“Blah,” I muttered, falling over, hyperventilating. “So…many…bees.”
Having made it out of Esteban’s compound, I was able to see a beautiful sunset occurring. It was an incredible mixture of red, orange, yellow, and purple. Winds were raging and it was absolutely freezing. I’d designed my costume to be pretty comfortable, but it was anything but warm.
“Carter,” Malcolm said, panting and still bleeding, “You freaking call yourself Lightning Bee. How the Hell are you scared of bees?”
“They’re just so small and deadly. I’ve been stung by a bee more than once its incredibly painful.”
“You’ve been blasted into the ground by lasers, beaten to near death, and impaled, and you’re still afraid of bee stings? For God’s sake Carter they were just doodles. They weren’t even real bees!”
I sank my head into my folded arms and quietly said “It really hurts.”
“Yeah, sorry, but Zelda’s kind of right about that.”
I nodded, smiling.
Lying wasn’t something I liked doing, but I’d had to for a number of different reasons since I’d gotten my powers. Considering Malcolm had introduced himself to me by breaking into my apartment and shooting at me, I’d always thought he was kind of crazy. Even so, he was my friend now, and since I was the farthest thing from a doctor, I wasn’t going to try and take his fantasy away from him.
After I got up, we walked away from the compound, Malcolm appearing surprised that we were at the docks. There were a bunch of boats parked at the shore, most small, some enormous. I recognized one of them as Raina’s, The Stallion of the Sea. She’d offered to take me on it some time, though I’d been disappointed to learn that she hadn’t actually named the yacht after Stallion.
There were only a couple of people anywhere near us. They both looked to be dockworkers, one very big and burly, the other a rather scrawny looking woman. Verification that she was a Demigod came with her levitating a crate.
He yanked off one of his sneakers and proceeded to remove his sock.
“Uh, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Keeping myself from bleeding out.” he answered, tying his sock around his shoulder. “I’ll ask Olivia to treat it for real later.”
It made me pretty happy to hear that. I was still far from being friends with Olivia, but I was happy that Malcolm had warmed up to someone new.
“When did you guys become friends?” I asked enthusiastically.
“Trust me, we’re not. But luckily for me, she’s head over heels for Eve so she’ll do whatever she wants.” After he made the sock tight, he asked “What do you think of Olivia? You’ve known her longer than I have.”
Rubbing my eye, I gave an unsure answer, trying to be humorous. “Well, like you, I first met Olivia when she cam into my apartment and fucked up the place, but unlike you she was really successful and kicking my ass, along with Shay’s.”
“Now hold on,” he interrupted. “If I remember correctly, I destroyed you when we fought. You were only able knock me out because Erica refused to…” he stopped mid sentence, his face clenching up.
“Dude, are you okay?” I asked, kind of concerned. I remembered that he’d called one of his guns Erica, but I wasn’t sure why he was sad.
“Um, when we fought Smog, I had Erica and Carolina with me. Carolina made it out okay, but…he crushed Erica. He killed her.” He paused. “Yes it was, Zelda!”
Malcolm wasn’t crying, but her looked like he’d start at any second.
I put my hand on his left shoulder, which didn’t have a bullet in it.
“Come on Malcolm. It’s okay.”
“Okay?!” he burst out. “How would you feel if I said that about Shay dying?”
It wasn’t easy but I kept myself from bursting out at that comment. I just had to try and remember that to him, his guns really were his sisters.
Figuring a change of topic would break the lingering silence, I went back to what he’d asked about.
“So about Olivia, yeah, she kind of scares me, and I really don’t like how comfortable she is with killing. But, Raina’s my best friend and that means I have to see Olivia all the time too.”
Malcolm dramatically put his hand to his heart.
“Oh my! I’m not your best friend, Carter? I’m so hurt!” he said sarcastically. More seriously, he asked, “So my killing makes you uneasy too? Cause you know I did shoot almost all the guys you knocked out on our way out of that dock house.”
“ I don’t like it, but it’s different. I don’t think anyone but maybe Smog and Perses deserve to die, but at least eh people you do kill are pretty terrible. Olivia on the other hand seems to have no problem killing anyone.”
“I agree. Frankly I don’t trust her much, but she did save our skins against Smog, so since she’s so loyal to her, as long as Raina is one of the good guys, I’m classifying her as one too.”
Pissing Malcolm off wasn’t something I wanted to do, especially after what had been said a minute ago, but what I said next just slipped out.
“Are you just saying that cause you can’t take her?”
Surprisingly. Malcolm laughed. It was somewhere between a nice old grandpa laugh and an evil psycho laugh.
He lightly smacked the back of my head.
“Carter, you are such a knucklehead.” Malcolm grunted, stopped walking, and sat down on a bench, putting his hand on his shoulder.
