CHAPTER NINE
APRIL'S DECISION

     On a warm summer’s morning April awoke to her last trial day as a hero-in-training. She was still dwelling on the assignment Demitri had given to all of them a few days back, and though she had thought of plenty of things that needed work, she couldn’t pinpoint just what it was she felt she needed to work on. What character flaws stood out the most to others? She pondered that as well as why Demitri had asked for things like her height and measurements, why Matthew suddenly seemed so opposed to her joining the team, and a great deal of other things regarding Mainframe as she readied herself for work. The week had proven to be an interesting one, with various exercises and explanations clouding her mind and quickly becoming an expected end to each day. It was a bit tiring, staying up late and waking up early. On days she didn’t have work, she’d sleep in as long as she could before her mother would wake her and insist she start on her day.
     When April had arrived at work, her mind still lingered with Mainframe and the team over her tasks at the café. Lucas was quite distracted himself, but Melissa caught April spacing out on several occasions and, aside from that, looking quite distraught. When they sat in back for a short break, Melissa wasn’t shy about asking what April had been up to.
     “Seems like you’ve had a lot on your mind this week. Today especially,” Melissa noted as they sat there, April nibbling on some granola bars she had brought in for lunch.
     “Ohhh, it’s nothing much,” April paused her snacking to say.
     “Come on, I want to hear it! You seem to be getting quite a bit closer to that Demitri fellow,” Melissa teased but April kept her composure.
     “Nothing’s going on. We’re just friends,” April said surely.
     Melissa stood up and put her hands on her hips. “I’m gonna get you to spill it eventually,” she insisted and April laughed.
     “I’m serious! We just hangout a lot. That doesn’t mean anything,” April said, then took another bite to eat.
     “Mmhmmm. Well that other boy must think it does since he stopped coming around,” Melissa pointed out and April’s chewing slowed before she swallowed.
     “…Boy?” April asked and Melissa dropped her arms to her side as she slumped back. She thought April to be just about hopeless.
     “You know, that boy we used to see about three to four times every week?”
     “You mean Lance?” April questioned.
     “Yeah. It’s been over a week now and he hasn’t so much as walked by the building. I figured he probably caught you two doing something and gave up the chase,” Melissa said and April looked a little surprised. “Not that you probably noticed, what with prince charming always around,” she said with a wink then turned away. “I’m gonna get back to work now. You finish up your lunch.”
     April sat still a moment in thought. Melissa was right, she hadn’t noticed. But it was more than just a lack of seeing Lance in person. April didn’t receive a single text, call or email from him all week, and Lance usually sent something now and again, even when he didn’t have much to talk about. April felt compelled to send him something, wondering if what Melissa said might be true, so using her phone she sent a quick text message asking what he had been up to before she proceeded to finish her lunch and get back to work.
     Meanwhile, Scott had been up to a task of his own; working on comics with his friend Jason. The two were in discussion over characters and superpowers, concepts and so on. Scott informed Jason that the new heroine would be named Hope, but insisted he still wasn’t ready to add her to the story. Really he was just covering up the fact that he had no idea how to draw her heroic appearance yet as she lacked a costume of her own.
     Jason and Scott carried on, drawing up the latest chapter which was really the last good story Scott had to tell before April joined their team. Scott was unsure what he would do the next time they met up. He considered picking colors for April and making up a costume until she decided whether or not she would stay for sure. Then it hit him that tonight could possibly be the last night she was with them. He hated the thought, though, partially because he realized he had acted a little too quickly in announcing her as a character in his comic. His fingers were crossed that she would choose to stay with them, but he was unsure what she’d decide.
     When the evening at last struck the hour of eleven, Scott departed to join his comrades. April and Demitri were already present, and Matthew came soon after Scott had arrived.
     “All right, team. Tonight will be our first mission in a while, and April’s first entirely. With her help things should go just fine,” Demitri announced. Matthew stood with his arms crossed and rolled his eyes, as the others weren’t paying close attention. Scott was a bit on the bouncy side but was actually feeling a little nervous for April. He knew this mission might very well be the deciding point for her, and if things went poorly it could easily spell the end.
     April’s thoughts were a bit divided but she tried to remain focused. They had done a lot of training over the week, and at one point she had felt a little something, but she honestly wasn’t sure if those were her powers thrusting forth or just a panicked response to a tricky situation.
     Before the others began the art of small talk, Demitri presented April with her own C-Cuff to use for communication and teleportation. Yellow in color rather than the silver Matthew and Scott had.
     April looked at the device he offered then looked up at him. “You’re really giving me this?”
     “Of course. Take it,” he said and she took it from his hands and looked it over. “It’s up to you after tonight,” he said and she glanced back up at him, looking unsure. “Your week is up, so you get to choose whether or not you’ll come back tomorrow night,” he said with a smile, then went to find them a mission. April looked deep in thought as she put the C-Cuff on her wrist.
     “I hope you keep coming!” Scott said with a grin and she snapped out of thought and looked at him, a bit surprised, before she smiled sheepishly.
     “Th-thanks, Scott,” she said. He rubbed his finger across the bottom of his nose as he glanced away, still smiling.
     “Yeah, yeah. Bring us something to eat when you come from now on,” Matthew said in a callous-sounding tease.
     “Guys, shouldn’t you be suiting up? Or have I let you go so long out of full uniform that you feel it unnecessary to hide your identities?” Demitri called over, really just trying to quiet them down as he continued his search for good missions.
