My eyes kept flickering, the glimpses of what was around me being dark but not pitch black.
I didn’t know where I was, but I was laying down. Raising my right arm up, I squeezed my hand, opening and closing it repeatedly.
I kept doing this until I could keep my eyes open.
“Huh,” I said. “Not dead. Cool.”
Keeping my right arm up, I raised my left arm, and started squeezing it in time with my other hand, breathing a sigh of relief.
I never thought it’d feel so good just to have control of my own body.
First things first, I thought. Closing my eyes, I thought to myself, You still in there?
You…you can’t keep me here forever, Sarah answered, sounding like she was dying.
I don’t intend to, I thought, a small part of me finding it kind of cool that I could now do this so casually…but a much larger part of me getting chills just from hearing her voice. Once Adam is dealt with, I’ll do whatever I can to get you home.
Still clearly weak, she laughed.
You phrase that as if you want to help me.
Smiling, I thought, I do. You’re horrible. What you did to me. What you tried to do to others. But, thanks to Olivia, no one actually got hurt. And since your power is going to be helping me, I figure the least I can do is put you back where you belong.
You truly are a fool, she groaned.
Yeah. I am, aren’t I? I thought, opening my eyes. “Now then,” I said, still groggy. “Need to find out where I am.”
As I started moving out of what was probably the softest bed I’d ever slept in, I realized that I’d been put in a silver robe that was just as soft as the bed.
“Oh right,” i mumbled, standing up. “My costume got destroyed when I transformed into that thing.” I paused. “Man, my costume! It’s gonna take forever to make a new one! Wait. Olivia was with me when I changed back. Did she me naked?!
I fell back down as, as I screamed that, a wild roar came from outside the room I was in.
My mouth still wide open, I noticed the same bright, glowing white lightning that I’d conjured up in my soul was surrounding parts of my body. It wasn’t doing damage to anything, and whereas I usually felt nothing or a small tingle from my lightning, right now, it was actually soothing.
“Cool,” I said, the door on the other end of the room opening as the lights turned on.
“Thank you Konfo,” I heard Olivia say from right outside the doorway before entering the room. Oh right, I thought. The bear.
Olivia had changed out of her armor and was wearing a short-sleeved black turtleneck with black heels, a necklace and a pencil skirt.
I wonder if Raina would be impressed that I remembered what a pencil skirt was, I thought.
“You were only out for a few hours. I’m glad you’re awake already,” she said, having returned to her usual sternness. Although, given everything which had happened between us, there was also a sense of awkwardness in her voice.
“Yeah,” I said, equally uneasy. I licked my lips and scratched the back of my head as we continued to stare at each other. “We should talk.”
“Um, yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” I asked, unsure about Ally’s greeting.
We hadn’t talked since Daddy’s last party, and aside from her knowing about what Daddy did to me…well, she didn’t have any reason to be immediately worried about me right now as far as I knew.
“I don’t know, maybe because your house was totalled! Or because there’s a live newscast going on outside it right now and Olivia is fighting some big ass monster!”
I’d expected for her to be grumpy upon hearing my voice. I’d expected to apologize for the way I’d treated her. For the horrible thing I’d texted her. Tell her how I’d turned my back on Daddy. About my face.
By this point though, what I really should have expected was some new shit.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m not there.”
But Carter was. A lot of other people too. I didn’t have a clue why Olivia was there.
“That’s a relief,” she sighed. “I tried calling you but you didn’t pick up.”
“Yeah, I lost it with the rest of my house,” I said. My stutter acting up, I continued to say, “That part I was there for. I don’t know about any monster but a terrakinetic is the one that destroyed everything.”
“I’m guessing I’m not lucky enough that your dad was in there,” she said with a tinge of pleasure.
“No. No he wasn’t,” I could get details about Olivia and this monster in a minute. Much like with Troyan, there wasn’t too much I could do. It wasn’t urgent, and that meant right now, I had to do what was right for me. “But I wish he was.”
“What did you say?” I could almost see her smiling.
“I said,” I paused, hands trembling a little, although I wasn’t sure if it was because of joy or remaining uneasiness. “I wish he was in there. I wish he was dead.” I couldn’t help but get choked up here. “I hate him. Him and everything he’s ever done to me.”
Before she could say anything else, I decided to say everything else I wanted to very quickly.
