Center Of Attention 26-15 (Summus Proelium)

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The next few moments were a complete blur. I didn’t even remember leaving that kitchen, to be honest. The next thing I knew after hearing those words, I was on top of the fence at the edge of the Banners’ property. Paige was saying something behind me, but I didn’t care what it was. I used blue paint to launch myself outward and then sent a shot of red toward a street light in the distance to yank myself that way. The instant I hit that lamp, I was using another shot of blue to throw myself even higher and further. The corner of a building was coming up and I hit that with pink before instantly disabling it so that when I hit, I bounced right off, propelled onward like it was a slingshot. 

I wasn’t even consciously thinking about where I was going. There was no question about it in my head. My entire body, without any internal consultation on my part, knew we were heading for the Conservators’ building. I had to get there. I had no idea what I was going to do once I did, because I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I wasn’t thinking at all. The only thing I was doing was moving. One jump, one lunge, One bounce at a time, one after another, I leapt from building to sign to lamp post to another building. There was a high-pitched whine in the back of my head that could’ve been my imagination, or it could’ve been myself actually making that noise. Was I screaming? Was I praying? Was I crying? I had no idea. I couldn’t focus. Images of my father being hurt kept playing through my head no matter what I did. And when I tried to think more clearly, the images only got stronger. The only peace I got was by pushing everything out of my mind and blindly running.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t end up crashing into anything or slipping. It was either a miracle, or my power was helping somehow. I just ran onward without even stopping to consider literally anything. My dad was hurt. He had been in that building when the chemical attack or whatever it was went off. I had to get there. I had to help him.

After a few minutes of running like that, I was oh-so-gradually getting closer to my destination, though it was still incredibly far away. Some part of me said I was tired from all the running, but I pushed it aside. It didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered. I could keel over and I wouldn’t care. I just had to get to that building. Even if the still-reasonable part of my brain told me it was too far to run to within any reasonable amount of time. 

Abruptly, I heard the sound of a motorcycle revving up and managed to glance down just in time to see the machine itself go flying up off a makeshift ramp of a truck, landing on the roof of the small building just in front of me before skidding to a halt. It was Paige, still dressed as Poise of course. She stared at me for a second before speaking up. “Cassie, I know! I know, believe me. But you can’t go running in there like that.” 

“Are you stupid?!” I reflexively blurted without even thinking. “Get out of the way, my dad’s hurt!” I started to move around her. When she reached out to grab my arm, I used a bit of purple paint to rip myself free violently enough that it yanked her off the bike. I didn’t care. All I knew was that her dad had planted something in there that had ended up hurting mine. Or… or… worse. Tears tried to blind me before I blinked them aside. No. No, I wouldn’t assume that. I wouldn’t even let myself think it. My dad was okay. He had to be okay. But I had to get there first and make sure, and I wasn’t going to let Paige Banners stop me. 

“I know!” Paige, letting the bike fall, blurted while keeping herself in my path. “Cassidy, Cassie, I know! My sister’s in there too, I don’t know what’s going on with her. I don’t even know if she’s–I don’t know how she is! But if you go running in there like this, if you go screaming for your dad, they’ll figure out who you are! They’ll know.” 

“Do you think I give a shit about that?” I still wasn’t thinking, not at all. “I don’t care if they find out who I am, my dad–” 

“What if Pittman has spies in there still?” she pointed out flatly. “What if he figures out who you are, or one of the Scions or someone like that do? There’s still a lot of other ways they can hurt you, hurt all of us, Cassie. Please.” She swallowed audibly before clearly forcing herself to speak as calmly as possible. “We have to go. We have to find out if we can help, and what’s going on. I swear, we will, but you have to take a breath. I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m such an evil, stupid bitch. I’m sorry I stopped you, sorry I had to stop you.” I could hear the emotion in her voice. “I don’t want you to hate me, Cassie. I’m sorry. Please. We can go there. We can check on them, and help. But we have to be careful. Your identity matters. Your life matters. Please. I–I need you to breathe. I need you to… to not hate me, please.” 

