Provence, New Jersey that day was an unusual bustle of activity and excitement. The city was never the biggest hotspot for celebrities or political drama, so most skipped it on their road trips across the country. Recently, however, that was soon to change thanks to a small investment made by a man who goes by the name Darius Winters. Mr.Winters was a highly respected investor, and stockholder in many lucrative businesses. He was a tall, dark skinned man who seemed to have a taste for expensive suits, as well as expensive cars.
Needless to say, his arrival in Provence shook many people up, including New Jersey’s own personal hero, E.G. Or, as they are actually called, Eris Goodoire a young freelancer who recently found their way to Provence after unfortunate business in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Darius Winters had opened up, and made plans for a small nightclub downtown near what many locals referred to lovingly as the “Trash Heap.” This new nightclub would occupy the space next to the illegal dumping site. Mr.Winters wouldn’t let up about how amazing it was going to be once it finally opened. Eris, along with most of the town, had shown up to an unveiling of sorts. The outside of the building was completed, but the inside still remained to be fixed up.
“Ladies and Gentleman of Provence!” Mr.Winters announced from atop a small podium in front of the steps of the building. In his hand, he held a red corded rope that led to the cloak covering the building. “I am so glad you all could make it.” There were a few asserting cheers from the crowd, one of which came from Max Heighnsworth, the local music shop owner and only resident D.J. “Today I show to you New Jersey’s soon to be hottest nightclub…” He pulled the red rope, and the cloak fell away revealing a crazy looking building with multi colored tiles on the walls, and silly graffiti art on the doors. The buildings design was also a little strange, as it looked to be part house, part cassette tape with unruly steel wires spilling from the top like a broken cassette player, and a ginormous band of duct tape with the words “Mixtape” written on it in horrible handwriting.
There were a bunch of confused mumumrings among the crowd; Ms.Hazefield the owner of the local flower shop next to Eris’ apartment, asked whether or not the nightclub was really supposed to be some kind of Childrens Museum. “Now, now I know it looks a tad bit strange, but I promise you people from all over are going to come and enjoy themselves at the Mixtape sometime next month!” Mr.Winters promised.
“It looks awful!” Eris shouted over the crowd, which garnered a few grunts of agreement.
“Well…” Mr.Winters shrugged his shoulders. “The Mix Tape caters to...the young people. Like yourself! They’re all about retro this, and vintage that.” He waved his hand dismissively. “A lot of you here are older folks, and I can understand why you think it looks terrible. But we can’t dismiss our children’s interests, no matter how terrible it makes their sense of fashion and decor look. It’s all about the artistry, nowadays.”
He stepped down from the podium, and since Provence wasn’t known to have a big population, two reporters from competing news stations that everyone watched simultaneously, and that only aired in the tiny town of Provence, came up to him each asking him questions. Eris groaned when they spotted the two reporters because they were recently bombarded with questions the day they showed off their powers for the first time to the townspeople. Kassandra Yuuteki and Kyle Yuuteki were siblings. They’ve been at war with each other ever since anyone in the town could remember. According to Ms.Hazefield, even as kids they were very rowdy and loud with each other, and always holding strange competitions for odd things.
“So the Nightclub is for children, you say?” Kassandra asked. Mr.Winters blinked, confused.
“Uh...no. Of course not, who would make a nightclub for kids?” He asked.
“Yeah, Kassandra. It was obviously a meant to be taken as a sort of metaphor. He called us old, but I’m not even past 24 yet!” Kyle exclaimed. “The Nightclub will be open when you say?”
“Um, next month. You must be 18 years or older to get into one, though. That’s the law-”
“Such a courteous man!” Kassandra cut him off, excitedly. “Educating us all to keep us safe from the dangers of Nightclubs.”
“Now hold on a minute, nightclubs aren’t dangerous-” Mr.Winters argued. Kyle chimed in.
“Oh I beg to differ. See, I did research awhile back and-”
“I thought we agreed that I was the co-creator of that study?” Kassandra said, pointedly.
“Well, yeah. But I am the one who got it licensed under our name, remember?”
Kassandra scoffed. “You mean your own name. You just put ‘Study done by Yuuteki’ at the top!”
“So? What’s wrong with our last name?”
“Nothing, except how are people going to be able to tell that it was made by two people?” She countered.
“You two, knock it off.” Eris decided to put a stop to their bickering before it began. They had already heard the fight over who got what rights over their ridiculous “studies”. “Mr.Winters can talk to each of you some other time, individually.” Kassandra huffed.
“You still owe us an interview, E.G.” She said. “Don’t think we haven’t forgotten. Or at least, I haven’t forgotten.”
“I didn’t forget either.” Kyle said, sheepishly turning red. “But, she’s right. We will get that interview, sir.” Eris just shook their head, sighing heavily.
“That’s right, missy!” Kassandra said. “That interview will be ours someday.”
“I already told you. I don’t do interviews.” They said. “Now shoo, before I plague you with a terrible song that will haunt your minds forever.” The twins visibly shuddered in fear, remembering the last time when Eris had sicced the horrible tones of Smash Mouth on them for about a week. It took them days to get the lyrics to “All Star” out of their heads.
“We...We get the picture. Just...keep that playlist where we can see it.” Kassandra pointed to Eris’ Ipod, a tiny machine that was coated in a vibrant green and red color scheme. The two twins left, giving Mr.Winters their contacts, each one from a different studio.
“People here sure are…” He floundered for the words. “Eccentric, I guess.” He looked at Eris, pointedly. “I have heard about you though. You’re Eris Goodoire, correct?” They nodded, smiling.
“Yep, I’m the resident freak.” They said happily. “Though my hero name is just my initials.”
Mr.Winters looked around at the dispersing crowd, most of which had gone home or back to their shops to close down. “This nightclub is a great meeting place. I actually chose Provence to build because I needed to speak to you.”
Eris shuffled their feet. “What about?” They asked.
Mr.Winters looked at them seriously. “Are you familiar with a girl named Mindy Diasco?”
Eris looked up, surprised. “You...you’re that Darius. Mindy has mentioned you before. Not to me, but I’ve heard her say your name.” They said. “Where is she? It’s been months, and I can’t find her anywhere!”
Darius raised a hand slowly, trying to calm them down. “Well, Mindy is fine, I assure you. She’s at her lab as we speak, working on another batch of Soundria.”
Eris jumped back in surprise. “No way! She’s...gonna make more of that drug?” They asked, slightly hurt.
“It’s not going to be for what you think, though!” Darius said. “We’re not making super soldiers, or anything. She cracked what was wrong with it to begin with, and…She may have found a cure to help with the...Surround Sound effect.”
“And you wanna know if I want that cure or not, huh?” They asked quietly. They kicked the dirt with their brightly colored shoes. “Honestly, I kinda like my powers. I’m still getting the hang of them but…”
“If having this drug in me means I can annoy people with Beethoven from a distance, then I think it was a win win.” They chuckled. “I’m glad Mindy’s doing fine. Do you think I can see her sometime?”
Darius nodded, he smiled. “Of course. Eris has told me of your adventures, and your big escape. She did a lot for you, and for that I am proud of her.” He said. “Though...I really wish she had at least consulted me about it. What if Soundria had ruined your life, or something?” He sighed, and shook his head. “Well, that wasn’t the case, it seems. Thankfully. But still, it was a tiny bit reckless going off and making a super drug without telling me.”
Eris shrugged and smirked. “She’s a genius, sir. What did you expect?” They asked.
That night, Charlton made a household favorite, spaghetti with hotdogs for meatball substitutes. Eris sat down at the table, a creaky wooden stand in for when they would finally buy a real one. “Please eat it while it’s hot sir, I know you despise cold food.” Charlton said.
“Okay, whatever. But did I tell you I found a lead on Mindy’s whereabouts?” They said, shoveling spaghetti in their mouth. Charlton perked up at the mention of Mindy’s name.
“You know where she is?” He asked.
Eris stopped chewing, and shrugged. “Yes, and no. See, I met the guy behind the new nightclub downtown, right? And his name is Darius Winters. Apparently, he knows Mindy, and I know he knows Mindy because I heard her say his name...once.”
“That’s...very substantial proof, I guess.” Charlton said. “I mean, I can’t think of any other reason for him to lie, unless he works for the government or something. Maybe he’s trying to sucker you in to do weird experiments on you?”
But I’m a local Hero! We see them on the news all the time, busting bad guys with their weird powers and whatnot.” They objected. “Why me, and not...I don’t know, that giant lady who was rampaging through Atlanta a couple months ago?” Charlton shrugged.
“You’re right about one thing, it seems highly implausible that they would be after you. And like I said, I can’t think of any other reason he would be lying about this.” Charlton said. “We should arrange to meet up with this Mr.Winters in order to set up a meeting with Mindy.”
Eris groaned. “I am no good at long distance relationships, Charlton. You know this.” They said, pushing their plate away. “And...we can’t leave New Jersey. There are two people we’re looking for, remember?”
“Right. Leila Thompson. British Immigrant, brown hair, unusual bright green eyes.” Charlton listed off the girl’s description given to him by Eris. “And something about always having a...moth nearby?”
Eris nodded. “The moth is green too. So is the suit she wears.” They said. “Once we find her, we ask her for that favor she owes me. You remember your lines for when we finally meet her?”
Charlton sighed. “Of course not. And anyway, I haven’t been able to spot her around town. And this is a very small town.” He said.
“It’s small.” Eris tapped the table. “But it’s a prime hotspot. You’ll see why once we find her, she always explains it the better than me.”
“This is no ex of yours, like you said? I still find that hard to believe.” Charlton picked up his plate, and brought it to the trash. “Your ex’s are not known to be the most rational bunch. One in particular comes to mind.” Eris didn’t need him to spell it out for them.
“Cassidy is probably over me by now, it’s been like 6 months since we last heard from her.” They said. Charlton just preoccupied himself with washing the dishes, leaving the conversation unfinished.
The two of them would make for downtown in the hopes of finding Darius Winters tomorrow. Seeing Mindy one last time wouldn’t hurt at all
The lab was a nice addition to Mindy’s list of birthday presents that year. Darius had insisted on waiting until Mindy had reached an appropriate age until she could have her own lab, and while the lab provided by Snowflake was nice and all, it was lacking in a few areas that qualified as a “Real” lab. Thankfully, Dr.Dougherty was just nice enough to give Mindy her own lab, and what’s better is that it had top of the line chemistry equipment. Everything from X-ray machines, to hospital cancer equipment was stocked in that one lab. Mindy had tried to be excited by the new prospects that would come from working under Dr.Dougherty, but she couldn’t quite shake the feeling of dread whenever she thought of medicine. She never told Dr.Dougherty about Soundria, but Darius Winters knew.
Darius had tried to calm mindy when her secret got out, and explained to her that now that she has a new lab, she potentially find a cure for it. This was just before they all heard the Beatles being played throughout the lab, and subsequently all across the city. “What…?” Darius had asked, confused. He looked around the lab, trying to find the source of where the music was coming from. He looked at Mindy. “Is...this the problem with Soundria you were trying to tell me?” He asked. He stood in a nicely pressed suit, with a tiny little jay feather and folded cloth sticking out of the breast pocket.
Mindy gulped, and nodded. “I don’t know what causes it. It’s like...the medicine has a mind of its own.” She said. “I did tests on it a couple of months before I got the call.”
Darius nodded, still looking at the corners of the room, trying to find speakers. “The buyer you mentioned, correct? Charlice Goodoire. Why was she even interested in it? You said before she wanted it for her...daughter I think, but that seems kind of spur of the moment, don’t you think?” He asked.
“Yeah,” She said. “I don’t know why she was really interested in it. Maybe it was for...herself? I’ll be honest, I can’t really blame her for cracking. The first time I came to Eris’ house, her husband had beat her to a pulp, that poor woman.” Mindy shook her head sadly. “She must have just stopped functioning when that car crashed through her house.”
Darius sighed heavily, as the song started to fade out. “So...I’m assuming the Beatles are being played as a direct result of...Eris Goodoire. Is she okay?” He asked.
“They, Mr.Winters. And, I don’t know. I’d say we should hunt them down before they do something brash, but I don’t even have any equipment that could catch Eris in the state they’re in.” She walked to one of the desks, and picked up a large text book on molecular biology. “Whatever is controlling Eris now is really strong, and it’s not just backed by cells and molecules. There is some other third party in Soundria. And it calls itself Surround Sound.”
Darius blinked. “Wait. You mean...it’s sentient? As in the medicine can think for itself? Mindy that’s…”
“Incredible? Astounding? A breakthrough in the medical world? It would be if Surround Sound weren’t a strange, unempathetic monster. I don’t even know how it could have...gained sentience, since that’s definitely not a part that I included in the final formula for Soundria.” She said, flipping through the pages. They were all annotated, and marked with notes for Soundria’s final product. “I did every single ounce of research I could into past Schizophrenic medicine, and I don’t think I ever once came across a recipe for sentient pills!”
Darius could feel her anxiety growing. “Mindy, I understand. This situation is far beyond your control now. I’m a little mad that you went ahead and did this without my consent, but I think I shall save the scolding for later.” He walked over to her, and put a hand on her shoulder. “Right now, we need to figure out a way to fix this. If there’s anything you need, anything at all, I will immediately get it for you so you can fix this. Just stay calm for now.” His voice was level, and soothing. Mindy breathed in deeply.
“Right. I can fix this. I have the notes, and the...formula...I can…” She stood on shaky feet. “Eris is gonna hate me…” Darius tried to steady her feet, but she seemed close to falling. “They’re gonna hate me forever...this is all my fault...their life is ruined because of me...It’s been two weeks, what has their mother done…” Her breathing grow heavier and heavier, until she blacked out completely and fell on the Lab floor. Darius yelled for help.
Mindy woke up in a hospital bed, presumably put there after she had passed out, and gave Darius a tiny scare. She felt a tiny bit dizzy, and her eyesight was fuzzy. She tried to raise her arm up, only to find that it had been strapped down. Did she move in her sleep? Darius sat in a chair next to her bed, and he stared at her with red, tired eyes. She tried to speak, but her voice was tired and hoarse sounding. She looked over at him, expecting a response, but Darius merely patted her head, and said “Go back to sleep Mindy.” And she did.
A day had passed and Mindy had finally woken up. Darius was not there when she had woken up, but she could hear his voice from the hallway. He seemed to be arguing with someone, and from what her fuzzy mind could gather, it looked to be about her. She couldn’t quite make out what he was saying though, her brain felt to out of place at the moment. Darius returned to the room, and audibly gasped when he saw that she was finally awake. “How are you feeling?” He asked, cautiously. She tried speaking again, and her voice felt a little better.
“I feel…” Her voice came out like a croak. “My head feels weird.” She said. Mindy looked behind Mr.Winters only to notice a girl in a dark green suit, and short combed hair by the doorway.
“Darius, I feel you should reconsider my propisition.” She said. “Charlotte can sense something terrible coming your way.”
“I already told you! And..I am not having this conversation again, especially not in front of Mindy.” He spoke sternly. “Mindy is just fine. She just had a little panic attack and it got to her, right Mindy?”
Mindy was confused, but she couldn’t deny that she was in this bed because of her anxiety. “Yes…” She croaked.
The girl sighed. “Fine, as you wish. But, if this ends boiling over, don’t hesitate to call me.” She said. “Paradox’s doors are always open.”
Darius nodded. “I know, thank you.” he said. The girl left, and walked out of the room. Mindy looked at Mr.Winters, confused.
