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Category: Story

Interlude #1

The Celestial sat in his office, alone, staring out at the city below. His fingers tapped impatiently against the armrest, disguising the persistent tremble he hadn’t been able to shake since Impact Day. More had changed that day than just the city, and nobody knew that better than he.

A whisper of smoke and shadow rushed through the room, coalescing immediately behind him. He saw her reflection in the window, dressed all in black, her neck covered right up to her chin. She rested a hand on his shoulder, giving one gentle, affectionate squeeze.

“Rachel and Zoe have made contact,” he said, his voice heavy with weariness. She only nodded, saying nothing. “That might actually work out for us. We’ll have to keep a close eye on them, though.

“Gabriel and Ami still seem to be at odds, even though they’re working towards the same goals. Thankfully, neither of them have the slightest idea we found her first. We need to keep it that way.”

She nodded again, casting her gaze back momentarily to the door behind his desk. They both knew that what was behind that door could change everything, would change everything, just not yet. They needed more time.

“I’m worried about Sabrina,” he continued. “I think we underestimated her. There’s definitely more to her than we thought. Still, she’s not a threat, not right now. So long as she keeps her skirmishes to the street teams, and occasionally the other superhumans, she won’t make the tiniest hint of a difference in this city.”

She dug her fingers into his shoulder. He sighed, leaning back into his chair and looking up at her. She smiled down at him, but he didn’t smile back.

“Still no sign of Wendy. I don’t think we’ll see her again. And Charlie, well…”

At the mention of Charlie, she hissed, tensing up. He rested a hand on top of hers, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb.

“She’s impotent,” he said. “Wandering around the city aimlessly, picking fights with insignificant pawns.” He paused to laugh bitterly. “What a waste of power she turned out to be. Just an angry girl raging against the world.”

Far below them, another gunfight had broken out. The army had launched another raid, trying to cross the river. A cruel smile crossed his lips. They had no idea what they were about to run into.

“Not long now,” he said, almost too softly to be heard. “We’re so close now. While they all bicker and fight amongst themselves, we’re on our way to becoming gods.

“Still, I’d rather not play our hand too soon. Would you kindly pop down there and break up that fight?”

She didn’t respond, didn’t need to. She just vanished, leaving a rapidly dissipating cloud of black smoke in her stead.

Character Visual Reference Guide

In case you were wondering what some of the main characters look like! (Or want to do fan art… hint hint)

Sabrina Labelle

Age: 17

Height: 5’8″ (172cm)

Ethnicity: Mixed (European + Mauritian)

Body type: Chubby

Hair: Medium length, curly, dark brown

Rachel Fierro

Age: 18

Height: 5’4″ (162cm)

Ethnicity: Spanish

Body type: Athletic

Hair: Long, wavy, black

Charlie Farrow

Age: 18

Height: 5’5″ (165cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Athletic + chubby

Hair: Short, straight, brown

Zoe/Specimen ‘Z’

Age: ??? (looks mid-20s)

Height: 6’2″ (187cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Slender

Hair: Short, straight, blonde

Gabriel/Specimen ‘G’

Age: ??? (looks mid-20s)

Height: 6’2″ (187cm)

Ethnicity: European

Body type: Slender

Hair: Short, straight, brown

Ami

Age: ??? (looks maybe 18)

Height: 5’3″ (160cm)

Ethnicity: Asian

Body type: Slender

Hair: Medium-length, straight, black

Chapter 20 – Take It

I was not prepared for the violence of Ami’s attack. She threw herself at me with a frightening speed, a flick of her wrist turning into a diagonal cut that threatened to behead me on the spot.

Thankfully, as fast as she was, I was faster. My instincts, or more likely Zoe’s instincts, had me leaping backwards, light on my feet, just out of reach of her dancing blade. She was deadly, and brutally efficient, but every move she made, I seemed to know exactly where not to be. My body moved on its own, except that it didn’t, because every move felt intentional, and I felt completely in control.

A wave of what I could only assume was psychic energy knocked me off my feet, but body balanced itself, riding it out, and I landed gracefully on my feet. She never relented, forcing me back, keeping me on the defensive no matter what I did.

It was obvious she knew exactly what she was doing. My powers were the same as Zoe’s, and she must have fought Zoe countless times before. More than that, Zoe was an experienced fighter herself, and I, I was just a scrappy teenager who’d spend most of her life avoiding any sort of violence.

A small part of me wanted to believe that could work in my favour. Like, maybe I’d win by being unpredictable and raw. The rest of my brain, infinitely more practical, squashed that hope quickly. That only worked in movies, and as ridiculous as my life had become, it was far from cinematic.

As if to remind me, Ami’s next attack came closer than ever, her sword actually slicing through the skin of my forearm. It stung, but the wound healed itself within seconds of opening. She observed that with scarcely concealed frustration.

I caught sight of Envy, watching the fight with an expression somewhere between amusement and boredom, reflected in a glass pane. She caught my eye, and frowned at me.

“You’re not going to get far if you don’t fight back,” she said disapprovingly.

“I don’t know how to fight!” I protested, stumbling and recovering from another psychic attack. Ami was showing no signs of getting tired. If anything, she seemed to be energised by the encounter.

