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Month: August 2016

Chapter 60 – Strong Enough Now That I Don’t Need To Pretend

“You doing okay, Charlie?” Rachel asked, taking pained steps towards them. Zoe tensed, but didn’t move.

“You took your sweet time,” Charlie said, grinning.

“This again?” Zoe asked, a predatory glare directed at Rachel.

Rachel flinched, but didn’t back away. Instead, she took another step forward, her entire body straining with the effort. She looked closer to dead than when I’d first met her.

“Not exactly,” she said, waving the gun in Zoe’s general direction. “I had time to finish this.”

“You won’t get a chance to use it,” Zoe growled.

She launched herself at Rachel, but didn’t get far. Charlie wrapped her hand around Zoe’s arm, holding her back, and Zoe whirled back to face her, hissing.

“We’re not done yet,” Charlie grunted.

“Yes, we are,” Zoe said.

With a vicious cut, Zoe severed Charlie’s hand, pulling herself away and turning to face Rachel in the same motion. She charged.

Rachel was already aiming the gun, and all she had to do was pull the trigger.

There was no visible effect, not at first. Zoe froze, dead in her tracks, completely static. The air around her began to shimmer and warp, then tear apart, exactly like the rift that had first brought her to this world.

She began to squirm, twisting and fighting against it, but she couldn’t get away from it. The rift expanded, beginning to engulf her, and through it I caught a glimpse of a night sky, a city skyline that was entirely black, and a cold, dark feeling.

Zoe screamed.

The rift closed.

Zoe was gone.

Rachel let out a long sigh, dropping the gun. It bounced and clattered along the floor. Rachel staggered, but remained standing.

“Fuck me, I’m glad that worked,” she said.

“You okay?” Charlie asked, with genuine concern.

“I’ll live. You?”

“Fuck off,” Charlie said.

The two of them stared at each other, then laughed. It was an awkward, pained laugh, but at the same time, it was full of love. Rachel actually smiled.

“Alright, let’s get these out of you,” she said, gripping one of the shards with her mechanical hand.

“Actually, I’m kind of getting used to it,” Charlie replied, then winced as Rachel pulled the shard out of her.

Two minutes and more than half a dozen shards later, Charlie dropped to her knees, free from the wall. The wounds were already healing, and she stood up again, a little unsteady. Rachel reached out, balancing her.

“Your healing is getting faster,” she commented.

“You’ve missed a lot.”

After another awkward pause, Charlie centred herself, then pulled Rachel in for a hug. They held each other for what felt like a lifetime, then separated again. Charlie stared lovingly into Rachel’s eyes, then kissed her. I looked away.

“I’ve missed you,” Rachel said.

“Tell me about it,” Charlie grumbled.

“What the fuck,” I muttered, and both of them whirled around to face me, seemingly having forgotten I was present. They exchanged surprised glances, then walked towards me.

“Oh, you’re still here,” Charlie said.

“We should probably get her off the wall, too,” Rachel said.

“She’s not gonna try and attack me again, is she?”

“I’ve got her covered,” Rachel reassured her, recovering the dart gun that had neutralised my shifting ability before. She kept it pointed at me as Charlie unbent the desk legs that had pinned me to the wall.

Finally free, I tried to rub the wounds on my chest, but they were still open, raw and bleeding. I definitely did not heal as quickly as Charlie did. The blood loss was actually starting to make me feel a little woozy.

I looked up at the two of them, standing side by side, no animosity or fear between them.

“I’m so confused,” I murmured, feeling unsteady.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Charlie said.

“I used you,” Rachel said, her voice tender. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” I asked, reeling. “You’re sorry?”

“Charlie was never trying to kill me. We just needed a convincing reason to get me close to Zoe.”

I remembered the condition Rachel was in when we first met. Weak, barely standing, shaking and frail. I remembered the fear in her eyes when she told me what had happened, the pain when she’d recounted the way Charlie had ripped the power out of her, and left her for dead.

“But, your condition…”

“Not Charlie’s fault,” she said.

“Partially my fault,” Charlie corrected.

Rachel shook her head.

“I submitted willingly.”

Charlie smirked.

“Guys,” I snapped. Rachel sighed.

“When we realised Zoe was trying to build a portal back home, we knew we needed to interfere. The last thing this world needs is more of what came through the first time,” she explained.

“But you, you helped,” I said. “She couldn’t have built it without you.”

“Oh, she would have eventually. And yes, I helped. I needed to understand how it worked, so I could build this.”

