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   Chapter 53

Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 33675

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Storm folds his hands in his lap and looks away from the windows, a rising panic eating through his faux cool. He tries to smother it by sitting still, so still, he almost looks lifeless. A trick he learned as a kid, to pretend he was a statue. The seats are of soft leather, the type that you can lean back and melt into. The cab smells of cologne and lemon Pledge Juniper presses a hand to the tinted window, squinting one eye to look through the black. Her other hand she holds to her stomach, there to stop the bleeding. The sound of her labored breathing makes Storm squirm. He rests his hand on her jogging knee, cocking her a frown. He shakes his head once, twice. Relax. She glances at him once and snaps her head away.

"So," the mayor says, riding shotgun. The chauffeur taps his fingers on the steering wheel as the car thumps over a pothole, lowering the brim of his black cap as if embarrassed. Storm stares at the back of his head, at the curly blond-brown hair peeking just below his collar, all to keep from stealing a glimpses Mayor Curtis. "You might be wondering why I need you."

Juniper squeezes her stomach and directs a pointed look at Storm. It makes him flinch before he remembers it isn“t meant for him and speaks for June.

"Uh," he says. He curls his hand into a fist and coughs into it. "My wife and I have a guess, but I“ll warn you, we“re out of practice." Storm risks a glance into the window. Pitch black. He wonders if he can break the door off the car, maybe pop the tires. A smile twitches on the corner of his lips, but he smothers it before Mayor Curtis has time to notice. "Perhaps you should“ve asked another super to help instead?" His voice drifts in a low, sing-song whisper, his head hung like a scolded puppy. The car jolts again and the driver whistles painfully.

"Nonsense, nonsense." The mayor steeples her fingers together. Her smile is tight and elegant. Everything about her is tight and elegant, from her slim black blazer to her heels laced to her ankles. "You underestimate yourselves."

The compliment made Juniper stare at her hands, squeezing and unsqueezing a tin of Altoids she must“ve dug from her pocket. The mayor holds up her head as if she caught the scent of something. Storm always found her and fake her smiles a little wolfish and the hairs stick up on his arms.

The driver spun the wheel with a practiced flourish, and his heart flutters. They“re here? What has Owl done? And what can they do to stop it? Storm rests two fingers on his chest, calculating. He hasn“t touched a weapon in years, not since that fateful night his friend died, not since he and Juniper took Angelos as their own child. It made his stomach churn to think of holding another sword, or even a gun. Can he shoot Owl in the chest? Probably not. She has a weakness—all do, but Owl is special. Tends to hers more than any other. Stubborn villains are hard to kill.

The car slows. The engine clicks off. Storm sighs, his arms following slack at his side. Juniper“s face is all red, her eyes, furious. At least she looks alive. The mayor opens her door on the passenger“s side, and storm waits, staring at the chrome handle. She“ll get them out herself. She likes to keep an eye on them, that way. Even though Storm can crush her skull, easily, like squeezing a grapefruit until it explodes. The door beeps and Mayor Curtis smiles her signature smile down at him, her eyes half-lidded like she“s still groggy from a lack of sleep. Storm glances at his watch. It“s eight in the morning.

She offers a hand and he takes it. The air is heavy, the sky, though clear and bright and blue as any, is off to Storm somehow. The emptiness of it. The silence. He scratches his skin, eyes squinted through the smears of his glasses“ lenses. He feels like he“s staring into backdrop for play, and soon the tarp will crash down and reveal all the backstage ugliness behind it. Juniper, her fingers gingerly poking at the dent in her stomach, squints up at the sky the same way. The mayor claps her hands. The city parking lot is crowded with black cars, glittering in the morning sun. They remind Storm of crows. "Shall we go in?" he asks, his voice pitched into something soft and fragile. Ever since that night, Storm hasn“t been able to talk the seem. His words seem to tangle in themselves, the world seems too busy, too angry, too spiteful to take in his voice, and he prefers to keep it to himself. No one will judge him that way.

The mayor, guardless, alone in a city where thousands of fantastical creatures want to put a bullet through the brains, grins at them. Storm can“t shake the feeling she wants them for something far less innocent than saving the capitol building. She takes his wrist and leads him like a child up onto the sidewalk. The air smells sickly sweet, a mix between chewing gum and cigarettes. Wavy lines rise from the concrete below: heat mirage.

Buildings loom overhead, black and silver, glittering in the early morn. His breath catches in his throat. The emptiness of the city, the silence...One car buzzes through an empty road, then two. Everyone must be barricaded inside their homes, waiting out the storm. The marble capitol stands alone between the skyscrapers, pillars of marble and a dome of white concrete. Two griffins perch on the columns, perched wide apart. The gothic touch clashes with the rest of the capitol, bright and shiny, a smile in the center of all that silver and steel. In front, Nebula stands with her arms crossed over her chest, all encased in bronze. Her visor gleams and Storm can“t shake her resemblance to Galaxy. It haunts him even now, as the sun makes a trickle of sweat roll down the back of his neck. The mayor leads them up the steps like a tour guide. Storm“s heartbeat doubles up in his chest. Will the government help when Owl strikes? For years, it“s forced Starlight to deal with the problem on it“s own. "You love your supers so much," the president once hissed to a delegate, "you deal with it!" Years and years ago perhaps, but not much has change.

