Shadowgirl – Part 3
Written by HikerAngel :: [Friday, 03 July 2020 21:07] Last updated by :: [Friday, 10 July 2020 17:14]
As I neared the address from Raven’s text, my mind raced through recent events. They lingered on the part where I had apparently become stronger and more beautiful. My extremities buzzed with suppressed joy at the thought. It was what I had always desired, a dream come true.
The only problem was that it came in a context of awfulness. Remembering the other events that had transpired at the warehouse, I felt a bit guilty for my internal joy.
I knew what I had heard Raven say before losing consciousness. All morning, I had been attempting to deny it, to dismiss it as the meandering delusions of a mind shutting down. I knew, however, that it wasn’t true. I knew what I had heard. The words had been real.
And I needed to understand why.
I walked up to the front door of a nondescript suburban house and looked around. Was this seriously the place I was supposed to meet Raven? I had imagined a dark gothic mansion, or a secret underground lair. Basically, something Edar Allan Poe-ish, you know? Not a lemon yellow house on a cul-de-sac. I checked the map on my phone, comparing the address once more to the text. It matched.
Shrugging, I rang the doorbell, peering into the picture window to see a living room that looked like something out of a Crate & Barrel showroom. A moment later, steps approached, and the door swung open. It was Raven, in costume, lines of worry etched around the visible portion of his dark, masked eyes. If I hadn’t known what was at stake, what he had faced yesterday, the sight of the dark hero in such a prosaic setting would have almost been comical.
Shoving semi-amusing thoughts of incongruity to the side, I felt the familiar warmth of attraction radiate from my center, as I always did when in his commanding presence. However, this time his presence seemed less authoritative somehow. I wasn’t sure whether it was something in his posture, or simply the knowledge that I might be able to match his strength now.
Wordlessly, he stepped back to allow me inside, and I accepted the invitation and entered. Eyes scanning briefly for any other movement outside the house, he slowly, deliberately shut the door.
As I looked around the white walls and beige furniture, I mused aloud with a crooked smile. “I never took you for a suburb-dweller, Raven. Do you mow the yard in costume?”
“Cute,” he said simply, turning to face me.
“Safe house?” I asked, surmising his reason for using the place.
“Yes,” he replied simply. There was that trademarked word economy again!
I turned to face him as well, sensing my features harden slightly as something—maybe my overwhelming curiosity, maybe my newfound powers—bubbled within me to give me the courage to speak challenging words to the de facto leader of super.org for the first time.
“Raven, did you surrender to that super-strong alien, Xymon?” I blurted out. As I spoke the opening words, my resolve seemed to instantly dissipate, my voice trembling slightly at the word “surrender”. Despite my instinct to lower them, however, my eyes remained fixed on his intensely.
The normally stoic Raven blanched visibly at the question. He didn’t seem prepared for it.
“So you heard,” he said softly, his perfect posture slumping almost imperceptibly in concert with his words.
“I only heard you asking about terms before I passed out,” I told him, my voice unwavering this time. “What happened after that? Did you actually surrender?”
Raven stared at me for a long moment, then seemed to melt downward onto the living room couch, as if he were a deflating ballon. His eyes dropped from mine to search the floor as he spoke.
“I did,” he said simply, his voice barely above a whisper.
A cold shiver passed through me. Raven, my childhood idol and secret crush, the man who always had a clever plan to conquer his enemies, was here, in front of me, admitting his first true defeat.
“But why? Without even a fight?” My voice took on a pleading tone as if it wanted continued reason to believe in the man before me.
His eyes darted to mine, instantly bubbling over with defensive fury.
“Fight?” He admonished, posture stiffening in his seated position as he became more animated. “FIGHT?!”
“Did you see what they did to Sapphire Valkyrie?” He rose and took two steps toward me, leaning forward until his face was inches from mine.
“She is ten times stronger than I am, and I’m the second strongest member of super.org. And they threw her around like a fucking rag doll!” he hissed.
“Fighting would have been a slaughter. Would we really have been in a better position with you dead, Valkyrie dead, me dead, and countless civilians and supers all dead.” He paused to let those words sink in.