She retrieved the silver pistol-thing from the floor, the dart gun still trained on me.

“We’re going to send them all back home,” Charlie said, taking the gun from Rachel.

“Why?” I asked, still confused. My head ached.

“It’s better than killing them,” Charlie said.

“And now we have this, the rest should be a lot easier,” Rachel added.

I felt my stomach turn.

“And what about those of us who aren’t from that world?” I asked.

“Undecided,” Charlie said. “The Celestial definitely needs to be shut down. Miss Murder can probably be rehabilitated. And you…” She shrugged.

“You can’t be the one who decides this,” I said, shaking my head. “You just, you can’t. It’s not…”

“Fair?” Charlie offered. “No, I suppose not.” She smiled. “But who’s gonna stop me?”

“Don’t give her ideas,” Rachel muttered.

“I will,” I said, determination filling me. “I’ll stop you.”

“I told you,” Rachel said, rolling her eyes.

“Stop me, then,” Charlie said, unconcerned. “Power talks. You have plenty. So stop me, if you can.”

“I will.”

“Good luck,” Charlie said. “Let’s go, Rachel.”

Rachel looked like she was considering shooting me with a dart, but it was obvious I was too weak to stop them from leaving. They walked out together, Charlie’s hand wrapping around Rachel’s. I felt confused, and full of anger.

“Well, that is not what I expected,” Envy said, appearing out of nowhere the moment Charlie was out of the room. “At all.”

“We have to stop her,” I said.

“Well, you know what we need, then.”


“Precisely,” she said with a grin.

A thousand thoughts ran through my head. Veronica, warning me not to give Envy too much power. Zoe, and her stories about Haylie, her certainty that Haylie was good. All of the anger that had driven me, and the fear it would consume me.

Slowly, every one of them was replaced with the image of Charlie, that smug arrogance of hers forming an impenetrable shield as she bent the world to her will. An unstoppable force of nature.

“Let’s do it, then,” I said.

Envy smiled, but there was no love in their eyes. All of a sudden, I couldn’t move.

“Actually, I don’t think so,” they said.


“You’re weak. Too weak. You’re holding me back.”

“What?” I repeated, fear gripping my throat. I couldn’t move, my head was filling with cotton, and I couldn’t think.

“I’m strong enough now that I don’t need to pretend,” Envy said. “You’ve outgrown your usefulness. Your body is mine.”

They approached me slowly, their fingers pressed against my chest. I could feel them, cold and hot at the same time, pulsing with energy and power. With a smile, they pushed.

It was gentle, no more effort than you’d use on a light door. I stumbled back, out of my body, out of the world. Everything around me grew dark, and I fell.

I fell, and I fell, and I fell.

And from a distance, through a thousand windows, I watched my own body smile. Envy’s smile, not mine.

I’m sorry, Veronica.


Next: Epilogue

ImpactDayArtFinalThanks for reading this far. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story up to this point! It’s probably pretty obvious that this isn’t the end. Consider this more like a season finale. We have an epilogue later this week, then a five-week break, during which I’ll be publishing a bonus story arc, titled Roxie: Dying In Five Easy Steps. After that, we’ll be starting Volume 2 of Impact Day, titled Dead Girls Don’t Cry, which is a prequel story of a comparable length. It’s a story about Charlie and Rachel, and the events that led to Impact Day.

Anyway, if you’ve enjoyed the story so far, consider supporting me on on Patreon, so I can afford to keep writing it. Additionally, you can buy the complete collection on Gumroad and on Kindle. It features a bonus chapter that I’m not releasing online!

See you later this week!


Chapter 59 – You Still Care About Her

Zoe pulled her hoodie over her head, and tossed it to the side. Beneath it, she wore a thin tank top and a sports bra. She looked entirely unharmed.

Charlie shrugged out of her coat, tossing it to the side. Her shirt was ruined, and she tied the scraps of it around her chest, an ineffectual binder. Clothing aside, she also looked unharmed.

“So, we finally get to meet,” Zoe said, comfortable but wary. “Face to face.”

“And what a pleasure it is,” Charlie said dryly.

I strained my neck to try and look through the doorway, but I couldn’t see anything. I feared the worst for Rachel.

“You made a mistake, coming here,” Zoe said.

“Maybe.” Charlie shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”

“I know what you are. I’ve fought something like you before.”

Charlie reached behind her, pulling out a knife sheathed in the small of her back. She ran her finger along the blade of it, drawing blood, and licked it off her finger before it evaporated.

