It’s taken me waaaay too long to write this, but you should know that this all came together in less than a day. I wrote like a man possessed. It’s definitely one of the longer chapters. I hope you guys like it. I think I said there would be one more part to the Leaving the League “Season 2,” but there are actually two more. After that comes the 3rd season with plenty of changes to keep everyone on their toes. I hope you dig it, and lemme’ know in the comments what you think. 😀
Exeter looked as well put together as you would expect from the head of the SLA’s publicity machine, but exhaustion was plainly written across his face.
“Thanks for coming,” I said, and stepped aside so he could enter.
He looked around the office and nodded. “Humble beginnings for your new team. No research and development lab, no weapons testing facility. I have to say, it’s not the greatest secret lair I’ve been invited to.”
“Oh, it’s all below ground. I’ll have to show it to you. There’s a super computer and a grotto with a waterfall.”
“Plush,” Exeter said approvingly.
I let our light banter lift my spirits a bit. It was a brief respite from the insanity that we were planning. Too brief.
Exeter’s grin slipped into something more concerning. “I know where they’ve taken her. At least, the most likely option. The SLA has been taking down Sanctuary safehouses for months, but there’s one that we’ve been ignoring. The idea was that if they thought we didn’t know about it, then they’d be likely to move supplies and people through it. Our surveillance is intentionally light in the area, but there’s been a lot of stray dogs in the area for the last two days. Dozens of them.”
“Unless there’s another animal charmer we don’t know about,” Exeter said.
“Do you think the SLA is going to get involved?” I asked.
Exeter blew a stream of air out of the side of his mouth and shook his head. “The fact that our transport was attacked is a huge insult, but this happened on a public highway during an operation that wasn’t exactly sanctioned by our government liaisons. The situation is a mess and the dust-up at your apartment, combined with Rich Huerta destroying half of his suburban neighborhood, doesn’t make it look better.
“Several of the SLA’s trusted associates are meeting with Europa tonight in order to discuss next steps. Disarming the SLA entirely is a serious talking point.”
I remembered Europa’s suggestion that it was time to start cutting strings.
“She thinks it’s going to happen, doesn’t she? The SLA is going to be de-clawed, and so the money she gave me, it was an insurance policy. A guarantee that there’s at least one team operating independently if they close up her shop.”
“One possibility of a hundred that could come out of the situation. She’s not prescient, but she’s shrewd. More importantly, she trusts your judgment, Nick. Enough to drop this responsibility in your lap.”
“And do you?” I asked.
“Trust you? Of course, but that’s just one of several feelings I have about you,” Exeter said.
I could smell the change in the air. I didn’t need to push him to sense the hormones coming off of him in gentle pulses. That was new. I’d have to experiment with that.
I looked over at the darkened office and saw Ian and Rich attempting to sleep in uncomfortable position in improvised beds.
“Uh, maybe we should continue this conversation outside,” I said.
Exeter dangled his keys. “I brought the van.”
“Fuck yes,” I whispered.
The SLA tactical armament & response trucks didn’t look like trucks at all, so we affectionately called them “the vans.” They sported a slick black on gun-metal gray look and they were filled with all kinds of devices that would make second amendment types jizz themselves in glee. They also included ambient temperature control, next-generation shocks that ensured a smooth ride over impossible terrain, and extreme soundproofing. Europa had once warned me during a private meeting with the Checkers that she didn’t intend for the vans to be used as mobile motels. She’d given me the idea, but I like to think I would have come to it on my own anyway.
In between ripping off his tie and probably popping a button or two on his expensive collared shirt, I managed enough coherent thought to ask Exeter: “why now?”
We’d had a simmering tension for a while, but I wouldn’t have taken a bet that the buttoned up executive would have come to my door dripping with sex vibes. Not, of course, that I minded. I didn’t need to look that gift horse in the mouth, especially when I could already see his abs. God damn if I didn’t love bedding superheroes.
“We could be dead in a few hours. Even we rescue Selena, if we get caught by cops in this political climate, they’ll throw us in jail. For a long time. I guess this is selfish, but…”
Exeter lunged at me instead of finishing his sentence.
Our clothes came off fast, but Exeter’s cock got hard even faster. He guided me down to his crotch with a hand behind my head and his unspoken command of the situation shocked me a little. He’d struck me as a bit of a follower, always adhering to Europa’s orders. It was unexpectedly hot to find him taking the lead.
