“No, no, no, no, no,” I muttered, barely able to speak.
“What’s wrong Raina?” Smog asked, an evil, toothy grin on his face. “Not happy to see me?”
I’d been so caught up in the moment with Sammy that I’d completely forgotten about the all too real possibility that Smog was secretly the one who’d turned Sammy and the others into super villains in the first place.
Based on his facial expression, Sammy didn’t seem to recognize Smog though.
Which meant things could go bad here very easily. In preparation for a potential conflict, I quickly made note of my surroundings.
The pawn shop had long, wooden shelves spread across their walls. On them were a variety of things ranging from ship in bottles, to potato chip bags, to guns. In other words, nothing that would be useful if a fight broke out against Smog. At the very least though, there was the large counter which could be used for cover.
“Raina, who’s this motherfucker?” Sammy asked in a protective tone. Aww, he thought I needed protecting. I’d have to remind him how our previous fight went later. “And why is he dressed like a Nazi?”
“Now is that any way to talk to a customer?” Smog asked.
As he walked towards us, he knocked over a vase that was on the counter, shattering it.
“Oops,” he said, still smiling.
I took a step forward, but before I could advance any more, Sammy put out an arm to block my path. He then hopped over the counter, taking a place standing between Smog and myself.
“That’s gonna cost you fifteen bucks,” Sammy said sternly. “Now seriously fool, why you dressed like that?” The last time I’d seen Smog, he’d been dressed like a Roman emperor. I guess the guy just had a thing for dressing up as people who were only slightly more evil than him. Hopefully Sammy’s questioning of his outfit didn’t make him mad. “And why’s your hair blue? That’s dumb.”
Damn it Sammy.
Smog shut his eyes and exhaled, looking more frustrated than anything.
“Okay,” he said, sounding resigned, before opening his eyes. “I had this whole bit planned out Raina, but to be honest, your boyfriend is really getting on my nerves.” He wasn’t exactly wrong, but I’d have never expected a year ago that I’d be the girlfriend of trash like Sammy. “So here’s how this is gonna go. I’m gonna ask some questions, and if I like what I hear, you both get to live. Sound good?”
Questions, huh? Good to know the seemingly omnipresent Smog didn’t actually know everything.
“Uh, no!” Sammy shouted, picking up his clubs. “You still haven’t told me who you are.”
I put a hand on Sammy’s shoulder.
“All you need to know is he’s a giant prick,” I said. Sammy hadn’t made it easier, but I still had to do whatever it took to prevent a fight with Smog. “We agree to your terms,” I said to Smog. “But first…” Don’t say it Raina. “I have a question for you.” Oh my god, ask a legitimate question. Do not ask what you’re thinking!…
“Did that costume come with a fake Hitler mustache?”
Why would I ask that? Did I want to die?!
Smog put his hands on his hips and said, “This is what I get for dealing with teenagers. I mean, at least Carter is enjoyably stupid to be around.”
I didn’t know when, but he was going to pay. No one was allowed to call Carter dumb except Malcolm and I.
“I am so confused,” Sammy said. “Raina, if you don’t like this fool, why don’t we just kick his ass?”
“Trying that would be a very bad idea!” I shouted
“She’s right,” Smog added. “Now, question time. First off, who’s your team’s boss?”
Of course. Of course he’d ask a question no one in this building knew the answer to!
Wait, this building?
Oh shit, Hope and Harrison were still downstairs.
I needed to get Smog out of here, and to do that, I had to give him an answer.
Gently pushing Sammy out of my way with my freshly manicured hand, I stepped forward.
“I’m in charge around here,” I said, still trying not to lose it just from Smog being here. For God’s sake, this guy straight up sliced Malcolm’s arm off.
Smog levitated over to where I was standing, towering over me. He then gave me the creepiest fucking smile I’d ever seen.
“I’m not talking about who runs this group of kiddies in the field,” he said. “I want the witch.”
“Witch?!” Sammy reacted. “You mean my sister?!”
Smog clenched his fists.
“No, not the girl who pretends to be a witch. The real one.”
“Ha!” Sammy shouted like a dumbass. “You must be mad dumb. Witches aren’t real.”
“Getting really tired of your shit, boy.”
“Boy? That’s racist.”
“Riiiiiiiiiiight,” Smog said. “Raina, a moment please.”
Helpless to stop him, he shoved me to the floor and then greatly increased the size of his arms. Smog’s attention was now completely on Sammy.
“Oh you wanna go?!” Sammy shouted. “Alright, it’s Juggler time!”
