Season Notes: violence, magical coercion and related self harm, references to suicide, cliffhange
“You have not done everything you could, child.” He hissed.
It had been five days since he rubbed their noses in the need to move, and they had no idea what to do. His mood had gone from sardonic, to caustic, to angry. In response to Blade’s claim that they were doing all they could, he finally exploded. “You have not made use of one of your most powerful resources.
“We still have no fucking reason to trust you.” Mobb rebutted.
More practically, Blade asked, “How could you help?”
“Several ways,” he replied, “Though perhaps the easiest and fastest would be to make a phone call.”
“A phone call?”
“A phone call.”
Mobb snorted, “You aren’t any good at this answering fully thing, are you?”
He blinked. “No, I suppose not.” He shrugged. “For over a thousand years, I have guarded my tongue lest the wrong word be used against me. Can I trust you to be different?”
He held up a hand to stop their response.
“If I make this call, I may expose one of my more useful and powerful contacts in the modern world. I have managed to keep knowledge of this contact from Mourningdagger and all his enemies. This contact does not know who they have been dealing with. Only that I have been helpful, and they are in my debt.”
The five looked at each other.
Finally, Quickmoon said, “He didn’t need to even mention this… whoever this is, you know.”
“How do you figure that?” Mobb asked.
“He said there were ‘several ways’ he could help. He could have told us another way he could help, and it would have been an honest answer, right?”
He looked away. Blade laughed. “I think you’ve nailed it, Quick.
“Okay, so why did you tell us about this guy?”
“Because it will be the quickest and possibly best solution right now, and you need that.”
It was a crossroads, and they all knew it. Whatever they chose would determine their future — possibly even their survival.
To everyone’s surprise, even hers, it was Mobb who pulled out an unused burner phone and handed it to him. “Make the call.”
He dialed a number from memory and put the phone to his ear. “No names.
“Chicago, maybe. Plans might have changed. I’m out; I won’t have intel for you anymore.” He pulled the phone away from his ear a moment. “Worse news: I’m calling in my first favor.”
He paused a moment but didn’t pull the phone from his ear. “Safehouse, sized for a large group, completely off the books. Text me the address at this number within the day. Leave the keys under the mat, and you and everyone involved forgets it exists.”
“Get it then. It doesn’t matter who you talk to anymore as long as they understand the rules. Betray me, and it’ll be the last thing they do.”
He hung up and tossed the phone back to Mobb.
“We’re not going to let you kill anyone,” she said.
“He doesn’t know that.”
“How do you know we can trust him?” Salem asked.
“We’ve got a good… working relationship, you might call it. He isn’t going to want to lose my help any more than I want to lose his. It’s the other people involved I don’t know if we can trust. But you need a place now, and he’ll get it for you.”
“Alright,” Blade nodded, “So this is another temp safe house; we use it as a base while we figure out something long-term that no one will know about.”
He took a breath and glanced at Astaroth, who nodded. “Now. You and Sword and I are going to talk while the others start packing.”
Astaroth, Mobb, and Salem cleared out, Mobb rather reluctantly. But they had all recognized that he seemed to loosen up when it was just Blade in the room, and Quick was the one who had figured him out. So let the two of them handle it.
One of the things that constantly surprised them was how well they had come to understand each other without words. They might disagree, but they understood. Was it part of the magic? Maybe. By that point, they didn’t care.
He didn’t come out of ‘his’ corner when they left, but he did relax a bit.
“Alright,” Blade said after a moment. “We’ve let things ride the past few days. Mostly because you and Sword gave us a hell of a shock the other day. Now, though, we’re putting our lives in your hands.
“I’m not going to give any orders right now, but I want, we need, answers. And you know Sword will likely read between the lines of anything you don’t say.”
Blade paused, but he didn’t respond. After a moment, Quick got up and got three glasses of water. Ey gave Blade a glass, kept one for emself, and put the third at an empty spot on the table.
“It would be really nice to have something to call you,” ey said. ” ‘That bastard’ doesn’t fit anymore, and ‘he’ just gets confusing after a while. Also, I’m curious about the ‘no name’ thing. How does that even happen?”
“Time. In enough time, anything can be forgotten.”
“So you used to have a name and… what, no one used it for so long even you forgot it? That’s rough.”
Again, no response.
Blade leaned back in his chair. “I gotta agree with Sword. The no-name thing is a pain. And I can’t imagine you’re happy with it.”
“It has its advantages.”
For a moment, it seemed he wouldn’t answer again, then he sighed and said, “Certain magics are difficult without a name to tie them to. It’s likely the only reason Mourningdagger hasn’t been able to track me down. A spell to find ‘Lieutenant’ is slightly unspecific.”
Quickmoon snorted, and he almost smiled.
