Part 4 – Everything Goes Wrong
Two Months Before Impact Day
“So, is this the point where you tell me that getting captured was your plan the entire time?” he asked, more amused than concerned.
“No, that comes later,” I told him.
“Of course it does,” he said dryly. “So, tell me about this secret plan that you and Rachel hatched.”
I shook my head. “Not yet. We have to get through the next part first.”
“Your little ill-conceived trick? I am curious to hear how that went.”
“I’m surprised you don’t remember it,” I said.
“It would have needed to be significantly more widespread to have warranted my attention,” he told me. “I was vaguely aware of some minor vigilante work, but until I heard about your unique… gift, you weren’t even on my radar.”
That surprised me a little, but it also told me a lot about where he stood within the organisation. It was useful information.
“It’s nice to feel special,” I quipped.
“And what about your theory?” he asked. “About why you wanted to wage this little war of yours?”
“Oh, that. Well, let me put it this way. If you didn’t know that I was immortal, and I was telling you the rest of this story, what would it sound like to you?” I asked.
“The deluded fantasy of a lonely teenage girl,” he answered immediately. I felt my lips twitch into a sneer, but I held a straight face.
“Harsh,” I said. “But essentially accurate. So now consider that I am immortal, and everything I’m telling you is true. What does it say about that fantasy?”
“I’m not sure what to make of that,” he said.
“Well, that’s about as well as I can explain it. So, do you want me to continue my story?”
Eight Months Before Impact Day
Liz and I stood perfectly still, staring at one another. The padded floor was comfortably familiar beneath my bare feet. Like me, Liz was wearing loose, baggy clothing. She’d traded her glasses for contacts, and her already short hair was tied up.
It was obvious that neither of us wanted to make the first move. I’d never sparred with her before, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Would she be aggressive? Defensive? Was she better on her feet or on the floor? I could see in her eyes she was wondering the same things about me.
Without warning, I struck, lashing out with a quick double step and a side kick. Liz reacted immediately, side-stepping my attack and going for my throat with an open palm strike. Crap, she was fast.
I managed to deflect her strike with my forearm, and regained my balance just as she came at me again. I twisted my body at the last second, and her attack glanced off harmlessly. Before she could recover, I locked my arm around hers, and hooked my foot behind her ankle.
She recognised the movement before I could drop her to the floor, turning with me and breaking free of the hold. I tried to sweep her legs out from under her, but she leapt backwards, putting some distance between us.
The expression on her face was vicious. My own must have reflected it, because she quickly forced her face back to neutral.
“So,” I said, moving around her, planning my next attack, “are you gonna tell me what’s bothering you?”
I slid forward, feinting, then came at her with a roundhouse kick. She danced backwards, avoiding it.
“Do you really want to have this conversation now?” she asked, her eyes darting between my feet and my face.
“We’re alone, seems like a good time for it,” I said.
I stepped into her attack radius deliberately, trying to look distracted. She took the bait, coming at my throat again with a viper strike. I moved just as quickly, using her momentum against her and turning her around, but she recovered before I could drop her.
“Fine,” she said, backing away momentarily. “I’m mad at you.”
“For not trusting me,” she said.
I slid in close and went for her face with a quick jab. She flinched sideways and attacked my wrist, connecting with a pressure point. Pain shot down my arm.
“Like you trusted me, you mean?” I asked, trying and failing to keep the venom out of my voice.
I rubbed my wrist, glad to not have lost any mobility. I was starting to get a feel for how Liz fought. It was brutal.
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” she said.
“Well, it’s what I’m talking about,” I told her, coming at her with a feint to see how she’d react. She moved away. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Because that’s not who I am,” she said darkly.
“What?” I said as she lunged suddenly, a painful jab that connected with my shoulder. “Of course it is.”
“No, it’s not,” she insisted, as I charged towards her. “I am not a killer.”
She leapt away from me again, just as I’d predicted. I shifted quickly, turning my momentum into a travelling kick that connected with her stomach. The force knocked her backwards, but she recovered before I could press the advantage.
“I don’t think you are,” I told her. “But your parents, your training, that’s all a part of you.”
“Well, I don’t want it to be,” she said, rubbing her stomach.
“Maybe not, but it is,” I said. She met my eye. “And I love you no matter what.”
Her face froze, then she threw herself at me. I caught a flash of metal and realised she’d pulled a knife from somewhere.
I hurled myself sideways, rolling and turning. She followed me, surprisingly aggressive, and I got a good look at the knife in her hand. There was no way it was anything but a weapon.
Still low to the ground, I shifted my weight to my hands, and used them to balance as I struck out with my feet, slamming them into her chest. She staggered back, but kept her grip on the knife.
“Don’t,” she said, shaking her head.
“Don’t you dare say that to me,” she snarled.
Her anger stunned me. Were things really that bad between us?
“What, because of Rachel?” I asked, terrified that her answer would be yes. The last thing I wanted was for that to come between us.
“Yes, because of her,” Liz said.
I let my guard down, I was so astonished. She came at me again, and I rolled away too slowly. The knife cut through my arm, sending a spray of blood across the floor.
“Seriously?” I asked, instinctively applying pressure to the open wound.
Liz looked bashful all of a sudden, her body language far less aggressive. She lowered the knife.
“Not… Not like that,” she said. “I don’t care that she’s a girl.”
“Then what is your problem?” I demanded. The wound on my arm was already beginning to heal.
“You never told me you were gay,” she said. “Or whatever you are.”
“I never really thought about it,” I told her. “It just kind of happened. Why does it matter?”
She blushed, something I hadn’t seen in the entire time that I’d known her. She met my eye, and her face was full of regret.
“Fine, whatever,” she said. “I think I’m done for today anyway.”
“Like hell you are,” I snapped. “What is going on with you?”
Anger flashed in her eyes, and suddenly the knife was raised again. I silently willed her to try and attack me again.
“Did you ever think about me?” she asked, taking me by surprise yet again. “Was I ever even an option?”
I didn’t know what to say. She stared at me, waiting for an answer, and when I didn’t say anything, she sneered. Then she threw the knife at me.
I flinched, avoiding the knife, but it was just a distraction, and she was coming at me with another knife. She thrust it at me, an attack that would have killed anyone else if it connected.
Annoyed, I slammed my palm into the blade, which cut right through. With the blade embedded in my hand, I twisted it and wrenched it out of her hand. I caught her by surprise, grabbing her wrist and twisting it around behind her, holding her in a painful arm lock.
“No, I never thought about you,” I told her. “And you don’t get to throw that in my face.”
I let her go, and she pulled away from me, glaring.
“Liz, I love you,” I said. “You’re one of my best friends, and I can’t imagine my life without you. If that’s not enough for you…”
She sighed, her shoulders slumping.
“Of course that’s enough,” she said. “I’m sorry. I just…”
“I know,” I said.
“I want to support you, I really do.”
“You have been,” I told her. “I know this is hard for you, with your family history.”
“I have a thousand and one complicated feelings bouncing around my brain, and I don’t know how to express any of them,” she said.
“Try hitting me.”
“I don’t think that would help,” she said.
“You’d be surprised. Come on, really try and hurt me. I promise, I can take it.”
“You’re really weird, you know that?”
“So I’ve been told,” I said with a grin.
Next Week: This Was Doomed From The Start