Rivervale City 4:34 pm. The Foxwell Residence.
A bottle squeezed of all its contents, the emptiness all-encompassing. That's what Aliza Foxwell would compare her current state to.
Tears had run dry, emotions long spent, apathy now settling in. Her world had collapsed around the young eleven-year-old without so much as a notice of any kind.
It might be true that she wasn’t the only one to suffer but did that really matter to her? Age was no restriction for selfishness, and she for one would gladly have preferred the death of her parent’s squadmates over their own.
Or at least she now did, her mind maturing to deal with the pain in ways that she suspected to be her first mutation.
Truly dead and gone from this world, with no nearby Healers with resuscitation capabilities to save them from the enemy's brutal ambush.
Unlike the others that had been thrown deeper into the POND due to the Void Storm, or given enough time to escape. She had seen the corpses. The ruptured remains of those who had hugged, kissed, and told her they loved her no less than a few days prior.
And those pathetic worms who had been saved actually had the audacity to look down on her with dejection when they broke the news to her the previous day. No that wasn't quite right, the empathy portion of her power painted the picture truer than the false ‘sorrowful’ faces they presented to her ever would.
Relief that they themselves had survived sang behind the deceptive appearance they showed to her.
Trash of the highest order. That's all they were, and she felt filthy being so close to them, but she would abate her emotions. She could not risk The Stronghold gaining an immediate interest in her. Better she be the sad orphaned daughter of two powerful Bruisers.
The world was cruel and unjust, something she had read in plenty of stories in her short lifespan but was only now starting to see.
Her future consisted of having a stranger she had little knowledge of other than name come swoop her from her now mostly empty home like some sort of abandoned animal.
The veil of apathy briefly waved as rage boiled it off for a moment before it fell back down blanketing her thoughts once more, the control over her emotions further improving as the hours of isolation sharpened her.
She glanced around her, the wonderfully designed room that she often played chess with her mother, or knitted with father. The odd pair despite their olympian builds appreciators of more than just how to pummel on others.
‘Gone.' It was a word she kept coming to.
“Maid.” The lifeless voice of a young girl echoed out throughout the manor.
“Yes, Miss?” From within her shadow rose a figure, the darkness pushing itself aside in waves.
“My parents paid for your services long in advance. How long can I expect you to be around?”
“The terms and conditions were very simple Miss. I am to protect you until your 18th birthday, as well as act as your personal maid till then.” A woman’s voice responded. Its tone is quite similar to the very girl who just asked her the question.
“Hmmm.” Aliza tonelessly hummed back in response. The echo light in the house once full of laughter.
“Ah, this should be the place!” Atlas looked towards a manor of impressive size, which came to no surprise. Hero’s that worked directly under The Stronghold were paid quite well for their services.
Drew, now walking on his own trailed behind his Great Uncle. He was no longer crying and to a certain degree felt somewhat numb but at least he could function as properly as a ten-year-old that had just lost his parents would.
Still, the grin remained on his face, unwilling to slip off no matter what he did, but at least it wasn’t as unnerving or pronounced as before. Instead giving him a mischievous look as though he had gotten away with something, or at least planned to.
“Hurry up boy. The girl’s been on her own for hours now. Best we find her before she does something stupid. Girls already got her power and a dangerous one it be. If this old bastard here hadn’t pulled a few strings she’d likely be taken by The Stronghold and let me tell you they don’t exactly treat Mentalists nicely especially those with the talent to become a Puppeteer. It's a good thing her parents were smart enough to hide her manifestation. Not that those pencil pushers would expect the daughter of two A-tier Bruisers to manifest as a Mentalist.”Atlas laughed as though he had just told the funniest joke.
Atlas continued rambling on about things that just flew over Drew’s head, but not because of his intelligence. He just didn’t understand why reminiscing about swimming in the nude with a famous supervillain of the past was being brought up in their current situation.
