Content warning: Violence, Extreme use of fire, Car accidents
It takes me all of ten seconds to enter The Cinder State and find my way in through the trailer door. What the fuck did she do? We gave her pretty simple orders, so how did she fuck it up? I scan the trailer as soon as I’m inside, ten soldiers with rifles stand in a tight formation in the middle of the trailer. Behind and to the side of them are crates, they were thrown roughly around the trailer when Chimera tore it off, but most of the stuff still looks to be intact. I glance over at Unicorn, she has her hands in the air, detranscended. She’s wearing a bright green cloak and a cheap white mask with clear lenses. Two darts are sticking out of her shoulder and neck.
The darts, you idiot, remove the darts! The longer they stay in you, the longer they cut your powers off! Pull out the darts! The soldiers have their guns trained on her, and if I dropped out of the Cinder State right now, they’d have a pretty easy shot at me. I stay in my incorporeal form and circle around them, this is pretty standard procedure, so I know just the signal to wait for. I start to channel my rage and call on my power while in The Cinder State.
Chimera should pull these doors open any minute. We’ve done this before a million times and she’ll do it any second now. I’m sure of it.
Okay, maybe she isn’t coming.
Ten soldiers, I could probably take them, but I’m not sure I could do it without getting a dart. That’s why I need some backup. It would be better if Unicorn didn’t get shot like an idiot, but I have to work with the cards I’m dealt. I can’t just sit here thinking about it forever. I position myself behind the furthest right guard on the back line and ready all the flame I’ve gathered.
Come on Chimera, where are you?
I drop out of the Cinder State and launch fire at the backs of the men in the backline, grabbing the one I was standing closest to and putting him between me and the other five. The man screams in pain and drops his gun as darts pepper his burning back. The smell of burning flesh is one I’ll never get used to smelling. I use the human shield to drop back into The Cinder State and disappear again.
“Anchor.” One of the soldiers says to the other four still standing as I gather my fire. I see the bottom of their boots glow blue and seem to magnetize to the floor. The leader of these soldiers sets a small blue and white orb on the ground, which instantly attaches itself to the floor.
Without warning, the soldier presses a button on his wrist and I feel myself being torn apart and entirely disrupted. My vision, all of my senses actually, fail me momentarily and seem to come back to me one at a time. My airy, ethereal form is positioned by a corner near the door in the shipping container. I glance around and see Sarah was blown back against the far door of the container and the five injured guards were blown wildly around.
What the hell was that thing? It felt like it tried to rip me apart. I know that I’m technically some form of air when I’m in the Cinder State, so that thing must have been able to blow the air in the shipping container around wildly. The lead soldier turns towards me, his visor has a red-orange tint that I didn’t notice before. He points to my exact location the second his head turns towards me.
“She’s there!” He says, raising his weapon. The other guards follow suit. I start to move again, his head quickly follows me and with another press of his wrist I feel the same awful, painful sensation ripping at me and find my form huddled at the back of the shipping container a few seconds later.
Chimera, any time now would be fucking awesome.
“Don’t try it Phoenix. Just come out with your hands up and we won’t hurt you.” The man says. I don’t believe him, and I doubt he cares.
That visor has to be able to see heat signatures. When I’m in the Cinder State, I register as slightly warmer air. My cousin, Cori, had a special ability that let her see heat and I was never able to hide from her in The Cinder State. If he wants to see heat, I’ll give him heat.
I call fire to myself, as much as I can muster, the entire time I’m terrified that he’s going to use his device again, but he doesn’t. I drop out of the Cinder State and unleash all the gathered flame in as wide an area as possible. The entire back half of the trailer is engulfed in flame. I would have hit the whole trailer, but I can’t risk accidentally killing Sarah. Even an incompetent ally is better than no ally.
