“Okay Ray,” I said to myself, limping down the sidewalk. “You were beaten to the brink of death, your home is gone, you’ve turned your back on Daddy, and at this very moment, your fate, along with everyone else in the city’s is up in the air.”
Cheering, I leaped into the air, reaching my arms up as far as I could. I’d been healed, mostly, but my body was still incredibly sore, my chest, thighs and shoulders aching when I fell back to the ground.
Yeah, things were looking pretty dark. But it didn’t matter. For the first time in a long time, I knew who I was and what I was meant to do. And just as importantly, things with Carter were back to the way they should be. Better than ever, actually! Carter had always been the one saving me from myself. And while he may have saved me from the terrakinetic, for once I was able to save myself from me. I wasn’t sure why, but having done that made our bond feel even stronger.
Some of Carter’s optimism must have also rubbed off on me earlier. While the odds seemed completely stacked against my friends and Shay, I felt like at the end of the day, everything was going to turn out alright.
And once Smog and his cronies were beaten, and Daddy was stopped…whatever that meant in the end, things could be simpler. Carter, Malcolm and I just shooting the shit and beating down every day bad guys and supervillains. Almost like things used to be, but this time, I’d be doing it for the right reasons.
That meant no more Fencer. That was just me being a damn glory hog and ignoring why I got into the hero game to begin with. I was leaving the Votary so, stylish as those uniforms were, I couldn’t just keep wearing that with a new code name. And I certainly couldn’t go back to being Queen. Redemption was important, but I couldn’t keep lingering on my past. Definitely not that part.
Guess I’d just have to have come up with something knew. Something that fit the real me.
Gazing at each part of my body as I continued down my path toward the bus rental, I was halfway relieved that thanks to all the earthquakes, there wasn’t really anyone left on the street or the road, no cars driving by. Thank goodness for that. With everything else coming to a head, the last thing I needed was a picture of me wandering around the streets with my face all burnt up, and wearing a torn up negligee ending up in the tabloids.
Carter told me I was still beautiful, but I knew he was mostly talking about me on the inside. My face was 100% barf material. But even if I was an ugo fugo on the outside, just like all of my past mistakes, it was something I couldn’t let get in the way of my life.
I was seriously considering having another mask that covers my whole face for my new costume though.
Regardless, after everything else she’d put up with from me, I had to be hopeful that the only person who absolutely needed to find me physically attractive still would.
“I’ve got to call Ally,” I said. “Let her know I’m okay. Let her know I’m sorry. For everything I did and for the text I sent. Let her know…she was right.” As soon as I got on a bus, I’d ask to borrow someone’s phone and call her. Sammy too! He needed to know what had happened. Harrison, Casey and Hope as well. And I’d make sure they all got out of the city. Just for the worst case scenario.
Anyone else I need to call? I thought.
I clenched my fists as a face popped into my mind.
No, I couldn’t call Olivia. I wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. And I really didn’t know when I would be. Besides, she was safer than the rest of us as it was. She and Eve were probably yucking it up in some hotel in Europe at this moment.
Ah fuck, I thought. No one may be here now, but loads of people are going to see me at the busstop. Hell, Joey is going to see me looking like this. So gross!
“Whatever,” I moaned. “It’s not the end of the world. Hopefully.”
Thinking about it, there was another question though from all of this: Who would really forgive me this time? I didn’t give half a crap what Joey or Shay thought, and while I was slightly worried Ally would think I was disgusting looking,I was almost positive Ally would have my back. At the same time though, Sammy and the rest of The Troupe Experience, especially Harrison, hated my guts for what I’d done. I had no intention of leaving Ally and trying to get Sammy back, but I still wanted to be friends again.
And then there was Malcolm. One of my closest friends in the world, and I’d forced him to watch as his girlfriend and I beat the crap out of each other. Hell, I was going to kill her. I had the beautiful image in my head of the three of us being a team again so clearly. But to get to that point, I’d need to earn back Malcolm’s trust and respect. I wasn’t gonna take anything for granted this time.
Finally finishing what would usually have been an eight minute walk after around 20 minutes, I arrived at Bladeburst Bus Rentals, where crowds of people were gathered. Most of them were dressed in street clothes, but there were a few people in suits and a couple of police officers.
Just keep your cool and act like you own the place, and no one will even notice your appearance, I thought, stepping through an open gate.
Making my way through the crowd was a pain in the ass. In addition to the looks people were giving, though they seemed to be shooting those looks all around, the riff raff kept bumping into me. Being touched by this crowd was bad enough, but as I would have expected, most of them smelled. Once I had gotten myself checked out by a doctor, my next stop was going to be to a five-star hotel so I could shower.
A final taste of luxury before I abandoned everything I’d ever known. For real this time.
I would have simply teleported to the other side of the mass, but not knowing exactly what had gone down inside my body, I didn’t want to put any unnecessary strain on it.
Getting through the other end of the crowd, I strutted toward the only two people here I recognized, who were standing together by the parked blue and white busses, staring down at a clipboard.
“Hey boys,” I said, their heads rising and their faces responding in shock, Joey actually jumping back.
“Ms. Davenport?” Captain Alexander Troyan asked with a more gruff voice than I remembered. His voice wasn’t the only thing that was different about him. Compared to the man I’d met as Daddy’s party a few months ago, he was less well dressed with a wrinkled white shirt and sweatpants, he was less well groomed looking generally unwell and rocking 5 O’clock shadow, and his physique seemed to have deteriorated. Also, he was wearing a headset. “Is that you?”
He seemed more surprised than horrified. I suppose that was a decent way to start this off.
“Get away from her Captain,” Joey said, several feet away from us. “It’s not safe.”
