I'm so excited to finally being able to bring you the final chapter of this story, this first entry into the Heroverse! I'm so excited that I'm not even gonna bore you with thank yous and stuff right now, I'll leave that for the end.
There's a lot to cover and bring closure to, so without further ado, let's go!
With great power… you know.
The sound of the wooden beams cracking due to the fire and ultimately giving up under the weight of the structure itself was the music that announced what seemed to be my premature death as a young hero of Royal Woods.
"RUSTY! NO!" Yelled Katherine, but I barely heard her.
I looked up to see how the entire ceiling above me collapsed and crumbled right onto me. Chunks of wood, tiles, slate, and flames fell like a destructive firestorm aimed specifically at me. I saw it all getting closer, some wood beams broken and sharpened in the shape of stakes, ready to crush me at best or impale me if the universe really hated me that much. I wondered if that was karma. "Congrats, Lincoln, you stopped Tetherby, but you couldn't manage to save him and let him be accountable for his actions in a trial and jail. Besides, because of you, the real Ace Savvy is dead, so sorry, but you have to go too."
I didn't know if that collapsing roof was going to kill me. Maybe not? Who knew? The truth is that my body wouldn't respond, and though my instincts allowed me to see that whole destruction getting closer and closer to me, I couldn't roll aside or crawl away in time. Between the unbearable heat, the smoke invading my lungs, and the pain that coated every cell in my organism, I didn't feel in any condition to fight back. I closed my eyes and got ready for the worst.
The instants were everlasting as I braced myself for impact, and as that eternity extended, impatience consumed me as the fire did to the manor. It got to a moment however where I was aware that even if my instincts and danger altered my perception of time, I should have been already buried under a heavy layer of debris. It was then when I opened my eyes, and when I looked up, I noticed that everything that should be crushing me was floating in the air as if an invisible net had caught it just in time.
"Ace!" I heard, and my heart skipped a beat.
With a new injection of energy, I dragged my body to the left, coughing and covering my face with my elbow. I heard a whooshing sound and when I turned around, I witnessed Nova falling from the sky, her body covered with a shroud of blueish energy, and landing next to Katherine Mulligan.
"Hold on!" She said, and after the reporter put her arms around the heroine, they both took off once again, leaving at full speed.
For a single, selfish moment, I felt a bit disappointed, but then I reminded myself that she was a civilian and I was a hero. Her life and safety were more important than mine, and even if I was starting to get worried about the lack of clean air, I needed to keep prioritizing innocent people's lives. She didn't ask to be kidnapped and dragged into that whole situation. I, on the other hand, had willingly walked into that fight.
"Don't worry, Ace," said a voice from the sky.
The pieces of debris floating above me parted like the Red Sea, and right there, the beautiful Eclipse was descending until she was next to me. Locks of her long blonde hair waved in the air like living snakes just like Medusa's, but rather than turning me into stone, seeing her eyes brought me hope and happiness.
"We didn't forget about you," she said with a smile.
I tried to smile back, but then I began to cough, louder this time. She hurried to put her arms around me and lift me like a child. It was a weird feeling since her arms didn't seem to be strong enough to carry me, but as we glided out of the burning manor through the hole in the collapsed roof, I realized she was using her powers to make me lighter.
She probably could move me around without needing to cradle me like that, but to be honest, I wasn't bothered by it. It felt nice to be carried that way by a heroine like Eclipse. Just as I thought about it, she smiled at me, and I remembered that her other superpower was sensing other people's feelings. I guessed we both could feel embarrassment right then.
I assumed she would take me out of the building and drop me off on the sidewalk, but instead she took me for a little aerial ride. My entire body was aching, and my lungs were still burning on the inside, but I still felt amazed by the spectacle that was flying over Royal Woods. Never in my life had I been on a plane, but I was sure not even that could compete against the feeling of the wind hitting my face and chest as I stared at the place I had grown up from a new, unique perspective.
"Cool, isn't it?" Eclipse asked me. "I love flying over the city. It's so… relaxing, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it's… wonderful."
"Wonderful indeed!" She repeated, nodding enthusiastically.
I continued admiring the landscape for a few instants, but the more seconds went by, the more the feeling of bewilderment and anxiety grew within my chest. Was she taking me to prison? To interrogate me? To her secret lair?
"Don't worry, you're in trouble," she immediately reassured me.
"Wow, it's so weird not being able to hide anything from you," I admitted, a tad uncomfortably.
"I know, I'm sorry. It's not like I want to be nosey. Usually, I try not to say anything 'cause I know people like hiding their feelings, but I thought it would be worse if you kept thinking you were in trouble."
"Isn't it something you can control? Your powers, I mean."
