I’m still behind on Friday Flash Fics, but I’ve had a run in of bad migraines, so I’ll try to catch up. This was the prompt from two weeks ago.
“Greater Good” tells the ongoing story of the other side of “Lesser Evil,” which was was a super-villain story about a telepath named Tristan Edwards, who could not only read minds but could force people to do (and even believe) whatever he wanted them to. That story is found in Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, and I’ve written other flash pieces about those characters before. “Greater Good” partners with “Lesser Evil” in that it takes Jeff McKenna’s point of view—the Canuck superhero known as Cinder. “Greater Good” takes place after the events in “Lesser Evil,” but only a little while after. This story is going to take quite a few parts to tell, and I’m not sure it’ll be every week (though right now it seems to be the only thing I want to write, so…) but I hope you enjoy the ride. There’s a lot of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff going on. You can catch up with part one, part two, part three, and part four. This is the fifth piece.
Greater Good (Part Five)
“You couldn’t have known,” Lydia said, which was kind, but entirely untrue.
Jeff blew out a breath, staring at the image on the screen. The prison pictured was quite small, and unassuming, and apart from the fencing and the no-stopping signs, it could have been nearly anything. That had all been on purpose. It was tucked outside of Toronto, and designed to deal with a very specific kind of prisoner.
And there’d been an escape. Or, rather, a trio of escapes.
He felt like a complete fool for not thinking about it ahead of time.
“It was just those three?” Jeff said. “Pierre Marquette, Tina Small, and Felix Roy?”
Lydia nodded. “I did a run of the facility, nothing and no one else was out of place. We’re still not sure how they made it out—all the electrics and cameras went down. Marquette had no visual outside of his cell, though, even if there had been power, and the other two don’t have abilities that would have bypassed their cells without obvious damage, if they could have done it at all. Some of the other prisoners took the opportunity of the blackout to try, but they didn’t succeed. I guess we’re lucky we don’t have some of the big bads, right?”
He supposed that was true. The truly high-powered metahumans who went bad were generally housed in a specific facility in the USA. It was part of the NAMDA accords.
But those three in particular escaping. It was no coincidence, and he was so angry at himself for not even considering it until it was too late.
They were, after all, the three incursion survivors from the original eight from the Ottawa event so long ago.
Except now he was realizing it wasn’t necessarily a separate event. Just one he was seeing from the wrong angle, perhaps.
“If they’re part of this incursion, then they were overwritten now,” Jeff said, trying to wrap his head around the timing of it all, “which means they won’t remember what happened before, but thanks to last time, they will have access to their powers right away…” He shook his head. “You know what? It’s just bad news all around, but it doesn’t change what we’re doing. We need to find them all. At least we know who three of them are.”
“On that front,” Lydia said, tapping on her laptop. “No facial recognition hits yet, but we did get a few more names of interest with Colin’s watch list. And Thea is almost done transcribing the list of the other timeline’s metahuman database, and there have been a lot of matches with people here, though so far, Solange hasn’t felt anything suspicious when she takes a peek.”
“Show me the ones that hit Colin’s list?”
Lydia brought it all up on the screen, and he read through the notes. There were a few doctors and researchers, of course, but that was to be expected with the compounds Colin had flagged, and there would be overlap with people doing research or treatments involving infertility, he’d warned them. That was definitely turning out to be the case. And none of those doctors or researchers had gone missing, which had been what had happened last time.
Except, of course, now he was thinking last time was next time.
He clenched his jaw. How much of that could he afford to affect, assuming he could affect it at all?
It kept coming back to the same two problems: Tristan Edwards, and Aleph.
He checked the list of people who had gone missing, and something caught his attention. “A cop.”
Lydia glanced up at the screen. “Yeah, new addition to the watch list. He called in sick two days after the incursion, and used up all his sick days. Someone went to check on him after that, and his apartment is empty. No sign of him.”
“Do we have a photo?”
Lydia brought it up on the screen.
The man looking at him was entirely familiar.
“He’s one,” Jeff said. “He’s definitely one.”
Lydia frowned back and forth between him and the screen. “How do you know?”
Jeff blew out a breath. “I can’t tell you. But he’s definitely one of them. We need to find out what he did those two days before he called in sick.”
When Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair opened her front door and saw Jeff, Solange, and Jay standing there, Jeff watched her zero in first on Solange’s visible signs of pregnancy, then look at him and Jay in turn. The three of them were in civvies, and he could almost imagine her wondering what brought them to her. She was, after all, a specialist in fertility. Things seemed to be going quite well for Solange on that front.
Then there was a flicker of recognition. It was for him. Jeff tried a smile.
“Hello,” he said, while her eyes widened. “Are you Dr. Sinclair?” He knew she was, from a photo, but the living, breathing version of the doctor had smudges under her eyes and her auburn hair was held back in a messy bun. In her photo, she appeared poised and professional, but face-to-face, her pale skin seemed borderline sun-starved.
