Status: This is for NaNo. As such, it will be unedited for the time being.

The Power of Illusions

Chapter One

You never know what you have until you lose it. You can never truly appreciate things until they’re gone. Loss is a big part of anyone’s life, but when you lose your best friend to the enemy, things hit a little harder. When you lose your best friend to the enemy, only then do you realize just how important he was to you and how much you… may even love him. These were things one Dave Strider would learn when his best friend would be taken away from him by the enemy organization, L.O.R.D. The start to this story is a simple one, however, as most stories with love and loss have.


“Dude, come on. This is the sickest beat I’ve created in like, a week.”

“It’s pretty good, but it’s not your best Dave. I really liked the one you made a couple months ago.”

“Pyrocumulus? Seriously? That was so 2 months ago, John. This one is so much better, even if I don’t have a name for it yet.” A pale, blond-haired 20-year-old leaned back in his computer chair and stared at his friend from behind a pair of aviator shades. Dave Strider was his name. He gestured to his computer speakers, the drop of a beat sounding through them as an amalgamation of other components worked together to create a unique song. A tanned, black-haired young man, the same age as the other, just shook his head, eyelids hiding his crystalline blue orbs.

“No, Dave. I like this one, but I liked Pyrocumulus better. It had a little more ‘umpf’ behind it. I don’t know.” John Egbert shrugged and laid back on his friend’s bed, arms up behind his head. The action caused his square glasses to drop onto the bridge of his nose, having slid down it before he moved. “Also, don’t you have air conditioning at all? It’s stupid hot in here.”

“You sure it’s the heat or is it just me?” That comment earned the blond a pillow to the head.

“You’re an asshole, Dave. I get you can manipulate fire and shit, but you don’t have to constantly make jokes about it. You can’t very well be a ‘cool kid’ if you are ‘too hot to handle.’” John laughed at his own phrasing. Dave just frowned minutely and tossed the pillow back at his friend.

“At least I’m not the asshole constantly playing pranks on everyone here. The bucket of water above a door and then the gust of feather-filled wind stops being funny after the first time.” John grinned in pride.

“I don’t care! It totally raises my pranksters’ gambit to mess with you guys like that. Plus, this is really the only place I can mess around with the wind and not be shunned or called a demon or anything else.” A look of melancholy crossed John’s face, his eyes taking on a saddened hurt that accompanied being ostracized like they all were. That made Dave pause before talking again.

“I know, John. Why do you think I always keep my room hotter? It’s the only place I can really control the temperature without pissing people off. Sure, each of our powers are relatively subtle, but we can’t really do a whole lot with it like Rose and Jade can. Their abilities in the art of being subtle are unmatched. It’s like-”

“Please for the love of God, do NOT go on one of your dumb, metaphorical rants. They are dumb for a reason.” Just as Dave was about to answer, there was a knock at his door. A rich, Texan accent came through, just a few steps lower than Dave’s own voice.

“Dave, John, dinner’s ready in the dining room. Come on up.”

“Thanks, Dirk. We’ll be there shortly,” answered John, standing and stretching. Dave watched the other’s action, taking note of the strong muscles in his arms and legs flexing and extending. His eyes traced the flat stomach of his best friend and almost made their way further down, but John started moving toward the door.

“Come on, Dave. I’m starving.”

“When are you not hungry?” Dave asked, standing as well and sweeping a hand across his bangs, making sure they were in place and out of his face.

“Hmm…. Very rarely, actually.” John laughed and opened the door, exiting the room and leaving Dave to follow behind him. “Hey, Dave. Want to race to the dining room? Your flash step versus my wind manipulation?” Blue eyes danced with mischief. Dave shrugged, moving his head side-to-side and stretching just a little.

“Sure, why not? I mean, I’ll beat you anyway. I always do.” He looked at his friend who was already hovering just a little above the ground. John smirked at Dave and took a starting stance.

