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Month: November 2015

Chapter 23 – I Did Not Sign Up For That

“What’s this?” Sabrina asked, turning the device over in her hands. Her surprised expression was entertaining, at least.

“A gift,” I said. “Trying to make myself useful.”

I still couldn’t move around very much, but I had enough mobility in my hands to craft, and at least my brain seemed to be firing on all cylinders. I got restless.

“Okay. What does it do?” she asked, sounding more than a little skeptical.

“It’s a shock glove,” I explained. “A modified version of my own. Good for incapacitating people without causing them any lasting damage, you know?”

“Isn’t that still really bad for you?” she asked, frowning.

“Can be,” I conceded. “Especially if they have a heart condition or something. Hard to design around that, unfortunately. Use with caution.”

She held it up, looking inside of it, as if expecting it to be booby-trapped.

“Why?” she asked.

“What do you mean, why?” I responded, pretending I wasn’t expecting exactly this line of inquiry. Of course she was going to be suspicious.

“What do you get out of this?”

I pretended to be offended. “I like to help, okay? I can’t do much right now, not in the middle of my treatments, but I can at least do this much. It’s… I used to do it for Charlie, until…”

Sabrina’s face softened immediately. My chest ached.

“Thank you,” she said. “Um, how does it work?”

I grinned.

“There’s a specific hand gesture to activate it,” I explained. “Here, put it on and I’ll show you.”

She nodded, sliding her hand into it. As it clamped around her, she flinched and cried out.

“Ow! What was that?”

“The best part,” I said. “It doesn’t need to be charged, because it uses you as a battery.”

“What? I did not sign up for that,” she said, tugging at the glove, trying to remove it.

“Relax, you have plenty of excess energy,” I told her. “I’ve been looking at the tests Zoe ran on you. You won’t even notice it, and it means it’s always guaranteed to work. Plus, you can ramp up the power if you need to use it on, well, someone a little tougher.”

It took a moment, but I saw understanding cross her face. She nodded covertly.

“So how do I make it work?”

I ran her through the gesture. She had to do it a few times to get it right, but the glove lit up, and she tested it out on a receptor I’d build specifically for that purpose. She smiled, satisfied.

“Thank you, Rachel,” she said. “Um, I don’t mean to complain, but it is a little tight…”

“Oh, of course!” I said, hoping it didn’t sound completely rehearsed. “Here, let me get it off you. I’ll adjust the size a little, and get it back to you.”

“I appreciate this,” she said, as I unclasped the glove and slid it off her hand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I guess I’m still adjusting to, you know, everything.”

“Trust me, I know what you mean,” I lied. “But for what it’s worth, I think you’re doing a great job.”

She blushed, smiling awkwardly. I let her leave, more than a little pleased with herself. God, she was so naive I wanted to throttle her. Not literally, of course.

As soon as I was alone, I opened up the glove, pulling a small vial out from a hidden compartment. A tiny amount of her blood sloshed around inside. A smile broke out on my face.

I slipped the vial into a locked, hidden container. The last thing I wanted was anyone else stumbling on it, and asking what I was doing with it. A girl’s got to keep her secrets, after all.

With that sorted, I turned my attention back to more important matters. I was pretty close to figuring out Zoe’s machine, and I’d already managed to point out a few adjustments that had impressed her.

From what I could tell, the core of the machine was going to create a literal black hole. That actually wasn’t all that difficult, all things considered. The difficult part, and the part that Zoe was clearly still struggling with, was turning that black hole into an actual transdimensional gateway. She was almost there, but with the materials we had available, it was still a little ways off.

The genius of the thing excited me like nothing else ever had. It was the most advanced, incredible piece of technology I’d ever seen, and to have the chance to look at it up close, to go through the designs, to watch it being built, it was a dream come true.

Then of course there was the fact that it was supposed to be a bridge to a parallel dimension. An actual, bona fide alternate reality, one which was apparently so technologically advanced it could create superhumans like Zoe. I wanted to see that world more than anything else.