“You don’t need to,” Envy said. “Just watch what Ami does.”

“That is not how it works,” I complained, throwing myself sideways as I instinctively avoided a psychic wave. Ami hurled a crate at me, catching me off guard, but I twisted out of the way at the last moment.

“You really think Zoe’s power is just strength and speed, don’t you?” Envy said, sounding disappointed.

Irritated, I grabbed the crate I’d just dodged, and with surprisingly little effort, managed to throw it right back at Ami. A wave of her free hand was enough to deflect it, but she clearly hadn’t expected the retaliation, and I saw her falter briefly.

“Isn’t it?” I asked, my mind racing.

“No. She learns,” Envy said. I leapt behind another stack of crates, trying to focus on what Envy was saying. “Almost instantaneous muscle memory. Just try and do what she does.”

She pointed to a metal bar lying on the ground, on the other side of the warehouse. My eyes focussed on it instantly, despite the distance and darkness. Surely not.

I ran towards it, nearly losing my head to a surprise attack as Ami rounded the pile of crates. Once again, my reflexes saved me, as I literally leapt over her, flipping unnecessarily in the air above her. That hadn’t been intentional, and I wondered if Zoe was something of a showoff, and if I’d inherited any of that. In any case, I hit the ground still running, picking the bar up and twisting on the spot, turning to face Ami.

My body seemed to know exactly how to hold the bar, mimicking Ami’s stance perfectly. The weight felt right, natural, and my eyes scanned Ami’s posture, looking for any hint of her next move.

She lashed out, and my arm responded. I parried the attack easily, a flash of surprise appearing on Ami’s face. Frowning, she redoubled her attack, a vicious flurry of sword strikes that I was barely able to stay ahead of.

It occurred to me that if I stayed on the defensive, she would eventually get the upper hand. I only had to slip up once to lose, and it didn’t seem likely that she’d give up before then. I needed to go on the offensive.

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than my body responded. A flick of my wrist and the metal bar became a weapon, and Ami had to throw herself out of the way to avoid it. It was obvious she wasn’t nearly as fast or strong as I was. If I could maintain the same level of aggression as her, she didn’t stand a chance.

All of a sudden, a stabbing pain in my gut stopped me in my tracks. Pain felt different while I was channeling Zoe’s power, more like an inconvenience than an actual concern, but it was so unexpected my body didn’t seem to know how to react.

I looked down. My stomach was bleeding, though there was no evidence that anything had cut me. The wound was already healing, but I didn’t understand what had caused it in the first place.

I felt another spike of pain in my shoulder, and more blood began to ooze out. Then my thigh, and my hip. Invisible blades stabbed at me, and I realised only then how much I’d underestimated Ami’s telekinesis. She’d been going easy on me.

A frustrated roar escape me, and I hurled the metal bar at her. It caught her in the shoulder, and she cried out in pain, distracted just long enough for me to charge at her, crossing the distance between us in a moment. I hit her, hard, and she went flying backwards, narrowly avoiding slamming into a pile of crates by creating what appeared to be a telekinetic cushion.

“You’re going to lose,” Envy said, snapping me out of my furious rampage. I snarled at her.

“You wanted this. I thought you’d be happy.”

A psychic blade slashed across my chest, and I danced backwards, realising keeping my distance from Ami was now imperative to my survival.

“Are you ready to listen?” Envy asked, her tone irritatingly petulant.

“I’m all ears,” I growled, still backing away.

Ami began to approach me, blade trailing beside her, a look of murder in her eyes. I wasn’t afraid, not quite, but every instinct in my body was screaming at me to run.

“Then I’m happy,” Envy said, evidently unconcerned about my plight.

“Great. Any chance you could actually be helpful?” I asked, as I scanned the room, looking now for any way to escape without having to get near Ami. I couldn’t see one.

“Take her power,” Envy said, her voice filled with cold power. It wasn’t a suggestion or even an instruction. It was a demand.

“What?”

I caught her reflection, a serious focus that was quickly replaced by a friendly grin. The change was unsettling. She was unsettling.

“What, you thought it was just a one time deal?” she asked, with an almost childlike glee.

“I didn’t- how?” I asked, as Ami drew ever closer. Psychic hands gripped my throat, lifting me into the air. I was out of time. If Envy was going to do anything, I needed her to do it now.

“Don’t you feel it?” she asked, as the grip around my throat tightened. “Can’t you see it in her eyes? Don’t you see your reflection?”

“I…”

I locked eyes with Ami, those dazzling, inhuman violet eyes. At first, all I saw was anger, mixed with a little fear, and a lot of determination. Then something shifted, and I saw deeper. I saw her. I saw myself. I saw everything.

“I see it. I feel it,” I said, completely forgetting about the crushing pressure around my neck,

“Now take it,” Envy ordered.

Power swirling around me, through me, into me. I knew what I had to do. I knew how to do it.

“Yes,” I obeyed.

Chapter 19 – A Voice In Your Head

“You really do look like her,” Ami all but purred, her violet eyes appraising me curiously. Her body language was relaxed, but the sort of relaxed you’d seen in a wild animal, ready to pounce at any moment.

I felt a sort of burning, envious feeling as I looked back at her. She was so flawlessly pretty, almost inhumanly so, like something out of a fantasy novel. I found myself taking an immediate and irrational dislike to her.

