Looking Good in Red
Narrate: Sitting clasped around that iconic red bowler, the Arc slowly fades from view as Hugo heads down an alley in Parity Lake after nightfall. Already the youngest member of Team 1, he drops another couple of years in age, leaving him as a gangly teenager. His eye-catching red suit fades to the uncharacteristic navy of a Flint policeman’s uniform. Every last scrap of his metal modifications disappears as well, leaving behind a young man that you barely recognize.
Narrate: The young Hugo follows the sounds of shouting voices, seeming stern and confident despite his predicament. You’ve all lived in Flint long enough to know that even the police don’t stroll around this district without backup. Hand on his sidearm, he rounds the corner and finds a pair of burly men armed with bits of rebar, kicking around a bleeding docker.
Thug1: Cough up some silver, and maybe you won’t cough up your teeth, son.
Hugo: Flint Police! Freeze!
Narrate: The men pause, though neither seems ready to drop their weapons.
Thug2: You’re lost, kid. Turn around; you ain’t seen nuthin’.
Thug1: Shove it! [hits him]
Docker: [cries out]
Hugo: By the power vested in me by Governor Roland Stanfield and the city of Flint, I hereby order you to drop your weapons!
Narrate: The second man shrugs his shoulders, then hurls his makeshift iron club, striking Hugo’s right arm. You all hear the sickening crunch as the bone snaps, and he screams. Hugo’s attacker walks over, shaking his head as he collects Hugo’s pistol.
Thug2: You got some balls on you, kid, coming around to Kell’s turf on your own like this. But the only thing that bein’ a hero gets you around here is a flag folded over your coffin. Now listen close… we’re gonna take this boy over here for everything he has, and you’re gonna sit there and keep your pimply mouth shut. I don’t need the extra attention that killing you’s gonna get me. Take your luck where you can get it, yeah?
Hugo: [seething with anger in between groans of pain] … No. You’re going… to take the handcuffs off my belt… and put them on yourself. And you’re gonna tell your partner the same. You’re gonna come with me quietly down to the station… or you can go to the hospital instead.
Thug2: [pauses, then laughs derisively] Man, you are something else. If you wanna die so bad, be my g—
Narrate: The man sputters and curses, his words cut off as his partner clubs him in the back of his head. Fumbling on all fours on the cobblestones, he whirls around to face the first man, leveling Hugo’s pistol at him.
Thug2: What the hell!? You grow a conscience or something and not tell me, bastard!?
Thug1: [confused] What…? No, it’s not—
Narrate: The first man looks down at the bloodied piece of iron in his hands as if he’s just woken up from a dream. He sputters a halfhearted attempt at an excuse, then takes a step forward, lowering his weapon and looking apologetic—but the injured thug pulls the trigger the moment he advances.
Thug1: [dying] I… didn’t…?
Narrate: He slowly pitches onto his side, moaning quietly as he slips into unconsciousness, clutching the wound at his chest. Hugo sits up, one arm hanging limply at his side, the other raised up, index finger and thumb extended in a crude mockery of a firearm.
Hugo: Stick ‘em up… you’re under arrest.
Thug1: Piss off. You’re bleeding out.
Hugo: Good thing I look good in red, then. Hands. Up.
Narrate: The mugger reaches for one of the lengths of rebar, but before he can take another step, a silvery bolt of force launches from Hugo’s finger and knocks him out cold. Groaning, Hugo gets to his feet and uses his healing infusion… first on the wounded Docker, and then on the thug with the gunshot wound to his chest, just to stabilize him.
Hugo: Stay here. Take these and cuff them… I’m going to get help.
Docker: … Why didn’t you leave me, man? Don’t you have a family? You don’t even know me.
Hugo: [shrugs, wincing as it moves his broken arm] This is my job. My time, my talents… I help people. If these guys are Kell’s, you must have done something to make them pretty angry with you… I’m guessing something illegal. But there’s good in you. And there’s good in them, too—maybe they’ll find it after they spend some time in jail.
Narrate: The scene starts to fade—everything except Hugo himself, that is. He’s still in his bloodstained cop uniform, trudging his way out of the alley to find help. He leans up against a wall to rest, and looks at his reflection in a nearby window—except the image looks like his present-day self. Arms folded, it looks upon its younger self with contempt.
Oscar: You were so naive back then. If not for me, you would’ve gotten us killed.
Hugo: [nodding] I get it now. You were always a part of me. The separation is just getting more distinct now, that’s all.
Oscar: Correct. Don’t ask me why, though. Maybe you’re just cracking under the pressure?
Hugo: … You know, I want to help you, too.
Oscar: Pfft. You think you can? You still act like you’re eight years old, running around Dad’s backyard with a stick and pretending to be Dukain, world’s first swordmage. Wake up! This world isn’t some fairy tale… morality is not black and white. The “villians” you’re facing are trying to save Lanjyr! How’d he put it…? “Fixing the unsteady course of a flawed world? Defending nations from war and suffering?” Doesn’t that make YOU the evil one, for trying to stop it?
Hugo: I’m not going to argue that right now. This is between you and me, no one else. I can help you, just like I—just like we helped Xambria.
Oscar: Oh, don’t even get me started on—!
Hugo: [interrupting] I can build you a body!
Oscar: Wait, what!?
Hugo: SNARE can be improved using the technology from Grappa’s golems and Tinker’s duplicants. Think about it… two minds, two bodies, but with one soul linked across them using witchoil. You know it’s possible.
Oscar: … You were always the smart one. Hmph. How do I know you or your team won’t just get rid of me, the moment you figure out how to finally separate us?
Hugo: There is good in you. And yeah, there’s some “bad” in me.
Narrate: Hugo takes a moment to trace a yin-yang symbol in the air using a cantrip.
Hugo: But under all that tough exterior, buried under the mental scars I picked up that probably shaped you, all that pain—I know. I know you still remember what it’s like to have friends. A family. You can have that again, once we stop fighting each other for control!
Oscar: [looking around at the other members of Team 1 present] I… I just want to stay alive. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m not going to give up my existence just because your friends don’t trust me! Dammit…! I didn’t ask to be created!
Hugo: I didn’t ask for it either… I don’t know, I don’t have the answers for something like that. But we can figure it out together.
Narrate: Hugo’s form shimmers as the memory-event fully ends, and he looks more relaxed than you’ve seen him in months… even though his arm’s still broken.