The Aftermath Academy - CH32 (Pyrrha)

I find Blue hanging out at his favorite spot, a bridge hanging over one of the little rivers feeding into the waterpark crater.

It’s a simple thing, an arched bridge with paved stones and stylistic iron bars raising to create the guardrail. He’s paused at the moment, mind and body still, storing some time to stack later. I take a moment to study his features, staring at his face intently, and the pieces finally fall into place.

I just saw that angle of the face. I’ve seen those eyes before. The list Mary breezes through every time she thinks about Blue’s parents, Mohinder’s distaste. B.B. God, he’s not even that subtle about it, displaying his actual initials like that.

“B. Butler,” I say as he comes back into the normal flow of time. He snorts, his mind going as blank as when he was storing time.

“Was really hoping it might not be too obvious if I skipped class,” he says. “But you’re sharper than most of our class. Maybe won’t become too common knowledge.”

“I feel like an idiot. You’re practically shouting it out. B.B. Really?” I ask him.

“It’s complicated,” he says. “I’m not ashamed of my family. Not very proud of them either, and it’s a bad idea to just go blasting out that information. But I probably wouldn’t have bothered hiding it at all if my parents and auntie Alysa weren’t so against me sharing.”

“Alysa…as in Alysa Killjoy? The God of the West is your Aunt?” It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. An invincible weapon and an impenetrable but selective mind block? That sort of power would be a joke to The God of the West.

“Sort of adopted, but yeah,” he says, shrugging. “My real aunt…died quite a while ago.”

“You have three of the true Untouchables in your family,” I say.

“Now I just need to marry one someday and it’ll be an even four,” he says with a wink. His mind’s stopped completely blanking out enough that I can sense a sort of innocent flirtation to his words. He’s not trying to imply anything but I blush slightly anyways and am glad it’s growing dark. “My big bro’s also a fantastic baker and my older sister is in Medical School.”

“That sounds surprisingly normal,” I say a little wistfully.

“Yeah,” he says. “My parents took great pains to make sure we all had as normal a childhood as possible. My mother had a leg up, due to her power. But dad always did his best to be at as many birthdays and school plays and baseball games as he could be. Cities have burned because he preferred to be a good husband and dad than to rush off and kill people who needed killing. Maybe a little less often during baseball season, he hates watching baseball. They were heartbroken when I got my powers and decided to be an executioner.”

“They don’t approve?” I ask. His mind is still skipping a bit when it comes to his parents. Now that I know Alysa Killjoy’s probably behind it, my guess is she decided Untouchables’ business should stay that way.

“They don’t want me to get hurt,” he says quietly. “They don’t… they try to do the right thing most of the time, but they don’t have much of a sense of obligation. I want to help people, no matter the cost, but to them it’s just a burden. Something they have to do because other people who signed up for the job were too weak or too slow. And part of the reason they even do that is just because they don’t want their own friends or family to die.”

“How did your views end up so different than theirs?” I ask him.

“By the time they were our age, they’d lost almost everyone they ever loved. They were enslaved for a bit, when dad was eventually forced to kill for the first time it was with no training or preparation on how to deal with the consequences. And my aunt…”

I don’t believe he knows that I know Lily was used as a trigger for the Purges and that his father had to kill her. I remember The Butler’s love for his sister, his grief after killing her, the frustration at being called away by the first Catastrophe class made by her power.

“Anyways, I grew up overly sheltered watching the rest of the world crumble because of catastrophes my parents might have been able to prevent. So when I got my own powers, I knew I had to help. And by stepping up, it might even force my parents to be more pro-active too. That wouldn’t be so bad, right?”

I can feel the overwhelming sense of duty in him. It’s not the same, but it’s resonant with the ruthless pragmatism I felt from May as she picked us off. A willingness to do anything to achieve his goal. Blue won’t hesitate, when it comes time for the real thing. He’ll carve through women, children, the crippled, anyone, as long as it means protecting the world. He’ll hate every second of it, but he won’t hesitate for a moment. Ironic, since he’s the only one of us who will have all the time in the world to grieve and prepare himself for the killing blow.

I think about all of the people Ray killed by accident, when he first gained his power. The guilt Ray feels, the knowledge that as hard as he’ll try he may never be able to make up for his body count. Blue would have killed Ray, had he been an executioner then. And I wouldn’t have ever met my friend.

Blue’s got a soft smile that still reminds me of Gabriel, if he’d grown up. What would Gabriel have done, if he’d lived? What would I have done, if Gabriel hadn’t rejected the gift and died, only to go out of control like Ray did?

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, we lived in Hope’s Bastion at the embassy. He died from the one thing I know of that’s immune to Hope’s immortality field. If he’d gone out of control and just done a lot of property damage, they could have figured things out without executing him. I’ve seen it before. But that’s cheating, hiding behind where we lived, what if he’d had a power like The Plague’s or we’d just lived somewhere else? When the time comes, and I have to take away someone’s Gabriel, will I be able to keep going after that the way Blue will?

It’s too big to deal with now, these thoughts. I’ve talked about things like this with Professor Grimes, and I guess I know what my next session with Samantha is going to cover. They aren’t anything new, and I’m not sure why they’re hammering at me now.

“Sorry, got lost in thought,” I say. “I think it would be really great, if your parents get more involved.”

Blue moves from the rail to my side in the blink of an eye. Now that people know what his power is he’s been a little more liberal in using it for small spurts. He’s not willing to spend much of his life-force impressing people, so he never does anything that would take more than a second or two to do without powers, but it’s still impressive.

He puts a hand on my shoulder and smiles more broadly. “Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it together, as a team.” He leaves it unspoken, the thought ‘as long as we’re able’. I wonder, given our powers, if our class can last longer than most. I certainly like some of my classmates more than others, even more so within my own team, but I don’t want to lose half of them within a year of graduating. No matter who they are, I want us to move forward together in this.

“Yeah,” I say. “Let’s do this.”

-------------------------------- End of Month One ----------------------------