Book 3, Chapter 5

Surge paused outside the apartment door and stared blankly at the numbers on the smooth surface. He hadn't buzzed the occupants nor knocked yet and the longer he stood there the less tempted he was to do so. It wasn't that he didn't like Julian, he just.... Well, that was the problem: he didn't know what to think. It was a complicated relationship made even more awkward by the addition of Sasha.

As a rule, Surge limited the amount of information he knew about the people close to him to what they told him themselves. It was a silent show of respect as much as it was protection of his own secrets. He wanted to know the identity of Sem's father, but out of respect, he kept away from any records that would have that answer. He was curious as to what kind of man Sasha had been before the insanity, but again, he did not hunt for clues. Making a habit of knowing more than he should raised suspicion and gave the people who knew him had more cause to converse with and question him. It wasn't likely that knowing things he shouldn’t would lead people to think that he was the Surge, but it was still a reasonable precaution even with people who knew he was.

Things were different with Julian, though, thanks to his father's security measures. Given the relative infallibility of the mechanical memory that stored those years of video footage, Surge knew more about Julian than Julian could remember about himself. He had no reason to feel guilty--he hadn't sought the knowledge for personal use--but he still felt uncomfortable. They were both men who let most of their lives remain a mystery to most of the people they knew; it would probably be best if they pretended never to have met each other and not have to deal with the uncomfortable details.

That wasn't going to happen, though, and Surge knew it. Even if Julian wasn't strangely enamored with him, they were both Shards and more or less destined to cross paths. It wouldn't be all bad. As the Impulse, Surge was a very long-lived individual; as the Healer, so was Julian. In a hundred or so years, it'd be nice to still have a friendly face to look at. It was just a matter of getting past the initial awkwardness, which Julian would easily dispel with a large smile that said he was pleased to see Surge had finally taken him up on the offer to stop by. All Surge had to do was let him know that he was at the door and Julian would take it from there: choosing the conversation topics to steer them from uncomfortable silence, offering him a drink or a snack so he wouldn't have to ask, generally dictating the rest of the evening so things felt normal and calm.

Having mapped out exactly how things would go, though, what reason was there to actually do them? The only bit of uncertainty lay with Sasha, who would either steer clear and glare at him as though he could bore holes in him with his gaze, pester him about the kitchen until Julian put a stop to it, make an uncomfortable display of ownership so Surge knew to keep his hands off Julian, stay in the bedroom on a trip to crazy land, or behave like a friendly and personable human being. The kitchen thing was bound to come up no matter what, which made it easy enough for Surge to prepare for it. He had the pamphlet he'd picked up at the contractor's so Julian could okay the counter tops and appliances in his coat pocket, and he could use it to keep the conversation from becoming another guilt trip. If Sasha got touchy or pissed, he could always conveniently remember he had somewhere else to be and take another quick look through the wires so that it wouldn't be a total lie.

Surge wondered if everyone else spent as much time as he did outlining their interpersonal interactions as he knocked on the door.

Sasha answered. The albino took one look at him and the expression of mild curiosity faded into utter disdain. He leaned against the door frame, black eyes narrowed, and shook his head. "I know he can be a fucking coward about some things, but I honestly thought he'd have the guts to do this himself."


Sasha pushed the door open and walked away, continuing to talk with his back turned to Surge. "You know, if this wasn't actually his apartment, I wouldn't even let you in. Consider yourself lucky that I really have no patience for court orders. So let's just get this bullshit over with, because I've had about as much of it as I can stand."

Surge looked down the hallway, noting his proximity to the elevator, and wondered if he should abandon the plan all together and escape. Sasha was a wildcard, but this was trying his patience as much as it was Sasha's sanity. Julian would understand. Then again, it was his fault the kitchen was a mess. Showing Sasha the pamphlet would probably be enough to calm him down. Surge sighed loudly, stood a little taller with his shoulder back, and walked inside, shutting the door behind him.

"Um...yeah...about that. I, uh, here." He pulled out the pamphlet from his pocket and held it out for Sasha to look over.

Sasha took it from his hand, looked at the front, then sneered. "You've got to be fucking kidding me. You think this is going to make it all better?"

" I just wanted to make sure everything was okay before I told the contractor what to--"

"Fuck the contractor! Fuck the kitchen! Fuck. You!" Sasha threw the pamphlet to the floor and stomped off into the bedroom.

