Session 1, Chapter 4 – Recovery

Content Warning: Violence, Death, PTSD, Panic Attacks.

The next thing I feel is searing pain rock through my body. I feel heat in my brain, like a force trying to claw its way through. It’s tearing my brain apart, rearranging it and changing it into something different. My vision goes from black to white, like an intense light just came on and every nerve in my body comes alive. It feels like needles and blades stabbing into every inch of me, it’s almost unbearable. Then I feel it. Fire.

My whole body is on fire. Not just my skin and hair, but I’m burning up from the inside too. My vision shifts from white to red, everything comes rushing in. My father, what he did to me. Kitsune refusing to help me. That fucker who stripped my powers and shot me through the arm. Needing to have my ass saved by Little Miss Hero Complex. Fuck all of that.

The feeling of fire in my body just gets stronger, hotter, and more painful. I feel like I’m dying like I’m a few seconds away from burning to ash. My head is throbbing and pounding, every inch of me is bright red fire. I sit up with a scream, kicking one of my legs out and knocking something metal over with a clang. I feel relief as fire washes over me, and I transcend. My powers are back, and my physical pain is mostly gone. I take a few breaths as I settle into something resembling normalcy.

I check my surroundings, I’m in a large room with wood floors and unpapered wood walls. One of the windows is broken, the amber light of sunrise pouring through, and the other one is covered in dirt and dust. The room is cluttered, covered in electrical equipment, test tubes, and medical supplies. A girl in a silver-white cloak, Dragon, is crouched down beside the old bed I’m in. Picking up some sutures, needles, and broken glass.

“Phoenix, it’s okay. I’m here. Detranscend, you’re safe.” Dragon says, lifting up her masked face at me.

I drop out of transcendence and feel all the pain in my body flood back. I can barely feel my arm, mercifully, but my head is throbbing, and my neck has an awful, stinging pain where the bullet grazed me.

“My arm. Is it-” I start, my voice sounds weak and strained.

“It’s fine. I’ve treated it. I’ve got you on Vicodin, and you’ve lost some blood. So don’t worry if you feel a little light headed. I need to reattach your IV now that you’ve detranscended.” Dragon says, reaching for a transparent tube, my eyes following it to a clear bag with red fluid hanging above my bed. I lay back and try to relax as Dragon fiddles with the tube and my arm. I see that the gunshot wound in my left arm is covered with some bandages and gauze, I can see a faint red tint under the first layer of bandages.

“I’m so fucking stupid…” I mumble.

“No, you’re not.”

“I went in without any backup. Every enforcer, paladin, and villain in Oru wants me dead. I should have waited, I should have called you. I- forget it.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Seriously? You’re going to ask me that? After what happened yesterday?”

“After we had a fight? Phoenix, yeah, I was mad at you, and I’d still like to talk about it. But, we’re teammates, we’re friends. Even if I’m mad or upset with you, I’m always going to be there for you.”

Dragon grabs my hand gently and rubs her thumb along my palm.

“I’m a coward. I ran, I texted for help instead of trying to fight. Why did I do that?”

“Your powers were shut off, and you were afraid. You would have been stupid to try to fight an armored person with a gun with no powers. You were smart. You got out of there alive.”

“I just promised myself I’d go out fighting, not running and hiding like a coward.”

“You’re alive, you’re here. You’re not going out yet.”

“Yeah, because I had to rely on a girl who’s had her powers for like four months to save me.”

“Chimera is strong. She hasn’t even reached her full potential yet, not close. You’ve seen what the other Chimeras could do right? The ones that held the mantle before her? She has all of their memories, she can talk to them for guidance. One of the other Chimeras pulled a planet out of orbit. There’s no shame in relying on her. There’s no shame in relying on anyone. We all need help.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

“What?”

“Dragon, I’ve known you for three years, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard you ask for help. If you’re going to give advice, at least follow it yourself.”

“That’s different. If you’re asking if I need you and Chimera on my team, that’s not even a question. I don’t need help in my lab. I’m supernaturally intelligent. I might be the smartest person on earth. My benefactor is a being of intelligence, in the time it would take me to teach you or Chimera how to do something, I could do it twice over.”

“You’re so fucking full of yourself.”

“No. Your spirit is a being of anger, Chimera’s is serenity, mine is intelligence. We’re all skilled at different things. Look, just, just try to rest okay?”

“Whatever.”

