Avalanche – Snippet 30
“Even so…” Sera sighed. “If we find she reverts, or will not change, or goes home again. What would we do? Join with Belladonna and become a part of ECHO?”
“That would be an option, I suppose. I love the blueberry to death, for everythin’ that she’s done for both of us an’ everythin’ she’s doin’ to keep the fight goin’…but ECHO in general just gives me a bad taste in my mouth. A lot of red tape for anythin’, and way more government than I’m happy with. The CCCP is in this happy little place where we’ve got governmental backin’, but we’re still left hands off, for the most part. Paperwork in triplicate notwithstandin’. Not so with ECHO, or at least how it was before the war.” He thought for a few moments, still working on the rifle. “I had a run in with one of their ‘recruiters’, ’round the same time that Blacksnake came knockin’. It didn’t leave me with the best impression of how some of that organization does business.”
She blinked at him, this time in surprise. “Why, what happened?” she asked, curiously.
“A busy-body, some mid-level guy, came ’round the ‘hood not too long after the Invasion. Apparently, word had gotten out ’bout what I was doin’; I was a little less than discreet, for whatever idiot reason. ECHO was hurtin’ bad for bodies, so they were scroungin’ for unregistered metas…like me. I didn’t cotton to the idea of gettin’ pressed into service, an’ I was happy enough doin’ things the way I had been doin’ them. My way, to be precise. After a little bit of measurin’ anatomy an’ some pretty heavy pressure from the ‘hood, the flunkie backed down. Bigger fish to fry without needin’ to get fried himself. I know, logically, that it was rough times back then an’ everyone was desperate, but still…not the best impression.”
“But with Bella in charge, and Yankee Pride? Would things not be different?” She flipped her wings a little, a sign of restiveness. Or maybe that she didn’t quite agree with him?
John looked around for a moment, seemingly lost, before Sera proffered a beer for him. He nodded, smiling, as he took it and had a tug from it. “Well, you’re right in that regard. It may have been a different organization back then, ‘fore Bella an’ Pride had the reins. Still…I’m not sure. Seems like the sorta thing where, once they have their hooks in ya, you’re in it an’ that’s it. Not sure how comfortable I am with that.”
“But what are we to do, if we do not join ECHO and cannot remain with CCCP?” she asked. “I–how would we know who to help? The Infinite no longer guides me. We have extraordinary abilities…how can we not use them?”
“We could always take our act on the road. It’s not like we need an RV, exactly.” Sera handed John a cleaning rod, patch already threaded on it, and he applied some CLP to it before threading the rod through the rifle’s barrel. “It’d probably ruffle more than a few feathers, though. So to speak,” he said, nodding towards her wings with an impish waggle of his eyebrows. “Folks didn’t like unregistered metas doin’ their thing before the Invasion. Can’t imagine much will change afterwards, no matter how much good we do durin’ the war.”
“And would we not face pressure on many fronts–ECHO wishing to have us, the military wishing to have us, clandestine organizations wishing to have us, and criminals wishing to eliminate us?” she replied. “ECHO might leave us be, with Bella in charge, but the others would not!”
“You’re right on that count, darlin’. I’m fairly certain we could take any an’ all comers…but why deal with the headaches if we don’t have to? Not sayin’ that bein’ with the CCCP or ECHO wouldn’t have headaches of their own…maybe even a lot of the ones you just listed.” John changed out patches on the cleaning rod, running the implement down the barrel and changing out the patches again methodically as he thought. “Y’know, there’s another option.”
“There is?” She bit her lip again. “I hope you will not tell me that we must pretend to be someone else and never use our powers at all.” She shook her wings. “How could I even do that, with these? They are somewhat obvious! Unless you think I should pretend I am the–what is it–cosplayer?” She shook her head. “How should I shop for the grocery items?”
“The obvious answer is ‘carefully’. But, as to whether we ought to quit? Hell, no! Not pretend to be someone else, not exactly. But…there’s no reason why we ought to be full-time with this, if things shake out well with the war. We’ve got the Futures to see when we’d be most needed; I don’t imagine how we could shut that off, even if we wanted to. Still…I wouldn’t mind focusin’ on us, for once. Hell, maybe even startin’ a litter.”
“Could we…retire?” she asked doubtfully. “And I do not know if children are even possible, for us.”
John set down the tools and pieces of rifle that he was handling. He leaned across the table again, setting his hands on top of Sera’s. “Darlin’, there’s only one way to find out.” He sent all of the warmth and love that he had for Sera through their connection; he knew that she would understand how fully and truly that he loved her, and how it almost brought him to tears just to think about.
Her eyes widened, and a tentative smile ghosted across her face. Then he felt the same deep and abiding passion returned to him. She put a free hand atop his, and for a moment, the two of them were lost in each other.
And, of course, the moment was shattered by a ping from Vickie in his ear. Sera blinked, then shook her head and laughed a little. “Is this what they call ‘birth control’?” she asked.
“Near enough, darlin’.” John sighed, cocking his head to the side. “Vickie, Murdock here. Go ahead.”
“8-Ball wants you, on the double,” she replied. “He’s all spun up. Just keeps repeating your names.”
“Copy, we’re on our way. Dial back the caffeine or electrons or whatever y’feed him. Murdock out.” John set down the pieces of rifle and cleaning tools. “Duty calls, darlin’. Shall we?”
“Perhaps–perhaps it is something about–” she began, then shook her head. “No, I will not hope; I will wait until I know. Let us go!”
Vickie had the window open for them as usual when she called for them, although John privately thought a key to the door on the roof would have been a lot more handy. Once they were in her Overwatch room though, it was clear that she hadn’t been exaggerating about 8-Ball. The screen was scrolling their names, almost faster than he could read.
“Vic, what’s goin’ on? What’s the deal with 8-Ball?” John and Sera took up position behind the chair as Vickie slid into it, her fingers dancing across the keyboard.
The scrolling names stopped. The screen filled with three words.
I found him!
Before any of them could react to that, the words vanished, and were replaced by what looked like some sort of form.
All three of them crowded in together to read the screen. It appeared to be a “surrender” form, where a couple surrendered their child to the state. Uncontrolled, uncontrollable metahuman, was typed under the “reason for surrender”; a not completely unheard of and legal reason for parents giving up a child whose powers had…not manifested well. Most often, it was because those powers were killing the child, the parents couldn’t afford the medical bills, and they were willing to hand the kid over to someone like ECHO on the chance that those who had metahuman powers could find a way to save it. This page of the form was full of boilerplate legal language intended to keep the parents from changing their minds, or ever making a claim on the child or the organization that was taking it, ever again.
But ECHO was not who these parents had surrendered their child to. Department of Metahuman Resources, the form said.
“The hell?” John muttered. Vickie glanced at him. “Who’s that?”
“Never heard of them,” she said, flatly, and scrolled down the form to reveal the names of the parents and the child.
They all froze. The parents–Gregory and Alice Marlowe. And the child. Zachary.
John didn’t have a chance to brace himself for the vision. He and Sera were instantly thrust into it, but…this was different. It wasn’t nearly as clear as the others; this one was almost like it was coming through on a pirate signal, or some sort of distant station. The two of them drifted out of the vision and then back into it, back and forth. He felt an overwhelming sense of vertigo.
Just as suddenly, both he and Sera were out of the vision, completely. And they knew.
John gasped for a moment, and Sera steadied herself on his shoulder.
“We can find him.” John looked into Sera’s eyes.
“No,” she replied, her expression growing into one of deep determination. “We must find him!”