Joey wasn’t reacting to my face either. Just to the fact that as far as he knew, I was still with the Votary. With my dad.
“Calm down you baby,” I said, walking past Troyan and over to Joey. “Do I look like I’m here to start something?”
Joey, who was having a decent fashion day by his standards, tilted his head, seemingly taking in my appearance and not just my presence.
“Oh…um, uh…I guess not,” he mumbled. “You’d probably be in full make-up and wearing your evil cult outfit.” His face had been cartoonishly expressive while he spoke, but he straightened it out for what he said next. “Nothing you could do about your face though.” Oh, he of all people was not going to mock me. “But you should know that whatever has come between all of us, Carter has been completely broken up about what he did to you.”
While the rest of his face screamed fear, his doe eyes were full of sympathy, and he seemed to be expecting an emotional response.
“I know,” I said in the most purposefully casual way I could. In reality, just hearing that again, and from someone else, made me feel even better.
“You know? How do you know?!”
Looking behind me, Troyan had stopped paying attention and was leading people onto one of the busses.
“Because dummy, Carter came to my estate, remember? You were part of the team’s plan so I assume you knew he was going there.”
“Yeah, I knew,” he said, lowering his head and putting a hand behind it. “Just didn’t think anything would come of it.”
“Well it did,” I said earnestly, very briefly shooting him an earnest smile before returning to my smirk. “And right now, all you need to know is that Carter trusts me, when this is all over I plan on rejoining the team and right now I just want to get out of the city. I’m one of the good guys Joey. Not just a hero, but…nicer.”
At least I’d try to be.
My body was shaking, every part of me only in a little pain, but also feeling very weak. I desperately needed to just get on the bus, sit down and relax. But really, if Joey didn’t believe what I was saying, which, considering that I’d never been nice to him and had sicked my security guards on him on multiple occasions, I couldn’t put past him, he could very well just take me down. Right now, I wouldn’t be able to stop him.
Especially if his claim about fighting a demon during Demongeddon was true…no, that was still BS.
Come on Joey, say something, I thought, the fatty seemingly lost in a train of thought with his head in the clouds.
“Alright sweet!” his face exploding with emotion. “Good to have you back Raina bra!” he shouted, putting his arm out for me to bump it.
I shot him a look of disbelief.
“Seriously? Just…complete 180?”
“Would you rather I be suspicious and untrusting?” he asked, not afraid to sass me.
“Cause I used to be a cop,” he continued. “I think I can pull off suspicious and untrusting pretty well.”
“Just shut up,” I said I playfully groaned, letting him have a fist bump.
“Wooh!” Joey hopped a couple inches into the air. “I know today really isn’t a good day what with everyone’s lives on the line, but hey, if I die, at least I’ll have gotten fist bumps from every member of Team Lightning Bee.”
So that’s really what they were still calling themselves? Maybe it was time I thought of a proper name.
“Whatever you say,” I commented. I didn’t like Shay. At all. But as our little scuffle had shown me, she really was one Hell of a fighter. And teamed up with Malcolm, with all the weapons I’d paid for, they really did have a shot at taking Smog down. Plus, Carter had full confidence in them.
I may not have still felt the strong urge for Carter’s approval, but I did still trust his gut more than most things.
It was just a shame Olivia had fled. Much as I really still didn’t want to be around her, she could have been a great asset in the fight.
“Captain, everything going alright?” Joey asked.
“Yeah, I suppose,” he moaned, people filing on to the bus we were standing in front of. “Woodsol, Bugby and Dickinson have their passengers all set and are behind the wheel. Figure with this lot here added on we’re getting a little over 200 people out of the city.”
“That’s it?” Joey asked with disappointment.
“Don’t you beat yourself up about it,” Troyan said. “Got no reason to feel bad. Just feel proud that we’re getting this many people to safety.” He then whispered, “Maybe it’s time I learn how to use social media.”
Joey, still appearing rather dissatisfied with the fruits of his labor, looked back to me. Trying to make an effort, I gave him a thumbs up and an “encouraging” smile.
That at least got him to chuckle.
“You really are new to the whole positivity thing.”
“Yeaaaaah,” I sighed. “Anyway, do I have to get in line with everyone else or can I just hop on.”
“Well, you are used to nepotism, right?” he snarked.
Squinting my eyes and folding my upper lip over my lower lip, I said, “Is you giving me lip just going to be a thing, now?”
“And cathartic it shall be!” he shouted, walking back over to Troyan. “Come on. Let’s get going.”
Skipping over the line, Joey and I got onto the bus. He sat in the driver’s seat, and since the closest seats to him had already been taken, I just sat in the closest seat available.
Maybe Joey isn’t so bad after all, I thought, taking in our conversation.
Once all the mumbling civilians were on board and seated, Troyan got onto the bus, pulling out a flask of alcohol from his sweatpants, and chugging it as Joey closed the bus’s doors.
Seriously, what happened to this poor shlub?
“Alright,” Troyan coughed into his headset. “Let’s get out of here, boys.”
Joey started up the engine, and slowly, though rather bumpily, took us out of the lot, the other three busses following suit.
The bus smelled, the odor of all the poor and middle class people melding together, and it was hot as Hell. And honestly, it was only now that I realized this was the first time I’d ever been on a bus.
As gross as it all was, it wasn’t taking away from my atitude. I was gonna go get checked out by a doctor and then shower, and maybe eat, at a nice hotel. Carter was going to save all of the people who were buried under my home. Malcolm and Shay were going to kill Smog. Ally and I would be together. Eventually, I’d sort things out with Olivia and the Troupe. Everyone was going to forgive me, and we were all going to stop my father’s plans.
And just like in the stories my mother read to me when I was little, and the stories Carter was a fan of now, we were all going to live happily ever after.