I’d always been more of a fighter than a rescue worker. The closest I’d come to doing rescue work was saving innocent guns from cruel owners. Still, this apartment building was over 30 stories, and it was all encompassed in fire. These people needed our help.
“Holy shit,” Joey exclaimed. “I can’t even see any of the building through the flames.”
“That’s why we’re here, Captain,” Shay said. I didn’t care if his identity got exposed, there was no way I was calling Joey “Captain KO.”
The three of us reached what appeared to be dozens of firetrucks, a couple small blocks down from the David Michael Memorial Apartment Building. Tons of water was being shot at the fire, but it wasn’t having any effect.
“Thank god you’re here,” a large chinned fireman said, walking up to us. “Wait, where’s Fencer?”
“Preoccupied,” I answered in a grumpy tone, only slightly annoyed by the reminder that everyone thought Raina was the most effective hero out of us all. “We’re who you’ve got.”
“What my partner means to say is, what can we do to help?”Shay asked.
The fireman took a deep breath before speaking.
“Every firehouse in the city has men and women deployed here, but no matter how many flames we put out, more just keep coming.”
“Meaning no one has managed to get inside to begin getting civilians out of there,” Shay said.
The fireman nodded.
“We suspect a pyrokinetic is inside, keeping the fire going. Despite some of us having powers, we aren’t fighters. Please…”
“Don’t worry, Bro,” Joey interrupted, actually sounding serious despite his choice of vernacular. “We’ll save everyone.”
A bold promise, but hopefully we’d be able to do it.
The three of us stepped away from the fireman, Shay turning to Joey and I.
“I have a plan, but first I need to ask something. Captain, you don’t have any experience working in a burning environment. Seeing it, do you still want to go in there?”
Joey turned his head to me, looking pissed, and then turned his head back to Shay.
“You were wrong, Panda,” he said. “You didn’t need to ask.”
Shay smiled and said, “Good answer. Now here’s what I have in mind. We all charge in, and assuming we make it through the flames, I’m gonna hunt down whoever it is spreading the fire. You two can carry more people at a time than I can, so start combing through the building and get as many people out as you can. And much as it kills me to say it, I do mean people. Don’t try and save any animals until you’re sure there are no more people.”
Stuffing any guns I saw into my pockets probably wouldn’t hinder my ability to save people, so I doubt Shay would mind if I saved them too.
Also, she didn’t know this, but I didn’t actually have experience in burning environments either. Not sure why she thought I did.
“Sounds good to me,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
Shay said that the three of us should put on a heroic, united front for the crowd, so we walked in a line through the masses and made our way to the building.
“Remember,” Shay said. “Any one civilian’s life is more important than ours.”
Joey and I nodded, and the three of us leaped through the flames encompassing the front doorway.
I had vague memories of conversations I’d had with certain people while drunk. One guy was a firefighter himself, the other a killer I was getting a confession from before I blew his brains out, and they’d both told me stories about fires they’d been in. They were both so focused on saying how large the flames are and how hot it is.
Damn it, they didn’t describe the truly scary part. The second we entered I began having trouble breathing. I knew not to gasp because that would just inhale carbon dioxide, but I was coughing like crazy. The other two seemed to take a moment to adjust, but they weren’t struggling as much as I was. I was getting old.
The three of us dashed off in different directions, Joey and Shay going down two different hallways, while I went up the staircase.
Approaching a door on the second floor, I braced myself for the interior.
“Ahh!” I gasped, seeing there were even more flames in the room than in the halls. “Hello…is anyone in here?”
Saying each word was like lifting a dumbbell with my mouth. There was barely any air, so it took an immense amount of effort to actually get the words out.
Thinking about it, someone in here probably wouldn’t be able to respond to be vocally because of that. I took my jacket off and put it over my head as I leaped into the flames, looking for any sign of people.
After a few seconds, I heard something crinkle against my foot.
Looking down, I saw what it was. Ash. A lot of ash. Enough to have once been several people.
“Damn it!” I shouted, leaping back through the flames, and out of the room. “No, no, no!”
Quickly going down the hall, I threw down my burning jacket and opened all the doors, and all of them were completely filled with fire just like the first one. Just to be sure of what I was thinking, I double checked a few rooms. More ash.
The fireman was right. Someone was in here, keeping the fire going. But that wasn’t all. This guy was specifically targeting the rooms. Only way there could be more fire in the rooms than in the halls.
We weren’t dealing with an arsonist who could make fire. We were dealing with a homicidal maniac who had complete control over all the fire in this building.
“Oh god,” I whispered. “Shay.”
I had no idea where Shay was at this point, but I had to find her. Her reflexes were superhuman, but she was still just an ordinary woman. An ordinary woman who was going to get burned alive if I wasn’t there to cover her.
It wasn’t like I was prioritizing her over the residents of this building. Far as I could tell, everyone was already dead.
Running up the staircase, one of the wooden panels collapsed beneath me. I grabbed onto the next step, but the edges of it were on fire, so my hand was scorched as I pulled myself up.
After checking the entire third floor for her, I realized that checking everywhere for her was impractical. I pulled out my cellphone and called Shay. Her ringtone had played earlier and I hadn’t seen her turn it to vibrate, meaning that it should still…
And she died, and I cried, and the universe was fried!… I heard from what sounded like a couple floors up. With no others sounds aside from the fire, it wasn’t hard to hear.
