How to Take the Kill Shot (Part 2)
Comics Retcon Universe 002
How to Take the Kill Shot
Jonas Oliver's life has been turned upside down. While on vacation his parents are murdered, he's stranded on a deserted island and all he can think about is revenge. The only tools he has are his intellect, his overwhelming sense of right and wrong and his skill with a bow.
Author's Note: Here's part two of my Green Arrow Retcon. I'm not sure how long this is going to be so at the moment its just going to start with an origin story. I'm not even sure how long that's going to be. I'm just going to take it one step at a time and hope you enjoy. Green Arrow is copyrighted and trademarked by DC Comics.
We both sat in his limousine in silence, neither of saying a word. He was sitting across from me, sipping another cup of tea. He liked his tea; it was at least his third cup since leaving the diner. Me, all I could do was sit and glare. Jameson Queen the Third was a man used to getting what he wanted. Me, I used to be a man who took what he was given and gave nothing to anyone. Not that I didn’t want to give but there was nothing to hand out. I may have mentioned that my parents were well off but they had peanuts as far as my grandfather was concerned. The last I knew his net worth was close to ten billion, which was absolutely insane.
Also insane was his behavior. He ambushed me in the diner. Now here I was, an hour later, in his limo and on the way to the airport. I tried to protest but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was like that from the moment he sat down and surprised me...
“You look just like your mother,” he said as he took another sip of his tea.
I nodded, numbed by all this.
The man sitting across from me wasn’t numb at all; in fact, he was pretty calm. He was a smooth operator, at least that’s what the tabloids seemed to think. My grandfather was a favorite of theirs. In his youth, he was an equivalent to Hugh Hefner. He used to like to wine and dine the ladies; he threw the wildest of parties and had all the best things money could buy. I think he dwindled down when he met my grandmother and they had my mother. But I could still see that spark hidden in the steely blue eyes of the man sitting across from me.
My grandfather looked good for a man well past his prime. His white hair was slicked back; his skin was nicely tanned and well moisturized. He didn’t look a day over sixty---but that’s what money could buy. In truth, he was pushing eighty, at least. He liked to flaunt his success, made apparent by the foreign suit that was probably worth more money than I’d seen in my lifetime. But he was so nonchalant about it too. He just sat there and sipped his tea, like it was the most common thing in the world to do. Me, I was pissed. This man was never there for me when my parents were alive and now he was quite the force to be reckoned with since their death. I’m not sure how he found me but I’m sure he had his resources.
“Don’t you have anything to say?”
I decided I was going to be angry with him several years ago. I crossed my arms and glared, after regaining myself. “Don’t you?”
He smiled. It was a small one but it was there. “I tried to reach out to you, several times, but your mother wouldn’t allow it. You did get my gifts, didn’t you?” I got all of them and had to admit I loved them all too. In fact, I still mourned for my watch.
But I was still mad at him. “I got them.”
He nodded. Then he started with the questioning. I found it kind of strange that he’d be grilling me in a little bus depot diner**** but he didn’t care. Me, I was nervous I’d miss my bus. But I answered his questions to the best of my ability. Most of them were about what happened, so I told him the whole story---minus the whole saving the ship thing. If he was an emotional man, he didn’t show it because he didn’t even tear up when I told him about those bastards stabbing his daughter to death. I got kind of vague when I talked about the ship because I didn’t want him to know about my escapades. If he figured it out he didn’t say.
When I finished he sipped some more tea.
“You’re quite resourceful; I expected nothing less from a Queen”
“I’m an Oliver, not a Queen,” I said heatedly.
He smiled thinly. “Jonas Oliver is dead. You have to except that and move on”
I was furious. I’d only known this man for a few minutes and already he was dictating my life. No wonder my mother didn’t want me to have anything to do with him. It pissed me off that this bastard thought he could tell me things like that. I was Jonas Oliver, it didn’t matter what I looked like now but I was always going to be Jonas Oliver.
“I’m not changing my name,” I snapped.
‘No one is telling you too. But you must understand the circumstance you’re in. The name Oliver is no longer safe for you.”
What the hell did he mean by that? “And the name Queen is?”
The old man sighed; suddenly he looked his age. Whatever false front he was putting up disappeared for a split second. I thought maybe I could get to know that vulnerable guy; he even looked a bit like a grandfather. But all too soon, it was gone and the stone cold bastard was back. We didn’t say anything to each other for a while. He finished his tea and ordered another. I kept looking at the wall clock because it was getting dangerously close to my departure time. The old man watched me with his eyes but his head never moved an inch, it was kind of creepy.
Finally, my time to leave came and boy was I ready to go. I stood up, grabbed my bag and reached into my pocket to take out some money to pay for my meal.
“Sit down” it was both an order and an urging.
“I’m going to miss my bus,” I said, refusing to sit.
“You’re not going on the bus,” he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I played along. “If not the bus then where am I going?”
“Nowhere at the moment. But as soon as I finish my tea, you and I are going to leave this diner, walk across the street and get in my limo. Then we’re going to the airport and flying back to San Francisco together.”
“And if I refuse?”
He nodded slightly behind him. It was a simple thing but it had such a deeper meaning. It was a summons and two large men materialized out of the shadows, I didn’t even know they were there. But I recognized them immediately: they were the two goons from the motel. They walked over and stood on either side of the old man. They both looked at me, neither said a word but I could tell they were kind of pissed. I’d be too if some dumb kid slit my tires.
I was a bit taken back by them. If they had been my grandfather’s men all along then why hadn’t they said anything?
“These are your goons?”
The old man nodded. “They are indeed. You would have found that out this morning if you hadn’t so rudely slammed the door in their faces”
‘That’s your fault, not mine and you know it. Who the hell sends enforcers to pick up their grandchild?’
The old man didn’t bat an eye. “How was I to know you were in fact my grandson?”
He had me there. I most certainly didn’t look like anyone’s grandson. But it still didn’t mean he had the right to send goons after me. Anyone would have reacted the same way I did, given the circumstance.
“So I take it these two are here to get me into your car?”
The old man smiled. “Precisely”.
His two goons came around the table faster than I could. They grabbed my shoulders and clamped down tightly. I was in no position to fight back. The old man finished his tea, paid for both our meals and then allowed his goons to escort me out of the diner.
I could still feel their grubby hands on my shoulders.
It turns out the two goons, Spencer and Locke, were actually my grandfather’s bodyguard and chauffeur. They didn’t talk much but what they lacked in social skill they more than made up for in roughness. They literally dragged me out of the diner, through the bus depot and out to the waiting limo. I struggled and fought the whole time. The depot security actually came to my aid until my grandfather talked to him. I didn’t hear what he said but the man actually smiled at me and went about his business. I didn’t have good luck with any kind of security.
Now the two goons were in the front, Locke driving, Spencer riding shotgun. My grandfather was just sitting there, sipping his damn tea and finishing his newspaper. I wasn’t on the cover but there was another Metahuman gracing the front papers. Apparently, it was a followup to a story the paper broke on Halloween. The headline was large and in bold, block letters: TERRA HELPS SAVE JAPAN. She was the new one. I’m not sure where they were coming from but it was kind of cool. The paper didn’t say much about her but I read the other story that ran a few days ago. She actually outed herself to the whole world. She told them who she was and what she could do. It took real guts but it was something I’d never do if I had her abilities.
Can you imagine all the reporters bothering the hell out of her? I’d only had a run in with one and she was enough for anyone.
“There’s been a rash of them springing up here and there,” said my grandfather, apparently reading her mind. “A lot of them don’t want to be found and others are biding their time.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Metahumans” said the old man, talking through his newspaper.
“And how do you know this?”
He chuckled. “You don’t get to be one of the most powerful men in the world by sipping tea all day.” He laughed which turned into a long coughing fit.
It was a horrible sounding cough, one that a healthy person didn’t have. After a minute or so, it was over, but it was pretty scary.
“There have been a lot that have popped up since Jade announced their kind to the world,” he continued, speaking as if the coughing never happened. “Most are keeping themselves secret but there are others just waiting to be explored.”
I nodded even though he couldn’t see me. The Metahumans were so cool but I’m not sure if I’d want to be one. There was just something about all that power that seemed to bother me. I’m sure there were a lot of good people out, people who wanted to help others. But what about the bad people. There were bound to be bad people who were Metahumans, too. What’s to stop them from running around and ripping people in half? This was a strange and unusual new world I know found myself in. Soon there were going to be Metahumans all over the place and too many people to get hurt. I could just see it now: giant battles, killer robots, a bunch of guys running around in their underwear and unflattering spandex. Where did the normal people fit into the grand scheme of things?
I thought about it a lot as we drove down the road. I couldn’t help but feel sad for the little person. I looked at my grandfather, sitting there, completely oblivious to the world. He lived in it, of course, but he was a big fish. Big fishes ate little ones, ones like me. I’m not sure if I was ever going to like him because of that. Maybe I could pretend to and pretend to be in his world but it was going to be an act. It had to be an act because the moment it stopped being one, it was the moment that Jonas Oliver really was dead.
We arrived at the airport right on time. Not that it mattered; it was my grandfather’s plane. We could leave whenever he willed it too. Spencer and Locke escorted both of us toward a Gulfstream G650, a rather high-class and sleek business jet. It was customized with the Queen logo on the tail of course but it was all Gulfstream. I’d read about them on the Internet, I used to have a thing for building model airplanes. My father had a friend who worked at Gulfstream and he got a lot of plans for me, one of them was for the G650.
Upon entering the plane, I noticed the old man went with the executive look. Everything was earth tones, plush leather and fake wood paneling. There were fifteen seats, two lavatories and a forward galley that served hot meals. Two stewardesses in blue met us at the door, one of them offered to take my bag but I declined. They were all smiles and creepy. One of them, Judy, offered me a drink when I took a seat. I told her to bring me some coke---I was really thirsty. My grandfather sat next to me so I got up and moved to the other end of the plane. Spencer got up to get me but the old man shook it off.
Judy brought me my drink, then disappeared.
‘We will be getting along in a few short minutes, Mr. Queen. If there’s anything you and your young guest need, feel free to ask,” said the pilot over the intercom, his voice was gruff and gravely.
“Thank you, Ben.”
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. I had to admit it was kind of cool, the way it reclined. But I shook the happy thought away as quick as it came on. I wasn’t supposed to be enjoying myself; I was supposed to be miserable. These jerks kidnaped me after all.
I tried to fake being comfortable but it wasn’t working. In fact, I think I got too comfortable, because one minute I was trying to not relax and the next someone was shaking me awake. I groaned when I opened my eyes, realizing I had fallen asleep. Judy was hovering nearby, that huge fake smile beaming at me. I nearly jumped out of my feet.
“Miss Queen, you grandfather wishes me to inform you that we have arrived at San Francisco.”
I groaned. What was with this Miss Queen crap? Judy wandered away as I yawned and stretched. I looked toward the window and saw the sun streaming through. It was night in Florida so what the hell time was it in California? I was never good at that whole time zone thing. I couldn’t believe I’d been that tired but I suppose that’s what happens, especially after the day I had. At least I was well rested now.
“How long have I been out?” I asked; it was a general question not directed at anyone.
My grandfather answered. “A couple of hours. We had to make a small stop in Chicago but we made good time.”
Chicago, I’d only been there once, and only at the airport. I went on a business trip with my father and he made a stop there. My father didn’t usually travel out of state on business but every once in a while, he was brought to consult on a project. He brought me along that time because we were going to Myrtle Beach. They were building some kind of condo that my father helped plan. I’m not sure of the basics. I liked Chicago. I’m not sure why a lot of people called it Gotham. I always thought Washington Irving called New York Gotham---smart huh, it pays to be my mother’s child. But it turns out that New York was the Metropolis and Chicago was Gotham.
I was ushered out of the plane quickly enough. My grandfather was on a deadline. He was in a great rush and didn’t have time for “foot draggers”. I can’t help it that I don’t function well in the morning. I think I inherited it from my father.
There was another limo waiting for us. There was also a crowd, most of them reporters. I wasn’t sure what was going on but there were three news vans and lots of cameras flashing. It was so bright I was blinded. They swarmed toward us but luckily, airport security and the police were holding them back. But no one could stop them from shouting questions. They were all doing it at once and most of what they were saying was lost but I did hear a few tidbits.
“Mr. Queen is it true that you found your daughter’s boat?”
“Is it true that she and her family are lost at sea, presumed dead?”
What the hell was all this about? I glared at the old man as Spencer pushed me into the limo then got in himself. I huffed as he shoved me across the seat, practically pushing me into leather. I sat up and slid as far from him as possible. I turned to the window and looked at the vicious reporters as we pulled away. I recognized Lois Lane. God, the woman was all over the place. I’m not sure if she recognized me or not.
“That was a little rough,” scolded my grandfather as he poured himself a cup of tea. “I’m sorry, sir”.
I crossed my arms again, refusing to look at either of them. They were both bastards. I knew what he said last night but I never actually thought he’d go through with it. The morning edition of the New York post was lying on the seat next to the old man, the giant headline read: MISSING QUEEN HEIR NOW PRESUMED DEAD. I’m not sure what pissed me off more: the fact that he pulled this crap without consulting me or the fact that he was so cavalier about it. But it explained why there were so many reporters waiting for us. I’m just not sure, when he had time to cook up something like this. Did he do it on the plane when I was asleep or had he done it sometime before grabbing me at the depot?
“Don’t look at me that way,” he said in response to my evil stare. “You knew this was coming. It was the next appropriate action.”
I huffed. “You could have said you found me adrift at sea or something?” He laughed. Even Spencer cracked a smile. “How would I explain your whereabouts for the last three months?”
I shrugged. I was about to mention telling people about the island but that would have raised too many questions. Besides, there was already a small story about me being found there. It wasn’t front-page news, but it was still a good spread. I actually had both stories saved, the one about the real me on the island and the one where Miss Arrowette made her miraculous debut. I guess I could see where that would be a problem but he could have thought of something else.
I snatched the paper off the seat and read the article. It was all speculative but it was pretty clear that my family and I were dead. There was no mention of the bastards of course. The old man’s PR rep spun some story about the storms that hit us the day before we disappeared. The article made it sound like our boat was capsized. I sighed. So according to the world I was dead, drowned at sea. I suppose there were worse ways to go. But what did that mean about me now? Who was I going to be if I wasn’t Jonas Oliver?
We drove for a while, in silence. I didn’t have anything to say to the man who pretended to be family. We pulled up to the Queen Industries building about an hour later. When I got out of the car, I marveled at how big it really was. I’d only seen it on TV and in the newspapers. When I was younger, after I found out my grandfather was billionaire Jameson Queen, I tried to talk my mother into taking me there. But she adamantly refused. She told me my grandfather was a cruel and hateful man and that he didn’t want to be bothered. I cried for hours. Now I knew she’d been right.
Spencer and Locke put me between them as we walked into the building. They were afraid I’d run away and they were probably right. The first chance I got I was out of here. I just had to figure out how to ditch the goon squad.
The four of us got into a big elevator. This thing could fit a whole football team in it; it was absolutely huge. We were in it for a while too. Queen Towers---the name of the building---was sixty-five stories high. Sixty of the floors were all business; whatever that entailed and the top five was the old man’s penthouse. We didn’t go up that high though. The elevator stopped on the fifty fifth floor where we were ushered into a plush, corporate looking waiting room. The floors were marble, the walls were a mixture of glass and chrome. Everything was shiny and brand new. There was a huge reception desk in front of us, complete with a perky, bubbling blonde. Behind her was the typical giant Q and underneath that was a plaque that said PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE.
So we’re going to PR first, that makes sense.
