I got to school early, complete with finished homework. On Sunday I took some of my schoolwork with me, just to have something to do while waiting for my next job. The way the news told it, you’d think there’d be thousands of crimes a night, but it didn’t work that way. Usually there were only a dozen that I found, and most of those were for the cops.
Cassie was there waiting for me, her smile as beautiful as ever. I thought of the necklace I bought her, and how nice she’d make it look, too bad I’d have so little time to enjoy it.
After a few moments, her smile dimmed. “Are you okay?”
Nothing can make me ‘okay’ after the shit I learned this weekend. “Yeah, I’m good. Just the Monday blues, y’know.”
Cassie pressed up against me. She still smelled cold. “I thought you’d be thrilled, going out and kicking ass again.”
“I am, it’s great to be making a difference.” I’m wasting time in school, no closer to a solution for Kitten, I now feel bad for beating the shit out of Flux, my most powerful ally may be using me as a puppet, and there’s a gang war brewing. I might have considered that last detail a good thing, if not for all the innocents that would be caught in the crossfire. “It’s just…” I can’t even tell my girlfriend what’s wrong.
Cassie frowned, then laid her head on my chest. “More of those sexy mysteries, huh?”
“Sorry, not my secrets to share,” I said. Even if they were, she’s better off not knowing. “I didn’t even get any good stories this weekend.” That much was true. I wasn’t about to mention Glen or Flux, and everything else was just the usual drunken street brawls and drugs.
The only thing I could talk about was pure bragging. My month of training with The Bastard made normal fights into a joke. Kicking the shit out of a loser with a knife was almost too easy. Sunday I’d only respawned to running, cold, and signaling Muwth.
Cassie looked up and gave me a quick kiss. “At least you won’t be fighting with Alex for attention at the table.”
“Really? They made it!?” Stupid question, I know. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that.”
I meant it, too. In a way, Alex was a role model, showing me you could achieve anything if you worked hard enough. He earned everything he had.
I needed that confidence boost, given what I had to take on. If he could work so hard without easy-mode powers like mine, then I should be able to work even harder.
Cassie smiled broadly. “We’re in the semifinals, just two games left and we’ll have the championship.”
“That… that’s…” I took a breath. “I should find Alex and talk to him before school. We’ll never get a word in at lunch.”
She slapped my shoulder with the back of her hand. “You know, I’m still not convinced you two aren’t doing something behind my back.”
I kissed her nose. “You caught me. Alex is really White Lady, but don’t tell anyone. I don’t think the NFL will hire him if they find out he likes to go out at night in a dress. Or maybe it’ll make them more likely to hire him, I dunno.”
“That’s the kind of scoop Kayla would sell her left tit for,” Cassie laughed.
If I toss in the cops covering up a serial killer roaming the streets of D.C., would that be enough to get both of them? “Speaking of, thanks for signing me up for an interview.”
“You’re wel~come,” she sang. Moments later, the smile vanished. “I hope you’re not upset with me. Kayla’s been in a bad place ever since her boyfriend left her. This means so so much to her, and me.”
What moron would dump a babe like that? Whelp, it’s not like she’ll have trouble finding replacements. “Hey, whatever I can do to help.” I wrapped my arms around her and smiled. “Part of the whole ‘superhero’ thing.”
“Is it, now?” She smiled back. “I think you just have a thing for beautiful women singing your praises.”
“Well…” I drew out the word, pretending to think for a few seconds. “That does sound kinda nice. Know where I can find one?”
I felt her body tense a moment before her fist jabbed into my gut. I stepped back, doubled over, and crossed my arms over my face. “Halp! Halp! I’m being oppressed!” I wasn’t hurt for real, that would have set off my power, but that wasn’t near as funny.
“This guy runs into burning buildings,” I recognized Alex’s voice and looked up. “Gets into fistfights with telekinetics and mind controllers, and drops weightlifting equipment on his own face, and here you are kicking his ass in the hall.”
“Girlfriend privileges,” Cassie announced. “I own that ass, so I get to do anything I want to him.”
I was thinking up some smart comment when my mind flashed back to Kitten, and my mood returned to shit. I tried to remind myself that I was being over-sensitive and Cassie meant it as a joke. “I wouldn’t underestimate women if I were you.”
“He’s been like this all morning,” Cassie stage whispered to Alex.
“Dude, what happened?” Alex went from joking to concerned in a heartbeat. “You know we’ll help you out if you ask.”
God damn it, can’t you tell that’s the last thing I want? “I just watched the Masked Knight trilogy to give me some new ideas for my superhero personality. What do you think?”
