Authors: Matt Blake
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Eight Years Ago.
down at Saint and watched as a huge ball of energy spread out of his hands.
It was snowy. The streets of New York were empty. All around, Orion could hear screams. The screams of parents separated from their children. The screams of children finding their homes destroyed. So many screams.
He felt ashamed. Totally ashamed of his entire kind for allowing this to happen.
So ashamed of himself for not stopping Saint’s trail of destruction sooner.
The air was thick with the smell of smoke. Orion’s hands shook. He tasted blood on his lips. The battle with Saint had been long and arduous, a test of sheer endurance.
But it was ending right here. It was ending today.
One way or another, it would be all over soon.
It just didn’t help that Saint floated right in front of Orion’s son’s house right now.
“You know what you have to do,” Saint said. He was in his silver metal armor, dressed like a knight. All around him, a black cloud that followed him everywhere. A black cloud that terrified citizens, that you could identify from a mile away.
“We don’t have to end things this way,” Orion said.
Orion couldn’t see Saint’s face, as thicker blobs of snow fell down. But he knew Saint would be smiling. “I think you know this is exactly how we end it.”
Orion looked around at the city. He saw smoke rising from distant buildings. Further away, he heard sirens and the rotors of approaching helicopters. He knew what the government would do to Heroes like him—or ULTRAs as they now called his kind. Sure, he’d helped them in their fight against Saint. But now they had a chance to get rid of them both in one swoop, Orion was certain they weren’t going to hesitate.
“Lower your powers,” Orion said. “Please.”
Saint laughed. His cackle was deep enough to make even the strongest Hero’s skin crawl. “Is that what it’s come to, oh mighty powerful one? You begging me to lower my powers?”
“This has gone far enough—”
“No,” Saint barked. His voice changed from amused to serious in an instant. “No it hasn’t. And you know exactly where this is going if you don’t do something about it. Fast.”
Orion’s skin crawled when he saw what Saint was looking at.
On the street below, there was a girl. A little girl running toward a little boy.
“Oh look,” Saint said, gesturing toward Orion’s right. “Our friends from the army are joining us. What a beautiful place for them to take us down.”
“Don’t bring those kids into this,” Orion said.
“Then do what you have to do.”
“Do what you have to do!”
Orion watched the children run closer to one another. He saw the little grin on Kyle’s face as he got closer to his sister. He felt a lump in his throat. He couldn’t risk any kind of battle over this place. He had to risk flying into Saint. He had to fly into that shield of energy and teleport the pair of them far away from here, even if it killed him.
“Do it!” Saint shouted.
Kyle and Cassie got closer to one another.
“It’s over, Saint.”
“Maybe it is. Come on then. End it. End it all.
Orion didn’t need telling again.
He flew at Saint faster than he’d ever flown at anyone in his entire life.
“Good-bye, old sport,” Saint said.
As he got closer to Saint, within inches from his face, he swore he saw the smile appear from under his mask, as if it had turned translucent.
“Big mistake,” Saint said.
He felt the ball of energy then. It crashed through his body, rippled all around him. He lost sense of all sights, all sounds. He lost sense of where he was, even, or where he was supposed to be taking Saint to.
And then he saw it.
He saw the scene beneath him.
He saw the buildings and homes that’d stood just moments ago, flattened.
He saw flames. Smoke.
But most of all, he saw Kyle Peters crouching over a body.
His sister’s body.
He felt a pain in his chest. His legs went wobbly. He wanted to go down there. He wanted to help Kyle. He wanted to help Cassie.
Then he felt a pain smack into his kidneys and he disappeared from Staten Island.
He appeared somewhere in the Sierra Nevada. Somewhere much warmer.
Saint was opposite him. His helmet had cracked a little around the jaw. He was smiling.
He stretched out his arms. “You did what you had to do. Killed a million New Yorkers in the process. But it saved your son so everything’s okay. Right?’
Orion felt anger and fury build up within.
He flew at Saint and cracked a power-packed punch across his jaw. It was a punch strong enough to take the pair of them to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hovering over it in a torrential rain storm.
Saint hit back and knocked Orion into the snow of Antarctica. He wrapped his hands tightly around Orion’s neck and squeezed.
“You always cared about the boy more than the girl, though, didn’t you? He was always the one you wanted to follow in your footsteps.”
Orion screamed with pure anger as the sight of his fallen daughter filled his mind.
He flipped out of Saint’s grip. Appeared above him. Fired balls of ice into him.
Saint just shook them off, rubbed his hands together and went crashing up into Orion.
