Halcyon Sunset pt. 4

Boreas can’t complain about the new digs or the new suits but he remains suspicious about the whole arrangement, especially when the Team is asked to deliberately let a supervillain free.

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The door hissed shut behind Boreas as he walked into the command center of Team Halcyon’s temporary HQ. It was a tiny, meaningless thing but he liked the doors in this place. He’d always been a fan of science fiction films and TV shows.

Three people were there already. He could just about see them through the windows to the small adjacent conference room.

Hyperion and Flicker were there—their presence was a given since they were core team members—but so was Cole. The latter was their administrative assistant, which probably meant the urgent meeting had something to do with the team’s next steps.

The organization as a whole had been in something of a limbo ever since the deal was finalized. Not that Boreas was complaining. He didn’t know much but he knew enough that infrastructure wasn’t established in a day.

For instance, he’d seen a fair few new faces about. The team had been running on the bare minimum of support personnel in the past so it was a bit of a relief that they had the money to pay for proper staffing.

It was a double-edged sword, though. Since the team used to be so small, they lacked critical personnel infrastructure. Standard processes had to be made. Hierarchies had to be established. New hires needed to be trained. All in all, it was a huge endeavor that required a lot of busywork.

Flicker was the liaison and Hyperion was the leader so the two had more than enough work on their hands to keep things exciting. Boreas, on the other hand, didn’t really have much to occupy his time.

Since they’d been advised to keep a low profile and focus primarily on preparing for their first mission once things were settled, Boreas had spent most of his time training. He only really suited up for patrols, and even then he kept strictly to the weekly hours mandated by the Hall of Heroes.

Hyperion looked up as soon as Boreas entered the room. He smiled and said, "Hey. Good morning. We were starting to wonder if something had happened to you."

Boreas was somewhat taken aback. He didn’t detect the slightest hint of snark in Hyperion’s voice. If anything, Hyperion sounded nice and Hyperion was never nice to anyone.

"I was busy," he said somewhat more defensively than he’d intended.

Truth be told, he’d also been doing a bit of digging. Not that he’d turned anything up on this Marcus Satellus person—besides him being filthy rich—but the circumstances surrounding the team’s sudden turn of fortune were suspicious.

Even so, Boreas couldn’t deny there were perks to it. The new base—even if it was just a temporary one—was pretty great.

The new suit was even better. He didn’t think he’d ever had one more comfortable. And the best part was that it wasn’t on lease from the Hall. The new suits were wholly owned and operated by the team.

Part of Boreas wanted the whole deal to be legit just because he knew he’d hate to part with his suit if he turned out to be right. It didn’t get stiff when he pushed his powers to the limit—a first in all the suits he’d used so far.

Hyperion’s voice brought Boreas back to the present. "Doing something productive, I hope?" he said.

There it was. Boreas almost grinned. He was ready to crack back with something witty but stopped halfway through putting the words together when it occurred to him that Hyperion had asked earnestly.

Boreas frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. Hyperion was never nice to him.

He pulled up a chair and sat down. He narrowed his eyes at Hyperion and said, somewhat hesitantly, "I’ve been training, thank you."

Hyperion chuckled. "Making good use of the new facilities, I see. Isn’t it much better, not having to rent space from the Hall?"

Boreas shrugged. "It’s okay," he said. It was okay but if he was being honest, it was better than okay. It was great.

He wasn’t dumb. Even if he had reservations, the money was real. And he knew it would help the team out in the long run.

Part of him was just bitter that no one seemed to be taking his concerns seriously. As far as he was concerned, they were pretty legitimate.

Hyperion chuckled. "Okay’s good," he said. "Okay’s better than terrible."

In truth, Boreas agreed wholeheartedly with Hyperion. It was much better. But he would sooner sit on a cactus than give the smug asshole something to gloat about.

Not that he got the sense Hyperion was fishing for something to gloat about, it was just the principle of the thing. He didn’t trust the amicable new Hyperion.

Boreas was convinced something was afoot. It had to be a scheme of some sort. But if there was one thing he knew about Hyperion, it was that Hyperion’s pride was a sensitive little bitch. Maybe it was time to poke the bear to see what it was hiding underneath.

