Issue #8 – Dark David

Four years ago, a lab outside of Eon City.

Drake Rogers, on the table.

It didn’t hurt.  That was what surprised Drake the most about his condition – he had been thrown around, pummelled, and electrocuted quite thoroughly, but nothing hurt.

In fact, he couldn’t feel anything below his neck.

At first, he had assumed that the doctors had tied him down.  Then he thought that maybe they had given him an anesthetic. The truth dawned on him slowly – especially since the doctors didn’t seem to want to tell him – that he was paralyzed.

That damn kid, he thought.  His opponent hadn’t really been a kid; the target had been in his early twenties.  But Drake, who was in his thirties, saw him as a kid – a stupid kid who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and by sheer accident was now the strongest being on the planet.

As if echoing his thoughts, a voice came from the doorway.  “Sucks, doesn’t it?” Jaunt asked him.

The man in the suit strolled in as if he owned the place – which he probably did.  Drake didn’t even know which hospital he was in, but it looked as fancy as the other facilities that Jaunt owned.

“What… do you… want?” Drake managed to croak out.  Breathing enough to speak was difficult, since he was on an artificial respirator.

“The same thing you do,” Jaunt said.  “I want you up and about, able to take on your enemies.”

“You… did… this…” Drake pointed out.

Jaunt shrugged.  “I can see why you think that,” he admitted.  “It was my hit that you were taking out, my order to kill any witnesses, my order to track the witness down when you failed to kill him.”

“Your… drug… made him… a… monster…” Drake said.  “I… killed… him… the… first… time…”

“You shot him,” Jaunt said.  “You buried him in a shallow grave, and left him for dead.  But you obviously didn’t kill him.”

“I… shot him… in the… heart…” Drake said.

Jaunt smiled.  “And then buried him right over a chemical runoff,” he said.  “Then lightning strikes the ground where he’s buried, and poof!  Suddenly there’s a new, more powerful being running around.” He shook his head.  “All of that experimenting with the Fourth Gens, and the answer was right under our noses.  We have a true Fourth Gen, with no aversion to sunlight, who has god-like powers.”

“Can’t… control…” Drake said.  “He’s… insane…”

“We’re working on a fix for that, too,” Jaunt said.  “I have my top doctor figuring out a serum for him; we’ll have him back to his old self in no time.”

“What… do you… want… from me…?” Drake asked.  He was getting tired of Jaunt’s blathering.

“Simple,” Jaunt said.  “No experiment can be called a success unless we can duplicate the results.”  He moved over next to Drake’s bedside. “I want your consent to give you the serum, and then shoot you with a bolt of lightning.”

It sounded crazy.  Drake would have said no – except what did he have to lose?  He knew about the Fourth Gen serum, and how it had nasty side-effects in all of the other subjects.  But he was facing long-term paralysis, and that scared him more than dying.

“Do… it…” he said.

Jaunt smiled again and walked out of the room, calling behind him, “It’s already begun.”

Drake twitched his cheek in a ghost of a smile, the first since he had woken up from the fight.  He would get his revenge for what the kid did.

David Perry would get what’s coming to him.

* * * * * * * *

Eon City, present day.

David Perry, AKA Earthborn.

“Wake!” came a squeal from next to David’s side of the bed.  “Wake, Daddy, wake!” There was a slight tugging at his sheets as his two year-old daughter tried to get him up.

“Sweetie, our daughter’s calling you,” Amy mumbled from behind the sheets.

David looked at the clock.  Of course baby girl’s calling me, he thought.  “It’s nearly eight,” he said, nudging Amy to wake her up too.  “I’m up, munchkin,” he told his daughter.

He groaned as he climbed out of bed.  He put his daughter in her booster seat at the table and got breakfast ready for the three of them.

“What time does your patrol start?” Amy asked, yawning as she came out of the bedroom.

“I’ve got the afternoon shift,” David told her, kissing her good morning.  “Starts at twelve and goes until about eight.”

“I have to work the evening shift,” Amy told him.  “I’ll call my mother to see if she can babysit tonight until you get home.”

David grinned at her.  “I love you, you know that?” he said.

Amy smiled back at him, still tired.  “You say that every day,” she told him.

“I mean it every day,” he said, pouring her a cup of coffee and sitting next to their daughter to help her with the cutlery.

Amy came over and kissed his forehead before sitting down next to him.  “I love you, too.” she said. “It’s nice to have a decently quiet morning for once.”

No sooner did the words come out of her mouth then an alarm rang, coming from the bedroom.  David winced, getting up as Amy took his spot next to their daughter. “You just had to jinx it, didn’t you?” he teased, going to the bedroom to answer his com.

“Earthborn, we need you,” Agent said, sounding urgent.  “There’s a powerful Third Gen tearing up downtown.”

“Can’t Granny take it?” David asked, pulling on his uniform.

“I’d ask her, but it’s calling you out by name,” Agent said.

“I’m being requested?” David asked, pausing for a second as it sunk in.  Finishing with his uniform, he added, “Most bad guys tend to hate it when I show up.”

“Union Square,” Agent directed.  “Get there as soon as possible.  I’m also sending Granny and Nightmare as back-up – we’ll need our heavy hitters on this one.”

“Roger,” David said, and Agent hung up.  David went back out to the kitchen to let Amy know.

“Be careful,” she said.  “We’ll be watching the news.”

David gave her a mock salute and kissed their daughter goodbye before heading out the door.

It took Earthborn only a few minutes to get downtown.  That was one benefit of his powers – he could travel faster by tunnelling underground than he would in a car.  It had taken him more than a year to get a handle on his powers, but now they were a part of him. Dale’s serum helped keep the crazy under control, and as long as he used his lightning powers sparingly he wouldn’t go mad again.

Which is why he gave an exhausted sigh when he saw the bad guy shooting lightning bolts out of his hands.

“Hey, Earthborn,” Nightmare greeted as he ran up to join them.  “He’s got the same electric powers as you; I think that’s why he’s calling you out.”

“Not possible,” Earthborn said, shaking his head.  “Maybe similar to mine, but that’s not my power.”

“David Perry!” the electric villain called out.  “Or do you go by ‘Earthborn’ now? Come over here and face me!”

“He seems to know you by name,” Granny said, landing her dragon on his other side.  “Friend of yours?”

Earthborn shook his head, drawing rocks up to cover him in his usual armor.  “I don’t recognize him,” he said.

The villain had scars all over his face, and his brown hair was shaggy.  He shot a bolt of lightning in Earthborn’s direction, but he missed, hitting a parked car behind him.

“Who are you?” Earthborn called.  “What do you want with me?”

“Oh, you don’t recognize me?” the villain called back, giggling maniacally.  “You did this to me, you know. Four years ago, you went on a rampage trying to destroy the city, and I tried to stop you.”  A cold, sinking feeling rose in Earthborn’s stomach as he began to realize who this was. “You beat the crap out of me, as ‘a warning to others’ if I remember right.  Well, now it’s my turn. We’re on the same playing field now.”

“Drake?” Earthborn asked.

“Ye-es,” Drake said in a mocking voice.  “But so much more handsome than the last time we met, don’t you think?”  He gave a mocking bow. “Even with the Fourth Gen serum, the same serum that brought you back from the dead, it took four YEARS for me to recover from that fight,” he said.  “And what’ve you been up to?” He started walking forward, making the air around him crackle with electricity.  “You got a girlfriend. And had a little kid. And started working a cushy job as a Watcher in the Asylum. All while I was eating out of a TUBE!”