But this time, Orion felt a ball of energy emit from his own body, much like the one that had fired out of Saint’s back in Staten Island. It was tiring and waning, but it was still staggeringly powerful. It took everything out of him.
It knocked Saint down into the snow.
Saint lay there, writhing. His mask was off now. His totally burned face and head were on show.
He looked up at Orion with his green eyes. One of his arms had broken out of place. And as much as he tried to fix it, the arm just wasn’t adjusting.
Orion used the little of his energy left to float down above Saint. To press his hand against his neck and push him back into the icy cold snow.
“My daughter,” he said. “You… you killed my daughter.”
“But she wasn’t really
daughter, was she? Just like Kyle’s not really your son. Not anymore.”
“Don’t you dare—”
“You gave them up. Gave them up because you were scared of the world they might have to live in if they knew what they were. Scared of what they might become when they discovered their true powers. What they are really capable of.”
Orion saw the goading smile on Saint’s face and he wanted to kill him. He knew Saint was weak. He could just
his weakness in the air. But he wanted to make him weaker. “Stop.”
“I won’t stop. Not until I’ve destroyed you. Not until I’ve completely taken over this planet. And not until the day I’ve got Kyle Peters by
side, convinced that his own biological daddy was the one who destroyed the—”
“Stop this!” Orion tightened his grip around Saint’s throat, not just with his hands but with his telekinesis, too.
But with the last of his strength, Saint resisted, as more and more snow covered him. He kept on smiling, blood rolling down his chin. “And his brother, too. The one you care about even less. The one you totally abandoned. The one that went wrong. I think he’ll be a very crucial asset in the fight against you, whether you’re still here or not.”
Orion thought about the person Saint referred to. He felt guilt. Severe guilt. He hadn’t intended to abandon any of his children. Something just went wrong with the third one. Something that made him… different. Different to the others. He could just feel it whenever he was in his presence.
“But for now, you live. Live with the knowledge of what you’ve done. Of the people you’ve killed.”
“I haven’t killed anyone.”
Saint’s smile widened. “You keep telling yourself that. You keep—”
Orion didn’t listen to any more of what Saint said.
He squeezed his eyes shut.
Created a wormhole with every ounce of strength he had left.
“You won’t come back from this,” he said.
He looked into the dark mass ahead of him—the endless wormhole that he’d forged with so much strength that it would just go on and on in an eternal loop.
“You’ll regret not killing me,” Saint said, smiling.
Orion didn’t reply. He didn’t know what to say. Not anymore.
“I’m sorry you couldn’t find your way,” he said.
And then he threw Saint into the wormhole, into his eternal abyss.
When he closed the wormhole at this side, he fell back. Tasted blood on his lips.
He leaned back on the freezing ice and stared up at the perfect Antarctica sky. The snow fell down and covered his body. The wind howled, cold enough to freeze him within a few hours.
He didn’t warm himself up.
He didn’t teleport himself away.
All he could think about was the people he’d lost.
The casualties of battle.
And his daughter, lying there on the road in Kyle’s arms.
He felt a tear roll down his cheek and freeze instantly as the last of his strength slipped away.
above the fallen city of Manchester, United Kingdom, and wondered how many more battles I’d have to fight, and whether there was even any point in fighting anymore.
The late afternoon clouds were thick. I’d heard a stereotype about the United Kingdom always being rainy and gloomy, and stories that Manchester was a particularly miserable place, weather-wise. Which was true, don’t get me wrong. The city below was covered in darkness.
But a major part of that was the thousands of ULTRAbots hovering over it.
I was silent, and so too was everyone else. I looked back at the Resistance. Looked at Orion—who’d scrapped calling himself Vesper since everyone knew who he was now. I looked at the rest of the Resistance—Stone, Ember, Roadrunner, Vortex. The Resistance, or what was left of it after Slice and Aqua fell.
Then, I looked behind them. Looked at the other ULTRAs, hundreds of them, all of them hovering behind me and waiting for me to make the move. They were Nycto’s ULTRAs. At least, the ones who’d decided to back the Resistance and me. Sure, some of them had defected to Saint’s cause the second he floated back into the world. But we had enough. Enough to strike back.
At least I hoped.
“So can we go through the plan just one more time?” Stone asked. There was an excitement in his voice. An anticipation.
I bit down on my lip. I didn’t have my mask anymore. Didn’t need it now the entire planet knew who I was.
I looked down at the swarm of ULTRAbots. They were strong. Really damned strong.
But nothing we hadn’t dealt with before.
“We smash some ULTRAbots and loosen their grip on this city,” I said.
