“I have a location for you,” Zoe said, handing me a folded up piece of paper. “She’s there a lot.”
That was the first and last thing she said to me about it, which was exactly what I wanted. No questions, no warnings, just information.
It had taken her a few days. That was fine. I spent that time preparing, going over everything I knew about Charlie.
Number one, she was a better fighter than me. She knew her way around a fight, probably had some kind of martial arts training, and she’d been a costumed vigilante even before Impact Day. In a contest of skill, she’d kick my ass.
Number two, she was vicious, and she was clever. She’d lied to Rachel, manipulated her and used their relationship to get what she wanted, then left Rachel broken and half-dead. Her intellect was not to be underestimated.
Number three, her physical ability was likely on par with mine. I didn’t understand the specifics, but it seemed like we were both derivatives of superhumans from the other reality. My power came from Zoe, hers from someone called Wendy. From what I’d gathered, Zoe was the superior fighter, but Charlie was closer to Wendy than I was to Zoe. That more or less evened us out, in that respect.
That might have been a comfort, if not for the first two points. If we were equally matched physically, her skill, experience and cunning would all give her the edge. In a head-to-head fight, I’d lose.
Except I had more tricks up my sleeve. I had Ami’s power, too, and I’d been practicing. It wasn’t even close to perfect, but I was pretty sure I could do some serious damage with it, especially if she couldn’t see it coming. That would be my trump card.
Previously, Charlie had presented herself to me as a pacifist. She didn’t even want to kill the infected. I would have expected that to give me an edge, if she hadn’t then resorted to cold-blooded murder. No certainty there.
The plan was fairly simple. Corner her, fight her, see which of turned out to be stronger. If it was her, I’d bust out Ami’s power, take her by surprise, rip her heart out before she could do anything about it. If I was stronger, I’d do the same, but with my bare hands.
I still had Rachel’s gauntlet. I doubted its electrical discharge would do much to Charlie, but wearing it made me feel a little safer. Like I had an extra weapon, another person on my side. And I could feel a little more righteous about the justice I was dispense. Charlie definitely had it coming.
Rachel was waiting for me by the entrance, leaning against the wall, one knee tucked underneath her. She wore a haunted expression.
“Don’t bother, Rachel.”
“I just want to tell you what to expect,” she said.
“Fine. Talk. Fast.”
“You can’t beat her,” she said. “It’s impossible.”
Great. Thanks for the pep talk.
“Nothing’s impossible,” I said, taking another step towards the door. If she was going to waste my time, I wasn’t interested in waiting around.
“Sabrina, she’s immortal. Literally. No matter what you do, you can’t kill her.”
It was amazing how little that word meant to me. Was I supposed to care? Functionally, I was too. So was Zoe. So were a bunch of others. It just meant killing her would take longer.
“Good. I can do it as many times as I want, then.”
Rachel recoiled, clearly not expecting my anger. Little did she know.
“She has to have a limit,” Zoe interjected. I hadn’t even realised she was paying attention. “We all do.”
Rachel’s eyes darted between the two of us, and she looked uncertain, like she was trying to make up her mind. Her hands clenched into fists, then relaxed.
“No, you’re not understanding me. Zoe, you have a huge reserve of energy. Enough to draw on to heal your body over and over, but like you said, it has a limit. Your body is still a container for it. Take enough damage, and you wouldn’t heal. The energy would escape, or be used up, and you’d be dead.”
Zoe looked genuinely alarmed, more so than I’d ever seen her before. There was a dangerous glint in her eye as she stared down Rachel.
“How do you know that?”
“Because I understand how things work. So trust me when I tell you, Charlie is different.”
“Impossible,” Zoe said, shaking her head. “Energy isn’t limitless.”
“Charlie’s is,” Rachel insisted. “That’s my point. She is impossible.”
Who cares? She can heal herself infinitely? So what? That just means I can keep killing her, over and over and over and over…
“Great, well, you two nerds have fun arguing about that,” I said. “I’m heading out.”
Neither of them stopped me. I shifted into Zoe’s form, already wearing my costume. It felt like the appropriate aesthetic for avenging Veronica.
The address Zoe had given me was for a warehouse along the riverbank, beyond the commercial part of the city. I couldn’t even imagine why it would be the sort of place Charlie would frequent, but it didn’t really matter. As long as there was a chance I’d see her, I’d wait as long as I needed.
“Sabrina, please don’t do this,” Envy said, appearing in a nearby window. I just ignored her. She couldn’t stop me, and I wasn’t interested in hearing her lecture me about it.
I only had to wait for a couple of hours before Charlie showed up. She wasn’t even trying to be subtle. Thankfully, she was alone.
I dropped down from my vantage point, landing directly in front of her. She didn’t seem at all surprised, just stopped walking, her hands in her pockets, her trench coat fluttering behind her.
“Found you,” I said, letting my lips curl into what I hoped was a vicious grin.
“Sabrina.” She smiled back at me, almost compassionate. Almost… pitying. Bitch. “I heard about Veronica. I’m so sorry.”
So you won’t even admit it. You’re just making this easier for me.
“I’m sure you are.”
Once again, no surprise registered on her face. And why should it? She knew exactly what she did.
“Ah. I see.”
“Why did you do it?” I asked, not really caring what she had to say. There wasn’t any combination of words that could convince me not to go through with this.
She didn’t even try, though. Her body language shifted, almost imperceptibly, to a more defensive stance.