Drake threw a bolt of electricity, but it again went wide of Earthborn.  Nightmare had to dive out of the way. “What’s he talking about, Earthborn?” she asked.  “He took Fourth Gen serum? But he doesn’t look like the rest of us – he’s out during the day with no cover.”

“Cliff notes version: his name is Drake Rogers,” Earthborn told her and Granny.  “I thought he was dead. He tried to kill me four years ago – he did kill me four years ago – but he buried me with a chemical, that might have been Fourth Gen, and lightning struck, and I woke up with my powers.”

“And you beat the crap out of him?” Nightmare prompted.

Earthborn shrugged.  “Honestly, I don’t remember much about that,” he said, this time loudly enough for Drake to hear.  “The electricity I shoot messes with my head; more so back then before I could control it.”

“And you have so much more control over it now?” Drake asked, still coming towards him.  “I think I’ll test that.” He shot another lightning bolt at Earthborn, this time using an enormous amount of power to strike everything in a city-block radius.

The street had already been cleared of pedestrians, but there were police officers in the line of fire.  Earthborn stomped the ground, and every living being in the strike zone was surrounded by earth to block the lightning.  Unfortunately, that also included Nightmare, Granny, and Herschel, which meant the fight was now one-on-one. “Neat trick,” Drake said.  “But how about this?”

He had come close enough to lunge for Earthborn, tackling him to the ground even with his rock armor to protect him.  Drake used another huge burst of power to shoot lightning directly into Earthborn, breaking through the armor and hitting him in the chest in a constant stream of electricity.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Drake asked through gritted teeth as Earthborn lost control over the rocks surrounding him.  The armor completely broke apart, showing Earthborn’s face as he directly absorbed the electricity.

Then, a surprising sound rose above the roar of Drake’s lightning:

Laughter.

He looked down at Earthborn’s face, as his victim laughed with his eyes wide and staring.  His bright red eyes, which shone with the same manic glint that Drake often saw in the mirror.  And Drake then knew that he had made a horrible mistake.

“My turn,” David said, grinning as Drake’s electricity ran out.  He punched his arm upward, throwing Drake off of him with a giant fist made from the rocks littering the ground.  Drake screamed as he was pummelled without mercy, as David stood up in a shower of sparks. “You tried to kill me,” he accused.  “Twice now. So I have no reason to let you live to try again.”

He shot lightning at Drake with a lot more accuracy than Drake had demonstrated.  As the energy flowed around them, he also picked up any loose gravel from around them, and pulled it together into a giant, compacted ball of dirt.

Nightmare had just managed to dig herself out of the ground trapping her when she saw David slam the giant chunk of earth onto Drake’s head.  The bad guy was buried, but David didn’t stop his onslaught – he hit Drake again and again, even after he fell unconscious from the beating.

“Earthborn!” Nightmare called, watching with horror as her teammate acted like a villain.  “Earthborn, stop! He’s down!”

David turned towards her, and she saw her own red eyes staring back at her.  “Earthborn isn’t here right now,” he said, an insane grin spreading over his face.  “In fact, he’s been keeping me suppressed for years.  I think it’s my turn to come out now.”

Nightmare didn’t know what else to do, so she called Agent.  “Are you seeing this?” she asked into the com.

“Granny’s buried, along with her dragon, and David’s other personality is free,” Agent summed up.  “Yeah, I see it. I’m calling all hands for this one. In the meantime, try to bring him in – that’s the only way we can help him now.  Use any force necessary.”

Nightmare didn’t think; she sent out a wave of her power at David.  If she could give him a mild heart attack, then they could get him back to headquarters before he hurt anybody else.

“Oh, Rina,” David said, still calm and unpanicked.  “The Nightmare Child. There’s a big drawback to your power – for it to affect me, I’d have to fear something.”  He raised his hands, pulling up spikes of rock from the earth. “And what could I possibly have to fear? I’m a god,” he said.  He used lightning strikes on the ground around her to emphasize his point. “I’m the god of the earth. I’m the god of lightning.  The god of storms. The god of death.” He pointed at her. “Your power doesn’t work on me.”

Nightmare stopped wasting her time with her powers, and ran towards him to take him down the old-fashioned way.  “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said, “but I will if I have to.”

David yawned, cocking his head to one side.  Nightmare managed to land one punch, and it didn’t even phase him.

She never even saw the spikes as they impaled her from behind.

* * * * * * * *

Asylum Headquarters.

All hands on deck.

“What  the hell, Agent?” Natalie demanded as soon as the elevator doors opened.  “First my brother, now David? Any other secrets you’re keeping from us?” Natalie and Frank entered the room together, where Granny, Haley, and Reiki all waited with Agent for orders.

“How’s Rina doing?” Frank asked.

“Rina’s in recovery,” Agent told them.  “Dale says she’ll be fine. Her accelerated healing kept her alive, and Dale’s doing all he can to fix her.”

“She wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place if you had just told us about David’s problem,” Natalie growled.

“I know,” Agent sighed.  His knuckles were white on the handle of his umbrella.  “I messed up. I didn’t want you all worrying about this, or trusting him any less as your teammate.”

Natalie shook her head, keeping her eyes locked on Agent.  “This is why you sent him home early from the party,” she accused.  “Why Dale has to check us all out after every little thing, even when we’re fine.”

“Partly,” Agent said.  “Dale also worries over all of you.”

“Let’s not get off-topic,” Granny said.  “David is now out there causing havoc in our city just like any other Third Gen who lost control of his powers.”  She patted her bag, asking, “How do we stop him?”

“How did this happen?” Frank asked.  “I mean, I always thought the guy was just a really strong Third Gen.  But that Drake guy was talking about ‘Fourth Gen’ – isn’t that what gave Rina her powers?”

“No more lies,” Natalie warned.  “No more half-truths. If we’re going to stop him, we need to know everything.”

Agent sat down on a stool at the kitchen island.  “David was an accident,” he told them. “From what he told me, he witnessed an assassin – Drake Rogers – kidnapping a hit, and was taken alongside; Drake doesn’t leave witnesses alive.  Drake shot him in the heart and buried him and the other guy in a field. Somehow, lightning struck the spot where he was buried, and David woke up with his powers.”

“And the other guy?” Haley asked.

“No idea,” Agent said.  “I was put on David’s trail as an afterthought, only once his alter ego started running rampant.  Anything before that you’ll have to ask him.”

“Assuming we can get close enough to him,” Natalie muttered.  Out loud, she said, “I’ve never seen someone that strong. Even Rina doesn’t have that much power.”

Agent shook his head.  “She does,” he told them.  “Rina can drive hundreds to panic at once if need be – she just doesn’t usually need to in the Asylum.  Accident or not, David is a Fourth Gen like her – and Fourth Gens were designed to be single-person armies.”  He leaned back against the kitchen island, adding, “Elementals like David are usually strong enough when they’re Third Gens, but they usually can only manipulate one element – and they have limited control.  Eighty percent of Third Gens who suddenly lose control over their powers are elementals.”

“But they don’t usually go crazy,” Natalie argued.  “They just cause storms, or fires, or something, but they don’t mean to do it.”

“To our knowledge, that would be because of David’s electrical powers,” Agent said.  “His other personality only comes out when he uses too much lightning.”