“We’ll see about that. I’ve been working more on my speed.” Dave took his own stance.

“Sure we will. Ready?”


The ‘Go’ was implied as the two moved, John manipulating the air around him and behind him into propelling him forward as fast as it could. He’d been practicing due to his desire to learn how to make a tornado to use against others. Dave could also move exceptionally fast thanks to his Bro teaching him how to move lightly and quickly. He was a blur, moving as fast as he was, but he was neck and neck with John. The other truly had significantly increased his speed. He was actually giving Dave a run for his money.

The two ran through the facility, almost having to fight each other to fit the stairwell until Dave pushed ahead of John. The one with aerokinesis frowned and pushed himself just a little harder as the two exited the stairs onto the main floor, surpassing Dave ever so slightly. Both of them switched positions a couple more times as the dining room came into view. A light sheen of sweat was beginning to make itself present on John for his exertion of his power, but he pushed ever so slightly more and all but broke through the dining room doors seconds before Dave appeared inside. The blond wasn’t even breaking a sweat while John heaved and sank to the floor, the wind around him dissipating.

“Well hot damn, Egbert. You actually did win. Good job.” John just sneered at Dave slightly while he regained his breath.

“Honestly, you two. Must you consistently make every little thing a competition?” The young men glanced over to the owner of the voice, a young woman with pale skin and blonde hair. Her blue eyes, so light in coloring they looked purple, stared back with mild amusement as her black lips turned up into a small smile. This young woman was Rose Lalonde, a distant cousin to Dave and his older brother, Dirk.

“Of course, sister dear. Everything has to be a competition or life just isn’t as fun,” Dave answered. John, having finally calmed down enough, stood and spoke as well.

“Not everything is a competition for us, Rose. I just wanted to test out my speed against him.”

“And clearly, my brother dearest let you win to boost your confidence. Unless,” she turned to Dave, her smile turning to a smirk, “you actually lost, Dave?” Dave chose to ignore her and take his seat at the table full of his friends. “My, my, my. You actually lost. That is quite the shock, wouldn’t you say, Kanaya?” Rose turned to the woman to her right. Jade green eyes met hers as a perfectly shaped eyebrow rose. Her name was Kanaya Maryam.

“Honestly, Rose? I cannot quite find myself caring about their silly competitions seeing as they happen so often. While, yes, Dave is usually the winner, John’s successes are not so uncommon that they warrant a response as the one you have given.” Rose chuckled and turned back to Dave as another friend spoke up.

“I think the little competitions are fun to watch! I’d like to join in sometime, too, guys.” A tanned young woman with brilliant green eyes hidden behind circular frames and messy black hair smiled at her friends as John took his seat next to her. She went by the name of Jade Harley.

“That’d be so much fun, Jade! Yeah, you can totally join in sometime! Right, Dave?” Before the other could answer, a few older adults walked in with food to place on the table. There was a wide spread of meats, veggies, salad, and pasta. Dinner was always quite the affair for all those who resided in the facility. After all, looking after 11 young adults with strange powers called for a constant need for a variety of foods. The types of people that sat at the table were varied from carnivores to vegan, from excitable to perpetually angry, from emotional to logical. These were all young adults who’d essentially been cast out from their respective hometowns for having their powers. They’d been mocked, bullied, feared, threatened. Some of them had even undergone exorcisms before they’d been found and taken in by a secret agency for people with powers like theirs called S.B.U.R.B - Society of Brilliantly Unique Renegade Blasphemers. They were given a shelter within a facility only known as H.O.M.E - Headquarters of Mysterious Entities. Its location was unknown to most, being hidden away on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It was a high-tech facility that allowed the young adults to practice all of their powers and to hone them in return for them keeping the city safe from any others with powers that sought to wreak havoc. In a way, they were almost like superheroes, but without the fame, the fortune, or the glory. They did what they had to in order to keep people safe and to survive.

