Yula

Path of the Renegade(Language, Violence)

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Prologue

A young adult male stood at the gates of a graveyard, rain pouring down all around him, but he didn't mind at all. He walked into the graveyard and as he walked along the road, he started to notice things around him. There were families gathering for the losses of recently deceased loved ones. Widows and Widowers weeping over the loss of their significant other, but he too had lost someone that was close to him. The pain in his heart felt like a dull ache as his footsteps were the only noise he could focus on through the rain. As a cold wind blew through, the rain hit him in the face and he stopped briefly to look at the gravestone next to him. "Here lies Ronnie "Rain" Andrews. 2000-2017. You were a true hero and inspiration to us all.", it read. He noticed writing below it and inspected it. "You were a true friend to us all.", the lower inscription read.

The man scoffed and continued walking until another gravestone caught his eye, this one was different. "Here lies Sarah "Snow" Wilson. 2000-2017. You were a hero and a friend.", it read. He looked underneath the inscription to see another inscription. "Your loss has affected us all. We miss your sarcastic wit.", the lower inscription read. The man looked down and saw another inscription. He examined it carefully, as it was written rather small. "I'm sorry that I took your life.", the small writing said. The man knew that he had found another victim of the man that took his own father's life. Anger welled up inside of him and his hand balled up into a fist as a woman walked up to him. "It's a bit cold and rainy for you to be out here without a jacket, or an umbrella.", she told him. "I'm fine. The cold never bothered me to begin with.", the man replied, without hiding his anger. 

"By the way, my name is Tamara, what's yours?", the woman asked him, her voice not changing at all. "Joannes. My name is Joannes.", the man quickly replied, recognizing the name Tamara from his father's old documents. He knew for a fact that he was in the presence of Tornado of the old Weather Team, now renamed the Weather Force and one of the people that were there when their leader killed his father. Tamara smiled at him and then motioned towards the road. Joannes didn't want her to follow him, but he didn't exactly have a convenient excuse to ditch her. "After you.", Tamara said with a slight smirk. "I don't see what you want with me, I'm just here to mourn the loss of my father.", Joannes said as he shook his head. "You don't have anything to hide, do you? I mean what other reason would there be to not accept an escort by a woman as beautiful as I am. Who knows, your father might be proud of you if he sees you from up high with someone like me.", Tamara said in a teasing manner. Joannes didn't find that at all amusing, but nonetheless, relented.

The two of them continued along the road until they reached a path that branched off from it. His father's grave was way in the back, because no one wanted a "villain"'s grave to be near the other graves. "We sure are going an awfully long distance for just your father. Are you sure you're going the right way?", Tamara asked as she looked around. He nodded slightly, without saying anything. He wasn't sure of what to tell her about who his father really was. Though he figured that she probably forgotten, as it had been 10 years since Lightning brutally beat his father to death. He still remembered that day, vividly. The news outlets had all treated the man as a hero, when in reality, he was nothing more than a murderer. He tensed up enough for Tamara to take notice of this. "You alright there?", she asked him, a hint of worry in her voice. "I'm fine, just a bit... angry at things is all.", he replied, hiding the full truth from her and hoping she'd let go of it. "Ah, well, if you want to talk abou...", she said, trailing off as they reached their destination. 

He knelt before the grave, and he could feel the wind whip up behind him. "This is hardly the place for a fight, especially against a mere civilian.", he stated, coldly. As he turned around, he saw Tamara standing there in a full costume. He had hoped to never run into Tornado in his lifetime. "So I guess you're going to do to me what Lightning did to my father now?", he asked, a hint of annoyance in his tone. "Well, go ahead. Do it, prove that like him, you're nothing more than a cold blooded murderer.", he continued. Tornado looked at him and pointed at his right hand. "So you're looking for an excuse to off the son of Inverse. I'm registered in your little program for having augmentations.", he said as he raised his mechanical hand. "If you want, I can show you just how much of my arm is mechanical, after all, your kind took my real arm from me.", he continued as he rolled up his sleeve. Tornado turned around without a word, leaving Joannes confused. Seconds turned into minutes as the two of them stood there. Finally, the silence broke, "This is Tornado. Sir, the son of Inverse is here, we could capture him right now if you wanted.", Tornado said as she glanced back at him. Joannes stood and assume a defensive stance. He knew for a fact that he couldn't contend with her powers, but his mechanical augmentations went further than his arm. He was a Transhuman, and he would be able to hold his own. "Dammit, alright, sir.", Tornado said, before turning around, "You seem to be lucky. The boss told me to let you go and to harass you no further." Joannes didn't want to count his chickens before they hatched, so he didn't take his eye off of Tornado til she started walking away.

Once Tornado was out of sight, he turned back to his father's grave... the stone had nothing on it, but he knew that this was where his father was buried. He knelt before the gravestone and sighed slightly. He wasn't exactly proud of what had happened there, but it was better than a fight breaking out. "Father, I know that you were wrongly claimed to be a villain. That these people, in their quest to find someone to tear down, chose you, someone who wouldn't do what they wanted to. Someone who had regrets. You were a true hero, and yet you were brutally murdered by that bastard, Lightning. I hate him. I know that you and Mom wouldn't have wanted me to go out and avenge you... and wherever you are, you wish that you could tell me not to do this. But I promise you, Father... that I will not rest until your murderer is brought to justice. This much, I will assure you of.", he said as tears flowed through his eyes. He placed his hand on the gravestone and sighed slightly, before turning around. He was going to find the villain who had killed his father, and bring him to justice.

Edited by Yula

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Chapter 1

Several hundred miles to the north, a man woke up in a cold sweat. "Another nightmare...", he lamented as he looked at his clock. It was only six AM, he had a few hours before he really had to wake up in order to get ready for work. These nightmares had been going on for the last ten years of his life. As he laid his head back down on the pillow, ignoring his racing heart, his phone rang. Annoyed, he grabbed the phone and looked at who was calling. It was his boss. He answered the phone and placed it up to his ear. "Hello, Joseph.", said the female voice on the other side. "Hello, Boss.", replied Joseph, trying to hide his annoyance at being called at six in the morning. "Do you have the keys to the museum?" Joseph shook his head, trying to wake himself enough to remember where he left the keys. "Hold on, Boss.", he muttered as he searched through his dresser drawer to try to find the keys. When he couldn't find them, he sighed in annoyance. "Everything alright, Joseph?", asked his boss. "Yes. Everything is fine.", he replied, trying desperately to hide his annoyance, but failing. Joseph turned on a light and immediately saw the keys on the table at the other end of the room. "I got them, boss. You're going to be late today?", Joseph asked the woman on the other end. "Yeah, my dog needs to go to the vet, can you open the museum today?", replied his boss. "Sure thing, I'll reset my alarm and get some more shuteye.", he said with a hint of annoyance as he set his alarm to 8:30 rather than the usual 9:00. "Alright then, thank you, Joseph.", his boss replied before hanging up the phone. Joseph placed his phone back onto the table and turned off the light. With a sigh, he slammed his head back onto the pillow and went back to sleep.

He was awoken by the alarm going off and he looked at his clock, it was 8:32 AM. Groggy, he slammed his hand on the off button and climbed out of bed. He wasn't exactly thrilled with having to be at his job at 9:30 in the morning, but it was either that or risk getting fired. As he walked into the bathroom he hit a light and disrobed, climbing into the shower, before turning it on. Though he disliked cold showers, he felt that the burst of cold water jolted him awake. The water hit him and he was jolted awake as per usual, before he started cleaning himself. As he cleaned himself, his thoughts turned to his nightmare, the same one that happened for the last ten years of his life. In it, he watched helplessly as someone beat another person to death. He recognized the costume in the nightmare, it belonged to Lightning and he felt that he cared somewhat about the person Lightning was beating to death. Grabbing the shampoo, he felt a shock from the metal bar near it and withdrew his hand. "Ah! Damn static.", he called out as he grabbed the shampoo. After he was done shampooing his hair, he climbed out of the shower and dried himself off, before looking at the clock. It was 8:43. 

Joseph walked over to his mirror and pulled out a razor and some shaving cream and started shaving. He figured that one of these days, he was going to take a vacation, considering he hasn't had one in the last six years of his life. Taking a moment to stroke his clean shaven face, he smiled in the mirror. "Lookin good, maybe today is the day I meet the one.", he muttered to himself. He turned and finally exited the bathroom to go continue with his morning routine. Looking in his closet, he found a uniform for the museum he worked at and a jacket as it was chilly outside according to the weather on his phone. Throwing on his clothes and putting on his shoes, he grabbed the museum keys as well as his house keys, his wallet and his phone, and looked at the clock. It was 9 AM, just enough time to stop somewhere and get breakfast, he thought.

He put on the jacket and headed out the door, locking it behind him. A cold wind whipped across his face, usual weather for October. He walked down the stairs of his apartment complex and waved to one of his neighbors. "Hello, Joseph. You're up early today.", the elderly man said as he passed by. "Yeah, I'm opening the museum today. If you want, you could visit today, Caleb.", Joseph said has he turned around, walking backwards. "That's nice of you to offer, but you know that I have no interest in that kind of stuff. By the way, did you hear about the book signing on the seventh?", Caleb responded to him with a polite smile. Joseph nodded, he had heard about the book signing, he had a few of the books of the author's including some of his older works. "Do you plan on going, Joseph?", Caleb asked. Joseph paused, he hadn't quite decided on if he was going to go to the book signing in two days or not. His mind went back to the last time he went to a book signing, all of 19 years ago. He felt his heart start to race and the color started to drain from his face as he started to remember everything that had happened on that day. "Are you alright, son?", Caleb said with a worried tone, snapping Joseph out of his thoughts. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'll think about it, Caleb.", Joseph said in response as he wheeled about and started walking along the sidewalk.

A few minutes passed and he walked into his favorite bagel shop. He checked his wallet and saw that he had enough money to spare for breakfast and he felt his stomach growl. As he walked up to the counter, he took notice of a dark skinned woman that he happened to have a crush on. She looked at him and chuckled, walking over to him. "Let me guess, lemon poppyseed bagel, with extra blueberry cream cheese, and a medium coffee with a shot of espresso.", the woman said with a laugh. "You know me so well, Erica.", Joseph laughed as he walked over to the register, pulling out his wallet. "That'll be twelve dollars and thirty-five cents.", Erica responded. Joseph pulled out a twenty and handed it to her. She put it into the register and handed him his change but he shook his head. "Keep it, consider it your tip.", he said with a smile. Erica chuckled and handed him his bagel and his coffee. Joseph looked at the clock and noticed that he was running a bit late. 

He quickly walked out of the bagel shop and started running down the sidewalk. He was faster than most and was thankful for that. As he ran, he pulled his bagel out and took a bite of it, then took a sip of his coffee. Before he could swallow, he wound up in front of the stairs to the museum. He hurried up the stairs, swallowing his bite of bagel and he noticed one of his co-workers there. "Mornin, Keith.", Joseph said while trying to hold a bagel and his coffee in one hand, while fumbling for the keys to the museum with his other. Keith grabbed the coffee and Joseph nodded at him, there was always something a little off about Keith, like how he joined shortly after he got hired and how he always seemed to keep an eye on him, but Joseph didn't care much. He put the key into the keyhole and turned it, unlocking the door to the museum. Pulling the key out, he motioned towards the interior of the building and noticed Keith standing there looking at the coffee. "Got a problem with my coffee?", Joseph asked him. "No, just wondering why you always get a shot of espresso, it seems like overkill to me.", Keith responded, finally breaking his silence this morning. "It helps me wake up in the morning.", Joseph replied with a sardonic smile. 

As the two of them walked into the museum, Keith handed Joseph back his coffee and Joseph turned on the lights before walking towards the back room. "Want me to put your coat in your locker?", Joseph said as he walked. "No thank you.", Keith said, shaking his head. Joseph shrugged and walked over to his locker. He polished off the rest of the bagel and drank the rest of his coffee, taking sure to throw the trash away. He entered the combination on his locker and opened the door. His locker was clean as per usual so he just threw his jacket in there, as he wouldn't need it until he went back home. He grabbed the gloves off a shelf and put them onto his hands with a sigh. He didn't understand why his boss was so insistent on him wearing gloves all the time as part of his uniform. 

Joseph walked out of the back room and into the main lobby of the museum, where the security guard took his position. Joseph nodded at him slightly before going off to turn back on all of the lights. His boss always made it seem so easy, she and Keith would have the Museum all turned on by 10 AM, but he had to do it on his own for the first time as Keith was with the security guard making sure that all of the exhibits were still in place. It was always a bit odd that there was a museum dedicated to those born with powers that normal people didn't have. They had gone under many names in their time, Demi-gods, Mages, Wizards, Sorcerors, Demons, Witches, now the name they had settled on was Metahuman. Joseph brushed the thoughts aside as he turned on the last of the lights. "Well, that should just about do it.", Joseph said as he looked at the clock. "And with ten minutes to spare til opening time, no less.", he continued with a smile on his face.

As Joseph walked back out to the main lobby, the security guard came back in. He was a well built man, one that reminded him of someone he once knew back in high school. But what always amazed him is that the guard was of a friendly demeanor. Joseph could only guess that this was because he could afford to be nice. "Good morning, Charles.", Joseph said as he waved to the guard. "Good morning, Joseph. It's strange seeing you here this early, you usually don't come in before the place opens up to the public.", Charles responded with a smile on his face. Joseph felt slightly uneasy about the smile and how he said strange without ever losing the smile. "Well, the boss wanted me to help Keith open up the museum today, I kind of owe her since she was the only one who would hire me after I went to prison.", Joseph said with a casual shrug. Charles' eyes narrowed slightly, filling Joseph with a bit of dread. He didn't want to get fired, but he also didn't want to have to try to fight Charles to keep his job. "So what'd you go to prison for?", Charles said, his voice losing the friendly tone, which served only to scare Joseph. "I'll tell you after my shift ends, Charles." Joseph replied, hoping to get out of the situation. Joseph watched Charles carefully, trying to see any change in movement or facial expression. "Alright then, Joseph. I'll look forward to hearing your tale, but if the boss hired you, it can't be too bad.", Charles said, his demeanor going back to the usual friendliness. Joseph breathed a silent sigh of relief as the clock finally struck 10 AM, today was going to be an eventful day at work for him, alright.

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Chapter 2

A couple of quiet hours had passed, the mornings were always a bit quiet at the museum, a few people coming in to look at the exhibits, some mild talking, but nothing else. Joseph stifled a yawn as the boredom was getting to him, but he didn't quite want to seem unprofessional, even if he hadn't at all slept well the night before. "Joseph, you look a bit tired, did you sleep well last night?", Keith asked him, startling him. "No, I didn't. I'm going to go take my lunch break. Apparently, we're supposed to get a class that's on a field trip today.", Joseph said, his tone changing ever so slightly when he mentioned a field trip. "Alright, if the boss gets back and asks, I'll tell her that you're on lunch break.", Keith said with a slight nod. Joseph smiled and walked back into the back room where he grabbed his jacket and put it back on. As he walked towards the front door, he noticed Charles sitting at his desk, drinking a cup of coffee. "Taking your lunch break, Joseph?", Charles said as he passed by. "Yeah, it's lunch time for Caleb and Meredith. I'll be back in an hour.", Joseph said as he walked out the front door.

It was still rather chilly that afternoon, but he didn't particularly mind it too much. He walked back towards his home, it was a quiet walk, even if all the cars were heading out of their work for their lunch rush. As Joseph crossed a road, not thinking, he noticed a car zoom towards him. Instinctively, he dove out of the way and hit the ground in a roll to carry him back onto his feet. "You damn fool! Watch where you're going!", screamed the driver out of the window. Joseph turned back from the sidewalk and looked the driver in the eyes. "I apologize, I didn't notice that the sign said don't walk.", Joseph said politely, trying to avoid some sort of altercation that might send him to prison again. "Yeah, whatever.", the driver said before zooming off in his car, the engine roaring loud enough to hurt Joseph's ears. "Fucking jackass.", Joseph muttered to himself as he continued walking down the sidewalk towards his apartment building. A cold wind whipped up near him and he zipped the jacket up as he noticed clouds were moving in the air. Though some rain was forecast, he didn't quite expect it to be this early, but he also knew that meteorologists weren't perfect.

As he turned the corner into his apartment complex, he reached into his pocket and bumped into a young woman. Instinctively, his arm reached out and grabbed her before she fell too the ground. "Are you alright?" He asked her, a hint of concern in his voice. "I'm fine, I'm sorry, I didn't watch where I was going.", she replied to him. "No, it is I who am sorry, I've kinda been spacing out all day, haven't gotten a whole lot of sleep last night.", he responded with a slight smile as he let go of her arm. He felt the woman's gaze upon him and started walking off. "You're the first man that didn't try to sneak a peek in my shirt.", she called out. "You're meeting the wrong kind of men, then.", Joseph replied, his free hand making a dismissive gesture as he walked towards the stairs. 

As he reached the stairs, he pulled out his keys, which had the key to Caleb's apartment on it. Ascending the stairs, he thought about how long ago he started eating lunch each day with his neighbors. Sometimes he'd bring something with him, but today was pay day for him, so he didn't exactly have a lot of money. As he reached the top of the steps, he walked over to Caleb's door and knocked. It took a couple of minutes, but the door opened. "Joseph, come on in! Meredith was just baking cookies for you.", Caleb said with a smile. Joseph nodded, wondering how a 92 year old man remained so spry, but he kept that to himself as he walked into the apartment. It was a lot cleaner than his own, something that he enjoyed seeing. No sooner did Joseph walk into the living room, did an elderly woman walked out of the kitchen and over to him. "Oh, Joseph. You're still so thin, have you been eating well?", the woman called out to him. "Meredith, you know that I have a rapid metabolism." Joseph said as he embraced her in a hug. Caleb patted him on the back and gestured to the table where there was some wonderful looking food on the table.

Joseph let go of Meredith and walked over to the chair he normally sat in and hung his jacket on the back. "All that walking has done you wonders, Joseph.", Caleb said with a slight smile on his face. Joseph never thought about his musculature all that much, it was just something he developed while in prison and he managed to maintain with his current job. "Staying out of trouble, Joseph?", Meredith asked, a bit slyly. "You know that I've been staying out of trouble. I've not been in trouble for the last six years, Meredith.", Joseph said, chuckling a little bit. Caleb and Meredith sat down and Joseph nodded, finally sitting down as well. The three of them bowed their heads as was the custom and Caleb said a prayer to the spirits that governed the world. When the prayer was over, the three of them raised their heads and Joseph placed a helping of food on Caleb and Meredith's plate before his own, something that he always did. "It has been six years since you moved into the apartment complex.", Caleb said as Joseph placed a helping of food on his own plate.

Joseph remembered that day... it was six years ago to this day. He had just gotten out of prison and he was alone, with only a little bit of money in the bank. He had nowhere to go as he had moved from his hometown and lost contact with his parents. He didn't even have a high school diploma, just a general education degree that he got in prison. He was stuck walking the streets of the city, living under bridges from time to time, eating what little he could eat. He was hungry, he was cold, he hadn't bathed in a week, and he was tired. So he walked up to an apartment complex, he didn't have a whole lot of money, but he'd probably at least be able to be someone's roommate while he looked for a job. However, he was turned down as he didn't have the money to pay for the rent. As he stood at the desk, Caleb had walked into the building to pay his own rent. The two of them spoke for a bit and Caleb left. When he returned, he had enough money to pay for the first and last month's rent for Joseph and his own rent. Though Joseph was annoyed, it did give him a place to live so that he wouldn't go to prison after his parole officer got wind of him still being homeless.

"You haven't touched your food, are you feeling alright, dear?", Meredith asked, snapping him out of his thoughts. "Yes, ma'am. I'm fine. I was just thinking about how Caleb helped me out, six years ago.", Joseph responded with a reassuring nod. Caleb looked at him with a knowing nod as Joseph started eating his food. It was as delicious as it had looked and smelled. "You know, you and the other tenants of this apartment are the only ones who decide to come around and visit us.", Caleb said, a hint of sadness in his voice. Joseph knew that none of their family ever came to visit them, he could only imagine how much it hurt, feeling like you were considered a burden to your family. Joseph placed his hand on Caleb's shoulder with a slight smile. "The two of you are like family to me. And I know that I've been like family to the two of you. Y'all helped me when I was struggling, and I tried my best to repay you guys.", Joseph said as he looked at Caleb.

Caleb nodded slightly and then pointed at the clock. Joseph looked at the clock and sighed a little bit, he didn't want to leave, but he also had to go back to work. "Meredith, mind if I take some cookies up to the museum, I'm sure my co-workers would like to try one of them.", Joseph said, trying to hide the fact that a bus full of children would also be coming later because he didn't want her to bake more cookies. "Sure thing, young man. You tell that nice Keith fellow that Caleb and I liked the cake he brought us.", Meredith said as she walked into the kitchen. Within a minute, she came out with a bag of cookies and Joseph placed them into his jacket pocket, before he hugged both of them gently. "Thank you both for helping me out back then.", Joseph said as he hugged Caleb. "It's no problem, Joseph. I'm sure you would've done the same for us.", Caleb said with a smile. As Joseph put on his jacket, those words dug deeper and deeper into his heart. He wouldn't have done so back then, he would've looked out for himself and no one else. Hiding this, he waved to them and left the apartment. 

As he walked down the stairs, he came to realize, it was Caleb and Meredith and all the other people in his apartment building that changed him for the better. Without them, perhaps he would've continued to be a criminal. Prison changed him, but it wasn't for the better. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he looked back up towards the door to Caleb's apartment with a slight smile before starting to run as he wanted to hurry back to work before the field trip bus got there. He ran down the sidewalk towards his job, when he saw the yellow bus come up behind him. "Well, crap. Guess I won't make it in time." Suddenly the bus stopped and opened the door. "Hey, you're wearing a uniform of the museum I'm taking this class to, you want a ride?", the driver called out to him. Joseph stopped in his tracks and looked at the bus driver. "Are you sure?", he asked the bus driver. The driver motioned him in and Joseph climbed into the bus. "I sure hope you don't mind if I don't sit down.", he said as the door closed. 

The driver shrugged and kept on driving as Joseph looked down the bus, he saw two teachers amongst the students, but also saw thirty students. None of them could've been older than he was on that particular day. As memories started to surface, Joseph looked away and shook his head, seeing that they were parking in front of the museum. He turned around and looked at the class, "Mrs. Shaffer's class?" One of the teachers, a blond nodded, "Yes, that's us. Why?" Joseph nodded and stood straight up. "I happen to be your tour guide for this field trip, but I was getting back from my lunch break. If you and your class would be willing to assemble in the lobby, I'll hang up my jacket and we'll start the tour.", Joseph said as he tried to look as professional as possible. "Well, we have to be back at the bus by 2:30 PM. So hopefully, it won't take too long for you to hang up your jacket.", the teacher said flatly. Joseph nodded and as the door opened, he walked off the bus, but no sooner did he take a single step did something tug on his jacket. Joseph turned his head to look at what was tugging on his jacket to see a little girl. "Mister...", she said as looked at him, unsure of what to call him. Joseph chuckled, "If you want to be formal, it's Mr. Adams. But if you don't want to be formal, you can just call me Joseph.", he said with a gentle smile on his face, being reminded of a friend from a long time ago. "I just hear so many scary things about metalhumans. Will we really be safe?", she said, a little fear in her voice. "You don't have anything to worry about. Why don't you go back to Mrs. Shaffer, and I'll go put my jacket up and walk around the museum to make sure nothing scary is in there, alright?", Joseph said with a gentle voice. The little girl nodded and walked to her teacher, allowing Joseph to walk inside.

"They seem to be already here and one of them seems to have taken a liking to you, Joseph.", Charles said with a smirk as Joseph walked through the door. "I'm going to go hang up my jacket, check the security cameras for me to make sure that nothing dangerous is in here.", Joseph said as he passed by the front desk. "Woah, you don't think anything is really in here, do you, Joseph?", Charles said, nearly getting out of his chair to stop Joseph. "Nah, but I promised one of the kids that I'd make sure that nothing scary was going to be in here.", Joseph said, dismissively as he walked towards the back room, pulling a cookie out and tossing it to Charles behind his back as he did. "By the way, that cookie is for you. Meredith baked em.", he said as he tossed it. Passing by Keith, Joseph handed him a cookie. "That's for you, and both Caleb and Meredith liked your cake, Keith.", Joseph said as he passed by. Keith nodded and Joseph entered the back room and took off his jacket with a slight sigh. He wasn't quite ready to be a tour guide, but he was being paid to be one. So he hung up his jacket and closed his locker with a slight frown and walked out the back room.

As Joseph walked into the lobby, he saw the teachers there with the students and he forced a smile. "Hello everyone and welcome to the only museum dedicated to the history of metahumans. According to my boss, most museums focused on boring things like dinosaurs or astronomy. She figured that she was going to open up the first museum dedicated to the history of those who have been born with strange powers that most people do not have. Before we begin, does anyone have any questions.", Joseph said with a cheerful voice. Every child's hand went up. "Any questions that don't have to pertain to if you can touch the exhibits.", Joseph said in response. None of the hands went down. "Any questions that also don't have anything to do with meeting a metahuman in person.", Joseph said in response to that. Still none of the hands went down. He wasn't going to be able to answer all of their questions so he chose one of the children. "Um, can metahumans give their powers to normal people?", the child asked. "No, they cannot. What you're thinking of is the spiritborn, which are different.", Joseph responded before pointing to another child. "Um, is there any way that I can get superpowers.", that child asked him. "Augments are limited to adults, I'm afraid. If you didn't get born with a spirit or won the genetic lottery, you'd have to get those. There is one other way though, but it hasn't been seen on a large scale yet.", Joseph replied, shaking his head at first and then looking at the class. "I got enough time for one more question.", he said as he continued to look at the class and then pointed to a child that was all the way in the back. "Come on to the front and ask your question.", Joseph said to that child. The child moved up to the front and Joseph looked at her. He felt something was off about this child. "Your heart hurts.", she said, pointing at his chest. Joseph didn't want to reveal the whole truth to the class, but he also didn't want to completely lie. "I lost someone that I loved, ten years ago. The ache still lies with me. Anyhow, that's all for the questions before the tour, if you all would get in a line, we'll head off to the first exhibit.", Joseph said with a hint of sadness in his voice at first, then forced his voice to be cheerful. 

Joseph led the group into another room, where there was a piece of pottery on a pedestal. Joseph recognized this piece immediately from the countless other tours he had given. "This piece of pottery is dated back to the year 3000 BC, it was created by an ancient civilization, we don't exactly know their name or their culture, but this became part of our collection when my boss realized that the design on it clearly shows people worshiping a metahuman as if he were some sort of god. We've long since found out that the metahumans are not gods, that those we call spiritborn are more akin to the gods.", Joseph said, instructing the class. A hand went up and Joseph nodded. "What's it made of?", the child asked. "Clay.", Joseph responded. Joseph scanned the room for any more questions and then nodded. "If you will follow me, we can see the next exhibit." 

Joseph walked and led the group into the next room, this one with several paintings. Some of which he had an odd sense of familiarity with, despite having only ever seen them in the museum. He had always wondered why, but solving that mystery wasn't his priority here, it was giving a tour to this class. "In here, you have a collection of paintings that were done by or about metahumans.", he said as he walked over to the painting that felt the most familiar. "This one in particular though, it was painted by a skilled artist, a spiritborn for his lover, who happened to be a metahuman. Her name was Elise, from what we can gather from this painting, the woman happened to have a strange ability to generate fire from her hands. During the Renaissance period that this was painted, she would've been considered a demon of some sort or possessed by a demon. However, what we know about the metahumans today proved that she was just different from most ordinary humans.", he said as he looked towards the class. A hand shot up. "Yes?", he asked. "Um, what happened to Elise?", the child asked. "She was drowned in a river.", Joseph responded. "You sound so sure of that, are you sure that's what happened?", another child asked. "Now now, don't ask too many questions of Mr. Adams.", the teacher said, chiding her students. "It's fine. I've heard and recounted this tale so many times that it's easy for me to say that she drowned as if I knew that for sure. But really, this happened hundreds of years ago and there are no surviving accounts of her fate other than a journal written by the spiritborn, which so happens to be in the next room.", Joseph said with a slight smile on his face.

Joseph led the group into the next room, where a journal sat on a pedestal. "This journal is the only surviving possession of a spiritborn. The reason why it is in this museum is that it talks in detail about the metahumans and how the spiritborn could sense them and how he fell in love with one who was considered a demonic entity. He tried to protect the metahuman, but one day he was called on business by the king in order to play a keyboard instrument in front of him. While he was away, the metahuman was killed. When he returned... he was distraught, seeing his lover had been murdered. He was filled with rage and decided to take on a new persona to get back at the people who killed his wife. However, he was quickly found and hung according to surviving records. His crime was murder.", Joseph said, noticing the stunned faces on all of the children. "I apologize, but it is my job to tell the truth about these kinds of things. Hmm... I have an idea. I know I have said that you guys can't meet a real life metahuman, but I know something you can see.", Joseph said, piquing the interest of the class in front of him.

Joseph led the group into yet another room, this one had an exceptionally powerful artifact that every time he walked into the room made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. The entire class looked at the sword on the pedestal and all of them were amazed. "This sword is an exceptionally powerful artifact, given to a metahuman by a powerful magician. Though mistakenly called Excalibur, that was a magical sword given to a regular human by a spirit. This however, is a very different sword. It lacks a name, but the metahuman had regenerative properties and because of this was mostly immortal. I don't know if he still walks the land today, but I do know that records of this metahuman began in antiquity and stopped around 1800. Who knows where he is or who he is. However, this particular sword was enchanted to be able to channel the elements themselves, You know, fire, wind, earth, and water. Not the elements as we know them today. The sword is currently the most powerful artifact in the museum. But that concludes the usual tour. Most of the exhibits here have plaques that tell you the history of them. If you want to come here when you're not at school and not on a deadline, you can get the full, grand tour of the place. But for now, I think you kids should find exhibits you find interesting and learn on your own.", Joseph said as he had his hands behind his back.

Joseph watched as the children dispersed into different areas of the museum and the teacher looked at him. "You did that just so that you wouldn't have to give us a full tour of the place.", the teacher said with a frown. "Full tour is actually twenty dollars per person. You paid the standard fare. Because you were with a class, I decided to give a tour to get the children interested in learning about metahumans. You forget, Mrs. Shaffer, we were children once.", Joseph said as he folded his arms. The teacher looked at him, "Yes, and you were in my mother's class back in third grade, weren't you?", she said with a smirk. Joseph laughed, he hadn't expected her to figure it out so soon. "Yes, I was that Joseph. Your mother taught me a lot.", Joseph said with a smile on his face. "My mom spoke highly about you, said that when you applied yourself, your test scores were very high.", the teacher said, her hand on her chin. "By the way, you never gave me your name, Elizabeth.", Joseph said with a smirk, noticing the school nametag she had on her chest. Elizabeth shrugged and Joseph figured that she didn't tell him because he could've found it on her nametag anyhow. "Anyway, if you need me before you go, I'm going to head into the back room real quick. We're having another artifact being shipped here that will be put on display.", Joseph said as he walked back to the back room.

As he arrived at the back room, he headed for the back door of the museum and exited, where a delivery truck was waiting, right on schedule. "I got a delivery of one ring for you... wait, you're not Celeste.", the delivery truck driver said, looking quite annoyed when he realized it wasn't his boss. "She's the founder of the museum, I'm her assistant. I'm more than qualified to sign for this.", Joseph said, calmly, trying to hide his annoyance with this particular guy. He didn't know why, but this person rubbed him the wrong way and he'd be happy if he were to just leave the premises, but he had a job to do. "Fine, whatever. Sign here.", the delivery truck driver said as he shoved a clipboard and a pen into Joseph's hands. Joseph signed for the delivery and handed it back to the driver. The driver reviewed the signature and opened up the truck, handing him a box. Joseph, not being an idiot, opened up the box to see if he was being ripped off. In the box was a silver ring that had an amethyst affixed to it. He wanted to make sure it was real, so he opened the back door. "Hey Keith, I got a ring for you to check!", Joseph yelled out, keeping his eye on the delivery truck driver. Keith walked up to him and took the ring. Joseph turned his full attention to the driver. "I hope you don't mind, we have to make sure it's authentic and all. Standard procedure. I'd usually do it myself, but since the boss isn't here.", Joseph said, not wanting to do this any more than the delivery driver wanted to. "Yeah, whatever.", the delivery driver grunted to him.

Joseph looked closer at the face of the delivery driver and immediately his heart sank as his mind was filled with rage. "You!", he called out. The driver looked at him and analyzed him right back, "Wait a minute, I recognize you!", he laughed. It had been eight years since the day he met this person. Joseph's entire body tensed up, ready for a fight. "You have a lot of nerve showing your face around here. Then again, I didn't recognize it, the last time I saw it, I was punching it, repeatedly.", Joseph said with a sneer, ready to fight this man. "Ha, you only won because you got the jump on me! If we were to go right now, you'd most certainly lose.", the delivery truck driver said as he entered a fighting pose. Joseph could tell that this guy wasn't trained, he was just a mindless brawler. However, Joseph stood up straight and just smiled slightly. The delivery truck driver ran towards him and Joseph let him punch him in the mouth, busting his lip. "That... felt good.", the delivery truck driver said as Keith walked out. "I was going to tell you that the ring is authentic, but it seems that you're currently being assaulted. I'll go call the police while you go and take care of that lip.", Keith said as he walked back in. Joseph smirked as he spat out the blood that was in his mouth before walking back into the museum.

Joseph locked the door behind him and placed a napkin on his mouth, putting pressure on the wound in order to staunch the bleeding. His mouth hurt, significantly, but he felt immense satisfaction with putting the person he had brutally beaten 8 years ago into the prison that he deserved to be in. After he finally got the bleeding to stop, he walked out of the back room to see the class had assembled into the lobby, "I apologize, I didn't expect to take so long. So did everyone enjoy the museum.", Joseph said with a smile. "Yeah!", said all of the children in unison. "That's good, remember, don't come here without your parents, it does cost money to get into the museum, but I'm sure each one of you would absolutely enjoy visiting again.", Joseph said with a smile. Elizabeth looked at him and then looked at his lip. She then chuckled. "Mother said you were always one to find trouble.", she said as she chuckled." Joseph shrugged, the busted lip didn't bother him, neither did her teasing. "Hopefully we'll meet again under better circumstances, I would like to see how your mother is doing.", Joseph said, wondering how his old teacher was doing. Elizabeth turned around to lead the class back out of the museum. "How about tomorrow at lunch.", she said with a hint of a smile. "Alright then, see you tomorrow.", Joseph said before getting back to his work of making sure that no one touched any of the exhibits in the museum.

