The following is a complete work of fiction.


This is my first City of Heroes Fan Fiction. If you are not a person who knows the City of Heroes MMPRPG, some of this story may not make sense. However, like my X-Universe Fan Fictions, I have written enough background into the story that I believe it is accessible to anyone who likes science fiction and comic book worlds.


The following story may contain erotic situations between consenting adults. If it is illegal for you to read this please leave now.

Any resemblance between the characters and any real life person is completely coincidental. Please do not copy or distribute the story without the author's permission.

The characters, places and world of this story are the exclusive property of their original authors, publishers and production companies. No assumption of copyright has been made in this work.

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City of Heroes - Book 1

Awakenings - Chapter 4

The broken brick wall was not the most comfortable thing to sit on, but it was solid and gave me a good view of the training area. Exhausted wasn't a strong enough word to describe how I felt. Urioch had expressed his concern about my overtaxing myself since the construction site disaster. He'd expressed his concern every night, without fail. He meant well, but living with a know-it-all, who usually did know it all, was annoying. I was a big boy. I could take care of myself. I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees as I tried to catch my breath, and eyed Blaize as he leaned against the wall near to me.

"How the headaches?" Blaize asked, grinning at me, knowing full well I wouldn't tell him the truth.

"Not bad," I mumbled, wishing I had taken two Aleve at breakfast instead of one.

"Yeah, and my grandma's a gringo." He took a swig of his water and held it out to me. "You're going to pass out, Deathman. Get some fluid in you before they have to your ass in bed again."

Muttering something vulgar about his parentage, I took the bottle and swigged. I'd forgotten my water. Hell, I'd forgotten my lunch and my training pass. I wanted to avoid another breakfast of lectures, so I bolted from the apartment before getting my shit together. I took a second swig as I watched Onyx, Tar Patch and Impulse try to take down the training drones. We were better at teamwork. We weren't great, but we tried. We tried really hard. Handing back the bottle, I frowned. "Heard any word about Battlement?"

Blaize grunted, looking at me like I had two heads. "You don't know, man?"

Stretching, I tried to keep my back from cramping as I cooled down. It wasn't working. "Know what?"

"His ass is planted behind bars." He tipped the bottle back and finished the water in a series of gulps. Tossing the thing aside, he pointed and vaporized the plastic before it could hit the ground. "Good riddance. I hope mutant-bubba rips him a new one."

"Why's he back in prison; more illegal mods?" I was certain if a PPP trainee had broken parole, it'd have been all over the news.

Blaize spit. "Hell no. The prick just stood there man. All them dudes were falling and dying and he just stood there." I didn't have to look at him to feel his sense of violation. "You was burn'n out your brain. Janet was runn'n her skinny ass off. Lenny was toss'n about so much black shit that the place looked like a sticky midnight. Sharonda was ruin'n her stone-cold attitude try'n to keep the place from falling down around our ears. What was bad-ass Battlement do'n? He was finish'n his smoke, watching the show." Blaize's eyes leaked fire as his temper rose. "Demonicalle was all over his ass afterwards, but he just stood there and said 'I was on break'."

"No fucking way!"

Blaize pushed off the wall, snarling. "Way. Big way, man. My only wish was that I'd been there when the jack tried to walk. Said he had better things to do than to baby sit us losers." I'd never seen Blaize so worked up. I knew he and Battlement didn't get along, their egos had a hard time squeezing into the same room, but he was taking it way too personally. "Brawler pounded his arrogant butt so deep into the ground you'd have thought he was drilling for oil. Then he dragged Battlement's broken ass off to jail."

I grinned, hoping to lighten the mood. "Well, at least now we know that Brawler will kick our asses if we don't toe it."

Blaize snorted, but I could see a small grin he was trying to hide as a bit of his anger fizzled. "Yeah. I hope he keeps his other promises too."

His bad ass mulatto, street kid attitude had been dissolving along with some of my own attitudes since our first day of field-training. It was one thing to be told, theoretically, that you made a difference. It was quite another thing to be on the front lines, and see the results. We all wanted to feel like we'd made a difference. Twenty-five people had survived because of us. That didn't make the fact that people died any easier to live with. Sliding down from the wall, I raised an eyebrow at Blaize. "So, what are you going to do when you get out of the program?" I asked. "Janet's going to be a big time designer. Sharonda wants to join Hero Corps; they hire out as paranormal bodyguards to CEOs and politicians, so she'd be doing what she was doing before - just for the good guys. Lenny just wants to own his own restaurant."

