The car rocked violently as the door next to me was torn out by its hinges, the obscuring airbag along with it. Dazed and confused by the explosion as I was, I couldn’t do more than groan as someone pulled me from the car. They weren’t gentle about it either, dragging me by my collar out of the hole they had torn.
“I have the girl you wanted,” a gruff, male voice said. The guy dragging me. “Make sure you have her nullified.”
Wait, the girl they wanted… oh no, oh no, it was dad’s friends. They had me, they were… no! I wouldn’t let them take, I wouldn’t let them hurt Brook or Petra or any of my friends!
I pulled at the space around me, willing my powers to crush the man who was pulling me. Only… nothing happened. Instead, a sort of dizziness overcame me, and distantly I heard a voice come over what sounded like a radio.
“She’s trying to use her powers, be careful,” the radio voice said, a harsh woman’s voice I didn’t recognise. “I can’t keep Pallas contained either, my powers don’t work on her. Remember to stay on your toes. Move fast while the brothers deal with her.”
“I remember the plan, asshole,” the guy growled into his mic. Then he hauled me up by the neck, huge hands crushing my throat. “Stop,” he spat, shaking me slightly.
My first impression of my attacker was that he was huge, but not just that. He was huge and completely covered in strange flowing metal armour, spikes sticking off it in all directions. Patterned across the armour were symbols, swastikas and crucifixes, along with other odd symbols I didn’t recognise. He was terrifying, and with a whimper of fear I redoubled my efforts, squirming and kicking at him like a wild animal.
My attempts did nothing. “Keep trying shit and I’ll make sure all your friends in that car die,” he threatened, his eyes narrowing through the tiny holes he was looking out of.
I stopped struggling. If Brook died, I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself… With the rest of my life. I couldn’t endanger her, nothing was worth that.
I did the only thing that I could do in that situation. I began to really, properly panic inside. My powers weren’t working, I kept trying on the sly, but nothing was answering, not even my silly falling over powers. I was going to be taken and experimented on, put back into that awful body that I was born into. I didn’t want that, I didn’t… I couldn’t… please no. I wouldn’t survive. I’d rather cease to exist than ever get close to becoming Coby again.
Distantly I was aware of a battle raging back in the direction that Petra had been thrown, some villains were wailing on her with everything they could muster. At least she was alive and fighting though… not that I had really doubted it. I couldn’t tell who was winning though, I just feverishly and silently begged for it to be her. It needed to be her...
My abductor’s metal boots continued to crash against the pavement as he carried me away, until I was unceremoniously thrown down onto the ground. Frantically I looked around, trying to get my bearings as my fuzzy, dizzy brain did everything in its power to hinder me. My breathing was coming in fast, ragged gasps and my heart was thundering so fast it was hard to hear.
Where was I? Where had he put me? I was... behind a car, the carnage happening behind me blocked from view by the vehicle. A three story building with a store out front loomed on the opposite side. I was still near the intersection though...
“Where the fuck is the van?” my captor grunted into his mic. Even in my terrified state, something about the way he spoke just had me rolling my eyes a little. My amusement actually calmed me a little. Did this guy speak in tones that didn’t rumble his chest? Could he even achieve higher tones, or was he faking the low voice to sound more badass?
“I’m almost there,” came the reply over the radio, and I instantly recognised the voice.
My short trip back towards calm was thrown out the window. It was him. Oh shit, oh no… please no, please no. Not him, not my father. Not without my powers to keep him at bay. What would he do to me? Horror dawned as my ever helpful mind offered up terrifying scenarios for what might happen to me.
The armoured guy didn’t wait for my freak out before continuing, “Yeah? And where’s the rest of our backup?”
“Fucking close, I hope!” someone yelled into the radio, a male voice I didn’t recognise. “This bitch hits hard!”
“They’re coming,” the harsh woman’s voice snapped, sounding strained. “We finally have her isolated people, don’t mess this up. The kid is just a bonus.”