He was more worried about his upcoming interaction with the Mentalist
Mentalist was the broad term for anyone whose powers directly interacted with the minds of others. Empaths, Telepaths, Dominators, Dreamwalkers. These were the best-known ones, but most of the time a Mentalist’s power would blend into more than one branch if not multiple.
And Atlas had nonchalantly dropped on him on the way over that she was quite talented in both Empathy and Domination, the most dangerous of combinations.
Drew shivered, as someone who couldn't even manifest a power his mental defense was next to nonexistent. This girl as Atlas put it didn't even need to put forth any effort even if she didn't have any mutations, to turn him into an obedient drone.
Atlas, he suspected must either have some mutations that buffered his mental defenses or some artificer’s device that would do the same. He just hoped that in either case, he’d prevent the girl from just shutting down Drews mind like he’d seen villains with similar powers do to civilians.
Knuckles met the door, and the door struggled as the wood made odd noises unable to fully withstand the knocking of the massive man.
“What a flimsy door.” Mumbled Atlas.
‘I don’t think that’s the door’s fault.’ Drew said to himself still not at the point of being comfortable enough to have small talk with his great uncle.
It took less than five seconds for the door to slowly open, a gorgeous ebony skinned maid with hair dark enough to induce jealousy in the night itself waiting for the duo.
Shadows swirled in where her eyes ought to have been but Drew was still stunned by the overall beauty.
“Mr. Silver, welcome to the Foxwell residence, the Miss is waiting so if you would please follow me.” With a small bow and emotionless voice, the maid turned and began her trek into the manor, not bothering to give them a second glance.
“A hired maid, well if the Foxwells were anything it was filthy rich if my reports are to be trusted. Still, boy, a woman like that, do your best to avoid, unless you wish to wake up one morning tied up to a tree in the middle of nowhere.” With a sigh that spoke of experience while he rubbed his chin contemplatively, he left Drew even more speechless than the maid had.
Crossing through the manor that exuded the vibe of old money Drew couldn’t help but be shocked at the ridiculous amount of wealth that was being displayed everywhere.
His parents weren’t paupers of any kind, with plenty of wealth but they had lived more like average rich folk instead, the reason being that more than 70 percent of their wealth apparently went towards life extension research. Being a Metahuman as powerful as they were came with a few benefits such as increased life span, and it was estimated that his parents with their 30 plus mutations would easily live upwards of 200 years.
That was a luxury that Drew couldn’t share lacking the ability to so much as manifest. No parent would want to outlive their child so it came as no surprise that they did their best to make sure their son could live almost as long as them if not longer.
‘Well it’s not like it matters anymore….’ The dark thought distracting Drew from his surroundings causing him to knock into an oriental vase as tall as he was, sending the expensive pottery on a direct collision path with the floor.
Before he could yell in surprise though a hand rose from the shadow cast by the vase stopping its fate of becoming a great many little shards of clay.
“Please do be careful.” Drew turned to see the woman pushing her hand into a shadow, where its gloved self could be seen putting the vase back up into its upright position.
A Shadow Elementalist. A rare type indeed. So much that even Atlas couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
“Please keep up with me gentlemen, we’ve kept Miss waiting long enough as it is.
Drew gulped. There was an edge to the maid’s voice now. He made sure to be extra careful on the rest of the way towards their destination.
“Miss, your new guardian has arrived.” Stopping at an impressive door the maid bowed before slinking back into the shadows.
“Come in.” If the maid’s voice were to be seen as emotionless, then this one would be better be represented as a monotone, but it carried force with it. Drew felt as though he ‘needed’ to follow the voice’s command.
“You go first boy. I want to try and understand this girl a bit more before taking her in. And don’t worry I can stop her whenever I want to don't be shy.”
Drew’s thoughts grew muddled, Atlas’ words not registering as he followed the commands that had been given to him.
So with a push and some footsteps, he entered the room.
