“¿Qué Pasó?” Emilio asks. “This alarm is a bitch.” The siren began blaring just as our team was about to go to breakfast. We’ve never had this happen before. Emilio’s hand twitches and I see the twine he always carries now snaking out of his pocket. He’s resisting the urge to lash the twine out into the speaker system to make the alarm stop.
“Some sort of surprise test?” Ray asks.
“No, that’s not it.” Mary says, eyes wide beneath her multi-colored glasses. It’s been nearly eleven months since May Butler gave her those glasses, along with several other pairs, and I still have difficulty getting used to them. Flecks of yellow amidst a swirling with a cool grey and green and a clear little rectangle near the top. Little flashes of green light up the rectangles now, feeding Mary information. I think I would find it all distracting, but Mary’s power integrates it all effortlessly. I know firsthand how much she’s grown, now tied with me for sixth in the combat rankings.
Her power isn’t telling her exactly what the alarm means, but it’s bad. Really bad.
“Please report to the main auditorium. Please report to the main auditorium…” A voice begins to repeat over the speaker system.
“Whatever it is, maybe it’ll be a nice change of pace from normal,” Genevieve says. Blue’s eyes have darkened and his mind is blank.
“That alarm only goes off if there’s an all-hands-on-deck combat broadcast out,” Blue says. “Which most of us can’t participate in given we’re not graduates. But I agree with Mary. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’ll be a nice change of pace.”
“Then we’d best get a move on,” I say. We run as quickly as we can to the auditorium, Genevieve shooting ahead in a blur. When we get there, Dean Gravitas and Professor Karim are waiting on the stage. Dean Gravitas is calm, but I can sense the slight sheen of panic from Professor Karim, muddied quickly as more of our classmates arrive and it is drowned out by their confusion. When everyone has come in a minute later, Gravitas cuts the alarm.
“Good job kiddos, looks like you’ve learned not to be late,” zhe says. “I’ll cut right to it. Five minutes ago a catastrophe class gifted engaged with The Butler was upgraded to an extinction level threat. Currently at least four Untouchables, all graduated executioners, and the majority of Blue Skies are engaged with more on the way. The Hero Guilds are sending every Engagement ranked member. Mohinder and Miss Sedrick will be assisting with tactical support. Shawnee and Alexandra, you will be helping with communications, especially you Miss Tech. Your direct line to Hacker’s A.I. is about to come in handy. Grant, you’ll be providing perimeter control to help with containment. Reader, Mr. Gate, Ray and Blue, you will all be on standby in case we need to start gambling.”
“There’s more,” Professor Karim says. “Reed, please fill a couple of slots with Mohinder’s power so that they can get going. Then we’ll explain the rest.” Reed moves to Mohinder and places a hand on him for a second. After nodding, Mohinder begins blinking in and out, teleporting classmates to whatever coordinates Gravitas just sent to his communicator. It takes less than half a minute for the students Gravitas already listed off to vacate the room while the rest of us digest the reality of the situation.
“Genevieve, Emilio, Allie, Pyrrha and Reed. You will be participating on a hunting mission. To be frank, this isn’t something you’re ready for,” Gravitas tell us. “But Bone and Chain has been spotted in Seed City 59. His power doesn’t show up on scans and he never shows himself unless there’s an all hands on deck situation, which unfortunately means neither the Untouchables nor senior executioners have been able to take care of that bastard. We cannot afford to continue to let him run free though, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to risk it. Reed, fill your last slot with whoever’s power you think will most benefit you.”
“Most of you probably already know his powers,” Karim says. “But in case you need a refresher, Bone and Chain can change his bone density, alter his body shape, has massive levels of power resistance, limited regeneration and, most dangerously, bone kinesis with a strength on par with Emilio’s. Fortunately, he has to have actually made contact with a bone structure before he can control it. Unfortunately, his control is unlimited, meaning if he pierces through to your skeleton you might as well already be dead. And if you encounter anyone he is controlling, you will treat them as such, no matter who they are. Do you understand?”
Bone and Chain is legendary. His power is near that of an Untouchable, but he only shows up during emergencies, kills a few hundred people and then disappears again. He’s been active since I was a child, meaning his body count has reached well into the thousands.
“Yes,” Genevieve says.
“What about the rest of us?” Jira asks, lines of blood flaring with her energy throughout her body.
“The rest of you?” Gravitas says. “For these particular situations…I’m afraid you’re as useless as Karim and I.” As usual, zhe delivers this news with a smile and lighthearted tone that totally defies the gravity of the situation. “The sad fact is Bone and Chain’s greatest danger is that he’ll take control of your body. He has to pierce your flesh to do that, which will be difficult for most of the selected party. But the rest of you, regardless of offensive power, are a little too squishy to be sending up against him. It’s bad enough we have to send Reed, but he’s our only remaining option for teleporting the appropriate members to the combat zone.”
Jira’s frustrated, but it’s Nelle whose anger flares at the idea of being left behind. Whereas Genevieve and Emilio are at least somewhat appropriately apprehensive, Allie is practically humming with excitement. Nelle is similar in her enjoyment of fighting, even though there are many members of class that her power is not very effective against. She’s not happy that there’s finally a chance to put our training to good use and she’s being left behind.
“Sorry, Nelle,” Reed says. “But you can be there in spirit.” He lays a hand on her. A moment later he uses his power and there are two copies of Mohinder and a copy of Nelle standing next to us. He reads coordinates Gravitas has sent him. “Ready?”
I put in an earpiece for my communicator then spread my armor over my entire body and face.
“I’m ready,” I say. Genevieve brings forth the rod May gave her and nods as well. Emilio clutches his ball of twine and nods also.
Allie is bouncing up and down and I wonder how much stronger she’s gotten. For some reason she can’t participate in Professor Grime’s mental simulations. I also never see her during Professor Kiru-coy’s kill trainings. She goes to classes on theory, spends her free time with us, and executes the condemned prisoners without any hesitation. But her combat ranking has never moved from the middle of the pack. She can make a great defensive barrier, but if Bone and Chain gets past that she’s just as vulnerable as Reed will be.
“Ok,” Reed says, having us place a hand on each copy of Mohinder.
“Let’s do this!”
My ponderings about Allie cease as the room dissolves around us to be replaced by a street. It takes me less than ten seconds to realize how truly unprepared we really are.