Everything afterward was a blur.
I stumbled up on the platform. Someone touched my shoulder and pressed something into my hands--a white mask. I fumbled with it, putting it on.
Crowds of people were being ushered out of the trains by police officers--rescue crews came down the stairs, looking for survivors. Brick was in front of me. He was the one who gave me the mask. He waved down one of the teams, gesturing to me.
I shook my head. "Someone's shot down there," I said, pointing down at the rails. "A girl. Go help her. I'll be fine."
One of the paramedics insisted on examining me. I lifted my wrist, showing him one of the holes Scourge's lightning had torn through my suit. The wound was sealing shut right before his eyes.
He gave me a stiff nod and kept moving.
Several paramedics attended to Brick, who was still standing but wasn't in the greatest condition. The Crimson Claw had ripped through his costume and torn several bloody streaks across his chest.
I left them to their job and started up the stairs. I needed to find whoever was in charge and organize a search party for Sumerset.
My feet wobbled; I could barely stand, nevermind walk. Still, I managed. Some ribs felt dislocated--I felt a steady pressure against my lungs--but other than that, in a few hours I'd be fine. Some scars, but otherwise...
Paladin came down the steps and found me. He started talking, but I could barely hear him above the roar of the crowd and the dull ringing in my eardrums. Something about Mulligan and the Boomerang.
And then came the screams.
The crowd above us--EMTs, civilians, police officers--were all rushing to get out of the way of a bruised, bloodied man. A man with a giant razor-sharp boomerang.
He shouted above the chaos and threw the weapon. It sliced through air, cutting like a buzz-saw--aimed straight for Paladin and me--
--before it was flicked aside by something faster than a speeding bullet.
I'd heard his name before; seen him in a few newsclips. But this was the first time I had ever seen Sovereign in person.
He was a juggernaut--a floating tower of muscle and authority, of integrity and strength. He hovered above us with his arms folded, resembling some implacable, incorruptible mountain--a force of nature. A force of nature on our side.
His uniform alternated between white and black; the shoulders and cape were white, with the chest black, and everything beneath the waist once more turning white. Both of us--hell, everyone in the room--just stared up and gawked at him. But he had his eyes squarely on Boomerang Kid.
The Kid reached for another weapon.
Sovereign spoke with a voice that could sunder stone: "You can't be serious."
Boomerang Kid drew his hand away and slowly raised his arms up into the air. The police grabbed him and pushed him to the floor.
Sovereign turned, then, bringing his attention down upon me. In an instant, I realized he could squash me--burn my brain out with laser eyebeams or snap my neck with a flex of his finger. He could peel back the layers of my skin with his x-ray vision and possibly even read my thoughts straight from the pattern of neurons firing in my brain.
And then I realized that almost everyone had stopped gawking at him, and started gawking at me.
"The Skull, I assume," he said.
"Er, yes," I replied, trying not to stammer.
"Your predecessor did good work. We did not always see eye to eye, but we respected each other."
And then he smiled.
I swallowed. "Thanks," I said.
People were taking pictures. It was a disaster scene, a warzone, but all around us people were snapping photographs like it was a goddamn press conference. And in the middle of it all, I was watching him--and seeing something in his eyes.
Wrinkles crowded their edges. He looked exhausted--like he hadn't slept in weeks.
And then, in a flash of speed, he disappeared.
I slumped. Paladin clasped my shoulder, keeping me up. People started crowding us, yelling questions and trying to grab me. A warm glow engulfed us--Paladin extended his free hand outward, creating a solid ring of light that kept the crowd at bay. As we walked, I heard him whisper into my ear:
"Holy crap, Skull. That was--"
"I know," I said. "I need to find my handler. He's here, somewhere."
"Oh, right. Oh, wow, I'm sorry, I forgot in all the excitement. He's hurt, but okay. The Feds--they sent a crew in. They found him, along with Scourge's hide-out--"
I almost felt like crying. Some part of me had accepted the notion that he was already dead--that Scourge wouldn't bother keeping him alive. But to suddenly know that he wasn't--my heart surged up into my throat, skipping several beats in relief. "Thank you," I muttered.
"Don't thank me yet," he said. "The BPA is here. Their head, actually." He sounded contrite. "She, uh, wants to see you. Personally."
"Is that... bad?"
"I don't know. But last I heard, she had herself teleported half way across the country just to meet you."