By Red Cloud
“-to your safe shelter now, we do have touchdown-”
Greg ran with his family to the bathroom, shaking slightly. The practiced motions of the drill were very, very different with the adrenaline rush of reality sinking into him. They couldn’t afford a tornado shelter, and that meant the bathroom and mattresses. The weather radio was squawking, telling them how close to their house the tornado was. It wasn’t a huge one, but it was big enough, and it was coming right for them.
As he huddled under the mattress, he felt a twinge in his head, putting it down to fear. The tornado wasn’t supposed to be coming for them, they were out of the lanes, out of the danger area. It had, in fact turned two minutes ago, sending them scrambling.
Then it was on them. He listened to the winds howl, the house shake, glass breaking, and the shingles coming off the roof. He swallowed hard and wished for all the world that things would be ok.
The winds died away, and they listened for a few minutes longer, the air crackling and the sound of glass falling and a shingle or two sliding off sheepishly. He sat up, breathing hard.
“Damn,” he whispered.
“Language,” his mother said, half laughing. “But yeah. Damn.”
Greg shivered and lifted the lantern, and he heard a gasp.
Greg spun, staring at his mother. He’d never seen that kind of...fear on anyone’s face. He rubbernecked around, before freezing. She was...looking at...him?
“What did you do!?”
Greg swallowed. “I...I didn’t...what?”
His father’s face was stone. “You own family, boy. Your own family.”
Greg shuddered, feeling more than a little crazy. “I don’t understand!”
His father stalked away as his mother stared at him a moment longer.
“I can’t believe you,” she said softly, venomously.
Greg watched her go, mouth working. What...what even...what!?
The lights kicked on with the accompanying distant growl of the generator, and he blinked a few times, shaking his head. He started forward, when something...wrong, hit him. He turned and stared at the mirror.
His hair had been black and straight when he walked into the bathroom. It was sandy blonde and curly now. And his eyes…
He leaned in, staring in stunned amazement. His eyes were no longer soft brown, but silvery gray.
“I’m a mutant?” he whispered. And then it hit him like a ton of bricks.
The tornado turning unexpectedly. His mutation manifesting suddenly, the color of his hair and eyes changing in minutes...his parents thought…
“Mom!” He shouted, running from the bathroom. “Mom, I didn’t do that!”
Greg shuddered as his parents crept around him. His changes weren’t that noticeable, and with the tornado ripping holes in his highschool, he wasn’t having to deal with school yet. Which was good, because he was pretty sure he was slowly going insane.
He glanced at his mom, and she whitened.
“Don’t you look at me like that!”
He shuddered again. “Like what, mom?”
She swallowed. “Like you’re gonna set me on fire with eye lasers! You probably have those!”
Greg bit back the instinctive denial. He didn’t have eye lasers. Or weather control, though they still blamed him for the tornado, as well as the blistering heat that followed the next day and the pouring rain that followed the day after.
Nor did he have superstrength, which they’d accused him of as they stopped letting him touch them or handle anything delicate. Nor did he exude nerve gas, as he’d been accused of when he sighed too deeply. He also lacked the ability to read minds, that was a running fear of his parents, that he was reading their minds.
And not just his parents. He’d seen his best friend (and on and off secret crush) yesterday, and Kevin had all but ran from him, nearly panicking at the sight of him. Which was doubly weird since Kevin actually thought mutants were cool.
Dad came in and stared anywhere but at him. “Get in the car, Greg.”
Greg nodded tiredly. He had no idea where they were going, and since he’d been screamed at for being a siren (which he also was not) every time he’d asked them something, he wasn’t going to bother. Dad beat him to the car and carefully opened the door.
“Don’t want you ripping that off,” he muttered darkly.
Greg nodded again and slid in. If he had half the powers they seemed to think he did, he would be a god. Unfortunately, he seemed to have no powers. He’d been discreetly testing, trying to figure it out, hoping that if he could find what, precisely, he could do, he would be able to put their minds at ease. But nothing he’d tried seemed to be the thing, and he was running out of things to try.
He watched out the window on the hour long car ride, no-one speaking. The car finally pulled up at an office. An MCO office.