     “Oh, right!” Scott said and hurried over to put his armor on. Matthew leisurely walked after him, while April stood in place, unsure what to do.
     “…Do I need to wear anything special?” she asked, fearing the top and knee-length skirt she wore might not be suitable.
     “You’re fine,” Demitri assured her without even looking her direction. He then paused as he held something to his ear, privately listening for news of crime. “Guys, you almost ready?” he asked abruptly, standing up tall and looking their way.
     “Almost!” Scott yelled as he pulled the armor up over his knee.
     “Good. I found something. Not sure if it’s a definite problem, but it sounds like it could escalate into one,” Demitri explained, then turned back to set the teleport.
     “Okay, status report? What are we looking at?” Matthew asked before putting on his helmet.
     “Suspicious behavior outside a pretty fancy place. The caller, a neighbor to the home owner, said she saw a car circle around the block at least three times and had just noticed a man dressed in dark clothes checking the place out,” Demitri explained.
     “Well if nothing’s broken out yet we could just leave it to the cops. Sounds like a burglary in the making, but it might not be anything,” Matthew shrugged.
     “We’ll check it out,” Demitri said as he pulled handcuffs from off the wall.“With April’s help I can give us a good cover. We’ll stand watch and if anything springs up-” he paused as he tossed Matthew the handcuffs. “-I want you to run in and stop it.”
     “Yes sir,” Matthew said then went and stood in the light of the teleport awaiting their departure. Demitri then went to put on his helmet.
     “Scott, if that vehicle circling around turns out to be a getaway car, I want you to run over and pop the tires in the back. Pop them from the side of the vehicle though and do not try and pop the tires in the front,” Demitri commanded and Scott nodded.
     “What about me?” April asked readily.
     “You’re with me. We’re going to provide a camouflage for them,” he answered, then directed Scott and April to join he and Matthew in the teleport. “Remember team, while we’re on the field, we go by our hero names only. Scott’s Valor, Matthew’s Force, April’s Hope.”
     “And you’re King!” Scott said and Demitri grinned from under his helmet. Once they were all set he transported them near the area. There was the usual whisk of light that caught brief attention from passersby, but with Demitri keeping the team invisible, they soon brushed it off as the flickering of outdoor lights.
     “There he is,” Scott whispered to the others as he caught sight of the reported man. He had his hands in his pockets now and waited for the late night strollers to go on their way before going from the sidewalk toward the window of the tall and stately house. No one appeared to be home. The owners were likely on a nice end-of-August vacation.
     “Yeah, this guy’s definitely up to something,” Demitri said in a whisper to the rest of the team, then pushed Matthew ahead to lead and held on to April’s wrist as they moved in on the property. Scott remained squatted down near the sidewalk, Demitri still keeping him hidden while they moved in, though he was finding it a little more difficult to do while they were in motion.
     “Shouldn’t we stop him before he breaks in?” April whispered to Demitri.
     “Shh. No. We can’t act until he does. He’s not guilty of anything yet,” Demitri explained in an even softer voice, then the three were close enough that Demitri had them stop. He removed his hand from Matthew’s back and released April’s wrist.
     The man took one last glance around, then pulled gloves out from his pockets and put them on his hands before he started to move toward a side door on the house. Matthew followed and watched him carefully while Demitri and April stayed back.
     “Shouldn’t we follow?” April asked as the man was getting out of sight.
     “No. Force can handle it. Besides, it’s easier for me to keep him covered if we stay still,” Demitri answered.
     Matthew was closing in, standing close behind and watching readily when the man began to break in the door. Once busted in, Matthew immediately followed in and grabbed him, cuffing one hand but unable to link it to the other due to the man’s sudden jerk back. He looked behind and couldn’t see Matthew, so he assumed him to be just outside the doorway. Matthew stepped inside, trying to quietly slip behind him while still invisible.
     “Did you hear that? What’s going on in there?” April asked Demitri as they sat outside.
     “I’m trying to focus! It’s significantly harder for me to hide him when I can’t see him, so I need quiet,” Demitri snapped with an apologetic look, still trying to be as kind as possible while under stress. April immediately hushed down and didn’t hold it against him. She wondered how Demitri was even able to do what he did.
     Matthew had successfully gotten behind the man but saw him reaching into his jacket as he surveyed the area ahead. Matthew realized quickly what this man carried with him and he felt his chest tightening as though a grip was placed on his heart. Still, Matthew pulled together his courage and charged him from behind, knocking the man to the ground and causing him to fire his gun off at the bushes by mistake. Matthew’s ears were ringing from the noise and the man tried to shake him off, but Matthew persisted in holding him down.
     April gasped as the bullet sounded. Scott’s heart leapt and he turned his attention off the road and toward the house. Demitri dropped his own cover and began running to Matthew’s aid, focusing only on keeping him hidden and leaving April and Scott without cover.
     “You two go back!” Demitri commanded as he hurried to help Matthew. April was still unfamiliar with her C-Cuff, however, and wasn’t sure if he meant to return to Mainframe or stay back from harm. Scott understood clearly and held his C-Cuff ready to send him back, but then noticed April was unsure how to respond.