"Well, I figured I could make myself most useful by getting out of everyone’s way and throwing myself into training," said Boreas. "Since you weren’t going to listen to me about these guys being shady and all that."

Hyperion shook his head. "We take your concerns very seriously, Boreas. It’s just that everything seems legit so far."

Boreas brushed it off. He knew that. "Whatever. Anyway. My control’s improved a lot. I’m actually pretty proud of myself."

"That’s good," said Hyperion. "Self-confidence is important when facing villains."

"I mean, it’s just training, you know?" said Boreas, still substantially put off by Hyperion’s out-of-character affability. "I noticed you haven’t been training for a week…"

Hyperion shrugged. "The team comes first," he said simply and matter-of-factly.

Either Hyperion hadn’t caught the subtle jab—which wasn’t entirely unexpected since he was as dumb as a sack of bricks—or Hyperion was still trying to keep up appearances.

Boreas leaned forward. It was time to bring out the big guns. He had some juicy bait he was sure Hyperion wouldn’t be able to resist. "Honestly, I think I might be the strongest member of the team now. You should work hard if you want to catch up."

Despite intently watching Hyperion for any sign of irritation or anger, Boreas got nothing.

Hyperion just smiled and said, "Oh. Congratulations! I’m glad you’ve grown so much. But it’s not supposed to be a competition, you know."

Boreas knew he had to press harder. He had to really push Hyperion’s buttons. "Oh, what? Now that you’re losing, it’s not a competition anymore? Typical."

Hyperion shook his head. "That isn’t what I meant at all, man. I’m just saying it was never officially a competition."

He glanced at Flicker. "But if it helps the team then maybe we should consider it. I know I’ve been slacking. And it could help to have someone to compete against."

Boreas spluttered. He felt as if something in his brain had short-circuited. He’d expected Hyperion to shoot him down, to tell him he was being too competitive and that the whole point was to work together.

Even if that hadn’t happened, the last thing he expected was to hear an acknowledgment of fault. From Hyperion, of all people. It boggled the mind.

"M-maybe we should," said Boreas. Coughing to clear his throat, he tried to steer the topic elsewhere. "A-anyway, I noticed people haven’t been around as much. Where’s everyone been?"

Hyperion and Flicker shared a look. Flicker smiled at Hyperion and Boreas bristled at the sight of it. It was one of the things the two friends did all the time, having conversations without saying a thing. It was irritating.

In fact, Boreas had been happy when he noticed Flicker and Hyperion were being distant from one another. He never went so far as to hope the two’s friendship would collapse but he’d always known he’d never have a chance with the cute little speedster as long as Hyperion was in the picture.

Seeing the smile ticked him off.

"We’ve been over at Mas—Marcus’ place," he said. "We recently put together the final touches on a draft plan for the future of the team."

Boreas quirked an eyebrow. "Dude," he said flatly. He pointed at each of the cameras and projectors arranged around the room. "This place has fancy teleconferencing shit. Couldn’t you have had these meetings here?"

He shook his head. "I get that we have money now, but time’s still important, you know? How many hours have you been wasting, going to Selene City and back? What a fucking joke."

Flicker shook his head. "Not at all," he said. "Honestly, man. You’d understand if you came with us."

Hyperion nodded and agreed. "It’s something you really have to experience in person, Boreas. Face-to-face meetings are important. It helps build bonds."

Boreas threw up his hands. "Okay, fine," he said. It was a lost cause, anyway. If Hyperion and Flicker were agreeing—and it seemed like Flicker was genuinely agreeing this time instead of just going along with whatever Hyperion wanted—he stood little chance of changing any minds.

"Anyway, that’s why I called a meeting today. So we can be briefed on the plan." Hyperion turned to Cole and gestured toward the screen. "If you would, Cole."

"Of course, Hyperion," said Cole. The corner of his mouth quirked into a little smirk. It didn’t escape Boreas’ attention though he didn’t really know what Cole was smirking about.

A villain profile came up on the screen. With his hands, Cole created three copies which he flicked across the room toward each of the three supers’ phones.

Boreas looked at his. The villain in question was self-styled as "Count Cazimir." He seemed to be of Eastern European descent. He was rather handsome, if narrow-faced and stern in the expression.