“See, now, that intrigues me. I’d love to hear more,” she said, licking her lips. “Unfortunately, I’d rather beat your face in.”

The pain in my chest had faded to a dull throbbing. It occurred to me that I could probably pull the metal bars out if I really tried, but somehow I just couldn’t muster the energy. All I managed was a weak groan.

“You doing okay there, Sabrina?” Zoe asked, keeping her eyes on Charlie.

I’m pinned to the wall by a pair of metal spikes, how do you think I’m doing?

“Please be safe,” I said weakly.

“Don’t worry, I can handle myself,” she replied, smirking. Charlie raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

My eyes darted to the back room again. I had to ask. I didn’t want to hear the answer, but I had to ask.

“Is Rachel…?”

I couldn’t even finish the sentence. Charlie’s attention shifted, focusing on me for a second, then back to Zoe to hear the response. Zoe noticed.

“Dead? Quite possibly,” she said. “Her ego got the better of her. Kind of like this one, hey?”

Charlie’s grip on her knife tightened, the darkness in her eyes returning. I could see the fury forming on her face, spreading throughout her entire body.

“You killed Rachel,” she said, her voice dead.

“Jealous?” Zoe taunted. “Or just upset you’ll never get that piece of you that she stole back?”

Charlie’s death-grip on the knife intensified, to the point where it actually snapped, the blade clattering to the floor. She didn’t even seem to notice. Her attention was now fixated on the back room.

“Rachel, you idiot…”

That wasn’t just anger. Beneath the rage and fury, there was pain there. There was love there.

“Oh, this is precious,” Zoe said, laughing. “You still care about her?”

Charlie snarled, an inhuman, monstrous sound.

“You’re going to regret every second of pain you inflicted on her, you wretched beast,” she growled.

The rage wasn’t even directed at me, and I felt a chill. There was something dark about it, a cruelty and viciousness that seemed to reach beyond that of anything any human should be capable of. Something that seemed to come from beyond Charlie herself.

“Irony abounds,” Zoe replied breezily, seemingly oblivious to that sensation I was feeling. “Alright, let’s do this. I’m sure Sabrina’s eager to get down off that wall.”

Unsurprisingly, Envy was nowhere to be seen. The moment Charlie had turned violent, they were gone. Charlie seemed to be the only person that scared them, and not just because of the danger she posed to me.

Charlie attacked first, a blur of movement that was difficult even for me to follow. Her fist slammed into Zoe’s stomach, and I watched as Zoe buckled, shock apparent on her face. Charlie kneed her in the chest, sending her flying backwards. I heard her bones crack from the other side of the room.

Zoe recovered quickly, turning her momentum into an evasive manoeuvre, putting distance between her and Charlie. I could see the cogs turning in her head, processing new information, preparing a strategy against Charlie.

She moved like lightning, darting across the room. Charlie’s retaliation was too slow, and Zoe’s nails sliced through her neck and shoulder. Charlie’s elbow collided with Zoe’s head, but Zoe rolled with it, carving deep gouges across Charlie’s stomach.

Charlie snapped Zoe’s wrist. Zoe sliced Charlie’s neck open to the bone. Charlie shattered Zoe’s kneecap. Zoe ripped through Charlie’s stomach. The entire exchange was brutal, difficult to watch, impossible to ignore. I felt sick to my stomach.

They were picking up speed, bouncing around the room and breaking everything in sight. Every time Charlie attacked, it seemed like Zoe would learn and adapt, and gain the upper hand, but then Charlie just switched tactics, taking Zoe by surprise all over again.

Charlie wrapped her hands around Zoe’s throat, slamming her against the wall, and I could see her fingers digging into the flesh, threatening to cut through. Zoe dug her nails into Charlie’s forearms, pulling her knees up to her chest and kicking Charlie away with enough force to knock her to the ground.

The force of it ripped Charlie’s arms off at the elbows, and though they started to grow back almost immediately, Zoe seized the opportunity to strike. She was on Charlie like an animal, cutting and stabbing, forcing Charlie backwards.

Charlie staggered back until she hit a wall, and with nowhere else to go, she tried to fend Zoe off with her feet. Zoe backed away momentarily, only just long enough to collect a handful of long metal shards from the floor. With a pointed glance at me, she struck, driving them through Charlie’s body, one by one, pinning Charlie to the wall in a grim mirror of what she’d done to me.