Sammy jumped at Smog, his clubs in hand, but was unable to make contact with Smog. Instead, he was bitch smacked through the counter, and into the wall.
“Sammy!” I shouted, getting up and running over to him.
Bending down, I found Sammy was unconscious. He had a pulse, but just barely.
Considering the fact that Malcolm and I had been able to tank a few of his hits before getting knocked out, and his off kilter attitude, it was clear that Smog wasn’t playing around today.
“Now, how about I phrase the question like this,” Smog started. “Someone, the witch, keeps finding me no matter where I go, its quite the nuisance having someone constantly try to kill you.” He put his smile back on. “Of course, you know how that feels.” I didn’t give him a response. “Now I’ve tracked the witch back to this shop, and you’re going to tell me where and who she is.”
So, witches were apparently real. WTF. Also, Smog despite calling her just a nuisance, he sounded more afraid of the witch than anything. This meant that there were people besides Perses out there who were actually more powerful than Smog. Seriously, WTF!
Smog is going to come at us again in January. And I’m pretty sure if we don’t give him enough of a fight, he’s gonna kill us, Carter’s words echoed in my head.
“You know Smog, as threatening as you sound, I’m kind of already slated for death come January.” I taunted. His smile went away. “But maybe, if you just tell me why you’ve been killing people, and what game you’re playing with me, Malcolm, and Carter, I could help you find the witch.”
Before he could respond, Hope and Harrison busted through the door in the back, Harrison asking, “What the Hell is going on up here?”
“Damn it.” I said almost silently. There went my chance to get any information.
Harrison stayed back while Hope walked up to Smog. Turning her head around, she appeared to be surveying the situation. Hopefully she didn’t try anything rash like Sammy had.
“You beat up my brother?” she asked, barely emoting.
“Not really,” he said. “Just hit him once.”
Smog raised his arms up high, and he actually looked like he was in pain. His knees were bent, his teeth were grit, and his biceps were flexed.
It only took me a couple seconds to realize what was going on. For all his different powers, his brain still worked the same way as any other person, and Hope was hitting him with her hallucinations. However, her hallucinations only worked for a few seconds at a time, so hopefully there was more to her plan, if she even had one.
Evidently she did have one, but it wasn’t complex.
Hope pulled out a knife and slit Smog’s throat.
I didn’t expect it to do anything, but instead of smoke, shiny red blood actually came out of his neck, Smog collapsing to the ground.
“Holy crap!” I shouted not too loudly, trying to keep myself from getting too excited. Sprinting over to Hope, I asked, “What is that knife made of?”
“Anti-Demigod metal,” she said. “What else?” she asked rhetorically, sheathing her knife.
Staring down at Smog’s apparently dead body, I knew something wasn’t right. He could not have gone down that easily.
Walking over to Hope and I, Harrison said, “Damn, Hope. That was sick.”
“Lets check on Sam,” Hope said, gesturing for Harrison and I follow her.
The other two started walking, but I stayed where I was.
“Guys, I think something is horribly wrong.”
Hope turned to me as Harrison crouched down next to Sammy.
“What could be wrong?” she asked, still unemotional. “He’s dea…”
Hope was cut off by Smog, appearing out of nowhere, punching her hard enough that she was sent back flying into Harrison. The two were still clearly conscious, probably due to them being Demigods, but they were both down on the floor.
“You all should really start listening to your leader,” Smog said, dusting off his hands.
Looking over at where his body laid, it was now gone, with no blood anywhere.
“How did you…” Hope started.
“You went into my brain,” Smog said, his smile back in full force. He bent his face down close to hers as he said, “And it doesn’t matter what kind of telepath you are, my brain is more powerful than any human’s.”
He wasn’t even human!
Then what the Hell was he?!
Harrison and Hope weren’t going to listen to me if I told them not to fight. At this point, my only option was to fight him with everything I had, and hope that at least one of us came out of this alive.
Getting ready, I pulled out my golden lipstick tube.
“You used my power against us,” Hope said.
Smog just nodded before changing the subject.
“Now can either of you tell me who your boss is?”
“Her,” he said as I stabbed Smog through where he hopefully had a heart.
“Come on Raina,” Smog said, turning his head 180 degrees. “You’re smarter than that.”
“Oh, that is so gross.”
I pulled my sword out of him and tried to get away from him, but before I could a rock hard black glob fired out of his mouth, hitting me right in the face.
Couching, I limped back over to the wrap around counter. I used my free hand to wipe away the blood on my face, pretty sure that he’d just broken my nose.
Smog jumped a couple of inches into the air and spun the rest of his body around 180 degrees.