     Demitri refocused his powers just as he ran around the corner to hide himself. He saw the man pinned but could tell Matthew was struggling to hold him down. He went to assist in cuffing the man and pulling the gun away from his hands. The man didn’t yell but grunted plenty as they wrestled with him. The struggle didn’t last long with Demitri’s help, and they kept him to the ground. Meanwhile, Scott rushed over to help April teleport back, but as he got over onto the grass where she stood, he heard the screeching sound of tires as a car came to a stop right on the sidewalk. The driver was obviously in on the thievery but came to a halt when he saw Scott and April.
     “Uh-oh! Come on!” Scott yelled and took April by the arm. He skipped past teaching her how to use her C-Cuff and just used his own to teleport them away. The man did a double take then slammed on his car’s horn as he knew they’d be found out by now. His buddy, however, only yelled out to him, as he was unable to make a retreat.
     “They got me!!” he yelled as he still struggled to try and get Matthew and Demitri off. Upon hearing that, his unfaithful partner in crime hit the gas pedal to try and make a getaway, but the sudden lights of police cars ahead of him threw him off guard and caused him to swerve around in such a way that he pulled their attention to him like a moth to a flame. When the cops managed to stop the vehicle, a few officers went to check out the house.
     “Over here!” Matthew called out then he and Demitri let the man go just before the cops came to the side door. When he tried to get up and run, Matthew tripped him. To the cops it looked like he had only lost his balance.
     “Let’s go,” Demitri said quietly to Matthew.
     One of the cops overheard and looked around. “Did you hear that?” he asked his partner when he was unable to trace the sound. Demitri and Matthew didn’t hesitate to teleport away, seeing as the cops had things under control and were starting to get curious.
     Upon arriving at Mainframe April put her hand over her chest and gave a sigh of relief while Scott grinned widely.
     “Oh, thank goodness,” April sighed.
     “Welcome back!” Scott greeted after.
     Demitri pulled off his helmet and smiled. “Thanks,” he replied to Scott. Matthew took off his helmet and went straight to the wall to hang it up for the night, while Demitri looked at April and raised his eyebrows. “You okay?” he asked as she was still looking troubled.
     “Hah…yeah,” she replied and started to smile. “It really freaked me out when that gun went off,” she admitted, then lowered her hand and shook her head as she smiled.
     “Life of the hero. No place for cowards,” Matthew said, seemingly unfazed, though at the time it happened he was just as startled.
     “We usually try and avoid gunfire. This was a rare case for us,” Demitri assured her.
     “But you know, it was awesome!” Scott chimed in with his usual enthusiasm. “I mean sure, April and I couldn’t stay for the action, but that feeling when the gun went off, then the car pulled in and we were trying to get out of there was SO COOL,” he said with great emphasis and Demitri laughed a little.
     “Yo, guys!” Matthew called over, most of his armor already put up for the night. “I’m gonna head on back to my place. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
     “See you then, city boy,” Demitri said, gesturing goodbye with two fingers held to his forehead then flicked away.
     “Bye, Matt!” Scott said as he waved.
     “Um, bye!” April said timidly. Matthew walked across the room to set the portal for his home, then waved to all of them at once a fond farewell before departing.
     “Well, you two can also go back to your normal lives, get a good night’s rest, you know,” Demitri said and went to hang up his cape. “I think it was a successful evening.”
     “You guys really take this thing seriously. I mean, you could be putting your lives at risk any night,” April commented, glancing away from them.
     “Whether we live in the safety of our homes or we’re out on the nighttime streets, tomorrow is never promised. We have only what is before us today, so it’s best to make the most of it,” Demitri replied. “As we get stronger, our missions will become more risky. I’ve already decided this. You still have the chance to back out if you want to,” he offered and April thought on it silently.
     “I’m not backing out” Scott said.“More dangerous missions? That’s the kind of thing I’ve been waiting to hear! We’re already a lot stronger than we were when I first joined,” he noted happily.
     “I guess…I’ll have to think about it,” April said with uncertainty as to whether or not she’d come back. “I’m still not really sure about this whole hero thing.”
     “That’s fine. Why don’t you go home and rest? It’s been an exciting evening, it would probably be better to think it over after you’ve been able to unwind,” Demitri said and April agreed. The three wrapped things up, April leaving first, followed by Scott and lastly Demitri. April and Scott headed back to rest up for the new day ahead, but Demitri would likely be up a few more hours working on a project.
When the dawn of a new day had come, the sun arose shining brightly while April chose not to rise up at all. She was content with sleeping in on her day off. She dozed on and off throughout most of the morning until she started to feel hungry enough that she forced herself out of bed. As she sat up with her feet over her bedside, she glanced up at her phone which sat next to her C-Cuff. She wondered a bit about the choice in color. Most of her clothes were either pink, white or black, so the light yellow came as a bit of a surprise to her. Then again, so did the whole device.
     She stared at it in a bit of a daze for a while more before she suddenly recalled the message she had sent to Lance just the other day. She checked her phone for any missed replies, but there wasn’t a word from him. She felt a bit concerned now, an unsettling feeling that something was wrong. Still, she wasn’t sure what to do about it, and she did consider the possibility that she was just worrying too much.
