We all stood there like we were in some sort of superpowered standoff, stunned. Who was this guy? Could he really be Whitney’s brother? She seemed completely terrified of him. I hadn’t ever seen her this scared. Even when we were fighting Judas, she seemed more angry than afraid.
“You know this guy, Whit?” Erin asked, taking a step to stand between our teammate and this new guy.
“Y-yeah. He’s my brother…Brandon,” Whitney trailed off, her eyes wide and panicked.
“Nice to meet you, Argonauts. I’ve heard so much about your little team, no thanks to Whit. You never call anymore, sis,” Brandon said, taking another drag off his cigarette.
“F-f-fuck you!” Whitney yelled, dark smoke starting to drift down from her hair.
Brandon rolled his eyes, “Always with the drama. Anyways, I go by Halcyon now; kinda comes with the job. And I heard you’re calling yourself Cinder now? Trying to pretend you’re a chip off dad’s old block?”
“Shut up!” Whitney screamed, slamming her hands into the ground. Glowing lines raced towards Bran—towards Halcyon who was suddenly enveloped in a roaring inferno that seemed to come from nowhere. We all dove for cover as Whitney’s explosion sent chunks of earth and wood flying in every direction with a deafening blast.
Once I could tell which way was up from down, I scrambled to my feet. Everything was obscured by the dark heavy smoke Whitney’s explosion created. I didn’t have visual on Halcyon or Edward, much less Quill or the rest of my team.
Calling out might not be the best idea, so I decided to stay put for the moment. More explosions rattled the ground. I could only see brief flashes through the smoke. Whitney must have been unleashing hell. Suddenly, the sounds of very large wings flapping from above me caught my attention.
“You okay?” Corey asked, alighting on the ground next to me.
“More or less,” I replied, trying to keep an eye on where the explosions were coming from.
“Erin and Adam are just over that way, but I couldn’t spot Quill or Edward,” Corey reported, pointing in the direction of our team.
“What about Whitney?”
Corey just gestured towards the explosions.
“Erin wants to know if you and Ian made any plans since you had your memory longer.”
“Our plan was to get all of your memories back and evacuate the civilians.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let that happen,” Halcyon said ominously as he loomed out of the smoke. His expression seemed to be permanently smug with another cigarette burning in his mouth. He held out his hands and arms of bright orange flame flew out from the ominous darkness to form burning orbs in his palms.
There was a faint metallic noise as Corey turned his wings to metal. “Where’s Whitney?” Corey demanded; the tips of his cleaver-like wings aimed at Halcyon.
“She’s a bit preoccupied,” Halycon replied. More explosions rang out in the distance to in form us that Whitney was alive at least.
The flames grew larger in the villain’s hand—yellows and reds mixed with oranges as the colors seemed to shift. He wasn’t attacking, just standing there letting the colors dance in the fire…Everything started to fade. My vision seemed magnetized to the shapes.
Despite all the danger we were in, I just felt myself feeling happy and safe…Everything was fine…
And then the presence shifted. Like a raging bull it charged into my mind, knocking me out of my trance. Everything snapped back into focus with my energy crackling angrily. Halcyon hadn’t noticed that I broke out of whatever trance he’d tried to put us in.
When life gives you laser beams from other dimensions…
I quickly aimed a hand at…Whitney’s brother…and fired a much weaker blast than I probably should have. Halcyon’s eyes went wide, and the flames in his hands exploded into a wall of fire. My blast of energy easily smashed through it, but I couldn’t see if it hit.
Now I had a rapidly approaching wall of heat to deal with. “Let’s go—”
Corey was still staring into the fire. “Corey? Come on,” I shouted, shaking his shoulder. His eyes came back into focus and he shook his head. It looked like he was dazed, but back.
“What happened?” He asked, noticing the flames.
“Halcyon has some more powers than just fire. We need to get the others out of here and make sure Ian’s alright. I don’t know where the hell our backup is, but I think It’s a bit too late to evacuate the camp.”
“Okay, I think you’re right. We’re going to have to try to protect them. I think I can fly us over smoke…”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
He shrugged, “I can carry at least one person, and you’ll be stumbling around in the dark otherwise.”
