The Wolf Pack (Chapter 19)

The Scientist


Dr. Ray, it really has been a while. I don’t think I ever spoke to her once, fire probably isn’t her thing.

That all said, AUSI is a nice school, big campus, a park in the middle, and those metal tent over the pathways for when it snows or rains. If my sense of smell wasn’t toast, I would be able to smell the doe coming into this place.

Oh well, I like it here, I would like to go here, but a person has to be really smart in something that’s not art. English is probably the only useless major here.

The university sits right on the water, outside of the rest of Aegis City and its drama.

And I can tell the commuters from the residents by who stops and stares. Only kids nowadays actively watch us when we walk or fly around anymore. The residents, they live on this pretty campus and probably never leave. The commuters probably see one of us flying by at least once a week.

I kind of leave a trail of smoke.

There’s one thing that bothers me though.

I point this out to the Hood, “You know, we just flew right in, no one yelling or trying to stop us or anything, like… this is still private property.”

The Hood looks around and points to a building in the distance, ignoring me to tell me, “The science building is over there, that’s where her personal lab should be. I hear they have a bigger lab where they helped to develop the last space shuttle for Elon Douche.”

Internally, I suspect there is a boy who likes space in that violent, extra, melodramatic helmet.

It’s important to remember though, if they worked on the space shuttle here, what else can they make? We did come here because of a trace of the Stoneman.

As the Hood starts walking away, some people are still watching us, so I wave to them. Some wave back, a few cute girls wave back, college girls wave back.

What are you doing Tommy, you can’t even drive yet at 18. You didn’t even apply to college because you wanted to be a superhero.

Maybe this place would give me a superhero discount? Or… would they say it’s too dangerous for me to even join…? Yeah, probably…

Let’s choose violence today and annoy the Hood.

In a loud, annoying voice, I repeat to him, “You’d think they’d have better security, you know!” When he ignores me again, I repeat myself even louder, and then a third time…

He stops after the fifth.

The Hood turns his head to look me dead in the eye and it feels like maybe my expectations are too high. “Tommy, I glided on metal wings and you flew in on fire, what the fuck are they gonna do? Shoot us down with a rocket? This is still a school, not the Thunderdome.”

“Point… made…” I admit, though maybe they should, even if we ignore terrorists, two weeks ago Emily and I had to fight a dude with a heat ray coming out of his eyes. A guy like that could just walk in here by staring straight. Lucky for us he wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, he was just high.

Wait, maybe that’s not actually all that lucky.

Thinking about it, “But shouldn’t security come for us at least? We could be dangerous, I mean we are, but like against the students for all they know.”

“We’re pretty famous, Thomas.”

I twitch a little.

“That’s true too.”

We’re about to come up on the science building, or at least I think since I’m just following the Hood. Based on how inconspicuous this place seems, I don’t think the Stoneman is here. Even with the bleary gray sky, this place doesn’t seem like it’s about to burst.

Though the campus security finally shows up though, two people in their twenties who look like they could be students, drive up on their golf cart-looking thing.

They stop in front of us, and the Hood behaves, thankfully. “Who are you supposed to be?”

I move in front of the Hood, flash them a friendly smile. I introduce us, “I’m Pyre, and this is the Hood.”

Kind of surprised that there are still people who don’t know what we look like, but then again, if we’re on TV, I can assume it’s pretty hectic. The Director doesn’t let us talk to the press.

The security go wide-eyed, and quietly tell us to carry on as they turn the key and drive away.

“Smart men,” the Hood states before continuing up the stairs. I want to question whether or not they’re scared of him, but everyone in the city who finds themselves in his way seems to be. I’m starting to wonder if maybe being a gun-toting psycho among a pretty anti-gun population does anything.

I do want to point out to him, more as reassurance for me, “It’s not like we would have hurt them.”

The Hood makes me question if he’s purposely feeding into his own hype sometimes. When he says, “I have a reputation, and they don’t want to see me live up to it,” really makes believe that he does.

I roll my eyes real hard.

“Keep going, might end up stuck there with nothing to look at,” he comments as he doesn’t hold the door open to me.

“Just lead me to the doctor’s office, asshole.”

“You talked first.”

