Valle de Bravo, Mexico – Thursday, the 14th of June 2012. 02:52 PM.
“If you’d like to get back to me, that’s cool. So, yeah. Okay then. Bye.” The call ended there, leaving Andrey with a sense of wheels turning fate in his favor. Alexandra still had a helping hand in his life. He wasn’t sure he still deserved her support, but he was grateful nonetheless.
“Hello, Mascot,” Andrey said. The heroine’s name rang more than just a few bells. He couldn’t remember what she looked like, but that was easy enough to fix.
He opened his internet browser and did a search for “Mascot” and “Wardens.” The top five results linked to news articles, all of whom featured the villain attack on New York that had happened a couple of days ago. Andrey skimmed over the parts he already knew, his interest focused on the bear costumed girl’s role during the events at the stadium.
She took out Mirage by charging blindly and breaking her own arm? Andrey had to read that particular line twice to digest it.
Another trail of internet links led him back to what had been labelled a ‘gang shoot-out’ in Seattle a few weeks ago. One resourceful journalist had connected Mascot’s capture by the Covenant to several dead gang members, as well as to the smoldering remains of a mysterious weapon that had been disappeared before dawn.
Mascot had a run-in with Gentleman long before I did.
Andrey remembered the girl’s transition near Seattle. The UNEOA had dispatched him to investigate the girl, and he’d been the first hero to appear on the scene. But ultimately, Monsoon’s power surge was deemed a higher priority, and Radiant was ordered to South Africa before he got the chance to talk to Mascot. Athena took care of the young Guardian in his stead.
Did you know we almost met that day, Christina? Andrey wondered.
Another couple of clicks later, he was looking at a picture that had been posted on the homepage of a local newspaper the morning after Mascot’s transition. She was wearing a pair of jogging trousers and a grey sweater whose hood covered most of her chin-length brown hair. Her young features hinted at Asian heritage, her almond-shaped eyes narrowed to thin slits that glowered at the camera.
Andrey studied the picture with an amused grin. Angry at herself and the world, but mostly at herself. Alexandra had told him as much after Andrey had returned from South Africa to discuss Christina’s case. He belatedly realized he could have checked the Candy Box for Mascot’s folder.
As tabbed out of the internet browser to check the girl’s file, a blinking banner pop-up banner caught his attention. It showed a small icon of Mascot’s bear helmet alongside a television camera. Cheerful green letters invited him to check out E-Life’s live stream of the ongoing Wardens interview.
Thirty past twelve local time in San Francisco. Andrey checked the computer’s digital clock. The live stream was scheduled thirty minutes ago. He wasn’t sure how long these kinds of shows lasted, but if there was a chance it might still be running, he wanted to check it out.
One click on the banner took him to ANBE’s homepage. The top headline informed him that the live interview was still ongoing, with a small video feed to prove it. Another click enlarged the image, allowing Andrey to get a view of the three costumed Wardens who sat on a couch next to the host, a round faced man with an old fashioned flat-top haircut.
Andrey spent two minutes watching the Wardens interview before his curiosity turned to concern. He could tell what Christina was doing. An uneasy feeling settled in his gut.
She’s charging blind again. Only this time, Christina’s target was Gentleman. He would neither be surprised nor incapacitated by the attack.
Andrey considered sending her a text message to immediately warn her. But he had to assume that her phone had been turned off for the duration of the show, and he didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation while countless viewers were watching her every move.
He watched the remaining ten minutes of the video feed, fingers drumming restlessly against the helmet that sat on his desk. When the host said his goodbyes, Andrey only waited a minute before instructing Iris to dial the number Mascot had left on his virtual answering machine.
The answer came after a dozen dial tones. “Hello?” a female voice asked. Someone else, young and male, was chuckling in the background.
“Mascot?” Andrey asked.
“Yes, speaking. Who’s this?” The four words were enough to recognize the voice who’d left the message on his answering machine.