Aliza was looking at herself in the mirror. The dark spots beneath her eyes still unable to ruin what TV agents might call the perfect fit for a child star. Still too young to possess anything more than a cute yet cultured appearance. Platinum blond hair of average length was braided into an intricate design that her mother often liked using. Above the dark spots that spoke of restless and uneasy sleep, two crimson red iris stared back at her. Once an unusual thing but due to the nature of metahumans no longer something impossible.
She wore a simple black summer dress, although if one were to find out about its price tag they were likely to vomit blood.
The Foxwells did like their tailored clothes after all.
She heard her Maid’s voice.
“Miss, your new guardian has arrived.” So he’s finally here.
Turning away from the mirror Aliza spoke two words, filling them with as much of her power as she could.
She felt a response, and she smiled without any mirth.
At least she’d be the one in control.
Taking a bit longer than expected the door did eventually open but what came out was not what she had expected.
Chocolate waves pooled around the pale boy’s shoulder, the color reflecting the light in just the right ways enhancing its appearance. He stood a little shorter than Aliza but it also appeared that he was a bit younger than her.
Eyes pale blue as the arctic stared into nothing, the compulsion from her command removing surface-level thoughts from his mind until he could only follow her words. Still, a dumb smirk was painted on his face, which Aliza found surprising, She hadn’t had the chance to use her power on many yet but there was one consistent she had noticed. Everyone under her powers' effect always went slack faced.
Now, who was this supposed to be? Aliza might be young but in no way stupid. It would absurd to think this boy lesser in age than even her was her new guardian. She began to walk slowly around the boy, trusting her maid to keep her safe as she’d always had when her parents weren’t around.
His emotions blurred into a soup making it difficult for her to truly get a read on the boy's goals for showing up today. Quite unlike the open books the Trash that called themselves her parents friends had been.
The boy stood there waiting for further instructions, and Aliza full of questions saw no reason to not ask them.
“Who are you?” Simple commands were the easiest for her and much less draining mentally.
With a small twitch, he responded almost immediately but the grin remained.
“Drew.” His voice was soft, more like how a girl would speak than a boy his age. Unfortunately, though his answer did little to answer Aliza’s question. Was this one of those idiots you had to be specific with she wondered?
“He was following Mr. Silver your real new guardian.” From her shadow, her Maid spoke.
Aliza felt the pieces fall together, she was being tested.
“Where is he.” She asked.
“He appears to be napping outside the door, but it's most certainly a ploy. The man’s presence is full of weight, it is unlikely that he is not at the minimum A tier.” Her maid’s report caused some unease to crawl into her thoughts.
Her parents had been A-tiered, but they had been her parents. This was an unknown person and her maid could only be considered B(-) tier, still quite young despite her talent.
What sort of person that strong just walked around adopting children.
“The boy is likely the son of the other two A-tiers from the east coast that had been on the mission with your parents. The one's swallowed by the Void stormed.”
So that's where she recognized the name Silver from.
She glanced at the boy once more, growing sick at the sight of his grin. Why was he grinning like that? Was it because he knew his parents were alive while hers were decomposing as they had this little meeting. He was probably laughing at her deep within his subconscious. Pathetic little Aliza orphaned so trash could survive, while his parents are likely breaking skulls lower in the POND. They would eventually be found, sure it would take time but her parents no, they were dead DEAD DEAD DEAD AND HE WAS STILL SMILING! YOU FIND THIS FUNNY. DON'T YOU!!!!!!!!
Without her noticing, Aliza had sunk deep within her thoughts her breathing growing rough and painful her emotions finally breaking through the apathy she had tried so hard to build.
“STOP SMILING!!!!” Aliza screamed at the boy before her almost emptying the complete reservoir of her power to just achieve this one thing.
The boy went stiff, muscles tensing up violently around his face as her command did its best to force him to listen.
But much to the surprise of everyone present, even including Atlas who wasn't even in the room, the boy spoke.
“To stand…... smiling…….. brightly facing on……. any situation with….. a readied fist and a laugh that would…...make those around you….. feel at ease.” Speaking like a broken recording the boy forced out every word as a small stream of blood began pouring from his nose.
