At last, chapter 2! Sorry for the long wait, working with so many original characters and trying to get every side of the story straight takes a while. No Karma Choices yet, but I will find some place to put them in the next chapter hopefully.
Please Read, Write and Review. And as always, enjoy.
The light had faded and vision returned to Richard's eyes. The city around him was scarred and burned. Trees had splintered if not fallen over completely, weaker structures were reduced to rubble and those left standing had been damaged beyond recognition. Some cars were still lazily rolling into walls and other cars that were barreling into anything they could possibly careen into.
Every living thing that was not worthy enough to be granted powers had evaporated into dust. Everyone in his sight had been vaporized, no one remained.
No one except for the kid unconscious at his feet. The energy from the blast seeped from his body, smoke of some sort rose from his skin as if he had been scotched with a wall of flames. Each person that once stood in the area were now part of him, broken down into pure neuroelectric energy and fed to the sleeping Conduit gene inside him. Richard could see with his enhanced eyes that the dim yellow light in his chest was now bursting with radiance, however the abilities that would manifest would remain hidden until they were ready to appear.
Aside from being a Conduit, there was something strange about him. His sense of smell as a dog was extraordinarily better than his normal human sense and with it the ability to associate one smell with another. His dog mind itched with familiarity, recognizing the scent of the boy with someone else. Who it was, he could not discern.
He shook his curiosity away and continue on with the task at hand.
He returned to his human form, rugged and toned with noticeable strength and scooped the young Conduit into his arms. He felt for a pulse and watched for his breathing, a precaution Cole generally encouraged in case of severe stress on the new Conduits' bodies. His heart beat was calm and his chest rose and fell slowly, peacefully. When he awoke, he would be startled and scared as most new associates were. The more calm he was in the sleeping stage, the better it would be when he eventually returned to reality.
Satisfied, Richard lifted Dylan onto his back before shifting his shape into a large, muscular horse. The young man's body fell hung limp across his back, his hands hanging off both sides of his neck. He turned and raced off toward the center of the city where Cole had emitted the Blast.
He sprinted as fast as his sturdy legs would carry him, being careful not to let Dylan slip off of his back. He jumped over fallen lamp posts and trees, dodged out of control cars without their drivers and slipped just beneath falling debris. The explosion had set fire to electrical objects such as pylons, generators and car batteries, causing many smaller explosions in Richard's path.
Another car barreled at him, taking out a fire hydrant on the side of the road before blocking his path as it collided with the wall of a video rental store. Although he managed to avoid all of this perilous death, the powerful stream from the hydrants soaked him and his unconscious rider as he went by.
The Conduit craned his massive neck to peek at Dylan, whose clothes and hair to his skin as he bounced like a stiff rag doll and Richard's soggy main slapped him in the face. It was when he felt his arm twitch against his shoulder-blade and saw his eyebrows crease that Richard paid close attention.
He felt the ground begin to tremble beneath his hooves and he turned his eyes back forward to watch for any mayhem that may ensue. The tremor started small, then grew violent enough to visibly shake the taller building whose foundations had started to crumble. Eventually they had become so vehement that the streets and sidewalks had began to crack and break apart.
This was not normal when they sieged a city. The wayward cars, fires, falling buildings and explosions were a usual hazard during retrieval, but not earthquakes. The only things that changed were the Conduits that had been activated and the location, and New England wasn't exactly famous for unstable earth activity.
The only explanation was that Dylan's powers were unstable, as was the case with many new Conduits. Their powers were nearly impossible to predict how and when they would manifest. Some powers appeared immediate upon being activated and others would take anywhere from one to three days. Whatever his powers were, they were instantaneous and very dangerous in their uncontrolled state.
As he was considering this he heard another thunderous 'bang'. Another hydrant had erupted into an enormous water spout. Nothing had collided water main. Soon, more hydrants began to burst down the road, flooding the street.
Now the cracks were getting bigger, forcing Richard to jump more hurdles than just vehicles and signs. His hooves slipped on the slick concrete and loose gravel as he sprinted through the wet roads.
Another tremor shock the ground. The rendezvous wasn't much farther now, just a few blocks ahead in the park. He cleared another obstacle, soaring with grace through the air. It was the landing was much less than graceful.
His back leg landed inside of a crack that was just large enough to get his hoof into. Pain erupted through his leg as he tumbled to the ground, trapped by earth and enormous agony. Dylan's still body was flung from his back onto the weakening road a few feet away.
