I, Panacea


[A/N 1: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

[A/N 2: By popular request …]



Lisa sighed with satisfaction as she read through the last few paragraphs of the fanfic. It was odd, writing a counterfactual story based on information that very few people knew about her own world, but the amusement factor outweighed everything else. While she didn't have anything against Mike, specifically, he'd enjoyed himself a little too much when mashing her buttons.

Welp, I win. Mwahahaha.

"So, when are you going to finish it?" Alec asked, leaning over her shoulder.

"Ghah!" she yelped, almost falling out of her chair. "What the fuck? This is my room!"

"You have no idea how little that means to me, considering what I had before I ran away from home," he reminded her, rolling his eyes. "We were lucky if we had the same toys to play with, from one day to the next. So yeah, I've been reading your little story. It's cute, but you need to finish it off."

"Finish it off? What are you talking about? It's finished." She pointed at the screen. "See? 'End of I, Panacea'. Says so right there."

"Yeah, but I need to know what happens next. Not to Mike—he can go jump into Scion's head, for all I care—but to characters like the Jacobs. We kind of left them hanging. And then there's the whole Kevin Norton thing. You ended the Amy/Mike story, but nothing else."

She glared over her shoulder at him, then huffed an aggravated sigh. "Fine, but if you read through my stuff again, I swear I'll write something that'll give you nightmares for a month."

"Yeah, yeah, whatevs. So get to writing."

Sitting forward, Lisa opened a new word file and started typing.



All was quiet in the Undersiders' base. Following the Zion takedown, Lisa and the others had been issued a discreet pardon. Panacea had decided to go into business as a parahuman healer, and as a result New Wave had been gradually disbanding. Glory Girl was joining the Wards, and the other members were either becoming solo heroes or officially joining the Protectorate.

Lisa reclined at ease on the sofa, her laptop open on her knees, while she idly flicked through channels, looking for something that might keep her attention for more than three seconds. All the time she did this, a smile kept tugging at her lips. Finally, she stopped channel-surfing and put the remote down.

"Okay, you can come out now," she said.

Jacob One emerged from the corridor leading down to the kitchen area, wearing a smile that matched hers. "I was there for two minutes before you noticed me."

"I noticed you the moment you Doorwayed into the kitchen," she countered.

"My power says otherwise."

"I'm teaching myself not to react."

"You're going to need to work on that."

"Pfft, yeah." She snorted derisively. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"A favour." He came over and sat down at the other end of the sofa. "You do kind of owe us. All of us."

Her head came up. "How many?"

"In the end, five," he said soberly. "There's fifteen of us left."

"He also killed fifty thousand people trying to get you, so there's that too." She made sure not to sound judgemental.

He raised his eyebrows. "Director Piggot told Deputy Director Renick about us. She didn't give him any specific instructions, but he arranged for a squad of troopers to kill us all if we ever came back. Fortunately, we didn't come back."

"Touche." She raised a finger. "For the record, I didn't know about that."

"I know you didn't. But you did arrange for us to be cloned from the tissues of perhaps the world's most notorious mass murderer. How did you expect the PRT to react to us, and treat us after the fact?"

"Ah." She nodded, unsurprised. "You read up on Jack Slash."

"Did you expect us not to? It was educational." His tone gave absolutely nothing away.

"And …?" She had to ask.

Finally, he smiled again. "If you're worried that we'll follow in our progenitor's footsteps, don't be. You did two things right when you had us created. You gave us enough empathy to know the world needs to be kept safe, and you gave us the free will to make our own choices."

She knew he'd noticed when she relaxed ever so slightly, because he chuckled. It was both irritating and illuminating to be on the wrong side of a Thinker who could see the shape of her every thought process. "So, what's the favour?"

"Kevin Norton." Whatever she'd expected him to say, it wasn't that. "We did him dirty. My brothers and I, we don't have much in the way of moral limits, but we do have a thing about being lied to, and we lied to him, if only by omission. I want to talk to him and make it right."

She shrugged. "Well, you certainly don't need me to do that."

"Yes, we do. We can find him, but we don't know how to tell him what he needs to hear."

"Ah." That was a whole different story. "Sure, I can give you some pointers."

"Oh, and while you're at it, just a minor thing." She could feel the fake casualness, and his power trying to downplay it. "The person who cloned us. Would it be possible to put us in touch with them?"

"Sorry." She wasn't sorry, and they both knew it. "Blasto dropped off the grid about the same time as you were wearing Zion down. He hasn't popped up again since. I strongly suspect he got on the wrong side of the wrong person. He's probably decorating a sewer somewhere."

He grimaced briefly, then composed his features again. "Oh, well. Easy come, easy go. But you can tell us how to talk to Kevin Norton?"

She nodded. "Definitely." Closing the laptop, she put it to one side, then pulled one leg up onto the sofa so she could face Jacob directly. "The first thing you have to keep in mind is that …"

Kevin Norton

It was a bright sunny day in London, but this hadn't improved Kevin's mood. He still hadn't gotten over what had happened to the golden man; mere days after he introduced Zion to the young man called Jacob, he'd gone mad and started flying all over the world, killing people. When Kevin first saw the reports, he'd run outside and shouted himself hoarse, pleading with the golden man to come to London while Duke barked at the sky.

But he never had. And now Zion was nowhere to be seen.

Sitting in the lounge of the tiny flat he'd rented with the money from the card the American girl had given him, he scratched Duke behind the ear, then took a sip of tea. He'd gotten a whole new lease of life from Panacea, and even Duke was like a younger dog, now that he had regular nutritious meals. But the thought kept nagging at him: did I betray the golden man for riches and comfort?

