Ch. 13.1 – Max

“Victor!” Max smiled for the Rift Prime, and was rewarded with a fierce hug. “Whoa. Good to see you too, handsome.” Around them, the Red Rock pulsed with life and music. Ben and Matt watched, each with an arm around the other’s waist.

“I’m sorry this took so long,” Victor said, stepping back. Max was pleasantly surprised to note that Victor still held his hand. “Between therapy, contacting the Allies, and tying up my life’s loose ends, it’s been a busy three months.”

Max squeezed Victor’s hand gently. “Hey, you have nothing to apologize for. Besides, you stayed in touch. Which reminds me.” He shook his head. “I’m guessing things didn’t work out with your parents?”

To the Reanimate’s surprise, Victor chuckled. “It went better than I hoped, actually. They were glad I was alive, not disappointed like I thought.” He shrugged. “Mind you, they were just as happy I’m staying on the Left Coast, but so am I.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Max agreed. He glanced at Ben and Matt, who’d gone to the bar. “Huh. ‘Contacted’ the Allies? You haven’t joined?”

Victor smiled shyly. “Oh, I’m joining, no question. It’s just that I’ve heard good things about how the Bastion thing is going.” The Rift Prime chuckled at Max’s raised eyebrow. “I know, I’m not tights and cape material. Spandex rides up something awful.” Max couldn’t help a laugh of his own. “Still, everyone needs a support team. With my talent, I’m perfect for that.” He blinked and turned to look at the dance floor. “How is everybody?”

“You can ask them yourself,” Max replied, following Victor’s gaze, “unless you’ve got your heart set on dancing.”

Victor shook his head as Ben and Matt returned, bottles of pale ale in hand. “I’m almost ready,” he whispered, “but not yet.” Victor looked away from the dancers. “Too many mundanes, all together, all at once.” Max nodded as they followed Ben and Matt.

Though he hadn’t been with Sara during her escape from him, Max felt a pang of déjà vu as they went out the back door. Ben grinned at the red door graffitied on a wall. It stood opposite flecks of blue paint that marked what had once been another Majestic escape route. “Here,” Ben said, hand held out towards the door. “This can get us back home, and we can go to the safe house from there.”

Victor blinked. “Why?” he asked. Ben’s smile vanished. Max glanced between the two. Matt casually took a swig of ale. “It’s just a gateway. Here.” Victor held out his arm and snapped his fingers. A rectangular fold in space opened up in front of them. On the other side of the doorway, a two-story house lounged in a small field of grass surrounded by hills.

Max gaped openly. “How did you do that?” he blurted. “A Rift to a place you’ve never even seen, without the slightest sympathetic connection?”

“You’re here,” Victor replied, looking at Max uncertainly. “The rest of them are there. Besides, your team saved me. If you weren’t hiding, I could find you blindfolded.”

Matt chuckled. “Sara obscured them with Weaving.”

“She left an opening for Victor,” Max cut in, “but still…well. You think I’d be used to Primes by now.” He waved at the gateway, and Victor went through, followed by Ben and Matt. Max took one last look around, a hint of chill rippling over him at the sight of the ruined blue “door,” and followed them.

* * *

Max watched, sighing happily, as Victor leaned on the table, chin resting on laced fingers. “So that’s me,” the Rift Prime said quickly. “What about you four? All I’ve heard is that you’re doing okay.” He glanced at Alex.

Deleon leaned back, hand resting on his belly. “It’s been as quiet as you could ask for a bulletproof human glowstick. Mostly, I’ve been dating Sara and being Wonder Rose’s sidekick.”

“Part-ner,” Alice insisted. Sara laughed and hugged Alex’s arm. “He’s sweet, but Alex keeps forgetting that he’s probably going to be one of the Alliance’s big guns.”

“That isn’t remotely certain,” Alex retorted, and Max caught the first hints of a blush forming on the Blaze Prime. “We’ve done a lot of ground work, but I haven’t even met any of the Allies’ principals.” He glanced away. “Besides, Eve’s more qualified than I am.”

Sara laughed. “Sorry, lover, but Eve’s not even leader of the Swords.” She hugged him more tightly. “She was clever enough to stick you with the hot seat, but that doesn’t mean she’s the best choice for it.”

“Sara’s joining the Council Majestic,” Alex added quickly.

“Nice subject change,” Alice quipped, taking a sip of tea. “Subtle.”

Victor nodded, drumming his fingers idly on the table. “I thought you didn’t want to join the Alliance,” he noted.

“I still don’t,” Sara drawled, shaking her head. Then she glanced at Ben. “Still, I’ve been seeing signs that they might actually listen to me a little. Ben and Alice are right about one thing – I’m not going to change anything if I have to spend my life running.” She glomped Alex outright. “Besides, if the Bastion Knights are going to be a thing, I want to help. They could use some support on the inside.”

“We’re meeting the most influential members of the Council and Oracles soon,” Molly added, beckoning to an ice chest with a wave. A wine bottle floated over to her. “Michel Schnyder is the Council’s Tribunal Chair, and Lakshmi Nehru is first among equals in the Society.”

Victor’s eyes widened. “You’re meeting Chairman Schnyder and Professor Nehru? Together?”

“Right, you’ve been getting your feet wet,” Molly noted with a shrug, pouring herself a glass. “Yeah. Marie and John – Powerstar – have helped Alex and the Swords set this up. Convince Michel and Lakshmi of something, and the rest of the Alliance comes around.”

“Max has been helping a lot, too,” Alex added. Max sat up suddenly. Who, me? he wondered. “Schism or no schism, we get too loud and people start to freak out. His shadow tricks are already helping us prevent those freak-outs.” Victor smiled at Max. I owe you one, boy scout.

“So,” Victor said, looking around, “have you all moved out here? This is a beautiful place.”

The Weaver sighed. “Sure, but it’s kind of isolated, the drive’s rough, and none of us are a Rift Prime.”

Victor’s smile lit up the night. “Then I know how to repay you for saving me. That’s why I’m here,” he added, his voice fast and fierce, before any of the several objections could leap in. “I want to do this. Helping you on my own terms is nothing like West using me as his personal Rift limo.”

Alice looked around. “Well, I’m still living with my folks, but otherwise, if you’re sure, it sounds like a fine idea.”

“Assuming we don’t have to make any more super-weapons,” Max added dryly. Alex’s face palm alone was worth 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.

Comments are only enabled on News/Blog posts. Please log in as yourself or with username and password "guest" to comment.

?php else : // comments are closed ?
Stay up to date
Sign up to be notified of new chapters and other updates. You will need to reply to the subscription email to be added to the the list.
Recent News/Blog Posts
Tip Jar
Feedback is a great way to encourage the writer! If you'd like to give a more tangible from of appreciation:

Please note that PayPay keeps 2.9%+$0.30 per transaction, so keep that in mind when deciding how much to donate. And thanks!
Krypton Radio – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!
Epiguide - The World of Web Entertainment
Member of The Internet Defense League
AWSOM Powered