Despite the rage of pain, Richard struggled to free his back leg. It was wedged tight in the ground, stressing the fracture in his tibia. When he couldn't pull himself loose he changed back to his human form in hopes his foot would be small enough to pull out. With some effort and splitting pain he managed to wiggle the sole of his shoe out of the hole.
Then he challenged himself to crawl towards Dylan and somehow manage to deliver him safely to the rest of the pack. In the middle of his slow stagger there came on more sound he didn't want to hear—the sound of something akin to a rock slide. Looking up that was exactly what he found. A building five stories high had begun to collapse, falling in and over itself, seeming to eat itself. The force of the tons and tons of concrete and metal beams aggravated the earth even more, and Richard found himself and Dylan swallowed by a sinkhole, with the crumbled building serving as the cap to the surface.
"Everyone stick together and stay calm," Cole addressed his cowering group of Conduits. "The earthquake will pass, give it time."
The Conduits who had just completed their first rescue stayed beside the ones they had saved, keeping track of their health and any hazards from the tremors. Each Conduit was tasked with being responsible for their rescue case until they could take care of themselves, thus it was best to be nearby when they awoke. So far only a few had come to life, frightened and hysterical, being calmed by their rescuers.
"Cole," Kuo approached him after watching a woman struggle with her handler in fear. "This is putting them under too much stress when they wake up. We need to move on before this gets out of hand."
"Yeah, maybe you're right. There probably won't be much left to salvage by the time we're ready." He searched over his flock before calling Rush to his side.
"What'cha need, Boss?"
"Take a quick head-count. Ask every veteran if they brought someone back. We need to head out, now."
"Got it." The blond-haired Conduit disappeared in a cloud of smoke and reappeared in random locations around the camp.
"Hold it, MacGrath," Torrin stood up from a group of injured Conduits and marched up to him. "They expect us to just up and leave after you nearly kill half of us with our earthquake? What do you expect us to live off of for the next week or so?"
"It's not his fault-"
"Why don't you let him defend himself, Miss Kuo?"
"Because I don't have to explain myself to you," Cole answered sternly. "You're always so quick to judge me and start trouble when the only thing keeping you here is that Julia still needs you to help her grow our food and you're our source of water."
Torrin creased his eye brows and stood silently, defeated.
"Now ask me again; What do I expect you to live off of?"
The electric man stared him down, but the officer did not waver. The only movement between the two was that the latter clinched his fist in anger.
In a sudden burst of air Rushed appeared between them, startling the two men.
"Damn it, Eddy." Cole scolded him more for interrupting rather than surprising him.
Normally Rush would get aggravated for being called by his real name, but in this case he let it slide.
"It's Morpheus, Boss. He's the only one still out there."
This news took Cole by vague surprise. Richard was normally the first one back, after Rush of course, being able to find Conduits quickly in a short distance from the Blast. The dangers of post-Blast retrieval were nothing new to him as he was the very first to be recruited. But with the added dangers of a Conduit's out of control powers were likely to slow him down or put him in a life-threatening situation.
Using his transcended powers Cole called out to Richard telepathically. However his mind did not answer back. When this failed, he sent out an extrasensory pulse laced with electromagnetic energy to locate the missing Conduit. The signal of his energy came back weak and still, however Cole could sense a second source of energy, strong and vibrant. Along with this pulse came the information of just how much danger he and his rescued Conduit were in. They were trapped in a sinkhole with, literally, and entire building on top of them. The street had flooded, weakening the integrity of the underground pipes and buildings. If Cole did not take action now they would both drown or be crushed when the tremors brought the rest of the building crashing down to fill the hole.
"Richard's trapped underground with the Conduit that's shaking things up," he reported to Kuo. "The water main is busted, they're gonna drown if we don't hurry."
"Whoa, whoa," she stopped him mid-stride," You're going to electrocute them if you do this by yourself. Take me and Torrin with you at least."
"I was already planning on it," he complied. "The building that's trapping them could go at any minute, I'm gonna need as much help as I can get."
"In that case I'm going to get started," Kuo nodded dutifully. "Which way?"
"A block or two that way," Cole pointed to the North, "You can't miss it."
With that, Lucy Kuo evaporated into an icy mist and trailed away in the direction of his finger.
Cole turned to Rush and Torrin, "I'll need your help, too—both of you." He gave Torrin a glare. "Rush, take Torrin with you. He'll need to keep the water away from the sinkhole. Then teleport in and check on them, but don't stick around too long."
Torrin nodded with obvious reluctance.