She put on a thinking face. "No, not really. Every time I'm near someone, I can feel what they feel. It's not that I can, like, turn it off, you know? It's always on."
"That must be… grueling."
"Not really. What I don't like is having to lie about what I know to let other people lie, 'cause I don't like lying. But I know people have to lie and conceal what they feel all the time, 'cause if they don't, they, like, feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. So I lie even though that makes me feel uncomfortable 'cause I know that if other people aren't allowed to lie they will feel uncomfortable, and I don't like people feeling uncomfortable around me."
"Because then you would also feel it," I said, smiling at how ridiculously complicated the whole situation was.
She chuckled. "You're so smart!"
"Not as smart as I'd want," I admitted out loud since I knew that even if I didn't, she would know. "Can I ask you where we're going?"
"Somewhere quiet to chat."
I decided not to ask any more questions. I was worried, I can't lie, but so far Eclipse hadn't given me any reason to distrust her or feel that something wrong was going to happen, so I decided to go along.
The trip was shorter than I expected, and we both landed at the top of the Yates Tower, the tallest building in town. It wasn't technically a skyscraper since our city wasn't a metropolis, but the Yates family building rose over the skyline like an urban landmark. The height gave me vertigo, and when I leaned over the edge to look down, a horrible feeling went down my spine.
"So… what do you want to talk about?" I asked, trying to break the ice.
"Let's wait for Nova to get here," she answered. "She must be talking with the news lady to get everything cleared out before getting here. Hmm. I forgot the lady's name."
I laughed a bit but doing so hurt my ribs.
"Do you mind if I sit down?"
"Not at all. While we wait, what's your favorite color?"
To my surprise, we spent ten whole minutes talking about the banalest things in the world. Our favorite colors, food, movies, total nonsense. It was a completely surreal experience to be there, closer to the cloud than I had ever been, keeping a casual conversation with none other than Eclipse herself.
Eventually, Nova crossed the sky like a shooting star, landing next to us. She looked tired, which wasn't a surprise. They had been working at a fire for hours just to have to rush to Ace Savvy's manor to save my butt.
"Thanks for saving me," I said now that they were both there. "I asked Katherine Mulligan to call you. I was so lucky you got there in time. If you hadn't stopped that collapsing roof…"
"You went after Tetherby, again," Nova interrupted me, crossing her arms over her chest. "Why?"
I sighed, and my exhausted body took a toll on me. I was worried this might happen, but deep down I knew it was coming. And with Eclipse by my side, lying was pointless.
"Nova, I'm sorry for everything I've done, and what happened last night. You're right, I should've listened to you. Because of me… innocent people got hurt. I wasn't ready. I thought I was, but I'm not. This is the second time you guys had to save me. I'm sorry."
Nova looked at her sister.
"Totes honest," she said.
"Alright then… Look, Ace, I'll be honest. Eclipse is convinced that you're a good person, and she's never wrong about this stuff. I trust her with my life, and that means I trust you too. I think we started with the wrong foot, and that's probably my fault. I'm not… used to work with new heroes. I like doing things my way, and when you attacked Tetherby's warehouse… Whatever. What I mean is that some serious stuff happened in the last twenty-four hours, and I'd like to hear your side of the story."
"We're not blaming you or anything," Eclipse quickly said. "We just want to know what happened, 'cause we're not sure."
I sighed and stood up, not without some difficulty. I turned my back to them to stare at the city. On both sides of my vision, small columns of smoke rose, one much more active and thick than the other.
"You can take a seat if you want," I said, turning to look at them. "It's… a complicated story."
I proceeded to be as honest as possible without compromising my secret identity, which turned out to be much more complicated than I thought. I remembered that I had revealed my real name to them back at Ace Savvy's funeral, and I had mentioned that I was the only witness of his death. I apparently couldn't lie to Eclipse, so I had to resort to simply omitting part of the truth.
Without getting into many details, I explained that I knew that Ace Savvy had died due to some experimental weapons, and the conversation I had had with Tetherby the night Nova stopped me from hurting him had given me the impression that he had been involved. That's why I had decided to infiltrate his warehouse, and everything was going well until they sent some guards to stop a trespassing child. That just a few hours ago I made up my mind to try to stop Tehterby after I theorized he had kidnapped Katherine Mulligan to get a dangerous item from Ace Savvy's armory. I had to be very vague and evasive, but I conveyed the idea that Ace Savvy had asked me, in case he died, to burn his home down, something I hadn't done yet because I wasn't strong and selfless enough.
"I couldn't waste a second, I needed to stop him from getting that object. I knew right away that the warehouse fire was a misdirection," I explained. "He just wanted to clean his tracks and keep you two busy long enough for him to get what he wanted."
