Once upon a time, he had been able to fly the Blackjack. The plane was nothing more than the frame of a Russian bomber; lacking engines, it was propelled solely by Magnus Loder’s ability to mentally influence metal. The trouble was that planes had a propensity for showing up on radar. Fortunately, Magnus Loder had been able to divide himself into two beings and while one focused on flying the plane, the other focused on making the plane invisible to anything but the naked eye.
Since Deimos had killed Magnus’ positive side, the man had not been able to fly the plane—at least, not without attracting some unwanted attention…
He could have asked Portal to open him a gateway. He could have asked the Aurelia to teleport him. There were a million and one other ways he could have gotten across the country but many of them would raise questions.
Inside, he had elected to drive.
Much like the Blackjack, Magnus’ car had no engine or ignition—no power steering or functional brakes. It was a metal box on wheels that was powered purely by his ability. While that meant he did not have to stop for gas, he was still human and had to stop to sleep.
For the past four nights, he had been sleeping in the car. He drove all day—stopping only to refill his stomach or to empty his bladder—and when he felt weary, he pulled into a rest stop and reclined his seat.
He had not showered in days. Every so often, he would bring his hand to his face—to itch his nose or to stroke his goatee—and he recoiled at the grimy smell that had permeated his skin.
The long drive meant he had a lot of time to think—he thought about Adonis’ arrival and Atlanta’s odd departure; he thought about Maria and the twins and whether or not he had a shot at getting back with Chienne.
As he continued to make his way through the American northwest, his cell phone rang. Maria had been calling him every half hour or so. This time, he had decided to answer it, thinking that might make her finally stop pestering him: “What do you want?” he asked as he picked up the phone.
Silence answered him. He hung up. She called him again. “What!?!” he thundered.
“I was worried about you,” she said. “I haven’t heard from you since you left-”
“Not much to say,” he growled.
“Have you found Adonis?”
“I’m busy, okay? I’ll talk to you later.” With the push of a button, he hung up on his wife again and tossed the phone into the seat beside him.
He kept his eyes on the road as he reached down to a can of Monster Lo-Carb resting in the cup holder. What little remained soon traveled past his lips and down his throat and the empty bottle joined the wrappers of beef jerky in the passenger-side floorboard. He considered pulling off for provisions, but this close to his destination, he elected to press on. Within the hour, he would reach his target…
Within the hour, he would be on Alexa Hawk’s doorstep.
She had left the day after Deimos’ attack on the school. She hastily backed all of her family’s things, entrusted Cassandra Goodman to oversee their shipping and drove away with her step-daughter. Within a week, she had called Cassandra with an address: she had returned to Oregon and found employment at a nearby hospital. She moved into an apartment complex with a small playground; she had enrolled Lexi Stanton in school.
Alexa Hawk was devoted to living a perfectly normal life and Magnus Loder was determined to change that.
It was a little before 2 o’clock when he found the apartment complex she listed as her address. It took a few minutes of wandering the handful of handsome two-story buildings before he found her apartment.
When no one answered his knock, he peered in through the large picture window to the left of the door; it was dark inside and the lace curtains conspired with the glare from the sun to keep him from getting a good view. Still, he could make out toys strewn about and a kitchen table converted into a small office by the look of the paper tower dotting its landscape. Pictures of Mia Stanton—some with Alexa, some with Lexi and some with all of them together speckled the walls. He had the right place but his target was not home…
He headed back to the car. He left and found a small diner—a family-run Italian place where he had the worst lasagna he had ever eaten. After using the restroom he left a five and three ones on a $7.89 tab and made his way back to Alexa’s apartment. His intention had been to wait for her to pull up but weariness claimed him.
He awoke to knocking on his window. He opened his eyes and saw Alexa Hawk, glaring down at him. Her hair was shorter than he remembered and colored red.
It reminded him of his other half.
“What are you doing here?” she asked with a hint of agitation in her voice.
“I came to see you,” he called through the glass. “Can we talk inside?”
She hesitated. After considering it, she gave in and motioned for him to follow with a wave of her head. She led the way and as he got out of his car, he saw her holding her step-daughter’s hand. Her purse was slung over her shoulder while a brown bag was cradled in her other arm.
At her door, she fumbled with her keys. Magnus waved her aside and used his powers to magnetically unlock her door. She glared at him for a moment and held Lexi’s hand firmly. Lexi pulled at her and finally won her freedom: she darted into the apartment and ran right for the television. “Buzz!” she exclaimed as she pulled Toy Story from a shelf of movies. The six-year-old needed no help in working the devices: she was well-versed in operating the television and Blu-Ray player.
Alexa made her way in and dropped her keys on the table by the door. She held the portal open and motioned for Magnus to come in. “Pretty nice place,” he said, trying to be as polite as possible. He needed her to help him; he could not afford to repel her the way he did most people.
“This your first time seeing it?” Alexa asked reticently.
Magnus understood her tone: the access his powers gave him to her sanctuary unnerved her. “I peeked in through the window earlier. Didn’t look like you were home so I went to this shitty mom and pop-”
“Can you watch the language?” Alexa asked as she kicked off her shoes and punted them down the hall. “I, uh… I kind of got called down to Lexi’s school when she heard me use the F-word once. I swear she’s part parrot.”