“Radiant. You wanted to talk to me?”
The male teenager’s chuckles cut off abruptly. During the stunned silence that followed, Andrey heard Mascot suck a breath through her teeth. Some muffled words followed, too quiet to understand. “Um, okay,” she finally said. “What can I do for you?”
You don’t remember? Andrey’s surprise only lasted for the second it took him to figure out what she was doing. You’re testing me, just like Rune did. He didn’t blame her; he would have done the same thing in her shoes. Gentleman was a rather convincing voice imitator, after all.
“You left me a message asking me to call you back, remember?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Hi, Radiant.”
“Listen, Christina, we need to talk,” he went on. “I just watched the show.”
“And you’re underestimating who you’re dealing with. Gentleman will go after the people you love before he comes for you.”
He half expected her to argue the point, but she didn’t. When she spoke again, her voice was calm and neutral. “Would you like to meet up somewhere? You can still go anywhere you like, right?”
“Not anywhere,” Andrey corrected. “And I have some concerns we need to address first. Where are you right now?”
There was another brief pause of silence filled by whispers in the background. Andrey glanced to his monitor and entered the necessary commands to bring up Wardens related data from the Candy Box. He had finished skimming over the first couple of paragraphs when Christina’s answer came through the loudspeakers, relayed by Iris.
“What concerns?” she asked, ignoring his previous question.
She’s cautious, he noted with some relief. If the Wardens are smart about it, perhaps they can pull through without this ending badly.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “I’d like to meet you and your teammates as soon as possible, but I need to take some precautions first. I don’t want to drag you into any more trouble than you’re already in.”
“I figured you were in trouble when you didn’t show up in New York,” Christina said.
Andrey’s fingers tightened about the edge of his desk. He didn’t want to be discussing his troubles; he had already dealt with those. What he wanted right now was to watch out for these teenagers, who had never learned how to deal with villains. Or what it meant to be a hero.
There was a whisper from someone female, close to the phone but too far to make out the words.
“You don’t have to be considerate because we’re teenagers,” Christina said. “If any kind of trouble finds its way to us, then ‘right next to a Guardian’ is a pretty good place to be.”
Andrey considered the picture of the brown-haired, narrow-eyed girl on his monitor. She was facing the world head on, glowering her disapproval at any would-be opposition. He couldn’t help but smile a bit.
“I suppose that’s true,” Andrey admitted. “How about this: head back to your headquarters and discuss whether you’d like to meet me, in private, as a group. Call me back with within the next few hours, and we’ll figure everything else out from there.”
“Okay. But we’re going to choose the location. I mean, you can be almost certain we are who we’re claiming to be, but some of us are still not wholly convinced this is actually you. Just a small precaution.”
“You choose,” Andrey agreed.
An ice cream parlor?
Andrey pushed his sun shades up as he studied the venue at the address the cab had delivered him to. It was late afternoon in San Francisco, and the city’s Cole Valley district was bustling with activity, but the small venue with lime green walls and gold colored shop window frames wasn’t seeing a single visitor. Despite the large and very visible sign above the entry door that advertised the place as the ‘Corner House Ice Café’, none of the small green tables out front had been claimed. As far as Andrey could see through the windows, the interior was no different.
We did agree on someplace quiet, not someplace that’s closed down.
Andrey’s reflection in the front door’s glass panel was that of a tall, athletic man in a decidedly average American outfit. Beyond the door was a short bar stocked with glasses and whipped cream dispensers, but not a trace of the teenagers he’d expected to see.
Just as he was about to dig his phone out of his jeans pocket and call Christina to double check the location, he was greeted by a young male voice from somewhere to the left.
“Hey, Hero! You’re late.”
Andrey turned to see Peter, one of the three Wardens he had been waiting for. The brown-haired boy wasn’t in costume, nor were the two girls who stood to his left. Nora’s mane of long black cornrows, tied into a ponytail that spilled over the back of her red tank top, was her most striking feature. She wore camo cargo pants and bright orange sneakers that stood out against the dark gray of the sidewalk.
