Rise 7.1: Carter

“Against the wall!” one of them shouted, butting the man with their assault rifle.

Pigs, I thought. Bullies.

For months, dirty cops had been picking off the homeless and destitute in the dead of night. And since the Church of LIghtning Bee was established, members of it, armed by Adam, had joined in and the number of murders had increased greatly.

And it was all being done in my name.

Rather, what used to be my name. Lightning Bee was a hero. He stood for something. But if I was going to save everyone, I needed to be willing to do whatever it took; no restraints.

I was actually glad my costume had been destroyed. It would have been a temptation to go back.

And after tonight? There would be no going back.

Putting down my…Shay’s binoculars, I stood up.

In place of a costume, I was wearing a black t-shirt, black sweatpants and I’d squeezed into Shay’s combat boots.

Raising my hand, I summoned a few strands of black electricity.

“Lightning Bee is dead,” I whispered to myself. “Guess you got what you wanted, Sarah.”

“On your knees!” the fatter of the two bastards screamed, kicking the poor man in the shin, knocking him down to the alley pavement.

Both men wore similar outfits to those worn by Adam and the other members of the Votary, although at this point, it was just him and Dr. Gerbe. I hoped.

The only difference in appearance was that these didn’t have any color on them, instead being pure black.

“Lightning Bee is dead,” i repeated as the scrawny bastard put his assault rifle against the man’s head. “Time for you to join him.”

Shooting down a blast at the ground, both of them turned their attention, and their weapons, away from the homeless man and toward me.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the scrawny one asked. “We’re members of the Church of Lightning Bee!”

“It’s fitting,” I said, just loud enough so they could hear me from the not too high up rooftop I was standing on. “Most religions are based around dead men. And thanks to me, so is yours.”

“Ha!” the obese one laughed. “You expect us to believe some random punk took out the messiah?”

“Yeah,” the other one followed. “Now run along so we can finish off this trash as The Bee desires.”

Bracing myself, I jumped off the rooftop into the alley, easing my fall with quick blasts.

“Tell me,” I smirked. “If Lightning Bee is still alive…where’s he been the last two weeks?”

The two opened their mouths and looked to each other, and started mumbling.

“Now you see, unlike Lightning Bee, I actually have been active recently. Hunting you.”

“W…wait a minute,” the scrawny one said, his hands quivering. “Obviously he’s lying about our savior, but I think I heard about this guy. In the last week, six of our fellow congregants were hospitalized. 1st degree burns, nerve damage…all caused by…a man in black.”

They both looked like they were about to piss themselves. For whatever reason, he was probably scared as well, the homeless man was still just sitting there, not having run away.

“Well fuck this guy!” the obese one shouted, gripping his gun with more confidence. “Let’s be heroes and end him!”

I’m not sure how many rounds he put in me, but I stood there and took them all, my chest and stomach looking like swiss cheese by the time he was done.

I tilted my head at them.

“What…what the Hell?”

“You seem like people of mild advantage,” I said. “Living well, but still feeling the need to put others down to make yourselves feel better. Joined this church not because you believed in anything, but because you wanted to hurt people.” I paused, my wounds beginning to be closed up by black electricity. “You don’t know pain. Not real pain. Because if you had been, you’d know that once you’ve been through it,” I paused again, my wounds fully sealed. “Nothing else really hurts anymore.”

Both shaking, they dropped their guns.

“Please…please, I’ve got a girlfriend,” the obese one said.

“Y…yeah, we, we’re not serious about all this you know. Just, just a hobby.”

“A hobby where you kill innocent people,” I said, noticing that the homeless man had run off at some point. “You know, I’m glad it’s your type I’m starting with.”

“Starting with?” the scrawny one asked, his voice cracking. “You’ve already fucked up six people. And…maybe Lightning Bee too.”

I shook my head.

“You misunderstand. I did kill Lightning Bee, but I haven’t killed any of his followers yet. That changes now.”

Continuing to stand in the same calm posture, I surrounded myself with black electricity.

“Please don’t kill us. Please.”

I wasn’t paying enough attention to know which one was talking.

Dashing at them, I grabbed the obese one’s face and discharged.

I’d once used this move on someone I truly love. Then, it was like me, a fuck up. But now it served the same role as I did now: a tool for justice.

“AHHHHHHHHH!” he screamed in agony, the scrawny one running off.

He won’t get far, I thought to myself.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!” he continued to scream, his face melting off.

“You know, I’m not too bright,” I said. “I really don’t know how much is too much.” His screams became more muffled. “I think we’re getting there though.”

“Gaah,” I grunted, someone coming out of nowhere to punch me in the face, knocking me away from the bastard and further into the alley. The hit actually did manage to hurt a little. “Who’s there?”