I hear the lead soldier groan as he covers the visor of his mask. The first two soldiers, as well as a few of the injured ones, are completely turned to ash. I don’t like killing, I hate it actually. My aspect may be anger, but I’m still a goddamn human. My power isn’t exactly one that “wounds” or “hurts” all I can do is destroy and kill. I wish I could knock out soldier the way Chimera does, or I could at least kill as ruthlessly as Kitsune does. I breathe and get my composure together, these soldiers stopped being people the second they joined the regime. That’s what I have to remind myself.
The other three guards were burned and knocked off balance. The lead guard lost his gun, while the other two aren’t exactly ready to shoot. I call the fire, pulling it from the burning crates and metal and covering my body in it. The sensation of flame covering me, but not burning me is such an unusual feeling. It almost feels like I’m wearing a glove over my entire body, but it moves in such a strange and almost uncomfortable way. When I see the looks on the faces of the guards, I know I got exactly the effect I was going for.
I hear a click as one of the soldiers panics and pulls the trigger of his gun. I watch the dart hit the flaming armor around me and burn up before making contact with my skin, it got close, way closer than I would have liked, but I stopped it. I don’t let the worry show at all as I walk slowly towards the three soldiers. I look at Sarah, she’s mostly unharmed, just some searing on her cloak, but she looks like she’s been knocked out pretty bad from that device that blew the air in here around.
“Drop your weapons,” I say through crackling flame. The soldiers recoil slightly and the back two drop their weapons when I raise my hands.
“Helmets, wrist pads, phones, boots, gloves, and anything else you have with tech or weaponry, take it off,” I order, the guards hesitate for a moment before finally doing so. It takes two or three minutes, and I have to double and triple check them, sending my fire away from the hands I was using to check them, but they’re clear.
“Go sit in the front corner of the trailer,” I say, indicating to the corner by the door. “If any of you make moves for your weapons, it’s not going to end well for you.”
I’m not nearly as sure of myself as I pretend to be in that moment, but it works. The men relent and go to the corner. I’m beyond relieved that worked and relieved that I finally have a trick that may slow down the darts. Now, I need to find out what the hell happened to my backup.
I use the fire around my body and send it as one large wave towards the door, forcing it open with a loud thud. I ignite my wings and start gathering more fire around me as I look at the scene. It’s not what I was hoping for.
Chimera is the first person I notice, she’s holding her shoulder, blood running down from it. Her body is shaking and her face bears a clear expression of pain. Well, there goes my backup. Dragon is standing directly in front of her, her teeth and claws are bared, her wings and tail are fully extended, she’s guarding her and making sure she doesn’t get hit by whatever got her previously.
Kitsune is covered entirely in white carbon, her fans drawn to protect herself. She’s frozen completely, a look of hatred on her face. The bodies of soldiers with dart guns, four of them, lay sprawled around the road near Kitsune. While two Paladins lay in heaps, their engines torn directly out of their bodies. If I had to guess, Chimera did that. A third Paladin stands a few feet from Dragon, it’s black metal body appears to be mostly unharmed. A jeep is parked next to the Paladin, a man in the driver’s seat holds a handgun, pointed at Chimera in the few moments when she’s not being covered by Dragon. A woman sits in the passenger seat. She’s clad in a blue and white dress, holding a large hunting rifle, trained on Dragon. Her entire face excluding the eyes and mouth, is covered by a white mask, while the rest of her head is covered by a blue hood. She’s short, maybe about 5’2, but she’s clearly in control of the situation. Oracle.
“Phoenix!” Oracle says in a sickeningly sweet voice. “I was wondering when you’d be joining us.”
“Fuck off. You’re outnumbered here, leave.” I say, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
“Don’t try that shit with me Phoenix. Chimera’s not getting up anytime soon, the Fox is a human popsicle, and your new friend is out like a light. Besides, Technician is directly controlling this Paladin. We’ve got you beat.”
Fuck, Chimera doesn’t look to be in any state to fight. She looks like she’s barely aware of where she even is right now. Even worse, I barely have any power left and I can’t image Dragon is exactly fresh. I glance at Dragon and she gives me a very brief look, one that makes me feel like she’s working on a plan.
