Amara ducked as the mass-shifting woman flew overhead and slammed into the rocks beyond, smashing them into a million pieces. Something suddenly slammed into her from behind, knocking her hard to the ground. She rolled over to see the boy with steel skin standing over her. She bent her arms back over her head and propped herself up as she kicked him in the chest with both feet, sending him flying across the cave.
Amara got to her feet and took a look around the room. She was still a bit groggy from the sedative but the rush of adrenaline was more than enough to render its effects moot. Eric and Antonio were doing their best to defend themselves from the younglings without harming them, but Walter was making that very difficult. Sammy’s ENB had been plucked off of her, but given the nature of her power Walter had chosen to use here as little more than a human shield.
She looked up to see the purple-eyed fiend laughing as he pulled on the young super humans’ strings like puppets. She had tried to make a move on him more than once, but anytime someone even thought about confronting him the blonde elemental girl or the invisible boy would appear out of nowhere and distract them.
Eric was standing to her left. He currently had his hands full with the regenerator who was throwing wild punches in his direction.
“Eric!” She called to him.
Eric turned to face her as he continued blocking the boy’s punches.
“He can’t feel pain and he regenerates!”
“Good to know!” Eric called back before grabbing the other’s arm and slashing him across the face with his claws. The young man had no reaction to the gashes on his face, countering the attack with another wild hook. Eric easily dodged the punch before tackling his opponent and pinning him to the ground.
Amara watched as an invisible force removed Eric’s ENB from his temple. Eric suddenly stopped his attack on the painless regenerative and turned his attention to Amara.
“Oh crap,” Amara moaned to herself as she watched The Animal begin charging toward her. He lunged forward, leading with his claws. She threw up her hands and grabbed onto his wrists before spinning around and hurling him across the room. That was going to hurt, but he’d regenerate.
Amara watched as the other super humans began to circle in around her. It was down to just her and the five Antonios. She hoped that Jason and Sabrina were almost finished with Bryan so they could come help her with the real problem.
The seven powered individuals now under Walter’s control inched closer as Amara prepared to defend herself, but the confrontation was interrupted by a loud shriek from above. Amara looked up just in time to see Walter falling from his perch and crashing onto the cold hard ground. Harry, Sabrina, and Bryan emerged through the open doorway and onto the ledge. Bryan held out his hands to his sides as he lowered the three of them to the ground using his telekinesis. Amara prepared herself to go after Bryan, but something about the situation made her stop.
Bryan felt a terrible rage as he eyed the man he’d once been tricked into calling master—the same man who had brainwashed him into murdering hundreds of other super humans.
The Insider climbed to his feet and glared at Bryan with his purple eyes. “How dare you!”
Bryan threw out his right hand and delivered a telepathic blast to The Insider’s brain, causing him to cry out in agony and drop to his knees. Bryan reached in deeper, pulling his control over the others away from him. They all began to show signs of shocked disarray as they watched Bryan bring the mighty villain to his knees.
“I am more powerful than you will ever be!” The Insider cried out, attempting to bring himself back to his feet.
Bryan reached back and then pushed his hand forward again, sending another pulse through the villain’s twisted mind.
“No!” he shouted. “Your power may have greater reach, but mine is more focused!”
He both telepathically and telekinetically squeezed down on The Insider’s brain, causing him to collapse to the ground. Bryan could feel him trying to reach out to the other minds in the cave, but Bryan cut him off, putting up blockers in every corner of The Insider’s powerful mind.
“You will never again be able to manipulate anyone else the way you did me ever again!”
Bryan gestured with his head toward the crippled villain, not willing to take his concentration off of him for a second.
Major Justice walked out from behind Bryan, carrying a metal headband in his left hand. He attempted to put the band on The Insider’s head, but the villain kicked and threw himself backward, unwilling to accept defeat.
“Can you hold him still with your telekinesis?” Sabrina asked from behind him.
Bryan did his best to reply without breaking concentration, “No. It’s taking all of my focus just to keep him from using his powers on everyone in here.”
