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Month: March 2017

Chapter 22 – Adult Supervision

10 Months Before Impact Day

Despite my reservations, I was practically bubbling with excitement by the time I arrived at the front gate of Rachel’s school the next day. Unlike me, she attended the local public school, one which did not have the most stellar reputation. I’d never actually been there, but I’d heard about it more than once, usually from news stories about delinquent kids.

As I leaned against the stone wall, arms folded across my chest, and watched the students leave for the day. I definitely got the impression that the reputation wasn’t unearned. Half the kids looked like they would stab you for looking at them the wrong way, and the other half looked like recreational drug use was just another class that they took. I got more than a few dirty looks, standing there in my private school uniform, but I did my best to ignore them. I wasn’t intimidated, I just didn’t want to deal with the attention.

I saw Rachel before she saw me, weaving in and out of the crowd of students, hair tied up in a ponytail, schoolbag slung over one shoulder. She caught sight of me and beamed, heading straight for me.

As she burst out of the stream of students, I couldn’t help staring at her. It was the first time I’d seen her in her uniform, and, embarrassing as it was, I had to admit it was having an effect on me. The short, pleated skirt, the slightly too small shirt, the loose tie, the knee-high socks…

Snap out of it, Charlie, I scolded myself. What kind of a pervert finds a school uniform attractive, anyway? I mean, we were the same age, but still, it felt wrong.

“Hey,” I said, trying to act like everything was completely normal, and my brain wasn’t doing backflips.

“Oh. Um, hey,” she said, a little awkwardly. She seemed distracted, and I wondered if I should have met her somewhere less obvious.

“Something wrong?”

“No, I just… haven’t seen you in your school uniform before,” she said, biting her lip cutely again. I could feel my cheeks getting hot.

“Pervert,” I said, as if I wasn’t every bit as guilty of it as she was.

“No seriously, I think I understand the fetish now,” she said, and my face was threatening to overheat.

“You know people are staring, right?” I pointed out. We had drawn a small crowd, though I wasn’t entirely sure why. Was it my uniform? Were we flirting too obviously?

“Well, let’s go somewhere nobody can see us, then,” she said, with a wicked smile on her face.

She grabbed my hand, and dragged me away from the school, tugging me around a corner. As soon as we were out of sight, she pressed her hands against the wall on either side of my head, trapping me.

“You’re unusually bold today,” I said, still blushing as fiercely as ever, and very deliberately not meeting her gaze.

I felt her fingers beneath my chin, as she gently guided my face back towards hers. Then she planted her lips on mine, kissing me enthusiastically.

“I’m not an idiot. There are going to be consequences for today,” she said, when she pulled away, her own face a little red. “I just want to make the most of it.”

She took me by the hand again, weaving her fingers through mine, and led me further away from her school. We walked, hand in hand, until we reached a bus stop. An older, straight couple waiting there gave us a funny look, and we moved away from each other a little.

“So, where are we going?” I asked, when the bus arrived, and she shepherded me on board.

“To a gun range, obviously,” she replied, sliding along the seat to sit as close to me as was physically possible. She rested her backpack on her lap, and partially on mine, and I felt her grab my hand underneath it. I squeezed it tightly.

“Under eighteens are allowed with adult supervision,” she said confidently. “I called up and asked. Trust me, it’ll be fine.”

“Hey, that credit was for calling me,” I objected jokingly.

“I traded the time I could have spent calling you for time we can spend together in person,” she said, sticking her tongue out again.

“At a shooting range. You’re a true romantic,” I teased.

“We’re a dying breed,” she said, laughing.

We had to walk for a bit from the bus stop, but it was a fairly sparsely populated area, so we took advantage of the quiet to walk hand in hand again. Just feeling the warmth of her hand in mine made my heart beat a little faster, while at the same time soothing me. I never wanted to let go of her.

When we arrived at the shooting range, Rachel went up to the person behind the counter, beamed at him, introduced herself, and less than a minute later, the two of us were walking down an empty corridor, holding a pistol and a box of bullets. She led me into a large room with concrete walls, and several targets scattered about. I was disappointed that none of them were human-shaped.