“Well, I’m not.”

The shadow of a smirk played across her lips, and she began to circle around me, slowly.

“So hostile. Have I offended you?”

Her voice was so gentle, almost soothing. Her movements were graceful, but purposeful like a dancer. Warning bells were ringing through my head.

“You don’t belong here,” I said softly.

“On that, we agree,” she said with a smile. “This place is a dump.”

I hadn’t expected her to agree so readily, or so enthusiastically. There was a flicker of pain and fear in her tone.

“Do you have a plan?” I asked. “For getting back?”

“Yes,” she said, without hesitation. “Finding Haylie.”

“Who?” I asked, then frowned. I thought she was the only one of the invaders I’d yet to meet. Now there was another one? “There’s more of you?”

Ami shrugged, and I was a little caught off guard by her lack of defensiveness. Everyone else had been so mysterious and aloof.

“There should have been four of us, plus Zoe,” she said. I did the math in my head. Ami, Gabriel, now Haylie… that meant there could still be another.

“Are you going to try to capture her again?” I asked, feeling strangely defensive of Zoe.

“No,” Ami said bluntly. “I don’t care about her, not like Gabriel does. I just want to go home.”

I recalled something Zoe had said about him, and something he’d said about her. They referred to each other as brother and sister, though they bore no familial resemblance.

“They’re… siblings?”

“Kind of. It’s complicated,” Ami said with another shrug.

The two of us stood there, not quite sure what to make of the other. Here I was, standing in front of some kind of… superhuman, from another world, and I had nothing to say. No questions to ask.

I realised, with no small degree of alarm, that despite how I felt about Charlie, I agreed with her goals. We did want the same thing. We wanted to protect our city.

Unlike Charlie, though, I didn’t immediately suspect Ami of being dangerous. She wanted to go home. Zoe just wanted to go home. The others probably did too. We didn’t need to fight them.

Envy appeared without warning, a look of withering disdain plastered across her face. She folded her arms, glaring at Ami.

“Attack her,” she hissed, and I felt her fear and anger wash over me. Despite my best efforts to resist it, I could feel the temptation prick at the corners of my consciousness.

“What? Why?” I demanded, forgetting for a moment that Ami would notice my reaction. She looked bemused, if not surprised by it.

“Why? Because she’s the enemy,” Envy said, almost shrieking. Ami tilted her head, at first curious, then, without warning, livid.

“Who are you talking- wait. No, no way.” She stomped toward me, her finger pointed at me accusingly. “Who are you, really?”

Envy’s fear was quickly replaced by my own. Ami felt electric with dangerous energy, her tone thick with a deadly purpose that sent a chill down my spine.

“I-I…”

I felt invisible hands grab me by the shoulders, lifting me into the air, slamming me against the wall.

“What did you do to them?” Ami demanded, crossing the distance between us and drawing a short sword as she did. The blade flashed in the moonlight streaming in through the window.

“See? She’s violent and dangerous!” Envy said, racing through reflections to stay near me. “Fight back!”

I did my best to ignore her, focussing on Ami.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I told her, somehow manage to wrest myself free from the ghostly grip that held me against the wall. I fell to the ground, landing with a grace that was not my own.

“Exxo,” she said. The sword was held by her side, not pointed at me, but the threat of it was anything but forgotten. “I can feel them, hear their echo in your mind.”

“Exxo? I don’t know who that-” I realised suddenly what she was talking about. There was only one possible explanation. “Envy. You can hear Envy.”

“A voice in your head,” Ami said, and I noticed her hand tremble. “This power isn’t Zoe’s. She couldn’t have done this. Ugh! I need Haylie.”

Envy’s fear hadn’t subsided. She haunted the peripherals of my vision, begging for attention.

“Ask her what she’s going to do with you now.”

“Let me go,” I told Ami, not much feeling like asking for anything.

Ami looked at me, an internal war waging behind her eyes. She shook her head.

“No. No, I need to find Exxo. You’re my only clue.”

I took all of Envy’s fear, and all of my own, and I crushed it, turned it into fury. When Zoe’s power was running through my, rage came easily. Almost frighteningly so. It was a good thing I’d thrown away the fear already.

“Let. Me. Go.”

The threat in my voice didn’t escape Ami. The phantom hands assaulted me once again, hurling me away from her, back into the wall.

Tell me where you got your power!” she roared.

No!” I shouted back, breaking free of her invisible grip and landing on the balls of my feet ready for a fight.

If she thought she could bully me, she had another thing coming. I would tear her head from her shoulders before I let her take Envy.

Chapter 18 – I Thought We Were Friends

“I did not think this through,” I said aloud, standing in front of an industrial prototyping machine, which seemed to basically be a fancy 3D printer. I was half expecting Envy to chime in with a helpful idea, but she was uncharacteristically silent.

She wasn’t gone, I could still feel her presence, but she seemed distant. No, it was more than that. I could feel waves of discomfort radiating from her. She was afraid of something.

Realising she wasn’t going to be any help, I focused my attention back to the problem at hand. Somehow, I had to get this giant machine back to Zoe, without breaking it. With her strength, I could probably lift it, but I couldn’t picture myself carrying it all the way across town, especially not without attracting attention.