     She went along with her day but strangely found her worry wouldn’t cease. It became a strong, nagging feeling that something was wrong, which persisted until she couldn’t take it any longer. She stepped outside into the sunlight, glancing around the neighborhood, then began a walk down the street to visit with Lance. She would see for herself what he had been up to. As she got closer the nagging feeling began to fade away and she wondered if she should maybe just forget it. She didn’t have anything she needed to talk with him about, and it wasn’t like a week and a half was such a long time to go without hearing from him, or so she thought as she slowed her walking. Then again, when she considered how often she did hear from Lance, a week and a half without so much as a peep from him did seem unusual, and so she continued forward, walking up the sidewalk to his house and knocking on the front door. After only a moment’s wait a lady, short in stature with brown hair and just a few hints of gray, opened the door. The muffled sound of a radio playing could be heard coming from inside, but the noise didn’t bother the lady one bit and she smiled when she saw April.
     “Oh, hello April! I haven’t seen you in a while. Are you here to see Lance?” she asked, holding the door wide open as she spoke.
     “Hello Mrs. Ember. Yes, just thought I’d pay him a quick visit,” April replied with a subtle smile.
     “Oh good. He’ll be glad to see you! He’s been isolating himself in his room all day,” Lance’s mother said and let April step inside.“He gets a little angry when I keep checking in on him, so I’ve tried to give him his space. I can’t help that I worry, I’ve been a wreck ever since last week! I’m glad you’re here so I’ll have a good excuse to knock on his door,” she said as they walked toward his room. April listened intently. “Lance!” she called, knocking hard against his bedroom door over his loud music. “Someone’s here to see you!” she said a bit louder and the doorknob began to turn.
     “Yes?” Lance asked as he opened the door, looking a bit drained before noticing April. “April! I…didn’t know you’d be visiting!” he said, barely heard over his music. He stepped back and turned off his stereo, making the house incredibly quiet.
     “How about I make up some tea while you two chat? Would you like some, April?” his mother offered.
     “Yes please,” April nodded and Mrs. Ember went into the kitchen. April looked back at Lance who didn’t seem at all as perky as he usually was, and he swiftly turned his pale green eyes away as if he didn’t want her to look at him.
     “Uh-um, you can come in if you want,” he said, stepping back to make room for her while holding the door, his eyes staring off toward the floor. April accepted his offer, stepping inside and looking around while he shut the door behind her. Things seemed relatively tidy, just a few CDs piled up by his stereo and a messy bed that he sort of looked like he had just rolled out of. That aside, the floor was clear and the carpet gave indications of being recently vacuumed. April did think it seemed sort of dark, though. The lights were off as the sun would have normally lit the whole room by itself, but his blinds were down and adjusted so only a little light seeped in. “I don’t have my games in here anymore. I haven’t really felt like playing them,” Lance casually mentioned as he went and leaned against a wall, sticking his hands in his pockets.
     “Your mom mentioned something about last week... Seemed kind of frazzled,” April commented hoping he might fill her in on what happened.
     “Yeah…she worries a lot,” Lance said, still not making eye contact.
     “Did something happen?” she asked.
     “Meh…” he shrugged, looking a little depressed and trying to brush the question aside. April looked around the room as she tried to think of something else to talk about to break the silence.
     “Your music was pretty loud,” she said with a smile and he glanced up.
     He gave a sort of half-hearted smile back. “Yeah. I’ve been having some really…weird headaches, so…I’ve been trying to block them out a bit,” he explained.
     “Wouldn’t that make them worse?” she asked and he smiled like he wanted to laugh as he glanced down and shifted his feet around a little.
     “No, it helps,” he assured her. The two then stood quietly for a while as they both had different thoughts running through their heads. “So…” Lance finally said and April glanced over to him. “Why did you come to visit?” he asked only out of curiosity. “I-I mean I’m happy you did! Just…confused, I guess…”
     “Ah, well um...” April mumbled out as she tried to think of something to say aside from her having been worried about him. “I hadn’t seen you around the café in a while so I thought I’d drop by,” she told him.
     “Hah, okay,” he said with a grin. “Well I’m sort of grounded so I couldn’t really come by even if I wanted to…” he said almost as if it were a joke.
     “Grounded? For what?” April laughed, thinking the idea that he could be in any kind of trouble was completely preposterous. Lance sheepishly looked away this time, not really sure if he wanted to answer. “Whaaat? What did you do?” April inquired further.
     “I didn’t really do anything, my mom just doesn’t want me to go off anywhere right now,” he said then sighed. “I just…” he began to say, dropping his shoulders down as he was struggling to decide if he would fill her in on the story or not. Part of his drawback was that it all took place on the same day he had seen her and Demitri together. It was easy for Lance to see April liked Demitri, but it was hard for him to stand. More than anything when he thought back on that day, it was seeing the two of them that troubled him far more than the things he was about to tell her.
     “It’s just?” April repeated, seeing as he was conflicted about talking but obviously had something he wanted to say.
     “It’s just tha-“
     “Lance! April! The tea is just about ready!” his mother called out to them and Lance put a hand over his face.
     “Hah, that figures,” he said while putting on a smile. He went straight to opening the door, then waited for April to go out first. Mrs. Ember was pouring the tea just as they walked in to the quaint dining room. Lance made a quick pace around April to pull out a chair for her and wasted no time in moving over to the other side of the table to offer a seat to his mother.
     “Thank you, Lance,” his mother said as he took the kettle from her hands.
     “Thanks,” April said soon after his mother was seated and he was heading into the kitchen to put the kettle away.
     “Lance, did you remember to take your medicine?” his mother called in after him. April glanced up from adding sugar to her tea to look first at Mrs. Ember, then peer through the doorway, though she was unable to see Lance now.
