The young man looked utterly unremarkable – he was the kind of person Basil would never have noticed walking down the street (then again, Basil was not the most observant of people). Neither tall nor short, average weight but soft, untrained. Short, brown hair, muddy brown eyes and a too large nose for his otherwise thin face. His clothing was equally unremarkable, a pair of blue jeans, a black t-shirt and blue loafers. Basil pegged him as a mid-twenty, at most.
And he was standing at the edge of the building, alternating between staring off towards the setting sun and down at the street.
As Basil watched, he took a deep breath and raised one foot to step off the roof.
“Stop please!” Basil shouted while simultaneously activating the speaker function of the raven.
The young man stopped, taken off guard – and slipped. Basil’s heart almost stopped, but he landed with his butt on the edge and didn’t fall down.
“Who-what?” the young man gasped, frantically scanning his surroundings for whoever spoke.
“Down here,” Basil said through the raven. The young man’s eyes followed his voice and locked onto the robotic raven.
“Oh, wow. You’re this new super-techie, aren’t you? What was your name, Brenner or something?”
Basil chuckled about the name, which he guessed must have sounded strange, filtered through his voice mask and then coming from a raven. Either way, the young man seemed disquieted.
“My name is Brennus and you are right, I am the new ‘super-techie’.”
“What are you doing talking to me? Why did you stop me?” the suicidal man asked, changing the topic.
Basil gave him an incredulous look, before remembering that the stranger could not see him. So he made the raven lean its head to the side, to convey his confusion. “What are you talking about? I am a Hero, remember? Saving lives is what I do.”
“You needn’t bother with me. Me dying wouldn’t be a loss to anyone…” He seemed on the verge of tears.
Unacceptable. Basil flinched as the thought appeared in his mind, making him inexplicably angry. He bit down on the sudden emotion and replied: “I reject that statement. Now, let’s be polite here. I told you my name – what is yours?”
The suicidal stranger seemed put out by him, but answered: “Jake. Jake Averly.”
Good. Names are good, he thought, trying to remember everything he had ever learned about helping suicidal people. Unfortunately, it was not really a subject he had spent much time on. In fact, what formal knowledge he had was due to just picking up the odd piece of information. He decided to follow his gut, while also ordering more ravenbots to gather close to him, just out of sight. He also sent a message to the girls upstairs – if he stopped him just long enough, then they should be able to intercept him.
“Why do you want to die, Jake?” he asked, both to prolong the conversation and out of genuine curiosity. He had never even entertained the thought of somehow, maybe, taking his own life. It was something he just could not wrap his head around, no matter how much he tried.
Jake looked down at the street, his face switching from surprise back to depression. “‘Cause I’m a failure. Why waste everyone’s time, including my own? I don’t want to bother anyone anymore…” He sighed. “I just don’t want to deal with this anymore.”
Basil looked down at the street. It was in Downtown, but it was a remote backstreet, without any traffic right now and no homes around. He even took care to kill himself somewhere where he wouldn’t bother anyone more than necessary. Probably lives close to this place, otherwise he might have gone into the forest or something.
“I do not understand. You do not seem like a bad person – how could you be such a bother to other people?”
Jake shaked his head. “I’m just… it’s just… I…” He tried to speak, choking back on his words as tears welled up in his eyes. Within moments, he was bawling his eyes out like a little boy.
Sweet Tesla, what is wrong with this guy?
He waited for Jake to calm down as the grown man rubbed the tears and the snot off his face with a handkerchief.
“I… I’m just a failure. I’ve always just barely skated by, you know? Always working my ass off, just to barely pass muster.”
Again, he decided to wait for him to continue. Which turned out to be the right choice, as Jake quickly started rambling out all his problems.
“I’ve been studying at the NL U for four years and I’ve barely completed a full semester, ’cause I always fail my exams or don’t manage my term papers on time. There’s no more money from the university for me and m-m-my parents have been paying my bills, ’cause I can’t find or hold a job and…” He took a deep breath, having talked without doing so. “…and, and, and I just keep failing the same damn courses, even though I’ve tried most of them six or seven times already! And they say I should just do my best, but I know they’re getting fed up and…”
He stopped again, breathing quickly and irregularly. Brennus decided to take over some of the conversation, so Jake could actually catch his breath.