"Hold on," said Nova, rubbing her temples, "how did you know about Ace Savvy's home? And why did you know about such a dangerous item was in his possession?"
My throat was dry. I had nothing else to do or say, and I hoped this would work. I turned to look at Eclipse.
"I can't answer that. It's… private. But I didn't go there for revenge, not even to make sure Tetherby got what he deserved. I just wanted to protect everyone. Make sure the city was safe. I just did what Ace Savvy would have done."
Eclipse stared at me with an intrigued look, a hand under her chin as she contemplated my words. Nova seemed more anxious.
"Ace Savvy meant a lot to me," she said, giving me an intense glare. "He… I'm who I am thanks to him. And he never spoke to me about any family, or friend, or… anyone like you. What's your deal with him? Are you really his son? Why do you know so much about him? Why do you have—?"
"Nova," her sister interrupted her, "let him be."
"His secret identity is none of our business. Isn't that our number one rule?"
Nova sighed. "Alright. Alright. You're right. Sorry."
"Don't worry," I said, understanding where she was coming from. "I don't know what your relationship with him was like either, but trust me, he was my idol. Everything I do, everything I've done… I'm just trying to live the way he'd want me to. I wanna live up to—"
"...the potential he saw in all of us," she finished for me.
We stayed in silence for a few seconds, until Eclipse said, "Huh, you two are very alike. That's awesome!"
The three of us smiled. Being compared with a much more powerful, seasoned heroine was a great compliment.
"Alright. This is a lot to take in," said Nova, getting closer to me. "I asked you not to get involved, I said that's not what a hero would do. You completely ignored me in order to trust your heart, and because of it, you stopped what could have been a huge setback for the whole town. Maybe you're more reckless than I'd like… but I think you'll be a worthy successor of the mantle."
And with that, she extended an open hand to me, giving me the warmest smile I had seen from her in person yet.
"Welcome to the heroes' club, Ace Savvy."
I felt like crying with joy. I shook her hand, feeling unbelievably proud of myself.
"This won't be the last time we meet. Maybe next time we can get to know each other a little better. Right now there are some important things to handle. I'll go to Ace's house, deal with the press, and ask the firefighters to let it all burn down. If Ace trusted that a fire would be enough to get rid of everything dangerous in his home… We have to trust him."
The energy shrouded her again, and she lifted a few inches off the air.
"Go ahead, I'll catch up with you," Eclipse said.
Nova shrugged her shoulders. "Sure, whatever. Until next time, Ace."
And with that, she flew away, leaving me alone with Eclipse. I turned to thank her for her trust, but I stopped dead on my tracks when I saw she was taking off her mask, letting me look at her unobstructed teenage face. She was stunningly beautiful, but I was so shocked I didn't appreciate it at the time. I couldn't believe she was giving away her secret identity like this.
"My real name is Leni," she said with a smile.
"W-What are you doing? Eclipse, I-I, I don't, you shouldn't do this. Do you, uh, expect me to take my mask off too? I just… I have f-family, and I wouldn't want to—"
"It's ok," she said, giggling at my anxiousness. "You don't need to do anything. I just wanted us to be even."
"You've already told me your real name," she said with an intense look and a gentle smile.
My world turned around, and if it wasn't because I hadn't even had breakfast, I might have thrown up. "How…?"
"I sensed how anxious you felt when you talked about Ace Savvy. And how guilty. I've already felt that before."
"You don't need to give me your last name or anything. And don't worry, I won't tell Nova or anyone else about this. But I thought it was only fair that we both knew each other's names. I know you're not gonna do anything bad with mine."
She put on her mask once again, and startling me, she grabbed me by the hand before making us both float.
"You don't need to tell me where you live, but let me know where you want me to drop you off. You're hurt and tired, you need to rest."
"Uh… just take me to the park. I can work from there."
"Perfect! Let's go!"
Once again, we crossed the skies, this time holding hands, making me feel even more like I was flying myself.
"And, you know, I don't wanna get into personal stuff, but I really think you shouldn't feel so guilty. I don't know exactly what happened, but I'm sure you're not responsible for it. Judging by what you said, Tetherby was behind this whole thing. And you managed to stop him before he could keep hurting people. I'm sure Ace Savvy would be proud."
"Do you really think so?"
"Of course," she said with a smile. "You know I don't like lying!"
"Lincoln. Lincoln, wake up."
A second before my dad shook me awake, I was in what can basically be described as a hibernating state. After getting home, I had taken an ice bath to loosen up my muscles and clean the superficial cuts I had. Most of them were starting to heal already —which was fascinating and a bit scary to see—, but even then I didn't want to risk getting an infection or anything serious. My entire body was numb with pain, and after dressing up, my head had barely touched the pillow before I fell prey to the deepest sleep I had ever experienced. It was like instead of turning off a computer in the traditional way, closing the apps and the corresponding buttons, someone had decided to just cut off the electricity in the entire house.
