It all seemed perfect.
From an outsider’s point of view, Daddy’s annual Christmas party appeared as nothing more than those at the top of society lavishly indulging in heavy amounts of alcohol, both in the form of wine and eggnog, and a relaxing night of dancing and mingling, surrounded by gold lighted Christmas trees.
However, this was not all it was.
Out of the 300 people in attendance, around 90% were already members of the First Church of Lightning Bee, and aware of the Votary’s plans. For the most part, this group of well dressed, laughing businessmen and socialites were more than okay with the majority of humanity being wiped out.
And I was among them.
Standing by a window, dressed in a newly-tailored white suit, I sipped my sixth or seventh glass of wine. Daddy had asked me to chat with some of his associates, feeling that if I were to be the queen to his king, I should know “who our squires are.” But I just wasn’t feeling it.
“Thousand dollars for your thoughts,” Ally said, approaching me, a concerned look on her face.
Ally had let her brown hair down for the night, it coming down to her shoulders, the tips curled. Her full length dress was a bright burgundy, only had a single strap, and the strap itself had an intricate, flower like design.
She was gorgeous.
I didn’t respond to her vocally. Instead, I tilted my head back and chugged back what was left of my red wine.
“That bad, huh?” she asked. Smiling warmly, she put an arm around my shoulder. “Don’t worry. After this is over, I’ll be sure to punish you for being so awful.”
Looking at her, my look of discontent met her cheerfulness.
“I’m not in the mood, Ally,” I said, putting my empty glass down on a table. “Seeing all these people…all these people happily partaking in what I’m being forced to do. It’s not right.”
“Bae, you can’t think like that if you wanna make this work somehow,” she said, putting both of her arms around my neck. “You know I hate seeing you be “the villain”. And I hate that, apparently, my father is on board with you dad’s plans as well. We were a bit too…pre-occupied earlier for you to give me the details, but when I got home from school, Daddy filled me in. And you’re right. The world doesn’t stand a chance. Regardless of what you do, bad or good…we may as well be on the winning side.”
I gently broke away from her, and shook my head.
“You’re not the one who has to kill people,” I said.
“You think loving a killer is any easier?”
I allowed myself to smile, just a little.
“Would it be super bitchy to say, “Yes, obviously?””
“No,” she replied, taking my hand. “Just bitchy enough.”
As she continued to hold onto my hand, I took one of her’s.
“When…when all of this is over. When we’ve won, humanity is gone and reborn, and we’re in the Garden…I’ve been considering killing myself.”
“What?! No! Raina! No!” she immediately panicked.
“What else am I supposed to do, Ally?” I asked. “I’d love to be able to spend eternity with you. Carter too. But I won’t be able to live with myself.”
“I won’t let you do that,” Ally said. “There’s still time, right? We’ll get you the mental help you need. We can tell your father.”
“NO!” I screamed, thankfully not starting a scene. “Daddy can’t find out about this.”
“Why not?” Ally asked. “You’re his right hand girl, right? Not to mention his only daughter. We both know he’d do anything for you.”
“No, he’d do anything to me!” I spat, my face curling with rage.
Ally’s eyes widened.
“What the fuck do you mean?” not a hint of sweetness or snark.
I got really close to her, and whispered.
“When I was little, after my mother passed away, Daddy…he didn’t want to….didn’t want to confuse me by bringing home another woman. But, he still had urges.”
“Raina,” she whispered. “Please tell me you’re not saying…”
I cut her off.
“And ever since I joined the Votary…he’s been acting on his urges again.”
Without another word, Ally, with Daddy in eyesight, began stomping towards him, a look of fury on her face.
“Ally, stop,” I said, grabbing her wrist.
“I’m gonna kill him, Raina. I’m gonna fucking kill him.”
“You damn well know you can’t do that,” I replied. “Besides, I don’t want him dead.”
“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “He has been raping you since you were a child. Why the Hell wouldn’t you want him dead?”
I hung my head low.
“He’s always been gentle,” I said, unsure of what else to say. “I’m his queen. He’d never hurt me.”