“Who...was that?” She asked.
“She’s...an old business partner, I guess. You could say she’s a prodigy like yourself...but, her talents lie elsewhere.” he explained. Mindy looked around at the small hospital room, on her desk next to her were get well soon cards, and candy. The other prodigies at Snowflake must have heard about her collapse. “They’ve all been worried sick about you for the 48 hours.” Darius said. “But, you’re better now, so I guess you can handle a few visits from them.”
Mindy nodded. She could handle seeing people now, but she cringed when Darius said 48 hours. Had she really been knocked out for that long? Her anxiety had never actually knocked her out like this before, so she wasn’t really didn’t know what to expect. Whatever the case, she was feeling a bit better now, and was ready to face her problems head on. While there was the issue of finding an antidote for Soundria, there was also the prospect that Eris would never forgive her for her recklessness. She breathed in deeply.
A few months had passed the last time Mindy had been in the hospital, and she stood in her new lab proudly over the final formula for the Soundria Antidote. It had taken a while, but finally she had made the cure. She had worked tirelessly, night after night, until tonight when she had finally felt she had failed. She will admit, crying over her creation was probably not the best way to go about handling pressure, but when she had tested it out, it proved to be the perfect antidote.
Now all that was left to do was to try to get in touch with Eris. It had been long time, but she was certain that maybe if she tried to explain herself a little, Eris would understand, and accept the antidote. Maybe things weren’t as rocky as she thought they were. She packed the lab up, and made sure to carefully preserve the antidote where it wouldn’t be destroyed.
She left the lab that day, happier then she had been for months, and called Darius up. She informed him that the Antidote was ready, and that now it was time for the witch hunt. She had no idea where Eris or Charlton had gone off to, and Max had mysteriously disappeared from town as well. It looked as if they had gone into hiding, presumably from Ms.Goodoire, who had vowed to track Eris down on national tv a few months ago. She wanted to find them before Charlice could, but she also knew she would have to get to them before Charlice got it into her head to sue Mindy. The woman has been so caught up in trying to find her daughter that she hasn’t really thought about who she got the drug from. And because Eris disappeared before others could catch them, the only side of the story heard by the police was Charlice’s, and they were a bit reluctant to believe that a girl in her teens had managed to destroy a million dollar home with the power of music. But they eventually decided to trust Charlice’s judgement, especially considering they are having to deal with a giant woman fighting giant robot.
Eris stood in the airport lobby, their feet stretched out before them as they sat in the chair. It was a lazy wednesday night, and they guessed no one felt like they had to go anywhere at this particular time, hence why it was so empty that day. Charlton was with them, but he had dozed off an hour ago. His old man genes were catching up to him, however adamant he was to disprove it. The lobby served free coffee, but Eris was never really a fan of the drink, so it didn’t lighten the mood for them at all. Eris and Charlton were both waiting for their friend, Mindy Diasco, to arrive on the 12:00 flight to Jersey. Eris had replayed the scene that would unfold in their head a million times, yet no matter what, they couldn’t quite picture what Mindy would look like or what she would say when they saw each other again.
They never really got to hang out as much as they wanted to, and the last time they did ended rather horribly. But now things are different. Now we can hang out on our own terms. They hoped, at least. Mindy seemed horrified when Charlice had asked for the medicine, and while Eris didn’t blame her for signing those papers, they doubted Mindy felt the same way. She had left abruptly, too shaken to face what was about to happen to Eris back then. Charlice was long gone now, too mentally unstable for them to deal with, Eris had finally come to understand that. Their mother had always been the one to at least give them the benefit of the doubt, but with all that had happened at the party, and how Max had crashed it, she must have snapped from the pressure.
Eris looked up at the clock on the Airport wall, seeing that it was almost 12:00, they decided now would be a good time to prep for the meeting. Whatever had happened then was behind both of them, and Eris never actually got to say thank you to Mindy for helping them escape, even if it was worthless in the end. They got up, went to look outside the window only to find that the plane was in the sky and landing. They took a deep breath in, steadying themselves. They considered playing music, to show off their powers to Mindy, but they thought against it once they remembered that Mindy has no idea how these powers have affected them yet.
They walked back over to the waiting area and nudged Charlton awake, who woke startled quickly trying to compose himself . He didn’t want to admit that he had been caught sleeping, but Eris’ smirk told him it was far too late for that. “I presume the plane is here, now?” He asked, sleepily. He yawned, and got out of the chair. “Let’s go and greet Mindy then, shall we?”
The plane docked and landed, and a few people were getting off of it in a line. Mindy was one of the second to last of the passengers, and when she locked her eyes on Eris’, she immediately ran over, startling a few other passenger nearby. She began to speak rapidly, before Eris could even get a word out themself. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry! This is all my fault, it’s all because I was being stupid, and reckless, and I should have never made that drug in the first place, and I should’ve told someone at least that I was making it, and I should have just refused to sign the papers, and-” She said, in a hurried breath.
“It’s okay.” Eris said, simply. “But, we might want to take this conversation somewhere else more private.” They glanced around at the now crowded airport lobby. People were drawn to drama, and a young girl crying dramatically in the middle of public is bound to draw eyes. Charlton and Eris walked Mindy outside where Darius was waiting for them, right on time with the car. The drive was rather short, they were all meeting up at Max’s place, seeing how he had the closest house to the airport.
As they all sat in the car, Mindy began to explain to them that she had finally cracked the code for Soundria, and that she had developed a cure for it. “So...whatever symptoms you may be experiencing, they can be gone now. I have the antidote, and...I’m so, so sorry.” She kept apologizing the entire time, and Eris kept trying to explain to her that everything really was fine.
“I like the symptoms actually.” They said. Mindy looked at them in horror.
“Really?” She asked, astoundedly.
Eris nodded. “For the first time ever, I actually have something to use against people, you know? People like Charlice, and Robert.” They said. “Also the symptoms aren’t world shattering. It’s not like I have a terrible face condition, or a power so strong it could kill. It’s just cute projections of music.”
“But,” Mindy gulped. “You...could kill. I mean, you shattered the roof of your mansion, Eris.” She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “And while your power isn’t exactly one of the more basic ones, trying to crime fight….it could be dangerous. You’d have to dance your way out of situations, wouldn’t you?”
They said thoughtfully, as they softly played a song from their ipod. It was supposedly off, but Surround Sound was just that powerful. Mindy groaned.
“Oh, will you please just take this seriously? I’m glad you’re out of that situation now, but you have to realize a lot of things are changing in your life.” Mindy said.
Charlton decided to speak up for once. “You know sir, Miss Diasco has a point. While fighting crime in small town New Jersey is easy, going full on super hero like the ones on tv...might not favor you well.” He said. “Unless…”
Mindy shook her head, incredulous. What kind of authority figure is he, that he actively supports his kid crime fighting? Eris perked their ears.
“Unless….what?” They asked.
“Unless, of course, you find out a way to utilize your powers to combat certain situations. Like bank robberies, and muggings. You’d have to really think about how you use your power.” Charlton explained. Eris nodded, in understanding.
“Yeah, I could always use more practice using it. But it’s not like there’s a master of Sound Manipulation out there, I’m the only one of my caliber.” They said. “You know anyone who knows about music, attack wise?” Charlton cleared his throat, and glanced at Darius.
“Darius knows someone.” Charlton said.
Darius peeked up from the road, shaken out of his monotonous day dream once he heard his name. “I know who now?” He asked, confused.
“You know someone who can help Eris with their powers?” Mindy asked. Darius ducked his head, slightly embarrassed by all the attention everyone in the car was giving him now. He guessed he and Mindy had one more thing in common.
“Well...Yes. I do, but…” He began. “She can be quite persistant. She isn’t a mean girl, not at all. But she is rather passionate about her business, and…god, the business is the hardest part to explain….” He shook his head tired.
“What business?” Eris asked. “Tell us.”
Darius sighed, and sat up straighter. “Her name is Leila Mayner. She is the head of an agency called Paradox. Think of it like Snowflake, but instead of prodigies, it’s the supernatural.” Darius explained. “Paradox is a wonderful company, there whole shtick is that they use supernatural powers to solve impossible problems. There are...alot of secrets the world holds, and Leila knows all of them. Any fantasy creature, or mythical monster you could think of is at Paradox HQ, either living as an assistant, or working as an Agent.”
“Wait...Leila Mayner…?” Eris thought on the name. “I think I know her! Me and Charlton actually came here to meet her!”
That surprised Darius, and Mindy was still trying to wrap her mind around an Agency possibly filled with unicorns and dragons. “Wait, you know Leila?” He asked.
Eris nodded. “Granted, I didn’t know she had an agency filled with mythical creatures, I just kind of assumed she was a really young king pin or something.” They said. “I mean, she wears a green and white suit, and she has a little pin on her coat that she keeps showing off to me everytime I see her.”
“So wait...does this mean....are unicorns real, Darius?” Mindy asked, mystified. Darius chuckled.
“Yes, Mindy. Unicorns are definitely real. I haven’t seen one, but I have seen some other crazy stuff before.” He said. Mindy huffed.
“You lied to me! All these years, you tried to get me hooked off of My Little Pony dolls, and unicorns were totally real the whole time!” She said, exasperated. “I feel betrayed.”
“It was only because you kept trying to make ‘Creating a real life unicorn’ your side project for about 2 years. Mindy, I love you, but I cannot allow you to take the Victor Frankenstein route.” he said. “No child of mine is going to drop out of college so that she can make a synthetic pony with wings and a horn out of dead horse parts.”
She crossed her arms, “Victor was misunderstood…” She muttered to herself.
“Anyway.” Charlton changed the subject. “Leila can help you hone your skills for the better.I believe you mentioned there was a training facility at Paradox?”
The car pulled into Max’s driveway. “Well, we can talk more about it later, right now we-”
The door to Max’s house burst open, and out poured a blanket of flame. They could all feel the heat from inside the car, and for a split second they were all blinded by the light of the fire. Charlton was the first to abandon the car, and Mindy and Eris were the last. Backpedaling furiously away from the house, they watched as it burned.
A figure, wreathed in flames and soot came out of the house. It was Max, completely uncathed somehow from the blast. Eris squinted their eyes to see, as they thought they saw someone much smaller in frame next to him. Their eyes widened, happily.
It was Leila Mayner. She held Max’s arm gently, and surrounding them was a faint, green aura. Max looked rather shaken up when he got closer to them. Eris ran up to meet them. “Max!” They said. “What the hell happened?”
Leila placed the shocked man on the ground, where he sat in a stupor. “He is in shock at the moment.” Leila explained. “Hello Eris, it’s a pleasure to see you in Jersey.”
Eris looked back at the burning house. How did they not see the flames before they rolled into the driveway? Then, another figure walked out of the building. This one seemed to be surrounded in flames, yet he did not panic. He wore a patterned poncho, and and walked out on blackened feet. “Woah…” Mindy breathed from behind. “It’s like…the fire is coming from him. Like, he has wings made out of flame.”
Eris blinked confused at the whole scene. They wanted to know so many things, like what were they doing here at Max’s house, and why is the house on fire, and whose the guy with the showy fire wings? Leila surveyed all of the stunned guests, and simply smiled.
“I know this looks bad, but I can definitely fix it. Don’t worry. And I apologise on behalf of my friend here.” She gestured to the newcomer. He had sand colored hair, and an unusually tan skin tone not really found in this part of Jersey. “We came to discuss Eris’ powers. I brought Phoenix here as a peacemaker of sorts.”
“He burned my house down!” Max yelled, as his house burned in front of all of them.
Leila sighed. “Yes, he did. And I am truly sorry. Here, Charlotte can fix it up for you.” She raised her hand, and like a rocket, a flurry of luminescent green moths flew from her palm. So many filled the air at once, it was like a green cloud had suddenly appeared. Her suit jacket flared a bit from the wind of their wings. The Moths circled the house, at first in a miserly fashion, but soon taking on a faster pace until they blurred together. When they lifted off from the house, the Moths flying higher into the air until no one could see them anymore, the house was completely fine. There were no scorch marks, or tale tell signs of a fire having been in the house.
Max ran into the house quickly, and when he came out he looked dumbfounded. “Everything is...back to the way it was. Nothing is scorched.” He sounded dizzy. Eris and the gang were, at this point, gaping at Leila and Phoenix.
Mindy looked amazed, the Moths had been one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. Charlton was stunned, as he had seen superheroes in action before, but he had never seen something as mystical as that. And Darius just looked done with her, in a more annoyed sense. Eris thought she was way cooler than they had originally perceived her.
“You said something about Powers?” They asked, completely on board with whatever Leila said next.
“So,” Mindy began slowly. “Paradox is like...The Men in Black? But with unicorns and dragons instead of aliens?” She sat at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in her hands, as she stared dumb founded at Leila Mayner. Charlton had gone to sleep a few hours ago, Eris said it was because he was getting up there age wise. Darius sat next to Mindy, his head in his hands. He was tired as hell, and the coffee that Max had made really wasn’t helping at all. Eris had decided to explore most of Max’s house, while Max himself decided to sit on the sofa, and keep an eye on Pheonix, the so called “Peace Maker” that Leila brought with her.
Leila calmly sipped her tea out of a mug. “Well, we do have aliens mind you. We have a bit of everything at Paradox.” She answered. Mindy nodded, as if she understood finally. She really didn’t.
Darius looked up from the table with tired, sagging eyes. “Okay, so you said you wanted to talk to Eris about Powers, but it’s been about an hour, and the only thing anyone has done is tried to explain how the unicorns fit into the equation.” He said. Leila sighed, sympathetically.
“I know. I did come to talk to Eris, but…” Leila glanced thoughtfully sideways at nothing. “They don’t seem as enthused as they were before.”
Mindy couldn’t deny that. An hour ago, Eris seemed down for anything Leila had to offer, but the minute they got the answers they needed to all of their questions about Paradox, they went galavanting off to explore Max’s small home. Mindy doubted they were even actually exploring, as it couldn’t possibly take this long to explore a house this small. “Well, this seems like a wonderful idea. An Agency that solves impossible problems…” Mindy said. “What kind of problems have you had in the past?” She pointed a thumb at the sofa where Max and Pheonix were sitting. Max was staring suspiciously at Pheonix, as if any moment now he would burst into flames again. “What kind of situation needs a human torch as the solution?”
Leila smiled, and put her mug down. “Ah, I could be here all day just recounting the many cases we get at Paradox.” She said. “If you must know, Pheonix’s first case involved solving the mystery of the Bemuda Triangle.” Mindy almost spit out her tea, but Darius perked up at the words “Bermuda Triangle”.
“You told me that story before. Of course, back then I didn’t believe you. Hell, I knew you had weird stuff at Paradox, but I didn’t think it was weird like-” He too pointed to the sofa “that kind of weird.”
“The Bermuda Triangle?” Mindy asked confused.
Darius nodded. “It makes way more sense than it sounds, trust me.” he said. “But he uses his Powers to solve the mystery for some lady who came asking about it.”
Mindy really wanted to know how Pheonix could have solved a mystery like that with literal fire power, but she realized how late it was getting. “While I really wanna know, I don’t think we have any more time. But we’ll talk it over with Eris.” Mindy said, wondering what was up with their unusual behavior that night. Mindy went to go find Eris, while Darius prodded Charlton awake. Mindy could hear the butler snort and yelp as she walked down the hallway to Max’s room. The door was open, the light was on, and Eris was rummaging through Max’s things. “Eris, what are you doing?” She whispered, panicked. Eris looked up, and beckoned her closer to the dresser.
