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   Chapter 69

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 18186

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Angelos.

My name is Angelos Monsoon Fibbs. I“m sixteen-and-a-half-years old and a psychotic entity is trying to take over my body. I also cook vegetarian dishes on my free time and I like the color white the best because it“s easier to clean. So there“s that.

This is who I am. The real me, anyway, without Dark Side and Luce and my insane powers. I“ve wormed free, escaped his prison for me. The pain, excruciating. The strain, crushing. But I“ve done it. White tears into my vision, feeling back into my limbs. Control, too. Luce pushes at me, but I“ve forced him back. Nine times nine is eighty-one. Six times seven is forty-two.

I“m stronger than him. Without my aura, he“s only a voice. And a teeny one, too. When the sky comes crashing down, I“m in control again. But I“m too numb to punch my fists up and squeal out my happiness. Too shocked.

I drop to my hands and knees, weak like pudding, dragging myself toward Owl.

She“s dead. For good dead, I think.

She hasn“t moved in minutes. Bled out and died, crumpled on Gats“ sword.

I wish I could say more, though the entire time I was gridlocked with Luce and My Aura, which, consequently, could make a passable band name if ever in a pinch. But a hole“s burning in my gut, and I don“t feel triumphant or even relieved.

Owl was cruel, she hurt me, Heaven, and certainly Gats. If anyone had the right to kill her, it was him. But at the same time, she“s my mom. Maybe, digging deep, some part of me hoped to redeem her. Maybe I thought I could pull off her armor like Darth Vader“s mask and find a human underneath.

But I never had the chance.

I snake forward, braving carpet burn, my broken chains clanging around my wrists, biting my skin. Heaven has Jaylin, trying to right the break in her leg while Jaylin groans and twists. The pieces are snapping back together, slowly, slowly. I want to help, but don“t dare.

Gats stares at my dead mother, unmoving. He still holds the sword at the exact same angle he killed her, even though now she“s crumpled on the floor. Heaven pushed her off, but couldn“t pry the blade out of his hands. Now he“s wide-eyed and pale. Stiff as a wax mannequin.

Though I“m sick to my gut, I move closer. With the barrier down, Luce is weaker, but I don“t want to risk it. I have to do what I have to do. Two cloaked figures stumble toward the room, "freeing the prisoners" I hear one woman say over her shoulder. A group of henchmen nods, as if in a trance, others squabble. No one steps up to take her place, no one issues orders. As an immortal, I guess she thought she didn“t think she“d need a successor.

A successor.

At this, I sit up. A voice giggles in my head. Oh, this will be fun. But he“s losing cut. Luce is something of a playground bully now, and his teases are weak. Thirteen times nineteen is two hundred and forty-seven. I play with the numbers to ease away his presence, like someone whistling in the dark.

I raise my voice, which has gone raspy and weak. "I“m her son and I“m her heir. She“s told you that." I“m sure of it.

Cloaked figures whip toward me, eyes searing into my skin through their masks. The hairs stand up on the back of my skin, pins and needles all over my skin. I deepen my voice, push my mask up, lift my chin. I don“t look so authoritative, I suppose, talking while I“m on my hands and knees. But I“m trying. "You“ll free the hostages immediately and make sure none of them are harmed."

People stare at me, silent. I smile, broad and wicked while a headache rips my scalp into pockets of white, searing pain. "Please? I“d hate to use my telekinesis. It“s dangerous." I extend my wings, long and inky, so the cast dark shadows across the floor that swallow the room in darkness. I hate to threaten, but it“s for the poor people“s sake out in the hall. And I said “please.“ So there.

There“s a whole second of silence. And then the henchmen dip me bows. One by one, some simply lowering their heads, others falling onto their knees before me. I“m frozen, my mouth flopped open in a silent "uhhhh..." I don“t deserve their respect. Am repulsed by their show of it. Of what I“ve become. As they slip out, what the women told me out on the balcony haunts me. I“ve just inherited an empire, I realize, and with the empire, its slaves. Ice churns in my belly. I have to undo the wrongs, fix what Owl“s done.

But first, I crawl to my dead mother.