Christina had replaced the grey hoodie she’d worn in nearly every picture with a shirt whose front featured a black on white Chinese symbol. Her left arm was in a cerulean blue cast adorned with stickers and signatures, supported by a sling in a matching color. She couldn’t walk. She launched herself forward with small, hopping steps, clenching her teeth in grim determination whenever she adjusted her crutch to make another inch of progress.
Watching her struggle was painful to Andrey, as well. I hope you get the chance to heal before the villain you summoned catches up to you, he thought.
Regardless, he did his best to greet the trio with casual nonchalance. “Hello, Wardens… there you are. I was beginning to wonder whether the cab dropped me off at the wrong address.” He adjusted the sleeve of his shirt as he spoke, making sure it covered the small, soundproof box with Gentleman’s phone that he had strapped to his forearm. Wearing it on his skin allowed him to sense the phone’s vibration should another call come in.
Neither one of the two girls returned the greeting. Nora watched him warily from where she stood, not budging an inch. Christina’s eyes flicked over his disguised appearance, but her face revealed nothing. It was a blank wall, framed by some short wisps of dark brown hair that had escaped her ponytail.
“Please excuse my tardiness,” Andrey tried, belatedly responding to the first thing Peter had said. “The traffic here is just as bad as it was in New York.”
“That was a joke, man,” Peter said. He swiftly stepped past the two girls, extending his hand to Andrey. “But I’m glad it worked out. I almost didn’t recognize you. Sunglasses, a beanie and a long sleeved shirt? Seriously? It’s summer, man.”
Andrey took the hand and gave it a firm shake. “Consider it a different kind of costume,” he said. “You three managed to get out of headquarters without yours?”
“Chris’s costume is a pain in the ass for her,” Nora said. She still hadn’t budged, but her body language was beginning to relax. “She can’t get changed with her arm in a cast. The guys in charge finally figured that out before the show today.”
“The President’s about to adjust the costumed hero law anyway,” Peter added. “Good for us, after what happened…” he broke off there, giving Andrey a rueful look.
“After what happened to Queenie,” Andrey finished. During his time in Mexico, he had discovered that he could comfortably breach the subject of his former teammate’s death. There was a lingering bit of sadness that would never go away, but he could accept that he had to keep moving forward. For her sake as much as his own.
“Yeah,” Peter echoed. “That.”
Andrey nodded in the direction of the glass panel door. “Would the three of you like to head inside?”
“Oh, yeah. I haven’t managed to open up yet.” Peter produced a small metal key from his sleeveless grey vest and held it up, grinning proudly. “It’s not my place, but my cousin’s married to the owner. She agreed to lend me the key. They’re doing some renovations this week and haven’t officially reopened yet.”
“Sounds good. Did you all come by car?” Andrey asked with a glance at Christina’s crutch. She hopped towards the door on her one good foot, flashing a crooked smirk that said, ‘I’m not a cripple, old man.’
“Yeah. My car, actually,” Peter said. “It’s just around the corner. I don’t think anyone recognized us on the way here.” Armed with the key, he stepped past Andrey and Christina to unlock the Corner House Ice Café’s front door.
“Take away the costumes and most people don’t know who we are,” Nora said. “It’s kinda nice. I could get used to it.”
“Will you be okay with heading inside?” Andrey asked Christina.
“Sure,” Christina said. She adjusted her grip on the crutch and proceeded to hobble past him. Peter held the door with Nora following just behind. In passing, she shot Andrey one final glance of scrutiny.
Andrey, still outside, scanned the busy road in either direction. He wasn’t looking for anyone or anything in particular, but years of working alongside special forces had sharpened his instinct for trouble. Anyone showing too much of an interest in the ice cream parlor would fit the bill.