“So let me get this straight,” Haley said.  “This ‘other personality’…” She shook her head.  “Nope, not calling it that. This ‘Dark David’ that we have to go fight now – he’s that way only because he uses his lightning powers?  Then how is fighting going to help?”

“It’s not.”  Dale walked in from the elevator.  He seemed exhausted, with eyelids that would barely stay open and shuffling feet.  He held a case in his hand, presumably to give to Agent.

Granny was the first to ask, “How’s Rina doing?”

“As well as can be expected,” Dale told them.  “Thank god for her natural healing ability – without that, she’d have been dead before I got there.”

Agent nodded.  “Dale, you were saying?”

Dale shook his head to clear it.  “Right,” he said. “I’d recommend avoiding a fight if you can.  All you need to do is stick him with this.” He put the case he was carrying down on the kitchen counter, opening it to show the team five syringes.  “It’s a concoction of my own making,” he explained. “Right now, he’s suffering from tachycardia due to heightened adrenaline levels. That’s why Rina’s powers wouldn’t work on him – he’s naturally in the state that she was trying to cause.  His electrical powers target the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in his brain, causing his behavior change, lack of inhibitions, and delusions of grandeur.”

“So he’s drunk?” Natalie asked.

Haley shook her head.  “No, more like he’s been overdosing on Ritalin, right?”

“Ritalin, methamphetamines, and alcohol all rolled into one giant shock to his system,” Dale confirmed.  “His powers cause a ton of stress on his body, which is why he loses control just by absorbing some lightning.  The stuff in these syringes’ll bring him out of it – and then you’ll have one massively hung-over Fourth Gen to deal with.”

“Trippy,” Frank noted.  “Next question: how do we find him?”

“He dove underground just as I dug myself out of that shield,” Granny added.  “He could be anywhere by now.”

“There has to be some place he’d go,” Agent said.  “Even in his current state, he’s still David – he’d still have a place in mind, somewhere to hole up.”

Natalie crossed her arms.  “And do you happen to know where that place is?” she asked.

“No,” Agent admitted, pulling out his cell phone.  “But I know someone who does.”

* * * * * * * *

Eon City.

David and Amy’s apartment.

“Thanks for watching her, mom,” Amy said, pulling her shoes on as she headed out the door.  “Bye, sweetie!” Her mother babysat often, so the toddler was at peace with her mother leaving.  That, and she was distracted by a coloring book.

As the door shut behind her, Amy’s phone rang.  “Hello?” she greeted, answering it as she headed to her car.

“This is Agent,” came the voice on the other end of the line.  “I need your help.”

“Good to hear from you too,” Amy said dryly.  “How’s the kid? Oh, she’s fine – sleeping through most nights, finally.  Other pleasantry stuff.”

She could almost hear Agent biting back a sarcastic retort.  “There’s no time for that,” he said instead. “We need to know where David might have gone.”

“I’m not sure how I can help you,” Amy told him.  “He’s been on patrol all day, since you called him in early.”

“You haven’t seen the news?” Agent asked.

“I have a two year-old daughter who is starting to repeat everything she hears,” Amy pointed out.  “Of course I don’t turn on the news around her.”

“David was in a fight this morning,” Agent told her.  “He had to use his lightning powers.”

Amy stopped in her tracks.  “You don’t mean…?” she asked hesitantly.

“His other personality came out, and he ran off before the rest of the team could get there,” Agent confirmed.  “We need to know where he might have gone.”

“Um… try the tunnels,” she said.  “He likes being underground. Otherwise, he might have gone to the fields.”  She named the farmland outside the city where David had first gained his powers.

“Thank you,” Agent said.  “Call me if you think of anything else.”

“Of course,” Amy said.  “But if you do find him, won’t you need me to talk him down?”

“You have done it before…” Agent considered, “but no.  I think the team is up for this, and David would never forgive me – or himself – if you got hurt.”

“Right,” said Amy.  “I’ll be at work if you need me,” she added, just before hearing the click of Agent hanging up the phone.  “Dumbass,” she muttered under her breath.  She got into her car to go to work, trying not to worry about her superhero beau.

* * * * * * * *

Tunnels under the city.

Trying to find Dark David in the dark.

“How the hell are we supposed to find him down here?” Trick asked Shadow.  “This place is a maze!” She shone her flashlight into a suspicious-looking corner.

“Outlier and Reiki went to check the fields,” Shadow said, “so you and I get to check the tunnels with Granny.”  Shadow didn’t need a flashlight; he could tell what was in the shadows without looking.

“No offense,” Trick said, “but why us?  My illusions only go so far against his powers, and you’re more stealth than strength.”

“Stealth would be easier if you stopped talking,” Shadow pointed out.  Seeing the look on his friend’s face, he added, “We’re here because Reiki’s power works best out in the sunlight, and he works better with Outlier than any of us.  Granny’s our hard-hitter down here if we need to fight.”

Trick bit her lip, peering into the shadows around them.  “This place gives me the creeps,” she said. “Further down we go, the more I feel like something’s watching us.”

“If they’re watching, they’re not attacking,” Shadow said.  “Beyond that, I’d prefer not to think about it.”

“Mm-hmm,” Trick agreed.  They walked in silence for a bit, listening for movement in the darkness.

A shuffling sound alerted them to Granny riding up behind them.  Her wolf sniffed at the ground, whining softly. “Louise smells something,” Granny told them.  “I think – ”

The ground erupted around them.  Shadow and Trick were knocked backwards, and Granny was cut off from the other two by a wall of dirt.  Trick jumped to her feet, coughing, and shone her flashlight on where Dark David stood.

“That was a warning,” Dark David told them.  “As I’m sure Rina told you, I don’t have to miss.”

“Earthborn,” Trick started, but Dark David cut her off.

“I’m not Earthborn,” he said, shaking his head.  The air crackled around him with electricity, reflecting on his red eyes.  “That goody-two-shoes keeps pinning me down. I keep trying to come out to play, but I’m forced to watch from the sidelines.”

Trick glanced to where Shadow lay on the ground.  He looked unconscious at first glance, but Trick could see the shadows starting to envelop him.  She had to keep Dark David talking.

“Okay, so if you aren’t Earthborn,” she said, “then who are you?  We’ve been calling you ‘Dark David’, but…” she trailed off, shrugging.  ‘Not sure if you already had a name.”

“‘Dark David’,” he mused.  “I like it. Who came up with that one?  You?”

“Haley, actually,” Trick said.  “She thought ‘other personality’ was too much of a mouthful.”

Dark David laughed.  “True that,” he said.  “So I’m Dark David. Pleasure to meet you.”

“Why did you stab Nightmare?” Trick asked.

He shrugged, taking a step towards her.  “I felt like it,” he said.

“Are you going to stab me?” Trick looked around, as if she would see the ground coming at her.  Dark David gave that cold laugh again.

“If I wanted any of you dead, you would be,” he told her.

“So what do you want?”  Trick looked for Shadow in her peripheral vision, but she couldn’t see him any more.  She took a step away from where he had been, hoping that Dark David wouldn’t notice.

“I just want my freedom,” Dark David said.  “How would you like it if someone else was possessing your body, and you could see what they were doing but weren’t able to move on your own?”

“That’s what it’s like for you?” Trick asked, taking another step.  A scratching sound came from behind the wall that Dark David had thrown up.