I turn my head away from her and take three deep breaths, just focusing on my breathing. Dragon takes a few moments to look at some of her equipment and write some information down in a few different notebooks. Notebooks seem to scatter the room, she has some sort of color coding system and seems to go from notebook to notebook seamlessly.

“I was worried about you.” Dragon says, her words hang there for a moment as I consider them. She speaks again before I do.

“Phoenix, you’re one of the only people I have left. My parents are gone, I don’t have any close friends at school really. I have one sibling, I have you, and Chimera. That’s about all I have left. This world takes everything. I don’t need to tell you that, but… it takes so much more than it gives. The thought of losing you like that, of you dying alone in the street, without me having any chance to help you, that fucking terrifies me. I… I care about you, Phoenix. A lot, you’re probably… shit. You’re probably my best friend.”

“I’m sorry, You deserve a hell of a lot better best friend than me.”

My mind drifts back to my conversation with Kitsune. I wonder if refusing to have friends or even teammates is the right way to go about things. If the best way to deal with this world is to just detach from it. Even with all the anger that my powers give me, I feel like I need to have friends. I need to have something tying me here, it keeps me feeling human.

“That’s not true. You’re a good person Phoenix. You matter to me.” Dragon says as she comes to sit at my bedside.

“I don’t know who you are under the mask. Bu-” She starts.

“How?” I ask.

“I didn’t need to take your mask off to patch you up. Just had to stitch up your neck, treat your arm, give you some painkiller, and let you rest. I know you’re white and a girl, but I knew that before. I know you have long blonde hair, but that could be hundreds of girls in Oru.”

“You weren’t even curious?”

“Of course I was. Still am. I’d love to know who you are, but… I know you don’t want that. I respect that. If I took advantage of you like that, I’d never forgive myself.”

“Thank you.”

“You can trust me Phoenix. I’m your friend, I respect you more than anything. I’m glad you’re in my life, I…”

She places a hand on my forehead, cupping her fingers around the edges of your mask.

“I… I would never ask you to, but if you wanted to show me, I would keep your secret. It’s safe with me.”

I sit up slowly. I want to, I really do. I want to open up and show someone who I am, I want to have a friend as a civilian, I want to… fuck. I want to actually let myself get close to someone again. Maybe actually be best friends… maybe something more. I don’t know.

I reach a hand back to my mask, finding the clasp of one of the straps. I put my hand around it and pause for just a few moments before I slowly start to pull on the strap, feeling the mask start to loosen slightly. Dragon sits forward, her breathing is heavy, and she starts reaching back to remove her own mask.

“Interrupting anything?” We hear a voice ask from the far end of the room. Kitsune, fully transcended, is leaning on the far wall, one foot up against it. The person who shot me, stripped my powers, and tried to kill me, is standing to the side of her. Kitsune is idly waving her hand in a circular motion, before stopping to crack her knuckles, as the shooter does the same. I pull my hand back, securing my mask more tightly. I almost forgot how bad of an idea it is to let people know my secrets, especially with Kitsune around.

“Do you have full control?” Dragon asks.

“No, close enough though.” Kitsune starts, twirling her hand in the same motion. “I have to keep him stimulated, keep giving him orders, or he’ll start to fight back too hard. It’s good enough for what I need him for though.”

“And what is that exactly?” Dragon asks, her voice breaking slightly.

“You don’t need to know that. You needed information, and I needed a meat puppet with high clearance.” She says.

“So you’ll help Dragon?” I ask, trying to give my weak voice a bit of an edge.

“This is a fair trade, not a favor. Glad you’re okay, Red.” She says.

“No thanks to you…”

“It’s not my fault you went out without backup. I assumed you could handle this.”

“Can he see this? Everything that’s happening right now? My lab and all that?” Dragon asks, moving to stand in front of her equipment.

“Yeah, but he won’t remember it. I’ll order him to forget everything about today, I always do.” Kitsune answers, still twirling her hand.

“You can make people forget things?”

“When I have as much control as I do over him.” Kitsune says with a shrug. “Putty in my hands.”

“Alright, well, what did you find out?” Dragon asks, returning to the chair at my bedside.

“A lot of things, very few of them are actually interesting. His name is Blake Porter, he goes by the codename Crackshot. He’s a regime agent, special enforcer. Not a spirit-touched, but someone trained to deal with and eliminate them. He’s trained for years, his body is in peak shape, and he’s an elite marksman. His best weapon, by far, is that fucking pistol.” Kitsune explains.

