“I still don’t like this,” Shay said, putting up the last of her posters. It was one of my favorites, showing King Power preparing to go into battle alongside Santa Clause. Badass.
“Here we go again,” I said, sitting on a super comfy couch and eating rice. “Seriously, what’s not to like? I mean we’re living right next to a ginormous pool.”
The house we’d been living in the last few days was super awesome. Not only was it way bigger than the house Shay and I had grown up in, but there was a foosball table, a mini fridge stocked with craft beers, and I even had a race car bed. It was all amazing.
“Don’t forget where all this stuff comes from. Blood money paid for all of it.”
“Shay, I don’t think Mr. Davenport made his fortune by selling his blood,” I responded.
“Okay bro, I know you know what blood money is,” she said as a matter of fact.
“Yeah, I do,” I said, sticking out my tongue. “And seriously, you know I’m not a fan of massive corporations, but…” she cut me off.
“How could I forget? You only almost got yourself killed during your brief stint in college when you tried to save that tiny park.”
“And I stand by my decision!” I accidentally shouted. “How was I supposed to know the water level changed every hour in the lake I tied myself down in?” Shay sighed. “Anyway, Panda corp is totally cool. It was started by Panda, you know.”
“Yes, I know, and Panda was a boss, but I’ve been looking into Raina’s dad and some things seem pretty suspicious.”
“Like what?” I asked, gobbling down more rice.
“Well, if you look at all of the world’s most wealthy and powerful people, for the most part, they’re all Medians and Demigods.” I knew that much. In America, people with powers were generally more successful, but in countries like India and Brazil, there were full on caste systems in place. “Andrew Davenport not only doesn’t have powers, but it looks like he wasn’t even qualified to become head of Panda corp after Panda and the rest of the heroes disappeared. He was just a random financial manager.”
I had to wait a few moments to respond as I was still swallowing rice. Getting can of soda to go with my lunch would have been a good idea, but at this point I really didn’t feel like getting off the couch.
“So maybe Panda just really liked the guy,” I said. “If anything, that’s just more proof that he’s a decent dude.”
Shay put up her hands, closed her eyes, and bit her bottom lip, all signs that she was getting frustrated.
“You know, I was going to bring up how I’m pretty sure several mysterious disappearances can be tied to Panda corp, but, we’ve got bigger problems.”
“What is it?” I asked. “Did the Troupe Experience give the cops some trouble?”
“That’s the new super villain team in town, right? God, that is such a dumb name.”
“I know, right? As bad as some of the villains the Guardianship fought were, at least they had cool team names.” I paused, noticing Shay still looked upset. “Oh yeah, that reminds me! I’ve been thinking of some cool names for Raina, Malcolm, and I. Wanna hear?”
“Maybe after I tell you about the real dilemma we have,” she answered, sitting down next to me on the couch, handing me a bottle of Japanese melon soda.
“This was in the fridge? I asked. “Nice. So what’s the big worry?”
Shay crossed her legs before answering.
“Well, remember how Troyan and I helped you out when Raina tried to massacre all the people at her dad’s party?”
“Uh huh,” I said, not quite sure where she was going with this.
“And you know how you’ve been publicly working with Queen lately?”
“No,” I purposely answered incorrectly, realizing what was happening.
“Yeah,” Shay said in a resigned tone.
“Damn it!” I shouted, proceeding to chug my melon soda.
With the entire bottle finished, I tried to say something, but I started burping.
“So what do you think…?”
“Uuuurp,” I belched
“Carter, I know you sometimes have a belching problem when you drink soda, but this…”
This went on for the next few minutes, and by the end of it, my stomach was feeling really upset.
“You good bro?” Shay asked.
“I think so,” I said softly. “So Troyan really wants to bring me down, huh? Even after all the good I’ve done? Doesn’t he realize that Queen is a hero now?”
Shay ran her hands through her long brown hair.
“As much as I wish we did, we’re not living in the same world we grew up in.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, throwing the now empty soda bottle into the trash.
“How do I put this?” she asked herself. “When we were kids, the super hero and super villain communities were an understood part of the world, like they had been since the middle ages. But, you know how on the internet, things fade from the limelight really fast?” I nodded. “Well, it’s sort of like that. You may have brought back the idea of super heroes, but they’re still still not a part of society. As far as Troyan and the general public are concerned, Queen is still a criminal at large and you’re the asshole vigilante helping her.”
My mind was blown. I seriously couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Sure, things had changed, I knew that, but it was really discouraging hearing that people’s mindsets had changed like that. This is what I got for not spending time with anyone but Shay since I was 17.