Sitting down next to him, I said “Shit you’re in pain. Um, Eve’s place is pretty far from here. It may take us awhile to get there.” Malcolm moaned in pain again. “Oh, I’ve got an idea to distract you from the pain.”
“And what’s that?”
“Potential team names for you, Raina and I!” I shouted.
Malcolm smacked me hard in the face.
“Carter, we’re in costume and in public. Keep your voice down.”
“My bad,” I said, feeling my bruised face. I’m not sure what he was so worried about. Neither of the dockworkers were within hearing distance of us. “So, ready to hear some names?”
“Why not?” he shrugged.
I threw out some of my best ideas.
“Shadows of Justice!”
“The Star Federation!”
“Raina and I will not start wearing goggles.”
“Okay, last one,” I said, really hoping he’d like it.
“Team Lightning Bee!” I shouted
Malcolm face palmed.
“Go to bed Carter.”
“Wh…what?” I asked, confused as to what he meant.
“Look, why don’t you just tell me why you called me in the first place.”
With my name suggestions rejected, I explained to him the predicament I was in with Shay and Joey.
Malcolm stood up, looking like he was feeling a little better, started walking, and gestured for me to follow him.
“Any ideas?” I asked.
I hadn’t been able to come up with any ideas all day so I was really hoping he’d have a solution.
“Well, I don’t know much about either of them, but I do know about the system, and how fucked up it is. Raina is never going to be accepted as a hero so long as she’s using the Queen persona, and no one but maybe little kids are going to think of you as a hero so long as think you’re working with her.”
“But, I am working with her.” I said, confused as to what point he was trying to make.
“Right, so you have to find a way to convince everyone that you haven’t been working with Queen. I’d recommend staging a fight with her and having Olivia call the news to report on it. You can make up some story about how you were just pretending to be her ally, and then just have Raina debut a new identity in your next battle.”
It sounded like a good idea, but there were a few concerns I had.
“Raina’s pretty much public enemy number one. They’ll be looking for any lead to track down Queen. Won’t they find it pretty suspicious that I’ve got a new female partner who’s the same height and body type right after I stop being partners with Queen.”
“That depends. On average are this city”s cops more like Shay or Joey?”
“About the middle,” I answered.
“Shit. You might have a problem then.”
“Yeah, not to mention that, apparently, one of Raina’s bitchy friends, whom she told her identity to, turned on her, and the second the cops make the reward for information on Queen big enough, she’ll probably turn Raina in.”
I’d had to interrupt most of that. Raina had sounded like she was in a huge daze when she’d called me earlier. We were having dinner together tonight so I figured I’d find out what was going on later.
“I’m sure you guys will think of something,” Malcolm said reassuringly.
“Thanks,” I responded.
“Yeah, Raina’s a smart kid.”
“You know, not even offended by that.”
Both of our phones went off, and after checking them, we saw that we’d gotten the same text from Eve.
Potential jumper on Yoshiro Street. Hero time?
“We should go,” I declared.
“Yeah, I’m gonna let you handle this. Call it training.”
“Is this just because you’ve got a bullet in you?”
“No, it’s because I’m old,” he said obviously not meaning it. His tone switched. “Yes it’s because of the bullet! Now go save that guy!”
The building atop which a man I couldn’t make out at all was surrounded by people, news reporters, cops, and bystanders alike.
Many disheartening comments were thrown in my direction my an assortment of people.
“Get out of here you scum!”
“Someone stop this villain! He’s evil!”
“Yo officer, get this scrub!”
I wanted to respond, but I clenched my teeth and kept my mouth shut. I’d only make things worse if if I said something stupid, and all that mattered right now was saving the man on top of the building.
“Where do you think you’re going?” a cop asked me as I tried to enter the building, another officer adjacent to him.
I put on my deep super hero voice.
“I’m here to save that man. I know you think I’m a villain, but I all I genuinely want to do is help people, and I think I can. Please let me up there.”
The two cops turned to each other and nodded.
“Alright,” the cop who hadn’t spoken yet said. “Go for it Lightning Bee.”
I smiled and nodded. It was good to know Shay wasn’t the only officer on the force who still had faith in me.
Even as I entered the skyscraper though, I heard people booing me.
Waiting in the rising elevator, I finalized what I was going to say. If I did say so myself, it was a pretty damn inspiring speech, and even in the event the man didn’t take it well, I could use my lightning to lower us both down to the ground.
Arriving at the roof, there was a large man in a gray hoodie standing on the edge with his back to me.
As I approached him, I spoke.
“Hey there. I’m Lightning Bee. What’s your name?” I asked, thinking this was a good way to start before getting to my speech.”
He spun around and aimed a gun at me.
“Officer Joey McKnight!” Joey shouted. “And you’re under arrest.”