No, no, no, no! Fuck no. Absolutely not. I wasn’t going to let this happen. Like hell. I had spent years hating Paige Banners. Years being belittled, attacked, insulted, and demeaned by her while having no idea what the hell I had done to piss her off so much. Years spent like that, only to finally find that it wasn’t either of our faults, that she had behaved that way because of her father’s orders. Not only that, but also that we had been friends before my parents had my memory erased. Paige Banners and I had been friends. And now, now that I finally knew all that, she was going to sacrifice herself? She was going to kill herself to protect me from her dad?
Of course, the first thing I tried was running to the door. It was a heavy, solid metal thing that stood completely firm as I yanked at it. Naturally. Paige thought she was protecting me, so she wasn’t just going to stick me in some random broom closet with a door I could easily kick down.
Fortunately, she didn’t know I had superpowers. So, after yanking uselessly at the door a couple times, I stopped and squinted at it. Glancing around, I saw nothing. No cameras hidden up in the corners, nothing like that. Which wasn’t perfect evidence, but I didn’t have time to worry about it. Paige was going to kill herself unless I stopped her. And I was going to stop her.
First, I started by painting my hands and arms purple, powering that up while shoving at the door as hard as I could. Nothing. The thing didn’t budge at all. Whatever this place was originally built for, the door was meant to hold against something a lot stronger than that.
Okay, fine. I painted my entire upper torso purple, from my neck down to my waist, front and back, arms and hands included. That time, when I slammed myself as hard as possible up against the door, I felt something. It wasn’t very much, but the damn thing did react, at least. Unfortunately, a few more hits during those ten seconds didn’t accomplish much more than that.
As my paint vanished, leaving me looking normal again, I took a breath and let it out. Then I blinked. “I’m an idiot,” I muttered. I’d been in such a rush, so blinded by my urgency to get out of here, that I had stopped thinking. Quickly, I painted a thick pink line all along the outer edge of the door, the whole way around. Making the part of the door that was actually touching the wall rubber instead of steel would make it a hell of a lot easier to break down.
That done, I turned, walking away from the door, all the way to the far side of the room. There, I pointed, drawing a line of green paint wide enough to walk on. The second that was done, I put orange paint on my shoes and hands for protection. Then I covered every last remaining bit of myself with purple paint. Everything. From my ankles all the way up to my head. My clothes and exposed skin, including my face and hair, were all purple, aside from my orange hands and shoes. I probably looked completely ridiculous, but fuck it. I didn’t care about fashion at that moment. I didn’t care about anything except for getting the living fuck out of this goddamn room. After a brief second of thought, I added a little puddle of blue about a foot from the actual door.
Once I’d managed to set all the paint I needed, I focused on my target once more. “Okay, asshole,” I snarled at the inanimate object, “let’s see just how strong you are, huh?” With that, I took off, activating all the paint at once. The green on the floor sped me up, making me cross the distance almost instantly. At the last second, strengthened and toughened by the purple and orange paints and sped up by the green, I hit the blue puddle, which launched me at the door, itself weakened by the pink paint around the edges where it was attached. A scream escaped me as I slammed myself full force into the damn thing as hard as I possibly could, protected by the orange paint while the green, purple, and blue worked together to let me hit it with a hell of a lot more force than I should’ve been able to.
Two things happened the moment I hit that pink-painted door. First, it became very clear that I hadn’t actually used enough orange paint after all. It saved me from breaking anything, at least, but it still hurt like hell. It was like… well, it was like slamming myself into a metal door. But at least I didn’t splatter myself into a gooey puddle at that speed and force like I probably should have.
And the second thing that happened was that the door finally gave out. Yeah, it was enough. As I slammed full-tilt into the fucking thing, it burst open. No, not just open. The whole thing broke free, slamming into the opposite wall just before I slammed into it as well. With a yelp that probably sounded incredibly unsuperhero-like, I rebounded off it before landing on my backside. For a moment, I just laid there, dazed and trying to recover as I stared blankly up at the ceiling of the garage.
Yeah, I was definitely lying in a garage. A big one, though not quite as big as my family’s. There were fifteen cars and trucks lined up around me, as I lay between a Mercedes-Benz and a Komorebi (they were a luxury electric car company founded by a Tech-Touched in Japan about twelve years ago). A row of four-wheelers and motorcycles took up the space next to the door I’d come out of, leading to a big metal cabinet that stood open to reveal hanging jumpsuits, knee and elbow pads, helmets, and more safety equipment. Finally, there were cameras in this room, up in opposite corners. But they’d been broken, torn free of their mountings and were hanging loose by the cables that were supposed to connect them to the walls. Someone hadn’t wanted anything in here to be recorded.