I“ve never seen a dead body before, unless you count Heaven since she always seems to be in some state of dead and undead. But Owl“s really dead, and I hear Juniper and Storm whisper about it. She“s flat on her stomach, no breath in her still chest. I“m glad. I don“t want to see her dead, open eyes. I“m a pretty traumatized kid as it is.

"Will you try to reanimate her?" Storm asks.

"Not unless Fallout can produce his still-beating heart for me to replace hers with." Juniper sighs as she leans back against the wall, spent.

I reach out a shaking hand for my mother“s belt. This is a bad idea. The voice in my head sounds as much Luce“s as my own.

Hot blood splatters onto the back of my neck from Gats“ sword. He saved Heaven, and for everything, a price. But I just want to hug him for saving us all.

The belt is fashioned out of smooth black plastic, notched with slim equidistant holes for the buckle. Pockets dangle, a single holster for her dagger. I jimmy the belt free from around her waist, if only because I

o. Hundreds, if not thousands of people work for Syndicate. Its history extends a lot farther than you, boy, made up of delicate operations you don“t understand."

I angle my chin up. "I. Can. Learn." The discussion is over as far as I“m concerned, so I turn away. My legs are butter, my arms too, but when he grips me I tear right free. Even Poison gets out of my way, and I glimpse a flash of shriveled black feathers and broken wing. I wince.

"Backup is coming," Fallout says coolly, his arms over his chest. "So we“re leaving. But know that I“m your father, and I forbid it. And if you escape this alive so help me I will hunt you down and make your life hell."

My life is already hell. So phooey on him. "You“re my father." I rub what remains of the neck of my shirt, and a laugh, a true laugh bubbles up from God knows where. It scares even me, so rough and low I want to believe it“s Luce. But this is who I am, and right now, I“m okay with that. "Good one." I turn away and leave him scowling. I touch Gats on the elbow, my heart floundering.

"Hey, buddy," I say.

He“s still. Doesn“t even twitch.

"Buddy?"

He breathes sharply. "Okay," he mumbles, "I“m okay."

"Let“s get Hev and Jay, and let“s go. Okay buddy?"

He looks down. "Okay," he says again, and then I realize he“s talking to himself. "Everything is okay. I“m okay, he“s okay, Hev“s okay." His voice shakes. I know he“s holding back tears. He“s hurting and scared and I don“t want to leave him alone. Outside, sirens wail. Fallout glares. Cups a fireball in his hand, his aura snaking out again. Long, sinewy tendrils, black as a moonless night. Spooky. He hurls his fire onto the shredded wall, and it hits me like an electric shock.

If we don“t leave with him, he won“t let us leave at all. We“ll be crushed in the rubble. And without my powers? Sparks dance up the wall, eating through it in a flash of orange and a crackle like paper being wadded up. I glance at the flames. They flare in firework bursts with the roar of a steam engine. Orange and gray, twisting into a raging column. Unnatural super, unnatural fire. We“re figuratively and literally toast.

I snatch Gats by the arm and sling him over my shoulder. He“s a light thing, and though I“m sure he can walk, I expect him to stumble and stagger in his shell-shock. My wings unfurl, and thank God I have them. I“d be grounded otherwise. The fire roars. Juniper and Storm stumble, and I help them up. They hurry, but they“ve been hurt bad. Wounds in their stomach up their torso. Thick ropes wound up around their limbs. Heaven dives out the window carrying Jay and is back in a blink, a blur. I toss her Gats. The fire thickens, moving faster than any fire should.

It consumes the walls, which should be fireproof, eats the piping and wire and languishes on the pastel paintings. Smoke fills my lungs, blurs my vison, makes my head spin. Juniper pushes off me, stumbling. I wrap my arm around her shoulders and guide her toward the window. Heaven pulls her out.

The process repeats with Storm and then with the mayor, who screams at my touch. The smoke chokes me now. The ground wavers with shimmer lines. My throat is so dry I think of the latte Owl bought me, and my heart hurts again. So I don“t think about it. I think about every wooden thing in the capitol building catching fire and the roof collapsing in. I think of the woman who ordered my parents, the real ones, the ones who raised me, hurt. I jump the window as the world burns behind me. I breathe out a sigh and wipe tired tears from my eyes as I watch the cloaked henchmen take to the sky.

I even wave.

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