In that moment, I acted faster than I ever had in my life. Apparently fear was one hell of a motivator. Even as Simon started to say something, my hands moved. One I pointed above my head and behind me at the two Easy Eight thugs. The other I pointed down and forward past my stomach toward the two guys who stood with my brother. Red paint shot from both of my hands to cover the guns that they all held. An instant later, the guns were torn from all four of their grasps as I activated the power in the paint.
The guns flew to meet each other in the middle, right where Two-Step was standing. He had to jerk and duck out of the way as they collided in the air right above me before starting to fall. They would have fallen on top of me, but I snapped my hand out to the side, shot another bit of red paint out to hit a car nearby, and made my glove red as well. The power yanked me off the ground and sent me flying to the car. I collided with it hand first hard enough to send a shock through me. Ow. I should have used orange paint too. Dammit.
Apparently I also should have used green paint to speed myself up. Because before I could get my bearings, Two-Step was already there. One of his hands caught my neck and shoved me down over the car hood while the other found its way to the middle of my back to keep me there.
He started to say something, but I quickly shifted my whole costume to blue and activated it. The paint sent the man flying backward away from me with a cry of surprise.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the car I was leaning over slid away as well, leaving me to fall onto my hands and knees with a grunt. Shit, I should have just made my back blue, which would have used less paint too.
The guys were recovering, and Simon was spinning toward me. Lastword had also appeared and was moving to involve himself. Shit, shit, shit. I had to get out of there. I had to get the hell out. Shoving myself over to face the guys coming after me, I threw my arms out into a wide wave, sending a bunch of yellow paint flying. Most of it struck randomly everywhere, but a bit got on almost everyone, slowing them down considerably. Almost everyone, that was, aside from Lastword, who created some kind of force field in front of himself that the paint got stuck on.
I was already running, using that time to scramble back to my feet and take off. Unfortunately, Simon and all those guys were between me and the exit. I had to run deeper into the car lot, toward the auto shop garage. I could get out the other side, I just had to run all the way through.
Then something invisible struck me hard in the back, and I went sprawling. With a grunt of pain, I rolled over just in time to see Lastword creating another force field with one hand, which he sent flying at me with a quick push. That was what had struck me. He could do more than just make force fields, he could also send them flying around. Great.
Was it wrong that if I had just been watching, I would have thought this whole thing was really cool? I was being attacked by superpowers. I was using superpowers! This whole thing should have been awesome.
It was terrifying.
Shifting the front of my costume to orange, I threw my hands up in front of my face just as the forcefield struck home. It did almost nothing, dissipating against me. I felt the impact, of course, but it was akin to a light shove.
Then I was on my feet. As my costume shifted back to its base white, I made a little bit of green paint appear on my chest. It was shaped like a hand with an upraised middle finger, pointed right at Lastword.
Juvenile? Yeah. Worth it? Definitely.
Besides, it served a purpose. At that point, it was probably all the paint I could manage, and I used it to speed myself up, spinning around to run away again with Lastword, Two-Step, Simon, and the rest of the bad guys right on my heels. They were taller than me, and had longer legs. But I ran track, and had my ten second speed boost for a head start.
It was going to be close. I had to do something to give myself more of an edge. Then I remembered what I was wearing. Glancing down, I smacked my heels together to bring the wheels out on my pace-skates.
A gun shot rang out. Then another. They were shooting at me! The shots weren’t coming anywhere close, but they were still shooting at me! And I didn’t know if I could make any more paint for the moment. Go! I had to go!
More importantly, I had to get out of sight before they actually hit me. Adjusting my course as I skated across the lot, I ducked low, rolling under the partially open door of the auto shop. I could hear a couple more shots pinging off the wall, and a sob of terror escaped me before I could stop it.
I fell forward onto my hands once in the garage, before shoving myself back up. They were still coming, but I wasn’t trapped in here. There were doors at either end. My hand snapped out to hit the button that closed the door behind me, and I skated to the other side.
Thankfully, this side was open too. Behind me, I heard shouting to go around, even as something heavy and powerful slammed into the door I had closed, denting it inward. It hit the door again, almost taking it right off the frame. Lastword. He was either hitting the door with his forcefield thing, or using some other power. Either way, in about one more hit, it was going to be down.
I kept skating, throwing myself out through the open garage door and across the lot toward the far side of the lot. Behind me, I heard the pounding footsteps of guys coming around the side of the garage, as well as the loud clanging of the door being knocked in. They were all coming.
