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Authors: Tom Reynolds

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Meta (Book 3): Rise of The Circle

BOOK: Meta (Book 3): Rise of The Circle
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Rise of The Circle
Tom Reynolds
Leonard & Calyer

Copyright © 2015 Tom Reynolds

All rights reserved.

Written in Brooklyn.

Printed in the United States of America.

Published 2015.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.


he devastation was catastrophic
, unlike anything the world had seen since The Battle all those years ago. Alpha Team fought to capture and contain the metas, which had been released from Silver Island, for days on end. Many of the escaped metas, the smart ones, chose to flee Bay View City altogether. Those that didn't and were captured were executed. There would be no place to hold rogue metas in Bay View City while Alpha Team was running it.

I wish I could tell you that I learned all of this because I was out there in the fight. I wish I could tell you that I'm only here telling you this now because, in the end, I defeated Alpha Team and returned home safely. That isn't what happened, though. For the past week I've had to sit and watch these events unfold on television, just like everyone else, everyone else who was lucky enough to be far away from the fighting at least.

No one could completely escape it, though. I watched in horror and helplessness as a member of Alpha Team ripped the head off of an escaped meta right in front of me, on the other side of our living room window on the forty-seventh floor.

The reason I couldn’t do anything to help was a promise I’d made to a woman named Michelle, a woman that I had known as Veronica for the three months she’d been dating my older brother, Derrick, before revealing who she really is and asking me to agree to join her with little additional information. When she asked me to help her, I was on my back, barely clinging to life. She made me promise one thing: that I would not use my metabands under any circumstances until she returned.

I don't know if I made the right choice agreeing to that, not that I was in any shape to fight even if I wanted to. I've been forced to watch as my city tears itself apart piece by piece, helpless to do anything about it. The sad truth is that even if I disobeyed Michelle and powered up my metabands to fight, there is little I could do. Midnight is gone, presumed dead by many. All the other supposed
either left the city or found themselves lined up for execution alongside the criminals. If I wanted to power up my bands and fight, I would have no allies, and everyone from both sides would be out to get me. Any attempt at stopping the criminals or Alpha Team would result in little more than a momentary distraction for both.

Derrick is scared, the most scared I've possibly ever seen him, and that includes the time I was six years old and got rocks stuck up my nose. Maybe he’s just been putting on a brave face since our parents died and he’s had to take care of me, but seeing the city the way it is now makes it feel like all hope has been lost. Even if I hadn't promised Michelle that I wouldn't fight, it would be hard to go out there knowing just how likely it is that I'd never come back and that Derrick would never forgive himself for being unable to stop me.

The little that Michelle did explain before she left pertained to all of this being much bigger than me and much bigger than just Bay View City. If I engaged in fighting Alpha Team or any of the others, they would know that not only was I still alive, but that I hadn’t left the city either. According to Michelle, they would stop at nothing to make sure I was put down for good. Even after that they wouldn't stop. She told me that they would find out who I really am, who Derrick is, and ultimately who she really is. She didn't tell me this out of self-preservation; she told me this because according to her, what she’s working for is much bigger than any of us, and it could all easily come crashing down if the wrong people learn about it. Risking my life meant risking countless other lives for what she assured me would’ve been a suicide mission anyway. That didn't make it any easier to watch as everything I knew was destroyed.

I've never felt more helpless, sitting at home all day, everyday, alone. Derrick stopped working from home and practically moved into his office. With people fleeing the city left and right, he had little choice. He had to make sure someone was there to keep his business alive. Ironically, business has never been better for him. Nothing draws public interest around metahuman stories like when a group of them decide to practically destroy a city.

In fairness to Alpha Team, as if they deserved such a thing, property destruction was minimal. After all, it's hard to try to convince the rest of the world that all other metas should be eradicated if you just go and destroy the city yourselves.

But by far the hardest part of the past week has been not knowing what happened to any of my friends. Midnight, Sarah, Jim, they are all unaccounted for. Only in the past few days has anyone outside of Alpha Team been able to get anywhere close to Silver Island to assess the damage. Reports are coming in almost hourly on the rising number of dead bodies being found, and that doesn't even count the rest of the city, where conflicts are still happening around the clock. Even if any of them did manage to escape, there are very few safe places in Bay View City.

Michelle has forbidden me from using my metabands until she returns, presumably with a better plan than the current one, which is to just "wait." She also told me to stay put in the apartment. Unbeknownst to me, the apartment that Derrick and I have been living in for the past few months is a veritable fortress. It’s one of the reasons Derrick has been attracted to it all along. The windows are bullet and blast proof. Reinforced support columns are hidden behind drywall, essentially providing a separate foundation for our penthouse apartment. While it would be difficult to build an apartment
to a direct meta attack with any kind of discretion, our apartment was advertised as meta-
I guess I owe a thank you card to the eccentric millionaire who lived here before us ... whoever he was.

