November 10th, 2:00 pm
Basil was walking through the Bright Arcades – the city’s biggest shopping and entertainment hub, making up the center of the Brights. He was not usually comfortable here – too many, way too many people, no way to keep an eye on them and that just made him jumpy – but he had some shopping to do.
Another problem was that he was quite angry right now.
Basil was not used to being angry. Oh, he got angry during combat, every now and then, and sometimes he read or heard or saw something that made him furious – but he found it hard to stay angry – it usually discharged quickly, and not too rarely in the form of either violence (if in battle) or some manic (well, more manic than usual) work on some gadget (or several). But this… this shimmering anger, and the headaches that went with it, ever since he had finally worked up the courage to confront Amy – they had just finished dinner (she was usually in a calm mood after a meal), sat down on the couch together to just relax, and he had… brought the issue up. It had not gone well.
That had taken place last wednesday, three days after his talk with Magnus. Amy had not talked to him in the two and a half days since, which was longer than they had ever spent without talking to each other. She did not even sneak into his bed at night anymore, which was just worrying. She had been doing that ever since he could remember… all the way back.
Not like he wanted her to – she had completely blown him off when he had tried to explain to her why he was upset, that he wanted her to turn over a new leaf – and frankly, the more he thought about it, the less he understood why he had waited for so long to confront her about it. These last few months, ever since he had manifested, had just been… intense. Too much to deal with, and he had somehow been able to push the whole issue with Amy to the back of his head. Again and again.
I should have spoken out on the first day I learned about it. He was just as angry with himself as he was with her. But the biggest reason why he was angry was because he was powerless.
If he was honest with himself, then he was really way in over his head. Ever since he jumped into his suit for the first time, he had been tangling with people way over his weight class. The Snow Queen had been downright harmless. Just on his team, he had an incredibly powerful and rare true probability manipulator, a contriver who could pretty much make anything, given time (she was already working on a teleportation ‘enchantment’) and a projector who could go toe-to-toe with a giant fecal monster and emerge unscathed. And let us not even get started on Gloom Glimmer. He was boxing way out of his weight class.
And his enemies… two S-Class threats in less than three months. Most superheroes got through their career with no more than three such events total. Not to mention apparently having the eye of the Savage Six on himself.
And my sister is on the same level as those monsters, he thought as he looked through a storefront advertising stuffed animals. No, not her style.
And even if he could influence her – what would the Dark do in response? He certainly had an interest in Amy being as amoral as possible (while still being controllable).
“No one’s ever achieved anything by giving up”, Magnus repeated in his head, waggling a finger.
So, despite all the issues, Basil was going to… negotiate. He was going to get back into Amy’s good graces, and do what he could to change her, and fuck the consequences.
Thus, he had asked Prisca what to do (without explaining the specific problem – he just said that he and Amy had had a fight and that he wanted to mend things again), and she had advised him to get her a present. All fine and well.
Next, he had asked her what present to get her, which had caused Prisca (currently using her power – he was still not allowed to see her real body, as her mother had climbed to new heights of paranoia) to hit him over the head and tell him that he had better know what to buy his own sister.
So he had gone and talked to Vasiliki (who said she would kick him in the ass if he asked her that again), to Timothy (who had no more a clue than he did), to Aimi (who just looked at him as if he was being silly) and then, out of sheer desperation, to Dalia. She had been acting kind of weird since last monday, and he had not expected much, but…
It is kind of sad that Dalia is currently my only source of useful advice, he thought. She had told him to get Amy something that he would not normally have gotten for her, to show that he was really putting some thought into it, and not running on autopilot.
Which meant buying something instead of making it himself.
“Also, make sure it’s something that really fits her, to show you’re thinking about her. And something nice, too. You’re thinking nice stuff about her.”
If he was not so focused on Amy, he would probably be a little disturbed by how… smart Dalia could be every now and then.
So now he was looking through the stores – the Bright Arcades were really the best place to shop for just about anything (there had even been a rumor about a shop that sold superpowers here, though it had been thoroughly debunked).
Maybe some pony merchandise? She is really into that show… He looked at a store for little girl stuff as he walked by. What is the name of the purple one ag-
Unfortunately, walking around the Arcades without looking forward was a good way to run into someone, and so he did.
“I am so sorry!” he said, looking at the woman he had almost bowled over.
“Oh, not to worry – I wasn’t paying attention myself!” said the dark-skinned woman. She looked vaguely familiar, beautiful but not extremely so, with a colourful peacock pin in her hair. Checking her watch, she gave a small start, walking quickly by him. “I need to go! Goodbye, Macian!”
“What!?” He whirled around, but she was gone already. What the hell?
She had called him Macian. Who was that person!? And why did she call him that?
And just then, his plans were completely derailed as the Arcades locked down.
* * *
The automated blast-proof door- and window-shutters slammed down with booming sounds that made the windows of the shops rattle. The lights went off, all at once, and the screaming started.
What the hell!?
Basil had been just standing next to a shop’s door, and he moved into the door, to avoid getting trampled. And then, the lights went on again, and a voice came out of the public announcement system.
<Hello and a good day to you all! This Kudzu speaking, supervillain extraordinaire and your hostage taker for this fine saturday afternoon,> said a voice with a cultured New England accent. <Please remain calm and gather in the central atrium on the ground level. Behave, and no one will be harmed – scout’s honor! If you try to leave, contact the outside world – don’t bother with cellphones, we’ve cut the Arcades off completely – or hinder us, me and my associates will use force to… chastise you.>
Kudzu, Kudzu… He knew that name, but he could not quite remember the details. A mastermind kind of villain.
Meanwhile, the people outside were already moving towards the atrium with a minimum of fuss – there were regular drills on proper behaviour in this kind of situation.
Drills Basil did not intend to obey. Moving deeper into the shop, he pulled his cellphone out, but found that even his connection to the outside world was cut off – both telephone and internet were down. Great. And Eudocia probably will not notice me being offline, since she is having a girl’s day with the others. Why had he not thought of installing some automated alarm in case his connection cut off? It was so basic.
Nonetheless, he was not without means as he moved into the staff room in the back (no cameras there). Pulling his jacket off, he opened a latch, reached inside and pulled, inverting the jacket – now it was white, with his emblem in the back. The whole thing was made of two layers of kevron with a wire mesh made of his ceramic in between to stop knives and other pointy weapons. From a pouch on the inside, he pulled a black full-face mask out, followed by a belt with some basic equipment he kept hidden in his bag.
It was not much, but it was better than nothing.
From the staff room, he entered the staff-only hallways, narrow ways that were supposed to allow quick movements around the Arcades out of sight of the customers. There were cameras here, again, but there was nothing he could do about that right now.
I need floor maps of the Arcades, and I need to find the central computer room – destroy any recordings of myself, open a channel to the outside. There was no telling if people outside could even tell that there was something amiss in here. At least, the chance that they could not was too high to rely on a swift rescue.
A mastermind would not pull off something like this without making sure he could keep the heroes away.
He saw an elevator (bad idea) and a door into a stairwell (better idea). The computer room was probably in the administrative area at the top of the football stadium sized Arcades.
Off we go, I g-
Ducking, he barely, barely evaded a scything kick to his head, drawing a knife in an unconscious motion – and then he was up, grabbing a punching arm to twist his attacker around and slam them into the wall, knife to their thro-
“Oh. You,” he said in a surprised voice.