“Great your here, I need you to find a green moth pin for me.” Eris said. Mindy shook her head, trying to wrap her head around tonight, and all that she had learned.
“Eris, now is not the time to be snooping!” She whisper shouted. She joined Eris by the dresser. They had removed most, if not all of Max’s clothing, frantically feeling the sides and corners of the chests.
“I’m not snooping.” Eris explained. “You know the pin on Leila’s jacket?” Mindy nodded slowly. “Well, thats how she gets in touch with people. And I’m betting that’s how she found Max.”
“Why would Max have a pin like that?” Mindy asked. “He didn’t even know about Leila till tonight.”
Eris moved on to the closet. “You’re right. He may not know who Leila is personally, but I bet he knows an Agent. Ha!” They came up with a small, silver and jade Moth pin. Mindy’s jaw just about dropped.
“So...Max does know an Agent.” Mindy said. “Well so what? What’s that prove?”
“Nothing on Max, but on Leila…” They said. “I don’t think she knew we were coming here to his house. In fact, I don’t think Pheonix is here as a Peace Maker.”
“Are you saying she’s like...an Assassin or something!?” Mindy exclaimed.
“No, of course not. She isn’t here to kill anyone. But Pheonix did burn the house down. And Leila’s Agents are always composed. They do exactly what she says, and I know because I’ve seen one before. He was some asian guy, but he did everything Leila asked, even down to fetching her a glass of water. I can’t imagine this Pheonix guy would just burn a whole house down for no reason.” They explained.
Mindy looked at the pin in Eris’ hand. “And she never scolded Pheonix once about anything. She just apologized.” She said. “This is weird. We can’t spend all night thinking about it up here, though. We have to go now.”
Eris pocketed the pin, and began to clean the place up a little until everything looked halfway decent. Mindy stood in the door way, thinking. “The only thing I can’t think of is why Max wouldn’t say anything. Unless Leila threatened him.” She said.
Eris shook their head. “Nope. Leila doesn’t shake people down. She’s a peaceful type.” They said. Mindy wondered how Eris knew Leila at all. She would have to ask them sometime, if she could remember to do so on top of everything else. They left the room, Charlton and Darius were at the door, and Max was seeing them out. Leila still sat at the table, and Pheonix had joined her. They must still have more to talk about.
The drive to Eris and Charltons small apartment was a little long, and by the time they got their Darius looked just about dead with sleep. He had booked a room at a hotel for them to stay in while they were in town. That night, Mindy didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. She kept thinking about what the Moth Pin could mean, and why Max had one. She wasn’t entirely convinced at first, but when she noticed that Leila and Pheonix stayed behind, she knew it had to be a little bit true.
That same night, Eris and Mindy decided to discuss Max and the mysterious Moth Pin. Now that they had each others numbers, they were able to plan things out more efficiently, and thus the new plan excluded both Charlton and Darius. “I trust Charlton more than anything, but...who is to say he doesn’t trust me?” Eris explained in chat. Mindy had been confused, and typed back.
“What, you think Charlton distrusts you? Have you ever done anything to provoke something like that in the past?” She asked. Eris thought for a bit. They sat on the floor of their small room, their knees to their chests, and their phone their only light source.
“No. I don’t think so. At least, I know I’ve been a good kid for most of my life, but Max and Charlton have a...deeper history. They go way back, Mindy.” They said. “Charlton could make me call off this tiny investigation if he wanted to. He might want to protect Max from something, and hiding whatever dark secret he and Leila have is the perfect way to do that.”
Mindy was in the hotel room, in the bathroom. She had to quietly sneak away in order to chat, or else the screen light would wake Darius. The lights in the bathroom were also off, though they didn’t have to be. Mindy was just a little paranoid with all this sneaking around. “I guess I could see him doing something like that.” She said. “He does care about you a lot, and ever since your mom went off on tv, I could see him being even more protective.”
Eris blinked, confused. They typed, “What do you mean, ‘Ever since my mom went off on tv?’ What happened?” They asked. Mindy gulped. She thought Eris might’ve already known, but judging from the local news stations here in Provence, she should have known Eris would be a little out of the loop.
“Your mom went on some talk shows, claiming she disowned you and everything. She’s started some kind of ‘Anti Super’ movement, a bunch of people are rallying behind her, too.” Mindy said. “You kind of spooked Atlanta when you escaped. I mean, the music was just...so loud.”
Eris tried to remember back to that night. Was the music really that powerful back then? They just remembered it being loud enough for everyone to hear, but they didn’t think it would be so loud as to scare people. “Really? I don’t really remember much from that night.” They said.
Mindy typed, “Yeah, you also did quite a bit of damage too. Lot’s of buildings lost windows because of your power. Is this the first time anyone’s told you about that night?” She asked. She would’ve thought, since Charlton was with them, that he would’ve at least told them in some detail about what happened back then. Why didn’t he?
“Yeah...Charlton just said the music was loud, and that the house was destroyed, but colorful. He said I made sunflowers and stairways made out of chilli peppers.” They laughed to themself. “It sounds ridiculous whenever I think about it, but for the life of me...I can’t seem to recall what happened clearly. I just remember the music suddenly changing from Kenny G, to the Beatles. Then seeing Charlice’s scared face, and then suddenly I was on the roof, and walking down the street in a ragged party dress.”
“Party dress?” Mindy asked.
“Charlice wouldn’t let me change. Or rather, she locked my closet door. I wasn’t even allowed to bathe until I escaped and found Charlton.” They said.
“Oh.” Mindy sat without typing anything for awhile. “You don’t have to talk about the...incident if you don’t want to.”
Mindy waited, until they responded finally. “Yeah, you’re right. Maybe some other time.” They changed the topic. “So...about the Moth Pin again.” They said.
“I have some theories. But I don’t think you’ll take very kindly to any of them.” She said.
“Why?” Eris asked.
“Well, I’ve been thinking. What if Leila and Max also have some kind of history together? He can’t be the agent himself, that wouldn’t make sense. But what if someone he knows is?” She said.
“Like a family member? I don’t know about that. I thought about that too, but I can’t seem to find anything on the Heignsworth family. None of them are famous supers, and as far as the media is concerned, they aren’t all that exciting either.”They said. “The only media attention they got was a couple of years ago when they were invited to the Righberry estate, but everyone gets invited there, so…” They blew a piece of hair out of their face.
“The Righberry estate, huh.” Mindy said. “So if it’s not a family member, than maybe a friend?”
“If it’s a friend, then we’ll never find out. We’d sound too suspicious.” Eris pointed out.
“Yeah.” Mindy admitted. Then she sat up, a realization suddenly coming to her. “I bet you know someone who could do a little more extensive background check.” She typed.
“Who are you…” Eris almost sent their bewilderment to Mindy before remembering. “You’re right! The twins!” Kassandra and Kyle Yuuteki would definitely know how to do a background check on someone as obscure as a friend of Max Heinghsworth’s.
“I saw them a while ago. Right before we got into the hotel, they bombarded us with questions. Though, it was weird.” She said. “Because most of them were just about you.” She laughed.
Eris groaned, “I told them I would never do an interview. Interviews are just...weird.” They said.
“I understand.” Mindy said. “Will you still go through with it? You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’m sure we could find a different way of getting the information.”
“No, I’ll do the interview.”
“I’ll come with you, just in case.”
She typed back. Eris felt a wave of gratitude that they couldn’t express on through the phone.
“Thank you, that means a lot.”
They said. “So, I guess the plan is tomorrow we find the twins, we do an interview, and then they get us our info.”
“Right. I don’t think Darius or Charlton will question us going out tomorrow. They’d probably think we just wanna catch up, but really we’re trying to unravel some kind of mystery behind a Moth Pin.”
Eris laughed. “Yeah, just a couple of ace detectives doing their jobs.”
They joked. “Get some sleep, we have a lot of begging to do tomorrow.”
Pheonix was not a very talkative person. In fact, he's also not very sociable, which is amazing considering everyone around him in Paradox HQ was an undeniably sweet person. Standing in Leila's office for the third time since he had formerly joined Paradox, he felt as if he were being a bit too distant from his co workers, and it didn't help that they all seemed indefinitely patient with him.
"You have gone without a partner for 3 months now, Pheonix." Leila said, sitting in her brown mahogany desk. Pheonix couldn't quite meet her eye this time, and he wondered why but knew the answer immediately. Her eyes were an unsettling shade of jade. He kept his head down, eyes pointed to the elegant moth carved into the side of the desk. His feet, bare like always, rubbed against the dark green carpet. "Pheonix, is everything going alright? The missions haven't been too hard, have they?" She asked, a kind and worried tone to her voice.
Pheonix looked up, almost ashamed when he spoke softly. "I am doing fine, ma'am." Leila chuckled.
"Ma'am? I look about as old as you do." She said. "Well, I'm glad the missions are going well. It's just..." She sighed, and a slight green moth flew from across the room to land serenly on her shoulder, blending in perfectly with the suit Leila wore. She played with the moth's wings, brushing one lightly. "Charlotte has been worrying about you." Pheonix's eyes landed on the moth.
Charlotte was by far the strangest thing the future had to offer to Pheonix. He didn't quite understand what she did, or how she worked exactly. All anyone could tell him about the curious moth and her powers was that she never left Leila's side, and she always knew more than anyone in the room. Of course the moth would worry about him, really, he should have seen it coming. He tried to apologize, but the words got stuck in his throat.
"Charlotte says it's fine, you don't need to apologize for anything." Leila relayed to him. "She thinks...well, we both think, that you need to partner up." Pheonix dreaded the idea of partnering up. He gulped, slightly uncomfortable with the conversation ahead.
"I...I work better. By self. Alone." He said. Leila nodded, resolutely.
"I understand. But doing missions by yourself is dangerous, especially as you get stronger. We wouldn't want you getting hurt with no backup." She said. "You're getting to that stage in training Pheonix, and we're both proud of you, honestly. But," She paused. "Greater power means greater responsibility. And that responsibilty requires two people, I'm afraid." She smiled, sadly.
Pheonix breathed in deep. "Yes. I understand. I can find partner." He said, giving in. Leila shook her head.
"Now hold on, you don't have to do the picking at all." She said. "Charlotte picks all of the Agents partners, and she's never been wrong!" Leila beamed at the moth, the latter fluttering disapprovingly. "Now, once she picks someone, you two don't have to start doing missions together right away. We give you one weeks worth of wait time, and then we hand you your first assignment." She said. "As you know, Agents have a full month, depending on the scope of the situation, to solve their mission. Their Paradox so to say. Failure is not an option, and if it comes to that, I'm afraid we can't trust you to do bigger missions anymore."
Pheonix didn't particularly like the sound of no more Paradox cases. He liked the missions he was getting now; the Bermuda was the first big case he ever got. Getting small cases wouldn't be quite as fun. "I will not fail you." He said, determined.
"Good. And now, Charlotte is done looking for a partner." She said. Pheonix blinked. The Moth had not moved at all, save for a flutter of her wings. "Oh! What a curious pair you two'll make!" She excaimed. "I hope you're fond of Elvis, Pheonix. Miss Goodoire is especially kind to the rockabilly sort!"
The first time Pheonix saw Eris Goodoire, he couldn't believe someone who wore such outrageous colors would be matched with him. They dressed in horrendous pastels, and Pheonix found it insulting to the eyes. He decided to focus on their face instead. The house behind him, the one he had burned to the ground, was instantly being repaired with the help of Charlotte. Leila wasn't really expecting Eris to show up, but she made up for it by lying. It was the first time he saw her lie. They all sat down, and for an hour, Pheonix sat on the couch being watched like a hawk by Max Heighnsworth, the man who owned the house. Pheonix glared at him, still angry at what he had said to him. "He's not even from our time, and you're letting him stay in? Dude can barely speak english as is!" Back then, Pheonix knew he would regret setting the house ablaze later, but he hadn't cared. Now that the house was back to normal, and Max Heighnsworth was thoroughly traumatized, he felt a little better.
It still didn't stop him from wanting to punch the man in the face repeatedly, but it would do for now. MIndy, the brilliant scientist that came along with Eris and the butler, went upstairs in search of her friend. Leila cleared her throat. Pheonix got up from the couch, and went to the table, taking a stand right next to Leila's seat. Darius and Charlton both got up, and stretched sleepily. "Well, we'll see you around then. Goodnight, Leila." Darius said. Mindy and Eris came back downstairs, and soon the house was just as it was an hour and a half ago. Leila finally put her cup down.
"I'd reprimand Pheonix for his borish behaviour, but what you said hurt even my feelings." She said. "Apologize." Her voice grew cold. Max shuffled his feet, embarrassed.
"Look, it's not like that. I'm not a-" He began.
"Pheonix is a valued member." She said simply. "I will not tolerate you insulting him like that, especially not in his company."
Max scoffed, and looked directly at Pheonix. "You're my replacement, huh?" He asked. Pheonix blinked, suddenly hyperaware of a stray blonde strand in his face. He didn't want to look at Max Heighnsworth anymore.
"Pheonix is-" Leila began.
"I am no replacement." Pheonix spoke for himself. He gulped nervous, but he soldiered on keeping both his fear and anger in check. "I am my own Agent." He looked up at Max, determined.
"Hush about replacements. Ex-Agents aren't supposed to discuss such matters." Leila said. She sighed. "Eris has found your pin, it seems." She said, tired suddenly. Max's eyes lit up.
"You...you took my pin away years ago..." He began. "You wiped everything I ever did for you away, how could there be a-"
A slight flare of green could be seen in Leila's eyes, as she petted the soft wings of the moth on the table. "We have eyes on our Agents, Max. And we especially have eyes on you." She tapped the side of her face, right next to her eye. "Traitors, I'm afraid, don't get privacy after their actions."
Max was seething. Pheonix grabbed the back of Leila's chair protectively. "You are a real piece of work, Mayner." Max hissed. Pheonix could feel the air in the house getting warmer, and he knew it wasn't him this time. "People don't even know about my powers now. Charlton definitely knows and yet-"
"The butler has agreed to stay silent, for your own good." Leila said. "What you did was despicable, Max. You don't get to be a hero after doing something like that." She stood up, gently placing a hand on the table. "I didn't come here to discuss your punishments, though. I have come to discuss your partner. Former partner."
Max huffed, and sat down. "How's he doing anyway? I didn't think sellouts were still welcomed."
Leila ignored his quip. "He's gone, Max. Shou left in the middle of the night, and no one can find him. His parents are very worried." Max scoffed, leaning heavily on his arms, his head in his hands.
"I don't know where the kid went. He ain't here if that's what you're asking." He said. "Just a minute ago you said you had eyes all over, so what's this got to-"
"Shou is using his own power, I think. Charlotte hasn't been able to see him." Leila explained. "We've decided to look around now. We started with you because Shou was very close-"
"We weren't close. Not by a long shot." Max said, stonily. Leila's brow furrowed.
"But....you seemed so-"
" 'Seems', and 'Auctually like', are too different things Mayner." He said. "He hated me."
Leila swallowed nervously. This was the first time Pheonix saw her nervous. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. "I appear to have made a greivous mistake." She said, quietly. She got up, suddenly. Max didn't look up at her.
"Money is important, you know." Max said. Leila froze.