Derrick hadn't told me about any of these features because he thought doing so would feel like he was undermining me and my abilities. Deciding to live in a fortress in the sky isn't a very hardy endorsement of confidence in the idea that I could protect the place myself. I didn't take it personally, though. If anything, I was more pissed off that he hadn't told me sooner. It isn't foolproof by any stretch, but it would have given me some piece of mind, since I would never be able to protect Derrick twenty-four hours a day anyway.

This made Michelle and him feel more comfortable leaving me here by myself, but it doesn't make me feel any better. That's why tonight I'm planning to escape.

Well, not really "escape." I plan to come back after all. I plan to come back later tonight even. But I just can't stay cooped up in this fishbowl any more, not when I don't know if the people I care about are alive.

To get into our apartment, you need an elevator key. This is because the elevator goes straight into our apartment. I know, fancy. If it weren't for the key, anyone would be able to just hit the "P" button and walk right into our living room. The easy solution for making sure I wouldn't leave the apartment would be to just take away my key, which Derrick tried to do. I successfully argued with him that not only was that unsafe if there was an actual emergency and I needed to evacuate the building, but that it was also treating me like a baby. After some back and forth, Derrick relented and said he would give me the key because he trusted me.


He isn't actually that dumb, though. The elevator is Internet connected. Derrick can access it from anywhere he can get a connection and not only shut it down if he wanted to, but also watch via the security camera. He can even set up an alert to let him know if the elevator moved when he wasn't home, and knowing the nerd that he is, I’m sure he did just that. But, being the nerd that he is, he probably didn't consider the other way to get in and out of the apartment: the stairs. Granted, walking down forty-seven flights of stairs isn't a very attractive alternative, but for now, I'm telling myself it won't be as bad as climbing them later.

The fire escape door swings open and a blast of cool air floods into the stairwell. Autumn is quickly becoming winter, and I'm glad I thought to bring a coat, even if I considered just leaving it in the stairwell around the twentieth floor because it was too hot.

It's starting to get dark earlier, but even still, it's too early in the evening for the streets to be so quiet in the middle of what is usually a bustling area of the city. It's one thing to see the empty streets from the top floor or on TV, but it's entirely different to see them with my own two eyes. There's no one. Even most of the cars that are usually parked along the side of the street are gone.

Right about now is when I start to realize that I didn't really have a plan beyond just getting out of the apartment. I succeeded in doing that much, and I'm pretty sure I even did it without Derrick or anyone else finding out.

Now what?


after a few minutes of walking that I find I’m somewhat instinctively walking toward Sarah's house. It's not intentional at first, but after I realize it, it seems like the only logical place to go. I'm nearly positive that she's out of the city. She'd have to be. Her father works for The Agency and it’s hard to imagine that any of them would feel safe staying in Bay View City after the breakout. Even The Agency doesn't have enough people working for it or the kind of resources necessary to mount anything like a retaliation here. If they went looking for a fight, all they'll get is a massacre.

Still, it's possible Sarah and Halpern could have gone to their house before they left the city, unlikely but possible. And without any other way to contact her, it's my best bet.

I still feel enormous guilt over listening to Michelle's orders to keep my metabands powered down and to not go looking for Sarah. If something has happened to her, I'll never be able to tell myself that I couldn't have stopped it. There's no use in that kind of negative thinking, though. Michelle told me being with The Agency was one of the safest places Sarah could be. A meta like me striking out on his own to go find her would be a million times more likely to attract attention from Alpha Team than actually doing anything useful.

The walk takes longer than I remember, and by the time I arrive at Sarah's house, it's late. Most of the houses on the street are dark and empty-looking inside. I can't tell if it's just because the people who live in them are all asleep or if they've left town. It's been happening in droves. People are fed up with the violence and chaos and have been leaving Bay View City by the thousands. Most have no idea where they're going next, just as long as they're far away from here. A lot have relocated across the bay to Skyville. Some hope to just wait this out, see what Alpha Team does, and hopefully move back once everything is somewhat back to normal. Others think "normal" isn't something that we'll see in this city again and have started planning to put down permanent roots somewhere else.

The last mile or so on the walk to Sarah's house I don't see a single soul, meta or otherwise. I find myself glancing toward the sky over and over again, thinking that I see someone streaking past out of the corner of my eye, but when I look up, I see the same empty sky that was the norm for a decade before all of this started up again.

Sarah's house is dark and quiet, just like all the others on her block. I still approach it carefully, aware that while all these houses look empty, for all I know there could be entire families huddled together in their darkened living rooms, watching me through the gaps in their curtains.