Any more back and forth was mostly drowned out by the roar of a large black van crashing up onto the curb. The dented driver’s door quickly swung open to reveal him, my father, his face red with fury as he saw me.
“Boy,” he hissed, teeth bared. Did he really hate me so much? How did anyone even hold that much anger inside them?
“I’m a girl, my name is Elsie,” I managed to say, right to his face, surprising both of us. Guess I had more guts than I used to, back when I lived with him.
“Shut up!” he snarled, recovering from my unexpected outburst and kicking me to the ground.
I rolled as I came down, my chest constricting with pain where he’d kicked me. Face down in the gutter now, I felt his boot come down hard on my back and I gasped with the pain of it.
His next words were low and vibrating with rage, just as it used to when he was getting ready to fly into an incoherent rage about some political issue on the TV. “You’re a man, you’re my son, and I’m going to fix you, even if your weak little mind can’t stand it. Even if you die, at least you’ll die for a real cause!”
Oh god… he really didn’t care. He really hated me as much as it had always seemed like he did when I was growing up. My father had never loved me. Why couldn’t I have been born into a family that wasn’t shit, wasn’t awful and bigoted and angry all the time?
“Yeah, your cause,” the metal man laughed derisively. “I bet you don’t even really care about turning this chick into your son or whatever, you just want her powers.”
“That is a bonus,” dad nodded, a little less angrily when he was speaking to the big dude. “But I still need to right my parenting mistakes.”
“What do you mean, want my powers? I thought you people were all about hating emerged?” I asked as meekly as possible, curiosity winning out over my fear. I wasn’t actually feeling as much fear as I thought I would be… I mean I was scared, but I’d never have spoken back to him so often before. I definitely wasn’t having a panic attack now.
“Fuckin’ dumb bitch listening to main-stream media propaganda bullshit,” the metal man growled. “We aren’t against emerged, look around! We are emerged. We’re more worthy of that title than shitheads like you, weaklings like you!” he got really angry as he spoke, and I thought he might hit me, but he seemed to calm down for a moment before he continued, “We’ll fix that though. We can take your powers and give them to those who deserve it, those who are pure.”
Oh god… he sounded nuts. They all sounded nuts… I was going to be taken by these people, used and probably killed afterwards, or worse… fuck.. No, I didn’t want that! I didn’t… I JUST WANTED TO LIVE MY FUCKING LIFE.
The words within me caught fire, and I raged, my fear pushed away by an anger at these people, at the world for not just leaving me the fuck alone. I twisted and writhed, pushing against the boot on my back as much as I was forcing my powers against whatever blocked them. Both gave slightly, threatening to break.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck! We don’t have time to monologue, dickheads,” the woman’s voice screamed over the mic. “Knock her out, get her in the van, right the fuck now! Something’s wrong, she’s fighting me, hard!”
A blow came, smashing my head back into the pavement and scraping my cheek in the process. Dazed was I was by the blow, my rebellion was halted. Instead I just lay there with my pain, tears beginning to trail now my cheeks. I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t fight him. He was too strong, they were too strong. The universe was too uncaring, almost maliciously so… I was going to lose everything.
The metal man lifted me bodily onto his shoulder with a grunt, “Looks like we knocked the fight out of her.”
At least the armoured guy was gendering me correctly. It was the small things, the things to give me just a little happiness as my life was ending.
“He never had much,” my father chuckled acidly. “Maybe being a woman suits him after all.”
“Certainly looks good as one,” the metal man remarked. “Maybe they’ll let me have a turn with her, before you take her powers.” Nevermind. Oh goddess, please no.
My eyes were fuzzy as I was carried towards the van, but I was able to glance up, look around. Carnage was everywhere, cars burned, buildings were collapsing, even the road was torn up. I could see Mystrix Pallas down the road, fighting against two people using strange powers, bolts of energy flying in all directions. The villains were assisted by about a dozen men with guns, each one looking like the posterboy for modern nazism, ugly swastika symbols stitched into their clothing and tattooed onto their faces. My father was hanging out with nazis. Figures.