I considered his words. He had a point. Those aliens had overcome Valkyrie’s prodigious strength as easily as if she had been a powerless human child. I imagined their insurmountable power against less powerful supers, against regulars and shuddered.
Seeming satisfied with what he saw in my expression, Raven drew back, beginning to pace the room.
“Do you really intend to let them have Earth? I mean, do you even know what they’re going to do?” I asked, my voice coming out timid. So much for my newfound confidence…
Raven’s expression darkened.
“No. But I needed to make a tactical retreat. Fighting them then would have resulted in nothing but meaningless death. That doesn’t mean that I intend to give Earth over to them. They are preparing terms to send to the planet’s elected leaders, but nothing permanent has been agreed or signed at this point.”
“Then what’s your plan,” I asked, intrigued and wondering what ingenious scheme he had concocted to combat so powerful a foe.
Raven’s eyes smoldered with barely contained fury. “I don’t have one,” came his hushed reply, full of enough simmering ferocity to frighten away a rhinoceros.
I took a half step backward before realizing that the fury in his anguished eyes was not directed toward me but toward himself. I stood there blinking for a moment, attempting to comprehend the full import of his words until a tsunami of fear crashed over me. Raven had no plan!
Raven had no fucking plan!!!
Dropping my eyes from his, I felt myself beginning to hyperventilate. Lowering my long lashes, I took a moment to attempt to slow my breathing and relax my shoulders. Now, it was my turn to pace.
“So do you know what they plan to do?” I asked, eyes affixed to the patch of cream-colored carpet immediately in front of me as I strode back and forth through the mundane living room.
“I don’t. They weren’t very forthcoming on that point, and it’s not as if I were coming in from a strong enough bargaining position to demand answers.”
“So we can’t actually surrender, right?”
“It would probably be unwise unless their terms are explicit as to their intent, correct.”
“And we can’t fight them…” I trailed off. I stopped and turned toward Raven once more. “I think I see your dilemma.”
He nodded, the boiling fury in his eyes tapering to mere frustration for the moment.
I continued to search my mind for a solution but found none. After a moment, my thoughts wandered away from the fruitless task I had given it and back to the other train of thought that had dominated my consciousness on the walk from my apartment to the safe house.
“Unless my new powers are like really super awesome…” I mumbled under my breath.
“Your new powers?” Raven replied, interest evident in his rising tone.
Shit! Super-hearing. Should have remembered that it was one of Raven’s powers. I hadn’t really meant to share that tidbit of information. However, maybe it wasn’t all bad. Maybe he could give me some insight on what had happened to me.
“Yeah. When I left my apartment, I was able to dent the doorknob with my fingers. I’ve never had super strength before. And my body is better than it used to be. I’m a little prettier too.” I probably hadn’t needed to volunteer the latter, but it just sorta came out.
Raven gave me an appraising glance, his eyes lingering on each part of my body for a split second before continuing to scan downward. Heat rose from my neck to my cheeks. I hadn’t been prepared for Raven to check me out, and it felt all kinds of delicious and decidedly uncomfortable at the same time.
When Raven finished his visual exploration of my new and improved body, his eyes snapped back to mine. “Follow me.”
Returning Raven’s gaze as my cheeks burned made me want to turn on my invisibility power. But I didn’t. Instead, I simply made a squeaking sound of assent and followed his purposeful march toward the back of the house.
Making a series of motions with his hands, a portion of the wall slid up to reveal a secret downward staircase. Scarcely pausing, he descended the stairs with me in tow.
When we reached the bottom, I glanced around the hidden room. It was a large space with stainless steel walls and a number of metal cabinets and devices lining its sides. It looked like some sort of high-tech laboratory.
Raven motioned for me to take a seat on an examination table in the center of the room. As I plopped on the table, I saw him grab a syringe from one of the metallic countertops along the walls and approach.
He jammed it into my arm before I could ask what he intended to do, but the needle bent before it could penetrate. I smiled. I was invulnerable! Or at least LESS vulnerable. Haha! I grinned. No more worries about stubbing my toe on the corner of the bed in the morning?
Raven frowned, then grabbed another syringe, this one with a much longer and robust-looking needle. It looked more like something that was meant for an elephant than a person.