Fortunately, no one was loitering nearby. The cars parked in front of the steak house across the street were empty. Pedestrians went about their way without sparing Andrey or the Ice Café more than a passing glance.
Satisfied, Andrey pulled the sunglasses from his face and turned back to the glass panel door which Peter was still holding open.
“Thanks,” Andrey said, stepping through. “Let’s not keep the girls waiting.”
“Sure,” Peter said behind him. “Thanks for coming.”
The two girls were getting settled at one of the lime green tables at the back of the parlor, near one of the old-fashioned juke boxes that were still in fashion in some retro venues. Nora slid Chris’s chair back for her, holding on to the crutch for as long as the other girl needed to get comfortable.
Andrey made his way to the table the girls had picked and pulled a chair out for himself. “As much as I appreciate the company, I shouldn’t stick around for long. I hope you don’t mind if I cut straight to the heart of the matter.”
“Fine by me,” Christina declared unemotionally.
“Sure,” Nora agreed. She hooked a foot about the chair next to hers, pushing it back for Peter before she settled down.
“What do you want from Gentleman, exactly?” Andrey began. “You’re playing with fire.”
Christina adjusted her sling and settled back on her chair, waiting for Peter to join them before she responded. “We know. I was there when he shot half a dozen people with that freak robot of his.”
“Then why? What are you hoping to get out of this?”
“We’re not seeing anyone do much about what’s happening,” Christina said. “I think he’d talk to me without shooting me, and he’s our only lead.”
Charging at an invisible threat again, Andrey noted, and not for the first time.
He shook his head. “I talked to him just two days ago, and I hope none of you will ever end up in that same position. Gentleman doesn’t do anything without reason. He only comes out to play when the stars are aligned in his favor.”
The reality of how his personal villain encounter had played out set Andrey’s hand afire with a tingle of energy. He kept it beneath the table, where the teenagers couldn’t see his fingers flex against the fabric of his jeans.
“Two days ago was Tuesday,” Christina pointed out. “When all that shit went down in Liverpool and New York. If you were talking to Gentleman then, is that why you didn’t make it to New York?”
You got me.
“Yes,” Andrey admitted. “I respect and appreciate that you want to do something to help, but you’re young and inexperienced, and I can’t let you get caught up in something like this. Did you ask for help? Athena is on your side. She wouldn’t have given you my number if she wasn’t.”
“Why didn’t you ask for help with your Gentleman problem?” Christina countered. “We’ve been in San Francisco for a while. Pretty sure Mr. Turner would have given you our numbers.”
Touché, as Athena would have said. Andrey didn’t know whether to be frustrated or amused by the way the teenage girl was taking control of the speech he’d been meaning to give her.
“I talked to Mr. Turner a week or two ago,” he said. “He was of the opinion that your team lacked leadership and that I needed to go through the official channels if I wanted to work with the Wardens. Athena suggested cooperation to your team leader… Mr. Whitefield? She never mentioned him getting back to her with a definite answer.”
The Wardens exchanged glances. Peter cleared his throat noisily, and Nora’s gaze drifted off to the stylized retro art poster that hung on the wall above them.
“When was that? Josh kinda… died,” Christina said. She was frowning now, looking notably less comfortable than she had just a moment ago.
“He was the Counselor?” Andrey asked, inwardly cursing his spotty memory of the past weeks. He’d heard what happened, but hadn’t linked the names properly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize….”
“Let’s talk about Gentleman,” Christina suggested. “He’s why we’re sitting here, right? If you know more about him than we do, why don’t you fill us in?” Her healthy arm slipped off the table, one hand digging into a pants pocket. Andrey noted the crumpled cigarette packet she’d retrieved with silent disapproval.
Too young to make healthy life decisions.
She must have seen it on his face, because her hand sank back down without opening the packet. “Do you mind?” She asked.
