Eventually, Sapphire got bored and left to talk to the police, leaving us to wait. “So, is she always like that?” Laura asked when she was out of hearing range.
“You mean a complete and total bitch?” a woman’s voice said.
“Gah!” I jumped, then turned to the new voice. Anima, well White Lady in this costume, was practically right behind us. “Oh, hey, didn’t see you there. My costume kinda kills peripheral vision.”
Laura laughed. “Don’t let him bullshit you. When Zach’s zoned out, you could sneak a bull elephant by him and he wouldn’t notice. One of my exes asked if he was autistic. What a total asshole.”
“All your boyfriends are total assholes,” I muttered. “Umm, White Lady, meet my sister. Her name’s Laura and she likes dating assholes, being a smartass, and sticking her nose in places it doesn’t belong, possibly involving assholes or unknown high level threats. Laura, this is White Lady. She’s new to the whole superhero biz.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” My sister smiled and extended her hand.
Anima kept her hands at her side. “Umm, sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but…”
Laura rolled with it, dropping her hand to her side. “Nah, it’s cool.”
I almost asked her what that was about. She shook my hand before, what was wrong with Laura’s? Dealing with Anima was such a minefield, so I stayed silent, instead picking a safe topic. “When the fireworks start, could you keep an eye on Laura for me? I can’t protect her and join the fight.”
“Sure, I can do that,” Anima agreed. Then she glanced over at where the police were gathered.
My eyes followed, noting that Sapphire was watching us. I still didn’t know what the story was between those two. A mystery wrapped in an enigma and all that bullshit. Contrary to Cassie’s claims, it wasn’t sexy at all. In fact, it was annoying as hell. I ignored my growing urge to shout ‘will you two just fuck already’. It would have been hilarious, but not worth it.
I recognized Sapphire, Com, and Sympathy in the group. There was also a guy that looked like some kind of living stone statue. The woman next to him stood out more, and not just for the obvious reasons. It was below zero out and she was wearing nothing but a mask and a bikini. She was also covered in a thick cloud of mist. Draped over her like a pet python was some kind of water dragon. Literally, it was a sea dragon made entirely of water.
“So, while we’re waiting,” Laura said to Anima. “Do you think I can get your autograph?”
I looked at her and crossed my arms. “How come you never asked me for my autograph?”
Laura looked at me and smiled sweetly. That’s when I knew I was in so much trouble. She tilted her head and pretended to be lost in thought. “Because it’s hard to take someone seriously after you’ve changed their diapers?” Her voice was every bit as saccharine as the look she gave.
As Anima giggled and the heat rose in my face, I mentally took back every nice thing I ever said or thought about my sister.
“Oh, don’t be that way,” Laura said sweetly. “The best thing about being a big sister is embarrassing my little brother in front of his friends. And now that you finally actually have one, well, I’m taking full advantage. Ooh! I got one! Back when he was twelve, I caught him in the dining room playing with-”
“Hey! Not cool!” I interrupted her before she could finish. Anima was giggling now. Great. Just great. I can see the headlines now: ‘Promising young superhero died today despite being immortal. Coroner says the cause was humiliation.’
“But if I finish the story like that, she’s going to think it was dirty.” Laura gestured over to Anima, who nodded in agreement while still laughing. “He was playing D&D by himself, complete with maps and legos for pieces.”
“Really?!” Anima’s laughter subsided a bit, at least.
“Hey, I was testing balance for a campaign I wrote.” It wasn’t much of a justification, but I had to try, right? What I wouldn’t give for a distraction. “You have to have a, uh, rehearsal.”
Anima stopped laughing, if slowly. “Hey, it’s no big deal. I’ve done the same thing.”
“Really?” Well, that’s unexpected. I relaxed a little. Maybe I wouldn’t have to fold up on myself until I created a miniature black hole.
“Umm. Yes?” Anima tilted her head a bit, not that there was anything to see under her cloak. “I’m a theater geek, remember? If you could find one of us who hasn’t done it, that would be weird.”
And suddenly I have something in common with one of the most powerful superhumans on the planet. Okay, sis, you’re back in my good books. I was about to speak up, when screams broke out nearby. Dammit, now is not the time for a distraction!
“Laura, stay here. A- White Lady, let’s go.” Hopefully they’d actually listen to me. I turned and ran toward the screams. It didn’t take long to identify the source; less than a block away an apartment building had gone up in flames. The fourth and fifth floors of a ten story tall building were now burning. I made my way to the police heroes; no one tried to stop me.
“Okay, let’s go.” I looked at the various heroes gathered. They all looked back at me like I was an idiot. “What? Aren’t you going to do anything?”
Sapphire stepped forward. “The fire department’s been notified. What we’re going to do is let them do their job.”
