It all starts with a family dinner - a terrible one.
The room is tense and silent, no sound made besides the clinking of cutlery against plates. It's so quiet that Will can hear the cars pass by outside.
A good few minutes pass, before his father clears his throat and says:
"We're glad to have you here, Evelyn."
On the other side of the table, Will's cousin responds with a polite smile.
"Thank you for letting me stay here for the week. It's very kind of you."
The light reflects from her blue eyes and glints on the delicate metallic choker around her neck. Her hair is styled in flawless waves, and not even a single crumb falls from her plate. Everything about Evelyn is perfect, which makes her all the more annoying.
You wouldn't be so full of yourself if you knew why you're really here, Will thinks. The single reason both of us are tolerated here is because they think you will be a "positive influence" on me. That being around you will somehow make me go back on every single choice I've made this year.
"I hope I'm not much of a bother," she adds.
"Oh, don't you worry about it," Will's father responds, but his ice-cold gaze is locked onto Will for some reason. That can't be good, he thinks, and frowns back. His father continues:
"We have a vacant room, as for recent. It's nice to have someone stay in it again."
"That's right!" Now the blue eyes turn to Will as well. "Thanks for letting me stay in your room, William. It's... really nice."
"No problem at all," he replies. "Especially because no one ever asked me about it."
They all act like he hasn't said anything, though his father's stare cuts even deeper and the frown lines around his mouth deepen.
Suddenly, a vibrating sound cuts the silence; Evelyn takes out her phone with an apologetic look. That would have earned him a couple of disappointed stares, but she , of course, gets a pass.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she exclaims, getting up. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. I completely forgot! I promised my girlfriend to meet her at the airport. It's completely my bad, but - I have to go. I apologize."
"Don't worry, Evelyn," his mother says softly. "That's alright. Do you need a ride to the airport?"
Will nearly chokes. Girlfriend!... And look how calm his parents are. Of course, it only matters when it comes to him, doesn't it?
Well, another reason to avoid this girl as much as possible until the week ends.
"No, it's fine. Thank you for the offer," Evelyn shines one last sickening smile before hurriedly exiting the room. Once she's gone, his father says quietly, voice vibrating with anger:
"William Sebastian Trevelyan. What do you think you're -"
Will doesn't wait for him to finish:
"You gave her my room! Without even asking me!"
He looks at his mother, who returns him a sad look. Somehow, her not saying anything feels more like a betrayal than anything else about this situation.
Underneath his sleeve, a digital watch lights up and vibrates once, then twice in a quick succession.
"I, um, I have to go." He gets up as well. "Sorry. Tell Evelyn it was lovely to meet her, and all that. Bye."
His father's voice follows him out of the room, but Will doesn't pay attention to his words. Once he's out of sight, he starts running, and the apartment door slams shut behind him.
He drives to a back alley and locks the car doors, then pulls a red and yellow package from under the seat. He presses a button under the wheel, and a woman's face appears on the windshield, while Will begins to unwrap the package.
"What's the situation, Seeker?" he asks, pulling his shirt off. The hologram makes a disgusted sound.
"You intend to listen to my briefing while changing?"
"Just tell me already!" he huffs, pulling the uniform on.
"...As you wish. The Association has initiated an operation in your district. Your help is required. The coordinates are already on your portable communicator."
On the passenger seat, his watch vibrates twice, similar to the vibration that has alerted him in the first place. Will puts it back on; a tap of his finger, and the glowing digits change into a miniature map of the city with the location marked on it.
"Got it. So, who are we fighting?"
There's a moment's pause.
"A representative of the Association will be waiting for you on site. He will explain all the details."
“Maker damn it." These jobs are the worst. Punching bad guys is hard enough, but doing it with some prick looking over your shoulder the whole time? "...Whatever. Anything for justice,” he salutes the hologram mockingly, pulls the mask onto his face and with a flick of a switch unlocks a secret compartment, where his weapon awaits: a bronze-colored metallic shield.
"Ready to move out, Seeker."
"Hurry." Another pause. "Good luck on your mission, Shining Shield."
The hologram fades.
A few minutes later, he climbs into the back of a large van parked outside the Viscount Bank. The building is surrounded by police cars, and a crowd had gathered outside that ring by now.
A flash of familiar light blinds him for a moment.
"Lightning!" Will gasps, covering his eyes. "I didn't know you were in town!"