“You have to go away,” she said, and tried to close the door. It didn’t budge, and she stared at it in horror, pushing harder on it, to no avail. Mentaliste, Jeff imagined. Her telekinesis wouldn’t be outdone by someone as apparently exhausted as Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair.
Solange tilted her head. “You’re afraid of us. Why?”
“Please,” the woman said, and then, all at once, she seemed to break. She slumped against the still open door and started crying. Deep, wracking sobs.
Solange stepped forward and gathered the woman in her arms. “You don’t have to talk,” she said, and pressed her palm against the woman’s forehead.
“They’re always watching.” The words came out staccato between tears and choked down sobs.
Solange’s eyes widened, and her voice was in Jeff’s head a moment later.
You were right, Jeff. Detective Landry came to her, gave her a list of exactly what she had to do, and told her if she did anything to attract any unwelcome attention, he’d kill her sister and her sister’s kids.
Jesus, Jay’s voice was always a touch harder as thought.
What did she mean by always watching? Jeff asked.
Before Solange could answer, he had his answer. Luckily, he felt someone coming behind him—an approaching heat his odd sense of temperature picked up on—and turned.
There was no one there, but Jeff struck out with a wide punch anyway, striking something—someone—but the slight grunt and the feel of something sliding against his knuckles made it clear it wasn’t a solidly landed blow.
Invisible, Jeff thought to the others, and they all turned. Jay got in front of Solange, who put Dr. Sinclair even further behind her, and Jeff tried to relay his impression of where the warmth was. His heat sense wasn’t so precise as to paint a perfect picture, but Solange started to reach out with her telepathy as well.
Jay, for his part, held up both of his hands, his fingertips already crackling. A single brush of his touch against skin and he’d knock whoever it was on their ass, invisible or not.
Just one mind here in the yard, Solange said. I’m not in yet, but there’s confidence. I don’t think they’re alone.
Take the doctor inside, Jeff said. Keep her safe. We’ll want to know what they had her do.
On it. He heard the door close behind him.
The feeling of heat moved, and quickly. Jeff almost ducked the blow, instead taking what felt like a kick to his shoulder rather than his chest. He remained upright, but it was close. Jay jabbed out with a boxer’s flourish, but only hit air.
“Fast son of a bitch,” he said.
Jeff swung his hand out in front of him in an arc, a swath of fire flaring out across the doctor’s front yard, chest-high. There was a masculine growl of surprise, and the flames brushed up against something at the edge of the arc furthest from Jeff, closer to Jay.
Jay saw it, and moved quickly. A second later, there was the very satisfying sound of Jay landing a solid blow on someone. It didn’t drop him—Jay needed skin to skin to make his touch work—but they were soon trading blows.
Jeff blinked, unsure how to help. Jay was an expert at hand to hand, and even though he couldn’t see his attacker, he seemed to be holding his own.
“Incoming. Three.” María’s voice wasn’t telepathic, it was in his ear comm. Jeff checked on Jay, who seemed okay, although it was hard to tell since the person he was fighting wasn’t visible. Still, Jay appeared calm and unruffled.
Your husband can fight, Jeff thought.
He’s the best. Solange’s thoughts were full of both admiration and love. Aw. Check them out.
You okay in there? Jeff asked.
Yes. Deke and Quantum are checking on the sister and sister’s kids. We’re in a study, and we’ll stay put until you tell us otherwise.
Jeff nodded. Cirrus’s voice spoke in their ears again, low and calm. “They’re almost there.”
“Be right back,” Jeff said. Jay gave him a little smile and a nod, still throwing punches seemingly at thin air. Every other one seemed to connect, though he was taking hits, too.
Jeff jumped, and was up and past the roof of the doctor’s house just in time to see three figures heading his way. They all wore goggles or visors, and had scarves tied around the bottom half of their faces. No actual costumes, though, which felt like a good sign.
It meant they hadn’t had a lot of time or opportunity to really work on self-defense.
They saw him and changed their angle to match, which made him smile and turn up the heat, visibly distorting the air around him.
“That’s right,” he said, raising his hands and releasing a couple of small fireballs their way. They dodged. “Come to Cinder.”
One of them, a broadly built man, had a kind of ongoing rumble that made Jeff wonder if his flight ability was somehow sonic in nature. He aimed himself straight for Jeff while the other two widened their approach into arcs from either side.
The rumbling flyer clapped his hands together and a wave of crashing sound blasted toward Jeff. He jetted up, but even then shuddered in the air as it passed below him. Definitely sonic abilities.
He threw more fireballs, managing to clip the woman on the left—though she didn’t take long to recover and he was pretty sure the fireball hadn’t hurt her—and spun and flipped in the air, easily the most agile of the three. Still, outnumbered, and with the man releasing multiple destructive sonic waves while the other two played sheep dog, it wasn’t long before they’d boxed him into a smaller space between them. At least only the one of them seemed to have ranged powers.
