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   Chapter 66

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 15127

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Hev ran away. Again. And you know what? It“s starting to piss me off.

Not that I can“t track her down again. I“m getting good at that. "Kepler, come on. Kep." I rub the wolf-dog on the head, her cold nose pressed up into my calf. The others are still inside, listening to Fallout scheme. But me? I was supposed to bring his son back, and I failed him. Betrayed him. When he says he wants me dragged in front of a firing squad, who am I to think he“s joking?

I still have Fallout“s jacket, the hood thrown up, the sleeves so long they poll at my wrists. Light spills down on me through a stained glass porthole window, an image on the front of a cross with a little pink heart at its center. I scratch the animal“s chin, her fur shorn short and bristly around her snout. She whines. Hungry.

Each faded stair crunches under our steps with a low, painful moan. "Come on girl, find Angel. You“re a wolf. You“ve got a good nose, right? Come on."

I brush a cobweb out of my face from a low-hanging beam. She whines, her tail curling behind her. I couldn“t get a leash on her, could barely pry her out of the little girl“s grubby gloves. She bounds down the crumbly steps and I follow, my footsteps like squeaks as I follow the click of her nails on the foyer floor.

The whole building has the feel of Old Starlight, before the supers and their super fight. It was a shabby apartment complex, even then. The tile is an ugly mint green, the type you can still find in seventies bathrooms. Wood planks chewed to their crumbling grain panel the walls. The ferns are wilted, have been wilted for years, told by the yellow mold creeping up their ceramic pots. And the whole place smells of must and age like it“s sitting on piles of yellow-paged books. In this city of young blood and glittering towers, it“s as much of a novelty as supers. Just less dangerous.

The wolf scratches at the door, a dark, ornamental thing framed with even more stained glass, more crosses and hearts. Even in here, the misty aura seems to burn, searing into my skin and with it the memory of falling helplessly in the air. With soft, creeping steps, I glide forward and push the door open, the voices of my friends and enemies a chasing echo.

Outside, the air is a heavy, dead thing. It weighs me down, like liquid lead in my chest, burning all the while. I hug Fallout“s stiff nylon jacket tighter around me, the hem of it dragging like a cape on the sidewall. The hoodie thrown up and the cords pulled tight to protect my head and neck, I follow the wolf. She yelps, looking back at me, shifting her weight from paw to paw. Lines shimmer off the sidewalk, and I can only imagine the heat on her poor, fleshy pads.

"Hey, Kep." I slap my thigh and race after her. My throat burns with each breath, But I catch up with her, eventually. She turns around, her head cocked, her golden eyes glowing against the haze of sky Angel created. I catch up, panting, and lock my arms around her back and tummy. She“s so heavy that with my super strength flicking on and off, I can barely carry her. Her tail thumps my leg, and with one gentle squeeze I fit her against my chest. The heavy jacket brushes over the wolf like a cloak. She buries her nose into the sleeve of my sweater, cold, twitching and wet against my pulse. I stagger my weight with giant steps to keep from falling over.

"I can find the capitol myself, Kep. I just need you to use that nose of yours to find Angel. I would, but my super senses are so jacked up right now that I“d only really find him if he screamed, and he doesn“t seem all that interested in doing that now."

Her tail thumps faster. And I talk to her, all the way to the Capitol. The city is a loop. A whole island, pretty much, of glistening buildings and smooth streets. Hell, it spans four states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It“s the first Megalopolis, that is, a megacity.

Everyone I know is pretty dang proud of us. I think The States are just happy we stopped expanding, or we“d have the Real Capital in our metaphorical clutches.

It“s funny to think: we“re the bad guys of The States. For having a different identity and a different worldview. I bounce with every step and I don“t wait for Fallout and his team to follow. As soon as I save Angel, I“m leaving. I won“t give the man a chance to kill me. Maybe I“ll stay with Angel, maybe I“ll run away. It“s hard being a bad guy in a good guy“s world. Maybe I“ll become an agent of some sort, investigate other villai

sual coy smirk, the way he tips his head, flushes, lights up. So expressive. But now? He just looks tired, and an awfully delicate thing. Something weak. In need of protection.

Hev“s wearing her usual makeup of blood and dirt, a determined grimace cutting a hard line in her dark, pretty face. Her eyes still have a glow to them, her chin held up with a haughty sort of grit. "Yes." She hold her hands out flat, as if in a pleading gesture. It doesn“t match the rest of her. Her hard-set face, hey eyes like flint. A hip popped out, her hand probably itching to join it. "My parents are dead. Sometimes I miss them. And there“s a lot of responsibility here, a lot of failure. I can“t save the people I“m supposed to, not even my own friends. Dying, again and again, to come to in a weaker state, shrieking in agony? It sucks, sometimes."

She eyes something Owl“s holding, something I didn“t notice before: a sword. It“s a giant thing, the hilt glinting, the blade silvery and glossy, catching the light at a thousand different angles to glitter like a sort of diamond. I decide I should steal that, too. My back and thighs itch from sitting still for so long, and I grip a length of velvet drape, ready to swing my way in like a small, villain Tarzan. Kepler drools on my shoe, batting the laces like a kitten. Her nails slash the plastic tips. Curse thrifty Heaven and her thrifty shoes, the kid“s loaded and she couldn“t even buy herself a decent pair of combat boots to withstand everyday wolf contact.

Hev“s eyelashes flutter at Owl“s expert grip on the sword, as if she“s flirting with fate. It makes my jaw clench.

"Oh?" Owl says, and her voice is as smooth and hypnotic as a siren“s. I almost fall from the window. "Poor child. I suppose I“ll have to take you out of your plight."

Hev looks up. Steps toward the sword Owl draws through the carpet. She monologues, gone so batty she“s using the script of the wrong archetype. "I can“t sleep. Death is the closest I“ve come to rest." She raises her hands and balls them up by her face in a guard. "I don“t know if you“ve ever felt that before, ma“am, as an immortal being." Her words are smooth and low, and I know her to be the girl on the magazine covers, the girl I wanted to be nemeses with. I grip the whip so hard the blood drains from my hands, leather scales cutting a pattern into my skin.

"I“m going to count to three." Heaven lifts her quivering chin. "If you don“t back away from Gats, I“m going to hurt you."

"Alright, little girl," Owl says through a chuckle. "I“ll play." She arches the sword up over Gats“ sleeping form, the shimmering tip above his throat.

I snap up the whip, cast it back like a fishing rod and arch it toward Owl“s arm. Miss. Heaven was wrong about a whip being like a lasso. You use a lasso to restrain, you use a whip to shred a person“s flesh or scare the bejeezus out of a horse. Not my style either way.

So, I do what any sensible person would. I dive through the window and drop kick Owl in the shins.

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