Would that make me a grumpy, narrow-minded old man? Andrey knew he couldn’t let himself slip into that role. Teenagers didn’t value narrow-minded old man opinions.
“No,” he lied. He tore his eyes from the cigarette packet, turning his attention to Christina’s almond-eyed face instead. She still had a look of watchful calculation about her, all of it invested in him.
“Okay.” She proceeded to find a lighter.
“And yes, Gentleman is one of my concerns. How much do you know about his powerset? His illusions are similar to Mirage’s, but more flexible. Not stationary, he attaches them to people or objects. He can make others invisible or let them assume any identity. Add near perfect voice imitation. Fortunately, can’t project his voice, but he might use audio equipment to conceal his position in a room.”
“Can he actually teleport around?” Peter asked. “Or is that just a rumor?”
“It’s possible, but I believe he’s faking teleportation with his illusions,” Andrey said. “What do you know about his background?”
“He was a stage actor,” Christina said. “Pretty unsuccessful until that one big role in a Broadway musical back in 2009. Some King Arthur piece, right? Then he stole a bunch of cash from his colleagues and disappeared.” She had peeled a cigarette from the packet and held it up with her one good hand, waiting for Peter to give her a light.
“He founded the Conglomerate together with Data,” Andrey said. “Who is a master of robotics, artificial intelligence and information networks. He’s the number one reason Gentleman and his villain group hardly ever come up in the news. Data manipulates or erases any information that inconveniences the Conglomerate.”
“Athena keeps him out of the Covenant’s servers though,” Nora grinned. “She’s a sassy lady, that one.”
Andrey nodded. “In terms of intelligence networks, only Athena stands up to Data. But the UN could never trace more than a fraction of the Conglomerate’s server farms and resources. Not even with Athena’s help.”
“Data caused the worldwide internet shutdown back in February, right?” Peter asked. “I remember that one. It really sucked, I couldn’t stream Anime all day.”
Andrey shook his head. “The shutdown was an international effort to disrupt his data flow manipulations and track him down. It failed. I don’t know about the Conglomerate’s current resources, but we have to assume they kidnapped the next Visionary who transitioned after they murdered Queenie. Data has the means to intercept transition reports anywhere in the world unless they were delivered by carrier pigeons.”
“So powers really come back when one of us dies?” A frown passed over her already dark face. “That sucks. Really hoped those TV villains in Liverpool were shitting us.”
“The Conglomerate could be behind the Traveler’s murder,” Christina suggested, a small puff of smoke escaping her lips. “The EU’s new teleporter might need some bodyguards if they don’t want the same to happen to him. To anyone with rare good powers, really.”
“Do you understand why I’m concerned by what you’re trying to do?” Andrey asked. He gave her the firm look he had practiced on Denis on more than one occasion.
To his surprise, she smiled. It was a mirthless, weary smile, but still an improvement over the guardedness she had shown him so far. “If they want to come murder me, they’ll do it anyway,” she said. “All I did was to open up parlay.”
“They can try,” Nora snorted. “Legion tried. That telekinetic asshole at the stadium and Data’s monster robot, too. Chris kicked all their butts.”
“Yeah, our team mascot is a badass,” Peter agreed.
Teenage optimism. Andrey waved away the cigarette smoke that was wafting in his direction.
“Again, what exactly do you hope to achieve by talking?” he went on. “And what makes you believe they would agree to parlay? They’re more likely to kidnap you for your rare, ‘good’ powerset. Your words.”
“Did you learn anything when you talked to Gentleman two days ago?”
“I did, yes,” Andrey admitted. “But believe me when I say it wasn’t worth it. If I could unmake what happened on Tuesday, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.”
“He likes to talk,” Christina said. “He tried to recruit me, and honestly? I’m pretty sure he’ll try again. From what he said back then, he seems to like me for some fucked up reason.”
“You’re not thinking about spying on the Conglomerate, I hope,” Andrey said. “It wouldn’t work. This isn’t some comic book villain, Christina.”