     “Not yet,” Lance replied, just barely audible.
     “I didn’t know he was on any kind of medication,” April commented in a hushed voice to his mother.
     “Well you know he’s always had health struggles. After this last scare I just told the doctor to do whatever it takes to get him better,” Mrs. Ember explained.
     “What exactly happened?” April asked, adding a hint of milk to her cup of tea.
     “You mean he didn’t tell you?” Mrs. Ember asked in genuine surprise.
     “Tell her what?” Lance asked as he stepped back into the room and pulled up a chair for himself. His mother shook her head at him then looked back at April.
     “Lance passed out on his way home the other week,” she told April and Lance began to sink down into his chair.“Thankfully someone found him and was quick to call an ambulance. They used his phone to get a hold of me. I nearly fainted myself when I got the call,” she explained.
     “Oh my gosh, what caused the fainting?” April asked them both.
     “Well at first they thought he maybe had a heat stroke, but when I was able to bring him home he was having worse headaches than usual, ear infections, nose bleeds, then he had another fainting episode while inside where it was nice and cool! I just don’t know what’s wrong. They still haven’t pinpointed it yet, either, but the doctor did prescribe some medicine and Lance is taking that to see if it helps at all. If not, we’re going to have to get some tests done,” Mrs. Ember explained with great distress while Lance remained quiet.
     “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. If there’s anything I can help with, just ask! Drop offs, help around the house. I know runs to the hospital can be pretty time consuming so I’d be willing to help out anytime I’m not working,” April offered.
     “No, no! Thank you so much for the offer but we’ll get by just fine,” Mrs. Ember insisted, then took a sip of her tea.
     “Are you sure?” April asked, then looked at Lance, catching him a little off guard.
     “U-um, i-it’s fine,” he said and his mother nodded.
     “But you can come to visit more. We’re always glad to see you!” Mrs. Ember encouraged with a smile and April smiled back bashfully. They went along enjoying their tea, but a mere moment after they were finished, Mrs. Ember was pulled away by a telephone call. She quickly excused herself from sitting and slipped into another room, leaving April and Lance alone yet again.
     “So…why didn’t you tell me what happened? You could have called,” April said.
     “I didn’t want to worry you. And…it’s not like there’s anything you could have done to help,” Lance replied.
     “But I want to know if something like that happens! What if things got worse? Don’t you think it’s fair to let your friends know so they can come see you or send something?” April scolded and Lance looked a bit guilty.
     “I’m sorry. I really didn’t want to trouble you,” he said. He leaned forward and stood up out of his chair. “But I’ll be okay. I’m getting better.”
     “You don’t really look better. Your skin has even less color than usual, and that’s saying something with you. What do you think is wrong?” April asked as she also stood up.
     “I don’t know. And like my mom said, the doctors don’t either. Funny though, they have no idea what’s causing it, but they still prescribe medicine,” Lance said, then glanced down and shook his head slightly as he thought about it. “It’s like they just want to take more money from my mom. As if she hasn’t paid enough already. Lot of help they were when my dad-” Lance suddenly swallowed his words and closed his eyes a moment. “Sorry,” he said with a strained smile. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, turning away.
     “No. You don’t need to be,” April assured him.
     “No, I do. There’s no reason you should have to listen to me. I shouldn’t be blaming them, anyway. They did what they could to try and save him. I just…hate hospitals,” he said.“…Yet I keep ending up in them!” he added, trying to laugh about it.
     “You can talk to me about stuff, you know. You’re always so reserved, but I really don’t mind hearing what’s on your mind once in a while,” April said then gave out a sigh.
     “…Okay.”
     “Sorry about that!” Mrs. Ember said as she walked in abruptly.
     “Oh, it was no problem. I actually need to get headed home now, thank you for the tea,” April said.
     “You’re welcome. Thank you for coming out to visit us today,” Mrs. Ember replied.
     “Yeah,” Lance added then gave a smile.
     “It was my pleasure. Goodbye! I hope the medicine works!” April said as she started toward the door.
     “Thank you and bye!” Mrs. Ember replied.
     “Bye,” Lance said in his usual soft-spoken way.
     April walked home feeling relieved that she decided to visit. Lance seemed much weaker than usual at first, but by the time she was leaving he seemed to have a bit more energy. At first, she didn’t think it much more than him cheering up a bit with her visit, but then she started to wonder if maybe her company did have a deeper effect. Demitri had said she impacted their powers with her presence alone, and with focus it went even further. She began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, her powers could also empower people with a physical recovery. If she herself recovered faster than the average person like Demitri said, then maybe there was a way she could learn to focus her powers to heal other people as well. She decided then and there that she would return to Mainframe that night, and a few nights after, merely to test her theory. After all, she couldn’t be sure until she gave it a try.
     Scott was ecstatic to see her return, though she kept her reasons for doing so to herself and said she’d like to give it a couple more weeks before she made her mind up about staying or not. Demitri gladly agreed and reminded her that on the upcoming Saturday they would be going to the bowling alley for a night of fun and relaxation.
     Saturday arrived in no time, and the four met up at Mainframe, waiting a good ten minutes extra for Matthew who was running late yet again. They enjoyed light chats until Matthew showed up, then they departed for the nighttime streets and took a brisk walk over to the bowling alley.
     “This is it!” Demitri said as he went ahead up the stairs and leaned back on one of the front doors to open it.