“Holy shit,” Ally said, pressing her fingers against her face. “Raina, you should not have any sympathy for this man. One of my ex-boyfriends? He was molested by his father for years. It took him a lot of therapy, but he was eventually able to realize what a monster his father was. And we got him put in jail.” She put her hands on my shoulders. “I hope you only need to hear me say it to understand.”
I shook my head.
“Are you just mad cause I didn’t tell you?”
“Jesus, Raina,” she said softly, putting her arms around me. “I’m so sorry.”
What are YOU sorry for? I thought.
Still, she was just doing what she thought was best. She didn’t understand me and Daddy. And I still loved her, too. So, I put my arms around her as well.
The hug…it was nicer than the hugs Daddy gave me. And when Ally and I had made love, it had been better too.
The hug was broken up when, from my clutch, my phone started ringing.
“Take it,” Ally said, letting go. “I’m off to go have some words with you father. Don’t worry. I won’t tell him you told me anything. I’ll be polite.”
She walked off, giving me a kiss on the cheek, and I took out my phone.
“What?” I asked, not in any mood to speak with a peon.
“Evening, Ma’am,” a voice which sounded vaguely familiar said.
“Who is this?” I replied with zero emotion.
“It’s uh, Toby. From this morning.”
“What the Hell do you want?” I asked. “I already told you the squatters would be gone by tomorrow.”
“I know, I know,” he said, still incredibly nervous sounding, speaking to me. “But I was driving by the site again, and it appears that a group of super heroes are defending the area.”
Heroes? I thought. Other hero teams have popped up around the world since Carter’s debut, but we’d always been the only game in Bluejay.
“Describe them,” I said, curious.
“There’s one really fat one,” he started. “Another who’s dressed in all primary colors. Then there’s one who kinda seemed mentally challenged. Oh, and the one in charge had painted her skin green.”
Gritting my teeth, I shook my phone, and started mouthing off swears. This wasn’t a team of heroes. This was the Troupe Experience.
Hope, Sammy, Casey, and Harrison had chosen not to stand alongside me. And now it appeared that they were actively standing against me.
“Uh, Ms. Raina?” he asked.
“I’m here,” I said. I sighed. “Like I told you earlier, the squatters will be removed. And the “heroes” along with them. Good night.”
Without letting him get another word in, I hung up.
“Damn it, Sammy,” I said to myself. “Why couldn’t you just look the other way?”
As I put my phone back in my matching white clutch, I noticed Daddy, Dr. Gerbe, and Ally all coming toward me.
“Having a good time, my love?” Daddy asked, his smile wide, and his teeth glistening. Carter’s smile was my favorite in the world, but Daddy certainly had much nicer teeth. Not sure if that’d still be the case if Carter had just let me pay for a teeth whitening.
“Yes,” I lied. “Indubitably.”
She just doesn’t get it.
“Excellent!” my father boomed. “And I know this party isn’t the only thing you’re enjoying.” What’s he talking about? Was he talking about our relations? Or me participating in the Votary? “Ally here just informed me that you two are now a couple, and I just wanted to say congratulations. She’s much better for you than any of those boys you’ve dated.”
Ally was smiling, but her eyes had a look I was all too familiar with: a look to kill.
“Thank you, Mr. Davenport,” Ally said cheerfully, hooking one of her arms around mine. “I think we’ve both wanted this for a long time.”
Why was Daddy so happy with me dating Ally? I’d always assumed everyone from his generation were homophobes. Was this just a matter of wanting to be the only man for me?
“It’s a logical pairing,” Dr. Gerbe said, sipping a mojito. “Ally’s family will have a high standing in the new world.”
They were talking about it so openly. I guess that it made sense since only around 30 people here didn’t know what was going on, but still, what if one of them overheard?
Oh yeah, nothing. If anyone could actually do something, I wouldn’t be in this situation.
“Even in paradise, spending eternity with Raina is all I’ll need to be happy,” she said, kissing me on the cheek again. “Do you feel the same way, Ray?”
Damn it, I thought. She’s playing me. If I lie, Dr. Gerbe, with her intellectual abilities, will likely see I’m lying, and she and Daddy might find out what I’m planning. And I can’t tell the truth…
“Hey there everybody!” a very special waiter shouted as he approached us.