"Yes." Her voice was like the waves, then. "Money is important in this world, that I cannot deny. But stealing it, and jeopardizing a mission for it..." Pheonix looked away, feeling as if he were intruding on a private conversation. He was somewhat knowledegable of Max's actions. Stealing money he was supposed to use for his mission, and using his powers to fight back against other Agents, was enough to get him permanantely banned from being an agent of Paradox. He remembered Crow warning him one morning about what could really happen if you botched a mission badly.
"Do you still have that stupid shop?" He asked, referring to a record store all the way in Atlanta.
"Yes, we're turning it into a hub for Agents. People will be able to ask for our help all the way in Atlanta now." She said. "At least some good came out of punishing you."
That night, in his room at Paradox HQ, Pheonix couldn't go to sleep. He was up thinking about Max Heighnsworth, and his shop in Atlanta. Pheonix had never heard of such a city until that night, at his house. He wondered how a man who like things as simple as music could let greed control him so much like that. Was he really that...desparate for money? Pheonix would never know the feeling of having too much money. The voice whispered to him, "Neither do I, Pheonix. We have more in common than you think." His voice was stronger now. Louder. It had grown slightly over the last two missions.
He raised his arm, tucked under covers, and studied the scar that had begun to etch itself into his skin. The Orange Jewel was not gone it seemed. It was scattered, broken into a million pieces. "Do you want to know how many shards you hold, Pheonix?" The voice asked.
"Xa..." He said, aloud to himself in his darkened room.
"23." The voice responded to Pheonix only.
He laid his head back. No one knew about the voice, or the jewel. Or the voice of the God in the Sea in his head. He had tried to explain, but everytime he tried the words would gett stuck in his throat. He felt as if he were afraid of telling people about the voice in his head. He had thought that the moth would know at least of The God, but she didn't say a word about him. "People can't know about me yet, Pheonix. In due time." The Voice said.
Pheonix closed his eyes. But much like the flames from his wings, sleep did not catch him.
"So, when do you think you can do this interview?" Kyle Yuuteki asked, as he leaned enthusiastically over his desk in the Provence radio station downtown. It was one of two separate radio stations that were created and funded solely for the use of the Yuuteki twins. Kyle worked in the East building, and was responsible for the more somber stories told on the news. Eris, who had to take a step back due to Kyle's exciting nature, looked utterly embarrassed for what they had to do next. "I'll do the interview now, if you want." They said, a nervous smile gracing their face. Kyle's eyes glowed a startling amber, before they cooled down again upon remembering his sister.
"Kassandra would be...livid if I did this without her." He said. Mindy stood next to Eris, and she had a protective hand on their shoulder.
"Why don't you two just do the same interview together?" She suggested.
Kyle shook his head. "Kassandra and I have agreed to keeping our stories separate from each others. It gives us a sort of edge, and keeps us unique." He said. "You have to do two interviews, and then we'll research your friend."
Eris grimaced. They didn't like that at all, but a firm pat on the shoulder from Mindy reminded them that they were not entirely alone in this. Swallowing their fear, they said, "Yes, okay. I will do the interviews. It's for a...sort of good cause I guess."
Mindy smiled, "Yeah, don't worry about it. Interviews are easy peasy!"
The interview would take place in a room with a light, a fake potted plant, and cameras. Eris and Kyle sat in different faced chairs, Kyle held a clipboard in his hands. Eris squeezed the arm rest, to ground themselves. Mindy stood in the background, giving a thumbs up from backstage, expertly hidden behind a deep velvet curtain."So, Mr. Goodoire, I am aware you prefer neither pronoun correct? What is your greatest achievement since coming here to tiny, little Provence, New Jersey?" Kyle asked, professionally. Eris gulped and tried to think of an answer.
"Well...I haven't really used my powers for all that much. I would say the greatest thing I ever did was...uh, that time I stopped those bank robbers from robbing 1st Colony?" They said, unsure.
Kyle nodded, however, as if that answer was satisfactory. It wasn't to Eris, it sounded like a stuttering mess of words to them. "Nice. You did an amazing job then. You know, you're powers are especially unique in the super world, at least I think so. What kind of training are getting to control them?" He asked. Eris perked up. This was a question they could answer.
"Actually, I'm friends with Leila Mayner." They said, sheepishly. Leila's name would surely wow viewers more than their own.
"The head of Paradox? Such tight connections. Paradox, unlike what we would expect of an organization of their caliber, aren't the most secretive of agencies. I guess this means working with an identity is out of the question completely?" Kyle said.
"Yeah, secrets aren't really my thing. And besides, I've got nothing to really hide."
"You're past is quite colorful, literally." He gestured toward the bright clothing they wore. "'You're past and origin are strange to say the least. We've heard quite the tale from the butler..." "But you want my take on it, huh?" They asked. They sighed."It is what it is. That's...all I have to say on the matter."
Kyle nodded somberly. "I understand. It is a rough past, to be quite honest with you. Uh..." He cleared his throat. "We here in Provence are very...Grateful for you coming here, Eris. Helping a small town like us out instead of taking your powers else where, to a bigger city..."
Eris waved his thanks away. "It's nothing, really. I'm happy to help out." They said. Kyle straightened up, and awkwardly shifted in his seat.
"Well, I think we're done here now. Thanks for tuning into KRCTV at 9, stay tuned for the 10 o' clock program with Kassandra Yuuteki, as she will be holding the follow up interview here with Mr. Eris Goodoire, or as the citizens of tiny Provence like to call him, E.G. Thank you, and have a wonderful night." The camera man, the only camera man in Provence actually, signalled to them that the camera was off, and they both got up at the same time.
"Uh...Eris, I really did mean what I said, you know about the town appreciating you." Kyle said. "It wasn't just camera talk."
"Yeah, I know. And again, I'm happy to help." They said, smiling. Mindy bounded up to them, happily.
"You did wonderful! See, I told you it wouldnt be so bad!" She said, humming softly. "Now it's off to across the street!"
"The radio stations are literally across the street from each other?" Eris asked, bemused. "Man, that's some sibling rivalry right there."
"Kassandra's building is smaller compared to mine though," Kyle said, smugly. "I doubt you'll enjoy her studio as much as the one me and Chris have here." Chris, being the only camera man in Provence waved energetically toward the group as he packed up his things across the room. Eris refrained from rolling their eyes.
Kassandra's studio was the exact same as Kyle's. In fact, the two were so similar, Eris did a double take across the street, trying to make certain they stepped in the correct building. Chris, the camera man, had followed them to the building and was quietly setting up again in the exact same spot he was just set up in Kyle's studio. Mindy sighed, amused at the identical surroundings. "You gotta admit, they're commited to the Twin bit, through and through." She said. Eris just nodded, confused.
"You're here!" Kassandra came whirling out of her office, a ray of sunshine and energy. She grabbed Eris' arm, and dragged them over to the same exact chair that they just sat in, albeit in a different building. "I just saw the 9 o' clock news, you were amazing on there! So professional!" She said. Mindy walked up to stand behind their chair. Kassandra gasped when she saw her. "And I saw you, as well! I mean, you didn't speak at all, but it's so nice to see two best friends supporting each other like this! Kyle explained to me you're..." She leaned in to whisper. "Position...on interviews. And I get it, I understand. Interviews are yucky, especially with a past like your's, and a mother on an anti super crusade-"
"My mother?" Eris balked. They remembered mindy mentioning something about Charlice being on some crusade against supers. "What's the deal with that anyway? Is it a small thing or...?" They asked Kassandra.
"You don't know? Well, of course you wouldn't! Duh, Kassandra." She bonked herself on the head lightly. "I haven't covered this story, mainly because no one outside of Atlanta actually thinks Charlice is going to succeed in her whole 'Abolish all the Supers' idea." She chuckled, laughing at the very idea of illegalizing supers. Mindy gulped nervously, and Eris looked as if they had heard the worst news yet. "But not to worry, right now we have an interview, starting in 3, 2, 1.... Good evening, citizens of Provence New Jersey, I'm Kassandra Yuuteki here with the 10 o'clock news cast. Firt things first, we have an interview with Miss Eris Goodoire, the esteemed new super in town, E.G!" She stealthily pressed a button underneath her armrest, and a fake round of applause issued from hidden speakers.
Mindy tried not laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. "Hi." Eris waved to the camera, nervously.
"So, we understand that you're powers are kind of dangerous, but I mean, c'mon. Music powers? What's that like?" Kassandra asked, leaning forward on her chin.
"Well it's actually pretty fun to use my powers. I know a lot of supers think their powers are a curse or a stain on society, but I think mine can spread a bit of positivity to others." They said.
"We've all seen you in action before, I mean the way you destroyed those robbers with the power of Marvin Gaye, it was the most hilarious thing I think any of us in Provence have ever seen." Kassandra said. Mindy couldn't hold back a giggle, they hadn't exactly heard all of the details of Eris' first save, but she had to admit the idea alone left alot to the imagination.
Eris laughed as well, the memory easing the tension a bit. "Yeah, that was pretty funny. I'm just glad no one got hurt." They said. "Though the bankrobbers probably don't apprecite me saying that..." They had a wild memory of one guy in a ski mask being rolled up in a terrible 70's afro out of the bank as music swelled around the room.
"I'm sure they don't like it at all." Kassandra agreed. "Next question..." The interview with Kassandra was going great, Eris felt as if they were being ridiculous for being so afraid of doing the interviews. Mindy kept encouraging them, and laughing even more as she was filled in via Kassandra about all of the ridiculous capers Eris had solved. Though it was faint, Eris welcomed the sound gladly, happy that there was something else to ground them during the interview besides the chair they sat in.
Mindy's phone buzzed suddenly, and she went to answer it. Chris, the Camera Man, also paused to answer his phone. When Mindy opened it, she was met with an utterly horrific sight. She let out a strangled cry.
Eris shot up out of the chair, "MIndy?" They asked concerned. "Whats wro-" They stopped when they spotted the disgusting image on her screen.
It was a picture of Mix Tape, the new club that was meant to open in a couple of days. Hanging from the scaffolding, however, was the unmistakable body of Darius Winters.
“Darius was married, you know.” Mindy said from across the table. Eris was with her, they both sat at a table in the Pig and Anchor diner on the east side of town. They hadn’t ordered anything, though the waitress had stopped by to place two menus on the table in front of them. She took one, sad look at Mindy before scuttling off without a word.
“I didn’t know that.” They said. Mindy had her eyes glued to a spot on the marble table, a red stain of ketchup left from months ago blotched the oak paneling. Her eyes were red, and her vision was undeniably blurry. It felt as if she still had more tears to cry, yet none would come. Mindy could tell that Eris was feeling uncomfortable at the diner, especially so early in the morning.
“He was married to a detective. He never told anyone, he didn’t like to...talk about his life like that.” She said, quietly. Her finger scraped the edge of the table lightly. “I don’t know what to do now. Or whose going to tell his husband. Or whose going to take care of Snowflake, or if I’m even going to be in Snowflake, anymore.” She paused for awhile, and they both sat in silence. The waitress came over again, and set down to glasses of iced tea that neither ordered. Mindy took her glass, and nursed it while they talked. She almost took a sip, but couldn't bring herself to even drink from it because the only smell lodged in her nose was that of the bleach they used on Mix Tape. To get rid of the blood. Mindy wondered why someone would bleed when being hanged, but there was a small part of her psyche desparately trying to block such a question from her mind. Eris spoke up finally.
“You’ll still be in Snowflake, Mindy...I know you probably don’t care about that right now, though.” They said. “Let’s...talk about what you wanna do now. And then worry about all that other stuff, okay? Tackle the small things.”
Mindy nodded her head, slowly. “Okay.” She spoke softly.
“We’re at a diner now. Are you hungry for anything?
“No.” She said.
Eris nodded. “Do you want to go home, now?”
“I...do, but I can’t. My parents are on active duty. Darius was looking after me until then."
Eris nodded, solemnly. “Right. Then... that crosses food and rest off the list.” Mindy perked up at the sound of rest. She was tired, and still grieving. She appreciated Eris trying to help her in their own way, but no amount of food, or music could take her minds eye away from the image of Darius hanging from the scaffolding of Mix Tape.
“Actually, rest doesn’t sound too bad.” She said.
Eris smiled. “You can stay with Charlton and me, for the time being. If you want, that is.”
“Yes. That...that’s what I’m going to do now.”
Mindy decided that she would take a small nap in Eris and Charlton’s small apartment. The hotel she and Darius had shared, though grieving alongside her, couldn’t really let her keep the room. The apartment was perfect; it was small, and Eris' bed wasn't so bad though they really needed to clean the sheets. She laid in the bed, her head completely submerged in the blankets. Once her head hit the pillow, she began to cry. It wasn't like the other times she had cried though. Yesterday, for example, she had cried a whole lot. There was a lot of inconsolable sobbing, and a few tearful wails.
This cry was silent, she couldn't even fathom the energy to whimper silently. Her throat felt tight with sorrow, her voice was completely gone for the entire time she cried underneath Eris' blankets. Soon what began as a few tears, turned to many, and then the pillow was soaked. Mindy slowly got up, a completely defeated mess after crying for 15 minutes on Eris' pillow. Her face was wet, and the tears were still streaming when she decided she couldn't sleep or scream.
It was early morning, Eris had taken her out to eat at around 6. Mindy knew that if it had been any other day, or if it had been a different timeline, she would of asked why so early. But she knew why. It would take awhile to get Darius' body down from the building. Whoever put him there had tied him to it elaborately. When Mindy first saw his body on her tiny phone screen, she knew what type of knots and how terse the rope was. She knew his arms must have been hurting being held in that awkward postion, and that his spine had to have been severed due to the coil wound around his waist. To describe the way Darius looked when he was hanging from Mix Tape would be very difficult. It's hard to imagine how one's foot could be twisted and pulled so that the toes face toward the head. It's not easy to talk about how you could severe a hip bone with a coil of rope, and a terrible pully system.
Mindy's fist clenched in the sheets, as she sat on the side of the bed. Her shirt was now wet. The tears had not stopped. The window in Eris' room showcased the sun rising slowly over a sleepy Provence, New Jersey. She doubted anyone could have seen something like this coming, but once she thought about it seriously...She still couldn't understand why it had to be Darius. The legs of her jeans were now wet. The tears were still flowing, and she could not scream. She stared listlessly into the suns glare, silently hoping that if she stared long enough she would stop crying.
The door to the apartment opened. She knew from the heavy footsteps that it wasn't Eris. Charlton stepped into the room, and she could practically feel his eyes bore into the back of her head. "Miss Mindy. How are you feeling, this morning?" She could not scream, and oh how she wanted to in that moment. She turned to him, and he saw her tear stained face. She saw his face blanch, and his chest heave as he breathed in deeply. "I'll let you grieve then-" He began to walk away from the doorway.
"Wait." Her voice came out strained, and tired. It did not sound like her voice at all. She could feel the tremor, and it pained her to speak, as if she had been silent for thousands of years and was just now getting used to her voice. "Please stay." Charlton nodded, and sat down next to her on the bed. He pretended not to notice how sopping wet the pillow was. Or the bed. Or how Mindy seemed not at all like herself today, and that Darius was not a contributing factor this time.
"I..." Charlton tried to speak. "I understand how you must feel right now. I have lost people close to me before, many times." He said. "If you want to cry, then it's alright. We'll give you as much time as you need."
"Who did you lose?" Mindy asked, bluntly. Charlton tried hard not to stare at her face because of how messy the tears made her look. He resisted the urge to give her a tissue, but he had a feeling these were tears you couldn't just wipe away. He cleared his throat, awkwardly.