“You need a truck,” a voice behind me said, startling me.

“What the-” I said, as I turned to see Charlie sitting on top of a pile of storage crates. She was dressed in her usual Vigilante getup, trenchcoat and all, but without the mask. It just reminded me that she’d gone public with her identity.

“Good thing I wasn’t trying to sneak up on you,” she said with an insufferable smirk. Rachel’s pained expression flashed through my mind, and I felt my body tense up.

“What are you doing here?” I asked coldly.

“Investigating,” she said, shrugging.

She dropped down from the top of the crates, landing gently and irritatingly elegantly. Her coat billowed around her.

“Investigating what?” I asked, taking an unconscious step away from her.

“This,” she said. “You. Whatever you’re up to.”

“What I’m up to is none of your business,” I snapped. She looked surprised, and a little hurt.

“There’s no need to be rude. I thought we were friends, Sabrina.”

I felt my legs buckle. I had suspected she knew about me, after her comment before she outed herself, but hearing it confirmed still frightened me.

“Wha-“

“Yes, I know who you are,” she said impatiently. “You haven’t exactly been subtle about it.”

“I…”

She rolled her eyes, striding towards me assertively. I shrank back, feeling more frightened than I would have expected. I was sure she wouldn’t hurt me, didn’t even want to hurt me, but the fear was almost paralytic.

“Relax,” she said, sounding almost annoyed. “I’m not your enemy. We both want the same thing, I think.”

“I don’t want what you want,” I very nearly hissed at her. She recoiled, confused. Then realisation spread across her face.

“You spoke to Rachel,” she said, her voice strangled.

Her expression, her tone, answered the question I was too afraid to ask. Was it true, what Rachel had said? Did Charlie really do that to her?

I knew the answer was yes.

“You’re a monster,” I growled, the transformation ready, but I held it at bay.

Charlie sighed, slumping against another storage crate.

“Well, there’s no denying that,” she said. “I was going to ask if she hates me, but I guess I know the answer already.”

The two of us stared at each other, the tension between us threatening to bubble over into violence. I could feel her fury washing over me like physical heatwaves.

“Tell her…” Charlie hesitated, and I almost believed the pained expression on her face. Almost. “Forget it. Tell Zoe something instead. Tell her I am going to send her back where she came from, but not before she suffers for every single person she’s infected.”

“Tell her yourself,” I snarled, as the transformation ripped through me. I felt my entire body shift and tear, and the world around me slowed down, grew calmer as a storm began to rage inside of me.

“Incredible,” Charlie said, not nearly as intimidated as I wanted. “How do you do that?”

“Looking for more powers to steal?” I accused, every inch of me ready for a fight. It was more than just adrenaline, it was a raw, primal need.

“I’m just looking to protect my city,” she said, more impatient than intimidated. “You know better than anyone what someone like Zoe can do, and to fight her, I needed what Rachel had.”

“And to hell with the consequences, right? Too bad if anyone gets hurt along the way?”

“There won’t be anyone left to get hurt if I don’t stop them, Sabrina!” she shouted, filled with frustration. “They are going to kill this city, and you know it won’t stop there.”

Before I could respond, a third voice filled the room, one I hadn’t heard before.

“Have you considered that we might actually leave willingly, if we had the option?”

A young woman- no, a teenager, barely older than we were, stepped out from behind the same crates Charlie was leaning against. She was dressed in loose-fitting, dark clothing, and moved with a lethal grace that set my nerves on edge all over again. Her short black hair fell about her face in a perfectly styled mess, an almost mischievous smirk playing on her lips. I found myself fixated on her eyes, shimmering violet and filled with presence and power.

“Ami,” Charlie said coldly.

“So nice to see you again, Charlotte,” Ami said tauntingly. “How are you feeling today?”

“Strong enough to crush your smug little skull,” Charlie threatened. “What are you doing here?”

“None of your business,” Ami said smoothly. “Now, unless you’re looking for a fight…” She trailed off, but the threat was blatant. Rage consumed Charlie’s face, and her eyes actually seemed to darken, but she turned on her heel, and began to storm off.

“You’re not invincible, Ami,” she cautioned. “I will figure you out eventually.”

“If only you still had the tinker on your side,” Ami called after her. Charlie froze, but said nothing. “You’re a child, Charlie, and you’re playing with fire.”

Charlie left in silence, leaving an awkward silence hanging in the room. Ami turned to me, all of her tension evaporating almost immediately.

“Now then. Sabrina, was it? I think it’s time that you and I got acquainted.”

Chapter 17 – This One Is Different

Zoe looked up, seeming neither surprised nor impressed to see Rachel behind me. Rachel couldn’t walk far, so I’d carried her pretty much the entire way. She still seemed a little unsteady on her feet.

“You brought a friend,” Zoe said, her tone strange, almost muted.

“I’m sorry,” I said, not sure how to justify myself to her. “I know you asked-“

“No, no,” she interrupted me, moving closer to Rachel. She sniffed the air, her expression curious and it seemed to me, worried. “This one is different.”

“Says you,” Rachel snapped.

“Mmm,” Zoe said, ignorning her. “You’re…” She suddenly shrank back, a look on her face that bordered on fright. “No, that’s impossible. No, not impossible. Improbable. How is not important. Where is she?”