“So, you want to kill yourself just because you can’t succeed at the university? No other reason?” Perhaps this wasn’t the right way to go about this, but Basil was having trouble wrapping his head around the whole situation.
He shook his head. “There’s more…,” he whispered. “Jessy…” He broke off to cry again.
Ah, a girl.”Tell me about Jessy,” he said through the raven.
It took Jake a while. “She’s… she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. I’ve known her since we were in kindergarten and we’ve always been friends, but… but I could never be more to her. I’m just not good enough…”
“Tell me more about her…”
* * *
There was a room. It was pentagonal, with its ceiling so high above the floor it could not be seen anymore, despite the bright gas-lamps on the black marble walls.
Two double doors opened into the room on opposite ends, one in the upper corner of the pentagon, one on the opposing wall – they were made of the same black marble, almost invisible save for six red jewels at their centers, three on each half. The door in the corner burst open as a tall woman in a skintight, purple costume marched into the room. She had not touched the doors to open them.
Mindstar was fuming, cursing under her breath as she used a telekinetic shove to slam the doors shut again. She walked to the opposite door and said: “My quarters.” The red gems lit up as the darkwraith confirmed her identity – like anyone who was not welcome could ever enter here in the first place – and the door opened to a lavish bed- and living room the size of a basketball court. She entered and closed the doors behind herself for some semblance of privacy.
Not that I can prevent the Dark from watching or entering whenever he wants, she thought. Then she considered it again. Not that I mind, either. At least, she usually wouldn’t have minded if he’d take some freedoms with her. Not that he ever did. But today, she might have turned him down even if he’d come to her.
How dare he…
Her thoughts continued to circle around her outrage at him and the other four members of the Five, making her pace around the decadent room the Dark had created and furnished for her. He had even hung up some MLP posters, which she had found incredibly sweet – and funny. Just thinking about him going out and buying those posters, then hanging them up… She’d rolled on the ground laughing for minutes. Of course, she’d later found out that he was a fan of children’s animation in general and could quote every such show ever produced. And she also knew that he took the same care with the personal quarters of every member of the Five, even maintaining the quarters of deceased and retired members, even those who had turned on him.
She pulled her thoughts back on track, annoyed at getting lost in thought again. Ever since a few months ago, her thoughts had become more and more frayed, with repeated instances of her blacking out only to find out that she was somewhere completely different. Once, she’d blacked out and then woken up beaten and bruised, but with a shred of Lady Light’s cloak in her hand. The finest moment in her supervillain career and she had not even been awake while it went down. That annoyed her more than the thought of not being completely in control of herself scared her.
And I’m getting lost, again. I’ve got enough problems now, I need to-
Her train of thought was interrupted when the darkwraith that managed the base spoke up. Lamarr the Purple requests an immediate meeting. Oh, how she hated the fact that the wraiths spoke with his voice, that even these mere constructs could arouse her just by talking.
But Lamarr might be just what she needed right now…
“He may enter,” she said and the doors opened the moment she’d completed her sentence.
In walked Lamarr the Purple, probably the most powerful member of the Dark Five. He was an incredibly handsome man who looked to be her age, with a long, solemn face, full lips and bright purple eyes. A man of Romanic descent – he insisted on the term Gypsy – he had naturally tanned skin and slightly hooked, though perfectly proportioned nose. His oily black hair was just long enough to be too long for a man, yet just short enough to not make him seem girly. She knew that he spent quite some time grooming his looks, being a showman by birth and nurture. Usually, he was dressed in a black three-piece suit and tie, a purple dress shirt, an equally purple top hat and a fitting purple cape, resembling the Vaudevillian magicians of old he had patterned himself after; though, this time, he was dressed in purple knee-length cargo pants and an orange shirt with a leaf-shaped swirl on the front which she thought came from some japanese animation or the other.
Their shared colour scheme had been one of many points of contention for them, until they ended up settling their differences with what he called ‘wild monkey sex’. Now they were lovers, maybe even in love, though she’d rather eat a bullet than introduce him to Basil. The thought of the two of them together was the stuff of nightmares for her.
“Ah, my sweet little star, you are so beautiful when you feel like torturing people to death!” he greeted her as he bowed so deeply his forehead almost touched the his own legs.