Storm barely steps up the first stair before the hears the first shriek. It sounds by his ear, and the mayor“s mouth drops open with a silent scream. Juniper wheels around, blood painting her shirt red where the bullet entered. Her elbow connects with a jaw bone, and a super cries out in pain. Then his fist flies again. Juniper, still bleeding, blocks blow for blow. Her breathing is ragged, and every free moment she risks a glance at Mayor Curtis, as if to say, “See? Maybe you shouldn“t have had your guard shoot me.“

Tires squeal on the street. The Cadillac spins to a stop, a perfect parallel park to mayor“s ride that almost makes Storm drool. Though some of the weaker supers get the cool powers great Tetris game inhumanly precise parking, Storm only gets dopey superstrength and snazzy good reflexes. Juniper connects a punch with her attacker“s shin, his black cape fluttering in the spring breeze. The guards pound up the sidewalk and leap the marble steps. Uno cards, flutter as they whisk away on the wind like feathers. The guards“ handguns guns glow. "Freeze, freeze, freeze!"

Supers cloaked in black descend from the building above, cracking the stairs as they land. They look locusts, and Storm looks searches the fighters for a sword. He needs a sword. But considering it“s modern times and sane people don“t fight with pointed metal rods anymore, there“s none. Training and experience makes his heartbeat is slow and measured in his chest. He cracks his knuckles and when a man in a tattered cloak swings for the mayor, he pounces. Nails score down his cheeks, a knee bashed into his stern. He flies back. His back hits the marble stairs with a CRACK!

Blackness fills his head, blood suffocates his lungs. He chokes back a curse and somersaults to his feet, dizziness making the world whirl by. So he“s a little rusty. The mayor backs against the doors, screaming for someone to open up. A defenseless little mortal, nothing without her guns, her guards, her blackmails. Storm shakes his head, spitting blood. They circles and attack like flocks of buzzards. A quick survey tells them there are maybe a dozen, maybe more. One levels a punch at him, but Storm swings his leg up and sends it cracking down on his collar bone. The man snarls. A woman, her face shrouded in shadow from her hood, lunges at him. Another follows. And then another. Storm“s forearm catches a rib cage, crushes the thin bones with a well-aimed blow. His thumb drives into an eye socket. His foot smashes in someone“s throat.

They“ll live, he chants to himself, they“ll live. They“ll live. But the scream that cuts the air and gush of blood that splatters his face sends him spiraling into a dark frenzy. Images hijack his skull. Jupiter“s neck, broken in his hands. Luna, strapped to a gurney, her wings splintered, her body jerking and writhing as Juniper sat criss-cross on the floor, watching with a blankness on her face.

Toby and Heaven, just two kids orphaned because of him.

A primal cry wells up in the back of Storm“s throat. He can feel the blood soaking through his cotton shirt all over again, hear the garbled plea, see his friend looking at him with wide eyes, his

When Storm looks down, there“s a figure cloaked in black, bleeding and mangled at his feet.

He shudders inside, kicking and slashing without pause on the outsides. Sometimes Storm thinks his mind and his body as two separate entities, acting all on their on. His mind, an intellectual. His body, an animal.

The mayor fumbles with an I.D card. Morons, whoever let her go out on her own. Storm pants, wheezes, as he holds out his arms to make a shield for his wife. For someone who“s been shot in the stomach, she carries herself well in a fight, but that isn“t enough. He takes a step back, black marble veins glowing under his feet. The stone is slippery with puddles of blood. Someone in black gloves and rings punches for Storm“s face and Juniper swings in front of him and block with her forearm. A spray of bullets

h. His voice is deep and hearty, reverberating from the very back of his room and filling the room with such a gentle confidence Storm almost forgets his distaste for the man. His smile fake like Mayor Curtis“, his words too simply, painting complex scenes and all their implications with black and white, order and chaos, authority and anarchy, super and citizen. His muscles tense, and so do Storm“s. Storm can feel the man“s disliking for him.

Can see it in the way he grips his chair, as if Storm will magic over and the mayor will need to use it for protection. Strom glowers at his crooked collar, at the blood on his wrinkled shirt. He hasn“t changed in two days, his braid messy, his spectacles cracked at the rims and crusted, too, with blood that belongs to someone who must“ve gotten too close to his face. No, he doesn“t look presentable in the slightest. He wouldn“t even go into a Whole Food“s on an ingredients run looking like this, let alone speak to a political adversary. The hairs on the back of his neck creep up. "Hello, Mr. Delacroix. An honor to see you in the flesh. I“ve heard a lot of you on the news. You seem quite... opinionated." His teeth ground down, his smile as fake as they come, his tone dripping with all the poison he can squeeze into the pretty little words.

