Deacon pulled himself off of the smelly greyhound bus still half asleep. After only 10 hours and three buses, he had finally arrived in the city printed on the back of the now crumpled letter he had found taped to his front door.
He was still exhausted after everything that had happened to him just hours ago; turns out being caught in a literal firefight will do that to you.
He walked over to a street cart selling coffee and bought a small cup of what looked like black liquid asphalt. In spite of the questionable appearance, he took it and walked across the street to a small nearby park directly across from the bus depot and found a seat on a small wooden bench.
The early morning air felt good on his still warm skin and sent a shiver down his spine. The sun had just begun to pop up over the trees around him as he sat watching. The park was empty save for a homeless man sleeping under a tree nearby.
He closed his eyes and let the cool air wash over his face. It would be several minutes before he opened his eyes again due to the noticeable shift in energy pumping through the streets. Within minutes commuters had begun their treks to work as horns and engines made themselves known all around him.
He drank just half of the coffee before his stomach started to fight back, at which point he stopped and threw paper cup in a nearby garbage can.
A rustling quickened in the small bush behind him causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand up on end as he turned around suspiciously.
A small dog came bounding out of the bush and stopped right at his feet, as if he were waiting for something.
“And where did you come from, little guy?” He rubbed the dog behind the ear looking for a tag or any other kind of identification, but found nothing. The dog stared at him with deep black eyes. He turned and walked a few feet away before turning back around expectantly.
“Do you want me to follow you?” he asked.
The dog ran back and began tugging at the cuff of his pants, impatiently. He scampered forward and turned, again, waiting for him to follow.
“Ok, ok, I’ll follow you… Geez.” He stood and before he could collect all of his things the dog started running ahead of him. Deacon took off in a sprint trying to catch up with the little speedster.
The dog led him through the streets in haste. Darting in between pedestrians like stationary obstacles on an obstacle course. As he ran past a coffee shop he saw a little kid point out of the window as he whizzed by. He then realized how strange he must have looked to everyone else watching.
The dog ran into an alley behind a nearby deli and started scratching and barking at an old wooden door on the side of the red brick building. Seconds later the door swung open.
Deacon took a step back as a large man brandishing a butcher knife and a bloody cooking apron stood in the doorway.
“What do ya want, kid?” he said with a grumpy look on his face.
Deacon pointed to the dog now sitting like a little black angel at his feet. “Uh, yeah, just following this little guy.” He said, nervously.
The man looked down at his feet and breathed a sigh as his expression softened.
“Oh, you’re with this little monster are ya?” The man ducked back inside the door and reappeared with a hand full of steaming cooked strips of meat. He bowed down and fed them to the small dog who ate them one by one with the ferociousness of a pit-bull.
“Atta boy,” the man said as he rubbed the dog on his head. The dog ran in a circle around the man’s feet in gratitude before he continued his sprint down the alley.
Deacon continued his sprint after the dog, following him as he ducked from alley to alley. Eventually they stopped at a small abandoned house with old 2×4’s covering the windows. The dog squeezed its small body through a hole in the side of the fence lining the property and sat on the other side looking at Deacon quizzically.
What the hell am I doing here?Deacon thought to himself. He looked at the dilapidated property and wondered why he had come all the way here in the first place.
“Are you gonna jump the fence or what?” A voice spoke in his head.
“What the-“ Deacon looked at the dog, expecting it to have some sort of answer for what had just went through his head. Instead the dog just looked at him with its head cocked to the side.
The dog turned and trotted towards the back of the house. Before he could begin to reason, Deacon jumped the fence and followed the small dog to an emergency bunker in the back of the house.
“Open the door,” the voice said in his head again.
This is insane he thought to himself as he pulled the heavy wooden doors open. The dog entered the darkness with Deacon quickly following behind as he shut the door behind him.
As soon as he shut the door, a loud metal click bounced off the walls around him. Small round lights, burst to life all around him, illuminating a stone staircase. The dog led the way as the descended into the earth.
They walked for what must have been 30 seconds but what felt like an hour before entering a large, well-lit room surrounded by computer monitors. In the middle of the room sat a single chair surrounded by keyboards and dozens of other pieces of technology.
The chair spun around with surprising speed, revealing a skinny kid around his age with glasses and a long pointed nose. He wore a black beanie and glasses; the combination of which made him look like an upright bird.
“You’re late,” he said flatly.
Deacon recognized the voice as the one that had spoken to him minute ago. Late? What did he mean Late? Late for what exactly?