Keith walked out of the back room, "I just got off the phone with the police. They're going to find the culprit.", he said as he walked towards Joseph. Joseph nodded and Keith pulled out the ring. "I think you know where you have to put this, Joseph. After all, our boss considers you her assistant, not me.", Keith said with a smile. Joseph nodded and took the ring. He walked down a hallway full of artifacts, paintings, and weapons before coming to a pedestal that had a single inscription on it. "Ring of Detection.", it read. Joseph had no idea what it detected, but considering it was in this museum, he reasoned that it had something to do with metahumans. He opened up the protective casing and placed the ring on the pillow inside. Closing it, he sighed slightly, wondering how his boss would feel about him being punched in the face. After the case was closed, he locked it and walked back out of the room, heading back out to return to his work. There were still several hours left in the work day and his boss had yet to arrive. Though he didn't want to admit it, he was slightly worried about his boss' well being.

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Chapter 3

The work day was finally over and there was no sign of his boss, causing Joseph to sigh. He knew that he was her assistant, but he didn't have any idea that he was going to have to be the manager of the museum for a day. Joseph headed to the back room and saw his boss standing there. "Sorry I didn't come in all day today, just had to deal with vet after vet and it was problem after problem. How did you hold up, Joseph?", his boss said with a ragged look on her face. "Things went smoothly, except for the fact that I was assaulted by a delivery driver. He had it coming though. I'm surprised a delivery company would hire someone that is a known mugger.", Joseph said with a shrug. His boss nodded and rubbed her finger against his split lip, it was still sore and stung a bit when she rubbed it, but he didn't flinch or anything. "Hmm... I wanted to talk to you.", his boss said as she folded her arms. "Where? Your office?", Joseph said, looking around as he grabbed his jacket. "My place. And we're not on the clock, so you don't have to be so formal.", his boss said turning around to the back door. Joseph nodded slightly and followed his boss out of the museum. 

Joseph turned around and locked the back door as his boss walked to the car. Putting the keys back in his pocket, Joseph walked over to the car as well. "Get in.", his boss said. Joseph's heart was thumping as he opened the door of his boss' car. He always found her to be an attractive woman, she was in her mid-40s, not of childbearing age, but that didn't concern him. She had taught him everything he knew about the field of study that he had taken up in order to work at the museum. She even helped pay for his college. The one thing that put Joseph off from ever asking her out though, other than the fact that she's his boss, was that she was more like a mother figure to him than his mother ever was. Joseph got into the car and sat down, he closed the door and buckled up. His boss sat down in the car and she turned it on. Joseph didn't particularly like to drive, so he didn't really own a car, he instead hitched a ride with one of his neighbors if he ever needed to go grocery shopping.

They backed out of the parking lot and without a word, drove onto the road. Joseph looked out the window as they traveled down the road, paying attention to the stores. Eventually, they stopped next to a costume store and Joseph saw something in the window, it was a poster for a costume that Joseph recognized. Ten years later and they were still worshiping Lightning as if he were this great hero instead of the killer he really was. Anger welled up inside of him and he started to grit his teeth, suddenly the radio turned on and Joseph's attention was snapped away from the poster. "Did you turn on the radio?", he asked his boss. "No, I thought you did.", his boss replied. Joseph shook his head, he didn't know who or what turned on the radio, for all he knew, it could've been an electrically powered metahuman or a psion.

The car continued forward and neither of them talked much for about ten minutes. "Joseph, I think you're a bit lonely.", his boss said as she finally spoke up. "Woah, boss! I find you an attractive woman by conventional standards, but isn't it kinda against work ethic to date your boss. Especially a woman that's..." Joseph said, absolutely surprised and wide-eyed from the question. "Joseph, I'm not asking you to date me. Where did you get that idea from?", his boss replied as she interrupted him. "Uh, Charles might have suggested a thing like that, but honestly, I've always seen you more as a mother figure. Heck, you've been there more than my actual mother has been.", Joseph said as he looked back out the window. "Hmm, I've always seen you as the son I never had as well, Joseph. If you want to call me Mom, I wouldn't exactly have a problem with that.", she responded, a smirk on her face. "Your name is Dr. Celeste Delacruz. Not Mom.", Joseph said flatly to her. She reached over and ruffled his hair with a smile while they were at a red light. "So how's your work on your Master's Thesis coming along?", Celeste said as she ruffled his hair. Joseph had completely forgotten about his Master's Thesis, and he needed to get it done by November. It was mostly finished though, all he needed to do was proofread it and write down a final work. "I'd like you to check out my first draft. I'll bring it in next week when I come to work.", Joseph said with a nod. "About that, you're not coming to work next week, Joseph. You're getting the week off.", Celeste said as she turned left into a parking lot. "Wait, why!?", Joseph said, startled. He wasn't used to taking weeks off. "You need time to work on your Master's Thesis, if you want to graduate in December.", replied his boss as they wound up parking.

Joseph climbed out of the car and saw where they parked. "You're really bringing me to a pet store, not only that, but one that's fifteen miles away from my house.", Joseph said, not hiding the fact that he was annoyed at this. "You're going to get an animal companion for once in your life, Joseph.", Celeste said as she climbed out of the car, locking it as she did. "I had a dog when I was younger. His name was Donnie, and he was the friendliest and most loyal dog you could imagine.", Joseph said with a hint of sadness in his voice. "I understand what it's like to lose a companion like that, but crying over it isn't going to get you a new one.", Celeste said as she led him into the store. "Come on, you pick whatever animal you want and I'll buy everything you need.", she continued as she grabbed a buggy. He realized he wasn't going to be able to get away from this entire idea so instead he relented.

He walked down the aisles of the pet shop looking at the different animals. He looked towards the small animals first. He used to be repulsed by these creatures, but as he grew up, they sort of grown on him. He bent down in front of the case with the mice in it and watched the little creatures scurry about. They were nocturnal, this was something he knew for sure. They were adorable, but not what he would call a companion as they didn't have long lifespans. He briefly considered rats, but knew instantly that Celeste would have an issue with him getting a rat, much less bringing it into her car. He sighed and walked over to the birds section. He always found the colorful tropical birds to be amazing, but they were also somewhat loud, at least conures were. The parakeets that they had there though, the lovebirds they were called, were adorable and quiet. But a bird wasn't his style honestly. He took a look at the reptiles and noticed that they didn't have many of them. He thought that they must be a popular pet, so he didn't bother with them. He wanted something he could interact with, so fish were definitely off the table.

He turned around and walked over to the adoption center, he looked at the different dogs, but couldn't find a breed that he liked. Especially not within his price range. As he walked over to the cats though, he noticed the kittens playing with each other. He knew that he'd have to get more than one as cats tended to prefer the company of each other over that of humans. A couple of kittens escaped their crate as one of the people opened it up in order to feed them and give them water and they tried to run for the door. Joseph knew that they were trying to play a game, but he didn't seem to mind much. He leaned over with a smile and grabbed them both as they tried to run past him. "Wow, I never saw anyone move like that and catch kittens that decided they were going to explore their surroundings. Usually we have to keep someone at the door.", the person that was taking care of the animals said to him. Joseph felt the little teeth biting into his hands, but he ignored it. "To be fair, I had to pick a few tricks up while I was in prison.", he said as he stood back up, holding the kittens firmly, yet at the same time, being gentle with their tiny bodies. "You went to prison, you don't seem like the violent type. Was it a felony?", the person working at the store replied, a hint of uncertainty in his voice. "Assault, it was a misdemeanor. Walked down the wrong alley at the wrong time to take a shortcut back home, wound up walking upon a mugging. I grabbed the guy and started punching him in order to get the victim a chance to flee. Wound up getting two years for that.", Joseph said as he walked over to hand the kittens over to the guy. "You don't seem fazed at all that they're biting you.", the person said as he looked at the kittens biting Joseph's hands. "I dealt with worse as a child and at work. It doesn't really bother me. Say, if these two are an issue, why not let me buy em.", Joseph said with a smile.

"Hey there, I see you found something that you seemed to have liked.", Celeste said, scaring the everloving shit out of Joseph. "Holy shit!", Joseph exclaimed, using all of his mental control he could muster to not tense his hands up. The kittens stopped biting, curious about this new person and Joseph pointed towards a crate, "Look, I ain't about to bring two kittens to my apartment in a cardboard box, mind if we purchase a crate in order to take these two home?", Joseph asked. "No, it's not a problem at all.", the store worker said in response. Celeste left and after about five minutes, returned with a crate. Joseph smiled and placed the kittens into the crate and was given the paperwork. He filled it out, giving the kittens names and Celeste paid for them. "Thank you, Celeste.", Joseph said as he walked out of the adoption center with the two kittens. "We still need to get them food, a litter box, litter, toys, and things to scratch and climb.", Celeste responded. He knew this already, but he was just thankful to have kittens. He could hear them mew at him from inside their crate. "So you're going to help me get all of this into my apartment, right?", he asked with a smirk on his face. "I was thinking since you're a strong gentleman, you could do it yourself.", she responded with a similar smirk.

The two of them walked through the store, gathering everything that the kittens would need, including a big bag of kitten food. Celeste purchased everything and then they took it all to the car. "Should've probably gotten a truck.", Joseph said as he noticed that they had gathered a whole bunch of stuff. "My backseats fold down, Joseph. You'd know about that if you ever bothered to drive a car.", Celeste said with a sigh. "Hey! I can't neglect my calves you know.", Joseph said, pointing at his legs with his free hand. "If you got a car, you could go wherever you wanted, you know.", she said with a smirk. He knew she was right as they put the stuff in her trunk, Celeste folding the seats down. He looked at the two kittens in the crate. They were crawling over each other, rolling around and playing, but he noticed something about what was going on here. They also didn't seem to know where they were going. He looked at the crate and then at Celeste. "I think I'm going to carry this in my lap on the way to your place.", he said with a soft smile. "I'll pick you up to carry you to my place in the morning. I wasn't entirely honest with you. I'm giving you the next week off, but I need your help with something tomorrow. It shouldn't take long, so you'll have plenty of time to spend with your kittens.", Celeste said as she packed the rest of the stuff. Joseph climbed into the car with his new kittens and turned the door towards him. "Hey there, little guys. You'll get to live with me from now on.", he said in a soft voice.

Celeste climbed into the car and closed the door. She started the car and as they pulled out of the parking lot, she glanced over at Joseph. "So, you hear about that famous author that's coming over here on sunday?", she asked him, a hint of curiosity in her voice. "Yeah, I've read some of his books. Seen a couple of movies that were based off his works. Why do you ask?", he replied, curious that it was strange that she asked him about him. "Well, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the book signing. I had an invitation and well, I'm going to be busy on Sunday. Would you like to go in my stead. I'm sure you like the guy's books.", she said as she focused on the road. "Well, sure. I never really liked the books that focused on Yoshiro, though. A noble becoming a paladin after isolation wasn't something that I could particularly enjoy. That's nothing new, that's just history. His books about Kauko on the other hand were amazing. Kauko was from a noble family that the father disowned him, so he lived with his grandparents and after a while his grandparents passed away and eventually his mother did, while his father sat in his manor and watched all of this happen, forcing the young Kauko to become a thief to survive. Eventually though, he winds up getting caught and is inducted into the paladins, becoming a noble himself.", Joseph said as he recounted the knowledge of the books about Kauko. "So does Kauko's father ever get what he deserved?", she asked. "Yeah, in one of the movies, Kauko straight up admits that no matter the crimes his father committed towards himself or others, he can't bring himself to spill the blood of one of his parents. Kauko's father, the original Count Vene decides to attack his own son, but Hannu steps in and blocks it, grumbling about how ironic it is for a Judicator to be protecting a thief. After a brief fight, Hannu slays Kauko's father.", he said as he looked up at the ceiling of the car. "Hmm, you do seem like you're a fan of this series. Well, I'll call up the author and tell him that I'm sending my assistant over.", she said as they stopped at a red light.

The rest of the ride to the apartment complex was uneventful and quiet. Once there, Joseph climbed out of the car with the crate that his kittens were in. He climbed up the stairs and fished his keys out of his pocket. He could hear the mewing of the kittens as he put his key in the lock and opened up the door. The first thing he noticed when he walked in was that he wasn't the only one that had been in his apartment today. There was a bag of cookies on the table in the living room. He walked over to the dining room table and put the crate onto it. "Now the two of you be good and stay here.", he said with a smile as he walked out the door and saw Celeste carry the bag of toys and a scratching post past him and into his apartment. As much as he wanted to crack a joke about how he finally had a woman over, he knew that the fact that she entered the apartment meant that some gossip was going to go around the building. He climbed back down the stairs and walked over to the car, closing the door that he had left open and walked back to the trunk. He grabbed the bag of cat litter and threw it onto his shoulder and then did the same with the Kitten food. As he walked back up the stairs, Celeste looked up at him like he was crazy. "What would happen if you were to lose your footing, both of your hands are occupied.", she said in a huff. "I had to do things like this back in prison, ya know.", Joseph retorted. Celeste sighed and Joseph reached the top of the stairs. "You want to get the rest or should I?", he said to her as he walked into his apartment. "I'll get the rest.", she said as she walked back down the stairs. Joseph placed the litter and catfood in his laundry room which doubled as his pantry. He closed the door to the room and walked back into his kitchen to open the fridge. He pulled out a beer and placed it on the counter as Celeste walked into the living room with the rest of the stuff. "So, I'll see you tomorrow morning?", she said as he looked towards her. "Yeah, I'll spend some time getting stuff ready for the kittens and make sure that Caleb and Meredith are alright before going to bed tonight. See ya tomorrow, boss.", he replied.

Celeste walked out of the house after placing the stuff in the living room. Upon hearing the door close, Joseph cracked open the beer and placed the mouth of the bottle to his lips. It was a bitter taste, but, he was off for the weekend and the next week, so he figured that there wouldn't be anything wrong with getting a single beer in him. He looked back in his fridge and remembered that his pantry was empty. "Guess I need to go grocery shopping soon.", he muttered to himself as he walked out into the living room to take a look at the kittens. "I'm going to get everything set up for you guys and then I'm going to head next door to make sure the elderly neighbors are alright. I want the both of you to behave while I'm gone, Bubba and Marylin. I'll let the two of you out when I get back home so that you can explore your new home and play with all the stuff my boss got for you.", Joseph said as he went to organizing the place for his new kittens. As he did so, he silently thanked this boss for getting him those kittens, as she was right, he was indeed lonely, despite living in a building with other people. But this was a lifestyle that he chose for himself, one that he didn't have any regrets choosing, at least for now. 

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Chapter 4

Joseph was finished with tending to setting everything up for the kittens, the time was 9 PM. No sooner did he finish, was there a knock at his door, startling him. He turned to the door and walked over, grabbing the doorknob. With a twist of his hand, he pulled open the door to see Caleb standing out there in the cold. "Meredith threw you out of the house?", Joseph said in a joking manner. "We were worried about you, Joseph. You didn't come over and... well, we saw you with a woman here.", Caleb responded, as Meredith walked up behind him. Joseph heard the wind whip up, he knew that it was going to get much colder that night and the rain was moving in. "It'll be too cold for the two of you to go back over there soon, that and too rainy. The wind is supposed to blow the rain into the hall between our apartments. I don't really have an extra guest bed, but I could always sleep on the couch. Would you like to stay over for the night?", Joseph said, thumbing towards the inside of his apartment. "You're quite considerate, but how cold do you think it will get tonight?", Caleb said with a slight smile. "I know, back when you were younger, you could easily walk up hill, in the snow, both ways to school. However, right now, you're both in your nineties. The two of you wouldn't last long tonight, it's supposed to get into the low twenties, if not as low as nineteen degrees. With the windchill, it'll be around twelve degrees.", Joseph said sternly. Meredith walked over to Joseph and hugged him slightly. "Are you eating alright?", she asked as she looked into his eyes. "I haven't exactly had time to grab a bite to eat. If the two of you will promise to stay here in my apartment, I could go get the three of us something to eat. Or at least get me something to eat.", Joseph said as he thumbed once again towards the interior of his apartment. Caleb nodded and walked into the apartment, as Meredith let go. "We'll stay here, Joseph. You won't have to worry about us, but won't you be cold?", Caleb said as he looked around the living room. "Yeah, but I can tolerate the cold a lot better than the two of you can. The heat is set to seventy-six degrees. If that isn't hot enough for you, you can always turn it up slightly.", Joseph said as he grabbed a jacket from the closet next to his door. "Take care of yourself, Joseph.", Meredith called out as he walked out of the apartment and closed the door behind him. 

The wind quickly whipped across Joseph's face as the rain started to hit him. He pulled the hood up on his jacket and walked down the stairs with one hand on the railing. He worried about his kittens, but trusted both Caleb and Meredith not to let them loose prematurely. He walked out into the parking lot and started walking down the road, it was a very cold night and the rain wasn't helping. A car pulled up to him. "Hey man, you want a ride. Tonight isn't a night that you should be out here in the cold. I'll take you back to your place.", the driver said to him. "I'm actually heading out to get something to eat. I've not had dinner and tomorrow was the day I go grocery shopping.", he responded. "Hop in, I'll take you to a nice place to eat.", the driver responded. Joseph thought about it for a second and then took a look at the driver. "Alex?", Joseph said as he recognized the man. "Yeah, apartment twelve twenty-four. You're in twelve thirty-five, right?", Alex said as he popped his head out the window. Joseph nodded and then walked around the car. Alex unlocked the door for him and he opened it and climbed in. As he closed the door behind him, he buckled his seat belt. "So, where do you want to go, Joseph?", Alex asked him as he turned the car around. "The bar would be nice, honestly.", Joseph responded.

As the car pulled out of the apartment complex, Alex turned onto another road. "It's not like you to start drinking after a week of work, Joseph. Something bothering you?", Alex asked as he drove towards the bar. "Not really, just think that right now, sitting down with some bar food and maybe a couple of beers wouldn't hurt. I need to get to sleep early so that I can go over to my boss' place tomorrow and help her out.", he responded flatly. "Ah, so you're just trying to do something quick, so you can get back home and get to sleep. I see how it is, Joseph.", Alex said with a smirk. Joseph shot Alex a look and Alex laughed at him. "Don't worry, Joseph, I understand what it's like. You still unmarried?", Alex said as he chuckled slightly. "Are you suggesting that I go off and marry my boss, a woman might I remind you, who is old enough to be my mother, and has been more of a mother to me than my own mom, who abandoned me the moment I went to prison.", Joseph said, annoyed. 

Alex nodded as they pulled into the parking lot of the bar and once the car came to a stop, Joseph climbed out of the car and closed the door behind him. He walked into the bar and the bartender looked at him. A gruff bald man, with a handlebar mustache, built in such a way that suggested he could solve any problem customer problem that ever came into his bar. "I don't see you around here often. You got a problem or something?", the bartender asked him. "I ain't lookin for any trouble, just some food and a couple of drinks is all.", Joseph responded. "I know you're not lookin for trouble, you just got a bit of a troubled look on your face there. Sit down and tell me your problems. It's what I'm here for.", the bartender said to him as he motioned towards a stool. Joseph walked over to the stool and sat down. "I'd like to order a burger, rare. With a side order of fries, and of course if you have chicken tenders, I'll take an order of those as well. And a pint of beer, please.", Joseph said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Joseph showed the bartender his ID and the bartender nodded as Alex sat next to him. "I'd like a double shot of whiskey, please.", Alex said as he sat down. 

The Bartender turned around and Alex looked at Joseph. "The game's on, want to watch it?", Joseph shook his head, he used to be a sports guy, but was never much for sports nowadays. The bartender placed his glass on the table. "Enjoy, kiddo.", the bartender said as he turned around. Joseph looked at the beer in front of him and started sipping at it. The taste was just as bad as he remembered beer being, but for some reason when he finally made it to the weekend, he felt it was nice to have a beer. Alex downed an entire double shot of whiskey right next to him, which confused him. Alex patted him on the shoulder and placed a ten dollar bill on the counter before walking out. The Bartender walked over to Joseph. "Like I said, you look like a man who needs to talk about his problems.", the Bartender said with a gruff voice. "Eh, I don't really want to talk about it in detail. I just happen to miss my old friends.", Joseph responded as he took another sip of beer. "You know, advice is free, right?", the Bartender said with a smile as he leaned forward. Joseph closed his eyes, his mind focused on someone who he was once in love with, the friends that the two of them had. This was back when he was still a teenager no less. 

Joseph sighed as the plate with his food was placed on the table. The Bartender gave him his ID back and Joseph placed a twenty dollar bill on the table as he put his ID back into his wallet. "Ten years ago, I parted ways from my friends. I've not seen them in the last ten years, nor have I seen my girlfriend since then. Well, I guess she'd be my ex-girlfriend now. When I woke up the morning after I had left them, I noticed that I was still covered in blood, I had never showered and all I remember was getting into a fight with Lightning over him killing someone. All I could surmise is that I was able to drive him off, he hasn't shown his face in the last ten years.", Joseph said as he picked up one of the chicken fingers. "Not very many people are open with the information that they had gotten into a fight with a hero, especially not one as famous as Lightning is. Are you a Villain by some chance?", the Bartender asked with an arched brow and reaching under the counter. "Not anymore. I never wanted to fight him, just he... killed my friend and my body acted on its own. I was surprised when it happened.", Joseph responded. "So why'd you come all the way up here then?", the bartender asked him. "I couldn't stand the pressure of everything, so I left my home town and moved up here.", Joseph said in response as he started to eat his food. He had no idea why the reason was, but for the past 19 years, he's had a rapid metabolism.

As Joseph ate, the Bartender poured him another beer. Joseph didn't even notice that he had finished the first one. Then he looked at his beer, he didn't. "What's up with the second beer?", Joseph asked, suspicious. "It's on the house. I figured someone like yourself would be wanting a second drink. Not a whole lot of reformed villains out there, especially not ones who got into a fight with the leader of the Weather Force.", the Bartender said as he cleaned a glass. Joseph nodded and finished his first beer. The Weather Force didn't sound right to him though, the last time he saw them, they were the Weather Team. As Joseph finished up his food and drank the second beer, he thought that things had changed in the last ten years he was gone. When he was done with everything, Joseph walked out of the bar, where he saw Alex sitting in the car, waiting for him. He opened the door and climbed in. "Would you like to crash at my place, Joseph. Stairs will be a bit slick when we get home.", Alex said, concerned. "Nah, I need to get to my place. Gotta let the kittens out of the crate, and both Caleb and Meredith are at my place. Have to make sure that everything is alright.", Joseph responded.

Alex nodded and drove out of the parking lot, Joseph could tell that Alex was intoxicated, but still under the legal limit. The two of them didn't say a word on the way back home and when the car was parked, Joseph looked at the time. It was 10 PM. Joseph climbed out of the car and closed the door, waving to Alex as he walked towards the steps. "Thanks for the ride to the bar, Alex.", he said as he reached the steps. "No problem, Joseph.", Alex called out from the car. The rain was hitting Joseph's jacket and he could see it starting to come back down the steps. He grabbed the railing of the stairs and slowly climbed up, taking care to ensure that he wasn't slipping on each step. Within a few minutes, he reached the top of the stairs with a sigh, the wall in from of him was covered in water and the floor was wet too. The wind whipped up, a powerful wind that forced the rain to move sideways happened. "Damn storms...", Joseph grumbled as he was rained on. He walked over to the door and opened it to see that the lights weren't on. He turned on a light and walked into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind him.

He threw his jacket on the chair in his living room and walked over to the dining room table, where the kittens were pawing at the bars of the door in the crate. He opened up the crate's door and grabbed the two kittens gently. "You two behave yourself, alright. I'm going to go to sleep soon.", he said as he placed them on the floor. The kittens immediately went to go to explore their surroundings as Joseph walked over to his closet to pull a blanket and a spare pillow from his linen closet. He threw the pillow on his couch and laid down on the couch with blanket over him as he reached for the light switch to turn the light off. As he closed his eyes, he started wondering exactly what tomorrow would bring to him, he knew that he had to help his boss with something, but one thing still bothered him though. What had happened to the Weather Team to be renamed the Weather Force, was Lightning still out there somewhere? So many questions buzzed through Joseph's mind as he laid there on the couch. He pushed the questions into the back of his mind and soon enough, he fell asleep, hoping he'd not wake up to the same nightmare as the night before. 

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Chapter 5

Joseph awoke on the couch to silence, not even the mewing of kittens. As he looked out the window, he saw that it was light outside, so he could guess that it was seven AM. The apartment was still cold, despite the fact that the heater was on. He looked down at himself as he moved the blanket. He had fallen asleep in his work uniform and since both Caleb and Meredith were in his bedroom, he wouldn't be able to change out of his work clothes. He was glad that aside from the blood that came from his lip, his work uniform was mostly clean, if it was a little wet from the rain when he went to bed. Suddenly a mewing caught his attention. The male kitten was sitting there at the foot of the couch. He picked up the kitten and placed him on his chest. "Hey there, little guy. You explored the house, got to see where everything was?", he asked the kitten, which responded with a mewing sound. He scratched behind the kitten's ears and then placed him on the ground. "I got to find something to eat in here that isn't cat food.", he muttered as he moved the blanket off himself.

He stood up and walked over to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and saw that it was empty, except for one last bottle of root beer, he didn't even have any coffee and his only drink had no caffeine. He took out the bottle of root beer, because it was at least something, and then realized he had just used his last bit of money at the bar. "Aw fuck... I didn't even get paid yesterday.", he said as he opened the bottle, drinking the soda within. "I got bills to pay later this week and I got a thesis to rewrite and... ugh, this day sucks already...", he said, obviously annoyed at the sequence of events that was the end of the week for him. Finishing the bottle, he tossed it in the trash and walked over to his closet. "Well, I have an hour or two before the boss gets here... what to do...", he muttered to himself. He opened up the closet and grabbed a pair of gloves, putting them on as he grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair. He grabbed a tube of balls and a tennis racket from the floor of his closet and closed the door. He zipped up his jacket and walked over to the front door of his apartment. He took a sheet of paper from the desk and a pen and wrote a message for Caleb and Meredith, telling them that he's heading out and if they were to head back to their apartment, to make sure that the kittens don't get out. He then opened the door to his apartment and left, closing it behind him.

Everything had a glaze of ice covering it, icicles were hanging down from the overhang of the roof. This was going to be exceptionally annoying for not only himself, but for anyone who wanted to drive. He walked down the hall and then turned onto the steps. No sooner did he place his foot on the first step, did it fly out from under him. He hit the ground, hard and slid down every step before tumbling onto the ground with a pained grunt. When he stood up, he felt pain in the entire right side of his body, not unexpected, but quite inconvenient. As he looked around, he noticed that the ice wasn't thick and would melt under the midday sun. He walked along the grass, walking all the way up to the tennis court where there was a pool behind it, behind the pool, there was a gym and a racquetball court. Joseph knew that he couldn't practice tennis outside on the court as they would naturally be iced over on the day that he'd want to use them. He sighed slightly, knowing that he'd be unable to use the gym as his boss would be at his place later to pick him up for whatever she had planned for the day. Without leaving the grass, he walked around the tennis court and around the building to come to a fence. He opened up the fence and walked in, closing it behind him. 

Joseph heard a noise coming from the pool and saw someone swimming in it. "Are you fucking crazy? It's below freezing and you're swimming in a goddamn pool!", Joseph yelled at the person. The person turned around to reveal that she was a woman around his age. "Huh, I never thought you lived here. I'm Anna, a metahuman.", she replied to him yelling at her. Joseph never expected her to be forthcoming with that information, he knew that the metahumans existed, he's seen the evidence and worked at a museum about them. "If your power doesn't pertain to the cold, I would suggest you climb out of the pool before you develop hypothermia.", Joseph said as he squatted near the side of the pool. "Blizzard is the name I go by, I'm one of the local heroes.", she responded calmly. "Never thought a hero would be using the pool of an apartment complex, aren't all you people rich or somethin'?", Joseph said, not even bothering to hide the fact that he wasn't originally from the region with his accent. "You sound like you're from the south, you wouldn't happen to know what happened to Lightning, would you?", Anna said, looking at him with narrowed eyes. That name infuriated Joseph, soon his hand tensed around his tennis racket. "Ah, I see you do know about him. You do... nevermind, it's not important.", she said, trailing off.

"Blizzard, you're late for the meeting.", said a male voice, one that Joseph faintly recognized as someone who took the tour for the museum. "Aw, do I really have to, Spectrum?", Anna said with a frown. Joseph started to walk towards the racquetball court. "You there, civilian. You're not to tell anyone what you heard here, got it?", Spectrum called out to him. "Fuck off, you piece of murderer-worshiping shit.", Joseph responded as he turned around, he didn't really want to fight here and now, but with it being so cold that it was chilling him to the bone, a fight would warm him up. "So who is this murderer that I happen to worship?", Spectrum said, his eyes narrowing behind his mask. "Lightning, that piece of shit that murdered Inverse in cold blood. Maybe if he wasn't brutally murdered in the street of that city, he could've been redeemed, like I was!", Joseph said defiantly. Spectrum looked at Joseph and then started to laugh somewhat. Joseph was confused, but ultimately, he watched Anna climb out of the pool and walk over to Spectrum's side. "I've never seen someone call themselves an ex-villain before. Tell me, are you registered?", Spectrum asked him condescendingly. "No, according to the law, so long as I have actively chosen to neither be a hero nor a villain and abandoned anything that made me some form of either, I do not have to register. I chose to live my life as a normal human.", Joseph responded, smugly. Spectrum narrowed his eyes, Joseph knew he was right, he had read the full text of the law and knew the ins and outs of it. "Very well then, make sure if you ever do choose to no longer live a normal life, to register.", Spectrum said before he and Blizzard took their leave.

Joseph smiled as they left and walked into the building. He took a tennis ball out of the tube and placed the tube on the ground near the door. He walked up to the line and tossed the ball down a couple of times before tossing it into the air with his off hand. He hit the ball as hard as he can at the point in front of the wall that he knew would allow the ball to remain in bounds. As the ball bounced up and hit the wall, it flew back in his direction. He ran over and hit the ball again, this time with a back hand, sending the ball flying to the opposite corner of the room. Hitting two walls made the ball lose enough momentum to not be able to fly back to him, so he walked over and picked the ball back up. He walked back to the line he stood behind before and tossed the ball up again. He swung the racket as hard as he could again, hitting the ball on the floor again and it bounced up at the wall a second time, it hit the wall, this time though, it started flying towards the door. Joseph heard the door open and glanced to see who it was. The moment he saw that it was his boss, he moved to hit the ball on his racket. He overshot the ball and it hit him square in the arm. "I believe they call that a return ace.", Celeste said smugly. "Not many tennis players have to worry about their boss interrupting their games. I guess you knew where to find me.", Joseph said as he went to retrieve the ball. "I've seen some of your tennis matches, you're quite good, so I figured you'd want a place where you can practice.", Celeste responded, a hint of pride in her voice. 

Joseph motioned towards the inside of the building, "If you'd like, we could practice in here or out there. I know that you want my help with something today, but...", Joseph said as he pointed inside. "Joseph, you're going to have to do more than one thing for me. Today you're helping me around the house, but tomorrow, you're going to meet with a patron that is willing to sponsor our museum.", Celeste said, cutting Joseph off. "But I thought you wanted me to go to the book signing, Boss.", Joseph said in protest. "The patron will be there, Joseph.", she said, folding her arms. "Do you want to grab a bite to eat before we arrive at my place, I'll buy for you. Plus once you're done for the day, I'll give you your paycheck, so you can cash it in.", she continued. "Boss, I also need to do some grocery shopping, I don't have any food at my house.", Joseph said a bit sadly. "Well, I wouldn't want my assistant to go hungry. However, I do have some good news. Since you are getting your masters degree in this very field, you're getting a raise, and a promotion. No longer will you just be my assistant.", Celeste said with a smile. "Wait, what? But I've always been your research assistant, I've... I've been happy working under you!", Joseph protested again. "Relax, Joseph, I'm not firing you. I'm promoting you in the museum. You're going to stop getting paid weekly and get paid a salary. You've done so much for the museum and you've shown dedication and hard work to get where you are, I think it's time for me to stop having you as an assistant and instead help you become your own independent scholar. From the moment you get your masters degree in the science of metahumans, you'll be able to go for your Doctorate degree. Once you get that, the scientific community will recognize you as an independent scholar, but you'll have to get there on your own, Joseph. You'll always have a job, so long as the museum remains open, but I honestly would like for you to succeed me one day.", Celeste said, reassuringly. Joseph nodded, he knew that he had dreamed of becoming a doctor when he was younger, but he thought that it'd be a medical doctor, to be the successor of the woman who treated him as if he were her own son, there was no greater honor for him than that. "So, what will you call me once I graduate with my masters in sciences?", Joseph asked with a smirk. "Simple, a scholar of the study of metahumans. You'll earn that, at least.", Celeste said in response. It sounded good to him, he wanted to be a scholar ever since he got out of prison. "Alright then, let's go to your place, shall we, Celeste?", Joseph said with a smile. "Remember, I'm still your boss, Joseph.", Celeste said, teasingly. Joseph laughed, he knew that she was his boss, but the two of them left the building to head to her car, laughing the entire way.

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Chapter 6

Keith awoke in the bedroom of his small home to the alarm ringing. It was already 10 AM? He looked out the window and noticed ice starting to melt. He stretched and yawned as he looked at the door, wondering if he should bother to get up or go back to sleep, it was a long night last night. He climbed out of bed and threw a pair of pants on as well as a shirt and walked out of his room to the kitchen. As he looked into the fridge, he saw that he had some cream cheese and some bagels, as well as some iced coffee. Despite the fact that he preferred his coffee warm, he was a bit lazy in the mornings and didn't want to brew up some coffee. So he took everything he needed from the fridge to make breakfast. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a butter knife as he pulled out a bagel and cut it in half, throwing it in his toaster and turning it on. He opened up the carton of iced coffee and drank it straight from the carton. He didn't care as he was living on his own anyhow. His father had paid for this house for him and had paid all of the bills for him, just so that he could live on his own. The toaster popped up, breaking Keith out of his thoughts. He quickly grabbed the bagels and spread the cream cheese on it, forming a sandwich and he started eating it in the kitchen. 