“Yeah, I’ve been looking into it. It’s coated in some sort of hard plastic, extremely difficult to break. It’s heat resistant, rapid fire, and there’s some sort of magnetic device in the grip. I assume he has a similar device on the palm of one of his gloves. It’s probably used to call it back to him in case he goes against someone like you or Chimera. The gun is interesting, but the darts are the main event.” Dragon says, getting up to look at some of her equipment. She speaks excitedly, almost as if this scientific discovery far outweighs the danger of this weapon existing.

“Yeah, they strip powers. Shut us down for an hour? Two? Three?” Kitsune says, checking with the man as she asks. A kind of grimace appears in place of her Cheshire grin.

“Ugh. This guy’s hard to read, well trained. It’s fucking obnoxious. Okay, let’s try this again. Not a set length, it varies?” Kitsune asks, tilting her head slightly as she tries to read any emotional response. “Cool. Yes. It varies. Based on what? The leng-”

“Yes. It’s based on the length of time it’s injected into someone. It drains relatively quickly, over the course of a minute or two. Max length of its effect is probably about twelve hours if it drains all the way into someone. If someone pulled it out right after it went in, it would probably last like… half an hour? Fifteen minutes?” Dragon cuts her off, looking at an empty dart.

“Killjoy.” Kitsune says, scowling at Dragon.

“Excuse me?”

“Figuring this guy out is like a puzzle. I like a challenge. You stole that from me!”

“I’m so sorry that I answered a question you asked.”

Kitsune grumbles to herself and crosses her arms, going back to waving her hand in a circular pattern.

“It’s fascinating actually. It works like a depressant, blocks the receptors of neurotransmitters in our brains. It doesn’t just shut off powers, but it severs our connection with our spirits. They keep trying to push in, but our brains won’t respond. If those specific receptors don’t work, we can’t have powers or benefactors. That has so many implications! That’s a major fucking breakthrough. As far as I know, nobody has figured out how spirit gifts work. For the longest time, it was just assumed to be a ‘spirit thing.’ If it’s in the brain, not just that, but a localized part of the brain, that opens up a whole world of possibilities for research into spirits and powers! This is crazy! I’m absolutely going to be looking into it. Do you think I could get my hands on a spirit-touched brain? Not to sound creepy or morbid.” Dragon’s voice sounds downright chipper. Her hands are shaking slightly, and she keeps looking eagerly between Kitsune and myself.

“Down girl. Your science boner is visible from across the room.” Kitsune says, rolling her beady, vulpine eyes.

“Can you reverse engineer it? Now that we have access to it. A counter would be really useful.” I ask.

“Yes. I can, I will, and I’m working on it as we speak.” Dragon says, checking on another machine near the one she was next to before. It’s buzzing away busily. “It’s a depressant, so I just need to create a stimulant. The two should cancel each other out mostly. I needed to make the dosage of the stimulant higher than the dosage of depressant. Otherwise, it might not be strong enough. So, it’s not going to be ideal, and the best plan is to not get shot. Taking this is going to make our powers hit way harder, but burn out way faster. We’re also going to feel our increased attribute way, way harder while it’s working. I’d love to just cancel it out straight-up, but better safe than sorry.”

“Great. All we need is a way to make Phoenix angrier.” Kitsune says, unimpressed.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s a counter, and it’s better than having no powers at all.”

“What if we took it without being on the depressant already?”

“It’s made to counter the depressant, and even then it supercharges our powers. It would probably make our powers extremely strong, like, Archduke strong, but make them burn out after a few minutes.”

“Well, glad we got you a gold mine. He’s not the only one with these darts, far from it. This is going to be a problem from now on.”

“Yes, but I may have the key to understanding how spirit-touched powers work. Oh, Technician, you just gave me everything I need.” Dragon says, typing a few things into an old laptop.

Technician is the Archduke’s personal scientist, doctor, and weapon manufacturer. She’s also probably the only person who could realistically challenge Dragon for the title of “smartest person on earth.” There’s no doubt she’s the one who designed this, and this has more than reignited Dragon’s multi-year obsession with one-upping her.

“The one thing I don’t get is how the dart broke through Phoenix’s armor. That’s not an ordinary needle.” Kitsune says, looking towards her meat-puppet.

