The party was still mostly in swing around us, the fire crackling away with the sound of laughter and murmurs of conversation mingling together into a jovial atmosphere I didn’t want to pull myself away from. It reminded me of the simpler, happier parts of my childhood, a bittersweet feeling considering all of the baggage tied up in my past. It was getting late though, and no matter how much I would rather stay longer, going ragdoll in the middle of a field and just leaving me to be someone else's problem wouldn’t be very considerate, so off I’d go. I finished my last drink and scrambled up onto our ride out of there, accepting a helping hand up.
Today had been a pretty good day, I thought to myself as I balanced on the back of Doon, one of Rachel’s dogs, tucked between Chastity and Cassie. Tristan is back, kinda, I got to see some of the others from Breakthrough, and nobody started any fights at a mixed hero/villain gathering, not even the Heartbroken.
I waved goodbye to everyone that was still there, getting a few waves returned, and Doon set off. My stomach was still protesting my scramble up from before and my sense of balance was feeling completely off, which didn’t happen often. Maybe drinking doesn’t mix well with my powers. I’ve never really tried to get drunk after triggering so it’s hard to say .
I let my thoughts drift away instead, enjoying the cool wind on my face and watching the moonlight dappled trees fly by.
I was broken from my reverie when Doon took a hard turn, lurching me violently to one side, and my stomach churned unpleasantly. Chastity leaned into me from behind and grabbed Cassie’s shoulder, making a barrier so I wouldn’t fall off, which while I appreciated the help, also meant she was now tightly pressed up against me. I felt my heart speed up, slamming against my ribcage. Taking the moment for all I’m sure she felt it was worth, she whispered into my ear.
“You have too much to drink, Rain? Didn’t you only have like three beers? I guess you're a total lightweight, huh?” Admittedly, she might have had a point there, since I was definitely drunk, but she was sounding very smug about it. “You look like you could pass out any second. Aren’t you worried I’ll take advantage of you?” Her whisper was laced with more than a healthy amount of mischief.
I let out a small chuckle, I noted, “I pass out literally every night at the same time to the second, I’m not too worried you’ll start now. Besides, Cassie will protect my honor, won’t you, Cass?” I thought that was a decent response despite the unfortunate slurring of my words, but the moment was cut short by my stomach giving up on control as I gagged and puked away from everyone, narrowly clearing the dog and our legs. They just laughed at me, which was a great help really.
Yeah, I’m not gonna live that one down for a while. Forget powers, I think drinking and riding a giant dog don’t mix that well now that I’ve tried it.
“Ugh,” I groaned, and leaned my head back onto Chastity's shoulder, staring at the almost unmoving sky waiting for the world to stop spinning. “Can I get a time check? I've got to be in the recovery position by 10:27 or I think I'll be choking in my sleep tonight.”
“Yeah, it’s 10:15 now, and we have another 20 minutes until we get to the apartment, so I think that’s gonna be our job,” Cassie replied. “You two just get comfy and I’ll be sure to guard your virtue for you.” She started to chuckle mid sentence, I imagined the idea of protecting me from Chastity was funny to her.
Chastity let loose an over the top sigh of disappointment at that, but rapidly turned her mood around. “Alright, Rain, you heard the woman. Get comfy.” She wrapped her spare arm over me and pulled me close again as she caressed my chest. I let her and leaned into it a bit.
I am going to blame the drinking. Definitely not lacking in restraint, no not me, that friendship trial period is going great .
I didn’t even notice when I faded into sleep, but that pleasant moment was of course immediately followed with dreams of my time in the Fallen, showcasing some of the most shameful parts of my past and culminating in me standing in front of the chained doors of the mall laughing my ass off. The scenes I got put into were just warped enough to allow me to distance myself from them. The distance didn’t help the feeling of guilt though, details didn’t change the past. And once the agents had their fun at our expense, I was standing in the dream room, staring at Love Lost and Colt.
“Fuck.” The word carried all the exhaustion I felt after the unpleasant entrance. I stumbled up to the table and leaned my weight on it. I figured I should say something, “Hey, how are you guys?" Silence followed. "Have a good day?” I asked as I stretched my arms out across the table. I thought Love Lost was narrowing her eyes at me, but I couldn’t tell in the low light, and her body language screamed tense. Colt on the other hand looked as though she was about to break into laughter but was keeping it in.