It hit me in a rush. Her sister, no matter how much she acted as though she didn’t really see her that way, was hurt too. She had been within a hair’s breadth of getting Irelyn back safely and now all of a sudden she had no idea if the older girl was even alive. It was possible that her sister had been ripped away from her right when she was about to be able to tell her the truth about herself, and possibly have a real relationship with her. 

She was going through all that worry, and I had run off blindly, forcing her to pull herself together and chase after me just to stop me from doing something that could have put all of us in incredible danger. Now my emotions were in even greater turmoil, and there was still a part of me that wanted to tell her to get the hell out of my way and let me go storming in there. But, as terrified and panicked as I was, she had a point. Beyond the fact that she had every right to be as worried as I was, if I went into that building like this, people would figure out I had someone in there I cared about. And from there it probably wouldn’t take long to blow my entire identity. Which was if I didn’t blow it myself by shouting for my dad or something like that. Hell, in the mood I had been in just a second earlier, I might have gone as far as ripping my helmet and mask off just to get close to him. I hadn’t been thinking about anything else. All of that flashed through my mind over the next couple of seconds while I stood there staring at Paige. She must have interpreted my body language because she slowly lowered her hands and took a step back, speaking again, a little more softly. “We’ll go there. We’ll find out what happened and how we can help. But you have to be calm, okay? Can you do that?” 

It took me a moment to find my voice and to decide how to answer. “I don’t know,” I finally admitted. “But I’ll do my best.” Reaching out, I touched her shoulder. “I’m sorry,” I offered a bit weakly. “I mean, for running out without you, for that bit right there, for–” 

She interrupted. “Don’t worry about it, worry about your dad, and let’s get over there.” 

I started to move, only to stop and look back at the motorcycle she had come up here with. It was a dirt bike. Paige saw me looking at it and lifted her head. “What are you thinking?”

In reply, I marched to the motorcycle and stuck my leg over it. “Get on,” I ordered while revving the engine. “We’re getting to that building right now.” 

I could’ve sworn Paige murmured a prayer before quickly climbing on behind me. Then she was holding on around my waist as I focused. And that was when I realized something. This dirtbike was small enough that I was able to paint it while sitting on the thing as though it was part of my own clothes. In other words, I could make colors appear on it without having to point my hand and spray. 

Now this, this was something I could work with.

Without another thought, I gunned the engine and sent the dirtbike flying toward the edge of the roof. Paige clung tighter to me as I made both of the tires green with a thought, and suddenly we were going three times as fast. The dirt bike was pretty high-end, considering it came from the Banners’ garage, so it could hit about ninety miles per hour, though with this short of a path we had, it would only naturally reach about sixty. But with the paint I had just added, we hit one-eighty before we hit the edge of the roof. Oh, and I pointed my hand ahead to shoot a bit of blue paint that way so that when we did hit it, the bike was catapulted into the air at that speed. 

Yeah, we were both screaming. Though mine at least was out of sheer excitement. Even in this moment, even as terrified as I was about what could’ve happened to my father, I was still taking a dirt bike off the roof of a building at almost two hundred miles per hour to fly through the air. Before the bike could start to descend, I painted the front part, including that tire, red while shooting another bit of the same toward the side of the taller building in the distance. We were yanked that way as I had to cling even more tightly to the bike so it wouldn’t be yanked out from under me. Even then, I had to give myself a little purple boost. Paige’s grip tightened as well. And we were both still screaming. 

When we were three quarters of the way to the building, I canceled the paint, allowing our momentum to carry us a bit further. Before doing anything else, I painted the bottom part of my pants red as well as the seat to stick myself to it more firmly. Paige essentially wrapping herself around me meant I could do the same to her so she wouldn’t go flying off. Then I shouted for the other girl to lean left while doing the same myself. Leaning left meant leaning toward the ground. It should’ve at least raised a question, but Paige didn’t even hesitate. She leaned that way with me just as I painted both of our tires red that time, following it up by spraying a line of red all along the side of the building we were hurtling toward. Suddenly, we were yanked that way even more strongly, though this time it was the two tires being pulled. I waited until the second the wheels hit the brick wall and then gunned the engine once more. The dirtbike lurched forward. At the same time, I canceled just part of the paint on the wall, but only the part we had just driven over. I continued to do that, canceling the paint we left behind so it wouldn’t pull us backwards, while the paint we were actually on continued to work so the bike stayed against the wall. 

