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Chapter 05

      Part 5: Resolutions
      
      I don't remember anything about the run itself, but when I stopped I was in the school gym. I was too busy fretting over what I was going to do about killing a man to wonder why I'd come here, I mean I'd just damned myself to Hell, how was I going to get out of *that*?

      "Are you ok Jayson?"

      I stopped my pacing to look up at Coach Warner standing across the room. My first thought was to run out, but he was blocking the door.

      "Jayson, what's wrong?" He started walking toward me and I backed up until I was against a weight rack.

      He wasn't blocking the door anymore. I could run past him and flee, but my legs weren't listening to me. I couldn't stay here, I couldn't let him find out what I'd done and damn him by association.

      He placed his hands on my shoulders.  "Whatever it is Jayson, you can talk to me." His touch was gentle and I could see the worry and caring in his eyes. For a moment I wanted to tell him everything, I even opened my mouth before I regained my senses and pushed him away hard.

      He backpedalled and by the time he'd regain his balance he was almost back in the door way. "Damn it Jayson, I'm trying to help."

      "You can't help! I'm damned and there's nothing anybody can do about it!"

      "You're not damned Jayson. Trust me; I know a thing or two about these things."

      He took a step in my direction and I screamed. I grabbed a weight plate off the rack and threw it in his direction to force him to stay away. Only after it left my hand did I realize it was a twenty-five pound weight, that I'd thrown it with all my strength and that I'd aimed it directly at him. Time seemed to stretch into infinity as I realized I was about to kill another man.

      Coach Warner caught the weight in one hand and placed it on the floor. "You need to calm down Jayson." He crossed to room again.

      The shock of what he'd done kept me frozen in place. He'd caught the plate. That thing should have gone through him and then two or three walls after that with all the strength I'd put in the throw.

      He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. "Tell me what's got you so scared."

      The way he was holding me against him felt so good, warm and safe. "I killed someone," I said softly. He didn't tense up at the news, he just kept holding me.

      I started crying.

      He let me cry for a few minutes. "How did it happen?"

      I told him everything; the attacks, Maggie and Marvin protecting me and what I did to the man I'd killed. I didn't stop crying while I talked.

      At some point he let go of me. I don't how long I'd been crying, but the front of his shirt was soaking wet. "I need to go take care of something," he said looking me in the eyes, "I want you to promise me you'll stay here until I get back."

      I nodded and he left. I kept standing there for a while, unsure of what to do. There were all those weight machines I could use to keep myself busy, but I didn't feel like using them, I was too tired. I sat down in a corner, brought my knees against me, folded my arms over them and rested my head.

      I was woken up by voices in the corridor, Coach Warner speaking with someone else.

      "You're the one who got me into this so you're going to help out," the coach said.

      "I was not given a choice," the other replied in a deep and vibrant voice, "he requested you personally."

      "You could have said no."

      "Not quite, I owed him this favor."

      "I'm not saying you should have said no, I'm actually liking it here, but he needs your help. You know I'm more of a sword and shield kind of guy, that's not what he needs."

      They entered the room and the coach's friend surprised me, from the voice I'd expected someone tall and broad shouldered like him; instead he was shorter than I was and didn't look muscular at all in dress pants and baggy shirt.

      "Jayson," Coach Warner said as I stood, "I'd like you to meet Al, he's," there was a moment of hesitation, "a friend of mine."

      "Thor has told me some of what happened to you," Al said standing straight and commanding. I gulped. "What I need to know from you is why it came to this."

      I tried to answer, but I found myself staring at the floor instead.

      "Thor, would you leave us alone please?"

      "Sure thing, I have to make a few calls anyway. I'll be in my office if you need me."

      "Jayson, please look at me," Al said a few moments later. I did and found myself gazing into his eyes. They were grey like storm clouds and I could have sworn that just like clouds the colors were shifting.

      "Now, tell me why someone who has the training to fight let it come to the point where you lost control."

      "I don't know how to fight," I said weakly.

      "Thor has told me that you are a trained martial artist."

      "It's not the same thing. In class it's controlled, my opponent knows the moves I'll make and what to do against them. In the tournaments I do worry about hurting someone, that's why I don't fight as hard as I could, but at least I know that we're all trained. Out there, I don't know what to expect."

      "So killing that man was an accident?"