I felt…something…at the back of my head and suddenly I had a near complete and totally intimate knowledge of Exeter’s body. I knew where he liked to be touched and what didn’t do anything for him. I knew that he loved to have his dick deep-throated and I wasted no time providing that service. A part of me, a small part, was disappointed that he’d given me a cheat code or shortcut to his sexuality instead of allowing me to discover those things over time. But he was right, either or both of us could be badly hurt or killed in the batshit crazy raid we were planning. We might not have time to stumble, experiment, and get better.
I didn’t so much suck Exeter’s dick as I provided a warm, wet, and hella willing hole for him to drill into with his hips and his gorgeous, uncut cock. He was eager and since we were already sharing, I tried to give him a little taste of my own arousal to supplement his own. The push was enough to send him into overdrive, bucking his hips and jamming his dick into my throat while I slobbered and choked on his length. Eventually he pulled away and drew me up onto my knees beside him so that we were face to face.
“Nick…I…” Exeter said, suddenly shy and blushing. “Could you fuck me?”
Would you say no? If you think you might, first let me describe Exeter’s ass, which was already pretty perfect in the tailored pants he always wore, but was fucking legendary in bare reality. His bubble butt was smooth and luscious. By the time I got him on his knees in front of me I was already dripping. We took a little time to search for a condom and lubricate his desperate hole, then there was nothing but to fuck him.
Exeter was tight enough to send me into paroxysms, but I held on to his hips and pumped forward slowly enough for him to get used to me. I looked down at him, elbows on the ground, ass hiked in the air and thoroughly skewered on my meat. I nearly lost it and started pounding his ass, but I reined in my carnal urge in order to give him a little more time to acclimate.
“You can go ahead. Just fuck me,” he said.
Seven words and I transformed into a machine. I fucked his hole and Exeter growled and cursed underneath me. His body slicked with sweat almost immediately and it didn’t take me much longer. I reached a hand down and encircled the base of his dick with one hand while alternately stroking his ass and thighs with the other. He purred as we fucked and humped my hand with small motions, getting himself off while I reamed his ass.
Exter squeezed my dick with his tight fuckhole once, twice, three times purposefully. Unspoken sex code: I’m going to fucking lose it. I cranked the pressure up to 11 and fucked my friend with all the urgency I could muster until I could feel him go extra stiff in my hand; his cock started blasting his load all over the floor of the van. I came to my own roaring climax a little later.
When it was over we laid on the floor of the expensive SLA vehicle and huffed and puffed until we caught our breath.
“I’m assuming you’re going to leave that out of your next report to Europa?”
“I think there’s a lot about the next few days that’s going to be left out of the official reports,” Exeter shot back.
I propped myself up on one arm and looked at him. Exeter was handsome, capable, and at that moment—flushed and slightly sweaty—hotter than anyone had a right to be.
“Is this serious?” I asked.
Exeter made a noise somewhere between a laugh and a moan. “We’re superheroes, Nick. It’s always serious.”
“Except when it isn’t.”
“Right, except when it isn’t.”
“So is this one of those times?”
“Nick,” Exeter said softly. “You accepted money from my boss to conduct unsanctioned heroic operations in this city. Next week I might have to publicly denounce you. The week after? You could be in state, federal, or SLA custody. Europa’s games…my job…our jobs. I wish this was a better idea.” His eyes were soft. Softer than I’d ever seen them. “I really wish it was a better idea.”
“You should get some sleep, Nick,” he said.
And after that, I don’t know. I must have fell asleep because my next lucid memory was the sun coming up.
Hal Arroyo was ornery and claimed that he hated working for people with abilities, despite being Ian’s longtime lawyer. He was especially testy when he showed up before 7 a.m. dragging along a handful of heroes. Ian and I met him outside the office.
“You’re paying me overtime,” Hal said, as he climbed out of his SUV. “In fact, you’re paying overtime to my overtime. I’m billing you for every time my name is mentioned in the shitstorm that is sure to follow. And I’m including the fucking blogs.”
“Hal, they weren’t even charged…” Ian started.
Hal, wearing shades even though the sun had barely risen, waved his hands out in front of him. “Look, if this turns into a conversation before I’ve had coffee then you owe me ten-thousand dollars. So, as your legal counsel, Ian, I advise you to shut the fuck up.”
He opened the passenger side door and Akma stepped out, followed by Boros and Zashir.
“Where’s Devon? Justin?” I asked.