He grinned. "You ever watch Hero Rides or Chopper Beyond?"

"Not much. I love the hotrods, but I hate the attitudes." Even on TV, watching people yelling and getting in each other's face made me ill. I never used to be that way. Empathy was turning me into a weepy, bleeding hearted wimp. How was I supposed to stop the bad guys if I couldn't face anger and conflict?

"That's what I want to do, man. Not on TV, but I want to chop cars and bikes, especially if my security clearance could get me into working with the hero tech stuff. Could you imagine being the guy to custom Brawler's bike?"

"That's cool." I looked at him as I felt his mood lift. "You really love it, huh?"

"Yeah," he grinned, "my big brother was a mechanic before the invasion. I would sit in the garage for hours, handing him tools and stuff, while he rebuilt old junkers into classics."

I frowned. "The Rikti, huh?"

Blaize nodded. "Yeah. He'd just made it big, hired by a big-ass shop that specialized in foreign cars and classics over in Baumton. Now the place is the Big Boom. They ain't even been able to clean the place up."

I blinked. "You've been to Boomtown?"

Frowning, he shrugged. "Yeah. Outcasts get in through the sewers. They duke it out with the Trolls and the Lost, the clocks are everywhere scavenging parts, and we have to dodge the Vahz. In the end, it's the same shit, different zone; it's all about territory."

"I always thought Boom couldn't have been as bad as the photos."

"Bad, man. It's real bad. The place still has hot zones, years later, where the ground is hot enough to slag your shoes. The only place I hear is worse is the Crash Site."

That was depressing; the last thing I wanted to think about were all the disaster zones that were still around the city. They'd cordoned them off so well, putting up the barrier walls to slit the city into defensible zones, that at times you forgot that just on the other side of a barrier wall could be a whole other world. "So, how do you plan to get in with a chopper?"

"Brawler said he knows a guy who has his own specialty garage, with security clearance to do work for Capes. He didn't tell me where or who, but that the guy was willing to take a Program Graduate as an apprentice. If the Big B is for real, I'll have a job and shit as soon as I can get my security clearance." He grinned at me. Blaize wasn't a bad looking guy, but his nose was hooked from being broken a few times and he had more than a couple gold teeth. I was sure, on the street, he could find plenty of ass if he wanted it. "So, Deathman, what are you going to be when you grow up?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. I'm in college. My parents always wanted me to go to college. I haven't found anything that makes sense yet, so I'm just taking the basic liberal arts shit. I don't have any life long interests like you, Janet or Lenny. I'll probably end up either in Pffft, or Hero Craps."

Blaize and I looked up as a shadow passed over us. Sunlight glinted off blue metal and I stifled a groan. Urioch landed near us, my water bottle and training pass in one hand, a paper bag in his other hand. "You left your pass, Jason. I made you lunch."

"Thanks." I snagged the bag, bottle and badge with my thoughts and set them on the wall behind me. Clipping on the badge, I looked back at Urioch. "I'd have survived, Urioch."

"I have a task force mission, which may take a few days, and I wanted to be sure you knew before I left." He checked his call box before looking back at me. "It was no trouble to bring your food and water with me."

Okay, I was a prick. "How long will you be gone?"

"A couple days, three at most."

Three days? What kind of mission took three days? "Where?"

"Boomtown." His call box signaled again, and he pressed the acknowledgement key. "On my way." He looked back at me. "I will see you in a few days."

For a moment, it looked like he was worried I wouldn't be there when he got back. It was a stupid thought, so I pushed it aside. "Sure, get out of here." As he launched skyward, I yelled after him. "And don't get your metal clad ass kicked!" I didn't know if he heard me, but I felt like I had just sent a friend off to war.

Blaize watched Urioch's light trail fade over the buildings as I tried to figure out why I felt another knot in my stomach. "So that's the alien guy, huh?"

"Yeah, that's Urioch."

"Cool that he brought you lunch before head'n out."

I didn't look at Blaize. I couldn't quite tell if he was razzing me or was just generally amused. "That's the pointy-eared freak for you. Where ever he's from, they must have all been Boy Scouts. He can't go a day without doing his good deed."

Demonicalle waved at us from the far side of the training zone. Blaize slapped my shoulder and started down the rubble. "Come on, Deathman. Horned Mamma wants a family meeting." I hadn't even made it to broken street when Blaize grinned at me and nodded up at the wall. "Lunch and water, bro."