There came a knock on the door. He frowned; it couldn't be the landlady looking for rent money, and it wasn't like he held wild parties. "Stay," he said to Duke, then got up and went to the door. "Who is it?"

"It's Jacob." He knew that voice. "May I come in? We need to talk."

Duke, no doubt sensing his disquiet, sat up and growled.

Part of Kevin wanted to tell Jacob to fuck off and never come back, but a more insistent part needed answers. "Yes," he said, and unlocked the door.

The young man stood there, wearing a light denim jacket over a T-shirt and jeans. He looked somewhat apprehensive, and so he should. "Hello," he said. "There are things I need to explain."

"You're bloody right there are things you need to explain!" Kevin felt his anger begin to bubble over, but forced himself to stay civil. If the boy ran now, he'd never learn what had really happened. "Come in, I've got the kettle on." It was important to remain cordial at times like this, after all.

Jacob entered and took the only other chair. He looked at Duke, and Duke looked back. There were no growls, but Duke didn't lower his guard either.

Closing the door, Kevin went to the tiny kitchenette (still more than he'd ever had while living on the streets) and poured another cup of tea. "Sugar, milk?" he asked.

"No, thank you." Jacob sat and watched him as he brought the mug over. "You don't have to do this."

"No, but I choose to." Kevin placed the mug in front of his guest, then sat down. "It's called common courtesy. Now what in God's name did you say to the golden man to set him off like that? And where did he go? Is he dead? What happened?"

Jacob picked up the mug and sipped at the tea. "It's a long story, and I'm going to have to guess at some of the details, but this is the truth." He tapped himself on the chest. "I'm not a normal person."

"You're a cape." Kevin had suspected as such, though he had no proof either way.

"Not even that normal." Jacob shook his head. "I'm a clone. I have fourteen brothers. There were twenty of us before we encountered Zion."

"A clone? Really?" Kevin was starting to wonder if the boy had shown up just to spin wild fairy tales.

There was a knock on the door. "Really!" Jacob's voice called through the mail slot.

Kevin stared at Jacob, who nodded. "Really," he confirmed. "We are capes, and we were created for one purpose."

"To … kill Zion?" It was the only logical answer, but Kevin still had trouble assimilating it. "But … but why?"

"This is where I have to guess at details." Jacob took another sip of tea. "Zion was not the good guy. He was a really big, really bad guy. I don't know where he came from, and I don't know his story apart from the fact that he had a partner who died because of a stupid mistake, and that was why he was sad. But he was behind all the powers, and he was going to destroy the world if he wasn't stopped."

"You were told he was a villain," Kevin said accusingly. "By people who wanted him dead. But how do you know he was? And how did you drive him mad? And is he dead?"

"He's dead, yes." Jacob sighed. "I don't really understand exactly what they were doing when they killed him, but he's not around anymore, I know that much. And I know that he was the bad guy because I know whenever capes are lying to me, and it was capes who set this whole plan up. They told me enough to know he had to be stopped, and they didn't lie to me about that."

Kevin put his cup down and clasped his hands to his head. "And the madness?"

"It wasn't madness." Jacob finished his tea, then put the cup down. "It was anger. We were calling him out on what he was, and what he intended to do. He had to silence us at all costs."

"What he intended to do?" Kevin was getting a bad feeling about this. And although the boy's attitude came across as someone who was willing to get their hands dirty if necessary, he didn't think he was being lied to.

"Again, this is what I've managed to piece together, but I think he was trying to make us all fight each other. Have you ever seen a power that couldn't be used for conflict? And once we were all fighting, he would swoop in and kill everyone. Take everything."

Kevin frowned. "It can't be as simple as that." Though in the back of his mind, he began to wonder. Perhaps it can.

"There's probably more to it than I know about, but that's what I understand." Jacob held up a finger. "Oh, and the Endbringers were apparently just another weapon in their arsenal. Have you seen them since? Because I haven't."

That was very true. Kevin hadn't heard a squeak on the news about the monsters that ravaged cities as a matter of course, and surely they would've come out on the attack now that the golden man was dead. Unless …

… unless they'd been in on it with him.

"Motherfucker," he muttered. "I was a blind, stupid fool."

Jacob tilted his head inquiringly.

Anger was swelling in Kevin's chest again, but this time aimed at its proper target. "I told him to help people! I told him to fight the Endbringers! I thought I was helping him be a hero! And all along he was using me to learn how to pretend to be one!"

"You couldn't have known," Jacob said. "Nobody did, until recently. That's why I was created."

"And he tried to kill you and your brothers, but you killed him instead." Kevin looked at the young man. "What are you going to do now?"

Jacob chuckled. "People keep asking me that, as if they're worried we'll turn villain. Well, we're not going to do that. But we are going to keep an eye on the villains, and the heroes as well. We've only got one world here, and we're not going to let anyone mess it up for the rest of us."

"It's not like they're the only ones," Kevin muttered. "I'm old enough to remember when big industry was the thing destroying the planet."

The smile on Jacob's face grew wider. "Oh, we'll be keeping an eye on them, too." Standing up, he nodded to Kevin. "Good talk." A strange opening in space appeared before him, and he stepped through. The opening vanished again.

Kevin Norton sat in his little flat and finished his tea while he thought about what had been said. "Come on, Duke," he said, as he rinsed the two cups in the sink. "Let's go for a walk."

Outside, the sun was angling toward the afternoon horizon. As the two of them proceeded along the street, he had to admit that it really was a very nice day.

The End

(This time for real, I promise!)