Hal’s acid stare glanced off of me. “At a different holding facility alongside Captain Fuckhead—” His charming nickname for the Ocelots’ field commander, Ringo. “—besides, my contacts in CCPD tell me that SLA lawyers are already swarming the place. I barely got these three assholes out before they swooped down like a murder of legal vultures.” He turned to Ian. “By the way, Ian, I just had to speak more than one sentence about this fucking catastrophe. I hope you have your accountant on speed dial.”
“You’ll get paid, Hal. Just calm down.”
“I’m as calm as a cucumber, Ian. After all you just paid my mortgage this year.” Hal doffed an invisible cap, climbed back into his SUV, and took off without another word.
“Charming guy,” said Akma.
“Because he makes you seem downright hospitable in comparison?” I asked.
Akma wrinkled her nose. “Hospitable. Really? I wouldn’t go that far.”
I gave her hug and greeted Zashir before I went over to talk to Taras, or Boros. He gave me a lopsided grin that made me smile, too.
“I didn’t get to thank you for stopping us from killing each other at my apartment,” I said.
“I didn’t get to apologize for what happened to your apartment. I’m pretty sure you’re going to lose your security deposit,” he said.
Considering that Zash busted through a wall and Akma caused generated a small forest, I was pretty sure he was right. Still, the joke took the edge off of the awkwardness that it was his teammate that nearly got us to kill each other.
“I swear I had no idea that he was planning any of that. Jack Valence usually marches to beat of his own drum, but this doesn’t seem like him at all. There’s probably a lot of money involved. And as for Sanctuary and the SLA, things are so fucked. You shouldn’t trust either of them, if you can avoid it.”
“I don’t. As long as I can avoid it. Look, there’s a lot going on so all that stuff has to wait. We’re kind of plotting a…”
Zashir cut in. “Shugo has kept us all in the loop. We’re all in for rescuing Selena.”
“Really?” I asked, a little incredulous.
“While we were bickering and fighting amongst ourselves a child was taken against her will. A child the SLA swore to protect. I think we owe it to her and her family to make that right,” Taras said, and added, “I need to to make it right.”
Ian invited the group inside to talk more about our crazy plan. Zashir and Akma went ahead and as I followed—Taras touched my arm and stopped me.
“Nick, I just wanted to talk about things between us,” he said.
“I don’t blame you for Jack Valence’s actions, Taras.”
“No, not that, well not just that. I don’t only want to help out because of the girl. I’ve been doing this ‘hero’ thing for a while and I don’t mind it, but it’s just been a job, you know? My family back home, the money helps. But I want to help you. I like you. I’m not trying to make this something it’s not, at least not yet. But I’m open to more than just fighting side by side. I’m not much of a sidekick, but I think I make a good friend. I’d like to be someone you rely on, and I’d like to see where this goes. If you do.”
I opened my mouth to speak and instead I remembered Exeter’s body underneath mine and the sweat collecting on his brow afterward. I could still recall every way to elicit a moan or make his cock jump. The memory, so electric and titillating the night before, felt tinged with a bubbling sense of something like guilt.
“I…things are tough right now,” I said. “Can we talk about this later?”
“Of course. I completely understand. Later then,” he said.
I expected deflation, but the opposite was true. My deferral seemed to spark a sense of possibility in Taras that was adorable to watch and made me feel worse. His eyes looked brighter, his shoulders squared, and he had a hard time suppressing his goofy smile. I headed back into the office and he followed like an eager, shaggy haired puppy that I suddenly realized I could have for my very own. It made the strategy session that followed incredibly awkward, but the subtle, questioning glance that Exeter shot me from the other side of the table that we all huddled over made me want to melt into the floor.
“We should split into two teams,” Zashir said, as we all looked on at a map that LaVona pulled up and uploaded to the four tablets that we had in the office. It made sense for Zashir to do the tactical planning. He had the most experience, even though people had started to treat me like the ringleader. I tried to play it off and referred to myself as the recently wealthy gay uncle of the group, but the joke didn’t stop people from asking my opinion on serious matters.
Zashir continued. “We use one team as a diversion. It’ll be bigger and we’ll take the most tactically experienced combatants. So I’m thinking myself, Boros, and Akma.”
“I can offer my help there, as well,” Exeter said.
Zashir shook his head. “Not a good idea. We’ll be poking the bear and trying to draw out Sanctuary from their safe house. We might end up fighting in the street, very visibly. There will be enough trouble without you getting recognized from your television appearances. And that’s not to mention that you ability is only useful up close. If we have to get close to someone like Wyrm? Belching fire? No, you should stay well out of sight.”