"Don't you start," I snarled, looking back and summoning the bottle and bag from above. I gripped the sack, not sure if I was frustrated, pissed, or something else. "I've already got a nag, Blaize."

He chuckled, and I could feel he was only getting started. "Not for the next few days, Deathman. Someone has to make sure you have your porridge while Papa Bear is in the forest."

"Asshole." The rest of the day was hell.

I thought I'd have enjoyed a few days without the alien Boy Scout. The first night I didn't notice; I'd been too tired to pay attention to his absence. The second night was nice, quiet, and I could bum around the apartment without feeling like I had to be productive. The third night, no Urioch, and I didn't sleep well. I kept waking up when I thought I heard a door close, a flush, or any other sound that might have been Urioch's return. I didn't even touched the chess set. It sat on the table exactly as we'd left it the night before he went on Task Force. I couldn't do anything with it, it was his move. Saturday morning, the fourth day, I was going nuts.

Another day alone in the apartment without a big, intrusive, curious pest to ignore. I hadn't thought I'd miss the annoyance. I wandered around the apartment, paced really, wondering where the fuck Urioch was. I snapped out of it whenI realized I hadn't moved from my spot near the balcony for nearly an hour. It was nuts. I wasn't going to go crazy worrying about some steroid-pumped elfin reject from Miss Manners' School of Alien Etiquette. I left the apartment, determined to do anything but think about Urioch. I ended up at the Cauldron, ordering up a coffee, but wanting a beer. I didn't even like beer.

"Where's your better half?" Jonathan asked with a smile as he set down my latte and sandwich.

"Out there doing it better, obviously." Twirling my finger in the air, I studied my unwanted BLT. "Like it matters." The problem was, it did matter; Urioch wasn't there. All I knew was he was beyond the security gates to Boomtown, and I didn't even have the clearance to go look for him.

"Might as well talk about it, Jason. You want to." Jonathan leaned on the counter and regarded me patiently.

"You're not my shrink." I poked at the sandwich with my coffee spoon.

"Your shrink isn't here."

I sighed. I liked Jonathan. He was a little creepy, but he was cool. "Urioch has been out on task force since Wednesday."

"Which one?"

I blinked. I had no idea there were multiple task forces happening. "Uhm, in Boomtown."

He shook his head. "Not sure which one that is. I was asked to function as back up for the strike against a Circle base. I know there is one against the Tsoo, and a large Lost operation. He could be on any of those."

One of the patrons, sitting against the far wall reading a book, looked up. His skin seemed to absorb light, but his eyes glowed with a pale blue-white energy. It was weird to watch as he set down his book, stood up, and walked to the counter with his cup. He moved in a soft mist that trailed behind him. He leaned against the counter near me, and I felt a chill. The counter top frosted where he was leaning. "A task force was evacuated from Boom last night. One of them didn't make it, and the others are in the crit-wards at Canyon Medical."

"I've got to go." Pushing away from counter, I tossed a few bills down and I ran for the door. Steel Canyon Medical was just across the park. I ran the entire way. Ignoring the police bots at the entrance, I threw my wallet, keys and change into the scanner bin, and fidgeted waiting for some old broad to hobble her way through the security check point. All I wanted to do was float her ass off the floor and push her through. Once passed the check point, I took a few deep breaths before I got to admissions.

"May I help you?" The woman at the desk didn't even look up. She continued to type away at what ever she was doing.

"Do you have a patient, Urioch?" I spelled the name out. "He would have come in last night."

She took an agonizing amount of time to key in the query, frowned, tried another, and then looked at a hand written list on a clipboard. "No, no Urioch."

"You sure? He's about six and a half feet tall, unusual eyes, pointed ears, off color skin?"

She looked at me with a disinterested, level stare. "According to the field list and the medicom scan, there is no one named Urioch at this hospital. I took the time to check the medical database for the rest of the hospitals, and he wasn't listed."

"Thanks," I mumbled, realizing I probably panicked for no reason. Just because a task force was evacuated from Boom didn't mean it was his. I left the hospital and wandered the south side of Steel Canyon, hoping some idiot Outcast or Fifth Column member would jump me. I wanted to hit something. Unfortunately, no one was feeling lucky.