The monster had dropped to the ground, continuing to scream and cry, covering his face.

But standing across from me face to face was someone I hadn’t seen in awhile.

“The first thing to know about being a hero is that, good or bad, you look out for the well-being of everyone!” he said, quoting a famous King Power line in a false deep voice.

“Hello Casey,” I greeted, only a tinge of frustration in my voice from him impersonating the King. Otherwise, I had no beef with him.

Making sense of how he’d hit harder than anti-Demigod bullets, I saw that he was clad only in his boxers.

“‘Hey,” he said, using his normal voice.

Casey was now sporting a bald head and a black eye on the right side of face. He didn’t look happy at all.

“If you and the rest of the Troupe are out hunting Davenport’s lackeys, one ran down that way,” I said, gesturing with my head. “I’ve got things here.” I paused. “Although, if that is what you’re doing, why’d you hit me?”

“Dude,” he said, shaking his head. “We know everything.”

“Everything?”

“Olivia came to see us. Told us how she was the one who funded our group originally. Why Raina joined up with her dad. All this magic shit that I’d find cool if it wasn’t going to kill us all. Everything.”

“Good that you’re up to speed. What’s your point?” I asked, wiggling my fingers and making some lightning around them so I’d have it at the ready.

“My point is that we know what happened last week. To your sister. To Joey.”

“Don’t say his name!” I instantly snapped, the lightning in my hands erupting. “You didn’t know him!”

Casey’s expression didn’t change.

“No. I didn’t. And I never will. And that’s awful, because he sounds like he was a really great guy. But what happened…it wasn’t your fault.”

“Of course it is,” I growled. “I’m the one with power. I’m the one with a demon inside me.I should have been there to save them! I should have been there to kill Abraham!”

“Kill him, huh? Yeah, that’s the problem here.”

I sneered, the lightning fading.

“That why you’re here?” I asked. “Stop me from killing? Please. We both know what these people do, and I know you and your team have killed before.”

“Yes. We have,” he replied. “And we’ve been taking out as much of this scum as possible. But you haven’t. Not yet.”

Walking toward him, I asked, “So what’s your problem?”

“We’ve talked to Raina too,” he replied, responding to my movement in turn. “Sammy’s not too hot on her already being in a new relationship, but that aside, we’re back on good terms.” We now stood within inches of each other. “She’s doing well, Carter. Thanks to you. But she still needs you. There’s no one more important to her, and you won’t so much as answer her texts!” He was getting much more intense, spitting in my face as he shouted. “No, you’re too busy brooding and going against everything you taught her!”

“SHUT UP!” I screamed, a black blast firing out of my chest, sending him flying back into a silver car by the sidewalk.

He was in no place to judge me. No one was. Not after what had happened. I was only doing what was necessary.

Talking to Raina would only make me soft again. Maybe we could be together again once I’d killed Abraham and Adam. But I might be too far gone by then.

“No one is ever going to hurt my friends or family again!” I screamed.

As out of nowhere as Casey had come, Harrison dropped out of the sky, falling on, crushing and killing the obese bastard.

No matter, I thought. I’ll find someone else.

“I guess friends by association don’t count,huh?” he mocked. “He better be alive.”

Groaning, Casey held up his arm giving a thumbs up.

What? That should have knocked him out!

“You’re all here,” I said. Sticking to the shadows. “Why send Casey in first?”

Getting up off of the dead man, Harrison responded, “Well, you and Sammy get along as well as me and fans of disco, Hope isn’t a people person, and while I would have been fine doing it, Casey wanted thought his King Power impression might do some good. We thought you might just need someone to call you on your crap to get your head back on straight. ”

“Clearly though,” Sammy snarled, jumping down onto a dumpster, holding both of his anti-Demigod metal clubs. “A full intervention is needed here.”

From the side door of one of the buildings the alley was in-between, Hope stepped out, holding a beer in one hand and her knife in the other.

As Casey got to his feet, I looked around, each of them now on a different side of me. And even in the air, Harrison would be more maneuverable than me.

They had me surrounded. Hopefully this wouldn’t escalate, or they’d find out just how bad an idea that was.

“Look,” I started. “I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m only doing what’s necessary. When I attacked Abraham at Olivia’s house, I was filled with all the fear in the world for myself and for the others, along with the heroic desire to beat the bad guy, but despite what I thought I’d learned earlier that day, it wasn’t enough. Not even close. Olivia was wrong. Abraham and Sarah were right. The only way for me to get stronger is to completely harden my heart.”

“Are you even listening to yourself?” Harrison asked. “There’s a demon inside you who wants you to act a certain way, a way completely against your nature, and you don’t think that just maybe she’s found a way to influence you?”

