Nine Months Before Impact Day
“I need your help,” I said, my arms locked around Rachel’s waist. She was staring right into my eyes, and before she answered, she kissed me.
“I take it Wendy was less than forthcoming?” she guessed.
“That’s putting it mildly,” I grumbled.
Rachel pulled away, sitting in her desk chair with one knee pulled up against her chest. It was her thinking pose.
“So what are we gonna do about it?” she asked, talking to herself as much as me.
“Well, I do have a plan,” I told her. “But you have to promise me you’ll say no if you don’t want to do it.”
“I trust you. Whatever you need, I’ll help.”
“I need to use Liz and Aidan,” I said. “It won’t work with just the two of us.”
“Can you trust them?” she asked. “I mean, there’s a reason you haven’t told them anything before now, right?”
“They won’t be supportive, not in the same way you are. But I know them, and I know what to say to them to convince them to help.”
“And what not to tell them, I’m assuming,” she said.
“Right. And I understand if you don’t want to be a part of that,” I said.
“Charlie, I’m on your side. No matter what.”
“I’ll try not to make you regret that,” I said.
Three Months Before Impact Day
“Her name is Wendy, then?” he asked, practically drooling over the information. Already I was glad I’d left out the other part of the story. It was crucial he didn’t know the full extent of what she could do.
He was already typing rapidly on his phone, no doubt issuing orders for people to track her down. If it had been anyone else, I’d have been worried. Even as it was, I found myself hoping I’d given the others enough time.
“That’s her,” I said. “I wouldn’t bother trying to find her. Your men wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re not without resources. Did you find out why she wouldn’t help you? Seems like she could have made a way bigger difference than you did.”
“If she wanted, she could march right in here and break your neck,” I told him. “And I’m sure she’d like to, but she won’t. But I don’t know why.”
His expression turned sour for just a moment, but he hid it well. The phone buzzed loudly, but he ignored it.
“Nobody is coming for you, Charlie,” he said. “They won’t find this place. And believe me, even your superhuman friend couldn’t get through the security here.”
I was a little taken aback by how confident he was about that. Not quite the reaction I was expecting. Still, I couldn’t doubt myself, or my friends, just yet.
“Guess that means more time for stories, then,” I said. “We’re still only halfway there, you know. And this is where it starts to get interesting.”
Eight Months Before Impact Day
Liz and Aidan sat on my couch, alternating between looking concerned at one another and looking patiently at me. Sadie was reclined on my bed, watching with veiled curiosity. Rachel was coming later, but I didn’t need her to be around for the first part. I took a deep breath.
“I need to tell you guys something,” I began, playing with the knife behind my back. I’d put a lot of thought into how to do this.
“You know we’re here for you,” Aidan said, though he was clearly fretting. Liz seemed fixated on my body language.
“Okay. So, there’s something about me you don’t know. There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, actually. But let’s start with the big one. I can’t die.”
Neither of them really reacted. They just sort of sat there, staring at me. Liz was the one to break the silence.
“How do you know?” she asked.
I sighed, then pulled the knife out from behind my back. Aidan’s eyes grew wide, while Liz’s narrowed intensely.
“Towel,” Sadie reminded me. Without acknowledging her, I grabbed the towel I’d left on the back of my chair, and laid it out beneath me. Liz stood up, looking ready to pounce.
“Charlie, you’re not about to do what I think you are, right?” she asked.
“Trust me, I’ve done this before,” I said. Before she could respond, I slashed the knife across my wrist, and blood immediately began gushing out. I hissed in pain.
“Charlie!” Liz shouted, and went to grab me, but Aidan reached out and took hold of her hand. She turned back to him.
“She’s fine,” he said. “Just watch.”
“So you did know, then?” I asked. My wrist was already beginning to heal. Liz was just staring, wide-eyed.
“I had my suspicions,” he said. “I think… I think it’s why Dad adopted you. Not that he doesn’t love you, but…”
“The accident that killed your family,” Liz said. “You miraculously survived. Is this how?”
“Probably. I don’t really know much about the whole thing except that, as you can see, I can’t die. Which leads me to my next point.”
I picked up the towel and wiped the knife on it, then bundled it up and dropped it in a plastic bag. I left the bag on the floor and went over to the wardrobe, dragging out my supply bag.
“This is what I’ve been doing at night,” I told them. “I’m trying to take out the gang presence in the city.”
“What? Why on earth would you—”
“Because someone has to,” I said, cutting Liz off. “It’s not like I’m gonna get myself killed, right?”
“There are worse things than dying, Charlie,” Aidan said.
“You don’t know what they’re like!” Liz said. “If they find out what you’re doing, if they come after you…”
“Come after us, you mean,” Aidan said.
“We can still die, Charlie. And I saw your face when you cut yourself. You still feel pain. If they capture you, they’ll torture you until you go mad.”