Staring out the window as the tram pulled into the Galaxy station, I wondered why I'd panicked. It wasn't like Urioch was a relative. I'd only known him for ten weeks. I didn't love the guy or anything. I flew up to the balcony and unlocked the sliding door. I'd mastered the whole "float and flit", as Demonicalle called it, and was getting used to skipping stairs.

I felt Urioch, inside, and he didn't feel right. I pushed open the door, my stomach churning. What the hell was wrong? I wasn't prepared to see a bandaged, battered and bruised Urioch, lying on the couch with an ice pack against the side of his face.

His uncovered eye flicked in my direction as I closed the glass door. "Hello, Jason."

I'd never heard his voice when it didn't have a vibrant undertone. It was flat, almost monotone, and that worried me more than the bandages. Gesturing at the books on the coffee table, I floated them off as I sat down, studying the marks, cuts, tears, stitches, bruises, and burns that marred his head, face, neck, arms, torso, and legs. It took me a moment to realize he wasn't wearing anything. I blinked. He looked all human, mortal, and painfully real, save for the eyes, ears and lack of nipples. I looked back at his face, not sure if I was pissed that he was hurt, or happy he was alive. "You okay?"

"I will live." I hated the lack of vitality in his eyes and voice.

"That wasn't an answer." He used that response on me any time I tried to avoid a question. Turn about was fair play. "Are you okay?"

His eyes blurred a little, filling with tears, but he didn't break his gaze. He didn't try to hide the pain. "No, but I will survive."

I watched as a tear slipped down his cheek. That hurt so fucking much. I'd never seen or felt Urioch in pain. I swallowed, trying not to get emotional for the second time today. "What happened?"

"The task force was overrun. The team separated to expedite the extermination of the Vahzalok infestation of the facility. We under estimated the Vahzalok." He shifted the ice pack and looked up at the ceiling. "They had a new breed of monstrosities we dubbed Abominations. They were inhumanly strong, resistant to most forms of damage, and were nearly impossible to destroy." He sighed, blinking away the tears. "The task force was woefully under powered. Valkyra and I were the most powerful blasters on the task force, and we were barely able to hold the tide. In the end, we had to call for evacuation. Lady Magdalene, Jericho, and Earth King are all in critical condition. SM Syndrome is dead."

I flinched. SM had been Urioch's previous roommate. I never met the guy. I only talked with him on the phone once or twice when he called for Urioch. Urioch was over at SM and Magdalene's place at least once a week, usually two or three times. They invited me to come with Urioch, more than once, but I didn't want to be a tag-along. I looked at Urioch as he stared at the ceiling. Now I knew what alien grief felt like. It made my stomach feel like it was slowly draining of fluid and was going to shrivel up into a prune. I stood up, looking at the nearly human hero on the couch, wondering what I'd have felt if he'd been the one who hadn't come home. "I haven't eaten anything. Would you like some soup?" We had a few cans of chicken noodle in the pantry.

"Thank you, Jason. That would be nice." His eye flicked to the table where I'd left the chess set. "I see you left the game out."

I nodded, realizing that I'd left it more as a sign of hope than anything else. "Didn't know if you'd want to finish the game when you got back."

"Maybe tomorrow," he sighed, closing his eyes. I left him to his thoughts and rummaged around trying to find the can opener and such. Maybe it was time I started doing some of the cooking and cleaning. I could cook, sort of.

The hospitalized members of the task force were laid up for nearly a week. Even with advanced regenerative technology, it took time to repair and recover from serious injuries. Urioch spent every day at the hospital, seeing to the comfort and recovery of his teammates. I had school, training, and community service to do. He was never at the apartment when I got home, and returned late each night. I made sure there was something for him to eat. As tired and concerned as he was, he always thanked me for the food and asked about my day before retiring. We had a continual game of chess sitting out; we put a drink coaster on the side of the board to indicate who's turn it was when there wasn't time to sit and play. In a way, it was the only thing I could think of to show that I cared. I wished I could do more. I felt so fucking helpless.

Urioch came in Thursday night with a couple bags of groceries in his arms. I stopped the video I was watching, and waved. The bags lifted from him as he struggled to pull the key out of the lock while keeping three bags balanced. Looking at me, he nodded and finished retrieving his key. "Thank you."

Wandering to the island, I looked at the groceries. "You didn't have to go shopping. You have enough on your plate."

"I have been remiss this last week, Jason." He pulled open the fridge to unpack the bag, and stopped. The fridge was stocked. He looked at me and I shrugged.