Once the dinner was placed on the table, everyone began reaching for things, asking others to be passed, and partaking in their meal. Conversations budded throughout, laughter echoing in the large room as everyone ate. Most of the younger members of S.B.U.R.B. had been together for several years, some having even grown up in the facility (namely the Lalondes - Rose and her twin sister, Roxy) seeing as their guardians worked for the agency. S.B.U.R.B. was a large organization, but the members that were the closest were the kids. They’d all become fast and tight friends, welcoming in anyone new with open arms. They shared with each other their stories of coming into their powers and what their respective hometowns did to them in their fear. As a result of their closeness, they always ate at least dinner together to feel that camaraderie.

“Oh my god, will you just shut the fuck up, Strider?!” A loud, gruff voice lofted over everyone else’s, causing a few heads to turn while others just ignored it. It was a common occurrence at dinnertime, after all.

“All I’m saying, Kit-Kat, is that you and I could work together to create like, the greatest weapons ever. I mean, I control heat and you control iron, right? Don’t you want to work on that power?” Dave pointed his fork at a young man with messy black hair and hard, almost red, eyes. Karkat Vantas was his name, and he often fought verbally (and occasionally, physically) with Dave. The two very rarely saw eye-to-eye on things. Not to mention, Dave loved poking fun at the perpetually angry young man, insisting he needed to lighten up so he could be a cool kid, too.

“RAUGH! I DON’T CONTROL IRON, YOU IGNORANT ASSMUNCH OF A TWAT-STAIN! I CONTROL BLOOD! THE HEMOGLOBIN IN BLOOD! NOT THE IRON! GO EAT A HAIRY BALLSACK, YOU PIECE OF SHIT! Why the fuck would I ever want to work with you willingly anyway?” Karkat shoved a fork-full of chicken in his mouth as he finished yelling. Dave shrugged minutely.

“I don’t know. Because I’m the shit? And we could do amazing things together?”

“As fucking if. You are A shit. Not THE shit. Get it right. And stop talking to me.” At that point, John piped in, mischievous smile on his face.

“Aw, come on, Karkat! You and Dave actually do work really well together when you’re put on the same team. Sure, there’s a little tension, but you two do amazingly when paired up.” He happily put another spoonful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.

“I have to agree with John on this, Karkat. You are undeniably capable of working well with any single one of us here at this table when you are instructed to do so. I cannot understand why you would be so coarse and abject to the idea of teaming up with any one of us willingly,” Kanaya stated with a matter-of-fact tone, delicately taking another bite of her rare cooked meat. Kanaya and Karkat had come from the same hometown, being first cousins and each coming into their powers around the age of 14. Their older siblings had never shown any sort of power, and the two were actually a little sad to be separated from them. They understood, however, that it was necessary, seeing as Karkat’s father was a pastor and believed his son and niece to have been taken over by demons. They’d been taken in as soon as word got out of the local pastor exorcising his own family.

“Why the hell are you agreeing with that dick munch? Kanaya, I thought you were smarter than that. You’re the only one I’d work with willingly here.”

“And it’s because you still don’t fully trust everyone at this table despite knowing some of them for 6 years, am I right?” Karkat’s frown deepened, and he returned to eating silently, ignoring all other conversation around him. John met Kanaya’s gaze and shrugged, the other simply shaking her head and turning back to Rose to continue their conversation. John, in the meantime, gave his attention to Jade. When glancing at them, one would think they were siblings or related in some way, sharing a similar skin-tone and build. However, Jade was rescued from an island off the coast of California, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, along with her brother. Her brother, however, had gone missing about 2 years prior and was presumed dead. They’d searched high and low for the young man but never found so much as a footprint left behind. Jade had been devastated and was only coming back into her own after a year and half. She was getting back her perky self and was able to keep a smile on that was genuine.

“So, have you been working more on subtle ground movements?” John asked. Jade finished chewing her chicken and turned to him to answer.

