Hector used the tip of his knife to poke his finger, then held the knife point down over the small plate he had ready for it. Nothing happened so he ignored the confused smirk on Liz’s face and shook the knife a bit until a drop of blood fell and landed more or less in the middle of the white plate.
“Okay, so I don’t usually get this specific about how my power works but I figure you deserve to know.” he told her. “Anytime there’s more than one thing I want to do at the same time, a new me splits off. Anything I’m carrying or wearing is split off too. It’s not a matter of duplicate or original, both forms are being actively maintained by my power. Got it?”
“Mhm.” She giggled a little. “So… when one of your bodies ‘dies,’ it disappears, along with whatever it was wearing?” Hector nodded. “Thought so, otherwise the city would have been full of corpses after… well, you know.”
“Yeah,-” he grimaced at the memory, “-but it doesn’t have to be death. You’ve seen the way I keep those bags close to me all the time, at least most mes do.” She nodded.
“That’s why I made the paramedics take them. I didn’t realize they’d go poof if we left them behind but it didn’t seem like a good idea to leave your combat gear and stuff sitting around, plus whatever’s in the other one.” Her tone rose a bit at the end of the sentence, an implied question that Hector chose to ignore.
“Once they got far enough away that my power didn’t recognize them as being in my control, they’d have… ‘gone poof.'” He grinned at the term. “Thing is, the process isn’t all at once. Stuff I’ve duplicated kinda… decays is probably the best term. The smaller or more complex it is, the quicker that sets in. Biological material is pretty complex.” Hector gestured at the blood on the plate.
“Huh. It looks… paler than I’d have expected? Maybe, something’s wrong with it, I’m sure of that.”
He nodded. “Exactly what happens varies but for a tiny bit of something as complicated as blood, or… any other biological material in the human body, it stops being functional almost instantly.”
“And the same thing happens to… I don’t know, gold bars or whatever, right?” Hector smiled in agreement. “Okay, I’d wondered why you were wasting your time with the Citadel instead of just living in luxury as the world’s richest man or donating blood and kidneys all the time.”
He winced. “Yeah, that last one would be really bad. Based on what happened to the dog, even if I stayed really close by, eventually enough of my ‘donated’ material would be considered ‘not mine’ that it would start dissolving. Thing is, that’s after the recipient has started integrating it and… well, it’s ugly.”
“You experimented on a dog!?” Liz didn’t sound happy, at all.
“I was just a kid!” Hector tried to defend himself. “The Citadel has a whole set up for this sort of thing, one that I’m more or less constantly active with, but I didn’t know any better back then.”
Liz’s face relaxed a bit, then went mischievous. “So, is this your way of telling me you don’t need to wear one? Cause I gotta say, it beets the hell out of ‘they just don’t feel comfortable.'”
Hector’s face flushed. “No, I… um-” he rubbed the back of his sheepishly, “-I will if you want, whatever makes you more comfortable. It’s just that there’s not much point. I can get sick, or at least a given body can, but I’m never contagious and I can’t get a girl… y’know.” Hector was blushing hard now, and not just the one in Liz’s apartment.
Liz was just laughing now.
“I haven’t been in a serious relationship before and- well, I like you. A lot.”
Eventually, Liz stopped laughing and events proceeded from there.
Jason knocked on the door. He could have used the intercom system, or simply called her, but the whole point of this visit was to do it in person. This felt… more appropriate.
“Hello?” Jenny said as she opened the door. Her face lit up when she recognized him. “Oh! Jason, it’s good to see you.” She stepped back and opened it further. “Come on in.”
He did. Her room was similar to the one she had had during training. Little decoration, the only things that were clearly hers were a few clothes on the bed or draped over a chair, as well as the familiar gaming system connected to the TV. Jason smiled when he saw it, remembering the first time they had played A Hero’s Craft together.
“Thank you Jennifer. I realize that you must be busy-”
“Yeah, no kidding.” She let out a rueful grin. “They’ve transferred almost half our people to other city’s and we lost two to Monster.” Her face took on a momentary solemn caste. “But we’ve managed so far and I’m sure, as long as we work hard enough, we’ll keep on doing it.”
“I will not take up much of your time then. I… I simply wanted to speak with you alone.”
“Hey, if a teenaged girl can’t spend some alone time in her bedroom with her boyfriend, then what are we fighting for, right?” She grinned. It was likely a joke, though Jason did not find it funny.
He removed his sunglasses and looked directly into her eyes. She did not look away, did not move at all, just stood there as if frozen.
“Jenny. I said this to you earlier but I wanted to make sure that- that wherever you are in there, you heard me as best you can. I will help you. You are not alone. I… I’ll do whatever it takes to get you out. There… there are things I am trying, have already tried, but it is difficult to know how to proceed. I am certain… there is one thing that I am sure will work.”
For a moment, just the barest moment, Jason was sure he could see the real Jenny looking back at him, the Jenny that needed him and the Jenny he cared about. Not this… this shallow caricature of a teenaged superhero. Then the moment passed.
“But it is a last resort. Please, do not give up hope. It may take time but I promise, I will save you. I don’t care about the cost. I will save you.”
She didn’t speak until he replaced his glasses.
“Well, um, thanks Jason. I get a lot of offers of help. I know, deep down, that everyone wants to be a Hero, even if that’s not possible. But… I think, if we all do what we can, as little or as much as that may be, that it’ll work out. So, thanks for your offer, it means a lot to me.”
Jason nodded and turned to go.
“Good bye Jenny.”