Did Zoe intend to let anyone go back with her? Was she just looking to get home, or did she care about more than that? I found it difficult to believe it would be that simple, but I didn’t know nearly enough about her to predict more than that.

There was another risk, too. Even if we could create an interdimensional rift, what if it got out of hand? It only needed to open long enough to send her through in theory, but what if we couldn’t close it after? What if it expanded?

What if more like her came through? What about getting rid of the others that were already through? There were too many variables, too many possibilities, and I did not trust Zoe to nearly the same degree as Sabrina seemed to.

A gentle knock at the door drew my attention, and I was surprised to see Zoe standing there. She never knocked.

“What’s up?” I asked, putting down the soldering iron I’d been absently turning over in my hands.

“Time for your medicine,” she said, grim humour accenting her voice. “It’s going to be a big one.”

Chapter 22 – There’s Something Missing From Your Story

As promised, Zoe’s early treatments were close to unbearable. The chemicals tore through my body, consuming the toxins that were destroying me from the inside out. It felt like being hollowed out, and filled with venom and ice.

We spent hours on the treatments every day, as much as my body was able to withstand. I tried to push myself further, tried to suffer through more, but Zoe kept telling me, it wasn’t about pain. Any more and I would literally start falling apart at the seams.

Whenever I wasn’t in the middle of treatments, I was in a sort of vacant haze, unable to engage with the world around me. I was dimly aware of Sabrina coming and going, bringing back more and more components for Zoe’s machine. Zoe ignored me whenever she wasn’t actively treating me, locking herself away to work on it.

It took weeks before I was able to function between treatments again. As soon as I could, I started poring over Zoe’s schematics, and rifling through the components Sabrina had retrieved. A picture was starting to form in my head. It wasn’t enough, not yet, but I was on the right path.

I needed to understand what it was Zoe was building, and how it worked. It was crucial. If I couldn’t manage that, well…

As I began to regain mental acuity, Zoe filled me in on the next stage of the recovery process. Once the toxic agents had been completely removed from my system, she’d be able to use a diluted version of her own blood, to repair the damage. She’d also proposed a few modifications, and I’d taken to that suggestion with an almost manic glee, when I realised the possibilities.

I was looking through the components we had available, and putting together the plans for the first round of upgrades, when she stepped into the room, completely silent.

I’d realised two things about her, in the time I’d spent with her. We’d dramatically underestimated her.

First, she wasn’t just strong, or fast. That was such an oversimplification of what she could do. When she moved, she moved like a wild animal, with a predatory grace that sent a chill down my spine. It became apparent just how dangerous she’d be in a fight very early on, and I was very glad we were working together.

Second, she was brilliant. Her understanding of mechanical engineering might have outstripped my own, and mine was supernatural. She was a scientific genius, familiar with concepts that would have sent the most respected minds of the generation reeling. She could run calculations in her head as fast as any computer.

I was so very, very glad we were working together.

“You lied to Sabrina,” she said, though there was no accusation in her tone. Only statement of fact. Even still, I panicked.

“Eh?” I replied, as nonchalantly as I could manage. She couldn’t suspect me, not yet. I hadn’t done anything to earn it.

“About your condition,” she said, with a glint in her eye that told me to tread very carefully.

“I’m not faking this,” I said, knowing better than to outright lie. She was basically a human lie detector. Well, maybe not human.

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

I looked up at her, barely able to stand. If she genuinely thought I was trying to deceive her, she’d have torn my head off already. Probably literally.

“Oh. You mean Wendy,” I said, knowing full well she didn’t. I knew exactly what she was talking about, but if I didn’t play this exactly right… “I really can’t tell you where she-“

“Rachel. You need to be honest with me. I can tell when you’re lying.” That glint in her eye again, replaced almost immediately with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything to Sabrina.”

Right, because it was Sabrina I was worried about. A clumsy teenage fool with no ability to control her abilities.

“I haven’t lied,” I insisted, lying.

