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   Chapter 3

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required: Damsel[ed]: No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 10247

Updated: 2017-12-05 12:05

Most people describe hospitals as white and sharp and depressing. They say the halls smell of antiseptic and the doctors share the same sad expression on their stone-straight-faces. But Starlight City Central isn“t anything like that. The people smile, the air smells of Lavender Glade, and the walls gleam with bright yellows, oranges, and blues. Every little detail seems to say, "cheer up, there“s still hope."

And then there“s the super ward.

The person who designed the place must“ve either hated supers or threw up their hands and said, "You know what? Let“s make this place look like a pit of agony and despair. Because supers aren“t human, right? They don“t pick up on that kind of stuff."

The place is a custard color. Ick. The stench of antiseptic almost knocks me off my feet and Gats breaks into a sneeze-attack. I search every little corner of the halls for a fluff of dirt. Spic“ and spam. I should feel at ease with all the cleanliness, but I want to run away. Gats seems equally nervous, twisting his sleeves, tugging his beanie, and swinging his head back and forth, back and forth. "Dude," I say, Jaylin“s hand still intertwined with mine, "you okay?"

He nods, silent. I lean on his shoulder. We walk through a few more corridors, and my heart quickens with each step. It“s like we“re going into a tunnel. At last, we stop at a pair of brown doors, ones with a single word arching over them: Experimental.

My feet root to the cheap linoleum and I stare at the sign forever. I don“t know what it means, whether Hev was once part of an experiment like Gats and I or if doctors are actively using her to test stuff on. Either way, just looking at the stupid sign fills me with adrenaline and my wings fluff up. "Huh," Jaylin says, "interesting."

While Storm and June mutter at each other, I power through the doors. A whirlwind of emotions swirl in my chest, first with Hev being hurt and now the Experimental thing. Jay tugs away. "Ang?"

The sheer whiteness of the place makes me want to pull back and hide behind her, but I force myself to breathe and trek through the blinding color. Curtains separate each little room and doctors pace like rats in a cage. Experimental. The word punctuates each little thought. I hope Heaven“s okay. Experimental. This place should be condemned. Experimental. Man, I could go for a fifth Quarter Pounder. Experimental.

I think I“ll puke.

Gats shoots a nervous glance back at the door and catches me by the shoulder. "What does that mean?"

"I don“t know."

Just as I say it, a squad of nurses rush at us. I grab my hip for a sword before I even realize what I“m doing. Man. I just keep getting weirder and weirder.

"Are you lost?" asks one.

"Do you have security clearance?" asks another.

June steps in front of me. "Juniper Fibbs, husband, and people of interest."

The nurse raises a suspicious eyebrow. "May I see some sort of identification?"

June flips something out of her purse, and the nurse steps aside at the sight of it. "Where are you headed, ma“am?"

My jaw hits the floor. So Juniper has security clearance at a hospital. This is new.

"To see a superpowered patient. Would you happen to know a certain Toby Brooks?"

"June! Just the person I need!" An imposing form shoulders through the group, and I recognize Toby almost immediately. He isn“t hard to miss, even when he looks less than surgeonly with his blue scrub shirt tucked into his slacks. He must be off duty.

Toby is Hev“s older brother, and by older, I mean eighteen years older. Even though he“s legally old enough to be Heaven“s father, that hasn“t stopped Gats from man-crushing on him for the past few years.

Admittedly, Toby“s pretty striking. Tall, dark, much more muscly than you“d expect a doctor type to be, and oozing the same authority Hev shows in Galaxy form. As much as he breaks into our conversation and pretends to be "one of the guys" Hev, Gats, and I never forget to "yes, sir" and "no, sir" him.

"Yes?" June asks.

"I have a dilemma." He waves away the nurses. "I need you to see Heaven. Please." The pride in his voice seems to trickle away, the “please“ said so meekly, I feel a little sick. My mind“s whirling anyway, with the June having security clearance thing. What secrets has she kept from me, is still keeping from me? I don“t know, and suddenly, I don“t feel so willing to trust her anymore.

"I“ll do my best to help," June vows. Toby nods solemnly and turns, motioning for us to follow. While Jay and the adults do, Gats and I hang back. He fixes his clothes for the umpteenth thousand time, and I try to put myself in his shoes. What is he thinking? There“s so much I want to say. At the very least, ask him if he“s still scared of me. I open my mouth to say something, but he speaks first.

"So," he says.

"So," I say back.

"You still mad at me for skewering you?"

I shrug. "Depends. You plan on doing it again?" He shakes his head, but I know he“s lying. The feral glint in his eye, the nervous twitch of his fingers, the soft flick of his ears beneath his beanie. Whatever. He“s a cat

. Cats are scared of everything. "It“s fine, but next time try to reason with me first. Then you can break out the swordplay. Good that?"