Before Deacon could answer, the small black dog that had been sitting silently by his side padded forward and slowly began to…grow. It’s legs elongated and it’s back straightened in what looked like a painful exercise. It’s black fur vanished into peachy human skin and it’s paws turned into long human fingers.
Standing in the place of the dog was a tall bare-chested figure of a boy his age with long black hair. “Sorry, Murphy, had to take a detour,” The guy said.
Murphy (as the dog boy had called him) shook his head in disappointment. “You stopped at the butcher didn’t you, Silas.”
The boy smiled and ran his long fingers through his mop of jet black hair. “What can I say? The dog form takes a lot out of me.”
“What did I say about you taking detours, Silas? One of these days you’re going to get us caught, and then we’ll all be –“
“Uh, excuse me,” Deacon interrupted. “Could someone explain to me what’s going on here? A second ago, you were talking in my head and Fabio over here was the size of my grandma’s Chihuahua.”
“Oh, right,” Murphy walked over to him and extended his hand. “Name’s Murphy Lyles, but you can call me Vision. This here is Silas Blackfoot.”
Deacon looked from Murphy to Silas, who was now staring at him suspiciously.
“Hey Murph, you sure this is the guy? He looks a little… underwhelming to me.”
Murphy (or, Vision, as he called himself) ignored Silas’ comment. He lowered his hand realizing that Deacon had no intention of shaking it.
“You have questions. We all did when out abilities first… flared,” He was clearly referring to what had happened to him back at the bank. “And In due time, they will all be answered -“
“Murph, where’s Reed?” Silas interrupted “I thought she was taking 1st Street down to the docks to make her pick up?”
“That was the plan, but something spooked her,” Vision sat back in his chair and began typing furiously. All around him monitors flickered and moved, displaying different images every few seconds. “I’m not too worried. Unlike you, she only improvises if she has to. Plus, she was half way here when she bugged out so she couldn’t have gotten too far.”
Just then a small brown bird flew through the same entrance-way he and the dog had entered, chirping in a high pitched sing song melody.
“Speak of the devil,” Silas said with a smile on his face.
The bird disappeared behind a sectioned off portion of the large room and reappeared seconds later in human form, much like Silas had done earlier; except this time it was a short girl with long black hair. She finished pulling a shirt on over her head as she walked around the obstruction and into view. She looked oddly like Silas but with only with a smaller nose and scar above her right eye.
“Watch it freak,” she walked past Silas and punched his shoulder. Not hard, but just enough to get her point across. She walked over to a pile of grey storage crates and in one graceful motion jumped, spun, and landed in a sitting position facing them.
“We got pinched coming down 1st so I had to make a call. Sorry if it scared you, big brain.”
“On the contrary, Reed” Vision tapped on his keyboards without paying any real attention to the rest of them standing there. “Like I was just saying you have a much better sense of time and priority than your brother here.”
Silas ran his fingers through his hair again. “Whatever, I got the job done, didn’t I?”
“Yes. I suppose that’s all that matters.” Vision spun back around in his chair facing them. “Monitors are clean, no motion around the property or the pick up routes.”
He looked around quizzically like he had just lost something very important. “Speaking of pick-ups… Reed, where exactly is your target.”
Reed pointed directly over Deacon’s shoulder to the entrance-way behind them. “Right there.”
Deacon turned around, curiously. Standing in the doorway was a boy probably three or four years younger than him. He was medium height with dirt and scars covering his clothes and exposed skin. He looked like he had just been through hell.
“Ah, Michael Wheeler.” Vision stood and walked over to him extending his hand to the hardened boy they same way he had done to him moments earlier. Like Deacon, the boy didn’t reciprocate
“You him?” he said flatly, “This guy calling himself Vision, is that you?”
“Indeed I am – “
Before he could finish, the boy threw his arm forward sending Vision flying backwards. Silas and Reed reacted with surprising quickness as they both sprung into action. Silas turned himself into a large black bear, throwing himself in front of Vision before he could crash into the hard bank or storage crates. Reed jumped from her seated position with the grace of a cat, landing in-front of Michael in the blink of an eye and squeezed a spot on his neck with her thumb and index fingers. The boy’s arm went numb instantly and flopped to his side.
“It’s okay!” Vision stood up on his own two feet, while Silas grunted loudly in bear form below him. He slowly reverted back to human form as he picked himself up off the ground.
“He was just testing me.”
“You sure about that?” Reed looked at him with a cutting look on her face. “Seemed pretty aggressive for a test if you ask me.”
“No worries. Besides I warned you he was going to do it just in time didn’t I?”