      "No," I said with shame, "I got angry that he hurt Maggie, but once I started punching him my anger became about being pushed around and not able to do anything about it as well as all the other things I can't do so I won't stand out."

      "That can't, or won't do?"

      "Same difference; unless you haven't noticed this town isn't exactly tolerant of anyone who's different."

      "I have just arrived. I have not had the time to observe."

      "Trust me, in this place if you don't fit within a mold they consider normal you're shit out of luck."

      Al gave me a small smile and then looked around. His gaze stopped on each machines in the room and I could see him judging them and not being impressed. Finally he went to the Lat workout machine.

      "Thor has also mentioned that you believe you are damned."

      "Well yeah. I killed a guy. That's a straight line to Hell."

      "I was under the impression that your god was a forgiving one."

      "I can't ask him to forgive that," I said looking at my blood covered hands, "What I did is just too horrible." It hit me that I hadn't even thought about how I was going to face my parents.

      "Before the thoughts you are currently having depress you so much you cannot do anything productive come help me." Al's commanding tone snapped me out of it and I joined him by the machine. He was crouched down placing the pin in one of the lower plate in the weight stack; he pointed at the bar above my head. "Please grab it and pull."

      I did and at least three hundred pounds of weight went up.

      "Pull it until it is as high as it will go."

      I followed his instructions, and then he kicked me in the stomach. The kick had more strength then someone his size should have and I lost my balance, falling back over the bench and letting go of the bar. I hit my head on the floor and the ringing mixed with the clang of the plates reaching bottom.

      "What was that for?" The ringing quickly subsided as I stood and the pain was a dull throb. I completely forgot about it when I saw that Al's hand was under the fallen plates. "What did you do?"

      He pulled his hand out and wriggled his fingers. "I have demonstrated that I am not easily hurt."

      I looked at his moving fingers and the strength of the kick came back to me. "You're a parahuman." I stated.

      He seemed to think about it for a moment and then had a knowing smile. "If that term helps understand the situation, then yes, I am one."

      Something else occurred to me. "Coach Warner is one too!" Al didn't say anything he just looked at me with that smile. "But what does it mean?"

      "It means that if you let me I am capable of helping you."

      "How?"

      "The training you need is in dealing with the unexpected. You are aware of this, but have not looked for help in this regard, presumably because you fear what the people you ask would think due to the mind set in this locale."

      "So?"

      "So, I am not from here, nor do I share the local attitude. I have seen to the training of many warriors and I can help you overcome this weakness so that you will not have to fear needlessly hurting someone else again."

      I looked at him dubiously. "Ok, but why are you even offering to help?"

      "Because Thor asked me to."

      "Except he's only here because you sent him."

      He leveled his gaze on me. "You overheard our discussion."

      "I have pretty sharp ears," I said with a smile, enjoying the feeling of having put one over him.

      "An old acquaintance asked for a favor to repay a favor and I agreed, sending Thor here to look over you."

      "But why?"Al didn't answer me. "The attacks." He nodded. "The coach was supposed to protect me? But he never did anything?"

      "If Thor had felt you needed more protection than you already had he would have intervened."

      "Do you know who's behind it?"

      "No, I was not provided with that information."

      "Then how about why?"

      He was silent for a moment, studying me. "I do not know, but I am starting to have suspicions."

      "Are you going to tell me?" he shook his head. "Arrrg! Why won't anyone tell me anything?" this was infuriating.

      "Because you are a child and we are the adults."

      I spun on my heels and glared at him hand closing into fists. I wasn't just some kid he could speak down to, I was sixteen.

      "You wish to strike me," he stated as if he'd read my mind, "what is stopping you? Why are you not doing it? Do you believe I cannot take it?"

      The sneer in his tone is what made me lose control, my fist flew at him and he caught it in a hand. Then I was flying over him to land on my back with my arm outstretch and his knee on my throat.

      "Consider this your first lesson in the unexpected; not everyone you will try to strike will be unable to avoid the blow."

      He let me go as Coach Warner knocked on the door frame. "Can you guys be disturbed? Jayson's friends are here to see him."

      "That is quite alright, I am done with Jayson for the moment."

      "Good." He left and moments later Maggie and Marvin ran in.

      "Maggie, your arm?" the sling over it was the first thing I saw, then I noticed the cuts and bruises on her face.

      She looked down at it. "Oh, it's nothing, you know me I was just climbing a building and fell."

