As Buddy approached the diner, he noticed a figure silhouetted on the rooftop. He walked around the corner and jumped to the fire escape. He made it to the top with only a moderate amount of difficulty and found Alexa oblivious to his noisy arrival, still standing on the far side of the building and staring off into space.
“Doing a solo patrol tonight?” Alexa jumped at the sound of Buddy’s voice.
“Oh, Buddy, you scared me.” She turned her face away from him again, looking off into the distance.
“Are you alright?” Buddy asked as he neared her. “I’ve been texting you all day.”
“Oh,” she responded flatly, “yeah, I must have had my phone turned off or something.”
“You with your phone turned off? Something must really be up.”
Alexa turned to him, tears in her eyes. “Buddy,” she began, but was unable to continue.
Buddy ran to her side and wrapped his arms around her. “What’s up, Lex?” He asked as he held her tightly against himself.
After a brief moment, she pulled away and turned from him. She took a deep breath before finally speaking again. “I’m sorry, Buddy. I—“ she cut herself off.
“Hey,” Buddy said, pulling her into himself once again, “hey, don’t worry. I’m here. Is this about seeing Damon yesterday? I should have told you earlier but–”
“No, it’s not that. Well, I mean, that’s definitely not helping, but–”
“Is it Arthur then? You know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, right? No matter how crazy he’s gotten he’s–”
“It’s not that, either. Sure, I’m feeling a little off because he’s starting an army and hasn’t even stopped by to say hello or ask me if I want to help out. I mean, it’s not like I would have joined him or anything, but it would have been nice to–”
“Does this have to do with whoever you’ve been going off to meet once a week?”
“Yeah,” Alexa said as she turned on her heel to face Buddy.
“So it’s really not Flores, then? I wasn’t going to say anything back there, but—“
“It’s my dad, Buddy.”
“It’s the only dad I know about,” Alexa said through a forced laugh.
“Oscar’s the person Murphy’s getting all worked up about?”
“Yeah, well, you know, I had wanted to tell you, but—“
“That’s great, Lex! Are you and him getting along, like, I mean, are you patching things up?”
“Yeah, it’s going pretty well. It actually kinda surprised me. I started visiting him after the whole thing happened with Dominion. Being so close to death really put things into perspective for me.”
“You’re telling me,” Buddy frowned.
“I knew that being one of The New Defenders was what I wanted to do, but I also knew that meant something might happen to me. Something bad.”
“Sure, I get it. I was there.”
“It made me realize that my time might be short. That I might not have as much time as I thought to fix things with him.”
“I’m so happy for you, Alexa!” Buddy said as he laid his arm across her shoulder.
“Yeah, it’s been amazing. The only reason I haven’t said anything is because I was afraid of what the MHDT might do if they found out my dad was meeting with me, the fugitive superhero.”
“Sure, I get it. He said the same kinds of things when me and Zero had our chat with him.”
“Right, so,” she said, pausing to take a deep breath. “This morning I went to see him to tell him that things have changed, that we would be able to have a real relationship again, instead of this secret one we’ve been having for the past few months.”
“I’m still not seeing what’s got you so worked up. This all sounds like great news.”
“Okay, so what’s the problem?”
Alexa burst into tears once again before blurting out, “He’s dying, Buddy. My daddy’s dying!” She buried her face in his chest as she sobbed.
Buddy placed his hand behind her head, not knowing how to respond. They stood there for what seemed like forever, the only noise being the muffled sound of Alexa sniffling.
Finally Buddy broke the silence. “Lex,” he started. After a short pause, “Lex, are you sure? I mean, well, you know…are you sure?”
Alexa stepped away from him and walked toward the edge of the roof, sitting on the wall which separated them from the street below. “It’s cancer, Buddy. I guess it’s pretty far advanced.”
“But,” Buddy paused again, choosing his words carefully as he followed her, “but Oscar’s one of the best doctor’s out there, right? Shouldn’t he have known about it before it got too bad?”
“I guess he did.”
“Oh,” Buddy said shortly. “But, he’s got to have a cure, right? Last time I talked to him, he was telling me about how people like us were the key to being able to cure all disease or something.”
“He says he’s been working on re-developing the Super-Cure ever since The DOA was disbanded. In fact, he told me the day he found out he was sick was the day after the first Mind Wipe.”
“So, what does he need? Blood, organs, what? I’ll give him anything I can to help things along.”
“I asked him the same thing.”
“He says he already has everything he should need to come up with the cure, but nothing’s working.”
“Oh,” Buddy hung his head. “Look, Lex, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. Maybe if I hadn’t run away when I did, maybe it wouldn’t feel like he’s being taken away too soon. I mean, I started talking to him because I thought I might die, not the other way around.”
“But, it’s not like he’s going to die tomorrow, right? How bad is he?”
“Really bad. When I stopped in this morning, he couldn’t even get out of bed.”
“And you didn’t know about it until today?”
“I guess he’s really good at hiding it.”
Silence hung in the air around the two until Buddy blurted out in excitement. “What about Carl?”
“What about him?”
“Carl knows stuff about working with supers and stuff, doesn’t he? I mean, he was able to get my powers back, right? Couldn’t he help?”