My grandfather led us through a pair of glass doors; he didn’t wait to be buzzed in. I supposed there were some perks to owning the building. The PR office was simple: wooden floors, beige walls. There was a small sectional couch in the corner around a circular table. The focus of the room was a large mahogany table in the center. It looked like a conference room more than anything. There was a single woman sitting at the head of the table, a stack of manila folders in front of her. She was middle aged, dressed conservatively. Her graying black hair pulled on top of her head in a functional bun. She looked like a severe bitch but she smiled when she saw us.
“Oh she’s a peach,” said the woman as she stood up. She looked directly at me. “You’re a spitting image of your mother, darling.”
I smiled awkwardly. Not too many guys liked to be compared to their mother. Then again I’m not a guy anymore---at least not fully---and my mother is a very beautiful woman.
My grandfather introduced her as Scarlet Jefferies, the best Chief of Staff in the world. He didn’t introduce me to her but I think that’s because he didn’t know what to call me. Hell, I didn’t know either. But that’s the reason we were here. We all sat at the table, Miss Jefferies---call me Scarlet---ordered us some breakfast and we got down to business. She started talking about funeral arrangements. They kind of floored me but I knew it was coming. I just wasn’t expecting it so quickly. She said that so far the press has only been grasping at straws, which is exactly what she wanted. She said Betty---the PR woman---was writing up the obits as we speak.
She detailed for us what was going to happen. The funeral was going to be private, with only friends and family. She expected about a hundred people or so but she said more could be penciled in. She wanted to do it one of the local perishes before I butted in. My parents didn’t believe in God, it was a choice that they stood proudly by. I think that put a kink in her plans but she recovered quickly. She pulled out an iPad and made some quick adjustments. The funeral was now being held at a funeral home. Then she moved along like nothing happened.
She and my grandfather talked about other things pertaining to the funeral but I phased them out. It was kind of strange to hear them talking about your own funeral when you were in the room. I glanced around the room a bit, looking at all the glass framed pictures on the wall. Good portions of them were the old man with different people: politicians, world leaders, several celebrities. There was one with him and the Rat Pack, that was kind of cool. But it wasn’t as cool as the one with him and Errol Flynn, that one made my day. It also made me a bit jealous. My grandfather couldn’t have been more than my age in the picture and yet he was already well off.
My great grandparents started out in oil. They hit it big at the turn of the century. During the Depression while everyone else suffered, they did marginally well. My grandfather switched the company over to technology in the Eighties when he realized how far the microchip was going to go. His major competitors did the same, all except for a young company called Lexcorp. They moved into arms manufacturing.
“Olivia, dear” a voice cut into my thoughts.
I looked around the room until I realized she was talking to me. “I’m sorry.”
Scarlet smiled. “We have something we’d like to discuss with you, sweetie”
I smiled weakly. I hated it when people tried to be extra nice to me. I could tell she was phony, most of those big business types were, the old man being the biggest. But I didn’t let any of that show. Instead, I sat like the docile little flower they wanted me to be and I listened to what they had to say. It was about my new life or more precisely the life of Olivia Queen. Apparently, all the arrangements were made. Jonas Oliver died on a sailboat in the Atlantic and Olivia Queen was born. That wasn’t the official story of course. The official tale had Olivia living overseas at some prestigious boarding school where she was being groomed as James Queen’s Heir Apparent to the Throne.
Olivia’s parents---my aunt, Laura and Uncle Robert---were killed in Africa while on Safari when I was five. Which really did happen, it was horrible and my mother was inconsolable for days. She and her sister were real close. After that, my grandfather supposedly kept me out of the spotlight, allowing a ward to raise me until I was old enough to be sent to school. He sent me to one of the most prestigious boarding schools in Europe. There I stayed until yesterday where I heard of the tragic news about my aunt, her husband and my dear cousin, Jonas.
It was a load of crap, which no one would buy, and I told them that, too.
“It’s only for the press,” said Scarlet, keeping her composure.
“What about the boarding school, aren’t they going to wonder where the mysterious Olivia Queen came from?”
Scarlet smiled. “The school is called St. Helens, your great grandfather; Jameson the Second set it up in 1923, two years after your grandfather was born. The school has been under the grace of the Queen family ever since. We’ve already made the proper adjustments to their roster and the Headmistress has been paid handsomely. As far as the world knows, Olivia Queen has been a student at St. Helen’s Academy for Young Women for many years.”
She smiled, proud of herself.
I huffed. “Throwing money at something isn’t always the answer.”
Scarlet laughed lightly. “Oh she’s a darling, Jameson.”
My grandfather smiled and sipped his tea.
Scarlet laid out the rest of my new fictional existence. They decided to make me sixteen to distance myself from well, myself. I thought that was kind of cool. They were able to do some backdoor dealings and got me a social security number and a birth certificate. They didn’t explain how they did that but I had my suspicions. She rambled off a bunch of other stuff, including something about getting my measurements, having my picture taken and things like that. I was still smiling about the sixteen thing. That meant I could drive. I’ve wanted to drive ever since I turned ten and now something that was anticipating greatly was finally here. It was so cool because sophomores got to drive their cars to school.
Wait…sixteen made me a sophomore now. That was so fricking cool; I couldn’t wait to see Mia’s face when I pulled up to school…
Two things dawned on me then. The first being that I wasn’t supposed to know Mia now; she was Jonas’s best friend. That made me feel a little sick to my stomach. How can I see my best friend and not be best friends with her? That led me into my second thing: was I going to be a sophomore? The first semester ends in December, at Christmas break. The new semester starts at the end of January. How the hell would I be able to pull off disappearing as back in August and coming back as Olivia in January?
I asked my question: “What’s going to happen about school?”
My grandfather beat Scarlet to the answer. “You’ll attend in January as a new student.”
I sighed. That was a relief but I was still curious as to how I was going to pull it off.
“You’ll just love Elias,” said Scarlet happily. “It is the very best school for young women in the country. I went there you know.”
Girl’s school, what the hell was she talking about?
“I’m not going to Elias, I’m going back to my old school,” I said defiantly. I needed to gain some control for myself.
“That’s out of the question,” said my grandfather “your old life is over. Jonas Oliver is dead and he’s going to remain dead. Can you imagine the scandal if you showed up to your old school where everyone knew you.’
He started that hacking cough of his again. I felt kind of bad because I brought it on. He covered his mouth with a handkerchief. He stopped coughing a few minutes later. When he put the handkerchief away, I thought I saw blood on it. He’s really sick?
“You need to let go of your old life,” he said continuing. ‘You need to understand that people will ask questions and we can’t have that. What we’re doing here is illegal and no amount of money can fix that. Besides, I can’t have people knowing you’re still alive.”
He left that last bit hanging. Did that mean I was right after all and someone did kill my parents on purpose?
He reached across the table as if to take my hand but stopped. Instead, he grabbed his teacup and drained it.
Our visit to Scarlet ended there but not before she got up and gave me a hug. Then she handed me the stack of folders, telling me it was imperative that I read what was inside. I grumbled a bit. I still wasn’t happy about all this but I had to agree with the old man. If someone did try to kill us, they’d be pretty pissed that they failed to get me. So I stuck the folders under my arm as we walked out of the office and into the elevator.
Jonas Oliver was dead; long live Olivia Queen.
It’s kind of weird going to your funeral. I stood in the back of the assembled crowd, away from the prying eyes. There was this big tree near my parents’ plot that provided the best cover. During the services, I had to wear a veil to hide my face. I was the only “girl” in the place wearing one but there were a lot of older women. I felt kind of ridiculous, but at least it hid my face. Most of the people from the church left but there was still a pretty good crowd at the cemetery. All of my friends were there. Roy was standing with Mia, an arm around her waist. I’d never seen him in a suit before---it kind of suited him---bad pun. Mia wasn’t doing so well. She didn’t look so good either. I could tell she’d lost a lot of weight and there were bags under her eyes. I wanted to go over there and comfort her myself but I knew that was out of the question.
Mr. and Mrs. Dearden were standing behind her. They looked just as sad as ever. They were somber people to begin with. It surprised me to see Mr. D there though; he was such a workaholic, probably more so seeing as he inherited the whole of the company. It was actually partially mine---per my father’s will---but seeing, as I was dead I arranged last night to have everything signed over to Mr. D. He deserved it more than I did.
Coach McCoy was there, his huge frame and height was taller than most. He was stone faced and looked out of place in his gray suit. I usually saw him wearing a blue tracksuit with yellow trim. I’d also never seen him this well groomed; he was kind of a mess any other time. He was standing with a group of kids from my class, most I knew but some I didn’t. Shado, the Japanese girl was among them. She was my lab partner. We got along decent enough but we weren’t friends. I was glad she was there though. I recognized a lot of other people too. I saw Dean Charles, my mother’s boss. He was standing with a group of other teachers. Some of my father’s people were there too, like his secretary Margaret. She was the nicest woman I’d ever known.
My grandfather had guests there too. He was sitting in one of the chairs reserved for family, Spencer and Locke behind him---standing of course. My grandfather didn’t look good today. He actually brought a cane to the church, which really made him look his age. Last night I asked him about his health but he told me it was nothing to worry about. Scarlet was standing off to the side, along with several other Q.I. employees I hadn’t had the chance to meet yet. They all looked sad and were dressed in black. It kind of annoyed me that they were present. I know they were kissing the boss’ ass but they didn’t know me or my parents.
The rest of the people present were faceless suits. They were probably friends of my grandfather, there to show their respects. The only one who stood out was a man who stood in the back of the assemblage. He was dressed in a sharp black suit. He had three burly guards standing with him but he looked as if he didn’t need them. There was something about him that made my skin crawl. He was tall and bald. His face was like a mask. He was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite remember where I’d seen him.
But the person I was looking for wasn’t there. I was surprised when Sandra didn’t show up to the church but I didn’t think anything of it. We’d only gone out that once and it wasn’t even really a date. But it was a bit surprising that she wasn’t here either. I thought we knew each other a little better than that. I know now that I didn’t have any real feelings for her. I didn’t have any testosterone to do so but I think I could have called her a friend. Maybe she was too upset to come. I would have been destroyed if it were her funeral. I’m not sure if I would have showed up but I would have tried my hardest.
I sighed, thinking about her only made things more complicated.
“I once went to my own funeral?”
I jumped, not realizing someone had snuck up on me. I turned around, not sure what to say or how to react. Standing next to me was BB. I snapped around, looking at the assembled masses. I vaguely remember seeing him at the church, sitting next to Roy. But I hadn’t seen him when Roy arrived at the cemetery. I just assumed BB went home. It never occurred to me that he was spying on me. He was leaning against the tree and from the looks of it; he was quite comfortable. I assume he’d been there for quite a while and wasn’t shocked when I didn’t hear him. BB had a way of sneaking up on people.
I panicked but I kept my cool. “I’m sorry, sir, do I know you?”
He smiled of those famous big toothy smiles of his. ‘You can cut the crap Jonas, I’ve known you for quite some time and even though you have changed a bit in the last few months, your aura does not lie.”
BB was all about the auras. He claimed it was something his trip learned from a magic man a few hundred years ago. They also dabbled in spirit walking and shape shifting, if you believed BB’s stories. Roy and I used to eat them up when we were kids but as we got older, they sounded kind of crazy and made up.
Apparently, there was some credence to his claims after all.
I sighed. There was no use lying. “Does Roy know?”
He shook his head. He lifted my veil, putting it on the top of my head. He smiled when he saw my face. I was crying. He wiped the tears away and held me for a while. It was could to feel comforted by a man I considered one of my second fathers, the other being Mia’s dad. I cried for ten minutes, burying my face into his chest.“Do not cry Little Arrow, everything is going to be all right.”
Though his people called us different names, BB had nicknames of his own for Roy and me. Roy was Little Bow because he was sturdy and strong. I was Little Arrow because I was sharp and fast. He said it made the two of us the perfect friends because we complemented each other so well. We always thought it was pretty cool. Mia thought it was kind of stupid but I think she was jealous because she was left out of our little brotherhood.
After I was done crying, I gave him the abridged version of my story. He listened intently and smiled at several parts, mainly the ones where I mentioned being Miss Arrowette. Yeah, I told him but he would have found out, if he didn’t know already. He was good at reading people and he knew my style. When I was done, he took me by the hand and led me away from the crowd. I didn’t really want to see them lower three empty coffins into the ground anyway. He took me over to where a couple of the older tombstones had toppled with age. We sat down and he laughed.
“I thought that was you” he said, “They’ve been showing a grainy security video from the mall on the TV. You can’t really make anything out but I recognized your shooting style.”
I groaned. I saw that stupid thing on the news last night. They were playing it on several channels; I looked like an idiot. I’m just glad they didn’t show anything of me running around in the scuba outfit; I would have died from embarrassment.
“I think the press is going a little overboard.”
He laughed. “You sure picked a helluva time to be a hero. That Jade and Terra are all over the news too. I’m also hearing rumblings about some girl in Japan as well.”
I nodded. I’d read something about her too. These Metahumans were coming out of the woodwork now. I couldn’t help but wonder where I fit in with all of this.
How can a mere human compare to the likes of them?
We talked for about fifteen minutes, about nonsensical things. He wanted to know about my body and why it was so changed. So I told him about my condition. I started crying again and he gave me another hug. I called myself a freak but he said I was special. I tried to argue but he wouldn’t allow me too. Instead, he reached into his shirt and took something from his neck. He put it around my neck without me even realizing it.
“This pendant is a good luck charm” he said, “It has protected my people for generations. It was given to me by my father and his father before him. And although Roy is technically my son I wish for you to have it.”
I lifted the pendant in my hands. It was a green arrowhead, about as big as my palm. I tried to protest and told him I couldn’t accept it but he insisted. He said he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. To demonstrate he leaned forward, kissed me on the forehead and walked away. I got up to go after him but he disappeared when he was only a few feet away. He didn’t vanish but he passed by a tree and disappeared. He liked to do that a lot too.
I hid the pendant inside the collar of my blouse. Then I walked slowly back to the group. Everyone was parting now. I saw the bald headed man walk away from my grandfather; he looked pissed. My grandfather was sitting and he looked upset. He gave me a look when I approached but he didn’t scold me. Instead, he nodded to Locke and I was escorted to the car. I grumbled a bit but I didn’t protest. I decided to play the good little girl, for now at least.
When I walked into the room after the funeral, I flopped onto my couch and pulled off my shoes. Never again was I letting anyone talk me into heels. When I got up this morning, Scarlet was there waiting for me. She had a nice black blouse, skirt and heels waiting for me. I tried to protest but she said it was necessary to appear as a girl my age. It was all a part of my grand re-education process. According to Scarlet, she had about three months to mold me into the ideal teenage girl. I told her she was wasting her time but she said she liked a challenge.
After meeting with her, we took the elevator up. My grandfather got off on the fifty-ninth floor where his office was located. Spencer took me up to my floor. It was mine alone. He said they went to the house and got some of my things but most of them were inappropriate like my clothes. When he showed me the penthouse, I was floored because it was enormous, far too big for just me. It had a main sitting room with a huge sectional sofa, 52-inch 3D flat screen that came with a state of the art entertainment center, its own gas powered fireplace, a fully stocked kitchen, three bedrooms, two baths, a Jacuzzi and one of the best views I’d ever seen. There was a fruit basket on the coffee table with a note from Scarlet. The room was Spartan and manly, with no furniture except the couch. In her note, she said she’d get an interior decorator in as soon as she could. I was in no rush; I kind of liked the Spartan look.