“Right, that. So that works by-” Dragon starts. Kitsune glares at her and pulls a fan from her backplate. “Okay, okay, sorry. I’ll let you figure that out.”

“Thank you!” Kitsune says, putting her fan away. Kitsune cracks her knuckles and looks Crackshot up and down.

“Okay, not a normal needle. Technician made that too? Okay good. Good thrall. Stronger than it looks. Does it pierce through? No, doesn’t pierce. It drills? Okay, cool. It’s a drill, hyper-fast, too fast for the eye to register. Made to go through armor or scales. Interesting. Okay, I’m satisfied, anything to add?” Kitsune asks, looking towards Dragon.

“Yes. It doesn’t stop until it touches blood. Just keeps drilling. It’s incredibly fast. It can drill through most armor before they even realize it’s there. It has an extremely small motor right above the needle. Honestly, it’s a marvel of engineering.” Dragon lets all of this information flow out in one breath, her foot wouldn’t stop tapping while she was watching Kitsune interrogate the man.

“Okay, cool. Anything else you need to know?” Kitsune asks.

“How did he find me?” I ask, trying to soften my tone a bit.

“Eye-in-the-sky.” Kitsune says. “Part of Technician’s new security system. Anything that flies higher than a plane triggers it and tracks it, then special enforcer comes to check it out.”

Great. It figures that they would find a way to make stealth borderline impossible. Well, at least now I know about it and can try to avoid it.

“Did you get what you needed?” Dragon asks. At this point, we know better than to ask what Kitsune needs, just whether or not she got it.

“For the most part. Sadly, he either doesn’t know anything about Technician or just has trained himself not to react at all when I mention her.” Kitsune says, grimacing and letting out a sigh. “But, he has the clearance I need, and I can use him for information gathering. That’s the closest I’ve gotten in years.”

“He has a chip in his brain.” I say, Dragon and Kitsune’s heads both snap towards me. “He has a chip. I interrogated the guy I was after, he said that anyone at a higher level of clearance than him had to have a chip implanted. It stops them from talking about ‘things they shouldn’t’ with anyone not authorized. Not sure how, but he had no reason to lie about it.”

“Fuck’s sake.” Kitsune mumbles, holding her hand against her head and shaking it.

“Of course. Of course, they would do that.” Dragon says, crossing the room to write something down in a notebook.

“I assume they aren’t supposed to think about it either. Right Dragon?” Kitsune asks, in a bit of a biting tone.

“Yeah. I don’t know if it makes it so they can’t think about it or he’s just well trained enough that he doesn’t, but you aren’t getting anything about Technician or the Archduke from him.” Dragon says, still distracted by her notebook. “So… hey, Kitsune. Can I-”

“No.”

“But-”

“Absolutely not.”

“I just want t-”

“You’re not cutting into his brain, I need him.”

“Come on, when am I going to get a chance to look at-”

“Doesn’t matter, not my problem. We made a fair trade. Unless you can tell me this won’t kill him.”

“I… um, just looking at it wouldn’t.”

“But you want to remove it.”

“Yeah…”

“And there’s no chance that doesn’t kill him, right?”

“I…”

“That’s what I thought. I’ll be off now.”

Dragon paces for a second, tapping a pencil against her mask and letting out a deep breath.

“Okay. Fine. Could I just, please, take a look after you’re done?” Dragon asks, nearly begging.

Kitsune rolls her eyes and brushes her hand as Crackshot starts to leave the room. She looks Dragon up and down and shakes her head slightly.

“You’re fucking obsessed, but I could still technically grab control of him. Talk to me in three days. Make me an offer. Make it good.”

“Thank you, Kit.”

“Yup.”

Kitsune leaves, her thrall in tow. Dragon makes a few quick notes in one of her notebooks and checks a few settings on her machines. She finally comes to sit by my bed, checking my IV and pulse.

“You should rest, Phoenix. You have a pretty nasty concussion, and you’ve lost a lot of blood. It’s the best thing for you.” Dragon says, rubbing her hand down my good arm.

“You’re going to kill that person? Not that I’m judging, but that doesn’t seem to be your style.” I ask her.

Dragon sighs and looks down for a minute, we’re both silent as she looks towards my face.

“Is that bad? I didn’t… I didn’t even think of him as a person. I just, I need to know. I need to beat Technician. Crackshot made his decision when he let that chip be implanted. We’re at war Phoenix, and we need to use every advantage we can get.” She finally says.

