Today’s Friday Flash Fics made me think of how important Pride is these days especially, where it feels like the pendulum is swinging against us. So I went back to my world of “Lesser Evil” (from The Lavender Menace) and superheroes and supervillains. This takes place after the other flash fiction pieces set post “Lesser Evil,” which were, in order: “Terrible Waste,” “Ready,” and “All Aboard.”
Kyle stared out among the sea of people and rainbow flags, warmth radiating from his chest. He rocked forward onto his toes and craned his neck—curse his mother’s side of the family for being so short—but it wasn’t too hard to see the floats as they approached. The parade was being led by Black Lives Matter this year, and their banner was held high.
The cheering began in earnest now, and Kyle grinned.
There was one float in particular his was waiting for, and he bet that a large amount of the crowd was doing the same thing, given how many NAMDA logos and shirts he saw—though many of those shirts had the logo written in a rainbow font for today.
He wasn’t wearing anything like that. He had his bi pride shirt on, the three bars of blue, purple, and pink across his chest, but he wasn’t quite ready to be out in the other way.
But he couldn’t wait to see them.
There were dykes on bikes and then a float full of dancing guys in tight shorts for one of the local bars, and then…
There they were.
The cheering got all the louder, and Kyle found himself whooping along with the rest.
Cinder and Quantum had made new costumes for the parade, and Cinder had shaved off his beard. Cinder’s usual pattern with the stylized flame motif down both arms was the same in design, but instead of red and white, his outfit was done in the gay pride rainbow. Beside him, Quantum’s infinity symbol had been redone in bars of pink, yellow, and blue. Also it was sleeveless, and it turned out Quantum had guns.
Kyle didn’t think he’d ever been this proud or excited and then Cinder rose off the float and hovered above it and waved at everyone and it turned out Kyle could be more excited and proud.
This was awesome.
Despite the half-mask that covered most of Cinder’s face, Kyle knew beneath it was a fairly normal looking guy with ginger hair and nice eyes. Cinder wasn’t the one the North American Metahuman Defense Agency trotted out when they needed sex appeal. That job fell to Touchdown, with his military looks and chiseled chin, or Noire, with that whole Cajun bad-boy thing he did so well. Or, when it was time for the ladies to step forward, Lustre, who practically oozed sensuality with her faint accent and perfectly arched brows.
But Kyle had always liked Cinder. He was lean, though he was definitely fit, what with all the work the whole group did across the continent, and in interviews and discussions, it was clear he was their leader. He seemed kind and compassionate, and so very Canadian.
When he’d come out to the world, it had been quite a big deal. The first out metahuman. And then when he’d announced he was dating Quantum, who seriously had the most amazing arms and wow, was it fun to watch him waving at the crowd, too… Well.
Kyle might never tell anyone about the other thing, especially not with how the US just slammed the doors for NAMDA, all but ending the group in anything but name and closing the borders to any metahumans.
But he had come out about being bi. And that had been something amazing.
The float was rounding the corner now. Cinder landed on the float again, and then leaned in to Quantum. Quantum dropped a kiss on him like nobody’s business and the crowd went wild.
And then the sky darkened.
Kyle looked up, frowning, along with about half the crowd. It had been a gorgeous, sunny day, perfect for Pride, but now there were clouds—dark clouds—and they hadn’t been there even a moment ago.
Kyle looked at the metahumans. On the float, Cinder was talking into his wrist, and Quantum was frowning.
The wind was picking up, and the temperature was dropping, fast. Kyle bit his lip. The mood of the crowd shifted, and the noise of confusion and trepidation was quickly turning into fear.
For just a second, Kyle wondered if this was Cirrus, but that made no sense. She was on NAMDA, a teammate to Cinder and Quantum, and there was no way she’d do something like this.
But there were others…
Kyle started looking, even as people around him began to move in earnest. A drop of rain hit his forehead, and the noise of the crowd changed again.
The floats had stopped moving. The onlookers were stepping back into doorways and inside buildings.
The sky was so dark now some of the streetlights, the ones with photosensors, were turning on.
Thunder roared above them, and that was it. Tension boiled over, and someone screamed. Others started running. Cinder rose into the air again, hovering above the people and began issuing orders in his calm, even voice.
“Go inside, move carefully and don’t panic…”
The deluge came a few seconds later.
Kyle didn’t move. He was still looking around, though it wasn’t really possible to see now.
Of course, that wasn’t how Kyle was looking.
Somewhere. The person responsible had to be somewhere around here…
His shirt was stuck to him in moments, wet through. He could feel it against his skin, in the cloth of the shirt, along the waistband of his jeans and…
And the puddles. And the buildings, square and angular. And the road, smooth and flat. And in the air, like curtains. And…
Kyle tilted his head. There was a hole in the rain. A place where the water wasn’t, where it hit something and moved around it, a shape much like that of Cinder above the float the people on the ground. And it was above him and behind him.
Kyle turned, raised his hand, and pointed.
“There!” he yelled, as loud as he could. “Cinder! There!”
He felt rather than saw Cinder fly through the rain and between the buildings.
The flash of light and roll of thunder came a second later, almost in unison, and the afterimage burned in Kyle’s eyes so brightly he clamped them shut. Something exploded on the other side of the street. People were screaming. He heard Quantum’s voice, but couldn’t make out the words over the ringing in his ears.
He concentrated on the water. It was everywhere around him thanks to the pouring rain, and it filled his senses, a kind of map of the street.
A large chunk of the building on the other side of the street, behind where Cinder had been floating, was now gone. And he could feel, above him, two quickly-moving blurs in the air where they disrupted the rain. There was no way to know which one was Cinder and which one was the other, unknown metahuman.