“What are you?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you if you tell me who your boss is.”
“None of us know!” I shouted. “We’ve never even met him! Or, her, I guess.”
Still facing me, Smog asked, “Is she lying?
His question was clearly directed at Hope and Harrison. If either of them were lying and actually did know who our boss was, I was dead.
“Not at all,” Harrison answered. “None of us have a clue whose been funding us. Right, Hope?”
Remaining silent, Hope stood up.
What the Hell was she doing?
“I know who’s in charge.”
“No,” I muttered.
“That’s what I want to hear!”Smog shouted with glee, his eyes popping.
He transformed into a cloud of smoke, reforming the top half of his body once he was behind Hope. The lower half of his body was still in smoke form, but now shaped like tentacles and wrapped around Hope.
“You are a sick bastard,” I said, not loud enough for him to hear me.
“So,” Smog said. “Who’s the boss?”
Even though it was Hope he was wrapped around, it was me he was still staring at.
“Please Hope,” I whispered. “Don’t say it.”
“Her name is Sylvia Poe,” Hope said. “She lives out in Detroit, and gives up money and orders from there.”
“See? Was that so hard?” Smog asked with a satisfied tone.
That was it.
I was dead.
“So would you mind getting off me now?” Hope asked.
“You know? I really would.”
Hope screamed her lungs out as Smog appeared to tighten his tentacles’ grip on her, squeezing her hard.
“Raina, do something!” Harrison shouted.
I was back on my feet, with foil in hand, but I was still too scared to do anything.
As Hope’s face turned blue, Smog said, “I really don’t like liars, kid. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a goth bitch like you would just take two depressed poets and mash their names together.”
Even though I knew I shouldn’t have been, I still have a burst of relief that I wasn’t just going to be executed as my new teammates watched. The only problem was that I still had no way to save Hope, let alone defend myself.
Standing up, Harrison spoke. “Let her go. NOW!”
Smog ignored him, continuing to press on Hope.
It was just then that I noticed my sword arm was shaking. I grabbed it with my other hand, but it just kept shivering.
“I said let her go!!!”
Still crushing Hope, Smog spun his head around again, this time to meet Harrison eye to eye.
“Don’t worry Tubby, I see you there.”
Fear wasn’t something I normally felt, but I who the fuck wouldn’t be mortified by the prospect of having their arm sliced off, or worse?
“Good,” Harrison said. “Now listen to what I said, or…”
Smog cut him off.
“Of course, in a moment, you won’t be able to see anything.
Smog’s eyes popped out of their sockets, making me almost vomit, and they flew over to Harrison.
He wasn’t moving away from Smog’s eyeballs, and it was pretty clear from what he’d said that Smog was going to somehow blind him.
I had to do something.
Spikes popped out of Smog’s pupils, and all Harrison did in response was hop back a few inches.
This idiot was going to be blinded in a moment if I didn’t act. Malcolm and Olivia may not really feel fear at all, but Carter does. And he always uses it to his advantage.
So what would Carter do?
Leaping into the air, I shouted, “BAKA!” and as I descended to the floor I sliced through Smog’s eyes with the sharpened side of my blade.
Thankfully his eyes were really just smoke, so pieces of his eyes didn’t splatter onto me. That would have been disgusting beyond belief.
“Listen up dumbass,” I said to Harrison. “Physical attacks that don’t involve anti-Demigod metal are useless against Smog, meaning you’re useless against him. So get out of here so I don’t have to worry about you!”
“Touching,” Smog said sarcastically, regrowing his eyes as he continued to crush was looked like a dying Hope.
“Are you sure you can take him?” Harrison asked.
“Positive,” I lied.
“Okay,” Harrison said. He grabbed his legs, and in a feat which must have been accomplished using his power, he threw himself out of the store at an incredible speed, and took off running.
With Harrison gone, I turned my attention to Smog. He didn’t seem to mind Harrison having escaped, which made sense since he wasn’t really after us.
“Sammy’s unconscious, Harrison’s gone, and I’m right here. Let Hope go, and fight me one on one.”
“And why would I do that?” Smog asked, visibly tightening his grip on Hope.
“Because you’re smart enough to tell by this point that I was telling the truth that none of us know who our boss is. But since I know you wouldn’t want this trip to be a waste, you can have some fun knocking me around.”
“Hm,” Smog said, sounding utterly delighted. “Counter offer. You watch me kill these siblings, and I’ll let you run back to your mansion. What do you say?”
Staring down at Sammy at then back up at Hope, I didn’t even need to think about my answer.
