And I’m still behind on Friday Flash Fics, and still playing catch-up.
“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. You can catch up with part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five. This is the sixth piece.
Greater Good (Part Six)
Jeff eyed the broken door. A pane of glass was broken, enough to have reached in and flipped the deadbolt.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Matthieu said, his low voice little more than a whispered rumble from the darkness all around them. No one else would see the man—Noire could manipulate shadows, and all but vanish into them—and even with that fact Jeff hadn’t been sure it had been a good idea to bring him.
He rubbed his chin, hiding a slight nod in the process that he hoped Matthieu would see from his hiding spot, then opened the door and went inside. He had his comm on and open, and if things went sideways, Matthieu would know what to do.
Inside what was once the entrance to a now-closed school, Jeff took a second to adjust to the lack of light. His heat sense told him he was alone in the immediate area, so he started his way down the hallway. The note had been quite specific about where he should go once he was inside the building. Then again, the note had also told him to come alone.
Among other things.
He passed two classrooms on the right before heading into the third. It looked like a former science class, the desks each set up with sinks and taps and countertopped workspaces. There was a second door at the back of the room, also open.
And there was heat enough for someone to be here. Not that he could see anyone.
“I thought I said you were to come here alone.” The voice was male, but beyond that, nothing particularly specific caught his attention. No accent, at least.
“It seems like you all got your powers going,” Jeff said, not denying anything, but wondering if the man truly did know that Noire was with him.
“We did.” The voice had moved, and Jeff’s sense of the heat of the man shifted with it, but he pretended not to have any idea where the voice was coming from, looking left and right as though flummoxed. If he had to, he was pretty sure he could spray the right area with some fire.
Jeff waited. When the man didn’t speak again, he raised his hands a bit, palms out. “Are we going to talk, or did you just bring me here to stare?”
“I’m trying to decide if I can trust you, or if you’ll try to take me down, like you did Marquette.” The man’s voice tightened with anger. “You’ve already decided we’re the bad guys, haven’t you?”
“You erased the person who’s body you’re using right now,” Jeff said. “It’s hard to overlook that.”
There was another long pause.
“What if I told you there was a way to fix it?” the man said. “What if I told you I wanted to go home?”
Jeff blinked, frowning into the seemingly empty room. “My understanding is you used technology to get here, and it was a one-way trip.”
“The person who built it is here. She can do it again. And if we leave… you can have your originals back.”
Jeff took a breath, considering. “That’s not how I was told this worked.”
“I’m sure that’s true.” He’d moved again. A little closer to the opposite door this time, Jeff was pretty sure. Ready to bolt, maybe?
Something else occurred to him.
“Why would you want to go back?” Jeff didn’t hide his skepticism. “My understanding is you eight were escaping a timeline where things had gone pretty bad. The whole reason you’re here is to be somewhere better, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but not alone.”
Jeff shook his head. “I don’t follow.”
“In this timeline,” the man said, and Jeff could almost feel the man straining to control his tone to sound as neutral as possible, “I’m alone. When I left, I was with my sister. But it turns out she had nowhere to go in this timeline. A car accident a few years ago.”
It took Jeff a few seconds to understand. Colin had explained that there might be differences between the two timelines, and those crossing over from the other quantum reality—the quantum incursion—might not have had an alternate version of themselves to overwrite. And if that was the case, they’d be left behind in the original timeline.
This man’s sister wasn’t here with him, and he wanted to go back. For her.
Assuming he was telling the truth, at least.
“Can’t you ask your friend—the one who designed the technology, I mean—to send you back, then?”
He laughed. “That’s not what she wants to do with it.”
Well, that couldn’t be good.
“What does she want to do with it?”
“Deal with you. And the rest of NAMDA.”
Jeff shook his head. “Could you vague that up a bit for me?”
The man laughed again. “Nice. I’m not sure I’d be quite so cavalier if I knew people who didn’t like me were thinking of using time travel to make sure I didn’t exist.”