And just like that, we were driving sideways along the building. Oh yeah, and the bike had gotten up to its maximum speed, so we were actually going almost three hundred miles per hour. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to reach the end of that wall. As we did, I used another shot of blue to bounce us sideways off that building, followed by more red on both tires and the building ahead of us. Only this time, I painted a vertical line so that as we were sent flying that way, the bike landed and started to run straight up before shooting over the edge. We flew into the air while I pushed down on the front, and a second later we hit the roof of that building and kept going. I had to renew the green paint by that point and did so instantly, so we could continue to cannonball our way from one end of the roof to the other. 

Was it possible that I was coping with my fear and worry by throwing myself through the biggest daredevil stunt I could think of right at that moment? Yeah, probably. But still, it was working. Not only was this incredibly fun, something I would appreciate later when I knew for certain that my dad was safe, as I told myself, but it also forced me to focus entirely on what I was doing. I constantly had to throw every ounce of my attention and thought processes onto the next jump or stunt. It stopped my brain from dwelling on the what if’s. All that mattered was getting through the next few seconds, and the next few after that, and so on. I absolutely did not have to think about things that I really did not want to.

As we hit the edge of that roof, I aimed the bike toward the top of a billboard that was below us. It was way too far down for a normal bike to land safely. So it was a good thing there was nothing normal about what we were doing. I estimated the distance we were falling and gave the bike some yellow paint along with orange, slowing it just enough that the orange paint would help it stay together. After a quick consideration mid-fall, I also sent a spray of orange toward the sign itself to help avoid having the whole thing crumble underneath us. I had to aim just perfectly, but with that secondary power of mine, the one that helped me know where everything around me was, doing so wasn’t a problem. I judged the distance perfectly, landing the bike with the top edge of the sign right in the middle of the tires. Then we went driving straight across that as well before I used a bit of blue at the end to bounce us forward and up just enough to reach the roof of yet another building, this one much lower than the others. 

And so it continued that way. I couldn’t use my paint every second, of course. I’d run out quickly that way, even if my reserves had become much deeper than they were before. But even when I couldn’t use my paint, we were still driving a dirt bike, so it was faster than running. And we were almost always doing it across a roof or sign, somewhere away from traffic. In the rare instances we were in traffic, I weaved in and out of cars, paying absolutely no attention to the rules of the road. I didn’t care about any of that. All I cared about was getting to that building, no matter what it took. Maybe I couldn’t go running inside screaming for my dad. But I could sure as hell make my way there as quickly as possible and just behave like a Star-Touched who wanted to help when I heard about a biological weapon attack.

Yeah, okay, it was dangerous. But me not barging in and immediately ruining my secret identity was already a stretch. I was keeping myself about as together as I possibly could under the circumstances. 

Eventually, I managed to bring the bike to a stop right at the edge of a roof across the street from the main Conservator base in Detroit. The place looked pretty unassuming. It was just a four story square building with what looked like glass windows over the whole thing, but of course they were actually made of some super secret material that was capable of withstanding a hell of a lot more damage than even solid steel. Plus they had this neat fibermesh stuff running all the way through the building that reacted to any attack on the building by activating this sort of forcefield. 

There were a lot of other defenses on the place, many of which I was sure I didn’t know about. Some of those I was aware of included lookouts and snipers. One of whom was standing right there at the corner of the building we had just landed on. He waited until we came to a stop, then spoke above the sound of the bike’s engine. “Paintball, prove it’s you, then state why you’re here.” 

