He had hit a dead end. Adonis had given him all of the information the Affiliation had gathered concerning Autumn: he knew that her birth certificate named Arthur and Bethany Colbenson as her parents; he knew that Autumn had actually been sired by one of the Fallen—by Samael—making her a Nephilim capable of channeling white hellfire; he knew that Autumn had a sister; he also knew that that sister was the leader of a militia devoted to hunting down Neo-Sapiens and leashing them.
He knew that Autumn’s mother’s maiden name was Fischer and that her sister, Amy, had married Forrest Bedford; much like her sister, Amy had one child with her husband and one with Samael—Autumn Colbenson and Chienne Bedford were cousins and half-sisters; he knew that Autumn’s mother was now one-half of the administration at the New Vindicators Academy of Europe—a fact that worried him as he considered the opportunities Doctor Colbenson, Senator Bedford’s sister and Forrest Bedford’s sister-in-law had handed to her in Vienna.
He knew that at some point in the mid-80’s, Autumn had been handed over to Doctor Noah Meinstein. He knew that the man began trying to find a way to clone the girl and that Project Prime was one attempt at replicating the girl’s power. He knew that three Primes had been created, using her genetic tissue as the mother and DNA from another of Samael’s children—Autumn’s half-brother, Michuru—as the father. He knew that Fathom had encountered those three boys during the White War and that Adonis and the Affiliation had used them to seal off all of New York City with an impenetrable barrier while they staged their attack.
Magnus Loder knew more now than he did several weeks ago, but he was now facing a dead end: without the aid of Adonis and his network of spies, Magnus had no inkling how to take his investigation further. Adonis had Lurker and Gabrielle to teleport into an area and find out what they could; he had Beekeeper to fly through vents and retrieve data; he had Morph to alter her appearance and slip into secured locations; he had Bluetooth to access computers remotely… What the Affiliation lacked in raw power, they more than made up for it in subterfuge and information gathering.
On the other side of the coin, Magnus was a wanted criminal whose face was too well known; he had no contacts—at least none he trusted with this information…. As the son of Noah Meinstein, David could have found things out; Doctor Jenkins had devoted years of his life to serving the elder Meinstein and might have known more; Quinton Jorgenson could have hacked his way into a secured system; Colonel Sidell might have been able to use the information to obtain a warrant allowing the Vindicators to legally scour Patriot Robotics for pertinent information… but handing this over to anyone else meant that he wouldn’t get the credit when the truth came out!
Not only had the Vindicators been reinstated as America’s premier super-powered team but their victory over the Aeolian Empire’s planned invasion months ago had begun to make the country see them for what they were: heroes. A distinction was being made between Neo-Sapiens and Neo-Sapiens who used their powers for selfish gain or to sow fear. This was the era he dreamed of leading the Vindicators in! One where they weren’t booed when they saved the world but applauded—cheered! He wanted a life where the Lodestone name hadn’t been despoiled by the misconceptions propagated by Forrest Bedford’s lies—one where parades where thrown for him and confetti rained down over the motorcade! Instead, he was believed to be a political assassin and sentenced to life inside this school, sleeping with a wife who didn’t let him touch her and a newborn set of twins who never let him off of the rollercoaster of crying and pooping they manned.
It was a further slap in the face to look at the roster of Vindicators: the Aurelia and Boson had only just graduated high school and Wilt wasn’t that much older than they were. Granted, he was only a year older the Wilt and only had two years on the girls, but they were children—inexperienced children wearing the black and white while he rubbed his wife’s feet or changed another dirty diaper. Making things even worse, Wilt had no control over his powers. Even Mirage—a normal human with no super-powers to speak of—was on the team….
Meanwhile, Magnus was training the students to use their powers more effectively. In most cases, he was teaching them how to simply defend themselves but every time he looked at them and saw the potential their abilities possessed he wondered if he was training the next Vindicator….
He wondered just how many of his students would pass him up on the road towards destiny….
It was these thoughts that had made him so apathetic to training the students. When they first started, he and Chienne had taken a week to look over the student’s file and theorize effects that should have been possible: John Titus should have been able to draw his weapon of choice from the moisture in the air around him; Pandora Filash should have been able to fly; Carl Hamilton should have been able to employ his powers in the same manner the Wreck Room created tangible illusions; Jude Bellows should have been able to turn insubstantial… Some had been more successful than others: while Pandora could fly and Jude could phase through solid matter, Gregaro still could not focus the energy inside of him to form intricate ice shapes and Rick Tasker still could not channel the energy orb he evoked into a beam to attack his opponents from a distance.
Even those who had no control over the abilities—like Wilt—were more suitable candidates for the Vindicators than he was at this point. It was a depressing realization for the goateed man.
“All right,” Magnus groaned, “who are we meeting today?”
Chienne raised an eyebrow at the question. “Didn’t you read the kid’s file?”
Magnus shrugged. “Sorry, sweetheart, but it’s become increasingly difficult for the same boring background to hold my attention. Give me the Cliff Notes version: what’s this kid’s name?”
“Black’s the kid’s name?”
“What kind of name is ‘Black’?”
“What kind of name is ‘Magnus’ or ‘Chienne’?” she asked rhetorically as she fished under her arm for the student’s file. “Black Francis Falkenrath, born March 4, 1995 in Castle Danger, Minnesota—”
“Wait, what?” Magnus asked. His body whipped around and his hands liberated the file from his blonde partner. His eyes hurriedly scanned the student’s dossier, as if he would find it contradicted everything Chienne had just said. “There’s really a city named ‘Castle Danger’?”