Charlie strained against the metal, but couldn’t build up enough force to get herself free. She struggled to grab shards and pull them out, but they were too sharp, and cut up her hands, the blood making it impossible to get a grip.

Satisfied Charlie was pinned, Zoe took a step back again, out of breath for the first time I’d ever seen her. She wiped blood from her mouth, wincing from the pain of her still-healing wrist.

“You were saying?”

“You fight like a demon,” Charlie said, but the rage was already subsiding. She seemed almost human again. “How appropriate.”

Zoe walked over to another shard of metal, picked it up, and drove it into Charlie’s thigh. Charlie grit her teeth, bracing herself as Zoe twisted the metal.

“And I’m going to show you just how demonic I am,” Zoe taunted, practically whispering the words in Charlie’s ear. “I think I’ll keep you in pieces, tiny little pieces. And your head, I think I’ll keep it in view of Rachel’s corpse. So you never, ever get to forget that she’s dead.”

Charlie strained against the shards again, but only managed to cause herself more pain. It was difficult to watch, and I found myself wincing in sympathy. Nobody deserved that. Not even Charlie.

“Who’s dead?” a third voice said, echoing through the room. Three heads turned to the back room, where a hunched, bleeding Rachel stood, murder in her eyes. A silver pistol-like device hung loosely in her hand, blood dripping down it.


Next Week: Strong Enough Now That I Don’t Need To Pretend (Finale!)

Chapter 58 – A Necessary Evil


Charlie walked casually into the roam, glancing around. She seemed calm, almost relaxed. It was unsettling. But then, maybe that was the point?

Run, Sabrina. Get as far away as you can. It’s not too late.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to shut up the part of my brain that I now recognised as Envy. I couldn’t afford to let them manipulate me. Not now.

When I opened my eyes, Charlie had moved slightly closer, an amused expression on her face. Her hands rested in her pockets.

“Charlie!” I choked out, trying and failing to hide my fear. “What are you doing here?”

“What do you think?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

Run away. It’s not too late. Run away. It’s not too late.

I shook my head violently, trying to dislodge their voice. It wouldn’t work, but even the placebo effect felt like a small relief.


Charlie laughed, glancing around as if Rachel might appear at any moment.

“No, she’s just an added bonus.” She grinned. “I’m here for Zoe.”

She’s not here for you. You can leave. It’s not too late. Run away.


“Why?” Charlie seemed confused by the question. “Why do you think?”

Don’t talk to her. Don’t engage her. Don’t provoke her. Just run.

What if I could convince her to leave? What if we didn’t need to fight at all?

“We just finished it,” I blurted out. “They just finished it. The device, the gateway to send her home. You don’t need to do this.”

She considered that, her gaze moving past me, to the room behind me. The room where Rachel and Zoe were. I prayed that Rachel was still alive, even if it was only for a little longer. Then again, maybe a death at Zoe’s hands would be less painful than whatever Charlie would do to her?

No, alive was always better. Alive meant you had a chance. Alive meant you could do something. She had to be alive.

“You don’t need to do this,” I repeated, hopelessly.

“No. But I want to.”

She took a menacing step towards me, and I backed away. That seemed to amuse her, and she took another step forwards.

“Charlie, please. You’re not this-”

“My, my, the hypocrisy,” she crooned, wagging a finger at me. “You’re going to tell me who I am, now?”

You’re making this worse on yourself. You’re provoking her. Stop. Run away. It’s not too late.

I refused to believe Charlie had changed this much. We were friends. She was a good person. She was a nice person.

“Zoe didn’t do anything,” I pleaded. “She’s a good person.”

“It’s cute that you think so,” she said, dismissing me.

She took another step towards me. I took another step away from her.

Run. Run. Run. Run. Run.

“You don’t know her,” I insisted.

Charlie held up her hand, silencing me. I noticed she was wearing a gauntlet, similar to the one Rachel had made for me. It looked cruder, more basic. An early prototype? Rachel must have made stuff for her, back when she was the Vigilante. Before Impact Day. Before Charlie betrayed her.

“I know her better than you think, but even if I didn’t, it doesn’t matter.” Another step towards me. “She’s a threat to this city. She’s a threat to this world. And I’m going to remove her.”

“And me?” I asked, making the very obvious connection.

She actually took a step back at that, her gaze running up and down my body. A grim smile crossed her face.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

Run. Just fucking run. For fuck’s sake, get away. Get as far away from her as you can. Just run.

Haven’t decided yet? That’s bullshit.

“And you?”

Her grim smile became a mocking smirk.

