“I did not think this through,” I said aloud, standing in front of an industrial prototyping machine, which seemed to basically be a fancy 3D printer. I was half expecting Envy to chime in with a helpful idea, but she was uncharacteristically silent.
She wasn’t gone, I could still feel her presence, but she seemed distant. No, it was more than that. I could feel waves of discomfort radiating from her. She was afraid of something.
Realising she wasn’t going to be any help, I focused my attention back to the problem at hand. Somehow, I had to get this giant machine back to Zoe, without breaking it. With her strength, I could probably lift it, but I couldn’t picture myself carrying it all the way across town, especially not without attracting attention.
“You need a truck,” a voice behind me said, startling me.
“What the-” I said, as I turned to see Charlie sitting on top of a pile of storage crates. She was dressed in her usual Vigilante getup, trenchcoat and all, but without the mask. It just reminded me that she’d gone public with her identity.
“Good thing I wasn’t trying to sneak up on you,” she said with an insufferable smirk. Rachel’s pained expression flashed through my mind, and I felt my body tense up.
“What are you doing here?” I asked coldly.
“Investigating,” she said, shrugging.
She dropped down from the top of the crates, landing gently and irritatingly elegantly. Her coat billowed around her.
“Investigating what?” I asked, taking an unconscious step away from her.
“This,” she said. “You. Whatever you’re up to.”
“What I’m up to is none of your business,” I snapped. She looked surprised, and a little hurt.
“There’s no need to be rude. I thought we were friends, Sabrina.”
I felt my legs buckle. I had suspected she knew about me, after her comment before she outed herself, but hearing it confirmed still frightened me.
“Yes, I know who you are,” she said impatiently. “You haven’t exactly been subtle about it.”
She rolled her eyes, striding towards me assertively. I shrank back, feeling more frightened than I would have expected. I was sure she wouldn’t hurt me, didn’t even want to hurt me, but the fear was almost paralytic.
“Relax,” she said, sounding almost annoyed. “I’m not your enemy. We both want the same thing, I think.”
“I don’t want what you want,” I very nearly hissed at her. She recoiled, confused. Then realisation spread across her face.
“You spoke to Rachel,” she said, her voice strangled.
Her expression, her tone, answered the question I was too afraid to ask. Was it true, what Rachel had said? Did Charlie really do that to her?
I knew the answer was yes.
“You’re a monster,” I growled, the transformation ready, but I held it at bay.
Charlie sighed, slumping against another storage crate.
“Well, there’s no denying that,” she said. “I was going to ask if she hates me, but I guess I know the answer already.”
The two of us stared at each other, the tension between us threatening to bubble over into violence. I could feel her fury washing over me like physical heatwaves.
“Tell her…” Charlie hesitated, and I almost believed the pained expression on her face. Almost. “Forget it. Tell Zoe something instead. Tell her I am going to send her back where she came from, but not before she suffers for every single person she’s infected.”
“Tell her yourself,” I snarled, as the transformation ripped through me. I felt my entire body shift and tear, and the world around me slowed down, grew calmer as a storm began to rage inside of me.
“Incredible,” Charlie said, not nearly as intimidated as I wanted. “How do you do that?”
“Looking for more powers to steal?” I accused, every inch of me ready for a fight. It was more than just adrenaline, it was a raw, primal need.
“I’m just looking to protect my city,” she said, more impatient than intimidated. “You know better than anyone what someone like Zoe can do, and to fight her, I needed what Rachel had.”
“And to hell with the consequences, right? Too bad if anyone gets hurt along the way?”
“There won’t be anyone left to get hurt if I don’t stop them, Sabrina!” she shouted, filled with frustration. “They are going to kill this city, and you know it won’t stop there.”
Before I could respond, a third voice filled the room, one I hadn’t heard before.
“Have you considered that we might actually leave willingly, if we had the option?”
A young woman- no, a teenager, barely older than we were, stepped out from behind the same crates Charlie was leaning against. She was dressed in loose-fitting, dark clothing, and moved with a lethal grace that set my nerves on edge all over again. Her short black hair fell about her face in a perfectly styled mess, an almost mischievous smirk playing on her lips. I found myself fixated on her eyes, shimmering violet and filled with presence and power.
“Ami,” Charlie said coldly.
“So nice to see you again, Charlotte,” Ami said tauntingly. “How are you feeling today?”
“Strong enough to crush your smug little skull,” Charlie threatened. “What are you doing here?”
“None of your business,” Ami said smoothly. “Now, unless you’re looking for a fight…” She trailed off, but the threat was blatant. Rage consumed Charlie’s face, and her eyes actually seemed to darken, but she turned on her heel, and began to storm off.
“You’re not invincible, Ami,” she cautioned. “I will figure you out eventually.”
“If only you still had the tinker on your side,” Ami called after her. Charlie froze, but said nothing. “You’re a child, Charlie, and you’re playing with fire.”
Charlie left in silence, leaving an awkward silence hanging in the room. Ami turned to me, all of her tension evaporating almost immediately.
“Now then. Sabrina, was it? I think it’s time that you and I got acquainted.”