"Shining Shield," Lightning greets him. Her voice sounds like thunder, if thunder was soft and gracious. Her whole body is made out of energy, only barely stabilized by her skin tight blue suit; the air hums and distorts around her. She holds out a gloved hand. "Last summer, the assault on Corypheus' lab?"
"Damn right," he smiles and shakes her hand. Static electricity immediately stings his arm.
"A pleasure to be working together again," Lightning smiles.
"Will Jenny be joining us?" he asks, trying not to sound overexcited.
"She will, later."
"Red Jenny?!" an unfamiliar voice exclaims. Only now Will notices a male figure sitting behind Lightning, almost completely obscured by her. The stranger stands up. "This is ridiculous! Why haven't you informed me? Why didn't she show up for the briefing?"
Lightning smiles apologetically. “She’s a force of nature… And, technically, not an Association hero. She’s not obligated to show up.”
The man scoffs. "Well, if she will be joining us, tell her to hurry. We haven't much time." He steps forward, finally allowing Will to make out his features: quite handsome, sharp features, tan skin, groomed moustache. The Association's badge glints on the belt of his spotless costume.
"Agent Pavus, representative of the Thedas Superhero Association. Welcome aboard,” the man says.” You were a last minute addition. We have a hostage situation on our hands, and I've been informed you are quite proficient in rescue operations."
Will nods. "You can count on me. Who will I be rescuing?"
He stares at the agent. "Who?"
With a sigh, Pavus gestures to the screens on the wall - displays from security cameras inside the bank. Most show black wispy figures with glowing green eyes pacing through the halls, one is pointed to several of these figures surrounding a group of scared employees.
"This... is the doing of the hero you probably know as A Thousand Shadows."
A hero? For a second Will thinks he misheard, but then Lightning adds:
"I've worked with him. Not exactly the bank-robbing type, if you ask me."
"I would agree.” The agent glances at the monitors, and Will notes to himself the bitter expression that crosses Pavus' face. Probably some personal matter involved here… No wonder. Why in the Void is a superhero robbing a bank? "...However, this is exactly what he did. Reportedly, A Thousand Shadows - Shadow for short - entered the building an hour ago and declared it is under his protection, then demanded access to the vault and the bank cells. The staff demanded explanations, and, as you can see... Matters escalated. The Association insists Shadow must be captured alive and interrogated. Your role is to ensure that happens."
"How many civilians inside?" Will asks.
"Twenty, all staff," the agent replies. "He released the customers."
"I'll enter from the front and give them a little show," Lightning winks. "While he's distracted, Jenny will get you in. Take Shadow out, and we don't have to worry about his minions."
"Do note that he is looking for something," Agent Pavus adds. "We need to know what that is. Find out what you can."
Will whistles. "Interrogation? Are you guys sure you're not looking for Mindreader or someone like that? I'm just a guy who hits things with his shield."
"Mindreader," the agent replies sharply, "Would not achieve much if Shadow is under the effect mind control. Which is a likely possibility."
"Mind control? Then..." Will looks at Lightning. That would definitely explain Shadow’s strange behavior - but there is another, more worrying implication behind this statement. "Do you think that Corypheus is still… Is that why we, of all people, are here?"
"We don't know," Lightning says. "But if it's true, then we're the best people to deal with it."
They approach the bank, equipped with earpieces for communication. Lightning instructs Will to wait at the eastern wall; as he starts walking towards his position, her voice comes through the earpiece. "Game on."
"Kick his ass, Shiny!" cheers in return a voice that can only belong to Red Jenny, Lightning's faithful companion.
Where… where did she get an earpiece?
A moment later, Will hears Lightning call out:
"Hey, Shadow! Do you remember me? I’m here to talk!"
He catches a glimpse of her glowing figure before she disappears from his line of sight - and then hears the wide doors swing open and close again behind her.
Upon reaching his position, he discovers an arrow with a red fletching stuck in the wall: Jenny's greeting. Looking up, Will sees a whole line of identical arrows leading to the top of the building.
To the roof, then...
Reluctantly, he puts his foot on the lowest arrow, testing the weight. It doesn't break - Jenny's arrows pierce through metal and concrete without a problem, - but still, it's better to check. She has put one wooden arrow in a sequence like that before.
Will reaches for the next arrow and starts climbing.