He sat there in the kitchen for a few minutes, eating and thinking to himself about his assignment. He had no idea why his father had sent him here and gave him this job, but he looked at the dossier on the counter. It was covered in crumbs, so he wiped it off. He opened it up, it had all the information that he ever needed about the person he was keeping an eye own. His very own co-worker, Joseph. He felt terrible for lying to him and felt like his involvement in this entire mission was coming to an end soon. He wanted to get out of this whole spying game, as he was completely sick of spying on people, especially people he found himself calling friends. He finished up the bagel and took another gulp of coffee, putting that down and closing it. As he looked at the dossier, he noted that Joseph was considered a high level threat. He couldn't believe that, it wasn't that way a week before, but was that way now? He thought it was ludicrous, how could someone as kind as Joseph was capable of being, be a legitimate threat to the people. Keith knew of his past, but he also knew that Joseph had chosen to live the life of a normal civilian.

Keith put the dossier away and walked over to his couch and turned on the television. The news was on and they were talking about how it had been ten years since Lightning had vanished. No one had been able to track him down for the last ten years, not for a lack of trying though. "You aren't ever gonna find him. Costumed heroes and villains can go off the grid just by removing their costume permanently or changing it. Why do you gotta talk about him every single damn year. We get it, you miss him.", Keith said to no one in particular, half grumbling about this entire thing. Then he noticed someone on the television, someone familiar that he happened to dislike. That's when he turned up the volume. "You said that Lightning was your long time friend, do you have any idea what could've happened to him or where he had went?", the newscaster asked the other figure. "Lightning and I were good friends back in our childhood. The death of Rain and Snow had affected him greatly, and after he had beat Inverse to death, he just sort of left without a single word. He didn't come to any of the meetings after that, and the next thing I know, the word was he had just vanished.", the other figure said. "So, Cloud, was it?", the newscaster asked. "Yes, my hero name is Cloud. I'd tell you my real name, but as you know, we have to keep that a secret.", Cloud responded. "I understand, but Cloud, you were Lightning's best friend. Do you have any words for him if he's out there watching this right now?", the newscaster asked the hero. Cloud looked at the camera and sighed, Keith could tell that Cloud was hurt by all this. "Lightning, I ain't gotta clue where you're at right now, man. But you were always there for me when I was a kid and I'm always going to be there for you. If you ever want to return, I know you're feeling guilty over what happened ten years ago, but all of us are willing to welcome you back with open arms. We don't blame you for what happened, instead we understand why you did what you did. Please, man. Come back to us, we all miss you, even if Tornado won't admit to the fact that she does miss you. We're your friends, we'll always be your friends, no matter what.", Cloud said as an impassioned plea to Lightning. "Thank you for doing this interview, Cloud. We have to go to commercial though.", the newscaster said, just before the TV went to commercials. 

Keith turned off the television, disgusted at this. Was this his father's idea of a PR stunt? Was this supposed to win over the hearts and minds of the people? He wondered how Joseph would react to that segment, as he knew that Joseph always had a strong reaction of anger towards the mere mention of Lightning. Not a surprise, Keith thought to himself, Joseph did watch helplessly as Lightning brutally murdered Inverse. Keith had read the reports. There were not autopsies, no tribunals, nothing. Just a report done by the organization that Lightning had been hired by. Keith knew exactly what the original mission was supposed to be, Lightning was originally supposed to publicly capture, Inverse, but on the way back, have an "accident" where he executed him. The original organization that governed the metahumans and the like were corrupt and evil as they came. He wondered if the organization that his father had founded was much better, as they took over for the previous one when it was dismantled after being found guilty of corruption.

The phone rang, startling Keith out of his thoughts and he picked up the phone to see who it was. It was unfortunately the man he didn't particularly want to speak to, but he answered the phone anyway. "Hello, Father.", Keith said, not bothering to hide the fact that he felt a lot of disdain for his father. "Hello, Keith. You're showing me the usual lack of respect you show me. You forget that not only am I your father, I am your boss.", the voice on the other side said, curtly. "You know for a fact that I want out of this lifestyle. You know that I never wanted to be a fucking spy, that I never wanted to do any of this! But I guess if I never was a spy, I never would've found my true calling!", Keith responded sharply. "Ah, but you see, son. You became a spy the moment I founded the Metahuman Registration Organization. If it wasn't for me there would be a lot of anarchy on the stre—", his father said, flatly. "You only believe that there would be anarchy because someone you cared about was hurt by a metahuman! You always believed that the only way to ensure peace between humans and those that were more than human was to force those that were more than human to obey us humans! Do you not believe that this will backfire on you!?", Keith yelled as he interrupted his own father. "You are an insolent child who knows nothing of the ways of the world and nothing of what you speak! You will not take that disrespectful tone with me!", his father responded. "Fuck you! I am twenty-nine years old, I've been a grown man for the last eleven, and yet, here you are... thinking that just because you're my father, that means that I belong to you and that every action that I do has to be to your approval! Surprise, Dad, I've been making my own decisions! The only reason why I chose to do this fucking assignment in the first place was because I saw things your way, because that's all I knew how to believe! You kept me brainwashed for my entire life! When I finally got away from your arrogant ass, I finally got to see the truth about metahumans and the like! It's time to let go of your hatred, it's been forty years since you lost the person you cared about and it's been nineteen since Mom died! Do you think Mom would've wanted you to be like this, Dad!?", Keith snapped back at his father. "You know what, you're right, I should treat you like a grown man, Keith. Once you start acting like it!", his father responded to him. "The only metric of me being a grown man in your small little world is that I obey you at every turn! Once this whole mission is over, I'm quitting your organization!", Keith responded harshly. "Very well then, you signed a non-disclosure agreement and you know what will happen if you violate it, right?", his father said with a smug tone. "Yes, I am aware, but I want to follow my own dreams in life after this is over, I'm not taking over as your heir, you've already groomed Tamara for that, after all, she is your perfect operative according to you.", Keith sneered into the phone. The words hit home, there was silence on the other side of the phone for a full minute. "Very well, Keith. I hope you still understand your mission.", his father said on the other side of the phone. "To monitor Joseph for any suspicious activity and if he ever returns to his previous life, to get him to register according to the Metahuman Registration Act and if he refuses to kill him. Is that right, Father?" Keith said gritting his teeth into his phone. He had considered Joseph a friend and didn't want to have to pull a gun on him, but he would if he was given no choice but to do so. "So you understand, you insolent whelp. Good. Once this mission is over, I'll let you free. But if you fail me, you'll work for me still." his father said, immediately hanging up the phone afterwards to keep Keith from responding.

Furious, Keith threw the phone at the opposite wall. He heard it break, but he didn't care. He had written Joseph's number and the number of his boss down, those were the only two numbers he had cared about. As far as he was concerned, the man who called him wasn't his father, he was someone that his mother would be ashamed of. He remembered nineteen years ago, watching the news about a massacre at a mall. He had known back then that his mother was there, but he had hoped that she wasn't. It had devastated him to lose his mother at the age of ten, but many other women in his life tried to fill the gap. None of them were particularly successful at that. He wondered silently what his mother would think of him, then and there. He had no idea what she would've thought of him now, but he knew that she wouldn't have been too proud of him. He stood up and got dressed, realizing that he would need a new phone, so he'd have to go to the phone store to pick one up.

He threw on a jacket, put on some socks then put on his boots. He was from the south, but he had moved up here six years ago. He grumbled as he grabbed his keys and left the house, locking the door behind him. He walked over to the car and looked up and down at it, then looked under it to make sure that it hadn't been tampered with, then he unlocked the door, satisfied when he heard the lock make a noise when he did. He opened the door and climbed into the car, slamming the door behind him and buckling up. He stuck the key into the ignition and started the car. Before he even thought about changing gears, he turned the heater and the defrost on, followed by the radio. Classical music sounded over the radio, which was pleasing to his ears. Six years, he had played the role of a spy, and all six of them, he hated them. He had no idea why his father had such a desire to kill Joseph if he returned to being a villain of some sort. He knew that Joseph wouldn't do such a thing, he had been working with the man for the last six years of his life, the man was the only person aside from Celeste to ever truly treat him as if he were a friend and not just as some operative. He dearly wanted to tell Joseph the truth, he even wanted to tell him his actual name... not just the undercover name he gave him. A tear ran down his face and he adjusted his mirrors as he put his foot on the brake pedal, looking behind him and into the road. No cars were coming, which made him wonder why. Immediately he stopped the car, remembering that the roads had iced over. "Guess I'll walk, need the fresh air and exercise anyhow." He climbed out of the car, locked it and set the alarm. After doing all of this, he walked down the driveway and walked along the street to leave his neighborhood, it'd take him an hour to get to the phone store, but he didn't care. He needed the fresh air and the time to think after the fight he had with his father.

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Chapter 7

After arriving at Celeste's house, Joseph stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. "It's not everyday that you invite me to your house, boss.", Joseph said calmly. "I have a good reason for it, I need help with some furniture.", Celeste responded as she climbed out of the car. "Just because I do some heavy lifting at work doesn't mean that I'm fit for the job on the weekends, boss.", Joseph responded. "Relax, Joseph, it's not going to be as heavy or as taxing as you might think. I'm not talking about moving a cupboard or anything like that. It's mostly light stuff, but there are some things that require two people to lift, which is why I said I need your help, not you to come move furniture for me. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get you groceries.", she responded with a smirk. He knew she was right and instead gave up on the whole argument. His mouth was still sore after having his lip busted the day before and the cold was making it sting somewhat, but he didn't particularly care. Celeste walked up to her house and opened the door. "The door wasn't supposed to be unlocked!?", Celeste exclaimed.

Joseph pushed her out of the way. "I'll go inside and see what's missing and if anything is wrong.", he said as he walked into the house. She nodded and no sooner did he enter did the door close behind him on it's own and Joseph heard the door lock behind him. He turned back and grabbed the lock to try to unlock the door, but it was to no avail. "A tormented mind. Forgive me for locking your boss out there in the cold, she'll be fine.", a voice called out. "Show yourself, you piece of shit!", Joseph exclaimed. "You wouldn't like for me to show myself, you see, I don't exactly have a face that people see, I am a strange hybrid, a metahuman and a psion. I cannot control what people see, so they usually see something from their memories. You can call me... Memory.", the voice responded. Joseph watched as a figure wearing a gray hooded robe walked out of a room and walked over to him. He tried to look at the face, but couldn't. "Remove your hood.", Joseph told him sternly. "Or what? You'll punch me? You'll try to do unspeakable things to me? I am neither villain nor am I a hero. I just am.", the figure responded. Joseph reached for the hood, but the figure drew back. "I am warning you, you will not like the face that you see underneath the hood.", the figure said coldly. "Take it off or get the fuck out of my boss' house." Joseph said, putting his foot down, tired of all of these games. "Very well then." The figure said in response, coldly.

The figure reached gloved hands up, the gloves were an electric blue, which Joseph remembered from his memories. As the figure drew back its hood, Joseph saw a mask that he remembered vividly from his memories, it was a dark blue, patterned with electric blue lightning bolts. He was overcome with anger, and was stunned at this at the same time. Why would the person become Lightning, was that one of his strongest memories? "You have a particular anger towards this person. Your memories of Lightning aren't all bad though, but they're all...", the figure spoke, trailing off at the end, the look on the figure's face turned to uncertainty. "They're all strong, yet distant at the same exact time... how could this be, it's usually one or the other.", the figure continued. Joseph was more confused, he had no idea what the figure was talking about, but was also still too stunned to fight any of this. "I see... I understand now.", the figure said before taking off the mask. The face that Joseph saw made the blood drain from his face, it was as if he had seen a ghost. His heart started racing as his body tensed up. "Inverse, you have such a strong reaction to him. Hmm... it seems there is so much about him that you do not know.", the figure continued. "Tell me then.", Joseph was able to finally say. "Right now, you are not ready to hear about him. You torment yourself too much for your failure to save him from Lightning. Or more accurately, the rage of the man within the costume of Lightning.", the figure said coldly. "Wait, the rage of the man in the costume of Lightning, what does that mean?", Joseph asked, fear still in his voice, a cold sweat coming over him. "Every costumed hero or villain are just people inside of a costume. They have names and lives too. You watched helplessly as Lightning beat Inverse to death, he was overcome with grief and rage after watching two of his best friends die. But you stood there, helplessly watching, not even bothering to interfere. Or did you... there is the faint memory of a struggle between you and Lightning. The struggle hurt, as if you were fighting someone you once looked up to... your own personal hero. Your feelings of betrayal might be the cause of your incredible anger towards him.", the figure said, raising the hood over his head one more time. "Wait, what do you mean by I don't know everything about Inverse!?", Joseph exclaimed.

The figure walked away, Joseph tried to follow, but his legs wouldn't work. As the figure was out of sight, a voice sounded in Joseph's head. "I cannot tell you now. But the wheels of fate are in motion, Joseph. None of us can stop them, I cannot tell you what will happen, nor can I tell you when or where it will occur, as I am forbidden from doing so, but something is fated to happen soon. I can tell you this, it has something to do with Inverse.", the voice said before the locks unlocked. The door opened and Celeste walked in to the house, waving her hand in front of Joseph's face. "Are you alright, what did you see?", she asked him, worried. Joseph didn't move, everything that he had been told, it was so much to take in. Not only was something about to happen that involved Inverse, but he didn't know everything there was to know about the man... but he was Inverse's friend, what secrets would he hide? "Joseph, I want you to sit down in the living room, you look like you've seen a ghost.", she told him, guiding him to a chair and then sitting him down. "I'm going to go get some tea, it'll help you relax, Joseph.", she said, leaving the room.

Joseph just sat in the room, in a catatonic state, nothing made sense about everything that had just happened. Was he a mutual friend between Lightning and Inverse, was what Memory said correct? Thoughts raced through his mind faster than he could process them, the only thing that made sense was that he had beat himself up. As Celeste walked back into the living room, he stood up. "I'm sorry, but I need to get some fresh air.", he said. "It's alright, we can move the furniture later today, just so long as it's done. I've already deposited the check into your account, Joseph, so if you feel you need to get something, you can go ahead and get it.", she responded. Joseph nodded, and he walked out of the house, the cool air hit him in the face, hard. He looked down at his hands, they balled up into fists and he walked towards the road. From there, he walked down the street of the neighborhood, he didn't have any clear goal of where he wanted to go, he just wanted to get out. The wind whipped up in his face, chilling him to the very bone. That's when snow started to fall. Snow wasn't forecast to fall though, which made Joseph turn around to see someone there. "Hello?", he called out. 

The blond woman looked up at him and reached her hand out to him, she seemed almost familiar to him. She opened her mouth but no noise came out, which confused Joseph. He walked over to the person and reached out to touch her, only to find that his hand went right through her body. The woman vanished before his very eyes as the snow picked up in intensity. He shook his head, he knew exactly who he saw, but he had no idea why she was there. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him, he didn't know if that was the case or perhaps someone was creating illusions to trick him. "Joseph, it's snowing, man. You need a ride somewhere or something.", a voice called out to him. Joseph snapped his attention to the person, it was Keith. "You're real, aren't you?", Joseph asked him, a hint of confusion in his voice. "As real as I had ever been, why?", Keith responded. "I've been seeing things, I came in contact with a metahuman that's also a...", Joseph said as Keith raised his hand. "I know who you're talking about, Joseph. I do research on metahumans that aren't registered in my spare time. He's an illusionist. I don't know what he told you, but considering he's a renegade, he's probably trying to mess with you.", Keith responded. "Come on, I need to go to the phone store as I've broken my phone, you want to get a ride or something, cause I could use a cab.", Keith continued. Joseph shook his head, "I don't think we should get a cab. Keith, we're friends, right?", Joseph asked. "Yeah...", Keith said, a bit sadly. This alerted Joseph as to something was wrong. "Keith, you can tell me what's going on, man.", he said, placing his hand on Keith's shoulder. "Joseph, I... I had a fight with my father. He said some things about you and told me to do something that I don't want to do.", Keith responded. "What's that?", Joseph asked. "He wants me to kill you if you ever choose to become a villain again.", Keith responded. It wasn't common knowledge, but he most certainly never told Keith about that detail. "How do you know that?", Joseph asked, a bit worried. "Like I said, I've done a lot of research into it.", Keith responded. Joseph closed his eyes and laughed, he never once thought about dying, but for some reason the thought wasn't as frightening if it was Keith doing it. "You're laughing, this is serious, man!", Keith responded. "I know, just, when I was younger, the thought of dying frightened me. But if I became a villain and tried to take over or destroy the world. I'd rather you be there to try to talk me down... and if that failed? Be the one to pull the trigger, you're my best friend, Keith and there is no one I trust with stopping me more than you.", Joseph responded calmly. Keith nodded silently as the snow started to get harder. 

"There wasn't any snow forecast for today.", Joseph said flatly. "You didn't check the weather last night, did you? It's supposed to snow today and tonight, they're de-icing the roads right now so that we can drive tomorrow. After all, a celebrity is coming tomorrow.", Keith responded. "So where are you heading?", Joseph asked. "Phone store. Would you like a...", Joseph said before a car horn scared him. "Both of you, if you keep standing out in the cold, I'm going to have to make you take sick days.", Celeste called out. Joseph laughed and hugged Keith. "Don't worry, we'll share our warmth!", he said in jest. Keith looked somewhat unamused by this gesture, but returned the hug. "Thanks for having so much faith in me, Joseph.", he whispered with a slight smile. "No problem, man.", Joseph whispered back. "Both of you, break it up and get into the car. Joseph, you don't have to worry about moving furniture today. I didn't know it was going to snow, either. I apologize. You still have to do grocery shopping today, would you still like to go despite the snow?", Celeste said with a smile. Suddenly Joseph's phone beeped and he pulled it out to see that he had a text message. He opened his messenger app and saw a simple message. "The kittens are alright and Alex brought in a weeks worth of groceries for you. By the way, he also saw Caleb and Meredith back home safely and is spending time with them in your absence.", the message said. He knew who it was from and smiled. Laura was a wonderful person and his neighbor Alex was lucky to have married her. "No, Boss. I won't need to. I'll have to pay my neighbor back though.", he said in response to his boss. "Well then, the two of you get into my car. We'll head back to my place until the snow lets up for a little bit and then I'll drive you home, Joseph and then on the way back, take Keith up to the phone store and then drive him home.", Celeste said to the two of them. "Boss, no offense, but I think I can walk back home from your place. I don't live too far up the road from you. Just about a mile and a half.", Keith said in protest. "Just get in the car, you two, no more arguing.", Celeste said in a huff.

The two of them looked at each other, let go of their hug and shrugged as they walked over to the car and both of them climbed into the back seat. The two of them buckled up and Celeste pulled away from the side walk, doing a U-turn as she did so. The trip back to her place was silent, Joseph honestly didn't want to return, but with the snow being as thick as it was, he had no choice. He closed his eyes and almost drifted to sleep. Keith shook him awake though. "Joseph, stay up, buddy. I know it can all seem relaxing, but you can't fall asleep on us now.", he said with a smirk. The car was parked in Celeste's driveway and Joseph nodded, sheepishly climbing out of the car. The bitter cold stung him and immediately woke back up. He walked into the house and felt a bit exhausted still. "The mental drain of having a psion enter your mind is great, Joseph. Not to mention the cold didn't help matters and you're dealing with a lot. Boss, mind if he crashes for a few hours?", Keith said, asking Celeste if Joseph could sleep there. Celeste nodded and led Joseph to a guest room. "Take off your shoes and climb into the bed.", she said as she closed the door behind her. Joseph took off his shoes and laid down in the bed, he was tired, more so than he should be, but instead of going to sleep immediately, his mind turned towards everything he was told. What was going to happen soon that involved something that had to do with Inverse, he wondered as he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

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Chapter 8

Keith sat within Celeste's living room with a cup of hot chocolate in his hands. "I never got to play in the snow when I was little.", he murmured as he watched the snow come down. "I was always required to stay in the house...", he continued absentmindedly. "Why's that, Keith?", Celeste responded. Keith looked at her, he didn't expect her to pick up what he had said and he looked at the brown liquid in his cup, a few marshmallows still floating within. "My father was always afraid of metahumans, but... it got worse after that massacre, way back in two thousand and eight, I believe.", Keith said as he swirled the liquid around. He took a sip of his drink and placed the mug down. "Ironically enough, there was a book signing on that day. Joshua had just started writing books, he was a local enough author. Wasn't from the same city, but he was from the same region. For some reason his publisher wanted to get him out there as soon as possible.", Keith continued. The name Joshua was familiar to Celeste as that was the name of the person who was going to be doing a book signing tomorrow. "So Joshua was there that day... I wonder if he'd be willing to talk about it to Joseph...", Celeste muttered absentmindedly. "Doubtful, from what I heard, he had gotten violently ill the day before and wasn't able to make it. My Mom died in that attack, there was a metahuman there in the attack. According to the report, he specifically went after my Mom and the children that were there. In only ten minutes, there were over two hundred dead, including the hero that had arrived on the scene, Thunderbolt.", Keith responded, continuing with the story. "So what happened after that?", Celeste asked, curious about the rest of Keith's story. "For me, snow is a tragic event, it was snowing on the day my mother died. But my father overreacted. You know about the Superioris Registration Act?", Keith responded with a question. "Yes, any metahumans, transhumans, magicians, spiritborn, and psions have to register or else live as a normal human.", Celeste responded with a nod, as she took a sip of her hot chocolate. "That was my father's work. What most people don't know is what really goes on. But I digress, I'm going to go get some more marshmallows.", Keith said as he stood up.

He walked into the kitchen, he had no idea why he was being so honest with Celeste. She was his boss, but he never particularly had any sort of attachment to her. He looked at his hand, it looked a bit red. "Hmm, the hot chocolate slightly burned my hand.", he muttered as he grabbed a few marshmallows and put them into his drink. He grabbed a spoon and stirred them in, watching them melt. He sipped his drink when a knock on the window startled the everloving daylights out of him. He was barely able to catch the mug before it slammed into the ground. Catching his breath, he walked over to the window and opened it up. "What is it that my father sent you to bother me for?", Keith asked, obviously angry. "Your father didn't send me, I came of my own accord.", the woman responded. "You and I work for the same organization, you know. I wasn't born yesterday, what does that deadbeat want?", Keith responded harshly. The woman handed him a new phone and Keith immediately broke it in his free hand. "You can send this back to my father, I don't want to see nor speak to him again.", Keith replied, before closing the window and locking it. The woman's voice called out to him, but as Keith walked away from it, he flipped her the bird. 

"What was that about, Keith. I heard noises coming from the kitchen.", Celeste said as she watched Keith sit down. "Nothing much, just someone who wanted to talk to me.", he replied. "Are you going to tell me what your father really does?", Celeste folded her arms with a smirk. "What most people don't know is that if you don't register and use your powers, you are marked for death. They're called renegades. Both registered heroes and villains will be sent after you until you either register or die. I've never seen any confirmation of his existence in our organization, but the leader of the Renegade Hunters is rumored to be none other than Lightning himself. He was a hero loved by many people, but I guess killing Inverse in cold blood as he did and the loss of his two friends made him hide himself from the public eye. My father has mentioned that he has spoken to him and gave him orders, but there is a man who calls himself Plasma who looked and sounded like Lightning did. Maybe that's who he became... I don't know.", Joseph said, recounting the entire thing. "So you're telling me that a beloved hero, such as Lightning would become a horrible monster like that!?", Celeste said in shock and some disbelief. "Killing a man changes you.", Keith said with an unnerving certainty. "You've done it before, haven't you?", Celeste asked, picking up on the tone of Keith's voice. Keith closed his eyes, it was true. He had blood on his hands, blood that was spilled in the name of the law... but it didn't mean that it had felt right to him. His father was proud when he pulled the trigger, but back then, he just wanted to throw up. "I still have nightmares about every single one.", Keith said coldly. Celeste was in absolute shock, she didn't know what to say. She never knew that she had hired someone who had killed before. "If you wish to fire me, I wouldn't blame you. I might have been upholding the law, but the fact remains the same... I've killed several people.", Keith said very bluntly and flatly. "You regret doing it, you want to get away from that lifestyle, don't you?", Celeste said with a frown. "I'm stuck for one last job, has to do with someone who happened to retire here. He has a connection with Inverse. If he ever uses his powers again, I'm supposed to kill him.", Keith responded quietly. "Who is it? Is it a former hero or is it a former villain?", Celeste asked with curiosity in her voice. "I am forbidden from saying that part, sorry, boss.", Keith said, turning his head to look away from her.

Celeste looked down the hall. "Think he'll be asleep for long?", she asked Keith. "He had a psion look into his head and read all of his memories. No telling what said psion found, but if the participant isn't willing, the process can be exhausting. He might be out for another few hours. Who knows what kind of information was found in his head.", Keith said calmly, as he sipped his drink. He knew the truth about Joseph, about his connection to Inverse, but he wasn't allowed to depart that information to someone else. "I mean we could do something in the meantime while waiting for him to finally wake up.", Keith continued. "We could watch TV or something.", Celeste said with a shrug as she sipped her hot chocolate. "They had a news special earlier where Cloud was trying to get Lightning to return.", Keith muttered. "I thought you said that it was rumored that Lightning was the leader of the Renegade Hunters.", Celeste said with an arched brow. "Like I said, it's only a rumor. I don't know if it's true or not. There are only two people who would know, Tornado who never speaks about it and my father, who is all around a general asshole.", Keith said with obvious disdain for his father. "You really must hate your father.", Celeste said, worried. "I already know his intentions for me, he wants me to take over the organization he founded. I want nothing to do with it. I never wanted anything to do with it.", Keith replied turning away from her. "If you don't mind, I'd rather not speak much more about it. Too many bad memories.", he continued. Celeste nodded and turned on the Television, which sparked Keith's attention. A movie was on and Keith decided to watch it.

A couple of hours passed and the movie finally ended. "Man, I've not slept that well in the last few weeks.", Joseph said as he walked out of the bedroom. "That's good to hear, Joseph.", Celeste responded. "Pull up a chair and take a seat, it's supposed to keep snowing for another couple of hours. We got another movie to watch.", Keith said with a smile. "I got a better idea. Why don't we have a snowball fight.", Joseph responded, putting on his boots. "Unless you're a bit chicken.", he teased. Keith didn't even know how to play in the snow, but he smiled, "Alright then, you're on." He threw on his coat and the two of them walked outside. Joseph immediately ran behind a tree and Keith had no idea where he went. He placed his hands into the snow and grabbed some of it, unsure of what to do with it, when suddenly a snowball hit him in the head. "Got you!", Joseph called out as Keith looked up with the snow in his hand. Keith threw the snow at Joseph, but it didn't go very far. "No, you got to roll it up, Keith.", he said as he walked over. He put his hands into the snow with a smile and grabbed some of it, rolling it into a ball. "See, it's not exactly a difficult process. My older brother taught me how to do this.", he said with a smile. Keith nodded and did as he was shown. "Excellent, you're a fast learner.", Joseph said with a thumbs up. The two of them got the same idea and threw the snowballs at the same exact time, hitting each other in the face. Keith felt cold, but Joseph started laughing. "I wasn't expecting that.", he said as he ran off.

Keith grabbed some more snow and rolled it up, looking for Joseph. Suddenly a snowball whizzed past his head. He threw his snowball in the general direction that the snowball had come from. "You're out in the open, Keith.", Joseph said with a laugh, peeking out to throw another snowball at Keith who started to run towards a tree. Celeste sat back and watched the two from the back door. Keith ran out from the tree and threw a snowball at where Joseph was standing. Joseph caught the snowball in his hand and revealed his snowball. It was massive, leading Keith to stop in his tracks out of disbelief. Joseph threw the snowball at Keith jumped out of the way. The moment it hit the ground, it broke apart into snow. "You could've hurt me with that!", Keith exclaimed. "Relax, buddy, I wouldn't have thrown a basketball sized snowball at you if I thought it was going to hurt you.", Joseph responded with a laugh. Joseph walked over and lightly tapped Keith's shoulder with his fist, while still laughing. "You want to see something cool? I'll write my name in the snow.", Joseph said with a smile. Celeste knew what that usually meant, but was surprised when Joseph stuck his index finger in the snow and started writing his name with his finger, in cursive no less. "That was a pretty neat trick. How'd you learn about that?", Keith said as the snow fell around the two of them. "My brothers and I used to play in the snow, where I used to live, it was rare that it ever did snow, but... it was nice.", Joseph replied. "What happened to your brothers?", Keith asked out of curiosity. Joseph leaned against a tree and folded his arms. "Two of them died, nineteen years ago. The last one doesn't even consider me family anymore.", Joseph responded. "So your brothers were at the mall?", Keith asked him. "No, they died as a result of a car crash. Drunk driver was doing a hundred and twenty, hit them head on. None of the people in my brothers' car survived.", Joseph responded. 

There was silence between the two and Keith looked around. "Look, Joseph, I'm sorry for bringing up old wounds... just...", Keith said, trailing off as he tried to find the right words. "It's fine, neither of us has spoken much about our pasts. I guess we're people that don't wish to dwell on such things, nor do we like to talk about them that much.", Joseph replied, waving dismissively. "I guess you're right, anyhow, I think we should go back inside. The snow seems to be slowing down.", Keith said as he held his hand out to catch the snow. "You're right, I need to get back home, I have to go to the book signing tomorrow to meet Joshua.", Joseph said with a chuckle. The two of them brushed themselves off and walked inside, wiping their feet on the rug outside on the patio. "Alright, I'm going to take Joseph back home real quick. If you would like to come with, you can, Keith.", Celeste said looking at the clock. "No, thanks. It seems light enough that I think I'll just go on foot to get all my errands done.", Keith responded. "I guess I'll see you on Monday, Joseph.", he continued. "I actually got all of next week off, Keith.", Joseph replied. "Lucky you, some of us still have to work next week.", Keith said with a smirk. "Anyhow, the two of you have a good afternoon.", he continued as he left.

Keith walked along the sidewalk and the light dusting of snow hit him. Celeste's car drove by him minutes later and he waved with a smile. He wished he had some music or anything to keep his mind busy, but he also wanted a phone that his father couldn't call him on, as impossible as that seemed. He walked across the road and finally into the phone store. The clerk perked her head up. "Hello there, how can we help you today?", she asked. "I'm here to get a new phone.", Keith said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Well okay, we'll be willing to help. Though if I could ask, could you not be rude to us?", she responded. Keith snapped out of his thoughts. "Oh, sorry about that. I didn't mean to sound annoyed, just been a long week and today hasn't been all that great either. I didn't mean to take it out on you.", Keith said, quite apologetically. "It's alright. So what kind of phone are you looking for today.", she said with a smile. He looked around the store and then found one. "I'd like to have this one, do you have it in black?", he said as he pointed at the phone. "We sure do, just come over to the counter and we'll get you all set up.", she replied. He walked over to the counter and waited for the woman to return with his new phone. She did after a few moments. "Let me just put in the sim card and you'll be good to go once I set this thing up.", she said with a smile. "Might I trouble you with changing the number on that phone, please?", he said gently as he could. "Sure thing!", the woman said. Keith looked at the nametag on her chest. "Candice, I'm going to have to write a review for you saying that you've been most helpful today.", he said with a smile. Candice chuckled slightly. "As far as attempts at hitting on me go, that one was pretty lame.", she replied to Keith's compliment. "I wasn't hitting on you, honestly.", Keith replied. "Oh, so you're calling me ugly now?", she said in a huff. "No. I'm just not into women.", Keith said flatly. "Oh, so you're into men, not that there's anything wrong with that.", she said, nervous. "I'm asexual. I have no interest in men or women. Sorry.", he responded with a shrug. "Well that will come to one hundred and thirty five dollars.", she replied, flustered as she handed him the phone. Keith handed her seven twenty dollar bills. "Keep the change.", he said as he turned around and walked out of the store. "Thank you, Keith!", she replied. Keith looked at the road ahead of him, it'd be some time before he got home, but now that he had a new phone, he could play some music to help pass the time on his walk. He started walking and turned on the phone's radio, holding it near his ear as he did so. For the first time today, he was happy, and he couldn't wait to get back home.

Edited by Neopolitan

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Chapter 9

Back down south, Joannes walked down the street of his hometown, he raised a gloved hand to his face and clenched his fist as he did so. He was very angry about what had happened only days earlier. "Fucking Tornado and the fucking Weather Force. I'm so sick of their shit.", he muttered to himself when all the sudden a large man stepped in his way with a baseball bat. "Yo, guys. I found the man we were told about, it's the son of that Villain. What was his name?", the brute said, taunting him. Joannes gritted his teeth and opened up his coat. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?", he asked the brutish man. "Yeah, if we kill you, we'll get rewarded!", the brutish large man said. The man swung his baseball bat and Joannes' arm quickly reacted, grabbing the bat in mid swing. He crushed it, easily in his mechanical hand. "Woah, what are you. You some kind of freak!?", the thug cried out as Joannes discarded the broken remains of the bat. He bent his knees slightly and charged at the man, running faster than a normal human could, slamming into him with incredible force with his fist in the man's jaw. There was a cracking sound and the man fell over. Joannes caught the man and gently placed him down before looking up at the other two thugs. "I will not be as kind to you two as I was to him if you wish to fight me.", he said coldly, glaring at the two thugs. They looked at each other and fled. Joannes placed his fingers against the neck of the larger thug and found a strong pulse. "Good.", he muttered to himself.