“I’m safe now, and soon enough, we all will be. We’re gonna stop him. And Smog is being stopped right now. And I’m gonna be a hero. A real hero. And you and I are gonna be together, here, right in this city, because I care about you so fucking much and I didn’t mean what I texted you. I was just trying to push you away because I was pissed and scared. Pissed because of what you thought of Daddy which obviously isn’t a problem anymore, and scared because of how you’d react if you saw my face. It got…it got burnt off and I’m okay, and I’m okay with it, but…yeah, I look pretty gross.”
“Now I’m sure that last part’s not true,” she said warmly, just taking in stride everything else I’d said. “Send me a picture.”
Looking down at Troyan, I said, “Would if I could but I’m using a borrowed phone and I have no idea how to use it. It’s not a smart phone.”
“Gross,” Ally said, echoing my own thoughts.
Allowing for a brief silence, I then asked, “So you’re really okay with everything I said? Everything I did? Again.”
Ally sighed, and followed with a chuckle.
“Maybe I’m dumber than Lindsey for this, but I’m pretty sure I’ll forgive you for anything.”
“You and Carter both,” I commented, circling my tongue around my mouth. “One of these days you guys may regret that.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But I doubt it.” She paused. “Now then…why the fuck is Olivia fighting a monster outside your house?!”
Oh right. That.
“I really don’t know what’s going on there,” I said. “When I left, Carter had just saved me from the terrakinetic I brought up before and he was going to rescue some people my dad’s been keeping trapped under the house. There was no sign of Olivia or any mons…”
“Uh, Ray, the thing looks like it’s made of and shoots lightning,” she said. “Carter ever transformed into something like that before?”
No, no he hasn’t, I thought, getting worried.
“Well, looks like he can now,” Ally said.
“What do you mean?!” I asked. “What’s happening?!”
Ally made a sound of disbelief.
“Well, I went to go look at what was happening, and from the looks of things, Olivia, with a scythe of all things, whaled on the monster so hard that it exploded into a flash of light and out popped Carter.”
I tried piecing this together in my head. Carter had obviously gotten super powerful so it wasn’t too hard to believe his powers had evolved even more. But why was Olivia even there? She’d supposedly left the country, and even if she was still here, why would she have attacked Carter?
“I swear if she turned on us again, I’ll…”
“I’m mostly as in the dark as to what the Hell happened here as you,” she said, cutting me off. But I can tell you I don’t think Olivia is suddenly working for your bastard of a dad again or anything. After Carter popped out, she bent down,picked him up and walked off with him. He passed out, but before he was did, he gave her a thumbs up. I don’t think he became that thing voluntarily.”
She was helping him? Saving him? Why? How? And if it wasn’t voluntary, why did he turn into a monster? And where was she taking him?
I took a deep breath.
“Questions for later,” I said outloud, but mostly to myself. Everything was so hectic right now and I needed to relax. And still, once this call was over, I needed to call 911 for Troyan and, ideally get in touch with Sammy.
“Ally,” I started. “I’ve got some stuff I still need to do, but when I’m done…can I come over to your place?”
Maybe I should have told her to get out of the city. But I wasn’t afraid. Wasn’t frightened of Smog right now.
Shay and Malcolm were going to kill the bastard. I had Ally again. Olivia was maybe trying to make amends. And together, we were all going to stop my father.
Our happy ending was in reach.
“Do you need anything?” Olivia asked, the two of us having made our way to the sitting area the others and I had previously talked to Eve in. The whole I’d made in the wall the last time I was in this house had been fixed.
Olivia was sitting in the fancy white and red chair Eve had described as her “throne”, her legs crossed, while I was sitting back on the sofa.
“I’m good,” I answered, wiggling my free toes. “Actually I feel pretty great.”
“Yes, well, that makes one of us,” Olivia said, one of her maids coming by and laying a china plate down on the coffee table between it. On it were a brown tea pot, two cups, some other fancy looking thing, and two white pills.
Quickly swallowing the two pills, Olivia commented, “One thing I’ve never liked about magic is that it tends to leave quite the migraine for those not trained in it.”
“About that,” I started as she poured herself some tea. “Mind telling me what was going on back there? How you were doing what you did? Why were you even there?”
“Of course,” she answered, blowing on and then sipping her tea. I was more of a coffee guy than a tea man, but I thought for sure that you put milk in both. “Eve and I did leave the country when last we met, but we came back the day after. As you’re aware, Adam’s magic is incredibly potent. Should he desire to find us, is doesn’t matter where we go, he can. We figured that if we made it appear that we’d left for good, he wouldn’t bother. At this stage, we aren’t too high on his list of priorities.”