“This doesn’t exactly feel like adult supervision,” I said as she closed the door behind us.

“I told you it would be fine.”

“So how do you know how to shoot, anyway?” I asked.

“I came here a few times with one of my mum’s old boyfriends,” she explained casually.

“As you do.”

“Alright, so here’s the thing you need to remember,” she said, passing the pistol to me, taking care not to point it at either of us. She took my fingers and placed them in all the right places, then continued. “Guns like this aren’t nearly as accurate as they are in video games. You’re going to want to be fairly close, and you just need to hit centre mass. Physics will take care of the rest.”

She gestured to the nearest target, and guided my arms and legs into the appropriate position, talking me through a few more basics as she did. Then she slid a pair of earmuffs over my ears, and did the same for herself. Satisfied with my pose, she stepped away, giving me ample room. I had been hoping for a romantic grip from behind, but that didn’t actually seem very practical once I had the gun in my hand.

I held the position Rachel had instructed, made sure the safety of the pistol wasn’t on, focussed on the target, and pulled the trigger. The gun let out a deafening bang, even through the earmuffs, and recoiled fiercely in my hand. I missed the target entirely, taken completely by surprise by the force of the weapon in my hand.

I straightened up and tried again, more prepared for the shot the second time around. I braced the appropriate parts of my body, and pulled the trigger again, and actually managed to hit the target. Well, the edge of it, anyway. Still, I gave a little cheer, and looked back over at Rachel, who gave an encouraging grin.

We spent a couple of hours doing that. Whenever I finished a clip, we took our earmuffs off, and she talked me through what I was doing right, and what I wasn’t. She made me reload the pistol every time, pushing me to do it faster and faster, and after going through several boxes of bullets, I found I could hit the target fairly consistently. My arms were also very sore, and I had a bit of a headache.

Rachel handed the gun and earmuffs back, and we walked out with our arms linked, which earned us a warm smile from the guy behind the counter. We walked back to the bus stop, and realised we were going to have to wait a little while. We sat down together, and Rachel rested her head on my shoulder.

“That was surprisingly fun,” I told her, my own head resting gently against hers.

“Right? You’ll probably still want to practice, but I think you’re off to a good start,” she encouraged me, and I could feel her warm smile even without seeing her face.

“So long as I don’t get caught with the guns,” I mused.

“Charlie, at this point you have a whole arsenal on you when you go out. The guns aren’t going to make that big of a difference,” she laughed.

“I need to think of a plan in case I do get arrested,” I realised, suddenly serious. I hadn’t even considered the possibility before then.

“My suggestion would be, don’t,” Rachel offered, unhelpfully.

“Not one of your more standout tips, but I’ll take it under advisement,” I told her dryly. In response, she twisted her neck until her face was pointing towards mine, and kissed me again. I immediately turned bright red. “What was that for?”

“Because I wanted to,” she said simply, snuggling back into my shoulder.

“Oh. Okay then,” I said, trying to quieten the butterflies in my stomach.

Rachel sighed loudly, stretching her legs out. I did my best not to stare, and but failed spectacularly. She punched my thigh gently.

“I don’t want to go home,” she said softly.

“I don’t want you to go home either, but the later you leave it, the worse it’ll be,” I told her, wishing I could have just asked her to run away with me. It was a stupid idea that wouldn’t ever work, but it was all I wanted in that moment.

“I know…”

All of a sudden, she pulled away from me, leaving her hand on my leg. I blushed as she looked up at me, a pleading look on her face.

“Hey, will you come home with me?” she asked. She looked so desperate, not to mention irresistibly adorable, it took all of my strength not to give in to her then and there.

“I don’t think I’ll have much luck sneaking past your mum tonight,” I said, trying to be the pragmatic one for once. “She’s going to be on the warpath.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I want you there,” Rachel said, surprising me. Suddenly, I realised what she was actually asking.

“Oh. Are you sure?” I asked, trying to play out the scenario in my head.

“Do you think it’s a bad idea?” she asked in response, and I realised just how unsure she was. She was scared. I’d never seen her scared before.

“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “You know your mum better than I do. But if you want me there, I will definitely be there for you.”