I raced up the stairs, following the sound of the song, until I reached a room on the sixth floor. Wishing I had one of my sisters with me, I broke the door down.
“Shay!” I screamed.
This room was still on fire, but it was different from the other rooms I’d been in. For one, a pocket of the room was completely free of fire, and standing in it was an incredibly sweaty Shay, who now had significantly less hair.
And standing in the center of the room was a naked, brown haired man, with fire surrounding his dick.
“Another sacrifice for the flames,” the man said, a creepy smile on his face. “Welcome.”
With a sneer on my face, I asked, “Panda, are you alright?”
“Just fine Bang,” Shay answered in a freaky, quiet, happy tone. “Mr. Matthews was just educating me on how terrible the world is, and why it all needs to burn.”
Her smile. It was the same as Matthews’.
Carter had mentioned that he’d run into a psycho who wanted to end the world. Unless this was suddenly a common belief, they were working together. And more importantly, in just a few minutes, he’d brainwashed Shay.
“Would you care to be educated as well?” Matthews asked. “Or would you like to enter my holy flames?”
“I’d like you to enter Hell!” I shouted, leaping at him.
Before I reached him, he manipulated all of the flames in the room and directed them all at me.
“FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I was being roasted alive.
“Beautiful, isn’t it my new pupil,” Matthews asked as he put an arm around Shay.
Slowly burning, I could still see them both. Smiling. Happy. In just a few minutes, she turned her back on Bang for some di…wait.
She called me Bang. Not Decker.
I’m an idiot!
“Wait! Please!” I shouted with the little strength I still had. “The fires have cleansed me! Let me join you!”
“No can do,” Matthews said. “You displayed an act of aggression. Aggression, one of the many reasons humanity must die.”
“May…may I make a…lastrequest?”
“But of course,” Matthews answered.
My clothes were gone, my afro was gone, I was losing more skin by the second, and something about it all felt…familiar.
“A kiss…from the lady,” I said. “I love her.”
Please be right, please be right, please be right.
“Ah, love. One of the few redeeming traits of humanity. Panda, go on.”
“Thank you teacher,” she whispered, sounding like she was barely able to say it.
Yes. I was right!
The flames on my face disappeared as Shay knelt down next to me, and kissed me on the mouth. And when she did, I breathed into her mouth every last bit of air I had in me.
She lifted her head and smiled genuinely. And I smiled back.
With the speed of a cheetah, Shay leaped up and roundhouse kicked Matthews in the face.
“Did you really think…” Shay said, beginning to bash Matthews’ head against the crumbling wall. “People were so weak willed!..” she drove her elbow into his spine. “That you could brainwash someone by burning them a little!?”
“Silence!” he screamed, backhanding Shay with enough Demigod strength to send her to floor. “You women are all alike! Weak! Stupid! Traitorous!”
“Are you telling me I’m dying in the most painful way possible because some girl dumped you?” I asked as loud as I still could.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Matthews howled. “We were in love! But the world brought out her natural…cruel, feminine side. And so it must burn!”
“That’s enough out of you,” Shay said, standing up.
“You can’t hurt me! You are a woman! I am a Demigod!”
“Yeah,” Shay said as I felt a great sigh of relief. The flames were all lifted off of me, and were thrown at Panda. Before they reached her, Shay said, “A MALE Demigod!”, kicking him in the dick.
Matthews groaned in agony, and probably losing his concentration, the flames disappeared. Just looking behind me, I could see it wasn’t just limited to the room. All the flames were gone.
“I’ll fucking rape you, HOAR!!!” Matthews screamed, blasting fire at her.
Shay put her arms in an “X” formation, blocking the fire, but burning her arms in the process.
“I’m not one to talk,” I said, barely able to stand. “But you need to learn some manners!”
Charging at him, fire started crawling up my legs. I was burning again!
Falling back to the floor, Matthews said, “I am pure! I will cure this Earth in fire! I will…”
He was cut off by a bullet going through his brain.
Matthews’ body fell over, and with all that dead weight, fell right through the floorboards.
Shay joined me on the floor, collapsing from the pain. We turned around and saw our savior.
“Ding Ding,” Joey said, a gun in one hand, a sleeping, little girl in the other.
What the Hell? He earned it.
“Nice work Captain,” I said.
“Are you guys okay?” Joey asked, crouching next to us.
“Do I look okay?” I asked jokingly, still writhing in pain.
“You’d be relatively fine if you’d realized my tip off from the start instead of leaping at the fucker.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said.
“What about you Panda?”
“I’ll live. Just won’t be throwing any punches for a while.” She turned her head. “Who’s the kid?”
“Far as I can tell, the only survivor from this building. She was sleeping in a burning closet.”
“We’ll have to bring her to the police,” Shay said standing up. “But first we need to get Decker to a healer. Fast. I don’t even know how you survived that.”
“What can I say? I’m awesome,” I said, finally able to breath again.
Joey stood up as well, and as he did Shay’s cell phone went off again.
“Hey Carter,” she said, answering the phone. Now’s not a good time. Malcolm’s…” she stopped talking for a few moments. “Right away,” she said, hanging up.
“Everything alright?” Joey asked.
“Captain, you’re the hero of the day. Get Malcolm and the girl out of here and tell the story of what happened to the news.”
“What about you?” Joey asked.
“Carter and Raina are in danger. They need me. Now.”