"We are in a time of change. There is not one group of people more affected than the other. The events within the past six months have changed everyone." Claire's eyes swept from one side of the crowd to the other. No more than usual thousand or so had turned up – but still enough for her to deliver what needed to be said – oh, and to ensure that the bills were paid. Their gazes were all completely transfixed on her, the rosy-cheeked nineteen year old girl whose arrival they'd probably been anticipating for months. It had taken her a fair amount of time to make it down to San Diego, hitch-hiking through the cruel Nevada desert, and even walking a fair distance herself, but she'd made it. The cool ocean air had awaited her, replenished her strength. She swallowed hard and continued.
"A lot of names are circulating right now," she said, her voice projected around the square by the microphone, "Us. Them. I don't get this. We're still the same people. Some of us are just..." Her voice trailed off as her gaze locked with a familiar pair of eyes. Eyes kept carefully neutral, although underneath she could see small degrees of hatred. Eyes she'd come across in every speech she'd given in this Brave New World. He'd been following her.
"Some of us are just different," she whispered into the microphone. His eyes remained frozen.
The streets of Tokyo were clouded with a familiar summer haze – although up on the roof the heat was less pronounced. Hiro sat cross-legged in the middle of the rooftop, his eyes shut, fingers resting in familiar circles.
"Forgive me, Father," he whispered under his breath, in his old mother tongue of Japanese, "I have done terrible wrongs. I will find a way to make you proud of me again."
The sound of the door slamming shut from behind him shattered the bubble of guilty thoughts he'd managed to encircle himself in. Opening one eye blearily, he turned around to see Ando jogging towards him. Nobody had changed more than Ando, Hiro realised. He wore a blue polo t-shirt tucked into a pair of baggy beige trousers, an outfit he would never have been seen dead in before all of this began. New age lines had been folded into his facade. The skin on his hands was calloused and worn from where he'd been using his power. Dark bruises hung under his eyes. Yet despite everything he was smiling.
"Another call just came in!" He grinned, speaking in English, "there's a girl standing on the bridge two blocks away, and she looks like she's going to jump! Let's go!"
Hiro's funk did not merely melt away; nor did it shatter completely. In that brief second, it was as if it had never even existed in the first place. Pulling himself off the ground he rushed towards Ando, skidded to a halt, nodded, and then sprinted towards the door, leading down to their Superhero lair.
"Hey Peter, it's me. I just... I was just calling to see how you were and... you probably don't want to talk to me but... I was just telling you that I'm fine and..." Sylar – no, Gabriel now - exhaled slowly, his hand finding his forehead. He could feel another migraine coming over him, spreading its awful tendrils across his mind, hazing his thoughts. He clicked the hang up button, the overly-eager phone displaying his call history in the process. Eight unanswered calls to Peter. That was all he'd used it for since starting again.
Gabriel sighed, stared round at his apartment. It wasn't much, but it was the best he'd been able to afford, lost somewhere in the confusing streets of lower Manhattan. He liked it there though. It was tucked away, obscured from the outside by tree branches, which would also serve as a quick getaway if he needed to. The job he'd been able to get at the watchmakers was only a fifteen minute journey by subway, too. He sighed again, abruptly sitting down on the sofa.
He kept the apartment dark – out of old habit, he supposed. The blinds were drawn, although a few fragments of sunlight were still filtering in, enough to see by. The migraine began to worsen; he stood up, heading towards the kitchen, trying to ignore the fuzzy black that coated his vision for a moment and the sudden pounding that began in his head as he moved. The pills were kept in a bottle on the bottom shelf of the first cabinet he came to; you couldn't take any chances with the migraines. Hands trembling now, he poured himself two pills before grabbing a dirty mug and filling it with water. The bathroom door to his right stood ajar; the mirror glinted with the dusty sunlight that filtered in through the window. Sylar turned to face it, dropping the pills into his mouth. As he brought the mug to his lips however, he could have sworn that he saw Nathan Petrelli standing where he stood.
Claire had barely focused on the rest of her speech; she never did, and she always felt guilty, but there was little else she could do. She had to talk to him. The people crowded the podium for the usual handshake – that one means of contact that maybe, just maybe told them that everything was going to be alright. Television crews were there as well; she watched as a news reporter, wearing a pressed red blazer and matching skirt, began to weave her way through the crowd towards her. On any other day, Claire would have swallowed down the distress, the disappointment, and played the game, just as she was expected to. Yet every single time she did, she lost another chance to talk to him, reason with him. And it was only a matter of time before she ran out of chances completely.
"Excuse me." Keeping her eyes fixed on the figure, slowly moving away through the crowd, Claire began to weave through the throngs of people coming to meet her. Glee turned to confusion as people watched her pass. A few tried to cling onto her wrist, a part of her clothing, but to no avail. He was getting further and further away; Claire knew that if he reached the end of the street she'd lose him. A few more rows of people and she'd be there. She'd be able to catch up with him once she was out of the crowd.
"Claire, we want an interview!"
So many people calling her name. She shook her head and made one final desperate push to make it out of the crowd. He was almost at the end of the street, walking quickly. She took off in a sprint, shouting his name. For a moment his gait faltered, his head turning instinctively. Then memories kicked in and he kept walking. Just a few steps away from making it round the corner. Claire pushed herself harder than she ever had before. She had to get to him. Had to explain herself. She called his name again. He'd steeled himself, didn't even register it.
He turned the corner.