“I consider myself a necessary evil,” she said.

The way she said it was almost dripping with danger. An implicit threat. A discarding of humanity.


Maybe I should have listened to Envy when I had the chance.

“You’re a monster,” I said.


“More than you know.”


“I won’t let you fight her,” I said, bracing for a fight. I would lose, I knew I would lose, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t leave, couldn’t abandon Rachel or Zoe.

“You can’t really stop me.”

“I can try…”


We moved at the same time, and the difference in skill was immediately apparent. While I relied on Zoe’s instincts to guide me in a fight, Charlie knew exactly what she was doing. She moved with purpose.

She twisted me around, slamming my face into the floor before I even knew what was happening. Instinctively, I rolled with the impact, breaking free from her grip and leaping to my feet just in time for her foot to connect with my stomach. I staggered backwards, but recovered my balance quickly.

She might have been the better fighter, but Zoe’s power was more than just physical. I was learning, adapting already. We clashed again, and this time I ran my nails across her face, spraying blood everywhere. The wounds healed before her blow landed, the edge of her hand slamming into my throat.

I attacked again, and she took the hit, a stabbing strike to her sternum. Her body armour absorbed the worst of the attack, and she swept my legs out from under me. I hit the ground, already rolling away from her.

Her boot connected with me, hard enough to lift me into the arm. I bounced against the wall, and by the time I hit the ground again, I’d shifted, taking Ami’s form instead. If I couldn’t win in a physical fight…

The room expanded and shrank around me as the telekinetic awareness of the space hit me. I could feel Charlie move before I saw her.

With a thought, I sent her flying across the room, hitting her harder than I ever could with my body. She curled into a ball, riding the wave, and kicked off a wall, heading right for me.

Another burst of telekinetic energy sent her reeling, but she shrugged it off faster, still coming for me. It wasn’t enough.

I tried something more focussed, a lance that I drove straight into her chest. It pierced her armour and sent a spray of blood out in both directions, but barely slowed her down. It was like she couldn’t even feel it.

She closed the distance, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me into her knee. The impact winded me, and I collapsed to the floor. Ami’s form wasn’t as resilient as Zoe’s. Ouch.

With her so close, though, I could feel her entire body. Not just the outside, but her skeleton, her muscles and organs, her arteries and veins. It was the most disturbing sensation in the world, but I could use it.

Like reaching in with my hands and ripping a box open, I felt the telekinetic energy rush into her chest. Blood blasted out in every direction, covering the floor. I felt her ribs snap, her muscles tear, her skin rip. And she grunted.

I literally tore her open, and she grunted. She staggered backwards, arms spread to keep her balance, and didn’t even fall over. The wound on her chest was already closing up, the blood that coating the floor turning to steam and evaporating. Within seconds, she was whole again, throwing her chest armour to the side, glaring at me.


Immortal. Truly immortal. This was why Rachel was so scared. It wasn’t Charlie’s strength, her speed, her ability to fight. Those were just tools. But this, this relentlessness… She was unstoppable.

I tried again, tearing her arm from her socket. She didn’t even flinch, just marched towards me, murder in her eyes. The arm twitched helplessly before beginning to shrivel and die. A new one was already emerging from the stump.

What is she? What kind of creature is capable of this? I knew Zoe could regenerate a lost limb, but it took days. For me, weeks. To regrow an arm in under a minute?

Her hand wrapped around my throat, and she slammed me against the wall again, hard enough to make my head spin. There was a look in her eyes, something cruel and destructive. They were growing darker, and it looked as if the spilled blood that remained was convalescing around her, in a grim kind of aura.

She let me go, backing away, shaking her head. I heard her muttering to herself, clutching the sides of her head. When she looked up, the darkness was gone, the aura was gone. She looked pained, frightened.

Then that was gone too. She grabbed a metal desk, and ripped off the legs. I tried to attack her again, but she moved away from it, and all I managed to do was splinter a chair.

She rushed at me, impaling me with a desk leg, driving me into the wall. I screamed, and she drove another leg into me. One in the chest, one in the stomach. She twisted the ends of the bars around until they were facing inwards, back towards me.

Breathing heavily, she backed away. I could feel myself growing faint, and I realised what she’d done. Ami’s form didn’t have the same regenerative capabilities as Zoe’s. She’d forced me to taken a form that couldn’t hurt her from a distance.

She’d disabled me.

“Fuck,” she said, not talking to anyone. “Fuck.” She glared at me. “I didn’t want to hurt you, Sabrina. I’m sorry.”