The Count had platinum blond hair and bright red eyes. Officially, his powers were undocumented but there were security footage clips attached to the file that indicated he had some affinity for blood manipulation and mental domination.

Boreas couldn’t help but snicker. "So, wait… This guy… He’s not even a proper super, right? Just… deadass… An actual vampire?"

Hyperion chuckled. "Well, it certainly looks that way," he said.

Boreas quirked an eyebrow. "What? You’re seriously fine with this guy being our first big assignment? He’s just a fucking vampire, man. Load up some garlic in a potato cannon and be done with it. Gods."

Hyperion shrugged. "You know, a great many heroes and teams have fallen to supervillains everyone underestimated."

Boreas snorted. He held up his phone and pointed at the Count’s MTD designation. "He’s just a Tier III, man."

Flicker shook his head. "The Mbazi Tier Designation isn’t a measure of how dangerous a super is, just how destructive their powers are!" he said.

Boreas silently fumed. He was hoping Flicker would take his side. The idea of fighting a vampire as their big debut was an absurd one.

If he was being honest, he wasn’t sure why Flicker was putting up with it. And Flicker seemed like he actually wanted it, too. He wasn’t just trying to appease Hyperion.

Boreas huffed. He set his phone down, leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Alright. For the sake of argument, let’s say we take this guy seriously."

He gestured at Hyperion. "You want the team to be successful, right? Want us to have a bit of prestige to our names?"

Hyperion nodded. Of course, he did. The guy was a clout chaser.

Boreas honestly found it tedious. He got that a certain amount of fame and recognition was necessary to get a hero team up and running but he’d often felt as if Hyperion was just pursuing it all for the sake of fame.

Boreas leaned forward. "Well, if the guy’s an actual vampire, can’t you just do your sunshine thing, and then the fight’s over in 10 seconds?"

Cole chose interjected. "There’s no evidence to indicate Count Cazimir is subject to the same limitations as classical vampires," he said.

Boreas frowned. "You, shut up," he said as he glared at Cole. He turned his attention back to Hyperion and continued. "It doesn’t matter. Someone’s going to say we chose to go up against a vampire because we thought sun powers would work."

Hyperion opened his mouth to say something but a soft chime from Flicker’s phone interrupted him.

Flicker glanced at the notification and chuckled. He looked at Boreas and smiled. "It looks like you won’t have to worry about the prestige of taking down a vampire," he said.

With a flick of his fingers, Flicker opened a video feed on the main screen. It was a newscast of some sort.

The footage was muted but the sound wasn’t necessary. The lower third gave enough context clues.

The caster seemed to be reporting on a fight in downtown Storm City. "Hey, that’s close to the old HQ, right?" said Boreas.

Flicker nodded. "Yep. Looks like it," he said.

Boreas also recognized who was fighting. The Count was up against the darlings of Storm City, the junior team that they were working to surpass.

He couldn’t help but gawk as the Count wiped the floor with the heroes. He sat back with a huff once the feed ended.

"Glad to know you’re on board now," said Hyperion with a light laugh.

Boreas scowled.

"Please continue," said Hyperion.

Cole nodded. He looked at Boreas as he spoke, outlining strategies for dealing with the Count’s powers. They were tentative since the Count was a new villain and no one really understood how his abilities worked but even Boreas had to admit they were good.

As he finished with his explanation, Cole chuckled. "I guess some of this is probably going to change once they’re done analyzing today’s footage," he said.

Flicker nodded. "Oh yeah. No doubt. But I’m confident Marcus will get us any revisions within the next 24-48 hours."

Boreas quirked an eyebrow but said nothing. He’d never heard Flicker sound so convinced someone was going to pull through.

"Anyway," said Cole, "the plan originally was to wait for the Count to make a splash and then host a press conference in the aftermath."

He looked at Hyperion and adjusted his glasses. "It looks like the timeline will have to move up a bit, though."

Hyperion nodded. "Just let me know when," he said.

It was one part of the job Boreas didn’t envy. The less he had to deal with the media, the better. It was one of the perks of being in a team, as far as he was concerned. He could leave the public relations to someone else while he focused on being a hero.

