Still behind on Friday Flash Fics, and continue to 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, part five, and part six. This is the seventh part.
Greater Good (Part Seven)
“I’m finally done,” Thea said.
Jeff turned. Thea held Colin’s wearable smartcuff in one hand. Smartbracelet? Smartbracer? Whatever it was called. He eyed it. “I’m impressed. It was a lot of names.”
“And bios, and history, and… Well. For the record, it is very, very strange to read about a life you didn’t lead. Especially a tragic one.” She shivered visibly.
“On that other timeline? My first few attempts at using my abilities didn’t go so well.” Thea tapped the small glass surface of the device, and it lit up. In the air, an image of her—but not her—appeared. The Thea in the air was… colder, somehow. Shorter hair, something in her eyes…
“I only managed to save the little boy,” Thea said. “Not both twins.”
Jeff met her gaze. Her eyes were wet, and she stared into her own face with something like anger.
“Here you did, though,” he said. Thea hadn’t come forward when her powers had first manifested. Most metahumans didn’t, given the general mistrust, of course. But then Thea had started catching glimpses of two kids in real danger, kidnapped twins. She’d used her strange new abilities to track down their would-be killer and had managed to save both kids.
In this timeline, at least.
After that, she’d come to NAMDA willingly, asking to be useful. Wanting to help. NAMDA was the richer for her, and though she was a reserve Canadian member and not one of the public faces of the organization, her impact had been incredible. So many lives saved, before they were even in danger.
“On the other timeline, he was a metahuman, too.” Thea tapped the screen and the image vanished. “Their kidnapper. The other me ended up having to kill him, but it was too late, and…” She shook her head. “Sorry. This…gets in your head. If I had to guess, they’ve got about triple to four times the metahumans we have, at least. Their NAMDA must have been run off its feet.”
Jeff nodded. “You okay?” She really did look shaken. She’d locked herself away with the smartcuff for the duration of her physical recovery. The doctor said she was pretty much back on her feet now, though. He wanted to believe it.
“I will be,” she said. “Did I hear that you and Colin managed to tag four more incursion metas?”
He nodded. “You did. Solange is getting good at sniffing them out telepathically. One was an interview, three in the field. So that makes seven out of our thirty one. Still no sign of Landry, Marquette, Small, or Roy, though.”
“Lustre and Noire?” Thea asked.
“Still in the US. I can’t seem to impress upon their higher ups how much more important it is to have them here right now, rather than going on this never-ending victory lap with that…”
“Careful boss-man,” Thea said, raising a finger. “Diplomacy.”
“…newly elected President,” Jeff finished with overly delicate pronunciation.
They both grinned.
“Well, you’ve got Colin. And me, if you want me. Though if he’s around, I get all staticky.”
“You’re up for it?”
“I am. Or I will be, soon.”
He smiled. “Good. I could use the help. Staticky or no. I’m pretty sure the rest of them are running at this point. We’ve hit enough of them to let them know we’re on to them, and they’ve all got their powers, but we’re not seeing any spikes in metahuman activity, so they’re lying low.” He sighed.
“And given that technically they’ve broken no laws…” Thea said.
Jeff nodded. “That’s the thing, really. We know they’ve flat-out murdered their counterparts, in a very real sense. But I can’t explain the whole time-travel-with-a-side-of-parallel-universe to the US, so I sound like I’m over-reacting to a ‘sudden surge’ in metahuman appearances, given that we’ve caught all the ones I can explain knowing about.”
“Can’t, or wont? You’re not going to tell them about the time-travel?” Thea said. A small line marred her forehead.
Jeff shook his head. “I know we all play a good game of our three governments working together, but…” He held out one hand. “Part of explaining the time-travel and the quantum incursion would be explaining that these formerly non-meta people knew how to become meta. At that point, I stop trusting that anyone involved does the right thing.”
“Even Parliament?” Thea raised an immaculate eyebrow.
Jeff shrugged. It wasn’t an eloquent gesture, but it suited.