“What are you five?”




That reminds me to tell the Hood, “Maybe I should do the talking if Dr. Ray is here, I doubt your face is going to bring up any good memories.”

“My face is covered.”

“You know what I meant.”

Regardless, I follow him to the second floor, Genetics Wing. I wonder if she knows anything else. Scientists in the comics and movies always seem to know everything about everything.

As I see it dead ahead, all I can think about is how easy this was. Yeah, it was really easy, especially as I come up on the name on the door…


No way.

Not possible.

I stop walking to read the full name on the door, in nice, clear, Times New Roman letters.

The Hood turns around to see me dumbfounded. “What’s wrong now?”

“The-the name, her full name,” I stutter and stumble, “it’s, it’s Andrea Ray.”

The Hood does a double take, and looks between me and the door, and then mutters, “No way. It’s not-” but he stops talking to see me my face. With his thumb towards the door, “Are you sure? I thought you said you forgot her last name?”

“I remembered it when I saw it and got chills!

“If our doctor is the same girl you tried to suck face with back in the Palace, it’s karma from earlier.”

“Get out of my way,” I say as I push past him. There are few moments in everyone’s life where they don’t care who’s in the way, you just gotta get moving.

When I get to the door, I think about knocking, then I think screw knocking. If it’s not actually her, I’ll apologize, but this is not a coincidence. The timeline, it matches up perfectly!

I walk right into this classroom laboratory. This isn’t where the Stoneman is, this is where she would teach students, lab tables and all.

“Pyre?” I hear that voice, it’s eerily familiar, I didn’t recognize it when we were at the Palace. I internally kick myself for that. I turn to her at her desk, and there’s no doubt.

“Andrea.” I see her face and this is the grown-up version of the girl I met at the Palace. This is the mystical botanist who thought she could make a magical cure to help her dad.

When her face hardens, in a way it never did before, I know she realizes that I’m the boy she met before.

I understand it all now, when we first… she looked right at me with this look of recognition when I first asked my question. I thought it was because she thought I was dumb, but no, she was recognizing me as the boy she knew years before.

“So, you remember me now,” she comments, her mouth a thin line, as she turns towards me in her chair. It’s so strange to see her now, so formal, wearing a turtleneck and dress pants, a professional professor in a time where she could be the hippie she used to be.

The Hood has been behind me, and for once he does something I appreciate. “You know, I’m just going to back out of here, leave you two to… talk, I guess.”

He shuts the door behind him.

Andrea’s eyes follow him out, and then they settle on me. There’s none of the warmth or gentleness that used to be in her eyes, but that investigative look is still there. I remember how she would study me, test her latest potions and what not on me, ask me questions, but now it doesn’t feel like she wants to fix anything, she wants to disappear.

She stands up, no taller than she was before, and I walk past her diplomas on the wall to hold her by the shoulders. Without hesitation she slaps my hands away.

Tommy, you gotta remember, for you it was only a month ago, but it’s been over a decade for her, there are no niceties of any kind, she’s not a friend you can just hug anymore.

“What happened?” I ask her, holding my hands out to her, but she stands straight to show me that she doesn’t want to budge. “You were studying to be a botanist, you even mentioned psychology a few times, a doctor to help your dad!” I move back to her diplomas, masters and doctorates, “Why the hell do you have degrees in genetics and,” with a strange one being, “Mechanical Engineering?” That’s not the only one, there are many. “Did you go back to the Palace again?”

Andrea shakes her head, scoffing at me and my questions. She thinks I don’t understand, but that’s only because she hasn’t told me. I want to understand, she was there when I needed someone to listen, and now I want to do the same, but somehow, she became more closed off than I was.

She questions me, with this fake smile that’s sarcastic, demeaning, and condescending, all things that aren’t her.

“You want to know what happened?” she asks me, but she doesn’t want me to answer. “I used all that mysticism and bullshit to learn everything I needed to help my father,” she calls him father, not dad, “I passed my classes before everyone else hit the halfway mark. It takes people years to get their degree and their license and I did it in a fraction of the time, but it didn’t matter,” her last word being where she chokes, her hands clenching into fists and she doesn’t meet my eyes.