Love Lost’s eyes seemed to soften for a moment, and in her rasping voice she told me, “You shouldn’t drink. It’s not a great habit to pick up, Rain.” My mind rushed back to her dreams, and her reaction clicked into place. Her words had me confused for a moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that I was still feeling the effect of the alcohol. My expression shifted into an awkward grimace.
Jesus Christ, Rain, lets show up shitfaced and talk with the recovering alcoholic, great plan.
I shifted awkwardly, not really finding a proper response to that feeling — half touched that she cared after everything, and half ashamed at my lack of thinking. “I don’t plan on it,” was what I settled on. I forced myself into an upright position and continued, “It was just a special occasion, and those are pretty few and far between these days anyways, so I don’t think this will happen almost ever. I didn’t actually think I could still be drunk when I got in here, sorry about that. I’m gonna go see if I can’t sober up in this place.” Love Lost seemed a bit less concerned after that so I chalked it up as a success.
I walked to the back of my room, leaning heavily on the wall until it ended, and then stared out into the dream space. Before the titans, we’d had to fight our way out of the room to see the outside like this, but when I’d cut Gilpatrick out of our cluster, I might have messed things up a bit. The room was still trashed from the last fight we’d had here, and the outside walls of the room were gone. And of course, there was the thing that had made quite a few people upset — ever since the dreaming sleep we couldn’t put other people into the room anymore. The Warden’s research department had come up with some wild plans to get back in, but the one time I’d let them try it had just stuck the room like it was my night for a week straight; Night after night the dreams returned and Colt had more difficulty trying to change them ever since. After that, it felt clear to me that what had happened wasn’t getting fixed overnight, so they had settled for using Kenzie’s cameras to look in and watch as I followed their instructions and studied different parts of the space, to try to gain some insight on how it all worked.
Focusing on the expanse in front of me, the same sight I had been seeing for months greeted my gaze. There was a deep gash in the crystalline landscape, noticeably not lighting up with electric current like the rest of the surrounding areas would fairly regularly: Fortuna’s etching. A message to something beyond understanding carved into the fabric of powers. Typically stuff like that wasn’t in my wheelhouse; learning about the agents and how they work was more Victoria’s thing, so I didn’t have the slightest idea what made Fortuna decide that carving it was worth being her final act. It had been starting to confound me.
What was so important to you about this? And were you the person or the power by the end? I wondered as I started leaning forward to see it a bit better. Suddenly, I felt a shift in my weight, and my foot went over the edge, with me following it.
“Holy Shit! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” The words exited my mouth rapid fire as the wind whistled past my face. Realistically the fall couldn’t have taken more than a few seconds, but with the distance traveled it definitely felt longer. I landed on my face with a crack I figured was my nose, and then began to slide, which turned into a full ass over teakettle tumble down the slope I landed on until I crashed at its base.
I released what breath I had left in me with a sigh that had my ribs screaming in pain. “Jesus fucking Christ, I’m not dead.”
Turning to look up, it struck me that the walls of the pit looked familiar. I could see the room almost two hundred feet up, with Love Lost and Colt staring down at me from the spot where I’d dropped. Another sight came to my attention; there was a large swirling mass of wind filled with chunks of the surrounding landscape headed towards me carving up the walls as it went. At first I lay still, almost shocked, and then I saw the bright crescents it launched from its stormy body at me and it clicked.
Oh great, my power is here to kill me. That’s about what I expected.
I scrambled up to my feet and turned around, starting to run, narrowly avoiding the blades and preparing to find a way back to the room, but then my mind stopped firing correctly as I saw it — the etching. Next thing I knew, I stood amidst a swirling vortex made up of colors and shapes I couldn’t comprehend, and a sound erupted from all around me that rattled me to my bones.
[TIME = SPACE]
Once I regained my bearings, I turned, poised to make my retreat and I saw my power’s avatar had also frozen. It began to glow with that same strange light, and then a blade flew out of its core, made from much the same, and sliced the ground next to my feet. I tried to move carefully so as not to disturb it, but I tripped on the uneven surface of the carved ground and once again I fell.
