Trainwreck’s blow doesn’t shred Epione’s arm off. Instead, Epione stops him dead in his tracks.
Epione’s black mask betrays nothing. The little pink rings around her eyes shift into a friendly emoji, and she bends his arm back by his wrist. Trainwreck screams his soul out his damn mouth, and his body shrinks back to his original size.
Bedevil lifts me using telekinesis. “You didn’t tell me she was heavyweight strong.”
I can’t believe what I’m seeing. “I didn’t know.”
Epione kicks Trainwreck and he rolls away. Without a single word she runs toward Afterthought. The street cracks under each step.
“Jettison!” Afterthought shouts.
Jettison flies past Bedevil and me. A gale shoots from his hands and catches Epione in it, but she doesn’t fly away. She digs her heels into the street, and when the wind almost lifts her up, she falls to her haunches and smashes her fists into the pavement to stay put.
The jet stream passes, and Epione shoots from the pavement with a super-strength lunge. She grabs Jettison by his shoulders. A light shines through the pink rings of the mask.
Jettison drops onto the lawn and Epione flies into the air. She wavers there like she’s just figuring out how to fly. Once she’s firmly levitating, she holds a hand out at Afterthought, and a jet stream knocks him off his feet. He rolls way down MacGregor, away from us.
Trainwreck gets back to his feet. He’s Krater-sized again, full on wrecking ball mode. He charges at Epione and bear-hugs her.
Epione grabs the sides of his head, squeezing him between her grasp. The light shines from behind her mask again. In a robotic, emotionless voice, she says, “Be sad.” The words echo on the street like thunder.
Trainwreck recoils from her. He stands for a moment, his body shrinks down, and he falls to his knees. Tears pour down his face.
“Uh, Epione?” I ask.
“Oh, Gabe dear!” She turns her attention to me, like she forgot I was there. “Sorry I was late. And also that I lied to you about my power. And also that Maisa got kidnapped.”
“What… what are we doing?” I ask. She’s the only lifeline I’ve got right now.
“Getting in that van,” she says. “We already picked up Lugs and Mil-dot.”
All I can do is nod.
Bedevil stumbles behind me, so I help her to her feet and walk her to the van. Jettison’s moaning in pain by the mail box, and Trainwreck’s weeping by the geyser erupting from the broken fire hydrant. Afterthought’s rolling around on the other end of the street. What the hell did she do?
Mil-dot helps me get Bedevil into the van, and Lugs sits in the back. He’s no longer catatonic. “Hey, Gabe! You okay? You look a little beat up.”
“I’ll be okay. You’re okay! What’s going on?”
Lugs chuckles and shakes his head. “Little miss badass there picked us up a few streets over. I was way outta sorts, and she brought me back to earth.”
Epione gets in the passenger side of the van. “Let’s go!”
Remise punches it.
“Wait, what about Maisa?” I ask.
“Gonna have to let this one go, Gabe,” Remise says. “We’ll find the lass, don’t worry.”
“I don’t want to let it go! We have to find Maisa!”
“Gabe,” Bedevil says. “You need to back up and think.”
“She’s in danger. How can I back up now?” I ask.
Epione reaches back and touches my thigh, before I can respond. Her eyes shine with pink light, her skin illuminates from within. Smoke drifts out of her mouth, carrying the dewy sweet scent of a forest in spring. “Be reasonable.”
The rage lets out of me like Epione just turned a valve to release steam. Once that goes, I realize they’re right. It’s a little shitty that Epione used her power on me, but even so, I’m being bull-headed, and that’s just going to get Maisa in trouble. Need to come up with a plan. To do that, I need to lay all of our cards on the table.
I decide to address the elephant riding shotgun in this van with us. “So… Epione? What was that?”
“That was my power.”
“I thought you could only stimulate or soothe pain,” I say.
“That’s part of it. At a touch, I can manipulate any emotion. I have telepathic empathy in that I know exactly how everyone’s feeling around me.”
“Why didn’t you tell us, Epione? Before we went to Parlor?” I ask.
“I’d actually planned to use it there, but we didn’t have the chance.” Epione looks back at me. “Jason didn’t want me to, because of my parents. They would know if news broke about my power, even if I was a mask. My parents never wanted me to go to OPI, so I went to med school instead, where I could use my power to help people feel good.”
I lean back into my seat. “You can change how we feel in general. You can copy powers?” It didn’t click until now, but she used Jettison’s own power on him, while he was powerless to stop her. “No, you steal them.”
Epione nods. “I can borrow powers for a little, but only one at a time.”
“We could find Maisa and use Pandahead’s power against him!” I sit up and grab the back of Epione’s chair in excitement. We could find her tonight! “How far does your empathy extend?”
“Hundreds of yards, but I couldn’t tell you who’s feeling the emotion, just what it is.”
Bedevil sits me back down with an invisible tendril. She struggles to right herself. Her face is pale, her head beaded with sweat. “You need to rest, not go on a wild goose chase. Gabe, you’ve burnt yourself out.” She winces and looks out the window. “So we need to figure out how to recover. I know your power, I can help.”
“My power failed me multiple times today.” This is the worst it has ever been. “Do you know why?”
“Some people have this thing where they put blocks on their power,” Bedevil says. “You just need to rest and train around your block. And you, little miss badass, if you aren’t sure of everything you can do, we should figure that out.”
Epione smiles over her seat. “We’re gonna train together?”
“Not today, tomorrow,” Bedevil says.
Bedevil’s phone goes off in her pocket. “I’M NOT GONNA PLAY YOUR SOOOOOOONNNNNGGGG!” The heavy metal band kicks in again. Bedevil squeaks and pulls that out of her pocket.
