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Chapter 55 – For Charlie

Liz, Impact Day

“This feels incredible,” Aidan said, flexing his fingers in front of his face. I just watched the rise and fall of his chest, wondering if he was feeling the same thing as me.

If I didn’t know better, I’d have described it as anxiety. My body surged with restless energy, discontent with simply standing still. It wanted to be in motion, to act, to live.

“What is this?” I asked. Wendy pushed her glasses up her nose, and smiled enigmatically.

“You don’t want to know,” she replied.

“Do you always feel like this?” Rachel asked.

“Yes,” Wendy said.

“No wonder you ran away,” Rachel said. Aidan and I swapped looks, but neither of us really followed.

“Don’t waste this,” Wendy said, ignoring Rachel. “I shouldn’t have done this, shouldn’t have given you… Just save Charlie. For all our sakes.”

“That’s the plan,” Aidan said, stretching his legs out. “Man, I could just run for days.”

“You could,” Rachel said. “Longer, even. Without eating or sleeping or resting.”

It seemed almost too good to be true, and I couldn’t help but wonder about Rachel’s cryptic hinting, or Wendy’s deliberate avoidance of the topic. What cost had we payed for this power? Where did it come from?

Wendy wouldn’t tell us. Rachel might, but she was just as likely to lie. Asking her would be as useless as asking the internet.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The power was a means to an end, and the end was saving Charlie. And I knew I would pay any price for that, even selling my own soul. If we had the chance, maybe we’d find answers afterwards, but that wasn’t what was important.

“Alright. Are we all clear on the plan?” Aidan asked.

“We’ve been over it a dozen times,” Rachel complained. “We let ourselves get shot, but make it convincing. Make them think we’re immortal just like Charlie, so they take us to where she is.”

“And then we show them that we’re so much more,” I added.

“The more you use it, the quicker you’ll run out,” Wendy pointed out. “You should be strong enough to get out of any situation they put you in, but don’t push your luck. Be smart.”

“That’s why they’ve got me,” Rachel joked. Aidan scowled at her.

“Let’s just go,” I said.

We had the location of a Vengeance hideout, a perfect target for getting attention. We were all dressed in outfits that matched Charlie’s Vigilante wear, to really sell the connection. All we needed to do was convince them we were worth taking in.

I’d underestimated just how difficult that would be. My body was so overflowing with energy, it was a challenge just to move like I used to. With a minimum of effort, I found myself launched across the room. A simple movement of my hands carried more force than I’d ever been able to muster before. It felt like the rest of the world was happening in slow motion, and I had to struggle to match that speed.

How did Wendy manage it, when she felt like this all the time? She seemed so normal, her movements so gentle. She had a dancer’s grace, but it always seemed natural.

If we’d let loose, we could have run to the hideout in less time than it would have taken to drive. Instead, we used that time to walk, and get used to controlling our movements, making them convincingly ordinary.

“Do you think there are any others out there?” Aidan asked, as we walked. “Like, superhumans.”

“I’d never really considered it,” I replied. “But it stands to reason. One was an anomaly, but two…”

“Two starts to look like a pattern,” Aidan agreed.

“Takes more than two to create a pattern,” Rachel said. “And nothing about Charlie or Wendy’s specific circumstances suggest there would be more of either of them. Not in this world, anyway.”

“I dunno, Liz and I seem… Well, you wouldn’t suspect us from what you see on the surface, you know? Or you, for that matter.”

“Anything special about us is an extension of Charlie,” Rachel said. “We’re special because she wanted us to be special.”

“What are you saying?” I asked, pondering the implications.

“I’m saying too much revolves around Charlie to call any of it a coincidence,” Rachel said. “You can figure the rest out from there.”

“You can do that later,” Aidan said. “We’re here.”

The three of us were standing in front of a large, two-story house on the edges of a fairly well-to-do suburb. There was nothing about it aesthetically to suggest it was a gang hideout.

“You sure this is the right place?” I asked.

“Yes,” Aidan said. “Now that we’ve got the obligatory uncertainty out of the way, do we all know what we’re doing?”

I frowned, but Rachel grinned. She formed a fist, taking a step towards the house.

“We get this party started,” she said.

“And we don’t kill anyone,” Aidan said.

“Yeah, yeah.”

The three of us approached the front door, Rachel in front. She banged on the door, and a few moments later, it opened.

“What?” a surly man in a surplus army jacket asked, before taking in our outfits. “Oh, shit-“

“Surprise,” Rachel said, before breezing past him, twisting his arm and slamming him into the floor.

“Vigilante!” the guy shouted, before Rachel’s boot connected with his throat, choking him up.

All of a sudden, the house was full of the sounds of clamouring, dozens of footsteps pounding through doors and down stairs. Aidan and I braced ourselves, but Rachel just stood there, as if looking forward to the assault.

The first of the Vengeance thugs poured into the front hallway, and the three of us spring into action. We moved as a unit, taking them out like Charlie would have, with reckless abandon, agility and a better understanding of the weaknesses of the human body than any of our opponents. Within minutes, we’d bound nearly twenty of them, leaving just enough of a window for one of them to call for backup.

“That was almost too easy,” Aidan said. “Maybe Charlie’s job isn’t so hard after all.”

“Charlie doesn’t have Wendy’s blood making everything slow and everyone weak,” Rachel pointed out.

“The hard part is still ahead of us,” I reminded them.

Several cars pulled up in front of the house, and I felt my stomach churn. Gangsters poured out of them, brandishing automatic weapons they shouldn’t have had access to. Any sense of subtlety they’d been adhering to was well and truly out the window now.

“This is gonna hurt, isn’t it?” Aidan asked.

“Speaking from experience, yes,” I said.

“Wendy’s blood only accelerates healing and provides the energy to do it without demanding the tonnes of food that much healing would usually require,” Rachel said. “The pain will be exactly the same, only fast-forwarded. If anything, it’ll hurt more.”

“How comforting,” I muttered.

The armed men were making their way up the lawn, guns pointed at the house. If any of the neighbours noticed, they didn’t give any indications. Well, they’d notice soon enough.

“Charlie would do this for us,” Aidan said, reaching for my hand. I took it, and squeezed.

“Charlie does do this for us. Every time.”

“So let’s repay the favour,” Aidan agreed.

We both looked at Rachel, who only rolled her eyes.

“You two can make this as sappy as you want. I’ll save mine for Charlie.”

“Suit yourself,” I said.

“You ready?” Aidan asked me.

“As I’ll ever be,” I told him.

“For Charlie, then,” he said.

“For Charlie,” I agreed.

The two of us opened the front door, stepping out in front of the house. Almost instantly, the gangsters all opened fire, filling the yard with blinding flashes, deafening booms and enough bullets to shred every muscle and tendon in our bodies.

They’re not taking any chances, huh? I thought, as Aidan and I crumbled to the ground, searing pain threatening to overtake everything else.

Just before passing out, I noticed one last detail.

Rachel hadn’t joined us.


Next Week: Tell Me You Weren’t Expecting This

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