Aliza had turned dumbfounded, but that only grew worse as the boy spoke once more.
“Even if… all i want...is to cry…..mom…..dad…………”
Tears had started falling, but not from the boy.
No, it was Aliza whose eyes had betrayed her once more.
“WHY! YOUR PARENTS ARE STILL ALIVE, MINE ARE DEAD, GONE, ILL NEVER FEEL DADDYS ARMS AROUND ME, MOMMYS HANDS BRUSH MY HAIR. ILL NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN. UNFAIR, UNFAIR, UNFAIR!!!!!” A temper tantrum unlike any that she had ever thrown Aliza cried the emptiness she felt refilled with the pain she had sought to forget.
The maid felt that she had seen enough and was about to remove the Miss from the room to calm her down when she felt her breathing stop as an invisible hand laid itself on her shoulder despite her not being in the physical world.
“Relax little lady, and watch as a Silver man works their magic.” His laughter and voice reaching deep in the shadow she was waiting in.
Aliza had collapsed on the floor uncaring of her unladylike sitting position, eyes shut tight, and fingers digging into the velvety carpet with enough force to bleed, but that was incomparable to the turmoil within her.
The pain had returned in full force tearing into her heart, forcing more and more memories to rise to the surface, the once wonderful echos of her past blades and knives that cut and stabbed her mind.
‘No more please just let me blackout again...…’
She felt the signs of falling unconscious before her but then two arms found themselves around her, a warm cheek meeting her own, the tears of the two meeting on the battlefield of sorrow.
The darkness within her forcibly closed eyes explode into colors as emotions not her own bashed against the defenses of her mind.
They spoke to her in details unlike any she had felt before. No that wasn't quite true there were her parents who she could always tell love her but it wasn't until she manifested and their emotions spoke the truth did she understand just how deeply.
His Grief sobbed about the unfairness of it all, both for himself and her.
Fear, for a future without them for he was sickly and was unlikely to live much longer than 60 unless some serious strides were made in medicine. Too short of a realistic time frame to find them, with the lack of knowledge they had about the Earth's deeper in the POND.
Disgust in himself for making a girl cry, and feeling as bad as he did when she was truly worse off.
Then the Rage.
Too loud she found it to be, but it whispered not yelled, or screamed, or even speak in a normal volume. Just a deep whispering that blasted her from outside the empathic dive into the boy's mind.
She breached upwards from the depths of her own mind, the arms that had momentarily ago been tightly holding on to her slack and weak, the boy's head lulled into her chest unconscious but still bleeding onto her blood-soaked dress.
Hate had been surprisingly replaced by worry as she noticed how much blood he had lost while in each other's embrace.
“MAID!” She screamed, as Atlas finally entered the room.
When Drew woke up the first thing he noticed was how his head felt like someone had taken it out and beaten it like a dusty rug that needed cleaning.
His throat also demanded his attention, a desert dreaming of the day when it might once again be given the rain needed to heal.
“Water.” He whispered the voice scratchy and rough.
To his surprise, he felt something cool touch his lips, the sensation of water entering his mouth bringing strength to his body as he took the cup from whoever had been holding it for him.
The headache pounded away but the coolness of the water going down his through helped pacify the pain somewhat.
“Hchaaa.” He sighed happily.
“Are you feeling better?” A worried voice found itself into his hearing and Drew finally took the time to notice his surroundings.
He laid on the side of a king-size bed in what could only be called a living room masquerading as a bedroom. The thing was massive….. And full of plush toys neatly arranged wherever he could see.
He then turned to his left and felt his face flush.
Cute he thought internally, his mouth smart enough to not just blurt out his thoughts.
Sitting there was a girl a little older than himself, probably even less than a year. It was hard to tell at times since some kids started going through puberty at any time between 10 and 13.
Crimson eyes puffy from crying stared into his own, inducing another wave of heat in him.