Something else caught my eye though, a person ducking up from behind a car. “Elsie!” she screamed, my Brook… Goodbye...
Our eyes met… and caught. Then she burst out in gold, her eyes shining like beacons. Brilliance arced off her like plasma off the sun, but it was gentle, doing no damage to anyone or anything around her. I felt a tug, insistent and caring, and I realised those beacons, they were to guide me home... to her.
She reached out for me, desperation in every inch of her expression, unconditional and overwhelming love soaring out… and then suddenly, from one instant to the next, I was in her arms.
It took me a second to even process it, one moment I was being roughly jostled as the big metal man got ready to throw me into the van, and the next I was held in Brook’s soft, strong arms. I looked up into her eyes, solid with gold, I looked around at our surroundings… still the carnage of a superpowered battlefield. Brook and I though, our skin glowed with a sheen of gold, and I could feel it for what it was. It was a shield of some kind, powered by my girlfriend, who was apparently… emerged?
“Brook,” I murmured, dragging my gaze back to hers. “You’re…”
“Yeah, I uh… didn’t actually know,” she smiled sheepishly, an ocean of relief shining in her eyes. “Good timing for it to show up though right?”
“Very good timing,” I giggled, my panic pouring out of me in waves, replaced by love for this amazing girl. I placed my head down against her chest for a moment, basking in the safety she provided. She really would protect me… and in turn, I could protect her.
Even as I cuddled close to her, I took hold of the insidious tendril of darkness that was keeping my powers bound, and I shredded it. Then I followed it to the source, and I squeezed it like a watermelon between a thicc girl’s thighs. I heard the scream of the woman somewhere in the distance, the one who’d been speaking over the radio. She wouldn’t be dead, I don’t think… but hopefully she wouldn’t be using her powers any time soon.
“Are you okay?” Brook asked, placing a hand to the back my head, pressing me closer. “I was… so worried for you…”
“I was… well, you know... panicking,” I sighed, then looked up as another explosion echoed through the streets. “We should get out of here, or help… or something.”
“Definitely get the fuck out of here,” Eric said hastily, and I jerked back to find that Brook hadn’t been alone behind the car. Right, the other two existed.
They were still huddled up against the random sedan we were behind, skateboards tucked under each arm. They looked terrified, like I had been before my girlfriend revealed her powers.
“Here, your board,” Oliver said, thrusting it at me.
Brook choked a laugh out. “Are we skating out of this shit?”
“Faster than walking,” Eric shrugged. “You got a better idea?”
“Nope, I guess not,” she said with a bewildered shake of her head. “Skating out of a superhero fight… the world is nuts.”
Before we could debate how the world had gone tits up since the emergence, a very gruff, angry voice boomed out across the street. “She’s over there, glowing fucking gold and shit! Her girlfriend has powers!”
Ohhh right. Just because Brook had plucked me out of their hands, didn’t mean their hands mysteriously stopped existing. Being gay was kind of a hazard, girls were very distracting, and specifically my girlfriend was distracting. Not just because of the gay aspect either, but because... she was emerged now? Since when? All those times her eyes had been glowing gold wasn’t just my mind being all fucky?
“Go time,” Oliver said, frantically throwing his board to the ground.
Everyone very hastily did the same, and then we were off down the sidewalk like a gang of kids running from security guards. Only, these security guards were neo nazis with superpowers… so they were a little scarier than Joe the wannabe cop. The pavement was a nightmare to ride down, american infrastructure could get dicey on side streets like these, even without counting in the little chunks of pavement that the battle behind us had thrown over here.
Wait, Petra! Jerking my necklace up from out of my shirt, I urgently directed my thoughts into it, Petra, we’re escaping down… I don’t know what street this is. I think it’s… no, that… hmmm. I’ve forgotten, or I didn’t look at the sign. Oh yeah, uh, dad and his emerged goons are chasing us, but Brook is emerged and she protected me. It was really cute. Anyway, we’re running away.
“Pothole!” one of the guys shouted. “Watch out!”
I swerved just in time, my powers kicking in to save me. Damn, this pavement was munted as. Still, we were making good progress.