Cole continued to the next slide of his presentation. He went over the details of the media campaign that had been planned.

While most seemed pretty good to Boreas, there were a few points he found to be disingenuous. He raised complaints and Cole seemed to take them in stride, dutifully noting down his concerns.

"When the fight happens, we’re going to get some really good footage," said Cole with a small nod. "This is really more Nate’s field, but he’s assured me the guys who’ll be running the cameras are some of the best in the industry."

Boreas shrugged. "Sounds good to me," he said, glancing over at Hyperion and Flicker who both nodded in agreement.

"One last thing," said Cole. "We’re thinking that it might be for the benefit of the team if we established a sort of arch-nemesis for the group."

Boreas frowned. "What’s that supposed to mean?" he said. "Like, I don’t doubt we’re gonna make enemies but what do you mean establish?"

Cole moved on to the next slide. It was just a repeat of the Count’s profile. "We were thinking that we could set the Count up to be the team’s archenemy. That’s bound to drive some engagement, you know?"

"How’s that supposed to happen?" said Boreas, frowning in confusion.

He looked around the room. "I mean, we all know we can take the Count down, right? Just because he kicked the asses on those Black Aegis guys doesn’t mean we can’t take him."

Boreas scratched his cheek. "We all know those talentless hacks just bought their way to the top."

Hyperion cleared his throat. "No, I am confident in the team’s capabilities," he said. "To clarify, Boreas, the plan is to let the Count narrowly escape."

"What?!" said Boreas.

Hyperion shrugged. "The plan is to make a deliberate mistake that lets the Count slip away at the last moment."

"Gods. That’s low, even for you," said Boreas. "That’s fucking scummy. Fuck. Are you even hearing yourselves? We’re heroes for gods sake!"

Boreas leaned forward and tapped his fingertips on the table. "We shouldn’t be putting innocent people at risk. This isn’t some kind of game!"

Hyperion, surprisingly, nodded. "I agree," he said. "But at the same time, we have the greater good to consider. The Count is a villain we can deal with. But you said it yourself, the Black Aegis guys are terrible…"

Boreas bristled as his and Hyperion’s eyes met. "They are," he said.

"I know," said Hyperion. "But they’re the guys in the spotlight. What happens if a bigger threat comes in?"

Hyperion pressed on. "If we do this now, it means we can replace those guys. We’ll be much more effective at protecting the city. We can just put the Count in jail when we’ve gotten where we need to go."

Boreas shook his head. "There’s a twisted logic in there and I fucking hate it, but…" He looked at Flicker, hoping to find some support. Hyperion had lost his mind and Boreas was hoping he wasn’t the only one that had noticed.

Flicker shrugged. "I think it’s a good plan," he said. "It might not be strictly ethical but it’s worth the risk."

Boreas threw his hands in the air. "Alright, I’m done," he said. "I can’t fucking believe this is what we’re stooping to. Are you sure you want to do this?"

Flicker and Hyperion shared another of those looks. "Yeah," said Hyperion with a curt nod. "We are."

Boreas sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Alright. I’ll go with it once." He was lying through his teeth but he didn’t have to say that part.

"Thank you, Boreas. I promise you won’t regret it," said Hyperion.

Boreas leveled a flat gaze at Boreas. "Yeah, well… I’m sure I will."

It took a bit of practice to run on ice but Flicker and Boreas had pretty much mastered the art of it. The improved traction on the soles of the new suit helped a lot, too.

A glimmering, paper-thin platform materialized in front of them, extending the one they were running on. They were two stories up from ground level and as soon as they passed, the part of the path they’d left behind crumbled in their wake.

They were making good time, thanks in no small part to Flicker sharing his super-speed with Boreas while they ran. It wasn’t much further to their destination: a cordoned-off area of the city where civilian casualties could be minimized.

Boreas glanced over his shoulder. Hyperion was flying in the same direction they were, but he had his back to them.

Hyperion was engaged in something of a dogfight with Count Cazimir who wasn’t far behind. Bolts of sizzling solar plasma shot through the air, narrowly missing every time as the Count nimbly dodged them with superhuman speed.

Boreas grimaced. He was performing two roles at once: creating the path for him and Flicker with one hand and providing cover fire for Hyperion with the other.