Closing my eyes, I looked into my soul, where Sarah appeared to have all the life drained out of her, and was in electrified chains. I was pretty sure what I saw when I did this was only a visual representation or something, but it was still accurate. With just a little bit of effort, I’d learned to be able to make her suffer.

I opened my eyes and replied, “Been there, done that. Right now, you’re the only ones trying to manipulate me. You know that if I can’t beat Abraham in two days, we all die, right?! Raina included?! ”

“Stupid bastard!” Sammy shouted, leaping off the dumpster to approach me and flailing his clubs. He was shaking with anger. “We don’t care! We fought that fucker too! We know how dangerous he is!”

Hope chugged her beer back.

“We’ve accepted that we might die at his hands for some time.”

“But while we’ve accepted that possibility, we’ve still been living as if we won’t,” Casey continued, putting on a small smile. “None of us are more scared of him than me. I barely coped with the world even before I knew some unstoppable psycho might kill me on a specific day.” He hung his head low. “Not even Raina knows this, but my roleplaying isn’t just something I do for fun. It’s…it’s an escape. When I’m being someone else, I really get into it. It’s who I am. Their beliefs, personality traits, they’re all mine. And when I’m in that state…” He clenched his fists, Harrison gliding over to put a hand on his shoulder. Casey looked up and finished, “I can ignore the hardships that have always consumed my life! And it’s nice! But I still know when it’s time…when I’m needed back in reality. And that’s where you’re needed right now! Hypothetically, you’re right, and making yourself a killer will give you the strength to win. But what next? This role play has a time limit Carter, and if you don’t check out now, there won’t be any of you left.”

This isn’t the same at all. This is me doing what’s necessary. I’m not scared of Abraham. Only enraged.

“Even if your relationship with Raina means so little to you that you’ll continue down this path, little brother to little brother, do you honestly think this is what Shay wants?”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!!!” I screamed, black electricity, firing out of every part of my body, the four them all jumping back. Even after the initial blast, my body was encompassed by it, even my eyes, and small blasts were firing off in all directions involuntarily.

“We can literally see how scared you are right now,” Harrison said. “I know none of us are your friends, but we want to help you!”

My eyes bulged and my breath got heavier.

“You’re right,” I said. “None of you are my friends. If it’s Raina you’re all worried about, then where’s Olivia? Why isn’t she here trying to “help” me?”

“Maybe because I thought you were smarter than this,” the familiar Russian voice came from behind me.

Spinning around, Olivia was there, wearing street clothes and having come from out of nowhere.

I shook my head.

“Look, I know what you told me, but…

“But nothing!”

She screamed, unusually short-tempered, throwing a punch.

“Don’t wanna hurt you!” I screamed back, ducking my head down under my arms as she was struck by a blast.

“Holy shit,” Harrison said.

Looking up, I saw Olivia…whose head I’d blasted off.

“NO!” I screamed, falling to my knees. “No! This isn’t what I…I didn’t mean to…” I shut up as Olivia faded away. “Wha…what?”

“Now you know what it would be like,” Hope said, stabbing me in the back. Gaah. “Do you still want to be a killer?”

Of course. Just one of her illusions. Olivia was fine. Safe in bed with Eve right now.

Damn bitch, I thought.

“Maybe…maybe I’ll just kill you,” I said. “You’re all remorseless murderers yourselves after all!”

Hope sighed.

“Casey, send him home.”

“Send me home? What are you talking abo…”

Looking at Casey, he’d removed his boxers.

“Please think about what we’ve said,” he pleaded, punching me in the face.

The next thing I knew, I was in the parking lot for the motel I was staying at.

“Son of a bitch,” I grunted, having forgotten he could do that. Olivia must have told him where I was staying so he could come here in advance.

Feeling around, the knife hadn’t traveled with me and the wound had already sealed up.

“Whatever,” I said, tired from the experience. “Still a little time. I can pick this up tomorrow.”

Sighing, I walked up the staircase, unlocked my door and went inside.

The place was tiny, filthy and infested with rats. But it was all I could afford.

Looking down at the old, busted up couch, I took some deep breaths and faded away the remaining lightning.

“Don’t worry Shay,” I said to her unconscious body, kneeling down. “Just hold on a littler longer. I’m gonna save you.” Putting my hand on her forehead I continued. “If King Power were here, he would have taken care Adam and Abraham on his own a long time ago. But he’s not. It’s just me. Up to me to face these crazy odds and save you.” Not even trying to hold it back, I cried. “Save you. My big sister! Protecting me since I was little and now I have to protect you. You…and everyone else.”

I paused.

“No matter what I have to give up.”

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