“No judgment. I’ve done worse. I will do worse. Do what you have to.” I mutter.

“Just, try to rest Phoenix.” She says. She looks away from me and out the window, I don’t have anything else to say. Sleep has been fighting to take over ever since I woke up and I finally relent to it. Darkness creeps into my vision as I slowly drift off.

——

When I wake up, the bright light of morning is shining into the room from the old windows. Dragon is seated in the chair next to my bed, it looks like she slept there, but she’s awake now and talking to Chimera. Chimera is fully transcended and floating a few inches above the ground. She holds a greasy white bag of fast food in her left hand, which looks downright bizarre for a revered, god-like figure like Chimera. As soon as Chimera sees me stir, she’s at my side.

“Phoenix! Oh, thank God! I’m so glad I wasn’t too late, I’m so glad you’re okay!” Chimera says excitedly, hugging me a bit too tightly.

“I… Thanks for helping me out.” I mutter back softly.

“Of course! As soon as I got your text, I was there. I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up, I really needed to sleep. I’m so so so glad you’re okay! I figured you might be hungry, so I brought you some food.” Chimera says, handing me the bag. To be honest, I’m fucking starving, I look at Dragon for an okay, and she just nods. I tear open the bag and almost forget about my mask. I look at my friends a little awkwardly and clear my throat.

“Um, could I have some privacy? It’s hard to eat masked.” I mutter awkwardly.

“Yeah, of course. Come on Chi. When you need us just press this, okay?” Dragon says, standing up and handing me a small square object with a button in the center. I rest it gently on my lap as the girls leave.

As soon as they’re gone, I throw my mask off. Leaving my hood up in case of cameras and dig into the double cheeseburger and fries that Chimera brought me. I don’t know if it’s the blood loss, the concussion, or just general hunger, but I devour the food in record time. After I finish eating, I put my mask back on and just take a few seconds to myself.

Life without supernatural anger, what must that be like? I got to experience a few minutes of it when I had my powers stripped. It was different, not bad necessarily, just so different compared to everything that I’ve ever known. I was born with my powers, born to be a hero, I didn’t exactly have a chance to be a normal kid or a normal person. Dragon was just a normal girl until a few years ago, Chimera was just a normal girl until a few months ago. I’ve always been as much Phoenix as I am Rachel. I almost long for it, but I’d rather be Phoenix and Rachel than just Rachel. At least this way I have a chance of making a difference and I don’t have to just be a victim.

I secure my mask back into place and press the button to call my friends. Chimera and Dragon come back into the room less than a minute later, Dragon sitting in a chair, while Chimera sits by the foot of my bed.

“So, what is this place?” I ask.

“An abandoned house, Chimera and I have been using it as a sort of hideout for the past few days. It’s safe, for the most part.” Dragon answers.

“We need to talk about Heatstroke.” I say, looking at them somberly.

“Rest. We can talk later.” Dragon insists.

“I’m tired of resting and waiting, we need to move now, as in tonight.”

“Absolutely out of the question.”

“You don’t understand. Heatstroke is moving, that’s how we haven’t found him. He moves his base of operations every few months. Maybe even weeks if we’re getting close. We have to move now. We have to stop him now.”

“Shit. Of course he is, that’s how he ducks us.” Dragon mumbles.

“I know a thing or two about that.” Chimera says, her voice still surprisingly bright.

“Chimera… No.” Dragon orders, Chimera just shrugs in response.

“I’m not gonna lie to her, sorry. I don’t lie to my friends. Not even to protect them.”

Dragon glares at Chimera for a second but stays silent as Chimera continues.

“Some girl gave Dragon a list of addresses and contacts, she was able to turn that list into a few possible locations. I was out scouting them for her when you texted. I, I found it, at least I think.”

I sit up straight, trying to gather all my strength. Dragon grabs my good arm and forces me back down gently.

“Where?” I beg.

“We don’t know. Not for sure. You didn’t actually see Heatstroke.” Dragon hisses at Chimera.

“You’re right. I didn’t see the man himself, but I saw a bunch of armed guards protecting a warehouse that’s supposed to be abandoned. It’s the only one on that list like that Dragon. The only one.” Chimera insists.

“There could be another one.”

“What are the odds of that? Be honest.”