Reed looked back at Vision who was stretching as if he had just run a mile. “Should I give him his arms back?”
“As long as Michael here agrees here that he’s done testing us. What do you say Michael?”
The boy looked from one to the next before shaking his head slowly in agreement. Reed pinched another spot on his neck and the boy began clenching his fists trying to regain feeling.
“How did you know I was gonna do that?” he asked, “How’d you know I was going to push you?”
“The name Vision means many things, my friend.” Vision sat back in his chair. “I suppose you all want your answers now, am I right?”
The room fell silent as Reed and Silas flanked each side of him.
“My name is Murphy Carter, you can call me Vision. This here is Silas Blackfoot, and his younger sister Reed Blackfoot. As you might have already noticed, we have abilities much like yourself. Reed and Silas here are Morphs. They can change their physiology into any animal they like as long as they’ve come into contact with it before.”
Silas took two steps to his right and changed his shape into a mountain lion, Then back to the large black bear and then finally back his human self. Reed rolled her eyes at her brothers attempt to show off.
“I am a telepath. I also have bursts of precognition, but I admit, those powers cant fully be trusted just yet.”
“What does any of this have to do with me?”
Reed and Silas looked bewildered at Michael’s words. Like he had all of a sudden started speaking another language.
“He’s right,” Deacon chimed in. “Why are we here? This is cool and all, your little secret lair, but I didn’t come here to hear stories about superpowers. Are you guys supposed to be the X-Men or something?”
Vision stood up and walked over to Michael who had now regained full control of his arms. He clenched his fists preparing for whatever came next.
“Why did you come here then?” Vision tilted his head to the side as he asked the question.
“Answers. Your note said you had answers.” Michael kept his eyes locked with Vision’s. Deacon had to admit the kid had guts.
“My note said somebody familiar to me would be here. I’ve been here for 20 minutes now and I haven’t seen a familiar face in this place,” Deacon chimed in.
“Mine too.” Michael Agreed.
“Ah, yes. I supposed that would be the best way to convince you we are, as the kids say, ‘legit’?”
Vision’s same voice crept through his head the same way it had done out side the bunker. Glitch 1, rendezvous at HQ. Bring the mole with you.
The air was still all around them for what seemed like hours. A small explosion of sulfur and smoke popped in front of their eyes, showing the silhouette of two figures.
“Deek! Glad you finally made it to the party hombre.”
Deacon didn’t have to see the person standing in front of him to know who it was, Bobby Martinez’s annoying voice gave itself way a thousand times over.
Deacon shoot forward and grabbed Bobby in a bear hug. Bobby face turned to pure surprise. To be honest, Deacon surprised himself. He never much cared for Bobby or his brother Jon, but being in a near death fight with a crazy person spewing lightning from his body will change your view of the world.
Deacon pulled himself back, regaining his composure. “You’re Alive!”
“Yeah, man. You think some little lightning bug can put me down? Bobby flexed his nonexistent muscles, as a show of toughness.
Deacon looked around for his inseparable other half Jon, but didn’t see him anywhere. “Where’s Jon? You two never go anywhere without each other”.
Bobby’s head dipped as his eyes hit the floor.
“Jon’s missing.” From the remnants of the sulfurous cloud emerged the figure of a short girl with brown hair in a tight noted bun. Michael’s eyes widened as the girl walked out.
Michael looked the girl up and down. “Avery? Is that you?”
The girl walked forward and hugged him for a few seconds before letting go. “Glad you made it, Michael.”
“Now that we’re all here I think it will be a little easier to explain the situation.” Vision walked over to the center of their makeshift circle, in the middle of everyone. “Avery is what we call a hound. She doesn’t have any abilities per say, but she has a knack for blending in. Bobby here is a skitch. As you’ve just seen he can teleport at will, he also has the ability of slight invulnerability. You, Deacon, have the very rare ability to create and manipulate fire.”
“Rare? Why is that rare?” He didn’t really understand why but being different from everyone, especially the people in this room, made him feel weird.
“You control an element.” Reed said from the other end of the circle. “Elements have power to them. Fire’s been around since the beginning of time, so if you can control it, in theory you control one of the most powerful forces on earth.”
“Fire represents death,” Silas added. “But it also represents life.”
“Reed and Silas are right,” Vision continued. “Not only do you have great power, but people with the ability to control the elements are few and far between.”
“What about me?” Michael said raising his voice above everyone.
Everyone in the room turned to look at him.
Vision pointed to the fallen storage boxes, where Michael had thrown him into earlier. “You, Michael Wheeler, truly are rare.”
