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   Chapter 46

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 18599

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


"Hey!" Warm fingers close around my neck. I spin and arc the sickle down. The blade“s blunt edge slaps my thigh and ribbons of goopy blood splatter my jeans. Before my brain registers what I did, I watch the man wheeze and drop to the grimy floor. His mask snaps in half. I force down the bile rising in my throat and rest my back against the metal table. I“ve never cut someone before. But he“ll heal. Jaylin needs time to save Angel and I have to buy it.

The shop is so tight that the villains have to squeeze together to fit. It“s small enough too that the girl and I had to slash and punch our way into the center. Metal shelves climb the walls like ladder rungs, full of plastic bottles, syringes, and wilted plants. Baggies of powder, even.

"Okay!" The girl claps and swings up on the table, kicking up her legs like a cheerleader. She“s a fun kid. Still getting a hang of the superhero thing and I“m not helping, slashing people across the face and all. "Stand back, you guys. If anyone comes at us, my friend here will slash you right through!" She flicks her ponytail and makes a fake swinging motion with her free hand. Her name is Natalie and she says she likes comic books and ballet. She makes an okay right-hand man when you need one. Takes orders. Cracks jokes. Even if she is a little taller than me and even if she rests her elbow on my shoulder to flaunt it, I can deal.

People crowd into the store in twos and threes. I thought it counter-intuitive to crash a shop on the second floor, but Jaylin ran here and I trust her. When someone gives you your powers back, you can“t help but feel a little indebted. A little trusting.

"Who are you?" asks a girl with orange hair and a torn sweater. I caught her when she came up the stairs with her tall, greasy friend. I give her wrist a light squeeze, pale and thin like it“s all bone and no skin. I“m tempted to say “your worst nightmare,“ just to be dramatic, but Jaylin“s the dramatic one, not me. So I shrug.

"I want to get my friend back. I won“t hurt you if you don“t get in the way."

"Hmph!" She spins on the heels of her boots and slams a kick into my stomach. I hiss out a sharp breath, the bliss of whatever drug Jaylin stabbed into me shattered. She races down the stairs and I whirl off the table, landing on bent knees with a “crunch!“

The man“s mask crumbles into broken pieces like butterfly wings under my feet. I hold back a grimace and hand the sickle over my shoulder. "Stay safe." Natalie takes it. Her fingertips rest delicately on the handle as if the weapon will spring to life and chew her to pieces if she isn“t careful.

I can“t fault her. She shoots me a brave nod and waves it above her head like a pom-pom. "We“re neutral guys," she says. She picked up the terminology from Jay and I, and she learns fast. "Make a move and your leader will scrap “ya!"

Her chirpy voice dogs me as I pound down the stairs. "Fallout, Fallout!" calls the bloody girl with the droopy sweater. "We“re under attack—"

"I“ve noticed." The villain“s voice is low and soft, and though I“ve heard my fill of head honchos, it gives me chills. I take the creaking steps in threes. Stars glitter through a low window. I feel like I“m rushing into the bowels of a dungeon tower to save a princess. Or a prince.

I zoom down the stairs. One snaps under my weight, but I don“t dare take flight. Not yet. Not until I“m sure my powers are back completely. For all I know there“s a time limit on it, and when the clock strikes twelve I“ll be wheezing away with a hole in my ribs. Seconds pass for my eyes to get used to the dark. When I slam down the last step, I gasp. I“m tired from running circles around that woman.

But now, I barely notice my lack of energy. Barely care. Angelos dangles in his father“s grasp, staring wide-eyed at Jaylin. His face is splotched with a myriad of bruises and so are his arms. They must be fresh—I was with him a couple days ago—but they“re already fading, dappled yellow and green. He“s wearing a collared shirt dirtied with blood and dust. His wings are dry and frumpy, dragging at the tips with loops of rope. And he“s chained. Cuffed at the ankles. Cuffed at the wrists. A chain hangs from his neck and falls to his bound up hands.

"Heaven!" He tips his head to the side and gives a little giddy whoop. The eye he sacrificed to buy Gats and I time to escape that lair is glazed black. He shoots me a smile over Jaylin“s head. "Are you feeling okay? Better, I mean?"