Even then, like every time since I got my powers, seconds after waking up I found myself fully alert. And so, the moment I recognized Howard's voice and his hands on my shoulders I turned to him filled with regret.
"Dad!" I said, sitting right away and jumping at him to give him a tight hug, making my bones and muscles ache. "Dad, I'm so sorry! I'm sorry! How's Clyde doing? How did it go?"
"It's fine," he reassured me, holding me tight. "Surgery's over and he's awake. We could talk to him."
"Is he alright? Is he gonna get better?" I asked, feeling desperate.
"He's… not in danger."
"But is he okay? Can I go see him? Please?"
"We will, son. But… there's something we need to talk about before going to the hospital."
He let me go for a second, sitting next to me and wrapping an arm around my shoulders. I stared at him expectantly. He looked worried, and my heart was beating furiously.
"Is this about Clyde? Is something wrong with him?" I asked, not knowing if I was ready for the answer.
"We'll talk about it later," he said, which didn't help me at all, "but before I left the hospital, we talked with him. And he told us why you snuck out last night."
The lie I had been living crumbled around me, and I had nothing to do but watch it fall. I should have been worried, scared, confused, but I realized that was just what I deserved. Knowing my parents, this would be the end of my career as a superhero. There was no way they would allow me to keep doing my vigilante escapades. They were terrified of danger and the idea that something bad could happen to us. And to be honest, they were right to feel that way, since in less than twenty-four hours I had almost died twice, and I had sent my brother to surgery. I didn't have much to say in my defense. I could only shut up and accept the nagging and punishment they decided was best for me.
"You should have talked with us, we didn't know it was so serious."
"I-I'm sorry," I said, feeling tears flooding my eyes. "I know I should have. B-But I didn't want to worry you, and I… I didn't know how to…"
"No, no, it's our fault," said Howard, hugging me. "We lied to you for so many years. We shouldn't have done that. You should have known the truth, but we were afraid the truth would hurt you. We thought we were keeping you safe, and yet… we were only causing you more pain."
I moved away a bit. My tears stopped falling for a second as I stared at him confused.
"What do you mean?" I asked, not so sure anymore that we were on the same page.
"You know… your biological parents," he said, sounding embarrassed.
And once again, my heart skipped a beat.
"What about them?" I asked with a dry throat.
"Clyde told us you went after some clues about them. I can't blame you. Yesterday you asked us about your mother, and we ignored your questions. We shouldn't have done it. This is all our fault."
I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that this was all my fault, that he had no reason to apologize. Part of me even wanted to seize the moment to come clean and talk about my powers. But this was the first time that he mentioned my parents without me asking first, and the words he said before were still ringing in my mind.
"What do you mean you've been lying to me for years?"
"Your… your biological parents didn't die in an accident."
My heart stood still and so did time and space. My brain stopped working for some long, eternal seconds. I don't know if I even breathed, and I'm almost sure he didn't either.
"What do you mean? W-What happened to him?"
"We don't know."
He sighed and pulled me in for a new hug. "Many years ago, when Clyde was barely a baby, the three of us went to Nana Gayle's cottage in the woods. In the middle of the night, your dad and I decided to take a walk, we wanted to find a place to take a picture of the moon. We were setting up when we heard an explosion."
"I don't know. Somewhere in the woods. We got scared, but we thought maybe people were in danger. We got closer to investigate… and your mother ran into us."
My whole body shook, and a cold shiver went down my spine. "M-My mother?"
"Yes. She was blonde, very beautiful, but I'll never forget how terrified she looked. We saw she was carrying a baby, a child that couldn't even be two years old. It was you, and you looked… tired, but you weren't crying. She did. We asked what was wrong, we offered help, but…"
He stopped, and right then I noticed that he was struggling to stop himself from crying.
"She… hugged you, cried harder, and then she asked us to take you away from there. To protect you and never say anything to anyone about her. We tried to ask her questions, but she was heartbroken and terrified. She was looking over her shoulder and asked us to leave right away. We… didn't know what to do. We took you in, she ran away, and that same night we came back home with two sons instead of one. The adoption was hard to we managed to get it, and since then you've been with us. But… that's the truth. We don't know who your mother was, nor what happened that night, but she asked us to keep you safe, and that's what we've done for ten years. We never told you the truth because… we were afraid you'd think she left you because she didn't love you. But Lincoln, I swear on everything that's sacred in this life, I've never seen a person cry as much for their son the way your mother did the night she said goodbye to you. Whatever made her take that decision… it wasn't your fault."