“I really hope that my insurance has damages from emerged battles in the contract somewhere,” Eric commented as we pushed ourselves down the road. He didn’t sound like himself right now either… I hoped that we all didn’t come out of this with a little extra bit of daily fear to carry around. No one really talked about the mental toll that superhero fights took on the civilians that survived them. I really liked my friends, and I wanted them to be okay, to be happy.
“Maybe there’s some bullshit way we can write it off as a business expense?” Brook offered, glancing behind us. “Oh fuck, they’re following in the van.”
Turning back, I could see that they were not only following, but training weapons on us too… oh no. A goon was hanging out the back, trying to get a bead on us. “They’re going to shoot!”
No thanks, I could fix this. I reached out, warping space between them and us, compressing the the fabric of reality between the van and my hand… and snatched the goon’s gun right out of his hands, my powers making sure that the action was successful. Yoink.
Immediately I threw the gun to the side, I didn’t need that shit. The van was still coming though, even if the goon didn’t have his silly gun anymore.
“Elsie, Diana is coming to help, along with Lethargy,” Petra’s voice whispered to me through the necklace, almost startling me off my board. Mum was coming, and the goth too!
No more than ten seconds after she told me, I saw them both step through a rift up on the top of a building nearby. Mum was immediately flying at full speed towards us, while Lethargy took aim with that huge rifle of hers.
The sound that her gun made when it fired was not at all what I’d been expecting. It was a sort of snap sound, like high tension steel cable succumbing to incredible stresses. The shot went wide, or so I thought, until the goon who’d been hanging out the back sort of slowed down. The van went on without him, but he hung in midair, slowly, almost theatrically falling to the ground. Well I guess that explained the goth girl’s name…
Mum was coming in hot, but before she even got here, another shot rang out from Lethargy’s gun. The van swerved, my father manic at the wheel, trying to dodge. He wasn’t successful though, and the shot hit the wheel of the large vehicle. The wheel was hit with the same effect that the goon had experienced, slowing down like it was running on a different time-stream than the rest.
The van flipped, front first like it was in a crazy action movie.
Everyone paused, watching in awe and surprise as it cartwheeled through the air for several turns. My father was thrown from the vehicle, head first through the front windscreen, moving faster than his van. He hit the hard pavement like a ragdoll, the sound of snapping bone accompanying his scream of terror and pain.
My whole mind stuttered to a halt when the front of the van came down right on top of him, crushing his pelvis, destroying everything below his stomach in a gory spray of blood and viscera.
“Holy shit,” Brook breathed beside me.
My awareness narrowed, nothing else registering, save for Brook’s arms wrapping around me as I stared at that corpse. He was dead… right there in front of me. No one could recover from that, and he definitely wasn’t moving. It was awful to look at, broken bones and guts and blood everywhere, but I didn’t really care about that. I know I should have, he’d been a living human after all and every death was terrible... but instead I felt… relief.
“He’s dead,” I said, my words coming out choked as I stared at what was left of him. “Brook, he’s dead. He’s in half.”
“Yeah…” she nodded, turning to block my sight of the carnage. “I don’t think you should be looking anymore.”
“Okay,” I agreed, my mind in shock. He’d been looming over my life since the day I was born, and now he was nothing but an empty husk of broken flesh laying on the pavement. How could he be… how? He seemed like so much more than that, a god, a force of nature in my life… and he’d died so unceremoniously? What did I even do now? Oh… I was crying. Why was I crying?
“Hey,” Brook soothed, her voice kind and loving. “Hey, it’s okay… It’s okay…”
“He’s finally gone,” I sobbed, looking up into her shining hazel eyes. “He’s finally gone… just like that… in half… gone.”
“Gone,” she agreed, reaching up with tender fingers to stroke at my hair. “And you’re still here, my beautiful, strong, loving girlfriend.”
“What happens now?” I asked, confusion fogging my mind.
“We live,” she said simply, then wrapped me up in a close, warm hug. “We live. Together.”