"You got it, Boss." Together he and Rush vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Everyone else, start heading out," he announced to the pack. "Wait outside the city where it's safe."
The last of the Conduits scrambled to their feet, flying and running past him to the nearest edge of the city, carrying their new members with them.
Once they were gone and out of sight, Cole dashed off through the ruins of the park. Large crevices had formed in the soft soil, displacing th earth by several feet and tipping trees over.
At the edge of park where grass met concrete he found the street completely submerged in water. Being that his body had been anatomically redesigned to absorb and discharge electricity, his body shorted out in water. However a little ankle-high water wouldn't hurt him—not nearly as much as anyone else in the water. However, too much of it and he would essentially die.
Conducting the electricity in his body into his arm, he focused it and shot out a beam of lightning and attached it to the roof of the building ahead of him. He was then lifted off the ground, pulling himself with the tether onto the top of the building, bypassing the flooded streets completely.
Now, crossing the gaps between buildings at the high points of the city, he was able to see the full extent of the damage he was facing. Kuo had already started freezing the ruptured water pipes, slowing the spread of the flood as quickly as she could. However, her fixes would not last long before bursting again from the contained pressure.
Torrin had gone to work preventing any more water leaking into the sinkhole by evaporating as much as he could in a full circumference around himself. Any amount that he could not do so in time he formed into a wall of water that continued to grow with each failure of Kuo's ice caps.
Once Cole came upon the downed building he gave a great leap towards the rubble with the assistance of static propulsion from his hands. He managed to land softly on the pile of slabs that endangered Richard's and his Conduit's life.
Then he got started on the most important part—getting those two to safety. Throwing his arms out to his side he released a pulse of electromagnetic energy and lifted a large piece of concrete and dry wall before tossing it as far away as the amassed kinetic energy could propel it. As soon as one slab left his grip, he picked up another and sent it flying as well. He intended to repeat this until there was enough debris cleared to extract the two Conduits trapped underneath.
Suddenly in a cloud of smoke and a cacophony of wheezes, Rush appeared covered in dust and dirt. "Morpheus is conscious, but it's way too dark to see and he says that they're pinned down."
"Help me clear this stuff out of the way," Cole commanded without distracting himself too much from the job at hand. "I don't want you starting a landslide trying to move something you can't see."
Without a reply this time he disappeared and reappeared teleporting as many boulders and girders as fast as he could away from the mound of debris.
Each time Rush returned to fetch another piece Cole watched to see if any pieces he removed would potentially trigger a chain reaction to allow the rest of the building to come crashing down.
At the same time he kept an eye on Torrin, who possessed the power to control the very element that could kill him in an instant. Ever since the day he joined the group he had harbored an obvious vendetta towards Cole, and that alone made him a threat. So far he had only lashed out with words and protests, but Cole never let his guard down when in the officer's presence. He suspected that one day he would suddenly find enough courage to turn his anger into a physical attack, and Cole did not want to be caught unaware when this happened.
After many pieces of the building had been ejected and removed, he and Rush had managed to thin the amount of rubble to a slim few layers above the hole. A couple more remnants of demolished wall and they'd be able to extract the trapped Conduits. However, Cole could see that Rush was beginning to wear down from the constant use of his powers. As much as the electric man wanted to deny it, he too was starting to tire. The humidity from Torrin's process of heating the surrounding water to evaporate it had started to make them sweat harder than they already had been from exerting their bodies. All the water that had accumulated had formed a wall of water taller than the two exhausted Conduits staked together.
But they were almost done, they could hold out for a few more rounds of their powers. Even if Rush failed to continue, Cole could still carry both of their weight for a little longer. That is if his diminishing electricity reserves didn't run dry first.
As he turned to toss another slab, there came a scuffle from behind him and suddenly the wall of water came pouring down. The electric man panicked and whirled around and focused the electricity in his arms, ready to fire upon the hydrokinetic cop. The water halted as he turned to find Torrin scrambling to return defensive control of his powers toward Cole and Rush sprawled on the ground behind him.
From Cole's point of view, Torrin had forced Rush to the ground and was now about to attack him as well. Now the two were at a stand off and, being aware of his combat training, Torrin would attempt to defend himself swiftly and accurately as soon as Cole even so much as twitched.
Yet Cole had every cautionary fiber of his being telling him to strike first, as if Torrin decided to converge the barrier on him, he would be critically injured or even killed. After all, how would he stop a lightning bolt that travels faster than the human eye can blink?
By now Kuo had already hurried over to try and handle the situation by surprisingly aiming at both of the feuding Conduits. To this, Torrin tensed up and prepared himself to defend against the sudden outbreak of lightning of ice.