“Maybe I should start with you,” she snarled, not quite able to hide a flash of lust on her face. Judging by his grin, he’d seen it.
Suddenly, his arms wound around her in a hug, pressing her back to his chest. He rested his chin on her shoulders. “You know, you’re going to get all wrinkly if you’re always frowning like that,” he whined playfully.
She didn’t resist the hug, even though she had the urge to drive one of her four inch heels into his foot. “I won’t ever have to deal with that. I don’t age anymore, remember?” But Basil does…
He noticed how her mood dropped even lower. “Sorry,” he said. She just nodded.
“I can’t believe he’s letting them get away with it,” she whispered, his hug serving to calm her.
“They’re the Savage Six. Even if they pulled off a crime scene in his city, he’s not going to start a war with them like that. They didn’t damage any of our operations, after a-“
“THEY HURT BASIL!!!” she screamed, a telekinetic burst throwing everything around her away. It pushed Lamarr back for a few feet before he managed to neutralize its effect on himself.
“I know, I know. But at least they won’t target him again – they’ve lost interest in him,” he commented.
“I still want them dead!” she shouted at him.
“Good luck with that. Sorry, but they’re way out of your league. Heretic and Pristine can either completely shut down your abilities or ignore their effects on themselves, Hemming is smart, flexible and lucky enough to work around your advantages… and let’s not get into what Atrocity could have cooked up. The only one of them that you could take on even one-on-one would be Fire Burial.”
“So why won’t you guys help me? Why would everyone just agree with the boss like that?!”
He smirked. “One, he is our boss. Two, if even Kraquok thinks this is the best course of action…”
She waved him off with a disgusted expression. “Oh, don’t start me on this. Kraquok always tows the Dark’s line, he’s like his perfect lapdog!”
Shaking his head, Lamarr replied: “I guess it hasn’t happened since you joined up-” He was two years her senior. “But Kraquok is usually the first to speak up against the boss-man and he almost always wins their arguments. So if he’s not speaking up now, then only because he sincerely thinks that this is the best course of action. And I agree. The current situation is too fragile to risk a conflict with the Six.”
“Spineless, all of you! If all six of us fought them, we’d stomp them into the ground!” she shouted.
“But we’d devastate the location of our fight, completely. And you can be sure that they’d want to fight in a densely populated city, since that would play into their strengths. You know the Dark’s stance on collateral damage. Besides, as long as they have Pristine, they may very well take down a few of us. And we can’t afford any losses, not right now.”
She snorted and resumed her pacing. Until he pulled her into another hug, one of his hands moving in a gesture that made her costume glide off her body. “Let me improve your mood, will you?”
She didn’t refuse.
* * *
“…so now she’s just broken up with him, but I still can’t bring myself to ask her out. I mean, she’s finishing her degree in medicine already and I’m… me.”
Why do I feel so insulted?, Basil asked himself after hearing Jake’s life story.
“So, let me get this straight. You are failing at the University where you’re studying medicine even though you always wanted to be a musician, doing so because your parents want you to and because the girl of your dreams is studying the same subject. Said girl has been your friend since kindergarten and you have been in love with her since you were old enough to feel like that about a girl. You have never asked her out, always assuming that she would not be interested in you that way and not wanting to spoil your friendship, while watching her date various other guys. Now she has broken up with her latest boyfriend and you still will not ask her out, since it looks like you will have to drop out of university while she is already finishing earning her degree. So you have come here to jump off a roof. Did I miss anything?”
“It sounds so… petty when you sum it up like that,” Jake sulked.
“Petty? YOU ARE ATTEMPTING SUICIDE! WHAT COULD BE MORE PETTY!?”
“You don’t understand. There’s no way I could a-“
“Listen, idiot, I certainly am not an expert when it comes to girls. Frankly, they confuse the hell out of me. But even I can tell that she wants you to ask her out!”
Jake looked up in surprise. “Wha?”
“Dude, you told me she has been your BFF since kindergarten. She has been helping you through school all the time. Even at the university, she has been tutoring you instead of going out with her boyfriends. What else do you want? Just ask her out!” he was all out screaming at him.
“Bu-But I’m not-“
He made his raven jump onto Jake’s shoulder, making the young man jump in surprise.
“The university offices are closing in one hour. We will need to hurry to get there.”