I smiled. Carter Myers: Always there when I need him most.
“Carter, my boy,” Daddy said. “Glad to see you.”
“Pleasure to see you too, sir,” he replied…nervously.
How much did he know about what was going on? Apparently, Eve had spoken to him, and he’d already learned about the Votary’s plans…and how I was a part of them.
He’d had a message for me. He thought I needed saving. But he didn’t get it. He was the one that needed to be saved.
Had Sammy been the one to tell him? If he had, no leftover feelings would save him.
“It’s really good to see you too, Raina,” he said.
And there it was, that Carter Myers smile. Yellow, crooked, awkward, and the best sight a girl could ask for.
“It’s been awhile,” I said. “I’ve been busy. I’m sure we’ll be back to hanging out daily, soon.”
“I hope so,” he replied.
Daddy and Dr. Gerbe both took shrimp off of Carter’s tray, which also had several drinks on it, and he began talking with Ally.
But the sound was being drowned out by something else.
I’ve always done what’s best for us, Queen said, standing next to Carter, munching on a shrimp of her own. Our own. But for once, I’m gonna say something you’d be stupid to refute. And I know we’re not stupid.
What do you want? I mouthed, not wanting the others to hear me.
Simple, she said. I want to live. And so does your father. And Carter. And Ally. Malcolm too. And deep down, probably even Olivia.
Now that’s bullshit, I replied in regard to the last mentioned name.
It isn’t, bitch. I call you a bitch, because bitching seems to be something you’re good at. Yes, you’re helping kill billions of people, and while that’s a big number, our body count is already in the hundreds. And while its been tough, we’ve moved on. It may take longer, but with all these people who care about us, we’ll move on from this too. I promise.
She finished eating the shrimp, and faded away.
Queen was everything wrong with me…but she was the person I was choosing to become. Maybe it made sense to just listen to her.
“Oh, man!” Carter shouted. Snapping back to reality, I saw that Carter had spilled drinks all over Daddy and Dr. Gerbe. “I am so sorry!”
“It’s quite alright,” Daddy said patting himself down, maintaining a cheery disposition. “No one in my home wears the same outfit twice anyway.”
“Yes, well, I do,” Dr. Gerbe said, a suspicious look in her eyes, directed at Carter.
Had Carter done that on purpose?
“Just be glad you didn’t spill any on me,” Ally said. “Or Bae’s best friend or not, you’d be dead.”
Carter’s eyes widened.
“Oh my god!” he shouted, putting down his tray. “Bae? You two are dating?!”
“I didn’t know my little girl felt this way either,” Daddy said.
“Well, I’m happy for both of you,” Carter walked closer to me, a hug incoming.
Yes! I need this!
However, I didn’t get it. Instead, he tripped and fell over on top of Daddy and Dr. Gerbe, taking them all to the ground.
“Carter!” I shouted, Ally chuckling. She was clearly enjoying Daddy’s misfortune.
“What is the matter with you?” Dr. Gerbe asked as they all got to my feet.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m not usually this clumsy.”
No, I thought. He isn’t.
What was he doing? If he knew what Daddy was capable of why would he…no.
Without another word, I speed walked away from the group, hearing Carter do some other crap as I did so.
There were only a few people who could have told Carter what the Votary was doing. But if he did know, odds are, Shay, Joey, and Malcolm knew as well. Panda had joined the team, so they probably knew as..fuck! Shay was Panda, wasn’t she?! How was I just now realizing this?
Shay, I thought. Shay, who has been looking into my father for months.
If she knew everything, no doubt she’d try a full scale snooping of the house. And if she wanted to make sure Daddy didn’t intervene, she’d use a…decoy!
“Shit, shit, shit!”
Almost out of the ballroom, I noticed Eve. Drinking. Alone. No Olivia.
It only took me a second to put 2 and 2 together.
Traitorous bitch! I thought. Everything she did to me, and NOW she turned against the Votary. She’d burn for this.