"Well, he was a close friend of mine. We used to live in the same city for awhile, but then he moved away, and I became a butler." He recounted. "I used to work for him, and it was almost as if he had never moved away then. It was nice to see him again, after all those years."
Mindy stared at him, still with tearful eyes. "And he died?" She asked.
"He was killed. By a super, actually." Charlton spoke softly. Mindy let the words sink in, her mind was too muddled in grief to pinpoint her ideas.
"A super? Why...?" She began to ask.
"He was a villain behind the scenes. I never knew, the entire time I worked for him, he was plotting villainous things." He said. "I cried, much like you are doing now. Betrayal was one thing, but I was just sad he was gone."
Mindy gulped. "Oh. I understand' I'm sorry for asking."
"It's fine. It happened a long time ago, way before you were even born probably." He laughed a little. "I hope you feel better miss, though I won't blame you if you never will. Losing people is hard, I understand that more than anything." He stood up, finally. "Eris and I will be down at the police precinct. They might ask you to come after awhile, so be prepared for that."
Mindy nodded, not noticing the tears had finally dried and she was no longer crying. That strange tightness in her throat was gone, and she felt like she wanted to talk more. The scream she had wanted to release moments ago was gone now, the urge to release some form of sorrow had passed. The pillow was still wet, however. She didn't know what was wrong with her eyes before when she was crying, but seeing how she had never actually experienced something to this degree, she chocked it up to something that anyone would experience when filled with sadness.
Her eyes had been like a faucet, and it had hurt slightly to cry. She touched the skin under her eye and flinched slightly. It hurt badly. She had somehow hurt herself crying. She got up off the bed, and went to the bathroom to better see herself. The door to the bathroom was open when she went inside, and the mirror was dirty.
However it wasn't dirty enough to hide the two dark blue bruises forming around her eyes. She leaned into the mirror, confused, and went to touch it again but stopped when she saw her hand in the mirror. A tiny splotch of an inky blue substance had stained her fingers, the same hand she used to prod her eye from before. She squinted at it, slightly scared now. The bruises on her eyes weren't bruises. Not at all. They soon began to drip, and run down her face like tears, and the inky blue substance spilled into the sink, and on the bathroom countertop.
Her breathing quickened, and she slammed into the wall backpedaling away from the mirror. She stumbled out of the bathroom, and made her way back to the bedroom. She shuddered in horror when she saw the giant, blue stain on the bed sheets, and the pillow. Her tears had seemingly dried, and turned a startling blue. She felt sick then.
The urge to scream came back, but that terrible, familiar tightness closed around her throat. She could feel the tears come this time, but they were not her own.
Murder was something that Phoenix was well acquainted with. He remembered how his sister had come to meet her end so many years ago, so the tear stained eyes of Mindy Diasco were nothing new to him. He was standing outside of the police briefing room, or at least that’s what they had called it. Phoenix was called in by a detective who got word that he had visited the small town from the locals. The police station was an inviting place for him, he had never actually stepped foot in one, but he had heard they existed from various members of Paradox. One such member being Beatrice Hanamura, a nice woman who acted as the agency’s blacksmith in a way. “Police stations are kind of scary if you’ve never been in one before.” She had told him one time. “Just know that if you ever find yourself in front of an officer, it’s best to be compliant. Going against orders can lead to deadly consequences.”
The precinct didn’t seem all that scary to Phoenix. He actually kind of liked sitting in the waiting area next to Mindy, though he figured he shouldn’t be too happy right now. He glanced down at the girl sitting next to him. She hadn’t spoken a word to him at all, not since she walked in and saw him sitting there. She had let out a little gasp of confusion. “Do I….?” She was about to ask who he was, but recognition graced her features once she got closer to him. She said nothing, and sat down next to him, patiently waiting. She wore a mask of despair and tiredness.
She looked different from when he last saw her. Her eyes had a bluish tinge around them, and he wondered if someone had hurt her somehow. “It’s unkind to stare, Phoenix.” The God spoke to him. He quickly looked away, ashamed he had been gawking at someone like that. Just when he was about to consider answering the voice back, the door to the briefing room opened and Eris Goodoire stepped out. They still wore the brightly colored clothing that Pheonix found to be a pain to look at, but their expression was far too dismal for their attire.
The man behind them was tall, and business like. He wore an unbuttoned suit jacket, with a plain white dress shirt underneath. Phoenix hadn’t brushed up very well on his future fashion attire knowledge, but even he could tell that this so called detective was a little bit over dressed for his job. “Alright, thanks for being cooperative Miss Goodoire. I’m going to need to speak to Mindy next.” He gestured toward Mindy, not sparing Phoenix a cursory glance. She didn’t move, and the detective noticed this. “Hey, I said I need you for questioning.” He said it a bit louder, as if she couldn’t hear him.
Eris glanced nervously back at the detective. Suddenly Beatrice’s words of advice about listening to the law echoed in his ears. He decided to speak up. “Uh...'Excuse me, miss. He need you.” It was a bit broken, but he was sure it got the point across. Mindy seemed to shake out of her stupor when she heard his voice. She looked up at him confused, before she suddenly seemed to remember where she was.
“Oh, right.” She said, hollowly. She got up, and made her way into the briefing room with the detective. Eris sighed heavily, and took Mindy’s spot next to him. They both sat quietly for awhile.
“So,” Eris began. “Any idea why they want you here?” They asked.
Phoenix thought for a moment, he had been trying to muster up an answer to that very question himself, but he just couldn’t understand what the death of Darius Winters had to do with him. He shook his head. “No, I know nothing.” He said.
The two of them sat in uncomfortable silence for a little while, neither even looking at the other. Phoenix had to wonder how he came to be partners with someone like Eris Goodoire. It wasn’t just their terrible taste in clothing, but their name and their looks. There was just something achingly familiar about them, yet he couldn’t place why. He had never met Eris before, and seeing how this was the future essentially, he couldn’t have met them. Still, he had a hard time looking at their face for too long. It scared him a little.
“What’s Paradox like?” They suddenly asked. He jumped at hearing their voice.
“It’s nice.” Phoenix said. “Good people there.”
“Really now? How long have you been in Paradox?” They turned to look at him.
“Some months. I have few missions, though.” He answered. “We’re partners. You and me.”
Phoenix nodded. “All members get partner when they join, eventually.” He said.
“I’m not joining Paradox though.” Eris said, which surprised Phoenix. “I was supposed to just go for practice, not to be a member or anything.”
“Oh.” He didn’t know what say to that.
“I don’t think I’m even going to do that now…”
“Yes you are, ma’am.” Charlton arrived at the precinct. He walked toward them, a stern look on his face as he spoke.“I know this has been a rather difficult two days, but you need to control your powers however you can.” He nodded at Phoenix. “Hello, Phoenix. What brings you here, tonight?”
“I don’t know.” He answered. “What….what will he do? When I go to the room with him?”
“You’ve never been to a precinct before?” Eris asked, confused.
Phoenix shook his head. “I have never seen a police officer before.” He said.
“No need to worry, then. You just have to answer his questions honestly.” Charlton explained. Phoenix looked taken aback.
“He will ask me questions? About… Darius Winters?”
“Most likely. That’s what they asked me about, anyway.” Eris said. They leaned back in their chair, and closed their eyes. “He’s a strange one, that detective.” They murmured.
Charlton took a seat, and the three of them waited for Mindy to come out of the room. Phoenix and the God of the Sea played a friendly game of I-Spy while waiting, and then the door finally opened. The Detective looked smug when Phoenix saw him, and this time the man decided to give him a once over. He seemed to grow even more secure of himself when he glanced at Phoenix.
"Your turn." He pointed toward Phoenix. Phoenix got up, slowly. He looked at Charlton and Eris, who both gave him encouraging looks. The Detective ushered him into the small breifing room, and Phoenix relaxed when he saw what the room actually looked like. Just a table, two chairs, and white walls. Nothing to be afraid of in here, and the Detective even gave off a friendly vibe. "Take a seat please." He gestured at a chair at the end of the table. Phoenix gingerly sat down in the plastic armchair, and faced the detective with a brave face. He seemed younger than most adults Phoenix had seen in this building, and he held a nice, kind air about him that made you want to trust him. "I am wary of this one, Pheonix." The god whispered. Phoenix gulped nervously at his words.
"So, Mr....Phoenix, is it? Can you tell me why you were sent here this week?" The detective asked. Phoenix nodded, though he didn't answer. The detective cleared his throat, impatiently.
"I...I came to meet my partner." He said, slowly. The detective nodded, and scribbled something down on a notepad. Phoenix couldn't read it very well, it was all in english. "Ask his name, match stick." The god spoke again. Phoenix was glad he had someone else in the room to guide him, just a little. "What's your name?" He asked, clearly.
"I am detective Roland Moore." He answered. "You seem a little more talkative than I thought." Roland observed.
"I just don't talk very well. In english." Phoenix explained. Roland nodded, chuckling patronizingly.
"Yeah, I can see that. So you're meeting a partner. Would that partner happen to be Ms.Goodoire?" He asked.
"Yes, they are my partner. I got no chance to tell them in time. I was..." He searched his mind for the right word. "Late." The detective nodded.
"Okay, that's unfortunate I guess." Roland shrugged the answer off as if it didn't matter to him. "How did you know Darius Winters?"
"I didn't. Not actually." Phoenix said. "I just met him. Couple days ago."
Roland smriked, and gave Phoenix an amused look. "Really now? So this is the angle your playing, huh?" He asked. Phoenix looked at him confused.
"I know you can hear me, Dehxi." Roland seethed through gritted teeth. He was glaring at Phoenix, but he had a feeling that Roland wasn't really looking at him, but rather in him instead. The Rolun spoken into the room was a sound that Phoenix missed dearily, and he nearly gasped when he heard it. Roland continued on, a completely new person than the one Phoenix had aquainted himself with. "You can't keep ignoring me like this. First Goodoire, and now you?! I would think you'd have had more class than that." He gestured toward Phoenix. "And what is this host you have chosen? This wasn't the deal at all!"
Suddenly, Phoenix felt a burst of pain from his left eye. It was excruxiating, and he tried to scream, but that familiar calm song of the waves washed over him, claiming his voice. His mouth spoke words that were not his, and his voice trembled like it was somebody else's. It was somebody else's. "I had no choice, Daraeya. The boy was the closest thing to a healthy body then. That idiotic village leader was poisoning them all with your jewel, yet he laid untouched." Phoenix could still see out his other eye, and was able to read Rolands- no Daraeya's, facial expressions. He calmed down a little.
"I can't believe you." Daraeya shook his head. "Do you know how long I have been trapped in the mortal realm because of Goodoire and his stupid antics? Far too long! You said you would get the jewel back, and in my hand."
Phoenix felt his shoulders shrug against his own will. "I am sorry, Daraeya, but I am trying. You will have to be more patient." He said. "It doesn't even matter right now, what matters is this mortals death." He must be referring to Darius Winters.
Daraeya shook his head sadly. "He was Brune's host body." He said. "Brune is lost with no anchor, and no lover, and no-" Phoenix was so utterly lost and confused at this point. He didn't want to interrupt the God of The Sea, however.
"Enough of that. We have roles to play. You find out who killed Brune, and I'll get another shard along the way. We can't keep talking for too long, the other's will grow suspicious of Fexixote." Dehxi, the God of the Sea, spoke Phoenix's name, and it shocked him deeply. The pain receded, and it was almost as if it were not there at all. Phoenix rubbed his eye, softly. Daraeya looked him over.
"You will follow what Dexhi says, won't you?" He asked, threateningly. Phoenix nodded, earnestly. He nodded, "Good. Don't tell anyone about this talk, though Goodoire has probably spilt the beans already, knowing how he is."
"Who...?" Phoenix asked confused. He felt like the name Goodoire was familiar, yet he never knew why. If Daraeya knows the name well, then maybe there is a reason for that.
"Nevermind that. Dehxi will explain all, he is a powerful god. You should feel honored you are his host." Daraeya said. Phoenix just nodded again, and Daraeya dismissed him.
"I will explain all at a quieter time." Dehxi spoke from within his mind. "Just act normal. If the others ask you what Daraeya talked to you about, just say Darius Winters. I was right to be wary of that one, Felixolo...." Dehxi sounded like he regretted ever going into the briefing room with Daraeya.
"Yes, you were very correct."
“Do you really wanna go now?” Eris asked her quietly. They stood in the tiny apartment, alone save for Charlton who stood outside the door. He had offered to drive Mindy to the airport if she wanted, and Mindy had agreed wholeheartedly. Eris was afraid of Mindy leaving, but they couldn’t really blame her.
“Yes, I have to. My lab is back home, and...I have something I need to check over again.” She said. Eris knew she meant the weird, blue blotches around her eyes. They looked like bruises when Eris first saw her, and it kind of freaked them out. Now they were just faint lines of indigo that could barely be seen on her dark skin. Mindy wouldn’t really explain what had happened, but Eris had found a terrible blue mess when they returned to the apartment yesterday, so it must have been something bad. They tried asking, but Mindy was dazed that day, and almost not like herself. They shrugged.
“Yeah, okay. I understand. Just take care, alright?” Eris said to her. Mindy smiled, sadly.
“I will try to. The detective has given me a lot to think about, however.” She sighed, and left through the door. Charlton escorted her to the car, the only one he and Eris had managed to buy for themselves. They waved goodbye to the two of them, as they headed off for Mindy’s flight. When the car was long gone, Eris sighed heavily, and flopped back on the couch, tired. I have about 2 hours until Charlton gets back with the car. That’s enough time for a visit.
They arrived at Max Heighnsworth’s record shop in about twelve minutes later than expected. Max was still open, and the last customer of the day seemed to be shuffling out with a bag of records and cds. Eris waved at them, and they smiled back, not at all suspicious of what New Jersey’s number one Music Hero was doing at a record shop. Max’s new shop was a lot different from the dingy, poster ridden music hall back in Georgia. For one, none of his classic posters were out, which was fine with Eris, but the entire aesthetic from the ceiling to the cash register was drastically different from before. It seemed grunge bands were popular in Provence, for some reason. There were a lot of weird looking metal posters on the wall, and the decor of the room was purely gothic. It was like walking into a halloween supplies store in the middle of june.
Max spotted them standing outside, and admiring (mostly gawking at) the new makeover. He practically ran outside to greet them, and it seemed to Eris that Max’s new design choices went further than just the shop. Everything he wore was black. His hair, his shirt (which was nicely pressed, they might add), his pants, and his shoes. “Hey!” he greeted. Eris raised a hand, nervously nodding to him.
“I see the record shop has gotten a makeover recently.” They said, chuckling a bit. Max scratched his chin sheepishly.
“Yeah, well ‘give the people what they want’ is what they always say.” He said. “Come on in! I’ll show you a roundabout tour of the place.”
Eris laughed, and decided to go along with it. “Yeah, alright. Show me around.”
Max lead them through the small space of the shop, and showed them almost every inch and corner. Eris could tell he was very proud of this little shop of his, as he gestured toward every poster, and every record he owned in the place. “All the old stuff is in the back. I had to remodel my whole look to attract business around here.” He explained.
Eris picked up a horrid looking album cover that contained flames, a skull, and...is that a minotaur? “I didn’t know Provence was into this kind of stuff. They seemed....I don’t know, old schoolish.” They said.
“I thought so to. Normally, small towns like these are into that rockabilly shit, you know?” Max shrugged. Eris nodded, painfully remembering the time their neighbor threw two brick messages through their window.