      Climbing a building? Falling?

      "Hi," she said looking at Al, "I don't know who you are, but do you mind leaving us alone?"

      "Not at all," he answered, "Jayson, talk with Thor when you are done with your friends, he will let you know when to come see me. Please follow me Thor."

      Coach Warner rolled his eyes before following Al.

      Marvin checked that they were out of earshot. "Why did you run off like that?"

      I looked at my feet. "I couldn't stay there after what I did."

      "Because you fought him?" Maggie asked.

      "No, because I killed him."

      "No you didn't," she said

      "Of course I did. I beat him to a pulp; no one could have survived that."

      "They took him out in an ambulance," Marvin said, "I'm pretty sure they don't bother doing that when they're dead."

      I stared at them. He wasn't dead. I hadn't killed him. I heart flew in relief, and my knees failed. The next think I knew Marvin was keeping me standing.

      "Don't pass out on us, wouldn't look good for the hero to faint."

      I hadn't killed him.

      It took a few moments for my legs to be steady under me.

      I hadn't killed him.

      "What happened after I left?" I was eventually able to ask.

       "I carried Maggie to my car and went to the closest phone booth. I called 911 and waited out of sight to see what the cops were going to do."

      "What they did," Maggie continued, "was look the scene over, call the Ambulance and then everybody left."

      "How did you know I was here?"

      "The coach called me, he said he'd found you here shaken up and bloody. He said that you'd been in a fight and that we should come quickly. Who was that?" Maggie asked.

      "That's Al, he's a friend of the coach. He said he can help me defend myself."

      Marvin looked at me. "You don't need any help defending yourself, did you see the number you did on that guy? I don't even understand why Maggie wants us to look out for you."

      The memory of the fight made my stomach churn and I forced myself to remember that he wasn't dead. "I don't want to ever do that again."

      "But why? You're a natural at this."

      I felt like hitting him, but he wouldn't survive it; or maybe he would with that Norse thing of his, but I really didn't want to fight him.

      "Maggie, why don't you explain things to him? I have to go talk with Coach Warner and then head home. I've missed dinner and my folks are going to worry."

      The door to the coach's office was open and he was sitting behind his desk.

      "Where's Al?" I asked after looking around the office and closing the door.

      "He went home."

      I sat down in one of the chairs facing him "Why didn't you tell Maggie and Marvin that you know about them?"

      "Because it isn't something they need to know. Being a hero here requires anonymity, if they realize I know it'll just add one worry over everything they have to think about."

      "Did you know about them before I told you?"

      Coach Warner shook his head. "I knew someone was looking out for you, but that was it. It never occurred to me that Margaret would be one to take to the fight."

      "Marvin?"

      "The vibs I got off him made me suspect he was a parahuman, but he didn't seem the type to do anything with it."

      I shrugged; I hadn't known him before he got forced into the part of hero.

      "Al said you'd know when I should train with him."

      "He was thinking that you could train with him instead of going to your Karate class."

      * * * * *

      "Jayson Mortimer," mom said in a stern tone the moment I opened the door, "where have you been? Dinner was two hours ago."

      "Sorry mom," I said as meekly as possible, "I met one of Coach Warner's friends and then I found out Maggie got hurt."

      "Maggie's hurt? What happened? Will she be ok?"

      "Yeah she'll be fine, she broke her arm," I smiled a little at having diverted her anger.

      "That's good, I'll keep her in my prayer tonight, but that's no excuse not call us to tell us you'll miss dinner."

      "I know, I'm sorry mom," I smiled mischievously. "Maybe if I had a cell phone it would be easier for me to let you know that stuff."

      She looked at me. "I don't think so; you're far too young to get one of those."

      "Plenty of guys at school have them."

      "And plenty of *young* people at your school smoke; it doesn't mean I'll let you do that too. Now come on, I'll reheat your dinner and then you can go to your room, you have school tomorrow."

      I nodded, I hadn't expected her to agree to it, to be honest I wasn't even interested in one but it was something else for my mom to focus on instead of my lateness.

      "Mom, what would you think if I stopped going to Karate class?"

      "Stop? Why do you want to stop going? I thought you liked it."

      "I do, but the coach's friend I met, he knows martial art too, and he could teach me, but I don't really have time to do both, and he wouldn't charge anything."

      Mom looked at me dubiously. "He's willing to do it for free? Are you sure he doesn't have some ulterior motive?"

