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Tag: Miss Murder

Chapter 29 – You, I Could Kill

As soon as I saw the words appear on the screens, I knew I could rule out Charlie. The theatrics weren’t her style. That narrowed it down considerably.

Gabriel? I knew he was looking for Zoe. Was he the type to make a show out of it? Even if he was, he wouldn’t risk timing it when all three of us were here. He wasn’t interested in Sabrina or me. It didn’t make sense.

It had to be someone who wanted the three of us. That made it painfully obvious. The only two people I wanted to see less than Charlie. My chest ached just from the memory.

A series of explosions signalled the breaching of our outer defences. I knew Zoe had the place booby-trapped, had considered adding a few mechanisms of my own. Wouldn’t have made a difference. Within a minute, the building was swarmed with gang thugs, armed like soldiers. The Stars.

Sabrina changed in a heartbeat, her skin paling, her hair lightening, her body elongating and her nails growing. Zoe had tensed up, and I got the impression she was struggling to contain her rage. Her sanctuary had been violated. I could understand.

The gang-soldiers surrounded us, not looking nearly as afraid as they should have. Their faces were concealed, but their body language was confident, almost arrogant, every last one of them. They knew something I didn’t, that was the only explanation.

A wisp of smoke congealed in the centre of the room, quickly taking the form of a young woman. She solidified, a teenage girl dressed entirely in black, her neck and mouth concealed, a vicious looking knife held in her left hand. Her eyes settled on me, fear and anger and hatred all emerging in equal measure.

She vanished in another puff of smoke, appearing in front of me in the same second. Her hand wrapped around my throat, and before I could react, the world around me faded to black, and everything was silent.

The world snapped back into place with an almost physical impact, but it wasn’t the same. My eyes scanned around me, looking for any identifiable feature. It didn’t take long.

We were on the roof. She’d teleported us straight up. Why so close? Was her range that limited? Was that a weakness I could exploit?

To my surprise, she let go of me, taking a couple of steps back. She didn’t want to kill me? What else could it be? Was she just removing me from the fight? No, she’d have taken me further to do that, even if she had to do multiple hops. Besides, I was the least dangerous of the three of us, in that situation. Unprepared and exhausted? I was basically useless.

I knew she didn’t want to talk. Did she want to show me something? Was removing me just a demonstration of her power? I already knew she could blink, and letting me see it up close, experience it, all she was doing was giving me the tools to fight against it. Assuming I survived this fight, at least. Was she showing the other two?

Protecting me? No, there was no way. She had no love for me. Her partner had even less. If they weren’t trying to kill me, it was because they wanted something from me.

Miss Murder, as she was going by, reached into a concealed fold in her black top. I stood my ground, not entirely sure what to expect.

“Hello, Rachel,” a distorted voice said, coming from her general direction. It wasn’t her voice, though. I recognised it, even through the filter. It was him. The Celestial. Leader of the Stars, the most powerful gang in the city, especially now.

The man who was responsible for poisoning me.

“Why are you disguising your voice?” I asked, trying to read Miss Murder’s body language. She kept very deliberately still. “You know I know who you are.”

“But anyone who might be listening in doesn’t,” he replied.

“And what’s to stop me revealing your identity anyway?” I asked, and saw Miss Murder tense. So, her secret identity was important to her? Interesting.

“That would cut this conversation unfortunately short,” the Celestial replied, already sounding impatient. That was good. He was far less dangerous when he didn’t feel in control, and I knew exactly how to press his buttons.

“Not seeing a downside,” I said, wondering if he could see my smirk. He was almost certainly watching through some kind of video feed.

“I believe we can help each other, Rachel,” he said, in a perfect imitation of a supervillain. I wondered if that was how he saw himself. Or the dark saviour of the city? That seemed more his flavour.

“Not interested.”

So, he was trying to recruit me? Why would he ever think I would want to work for him? Or even with him? He’d need something incredible to even entice me.

“I have resources-” he began, but I cut him off.

“Don’t care.” Even as I spoke, I kept processing, the pieces falling together. I realised what it was he had. “Wait. No. That’s not what you mean. You have her.” My heart was pounding. I was livid. That wasn’t fair. “You have Haylie, and you’re stumped. So of course you’d come to me.”

No trace of surprise on Miss Murder’s face, at least, the half of it I could see. She knew what the Celestial was offering. She knew I’d figure it out before he told me.