"Both of you stand down unless you want to be frostbitten," Kuo threatened.
Cole knew this was only a bluff, that she would never harm him and the warning was mostly for Torrin. She was the only one besides himself that knew about his weakness to water and Torrin was the last person that needed to know.
"Guys! Guys hold up!" Rush jumped to his feet and placed himself in the center of the stand off. "Don't shoot! I knocked Torrent over on accident and made him drop the ball! It was all my bad, so how about everyone just calms down, huh?"
Cole looked from Rush to Torrin, narrowed his eyes and refused to falter.
"An officer doesn't draw his gun unless his life is threatened," Torrin stated. "Guess who raised their gun first." As he said this he returned the glare given to him by Cole.
"Cole..." Kuo gave him a stern look as to tell him to surrender. Her warning came fairly, as an officer of the law would not lower their firearm until the threat was nullified.
The man looked to her, finding a sense of confidence in her eyes. Shifting to the surrounding water he felt uneasy and insecure.
After returning to Kuo he relaxed, reluctantly quelling the electricity in his body. Kuo then did the same. Finally, Torrin also loosened himself into a calm but alert disposition.
The four of them looked between each other, Rush appeared obviously relieved. However Cole felt much the opposite. In his hasty misunderstanding he had given Torrin a glimpse of his fear. With that clue, that hint of an advantage, he felt a sense of danger that he had been without since he became the Beast. Even when the humans sent the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, he alone barely needed to lift a finger and his Conduits could sleep soundly knowing they were safe. In reality the greatest threat to him was one of his own flock.
"Get back to work," he said without prefix. He turned and started to take a step. "We've wasted enough-"
Suddenly her body erupted into uncontrollable spasms, her skin laced with dancing threads of lightning
Cole moved with intense urgency, grabbing her by the arm and jerking her into his arms on the driest point of the mound of debris, where she collapsed motionless into his grasp. The shaking in her small, cold wrists had been violent enough to make his forearm ache.
He glanced to where she had been standing, in a spot that was just wet enough to get the cuff of her pants soggy. When he looked back to his own spot he found the fading ripples of the step that had electrocuted her. It was a puddle of water only deep enough to dampen the sole of his shoe, but it was enough to conduct over twenty-thousand volts of electricity into her heart.
"What happened?!" Rush flew to his side. "Is she dead?"
The electric man felt for a pulse with his thumb on her wrist and brought his ear to her chest as he kneeled down to balance her on his knee.
"Her heart's out of rhythm, but I think I can get it in step again." He placed his hand lightly beneath her left clavicle and removed any left over electricity from her body that she did not need before outputting a small pulse directly to her heart.
"Says the one who can't control his powers," Torrin hissed.
Cole's own heart gave a strong thump as he bared his eyes down upon him. "Last I checked you were supposed to be keeping the water away from the hole. If Kuo or Richard die, you're the one under the bus."
He gave one more pulse to resuscitate her heart as Torrin opened his mouth to continue the argument.
However there came an alarming sound that kept him silent, the sound of thousands of rocks tumbling and sliding over each other.
The earth seemed to give one big lurch as the building they hand been racing again began to crumble once more. The four of them would be buried in a matter of seconds with the already trapped two.
Cole reacted faster than Rush thought to teleport or for even Torrin to choose flight over fight. All he had to do was flip a switch somewhere in his body, that turned him from "powerful" to "most powerful of all". With this new potential he sent a field of distortion from his hand, stopping all gravity and reversing the Earth's pull.
The Conduits found themselves slowly floating upwards towards the sky, along with the pieces of building that had started to fall. The Beast held firmly onto Kuo as her released thin tethers of pure Ray Field energy from his body and attached one to each Conduit. As they rose higher and higher so too did the massive fragments of street and concrete from the sinkhole along with whatever water found its way inside. Finally behind all of that came Richard and his new convert.
The two of them were drenched and covered in dust. Richard had managed to stay conscious despite the obvious pain he was in as the lower half of his leg dangled disgustingly limp in every which way gravity decided to be. The kid however was still soundly asleep in some black void of his mind.
Some thing about the teen made Cole's eyes double back as he released two more safety line. There was something about his hair that was grayed by the particles of dust weaved into it, the shape of his face, high height, his weight. When he finally arrived at the answer his heart-rate took off like a spooked deer and his brows began to sweat for reasons outside of the constant strain the Beast's powers had on his body.