I nodded, it mostly making sense to me.
“As for why I was at the estate,” she continued. “Originally, I’d suited up and had Eve place an enchantment on me so I could go and assist with Abraham. However, because Eve’s spell enhanced not only my strength and speed but my power as well, when the earthquakes started, I could tell that they were coming from Raina’s home, and went there as fast as I could. By the time I’d arrived though, you’d already saved her. I could tell you were having a moment so I simply watched from afar. After you sent her off though, I could feel something was wrong with you, so I stuck around.”
It might have been better if she’d just revealed herself sooner. Maybe Raina would have forgiven her right there, maybe Sarah wouldn’t have tried to…
Hold on, I thought. Abraham.
“You said I was out for a few hours, right?”
She nodded and said, “Yes, it’s a little after seven now.”
“And we’re still alive,” I noted. “They did it,” I said with a bit of disbelief. “Malcolm and Shay beat Abraham!” I shouted, jumping up into the air.
“I see being aware that you have a literal demon living inside of you hasn’t dampened your usual level of excitement,” she said, sipping her tea some more as I danced around a little. “I did try calling them earlier, but neither picked up. That could mean anything though, and yes, as you pointed out, the fact that we’re still alive is a good sign.”
We’re okay, I thought. We all made it through.
After a little more victory dancing, I sat back down.
“Where is Eve by the way?” I asked.
“Sleeping,” she answered. “She isn’t Adam. Not naturally gifted with magic. Performing a spell like the one she used on me requires several of her books, a few ingredients and a great deal of focus. It takes a lot out of her.”
“Right,” I said to myself. “And I’m guessing that her knowledge of magic is also how you knew about Abraham and Sarah. And speaking of, what’s up with that?! Why is Sarah a demon living inside of me, and why is Abraham, well, Smog?! Weren’t they just humans who died a really long time ago?”
Olivia finished her tea and put the cup down on the plate, standing up.
“You remember what Eve told you about the way death works,” she said. “Good souls are able to return to heaven, while evil ones are reborn as demons in Hell. For reasons I’m actually not sure of, Sarah received the later fate.” Signaling me with her hand to follow, Olivia started walking away from where we were sitting. As I followed after her, she continued to say, “Abraham however got the fate that you’d expect. He died and ascended to heaven. However, some time later, God longed for the days when he had his seven sons, one for each day. Since Lucifer’s fall though, he only had six. And so, rather than create a new son, he decided to give his favorite human a gift, transforming him into an archangel. And whereas other archangels wielded immense power based around things such as magma or reality warping, he was gifted with the power of smoke.”
“Wow,” I said, trying to absorb all of this. “So…is that why he’s trying to stop Adam? He used to be human and so he still cares?” I paused, biting my lip. “Then why has he still been killing people? Why any of this?!”
“That I don’t know,” she answered, continuing to lead me somewhere down the very sterile halls. “But hopefully, whether they killed him or reached some sort of agreement, Malcolm and Shay will be able to fill us in.”
Killed, I thought, being reminded of one more lingering question.
“I know a lot of what you said and how you acted was all just part of getting through to me so we could beat Sarah, but that story about Death making you immortal…was that true?”
Olivia turned her head around and smiled at me before straightening it back.
“Parts of it were true,” she answered. “My childhood, prior to being taken in by my mother, was indeed worse than you could imagine. And I did indeed hallucinate Death speaking to me several times throughout my childhood. The rest was false. I’m as killable as anyone else.” We rounded a corner and entered a hallway where, in place of the fancy art that donned the walls elsewhere in this house, the walls were covered with photographs. “Well, perhaps I’m a little more difficult to kill than most.”
As we walked a little bit down the hall, I looked at some of the pictures. Just from the costumes being worn by people in some of them, I realized what this hall was.
“Your family,” I said, Olivia stopping and staring into a wide photo that had even more intricate framing than the others. Olivia and seven others were in the photo, posed around the area we’d just been sitting in. The two men in the picture were wearing tuxedos, while Olivia and the five other women wore elaborate dresses. An older woman, most likely Syringe, sat in what was now Olivia’s throne, while Olivia herself couldn’t have been older than 20 in the picture.