“Yeah! It’s been really hard to learn how to control the earth in a way that people won’t notice, but the instructors tell me that I’m doing really well and catching on quickly. I’m just doing my best, though!” John smiled at her.

“That’s amazing, though! I haven’t even gotten to learning how to use the wind without people noticing I’m doing anything. Apparently, I still haven’t learned how to school my expression. I make faces when I’m trying to do things, I guess.” He laughed as Jade nodded.

“You really do. You should have seen your face when you burst in from your race with Dave. It was so screwed up in concentration, I thought you were constipated or something,” she teased, causing John to groan.

“Come on, Jade. It can’t have been that bad.”

“It was! It was awful, really. I can see why you can’t do anything subtle yet.” The young woman loved to tease her friends, John usually being on the receiving end of it in retribution for all the pranks he played on the others.

“That’s just mean. You know I want to start learning how! I want to be able to go out and about more regularly with some of you guys.” He pouted, pushing his empty plate away from him as he waited for dessert to be brought out. Jade laughed at him and finished her own food before turning to him and ruffling his hair.

“You’ll get it, John! I know you will. It’ll just come naturally to you one day, and you won’t have to concentrate so hard to do things with it. Just like with your super strength. You’ve learned to control that, haven’t you?” John nodded and readjusted his glasses.

“Yeah… I guess. I mean, it took me several years to be able to perfect my strength control. So, now that I’ve really started coming into my wind powers, I guess it’ll take a little while longer, yeah?” Jade was like an older sister… much like the one he lost years ago. John had come into his strength and wind powers when he was 6. His older sister had come into her own powers at the same age and been taken away 2 years before he had. When he was brought in, he’d been so excited to finally see her again, only to discover that she never made it. Something happened to her in transit to the facility, and no one ever knew what happened to her. The driver had come back empty-handed, not even remembering why he’d been on the road in the first place. He had no idea who the child he’d been instructed to retrieve was.

“Of course! You can do it, John! All of us here believe in you.” Jade leaned in closer and spoke in a whisper. “Even Karkat, believes in you. I know he doesn’t show it, but he does.” She returned to her regular speaking voice. “You’re super important here, you know. You kinda brought us all together, anyway.” John regained a small smile.

“Yeah, I know. I still don’t know what it was about me that made us all so close, but I’ll take your word for it.”

“It was your kindness, duh! You were kind to everyone and welcomed everyone in and made us all feel better about our situations,” Jade explained, matter-of-factly. At that point, the dishes were all cleared away and several types of desserts were brought out. The same happened with the desserts as did with the dinner - everyone grabbed for what they wanted and passed when others asked.

“Yes, John. You even got Roxy and I to start talking more with the others that ended up here, much to our chagrin. || We were perfectly happy being isolated and talking only with ourselves, but you had to come in and get everyone to be with one another,” Rose added in with a joking tone. Her older twin, Roxy, joined in as well.

“Oh. Em. Gee! I loved that you did that, Johnny! Now I have such good friends here with Dirky and Davey and Terezi and all y’all! It’s totally amazing!” Roxy Lalonde looked very similar to her younger twin, being pale and blonde with strange colored eyes. Hers were almost a pink, making some of the adults wonder if she and Rose had various forms of albinism. Nothing was ever confirmed, however. Not even by their mother, a research scientist in the facility. Their mother, Rolanda Lalonde, studied the young adults specifically to figure out why they had the powers they did. She believed herself to be relatively close to an answer, but everyone knew she probably wouldn’t figure anything out in the coming months like she thought.

“Uh, you’re welcome, Roxy. ...I think.” John smiled sheepishly at her. Before anything else could be said by anyone else at the table, the head of the facility walked in. He went by the name of Sage Nitram, and he was a tall, broad man who had super strength as well as an ability to commune with any kind of animal. He had a son named Tavros who sat among the young adults, sharing the ability to speak with animals. Everyone looked up at their boss.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your dessert time, but I need John, Dave, Rose, and Jade to come with me. We have a Code 4 in the city.” The four called by name all pushed their plates away and stood, making their way to the door with Sage. They knew a Code 4 was a power wielder terrorizing a small part of the city with a mildly strong power. Code 4’s required a 4 man team being sent out to subdue and bring in the offender to be monitored by the facility until he/she could be reintroduced to society.

