People were staring.
It wasn’t surprising at all. Now that we were moving and relatively settled, anyone sitting on the other side of the bus who turned their head my way was left gazing at my disfigured face. Either that or my only partially clothed, still smoking body.
The immediate combination of heat and stank which hit me when I first got onto the bus hadn’t let up. Did poor people really ride these every day? No wonder Shay was always so grouchy. Dirt and grime covered nearly every surface, most of which were, at least originally, colored light blue and gray.
I’d been in a subway plenty of times before. Back in 7th grade, as part of our campaign to destroy Jovaughn’s life, Lindsey, Ally and I would follow him back to the subway he took home from school everyday, and make him think that maybe, just maybe, it would be the day we’d actually push him in front of the train. He was still in a mental hospital and, like the other people I’d put there, I could only hope he’d get better one day.
Point is, I knew firsthand how disgusting subways were. I hadn’t ever actually gotten on one of the trains, but I could imagine it being even worse than the bus. When I got around to sizing down my lifestyle, investing in a cheap car was a must.
Turning away from the window and looking toward the front of the bus, Troyan, who was standing and holding onto a pole, looked to be having an argument with Joey. He was whispering and the masses were chattering, making it so I couldn’t hear what was being said. However, Troyan looked frustrated, making him look even more disheveled, and appeared to be roaring out his whispers.
Curious as to what they were talking about, I waited for a red light, and once we stopped at one, I strutted over to the two.
“…want to know,” were the first words I was able to make out, Joey finishing up the statement.
Standing tall, I gripped onto the same pole as Troyan and asked, “What are you guys talking about?”
Staring at me, the police captain looked absolutely dead inside. In contrast to Troyan’s almost glassy eyes, there was a fire in Joey’s. Was it just from the mission at hand or had what they’d been talking about really gotten him going?
“Uh, nothing Ray,” Joey said cautiously. “The Captain and I are just talking. Just head back to your seat and relax.” Terrible bluffing job. “I’ve got some games on my phone if you want to play.”
Really? Really?! I said to him in the form of a glare.
“Right, you’re “mature for your age” or something,” he groaned as if I was ridiculous. “Not sure what maturity has to do with gaming but…”
“Sit down,” Troyan interrupted him, coldly.
For an ex-cop and a police chief, these two are really bad at hiding something, I thought.
The street light turned green and Joey resumed driving, causing me to momentarily lose my footing. Regaining my composure and gripping the pole tighter, Joey was now looking straight ahead and Troyan had turned himself around 180 degrees.
Sighing, I grabbed Joey’s ear and yanked on it.
“Shit,” he spat, iron focused enough on his task that the jolt of pain he felt didn’t cause him to crash into anything. “And what was that for exactly?”
“What do you think?” I snarked.
“This doesn’t concern you,” Troyan said, not even looking at me.
“Kinda does,” Joey said softly.
“Spill it already,” I groaned. My brain was telling me to bribe or threaten, but I was doing my best to reject those impulses.
Joey turned his head to Troyan, seemingly looking for approval.
“Fine,” the captain said, pulling out his flask. “Not like she couldn’t just ask Daddy.”
I roughly skid the top row of my teeth across the bottom row. Of course Daddy would be in the know about whatever they were talking about.
“We don’t know for sure that Adam is involved.”
“His name is Andrew,” Troyan corrected, a popping noise sounding as he pulled his lips off the flask. For whatever reason, Joey’s face turned flush, like he was incredibly scared or embarrassed. I wasn’t too sure why though. It wasn’t a big deal that he got Daddy’s name wrong; I was pretty sure the two had never even met. Though with how famous he is…
“Right…right…right,” Joey repeated, sounding unsure of himself.
Definitely need to pursue this later, I thought.
“…and with how much criminal activity he has a hand in, I’d bet my house he’s involved.”
That made me take a step back.
“Hold on,” I said. “You’re the police captain and you know about my dad being a crime lord? Why haven’t you done anything about it?”
Troyan stared down at me.
“If you knew, why didn’t you report anything? I mean, you and your friends are superheroes. Or did you give that up to be part of your dad’s shady church? ” My face fell. Sure, he wasn’t calling out any of the horrible things I’d participated in, but his words still struck a chord. “Scratch part of what I said. Besides Shay, all of you have just been playing hero.”
Eyes popped, a surprised Joey whispered, “You know that Shay is Panda?”
