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War and Peace In Mind, Chapter 22: Consequences of Power
Sky High
Drama/Sci-Fi

Consequences of Power

 

 

Predictably, Justin practically pounced on Will when we got off the bus on Monday morning.

“Hey Will, did it work?” he demanded cheerfully.

“What?” Will asked, startled.

“Did you get sick at all? I’m timing myself,” he explained.

“Oh… yeah. I got sick,” Will said, shaking his head a little.

“When? How bad?” Justin demanded.

“Uh… I think it started Friday after school… I guess around four. And I was all stuffed up and sneezing and coughing and stuff,” he said after a second’s thought.

“Woot! Five hours, that’s a new record!” he exclaimed, punching one hand into the other. Will looked at him oddly. “Sorry, it just used to be five days before anything would happen. I’m trying to get it down to, ya know, minutes or something that might actually be useful in a fight. But you’re not looking too sick now.”

“My mom’s garlic and herb soup,” Layla jumped in quickly, “Cleared it right up.” I shot her a grateful glance over Justin’s head.

“Well hey, still! If it works during battle, that’ll do, that’ll do. Oh, Elise wants a re-match this Friday, same time. You guys are going down!” he said cheerfully, and turned to walk away.

“That guy is way too happy,” Zack said with utter seriousness.


From there, things got interesting indeed. It turned out there was a definite pattern to our wins in the Gauntlet. Our first run against most groups usually ended up with us winning by a pretty big margin. Our second runs were a lot harder. Then we started losing. These groups weren’t composed of freshmen, they were experienced seniors, and the rather humbling experience of being thrashed by sophomores, no matter who they were, was more than enough motivation to get them in top form in record time.

 

When the senior groups had complained initially at their losses the first couple of times, Ethan ended up standing up and giving them a lecture, one he ended up repeating to nearly every other team we had faced and won.

“The reason we keep beating you is you all have the same weaknesses. There are usually only one or two things we have to remember in order to defeat you more easily. You have to remember six different kinds of weaknesses when you fight us, and that makes us a lot harder to beat than you.”

Some groups found that enlightening, others found it annoying, but none of them argued with us about it. Especially because it helped to have a solid reason why a group of sophomores still had the highest Gauntlet scores in the school, at least for the first week after the assembly. After that, things started to get more even all the way around.

Boomer had been learning a lot from those fights as well, and shortly after the assembly, had begun to reconfigure the Gauntlet. The original configuration was excellent if there were only a few defenders, as they could use the confined space to their advantage. But with two groups of at least four people each facing off, the confined inner maze of the fortress became a trap. It didn’t let people run or use any of their mobility, and actually created a very uneven playing field.

Now there were several different ways it could be set up, the most popular was which was the “city block” set-up. It gave everyone the options of mobility or concealment, playing to everyone’s strengths in turn. The original fortress/maze Boomer still used for rescue scenarios, and then he had made others, like a forest-like setting for a “capture the flag” type of game, or a crowded warehouse for a more realistic “find the escaping villain” run.

Our first bad loss was to Psychic Club, as Elise was extremely motivated to find a way to beat us. I still didn’t know why she was so angry with us (her explanation she had fed to Layla and I didn’t really seem to fly that far); but she had gone from white-hot rage to cold, clinical anger in our last two sessions. For someone who could read minds, Elise seemed to have twice as much attitude as I did, and I held world records in that field. I had started to wonder if her apparent anger was just a ruse, something to keep us from figuring out her real motivations. For all I knew, she was just testing us, trying to see if we would believe she could be so easily swayed.

The second time we had gone up against her group, we had been the defenders, and it had been a very near loss on our part. Tracy had gotten to Zack again and nearly caused him to drop the light bombs on us. Elise had tried to move against Magenta instead of me, but apparently had found her too hard of a nut to crack, which had the effect of distracting her long enough for Ethan to stun Chris, leaving them without any eyes when Zack was able to do his blinding thing. That left Layla and I free to deal with Justin, Zoë, and Robin, but it hadn’t been easy.

But our third session was a different kettle of fish altogether. This time we were in the city block set-up, and this time Elise and her group had had plenty of time to prepare and train. It had been almost three weeks since the first time we had met, and from what Ethan could tell, Psychic Club had been doing a ridiculous amount of planning and practice.

We were defending again, this time holding the “city plaza” against Elise’s group. The thing we had found out about Psychic Club was that they never did the same thing twice. That should have tipped us off, because as good as our tactics were, they were still the same basic tactics we had hammered out in September. Predictability is bad when you keep facing the same people over and over; that was the lesson we learned that day.