“I know. But if he talks, it’s something. I’ll figure out what to do with it when it happens.”
“He might not give you a choice,” Andrey argued. He stopped there before he touched on subjects that were too personal to share. But judging from the looks on the young faces around him, his words weren’t having much of an impact on them so far. He needed stronger arguments.
“He didn’t give me a choice.” He forced the words out, fingers pressed to his knee to keep them still. “He went after my family, and he’ll do the same to yours. You’re the only Guardian left, Christina. Saint can’t be woken from his coma, and I estimate than ten people know where Sanctuary and the Oracle are.”
This got their attention at last. Peter’s eyebrows shot up. Nora froze on her chair, and Christina’s cigarette was forgotten for the moment. It was pinned between her fingers, thin tendrils of smoke rising to the round frosted glass lamp that hung above the table.
“He’s blackmailing you?” Christina asked after a moment of awkward silence.
“You could call it that,” Andrey said.
“About your family?” she added, prodding his sore spot mercilessly.
Andrey felt the press of his fingers against his jeans, strained and restless. He kept quiet for the couple of seconds it took him to clear the angry red haze from his mind. Two breaths later, he felt calm and in control of himself.
“I didn’t come here to discuss my situation,” he said. “None of this will affect you in any way. That much I can promise.”
Christina dipped a nod, eyes narrowing in consideration. “We’ve already put the message out there. There’s no way to take it back. But I promise we’ll ask for help if any villains take the bait… if you make the same promise.”
“She’s right,” Peter said. “You shouldn’t fly solo, man. It’s going to get you killed.”
You’re not wrong.
“That’s a promise I can make,” Andrey said. “I’m already working with Rune and Calavera’s teams. I’ll instruct Athena’s AI to relay any of your calls directly to me. I trust you to take care of yourself and your teammates, Christina, and I’m not going to tell you what to do. But please don’t hesitate to contact me if you get into trouble. I’ll support you in any way I can.”
Something about his words changed the look on Christina’s face. It was subtle but noticeable enough, like the way the sky brightens during a change in cloud density. The corners of her mouth curled up, and she pinned the cig between her lips to offer an extended fist.
“Deal,” she said.
“Brofist!” Peter chimed in.
Teenage rituals. Andrey kept a straight face despite his amusement, bringing up a fist to lightly bump it against hers. “Deal,” he echoed.
“Works for me,” Nora said. She added her own fist.
Peter just nodded. He was showing much more interest in Andrey’s sunglasses sitting on the table.
“See if they fit you.” Andrey pushed the shades over to the teenager, who snatched them eagerly.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Christina said. “About Lightshapers. I think most power classification names are bullshit some lab coat came up with because it looked good on their report.”
“Oh?” Andrey asked.
“Yeah. The light shaping isn’t what all of you have in common. You’re all leaders. Wisp has her kiddie gang. The Sun King has a court, and you fly around telling people to work together. Kinda like a beacon that attracts the moths, I guess? You gather people around you.”
White lines on black paper.
The memory of Denis’ drawing surfaced like a tidal wave. There was something else underneath, something deeper, older and much more meaningful. As he tried to grab and examine it, tried to remember, he was overcome by a dizziness that scattered the image before he could piece it together. Memory fragments flashed briefly like afterimages, refusing to linger or connect to one another.
Darkness. A flashlight, and a voice that said…
“Hey, Radiant?” Peter’s voice. “Everything okay? You look woozy, man.”
Andrey couldn’t process the teenager’s question. A memory of Preacher’s voice drifted through the haze of his mind, taking up all the space in his consciousness. The Pulse has left a mark that will try to guide you in the right direction. I’ve seen it at work with some of our Godkin.
Andrey shook his head, and the dizziness passed. He looked up to see the three teenagers watching him. None of them said anything, but their skeptical, concerned faces spoke volumes. They had to assume he was sick or on drugs.
