- January 1, 2023
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 16)
The Untouchable Hand
I bet the Hood’s helmet airs out pit smells, but poor James.
I didn’t get to shower like Marie, I had to put on my Espada outfit feeling gross, and smelly and everything in between.
Then there’s James, the Director’s computer whiz. He could find where this David Sanchez lives, but hacking Savaage tech is something that needs to be done in person. He needs to be carried.
I’m holding him bridal style, a hoodie over his head to better protect his face the whole trip. I see the building, and I thank god that this awkward flight is over.
I do get one surprise though. The Hood is already standing against this car he keeps saying he has, but I’ve never seen. Now it’s right in front of this apartment building.
Wait, he’s out in the open! He’s just hanging around, arms crossed, looking like it’s the most normal thing to be doing!
It’s like he’s forgotten he’s the Hood.
I land and place James on his feet, something he should be happy with, but the shy kid only sticks his hands deeper into his hoodie’s one big pocket.
Having landed in front of him, arm’s length away, the Hood greets us with his usually charming personality. “What’d you bring him for?”
“He’s a telepath, to hack the computers.”
The Hood snorts over something I said.
I find out what when James holds up a finger to correct me, but reels his finger back.
“Is that… not what you do?” I ask him.
He shakes his head. With his soft, shaking voice, “Um, I’m a-a technopath actually, I-I… I control technology, telepathy is… is reading minds.”
“Oh, my bad,” I apologize, trying to smile at the mistake but the shy guy only gives me his own awkward frown.
I finally turn to the Hood’s car. I don’t know much about them, much less what model this is, but I can tell it’s American muscle. Not really what I would have guessed. My dad would drool over it, I know that. I mean, we could certainly afford as many as he wants, but it’s really not worth it since he’s guaranteed to crash it.
Personal drivers are more reliable.
“So… you do have car?” I ask him, my arms crossed as I inspect it.
The Hood uncrosses his arms to push himself off it, saying at the same time, “Told you, you just always carry me around and I have to leave it.”
I nod my head, biting my upper lip having been proven wrong, he actually had a nice car. Maybe he’ll let me drive it… in my dreams.
I notice him admiring it, and I figure this is as a good a time as any to test my eyes. I look at him, straight ahead and focus my eyes when he’s not looking. I try to look between the molecules of his helmet, look past them. I know this is called x-ray vision, but it feels like I’m worming my eyes around the helmet, trying to see along the bend of light, following the minuscule light particles that pass through the helmet.
And I see something. It’s a black blur around his face. Fucker has another mask underneath the helmet.
It should piss me off but I like testing my x-ray vision on him, who doesn’t like a challenge now and then? Plus, I feel like I learn something new.
Like what his smile looks like. The second mouth doesn’t cover his mouth, and he’s not as creepy as you would think. Though, maybe I would say something different while I’m killing people. That feels like a can of worms I can’t close.
As we start walking towards the entrance I ask him, “How long have you been waiting? I mean I figured someone would have tried to talk to you and bother you.”
The Hood walks with me towards the entrance, James lagging behind. As he goes to check the door handle, the door being locked, he asks me rhetorically, “You think there’s anyone left in this town who’d walk up to me?” He has a really good point, even as he kicks the door open, breaking and entering. “It’s only you.”
That makes me smirk… for some reason.
The building is decently tall, a couple stories. Still Northern Aegis City, so more broken down than it should be. I can do something about that later.
A couple of doors open to see what’s happening, and they see Espada and the Hood standing in the middle of their apartment building. We get more than a few dirty looks, and many more heel turns back into their apartments.
I turn around to ask James, “What room is Sanchez’s?” James whips his head up, surprised at being called upon. It takes him a second to realize that this is part of why he’s here.
“117, fifth floor,” he answers almost robotically.
“Great,” I tell him, smiling at him, trying the old idea that smiles can spread, but he reacts poorly, shrinking back.
Oh well, that will make this next part awkward for him.
I grab the Hood — who knowingly groans — and James around their arms.