“Shut it.” His mom said flatly.
Greg swallowed and stepped out of the car, following them inside. The secretary stared at him like he was a fire breathing dragon that had strolled in off the street, and Greg winced. This did not seem like it was going to go well.
“Here for testing,” his dad said flatly.
Greg smiled a little, relaxing. Ok. Ok, he was going to get his powers tested? That should help. A lot. Maybe he’d be something kinda harmless, that would be fantastic.
Two hours later, he’d been hit by a tennis ball, run off his legs, lifted enough weight to strain his back slightly, failed to construct anything from parts, gone five for twenty five on guess the card, failed consistently to read anyone’s mind, showed not a lick of magic, failed the regen test (which had sucked), and a bunch of other shit that he hadn’t even begun to understand.
And the tester was staring at him with barely concealed terror.
“I won’t lie, Mr. Hardigan, Mrs. Hardigan. You son’s powers are...well, we’re not sure what they are. He seems to have shifting capabilities.”
Greg’s jaw dropped. “I don’t-”
The tester glared at him. “And if he wasn’t so dedicated to hiding his abilities, we would have a much, much clearer test.”
“But I didn’t-”
“I’m sorry, but without his cooperation we can’t get a clear read.”
All three adults glared at him, and Greg shuddered. “I…”
His mother licked her lips. “I...I read that if a mutant is...dangerous...you can put them in a home or something?”
Greg felt his face pale. “Wha-”
The tester nodded. “Oh, yes. Your son is clearly dangerous, and committed to hiding that. I think a safe foster home would be the best option.”
Greg laid on his new bed, staring at the ceiling. He was, officially, a ward of the state. His parents had signed him over lock, stock, and barrel. He lived in a ten by ten room with a bed, a desk that was bolted to the floor, and a heavy steel door with a lock on it. He was let out to piss, eat, shower, and into the enclosed backyard for exercise.
Then straight back into his cell.
For a week solid.
And his foster parents, or more accurately his jailers, had been looking at him with deep suspicion since he walked into their house, and they were not getting any better. He had little doubt that he would be going on to a new house soon.
The door buzzed and he sat up on the bed as it opened.
“Yard time,” Mr. Kolin said, eyeing him warily.
Greg nodded and waited for him to back up. The few times he’d walked straight at the man, Mr. Kolin had flinched sharply. Greg was starting to think he had some kind of fear effect, but that was something that should come up in testing, wasn’t it?
He slipped past the man, marched out to the yard, and started walking the little track around the edge.
And besides, a fear aura wouldn’t...well, it wouldn’t make his parents react like that? Kevin, maybe, a sudden wave of fear would be explainable. But his parents had been guessing random powers and attributing them to him. So had the tester. He’d heard his foster parents murmuring while he ate, and caught enough of it to know that they, too, thought he had hidden powers
He caught a waft of sound form the house, and slowed, straining his ears.
“-up to something, I know it,” Mrs. Kolin was saying.
“Mmm. I haven’t felt this bad about a kid since that one that nearly took the house apart in his sleep.”
“We should...we should call it in. He’s too dangerous for us.”
“Too dangerous for anyone. I think we need to call in a marker, send him to a black site.”
Greg almost fell, but kept walking as best he could, passing out of hearing. They were going to send him to what...some kind of prison? No, a black site, they’d said…
Nothing the government did at any place he’d ever heard called a black site was anything fun, particularly not for people who were sent there against their will.
He shuddered and stared at the path as he walked. He didn’t have powers, except for this freakish thing where everyone assumed he did. And that they were dangerous. And that he was malicious. If he got sent to some kind of super secret prison and they tried to force him to show off powers he didn’t have?
He’d die. Plain and simple. He was still nursing an aching back from what he now guessed was the tester forcing him to lift more than he possibly could.
Swallowing, he started to plan…
“MCO agents, on the ground, on the-”
Mrs. Kolin, it seemed, was the kind of woman that bought the smallest bags of flour possible in bulk, for reasons he couldn’t fathom. He’d seen them on the kitchen shelf as he went in and out every day for a week, and while he’d struggled to come up with a better plan, this was what he had. So for the last three days, every time he’d been into the kitchen, he’d slipped one or two into the pockets of his baggy basketball shorts.