After Spencer left me alone, I found the 360 and played games all night---I had a massive video game library now, I think it was every one on the market. I must have fallen asleep on the couch because I woke up there in the morning. When I stumbled into the bathroom, it was twice the size of my bedroom at home. I showered, dressed in a long t-shirt and spent most of the day watching TV. Scarlet had come by around about noon and told me how things were going to go for the next three months. There was the funeral then what she liked to call “Girl Lessons”.
I groaned and threw my shoes across the room. The Girl Lessons officially began bright and early in the morning. I wasn’t looking forward to those. I liked being a guy and even though I couldn’t be one, I was looking forward to being a tomboy. But apparently, that wasn’t the case. So far, I’d been getting away with jeans and a baggy t-shirt. But Scarlet thought I was too masculine looking and that meant I was too Jonas looking. So the first step in Girl Lessons was taking me shopping. I wasn’t looking forward to that one bit.
I got off the couch and found the shirt I wore all day yesterday. Scarlet buried it n the bottom of my hamper, in hopes that I wouldn’t wear it again. But it was still fairly clean. I stripped down to my panties and pulled the shirt over my head. There was a tall mirror on the wall and I stopped to take a long look. I saw a blonde haired fox staring at me. My boobs weren’t very big yet but I sure had the butt. I was still amazed at how much I’d changed in the last few months. I remembered when Mia went through puberty---she was twelve---one minute she was boyish and the next she had all these curves. Her boobs were about as big as mine were now but there was nothing boyish about her now.
“Jonas you really are dead, aren’t you?”
I sighed as I looked at myself. There really wasn’t a boy in there after all. I left my preening and went back to the couch. The sectional was huge. It was big enough to fit a dozen people and still have room. I grabbed a blanket and wrapped myself in it. It was something my Nana---my father’s mother---knitted for me. It was one of the last things I had of hers. She died when I was ten, I never knew her husband, my other grandfather. After making the initial trip to the house they asked if there was anything else, I needed, the blanket was on my short list. So was my laptop but they were reluctant to bring that to me. I finally got to them to relent. All my things were here when I woke up this morning.
I refused to sleep in my new room. I got a peek in there yesterday and was horrified. Even though there was no decoration in the rest of my place, the bedroom was another story entirely. Someone saw too it to make it the girliest, pinkest room ever. It was an absolute eyesore. It had everything a girl could ever want, including a vanity and a canopy bed. But I wasn’t a girl and it scared the hell out of me. It scared the hell out of Scarlet when she looked too. She told me she’d make my room priority one on her list, it was the only thing she and I agreed on.
I grabbed the remote and started flipping through the channels but there was nothing on. So I found myself grabbing my laptop and booting up. It felt strange being surrounded by all this technology after being away from it for so long. When I logged into my account, I had several e-mails. Most of them were spam that I deleted but there were a few from Mia, dating all the way back to August, to the day after I disappeared. I started with that one. It was a pleasant enough message, just telling me how bored she was without me. After that, the messages started to get less pleasant and more worried. Mia was frantic. First, she had been pissed---the two of us never forgot to return e-mails---then she was scared. She could tell something was wrong.
As I read them, I started to tear up. I could feel Mia’s anguish and it killed me inside.
The last e-mail was dated a few weeks ago. When I opened it up, I was surprised at how different she sounded. It was very somber. It wasn’t even really addressed to me; it was just her rambling. After the last few, I realized she was just using her e-mails to me as an outlet. She mentioned feeling depressed and suicidal. Without me there was nothing more to live for. She talked about how she ate very little now and couldn’t sleep because she kept having nightmares about me. Apparently, the day before she wrote it they had some big Memorial Service for me at the school.
I was bawling like crazy. My friend, my best friend in the whole wide world, was hurting. I bit my lip and closed the laptop, not bothering to log off. I looked at the clock on the wall; it was four in the afternoon. The Deardens lived just outside the city, about two hours away. They were a couple of miles from my house. I knew it was probably a big mistake but I needed to see her, I didn’t care if it blew everything my grandfather was trying to establish. She was my best friend and my “death” was killing her.
I pulled off my big shirt, found my bra and a pair of pants. Scarlet had done some preliminary shopping for me. She got me a couple of tops, some jeans, underwear, socks and a few skirts. I was never going to wear the skirts but the other clothes weren’t too bad. The jeans were skinny leg and really tight but they fit me like a glove---which scared the hell out of me. I found a plain white shirt, it was tight in all the wrong places and felt wrong but it would have to do. I have to get used to it. My sneakers were a new pair from Lady Footlocker, another pair of Nikes like my mom bought for me. I completely my look with a pink hoodie---it was horrible but it was all they had.
I grabbed my keycard, locked my door and went into the elevator.
They caught me in the lobby. Apparently, my room had a security camera just outside the door and I got picked up when I left. Spencer and my grandfather were waiting for me, neither looked too happy. My grandfather wanted to march me right back up to my room but I talked him out of it.
“I feel like a bird in a cage up there” I whined. “I need to get out, get some fresh air.”
He contemplated it for a while but he finally relented. But there were conditions of course, one of them being that I had to take a car. I talked him out of the limo but wasn’t able to talk him into anything more fancy than a gray sedan. The other condition was that Spencer had to go with me. The city was a dangerous place, especially for a young lady all alone. I tried to tell him I wasn’t one hundred percent female but I was close enough in his book. I didn’t want to press that matter, I was hoping to keep the thing between my legs for the time being.
I had conditions of my own. The first being that Spencer had to leave his gun behind. I hated guns; I hated everything they stood for. He reluctantly gave it up as long as he could have the right to carry a tazer. I agreed. My second one was very important to me and essential to my overall plan: Spencer needed to maintain a distance of twenty feet at all times. They argued and we bargained it down to fifteen. I could do fifteen, it would be harder but it was doable.
The car was waiting for us when we went outside. Spencer got into the driver’s seat and made me sit in the back. He had some kind of master lock, which locked all the doors and kept me from opening them. He grinned, thinking himself clever. We drove into the heart of the city, going toward the shopping district. He thought I was some dumb blonde itching to blow some dough. Before we left my grandfather gave me a bank card and told me it had a one hundred thousand dollar limit but I was to be frugal with it. I nearly had a heart attack, especially when I saw my name on the card. What kind of adult gives a teenager an allowance that big?
We pulled up in front of a small boutique. It was a cutest, girly store, the girliest I could find. It was perfect for Operation Lose the Goon. Spencer grumbled about it but he was ordered to follow me around and to do as I said---within reason of course. We went into the shop and it was the girliest place I’d ever seen. It was jammed pack with row after row of clothing. I wanted to gag but instead I perused the aisles, looking like I belonged. It didn’t take much; after all, I was a teenage girl now.
I started pulling clothes out left and right, looking at them and sticking them back. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I’d seen Mia do it more than once. I found a pair of sunglasses and put them on; they were perfect. I browsed for a few more seconds, grabbing some Chap Stick and gum. I stuck the Chap Stick in Spencer’s pocket without him noticing and went to the counter to pay for my things. He looked uncomfortable. As we were exiting the store, the alarm went off. The woman behind the counter shouted at us. She checked me and seeing as I was clean she told me, I could leave. I smiled at Spencer as the woman made him empty his pockets. When she saw the tazer on his belt, she went hysterical.
I chose that time to run. I took off down the street and around the corner. I was too fast for Spencer, who was still stuck back in the store. I was laughing the whole way. Once I was far enough away I used the closest ATM. I got four hundred bucks out and hailed a cab. When he got there, I slipped into the back and saw Spencer as he rounded the corner. He saw me get into the cab and started running but we were long gone before he got to me. I saw him stamp his foot on the ground as the cab went around the corner. I told him where I wanted to go and he was more than happy to oblige. I sat in silence, wondering about Mia. She looked real bad at the cemetery. Her skin looked real pale, her hair was back to its normal, dull mud brown color and her face looked gaunt and ghost-like. She was a shadow of her vibrant self. I couldn’t help but think of the email and her suicidal comments. I needed to see her; I needed to make sure she was all right.
We pulled up to Mia’s house about two hours later. I gave the cabbie two hundred bucks ... that made him beam. I pulled the hood over my head and put on the sunglasses. I told the cabbie to stay put and I’d give him an extra hundred. I stuck a stick of gum in my mouth and chewed it like a moron. I took a deep breath and walked up the driveway. Mia’s mother was like a second mom to me. I was a bit nervous as I walked up onto their porch. I didn’t want them to recognize me, at least not right away. I’m not sure what I was going to say if they did recognize me but I was hoping they wouldn’t.
When I rang the doorbell, Dr. D answered. She was dressed in her white coat and looked to be going off to work. She often worked the late shift at the hospital. She smiled at me as she opened the door.
“How can I help you sweetie?”
“I’m looking for Mia; we were supposed to hang out today.”
Dr. D looked past me to the waiting cab. She frowned. “Mia isn’t here dear.”
Mia never went anywhere. “Do you know where I can find here?”
She nodded. “The same place she’s been going for the last few weeks, over to the Oliver place.”
Mia was going to my house. Why the hell would she be going there?
I thanked her and told her I knew where that was. She smiled and followed me down the driveway. She offered to drive me there but I told her I had the cab. She nodded and walked toward her Benz in the drive. I went back to the cab and told him to take me to my old house. Why would Mia be going there? Was she looking for some kind of connection to me? Maybe it felt like she was close to me there.
We pulled up to my house about ten minutes later. I gave the cabbie the rest of the money I promised and told him I wouldn’t need him any longer. He took his money graciously and drove away. I was at the end of our long driveway, looking at the place that had been my home for fifteen years. It looked dark, gloomy and depressing. I walked slowly down the drive and stared at the large house, as it got closer and closer. It was all locked up and dark inside. In the three months since, the grass had grown long and there were newspapers overflowing in and around our mailbox. All the flowers in my mother’s garden were dead and the little bird bath was bone dry.
I didn’t bother with the front door because we locked it before we left.
I went around back. I knew the door there would be locked but there was a hidden key nearby. I climbed the privacy fence into the backyard, nearly falling on Sparky’s old doghouse. It pained me to see it there; I missed that dog just as much as I missed my family. I found the key in a fake rock and used it to gain entry into the sunroom. The house was dark and cold. The mid-afternoon sun shone through the dusty windows but it wasn’t the same. Most of our furniture was gone and everything else was in boxes. It looked a lot like the Miami beach house.
I shouted “Mia” and my voice echoed through the emptiness.
I wanted to cry so badly but I forced it in. Instead, I went upstairs. If Mia were anywhere, it would be my bedroom. I crept slowly down the hall, suppressing my tears and trying to keep myself from coughing. The place was dusty and smelled of musk. My mother would have had a fit because she was such a clean person. When I reached my room, I found the door ajar. I stepped inside. The only thing there was my bed frame and more boxes. This time I cried. My whole life had been in this room and it was horrible to see it boxed away like that.
I sighed. There was no Mia here either. I took one last look at the room and turned to leave. That’s when I heard the scream. I ran back into the room and looked out the window. It was coming from the forest behind the house. I could see several bicycles resting against the outer trees; one of them was Mia’s. Of course, she’d be in the woods but who did the other bikes belong too?
The scream sounded again. It was definitely a girl’s.
I ran to my closet. Inside I found what I was looking for: my bow case. I threw it on the bed and opened it; my bow was still there. It looked exactly like I left it. It was my trusty PSE X-Appeal. I pulled it out of the case, gave the string a couple of pulls. It was a little too easy for me now but it was still just as good. I found my quiver too as well as my wrist guard and glove. I grabbed all of them and ran for the door.
I knew these woods better than anyone. I’d spent my whole childhood traipsing through them, pretending to be on adventures with my Merry Men. Now I wasn’t traipsing. Now I was running as fast as I could, running around trees, trying to avoid the crunch of the autumn leaves. Mia ha screamed two more times since I left the house, the second time I had just reached the woods. The last scream was about ten minutes ago. It worried me that there wasn’t another one.
The company she was with worried me too. From my bedroom window, I didn’t recognize the bikes but I did when I got closer. They were all custom jobs, modified wheels, gears and paint jobs. They belonged to a group of jackasses from school, led by Dave Martin. They were a bunch of stoners mainly, troublemakers who pulled petty crimes and got a few months in Juvie for it. Why Mia was hanging with them was well beyond me. It hurt to think about it. Surely, they weren’t her friends now. Her emails had said she was slacking off, doing poorly in school. But was she doing so bad as to hang out with them? Dave and his guys were the lowest of the low, scum of the earth. They were notorious for their nasty ways, especially how they treated women. There was one girl, last year, who they actually put in the hospital because she refused to let them have their way with her.
A fire burned in me as I ran. If they touched her in any way like that, I’d kill them all.
It didn’t take me long to find them. They were making all sorts of noise, laughing and joking around. There were four of them, not including Mia. They were all sitting in a circle, drinking and passing a joint between them. I hid myself behind a tree, nocking an arrow and waiting. Mia was on the ground in the middle of the group. She was dressed like a Goth---which was nothing new---but she was a little more so than usual. I’d never seen her in fishnets and a skirt before. She looked scared and maybe a bit drunk. It broke my heart to see her like that. She wore dark makeup and didn’t look like anything like the damsel in distress.
“Scream again” said Dave, the big fat one of the group.
Mia laughed, pushing herself off the ground and screamed again. The others laughed with her and I was crushed. She wasn’t in trouble at all; she was having fun. These bastards had corrupted my best friend. They took her when she was must vulnerable and turned her into one of them. I aimed at Dave, so eager to let my arrow go but I couldn’t. I wasn’t a murderer. Besides every person makes their own choice and even if Mia was coerced into it, she still made that choice.
It pissed me off a bit but there was nothing to be done.
At least nothing with my bow.
I was about to set my bow against the tree and try a diplomatic approach when Mia screamed again. But this time it wasn’t a scream in jest. One of Dave’s cronies was standing in front of her, his pants pulled down to his ankles. I knew him, Greg Smith, and I hated his guts.
“I said knock it off Greg” she said, pushing to her feet.
Bobby Crane grabbed her from behind, holding her arms and forcing her to the ground.
Greg approached her, his boxers now at his ankles too. He was holding his erect thing, trying to force it into Mia’s mouth. Mia was struggling and crying. Dave, Bobby, Greg and their fourth friend Mike were laughing. Me, I was even more pissed. I grabbed my bow, nocked an arrow and took aim. I targeted Greg’s earring when he turned his head, to laugh at Dave. I was using blunt targeting arrows, the ones we used in class. When I fired, I put the arrow straight through his earring, tearing it off his ear and putting it in the nearby tree.
Greg screamed in pain, falling backwards into Dave. The two of them fell to the ground in a heap. I fired another shot, pinning Bobby’s sleeve to the tree he was leaning against. He let go of Mia and she dropped to the ground. She scrambled away and looked around frantically. She was looking for the shooter, probably wondering if there was an arrow for her too.
Dave pushed Greg off of him, grabbing a beer bottle as he got to his feet. I fired one shot that broke the bottle and another into the ground right near his left foot. He screamed and pissed his pants. He grabbed Greg and pulled him off the ground. The two of them didn’t stay around for very long. Together with Mike, the three of them took off running, leaving Bobby still stuck to the tree. He called to them but they didn’t stop. So HE tried to free himself, pulling at the arrow with his free hand.
I shot another arrow, pinning his other sleeve to the tree. He wailed in fear. Mia rounded on him and kicked him in the balls. He wailed again but this time from the pain. Then she got on her knees, waiting for her arrow no doubt.