“We’re skipping the stairs,” I quip and I lift off the ground to the fifth floor and see the room. After flying over the railing in front of it, the Hood is about to kick down the door the second I put him down, but I press my hand to his chest.
I place my other hand over my chest and offer, “Allow me.”
Instead of making a mess and a lot of noise, I bring my hand to the door handle and twist all the way, breaking the lock. Gotta be quiet when committing property damage, though I’m sure the owner will take a check from me.
I enter first, into what is obviously the pigsty of a boy, considering the smell. I mean, my room is filled with clothes on the floor, but I never let it smell and I would never leave food on the floor.
All the smells and sticky-looking things only remind me of how bad I must smell in this tight suit. Maybe Mom can have the design team loosen it up a bit, it’d be nice if it were more… functional than commercial.
I sniff my armpit to make sure it’s not as bad it feels… but it is. I try to ignore it by telling James, “Do your thing,” right as the Hood begins to search around and do his.
As I’m checking my own stench, I realize that I also smell the mold in the walls and the floor. I smell it even over the leftover pizza, or whatever the ants are eating in the carpet. Super smell is, easily, the worst of the super senses on regular basis.
Super hearing is a close second as I hear those same ants crawling around. There’s also the paint that’s coming off the walls, giving the living room area a kind of dry and musty air.
This place… this is not a healthy place to live in, my standards be damned, Marie wouldn’t live here.
“He lives in a dumpster,” I say as the Hood looks around and James islistening for something, “but why live in a shitty place like this?”
The Hood is squatting next to his dresser, going through the bottom drawer. He shrugs his shoulders at me. “Probably can’t afford it, not many places that much better in North Aeg.”
I thought he was supposed to be smart, why doesn’t he see that that doesn’t make sense? “When he’s selling product for the Savaage? This a multinational supervillain organization, why couldn’t they pay him enough to get out of this crap hole?”
The Hood turns his head, talking over himself, “Why would they even-,” he almost asks. I assume he was going to ask why would the Savaage even care, like it doesn’t make sense that they would pay their employees. He points out, “They barely pay any of their other workers, Sanchez is no different, better question, why do you even care? He’s a dirtbag who hurt our friend and his family, he’ll go to jail if you catch him, and to hell if I do.”
He’s doing that thing where he knows he should have thought of it first, so he has to double down that he’s not wrong. Dad does it with Mom all the time.
Instead of trying to get roped into his condescending argument, I just mock him. “If you can even kill him.”
He was about to turn away, but he stops and freezes, and takes a moment to mutter back, “There aren’t many things I can’t kill.”
Oh, the ego is large with this one.
I cross my arms and ask, “Like me?”
He stops again as he closes the drawer, pausing before he opens the next one. He assures me without looking at me, “You’re more ‘won’t’ than ‘can’t.”
“Nice to know,” I sneer at his back, and he tries to ignore me. Sometimes I forget how much of an ass he can still be.
I notice James, standing in the middle of the room. He can’t possibly be as big a jerk as the Hood, so maybe I’ll talk to him. I actually haven’t gotten to know him that well. I just know him as the tech guy that Claire keeps mercilessly dragging around.
I walk, or honestly, float around him, but he doesn’t respond. With his hoodie on, I don’t see that his eyes are glowing blue until I move around him. That must be a signal that he’s using his powers. I should move back before I say anything and startle him.
“James, did you find anything?” I ask him.
Despite standing a few feet away the boy, he still twitches rather hard. I try to calm him with my hands, but he immediately goes to that place of shyness and quietness. I float up and tilt my head, my hands behind my back, as hero-training taught when talking to a scared kid. Shows that nothing gonna hit them.
“I’m sorry for spooking you, did you find anything?”
His eyes opened wide through his glasses, and I notice that he has this young look to him. Skinny too, but not bone thin. Not a hair on his face, so at least he doesn’t look like the kind of person who lives in the basement of his mother’s house.
“There’s a computer somewhere in here, but it’s blocked by something.” He rubs his hand against his neck, obviously embarrassed over something and apologizes, “I’m sorry, I haven’t used my powers like this before, I… I usually use it through something I’m touching, not to sense anything around me.”