It took her a long moment, but she nodded. “If I’m honest, I agree. I think that makes me cynical. I don’t have to try and see the future disasters with my sight to know they’d be there if we could just make metahumans happen.”
“I know it’ll happen eventually,” Jeff said. “If they figured it out in Colin’s timeline, eventually they’ll figure it out here. But I don’t have to help it happen.”
Thea nodded. Then she smiled. “Does the name Timothy mean anything to you?”
He blinked. “Sorry?”
She tapped on the smartcuff again. A face—his face—appeared in mid-air. Only different. He had a beard, for one, and his red hair was much, much shorter. Almost military short.
“Timothy McKenna. Code-name: Infernal,” she said.
Jeff stared. “Wow. You’re right. That’s really unsettling, and… Timothy is my grandfather’s name. My mother’s father.” He thought about it. “You know, I think she mentioned once she wanted to name me after him, but my father wanted to name me after my uncle—he died before I was born. Cancer.”
“Maybe, over there, he didn’t. Or your mother got her way,” Thea said, and tapped the screen again. The not-quite-him vanished.
“Maybe,” Jeff said, still unsettled.
His comm chimed at the same time as his computer pinged and the phone started ringing.
Thea gave him a sharp nod and then left the room in a near run. He tapped his comm.
“Go,” he said.
“Need a little help,” Cirrus said.
A tornado drilled into the pavement in the middle of the street, and that wasn’t ideal. It was tearing bricks away from one of the downtown sky-scrapers, as well as breaking windows and shredding trees and generally as destructive as tornados were wont to be, but it wasn’t moving.
So that was something. Maybe.
“María?” Jeff said, flying straight for the dark roiling mass.
“I can’t undo it.” Her voice was strained. “Whoever is making the tornado, we’re pretty evenly matched. I’m holding it still and that’s taking a lot of effort…”
Jeff nodded, even though he knew she couldn’t see him.
“Deke,” he said. “Delphi, Quantum, Touchdown, Mentaliste… we need to find the meta doing this, and take them down. Cirrus can’t counter this.”
“A rooftop,” Thea said. “Definitely a roof-top.”
Jeff smiled. Having a prescient in the field was always an added bonus. And if he kept her far enough away from Quantum, there was less “static.”
“On it,” Deke’s voice sounded like it was coming down a wind tunnel. He wondered if it was always like that when Lydia was zooming around the city at her fastest pace.
“I don’t understand this. What’s the goal here?” Solange said. “What’s the gain? If this is an incursion meta, why are they acting out now?”
“Good question,” Jeff said. He was scanning the sky as best he could, looping around and trying to feel any body-sized heat in the air with him. Nothing. He eyed the rooftops. A few people out there with cell phones taking videos and pictures, but nothing that looked suspicious. “Maybe it’s not. Could this be those white nationalist assholes again? Sturm and Drang?”
“I would happily give Drang a round two,” Solange said. The empath hadn’t fared so well against her last time.
“Sturm is not this strong,” María said. Her voice was more than a little strained. They needed to wrap this up. Damnit.
“I see someone,” Deke’s voice wasn’t doing its tunnel thing any more. “Two blocks south of the tornado, on a roof. Not a gawker. Paying a lot of attention.”
Jeff hovered for a moment, turning, and flew. It took a few minutes to get there, but sure enough, he spotted someone. She was just standing there, but he agreed with Deke’s assessment. Unlike so many others, she wasn’t using a smart-phone to take pictures, nor was her mouth open with shock. Her hands were clenched at her side, and invisible threads of cool and warmth he could just barely register on his heat sense twisted out from her. It wasn’t natural.
“Definitely her,” Jeff said. “You with me, Deke?”
“Here I come,” he said, and swooped.
She either heard him, or perhaps felt him, just before he got close enough to toss a small ball of fire at her back, and she dodged it.
It didn’t matter, of course. A second later, a blur of speed in front of her coalesced into Deke, who slugged her right in the jaw. The woman rocked back, barely keeping herself upright.