“Quite right.” A woman’s voice with a thick German accent comes from the Paladin, there’s no doubt that’s Technician. “I’m not especially interested in further harming children, so the smartest thing you can do is turn yourselves over to us.”
“Yeah, that’s gonna be a no.” I mutter, stepping to Dragon’s side.
“Oh, Phoenix, so much of your father in you.” Oracle says with a devilish grin on her face. I growl slightly at the comment and feel the rage inside me start to build. I need to keep calm, Oracle has the power to gather information based on the smallest clue. She has her magic rifle and the boosts that being a spirit touched gives everyone, but her ability isn’t a combat one, she’s just extremely adept at information gathering and knows how to use that information to get to people.
“Tell me Phoenix, do you know? Do you know who you’ve been working alongside? Do you know who’s been in your midsts, who you thought were allies? Can you really trust them?” Technician’s voice says, Oracle seems to grimace slightly, almost like Technician saying that irked her.
Can I trust my team? I trust Dragon completely, and I trust Chimera to never join the Archduke. Kitsune is a wild card, but if there’s one thing I don’t doubt it’s her commitment to the fight. I barely know Sarah, but I doubt she’d be willing to sell us out to the regime. Even if I didn’t trust my team, I know I have to show that I do against these two, especially Oracle.
“Yes, there’s not a thing you could tell me about them that could make me distrust them. They’re my team, I trust them fully.” I answer. Oracle’s eyes light up like she’s struck paydirt.
“That angle’s not gonna work Techy,” she says almost laughing. “She’s gay, and she doesn’t give a shit about her team’s personal lives.”
Oracle pauses and locks her eyes on Dragon.
“However, Dragon, you really are smarter than Techy gives you credit for. You know, don’t you? You’ve known for a while. You probably could have fixed it. And you didn’t tell Phoenix? Don’t you claim to be the good guys? That’s really fucking harsh.” Oracle says.
“I don’t know what you’re ta-” Dragon starts.
“Oh sure, you weren’t one-hundred percent sure, but I just confirmed it. So? You gonna tell her now?”
An awkward silence hangs over the standoff. Dragon exhales slightly and glances at me with one of her reptilian eyes. I glance back. What does Oracle mean? Dragon’s keeping something from me? What? Does she know who I am? I’d be mad at myself, but if Kitsune knows, it doesn’t bother me a ton that Dragon does. Is she straight? As disappointed as I’d be, I wouldn’t be crushed. I could deal with it. No, Oracle said she could have stopped ‘it’, stop what? What else would she possibly hide from me?
“You think you know everything, don’t you Oracle?” Dragon says.
“Unlike you, no I don’t. I know people, Techy knows machines.” Oracle says.
“So then who’s fault was not noticing that you didn’t freeze me in carbon?” Kitsune says, leaping from behind the trailer onto the top of it. Oracle’s eyes go wide as she stares at Kitsune, and points her rifle at her. I glance at the Kitsune frozen in carbon and see it’s still there. How the fuck did she do that?
“Shoot! Dart Dragon! Now!” Oracle orders her soldier. The man’s arm moves roughly, violently jerking to the side. He points his gun at Oracle instead.
“Edward Millner, former army general, cheating on his wife with a young recruit who’s only sleeping with him out of fear of losing her position. Please, I do my homework and I know faces, don’t tell me you’re that much of an amateur Oracle.” Kitsune taunts. Before Kitsune can make the man pull the trigger, Oracle rips the gun from his hand and fires at Dragon.
Dragon wastes no time getting out of the way, pouncing on the Paladin and trying to rip through their shell. The Paladin uses their size advantage to throw Dragon back a bit and turns to face her. It would have hit Chimera, but I burn it to ash before it gets there.