By any rights, it should not have worked. Trained agents, expecting danger, should not have been taken in by a child’s prank. As the bags of carefully pre-torn flour swung down and hit the agents in the face, Greg had to admit that it worked a charm. The flour blasting out a second later, filling the air with a fog of white as he dumped it in front of the fan, worked even better.
He ran forward as the agents fell back, screaming in panic, and dodged around them. He’d always been on the small side, and he’d done track and field for a year. Evading blinded, flailing adults having panic attacks was almost easy. He had to twist away from grasping hands twice, but the flour helped there too, making him slippery and hard to grip.
Greg pelted through the house, and rounded the corner to find the Kolins panicking right along with everyone else. They shrank back from him as he shot through a door that had been left open, apparently in anticipation of a quick exit to the waiting van.
Men piled out of it, armed, and he ran the other way, jinking and juking, hearing weird little pinks around him. One came from in front of him and he glanced down, blood turning to ice as he saw a little dart skittering across the pavement.
He spotted his next step, the bike he’d seen riding past the house with a neighbor kid, laying in a front yard. He’d hoped to simply dodge like crazy and get out of sight, but a bike would help more than hurt. He grabbed it, standing it up on the run and hopped onto it, kicking off from a running start. He barked his shin on the pedals twice, and then caught them and sped off as fast as he could, the sounds of chaos behind him spurring him on.
Greg shivered as he curled up, listening to the sounds of police outside. He was not, at this point, entirely certain how he was alive. In two months, he’d been shot at, chased, and harried across the entire city he’d lived in, to the next city over, and then to a third.
He ran his hands over the latest of his wounds, a sharp gash up his leg from falling on a broken bottle. It hurt, but not nearly as much as the bullet graze on the side of his neck. Or the cuts on his arm when he’d been forced to break into a vet’s office by punching out a window to get stuff to keep his various cuts and scrapes from becoming infected. Wrapping one’s hand in a shirt did not, as it turned out, make punching through glass safe.
The Knights had been the clincher, the thing that absolutely showed him what his powers were. Three men in powder blue power armor, with Gatling guns and flame throwers had pursued him for two hours, leading to the bottle cut on his leg as he scrambled through a tiny alley to try and get clear of them. It had worked, finally, he’d found a grate that he could barely fit down and slid into a storm drain, granting him a further scrape on his side, a small cut on his chest, and a light soupcon of road rash on his back.
And the whole time, they’d been coordinating audibly about how dangerous he was. As he ran from them, as he bled, looking like death warmed over, starving and dressed in clothes he’d taken out of charity bins in the dead of the night, they were afraid of him.
Danger. His power wasn’t an aura of fear. It was an aura of danger. Anyone that got near him thought he was a bigger threat than a kaiju and reacted accordingly. And for some reason, that made them all think he was very, very powerful. Knights and MCO agents dealt with danger every day, though. Real threats, not imaginary ones. And they treated him like the worst rager, beyond help or hope of control.
He guessed, grasping at straws, that something about the aura made people paranoid as well, made them think he was out to get them. Not just danger like a long fall or a forest fire, danger like a man with a loaded gun an inch from your head telling you your skin would look great as a wallet, or a rabid bear that was bellowing as it charged.
Greg sighed as he sat up, wincing, and reached for his bottle of water, considering whether he could choke down some crackers before he made a run for the next city. He had to wait for nightfall, and it would be a serious risk going out while the Knights were abroad, but he could hear cops and he needed to be gone before they got the bright idea to check the building for squatte-
Greg scrambled away from the ruins of the wall, heart in his throat. The rubble blocked the stairs, and he switched, running for the window with the fire escape. The lack of gunfire made him pause, hands on the window, and he looked back for a precious second.
A woman was sitting up, shaking her head. Despite the skin tight full head mask that only revealed her mouth, she was clearly a woman in her navy blue catsuit with its gold star emblazoned on her chest.
“Damn...I gotta watch where I’m going,” she muttered.