“I’ll go,” Rich Huerta said.
Zashir started to refuse, but then the ground started shaking, and Rich repeated, “I’ll go.”
“Ok. So Rich is going to go,” Zashir said, and the office stopped vibrating under their feet. “Nick, I think you should head up the other team. You search the safe house, find Selena, and get her out.”
“I’ll go with Nick,” said Ian. “I’m not a superhero, but I’ve been in my share of scrapes. I can hold my own. And I used to fence back in the day.”
Zashir nodded. “There’s one complication. Well, there are a few, but the most potentially significant is that we’ve used this play before. When the SLA tangled with Sanctuary at one of their former safe houses, we had a similar attack plan and more muscle behind us. We still nearly lost one of our own. There are no guarantees here and this could get bad. I want everyone here to be able to acknowledge that risk. There’s no shame in sitting this out.”
Zashir’s eyes roamed the room, looking for anyone who wanted to back out now. I had to state the obvious.
“Maybe you should sit this out, too, Zash. You’re the tactical director of the SLA. If you get involved in this…”
“Was,” he said. “I used my one phone call in jail to resign. Any other questions?”
No one spoke up.
“Alright, then. Let’s go kick Sanctuary’s face in.”
I would have felt safer in the TART van, but driving an official SLA transport would have drawn the kind of attention that we least needed. Instead we took Ian’s tiny smart car and I fiddled with the radio as he drove downtown to the southernmost part of the city.
“Would you just fucking choose a station?” Ian asked, blowing cigarette smoke out the window.
“Sorry,” I said, and opted instead to turn the radio off entirely.
We drove for a while in silence, then I asked, “you said you’ve been in some scrapes. What did you mean?”
“Now you’ve got a burning desire to know my personal history?”
“I’ve asked before. You’ve been less than forthcoming.”
“I suppose I haven’t, have I?” he said. I expected him to just keep driving, but he talked inside. “I wasn’t a good kid, Nick. I didn’t come from a great family and I didn’t have a ton of options. I did some work for a group, low level thugs pretty much, just after I realized that my skin was a unique canvas. I spent some time scaring people into paying for protection from people worse than me. I had weapons all over my body that couldn’t be traced, it made for interesting job offers. I could only turn them down for so long before I was the one who needed protection.”
Ian shrugged. “I got out, barely. I never killed anyone, but I came close. The Whole Project got started to help make better options for people like us, like me, than just violence. So the irony of what we’re doing right now is not lost on me.”
“If there was another way—”
“That’s just it, Nick. It always feels like there’s no other way. I used that excuse to justify my actions for years. Scaring people, ripping them off, sometimes hurting them. No other way.” Ian shivered, and turned the radio back on.
We pulled up a few blocks away from the safe house and I started using my abilities to suppress our production of pheromones. Jasni had dogs patrolling the neighborhood, we’d even passed a few on the street, and I didn’t want them to tip him off that we were coming. Ian turned off the car and we waited. The sign wasn’t necessarily agreed upon, but Zashir said that whatever it was, we would know it when we saw it. We didn’t see it.
We felt it.
The ground started shaking and car alarms started blaring all over the area. The dogs that we’d seen careless ambling around all bolted simultaneously and I thought of Europa Evers calling herself a puppet master. Now, if she could have pulled that off I would have really been impressed.
“Time to go?” Ian asked.
“Time to go.”
We approached the safe house from the back of the building and tried to ignore the sound of fighting suddenly coming from a few streets away. The ground had started shaking again.
The back door was locked, but Ian, to my surprise, had a lockpick at the ready. He crouched down and started to work the lock until a few seconds later he twisted the handle and it sprang open.
“An artifact from my misspent youth,” he said, then waved toward the darkness behind the open door. “After you, fearless leader.”
I swallowed hard and entered.
The backdoor led into a cramped hallway that was barely lit from high windows admitted the barest light from the streetlamps outside, some of which were flickering badly from whatever commotion their allies were causing on the street. But I didn’t dare turn on the light. We made our way through the hallway, careful to avoid making too much noise, but we didn’t come across anyone in the hall. I didn’t sense any pheromones or hormones floating in the air either.
The place was empty.
“I don’t think she’s here,” I told Ian.
“Are you sure? Should we get out of here, then? Warn the others?” he asked.
I heard a voice and whipped around. The tone—sultry and mocking—I remembered well.
“Leave? Already? But you just got here and I’ve been so bored just waiting,” said Wyrm.