I stepped out from my hiding place and walked into the clearing. I dropped my bow, took off my sunglasses and dropped my hood. The look on Mia’s face was one of pure and utter shock. First, she stared at me, then she rubbed her eyes. When that didn’t seem to work, she crawled away from me, probably thinking I was a ghost. I walked over to her, bent down in front of her and gently touched her face. I was so close that our noses were practically touching.
She reached out and touched my face. “Ollie?”
I smiled. “I’m sorry it took so long, Speedy.”
She broke into tears and threw her arms around my neck. I started crying too, holding her like I’d never held her before. I didn’t want to let go. She was my best friend in the whole wide world and I was so close to losing her. We hugged for what seemed like an eternity. When we finally separating, tears streaming down both our faces, she slapped me.
“I deserved that,” I said laughing through my tears.
She glared at me. “Where the hell have you been?”
I hugged her again and cried.
The noise of the TV is doing nothing to bring me solace. It’s a rerun of Family Guy, but I’m not really paying much attention to it. All I can think about is Mia. When I saw her at the cemetery and read her emails, I knew I had to do something to help her. She was miserable and suicidal. She was my best friend too; there was no way I was going to let her suffer like that.
I sat up, the blanket sliding off me. I looked at the clock on the far wall; it was three am. In three hours, Scarlet was going to be here to drag me off on some foolish excursion. I think it was a day at the salon then shopping or maybe it was the other way around. There was an email waiting for me when I got back tonight but I only slightly glanced over it. I wasn’t really in the mood after the lashing I got. Suffice to say the old man was known to be unhappy that I ditched Spencer. I never knew someone so old and calm could yell so much. He kept asking me where I was and when I told him he didn’t believe me. It wasn’t a lie per se but it wasn’t exactly the truth either.
If I had told him, I snuck off to help my best friend he would have blown a gasket. Instead I told him I slipped away to go home. I said I needed to see it for myself, to bring about some kind of closure. They only made him angrier. But luckily for me, Scarlet was there and she came to my aid. Scarlet may have been a pain in the ass but she went to bat for me, and that I wouldn’t forget. My grandfather grounded me and told me I could only leave if I had three escorts. When I stormed back to my room, Scarlet followed. When she asked where I really went I told her it was to see a friend and she dropped it. I’m not sure why I told her the truth but I was tired of lying.
I sighed and grabbed the remote. I flicked off the TV and lay back down. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get to sleep. I kept thinking about Mia and the time the two of us had shared together. It was like the two of us rediscovered one another all over again. No, it was nothing perverted, but it was like two sisters realizing they had one another.
I smiled as my mind drifted back to it.
After I was done crying in her arms, she wiped away my tears.
She sat and stared at me for a bit, not sure what to say. When she spoke, it was in a soft, reassuring voice. “Ollie, you want to tell me about it?”
So I did. Just like I with BB I told her everything and didn’t leave anything out. She cried a bit when I told her about my parents and hugged me tightly. I told her about living on the island, being rescued by the cruise ship and then saving everyone from the so-called pirates. She smiled at that. I then told her about Gloria, about going to the mall and stopping the robbers. I ended my story with being found by my grandfather, going to my own funeral and the life I was now supposed to live.
When I was finished, she didn’t say anything at first. She just stared at me. Then she slowly reached forward, touching my face at first. Then she moved her hands to my breasts. She frowned a bit. I was about to ask why when she sighed.
“You’re bigger than me now.”
We both laughed at that. I hadn’t really noticed but I suppose I was. My mother once told me about her own puberty. She was a late bloomer too, but as soon as they started growing, they didn’t want to stop. She was a B cup before the end of her freshman year and almost a C when she started her sophomore year. At the time, it scared the hell out of me because my little buds were nothing. But over the last few months they were growing rapidly, it felt like they were getting bigger every day. I’m not sure if I was happy or horrified. A few months ago, it would have definitely been horrifying but now that I had to be a girl, I’m not sure how I felt about it.
“So what should I call you?”
I bit my lip. That was a good question. I really didn’t want her to call me Jonas but I wasn’t happy with Olivia either. “You can call me Ollie when we’re alone I guess. But I think you should probably call me Olivia or something when we’re in public.”
That brought another frown to her face. “Can we be in public together?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“How would we explain knowing one another?”
I hadn’t really thought about that. I was just determined to make sure she didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t really think things through when I ran off to rescue her. I still wasn’t really thinking things through. I was just happy that there was someone else from my old life who knew I was still alive. I told her all that and she smiled, giving me another hug. She was all about the hugs now. I guess it was something best gal pals did. I’m not complaining but it was a little weird.
She asked another question that seemed to be bothering her too. “Why are you a girl now, anyway?”
I was wondering the same thing too. I told her that.
She just continued with her earlier train of thought. “I mean, if there really are people trying to kill you, wouldn’t it be simpler just to be you. I mean, they connected you with Mr. Queen but that was easy enough to do. You could have just come forward and told the world your story. There was no reason to kill you off and then make you pretend to be someone else. I mean, being Olivia Queen is going to make you an even bigger target, after all you have his name now.”
I nodded. “He was insistent about it. I tried fighting him but he made it very clear that Jonas had to stay dead.”
We talked about it for a few more minutes and both of us tried to get our heads around it. The only thing we could come up with was embarrassment. The old man was rich and very influential. His money had helped several politicians get their jobs, including the one who currently sat in the big White House. I think he was embarrassed about me. After all, there would have been quite a scandal to bring me forth and say I was Jonas Oliver, his grandson. I didn’t exactly look like a grandson anymore. Before I was able to get by with baggy clothes and an androgynous look. Now, there was nothing boy about me, except what was between my legs.
I started crying. The old man truly was a bastard. Mia hugged me again, allowing me to cry on her shoulder.
“I hate this body,” I sobbed. “I hate these stupid female hormones. I can’t stop crying, my chest itches and my butt is too big.”
She laughed. “Welcome to girlhood, Ollie.”
She told me everything was going to be OK, and now she was there to help me. I nodded, wiping my tears. I asked her if she was going to be OK and she sighed.
She said she didn’t really want to talk about it, but thinking I was dead was horrible. When I asked her how long she thought that, she didn’t answer.Instead, she brushed some hair from her face. She looked kind of weird, not having her usual hot pink mop. When I told her that, she lightly punched me.We stopped hugging and we helped each other up. Bobby groaned behind us and started complaining. I snapped around and cursed, completely forgetting about him. He was still pinned to the tree and gave me a cruel look.
“I knew you were a freak, Oliver,” he snapped and started laughing.
Mia glared at him. She snapped around and was ready to punch him but I grabbed her elbow. I had another idea. I reached into my pocket and took out the two hundred dollars I had left; I waved it in front of his face.
“This is two hundred,” I said, stuffing it his pants pocket. “You keep your mouth shut and it’s all yours.”
He snorted. “You’re going to need a lot more than that to keep my mouth shut, freak?”
“How much?” I asked, rolling my eyes.
“I think a million will do it. You’re rich now, right?”
I groaned. This prick was going to be a real problem. Why the hell did I leave him stuck to the tree like that? I opened my mouth to negotiate when Mia beat me to it. She walked quickly over to Bobby, leaned up a little and whispered in his ear. I’m not sure what she said but after a few seconds his eyes opened wide and his lip quivered. When she was done, he looked like she’d kicked him in the balls again.
“I’ll do as you say, I’ll take the money, just don’t tell anyone that?”
Mia smirked. She leaned forward and pulled the arrows out of his sleeves. He fell to the ground, landing on his knees. He wailed a bit and got to his feet, stumbling over them a bit, as he ran off. He didn’t look back and actually tripped before he disappeared. Mia started laughing and handed me the arrows, I slipped them back into my quiver. I had a bunch but I didn’t want to leave any around in case the jerks called the cops on me. It was unlikely seeing as what they were doing but I couldn’t take the chance.
“What did you say to him?”
She smiled. “My mother’s his doctor. I told him that she told me how big his penis really was and if he didn’t keep his mouth shut I was going to tell the whole school.”
I laughed. “Was any of it true?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. But I figured a bad ass like him would be scared about something like that.”
‘I’m glad you’re on my side,” I said, wrapping my arm around her waist.
She nodded. “That’s why you’re going to make me your sidekick.”
I pulled my hand away and gave her a look. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She grinned. “All great superheroes need sidekicks. I’m not saying I want to run around and fight crime with you but I could be your computer tech or something.”
I groaned. This was all I needed. “I’m not a superhero.”
She punched me in the arm. “We both know that’s wrong.”
I changed the subject by asking her to help me retrieve the two other arrows I fired. We found the first one because it was stuck in the ground but it took us a few minutes to find the one I broke the beer bottle with. Mia found it stuck in a tree and pulled it. I put them back into the quiver and then the two of us started trudging back to my house. On the way she brought up the whole superhero thing again, I tried to change the subject but she was insistent upon it.
When we got back to my house---or rather my old house---she asked me about it for the umpteenth time.
“It was a one time thing.”
“Two times actually”
I sighed. “I did it because people needed me. Before on the cruise ship I thought it was a cool idea but afterwards I realized how dangerous it really was. I’m not like those people on the TV, I don’t have super powers.”
She sighed and nodded. But she wasn’t ready to give it up. ‘You may not have super powers but you’re an awesome archer.”
I couldn’t argue with that but that was no reason to start running around and helping people. I told her that and then told her I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She frowned but agreed. Instead, we used her cell phone and called us a cab. When it arrived, we got in without a word. It dropped her off first; she paid quickly. I told her I’d email her later and she liked that. The cab took me home as slow as possible. My thoughts were on the whole superhero thing. Mia knew how to do that, get under your skin and make you second-guess things. I’m not saying I was second-guessing my decision but it was something to think about.
When I got to Queen Towers, my grandfather and Spencer were waiting. Neither looked too happy. Spencer paid my cab and my grandfather told me that under no circumstance was I allowed to leave again.
Could I be a superhero?
I groaned as I rolled over on my stomach, avoiding the discomfort my breasts were causing. I’d been thinking about it for the last few hours, ever since Mia and I parted ways. She was convinced that that’s exactly what I should do. But Mia had a tendency to get these crazy ideas in her head and run with them. Often times she roped me into them too. Sometimes though they weren’t as crazy as I originally thought they were. But this one was probably the craziest. I know that I’d saved people; I’d done it twice, like she pointed out. But the first time was necessary and the second time was a fluke.
Could I do it all the time though?
I racked my brain for the rest of the night---or morning rather---I never did get any sleep. Scarlet came promptly at six am and was shocked and pleased to see me up. She was a bit P.O.ed to see me still not dressed but she rectified that quickly enough. She was carrying a shopping bag with her; apparently, she’d gotten an early start. She handed me the bag and told me to get dressed as fast as possible. I took the bag and trudged off to the bathroom. I was so tired, but I didn’t let her see that.
When I opened the bag, I groaned. Scarlet was bound and determined to make me as girly as possible. The bra and panty were pink, which weren’t so bad. I slipped them both on. When I first started wearing a training bra, I had a hell of a time with it but my mother helped me. Now putting on a bra was the easiest thing in the world. After getting my undergarments on, I found the other two items in the bag. The shirt wasn’t so bad. It was a little small and a bit tight around the bust area but I managed. The skirt scared the hell out of me. I held it up in front of me, making a face in the mirror. It was white and pleated, like something a tennis player or a cheerleader would wear. I groaned. It was November and though it was only mildly cold, it still was too short. I reluctantly slipped it own, groaning some more when I discovered it only barely went past my hips.
I walked out of the room, tugging on the hem, trying to stretch it longer.
Scarlet smiled. “You look absolutely adorable.”
“I feel like an extra from Bring It On.”
She ignored the insult and held up a pair of white shoes. She explained that they only had a one-inch heel. She beckoned me over to the couch and told me to sit. I did so, with my legs wide open. She smacked my knees, telling me “young ladies sat with their legs together, especially when wearing skirts.”
She put the heels on my feet and groaned at the sight of my legs. I looked and saw a fine layer of blonde hair, barely visible. She mentioned something about getting them waxed then told me to stand up. I nearly fell over but she caught me. Then she told me to walk from one end of the room to the other. I groaned and did so reluctantly. I wobbled and stumbled but never once fell. She kept having me walk back and forth until I got it right. It took about fifteen minutes. Eventually I was able to glide as gracefully as I was going to allow. She wasn’t happy, but we had a deadline to keep and an appointment in a few hours.
‘This is for you,” she said, reaching into another bag and handing me a small white purse. “I’ve already put some essentials in there for you. The rest is up to you. A lady never goes anywhere without her purse, remember that, sweetie.”
I took the purse, smiled weakly and nodded. I felt like a total idiot carrying it but I guess I’d survive.
We got in the elevator. Scarlet complained about the state of my hair and my lack of makeup. I looked at the reflective surface of the elevator wall. My hair was getting quite a bit longer now. It was past my shoulders but just barely. It was kind of a mess though. I shampooed when I showered and Gloria taught me how to wash it but other than that, I didn’t take very good care of it. There was a salon onboard the ship but I never had time to go because I was busy working. Thinking about Gloria reminded me that I needed to call her; she was probably worried sick about me.
The elevator ride was long and annoying. Scarlet started playing with my hair half way down, finally pulled it into a high ponytail on the top of my head. She tied it there with a rubber band and promised to get me some accessories later. When we got down to the lobby, my goons were waiting. I barely acknowledged Spencer and Locke but the third man caught my eye. Partly because he wasn’t dressed in a suit and partly because he was so young. Looking at his sandy blonde hair, chiseled features and cute smile---did I just think his smile was cute---made my face blush. My heart skipped a beat and when he looked at me, I turned my head away. God, tell me I’m not crushing on this guy. I groaned, there was no way in hell I was attracted to guys, that was absolutely absurd.
“Hi, I’m Luke” he held out his hand and I shook it limply. “Your grandfather has asked that I stick by your side for the rest of your time here. I hope that’s all right with you?”
I nodded numbly. I stuttered my name to him, which caused the others to smile. Luke didn’t seem to notice or if he did, he didn’t react.
There was another sedan waiting for us outside but this was blue. I got in the back with Scarlet and Luke. Spencer got in the front with the driver. Our destination today was the Star City Center; it was one of the biggest shopping malls in the country. It had over a thousand stores, four floors, which included two movie theaters, a bowling alley and an indoor ice-skating rink. Mia and I used to spend loads of time there. She liked to drag me from one little shop to the other. I used to spend hours watching her try on clothes then groan because she wanted my opinion on them. What was worse was that a lot of the sales ladies kept asking me why a pretty girl like me wasn’t trying on any either. I always used to tell them I was a tomboy to save the embarrassment. Now I don’t think I could use that excuse.
Thinking of Mia reminded me of something. I reached into my purse, wondering if there was one in there. When my hand found the familiar shape, I pulled it out. I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of the new QPhones; it was the latest model, not even on the market yet. It was like an iPhone but much better because Queen Industries made a lot of adjustments. For one thing, it was smaller and for another, it only needed to be charged once. I’m not sure how they pulled it off and I didn’t care. I turned it on and found everything was already programmed in, except for Mia’s number of course. I started texting her, remembering her new number---her old one she allowed to run out, it was too painful for her to have the phone when she knew I had its match.
I fired through the text quickly enough, telling her where I was going and where to meet me. It was all a part of our elaborate plan. We concocted it last night. My grandfather wouldn’t allow me to have any contact with my old life but who’s to stop me from meeting a “new friend” in the mall. It was Mia’s genius way for us to still be friends and be new at the same time. It was a simple plan: I’d text her, she’d go to the mall and the two of us would meet in some random store. We’d hit it off and the rest would be history.