“Thank you,” she said, wrapping her arms around me. I tried not to think about the feeling of her chest pressing into mine.

“I can’t promise I won’t punch her, though,” I added quietly.


“Alright, alright,” I said. “Boss fight time. Let’s do this.”


Next Week: We Are Not A Family

Chapter 21 – Sort Of A Girl Problem

Part 3 – Wendy

10 Months Before Impact Day

I knocked on the door to Mark’s study, heard a gentle grunt of approval, and let myself in. He was sitting at his desk, both monitors suspiciously turned off, his fingers hovering over the keyboard. I shut the door behind me.

“Hey, got a minute to talk?”

“For you? Always,” he replied pleasantly, though he looked a little impatient.

“Okay, well, I kind of have a problem,” I began, treading carefully. What I was going to tell him was a big deal for me, and I didn’t necessarily trust him not to use that information against me.

“What sort of problem?”

“It’s sort of a… girl problem,” I said vaguely. He immediately got that uncomfortable expression that men get around anything to do with feminine hygiene. Probably could have chosen my words better.

“Well, I’m no expert, but I’ll help however I can,” he said carefully.

“Not like that,” I told him, turning a little red. “I mean like… like a boy problem, except, well, she’s not a boy.”

“Oh!” he said, sounding immediately relieved. “Well, that I can probably help a little more with.”

“You don’t have a problem with that?” I asked, a little surprised. Maybe Sadie’s reaction had put me on edge.

“Why should I? It’s perfectly natural,” he said easily.

I breathed a sigh of relief, realising for the first time what it really meant to be queer. A constant question of safety, trust and respect. Never again could I assume people wouldn’t turn my love into something ugly.

“Well, that makes that part a lot easier, I guess,” I said.

“I’m assuming the issue of gender is not the problem,” he probed.

“No, it’s not that. This girl…”

“Might I ask her name?”

“Oh. Um, Rachel,” I said, blushing again.

“From your jujitsu classes?”

“You remember that?” I asked, surprised again.

“I do pay attention, you know,” he said, with mock offence.

“Evidently so.”

“As I recall, her family situation was a little complex. Is that part of the problem?”

I actually didn’t know what to say to him. It was almost like he was having the conversation for me.

“It’s most of the problem,” I said. “It’s why I’ve been sneaking out at night. She can’t leave, and isn’t allowed guests, so I have to sneak in once her mum is asleep.”

“That seems less than ideal.”

“You’re telling me. Unfortunately, her mum has gotten even worse lately, and she’s locking the doors at night, so I can’t even sneak in. So, we don’t even have any way of seeing each other.”

“I am beginning to see the problem, but not the solution.”

I took another deep breath, knowing the next part was the tricky part. I didn’t want him to feel like the only reason I was talking to him was because I wanted something, even though that was technically true.

“She doesn’t have a phone, so I can’t even talk to her,” I said slowly.

“And now I see where I come in,” he said, sounding amused.

“Sorry. I really don’t think of you as just a walking bank account, I just don’t know who else could help with this, and there aren’t a lot of people I can tell.”

He smiled reassuringly, folding his hands in his lap. I looked down at the floor, embarrassed.

“I understand, it’s okay,” he told me. “I take it you haven’t spoken to Aidan or Liz about this?”

“Not yet.”

“Fair enough. They are good friends, but this is a sensitive topic. I assure you, I will maintain the utmost discretion on the topic.”

“Thank you,” I said meekly.

Mark spun his chair around and slid it sideways across the room, stopping in front of a filing cabinet. He pulled a key from his pocket, unlocked a drawer, and pulled out a small, plastic-wrapped box.

“Here,” he said, tossing it to me. I snatched it out of the air.

It was a box containing a brand new, unopened phone. Nothing particularly fancy, but far from the cheapest model out there.

“You just happened to have this lying around?” I asked, incredulous. There was no way things were going this well.

“I’ll thank you not to repeat this information to anyone, but I keep a small supply of them,” he told me, in a hushed voice. “Occasionally, I need to make calls from numbers other than my own. Mine can be an awkward profession, at times.”

“My lips are sealed,” I said, looking down at the box again. It still felt too easy.