For half a second, he vacillated. A super hero, maybe. If anyone could help, it would be one of those. Surely, someone with powers that fought people with powers would be able to see through his whatever the fuck-
Her eyes landed on him, and she gasped. “You!”
He jerked the window open with a squeal and bailed out as fast as he could, wincing as the sill and the bricks beyond scraped his stomach.
“You get back here! You’re in league with him!”
Greg gritted his teeth as he ran down the fire escape as fast as his aching body could handle. He heard a crunching squeal and as he rounded to face the street again, he blanched at seeing the woman hefting a car to throw at him.
He had half a second to judge it. He was still a story and a half off the deck. But as she hurled the car, he was out of time. He jumped the railing and tried to remember how to fall properly. He hit the deck and folded as he heard the scream of metal behind and above him, tumbing forward into a loose roll that sent screams of pain through his shoulders and hips and knees, slapping almost accidentally as he sprawled out. He ached for a second, but the partial fire escape and twisted ruins of the car slammed down just ahead of him, having ripped free from the wall and continued on. He shuddered to his knees, stumbled up to his feet and staggered forward, trying to find the energy to run some more.
Greg heard another squeal and knew that whatever was coming, he was not going to survive it. Something slammed into his back, and he screamed. When he didn’t immediately die, he half realized that someone was holding him and scrambled, clawing to get free.
“Fuck! Stop it or I’m going to drop you!”
Greg froze. The voice was male, or at least something like male, the burr of a synth under it suggesting it was altered. He turned and looked up, seeing some kind of gas mask under a dark hood. He licked his lips, shaking slightly.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Greg whispered, and then passed out.
Greg woke up and jerked up, then hissed and sat up slower. Everything hurt less, but it still hurt, and his head was spinning.
“Man, you were in a bad way.”
Greg shuddered and looked over, seeing a man eyeing him from a chair. He had tanned skin and reddish brown hair, cut in a loose buzz, and a tightly buzzed goatee in the same shade. He was big, too. Sitting down, Greg was pretty sure he would be eye to eye with him standing flat footed, and his shoulders were broad. He was dressed in skin tight clothes, dark green, with a dark brown utility belt. His hood was down, and the gas mask was on the table beside him. It was gunmetal gray with dark green elements and matte black eye lenses.
The gun in his hand, however, was just a gun, if a frighteningly large one that was also matte gray. And the look in his green eyes, the same shade as his outfit, was wary.
Greg shivered and nodded, head aching slightly with the motion. “Um, yeah.”
The man cocked his head. “Why didn’t you fight back? You could have taken her.”
Greg starred at him for a long minute. “Just curious, cause like, you’re the first person in months who hasn’t tried to kill me on sight: why do you think that?”
The man blinked. “Well, it’s…” he paused, mouth working for a moment. “You just...seem…”
Greg waited a moment as the man flailed. “Yeah, see that’s my power. You don’t know why, there is absolutely nothing to back it up, you just saw me nearly die. And somehow, I still feel...I don’t know, like…”
“Dangerous,” the man said quietly. He set the gun aside, eyes narrowing. “You feel dangerous. And like malice is radiating off you. Makes me want to set booby traps between you and me.”
Greg shivered. “Yeah. Paranoia and danger. That’s what I figured it was, had to be, for people to freak so hard.” He hesitated. “Um. Why aren’t you freaking out?”
The man grinned. “Well..frankly...I figured some of it had to be powers, like some kind of defense system that you keep going all the time, or something. Cause I have only met a very small handful of people that radiate death and malice in their sleep, and only two of them were human, and both of those were mass murderers who could and did literally kill in their sleep. You seem kinda young and beat up for that.”
Greg let out a pained laugh. “Tell that to the MCO and the Knights.”
“Yeah.” He rubbed his head. “Seriously. No powers at all?”
Greg tensed and the man raised his hands.
“Sorry, sorry. I mean, I could tell, a little, that this was a power, but it’s still hard to push past the feeling that you’ve got something up your sleeve.”
Greg lifted his sleeve slowly, and looked at it. “Nothing but arms and scars.”
The man snorted.