"I know how to shop, Urioch. The only reason I don't is because you've done it since I moved in."

He looked at his groceries, perplexed as to what to do with the duplicate perishables. "I should have checked the pantry before shopping."

I grinned. "I guess I'll be eating a lot of cereal this week to use up the milk." I left him to figure out what to do with all the stuff. It was a small apartment, and we didn't have a lot of storage. "Your dinner is on the stove. I hope you like Mongolian Beef. I didn't feel like cooking."

I flopped back on the couch and restarted the DVD. I could hear Urioch shifting items around to make space, and after a few minutes he wandered into the living room holding the carton of take-out Chinese. He paused behind the couch. "Have we not already watched this?"

"Yeah," I groaned, "Forbidden Planet, again."

"You did not enjoy it the first time. Why repeat it?" He forked in a mouth full of food as I paused the video.

"Remember the assignment I had in Sociology? The one where I had to pick a social commentary on the video and write a report?" He nodded, chewing quietly. "Well, Professor Duggan was really cool about it and let me slide, but I still have to turn in the report before finals." I grinned up at him. "Unlike certain pointy-eared roommates, I don't remember everything I've ever seen and heard." Shrugging, I flipped the movie back on. "It's just a trashy old fifties movie. They were so clueless."

Urioch moved around the couch and settled down on the overstuffed arm. "Actually, Forbidden Planet was a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The underlying issues in the movie are a constant throughout human history. The struggle between intellect and desire, revenge and forgiveness, freedom and control, have been integral parts of human culture for thousands of years."

Rolling my eyes, I paused the video again and looked at Urioch. His face was still burned and cut, but he was out of the bandages. "You're telling me that this whole movie is some old piece of literature with a facelift?"

"Move your feet," he instructed as he slid off the arm of the couch. I tucked my feet up, but I wasn't giving up my space on the couch. With a smirk, I stretched my legs back out and plopped my feet on his lap.

Urioch looked at me for a moment, then picked up the remote and started the movie over from the beginning. "You should study more literature, Jason. Many of the questions people ask today were answered long ago, many times. If you do not take the time to learn what is known, you only repeat history, you do not build upon it."

"Yes, Dad," I mumbled, turning to watch the opening sequence again. I knew we wouldn't simply watch the flick. Urioch began a running commentary almost as soon as the hero's starship came into range of the planet. By the time the movie was over, it made a hell of a lot more sense. I yawned at my personal narrator and smiled. "Great, now I have to go back and read The Tempest."

Urioch smiled. "It will be good for you."

Pulling my feet off his lap, I sat up and gave him a yuk face. "Yeah, like a flu shot." I was looking forward to it, but there was no way I was telling him that.

"Thank you, Jason."

I blinked, studying his expression as I tried to figure out what he was thanking me for. "For what?"

"For the distraction and the company."

For a second I wanted to give him a hug. It was an impulse I squashed. Empathy was already turning me into a wimp. I damn well wasn't going to get gropey too. Still, it didn't feel right to just brush the comment aside. He really meant it. "We should do it more often."

"Agreed," he said as he stood up, stretching. He was still moving like a stiff old man.

"You should invite Demonicalle over to work out the aches," I joked, "she has incredible hands."

Urioch smiled. "That is a reasonable suggestion, Jason. However, I am not certain I am in any condition to reward her properly for her efforts."

Laughing, I headed for my room. "I'm sure she'd take a rain check."

"Good night, Jason."

"Night," I yawned, stopping by the table to make sure he hadn't snuck in a move. "You're move," I mumbled, and then sought out the comforts of my bed. It had been a long couple weeks.

I'd never been to a hero's funeral before. There were hundreds of people there. Family, friends, teammates, people he'd saved, and fans were all there. Urioch stood with Lady Magdalene through the whole thing. I could see why anyone would love her. She was tall, with flame red hair, pale skin, emerald eyes, and an aire about her that could only be described as royalty. She was a mystic of some kind, a healer and psychic. She stood, strong and dignified, letting her grief show but not wearing it as a badge. In many ways she reminded me of Urioch. She faced the condolers, mourners and sympathetic souls without any hint of weakness. I wished I had that kind of strength. It was quiet and understated, but undeniable.

"Will you be coming to the wake, Jason?" Urioch's voice jerked me out of wherever my thoughts had taken me. The funeral was over. How long had I been standing there, thinking?

I shook my head, trying to get the fuzz out from between my ears. "Uhm, no. I think I want to take a walk and I need to study for exams."