Alex shook his head. “I think those movies had ‘personality’ in the same way absolute zero has a temperature.” He had to know I was trying to change the subject. I was glad he decided to help. “I can’t believe they’re still doing that ‘he doesn’t have powers, he’s just that badass’ shit. He healed from having his spine broken in half. No amount of ‘willpower’ cures paralysis.”
I looked at Cassie, who just smiled along. I was pretty sure she hadn’t seen the movies. “Yeah, and I know from experience that body armor doesn’t make you immune to bullets. Only god-tier plot armor does that. They might as well just call him Mary Sue and be honest about it.”
“And the worst part about using that for inspiration,” Alex cleared his throat and twisted his face into a scowl. “You have to talk like you were smoking six packs of cigarettes a day ever since your parents died in front of you as a kid.” He coughed and took a breath. “Okay, no more of that, it hurts the throat.”
I needed to find out where Alex got his acting lessons from. “Huh, somehow I thought your throat would be able to take more abuse than that.”
Alex laughed, and after a moment Cassie and I joined in. I just hoped their laughs weren’t as forced as mine was.
“On the plus side, at least you got all that secret identity crap out of the way early,” Alex said. “Usually they wait until the final scene for the hero to reveal their identity to their love interest. Yours was out the moment you got your powers. Or maybe it was the end scene of the movie, and you’re just not picky.”
This is part of why superhero movies are ruined for me forever. I smiled and shrugged. “Well, there are almost fifteen times more girls in the class than guys, so you have to figure the odds were good.”
Alex crossed his arms and smirked. “What if you got Mrs. Schmidt?”
First I’d kill myself, and then everyone else, with fire. “Can you think of a better way to find out what King Tut was like in person?”
Cassie laughed and put her arms around me. “Too bad, you’re mine now. I don’t care if I have to tattoo my name on your face.”
Well, there are worse ways to mark your territory. Starting with number one. “I think I have a power related immunity to tats.” I wasn’t sure, but tiny needles injecting ink into my skin seemed like something my power would freak about.
“And this is why I would stay single even if I wasn’t swamped,” Alex said. “Speaking of, I’ve gotta find Murray before class, work on the game plan now that we know who we’re playing. See you lovebirds at lunch.” He turned and started jogging. Against the rules, sure, but right now he could probably get away with murdering a classmate, if he picked the right one.
“If I’m not there, it’s because my girlfriend turned me into a loveseat,” I joked as he ran off.
“Remember to use a proper cover,” he shouted back.
Cassie turned her head to where Alex had just turned the corner, then back to me. She stepped away, breaking our hold. “Actually, I should go talk to Kayla. Think you’ll be able to do your interview after school today? Call it an early Christmas present?” She gave me one of those pouts that only beautiful women and small children could get away with.
I decided not to tell her I’d already picked something out. “Don’t see why not. I take it I’m bumming a ride with you, then?”
“Awesome! We’ll talk about it at lunch!” Cassie rushed off at a fast walk. I watched her leave before going for my locker.
It was nice to have this bit of normalcy in my life. I rubbed my arm, remembering the force and heat that my gauntlets released when I tested them. My thoughts drifted back to Kitten, and what I knew I’d have to do to stop her. If I went through with it, I’d lose all of this. No matter how whatever trial or plea went afterwards, I’d still be a killer. I wasn’t sure how Cassie or Alex would handle that. Mom might actually disown me, and Anima would hate me forever.
I was willing to bet Glen would stick by me, he was the one who introduced me to Mike in the first place, and I knew Laura had my back no matter what. Dad would probably think it was some sort of rite of passage or some such bullshit. That thought was almost enough to make me lose my resolve.
Then I thought about all the people Kitten had hurt, and would keep hurting. The hell Erica went through, the pain Laura and I suffered for her loss, all the other lives that Kitten ruined and would ruin in the future. Even Flux, of all people, deserved to know someone was trying to save him. I took a breath, and by the time I closed my locker, I’d made my decisions.
First, I’d enjoy what I had while I had it. I was going to cheer Alex on and be happy for him. I was going to cherish every moment of my time spent with Cassie, even knowing it wasn’t going to last. I would have fun and save people with GL, and maybe even spend some time getting to know Anima better.
Second, when the time came, I’d be able to fight and kill Kitten without regrets. If necessary, I’d even Surge again to do it. Surges only required that you paid for them, there was no rule on how. If Laura was what it would cost me, then I just needed to avoid her after. I could live with never seeing my sister again, if that’s what it took to protect her and so many others.
Besides, that was the worst case scenario. I could beat Kitten without a Surge, I just needed to be smart. I wasn’t going to jail, because what jury convicts someone of stopping a psychotic serial killer rapist? There was no sense in obsessing over the future, I just needed to live my life in the now.
I went to class resolved to make this the best damn Christmas it could possibly be. Even if I might not be able to share it with my loved ones.