It took us about an hour to get to the mall; the driver dropped us off out front. He drove off; Spencer told him we’d call when we were done. I’d been in the mall hundreds of times before and knew where I wanted to go: usually straight to a bookstore. Scarlet had other plans. The first place we went was a lingerie store. It was so embarrassing. We stayed in there for too long. Even Luke and Spencer were uncomfortable there. They kept looking at their watches and I think I heard Spencer groan once or twice. I found out that I was a small B cup, which meant nothing to me except that it was bigger than Mia. I’m not sure why that made me happy but it did.
After the lingerie store, Scarlet dragged us from one boutique after another. She forced me into so many changing rooms that I wanted to scream. We left each store with at least three pages and set up to have several other things sent directly to Queen Towers. The only good thing about shopping with Scarlet is that we got the store to ourselves. As soon as we arrived at one place, Spencer would go in and the store would clear out. A lot of people would come out grumbling, which I felt kind of bad for but there was nothing I could do about it. Apparently, my name had a lot of pull. As soon as I entered the store, a lot of kiss-ass sales ladies treated me like a princess.
We shopped until noon. By then my stomach was grumbling and I was so exhausted my feet felt like lead. I think Luke half-dragged; half carried me to the food court. It was there that I “bumped” into Mia. I was standing in line at the Pizza Palace when she tapped me on my shoulder. It was all part of the plan.
I turned and smiled when I saw her. She looked like her normal self again, including the bright pink hair I loved so much.
“I love that top,” she said happily. “Wherever did you get it?”
It was our phony line. It was meant for the goons. Scarlet and Luke smiled as Mia and I chatted it up. We talked like strangers first but that didn’t last long. Soon we were chatting away like girlfriends who’ve known each other for years.
I turned to Scarlet after we finished getting our food. “Mia wants to know if I can sit with her.” I asked, pleading.
She smiled. I think she was just happy to see me adjusting and making friends. She nodded but gave me a sly look. I’m not sure if she caught on to our little ruse and frankly I didn’t care.
We sat down at a table far enough away but not too far. Mia kept glancing around, clearly looking for something. When I asked her what it was, she smiled wickedly.
“Robbers of course”.
I kicked her underneath the table and she laughed.
‘By the way, I really do like that top. I’m not sure about the skirt though, I don’t think you have the legs for it.”
I gave her a look and she started to laugh some more. I told her about my morning so far and she frowned. I think she was jealous that I could clear out the stores like that. I told her she could see it herself because I was bound and determined to keep her with me all day. She smiled at that. Something happened between us last night and now we were closer than ever. Before I was a guy and she was my best friend. Now we were both girls and for some reason everything was different. We were still friends like always but it was a different friendship. I’m not sure how to describe it but I felt closer to her somehow. Which didn’t make any sense because I was exactly the same as before---maybe a little more developed---but absolutely the same.
She brought up the superhero think again but I ignored. I forgot how much she liked her comic books. So I changed the subject quickly and asked her the question that I forgot to last night.
“How’s Sandra been?”
Mia was eating some fries and froze in mid-bite. She smiled painfully. “They’re gone. After you disappeared, she went into a bigger funk than me. She stopped eating and talking. She went all zombie like. Her parents kinda freaked and dragged her up north. The last I heard they were living in an Ashram now. No one knows for certain because the place doesn’t believe in technology of any kind.”
I nodded. I thought it might have been something like that. Maybe not as severe but I thought she was too upset to deal. She said her parents were obsessed with that Ashram place too so it didn’t surprise me one bit to hear that they went there.
We talked more about Sandra and then the conversation switched to some of the other kids at the school. I asked about the Memorial she mentioned in her emails, so she told me all about it. I was pretty touched actually, though was a bit annoyed when most of the guy talked about how pretty I had been. Then Mia smiled, meaning she was kidding, and I kicked her again under the table. We laughed again and it felt good. God, I really missed her. I told her that, again and she smiled. She asked me about the island but I was pretty vague. I didn’t really want to talk about it. It was something that one needed to experience and there was no real way to tell someone about it.
“You’re different,” she said as I sipped my chocolate milkshake.
“I’m the same person,” I said then laughed, realizing how wrong that sounded. “Well, partially the same person.”
We laughed again.
Scarlet ruined our fun. She walked over to the table, eyeing us like we were diseased or something. I introduced her to Mia. I accidentally slipped up by calling her my BFF but I don’t think that Scarlet noticed. If she did, she didn’t say anything.
“I had to spoil the fun, girls, but Olivia has an appointment that she cannot miss.”
“Mia’s coming with us?”
It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. Scarlet raised her eyebrow at me and I stood my ground. She worked for my grandfather but today she also worked for me. So far, they’d been in control of everything but that ended here. I didn’t live through my parents dying and being stranded on an island to be bossed around. It was time to take a stand somewhere and Mia was where I drew the line. I think I made that very clear in the look I was giving Scarlet.
“Of course she can.”
We left the food court and headed to my appointment. When we got there I groaned, it was the place I’d been dreading: the salon. It was called Madame Zala’s. It was an upper class beauty salon, which also doubled as a spa. I don’t know much about these places and I don’t pretend too. All I know is that as soon as we entered I noticed once again that the place was deserted. There was only one person in the place, a thin, middle aged black woman who I assumed was Zala---though I doubted that was her real name. She led me first into a back room where another younger black woman waited and the two of them proceeded to wax my legs.
I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
After that, I was brought back into the main room where they took care of my hair. They didn’t do much, just gave it a wash, trimmed the split ends and gave me some bangs. Then they made up my face, telling me everything they were doing. When I was done and I saw myself, I was shocked at the pretty blonde girl in the mirror. After me, I made them do the same with Mia. Zala wanted to do something about her hair color but Mia protested. In the end, they just did her make up, too. Both of us refused the manicure they offered. My nails weren’t long enough and Mia had just had her’s done or so she said.
We spent almost two hours in the salon. Zala gave us a lot of free product then we left.
Mia left after that. She was supposed to meet her mother; they were going to a movie. I said good-bye with a hug and said I’d call her later. When she was gone, Scarlet pulled me aside.
“That was your friend who you snuck off to see yesterday?”
I nodded. “You’re not going to tell the old man, are you?”
She smiled. “It will be our little secret.”
We left the mall, several bags heavier than before. When we got back to Q. Towers, it took my grandfather’s staff several trips to get all the bags up to my room, not to mention all the stuff we had had delivered. When I got upstairs myself, my place was filled with boxes and bags. I left them, vowing to put the stuff away tomorrow.
Scarlet mentioned something about a walk-in closet but I was too tired to look. Instead, I crashed on the couch, watching some TV. Mia texted a few hours later, telling me she had a wonderful time and was glad that I’d decided to join the better sex.
That made me groan a bit. It also made me think too. Was I glad? I knew I’d accepted that I could no longer be a boy but was I glad about it? I got off the couch and stripped down to my underwear then stood in front of the mirror. I sure didn’t look like a boy and minus the penis, I looked a lot like a fifteen year old girl---even though I was legally sixteen now. I bit my lip and unclasped my bra. I let it fall gently to the floor. I stared at my bare top half, turning sideways as I did so. I definitely didn’t look like a boy there. I hesitated before I slipped off my panties. When I finally slid them down my legs and stepped out of them, I was a bit surprised. My penis was so small now, like a five year olds. It’d never been big to begin with but I didn’t realize it was that small. I made a mental note to make an appointment with a doctor. Before I hadn’t really paid much attention to all the talk but now I really wanted to know what was going on with me.
I didn’t bother putting my clothes back on. Instead, I went fishing through one of the bags to find one of the bazillion sets of pajamas we bought. I finally found a pair: they were light blue and made of silk. They felt really good on my skin and made my nipples a bit hard. I’m not sure if I liked that but I dealt with it. I cuddled up on the couch and watched TV for the rest of the night.
I think I conked out at about two am.
Scarlet spent the next few weeks trying to teach me how to be a proper girl. It was kind of grueling but I’m a fast learner---remember, photographic memory. I was reluctant at first but what guy wouldn’t be. First, she taught me how to dress then how to do my own makeup. I learned quickly enough. I’m not saying I was an expert but I was better than I was before. The clothes were a problem at first. I didn’t like skirts and dresses because I hated showing my legs. This wasn’t just a girl thing either. I’ve hated showing my legs ever since I was little. I didn’t mind wearing shorts around the house but going outside with my legs exposed was another thing entirely. I had a hell of a time at the mall but because Mia was there, everything had been all right.
Mia wasn’t here anymore. After I turned her life around, her parents felt she needed some time to reconnect. So a week after our mall trip, they went on an early Winter Vacation, I’m not sure where. Mia didn’t know either but she said they’d be gone for two weeks and that she wasn’t allowed access to anything electronic. It kind of annoyed me to lose my best friend but I knew she’d be back. Scarlet tried her best be a substitute but it wasn’t the same. I liked Scarlet but she was a bit too old to be my temporary best friend. She tried to rectify things by convincing my grandfather to give me more freedom so I could make some new friends but I wasn’t interested.
So while Mia was gone, I poured my heart and soul into my Girl Lessons.
Scarlet brought in an Etiquette Coach, Miss Frost, to teach me the proper way to be a girl. She fit her name well because she was the iciest bitch I’d ever meant. Scarlet said that a young lady who’d been in boarding school most of her life would be very prim and proper. I’m not sure if that was true or not but it didn’t bother me much. I’m not going to bore you with all the etiquette crap but suffice to say I hated it at first. The woman was a cruel taskmaster and didn’t give me any slack. She thought I was an appalling little girl and couldn’t figure out how I didn’t know how to act like a proper one. She called me “boyish” on more than one occasion. I fought her for about a week then gave me and fell in line. It wasn’t that hard but it was embarrassing at first. After another week, Miss Frost announced I was the “best she could get me.” I’m not saying she turned me into the proper young woman but she did fix some of my more “boyish” habits.
Girl Lessons ended when Miss Frost left. But Scarlet still felt I needed a girl education. She bought me all the current seasons of Gossip Girl and 90210 on DVD. She made me watch them. She also gave me loads of books to read, some of them were more current but most were older. I didn’t care for current ones much---who the hell cares about Bella and Edward---but I really loved the older stuff. Jane Austen was now my favorite author and Charlotte Bronte rocked.
Scarlet brought in another girl to help with my mannerisms. She was much younger than Miss Frost, about my age, her name was Clara. She was there to help me talk and think like a teenage girl. She wasn’t in the know but she was told that I was a tomboy coming out of my shell. Clara helped me talk, sit and act like a teenage girl---a proper one anyway. She was pretty cool, a little flighty but cool. WE spent a lot of time together and we became good friends but no one would ever replace Mia. Clara was a different person altogether and I kind of liked that.
Mia contacted me about four weeks later. I was sitting on the couch, painting my nails when my phone buzzed. I cursed, trying desperately to dry my nails so I could see who it was. Why couldn’t there be a speech activated phone or something. I wonder if we could make one of those. I waved my hands back and forth, blowing on them as I did. About ten minutes later, I think they were dry enough to take a peek. It was kind of hard with my new nails---extensions that Clara insisted upon---but I was able to see who sent me the text. I sighed with relief when I saw it was Mia. Now I knew how she felt when I disappeared. I was convinced I’d never see her again.
The text message was short: HEY, BACK TO CIVILIZATION. I SENT YOU SOMETHING, IT SHOULD BE ARRIVING TODAY.
I waited for my nails to truly finish drying, slipped on a pair of backless sandals and ran to the elevator. The trip was slow and boring like usual and I was a bit excited to see what Mia had sent. We didn’t usually buy each other stuff but that was before. Now we had a different kind of relationship. The other day I found this Mia top---something I know she’d wear---and I sent it to her house. When I got down to the lobby finally, the doorman was holding a package.
“Is that for me?” I asked excitedly.
He looked at the label. “It is indeed, Miss Queen.”
I took it from him, thanked him and ran back into the elevator.
Most of the Tower staff knew who I was now. It wasn’t that I liked being here now but I’d adjusted. I wasn’t allowed to leave the Tower without supervision but I was allowed free run of it, save for a few rooms. When I got back into the elevator, I looked up at the new camera and frowned. The new cameras were everywhere now. A week ago, someone set fire to one of our computer factories. The authorities were convinced it was some kids but my grandfather thought otherwise. He was convinced it was industrial sabotage. It would have been an isolated incident except for the fact that smaller things were happening, too. There was an illegal hack a few days before that and just yesterday, someone tried to get into the tower with a gun. That’s the reason why the cameras were everywhere now. We had cameras before but these new ones were more high-tech, they not only videoed people but they also picked up on their body heat and things like that. My grandfather was being extra cautious, especially since the Metahuman Boom started.
Just like Jade predicted, tons of Metahumans were coming out of the woodwork now. Here it was December 10th and already two more have publically made themselves known. One was some red, white and blue girl and another was some crazy girl with a hammer. I only half paid attention to the news stories. I decided that day with Mia that I was giving up my hero moonlighting. I wanted to try to live as normal as a life as possible.
The elevator finally stopped. I sighed and walked to my room. My door was probably the most secure in the whole building. My grandfather beefed up the security last night, wanting to make sure I was the safest I could be. There was a code pad and a retina scanner. It was kind of ridiculous but I guess he was being cautious. I punched in my code, let the thingy scan my eye then went into the room. I guess it’s not really a room, more like my own apartment. When I walked inside, I carried the package over to a little chair I had by the window.
Scarlet and I had it redecorated to my liking. It was a modern looking place now. I had an updated kitchen, age appropriate furniture and the color was a pale blue, which was gender neutral, like I wanted. I decided a while ago that I could be a girl but I didn’t have to be overly girly to be one. Kind of like my bedroom. The pink was all gone. So was all the fluffy girly crap. I had a bed; a normal kind sized one. I had a vanity but it wasn’t on a pink desk. There were no stuffed animals and kitten posters. I didn’t have any posters now. I did have some prints on the wall though; most of them were Van Gogh’s. There were similar pictures on the walls in the rest of my place too. Scarlet wanted to put up some modern art but I don’t like it.
I curled my feet underneath me as I sat in the chair. I took a deep breath and opened the box. As soon as I did, I frowned. I was expecting a cool shirt or even a skirt. What I wasn’t expecting was what was there. I reached into the box and pulled out the hat first. OK, the hat I liked. It was a cool green Robin Hood one, with a real feather and everything. It was a lot like the more I saw in the costume shop in Florida. The rest of the costume, I groaned at. It was a Robin Hood costume, a green dress with a tattered look to it. It looked like something that Errol Flynn would have worn if he’d been a girl. Underneath it was a pair of green leather boots and a note.
I sighed. Mia was making herself known once again. I took out the note and read it aloud.
“OK, I know what you said and I think you’re wrong. Have you been reading the papers lately, there’s super-heroes popping up all over the place. I know they have superpowers and things but you have something they don’t, you have ingenuity. I think you could make a real difference and really help people. That’s why I bought this for you. You don’t necessarily have to wear it but I want you to think about it. There are a lot of people out there that need your help. I know you can’t go toe to toe with some of these super powered madmen but maybe you could help the little guy. You said that’s the reason you pretended to be a hero the last two times. Just give it some thought. Give me a call when you’ve made up your mind, Mia.”
I sighed and put the note back into the box.
I guess I can at least try it on. I took the box and walked into my bedroom. I made sure the blinds were shut and covered the camera I wasn’t supposed to know was there. I stripped to my underwear and slipped the dress over my head. It was a perfect fit; at least Mia got that right. I made sure it was proper but groaned a bit when I saw myself in the mirror. It was a cool shade of green but it was real skimpy. It had no sleeves and the skirt was so short that it barely covered my butt. There was this little belt too and when I tightened it, it made my hips look bigger. I’m not sure if I liked that. But I was being objective here and promised myself to try the whole thing on.
