Former Team Ark Headquarters, four years ago.
Derek Hessing, formerly known as “Marauder”.
What the hell am I doing here?
Derek Hessing stepped through the open doorway of the building that he had once called “headquarters”. That was back when he went by the name “Marauder”, while he worked with Team Ark. It was a bittersweet moment for him – the memories associated with this place were mostly good ones, tainted by the horrible memory of the last time he set foot here.
He had thought that he would never return.
The building was enormous, meant to house training rooms and living spaces for two dozen people. The lobby looked like any office building or apartment complex in Eon City, but the entryway to the main living area was exactly as he had left it.
Three years’ worth of dust had settled, disturbing the home-like feel that Derek used to know when walking in. None of the old team had set foot in this place in years, and it showed through the little details: there was no flower vase in the front hall from Kindred’s love of plants. No smell of delicious meals came from the kitchen to cover the musty scent that had gathered from the years of neglect, as Sparrow wasn’t cooking. No sharp sounds came from the metal shop where Star used to work in her downtime. The security cameras had no red lights, as Agent hadn’t turned them on in years. Derek could almost hear the thuds from the training room where he and Striker used to spar, but Striker was long gone…
Derek stopped in his tracks. No, he wasn’t imagining it: there were definitely sounds coming from the sparring room. Hardly daring to hope, he ran in that direction as he allowed his feet to take him down the stairs and through the familiar hallways. Could Striker really be back? He’d disappeared without a trace three years before; surely he would have found his old teammates if he was still alive…
Derek came to a halt outside the training room. His shoulders slumped slightly when he realized that it wasn’t Striker in front of him, but he straightened again when he realized that he had never seen the intruder before.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, storming in. It was a testament to how long it had been since he had last used his Third Gen ability to subdue someone that he did not think to use it now. Instead, he moved towards the sword area where he kept his practice katana; they were still there after all this time.
The intruder straightened, turning to face Derek. The young man seemed to be in his early twenties, around Sparrow’s age the last time Derek had seen her. He wore a tank top and sweatpants, and he didn’t look like he intended to run – which implied that he had been staying there for a while. “I could ask you the same thing,” he said evenly. His eyes sparked with excitement, as though he was daring Derek to try something that would start a fight.
Derek side-stepped, never turning his back on the other guy. “My name is Marauder,” he said, relishing his old name as he used it for the first time in five years. “This is Team Ark’s headquarters, and you’re the one trespassing. I’ll ask again: who the hell are you?”
“’Name’s David,” the young man replied, shrugging. “Some people call me Earthborn.” He didn’t seem concerned when Derek picked up the wooden swords, suggesting that he thought Derek either couldn’t or wouldn’t use them.
As he stepped forward, Derek nearly stumbled over a small pile of rocks that hadn’t been there when Team Ark had used the room. Straightening back up, he raised the practice sword and pointed it at David. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
David just shrugged at him. Derek fought back a grin; this “David” reminded him a lot of his old friend Striker – he had the same calm, quiet demeanor, even when someone was threatening him. Derek half-expected the kid to run with third-gen speed as he approached, instead of standing his ground to fight. He waited in silence for a moment to catch the young man off-guard, and then sprang forward onto the sparring mat. Whipping his sword around in a fluid motion, Derek lunged at the intruder, aiming for the young man’s legs to knock him to the floor.
A small, sharp pain hit his arm, knocking his sword off-course. Derek looked around for the source, but all he saw was David standing in exactly the same spot as before. A smug grin spread across David’s face, which only made Derek want to knock it off. He gripped the wooden sword tighter and swung around for a new attack.
It happened again! This time, Derek managed to catch the assailant out of the corner of his eye: a rock had flown up from the pile on the floor, hitting him just hard enough to knock his swords off-course.
Derek looked back over at David, who was still smugly standing there. The name “Earthborn” rang in his ears, making him roll his eyes in frustration: of course the kid was a Third Gen.
But then again, so was Derek.
“Nice trick,” he said, standing to face the young man. “Want to see a new one?”
He lunged forward once more, but this time he kept his mind focused on one word: funny. At the moment when the rock should have hit him, Derek heard it clack back onto the floor as “Earthborn” started laughing uncontrollably.
The sword connected with the young man’s leg, forcing him to drop down to one knee. David wasn’t laughing anymore; the command had only been for a second, but it was long enough to give Derek the upper hand. He was putting one of the swords at the kid’s throat, intending to make him talk through intimidation, when he heard the crackling sound.
A flash of light threw him across the room, where he just barely managed to stay conscious. The kid walked towards him, electricity crackling around one of his hands.
He can throw both rocks and lightning? Derek thought, groaning as he tried and failed to sit up from where he had landed. Not fair.
Just as David began to loom over him, Derek heard an impressed whistle from the elevator doors. “Wow,” came a familiar voice from the same direction. “I mean, I’d heard about you, but that was incredible.”
Derek looked up, laughing. “About time,” he said to Agent. “Mind helping me take out the trash?” Earthborn glared at him, electricity sparking back up in his hand.
Agent propped his umbrella up against the door, saying, “Not really. I mean, I did invite him here.”
Derek shook his head to clear it, standing up as the kid backed off. “What the hell do you mean, you ‘invited him’?” he asked, confused.
“David,” Agent said, “I’d like you to meet Derek, otherwise known as Marauder of Team Ark. Derek, this is David: he’s going to be on the new team.”
“You’re kidding.” Derek got to his feet, still unsteady after the fall. “When you said you were starting a ‘new team’ on the phone, I thought you meant you, me, Kindred, and Sparrow would stick together.”
Agent sighed, leaning against the edge of the sparring ring. “Kevin is still helping take care of the kids,” he explained. Derek and Agent had both known their old team so well that their code names and real names were interchangeable. “Their youngest is in high school, and he says that both he and Sara have been enjoying their retirement.”
“And Sparrow?” Derek asked.
“Casey told me,” Agent cleared his throat, and gave a bad impression of the girl’s voice: “’Go screw yourself.’” He gave a weak laugh, adding, “Her words, not mine. I guess she’s not quite over what happened to Striker.”
“And you think I am?” Derek said, pushing past the new guy to stand in front of Agent. “The team broke up that day,” he said, glaring at his old teammate. “You and I tried keeping it together for a while by ourselves, and that didn’t work out so well, either. What makes you think getting a newbie would make any difference?”
“Four new members.” Agent corrected him. “Earthborn isn’t the only person I asked.”
“You know, Earthborn is standing right here,” David said, raising an eyebrow. “I’d like to know what the hell’s going on, too.”
Agent shook his head, smiling again. “Alright then,” he said. He walked back over to the elevator, picked up his umbrella, and motioned for the other two to join him. “I’ve been tasked by my superiors to start a new team,” he explained as they all crowded into the elevator. Hitting the button for the debrief room, he added, “It’s called Project: Asylum.”
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