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   Chapter 58

Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13522

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Thirteen years ago...

Fallout slid the key out of the last pocket on his belt behind his back. His eyes trailed to the scuffed floor and his thoughts toward an old friend. He fingered the notches on the silverwork as Owl kissed him. If he tuned out Owl“s chatter, he could hear Cecil“s breathing. Even and soft. He even whistled, through the tune is old and sad, one Fallout couldn“t quite place no matter how hard he tries.

"We“re going to finish them off," Owl said with a quick, sloppy kiss on the side of his neck. He nodded. Smiled. How like her, to obsess over her work. He wondered if she did anything else. Shop? Play ping-pong? Both seemed unlikely.

A deck of tarot cards rattled in Fallout“s pocket, tucked neatly against the usual Uno deck. In the dark hall, the air thick with antiseptic and thicker with the stench of dried blood, Owl rolled the sleeves of her greasy shirt to her elbows. Both eyes glowed against the shadows, and Fallout nodded for her to leave. She spun on her heel, ruffled his hair in that obnoxious way she had. Fallout licked his fingers and patted every strand back into place, the key still clenched behiind him. "Nebula tried to shoot me. Can you imagine? It“s been what? Fifty years since we first fought, and she“s still trying to shoot me."

"Maybe she just wants her husband back," Fallout offered, rolling the key behind his back. He knew Nebula as well as Owl did, probably better, considering his habit of kidnapping her to get Cecil“s attention. She was pretty okay, even for a superhero. They had never been friends—she was too busy reading or etching her Master“s thesis into the floor to carry on a conversation. And there“s nothing more awkward or humiliating than being ignored by your prisoner. But when she did talk Fallout found himself surprisingly engaged, and he“d sit on the floor waiting hours for Taurus to get off work. She was plucky and smart and loved the heroes as much as her own children. She had a lot of heart to give. Too much to be taken now.

"Well, poor Nebula, then." Owl rolled her eyes, Fallout may have found the hero pretty okay, but any time Fallout had her in his control, he had to keep Owl away. They were real arch nemeses, nothing like Fallout and Taurus. Too head-strong. Too leaderly. Too similar.

And all Owl wanted was to watch Nebula burn, even if that meant the other heroes—and the city—had to burn, too.

He forced a weak smile. "Well, go get “em, tiger." As her footfalls to faded, he tapped the key to his wedding band. It glowed gold in the dim light, and the inscription seemed to burn through the very fabric of his glove. The door was gray and stripped of its paint, the brass knob coated in a layer of rust. Behind it, Cecil whistled, low and tunelessly. Fallout looked both ways, at the chipped rock poking through the drywall sheet, at the splatters of white paint and yellow mold. Then, he turned the creaking knob and slipped through, cringing at the squeal of hinges. Cecil whistled again, louder this time. It had a tune now and it was sweet, classic somehow, but Fallout still couldn“t place it. Not even when Cecil sang the words under his breath. Perhaps it was from the future.

Fallout cocked his head, leaned back against a door. The room was unpleasant enough, the exposed stone walls making it look something like a cave. The air had such a strong smell of blood to Fallout“s sharpened senses, he had to look twice at how spotless it was. Waxed floor. Clean bars of fluorescent lights shone down with a crisp, artificial glow. A plastic kiddie table sat in the middle of the room between two cracked yellow chairs, and a lonely door stood in the corner for a crude bathroom. But this was a usual sight for Fallout, and he“d gone to see Cecil, the man chained to the wall.

"Hey," he said with a quick wave, a quicker smile that left the edges of his lips hurting. "How are you doing, buddy?"

The words faded from the man“s lips when Fallout looked at him. He replaced them with a solemn smile that didn“t look like it

with a few long blinks. "She wears a tux. And it“s soaked in Red Bull."

Fallout laughed. But Cecil tore his arm away, stumbling back on his hurt legs. They were about as useful as flippers and he hit the floor on his knees with a cry he hid in a string of coughs. He snatched up Fallout“s swinging hands from below, clenched them so hard Fallout almost called for help. The man“s face hardened, his usually bright eyes cold. "James, promise me, when I die—"

"You“re not going to die."

Cecil jerked his head up. "When I die, you“ll not hurt my children."

Fallout whistled again. "Oh, I don“t know—"

"Promise me. Toby won“t get in your way. He“s smart, but his powers are weak, and he isn“t a fool like us. Doesn“t like this hero stuff. He“s going to be a doctor." The hero“s chest puffed with pride, and Fallout only hoped the kid knew how much his father loved him. "But my daughter, I know she“ll get in your way. She“ll cross paths with you and your children. Don“t hurt her. Don“t let them hurt her." His voice shook, and his grip slackened around Fallout“s hands, falling loose on the floor in front of him.

Fallout glared. He hated it when Cecil spoke like that, like a prophet. Didn“t fit him. None of this fit him, and when you map someone out for a half-century, it“s awful annoying when they fly off the charts.

The hero narrowed his eyes, and his mask drooped. "I know you hate me, but promise me that."

"Very well." Fallout sunk criss-cross in front of ther hero, finding comfort on the cold floor. "I won“t hurt your children."

"No matter what they do."

Fallout raised his hand to his head in a mock salute.

The corners of Cecil“s lips twitched in what Fallout guessed was supposed to look like a smile. It faded quick. "And if anything happens to the heroes, make sure the other supervillains don“t hurt her."

Fallout scooted closer, his heart finding a nervous rhythm. The air suddenly felt oppressive and thick. "You“ll be fine."

Cecil leaned back, and the tears rolled this time. No matter the fool he made of himself as the chirpy one of the group, when he cried he cried silently. There was dignity to him, resolve, as cold and hard as the hero“s mystified Damascus steel. "Promise me, James."

"Alright, alright." He looked over his shoulder. The floor creaked again. There was a soft hiss, the sound of rustling fabric near the door. It almost made him jump. He forced his voice low and bent close to the man“s ear. "I promise. Now stop blubbering and play Uno with me."

***

Apologies for the late update. Dropped off with a migraine last night after being out all day and didn“t wake up until noon. Anyway, happy Memorial day weekend!

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