"Angel!" I want to hug him. I want to hug him and tell him everything will be okay. Jaylin“s talking behind me, but her words

"You and Owl have to talk about this. You and her broke bread over it years ago, right? You can“t break the agreement now. You made it." Jaylin“s holds her hands out flat when she talks to Fallout. The others flank her on either side as if she were their prisoner, though I know that“s not the case. If they actually posed threats, she would“ve batted them away like flies. "So put him down," she says. "I“ll make sure no one hurts him." Jaylin raises her eyes to the man“s fist poised over Angel“s head. "He“s kind of aggravating. Don“t let him get to you."

Angel rolls his good eye. He might be rolling his bad eye too, but I can“t tell. "Yeah, yeah. Very aggravating. Rawr." His hands flop at the wrists like a tyrannosaurus“, and his knees, curled to his chest, tremble. I know he“s hurt and that he“s putting on a show. He winks. It makes me angry he has to play that when he“s hurting. "Hear that, Dad? Even the girls think I“m ag

oss it, pink splashing the floor like candy stripes.

Fallout slides his hand out of mine and leans against the wall. Mold pokes through the cracks in great green streaks and rubs against his jacket. He draws up a breath and winks shut an eye, the other one wide as he watches me.

"You want to save Starlight City," he says with a tilt of his head. As if it“s a question. As if something like that needs to be asked. I blink once, twice.

"I do, and I want my friends back. You have Angelos."

"I need him," he says. "And you seem to forget he“s my son and I have more claim to him than you."

I yank at a strand of hair and twirl it around my finger with as much force as I would whirl fettuccine around a fork. My eyes narrow and meet his. "No, he“s not. He“s Storm“s son and Juniper“s. They love him and care for him and everything. You—"

"Storm and Juniper raising kids." The man shakes his head and laughs with his head tosses back."God, that“s funny."

"They“re great parents."

"I“m sure." He giggles. "If Juniper doesn“t experiment on him in his sleep and Storm doesn“t use him as target practice." My hands clench the whip to steady them. Fallout wheezes and brushes a tear from his lashes. "A mad scientist and an assassin."

He“s lying to me about them. He“s a supervillain and that“s what supervillains do. "What do you want, Fallout?"

The villain speaks fast. "It“s Owl. She“s up to something." He wipes sweat off his forehead with his sleeve and the fabric rustles as it brushes his cheek. "You have superpowers and anyone with those needs to fight her off."

"I“m not getting involved in your gang war," I say, an ear tilted back toward the room where Angel and Jay chat. Their words fall through the door as crisply as if I were with them.

"I don“t know," Angel says. "You“re a villain and I know you aren“t all bad and I“m sorry for lashing out at you all those times and you came to rescue me and—"

A brick smashes through the low window. The glass pane explodes in shards through the bars like shrapnel and I wheel back. A jag slashes Fallout“s eyebrow and blood splatters my face, warm like hot glue. My breath comes in warm spirals. A girl“s shriek tears from upstairs. Cold washes over me like ice water dumped over my head. I“ve only known Natalie a few hours and I“ve memorized the way she screams. I shove Fallout back. I tear up the flight of stairs and shoulder through the shop“s back door. The room is dark, but the glow of the exit sign lights up his eyes. Blue. Bluer than any sky or pond or sea could dream of being. They bleed into mine and they“re shiny. Like they“ve been crying.

The silk of his shirt shines. How he got here, I can“t tell. But his hands are punched in his pockets, and his face is lifted to meet mine. The cat ears twitch, his loose hair tumbled down to the nape of his neck at a stylish taper. A pink scar draws across his cheek and cuts the side of his face in even parts. I blink to make sure he isn“t a mirage.

"Hev?" he asks, and his voice is soft and raspy, low with his accent. All at once, the working parts in me snap. For a second I“m jelly. My eyes burn with tears, and though my mind tells me to help the poor girl who screamed for me, for a second I“m frozen.


"I“m sorry," he says. I rush toward him but he backs away. Wheels out of my arms so I can“t touch him. "I“m sorry, I“m sorry, I“m sorry."

The girl“s still screaming. "Heaven!" she cries. "Help!" I tear past him.My heart“s racing even faster than I am. I have my boys back but something“s wrong.

The room is empty, all for a woman in red armor with her hand clasped around Natalie“s throat.

"Hello, Heaven," Owl says over her shoulder.

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