Looking back, it was clear that Olivia’s smiles during the fight had been forced. Here though? She looked genuinely happy. Everything from her posture to her hair to her body language…she was like a completely different person.
When we first met,” she started. “I hated you.” Oh. “And I don’t mean when I beat you and Shay in your apartment. I mean when we first talked after you and Raina became friends.”
“No worries,” I said. “I get that reaction from most people.”
“You misunderstand,” she continued, her eyes glued to the photo. “It wasn’t because of your energy or intelligence or any of the other idiotic reason people reject you. No, it was because you reminded me of someone.” She paused, taking a breath. “Bladeburst.”
“Really?!” I exclaimed. “That’s so cool! Why would that be a turnoff for…”
“Carter,” she said sternly. “Bladeburst was not the kind of man you want to emulate.”
“Why not? He was part of the Guardianship?”
She sighed, looking away from the painting and down at me.
“I thought you’d learned by now that they aren’t the paragons you thought they were.” I wasn’t sure how to respond without getting angry so I just waited for her to continue. “Bladeburst, real name Christian Babcock…he took everything from me. I made choices…mistakes that allowed him to do this. We’re both the reason my family is gone. Me and my need for control. Him and, the thing I saw in you, his overzealousness for so called “justice”. Justice for whom I don’t know. But yes, that’s why I hated you.”
She was concealing her emotions. Her face remained stiff and only a little emotion was cracking through her voice, but she was clearly bottling a lot of it up. Now wasn’t the time to press about her family.
As for Bladebusrt, the way she was talking about it, it sounded like he’d killed her. But he was a hero. He wouldn’t have done that.
“Why did Bladeburst do this to you?” I asked, wanting details here. “Was it because you were trying to take over the world?”
She shook her head.
“No. No I don’t think he cared about that. I was his archenemy,” she said, turning back to the photo. “His nemesis. And he was determined to take me down at any cost.”
“But that’s not true,” I said. “Bladeburst’s archenemy was Caffeinator.”
“The media lies Carter,” she responded. “And records can be altered. The wrath I unleashed, the death I wrought…it wasn’t the kind of thing the media wanted getting out. Like with all things, what you see isn’t necessarily true.”
I still wasn’t sure about this and with this being the second time she’d brought it up today, I was really starting to wonder just how many people Olivia had killed…but I was alive because of her. I could afford to let it go for now.
“So when did you stop hating me?” I asked instead.
Olivia folded her arms and told me, “It wasn’t instantaneous. Rather, it was overtime. I realized that you weren’t just a nut with an unspecific sense of blind justice, but rather, that you had a heart of a hero. And with just how much you helped Raina and how close the two of you became, I realized that you weren’t like Bladeburst at all. Rather, someone else.”
“Who?” I asked. “King Power?” No matter what flaws the Guardianship may have had, King Power didn’t have any. That I was sure of.
“No,” she answered, turning around to face a different photo. This one had her and one of the two guys in her family floating in the air, imitating that one really iconic pose from the film Titanic. They weren’t dressed exactly like the characters in the movie, but their clothes did like they were from the same time period.
The man had some of the same features as me. He was Caucasian, he had blonde hair, and he had blue eyes. Differences were that he actually had facial hair, way bigger muscles and was far more attractive than me.
“Peter Salmon-Saxon,” Olivia said, not able to hold back a smile or a warm tone when it came to him. “My big brother. Or, as you’ve probably heard of him, Captain Crosswind.”
“The Captain Crosswind?! He’s one of the most dangerous villains of all time! He was able to go toe to toe with Chronometer! He was…”
“Amazing,” Olivia finished, though that wasn’t what i was going to say. “Of course, power wasn’t the similarity I saw between the two of you. No, it was, as I mentioned, how you helped Raina. It dawned on me how similar your relationship with her is to mine was with Peter. Everything I had, everything I was, I owe to my family. But without his love and support, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”
She stared down, closing her eyes and, from her shirt, pulled out a cross from her shirt that was at the end of her necklace and kissed it.
A mountain of bodies behind her and she’s actively working against God, and she still carries a cross, I thought, unsure of what to make of that.
“Olivia, I’m sorry you lost your family, even if I don’t know about the specifics or why anyone in the Guardianship would ever do awful things…but why are you telling me all of this now?”
She held her hand out to me.