No matter what, no matter how much he already knew, Carter couldn’t learn the full truth.
“HA!” Shay and I both shouted as our kicks collided, each of us tightly pressing our leg against the other upon impact.
I had a feeling this first collision of our fight hurt me more than her. She was older than me, bigger than me, and from how hard her kick hit, stronger than me.
We glared at each other, both completely aware of our situation. This wasn’t a sparring match, or the two of us working out our issues or some bullshit; we were trying to kill each other.
Shay jumped back, gaining distance rather than continuing to attack.
“You’re still able to stand,” Shay said. “I must be slacking on leg day.”
Gritting my teeth, I hissed at her.
I’d always hated Shay. And this could be my only chance to kill her without making Carter mad at me. He didn’t need any other women. Just me.
“Come on you two!” Malcolm screamed from the pod I’d put him in. “Just stop this.”
“You feel like stopping?” I asked.
“We haven’t even gotten started,” she growled, ignoring her boyfriend.
I’d seen Shay fight plenty of times. No so much in the field, but definitely in sparring. Taekwondo was what I was trained in, but I was familiar with an abundance of others. Still, I couldn’t pin down what her’s was exactly, and she’d refused to tell me.
Still, that wasn’t important as the thing we all knew about Shay’s fighting: she was fast as shit. Like, almost impossibly fast for someone without powers. Combine that with her greater muscle mass, and I was seemingly at a disadvantage.
But there was more to a fight than just skill. There was brains. And I was much smarter than this dumb cow.
Shay, ever a Myers, did the cliche thing you see in every martial arts movie where one person takes a stance, smirks, and gestures with their fingers for their opponent to come at them.
Sorry bitch, but you’re not bating me, I thought.
Readying my leg to make a strike, I teleported myself into the air, right in front of Shay. And the instant I got there, thus taking Shay’s attention, I teleported a little higher into the air above and behind Shay, and on my way down, I…
…before I made impact, Shay, in less than two seconds, reacted to my first teleportation, realized I’d then teleported above her, and then leaped into the air to spin kick me in the neck.
“Chhhhh. Chaaa!” I squeaked and groaned in pain. My neck felt like it had just struck by a paintball… if a paintball was what you called a colored steel ball.
I dropped to the ground, clutching my neck.
“Kid!” Malcolm shuoted. Much pain as I was in, it was nice to hear he was still worried about me. “Shay, go easy on her!”
Now that I didn’t want to hear.
Go easy on me? I was superior to this bitch. If I didn’t hate her so much, I’d be the one going easy on her.
Evidently, Shay didn’t agree with her boyfriend either, sprinting over to kick me while I was down. I was in too much pain to block properly, so I teleported behind Shay, and rolled even further away.
“I’m disappointed,” Shay said, approaching me.” I’m not sure what I was expecting from a spoiled heiress.” The mere clicking of her cheap ass shoes as she got closer pissed me off. “I guess I figured between your sparring matches with Malcolm and the fact that you’ve survived the past few months, you might actually be half decent.”
Taking my hands off my neck, I grunted.
“It was one fucking hit,” I growled.
“Is that all you thought that was?” Shay asked, standing right over me. “No. In a fight between non-Demigods, strength is irrelevant. Speed and reaction time are all that matter. I just tested yours. And you’re slow.”
“Damn you,” I said, hating her more with each passing second. Who did she think she was talking to me like this?
“On the bright side,” she started, smiling. “This just shows how good Carter’s gotten. I mean, if he’s lived this long with you as his backup…”
“DIEEEE!” I cried, pouncing at her from the floor. However, I didn’t even reach her. She sent me straight back down to the floor with a downward angled punch to the face, giving my face a bruise to match the one she’d given my neck.
“What?” Shay asked. “Did bringing up the amazing man who will never forgive what you’re doing touch a nerve?”
“Shay!” Malcolm shouted. “Seriously, quit mocking her. That’s not cool. And Jesus, don’t kill her! Just knock her out and get me out of here.”
“Carter loves me…he will forgive me,” I said, struggling to stand. The first part I knew was true. The second part needed to be. “And FYI…I’m not slow…I’m the fastest!”