“I know Wendy,” Zoe said. “I know how she works. There’s something missing from your story.”

I had to force myself to maintain normal breathing. We both knew where this was going, but I had to play things just right.

“I assure you, there isn’t,” I said evenly.

Zoe smiled indulgently. “With your physiology, her blood should have lasted decades. More, if you were careful.”

Keep her focused on that lie, so she misses the real one.

“I told you, Charlie tore it out of me.”

My chest ached just thinking about it. I could still picture her standing above me, my blood dripping from the blade…

“There would have been enough left in your system to heal you completely,” she said, undeterred. She was right, of course. “Here’s the thing. Her body also produced a counter-toxin, designed to strip any traces of her blood from someone’s system. Now, if someone had injected you with that after Charlie had ripped it out…”

My body twitched involuntarily. Those wounds were still fresh.


“It can’t have been Wendy, though,” Zoe said, barely talking to me. “She’d have known. And Charlie wouldn’t have had a reason to. Which means someone else was working with Wendy.”

I had to keep myself from laughing. She was so close, and yet still so far.

Charlie had tricked Wendy, tricked me, tricked them. All of us, in order to claim that power for herself.

I shook my head. There was no point giving those names to Zoe. No, worse than that. If she knew, if she could track them down, it could ruin everything.

“You won’t tell me?” she asked, annoyed. “After they left you in this condition?”

“It’s complicated,” I said.

I saw the anger flash through her eyes, but it passed almost instantaneously, and I knew I’d managed to keep her off the right path.

“Okay,” she said. “I can understand you not trusting me.”

“It’s not just that,” I said.

“In any case, it’s not important. I think we’re ready to start you on stage two. How do you feel about that?”

I glanced again at the plans I’d been weakly scribbling down in a notebook, looked back at her, and grinned.

Chapter 21 – Everyone Has An Agenda

Part 3 – Rachel

Everyone has an agenda. Charlie taught me that, and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. With her, it was never about love, it was about what I could do for her, for her crusade. The crusade that should have killed her, if only that were even possible.

Strangely, she didn’t scare me. I wondered what that said about me, that an immortal superhuman could declare to the entire world that she was coming for me, and I wasn’t the least bit scared. A dark part of my brain laughed. What else could she even take from me at this point?

That night was a vivid memory to me, one I relived every time I closed my eyes. I was lying on my back, fingers gripping the sides of the table, as her knife cut me open, and she reached in and stole the borrowed power inside of me. She walked away a demigod. I could barely walk at all.

I remembered the scream, the horrifying, piercing shriek that had literally torn open the sky, and brought monsters into the world. I remembered the way the pain had shown on her face, the way she’d dropped to the ground, clutching herself like she was trying to keep from being ripped up from the inside.

The memories were so intense, I didn’t realise I was dreaming until I woke up, breathing ragged, covered in sweat. Adrenaline surged through my system and I felt disoriented, wondering what I was doing in what looked like a run down hospital room. It took a few moments to remember.

This was Zoe’s home, an abandoned medical facility that Sabrina had led me to. Somewhere I would be safe, and maybe, somewhere I could recover.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I noticed Sabrina sitting across the room, her legs folded up against her chest, a wary expression on her face. If she noticed me wake up, she didn’t give any indication of it.

“Were you watching me sleep?” I asked, struggling to pull myself up to a seated position. Every muscle in my body felt weak, barely able to support my own weight. My bones felt brittle, and I couldn’t stop shaking.

“Asks the girl who broke into my room,” Sabrina retorted, shifting her weight, swinging her legs down to hang off the side of the table.

“My life was at risk,” I protested. “Is still at risk.”

“Necessity is the mother of all evil,” she said, and I didn’t have the energy to tell her she was mixing her metaphors. It didn’t seem like a conversation worth having.

“So is there a reason behind you watching me?”

“I don’t trust you,” she said bluntly.

I sighed. “Well, at least you’re honest about it.”