“You seem familiar with them, Liz,” I said, keeping just a hint of accusation in my tone. “Why is that?”
“What? They’re gangs! Everybody knows what they’re like. Everyone except you, apparently.”
“Trust me, I know,” I told her. “I’ve been on the receiving end of their hospitality more than once, and I don’t recommend it. That’s why I need your help.”
“You want to get us dragged into this mess with you?” she asked, looking mortified.
“I don’t want to,” I said. “But I do need you. There’s just one of me, and even with Rachel’s help—”
“You told Rachel?” Liz asked.
“Yeah. A while ago, actually. She’s been helping me, trying to keep me safe, but there’s only so much—”
“Why would you tell her and not us?” Liz demanded.
I sighed. “Because when I told her, she asked what she could do to help. Because she trusted me, and because unlike you, she’s never lied to me.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve never lied to you,” Liz said, but I saw her defiant expression waver.
“It’s okay, Liz,” Aidan said. “It doesn’t change anything. We still love you.”
Liz took a step back, trying to keep both of us in her field of vision, as if we might attack her at any second.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Liz, I know who your parents are,” I told her. “Seems like Aidan does too. I don’t care. But it’s why I need your help.”
Slowly, I saw her relax. She looked back and forth between Aidan and I, then slumped back on the couch.
“I’ve never killed anyone,” she said flatly.
“Neither have I,” I said. “I don’t want you to be a killer. Actually, I wouldn’t be asking for your help if I thought that’s what you were.”
“So what do you want me to do, then?”
“Fight with me,” I said. “We can give them the old tank’n’spank.”
“What the hell is a tank and spank?” she asked, side-eyeing me.
“It’s a game thing,” I explained. “I keep their attention focussed on me, and you pick them off safely.”
She glanced over at Aidan, who was completely expressionless. Still, it seemed to satisfy her. She nodded to me.
“It’s a bad idea. But I know you well enough to realise you’re gonna do this with or without my help. I’d rather be there to watch your back.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Not that I don’t appreciate being included in this,” Aidan said hesitantly, “but why exactly am I a part of this? You’re not expecting me to get into a fist fight with any thugs, are you?”
Liz and I both laughed, much to his chagrin. The idea of Aidan in any sort of fight was comical.
“No, I need something else from you,” I told him. “I need information.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have any familial ties to the criminal underworld,” he said, sounding a lot like his father. “I don’t think I’ll be much help to you.”
“It’s not about what you know. It’s about what you can do,” I said.
“I wasn’t aware I could do anything particularly unusual,” he said.
“Oh, please. Nobody’s been able to keep a secret from you since you could talk,” I told him. “Not even the two of us. I need you to find out everything you can about the gangs in this city, and how I can hurt them.”
His sharp grey eyes swept over me, and his brow furrowed contemplatively. He looked over at the bag that contained the bloody towel, and sighed.
“I don’t know why you think I can help you, but I’d be happy to try. It seems like you could use the help.”
“Trust me, she needs all the help she can get,” said Rachel, standing at the top of the stares. She grinned at me as she bounded down them excitedly.
“Guys, this is Rachel,” I said, taking a deep breath before saying the next part. “My girlfriend.”
“Knew it,” Aidan muttered. Liz glared at him, then smiled unconvincingly at Rachel.
“Nice to meet you,” she said. “Charlie’s told us a bit about you.”
“Really? She never mentioned you,” Rachel replied. I punched her in the arm, and she stuck her tongue out at me. “Kidding. You must be Liz. And Aidan, right?”
“That’s me. You were in one of Charlie’s martial arts classes, right?” he asked.
“That was like three years ago,” Rachel said. “You still remember that?”
“I have a good memory,” he said, shrugging.
“So where are we on the schedule?” Rachel asked me. “Unkillable girl? Crusade against the gangs? I know we covered the whole gay thing. That’s my favourite part, personally.”
Liz looked uncomfortable. Aidan’s expression was still unreadable.
“Charlie said you help her,” he said. “What do you do?”
“I make stuff,” Rachel replied.
“What kind of stuff?” Liz asked, narrowing her eyes accusingly.
“She customised a bulletproof vest for me,” I said quickly. “And she rigged a sleeping gas trap so I wouldn’t need to hurt or kill anyone.”
“Do you know any normal people, Charlie?” Aidan asked.
“Not that I can think of,” I answered, grinning. “So, you guys are all okay with helping me? And also keeping things a secret?”
“Every step of the way,” Rachel said immediately.
“Someone’s got to keep you out of trouble,” Aidan added.
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” Liz said. “But I’m here for you. And I promise not to tell anyone.”
“Great,” I said. “Because there’s one more person I need on board, and I need you to help me convince her.”
Next Week: Ignorance Is Bliss