So yeah, the garage. My guess was that the room I had been locked up in had started as some kind of mechanic’s office or something at one point.
Either way, I was out. And dazed (not to mention sore and bruised) as I was, I still remembered the whole point of why I had been so intent on getting out. Paige. Paige was going to kill herself. Well, after she killed a bunch of her father’s goons. But the point was, I had to stop her–save her–whatever, I had to make sure she didn’t fucking die!
That thought motivated me enough to ignore the pain. I shoved myself back to my feet, scrambling a bit to grab the side of the nearby car so I could get all the way up. Garage. I was in the garage. On the far end there was the door into the main house itself, while three separate rolling-style doors lay at the opposite end from there to let the cars in and out. Beside those was another human-sized door. It was to that last one that I ran, sprinting as fast as I could. I didn’t care about anything else. Getting out of here and finding Paige was the only thing that mattered.
Getting through that door was a hell of a lot easier than the first one. I used a little bit of purple paint on my leg, and the thing broke right open as soon as I kicked it and burst through into the open air of the early evening.
Specifically, I was in the driveway, where I could see… well, no one was here. The cars that had been lined up were all gone, and all of the lights in the nearby mansion were off. It was dark. Clearly the party was over. But it was more than that. The whole place was dead silent. Even the guard shack at the bottom of the driveway looked empty. It was like Paige had told everyone to go home. Not just her guests, but everyone. It was kind of eerie, actually. Seeing what should have been a full, bustling mansion just… empty and dark. It seemed wrong.
Or maybe it just felt that way because I knew what the girl was planning to do, why she had sent everyone away.
Okay, now I was out. I was free. So what the fuck was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to find Paige in order to stop her? Because it was pretty blatantly obvious that she wasn’t here.
As if in answer to that very question, a sudden burst of static from the nearby bush made me jolt, nearly jumping out of my skin. It was followed by a voice blurting, “–here anymore, just bodies!”
After settling myself out of that particular heart attack, I realized what I was hearing. Radio. I was hearing someone speaking over a radio. Sure enough, lunging that way revealed someone lying in that bush.
Or rather, it revealed the dead body that was lying there. One of Paige’s family’s security guards was facedown, blood pooling from a traumatic and very unsurvivable head wound. Something had hit him really hard. The voice had come from the radio that he was holding in one hand. It looked like he’d been taken completely by surprise, assaulted from behind by something. Or someone.
He was dead. He was just… dead. Staring at the body of the man for a moment, I felt bile rise in my throat. She’d killed him. That was the only answer, right? The only thing that matched what I knew. Paige had killed him, just like she’d said she would.
Paige. The security for the Banners, they must actually work for her father. Her real father.
Those thoughts and more rushed through my head, even as the radio crackled again with a different voice than the first one. The words were mixed with static. “–matter–get to–cover the–mainframe—Gratiot warehouse. Holed up–can’t let her—get here now.”
Gratiot. There was an old (really old) warehouse on Gratiot Avenue. That’s where these guys were being called to. I didn’t know why, or what was there that made it so important, but apparently it was where Paige was going.
So it was also where I was going.
But first, I pivoted back and ran into the garage once more. Worried as I was about what was going on with Paige, intent as I was that she would not kill herself, I couldn’t expose myself any more than I already had. Using my powers out in the open to get to her? No. No, that would be the absolute end of my life, possibly literally. If people knew who I was, it would get back to my parents, and that… that would be bad. Apocalyptically bad, as far as my life was concerned.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t like I could spare the time to go all the way home to get my actual costume. I was pretty sure whatever was going on over at that warehouse would be over by then. Nor could I call home and have them deliver it, because wouldn’t that be an interesting conversation to have? Hey, Simon, could you go to my room, find a way to move the huge mirror, open the floorboards, get the bag out, and bring it to me? Oh, and don’t look inside it. K, bye!
Yeah, not likely. Luckily, I did have another option. Once in the garage, I beelined straight for the metal cabinet where I’d seen those jumpsuits and safety equipment. I didn’t know if it was just a bunch of old equipment from Paige growing up, or stuff for guests/friends, or some mixture of both. Whatever, the point was, there was a lot of stuff there, and a quick (frantic) moment of searching scored me a motorcycle jumpsuit that mostly fit, and an old helmet. It wasn’t as good as even my original helmet, let alone the super-special one that Wren had made. But it had a black visor. It would do. It would have to.