I sat on the bed and slipped on my boots. They were quite comfortable, actually. They had a two-inch heel but that was nothing anymore. I walked around a little bit, getting a feel for them. I put the hat on last but it still didn’t look right. I guess I preferred a hooded cloak. The hat was cool and all but, it made me look like I was trying to be Robin Hood. I didn’t want that. Robin Hood was my idol but I didn’t want people to think I was copying him.
I turned left and right, modeling in the mirror. Miss Arrowette never looked better. I groaned; I had to drop that name. I’d been thinking about it for a while actually. I know I’d agreed not to do the hero thing but it still didn’t mean I couldn’t come up with a cooler name. I thought of it shortly after BB gave me his good luck charm. For the longest time I sat racking my brain when I finally pulled it out from my shirt and rubbed it, pleading for some inspiration. When I looked at the pendant in my hand, it came to me.
Could I do this? Those people on the news were Metahumans. I didn’t have superpowers; I couldn’t compete with them. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t try. Mia was right; I was being foolish. As soon as I looked into the mirror and saw myself, I knew I couldn’t give it up. I’d only done it twice but it felt so good to help those people. I took a deep breath and turned away from the mirror. I walked over to my jeans and took out my phone. I dialed Mia’s number and waited until she answered.
It didn’t take her long. “I just got home, I’m exhausted,” she groaned.
I took a deep breath and laughed. “You’re right and I’m wrong.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, she sounded tired.
“I got your package.”
There was a moment of silence. Then she spoke again. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
I sighed. “I think I want to be a superhero.”
“You’re serious about this?” asked Mia for the umpteenth time.
After my revelation last night, it didn’t take me long to fall to asleep. It was kind of a weight off my chest really. After Mia was done squealing, she called me the bestest friend in the whole wide world. She started rambling on and on about all the cool stuff we could do. She had a list of stuff we needed to get, which included a police scanner, some cool blue-tooth like earpieces and a proper costume. When I mentioned her being my sidekick she laughed and said she was more of a behind the scenes kind of girl. She wanted to talk for hours last night but I was exhausted so I told her to call me in the morning.
Unfortunately, for me, Mia called at seven am.
She repeated the question; her voice was annoying so early in the morning. “Yes, I was serious last night.’
I groaned, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I struggled out of bed, trudged out of my room and still half-awake, I wandered into the bathroom. Looking at the girl in the mirror was still a bit shocking but I was kind of used to her now. She was still me after all, just a bit softer here and there. When I first saw my face, I was a bit surprised by it. My features had softened quite a bit and everything went from androgynous to downright girly. It was kind of scary actually. Now as I stared at my reflection, I was having a hard time seeing old Jonas in there at all.
She was still rambling about something but I was barely paying attention. I told her so and she huffed at me. “I was talking about your costume.”
“What’s wrong with the one you sent me?”
She sighed. “That was just to get you motivated. No one would take you seriously running around in something like that. I bought it at a Costume shop…you’d look ridiculous.”
I sighed this time. I wasn’t ready to show that much flesh to the world anyway.
“So what kind of costume do you think I should have?”
That set her off again, chattering a mile a minute. My head was throbbing from her talking so much. I needed to get her off the phone so I could wake up properly. Maybe after a shower and some breakfast, I’d be more receptive to her ideas.
‘Mia” I said, cutting her off in mid-babble. “I need to shower and wake up. Why don’t I send a car for you and we can talk about this in person.”
She squealed real loud. “You mean come there?”
I sighed. She was my best friend, so it was going to have to happen eventually. ‘Yes, I want you to come here and the two of us can discuss this for as long as you want. Give me about an hour to get freshened up and then I’ll send the car.”
“You’re the best friend ever, you know that.”
I nodded. “See you in a couple of hours.”
I ended the call and then made another quick one. I called my grandfather’s Security Chief, Marko, and told him I had a friend coming over in a couple of hours. He said he’d make the proper arrangements and send a car for her. I thanked him and clicked off. Marko kind of scared me. He was this great big mountain of a man, twice the size of normal human beings---or at least he looked it.
Many of the guys on his staff had this really cool nickname for him though, they called him “The Juggernaut” and it fit him to a tee.
After getting off the phone, I stripped out of my PJ’s and got into the shower. Usually I took hot showers but today I needed to wake up.
“Cold” I said in the clearest voice possible.
The shower was automatic and voice activated. There were four showerheads built into the walls and two in the ceilings. I could regulate temperature, intensity and quantity with a few choice words. This morning I wasn’t so picky. The shower was programmed with some of my presets though. When I said cold, I really meant about sixty degrees, which was borderline cold in my book. If I wanted really cold I would have said “Titanic” and the water would have been so fricking cold I’d of been blue by the time I got out.
I showered quickly; the water did the trick and truly woke me up. I dressed quickly too, pulling on an oversized t-shirt and a pair of tight shorts. All I had were small, tight shorts. Most of them were jean but a few were cotton. Apparently, the concept of girls shorts going any lower than mid-thigh was foreign to every designer in the world. After getting dressed, I made breakfast, which would have been really impressive except that it was all microwave-able. Scarlet didn’t like that and frankly, I didn’t care. She’d been trying to get me to eat right and I ate her crap whenever I had too. But I was a teenager and we don’t always eat nutritional things.
After breakfast, I sat on the couch and watched some morning cartoons on the Disney Channel. About an hour or so later, the Intercom buzzed.
“Miss Queen” said a nondescript female voice. “Your guest has arrived.”
My intercom was set up so all I had to do was speak. “Send her up.”
I pushed a button on the remote, switching off my TV and switching on the security footage from the elevator. My grandfather made sure that only he and I could do this. He was still convinced that someone was going to try to go after me again. So he tapped my television directly into the security feed. I could view the video of one camera or split the screen up into multiple views. On the screen right now, was Mia, standing in the elevator, holding a big bag? She looked a bit nervous and I knew why. This place was kind of daunting. I remember my first time coming inside and stepping into that huge elevator. It didn’t help either that Marko was riding it with her. She looked like a doll standing next to him. I smiled, wondering how scared she really was.
I watched until the elevator reached my floor. Then I switched it back to the TV and ran over to the door. Marko had a card that he could swipe and unlock any door in the building. I didn’t like it very much but my grandfather insisted that it was for my own safety. I heard his card swipe and the door clicked open. He opened the door for her, like a gentleman. Mia stood in the threshold for a few seconds, staring at the vastness that was my place. I waved a hand in front of her shocked face and when she didn’t show any sign of responding, I grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the room. Marko smiled slightly and closed the door.
Mia fully recovered a few seconds later. “Holy crap, is all of this yours?”
I nodded, still holding her hand. “C’mon I’ll show you around.”
I let her throw her bag on the couch then gave her the quick tour. She was impressed by absolutely everything. But it was the view that did her in. Like me, she absolutely loved it. She stood by one of my large windows and groaned. She pointed out the Golden Gate Bridge and a few other places. Then she pointed off into the distance and jokingly commented about seeing her house from here. We both had a laugh. I finished the tour by showing her my huge bedroom then led her back over to the couch.
“You don’t’ mind if I move in, do you?” she asked jokingly as we sat down.
I shook my head. “I’d love it actually; this place is too big for me. I’m thinking about getting a dog or something.”
We exchanged a few more awkward jokes then got down to business. Mia came prepared. She took a sketchbook and some color swatches out of her bag. I groaned when I saw them. I thought she was kidding about the whole costume thing but apparently, she was being serious. We spent the next couple of hours going through the stuff she sketched up. Besides being a competent computer hacker, Mia was a fantastic artist. Her sketchbook was completely full of different designs, all of them green and most a variation of Robin Hood’s iconic look.
“You’re serious about this?” I asked after looking at the hundredth drawing or so.
She nodded. “Do you realize how much I wanted to be a superhero when I was younger?”
I nodded. Where I was obsessed with Robin Hood, she was obsessed with men in spandex. It was kind of crazy how much she loved them. For a few Halloweens in a row she dressed up as one caped crusader after another. None of the costumes were ever green but they were still pretty cool. All of them had capes though; she was obsessed with the capes. Just like all the drawings in her book, most of them had some kind of cape. I wasn’t digging the cape look though and that’s where we were having problems. We started arguing about it and almost went to blows at one point---we’d never actually get that violent with one another but the possibility was there.
It was one of her last sketches that saved us. It was an all green bodysuit, very sleek and kind of cool. It was all one piece with this wicked arrow pointed straight up on the chest. Instead of a cape though, it had a hooded cloak, very similar to the green tarp I wore to save the people on the ship. When I mentioned it to her, she smiled and nodded. Apparently, she took that into account. She said after scoping out the grainy Miss Arrowette pictures on the Internet she saw how I preferred the hooded look.
“What are those on the arms?” I asked, pointing to the sketch.
“Vambraces” she said sheepishly. “I’m not sure why but I thought they were kind of cool.”
I told her I wasn’t so sure about them and she said they were negotiable.
But we decided right then and there that the costume search was over. This sketch was the winner. To make it official I tore it out of her book and set it on the table. After that, we discussed how to pull it off and I told her I had ways. My expense account was set up to only appear as transactions and never anything specific. Whatever I spent was just numbers in a computer somewhere. So in theory, I could order whatever I wanted and no one would question it. With that in mind, we decided to make the suit out of an ultra-light brand-new material that one of the Queen subsidiaries was developing. It was a substance called Perma-Flex, a bi-weave material being designed for soldiers to wear under their camos. According to reports, it was nearly indestructible, bullet proof from a distance and extremely flexible.
We took my measurements and made an order. We put a rush job on it, hiding it as an R&D test run. We had the hooded cape made of the same stuff but made sure it was lighter and a darker color.
“I assume you’re still going to use the bow?”
I nodded. “It's my signature.”
“Have you thought about sprucing things up a bit?”
She pulled out another sketchbook, this one didn’t have costumes, instead it was full of sketches of arrowheads. There was a bunch of different kinds in there, too many to count. Some of them were absolutely ridiculous but a few of them, like a tazer head, were kind of cool. We decided on several and I made another call. I wanted the heads made out of titanium, it was a bit expensive but it was worth it. I decided the shafts should be carbon and green. It was very important for them to be green.
Mia smiled at that.
“So have you thought of a new name yet?”
I smiled and nodded. “From now on, I’m the Green Arrow.”
It was pouring rain and I was crouched on the corner of the building, staring across the street. I could just see into the window with my trusty binoculars and my target was up to no good. I’d been trailing him for a few city blocks now, staying in the shadows, moving like a cat. I found him by accident, actually. I was browsing through one of the street markets when I noticed him and another guy suspiciously slip down an alley. I watched them disappear but made no move to intercept. How could I, I had Luke and Spencer with me. Luke was a softy and I probably could have sweet-talked him into letting me disappear, but Spencer watched me like a hawk now. He took offense to me ditching him all those weeks ago.
I didn’t get a bead on the guy again until he came back out of the alley, alone. He was a shifty looking sort, dressed in faded jeans and a big coat. He didn’t look too out of place except he was hunched over and had his hands in his pockets. I moved across the street quickly. I pretended to trip---which wasn’t that hard seeing as I was wearing two-inch heels. I fell into him, slipping one of my little tracking dots into his coat pocket. You’re probably wondering about the dots. Mia came up with them a few days after we decided to go into the superhero business together. She got them from some kind of security firm, pretending to be an over-protective mother worried about her teenage daughter. It was amazing what those places did to cater to the super rich.
We bought them in bulk. Mia re-wired them after that---she’s a bit of a geek when it comes to those things. She reworked them so that their signal only went to her software and not theirs. So it looked like she changed her mind and decided not to “bug” her kid. It was kind of cool and it sorta made us feel like spies.
Mia was able to electronically follow the guy around all day. She used her mad computer skills and created a backdoor into one of Queen Industries “communication” satellites. She was able to use the satellite to track our “perp”. All day he was in and out of similar alleys. He always went in with someone and came out alone. His behavior reeked of drug dealing and that was Green Arrow business.
“Is he still in the room?” asked her voice in my ear.
I pressed my throat mike. “Aren’t you the eyes in the sky. Can’t you tell me?”
I smiled. I was enjoying the teasing game the two of us had going. It started about a week ago when I donned my “tights” for the first time. On my first official outing as the Green Arrow, things didn’t really go as planned…
The scanner chirped to life, Mia squealed.
“This is it,” she said, tapping away on the keys of her laptop.
It was a brand new one, the best on the market; it was a gift from me. But all the modifications on it were all hers. I bought it and then had it specifically tweaked. The laptop was now one rad little piece of tech. The R&D guys went nuts when I had it shipped to them and told them what I wanted. They were a little suspicious at first but I told them that it was for private web surfing---everyone in the company knew that the old man kept me on a short leash, one that included monitored Internet usage. The guys were all too happy to help. I’m not sure exactly what they did but now the thing couldn’t be hacked, traced or EMP’ed---whatever that is. They told me it was state-of-art and that was good enough for me.
I looked over her shoulder at the screen and saw a 3D diagram of downtown appear. She made the diagram smaller and brought up several screens, each showing different viewpoints of the road. I realized she’d somehow hacked into the transit mainframe and was watching through the traffic light cameras. In the background, the police radio kept buzzing. There was a high-speed pursuit in progress; the suspect robbed a bank by tearing the doors off its hinges, grabbing everything he could carry and then walking right out the front door. The security guard tried to stop him but the bullets actually bounced off his body.
“He’s going into the warehouse district now,” she said as she typed and brought up another screen.
The image filled the whole laptop, revealing a large warehouse where a red Volvo pulled up too. A large man wearing a black ski mask climbed out of the little car, holding a large bag on his shoulder like it weighed nothing. Behind him, four police cars squealed into the frame. Two officers got out of their cars, pointing their guns at him, shouting at him. The guy set the bag down gently, grabbed the bumper of the Volvo and tossed it like it was made of tissue paper.
The car smashed down on the two cars that the officers just exited.
“That guy’s fricking huge” I said, flabbergasted “did you see what he did to that car?”
Mia smiled. “He’s perfect. If you can prove to the world that you can take him down, then everyone will know that you mean business.”
“I’m an archer, Mia; my arrows will bounce right off that guy.”
She smiled. “Normal arrows maybe but not your arrows.”
My arrows came a couple of days ago. They weren’t fully titanium but they were close enough. The heads were anodized to look green, which fit in real well with me. There were thirty-six to begin with, six broad-heads, six bodkins, six blunts, and twelve arrows that Mia affectionately called “trick” arrows. Those were the ones I wasn’t so sure about but she was convinced that they’d make all the difference. The arrows were stored in a hard black case, which I kept hidden at the bottom of my new trunk. The trunk we bought online, it looked like a normal clothes trunk except it had a false bottom. It was in this false compartment that we decided to hide my arrows and my costume. My bow we left out in the open, it was my usual X-Appeal but we spray painted the whole thing green.
“How are my arrows going to take him down?”
On the screen, the cops had opened fire and the bullets weren’t doing a thing. There were more police cars there now but they were keeping their distance. The big brick house of a guy swatted the bullets away like they were flies. Then he picked up his bag and stomped into the warehouse. The police didn’t follow---who would.
“Your normal broad-heads won’t but try the number fives, they pack quite a punch.”