Dragon is silent, I don’t need to see her face to imagine the scowl on it. I look at Chimera desperately.

“Downtown, in an industrial block.” Chimera answers.

“Let’s go. Now.” I say, trying to push out of Dragon’s grip.

“You can barely walk.” Dragon says, pushing back against me.

“Mundane Phoenix can’t. Transcended Phoenix can.”

I call on my power and transcend, pushing past Dragon with my now superhuman strength. My arm still hurts, I still have a terrible headache, and my neck still stings a little, but it’s a pain I can shake off and fight.

“Phoenix, please. Detranscend, come lay down.” Dragon begs.

“I can’t do that. We need to stop him. This ends now!”

“What if you run out of power or they have those darts? Then you’ll detranscend in front of Heatstroke. Then what?”

“Then healed or not, I’m already dead.”

My words seem to hang in the room for a moment. Chimera is the first to speak, floating over to me.

“Phoenix is right. We need to strike while we know where he is. We may never get this chance again.”

“Thank you.”

“But Dragon is right too. You need to rest, we need to be at full power, and we need to plan. We will take the rest of today, make a plan, let Dragon look over some building schematics and get a solid plan and backup plans established. Okay? Is that fair? Can we compromise?”

Dragon and I are silent for a few moments. Staring at each other for what feels like hours. I finally detranscend and get back in bed. Walking is difficult, I’m reasonably sure Chimera had to help with her power, but I get there. Dragon nods to Chimera, who smiles and lets out a relieved breath.

“You’re good at that. You know?” Dragon says.

“Previous Chimeras had to negotiate peace treaties between warring nations, I still say trying to mediate between you two is more difficult.” Chimera says, returning to her seat at the end of my bed.

We spend the rest of the day planning, between the information from my interrogation, Chimera’s scouting, and Dragon’s pure intelligence, we get something substantial together. A couple of backup plans and an escape route, much to my chagrin, and we feel like we have something really good here. We’re going to do it. We’re going to take down Heatstroke. This is going to end, it’s a grind, it’s hard fought, and it’s a small victory in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a victory, and that’s all we can ask for right now.

—–

I sleep in our hideout tonight, so does Dragon. Chimera goes home at about sundown. Dragon stays up in her lab, working, until very late at night. I don’t bother trying to stay up much after we’re done planning. It’s hard to keep up if I don’t fight it, and there’s no real point.

We wake up early and leave before too many people are out to notice us. We walk along rooftops and backroads until we come to a small block of industrial warehouses downtown. We text Chimera once we’re in position and she arrives a few minutes later, glowing a brilliant blue and floating a few inches above the ground. Dragon and I take her cue and transcend. I can’t believe that this is all about to be over. This monster who has plagued my life for the past six years is about to pay for everything he did.

There’s no real point in going with the stealthy approach. I could go into The Cinder State and make it in, but I would be without Chimera and Dragon, which is basically asking to be kidnapped or killed. As soon as we break through the tree line, the gunfire starts. Soldiers, maybe fifty of them, start firing towards the three of us. Chimera does her thing, catching the bullets in the air with her telekinesis, sending them harmlessly into the ground. Chimera sends the first wave of soldiers flying back and tries to draw as much fire as possible. I send a wave of flame towards a few soldiers, while Dragon flies towards another group, clawing into them and throwing them around like ragdolls with her superior size and strength.

A few soldiers pour out of the building, but we can hit them faster than they can get out. There’s a large garage door covering the main part of the warehouse, which Chimera pulls open effortlessly. Inside the warehouse, boxes on boxes are stacked against the walls with many barrels in all different colors lining the floor of the warehouse. Soldiers drop what they’re doing and pick up their weapons. Firing at the three of us. There are hundreds of guards and soldiers littering this warehouse, but there could be a thousand, and it wouldn’t matter. Mundanes can hardly do anything to us with basic weapons. All they’re here to do is slow us down for the most part and hope we run out of power before we get to Heatstroke.

Despite how effortless and easy this may seem, fighting mundane guards, it’s a slog. Every blast of flame or ice, every strike of claws, every object thrown with telekinesis, it all wears our powers down just a little bit. While Heatstroke doesn’t wear down at all. We need a way out, some way to skip these guards and get straight to Heatstroke.

“They’re stalling.” Dragon says, flying just above me.

“Yup, I’ve got an idea.” Chimera says before I can respond.