Without even really thinking about it, I was doing something I’d only ever imagined, as I started teleporting everywhere, all around Shay, from every angle.
“Impressive ability,” Shay said without any emotion. “But you’re not distracting me. when you actually need to attack me, your strike will still be too slow.”
“Oh yeah?!” I replied, my eyes popping.
I sped up the rate at which I was teleporting, just thinking where I wanted to go in the lab and I was there. When Daddy had told me I was capable of teleporting myself anywhere in my line of site after he increased my power, I thought doing it would make me feel nauseous or something, but it didn’t; it was like a high.
“Quit playing around, and let me end this,” Shay said.
“The more you talk, the more I wish I could I just leave you alive and make you my slave!” I screamed.
“Really? A slave? Don’t you think you’re in the right or something?”
“Fuck you, Shay!” I shouted, teleporting in front of her for half an instant, on the last syllable. “You think you’re so tough? So much holier than thou? You think you’re the hero of this story? Well, you’re not!” I stated, continuing to teleport around, my face turning red. “Just a normal woman with a big ego, who’s going to die with the rest of the world!”
Blood boiling, I sped up the rate at which I was teleporting around the room. I was moving so fast, I was leaving after images. There was no way Shay was following me.
I was only gonna get one chance at this. If the blow didn’t kill Shay, she would take me down. Malcolm would probably stop her from killing me, but they’d still tell Carter what’s down here. And I couldn’t allow that!
“Kid, this power is cool and all,” Malcolm said. “But you’ve got to accept that you’re not winning this. Just let me out, let us leave, and we’ll find a way to make this all work.”
I paid him no attention. Right now, my focus was on taking out Shay in one hit. She hadn’t moved this whole time I’d been teleporting. She was completely stationary. Shay was completely prepared for me. I’d have to do something which would completely catch her off guard.
But she was right.
I could move around instantaneously, but if I got close to her for more than a second, I’d wind up back on my ass.
Then I remembered something: My original powers.
I’d been so caught up in wanting to just kick Shay’s ass that I’d neglected where my true strength lied. I knew I was smarter than her, and now it was time to prove it.
Shay still standing in place, I teleported to the highest point of the lab, I teleported a table, with equipment such as test tubes and boiler plates on it, to just a few feet above Shay. It quickly fell down onto where she was standing, and as expected, she jumped out of the way.
However, as she did, she groaned,opening her mouth.
And with that orifice exposed, I teleported one of the test tubes from the table into her mouth. The sudden feeling catching her off guard for just a moment, I teleported to her side, and while she did react to me, there was enough of a delay that I quickly teleported to her other side, and a few feet into the air, and kicked her jaw, shattering the test tube I’d put in her mouth.
“Shay!” Malcolm shouted, mortified by the sight of shards of glass and blood pouring out of Shay’s mouth.
“You’re mine!” I screamed, Shay’s only focus on getting all of the potentially lethal glass out of her before she swallowed any.
I teleported behind her and kicked her in the back, then teleported in front of her and punched her in the gut. I kept striking her, teleporting to a different location with each one.
“You were wrong about reaction time and speed being all that matter,” I said. “Pain is important. Me, Malcolm, Carter, we get the shit kicked out of us all the time.” As I talked, I continued to beat down on a now helpless Shay. “I’m sure you’ve lost before, but it’s not something you’re used to. Just look! One good strategy from me was all it took to turn the tides completely! And now you’re de…”
“Shut up!” Shay moaned, her mouth still filled with blood.
Teleporting to above her for my umpteenth consecutive strike, Shay leaped up to meet me, and spat blood into my eyes.
My eyes! I thought, panicking. I can’t see. And if I can’t see…
I felt Shay grab me from behind, the sound of her panting in my ears, as her arms were wrapped around my sides, my arms restrained.
And without my sight, or the ability to wipe the blood away, I was a sitting duck.
“Game over,” she moaned, coughing up more of her blood onto my neck.
In one swift motion, I was lifted into the air and thrown over Shay’s head, crashing down on my neck.
“Raina!” Malcolm shouted.