Oracle drops the dart pistol, aims her rifle at Kitsune, and forces her soldier out of the driver’s seat. She takes a shot at Kitsune, who dodges with an athletic flip. She starts her car and takes another shot at Kitsune, who blocks it with her fan this time. Oracle presses a button on the dash and engages some sort of auto-drive function. She takes a few shots at Kitsune and myself before hitting Dragon squarely in the back, the purple energy from the gun doesn’t even break her scales.
Dragon and the Paladin are locked in combat. Dragon has managed to dislodge the stun turret, while the Paladin is keeping a solid hold on Dragon’s claws. I briefly consider helping her, before setting my eyes on Oracle’s jeep.
“Kitsune, watch Chimera and Unicorn.” I say, looking at the shivering, bleeding superhero on the ground and the barely conscious borderline-civilian.
“Yup.” Kitsune says, hopping down to ground level and extending both her fans fully.
I fly forward, landing on the hood of Oracle’s jeep. I start to melt through the hood and into the engine, but she quickly bashes me in the face with the butt of her rifle. Okay, that hurt, maybe I need a different approach. I lock my eyes on Oracle.
“Alright Phoenix, you caught me, come take me.” She says, disengaging the auto-drive and slowing the jeep slightly. I don’t trust this.
“Or we could make a deal.” She says with a devilish grin.
“No. I don’t make deals with people like you.”
“Oh, but you could. Your team would never know, I’d give you a good, non-fatal shot to the gut and drive away. You fake like you’re too hurt to follow.”
“Kitsune’s a human lie detector and Dragon’s a super genius, I’m not an idiot. Besides, you don’t have anything I want.”
“Don’t I? You wanna know what Dragon’s hiding from you? You wanna know what Kitsune’s weakness is? Ooh ooh, do you wanna know why your dad turned on you?”
Why am I even entertaining her? I have fucking Oracle in my sights, I should either burn her to a crisp or restrain her for Dragon to question. At the moment, I’m leaning towards burning her.
“No.” I growl under my mask.
“Oh, yes you do.” She says with a smirk. “But if my offer doesn’t intrigue you, go ahead. Capture me. You’ll just never know why your daddy had such a change of heart.”
Oracle holds her hands out for me. I glare at her. Come on, do it. I beg my hands to grab her, to restrain her and pull her out of the vehicle, but they won’t budge.
“You can’t possibly know that.” I spit.
“Sweetie,” Oracle starts with a laugh. “I was there.”
She could give me answers, closure, she could give me something I never thought I’d have. It would mean letting my team down. It would mean letting Chimera down when she took a bullet for our cause. It would mean letting Dragon down. I can’t do that. I want to know, I want it more than anything, but…
“No…” I force the word out of my throat. Saying no was hard, but saying yes was somehow harder. Before I can change my mind, I reach forward and wrench her hands, putting her in a wrist lock.
“That’s fine. My offer was sincere, but you weren’t even the first priority. I was just stalling.” Oracle says calmly, letting out a sharp whistle.
Oracle’s soldier, apparently free of Kitsune’s control and laying on the ground, has the dart pistol. On Oracle’s signal, he points it at Dragon. Dragon is still locked in her fight with the Paladin, neither side making headway. Dragon will probably win a one-on-one fight with a Paladin, even one controlled by Technician, but if she gets darted, this fight is over before it can even start.
“Kitsune!” I shout, pulling Oracle tight against my body and trying to kick her rifle away. “The dart gun!”
Kitsune doesn’t take more than a second to react, making the man throw his hand backwards and fire the gun far away from Dragon. It’s okay. It’s safe. It didn’t work, we’re going to win.
The next thing I hear is an ear-splitting, high pitched noise that shakes the road, the car, and the sand around us. I hit the ground and cover my ears, so do Oracle, Kitsune, Dragon, and the Soldier. The Paladin stalls. It takes me a few seconds to realize what’s happening, Chimera is screaming, a visceral howl of pain that sounds like it’s echoing from the spirit world. Every inch of Chimera is radiating blue light. It’s at this moment that I realize the errant dart hit Chimera. She stands and pulls the dart out of her neck with her telekinetic powers, her eyes glowing bright blue.