     “Looks nice,” April remarked as she followed Matthew and Scott into the establishment while Demitri held the door open for them. “Hard to believe it’s open. It looks almost completely vacant inside.”
     “Isn’t it great?” Scott commented gleefully. “This way we get the whole place to ourselves!”
     “Yep. Just us and a couple employees,” Matthew added.
     Demitri walked around the three standing in the entrance, making his way over to the counter to pay for their lane and get them their shoes. “Matt, we’re playing teams this time. You can establish sides,” he said and Matthew rubbed his chin as he thought on it.
     “Just so you guys know, I’m not very good at this,” April said with just a hint at being nervous.
     “Oh good, then you’re on his side,” Matthew commented as he motioned his thumb back over his shoulder at Demitri.
     “Awww! I wanted to be on Demitri’s side!” Scott griped.
     “Sorry, kiddo. I still haven’t paid him back for the last time he beat me. Besides, what’s so bad about being on my team?” Matthew asked and crossed his arms as he glared down at Scott and waited for an answer.
     “Well if we lose you’re gonna say it’s my fault!”
     “Nah. As long as April’s at your skill level…or below it, all’s fair. I should be able to make up enough points to win this,” Matthew assured him.
     “Gee, thanks,” April mumbled before Demitri motioned them over.
     “Hey guys, go ahead and pick out your shoes and bowling balls. We’re ready to go,” Demitri said and the three hopped to it.
     When their lane was open and set to go, April went first. Her cute pink and white swirled ball moved a bit slow and with far too much curve, going left and down into the gutter.
     “Try again, try again,” Demitri urged but she ended up with the same result the second time as well.
     “Well that’s a great start…” she said as she walked back up to the others with her arms drooping down in front of her.
     “Really? I thought it was terrible!” Matthew commented and she glared at him. “Hey, chill. Lemme show you how it’s done,” Matthew said confidently, holding his navy blue ball up in his hands. He headed toward the lanes and swooped the ball down, thrusting it forward with great accuracy. All but one little pin in the back were knocked down, but he got a nice spare and walked back over to the group with the same confidence.
     “Not bad,” Demitri said with a nod.
     “Your turn!” Scott pointed out and Demitri stepped up. He used a heavier ball than the others with a swirled crimson red design. He didn’t go up with the intention of showing off as Matthew did, but he looked serious and focused right until the ball left his fingertips, then he watched it swiftly move down the lane and give him a perfect strike.
     “NO! Right on the first go?” Matthew groaned while Scott and April clapped for Demitri.
     “My turn!” Scott said, running out with a traditional black bowling ball in hand before Demitri had even made it back over to the chairs to sit down. Demitri watched from a standing position while Matthew and April remained seated. Scott’s first ball went so perfectly straight that he ended up with a split. The others clapped but Scott was unsure how to knock both pins over with such a space between them. After giving it some thought he settled with aiming only for one and succeeded in hitting it. “Well, I got all but one,” he said with a shrug as he rejoined the others and sat down at the same time as Demitri.
     “April, you’re up,” Matthew said then gave her a smirk. “The goal is to hit the pins, by the way.”
     April glanced at him with an indication of disdain, which only made him chuckle and grin. She took her ball and tried again, giving her best attempt to not curve left. The ball trailed down fairly straight for a while, but then off it curved again to the left at the very end, just missing the pins. April sighed and put a hand on her face but didn’t turn around to see Matthew trying to contain his laughter. She felt enough embarrassment just standing there.
     Demitri got up from his seat and met with her as she was reaching down to grab her ball and try again. “Here, let me help,” he offered and she reluctantly accepted. He stood right next to her as he talked her through it, then took the ball for just a moment to give a demonstration.
     “You better not do it for her or I’m docking you points!” Matthew shouted from behind while they paid him no regard.
     “Wow, this thing’s really light,” Demitri noticed as he weighed it up and down in his hand.
     “Yeah, yeah, I know I’m weak!” April pouted.
     “I didn’t mean that. Anyway, watch what I do,” he said as he began to instruct her without releasing the ball from his hand. After describing his technique he handed the ball back to her and she did her best to mimic it.
     The ball rolled down at a steady pace, but she cringed when she saw it curving toward the end yet again. Still, it managed to knock down two pins to the left and Demitri nodded his head in approval.
     “You’re getting it. That’s quite a curve you’ve got, though,” he commented.
     “Yeah…at least I hit something this time,” she replied as they turned around to rejoin the others.
     “And something that wasn’t me! What a relief,” Matthew joked.
     So the night went with April slowly improving. It came to a near draw by the end of it, but the overall victory went to Matthew and Scott. April hung her head low as Matthew bragged on and on, but Demitri gave her a reassuring pat on the back and just smiled in disregard to his friend’s boastfulness.
     On Sunday, Demitri ran a scan for new members but had it come to a halt when the screen began to show gray again. He contacted his uncle to arrange an inspection of things then got busy working on his special surprise for the evening. Much of Demitri’s time had been devoted to it the last few days. He could hardly wait for it to be finished.
     Scott was spending most of his own day playing video games and slacking off. Though still a while away, he dreaded the end of summer vacation and decided for today he was going to do nothing but treat himself. He planned to enjoy every last bit of his break. Though as expected from a day of self-centered contentment, things came to an end all too quickly and he headed off to Mainframe feeling drowsy.
     April was already there, and Matthew joined near the same time as Scott.