Greg hesitated, looking at him again. “But...really, I mean...you can sorta tell it’s a power, but...the MCO flipped. The knights flipped. That hero flipped. My parents lost their goddamned minds. No offense, but...why you?”
The man hummed. “I mean...not to toot my own horn here, but I’m a supervillain. I don’t know about your parents, but the rest of them see someone dangerous and want that to stop. I see someone dangerous, and I think about whether that person might be someone I’d like to work with.”
Greg blinked. “Huh.”
The man stuck a hand out. “Locksley. You?”
“Uh, Greg Hardigan.”
Locksley chuckled. “You’re gonna want a different name.”
Greg sighed. “Maybe. I’ll work on it.”
“You do that. So. You hungry?”
Greg sighed as they stepped up to a building. “Powers testing? Seriously?”
Locksley nodded. He’d dressed in a simple sleeveless hoodie, showing off his muscular arms, and a pair of basketballs shorts that showed off his legs. Greg had been carefully trying not to think about how delightful his new sort-of-friend, sort-of-guardian looked. The hood was up, and he had a pair of sunglasses on, looking like just another guy out for a stroll. In the warehouse district, but still. “Yep.”
Greg rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. He was wearing a similar outfit, though his sweat pants and his hoodie had long sleeves despite the warming weather. He’d been startled, and a bit uncomfortable, to realize that the scars joke was more accurate than he thought. Two months of near constant cuts, scrapes, lacerations, and one bullet wound, all left untreated except by the most rudimentary means, meant that by the time Locksley had gotten to him with a healing devise, he was set for life on scars. His pale skin looked like a roadmap of them.
“This isn’t gonna go well.”
Two hours later it had not, in fact, gone horribly. The tester, a friend of a friend of Locksley’s that owed him a favor, apparently served the villain community almost exclusively and as Locksley had surmised, was not thrown off by Greg’s aura.
Greg stomped out and leaned on the building. Inconclusive. Despite the fact that even he, an amatuer, could look at the numbers and see that they were baseline when placed right next to the literal baseline, the guy had declared that he couldn’t pin down Greg’s powers, and quietly suggested to Locksley (when Greg was out of sight, and supposedly out of hearing) that Locksley bring him back when he was feeling less shy.
Locksley stepped out and paused, leaning against the building as well. He pulled out a little silver case and popped out a joint, shading it as he lit it with a fingertip. He was a PK superman, a low end one, who could also do a little flame trick.
“Well. That was illuminating.”
Greg lowered his shades and glared at him. “For who? All we know is that you’re still the only one who can see past my powers enough to actually see my powers.”
Locksley nodded. “That was the point, kid.”
Greg blinked. “What?”
“Think about it. If the villain card was the key, then he should have flagged you, figured it out. He didn’t. Hell, I know the game, and I still sometimes have trouble keeping it straight in my head.” He lowered his own shades and took a drag, grinning. “That means a few very important things.”
Greg licked his lips. “Like what?”
Locksley raised a hand and started popping up fingers to enumerate his points. “First, that your powers are damn near bullet proof. Knowing what you do and being able to see past the fear doesn’t shut down the effect. Neither does a lack of fear response and expert knowledge without direct knowledge. My guess is you need all three, direct knowledge of your powers, an ability to overcome the fear, and an expert ability to assess the data directly.”
Greg stared at him. “But that means like...no-one.”
Locksley grinned. “Yep. Which leads me to number two: there’s nowhere in the normal day to day world that’s safe for you. You can’t function in society, because as you just realized, the pool of people that can see you for you and not for your aura is very, very limited.”
Greg shuddered and folded his arms over his chest. “And you smile when you say that why?”
Locksley shrugged. “Because of three.”
“Three is that I was an unholy abomination of teenage malcontent and viciousness at your age, and I’m having warm and fuzzy feelings at the thought of the scream of horror that will ring through the halls of my alma mater when I register my son there.”
Greg stared at him, mind grinding to a halt. “There’s some stuff to unpack there.”
“On paper. The MCO is hunting you, so you need to be someone else.” Locksley shrugged. “I’m happy to do the dad thing if you like, but given your experiences with that role, I’m just as happy to not.”