“Well, maybe, but–”
“But nothing. Oscar used to be one of my best friends, or at least that’s what they tell me. And you’re like a sister to me. If there’s anything I can do to help, I’m doing it.”
“Wouldn’t Maggie be pissed if she heard you say that?”
“Nonsense. Maggie feels the same way about you. She has to. If she didn’t, she would have kicked us all out of her apartment by now.”
Alexa laughed awkwardly. “I suppose you’re right. But that doesn’t change how there’s no way for us to get to Carl while he’s down in The Bunker with Artie.”
“Yeah,” Buddy said as he paused to think. “And you don’t have any way of getting in contact with Flores?”
“Hey, there you guys are!” came Ryan’s voice from the distance, accompanied by the thrumming sound of his propulsion pack. “Buddy, where have you been? You were supposed to come help me test out my new holographic duplicating device.”
“Really? I thought I was just making that up.”
“What?” Ryan asked.
“Nothing, just an excuse I gave Maggie earlier.”
“Oh,” Ryan said as he neared them. A look of concern crossed his face as he registered the tears on his sister’s cheeks. “You alright, Alexa?”
“Yeah? What’s he up to now?”
Ryan paused. “Didn’t you know?”
“You knew?” she shouted, running at her brother and grabbing his lapel as he landed. “You knew our father was dying and you didn’t think to tell me?” She lifted him up in the air above her head and shook him. Using her speed, Buddy could make out nothing more than a blur of red as she got her aggression out on her sibling. She finally stopped moving and Buddy saw something escape her hands and fly high into the air.
“Whoa, sis,” Ryan said after he stopped his ascent and returned to the group. “Can’t say I’ve ever experienced your super-rage before.”
“Shut up, Ryan! If you’re telling me you knew about Dad’s cancer and never told me, you deserve—“
“Of course I knew about it. He’s been in rough shape for years, long before you left the house. I assumed you knew.”
“You can’t just assume that type of thing, Ryan,” Alexa said as she ran to her brother and picked him up once again.
“Alexa!” Buddy yelled as he separated them. “Relax, okay. I’m sure Ryan didn’t mean to keep this from you.”
Alexa glared at her brother before finally relaxing her shoulders. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Ry. It’s just been a tough day, you know?”
“Sure. So, you finally told Buddy you’ve been visiting Dad, huh? Been wondering how long you were going to keep that a secret.”
“You knew?” Buddy asked.
“Of course I knew. You think I wouldn’t be aware that the prodigal daughter returned to the very house I live in? Sheesh. How’s Dad doing? I’ve been holed up in the lab and haven’t had the chance to stop by his wing of the house for a few days.”
“Really bad, Ryan. He couldn’t even get out of bed when I stopped by this morning.”
“Ah, yeah. That seems to happen about once a month.”
“So, he’s been like this a lot lately?”
“It comes and goes. Some days he’s just like good ol’ Dad again. Then, like almost out of nowhere, he hits a bad patch and, well, you saw him today so you know.”
The group stood in an awkward pause before Alexa broke the silence.
“Hey, Ry, Dad built The Bunker right? Do you know if he has any blueprints lying around or anything that might show us a back door or something?”
“Reconsidering Damon’s offer, huh?”
“Not exactly. Buddy came up with a pretty good idea that Carl may have something to offer Dad in his research for a cure. Only problem is, Carl’s locked up down there.”
“Not a bad thought.”
“You think Dad would be up for helping us find a way in?”
“If there’s one thing Dad’s always up for, it’s getting fresh eyes on his research. A close second is showing off his designs.”
“Well then,” Buddy said as he clapped his hands together. “Sounds like it’s time to take a trip to the storage shed.”
Buddy was overwhelmed with glee as the trio approached the storage shed, which was only two blocks down from Maggie’s Diner. To look at it from the outside was nothing spectacular, just one of many orange doors stretching on down an alley-like concrete surface. To look at the inside of the actual building wasn’t all that amazing either. However, the items within this 10×10 cube were two of the only trophies Buddy had retained from their battle with Dominion.
Upon opening the door, Buddy smiled as he was greeted by the sight of the XM1202, which dominated the space. The tank-like vehicle more commonly referred to as D.A.W.N.’s Mobile Unit was a miracle of technology. Unfortunately, it was all but useless ever since D.A.W.N.’s AI matrix had been locked up down in The Bunker.
Ryan kicked one of its enormous wheels as they walked past.
“It’s a big hunk of junk now, eh?” he said dejectedly.
“Don’t let D.A.W.N. hear you say that,” Alexa reprimanded as she pulled the rickshaw out of the corner and into the alley.
“You know,” Buddy replied, “I’d give anything to hear that robotic angel’s voice again.”
“She’s not a robot,” Ryan corrected, “she’s an artificial—“
“Don’t get so hung up on labels, kid,” Buddy said as he slapped Ryan on the shoulder. “She’s an angel.”
“If I remember correctly,” Alexa said as Buddy closed the door to the shed behind them, “the last time we talked to her, you couldn’t get away from her fast enough.”
“The last time she was around, she saved our butts from Dominion,” Buddy argued.
“Right, and you still wanted to run,” Alexa laughed.
Go to Chapter Six