“Oh, that’s some sweet healing goodness,” I moaned as two doctors using their healing abilities on my burns.
It had been a long time since I’d been in a real hospital. The wounds I usually sustained back in my solo days I had an old doctor who lived in the same apartment building that I did, treat. It was crude, but effective.
After I’d lost my arm, Raina had brought in someone who wouldn’t ask any questions. He cauterized the wound, thankfully while I was under anesthesia.
This though? This was really nice.
Air conditioned room, doctors with actual healing powers, and grub that made me question why everyone always dissed hospital food.
The best part of all was that since there was another survivor in the form of the girl Joey rescued, no one was asking any question, and I could sneak out once I was healed, before we got to the whole “I don’t actually have an identity” thing.
“Seriously, are you sure you’re not a Demigod?” Joey asked, standing over me as the doctors walked off. “Because the damage you were taking…you’re damn durable, bro.”
Flexing my fingers, I responded, “You know I don’t know anything about who I used to be. Maybe the idiot did some strength enhancing drugs, or who knows, maybe I’m a demon, but I’d know if I had any powers.”
Joey grabbed a chair and pulled it over to the bed I was lying in, sitting down.
“So you’ve been like, a hero for as long as you can remember, right?” Joey asked.
“I never really considered myself one, but yeah, I guess,” I answered.
“With all that experience, I’m curious. How do you think I did back there? You know, in the fire?”
It hurt like hell, but I let out a small laugh.
“Kid, you rescued a child, and saved our asses. You did great.”
“Wow, thanks!” Joey exclaimed. “But why did you never consider yourself a hero if you were doing, you know, heroic things?”
Slowly rolling my shoulders back, I said, “Truth be told, up until the last few months, I hated the very idea of super heroes. Thought they were just narcissists who didn’t care about what they were doing, and only wanted fame, not worrying about the innocent people who got caught in the crossfire. Hell, when I first met Carter, I did kind of try to kill him.”
“Did Shay never tell you about that?” I asked casually. “Hunting down Lightning Bee was the whole reason I came to Bluejay in the first place.”
“And now he’s one of your best friends,” Joey said, calming down a bit. “Go figure.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Go figure.”
A song started playing, and from what I could tell, it was coming from Joey’s backpack. He reached over to grab it, and pulled out his phone. The music sounded like it belonged in some over the top anime. I could see why he and Carter had gotten to be friends.
“Panda?” he asked. Good, he was remembering to use code names when unsure of what the circumstances were.
Wait, what the Hell did I care about fucking code names?!
Joey tapped his phone,putting Shay on speaker.
“Yeah, its me,” she answered in her modulated voice. “You’re with Malcolm, right?”
“Good, I need his help.”
A chance to help Shay? Hell yeah.
“I’m right here Panda,” I said. “What’s going on?”
“Well, when Lightning Bee called, he told me that Badrah was dead.”
“Oh shit,” Joey and I both said, neither of us liking where this was going.
“I took off, driving towards Del and Badrah’s house, but when I got there, I saw a Semite man and a Japanese teenager, and figured they were Del and Takato. Del was running off with Takato, holding him by the wrist.”
“Sounds like either they were both trying to run away from the killer, or Del was the killer and was running off with Takato,” Joey said, displaying some of the intuition he’d picked up as a cop.
“My thoughts exactly,” Shay said. “So while I wanted to rendezvous with Bee as quickly as possible, I decided to pursue them.”
“And?” I asked, slightly worried. “Everything alright?”
“I’m not sure,” she answered. “I followed the two of them to a small park. Only a few people were there, which wasn’t too odd, but what did catch my attention was where Del and Takato went. There’s this fountain, the water coming out of an angel statue’s mouth and wings, and surrounding it was a lot of, well, mystical looking stuff. There’s what looks like an altered pentagram, drawn in what I hope to god is red paint, surrounding the fountain, some glowing stones have been thrown in the water…”
I cut her off.
“What do you need?”
She took a breath.
“You’ve been reading Eve’s books. I need to know what I’m looking at.”
I probably hadn’t been doing as much reading as I should have, or as much as Shay would have liked in this instance, but I did recall some things, so there was no harm in giving this a shot.
“Alright, send over some pics to Joey’s phone. I’ll tell you if I recognize whatever these two have set up.”
“Actually,” Shay said, sounding excited even through the modulator. There’s something I want to try.”
The screen on Joey’s phone turned black for a second, but then turned into an image of a the angel fountain Shay had described. Then I realized it wasn’t an image, it was video.
“How’d you bring us into a video chat without sending a request?” Joey asked.
“It’s not exactly a chat,” Shay responded. “Remember how I’ve been sneaking into Panda Corp’s HQ? Well I’ve been taking more than just files. I also took some experimental tech, such as the contact lenses I’m wearing now.”
“Don’t tell me,” I said, knowing where this was going. “We see what you see?”
“Exactly. You can also zoom in to get a better look. Anything looks familiar, let me know.”
Joey handed me the phone, and I zoomed in on the fountain and its surroundings.
The pentagram with circles drawn in the triangles, the red and black stones which seemed to have an aura to them, and the feathers which had been attached to the statue…there was also a small cross drawn on the angel’s stomach…and an un…
“PANDA!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. “You need to destroy the setup, and take out those guys immediately!”
“Why?” she asked, sounding almost appropriately worried.
“Those things together! With a kid who can summon demons?! I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much from those books, but I remember this! The punk is gonna try and unlock the gateway been Hell and Earth!”
“Holy crap,” Shay muttered.