“So what’s the plan?” I asked. “How do we get out of this mess?”
“Yeah, about that…”
I breathed heavily.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” I asked, even more worried.
“Joey and I were the ones assigned to arrest Lightning Bee and Queen.”
“What?!” I shouted, accidentally throwing myself off the couch in shock.
“Troyan was impressed by me when we were fighting against Raina’s goons, and Joey achieving something is always good for PR. If we catch just one of you, we make detective.”
“Blagh,” I sounded, getting back on the couch.
“But, I do have a plan,” Shay said with an oddly weak smile.
“I knew you’d come through,” I said cheerfully, figuring the weak smile was unintentional.
“Lets turn in Raina.”
I had to keep myself from falling again by holding on to the arm of the couch.
“Think about it,” she said in a purposely calming tone. “If we make a public display of Lightning Bee fighting Queen, I can come in and arrest her. People will think you’re a hero again and I’ll finally make detective.”
“Shay, you know I can’t do that. Not counting you, Raina is my best friend. You said that you trusted me.”
“I do, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s murdered hundreds of people, and while I really am happy that you’ve gotten her to become a better person, she still needs to pay for her crimes. And I know her family is rich and powerful, but I’ve got the security tape from when she removed her costume the night of the party.”
I stood up.
“I’m sorry Shay. You deserve to be a detective, and I want nothing more than to be able to inspire the people of this city, but I won’t betray Raina.”
“Carter, please,” she pleaded.
Walking away, I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I’d been an annoying little brother when we were kids, but since we were teenagers, I’d never done anything knowing that it would upset Shay. As much as it hurt though, I wasn’t going to let Raina spend her life in prison.
Entering the kitchen, I heard a knock at the door.
Raina was at school, Eve was at work, and the last Olivia had paid Shay and I a visit on her own, it had been to beat the shit out of us and wreck our apartment. That left only two people it could be.
“Hey Myers,” Joey said from the other room. Ready to head to the station?”
As I searched through the fridge to see what other goodies there were, I couldn’t help but overhear Shay and Joey’s conversation.
“Yeah,” Shay answered. “But, what happened to your face?”
Joey always sounded happy so it was possible something bad had happened to him. Before I could decided if I wanted to go check or not, I got my answer as to what was the case.
“Oh, they’re just bruises. I think the guards at the gate didn’t recognize me since I’m not wearing my uniform so, thinking I was trying to trespass, they roughed me up a bit before I could show them my badge. It’s cool.”
Shay groaned, probably thinking what I was: Why didn’t he just flash his badge from the start.
Then I realized what had probably actually happened.
I closed the fridge and pulled out my phone.
I texted Raina, Did you tell your guards to beat up Joey if he came by?
Almost immediately, I got a response.
Yeh. Funy right? LOL
Smiling, I shook my head.
Raina’s sense of humor was something that I didn’t quite get, but from what she’d told me, she’d stopped being a bully at her school. This was an improvement, and I was pretty sure that it was only a matter of time before her sadistic streak was a thing of the past.
Before they took off, I re entered the living room with a jar of maraschino cherries in hand.
“Carter bro!” Joey shouted, like he did every time he saw me. I honestly kind of liked it.
He put out his arm for a fist bump. Obviously I couldn’t leave him hanging so I bumped him.
“So what’s up?” I asked, dropping a cherry into my mouth.
“Well,” he said with a smug look on his face. “Shay probably told you already, but we’re going hunting for Queen and Lightning Bee. And I can’t tell you them right now, but I’ve got a few kick ass plans on how to lure them out and catch them.”
I’d talked to Malcolm about it, but even he had absolutely no idea why Joey and other people who knew me weren’t able to tell I was Lightning Bee. Even so, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Joey’s plans couldn’t be that good, and Shay obviously had my back. As for Raina, there was no way in Hell someone as smart as her was going to get caught by Joey McKnight.
“Best of luck,” I said, turning my attention to Shay.
She looked away, putting her brown jacket on.
“See you later dude,” she said, gesturing for Joey to leave.
“Next we see you man, we’ll be bitchin detectives,” Joey said, walking away with Shay.
With them gone, I sighed and ate a few more cherries.
Joey may have been after me, but the Troupe Experience was still out there, and Lightning Bee needed to find them before they caused anymore trouble.
I pulled out my phone and called the only available person I could get help from.
“Hey Malcolm,” I said.
“Carter!” he shouted, sounding like he was in trouble.
“What is it?” I asked, electricity surrounding me. “Did Smog come after you?”
“No, no. Not that. But I got thum touble and I need your helf.”
He was wasted.