“Yeah, I guess.” They trailed off. Eris breathed in deeply, steadying themselves for what they were about to do. “Anyway, I didn’t just come for a tour of the place Max, though this is a nice shop...I wanna ask you about this.” Eris took from their pocket the green Moth pin. Max’s friendly demeanor disappeared entirely when he saw what Eris held in their hand.
“Damn.” He said, after awhile of just staring horrified at the pin. “I guess she wasn’t lying then, you really did find it.”
Eris raised an eyebrow. “She?”
“Leila said you and Mindy found my moth pin.” Max shuffled his feet awkwardly.
Eris gasped quietly. “So it is your’s. You’re a Paradox Agent?” Max raised a hand to his lips hurriedly.
“Shut up! I’m not supposed to talk about it. Leila’s orders.” He said. “That moth of her’s could be listening in on us.” He glanced nervously at the pin.
Eris crossed their arms, slightly peeved. “Leila has been giving a lot of orders lately. She told that Phoenix guy we were partners.” They said. “I think she thinks I’m joining up as an agent, for some reason.”
“You’re just training though, right?” Max asked. Eris nodded.
“Yeah, that’s the plan anyway. Only problem is I don’t know where to go for training. Only person I knew who knew the way was Darius, and well...I can’t train yet. I’m staying in town to solve his murder.” They said. “I can’t just leave it like this, Max. Whoever killed him held a grudge.”
Max sighed. “Well, you are a Super now, I guess. But supers don’t really…solve mysteries. They stop crimes from happening, and you’re a little late for that, don’t you think?” He said, shoulders sagging. “I didn’t know the guy personally, but you are right about one thing. It seemed way too malicious for just a spur of the moment kind of deal. Stringing him up on the building and what not.”
Eris threw the moth pin back at Max, who caught it, and put it away swiftly. “Well that’s one mystery down, at least. But there’s two more I’ve got to solve. You know the detective who came by and asked us questions?”
Max nodded. “He came by the other day, asking all sorts of things. Like what kind of music Darius liked, and how I knew him.” Max shook his head, confused. “He also...knew I was an agent. Somehow. He wanted to know Paradox’s involvement with Darius, and all this other stuff I couldn’t really answer. What’d he ask you?”
“That’s the thing. He didn’t ask me anything. He just told me a bunch of stuff about the case. And I think the oddest part of all of this is the rope that was used on Darius. It’s not rope.” They explained. “It’s...wood. Really intricately carved wood, apparently.”
“Wood? Come one, Eris. You don’t really believe that do you?” Max scoffed. Eris shrugged.
“I don’t know either. But the guy invited me to forensics today. They want me there for some reason, the science people. I don’t know what you call them, but those guys in white lab coats who look over dead bodies and shit.”
“Wow. Okay. That’s...a little odd. You don’t think they suspect you or anything?” Max asked.
“No.” Eris said. “I think it’s worse than that. I think...I think Provence may have a Villain on the loose.”
“Ah, there you are.” Roland Moore, the detective investigating Darius’ death, greeted Eris as they walked into the dark forensics lab.
“Are you sure I’m supposed to be here?” Eris asked. A woman in a long, white coat came up to the two of them, and stuck out her hand. She had blonde, shoulder length hair adorned with cutesy bows, and barrettes. She smiled warmly, as she looked up at Eris.
“Yes you are E.G! We’ve personally invited you here for help.” She shook Eris’ hand. “Well, more like I invited you here. Sarah Guddenhair, at your service.” She chuckled. She gestured toward a long table in the dark room, which held an array of what looked to Eris like a bunch of branches from a tree. “This here is the rope we found tied around Mr.Winters. It’s pretty odd, don’t you think?” Eris reached out to touch one, and a piece of the brittle material broke off in their hand, leaving a smudge of stiff, brown dust.
“What is this stuff? And how did they wrap Darius in it if it’s so...hard?” They asked. Sarah came around to the other side of the table.
“I can answer that one easily! You see, the rope is made out of what I think might be made of plasma.” She beamed, proudly.
“Plasma is a real thing? I always thought that was just a fake, made up thing for sci-fi movies and shit.” They exclaimed. Detective Moore spoke up.
“It is very much a real thing. But, Sarah is wrong about it being plasma. It is wood, simple as that.” He said. Sarah pouted, and Eris began to wonder what age this woman was supposed to be.
“Roland thinks it’s some kind of super power. Like your abilities, or something.” She said.
“We ran into a super a couple of years ago with plant powers. He turned villain early on in his career, and we never caught him.” Roland walked up to the wood on the table, and inspected it carefully. “This wood looks exactly like the cedar and oak he used to tangle up a few robbers, back when he was a super. He had an alias, something like ‘Plant Man’.”
“And you want me to catch this…’Plant Man’? I don’t even know where I can possibly start looking for this guy, for all I know he could be dead.” Eris said, bluntly. Villains were not known to live a long life, especially if they were old.
Sarah clapped her hands excitedly. “That’s where I come in! You see, we’re gonna test this wood, and you’re going to help!” She said, happily.
“Okay, but how? My powers aren’t exactly plant related.” Eris said, holding up their walkman plainly.
“Provence is kind of on a tight budget, and we here at the lab don’t actually have any of the high tech equipment we need to...analyze whatever this thing is.” Sarah said, dejected. Her entire demeanor changed immediately, and her shoulders slumped. Then, she perked up lightning fast. “But cedar and oak make an odd noise when it comes into contact with loud noises! And who better to make noise than…”
“A Music Hero. Got it. So you want me to just blast music as loud as I can?” They asked. Roland nodded.
“Make it as loud as you can, but be careful not to make it too loud. I like having my hearing.” He said.
“Same here. Keep it to a minimum, when it comes to the noise.” Sarah stretched her arms lazily in the air, and sat down in a reclining office chair.
Eris turned back to the wood on the table, and picked a piece of it up. They held it in their hands, and they had to say it certainly felt like wood. Why do they even need me, it’s obviously wood.
The song screeched out of the walkman at an unearthly level, and Eris’ ears hurt. They dialed the volume back, completely forgetting how loud the first few seconds of this song were. The wood vibrated in their hand, and Eris held it up to their ear. Was this the strange reaction that Sarah was talking about? They couldn’t hear anything coming from the wood. Then suddenly, they felt it come alive in their hand, and the wood went limp. Roland looked at it closely, curious about it’s properties. Eris turned the music off completely. “Icredible.” Roland whispered, as he took the rope out of their hand. “I don’t remember this being in his skill set, though. As he learned new tricks?”
“Or maybe this isn’t his doing? It felt like....like…” Eris tried to pin it down.
“It was an illusion.” From the doorway, Leila stood there, a cane now accompanied her. The moth, Charlotte, rested gently on her head not fazed at all. “Eris, it’s good to see you here.” She greeted.
“Why are you here, Leila? You seem to have a talent for showing up at the strangest times.” They said. Eris crossed their arms, slightly suspicious of the Paradox leader.
“I called her here.” Roland explained. “Your agent was...useless when it came to questioning, so that’s why you’re here.”
Leila smiled, demurely. “Of course. I will answer anything you ask of me.” She said.
“Lets do it here, and now. First question, how do you know this is an illusion?” Roland surprisingly started his interrogation right then and there. Eris felt that might have been a bit uncouth of him, and maybe even a bit unprofessional. But then again, Roland didn’t come off as a professional person.
“I know this is an illusion because I can do the same thing, albeit with a bit more flourish and Charlotte’s help.” She said. She went to go take a seat near the table with the wood, and she gingerly picked a piece up. “However, I did not make this, though that may sound suspicious. I have a clue who did though.” The rope was then succumbed to a throng of tiny moths that fluttered around it in a green blur, and then disappeared in a burst of sparks and light. The wood had been transformed into the rope that Roland still held in his hands.
“Woah!” Sarah breathed in amazement. “That’s awesome! How did you do that?” She asked eagerly.
“My questions first, please.” Roland pushed her aside, and she huffed with a pout and a childish cross of her arms. “How is it that Paradox is connected to Darius Winters?”
Leila sighed, sadly. “Snowflake was partnered up with Paradox. We worked together to further the education of the students at Snowflake, using the technology Paradox owned.” She said. “I’m afraid that’s a lost cause now.”
Roland moved on. “Whose this suspect you have in mind?” He asked. Leila stood up, and walked over to Roland. He stepped back tentatively.
“Charlotte says you already know who he is.” Leila said, quietly. “She says ‘You two are old friends’.” Eris felt a bit creeped out with Leila and her weird telepathic moth.
Roland seemed to be considering it however. “Old friends…” He looked at her sharply, and looked her over, suspicious. Eris wondered what the hell was going on, when suddenly Leila smiled, and walked to the door.
“I feel our interview has come to an end now.” She said. “I will think over what you have said, Mr. Moore.”
Roland didn’t object, it was a rather short interrogation, and Eris wasn’t sure they could even call it that.
And then she left. Sarah whirled around in the office chair, spinning it around. “Well I guess we were both wrong. Man, what a bummer.” She said.
“We have a lead though.” Roland announced. “I’m going to be leaving Provence in a couple of days, and I want you to come, Eris.”
“Wait, what!?” They exclaimed. “Why me?”
“Not just you, that Phoenix kid too. Both of you are integral to catching this perp.” He said. “We leave for Seattle in two days.”
“Seattle! The guy is all the way out there?” They asked.
“Yes. Be ready.” Roland left, presumably to do more research on whoever this villain was, or maybe to buy plane tickets to Seattle. Going to Seattle didn’t seem fun. At all. And Roland didn’t even bother to explain anything, as usual.
“What’s wrong with Seattle?” Sarah asked. “I heard it’s a cool city.”
“Nothing. It’s just...I don’t know. I’ll see you later, Sarah.” They said.
“Okay! Call City Hall when you get there, we’ll all be waiting to hear how the trip was!” She said, cheerily.
Eris smiled, but it didn’t really match how they felt. Charlton was not going to like them leaving to Seattle.
Especially with his husband there.
The plane had an unsettling calm over it, Mindy noticed that no one talked or whispered, no babies seemed to cry, no kids seemed to scream. Everything held an air of bated breath like the entire cabin was waiting eagerly for something to happen. It made Mindy anxious, she hated the silence. Looking around, she noticed the man slumped on her arm sleeping, though he looked to be snoring loudly, didn’t so much as mutter in his sleep. The seat was cramped, but then again, so was everything else on the plane. Mindy was more concerned with the silence than the seat space. She couldn’t think with how quiet everything was. It made her want to scream, which she knew would be seen as an extreme action, but it still nagged at her like when she was back at the hotel.
She bent her body out into the aisle to get a better look of the plane, hopefully trying to catch the attention of one of the steward’s. The front of the cabin wasn’t empty, but none of the attendants were very attentive of their surroundings. One woman had her head lolled back, drool forming on her uniform as she slept soundly, but quietly. A man in an apron with the flight logo on the front leaned lazily against the cockpit door, not minding that he was potentially blocking a path to the pilots. No one but her seemed to be fully aware of the atmosphere on the plane, and this unnerved her even more so than anything else. She gulped, anxiety slowly bubbling to the surface. She could feel that something was wrong, like a perfect painting with a few missing details, there was just something off about the whole scene.
“Silence is supposed to be a calming attribute.” A voice rang out through the quiet. It was feminine, yet deep and slightly accented. Mindy couldn’t place where the voice came from in relation to her seat in the plane, but she knew the accent was definitely Nigerian. “I can feel your heart racing from all the way down here, what’s wrong?” The voice asked. Mindy made as if to speak, but found that she couldn’t. Her own voice had grown tight with worry. “Ah, my apologies, young doctor. Allow me.” A moment passed, and that tight feeling went away. The anxiety was still there, but her voice had returned.
“Who...Who are you?” Mindy asked, quietly. She didn’t think speaking loudly would be appropriate, despite the woman talking cleary as if she were next to Mindy.
The woman laughed. “I am...many things. A God is what you should think of me as. I rule over the earth, you know.” She explained.
“You’re god?” Mindy asked, awed. More laughter from the woman.
“Not the one you’re thinking of, doctor. I am my own God. They call me Dexarte, Goddess of the Earth and many Trails.” She said. “It’s a long title.”
Mindy scoffed. “To be sure. Well...why are you here, Dexarte?” She asked. “I know I’m a doctor, but there’s only so much I can do.” Dexarte chuckled lightly.
“I am looking for someone.” Dexarte said. “You know him by the moniker ‘Phoenix’. We’re supposed to be looking for someone else together.”
“I do know Phoenix.” Mindy said.
“Of course. I know this already.” Dexarte explained. “I am a God remember?”
“Then you will have no trouble finding him, right?” Mindy said, smugly.
“Well now, I didn’t say any of that. I do need your help.” Dexarte said. “Tell me where Phoenix is.”
Another moment of silence passed before Mindy spoke again. “No.” She said simply. Dexarte sighed, with a hint of amusement.
“I see you are braver than I thought.” She said.
“I will only tell you if you reveal yourself to me. Stop hiding, wherever you are.” Mindy said. Dexarte seemed to think it over, because Mindy did not hear the Goddess’ voice for quite sometime.
“Very well.” She said, finally. A soft snap of fingers could be heard from somewhere in the plane, and when Mindy looked next to her near the aisle, she nearly jumped from fear at the sight of a woman standing there straight backed as if she had always been there. Dexarte made for an alarming sight. Her skin was dark, and her hair was a light, stone gray. It curled in excessive amounts down her back, in a poofy, frizzy train. She wore a short, cream colored dress that ended at her knees in the front, but continued onward in the back; tiny bows and butterfiles were littered here and there along the dress. Mindy looked at the womans face, and saw that she had quite some years on her. Wrinkled laugh lines formed around her eyes, as she smiled down at Mindy’s startled expression. Intricate, sprawling golden tattoos were etched onto her face, around her grey eyes; they looked like ancient henna designs to Mindy. Suddenly, her meeting with the detective comes to mind. “What’s the matter, doc? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Dexarte joked.
“Or a God.” Mindy smirked. “So you really are a...Goddess. Not just some super with a fancy outfit?” Mindy asked her, raising a skeptical eyebrow. Dexarte nodded.
“I am indeed a God. And now that you have seen me, you will tell me about Phoenix.” She said. Mindy cocked her head to the side, she was feeling a little more brazen than usual, and that’s a wonderous statement considering the more recent events in her life.
“What do you plan on doing to him?” Mindy asked. “You don’t exactly seem dangerous, but I’d bet everything that you’re keeping this whole plane quiet right now all on your own.” She gestured toward the plane passengers.
Dexarte swiped a finger across her tattoo, underneath her right eye. “Sharp eyes. I am doing just that. I only need to speak to you, after all.” She admitted. “I already told you why I need to see Phoenix. To find an old friend of ours.”
Mindy nodded. “Yes. But who is this friend of yours?” She asked. It was the first time Mindy saw the Goddess’ easy demeanor slip a little.
“I’m afraid that’s none of your business doc.” She said, tense. “Why do you want to know?” Mindy looked away from her, self conscious.
“There was someone I once knew who...well, he had connections to strange people.” Mindy began. “He passed recently, and I had no idea what to do. However, I’ve been told something very revealing about him that makes me highly suspicious of you.” She explained. Her hands clasped the sides of the seat tightly, as if the plane were falling at mock speed.
“I am certain I could not have known this friend of yours.” Dexarte laughed, quietly. “I may be a friendly God, but I don’t fraternize with everyone I meet.”