She reads the caller ID. “Director May.” She shushes us, and answers the phone. “Hello?”
No screaming this time, thank God. Bedevil nods. “Okay. Okay. Okay. I’ll be there in a little.”
“What’s up?” I ask.
Bedevil shakes her head. “They want me on patrol. The Hawks reported the fight.”
“Will you be okay?” I ask.
“I’ll be fine.” She puts the phone in her pocket and looks out the window. “Do you think you could use your power to make me feel okay for patrol, Epione?”
“Sure!” Epione touches Bedevil’s arm.
Bedevil sighs in relief and puts a hand to her head. “That’s amazing. I feel like I’m hugging a cold toilet.”
Vomit spills out of her mouth. Bedevil gasps and tries to cover it.
“The other problem with my power,” Epione says. “Even if someone feels good, it doesn’t mean their body is with them on that.”
I take off my mask and offer it to Bedevil. “Here.”
Bedevil frowns. “But…”
“I’ve got more at home.”
Bedevil takes the mask, and wipes her chin and pants. “Thank you.”
“Okay, Remise, we’ll go look for her tonight.”
Remise nods. “We’ll find her.”
We arrive at my apartment garage, and Remise parks the van. The six of us trudge up to my apartment. All the while I’m thinking about where Tim Prince is most likely to go. Somewhere he can hide, maybe he has more friends with properties.
If Parlor was mobile, that means he had a network of people he could trust. All those rich assholes that died, they were in on it. That’s a lot of branches to shake. I can get Iso and Drone to run names, and I’ll follow the rabbit holes.
Bedevil snaps her finger at me. “Gabe. You’re muttering. Unlock your door.”
I shake my head. “Sorry. I’m just… planning.”
The others look at me. They’re looking to me. They need me to figure this out. Right now I really don’t feel like I can.
I already ruined a lot for them by trying to pursue Home Run. Everything that’s happened so far is my fault. But maybe I can fit Home Run into the Underground, somehow. My problem was I chose him over the Underground, but maybe there’s a place for him if I work with them.
I unlock the door and let us back in. Doc and Drone aren’t there to greet us. Must be out. Saw Off’s still in my bed, and Lugs and Mil-dot join her in there. Epione and Remise take off their masks, help themselves to cookies, and chill out on the couch.
I retreat to the kitchen to pace like a maniac and come up with some way to save Maisa. And Flashfire. Fucking hell.
Bedevil takes her jacket and mask, and stuffs those inside her Hello Kitty backpack. She notices me watching her and walks up to the counter. She sets her backpack there and zips it up. “I’ll look for her while I’m out tonight.”
“I’m sorry, Gabe.” Bedevil takes her backpack off the counter and slings it over her shoulder. “She’s really lucky it’s you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re already working to save her. I’d tell you to sleep tonight, but you’re not going to do that, are you?”
I chuckle. She’s got me pegged. “I mean…”
Bedevil puts a hand on the counter. An invisible tendril of telekinesis lightly taps the back of my neck. “Don’t lie.”
I shake my head. “Probably not.”
“You need to rest. A block is mostly mental and means you’re exhausted.” Bedevil snaps her finger. “At least six hours a night. Let the others look for her, they have powers geared toward that. Your power is for when they find her and you need to be in top shape, okay?”
I’ve got no intentions of sleeping while Maisa’s in Pandahead’s clutches. I don’t even think I could sleep. I feel too much. “I’ll try.”
“I get it.” Bedevil comes around the counter and leans against it next to me. “Trust me, I really do.” She covers her mouth with her hand, then pulls away to look at her fingers. She moves each one individually, and runs her thumb across the three rings she’s wearing. “Do you trust me?”
I’m not actually sure. We fought together, she saved me from Trainwreck, and Epione told me she’s really determined to help me. She still hurt me the other night. Even so, I don’t have a lot of friends. “Yes.”
“Took your time answering that, but I guess I can understand. Your moment’s gonna come, Gabe. You’re gonna have her in front of you, you’re gonna save her. I promise. But you need to be ready for it.”
Bedevil stands up. “We’ll meet up to train and work on this when I’m free. You, me, Epione, whoever else.”
I nod. “I can do that, Bedevs.”
Bedevil looks like she’s about to smack me upside the head. “Excuse me? Bedevs?”
“You said not to call you wonderkid, so… Bedevs.”
“You are absolutely not calling me Bedevs.” She makes her way to the door. “Get some sleep.”
With that she leaves.
“Well, I trust her,” Epione says. “She pretty much says what she’s feeling. Most people don’t.”
“So, your power,” Remise says. “Do ye know how I’m feeling, right now?”
“You’re a very amethyst person. You’re almost always content and perceptive.” Epione smiles. “You do love getting into fights. I’d even say aroused.”
Remise grins at Epione. “Fuckin’ right.”
My laptop’s still out on the oak coffee table, from when I showed Bedevil the video. I’m feeling a little lost. Maybe Megajoule has something to guide me. Plus, I need to scour his videos for references to the Fear, though. I sit at the foot of the couch to let Remise and Epione have the space.
“What now?” Epione asks.
“I’m gonna watch one of Mega’s vlogs. See if he’s got something for me. You can watch if you want, but they’re usually pretty boring.”
“No, I want to see this,” Epione says.
I open the laptop, click on the folder of his videos, and scroll down to where I left off. It feels like it’s been forever since I last watched one of these, even though it’s only been a few weeks. These last six months have felt like a decade.
Megajoule looks as tired as I feel. His chin is covered in stubble, there are deep bags under his eyes. He blinks and looks up at the light above him, harsh florescent buzzing so loud I can hear it on my laptop speakers. He grimaces and scratches his cheek.
He looks right at the camera.
“Gabe. This will be my last video to you.”