He could feel his powers waning, getting harder to control, and his body started to tire with growing weakness. He sent whatever power he could spare through the tether connecting himself to Rush to amplify his abilities. He could see it in the Conduit's face that he felt refreshed and energized.
"Rush, get us out of here!"
Utilizing the excess energy he had been given, Rush created a field to encase the six Conduits. With a sudden surge they were sucked into a mesh of blurring colors before seeming to stop at serious G-forces, their fellow super-humans crashing into comprehension.
Rush appeared well-balanced on his feet as the others came rather ungracefully. The rest of the flock jumped in shock and rambled in excitement to each other.
"Sorry, folks!" Rush raised his hands. "Sorry for the scare, but we're all here now. Everything's cool."
"Where's Cole," one Conduit asked.
"What do you mean? He's right here." Rush gasped as he turned, not finding Cole nor the new addition to their group anywhere. "Oh God, I must have lost him in the ninth dimension..." he feared under his breath.
"Julia!" Richard's voice erupted above his muttering. "Julia!"
From within the crowd the young girl hurried out to his side.
"Tell your angels to fix my leg, now!" His words made her shrink and take a step back. "...Please," he seethed as kindly as he could.
She nodded with butterflies in her stomach and laced her tiny fingers together. She closed her eyes as if praying to any holy power that would listen.
As she continued to pray, small vines began to germinate from the ground beside his leg. As they grew, they budded leaves and wrapped themselves around the fracture. After a moment Richard could feel his pain subsiding and his leg finding structure.
All the while Torrin had been tending to Kuo, listening to her heart and thrusting his palm onto her sternum. Cole had managed to stable her for the most part, but every now and then he had to stabilize her again.
Rush continued to mutter to himself about how he had lost their leader in some other plain of existence when finally Torrin had enough and turned to him. "Are you going to beat yourself up all day or are you going back to look for him?"
"What," said the other as if he had misheard him.
"He's not in a different dimension, you just left him back where we were. So stop whining and go get him."
Rush raised an eyebrow at him. "Since when do you care about the boss?"
"I don't, I'm just tired of your nonsensical blathering." He turned back to Kuo. "You messed up, Eddy, like you always do. But you never let that stop you from trying again."
The boy smirked at him. "Don't think you can weasel you way out of this one, Torrent. I know you've got a soft spot for the boss in there somewhere." He took a running start, as he always felt he teleported faster when he had momentum. "And the name is "Rush"!"
"Keep your ridiculous nicknames to yourself," the officer shouted back as he vanished into thin air.
When he reappeared in the city he called out to Cole. "Boss! Hey, Boss!" But he did not see him nor did an answer come. It was when he saw the new pile of rubble that he became alarmed. All of the rock that had been hovering above them not tow minutes ago. Rush immediately deduced that his master was buried somewhere in the wreckage.
He made another quick jump to the mountain of concrete and started to remove each boulder one by one as he did before.
"C'mon, Boss, c'mon..." he whimpered between bursts. "You're not gonna let a few hundred tons of rock keep you down, huh?"
He jumped a few more slabs out of the way and shoved any he was strong enough to move.
"If you're still alive in there, let me know with that freaky psychic mind thing you do."
He moved a few more but as he looked back to size up his progress he had barely made a dent. He had only moved ten feet and his arms were already screaming in agony and his back felt like it was on fire. On top of all that his optimism was being pounded into the ground, until finally he collapsed to his knees.
"C'mon, Boss. I know you can hear me... Just give me a sign that you're okay."
Suddenly there came a hot pain in the back of his neck. It felt as if a blood vessel had ruptured just within the lining of his blond hair. Shooting a hand back to the point of pain, Rush didn't feel anything out of the ordinary except for tense muscles and a warm touch.
Looking around he found no one, and when he was convinced that he was alone he pulled himself back together to dig a little bit longer.
Cole appeared in a roar of flames in front of a small two-story house, falling to his hands as Dylan flopped in front of him. His lungs heaved feeling stabbed and his sides felt split in two as if he had been slit with a knife.
Although he had gained the Beast's powers, his body was still not able to contain the immense power. His body literally strained itself and over clocked to use those powers until finally all this strength was spent. For this reason he only used those abilities to convert more Conduits or in emergency situations.
Only Kuo knew of the price he paid for becoming the Beast, and after every Blast while the rest were out hunting Conduits she would take him to the highest point in the city where he would be most likely struck by a bolt of lightning from the storm he had created.
But now there was no storm. There was no electricity to recharge himself in a ruined city. For now he was overspent and powerless.