I don’t know how long we waited after Boomer rang the starting bell, but it was several long, tense minutes at least. Will was fairly high up in hopes of being able to spot them from a distance, and also to rescue any of us that got in over our heads. Zack, Ethan, and Magenta, our “Charlie’s Angels,” were standing on the steps of “city hall” above us. They were in cover behind the pillars, and had their stun-rays out and ready, with Zack holding the light bomb in his other hand. All were ready to scatter at a moment’s notice. Layla and I stood in front, her with several vines ready to act as whips or shields as needed, and me in a near power-up to begin burning when ready.

Zoë actually levitated Robin and Justin in, holding a shield of pure thought in front of her, blocking both Layla’s vines and my subsequent fireballs. Chris, Tracy, and Elise were nowhere to be seen, not that we had much time to look. Zoë was fast, nearly as fast as Will, and Layla and I didn’t have much time to attack before they were nearly on top of us.

Then everything went merrily to hell. White light suddenly blinded me; there was some yelling from behind me, and someone sneezing, and then everything went black. The next thing I remember was opening my eyes to see Will crouched on the ground, straining upward as if against some great weight. Zoë was off to one side, her hand stretched out towards him, bleeding from the nose.

Before I could even begin to pull myself together, I heard Magenta yell out a surrender, and Boomer rang the completion bell. Then I spent the next five minutes wishing I could just shoot myself as the stun-headache wore off. Between the rest of the gang’s explanations, I slowly put the picture together. First off, Tracy had taken over Zack again, this time actually subverting him enough to get him to drop the light-bomb prematurely.

Since they had been in control of it instead of us, none of the rest of them had been blinded. That had given Justin enough leeway to get up the stairs and tag Ethan and Magenta. Apparently whatever he had learned from psysicking Will three weeks ago had given him the clue he needed to get his power into a combat time-frame. Both of them had been stricken almost immediately with coughing and sneezing. Magenta had apparently sneezed and fired her stun-ray at the same time, stunning me by accident.

Then Robin had telekinetically lifted their weapons, giving her and Justin an edge when Ethan and Magenta got their vision back. Layla hadn’t been able to do anything in the interim because Elise had been holding her paralyzed and was quickly ransacking through her uppermost thoughts for information about Will. Whatever she had gotten from her she had passed on to Zoë, which was enough to keep Will from coming to our rescue. That’s what had been happening there at the end, Zoë had actually forced Will down from the sky and was trying to keep him grounded and away from us so we couldn’t escape. But apparently she could only barely hold down as much weight as Will could lift, hence the nosebleed from her massive amount of concentration.

Elise, Chris, and Tracy finally came down from wherever they were hiding so we could all walk off the Gauntlet course together. It was supposed to help build a sense of team and foster friendship. But usually it was just a lengthy bitch and moan session. Today was no different, because Zack was seriously pissed off. Not that we all weren’t, this was our first bad loss, but normally cool-as-a-cucumber Zack was having a tantrum.

“Damnit! That’s like the third time! Why can’t I keep you guys out of my head?” he demanded. He was mostly talking to himself, but Tracy answered him anyway.

“Your walls aren’t that great Zack. And you’re our greatest threat,” she explained.

“Like how?” he asked, rolling his eyes.

“Most of us work on line of sight, barring Chris and I,” Tracy explained. “And if Chris has to see for everyone, we’re slow. That’s how you got us the first time. I’m obviously pretty vulnerable when I’m using my powers, and so is Elise. So better to put us both somewhere safe, and have Chris with us so he can see for her. Then when I take you out, with your light bombs, the rest of us can work much easier. Besides, using your own tactics against you is choice.”

“I’ve been working on those stupid walls since October!” Zack said, still sounding sullen.

“It might be the image you’re using. You’re using something like a forcefield, right?” she asked, and Zack nodded slowly.

“Ok, well, when I’m in my astral form, I see myself as being made of light. So when I try to get through your walls, I just merge with them. It’s a lot easier to do that then try to get through fire, or plants, or steel.” She nodded and myself, Layla, and Will in turn. “Try a different mental image, it might work better.”

Zack looked a little rebellious, but nodded anyway.

No one else really had anything to say until we were out of the locker rooms, and in the cafeteria, but the minute we were all together again, Magenta nearly exploded.

“That does it,” she said firmly.

“That does… what?” Zack asked.