“Hey wait! You’re not actually going to stick me with THAT, are—“
And he stuck me with that thing. This one penetrated my skin, and I watched as his hand pulled back the plunger to gradually fill the cylinder with warm, red liquid.
Still silent, he removed the syringe from my arm and took it to some sort of machine with a computer monitor attached. I glanced down at my arm, seeing blood bubbling up from the prick.
“Aren’t you going to give me one of those little gauze pads?” I questioned. Raven, however, seemed too engrossed to notice my query. Jerk.
I hopped off the table and found a box of tissue on the counter at the far wall. Pulling one out, I pressed it to my arm, then joined Raven in front of the large monitor.
As I leaned over his shoulder to see what he was doing, he gasped. “That’s not possible!”
“What’s not possible?” I asked him, wondering whether this was a good impossible or a bad impossible.
“Your DNA! It has patterns that I’ve never seen anywhere except…” he trailed off, seeming lost in thought.
“…Except…” I attempted to prompt him.
“…Except from the DNA sample I was able to obtain from one of the aliens—a hair that they left behind,” he finished, gaze distant.
The words rocked me. Had Xymon’s weakening field done something to me? Changed me?
“Do you think proximity to the alien somehow changes DNA? Is that why I passed out? Did this happen to Sapphire Valkyrie? Did her DNA start to look like theirs?”
“I don’t know,” said Raven, stunned.
“So am I going to turn into a clone of this guy or something? What the hell is going to happen to me?”
Raven took a deep breath, collecting himself, and considered. “I don’t think so,” he finally said. “But I can’t be completely certain.”
“Oh my God! I’m going to turn into an alien freakazoid!” I screeched, panic rising in my chest.
“Calm down, Shadowgirl. I said I didn’t think that was going to happen,” said Raven in a soothing tone, my anxiety seeming to bring out his calm, collected side.
“But you said you couldn’t be certain!” I said hysterically.
“Of course not. Not when dealing with new alien life forms. There are still substantial differences in your DNA. Just a few similarities, that’s all.”
I turned away from him, feeling tears begin to fall, my emotions unswayed by Raven's attempt to course-correct. This wasn’t what I’d expected him to say. Not by a long shot. So it turned out that my blessing was actually a curse. Kind of like my power invalidating my attractiveness. Fuck! Why was there always a catch!
Raven frowned, his eyes intent on me as I returned to sit on the examination table, shining as he watched the waterworks resulting from my internal pity party. "Damn it, Shadowgirl. You're being given a gift here. Many gifts, actually. Your physical form has some similarities to the most powerful beings that we’ve ever encountered in the universe. And you somehow think that's a BAD thing?"
He placed his hand on my lycra-clad thigh in a gesture that was meant to comfort but seemed to lead to something more. My welling tears ceased as I saw the glimmer of attraction in the comforting look he gave me, and it reminded me of the other apparent perks of the alien DNA, like the longer, more toned leg than Raven’s fingers now caressed. My eyes searched his for several silent moments before he broke eye contact, retracted his hand and turned away from me.
"We're going to have to test your powers," he said matter-of-factly, apparently deciding to go all businessy now that I wasn't crying. Damn. Maybe I should have kept the tears going. If that's all it took to get him in the mood, then…
Lost in thought, pacing once more, Raven mumbled. I couldn't hear most of his muttered words, but I did catch the last few. "This could be the key to--" Then he stopped suddenly, as if he'd given away too much, looking at me in alarm.
"I've got to go," he announced loudly, his eyes distant, body stiffening in urgency.
What the hell? Did he suspect something that he wasn't telling me? Something that involved me, maybe? What was it?
I was about to ask, but he swept out of the lab without another word. I heard the door open and shut above, and he was gone. I slumped, questions whirling in my mind. At least I had his number now. I'd give him a call in a bit and try to get more information out of him.
I smiled. He found me attractive now. I could use that to my advantage. I wouldn't mind cultivating that attraction for all kinds of reasons…
I got up, climbed the stairs and strode through the banal living room of the safe house to go home, when the door opened before me to reveal the breathtakingly handsome man from the warehouse.
It was Xymon.