Nathan got in the door and immediately flopped on the couch. After a moment, he pulled Raph’s weighted blanket over him. He needed the extra comfort.
“What’s going on?” Raph asked, emerging from the bedroom. “What did the doctor say?”
“I’m having surgery in a week,” Nathan said.
“Scoot,” Raph said, shooing Nathan’s legs from the couch. Reluctantly, he sat up. “Pacemaker surgery?” he asked, sitting down.
“I don’t need a battery replacement! I’m perfectly capable of powering the thing myself!”
“If that’s the case, then why does the doctor want to replace it?”
Nathan sighed. “She says that the other components could wear out at any time regardless of whether the battery is charged, so it’s better to replace it now when it’s supposed to be replaced than wait for the other stuff to break.”
“So it’s perfectly reasonable to replace it. You just don’t want surgery.”
“You’re not a comforting boyfriend,” Nathan said, glaring at him.
“No,” Raph said, glaring back. “I’m a doctor boyfriend.”
Nathan grumbled and adjusted the blanket. “I hate surgery.”
“Nobody likes it. That’s why we sedate people during surgery. It stops them from running away,” Raph said. “It’s a safe procedure. You’ll be fine.”
“I know, but…” He hesitated. Should he explain it? How should he explain it? What words could convey that feeling? “Finding out about my heart was… terrifying. Even if it’s low risk, it’s still my heart. It still means my heart is wrong and could kill me. And then afterwards, every time I lifted my arm too fast or felt it hurt or had a dizzy spell or felt it move under my skin… I got used to it, but I feel like I’m gonna relive it with the new one.”
Raph leaned over and reached out his hand. Nathan pulled his arm out of the blanket and held it. “You’re going to be fine. I’ll be there for you. So will the team and Eric and Coral and your mom. And you have a lot more experience in living with it now. You won’t have to wait until you’re in the hospital like you would if it breaks; you can get it taken care of ahead of time.”
“Yeah, I know,” Nathan said. “I still feel…” He puffed out some air. “All sorts of things. Is it weird that I kinda feel like I’m abandoning my current one?”
Raph shrugged. “It is sort of part of you, I guess. Maybe you can keep it afterwards. It’s not like it’s toxic waste or anything.”
“That’s good.” Not that he had any idea what to do with a pacemaker lying around. Keep it in a drawer? Put it on some sort of display? Get drunk once a year and talk to it like an old friend?
“And maybe you can talk to the doctor about it, see if she recommends anything.”
Nathan glanced over. “You’re a doctor. What do you recommend?”
Raph gave him a look of infinite patience. “I’m not your doctor, I’m your boyfriend. The only thing I can prescribe is a night of--”
The emergency alarm went off. Excellent, a distraction. A moment later, he felt guilty. If everyone was being summoned, it was probably bad, and probably involved deaths. Nathan scowled and tossed the blanket to the side. “Give me a moment,” he said, and went to get his suit.
The rest of the team was there, fully suited, by the time Enmachina and Scope arrived. That was one of the disadvantages of having a heavy set of armor.
Angelica stood at the front, looking grim. “Late last night, a young woman named Blythe Martins was attacked in her apartment.” She held up a remote and clicked it. The screen showed a living room. Other than the overly floral theme, the most unusual thing about it was scorch marks on the walls. “According to Martins, the man who attacked called himself Convert. He noticed her using superpowers, control over flowers, to encourage some plants to bloom outside her apartment. At around 3 AM, he broke in and proceeded to torture her with electric shock and read verses from the Bible in an attempt to make her give up her powers. Electricity appears to be his only power. One of her neighbors heard screaming and called the police, driving Convert away.” Angelica clicked the remote again, and a video played. Someone in a white robe ran past, looking over his shoulder. It looped, and on the second pass, Enmachina could see a reflection on the front. A cross?
“What about Martins?” Scope asked.
“She’s alive, currently in the hospital. I want you to visit her after the briefing, do what you can for her, and see if you can get any more information. If you want to visit the other patients afterwards, that’s up to you. As for the rest of you, I want you searching for this man. He started out by torturing a civilian. This is only going to get worse.”
Enmachina tuned her out as she outlined which areas to search. He didn’t count with everyone else, at least not when it came to villains with electric or magnetic powers. As predicted, when the rest of the team stood up to leave, Angelica cleared her throat. “Enmachina, please stay behind.”
“Every time you do that, I feel like I’m back in school and I’ve done something wrong,” he said as the others left. “So, being held in reserve again?”
“If I didn’t, the doctors would lecture me into submission,” Angelica said. “Besides, I really do need someone in reserve.”
“Should I go on patrol now, then?”
“Might as well,” Angelica said. “The southwestern quadrant should be well-covered by the rest of the team, but the others need to be checked. After that, return.”
“And spend another day watching the news. Got it.” Enmachina stood up. “See you in a few hours, then.”
“Good luck,” she said.
The patrol went off without a hitch for the first hour. As he was flying over the suburbs, his comm crackled. “Reports of super activity down Main Street. Repeat, reports of super activity down Main Street.”
Enmachina turned on his comm. “Enmachina here. What’s the situation?”
“Dispatch here. Large humanoid wrecking buildings. Ran into a few cars, but police are blocking the road.” There was a large crash in the background.
“All right. ETA is 10 minutes.” He switched channels. “Angelica, you heard that?”
“Yes. ETA is 20 minutes. Think you can manage until then?”
“You say that like the fight won’t be over by then.” He grinned and fired up the boosters.
Main Street was lit up with red and blue police lights. Enmachina heard a loud crack when he was a few blocks away. A few moments later, a bent police car went flying. He spotted something big and blue moving, and landed as close as he could. The police actually looked relieved to see him, which meant the situation had to be horrible.
The blue super, twice as tall as Nathan, looked like a grotesque caricature of masculinity: shoulders that were each twice as big as their head, tiny hips that looked barely capable of holding their torso, a jaw down to their shoulders, massive feet, and hair everywhere. They were completely naked, as well. As he watched, they smashed their head through a window, picked up the shattered glass, and ran it over their arms, which left no mark. They screamed and went for the wall by the glass.
Probably a human. An Atlantean would look completely different when naked and none of the alien species they’d come across were humanoid. That meant this was probably a teen or young adult whose powers had just come in.
“Angie?” he asked, turning on the comm.
“Don’t call me that,” she said. Right, not over public channels.
“Sorry. Initial impressions: Alter Ego shifter who’s changed for the first time. Strength and invulnerability. I’m going to try to talk them down.”
“Any indications of what caused the change?”
“Keep me advised.” The comm clicked