Changing clothes as fast as I could, I shoved the helmet down on my head after zipping up the jumpsuit. Good enough. It was good enough. A pair of motorcycle gloves from the nearby drawer completed the look, and I ran back out. I didn’t have my own helmet. I didn’t have my special shoes, only normal (if expensive) sneakers. I didn’t have… I didn’t have anything other than my powers and this incredibly makeshift costume. But this was all I had time to grab. Even that, the less than a minute it took me to grab and change into those clothes, felt like too much.
Reaching the driveway once more, I started to run toward the gate, only to stop short. My gaze snapped toward the body I’d found, and I moved that way. Not to help him. He was beyond help, no matter what I might’ve wanted. Instead, I stooped and reached for the radio in his hand. But then I hesitated. He was dead. Taking something out of a dead man’s hand, it was… it was…
I had to help Paige. Grimacing behind the helmet, I grabbed the radio and pulled it free while trying not to gag. Under my breath, I murmured, “I’m sorry.”
Then I was up and turning, racing toward the gate. Like the cameras in the garage, these ones were broken, and the light in the guardhouse was off. There was a body lying there too, and a quick glance that way showed me that he wouldn’t be getting up any sooner than the one I’d taken the radio from. They were both dead, and I was positive there were more bodies than just those two.
I had no idea how Paige had killed them, but she did. She killed those men and was planning to kill more. Everyone who worked for her father, she’d said. And then herself. I couldn’t let that happen. I just–I had to stop her, whatever it took. I wasn’t going to find out that Paige and I had been friends and then immediately lose her again just because she thought she had no choice but to kill herself. Fuck that.
Reaching the end of the driveway, I used blue paint to launch myself up and over it. In mid-air, I shot red toward a tree in the distance, using that to throw myself further before cutting out the paint so that I wasn’t drawn straight into the tree. Instead, I flipped over, shooting a bit of blue at the branch I was heading toward in order to bounce myself even higher off it.
There weren’t a lot of houses or traffic out here by Paige’s mansion, of course. Like our family, their property was enormous. But I was able to use the streetlights, signs, and trees to make my way back toward the city proper. In the process, I barely touched each landing spot, bouncing off them immediately to keep going. I’d hit a tree, run two steps, leap again, then hit a street sign with a quick blue spot that hurled me up and forward. I was doing everything I could to keep going. But it still wasn’t enough. Faster, I had to get back to the city faster!
On the way, I took the time to paint the helmet and jumpsuit both black. I was going to go with white, but I had the feeling that I’d want to blend into the darkness rather than stand out. I had no idea what I was walking (or rather, running and flinging myself) into, other than the fact that it was dangerous. Who Paige’s real father was, how he could control her as much as she said he could, why all these men apparently worked for him even though he was stuck in Breakwater… I didn’t know the answers to any of it. Yet all the questions pointed to this being a situation where taking people by surprise would be a pretty fucking good thing.
Eventually, I reached the more populated part of the city. Which meant there were a lot more cars, buildings, and other things for me to use, speeding up my progress. I still wasn’t moving as fast as I could have if I’d had my pace-skates (why the fuck didn’t I find a way to bring my costume and hide it somewhere nearby?), but it was something, at least. Speeding myself up with green paint as I raced along the roof of an old apartment building, I frantically tried to remember exactly where Gratiot was. I thought I knew, but what if I was wrong? What if I was going the wrong way? What if–
My phones! I was an idiot. God, of course. Hurriedly, while still sprinting along that roof, I fumbled to get my Touched phone out and looked at it. Bars. It had bars. I had a signal! Which meant I could use the map to make sure I was going the right way.
But more than that, I could also call for help. But… from who? Who the hell could I ask for help from, exactly? I had no idea what I was walking into here, and if Paige was killing people to stop her father, if she was–if–
Fuck. Stumbling to a stop, I hesitated right there on the corner of the building. Call for help from someone or don’t, which was the right answer? That-A-Way or Pack. Should I call them in or not? If I didn’t and everything went wrong because I didn’t have help… but if I did and it exposed everything…
I had to make a decision, right now.
And in the end, there was only one real option. Before I could second-guess myself any further, I quickly opened a text conversation with both That-A-Way and Pack, sending, 911 – Need *BOTH OF YOU* to help at Gratiot warehouse ASAP. Plz hurry. Life & death.
There. Right or wrong, I’d made my decision. I asked for help. Now I just had to get there myself, before it was too late.
Tucking the phone away once more after checking the map for my direction, I took a breath before hurling myself off the edge of the building, hand outstretched to shoot the paint that would take me closer to the warehouse. Closer to stopping Paige from killing herself.
This wasn’t over yet. I could get there in time.
I had to get there in time.
I had to.