It was a lot to take in and process to my tired mind and confused heart. For my entire life, I had never felt more than a mild curiosity regarding my biological parents, believing that they were dead and there was no point in trying to know about them. And now not only had I had a dream where I remembered my mother's voice, but I had also just been told by my dad the true circumstances in where they met me.
And what he said was starting to match my dreams. A cabin, a wood, a firestorm, a mysterious figure in the center of it, an eerie wail…
For several minutes, none of us said a word, but we did shed some tears. There silent minutes where I was drowning in a tsunami of emotions and possibilities that I had never encountered or considered before. There was a chance my biological parents were alive somewhere. That they weren't dead. And judging by my dreams and what my dad told me, there had been a horrible reason for them to give me away. What could have it been? What pieces of the puzzle was I missing? What was my true origin?
These and more questions were racing in my mind, but right then, surrounded by my dad's arm, I realized that there were more important things. My past was an enigmatic nebula that I would love to explore and decipher, but my reality was in the present, and my adoptive family was much more concrete and real than the one that my dreams showed me.
"How's Clyde?" I asked, trying to get back to what was immediate and critical.
The somber look he gave me and the way he held onto me tighter made me wish I hadn't asked.
My return to school didn't occur until three days later, and that wasn't even me going back to class, but rather having a talk with my teacher. My mind wasn't in the right place, and that was enough for my parents to allow me to spend a few days going between the house and the hospital. I needed them to ruminate, take in, and gain perspective on the crazy events that I had been a part of in such a short period of time. And also to make sure my body could recover from the brutal beating it had endured. The cuts and bruises healed quick enough to hide them from my parents, but my muscles and bones took much longer to stop hurting. It's not that I could complain; had I been a regular person, I would have probably died, so I had to be thankful, all things considered.
Those few days of rest allowed me to recover and adapt to all the changes my life had had. I couldn't keep locking myself in a bubble where I only had contact with my family, however; at some point, I needed to reinsert myself into real life. I hadn't even really talked much with my friends. The gang understood that my family and I needed some time alone to adapt to our new reality. But it was now time to get back into normality.
My dads left me at school to talk with my teacher while they drove to the hospital to finally take Clyde out. She would talk to me during her break while the rest of my classmates were in gym class. Walking into school in the middle of the morning without having to go to class was a weird feeling. I felt like a stranger in those empty halls, walking with no responsibilities. It was a new perspective, a very interesting one.
Even more interesting was seeing all the posters and tags dedicated to me. Not Lincoln McBride, but the new Ace Savvy. By then I had already seen all the YouTube videos and the whole coverage Katherine Mulligan did of my battle against Tetherby. Thanks to them, in just a matter of hours I went from public enemy number one to a revolutionary figure. I was in everyone's conversations. My subreddit was going nuts, with people going non-stop about how inspired they felt by my impromptu speech against Tetherby. It helped a lot that Nova made sure to publicly defend me that same morning when the press pressured her into giving statements.
"Ace Savvy has not just saved the entire city from what could have been a dire turning point; he's also done something much more important. He reminded us that there will always be new heroes rising to stand up when we need them the most. That there will always be hope."
My positive image had grown exponentially, but I wasn't the only person in my group of friends that had become a small celebrity at school. I guess it was kinda my fault for lying to Katherine Mulligan by giving her a false name. That little lie ended up saving me, since in a moment of desperation and while under the effects of the truth serum, she had accidentally "revealed" my name. It was a perfect excuse that practically freed me from any possible suspicion on whether I was a superhero or not.
Of course, the main benefactor of this mixup was Rusty. No one at school truly believed that he was Ace Savvy, but the fact that he seemingly shared a name with the new hero had turned him into a popular kid. Besides, as improbable as it seemed, it wasn't exactly impossible that it was him. No one would say it out loud, but there was a certain degree of speculation. What if it was, in fact, him? Rusty would always deny it, but he was astute by doing it with an ironic smile as if saying "If I was, I wouldn't tell you".
A part of me was afraid that he would start taking this way too seriously to try and take advantage of it, but for now, he was only just getting a bit more attention than usual. None of us had ever been popular at school, so I didn't see anything wrong in letting him enjoy his moments of fame.
There were many more important things to worry about.
"I understand what you're saying," Mrs. Johnson explained to me, sitting behind her desk, "but given the circumstances, I think you're exaggerating. It was just a presentation on your project progress, I'm not going to fail you because of it, especially given what happened to your brother."
After waiting twenty minutes for her to finish lunch, my teacher received me in the empty classroom so I could explain that I didn't feel comfortable about getting an extension on the project deadline after she found out about Clyde's accident.