So much for having the situation under control. Plan B. "Um, look, I should probably go're really angry with me and I'm not really sure I know why anymore, so--"

A brown button up shirt caught him in the face, causing the rest of his sentence to sputter out in mild surprise. He pulled it off only to have another one, blue this time, smack him in his good eye.

"Hey, what the hell are you doing?" he asked, rubbing at it to try and alleviate the sting. He felt more soft impacts from his chest to his feet as clothing continued to assault him. At least it wasn't anything hard.

"I'm sure you two will be very happy living your little fucked up lives together! You can sit around and not talk about how ridiculous you are while pretending nothing is ever fucking wrong! He's got daddy and you've got Greg and neither of you can figure out that you're still their fucking puppets. How about you try to fucking move on? Nah, too easy, it's more fun to take no responsibility. You're both fucking cowards! You're nothing special, Surge, you're just another whiny cunt, so I guess that means you two deserve each other!"

Sparks danced at Surge's fingertips as he brushed more shirts from his shoulders. "You don't know what you're talking about, Sasha, so I suggest you shut up. Now."

"Don't know what I'm talking about?" Sasha let out a caustic laugh. "I can see him right behind you, Surge. You carry Greg around in your shadow like a five hundred ton weight! And just between us, I know exactly what went on between the two of you and if I were you, I'd be fucking ashamed of myself."

Sparks leaped from Surge's fingers. Sasha hissed in surprise and jumped back, one hand on his hip where a small point on his jeans had burned away. Surge felt a little remorse, but not enough to regret having reacted.

"I told you to shut up. You want to be a prick? Fine. I'm out of here. Just give that pamphlet to Julian and tell him I stopped by." Surge threw a pair of boxers off his head and walked towards the door, summoning strength through his anger to keep himself from trembling.

"Tell Julian? What's that supposed to mean?"

Surge rolled his eyes. "It means exactly what you think. Julian's obviously not here, so tell him I came by and let him know I'm working to get his kitchen fixed."

"But Julian's at your place.... Isn't he?" Sasha looked down at the pile of clothes on the floor and Surge followed his gaze. They were all Julian's.

Something was wrong. "Why would Julian be at my place?"

"Because he's obsessed with you. You're gorgeous and stoic and sexy and he loves it. You're his wet dream come true and you're available and kind of vulnerable. He probably went over to your place one night and the next thing you know, you're both naked and sweaty and tangled in his hair watching the fan blades spin while you gather your strength for another go."

Surge blushed hard but furrowed his brows to try and look more angry than embarrassed. "I'm not having sex with Julian, Sasha, and I'm not trying to, so how about you just tell me what's going on instead throwing stuff at me?"

"Well what the hell was I supposed to think? He said he was going out to the store and then he never came back."

"Never? Well when did he go?"

"Four days ago."

Surge paused for a moment, feeling the color drain from his face. "Four days?"

Sasha nodded, rubbing at his scorched hip.

"You mean you haven't heard from him or seen him in four days? Did you call the cops?"

"No. I thought he'd just lied to keep me from asking questions and had gone to see you instead. I mean, seeing you at the door, I figured you were just here to get Julian's stuff for him."

Surge shook his head, looking into the near distance while his mind processed what Sasha was saying. Out the corner of his eye, he could see Sasha's expression melt from confusion to worry.

"Should I....should I call the cops? I mean, do you think something’s wrong?"

"Yes.... No." Surge shook his head. "No, don't call the cops. He's a Shard and that might just make matters worse in the end. Let me look into it first. I can access things faster and without all the red tape the SPD have to work through."

Sasha nodded, kneeling down to pick Julian's clothes up off the floor, hugging them to his chest. "Whatever happened, it's nothing serious, right? I mean...he can't die, right? He's the Healer."

"Not by normal means, no, but he can die." Surge turned back towards him. "Don't worry about it just yet. We don't know anything other than that he's missing. Someone has to have seen him or at least have some idea of what happened. Just give me some time."

Sasha nodded again. "Thanks. Um, I'm sorry. 'Bout what I said. I mean...I was out of line. I wasn't thinking straight, I was just mad and trying to hurt you. You don't deserve it and...yeah...sorry."

"You may not have meant to say it, but you meant it." Surge wiped at his good eye again. It still felt like it had something in it. "I can't make you believe that I'm not a threat to you and I'm not really in the mood to try right now. You just keep your mouth shut about certain things, though, and I won't shock you again."

