@ RDV, Safe. Bring big garbage bags. I texted Laura. I would have shortened the second sentence, but I didn’t want there to be any confusion, and there were a lot of ‘b’s and ‘g’s in that one.
Then I got to work stripping out of what clothes I could. Thinking my clothes were as invulnerable as I was, I didn’t bother bringing a change. Turns out, protecting them from damage didn’t include protecting them from blood. To top that off, the blood had cooled, in part from Kittens damn ice powers, which left me sticky everywhere. I tossed the trench coat off to the side, letting it fall to the ground in the alleyway.
I knew I’d have to take it with me when I left. Of all the stupid, amateur mistakes I’d made tonight, I still knew better than to leave behind blood covered evidence behind. But there was no chance of it being wearable again. My shirt, shoes, and mask followed after. The mask was especially painful, having dried and stuck to my hair.
After a minute or so of struggle, I gave up and simply ripped the article of clothing off, earning myself a view of my own half naked disintegrating body. My skinny, soft form grimaced in pain as it struggled against a sticky blood soaked mask. It did not make an impressive figure before dissolving into light.
Now as undressed as I was willing to get in a dirty alley between a liquor store and a foot locker, I started balling my clothes and shoes up in the coat. Which, now that I got a good look at it, was torn to shreds. The sleeves were cracked and broken, thanks to being frozen and shattered by Kitten’s ice powers. Claw marks and puncture holes adorned the coat, getting progressively worse the further away from my chest they were.
Either Kitten avoided my central body mass, or this was some clue about how my power worked. Considering my pants were intact despite the number of times I took it in the ‘nads, I was betting on it having to do with my power.
At some points during the fight, it must have stopped protecting my clothes. Stopped protecting my sword, too. Maybe my power could only work so fast, and it put protecting me at higher priority than protecting my clothes? Better than the alternative by a long shot.
I heard the shuffle of shoes on concrete, and looked toward the exit of the alley. A man had stumbled into the opening, holding a paper bag. Fucking drunks, they were as bad as all the other drug addicts far as I was concerned. He saw me, then turned around and walked away without saying a thing. Maybe I was a little more intimidating than I thought.
That distraction over, I went back to my thoughts about my first real fight, and how completely out of my depths I was. If Kitten kept going, could she have overwhelmed my power? Killed me, even? She seemed to believe she was stronger than me, and I had no idea what she could do if she was trying.
In retrospect, it was obvious she was never really trying during our fight. I glanced at the papers I’d carefully set aside, a detailed list of everything the police knew about her and her powers. At least I had some reading to do before not going to bed. Hopefully I’d be better prepared next time.
Wow. Not shooting for the stars there, are you Zach? I didn’t do your homework, and then I got schooled. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Next time, I’d come with everything it took to end this. Either I killed her, or I hit her hard enough to force her to kill me. Erica deserved that much, the best I had to offer, and more.
Light from the street pulled me away from those thoughts. The glint of blue paint let me know it was Laura’s car. I suppressed a shiver as I stepped out of the alleyway, away from the buildings’ shelter against the wind. Seems like I lost my ability to ignore the cold.
Careful to use the part of my hand that wasn’t bloody, I opened the door to the car, and felt the sensation of my new ability activating. It only covered the door of the car, not the whole car. I could feel, more than see, inside. I knew the shape of its mechanisms, the movement of the door handle as I pulled it and the latch holding it the door closed shifted. It was kinda cool, and would have been even better if I actually knew how all those pieces worked.
“What happened?!” Oh, right, and now Laura could get a good look at me.
I didn’t smile, there was no way to smile while half naked and covered in blood that wasn’t disturbing. “Don’t worry, none of it’s mine.”
“So… did you?” Kill him? The words were unspoken, but clear as a bell through the war of fear and hope on her face.
I paused for a second, trying to find my words. There was no way in hell I was going to explain everything that happened. How I could have died in that fight. How according to some psychic I died many times over. That was a disturbing set of existential questions I quashed. It can’t be healthy that I can repress that so easily. Oh well.
My focus went back to my sister. “Turns out, all my brilliant battle strategies were ruined by one small miscalculation.” That small calculation being pretty much everything I did from the moment I got my powers to the moment the fight started. “They ran away.”
Equal parts relief and disappointment washed across her face.
“Still, there are worse ways to end a fight than covered in the other guy’s blood. Plus I managed to get a girl’s number.” Her face was priceless. “And it wasn’t even the prostitute. Anima showed up toward the end there, guess she liked what she saw and we’re going to talk later. After I’ve had a long, hot shower. And burned my clothes. Speaking of, need those garbage bags.”
She pulled a rectangle box out of the back, and popped it open. Between the two of us, we covered her passenger seat in three layers of garbage bags, and of course an extra to hold the clothes I’d never use again. My senses let me know garbage bags were the most boring thing I’d manage to touch so far.
