The Aftermath Academy - Epilogue (Pyrrha)

“I don’t understand what happened. They attacked the Bastion, they murder Lady Hope and Reader, and The Butler just lets them go?!” Emilio says angrily. Blue shifts, slightly uncomfortable. Emilio’s the only one left on our team who still doesn’t know Blue’s actual identity. He stares silently out at the crater housing the Academy’s water park.

“There’s proof out now that the claims against Lady Hope were accurate. And switching her powers to the Mayflower Army expanded the immortality field by at least one hundred fold in over two dozen movable subsections. Possibly more, depending on how the full interaction with The Butler’s boosting shakes out,” Mary says. “Objectively… I think they might have been the good guys in all this.”

“Mierda!” Emilio exclaims. The ground beneath his hand fractures as puts his fist through it.

“Maybe,” Blue says. “Assuming Hope’s mental instability wasn’t because of her power. If the Mayflower Army loses it…” He trails off. He believes in his mother’s competency and willpower but there’s still some worry there. “Even setting aside future uncertainties, it was a hell of a risk. If Hope realized too soon what they were planning, she might have vindictively killed herself. Then what little pocket of relative safety humanity could rely on if everyone outside the Bastion was wiped out would have been gone too.”

“Guessing that’s why they didn’t just ask permission to do this plan?” Ray said.

“I think it was more complicated than that,” I reply. “The Butler hated the women they used to transfer the power. So the plan put his wife at risk, involved using someone he hated passionately, while gambling on the existence of humanity’s failsafe. Not a lot of motivation there to allow it. They decided to go with an ‘ask forgiveness’ strategy and we got caught in the crossfire. No, more than that, this was a test of the waters. Executing on their plan this time set them up for future work. They want the only people who can hurt them to give them the benefit of the doubt next time they feel like they have to do something truly fucked up. And as far as all of the Untouchables are concerned… they executed just fine.”

Except for some of us collateral, Genevieve says. There’s bitterness to her voice, though the echo of anger I hear is at herself. I don’t really understand to what degree her shade is a conscious remnant of her versus a subconscious projection of my memories of her, but we both know that if she’d been more willing to let Bone and Chain go then none of the Executioners would have died.

Emilio’s anger isn’t mollified and I think he may be joining Mohinder in his lifelong hatred of the Butler family, though it’s not nearly as intense as his hatred towards Olivia. My own feelings are more ambivalent. She killed two of my classmates, and played a role in Genevieve’s death. She nearly killed me. If she’d tried to explain things from the start maybe… but that’s a foolish what if.

The wrong person with a recording device could have completely wrecked their entire plan. She traded a couple lives for her own and the future safety of hundreds of millions of people. The losses of the ones who died hurt, but it’d be hypocritical of me to hold a grudge when I was training to be an Executioner of all things. Necessary sacrifice is literally in the job description.

“What now?” Ray asks. There will still be a need for executioners. But with safe zones expanded so drastically, there may not be as much a need for us.

“I’m going to help out with safe zone security once they’ve figured out where all they’ll be set up,” Blue says. “Now that I know I don’t use up my life force to use my power in an immortality field… as long as I’m more careful about surveying my surroundings I’ll be basically invincible.”

“I think I’ll be helping out with that as well,” I say, grabbing Blue’s hand. Even before the attack on the Bastion I’d been having second thoughts about my ability to be an executioner. Genevieve’s been a much more talkative shade than any before her and I don’t know with certainty whether it’s because I knew her better. If I ever killed a true monster, someone like Barber, but who had a more active shade... I don’t know if I could handle that. But running around as security in an immortality field? I could still put my abilities to use with a lot lower risk.

“Makes sense,” Ray said. “A last resort is a last resort wherever. As long as I’m near a portal for deployment, it doesn’t really matter whether I’m officially an Executioner or a fancy security guard or whatever.” Ray’s trying not to rub Emilio’s face in it, but he’s excited about the portal technology Krieg Mirkoff created. If Mirkoff allows its distribution to even a handful of locations, it would drastically increase his living options while still being available in an emergency.

“I think I might remain an Executioner,” Mary says after a moment of consideration. “With any luck we won’t be as necessary. That would be ideal. I really don’t want to end up killing a kid someday.” She leaves the words ‘not again’ unspoken. “Even if we orderly cram in half the population into safe zones, there’s a lot of people still at risk. With Reader gone, I’m one of the strongest left. Maybe the population distribution will be sufficiently disbursed that it’ll make more sense to leave things to the Untouchables to handle. But until we know for sure…”

I can tell she wants to join us. Her sense of responsibility is holding her fast to her chosen course though. I understand. If I didn’t really believe now that my power is too great a risk, I’d be right there with her. I let go of Blue’s hand and give her a tight hug.

“How about you?” I ask Emilio.

“No lo sé,” he says. “I need some time to figure things out.”

Blue stands up. “With any luck, we have more of it than we did before.” He smiles, casting aside his worries. “I think I’ll use some of that to enjoy our school’s best feature before we leave it.” With a flicker he’s pulling me up and towards the start of a water slide. I laugh as we go into it together, sliding down around the edge of the crater towards the lake below.

It’ll be hard to ever forgive Olivia for paving the path to brighter tomorrow with the blood of my friends. But if it’s a future where I can spend my time laughing with Blue instead of killing people who couldn’t control their abilities… maybe someday I’ll manage.