“Andrea,” I whisper, reaching out to tell her that of course it matters, but she slaps my hand away.

She snaps at me, “It’s Dr. Ray now, at least to all the little shits bigger than you,” throwing that in my face. Maybe part of me didn’t want to let go, I’m a stupid kid with these stupid feelings.

I know any chance ended the second I left the Timeless Palace…  

She crosses her arms and gets in my face to tell me what happened. “The day before I got my license, my father ate a bullet.”

“Oh, Andrea, I’m so sorry-”

“No, shut up,” she snaps at me, “stop acting like we’re both teenagers and I’m supposed to just open up to you, that isn’t how this works.” She turns her back to me, and despite everything going on, she holds her chin up high. Turning her head over her shoulder as she asks me, “I didn’t go back to the Palace after that, didn’t need to, want to guess why?”

I don’t answer, I shake my head, I don’t want to play this mind game with her as she throws her baggage on the table for me to look through.

She brings her finger to her head, and with this smirk informs me, “The kind of trauma that triggers someone’s powers, it doesn’t have to be physical, it can be as heartbreaking and earth-shattering as knowing that everything you’ve worked towards, your entire life, was for nothing.

She’s a superhuman, that’s what she’s saying, and the death of her father triggered them before it was too late.

“What’s your power?” I ask her, worrying that it may have something to do with the Stoneman. There’s this fear that develops in the idea that this person I trusted might just become a threat to who I care most about.

She sees it in me too, the psychoanalyst in her reading me like a book. “Calm down, Pyre, I’m not going to blast you in the face or turn you to stone, someone else wants to do that, right?”

I thought I was used to this, villains and criminals talking shit never bothered me after the first few times, but hearing it from someone I know makes a chill go down my back.

“My power,” she explains, “it’s intelligence. I’m able to absorb and retain information better than anyone else on Earth. Those diplomas on the wall don’t do this mind justice, physics, chemistry, engineering, psychology, hell, I picked up a business degree too on the side, my mind absorbs it all, studies it like a computer crunches numbers, and makes me the smartest person in every room.

“Screw analysis, my brain does that automatically, no one has to teach me anything, just show me the words, the math work, and the experiment, and I understand it better than anyone else.”

Andrea steps up to me, frozen by the revelation. She stands on her toes and brings her lips close to mine so I can feel her breath. I don’t understand, I don’t know what she’s doing until she whispers one last thing…  

“I understand people too.”

Then she shoves me back, closer to the door.

“Get out, Thomas,” she says without a care, saying my real name for once, and yet it feels so much more distant than calling me, Pyre. Her face is as cold as it was when I first walked in. She points to the door and remarks, “The exits right there, walk through it.”

It’s hard to move just yet, for a split second I feel like I can refuse, but then my body acts on its own. It knows somehow that it isn’t my place to force my presence on someone in this way. My body grabs the doorknob on its own and for a moment it hesitates. I’m in control, I can decide to stay and try to hash it out, help her, but I have to realize, I have no idea how to do that.

If anyone did, it was Andrea.

I open the door and walk out, back into the hallway a few feet before I stand still. I hear the door lock behind me, and all I can do is try to keep from smoking and setting off the sprinklers.

“Didn’t go well?”

I turn my head to the hallway, and the Hood is leaning against the wall, arms crossed, clearly eavesdropping in some capacity.

I look back towards the ground, this feeling of shame actually. I ask him, “How much did you hear?”

“Admittedly, I didn’t care much for any of the melodrama you two have going on. I did listen to her power set though, and how much she likes to toot her own horn. She made it pretty clear that she’s a danger to everyone alongside the Stoneman, in whatever capacity that is.”

I nod my head in agreement, I hate it, absolutely hate it that this person who used to be my friend is now suspect number one, but she also tried to take my heart and crush it. On the other side, I’m actually surprised. This is not the breach in privacy that I would have expected from him. If it were anyone else, it would be rude on any level but for him that’s actually showing restraint.

On that thought, the Hood asks me, “Do you want to still investigate her with me?”

She’ll see us coming, hanging out around here and going through her lab will lead to a confrontation. Trouble we should avoid if we can.

“Who cares if I want to, I need to.”

“Hmph.” If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I made him smile.

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