She dropped off the side of the table, crossing the room to get closer to me. She lacked Zoe’s animalistic grace when she inhabited her own body.

“How do you know so much?” she demanded, a determined expression fixed on her face.

“I was with Charlie through the whole process,” I said, shrugging. “I’ve been dealing with this shit a lot longer than you have.”

She shook her head. “Zoe’s machine. Why does she think you can help?”

“Because I can,” I replied, a little shortly.

Sabrina didn’t like that. She folder her arms, her suspicions intensified.

“So you’re, what, a metaphysical engineer, now?” she asked, her tone suggesting it was not a genuine question.

I sighed again, wishing something as simple as having a conversation wasn’t so exhausting. I could feel the room swimming, and my head was aching, but she wasn’t going to leave me alone until she was satisfied.

“Do you read many comics?” I asked.

“Huh? No, why?”

“You think I don’t have a power, because I’m weak,” I stated, not leaving her room to correct my assertion.

Her eyes grew wide. “Are you a mind reader?” she asked, taking a step backwards.

“No, thank fuck,” I answered, rolling my eyes. “That sounds terrible.”

“What, then?” she asked, clearly frustrated. “Super arrogance?”

I smirked. “You should sheath that wit before you cut yourself with it.” She glowered at me. I decided to answer her question. “I’m a tinker.”

The way her eyes nearly glazed over, it was almost comical.

“A what?”

“I have a preternatural affinity for technology,” I explained.

“That’s not a power, that’s just being a nerd,” she said accusingly.

For some reason, that annoyed me. All I wanted to do was rest, but I’d used valuable energy trying to explain to her what I could do, and all she could respond with was trying to insult me.

“You’ll eat those words some day,” I said. “Besides, Zoe thinks I’m valuable, and she’s a lot smarter than you-“

Do try to get along, children,” Zoe said, gliding in through the open door. Speak of the devil…

“I’m leaving,” Sabrina said sharply. “I’ll get you the next item by Friday.”

She stormed out of the room, right past Zoe, who made no attempt to stop her. Once Sabrina was completely gone, Zoe raised an eyebrow in my direction.

“You upset her,” she said.

“She’ll live,” I said with yet another shrug.

“What do you think she is?” Zoe asked, suddenly serious.

“Different,” I said, not wanting to give away all of my suspicions at once. “Dangerous. Completely innocent.”

“Interesting,” she said, nodding in vague agreement. There was an awkward silence, one which she eventually filled my smiling warmly and asking, “Ready to begin your treatment?”

“Yes,” I said immediately.

“I haven’t told you what’s involved, yet,” she warned.

“It can’t possibly be worse than this,” I retorted.

“We’ll see,” was all she said in response.

“What am I in for?”

She walked over to the bed, helping me out of it. She took my hand and led me back to the main area, where she did most of her tinkering.

“Stage one is basically cleansing your system,” she said. “Are you familiar with cancer treatments?”

I shuddered. “I don’t suppose those are quick and painless where you’re from?” I asked without hope.

“I was deliberately using a more modern reference point,” she said. “We’re going to flood your system with a cytotoxic agent, combined with near-lethal, targeted doses of radiation.”

“Sounds delightful,” I said dryly. “Sign me up.”

“It’s a very specific malady we’re dealing with here,” she said, a little defensively, as if I’d disapproved of her methods.

“Tell me about stage two, then,” I said. “Brighten my spirits.”

“It’s going to hurt,” she told me. “A lot.”


Interlude #2

None of the soldiers ever expected to be fighting a war in the middle of Melbourne. Some of them had grown up here, pretty much all of them had at least visited. It was a city full of people, full of life. Now, it was a city full of violence.

They outnumbered the street thugs on the other side of the river, and they were better equipped. Slowly but surely, they were gaining ground, pushing the gang further back. If they could take this ground and hold it, it would be the first major victory they’d had since arriving.