She was standing in the hallway and Selena Huerta was standing behind her. I couldn’t sense anything coming off of them, and a quick preliminary push proved that I couldn’t affect them either.
“What did you do to me?” I asked.
Wyrm shrugged. “Did you think we wouldn’t learn anything about you, Cumstain? No, I don’t believe that you would underestimate us to the point that you would walk into our operation center without back up and expect your little fuck powers to stop me from broiling you in your potato skins.”
“Or maybe you really are that arrogant.”
“Maybe I am. And maybe we can work this out between us,” I said. “Let Selena go back to her family and I’ll be your hostage. We don’t have to come to blows over this.”
“Nick, don’t—” Ian said, grabbing my arm.
I pulled my arm away. “This is what it looks like when violence isn’t the right move.”
I stepped forward and Ian grabbed for me again, but I yanked my arm out of the way and took another slow step forward.
“Let her go, Wyrm.”
Selena stood perfectly still, but she didn’t seem frightened. That was good.
“It’s going to be OK, Selena,” I said.
She flinched from my words, but there was nothing I could do to prove it to her. I trained my gaze on Wyrm and stepped forward again.
“Let her go,” I repeated.
“You know what, you’re right. I will let her go.”
“She’s lying!” Selena screamed.
Wyrm laughed, and when she spoke, it was like her mouth was full of marbles. “Our little lie detector. I never get bored with that.”
Wyrm spewed her boiling liquid in my direction and unlike the first time I tangled with her, this time I was already in motion. Even though I cleared her molten fluid, the steam from it still burned my arm. I swore, and instantly felt bad about it because there was a child in the room. It didn’t occur to me to cut myself some slack because I was fighting for my life.
Wyrm was preparing to launch another salvo and I was trying to figure out how to survive it when something went whizzing by my ear. It was so fast that I didn’t see it until Wyrm was flinching at the last-minute. The knife grazed her, cutting through skin and scale, then flattened itself into the wall behind her. She turned and gazed at the suddenly two-dimensional object and raised a hand to her cheek where the blood ran onto her fingers.
“Your little bitch friend cut me, Cumstain,” Wyrm said, genuinely surprised. She ran a bloody finger over the knife painting that had seconds ago cut through her impossibly tough scales. Wyrm laughed and then put a fist through the wall.
“Oh I like you, little bitch friend. I think this is going to be fun.”
“You know what?” Ian said, pulling a fucking fencing sabre out of his left shoulder. “I think so, too. But how about we make this fair? Let Nick take the kid and we can play together. Have some real fun, with real stakes. Promise I won’t bore you.”
Wyrm looked at Selena, then back at Ian. Then she raised a hand to the wound on her cheek. “Deal.”
Wyrm shoved Selena away and I ran toward her. Wyrm could have been lying and I could have gotten myself cooked for my troubles, but Selena didn’t call out which meant that she sensed Wyrm was at least somewhat genuine. And if I did get killed saving a kid’s life? Well, at least they’d bury what’s left of me at Hero’s Green.
Selena rushed into my arms, safe and whole, while Wyrm advanced on Ian. I didn’t like his chances, but without my power, there wasn’t much I could do. I considered sending Selena for help, but she was crying in my arms, inconsolable and suddenly defenseless after putting up a brave face for most of the standoff. I also couldn’t risk her falling into Sanctuary hands again and putting us all in danger for nothing. I couldn’t do anything but watch Ian and Wyrm circle each other.
“You would have made a good soldier for me, little bitch friend. I could have made you into something fucking ferocious.”
“I’ve got a job, actually.”
“Sucking Nick’s cock is a job? Or does he fuck you in the ass? I’ve heard he just fucks everybody.”
“I haven’t had the pleasure,” Ian said, and lunged forward with his sabre. Wyrm jumped away, but Ian was faster and scored a line across her belly.
Wyrm hissed and stepped back. She grinned and swiped a palm across her belly. She raised a bloody hand to her mouth and licked it clean with her long, dark tongue.
“Oh, you are fun, bitch friend. I don’t usually do white meat, but I think I’m going to suck the marrow out of your charred bones. Something about you just brings out the dragon in me.”
Wyrm brought up another torrent of liquid flame and Ian dodged. He was fast, but the flame was faster. It caught the side of his leg and he went down screaming. I tried to rush toward him, but Selena held on hard to me and shook her head.
“She’ll kill you,” Selena whispered.
“I can’t let my friend get hurt,” I said, and tried again to move.
Selena shook her head.