Bryan could feel beads of sweat dripping down his face. He was beginning to lose his grip. The Insider had managed to get to his feet. Bryan tried to knock him back down but this time the villain was ready for it, hitting Bryan with recoil.
Bryan had managed to keep The Insider’s telepathic powers in check to this point, but he couldn’t keep him down any longer.
“You will pay for this!” The Insider yelled before turning and trying to make a run for it.
The villain took two steps before appearing to run into an invisible wall. Blaze suddenly appeared in the spot where The Insider had been halted.
“Boo,” he said right before clocking the villain in the mouth. Blaze must have packed a mean wallop because The Insider went down hard.
Harry casually strode over to where The Insider lay dazed on the floor. He gently placed the band on his head and flipped it on. Bryan could feel the other’s telepathic presence gently slip away. He dropped his arms in relief. Taking on the world’s most powerful telepath was rough duty.
The Insider began looking around, both aware and confused at the same time.
“What…what’s happening?” he asked. “I should be doing something. There’s something I can do…or I can’t do. What is it?”
Bryan looked on, almost feeling sorry for the now helpless Walter Sykes but quickly dismissing the notion. He deserved his punishment. He had been so insistent on making sacrifices for the good of mankind and now he had finally been given that opportunity—this was his sacrifice.
“Where is Jason?” She-Beast asked immediately after the threat was neutralized.
Bryan dropped his head, truly devastated to have to deliver the news of The Eagle’s passing. His guilt for what he’d done could not be measured.
“He gave his life so that I could continue to carry out his destiny,” Sabrina spoke before Bryan could muster the courage to. “I shall devote my life to making sure his sacrifice means something.”
She-Beast closed her eyes. She was clearly distraught but she appeared to be trying to keep her emotions at bay until a more appropriate time.
Bryan slowly walked over to where the most powerful woman in the world was standing. He put his arms down at his sides and stood up straight.
“It’s my fault that he’s dead,” Bryan confessed. “Along with hundreds of others like us. I accept whatever punishment the IAS deems appropriate.”
The cave was deadly silent as everyone awaited She-Beast’s ruling. Bryan could feel his entire body shaking, but he knew that he was doing the right thing. He had committed heinous acts in the name of a madman, and he did not expect to ever be forgiven for them. Whatever She-Beast decided, he would accept without argument.
The African hero turned to look Bryan in the eyes. “No,” she said. “I too know what it is like to have been under the control of this man—to perform unspeakable acts and being helpless to stop myself. You are not the perpetrator of these acts Bryan—you are a victim like the rest of us. My hands were also used to take lives in that attack, and yet my colleagues have forgiven me without a slight of doubt in their minds.”
She-Beast scanned the others in the room to make sure there were no objections to her ruling. “I was wrong to demand that you be ostracized from our society. My small-minded ignorance led me to believe your abilities made you a risk—that just because they were similar to Walter’s that automatically meant that you were the same. You have shown me today that you clearly are not. I of all people should have realized that while super humans are what we are, it does not define who we are. We are individuals, all with our own unique minds. Our powers do not make us good or evil—that is decided in our hearts. I now see Bryan that you are not a threat because of your powers—you are in fact our greatest defense against those like Walter Sykes because of your heart. So my only punishment for you is to ask that you join our cause, and help to defend the world from those who would try to control it.”
Bryan felt a smile stretch his mouth as wide as it would go. He began to cry tears of joy and relief. The Insider could not have been more wrong—these people truly were the greatest heroes on Earth.
Bryan heard footsteps coming from his right. He turned to see Blaze creeping slowly towards him. The currently visible ghost stopped just short of Bryan, a glum expression on his face. Without any warning, Blaze reached out and threw his arms around Bryan.
“I knew you were one of the good guys,” he said. One by one the rest of the group from the embassy joined in, forming a big group hug. Bryan had never been so surprised or happy in his life.
The five older heroes went over to fetch Walter Sykes, still reeling from the effects of the device around his head.
“There is something about me,” he told them.
“Sure is buddy,” Harry replied.
“We’ll send him to the World’s Prison. They will watch over him closely,” Amara instructed. Harry looked at her and nodded, knowing it was the right thing to do.