Mia made up both of our minds right then and there. I was going out to take on this guy and there was nothing I could do to change her mind. So I sighed and went along with it. It didn’t take me long to suit up. The Perma-Flex was a little uncomfortable and a bit chaffing in the crotch but it fit like it was supposed to. I put on my boots, my gloves and Mia helped with the hooded cape. We added a mask to our design a day after our brainstorming session, we both agreed we didn’t want anyone knowing who I was. It didn’t cover my whole face, just my eyes, kind of like the Zorro mask I wore at the mall.
When I was all suited up, I stared at myself in the mirror and groaned. “I look like Kermit the Frog.”
She smacked my arm.
That’s all the motivation I needed. I took a deep breath, loaded all thirty-six arrows into my quiver then grabbed my bow. I asked her about leaving the building and she said she had it all worked out. She tapped away on the keys again and smiled. Apparently, she got into the building security mainframe and tricked the cameras into playing a continuous loop of empty hallways and an empty elevator. I was free to move about the building without the cameras picking me up. When I asked about actual people, she smiled. She thought of that too. She created some kind of plumbing emergency on one of the top floors, which had drawn a lot of the personnel to keep it under control.
“You have about twenty minutes to get out of the building.”
I ran out of the room and into the elevator. Time was tight; the elevator ride alone was at least ten. I didn’t even get to ride it all the way to the lobby either. Mia stopped it at the second floor and told me to take the stairs. Apparently, she unlocked one of the emergency exits. I ran down the stairs, taking them two steps at a time. When I pushed open the door to the outside, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t have my license yet. My grandfather was being stingy about it. He made me sixteen to make me seem more mature---his words, not mine---and yet he refused to let me drive. He was afraid I’d get hurt or something.
So I was kind of surprised to see a black sedan waiting for me. I was even more surprised when Luke got out of the driver’s side. He looked at me and smiled.
“I can explain,” I said, and he laughed.
“My lips are sealed, Miss Queen.”
Chalk one up to Mia. I ran into the car as he opened the door for me. I got into the back and kept low as we drove away. Luckily, for me the windows were tinted black. We drove at the speed limit, the last thing we needed was to be caught by the police. When we got close to the warehouse district, a police officer on foot stopped the car. Up ahead I could see the commotion. There was a large crowd gathered around the police barricade. I saw at least four news vans, several reporters and two helicopters buzzing overhead, one of them was the police.
Luke wasn’t allowed to go any further so he backed up a bit. He pulled into a side alley where I got out of the car and decided to go on foot. The warehouse buildings were real close together so it would be easy enough to get from one to the other. I decided to take the high road. I climbed the fire escape on the side of the building, my body as shaky as the metal staircase that I was ascending. When I reached the top, I moved quickly across the roof, stopping at the edge to get my bearings. The warehouse that the police were surrounding was across the street. The two buildings were so close that I could almost jump across.
But I had other problems; there were three police snipers up here with me. Luckily, their backs were to me but it was only a matter of time before they saw me. I bit my lip and cursed.
“There’s only three,” squawked Mia’s voice in my ear.
“Easy for you to say, Speedy.”
“Try number three.”
I reached into my quiver and searched for the arrow she mentioned. We named all the trick arrows to make it easier to use them. Number three was one of the ones that I was most familiar with because it was the hardest to perfect. When we first came up with the trick arrows, it was one of the first ones we thought up. I made it very clear that I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So far, I’d been able to get away with winging my opponents, hitting them in non-vital places but the idea didn’t sit well with me. It made me feel like I was hunting them. So we devised the arrows to make them so I could subdue my opponents without ever truly hitting them.
Number three was a gas arrow.
I pulled it from the quiver and aimed at the wall in-between two of the three snipers. I fired and kept my distance as the arrow did its trick. We originally envisioned it as an arrow that had a gas canister instead of an arrowhead but it would have been too heavy to fire. So instead, we came up with an arrowhead that was a small gas canister itself. When it impacted with a hard surface, the head erupted and gas spilled out. The head was a bit bigger than the other heads, making it a little harder to fire, so compensation was needed. I practiced a few times with some dummy arrows and I think I got it down pretty good.
When the arrow hit the wall between the police snipers, the effect was instant. There wasn’t much gas but enough to startle someone. My original idea was to put someone out with it but we both decided that was ridiculous and impossible. So while the three of them were coughing and gagging, I took off at a run. I went right between them, leaped over the side of the building and onto the roof of the other in one large bound.
I landed on the balls of my feet and took off at a run. The warehouse roof was flat and I ran with as little noise as possible---BB taught Roy and me how to do that. A little hatch led inside. It wasn’t too heavy so I was able to lift it and slip inside without too much of a problem. I landed on a catwalk, kicking up a whole lot of dust. I gagged and put a hand over my mouth to suppress a cough. Below me, I saw the big guy stomping around, arguing with someone on the phone. I got a good look at him, without his mask, and I groaned.
Calling him a guy was an understatement. The man below me was as far from a guy as I was. He was some kind of monster. He was completely bald, looked to be about seven foot and was as wide as a truck. But it was his skin that made him look so freakish, it wasn’t normal like everyone else’s, it was red. In fact, it looked a lot like brick. Just great, I found myself some kind of freakish brick dude.
“I don’t care what you say, I did the job, so the cash is mine!” he angrily shouted into the phone, his voice was grating and sounded like gravel.
He crushed the phone in his hand and threw the twisted remains onto the ground at his feet.
I took a deep breath. Someone once said, “The best plan is to have is none at all”. I’m not sure who said it but they’d clearly never seen a brick man before. I nocked one of my normal arrows, a broad-head, thinking maybe I can get him in a vulnerable spot. I crouched low on the catwalk, took aim for one of his feet and fired. My plan was to put the arrow it one of the crevices between his toes. But plans only looked good in the head sometimes. The arrow found its mark but the titanium crumpled on his foot like it was made of aluminum foil. I cursed. The Brick man snapped around, spotting me instantly.
“What the hell are you supposed to be?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I nocked another arrow and let it fly. My hope was to hit him in the eye but it crumpled again. He looked a bit annoyed after that. There was a large metal barrel nearby. He grabbed it and threw it at me before I knew it was coming. It smashed into the catwalk, tearing into the spot I was only moments before. I’m not sure what happened exactly. I should have been creamed by the barrel but somehow I dodged it. For a second there I saw it moving real slow in the air and I was able to time myself to move out of the way. It was just like the time I fought those guys on the cruise ship.
The Brick---let’s call him that---laughed. ‘You’re a Meta aren’t you?”
No, I’m not, that’s crazy.
He laughed as he continued, grabbing another barrel. “I read in the news that we’ve been popping up all over the place. I’ve been keeping taps on the police bands, wondering if another one would pop up in the city.”
He threw the second barrel. Once again, I saw it coming and it somehow slowed down. I was able to move out of the way before it smashed into another part of the catwalk. Everything creaked and groaned. Two sections of the catwalk were smashed to pieces; it would never be able to take another blow. I had to get off it and fast. I looked around, trying to figure out my best choice. I couldn’t jump because the fall would kill me. There were some metal beams crisscrossing the ceiling but I wondered if I could jump up there before he threw another barrel.
I need a grappling gun or something.
I took a chance and jumped straight up. It was a good choice because a third barrel slammed into the spot where I’d just been crouching. The catwalk gave out finally; groan, then it came crashing down to the floor. I used the noise and the confusion to pull myself up onto the beam. A close of smoke and dust rose from the mangled wreckage. The Brick started to cough and gag, giving me the needed time to plan a proper strategy. I knew my normal arrows were worthless. I could continue firing them but that would only piss him off. So I’d have to rely on my trick arrows and I only had eleven of those left. I need to bring more of those and less of the normal.
I tapped my throat mike, trying to see if I could raise Mia. We decided on radio silence during missions unless it was absolutely necessary. I tried to raise her but all I got was static from my earpiece. Apparently, the warehouse walls were causing some kind of interference. So I’m on my own, which arrow did she say to use? I counted them off in my head, trying to remember what each did. When I got to six, I sighed. It was our pride and joy but it was completely dangerous.
‘You’re a wily one,” shouted the Brick, once the dust had cleared. “I could use someone like you. Why don’t you drop this hero thing and join me. I’ll give you an even share of the loot, how does seventy thirty sound?”
I groaned. This guy was unbelievable. I still didn’t respond to his taunts. Instead, I decided to speak with actions. I nocked the arrow, aimed at the floor by the son of a bitch’s feet and prayed. I let it lose and grabbed the support of the beam, holding on tight. When the arrow hit the ground, it exploded, sending concrete and dust flying into the air. It was quite a bang, louder and more potent than I thought it was. Number six was our explosive arrow; the head was hollowed out and packed tightly with plastique. It wasn’t enough to be too dangerous but it was enough to blow a wall to smithereens, as well as a human I suppose. Number six was a last resort, to use only when nothing else worked.
Through the smoke and the dust, I heard the laughter.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“Is that all you got?” he shouted, stepping from the wreckage without even a scratch.
There was a big hole in the floor; a water pipe had actually burst, spewing water all over the place. The Brick was completely unharmed. His clothes were tattered and in shambles and his brick-like skin was a bit scorched but his body was absolutely fine. He shook off a bit, brushing dust and cement debris from his shoulder. Then he grabbed another barrel and let it fly toward me. It slammed into the metal beneath my feet but the beam was a lot stronger than the catwalk.
Instead, the barrel exploded on impact, sending a gooey paste all over me. I gasped and slipped, losing my footing. When I fell, I half expected to hit the ground but I didn’t. Instead, I landed in his large hands. He cradled me to the floor and left me lying there. HE stood over me, staring down with the biggest smirk on his face.
“I may be the bad guy here but I’m no monster”. He looked me up and down and laughed. “You’re just a little girl, aren’t you?”
I kicked to my feet. I never wanted to get close enough for them to discover my true gender. I scrambled away but it was hard because I was covered with the gooey stuff. It was sticky too and made it hard to walk. It clung to my body, covered my face, got in my hair. That made me groan a bit, signifying that I truly was a girl after all. I pulled some of the stuff off my chest, trying to see what it was that I was covered in. I gasped; it was glue. I looked at the barrels; there were hundreds of them all around me. I suddenly realized where I was: this was an old glue factory warehouse. I remembered a story about it on the news. The glue factory closed and they moved something like five hundred barrels of the left over stuff here for storage.
I tried to use my bow but my hands were too slick and slimy.
Brick laughed and walked toward me but even he was having problems. The glue was all over the floor now and he was slipping and sliding too. I watched him, seeing how he lumbered about, trying to lift up his feet but unable to do so because the ground was too slick. It gave me an idea. I slipped and slid over to a stack of boxes. I ripped one open and saw small cans of industrial strength glue. I hefted one in my hand; it had the weight and size of a softball. It was a long shot but it was the best thing I had.
Brick wasn’t paying attention to me anymore. He was giving problems of his own. The glue hardened fast. It would have made me all stiff but my costume was made with a different polymer than everything else, it was meant to be versatile and that apparently include being glue proof---good to know. Brick was not so lucky. His body was already started to freeze up. Apparently, my exploding arrow blew up more than the floor, because Brick was covered in glue, everywhere except his head of course. That’s what I aimed for when I threw my can.
It hit him in the face and exploded, just like I thought it would. His entire head was covered in it. I didn’t stick around to see how things went. I slipped and slid toward the door of the warehouse, opening it up a bit. Police lights and camera lights were on me in a heartbeat. A couple of police officers came forward but kept their distance.
“Hold it right there” said one of the nearest officers.
I raised my hand, showing him I meant him no harm. “I stopped the Brick dude but you better hurry because I’m not sure how long that stuff is going to hold him.”
The officers were stunned for a few seconds but they snapped to it pretty quickly. They forgot about me for a moment as they rushed into the warehouse. I used that confusion as my time to escape. I slipped along the outside wall and ran for the alley in-between the two buildings. There were a lot of flashes and several of the reporters shouted at me but I ignored them. I turned only when someone asked my name. I wasn’t going to let them call me Miss Arrowette anymore.
“I’m the Green Arrow” I said and then ran off down the alley.
Luke was waiting for me, leaning against the car when I arrived. He gave me a strange look and I gave him one back. Neither of us said anything as we got into the car. I told him to take me home and we did so quickly. Mia’s voice came back on the earpiece, asking me how things went. I ignored her as I took a few deep breaths. When I finally responded I told her under no circumstances, was I ever going up against a Metahuman again!
The fight with Brick was a week ago. I’d already learned so much from it. For starters, I made sure, if I was going up against a Meta before I went to the rescue, that way I could come better equipped to fight. Mia also thought it might be a good idea to know exactly who or what I was up against before I actually went off to the rescue, too. She started making an extensive database, compiling information on the all the known Metas and doing some research to see if she could find ones that the world didn’t know about yet. The Database was still in the early stages but it was coming along…the only info in it at the moment was about the heroes on the scene but it was good to have. You never knew when something like that might come in handy.
I shifted my position, trying to get some feeling back in my cramped limbs. The drug dealer was still across the street, trying to peddle his wares to a twenty something year old girl. The two of them were in the midst of an argument at the moment. No drugs had been passed between the two of them yet but as soon as they did, I’d strike.
The drug dealer was my third or fourth mission now. After getting in way over my head with Brick, I toned things down a bit. The other couple of missions were miniscule; I captured a purse-snatcher and foiled a few robberies. But none of those made it into the news, at least not the big networks.
My fight with Brick made national news and was in the papers the next day. Everyone was praising the Green Arrow for heroism and bravery. The only one who seemed to make the connection between her and Miss Arrowette was a certain reporter with the initials L.L. She was going to be a problem, she really needed a hero of her own to bug. Fortunately, Miss Arrowette was old news. Everyone wanted to know about the new kid in town. I wasn’t ready for interviews yet. I don’t think I ever will be either. I didn’t want to pour my heart and soul out to the masses like some of the other heroes on the scene. I’d liked being the mysterious loner; it had a certain appeal to it.
‘Anything yet?” asked Mia, she sounded kind of annoyed.
She was as bored as I was. After tagging the guy earlier today, she’d spent the whole day tracking him. The drug dealer lived a boring life, besides his job of course. All he did was go from place to place, making mysterious deals. We weren’t even sure he was a drug dealer but he was clearly doing something illegal. Mia was hoping for a big score. We both were. This would probably be my last mission for a while; I was shipping out to Elias in a few days. Winter Break was over and school was starting in a few days. Neither one of us was stoked because it meant our hero business was over for now. Elias was about fifty miles north of the city, too far for us to have contact anymore---at least of the physical kind.
Mia tried to convince her parents to send her there as well but she missed the transfer deadline. We still had emails and phones to communicate with but it wasn’t the same. I’d just found my best friend again and it sucked that in a week or so the two of us would be parting. But we were planning to make the most of the time, besides the superhero stuff of course.
‘I feel like I should be wearing black, skulking in the shadows like this,” I said, trying to stay out of the glare of the street lamp that was about five feet away.
We decided it would be best if I tried to take this guy at night. Being a girl dressed all in green kind of drew a lot of unwelcome attention. But at night, I could hide in the shadows and wait there until the time to strike.
“What do you see?”
I sighed. She had an eye in the sky but apparently, it didn’t enable her to see into buildings. Queen-Scope 1 was a communication satellite or at least it was on paper. I’m not sure what it was really used for because that was classified but Mia seemed to think it was something notorious. It was no secret that the old man helped the government from time to time. But what the extent of that help is was anyone’s guess. It was surely enough to tap into security footage from pretty much anywhere, something that Mia was capable of doing with a few keystrokes.