The Count’s attacks were relentless. A constant rain of needle-like spines made of glistening blood pelted Hyperion. The hero could deal with some of the projectiles but not nearly enough of them.

"Gods. Is that fucker ever going to run out of blood?" Boreas grunted. If not for Flicker sharing super-speed perception with him, he wouldn’t have been able to effectively protect Hyperion, either.

There were so many projectiles and they shot through the air so fast that normal people wouldn’t have had a chance to react to them. Fortunately, in the face of Flicker’s high-speed perception, they were slow enough to deal with.

Narrow beams of freezing energy provided Hyperion some reprieve from the barrage. Each one was precisely aimed to collide with one of the blood needles. When the projectiles collided, the incredibly cold temperatures froze the blood to the point of instantly shattering in the heat that exuded from Hyperion’s flesh.

"We’re here," said Flicker.

Boreas nearly jumped. He briefly turned his eyes away from Hyperion and looked down. They were at the plaza Marcus’ men had told them about and it seemed clear of any potential bystanders.

He angled the next platforms to take them closer to the ground. Before long, he and Flicker stepped off the ice and onto concrete. Hyperion joined them soon after.

For all of Boreas’ efforts, he didn’t manage to catch all the projectiles. Hyperion’s suit was torn in places and bleeding from a few small cuts.

It was the first time Boreas got to see the nanites in the fabric at work but it was fascinating. They formed what looked like a writhing mass of living metal at the edges of the tears in the suit. Little by little, they repaired the damage.

Hyperion shook his head. He seemed winded, which Boreas couldn’t entirely blame him for. "He gets stronger the more he gets hurt," he said. "And he gets stronger the more we get hurt."

Boreas rolled his eyes. "Some people get all the luck," he said. Hyperion and Flicker chuckled but quickly turned serious as Count Cazimir landed nearby.

The Count alighted on the concrete with a casual elegance. He looked around, a small smile playing on his lips. It was as if he didn’t have a care in the world—as if he wasn’t even slightly threatened by the three heroes in front of him.

"You cleared out a place just for me?" said the Count. He sounded thoroughly amused. "How thoughtful. Though if you were under the impression I required people to demonstrate my abilities, I am afraid you are sorely mistaken."

Hyperion cracked his neck. A faint glow wrapped around his body as he rose into the air. He shook his head. "Nah, man. We just didn’t want anyone to get caught in the crossfire."

Boreas and Hyperion shared a look. It was time. Boreas’ objective was to buy time for Hyperion to gather enough energy for a devastating attack.

He mounted an assault against the Count. He flung freezing blasts of energy from his hands, one after the other, but the Count seemed to have wised up to his powers.

Thin circular sheets of blood blocked each attack. They froze and shattered on impact but absorbed the force of Boreas’ onslaught rather effectively.

Seeing this, Boreas changed tack. He exerted his influence on the moisture in the air, forcing the water vapor to sublimate into thin, razor-sharp icicles.

The Count wasn’t the only one that could adapt to the changing tides of battle. Boreas had been inspired by the Count’s blood needle attack, after all.

Boreas thrust his hands forward. The icicles whistled as they shot past.

The Count’s eyes widened. Streamers and tendrils of blood gathered to him as he interposed a thick shield between him and Boreas.

Though the icicles ultimately impacted the shield and were deflected, they had done their job. Boreas looked at Flicker and said, "Go!"

The Count stepped back in surprise as Flicker suddenly appeared next to him. He didn’t react quickly enough. His head snapped to the side as he caught a right hook to the jaw, making him stagger.

Boreas stopped the hail of icicles. He was afraid he might hit Flicker, even if he knew Flicker’s powers would let him dodge with ease.

He had to admire the speedster. Flicker’s powers, useful as they were, came with devastating restrictions.

Flicker could share his powers through physical contact but it deprived him of the one thing that made other speedsters so deadly in combat: he wasn’t able to use his super-speed to build momentum to attack. Even if Flicker was moving at many times the speed of sound, his punches would land with the same force as if he were standing still next to his target.

And yet, Flicker still made the most of his gifts. He was using his speed to rapidly change positions and hitting the Count with nothing more than his strength.