“I understand. But he has certainly met you, he just wasn’t...aware of it. You appeared to him in a different light.” She said. “In a different body, with a different voice, and a different name...even a different gender.” Dexarte squirmed uncomfortably where she stood. “You could’ve met him when you were someone else, is all I’m trying to say.”
“Yes. Perhaps. What was his name?” Dexarte asked, frowning.
“Darius, Darius Winters.”
Dexarte’s eyes lit up in recongnition. “That name...is familiar. I have met him before, you were right. He has passed you say?” She asked, sadly. “I used to work under him, as an assistant in his lab. Are you the same as me? An assistant?”
Mindy shook her head. “I was a student, I guess. This detective mentioned him meeting someone like you a few weeks before he was-” She stopped herself, and Dexarte looked away.
“This detective of your’s is right about a lot, it seems.” She said. “He didn’t mention my name, I presume. Otherwise you would’ve recognized me.”
“It was just a small description, but it’s stuck with me for awhile. I thought at first that the detective meant a super of some kind, but to see an actual god…” She sighed. “It’s been kind of a hectic week for me.”
“I can tell, just from looking at the trail you’ve left behind. You have had quite the exciting life.” Dexarte said. “But still, I need to know the whereabout’s of Phoenix. I’m sorry about your friend, really, but this is important.”
“Phoenix is with a friend. In a town called Provence, New Jersey.” Mindy answered. “So...you don’t know anything about how he could’ve...died?”
Dexarte shook her head sadly. “I’m afraid I didn’t even know he was gone until you told me just now. I’m sorry.” She said.
“It’s fine.” Mindy said. “I was just hoping.” They both sat there in silence for a short while before Dexarte moved. She bent forward, directly in front of MIndy’s face, and grabbed the girls head in her hands. Dexarte then proceeded to lightly trace something below her eyes, along the bridge of her nose, on both cheekbones.
“If you ever need me for anything, trace along your eyes and I will be there.” She said. “I have to go now. I don’t have much keeping me on this plane, except for this.” She held out an ingot of iron from her pocket.
Mindy felt along her face where Dexarte had touched her, very confused, but willing to hopefully try it out when she got the chance. Dexarte smiled at her, and waved, before she disappeared again entirely. MIndy looked around for her, wondering where she could’ve gone, but stopped when she realized the plane was filled with noise. The man next to her was snoring loudly, two kids were playing games in the next aisle back, and passengers chatted while the plane flew them to Goergia. Mindy’s thought’s were far from home, though.
Phoenix had never seen a plane before, and it amazed him that such a wonder existed in this time. He stood in an empty airport lobby; Charlton sat wearily in a seat, seemingly tired of having to drive people back and forward between home and the airport. The night sky was blank, and heavily clouded as Phoenix laid a hand on the cool glass of the window. He had also never seen windows before, oddly enough, though as he stayed in the future longer he wondered why his tiny village never had any.
“Probably because glass was something I had specifically tried to create myself.” Dehxi spoke to him, quietly. Phoenix perked up a little, intrigued. He glanced at the tired butler slumped over his knees sitting exhausted in a lobby chair. He felt it was safe to speak, but only if he were quiet.
“Really?” He whispered.
“Yes. It was...a challenge I set upon myself.” Dehxi chuckled lightly. “Though, now that you and I are linked, I don’t doubt we could try for it ourselves.” The god said. The very idea excited Phoenix, he tapped his finger against the window, as if trying to get a feel for the material.
“That would be fun.” He said. “Maybe I could bring some of the glass back with me.” Phoenix couldn’t see the god, of course, but he could feel a shift in temperament.
“Young one...You don’t actually think that....”
Phoenix’s brow furrowed. “I know. I was just...I hoped that I could go back. But, I understand, it might not be-”
“Stop muttering, Mr. Phoenix. Please, it’s a little concerning now.” Charlton spoke up from his seat.
Phoenix jumped at his voice, and blushed slightly embarrassed. “S-sorry.” He said. “Is...is Eris back yet?”
“No. They’re not back yet. Roland is still...discussing stuff...with them.” Charlton sighed, and rolled his head back. Phoenix shuffled his feet awkwardly, looking away.
“Why don’t you check on him, Fexi. I am...worried for him.”
Phoenix cleared his throat, and breathed in deeply. “A...are you okay, Charlton?” Phoenix asked him, looking at him concerned. The butler glanced at him, almost surprised he had even spoke again.
“Um...yeah. I’m fine. I must look terrible right now, though.” He said, chuckling. “I just...I’m just a bit tired, you know?”
“From all of the driving?” Phoenix asked. He wasn’t exactly sure how cars functioned, but it looked like a lot of work to him.
“No, it’s not...Look, driving you guys around isn’t the problem at all.” Charlton spoke informally. It was odd hearing him speak casually, especially to someone he only just met like Phoenix. “It’s this...trip. Seattle. God, I never thought I’d even set foot in that city again.”
“Seattle is a safe place, no?” Phoenix said.
“It is, it’s just...I can’t really talk about it right now, Phoenix. It’s personal.”
“I am still worried...we will watch and see. Maybe he will feel better with time.” Dexhi spoke.
Phoenix let the issue drop, and decided to take a seat next to him. The two of them sat there, again, in silence just waiting for Eris to come back out with Roland. They had been gone for about fifteen minutes now. The plane hadn’t arrived, it was one of those late arrivals that Charlton hated so much. People milled about further along in the airport, but they were so far away, they might as well not be there at all. Phoenix tapped his finger gently across the soft, felt covering of the office chairs provided in the lobby. He wondered silently what Seattle would be like.
“It’s a big city, not like Provence at all.” Dexhi said. “[i]There are towers larger than any you will have ever seen, Phoenix.”[i]
That sounded wonderful to him. He wanted to say something, but Charlton was sitting next to him, and he already told him off for muttering.
“So...where exactly are you...from, Phoenix?” Charlton asked him. Phoenix didn’t jump this time from his voice.
“I am from an island. It’s gone now, though.” He said. He then thought about taking back what he said, from the horrified look Charlton gave him.
“Gone…? What do you mean?” He asked, hushed.
Phoenix gulped. “Well, I...my home was destroyed, a long time ago.”
Charlton shook his head. “I heard that part, it’s just-which island? I haven’t heard anything about that on the news, or anything.”
“That’s because it was before this time. A long time ago.” Phoenix reitirated.
“It was way before your time, Charlton.” Roland and Eris finally returned from wherever they were hiding. “I would explain, but we don’t have a lot of time. The plane’s supposed to be arriving any minute now.”
“Seattle is gonna be awhile, so let’s just sit for a bit.” Eris said. They slumped in the seat next to Phoenix, and Phoenix noticed they still wore that horrible costume.
“Perhaps they just like bright colors, Phoenix. Though...I wonder how one could possibly fit those colors into a proper Paradox uniform.” Dexhi laughed, lightly.
“What are planes like?” Phoenix asked them. Eris shrugged.
“Meh. They’re like...a bus, or a car. Except with lots of other people in them. And in the air.” They said. “Roland already told me about...whatever is going on with you. Time travel, huh?”
Phoenix balked. Roland, or rather Daraeya, must have told them. She was still keeping a hold of her identity though. Roland glared at him, which was enough to let Phoenix know he should keep quiet about the whole Daraeya/Roland thing. Charlton sat up straighter in his chair.
“You’re a time traveler?” He asked, astounded. Phoenix was somewhat familiar with this term since he joined Paradox. Crow, a friend of his at HQ, had used the phrase to refer to his situation. Phoenix just nodded, feeling slightly uncomfortable with all of the sudden attention.
“I guess that explains...just about everything. The weird accent, and odd clothes.” Eris said, and Phoenix felt insulted that they would call his clothing odd, when they were constantly dressed like...that.
“I take it you don’t like pastels, huh Phoenix?” Dexhi asked. Phoenix didn’t know what a “Pastel” was, but if Eris’ clothing was anything to go off of-
“The plane is here.” Roland announced, and the three of them got up to enter the terminal. Charlton stayed where he was seated, and Eris looked back at him, concerned.
“Charlton, are you sure you want to come?” They asked. Charlton breathed in deeply, and looked up at them.
“I...Yes. I have to, Eris.” He said, standing up. “I’d have to face him eventually, anyway.”
Eris held their hand out to him, and the two of them linked arms. Phoenix trailed behind, but Roland prodded him in the back. Or rather, Daraeya did. “We have to go now. Someone is following us.”
Phoenix fought the urge to ask who, and just walked briskly to the plane’s gang way.
The plane ride was surprisingly calm. Phoenix garnered a few odd looks from the other passengers, but none were inherently malicious glares like the ones Roland/Daraeya kept shooting him from across the aisle. Eris and Charlton sat next to each other a seat behind him, and he couldn’t hear anything back there, so he assumed everything must be going fine. There were children on the plane, which surprised Phoenix as he thought putting kids of all people thousands of feet in the air was just about the worst idea ever, but none of them seemed over all scared. Except for maybe a few, the plane was an oddly serene place to be.
He laid his head back, minding the old woman next to him reading a fashion catalouge one of the stewards had provided. Soon, they took off, and Phoenix barely felt anything as the plane rose. With time, they reached the skies, and while Phoenix wasn’t graced with having a window seat, he could still see the night sky out of the window next to the old woman. She was snoring peacefully now, Phoenix noted. He himself began to feel a bit drowsy, even tired. He closed his eyes, maybe when he woke up, they’d already be in the magnificent city of Seattle, where towers were as tall as the clouds.
“Phoenix! Stay awake!” Dexhi’s voice was a distant memory in his ears. He could barely hear him at all. “It’s a trick! Someone is putting you to sleep! Xal, wake up already!” Hearing rolun, even if it was an offensive curse, jostled him awake but only a little. He looked around the plane, his vision blurred with sleep. He couldn’t hear anyone talking, not even in hushed tones. Roland lay, slumped forward in his seat, though every once in awhile, he would jolt and jerk every which way. Daraeya must be fighting whatever was lulling them all to sleep. A sharp, but quick pain, stabbed Phoenix behind his eyes, and suddenly he was able to think and see clearly.
The plane was alseep, no one moved or spoke. Phoenix could hear Eris and Charlton snoring quietly behind him. “What’s going on…?” He asked, quietly.
“It’s Dexarte. She’s found us. Or rather, she’s found me.” Dexhi said.
“Right you are, old friend!” A voice from the plane spoke. It held a deep, feminine baritone and she had an odd accent that Phoenix had never heard before. “So you’re Dexhi’s new host?”
“Who...who are you?” Phoenix asked. He stood up, slight fearful.
“Relax. I am a friend, not an enemy. Like your dear Dexhi.” She said.
Phoenix looked all around the plane, but he couldn’t see her. “Could you...show yourself? Please?” He asked. Dexarte chuckled.
“Of course. My apologies. I’m a little new to planes myself.” A snap of fingers could be heard, and suddenly she stood a few steps away from Phoenix in the aisle. She had dark skin, and cream colored dress with bows and moths littered on the hem. Her hair was gray, and it fell down her back in a poofy trail. She looked at him cheerfully with unusual gold eyes, rimmed with-
“You have Tala marks!” Phoenix said, and he felt a rush of remembrance of his home. His own sister had Tala marks all along her arms, she said they were for good luck and wealth.
“Ah, it feels nice for someone to recognize my marks as what they are!” Dexarte said, smiling. “Though, I did not come here to talk about Tala. I am here to help you.”
“She could have done it with a bit more tact…” Dexhi grumbled. Dexarte laughed.
“You always were a jumpy one, Dexhi.” She said. “I understand we’re looking for-”
“You wretch!” Roland, or rather, Daraeya was now awake. “You come hunting us down like lost dogs, and have the audacity to-!”
“Oh. It’s you, Daraeya.” Dexarte said, deflated. “I had not noticed you among the mortals.”
Daraeya was shocked silent for a minute, her mouth hanging open. “How-how dare you! I am the God of these Skies and you will-”
“So we’re looking for Tul, right?” Dexarte ignored Daraeya completely, and the latter seethed in her seat, angry.
“Yes. He is Darius Winter’s murderer.” Dexhi said. Dexarte looked down at her bare feet, saddened.
“So it is true then...he really is gone…” She said.
“You knew?” Phoenix asked. She nodded.
“I tracked your friend, Mindy Diasco, for answers on where to find you two. She...told me Darius had passed some time ago.”
“Yes, yes, it’s all well and sad, but what about the god that was residing in him? Who cares about the mortal-” Daraeya began, but Dexarte shot her an angry look.
“I cared for the mortal, Daraeya. Look, we both lost someone, so let us work together and catch their murderer.” She said. “Tul killed them, but...why?”
“Tul...he is a god...I have heard his name before.” Phoenix said.
“But of course you would. He was worshipped in temples on the island. The God of Nothing, remember?” Dexhi said.
“God of Nothing” did sound somewhat familiar to him. “Why would he do something like that? Aren’t you all...the same?” Phoenix asked.
“Humans kill other humans, don’t they?” Daraeya said, cynically.
“We are not so different, sometimes.” Dexarte spoke. Daraeya scoffed.
“I guess it’s not impossible for a God to...travel so far, so fast. He is thousands of miles away.”
Daraeya nodded. “Though he is God of Nothing, he is not without power. A God who owns nothing, owns everything.”
Seattle was not looking to be a promising place to visit.
The Seattle Airport was sleepy and filled with a depressive air. Eris stretched their arms in the air, groaning at a crick in their back. They rubbed their neck, agitated. They had slept on the plane, though they don’t remember being sleepy when they first got on the plane. They turned to Phoenix, who seemed to be just muttering to himself. “Let’s not keep the other’s waiting.” They said, grabbing his arm, and pulling him along. Roland and Charlton had walked along to go and get something eat, Roland seemingly being more awake then the rest of them.
Phoenix walked beside Eris, though a bit awkward. Neither of them talked for a few seconds before Eris bumped his arm lightly.“Hey loosen up, will ya? I’m not gonna bite you or anything.” They chuckled. Phoenix looked at them confused at first, but it soon cleared and he laughed along with them.
“I am sorry. I am not...used to most of this, yet.” He gestured vaguely at the airport around them. There weren’t a whole lot of people milling about, the staff seemed to be more or less not actively working, or haven’t even arrived yet. It was a slow day for flights.
“Don’t worry about it.” They shrugged. “I’ve never really been to Seattle either, so...it’ll be a experience for both of us!” They smiled, and Phoenix nodded confidently.
Phoenix cocked his head to the side, with a far off look in his eyes, and Eris looked away. He sure does space out a lot.
They walked on further, and Phoenix laughed to himself a few times, slightly worrying Eris a bit. They decided not to question it, not knowing if he had some kind of condition or something. It’d be pretty rude to just comment on it, and it’s just laughter anyway. Eris spotted Roland and Charlton walking back together with what looked like food, and Eris felt grateful for their sudden appearance. They ate, and headed out of the airport. Eris walked faster, to stand beside Charlton, and patted him sympathetically on the arm.
“Do you still remember where he lives?” Eris asked him quietly. Charlton just nodded, as he hailed a cab.
“Eris...you realize he’s not going to be happy to see me.” Charlton spoke. Eris sighed, gravely.
“Yeah, I know. But he’s got ties, Charlton. If there was anyone who could help us, he could.” Eris said. “And besides. If he has anything to say to you, he would’ve said it years ago.”
Roland cleared his throat, and gestured toward the taxi waiting for them all. “Let’s get going then, if you don’t mind? We have a lead to catch.”