Lady Magdalene came over and took my hands, squeezing them lightly. "Thank you for coming, Jason. I'm sorry we didn't get to meet under more joyful circumstances."

"Yeah." What the hell could I say? "I'm really sorry about SM."

She smiled, it didn't reach her eyes but it was honest. "Don't regret loss, Jason. Try to celebrate the blessings we are given. My husband brought laughter and joy into my life. I shall not regret the briefness of our time together, for it would lessen the blessings he gave me." Kissing my cheek, she let go. "I hope to get to know you better."

"Thanks. You should come over and have dinner some time." I tried to lighten the mood, but I wasn't good at that shit. "I can burn water, but the tall guy can whip up something edible from time to time."

"I will," she smiled, and then looked at Urioch. "I suppose we should leave. Kevin would never forgive me if I were late for his wake."

"Your head may not forgive you tomorrow, if you drink as much as Kevin."

"You worry about your own tolerances to alcohol, Urioch. I will worry about mine."

I took the Tram back Galaxy and wandered for hours. How could people go and have a party about someone's death? I kept thinking back to what Magdalene said. I could feel her love for her husband, and her loss and pain, but she hadn't faked what she said. Would she really be able to just remember the good things and let the rest go? Letting go was never one of my strong points. I held grudges. I was resentful. I would never let an insult slide. Anger was so much easier than happiness, wasn't it?

I sipped my third cup of coffee as I stared out at the darkening streets. Light pooled, like islands in a sea of night, below the street lamps. The darkness seemed so pervasive, eternal, and patient. The light, from windows, lamps, and cars, all seemed so fleeting, fragile, tenuous. I tossed my cup into the trash and just lost myself in the darkness, pausing occasionally in one of those islands of light to look at my shadow. Even in a place of light, darkness clung to me. I was studying how distorted and insubstantial my shadow was, when I heard a familiar voice.

"Fancy duds, Jason."

I looked up, trying to see where the voice came from. I was in the light, the speaker wasn't. I stepped off the island, and was swallowed again by the darkness. "Thanks. Funeral clothes." It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, but I saw a couple skulls watching me from the alley. I squinted, trying to recognize who they were. It didn't help that they had their faces painted with the white skull symbol of the gang.

"Planning ahead?" I focused on the voice. Craig.

I frowned. "What are you doing on the street, Craig?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing," he grinned, but there was nothing pleasant about it. Something about Craig had changed. I could feel it. I was in the darkness, but Craig was a part of it. He stepped closer, and I could feel the darkness in him. He'd been promoted. He was a Bone Daddy. "You don't leave the Skulls, Jason. There is only one way out. We thought you took it, but you're still breath'n."

"Killer gave me my ticket out, Craig. I took it. I never promised 'until death do us part'." I scanned about, wondering where I could escape to. It was bad enough there were guys with guns. As a new Bone Daddy, I was sure Craig was planning on flexing some metaphysical muscle. He was low man on the totem pole. Galaxy wasn't the high end turf for the gangs. Still, guns and dark powers were something I didn't want to be on the receiving end of.

"Killer ain't here. You were his favorite, but that just proved he was get'n soft." He snorted, leaning in way too close for comfort. "You always were a pussy, Jason." He sniffed the air, and smiled. "You clean up good. Like the hair, nice color. I could enjoy a pretty pussy-boy like you."

"Not in this life or any other," I snarled. My thoughts lashed out, throwing Craig down the street. He hit the pavement with a satisfying crunch, but I didn't have time to enjoy it. His flunkies pulled out their guns as I dodged around the side of the building. There was no way I could outrun bullets. I didn't even have an emergency call badge. I was screwed.

Wooden pallets splintered as the first volley of bullets whizzed passed me. I turned the next corner while Craig yelled at his guys to keep me from getting away. I was "his pussy-boy". That was never going to happen. They had to kill me first; of course, Craig might have gotten off on that too. As I got around the corner, I slid to a stop and stared at the brick wall that was between me and freedom.

"Bad move, Death's Head," I mumbled to myself as the foot falls closed in. I looked around, trying to think of where to go and what to do. Up. No one ever looks up. I thrust myself off the ground and flew skyward. I wasn't fast, not like Urioch, but I could fly. I made it up to the third story, only two more to go, when they got around the corner.