It was a scrappy sort of fighting style, not the kind of thing one might expect of a super, but it worked. The Count was on the back foot.

It was one of the reasons Boreas liked Flicker so much. No one ever recognized it, but he knew Flicker trained more than him and Hyperion combined.

Flicker was a beast in close-quarters combat and his speed, in addition to his skill, made him particularly difficult to deal with. Boreas was fortunate enough to never have been on the receiving end of Flicker’s fists, but he’d seen well enough what the speedster could do to a training dummy.

"Flicker! Get out of the way!" yelled Hyperion. "Boreas! Get your domain up!"

Boreas nodded. "You have ten minutes!" he said. His strength and control had improved dramatically in the last few weeks but there were still limits to what he could do.

"It’ll have to do," said Hyperion.

Boreas met Hyperion’s eyes. They were incandescent with power, burning bright like the surface of the sun. He almost had to hold an arm up against his face.

Flicker managed to land one more punch before running back to where Boreas was standing. "Ready?" he said.

Boreas took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah."

He looked up at Hyperion. "Now!"

The Count caught himself just in time to raise a defense against the searing beam of solar plasma shooting out of Hyperion’s hands. At the same time, Boreas held his hands out in front of him, freezing energy shooting from his palms in the form of billowing mist that rippled outward along the concrete.

Frost covered the ground as the mist passed over and the temperature of the air plummeted. Boreas’ influence expanded, the edge of the Domain reaching the Count just in time for Hyperion’s beam to putter out.

The Count barely had time to react. His eyes widened as the frost climbed his legs, rendering him immobile. He wound up an attack, gathering blood into a javelin aimed squarely at Boreas. Fortunately, the frost overtook the rest of him before he could swing his arm forward.

"Good job," said Hyperion as he landed next to Boreas. "You weren’t kidding about your control."

Boreas would have loved to take the opportunity to gloat but he could feel the Count fighting against him. "C-can’t hold him…"

Hyperion frowned. Across the way, the frost covering the Count’s body was beginning to fade. Streamers and curlicues of steam rose from the Count’s pale skin as he regained more and more of his mobility.

Boreas staggered back as Count Cazimir forced himself free of the ice. He bristled as Hyperion caught him but he wasn’t going to make a scene in the middle of a fight.

The Count licked his lips. There was a hungry gleam in his eyes. "Well done," he said, lightly clapping the tips of his fingers against his palm. "You boys should be honored. I have decided to turn you into fine additions for my stable."

Flicker laughed. "What? Like prize horses, my lord?" he said, giving the Count a mocking curtsy.

Boreas raised an eyebrow at the comment. It was the first time he’d heard Flicker clap back at a villain but even he had to admit it was a pretty good one. It was even kind of sexy if he was being honest.

The Count chuckled. "More like cows, little one," he said. "Your delectable blood shall serve to calm my insatiable thirst."

Boreas stood in front of Flicker. "Over my dead body, you fucking Dracula wannabe." He glanced at Hyperion and for the first time, he felt as if the two of them were in sync.

The temperature plummeted even further as Boreas thrust his hands forward. A twinkling cloud of ice crystals sublimated in the air around the Count.

At the same time, Hyperion called upon his powers as well. He began to glow, loops of plasma like solar prominences clinging to his skin.

"Take this!" shouted Hyperion as he fired a narrow beam of light from his hands. It collided with an ice crystal and split into smaller beams. Each one of those collided with another ice crystal and split again. And so on it went until the area was blanketed in intense, searing sunlight.

Boreas was feeling pretty positive about the whole thing until the sunlight suddenly winked out. He looked at Hyperion, frowning. "What’s wrong?" he said.

Hyperion’s eyes were wide. His body was stiff. "I-I can’t move!" he said.

Boreas frowned. "What do you mean you can’t move? What the fuck are you doing, man?"

Hyperion had lowered his arms. He started walking forward, the movements jerky and unnatural, like a robot. "I-I swear I’m not doing this," he said as his leg stiffly swung in front of him and planted on the ground.

It had to be the Count. If he had control over blood then it stood to reason that he could control blood inside another person’s body, too, to some extent.