My mouth opened to cry out in pain, but the wind had been completely knocked out of me.
And worse, I was down. I couldn’t move. Too much pain. Too much energy used on teleporting.
All I was able to do was lift my arms and finally wipe the blood out of my eyes.
From the cold, hard floor, I saw that Shay wasn’t even paying attention to me anymore. She’d walked over to Malcolm in his pod, and was seemingly looking for a way to get him out.
“Is she okay?” Malcolm asked.
“She’ll live,” Shay answered, picking out a small, left over glass shard from her mouth. “You know I don’t kill unless I have to.”
Didn’t see me as dangerous enough to kill? I thought. But I almost won! She was still bleeding all over from my assault!
“Where’d you learn to do a suplex anyway?” Malcolm asked.
“The truth?” she responded. “I never really into wrestling as a fighting style. I just saw that move in an anime Carter was watching and figured it’d be a good disabling blow.
You’re shitting me…
“Come on, come on,” Shay muttered. “There’s got to be some way to get you out.”
It was unlikely that she would find a way. But if she did, everything was lost. I couldn’t let Malcolm get out. I couldn’t let Shay live.
Looking to the distant area of the lab, I teleported Olivia out of the pod, and over to where the rest of us were.
Olivia gasped, no doubt having been caught off guard since being teleported isn’t a threat to her safety.
“Crap,” Shay said.
“Olivia!” I screamed. “You know I hate you. And I won’t hesitate to report what you’ve done to my father. You want to save yourself, and Eve? Kill her!”
The battered and weakened Shay stared down Olivia.
“What’s it gonna be?” Shay asked.
Olivia closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Don’t do this, Olivia,” Malcolm pleaded.
As her eyes opened, she said, “I’m sorry. Both of you.”
Yes! Yes! I cheered in my head. Shay wasn’t capable of beating Olivia on her best day. And with the beating I’d given her, she didn’t stand any chance. Shay Myers was going to…
Before Olivia could even move to attack, she turned around towards the elevators in shock…and was met with a blast of white lightning, sending her flying back into a wall, and knocking her unconscious!
“No, no, no,” I whispered, praying that that lightning hadn’t come from…
“Carter!” Shay and Malcolm shouted.
“No,” I said somberly.
Just barely able to turn my neck around, I saw Carter stepping out of the elevator, his arm raised, smoke coming out of his hand…and tears running down his face.
As he got closer, looking at the environment around him on the way, he just looked sadder and sadder.
“How did you…” Shay started.
“Eve was worried about Olivia,” he said, his voice sounding as depressed as his face looked. “Told me how to get down here.” He stared down at me, and I couldn’t read what he was thinking.
Carter looked back up, and with a much smaller blast than the one he’d just used to take down Olivia, shattered the glass cover over Malcolm’s pod.
“Thanks kid,” Malcolm said, stepping out and hugging Shay.
“Both of you,” Carter said, breathing heavily. “Take Olivia, grab Eve from the party, and get out of here.”
“What?” Shay asked, clearly not just surprised by what he was saying, but taken aback by his authoritative tone. It shocked me too.
“I need to talk with Raina…alone,” he said, his tone both serious, and filled with sadness. “And we can’t leave Olivia and Eve here. Once Davenport finds out about their betrayal, they’re dead.”
“Kid, I think we should…”
“Now, Malcolm!” he shouted, his eyes filling up with white electricity.
Malcolm stood firm, but Shay put a hand on his shoulder.
“Grab her,” she said.
Looking pissed, Malcolm went over to Olivia and put her over his shoulder.
“You sure you don’t want us to stay? She’s dangerous.”
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
“No she isn’t, Carter replied. “I’ve got this.”
Shay nodded, gesturing to Malcolm, and the two quickly made their way toward the elevators. While they got it started, Carter just stood in silence. He really wanted to be alone.
Once they were gone, Carter walked over to me, and bent down.
“I…I,” I said, no idea in the world what I was supposed to say to him.
All the chances he’d given me…and here we still were. I was scared…terrified of the way this conversation could end.
And if I didn’t say everything right, I would just as quickly lose everything.