      "Come on mom, he's the coach's friend. Coach Warner would never let him do anything bad."

      "Maybe, but I think I'll want to meet him before I agree."

      "Sure mom."

      I introduced them a few days later and she liked him, on the way home she said that he had an old style charm to him, whatever that meant.

      Al's training method was weird. Him and me would fight and at random times Coach Warner would throw a box at me. In the box could pretty much anything, a vase, a five pound dumbbell, a beach ball or even eggs. The only way I had to know what was in it was to read the description on the box as it was flying at me while Al was trying to beat the crap out of me. He didn't pull his punches and he was much better than I had imagined.

      He said it would teach me to pay attention to my surrounding while not losing my focus. I don't know if it did that, all I know is that I broke a lot of their dishes during that first month of training.

      On the twenty third of February my birthday came and went without too much fanfare; I turned seventeen. Maggie, Eddy, and yes, even Marvin were the only ones I invited. As much as I tried to hate the guy Marvin was very likable, he was funny, pretty intelligent, and good looking; his trenchcoat hid how muscular he was.

      Most of his jokes were at the expense of the Norse gods and that caused the one moment of discomfort during my birthday. I had to explain to my mom that he wasn't trying to convert anyone; his jokes were just that, jokes. She didn't get entirely comfortable about it, but Marvin did manage to get her to laugh.

      My parent's gift was a driving course.

      * * * * *

      "Hey guys," Maggie said as she sat down next to us, "have you heard?"

      Me and Marvin looked at her. "About what?" I asked. We didn't see Eddy that often during lunch time anymore. He was spending more and more time with his girlfriend. He'd introduced her to us and for a while she ate with us. She was pretty nice, but definitely from a different social circle. He still did his best t hang out with us, but travelling in the higher class took up a lot of his time, and with March break coming up they were busy planning their trip to Aspen.

      "There's a lawyer in Denver that's trying to get the Good Samaritan law over turned?"

      "What's that?" Marvin asked.

      We both stared at him.

      "Man," I said in a lowered voice, "if you're going to be in the super hero biz you really should know about that law."

      "So explain it to me."

      "The law was setup back in the sixties to prevent villains from suing heroes over damages they received." Maggie explained. "Now it's been extended to also protect the heroes from lawsuit for collateral damages caused from fighting a villain."

      "So a hero can do anything when fighting a villain and not worry about it?"

      "Well, not anything, Excessive force can still override the Samaritan law; that would be based on the perceived danger to civilians, but the hero would have to prove his case in court."

      "What about civilians who get hurt in the fight?"

      "Unless they can prove negligence on the part of the hero they'll have to rely on their insurance."

      "So how is that lawyer trying to overturn it?"

      "He claims that it's unconstitutional; that Mister Terror is entitled for full compensation for not being able to work his normal job because Thunderclap put him in the hospital for 2 month while stopping him from robbing a bank."

      Marvin looked at me for help, but I shrugged, there was no way I was able to keep all those parahumans straight even if I wanted to. I knew Mister Terror was some sort of second string villain who could make people afraid, but I had no idea who Thunderclap was.

      "Anyway, I'd be surprised if it'll even make it to court, no judge in their right mind would ever even consider it."

      Maggie was right; two days later the case was thrown out.

      March break was marked with Fist and Viking stopping an attempt on Blue Jay's life by Bloodhound. Being a parahuman signer she was Maggie's favorite and the three of us had gone to her concert in Houston; Marvin even let me practice my driving on the way.

      The concert was uneventful until after the intermission. In the middle of her first song this guy dressed in a leather dog costume jumped down from the rafter and started tearing up the stage. Blue Jay wasn't a hero, she could only create a nimbus of blue light around herself and objects, still she did all she could to keep his attention on her while the musicians ran off the stage. When Bloodhound did manage to get his hand on her he shook her about and then threw her at one of the supports for the lighting gear, only to be caught by Viking. Marvin and Maggie had pulled a quick disappearing act as soon as bloodhound appeared.

      The fight was quick compared to those you see in the movies, but compared to real parahuman fights it dragged on for ten minutes. In the end Maggie had to throw a grenade and Viking had to amplify the effect with magic just to stun bloodhound; that gave Maggie time to shove a rag soaked in Ether, finally rendering him unconscious. Blue Jay tried to get them to stay on stage while she finished her show, but they declined and disappeared backstage.

