she told him back in the dream world, Shelby could recall what she’d meant. A small choice, two wounded and broken people trusting each other enough to build a foundation of love, was enough to alter the course of history. Nothing was certain, and a war was still very much a real possibility, but there was cause to hope for the best.

                After all, this was the version of the future that had a Chance. And thanks to that, one day, when they needed him most, their world would also have a champion.

 

End of Super Powereds

 

While this is indeed the last chapter of Super Powereds, for the next update I'll be posting an Afterward, talking about how it feels to reach the end and probably answering some questions you might have. Swing by on Wednesday night to check it out!