Kyle swallowed. His vision was coming back, and he blinked rapidly, looking up.
Sturm. The man’s costume was nothing to really write home about, an ugly take on something like a soldier, but his ranting and raving about “nationalism” and his ability to control the weather made for a dangerous combination.
He used to partner up with a guy who called himself Drang, a metahuman who could make people feel panic or freak out or—he remembered a pro-immigrant protest the two had turned up at—unreasonably violent. Drang had been taken down by NAMDA last year, before the US had changed the rules and closed the borders. He was in a prison somewhere, mostly thanks to Mentaliste, who’d outclassed him in the telepathy department, but also Cinder, who’d surrounded him with a wall of flame so he couldn’t see his targets to use his powers.
It looked like Sturm was ready to settle a score.
They both moved quickly in the air, and though Cinder seemed the more nimble, Sturm was visibly twisting the air around them into tiny cyclones and definitely had Cinder on the defensive. When he had a moment and a clear shot, Cinder tried a bolt of flame, but the rain all but smothered it before it got to Sturm, and what did hit the man barely scorched his faux uniform.
Kyle clenched his fists, breathing in little bursts of air. Come on, come on…
Another flash of light and cacophony of thunder blinded him again, and Kyle threw his arm up over his head. The lightning had arced in the air, not touching down, but he felt the way it disintegrated the rain, burning the water into steam and drawing a line between the two men and just barely missing one, who twisted and dropped in a jagged, uneven fall…
He blinked away the brightness in time to see Cinder recover enough to stay aloft a few feet above the street, but the pattern of black across the side of his left shoulder and arm made it clear the lightning had at least grazed him.
Above them, Sturm raised both arms. His gas-mask obscured his face, but Kyle swore he could feel the man grinning.
The next lightning strike would have hit Cinder directly in the chest, but suddenly Quantum was there, and he’d reached up and wrapped a hand around Cinder’s ankle. The lightning bolt passed through them, slamming into the street behind them with a crack and boom.
Kyle could feel the rain passing through them as well. To his odd sense of where the water was, they simply weren’t there. He could see them, yes, but they weren’t there.
“You can’t phase him forever,” Sturm’s voice, muffled by the mask and the rain and the wind, was barely clear enough to make out. “And even if you could, I think you’d rather worry about all those people, no?”
Quantum exchanged a glance with Cinder, but the twisting ropes of wind Sturm was creating were already moving from the sky down to the street. Most people had gone inside, though a few, like Kyle were still outside and watching, crouched under cover but wanting to see.
And there were the drivers of the floats, too, most of whom were still inside.
He’d kill everyone he could. Quantum couldn’t be everywhere at once, and Kyle was pretty sure he could only phase whatever he was touching.
The first mini-twister touched down and started for a group of people cowering in a doorway. Quantum let go of Cinder and was across the street in a flash. Cinder raised his hands and blasted fire up at Sturm, but it barely amounted to anything in the deluge. Sturm leisurely drifted to the left.
People were going to die.
Quantum drove into the people and the twisting wind seemed to pass through them all, shattering the storefront windows and sending trash and debris flying in all directions.
There were screams from inside.
People were going to die.
Kyle saw the other twisters hitting the ground. He saw Cinder bolt across the street to try and get to the bystanders before the wind could.
It wasn’t enough. They couldn’t possibly do it.
Kyle raised his hands, and clenched his fists.
All the rain in the air stuttered for just a moment, then stopped. Kyle brought his hands together, crying out at the pressure inside his skull. He’d never tried to move this much water before.
All the rain raced at Sturm, pelting him and sticking to him, relentlessly slamming him from all sides. He lurched in the air, and the twisters frayed and blew apart on the ground.
Kyle pressed his fists together, hard, and more and more water surrounded the man. It formed a sphere, and the man flailed inside it, twisting in an attempt to escape, but unable to manage it.
Then he looked down, and Kyle saw the moment the gas-mask goggles lined up with him.
Sturm stopped struggling, and Kyle tried to move the water beneath the man’s mask. Surely that would be enough, if he just flooded the mask it would be enough to—
White light and the crack of thunder.
Kyle waited for pain and death to come, eyes closed tight.
He opened his eyes and saw Quantum was standing in front of him, one hand holding Kyle’s shoulder.
“Hi,” Kyle said.
Quantum offered a wry grin in return. “Hi.”
The ground smoked and hissed behind them.
Kyle looked up. The sphere of water around Sturm was sloughing off. He couldn’t hold it much longer.
“I can’t keep this up,” Kyle said. He was still trying to make the water get into the man’s mask, but damn it if there didn’t seem to be any seams in the bloody thing. How long could the man hold his breath in there, anyway?
As if in answer, wind whipped up from all sides and tore apart Kyle’s sphere of water, and Sturm launched himself up into the air, and then, after a single, graceless arc, he was off and receding into the distance.
Above them, the sky started to clear almost instantly.
Cinder landed in front of them. Quantum finally let go of his shoulder.
The three men stared at each other for a long moment.
“Happy Pride,” Cinder said.
Kyle laughed. It was more of a surprised bark than a real laugh, but it felt good. “You too.”
“We should probably get you out of here,” Cinder said, then eyed Quantum. “You got this?”
“I’m on it.”
There were sirens in the distance now. Cinder held out his hand.
It took Kyle a second to figure out what was about to happen, but he took Cinder’s hand and Cinder pulled him in close and wow the man was really, really warm to the touch and then Kyle was just holding onto him because they were flying away from what was left of the pride parade.
Which, Kyle supposed, was as good a time as any to have come out, really.