There were a number of different codes for the types of crime and terrorization that happened within the city brought on by other power wielders. Code 4 was getting up there, Codes 3, 2, and 1 being the most serious and requiring a larger team being sent out. The larger the number attached to the Code, the less people needed to be sent out and vice versa with the smaller the number, the more people needing to be sent out. Codes 3-1 were the most serious, requiring a large team, usually of older adults. There’d only been one Code 1 since most of the young adults had been taken in. Unfortunately, it resulted in the death of the power wielder due to how severe the situation had been. There was no hope of reintroducing him into society, so the team had been forced to end his life. Philadelphia had needed some major reconstruction afterward, all of which the facility paid for - anonymously of course.

John, Rose, Dave, and Jade followed Sage into the debriefing room, taking seats at the table as their boss moved to the front.

“Alright, you four. You’ve been selected for this Code 4 because he appears to be an element manipulator as well. He’s displayed some terrakinetic powers, using them to break into several banks to rob them. Your mission is to disable and bring him in for rehabilitation with as minimal damages as possible. Understood?” The four nodded in affirmation of their orders, standing and moving to the weapons room. True, they didn’t need anything extensive, but carrying some small things made them all feel better. They only ever used their powers against those that had them, too. If any normal people were involved in the crimes, the weapons were used then.

“Dude, don’t go for the warhammer. You don’t need it,” Dave chided John, who reached for his trusty weapon of choice.

“John, for once, listen to Dave. This is only a Code 4. Your strength is more than enough,” chimed in Rose. John frowned and replaced his beloved hammer as Dave grabbed his katana, Jade grabbed a tranquilizer rifle, and Rose went for a gun and knife along with rope.

“Fine. I’ll just go with my strength then… Bye, Casey. I’ll miss you.” He kissed the weapon before moving to the front of the four, assuming his position as quasi-leader. “Does everyone have their weapons? Are you all ready to go?” he questioned. They hadn’t needed to change due to always wearing outfits they can fight in. While they believed themselves to be similar to superheroes, there was no need for fancy outfits. They all pretty much wore stretchy pants, a generic shirt, and shoes they were able to move in. It was part of their image to not HAVE an image. They worked from the shadows as much as they could, and if they couldn’t be distinguished from anyone else in the agency, all the better.

The other three gave their respective responses that they were ready as Jade tied her long hair up in a ponytail, using one of the colorful bands she liked to wear on her fingers. Both John and Jade also grabbed the straps to attach to their glasses to make sure they wouldn’t fall off during the mission. Dave said he had no need for one as his glasses never fell off (because he was a cool kid, thank you very much).

Once all of them were completely ready to go, John led the way out of the facility, keeping the group to the shadows as they all moved stealthily and quickly through the outskirts of the city to the heart of it where there was mild havoc being wrought.

In front of them was a Chase bank, one of the biggest in the city. At the front of it was a man with short, brown hair that was moving the concrete sidewalk to bust into the building, scaring the civilians that happened to be near. In the distance, sirens were sounding, indicating the police were on the wielder’s tail. John looked at Rose, who nodded to him. They would have to be quick. Very quick, if they wanted to avoid a police confrontation. The terrakinetic criminal was definitely powerful, but how powerful, they weren’t entirely sure. Regardless, John motioned to Jade, telling her to go first. Fight fire with fire, right? Or in this case, terra with terra.

Jade straightened herself up and took a deep breath. She relaxed and felt the movement of the earth beneath her and beneath the whole block, including the bank. She moved forward, toward the destroyed entrance and followed the man in, John and company moving in behind her in a triangle formation.

