I had no idea what had happened here. From what I could see, half of the hallway had been on fire recently. Shay had just said that a hostage situation was taking place. For the hall to be as damaged as it was, someone with powers had to have tried something, be it one of the students or one of the bad guys.
It would have been better if I’d gotten here sooner. If anyone got hurt, that was on me. I didn’t see any of the armed men that the news had mentioned but I did see the world’s newest super villain.
Queen shook off my attack and got to her feet. “Oh hey Snipey. How’s the leg treating you?”
I’d looked up what “guttersnipe” meant since my last run in with Queen. It apparently referred to a poor, scruffy boy, who spends lots of time on the street. Only someone supremely stuck up would actually use a word like that.
“What happened here?” I asked her, not bothering to use my superhero voice. She already knew I wasn’t actually that kind of hero.
“Do we have to talk about that? I’d really rather just fight.”
“What happened here?” I repeated myself.
She strutted closer to me. “You really wanna know what happened, huh? I hired some guys to help me take these peasants hostage. Things got a bit hairy when a Demigod I contracted started going crazy. I had to put him down, and everything sort of just fell south from there.”
I wanted to make a remark about how she could possibly consider some of the richest kids in the world to be peasants. I could have asked if her out of hand Demigod was responsible for the fires. A part of me just wanted to make a quip about how she’d messed up.
There was only one thing that actually mattered.
“Did anyone die?” I asked. “Did any civilians die?”
She fucking smirked. “Not too many. I had to kill a few students for one reason or another and I may have killed one or two just for fun.”
I clenched my fists. She was pissing me off and she was making herself sound like a top level super villain, the kind against whom a team would take immediate action because of the inherent danger.
However, something she was saying didn’t sound right. Up until she’d shot me, I hadn’t actually believed that she was a villain. The way she sounded now was the same way she sounded after she’d killed Helioray. She sounded too confident.
“All right,” I said. “Let’s fight.”
If my gut was right that there was more to her than she was letting on, beating her now might give me the chance to find out the truth. If I was completely off track and she was just a psycho, then I just had to pray that she wasn’t too tough.
…when a Demigod I contracted started going crazy. I had to put him down…
Maybe this was a really bad idea.
I felt a pang of pain in my chest. I’d ignored the agony on the way over here, but I was still hurting all over from the beating I’d taken from Malcolm. Queen appeared to still be in top shape, despite having recently fought a Demigod. Either this was just another part of an act or…
Yeah, this was a bad idea.
Still wearing a wicked smile, Queen ran toward me. My mouth lightning had proven to be pretty strong earlier, so I charged some up and spat it out. It wouldn’t be too powerful since I wasn’t scared for my life, but I was still worried that she was going to kick my ass.
Before my attack reached her, she waved her arm and the lightning disappeared. I couldn’t see where she’d sent it, but I quickly figured it out when a locker door was blown off and sent hurdling towards me.
It struck me hard, knocking me off my feet. Queen reached me, and with a leg pulled back, delivered a full force kick to my face.
I’d assumed based on her power that she was just a high level Median, but with strength like hers, she could very well have been a Demigod. Or it could have just felt worse than it actually was given how sensitive to pain my face was at the moment.
“Man, Snipey, you are just the biggest pussy of a Demigod. Come on, even the fire breather required an iota of effort.”
Another word of hers that I didn’t understand. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of letting on that I didn’t know what she meant this time. Instead, I decided to try to get her to open up.
“Actually, I’m not a Demigod. I’m not quite sure what I am. I mean I didn’t have powers until I got stung by a radioactive bee, after which I could suddenly shoot lightning. True story. Any truths you want to share with me?”
“Well, there is one thing.” She sounded somber.
Her tone then completely changed.
“I hate bees.”
Queen stomped on my head, smashing her shoe against my face. Cackling like a stereotypical rich woman, she increased the amount of pressure she was putting on my head. I wanted to say something, but the heel of her shoe was crushing my jaw.
“Do you have a mission, Snipey?” Queen asked. “Because I just got one and I wanted to know what you thought of it.” She was fully aware of the fact that I couldn’t respond and just kept talking. “I’ve come to realize that poor people, well, they just make everything worse. So, the altruistic woman that I am, I’m going to take over this city and sanitize it. The destitute, the middle class, anyone who’s not worth at least, I’d say, 10 million dollars; I’m gonna kill them all.” She sounded too happy about doing this. No one could be this enthusiastic about murder. “Your family, your friends, and yeah, even the thousands of urchins who live here are all going to die. What do you think of that?” She removed her foot from my face.
Groaning, I stood up, feeling my sore face. I spat out some blood. I’d always thought it was bad ass when people did that in movies, but in practice, my attention was just on the pain in my gums.
“I think that you’re a frightened girl who made a mistake and desperately needs some help. I also think I might be the person to help you.”
No one but Perses was beyond redemption. If I could make her into a hero, that would be great. If she wanted to become my sidekick, that would be even better. Super villains were becoming a thing again, and I wasn’t sure if Eve could really keep Malcolm from coming after me again, so I was starting to think I’d need some help.
Queen did what I thought to be a simple jump kick directed at my stomach, knocking me back. I guess she didn’t want to be my sidekick.
Her smile became filled with anger.
“You really need to shut the fuck up. I’m Queen. I don’t make mistakes! I don’t need help from anyone. Especially not from a dirty, poor, stupid, goggle wearing boyscout.” She paused and just audibly said something else. “Fuck. You and Takato really would get on great.”
I didn’t know who Takato was, but it was probably for the best to talk about something else, given the tone with which she said his name.
