Afflictions: Part Nineteen

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Arte and Ashley sat on the floor of the warehouse, watching Webb and Vanessa sitting across from each other holding hands, as she read his mind. Ashley’s breathing had finally steadied after the whole encounter at gunpoint. She was still slightly on edge, but something just told her that things would work out. Arte seemed to be about as on edge as before, so she presumed she had less optimistic feelings. That had always been Arte though, she worried more. Sure, she wasn’t always the most levelheaded under stress herself, but she tended to see the best in people. Not to mention, after last year, she had to get better at handling stress.

A few moments of relative silence passed, and Vanessa stood to her feet. “He’s telling the truth, or a master of controlling his memories.” She shrugged. “He’s had nothing to do with Jessica’s disappearance, and he’s even spent a good deal of time thinking about who could have done it.”

“As you can see, I was telling the truth.” Webb stood to his feet with slightly less ease, and took his hand off of his holster. “Whether or not you believe what has been presented to you is up to you.”

“I feel fairly confident he’s trustworthy.” Vanessa nodded. “He also shared more, but I believe that will be best conveyed by him.”

“Then I guess that settles it.” Ashley nodded and turned to Arte. “Right?”

“I guess so.” She nodded, and turned to Webb. “Sorry for the false accusations.”

“No hard feelings.” He nodded and smiled. “To tell you the truth, I’m a little relieved to have some allies here.”

“So what exactly has been going on?” Arte leaned up against a shelf. “You said something about factions being out to get you for your artifact? What’s your artifact?”

“I suppose I start at the beginning.” He began to pace as he spoke. “February 25th, 2018. The green light hit, and seemingly random people were given superpowers. I was still at work when it happened, and these glasses,” he tapped the glasses he wore, “Appeared on my desk. I put them on and found they gave me a much more detailed view of the world, along with the processing power necessary to use all the information they give me.

“For example, I noticed that there were two of you that came in because I could see the disruptions in the dust in this warehouse. When I lowered my firearm earlier, I was actually holding it at a calculated angle to ricochet around your shield and hit you squarely through the center of your nose.” He tapped the bridge of his nose. “Instant death.”

Ashley’s heart skipped a beat, and she looked to Arte in shock. Arte simply sighed and lowered her head.

“Now with that kind of power, I immediately recognized I needed to lead as low-profile of an existence as possible, while still enjoying the benefits of it.” He continued, unfazed. “I was able to continue for about a year and a half, until the beginning of the school year of Fall 2020. I started to notice some irregularities. First I realized that there was a noticeable change in behavior in a few of the teachers, and some of the non-teacher staff. They were looking around more, and making oddly specific paths. They were either being very clever about how they observed me, or not aware that they were observing me specifically. The only reason I could conclude for this is that they are after my glasses. It’s statistically improbable that there are more people at this school that were affected by the green light. Not to mention, I’m able to tell when someone has powers, and I haven’t seen anyone.

“That was the first strange thing I noticed.” Webb nodded. “That wasn’t the end of it, though. This school year, there has been… something… roaming the halls of the school.” His face turned grim. “It’s not human, not fully at least. As best as I can tell, it has no set form. Nobody can seem to remember when they run into it, and it doesn’t seem to do anything besides watch. It knows I can see it, so it taunts me.”

“Jesus Christ…” Ashley muttered, then looked over to Arte, who seemed to be thinking.

“That’s what I’ve been running into.” She nodded. “Whatever that thing is, I’ve run into it before. I try to look at it, then I get a headache, and start to forget, but I remember it now…”

“That might have something to do with your artifact.” He pointed at her necklace. “Regardless, not terribly long after this thing appears, the girl goes missing.” He nods. “Once she went missing, two people with superpowers turn up to the school and are aggressively asking questions, which is why I figured you weren’t affiliated with the other groups, since they seem to be more tactful.”

Ashley nodded. She wasn’t terribly surprised that they weren’t great at this. While it might be their job, they were just engineers, not espionage agents. Right now it was a way that only they could help.

“So, that’s most of what I’ve observed before you showed up.” He nodded. “Any questions?”

“There is one thing you’re wrong about.” Arte spoke up. “You’re not the only person at your school with powers. There’s a girl that works with us at the DSR now, and she attends your high-school.”

“I won’t say it’s impossible, but I think it’s unlikely.” He thought for a moment, then his eyes went wide. “Does she have some kind of power that nullifies other powers?”

“Yes.” Arte nodded. “What’s with the expression?”

Webb was silent for a moment. “That changes quite a lot. She’s gone on missions with you? Has she ever been caught on camera?”

“I’d say probably? She was involved in one relatively public mission at a mall, and used her powers.”

“I see. This changes quite a lot indeed.” He locked eyes with Arte, his expression was grim. “She’s in quite a good bit of danger, but now I need to focus on reanalyzing everything. For now I think you should focus on investigating whatever unknown element is roaming the school. That’s probably the biggest threat to her. If you keep her guarded then I’d say whatever human influence is operating here is minimally threatening.”

Ashley and Arte both reeled for a moment.

“Zoey’s at the center of all of this?” Arte repeated.

“Well, right now supers are operating completely unchecked.” He began to pace again. “Sure, many could easily be stopped with guns, and they’re of little concern. There are bound to be some, however, that are much more powerful. I theorize that there could even be a super that is influencing everything, like some kind of god. I’d say my first priority, were I rich and powerful, would be to secure a way to nullify any potential unstoppable supers.”

“Shit…” Arte’s word echoed through the warehouse leaving behind an uncomfortable silence of shattered facades.

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Short blurb this week, because the power’s flickering and I’m tired. Love you all.

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