Suddenly his phone rang. He was startled out of his thoughts and reached into his pocket and pulled it out. He didn't see a number on it, so he declined. The phone rang again and he looked at his phone a second time, same thing. He again declined the call. His phone rang a third time, and this time, annoyed, he answered the phone. "Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want!?", he demanded. An obviously masked voice sounded on the other side. "I know of a way that you can get to who you want.", the voice said. "That doesn't answer the first two questions, asshole!", Joannes yelled into his phone. "Who I am is not important, but I wish to help you. You are looking for revenge against the man who killed your father, is that correct?", the voice said. Joannes' face went pale, no one was around when he mentioned that in front of his father's grave. "Where did you hear about that?", Joannes said with a false confidence. "You're scared. It's natural to be scared in your position. You haven't exactly seen one of our operatives have you?", the voice said to him. "I guess you're going to have me meet up with one of them, is that about right?", he asked. "Bingo, kid! You see, your father worked for us and we want you to work for you.", the voice said as emotionless as ever. "So what's the catch, you're calling me on my own phone with an unlisted number in the middle of a city. You obviously don't value secrecy.", he replied to the voice, not hiding any hint of annoyance. "Come to the bar and whisper to the bartender that you would like for the bartender to polish your glass with his spit.", the voice replied. "That is disgusting and you fucking know it, asshole. Tell me what's really going on!", Joannes called out. The phone hung up.

He put his phone back into his pocket and walked towards the bar, he didn't really seem like he had much of a choice but to do so. As he walked down the street, an ambulance drove past and he flexed his mechanical hand. He stepped in front of the bar and walked in, bending the doorknob with his hand as he did so. He looked at the bartender and placed a couple of dollars on the bar before leaning in. "I'd like you to polish my glass with your spit.", he whispered to the bartender. The bartender nodded and smiled, "Right this way, sir.", he said as he walked from behind the bar. Joannes followed him into the back of the bar, where they came to a stairway. The bartender walked down the stairs and entered a room. It was a couple of minutes before he walked back out. "They're ready for you, Joannes.", the bartender called out to him. He walked down the stairs and looked through the door. He was not prepared for what he saw. Computers everywhere, people working, this was an entire underground base and no one had noticed, or more accurately... this was probably just one location of whoever these people are, he thought to himself. A woman looked over at him, she had graying red hair, and dull green eyes. "Ah, Stephan, you can go back and man the bar, customers are waiting. As for you...", she said as she motioned towards Joannes. He walked into the room as the bartender closed it. "As you can see, this is a base of our operations. Do you know who we are?", the woman asked him. "No and to be honest, I don't fucking care.", Joannes responded.

"You wish to get back at your father's killer, right? Daniel was a good man and a friend of mine. You wish to find out where he is, right? Where Lightning is?", she said with a slight smile. Joannes turned around. "What did you just say to me?", he said to the woman. "I know where you can find a man who has information about where Lightning is. I'm sure you've figured it out by now.", the woman said to him with a sly smile. "I refuse to be part of your little rebellion. That's how my father got killed by Lightning.", he responded, turning around to walk towards the door. "You know nothing of how your father got killed, do you?", the woman responded. Joannes stopped, those words cut deep, deeper than he thought they would. He was angry and he turned around to look the woman in the face, taking off his glove to reveal his cybernetic hand. "I know of your abilities, Joannes.", the woman said as several guards pointed weapons at him. "You don't think I know what was installed in you? You went to someone your father trusted after your accident. You were set up to be a Transhuman from the moment you had that car wreck.", the woman continued. "Tell them to lower their weapons.", Joannes said flatly. "You lower yours first.", the woman said coldly. Joannes lowered his hand and the woman nodded. The guards lowered their weaponry. The woman turned around and grabbed a file. "Your father died in battle against what was called the Weather Team at the time. Your father wasn't acting under orders from us and wasn't even acting in our interests. He chose to meet up with the Weather Team, to try to talk to their leader, the seventeen year old Lightning. They attacked him, one of our operatives watched this happen, being friends with your father. He was around the same age as Lightning. After a brief battle, Lightning went to finish your father in combat. Stop him from being able to attack, your father used his ability to redirect it. His intention was to return it to sender, but... unlike Lightning, he isn't able to control it with incredible accuracy. The lightning bolt forked into two and killed Rain and Snow. Overcome with grief at the death of his friends, Lightning was in no position to listen to your father, and thus jumped him and beat him to death with his bare hands.", the woman recounted. "And where is your operative?", Joannes asked, wanting to get to the point. "We sent him to follow the man who has intel on the location of Lightning. The last time I heard, he was working for a museum that dealt with metahumans. I'm sure the curator of that museum might have a few things that belong to your father.", the woman said.

Joannes closed his eyes, this was the closest he's ever been to Lightning. The closest he's ever been to the man that killed his father, especially since seventeen years ago, he received news of his father's death. He had no idea what Lightning looked like, but he knew that the man had withdrew to the shadows. "Tell me what I have to do.", Joannes said, sternly. The woman walked over to him and smiled. "Simple, we want you to gain information about Lightning. Lightning is a symbol of the people who keep the law on their side so that no other organizations for metahumans, psions, transhumans, magicians, or even the spiritborn can be founded. If we can capture Lightning and expose him for what he really is, then that organization will finally fall and we'll be able to get multiple organizations. No more worrying about what innocent man is going to get branded as a villain, just because they don't want to register with a certain group. No more of people who disagree with the methods of the group being branded as renegades. No more of any of that kind of thing.", the woman said, folding her arms across her chest. "Just what I wanted to do, create a better world in my quest for revenge.", Joannes said, sarcastically. "Don't kill Lightning when you find him, Joannes. Dead men cannot go on trial!", the woman said sharply. "I wasn't planning on it, I want to bring my father's killer to justice, not be a murderer like he is.", Joannes said flatly. "Good, I'll arrange for a plane to take you...", the woman said, trailing off as she noticed the disgust on Joannes' face. "Ah, right, you have a fear of flying. Well, I will arrange for a train to take you. The train station is a few blocks down the road, it's the seven forty-two train. Your ticket will have been paid for so you can just walk up to the counter and give your ID to get it.", she continued. Joannes nodded and left the room without a word.

As he left the bar, he walked down the street and stopped in front of the train station. He could finally get out of this place, out of this city, out of this entire region. He was happy somewhat, this area had too many memories for him, most of them bad. He walked into the building and walked over to a counter, slipping the man his ID. The man looked at it and handed him it back along with a ticket. "Platform three.", the man said. Joannes nodded and walked through the terminal. It wasn't long before he arrived at platform three, where he sat down on a bench to await his train. A woman looked at him. "It's not often someone leaves the state without any luggage.", she said smirking. "I don't need luggage. It'd only take up space, I've got the money to buy what I need up there while I'm staying with a friend of mine.", Joannes responded. "Oh, look at you, you're a rich man. Let me guess, you're living on your father's money, young man.", the woman responded. "I'm not rich and my father died poor. The only reason I have enough money to pay for groceries and clothing up there is the lawsuit I won years ago.", Joannes responded, annoyed. "Ah, I see. So you're...", the woman continued. "If you insist on doing this the entire way up there, I would like to spare you the effort and tell you to kindly, shut the fuck up!", Joannes snapped at her. Everyone on the platform looked at him, but he didn't care. "Huh, you do have a bite, kid. Good to know.", the woman said as their train arrived. 

Joannes climbed aboard the train and moved to his car where he took a seat. He was surprised when no one took the seat next to him, but honestly, he didn't exactly care. He enjoyed the quiet. He closed his eyes as the train started moving. It wasn't more than five minutes after the train started moving that a woman came up to him. "Hello, sir. Would you like something to eat?", she asked. Joannes nodded slightly, he was indeed a bit hungry as his cybernetics did cause him to use more calories than most people. "Would you like to eat here on a tray or in a dining car?", she asked. "Here would be fine, ma'am.", Joannes responded. The woman nodded and left, soon she came back with a tray of food that smelled delicious. She placed it in front of Joannes and smiled. "It's not often people as young as you ride the trains anymore.", she said with a slight smirk. "I'm afraid of flying.", Joannes mentioned. "Well, if you need anything else, don't be afraid to ask.", she said, leaving Joannes to his meal. Joannes started eating and looking out the window. He had never gotten any intel on the person he was supposed to be looking for, but he was sure he'd get a call at the train station when he arrived. Once he was finished with his meal, he closed his eyes. It was barely after eight PM, but the train ride was going to last a few days, so the more of it he could sleep away, the better. It wasn't long before he drifted off to sleep...

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Chapter 10

As Joseph arrived at his apartment, he looked back at Celeste. "Thank you for bringing me here.", he said. "It's nothing, really. Would you like to go in?", she responded. "Nah, I have to go over to Caleb's place, I promised that I'd see them for dinner yesterday.", Joseph replied. Celeste nodded slightly and turned around to leave. "Don't forget to work on your thesis, Joseph.", she mentioned as she walked down the stairs. "I won't.", Joseph called out to her. She gave him a gesture of acknowledgement and he nodded slightly. He walked over to Caleb's door and knocked on it, gently. He waited for a moment and then knocked on it harder. Still nothing. Worried, he reached for his keys, but couldn't find them in his pocket, so he tried the door knob. It was unlocked. He walked back to apartment and tried the doorknob. It too was unlocked. This was very concerning to him. He opened the door and heard the mewing of Bubba and Marylin. He placed his finger to his lips and opened his closet, grabbing a baseball bat that he kept for defense. 

There was a knock on his door and it startled him, he quickly whipped around and held the baseball bat in a ready position to crack someone upside the head. His heart stopped racing and he felt a sense of relief when he saw that it was a police officer. "You're the tenant that lives here?", the officer asked, flatly. Joseph put the bat in the closet and pulled out his ID. "Yeah, here you go, you can call down to the office and confirm that, sir.", he said as he handed the officer his ID. The other officer, a large dark skinned man looked at him. "Mind if we have a look around?", the man said. "Joseph stepped to the side. "Not at all, officers.", he replied. The two police officers entered the apartment and he stood in the entrance, waiting for them to finish their search. The first officer looked at him. "We'll call this into the office, to see if you really are the one whose name is on the lease. If not, we're going to take you downtown.", the officer said. Joseph nodded and watched as the officer pulled out a phone. After a short conversation, the officer hung up his phone and handed him his ID. "Everything here checks out, Mr. Adams. The apartments on the top floor were broken into. You seem to have nothing stolen. At least nothing is reported stolen.", the officer said. "I've not had time to check around my apartment, my kittens are here and that's great. Mind if I have a look around?", Joseph replied. "Not at all, sir. If you find anything missing, be sure to tell us.", the officer responded. 

Joseph walked into every room of his apartment, looking to see if anything was in order. Everything was strewn about, drawers had been left open. His closet had been ransacked, but nothing was missing. Which bothered him to no end, why would someone come into his apartment to try to steal something if... there wasn't anything that they wanted. Why would they do this? Bubba walked over to him and mewed. He knelt down and picked up the kitten, holding the tiny creature in his hand with a smile, "At least you and your sister are alright. I hope that the two of you weren't too scared.", he said to the kitten who mewed at him again. He walked out of the bedroom and placed Bubba on the couch. "Nothing's stolen, officer. Just my apartment has been ransacked. I only have one question.", he said trying to stay calm. The officer looked at him, his partner looking out the door. "What's that?", the officer said. "Are the two elderly people next door alright?", he asked. "An ambulance had to arrive three hours ago to take an elderly man to the hospital. We got reports of a break in only an hour ago.", the officer replied. "Ah. Thanks for informing me.", Joseph responded. The dark skinned man looked at him, "Why don't we take you downtown to the hospital. You seem to be close to them.", the man said with a smile. "I would be grateful.", Joseph responded. The first officer nodded, "It wouldn't be too far from the station, we have to clock out for the night soon anyhow. Night shift will be starting soon.", the man said. 

The three of them walked out of the apartment, Joseph locked the door behind him so that no one else could get in. He frowned slightly when he saw Celeste standing there. "Joseph, what's going on?", she said, slightly annoyed. "My apartment got broken into as did my neighbors, these two kind officers are giving me a ride to the hospital.", he responded. "Oh, I'm sorry that... I didn't mean to assume. You left your keys in my car.", she said as she handed him his keys. One of the officers looked at Celeste. "What's your affiliation with this man?", he asked. "I'm his boss, if you want, I can take him to the hospital, myself. It would give him a ride back here if he needed." The two officers looked at him. "Both of you go ahead and go on without me, I'll head down to the hospital with my boss here. You've got families to get back to, don't you?", he said with a slight smile. The two officers nodded and walked down the stairs. Celeste looked at him and Joseph followed her to her car, not speaking a single word. When he got back into her car, he placed his head against the window. 

The car pulled out of the parking lot and neither of them said a single word on the way over there. Neither of them honestly could say anything. Nor did Joseph want to say anything. He just wanted to remain silent. After about half an hour, they arrived at the hospital and Joseph climbed out of the car. He walked into the building and walked over to the front desk. "Hi, I'm here to see Caleb Rhodes.", he said as calmly as he could. The woman at the front desk looked at him and then typed it into her computer. "Seventh floor. Room 752.", she said to him. Joseph walked over to the elevator and pressed the button, an elevator dinged near him and he turned around to see people getting out of it. He walked into the elevator and pressed the button for the seventh floor, then the close door button. Just before the door closed, an arm entered the doorway, causing the elevator doors to open. Celeste walked into the elevator and looked over at Joseph. "You're really not going to go alone, are you?", she said. "You don't have to be here, this is my neighbor.", he replied. "You're my employee, I do care about your wellbeing, you know.", she responded. "I know." he said sadly, as the door to the elevator closed. The elevator ride was also quiet, neither of them saying anything, and fortunately the elevator didn't stop. When the door opened, they walked out of the elevator and Celeste followed Joseph down the winding hallways of the hospital. Soon they arrived at the room and Joseph lightly knocked on the door. 

Meredith looked over and motioned for him to come in. Joseph stepped into the room and looked at Caleb in the hospital bed. His eyes were closed and he was breathing through a tube with an Electrocardiogram machine hooked up to him. He felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach. "Meredith, is he...", he brought himself to say. She looked at him, "The doctors say that if he doesn't make a recovery in the next couple of days, he's going to be taken off life support.", she said, sadly. Joseph was crushed at this news. "Give me a moment. Boss, can you come in here and keep Meredith company?", he said as he turned towards the door. Celeste nodded and walked into the room as Joseph walked out. He walked over to the help desk of the floor and when a man looked up at him, he finally spoke. "Excuse me, but can I get details on what happened to Caleb Rhodes, he's been my neighbor and my friend for the last six years. Kinda been like a grandfather to me.", he said trying to hold back tears. The man nodded and looked on his computer. "He had a major stroke, sir. We're doing all we can to help him, but modern science can only do so much, I'm sure you understand.", the man said to him. "Yeah, I do. Doesn't make it hurt any less though.", Joseph responded.

He walked away from the help desk and slowly walked towards the hospital room. He felt terrible that all of this was happening. He walked into the room and placed his hand on Meredith's shoulder. "Are you going to stay here with him overnight?", he asked. "I believe so, don't worry.", she responded. Joseph closed his eyes, it was for the best, he didn't want her to see that her apartment had been broken into, nothing had been stolen from either apartment, but, he was going to have to clean up after that mess happened. But he'd have to do it after he went to the book signing tomorrow. "Why don't you stay with him for a few days, stay by his bedside. I'm sure he'll be happier knowing that you're with him, Meredith. Don't worry, I'll take care of things while you're away.", Joseph said with a slight smile. "You're such a sweet boy, Joseph. If there's any way that I can repay you, just tell me what it is.", she replied. "Just stay strong and never give up hope, that's all I ask of you.", he responded to her reply. "Don't worry, ma'am, I'll take good care of Joseph while you're away.", Celeste chimed in. Meredith turned around. "Oh, deary. You must be the boss that he speaks of so highly. I'm sorry that we couldn't meet in better circumstances.", she said. "Oh, it's nothing really. Joseph here is my assistant and will become a full fledge scholar in his own right someday. I can't wait for that to happen either, he's like a son to me.", Celeste responded, wrapping her arm around Joseph's shoulder. "That's very nice of you, you two go on ahead and head back, we'll be fine here.", Meredith said with a smile as she turned away. 

"Come on, Joseph, let's go to a buffet. I know that you like to eat a lot.", Celeste said with a worried tone in her voice. Joseph nodded and walked out of the room with Celeste, he took one look back and a tear ran down his face, but he closed his eyes. He couldn't explain why, but he got this feeling that he was never going to see Caleb again, at least not alive, anyway. "Come on, Joseph. There's no use staying here and moping. You've got work to do and a big day ahead of you.", Celeste said, pulling Joseph towards the elevator. The elevator ride down was just as quiet as the ride back up, but Joseph finally said something when he was out of the hospital. "I wasn't ready for this, boss. I wasn't ready to see my neighbor like this, I wasn't ready to have my apartment broken into and I sure enough wasn't ready to be mentally assaulted by a psion.", he said his hands balling into fists. "I know you weren't, Joseph. None of us would be.", she responded. He climbed into the car and she followed suit. "So, international buffet?", Celeste asked. "Sure, something with a far eastern flair to it. Kind of in that kind of mood right now.", Joseph responded.

The car pulled out of the parking lot and Joseph watched as the buildings zoomed past. Soon they arrived at an international buffet. Joseph climbed out of the car and Celeste did the same. "Joseph, I'll pay for the meal, don't worry about it.", she said as the two of them walked in. They were seated and ordered their drinks when suddenly, the waitress walked over. Joseph's heart started beating uncontrollably. He stood up without even thinking and bowed in a respectful manner. "Hello there, my name is Joseph Adams. I am pleased to have met you.", he said, causing Celeste to roll her eyes. The woman looked at him, "You are very polite. My name is Mitsuki. You seem to have been smitten with me.", she responded. Joseph nodded slightly. "Well, I have to say, you don't look too bad yourself, but. I'm going to a book signing tomorrow while I have the day off, you wanna come?", she responded. "Yes, milady.", Joseph responded. Mitsuki giggled slightly. "I see what kind of gentleman you are here, but we'll see how you really act out there.", she responded. "He's more blunt, but the boy's quite the gentleman, ma'am.", Celeste called out. Mitsuki walked off and Joseph smiled widely. "I can tell that look in your eye, I hope it works out well for you, kid. But for now, let's get our food.", Celeste said.

The two of them stood up and got their food, they were mostly silent during dinner, but then Celeste spoke up. "So, you're a fan of the author that you're meeting tomorrow, you say?", she said. "Yeah, why?", he responded as he took a sip of his diet soda. "Well, what do you know of the book he most recently released, because that's the one he's giving away free copies of.", she replied. Joseph didn't know much, but he pulled out his phone and looked it up. "According to this, it says that, it's a steampunk book that follows two characters. A man called Augustus and a woman called Clair. Clair is a Sorceress who if she is discovered can bring ruin to Augustus.", he said as he looked at the article on the book. "Ah, sounds nice. I didn't know that he did steampunk.", Celeste responded. "Well, it's a brand new book, maybe he's branching out.", Joseph replied. "Your bill.", Mitsuki responded, then took a notice of the article Joseph was reading. "That book is really good, have you read it?", she asked. "No, I haven't, but now that you've recommended it, I'll be sure to see if I can't find a copy.", he replied with a smile. "Well, I'm sure Joshua will give you a copy of the book if you ask nicely.", she replied with a smile. "Well, about that. I'm not just seeing him for a book signing, I have business with him. You know the Metahuman Museum?", he said with confidence. "Yeah, I know about that place, I've never been as I've never had the time. My nephew said that the tour you gave was a lot of fun and it was great to see all the artifacts you guys had to offer.", she said with a slight giggle. "Well, I'm the assistant researcher there, I'm currently working on my Master's degree. My boss here has been helping me through college and she says that when I get my Master's, it'll finally be time for me to spread my scholar wings and take flight. I'll be an independent scholar.", he said. Mitsuki looked over at Celeste. "It's true.", she said calmly as she handed her the credit card. Mitsuki left and Joseph stood up. "Where are you going?", Celeste asked. "I'm going to go tip our waitress.", he replied. Joseph walked over to Mitsuki and pulled out his wallet, pulling out a twenty and handing it to here. "Here, thanks for the service.", he said. She looked at the twenty dollar bill and then at Joseph. "That's very sweet of you.", she said as she walked back towards the table. Joseph saw Celeste get up and walk towards them. "So, I guess I'll see you tomorrow at the book signing?", he asked slightly unsure. "Of course.", Mitsuki said with a smile. 

Joseph and Celeste walked out of the buffet and over to the car. "You seem to be in a chipper mood. You know that girl went to the same university as you.", Celeste chimed in. "I didn't know that, boss. But I guess we'll get more time to talk tomorrow. Hopefully, we could become friends. After that? Who knows.", he responded as he climbed into the car. "Glad that you have realistic expectations, Joseph.", she responded as she climbed into the car. The two of them closed their doors and buckled up. Celeste turned the car on and the two of them silently drove back to the apartment.  As Celeste pulled into the apartment parking lot, Joseph climbed out of the car. "Thank you for dinner and the rides, boss.", he said as he walked towards the stairs. "If you need any help on cleaning the apartment...", Celeste said before Joseph cut her off. "Don't worry, I got it.", he said waving. 

He climbed up the stairs and opened the door to his apartment, closing it behind him. The kittens mewed at him and he knew why. They were hungry. He walked over to the kitchen and got out a saucer and grabbed a can of cat food. He popped open the top and inverted the can over the saucer and then lifted it. He placed the saucer of catfood on the ground and smiled as he watched them chew on it. "It's going to be quiet here without Caleb, but you know. I'm very glad that the two of you are alright.", he said as he squatted next to them. Both of the kittens just chowed down on the food and Joseph smiled slightly. "Don't worry little guys, I have the rest of the week off after tomorrow, so I shouldn't be gone as long as I usually am. Now I'm going to turn in for the night, so I want the two of you to behave yourselves.", he said as he walked out of the kitchen and locked his front door. He then walked over to his bedroom, which was still a mess and organized up a bit. He then undressed down to his underwear and climbed into the bed, closing his eyes. 

Sleep didn't come to him. His mind kept turning back to seeing Caleb in that hospital bed. He tossed and turned in his bed, trying to get comfortable, but he couldn't just find himself getting comfortable. He was probably going to lose his friend and that was haunting his every thought. He opened his eyes again and instead focused on something else. Unfortunately what he focused on was the nightmare he often had for the last several years. He decided to finally turn the TV on and watch something on it until he went to sleep. Eventually, after watching the television for a couple of hours, he finally felt tired. He turned it off and placed his head against the pillow. He swiftly fell into sleep, but that sleep would not be very restful.

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Chapter 11

Joseph woke up the next morning, his face in the pillow, he felt like he hadn't slept much, if at all, despite sleeping all night. He looked at the clock, it was ten AM, later than he usually slept in. He groaned as he got up and walked into the shower, slamming the door behind him. He yawned slightly and threw off his underwear before jumping into the shower again. He turned on the water, making it cold so he'd wake up. The cold water hit him, shocking him straight awake. He proceeded to clean himself, but he couldn't bring himself to move at all very fast. He still remembered seeing Caleb in that hospital bed. He climbed out of the shower when he was done and dried himself with a towel, he walked out of the bathroom, threw the towel into the hamper and then proceeded to put on some clean clothes. These clothes were more formal than what he was used to, but they weren't exactly the most expensive thing in the world. He went back to the bathroom and combed his hair and made sure to shave any stubble off his face. He had to look somewhat presentable for his meeting today. 

Suddenly there was a pounding at his door and he put down the razor. He walked through the hallway and saw the two kittens sleeping next to each other, curled up under a table. He smiled softly at the two of them as he passed by. He reached the door and looked through the little peep hole and saw that it was one of his neighbors. He unlocked the door and opened it. "Hello Joseph, I noticed that Caleb's door was unlocked, is everything alright over there?", she asked. "No, Alexis, they're downtown at the hospital. Caleb had a stroke.", he responded. Alexis was shocked, she placed her hand in front of her mouth. "Will he be alright? I know that the two of you have been close friends for the last several years!", she asked said in a panicked voice. "I don't know.", Joseph said. "Will you be alright!?", she asked. "I don't know.", he said. "Do you know if the hospital will contact you!?", she asked. Joseph grabbed her by the shoulders. "Alexis, look, I don't have any more information about what's going on than you do. I don't even know if they're going to call me if things take a turn for the worse or not. But right now, I kind of need to get a jacket on and head down to the mall. I've got a meeting to attend to.", he said as he looked her in the eye. "Alright, will you inform me if something comes up?", she asked. "Yes.", he said.

He walked back into his apartment and grabbed one of the books he had been reading, the book was about a Kani, but wasn't about Kauko or Hannu, rather it was about one who didn't make it into the paladins. One who had to settle for being a shopkeeper. He had gotten most of the way through it, even past the part where he was attacked by bandits and the Paladins had come to help him. He then grabbed his coat and put it on, zipping it up. He walked out of the door and closed it, locking it behind him. Alexis was still standing there, but so was Mitsuki. "Hi, I wasn't expecting you to show up at my place, I thought we'd meet at the mall.", he said. Mitsuki looked at Joseph and then at Alexis. "Hi, I'm Alexis, I live on the first floor of the apartment building. I guess you're person he's meeting for business later.", Alexis said politely. "Oh, no. I'm here to see if he wanted to ride with me to the mall. We're both going to see the same Author.", Mitsuki said. She then looked at the book in Joseph's hand. "Oh that is a good book! Have you read it all the way?", she asked him. "No, I haven't, unfortunately. But I will admit that what I have read is pretty good.", he confessed. "Oh, I recommend you read the entire thing when you get the chance.", she said. Alexis looked at Joseph. "You don't want to be late for whatever business you have today, do you?", she said. "Oh, you're right, I have to be there by eleven!", he said, in an obvious hurry. He whipped out his phone from his jacket pocket and saw that it was 10:14. "Oh, thank goodness.", he said. 

Mitsuki started to walk down the stairs and Joseph followed her. "So you don't have your own car, Joseph?", she asked him. "No, I never particularly liked driving, especially after the accident all those years ago. I was diving and a car ran a red light, slamming into my side. I woke up at the hospital, they said that I was lucky to be alive and that the other driver had walked away fine from that crash. My leg was broken in nine different places, all of my ribs on my left side were broken. My left arm was just... they had to later open me up and repair all that damage. It was horrible.", he said recounting the memories and feeling the residual pain from that old injury. He didn't exactly like recalling that memory but Mitsuki suddenly turned around and hugged him. "I'm sorry.", she said with a frown as she hugged him. Joseph instinctively hugged back. "It's alright.", he said. The two of them broke the hug and walked up to Mitsuki's car. It wasn't anything spectacular, Joseph thought, but it was a car and that's all he cared about. He climbed into the passenger's seat and she climbed into the driver's seat. "So I guess you walk everywhere?", she asked as they buckled up and she started the car. "If I can help it. When the weather's nicer, I try to jog or run places.", he replied. She nodded and backed out of the parking lot. "It's quite healthy for you, and I can tell. Your legs are very muscular.", she mentioned. As she pulled out into the road, she smiled. "You know, I have to admit to something. I was told by a Magician that I'd meet the love of my life at this book signing. So I was extra excited to go.", she said. "Ah, I just was more or less forced to go by my employer. A wealthy patron of our work would allow us to expand the building and have more exhibits.", he replied as they drove down the road. "Ah, so you're going to talk to the author about money, are you?", she said with a smirk. "Yeah, but it's for a good cause.", he said as his stomach grumbled. "You should get a pretzel at the mall, there's this place that makes these amazing soft pretzels. The cinnamon and almond one is just... so good.", she said with a laugh. "I would've had breakfast, but I woke up early.", he replied. She laughed as she pulled into the mall parking lot and found them a parking space. "Don't worry about me, I'll go look at some stores to pass the time until the book signing.", she said with a smile.

He climbed out of the car and walked up towards the mall. Suddenly something flashed in his head. Memories of a past tragedy, one that he was present for. He suddenly found himself in 2008 again, there was screaming and gunfire. He found himself under the rubble, screaming for others, crying. He kept hearing boots walk across the ground and voices call out. "Don't harm any of the children, we must awaken the spiritborn. Everyone else is fair game!", the voice said. "Halt! I will not let you harm these people!", another voice called out. "Exterminate him, Inverse.", said the first voice. "I have my orders.", a third voice called out. There was fighting outside of his hiding spot, but suddenly a scream of pain came from the second voice and that's when he felt something enter his body and he hit the ground. His reality came back, he was in front of the mall on his hands and knees, breathing heavily, sweating despite the fact that it was still rather chilly, his eyes were wide open. There was a crowd around him and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Someone touched him on the shoulder. "Hey man, are you alright?", the man said. Joseph stood up and shook the thoughts and memories from his head. "Yeah, I'll... I'll be fine. Just a flash back is all.", he said. "You look like you were having a pretty intense episode of PTSD there, man.", the man said to him. "Like I said, I'm fine, don't worry.", he said as he walked into the mall. 

Mitsuki ran up to him. "What was that all about, Joseph? Is everything alright?", she asked, worried. "I'm fine, just a flashback to two-thousand eight is all.", he responded. "Wait... you are a survivor of that massacre!?", she asked, shocked at this. "Yes, I am. I was only eight years old when it happened, something about me changed then, and I can't remember what it was...", he replied. "So, you're one of the people who survived that day, were you one of the Weather Team?", she asked. "No, I fought against the Weather Team. I was saved by Inverse, so I felt indebted to him, so I helped him with his endeavors.", he responded, but... something in him felt that it wasn't entirely true. He remembered vividly, Inverse pulling him out of the rubble, but the rest of that was hazy. Did he really do that, he asked himself. Was he really the friend of Inverse? He wasn't so sure of everything he had thought up til now. A voice spoke in his head. "The memories you have are true... yet are untrue.", it said. He thought to himself. "Huh, what are you talking about?", he replied internally. "You will know soon enough. But it is not for me to tell you, but for you to figure out.", the voice said. Mitsuki snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Hello, are you alright?", she asked. "Sorry, I was sort of distracted by something.", he said, not wanting to tell her the full truth. "Well, if you need anything, I'll be searching the various stores.", she replied. "Alright.", he said as she walked off.

A voice spoke up from behind him. "You look like you haven't been to a mall in nineteen years.", the voice said. Joseph turned around to see a bald man wearing glasses and sporting a full beard. "I'm Joshua Evans. Though you weren't who I was expecting, I was expecting a woman in her forties.", he said with a smile. "I'm her assistant, I'm Joseph Adams.", Joseph said, extending his hand for a handshake. Joshua grabbed his hand and shook it firmly. "It's nice to meet you, glad that Celeste wasn't standing me up. But the middle of the mall's entrance is no place to talk about business. What say you that we get a bite to eat?", he said. "That sounds great to me!", Joseph replied. The two of them started walking along one of the walkways of the mall. "So, you're one of the survivors of the two-thousand and eight massacre?", Joshua asked. "How did you know that?", Joseph asked, surprised. "Well, judging from the freakout that you had back there at the entrance, but your name showed up in a list of names from a newspaper I read back during that year. I was... nineteen years old when it happened. But I avoided that situation because of food poisoning.", Joshua confessed. "I heard it was extremely awful. I actually didn't want to do any book signings for years after that event. I just silently wrote my books.", he continued as they arrived at the food court. "Pick whatever you want to eat and at whatever store, I'll buy it.", he said with a smile.

Joseph nodded and walked around the food court, he was most certainly hungry. His rapid metabolism didn't help. He walked over to a chicken place and the cashier looked at him, "Hi. What would you like to eat?", the cashier asked. "Uh, I'd like two chicken breasts, a large order of fries, two biscuits and a side large green beans.", he responded. "Will that be all, sir?", the cashier asked. "I had... are you ordering for both of us?", Joshua asked, stunned at this order size. "No, I'm ordering for me, I have a rapid metabolism and I don't know why.", Joseph replied. "Well, in that case. I'll have a spicy chicken breast, an order of mashed potatoes and gravy, a biscuit with some gravy on top. Can I have some barbecue sauce to go with that please?", Joshua asked. "Wait, you're a southerner?", Joseph asked, surprised. The cashier nodded, "That'll be twenty-two thirty-five, sir.", he said. Joshua pulled out a credit card and paid for the food, signing the receipt as he did so. He turned towards Joseph with a knowing smile. "Now I ain't gonna split hairs or nothin', but I reckon that yer from the same area of the south that I am, ain't ya?", he asked. "It's very odd hearing you say that, but what area are you from?", Joseph replied. The two of them were handed their food and they walked over to a table. "I'm from a small town, or it used to be a small town, it was called Oxford. Not many people lived there, really. Wasn't exactly famous til a few years ago.", Joshua said. "Oxford, that's three hours from where I used to live. I used to live in Duluth.", Joseph replied. "Duluth, that's a large city. Did you live downtown or on the outskirts?", Joshua asked. "I lived in the suburbs. It was too expensive for my family to live in the city.", Joseph responded to the question. "So why is Oxford famous now?", he asked. "Haha, some people think that I put Oxford on the map, but in reality, I'm just an author. One of the people I grew up with, they were part of the winning team in the last baseball championship.", Joshua said with a smirk. "Ah, I see.", Joseph said.

The two of them started eating and Joseph got halfway through his meal when Joshua sprung the question on him. "So tell me, what could me investing my money into your museum do for me?", he asked. Joseph looked up and tried to look professional and Joshua frowned. "Don't do that. You came here looking like you were coming to a business meeting, like you were meeting this grand CEO. Notice that I'm in jeans and a T-shirt. Be casual.", Joshua said. Joseph relaxed a bit. "To put it simply, not many people have gotten into the study of metahumans and their history. For you to invest money into our museum would honestly be a risk, but one that could have a major payoff. Imagine more and more museums being opened up across the country, all because of you.", Joseph said as a pitch. "I already have fame and I already have fortune. Tell me, do you allow anyone to walk into your museum and see the exhibits?", Joshua responded with folded arms. "No, there's an entry fee.", Joseph responded, it wasn't his idea, but rather Celeste's, they had to pay for fees and exhibits somehow. "I want you to drop the fee. Museums are for people to find further education. At least that's what my ma and pa taught me.", Joshua said sternly. "Alright, I'll talk to my boss about that, but I'm sure she'll agree.", Joseph replied. "As for naming the museum after me, don't do it. I guess that's about it for my stipulations. I'll go in more detail with your boss later this week, but... damn, there's my agent. I'll have to go. You got a copy of my book, I'll sign it and hand you a copy of my newest book, if that's alright.", Joshua said as a woman walked over to him. He got up and waved to Joseph. "You can talk to me after the signing and we'll talk more about business if you want. But you don't have to worry much, I've already made up my mind.", he said. Joseph watched as Joshua walked away, he finished up his meal and as he took his tray to the trash, he wondered... exactly what did Joshua mean by that. The only way he'd find out is to talk to him after the book signing, which is where he was going to head to next.