At that moment, the door to the back room swung open. I already know who would emerge from it. Zoe took the sight in with a glance, and grinned.


Next Week: You Still Care About Her

Chapter 57 – Believe It Or Not, I’m Trying To Save You


I found Zoe hunched over the console, rapidly tapping at keys. Presumably running another diagnostic. I took a deep breath, centering myself. I was only going to get one chance at this.

“What’s with the commotion?” she asked, sounding mildly irritated.

You think you’re irritated now…

She was on the other side of the room. Thank goodness. Slowly, carefully, I approached the gateway, running my hand along the side of it.

“Minor emergency,” I said.

My hand stopped over one particular spot, a panel with slightly different colouration to everything around it. Now or never, Rachel. Do it. My fingers twitched. Zoe remained oblivious.

I punched through the panel with my left hand, breaking several critical systems along the way. Didn’t matter. They were never going to be used.

My fingers found the component that was connected there, wrapped around it, pulled it out again. A small, silver tube, with glowing blue lines running across the sides of it. Entirely Zoe’s design. That was what I needed.

Zoe slammed into me, the force of it carrying me all the way to the wall. She pinned me there, fury in her reddish eyes, snarling.

“What the hell are you doing?” she demanded.

I still had a grip on the component. Slowly, carefully, I slipped it into my pocket, and began to extract the part I had designed, a pistol-shaped delivery mechanism.

Keep her distracted.

“In summary? Betraying you,” I said.


Because I have to. And I’m sorry.

“What, you think I’m an idiot?” I said, staring her in the eye. “Your gateway isn’t a way home, it’s a permanent hole. A hole that would let you bring your entire warped cadre of psychos back here with you. You think I wasn’t listening when you talked about how awful it is over there?”

“Then why help at all?”

The delivery mechanism was ready. I opened the slot for Zoe’s component, then slid the whole device into the holster on my thigh. With my hand free, I fumbled in my pocket for the component.

“I needed this,” I said, as my fingers wrapped around it. “To get rid of you. Seemed easier than killing you.”

Before I could slide the component into my weapon, she snarled again, and knocked it out of my hands. Fuck!

“Why now?”

“Because Charlie’s here,” I said. “And she will kill you. And me. Believe it or not, I’m trying to save you, here.”

“And yet all you’ve managed to do is kill yourself.”

My eyes scanned the room, looking for the component. This wasn’t over yet. If I could just get away from her…

“You can’t take Charlie alone,” I said, as my eyes settled on the blue glow. Found it.

“I beg to differ. She’s made a big mistake, coming here. And I’m in a bad mood, all of a sudden.”

I saw the victory on her face, betraying the lethal strike. Too bad.

“Yeah, I’m not done with you yet,” I said.

Please fuck let this work.

I activated the blade I’d built into my wrist, based loosely on the one that Haylie had wielded. I couldn’t copy her design exactly, especially not without a comparable power source, but what I did have should be enough.

Essentially, it projected a small field, in the shape of a blade, that used a combination of magnetic and radioactive elements. The field disrupted molecular connections, causing things to split apart at a molecular level. A blade that could quite literally cut through anything.

I could activate it for maybe three seconds at the most.

I swung, aiming to sever the arm that was pinning me to the wall. Nothing lethal. She reacted too quickly, dancing backwards, my one chance to use it for the next day or so.

“Close,” she said, grinning. “Not fast enough.”

“Got you away from me, didn’t it?”

Now just stay away long enough for me to get that component back. That’s not too much to ask, right?

“You really think you can take me in a fight?” she taunted.

Like this? No. Not a chance. None of my weapons have been designed to take you out. Couldn’t, not without arousing your suspicion.

“You really think I can’t?”

She laughed, a cruel, cold sound. Her hand went to her belt, and pulled out a small black box from a pouch.

“You’re nothing, kid,” she said, and pressed a button on the device.

My tinker brain took in the device, broke it down, immediately understood it. It sent a signal, a very simple signal. The signal that locked up all of the joints in my mechanical skeleton, rendering me completely immobile.

Helpless. Powerless. At her mercy.

Except the signal never reached my skeleton. I’d removed that system weeks ago, during one of my routine upgrades.

I flexed my fingers, watching her process the sight, and realise what had happened.

“Problem?” I asked.

“You knew.”

“I went over everything in excruciatingly dull detail, even made modifications. You really thought I wouldn’t notice?”