She didn’t detranscend. The dart didn’t make her fucking detranscend. I know that Chimeras are usually fucking weird, and work a little differently than normal spirit touched, but the dart didn’t cut off her powers, it just made her mad.
The sand and rocks on the roadside begin to glow blue, Forming swiftly into massive rock golems. The sand starts to twist around Chimera, forming a shield as she begins to float into the air. Chimera is telekinetic, she struggles with “loose” things like sand or water because she has to control every grain or drop. I’ve also never even seen her try to make a golem out of rocks, or anything else, before. Controlling one loose object is standard for her, but controlling a few objects at a time makes her basically a sitting duck. Making all the rocks move in tandem? I can’t imagine how much focus that takes. I know other Chimeras have gotten stronger over time, maybe some of the ones that survived for a long time could do this, but this is an incredible spike in a matter of seconds.
Chimera launches a wave of sand over the roadway at high speeds. The sandstorm hits the jeep hard, sending me off of it and tumbling across the road back to the trailer. When I look back up, I see the Paladin torn apart to nothing but scrap metal and spare parts. Dragon is looking around her wings to try to get a clear look at Chimera through the sand. Her reptilian eyes probably give her a better chance than Kitsune or I.
The jeep is also in pieces. I don’t even see the soldier anymore, he’s probably buried beneath the sand. Oracle is laying a few feet back from the jeep, scrambling backward and grabbing her rifle. She fires it at Chimera, purple energy exploding from the muzzle. The beams hit Chimera’s shield of sand and immediately disperse. Through coughs and panicked breaths, I hear Oracle speak into some sort of wrist communicator.
“Dodger, I need evac. Now.” She says.
Chimera’s stone golems begin to make their way towards Oracle, a few of them walk past me and seem to ignore me. I can’t find Kitsune, but no doubt she was agile enough to slip into or behind the trailer. Chimera slowly begins to advance herself, picking up more sand along the way.
“Oracle!” The voice comes from Chimera’s lips, but it’s not her own. It sounds like a mix of voices, hundreds of them, along with some spectral, celestial force boosting their volume ten times above what they would be. “Your hubris and malice have put this world at grave risk. Your Archduke attempts to make a pantheon here on earth, I fled the spirit world because I saw what a pantheon does to those who are not at the top of it. I will not let this world become the one I left. Your structures will fall, and I will bring them down. Heed my warning Oracle, abandon your leaders’ foolish ploy, or I will not hesitate to end your life along with his.”
Oracle shakes like a leaf and desperately tries to shoot the Rock golems, who don’t even slow down. I’ve never seen someone like Oracle be this genuinely afraid, for fuck’s sake, Chimera’s on my side and I’m terrified of her. How is she doing this? What’s gotten into her? What is she? I know that Chimera said she “bonded” with the spirit, instead of receiving a fraction of their powers as a blessing like most of us did, but does that mean that she could be as powerful as a full-blown spirit?
A short girl in a small white and blue costume appears right next to Oracle, the costume is a one piece body glove with a small blue eye mask, her blonde hair is up in a ponytail. Her name is Dodger, I don’t know much about her except that she’s a teleporter. She grabs Oracle just before the golems get to her and teleports away. Chimera floats still in the air for a few moments before landing on the ground with force. Sand and rocks go flying as her shield and golems disperse.
“Maybe next time you won’t underestimate me.” Chimera says to the spot where Oracle was. She turns and looks in the direction of Dragon and I, the blue glow of her eyes slowly starts to fade as her breathing becomes more labored. She grabs her head and leans against the trailer as her eyes return to normal.
What the fuck was that? How did Chimera do that? Why didn’t the dart work? Did Chimera just declare official war on the Archduke? Did we just get pushed into a full-blown war? I have so many questions, but I can’t even begin to ask them. I just watch Dragon fly to Chimera to check on her as I sit on the ground slack-jawed.