I heard the cracking sound I knew signified a break from my power, and I got sucked through. I felt my consciousness fade.
I awoke, startled by the sound of loud repetitive beeping. Turning my head I saw a digital clock face staring at me. I reached over to silence it, and that’s when I noticed things getting strange. Why the hell is my arm so short? I finished silencing the clock and took note of the time — 9:45. I haven’t slept past six o’clock in over a year. What's going on? Taking in the rest of the room, some things were oddly familiar.
Wait, I recognize that cross, and these blankets, this was how my room used to look. What’s going on?
I got up, approached the dresser, found the small mirror there, and took in my appearance. I couldn’t be much taller than five feet; My hair was cut short and there were still traces of baby fat on my cheeks, which lacked the scars I had become used to. Notably, my nose looked like it hadn’t ever been broken, pointing straight like it had years before.
Jesus Christ, I’m a kid!
Trying to get a grip, I looked around the room, found a calendar and checked the date. I always crossed out the days in the evening before bed, making today February 24th 2011. My thirteenth birthday, and the day the Simurgh hit Canberra so hard they called the city a loss and slapped a dome on top of it, a final grave for the city. At least the higher ups should be occupied by that today. It was then that I remembered the words Victoria had burned into our minds — Master-Stranger protocols.
I should be using them right? How does that work if it’s just me?
“Okay, Rain, calm down, just breathe, take stock of what’s happening around you,” I whispered to myself. I felt a little silly about it, but my nerves were getting a little frayed by all of the details in the room being accurate to my memories, and talking to myself was at least a little self soothing even if it solved nothing.
As I stood staring blankly at my dresser, a knock at the door grabbed my attention.
“Rain, are you up yet? I know it’s school break but I’m not letting you sleep past 10 o’clock.” My Aunt was on the other side of the door.
Crap, I’ve got to get out of here. I’ll just try to get her off my back and slip out.
“Err, Uh, Yes, Auntie, I’m up, Just getting dressed for the day before I come down,” I lied, standing in pajamas that hadn’t fit me in years. “Won’t be much longer.” I did my best to sound like the respectful nephew she had been used to. It wasn’t my best work, but I figured she bought it as I heard her footsteps trail down the hallway.
With that I reached into the dresser, quickly searching for an outfit that would suit the weather. I glanced outside, taking note of the lack of snow on the ground. It had been a fairly mild winter that year, another damning detail. Pulling on some pants, a flannel, and a light gray coat, I figured that was enough that I wouldn’t freeze my ass off when I went outside. With that I exited my room and went downstairs toward the kitchen where my family would be.
I walked into the room, taking in details, trying to find something that was off, a slip that could give me a cue that this wasn’t real. Of course, it couldn't be that simple; nothing stuck out as off. Even small details like the nick on the fridge handle were right. My uncle sat at the table, face taciturn as he sipped at a mug of black coffee. My aunt was doing the dishes; I noticed she was moving slower than she usually had, and I recalled this was just before her cancer diagnosis. Allie and my other cousins weren’t present, but that was more the norm for this time of day; they were likely away from the house. The longer I was up the more another possibility was creeping into my head.
Could I actually be back somehow? How could that even be possible? No cape has ever managed true time travel before, at least as far as I know. I suppose I wouldn’t spread the news around either.
There was a radio in the corner of the room droning along in the background, filling the room with a newscaster’s voice.
“Canberra is currently receiving aid from the Protectorate and the Guild, but the question on everyone's mind is hanging in the air: Where is Scion? The other heroes can only hold out against the Simurgh for so long, will their efforts prevail?” The sound cut and I heard Elijah Mathers begin to offer his two cents.
“The non-believers are having a rough time today aren’t they? The Lord has pushed us one step closer to the end today!”
I stopped listening to the words then; the sense of deja vu I felt hearing it was near overwhelming. I felt the need to keep up appearances, so I echoed the words that left me that day all those years ago.
