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.
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