The victorious smile returned. That wasn’t good. That wasn’t what I wanted.

“Guess I’m tearing you apart the old-fashioned way, then,” she said.

“Good luck.”

I threw myself towards the component as she charged at me. She got to me first, her nails sharp enough to shred the bulletproof covering of my pants, and the skin beneath it. I cried out, and hit the ground hard.

Don’t let her get the upper hand.

I rolled away, leaping to my feet, but I wasn’t fast enough to get away from her. She moved like an animal, all killer instinct. I raised my arms to protect my face, only to have the right one ripped open by her claws. Warm blood rushed out of the wounds, though thankfully the left one held up.

She didn’t let up, knocking my arms out of the way and driving her nails into my chest. They sliced through the fatty tissue of my breast, and I screamed in pain, but they didn’t get further than my ribcage, protecting everything vital.

I slammed my fist, the left one, into her face, and felt a satisfying crunch of bone. It would heal, but I’d hurt her. That was enough.

She picked me up and threw me across the room. I bounced off a table, sending tools and parts flying, pain flaring through my shoulder and hip. Her mistake.

I used the distance to reach into my pocket, pulling out a foam grenade. Since she never left the building, she’d never seen one in action. Surprise would give me an edge.

I cooked the grenade for a couple of seconds before tossing it, and even she wasn’t fast enough to avoid the blast. Foam erupted outwards and wrapped around her, holding her in place.


I rushed to grab the component again, but she simply ripped her way free from the foam and lunged at me again. Not a good way to field test the foam against superhumans. Dammit.

I curled up and rolled away from her, protecting anything vulnerable and pulling out the venom dart gun. Testing on humans? Not okay. Testing on her? No time like the present.

A volley of shots, and every one of them missed. She was too fast. She was on me before I could get away, but that put her close enough that she couldn’t avoid the final dart. She carved a gouge out of my shoulder, but the dart landed right in her neck.

She backed off, pulling the dart out and holding her hand against her neck, waiting to see what the effects were. When nothing happened, she smiled.


She picked up a metal bar, just long and thin enough to be used as a weapon. I braced myself, but she was too quick. She launched herself at me, grabbing me by the collar and lifting me into the air. She dropped me before I could fight back, pulling up my shirt as I fell, exposing my stomach.

I screamed as she drove the bar through my stomach, all the way through. Pain radiated outwards, and blood began to bubble out around the bar. She drove the bar into the floor, pinning me.

I struggled to pull the bar out, but she reached out, grabbing both sides of the gateway. With a grunt, she pulled it down on top of me, almost a tonne of metal falling on me, burying me alive. My arms and legs were pinned, my head was being crushed, I could scarcely breathe.

Sharp bits of metal had pierced my skin in several locations, and I could feel the blood pooling underneath me. My entire body was screaming in agony, and I couldn’t move a muscle.



Next Week: A Necessary Evil

Chapter 56 – I Told You She’d Find Us

“It’s Charlie,” Rachel said, staring in horror at her phone.

Thud, thud. That incessant banging, like somebody knocking at the door.

Rachel put the phone up to her ear. A second later, she dropped it. It bounced twice, and clattered off to the side. Rachel looked stunned.

“What do you mean, ‘it’s Charlie’?” I demanded. “You don’t mean…”

“She’s here,” Rachel said. “And our door won’t keep her out for long.”

“But how?”

“I told you she’d find us. I told you.”

She closed her eyes, forcing herself to take slow, deep breaths. I shifted into Zoe’s form, ready for a fight. Rachel cocked her head, and a smile began to form slowly.


“I guess that’s my cue,” she said.

Her hand disappeared into her jacket, pulling out something that looked a little like a pistol. She twirled it around her finger, that slightly unhinged smile only growing wider.

Some secret weapon that could stop Charlie? No, she’s too scared for that. She’s trying to hide it, but I can tell-

She aimed the pistol at me, and fired. I was too slow to react, and a dart pierced my skin, injecting some strange substance into my bloodstream. I wobbled, then staggered back, but nothing more happened.

“What did you-” I began, but as soon as I heard my voice, I realised. I was shifting back.

“Sorry,” she said. “I officially just ran out of time, and I can’t afford to have you getting in the way. Don’t worry, this should wear off within a few minutes, it was a weak dose.”

I tried to shift again, but nothing happened. I felt disconnected from my power, unable to access any of it. I was helpless.


“Your blood. The gauntlet collected it for me. Wasn’t hard to figure out how to supress your shifting temporarily. Could probably do it permanently, if I really wanted. I don’t. Just need you out of the way.”