"It's just that it's not an excuse," I argued, "I could have ended my part before the accident. I promised I would have it ready before it, but I decided to focus on other stuff, and then it happened. Jordan did her whole part in time and sent it to me, she was responsible. Just… please give her the grade she deserves."
She drummed her desk with her fingers, giving me a long, deep look that seemed to be staring at my very soul. I was ready to accept a bad grade. My main concern was making sure that Jordan didn't get one, but throughout those couple of days, I had also realized that it was entirely my fault that we didn't' finish our project in time. Even if people were ready to excuse my failure because of what happened to Clyde, it wasn't right for me to take advantage of it.
"Very well. In that case, you have until next week to present the finished work. She'll get a grading as if she presented it in time, and you'll have… a reduction in your grade just like any other student that delivered past the deadline. Does that seem fair?"
"Of course," I hurriedly said. "It's more than fair."
"Alright then. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me this, Lincoln. It's very mature on your part."
"I just want to follow the rules. Thanks, Mrs. Johnson!"
"No problem. I hope to see you soon, and for Clyde to get better."
I gave her a forced smile. I would be getting back to school the next day. Clyde? Hard to tell. Whenever he was ready.
I left the classroom and walked to the exit, where I would wait for my dads to pick me up. I didn't know how long it would take them, but hopefully, Clyde had been discharged from the hospital already. I needed to have a talk with him one on one. There were many things we needed to discuss, but there was always a doctor or one of our dads around in the hospital room, and we didn't have the privacy we needed. We had barely been able to exchange a few words about what had happened.
"Why didn't you tell them the truth?" I had whispered to him, grabbing his hand.
"I don't know how any of this happened," he said, while he used his other hand to study a rubber ball the doctors had given him, "but now I know why I noticed you were acting weird. And I don't blame you for not telling me sooner. I don't know what I would have done in your place, probably the same as you. We've always dreamed about being superheroes… and now you're living the dream! I wouldn't rat you out just like that."
He smiled at me and threw the ball up, trying to catch it. He failed by a few inches, and I had to quickly stretch my arm to catch it before it bounced away from the bed. I grabbed it and squeezed it, feeling terrible about myself.
"This is all my fault. I should have talked with you. If I hadn't kept this as a secret—"
"I would have loved to know about this earlier," he admitted, taking the ball out of my hand and throwing it up in the air once again, failing to catch it. "But… maybe I would have reacted differently. I would have been worried sick. I might have tried to stop you."
"And now you don't?"
"No. Not after those videos." After the third failed attempt to catch the ball, he sighed and left it aside. "I don't like the idea of you risking your life, but you were right with what you told Tetherby. You have these powers, and not using them would be a waste. There's a lot of people that need a hero in their lives, and I'm sure you'll become the greatest hero ever. You're a good person, and you have my support. Clincoln McBride for life!"
His support meant everything to me. "Clincoln McBride for life."
We would have kept talking, but the doctor in charge of his rehabilitation walked into the room before we could continue, and it wasn't like we could tell him to come back later or ignore him.
He needed to change the bandages four times a day to keep the eye socket from getting an infection.
My memories and the unnerving guilt that ate my insides were interrupted by a voice that lived rent-free in my head and visited me at night during my happiest dreams.
My heart beat faster and I inhaled a sharp breath. And it's that, superpowers or not, hero or common child, all my strength and barriers fell apart in the presence of Jordan. I turned just in time to see her dashing in my direction in her gym uniform that made her look even prettier than usual if that was even possible. When she reached my side, I noticed she was disheveled and blushing, probably because of the physical activity she was doing. Some might have described her as kinda scrubby right then. To me, she looked beautiful and authentic.
"Jordan! What are you doing here?"
Before she answered me, she surprised me by closing the distance between us with a short, very heartfelt hug.
"Coach sent me to ask the principal if it was legal for him to throw surprise balls at us in Dodgeball to teach us to expect the unexpected," she explained, rolling her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"I, uh… I came to talk with Mrs. J."
"Oh?" She said, looking at me with curiosity. "What did you talk about?"
"It's not important right now," I said blushing a bit. Part of me didn't want to tell her exactly what I'd done. I didn't want to look like a simp, you know? "Just some stuff about homework and, uh, our project."
"Lincoln, you do know that the project doesn't matter, right?" She softly asked, putting a hand on my arm and squeezing it.
"It's important to me."
"There are more important things."
"Yeah, there are. But I broke my promise that I'd finish it in time, and I don't like breaking promises."
Jordan sighed, smiling at me as she fidgeted with her braid. "Just as much of a paladin in real life as you are in our campaign, aren't you? Always so noble."
I chuckled at the compliment.
"I'm just trying to be a good person, what's wrong with that?"
