Ch. 8.3 – Sara

“Anna!” Sara blurted, throwing her arms around the visitor. She tipped the woman’s wide-brimmed hat back and grinned. “You changed your hair back!”

“I felt like going auburn today,” she replied, “but I’m still using ‘Nicole,’ Sara.”

Sara sighed and rolled her eyes. “Right, right, Nicole.” The grin returned. “Imp.”

Nicole shoved a large shopping bag into Sara’s arms, then walked into Alex’s apartment. “Sara, dear, I enjoyed the goth look in the 90s, but it was passé before you were old enough to properly look the part.”

Digging through the bag, Sara found the black leggings, purple tank-top, and industrial boots she’d asked for. “I like how I look like this. Fashion can go trend itself. Thanks, An – Nicole.” She put the bag on the room’s only sofa. “How are things with the Council?”

“Typical,” Nicole said, then dropped into a chair and looked around. “He seems nice.”

Sara laughed, the merry feeling bubbling through her. “Alex? He’s a lot more than nice.”

“Keep that up,” Nicole quipped, “and you’re going to lose all pretension of being a goth.”

Sara dropped into the sofa right next to the bag. “I’m a perky goth,” she shot back with a grin. “Besides, I make a fine goth as long as I’ve got pretension, you know that.” The Weaver was rewarded with a rare chuckle from Molly’s old friend. And mine, Sara thought warmly.

Nicole, whom Sara couldn’t help continuing to think of as Anna, looked as radiant as ever. Dressed in an elegant black dress seemingly borrowed from Audrey Hepburn, her makeup flawless and her demeanor implacably self-possessed, she could have easily been mistaken for an young actress or a corporate prodigy, except for the large, old book she always had with her. This time, Nicole kept it in an enormous pocket in her coat. “So, you’re probably wondering why I chose now to drop by.”

“I figured this was the first chance you had to get away,” Sara said, leaning forward and resting her chin on her hands. “What’s up?”

The old Majestic glanced at one of Alex’s book shelves. “I’ve been meaning to meet you and your Blaze Prime for a while now, but I’ve been occupied with a project of my own. He’s rather more reckless than yours, from what Molly tells me.”

“Ooo, dish!” Sara demanded, smile beaming.

Nicole sighed and sank deeper into her chair. The way she usually fills up the room, it’s easy to forget she’s no taller than I am, Sara thought. “Not right now, if you please,” she replied, taking her hat off. She fidgeted with it briefly. “I’m here about another matter. Have you heard of Powerstar?”

Sara blinked. “The Captain Beacon spin-off? Didn’t that get canceled?”

When the Majestic visitor’s lips flattened, Sara sat up straighter. “Hm. They’ve done too good a job. Dear, Powerstar is real. He’s one of us.” The Weaver gaped. “The production was started, then dropped, to cover up his existence.”

“Seriously?” Sara stood, pacing as much as the room allowed. “Wouldn’t Ben be on something like this?”

Nicole nodded. “His team hasn’t been able to find the man. Fortunately, neither has the Complex. They called me for assistance. I thought your Prime could help me.”

The Weaver stopped in mid-pace. “Why didn’t they just ask us?” Sara demanded.

“I suspect Benjamin wanted to keep you safely away from a flying target in blue tights,” Nicole replied dryly. “I’m not asking you to join us in the field, either.”

“What, so I can wait here like a good little girl while Alex gets shot at again?” Sara asked hotly. Nicole frowned. “Not a chance.”

The older Adept sighed. “Sara, after what the Skeptic did to you-” she began. Sara held up her right arm, bracelet gleaming. Nicole stood, staring in awe. “Is that what I think it is?”

“The world’s most awesome splint,” Sara quipped. She waved her hand, and Nicole’s hat floated over to the closet. “I’m going stir-crazy, Nicole. Don’t even try to leave me behind when you’re here to ask my boyfriend to look for a ‘flying target.’ He already is one.”

To Sara’s amazement, Nicole laughed. “Molly is going to have kittens.”

“We’ll worry about that when the contractions start,” Sara replied with amusement. “Tell me everything you know about our Beacon-lite.”

* * *

“No,” Molly half-growled. “Absolutely not!”

Sara folded her arms. “Unless you’re planning on leaving me tied up in the closet, this isn’t your call,” she said as firmly as she could. It was an effort to keep her legs from shaking.

“Don’t tempt me,” Molly shot back.

Max raised his hand. “Can I help?” he quipped. Everyone in the room glared at him. “What? She enjoys it.”

“Not in a closet,” Sara retorted quickly. Alex blushed. Ooo, file that away for later, the Weaver noted. “Molly, I’ve got my mojo back, and I am not, enn – oh – tee, not staying here while Alex risks getting fried for the Alliance!”

“She’s a grown woman, Molly,” Nicole added mildly, sipping a cup of chai. “Besides, who would be staying with her?”

The Ghost Dragon ground her teeth. “I planned to send her to stay with Alice and her Anshin friend,” Molly retorted.

“Come on, we’re going to want her help,” Sara said quickly. “Besides, as awesome as Alex is, do you think Wonder Rose would miss a chance to recruit an honest-to-Gaia superhero?”

Molly looked at Alex, and Sara’s heart skipped a beat. He’s not going to try to leave me here, is he? she wondered wildly. After a long moment, Alex shook his head. “I’m sorry, Molly. I’m not tying her up in a closet either.” He let a sliver of a smile form. “For all her cynicism about the Alliance, Sara wants to help.” The Weaver grimaced, suppressing an impulse to splutter with outrage. After waiting a moment to watch her reaction, Alex continued. “Besides, she’ll probably be safer with the team anyway.”

“Then you’ll have to settle for your Blaze Prime staying glued to Sara’s side,” Molly told Nicole firmly. Like that’s a problem, Sara thought, carefully not smiling.

“I’m not so foolish as to argue tactics with a Ghost Dragon,” Nicole replied, voice and gaze equally mild. She took one last sip of her tea, then put the cup down carefully and slid an equanimous glance at the gifted Weaver. “If Sara is, I’ll be happy to help you hide her in the closet.”

“No one’s tying me up but Alex!” Sara blurted furiously. Then her eyes flew wide and she clamped both hands over her mouth. She blushed for the first time Sara could remember since she was a child. Everyone else gaped at her, then Max and Molly laughed uproariously, Nicole giggled quietly behind one politely raised hand, and Alex looked away, blush returning full force, caught between gaping and fighting off laughter of his own. He finally settled on clamping his twitching jaw shut with force that looked like it could have turned coal into diamond. Maybe the closet’s not such a bad idea just now, she thought. Instead, she turned and retreated into the kitchen. “So! Who wants sandwiches?”

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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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