35.2 Proof

There’s a heavy rumble as the truck’s engine starts up and Liz has to catch her balance against the wall of the cargo trailer when it kind of shifts forward for a second.  A bunch of the other people cry out, more startled than actually frightened.  They’re all crowded shoulder to shoulder except for the relatively clear space near the door where the Hector in jeans and a t-shirt gathered a bunch of the smaller kids and a mattress for the old lady with a bad leg.  After that, the truck’s moving, clear and easy.

It’s actually a much smoother ride than she would’ve expected and that’s even weirder when she remembers that the street should still be crowded with traffic and the people that wouldn’t fit in the truck or gave up their place for someone who needed it more.  Liz turns her head to look over her shoulder.  She can’t quite manage to shift her whole body without shoving someone so it takes her a moment to get the right angle but, soon enough, she gets it right.  The driver, whatever his name was, is in the front cab and they’re not even connected so she can’t possibly see him.  Apparently just looking in the right direction is enough.

Just like that, she knows his power, the basic nature of his Empowerment and what it lets him do.  They’re not on the road, not really, or even in Phoenix.  The truck is wrapped up in his ability and it’s ‘driving’ in a sort of strange, other space.  To him, the man she can’t help but think of as the Driver, it probably seems like the most perfect highway in the world.  Nothing but a smooth, straight road that he’ll follow until he’s at his destination where they’ll exit back into the real world.  To her and him and everyone else in the truck it’ll seem like an hour’s gone by but to the outside world it’ll take less time than the blink of an eye.

That means they’re safe.  Whatever it is that’s happening in Phoenix, it can’t touch them here.  With her power still active, and it’s just in that very moment that Liz consciously realizes she’s Empowered now and she doesn’t need to worry about getting that job with Analysis because clearly she’s a shoe-in now, she looks at Hector.  The him in that strange armor didn’t get on the truck with her.  It makes sense because that was obviously Richards tech battle armor of some sort and if that hovering storm of hims above the hospital was any indication he’ll need all of it he can get to handle this.

So Liz looks at the Hector that did get on the truck with her.  The Hector that isn’t holding either of his two oversized bags for the first time she can remember, the Hector that isn’t acting confused and distracted like the one in armor was…  Liz looks at him and she sees his power and what his Empowerment has let him do and how it has to be used and she feels a surge of bile rushing up her throat.

If she panics here, it’ll spread to the others and that thought is terrifying.  If that ‘Hector’ realizes she knows, then he could do anything and she knows what he’s capable of and everyone in this trailer could die.  He’s standing next to a group of children and an old lady.

Liz clamps her jaw shut and manages not to gag as the taste of her own vomit fills her mouth.  She hunches over like she’s just nervous instead of terrified because that’s the best thing she can think of to do, the thing that might keep some of the people here safe.  It’s only an hour till they get wherever they’re going and maybe she can warn someone.  That… that has to be enough because it’s all she can do.  She can last an hour because Liz is going to join the Citadel and it does whatever it has to to keep people safe.

That’s what it does so that’s what she’ll do.

Go to the hospital and build up a swarm.  Clear it from the ground up.  I’ll accompany you to test something out.

The order is simple so Robert Grave doesn’t hesitate or think about them very much.  He’d held his nearest assets back until now, just using the female Jordan type to protect his real body.  Trying to manage crowd control when his slightest touch will kill would’ve been ridiculously stupid.  Instead he’s sending in the one with a stretchy body since he considers it disposable.

His senses are always a little muted when he’s dead, especially if they’re not his own.  Even so, Rob can feel the grass beneath his feet when he steps on it.  It’s not a lawn, just a little sculpted area outside the hospital’s front entrance, basically an overgrown median.  Still, the grass had looked perfectly green.  It shouldn’t be crumbling underfoot as if it were dead and brown.

He thinks of the reports that Hector wrote about Jason’s power experiments, out on Farm One.  Rob had really been hoping that Bruce had neglected to give orders to rescue the patients and staff still in the hospital because stopping this fast was the best way to save them.  The Insight girl wouldn’t have bothered mentioning them because describing Skinthief’s capabilities and the progress of the fight between him and that Lodge member, between Skinthief and Hector, was more important.

Rob breaks through the sliding glass door, inactive, without conscious effort.  As he spreads his power’s effect to the first human corpse he finds, and it to another and another, he knows.  He doesn’t spend time pondering as he spreads through the first floor, each body adding to his growing horde, each body making his movements that little bit simpler, crude and animalistic.  It barely crosses his mind as he finishes the first floor and crawls up the elevator shafts and the stairwells to the second.

All the same, Rob knows.  The only living things in a radius of about half a mile of the hospital are Hector Hive, the unnamed Brother from the Lodge and Skinthief.

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16 comments on “35.2 Proof

  1. Okay, so Skinthief has like a billion lives banked now, albeit mostly plants. That is what is generally referred to as a problem. And apparently an illusion power? I’d have assumed he skinned a Hector, but we know the injuries propogate for live Hectors and dead Hectors disintegrate.

    Oh, and Graves’ blood is probably going to be relatively less useful against Skinthief due to Skinthief having fire and ghost fire powers


    • It seems worse than that for Hector. If it was just someone disguised as Hector, Hector would have known instantly because it wouldn’t be him.

      Instead, it seems like Skinthief, by having Hector’s powers, has some amount of control over every Hector. And can use its own powers through a Hector.

      That’s an extinction scenario, and not one that can really be prevented, so I hope I’m wrong.


      • If it were a real Hector he’d have the gear from the duffels on; every instance in Phoenix keeps them on hand at all times. The confusion from the sheer number he’s creating and possible feedback from Skinthief doing the same means he’s presently in no condition to keep track of apparent civilians.


    • Yes. Liz just realized that Hector’s duplicates are real, that he’s murdering real life people (himself) every time he kills one of himself, and that his duplicates are willing accessories and suicide victims at the same time.


        • Yes. She hadn’t realized that, though — she probably thought his duplicates popped like bubbles. Perhaps, if they can’t find enough regular food, they soylent green themselves.


      • Barring the Viral thing, no Hector has ever directly killed himself or another Hector on screen. Admittedly, they put themselves in stupidly dangerous situations all the time. Also, they have asked Jason to kill them in large numbers for convenience. Okay, that’s not a lot better but it’s an important distinction.

        Please let me know if anyone remembers or spots an incident where he does cause that means I made an important mistake.


        • I figured it was self evident. Jason can’t be everywhere and Hector has additional bodies to dispose of, so he’s probably disposing of himself by himself. What else could she have seen regarding how Hector’s power works?


    • I agree with the assumption that whoever is sitting in the truck with Hector’s face is not Hector.
      But keeping the “prophecy” of that one precog Hector met in mind, I am not quite sure that this is Skinthief…

      It appears to me that there are two Empowered in play here. Skinthief is apparently similar to a socalled “Skinwalker”: they are a native american mythos that literally wears the skin of its victims like a suit. This was shown in a previous POV chapter where Skinthief took over a new life, and we can see it on Skinthief’s current appearance. He is currently wearing a patchworksuit of all the people who donated skinsamples and that’s why “it” looks the way Jason described it: like a patchwork human figure made of different people.


  2. Has anyone tried making a character list? Or a power list? If the community made one, would you be able to host it on this site?


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