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Ch. 3.1 – Alex

A golden post-dawn glow still shimmered on the horizon. Three men in dark suits stood watch around and within the run-down building, obscured to normal eyes by long shadows. Alex’s eyes were no longer normal. One was at the entrance, while two loitered outside the apartment Sara had rented. They seemed less to have grown, and more to have been churned out by a central-casting factory of soulless dark agents. Incongruously, Molly grinned. “Pff. Grunts. This’ll be easy.”

“Aren’t they…like us?” Alex asked. “Adepts. Majestic. Empowered. Whatever.”

“Pick a word and stick with it,” Molly groused gently, “but first, scan ’em. Use your Vision. They’re no match for us.”

Alex bit his lip, then imagined the third eye of legend opening. For a moment, the whole world became thought and concept, filled with Platonic ideals. It only took an instant for some instinct to filter the flood of knowledge to a trickle, and the three Gray Company men flickered with a full flame. Auras, he realized, nearly as gray as their suits. A touch of yellow flickered around the edges, a bit of red at the cores.

She’s right, Alex realized suddenly, glancing at Molly long enough to sense her holding in the power she controlled. This close, he could see it roiling under her skin, hungering for release. A few feet away, he wouldn’t have noticed. That’s what a Ghost Dragon is, he decided. The roar of life hidden beneath a shroud. He turned his attention back to the Grayboys. “So how do we handle this?”

“What would you do?” Molly asked, watching him intently. Alex squirmed a bit. “Relax, lad. I’ll let you know if you’re doing it wrong.”

“Go past the guy on the street. Above him,” he clarified. “Come down on the two in the corridor, knock them out, then grab Sara’s stuff and bail.”

“Easier said than done,” Molly noted, “but your instincts are good. Of course, most of us can’t fly.” She nodded. “Take us up.”

Alex swallowed, created what he hoped was a ripple like heat distortion to hide them from sight, then carried them both through the air with what Sara had called the Blaze. I’m flying, he thought, not daring to look down. My God, I’m flying. He kept his eyes focused on the building ahead of them. I wish I had time to enjoy this.

It took less than a minute to put them down on the roof. Then Molly took his hand and they fell through the floor. Alex barely managed not to scream. *Relax, Alex,* he heard in his mind, in Molly’s voice. *You’d best get used to this quickly. It’s the School of Hard Knocks from here out, and the Complex knocks bloody hard.*

Alex nodded, which was all he had time to do before they stopped right in front of the Gray Adepts. Molly didn’t waste any time, hitting one squarely in the face while they gaped. Alex shorted out the earpiece of the other, then blinked when the agent tried to punch him. The agent’s gasp of pain told him that his shield had worked. Then Molly clipped him on the back of the neck, and the second agent dropped like he’d been turned off. She grinned. “See? Easy.”

Alex examined the two men with his life sight, the Anima Molly used to take them down. They were unconscious, but completely unhurt. Even the one agent’s fist had already healed. It’s like she just flipped a switch. It was terrifying. It was exhilarating.

It wasn’t the time. Alex waved his hand, and the door unlocked and opened before Molly had fished out the key. She snorted, not quite smiling. “Show-off,” she said, and went in. Alex followed.

The room was incredibly Spartan. There was the promised futon, a bedroll laid out between it and the door. Molly’s, Alex decided. The only other things in the room were two duffel bags and a closed laptop. A new sense flickered to life; he could see/feel threads from the computer to its pouch on the purple duffle bag. Sara’s. He held out his hand, Kirby-style, fingers pointed outward and parallel.

The laptop put itself away. The bedroll rolled itself up. The futon folded neatly in thirds. He pulled them all together, then placed a hand on the levitated mass. “Ready,” he said, trying not to let the light-headed feeling he had show.

“You all right, lad?” Molly asked, looking at him intently. “That must have taken it out of you.”

“A little dizzy,” he admitted.

“That’s all?” Molly stared briefly. “Mary and Joseph,” she breathed. “When she pulls one out of her hat, she doesn’t mess about.” She concentrated for a moment.

The now-familiar door of light appeared in the room, though this one was broad enough to let the mass of gear through with them. Molly stepped through first, Alex following. They appeared in Ben’s apartment, the light disappearing suddenly. Ben blinked. “Over there,” he said, pointing at a corner he’d emptied. Alex set the cargo down gently. “You need to sit?” Ben asked.

“I’m good, actually,” Alex whispered. “Aside from being in shock, I mean.” He stared at what he guessed was everything Sara and Molly owned. “I just pulled a telekinetic stunt that would have impressed most superheroes. Before that, Molly took those Men in Black down like they were nothing. For that matter, I think I could have handled them.”

“Don’t get cocky, Alex, but…yeah, you probably would have dropped them like punks,” Molly quipped. “Maybe I should have let you. Sara prefers me to be gentle with the storm troopers, but you’ve got an excuse, new boy.”

Sara walked out of the bathroom, now wearing a short black skirt, a tank top, and a towel on her head. “Don’t mind Molly,” she said dryly. “She’s a professional bad influence.”

Molly smiled fondly, folding her arms. “Learned from the best, my girl.”

Most of Alex’s brain power was devoted to not gaping. What happened to the spindly goth from the club? he wondered, forcing himself not to stare at her legs, or the suddenly apparent curves. Down, boy.

The doorbell chimed gently. “Could you get that, Alex?” Ben called from another room. “I’m making my famous cheesy scramble.”

Molly raised an eyebrow in Ben’s direction, but said nothing. “Sure,” Alex said, and walked to the door, scanning past it. There was an Adept on the other side, but — she? — didn’t register as a threat. He glanced back at Molly, who shrugged. Unable to tell anything further through Ben’s wards, he opened the door.

A well-built woman in a sleeveless black T-shirt stood there, looking down. Her eyes widened when she saw Alex. “Thank god. You made it.”

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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