“Not a chance.”
Smog shook his head.
“Sacrificing yourself for two people you barely know, even though you have a way to make a clean getaway? That doesn’t sound like the Raina Davenport I’ve been observing for so long.”
“What? You’ve been watching me?!”
It made sense, given how he knew all about me, but from the emphasis he put on the word “long” it sounded like he’d been watching me for an even greater time than I’d had my powers.
“Not just you. You’re not all that special. I’ve been watching Carter and Malcolm too, though I have to say, your life is by far the most boring. High school this, queen bee that, blah blah blah.”
He was going to attack. I could feel it.
“Oh hey,” he said. “Looks like this one’s dead.”
I bit my lip.
Smog returned to his normal form, letting Hope’s body fall to the ground.
“So,” he said. “Still wanna go?”
He’d killed so many people. He’d hurt my friends. And if I didn’t stop him, he was going to kill everyone I cared about.
I had to stop him here.
I needed the strength to stop him.
I needed it!
Suddenly, I felt a jolt in my stomach, and it had nothing to do with Smog.
The next thing I knew, I was in the air, behind Smog, plunging my sword through the back of his head.
This resulted in one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard: Smog screaming in legitimate pain.
I had no idea how I’d managed to do that, but for right now, I really didn’t care. Smog had been hurt.
“Fucking,” he said, throwing me and my foil back, over the counter.
“I didn’t get to make myself smoke! Do you know how long it’s going to take to fix a hole like this?!”
Getting up and looking his way, I saw the hole in his head instantly regenerate, my heart sinking just as fast.
“You’ve kidding me.”
“Eh,” he said. “Don’t sell yourself too short kid. That really did hurt like Hell. But no human can put me down.” There he went, disassociating himself from humans again. Smog then turned his arms in blades as he’d done in our last encounter, asking, “So since when can you teleport yourself?”
Instead of giving him an answer, I just raised my sword.
“Very well then,” he said with glee, rushing towards me.
He smashed the counter, running right through it as I hopped over the counter, and leaped to the center of the store so at the very least I’d have so room to move around. If I could figure out how I’d managed to telelport myself, that would be even better.
Coming at me from the air, Smog unleashed a barrage of slashes at me at an incredible speed. I was barely able to keep up, block each of his swings, and I wasn’t being given an oppurtunity to parry any of his blows.
Fencing against an inhuman mass murderer was quite obviously a whole different thing from fencing against other 10-14 year olds.
Smog laughed maniacally, continuing his flurry of attacks. He was controlling this fight and the direction it went in, and at this moment, he nearly had me backed against the wall.
Continuing to block his attacks, I tried to will myself to teleport, but to no avail. I would have to jump out of the way of his swings, and hope to God that he didn’t still hit me.
Only a second into my escape attempt, I realized what a terrible mistake I’d made.
I’d successfully gotten away from Smog, but something terrible had happened.
He hadn’t dismember me or stabbed me. He hadn’t blinded me or slashed me.
He’d cut off most of my hair.
“AAAAAAAAAH!” I screamed, my body vibrating rapidly. I didn’t know what was happening, but I was furious, and I was going to roll with it.
Smog charged at me, but without thinking, I teleported behind him, swept his legs, and sent him to the floor.
“Die!” I howled, trusting my blade downward.
Smog rolled out of the way and jumped back to his feet.
Not wanting him to get an in, I went straight for him.
Something unexpected happened though.
My body seemed to be teleporting with no pattern between high in the air, on the floor, and somewhere between, all as I continued to thrust my foil at Smog at a speed I didn’t know I could. For once, he was on defense.
Blood and sweat on my face, broken bones in my nose, and the stench of a corpse on all of me, I was getting tired, but I couldn’t halt my assault. Not even for a second. This could be my…
“Bored now,” Smog said, letting me stab him as he turned his hand into gigantic fists, each the size of a large desk.
Using all the muscle I had left, I teleported behind him and thrust at his head with everything I had left. If it hurt him enough, I could try to grab Sammy and get out of here.
“Not again!”, Smog shouted, giggling.
He spun around and punched me, all of me, with his two enormous fists. The impact sent me flying back into and through the hard, mahogany wall.
I tried to reach for my sword. I attempted to stand up. But I could barely even wiggle my arms. The pain was too great.
Unable to do anything, I closed my eyes and passed out, accepting my fate.
To my surprise, I woke up.
To my even greater surprise, I woke up laying back on a recliner in the middle of the team’s base.
Harrison and Casey were playing some dumb video game, Hope was sleeping with a book over her face, and Sammy was sitting in a chair right next to me.