“I wanted to thank you,” Olivia answered. “I’ve mentioned this to Raina, but when I was her age, I was a lot like her. Worse, really. And so, seeing so much of myself in her early on, even despite the task I’d been given by Adam, I wanted to make sure she ended up going down the right path. I did what I could there, but even so, my hands were tied. Thankfully, you were around. Always there to teach her and catch her when she fell. And now, now it seems that she’s finally realized who she wants to be. So again, thank you.”
“It was my pleasure,” I said gripping her hand, trying my hardest to match the strength of her grip. “And I don’t intend to stop being there for Raina any time soon. I hope you won’t either.”
“If she’ll have me, I’ll be there,” she replied.
In the moments as we let go of each other’s hands, Olivia’s face changed instantly as she screamed, “Get down!” tackling me to take us to the floor, a pillar of smoke crashing through the wall from the outside. Drywall, both chunks and power, was sent flying, along with several of Olivia’s photos, including the large one we’d been looking at before.
“No,” I said, my body getting charged up again. “No, no, no.”
“OH YES!” Abraham screamed, hopping into the house through the hole he’d made.
We got back to our feet. My knees were trembling while Olivia just looked furious.
Abraham wasn’t wearing any costume and what had been his real skin tone all along was now visible.
And he was still just as frightening.
“Sh…Shay and Malcolm,” I stuttered. “They beat you. We’re alive because they beat you!”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, no, no. You’re alive because you didn’t show up. You didn’t show up and so our game is still going.”
I turned to Olivia, hoping she had a plan. But despite her anger, she was just as frozen as I was.
“I know who you are Smog!” I shouted. “I know you’re Abraham! And I know you just want to do the same thing as me: Stop Adam! Why don’t we…”
“I’ll stop you right there Carter Myers,” he interrupted. “If I thought for a second that working together if you mortals would get me results, don’t you think I would have done that from the start? See, unlike you, I know what I’m doing.”
Continuing to stare each other down, Olivia asked what I didn’t have the guts to.
“Where are Shay and Malcolm?”
“Oh,” he smiled sickeningly. “I’m glad you asked.”
“Let go,” Shay said, pulling away from me, slapping herself to refocus.
Approaching the staircase with my hand now free, I had an idea.
“Jump now!” I screamed, taking a grenade off my belt and once again pulling the pin with my teeth, chucking it behind us as Shay and I pulled ourselves over the banister and dashing up the stairs.
Upon reaching the top of the staircase, the grenade went off, shaking the building.
“Think that did anything?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“If it didn’t…” she said incompletely. “There’s nowhere for us to run.”
“So very true,” I heard Abraham say, bits and pieces of smoke flying up the staircase and reforming into him.
“There really isn’t anything we could say to make you stop?” I asked, resigned to my fate.
Shay on the other hand had stricken a fighting stance.
Abraham shook his head.
“Damn it,” Shay said, pain still in her voice from the hit she’d taken. “Well I’m not just gonna stand still and be killed like a deer!”
She leaped at him, attempting a kick, but before making contact, Abraham turned two of his fingers into icicles and, extending them, stuck them into Shay’s eyes as he did to me.
“AHHHHHHHH!” she screamed as loudly as I had.
“Stop it!” I shouted. “If you’re gonna kill us, just make it quick.”
“Be grateful that that isn’t what I’m doing,” Abraham said softly, barely audible over Shay’s screams. “Carter doesn’t just need despair. He needs motivation.”
Retracting his fingers, Shay fell to the floor.
Out of his body, Abraham pulled out a lifeless Shay, tossing her on the floor.
“Sis!” I screamed, joining her on the floor. “What did you do to her?!”
“Olivia,” Abraham said, turning two of his fingers into what looked like black icicles. “Care to tell him?”
“He…” she hesitated. “He’s somehow trapped her in her own mind. Not like you with your soul, but…she’s living out her worst nightmares.”
“No,” I said turning my head to Abraham, my body mostly covered by white lightning. “Undo what you did!” I screamed, jumping at him and pressing my charged up hand against his face. “Let! Her! GO!”
Leaping back, he looked entirely unphased.
Damn it, I thought. I’m still too weak.
“I felt that,” Abraham said simply. “Good.” He paused. “In answer to your plea, all you have to do to undo my magic is kill me.” But…I couldn’t. “Think you can manage that?” Backing up, I retreated to Olivia’s side, my eyes not leaving Shay though.