Most of the street gangs were exactly that, collections of thugs, criminals and anarchists who just wanted to rebel against the system, or take advantage of the chaos to raid and loot. They were poorly armed and had no idea what they were doing. For the most part, they avoided the army.

The Stars were different. Nobody was quite sure where they were getting their weapons from, and they were organised, coordinated and efficient, almost like a paramilitary organisation. They fought strategically, and weren’t afraid of a fight. More often than not, they won.

Burst of gunfire and flashes of light broke up what would have otherwise been a dark and quiet night. While one soldier laid down covering fire, another dashed to a better position, staying low. The plan was working. They were pushing the Stars back.

A woman appeared, stepping out of the shadows, walking purposefully towards the unit’s captain. He noticed her, turned, raised his gun. She seemed undeterred.

“Hold!” he barked, clearly expecting the order to stop her tracks. When it didn’t, he added “Don’t move!” which proved to be just as effective.

He threatened to shoot her if she didn’t stop. She said nothing, and kept moving. That was all the warning he was willing to give. Her body language was too purposeful to be an innocent civilian. He opened fire.

She vanished in a burst of smoke, materialising again behind him. He didn’t even have the chance to turn around before her knife cut open his throat, a brutal cut that would have taken more strength than a woman of her stature should have been able to muster. As he collapsed to the ground, unable to breathe, unable to speak, he saw her vanish again.

She killed four more soldiers that way, silent and efficient, completely without mercy. That was enough to turn the tide of the battle, but she didn’t stop. Another soldier died. A voice in the darkness tutted, stealing her attention.

“I know they’re only human, but even I think that’s cruel,” he said, the light of the streetlamps glinting in his amber eyes. She glared as he dropped down from atop the arch of the bridge, landing gracefully and silently as a cat.

He approached her with a lazy, arrogant smile on his face, his hands resting casually in his pockets. She flicked the knife around in her hand a few times, her entire body tense, ready for a fight.

“I must confess, it’s an unusual sight, you getting involved in a minor skirmish like this,” he said, the two of them seemingly oblivious now to the fight that continued around them. “The territory can’t be that important, so what are you really doing here?”

She glowered at him, her eyes scanning the area, looking for a way out. In a one-on-one fight, she knew who had the upper hand.

“It’s obviously meant to send a message,” he continued, unperturbed by her lack of response. “But to who? The military? The other gangs? Are they supposed to think this territory is more important than it really is? Perhaps you’re trying to draw attention away from something else. Or maybe, you just wanted to get some fresh air, slit a few throats. Hmm?”

She took a step back, trying desperately to visualise a safe place. Blinking more than a few metres was risky, but being around him was even riskier.

“I have a theory. Your partner, or boss, or minion, or whatever. The Celestial. They’re not just clever, though that’s clearly what they want everyone to think. No, they have access to information they shouldn’t be able to have. They control half this city with a gang of maybe five dozen. They’re consistently one step ahead of the military, usually more. Now, other than me, I can think of two other people clever enough to be able to get that information without anyone knowing, and my dear sister is clearly working to her own agenda here. Which means somehow, you’ve found Haylie before me.”

Adrenaline flooded her system. He couldn’t suspect that, couldn’t know. If he found them, and he would find them, it was all over. Even together, they didn’t stand a chance against him, not directly.

She watched his eyes scan her, taking in every minute shift in her body language, every micro expression. She’d already given too much away.

It was too late to try and bluff. He’d see through that anyway. The only option she had was to divert his attention. She needed to offer him something more attractive than Haylie.

She contemplated ways to turn that to her advantage. Despite assurances to the contrary, she was completely convinced Charlie needed to be stopped. They couldn’t do it, but maybe Gabriel could.

For the first time in a very long time, a smile appeared on her face. Gabriel frowned, not expecting her sudden change.

She began to vanish, her body beginning to break apart. He moved almost too quickly to be seen, closing the distance between them, his hand gripping her wrist, anchoring her in place. She let fear creep into her eyes, which wasn’t hard. Part of her was terrified of just how fast he was, and how strong, even if it was exactly what she’d planned on happening.