How was this happening? How was I alive? How was Sammy alive? And even if Casey had come back and somehow fought Smog off, how the Hell was Hope alive?!
“You’re awake!” Sammy shouted with joy, grabbing my hand.
Hearing him, Harrison and Casey paused their game and came running over.
“Good to have you back, Boss,” Harrison said.
It still hurt too much to move, but I felt well enough to speak.
“How are we alive?” I asked in a completely serious tone.
“Well,” Sammy said, clenching my hand tightly. “You can kind of thanks everyone else but me.”
“It’s true,” Casey said, taking out a pocket watch. “Hope bought you two enough time that Harrison was able to reach me, tell me what was happening, and bring me here to fight off that psycho before the clock struck three.” He then flipped the red and black cape he was wearing.
He had fought off Smog?! How the Hell did he do that?
“What’s he doing?” I asked.
“Just pretending to be that old hero Chronometer,” Harrison said. “Just roll with it.”
“Okay,” I said, calmly. In complete contrast to that, I then shouted, “NOW HOW IS HOPE ALIVE?! I saw her die!”
Looking over at Hope, she flipped me off, probably annoyed at me for waking her up.
“Not exactly,” Sammy said. “See what you saw of her power when you guys fought? That was just a taste of what she can do.”
“When Smog, well, hacked her brain,” Harrison continued. “She was able to tell what he was doing, and sort of left a lingering piece of her power in his head.”
“When he was on the verg of actually killing her,” Sammy went on, pronouncing verge wrong. “She triggered what she’d left in his brain and made him think she was dead for real.”
“Now here’s the really cool part,” Harrison said. “While playing dead, Hope saw you get knocked through the wall, and took the opportunity to make him think you were dead too!”
“How the Hell did she do that?” I asked. “Couldn’t he have just hijacked her power again?”
“God you guys are loud,” she said, sitting up with a hand on her head. “But to answer your question, I didn’t use my power on him. I used it on you.”
“Go on,” I said.
“Basically, I made your brain think you were actually dead. It only lasted for 10 seconds, but that was long enough to fool Smog and get him to move away from you.”
“Thanks, but damn,” I said. “Your power pretty much makes you a low level telepath.”
Hope just shrugged.
Sammy moved over to the arm of the recliner, getting close to me.
Despite his smell, I really didn’t mind at all.
“And much as I’d like to say that I got back up and kicked that mo fo’s ass for you guys, it was Casey who saved me.”
“Yeah,” I said, turning my head Casey. “How exactly did you do that? No offense, but aren’t you just really strong?”
Casey slicked his hair back and laughed, opening up his pocket watch.
“You see, we all hid something about our powers during our last encounter. Hope already explained what she can do, and my boys here can tell you what they can do another time, but as for me…Hm, how do I phrase this?” Given the strange nature of his power, I honestly had no idea what other power he could have, especially one that could have driven off Smog.
“Well?” I asked after waiting a few seconds for him to continue?
“Alright,” he said, finally using a normal voice. “When I’m totally naked, I’m not just at my strongest. Once a day, I can also punch someone, and instantly send them anywhere I’ve been in the last 24 hours.”
Huh. Even with the limitations on his power, that really seemed to go way beyond Median levels. Then again, here I was teleporting myself around with no idea how or why. Clearly there were a lot of things I needed to learn.
“So where did you send him?” I asked, putting my arm around Sammy.
“The sewers,” Harrison laughed, answering for him. “Case heads there everyday so he can send people there if necessary.”
“Smart,” I said. “Totally disgusting, but smart.” I sighed. “You know I’m not gonna lie. I had my doubts, but you guys were amazing today. I’m proud to be your leader.”
“Yeah!” Sammy, Casey, and Harrison all shouted in unison.
“Alright, now that she’s up to date, lets let her rest,” Hope said. “First though, would you guys give us a moment?”
“Sure sis,” Sammy said, giving me a smile as he Casey, and Harrison went upstairs.
I was cut off by Hope putting her knife to my throat.
“What are you…”
She cut me off again.
“Shh. I’ll make this quick. Sam told me you two are a thing now. Hurt him and die. Got it?”
For someone who emoted less than Olivia normally did, she was managing to be pretty intimidating.
“Kapeesh,” I answered.
Hope pulled the knife away and sheathed it.
“Good,” she said. “I’ll go grab some beer.”
With the little strength I had in me, I pulled out my phone.
Carter needed to hear about everything that had happened today.
And more importantly, I needed to see how bad my hair looked ASAP.