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   Chapter 21

Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 8428

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Heaven.

I’ve only flipped through a few books on the art of superheroing, but the advice they share on the Care and Keeping of Supervillains is usually all the same: don“t trust supervillains, don’t make deals with supervillains, and whenever a supervillain struts into punching distance, serve them a Nasty McBruiser with a side of Shattered Ribs. That’ll show ‘em!

As I shift on my knees, my hands dripping in the shiny, purple ink from my surrender note, I decide the authors of those books would add, “don’t trust a supervillain when they make a promise with their fingers crossed, especially if that promise is “I won“t hurt you.“"

But I don“t care. My eyes adjust. Larry the Russian Blue springboards off the couch and lands on Mom’s best blue vase, toppling it over so it smashes onto the floor and shatters into millions of pieces. I care so little I can only mentally congratulate my cat for his ingenuity.

Why should I care about my dead mother“s pottery? My boys are in danger.

I don’t care what the authors of the superheroing books have to say and I don“t care that trusting smiling, back-stabbing Catalyst will land me chained to a chair, pointed and monologued at by her sadistic villain friends; I have to trust her. It“s a dumb and desperate move, but I have the same number of choices as I do friends to turn to: zero.

“Come on, Galaxy! We don’t have much time.” Catalyst squeezes my hand and yanks me up with one sudden jerk. I almost fall over, gasping from the shooting pain in my side. Who knew beatings from bat-wielding henchmen hurt so much? Well, one might guess, but I’m used to taking punishment on a daily basis. For the hits to actually hurt is new for me.

“So how is this going to work?” I ask as I suck in a breath, the gray walls of my apartment reminding me of a prison“s.

“Hmm.” She pulls me into the hall with a sharp tug, and I slacken the muscles in my face so she doesn’t know how hard I bite my cheek to quell the pain. “We need a car.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” roars Juniper from across the hall. I freeze, but Catalyst has probably found herself in situations like these before and bolts, almost instinctively. My feet drag as she yanks me along and I hobble to keep pace. After so much practice, I“ve gotten good at ignoring the pain. “You leave that apartment and I’ll—”

“Bah.” Cat waves a hand as she glances at me. “No sense of humor, you know?”

“Her son was kidnapped,” I snap, each breath sending a shock of pain through my ribs. We pound through the cu

giant unfriendly neighbor that sees all Starlighters as morons and supers as a pestilence.

Ceres is tense, his mask crumpled in his fist and his face drained of any color. My muscles also feel tight, so I listen to his prattle. He talks disjointedly, phrases and frustrated ramblings jumbled together. “They just let us beat him! Us! Does the mask really give people power to be judge, jury, and executioner? And what makes a villain different than a hero? How do they judge that?”

He’s shaking. I count to ten. He used to have fits and panic attacks a lot. I remember him as a thirteen-year-old, and how I would watch him, trapped in that little white room, screaming and crying. “Let me out! I want to go home! I want to go home!” I remember glancing through the little window and seeing him curled into a ball, trembling and silently sobbing.

Sometimes he reverts to those days, shaky and pale, hugging his knees to his chest, clutching his head, trying not to scream. I sigh under my breath and pull onto a shoulder.

We’re very close to our destination: the big signs pointing to it.

Ceres’ shoulders quake even faster. I pull into the parking lot and throw open the door. On the passenger side, Ceres tumbles out, coughing and clutching his face.

“You okay?” I ask. We’re at an abandoned minimall, the sky slowly darkening. The car drive was long. He sinks to his knees by the tire.

“What the hell did we do?” he asks softly. I shrug and wait for him to recover, when—POP! One of the back doors flies open. Luce bounds out, and for a second, I only watch, cursing my rope tying skills. But it“s okay, I tell myself quickly.

He has no idea what he’s in for.

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