“You’ll never get another opportunity like this,” he said, still acting like he had control of the situation. He didn’t. He’d played his hand too early, and I was going to make him regret it.

“You’re an idiot. Do you have any idea what I could do, if I had access-” I stopped. Recomposed myself. “Of course you do. And you’re already prepared for it.”

He was shooting himself in the foot. The one thing he had to bargain with, the one thing I actually wanted, he knew he couldn’t actually give me. It was far too dangerous for him. Hell, it might have been dangerous for me.

“Her power is mine, needs to be mine,” he said evenly. “But you would see enough, learn enough to make it worth your while.”

How did he see this going? He needed my help, but anything I was able to help him with, I could weaponise, would use against him. It would be a desperate race to the end, him trying to get enough out of me to be useful before he killed me, or before I managed to turn the tables and use it against him.

I didn’t want to get stuck like that. Not that I wasn’t confident I could win, but I had my own agenda to work towards.

“Or, I could just kill you,” I said casually, but I still saw Miss Murder twitch. How hard was it for her to just stand there, completely still, nothing more than a glorified handset? How much did it gall her to be a puppet for him, after everything?

There was a surprising pause before he replied. When he did, it was with more reservation and humility than I was prepared for.

“As much as I deserve that,” he said, “you’d fail. You know you’d fail.”

Regret? No, just a ploy. Trying to cultivate a sense of trust and honesty, make me easier to manipulate.

He was right, though. I wouldn’t have a chance of killing him, not the way things were now. He was protected by more than just his gang, more than his supernatural sidekick. He had information, power, money, secrets. I had a few half-baked gadgets.

“Maybe now,” I conceded. “But I’ll keep building, keep preparing.”

“I’ll figure her out before then,” he told me, fully confident. He might have been right about that, too. I had no idea how close he was to being able to actually use her.

“I have allies,” I said, knowing I was reaching. Dammit, he had me on the back foot all of a sudden. How had that happened?

“Tenuous at best,” he said, calling my bluff. I growled. “Besides, they’re already dead.”

How long had we been speaking? A couple of minutes? More?

“You’re more arrogant than I thought. Your thugs don’t stand a chance against Zoe or-“

“You know me well enough to know that I had a plan,” he interrupted. “I know what they’re capable of.”

Frustratingly, I knew there had to be truth to that. Attacking Zoe in her base of operations was a stupid, reckless move, and he wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t absolutely sure he’d be successful. There was a good chance Zoe and Sabrina really were already dead, or captured. What a terrifying notion.

“Well, even if you’re right, I won’t lose any sleep over it,” I said, with more confidence than I felt.

“You’re alone now,” he pushed, and I realised Miss Murder was enjoying this. I glared at her. “Or, do you trust Charlie more than me?” he continued. A chill ran down my spine. “Would you go back to her?”

He wasn’t just taunting me, he was threatening me. Threatening me using Charlie. The conversation was officially over.

“Here’s what I’m going to do,” I told him. “First, I’m going to kill your girlfriend, here. Then I’m going to check on my heavy-hitters. If they’re alive, you’re fucked. If they’re dead, I’m going to disappear, and I’m going to dedicate every waking hour to building the tools I need to destroy you. Then, you’re fucked.”

I smiled at the momentary panic on Miss Murder’s face when I said I was going to kill her. For all her confidence, she was wary of me. Good.

“You’re not a killer, Rachel,” the Celestial responded after a pause, trying and failing to call my bluff.

“Not usually,” I conceded. “But you? You, I could kill. Happily.”

Truth.

“I’m disappointed, Rachel.”

“Cry me a river,” I snapped, letting adrenaline flood my system.

“I will own this city,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about that.”

“Fucking watch me,” I snarled.

No hesitation this time. “Miss Murder? Kill her.”

Interlude #2

None of the soldiers ever expected to be fighting a war in the middle of Melbourne. Some of them had grown up here, pretty much all of them had at least visited. It was a city full of people, full of life. Now, it was a city full of violence.

They outnumbered the street thugs on the other side of the river, and they were better equipped. Slowly but surely, they were gaining ground, pushing the gang further back. If they could take this ground and hold it, it would be the first major victory they’d had since arriving.

Most of the street gangs were exactly that, collections of thugs, criminals and anarchists who just wanted to rebel against the system, or take advantage of the chaos to raid and loot. They were poorly armed and had no idea what they were doing. For the most part, they avoided the army.