“Then we have an accord,” he said. He reached into his pocket again, pulled out his wallet, and handed me a small wad of cash. “For your first credit recharge. And if your own phone bill happens to be a bit higher for a little while, I might just look the other way.”

“Wow,” I said, still waiting for the rug to be swept out from under me. “Um, thank you. Thank you so much.”

“Charlie, I love you as my own daughter. It is my genuine pleasure to be able to help you when you need it,” he said sincerely.

Why didn’t I feel this two months ago? Was my depression really that bad?

“You’re amazing,” I said, blinking back tears. “Thank you.”

I wrapped my arms around him, hugging him fiercely, and he gently hugged me back. Then he shooed me out of his room, claiming he had a lot of work to get back to, and that I had a girlfriend to spend time with.

* * *

That night, I arrived at Rachel’s with a slight spring in my step, almost giddy that I got to see her again. It wasn’t just the phone I was excited to give her, though that obviously didn’t hurt my mood at all.

I rapped on her window, which she’d left slightly open. I added a quiet ‘psst’ to get her attention.

“Hey,” she said, her face appearing in the window. She reached out of the window with her hand, and I grabbed it happily.

“I brought you a present,” I told her, producing the box with a flourish.

“What? How did you…”

“Mark was surprisingly cool about it all,” I said, smiling. She took the box and managed to squeeze it through the window, turning it over in her hands a few times.


“I know it won’t be as good as being in the same room, but…”

“But I won’t feel anywhere near as isolated,” she said, reaching out and grabbing my hand again. “You have no idea how much this means.”

“I have some idea,” I said, squeezing her hand.

“Thank you, Charlie.”

“Eh, it was mostly Mark,” I confessed, turning a little red.

“No, you made this happen,” she insisted. “And it means a lot to me. It really does.”

Though she kept smiling at me, and didn’t break eye contact, her free hand kept fiddling with the box, turning it over and tracing the lines in the plastic wrap. I laughed.

“You really want to open it, don’t you?”

“Opening is the best part,” she admitted, embarrassed.

“You’re supposed to say talking to me is the best part,” I said, with mock offence.

“That’s totally what I meant,” she said, sticking her tongue out, then biting her lip and smiling at me. It was like an arrow right to my heart.

“Go ahead and open it,” I said. “Oh, and pass me the rubbish. We don’t want your mum getting suspicious.”

“Good thinking,” she said before ripping off the packaging greedily.

I watched as she meticulously took apart the box, then removed all the different components one by one. I could tell by the hungry look in her eyes she wanted to take the phone apart just to see if she could put it back together again, but she was resisting. She grinned at me like a kid on Christmas.

“We’ll find a way to make this work,” I promised her.

“I know,” she said, reaching her hand back out to grab mine. Then she stopped and pulled it back in, an excited look on her face. “Oh yeah! I got something for you, too.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

“I’ve been working on some of the stuff we took,” she explained. “I managed to figure out how to make a few things work better for you.”

“You did?”

“Hey, don’t sound so surprised. I can be helpful,” she said, crinkling her nose and frowning at me. It was entirely too cute.

“You are indispensable,” I told her, trying hard to keep a straight face.

“That’s more like it. Okay, so for starters, I modified this bulletproof vest a little, so it would fit you better.”

She passed it through the window to me, and I held it up to the moon to get a better look at it. Already I could tell that it was lighter than the one I’d been wearing, and it did look like it was more suited to my body shape.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely impressed.

“Also, any chance you know how to fire a pistol?” she asked.

“No, and I don’t want to.”

“Well, you might wanna reconsider that, because these rubber bullets will make things a lot easier for you,” she said, passing a box through the window. I took the box and looked at it.

“Rubber bullets?”

“They’re like a really hard punch,” she said. “At worst, there may be some broken bones or internal bleeding, but nothing worse than what you’ve already done.”

I cringed at the thought. Grievous bodily harm had never been my intention, it had just been my only option.

“I am trying to avoid that, you know,” I told her.

“And I’m trying to avoid you being locked in a cellar and cut up for fun,” she said bluntly. “And speaking of getting cut up, I also modified these for you.”