“Hey! Man with the terrakinesis. What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Jade called out, garnering the man’s attention. Without answering her, he sent a controlled earthquake toward the group, hoping to distract them enough to use the floor to get into the safe where all the money was kept. Unfortunately for him, Jade was more than prepared for an attack like that. It was a classic mistake many terrakinetic people made when facing another person with terrakinesis. Jade immediately countered with a relaxing wave to soothe the angry one he’d sent. It stopped the earthquake in its tracks. In that time, John moved into action.

“Rose! Dave! Now!” he called out. The two named summoned their respective elements of water and fire, combining them to create a mist in the immediate vicinity. John then used his aerokinesis to move the mist toward the man, surrounding him and taking away his sense of sight. While most with terrakinesis could ‘see’ through the vibrations in the ground, they weren’t sure about this particular wielder. So, to mess up his ‘sight’, Jade sent a few more shock waves toward him, disorienting him. The man moved this way and that, trying to gain his bearings. Jade picked up on every one of them and always knew where to send the next wave.

When the criminal was sufficiently disoriented, Jade nodded to the others, John giving her a thumbs up in response. Just as they were about to move in in order to rope him up and bring him back to the facility, things took a turn for the worse. Because he couldn’t ‘see’ properly and was beginning to enter panic mode, his earth powers began going out of control. He was sending shock waves this way and that. Not to mention, he was bringing up pieces of the floor and shooting them in every direction. John and company had to duck several large pieces of the floor heading directly at them.

“Jade! Can you subdue him?” asked John, dodging another piece of floor. He could theoretically subdue him himself by controlling the air in the area, but he needed to be closer or him taking the air away would affect his teammates, too. And with how this man was acting, he couldn’t get in close enough. Dave lowered the temperature in the room by sucking all the heat into himself, making him extremely hot to the touch.

“Hopefully this will slow him down some, Jade.” Rose summoned back the water from the mist created earlier. Maybe once he could actually see, the man would calm down some. Unfortunately for them, he didn’t. Instead, once he realized he could see, he could actually target them. A smirk spread over his face as he pulled up four pieces of the floor and shot them directly at all four of them. As they all dodged, the man turned back to the vault and destroyed the door with a highly concentrated shockwave to the structure.

“Dammit! We won’t let you get away with this, Mister!” cried out Jade as she moved in closer. She willed one of the pieces of the floor he’d shot in her direction earlier to move in front of her. She took a deep breath and began punching the air in front of it, shooting out smaller, and therefore faster, pieces of stone toward him. It forced him to move away from the vault, seeing as she had always had extremely accurate and precise aim. With him distracted, Rose and Dave nodded to one another. Rose summoned water in front of her in little droplets. Dave then took the heat from them to create ice balls. Rose then began shooting them at the man as well, adding to Jade’s earth pellets.

Meanwhile, they were all creating the perfect diversion to allow John to move in closer to the man, sneaking around to come up behind him and slowly start sapping the air from the area. The man began huffing more in exertion as the air around him became thinner. Finally, he dropped to a knee, face turning pale and almost blue as the air around him became even thinner, causing him to start suffocating. John kept it at that level until the man passed out, Jade and Rose halting their attacks and dropping their respective ammunition. Dave released the heat while John finally released the air. They all took a deep breath before Rose moved into action, taking out the rope and tying the man up. Meanwhile, Jade did her best to replace all of the stone where it came from in the floor. She couldn’t fully patch it up, but she could at least replace some of it.

The sound of sirens outside the building signalled that their time was up.

“Come on, guys. We can go out the back. Dave, can you overheat the cameras?” John asked, grabbing the man and hoisting him over his shoulder with ease.

“Dude, you are really late to the party on that one. I overheated them the minute we stepped in. I didn’t want our faces being captured. What good would that do? I mean-”

“Dave! Now is really not the time to go on your long rants! We have to move, now!” chided Jade, grabbing the blond’s wrist and dragging him out, Rose walking behind them with a smirk on her face.