Eris shook their head at his blunt attitude, but got on nonetheless, squeezing in between charlton and Phoenix. Roland sat up front with the driver, seeing as there was no more space in the back. The drive to Pickington was short, and Eris didn’t know to be relieved by that or to scream. The driver wasn’t allowed to drive onto the premises of the mansion grounds, so Eris and crew had to walk the long walk up Eric Garland’s driveway. The house, Eris had noted before even stepping out, was a multi millionaire’s pad. Eris had never seen Eric Garland, and they had never known he was a rich, business man before Charlton told them a few years ago. That was when he had first told them about the divorce, or rather, Charlton running away in the middle of the night.
“So Garland knows the guy we’re looking for?” Roland asked, studying the mansion with a bored look on his face. Eris wondered if anything ever phased him.
“Yeah. Garland has eyes everywhere. He’s...kind of like my mom.” Eris said. “Mindy says she’s started some kind of rebellion against supers. If there was anyone who’d back her up in a heartbeat, it’s him.”
Phoenix gawked at the giant house. “Is it a temple? Like a place of...worship?” He asked, taking it all in.
Charlton sighed. “No, it’s just a house.” He said. “Let’s get this over with.” He walked right up to the big, front doors, and rang the doorbell. After awhile, Eris almost thought no one would answer, but then a short man in a nicely pressed suit, and slicked back blonde hair opened the door. He squinted annoyed at Charlton, but then his face fell when he realized who was at the door.
“You.” Eric’s voice held absolute menace. Roland pushed Charlton out of the way, and Eris couldn’t even be mad at him, seeing how Charlton stood frozen in place with a look one could only describe as extreme, inward pain.
“I’m Roland Moore, with the Jersey Police Department. We're here to ask you a few questions.” He said. Eric looked at Roland, and scoffed. He took in Eris standing next to Charlton, whose eyes were completely downcast. He didn’t even bother to spare Phoenix a glance.
“Oh. I see.” Was all Eric said. He shook his head patronizingly at all of them, and opened the door wider. Eric walked into his house, and talked to his guests, not bothering to address them at all. “So what, you come back after 15 years with two boy toys, one who doesn’t even look old enough to be out of highschool no less, and some runaway super freak?” He flicked a cigarette out of his coat pocket, and Roland gawked at him.
“Excuse me?” He asked, completely offended. Phoenix was feeling as if he didn’t very much like what Eric was saying, and Dexhi was growing restless just being around this man.
Eric chuckled, “Oh I’m sorry, ‘Officer’. Continue on with your cover story. Something about a murder?”
“It’s not a cover story.” Eris said, staring Eric in the eye. Eric rolled his eyes, and puffed on his cigarette.
“Right. Just like you being one of those Super freaks isn’t just a cover for running away? You’re all just a bunch of runaways, huh?” He asked. He pointed a lazy finger at Phoenix. “Come on, tell me. What’s your story, Tanto? Are you a runaway, or a liar like ‘Officer Moore?’”
“Sir, that’s enough. Someone’s dead, and you know who did it. So start talking.” Roland spoke, his voice tight with impatience.
Eric just took another drag, and let out a trail of smoke. “I don’t care.” He said simply. “If he knew them than they’re probably better off dead.”
Eris and Charlton stood in stunned silence at his carelessness and lack of empathy. Roland seemed close to snapping at him. But then a wave of calm washed over the room, and all eyes were trained on Phoenix as he spoke.
“You shouldn’t speak like that. I know you’re mad, but please consider. A man is dead, and you can help us catch his killer.” He said. Eris blinked at him, surprised he was speaking so clearly now, like someone was talking through him. “You don’t have to trust Charlton, but you can at least trust me when I say the man who died left before his time, and that that is a grave injustice. He’s left behind a remarkable scar on the world just by leaving it, so please if you know anything, tell us.”
Eric studied him closely, before closing his eyes. He sighed, and dragged a hand across his face. “Alright. Fine. I will play along, just this once. But I will talk to only you. No one else.” Eric hissed. Phoenix nodded.
Roland objected to this idea. “No, that’s-”
“Only him, or no one else. I’ll make you leave my house, and you won’t be back. You want information so much, you can talk to my lawyer instead of me, do I make myself clear, Mr.Moore?” Eric asked. Roland bit the inside of his lip, stubbornly before giving in.
“Fine! But he has to ask my questions.”
Eric shrugged. “Fine by me. Come on, Tanto. Let’s get this meeting over with.” Eric walked them down a long corridor to what was essentially his office. Eris stayed put by Charlton’s side, but Phoenix followed Eric Garland inside of the small space. The small, well groomed man glared at him, as he entered.
Eris looked after him, feeling sorry for not vouching to talk to Eric. Phoenix walked in the office room seemingly alone, but not really. As the doors closed, all Phoenix could hear were the voices of two Gods coaching him on what to say.
One as angry as a storm.
The other as calm as the sea.
Mindy stood outside of the Snowflake youth center. The small, squat building was more likened to an advanced YMCA than a place holding geniuses from all over. No one was outside in the parking lot, it was mid-afternoon so she assumed the staff had left to get lunch. She didn’t see any of her colleagues in the round bay windows in the front, though the secretary was still there typing away on the computer. Mindy took a deep breath, steadying the glasses on her face, and took a few steps into the building. The air conditioned air hit her first, and then the familiar smell of the cleaning solution used for mopping the floor. Darius used to hate the smell, she thought. The front room was decorated with dark, ombre flowers and pictures of Darius sat everywhere they seemed to have found space. Somehow, this was worse than the terrible festival in Provence. The secretary had noticed her walking in, and simultaneously connected the dots.
“Ms.Diasco, you’re back from Jersey.” She said, simply. She was a short, stocky woman with curled brown hair held together in a neat bun. Her plain, pressed white shirt and khaki pants were hidden behind a large circular desk that encased her. The desk help even more pictures of Darius, yet Mindy could feel her eyes blocking them from her peripheral vision. The woman, whose name was Caroline as was written on the nametag pinned to her collar, stared at her with a confused look. “Um....well would you like the keys to your lab? It’s been cleaned for you while you were gone. Free of charge, of course.” She said, Mindy could see her avoiding her eyes. The glasses hid most of the changes, but not all it seemed.
“Yes. That will be all, thank you.” Mindy said. Caroline nodded, reached under her desk, and handed her the keys to lab 808. Once the keys were in the palm of her hand, she turned and sped down the long, white corridor. Mindy had been wrong when she guessed that everyone was out for lunch, there was a seminar being held in one of the smaller classrooms. Snowflake always had a confusing layout, at least to Mindy. Darius always complained about that too, she thought smiling. Her eyes began to burn with the familiar need for tears, but Mindy already knew that none would come. Two metal elevator doors stood before her, she didn’t know she had even made it to the end of the hallway. They slid open, and two excited students, GT kids on a tour of the place probably, stepped out. They stopped talking when they noticed who it was that stood in front of them. One tall, and with a tangled mess of blonde hair smiled at her, warmly. Mindy returned it, though weakly.
The other one, short and freckled with a black and old fashioned shaved bowl cut shuffled his feet. The two boys looked ecstatic to see her, and Mindy just knew she would hate being alone with either of them so they could bombard her with questions about her theories and latest breakthroughs in biochemistry. However, she relented and stepped in the elevator anyway.
“You’re Mindy Diasco, right? Oh my god, can I just say that I’m a huge fan!” The blonde one squealed. “It’s so hard to find others who accept the neurosis theory on single cell embryos. You have no idea how many times I get laughed out the room whenever I bring it up.” Mindy laughed, though this time it felt genuine.
“Oh I’m sure I know what you mean.” She said. “It took me a awhile to gather enough evidence for it, and even I got a few strange looks when I first proposed the idea.”
“What even is that? I’m confused.” Said the other boy.
“I apologize, I’m Theodore Grannity, and this is Meln.” Theodore patted his friend on the back.
“Meln?” Mindy said.
“It’s an old york name. My families weird, and traditional.” Meln said, looking down at his feet. The two of them wore dark, navy blazers with a special patch ironed onto them front breast pocket, so Mindy assumed they had to have come from some private school. The elevator dinged, and the doors opened.
“This is my stop. I guess I’ll see you two around.” She said.
“Uh, probably not. We’re just students at Manafort, so it’s a field trip kind of deal.” Theodore explained.
“The center is open to all. Stop by anytime you want.” Mindy said. “It doesn’t have to be my center, but if you’re ever interested-”
“Wait.” Meln stepped out of the elevator, Theodore close behind. “Um...can I ask? What...happened to your eyes?” Mindy balked, and put a hand to her cheek, only to find her fingers come away stained blue.
“Jesus.” Theodore breathed, horrified. “Are you okay, Miss?” He asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. She shook it off, holding in the shudders that threatened to rack her body.
“I-I’m fine. It’s just….it’s a problem I can handle, don’t worry.” She said, wiping the inky blue tears on her cardigan sleeve.
“Are you sure you’re not sick or something? It could be serious.” Meln spoke, worried.
Mindy nodded. “I’m sure. It’s just something that’s been happening to me for awhile now. I’m certain it’s nothing radioactive are acidic in nature, I may have harbored some kind of genetic mutation in me and never realized it until now.” She said.
“Genetic…? Like, a super? You think you may have had late power syndrome, or something?” Meln said.
“Yes. though it doesn’t seem to be major change like flight, thank goodness.” She chuckled. “Just odd, blue tears.”
Meln stood there silently, assessing something in head and it was out of his mouth before Mindy could him down completely.
“Do you think I could come with you, and examine this...uh...mutation of yours?” He asked. Mindy shook her head.
“No. It’s not exactly that big of a project-”
“People are disappearing, miss. People who had powers and people who supported them, that’s why I…” Meln whispered, scared. “Also, I know you aren’t too keen on grievances, but I’m grieving alongside you. Darius Winters was someone my family knew well, and I feel I have to...repay him somehow. You’re like his daughter, so it just seems right of me to try to help you this way.”
“Meln…” Theodore looked worried for his friend. “That’s sweet but maybe she doesn’t want-”
Mindy looked around the corridor, and noticed that there was no one else with them. This floor was strangely empty. “Not here, Meln. We’ll continue talking in my lab.” She said, eyeing a camera situated at the end of the hall. If Georgia wasn’t safe than what made her think the Youth center was? They walked to 808, and Mindy locked the door behind them. The lab was cluttered with huge equipment, and beakers of medicine and chemicals. Mindy’s heeled boots clacked against the tiled floor as she made her way over to the last place she had been when she was in this lab. The antidote still sat there, it’s prototype at least. “I think I may need help. And I don’t have a whole lot of options here at home.” She said.
Theodore walked up next to her. “Help huh. Well, I don’t know what I could possibly offer, I mean you’re the genius among us, Diasco.” he said. He eyed the strange, blue antidote on the counter. Meln was looking at the various equipment in the room, enthralled. “I can only guess that this has something to do with your current situation?” Theodore said, pointing at the antidote. MIndy shook her head.
“No, actually. I didn’t...take any drug or chemical that made me this way. That’s why I proposed it was a genetic mutation of some kind, because this didn’t begin to manifest until after I had made...this antidote.” She gulped. “I fear if I am to be honest with you, I should tell you everything. Though it’s not a happy tale.” She sat down, and Meln and Theodore followed suit, taking a seat on two swivel stools. Mindy then recounted the story of Soundria, and her friend Eris Goodoire. How Eris’ parents had used the drug as a means of torture and punishment, and the end result of it being Surround Sound. “It’s a terrifying power if you really think about it. On the surface it sounds like a pleasant, and wonderful gift. To create that which you see in your mind when you hear your favorite song. But it’s a dangerous power, and I fear it is too late to reverse the effects it has had on Eris.” Mindy said.
“Eris isn’t a villain is she-” Meln asked.
“They. And no, Eris isn’t a villain. They’ve become a small town hero in Jersey. That’s why I left in the first place, to give them an antidote, to fix my mistake. But they’re...strangely happy. They’re content with Surround Sound, and they seem to have somewhat control over it now.” She shook her head. “But now things have gotten to deep. Darius is dead, and some super killed him off. When Darius died, I was wrought with grief, and while I still am saddened by his death I have to focus on this.” She stood up, facing them both. “I believe he was hiding something from me, about me. Like, maybe he knew all along that I had this power.”
“What makes you say that?” Theodore asked. “He put you through tests or something?”
“No. I’ve gotten these suspicions from an unlikely source, the detective investigating Darius’ murder.” She walked over a filing cabinet and pulled out relatively secretive information she had hidden from sight. “He told me that Darius was connected with Paradox, you two are familiar with their agency?” She asked.
“I know a little about the Paradox Agency, but I thought they were like...a myth. An agency of supers who help people with impossible problems? Sounds like a fairytale.” Theodore said.
Meln nodded. “Yeah, No super nowadays would think to show their face around Georgia, and even before illegal Hero duties was...uncommon. It could get you in a lot of trouble if you went around saving people with heat vision and flight, you know.”
“Yes, well. Darius had no powers, that I am sure of. Paradox is a very real Agency. I had the pleasure of meeting their leader herself.” Mindy frowned at the memory. “The detective said that while digging through Darius’ things, he found messages between him and a Paradox Agent. Someone called ‘Bobi Adolow’”. She spread the files out, and laid them out for the three of them to look at together. “These are blueprints for something Darius had been working on a long time ago. I can’t even comprehend what they are but-”
“Holy shit…” Theodore looked awed. He then fist pumped the air, excited. “This is a huge score, Diasco! You don’t know what you have here? It’s prints for a fully functional robotic core unit. I’ve only read about these in journals, but this is incredible to actually see prints of it.”
“Core unit?” Meln asked, confused.
Theodore nodded. “Yes, it’s a new innovation in the prosthesis field. The idea is basically to implant a metal energy core in the amputees back, and with a few adjustments done to the actual prosthesis, they will be able to have a functional arm that works just as well as any other arm.” He explained. “It’s never been tested before, not even on animals. But if Darius built a core-”
“Or rather, he implanted on inside of someone, than that would explain who Bobi Adolow is.” Mindy conceded. “Still doesn’t explain my problem though.”
“Perhaps it’s a side effect? You could’ve been living near a core, and it’s affected you in some way?” Theodore just shrugged. “I have no clue, actually.”
“I don’t think those two things are connected. I think we have to dig deeper. What do you say to us experimenting with those...tears of yours.” Meln proposed.
Mindy nodded. “We can work on that, yes. But there are...more pressing matters at hand. This Bobi Adolow person...knows who Darius is. They probably knew him years before I did. We have to find them.”
“What? Why?” Meln asked.
“I’m working alongside the detective. He’s asked me to help him find this...person. He and Eris have gone in search of one person, and now I have to find this person.” She said. “This is going to take a long time. So if you intend to help me, prepare to stay for the long term.”
“Yeah, sure. We can visit the lab like you said. Manafort is a few miles away from here, so the trip won’t be too long away…” Theodore calculated. He pointed at the glasses on her face. “What about those weird marks on around your eyes? I hope those are just hennah tattoos.” He smirked.
MIndy smiled, tired. “Unfortunately, these are another beast all together. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it though.” She said. “I will explain at a later date. For now, let’s focus our attention on finding this Bobi Adolow person.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Meln asked.
Mindy just tapped the side of her left eye, cryptically. “I have a way, don’t worry.” she said. Looks like she would need Dexarte’s help sooner than she realized.