Michael didn’t follow his train of thought.
“What Vision is trying to say is that we don’t know,” Avery interrupted, sensing his confusion. “We’ve never encountered anyone with your abilities before.”
“What do you mean?” Michael was starting to get frustrated. Deacon empathized with Michael. He had come all this way for one thing: answers.
Silas ran his fingers through his hair again. “She means, as far as we can tell, you’re the first of your kind.”
Michael’s eyes dropped to the floor. Deacon felt bad for the kid. The only way he could think to help him in that moment was to change the subject.
“You said earlier that Jon was missing,” Deacon started. “How could he go missing? Especially with two shape shifters and a telepath here… Can’t you just read everyone’s mind till you find him? Or turn into a pair of eagles or something and fly around until you see something?”
“Don’t you think we would have tried that if it were that easy?” Reed said, with a tone of offense in her voice.
“Reed is right. It’s not that simple.” Vision walked over to the bank of keyboards and started typing. The screens around the room rearranged themselves and changed images displaying the faces of various people. The only face Deacon could recognize was Q, the guy he had fought in the back less than a day ago. “They call themselves the future collective.”
“That guy,” Deacon said pointing to the man’s face on the screen. “That’s the guy I fought – Q?”
It was subtle but Silas flinched when he heard the man’s name. “Yes, that’s Q. He’s the resident psychopath of the group.”
“They, like us, have abilities of their own. Except they use them for their own personal gain. Like Silas so eloquently put it, Q here is a little bit of a wildcard. Knocking over banks isn’t really their style. If they wanted to take your money, you’d never see them coming until it was too late.”
Michael and Deacon exchanged looks, as if reading the other’s mind.
Michael took a few steps closer to the group. “What does this have to do with the two of us?”
Vision turned away from the two of them and began typing on the keyboard again. “You two are going to help us stop them.”
Several of the faces disappeared off of the monitors and only three remained. The monitors that had changed now showed blue and white schematics of buildings that Deacon couldn’t recognize.
“This man here is Lee Cuthers,” Vision said, pointing the screen. “He’s kind of the General in the collective, you could say. He has Jon captured in one of these buildings here. These other two are his right hand men Simon and Ivan.”
The man Vision called Lee had a skinny face and a buzz cut. His two goons looked like hockey players from the 80’s complete with missing teeth and mullets.
“They’re hard to track, and they never stay at the same facility for long, but we think we know where they’re going to be next.”
“And what do you expect us to do?” Deacon asked.
“Help us.” Deacon hadn’t noticed but Bobby’s eyes had begun to fill with tears, “Please.”
Deacon honestly didn’t know what to say. He wanted to help, but this wasn’t his fight. Two days ago he was worried about how he would pass his finals hung over, now he was being asked to break into a building he didn’t even know, to rescue someone that he once thought was one of the most annoying people on the planet.
“Can any one of them control someone?” Michael asked. “Posses them I mean. Take over a person’s mind and body?”
“Shadow.” Silas, Vision, and Reed said in unison.
Reed pointed to a screen as its image changed. It showed the shadow of a man with a grainy image of his face.
“We call him Shadow, because we’ve never seen him up close,” she continued. “That’s his ability, he can posses people. Hold their minds hostage and make them do whatever he wants.”
Michael walked over to the monitor, suddenly intrigued by this new player. “This guy, is he going to be at the facility you’re planning on hitting?”
“Our intel doesn’t go that far,” Vision spun around in his chair. “But if I had to guess, I’d say there’s a chance. Not a big one, but definitely a chance.”
Michael stood, staring at the grainy picture on the screen, burning the mysterious man’s picture into his memory. “I’m in.”
Everyone in the room stood in awe at his sudden compliance, especially Deacon.
Avery started moving in his direction. “Michael, I know what you’re thinking and –“
“No, you don’t.” He still stood, still staring at the picture on the screen. “I said I’m in and I meant it. Whatever the plan, I’m in.”
“And what about you?” Silas asked Deacon, pointedly.
Deacon looked at Bobby who was fighting the tears in his eyes and felt his heart break in his chest. “Fine, I’m in. Make no mistake; I’m doing this for Jon. Once we get him back, I’m out.”
Bobby shook his head and smiled, his only way of saying thank you without bursting into tears.
“Good, looks like the gang’s all together.” Silas mused. “Now all we need is a plan.”
Vision cracked a smile. The kind you would see on a child when he knew he was up to no good. “Silas, my friend, that’s the fun part.” He was brimming with excitement as he spoke. “Let’s see how our friends like it when we come knocking on their door this time.”