“Gone,” Rachel replied, apparently able to follow Zoe’s erratic train of thought a lot better than I could. I was lost and confused.

Anger flashed across Zoe’s face, and she launched herself across the room with terrifying speed, slamming her hand into the wall beside Rachel’s head. Rachel didn’t even flinch.

“Where is she?” Zoe demanded, angry and desperate sounding.

“If I knew, I’d be talking to her, not you,” Rachel replied cooly. Zoe sneered, then pulled back, composing herself. A smile began to spread across her face.

“This place grows more interesting by the day,” she said, almost warmly.

“Can you do for me what she did?” Rachel asked, still unflinching.

“No,” Zoe said, shaking her head. “That was her role, not mine.”

“And what about Sabrina?” Rachel asked, looking at me. I turned my head away.

“I didn’t do that, and I can’t replicate it,” Zoe said.

The two of them stared at each other, a strange tension I didn’t understand spreading between them. They both struck me as people who enjoyed being the smartest ones in the room.

“So there’s nothing you can do for me?” Rachel asked, almost challenging her.

“I didn’t say that,” Zoe retorted, surprising me. “But why should I do anything?”

“Because I can help you,” Rachel countered easily.

“In your condition? I doubt that,” Zoe said derisively.

Rachel pulled out her tablet, tapping the screen determinedly. She flipped it over, showing Zoe a document full of photos and fragments of text.

“You’re building something,” she said. “You don’t have all the parts yet, but from what you have so far-“

“How do you know what I have so far?” Zoe interrupted.

“A lot of the items are very specific,” Rachel said. “People take note when they go missing. You’ve raided laboratories, hospitals, army depots…”

“Fine,” Zoe said, waving away the question. “And what is it you think I’m building?”

She seemed curious, intrigued by how much Rachel had managed to figure out already. Either that, or she was planning on killing her where she stood.

“No idea,” Rachel said.

“Then you’re wasting my time,” Zoe said, clearly disappointed.

“Fine. Find your own way home, then,” Rachel said. Zoe’s eyes flashed with irritation and surprise.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re trying to rip a hole to travel to another dimension,” Rachel said easily, as if it were an ordinary, casual thing to say.

Zoe snarled, approaching Rachel again with a dangerous, almost animalistic aura about her.

“How much did my sister tell you?”

“Nothing,” Rachel said, still showing no signs of being intimidated. “I figured it out alone.”

“Maybe you can help me,” Zoe conceded, grinning a wicked grin.

“But can you help me?” Rachel asked.

“I believe I can,” Zoe said. “Sabrina, I’m going to need a few extra items.”

I stared at her, mouth agape. She expected me to just jump on board with this? All I’d agreed to was helping her get home, nothing else.

Before I could tell her exactly that, a familiar voice chimed in, a voice that neither of them reacted to. Envy was back.

“I think you should help,” she said, materialising in the reflection of a pane of brushed metal. “There’s something else going on here, something different about Rachel. Better to keep her close, and stay on her good side, at least until we know more.” She smiled generously at me. “Of course, that’s just my advice. You don’t have to do anything I tell you.”

She disappeared as quickly and spontaneously as she’d arrived, leaving me feel slightly dizzy. Zoe and Rachel showed no indication that they’d noticed anything at all.

We all have our secrets, I guess, I told myself.

“Just tell me what you need,” I said.

Chapter 16 – You Were With Her

“My name is Rachel,” she said, her tone of voice suggesting that name should mean something to me.

“Is that supposed to mean something to- wait, like the one Charlie is looking for?” I asked, as the penny dropped.

“That’s me,” she said, her eyes dropping to the floor.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, an oversimplified version of the thousand questions I did want to ask her.

“I need your help,” she repeated.

“How do you even know who I am?” I demanded, feeling exposed and a little bit frightened.

“I saw you on TV,” she said. “You were with her.”

“So?”

“I saw you. The way you move. You’re trying to hide it, but you’re… like her,” she said.

Panic and alarm raced through my mind. There was no way I was dealing with this, not after the day I’d had. She might have had her suspicions, but she didn’t know anything.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I told her.

“Trust me, I do,” she said, her soft voice thick with pain. “I’ve seen more than my share of the supernatural. How do you think I ended up like this?”

“What?” I asked, taking another look at her. She was thin, unhealthily so, and trembling slightly. Her eyes were sunken and slightly bruised, her lips chapped and dry.

“Charlie did this to me,” she said, and I felt a lump form in my throat.

It didn’t seem possible. Whatever was wrong with her, it looked like illness, something eating her up from the inside. How could Charlie have done a thing like that? And even if she could, why would she?

“I… how?”

“You really want to know?” she asked, a flicker of a challenge in her deep brown eyes.

“No… but I need to,” I said. I couldn’t afford to turn down any information that could be useful, even if I couldn’t verify it.

Rachel sighed, taking a moment to gather her clearly limited energy.

“Earlier this year, Charlie disappeared. You might know about that. She was, she was everything to me. I had to find her.” Her eyes were wet, her breathing ragged. “I found somebody. She was powerful, like Charlie is now. She gave me some of that power, so that I could save Charlie. And Charlie ripped it out of me.”