“Looks like my birthday is starting off right. The fools aren’t going to accomplish anything, no one can beat her. Even if they think they have it, she always turns it around on them,” I said with forced glee, my mouth going dry as though the words were pulling the moisture from it. My aunt gave a small chuckle at my words; I imagined she agreed. I searched myself, trying to keep composed. My mind went to a moment from the fight against the titans — Victoria carrying me through the air as the blades in my hand sliced the Simurgh in half — and remembering that helped keep me collected for now.
Acting like you used to for a bit won’t kill you, Rain. You won’t become Fallen by spouting a few shitty things to keep from seeming off.
I made my way directly to the door and started to pull on my boots. As I laced them up I told them, “I’m going to head out for a little while, I’ll be back around dinner time.”
My aunt gave me a look but refrained from commenting. Back then, they never seemed to care where I went so long as nobody came and complained about it, I walked out into the yard, feeling the cold air blow past my face, and headed towards the forest the settlement had been built next to. I hurried, doing my best to put some space between me and anyone else. The walk was quiet, except for the splashing of the stream that curved through the woods, and the sound of my footsteps against the cold dead grass.
I walked into a small clearing in the center of the forest. It had served as a place I could go to get away from everything when I was younger. After my parents traded me over to the Mathers branch I had spent the fall and winter fairly lonely, with few others I could turn to for companionship, so I’d made an escape for myself here.
I looked around and listened carefully, and once I felt sure I was alone I began to check for my powers. I started with my emotion power, casting it out over the ground, and felt it respond. It was strong, like the time I’d received Love Lost’s tokens, but I wasn’t boiling with rage, more anxious than anything else. Going through the list, I tried to use my mover power, and an unfamiliar instinct led to me walking up the steepest side of a boulder.
That was Love Lost’s power, not mine, why the hell can I do that?
I didn’t stop to ponder it too much, not wanting to have it run out on me, so I jumped off, stopping myself mid air before twisting out into a rolling landing on the ground.
This shouldn’t be happening, the closest I ever got to something like this was after Snag… Love Lost should be okay, right? I didn’t see her get hurt.
Pulling on my tinker power, I felt that the ideas were more in depth than usual, and actually fairly good. Lastly, I willed out a blade and my power obliged. I threw it towards the boulder and it carved right through leaving a line through it. I ran up and kicked the line and heard the rock begin to slide down, I had cut through six feet of stone; far more than I could usually muster even on my best days.
All of my powers were working far better than they ever had. Sure, today was my day in the rotation, but this was off the charts.
Do the agent’s think I’m the only one left? I don’t know why else this would be happening.
I decided I’d consider the agents confused, the other possibility weighing on my mind was something I wasn’t ready to consider yet. It would be best to just wait until the night where it would be settled in the room. I had some questions I could answer more readily to keep me busy.
I wanted to see how far this boost to my powers went. I made as many blades as my power would provide and launched them into a tree; the limit was around eight. I tossed a handful of small rocks at the tree and it shattered along the lines falling into pieces.
Could I manage to make that weird blade my power used to send me here?
I began to focus on a blade, trying to see if I could draw out that power. I thought I saw the tip change a bit, but it was really draining. Deep in my focus on the task at hand, I received a rude awakening.
“Holy shit, kid, what was that?” I heard a familiar voice cry out from behind me. I jerked back in surprise, turning around to get a look at who was here. Staring at me was a tall man in his early thirties with dark hair and a beard to match. He was wearing an old faded flannel shirt with rolled up sleeves showing off the tattoos covering his arms. It was Matthew McVeay, my father’s best friend and my godfather, better known to most by his cape name Eligos.
I’d spent the previous summer with him hunting in the woods for months. It sucked, but that was more due to the hunting itself, and when we came back it was only because the exchange of us to the Mathers had been finalized. He was a man I had admired when I was younger, and we had been fairly close until a time a few months from now when he went to Brockton Bay with Elijah and never came back, captured by the Protectorate there. I’d never seen him again, and had thrown myself deep into the Fallen to not stay so alone.
It took me a moment to realize I had frozen in place and hadn’t responded to his question. I had to think fast so I opened my mouth and spoke, hardly thinking, “Damn it, Uncle Matt, you ruined the surprise. Tonight was gonna be the perfect time too.” I threw the blade I was holding into the ground as I said it with as much frustration I could convey.