When I reach the door, I'm not quite sure what to do. It's so quiet here that even knocking feels like it'll echo through the entire neighborhood, but a breaking and entering charge wouldn't be easy to explain to Michelle and Derrick, especially since I already promised Derrick that my days of being brought home in cop cars were behind me.

From the sidewalk, the door looks like it’s closed, but upon closer inspection, I see that it's actually open slightly, barely even an inch between the door and its frame, like someone didn't pull it closed all the way on their way out, or as though someone set up a trap for me to walk into. Midnight's paranoia is still hard at work somewhere deep in the back of my mind. It’s a strange coincidence, and I go back and forth with myself over whether or not I should go in. I'd like to think that I decide to go in because I'm brave and that I don't need to rely on my metabands to get me out of any trouble I might find, but really I know that it's just that I walked all this way, and I'm not about to turn back now for no other reason than sheer stubbornness.

I push the door itself without having to even turn the doorknob, and it swings open. It's almost pitch black inside, with the exception of a few rays of light streaming in from the full moon hanging above the city tonight. Still, it's enough light for me to recognize the space from my ill-fated, first dinner with Sarah and her dad. Walking down the hallway toward the dining room, I see the same photos on the wall of Sarah and her dad during happier times, presumably before all of
started again over the summer, and I can't help but feel somewhat responsible for all of it. What if it was my activating the metabands in the first place that brought all of the others crashing down to Earth? What if I had just kept them off and dealt with that monster in the woods with my own two hands? Would things have turned out differently, I wonder? It's an exercise in futility since there's nothing I can do to change it, though.

The living room also looks the same as when I was last here just a few short weeks ago. Nothing looks out of place, but then again, it's not like I took an inventory the last time I was here. It's also not likely that if Sarah and her dad came back here and left in a hurry that they would have remembered to take their favorite living room lamps before they left. If I’m going to find any sign of whether or not Sarah and Halpern have been back here since Silver Island was destroyed, I'll find it in their respective bedrooms. If there is anything they came back to grab, that's where they would have taken it from.

It still feels creepy to be skulking through their house without permission, especially when I make the decision to head upstairs toward Sarah's bedroom at the end of the hallway. Despite having the best intentions here, there's no way you can tiptoe into your ex-girlfriend's dark bedroom in the middle of the night without feeling like a real creep.

Before I'm able to reach the door, a noise stops me in my tracks. It's not especially loud, but it came from Sarah's bedroom. I stand completely still and wait to see if I can hear it again or if my mind is just playing tricks on me. A second later, I have my answer when I hear it again. This time I recognize it as a creaking floorboard and my heart starts racing. Someone else is in the house, and whoever it is, it seems like they don't want anyone to know they're here either.

It could very well be Sarah or her dad, but if one of them were here, it doesn't make sense that they'd have all the lights off, does it? The idea that they're both here and just asleep in their beds crosses my mind and my face immediately becomes flush with embarrassment just at the thought of having to explain to either of them what the hell I'm doing creeping around their house in the middle of the night.

Another thought soon takes over, not nearly as embarrassing but far more dangerous. It occurs to me that someone with bad intentions could have found out who Sarah and Halpern really are, and that someone could be taking advantage of everyone's focus and attention being elsewhere to sneak in here.

I stand waiting in the darkness of the hallway for what feels like an eternity, weighing my options. There really aren't that many. I can either keep going and see for sure who or what, if anything, is in Sarah's room, or I can turn around and leave the way I came. If there is something bad in Sarah's room, I don't really like the idea of turning my back on it, though. If I turn around and leave, I know that I'll just be back here again tomorrow night. My curiosity is so strong, it’s just too much for me to ignore what might be behind that door. And if it turns out that something happened to Sarah or Halpern, I'll never be able to forgive myself for not investigating when I could’ve tonight, just because I was afraid.

Metabands aren't an option if I want to abide by Michelle's rule, so whatever is in that room, I'm going to have to face it without any help. I slowly make my way toward Sarah's room at the end of the hallway, careful to walk gently to avoid squeaking any of the floorboards and alerting whoever might be waiting in her room. The door leading to her room is already open for the most part, which makes it less likely that I'll find a surprise by the time I get to it.

From a few feet away, the room looks empty, but because of the angle, I won't know for sure until I'm actually inside. I push the door gently, just enough so that I can squeeze through. The blinds on her window are pulled mostly shut, limiting the light in the room, but luckily, my eyes have mostly adjusted to the darkness by this point. While I can't see everything, I feel confident enough that I'll be able to make out the shape of a person if there’s one in here.

Inside Sarah's room, I find her carefully made bed. The drawers to her dresser are all closed. I run my fingers over the top of it and feel a layer of dust. There aren't any signs that Sarah, or anyone else, has been here in a while. Whatever I heard before must have been nothing. Normal, small sounds like a house settling become much more ominous when there are no other natural sounds to mask them.