Greg shivered. “Uh. Oh.” He rubbed his face. “School, though?”
“Yep. Superkid school.”
“It’s a school that serves mutants and other kids who have powers of some kind for one reason or another.”
Greg stared at him. “Locksley. I have the total sum power of looking incredibly punchable. That sounds horrible.”
Locksley sighed and scooted over, taking another drag. “I feel you. Hear me out?”
“I...pass that, and I’ll try.”
Locksley chuckled and handed the joint over. Greg took a hit to calm his nerves, reflecting that if he had to pick up a replacement Dad, one that smoked weed and let him do so as well wasn’t necessarily a bad choice.
He exhaled, and nodded. “Ok, go.”
“Cool. Best guess, you have some kind of empath thing going on. The school has the best psionics program in the world. Best case, you learn to shut it off and can proceed to a somewhat normal life with only moderate refreshers and practice.”
Greg froze. “Oh.”
“Yeah. Second best case, you can learn to control it. Maybe it never shuts off, but you can learn to guide and manipulate it, change what you project, or how far, or in what direction, that kind of thing. Less normal, but still more normal than what you have.” Locksley took a drag. “Worst case, your aura doesn’t ever and can never be shut off, in which case there is no better school on Earth to teach you how to stay alive and thrive with that kind of handicap.”
Greg shivered. “I...ok, I’m here for the first two, but the third is-”
Locksley laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Kid. It’s been what, two months?”
“I personally can attest that it has never faded or waned in my presence, waking, sleeping, nothing. At any point in that time, have you noticed any give at all? Any leeway, fading, anything?”
Greg slumped slightly. “No,” he admitted softly.
“Yeah. Intermittent powers are intermittent. They turn off sometimes, flicker, flare, they’re unstable. They take effort to maintain. Things like this? Not so much.” He sucked on the joint and held it out to Greg. “There’s a reason that blanket receiving telepaths and empaths learn to ignore the noise, not shut it off. And there are lots and lots of cases of projective empaths with auras, and I can tell you right now, most of them that go on and stay on, stay on. No matter how bad the person wants to turn it off.”
Greg took it and took a slow drag. He exhaled and sighed. “I...yeah, I guessed. But...if there’s a chance-”
“Oh, grab that with both hands and run for the getaway car, my friend. Take that chance if you get it. Hell, even if you’re halfway to planning your life around living with this forever, you get that chance to go the other way, at least think about doing that, you know?” Locksley took the joint back and finished it, flicking it away. “But the numbers say that’s a small chance.”
Greg nodded, the weed helping numb him a little. “Yeah. I know. But like...beyond that...I’m not sure a death trap of superpowers is the best place to practice staying alive.”
“But it is, and I have reasons.”
Greg grinned. “Do you do anything without bullet points?”
Locksley laughed. “That’s why I make money, kiddo.” He flexed. “People see dese guns and don’t realize that my planning skills are what they should be scared of.”
Greg rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Go ahead.”
“So, points. You have the best chance of blending in at a place where nearly everyone is a threat of some kind. Even if you don’t blend, you’re surrounded by teachers and staff that are equipped, trained, and experienced in putting down kids with too much power, and a vested interest in keeping you alive. And beyond that, the school is neutral ground. The MCO cannot touch you there without starting a war that they will absolutely lose. The Knights absolutely cannot touch you there. No one, and I mean no-one can fuck you there from the outside.”
Greg stared at him, mouth hanging open as Locksley grinned and went on.
“Beyond that, there are a massive number of classes geared towards living with powers, controlling powers, using powers, self-defense, offense, survival. You learn more than English and math, you learn how to fight, how to run, how to hide, when to fight, when to run, when to hide, and so much more. It’s the safest place you can be, even when you take into account that nowhere is safe for you, and it’s the only place you can learn what you need to learn to stay alive.”
Greg blew out a breath and nodded. “I...guess, yeah.”
Locksley smiled. “And besides, as much fun as it is having you around, I kinda got a job to do, and it’s not really a thing I can do while doing a stay at home Dad thing.”