      What surprised me the most through all that was how calm the crowd had been. The people in the first rows moved back, but no one panicked. They were worried and fearful; they knew enough to realize this wasn't part of the show, but even those who left did so calmly. I thought about helping out, but I didn't have any way to hide my identity.

      Maggie and Marvin missed the two songs Blue Jay performed after they were able to get the stage to working order. They had had a hard time finding a place to change out of their costume since a lot of people used the time as second intermission. I distracted them through most of the third song by apologizing over and over for not helping out.

      In the motel room where we spent the night Maggie couldn't stop talking about how she'd gotten to meet Blue Jay, even on the drive back the next morning she was still beaming. When we got home we learned that the fight had been recorded and every news show was showing it. One of the news anchor called Viking and the Fist 'misfits' and within a week everyone had adopted it, making it, much to Marvin's concerns, their team's name.

      A lot of stations tried to track them down for an interview, but they managed to avoid them while continuing their occasional patrol. And while a few reporters hung around longer trying to find them. The news stations moved on to someone else within a few days.

      * * * * *

      The mood at school changed after spring break, this was the last stretch before summer vacation; everyone studied a little more and partied a little less. No one wanted to fail their year, even Billy was now leaving me mostly alone since he didn't want to be held back another year.

      Maggie spent most of her school days studying so she'd have her weekends free to patrol. Marvin didn't seem to be worried about studying at all. I wasn't worries about my grades either; I knew I was going to pass all my exams without having to cram and I didn't have a need to be the best like a lot of the others at the school did.

      Coach Warner did convince me to practice my running; he challenged me to place second or even first without giving away I was a parahuman. That made me very nervous, I'd spent my time making sure I didn't attract attention, and now I'd be putting myself extremely close to the spotlight, and even in it. I thought about saying no, but he'd been there for me and I didn't want to let him down.

      I was on the track every afternoon before my training with Al and every other chance I got. I needed to get perfect control over my speed, if I was going to be noticed I couldn't afford any accidental bursts.

      I placed third in the trials we had in mid April. I was aiming for second place, but I lost my nerves just as I caught up to Melanie. I'd never been faster than her before; wouldn't people start wondering how I'd done it. Maybe there would be a drug test; could parahuman abilities be detected that way? Next thing I knew the race was over. Coach Warner didn't show any signs he was disappointed I hadn't beaten her, but I felt like I'd let him down anyway.

      So now I was training even harder; that's why I didn't notice I had an audience until I finished my five minute mile. Randall Mitchell was leaning against the doorframe, watching me intently. I ignored him while I cooled down, it wasn't the first time he's been watching me; it was creepy, but he never did anything.

      He blocked my way when I headed to the lockers. "Good to see you finally pushing yourself Mortimer."

      "I didn't know you were a fan of Track, Mitchell. Now if you don't mind I need to change and go home," I said as I tried to pass him.

      "Oh, I do mind," he replied pushing me back.

      "Didn't Bill warn you about bugging me?"

      "That bully's an idiot. The only reason I hung around him was because I thought his bullying would be what made you accept what you are." He swung at me.

      "And what's that?" I asked as I dodged it, "the low man on the totem pole?" I punched him in the stomach. It felt good to finally hit someone back.

      "Is that all you got," he said wheezing for a few breath. He straightened and took a deep breath. "Ok, lets see what you've got." He rushed me.

      He swung, I blocked, he swung again and I dodged. He wasn't a good fighter, but he had strength behind his blows. When I saw my opening I struck him in the shoulder.

      He staggered back and smiled at me. "Is that it?"

      That blow should have sent him back much farther. We exchanged more blows before I was able to kick him in the face.

      "That's more like it," he said shaking his head. He gave me a vicious smile as he wiped the blood of his cheek. The cut I'd inflicted closed itself as I watched. Another parahuman? Was this school some sort of parahuman training ground?

      I started hitting him harder with each strike, but he barely felt them. In contrast his punches had more and more strength behind them. None of them connected, but I could feel it each time I blocked. I gave it everything I had and he barely reacted to it.

      "What's it like being just like everyone else?" Mitchell asked as he grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall.

      I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as it connected with the brick and more pain as I crumpled to the ground. I sat up to watch Mitchell walk toward me with a satisfied expression on his face.

