Midge Tillman looked up from the bag she was desperately trying to stuff into the back of the family car. There was someone standing behind her and Stan should still be up in the-
“Stephany!?” The black hair threw her for a moment and it’d been more than a year but how could she possibly not recognize her own daughter? “How-? Why-? Please, you have to come with us. It- it isn’t safe here anymore and-“
She felt her daughter’s hand on her own, felt the warmth and the comfort and then it felt better and better and then she was laying on the ground and it still felt so good but she could see Stephany walking into the house. Midge didn’t… she couldn’t understand. What was happening? Where was that sound coming from and why did it sound like Stan?
Stephany was back, kneeling over her. “Wha…” she tried to speak but it didn’t work. Laying in the driveway should have hurt but it didn’t. Stan’s screaming… it had gone on so long and that should have hurt too. Her daughter had come back to them but there wasn’t any of the happiness or relief that Midge had always imagined in her face and that should have hurt. But it didn’t.
She felt her daughter’s hand again, on her neck now. Her grasp was strong, much stronger than she’d have thought possible but that didn’t matter.
“You should’ve known. You should’ve stopped him.” her daughter said.
Absently, Midge thought about what her little girl had meant, even as the grip got stronger and she couldn’t breathe. That almost hurt but her daughter’s touch kept the pain away, made her feel better. The last things she saw were the smoke pouring from her house and the look on her daughter’s face.
The briefing room was crowded already. There was a man slumped in a chair with a knife sticking out of his chest. A blonde woman with grey skin, milk-white eyes and black veins stood over him while the air shimmered around them. A young man in a Citadel operative’s black and white uniform lay on the ground, guarded by two figures in black bodysuits with white armoring and featureless helmets. A group of EMTs surrounded the prone boy, frantically setting broken limbs and working to keep his airway open. All of them avoided looking at the blistered skin that surrounded his eyes or the melted lump of black plastic that used to be a pair of sunglasses. Part of that was the painful brightness that seemed to cling to his face, but only part.
Two girls stood next to the table amidst a cluster of men and women in police uniforms. They were… difficult to describe. As soon as someone took their eyes off the pair, they found it hard to remember that they were even there, much less what they looked like. One of them wore a pair of heavy glasses and hadn’t stopped speaking since she entered the room. The cops were busy keeping track of what she said, descriptions of powers they didn’t want to think about and a fight they could barely imagine as well as the ongoing evacuation of the city.
She told them about bottlenecks where traffic was slowed or stopped, regions where fear was giving way to panic and crowds were descending to mobs and calls were made to route what emergency services remained as best they could. The city’s last, full scale hospital was the heart of this disaster and what remained… It was practically a miracle that the fight hadn’t spread yet. As long as it was contained this could be dealt with, maybe, but if it got out…
Something happened, a shimmering in the air that gave way to a ragged circle that opened onto another room, filled with faces and people that no one present recognized. Well, not at first. Four figures stepped through, three men and a woman, then the shimmering view of a different place vanished.