Chienne nodded before taking the file back.
“And his name is really ‘Black Falkenrath’?”
“It’s German for ‘keeper of the falcon’.” Magnus turned and took in the sight of the fourteen-year-old boy crossing the Wreck Room to join them. He wore a plain black ‘V’ neck shirt with olive green shorts; if the crinkling from his bulging hip pocket was indicative, that was where he stowed the bag of Dum-Dums he had a slight addiction to. The white stem of a half-finished cherry sucker bobbed up and down as he the messy-haired boy talked. “The ‘Black’ part… well, my mom was a huge Pixie’s fan and named me after their frontman.”
Magnus looked from the boy to Chienne and then back to the boy. Black merely fixed him with an icy cool, apathetic gaze. “Any other questions?”
“Yeah: what are your powers?”
Black said nothing; instead, he extended his arm and bent all of his phalanges save the index finger inward, forming a hand gun. His thumb slowly rose back to point upwards when, suddenly, his thumb flicked downward and a red beam of light erupted from the tip of his extended finger.
An odd sound accompanied the beam as it shot past Magnus and Chienne; it reminded Magnus of the Fourth of July—how every year his family would sit in lawn chairs on his grandfather’s front yard and watch the fireworks sail up and out of the nearby stadium. The odd scream slowly faded as the head of the beam traveled away from them; it made no sound when it struck the farthest wall of the Wreck Room.
“That’s it?” Magnus asked. “You’re a human laser pointer?”
“Go check out the spot of impact, Magnus,” Chienne suggested.
Grudgingly, Magnus marched across the floor of the Wreck Room only to find that the wall now had a miniscule hole cleanly burned through it. With the naked eye, there was no telling how deep it went but the plates were ferrous and Magnus could sense them with his abilities: he could feel that the hole went through the wall but he couldn’t tell if it went any further than that. He imagined it did not: given how far underground they were, if the blast of energy had continued, the East River would have been trickling through the walls.
As Magnus made his way back, Chienne was explaining what she postulated about the young man’s abilities. “-only from your fingertips, but what happens if someone binds your hands—or breaks them? I want to work on having you project the beam from other parts of your body: specifically, you’re eyes.”
“You want me to try and shoot eye beams?” Black asked. The boy shrugged. “Okay. How?”
“Well, how do you shoot the beam from your finger?”
Again, Black shrugged. “I dunno; I just do it.”
“You don’t have to think about something or… tell the energy where to do? Black, if you just ‘did it’, you wouldn’t be able to stop doing it. Each time you use your powers, you make a conscious decision to do so. What goes into each use? Figure that out and we know how to make the beams come from other places.”
Black eyed her oddly, as if this was the dumbest idea he had ever heard in all his life. Then, his expression contorted into a look of thought: the more he considered it, the more valid her theory seemed to be. “So, is that it?” Black asked. “Is this just like… homework? You tell me to practice firing laser beams from my eyes and then I go back to my room and stare at a wall until I burn holes through it?”
“Well…” Chienne said, rubbing the back of her neck, “we tend to keep you kids in here and make you try to make some headway on-”
“Ignore her,” Magnus said, “some of us want to get out of here at some point tonight…”
“So, I can go?” Black asked.
“Yes,” Magnus said as Chienne said, “No.” The two instructors exchanged looks before Chienne continued, however grudgingly: “We had an ulterior motive in bringing you in here, Black… You know about Jude Bellows? The kid who was transferred to the Tokyo school?”
“Yeah,” Black muttered apathetically, “guy harassed my roommate…”
“That’s just it,” Chienne said. “When Doctor Howell had a little pow-wow with this kid, he told him everything…
“He told him that you had threatened him…”
“I used the threat of my ability to stop a fight,” Black said slowly—angrily. “I got tired of him harassing Eddie. I mean, yeah, with Eddie’s ability, there was nothing Jude could do but… that also meant Eddie couldn’t do anything to make him so away. I had to step in; I had to make him leave Eddie alone.”
“And if Jude didn’t?” Chienne asked.
Black shrugged. “I would have crossed that bridge when I got to it.”
“So you see nothing wrong with how you handled things?”
“Again: Eddie couldn’t do something, so I did it for him.”
Something clicked with Magnus then… He had hit a dead end in his investigation: he couldn’t go further; he needed someone to get him to that next step.
He knew he could trust David with the information but he didn’t trust David to not hand it over to Colonel Sidell. David would make their investigation a group project and that would damn Magnus’ chances of using this to climb out of the hole he was in…
He was somewhat close to Ben—he felt like he could trust Ben—but Ben was in the same boat he was: what if Ben took the credit for everything and used it as a way of clearing his name?
It was the same with Lex: after Deimos’ defeat, Lex had declined to stay at the school, saying that there was still too much blood on his hands. “Seeing what Deimos did here showed me that I’m not worthy of coming back here,” Lex had told them months ago. “Not yet, anyway…” Even if he could find Lex, he couldn’t be sure that Lex wouldn’t see this as the redemption he was looking for…
Magnus Loder needed someone who had cut their ties with the others and had no reason to try and steal the credit for his hard work. He needed someone who could function like Adonis’ agents—someone who could easily get in and out of a place with the knowledge he needed.
Two names came to mind and luckily for Magnus Loder, one of them was still living here in New York City…
To Be Continued... wrote:Mommy Dearest.