“I am sick and tired of getting my weapon taken and used against me. I swear, this is how all Sidekicks get captured, and I don’t want this to turn into a ‘rescue the guinea pig girl’ or ‘glow boy’ or ‘puddle’ thing,” she said, thumping her tray on the table. Ethan was nodding vigorously behind her, too polite to rant himself, but more than willing to back Magenta up.

“So… what do want? A weapon that can’t be taken? You aren’t going to cyborg yourself, are you?” Zack asked.

“No, no, no,” Magenta said, shaking her head. “Hey Will, doesn’t your mom have like three black belts?”

“Actually six, I think,” Will said after a second of thought.

“Eight,” Ethan corrected automatically.

“Ok, does she still keep in contact with any of her teachers?” she persisted.

“Yeah, she goes to a dojo every day to work out,” Will said, nodding.

“You think she’d put in a good word with them if I wanted to take lessons?” she inquired.

“Whoa, you want more training on top of what we’re doing already?’ Will asked incredulously.

“Not all of us can throw people through walls, Will,” Magenta pointed out. Will blushed.

“Uh, right. I’ll ask her tonight.”


It turned out that yes, Mrs. Stronghold did keep in contact with several of her teachers, most of whom made their livings teaching super-people unarmed combat. So they wouldn’t be alarmed if say, Magenta shifted in the middle of a demonstration. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Stronghold said they were used to incorporating superpowers into their teachings.

 

Magenta was enrolled before she could blink, and tried to get Zack to join. That didn’t go so well, as Zack really didn’t have the right kind of mindset. Magenta’s sensei threw him out the first day. I took pity on him (and her) and said I’d teach him a little of what I knew. I hadn’t had much in the way of formal training, but I had picked up enough from my few lessons, some action films, and practical experience to give me a fairly effective form of no-holds-barred self-defense.

It was a lot easier for Zack to get his head around, and he didn’t have to worry about looking stupid in front of Magenta while learning it. And it turned out Zack was a hell of lot better picking up fighting moves than classroom facts, at least when they were delivered with a healthy dose of reality in why they worked.

“Sorry man, that was why I got thrown out,” he had told me while explaining what had happened his first and last day at the dojo. “It’s just, ya know, Magenta can get all focused and Zen and stuff and really… um can’t. I can do this stuff better, I know it. I just wanna do it my way.” That was something I could sympathize with.

I’d asked everyone else if they wanted to join us, but got a bunch of negatives. Layla had declined the grounds that her mother would lock her in her room for the rest of her natural life if she was caught learning hand-to-hand combat. Ethan said he had a cousin that was going to teach him judo. And Will said he was already learning stuff from his dad.


The loss had rankled with our team, and we threw ourselves into our training. Winning, I had found, was practically its own reward, and I certainly wasn’t immune to wanting more. I wanted to beat the other seniors as much as the rest of the team, both for the simple fact of defeating them, and for the fact that we were good, and wanted to stay that way.

 

Over the next several months we kept trading wins with several of the other teams, mostly Psychic Club and Amorphous Club (whom we still hadn’t figured out how to fight effectively), along with a few others. Strength Club usually could pull out a spectacular win, and Electric Club had a very interesting series of wins when they proved to Zack, conclusively, that he was not immune to electricity like his dad.

Real-Shifter and Deceiver Club had originally told us they wanted to go up against us once they had watched us for a while. We had all worried about that, not wanting to get another Psychic Club on our hands. In a capture-the-flag scenario, Real-Shifter and Deceiver Club, working together, had to conceal a disk containing “vital information” from us, and we had to get it from them. Since Magenta, when shifted, could tell and tell immediately by scent when something was real and when something wasn’t, we ended up waltzing through the first few of those. But only the first few. Then they became nearly as impossible to beat as Amorphous Club. Having the ground, or rocks, or other things start to come to life to attack you was profoundly disturbing, and I don’t think I was the only one who ended up with a nightmare or two after those sessions.

During that time, I finally had my eighteenth birthday (less said about that fiasco, the better), and was able to apply for my hero’s license. I also worked my last shift at the Paper Lantern, taking my leave of Mr. and Mrs. Lee for the first time in many years. The gang came by to help me celebrate my going-away party, though they mostly just ended up making a big mess for me to clean up. I didn’t mind though, it was the thought that counted.