"Where the fuck is he," the gunner swore as he looked around. I pressed myself into the corner and hoped they wouldn't see me. My coat and pants and socks were great, but my damn shoes were shiny, and my shirt was white. My hair was a lost cause. There was enough ambient light from the occasional window that they could spot me if they tried.

Craig made it around the corner and snarled, "You morons lost him?"

"He went around the corner, Jaw Breaker. He just ain't here."

Jaw Breaker? Oh God, and I was worried Death's Head was a stupid name. I tried to press further into the corner and thought invisible thoughts.

He glared at his minions. I was certain he was going to blast one of them out of frustration. After a few moments his shoulders relaxed. "Pussy-boy blew me down the walk, spunk for brains." Spinning, he threw his hand up at me and darkness lashed out, cutting into my flesh. I screamed. The cold that tore at me wasn't physical, and it sliced a lot deeper than any knife could. I launched upward as the darkness dissolved, trying to get over the edge of the roof. "He's a cape, you morons. Capes can fly!"

I covered my eyes as bullets sprayed against the brick walls. The last thing I needed was to be blinded by some broken piece of building material. I pulled myself over the edge and felt a sudden stab of heat in my arm. I rolled, biting back another scream, and flopped onto the roof. I gripped my bicep. Squeezing it hurt, but I couldn't be sure if the bullet had hit an artery. It also gave me something to focus on. Craig's attack had hurt everywhere; I hadn't been able to ignore it. A bullet wound, that was small, localized, and worked like an anchor. It kept me in the present.

I heard creaking and clanging from over the side of the building. They were clamoring up the fire escape. I wondered if anyone who lived in the building would bother to call the police. Most people took an "I see nothing" attitude to crime in Paragon. There was just so much of it. As long as it wasn't happening to them, it was easier to ignore it than get involved. I looked over the edge and watched the movement of shadows as Craig and crew bound their way up. I couldn't let them get up here. There wasn't any cover. I'd be toast.

"Jaw! I can't move!" The guy right behind Craig began thrashing wildly. He could move just fine, but had them all held as best I could. One guy was stuck by a hand to the railing, another was a leg, and the guy behind Craig had his feet stuck to the grates.

I wasn't sure what it was about Craig, probably his powers, but though he was slowed, he could still move. "Wimps," he barked as he forced his way through my efforts to hold them immobile.

I couldn't hold them forever. Craig was almost to the top of the escape when I realized there was an easier solution. I let them go, refocusing my attention on the fire escape, and pushed. The metal screeched as I tore it from the walls and dropped it down into the alley. The skulls yelled and pressed against the wall as the metal fell passed, smashing and banging its way to the ground. Only the upper structure, that connected the escape to the roof, had torn off. That had to be good enough. At least none of them could fly.

With hoarse yell, Craig came soaring over the side of the roof, darkness swirling about him. The bastard had used his powers to launch himself off the fourth level up to the roof. The others couldn't' do that, but that left me with Jaw Breaker to deal with. He landed, spun and let loose with some dark blasts. I rolled, winching at the pain from my right bicep, as the blasts blew passed me. "You're still mine, pussy-boy. I'm going to enjoy making you beg before it's over."

"You talk too much, Craig," I yelled back, coming up on my feet and lashing out with my good arm. I gripped at the air and clamped onto him with my psycho kinesis. "If you spent half as much time doing shit as you do talking about it, you'd have been promoted without having to wait 'til Killer was out of the way."

Jaw Breaker tried to orient on me and blast me, but he couldn't. When I wasn't trying to hold a bunch of guys over a large area, I could really put some force behind my powers. He glared at me as I walked toward him. "I'm going to rip you a new one, pussy-boy."

"How," I asked as I got right in front of him. "How are you going to do shit to me, Craig? You're a new Bone... inexperienced and trained only enough to be impressive, but not affective. I'm a cape in training. They put a lot more effort into us than the Daddies put into you." I grinned, "The name's Death's Head, Craig. Get used to hearing it, because I'm going to hunt every last one of the skulls down and drag their sorry asses in."

He glared at me, making his aura flare with a ravenous darkness that almost bridged the gap between us, but I stepped back out of reach. "I'll kill you. In the end, that's the difference between men and boys. You're a cape. Capes don't kill."

"Really?" I swung my arm to the left and he soared off the building and floated over the street. I made sure we weren't on the side his flunkies were on. "I don't remember that rule."

His power winked out as he realized he was five stories in the air and the only thing keeping him from falling was me. He was about to shit himself, I could feel it. Still, Jaw Breaker tried to save face. "You don't have the guts."