The next thing she passed out to me were was a pair of high-grade armguards, a lot nicer than my own ones. Instead of foam, they were a hard plastic, with a sort of ridged texture, and a thin layer of padding underneath.


“They should be knife-proof, and the ridges should stop a knife from sliding off and cutting you anyway. It’s kind of crude, but it should do the job better than what you have been using.”


“Oh, and also this,” she added, passing me a limp pile of black fabric. “It’s a harness, but I made a few changes so you can store a bunch of your stuff on it, so you can take more with you.”

“My very own Q,” I said proudly, blown away by how resourceful she was. When she wanted to do something, it was very rare that she couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. I had definitely considered the possibility that she was a real, bona fide genius.

“I just want you to be safe,” she said solemnly.

“Thank you.”

“So, tomorrow, after school, I want to teach you to shoot,” she said. The tone of her voice told me she was not going to take no for an answer. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to give it anyway.

“But if you don’t go straight home…”

“I’ll deal with that,” she said, brushing off my objection. “How much worse can she really make things?”

“I don’t want you getting into trouble for my sake,” I said.

“Charlie, it’s worth it. So let me do what I want, okay?”

I sighed. I didn’t want to agree with her, but I did want to be the sort of person who would respect the choices that she made, and the reasons she made them.

“Just promise me you’ll find a way to get away from this,” I said, gesturing towards her house.

“I do. Constantly. But she’s still my mum, and I can’t just run away,” she said. I felt my heart break a little.

“She treats you like crap. You don’t owe her your loyalty,” I protested, and I could see from the look in her eye that I’d annoyed her.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” she said, a heavy dose of finality in her voice. “And she’s family, no matter how unwell she is.”

“I just hate seeing her treat you like she does,” I said, looking down at the ground.

“I know you’re only looking out for me. But we’re both doing what we think is right, you know?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I conceded. “I’m sorry.”

“Shit, I think I heard her,” Rachel whispered, shrinking down. “You should go.”

“Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow, after school,” I whispered back.

“Okay. Goodnight, Charlie.”

“Y-yeah. G’night,” I said back awkwardly.


Next Week: Adult Supervision

Interlude #2 – I’m Here To Talk To Your Reflection

1 Month Before Impact Day

XO sat on the edge of the balcony, their legs dangling over the edge, enjoying the lights of the city below them. Genesis City was the closest they had to a home, and it did feel nice to be back, away from the danger and cruelty of the world below. Their time in the city was peaceful, and it almost allowed them to feel normal.

“The view is nice here, huh?” a familiar voice behind them said. They turned slightly, and smiled at Alice, her lilac hair fluttering in the breeze.


“You come here to think?” she asked, placing a hand on their shoulder.

“Just to get away from everything,” they confessed. Had it been anyone else, they might have asked to be left alone, but not Alice. She was always welcome.

“How’s everything going?”

“I…” XO sighed. “Same as always, I suppose.”

Alice frowned, placing her hands on her hips. It was such a childlike gesture, it almost made XO laugh. She had such youthful mannerisms, and such a young appearance, it was easy to forget she was significantly older than they were. At least, so far as they knew.

“That’s not true,” she said. “You’re a terrible liar, Exxo. What’s going on?”

“You wouldn’t…”

“Understand?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Believe me,” XO implored her.

“Try me.”

XO hesitated for a moment, then nodded. They glanced over to the building opposite the balcony, a massive tower on the other side of a large park.

“Look over there,” they said. “Do you see that?”

“See what? The tower?”

On the tower,” XO said, shaking their head. They already knew Alice wouldn’t be able to see it.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” she said.


She narrowed her eyes at them, searching their face.

“What do you see?” she asked.

“Cracks,” they said.

“Are you…” She looked back over at the building, staring, then shrugged. “My vision is better than yours, isn’t it? I really don’t see anything.”

“Neither does Haylie,” XO said. “But I can see them.”

“That’s concerning.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Are you feeling okay?” she asked, gently stroking XO’s arm.

“No,” they admitted.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” they said. “I can’t help but feel like… something is happening. Something-” They hesitated, suddenly filled with an uncomfortably familiar feeling they couldn’t quite place. A feeling centred around Alice. “You need to go,” they insisted, suddenly and urgently.