"I’ll get him out of here," said Flicker.

Boreas nodded. That was his thought, too. Hyperion was compromised and they had to get him out of the Count’s control range.

Flicker nodded at Boreas and sprinted over to Hyperion’s side. He placed his hands on Hyperion’s shoulders and made to run away with him but stopped mid-stride.

Boreas’ heart sank.

Flicker robotically released Hyperion’s shoulders. He lowered his arms to his sides. With jerking, mechanical motions, he put one leg in front of the other. Slowly and haltingly, the two made their way toward the cloud of ice crystals.

The Count dispersed the glittering fog with a flourish of his cape. He seemed entirely untouched, not a hair on his head even slightly singed.

His lips curled into a cold, thin smile as he crooked his finger and beckoned Hyperion and Flicker closer. "Giving yourselves up to me? My. Such good cattle you are."

"Let them go!" said Boreas, firing a blast of frost at the Count. It was stopped by a disc of blood that promptly turned brittle and disintegrated into a million glittering pieces of frozen dust.

Boreas glanced at his two teammates. They were struggling but making no progress. He needed to buy time but no matter how hard he tried to reach the Count, his attacks were blocked.

It was with no small amount of bitterness that he admitted he was wrong to underestimate the Count. The man was a powerful villain, and even more so for his ability to directly control the bodies of others.

Boreas was powerless to stop the Count. He didn’t relent with his attacks but there was little more he could do than watch, rooted to the spot, while the villain advanced on his friends.

The Count licked his lips as he grabbed Flicker by the chin and said, "Oh, yes… You will do nicely. Such a pretty face you will make while I drain you of your blood."

Something in Boreas snapped when the Count leaned in and licked a single, unbroken stripe up the side of Flicker’s neck. "Let him go!" he shouted.

The Count chuckled as he turned his attention to Boreas. "Ah, I had almost forgotten… The best for last. After all, the blood of virgins is the most exquisite delicacy."

Boreas’ eyes widened. Despite the situation, he found himself blushing furiously. Even the natural coldness of his body was insufficient to stop the heat blooming across his cheeks.

It took him a moment to find his center again but he did. He shook his head and took a breath, conjuring ice spikes out of the air that he leveled straight at the Count.

A smirk curled the corner of the Count’s lips. "My, my. So feisty. I think I might enjoy this quite a bit."

"I said… LET. THEM. GO!" said Boreas, flinging the ice shards with all the strength he could muster.

Despite his best efforts, his attack proved trivial to the Count. The spikes were deflected or dodged with ease. One crashed into the concrete and scattered along the icy surface.

Boreas drew out the power that resided in the deepest reaches of his being. The pure essence of winter coalesced in his hands, pooling like liquid nitrogen on his palms.

He thrust his hands forward and the wind screamed as the full fury of a snowstorm surged forward from him. The frigid blast slammed into a swirling shield of blood, freezing the surface.

The constant rotation of the shield, however, ensured that only the surface would freeze. The shield flung shards of frozen blood every which way.

It was fruitless, Boreas knew. He would never get through the Count’s shield with what he was doing but he was buying time. He could see Hyperion and Flicker. They were starting to break out of whatever enchantment the Count had placed upon them.

Slowly, almost painfully so, Hyperion raised an arm toward the Count. Golden light pooled in his palm but before he could make his shot the Count chuckled and said, "Perhaps I should have made sure no one would get in my way."

Two thin tendrils of blood whipped toward Hyperion and Flicker. The two were struck in the side of the neck and immediately thereafter collapsed in a heap on the frozen ground.

If earlier they’d been too stiff, now they were altogether too limp.

"NO!" Boreas bellowed as the force of winter billowing out of him redoubled in strength and went berserk. The temperature of the air dropped even further, to the point that the gas was directly sublimating onto the concrete.

Icicles veiled in billowing mist erupted from the ground. Like thorns—or perhaps the teeth of an ice monstrosity—they stabbed toward the Count.

Though the villain held his own at first, slicing away at the icicles with blades made of blood, he was quickly put on the back foot. There were simply so many, coming from every direction. Little by little, Count Cazimir was forced to retreat.