“Granny’s trying to break through,” Dark David said dismissively.  “And it’s a bit more complicated than what I just described, but that’s the gist of it.  I remember – ”

Shadow jumped onto his back, trying to stick him with the cure.  Dark David roared, shaking Shadow off with a massive bolt of electricity.  Trick’s flashlight flickered, dimming with the electricity pulsing through the air.  “Shadow?” she asked. “Shadow!”

Her light barely made out the form of her friend, lying prone on the ground.  The shadows fell away from him – he was truly out this time, and Trick was alone.

“That’s Dale’s serum,” Dark David said, looking at the needle he pulled out of his shoulder.  Shadow hadn’t managed to inject him before getting thrown off. “You were trying to trap me again!”

Trick pulled her own dose of the serum out of one of her coat pockets.  Glints of blue flashed in the darkness, showing her where Dark David was even as her light dimmed.  “David, you need to come with me,” she said. “We can help you; don’t you want to see your family again?”

“That’s not my family,” Dark David yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel.  “That’s not my life! I just want my freedom!”

“You remembered something,” Trick prompted, trying to get him talking again.  If he ran from the tunnels, they might never get another chance to catch him. “You were talking about how it feels to be stuck inside your own head…”

“I won’t let you take me!” he shouted.  “Let… me… go!”

“I don’t have you!” Trick said, confused.  She crept closer to him as she spoke. “I just want to talk.”

“Let me go!” Dark David roared again.  As Trick got closer, the light from his electricity showed her enough to see what he was talking about: Dark David’s legs were encased in mud, trapping him from the waist down.

She didn’t wait any longer.  Trick dove to him, sticking him with her needle and pressing the back end to get the serum into his system.  Dark David yelled again, trying to shake her off until the serum took hold and he collapsed.

The mud fell away from his legs as David groaned.  “Wha… what happened?” he asked, groggily.

Trick breathed a sigh of relief, just as Granny’s wolf punched a hole through the wall that had been separating them.  “Is everyone alright?” Granny asked.

“Yeah,” Trick called back, hearing Shadow get up as well.  “Radio Agent – we got him.”

* * * * * * * *

Back at Asylum Headquarters.

Infirmary level.

“I am so sorry,” David groaned again, his face in his hands.  “I should have told you all before; I really thought I had it under control.”  Agent had just finished debriefing him as Dale checked over the team.

“You did,” Dale told him.  “But even my serum can’t take as much electricity as that Drake fellow gave you.”

“I’m just glad you’re back to normal,” Rina said from her own bed.  She had nearly finished healing, but Dale had wanted to keep her under observation.  “Seeing you beat the crap out of that guy… that was scary. You weren’t you.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Agent said to her.  “If it had been anybody else…”

“I don’t think he would have done that to anybody else,” Natalie mused.  “He said in the tunnels, ‘If I wanted you dead, you would be.’ He had plenty of chances to kill me or Frank, but he didn’t.”

David shook his head.  “He doesn’t think that way,” he explained.  “The other guy acts on impulse, not rational thought.  It was a stroke of luck that the lightning he threw at Frank only grazed him – if he’d gotten a direct hit, Frank would be dead now.”

“I don’t know,” Natalie shrugged.  “In the tunnel he just seemed more… sad, I guess, than anything else.”

“Don’t fall for it,” David said.  “He said what he thought in the moment you wanted to hear.  He’s not stupid – talk of ‘freedom’ and such gets people to empathize with him.  Then, when you let him go, he’d have terrorized countless others.”

“How much do you remember?” Agent asked.  “Do you know where he was in the hours before we caught up?”

David shook his head.  “I get the feeling that I ran into someone,” he said, “and that I tried to destroy something.  But I don’t remember details.”

“Well, anyways,” Natalie stood up, stretching as she walked to the elevator.  “Thanks for holding him down.”

“What?” David asked, looking up at her.

“Thanks for holding him down for me,” she said.  Seeing the blank look on his face, she added, “You know, covering his legs in mud so he couldn’t escape, distracting him enough that I could stick him with Dale’s serum… that was you inside his head, right?”

David furrowed his eyebrows.  “Natalie, when he has control, he has complete control,” he told her.  “He’s still me, he just acts different.  I’m not ‘inside his head’ any more than he’s inside mine – it’s not a separate personality, it’s more like being bipolar.  Or, you know, really, really drunk – I might not remember much when I sober up, but it was still me.”

“So assuming he wasn’t holding himself down…” Natalie started.

“…I don’t think you were alone in the tunnels, Nat,” Agent said.

* * * * * * * *

Zatvor Penitentiary, medical center.

Jaunt.

“You were supposed to get me out of here ages ago,” Skadi accused the man in the suit.  “Where’s my brother?”

“He’s safe,” Jaunt said.  “You’ll see him shortly.” He turned back to the patient in the full-body cast.  “As for you, I gave you the powers of a god and you still failed spectacularly.”

Drake couldn’t speak.  If he hadn’t had Fourth Gen serum, he would be dead – as it was, he could barely move a finger.

Knowing this, Jaunt continued.  “I’m terminating our relationship.  You got yourself into Zatvor, and you can get yourself out.  Skadi here was useless to me until she was healed,” he added for her benefit, “but soon she’ll be able to take her place with her brother.”

“‘Soon’?” Skadi asked, crossing her arms.  “How soon?”

She was looking better than when she had gone into the prison.  Color had returned to her cheeks, and she was gaining weight to a healthy point.

Jaunt nodded at her.  “Some other things need to be done first,” he said.  “I have other pieces in place, but money only goes so far when setting up a jailbreak from the most secure prison in the world.”

“How soon?” Skadi repeated.  “Ballpark figure.”

“Two months,” Jaunt said.  “That should go pretty quickly, all things considered.”

Skadi raised her eyebrows, but said, “Could you at least give a letter to my brother?”  She reached under her pillow and pulled out some papers. “I didn’t know where to send them.”

“Fair enough,” Jaunt said, taking them from her.  “It’s not an easy place to reach.” He clapped his hands together, forming a portal for himself to step through.  Pulling a mask over his face, he stepped through the portal. As the portal closed behind him, Skadi fell back into her bed.  The red lights on the cameras turned back on, and she knew that she was being watched by security again.

How does he do that? she wondered idley.  She thought back to the other times Jaunt had checked on her progress, and how each time he managed to turn the cameras off before portalling into the room.  It was a mystery she was trying to figure out.

After all, there wasn’t much else to do with her time.

* * * * * * * *

Issue #6 – Leech

Seventeen Years Ago, Unknown Laboratory.

Sabrina “Rina” Dawson, age eleven.

Nightmare on display.

“Here’s our most promising subject,” came the voice behind the mirror.  “Number nine, Sabrina Dawson. Our researchers call this one ‘the Nightmare Child’.”

Rina sat in the Pain Chair, waiting.  Every time they strapped her into the chair, they would try to bring out her powers any way they could – which usually meant pain.

Rina was used to pain.

“Why is that?” came a second voice.  The lead researcher was showing her off, then.  That usually meant they would start with the shocks.  Either that, or they’d cut off her arm to show that it would grow back in just a couple of days.  Today’s pain entirely depended on who he was showing off for, and Rina couldn’t see either of them behind the mirror.

The lead researcher was answering the question.  “Number nine has the ability to cause panic in those around her,” he said.  “Her mental abilities cause heart palpitations and a spike in adrenaline levels, usually manifesting in a fight-or-flight response.  In layman’s terms, she creates fear.”

