Hector crouched, putting the bulk of the car he was using for cover between himself and- the opposite side of the car crumpled as Jason slammed into it- the probable impact point. Huh, he’d been a bit off. He’d expected his friend to land a few feet short of the parked vehicle.
“Can I simply kill him yet?” Jason asked before he began prying himself free of the car’s twisted remains.
“Jason, we’re not killing him just to end a Class Five.”
Hector had already cleared all the civilians from the area, nothing more than mild injuries and he’d been able to give first aid to everyone as soon as they were out of danger. Most had left under their own power at that point but a few had gone looking for vantage points to watch the rest of the fight. That meant that no matter what, they couldn’t afford to kill the Empowered who was tearing up the shopping center.
“No one’s in danger but us now and I promise you, you do not wanna see the shitstorm we’ll have to deal with if you kill a five year old.”
Hector rose from his- now compromised- cover and opened fire. He got off three gas grenades before the floating child turned its eyes, glowing a bright purple, towards Hector. Hector ducked back down as two other hims popped up to do the same thing. One of them watched a brief spark of purple light deflect each of the grenades he’d just launched.
The area was surrounded with a haze of irritant gas, not quite thick enough to provide useful concealment thanks to a stiff wind. The kid was just inside a ruined restaurant. Hector knew it had been a steak place but couldn’t tell the name now. The whole front wall had been torn away before he had arrived. The other hims ducked down and he stood back up, this time with the flashlight.
Well, flashlight may not have been the best term for it. The thing put out something like five thousand lumens, more than enough to blind someone and, if he focused the beam, could burn skin. He’d been careful to keep it diffuse enough to avoid that so far. The point was to distract the child while Jason got in close not maim him. Really, the gas was probably pushing it but there just wasn’t a good way to fight a telekinetic child.
“What is this all about?” he heard Jason ask through his microphone.
It was followed immediately by another purple flash and the muffled thud of an impact. Several of him looked around but he couldn’t- nope, there he was. Jason had managed to get his hand buried before the hit. Instead of being flung backwards he’d remained more or less in place, albeit with his arm stuck nearly to the elbow into the ground.
“Candy.” Hector heard that one loud and clear. It echoed through the whole area like the voice of a pissed off god. A whiny, petulant god. One of the Greek ones then.
Jason paused, a piece of rock in his left hand while his right was raised to strike.
“You have done all this damage, hurt and perhaps killed people, because you desire candy?”
“Are you insane!?” Mary demanded before she could think of a wiser response. “You want me to, what, assassinate the Tyrant and exterminate his thralls? The best case scenario, the absolute best one I can imagine from that is that I commit genocide.”
“Probably, but I like to think it’s the productive type.” William Power said.
Mary blinked. She- she had no idea how to answer that.
“And no, we don’t want you to kill the Tyrant. Frankly, if that was our goal, we’ve got better options.”
Mary cocked her head. If that wasn’t it, then…?
“You’ve met the Juggernaut, know what he can do.” Power continued. “Combine that with a clairvoyant, someone that can pin down the location of the Tyrant’s body well enough and we could have killed him any time we wanted in the last decade. Longer, really, that’s not the only method, just the first one that comes to mind.”
Shift spoke then. “He’s already dying. We need to know if you can fix him.”
Mary sat back in her chair. “And… the rest of it?”
The director sighed. “His own stipulation. He wants a- a deadman’s switch I suppose. If you can’t save him, he wants to make sure his people don’t outlive him by long.”
She could feel her mouth gaping at the idea. “Is- he wants- He’s holding the population of an entire continent hostage?”
The floating child shook its head. “Was careful. No one die.”
Hector could see Jason relax a bit at that. Woops, he hadn’t told his friend that. He’d thought they’d just been lucky, the force of the blows the kid at had leveled at them were more than enough to kill someone. Though… not one of them had hit any of the Hectors present. Near him, sure, but not actually hit him. The child had torn up real estate and cars, tossed Jason around, but…
“Ask him how he knew you could take it.” Analyst Hive told Jason.
“You struck me hard enough to kill a normal person. Were you being careful then?”
“Uh huh. Saw you on TV. You strong, strong is safe to hit harder.”
Jason dropped the rock, gestured around himself as he spoke. “Then why all this? Just because you were denied… candy?”
Hectors’ visors zoomed in automatically as they detected his focus on the child’s face. He could see it scrunch up as the boy answered. “Sissy said no. Momma told her no candy for me. Momma said stay home too. Sissy took to see boyfriend. Sissy do that so I should get candy.”
Jason nodded thoughtfully. “So… Sissy is your… your sitter?”
“And she violated the instructions your mother gave her, taking you from your home so that she could visit her boyfriend. I assume he works here? Or was it a date?” A shrug from the still floating child.
Hector turned off the flashlights. They didn’t seem to be having much effect and the situation was rapidly coming under control.
“You felt that since she violated one rule for her own sake, she had no grounds to refuse you what you desired as well. Is that correct?”
“I agree.” Jason said. “I do not have any candy myself, but I am sure we can find you some if you are patient.”
And just like that, the purple glow left his eyes and the little boy dropped to the ground. “Kay.”
“No. He doesn’t need leverage. It’s mercy.” Melody said softly.
“I… I don’t understand.”
“Have you never wondered why the Tyrant was allowed to keep his domain so long? There are six continents, five if you only count the ones that can support humans, and he’s held one in thrall for almost a hundred years now. There hasn’t been a serious effort to dislodge him by any of the functioning countries in all that time. Why?”
“The Monarch fights him, holds him back from the rest of the world. But she can’t do much outside of her own realm so she can’t really beat him, right? No one else can stand against him without… well, without him taking them over. I mean, he’s the strongest Jones type in history.”
William Power snorted. “Sure. But so what? I just told you one way we could have taken him out. You were Citadel trained, surely you can imagine others?” She could, had even heard some of them proposed by politicians and media figures. Nothing ever came of it though, so she’d assumed there was more to it that she didn’t know. “The reason’s simple. What happens to the people he’s controlling when he dies?”
She shrugged. “No idea. Most Jones types, I’d say nothing. They go free and they’re right back to normal. With some, if the connection is strong enough, you can get a kind of mental backlash-” Oh. Shit. “So that’s it. He’s already got a continent’s worth of hostages.”
Melody shook her head. “No Mary, it’s far worse than that. There’ve been experiments, ones that he cooperated with and ones that he didn’t. Anyone brought out of his influence, removed from his control, they go insane. Violently so. We have every reason to believe they’d react the same way to his death.”
“That’s why you said it was a mercy. He- he wants to spare his people from… that. Why… he can’t just let them go?”