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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.


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


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 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 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.


“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.

Chapter 7 – What Did You Do That For?

Halfway back to Zoe’s place, or at least the building I remembered her being in, I heard someone shouting, only a street away. They sounded scared. I froze.

Part of me wanted to just keep walking. To ignore it. Whatever was happening, it wasn’t my problem, didn’t affect me, and getting involved could make things worse.

It was a very small part of me. The rest of me was already moving towards the source of the sound. Apparently I wasn’t the type to learn from my mistakes.

I ran around the corner running at full speed and barrelled right into somebody. They grunted as we both fell backwards, though I barely felt the impact at all.

“Sorry,” I said, already standing up again.

The guy I’d run into looked up at me, a look of pure terror plastered across his face. He quickly scrambled to his feet before pushing past me.

“Run, dude,” he said, his voice hoarse. I turned to look past him, and realised why he was running.

I didn’t know what I was looking at, but it was running right at me, and it showed no signs of slowing down. I clenched my first, already feeling my body begin to change. The world slowed, the cold receded. Everything became clearer.

Whatever it was, it almost looked human. It had a human face, albeit one twisted by rage and an intense focus on the guy I’d knocked over. It wasn’t even paying attention to me.

It was a good couple of feet taller than me, with pallid grey skin and prominent black veins. Every muscle on its body bulged, and despite its humanoid stature it ran on all fours.

I stood my ground as it got closer, saliva dripping from its lips. It seemed like it was just going to run right through me. I almost couldn’t wait for it to try. I felt strong.

As soon as it got close enough, I pulled my fist back and punched it right in the jaw. I felt the force of the impact travel up my arm, and an ache begin in my shoulder, but the creature was thrown sideways, growling as it slid across the ground.

I smiled as it snarled at me, its focus on the boy completely lost. Just what I wanted. I braced myself as it charged again.

It occurred to me as it threw itself through the air towards me that I didn’t have the first idea how to fight. I’d always avoided violence, and yet here I was, throwing myself headfirst into a fight with some kind of inhuman monster. Never mind wondering what the creature even was, or what it was doing in Melbourne.

The creature collided with me, and it hurt a lot more than the bullets did. It threw me back into the wall behind me, and I felt the bricks crumble and break.

It sank its teeth into my shoulder, and I cried out, surprised by how much it hurt. As strong as I was, this thing seemed to be able to match, and it had size and weight behind it on top. It suddenly occurred to me I was in an extremely bad position.

Adrenaline surged through me as I grabbed it by the shoulders, and threw it backwards off of me. It rolled along the ground, landing on its feet, looking even more pissed than before.

It charged again, and I knew there was nothing I could do if it hit me. Instead, I leap-frogged over it, landing behind it as it crashed into the wall, almost running right through it. Just how strong was this thing?

My mind was racing, trying to come up with some way to stop it. If it could shake off running headfirst into a solid brick wall, I wasn’t so sure there was a lot I could throw at it that would have much more of an impact. I could keep punching it until it fell down, but I was more likely to end up getting beaten up myself that way.

The creature snarled loudly, a sound that echoed throughout the streets. Moments later, I heard several snarled responses. I could only assume that meant more were on the way.

“What did you do?” a voice shouted, their voice shaking a little. The guy I’d knocked over had stuck around, hiding behind a bin.

Before I could say anything to him, the creature charged at me again. This time, instinct took over.

I ducked as it threw itself at me, driving my forearm into its neck. I slammed my fist into its stomach, and flipped it over the top of me, smashing it into the wall behind me. It dropped to the ground headfirst, and without thinking, I brought my foot down on its neck.

I shuddered as I heard it crunch beneath me, and the creature twitched and stopped moving. The guy was just staring, his mouth gaping open.

A dark shape dropped down from above, landing in a graceful stance, arms spread wide. The guy went back to hiding behind the bin.

“What the hell did you do that for?” the newcomer asked, standing up straight. A long coat fluttered behind them, and their face was hidden behind a dark mask, the eyes glowing an eerie red. Their voice was distorted, filtered through the mask.

“You’re the Vigilante,” I said, suddenly feeling intimidated.

“And you’re a murderer,” they said, taking a step towards me. “Do you have any idea who you just killed?”

I looked down at the motionless body beneath me. All I saw was a grotesque, mutated monster.

“How could I possibly know who that was?”

The Vigilante took another, aggressive step towards me.

“And that makes it okay to kill them? Because you don’t know who they used to be?”

I shrank back, not feeling frightened, but guilty. I had a sinking, twisting feeling in my gut, as I realised what the creature was.

“They’re human,” I said, my voice strangled. “Infected. This is what happens to them.”

The Vigilante crouched beside me, running their hand across the dead body’s hairless head.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to save them, after they get infected,” they said. “But I’m determined to find out. We owe them that much.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” I asked. “Nothing seems to stop them, and people, uninfected people, we need to protect them, too…”

The Vigilante reached into their coat, and pulled out a syringe, filled with a clear liquid. With their other hand, they pulled out what appeared to be a toy pistol. After twirling it through their fingers, they handed both to me.

“I’ve tested a lot of sedatives, this is the only one that seems to work. A full syringe will knock them out for about an hour, half a syringe for a quarter of that.”

“And the gun?” I asked, holding it awkwardly away from me.

“It’s a flare gun. Shoot it if you manage to subdue one, and I’ll come retrieve it,” the Vigilante said, looking down at the dead one again.

“And do what?”

“I’ve been keeping them somewhere,” they said. “It’s safe, they can’t hurt anyone and they can’t get out.”

“Don’t they hurt each other?” I asked, surprised.

“No, they don’t. This infection, it seems almost deliberate. They cooperate, working together. And they’re not as mindless as they seem. The more of them that are together, the smarter they seem.”

“And you’re putting more and more into one place?”

The Vigilante laughed.

“Trust me, nothing’s getting out of where I’m keeping them, no matter how clever and coordinated they become.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because it took me six months to get out, with help from the outside,” they said.

Our conversation was interrupted by another echoing snarl. One of the infected humans came rushing into the street, another dropping down from a rooftop.

“Take the boy and go,” the Vigilante ordered. “I’ll take care of these two.”

Bonus – She Watches

Sabrina approaches the unconscious body of Zoe, oblivious to the smoke and flame and sparking wires. Others in the crowd cry out, but nobody steps forward to help her. All they do is watch, and pass judgement.

The Vigilante watches.

Sabrina steps on a shard of glass and mirror, the edge of it cutting cleanly through her flesh. She stumbles, but doesn’t notice. Her focus is on Zoe.

The Vigilante watches.

Sabrina stares at Zoe, her eyes full of wonder. Zoe is reflected in Sabrina’s eyes.

Zoe moves.

Sabrina stares.

Zoe is powerful, elegant, graceful. Feminine and beautiful and terrible and deadly.

Sabrina covets that existence.

Something inside of her reaches out.

Power surges through her.

Sabrina passes out, overwhelmed.

Zoe picks her up.

The Vigilante watches.