I felt Charlie’s hand on my shoulder before I changed. She leaned in, and whispered calmly in my ear.
“Don’t. You have a lot more to lose.”
Then she stepped in front of us, walking towards the charging infected. They snarled and tried to swipe at her, but she effortlessly ducked the blow, grabbing their wrist and twisting, slamming them against the ground.
Quicker than I could follow, she whipped out a syringe from under her coat. The same kind the Vigilante had given me. She dropped to one knee and drove it into the infected’s chest. It twitched, but almost immediately began to calm down.
“I fucking knew it,” Veronica nearly shouted, grabbing my arm.
Realisation washed over me like a bucket of icy water. Charlie was the Vigilante. That was why she’d taken such an interest in me. We were both different. We were both superhuman.
Charlie had just revealed herself to potentially the entire world. If that camera was still recording, and it looked like it was, there was definitely footage of what she’d just done, which was undisputably superhuman. No normal human could move like that.
She started walking towards the camera which was pointed at her. The cameraman started to back away, leaving his camera behind. Was she planning on destroying the camera? What if it was broadcasting?
She stopped about ten feet in front of it, standing there dramatically.
“Hello, Melbourne,” she said. “Hello, world. I am the Vigilante, and I’m here to let you know, this city will be safe again. No more soldiers, no more gang warfare, and no more infected.” She paused, seemingly for effect. “I’m going to save this city, and I’m going to do it without killing anyone.” Another pause. “Well, except for one person. Rachel, I’m going to find you. You can’t hide from me forever.”
With that, she turned and walked away from the camera, back to the infected she’d left lying on the ground, now completely unconscious. With no apparent effort, she lifted them up onto her shoulder, and then leapt up into the air, clearing the nearest building, three stories tall.
In the distance, several sirens blared to life. Veronica grabbed my arm, her eyes wild.
“We can’t be seen here,” she hissed.
The two of us ran, away from the cameras and the dead reporter and the scene of Charlie’s dramatic reveal. My head was whirling, and I could barely concentrate on where we were going.
“I fucking knew she was suspicious,” Veronica said, slightly out of breath. I didn’t say anything, not because I was also out of breath, but because I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, I just found these listening bugs in your room, Sabrina. Oh, I just somehow knew about the Vigilante before everyone else did.”
I’d known Charlie since long before Impact Day. How long had she had these powers? Her whole life? I knew the Vigilante had existed for over a year before Impact Day, but there were never any rumours of super strength, just that she was incredibly hard to kill.
Where had her powers come from? Could it be the same place as mine? Did she know? Would she tell me? Could she be trusted? And who was Rachel?
It was too much to think about, more than I was ready to deal with. Beside me, Veronica was still ranting, though it was hard to tell if she was genuinely mad, or just excited and scared and still full of adrenaline.
Eventually, we stopped running. I felt a little tired, but not nearly as exhausted as Veronica looked. Before she noticed, I tried to mimic her behaviour, just so she wouldn’t be suspicious.
“Can you believe this shit?” she asked me, determined to get a response this time.
“No,” I said truthfully. “It’s a lot to take in.”
“I’m so mad,” she continued, as if I hadn’t said anything at all. “There is no way I’m going to let this rest. I’m going to uncover every single one of her lies, if it’s the last thing I do.”
“She’s a superhuman vigilante,” I said absently. “It might actually be the last thing you do.”
“I’m not that easy to scare,” she snapped.
“Well, I am. I’m going home,” I told her.
“Will you be okay?” she asked, her tone suddenly soft and compassionate.
“I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “Right now, I’m more worried about you.”
She waved my concerns away, accompanied by fake laughter.
“You worry too much, Sabrina. I’ll be fine. I’m not going to do anything too reckless… just yet.”
She smirked, then we hugged and parted ways. It didn’t take me long to get home, even without relying on any superhuman speed. I was suddenly very self-conscious of that.
“I’m home,” I called, as I closed the front door.
“Hi honey,” Mum called. “Your friend is in you room, I said that was fine. I hope that’s okay!”
“Sure, thanks!” I called back, even though it was completely not fine. I had no idea who was waiting for me in my room, but all I wanted was to be alone.
Grumpily, I ascended the stairs and pushed open the door to my room. To my surprise, a complete stranger sat on my bed, her dark, sunken eyes staring sullenly up at me. She looked frail, almost certainly sick.
“Um, hi?” I said, closing the door behind me. “Who are you?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice strained and weak. “I didn’t know where else to go. I need your help. My name is Rachel.”