I thought back to the questions I had before, remembering how the Vigilante, which I now knew was Charlie, hadn’t been known for superhuman strength or speed until after Impact Day.

“So that’s how Charlie-“

“Yes,” Rachel said. “And it’s why I’m like this now.”

“Who was the woman?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Rachel said coldly. “She’s gone now.”

The two of us stared at each other, an uncomfortable silence filling the air. I didn’t know if I could trust her, if I could believe everything she was saying, but I also didn’t have any reason not to.

I didn’t even know what her motivations were. If I was going to pick apart any possible lies, I needed to know what she was hoping to achieve.

“So what do you want from me?” I asked, hoping it didn’t come across as bluntly as it sounded.

“How did you get your powers?”

“Powers? Look, even if I did know what you were talking about-“

“Sabrina, please,” she said, stunning me. “Look at me.”

“How do you know my name?” I demanded.

“Look at me,” she repeated. “Knowledge is all I have.”

Everything about her felt wrong. She knew too much, arrived too quickly, expected me to trust her with nothing to back it up.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Nobody did this to me, it just happened.”

That wasn’t even a lie. Whatever had happened to me, it wasn’t something that anybody did, at least as far as I knew. I couldn’t help her even if I wanted to, which I didn’t.

“There’s somebody who can help me, though,” she said, refusing to be discouraged. “The blonde woman. I know you were with her.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I insisted.

Rachel rolled her eyes, then winced at the pain it caused. I watched as she reached into her bag, pulling out a tablet. She tapped the screen a few times, then flipped it over to show it to me.

“CCTV footage. She picked you up and carried you away.”

It was that night. Impact Day. I watched myself run into the burning building, looking for survivors. I tripped, stumbled on something, before finding Zoe. Her blood was everywhere. I reached out to her. She twitched. There was a blinding flash, then I was unconscious. Zoe pulled herself off of the pipe she was impaled on, and the wound healed almost instantly. She picked me up, and just like Rachel had said, she carried me away.]

“Where did you-“

“I deleted it from their server,” she assured me. “I have the only copies. Please, I just want to talk to her.”

“Why? Why do you think she can help you?”

“I don’t know if she can help me, but I can’t think of anyone else,” she said. “I’m desperate. And Charlie is looking for me. If I don’t figure something out soon…”

I sighed and threw my hands up, defeated. I still wasn’t sure if I could trust her, but if anyone could handle herself, it was Zoe. She could decide for herself whether to believe Rachel, and whether or not she would help her.

“Okay. I’ll take you to her. But she’s not going to like it.”

Chapter 15 – I Fucking Knew It

I felt Charlie’s hand on my shoulder before I changed. She leaned in, and whispered calmly in my ear.

“Don’t. You have a lot more to lose.”

Then she stepped in front of us, walking towards the charging infected. They snarled and tried to swipe at her, but she effortlessly ducked the blow, grabbing their wrist and twisting, slamming them against the ground.

Quicker than I could follow, she whipped out a syringe from under her coat. The same kind the Vigilante had given me. She dropped to one knee and drove it into the infected’s chest. It twitched, but almost immediately began to calm down.

“I fucking knew it,” Veronica nearly shouted, grabbing my arm.

Realisation washed over me like a bucket of icy water. Charlie was the Vigilante. That was why she’d taken such an interest in me. We were both different. We were both superhuman.

Charlie had just revealed herself to potentially the entire world. If that camera was still recording, and it looked like it was, there was definitely footage of what she’d just done, which was undisputably superhuman. No normal human could move like that.

She started walking towards the camera which was pointed at her. The cameraman started to back away, leaving his camera behind. Was she planning on destroying the camera? What if it was broadcasting?

She stopped about ten feet in front of it, standing there dramatically.

“Hello, Melbourne,” she said. “Hello, world. I am the Vigilante, and I’m here to let you know, this city will be safe again. No more soldiers, no more gang warfare, and no more infected.” She paused, seemingly for effect. “I’m going to save this city, and I’m going to do it without killing anyone.” Another pause. “Well, except for one person. Rachel, I’m going to find you. You can’t hide from me forever.”

With that, she turned and walked away from the camera, back to the infected she’d left lying on the ground, now completely unconscious. With no apparent effort, she lifted them up onto her shoulder, and then leapt up into the air, clearing the nearest building, three stories tall.

In the distance, several sirens blared to life. Veronica grabbed my arm, her eyes wild.

“We can’t be seen here,” she hissed.

The two of us ran, away from the cameras and the dead reporter and the scene of Charlie’s dramatic reveal. My head was whirling, and I could barely concentrate on where we were going.

“I fucking knew she was suspicious,” Veronica said, slightly out of breath. I didn’t say anything, not because I was also out of breath, but because I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, I just found these listening bugs in your room, Sabrina. Oh, I just somehow knew about the Vigilante before everyone else did.”

I’d known Charlie since long before Impact Day. How long had she had these powers? Her whole life? I knew the Vigilante had existed for over a year before Impact Day, but there were never any rumours of super strength, just that she was incredibly hard to kill.

Where had her powers come from? Could it be the same place as mine? Did she know? Would she tell me? Could she be trusted? And who was Rachel?