I assure him, “It’s okay, do you know which direction it’s in?”
James points to the wall above the heater/air conditioner, a vent next to the bed. The Hood turns to look at it. I figure he’s turned on some kind of super-vision because he proceeds to point and give me an order.
“Emily, there’s a false brick over the vent, take it out.”
In a deep voice I tell him, “Yes sir.”
His groan is music to my ears.
Easily enough I look over the vent and there’s a couple bricks that look out of place. I tear them out and voila, a laptop. I take it out and run it over to James, who takes it and immediately pulls out a stool at the counter and opens it up.
Boys can be so rude. I float behind him, and make a coughing noise. I scare him more than I ever meant to, but try to go with it and tell him, “I didn’t have to get it for you.”
“Thank you!” he says, his eyes full of worry, and now I feel bad for digging into him.
Clearly, being rude wasn’t his intention… Jesus… still, I wonder what has him so nervous around me. I mean, James always seems nervous around… you know what, I only ever see him with the Director and her assistant.
I watch as James uses his power. His fingers lay on the keys, the same eight they teach us to use as a starting point in computer class, but James doesn’t press anything.
The computer screen just moves with these flashing windows that open and close faster than even I’m able to process. Kid must be really smart to understand this, or maybe that’s part of his power too.
I try to make conversation, see if he can talk and use his powers at the same time. “Do you know what you’re looking for?”
He turns his glowing eyes to me, and turns back with his shoulders having grown even tenser. Not what I wanted.
“I’m looking for where our David Sanchez might have gone, and I’m going through his files about the Savaage, which are heavily encrypted.”
I want to seem interested by saying, “That must be really hard-”
“Done,” he chimes, interrupting me. He realizes what he did and turns around to apologize, “I’m really sorry.”
I wave it off, apology is enough. “It’s alright, so you’re in? What can you find out?”
“I- um, I can start by watching through all the videos, reading files, meeting places, storage and stuff,” James lists, the boring stuff.
I’m kind of curious as to how his powers work though. “Great, James, when you’re connected to the computer, do you like, see everything in code, or over your eye like some augmented reality?”
James is speechless, but he shouldn’t be. This isn’t like a dangerous question or anything. How damaged does this boy have to be to be so nervous and hesitant all the time?
I ask him, “James, are you okay?”
“I, um, I,” he stammers, he can’t get a word out.
“Leave him alone,” the Hood calls out to me, and I’m halfway through rolling my eyes when the guy tries to tell me, “you obviously scare him.”
“I’m not scared,” he said in the most unconvincing voice I’ve ever heard.
I scare him? He’s the gun-toting vigilante that was just gloating about killing our perp, and James is scared of me?
I tell him, “That’s crazy,” and I turn to James to ask him, and he bunches up into himself as I float an inch closer.
Jesus, he is scared of me.
Is it my powers, my name, or… I can’t fathom why else he would be scared of me, but not the Hood, or…
Maybe he is scared of the Hood, but the Hood was smart enough to leave poor James alone, and I wasn’t. It can really get on my nerves when he can spot people better than me. I mean, when guessing who would be a people person between him and me, who would choose him?
Still, I back away from James, telling him, “Sorry,” for once, and let him do his work.
I’m thinking about how awkward this is going to be, at least until James blurts out, “I found something!”
The Hood stands up straight and asks him, “What did you find, kid?”
If he had called me kid, I’d be annoyed, to say the least, there’s barely an age difference between any of us, but James doesn’t show an ounce of fear or annoyance towards the Hood. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been in his personal space, and the Hood has kept his distance.
“I got into his accounts, one for his phone and then I tracked his usual locations, narrowed down the possibilities of where he would meet a suppliers, and…” James explained it but likely noticed it going over our heads.
He then offers, “I could forward it to your helmet display.”
The Hood does that thing where he freezes and stares. Whenever something ticks him off but doesn’t enrage him either.
“You’re tapped into my helmet?” he asks James, his tone plain and emotionless, which makes James nervous like he was with me.
