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Chapter 22 – There’s Something Missing From Your Story

As promised, Zoe’s early treatments were close to unbearable. The chemicals tore through my body, consuming the toxins that were destroying me from the inside out. It felt like being hollowed out, and filled with venom and ice.

We spent hours on the treatments every day, as much as my body was able to withstand. I tried to push myself further, tried to suffer through more, but Zoe kept telling me, it wasn’t about pain. Any more and I would literally start falling apart at the seams.

Whenever I wasn’t in the middle of treatments, I was in a sort of vacant haze, unable to engage with the world around me. I was dimly aware of Sabrina coming and going, bringing back more and more components for Zoe’s machine. Zoe ignored me whenever she wasn’t actively treating me, locking herself away to work on it.

It took weeks before I was able to function between treatments again. As soon as I could, I started poring over Zoe’s schematics, and rifling through the components Sabrina had retrieved. A picture was starting to form in my head. It wasn’t enough, not yet, but I was on the right path.

I needed to understand what it was Zoe was building, and how it worked. It was crucial. If I couldn’t manage that, well…

As I began to regain mental acuity, Zoe filled me in on the next stage of the recovery process. Once the toxic agents had been completely removed from my system, she’d be able to use a diluted version of her own blood, to repair the damage. She’d also proposed a few modifications, and I’d taken to that suggestion with an almost manic glee, when I realised the possibilities.

I was looking through the components we had available, and putting together the plans for the first round of upgrades, when she stepped into the room, completely silent.

I’d realised two things about her, in the time I’d spent with her. We’d dramatically underestimated her.

First, she wasn’t just strong, or fast. That was such an oversimplification of what she could do. When she moved, she moved like a wild animal, with a predatory grace that sent a chill down my spine. It became apparent just how dangerous she’d be in a fight very early on, and I was very glad we were working together.

Second, she was brilliant. Her understanding of mechanical engineering might have outstripped my own, and mine was supernatural. She was a scientific genius, familiar with concepts that would have sent the most respected minds of the generation reeling. She could run calculations in her head as fast as any computer.

I was so very, very glad we were working together.

“You lied to Sabrina,” she said, though there was no accusation in her tone. Only statement of fact. Even still, I panicked.

“Eh?” I replied, as nonchalantly as I could manage. She couldn’t suspect me, not yet. I hadn’t done anything to earn it.

“About your condition,” she said, with a glint in her eye that told me to tread very carefully.

“I’m not faking this,” I said, knowing better than to outright lie. She was basically a human lie detector. Well, maybe not human.

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

I looked up at her, barely able to stand. If she genuinely thought I was trying to deceive her, she’d have torn my head off already. Probably literally.

“Oh. You mean Wendy,” I said, knowing full well she didn’t. I knew exactly what she was talking about, but if I didn’t play this exactly right… “I really can’t tell you where she-“

“Rachel. You need to be honest with me. I can tell when you’re lying.” That glint in her eye again, replaced almost immediately with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything to Sabrina.”

Right, because it was Sabrina I was worried about. A clumsy teenage fool with no ability to control her abilities.

“I haven’t lied,” I insisted, lying.

“I know Wendy,” Zoe said. “I know how she works. There’s something missing from your story.”

I had to force myself to maintain normal breathing. We both knew where this was going, but I had to play things just right.

“I assure you, there isn’t,” I said evenly.

Zoe smiled indulgently. “With your physiology, her blood should have lasted decades. More, if you were careful.”

Keep her focused on that lie, so she misses the real one.

“I told you, Charlie tore it out of me.”

My chest ached just thinking about it. I could still picture her standing above me, my blood dripping from the blade…

“There would have been enough left in your system to heal you completely,” she said, undeterred. She was right, of course. “Here’s the thing. Her body also produced a counter-toxin, designed to strip any traces of her blood from someone’s system. Now, if someone had injected you with that after Charlie had ripped it out…”

My body twitched involuntarily. Those wounds were still fresh.


“It can’t have been Wendy, though,” Zoe said, barely talking to me. “She’d have known. And Charlie wouldn’t have had a reason to. Which means someone else was working with Wendy.”

I had to keep myself from laughing. She was so close, and yet still so far.

Charlie had tricked Wendy, tricked me, tricked them. All of us, in order to claim that power for herself.

I shook my head. There was no point giving those names to Zoe. No, worse than that. If she knew, if she could track them down, it could ruin everything.

“You won’t tell me?” she asked, annoyed. “After they left you in this condition?”

“It’s complicated,” I said.

I saw the anger flash through her eyes, but it passed almost instantaneously, and I knew I’d managed to keep her off the right path.

“Okay,” she said. “I can understand you not trusting me.”

“It’s not just that,” I said.

“In any case, it’s not important. I think we’re ready to start you on stage two. How do you feel about that?”

I glanced again at the plans I’d been weakly scribbling down in a notebook, looked back at her, and grinned.

Chapter 21 – Everyone Has An Agenda

Part 3 – Rachel

Everyone has an agenda. Charlie taught me that, and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. With her, it was never about love, it was about what I could do for her, for her crusade. The crusade that should have killed her, if only that were even possible.

Strangely, she didn’t scare me. I wondered what that said about me, that an immortal superhuman could declare to the entire world that she was coming for me, and I wasn’t the least bit scared. A dark part of my brain laughed. What else could she even take from me at this point?