In the process, I brushed against Laura’s hand, and awareness of her biology snapped into my mind. I could almost, sort of, sense the outlines of her tattoos, but the glancing touch wasn’t enough for me to know if that was real, or just my imagination. What I knew I wasn’t imagining, were the inorganis. A few piercings here or there that I knew about, a couple that didn’t surprise me, and a couple more I’d rather not think about. In addition, I was now aware my sister had breast implants. Thanks a lot, powers.
“So, what happened to the sword?”
A psychopath stole it so she could murder people horribly, even though she can do that just fine with her bare hands, for no other reason than to fuck with my head. “Let’s just say after you put it inside someone a couple times, they take offense. And the weapon. Don’t worry, I’ll get it back during the rematch.”
We sat in silence the rest of the ride, the window partially down in spite of the cold. Of all the things I’d learned about blood today, it was that it stank when it started to dry. Not even a normal kind of stink like dog shit or even rotting meat, but a special kind of stench that was impossible to ignore. A blend of metallic and sweet, calculated to be as repulsive as possible.
I was going to shower like I’d never showered before. I wanted so bad to feel clean again.
Going to school wearing someone else’s pants was more than a little weird, but I ignored it. Wasn’t that hard to do, I had a lot on my mind and all of it had to do with Kitten. I’d done a bit of research online about the numbers. I still had no idea what EV meant. And Class Five got me results on white water rafting and tornadoes.
But the meaning of power ranks had all kinds of stuff about it. Too bad that was bogged down in speculation. And all those damn arguments in those ‘versus’ threads online. Eventually I was forced to conclude that power levels were bullshit, based more around how effective a power was used than actual raw output. All I could figure out was Kitten was somewhere in the sweet spot between ‘too scary to fight’ and ‘too scary to let live’.
Laura parked about a block and a half from the school, then leaned over and gave me a tight hug.
“Aww, come on, seriously?” My objection wasn’t too strenuous, as I hugged her back, doing my best to not think about the information my power was telling me, which was kinda like telling myself not to think about tap dancing elephants. Ooh! Yeah, that’s how I’ll avoid listening to my power! I’ll think about tap dancing elephants!
“Yes, seriously,” she insisted. “Look at it this way, I could have done it right in front of the school. Then you’d have to explain to all your friends that the babe in the car hugging you was your sister.”
“And now I’ll never be able to describe my epic battle with the escaped circus gorilla.”
She punched my shoulder, though not hard. “You’re such an asshole.”
“I’d ask you if you made a habit of hugging assholes, but I’ve met your boyfriends.”
“Get out of my car before I decide to run you over with it.” She mussed my hair, digging her fingers just a little harder than she had to.
“Do more harm to the car than to me.” I had already opened the door and was getting out. I turned to face her. “Love you. Uh, and about the other thing, I’ll be calling her tonight.”
She smiled. “Love you, too.” Her head turned toward the road. “I’ll ask around, see what I can find out, and get back to you on Friday. But you’re on your own finding an excuse to put off going to Dad’s again.”
“I’ll think of something.” I closed the door and started walking as she drove away. Dad was pretty much the least important thing on my mind. Right now, I had to phone my way through school then call Anima and handle the important part of my day. At least the first two classes were simple enough. Algebra and art. The former, I could do in my sleep. The latter I was shit at even when I tried.
Which was more or less how it worked out, other than a couple brushes in the lunch line that let me know one of the gang kids had a knife sewn into his jacket. That was something I needed to find a way to report. Not that it would matter; you couldn’t throw a rock in this school without hitting a gang member or some poser who wanted to be one.
That was something to consider, actually. Kitten may have kicked my ass, but there were other gangs, and most of them weren’t protected by top tier Imbued.
Then, after lunch, it was time for Home Ec. I almost looked forward to the class, now that it wasn’t like snorting mustard gas just to be in the room. I was smiling as I sat across from Ferne, ready to do the mindless task of decorating gingerbread walls. Only a couple hours away from being able to call Anima and talk to her about what I planned to do.
Ferne poked at some decorative hedge for her house. Hers was several times better looking than mine, but I wasn’t too concerned with that. I didn’t need to be the best, just good enough.
We didn’t speak for a while as I did what I could to keep the roof from sliding off. In retrospect, I probably would have done better if I’d decorated it first and the stuck it to the rest of the building, but I did what I could. It didn’t help that my throat was so dry.
I swallowed a bit of saliva. “Does it feel dry in here to you?”
Ferne didn’t bother looking up. “No more than usual. Maybe you could see if Mrs. Schmidt will let you get a drink?”
After last week? Hah. “No, I’ll-” And then my chest tightened. An attack was coming on. Fuck! I didn’t even have my inhaler. I thought I didn’t need it anymore. My powers healed my lungs faster than they could be inflamed. Powers which changed last night.
I stood up, ready get out of the classroom. I’d accept the detention or whatever lecture the mummy wanted to give me, anything to avoid what was coming. It was too late. I hadn’t taken a step before I was standing up next to my copy. I watched in horror as the shimmer of color rushed away from my rapidly vanishing duplicate to merge with me. The colors looked so much brighter in the daylight. And everyone in the class was now staring at me for the worst of all possible reasons.