In the distance he could hear the low hum of an approaching aircraft, and it was coming up fast.
After catching his breath the stood and took Dylan back into his arms before approaching the house. He had managed to get under the canopy of the front door as an unmanned drone flew above the street. It had seemed to stall and nearly fall out of the sky before righting itself and continuing on it's way. Cole deduced that the enhanced electrical field his body emitted had disabled the computers on board. If the military was around and they noticed the momentary failure, it would not be long before they would be at his heels.
Seeing that there were no cars in the driveway to the separated garage so instead of knocking at the front door he kicked it open. Inside he found no one or anything. All of the living room furniture and kitchen appliances had been tossed to the curb and any decorations were shattered or gone. Compared to any other home it was bare and dusty.
He entered a room on the side of the living space almost astronomically with familiarity. This room was much like the living room and the kitchen—empty and barren. The only things left were the windows and the frame of a bed with a stripped-down mattress. Here, Cole laid Dylan upon the bed.
There he stood gazing upon him. Now that he had the time to look upon him fully, Cole found the time to calculate the reasons behind his frustration and grief.
Then he turned to leave before he could convince himself otherwise.
But he stopped, finding a force to make him stay. All it took was the sound of his name.
The electric man turned slowly to face him, almost reluctantly.
"What happened," he muttered, "Where am I?"
"You're home," is all Cole replied, stressing the first syllable.
"What?" He looked at him like he had seen a ghost. "You brought me back to New York? No, I don't want to be here. Why did you-"
"Because you were supposed to be here, Dylan!" Cole snapped, tired of his whining. "You're seventeen. You're supposed to be going to school. You're supposed to live here, with Mom and Dad, not in Massachusetts where I found you."
"Like you care," Dylan jumped from the bed. "You left without a word. And it wasn't even a week before Mom left too. So I was here with Dad who dumped all his expectations of you on me."
"I did care," Cole took a step towards him, reminding him who was the older brother. "Where do you think all those checks came from?"
Dylan fell silent for a moment and cowered. "You sent those?"
"No, Santa Clause did," the other shouted sarcastically. "Every month after I got a job I'd send you whatever I could spare from being paid crappy minimum wage so that you could go to college. So that you could be more successful than me." The younger brother was dumbfounded to the point he couldn't speak. "How much of my money did Dad get because you ran away, Dylan?" The other suddenly seemed interested in Cole's shoes. "How much," Cole repeated, grabbing him by the shoulders.
"About four month's worth if you count this month," Dylan answered shaken.
Cole sighed and backed off seeing that he had unsettled his brother more than he had intended. If Dylan had run off four months ago, then it would have been two months before he had gotten his powers. And seeing as how the house was completely empty, their father was either dead or hit the road once his whole family had left him. Besides, what did money mean anymore? The world was in the middle of recreation, and any currency would soon be wasted scraps of paper and precious metals.
Dylan now took the moment to really see his brother for the first time in a year. He looked much more like an adult than he did when he left for college. But much more importantly he seemed darker, a near shadow of the sibling he had grown up with. Cole was always the one that made him feel safe, but now he had not even said one calm word to him after coming together for the first time in so long. He even became violent before so much as a "hello".
His eyes continued to dart between the demonic veins visible on top of his strangely pale skin and the rusted metal object he had tucked between two straps of his backpack. The only thing more disturbing than that were his blood red eyes. They weren't irritated it seemed, but like it had become his natural iris color. To top it all off, he had a deep scar running down his cheek and to his lip with a small gap in the line. And Dylan felt that there was something even more dangerous than his appearance that he couldn't see.
"Cole, what happened to you?"
The older brother found some part of the ceiling to gravitate to. "It's a long story, Dylan. And you're not going to find out any time soon."
He turned to leave again, but this time Dylan was quick enough to grab him by the arm. "Wait, you're leaving me here? Again?"
"Oh please, Dylan." Cole rolled his eyes. "What difference would it make? You obviously think you can take care of yourself."
"What the hell is your problem," he snapped. "First I'm almost roadkill, then the city gets bombed by terrorists and finally I wake up to find you trying to desert me two-hundred miles away from where I passed out. What makes you think you can just show up and dump me like trash?"
"Hey, I saved your ass. You're lucky I—"
Cole stopped himself at the sound of a shotgun's hammer going back. He turned and placed himself between his younger sibling and the aggressor, ready to protect him any way possible. But when he saw who was holding the gun, his heart twisted into a knot of anger and some form of sadistic joy.