“Just listen to me Queen. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but you’re 14, right?” She didn’t respond. “Cause if you are, then I don’t believe that you don’t feel bad about what you did to Phaser. I don’t believe that you killed anyone here. So just…”
“Shut up!” she shouted, actually expressing anger.
Dozens of locks started falling on me from above. They all hit my head, only adding to its ever increasing pain. Queen looked absolutely enraged, no longer hiding her emotions behind a smile.
“This is good,” I said, electricity now surrounding my body. “It’s good that you’re feeling this.”
She extended her arms and screamed like a banshee.
The next thing I knew, I was underneath a pile of ceiling tiles and assorted rubble. My head being the one part of me that was still exposed, I saw that she’d managed to move nearly all of the tiles on top of me. I was also able to see Queen on her knees, panting, and holding her head.
I wanted to, but I couldn’t speak to her. I could have dealt with my bone crushing pain. I felt I would heal from it after all. My neck, though, was buried with the rest of my body. I was having trouble breathing, let alone speaking. I had no idea she was this powerful.
I wasn’t strong enough to get out from under the pile of rubble, and with her just sitting there, I didn’t have enough fear to blast my way out.
Queen got up and brushed her long hair back. With no emotion evident on her face, she walked over to me.
I tried to speak again, but failed once more.
“What? No more words?” She kicked my face. “No more deep insights as to who I am?” Another kick. “You were wrong you know. I feel no guilt about Phaser and yes, I did murder several students. I either blew their brains out, or I made someone else do it. I am evil and that is the way things are supposed to be.”
I couldn’t let that go without a response.
I was finally able to utter a few words.
She shook her head back and forth, pouting. Her attention turned to the rubble on top of me. Queen smiled, bending down to dig through the rubble. She stood back up straight, holding a ceramic shiv.
“It’s something someone as foolish and poor as you wouldn’t understand. I’m perfect and I’m evil. By that logic, someone as virtuous as you is just a waste of skin. The world will be better off without you.”
She swiped her arm, attempting to slit my throat. Without my effort, lightning came out from every part of me, blasting off the rubble and sending Queen flying down the hall. It didn’t matter what she said, or with what tone, I could see the pain in her words.
I wasn’t sure what condition my legs were in, but regardless of whether they were broken or something else, I couldn’t get back up this time.
Queen was able to stand, and did so, putting her hand to her face where I’d evidently burnt her. She was shaking and her head was twitching.
As she approached me, the twitching seemed to get worse. I was pretty confident that the blast I’d just fired wasn’t as strong as the ones I’d fired at Malcolm. She may have had powers, but Queen was clearly a glass cannon compared to him.
“Please try to listen to me,” I said, still struggling to speak, and breathing heavily with each word. “Maybe I was wrong about part of what I said. Maybe you have chosen to do some really awful things. But it’s not too late to turn things around.”
She didn’t respond to me until she was just inches away from where I was laying.
She spoke in a softer voice than I’d ever heard her use before. “Why are you trying to save me? You’ve fought a bunch of criminals, and you just beat them and gave them over to the police. What’s different about me? Is it that I’m a girl? Is it that I’m a teenager? Are you in fucking love with me?” She paused. “Why?”
“Everyone deserves a chance to be saved.” Her face went blank. “Some people need time in jail, a chance for rehabilitation. I don’t think that’s what you need. You’re smart, good in a fight and I see a good person in there.” I nodded. “You can be a hero.”
She punched a locker, the sound of the impact flooding the hall.
“You don’t know me. I’m not a hero. I’m a bully.” She ripped off her mask and spoke with passion. “You want to know who I really am? I’m Raina Davenport, heiress and ruler of Cresting Prep. I torment the scholarship students here because I enjoy making others feel bad. I tease people. I’ve destroyed people’s lives. Just half an hour ago, I had a girl beaten to near death just because she was poor. And I still think I’m perfect. Do you realize how fucked up that is?”
I responded without thinking, my tone completely changing.
“That is fucked up, you bitch.”
She looked shocked by what I’d said. She’d just shocked me on the inside. She was a bully.
I’d been wrong about her.
“You think that just because you’re strong or because you have advantages, that you can take advantage of others. The criminals I fight? They’re not monsters. They’re just people who’ve fallen on hard times. Bullies though? They’re scum.”
Maybe saying this wasn’t smart. But it’s how I felt.
“Fuck you,” Raina said coldly. She picked up her mask and donned it. “You think that being a bully is worse than being a murderer. You must have been bullied pretty bad in high school to get that screwed up idea.” She put on an evil smile. “But on the other hand, maybe you’re right. Maybe being a bully only makes me worse. Or rather, better.”
Where was she going with this?
“I don’t need saving. I don’t need to be saved because I really am perfect the way I am. Criminals, super villains, terrorists; people are bad by their very nature and no one is more cruel than I am. I should never have doubted myself. I am the best humanity has to offer.” She looked straight into my eyes. “Thank you, Snipey. The whole questioning myself thing was really getting to be a drag. I know who I am again.” She kicked my face with more force than any time before. “I’m the person who’s going to make this world burn.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I’d been a complete idiot. Even though I was right in what I’d said, I had her coming around, and I lost her. She wasn’t lying anymore.
“So, two encounters with you and twice I’ve had you at my mercy in the end,” Raina said. “After this moment, I will be merciless. But, for now, I’m grateful to you for helping me out so I’ll spare you.” She turned and walked away from me. She turned her head back toward me. “Oh, and if you get in my way again, or if you try and reveal my identity to anyone, I’ll find out who you are, and have your family tortured to death.”
She walked out of the school, smiling.
This had been my second time dealing with a super villain. The first time, my presence had led to a man dying. This time, I’d turned a snobby, wannabee super villain into an actual threat.
Both times I’d been crippled, and both times I’d failed to save anyone.
I was no hero.