“If you know where she is, and you’re keeping her from me,” he began, his voice a whispered threat, “believe me when I tell you there is no force on this earth that can protect you from me.”

She dropped her knife, using her free hand to reach into a pocket, and pull out a phone. He watched, curiously, as she navigated through photos, until she pulled up one in particular, and showed it to him.

He dropped her arm, staring at the photo. A vicious snarl escaped his lips.

“Impossible,” he said in a low, guttural voice.

Without saying another word, he disappeared into the darkness, moving like an animal. She reached down, picked up her knife, and vanished in a wisp of black smoke.

Interlude #1

The Celestial sat in his office, alone, staring out at the city below. His fingers tapped impatiently against the armrest, disguising the persistent tremble he hadn’t been able to shake since Impact Day. More had changed that day than just the city, and nobody knew that better than he.

A whisper of smoke and shadow rushed through the room, coalescing immediately behind him. He saw her reflection in the window, dressed all in black, her neck covered right up to her chin. She rested a hand on his shoulder, giving one gentle, affectionate squeeze.

“Rachel and Zoe have made contact,” he said, his voice heavy with weariness. She only nodded, saying nothing. “That might actually work out for us. We’ll have to keep a close eye on them, though.

“Gabriel and Ami still seem to be at odds, even though they’re working towards the same goals. Thankfully, neither of them have the slightest idea we found her first. We need to keep it that way.”

She nodded again, casting her gaze back momentarily to the door behind his desk. They both knew that what was behind that door could change everything, would change everything, just not yet. They needed more time.

“I’m worried about Sabrina,” he continued. “I think we underestimated her. There’s definitely more to her than we thought. Still, she’s not a threat, not right now. So long as she keeps her skirmishes to the street teams, and occasionally the other superhumans, she won’t make the tiniest hint of a difference in this city.”

She dug her fingers into his shoulder. He sighed, leaning back into his chair and looking up at her. She smiled down at him, but he didn’t smile back.

“Still no sign of Wendy. I don’t think we’ll see her again. And Charlie, well…”

At the mention of Charlie, she hissed, tensing up. He rested a hand on top of hers, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb.

“She’s impotent,” he said. “Wandering around the city aimlessly, picking fights with insignificant pawns.” He paused to laugh bitterly. “What a waste of power she turned out to be. Just an angry girl raging against the world.”

Far below them, another gunfight had broken out. The army had launched another raid, trying to cross the river. A cruel smile crossed his lips. They had no idea what they were about to run into.

“Not long now,” he said, almost too softly to be heard. “We’re so close now. While they all bicker and fight amongst themselves, we’re on our way to becoming gods.

“Still, I’d rather not play our hand too soon. Would you kindly pop down there and break up that fight?”

She didn’t respond, didn’t need to. She just vanished, leaving a rapidly dissipating cloud of black smoke in her stead.

Character Visual Reference Guide

In case you were wondering what some of the main characters look like! (Or want to do fan art… hint hint)

Sabrina Labelle

Age: 17

Height: 5’8″ (172cm)

Ethnicity: Mixed (European + Mauritian)

Body type: Chubby

Hair: Medium length, curly, dark brown

Rachel Fierro

Age: 18

Height: 5’4″ (162cm)

Ethnicity: Spanish

Body type: Athletic

Hair: Long, wavy, black

Charlie Farrow

Age: 18

Height: 5’5″ (165cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Athletic + chubby

Hair: Short, straight, brown

Zoe/Specimen ‘Z’

Age: ??? (looks mid-20s)

Height: 6’2″ (187cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Slender

Hair: Short, straight, blonde

Gabriel/Specimen ‘G’

Age: ??? (looks mid-20s)

Height: 6’2″ (187cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Slender

Hair: Short, straight, brown


Age: ??? (looks maybe 18)

Height: 5’3″ (160cm)

Ethnicity: Asian

Body type: Slender

Hair: Medium-length, straight, black