"I“m sorry," he says.

"Eh." I shrug and slap him on the back. "What best friends don“t try to kill each other?" He shoots me a grateful smile and we weave into Heaven“s room. Jay stands at the door like a guard, her face hauntingly blank. As usual. One day I“ll buy her a mood ring, then maybe I“ll read her better.

The room is blue, the beep, beep, beep of machines like a muffled heartbeat. Fluorescent lights flood the place with a harsh glow. Hev lies in a bed, sheets rolled over her chest and tubes running up and down her arms. A sick feeling claws at my stomach. I don“t like seeing her like this. She talks so much, smiles so much, and does the stupidest things. Seeing her so dead kills me, too.

"What does this do?" Jaylin asks, pointing to a boxy monitor hooked up to Hev.

"Keeps her heartbeat from getting too slow. It“s been an uphill battle, keeping her vitals working," Toby says, his voice so soft he“s almost whispering. "You can talk to her. She can hear you, you know."

My heart twists at odd angles. I remember Hev and I as kids, how we chased each other around in the schoolyard as the other third-graders stuck their noses up at our immaturity. I remember our lightsaber battles and the times we spent sitting in the low branches of park trees, legs swinging and vanilla cones in hand. What do I say now? That I don“t want to lose her? That I“d do anything to protect her? That if she leaves, I“ll miss her more than she could ever imagine? I glance at Gats. I don“t think I“m allowed to feel so much for Hev now they“re a thing. "Um," I say, "hi."

So I“m not a pro at this. That any surprise? Gats steps up to her and puts a hand on her cheek so gently she must not feel it at all. "Hello, Hev. You aren“t missing much, you know?" Silence. He looks at her so tenderly I turn away.

"New boyfriend?" Toby asks with a pained smile. He scratches his stubble.

I nod. "At least, I think so, sir."

June steps in front of me. "Why is Heaven in this ward?"

Toby stops smiling. "I made a deal."


"Please, look at this where I“m coming from. She was going to die. Doctors don“t want a healer looking at her, and they won“t allow her a drop of a super-enhanced drug."

Storm frowns. "You know why. SEs are incredibly unpredictable. They could just as easily rewire Hev“s brain as they could steady her heartbeat."

I learned this in school. Many people make a quick buck by selling their superpowers in a process known as “power-harvesting.“ It“s very illegal and very taboo. Their drained powers can be used to strengthen others, enhance weapons, or even be put in drugs, SEs. Pretty dangerous stuff, but they can heal people on the brink of death. It“s one of those hot-button issues, like pot and Donald Trump, and they“re still illegal for the most part.

"You think I don“t know that?" Toby snaps. "Maybe when one of your boys goes into cardiac arrest three times in a single night you“ll understand!"

I flinch.

"What of this deal?" June asks.

Toby sucks in a breath. "I made a very, very bad mistake. For the drug that“ll keep Heaven alive, I promised--"

"Cat!" I whip around to see Gats glaring furiously at Jay. She leans over him and touches one of the machines. Her eyes are shut. She“s focused in deep concentration. Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbe--

The heart monitor explodes, sparks everywhere. They hit the ground like embers. I jump. Dials and lights on other pieces of tech go ballistic, breaking and crashing all over the floor. Doctors rush in and order us out, but none of us move. Well, except for Jaylin.

"I“m so sorry!" she gushes, "I didn“t mean to!" She wheels out of the room, but I don“t follow. I just stand there, watching the doctors maneuver, shocking Hev with an EKG, trying to get some sort of result. Heaven, oh no. She can“t be doing worse.

"No response..." I hear, and "...medically dead..."

My heart skips. No. Heaven doesn“t die. She just doesn“t. She“s Heaven.

Someone wheels in a gurney.

"Get her out of here! Get these people out of here!"

A nurse tries to herd us away, but Gats catapults over him. Another shock. No response. And then...

"Gats? Ang? Where am I? Toby?"

Gatsby squeals, breaking into catty cries of joy. I almost do the same. Another nurse squad barrels in, and the room is a sea of white coats and blue scrubs.

"The hell happened to this equipment?" asks a doctor in the chaos. Poor man.

I slip through the nurse-guard, whispers of "impossible," and "remarkable," floating around me.

"I“m fine, really, please let me see my friends. Hey! Don“t hold Gats like that! He“s delicate, you know." I see Hev sit up, her curls tumbling out over the back of her shoulders. I smile, so relieved I can“t find anything to say. Two people drop a mewing Gats.

Toby rushes to see his sister, but Storm holds him back with an arm across his chest. "What did you promise for the SEs?"

"Heaven“s service in a group known as Snare."

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