“What about Malcolm?” Olivia asked, jaw shaking.
Abraham turning his back to us, pacing further down the hall of photos.
“The thing with him is…”
“No, no, no,” I said on my knees, holding Shay.
I’d never loved anyone like I did her. And in an instant, she was gone.
“Not again,” I said under my breath, tears running down my face.
“Simply in a deep sleep,” he said, sending a gust of relief through me. “Should someone kill me, she’ll wake up.” He looked down at me. “But you know that the person to do so won’t be you, correct?”
Putting Shay down, I kissed her forehead, wiped the tears away, closed my eyes and lowered my head.
…“Even if we win today, things are still gonna be pretty crap. But if we win today, save all these people…I think we deserve a reward,” I thought back to.
“Sorry babe. No reward for us.”
“I’ve got a new family now. My sisters, obviously, but also…you know.”
I’d always been the oldest in my family. With my sisters. And with this bunch too. I should have been able to protect them.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Whatever,” I smiled, opening my eyes.
Kid, it’s all you now.
“You…k…killed him?” I asked, eyes watering as Abraham reached into his body and pulled out Malcolm.
I was about to attack again, but Olivia, still stiff, put a hand on my shoulder and shook her head.
Abraham turned around grinning, tossing Malcolm over to our feet.
“No,” he said, my heart almost stopping. “Just unconscious.”
I exhaled with relief. They both looked beaten. Drained. And he’d done used some monstrous magic on Shay…but they were alive.
Hearing the clicks of her heels, I looked away from Shay and Malcolm to see that Olivia had taken a few steps forward.
“Why?” she asked. “All your talk. All you’re trying to do. I understand why you did what you did to Shay. But why did you spare Malcolm?”
“Well you see,” Abraham said, and in the next instant moving all the way over to right in front of me. “There was a complication.”
“Very well,” he said, turning his arm into a blade. “Goodby…”
Abraham was cut off by a gunshot, the minor pain from unexpected bullet making him rub his forehead.
“Who the Hell?” I asked, turning around.
No! I thought. Why was he here?
“Oh my God!” Abraham belted, using his “Smog” voice again. “It’s Joey! What, was Eve busy?”
Joey was standing tall by the front door, both hands on his gun. I had no idea how or why he’d come here, but for whatever reason, the idiot’s face looked confident.
He observed Abraham, looking at him from head to toe, then going on to laugh.
What was he thinking?!
“Sorry Abe,” Joey said. “Not scared of you.”
Abraham instantly scowled, kicking me in the gut across the lobby into a wall as I vomited all over the floor mid-flight.
“Jesus christ,” I squeaked, starting to take deep breaths. “Joey…get out of here. He’s gonna kill you.”
Ungodly pain aside, his initial attack on me was mostly just disorienting. I’d been able to recover. After that kick though? I wasn’t getting back up.
Of course, just a few moments ago, I’d been expecting to die, so my impact here hadn’t changed much.
“And just when did you learn my name?” Abraham asked, using his normal voice again.
“Oh, your boyfriend told me,” Joey replied. “Really nice guy.”
I had zero idea what was going on at this point…but this bravado at least didn’t seem to be an act. Not like how I’d been acting earlier. He honestly seemed to think he had this situation under control.
Abraham rubbed his forehead with his fingers.
“You were with Raina,” he groaned. “And I’m guessing she’s still alive too.”
Joey widened his grin to show his teeth.
“Damn it Gordon,” he sighed.
Had…had Joey fought off Gordon? As in, the angel that treated demons like paper?
I swear Joey, if you’ve secretly had magic this whole time, I won’t even be mad if you can kill him and save Shay, I thought. Then again, if he were magic, he wouldn’t be using a gun.
“Ah, don’t blame him,” Joey said, moving towards Abraham. “He really was dedicated to killing Raina and, while it may not look like it now, I got wrecked. Was on the floor, holding my damn guts in and everything.”
Okay, definitely no magic, I thought.
“Then how did you survive, let alone get here?” Abraham asked.
“It was easy,” Joey replied, holstering his gun. “Just made friends with him.”
“Of course,” Abraham said, shaking his arms. “Of course!” he repeated loudly. Scowling again, he continued to say, “So you managed to get Gordon to not kill you or Raina? Congrats. But then after that, why would you push your luck even further, and, I assume, have Gordon teleport you here?”