Magnus watched her slip into the kitchen and start emptying the contents of her grocery bag. “How’s she doing? I mean, after… what happened to her mom?”
“We get by.”
“I’ll bet,” he said. “The kid gets Social Security now, right?”
Alexa nodded. “And I haven’t touched a penny of it. Hopefully, that’s Lexi’s college fund.” She sighed and rubbed her neck cagily. “What do you want, Magnus? You didn’t travel across the damn country to bring me an invisible house warming gift.”
“I need your help.”
“You haven’t even heard what I was going-”
“Does it involve funny costumes and super-powers?”
“Maybe not the funny costumes…”
She turned her back on him and occupied herself with making dinner. “I’m out of the game, Magnus. I won’t get pulled back in.”
Magnus traipsed into the kitchen and shook his head at her. It took everything he had to keep from chuckling. “Channeling your inner Michael Corleone there?”
“It may be cheesy but it’s true. God, Magnus… When Mia died, I wanted out of there… Then Libra let Aquarius take over my body and Deimos… Michael died, that Breeze kid? Sandy’s brother’s boyfriend lost his leg! Why would I want to come back to that? Why would I want to expose my daughter to that?” She shook her head. “Why do you and Maria expose your kids to that?
“How is Maria, anyway?”
Magnus shrugged. “Cold,” he said. “Bitch won’t let me touch her and the kids? You’re lucky: you basically got a textbook someone wrote all the answers in—no shi—no poopy diapers or late-night feedings…” An awkward silence fell over them and was filled with the sound of Alexa chopping carrots. “Adonis showed up in my apartment a while back—said something big is coming down the pipes. Our enemies are planning to engineer a little genocide.”
“You mean ‘your’ enemies,” Alexa said. “Only enemy I have is that witch Deb who expects me to do all her work and that R.N. Cindy who won’t throws a hissy fit whenever I try to get my shift swapped.”
“You really don’t care at all that Patriot Robotics, the CGP and Black Box are planning to go all Hitler on us?”
Alexa slammed the knife down and turned on him with a tired look. “How is that any different from what they’ve been doing for years, Magnus?”
“It’s about those three boys you found in Patriot Robotics-”
“I’m done with this Magnus.”
“Their mom’s some kind of crazy powerful woman who they think can kill us all.”
“Magnus, this…” She sighed dejectedly. “This isn’t anything new! Primes, Zero, Peoria—it’s one thing after another with these people!”
“And you’re just going to what, Alexa? Stop fighting? Lay down and wait for them to mow you down?”
“No, I’m going to live my life with the decisions I’ve made and trust that people like David and Sandy and all of the other Vindicators will do their jobs and…” She trailed off as she saw the look in his eyes. “They don’t know about this, do they?” she asked. “You son of a bitch! It’s the Affiliation all over! You’re trying to do this by yourself so you won’t have to share the credit when you save the day!”
“They know,” Magnus lied, “but they don’t think it’s enough to move on. The information came from Adonis, Alexa—ADONIS! Do you really think after everything the Affiliation has done, the Vindicators are going to put any stock into anything he says?”
“Then why are you? From where I stand, you have more reason not to trust him than they do. I’m just saying, it’s more likely that Sandy’d believe him before you!”
Magnus said nothing. He simply began to grind his teeth at the realization that Alexa would not budge on this: she was not going to help him fight what was coming… but there was another purpose behind his visit…
“So, if there’s nothing else?” Alexa asked. “I’d invite you to stay but I’m only making enough for two…” She moved to walk past him to reach the refrigerator when Magnus grabbed her around the waist and steered her into a kiss.
The instant their lips touched, Alexa began to push against him. She slapped at his chest and when he wouldn’t let go, she shifted forms.
In her aquatic form, Alexa’s clothes dropped to the floor where she had been standing. She refused to revert back to her human form—she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her nude. “Get the hell out of my home,” she growled.
“C’mon,” he said, “you’re not a lesbian, Alexa—you’re bi. You like guys and girls.”
“I’m betting you haven’t gotten any since Deimos offed your girlfriend.”
“I bet it’s been even longer since you had a man, right? Someone who could just bend you over-”
“Get out of my house, Magnus!”
“Have you ever even had a man? How do you even know you’re bi or gay or whatever? C’mon, Alexa, why don’t you go for a ride on my South Pole and you can tell me which you liked having inside you better: Mia’s tongue or-”
Alexa’s limbs elongated and slammed into his face. The volume of her appendages shifted to form an orb of water she maintained around his head. The cutting knife she had been using flew from the counter; it shot through Alexa’s liquid body and over Lexi’s head, burying itself into the wall beside her.
Alexa released him. “I ever see you so much as look at my daughter funny and I will kill you!” she snarled. “Do you understand me, you sick son of a bitch!?! Get the hell out of my house and don’t you ever come back!”
He said nothing. He simply turned and made his way for the door. As he cut through Lexi’s field of vision, he stopped and blocked the television screen. He made sure not to look at her—he did not want to test whether or not Alexa had been bluffing. “Hey, kid,” he growled. “Here’s a new word for you: your mommy’s a cock tease.”
As he continued his egress, he emitted a small electromagnetic pulse that left the screen blank. “Buzz!” Lexi moaned as the door slammed shut behind the blue-haired man…
To Be Continued... wrote:Black Box loses a man...