"Well, if it isn't my two degenerate sons," said their father, a ragged middle-aged man with a feverishly flushed face. He heaved a gruesome cough before clearing his throat and continuing. "I should shoot you for all my money you wasted, Cole. From what I hear I'd be doing the world a favor."
The question of why their father was home in their desolate house with nothing to live off of barely scraped past Dylan's reeling mind. He was much more concerned about the gun pointing directly at himself and his brother.
"Degenerate is a pretty strong word, Dad," Cole replied as he took Dylan's wrist and pulled him closer to his back. "And if you're so in-the-know, you'd know that you're wasting your time with that toy. But you're welcome to try."
The youngest MacGrath stared at his brother in amazement. He was staring down the double barrel of a loaded shotgun held by their anal father and he was actually provoking him to blow his brains out. He had always been an assertive type, but this was taking it a bit too far.
"You'll kill me if I don't kill you first," answered the father grimly.
"I'm not gonna kill you, Old Man. It'd be a waste of energy considering you'll be dead in a few minutes." He focused his special eyes and mused at the glowing red inflammations slowly burning away at him organs. "It started as just an annoying cough, right? After a while every breath felt like a knife cutting you open, you couldn't eat because you'd just puke it all over yourself and every time you went to take a piss you felt like someone had swung a sledgehammer into your groin."
Dear old Dad frowned and took a swallow full of needles. "You bastard."
Dylan looked up to see his brother's face and he saw a pleased gleam in his eyes. He obviously enjoyed pushing his father's buttons. In a way, he too also felt some form of satisfaction in it.
All through his childhood he tried to keep himself as close to Cole as possible when their father was in a bad mood. Whether he was drunk, angry at their mother or absolutely anything else that ticked him off, he would go straight to treating him like dirt. But he never did this to Cole except when he would stand between the two and play middle man.
'Why did Dad always like him so much more,' he wondered to himself. When it came to discipline, they both got equal shares. But when it came to who got the cooler toys and who got the most praise for a good grade, it was always Cole. Even when they had both aced a test, albeit Dylan was four years younger than him and thus had much easier material to learn, Cole had gotten a pat on the back when all he got was a distracted "Oh, that's great, son". Even for a biased favorite son preference, Dylan never did find it all that fair.
And what he found the most ironic was the fact that the son that was the favorite was also the one who did most of the arguing.
Was it really so wrong for him to feel this way towards his father? The way he saw it, Cole was only doing what Dylan had wanted to all along—stand up to their father after all he had put them through.
"So what do you have to lose?" Cole smiled something that left Dylan's hair standing on end. "Here you are on death's doorstep, you've got a loaded shotgun in your hands and your two social washout sons are right in your sights. You can spend your last moments letting out all your anger by shooting us or you could shrivel up on the floor and use your last tolerable breaths apologizing to use for being an asshole our whole lives."
The brothers could see the choices bouncing around in their father's eyes. His labored wheezing sounded slightly faster, so two did his heart they assumed. Cole grasped Dylan by both arms to minimize his exposure to the gun when he saw his father's trigger finger twitch.
"...stay behind me, dylan," he whispered and held him tighter as he felt his little brother trying to resist in fear.
The sound was ear shattering in the empty house with no carpet, wallpaper or furniture to absorb any of the volume. Cole groaned as his breath was knocked clean from his lungs and stumbled backwards, only remaining on his feet by Dylan pushing against his falling weight. Brother and father both gazed in awe as the electric man straightened himself and brushed the gun powder from his shirt and face. Not a single shell pieced his body or hit his petrified brother behind him. The most damage they had done was tear a hole in his shirt or, at most, left a hardly noticeable bruise.
"Well, it's got more kick than a nine-millimeter, that's for sure."
"Cole..." Dylan stuttered a few times before he could find the right words, "how did you do that?"
"You really are bullet-proof," muttered Father as he lowered his giant boom-stick hopelessly.
"Yeah," he complied. "And if you still care about Dylan at all, you'll be happy to know he'll be safe with me."
Dylan's chest fluttered. Only moments ago did he seems set on abandoning him and now he was taking him with him to...wherever he was going. Something told him that he never did intend to leave him, but as long as he was going to be in better company than their father or Mitch in a small apartment he was fine with it.
Suddenly, the Old Man erupted into a flurry of coughs and wheezes, dropping the firearm and falling back against the wall of the hallway. Dylan came out from behind his brother and approached him, the other follows closely behind.