“Duh,” Troyan spat. “I’m not blind.”
“We haven’t been playing,” I said softly, keeping my head low. “We are heroes. We have saved the world. Two of my allies are literally fighting for the lives of everyone in the city right now.” I paused. “And for the record, despite what you saw on TV, I’m not aligned with my father.”
“It’s equally obvious that your friend Malcolm is Decker,” he said, having either not heard me or he was purposely ignoring me. Even more surprising than the revelation that Troyan knew Shay and Malcolm’s identities was that he proceeded to smile.“Haven’t been able to match a face to LIghtning Bee though. I’ve asked Joey, but he’s always said he couldn’t tell me. You be willing to share?”
Looking up, Joey and I shared a small smile. They might have been bigger if Troyan wasn’t making the mood more dour than it already was.
“Captain,” I started. “When Joey said he couldn’t tell you, he meant he was physically incapable of doing so.”
“It’s not like I can’t say his name,” Joey continued. “But you’d be unable to understand”
“It’s part of his…power,” I went on, not feeling the need to explain magic, something I didn’t even really get, to him. “No one can find out who he is unless he wants them to know.” Troyan’s smile had faded, and he’d returned to his expressionless face. “Now then, back on track,” I said, doing my best ignore Troyan’s offensive comments. How could anyone not see Carter as a hero?! “What were you two arguing about?”
As the bus got caught at another red light, Joey turned to me and started explaining.
“You know that I’ve kept in touch with Troyan since I left the force. And one thing I’ve been pestering him about since he stopped being, well, my boss, was why whenever there was a threat going on in the city, he wouldn’t let officers come to the scene. Why you, Malcolm, Shay and Lightning Bee have always had to handle these things on your own.”
“I always just figured you didn’t want your men getting hurt for no reason,” I said, speaking to Troyan.
Shaking his head around, the alcohol starting to get to him, he spoke. “You got it all wrong. The reason I’ve never authorized confrontation is because I knew your group would be showing up.” I stared at him, confused. “Didn’t want you lot getting them killed.”
“And as we were discussing,” Joey said. “I was trying to figure out how he could still hold such a negative opinion of Team LIghtning Bee after we saved the world from Demongeddon.”
I really don’t know whether “Team Lightning Bee” or “Demongeddon” sounds more stupid, I thought.
“And I was about to give my answer when you came over,” he said, turning his flask upside down and shaking it, not even a drop coming out. “You’re not professionals. No matter what good you think you’re doing out there, you’re still just reckless and acting without proper training.”
The light turned green, and Joey, who was taking quick breaths, resumed driving once more.
“Do I need to remind you that while we’re here, Shay and Malcolm are fighting for millions of lives?” I exclaimed, repeating the other fact which he’d seemingly ignored earlier.
“And whoever this Smog person is, I trust Shay to handle it. She knows what she’s doing.”
He was really starting to piss me off. Who was this old drunkard to judge heroes?!
“You don’t know anything!” I spat, Joey taken aback by the sudden violent tone of my voice, his breaths speeding up. “Lightning Bee is the best hero there ever was.”
“If you honestly think that, then whatever fancy private school you go to isn’t teaching you anything. Or you’re just not that bright.”
“Back off, Captain,” Joey said surprisingly sternly.
“No,” he snorted. “No you both need to hear this. I knew the best of the best. I was friends with members of The Guardianship. King Power, Magistar, Chronimeter…” He momentarily turned to Joey. “…your cousin. They were examples of what it meant to be heroes. But even with you lot, and all the other stories of so called heroes popping up around the world, the fact remains that the age of heroes is over, and all most of you are doing are putting more lives in danger!”
Before I could tell off this old bastard, there was a thunderous crashing sound, something having rapidly dropped onto the hood of the bus, shaking the whole thing. I was able to keep my grip, but amusingly, Troyan fell over.
“Shit,” Joey said, his head getting slammed against the back of the driver’s seat as he stopped the vehicle. Everyone in the bus was already panicking and screaming, asking to know what was happening.
“What just hit us?” Troyan asked, pushing himself back up with his arms.
Looking out the windshield, I saw that it was a person who’d dropped down onto the bus, their back turned to us. They were in a crouched position, and I could see they were wearing a dark purple turtleneck, a yellow sweater vest with red stripes, neon green headphones with matching green skinny jeans, and a pair of those fugly running shoes with the toes.