Abraham had to have noticed the reality of Joey’s confidence. He wasn’t just using him for amusement or anything; that didn’t even seem to be something the ‘real’ Abraham would do. If he didn’t think Joey had something up his sleeve, he’d have already smacked him aside.
My eyes turned to Shay.
Whatever you’re seeing in there babe, just hold on a little longer, I thought. I think your old partner might actually save the day.
“Simple,” Joey replied. “I’m here to save my friends.”
“And what makes you think you can accomplish that?” Abraham asked, walking towards Joey.
The two getting closer than I’d like, Joey replied, “Probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve got you all figured out.” He paused, his smile fading as he looked at Shay. “I overheard what you did to her. Will she really not wake up unless you die?”
Joey closed his eyes, taking a deep breath in.
“Okay. Then I’ve got to do this.”
Apparently tired of waiting, Abraham formed blades out of his arms.
Move away, Joey. Move away!
“If you really were able to piece together everything about me and why I’m doing what I’m doing from your encounter with Gordon, then I underestimated your intelligence. However, powerful a tool as information can be, I don’t see it helping you here.”
Abraham raised one his arms, pointed at Joey, but he quickly jumped back.
“Now hold on there!” Joey shouted, putting his hands up. “Hear me out. I’ll admit, I don’t really get this whole “soul” thing. But apparently, they can be really powerful. That’s why you’ve done all this. You want to stop Adam as much as we do, but you’re not strong enough to do that. Not alone. That’s why you sought out Carter. Someone who cap tap into their soul.”
“Without my sight, the scent of your souls is even more clear to me. They’re strong. Under other circumstances, perhaps one of you could have been of interest to my master,” Salaran’s words echoed in my head.
“And for whatever reason, you think that making Carter miserable….traumatizing him is the way to make him even more powerful right?”
Abraham nodded again, turning his blades back into arms.
“I do not think,” he said. “I know.”
“Fine, it’s fact,” Joey mocked. “But this is the one thing I really didn’t get. He hates you with a fiery passion. You kill Malcolm, kill me, leave Shay in a coma?! Doesn’t matter who the enemy is, Carter would not fight with you.”
The two had mostly been standing still, but I’d noticed that every few seconds, Joey was turning his head to look at Shay.
“I have no intention of working with Carter Myers. My love may have explained a lot to you, but clearly he didn’t mention everything.” He turned to me and then back to Joey. “But yes, you may both take comfort that your deaths will contribute to humanity’s survival.”
Joey shook his head, getting right up in Abraham’s face.
“Did you not hear me before?” he asked. “I’m here to save my friends.”
The way he was wording that…
“Joey!” I screamed. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it!”
He didn’t turn around to look at me.
“There’s an old saying we humans got,” Joey said. “I’d ask if you wanted to hear but I think I’m already testing your patience so I’m just gonna say it: One’s a tragedy. A million is a statistic.”
“Don’t do this you idiot,” I growled, teeth clenched.
“Now yeah, it doesn’t fit perfectly. Can’t really equate a million strangers to two people you care about. But you really want to hit Carter hard? Just kill one of us. Do whatever horrible thing to the other, leave Shay in that coma state, and just let Carter stir in the fact that one of the people he cares most about died at your hands.” Joey laughed. “And you know this. Because if you thought that just killing us all would you get what you wanted, you would have done it a long time ago. Although alternatively, maybe you thought killing us all would have the opposite effect you want and just send him into a depression, as opposed to giving him the heart-pumping drive I know the soul needs to work!” He paused. “Either way, you’d lose.”
I wanted to be impressed by his bravery. That he’d pieced all this together.
But how could I be when he was throwing his life away?!
Abraham tilted his head.
“Definitely underestimated you,” he said. “I can feel your soul as we speak. It’s not Carter’s, but it’s impressive.” Abraham took a breath. “You came here having already decided to die in their place.”
“NO!” I shouted, slamming the floor, welling up again. “Kill me! Kill me and let him go! Kill me and let me be with Brianna again!”
Apparently not afraid that he’d stab him in the back, Joey turned to me.
“Malcolm, I have been in love with Shay since we were in high school. When we met again as cops, she didn’t even remember me. But still…still I thought I had a chance. Had this whole plan, it’s a long story. But then…then you two became close. And you fell in love.” His face had turned red and he had tears to match my own. But it was different. He was still smiling. “And while I wish…truly wish that it could have been me, I’m just glad that she has someone who makes her happy. And there’s no way I’m letting this guy take you from her.”