"You messed with the wrong fucking team," Boreas growled under his breath as a frigid wind wrapped around his legs and carried him into the sky.

Boreas thrust his hands forward and solid ice shot up from the ground, encasing the Count’s legs even as his back hit the side of a building.

The Count struggled. He swung his arms, slicing at the ice and breaking chunks off with pick-shaped blood constructs. The ice, however, continued to climb, regenerating itself even faster than the Count could damage it.

Boreas approached the Count with a menacing glare. The wind carried him, holding him a good foot off the ground.

The Count flicked his wrists. Behind him, Boreas heard coughing and groaning as Hyperion and Flicker returned to consciousness. "They were simply knocked out. See? We are all friends here," he said.

"I don’t care!" Boreas snarled as the ice climbed up to press against the Count’s throat.

He looked over his shoulder just in time to watch Flicker and Hyperion clamber back onto their feet. They met his gaze. He knew what they wanted him to do.

"I’m sorry," said Boreas, his voice shaking with relief and barely-contained rage. "I don’t think I can forgive what he did."

With a flick of his wrist, Boreas encased Count Cazimir in a block of solid ice. For all that the villain struggled within, he was unable to break free.

Boreas landed unsteadily on his feet, his strength spent. He leaned on Hyperion when the two rushed over to him. He didn’t even have the energy to be irritated about it.

"Guess he’s not getting away after all," he said gruffly. "Narrowly or otherwise."

Boreas was internally freaking out as they arrived back at the base. Even though he’d messed the plan up, Hyperion still hadn’t blown his top.

It was weird and he didn’t like it. Hyperion didn’t even look particularly mad and still he felt as if he was walking on eggshells around the guy.

It was as if the whole world was bating its breath. He expected an eruption worthy of Vesuvius. And yet as they walked in through the front door, there was nothing.

"I’m surprised you’ve managed to hold it in for so long," Boreas snarked. It was probably not the best idea to push buttons but he wanted to just get it over with.

Hyperion quirked an eyebrow. "Hm?" he said.

Boreas shrugged. "Go on. You know you want to say it. Tell me how I’m such a fucking idiot. How all I needed to do was let the Count escape."

"Oh," said Hyperion. He shrugged. "Eh. It’s okay. The Count isn’t the only villain out there."

Flicker chimed in. "And besides, we have money now. We now have the luxury of biding our time and waiting for our next big opportunity," he said.

Boreas spluttered. Flicker was acting about the same as he usually did. Hyperion, on the other hand, was entirely out of character. "Dude… What the fuck? What is going on? Why are you being so nice to me?"

He looked around. As far as he could tell there weren’t any hidden cameras but these days it was hard to make sure. "Am I being filmed for some sort of prank show or something?"

Hyperion and Flicker shared another of those meaningful best-friend looks. Boreas was sick of it.

"Can’t you two fucking act like normal people and talk?" said Boreas. "It’s fucking weird watching the two of you eye-fuck each other and mind-meld."

Crossing his arms over his chest, Boreas continued. "I’m sick of it. You might think no one else notices, but I promise we do. And I’m pretty sure you’re planning something to fuck with me."

Hyperion shook his head. "Nah, man. It’s nothing like that," he said. "Marcus just helped me realize something."

Boreas quirked an eyebrow at Hyperion. "What’s that?" he said.

"That I haven’t been the best leader for the team," said Hyperion. "But I’m trying my best to be better now."

Boreas scoffed. "Well, anyone could have told you that. Hell, I was trying to tell you for years and you never listened."

Hyperion nodded. "I accept that criticism. And that’s why I’ve been trying to listen more," he said. "And on that note… I’d like to apologize for the way I’ve treated you in the past. I hope we can start over."

Boreas reluctantly accepted the hand that Hyperion extended toward him. He was half-expecting Hyperion to burn him but nothing of the sort happened. It was just a normal handshake.

"Oh, you guys are here. Thank the gods." Cole walked into the room, looking somewhat breathless. "Marcus and Pollux are in the conference room."

Hyperion and Flicker shared another look.

Boreas didn’t mention it this time. Strangely, though, it looked to him like both were quite excited.

Hyperion was practically fighting down a grin as he turned to Boreas and said, "We should go see what this is all about."

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