Okay, Rain, work with this and you might not get dragged off to the leadership and have to fight your way out.
“You have powers! When did that happen? Jeez kid, it kinda looks like mine does.” He ran over and gripped me lightly by my shoulders. “You’d make me wait with the rest of these people? What gives? Did you stop trusting your Uncle Matt?” he said, the humor in his tone evident.
If we are being completely honest, yes, completely. You’re a Fallen, same as the rest of them, and why does the reminder of that hurt?
“It was a surprise! It was gonna be perfect. I've been practicing all week and now you had to show up before I was ready to show off!”
“Well, don’t tear my head off here, Rain, how should I have known? Here I am tracking you into the middle of the woods in the dead of winter since you can’t stay in your damn house, just so I can take you to your gift, and you start yelling at me. Some godson you are.”
“You got me a gift?” I asked. Of course, I should have remembered that he had indeed given me a gift that year. It had been one I cherished until Gold Morning, when I had to leave it behind. I had to take any avenue available to keep him from focusing on what he had just seen.
“Yeah I did, now come on. I’ll keep quiet for you so I don’t spoil the surprise you apparently care so much about. A few hours won't make much of a difference in the end I suppose.”
I walked over and followed him as my mind began racing. Seeing my godfather again and hearing his voice, I was beginning to come to terms with the idea I had been holding at arm's length.
Holy shit! I’m in the past! This is real! And great, I blew my cover an hour deep so now I have to get the fuck out of here fast. I can’t make contact with Mama Mathers again or all the bullshit it took to break that will be for nothing. I need to leave in the next few hours before anyone catches on. Luckily, I think Uncle Matt might be about to help me there.
We were approaching Uncle Matt’s home, a farmhouse with chipping white paint and an old barn filled with tools and old cars. It was the barn we were headed towards, and with a flick of his wrist, Uncle Matt made a blade of wind that pushed rather than cut, opening the door and sliding it along its rails. Inside, centrally placed was an old dirt bike. Walking over, he gestured to it and began to speak.
“Behold your new steed. Got her in rough shape but I patched her up for you myself. Care to give it a look?”
I rushed over and gave him a hug, and he mussed up my hair with a light chuckle. The moment felt just like it had the first time around. Despite everything, I was briefly touched by the effort he must have put in, but those feelings gave way to something closer to guilt, leaving me more mixed up about it than I had expected.
He’s Fallen, a murderer; stop feeling grateful. Why should I feel bad about betraying his trust like this? In the end; it doesn’t matter what he was to me, right? He’s hurt a lot of innocent people.
I let go, ran over to the bike and started looking it over. “Uncle Matt, it’s awesome! When did you even have the time to work on this?” I asked, doing my best to keep him in the moment; if he wasn’t distracted he might try to ask questions about my powers, which I really didn’t need right now. As I looked the bike over my tinker power fired with fast and dirty concepts to jury-rig my tech into it.
“Oh you know, here and there when I had a break in my work. I figured it was worth it since you keep talking about wanting to fix one yourself and reading all of those books on repair. It’s old, so things may go bad in it every now and then, but from here on out it's your job to fix it. Just think of it as a learning experience and gift in one.”
And damn did I learn back then, the thing blew a gasket on my second ride. Which might be a problem if I try riding it out of here.
“Would it be alright if I looked it over in here so I can get familiar with the build of it?” I asked, “I can’t really do that back at the house since I don’t have any tools yet.”
Uncle Matt looked perplexed for a second, likely surprised I wasn’t going to hop on for a ride first thing, but in the end he gave me a shrug. “Knock yourself out, Rain, if that’s what you want to do, and you can always use my tools. After all, how can you learn if you don’t have any of your own? Now, I have some things to take care of for the leadership today so I’m gonna have to leave ya here. I should be done and back by supper if you’re still here.”
I was already over by the tools looking for the things I would need to fix the gasket. I turned around and nodded to him. “Okay, I’ll see you when you get back.” The lie came swiftly from my lips, and I felt even more guilt pile on top of the rest, settling in my gut. I turned and went back to collecting tools and brought them over to set to work.
Gonna have to work fast if I want to get to the Kansas City PRT before nightfall.