Stone grinned. He was well built, with a short buzz cut and bigger muscles than I’d ever seen. He cracked his solid rock fists together, the stone spreading up his arms as he did. “That’s the kinda plan I’m into.”
I looked at Vortex. She had long, ginger hair and a freckly face. She was skinny, and to see her on the street or at school, you’d be forgiven for thinking she was just your everyday outcast.
But Vortex wasn’t an everyday outcast at all. She was an outcast, sure, but the complete opposite to an everyday one.
“You ready?” I asked.
She smiled, revealing her yellowy teeth. “Always ready to rain chaos.”
Her head shot back. Her eyes rolled into her skull.
She shot a beam of energy down toward the ULTRAbots below.
The rest of the ULTRAs followed Vortex’s beam toward the ULTRAbots. I knew when the beam had hit because I saw some of the ULTRAbots flinch. Some of them smacked the sides of their heads like they had something in their minds—whatever minds these machines had—that they just couldn’t get rid of.
Which was exactly what happened when Vortex did her thing. She could create nightmares. Quite a handy trait.
“Remember our code,” Orion called, as I pulled back my hands and readied myself to slam into the first of the ULTRAbots.
“Always,” I said.
I knew what Orion’s code was. What the Resistance’s code was.
We don’t kill our own.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick to that if I saw Saint. But I’d have to try.
The first ULTRAbots didn’t even see me. I slammed into the middle of them, then sent a blast of ice flying into all their faces, knocking them out of the sky.
I grabbed the arm of the next ULTRAbot. Flew it into its friend as the other ULTRAbot lifted its gun.
Then I created a mini-wormhole in front of the ULTRAbot getting ready to fire.
Closed the wormhole right over by Ember, who was already under the attack of several ULTRAbots.
He looked down at me as the ULTRAbots around him exploded thanks to my wormhole. “I had them,” he shouted, his hands covered in flames.
I tilted my head to one side as more ULTRAbots approached. The streets below were empty. I hoped it wasn’t already too late to save Manchester. “I’d rather not take your word for it.”
The three ULTRAbots at the front of the approaching crowd fired several heavy rounds at me. I dodged them, using everything I’d ever been angry about in my life to fuel my powers. I saw my sister Cassie dying in the Great Blast. I saw Nycto attacking the party venue last summer, Mike Beacon falling.
I saw Mom.
My powers got stronger whenever I thought of Mom. The gunshots of the surrounding ULTRAbots became irrelevant. Nothing seemed to matter, nothing at all.
Mom had been so kind. She’d been so strong. She’d been the rock of my family for so long, after Cassie’s death sent my dad down a dark path.
And now she was gone. Killed, it turned out, on Saint’s orders. A way of trying to break me down. Bring me to the edge.
Only I wasn’t broken down. I was fighting back. And I wasn’t going to stop until I killed Saint.
A crowd of ULTRAbots thickened around me. I couldn’t see in any direction for their mass. Some of them were firing already, so I slowed the bullets in the air and shot them right back at them, or diverted them so they hit the rest of the surrounding ULTRAbots.
But as the bullets came closer to me, I knew I was going to have to try something different.
I let the bullets get nearer.
Let them get inches from my body.
And then I stopped them, just like that.
We looked at one another, me and the ULTRAbots. Looked at each other, suspended in reality.
“Bullets?” I said. “Seriously?”
Then I shot all the bullets back out at the ULTRAbots and took each and every one of them surrounding me down.
I saw a gap then. Saw some people on the street. Military, fighting back with guns. We could help them. We could get the citizens of Manchester out of this place, to somewhere safe, if need be. But preferably, we’d defend Manchester. We’d keep it standing.
I was about to teleport down to them when I saw a dark cloud in the distance.
It was a distinctive dark cloud. A cloud I’d seen before. One that could only belong to one ULTRA.
“Kyle, wait!” Orion called.
I heard him, but I didn’t
hear him. Not really.
Because as I looked at the dark cloud of Saint, I didn’t just see an ULTRA. I saw the man who’d torn my family apart. The man who’d not only killed my mother, but killed my sister all those years ago too.
I felt the anger peaking inside me and I felt the need for revenge.
I looked back at the ULTRAs fighting off the ULTRAbots. Saw them all flying at one another, firing at one another. I wanted to stay. I wanted to help them.
And then I looked back at Saint as he got further away.
I couldn’t let him go.
I had to make him pay.
“Kyle!” Orion shouted.
I heard him, but I didn’t listen.
I took a deep breath and felt the anger of all my loss fill my body.
Then I fired myself in Saint’s direction, leaving the Resistance behind to fight off the ULTRAbots, to fight for Manchester.
I had a personal mission to attend to.