“I can’t explain it, but…”

She looked concerned, but nodded.

“Okay, but we’ll continue this later, okay?”

“Thank you,” XO said.

“I love you, Exxo,” she said.

“I know. I love you too, Alice.”

With that, she left. XO watched her go, wondering why they needed her gone so urgently. There was some memory, some sensation, just on the tip of their…

“You know, I never get used to seeing her,” someone said, moments before appearing out of the air. For just a second, XO thought that Alice had returned, but they knew instinctively this wasn’t Alice, no matter how much she looked like her. She was someone else entirely.

“Who are you?” they demanded, despite feeling like they knew the answer, somehow.

“The original,” she said. “You don’t remember me, huh.”

“We’ve met?”

“Sort of. I’ve met some of your other shells. I thought maybe some of the memories would be preserved. I guess not.”

“What are you talking about?” XO asked, beginning to feel a strong sense of panic. Whoever this was, she suddenly seemed dangerous.

“Don’t worry about it,” the girl said, waving away their concerns.

“What do you want?” XO demanded. “What are you?”

“I want…” She stopped herself, shaking her head. “No, I’m talking to the wrong person. I’m not here for you.”

“Then who?”

“I’m here to talk to your reflection,” she said.

“I don’t have one,” XO muttered. “What are you-”

The girl rolled her eyes, pressing her fingers against XO’s head. With a gentle shove, she pushed them backwards, into a dark space filled with glittering shards of light. It was cold, and felt massive. XO had no idea what was happening.

In the distance, they could hear muffled voices. Frightened but determined, they made their way towards the voices, scrambling over shattered glass until they found the piece the sounds were coming from.

Through a window, they watched their body continue to speak to the girl.

“Hello, Reflection,” the girl said.

“Call me Glory,” their body replied.

“Whatever you say.”

“What do you want, Child?” their body demanded, dripping with superiority and impatience.

“I have an opportunity for you,” she said.

“I’m listening.”

“A new world, full of new faces.”

Their body tilted their head, considering it. Curiosity sparked on their face, though they quickly tried to hide it. Had the girl noticed?


“Weakened prey,” she added.


“Divide and conquer,” she said.

“What do I have to do?” their body asked.

“Nothing, yet. I’m taking care of it.”

“Then why talk to me at all?”

“A simple piece of advice,” the girl said.

“I’m all ears.”

“You’ll be in Melbourne in about a month. When you’re there, Exxo needs to be hurt. Badly.”

“They’ll heal,” their body pointed out.

“Doesn’t matter,” the girl said. “It’s all about the freshness of the body.”

“What are you up to?”

“More than you’ll ever know.”

“Alright. I can probably pull some strings,” their body said.

“I know you can.”

“What’ll happen to this shell?” their body asked.

“It’ll probably die.”


The girl smiled, but there was no joy in her eyes. Only exhaustion.

“It’s time to go back inside, now,” she said.

“Fine, fine-”

She touched their body’s head again, and in an instant, everything was back to normal. They were looking out of their own eyes, at a girl who looked a lot like Alice.

“What was that?” they demanded. “Who was that?”

“Nothing, Exxo,” she said. “You need to forget this now.”

“Forget… what…?” they said, the memories already slipping from their mind.

“Good enby,” she said, moments before disappearing.


Next Week: Sort Of A Girl Problem

Chapter 20 – This Definitely Will Not Be Fun For You

Four Months Before Impact Day

“You know, I’m really starting to get tired of your teenage romance bullshit,” he said, glaring at me from across the interrogation table. “I can’t help but to wonder if you’re just wasting my time.

I smirked. His frustration had been slowly growing, and it was about the only thing I had to enjoy in this ghastly concrete Hellhole. It was almost worth the regular beatings.

“Actually, you’re getting the abridged version,” I said. “I leave out the boring bits out so I can hurry back to the torture chamber.”

“We’re not torturing you, Charlotte.”


“Whatever. We’re just testing your limits.”

“Sure,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You don’t have any kind of a grudge against me.”

“I never said I don’t enjoy your pain,” he said, with a sadistic twinkle in his eye.