“I can’t explain it in a way you’d understand. All I could do was make it painless.”
That’s it? That’s all you can say in your own defence? You murdered her, you killed my best friend, a girl you’ve known for years. But hey, at least it was ‘painless’.
“A luxury you won’t be afforded,” I growled.
That time, she did look surprised. Her eyebrows arched, and her eyes grew wide. Not with fear, more… curiosity. I hated her.
“You want to fight me?” she asked, the same way a concerned parent might question a child’s wardrobe choices.
“I want to kill you,” I corrected her.
“That’s not like you,” she said, still sounding concerned.
I caught a flash of Envy, still watching, still silent. Good.
“Everyone needs to stop telling me who I am. None of you know me.”
“Evidently,” Charlie said, sighing. Her shoulders slumped, but if anything she seemed to be relaxing, not tensing up.
Don’t underestimate me, bitch.
“How many times do you think I have to rip off your head before it stops growing back?” I asked, letting all of my malice and aggression flow freely. If she wasn’t going to be intimidated by my words, I’d just have to show her with my actions.
“Go home, Sabrina,” she said calmly. “Find a healthier outlet for your anger.”
Don’t. Talk. Down. To. Me.
“Are you threatening me?”
“No,” she said, sighing again. “I’m very deliberately not threatening you. I don’t want to fight you.”
In that moment, all of the compassion disappeared from her face. Good, it was clearly fake anyway. She didn’t know how to feel compassion.
“Sabrina, you’re becoming a cliché, and it’s boring me. I like you, I really do. But don’t push me.”
“DON’T TALK DOWN TO ME!” I shouted, loud enough that several windows shook. Envy looked almost frightened. Charlie seemed entirely disinterested, which was only making me want to hurt her more.
“Don’t act like a child, then.”
“You killed my best friend, you sociopathic bitch,” I spat.
Just hit her, I kept telling myself. Talking is a waste of time. Just hit her.
“She was infected, remember?” Charlie said. “Blame Gabriel for that.”
Oh, I will. Right after I’m done with you, I will track him down, and I’ll destroy him too. I’ll destroy every last one of you, if I have to.
“You said you could save her,” I said, barely aware I was fighting back tears.
“Not hard enough.”
She hesitated, her eyes scanning me. Reassessing my threat? Trying to decide where to hit first? Checking me out?
“I’m leaving, Sabrina. Do us both a favour, and don’t follow me.”
No. You are not getting out of this, you are not walking away from me. You will answer for what you did.
“Fuck-” I began, but the you never came out of my mouth.
“Stop,” Envy said, just a voice in my ear.
I was frozen, completely unable to move as Charlie turned on her heel, and walked away, calmly, patiently. The walk of someone completely without fear.
It was only once she was completely out of sight that I was able to move again. I collapsed to the ground, my entire body aching.
“What?” I choked out, confused and in pain. Had Charlie done something to me? Was there more to her power than I understood?
“I told you not to fight her,” Envy said, standing right in front of me. Not a reflection, no mirrors, just her, standing there. “She’d destroy you.”
“What did you do to me?” I asked, still struggling to talk. I felt so weak, when I hadn’t done anything at all.
“I saved you,” she said passively.
“We’re not enemies,” she said, not letting me finish. “Sabrina. We’re in this together.”
No. No, no, no. This is not fair. This is not how any of this is supposed to go.
“You can control me?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. How was she here? What had changed? “I can resist you. It’s not just your body anymore. It’s ours.”
“I never agreed to that,” I said, shaking.
Of course it wasn’t simple. How could it possibly be simple? How stupid was I, to honestly believe I could just one day get all of these superpowers, and not have to pay a price?
“Without me, you’d be dead,” Envy pointed out.
“I know,” she said, and she sounded sincere. She placed a hand on my cheek, and it felt warm. “I didn’t want to ever do this to you, but I had to save you.”
“You betrayed me,” I said, too weak to even push her hand away.
“It’s my power you’re using to fight.”
I felt defeated, barely able to support myself. My body was shaking, weak, and I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I dropped to hands, my chest heaving, letting the sobbing overtake me. Envy just stood beside me, one hand resting on my back, between my shoulders, the other gently playing with my hair.
I don’t know how long we stayed like that. It felt like hours. It could have been minutes. It didn’t matter.
I’d lost everything. I lost Veronica, lost my home, lost my purpose. I’d lost control over myself. I’d lost my future.
“You’re certain I’d lose?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said immediately.
“Why? What do you know that you’re not telling me?”
“Charlie, she’s…” Envy paused, and the pause felt pained, uncomfortable. “I don’t know the word. Essential? She’s like a law of this universe.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means if you want to be able to challenge her, you need to use power from outside her universe,” Envy said.
“Exactly,” she said, smiling.
“I already have you,” I pointed out, but she shook her head.
“I’m not strong enough yet.”
Yet. She said yet.
“So what do you need?” I asked. This fight wasn’t over yet. Together, she and I would get stronger. Then, we’d crush everyone else.
“Collect the power of the others,” she said. “Start with Gabriel.”
“And who else?”
“We need Haylie,” she said.
There’s that name again. It seemed like everyone was looking for Haylie. Even Veronica had written a bunch of notes about her.
Who was Haylie? What made her so damn important? What was she, their damn queen?
“Doesn’t everyone?” I said dryly.
“Gabriel first,” Envy said, ignoring me. “Then her.”
“Then Charlie,” she said. “I promise.”