Looking at Abraham, stone cold as he looked, even he appeared to be feeling something.
“You…you can make her happy,” I said.
No, Joey and I had never been super close, but I would not let anyone else die for me. I would not let him take anyone else from me.
Joey turned back to Abraham.
“If I have any regrets, it’s that I’m not gonna be able to tell her how I feel. How I’ve always felt. Hell, I’m not even getting the chance to say goodbye to my friends or family. ‘Cept for Raina and kinda Gordon I guess.” He stopped. “I’m smiling…but I hate this. And I hate you, Abe.” He threw his head down, tears flying away, letting out a scream. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die like this. But if that’s what I need to do?” He looked up. “Then so be it.”
“Please Abraham!” I shouted, furious at my own helplessness here. “Kill me instead!”
His eyes didn’t leave Joey.
“Very well,” he said. “Shay will remain in her current state, Malcolm will not be harmed any further for the time being, and your life is forfeit.” Abraham sighed. “For what it’s worth Joey McKnight, I hope that your soul finds its way to heaven.”
“STOP!” I shouted, tears running down my face. “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!”
“It’s over Malcolm bro,” Joey said, Abraham putting a hand on his head. “But I’ve got one last thing I want to say. You mind?”
Abraham just stared.
“Alright cool,” Joey started. “I’m glad we were able to reach this deal. But understand one thing. I don’t give a single crap about how noble your intentions may be, or how much you may actually care for Gordon and Salaran. You are a murderous monster. I would say you’re nothing else, but that’s not true either. You’re a failure. A nothing. Whatever it is you’re planning, it isn’t going to work. The world will be saved, but you will not be the one to save it. You’ll just be stopped. And the person who’s gonna stop you is one in the same with the man who will save the world. I knew Carter Myers when he was just a kid. Completely weak and defenseless. But he’s always had the heart of a hero. Now? He’s a bonafide hero. And he’s gonna kick your ass. And then,” he choked. “No one will remember you.”
A cracking sound echoed through the building.
“Joey,” I panted, his body falling over.
“Bro,” I moaned, dropping to my knees, Abraham pulling Joey’s lifeless body out of him, dropping it next to me. “Bro.”
“Bastard!” Olivia screamed, pulling out a gun which was strapped to her back. Before she could even fire, Abraham had smashed her head into the wall, knocking her out.
My eyes were wide open. I wasn’t blinking. What…what was happening? Everyone was getting hurt. Shay…she was in some kind of nightmare coma? Joey…he couldn’t really be dead.
There was a ferocious roar, and turning my head, there was an angry looking Konfo watching us.
“No,” I said. “Don’t come over here. He’ll hurt you too.”
My lightning was all gone. There was no fear in me.
The next thing I knew, Abraham was across the hall, uppercutting Konfo through the ceiling, the animal letting out a whimper.
There was only despair.
Dropping to my knees, my eyes continued to refuse to close, darting around the room.
Shay, Malcolm, Olivia that poor bear…Joey, I thought. All of them…
“Gahh”, I gagged, Abraham picking me up by the throat.
“Do you see what’s happening here,Carter Myers?” he asked. “Do you see how helpless they all were? Because it’s the same thing with Raina and Eve and any other allies you may think you have.” He threw me down into the floor, my spine feeling like it had just broken into pieces. “You are the only player left in my game. The only one who can do anything. I am giving you one last week. Then I am going to come for you, wherever you may be. And if you can’t handle me then? That’s it. No more chances. You, all your friends and loved ones, and everyone else in this piece of shit city will face the same fate as poor Joey.” He stomped on my stomach. “I’ll leave you to bury him.”
With that, he turned into a cloud and flew off.
This can’t be real, I thought. This can’t be happening.
I looked around at each of them again.
This can’t be real. This can’t be happening.
But it was.
“YAAAAAAAAAH!!” I screamed, black lightning materializing to heal my wounds. The lightning was even mixing in with my gushing tears. “YAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I screamed again, crawling over to Joey and staring into his lifeless eyes. I crawled over to Shay and Malcolm. They weren’t like Joey. They hadn’t died because of me yet. But they would. In one week. There was nothing I could do. Like Joey, we were all going to die. And then soon enough, Adam would kill everyone else.
“I’m sorry Shay.”
Everything was lost.