The Stars were different. Nobody was quite sure where they were getting their weapons from, and they were organised, coordinated and efficient, almost like a paramilitary organisation. They fought strategically, and weren’t afraid of a fight. More often than not, they won.

Burst of gunfire and flashes of light broke up what would have otherwise been a dark and quiet night. While one soldier laid down covering fire, another dashed to a better position, staying low. The plan was working. They were pushing the Stars back.

A woman appeared, stepping out of the shadows, walking purposefully towards the unit’s captain. He noticed her, turned, raised his gun. She seemed undeterred.

“Hold!” he barked, clearly expecting the order to stop her tracks. When it didn’t, he added “Don’t move!” which proved to be just as effective.

He threatened to shoot her if she didn’t stop. She said nothing, and kept moving. That was all the warning he was willing to give. Her body language was too purposeful to be an innocent civilian. He opened fire.

She vanished in a burst of smoke, materialising again behind him. He didn’t even have the chance to turn around before her knife cut open his throat, a brutal cut that would have taken more strength than a woman of her stature should have been able to muster. As he collapsed to the ground, unable to breathe, unable to speak, he saw her vanish again.

She killed four more soldiers that way, silent and efficient, completely without mercy. That was enough to turn the tide of the battle, but she didn’t stop. Another soldier died. A voice in the darkness tutted, stealing her attention.

“I know they’re only human, but even I think that’s cruel,” he said, the light of the streetlamps glinting in his amber eyes. She glared as he dropped down from atop the arch of the bridge, landing gracefully and silently as a cat.

He approached her with a lazy, arrogant smile on his face, his hands resting casually in his pockets. She flicked the knife around in her hand a few times, her entire body tense, ready for a fight.

“I must confess, it’s an unusual sight, you getting involved in a minor skirmish like this,” he said, the two of them seemingly oblivious now to the fight that continued around them. “The territory can’t be that important, so what are you really doing here?”

She glowered at him, her eyes scanning the area, looking for a way out. In a one-on-one fight, she knew who had the upper hand.

“It’s obviously meant to send a message,” he continued, unperturbed by her lack of response. “But to who? The military? The other gangs? Are they supposed to think this territory is more important than it really is? Perhaps you’re trying to draw attention away from something else. Or maybe, you just wanted to get some fresh air, slit a few throats. Hmm?”

She took a step back, trying desperately to visualise a safe place. Blinking more than a few metres was risky, but being around him was even riskier.

“I have a theory. Your partner, or boss, or minion, or whatever. The Celestial. They’re not just clever, though that’s clearly what they want everyone to think. No, they have access to information they shouldn’t be able to have. They control half this city with a gang of maybe five dozen. They’re consistently one step ahead of the military, usually more. Now, other than me, I can think of two other people clever enough to be able to get that information without anyone knowing, and my dear sister is clearly working to her own agenda here. Which means somehow, you’ve found Haylie before me.”

Adrenaline flooded her system. He couldn’t suspect that, couldn’t know. If he found them, and he would find them, it was all over. Even together, they didn’t stand a chance against him, not directly.

She watched his eyes scan her, taking in every minute shift in her body language, every micro expression. She’d already given too much away.

It was too late to try and bluff. He’d see through that anyway. The only option she had was to divert his attention. She needed to offer him something more attractive than Haylie.

She contemplated ways to turn that to her advantage. Despite assurances to the contrary, she was completely convinced Charlie needed to be stopped. They couldn’t do it, but maybe Gabriel could.

For the first time in a very long time, a smile appeared on her face. Gabriel frowned, not expecting her sudden change.

She began to vanish, her body beginning to break apart. He moved almost too quickly to be seen, closing the distance between them, his hand gripping her wrist, anchoring her in place. She let fear creep into her eyes, which wasn’t hard. Part of her was terrified of just how fast he was, and how strong, even if it was exactly what she’d planned on happening.

“If you know where she is, and you’re keeping her from me,” he began, his voice a whispered threat, “believe me when I tell you there is no force on this earth that can protect you from me.”

She dropped her knife, using her free hand to reach into a pocket, and pull out a phone. He watched, curiously, as she navigated through photos, until she pulled up one in particular, and showed it to him.

He dropped her arm, staring at the photo. A vicious snarl escaped his lips.

“Impossible,” he said in a low, guttural voice.

Without saying another word, he disappeared into the darkness, moving like an animal. She reached down, picked up her knife, and vanished in a wisp of black smoke.

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.