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Chapter 12

Joseph walked over to the bookstore, there was a long line already and Mitsuki had caught up to him. "Joseph, I never got the chance to ask. What made you a fan of this author?", she said with a smile. "My ex-girlfriend...", he answered, not even sure if he had a girlfriend. For some reason he remembered having a relationship with someone on the Weather Team as it was called at the time, but at the same time he remembered not having one. It was a very strange occurrence for him. He never experienced anything like it in his life. "You look a little worried, are you afraid that I might not like you if you had a girlfriend before?", she asked with a bit of a smile. Joseph had no idea where that came from, but, he couldn't help but admit that the question did ring true in his mind. He hadn't had a relationship in years, if he ever really had one at all. "Don't worry, Joseph, I'm not the jealous type of girl who gets mad if you ever had a girlfriend. Even if you had an ex-wife, I wouldn't get angry.", she said. "I can certainly say I've never been married, Mitsuki.", Joseph said, flustered a bit. "Relax, Joseph.", she said as they got into line at the bookstore.

"Hey, Mister! I see you have one of this guy's books!", some child said to him as they waited in line. Joseph lifted the book up. "Not quite finished with this one, yet. But I already like what I've read. It's different from his usual works within the setting.", he responded. "I really like the ones revolving around Hannu! He's such a cool character and doesn't allow any of the bad guys to do what they want!", the child responded. "Eric, please leave that man alone.", the child's mother said. "I'm sorry he's bothering you, sir. Wait... I know you.", the woman continued. "I work at the museum on the outskirts of town, so that might be where you know me from.", he replied. "No, I know you from somewhere else... you go grocery shopping at the Greg's Foods?", she asked. "Yeah, I do. The owner there was rather kind to me for the longest time, but I suspect he was kind to everyone, seemed like a real trustworthy type of guy.", he replied. "You come in every week on a saturday, you didn't come yesterday, but I'm one of the cashiers there. I recognize every customer that I see. So you're a fan of this author too?", she asked. "Yeah, I'm a fan of him.", he replied. "So, is that your date?", she said with a smirk. Joseph and Mitsuki looked at each other and both of their faces turned a deep red as they both looked back. "No no no... she's not my date.", he stammered. "We only just met last night!", she exclaimed. "Hahaha, there's nothing wrong with two young people such as yourselves dating.", the woman said with a smile.

Joseph felt a bit insulted by that remark, by the looks of the woman, she couldn't have been more than thirty-five. The line moved forward and Joseph did so as well with Mitsuki behind him. "Excuse me, but how old do you think I am?", he asked. "Well, you can't be any older than twenty-two.", the woman responded. "I'm twenty-seven and working on my master's thesis.", he calmly explained. "Well, I'm thirty-three, so by my standards, you're still a bit young.", the woman said. Joseph didn't like her tone but instead decided to brush it off, it wasn't worth getting into an argument here. "Joseph, what do you think about the latest movie that came out?", Mitsuki asked. "The one revolving around the character of Balthoron and his fight against the Menschilche?", he responded. "Yeah, that's the one!", she exclaimed. "It was alright, sort of explains why Balthoron is such a dick in the books, but I don't feel like Joshua was consulted much on the story of the characters. Like in the books, you notice how Kawal carries his sword, always in his right hand, but in the movie, he fought left handed.", he said. "Well that doesn't make it a bad movie, you know.", she replied. "I know.", he said. 

The line moved up forward again, and the minutes passed by. Soon they could see Joshua. Joseph noticed that he wasn't alone, his agent was there. But Joshua was signing books, taking photos and even speaking to the fans. He had a smile on his face and gave every fan a handshake. He looked very natural at this, as if he had been doing this a very long time. Mitsuki's eyes started lighting up. "You read his books and you wonder what kind of man he is, but in reality, he's just a regular guy. It's really amazing when you think about it.", she said, excited. "He grew up close to where I lived.", he responded. Everyone in the line turned around to look at him, an act which made him extremely uncomfortable. "He lived about 3 hours away from where I was born and lived til I was seventeen.", he said, trying to get the attention off him. "No way he lived in the same state as him.", one man said. "He's lying!", another said. The sound of someone's throat being cleared rang through the room and everyone's attention snapped towards Joshua. "It is hardly proper to accuse someone of lying. You have no evidence of this and I will not tolerate this sort of misconduct during my book signing.", Joshua said. Everyone immediately fell silent at this.

The line kept moving forward and eventually, they got to the front of the line. "Hello there, ah! That's my newest book, here, I'll sign it. Do you want anything special written on it?", Joshua asked. "To an amazing supporter of my work.", Mitsuki said. Joshua nodded and wrote it down. "I've bought every single one of your books, Mr. Evans.", Mitsuki said with a smile. Joshua nodded slightly with a smile. "That's good, I'm glad you enjoy my work.", he said as he extended his hand. "Well, I was wondering if I could... perhaps get a picture with you?", Mitsuki said, nervously. "Absolutely.", Joshua said as he stood up. Joseph watched as the two of them walked over to each other and smiled for the camera as Joshua held up a pen and Mitsuki held up her signed book. A picture was taken and Joshua shook Mitsuki's hand and walked over to his chair, sitting back down. "All photos will be on the website for this book signing...", he said. "Mitsuki, my name is Mitsuki.", she said, still somewhat excited. Joseph recognized that look. It was the look of someone getting to meet one of their heroes. "Mitsuki, I'll have to write a thank you for buying all the books I've ever written.", he said with a smile. The two of them shook hands and Mitsuki walked over to one of the many tables, a huge smile on her face.

"Ah, I promised you a book, didn't I?", Joshua said. "You also promised to sign my copy of your latest book set on Verbana.", Joseph said as he handed the book to Joshua. "That I did, do you want anything else written on it?", Joshua asked as he picked up his pen. "No thanks.", Joseph said. "Well, you got any questions for me while you're here.", Joshua asked as he picked up one of the copies of his newest book off the table and signed it. "Why do you create heroes for people to read about when our world has heroes?", Joseph asked. Joshua put his pen down and closed the book, there were hushed whispers from everyone as Joshua stood up. "Relax everyone, I will address everyone in the bookstore for this question.", he said as he placed his hands behind his back. "To put it quite simply, this world has real life heroes and villains, real life people with abilities that normal people lack. But sometimes, it is better to read about a hero in a book. While you may not have the powers these people have, I gave my characters qualities that anyone can attain. Courage, compassion, conviction, a desire to protect, a desire to fight for justice. Anyone can attain these traits if they work at it. But these are all worthless unless you have a mind that is trained to be able to think about the potential consequences of your actions. This allows people to have hope, hope knowing that despite the fact that they lack powers, they too can be heroes.", he continued, addressing the entire bookstore. Joshua then sat down and handed the books to Joseph. He then shook Joseph's hand and motioned for Joseph to come closer. Joseph leaned in and Joshua smiled. "In all my years of writing, I have to admit, I've heard that question often. But you're the only one who didn't make it sound condescending. By the way, I'll meet you at the game store in about two hours.", Joshua whispered into Joseph's ear. "Alright, I'll be there.", Joseph whispered back.

Joseph walked away from the table with his two books in hand and met Mitsuki at the coffee shop in the bookstore. "So what was he whispering to you in your ear?", she asked. "He's going to meet me in the mall's game store at three PM.", he replied. "Ah, would you like to go somewhere while we wait?", she replied. "What did you have in mind?", he asked her. "Well, where would you like to go?", she asked him, taking a sip of her coffee. "I need to pick up some more tennis balls, and a new racket since I left mine at my boss' place. So going to the sporting goods store would be a good idea.", he said. "No way, you play tennis too!?", she exclaimed. "Yep, I'm decent at it, I guess. Not the best player in the whole apartment complex, but it's something I picked up while I was in prison.", he said casually as he stood up. "Wait, you were in prison? What did you do?", she asked as she stood up. "I went to prison for beating the everloving shit out of a mugger in a dark alley. Sorta was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I can't stand people that have to prey on those that they perceive as weaker than they are. Went to court and got a three year sentence, but was released in two for good behavior. I was on parole for another year.", he said. "Well, I can understand why you did it, but you could've called the cops.", she replied to him as they walked out of the bookstore. "I could've, but by the time they showed up, the woman could've been hurt or my life could have been in danger. I took a calculated risk and though it landed me in prison for three years, I don't regret it.", he said with a smile.

The two of them walked down the stairs and across the mall to the sporting goods store. They walked over to the Tennis equipment section and Joseph pulled a racket off the wall, giving it a few gentle practice swings to get the feel of it. "That one doesn't quite feel right in the hand for me. The forehand is great, but the backhand is a bit off.", he placed the racket back on the rack and picked up another one, doing the same with it. "This one's better in the backhand, but worse in the forehand.", he said. "You seem particular about the kind of racket you use.", Mitsuki chimed in as Joseph tried out another racket. "I've been playing the sport since I was nineteen. It was either that or basketball. And considering I don't have a great vertical jump, tennis it was.", he said as he swung the racket. He placed that one on the rack and grabbed one, swinging it gently. He then swung it gently in an overhead swing as if to serve a ball. "Yeah, this one is just right.", he said with a slight smile. Mitsuki grabbed a tennis racket off the rack and smiled. "I guess you'll be able to give me some pointers, then. I've been playing tennis for a few months.", she said with a smile. "Lessons, eh? Never tried being a teacher. But if there is one piece of advice I could give, it's this. Try to make your opponent work for the ball on your starting serve. If you can serve up the line, that's great as it'll make them move.", he said. "Hmm... I'll have to try that.", she said as the two of them walked around the sporting goods store. 

After about ten minutes, Joseph and Mitsuki finally walked up to the counter and the cashier looked at them and scanned their items, "Fifty-two sixty-seven.", he said. Joseph pulled out a credit card and swiped it. He then entered his PIN number and the machine said that it was approved. The rackets and tennis balls were placed into a bag and the two of them walked out with the merchandise. "Would you like to go anywhere else?", Joseph asked her with a smile. "I want to go to that store that allows you to make your own stuffed animal and sells them.", she said. "Ah, I know exactly which one you're talking about.", he replied. The two of them walked across the mall again and they walked into the store as Joseph looked at his clock on his phone, they still had over an hour of time to pass, but he didn't care how long it took, so long as it was with Mitsuki. He smiled as he saw her happy. "Joseph, this one right here. This rabbit, this will be a perfect gift for my niece.", she said. "I didn't know you were an aunt, but if that's the one you want to get for your niece. I'll be happy to pay for it if it makes you happy, Mitsuki.", he said. "That's sweet of you, Joseph.", she replied. Joseph watched her make and fill the stuffed animal and he paid for it. As the two of them walked out of the store, Mitsuki grabbed Joseph's arm and placed her head on his shoulder, "Thanks for being so kind to me. Most men I know leer at me and try to sneak a peek at my breasts, but you don't.", she said. "Simple, I was raised to be polite and to treat women as equals.", he replied as they walked through the mall, with an hour and a half left til they had to meet Joshua.

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Chapter 13

Joseph walked into the game store, expecting to be early, but he saw Joshua browsing some of the games. "Hard to believe that they made so many games based on my setting.", Joshua said as he stroked his beard. "Role playing games, action-adventure, fighting games? For all different consoles too.", he continued, thinking to himself. "So you're a video gamer too, huh?", Mitsuki called out. Joshua's attention snapped to the two of them. "Yes, I'm an avid video gamer, have been doing so since I was only two years old. That'd be thirty-six years ago, I'd have to say.", Joshua said, seeming to remember his first video game console, "It was an old sixteen-bit machine. My aunt owned it since the launch day of the console. Those shoulder buttons that people of your generation take for granted? That was the console that gave them to us.", he continued. "So I guess you know when video game consoles that took discs were introduced.", Joseph said, a bit smugly. "Nineteen Ninety-One, but it was... shit. Even if the possibility of alternate universes is true, I don't think there is a single one where that piece of shit is ever good.", Joshua said. "That was needlessly savage, Joshua...", Mitsuki said. "You never got to play it, neither did I and I didn't ever hear about it til I was in my teenage years.", Joshua responded. Mitsuki nodded as Joseph walked over to Joshua.

"What about the business we were supposed to discuss?", he asked Joshua. "Straight to the point, huh? Well, I'm going to see Claire tomorrow at the museum before I leave, but I've already decided that I'll fund her museum and her research. Ever since the seventies, no one has bothered to research or fund the topic, let alone open a new museum. It's a bit of a risky investment, but I don't see any reason why not.", Joshua responded before taking a stack of games and a console to the counter. "I'd like to get all of these.", he said. The cashier looked at him with a shocked expression. "That'll be about a thousand dollars, sir... are you sure?", the cashier asked him. "Absolutely sure.", Joshua responded as he pulled out his wallet and got out his credit card. He swiped it and the cashier put everything into several bags. "Do you need any help with that?", he asked. "Nah, I reckon that I can get this stuff out to my car. Besides, my agent must be incredibly irate with me right now.", Joshua responded. "Wait a minute, your agent. Sir, if I could have just one more moment of your time. Would you agree to sign my copy of this game?", the cashier said, holding up a game. "Sorry, but that particular movie tie-in game has nothing to do with my works. I wouldn't feel right signing it.", Joshua replied politely.

As Joshua left the store, Joseph and Mitsuki looked at each other, confused at this turn of events. "So, would you like to do anything else today?", Mitsuki asked. "Well, we could go back to my apartment complex and play some tennis if it isn't too cold for you.", Joseph replied calmly. Before Mitsuki could respond, Joseph's phone started to ring. He pulled it out as Mitsuki folded her arms. "Sorry about this, it's the hospital, I have to take this.", he said. He placed the phone up to his ear as he answered the call. "Hello.", he said. "Hi, is this Joseph Adams?", the receptionist on the other side asked him. "Yes, this is he. Please tell me that you have good news.", he replied. "I'm sorry, Mr. Adams. I don't. Caleb's condition has been deteriorating. We're keeping him on life support, but if he doesn't stabilize or improve by tomorrow morning, we're going to have to take him off life support.", she said. "I... see. Thank you for informing me. Do you know when it's going to be done? Because I'd like to be there for him in his final moments, even if he isn't even aware of my presence.", he said, not masking his sadness. "The last check to see if he's stabilizing or improving is at eleven AM tomorrow, sir.", the receptionist said. "Thanks... I'll do my best to be there.", he said just before he hung up the phone. 

He placed the phone in his pocket and looked at Mitsuki. "Sorry about that, just had to take a call from the hospital.", he said. "What happened?", she asked as she walked over to him. "My neighbor of six years and a friend of mine is dying. He helped me pay for my first month's rent when I got the lease on the apartment. If it wasn't for him, I would've been found in violation of probation and I would've been sent back to prison.", he replied. Mitsuki hugged him and he hugged back, tears forming in his eyes. "How about I take you home and you get some sleep, I'll pick you up in the morning to go to the hospital.", she said. "What about work?", he asked. "I'll take an off day. You seem determined to get to that hospital, and I don't want to see you sad.", she replied to him. "Thanks, that means more to me than I can put into words. But I don't think I'm going to get some sleep just yet, it's only three PM.", he responded. "It's alright, but you do need to get some rest regardless, if only to clear your mind.", she replied.

The two of them left the mall and walked over to the car, they got in and she started the car. It was a quiet trip all the way back to the apartment, neither of them really wanting to say a word about what was going on. The atmosphere was full of sorrow from Joseph and worry from Mitsuki. Once she parked at the apartment, Joseph climbed out of the car and looked at her. "Again, thank you so much.", he said. "You're welcome, Joseph. You take it easy, alright.", she said. "Alright.", he replied. He closed the door and carried his sports equipment up the stairs and to his door. He pulled out the keys and unlocked the door to see his two kittens in one of their little homes that Celeste had bought. He smiled at this, weakly as he placed the sports equipment in the closet and threw the bags into the trash. He took out a saucer and set some food for the kittens as well as some water on the kitchen floor. 

He walked back out of his apartment and closed the door behind him, locking it. He walked across the walkway to the other apartment and he entered it. It was a mess... he sighed slightly and started to clean it up as he really had nothing else to do. As he was cleaning up, he found a letter that was addressed to him, in Caleb's handwriting. Curiosity got the better of him and he opened the letter. "Joseph... if you're reading this, then something has happened to me before you come to realize the truth about yourself. I know that you've considered me your neighbor for the last six years of your life, but in all honesty, I had a reason for helping you back then. I know who you are, even if you don't. You seem to have doubts about the truth of your past, but the people I've worked closely with in the past have no doubts about you. You're not a bad person, you're not some evil person. Sure, you can be blunt... brash... sometimes even overly critical, but you're deep down a good person with a strong sense of justice.", the first part of the letter read. Joseph didn't entirely believe it, but he continued reading. "My brother's grandson, Daniel, always spoke highly of you. Of course, you knew him better as Inverse. He always tried to talk to you and the others. Tried to talk you all out of your desire to take him down, to get you all to stop working for that man. He could never say exactly who, except for the fact that it was his original boss. He didn't want to hurt any of you, you were all just kids who didn't know any better. The lot of you had just awoken to your powers and were forced to join an organization you knew very little about, Daniel couldn't blame any of you.", the second part of the note read.

A voice rang out. "You have doubts.", it said. "Show yourself!", Joseph demanded. "Look in the mirror.", the voice said to him. Joseph walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. That's when he saw his reflection change. "Who are you, what are you doing with my mind?", Joseph said, angry. "I am not doing anything with your mind. It seems that the answers are not yet clear for you. Tell me, have you noticed any strange... occurrences regarding electricity for the past few years?", the voice asked, the reflection in the mirror making the mouth movements. "Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?", Joseph asked. "You and I are two halves of the same being, Joseph.", the voice responded. "So you're some sort of... demon?", Joseph asked. "Demon... no. I'm a nature spirit that governs a particular force in the natural world. We sometimes bond with mortals after their conception in order to gain perspective on the world and learn more, so that we can become wiser in our governance of the world.", the voice responded, calmly. "So what are you saying?", Joseph asked. "You were a special case. The host that I was going to bond with was not yet conceived, but the hosts that my friends were to bond had been born and were growing up. You happened to be near them.", the voice said. 

Joseph thought about this for a while, there was silence between the two. Neither of them had anything else to say on the matter. Ten minutes of tense silence passed. "So you chose me to be your host.", Joseph finally said. "You were the friend of the other hosts. Do not worry, it is merely a symbiotic relationship.", the voice responded. "Why don't I have memories of you as a kid? Why did you never talk to me then?", he replied. "Because you didn't need me at the time, not to mention, I was just getting used to the whole situation of being with someone since their birth. By the time I had settled in properly, you had shut me and everyone else off. Unfortunately, opening your mind to being able to be used by others.", the voice replied. "So tell me, your powers are over electricity, does that make me some sort of lightning based spiritborn?", Joseph replied with a bit of snark. "No, you are a spiritbonded, a very rare phenomenon. It usually results in instability of the bond, or worse, the death of the host.", the voice said to him. "Read the rest of the note, it will tell you the truth about your identity, even though I'm sure you already know.", the voice continued.

Joseph looked at the last part of the letter. "Joseph... no. Lightning, it is natural for you to feel guilt over causing the death of someone. None of us blame you for Daniel's death. When I heard the report of what happened, I knew instantly, that you acted out of grief rather than malicious intent. You shouldn't turn your back on everyone who needs you though. Take up the costume again, Lightning. Go out there and be the hero that everyone out there needs. If not for yourself, do it for me. That is the dying wish of this old man.", the last part of the note said. Joseph closed his hand, crumpling up the note. "Lightning, huh...", he said as his memories became clear as if shaken loose from the fog that had covered them. "I remember and now I remember why I quit being a hero. I'm sorry, Caleb. I'm done. I'm not returning. The people have their heroes, heroes that aren't killers like myself.", he said, bluntly. 

As Joseph walked out of the bathroom and started cleaning up the rest of the apartment, the voice spoke up again. "That's it, huh? Just going to abandon your childhood dream?", the voice said. "I'm an adult now, I have responsibilities to myself and to others. I can't just go out with powers and play the part of a hero in this little game. Tell me though, was Inverse really my friend?", he replied. "Yes and no. He had your best interests in mind, but you always viewed him as your worst enemy. Have your thoughts changed?", the voice said. "I killed him, whether my thoughts change or not won't bring him back. Neither will me returning to whatever duty that I had. Plus with the policy the way it is these days, I think it would be wiser to not return to active duty.", Joseph replied in a matter-of-fact manner. "So I guess you're making your decision.", the voice said. "Yes, I am. And unless this person that has anything to do with Inverse threatens me or my friends, I see no reason to worry about it.", Joseph replied to it. "Very well then, I'll leave you alone until you need me, if that ever happens.", the voice said. "I'd appreciate it.", Joseph replied, bluntly.

Joseph took the rest of the day to finish up cleaning the apartment. He was very hungry and thirsty when he was done and he looked at the clock. It was ten PM. He walked into the kitchen to see some cookies on the counter and he smiled as he took one. He left the apartment and locked the door behind him, walking over to his own. Unlocking the door and opening it, then turning on the light, he saw that the two kittens were playing around in their little play area, which warmed Joseph's heart a bit. He walked into the apartment, closing the door and locking it and heading to the kitchen. He threw a microwaveable dinner into his microwave and turned it on. While his dinner was heating, he munched on the cookie. It was wonderful as always, a chocolate chip cookie with just a hint of cinnamon. Once the microwave beeped at him, he took his dinner out and let it cool down for a couple of minutes. He then grabbed a drink from the fridge and opened it placing it next to his dinner. 

He enjoyed his meal and drink and when done, he threw the trash away. He walked over to his bedroom and closed the door behind him, only to see that there were two kittens in his bedroom. "Now now, you both are nocturnal creatures, you should go back out into the living room and play.", he said as he opened the door up for them. The kittens wouldn't move. "Alright, you win.", he said as he left the door open for them and walked over to the bed. He got undressed down to his undergarments and climbed into the bed, closing his eyes and hoping that he could get to sleep as he turned away from the light in the living room. However, this would be a sleepless night for him, as his mind worked through the past that he had revealed to him finally and Caleb's condition worrying him. It was all too much to bear and he only cared about how Caleb was doing anyhow. After about three hours of sleeplessness, he accepted that he wasn't going to go to sleep and instead decided to just lay in the bed and rest, because that would be better than nothing.

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Chapter 14

Joannes awoke to the sound of a bell and he looked outside the window. The sun hadn't even risen above the horizon yet. He stretched and yawned slightly, then looked at his hand. He snapped his fingers and the time appeared above his hand, it was 6:32 AM. He looked around the cabin of the train and noticed that everyone else was still asleep. He quietly stood up and walked down the walkway, at least as quietly as someone with biomechanical legs could. As he got close to the door, one of the train staff looked at him. "Sir, where are you going?", he asked. "To the bathroom.", Joannes responded. The train staffer nodded slightly as Joannes opened the door. The cold air whipped into his face immediately, chilling him to the bone. He closed the door behind him and opened up the door to the next cabin, walking in and closing that door behind him. The people in this cabin were all awake and watched as he walked past. He walked into the bathroom, not paying them any attention and locked the door behind him.

He looked in the mirror and took off his glove. He looked at his hand, a painful reminder of an accident that he had many years ago. He looked at the segments of the fingers as he closed his hand. He placed the glove on his hand and flushed the toilet. In reality, his biomechanical parts eliminated any waste that he produced. He walked out of the bathroom and noticed that the train was coming to a stop at the station. He walked towards one of the doors and waited for it to open. The sooner he was off the train, the better. The door opened and he walked out onto the platform, he noticed someone waiting there for him. "Welcome, Joannes, we've been expecting you.", the person said to him. "We? I only see one of you, is this the royal we or...", he responded. "No, do you really think that I'd be sent up here without anyone to back me up? Don't be foolish. Anyhow, I know who you are, if you would be so kind as to follow me and please try to refrain from trying to use your cybernetics against me.", the man said.

The two of them walked out of the station and climbed into a truck. The man closed the windows and it started to snow. "Tell me, Joannes. What do you seek to do when you find the man who killed Daniel?", the man said to him. "I'll bring him into a court of law and have him tried for murder.", he replied adamantly. "You wish to have a hero tried for murder, good luck.", the man said to him, sarcastically. The man handed him a file. "This is the person that can get you close to Lightning. At least as long as our intel can be trusted.", the man said coldly. Joannes looked in the file and saw the name of the man he was to look for as well as the address of the place he was to look for. "You want me to attack a museum? What the fuck is wrong with you people!?", he asked, shocked at this. "You aren't to attack anything, what we want you to do is capture that man and find out what he knows. Hold him hostage if you have to. Just smoke out the killer of Daniel, we'll do the rest.", the man said. "This is where your safehouse will be, by the way, now get out.", the man continued, handing Joannes another address.

Joannes climbed out of the truck, the cold cut into him almost like a knife. His biomechanical parts were rated for a much lower temperature, so he'd be fine, but the parts of him that remained organic were very cold. He cursed the fact that he didn't bring a jacket with him as he walked away from the station and walked down the sidewalk. The snow started to fall a bit heavier as he walked, cutting visibility even further than it was. However, he continued walking, he was a man on a mission and wanted to get that mission done. His stomach growled though, so he walked into a place that was serving breakfast and sat down. A waitress looked over at him. "What will you have today?", she asked. He looked down at the menu. "I'd like your breakfast special, except can I get a double waffle and triple up my hashbrowns?", he asked. "Sure thing.", the waitress said to him. She turned around and called out his order. He looked at the address that he had been given. "Excuse me, ma'am. I'm new around here. Would you happen to know where this is?", he asked her. "That's about three blocks from here. You go up to the light and cross the street and then you go up a couple of blocks. It's a hotel, not exactly a fancy one, but it's good enough.", she responded. "Thank you.", he responded with a nod. "So, what's in the folder?", she asked. "Oh, it's just business papers.", he lied. "Ah, so what is the business?", she asked. Joannes started getting annoyed. "Investigations on someone that I might suspect to be a criminal is all.", he half lied. "Ah, interesting. Well, I'll be sure that you get a free coffee, detective.", she said. Joannes nodded and looked outside, the snow was coming down even harder than it was before and it was building up. Being from the south, he had never seen so much snow in his life before.

He turned around and someone next to him laughed. "You ain't ever see this much snow before, I take it?", the man said to him. "You're from the south, aren't you?", Joannes asked, noting the man's use of ain't. "Yep, born and raised. Frequently come up here to see how my sister is doing, she moved up here about thirty years ago.", the man said. Joannes turned to see an elderly man sitting next to him. "The name's Jack. You are?", the man said. "Joannes.", he replied. "Ah, I know of you, the transhuman vigilante in the south. Registered as a transhuman and you fight crime without taking up a costume or anything. You're very bold for what you do. Especially since if I recall correctly, where you come from, fighting crime without being in costume is considered illegal if you're not a cop.", Jack said to him. "I used to be a cop, then I had my accident and had to become a transhuman. They wanted to give me a desk job, so I decided that I'd turn in my badge. The chief was sympathetic to me and decided to give me authority to fight crime as a detective.", Joannes responded calmly, pulling out his wallet and showing his badge. "I don't exactly get paid much for it, but... you know.", he continued.

Jack nodded and patted him on the back. "Well, I wish you luck, detective. I have to get out in this stuff to get to work. You have a good day.", Jack said to him. "Same to you.", Joannes replied as his breakfast was served to him. "Snow wasn't forecast for today.", the waitress said. Joannes immediately turned to look behind him, expecting to see a woman there, but there was no one. He turned around to eat his breakfast when he saw a young woman sit down next to him. She looked at him and he looked at her, he lowered his voice a few octaves. "I know who you are, you cannot hide who you really are to me, Snow.", he said as he grabbed his coffee. The woman looked at him and laughed. "I'm not some southern hero who can't take the cold, detective. Yes, this snow is indeed mine, but it's because my nephews and nieces wanted to play in the snow, but there wasn't any forecast for this month.", she replied to him. Joannes finished up his breakfast without another word to her. He couldn't shake the feeling that the Weather Force had followed him here, but he had no proof of it.

He placed money on the counter, enough to not only pay for his food but give a twenty percent tip, grabbed the folder and files and left. He followed the instructions he was given, the snow had accumulated about three inches since he had arrived and it was making things difficult, but he noticed that none of the snow had fallen on the road. That was rather odd, he thought. Not even the new Snow could actually pull something like that, so maybe she didn't follow him after all. He walked in through the doors of the hotel and the woman at the desk looked at him. "Hello, can I help you?", she said. "Yes, I'm Joannes Hudson. I'm here to get a room.", he said. The woman looked at him and nodded, handing him a card. "You're in Room Five-Oh-Nine. That's the fifth floor, take the elevator up.", she said to him with a sly smile. "Would you like breakfast and lunch served to you daily while you're here, detective?", she continued. "That would be nice, but doesn't room service cost extra?", he asked. "Not here, it doesn't. We might not be the fanciest hotel in the world, but we are rather nice.", she responded. "Alright then, I wouldn't mind that.", he responded as he took the card.

He walked over to the elevator and pressed the button. The elevator bell dinged and an elevator opened up for him. He walked in and pressed the five button and as the elevator doors closed, he noticed someone else walk into the lobby and look directly at him. Thinking he recognized the man, he extended his middle finger towards him with a smile as the doors closed completely. The elevator was fast and in almost no time at all, he was on the fifth floor. He walked out of the elevator and walked down the hallway, looking at the room numbers. When he found his room number, he placed the card into the reader and the door unlocked for him. He opened the door and saw that his room was well furnished and oddly had some luggage already in there, with a note on the dresser. He walked over to the dresser, closing the door behind him and picked up the note. "Joannes, if you're reading this, no doubt you're confused as to why there is luggage there. I was told by a mutual friend that you were working on a particular case, involving Lightning. This has been the case that has kept you up at night, the one that has gnawed at you since you joined the police force. Daniel was a good friend of mine, he was uncovering some serious corruption when Lightning killed him. Just remember not to get in over your head, kiddo. Lightning when he killed your father was only seventeen years old, if I had to guess, he's twenty-seven and if he's been training in secret, is much stronger than he was back then. I don't want to see you get hurt, so I sent you a gun. You'll find it in the black briefcase. Your spare clothes are in the brown one. I've also sent some canned foods up your way. Take care, kid.", the note read.

"Joannes, eh? Son of Inverse, one of the most hated criminals in existence... a detective?", a voice behind him said, breaking him out of his thoughts. He wheeled about and looked at the person who said that, and he saw the man from the lobby. "Wallace. Or should I call you, Wind.", he responded coldly. "Wallace will do. You might be wondering why I followed you or how I broke into your room.", Wallace said with a smirk. "Both.", Joannes said flatly. Wallace walked into the room and Joannes reached for the black briefcase. "Don't worry, I ain't here to hurt you or cause trouble. Heck, I ain't even here because I was ordered here, not like I ever get orders anymore. It's always, 'Tornado, I want you to do this mission or Hail, I want you to do that mission.' Never do Cloud, Rain, Snow, or myself ever get recognition, even if Rain and Snow are the students of Hail now.", Wallace said, not hiding his annoyance. "So then what are you here for?", Joannes said, glaring at him. "Simple, Lightning was my friend and he's probably still dealing with the guilt of killing Inverse. Since you made a move to come up here, I figured you were following his trail, you want revenge, right?", Wallace said, folding his arms. "I want to bring him to justice for murder.", Joannes said flatly. "I want to know why he left and why he did what he did. Nothing more. If he is to see justice for the death of Inverse, then he will see justice.", Wallace said flatly. Joannes felt that this was uncharacteristic of the Weather Force member. "Who are you, really?", he asked. "I'm Wallace, known as Wind in the Weather Force. If you'd like to run a DNA test, you'd find out that I'm telling the truth. I'm starting to feel like there's some corruption in the organization that registers people like us. Those who don't register are more frequently ending up dead rather than captured...", Wallace said as he walked towards the window. "I'm starting to believe that the organization we are registered with now is no better than the one that we used to be registered with. Cloud is having the same doubts as well. But we have no evidence of this. Maybe you could help us after you track down Lightning.", he continued.

Joannes sat down on the bed, he considered the possibilities. "Vow to me that you will not interfere with my current investigation and will not act in any way to prevent the arrest of Lightning.", he said as he pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote up a contract. Wallace took the pen from him and signed the contract. "You have yourself a deal. All I ask is that I get time to speak with him after you arrest him.", he said with a slight smile. Joannes signed the contract and then shook Wallace's hand. "You got yourself a deal.", he said with a smile. Wallace nodded and left the hotel room to leave Joannes there to unpack. As Joannes put up his clothing and food, he looked outside the window. The snow had finally stopped, but it wasn't melting, not only that, but there were now eight inches of snow on the ground outside. He sighed slightly and sat down, to see what was on the television. He couldn't make his move until the museum opened up anyhow, so he figured there was no harm in some entertainment.

Edited by Roshi Roze

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Chapter 15

Joseph climbed out of bed to a knock on his front door. Suddenly before he could even get to his pants, his phone rang. He picked up his phone and answered it. "Yeah, this is Joseph.", he said into the phone. "Mr. Adams, we need you to come to the hospital, right away.", the voice on the other side said. "I... I understand.", he said, sadly. He hung up the phone and quickly got dressed. He quickly walked to the door and opened it. He recognized the person on the other side of the door. "You look shocked to see me.", the person said. "Yeah, kind of. I didn't expect one of my classmates to show up unannounced.", he said in response. "Well, your boss called me up and told me that you're having a bit of a problem with getting motivated to do your master's thesis. Perhaps we could work on that some today.", his classmate said. "Jamal, look, I know you mean well and all, but I'm sort of waiting for my ride. I got to get to the hospital.", he said. "Man, I haven't ever seen you like this, Joseph. You're usually trying to hide how you feel, trying to play everything cool. Something must really be wrong.", Jamal said in a hurry. "Look, if you can, go inside and keep the cats company, I shouldn't be gone for the entire day, we can work on my thesis when I get home.", he responded. "Alright.", Jamal responded.