I had to quit my job finally because I was now taking night classes to learn things for my cover job. The Bureau wasn’t above getting someone a fake college degree or certificate in order to keep them “legitimately” employed at their cover job, provided the hero in question knew the correct skills. But since I couldn’t exactly fake my way through life-saving procedures, I had to do it the hard way. Somehow that figured; I never seemed to take the easy road.

Our regular classes continued unabated. We went from Superhero Psychology to Current Supervillain Agendas, Superpowers Throughout the Ages to Last Resorts: A Superhero’s Dilemma. That was, of course, on top of our regular high school classes in history, social studies, math, regular science, physics, and English. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the school to start wondering what it would be like to be normal…


When the senior groups started to clobber us in wins in the Gauntlet, Boomer changed the rules again. All this time, Boomer had forbidden Will to take any kind of direct action against our opponents, or even to touch them. After the New Year though, Boomer told us the gloves were coming off. He put Will back in the game with no holds barred. That’s when things got interesting.

 

Up until now, Will had been acting as either transport or a wall-destroyer for the team. Now he was bringing all his speed and strength into play, which abruptly switched the field back in our favor. I hadn’t actually seen Will in a no-holds-barred fight, at least not this way. Our cafeteria fight hadn’t even lasted enough for him to get warmed up. I had only seen the aftermath of his fight with Royal Pain, and all of our Gauntlet sessions thus far hadn’t had Will on the offensive. Now he was, and he was seriously scaring us, in a good way.

He could round up most of Flight Club in a few passes, and provided he got the drop, he could out-wrestle anyone in the school, and send them flying through multiple walls. He was always really careful to pick the most indestructible people he could for those stunts, but still managed to pull out a few wins by basically “bowling” one team member into the rest. A couple times the rest of us could just sit back and watch him work, at least until people started adjusting their tactics to deal with him properly.

There were dozens of sensors in the Gauntlet room to monitor our powers under stress. For example, exactly how hot I got, or what wattage Zack was putting out, or how much weight of plants Layla was moving. When Ethan pulled some of Will’s stats out of curiosity, we’d gotten a surprise. Will was hitting harder than his father and flying faster than his mother. His powers seemed to feed off each other synergistically.

Now our Gauntlet sessions were more like how Boomer had predicted back in September, with Will in battle with one or two of the most powerful people on the team, while we battled the remainder. There weren’t that many people that could give Will competition physically, and he was slowly starting to be able to hold on his own against those with mental powers.

All of this might have caused Will to get a swelled head, except the rest of us had taken it upon ourselves as our sacred duty to see that he didn’t. It helped that Will still wasn’t exactly a genius when it came to science or math, and had to ask for our help. And Magenta was still the queen of the well-timed zinger. Layla also had him trained enough that when she shot him a look, he knew it was time to shut up. Zack and him would sometimes complain together about the girls in their life, when they weren’t around, but Ethan and I had no sympathy for them. Mostly because Magenta and Layla were usually right.


It was right after one of our sessions sometime in March, though, that I found out that we didn’t even really need to keep Will’s ego down. He was doing a pretty good job of that himself. It had been our most recent one against Strength Club, president Tony Sinclair’s group; two guys with super strength of varying levels, a set of indestructible twins that had the ability to hit with powerful force blasts when they worked together, a guy whose power was to change into an armadillo, and a girl who could turn her flesh into stone. She couldn’t actually move once she shifted, but like all of Strength Club, she was a devoted body-builder. They were perhaps one of the more flexible of the Power Clubs in who they allowed.

 

I was trying to relax off to one side; letting the rest of the guys clear out before I went to the locker rooms. I had been getting a little better at gauging how my powers affected my emotions. I was now noticing more clearly that the more I used them, the worse my temper was afterward, and so I never left the Gauntlet before I had a chance to clear my head a little. It was no wonder I had been such a hair-trigger psycho for so long, but at least I had figured out why and was dealing with it. Will knew that, everyone knew that, and so they politely ignored me as they did their little Boomer-mandated sportsmanlike handshakes at the end of every session.

We won a lot more of our sessions now, but it was much more brutal on each side. Sure, Will could thrash anyone at Sky High one-on-one, but as Boomer had told him, he was only one person. We couldn’t count on Will as our transport anymore, and our mobility was seriously hampered. Things were harder, but still possible.

Sometimes Will would win against his opponent, only to find the rest of us hadn’t managed to do what we needed to do. I knew it bothered him a lot that he couldn’t protect us. Well, it bothered me too, more than I could say. I was supposed to be the second-in-command, to take care of the team when he was off battling their champions. And I couldn’t always do that the way I wanted to. I knew things would get better as we went, but I still rode myself as hard as I could. Everyone else still had two years of training to go, but I would be in the thick of things in a few months.