"Nothing, there's nothing wrong with it actually. It's… kinda cute."
The bell signaling the end of a period saved me from looking like an idiot, paralyzed and shocked by Jordan's unexpected choice of words.
"Oh, dang it, I didn't get to talk with the principal," she said, realizing that maybe she had wasted a lot of time with me. "I know you're busy with everything about Clyde and stuff, but, uh, would you like to hang out this weekend? Whenever you want. It can be in your house or somewhere else."
"Jordan, you already finished your part of the project," I said, slowly shaking my head. "Don't worry about my part. I'll do it myself like I should've done in the first place."
"I didn't mean homework… Just… you know, spend some time together…"
Following the bell, the classroom doors were opened and the hall we were in was flooded with boys and girls of all ages actively trying to avoid running into the two eleven years old that were standing two feet apart from each other, avoiding visual contact.
"I mean… I, uh… Well…"
"Just think about it, okay?"
"No! I mean, yes. Yeah, I, uh, that'd be cool," I said, trying not to sound desperate.
She smiled at me.
"Well alright, then! I gotta go change and get ready for the net class. Talk to ya later?"
"Y-Yeah, sure! S-See ya!"
"Say hi to Clyde!"
I stood there, waving my hand at her until an eighth-grader accidentally bumped me in the shoulder and brought me back to reality. Remembering that my dads were going to pick me up outside of school, I went there with the stupidest smile plastered on my face.
Being a hero is complicated. It's exhausting. It's difficult and dangerous. I'm not a super responsible person, I make mistakes and innocent people are put in danger because of me. Leading a double life is arduous, not to mention that every time I put on my suit and went out to fight crime, I was risking my life. It was a heavy burden to carry, a weight on my shoulders that, sometimes, I felt I wasn't strong enough to carry.
But I had begun to comprehend that it wasn't a burden I had to carry on my own. There were a lot of people around me willing to share it, maybe not carry it for me, but definitely lighten it up. Leni… I mean, Eclipse and Nova had accepted me as a hero. My parents reminded me every day that I was loved, which may not sound like much, but it meant everything for me. I had my brother's unconditional support, even if I had failed him, and that vote of confidence gave me the strength to keep going and learn from my mistakes. My friends, and Jordan in particular, kept reminding me why I had taken on the mantle. To protect those who made my life worth living. To give back to the city a little bit of what it gave me.
Yeah, being a hero isn't easy. It's a full-time job that's very demanding and stressful. And yet, it didn't even cross my head to give it up.
Because with great power…
And thus I can finally bring closure to the first entry in the Heroverse.
This took longer than expected lmao not gonna lie. It's a very complicated process. Sometimes I think about dropping the translation process to save myself the long, tedious, slow, and boring hours of rewriting. But the truth is that even if the numbers aren't the best, I immensely enjoy reading every single review that you guys leave, and those give me the energy to keep going with such a tedious process just so I can keep interacting with this side of the fanfiction fandom.
Writing this thing has taught me a lot. Things that I hope I can apply to the next entry of the Heroverse that will focus on Luna and Sam. Before I start to write that story though I'll finish the second part of the unofficial Requiem epilogue, so be on the lookout for that too!
As always, special thanks to the always loyal readers that share their critiques and reviews:
Guest: That is a very common trope, yes. Don't have any comments on it lmao Thanks for the review!
Tristen: No more to look forward to :'(
Leo23: Gracias! Jajaajaja, puedes pasarte por la versión en español también lol
Ninetails: He appears to be dead, yes hehe
STR2D3PO: He has plot armor lol Like every good superhero story!
Jeff: Next story will dwell a little bit on how the city reacts to this whole ordeal, with some conflicting views.
And that's all, thanks to everyone that reviewed. Thanks for getting this far into the story, you may now leave the page.
Hang on, why aren't the theater lights turning on? Why isn't everyone standing up?
Could it be…?
"Remember, if you need anything, just give us a call, okay?" Howard said, looking at me from the companion's seat.
"And if anything urgent happens or you need someone to keep you company, knock on the neighbors' door," Harold added.
"Yeah, no problem," I replied, fist-bumping Clyde and getting out of the car with my school bag over my shoulders.
"We'll be back as soon as the doctors finish the routine check, it shouldn't be more than an hour. Alright?"
"Sure! Good luck!"
I waved my family goodbye as they drove away towards the hospital, and as soon as they turned around the corner, I skipped to my house with a smile on my face. During lunch, Jordan had taken me aside to ask me if I was interested in going to the mall with her on Friday. This was the second time she asked me out, and considering how much fun we had the first time, I was more than willing and excited to spend another afternoon together. A new possibility to get to know each other, to talk about our likes, the new series we were watching… to simply enjoy each other's company.
