“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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
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