Joseph walked past him and down the steps where Mitsuki was waiting. "You ready to go see him?", she asked. "Yeah...", he responded. "Wait, you haven't answered me like that before. What's wrong?", she asked him. "They told me that I need to come to the hospital, immediately.", he responded. "Oh... I see, well... let's go then.", she replied. The two of them hurried over to the car and climbed in. After buckling themselves in, she started the car and drove out of the apartment complex towards the hospital downtown. Neither of them said a word, which was good, because all Joseph could do was think to himself. His mind was racing, the hospital never told people that they had to come there for good news, it was always bad news. What if Caleb had died... what if something happened to Meredith? Scenario after scenario ran through his head, as they did, his heart beat faster and he felt himself tense up. As the car drove along the road and he looked out the window, he saw someone he recognized outside. Despite them being bundled up, he knew exactly who that was.

The car pulled into the parking lot of the hospital and the moment Mitsuki parked the car, Joseph climbed out. He waited for Mitsuki to do the same and the two of them locked their doors. The two of them quickly rushed into the hospital and towards an elevator. The elevator dinged and they entered it, but as the doors closed, Joseph saw someone from his past walk towards the elevator. As the elevator went up, he said nothing, but the look on his face said it all. "Joseph, who was that?", Mitsuki asked. "Wallace Mathison. He and I went to school when we were younger, the last time I saw him, I was seventeen.", he responded flatly. "So why do you look so angry to see him?", she asked as the elevator door opened. "Because the reason why I haven't seen him in ten years is the death of two of our friends.", he responded. He hid the fact that he was the one who killed those two, even if it was an accident. "Oh, well, maybe you should go talk to him anyhow. He probably just wants to talk about something.", she replied. "Yeah, after all of this is over.", he responded without showing emotion.

The two of them walked to the room where Caleb was, he was no longer hooked up to any machines, Joseph noticed that his chest wasn't going up and down. He didn't need to feel the man's pulse to know that he had none. He started tearing up as Meredith was crying in one of the corners, being hugged by another woman. A third woman looked at him. "Who are you?", she asked. "I've been Caleb's neighbor for six years, I'm Joseph. I assume you're his daughter.", he replied. "Yeah, I'm his daughter, I'm Melissa. I wish we could've met under better circumstances.", she said. Joseph nodded silently, he didn't have any words to respond to that. "I'm... I'm going to step out for a bit. Mitsuki, do you want anything?", he said, trying as hard as he could to hide his tears, but he couldn't. "No thank you, I'll stay here with their family, if that's alright.", she said to him. Joseph nodded slightly and left the room.

He walked towards the counter and when the person at the desk looked up at him, he faked a smile. "Hi, is there some sort of vending machine on this floor?", he asked him. "Yes, there is. If you go across the breezeway and down the hall, turn left at the third intersection and then the fourth door on your right, that's a waiting room, inside are vending machines for snacks, soft drinks, and coffee.", the man said. "Thank you.", Joseph replied as he turned around. He followed the man's instructions and as he walked, he let his tears flow. He didn't sob uncontrollably, but just silently cried. He walked into the waiting room and walked over to the coffee vending machine. He pulled out his wallet and inserted his debit card. He chose his particular coffee and watched as it poured out into a cup. He was relieved that this vending machine did serve coffee with a shot of espresso. He picked up the cup and brought it to his lips. The warmth was able to cut through the cold of outside, but also was able to give him some sort of relief from his sorrow.

"Now, I ain't ever see you this broken up, even after that particular day, Joseph.", a voice said. "Go away, Wallace.", Joseph said, coldly. "Now I ain't got any intention of doin' that, Joseph. You ought to know that by now. I spent the last ten years of my life lookin' for you. I ain't about to turn back now.", Wallace responded. "I have no damned intention of rejoining the Weather Team, or what are they called now, the Weather Force? Tell me, how's Tamara? Is she handling wetwork fine?", Joseph replied swiftly and harshly. "Wetwork? What do you mean by that, Joseph?", Wallace responded, a bit shocked. Joseph walked over to the window and took a sip of his coffee. "Remember Inverse?", he asked. Wallace nodded slightly. "You know, I can't hear gestures, Wallace.", Joseph said. "Yes, I can't ever forget him.", Wallace replied. "The Weather Team was tasked with capturing him, bringing him to justice. I was tasked with making his death look like an accident.", Joseph said, taking another sip of his coffee. "You mean that...", Wallace said, in disbelief. "Legally, I had the go ahead to kill Inverse. That contract that I signed is still legally binding. Do you not think that I tried to turn myself in after that.", Joseph said turning around. "It was my attack that hit Ronnie and Sarah, Wallace. I was the one that figured that wouldn't happen and they paid the ultimate price for my arrogance.", he continued. "I have the blood of three people on my hands... and because of the contract that I signed with our old employers, no one can do anything about it...", he finished, looking at his hand.

There was silence between the two of them for a couple of minutes. Then Wallace finally broke the silence. "There's a detective here looking for you, he's the son of Inverse.", he said. "Does he work for that resistance group I've heard so much about?", Joseph replied. "Yeah, I'm fairly certain he does. I've been following him since he left the south, why?", Wallace responded. "Because they don't want to capture me, they want to publicly kill me. Those fools don't understand that a public execution of someone like me will not bolster their numbers. In the eyes of the general public, I am still a hero. I am still Lightning. If anything, such an act would bring their destruction.", Joseph said flatly. "I didn't know that, if I had... I wouldn't have offered to help him find you.", Wallace responded. Suddenly Joseph's phone went off and he answered it. "This is Joseph.", he said. "Joseph, someone is currently at the museum looking for someone called Lightning, would you happen to know who he is?", the voice on the other side asked. "No boss, I don't know who that person is.", he responded. "No, do you know who Lightning is, Joseph?", Celeste asked. "I know of him, but I don't know him.", Joseph lied. "Alright then.", Celeste responded.

Joseph hung up the phone and turned on the news. Both he and Wallace noticed something immediately. There was a hostage situation on the news and Joseph immediately recognized the hostage. It was one of his neighbors, the person holding them hostage was screaming for Lightning and if he didn't see Lightning, he'd pull the trigger. "The only way you can save him is by accepting the power that I granted you previously.", the lightning spirit said to him. Joseph's hand balled up into a fist, this entire day had gone south in a hurry and he wasn't exactly ready to deal with any of this. "I'll handle this.", Wallace said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Wallace, I need you to go to the Museum, make sure that everything is alright.", Joseph replied. Wallace nodded and walked into a closet, when he walked out, he was Wind. The two of them nodded at each other as Wallace opened up the window and jumped out. Joseph watched him hover down to the ground and start running as soon as he hit the ground.

"Joseph, you know that you've literally sent away the only person that can save that man other than yourself.", the lightning spirit asked. Joseph nodded slightly, he knew about this, but he took the risk for a reason. He walked into the same closet that Wallace did. It was tight and cramped, but he didn't care. "I accept the powers that you bestowed upon me nineteen years ago. I accept them because I have no other choice at this juncture. I sent Wind to make sure those at the museum were safe. The only person that can save my neighbor is me. But I'm done with being Lightning.", Joseph said. He closed his eyes and became more in sync with the Lightning spirit within. "So what name are you going to take this time, Joseph?", the Lightning spirit asked. A costume started to form around him, this one was different from his old costume. Gone was the small cape, gone was the form fitting spandex suit. This one more fit his tastes, especially with the coat. As the mask formed around his face to conceal his identity, he emblazoned his own insignia on the shirt. "Thunder.", Joseph said calmly as he walked out of the closet.

He walked over to the window and heard the door open. Mitsuki was standing there. "Joseph, you're...", she said, looking at him. Joseph smiled slightly. "Can you keep this a secret?", he asked. "Yes, of course.", she responded. "Thank you.", he said as he climbed into the window. The Lightning spirit spoke up. "Do not be afraid, I will help you survive the impact with the ground.", it said to him. "I certainly hope so, or this is going to be a real short trip.", Joseph replied. Joseph leapt out the window. He fell rapidly towards the ground and realized how insane this was, but he concentrated his power almost instinctively. He slammed into the ground and the shock was enough to bring him to his knees. He caught himself with his hand and looked up. There was a group of people looking at him. "The second hero to come out of that hospital. These people are doing a charity. They're amazing!", one of the people said. Joseph stood up and walked past them. Soon he broke into a run, he recognized the building that his neighbor was being held in front of and he had to get there... and fast...

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Chapter 16

Keith awoke to his alarm blaring in the morning. He sleepishly hit the alarm button and sighed as he climbed out of bed. He took a look at his phone and realized that he did oversleep slightly, but it was of little consequence. He was still going to be able to get to work on time. He walked out of his bedroom and down to his bathroom where he shaved and put on deodorant. He looked out the window to see snow and shook his head. "Looks like Blizzard decided to make it snow again. Wish they wouldn't do that...", he muttered to himself, slightly annoyed at the snowy situation. There was a knock on his door and Keith rolled his eyes. He walked back to the bedroom and put on some pants. He walked over to the door and opened it, he nearly slammed it the moment he saw who was on the other side. "What do you want, Wallace?", he said. "I'm here to see Joseph Adams, you know him.", Wallace said. "He's my co-worker, what of it?", he replied. "Don't play coy with me, Gavin. I know who you are and who you work for. All I'm here to do is see my friend.", Wallace said. "Fine, he lives down at the apartment complex on the other side of town, but I doubt you'll be able to find him there. I heard from Celeste that his neighbor is in the local hospital.", he responded coldly. "Well then, I'll try the hospital then.", Wallace said, turning around. "Oh right, there's a detective here looking for Lightning. I'm pretty sure you know he's really looking for Joseph, right?", Wallace said without turning towards him. "Yeah, I know. I guess that Joseph will get what's coming to him.", Keith responded.

Keith closed the door and walked back to his bedroom where he got dressed fully for his job and he walked over to the kitchen. He pulled out a frying pan and made himself an omelette, which he proceeded to eat straight out of the pan. He couldn't shake the feeling of why he felt like today wasn't going to be an exactly typical day, but he tried to ignore it. As he ate his breakfast, he brewed up some coffee and drank it straight from the pot. He walked back to his room and threw on a jacket, expecting it to be brutally cold outside, but the moment he walked out his front door, he noticed something off. It was chilly, but not unbearable. He walked over to his car and pulled out his keys. He unlocked the door and climbed into the car, closing the door behind him and putting the keys into the ignition. He turned the car on and checked his mirrors and then pulled out of his driveway.

The drive to his workplace was relatively quiet and he still managed to arrive slightly early. He saw Celeste there, standing in front of the door with Charles. He parked his car and took the keys out of the ignition, slipping them into his pocket. He locked his car as he climbed out of it and closed the door behind him, walking to the front of the museum. It was there that he saw someone he didn't recognize. "Did we hire a new intern or something?", he asked. "No, I couldn't get a babysitter, so I decided to bring my daughter along.", Charles responded. "Your daughter? Isn't she twenty? Also doesn't she look somewhat like you?", Keith responded, a bit surprised at that comment. "I'm capable of sarcasm. My niece wanted to see if she couldn't see what you guys do. See if she wanted to work at a museum for a career.", Charles responded. "Ah, that's always nice to do for your family. Well then, milady, I hope you do enjoy being around here. It's usually slow but...", Keith said, trailing off when he noticed an expensive car pull up.

Celeste walked over to the car and the man got out. Keith recognized who it was, but paid no attention to him as Charles unlocked the door. The three of them walked into the museum and Charles started giving his niece a tour. Keith sighed slightly and walked towards the back room. He felt a bit lonely without Joseph here, even if his father wanted to kill him if he ever became Lightning again and refused to join their organization. Joseph was his best friend, he had been for years. He closed his locker and walked out. "You look a bit sullen there, Keith. Want to talk about it?", Charles said, taking notice. "Nah, I just miss Joseph. He never missed a day of work, it's strange to not see him here.", he replied. "I hear that. Mind if my niece follows you around the museum for a bit?", Charles asked him. "I mean... it's a monday morning, no one is going to arrive til after lunch.", he replied. "True. Well, Cassidy, you can explore the museum. All that happens is that people generally come in and look at the exhibits.", Charles said to his niece, who nodded and wandered off.

Keith did the same and as he stated before, nothing was going to happen til after lunch. At about 11:30, he decided to walk towards the front door. "I'm going to take my lunch break a bit early, boss.", he called out. "Alright, Keith.", Celeste said. Keith left the building and entered his car. He started it out and pulled out of the parking lot. As he drove out of the lot, a car pulled in, and he didn't get a good look at the person behind the wheel, but he didn't pay much mind to it. He drove to a burger place as he was feeling a burger for some reason and when he pulled in, his phone rang. "Keith, do you know anything about Lightning, this person keeps saying you do.", Celeste asked the moment he answered his phone. "I don't, but I hear that Joseph has crossed paths with him, I'm sure you should ask him if that's the case.", he replied, knowing that he was lying to his boss. "Alright then.", she said. Keith hung up the phone and walked out of his car.

He walked into the burger joint and walked over to the counter. "Hey, Keith, my best customer. You want the usual, right?", the man said. "You know it, Tariq.", he responded. He walked over to a table and sat down and watched the television on the wall. It was some sports game, for some reason they were playing early in the day. After a while, Keith started to tune it out. Tariq walked over to him, "You've singlehandedly come here every day. Tell me, Keith, where do you get all of that money from?", the man asked him as he placed a tray on the table as well as the drink. "I work at a museum, pays surprisingly good money.", Keith said as a reply. It wasn't completely true, but it was true enough. "Ah, guess they're paying you quite well then.", Tariq said as Keith picked up the burger and bit into it. It was, as always, an incredibly delicious burger. After swallowing the bite, Keith smiled. "You've always had the best burgers in town, Tariq.", Keith replied, pulling out his wallet and handing him a twenty dollar bill.

Suddenly the news came on and Keith's eyes were drawn to it. "We are coming to you live from city hall where a man is holding someone hostage and demanding that Lightning come out or he will kill his hostage. We have been informed that the police will be arriving soon to deal with this man, but one thing remains on the minds of the people. Where are the heroes of this city!?", the newscaster called out. Keith watched as someone sped onto the scene and stopped. Though he was wearing a different costume, he knew who was really under that mask. Keith stood up from his table. "I'd like to get all of this to go, please.", he said, obviously distracted. "Alright, Keith. I'll get you a box.", Tariq said. Tariq walked to the back and came out with a box to put the food in. Keith nodded and put his food in the box and grabbed his drink. "Thanks for the meal, Tariq, I'll be sure to eat this when I get more time.", he said with a smile. "I know you will, Keith. You're my best customer after all!", Tariq said as Keith rushed out the door.

He unlocked his car and climbed in hurriedly. He started the car and buckled up, putting his drink in the cupholder and his food on the other seat. He drove out of the parking lot and sped down the roads to his home, where he climbed out of the car without ever turning it off. He stormed into his house and then all the way to his bedroom closet where he had kept his pistol. He pulled the box out of his closet and checked to see that the safety was still on. He then ejected the cartridge to see the amount of ammo he had left. He noticed that it was full. He grabbed the holster from the shelf and placed it on his belt and put the gun in it. He knew for a fact that it was loaded, it had been for years. But suddenly he froze. Could he possibly threaten or even kill his co-worker and friend... would his father even really grant him his freedom if he gave him what he wanted. He walked back to his car and closed his eyes for a moment.

He climbed into the car and turned it on. He buckled in and pulled out of his driveway. He started to drive towards the apartment that Joseph lived in. His mind kept racing and his hands started to shake. He honestly didn't know if he could do this to a man he had worked closely with for the last six years of his life. Even if his father considered him a grave threat to people. He had no idea what was going on at the moment, but he knew for a fact that he needed to carry out his mission. As he drove down the road, he looked down at his fuel gauge, he was still nearly full on fuel, so he was thankful for that. He pulled into the apartment complex and quietly drove to the building that Joseph lived at. He parked the car and turned off the ignition and placed his head against the steering wheel. He didn't want to do this, he didn't want to have to put a gun in his friend's face.

He grabbed his phone and dialed a specific number and waited. "Hello.", the voice on the other side responded. "Put my fucking father on the line.", Keith called out, tears forming in his eyes as anger bubbled up from within. He felt his body tense up, his teeth clench. "Ah, there's my disappointment of a son. If you're calling to back out of this assignment, know our deal. You'll shut up and continue working with me.", his father said on the other side. "I'm sure you've seen the news by now. You don't think I know you have spies up here, you son of a bitch. You honestly think that I was stupid enough to not notice that you had been watching pretty much my every fucking move? You are the stupidest motherfucker on the planet if you think that I'm that unobservant. One of your goddamn spies tried to give me a new phone that you approved of, you son of a bitch!", Keith yelled into the phone. "Well Gavin, if that's how you feel. Then I guess I'm not going to let you go after all.", his father said on the other line. "No, we had a deal you bastard. I would capture or kill Lightning and then I'll be free!", Keith said, very pissed off. "Oh, a deal? We had a verbal agreement, there was no contract between us, no handshake, nothing. There was no deal, son.", his father said. Keith was furious. "After this, you and I part ways. I don't ever want to see you or your spies again. I don't ever want to hear from you again after this. If I do, I swear to you that I will do everything in my power to bring you and your organization down!", Keith said before ending the call.

He turned his phone off and placed it in his pocket as he climbed out of the car. He slammed the door behind him and stormed to the steps. He stomped his way up the stairs, still furious and then when he got to Joseph's door he sighed and calmed down. He pulled his shirt and jacket over his gun to hide it as he knocked on the door. While he was expecting Joseph to answer the door, he instead found a dark skinned man at the door when it was opened. "Hey, you're Keith, right?", the man asked him. "Yeah, that's me. Is Joseph home, yet?", Keith responded. "Not yet, but if you wait for a bit, I'm sure he'll arrive soon.", the man said. "The name's Jamal, by the way.", the man continued. "Nice to meet you Jamal.", Keith said as Jamal opened the door. Keith nodded and walked in, heading towards the guest bedroom. "I think I'll just sit in here for a bit. Can you tell Joseph when he arrives that I came to see him?", Keith said. "Sure thing, do you need anything else?", Jamal said in a friendly tone. "Thank you, but I'm good.", Keith responded as he entered the guest bedroom. He walked over to the bed and sat down on it with a frown, he had mixed feelings about what he was going to do. He didn't want to do it, but he felt like he had no choice. His own father had betrayed him, but still he wanted to do what he promised.

His mind continued to wander and race for the next half hour, til Jamal's voice broke the silence. "Hey, Joseph! Keith said he wanted to talk to you, he's in the guest bedroom.", Jamal said. "Alright, I'll go see what he wants.", Joseph's voice called out. Keith pulled out his gun and turned the safety off. He chambered the first round and placed both his hands on the grip. He intended to fire the weapon if necessary, so only at that moment did he place his index finger near the trigger. He slowly walked towards the closet as he heard the doorknob be turned. Once in the closet, he closed the door just enough to where he wouldn't be easily seen, but he would be able to see Joseph as he passed. As Joseph walked into the room, he opened the door and pointed the gun at him.

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Chapter 17

As Joseph ran along the sidewalk towards his destination, his mind raced about what he was going to find at City Hall. He realized quickly he wouldn't be able to reach his destination in time through the crowded sidewalks so he ran into the street and tried a technique that he remembered doing as a kid. His running speed started to increase as he weaved between the cars. "This is almost like riding a bicycle. If riding a bicycle was anything like having powers over electricity.", he said with a slight smirk. He didn't want to admit to it, but it did feel good to be able to use his powers again. He quickly turned onto a road that led deeper into the city. He continued to run as fast as he did, weaving through traffic, until he reached a barricade that was supposed to block people off from entering the area. He jumped over the barricade and landed on his feet.

He looked up and saw a man in the window look at him and he saw that man bring a hostage to the window, placing a gun against the hostage's head. He walked over to one of the police officers. "Might I borrow that for a second?", he said calmly. "Who are you?", the officer responded. "I'm just a hero.", he said in response. The officer nodded and handed Joseph the megaphone. He turned it on and spoke into the microphone, "I hear that you're looking for Lightning. Lightning has retired a long time ago, but I guess you could say that I know him, would I be acceptable?", he said. There was silence and all of the sudden, Joseph had an idea. "One of you, can you call up City Hall and hand the phone to me?", he said. One of the officers nodded and dialed a number, then handed him the phone. He placed it against his ear and no sooner did he do so, did a voice speak up. "I know you aren't Lightning, why are you wasting my time?", the voice said. "You're right, I'm not him, but I knew him personally. You can say that I've known him my entire life. He's retired, but I am his successor. Whatever...", he said before being interrupted. "I know your voice, it hasn't changed much in the last ten years. Alright, come in and I'll release the hostages.", the voice on the other side said before the phone hung up.

Joseph handed the officer back his phone. "I'm going in. If I'm not back out in fifteen minutes, send a squad in after me.", he said. "Understood, hero.", the officer replied. Joseph walked towards the door of City Hall. He felt a massive weight occupy his shoulders. For the first time in ten years, he was using his powers, not only that, he was using them to save someone else. He wasn't a kid anymore, this wasn't a game anymore. This was an actual serious situation, this was a crime. He opened the doors of the building and walked in, closing them behind him. "I'm here.", he said. "Step away from the door and come to the Mayor's office.", the voice called out. He nodded and walked down the hallway, electricity sparking around his hands. He was expecting some sort of trap when he reached the office. He placed his hand on the door and turned the knob, moving towards the side as he threw it open. "Come in, there is no need to be paranoid.", the voice said. Joseph nodded and walked into the room. "Let the hostages go.", Joseph said, in a demanding voice. "They're free to leave, even the Mayor here.", the man said.

Joseph turned to see the hostages leave and watched the man let go of the Mayor who scrambled out and left. "I was just here to smoke you out of hiding, do you think that I don't know what they're going to do to me once they catch me?", the man said, raising his gun. Joseph acted fast and almost on impulse. His hand shot out as a bolt of lightning arced from his hand into the man's arm, forcing all of the muscles to contract forcing the man to fire into the desk. "You will not escape the punishment that the law has set for you.", Joseph said, sternly. "Says the man who has the blood of another on his hands.", the man said with a smile. "You're nothing more than a murderer, Lightning.", the man continued with his smirk. "There's nothing I can do about what I did, but I've already paid for my crimes. You however have created an entire hostage situation to get to me. For what reason? To kill me?", Joseph said in a defiant manner. "No, this is a trap. Inverse's son will be here to arrest you at any moment.", the man said with a smirk. "Don't bother trying to escape, you can't.", he continued.

Joseph heard the cocking of a gun behind him. "I'll take this from here, hero.", the voice said. He turned back to see a man that looked almost exactly like Inverse did back then. "I thought I told the police to stay back.", Joseph responded. "I don't work for this police department. But I'm fairly certain they won't complain if I were to bring in the man who held the Mayor of this city hostage. Tell me, what do you call yourself?", Joannes said calmly, motioning for Joseph to step out of the way. "Thunder.", he responded. "Thunder, if you would please, leave the rest of this situation to the police, you've done enough.", Joannes said. Joseph wasn't going to argue, he knew this was the man that Wallace had warned him about. He walked out of the building and suddenly cameras and journalists started to swarm him. But he quietly walked through the crowd.

Once free, he ran back to the hospital where he found a secluded corner of a parking garage to return to his civilian attire. He walked back to the building that Caleb was being held at and entered the elevator, going back up to the fifth floor. He noticed that he was slightly disheveled as the elevator opened up to the fourth floor. Wallace was standing there. Joseph nodded as Wallace entered the elevator. "There wasn't any actual danger to the museum. Turns out Joannes decided to visit there to see if there was any information about Lightning.", he said. "I'm still not returning, Wallace.", Joseph replied. "I respect that, but I'm quitting, Joseph. I'm not liking what I'm seeing. It ain't right. Renegades are disappearing almost as fast as they keep appearing, it's... saddening, to be honest. But we cannot talk about this here... do you know where we'll be safe to discuss this?", Wallace said with a question at the end. "My apartment, maybe Mitsuki would be willing to take you with us back there.", Joseph replied with a shrug.

The two of them walked back to Caleb's hospital room where Mitsuki was standing. "Where have you been?", she asked. "Their directions weren't quite clear, I apologize.", Joseph lied. "Who's this?", she said, looking at Wallace. "I'm Wallace, an old friend of Joseph's. We've known each other since elementary school.", Wallace said as he wrapped his arm around the back of Joseph's neck. "Oh, well. A copy of the will has been brought out and... according to Meredith, you're in it. One of Caleb's sons is livid about this.", she said. "I think we should go then, you got a copy of the will?", Joseph said, with a question at the end. "Yeah. Right here.", Mitsuki said as she pulled it out. "Mind if Wallace returns with us to my apartment? It'd be good for old friends to catch up at my place, and I might even let him stick around for a few days.", Joseph asked. "Not at all, he's more than welcome to come.", Mitsuki said with a slight smile.

The three of them walked back towards the elevator and descended back down to the first floor. As they walked out of the hospital and towards the parking garage, Mitsuki asked a question. "So, Wallace, how'd you and Joseph meet?", she asked. "Simple, really. We first met in second grade when Joseph and I started school that year. We've been friends ever since, even if he did pull a disappearing act on me ten years ago.", Wallace replied with a smile. "It's true, Wallace and I have known each other for the last nineteen years.", Joseph replied. Mitsuki nodded as the three of them climbed into her car. As they buckled up, Joseph looked out the window and then back to Wallace. "You alright with being back there, man?", he said. "Yeah, I'll be fine. This ain't any problem, Joseph. Worry about yourself.", Wallace said with a smirk.

The three of them drove to Joseph's apartment, the trip was rather quiet, with Joseph not entirely knowing how to feel about the fact that Wind was here with him and in the same car, but he wasn't being hostile at the moment which was good enough for him. "So how's Tamara?", Joseph found himself asking for some reason. "Who is Tamara?", Mitsuki asked with an arched brow. "Oh, this guy's ex-girlfriend. They used to date in Junior year of high school, but broke up during senior year.", Wallace mentioned, hiding the fact that Joseph and Tamara were Lightning and Tornado, the leaders of the Weather Team and Weather Force respectively. Joseph nodded to confirm this. "She's also someone I've known since I was little. You might hear me ask about a lot of the old classmates, Mitsuki. Just natural since I haven't seen them in a decade.", Joseph said with a smile. "Alright then.", she responded. "Tamara's very different from when you last saw her. She used to be a good friend to the lot of us, but she's become very distant over the last few years and very unpleasant to be around.", Wallace responded. "What about Daniel?", Joseph asked. "Your twin brother? He's been pretty chill, all things considered. Joseph, I was going to save this til we got to your place, but the reason I want you to come back isn't for the old group. Your father's in the hospital, Joseph.", Wallace said. Joseph didn't care much for his family, they were quick to cut off all contact with him and even write him out of the will when he was arrested years ago.

There was silence between the three of them as they pulled into the parking lot. "You're just going to ignore your own father?", Mitsuki asked. "It's complicated.", Joseph responded. "Well, I've got to get to work, will you both be alright?", she asked as both Joseph and Wallace climbed out of the car. "Joseph has me here, I'll take good care of him, don't you worry.", Wallace said with a smirk. "Alright, I'm counting on you, Wallace.", Mitsuki responded as she pulled back out. The two of them walked to the stairs and walked up the stairs. Joseph opened the door to his apartment. "This is where I...", he said, noticing that the guest bedroom door was cracked. He left it closed all the time. He walked in and noticed Jamal on the couch. "Wallace, you make yourself at home, I'm going to check something out real quick.", he said, solemnly. "Alright then.", Wallace said as he walked over to the couch.

Joseph opened the door to the guest bedroom as quietly as he could and closed it behind him. He walked along the wall and when he got to the corner, his hand crackled with electricity. He didn't know who the intruder was, but he was going to throw them out. He turned the corner and that's when his heart sank. In his face was the barrel of a pistol, and behind that barrel was Keith. "K-Keith!?", he called out, shocked at this. "I'm sorry, Joseph. But I got to do this.", Keith said, pain in his voice. "You... you don't have to do this, Keith. Not at all.", Joseph said, not even really pleading for his life. "Keith, you're my best friend. You and I have worked for the last six years, we've enjoyed time together, we've hung out, gone to bars and gotten drunk with each other.", he said. "No, I got drunk, you sorta pretended to. I know who you are, Lightning.", Keith said. "Avenging your father won't bring him back, Keith.", Joseph said in response. "Avenging my father? My father's still alive, I was given orders to capture or kill you if you ever became Lightning again, Joseph.", Keith responded. "You don't want to kill me, Keith. You're a good person, your conscience will never let you live it down. You'll continue to have nightmares, every night about that act. I should know, I killed Inverse, after all.", Joseph said, calmly. The gun started to waver, this is exactly what Joseph wanted. "You know your father won't let you go free, Keith. If your father is who I think he is, he's paranoid all because he thinks that Inverse was the one who killed your mother. I was there at the attack, Inverse didn't kill anyone. He wasn't even there. He was framed for everything that day.", Joseph continued. Keith lowered the gun and put the safety on.

"You're right, Joseph.", Keith said. "Yo, so you're... Lightning and you've been Lightning this entire time?", Jamal said. "Sorry, I couldn't stop him from eavesdropping.", Wallace said. "I'm not going to join you in a crusade against my father, Joseph. I know how much you hate registration groups.", Keith said as he stood up. "I don't hate registration groups. I hate the fact that there's only one for the entire world, and it's because your father is paranoid. Keith, you wanted freedom. Can I ask that we continue to work together?", Joseph replied. "In what capacity?", Keith asked. "You have connections that could be useful. I want to show the world that even unregistered metahumans can be saviors and I want to use that to form more registration groups. I believe people like me should be registered. The sheer amount of power someone like me wields... it's not like other people. What do you say, old friend?" Joseph said as he extended his hand. "We shall see, but I'll agree to it for now. Promise that you won't openly declare war on my father?", Keith said in response. "I promise.", Joseph said. The two of them shook hands. "As for you, Jamal. You can feel free to walk free from all of this if you want, but if you start talking about this, the police might bust you on charges of conspiracy. So if you do choose to walk away, I ask you to stay quiet about all this, I don't want you to get into trouble.", Joseph said to Jamal. "Shit, I'm in trouble either which way, at least this way, I get to use my smarts to help people. Count me in!", Jamal said. "What about you, Wallace?", Joseph said as he turned to his old friend. "I can't ever be considered a renegade, but the disappearances of renegades down south, followed by a disturbing number of corpses showing up in morgues. Said corpses being the renegades, I can't say that I happen to like the organization that I'm part of. Count me in as the only registered member of your group. Might help with Public Relations.", Wallace said with a smirk. "It's decided. Thank you all. Now if anyone needs anything, my house is your house for now, but Jamal and I have a thesis to work on.", Joseph said before walking to a desk and getting out a thesis. "Let's do it, then.", Jamal said with a smirk, the two of them getting to work on it.

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Chapter 18

A few days had passed, they were rather quiet, allowing Joseph to complete work on editing and rewriting his thesis. However, the day he was most dreading had arrived. He stepped out of the car to walk in front of a funeral home. The weather was clear and sunny, even if the cold bit into him. He turned around and looked at the widow. "Meredith, are you sure that you want me to come, ever since I got that record player, your son has been quite hostile towards me.", he said. "It's quite alright, dear. You were like a grandson to Caleb, he'd want you to be here.", she replied. Joseph nodded and helped her onto the sidewalk. He walked over to the door and opened it, holding it open for her. He hid his true feelings and wore a mask of calmness so that no one would know exactly how deep the wound went. "Thank you, dear.", Meredith said as she walked past him. "You're welcome.", Joseph said with a slight smile, entering after she did.

It was not often that he wore a suit, he found them to be rather stuffy and restrictive, but it's what Meredith told him to wear. He silently thanked Keith for renting this for him. He walked beside her through the hall, and helped her into one of the seats. "Who do you think you are, coming here like that? You stole from my family. You manipulated my father!", a voice behind him said. "I won't let you do the same to my mother.", the voice continued. "A funeral is a time for mourning. I would rather not disrespect Caleb's memory by fighting here at his funeral.", Joseph replied with a calm voice, despite the fact that he did indeed want to turn around and punch the elderly man in the jaw for being antagonistic towards him for the last few days, all over a record player and some vinyl records.

There was silence, which Joseph was thankful for as he placed his hand on Meredith's shoulder. "I'm going to step outside real quick.", he said to her. "Alright, dear. You be careful now.", she replied. Joseph walked out of the funeral home and checked his cell phone. He had a missed call from Keith. He called Keith up and heard the phone ring for a while. "Hello, Joseph.", Keith's voice said. "Hey Keith, what'd you need me for?", he replied. "Well, I was wondering if you wanted to hang out at the mall later. I know your past with malls and you know mine, but... you know...", Keith said, trailing off. "Keith... ever since we've found out each oth... hold on a second.", Joseph said, turning to see Caleb's son walking out the door as he put the phone on hold. "You don't belong here, you're not part of the family, Joseph. I don't know why my dad felt it right to give you what should go to us.", Caleb's son called out. "David, don't you understand that what you're saying. Caleb helped me for six years, all I ever did was repay the favor by helping him out and keeping him company. Don't you think your father ever wanted company?", Joseph said in response. "You didn't keep him company, you...", David said before being cut off. "In the entire time I've been living here, you've never visited your father, none of you ever have. That's six years. Yet the moment he passes away, you all show up like vultures to a freshly killed carcass. You never cared about your own goddamn father, all you care about is getting your inheritance!", Joseph snapped at him.

Joseph turned around and grabbed the door to the funeral home when something struck him in the back of the head. He let go of the door and wheeled about to face David. "You have the courage to strike me when my back is turned, but you don't have the courage to punch me in the face. I don't want to fight you, not here. Not today, but if you really do want to punch me.", he said, brow furrowed. He pointed at his face. "One free shot, I'll give you that. You can punch me if you want, cause I know you want to. But after that, you will be polite to me in order to honor your father. I could care less about what you think of me, but I will be damned if my friend's memory is dishonored.", he continued. David drew his arm back and stopped. "Come on, David, right in the face.", Joseph said annoyed. David's arm dropped. "Alright, how about this, you punch me in the face, or I press charges on you for assault.", Joseph said. "Those charges won't stick, who is going to believe you?", David retorted. Joseph merely pointed to a security camera. David looked up at the security camera and then at Joseph, visibly a bit nervous. "Now, you wouldn't do that to me, would you? I'm an elderly man, I wouldn't last a few days in prison.", David said, panicked. "I'm going inside, David.", Joseph said sternly.