“Well, that was unexpected.” Kitsune says, walking out of the trailer and over to me. I nod in response.
“Yeah, uh, I’m curious how she-”
“No shit. I am too.” Kitsune cuts me off and rolls her eyes.
“How did you not get frozen?” I ask, I shouldn’t care, but it’s been bugging me since I saw her come from behind the trailer.
“A little misdirection with an assist from Dragon. She gave me this thing.” Kitsune indicates to a large metal triangle attached to her forearm. “Some sort of 3D printer that works at high speeds. As soon as the Paladin fired their carbon at me, Dragon told me to hit the button on it and it sent a plastic copy of me to take the carbon. Then I just hid behind my… ‘carbon copy’ until nobody was paying attention to where I was. That’s probably not something that’s going to work twice, at least not as well, but it was extremely satisfying to pull one over on Oracle and Technician that way.”
“I mean, you pulled one over on her, but Chimer-”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, Chimera is awesome, she’s probably a legit spirit or something, but can we at least focus on the cool thing I did for like a second.”
“That sounds like it was mostly Dragon.” I say with a shrug.
“You would think that. Whatever, go check on your girlfriend and her sister, I’ve got some collecting to do.” Kitsune says, fishing through the pockets of the soldier corpses that line the street.
I glance at Dragon and sigh. Oracle is a liar, but from the way Dragon reacted, I doubt she was lying here. Dragon is supposed to be our leader, she’s someone I trust, someone I care about a lot, and she’s been hiding something from me, and from the tone Oracle used, it must be something bad. What could she not want me to know that badly? Can I still trust Dragon? I hope so, I need to be able to trust her. Please let this be nothing.
Dragon has detranscended and is carefully applying something from a clear bottle to Chimera’s gunshot wound.
“I need to take you back to my lab to work on this.” Dragon says, her breath heavy.
“I know, thank you for doing what you can here.” Chimera answers in a weak and sheepish voice.
“Hey Chi.” I say, trying my best to look soft and welcoming despite being basically a fire demon.
“Hey, I didn’t hurt you did I?” she asks.
“No, I’m fine. Can I ask you something?”
Dragon starts to open her mouth, but Chimera raises her good arm.
“Sis, it’s fine. What is it Phoenix?” She says.
“What was that?” I ask, alluding to the sand covering the roadway.
“Honestly, you would know better than I do. I don’t even remember anything. I just remember feeling the dart go in, and then I was leaning against this trailer. It was a lot like what happened against Heatstroke. I just blacked out.” She says, not looking me in the eye.
She blacked out? Does Chimera have some sort of failsafe built into her powers? It would make sense if it saved her in life or death situations, but it triggered after she was darted.
“Dragon?” I ask.
“Working on a hypothesis. Been working on one since our fight with Heatstroke. Best case scenario, it’s a well-hidden secret power that Chimera has. It’s possible that it’s an alternate state, or maybe that the spirit itself is taking control of her, that would account for the extreme rise in her power.” Dragon says, still busily working on Chimera’s wound.
“Worst case scenario?” I ask, I almost immediately regret doing so.
“Multiple personality disorder or mind control by something much stronger.”
“I don’t think it’s either of those.” Chimera says, shaking her head.
“I’m just examining all the possibilities.” Dragon adds, raising her hands slightly.
“Um, hi” A voice says to the left of us, it’s Sarah.
“Hey.” Chimera says giving her a warm smile.
“Are you hurt?”
“I’ll be fine. How are you holding up?”
“Alright, I guess. Getting shot at was… was…” Sarah starts to trail off, Chimera places her good hand on her shoulder.
“I know. It gets easier after the first few times.” Chimera says.
“I’m sorry, I fucked up really bad.” Sarah says, not wanting to look at Dragon or I.
“It’s alright. What happened in there?”
“I thought they were out of darts. They baited me. I made myself tangible and they gor me. I fucked up.”