“If the drum group in my head weren’t playing their hit song maybe.” He managed to squeeze out. Hoping he didn’t sound too weird he said what first came to mind.
The girl giggled softly at his joke, a bit of joy rising in his heart after days of misery.
“My names Andrew, but I prefer Drew, that is unless you want to call me Andrew.” He gave his name but quickly made sure she understood she didn't have to call him what he asked for.
She giggled once more, causing, even more, the warmth of joy to fill his chest.
“Well, I'm Aliza, but you can call me Lia…. That's what my parents use to call me.” Drew could detect the sad undertones she radiated.
“It's a pretty name, much nicer than just chopping off two letters.”
She turned to look at him, her eyes looking for something unknown to him.
“Well, I like your smile.” Her words surprised him. He’d heard nothing but insults about his smile the last few days.
“You sure? They told me my smiles creepy?”
“Well anyone told you that is wrong. Your smile is…..friendly and trusting.” Drew watched in shock as the young girl blushed while fumbling over her words.
“Ah, the love of the young. Truly brings a tear to my eyes.” Having seemingly appeared out of nowhere there now stood Atlas an annoying grin on his face as he looked at Drew and Lia.
“What happened, I can't recall anything since I opened the door.” Drew was more curious about how he ended up in such a state than complaining about his great uncle's unnecessary teasing.
Lia grew still at his words crimson eyes looking at Atlas in? Fear? Worry? Well, he couldn't quite make it out and for some reason, he didn’t like seeing her appear so distressed.
So before Atlas could answer He interrupted him.
“Actually it doesn’t matter, instead can I get some food? I feel like my insides are gnawing at itself.”
“I’ll have my maid make you something immediately! Maid!” Lia’s eyes had returned to his worry for herself now replaced with worry for him.
That feeling of warmth was slowly becoming addicting, Drew could just tell.
“A true Silver, no need for any sort of powers eh boy, am I right!” Did this man do anything besides laugh, wondered Drew.
“Well might as well let you two know what will be going on from now on.”
‘Guess he can.’ Thought Drew.
“You.” He pointed at Lia.
“And you.” Then turned to me.
“Are now my foster kids. Now look, I've never done more than take care of this boy's father for a summer or two so this will be a somewhat new experience so the two of you better not give me too much of a headache.”
“Especially you boy.”
“What, wait! Don’t you mean me?” Seemingly surprised Lia’s crimson eyes looked in shock at Atlas.
“Well I’m sure you’ll be annoying but nothing I can’t handle. This boy on the other hand just screams migraine. Or do you think what he did before is something just anyone could do?”
“Fair point….” Lia was now examining him, the curiosity quite obvious in her crimson eyes.
“Look I can’t follow half of what's going on…” Drew responded exasperatedly. The throbbing was fading but he was still lightheaded.
“Doesn’t matter boy what does matter is that we’ll spend the night here before heading over to my home at Dawn City.”
“The capital of Heros!?” Surprised at the revelation Drew couldn't keep his voice down, his throat very unhappy with the pain the action caused him.
“It’s just a big city, no need to feel as though it's anything more.”
“But it's The Stronghold and the Heros United Headquarters. Only Russia, the European Union, and China could compare to them in size and strength, ‘compare’ being the word to highlight here.” This time it was Lia who spit out the information, as she was quite the reader, her mother telling her that one even as young as her shouldn't limit themselves to fiction.
“Bah, your one of those types aren't you. Best be careful with this one boy.”
‘What are you insinuating you crude old man’ Drews couldn’t help but shout in his mind.
“My new caretaker is uncultured and vulgar.” Lia sighed but still continued to blush.
Seeing this now it was Drew's turn to sigh, but he still felt his smile bloom on his face.
“Sandwiches you asked for Miss. I hope you and company enjoy it.” The gorgeous maid had returned but all Drew could focus on was the delicious-looking sandwich on the platter.
They proved to be so as well.