“Okay,” I said uneasily. I knew it was probably the best decision tactically, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of what he’d said last night. “How to we do this?”
“Just…kinda hold your arms out,” he said.
Damn this is fucking awkward, I thought as Corey hooked his arms under my shoulders and we were suddenly launched into the air much faster than I expected. It wasn’t like when I flew with Peregrine. That was like being strapped to a living rocket. This was sorta like how I imagined using a parachute would feel except it was sentient and flying us higher.
The smoke was finally starting to clear, and it didn’t take long to spot Erin’s glowing figure. “Over there,” I pointed. Corey titled and pitched down, but there was a slight problem. “Looks like there’s a lot of fire down there.” Erin was quite literally standing still with fire almost as tall as she was swirling around her.
“Does your energy protect you from fire?”
“I guess we’re going to find out.”
“Okay, I’ll set you down as close as I can,” Corey shouted.
“Glowstick! Flyboy! Down here!”
We glanced over to see Adam, slowly being pushed back from the advancing flames. “Brace!” Corey suddenly shouted as he all but dropped me. Luckily, I managed to use my control over my energy to steer myself into a solid landing.
“It’s starting to look like we’re really fucked. What the hell went wrong with the plan?”
“Wait, are you Adam or Steven?” Corey asked.
“It’s me, Steve!” Riot answered, acting like it should be obvious. “Something keeps happening when we look in the fire that makes us switch.”
“Does he have hypnotizing fire?” I asked.
“It’s a scary thought, but he could,” Corey said.
“I can’t get to Erin without becoming barbeque, and we left our gun—the only one we were allowed to bring for some reason—back in our tent.”
“Why? You were going to fight people attacking Idyllium and you didn’t bring your gun?” I asked, shocked.
“I don’t know what Adam was thinking, okay?” Steven—Riot—shot back.
“Corey, you take Adam to get his gun and check on Ian—he should be where they had the party down by the creek. We’re going to need back up on this one.”
Corey nodded, “Good plan.”
“Oh goody, I’ve always wanted to fly air Serath,” Riot said, betraying the gravity of the situation.
Ignoring our friend’s alter ego, Corey grabbed him like he had with me and took the skies. Before they made it out of view, I saw a massive plume of fire reach up like a demonic hand trying to slap them out of the sky.
Corey responded by steeling his wings and flipping over. They fell out of view, leaving me to just hope they made it. Corey had good training, though, and we needed Erin back in the right state of mind, so I tore my gaze from the sky to the burning trees in front of me.
I stepped closer to the flames, and I could feel the heat coming from them, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Come on, please be fireproof, I pleaded with my powers. Carefully, I reached towards the fire, feeling the heat rise only up to a point.
My hand finally passed through the flame and…It didn’t really hurt. Thank god, I thought as I stepped forward. Still, I didn’t know if my energy could withstand the heat forever, so I hurried over to where Erin was standing.
She was staring blankly into the flames just like I had been. Looking at the…shapes…No! I had stay focused.
“Erin! Snap out of it!” I yelled. If Erin heard me, she didn’t show it. “Please don’t hate me for this…” I muttered, trying to slap her out of it. When my hand hit her face, it felt like solid steel. Her head didn’t even move.
Damn it. There was no way I could hurt her to try and snap her out of it. Maybe cutting off the source would work. I clamped my hands over her eyes and hoped that would be enough.
“Come on…come on.”
Finally, she stirred, “W-what?”
I had to jump back to avoid a wild fist from Erin. She didn’t seem to have her quits back quite yet. “It’s me, it’s Nate!” I shouted, ducking to avoid another invulnerable fist. She wasn’t inhumanly strong like this, but she was still buff as hell regardless.
“Nate?” She asked, befuddled.
“Don’t look at the fire, Halcyon has some sort of hypnotizing…thing!”
“Where are the others?” She asked, noticing the roaring flames that surrounded us, defaulting to her role as team leader.
“I sent Serath and Riot to get Riot’s gun and to make sure Ian was safe so they can help Idyllium Evacuate. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Erin gave a faint grin, “Good job. And I guess that leaves Halcyon to us?”
I have a half-shrug, “I guess, but I don’t know where he is, and I think Whitney’s all out of sorts.”