Chimera’s eyes glow bright blue, brighter than I’ve ever seen her make them, as every box and barrel in the warehouse starts to glow blue. They all topple over as Chimera violently throws her hand to the right. Soldiers inside the building are struck by the falling boxes and flying barrels. Random gunfire hits the ground and walls of the building as a considerable portion of the soldiers are struck and fall beneath the boxes. A few dozen soldiers remain, some of the lucky ones or those who were outside. I have a plan for this.

“Up!” I order, both Chimera and Dragon fly straight up as soon as I tell them. I channel my power in a circle at about waist height, forming fire in my hands. Spinning the red-hot flame around my waist as quickly as I can. Then with a quick motion of my hands, I dismiss it in a shockwave, striking every soldier near me and sending them flying back with force. They aren’t dead, most of them, but some of them were running anyway, so they don’t look too motivated to get back up.

My teammates fly down to join me as we walk into the warehouse, Chimera clearing a path for us through the debris and broken boxes. Chimera and I both had to expend a ton of power, but it’s less than we would have if we kept taking them out wave by wave. I walk into the warehouse, my teammates following behind me. I hear a click from behind me, about a fraction of a second before Dragon does, and I turn on my heel.

A girl, dressed in a boarding school uniform and a pink bike helmet with a visor. Stands at the far end of the lot, holding one of the soldier’s pistols. She’s examining it, waving it towards us. Someone is pointing a gun at my teammates and I. I don’t even think about it. I act, leaping towards her on a jet of flame. I land a few inches from her and lower myself, ready to infuse fire into a strike. I feel my hand meet resistance as it starts to flow blue, Chimera’s power holding it tightly in place. The girl looks terrified and lifts the visor of her bike helmet.

It’s Sarah fucking Garvey.

“It’s okay! I’m on your side! I’m here to help!” She says, raising her hands.

“Help, you want to fucking help?” I say, stomping my foot down, leaving deep red cracks in the pavement.

“I… I could hear the gunshots and fire from my school. I grabbed a helmet and my bike and got over here as soon as I could.”

“You cannot actually be that stupid. You’re going to get yourself fucking killed. I should just do you a favor and k-”

“Thank you!” Chimera cuts me off, I glare at her. She darts her eyes to the side, telling me to step away.

“Thank you. We really appreciate it. We’re going to make this world okay again, and citizens should help however they can. You’re a hero, just like us.” Chimera says, offering Sarah a high five, which she gladly accepts.

“Yes! Thank you so much for saying that Chimera! What’s next?”

“Well, we’re gonna go fight a spirit touched, that’s a job that’s a bit too dangerous. But, it would be equally valuable and heroic of you to go to the neighboring warehouses and make sure everyone evacuates. We don’t want Heatstroke to hurt anyone.”

Chimera’s voice is a sickening mix of summer camp counselor and comic book superhero.

“Uh, o-of course! Yes, ma’am!” Sarah says, saluting Chimera before getting on her small, pink, mountain bike and riding towards the other warehouses. Chimera floats back over to us, and we start to walk back to the warehouse.

“That girl is an idiot.” I grumble.

“Yeah.” Chimera says with a shrug, dropping the kindergarten teacher-esque voice she was using. “But, she believes in us, we don’t want to alienate someone like that. We need all the public support we can get.”

“What are you? A politician.”

“No, I just know how the game works. If we’re perceived better than the regime, we might actually have a shot.”

“Sounds like a politician to me…”

The three of us walk through the main section of the warehouse, through a side door and up a set of stairs. Dragon had spent a few hours going over building schematics and deduced about where Heatstroke would be. On the top floor in the largest, most open room. Surprisingly, we don’t encounter any resistance, it looks like all the guards have either been taken out or left on their own accord. Good, no more wasting power.

This ends now. My father is finally going to pay for what he did. Today, I get revenge for my mother, my brother, and every other person I loved who he needlessly cut down. I get revenge for the lives he ruined, for the world he helped ruin. I get revenge for me. It’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, but it’s going to feel so fucking good.

I throw the door to the room that Dragon identified open. Immediately, forty or fifty red dots line the bodies of myself, Chimera, and Dragon. A full squad of guards line the room, guns trained on us, ready to fire on a moments notice. Behind them, seated in a throne made of dark red pumice stone is Heatstroke, my father, smiling and chuckling to himself.

“Sweetheart, how nice of you to visit your dear old dad.”

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