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   Chapter 51

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 14079

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Thirteen Years Ago...

Nebula blinked against the spring wind, the night air cool and damp against her skin. She stood in the puddles of an early April shower as cool raindrops dripped down her super-suit. The sky was heavy with stars, and an eerie darkness swam through the gardens. The oil smothered her purple pansies and drowned the roots of Cecil“s rosebushes. The little green plant lay collapsed on its side, leaves splinted and shiny with Fallout“s residue. Nebula and the rest of the superheroes had spent hours toiling on the rooftop gardens. It was their civil duty to pitch into the Heroes Keep Starlight Green campaign. Now the air smelled of sulfur and Jupiter was missing. Cecil paced, back and forth, back and forth. Restless and fidgety, his white gloves dripping the grease. Nebula watched him. Lately, she hadn“t been able to stop.

She stood on the flower boxes, watching with a tired eye as Luna nursed her fluffy white wings. The beautiful hero that always made Nebula“s heart skip beats combed oil off her wings with a fork. Nebula guessed she stole it from the restaurant downstairs. Her blue eyes burned like neon lights in the night, staring holes into Nebula“s armor. Venus stretched on the roof slats, curled up with a Cheshire grin on her face. Mars practiced swinging her battle ax and Comet jogged laps, his version of Cecil“s pacing. Levitating inches above the drowned pansies, Nebula spoke. Her blue biker helmet muffled her honey voice. "Guys, we have a few problems. And I hate to say it, but we“re not doing so well against the baddies at the moment." Her cracked ribs throbbed double time as if in agreement.

"Nice comforting skills, asshole," Venus said, yawning as she cracked an eye open. Her short black hair curled behind her ears, wisps of it brushing her cheeks in the wind. She punched one of the garden boxes and the wood crumpled, pouring black goop on her fists. "If this being Captain Nebula stuff fails, maybe Captain Obvious can pass you the torch. You could captain the “Depressing Stuff Everyone knows but Doesn“t want to say“ team. You“d be good at that!"

Nebula crouched down, pulled up a wilted pansy, and chucked it at Venus“s face. Her face splattered with black ooze. Venus squeaked and threw bits of wood at her. The night had gone to a bad start, and Cecil looked at Nebula with these sad, haunted eyes. It broke her, the way he looked at her through that mask. They still hadn“t found Jupiter, and who knew what the villains were doing with him. Her gut clenched, her fists pressing bruises on her hip. Her body thrummed with energy, something like resolve, pure and cold. Jupiter was her friend, and one of her own. The villains wouldn“t win this round.

"Hey, Venus. I miss Jupiter too. Fallout and Cleo and Owl are all terrible and they have our friend, but we“re not letting them get away." She drew up her breath. Puffed out her chest. "Luna has volunteered to help us, here. Right, Lunes?"

Luna tucked a strand of white hair behind her ear and glared up at the moon. Her eyes shone with such rage Nebula thought she“d try to punch the moon out of the sky. With a shuddering sigh, her hands stiff at her sides as she shuffled toward the edge of the roof. "I“m only doing this because I have to. None of you have the right blood." She spat a glob over the side. She held up a Quatro blade, held up her arm. Nebula looked away and Cecil starred in a sort of horror that was unusual for him. But then again, everything he did seemed unusual for him, now that Jupiter was gone. It made Nebula“s heart sad. And suspicious.

She hated her suspicion, hated that she couldn“t trust her own husband. But she was scared for him, and with the villains prowling around, there were few she could trust. Her head throbbed. Her chest ached. She risked a glance back at Luna, swallowing back her revulsion. Some primitive part of her wanted to scream "stop!" and run over to her bleeding friend with iodine and a bandage bundle. The super“s blood sprinkled on the garden like fertilizer. It glowed purple against the black of Fallout“s residue. Luna closed her eyes, focused hard. Her face went blank and impassive, like the moon she was named after. She

ith a taste of iron. Times like these I wish I was a vampire.

"Is that really all you boys think about?" She shakes her head as she leads me down the stairs. "Food? Tell me, will a box of Oatmeal raisin suffice?" She shoots Gats a look. He holds her eyes for a second before ducking his head behind me. He resurfaces by my waist, two fingers tucked in my belt loop. I ruffle his hair with a cuffed hand and he bats my arm down, claws out. The tips catch the outside of my wrist, right below the chain.

"Oatmeal raisin?" I let my jaw fall slack as I hop the last step. I teeter against Owl, the metallic stench of polish on her armor making me cough. I run my tongue over my teeth and force back the urge to spit at her. "What do you think I am? A barbarian?"

She brushes my shoulder, almost like a nervous tic. Like she doesn“t have a sword to polish, and her hands are jittery without one. On the ground floor, people brush past, many dressed in bright colors. Ladies have feathers combed into their hair, ivory and jade on silk. Gentlemen stalk by with caps stacked sideways on their heads. It feels like I“ve fallen into the wrong rabbit hole and stumbled into a twisted sort of wonderland. It makes me dizzy, either that or the lack of food. The ceiling drips with oil and slime, dawn pouring through holes in the slats. It washes the floor dirty gold. The air fresheners twirl, flickers of green glowing in the sun.

"Thought you“d say something like that. You and your friend are quite different." She flicks a free finger from the chain and looks down at Gats. She frowns as if thinking hard about something. Cracking a code. Solving a puzzle. Then, she sighs to herself and hooks her foot beneath my shackles. They cut into my jeans. I force myself to relax, the hunger pangs making my temples throb and my stomach ache. Between all the fighting, running, and tearful-reunion-ing the hunger“s been an afterthought. It may have added to my internal misery, but I couldn“t think about it when Poison tried to bash my skull in. Winding her foot back, Owl aims a kick and snaps the chains at their middles. Little square links break off and hit the ground like confetti. I sigh and lean down, rubbing where the metal made my ankles ache. First my left, then my right. "Don“t worry." She rubs me on the head, scrunching feathers of my hair out of my eyes. Gats smirks and I contemplate slapping him. Across his temples. With my fists.

Her breath touches my ears, her voice just soft enough that Gats can“t hear. "I“m not going to let my doomsday device starve." My blood turns to ice. She smiles and tips her head toward a shop, the faded etches of orange and pink letters marking it a “Dunkin“ Donuts.“ She sinks to Gats“ height, her smile all perfect white teeth and glossy lips. "Donuts, anyone?"

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