With the meekness of a child who just got caught stealing candy, James admits to his guilt with a squeak, “Yes…”
“Don’t do that,” is all the Hood says, and James won’t ever do it again.
“Now who’s scaring him?” I taunt the Hood.
The Hood ignores me and orders James, “Where does he usually meet his supplier? I’m willing to bet that’s where he went to find help for his new powers, the source.” Knowing the Savaage, and this penchant for some cruel idea of empowerment, I doubt they would help him. I wonder if they would even show up.
James eyes light blue. He’s watching the video in his head to confirm it. It’s kind of cool to imagine how his powers work. Maybe it’s like a computer screen always with you. I hope that’s how it works.
“It’s this construction site, a building that’s not finished, just the pillars and steel supports,” James informs us, still looking through everything, looking for something more substantial. Right now, there are a few buildings being made around the city, and we don’t want to search them all. “I see the Aegis Needle in the background…”
The Hood asks him, “Is the ocean behind it or the suburbs?”
Got him, that’s the new apartment building Burkestone is making. It’s good real estate, under Uncle Greg’s division. It’s right on the edge between North and South Aeg, where the less fortunate have a small place in South Aeg. It’s supposed to be much nicer than the apartment complex that was knocked down.
The Hood recommends, “We should head there now, before he escapes.”
I nod my head in agreement, but I know we shouldn’t take James, being that he’s not a fighter. The Hood is a step ahead of me, and tosses his keys to James, who barely catches them in time.
“Take my car back to the Aegis Needle,” and James’s excited smile is halfway there when the Hood informs him, “it’ll be on autopilot, you’re not driving my car.”
The sad face that follows says a lot about a boy’s love for fast cars.
I cross my arms as I smirk at the Hood because him not taking his car means one thing. The Hood notices, and stares me down for a second as I bask in his emasculation
“Flying is faster,” he answers, without me even needing to make fun of the situation.
“I know,” I say, gloating and taunting him in the same breath.
I finally learned if my sister hates me or not, and immediately this city wants to pull me back into Hell. I actually believed that when the Director showed up it was out of condolences, but she just sent Marie ahead for that.
Now, the Director has not only pulled me aside, but my parents too.
Sitting in this hospital’s nicer cafeteria, I sit across from the Director with Marie adjacent beside her. We’re waiting on my parents for food, but the Director refuses to start, saying that they have a hand in this. How the fuck is that possible
The Director glares right back at me from across the table. She warns me, “I’ll stare at you all day if that’s what you want, kid, cool it with the fire-show.”
Marie whispers, “Tommy,” and gestures over her eyes, and I realize my eyes must be sparking fire.
I try to blink to make the fire go out, and as I’m rubbing my eyes Mama’s hand touches the back of my head. She asks me, “Are you alright?”
I nod my head as I wipe my eyes clear, assuring her, “I’ll be fine.”
Mama sits beside me as Papa sits opposite of her, next to Marie. Making sure where everyone is… it’s helping me center things.
The Director doesn’t waste any time, she gets right into the thick of things as Mama hands me my sandwich. Something tells me I’m not going to eat it.
“Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez, it’s been a while since we last met-”
“When you recruited our boy to fight for his life every day, I remember,” Mama interrupts.
The Director doesn’t take that well, she chuckles, and that makes me nervous. She keeps chuckling and brings her hand to her eye, wiping it clean as she laughs to herself, confusing us. Her temper might somehow be shorter than mine right now.
“Let’s make something clear, that lip, lose it,” she growls at Mama, taking us aback.
Papa goes to tell her, “Excuse me, do not talk to my wife like-”
“You shut the fuck up too,” the Director snaps at him, and I’m not letting that go anymore. I go to sit up-
Drawing the attention of the few people and workers in the cafeteria, the Director slams her hands down on the ground, and screams at me, “Shut your fucking mouths, sit the fuck down, and don’t speak until I ask you a question. I have a rogue superhuman killing people with the goddamn touch of his skin, with dozens already dead. I don’t give a flying fuck about any grievances you got up your asses right now, if someone wants to keep throwing me a pissy attitude,” she moves a hand over the taser-gun on her hip and then slams it onto the table, “they can feel a few volts flowing through their bones.”