“Then we’ll get Whitney first; she’s not as fire-proof as we are,” Erin shouted as she charged through a wall of fire, undaunted.
For the first real time since Chicago, I second guessed by choice to give being a hero a real chance. If it were up to me, I’d be back mopping floors instead of this, but my team, my friends needed me. Keeping that in mind, I ran after Erin.
Stepping through the fire was like getting hit in the face with a curtain of heat. Nevertheless, I was unscathed. It seemed like most of the forest was on fire at this point. Just how strong was this guy? Whitney was destructive, but it seemed like her brother was on another threat class entirely.
Thunder and lightning cracked overhead as the skies opened, dousing the burning forest with cold, fat raindrops.
“Looks that that weather manipulator finally got his powers going,” Erin shouted, vaulting over a fallen log.
“I don’t think it’s going to be much help.” Some of the flames did start to fizzle out, but there was still a growing red-orange glow from the north. I was worried Halcyon was just getting started.
“Where did you see Whitney last?” Erin asked.
“Uh, I don’t know. After she detonated, there was too much smoke.”
Erin methodically scanned the trees around us. I saw concern starting to seriously set in. “Cinder!” She shouted, cupping her hands together before I could stop her.
“No, wait!” My objection came too late: a torrent of flame came roaring towards us, curving around the trunks of trees like a blazing snake. Erin shoved me to the ground and let the fire slam into her. Then the flames around his flared and stretched. Under Halcyon’s command they swirled together like a burning vortex centered on Erin.
“Close your eyes!” I shouted, hoping she could hear me.
Now where was that bastard hiding? I couldn’t see him and staring into the fire wasn’t an option. I closed my eyes to reach out to the presence again. “I need your help. Show me where he is. I know you can do it.”
I willed my powers to obey, trying to lock onto the feelings that came with a vision. For a second, nothing happened, and I almost gave up, but then the yellows and reds were momentarily replaced with a flash of blue.
It wasn’t exactly a vision; I just had an intuition. I fired a blast, and it turned out my powers were right. The beam of energy slammed through a tree, splintering the wood and turning part of it to dust. Halcyon was caught off guard as the attack threw him back into another curtain of fire.
Fortunately, it was enough to break his concentration. The Flames around Erin died down, leaving her gasping for air. “Fire…took the…oxygen…Thanks,” she said.
“Don’t mention it,” I said, still looking for Whitney.
“So, you don’t burn, but ya still gotta breathe. How interesting,” Halcyon called out.
His voice was coming from somewhere, but I couldn’t spot him.
“I was thinking about cutting you guys some slack for being Whit’s friends, but fuck that.”
Another bolt of fire streaked though the trees, this one aimed at my head. I managed to duck out of the way, but it was way too close for comfort. Halcyon wasn’t done yet, though. A few hundred feet away, a wall of fire exploded upwards.
“Aurora! Let’s turn up the fucking heat!” Halcyon’s voice boomed as he stepped through the curtain of flame. He pressed a button on something in his hand. I didn’t notice anything at first, but then it was like a wave of boiling air rolled over us.
It was like a blast furnace opened up. The glow from deeper in the woods got brighter and brighter. Even with my suit, I was really feeling the heat. Every breath felt like magma was being poured down my throat. “Nate, are you alright?”
“What’s the matter glowstick? Molten wasteland got your tongue?” Halcyon laughed. “Personally, I think it’s just balmy.”
“Who’s Aurora?” Erin demanded, taking a step towards our opponent.
“A friend from work. She’s nice enough, even if she’s not quite all there all the time. Most importantly, she gives me all the fuel I need,” He said as some of the trees and leaf liter around us burst into flames.
Everything was on fire now, and I felt the heat slowly cooking me through my suit. Erin charged, but Halcyon simply raised an arm, causing a pillar of fire the size of a freight train to coalesce from the burning world around us. Erin was swept away in the flood of fire that scorched the ground and annihilated the flammable trees in its path.
“You guys may be heroes, but you’re what? Class III? Maybe? Well, I’m fucking first class!” Halcyon crowed, drawing more fire to his hands with a murderous glint in his eyes.