     “Okay, everyone’s here now!” Demitri said and opened the elevator to pull something out from it.
     “Ohhh- ohohoh! I know what this is!” Scott exclaimed as Demitri wheeled out a suitcase.
     “Shhh!” Demitri hushed him with a smile and a wink then set the case in front of April. “It’s for you,” he said as she looked down at it curiously.
     “Me?” she questioned, then squatted down next to it to look over the large case and consider what might be inside of it.
     “Open it!” Scott said as he was feeling far more excited than anyone else there.
     April stood on her knees and unzipped the large suitcase, revealing her very own uniform and set of armor which she stared at a moment as it sank in. The costume itself was white with the same light color of yellow that her device was in. The armor was beige and designed a bit differently from what Demitri, Matthew and Scott all wore. It lacked the spikes on the shoulders that Demitri’s had but added detail was made to the chest. The armor also included an additional piece to wear around the waist that resembled a belt with metal tassels that hung on the sides and around the back like a miniskirt while still open in the front.
     “Wow…” she said finally after getting a good look at it.
     “You’re one of us, so you’ll have to start dressing like one of us!” Demitri said. “Of course I designed yours to be a bit more feminine. You can hang the armor on the empty rack next to ours. As for the uniform, keep that somewhere safe at home. Make sure you put it on before coming in every night,” he instructed and she nodded with a big smile.
     “Oh, except for every other Saturday! You know, dress how you normally would to go bowling and stuff,” Scott added.
     “Right,” April confirmed then pulled her costume out and held it up to herself. It looked like a perfect fit. “Do you make these?” she asked Demitri.
     “Yes. I designed and crafted each one myself. Of course I always hold off until I know what size to make the parts and if the person they’re for seems like they plan to stay,” he explained.
     “It looks like this would take forever to make!” she exclaimed as she held out the uniform then looked down at the armor.
     “Well if that’s all I’m focusing on, three to five days usually. But I’ve got some practice,” Demitri replied and April found it surprising yet convincing.
     “I could never do that,” she commented quietly.
     “Me neither. SO!” Matthew suddenly shouted as he clapped his hands together. “Who’s hungry?”
     “I am!” Scott answered as he raised his hand.
     “What did you have in mind?” Demitri asked.
     “Pizza at my place? You know, to celebrate the occasion. There’s a pizza place just a block away and they deliver!” Matthew suggested. “I mean as long as you guys don’t mind eating in my crummy apartment. The place is actually in pretty decent shape right now because I just did my yearly cleaning.”
     “…Yearly?” April questioned and he only gave her a quick glance while he waited for an answer from Demitri.
     “Do they deliver this late?” Demitri asked, checking the time.
     “Oh yeah. They deliver till like two in the morning. We’re good.”
     “All right, then. Why not?” Demitri said and the rest seemed to be in agreement.
     “Great! I’ll set things up to go,” Matthew said and left their little conversation circle to set the portal.
     “I could never invite you guys to my house. It’d freak my parents out I think,” Scott said, putting his arms back behind his head.
     “Same,” April said.
     “Benefits of living alone. Go ahead and get in the portal, guys,” Matthew said as the teleport lit up.
     “You mean you want us to go toward the light?” Scott teased while walking in as he was instructed to.
     “Just get in there,” Matthew replied while Demitri and April also stepped in. “Everyone ready?” Matthew asked and the group confirmed it with a resounding yes. He pressed the button that transported them directly into his apartment. “Here we are! Make yourselves at home,” he said welcomingly.
     The group looked around, spreading out a bit. He had an average sized television set in front of a slightly worn brown couch. The carpet was beige and flat while the walls were an olive green, a few posters taped to them giving a personal touch. Though the room seemed a fair size, it was a living room, dining room and kitchen all in one space undivided by walls. There were three doors along one wall. The door which was on the other side of the sofa was the exit from his apartment, while the door in the middle led to a bathroom and the door to the far left, in the kitchen and dining area, led to a bedroom. He barely had any counter space, and his dark brown circular table had only two chairs by it, though it was a bit piled up with empty food containers and various papers anyhow. There were some clothes laying in the floor and some dishes on the counter, but Matthew excused any slight mess with the fact that he was a bachelor.
     “Awh, you should see my room. It’s WAY worse than this!” Scott assured him.
     “Yeah but this is what I consider clean,” Matthew said with a smirk. “Yearly cleaning. It’s all downhill from here! Anyway, what kind of pizza do you guys like?” he asked, grabbing his phone off his couch.
     “I like cheese,” April answered.
     “Pepperoni or supreme!” Scott replied. “But I don’t really like mushrooms…”
     Demitri thought for a second. “I’m fine with anything,” he shrugged as Matthew finished dialing the pizza place and held it up to his ear.
     “Gotcha,” he said just before a man on the other end answered. “Yeah I’d like to order two pizzas…” he began while the others waited quietly. April took a seat on the couch and Scott soon joined her while Demitri remained standing and crossed his arms. “…Okay,” Matthew said upon hanging up his phone. “Pizza will be here in a bit, now for some entertainment while we wait,” he said, turning on his television then falling backwards onto the couch. He landed right between Scott and April and caused both of them to sink in towards him before they sat up straight again. April gave herself an extra few inches of space. “Hey Demitri, there’s still room on the couch. Take a seat!” he said, pointing to the other side of Scott. Demitri uncrossed his arms and joined them without any comments on the matter.“So, April, you really ready to be a part of the team?” Matthew asked as a commercial break started.