Delacroix laughs softly and walks up when it“s clear to him the others won“t budge. "How true, good man." He slides his hand down the table“s edge, swirling gray cloud sof dust into the air. He“s an inch or two shorter than Storm up close, and little black smears show under his eyes, but he“s still devilishly handsome. Fitting, considering he“s a devil.

Mayor Curtis waves a hand, and Storm clasps his hands behind his back. He hadn“t expected this, being trapped between two politicians. A firestorm. It takes all his self control to keep his nails away from his mouth. Biting nails, bad habit. Hasn“t broken it in three lifetimes and he wonders if it“s time to get a stress ball.

Mayor curtis puckers her lips and curls them into a polite grin. "Leo Delacroix, Storm Fibbs."

Storm holds out his hand for a handshake. Delacroix refuses, drifting back toward the velvet curtains, his arms stiff at his sides. He looks down at Storm“s arm like it“s a venomous snake. "A super in the flesh." His grin waxes into a full smile, his eyes gone twinkly, and yet he still backs away with his little, bristly steps, as if Storm will snap if he gets to close. "I hear you“re quite influential in the super community."

"What of it." Storm takes off his spectacles and rubs them with his thumb, smearing the lenses rather than cleaning them. He sucks in a hot breath, all the muscles in his throat, chest, and face going tight like elastic bands, ready to snap.

The man sweeps a pen and a single paper off the oak desk in one flourish. Behind him, Storm hears a sigh and thinks Liz Curtis swoons. Not that he can blame her. The perfect devil is swoon-worthy, even if his age shows quite clearly in his face." You and your mayor, I am sure you can convince the supers in your city to adopt a few safety measures." He clutches his chest, backing toward the window. A whistle of a breeze blows a strand of his hair delightfully out of place. Each footstep sinks into the carpet, soft like he“s a predator stalking prey. "I don“t want the violence in your city to wash into mine."

Storm blinks as if squinting against sun. "Starlight City is quite nice." His smile is bright. "Your city is a hellhole. And you“re a crooked person." His whisper is insistent, unwavering. The window creaks, a stronger wind blows through, and all the blood rushing in Mayor Delacroix“s Botoxed face makes him redder than the curtains. A squeak breaks from Mayor Curtis“s lips. The frantic ba-bum ba-bum of hearts pound in Storm“s ears, sounds he“s learned to block out.

But now, his brains pounding against the insides of his skull to the maddening throb of a migraine, his body trembling with rage, white hot, blood trickling out of his lungs and making his breath come to him in horrible, heaving wheezes, all control is lost. His dominant hand clutches his temples, the heartbeats, the breathing, like drumbeats in his skull, when he notices something off. The hearts too loud, the breathing too ragged. The smell of blood and sweat, rolling from the side of the room, stronger from there than it even is on him. Wrong. Very wrong.

Mayor Delacroix puffs up his chest with indignation, his eyes wild in his face as he turns. The tails of his shirt stick out from under his suit jacket, crumpled. It almost makes Storm laugh before he remembers to warn him. "Mister," he says, his tone drifting on the upside of urgent. "The window, there are su—" he stops himself before he can say “super“— "villains, out there." The mayor shoots an angry look back, balancing on his toes like a jungle cat as he glides toward the curtain. Storm takes off, the sudden acceleration making his reinforced bones moan in his legs. But he“s too late. The window explode. Bullet proof glass flies out like shrapnel, pieces slicing the empty air and filling it in a rain of deadly darts. Storm pouncing, curling his weight around the mayor, who collapses limp with a cry of terror. His eyes, glassy and wide like dinner plates. His hands pale. Storm spins him around, the last of the glass spiking his back and sticking out like quills. The pain comes sharp, then fades in a soft sort of ebb with a tingle of euphoria.

Delacroix, fading fast, so fragile, so human, scratches and struggles against Storm, cursing and gasping all the while.

Mayor Liz Curtis shrieks, teetering in her heels as she stumbles across the carpet. Dark figures slink out through the windows like shadows, ringing a horseshoe around them, nervous laughter and whoops filling the room.

Storm hesitates, his heart slamming against his chest, the sound of the blood rushing to his making the world sound like it“s coming from underwater. He holds his breath and holds the mayor away from him who is silent. Scarily silent.

His last breath is terrible gasp, eyes wide with the terror of death. "Really," Storm mutters, and then, the mayor of Old Newport, beloved political figure of the masses and hated enemy of supers like himself, goes limp. Pulse-less. Breathless. Dead in Storm“s arms. Storm sighs. "Well," he says, blinking emptily at the figures in black. "That“s one way to kick your cause in the tail. Making a martyr. Whadaya want?"

"This city," someone says, and Storm can“t help but shudder as he clutches the dead man.

***

Sorry for such a long chapter! I didn“t know any good places to break it up, so I just left the chapter this length. Happy Wednesday!

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