“Why would we go to the offices?” Jake asked in bewilderment.
“To sign you out of your medical studies and into musical studies, of course.,” Basil replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“What? Are you crazy? What are my parents going to think?!”
“Whatever it will be, it will not be as bad as what they would think about your suicide, idiot! Now move!“
Jake complied, hurrying down the stairwell and out of the building.
“Do you have a car?” asked Basil.
“N-no. A bike,” replied Jake, who seemed quite shellshocked, for whatever reason. He pointed at it.
“Well, let us get going!”
Jake took off on the bike, with the raven hopping down onto the handlebar. It took them nearly half an hour to reach the university.
“Why the heck do you live this far away from the university?!”
“Too… expensive… didn’t want to… impose on… my parents,” replied Jake, trying to catch his breath. He did not seem to be one for regular exercise.
“But Jessy lives right next to campus?”
“And she comes over to you nearly every second day for tutoring? And you still doubt that she wants you?” Basil asked, once again incredulous.
Jake did not answer.
“Well, let us get to the offices. I will hide in your backpack. You will sign out of your medical studies and immediately apply to musical studies. Move it!” He slapped Jake over the head with a wing.
The young man complied reflexively as the raven crawled into his backpack, taking off in a hurry.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, Jake Averly, aged 25, student of all things that had to do with music (Basil was not sure, he was not exactly up to par as to what such studies entailed), left the university building.
“There. Was not so hard, was it?”
“Yeah, I guess. Still, I…” He let his head fall down again.
Basil slapped him through the raven as he flew back up onto his shoulder.
“No moping! Get going, we are not done!” he ordered.
Jake took off without aim, asking: “What’s next?”
“You are going to go to Jessy’s apartment and confess your feeings. Now.“
The student stopped in horror. “I can’t do that!!!” he shouted. “What if she rejects me? What if she laughs at me?! What if she gets angry? What if she gets sad?!”
Basil slapped him again. “How do you think she would have reacted to your suicide, idiot? Get moving!”
Jake’s legs moved against his will, as a part of him was all too eager to follow that route.
“I… I cannot do that! I’m way too scared-“
“Scared? SCARED!? Dude, I’ve been a superhero for less than a month. On my first night, I had to fight a B+ supervillain who could punch through concrete – remotely. Then, this weekend, over the course of two days, I fought an army of spiteborn, blew up an acre while under mental assault by a blossom, fought a gang of goblin-fetishists, including a Megagoblin, Cthulhu-Style, was targeted by the Savage Six and had myself nearly blown up – repeatedly! SCARED is NOT a valid excuse for you!”
Jake just paled and ran off the campus, taking his bike and riding down the street to Jessy’s apartment.
“Alright, this is really personal. So I’ll wait outside. If you don’t come out within fifteen minutes, I’ll assume that she said yes. And you better not get cold feet!”
Jake nodded and entered, while Basil flew up, using the infravision of his raven to track Jake’s ascent. He landed on a windowsill and shut it off, not wanting to spy on them too much.
He saw a very, very pretty young girl sitting on a couch, watching TV. She was dressed in simple blue pajamas and really rather pretty, with long brown hair and sea-blue eyes. In fact, she looked so pretty… Basil zoomed in on her face and ran a facial recognition program. Oh. Interesting. Though I wonder how she manages the hair.
They both heard the bell sound and Jessy stood up, walking over in a very self-confident way, despite being in her pajamas while answering the door at such a late hour. Definitely her.
She vanished out of his sight and he turned down the sensitivity of the raven’s microphones. A few minutes later, she tumbled back in, pulling Jake after her, their lips locked like they did not want to ever part again. She was already undressing him.
Jake spied the raven over her shoulder, his face flush with excitement, joy and embarrassment. He gave him a short wave before returning his attention to his new girlfriend.
Basil took off from the windowsill and flew away. A few rooftops away, he found Hecate and Tyche, who had followed them across the city.
“What happened?” Tyche asked.
“Oh, I just played Cupid. You can go home again, problem solved.”
“WHAT?!” shrieked Tyche, while Hecate just fired a blast at him, which he evaded.
“You call that an attack!? Just try and catch this one!” he shouted, flying off as the girls ran after him, screaming bloody murder.
A good way to end a day, he thought.