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   Chapter 18

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13095

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04

Back in the Fibbs“ household...

Juniper clenches her jaw, the muscles in her body wound tight with a horrible, horrible unease. Everything around her is going wrong. Sixteen years of holding up a fake reality, trying to give her children-her sons and goddaughter-the best, most normal life she possibly could, and it is all unraveling.

Outside the windows, tension rumbles through Starlight like storm clouds. Her children know nothing of it. She doesn“t let them. No cable, poor internet connection, a school that isolates its students and skirts around the history of supers. Skirts around the history of her. Of Owl. Of Fallout and Cleo and Nebula and all the other supers and the dark, bleak days before the now.

She slinks into the galley kitchen, her mind in a thousand other places. Of course the now isn“t so much different from back then. There“s no denying the hatred, the animosity that lies under sweet little words and fake smiles. Starlight may worship them, there may be gossip magazines dedicated in their honor, but the world is not so onboard.

"To them, we are prey, and they are predators," Mayor Delacroix of Old Newport declared, his fists trembling as he stamped his foot on the dias. "It is only in self defense we stay away from them. No personal bias. After all, some are good people. What would precious little Starlight do without the supers it loves so much?" The crowd hissed and laughed, and the mayor swept his white hair into a neat, handsome part. "But look at their villain problems. We have to face the facts here, people. To be a supervillain, you have to be a super. In this day and age have to treat every super like a potential threat. That“s how we survive."

Juniper sucks in a trembling breath. Delacroix made that speech a day ago.

As people tramp through her house, dirtying up her furniture and growling angrily at the guard who growls angrily back, she finds her husband in the kitchen, the news turned up on his phone as he brews coffee on the stove.

The newswoman“s clear, strong voice cuts through the silence in the kitchen, sending tingles up her spine. "As raids continue from a mysterious source, Starlight City-and its ideologies-is under siege."

"Of course it is," Storm says flatly, "it always is."

"Oh, honey." Juniper runs her finger over his sleeve, looking up at the man she“s lived with for so long she can hardly remember a time before him, before the messes they got each other into and the hell they had to hide.

The coffee bubbles. Storm pours the steamy brew, his hands steady as usual.

"Starlight City is a complicated entity, a megalopolis spanning a fourth of the east coast. After its capture by a rogue villain-group known as “Snare“, a war ensued between the Federalist heroes and the rogue villains. Within three years, Starlight City became it“s own entity, with major social, political, and economic differences from the rest of the country..."

Juniper shrugs. She“s heard the basic history of Starlight hundreds of times. "I suppose when you“re trying not to die, segregation and male supremacy have to take a backseat. "

Storm waves a hand at the phone and frowns, handing her a cup of black coffee. "We“re in trouble," he says curtly.

"What do you mean?" Juniper raises an eyebrow. The two of them are always in trouble. It never ends. He just motions at the thin white iPhone lying flat on the counter.

"The court has yet to decide whether superpowers are inalienable rights or whether the United States Law can take them away."

Juniper tenses up, a cold sweat breaking down her skin. This can“t be happening. The last time it did was over half a century ago, when this type of cruelty and paranoia was allowed.

Many died because of it.

A sharper female voice cuts the air. "They are dangerous and always armed. When someone acts in a criminal manner, you can take away their guns, their knives,

hake it off, but to no avail. Okay, now this is bad.

"Oh, my! Vulgar villain speak!" the hero cries. Some people mutter, but when the hero dumps me on my front and they see my long, black wings, they hush. I“m still shouting, still crying for someone to listen to me, but Poison just pulls and pulls at the gag until it“s so tight I hardly sound out at all. He snorts and laces up my wings with the remaining lasso rope so flying away isn“t an option for me.

Shivers rake my body, and yeah, okay, I“m scared. So many people look on though, some even smiling. I kick and strain and struggle, hoping for someone to realize how wrong this is, how I“m not a villain at all, but they don“t seem to. Instead, Poison flashes a smile down at me, the glint in his eyes cold and cruel.

And then he hits me. It“s a blow to the head, and for a second, I black out, but then I“m back again, my skull throbbing. I growl at him, and "Star Strike" kicks me in the ribs. I cry out under the gag.

"Scum," he says, sweeping a hand from me to the audience. "People like him make Starlight a bad place to live."

So, when he hits me again, that“s his excuse.

And the people buy it.

As I struggle, he and Poison whale me, blow after blow after blow. I“m knocked around, thrown against the walls, picked up and slung to the floor again. And the whole time I never bleed a drop. I“m still calling out, trying to beg for help, trying to call for someone to step in and say, "Please, that“s enough."

They only two people who do are the guys who chased me down at the store, who shake their heads and mouth, "too much."

"He“ll be fine," the hero says, loud enough so the onlookers hear. "He“s a super. He“ll recover. We just need to knock him out is all. We“re being as gentle as we can be."

And so, for the next few minutes, I“m their punching bag. I lose consciousness for another second and wake up again, only to be pounded harder and harder. It“s abuse. So much cruelty it“s hardly fathomable.

And the onlookers let it happen because he“s a "hero." I wonder why they want to see me suffer. Is it the patch? The wings? The scars? What about me scares them so much?

Even the police don“t step in, and eventually the villains grow tired of hitting me. The "Star Strike" guy picks me up and throws me to the ground. And then the resistance melts from my limbs and I can“t fight at all. I just lie there. Silently.

When the man slings me back over his shoulder people clap softly. He waves as I lie there, stars and circles in my eyes.

"Well, that was fun," Poison says, "we should go heroing more often."

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