I skated faster. It felt as though ten minutes had passed since I last used my paint, but it was probably more like ten seconds. I had to wait. I had to keep moving. I had to get the hell out of there!
What the hell was I thinking? I should just tell Simon who I was. He wouldn’t kill me, or let them do so. Right?
It was a mixture of my own fear and my revulsion at the thought of looking Simon in the face while knowing everything I did that drove me onward. I heard shouting behind me as they all met up on the side of the garage and kept after me. They weren’t just going to let me escape. Especially now that they knew I had powers. Thankfully, I was pretty sure they didn’t know exactly how they worked, or how low I was running.
Nearing the fence, I skated between two vehicles and prayed to God that I’d waited long enough to use more paint. My hands stretched out, shooting a puddle of beautiful, beautiful blue right in front of myself. It worked! It fucking worked! With a loud, half-crazed whoop that probably accidentally sounded more taunting than relieved, I hit the paint and sent myself flying up and over the fence.
Awkwardly, I sprawled across the ground on the other side, remembering at the last instant to make a little bit of orange so I didn’t sprain or even break anything. Still, it was anything but graceful. But I was over the fence, and I could hear angry shouting even as I pushed myself up to keep going.
Behind me, Two-Step hit the fence with that red bat of his, instantly knocking a hole in it somehow. I could hear the metal sizzling.
Oh, right. This wasn’t a game. There was no rule that said they had to stop at the fence. I had to keep going, had to fling myself across the empty street while they kept chasing me.
God, oh God, I had to get the hell out of there. I had to get away before they caught up again. Before they started shooting again. I looked frantically for something to do, a way to escape. There was nothing. Just an empty street and silent, imposingly tall buildings. I was trapped. They’d catch up with me and then… and then…
My eyes snapped to the building directly in front of me, and I swallowed the sudden fear that I felt at the thought that came. Forcing that down, I ran for the building, retracting my skates on the way. Behind me, the guys were catching up. I heard Simon blurt not to kill me. They needed to know who I was and what the hell I was doing. And how much I knew.
That was something, at least. But I wasn’t planning on being killed or captured. Reaching the building, I created a quick blue puddle in front of myself and jumped on it. The paint shot me upward a good ten or twelve feet, and I snapped my hands out, my gloves turning red while I made more red marks on the wall itself.
It worked. My hands caught against the wall and I stayed there, kicking my feet inward while making the boots red too. Red paint shot from my feet as well, giving them something to cling to. For about ten seconds, I would be able to cling there without falling. Of course, after about ten seconds, I would be screwed. Because Simon and the others were right there. Lastword was already getting ready to do something, and Simon shouted something at me about coming down.
Instead, I pushed up with my feet, throwing myself further up the wall just like in rock climbing class at gym. But instead of having to find places to stand, I made my own, creating more red marks on the wall for my gloves and boots to stick to. Just like that, I scrambled up the wall, partly climbing, partly jumping, and partly crawling. It was disorienting and confusing, but I kept going even as they shouted behind me. I heard guns being readied, and quickly made an orange frowny face appear on my back.
They fired, and I felt a bullet hit my leg. I felt a bullet hit my leg. Thanks to the orange paint, it didn’t actually penetrate, but it still hurt. It was like being hit with a paintball, and I would have fallen if staying against that wall wasn’t an automatic thing. As it was, I nearly stayed there too long. Just as the power in the paint faded, I jumped again, while Simon shouted below me for them to get me down already.
Two-Step was coming after me. He was using his ghost somehow to keep boosting himself up, making pushing motions with his hands as he went up the wall that his ghost duplicated behind him to keep him climbing against the smooth surface. He was catching up quickly. I had to go.
Just like earlier, the terror was an excellent motivator, and I scrambled my way up the rest of the building like that, making spots of red paint to climb that faded behind me until I finally reached the top and scrambled over onto the roof. My leg hurt. I was limping, even as I tried to ignore the pain. I didn’t have time to think about it, aside from being glad I was only hit once and with my paint active.
Two-Step was just a little bit behind me, and I caught a glimpse of Lastword rising off the ground, having apparently worked his way into a flight power of some kind.
But for the moment, I was out of sight. And I used that, racing toward the roof access door that would lead into the building. There, I tried the door knob. It was locked. With a grunt, I turned my arm purple, quickly using the strength that it provided to punch the door open. It slammed inward, revealing a stairwell beyond.