I was practically jumping with joy and radiating happiness when I walked into the house. I closed the door behind me and went straight into my room, opening the door while already thinking about everything Jordan and I could do on Friday.
And it was because of that distraction and the good mood I was in that, as I entered my room, I almost had a heart attack.
"Greetings, Ace Savvy. We've been waiting for you."
My room was invaded by two figures, two girls. One of them was around my age, maybe slightly older, wearing sports shorts and a basketball tanktop, lying down on my bed as she threw and caught the rubber ball Clyde used for his depth perception exercises. She had long, chestnut hair on a ponytail that was currently splayed out on my pillow, and as soon as she saw me, she sat up and smiled at me with curiosity and expectation.
The other girl, who had called me by my superhero name, was much younger, right out of kindergarten. She also had brown hair, but short and completely disheveled. She was wearing a green sweater and some big, round glasses. What immediately caught my attention, however, was the fact that she was sitting on some kind of metallic, semicircular chair with LED lights and touchscreens that seemed right out of a science fiction movie.
Oh, and it was floating three feet over the floor.
I had to think fast. I didn't know either of these girls, and they had somehow figured out my secret identity and were waiting for me in my own room. And what about that floating chair? I could only think that it was an invention of Tetherby Industries. If my secret identity had been compromised, so was my family. This was bad, really, really bad.
Without giving it a second thought, I grabbed one of Clyde's Math trophies and threw it to the chair, hoping to break it before it activated a weapon or something.
There was a flash of chestnut and red, and suddenly the whole room felt warmer. In the blink of an eye, the girl that had been lying on my bed seemed to teleport, and without me realizing how it was possible, she was now standing between me and the other girl with the trophy in her hands.
"Wowowo, time out!" She said, raising an eyebrow and gently dropping the trophy on my bed. "Relax, snowflake. We're not gonna hurt you."
"You're a meta," I said, realizing that the situation was direr than I thought.
She gave me a proud smile, putting her hands on her waist and tilting her head. "Royal Wood's number one, baby! Trust me, you don't wanna fight me."
Perhaps not. I had no information or clue regarding what her powers were all about or what they were after. Fighting didn't seem like a smart option, which only left me with one choice. Running. I turned around and tried to dash to the house entry as fast as my legs allowed me.
Once again, however, a warm gust of wind hit me in the face, and the girl's right hand stopped me from running into her now that she was suddenly standing in front of me in the hall outside my room.
"Yo, chillax dude!" She said, sounding slightly pissed off and gently trying to push me back with her hand. I hit the hand she had on my chest with my forearm and readied myself to grab her and apply a judo move to get her out of the way. But she replied by blocking my grab, closing her hand around my wrist, pulling me down to make me lose my balance, and then throwing me back into my room. I tried to stand up, but she put her feet on my back.
"That is enough, Lynn," said the girl in the chair, and that's when I noticed she had a lateral lisp.
"Aw, but we're just playing around!"
"If he wishes so, he may entertain you with a friendly sparring session later. We have more important matters to attend to."
The teenager, Lynn, groaned and took her foot out of my back. She knelt next to me and offered me a hand.
"That was fun! We should do it again. Best of five?"
"I know you may have many questions, but I promise we're not here with any intention of antagonizing you nor putting you or your family in danger," the child assured me, seeming to use big words for someone so young.
I was positively confused and scared, but at the same time, I acknowledged that I was in numerical inferiority, and unlike them, I was lacking information. With an anxious sigh, I accepted the hand Lynn offered me, and she helped me stand up.
"Nice work, Brainiac," she told the girl, winking at her.
"Don't call me that," she complained before looking at me. "You might be wondering why I've summoned you here…"
"What are you talking about? This is my house!"
"...my name is Lisa, and she is Lynn," she announced, ignoring my complaints. "We're both metahumans and citizens of Royal Woods. We've been living on our own for the past two years, gathering information and studying everything that's going on in this town from the shadows. And it is with a certain amount of apprehension that I must confess that, since the death of the original Ace Savvy, the political climate and the power balance in the city has been compromised. Dark times are ahead of us, and without our most important protector, I estimate that our town has minuscule chances of survival and keeping the status quo."
"Get to the point," Lynn said, looking at her nails.
Lisa glared at her before letting out a sigh.
"Lincoln McBride, I'm aware that you're none other than the new Ace Savvy, and you have shown determination in protecting the city. That is a herculean task too big for you to do alone, isn't it?"
"Well… yeah, I suppose," I said, crossing my arms and trying to discern Lisa's intentions. "Why?"
She smiled and her chair glided closer, looking me straight in the eye as she pressed the tip of her fingers together.
"I would like to talk to you about the L.O.U.D. Initiative."