Today’s Friday Flash Fics reminded me of Cinder, the fire-powered superhero who pops up in “Lesser Evil,” my gay supervillain story from The Lavender Menace. Given world events, I wondered how that might parallel with my alternate universe of metahumans. From there, the image made me think things weren’t going well there, either, and I wondered what Jeff—that’s Cinder’s real name—might do in the name of justice when things get even harder. We’ve already seen him suggest some methods that weren’t entirely above the board in “Lesser Evil.” Now we see him facing off against bad policy.
“Well?” Colin said, though the look on Jeff’s face said it all.
“They’re closing the border to us. The North American Metahuman Defense Agency is going to need a new name.” He loosened his tie and went to the window, looking out over the Canal. “This is bad, Colin.”
Jeff flinched and glanced back at him. “Sorry. Of course you do. Is this how it was for you?” He frowned. “Or would have been? Will be?” He shook his head. “You know, it’s awesome to have you back, but the whole quantum alternate futures thing makes it hard to make sense sometimes.”
Colin laughed. “Try living them.” He rose from the bed, and wrapped his arms around Jeff. “And no. In my original timeline, NAMDA was in place. It was just… infiltrated.”
Jeff kissed his forehead. “Well, I’m glad you’re back in my timeline. Even if it’s going to hell.”
Colin took a deep breath. “Yeah. So, how bad is it?”
“No non-citizen metahuman is allowed to cross the US border, period. NAMDA membership or not. So I can’t go there. Neither can Juan or Solange. And thanks to their idiot in chief, they’re even rolling back what US NAMDA operatives can do, and creating their own organization and…” Jeff threw up his hands. “Sorry. It’s not your fault, and I’m angry.”
“Hey, I get it. You’re worried about what’s next.”
“I’m terrified about what’s next. In two different ways.”
Colin squeezed him. “Just two?”
“Well, at least two. I’m scared for any new metas. I can only imagine how they’ll be treated.”
Colin nodded. It was easy to see that possibility. Hell, Colin had lived it, before he’d unlocked his own ability to slide through time and possibility both.
“And the other thing…” Jeff sighed.
“The other thing?”
“Tristan,” Jeff said.
Colin swallowed, tempering his reaction as best he could. Tristan Edwards—Psilence, back when he’d worked with NAMBDA, before he’d used his telepathic abilities to brainwash Jeff and convince Colin Jeff didn’t love him—had been gone for nearly a year and a half now. “What about him?”
“I’m convinced it’s him working with Aleph. The attacks. The donations. The…suicides.”
Colin didn’t trust himself to speak, so he nodded. Besides, he agreed. The recent spate of politicians and groups imploding, confessing, or literally exploding had been one of the major cases NAMDA had been working on. Now they had no access to the United States.
They stood in silence for a while.
“The thing is, in my darker moments..?” Jeff said, but his voice trailed off.
“You don’t agree with what he’s doing. Not really,” Colin said.
“He took down that serial killer,” Jeff said.
“And had him write ‘Psilence’ on the wall with his own blood after slitting his wrists,” Colin said. “That’s not justice. It’s vengeance.”
Jeff nodded. “I know you’re right. But I look at the world lately, and I wonder if I’d settle for vengeance.”
Colin kissed him again.
“You don’t settle.”
Jeff smiled. “Thank you. Talking to you always helps. I just wish I could help.”
“What?” Jeff blinked. “What’s so funny?”
“You’re already figuring out how you’re going to get the team across the border, valid access or not. Don’t tell me you’re not.”
Jeff blushed. It looked good on him. “When did you start reading minds?”
Colin tapped Jeff’s chest. “I’m not reading your mind, love. I’m reading your heart.”
“Fair enough.” He cleared his throat. “Any ideas?”
“I can’t shift in location, only in quantum. But I happen to know that in most timelines I’m aware of, there are metas who can teleport, and bring passengers along with them. Ever heard of Railroad?”
Jeff shook his head.
“He works on getting people like us out of Russia. Maybe we can see if I can track him down.” He stepped back. “After food. You want to eat in?”
Jeff smiled again. “Reading my heart again?”
“You know it. Give me a sec and we can head down to the Market, pick something up, and come back here.” Colin went to the bathroom and washed his hands. When he came back out, Jeff was standing at the window again, but he had on fist raised. It burned with the flame he could conjure and control.
Jeff turned, and nodded, fist still burning.
Colin wondered if this timeline had the adage his own, original quantum reality had or not.
Never push a Canadian too far.