Satisfied that the bedroom is clear, I head back downstairs. I remember briefly seeing a chalkboard with a grocery list the last time I was here. Below that chalkboard, mounted to the wall, I remember seeing a set of car keys hanging on a hook. It was a small thing, but it stuck out in my mind at the time because of the keychain. Halpern owns the same brand of car that my parents had and the logo on the keychain reminded me of them that night. If that keychain is gone, that would mean there is a good chance that maybe Sarah and Halpern came back after all to take the car. Of course, that's assuming Halpern didn't already have the car with him at Silver Island that day, which is very likely. I know that the keychain is likely gone either way, but still, it feels like maybe I'll get some reassurance if I see that it's missing. Maybe I know deep down it'll be missing either way, and I'm just ignoring that for some glimmer of the kind of hope that's been missing in this city for the past week.

I push past the free-swinging door that separates the dining room from the kitchen, no longer as concerned with minimizing the noise I make. The keychain is missing, and for an instant, I feel a sense of relief, even if I know it doesn't really mean anything. Behind me I hear another quiet creak and that sense of relief disappears in an instant.

There's barely any time to process the idea that there’s definitely someone in the house before I hear the swinging door behind me being opened. Instinct takes over completely and before I know what I'm doing, my arms are out at my sides, summoning my metabands from whatever alternate dimension they go to when I'm not using them. Before they've even fully materialized, my wrists are heading straight for each other.

There's a loud clang as the metal makes contact before Omni's suit ricochets out of the bands and envelopes my body. Before the swinging door has even hit the wall, I'm fully powered up and ready. If Alpha Team knows about this house, if they know who Sarah and Halpern really are, then they would have come here. If they're here, there's very little I can do to protect myself, but I'm not about to go down without a fight.

"Omni?" the voice behind me asks.

Without thinking about it first, I spin around. Not always the best thing to do when someone has just snuck up on you, but I couldn't help it. There, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, is my ex-girlfriend, Sarah Miller, and she's holding a gun pointed right at my head.

"Whoa, relax," I say, putting my hands up to show I don't mean her any harm in the hopes that she'll lower the weapon. Even if a bullet won't do anything to me, it's still not fun to get shot at, to say nothing of what the neighbors will think.

"Oh my gosh, sorry!" Sarah says, embarrassed, as she lowers the gun to her side. "It's empty. There aren't any bullets in it. I just ... I just heard a noise and didn't expect to see you standing here."

It's been so long since I've seen her that for a moment, I almost forget that she has no idea Connor and Omni are one and the same.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I just wanted to check up on you ... make sure you were okay."

"How did you know where I live?"

She's got me there. There's no reason Omni should know this. The personal and professional lives of employees who work for The Agency are kept strictly separate. Even Sarah's co-workers probably have very little knowledge of who she is outside of her work, so metahumans like me are kept even further in the dark. Before I can think of an answer to give her, I'm saved by her tendency to answer her own questions before the person she's asked even has a chance.

"What am I doing asking you how you know where I live? Of course you'd be able to find out where I live. You're buddies with Sherlock Holmes."


"Not the actual Sherlock Holmes, of course. He's fictional. I meant Midnight. That's what I call him: Sherlock Holmes. I don't think he appreciates it very much, even though it was meant as a compliment."

"Wait, you know Midnight? How do you know Midnight? Have you seen him? Is he okay?" I ask.

"I was just about to ask you the same question. I haven't seen him since he saved me."

"He saved you? I don't get it. You're the one who saved me at Silver Island."

"And you're welcome for that, by the way," she says before I have a chance to thank her properly. I know she's kidding, but I'm still mad at myself for rudely failing to thank my ex-girlfriend for saving my life from who I now know is the daughter of the man who killed my parents. A thank you is the least I should have been able to come up with for her.

"After I last saw you on Silver Island, I tried to escape through the tunnel back to the mainland. I almost made it, but in the confusion, no one realized that I hadn't come out yet. The tunnel was blown before I reached the end. I was buried in an avalanche of rubble," Sarah explains.

"What? How did you make it out then?" I ask.

"Midnight. He saved me. He found me in the rubble. I'm not sure how, but he did. No one else was even looking for me because they didn't know I was even missing. My dad was told I was in one of the other escape vehicles. He didn't realize I wasn't until later when they met at the rendezvous point and he couldn't find me. Even if someone other than Midnight had found me, I probably wouldn't be standing here today.

“I'd lost a lot of blood. Too much blood. I don't remember any of that, though. The first thing I remember is waking up in one of Midnight's ... places. Lairs? Is that what you would call them? Anyway, I woke up there, hooked up to who knows how many machines, and slowly made my way back to the land of the living."

BOOK: Meta (Book 3): Rise of The Circle
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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