Joey was completely frozen, not that I could blame him. A burning building was a whole different story from literal Hell on Earth.
“Yeah,” I said. “And considering Lightning Bee and Fencer couldn’t even HURT one demon, we don’t really have a chance against, if what Eve said is true about how this all works, trillions.”
“Shit. Okay, I’m going in.”
She sounded scared. While usually that would make me call someone a pussy, I knew Shay. She was the toughest person I’d ever met.
Didn’t change the fact that the fate of the world was in her hands.
“Um,” Joey said, starting to move again. “Shouldn’t we call in the police for this?”
“Hm,” I said. “Much as I dislike cops, you might be right.
Yeah, I was worried about Shay’s safety, so sue me.
“No,” Shay said plainly. “No cops. Bee told me that Takato has undergone severe emotional trauma. Cops might just scare him. I’ll handle this.”
Damn it. I should be there, saving the world with her. Instead I’m here, lying in a hospital bed, completely helpless.
“Good luck,” Joey said.
“Something tells me I’ll need it,” Shay said, as she approached the fountain, where Takato and Del were standing.
At the very least, I’d be able to watch this unfold through Shay’s eyes.
“Hello,” Panda said.
“I know you,” Takato said, stepping forward. “You’re the hero Panda.” Crying, Takato ran towards Shay, “But there’s no such thing as heroes!”
He threw a punch, but there’s no way he’d actually be able to…
He hit her directly in the face.
“Panda!” I screamed.
Shay slowly waved her palm across the right side of her face.
“I know you hate Lightning Bee and Fencer,” Panda said to a shaking Takato. “And to be honest, you have every right to. One is a mass murderer, and the other is an accomplice. But I’m not with them.”
“Fuckin Myers’,” I whispered.
I thought it was just Carter’s way of compensating for being weak, but in the face of the end of the world, Shay was still trying to resolve things peacefully. That drive to always bring out the good in others…
I guess that’s what makes them special.
“Does that mean that you stand with us?” Del asked, approaching Shay with a creepy smile on his face…a really familiar smile.
“Panda,” I started.
“Yeah, I noticed too,” she said almost silently.
“What’s going on?” Joey asked.
“Del has the same smile on his face that the arsonist we just took down did.”
“But that means that Del was tortured into this too. And that that psycho Lightning Bee ran into is behind this.”
“Which means that if Bee isn’t here, he’s fighting him now,” I growled, my feeling of uselessness growing.
“Will you aid us in wiping away all of humanity’s sins?” Del asked.
“Not exactly,” Shay said, keeping her composure.
“Wait,” Takato said, wiping his tears. “You said that Fencer had killed lots of people. That means that you know that she used to be Queen!”
“Yes, I do. And as soon as I can find evidence, I’m taking her down.” The way she said it, it was almost like she meant it. “Now why don’t you tell me why you want to end the world.”
“Kind of funny, isn’t it?” Joey asked.
“It’s such a bright, beautiful day…and the world might be ending.”
“Yeah. A little ironic I suppose.”
“People,” Takato started. “People are evil! Raina Davenport showed me humanity’s potential for cruelty, but I still believed in heroes! But then it turned out that even they were corrupt! I thought…I thought I could, could still believe in myself.”
“You can,” Panda said. “Even if you don’t believe in me, or any other hero, or anyone else, you can find the good in yourself.”
“No he can’t,” Del said, his smile gone, as he smacked Takato. “He murdered my wife.”
Ok, didn’t call that one.
“That can’t be true,” Shay said, aware as I was of how troubling this could be if she wanted to resolve this peacefully.
“It is,” Takato said from the ground, his head down. “I tried summoning another demon to kill Raina, but it took me over…I can still taste her organs.”
“The demon killed her, not you,” Panda commented.
“But he summoned the demon!” Del shouted. “You summoned the demon!” He screamed down at Takato.
“Don’t scream at him. Aren’t you supposed to be his guardian?”
“I stopped being that when he murdered the only person I ever loved!”
“Takato, this wasn’t your fault. You made a mistake. You don’t have to hate yourself.”
“Yes he does!”
“Yes I do.”
“Listen,” Panda said, bending down next to Takato. “There have been times where I’ve been angry at myself. Angry at the world. But actually taking it out on other people, regardless of how innocent…it never works out well.”
“Be quiet you cunt!” Del shouted. “The world must burn, and I won’t let you stop me!”
Del bent down to try and strike Shay. She, without a moment’s hesitation, grabbed his arm and flipped him.
Shay definitely could have broken his arm, but like cops, she likely figured that would scare Takato and bring on the apocalypse.
“Takato, I know what you’ve lost,” Panda said standing up. “Your life will never be how it once was, but you can still try and make something out of it.”
“No he can’t!” Del screamed, getting up and growing bull horns. “He’s a monster!”
Del ran towards Panda, attempting to impale her with his horns, but Shay charged at him, baton in hand and forcefully jabbing it into Del’s stomach without his horns touching her.
Then the baton penetrated him.
“What?!” I questioned. “That thing doesn’t have a point! It shouldn’t have been able to do that!”
Shay let go of the baton, and Del fell over dead.
“Takato, I don’t know what just happened but…”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Takato cried, mouth as wide as possible, as all the things that surrounded, were on, and in the fountain, started glowing.
A purple spiral appeared beneath the statue and swallowed it, hordes of creatures which resembled what Carter had described, and the illustrations in Eve’s books, flying out of it.
“Shay, Joey,” I started.
They both said what I was going to.
“We’re all dead.”