It was going to be the shocks today, then.  The shocks always came first when they wanted her to show off the fear response.  Rina braced herself; the waiting was always the worst part.

Two nurses were in the room with her today.  She didn’t know how many people were on the other side of the mirror, but she knew her power would reach to them, too.  Ryan had told her that he’d managed to shock the lead researcher, so she knew it was possible.

Maybe I can hurt them, too, she thought, reaching for her powers.  She could feel the waves of fear radiating from her to the nurses.  One backed up a few paces, while the other started to shake.

“You see, she can use her power at will,” the lead researcher said.  They didn’t know his name, just that he was in charge of the experiments.  “But she has some trouble controlling it. This is the most basic reaction from our staff.”

Rina heard him, and redoubled her efforts.  She knew she had to show off soon, or the shocks would come.  She reached for her own fear and panic at the thought of the pain, and tried to throw it out past the mirror.

It didn’t work.  The second person was now saying, “She doesn’t seem powerful enough for our purposes.  Maybe the next one.”

“Hold on,” the lead researcher said in his oily voice.  Rina hated that voice, just as much as she hated what always came next.  “We have found that number nine responds better when stimulated. Observe.”

The shocks ran through her body without warning.  Every nerve was exploding with pain – Rina tried to scream but she couldn’t control herself.  She was thrashing against the Pain Chair, almost vibrating with the shocks running through her.  Just as she felt she couldn’t take any more, the shocks stopped.

One of the nurses was clawing at the door, and the other was curled up in a fetal position on the floor from Rina’s power.  The lead researcher was speaking again. “We’ve had number nine since birth, and gave her a new type of formula using both the Third Gen and Satyr formulas as a base.”  He sounded shaken. Good; that meant her power did hit him, even if only a little bit. “She has an incredible Third Gen ability, as demonstrated, but she also has satyr abilities.”

“Intriguing,” the second voice said.  He didn’t sound shaken at all. “Such as?”

“She has an axolotl’s ability for self-replication,” the lead researcher explained.  “She heals from any injury faster than a normal human, even going so far as to regrow limbs.”

They were going to cut off her arm again, too.  Great.

“She can regrow an arm or a leg?” the second voice asked in disbelief.

“It takes a couple of days to regrow, but she does.  Would you like a demonstration?” The lead researcher was hoping to get money from the second voice.  That was the only reason he would show off both of Rina’s powers so easily.

The second voice was willing to give it to him, too.  “Show me. Cut off her left leg, and I’ll come back in three days to see if it grows back.  If you’re right,” he added, “this could revolutionize the military.”

The left leg; that was new.  The nurses had composed themselves while the voices were talking, and now they came over to the chair.  The one that had been in the fetal position was now holding an electric bone saw, and Rina knew that today’s pain had only just started.

As the saw turned on, she couldn’t hear the voices any more.  As they began cutting through her leg, the coppery taste of blood filled Rina’s mouth as she bit her tongue.  Her eyes rolled back into her head as she lost consciousness.

When she woke up, she was in her room.  It was a tiny space, including four whitewashed walls and a small bed that she was quickly outgrowing.  Her right foot dangled off the bottom of the bed. She was wearing new clothes; someone had cleaned and changed her after the Pain Chair.  The lights were dim, to keep her skin from burning. Rina had read books about the sun, and Ryan had told her that it felt nice to sit in it – but she wasn’t sure she believed in that fairy tale.

“Hey there,” came a soft voice from the doorway.  Ryan stood just outside her room, giving her a soft smile.  “You okay?”

“No worse than before,” Rina told him.  Her tongue had already healed, and aside from her missing leg she was fine.  She sat up in the bed, swinging her remaining leg over the side to look at him.

Ryan clicked his tongue.  “The left leg this time?” he asked.  “Ouch.” He walked over to her, helping her stand on one leg.  “Why don’t we go to the playroom? The others are waiting.”

Rina smiled at him.  The pain was mostly gone from the morning’s exhibition, except for a fire in the stump where her left leg was growing back.  She liked playing with the others in the play room; it took her mind off of the Pain Chair.

As Ryan helped her hop over to a chair in the corner of the room, the others gave her sympathetic looks.  Rina was the only one who ever lost bodily appendages in the Pain Chair – the researchers knew that the others didn’t have the same ability, so they never had to test it.  In the playroom today, along with Rina and Ryan, were the sisters Katie and Leah, as well as Michael and Finn.

Ryan was the oldest of all of them, nearly twenty years old now.  He looked after the others as he always had, having come to the lab when he was seven.  Katie was close to his age, only a couple of years younger, but had been at the lab the longest.  Her little sister Leah was only eight, the youngest of all of the Fourth Gen kids. Michael was eleven, the same age as Rina, but he had come to the lab when he was five.  Finn was thirteen, but like Rina he had been a newborn when they started experimenting on him.

“The lead researcher is trying to sell the formula,” Katie said when she saw Rina’s leg.  “This one might bite. Most times, people say no as soon as they realize the side effects.”  She pointed to her skin and her eyes; like all of the Fourth Gen kids, her veins stood out black against her pale skin and her eyes were a bright red.  “Humans don’t want to look like monsters.”

“We’re not monsters,” Ryan said, sitting on the floor next to Rina.  “We’re people just like them, and one of these days I’m gonna bust out of here and really show them what I can do.”

Katie rolled her eyes at him.  “Ever the hero,” she scoffed. “What are you going to do, shock them like they shock us?”

Electricity crackled around Ryan’s fingers.  “I can,” he said, looking Katie right in the eyes.  “Someone should give them a taste of their own medicine.”

“But you won’t,” she shot back, “for the same reason you haven’t done it yet: they know you can shock them, so they always wear rubber suits when you’re around.  It wouldn’t work.”

Ryan smirked at her.  “Oh yeah?” he said. “Well, what they don’t know is the little trick I’ve been working on.”  He turned so that his arm was hidden from the cameras and showed them: the electricity wasn’t just around his hand – it was his hand.

As the other Fourth Gens gawked at him, his hand returned to normal.  “I figured it out about a week ago,” Ryan explained. “I think we’re all more powerful than they want us to believe, so they don’t let us practice with our own powers.  But I’ve been doing it in secret, and I know how to control it now.”

“So what’ll you do when you’re out of here?” Rina asked.  She knew Ryan was as good as his word, and that he’d leave the experiment one day.  Ryan could do anything.

He shrugged in response.  “When I was little, I remember seeing heroes on TV,” he said.  “I wanted to be one of them – and I guess I still do.”

“A hero?” Rina repeated, thinking of the knights from her storybooks.  She giggled as she pictured Ryan with a sword and shield. “How dashing!”

“I’d want to be a viking,” Michael said, getting in on the game.  “Sailing the seas, going on adventures; that would be exciting!”

Quiet Finn spoke up.  “Maybe I could show people my poetry,” he shrugged.  The others knew that he scribbled on any paper he could find.  He had even written a lullaby for the younger Fourth Gens in the experiment.

“Yeah,” said Katie, “because all of that could happen, and it would be sunshine and rainbows every day.”

Here shines the sun,” Rina began singing Finn’s lullaby, the lines she thought were relevant.  Finn joined her for the next lines:

Clouds gone away,

Rainbows are pretty amazing.