They didn’t, however, seem to notice how far up he’d managed to pull them, away from the house and the doctor.
“Now,” Jeff said, tapping his earpiece.
The wind picked up sharply, and all three of the flying metahumans had to work to stay still in their ring around him. Jeff, on the other hand, crossed his arms behind his head and smiled. It wasn’t windy where he was, a small pocket of the air perfectly still, just for him.
The woman he’d clipped tried to flip and make a break for it, so he figured she’d realized what was happening, but she was just a moment too late. The vortex of air grew worse by the second and in a blink all three of them were spinning around Jeff in a circle of gale-force wind, until it abruptly twisted, and drew all three of them together below him with an impact he could hear even over the sound of the sudden, impossible storm.
After that, the wind shifted yet again, an incredible updraft that held the three in mid-air. All three were limp.
Cirrus floated down out of the clouds above to join Jeff in the air.
“They’ve got enough air to breathe now,” María said. “We should tranq them when we land.”
“Have I told you how nice it is to have you and Touchdown back?” Jeff said. “Because it’s really nice to have you and Touchdown back.”
She smiled at him, and began the drift back down to the ground, her hands outstretched, the wind obeying her will.
They found Jay standing on the porch.
“He get away?” Jeff asked.
Jay nodded. “Took off once Cirrus brought the storm. Pretty sure I hurt him, though.”
Neither fact was surprising. “Let’s clean up,” Jeff said.
The front door opened, and Solange led Dr. Sinclair out. “Deke and Quantum have her sister and family safe,” Solange said. “And Delphi says she’s not feeling any immediate danger to them.”
“I need to take you to my office,” the doctor said. She was still shaken, but determination was strengthening her voice. “I’ll show you what they had me do.”
Rows of flasks, each half-filled with a pale white liquid, were placed across three large desks in a conference room that Dr. Sinclair unlocked. Beside Jeff, Colin eyed the bottles warily before looking at the doctor.
“They’re gone,” the doctor said, her eyes widening.
“What’s gone?” Jeff said.
“The doses. That man, the police officer who could turn invisible, he had me made thirty-one doses of a compound, as injectables.”
“This isn’t it?”
“No. Well, yes, but…” She shook her head. “It’s the first step. I didn’t know what I was doing, he would tell me as I went, and he started with thirty-one. He said it had to be thirty-one. And if any of them didn’t work, then he’d kill one of my sister’s children.” She shook her head. “I barely understood what I was making, but it had something to do with the metagene, I think. He just told me exactly what to do. He’d memorized it. I’d think I was alone, and then I’d hear his voice…” She shuddered. “But they were here. The last fifteen. He took the first dose himself, right in front of me, then he had me make fifteen more, and then fifteen more. I was working non-stop. I barely went home… But I finished the last ones this morning and he told me to go home.” She pointed at an empty spot on one of the tables. “They were right there.”
“And these?” Jeff said.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I didn’t make those. But it looks like the first step.”
“Did he turn invisible before he took the dose?” Jeff asked.
She frowned. “No. No, he… He showed me pictures of my nieces. My sister. He said he’d kill them if I didn’t do what he said. We were in here together for hours. If I went anywhere—even the bathroom—he followed me and told anyone who approached it was police business and he needed me for an investigation and…” She swallowed, shaking her head. “It’s a small practice. We only saw the secretary and a delivery man.”
“Do you think they’ll come back for this?” Colin said.
“Let’s make sure they don’t,” Jeff said. “Doctor, do you remember how to make this stuff?”
She shook her head. “He brought some of the materials I used. I have no idea what they were. They were unmarked.” She bit her lip. “Am I in danger?”
“We’re going to move you and your family to a secure location,” Jeff said. “Don’t worry. They’ll be fine.”
She nodded slowly, and Jeff tapped his earpiece. “Dr. Sinclair is ready to go,” he said.
Touchdown and Solange came for her. They both eyed the flasks, but neither said anything as they led her away.
“We destroy this,” Jeff said. Then he turned to Colin. “I imagine you know exactly what this is?”
He nodded. “I know how to make it.”
“It activated their metagene?”
Colin blew out a breath. “I’d imagine so.”
“Thirty-one,” Jeff said. “Thirty-one of them.”
“You handled four of them today.”
“Three. One got away. And we had the element of surprise. Keeping it quiet that Cirrus and Touchdown were back was easy enough. Now they’ll know she’s here, and she and Lustre are our big guns.”
“Still,” Colin said.
“Still.” Jeff turned. “I need you to promise me something. I need you to promise to never tell anyone how to make this. It’s bad enough these incursion metahumans know, but if this information got out… If it got in the hands of the wrong people, or…” He rubbed his face. “Hell, even the right people.” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t even trust my own government with this, let alone the US. Especially not with the freakshow they just elected President.”
Colin eyed the bottles. “It’ll be ruined if you heat it up. It’ll boil off.”
Jeff smiled. “I think I can handle that.”