“I’m alright,” he said, forcing a smile. “Not enough sleep of late, and I can’t rely on Athena to remind me that I need to rest.”
“Okay.” Christina wasn’t even trying to sound convinced.
“If Lightshapers are beacons and leaders, what about Darkshapers?” Nora asked into the silence that followed. “Don’t tell me I’m meant to be one of the bad guys.”
“Raven’s a leader too,” Peter said. “The people he attracts are criminals and troublemakers, but I guess he actually wants to be a villain so it works out for him.”
Nora made a face at him. “I don’t wanna be a villain.”
“I know. But maybe you have the potential, and by rejecting it you get bad karma, like those Canadian kids who picked a fight with us for no reason?”
Andrey cut into their conversation before the idea of bad karma could entrench itself. “There is no such thing as villain potential or bad karma. People are easily influenced by bad press or what they perceive to be the majority opinion in their community. Sometimes, the best course of action to deal with rumors or bullies is to ignore them. Show the world who you are through actions, not words.” He kept his eyes on the girl until he was certain the words had sunk in.
He purposefully avoided mentioning the fact that many Darkshapers had been short lived.
Nora stared at her hands on the table, nodding. “Okay.”
“Hey, we know who you are,” Chris said. “That’s what counts, right?”
Nora’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Right.”
Peter gently bumped her first on the table.
“Speaking of rumors. What about the Antithesis?” Christina asked. “It’s said they were in Liverpool. Do you know anything about that?”
“Gentleman spread that rumor,” Andrey said. “He sees himself as a director who sets up the stage, then watches events unfold. I believe he kidnapped Dancer to try and turn her into a villain.”
“Dancer?” Peter protested. “You’ve got to be kidding. That girl’s an angel. No one is going to turn her.”
“Peter. We talked about that already,” Christina said. “Her powers and everything. It fits what happened in Liverpool.”
Peter closed up, taking on a defensive attitude. “The personality still doesn’t fit. She’s a real nice girl who wants the whole world to be flowers and butterflies. Did you talk to her? Because I did.”
Off to the side, Nora rolled her eyes without comment. She and Christina exchanged a glance. It was easy to see why; Andrey himself might have found the teenage antics amusing if they didn’t concern something so serious.
“I didn’t see a whole lot that seemed nice,” Christina replied, all dry sarcasm. “Her boobs maybe?”
Andrey cut in to steer the conversation back on track. “The Covenant believes that Dancer inherited Shanti’s power classification,” he said. The Wardens fell silent. All eyes were on him as he continued. “I believe they’re correct, and if I can find her, I’m going to prove it.”
“No offense, Radiant,” Christina said, her eyes locked onto his. “If it ever looks like that whole Antithesis deal is a fact, I’m going to do something about it, too. I don’t know about most power classification names, but I think mine pretty damn accurate.”
“Trust me, I understand, replied. “If it comes to it, I’d like to have you by my side.”
Christina’s mind seemed to have drifted off elsewhere. She peered down at the ash tray in front of her, eyelids drooping low. “You know,” she began after a moment of silence. “I wonder if the Healer classification is wrong, too. All of the known power types were around since the first month after the Pulse. But Shanti only transitioned late last year.”
“She’s right,” Nora said. “I looked it up when she mentioned it. Maybe someone else started with Shanti’s powers, then got offed and we never knew.”
It’s possible. Andrey filed the thought away for later consideration.
“Why don’t you try talking to her?” Peter suggested. “Maybe you could convince her to leave those villains she’s with.”
“What villains are those, anyway?” Nora asked. “Would be good to know.”
“Rune’s team believes they’re the European off grid cases,” Andrey said. He paused to contemplate the suggested idea. “If I had a means of talking to her, I would.”
“We’ve got some experience with that.” Peter wagged his eyebrows suggestively. “Talk shows.”