I sit back down, remembering the first time the Director tested my powers, and after one bit of lip she shot me with that taser-gun. She warned me then that her tolerance for bullshit decreases exponentially.
“I don’t have this job because I have a soft spot or high tolerance for petty bullshit, quite the opposite, I ignore it, so whatever you got, suck it up.”
When we’re all silent in our seats, me having firmly planted my butt back in mine, she sits back in hers and lets out a loud sigh. She wipes her face again out of exhaustion.
“Good, let’s get started. Straight to the point, I had the research done on this… Stoneman, and found his real name.” The Director looks right at Mama and tells her, “This conversation is going to be very disappointing if you don’t remember a little boy named David Sanchez.”
The lights go on in Mama’s head, and I look to Papa to ask him if he knows, but his look of recognition says it all. Their eyes, they get lost in thought immediately.
“David hurt my daughter?” Mama mutters to herself, her eyes drifting to the table.
“Oh good,” the Director comments, “you remember him.”
I ask my parents, “Who is this guy, why do you know him?”
Mama looks up at me, she’s looking for the words but she can’t explain. What’s so hard about this?
I feel Papa take my hand, he’s not on the verge of tears like Mama is. “You know that after your mother’s pregnancy with Sofia, her carrying another child was considered… too dangerous for her health.”
“Yeah, I know,” that’s why they adopted Jonas and me, they wanted more than one kid.
“Well, Tommy, when we were looking to adopt another child, I was volunteering for the orphanage,” Mama explains. I had actually forgotten that.
“We decided to adopt a boy from there, I knew the kids, I knew which ones were constantly being rejected. Back then…” she trails off, thinking about how different things must have been, “the older the child is, the harder it is to get adopted. People want babies, people think they’re young and cute, and if they look like you, they don’t have to explain that they’re adopted, not for years. The uh, minority kids, they don’t get that luxury when most of those adopting are…”
“White,” the Director adds, “when they are white, you don’t have to beat around the bush, Tommy is literally the only milk-toast one here.”
Mama takes a deep breath through her nose to keep herself calm, I can hear the faint whistle she makes when she does that.
“There was a boy named David, his mother was a prostitute with a drug problem, and we had no idea who the father was. When she overdosed, he ended up in the orphanage, and had been there for a few years. He kept getting passed over, he was sweet, smart, it was heartbreaking to watch him watch others leave.”
“Why didn’t you adopt him?” I ask, because it doesn’t make much sense, “If he was sweet and smart, and had been there so long, why not adopt him?” It takes me a moment to realize, but it dawns on me.
“Did you adopt me instead?”
Mama shakes her head, “No, we decided against him, because when we had him meet Sofia, who was still a little baby, she was so scared of him. He walked into the room and she started crying, and,” Mama pauses, looking into space, remembering it in her head as if she remembers so vividly, “and I couldn’t get her to stop crying. We tried to let him hold her, he really wanted her to like him…” Mama looks up to Papa, and he knows he should finish for her.
“And it was like she refused to be in his hands,” Papa adds for her, “and when he looked at her, realizing that she was ruining his chances, his face was so full of malice, hate, I took my daughter from him.”
Papa pauses as he rolls his tongue in this mouth, unable to get the words out.
“Maybe that was too harsh to him, but if Sofia didn’t trust him… so I didn’t… I don’t know. Now, maybe I know I was right.”
The Director leans forward onto the table, her hands tangled together. She thinks she’s heard enough, and determines, “Thinking about it, it was probably a coincidence that he ran into your children, but I assume he didn’t react well to being rejected yet again, by a regular caretaker no less?”
Mama stares at the Director, wondering why the hell the answer isn’t obvious, but she knows better and answers with a nod of her head.
Director Knight makes it clear that, “With that said, having now seen his replacement,” she says with a gesture to me, “your family might just be the people he goes after, with this… transformation he’s gone through.”
“Now hold on a minute,” Papa interjects, first with a finger to the Director, then to me, “you are no replacement, you are my son.”
