Lindsay could feel Marcus’ eyes on her. It had been a week since she’d returned, and in that time they’d barely talked. He was busy all the time with his sister, trying to uncover ways to restore her memories, and Lindsay wasn’t going to spend her time moping awkwardly outside her hospital window. Besides, Sam had given her hours and hours of community service for running off.
And she was sure Marcus was still angry with her.
It made her want to cry every time she made the mistake of looking him in his hazel eyes, seeing all the anger and disappointment and hurt that he felt. She avoided being alone with him, and she didn’t care how stupid or childish that was. She shouldn’t have to feel so uncomfortable.
But she didn’t have much of a choice now. They were supposed to be training together, the two of them plus Allen and Mitch, just like old times; however, she and Marcus had gotten knocked out of the fight early, so only the other boys remained in the simulation duking it out. Lindsay pretended to be interested in the card game that Tracy and Charity were playing not to far away, but Go Fish could only be so entertaining. Still, anything was better than having to talk to Marcus.
“Lindsay.” Marcus put a hand on hers, and it nearly made her jump. “Listen, we don’t have to talk about it. I-in a weird way, I think…I think I understand.”
Oh, God, that’s worse. She felt the impulse to look up at him, and fought it.
“I still love you, Lindsay. To me, that’s all that matters.”
Now she did look at him. Overwhelming guilt flooded her heart as it skipped a beat. He smiled, that sweet, awkward smile that made her melt. “It doesn’t matter how far or where you go. Lindsay, I’ll aways be here for you to come home to.”
His hand never let go of hers, and his other one brushed back her short, black hair. She tipped her chin up. Their lips met. You wouldn’t love me if you knew who I really was. No one would.
He didn’t deserve someone like her. He deserved better. But at the same time, she owed him, because no one else would be waiting for her. She pushed him away, and still he held her in his warm embrace, the familiar smell of his deodorant that still clung to the sweatshirt buried in her unmade bed at home. “I love you, Marcus.” The words sounded hollow. But they made him smile.
“I love you too, Lindsay.”
The sound of a cleared throat interrupted them. Lindsay pulled away with a start to see Jay Allison standing together with Eric Herrington and an older man, carrot-colored hair fading to gray. Lindsay didn’t miss the sidelong glance Eric made toward Charity.
“Am I interrupting?” Jay teased.
Marcus blushed. “Uh…no sir.”
Jayson chuckled. “Marcus, why don’t you get Allen and Mitch out of the simulation? There’s something important we need to discuss.”
* * * *
Mitch’s raw power was proving to be a match for Allen, though he wasn’t about to give in to a tough opponent, third degree burns or no. There combat was interrupted by Marcus’ disembodied voice. “Hey, buddy, I’m brining you guys out.”
“Oh? Okay.” He felt a twinge of disappointment for having a draw on record between him and Mitch—he wanted to clean house with the fire controller—but he figured there had to be a reason.
That reason was three men who had joined their small group in the training room. Seeing Liam, he smiled. “Hey! I was hoping you’d be okay after the…ah…fight in Montreal. Never did see you after that. Actually, I’m a little surprised to see—”
He was interrupted by a blur of movement from his left where Mitch had sat in his simulation pod. “You son of a mother fucking bitch!” Mitch launched at his father, fists ignited in fury.
Allen was faster. He grabbed Mitch around the waist just before his fiery fists connected with his old man. Liam didn’t flinch.
“Let me go, Gray! This has nothing to do with you! Mind your own fucking business!”
Allen took a step backward, maintaining his vice grip. “Mitch, I get your pissed, and I get why, but just calm down and talk before you go flying off the handle. Sure, he owes you an explanation. Let him give it!”
“Actually, I’m not here for a family reunion,” Liam said a little coldly. His eyes softened. “To be honest, anything I could say, any apology I could make…well, it wouldn’t be enough. But my reason for exposing myself in a place that still gives me the heebie-jeebies is far more important anyway.” He pulled an electronic tablet from a bag at his side. “Jayson Allison, Eric Herrington, Allen Gray. This contains information on the mastermind behind the power struggle that’s been happening. The three of you are on my list of people to personally deliver this to upon the death of Donald Kasuki.”
Allen let Mitch go. He was far too busy trying to hold himself together. His heart thudded twice, then stopped, only to start again in a quickened, unnatural rhythm. We found the mastermind? The thought warred in his head with Donald’s dead? Neither made its way out of his gaping mouth.
He didn’t realize he was shaking until he felt Tracy’s hand slip into his. It took every ounce of control he had not to grip his lifeline so hard that he broke her hand.
Jayson was the one who took the tablet. “Then let’s play this and finally put this bullshit to rest.”
* * * *
Geoffrey Davis was an ordinary man. He was born to an ordinary family in Northern Alliance City, to a mother and father who weren’t rich, but they were comfortable. He had an ordinary childhood full of ordinary fears of monsters under the bed and an ordinary, amicable split of his parent’s marriage. He had ordinary teenage problems, mostly revolving around his high school boyfriend. They had an ordinarily painful breakup, but even now, Geoff wished him well.