“Names can be unspecific too. Try finding ‘Mr. Smith’ sometime.” Blade said, “But I get you. If not a name, then a label, a title, would be useful.”
“What am I then?” a hint of bitterness slipped out with the words. “I am whatever you make of me.”
Quickmoon and Blade looked at each other, confused and disturbed.
“What do you mean?”
He caught himself, looked away.
Blade kicked out a chair, “Oh, si–” he stopped abruptly. “Will you please sit down?”
To everyone’s surprise, he did.
For a moment, his masks slipped, and they saw the haggard face he hid behind them. “Children, untainted by the world.” He shook his head. “Sooner or later, you will die, and I will pass to the hands of another. Any name you give me will be stripped away eventually. So call me as you will.”
He sipped the water and leaned back in the chair.
“Why?” Blade asked. “That’s what we really want to know. Why did you serve Mourningdagger, why are you… bound to us?”
“Oh, that?” his sardonic grin was back now, though weaker than usual. “That is simple. I was cursed.”
“And you can’t die?”
“I can be killed, but I don’t age or ill. And I can’t take my own life by my own will. It’s certainly made for an… interesting life.”
They sat in silence for a time. Blade and Quick didn’t have all their questions answered, but they understood then that the most important answers were theirs. That made only one answer possible.
A good barracks lawyer doesn’t break the rules; they use the rules. And an effective rules lawyer didn’t waste a powerful, world-breaking combo on a goblin. They save it for when it will cripple the red dragon.
Blade, Mobb, and Salem had spent a lot of time talking about loopholes and gaming the rules. Quick hadn’t been part of those conversations, but ey knew they had happened, that Blade thought he had found his ‘mother of all loopholes.’
Blade looked at Quickmoon, and ey nodded. It was time to see if their game-breaking combo really would break the game.
“We will not — cannot — have you as a minion. And we cannot release you to be grabbed up by the next person who comes by, or — worse — back in Mourningdagger’s clutches.”
“As you will.” He sighed. “I could be a powerful tool in your hands, but I would also be a dangerous one. In your place, I might choose the same.”
Quickmoon cocked eir head at that. A moment later eir eyebrows rose, then ey covered eir mouth with eir hand.
Blade looked at eir, but ey shook eir head and gestured for him to continue.
Blade shrugged and looked back at him. “I have one last order for you,” Blade said slowly, making sure he got his wording right. “From now on, any order you have received in the past and any order may receive in the future, from us or from anyone else, you will treat as a suggestion. You may obey or not, as you decide.”
His mouth gaped, his eyes bulged out of his head. “You can’t mean that.”
Blade blinked, and Quickmoon started laughing.
“Does it matter? I said it, that should be enough for your curse.”
He growled. “You fools. With all my powers, with all I know of you. I could be a greater threat to you than Mourningdagger at this moment, and you simply set me loose!”
Blade shook his head. “What? You said…”
“He thought we were going to kill him,” Quick said. “He thought we wouldn’t want him as a minion because he is a threat. Not because we have no use for any minion.”
Ey turned to him. “You’re right,” ey said, “You could be a great threat. You were also right that you could be a great help.
“You can still be a great help, and Mourningdagger is your enemy too.
“You’ve called us children, and we are children compared to you. So teach us. We don’t need or want a slave, but we could definitely use a mentor. Someone to guide us, who understands magic and warfare and safehouses. We sure don’t.”
Whatever he was going to say was cut off by an explosion from the driveway.
“Fuck!” Salem yelled from down the hallway.
“Out of time,” Astaroth called. “Guns, has that address come in yet?”
“No, damn it.”
He pushed his chair back from the table. It clattered to the floor. “It would be best if I were elsewhere.”
“Agreed. Everyone suit up.” Astaroth said, striding back into the room.
He stepped further out of the way as Astaroth, Blade, and Quick triggered their transformations. When they finished, Astaroth turned to him. “We heard everything, and I second everything Heals and Sword said. If you want a title from us still, it is Mentor.
Or go your own way and find your own name.
“Now get out of here. If you want to meet us later…”
“Lawrence Park,” Salem yelled from down the hallway. “Bl- Heals and I set up an emergency cache there, so one of us will be there to grab stuff.”
He — Mentor — hesitated a moment, then opened his mouth and a shining silver ball emerged. Before anyone could ask what he was doing, the ball flared, blinding them. A moment later (or at least that’s what it seemed like to them), he had disappeared.
A few moments later, Salem and Mobb ran into the kitchen. They were already transformed and carried a handful of backpacks. “I think we got everything that could be used to identify us,” Mobb said.
“Good, let’s go.”
They grabbed wrists and teleported, just as the first monsters burst through the walls.
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon, Season 1 Finale