She barely seemed interested in me, frantically tapping away on her phone with her free hand. With a frustrated sigh, she dropped the dart pistol, and took a step towards me.

I tried to back away, but she was too fast. She picked me up effortlessly, and despite my best efforts to resist, carried me across the room and shoved me into a closet. She slammed the door on me, and I heard the click of a lock.

Why does a closet even have a lock? She installed it, a few days ago. Was she planning this? What is she up to?

“Why are you doing this?” I yelled through the door, not expecting an answer.

“I need to stop Zoe,” she replied, surprising me. It sounded like she was right on the other side of the door.

“But she helped you!”

“She needed me. We needed each other, I guess. But she’s still too dangerous. I’m sorry, Sabrina. I have to stop her.”

I heard her footsteps as she walked away. Fuck!

There was too much that I didn’t understand. Stop Zoe? Why? Was Zoe planning something I wasn’t aware of? Then why help her in the first place? And why do something now, of all times? With Charlie right on our doorstep?

Was it because of Charlie? She’d seemed so frightened, so haunted.

Charlie’s going to kill her.

Rachel knew she was about to die. Whatever else that meant to her, she clearly had something she needed to do before she did. Something to do with Zoe. But what?

“Envy? Are you there?”

“Always, love,” came the almost sultry reply. Envy materialised beside me in the closet.

“I can’t shift,” I told them, panicking. “I don’t-”

“Won’t last, don’t worry. I can feel it weakening already.”

“Charlie’s here.”

“I know. And I don’t think you can avoid fighting her.”

“I’m not ready,” I whispered.

“No, you’re not. But you don’t need to win, just stay alive until either Rachel or Zoe can take over.”

“But Rachel-”

“That fight won’t take long,” Envy said.

“I don’t understand. Why does she want to fight Zoe? Why now?”

“How should I know?

There was no good ending to this. One of them would definitely kill the other, and neither of those was an outcome I wanted. Neither of them deserved to die. Both of them had made a huge difference already, in keeping the city safe.

Zoe was like a mentor to me. She’d protected me, guided me, helped me understand what I was. And she was kind, gentle even. She kept to herself, avoiding spreading the infection, unlike Gabriel. She just wanted to go home.

Rachel was abrasive, even rude, but she meant well. After everything she’d endured, I could understand why she wasn’t the softest person. Even still, she was the one pushing for non-lethal solutions, even when Envy got the best of me, pushing me to more violent extremes.

A horrible memory returned to me. Rachel, still unconscious, after the surgery to augment her skeleton. Her idea, Zoe’s implementation. Something that would let her fight alongside me, something that would keep her safe against the bone-shattering strength of people like Charlie or Gabriel.

Zoe’s ‘insurance policy’, the automatic shut-down she’d installed in case Rachel ever turned on her. Exactly what was about to happen.

Rachel was going to march into that room, threaten Zoe, and then Zoe would just shut her down, and she’d be powerless. And then Zoe would tear her apart.

I shuddered. Not today, I told myself. I could stop this. I had to stop this.

First, I had to get out of the damn closet. My power was starting to return, but not fast enough. Rachel wouldn’t last long, and Charlie was breathing down our necks.

Got it.

I felt the power, latched onto it, shifted. With Zoe’s strength, the door was easy to break down, and I accidentally hurled it across the room. Still, I was out. That was good enough for me. I had to save Rachel.

“What are you doing?” Envy asked, blocking my way.

“Saving Rachel,” I said. “Zoe-”

“Is going to kill her, yes. I don’t see the problem.”

“Rachel, she’s… She’s my friend,” I said. “I can’t let her die.”

“Sure you can. She dug her own grave, and you know it.”

Thud, thud.

“I don’t care. Charlie’s here, and unless they work together, I don’t think either of them stand a chance. We need all three of us.”

“No, you need to run. Get far away, somewhere safe. Charlie’s not here for you, so run.”

Envy looked genuinely frightened. I was too, but not for the same reasons.

“No,” I said.

“Don’t make me-” Envy began, but was interrupted by the loudest thud yet. I turned, and felt a chill run down my spine.

Charlie was standing right there, decked out in full Vigilante garb, sans the mask. A sadistic smile crept across her face.

“No,” I repeated, terrified.

“Hello, Sabrina,” she said. “Nice place you’ve got here.”


Next Week: Believe It Or Not, I’m Trying To Save You