I ran in, but didn’t go down the stairs. That would have just led to more chasing. Instead, I quickly turned, using the lingering strength that my purple paint provided to throw myself up into the space just above the door. Turning one of my arms and one of my feet red, I shoved both arms and feet against the walls to hold myself there. I was basically bunched up into the corner above the doorway, my arms bracing myself against one side while my feet braced against the other to stay in place. With the help of my red paint, of course. Sitting like this, I could wait until the paint almost ran out, then shift to making the opposite foot and arm red to keep myself there, alternating back and forth a time or two.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long before my two pursuers were there. They came charging through the doorway at a sprint, never even looking up as they passed me and began racing down the stairs, Two-Step blurting something about the others cutting me off at the bottom.
I let them go, listening to their footsteps descending the stairs before I dropped from my perch, making a bit of black paint on my feet to silence my landing. Dropping to a crouch, I carefully leaned over to peer down at their descending forms. My throat was dry, and it felt like I needed to throw up.
They were gone, but I had to get out of there in case they doubled back when they found out I wasn’t at the bottom. Quickly, I scrambled back to my feet, still silent, and ran back out to the roof.
I needed a way out of here. Moving to the edge of the roof nearest the other building, I leaned over and looked down. It was a long drop, and I didn’t know if my orange paint could take it. Instead, I looked over to the next roof. I could make that jump, with a little help.
Moving back a few steps, I put out my hands to make another blue puddle. Then I took a breath, psyching myself up for a couple seconds before running forward. As my feet hit the blue paint, I jumped, launching myself through the air while barely repressing the urge to let out a cry that would have been half-terror and half-excitement. Remembering to make my legs orange just before landing on the other side, I still sprawled out across that next roof before rolling onto my back. I barely had the wherewithal to pull myself behind the nearest air-conditioning unit on that roof so that I couldn’t be seen from the first one. Then I just stared at the sky and tried not to whimper. I was safe. I made it out of there. I could breathe again.
I had to stop breathing then, as I heard my brother’s voice from the first roof. He was speaking loudly. “Yeah, like I said, he’s not here! He fucking disappeared!”
Quickly painting myself completely black and using the silencing power, I waited a second before chancing a peek around the air conditioning unit. There. I could see my brother’s back as he spoke to someone out of sight. He looked nervous somehow, even from behind. It definitely didn’t seem like he was giving orders like he had been earlier and last night.
“I told you,” Simon was saying, “I don’t think he saw you last night. He didn’t go that far in.”
The person he was speaking to came forward, moving beside Simon. It was our dad. The sight of him made me want to disappear even more. He gave my brother a dark look, his voice firm. “Then why did he play dress-up and come here tonight? How did he even know about this?”
Simon’s head shook. “Hell if I know.”
Dad’s hand snapped out, catching hold of Simon’s collar to pull him close. His voice was dangerous. “Find out.” Then he gave him a slight push back, his tone softening. “Come on, son. You can do this. You’re ready for the responsibility. Track this kid down and find out what he knows. Bring him in, and we’ll talk. If he doesn’t know anything damaging, we’ll find a use for him, whichever side he leans toward. If he does know too much… well, there’s more room in Lake St. Clair than there is in the city for new Touched. Okay? I trust you. Prove me right. Show me that I can hand some of this off to you.”
Simon muttered some kind of agreement, and Dad nodded before starting to look around. I ducked back, but he wasn’t looking in my direction. He was scanning the sky. I frowned, tilting my head up to look as well before returning my attention to him, confused. What was he looking for?
A moment later, all of my thoughts about what my father could have been looking for vanished, along with every other thought I had or possibly would ever have. Because in that moment, he stepped up on the edge of the roof while a featureless metal helmet expanded and grew up and over his head. It matched the sleek silvery armor that he wore. Then he simply floated off the roof and turned to look at Simon before saying something I didn’t catch. In the next second, he was flying away. My father was flying away. He was flying. He was a Touched.
And not just any Touched. Because as I crouched there, hidden behind the air conditioner, I knew who he was. There was no mistaking it. The suit was very distinctive. And I had a lot of history in looking at pictures of him.
Silversmith. He was Silversmith, the leader of the local Conservators. My favorite hero, by some twisted sense of irony. I’d always love to follow his stories. I’d looked up to him for years. And now…
My father wasn’t a villain working for villains. He was a villain… leading heroes.