“It’s fencing,” she said. Her brown eyes seemed so focused and her expression so resolute. It killed me to leave Ian, burned, and struggling, but something about Selena held me firm.
Wyrm stood over Ian, who attempted to crawl backward away from her.
“Not going to beg, bitch friend? That’s boring. You promise me fun and now you’re just going to die? That’s disappointing. I’ll have to register my disappointment with Cumstain. Maybe I’ll eat him, too. The girl is off-limits, but him? Barely a snack. Wave bye-bye, bitch friend.”
Wyrm took a deep breath and started to bring up more fire, but there was a flash between her feet and then up her leg in an instant. Ian’s snake, Pala, sank her teeth into Wyrm’s leg and the woman let out a choked scream with fluid heat leaking out from her mouth.
Wyrm tried to swipe at the snake, but Pala was already gone, slithering quickly to Ian and back up his arm into the safety of his flesh. Wyrm tried to attack Ian, but his sabre was back in his hand and all she received was a cut her across her grasping hand for her trouble.
“Fuck you,” Ian said.
Wyrm was already wobbling, unsteady on her feet. She fell backward into a sitting pose, her back ramrod straight.
“What fun. I was so afraid. Guarding the girl, what fun is that? Who cares what she can do. But this. This was fun. What fun,” she said. Then she went quiet. She breathed shallow breaths until even those stopped.
I told Selena to stay where she was while I went over the Ian. His burn looked bad, but he grinned.
“I hope that idiot didn’t singe off my tattoos,” he said.
“I think we have bigger problems, can you stand?”
It turns out he could, but only with my arm around his waist and his arm around my shoulder. Every step was excruciating for him, but he only grunted and lied about the pain. Selena politely ignored his fibs as we made our way out of the building.
“I killed her. I made Pala bite her. I’m a fucking killer, Nick,” Ian whispered to me as we walked.
“You…” I bit back my words: you had no choice. Instead, I said, “she had it coming.”
Ian laughed at that. It was only a little forced. “I guess she did. And can you believe all the shit she said? Like I’d ever let you fuck me.”
“Hey, I’m pretty good-looking.”
“Nobody’s arguing otherwise, Cumstain,” he shot back. “But you’re still my employee.”
When we emerged into the fresh air of the street, Rich and Zashir were already heading toward us. Both of them looked like they’d seen better days. Rich had cuts across his face and upper torso, while Zashir’s clothes were torn in several places. Both looked like they’d been attacked by dogs, amongst other things. But Rich scooped his daughter up into his arms and launched into a barrage of too-fast Spanish as he held her. Zashir patted him on the shoulder and then looked at us. His gaze hardened when he saw Ian’s wound.
“That looks bad, we’ll get you to a hospital, Ian,” Zash said.
I looked around.
“Where are Akma and Taras?”
Zashir ground his teeth. “There were three of them waiting for us. We fought them off, wounded one of them pretty badly, but Taras was hurt. Seriously hurt. Akma got him out.”
“How serious?” I asked.
Zashir shook his head. “I don’t know. I was trying to protect Rich. I don’t know.”
“Fuck,” I whispered.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Ian asked.
Zashir looked at him, then away.
“What?” I asked.
Rich wasn’t looking at us either. So he knew, too.
“I’ll explain later, once we get Ian some help.”
“Ian’s not going anywhere until you stop fucking around. What’s happened?” Ian said.
Zashir’s shoulders slumped. “Exeter sent me this. It’s all over the news.”
He handed us his phone. There was a video already loaded. I pressed play:
In a room, seemingly at the top of a tall building, with a huge window looking out over Capital City, a masked man sat and addressed the camera:
“Heroes of the American Wasteland. Here is your Queen,” he said. “This is the woman to whom you have prayed and in turn has preyed upon you. In her ego she placed herself at the top of a peerless kingdom. But she is not one of us. She is not invulnerable. She is not the monolith she claims to be. I am here to expose her.”
The camera panned out and Europa Evers was shown, on her knees.
“The Queen has pitted her forces against those who peddle their Sanctuary and even as we speak their pawns are tearing this city apart. They offer conflict, I offer succor. I am Schism. I am a much-needed reckoning. Those who have broken their promises of safety will in turn be broken. Without exception. And here—”
He gestured to Europa.
The video ended there. I looked up at Zashir.
“It gets worse,” Zash said quietly. “I know his voice. He’s altered it, digitally, I think. But it’s him. I know his voice. He’s now calling himself Schism, but he used to be The Talent. My former mentor.”