Just close your eyes;

You’ll see the sky someday…

“Right,” Katie said, her voice softening despite the huff she was in, “but you guys have never actually seen the sun, have you?  None of us have seen it in years, and we’ll probably never see it again.” Turning to Ryan, she added, “That’s why they keep this place so dark, you know.  Even if we do get back outside, we’ll just burn to a crisp as soon as we see daylight.”

She stood up, probably to go back to her room, but Leah spoke up.  “I just want a hug,” she said quietly. Katie’s eyes welled up, and she sat back down next to her sister.  Leah’s abilities kept her from touching people’s bare skin; if they did, she would leech away their powers, and their life.  She always had to be covered, and had never been hugged properly by anyone, even her mother.

Ryan crawled over to her other side.  “Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll give you a hug right now.”  He reached out his arms. After staring at him for a second, Leah jumped into them, hugging him tightly.  Ryan’s face was screwed up in pain, but he kept holding Leah until Katie shouted, “Enough!”

Leah jumped back from him, and Ryan gasped for air.  The color had drained from Katie’s face just as much as it did his.  “Are you suicidal,” she asked, “or just stupid?”

Ryan grinned weakly up at her.  “Leah just wanted a hug,” he said.  “That’s what heroes do – they make other people feel better.”

In later years, even as she blocked out most of her time in the experiment, Rina never forgot that moment.  Ryan was the first person to ever teach her what it meant to be a hero: being kind to other people, even when it could kill you.

* * * * * * * *

Eon City, Present Day (Nighttime).

Sabrina “Rina” Dawson, AKA Nightmare.

“You messed up,” Nightmare said, meeting back up with Shadow as they finished their patrol.

Shadow groaned, “I know,” as he skated along next to her motorcycle.  “I got cocky. It won’t happen again.”

“I wasn’t blaming you,” Nightmare told him, revving the engine as they kept an eye out for trouble.  “I’m just putting together what happened so we know better next time.”

“What happened was I messed up,” Shadow said.  “I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was. I shouldn’t have moved without backup.”

“You tied up the one,” Nightmare pointed out.  “You – hold up.” She skidded her cycle to a sudden stop, and Shadow had to turn around to pull up next to her.

“What is it?” he asked, glancing around.

Nightmare pointed to a jewelry store across the street.  “Looks like we got ourselves a good, old-fashioned jewelry heist,” she said, smirking.

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Shadow rolled his eyes.  “Who does that anymore?” He turned off the engine on his skates and rolled to the front door, glancing in through the glass window and immediately ducking out of sight.  “My goggles are showing three heat signatures: two by the counter in the back and one near the case in the front,” he whispered, pressing the button on his boots to retract the wheels as he replayed the image he recorded on his goggles.

“I’ll take the counter if you take the case?” Nightmare suggested.  Shadow nodded to her and disappeared into the shadows.

“Damn, that’s cool,” Nightmare breathed, sidling over to the door to pick the lock.

She opened the door slowly, hoping to slip in unnoticed.  She had just gotten it wide enough to enter when a loud buzzer went off.  Stupid, she thought.  Of course a store like this would have a door tone, to alert the salespeople to a customer walking in.

The element of surprise lost, Nightmare swung the door open and ran into the room towards the intruder by the cases.  The jewels left in the case glinted in the dim light, reflecting the streetlights outside. The shadow from the door closing crossed over them, making them glitter.

Nightmare shouted as her target tried to duck past her.  She was aware of Shadow flying out of the darkness behind her, but the Watcher kept her mind focused on her own task – the duo had already let one bad guy get away this evening, and she would be damned if it happened again.  The girl wasn’t alone; there were two others with her.

The target turned towards her, enough of their outline showing through their loose black clothing to reveal that she was female.  The thief wore a hoodie, much like Shadow’s, to conceal her face, but instead of goggles or a mask she seemed in the dark store to wear heavy black eyeshadow.

The girl tried again to duck past Shadow, but he pushed her back.  She let out a feral growl – could she be a satyr? – and moved her arms through the air.

A wave of water swept over him, knocking him off his feet.  This girl wasn’t human, of that much he was sure. He coughed up the water he had inhaled, unclipping his nightsticks from his side.  The water drenching him meant that he couldn’t turn on the Taser mode, but they would still work well enough as weapons without it.

The girl moved her arms again, but this time Shadow was ready.  He dove forward, knocking her down and tangling her legs up with one of the sticks.  “You know, my mother told me never to hit a girl,” he said, grabbing one of her arms and cuffing her wrist.  “She also told me that stealing is wrong. And she definitely told me not to drown. I think it evens out.”

He grabbed the thief’s other wrist and cuffed it to the first one.  Nightmare was putting her own cuffs on the other two. “Your mother told you, specifically, not to drown?” she asked, as Shadow hauled his target to her feet.

“Yeah, it’s a long story,” Shadow told her, “involving the ocean, some ankle weights, and some snorkeling gear.  Remind me to tell you some time.” He turned back to the thief that he held. “Now what gave you guys the idea that a jewelry store was a good place to rob?” he asked.

The girl answered with another feral growl, struggling to break free of his grip.  Her hood fell back from her face, and Nightmare gasped in recognition.

“Susie?” she asked quietly, kneeling next to the thrashing girl.  “Sus, it’s me.” She pulled her hood down, taking off her mask to show the struggling girl.  With a closer look at the girl, Shadow could see that she wasn’t wearing dark eyeshadow – her eyes were red, and her veins stood out black just like Nightmare’s.

“What’s going on here?” he asked.  “Nightmare, you know this girl?”

Nightmare moved over to the two she had taken down and pulled off their hoods.  One was a normal satyr, but the other one had the same black veins. “Mikey?” she asked.

The Fourth Gen thief looked calmly at her.  “Hello, Rina,” he said. “Long time no see.”

* * * * * * * *

Asylum Headquarters.

Interrogation room, behind the glass.

“Okay Rina, from the top,” Agent said, looking at the two Fourth Gens from behind the two-way mirror.  “Who are they?”

“The guy is Mikey – Michael Andrews,” Rina told him.  “The girl is Susan Dobbs. They were both in the Fourth Gen experiment with me.”  She was debriefing Agent while Shadow got checked over by Dale after their patrol.

“Any idea what they were doing robbing a jewelry store?” Agent asked, turning to look at her.

Rina shrugged.  “The last time I saw them was fifteen years ago, when we were breaking out of the lab.  After that, we scattered – I know Claw snatched up a few of us, but I thought that at least Mikey had joined government service like me.”

Agent picked up his data pad off of the counter in front of him and typed something in.  “Hmm,” he said. “Michael Andrews, Fourth Gen. Spent ten years in the military before being dishonorably discharged for striking a superior officer.  His criminal record indicates that he joined the Fauns shortly after that.”

“Of course he did,” Rina sighed.  “Mikey never liked structure, and I can’t think he’d be okay with authority figures after the lab.”  She cracked her knuckles nervously. Agent put a hand on her shoulder, and she flinched before realizing he was just telling her to calm down.  She slowed her breathing, getting her emotions – and her powers – back under control.

“What did they do to him there?” Agent asked.

Rina bit her lip.  “I’m not sure of the details,” she said.  “We never saw it happening to each other, just the after-effects.  But when we were younger Mikey always came out of it crying, saying that ‘they made him do bad things.’  They put him in solitary confinement for the last year and a half before we broke out, and I can only imagine what he went through.  I never even knew what his powers were.”