“Time travel…” Jeff said. Then it hit him. “They want to go back again?” Colin had explained that, that the eight who’d come to this timeline had jumped back as well as sideways. If they went back again, but without going sideways…
“There’s at least two of us old enough to make sure a younger you—all of you in NAMDA—don’t get in our way.”
Jeff couldn’t quite wrap his head around the paradox of dealing with a problem by making sure the problem didn’t exist in the first place to deal with—wouldn’t that then mean there was no problem you needed to solve?—but he’d ask Colin about it later. Besides, Colin had said they’d done just that in his own home timeline. The only reason Colin existed still was his unique metahuman traits.
Jeff didn’t have those same traits.
“How do I help you get back home?” he said. He wished he’d brought Tristan, but while Noire could be practically invisible, Tristan’s own disappearing tricks were all telepathic in nature—he was perfectly visible on cameras, and needed to affect the minds of those he wanted to go unnoticed by. Jeff hadn’t wanted to risk it, and given that the metahuman in question he was talking to was invisible himself, he didn’t think Tristan would have been able to hide fast enough.
It had been the right call, but it still meant he couldn’t have Tristan check to see if this invisible man was telling the truth.
“If I give you two names,” the man said. “And you take them down, then she’ll speed up her plans and have no one else to work with but me and herself. Then I give you the time and place, and you take her down without destroying the rig. The rest of us go home.”
“Did the other four ask you to speak for them, too?” Jeff said.
But the man didn’t answer. The heat was already leaving the room. A second later, a paper airplane sailed through the open door, hitting the far wall and falling to the ground.
Jeff crossed the room and picked it up, unfolding the paper.
Two names were typed on the paper: Felix Roy. Tina Small.
Jeff blew out a breath, and tapped his ear piece. “You get all that?”
“I did,” Matthieu’s voice softened with his Cajun accent. He was amused. “You believe any of it?”
“I’ve got two names here, so…” Jeff shrugged in the empty room. “Maybe? Too bad we didn’t have Tristan here.”
“If you say so,” Matthieu said. “Guy creeps me out.”
“Says the man who can manipulate darkness itself.”
“There’s darkness,” Matthieu said. “And there’s darkness.”
Jeff frowned. “Yeah, see, saying things like that is what makes you the creepy one, Matty.”
Noire just laughed.
Jeff eyed the classroom one last time. “Okay. Let’s head back. We’ll talk this through with everyone and figure out our next move. And maybe Colin can answer a few questions about how someone could use time travel to deal with us.”
“You think he’ll give us a straight answer?”
“Yeah, me neither.”
Jeff started for the exit. He wanted to trust Colin. He really did. And—if he was being totally honest with himself—he was definitely attracted to the man, so he had to be careful not to let that want colour his opinions. But it didn’t feel like Colin was trying to do wrong. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, when he didn’t know he was being watched, Colin got this look on his face, something between fear and regret. Jeff understood that look. It was responsibility. Duty.
No, he didn’t doubt for a second that Colin was there to help them. He just wasn’t sure Colin thought he could tell them everything.
Which was a hard pill to swallow.
The shadows parted outside the front door, and Matthieu joined him on the first step of the school. Tall and dark, with features a bit too blunt and deep to be typically handsome, Matthieu did have a certain appeal to him, in a “bad-boy” sense. The full sleeves of ink didn’t hurt, either. He had a significant NAMDA fan-base. The night-life Cajun from New Orleans. The PR folk played it up, of course, just like they played up Jeff’s own Canadian vibe.
Polite. Kind. Soft-spoken.
He hadn’t approached anyone about the whole gay thing yet. The team knew since the slip-up, but they’d all kept it to themselves so far. He needed to get it over with, though. Secrets didn’t keep.
“Let’s go home,” he said, folding up the paper with the two names and slipping it into his pocket. He needed to talk to Colin.
Secrets don’t keep, he thought again.