A mere few seconds later and she was there. She almost expected him to be gone, but instead he was just standing there. The neutral tone had faded from his eyes; instead they were brimming with hatred, the hollow lack of trust darkening those once familiar irises into something unrecognisable. She opened her mouth to speak, to say something, but within the blink of an eye he was gone. She looked up instinctively. Watched him fly away.
"Peter!" she screamed. It was no use.
"Another stunning speech by spokesperson for the Brave New World organisation, Claire Bennett. She's here live now. Claire, it's been six months since you first revealed your power to the world. What made you do it?"
Tracey Strauss lay, stretched out across her sofa. Her hair was wrapped in a towel, still wet from the shower, and she wore nothing but a dressing gown. The day off work she'd been given for securing that deal with the biggest company in China was greatly appreciated – she planned to do nothing all day except watch television, and perhaps read. The camera flickered from a skinny woman dressed entirely in red to a girl Tracey Strauss barely recognised. Her hair had been bleached by the months she'd spent travelling through the Utah and Nevada deserts and her skin was now a caramel colour. Something within her had changed as well, and Tracey wasn't sure whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.
"I'm just... tired of hiding, I guess," Claire said, smiling into the camera, "I think the world's ready to see what's underneath the surface."
"Miss Bennett, what about the others who have chosen to reveal themselves? Such as Hiro Nakamura in Japan? Do you know him?"
"I know Hiro, yes," she replied, "I think it's great. A lot of people have been telling me that it's a step backwards for us, but I disagree. This... this change, is what we make of it." Something definitely wasn't right. There was a dull edge to her voice that Tracey just couldn't place. She reached for her phone.
"And those who are still hiding? What do you have to say to them?"
Claire's gaze was transfixed at the camera now. Something seemed to have darkened within her eyes. What she said next made Tracey Strauss, the ice queen, shiver all over.
"Come out and face the Brave New World."
"There!" Ando pointed to a lone figure standing right in the middle of the bridge. The sunlight seemed to be overpowering suddenly, but that was no problem for the pair; they were well equipped with a pair of sunglasses each, just one of many of their supreme gadgets. Hiro carefully reversed into a parking space along the side of the bridge – a superhero must not rush when it came to ensuring that their transport was in a safe place (after all, whoever heard of Batman getting a parking ticket?) - before leaping from the cabin.
"Do not fear Damsel!" He cried out in English, "Hiro and Ando, the superheroes of Japan, are here to save you!"
He threw his arms into the air before darting across the road, Ando hot on his heels. The girl had not turned at the sound of his voice. She was still stood staring vacantly into space. As they sprinted towards her, however, she turned to face them.
"I was hoping you'd help me," she said, her voice wavering with emotion, tears suddenly spilling onto her cheeks, "I seem to have run into a bit of a problem."
She held up her hands. Blue lightning crackled in her left; a strange red orb bubbled in her right.
"I don't really know what happened," she said, swallowing down a sob, "but I've lost my friend somewhere in the process."
Hiro and Ando stood, transfixed at the lights playing in her hands, before staring at each other, and then back to the girl. Her gaze darted between the both of them, black orbs framed by cherry-brown hair hanging loosely down to just below her shoulders. A black leather jacket was rolled up at the sleeves.
"My name is Sophia," she said, "I need to speak to Peter Petrelli right away."
The migraine pills had made him restless, and after the mirror incident, Gabriel knew he wouldn't be able to stand that dark, cramped apartment for a few hours. He stood on the corner of Park Avenue, eyes shut, inhaling and exhaling. The fresh air helped the headache more than the drugs had. That had to say something, didn't it?
Gabriel had no idea whether he was entitled to self-pity. Somehow he didn't think so. After all, hadn't he deserved everything? Wasn't that why he'd been trapped in his mind for five years? Wait, it wasn't even five years. It was only half a day. How... how was that possible? He shook his head. The migraine worsened again. His stomach growled. The pancake place across the road looked good.
Half an hour later and he was staring vacantly into place, chewing on a pancake slowly. A waiter had very graciously given him a newspaper; the only part he was interested in, he decided, after seeing Claire Bennett's face plastered across the front page, was the sudoku. It kept his mind busy, away from other problems. Today's puzzle, however, was much harder than yesterday's. He was barely able to fill one box, he realised, with a strange fascination. Although there was a chance that the missing number in the corner might be a 2-
DRIIIING! His muse was shattered by the sound of another customer entering. His head snapped up in annoyance; the place had been empty beforehand, just as he liked it. A teenage girl stood there, looking slightly lost. She carried a map of New York in one hand, clutching a few one dollar notes in the other. Her blonde hair, tied in a long plait that ran down her back, looked tousled. There were heavy bruises under her eyes. When the waiter asked her if she wanted a table, she almost burst into tears, but she held the pain back. Gabriel sat transfixed, pancakes before him forgotten.
"Here's your menu," the oblivious waiter chirped, seating her in a table facing Gabriel's. She thanked him before sitting down and ordering orange juice. When she looked at the menu however, her gaze fell to the small mound of notes and her face fell. She was about to get up to leave, when without permission, Gabriel found himself calling, "Hey!" to her across the room. She raised her head to look at him, and that was when her whole body went rigid.
"It's you," she whispered, eyes swelling rapidly by the second. Gabriel felt himself freeze internally.
"How do you know who I am?" he hissed back.
She left the table, headed towards his own. She was weary and half doubled over in hunger, but her smile didn't show it. When she sat opposite him her eyes were searching, suddenly full of hope.
"My name is May," she said, "Something terrible has happened, and I've lost my friend in the process. She was looking for Peter Petrelli."
Sylar found himself smiling suddenly. "Well that's great. Because so am I."