      He looked down on me and lifted his fist. "Time to end this; it's been great knowing you loser."

      Before he could bring it down a hand wrapped around his wrist and held it in place. Mitchell turned to look at Coach Warner as he tried to pull out of the grip.

      "What do you think you're doing Randall?"

      "Whatever I want," he answered. He lifted the coach over himself and threw him to the track. Coach Warner landed, rolled and was back on his feet in a crouch.

      Mitchell took a step toward him but stopped and looked at me. "Don't go anywhere," he said before heading back to the coach.

      I tried standing while they fought, but the moment I started putting my legs under me my head started spinning. When I gave up Coach Warner walking toward me, dragging Mitchell by a leg; he dropped him a few feet away.

      "How are you feeling?"

      "It hurts, al lot."

      "You have a nasty gash on your forehead."

      "It hasn't healed yet?" I asked touching it and wincing in pain.

      "I think Randall's some sort of leech. He stole your parahuman abilities."

      I thought about it for a moment. "He's going to wake up soon if he heals as fast as I normally do."

      Coach Warner nodded and went inside, coming back with a roll of duck tape. He taped Mitchell's arms together behind his back and then wrapped them in tape from the wrist to the above the elbow. He also taped his ankles together before calling the police and an ambulance.

      I was taken to the hospital amidst the police cursing about having another parahuman in town. I ended up with a sling to hold my arm still, stitches for the cut on my forehead and some pain killers. It meant I couldn't run in the next race at school, I couldn't even run just for the fun of it since every time my foot hit the ground my shoulder hurt.

      Al did decide it was the perfect time to work on avoiding hits.

      Much to the doctor's surprise my shoulder was fully healed in only two weeks, but it wasn't until mid May that I felt I was back to full strength.

      Being as close to 'normal' as I could get made me realize that I did cherish my abilities; I hadn't really thought about where they'd come from, no one really knew although they were hundreds of theories out there. Now I realized that they were a God given gift, and I couldn't spend my life ignoring or hiding them. I didn't want to attract attention, but Maggie and Marvin were both heroes and still managed to have a normal life.

      Still, I needed to get someone's permission before I started on a hero career.

      "Mom, can I talk to you?" I asked as she walked by my room with the laundry basket.

      "Of course Honey, is everything alright?" She put the basket on the floor and sat next to me on my bed.

      "Yes, I just have to tell you something."

      "Ok, what is it?"

      "It's about me, and it's pretty big." I had to pause to figure out how to say it. "It's probably going to change how you and dad think about me, but I want you to know that it's still me, I'm still your son and I hope you're still going to love me."

      She hugged me and kissed my head. "Oh Honey, I already know and I still love you."

      "You do? How?"

      "Jayson, I'm your mother," she said with a smile, "mother's have a sense about these things."

      I just looked at her, she knew?

      "It doesn't matter to me that you prefer guys over girls, love is love and will always be proud of you for loving someone."

      Wait, what? "How could you have picked up on that? I've always been careful not to let it show."

      She chuckles and waved at my room. "You need to work on your subtlety."

      I looked at the posters of athletes and martial artists I had on my walls. "I don't get it."

      "Where are the women? The pinup girls that every teenage boy is putting up on their bedroom walls, and then there's Maggie."

      "What about Maggie? I haven't done anything to her."

      "Exactly, she's turning until a beautiful young woman and yet you're happy just being her friend. That meant you were either blind, or gay, and I know you're not blind."

      I had no idea what to think, I was so sure I'd hidden that secret from them. "Does dad know?"

      "I think he suspects, but he hasn't said anything."

      "Do you think I should tell him?"

      "Whenever you're ready to tell him, he'll be ready to listen."

      I nodded.

      She moved in front of me and held me by the shoulders. "You don't have to be afraid, you'll always be our son; we will never stop loving you. That it be about the boyfriend you'll eventually find or anything else you decide to do in your life, we will support and encourage you. You are the most precious thing in our life."

      As she said that I could see tears falling down her cheeks. I hugged her tightly. "Thanks mom."

      She dried her eyes and picked up the basket, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

      I had just come out to my mom, and she was ok with it. I had never even though about telling her I was gay, I knew it was something that would come up one day, but I'd figured it was still years away.

      I smiled as I realized a weight I hadn't noticed until now was lifted off my chest.

      She was ok with me being gay.

      And in a roundabout way she'd given me permission to become a hero.