He turned around and grabbed the door again, this time he saw David's reflection in the glass and he avoided the punch as it broke the glass, cutting up David's hand. "Oh, now you're definitely going to have a day in court. That's property damage right there.", Joseph said, calmly as he opened the door and walked in. One of Caleb's granddaughters walked down the hall. "Grandma was worried about the... what happened?", she gasped. "One of Caleb's sons is... being a bit violent about the fact that I inherited something, even if it wasn't much at all.", Joseph responded. "Oh, don't listen to him, he's a liar he...", David started. "Remember, there is security footage David, if you start trying to slander me, I will, under no circumstances not hesitate to call the police the moment this funeral is over. Right now, your fate is up to the owners of this place.", Joseph said as he interrupted David.

Joseph walked away from this and back to his seat as the minister walked up. Joseph raised his hand. "Excuse me sir, before you start, I would just like to say a few words. I know this isn't my job and all, but...", he said. "You may speak your piece, child.", The minster said to him. Joseph walked up and looked at Caleb in the casket, tears welling in his eyes, but he held them back. He turned around to the podium and stood behind it. "It would bring Caleb joy to know that his family is here to mourn his passing. He always spoke to me about how he was never visited by anyone. But the truth is, I'm not just his neighbor. Six years ago, Caleb helped me when I needed help most. I had just gotten out of prison, I was on parole, I needed to find a job and a place to live within a month or I'd go back to prison. He was the one that allowed me to get that apartment in the first place. I've never felt like my debt has ever truly been repaid. Caleb was a rather happy man with a lot of sagely advice. He enjoyed having me over every day for lunch and I'd come over to have dinner with him on the days that I didn't have to work late. He's the entire reason I'm where I'm at right now...", Joseph said. He turned to the casket and looked at Caleb. "Wherever you are, my friend, I hope you're brightening the days of others. And I just want to thank you for all the wonderful time we had together.", Joseph continued.

He nodded towards the minister and walked back to his seat. As he sat down the minister started talking. "Caleb Rhodes was a wonderful man. He was the father of David, Miranda, Kayla, and Christopher Rhodes and the grandfather of their children. He was also as you've heard from this young man's speech a wonderful friend.", the Minister said, pointing to him upon saying young man. "Not only that, but he was a valued member of this community, especially when he was younger. He put so much time and effort into this city, he loved it and the people of the city dearly, to the point where he himself would go out and fundraise and even build shelters for the homeless, he would feed the poor his own food and go hungry if he had to. Even in his last will and testament, he said that he doesn't want us to mourn his loss, but rather remember what he brought into our lives. Remember his accomplishments and all of the good times. Caleb was truly a gift of our Lord, brought to us in a time we needed him the most. And now, he is reunited with the Lord. Do not forget that he will forever live on in our hearts.", the Minister said.

Everyone rose from their seats and Meredith turned to Joseph. "Are you coming to the burial?", she asked. "No, I think I'm going to go head home. Your eldest son doesn't really like me and I'd rather avoid causing any unnecessary drama.", he replied. Meredith hugged him. "I understand, dear. How are you going to get home though?", she asked. "Keith can drive, don't worry about it, Meredith. I'll be fine. Don't worry though, I'll still visit for lunch and dinner, so you don't have to worry about being alone.", he replied. "Thank you, dear, but you don't have to go through all that trouble for me.", she said. "It's no trouble at all, you are a good friend of mine.", he replied. "That means a lot to me, Joseph, you take care of yourself, okay?", she said to him. "Alright, Meredith. I will.", he replied.

The two of them parted ways and Joseph walked along the sidewalk. He pulled out his phone and called up Keith. Before he could connect to him, Wallace pulled up next to him in a car. "Get in.", he said. Joseph hung up and climbed into the car with Wallace. "You know, we used to get ice cream when we were sad as kids.", Wallace said to him as he buckled up. Wallace hit the accelerator of the car and pulled away from the sidewalk. "So you're going to take me to an ice cream shop, Wallace?", Joseph asked. "Look, man. You just lost a good friend of yours. You got to be thinking of Sarah and Ronnie. After all, it was the reason you left us in the first place.", Wallace said. Joseph looked out the window. "That's not true, Wallace. I left partly because of that, but also because... I was always meant to kill Inverse. I was trained for that specific job, Wallace... it was... not exactly the greatest moment of my life. It was because of my arrogance, my mistake that two of our friends are dead. All of this is why I left.", Joseph responded.

Joseph felt Wallace's hand on his shoulder. "You have to admit, some ice cream would be good for you right about now. It'd ease your mind and your heart.", he said. "Whatever. You're buying.", Joseph said in response. Wallace laughed and Joseph started to think quite a bit. "Wallace, if it came down to it and I had to fight the Weather Force, whose side would you be on...", he asked. Wallace was silent for a bit. "Theirs, Joseph. I'm sorry, but...", Wallace started. "It's fine, Wallace. If it ever comes to that, I want you to know that I won't hold back, but I'll do all I can to avoid hurting you too much.", Joseph said quietly. The two of them looked at each other and nodded. "I hope it never comes to that, Joseph. I really do.", Wallace said solemnly as he parked at an ice cream parlor and turned off the car.

The two of them walked into the store and Wallace looked at him. "Whatever you want, man. I'll pay for it.", he said. Joseph walked over to a frozen yogurt tin dispenser and grabbed one of the sixteen ounce cups. He then walked over to each flavor and put them into the cup. "You have... over a pound of frozen yogurt....", Wallace said in disbelief. "You're going to gain so much...", he continued. "Nah, my metabolism is crazy fast, remember. I could eat all this and not ever gain a pound.", Joseph said with a smile as he walked over to the toppings and piled them high. Wallace ordered his ice cream just as Joseph walked over. The person at the counter gave Joseph a look of disbelief. "That'll be... twenty-five dollars and thirty-seven cents.", the guy at the counter said. Wallace nodded and pulled out a twenty and a ten dollar bill. "Keep the change.", he said. The two of them walked over to a table and Joseph started eating his frozen yogurt.

"Remember back when we were kids, Joseph. When we were just... when all of this was a game to us...", Wallace muttered to him. "Yeah... that continued til that day, Wallace... I just... I don't know anymore. I thought that after I moved away, everything would be easy, that everything would fall into place. I thought I'd find my own place in the world, but here I am, back to doing the same exact thing that I did all those years ago, only difference is that I don't have a boss anymore.", Joseph responded. "You really wanted to get away from all this, didn't you?", Wallace asked. "Yes, I didn't want to show my face to you or the others ever again. It hurt to turn my back on my friends, but... I had no other choice. I couldn't look at you guys without not seeing them there with you. I just... couldn't take it anymore, so I just left.", Joseph responded. "I understand, Joseph, I do. If you don't want to come back with me, then that's fine, I won't make you. But your father asked to see you for some reason and specifically called up Casey to do it.", Wallace responded. "How is Casey, by the way?", Joseph asked. "He's doing alright, he misses you. He's been talking to his husband about you telling him that you're a good friend of his and how he can't wait to introduce him to you.", Wallace responded. "Ah, so he finally got married. That's good. Glad to see he took my advice and asked that guy out.", Joseph replied. Wallace nodded and the two of them talked for a while.

"Well, I gotta head back to my hotel. Would you like a ride back to the apartment, Joseph?", Wallace asked after about twenty minutes. "Nah, I'm going walk back home.", Joseph replied. "Alright then, Joseph, you stay safe, alright?", Wallace said to him with a smile. "I will and you too, Wallace.", Joseph said. The two of them walked out of the door together and Joseph waved to Wallace as he walked to the sidewalk. He walked along the sidewalk, in truth he was going to go back to his apartment, but he was taking a more scenic route as he needed time to think about things. As he walked, his mind wandered, memories of his time with Caleb flashed through his mind. As he walked into a park and stood in front of the statue in the middle of it, he asked himself a single question. Would he ever get used to this?

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Chapter 19

Night had fallen, and rain had begun falling, but Joseph didn't really care much as he wandered the streets of his hometown. He thought about what Wallace had told him about his family. He didn't particularly like them, he was estranged from most of them and they stopped acknowledging his existence since he had gone to prison, so he had no reason to reconnect, but at the same time, he longed to go back to the place he grew up. The very same place he had fought to protect when he was much younger. "I've been thinking, Danny, if we do get married and do get this place in that apartment, where's the other tenant going to go?", a woman asked near him. "I don't know, her neighbor seems like a good person. I hear he works at the museum.", a man said in response to her. This made Joseph stop. He turned to look at them. "I do apologize for interrupting, but would you perhaps be talking about the apartment complex down the road, building twelve, apartment thirty-four?", he asked them calmly. "Yeah, why?", the woman asked. "I'm the neighbor you just referred to.", he responded. "Ah, well, here's hoping you'll be a great neighbor.", the man called Danny said. Joseph nodded slightly, he didn't know what to say and was worried sick about Meredith now.

He walked into a nearby alleyway and closed his eyes. "Lightning Spirit, now would be a great time for that costume. I'd really rather not run back as fast as I can to the apartment without any way to hide my identity.", he whispered. "I would advise against that, the ground is slick and if you were to trip, the results could be fatal. The only reason that fall didn't kill you last time is that you were able to have the time to concentrate last time. Do you really think that having not practiced for years, you would be able to quickly divert your concentration to a defensive barrier dedicated to keeping your body from being torn apart from the sudden shock of an impact when you're running hundreds of miles per hour? Changing directions is one thing, but making decisions in less than a second? Without proper training you'll have difficulty doing that.", the spirit said within his mind. Joseph knew it was right and there was no use in arguing the point.

Joseph ran out of the alley anyhow, he started running as fast as his legs would take him without any of his powers. Naturally, he wasn't as fast as he could be with his powers, but he wasn't exactly slow either. He had to reach the apartment as soon as he could, as he had no idea what was going on over there. As he rounded the corner to enter his apartment complex, his left foot slipped and he fell and hit the ground, hard. As he picked himself off the ground, he felt a pain in his right shoulder. He checked to see if it was broken or dislocated, but all he found was a bit of tenderness in a single spot. He ignored the bruise on his shoulder and started running again for building twelve. The rain had started pouring down, he was soaked and the ground was getting more and more slippery. He felt his right foot slip this time and lowered his center of gravity, using his hand to catch himself on the sidewalk. He picked himself back up and kept running.

He arrived at building twelve, just in time to see a moving truck pull out. He slowed down and sighed. The truck stopped and the passenger motioned towards him. He walked up towards the window and the window rolled down. "Mom's moving in with one of her granddaughters. She wanted me to give you this.", the man said before holding a pendant out the window. "Where's said granddaughter?", Joseph asked. "She's in the next town over, if you want, you can come visit. I'll give you the address.", the man said, writing something down and handing him an address book. "Here, this is where she'll be living, in case you ever want to visit.", the man continued. Joseph nodded and took the address book. "Thanks, I'll be sure to visit when I can.", he replied. The moving truck continued to back out and Joseph watched as it drove off. He clutched onto the address book as he did so, thankful that the rain was hiding his tears. He had just lost one of his close friends a few days ago and another one had just moved away. He had promised to come visit her daily, but now it was going to be impossible to keep his promise.

He slowly walked up the stairs and approached his door, he was soaking wet. He went to knock on his door, but he decided to walk back down the stairs and go down to the first floor. As he arrived at the only door there, he sighed. He knocked on the door and waited for a while. Suddenly, the door opened and a man was standing there. "Hey, Jack, mind if I borrow a towel.", he said. "You're soaking wet, Joseph, you need to get those wet clothes off you and get into some dry clothes. Come in!", Jack said as he threw something on the floor. Joseph walked into the apartment and was given a towel to dry himself off enough to walk through the rest of the place. Alexis walked over and looked at him. "Fortunately, you and Jack are about the same size, I'm sure you'll be able to fit into his clothes while yours dry.", she said, startled. Joseph nodded and was handed some clothes to swap into. "Make sure you dry yourself completely, by the way.", Alexis said to him. Joseph nodded and walked into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind him. He stripped down out of his soaking wet clothing and dried himself off the best he could with a towel. He then looked at himself in a mirror. He noticed that he was growing a thick stubble on his face and decided that he'd shave when he got back home. He put on the dry clothing and bundled his soaking wet clothes in the two towels that he had used to dry himself.

He unlocked the door and walked out of the bathroom, handing the clothes to Alexis. "Here, I don't know where your dryer is.", he said. "You look a bit better, Joseph. You should bundle up with a blanket near a heater, that way you'll warm up and not risk getting sick so much.", Jack said to him, handing him a blanket. Joseph nodded and gratefully wrapped it around him as he walked into the living room. "I've never been in your place before. You guys have a real nice place. Though it's probably annoying when the people upstairs can get a little loud. I know it annoys me.", he said as he sat down on the couch. "Yeah, but you know, the rent was affordable. We just had a son when we first moved here eight years ago. Soon after, Alexis lost her job and I had to work multiple shifts. Things worked out in the end, Alexis got a new job and well, we've been able to help pay for our son's education.", Jack said.

A door opened up near them. "Dad, I'm having trouble with my math homework.", the voice said. "Well, come over here.", Jack said. Jack's son walked over and handed his homework to his father and then turned to see Joseph. "Hello, Mister Adams.", the boy said. "Hello.", Joseph responded. "Ah, Joseph, this is my son, Alan.", Jack said. "Ah. Alan, you were part of that field trip last Friday, weren't you?", Joseph asked. "Yeah, how'd you know about that?", Alan asked. "I work at the museum.", Joseph replied. "Wow, so you must be really smart, do you mind helping me with my math homework?", Alan asked. Jack chuckled. "He's here to dry off and wait for the rain to stop, once the rain stops, he'll be going back to his place.", he said. "It's not really a problem, he's in what? The fourth grade? It won't take me long to help out with a few simple math problems.", Joseph replied. Jack chuckled and handed the paper to Joseph. Joseph looked at it and noticed that all of the single digit multiplication was finished, but nothing else. "Ah, so you're having problem with double digit multiplication. It's very simple. Let's take this problem for example.", Joseph said, placing the sheet of paper on the table and pointing at one problem. "Forty-nine times three, right?", he said. "Yeah.", Alan responded. "Nine times three is twenty-seven. Well, instead of putting twenty-seven down here. I mean you could, but then you'd have to write down more math, so you place the two over the four to remind yourself that you add two to the resulting number. Three times four is twelve, but twelve plus two is fourteen. Meaning that the resulting answer is?", Joseph explained asking a question at the end. "One hundred and forty-seven?", Alan asked. "That's right.", Joseph said with a nod. He then pointed at another problem. "These are rather simple. Twenty-five times forty-six. Six times five is thirty, and six times two is twelve. Knowing what we did with the last problem, what do you get for the first answer?", Joseph asked, explaining to him. "One hundred and fifty? Also first answer?", Joseph nodded, "Yes, first answer. Now we put a place holder here, basically a zero. So no matter what, the end result of this digit is going to be zero. Then you multiply four times five to get twenty, then four times two to get eight, then add two to get ten. So now you have one thousand. What you do is add the two numbers to get...", Joseph explained. "One thousand one hundred and fifty?", Alan asked. "That's correct.", Joseph said. "What about the ones where I have to multiply three two digit numbers?", Alan asked. "Same principle really. If you have ten times ten times ten. You first multiply the first two numbers, which this one is simple, ten times ten is one hundred. Then you multiply your result from the first two numbers, by the third number. One hundred times ten is one thousand.", Joseph explained. "Thank you, Mister Adams.", Alan said before picking up his homework and going back to his room.

"I had never seen someone explain it so easily to him.", Jack said. "We were all in school at one point or another. I just retained what I learned in school.", Joseph said as he chuckled. "I had to be rather good at history though, my job demands it.", he continued. "So you work at the metahuman museum, eh?", Jack said to him with his arms folded. "Yep, we work to uncover the mystery of the metahumans, people born with strange powers through unexplained causes that have been living with normal humans for as long as humanity has been around. Why is it that you ask?", Joseph replied. "Some people consider metahumans to be dangerous is all. Thing is, I'm a registered metahuman. For some reason, I've always been able to remain unscathed when I touched fire, so I decided to become a firefighter. I figured I'd use my power to help people, but people tend to fear me, despite knowing that I could be their savior. Alexis... she was the first woman to learn the truth about me that didn't flee at the sight of me.", Jack said somberly. "Interesting.", Joseph replied. "You're not going to run away, are you?", Jack replied, a bit of annoyance in his voice. "I work with a transhuman at work. My co-workers are normal humans, but that doesn't mean that I treat Charles any differently.", Joseph responded, his arms folded. "I see, so tell me, Joseph. Why did you choose to work there?", Jack asked.

Joseph had no idea why he had chosen to work there, to be honest, Celeste was the only person willing to hire someone like him. He thought about any other reasons and then silently asked the spirit within him to see if there was some other reason, but the spirit didn't answer him. "I guess there wasn't any special reason. Doctor Delacruz was the only person who was willing to hire me after I got out of prison. It was a terrible time for me, and if it wasn't for Caleb and Celeste, I would've gone back to prison to serve out the rest of my sentence.", Joseph replied finally. "Ah, I heard about that. So you're the one who was on parole when you moved in here. I have to say, you're not the kind of man I imagined you to be. So how'd you go to prison anyhow?", Jack asked. "Someone tried to mug someone else, I got involved and beat that mugger unconscious. I went to prison for it.", Joseph replied. "Hmm, well, if you need anything, Alexis and I won't be too far.", Jack said as he turned on the television. "Alright.", Joseph said. Jack got up and started walking out of the living room. "Jack.", Joseph said, causing Jack to turn around. "Thanks for letting me stay here for a bit.", Joseph continued. "You're our neighbor, and I can see why Caleb trusted you so much. Try any relax, Joseph.", Jack said as he walked into his room. Joseph nodded and laid his head on the back of the couch cushion. He turned the channel onto the weather channel and just watched, hoping that the rain would let up soon.

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Chapter 20

Joseph awoke in the middle of the night to find that his clothes had been dried and set aside for him. He silently got undressed and put his clothes on, including his shoes. He smiled slightly as he quietly and gently folded the clothes he had just taken off and placed them on the washing machine. He grabbed his phone, keys and wallet off the table and placed them in his pocket as he walked over to the front door. He unlocked the door and opened it, making sure to lock it as it was open. He took extra care to gently close the door behind him to try not to wake anyone up. He heard the soft click of the latch entering the faceplate and nodded. He walked away from the door and quietly walked up the stairs when suddenly his phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at who was calling him at this hour. It was Keith for some reason. He answered the call and put the phone up to his ear. "Yeah, Keith.", he said quietly. "There's a robbery currently happening at a bar that isn't too far from where you live, would you like to go and stop it?", Keith said on the other side. "Sure thing, just... have to make sure no one can see me.", Joseph said quietly.

He hung the phone up and looked around, he noticed no one was around to see. He closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could, he focused on getting the help of the lightning spirit within him. He felt the bond between the two of them open up and a surge of power flowed through him. His costume started to form around him as his eye color changed from the usual grayish blue to a vibrant electric blue. When he finally opened his eyes, he started hearing a door open. "I thought I heard some commotion out here...", a voice said. Joseph didn't say a word, he just started running towards the exit of his apartment complex. He figured that the sooner he go out of there, the better. As he ran though, he started to speed up, he was in a hurry. As he ran, he realized he didn't really have a plan on how to stop the robbery at the bar in question. He shook his head slightly, he would figure something out.

He took a right and came across the bar. Out front was a still active car. Joseph knew he couldn't risk throwing a bolt of electricity towards it as he could ignite the fuel and start a fire which would cause collateral damage, in addition to potentially causing harm to innocents. His eyes darted towards the person in the car and he frowned slightly. He knew that any getaway driver that was worth anything would be armed. He wondered for a moment why no one had shot anyone yet. To his knowledge, bartenders were almost always universally armed, usually packing a loaded shotgun below the counter. He knew that he wouldn't have a lot of time to react to anything that was going on. But he extended one single arm and readied a bolt of electricity. He took aim at the door and as the first robber threw open the door, fired it quickly, hitting him square in the chest with fifty thousand volts. He made sure that the amperage was well below what was necessary to cause harm. He wanted to merely knock out said criminals, nothing more. The second armed robber raised his gun and Joseph hid behind the corner of a building. When no shots rang out, he closed his eyes and focused on finding the bio-electricity that the two remaining criminals were generating in their nervous system. Suddenly, he saw where he needed to aim and turned the corner, with two bolts of electricity at the ready. He quickly fired them off, catching them both in the chest and knocking them out.

As he walked towards the crime scene, his eyes now opened, the bartender walked out with a shotgun and aimed it at him. "You, who are you?", the bartender asked, in a panic. "Call me Thunder, I'm a new hero around here. Call the police and tell them that you'd like to report a robbery and that all three of the criminals have been incapacitated by a hero and are waiting to be apprehended.", Joseph said. Sirens stopped Joseph from walking away. Blue and red lights flashed as the cop cars arrived on the scene. Joseph couldn't help but smile as he resisted putting his hand on his hip. "You guys have gotten here quickly, but if it wasn't for me, you'd have to chase down these criminals.", Joseph called out. "I've never seen you around before. I guess you're a new transfer?", a police officer called out as he climbed out of the car. "Nope, I'm just a guy who wants to help out wherever I go, if I'm going to be honest. There ain't any regulations against that, if memory serves.", Joseph replied. "No, there aren't. But if you wouldn't mind, tell me who you are so we can look you up in the registry.", the officer said. "You won't find me there, I've recently adopted a new name and a new costume. I filed my paperwork and am waiting approval, but you know, you could try my old name.", Joseph said, not really wanting to draw attention to himself, but he doubted seriously that these cops would report him to said organization. "Alright then. What was it?", the officer asked him. Joseph walked towards the officer, hands in plain sight. When he got close, he lowered the volume of his voice. "I used to be Lightning. I haven't been active in the last ten years.", he said to the officer, making sure no one else could hear him. The officer checked the database and looked over at him again. "Everything checks out. It was a pleasure to meet you, Thunder.", the officer said with a nod. "You're free to return to your patrol or go to your hideout or whatever it is that you were going to do."

Joseph nodded with a smile and left the area to go back to his apartment complex. He deliberately took a few detours in order to throw off any pursuers. He didn't quite enter the complex when someone spoke behind him. "Your powers remind me of his.", the voice said. Joseph turned around and looked around. "Show yourself.", Joseph said, annoyance sneaking its way into his voice. After all, all he wanted to do is go back home and go to sleep so that he wouldn't be bone tired in the morning. "I know who you are... Joseph Adams.", the voice said. "You... who are you? Why do you sound familiar?", Joseph looked around as he tried to see the person talking to him. "We will not meet just yet... no... you are not ready just yet. But the day is fast approaching when you will be ready.", the voice said. "Then why in the hell did you waste my goddamn time!", Joseph yelled out. "This wasn't a waste of your time. I was there when you killed Inverse, but tell me... do you really know everything there is to the man you slew?", the voice said. "I feel like there is more to his story, but there's nothing I can do to change his fate.", Joseph said. "Ah, perhaps I might have underestimated you. However, I must play the part I am fated to play. On the day the two of us are fated to meet for the first time, face to face, we will meet, until then... I look forward to that day.", the voice said.

Joseph closed his eyes and tried to sense out the bio-electricity of the person, but instead found nothing. He felt himself too tired to keep the link between the spirit within him and himself, so he found a place to hide as he returned to his civilian clothing. That person was someone that knew him, but he had never met face to face. He wondered who it was, but couldn't think of anything as he tiredly walked towards his apartment building. All of the lights were on in the streets, which was something that he was thankful about. He finally reached building twelve and started to drag himself up the steps. He was too tired for all of this. At the top of the stairs, he looked towards the empty apartment to his left, he was saddened by the loss of his friend Caleb and the fact that Meredith had moved away. He had promised to stay with her daily, but... now that wasn't possible.

He walked over to his door and found a letter taped on the door. He immediately opened it and read it. "I apologize for the fact that I haven't told you about this, but ever since the loss of Caleb, I feel like I don't want to be far from family anymore. I know that you've always enjoyed our company and I want you to know that I'm proud of the man you had become, Joseph. You're less bitter and rude than you were six years ago and after seeing you with that woman who brought you and that man to the hospital, you seem to be finally making and finding friends of your own. I didn't have the heart to break your happiness, Joseph. You were always like a grandson to me and Caleb and finally getting to see you smile... genuinely smile, was amazing. Joseph, remember to be strong. Not for me, but for yourself. You're still young and you still have the rest of your life ahead of you, and there are many wonderful people in this building who would enjoy being your friend if you would let them.", the letter said to him.

Joseph smiled and folded it up. He unlocked his door and opened it, to see Bubba and Marylin playing in a corner. He quietly closed and locked the door behind him as he walked to his room and closed the door. He threw off his clothes, getting undressed to his undergarments as he climbed into the bed. It had been an exceptionally long day for him and he was ready for it to end when his phone buzzed again. Annoyed, he climbed out of bed and fished it out of his pants pocket. He had a text message from Keith. "I heard that you took out those robbers, nice work.", it read. "Keith, it's like two AM, I'm going to bed. Talk to me in the morning.", Joseph typed in and sent. "Well then, I hope you have a good night. By the way, Mitsuki is planning on visiting the museum tomorrow, if you wouldn't mind showing up on a day that you have off.", another text message said. "I'll be over there. I might as well be there to show her some really cool stuff while I'm at it. But I'll be a horrible tour guide if I don't get any sleep. Now can you please stop texting me for several hours so that I can get to sleep, Keith?", Joseph texted back.

He waited for the phone to buzz again, but there wasn't another buzz. He placed his phone on his nightstand and laid his head against his pillow, pulling his covers over him. He began to wonder why all of this was happening and why all of it was happening now. His thoughts turned towards his ex-girlfriend, Tamara. He missed her, even if they weren't in a relationship anymore. He wondered how she was doing as the leader of the Weather Force. Wallace had warned him that he would change sides if the Weather Force became involved, which worried Joseph slightly, but not too much. The faces of his old friends appeared in his mind, along with a memory of the seven of them, as kids vowing to help people as heroes, using their powers for good. He smiled slightly, as the memory was a pleasant one, and it was the last thing he thought of before he drifted off to sleep.

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Chapter 21

A young man awoke to an alert on his phone. He grabbed the phone off the table and looked at the message. "It's five AM, Tammy... what the hell do you want from me?", he said as he read it. "Lightning has been spotted today, I need you to come to headquarters.", the message read. He called her instead. The phone rang and eventually, Tamara's voice spoke up. "Good morning, Daniel.", she said. "Do you have any fucking idea what the fuck time it is, Tammy? I'm trying to get some goddamn sleep!", he responded sharply. "Remember who leads the Weather Force, Daniel.", she shot back. "I am not part of your little team, Tammy. You can take that attitude and shove it up your ass for all I care!", Daniel snapped back, hanging up the phone as he did. After all these years, his brother was finally surfacing again. He had played the part of his brother to keep the morale of the people high, make it seem like there were no problems between the heroes, but if this got out, the deception would... it would finally end.

Daniel got out of bed and called up a news agency. "Hello, Channel Fifty-two news.", the receptionist said. "I've got a story to tell. That the man you all thought was Lightning wasn't actually him.", he said into the phone, not caring if there was someone eavesdropping into his conversation. "Well then, come to the studio at four PM, sir.", the voice on the other side said. "Thank you.", Daniel said before he hung up. He put some clothes on and looked over to the woman who was sleeping in his bed. "When you wake up, I won't be here, I apologize, my love.", he said as he put a hat on and put his phone into his pocket. He walked out to the living room and grabbed his keys off the key rack, and left his house. He had a single goal for the moment, to try to talk to his father at the hospital.

He climbed into his car and tried to start it. The car wouldn't start and he sighed as he popped the hood. He climbed back out of his car and walked over to the front of it, lifting the hood and grabbing the battery by the two contacts. A charge flowed through his body and into the battery. Unlike his brother who was a spiritborn, he was a metahuman with the same powers. A byproduct of the fact that his twin brother was a spiritborn, he guessed. When he felt that the battery was charged, he closed the hood and climbed back into his car. He started it and put it into reverse. He backed out of his driveway and turned to the left. He braked and put the car into drive, turning to the right in order to straighten his car. He turned on the radio to help with the quietness of the car ride there.

Half an hour passed and he pulled into the hospital parking garage. He drove around until he got to the top of the parking garage. He turned off the car and climbed out, locking it behind him. He walked down the stairs and walked over to the main hospital building, where he saw a woman standing there at the front door. "So you intend on betraying us, huh?", she asked. "I was not aware that that ceasing to impersonate my own twin brother constitutes a betrayal on any scale. I have no intentions of telling the media what really goes on and what you people have really been up to. I want out of your murderous group. I signed on to be a protector of the people, not to murder people, just because they don't want to register with your goddamn group, Haley. I'm done, I'm out. Tammy has told me that my brother has been found, y'all can go find him for all I care. Now get the hell out of my way.", he responded.

Haley gave him a look of disgust and entered a pose that he recognized. "Come now, Haley, we both know that you're not going to kill someone that is registered. Especially with so many witnesses around.", he said with a smirk. "I don't intend to kill you, I intend to apprehend you. You're acting foolish.", she responded. Daniel shrugged and casually zipped past her with his speed. "You forget, after pretending to be my brother for all these years, I've gotten real good at using the same powers he did. Your speed and strength are no match for my own, and I can match you blow for blow when it comes to powers.", he said solemnly. "If you wish to continue this, I will not hesitate to put you in a coma, Haley.". She turned around, finally realizing what was going on. "So you threaten me.", she said. "Only after you took a threatening posture yourself.", he responded, coldly, before proceeding through the doors.

He walked over to the elevator and realized it would be quicker for him to take the stairs. He found the door to a stairway and opened it, making sure to close it behind him and that no one was watching before he darted up the stairs as fast as he could. Within seconds, he was on the ninth floor. He exited the stairway and walked down the hallway. He knew exactly where he was going. He made a right turn into another hallway and stopped at the door of a hospital room. The same room that his father was currently in. He lightly knocked on the door to try to wake his father, but it was to no avail. "Guess I'll have to wait for a while.", he said with a frown as he sat down and closed his eyes. He began to meditate so that he could relax, but instead sleep overtook him.

He was awoken by a nurse only a couple of hours later. "Excuse me, sir, but it's time for the patient to get his morning medicine. You can go home now.", he said. Daniel looked at the clock and stretched. The chair he had fallen asleep in wasn't the least bit comfortable, but he watched as the nurse woke his father and give him his medication along with a drink of water. The nurse turned around and left the room. "Daniel, you're here early today.", the elderly man said. "This might be the last time I ever get to see you, Dad. I wanted to at least say goodbye.", Daniel responded. "Don't say that... you're strong and not at all a criminal, unlike your brother.", the elderly man said. "So that's it, is it? Even on your deathbed, you just want to spit in his eye. You won't bother to try to learn his side of the story?", Daniel asked, annoyed. "What side is there to hear, he broke the law. We descend from a long line of police officers, do you really think I would be so forgiving of the fact that my son's a criminal?", the elderly man said, equally as annoyed.

Daniel closed the door and locked it. His hand crackled with electricity. "Do you know what this is, Dad?", he asked. "You're... a villain, aren't you? You're here to kill me, aren't you?", the elderly man said with anger in his voice. "I am... or was a hero, I had to impersonate my own twin brother because he was considered a beacon of hope for this town! People loved him, but you... just because he made one mistake, you're willing to condemn him! You're blinded by your own hatred, Father!", he responded sharply. "Just because he was a hero doesn't mean that he should get free treatment for breaking the law.", the elderly man responded stubbornly. "I'm done, Father. I'm going to go find Joseph and I'm going to talk to him, see what his view on this whole thing is.", Daniel said as he unlocked the door and left.

He quickly stormed out of the hospital and across the way to the parking garage. There was only one way he was going to get the information that he needed to find his brother. He opened up his phone and brought up the information about Gavin and where he was currently staying. He knew that Gavin had taken on the name Keith to hide his identity, but he didn't bother to change that on his phone. He climbed into his car and started it back up. He drove back home, the radio still playing. He noticed that the clouds were starting to get more dense, a rain storm was brewing. Not exactly the best weather for a drive up north, but he had few other options. He knew where he had to go after retrieving what money he would need and some supplies for the road trip, like clothing and his toothbrush.

He arrived home and turned off the car. He sighed slightly as he climbed out of his car and closed the door. An incredible wind whipped up without warning, one that was too powerful for a storm like this, forcing him to concentrate on protecting himself as he was picked up and thrown into the wall. What should've resulted in broken bones merely ended in bruising and pain. He knew exactly who had attacked him. "Tamara, you can show yourself instead of hiding like a coward. I know why you're here.", he said calmly, hiding his pain. The wind died down, letting him land on the ground as pain shot through his bruised up body, but he ignored it as he stood up. Tamara hovered down before him. "You honestly think that you'll get away with your actions?", she looked at him. "Go ahead, kill me. Everyone still thinks I'm Lightning. You really want to explain to all these witnesses how you murdered either Lightning or an innocent bystander. Face it, Tammy, thanks to what you and your boss has done. You. Cannot. Touch. Me.", Daniel said, defiantly. Tamara raised her hand, her expression was one of fury. She was indeed furious about all of this, especially since she knew he was right. "I'm registered also, as a hero with my own identity, Daniel Adams, also known as Plasma. If you were to strike me down, you would face consequences. So even after I tell the tabloids about how that I've played the role of Lightning to give the people hope, you still won't be able to touch me. Face it, Tammy, you've lost this round. So I suggest you take your fucking attitude and get off my goddamn property!", he said, with a mixture of anger and defiance.