"I ain't going to apologize for doing my job as a parent, it was both of you that failed me. He coughed again. "But I will say I was never more proud of you when I heard you were saving people. My son, a superhero." And again. Dylan looked to Cole as if he had said the most absurd sentence in the world. "But then I hear you're killing people for fun like i's a game. It always seemed like the moment you gave me a reason to respect you, you disappoint me all over again."
"I don't live to please you, Dad. That's all I did until I left college. Even then I was still doing what people told me to do when they told me to do it. You have no idea how good it feels to be my own man after letting other people run my life for me."
His father lowered his brows as much as his weak body could muster. "And I suppose you're going to teach Dylan how to be a cold-blooded killer?"
The other returned the glare. "I'll teach him how to survive."
All the father did was laugh an amused, filtered chuckle. "Here you are talking about teaching when your mother told everyone you were a teacher. She was so ashamed that you were a bike courier, all she could do was lie to her friends."
Cole only continued to frown at him. "I know. And I know about that picture in your wallet. You couldn't wait for me to marry her, she was like the daughter you never had. She'd make up for all the disappointment we caused you, wouldn't she?"
His father's scowl disappeared and soon became a hint of shock. "How did you know?"
He coughed roughly many times before he got less of an answer and more of a tease. "A little bird told me."
Finally, at the end of his storm of wheezes that slowly quieted into silence, he fell limp and his body ceased to move. Cole said nothing for a moment, however his expression was much less distraught than his brother's.
The electric man approached the now still body and stared into his icy eyes before digging around the pockets of his jacket. In one of the inside pockets he had found his father's wallet. And inside of that he found a picture of himself and his late girlfriend Trish. The two of them were smiling sincerely and saw that gleam in her eyes that he knew he'd never see again. It was a still of a much simpler time, when everything was normal. He then slid the photo into his backpack before he was able to reminisce anymore than he wanted to.
"Are you happy now, Dylan? You'll never have to worry about him again."
Dylan did not want to answer honestly. After all the resentment he had harbored for his father, he never wanted it to go so far as to see him die. He was an angry drunk and a strict parent, but that didn't mean he deserved to have his life taken away by whatever pandemic was sweeping the county. And the way that Cole acted so heartless bothered him too. He could already tell he had changed in a way that put a bad taste in his mouth, it was like the death of someone close to him didn't bother him at all.
And despite his judgment of character whispering that he was about to get himself into something he would not like later, he still felt that same security around Cole that he always had. Especially when he just managed to survive a hit from a shotgun and even dust himself off like it was nothing. Which brought him to the question that would dismiss the topic of their father. "Did he say you were a superhero? As in you have superpowers?"
"You must be the only person in the whole country that doesn't know that. The news won't shut up about how I'm a terrorist-"
"Wait, you're the terrorist they kept talking about? The one with the electric powers?"
"Among other things." Dylan did not doubt this claim in the slightest as he had already seen the proof that he wasn't any regular person anymore. But now he was left with so many questions. He wondered if everything he had heard on the street was true, whether or not he had been blowing up cities and killing people for sick kicks.
Somehow he didn't doubt that either. From what he had seen of his brother in the past few moments of their first reunion in over a year, he didn't even want to know.
Cole started to walk out into the living room. "Look, I actually have somewhere to be so let's just-"
Suddenly a crackled of sound and lights lit up the front door.
Cole grabbed Dylan by the arm and ducked back into the hallway. A military scout had opened fire into the house, intending on eliminating both Conduits. His time had run out, and the humans had started to respond the the outage of the UAV. He had been caught without the ability to use his powers, but that did not mean he was helpless.
"Damn..." the older brother cursed as he darted his eyes around the house.
"You've got the army pissed at you?" The other blurted, "what did you do?"
"They're scared of me, and for good reason..." he trailed off as he spotted the shotgun on the ground. "Grab that gun, it's still loaded."
"You expect me to shoot a soldier?"
"I expect you to buy me time," said Cole as he clasped his hand onto his deceased father's face and to Dylan's amazement electricity began to flow from his corpse into his brother's arm.
His distraction didn't last long as the soldier came around the corner and opened fire. Dylan dove for the weapon, took aim and fired with sheer adrenaline rushing through him. The soldier stumbled backwards, but was not harmed due to his bullet-resistant vest. Dylan fired again out of surprise of how quickly he had recovered.
Finally Cole had drained all the neuroelectricity that had remained in his father's corpse. It was not much, but it was enough for one jump. He spun around and in the blink of an eye vanished in a roar of flame with Dylan's trembling torso in his arms.