The elevator ride was a calming melange of surface thoughts. Leo pushed frustration and fear away, dwelt on minutiae to mask his dread of what was coming, held down the darkness with fire and branded it, transmuted hesitation into frustration, apprehension into action, the way he always does.
The small talk and mingling was equally meditative. Leo took stock of his temporary body, as much a guest house from the Quills as the carriage house is from the Gales. Height, different. Reach, different. He flexed foreign muscles. Different tone. He’s more a long-distance runner or decathlete, I’ve got more of a boxer’s build. Faster, but less power. The adrenaline started up, just a bit, when he started talking to Mr. Gale. Would the Silver Streak twig, with his years of experience? Or does one teenage boy blend into another, as long as they aren’t Harry?
The blood really started flowing when the betrayal became obvious. Sorry, kid, Streak’s body language said. _We did something that let down a child’s hope for the future. Another step in the process of turning one of you into one of us. Hope you understand.
I don’t understand. Why can’t you just be our heroes, god dammit?
The HHL meeting started unsurprisingly, given that revelation, but then the attack came. There was a television, babbling nonsense answers like Obi-Wan Kenothankyou. Leo felt himself flashing back to the speech from “Johnny Mnemonic”. “What the fuck is going on - WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? Now suddenly, I’m responsible for the entire FUCKING world!”
But something else happened. He started thinking about the situation, really thinking. Assets. We need assets. Three kids out there. Go get them. So he did. Now he’s talking to people like he’s in charge. “You, what do you do? Get over here and do it.” More assets - the tower! The amazing tower they’re in. It’s gotta have so much stuff. Paths to obtain more stuff, maps, maze-solving algorithms, connecting resources to objectives. People need to be saved, first and foremost the people. Stop the Yule Lads. See if you can pull people back out of the bags. Whatever it takes.
Where is all this coming from?
He remembers the book hitting him with a flash. Vyortovia didn’t exist before Byron’s disappearance, which was like, last year or more. Why is there a book from the 50s? Get it. Secondary questions peel off. Why does Taz have it? What’s her deal after all?
Everyone else is chiming in. Adam mentions the cemetery, three steps before Leo was going to get to it. Leo remembers telling Charlotte to warn her friends that Vyortovia might be coming, after she crossed back. Now, he feels a swell of pride that his teammate - not just some younger friend from school, but a teammate, a comrade - is right there with him, keeping up, doing the job. Everyone has a plan, but it’s all the same plan. Thoughts are crossing back and forth across the link, like rapid-fire neurons that transcend individual brains. And Leo feels perfectly at home being part of it all.
_No. This isn’t your home. This is you being something you’re not.
You’re being Jason Quill. You’re being the man you’ve seen him be, on a good day. The man he could be, all the time. The man he almost is._
The realization hammers itself home. Jason Quill is a huge dork. Yeah, he’s been around the world, he’s been well trained, he’s survived shit that would kill a hundred people, even Rossum’s four months of agony doesn’t compare to what he’s endured, and he’s still a huge dork. He’s so damned earnest. Not ignorant, not innocent, because he’s been exposed to so much. It’s hard to put into words. He’s the sort of boy who’d write a love letter to a centerfold model, Leo finally decides. He’s a good guy. We’re cool.
He sees Charlotte expertly use his body, his suit, his grapples, his tech to pull off a perfectly Link-like maneuver. “That’s how it’s done!” is his first reaction. But there’s another. So proud of you, lady. And then Holy shit, is that what I look like?
Harry, under tremendous stress, still nailed the barrier. There’s people alive in that house because Mercury, using someone else’s powers, did the impossible. Leo keeps looking down from time to time, checking on it, as he wrangles the hoverdisc. No problem.
Jason screams, banshee-like, through Ghost Girl’s body. Leo feels himself caught up in the moment. No sniping, no jealousy to hold him back, just enthusiasm. “You got this, Jason!”
And then Adam. Sweet Jesus.
Leo can’t help but grin.
We are the Menagerie. And we are wild.
author: Bill G.