Only after he said that did I notice the remote in the man’s hand. His finger was already pressing the button, which was probably the source of the automated gun turret that had just popped out of the innocuous-looking chimney nearby. It wasn’t shooting at us, probably because he was still holding the button down. A deadman’s switch, in case we did anything to him. He’d drop the remote and then the gun, and probably many other defenses, would do their job. 

So, I pointed away from the man, shooting a bit of red paint at a metal lunchbox that sat there before making it come to my hand. Then I killed the engine on the bike and stepped off. It took literally everything I had to keep my voice as even and normal as possible. It was so hard not to just demand to know if my dad was okay. “We heard there was some sort of attack, and… and I thought I could help get people out, or calm people down, or–what’s happening in there?” My head snapped around to stare at the place, while Paige remained silent behind me. 

The man exhaled, clicking something on the remote to make the gun retract. “You really shouldn’t come rushing up like that, especially not in a situation like this. They’ve moved the victims to the medical wing already, and both that floor and the one where the attack happened have been locked down. There’s not much for you to do here, sorry.” 

“How–” I had to control my response. Fuck, fuck, I couldn’t scream at this guy, I couldn’t start crying. “How many were hurt? Who–did we lose anyone?” 

The man blinked at me once, before his expression softened. “A few died immediately. More didn’t make it to the medical wing. Whatever that stuff is, it’s… it’s bad. From the last report I got, Flea, Trivial, and that woman they brought with them are pretty sick. As are… basically half the Touched member of the Conservators and Spartans. Half of both of those teams are out until they find a cure to this stuff. Silversmith and Bokor were in the room with them, and so were Brumal and Boulderdash. And a couple from the Seraphs who were checking in. But don’t worry, they’ve got them stabilized. It’s just… they can’t get out of there until the docs come up with a cure.” 

My dad was sick. He was sick. Just sick though. He wasn’t–it wasn’t worse. “But–but they’ll find a cure to this stuff, right? They’re working on it?” I had to get in there, I had to see him. But I felt a bit of the panic ease. Just a bit. 

“I hope so, kid,” the man replied. “Especially since that Evans lady was in there.” 

“Wait, what?” I gave a quick doubletake at that. Evans lady? Huh? 

He nodded. “Yeah, Elena Evans. She was in there too for some reason. So I guess they’ll be spending all their resources to help cure this thing.” 

Oh… it wasn’t just my dad who was out of commission, sick and locked down in quarantine waiting for the medical people to find a cure.

It was both of my parents. 

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  1. Welp, I guess the situation is even worse than we thought before! This… probably won’t be easily swept under the rug. And what else won’t be swept away? How cool you would be if you boosted this story on Top Web Fiction by clicking here! Thanks so much, and your tags are: Cassidy Evans, Okay Yeah The Medical Thing Is Terrifying And Emotional And All‚ But How Much Do You Think The Forums Are Blowing Up Over The Paintcycle!?, Paige Banners, Paige I’m Gonna Need You To Staple My Heart Back Together After Ripping It Apart Okay?, Paintball, Poise, Walt McKenneth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Who’s gonna bet Paintball gets another call from prison-dad, saying he has the cure, and they have to do what he says to get it?

    Can that one Seraph healer lady counter this?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh. Ouch.

    So now Elana and Sterling have to come up with a cover story for why Elana was even there and where Sterling is. And Cass has to pretend to buy it.

    Good god this just got messy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t because they didn’t respond, it was because they thwarted his plans. The lesson is “let the nice villain uncle complete his evil plans or get attacked”.

      Well, now that Breakwater (or one entity of the island) has launched a biological terror attack against the Ministry, I think it is safe to assume that they will accept this declaration of war.

      Their “prison” is an unsupervised tropical island anyway and they can arrange calls and kills all over the world from there, security measures notwithstanding. If the heroes are foolish enough to one day capture Cup and Pencil and send them there, they can just as well directly surrender to the future monarch of Breakwater.
      There is straight no reason to keep the people on Breakwater alife, nobody there has been deemed redeemable anyways.


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