“And the girl?” Agent asked, typing something else into his data pad.  “Susan Dobbs has a criminal record a mile long; she’s labeled as a feral satyr.”

“A jellyfish,” Rina confirmed.  “They tried to make another regenerating Fourth Gen like me.  It almost worked – she heals fast, but she can’t regrow limbs.  You’ll find a scar around her right pinky where they tested that.”  Rina stepped forward, staring at her old friends in the room. “Susie was never all there; she can’t say more than a few words at a time.  But we might be able to question Mikey.”

“Are you up for that?” Agent asked her, gesturing to his suit.  “I’m obviously an authority figure; by your own description, he probably wouldn’t talk to me.  But you have a history with him; he might open up if you went in there.”

Rina took a deep breath.  “I can try,” she said, moving to the door.

She entered the interrogation room, feeling her fellow Fourth Gens’ eyes on her.  Susie was calmer, playing with a shoestring that Mikey had given her.

“So, the great Sabrina Dawson deigns to join us,” Mikey sneered.  “That ivory tower cozy enough for you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rina asked, trying to stay patient.

“Oh please,” he rolled his eyes, leaning back in his chair.  “As soon as they busted us out, you left. Couldn’t get away from the rest of us fast enough.”

“That’s not true,” Rina said, sitting down across from them.  “I tried to keep everyone together. Katie was the one who split first, and the others that joined the Fauns.”  She leaned forward, catching his red eyes with her own. “You could have come with me, but you wanted to travel.  So when the government asked you to join the military, you left, too.”

Mikey was the first to look away.  “Maybe,” he admitted. “That was my bad.”  When he looked back at her, his face broke into a huge grin.  “It’s good to see you, Rina.”

Rina smiled back at him.  “So, you want to tell me why you were robbing a jewelry store?” she asked.  “My partner said it best earlier: who does that any more?”

“Oh, we were just trying to get your attention,” Mikey shrugged.  Susie echoed, “A-tten-tion.” She never looked up from the shoestring.  Mikey continued, “Leech wanted to let you know: we found him.”

Rina’s eyes widened in alarm, and she stood up from the table so fast that her chair fell over.  “What?” she breathed, wanting him to confirm it.

“We found him,” Mikey repeated, putting his hands behind his head in a very self-satisfied move.  “Leech is gathering the Fourth Gens, and she knew this was the only way to get you on board.”

“Leah joined the Fauns,” Rina said.  “How the hell did she find him?”

Mikey smirked.  “You think the Fauns don’t have eyes and ears everywhere?” he asked.  “We know who he is, and we know where he is now. He works for King Enterprises now, about an hour and a half away from here.”

Rina felt like she was going to be sick.  “And Leah’s calling all of us in for this?” she asked.

“Well, she thought we’d all get a kick out of storming the castle together,” Mikey said, grinning.  “Your powers would really make a difference.”

Rina shook her head, dazed.  Without another word, she left the room.  Agent was outside in the hallway, a questioning look on his face, but he didn’t stop her.  He just entered the interrogation room and left her to find a place to think.

Leah found him, she thought.  She said she would.  As she ran down the hallway to the staircase, she remembered the last time she had seen any of her fellow Fourth Gens.

* * * * * * * *

A run-down motel, fifteen years ago.

Rina Dawson, age thirteen.

“Ow, careful!” Rina hissed, trying not to move while Leah stitched her up.  Even with gloves on, ten year-old Leah’s powers sometimes bled through.

“Sorry,” Leah said, biting her lip as she tied off the thread.  “I’m done.” She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, a streak of Rina’s black blood appearing.  Rina took a cloth and wiped it off. “Thanks. That was a nastly gash,” she added for the hundredth time that morning.

“If I’d been any slower, he probably would have cut me in half,” Rina agreed.

“Would you grow back?” Leah wondered aloud.  “If he had cut you in half, would your bottom half grow a new head, or would your top half grow new legs?  Or both,” she added thoughtfully.

Rina shuddered.  “Probably neither,” she said.  “I’m not immortal. It takes days for me to grow an arm or a leg, and in that time I’d probably have bled out and died.”

Leah shrugged, going to the bathroom to clean her hands.  “I’m still not sure why you said no in the first place,” she called back.  Coming back out of the bathroom as she dried her hands on her pant legs, she added, “It’s not like we have many options.  The Fauns would be a roof over our heads and food on the table.” As if to accentuate her point, her stomach growled.

Rina closed her eyes, trying not to cry again.  “It’s not what Ryan wanted for us,” she said. Leah sobered at the statement.  “He wanted us to be free to pick our own ways, not just to trade one cage for another.”

“Ryan gave everything to get us out of the experiment,” Leah said, “but we’ve gotta survive.  He knew that.”

“Katie didn’t join either,” Rina pointed out.  “She just took off.”

Leah glowered at the mention of her sister.  “Yeah. But she’s also old enough to make her own way,” she said.  “You and me, they look at us and see kids. Heck, we’ve been out for a week and we’ve still never seen the sun.”

“I can figure something out,” Rina said.  “I promise. I’ll get a job, maybe become a Watcher…”

“You have to be eighteen to be a Watcher,” Leah pointed out.  “Face it, Rina, there’s not much choice. At least Claw would feed us.”

“Claw would kill me if he ever saw me again,” Rina said.

Leah shrugged.  “Yeah, you. But not me.”

“He’s dangerous,” Rina told her.  “My powers didn’t even work on him.”

“But my powers will.”  Leah began putting her few things into one of the bags they had procured.  She had made up her mind.

Rina had to keep trying to talk her out of it, though.  “We should stick together, Leah,” she said. “Katie went off, but what about the others?”

“What about them?” Leah asked.  “The feral ones are impossible to control.  Most of them already joined the Fauns – and the others took off to who-knows-where.  And Ryan – ”

“He’s not dead,” Rina said, folding her arms.

“If you say so,” Leah shrugged.  “He exploded in a blast of electricity when he took out the power, at least.  And none of us have seen him since, so he might as well be dead.”

Rina pursed her lips, knowing that the younger girl was right.  “Leah, we really should stick together,” she tried one more time.

Leah shouldered her bag, turning back to face her.  “Tell you what,” she said. “The lead researcher got away; I plan to track him down someday.”  She moved to the door. “When I find out who he is and where he’s hiding, I’ll track you down and we can go after him together.  Deal?”

Rina smiled despite herself.  “Deal. You better not leave me out,” she added.

Leah smiled at her and opened the door.  The sun was blotted out by storm clouds, but it allowed the Fourth Gens to step outside.  Leah still pulled up her hood before stepping out of the motel room. She wouldn’t hug Rina goodbye, but she waved a little sadly before she left.

Rina pulled up her own hood, watching her go.  She began singing their old lullaby to herself as she wondered if she would ever see the others again.

Here shines the sun,

Night’s gone away,

New days are pretty amazing.

Just close your eyes;

You’ll see the sky someday…

* * * * * * * *

Asylum Headquarters, present day.

Rina Dawson, sitting in the stairwell.

Rina was humming to herself when Agent found her.  “I was right,” he said. “He wouldn’t talk to me. Unless you count a truly impressive amount of profanity.”  He sat on the stairs next to Rina, adding, “So what was that about?”

She took her time answering, trying to get the right words.  “An old friend of mine, Leah. She found out who the lead researcher was on the Fourth Gen experiment.”