"Oh?" I replied, letting go. Craig screamed at me as he fell. I had the balls, but I couldn't do it in cold blood. In the heat of battle, to protect myself or someone else, I was sure I could do it. I couldn't just murder someone, even if the guy wasn't worth the air he breathed. Just before he got to the ground, I grabbed him again, slowed his fall, and let him hit just hard enough to knock the wind out of him. I looked over the edge, no longer scared. "That was a warning, Jaw Breaker. Next time we meet, I won't be so generous." I didn't listen to his threats and insults as I flew into the darkness. The only thing that kept the exhilaration from buzzing me was the painful throb in my arm.

Mrs. Patterson glared at me across the conference table. Why the hell did Demonicalle have to report that I'd come to training with a combat injury? She slid her glasses back up her nose and looked at the report. "You realize, Mr. Kilroy, that you are not allowed to use your abilities outside of training and sanctioned parole program activities."

"Yes, ma'am." At least I didn't say bitch. "I was mugged. My understanding is that I can use my powers in self defense."

She mumbled something under her breath and closed her folder. "Yes, Mr. Kilroy, you can. As no witness to the assault has been forthcoming, we have only your word as to the events that led up to your injury."

I snarled. "I gave permission for Amanda to scan me. She did. What was her report?"

"Telepathic scans are not admissible as evidence."

"I'm not on TRIAL." God I hated that bitch. Maybe she did follow through with what she said she would do, but she was still an anal-retentive Hun

"No, Mr. Kilroy, you are not. You need only to convince me and your trainers that you didn't break parole."

Huffing, I crossed my arms and sat back. "So how the hell do I do that? I can't exactly get more candid than having someone pick through my brain. I thought this was America... you know, Innocent until Proven Guilty."

"As you said, Mr. Kilroy, you are not on trial." Pulling off her glasses, she rubbed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and her forefinger. She thought she had a headache? My whole fucking life was one headache after another. Nailing me to the chair with her eyes, she pointed those spinster glasses of hers at me like a knife. "You will keep out of trouble. No walking the streets after dark. No late night excursions to the corner store. No naps in the park." How the hell did she know about that? "School. Training. Home. Period. I will have a talk with Urioch about taking responsibility for seeing that you have some forms of social outlet."

"I've got a parole officer now?" I think I was spitting.

"Think of him as a chaperone, Mr. Kilroy." Looking at her watch, she made a dismissive flick of her fingers at me. "I will see you in two weeks, same day and time."

I stormed out, feeling more like a criminal than I had before I'd been put in the damn parole program. Demonicalle was sitting on one of the stair walls, leaning against the lion statue, as I got out the door. I glared at her. "Thanks, Demonicalle. I really like being roasted alive for trying to protect myself." I stalked passed as she slid off the wall.

"I had to report the injury, Jason. Whenever you come into the training zone you're scanned. They would have found it in the bioscan checks and investigated." She caught up to me before I got to the corner. "I didn't know they'd call you in on it. I told them what you told me, period."

"And how the fuck did Patterson know about the 'nap in the park', huh?" That had hurt a hell of a lot more than the stupid injury report. What other personal shit did Patterson have on me?

She pulled me to a stop. "What are you talking about?"

"Patterson just put me under lock and key, Miss Thang. I quote: 'No walking the streets after dark. No late night excursions to the corner store. No naps in the park.' Why'd you have to report that?"

Demonicalle let go of my arm. If I wasn't an empath, I wouldn't have believed her next words. But I was, and she was telling the truth. "I didn't report that, Jason. Personal shit stays personal."

"Well someone fucking told." I wanted to trust Demonicalle. I wanted it so bad I could have screamed. I hadn't realized how important that trust was until it was stripped away.

"I didn't, Jason, I swear."

"Just give me some space, okay? Right now I just want to go off on someone." I looked at her, wanting so badly to feel the camaraderie I'd felt yesterday. "I believe you, Calle. I'm just hurting right now. I feel like no matter what I do, I'm always going to be a criminal to that old bitch. I don't know why I even try."

Demonicalle let me walk off, but she called to me before I crossed the street. "Don't do anything stupid, Jason."

Like I could promise that. All I ever did was make stupid decisions. I headed for the tram and back to Galaxy. The apartment wasn't even a home any longer. It was a prison, complete with a guard. It just didn't have any bars.