“Yeah, you did.” I answer before Chimera can. I want to leave it there, but the way her eyes look beneath the mask forces me to say “It’s okay, we’ve all fucked up from time to time.” I feel the bullet wound on my arm as a still clear reminder of that.
“I… thank you.”
“If you’ll excuse me.” Chimera starts. “I need to meditate. I want to commune with the other Chimeras, I have questions.”
“Of course, let me know what you find out?” Dragon says.
“Could I watch?” Sarah asks, picking her head up slightly.
“Sure. Just don’t touch me. It would break my focus.”
I get up to leave Chimera and indicate for Dragon to follow me. She hesitates, but as soon as Chimera enters her trance she comes to join me off to the side.
“Hey.” I say.
“Hey. Everything good?” She asks.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. Kitsune told me what you did, that was a pretty cool trick.”
“I actually have Technician to think for that, her power lets her produce near impossible tech, mine doesn’t. I took a miniature 3D printer from one of her warehouses a few months back and have been trying to engineer something like that. It’s not ideal, the device needs to be on the body for a while, can only make plastic duplicates of whoever it’s attached to, and only has enough material for one duplicate. It also needs time to grow, the duplicate was a little smaller than Kitsune, we were lucky that they never picked up on that.”
It’s funny to hear her talk about this. Science and her projects, it’s cute in a way. She’s not a person who’s especially good at letting her walls down, I know a thing or two about that. But when she starts to talk about her experiments or projects, it’s almost impossible to stop her. I smile slightly behind my mask.
“Well, I’m glad it worked. I’m glad we escaped. So what’s our next move?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Things are moving fast. The regime sends Exodus, Oracle, and Technician after us all in the span of a few days? I don’t like this.” Dragon says.
“So, the Fort McCord job? I take it you don’t want to push it back?”
“Phoenix, I think we have to move it up.”
“Move it up? But we were going to hit it tomorrow.”
“I know, and with Chimera hurt, and Unicorn shaken up, we should be taking more time off, not less. But if we don’t strike now, we aren’t going to have a chance. They’re making their play. Right now. We need to slow it down, and getting into that base can buy us at least a few days. We don’t have a matter of days anymore, we probably have hours.”
“You’re right. So we do it tonight?”
“Yeah, eight. That gives us a little over twelve hours to rest and prepare. Meet at the hideout. I’m going to patch Chimera up and make sure she’s okay to go. Kit’s not coming with us, she has people she needs to take care of, they’re her first priority. So we need all the rest of us able to go.”
“Yeah. Sounds like a plan.”
Silence hangs over us for a few seconds. I want to ask her, badly, I can feel the words forming in my mouth, but they refuse to come out. “What was Oracle talking about?” that’s all I need to say, I just need to say that one thing and I can put this to bed. I can tell Dragon is thinking about it too. Neither of us wants to bring it up.
So we don’t.
“You’re getting better, your tech is evolving. It’s really cool actually.” I say.
“Thanks. You’re damn good with your powers. I’m amazed by all the clever things you do with them. You’re more than just a flamethrower. You’re really good at this job, better than you give yourself credit for.” She says, her smile audible.
“You’re really good at this. I’m-”
“Shh, no. We’re both really good at being heroes. Agreed?”
“Good. We’re a team. We’re partners.”
That word hangs there for what feels like ten minutes, partners. God, I want that so desperately. In one sense of the word we are. I’m not sure how she meant it. Is it a hint that she would want to be with me? Is it just phrasing she didn’t put thought into? But Dragon’s so smart, doesn’t she put thought into eve- Rachel, calm down, she said partners. Just relax.
“Yeah. we’re partners.” I say.
“Good, well, then I’ll see you tonight.”
Dragon walks back to her sister. What Oracle said echoes through my mind again. Dragon is keeping something from me. We both know it, even if neither of us wants to acknowledge it. I don’t care. Whatever she’s keeping for me, I don’t need to know. It’s her business, not mine. If we’re gonna win this, I need to trust her. I don’t need to know, not till this is over.
I trust her.