Agent whistled, impressed.  “Wow. The Agency had problems with that.”  He put a hand on Rina’s shoulder. “So what are you going to do?”

Rina looked at him.  “I don’t know,” she admitted.  “The plan was that we’d all go in and kill him, but…” she trailed off.

Agent finished for her.  “But you’ve come a long way since you were a teenager on the streets,” he said.  “You don’t think killing him is right, and as a Watcher you want to stop it.”

“But he deserves it!” she said, clenching her fists and remembering all the times they had to grow back.  “He caused us all so much pain. Who am I to tell the others to just let it go?”

“You’re one of them,” Agent said.  “You’re probably the only one who can.”

Rina stood up.  “I have to at least meet them,” she said.

Agent stood up too, grabbing his umbrella off of the staircase.  “I’ll go with you,” he said. “I won’t interfere, but I need to know the outcome of this.”

“You also want to see what the other Fourth Gens can do,” Rina guessed.  Agent just shrugged, and opened the door for her.

“You know that I can’t sanction this mission without some official reason,” he pointed out.  “And if you go without me sanctioning it, you could get in a lot of trouble. You might even lose your license, even if you avoid jail time.”

“Thanks,” Rina said, stepping through.  He reminded her a lot of Ryan – Agent was always willing to stick his own neck out for the team.  “You sure about this?”

“An attempted assassination and a raid on King Enterprises?” Agent said.  “Not at all. But I know what they did to you there, and I know this is something you have to decide for yourself.  I’ll bullshit the reports if I have to.”

They went back into the room with Mikey and Susie.  “You make up your mind yet?” Mikey asked her.

“Yeah,” Rina told him.  “We’re going with you.”

“You want to bring the suit along?” Mikey asked, taken aback.

Rina looked between him and Agent.  “Yeah, I do,” she said. “Where is the meeting?”

* * * * * * * *

Outside of King Laboratories.

Middle of nowhere.

“You’re here,” Leah said, looking at Rina.  Time had not been kind to her – she looked much older than her twenty-five years.  “I wasn’t really expecting you to come.”

“I said I would, didn’t I?” Rina asked her.  She looked around at the group. Six of the Fourth Gens had showed up – the five who had joined the Fauns, and Rina.  Agent was the only human present; the rest of Leah’s army were satyrs.

Leah shrugged.  “Yeah, but you’re a big bad Watcher now.  With the Asylum, no less.” She glared at Agent.  “And I have no idea why he’s here.”

“I’m not letting a teammate walk into something like this without backup,” he said, shouldering his umbrella lazily.

“He’s cool,” Rina told her.  “Finn and Katie couldn’t make it, then?”

“They declined my invitation,” Leah said dismissively.  “Here’s the plan: we’re going to go in there and wreck shit.  Rina, you use your powers on anybody who gets in our way. I’m talking all out – no survivors.  Got it?”

“No,” Rina said.  “Most of the people in there are innocent.  We’re just here for the lead researcher, nobody else.”

Leah rolled her eyes.  “Rina, this place runs similar experiments to the one we broke out of,” she said.  “They’re hardly innocent civilians.”

“It’s wrong, Leah.”  Rina shook her head. “I can’t let you do this.”

“They torture people,” Leah hissed.  “You want to be a race traitor, fine.  But the rest of us are going to stop them.”

“No,” Rina said, glancing at Agent.  “You’re not.” Agent nodded at her, and Rina let her powers go for the first time since escaping the experiment.

It was chaos.  The satyrs felt the effects first – the feral ones began attacking the others, who started scrambling in panic.  Susie bit Mikey’s arm, dowsing him with water from her powers. Mikey shook her off, and then Rina’s powers hit him, too: he clapped his hands together, and a shock wave knocked everyone off of their feet.

“What are you doing?!”  Leah screeched, grabbing Rina’s arm and using her own powers.

Rina doubled over, but she didn’t stop the barrage on the army’s emotions.  As the feral satyrs clawed and bit at each other, the non-feral ones had to fight back in self-defense.  Adrenaline spiked through them all, and their fight-or-flight responses triggered; half of the army scampered off into the night.

Leah growled, letting Rina go as she screamed, “Cowards!  Traitors!”

Rina concentrated on her powers.  She could see Agent out of the corner of her eye, using his umbrella as a shield to fend off attackers.  He was also feeling the effects of her powers, but his Agency training allowed him to keep his head in the brawl.

Suddenly, Leah grabbed his hand with her own, and he fell to the ground.  “No!” Rina screamed, as his face started draining of color.

“Stop this,” Leah shouted at her.  “Stop it or I kill him.”

Rina closed her eyes, drawing her power back.  The satyrs became less panicked, and the fighting died down.  “Let him go,” she said.

“I can’t believe you did that, Rina,” Leah said.  “After everything they did to us. After cutting you to pieces.  After killing Ryan!”

“Ryan was a hero,” Rina said, her eyes drawn to Agent as Leah leeched away his strength.  “He wouldn’t want us to do this.”

“Oh, grow up!” Leah said.  “Ryan wanted to kill the guy himself!  All that hero crap was just him blowing hot air.”

Rina shook her head.  “That’s not true,” she said.

“Ryan put on a show for us kids,” Leah said.  “That’s all it was. They tortured us, Rina.  They have to pay!”

“They did,” Rina said.  “The nurses and scientists that took part in our experiment are locked up.  The only one that got away was the lead researcher – the rest of these people are innocent!”

“You’re soft,” Leah spat.  “Soft and weak. We need to make sure they never do this to anybody ever again!”

Agent was slumped on the ground, unconscious.  Leah still hadn’t stopped draining him; Rina needed to move fast, or she’d kill him.  “I may be soft,” Rina conceded. “But I’m still stronger than you.”

She let out an enormous wave of her power, and the remainders of Leah’s satyr army fell to the ground.  Leah and Mikey were the only two left standing, and Leah had been shocked into letting go of Agent.

“What did you do?” Mikey cried, looking at the satyrs all writhing on the ground.

Rina pulled her power back in again.  “They’re exhausted,” she said. “That’s what happens when your heart rate rises too much too fast.  I knocked them out.” She walked over and grabbed Agent by his arms, dragging him away from Leah and towards their car.

“I thought you were a hero,” Mikey said, his eyes wide as he looked at Rina.  “Heroes don’t do this.”

“They’ll live,” Rina said, getting Agent into the car and slamming the door.  “And if you ever threaten innocent lives again, it’s more than I can promise you.”  Another wave of her power shot out, just strong enough to make Leah and Mikey run the other way.

Rina shook her head, getting into the car.  Let ‘em run, she thought.  They’d think twice before trying something like that again.

She called for police and an ambulance as she drove back to Eon City.  Agent wasn’t going to like that she left the scene before the cops arrived, but she knew Dale would want to look at him as soon as possible.  Leah’s powers didn’t leave permanent damage, but Agent would feel like he’d been run over by a bus for the next week.

Once she’d finished making her calls, Rina began singing to herself.  The lullaby from her childhood sounded out-of-place; she had seen the sky, after all.  But a weight had been lifted that she never realized she carried.

Rina wasn’t a kid from the Fourth Gen experiment.  She wasn’t a victim, or a follower, and she no longer felt a need for vengeance.  After twenty-eight years, she was finally, finally free of it all.

Here shines the sun,

Night’s gone away,

New days are pretty amazing.

Just close your eyes;

You’ll see the sky someday…

* * * * * * * *