New 25-V

HANNAH
See You In The Aftermath.

Green Cloak’s body had disappeared.

“We realized shortly after you and Thrust set off,” Comet explained. She stood with obvious stiffness, one arm in a sling, and her costume still bore obvious patches where it had taken damage. She was upright and mobile, though, which was either impressive or worrying. I hadn’t decided which.

“Could the others have taken her body?” I asked. We were standing on a rooftop, the next evening. I’d received the location in a text from a blocked number, and had to sneak out once my parents were asleep so they didn’t see me breaking my enforced bedrest. Considering how walking up the stairs to get there had been a half-hour’s effort with frequent breaks, they may have been onto something.

“Possibly,” Comet conceded, “but… it does not exactly seem characteristic of either of the groups she was associated with, does it?”

“No,” I agreed with a sigh, “I guess it doesn’t.” I leant back against a wall. “Is it wrong that I kind of just wish she’d died?”

“Yes, it is. But… I understand what you mean. It would certainly make things easier.”

We were both silent for a moment as we looked out at the lake. “So,” I asked hesitantly after a moment. “What… what happens now?”

It took Comet a few moments to answer. “To tell the truth, I am not entirely sure. The entire Tower is in chaos with the loss of Paladin. Everyone is scrambling, and I’m being told very little about anything. Most are desperately trying to find out more about that datapad, to little avail.”

“What happened to it?”

“A recovery team found the remnants of it on the roof of an office building that had suffered heavy structural damage, along with a pile of decaying meat that they are fairly certain is the remains of… that man.” I didn’t have to ask who she was talking about.

“The Outliers?”

She nodded. “Most likely. Given the rest of the circumstances, we have just let them be for now. Bigger fish to fry.”

“And… me?”

She took a long, slow breath, and turned to face me. “In case it needs to be said, we owe you a great debt. You did what needed to be done, and saved a lot of lives by doing so.” I felt the flush in my cheeks, and turned my head away, pretending to cough to hide it. “However, you are still an unregistered super, who violated multiple laws.”

I froze. “Are you going to arrest me?”

“No. Again, though, it would make things much simpler. It just places me in an uncomfortable situation. I believe I have a solution, though. If you were to join the Guardians-”

“No!” The word shot out before I could stop myself, and I clapped a hand over my mouth in shock. “I mean- I’m honoured, really. But I just… I’m not… I…” I gritted my teeth. “It’s complicated,” I landed on at last. “I’m sorry.”

“To be honest,” Comet replied, slightly wryly, “I suppose I should’ve seen this coming. Then perhaps, for now, a continuation of our current relationship? You help us when we need it, and in return, certain wheels get… greased.”

I opened my mouth to- No, she doesn’t need to know. “I think that might be for the best,” I said instead. “I’ve got to admit, I wouldn’t have expected this much… rule-bending from you.”

“Neither would I,” she admitted. “One of the uncomfortable realities of authority.”

We lapsed into silence again. An unspoken question hung in the air between us.

“...it was quick,” I said at last, softly. “I don’t think she...”

“Thank you,” Comet replied, equally soft. “I’m… I’m glad to hear that."

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