It was too much to think about, more than I was ready to deal with. Beside me, Veronica was still ranting, though it was hard to tell if she was genuinely mad, or just excited and scared and still full of adrenaline.

Eventually, we stopped running. I felt a little tired, but not nearly as exhausted as Veronica looked. Before she noticed, I tried to mimic her behaviour, just so she wouldn’t be suspicious.

“Can you believe this shit?” she asked me, determined to get a response this time.

“No,” I said truthfully. “It’s a lot to take in.”

“I’m so mad,” she continued, as if I hadn’t said anything at all. “There is no way I’m going to let this rest. I’m going to uncover every single one of her lies, if it’s the last thing I do.”

“She’s a superhuman vigilante,” I said absently. “It might actually be the last thing you do.”

“I’m not that easy to scare,” she snapped.

“Well, I am. I’m going home,” I told her.

“Will you be okay?” she asked, her tone suddenly soft and compassionate.

“I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “Right now, I’m more worried about you.”

She waved my concerns away, accompanied by fake laughter.

“You worry too much, Sabrina. I’ll be fine. I’m not going to do anything too reckless… just yet.”

She smirked, then we hugged and parted ways. It didn’t take me long to get home, even without relying on any superhuman speed. I was suddenly very self-conscious of that.

“I’m home,” I called, as I closed the front door.

“Hi honey,” Mum called. “Your friend is in you room, I said that was fine. I hope that’s okay!”

“Sure, thanks!” I called back, even though it was completely not fine. I had no idea who was waiting for me in my room, but all I wanted was to be alone.

Grumpily, I ascended the stairs and pushed open the door to my room. To my surprise, a complete stranger sat on my bed, her dark, sunken eyes staring sullenly up at me. She looked frail, almost certainly sick.

“Um, hi?” I said, closing the door behind me. “Who are you?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice strained and weak. “I didn’t know where else to go. I need your help. My name is Rachel.”

Chapter 14 – What’s The Worst That Could Happen

“Are you sure it’s okay to be out here?” Veronica asked, looking around nervously. The entire city was eerily quiet, which as I understood it was the new normal, after everything that had happened. The city was generally safe during the day, but not many people seemed like they wanted to take the risk.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Charlie said, smirking.

“Don’t make me say it,” Veronica said, rolling her eyes. “We’d be here all day.”

“How long has it been like this?” I asked.

“Since day one,” Veronica answered. “Impact Day. Nothing’s been the same.”

“It’s a power struggle,” Charlie said. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. Impact Day, if that’s what we’re calling it, just sped things up a bit.”

“But, all of the factions that are fighting, they all came after the crash,” Veronica said.

“Not all of them,” Charlie said. “The gangs were a problem even before then, they just weren’t as public. The infected are new, and so are most of the superhumans, but not all of them.”

“What? You think we had those, whatever they are, before? How? And why are you the only one to know about them?” Veronica demanded.

Across the road, there was a minor disruption as a news crew began to set up. I guessed they were planning on shooting some kind of report, but I was far more interested in what Charlie had to say.

“Because I pay attention to this kind of thing,” she said. “And I’m not the only one who knew. But who’d have believed it?”

“Who was here before?” I asked. Charlie looked at me, curious.

“The vigilante, for starters. Surely you heard the rumours?”

“About him being immortal?” Veronica asked. “You mean that’s true?”

“According to several accounts,” Charlie said. “Then there was the superhuman shopkeeper, who actually appears to have vanished. Which is interesting all on its own.”

“You can’t actually believe that one, can you?” Veronica asked, incredulous.

“You’d deny it now? With everything else that’s happening? Surely you can keep a slightly more open mind,” Charlie scolded her.

“I saw the sky split open,” Veronica said. “I know the things I’m seeing now came from another world. Where am I supposed to believe a shopkeeper who could lift a car with one hand came from?”

“The same place? One of a myriad of other possible places?”

“You’re way too ready to buy into that crap,” Veronica said snidely. “You think they’ve been here secretly for, what, years? And only just started to act up now?”

“I think-” Charlie began, but was cut off by a scream from across the road. The news crew were backing away rapidly, though the cameras seemed to still be filming.

A second later, the reason for the screaming became apparent. One of the infected had burst out of the building, snarling and sneering in the sunlight. With one brutal swing of their arm, they knocked the reporter clean off his feet, and he slammed into a parked car with a sickening thud.

The expression on the infected’s face was more of panic and confusion than actual malice, and I was reminded of the Vigilante’s insistence that they were human, and could be saved. I think I was starting to understand her point of view.

The infected saw us, locking eyes with me from across the road. I knew instinctively they were going to charge, and the only one who could do anything about it was me.

One of the cameras was trained almost directly on us. If I transformed, or whatever it was that I did, it would almost certainly be caught on film. Not to mention both Veronica and Charlie would know, and I so wasn’t ready for that.

What would happen if that ended up on TV? Everyone would know. My parents would know. Plus, with all of the tension between the military and superhumans, I would probably become a public enemy.

What else could I do, though? If I didn’t change, Veronica and Charlie would almost certainly die. I had a feeling I would survive, but even that would be suspicious.

I could feel the beginnings of a panic attack forming. There was no good way out of this situation. Whatever I did, I was completely screwed.