Sure, when he developed super speed, that seemed somewhat extraordinary, but after Samantha Clive’s announcement that he was not alone, even his powers seemed quite ordinary. He joined Delta shortly after college. With an ordinary degree in business, political studies, and accounting, he applied for secretarial work, and quickly rose in his chosen, ordinary career path.
Yes, Geoffrey was an ordinary man, and he quite preferred it that way. He loved his job, and took a degree of personal satisfaction in bringing order to the potential chaos of working in a company that trained and deployed people with earth-shattering abilities. He enjoyed order and beauty. He considered himself something of an intellectual, but often felt frustration when true genius was attributed to those who ignored obvious reality in favor of what might be. His intelligence was practical.
It was entirely without irony that these thoughts crossed his mind while conversing with Rio’kir, an Elf, and for all intents and purposes, an extradimensional alien. The wonder of a new discovery was not something that occurred to him. Perhaps it was because the Elves were now an undeniable reality, not an eccentric theory. At any rate, he had no issue accepting their presence. If anything, he appreciated their stoicism, not given to unnecessary words and pleasantries. The conversation was profitable; a meeting between the Elvin delegation and Samantha Clive was easily arranged for that afternoon.
Geoff shared the Elves dislike for the Fae creatures. They were chaos incarnate, anathema to his ordered, ordinary mind. And they tried to kill Miz Clive. He found that quite unforgivable. If he were given to examining his emotions, he would find that he felt some affection toward his boss. She was kind to him. Yes, she pushed him, but that was nothing more than a welcome challenge. He appreciated it, and the class with which she conducted her business. If only others were like the woman.
An alert flashed in the corner of his holographic screen. He frowned. He sent and received thousands of messages in one day, but this one did not come to the inbox he usually used. It presented itself directly on his computer, with no record of its sender. He was ready to reach for his anti-virus software and have it expunged without looking at it, when he caught the title of the message.
The Mastermind’s Identity.
Geoff’s ordinary heart began to feel some rather extraordinary excitement and trepidation. Could it be this easy? After weeks and months of fear and horror, had someone actually figured it out? It may be a hoax, his mind told him practically, and that was true. Still, even the possibility was worth looking into—worth even having to beg the insufferable Drake Hachirobei to clean out his computer should the file contain a virus.
If he is ever acquitted. He felt a moment’s guilt at his selfish desire to see the man freed so he could hypothetically clean his computer.
He opened the file, and a video began to play.
The image of an old man appeared. Geoff recognized him instantly. He had never met Donald Kazuki, but his file was extensive. He was Drake’s father, and apparently even more of a loose cannon. He was a rogue agent, and someone Delta never could quite corral. Geoff disliked the idea of trusting anything that came from someone so chaotic, but he listened anyway.
“Greetings and felicitations, oh fellow… whatever the hell you are. I’ve been watching you all with some amusement, scurrying like little ants at the beck and call of the one who’s had you under a magnifying glass in the direct sunlight.” Well, that was flattering.
“If you’re watching this, it means I’ve gone down fighting.” Geoff sat up straight. He was dead? This was one of those “upon my death” notes. He felt his skin crawl.
“I have made a number of intriguing discoveries regarding someone we all know and love, and I’d like to share them with you, dear friends.” There was an odd blend of sarcasm and sincerity in his tone. “I have long suspected that the Shadow Fae were not the only ones with superior mental capabilities. God only knows we see all kinds walk through Delta’s foyer. In fact, I’ve made an acquaintance who’s been so kind as to wipe the memory of this video any any other related facts before I went and had a discussion with a lovely person who likely just had me killed.
“I should perhaps explain, though I warn you, to continue further, you will be putting your lives in jeopardy. Should you be willing to take that risk, I promise you knowledge of the one who sits behind the curtain, the wonderful wizard of Oz.”
When the old man on the screen stopped talking for a moment, Geoff hit pause so fast, he was momentarily afraid he’d cracked his desktop. Good God almighty, this is it. This was no hoax. This was truth.
A truth that would get him killed. I might die. Somehow, the thought hadn’t occurred to him. Despite the death of the Paragon of Alliance City, despite his boss very nearly choking to death on her own tea, despite working in a profession that killed people every day, his own very ordinary mortality had never occurred to him. A shaky hand went to his mouth and he found himself very near tears.
“No.” He made the statement out loud to the empty foyer even as he waved his hand at the screen. The image disappeared. He’d never asked himself if he would die to save someone else; that wasn’t his job. He wasn’t a field agent for the simple reason he was not cut out for it. He could not save other people, and he would not risk his life.
No, it was not his place to watch this tape. There was one person he could give this to, the one who needed to know of it the most. As if his thoughts summoned her, she teleported in. He stood, nearly knocking his thighs against the desk. “Miz Clive, I am so glad to see you.”