“Awww, look at little Davey, being chided by one of his best friends.”


“Enough, all of you! We have to get back. As much as I’d love to tease Dave, too, we have a cop problem very quickly approaching and need to get out of here pronto!” John butted in, leading them out of the employee entrance. He double checked the area behind the bank quickly before motioning for them to follow him out. Luckily, the police hadn’t made it around back yet, which gave them ample time to make their get-away. They hurried back to H.O.M.E. with their captive and entered. Sage was waiting there along with Rolanda Lalonde, a pale blonde woman who looked exactly like her daughters, as well as a couple other scientists. John dropped the man in front of Rolanda, who instructed her help to pick him up and take him to the lab. She turned back to the others.

“Great job, guys. We’ll get this guy rehabilitated and ready for the real world again, soon! Maybe you’ll even end up working with him!”

“That’s a little hopeful for right now, Rolanda. We have no idea how he’ll take the therapy. He may be a stubborn one,” commented Sage. The woman just brushed him off and hugged her youngest daughter before walking off to the lab, heels clacking on the floor. Sage turned to the young adults in front of him and surveyed them, taking in their damages. Luckily, none of them had actually been hit by any of the thrown floor, so they were all unscathed. Dave was still a little warm to the touch, but otherwise, all were well. The boss nodded to all of them.

“It’s nice to see you unharmed. What about the damage to the premises?”

“Sir, we found him in the Chase bank. He destroyed the front entrance and the structure around the vault door, causing it to unlock. He also tore up the floor, launching pieces of it at us. However, Jade replaced as much as she could so it was at least able to be walked on. Dave overheated the cameras to keep us anonymous. Other than that, everything remained unscathed,” John reported, for once actually being serious. He did smile at the end, however. “We got him with minimal damages, just like you asked. A lot of the damage done was unavoidable as, when we attempted to disable him by taking away his sight, he panicked and launched more at us than we anticipated. However, we did keep it to only the front area by the vault. The rest of the building was untouched.” Sage gave them all a smile and opened his arms.

“Good job. You did as asked and the damages won’t cost us too much. I’m proud of you all,” he said as all of them moved in for the routine ‘congratulations’ hug from their boss. Since he’d taken over, any time he sent out a younger team, Sage would welcome them back after getting a status update with a hug and a declaration of his pride in them. “Now, go shower and get to bed. You can sleep in an extra hour if you like tomorrow as a reward for doing well on this Code 4.” Jade and John whooped while Dave and Rose remained stoic. The latter two would no doubt get up at the normal time regardless, whereas the former would use the extra hour to sleep more.

“Thank you, Sir! Goodnight!” John called as the air in the facility lifted him and carried him off swiftly toward his room. Jade, Rose, and Dave followed at a slower pace, talking amongst themselves about their plans for the next day and what they’d be working on in their respective times to train.


“Well, Manny was a complete flop. We should never have sent him out. Now we’re out a pawn and a bunch of money,” complained a lower female voice full of disdain and anger.

“Well maybe it’s time to send out some of the stronger ones then?” a male voice followed suit, almost mocking and bored with the female’s complaints.

“Who do you suggest, then, if you’re so keen on sending out our better members?” she questioned curtly and with a bit of a snarl.

“Why not Muse, Prince, and Witch?”

“You’re not serious.”

“Why would I suggest them if I weren’t? You know those three are some of the strongest we have. They can easily get what we need and start making a name for us.” The woman glared at the man, a moment away from biting his head off when a thought struck her. Maybe he was actually right. They’d been playing it too safe. Maybe it was time for them to begin moving toward their goal.

“You may actually be right on this one. Fine. I’ll listen to you this once. We’ll send out Muse, Prince, and Witch. Go summon them.” The man grinned an evil grin, showing off one golden tooth.

“Of course, Empress.”