"Yeah. Okay." Sasha stood still hugging a pile of shirts and jeans. "Is there anything I can do to help? I mean other than just waiting here to see if he comes home or calls?"

Surge sighed, letting his anger at the man slowly dissipate. Without the eye makeup he normally wore, Sasha looked like a frightened ghost. He was still a mentally unstable man, whether he was making leaps and bounds in recovery or not. He was paranoid and had been abandoned for four days. It was enough to make Surge feel sorry for him. "Staying here is helping. I'll stop by every day, though, to let you know how it's going and make sure the contractors do their job. You want to pick out the stuff so I can order it?"

Sasha looked at the pamphlet on the floor. "Oh yeah. Sure. Let me put these away first."

"Take your time. While you do that, I'm going to get started." Surge headed towards the door. "I'll be back in a few hours."

There was no need to wait for a response. He let himself out and closed the door behind him. He waited until he was in the elevator to finally slump against the wall. He only stayed that way for a moment, though.

The wires had always felt more comfortable than the confining limitations of his physical body. Skin was tight and stifling compared to the endlessness of being stretched out as far as his mind could reach. It wasn't being everywhere at the same time, but it was pretty close. The surveillance cameras on the streets and in the vendor's shops were his eyes while his other senses rippled with the endless sensations that roared through on the shared currents.

He searched back four days, beginning with the lobby camera of the apartment complex where Julian lived. Julian was easy to recognize even with the poor quality of the recording. He stepped off of the elevator and out onto the street with a very casual gait. Surge switched recordings, picking up from the street view to watch Julian exit the building and walk to the bus stop. He switched with every stop the bus made, waiting to see Julian alight until the bus came to a stop in a familiar shopping district and he appeared once more on foot. Surge watched him enter a shop and try on sunglasses and hats, posing for the mirror and flirting with his reflection. He seemed to have been having a nice time doing exactly what he had told Sasha he would be doing. Surge watched as he purchased nothing but smiled and waved to the clerks as he exited.

Back to the street view. At 2:47 Julian left the camera's visibility. The next camera along his path was out of order on that date and offered no recording. At 2:48 from the next camera down the line, there was no Julian. Surge back up and looked for another camera that could pick up from the 2:47 sighting. The cameras facing outwards from the shoe store were out of order on that day. Any camera with a view of the street at the coffee shop was also out of order. In total, five cameras had experienced some kind of fault that overlapped in a six-foot blind spot that had swallowed Julian whole. Surge flipped to the next day, looking for the puzzle piece that completed the picture.

A walkway. It was only a few feet wide, just large enough to allow pedestrians and bikers a shortcut to the adjacent street of shops. Surge flipped back to the time and date when Julian had disappeared, not at all shocked to find the same issue from the other street: an overlap of faulty cameras erasing the walkway from the archives. He set the feeds back to 2:47 and waited for Julian to appear on the parallel street through the walkway. At 3:00 he abandoned that possibility. Julian had simply disappeared.

That, of course, was ridiculous. People didn't just disappear. Surge could appear to do so, but he was still somewhere, even if he wasn't flesh and blood, and Julian lacked the ability to do the same. There would be clues in the walkway and answers through further investigation. There was only the problem that Surge had no idea how to conduct an investigation of that nature. His means of vigilante justice were more a matter of keeping an eye open and attacking when something caught his attention. There was no real procedure or knowledge that went into it. Finding a target was blind luck and, once he had a tip off, all the evidence he needed was easy to find.

It didn't bother him to admit that he was out of his element as much as he thought it might. He'd never pretended to be an equal for the SPD in their normal functions of law enforcement, just when it came to aggressive action on people otherwise considered untouchable.

That didn't mean he could trust the SPD with the case, though. Far from it. Julian had been missing for four days already and it would take hours if not days for the police force to reach the same conclusions and stumble upon the same evidence that Surge had found in only a matter of minutes as they collected the surveillance from the different establishments, got warrants for their seizure and the manpower to study the feeds. Handing them the information to save them the time would cause them to link the Surge and Julian together or at least cause the seed of suspicion to be planted that might one day lead to his undoing. It was too risky and too much time had already passed to let them handle it on their own. Surge needed a middleman--someone he could trust to listen to his evidence and not try to sell him out.

Surge couldn’t help but smile to himself as he changed his course and raced down the wires for his exit path. Luckily, he knew just the man he could trust.

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