I let Papa see a small smile. “I didn’t think anything else.”
The Director on the other hand, rolls her eyes, “Jesus Christ, but does David see it that way? David went after you, Tommy, the second he saw you, why?”
Mama reaches over to Papa, and mutters to him, “Marco, she may be right,” and she turns to me as she says, “we never told you how we came to have you.”
I know why that is, that was my choice. “I never felt the need to know.”
Marie leans over, speaking for the first time in a while, “But, Tommy, this guy, he has his own version, and he might come for you because of it.”
It becomes clear pretty quick that I have to learn just how my parents adopted me. It’s become pretty clear that it wasn’t through any normal adoption process. I just know that they’ve had me since I was a baby, that Sofia and I shared a crib, that’s how soon they found me.
“Tell me,” I ask my parents.
Papa leans back into his chair, thinking about where to start I bet, and Mama stares at him, her hands in front of her, clearly ready. She must remember this inside and out, so she starts without him.
“I remember it raining really hard, we were racing down Drinker Street, middle of the day, only time my mother could watch Sofia, just to tell David that it wasn’t going to work. He deserved to be told by us, we had decided that maybe just one kid was enough already. I mean, Sofia hadn’t even slept all the way through the night yet, maybe, no, we were way in over our heads wanting another kid so soon. We were crazy!” She laughs about it, it’s nice to see that finding me isn’t so full of sadness and depression. “We were walking, we were still living in the city so no car, and we come up on the orphanage, it’s dusk but the dark clouds made it seem like it was already night, and we stop before the courtyard.
“There’s this woman, with a baby.”
Mama takes her hands, and waves it over her hair, “Her looks, her jewelry, her hair, it was done up, full blowout, it she wasn’t like the usual women who can’t take care of their children, the ones doing what they think is best, but she had this baby in a basket, like in a movie, and just… left it there… left you.”
This is why I didn’t want to know… this is exactly why. The feeling of knowing that she, the egg donor, was capable but unwilling…
No, I don’t really know what happened, that’s an assumption.
“She turned around and saw us, and bolted in these high heels to her car. I was so shocked I didn’t think to move until after she was already shutting the door to this, this sports car. I remember Marco, yelling after her but I went to the baby.”
Mama smiles at me, she gestures and says, “I took you into my arms and I couldn’t leave this, wet, cold, baby anywhere. I honestly forgot about David in that moment, that’s a terrible thing to say but I did.”
Marie tells her, “It’s not so terrible, you just had a child, a newborn like him, it was probably instinct.”
“I… I can imagine doing the same,” Claire mumbles.
Mama turns to Marie, and gives her a smile. “I hope so, that makes it sound better,” Mama says.
Then she looked to me again. “We took you to the hospital, had you checked out, found out you weren’t on file anywhere. We had no other idea on how to find that… woman.” Mama actually wants to call her anything other than what she is, just a person. It would hurt her more than me to call that woman my mother. “We took you home, and Sofia didn’t have even a lick of an issue with you.”
Papa chuckles as he crosses his arms, remembering the one part they always told us. “First time she slept through the night was when we brought you home. Of course, it didn’t stay that way but…”
My parents share a knowing look of what life with newborns is like.
Director Knight groans and asks them, “Let’s skip the old parent talk, something a little bit more important.”
Mama has grown braver and takes a moment to tell the Director, “When you have kids of your own, you’ll understand the kind of flashback that me and my husband are having.”
The Director has this hint of a smirk that disappears as soon as it’s there, right before she tells Mama, “Don’t assume.” That could be many things, but could it be…?
Nah, no way, the Director don’t got time to have kids.
The Director is the first one to touch on the whole point of this story. “So, what you’re saying is… you were going to adopt this brown boy, then when you were on your way to see him, you found a cute little white boy and adopted him instead. Does anyone else see the future motive?”
My parents look between each other, realizing their past mistakes… not in adopting me per say but maybe a mistake in how the situation was handled… It may all come back to bite them.
Papa scratches his head as he figures, “Well, when you put it that way…”