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   Chapter 40

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 14548

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Jaylin.

"Oh, my God!" the girl squeals as she sniffs the air. "Food!"

I stifle a sigh. Heaven“s body hangs limp over my arms. Her bleeding has long stopped. I don“t know if she“s asleep or just pretending to be, but I can only guess she“s too prideful for the later and I stopped caring an hour ago. Many a time as Silver Girl and I picked our way through the undergrowth has Heaven woken up to fresh pain, muttering that she can walk if I just set her down. Many a time have my knuckles grown raw from knocking her back to sleep. The little hero glares when I do it, Heaven struggles. I just yell at both of them until they“re both sufficiently silenced.

"Shut it, kid! I could kill you! And you." I“d squeeze Heaven until she made a little cry, and I have to say, that was hard to drive from her, the prideful little thing. "Have a taste of your own freaking medicine! I“m just trying to protect you, here. Go to freaking sleep and stay in it!"

I think he hates me now more than ever. Well, At least she isn“t dead, though I“m beginning to wonder if breathing life back into the ungrateful brat was a wise move on my part.

My nose twitches. The prickly forest is behind us now and night has fallen. Darker than obsidian, thicker than oil. The stars, usually such a beautiful sight over Starlight City, are gone. Like someone smeared them all away. Tufts of green and brown clover spring up over the hills, and the slope is sharp under my feet, steep enough to break necks if one isn“t careful.

My face and hands throb from encounters with thorns and low branches. The air smells sweet with spring greenery and savory with the tang of cooking meat. I narrow my eyes, staring at the back of the brick building and the giant slab of a gray door. Gray chains dangle around the handle, padlocks hanging off them like keys from a lanyard. I smirk. They won“t be an issue "Food."

I can“t help a small grin. My skin is grimy, sticky with sweat. The girl glances up, her ponytail limp with grease and the glitter of her mask rubbed away in patches. She smiles. A tentative thing, probably expecting me to punch her in the face. I don“t. My stomach rumbles, starving. Us supers, we eat a lot. Our strength comes unnaturally, every bit of sugar and fat metabolized in queer sort of way that leaves researchers drooling for us. I was never interested in the science of it, not really. I know the name of certain chemicals, the ones that make my powers go berserk. But that“s it.

It“s a lousy power, the catalystism, I mean. The only good it does is occasionally bringing out sleeping superpowers in an oddball kid or two. Or blow things up. Tech stuff, usually. If I try to channel the power and stimulate reactions in machines, they usually can“t take the surge and the world goes “boom.“

"So. Do you plan on breaking in? Or can we just waltz in through the doors?"

I snort. "In your get-up, you“d be dragged to the machines in minutes. Plus, I kind of have a bounty on my head, so I“m just as much of a target as you. With better fashion sense." I nudge the girl in the ribs, playful-like. She looks up at me with such fear you“d think I vaporized everything I touch. And that only happens sometimes.

"M-machines?" She flinches, running a finger under the edge of her mask and sweating buckets. Her face betrays terror, even with the mask. Not very hero-like, but eh, they can“t all be Heavens.

"Yeah, machines. Sap your powers. Scary things. Boo!" I crouch low, digging my hands into the loose layer of gravel on the parking lot. Tar-filled cracks weave “s“s on pavement, and I know we“re at Starlight“s very edge.

Mayor Curtis allots a fat chunk of the city-state“s budget to infrastructure with all the loose-cannon supers hanging around, and since Starlight spends so much on keeping streets sturdy, the city likes to make them pretty, too. As for Old Newport, Starlight City“s closest neighbor and biggest rival, their money goes into their police force. Their streets are safe, but they suck to drive on.

I stare at the “S“s. Snare. Syndicate. Supervillains. I glance at Heaven, still limp in my arms like a doll. Superhero. Sycophant.

She looks like a doll, too. When Poison and I were kids we“d line up Barbies and toy soldiers, pick up aluminum bats, and smash their plastic bodies in until they lay in mangled piles.

an kicks it open. The girl hero leans her elbow on my shoulder as we walk, flaunting our height difference. I almost punch her, but I force self-restraint. Maggie leads us in the back room of her little restaurant. There“s a chestnut table, two lounge chairs, and a giant clock that fills the entire room with ticking. The place smells like lemon Pledge. Her shelves are filled with bottles and bottles, each of them glowing a different color. I recognize them instantly. Auras. All of them except the purple one, the rarest at the end of the spectrum. There“s a reason Angel was built and bred, and the aura has something to do with it, I“m sure. She lays Heaven down flat on her back. The hero“s entire body fits on the coffee table, which I find funny until I remember she“s my height. The woman watches me stare at auras.

"Like “em?" she asks.

I nod. She walks over and skims her fingers over the glass.

"They“re like stock, prices always changing. I always keep one or two for when the market shift and it“s profitable to sell them."

My eyes settle on the one I was looking for: the green one. My heart leaps. A healing aura. I can inject it into Heaven and she“ll heal, fully heal. Maybe only temporarily, until it cycles out of her, but pure aura is stronger than any drug someone can make out of it. It can kill a non-super or a weakling one, but Hev“s neither of those. I tap the bottle. "How much for this one?"

The woman with the blade suddenly smirks. "A couple million."

I nearly choke on air. "What?"

"If you want to save the hero, it“ll cost you two million dollars."

I suddenly feel dizzy. The Fibbs are millionaires, but that“s a lot of money to access on short notice. I squeeze the bridge of my nose, a headache starting to well up. Food is the least of my concerns now, and that“s saying something. "What“s the reward the allegiances put out for my capture?" I ask. It“s the only thing I can think to ask. I know Fallout put out a two million dollar reward for Angel, but I“m no Angel. The woman considers.

"A few grand. Four, five tops."

I sigh. Dead end there. Not that I want to sacrifice myself or anything, but it was worth a try. "Will you take anything else?"

"No."

I eye her sickle. I“ll have to disarm her and fight, but I don“t want to. I“m tired. Hungry. "Oh, okay." She whistles and ruffles my hair. I almost hit her. My fists ball but I drop them at my sides, fingers twitching all the while for a fight.

"Poor thing, I ought to feed you, shouldn“t I?"

"Well—"

My voice is cut off by a cry.

A girly cry, distinct in every way, and all too familiar. Every moving part inside me stops, a coldness I“ve never felt before rushing through me. It comes again. Shakes the ground from under my feet. My heart stops. The machine level.

Angel.

They“re gonna rip him apart unless I stop them. I snatch the bottle and take off running.

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