When Will got to Tony, the two clasped hands in a bone-crushing grip. Tony was probably the strongest kid in school until Will had powered up, but luckily he didn’t seem to hold a grudge, not even when he was repeatedly beaten by a sophomore.

Tony winced when Will shook his hand, and I saw Will drop the handshake like he had been burned.

“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to-,” he babbled. Tony just smiled and shook his hand, opening and closing his hand a few times to test if it still worked.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about it. So, this Wednesday at five still good for you?” he asked.

“Yeah… Look, are you still sure that… um, it’s still ok?” Will asked enigmatically.

“Totally. If you’re still not comfortable, then bring your dad along. Unless he’s out on a call or something,” Tony said with a smile, and then headed off to the locker room with everyone else. Will stood awkwardly for a second, chewing on his lip slightly, and then looked up at me.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked. I nodded and jerked my head over in my direction.

“So what were you talking to Tony about?” I asked as he sat down on the ground.

“Work-out session. Boxing practice and stuff,” he explained.

“Why don’t you ever want to work out with Zack and me?” I asked. “I mean, he’s getting better, but he still seriously lacks coordination in some area. I have no idea how he’s so good at hurdles if he can’t hit the same spot on a punching bag with his fist five times out of ten. It’s freaking funny.”

“Um… I wouldn’t want to laugh at him,” Will said, though I could tell he was snickering inside.

“He laughs at himself a lot more than I do,” I explained, and pulled the tie out of my hair, shaking my head to loosen it up. “So why not?” Will shot a look sideways at me.

“Because I’m afraid I’d hurt you,” he said finally.

“I’m indestructible,” I reminded him for about the fiftieth time, sighing in exasperation. It was the excuse he’d given me the last four times I’d asked him and it was wearing a little thin.

“Yeah, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be painful. And what if I hit Zack by accident? I could… kill him,” he said softly. I turned sideways to look at Will straight on. He was never this introspective; it wasn’t like him at all. I had always known, from the minute I powered up, that my powers were lethally destructive, because of why my dad was in jail. Will had never really talked about any similar worries he had about his abilities. Maybe it was because his dad had never killed anyone with his powers.

“What’s going on Stronghold?” I asked.

“I’m getting stronger,” he said simply, as if that should explain everything. Though the way he said it, with a gloomy expression on his face like his pet had just died, gave me a hint.

“We already knew that. We knew that weeks ago when Ethan pulled the Gauntlet readings,” I pointed out, waiting for him to make his point. It didn’t totally surprise me that Will might be getting more powerful. Technically he wasn’t done growing yet, none of us were, and superpowers tended to grow with you. Even I, at the lofty and advanced age of eighteen, was still finding out my limits.

“I got the most recent ones the other day. I’m stronger,” he said again. “And faster. Too strong.”

“Too strong? How strong is too strong?” I asked, looking at him sideways.

“You know, my first day of school, I was still faking that I had super strength. I was up really early, trying to move some weights, just to see if, you know, anything would happen. And then my dad was going to come up to make sure I was awake, so I go and load all the weights on the bars, about five hundred pounds, and pretend that I had just finished with a set,” he said, and sighed.

“I’ve been mostly working out at school and stuff, and so I hadn’t even used my stuff at home for a while. Then the other day I went and loaded up the bar again, just like I did that first day. And it was nothing to me, nothing at all. I lifted it with one hand. I lifted it with one finger,” he said, sounding a little hysterical.

“Stronghold…” I started, but he ran right over me.

“And then I went into the Secret Sanctum and loaded up the stuff my dad does when he’s doing a serious workout and I went through a whole long session. I wasn’t even tired. I wasn’t even sweating. I’m half-scared to even hold Layla now, because what if the phone rings or something and startles me and I accidentally crush her? I mean, I nearly crushed Tony’s hand just now, and he’s the second-strongest guy in school.

“Boomer told me to go no-holds-barred against these guys, but I can’t because I’m afraid I’m seriously going to hurt someone. And if all those readings are right, I’m stronger than my dad. I’m stronger than the Commander. I mean, if I can’t work out against Tony because I might hurt him, I should be able to work out against my dad right? But what if I hurt him? People need him!”

“Stronghold-,” I said again, but Will wasn’t even listening.

“I’m still in high school, I can’t take his place if something happens. I barely know what I’m doing half the time! I can’t be him, I can’t do what he does, I-.”