      * * * * *

      The school year ended without any other major surprise, I told dad I was gay a few days before graduation and it shocked him, He tried hard not to let it affect how he saw me, but it took him time to come to terms with it.

      It was no surprise that Maggie graduated at the top of her classes, me and Marvin were somewhere in the middle, and Mitchell didn't. After he attacked me he was transferred to a center for dangerous parahumans. The one small surprise was Bill, somehow he managed to graduate.

      After the graduation ceremony Marvin, Maggie and me went to the mall to celebrate; we're already worked it out with our parents, this was just for us. We had just left the restaurant when we heard the disturbance at the other end of the hall.

      "You've got to be kidding," Marvin said, "someone's trashing the place on graduation day?"

      "Maybe they figure the Misfits are too busy partying to intervene," I said.

      "Whoever they are, they're about to find out we're never too busy to kick some butts," Maggie said looking around for a place to change. "Are you joining in?" she asked me.

      I shook my head. "I still don't have a costume, remember?" I'd been trying to find an identity since the talk with mom. Marvin's suggestions had been to put on any old mask, but I wanted something that felt right.

      "You two go have fun, soon enough I'll be able to help out."

      With a nod they headed toward the noise while I stayed where I was. The crowd around me split into two, those heading toward the commotion and those heading away from it. At this rate it wouldn't take long for me to end up alone.

      Something caught my eye over the crowd. It was in the display window of a store. I waded through the crowd until I was close enough to see it was a half mask resting on a shelf; it was a cat's mask, with ears and even whiskers. The holes for the eyes were covered up with holographic lenses of cat's eyes. I walked in what turned out to be a novelty store and put it on; it was made of cheap leather with an elastic to hold it on my head and the visibility was quite good.

      I looked at myself in a mirror and I couldn't stop myself from smiling; it was definitely a cheap mask, but it looked right on me I added a black wig and I looked like . . . well, not like me that was for sure. I put the two price tags with thirty dollars behind the counter and made my way to the fight.

      "Stop moving so I can turn you into dog food," someone growled ahead. The crowd got thicker and I had to elbow my way through it. Once people got a look at me they gave me room.

      I made it to the railing to see the fight was on the level below; Viking and Fist were fighting Bloodhound. I paused for a moment as Bloodhound caught Viking's sword and flicked it away. Viking raised his shield just in time to take the blow that came next, but still went down to one knee.

      I jumped over the railing, landing in a crouch and catching everyone's attention.

      I looked at Bloodhound without getting up "here doggy doggy," I said softly before springing toward him.

      This was going to be fun.

      * * * * *

      EPILOQUE

      The older man entered the younger one's office closing the door behind him. "You wanted to see me sir?"

      "Yes Albert, I need you to inform the Combine that I won't need their services anymore."

      "Yes sir, I'll inform them we are terminating the contract."

      "No, we are severing all ties to them."

      "They will not be pleased with that."

      "That's not my problem. Point out to them that after ten month the target's still alive."

      "Multiple parahumans have been running interferences."

      "Why should I care? I paid them to take care of the problem, not to make excuses. I'll take care of this problem myself."

      "Very well sir, anything else?"

      "No, that's all."

      Once he was alone the younger man took a folder from a drawer and read through it. In it were the names of many men, and a few women as well as a list of their accomplishments. He took one out before putting the folder away.

      "I need you to get me in contact with Adrian Price," he said in his intercom.

      "Sir," the woman on the other end replied after a moment, "Mr. Price is currently in Atlanta."

      "And?"

      "In prison, awaiting trial."

      He took a deep breath to avoid snapping at her. "And that's a problem how?"

      Five minute later his phone rang.

      "Adrian, how long until you've solved your current predicament?"

      "A day or two, sir. Everyone's in place now. As soon as Whip is adequately distracted we'll be done."

      "Good. Once you're out I need to you locate and retrieve a new employee."

      "Yes, sir. What is his name?"

      "Joshua Hunter, you can start your search in Africa."

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1 hour ago, WolfBearHybrid said:

This ended surprisingly well... That was very good... But epilogue? Is it the end? So soon? 

thanks you.

No, it is not the end, there are 2 other books planned for this, unfortunately, they are in the pre-planning stage at best and at this time I don't know when I'll get back to them (I have at least a dozen novels to write before I can start considering putting this in the lineup.)

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