The two of them stared at each other, both of them expecting the other to make the first move so that they could have an excuse to fight back. There never was any actual love between the two of them, they mostly tolerated the other's presence. For Daniel, it was because Tamara was his brother's ex-girlfriend. For Tamara, it was because Daniel was her ex-boyfriend's twin brother. A wind whipped up, moving the hair of both of them as a steady rain began to fall, soaking them, yet neither of them were willing to make a move. Their eyes remained locked as their gaze became more fierce, bodies tensed up and at the ready to respond to any sort of aggressive move. Seconds began to feel like minutes and minutes began to feel like hours. Tamara sneered at him and turned away. Daniel didn't feel any sort of feeling of triumph or elation, but instead remained on guard, ready for her to try to attack him at any time.

The attack never came, she walked away from him before taking to the sky and flying away. When she was out of visual range, he finally relaxed. He didn't feel much of anything other than relief. He walked into his house and disrobed to get out of his wet clothing, quickly grabbing a towel to dry himself as he threw his wet clothes into the dryer. He put on some dry clothing and sat on his couch. His girlfriend walked out of the bedroom. "What was all that noise about, my love?", she asked. "It wasn't really anything to worry about, Samantha. Would you like to come up north with me or no? I'm going to go visit my brother and maybe do a little sightseeing.", he replied. She shook her head. "Sorry, love. But I don't have a job that's forgiving with my hours like you do.", she replied. "That's alright, if everything goes well, I should be back in two weeks.", he responded with a smile, giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek.

She nodded and left the house, leaving him on his own. He knew she was going to work, but he did worry about her safety since he was leaving her here with the Weather Force still around. They didn't exactly know about what he was planning, but there was no doubt in his mind that they would soon move to go intercept his brother. He had no idea when that would be, but he did know that it wouldn't take them very long. He merely hoped that he would be able to act first on this, but he also knew that Gavin's father would wait a few days for a report from Gavin to see if he completed his mission. Something inside of him told him that Gavin didn't have the heart to kill someone else, especially such a celebrated hero. He walked over to the fridge and grabbed a beer. He opened it up and walked back into the living room. He turned on the television and smirked. It was five PM somewhere, and he was determined to have a drink as he watched the sports channel, especially since his favorite team had won the game the night before. It wasn't a bad way for a hero to pass the time til four in the afternoon rolled around, he thought.

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Chapter 22

Joannes awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. He looked over at his phone and saw that he had a call from the local police department. He sighed and held the phone to his ear, answering the call. "Hello, this is Detective Hudson.", he said into the phone, tiredly. He had yet to get his morning coffee and woke up to the phone ringing. "The man you're looking for, this Lightning, he used his registration last night. I'm going to need you to come to the station so that you can talk to the officer in question.", the voice on the other side said. "I'll be over after breakfast.", he said. "Alright. Remember though, time is of the essence, detective.", the voice on the other side said before the phone hung up. He put the phone away and picked up the phone in his room. It was weird seeing a landline phone, especially in the late 2020s. He remember his parents telling him of such things when he was growing up, but he never saw one himself. "Hello, sir.", the receptionist said. "Hello, I would like to put in an order for room service.", he said. "Alright, sir.", the receptionist said, before transferring him. "Hello, this is room service.", a voice said. "Yes, I'd like to put in an order for a ham and cheese omlette, with mild cheddar cheese, two pancakes, a side of hashbrowns and a cup of strong dark roast coffee, black.", he said. "Would you like anything else, sir?", the voice on the other end asked. "Yes, can I get two slices of toast with strawberry jelly?", he asked. "Yes, sir.", the voice said. "Thank you, that'll be all.", he said before he hung up the phone.

He walked over to the bathroom and looked at his body. He had never bothered to get synthetic skin placed over his enhancements, as he knew that he would eventually tear that skin apart in his line and would have to get it replaced. The bare enhancements were a reminder that he wasn't fully human anymore. He would forever be part machine. He flexed his biomechanical, moving the fingers repeatedly as he did so. He couldn't feel anything in those parts. It's why the cold didn't really bother him, why he never really felt hot. What remained of his biological body functioned well as it always had, but thanks to his biomechanical parts, he required much more food than he used to as his enhancements worked off his own energy. He grew angry with these parts, frustrated that he wasn't entirely human anymore. He wanted someone to blame, but knew there really wasn't anyone to blame. This was the only way that they were able to save his life.

He closed his eyes and the memory of that event flashed through his mind. He was driving his police car with his partner in the passenger seat and the two of them were conversing. It was a usual day, nothing too out of the ordinary was going on. A few people were speeding, but they weren't going too far above the speed limit, so they weren't exactly worth their time. They pulled onto an exit to stop at a doughnut shop to pick up some coffee. A semi truck turned onto the same exit ramp he did. He barely had the time to swerve. His actions resulted in his door getting a direct hit, the airbag deployed, but did nothing. Pain flashed through his entire body as the car started to tumble. Blackness overtook his vision as he passed out. He had awoken in a hospital weeks later, he couldn't feel anything below his waist, nor could he feel either of his arms and for some reason, he felt as if part of his back felt a bit stiff. He looked at his arm and noticed that it was biomechanical. He was horrified at this revelation, the doctors rushed in to see him and try to restrain him as his heart rate was climbing rapidly at all of this. He struggled, unable to process what he had become. When they were finally able to calm him down, a doctor came in and told him that because of his quick self-sacrificial action, he had saved the life of his partner who had only sustained minor injuries. He would no longer be able to be on patrol after this. After his physical therapy and learning how to use his biomechanical parts to their fullest, he had decided to try to become a detective, a job that he proved time and time again that he was very good at.

The buzzer at the door snapped him out of his flashback, he turned to the door and threw a shirt on. He walked over and opened the door and the woman on the other side gasped. "Have some decency!", she said indignantly. "I ain't got nothin down there. Doctors made sure of that.", Joannes said. The woman walked in and had to make sure. "You really don't have anything down there, so how do you eliminate waste products?", she asked. "My biomechanical parts recycle the waste into emergency fuel. On the bright side, I don't ever have to use the bathroom. These parts do require a lot of fuel, so that's why I had to order such a big meal.", he said, calmly. "When did you get those?", she asked. "Five years ago. I was only twenty years old at the time.", he said as he looked at the back of his hand, the segments of his fingers moving as he flexed it almost reflexively. "Well sir, I have to get back to the kitchen, I hope you enjoy your breakfast.", she said as she pushed the cart in and walked away.

Joannes grabbed the cart and pulled it further into the room, he moved the food and the coffee to the table and started eating. It had been a while since he had eaten anything fresh that wasn't on a train or wasn't fast food. The food was absolutely delicious and even though he hadn't ordered anything put in the pancakes, they were blueberry pancakes, which was even better. Not only that, but they had brought him an entire pot of coffee for him to drink. He drank an entire mug of coffee and then poured himself another mug. He drank that as he continued to eat his breakfast. He was surprised at how hungry he actually was. He remembered when he first tried to eat with his biomechanical parts, he broke many mugs and bent enough silverware to make life expensive. He chuckled slightly as he moved onto the toast with jelly. The sugar would most definitely help him function late into the day.

He finished off the coffee and finally got dressed. He dressed in a suit with a vest, a jacket and a fedora. He really did enjoy the old look of the detective around eighty years ago. He slipped on his shoes and tied them. He looked at himself in the mirror, he looked good, he thought. He put on leather gloves so that he could hide his biomechanical hands. He left his hotel room and walked over to the elevator. He pressed the button and when the elevator dinged, he turned to watch the doors open near him. He walked into the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor and then hit the close door button. The elevator closed and started going down. The trip was quick and the doors opened to the ground floor. He walked out of the hotel and into the cold winds. He flagged down a taxi and when the taxi stopped, he climbed in. "Where are ya headin'?", the driver asked with a thick accent. "To the police station downtown.", Joannes responded.

The cab started driving away from the sidewalk as soon as Joannes closed the door and buckled in. "Ya know, I don' see too many of yer kind round here. Ya sure ye ain't goin' to a convention?", the driver asked. Joannes nodded. "I'm sure, I've got business at the police station.", Joannes said, keeping his cool. "Ya know, ya kinda look like that dick from that one novel I read.", the driver said, trying to keep conversation going. "Excuse me?", Joannes said, offended by the choice of words. "Dick is ol slang for a detective. Way back in the forties.", the man said to him. "Ah, so who is the novel by?", Joannes asked. "Ah, it were from the fifties, friend. The author has been long gone. Anyway, we're here.", the driver said. Joannes pulled a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet and handed it to the driver. "Keep the change.", he said as he climbed out of the taxi quickly.

He walked up the stairs to the front door of the station and quickly entered the building. He turned to go to the Chief of Police's office so that he would be able to get to answers he was seeking a lot quicker. Once there, he knocked on the door and the man motioned towards him. He opened the door and entered the room quietly, closing it behind him. "Ah, Detective Hudson. I'm glad that you were able to come. I want you to meet one of the men that were on patrol last night, he was the one that answered the call where he met up with this Lightning fellow that you're looking for.", the Police chief said as he motioned towards another cop that was in the room, this one was wearing the standard blue uniform. "Hi, I'm Officer Bradford. I was out on patrol at two AM when I answered a call from a bar. Some hero had stopped a robbery. But that's not the the part that is important. What is important is that there was some hero there at the bar who had stopped the robbery. He told me that his name used to be Lightning, but that he recently changed it.", the officer said.

Joannes couldn't believe his luck, he wouldn't have to find Keith after all, but if Keith was connected to Lightning, it would be a great way to draw him out. But he still had to work within the law to do it. He took great care to hide his excitement and kept his voice calm. "Did you get a good look at the costume?", he said. "Yes, detective. It was form fitting and blue, with electric blue lightning bolts decorating it. He also wore a mask to obscure his face, so I wasn't able to get a good look at it. I apologize that I couldn't tell you more.", the officer said to him. Joannes was disappointed, he had hoped in a much better lead than this, one that he would be able to pursue immediately, but it looked like his luck just wouldn't change. "Thank you for your time, officer. You'll be compensated for having to stay after work, I'm sure.", he said politely.

The officer stood up and left the room. "There was a person wearing those same markings at City hall days ago.", the Police Chief said. Joannes remembered, those markings described were the same as the ones he saw on that day. "Thunder is Lightning... if I find Thunder, I will find my father's killer and be able to finally bring him to justice.", Keith said excitedly. "Ah, I see. Well, fortunately for your sake, there isn't a statue of limitations for murder. When you do find him, where do you plan on taking him?", the police chief said to him, leaning back in his chair. Joannes eyed the portly man, something about this man bothered him, he didn't really entirely trust him. "Well, since he's a citizen living in this city, but his crime was committed in my hometown, he will be taken back to where the crime was committed, according to our law.", Joannes said to him. "Ah, well then, I hope you do understand how difficult it will be to get a murder charge to stick on a hero. If he was a known and registered villain who had escaped from a prison, then you'd have a much better chance.", the police chief said, grabbing a doughnut from a box.

Joannes was disgusted with the way the man ate the doughnut and excused himself. As he opened the door, he heard the man speak up. "By the way, I pulled up your file. How do you think the rest of the force would treat you if they were to know that you're the son of the most infamous villain in recent history.", the man said. "You're trying to extort me? Remember, you might be the chief of police, but you're not above the law. If you really know everything about me, you'd know that I'm a transhuman and you would know why I became one. Not only that, but...", he said as he reached towards a button in his shoulder. The very words that the police chief said to him were played back. "Here's proof that would hold up in a court of law. If you plan on extorting me again, I will have no choice but to submit this to a judge and you will quickly find yourself indicted. To answer your question though, I don't care. Whatever sins that my father might have committed in your eyes, are not mine to bear.", Joannes said as he walked out of the office, closing the door behind him as he did. He left the station and started walking along the sidewalk, partially in deep thought, but also partially doing a patrol so that he could either find any clues to Thunder or Keith's whereabouts.

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Chapter 23

Keith awoke and immediately walked to his closet to get dressed upon getting out of bed. He still had work today, but it wasn't supposed to be a very long day, just moving some stuff into the museum. It was a usual affair for a Friday. He wished that Joseph would be there at the museum to help him, but he knew that his co-worker still had the week off. Keith chuckled slightly at the thought and checked his phone to see a message from his boss. He opened up the text messages and read it. "Joseph arrived at the Museum today, unpaid. He says he's done and has handed me his thesis. He's offered to help you with the work today.", the message said. Keith smiled slightly, he was glad that Joseph was willing to come to work today even though he had the day off. He looked at the clock and smiled wider. He still had plenty of time to get something to eat and have a cup of coffee before he had to leave for work.

He walked out of his bedroom and into the kitchen. He threw a couple of frozen waffles into his toaster as he took the pot of coffee that had started brewing an hour ago and poured himself a cup. He put some creamer into his coffee, he never did like it black, which is why he always got those flavored iced coffee cartons. He heard the toaster and grabbed his waffles, biting into one as he looked out of the window with a look of longing on his face. It would really only be a matter of time before his father found out that he had chosen to take the side of Joseph. He had suspected the darkest rumors of his father's organization to be true, but he never had the evidence. If they were true, that would mean that the heroes that the people looked up to would also double as assassins against the renegades. He honestly had no idea why his father had such a strong hatred for renegades, when all they were doing was not registering, unlike the destruction that registered villains would cause. He was even witness to when a hero would stop pursuing a villain, just because someone that hadn't registered was using their powers. He had seen so many of those people walk into the building, but never walk out. He always wondered what had happened to those people, though he suspected that they were killed.

He shook off those thoughts and finished with his breakfast. He didn't want to spend too much time thinking about grim possibilities of his old workplace. He finished up his breakfast and his coffee. He walked back to his bedroom and grabbed his phone and his keys. No sooner did he walk out of his bedroom did his phone ring. He answered the call and placed the phone to his ear as he walked towards the front door of his house. "Hey, Keith. How's it going?", Joseph's voice sounded over the phone. "I'm just heading out now.", Keith replied as he walked out of his house and locked the door behind him as he closed it. "Ah, well, I'll see you when you get here. After all, you have to drive. I mean it's not like you could run as fast as I can.", Joseph said smugly. "Remind me to slap you for that one, Joseph.", Keith said, knowing exactly what Joseph meant as he unlocked his car. "No can do, Keith. By the way, if you wouldn't mind stopping by a fast food place and getting the boss a sausage and egg biscuit, she's a bit hungry this morning. Said she didn't have a lot of time before heading out for work.", Joseph replied. "Alright, will do, Joseph.", Keith said just before hanging up the phone.

He climbed into his car and started up the ignition. He pulled out of his driveway and started to drive down the road towards his work. He stopped at a fast food place in order to get his boss her breakfast. As he walked through the door, he saw someone standing at the counter. He hoped the person wouldn't turn around, but unfortunately, they did. "Hello, Keith. You haven't been talking much to your father lately.", the woman said to him. "Piss off, Lilah. I'm here to grab something for my actual boss.", Keith responded, the disgust in his voice being very prevalent. "I see, so I guess that I was right in my theory. Your father would love to hear how you're being disobedient.", she said, condescendingly. "I've been a grown man for a long while. I don't have to do what my father wants me to if I don't desire to do so. At this point, he could fire me for all I care.", he replied. "So what about Lightning, you know your orders regarding him, it's the only way you'll be free.", she replied with a sly smirk. "I am free, Lilah. I don't ever want to see you, any of my father's cronies, or my father ever again.", he said. Lilah smiled and walked away, something that he didn't like at all. He looked around and noticed that everyone in the place was staring at him. He didn't let it bother him too much to be honest, but he also was now quite angry, his happy morning ruined.

He walked up to the counter. "How may I help you, sir?", the cashier asked. "I'd like a sausage and egg biscuit, please.", he replied. "And would you like any jelly with that, sir?", the cashier asked. "Strawberry if you have it, grape if you don't.", he replied. He had no idea why people put jelly on a sausage biscuit, but he had never done it himself. "Would you like to make it a combo, sir?", the cashier asked. "Yes, please. A medium combo if you will.", he replied calmly. "That'll be five twenty-eight.", the cashier said. Keith pulled out his wallet and took out his debit card. He inserted the chip into the chip reader and then inserted his PIN number. When the machine said that the payment was approved, he removed the card and took his receipt when the cashier handed it to him. He walked to the counter and was handed a medium cup. He walked over to the drink dispenser and poured some ice and then some diet soda into the cup. He grabbed a lid and placed it onto the cup and then grabbed a straw. He didn't know if his boss wanted a combo or not, but he knew that she liked diet sodas for some reason. The cashier called out to him and he walked over to the counter and received the meal that he had gotten for his boss. He checked the bag and saw that there was neither strawberry nor grape jelly in the bag, but rather blackberry. He shrugged it off, it really wasn't all that big of a deal.

He walked out to his car and opened the door. He started to climb in, but he stopped when he noticed someone's shadow near his. "If you wish to continue to harass me, Lilah, I will be more than happy to report you to the proper authorities.", he said. Her laughter cut through the quiet of the day. "Do you really think that they'll arrest me? The police here do good work on hunting down renegades.", she said. "So you admit to it, your hands are covered in blood.", he said, trying to catch her in a trap. "Yes, what of it. A renegade took my lover, it's only right that I get revenge.", she replied. "Thanks, I now know what my father is actually up to. Give him a message for me next time you go to see him when you want to next lick his boots. Tell him that I said for him to go fuck himself.", he said as he climbed into the car and closed the door. He placed the cup in the cup holder and the food in the passenger's seat. He started the ignition and drove off, flipping Lilah off as he did.

He drove to his work and pulled into his usual parking spot when he saw Joseph carrying a box that he knew for certain weighed over two hundred pounds. He put the car into park and turned it off. He grabbed his boss' breakfast and climbed out of his car. "Joseph are you sure you should be carrying something like that on your own?", he said. Joseph looked at the box and then at him and then back at the box. "This thing doesn't weigh all that much.", Joseph replied with a casual shrug. "Joseph, it weighs over two hundred pounds!", Keith replied. "Oh shit!", Joseph exclaimed, quickly putting the box onto the ground. "It's too late now, I think the boss knows of your enhanced strength. Are you sure that you're doing that consciously?", Keith asked, careful to not raise his voice loud enough for everyone else to hear him. "No, I don't know what's going on, but ever since I accepted the powers I used to have back, I've subconsciously been stronger and more durable. I think I lifted several of these crates on my own while walking past the boss. You think she suspects something?", Joseph asked, worried. "Probably does.", Keith replied.

No sooner did they finish talking did Celeste walk out of the front door. "Hello, you two. Joseph, have you been working out as of late?", she asked. "Yes, I have.", Joseph said without hesitation. "Here's your breakfast, boss.", Keith said as he handed the bag and drink to her. "Thank you, Keith.", she said as she took the bag. "If you don't mind, you can help Joseph out with these crates.", she said, pointing at the crates as she went back inside. "So, how has your week been, Joseph?", he said as he walked over and grabbed a forty pound crate. "Boring, really. Stopped a robbery, but that was it aside from a funeral and taking care of the kittens.", Joseph replied as he grabbed a hundred pound crate. "Joseph, you're subconsciously using your powers again...", Keith said. Joseph shrugged at this. "Can't really help it, too convenient this way. It gets the job done faster as well, which means we'll have more time to set up these displays for people to look at.", Joseph replied curtly. "Yeah, but you're not the one on the clock, I am.", Keith responded.

The two of them took their crates to the storage room of the museum and then looked around. "There were a couple of people following me as I walked to work.", Joseph said suddenly. "Ah, they're there to make sure that I'm doing my job. Remember, my father still wants me to kill you. I want no part of murder. I've already bloodied my hands once and it made me sick to the pit of my stomach.", Keith said as he turned to the door to walk out. Joseph ran to the door faster than he could walk and locked it. "Woah woah woah. Hold on there. Can you repeat what you just said?", Joseph said as he stood in front of the door. "I killed a man, he was deemed a renegade. I thought that it was the right thing to do at the time. My father pressured me to do it again and again... each time... it made me feel worse and worse. The nightmares don't ever end, Joseph. I spared your life, because I know what kind of person you really are. You do not deserve death, you deserve to live. You might think yourself a bad person, but I've seen the way you care about others, I've seen the way you laughed with us here in the museum.", Keith said solemnly. He was surprised when he suddenly felt Joseph embrace him in a hug. "I too know what it's like to have killed. Ronnie and Sarah, two of my closest friends, lost their lives because of my arrogance. A single attack from me spelled their doom. In that instant, I had given into my anger and despair. I leapt upon Inverse and savagely beat him to death. With my powers enhancing my speed and my strength, it wasn't slow. The first punch drew blood. The second... shattered bone. The third... was his end. But I didn't stop there. I kept punching. He was unrecognizable, they had to use his teeth in order to identify him. When I had snapped back out of it. I became horrified at what I had done, at what had happened. I vomited and then ran. I ran away at seventeen years old. I couldn't bear the guilt, even though everyone had celebrated me as this hero, I considered myself a murderer. I don't think our hands will ever be clean, Keith, but the work we do as civilians is a great way for us to repent for our sins.", Joseph said to him almost quietly.

Keith had never heard Joseph talk about that before, he never asked Joseph about his past. All he had previously known was that he was considered a hero who disappeared and wasn't registered with his father's organization. "Your mission was to kill Inverse, wasn't it?", Keith asked quietly. "Yeah... the organization that I worked for wanted me to kill him for his betrayal of them. I learned that he betrayed them in their eyes nine years before that day.", Joseph said with a nod. "The massacre at the mall!", Keith exclaimed as he broke from the hug. He held his hand to his mouth, realizing that neither of them were being quiet anymore. A few tense moments passed before they felt like they were in the clear again. "Yeah... if Inverse really did betray them, then it was them that had organized the attack on the mall nineteen years ago. I heard someone fighting the gunmen after the hero, Thunderbolt, had fallen to the ground dead. The voice was one that I recognized when I met Inverse for the first time, but I was just a child who only knew that it was my job to play the hero and that he was considered a villain. You and I are connected to each other by that date, your mother was one of the people killed, wasn't she?", Joseph said quietly. "How did you know?", Keith asked him, shocked at this. "Simple, I didn't. I had my suspicion, but you just confirmed it for me. Your father is waging a war on renegades, all because he believes one killed his wife, is that about right?", Joseph replied with his arms crossed. "Yeah, that's correct. He believes that murdering them for not registering is the right thing to do. It's amoral, not that he actually cares.", Keith responded.

Joseph unlocked and opened the door. "Come on, we still got a lot of crates to load into the storeroom.", Joseph said as he walked out, holding the door for Keith. "Thanks, Joseph.", Keith said as he walked out. The two of them walked to the truck and grabbed another pair of crates. "Joseph?", Keith asked. "Hmm?", Joseph responded. "Thanks for being honest and open with me. It means a lot to me.", Keith replied. "No problem, you're my friend and coworker. Even if you did put a gun in my face.", Joseph replied. Keith stopped for a moment. "You're not going to let that one go, are you?", he said. "Nope.", Joseph replied. Keith groaned as he caught up to Joseph. As the two of them put the boxes in the storeroom, Keith spoke up. "So, after we finish unloading this truck, you want to go get lunch? I'm buying.", he said. "Sure thing, but we have to get this truck unloaded first, I don't think Celeste would appreciate the two of us doing a half-assed job.", Joseph replied as the two of them walked back out to the truck. Though he wouldn't admit it, Keith was very happy to be working with Joseph again.

Edited by Bishonen Vegeta

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Chapter 24

"You sure about this place, Keith?", Joseph asked as the two of them walked into a burger place. "Yeah, Tariq is great at making burgers. This place has great fries and milkshakes too. What's wrong, you're not feeling a burger?", Keith asked. "It just looks... a bit, I dunno. Run down, I guess.", Joseph replied. "If you got a problem with how my place looks, you could always leave, ya know.", a man said from the back, startling Joseph. "I apologize, I didn't mean to offend you.", Joseph said, as he clutched his chest. Keith laughed and walked him to a table. "You don't have to worry, Tariq is pretty chill.", he said with a smile. The two of them sat down and Tariq walked over, "The usual for you?", he asked Keith. "You know it.", Keith said. "And for you?", Tariq asked as he turned to Joseph. "Hmm... I'd like two burgers with two quarter pound patties, extra cheese, two orders of large fries and a large strawberry shake.", Joseph said. Keith was stunned at Tariq laughed. "You're really going to eat all of that?", Keith asked, his eyes widened in shock. "Of course.", Joseph said, calmly.

Tariq left the two of them and a quiet moment passed. "If you keep your mouth open like that, you'll catch flies.", Joseph quipped at Keith. "I've never seen anyone eat like you and keep their figure like you do. You're...", Keith said, trailing off. "I have a high metabolic rate, I can't get drunk either.", Joseph replied with his arms folded. "You really are something else, aren't you?", Keith said with a smile. "You've been through my files, Keith. You've seen who I am, you know what I was capable of and I'm fairly certain you even know my average caloric intake.", Joseph said as he leaned back in the chair to see a game show was playing on the television in the back. "I know your middle name too.", Keith said. This snapped Joseph back to attention, he hated his middle name. "Don't you dare say it, Keith!", he snapped at Keith. "Whatever you wish, Sterence.", Keith said with a sly smirk. "Don't you ever say that again!", Joseph said as Keith started laughing. "Your metabolic rate comes from the amount of energy that your body produces in order for you to use your powers, even in mundane situations like you were doing at work earlier.", Keith said quietly. Joseph nodded in confirmation. It was true, his body did require far more energy than the average person, but then again, that was just sort of who he was.

Tariq placed a pair of trays between them and placed a drink on Keith's side as he placed a milkshake on Joseph's side. "Enjoy.", he said as he walked away. The two of them started eating. Joseph was amazed at the quality of the food in a place that looked a bit run down for his liking and started rapidly eating his food. Keith smiled at this, he had never seen Joseph eat like this before, it was quite refreshing to see that he did enjoy eating. As Joseph picked up his shake cup, he looked at Keith. "Everything alright there, Keith?", he said, a hint of concern in his voice. "The way you eat, it's just... how do you eat this much food and this fast.", Keith asked. "To put things simply, I just have done so since I went to prison. They don't give you a whole lot of time, so I became a speed eater. I could possibly join one of those speed eating contests if I felt like it, it wouldn't be too much of a problem for me.", Joseph said with a shrug. He started drinking his milkshake and then went back to eating his burgers.

Within mere moments, Joseph was done eating and Keith was shocked at this. "I've never seen someone eat so much food, so fast. Are you even full?", Keith asked, wondering what limits Joseph would have. "Yeah, I'm full for the moment, Keith. There's really no need to worry, man. I'm not going to eat so much food that you lack the money for it.", Joseph replied as Keith pulled out a pair of twenty dollar bills and walked up to the counter. Joseph's phone started ringing and he pulled it out of his pocket to check who it was. It wasn't a number he recognized, but he answered it anyhow. "Hello?", he said. "Hello, is this the man who calls himself Thunder?", the voice on the other end replied. The voice made his blood run cold. He recognized the voice. It was the same voice as the one that spoke into his head several times. "Who is this?", he responded. "You will not know my name, and it is still not yet time for us to meet. But there is someone waiting for you and Keith back at the museum. I would suggest that neither of you return there for the time being.", the voice on the other side said. "Who are...", Joseph got to say before the phone hung up.

Keith walked back over, "Hey, Joseph. You seem a bit pale. Everything alright?", he said with a concerned tone. "I'm fine. But it would seem that there's someone at the museum who is looking for the two of us.", Joseph said in response. "Must be that detective, if so, he's probably looking for you. Would you like a ride home?", Keith offered. "No, let's go answer his questions.", Joseph responded as he got up and walked to the door, "If we run away now, he's just going to track us down. Better to clear our names now rather than have to do it later.", he continued as he opened the door. "Right.", Keith said with a nod as he walked out of the building. Joseph closed the door and the two walked over to the car. "Hey, Joseph. What if it's a trap?", Keith asked suddenly. "I got electrokinesis, we'll get ourselves and our boss out of the trap.", Joseph replied. Keith smiled, Joseph was being quite forward and thinking straight, even preparing a contingency in case things went belly up.

The two of them climbed into the car and as they backed out, Keith gave Joseph a glance, "You have something on your mind, I can tell.", he said. "I didn't want to ask it while we were at the burger joint.", Joseph replied. "So then, what is it?", Keith asked. "I need everything there is to know about Inverse. There's this feeling that I can't shake, it's in the pit of my stomach... I think... I think he saved my life.", Joseph said. "It's a possibility, I was always taught that he was evil and self serving, so I figured, why bother. I never really questioned my father until he made me start killing. The first few times, I told myself that I was just following orders, just doing my job, but... I'm more shaken up than you would ever believe, Joseph.", Keith replied. Joseph placed his hand on Keith's shoulder, "I'm here for you, you're my best friend and my favorite co-worker. Honestly, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you, Keith. You've always been there to give me a helping hand.", he said to reassure him, but also meant every word. "Even when I put a gun in your face and threatened to kill you?", Keith said with a chuckle. Joseph punched Keith, "Thanks for reminding me to do that, Keith. I've meant to hit you ever since you put that gun in my face.", he said. Keith started laughing, causing Joseph to smile and laugh as well.

It took a short while, but they parked at the museum. The two of them silently stepped out of the car and nodded to each other. Joseph was prepared for a fight if he had to, even if he didn't actually want to get into a fight. Keith was ready to help Celeste out of the museum by any means necessary. The two of them wordlessly walked to the front door and opened it. Joseph walked in first, he saw a familiar face. "Now what is a detective doing here?", he asked. "One of the employees here, Real name Gavin Stevenson, but goes by the name of Keith. I'm fairly certain that lying about your real name on an application is perjury.", the man said. "I never lied on the application, nor is my identification falsified. I prefer the name Keith, because to be honest I hate my father. I've been looking into getting it legally changed over.", Keith said behind Joseph. "Oh, well then, I have a few questions for you.", the man said.

"He's got transhuman parts.", a voice said within Joseph's head. Joseph tensed up slightly, he wasn't quite ready to fight a transhuman, but this did at least give him some sort of advantage, he'd be able to short out the biomechanics. "Those aren't civilian approved augmentations, are they, detective?", he asked. "How did you know that I have biomechanical parts and furthermore, how do you know that I'm a detective?", the man asked. "No one in this day and age would be caught seriously trying to pass themselves off as a nineteen forties detective without trying to hide something. And I only made a guess that you're a detective.", Joseph replied. "You're lying, who are you, really?", the man asked. "Show me your badge first, if you don't have one, I can legally throw you off the property.", Joseph said sternly, folding his arms. He was ready for the man to try anything, try to pull a weapon or anything, but instead, the man smiled and produced a badge. "Detective Joannes Hudson, now answer my question, who are you?", the man asked. "I'm Joseph Adams, I'm currently employed here. I've seen many people enter this museum, none of them wear a business suit and a trench coat unless they're trying to hide something. None of them wear gloves indoors unless they're trying to steal something. So either you had weapons, or you had biomechanical parts installed.", Joseph said sternly. "You're a metahuman, got it. As for you Keith, or should I say...", Joannes said as he turned to Keith. "You're part of an illegal faction. Not many people are looking for me except for a group that deals in illegal activities such as kidnapping and murder, but calls themselves the good guys.", Keith said firmly, interrupting Joannes.

Joannes was taken back, he wasn't exactly expecting this and Joseph's attention was grabbed by Celeste peeking out from one of the rooms. "You're one to talk, considering you're the heir to an organization that very much does the same!", Joannes snapped back. "Really now? Do you even know my relationship with my father? I hate him, Detective. I want nothing to do with him. You're obviously here because you think that I might give you a lead to who you're looking for, however, you will not find it.", Keith responded, keeping his cool. "Well, it doesn't hurt to try. Do you know anything about Lightning? He recently showed up early this morning.", Joannes asked with a smirk. "I don't know anything about him being here, but my father is confident that he's here. I guess my father would enjoy hearing that news.", Keith said, keeping his cool. Joseph was thankful that Keith wasn't selling him out, but remained calm on the outside. "And how about you? Do you know anything about Lightning?", Joannes asked. Joseph shook his head, "No detective, I don't.", he said. "Well then, if you learn anything, feel free to come to the station with any information. Lightning's a murderer, you know, so I suggest you be careful.", Joannes said, poorly attempting to hide his disdain for Lightning.

The two of them watched as Joannes walked towards the door, Joseph was offended by being called a murderer. He was trying to make up for his crimes, but suddenly something clicked in his brain. "Who did he murder?", he asked. Joannes stopped and turned around, "What?", he asked. "I believe I asked who did he murder. People don't go off and become detectives to figure out who killed some random person on the street. So they must have been close to you.", Joseph said, bluffing. He honestly had no idea if Joannes became a detective to track down Lightning or what. "You think you have me figured out, don't you? Maybe you'd like to come down to the station and we could play a nice game of twenty questions. Your bluff isn't going to work, Joseph.", Joannes said. "Damn.", Joseph muttered under his breath as Joannes turned and walked out the door. He had hoped to get some more information out of the man. However, he did have a hunch, Joannes looked a lot like Inverse with his mask off. Sure, there were some features different, but he shook his head, there was no way Inverse had a son. Surely it was a younger brother, he thought.

"You've been hiding a secret this entire time, Joseph.", Celeste said. Joseph turned around and sighed, "I'm going to go for a walk.", he said. "Tell me the truth, Joseph. What are you really? What kind of metahuman are you?", she asked, worried. "I'm not a metahuman, I'm a spiritborn. I have an elemental spirit within me. All of those times I told you that someone killed Inverse.", Joseph said, his back turned to her. "Yeah, I remember.", she said. He turned his head to face her, "I was the one that killed him. I took Daniel Hudson's life. I beat him to death after the loss of two of my closest friends.", he said, not being able to bear the weight of lying to Celeste any further. "I'll put in my two weeks now.", he continued as he pushed open the door. "I won't let you quit, Joseph. That may have been who you were then, but it's not who you are now. Remember that, Joseph. You've become a far better man than you used to be.", she said. "That is why I must redeem myself before I turn myself in. While I'm no murderer, I have taken a life, even as a former hero, I'm not above the law. I'm sorry, boss.", he said. Celeste and Keith watched as Joseph left the building. "I'll go after him.", Keith offered. "No, let him go, he just needs time to think, is all. You should go to his place after work, see how he's doing.", Celeste said. "Alright.", Keith said as he got back to work. He was worried about Joseph, but honestly, there was nothing he could do at this point, but hope his friend was alright.

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