Boy, I’m gonna enjoy kicking your arse.

“Charming. Look, it may not seem important, but believe me when I say you need to understand the relationship between Rachel and I.”

“And why would I believe that?”

“Because of what she did, and why.”

He folded his arms, leaning forward. All of a sudden, I had his curiosity again.

“And what did she do?”

“I’m getting there,” I said, sighing. “If you don’t have the context, you won’t understand.”

“Speaking of understanding,” he said, his lips curling into a sneer, “we’ve been looking into the names you gave us. Elizabeth Effe, Mark and Aidan Scott, and Rachel Fierro.”

“Good for you.”

“They weren’t hard to find.”

I raised an eyebrow at the implicit threat.

“Did you expect them to be?” I asked.

“I expected you to give fake names, to protect your friends’ identities.”


“…You do know who you’re talking to, don’t you?”

“Have you done anything to any of them?” I asked, not even bothering to fake concern.

“We’re just watching them,” he said, but there was a flicker of something on his face, something he was trying to hide.

“You’re not very good at this,” I told him.

“Excuse me?”

“You tried, didn’t you?”

“Believe me, if we’d made a move, you’d know,” he said, practically growling.

“I’m guessing you tried Rachel first, since she’s… Well, I already know how that would have gone. Have you really not been paying attention?”

“Is there something we should know about her?”

“I’ve already told you everything you need to know,” I said, laughing. It only made him more frustrated. “None of these people are normal, I told you that from the start.” A shadow grew on his face. “You didn’t believe me, did you?”

“I think you’d better continue your story.”

I shook my head.

“I want to make something clear, first. There is nothing you could do to me, no pain you can inflict, that would make me put my friends or family at risk. The reason I didn’t protect their identities is because they don’t need protection. So let me give you a free piece of advice: stay away from them.”

“Duly noted,” he said, trying and failing to maintain his composure.

You’re in over your head, buddy. We’re two months in, and you still don’t know the half of it.

“Actually, before I continue, I wanted to ask you something.”

“What?” he asked, irritable.

“Have you found anything out about me?”

“What do you think?”

“Oh, I already know. You haven’t found a damn thing. Every test comes back and says I’m normal, except I’m not. There’s nothing you can copy, no way to replicate my abilities. No weakness that will let you permanently put me out of your misery.”

He scowled.

“You know, I think you’re getting a little too big for your britches.”

“Teenagers, man. We’re nothing but trouble.”

He stared at me for the longest time, taking deep, slow breaths. Eventually, he pushed his chair back, and stood up.

“You claim to not need oxygen, yes?”

“What’re you gonna do, suck all the air out? It’s unpleasant, I won’t lie, but it won’t kill me.”

“No, that’s not quite what I was thinking,” he said. “Follow me, if you would.”

I glanced down at the chain binding me to the table, then back up at him, eyebrow raised.

“First of all, how? Second of all, no. This does not seem like it will be fun for me.”

He laughed cruelly.

“I assure you, this definitely will not be fun for you.”

He walked over, and unlocked the chair, a look in his eye daring me to take him on. It was so, so tempting…

Not yet, Charlie. Be patient.

I stood and followed him, struggling to resist the urge to hit him, just once. Whatever he was going to do to me, I knew it was going to be horrible, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. The only option was to endure, and wait. Surely Rachel couldn’t need that much more time…

He led me into another room, identical to all the others. I hadn’t seen the sun in two months, and all the grey was really starting to depress me.

“Stand in the centre of the room,” he instructed.


“Or I shoot you, and leave you there until you wake up.”

I did as he instructed, walking to the centre of the room. He shut the door, leaving me alone in the dark.

For several minutes, nothing happened. I started to wonder if that was my punishment; locking me in a dark room, sensory-deprivation style. If only…

Above me, I heard a low rumbling sound. I took a paranoid step back, and heard a wet squelching song on the floor where I’d just been standing. Something thick was flowing into the room.

Carefully, I reached out, letting some of the liquid land on my fingers. I didn’t need more than that to identify what they were pumping into the room.

It was cement.

“You fucking rat,” I growled.


Next Week: I’m Here To Talk To Your Reflection