What. “Why weren’t they here already?! You had an hour of warning!” Seriously! What the actual fuck?
“You didn’t say this was going to be a fire,” Sapphire’s irritatingly calm voice just pissed me off more.
“I didn’t know! All I said was it’d be a major emergency. Burning buildings are an emergency!” I craned my neck to look past her at the others. “You’re supposed to be heroes! What about you?” I gestured at the water powered woman. “You at the very least should be able to help!”
She just shook her head, then said something to Sympathy, who replied back. Too far away for me to hear. The water creature swam toward me, seemingly with no gesture from its owner. One of the fins brushed my arm, and I collapsed and respawned instantly. It was like ten times worse than getting hit by a taser. And yes, thanks to That Bastard, I knew what tasers felt like.
“Okay, maybe you shouldn’t get involved.” I looked at the guy nearest to her. He was the only one who didn’t flinch when the electro-dragon came at me. “What about you, you look tough enough.” He said nothing, simply shaking his head slowly. Damn.
“Isn’t there anyone who can help? There’s gotta be a pyrokinetic somewhere in this town!”
“There are a few.” Sapphire shook her head as she spoke. “But only one with enough fine control to put out a fire. And he’s not exactly on our side.”
She was talking about Crucible, clearly. “Well, call him anyway. Say it’s a chance to make you look bad.”
I tried to move past Sapphire, and she stepped to block my way. “Are you a trained fire fighter? Because if not, we are obligated to stop you from going in that building.”
“As if you could.” I looked back behind me, I needed an ally here. Anima was a few steps back, me directly between her and Sapphire. “White Lady? Come on, we don’t need their help anyway.”
She looked away, and as her head dropped, so did my heart. “No.” Oh god fucking damn everything. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help.”
“But you’re!” What the actual hell? “Is this about showing them” who you are “what you’re actually capable of? We can worry about that when people aren’t dying in there!”
She didn’t look up at me. “We don’t have time to argue.” She said something else, too quiet for me to make out, maybe an apology, then spoke a bit louder. “I’ll make sure no one tries to stop you.”
Well, that’s better than nothing.
Another voice spoke. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.” It sounded male, but was too deep to be natural, and I couldn’t figure out the direction the sound was coming from.
I didn’t get much chance to think about it. Flecks of mud and snow erupted from the ground in a blinding dirty mist like the world’s wettest sandstorm. “This way,” the deep voice commanded. I felt a tug on my coat sleeve. I followed it, ignoring the shouts of protest around me.
I bolted for the burning building, clearing the mudstorm while the ‘heroes’ were blinded. A couple normal officers close to the building moved to intercept, but that wasn’t a concern. I grabbed my knife by the blade, slicing my own hand and forcing a duplication. An eyeblink later, another copy. Dozens of them in the span of mere seconds, and I was in the opening. They’d have to enter the building to catch me, and at that point they may as well rescue others who actually need it.
“Thanks for the help.” I suddenly realized that I just thanked an invisible man for helping me run into a burning building. “Umm, you’re still here right? Who are you? What can you do?” I didn’t stop to chat, I was running for the stairs as I spoke.
“Genis Loci. Call me GL for short. We have a mutual friend that thought you might need help.” He probably meant Muwth. “My power is a sort of telekinesis. I take control over a small area and can move things around in it.”
“Take control?” That power was so badass that I felt kind of jealous. “So like a ghost or something?”
“Ex-ly.” I think he was trying to say ‘exactly’, but it was hard to understand. I wouldn’t know why until later. “I can unlock doors and move small stuff, but only little things. And I can’t touch anything alive like plants, animals, or people. I can only move the dead.” He hesitated for a moment. “I can sort of use it to locate people, but it takes concentration. I’ll do the best I can.”
A red glow started next to me, and for a moment I thought it was the fire. Then it spoke, and I recognized Com’s voice. “I can help you with that.”
“What happened to the whole ‘no entering burning buildings’ thing?” I still didn’t stop to chat, and was already nearly to the third story. I was glad for all the training I’d been doing; the super-speed-by-suicide trick was so damn convenient.
Com stayed just in front of me, facing backward and smiling. Fast as I was, he was faster. “I’m not in the building. I’m safely in my office, and under strict orders to scout the building and guide as many people as possible out as fast as possible. Are you going to leave without saving everyone you can?”
“Of course not.”
“Then sounds like helping you is the fastest way to get you out.” Com shrugged his shoulders, causing his neck fat to jiggle. That holographic project of his didn’t leave out many details. “My orders are clear.”
“That’s… surprisingly helpful. Thanks.” Maybe I’d misjudged him a bit. At least he was being helpful.
“Besides, this means I get to literally watch you die in a fire. You might even say Christmas came early for me this year.”
Nope, still an asshole.