     “Hm? I…guess so,” she replied. “Why do you ask?” she turned the question back at him.
     “Hrm…wondering. You seemed like you weren’t really sure about joining us,” Matthew replied as he stretched his arms and laid back against the couch.
     “She’s in! Right April?” Scott said enthusiastically, but April glanced down, not focusing on the flickering lights of the television but simply staring off in thought.
     “Um… Well I need a little more time to decide for sure,” she replied and Scott stared at her wide-eyed for a moment as his enthusiasm quickly fleeted from his countenance.
     “Whaaat!? But you’ve got a suit and everything now!” he said in disbelief of her detached feelings for the group.
     “Hey, it’s okay. It’s her choice,” Demitri inserted in a calm voice and had Scott simmer down. After that things became a bit stagnant. No one really wanted to talk, at least not in front of the whole group, so they sat there watching television until someone knocked on the door.
     “Pizza’s here!” Matthew said without a moment’s hesitation to get up from the couch. He smacked Scott on the knee as he rose up from his laid-back position. “Come on, you carry them while I pay,” he ordered and Scott dragged himself off the couch to follow behind him.
     They received and paid for the two pizzas. Scott carried them in while Matthew cleared space for them to be set on the table. He made space by simply pushing everything else off to the sides of the table to the point where they were practically about to fall off.
     “One cheese and one pepperoni, let’s eat!” he said. April arose from the couch to go and join them. Matthew was already pulling out a slice for himself and Scott was reaching in. She paused a moment to look back at Demitri, still seated on the couch but bent forward with his head bowed, his eyes closed and his lips moving in a silent prayer. She went on ahead to slip the cheese pizza box out from under the pepperoni and get herself a slice. Demitri joined the rest, the four sharing in laughs and conversations that had little to nothing to do with their night jobs. They spoke over the background noise of a sleepless city and ended the night with a toast to April by the tapping of soda-filled glasses in celebration of her official membership. She shyly joined in, feeling a little guilty that she was really in it for her own reasons at this point. It wasn’t a path she would have picked for herself, but at that moment, everything felt right.
     Once Demitri, Scott and April had departed from the apartment, Scott hurried on home from Mainframe and Demitri was about ready to set things up for April.
     “Um… hey Demitri?” she said in a quiet voice and he turned to face her.
     “Yes?”
     “Sorry about losing the other night. I’ll try to do better the next time we go bowling,” she apologized and he raised an eyebrow. “…What?” she asked, feeling as though she had done something wrong in even mentioning it.
     “You don’t need to apologize for something like that. We just do it for fun,” he assured her then suddenly expressed doubt. “Well, Scott and I do, at least. Who knows with Matthew,” he noted and she giggled.
     “Thanks,” she said softly.
     “Don’t mention it,” Demitri replied with a smile. “Now there’s nothing else that you’ve been dwelling on lately, is there?” he asked, crossing his arms and giving her a teasing glare as if she’d be in trouble if there were.
     “No!” she said and laughed. “Although…I do have a question,” she admitted.
     “Okay, shoot.”
     “Well, how long have you had your powers, Demitri? And could you tell you had them right away or did they take a while before you started to feel them?” she asked and he glanced up a moment.
     “I got my powers at the age of six,” he replied and April gave a faint gasp.
     “But that’s so young!” she said in astonishment.
     “Yeah. I was in a private school when my powers started to activate. It was at the end of the school day, I went invisible and the teachers thought I had already been taken home. When someone came to pick me up there was a lot of confusion and I couldn’t understand why they were looking for me. I tried telling them I was right there, but they couldn’t even tell where my voice was coming from,” he described as he recalled memories from so long ago.
     “That sounds horrible! And you remember all that from when you were only six?” April remarked compassionately.
     “Mmhm. I remember having my first headache then, too. My powers are mental after all. It was a huge strain on my mind and I collapsed soon after I reappeared. Needless to say my parents decided to pull me out of private school.”
     “So wait then,” April requested, pausing him from his story to ask, “were you ever able to go back to school?” she asked and he shook his head.
     “I was homeschooled from that point on. My parents did hire some tutors once I started to get my powers under control, but they were always pretty stressed that someone might find out about me. I was told I couldn’t show or tell anyone about my powers. The only exception to that was my uncle, but that was only because my father thought he could ‘cure’ me. He didn’t want to accept that I would always be like this,” he said, uncrossing his arms. April looked a bit troubled over having asked.
     “I’m sorry. Here mine came and I didn’t even know I had them. It still kind of feels like make-believe,” she confessed, sounding a bit sad, but he only smiled.
     “Don’t be. These powers were the best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks to them I ended up spending a lot of time with my uncle, which ended up changing every aspect of my life, from my goals to my outlook and beliefs. My powers, which had been formerly referred to as disturbing or weird, he referred to as a blessing,” Demitri said with a reminiscent look of gratitude.
     “Wow. It’s amazing to think one person could make such an impact on someone else,” April remarked with a smile.
     “Isn’t it?” Demitri agreed. “But enough about the past, you should probably be getting back now. It’s late and we’ll both need our rest,” he commented and April gave out a yawn at the mere mention of rest.
     “All right. Goodnight Demitri,” she said with a short wave of her hand.
     “Goodnight,” he replied before they parted ways. Thus the evening came to a close.

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