Greg licked his lips. He’d been half avoiding this a while now, but. “Can I...can I ask you about that?”
Locksely pushed off the building. “In the car.”
A minute later, they were driving back to Locksley’s safe house. “So. What you wanna know?”
“I...well...you’re a criminal.”
“Comes with the villain gig, yeah,” Locksley said with a grin.
Greg blushed. “Like...what does that...mean?”
Locksley considered a moment. “I mean, obviously, I break the law. Lot of my direct crimes, I steal. I’m a decent thief, got a few big scores to my name and lots of little ones. Sometimes, I steal for myself. Sometimes, I hire out, take on jobs for people who need something stolen. I do consulting, plan jobs for people who then execute them or hire other people to do it, or play mastermind, run the job from behind the scenes.”
He tapped the wheel quietly. “My big name is in that last one, though. And I mastermind for a lot more than just robbery. I’ve planned raids, small turf wars, security setups and plans. Done contractor work, helped put together teams to build a few lairs and holdouts here and there. Moved drugs, both mundane and devisor. Orchestrated teams to create weapons and armies, done some training on that front, though my skills in combat aren’t usually the best set to train someone in. But if you need mooks, I got that.” he took a deep breath. “I’ve planned hits, assassinations, coups both bloodless and bloody. I have taken hits myself, when I was the best person for the job.”
Greg stared at him as Locksley shrugged. “So if your question was, ‘how evil are you’ the answer is, pretty evil, by most lights. I have a code, things I won’t do, but it’s a small list. I like money but I have a lot of that. Mostly I like a challenge, and keeping busy, and so long as it doesn’t cross my lines and it looks interesting, I’ll do most things.”
Locksley smiled. “Syndicate rules plus a few.” He glanced over at Greg and grinned. “Syndicate says don’t hit someone’s family, keep your promises, don’t get greedy, don’t play nasty, respect another villain’s turf, keep your mouth shut, don’t fuck the Syndicate, and don’t get into bed with a loose cannon unless you like lead enemas.”
Greg blew out a breath. “Oh.”
Locksley smiled. “Yeah, the personal ones are that I won’t kill or torture kids or animals, I won’t kill anyone that doesn’t have it coming, and I don’t do rape for any reason, nor will I support it.”
Greg licked his lips, sitting back. “That’s...better, actually.”
Locksley smiled slightly. “Really?”
Locksley eyed him. “Rationalizing a bit there?”
Greg blushed. “A bit. But...no kids, no animals, adults are ok but only if they deserve it, and even then, just killing and torture, nothing...uh...” Greg scratched his head. “Ok, I’m trying to wrap my head around a world where it’s a relief to find out you don’t rape people, but that’s a good thing.”
Locksley laughed. “Fair. But yeah, it’s...just so we’re clear, you realize-”
Greg nodded. “Yeah. That means that there are people you torture, and they may not have it coming, just may have something you need. You kill people, and for all I know ‘deserves it’ could be that they made you mad or something. You steal a lot, and you help other villains be better villains, thus increasing the amount of villainy in the world.” He blew out a breath. “But...that’s not...I can be ok with that, I guess.”
Locksley pulled into his garage and parked the car. “Huh. Really?”
Greg nodded slowly, and a soft, tired laugh bubbled up out of him. “I mean, people on the street see me coming and want to stab me or run and call other people to shoot me for no damn reason. And I’ve been stealing for two months, and...yeah. Maybe it’s just that you’re nice to me or something, but...yeah. I don’t really mind what you do for a living.”
Locksley grinned and reached out, ruffling his hair lightly. “Well, damn. Guess I don’t need to offer to sponsor you and disappear, then.”
Greg grinned. “Yeah, please don’t do that.”
“Well, let’s get inside and fill out some paperwork, then.” Locksley grinned. “And call a registrar and listen to someone try desperately not to scream while talking.”
Greg chuckled, and then watched him get out of the car, an odd feeling welling up in him. He followed, shivering as he realized that, for the first time in a while, he had something like family. Supervillainous killer mastermind burglar family, but...family.
“Wait, if I’m gonna call you Dad, shouldn’t I like, know your name?”