“Oh god,” i whispered. Even before he turned around, I knew what horror had just arrived. There was only one person I’d ever met with fashion sense that atrocious.”
“Hey there!” he shouted loudly. “This song has me really pumped!”
“Joey, drive. Drive now!”
“You know who this is?” Troyan asked, having drawn his gun.
Joey turned his head around, seeing everyone shouting and freaking out.
“I said drive!”
“Can I come in?!” the monster asked.
In one swift motion, Joey turned around and put the bus back into motion, flooring it.
All of the passengers were now screaming their heads off, and it only got worse when only seconds after he got moving again, the man punched through the windshield. Troyan and I ducked down to avoid the flying shards of glass, but Joey got cut up quite a bit as he put the bus back in park, only able to protect his face by holding it down.
Hopping down right next to us, he introduced himself to everyone.
“Hello, I’m Gordon.”
“Gordon,” Joey said under his breath, his arms and legs bleeding from the cuts.
“Everyone get to the emergency exit in the back and run!” I screamed, as Troyan fired bullet after bullet at him, all of them of course just dropping to the floor after making impact.
As all the civilians scurried out the emergency exit, Gordon swiped Troyan’s gun and crushed it in his hands.
“You didn’t have to scare them all like that,” Gordon said in his interminable casual tone. “I’m only here to kill you Raina, not anyone else. I don’t even like killing people.”
He’s here to kill me. The guy that cuts demons apart like they’re celery is here to kill me. Even on my best day, I wouldn’t stand a chance. But like Hell am I dying now.
Joey stood up and moved in front of Troyan and I.
What the Hell is he doing?
“So you’re Gordon the angel,” he said. “Smog’s right hand.” Glancing next to me, Troyan looked both scared and angry. I could relate.
“Did he just say “angel”? Troyan whispered.
I ignored him.
“That’s me,” Gordon said, taking off his headphones. “And seriously, I meant what I said about not liking to kill humans. You guys make so much cool stuff! These headphones? Radical!”
Joey turned his head to me, clearly hoping I had an explanation for his weirdness. All I could do was shrug.
“But you’re here to kill Raina?” he asked to re-affirm.
“Afraid so,” he answered. “Master’s orders, and those can’t be questioned.”
Joey took a moment to observe Gordon, tilting his head up and down. I didn’t have any idea what Joey’s plan was, or even if he had one at all, but given my current physical state, I was willing to let this play out.
“You know, you seem like a nice guy,” Joey said. “Like me. Well, at least I think I’m a nice guy. You’re cheerful, you’ve got a fun sense of style, you helped save the world, and everyone described you as being rather pleasant during Demongeddon.”
“I don’t know if my species if capable of blushing, but based on the movies I’ve seen, I know I would be right now if I could,” Gordon said with pep, swinging his arm.
“So why do you serve a monster like Smog?” Joey asked. “It doesn’t seem to fit.”
Gordon shut his eyes, took a deep breath in, and smiled widely. Upon opening his eyes, he said, “We’ve all got our reasons for what we do. And right now, what I have to do is kill Raina Davenport.”
“I…well…” as he was stuttering, he turned back to Troyan and I for just a second, before getting back to whatever he was trying to do. “You’re an angel. And angels are like, uh, God’s knights, right? Doesn’t that mean you should have some form of honor?”
“She’s more than welcome to fight back.”
Again, not even on my best day.
“Look at her!” Joey shouted. “Does she look like she’s in any condition to fight right now?” Joey didn’t know what had transpired at my estate, but it was still clear as day just from looking at me that I was far from being at 100%.
“Not my problem,” Gordon said. “If you two would kindly step aside, I’ll make this quick and painless.”
“NO! No, I’m not dying here! I’m going to be a real hero!” I screamed as loud as I could. I moved forward, but Joey swiftly blocked my path with his meaty arm. “What are you doing you oaf?”
“Both of you head out the exit,” Joey said firmly.
“Did I accidentally start speaking Hindi again?” Gordon asked, seemingly genuinely. “I already said I need to kill Raina Davenport.”
“And you may still get that chance,” Joey said, rolling up his sleeves. No. He isn’t seriously this dense. “But first you’re gonna have to deal with a champion boxer and former sidekick.” Oh my god he’s really doing this.
“Are you…talking about yourself?” Gordon asked, as stunned as I was.
He smirked, striking a fighting pose.
“You wanna kill Raina Davenport? Well bro, first you’ll have to go through Joey McKnight!”