That night was a vivid memory to me, one I relived every time I closed my eyes. I was lying on my back, fingers gripping the sides of the table, as her knife cut me open, and she reached in and stole the borrowed power inside of me. She walked away a demigod. I could barely walk at all.

I remembered the scream, the horrifying, piercing shriek that had literally torn open the sky, and brought monsters into the world. I remembered the way the pain had shown on her face, the way she’d dropped to the ground, clutching herself like she was trying to keep from being ripped up from the inside.

The memories were so intense, I didn’t realise I was dreaming until I woke up, breathing ragged, covered in sweat. Adrenaline surged through my system and I felt disoriented, wondering what I was doing in what looked like a run down hospital room. It took a few moments to remember.

This was Zoe’s home, an abandoned medical facility that Sabrina had led me to. Somewhere I would be safe, and maybe, somewhere I could recover.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I noticed Sabrina sitting across the room, her legs folded up against her chest, a wary expression on her face. If she noticed me wake up, she didn’t give any indication of it.

“Were you watching me sleep?” I asked, struggling to pull myself up to a seated position. Every muscle in my body felt weak, barely able to support my own weight. My bones felt brittle, and I couldn’t stop shaking.

“Asks the girl who broke into my room,” Sabrina retorted, shifting her weight, swinging her legs down to hang off the side of the table.

“My life was at risk,” I protested. “Is still at risk.”

“Necessity is the mother of all evil,” she said, and I didn’t have the energy to tell her she was mixing her metaphors. It didn’t seem like a conversation worth having.

“So is there a reason behind you watching me?”

“I don’t trust you,” she said bluntly.

I sighed. “Well, at least you’re honest about it.”

She dropped off the side of the table, crossing the room to get closer to me. She lacked Zoe’s animalistic grace when she inhabited her own body.

“How do you know so much?” she demanded, a determined expression fixed on her face.

“I was with Charlie through the whole process,” I said, shrugging. “I’ve been dealing with this shit a lot longer than you have.”

She shook her head. “Zoe’s machine. Why does she think you can help?”

“Because I can,” I replied, a little shortly.

Sabrina didn’t like that. She folder her arms, her suspicions intensified.

“So you’re, what, a metaphysical engineer, now?” she asked, her tone suggesting it was not a genuine question.

I sighed again, wishing something as simple as having a conversation wasn’t so exhausting. I could feel the room swimming, and my head was aching, but she wasn’t going to leave me alone until she was satisfied.

“Do you read many comics?” I asked.

“Huh? No, why?”

“You think I don’t have a power, because I’m weak,” I stated, not leaving her room to correct my assertion.

Her eyes grew wide. “Are you a mind reader?” she asked, taking a step backwards.

“No, thank fuck,” I answered, rolling my eyes. “That sounds terrible.”

“What, then?” she asked, clearly frustrated. “Super arrogance?”

I smirked. “You should sheath that wit before you cut yourself with it.” She glowered at me. I decided to answer her question. “I’m a tinker.”

The way her eyes nearly glazed over, it was almost comical.

“A what?”

“I have a preternatural affinity for technology,” I explained.

“That’s not a power, that’s just being a nerd,” she said accusingly.

For some reason, that annoyed me. All I wanted to do was rest, but I’d used valuable energy trying to explain to her what I could do, and all she could respond with was trying to insult me.

“You’ll eat those words some day,” I said. “Besides, Zoe thinks I’m valuable, and she’s a lot smarter than you-“

Do try to get along, children,” Zoe said, gliding in through the open door. Speak of the devil…

“I’m leaving,” Sabrina said sharply. “I’ll get you the next item by Friday.”

She stormed out of the room, right past Zoe, who made no attempt to stop her. Once Sabrina was completely gone, Zoe raised an eyebrow in my direction.

“You upset her,” she said.

“She’ll live,” I said with yet another shrug.

“What do you think she is?” Zoe asked, suddenly serious.

“Different,” I said, not wanting to give away all of my suspicions at once. “Dangerous. Completely innocent.”

“Interesting,” she said, nodding in vague agreement. There was an awkward silence, one which she eventually filled my smiling warmly and asking, “Ready to begin your treatment?”

“Yes,” I said immediately.

“I haven’t told you what’s involved, yet,” she warned.

“It can’t possibly be worse than this,” I retorted.

“We’ll see,” was all she said in response.

“What am I in for?”

She walked over to the bed, helping me out of it. She took my hand and led me back to the main area, where she did most of her tinkering.

“Stage one is basically cleansing your system,” she said. “Are you familiar with cancer treatments?”

I shuddered. “I don’t suppose those are quick and painless where you’re from?” I asked without hope.

“I was deliberately using a more modern reference point,” she said. “We’re going to flood your system with a cytotoxic agent, combined with near-lethal, targeted doses of radiation.”

“Sounds delightful,” I said dryly. “Sign me up.”

“It’s a very specific malady we’re dealing with here,” she said, a little defensively, as if I’d disapproved of her methods.

“Tell me about stage two, then,” I said. “Brighten my spirits.”

“It’s going to hurt,” she told me. “A lot.”


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


Age: ??? (looks maybe 18)

Height: 5’3″ (160cm)

Ethnicity: Asian

Body type: Slender

Hair: Medium-length, straight, black

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.”


“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.”