I took a deep breath. If I was going to be revealed either way, at least that meant I could protect my friends without fear. Not that there actually would be an absence of fear, but I could talk myself into it.

I felt the familiar crawling of my skin, the tingle down my spine.

Alright, Sabrina. Time to reveal your secret to the world.

Chapter 13 – You’re Not What These People Need

The rain was heavy, oppressive. It felt like it was going to crush me, pressing down on me, pinning me in place. I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing, and transformed.

All of a sudden, the rain barely registered in my senses. I felt almost nothing, and I could see through it like it wasn’t there at all. The cold retreated, and I felt powerful again.

I also had no idea what I was doing.

At a loss, I started to run. My legs coiled and uncoiled like springs, catapulting me through the streets, with no direction or destination in mind. It felt exhilarating. Before I knew it, I was halfway across the city.

With no idea where I was.

“What the hell am I doing?” I asked myself, forgetting momentarily what happened when I talked to myself out loud.

“Cracking bad guys’ skulls?” Envy answered, though I had no idea where from.

“Where-?”

“It’s rainy, honey,” she said. “Check the puddles.”

I looked down and saw her looking back up at me, rippling and warping as rain drops collided with the gathering pool of water.

“Anything with a reflection, huh?”

“Pretty much,” she said. “Go north.”

“Why north?”

“Because that’s where the thugs are,” she said, and I could almost hear the trailing ‘duh’ at the end of it.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can see them from a window,” she replied, shrugging.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered, not sure whether to believe her. Given everything else, I had no reason to suspect she was lying.

“I might be,” she said, smirking. “Can’t hurt to try though, right? Not like you’ve got a better lead.”

I sighed.

“North it is.”

Without anything more specific than that, I started to run again. Within a matter of seconds, my instincts were screaming at me to stop, and without thinking, I leapt up on top of a nearby roof.

Adrenaline surging through me, I walked up to the edge of the roof, peering down. Sure enough, there were a bunch of suspicious-looking people standing around, holding guns and moving boxes.

“Wow, you were right,” I said, assuming Envy was still around somewhere.

“You’ll get used to it,” she said sweetly.

“So, now what? Just… knock them out?”

Movies made it look so easy, but I was pretty sure if I punched someone hard enough to stop them from moving, they wouldn’t just wake up a few hours later and be fine.

“Not talking to yourself is probably a good start,” a familiar, distorted voice said. I turned around to find the Vigilante standing behind me, their arms folded.

“You again?”

“Yeah,” they said. “This is basically what I do. You’re welcome to watch, though.”

“No, wait. I should do this. I have actual-”

“I know what you can do,” they said, cutting me off harshly. “Trust me, you’re not what these people need.”

“But you’re-”

“Trust me, I’ll be fine.”

Before I could protest further, they leapt off the roof, landing right in the middle of the gathered thugs. It took the thugs less than three seconds to open fire on the Vigilante, almost like they were expecting to be attacked.

In those three seconds, the Vigilante had already taken down two of them, disabling one with what looked like a taser and another with a baton strike right to the solar plexus.

The Vigilante threaded a rope out from a sleeve, moving at least as quickly as I could. They practically danced between the thugs, disarming them and binding their wrists and ankles. Within a couple of minutes, they’d disabled the entire lot of them.

I dropped down to the ground, staring at them. They were piling up the boxes the thugs had been moving.

“You, you’re one of them,” I said.

“No more than you,” they replied, not stopping what they were doing.

“How?” I asked.

“It’s a long story,” they said, shrugging. When all of the boxes were stacked up, they pulled a small, metallic orb from inside their coat. It took me a second to realise it was a grenade.

They pulled the pin, and shoved the grenade into the centre mass of the boxes. Neither of us bothered to move away.

I hardly felt the explosion, even from a metre away. The Vigilante seemed just as unfazed, the wild fluttering of their coat the only sign they felt the blast at all.

“We both have somewhere we need to be,” they said.

“Wait-” I called out, but they’d already taken off, disappearing into an alley.

“Don’t bother,” Envy said, talking to me from some shattered glass on the ground. The explosion must have blown out a window. “You’ll never catch her.”

I was about to protest that when my brain realised what she’d said.

“How do you know they’re a she?” I asked.

“Because I know who she is,” Envy said, shrugging.

“What? Who?” I demanded.

“Someone incredibly dangerous,” she said. “Someone you need to stay away from.”

“No,” I said, taking a step in the direction of the alley the Vigilante had disappeared down. “No more vague threats. Tell me who she is, or I’m chasing her.”

“Then chase her,” Envy said. “You won’t catch her. I can’t tell you who she is, Sabrina. I’m sorry.”

“You can tell me she’s dangerous, and that I should stay away from her, but not her name?”

“It’s complicated,” Envy said, sounding distressed for the first time since I’d met her. “I can see her, not like you can, but… She’s like me, only more. She belongs here. She has power here. She could destroy me, if she ever figures out who she really is.”

“You sound really scared,” I said. “I’m sorry. I won’t follow her.”

“It’s getting late, anyway. If you don’t get home soon, your parents will know you were out all night.”

“I could not feel less like a superhero right now,” I grumbled.