“It’s coming apart,” María said in his comm. “That’s done it.”
He could hear the noise of the tornado dropping off behind him.
“Stop,” Jeff said. He held up his hand, heat and flame visibly dancing across his fist.
The woman hesitated for just a second, then turned.
Jeff guessed she’d intended to jump off the side of the building. Likely, like Cirrus, she could fly. But instead, Deke blurred again and instead of jumping the woman tripped and fell, her hands and ankles now attached with chains and cuffs. She shifted on the rooftop, and scowled, fury clear in her eyes. She didn’t look particularly threatening. Slim, white, brunette, hazel eyes. Jeff saw dozens of people who looked like her every day.
Only they couldn’t create tornados. He made sure the fire stayed lit on his fist.
Her whole body tensed.
“We can knock you out if we so much as feel a breeze, lady,” Deke said. “And there’s a hell of a hangover for the knockout drug.”
The woman’s fury seemed almost about to crest, but then it faded, and stared at the ground.
“You’re under arrest,” Jeff said, and gave her the full list of rights she now had as a metahuman who’d willingly endangered people with her powers.
It wasn’t a long list.
“At least now we know why they had our unnamed woman make a tornado,” Solange said.
Jeff regarded his office, clenching his jaw and trying not to swear. The room grew visibly warmer, and he had to take a moment just to breathe.
“Landry,” Jeff said. Their invisible cop problem.
His office had been rummaged. As had Thea’s, and Lydia’s, and Solange’s. When they played back the cameras, they could see drawers opening and closing, their computers turning on—luckily with passwords—and, finally, watching in Thea’s office as Colin Reichert’s wearable smart device vanished into thin air.
Beside him, Colin sighed. “It’s not great. But it’s not the end of the world. You had Thea transcribe the file of potential metahumans, right?”
Jeff nodded. “We did, yes.”
“Well,” Colin said. “I think it’s okay then.”
“Except, doesn’t that give them a list of potential metahumans they could activate?” Solange said.
Colin closed his eyes. The man looked physically pained. He hadn’t considered it, apparently.
“I put people on it,” Jeff said. It was a long list of names, though, and there was only so much they could do.
“I’m going to go have a chat with our new guest,” Solange said. “See if she knows anything the others didn’t.” She hesitated, rubbing her stomach.
“It’ll hold. Get some rest if you need it,” Jeff said.
“What he said,” Jay said.
“She’s just kicking. It’s fine.” But she smiled up at her husband. “Come on. People tend to think more incriminating things when you’re glaring at them behind me.”
Jeff turned off the replay of the cameras.
“We’ll need to keep someone at home from now on,” he said.
Colin nodded. “It’s too bad Delphi didn’t see this coming.”
“She wouldn’t have, actually. She quite literally sees images from the future or the past. As if she was standing there. He was invisible, so she wouldn’t have seen anything, I imagine.” He looked at Colin, and tried not to notice how much more like the Colin he remembered he was beginning to look. He focused on the lack of the scar. It didn’t help. “Besides, she says it’s harder around you. You muck up her powers, apparently. Your influence screws up everything she sees.”
God, he was handsome.
“And what are you seeing?” Colin said. A cocky little smile, one he knew far, far too well, joined the comment, and Jeff had to swallow.
“Sorry,” he said, looking away.
Jeff couldn’t stop himself from looking again, and then he wasn’t just looking, he was staring, and the stare being met with heat that had nothing to do with his powers at all.
They shouldn’t do this. They couldn’t do this. Because Jeff knew how this would end, even if Colin didn’t, and that was a good enough reason to never, ever let himself—
Colin moved first, and the kiss was everything Jeff remembered and nothing like any kiss they’d had before, all at the same time. A first kiss, from Colin’s point of view.
Maybe their last one, from Jeff’s.
It should have killed the mood.
Instead, Jeff pulled Colin in tighter, and decided that time could go to hell.