“Will!” I said sharply, and Stronghold stopped short, startled by my use of his name. “Seriously, what brought this on? What’s going on?”

“I…” Will dropped his head into his hands for a long minute and took a few deep breaths, then lifted his head again, shoving his hair back, looking a lot more composed. “Sorry, didn’t mean to freak out there. I… had a really bad dream the other day.” I waited a few seconds, and Will took another deep breath.

“I accidentally killed my parents, and then had to take over doing what they did, except I kept hurting more people on accident, and eventually I went villain because it was easier being evil and having everyone hating me than being good and having people hate me,” he said in a rush.

Jesus, I thought quietly. For some reason it had never crossed my mind that Will might have doubts about his ability to be a hero. He was a Stronghold, through and through, a third generation hero. Why should he ever doubt what he was going to be?

“Did you ever have dreams like that?” he asked. I nodded, but didn’t elaborate, and he didn’t press.

“I just… You know what it’s like to be afraid of your powers,” he said simply. I nodded slowly.

“I told you my mom used to keep a fire extinguisher around when I was younger. For a long time after I first powered up I was afraid I’d burn her accidentally, so I didn’t even hug her for almost a year,” I told him quietly, and he nodded, looking relieved.

“See, you get where I’m coming from,” he said, sighing.

“Why don’t you tell your dad? I mean, shouldn’t he know more about this than me?” I asked him.

“What am I going to tell him? That I’m stronger than him? I mean, he’s always been the strongest. How is it going to look when I… Wouldn’t he be mad?” Will asked.

“I think I remember you telling me how not telling your dad about your powers went. And I know you told me how he reacted when you really did get your powers. Stronghold, he’s proud of you,” I said. “Seriously, you’re making up some tragedy that isn’t going to happen.”

“Are you sure?” Will asked. I smacked him in the back of the head. “Hey!”

“You’re being an idiot. That was a dope-slap back to reality,” I told him, standing up and glaring at him hotly. “Seriously, just because you figured out that you have issues with your powers doesn’t change anything. Your dad’s been living with the same problems since he powered up, and he’ll know what to do a hell of a lot better than I do.”

“But-,” Will protested, getting to his feet. “I just…”

“You were the one that wanted to talk to me right now. You want to have heartfelt conversations after Gauntlet runs? Then you’re not going to get happy skippy Warren,” I snapped. Will snorted and tried to choke it back.

“’Happy skippy Warren?’” he repeated. I struggled to keep a straight face as I realized what I had just said. “If you’re ever happy and skippy, I’ll know Elise has taken over your mind.”

“Yeah, you remember that. So, are you going to stop stalling and ask your dad about that stuff?” I asked. Will got over the last of his laughter in a hurry and finally nodded firmly. “Good. Seriously Stronghold, you’re going to be fine. If you’re holding back, it’s because you know you have to. And if you haven’t screwed up yet, back before you even knew how strong you were, you’re not going to start now.”

Peace, Stronghold, stop yakking and get off of my Gauntlet!” Boomer called from up in the tower.

I rolled my eyes and headed towards the locker room, a much relieved Will trailing after me.


On top of all the physical work we had been doing, we had also been trying to dig up information on Royal Pain’s academy. We had worked over the names my grandfather had given us at least a dozen times, but even with Bureau records we couldn’t backtrack them to anything connecting them with the academy. It wasn’t like supervillains were monitored all the time, or otherwise there’d never be such a thing as a surprise attack. Tobias couldn’t find any links with their finances (and how he got into those, he didn’t offer and I didn’t ask) to the companies Royal Pain had been using to fund her academy. Oddly enough though, it was Zack who made the connection.

 

This time we were studying at Ethan’s house right after school, and Ethan was frantically putting away some files he had scattered around the room so we could sit. Zack picked up one of them to hand to Ethan, reading it casually.

“John Tennyson?” he asked.

“The Weaponsmaster, he was one of our suspects… but we still can’t find anything connecting him. It’s frustrating,” Ethan said, sighing.

“Tennyson. Huh, like Tenney,” Zack commented. Ethan dropped the file. “What, dude?”

“Like Tenney. No, exactly like Tenney!” he exclaimed. “Zack, you’re a genius!”

“Dude, I know I am!” Zack said, beaming. “Why?”

“Tenney is a variation on Tennyson, and you know powers run in families! He must have changed his name. The Weaponsmaster is related to Royal Pain! Guys, this could be our first real lead to finding the academy!”


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