I was about to tell her I saw nothing when it actually happened. The guy reached into his pocket and handed something to the girl. I smiled, that was my cue. I reached into my quiver and pulled out a Number Three. I aimed through the window, for the far wall, a spot right between the two of them. I fired as soon as the bag passed hands. The arrow hit the far wall and ruptured. The gas poured into the room, a little off-color puff. The two of them started to gag and choke. It was enough to get the two of them to run to one of the other windows. The girl got there first, opening it off, coughing. She was a bleached blonde with her roots showing and far too much makeup. The dealer followed a few seconds later.
I was actually perched on the fire escape across the alley. It wasn't the greatest spot to hide but at this hour, I was practically invisible---at least if you weren’t really looking. As soon as they stuck their heads out of the window, both of them saw me. I’m not sure which one was more shocked. We stared at each other for several seconds before the woman screamed. That snapped whatever shock they were in. The dealer reached by pulling his gun, I reacted by firing a blunt. I was faster, much faster. Long before he pulled the trigger, I put the arrow down the barrel of his gun. When he pulled a few seconds later, the gun erupted in his hand.
He screamed, dropping his little pistol. The woman screamed too and slammed the window as she and the dealer stumbled back into the room.
“Damn” I cursed.
“What is it?”
I took a deep breath and jumped across the alley. I landed on the other fire escape but just barely. I misjudged the distance and nearly tumbled to the street below. I caught myself, wavering a bit but I pulled myself together. On the other side of the window, inside the apartment, both of them were panicking. The woman was hysterical; the dealer was rolling around on the ground, clutching his hand. Neither one was paying much attention to me anymore. I used that to my advantage.
I slammed my elbow into the glass, shattering it. Boy did that fricking hurt. The woman screamed and ran for the door. It was heavily locked, there had to be at least ten different bolts and deadlocks. The dealer recovered enough to get to his feet. He didn’t make for the door though; instead, he grabbed the nearest thing, which happened to be a lamp. He came at me with it, catching me off guard. I was the arrow girl, not the super fighter. The lamp hit me in the shoulder, knocking me from the window. Fortunately, I fell forward, into the room. The dealer came down on me with his foot, slamming it into my back.
I rolled my body, knocking him off his feet with my momentum. I pushed myself to my feet about the same time he did. He came at me with a left jab. I don’t know if I told you this but I’m a slight person and even though I was pretty buff from my island regimen, being hit in the face still hurt like hell. I stumbled back, nearly falling over the ugliest footstool I’d ever seen. The dealer came at me again but this time my body reacted. His next swing came in slow motion. I was able to dodge it but I didn’t see the woman. She must have gotten over her screaming fit because she came at me with a broken bottle.
I put up my arm just in time; the bottle grazed the suit but didn’t cut it. Perma-Flex was tough stuff. I grabbed her wrist, pulled her toward me and pushed her away. I did it all in one motion but it still was pretty clumsy. She fell backwards, landing on the couch. The dealer used that as a distraction and came at me again. He had a knife this time. He slashed at me but the cape caught most of it. The blade sunk into the Perma-flex, I twisted my body and pulled the knife from his hand. He looked a little shocked. It was long enough for me to punch him in the face. It wasn’t a very strong punch but it was enough. He stumbled back on to the couch, landing next to the woman. His head fell into her lap, but he didn’t get back up. I guess it paid not to be a junky. The woman stared daggers at me. I ignored her as I pulled some plastic ties from my belt and secured the dealer’s hands behind his back.
“You can’t just barge in here” she snapped, “This is my home.”
I groaned. I punched her in the face. It wasn’t exactly subtle but she went out faster than the dealer. I tied her hands behind her back too. I pulled out my scrambled cell phone and made an anonymous call to the police. I told them the address and said there was a surprise waiting for them. The dispatcher wanted more but I hung up before she got anything out of me. I left the same way I came. I thought about retrieving my arrow but where was the fun in that. Besides, I wanted the police to know that I’d done this. What other way would people know the good things that I’d done. I thought it was pretty mysterious.
I climbed out the window and jumped across to the other fire escape. Luke was parked a few blocks over, I told him to keep the car warm for me. I climbed to the roof and walking toward the other end when I noticed something a bit odd. It was a sense of being watched. I pulled an arrow from my quiver, snapped around and was seconds from firing. The arrow actually left my bow but it got no further than a few inches before it was enveloped it a bright green glow.
My mouth dropped open, stunned to see my arrow suspended in air.
“Hi there” said the glowing girl floating about five feet above my head. “I think you and I need to talk.”
I gulped. “Holy Hannah.”
I held the little green ring in my palm, staring at it. It was such a simple little thing, hardly the all-powerful thing she said it was. Why she gave it to me I’m not sure, but she seemed to think that it would help me out. She told me all about it, even after I refused it. Why did I refuse it? It still haunted my thoughts, much like everything of the last few days. How could everything go from the greatest time of my life to the worse? I’ve heard of things going downhill fast but I think the last couple of days was some kind of world record. First, it was the thing with Jade and then everything seemed to spiral out of control. I wanted to cry but no tears would come.
I bit my lip, it was the best I could do. I had the worst luck in the world. It seemed that God hated me and only wanted to see me suffer. Why was it that there were people out there that only had good things happen to them. Then there was someone like me and all I got were the bad things. First, it was my parents, then getting stranded on that island. Then this…I squeezed my eyes but the tears still wouldn’t come. They say one bad thing happens; many others follow. Ever since getting on that boat with my parents, there seemed to be nothing but bad things. I helped with some of them but there were those select few that just seemed to slip through my fingers.
I sighed, staring out the window as rain drummed on the roof of the limo. It was a miserable day but I think that was a given. It started raining last night and had yet to let up. On the news, they were already talking about flooding. They showed a neighborhood where the water was washing over people’s lawns; some of it was even flooding a few basements. I sighed again; wishing water was my only problem. Flooding I could deal with, everything else not so much.
I closed my hand on the ring. I was doing so well at the beginning of the week too, but I couldn’t help but think, why didn’t I take her up on her offer?
“You’re a hard girl to find, Miss Arrow,” said Jade as she hovered to the ground, a smile on her face.
All I could do was stand there and stare. She was here; she was actually standing before me. I lowered my bow and gulped, I almost shot the Green Lantern. She caught it of course but that wouldn’t have stopped me. If I hadn’t looked I would have kept firing and no one is that fast, not even me. Then again, she did have that freaky alien ring helping her.
Jade stood in front of me, crossing her arms but not in a threatening manner. She was taller than me, but most people were. She was a bit older too, I’d say about eighteen or so. She was prettier in person though. Her tight outfit really hugged her curves and made her by far the sexiest thing I’d ever seen. There was no way I could pull something like that off. My Perma-flex was tight but she looked like hers was painted on. I had to shy away a bit because it was a bit too tight in some places. How the hell could she move?
I finally found my voice. “You were looking for me?”
She smiled. “You’ve made quite a name for yourself in the last few months.”
Months, how much did she know?
She seemed to sense my thoughts. “First there was that thing on the cruise ship then that incident in the mall.” I nodded numbly. “You kind of disappeared a bit after that but you came out of hiding to help your friend in the forest.”
I interrupted her there. “You saw that?”
“I’ve been watching you since Florida, trying to discern if you were a threat or not.”
“What did you discover?”
“You’re smart, brave and loyal. You don’t want to get involved but somehow you can’t stand idly by when people are in trouble…those are all good qualities by the way” She smiled again; she had really nice teeth. “You’ve also been a little busy these past few days.”
I groaned. It kind of freaked me out a bit that she’d been watching me. What was so special about me anyway?
“Your fight with Daniel Brickwell was really impressive, it showed your resourcefulness.’
I nodded. “I wasn’t prepared for a Meta.”
“None of us are but it happens.”
She started talking about a couple of my smaller things too. Which brought her up to date now. The two of us were on the roof, staring one another down. I could still hear the police sirens only a few feet away and the copters were still circling. Neither of them were anywhere near us, which I was thankful for. I wasn’t ready to be on CNN, at least not on the interview end of things. I didn’t want to be one of those media mongers, trying to get my face all over the news---I think I already covered this once already.
She looked at my bow and smiled. “You skill with that is exceptional, beyond human in fact.”
“Just human” I added quickly.
She nodded. “And those arrows, did you design them or was it Miss Dearden?”
How the hell does she know these things? I didn’t like people poking into my business. I guess I was a little defensive, but you would be too if you grew up like me. Besides, I was getting kind of tired of the old man and all his spying too. I caught one of his goons lingering around my door the other day. He claimed he was just walking by when I confronted him. But I’d seen him before too, he was some kind of tail. He was there when Luke took me to the mall to get more clothes a few days ago and when we stopped for lunch; he slipped into the back of the restaurant. It bothered me that my grandfather didn’t even trust me when I was with his own people.
“You seem to know a lot about me?”
She held up her hand, clenched in a fist, so her ring was visible. “It's all thanks to this thing. No one’s secrecy is safe when the Ring is involved.”
She laughed. “I didn’t mean to be so invasive but I had to make sure you weren’t trying to get attention so you could spy on me later.”
“I have no reason to spy on you.”
“It's happened before.”
I understood her paranoia. I’d be a little paranoid too; there were a lot of people out there who wanted to know everything they could about these Metahumans. Just the other day there was some nut on the news going on and on about the Metas being a threat to humankind. He seemed convinced that they were somehow connected to global and domestic terrorism. He was petitioning Congress to let him great some kind of Metahuman Regulation Task-force or something. The newscaster thought he was a nut too, but she kept her cool. I was watching it with my grandfather at the time, during dinner, it was one of the only times the two of us spent together. He made a comment about the man, saying something about Bolivar Trask once being a very well respected pioneer in Robotics engineering before all this Metahuman business.
He wasn’t the only one, though. There were a lot of people out there ready to put the Metas on the chopping block, Lex Luthor being one of them.
Jade interrupted my thoughts. “I was wondering if there was somewhere else you’d like to go so we could talk more privately.”
I looked behind her. The copters were still circling but they seemed to be changing direction, coming our way. I cursed; it was only a matter of time before they noticed us. I thought about shooting out their lights but that wouldn’t really solve anything. Instead, I just nodded and pointed to where I knew Luke was parked. Jade followed me. I led her down the other side of the building and through the meandering alleyways. The news copter was the only one who followed us but we lost it when I took a couple of sharp turns. Finally, we came upon the sedan; Luke was sitting in the driver’s seat, reading the paper.
Jade put a hand on my shoulder, stopping me at the end of the alley.
‘I think this is private enough.”
“Luke’s okay, he’s on my side. He and Mia are the only ones who know.” Then I remembered my open comm. link. I tapped my throat mike. “Are you listening, Speedy?”
All I got was static.
“I jammed the transmission before I arrived. No offense but your friend would have recorded our conversation and I can’t have that.”
I nodded but it kind of ticked me off. I hated keeping things from her.
I wanted to tell her off but I was intrigued. It’s not every day that a superhero seeks you out. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“As I’m sure you probably know, I’ve been gathering a lot of Metahumans as of late and recruiting them to join me, sort of a joint venture if you will.”
Was she asking me to help her? “I’m not a Meta.”
Her eyes narrowed. She paused for a second, nodded her head slightly and spoke. “Are you sure about that?”
“I’d like to take you to my ship and run some tests to make sure. You’ve got an uncanny skill with that bow, far superior to any human. It’s likely that you have some metagenes and you don’t know about it.”
I stepped back from her. There was no way I was a Meta-anything. I was human, there was no way anyone was going to convince me otherwise. I didn’t hate the idea of being a Meta, but it scared me a bit. I was hoping that my skill was just that, a skill. It bothered me to think of it as something that came to me all of the sudden. Being human kept me grounded, kept me connected to the people I was helping. The people that needed me to help them. It was great and all, running around the world, stopping super powered freaks with laser beam eyes and things like that. But what happened to the little people, the ones that Metas didn’t bother. There were still crimes out there, normal everyday human crimes. No one was helping to stop those.
‘Why are you so interested in me?”
“I want you to join me and the others. I think you can help us make a difference. There are a lot of bad things and bad people in the world. Someone with your skill could be a real asset to my team.”
“I can’t go to your ship,” I told her honestly. “It was a nice offer but I think I have to decline on principle. One of us needs to be grounded. You guys fight freaks and monsters. You travel around the world, diverting natural disasters and stopping terrorists. Me, I’m a kid with a bow and I want it to stay that way.”
She nodded. “You’re much more than that too.”
“I can’t, the people need me here. I’m sure there a lot of people out there that want to join your group, that actually belong there but I’m not one of them.”
She nodded. “I had a feeling you were going to say that.”
She reached into her pocket, one that I didn’t even know she had and she pulled out a green ring. It wasn’t identical to hers but it was pretty close. She held it out to me and I took it reluctantly. I stared at it for a few seconds, trying to figure out what she wanted me to do with it.
“We use them for communication mostly,” she said as she began to glow. She floated into the air. “If you change your mind, put on the ring and I’ll come as soon as I can.”
She rose into the air and floated out of sight.
I opened my hand and looked at the ring again.
The encounter with Jade was three days ago. I thought long and hard about it for quite a while. I’m not sure why I declined exactly but I felt it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t cut out to be a hero like the rest of them. I was a hero, sure, but I wasn’t one of them. They were all special, they had super abilities, could do things that I could only dream of doing. Me, I was a kid with a bow. Yeah, so maybe I was a little faster than most kids my age. Maybe I could hit a bull’s-eye every time I fired but that didn’t make me super by any means. It just made well practiced.
I closed my hand and sighed.
After Jade had left, Mia was pretty frantic. She thought maybe I’d been caught by the cops or something. She was really scared when she lost both radio and visual. She went on and on for a while about it, not letting me get a word in edgewise. When I finally spoke, I told her about Jade. She shut up pretty quickly. Then she asked when we got to tour the ship. She wasn’t real happy when I told her I turned down the offer. She wasn’t pissed but she was kind of grumpy with me. She told me that I’d just screwed the opportunity of a lifetime but I didn’t see it that way.
I should have seen it that way.
After turning Jade down, things fell apart. I’d like to say they were gradual but that was a lie. They happened all in one big swoop. First, it was Luke. He seemed liked a pretty trustworthy guy but apparently he was just like all the others.
There was a knock on my door, interrupting my dark spawn slashing. I left the controller sitting on the couch and stood up. I looked down at myself and groaned; I wasn’t really dressed for guests. I quickly scrambled around the room, looking for my pants. I think I might have mentioned once or twice that I sleep in my underwear on more than one occasion. Last night when I got back from meeting with Jade, I was so sore and bruised from my fight with the drug dealer that I could barely walk. The Perma-flex did a good job protecting me but it didn’t make me impervious to pain---how cool would that be though. Instead, it sort of absorbed it but it suppressed nothing.
When I stripped out of my uniform last night, I was bruised from head to toe. They were those huge ugly ones too. Every time I moved, they hurt. I managed to barely get the outfit off before I stumbled into the bathroom. I drew myself a nice hot bath, with lots of bubbles. It was a girly thing but I’d embraced it wholeheartedly. I’d embraced most of the feminine lately and you know what, I kind of liked it. I’m sure my mother would have been proud to hear that. I soaked in the water for hours, letting it wash away the pain. It helped a little. When I actually went to sleep, it was in only a t-shirt and underwear.
So now here I was, frantically trying to find something to wear so I wasn’t indecent. I found a pair of track pants underneath the couch and pulled them on. It was just in time too because whoever was at the door got impatient and opened it on their own. I wasn’t looking at the door; I was busy shutting the game off.
“This is how you’ve been living these past couple of months” His voice was cold and judgmental, just like always.
I turned and saw my grandfather standing in the doorway. He was eying my place with contempt. It was the first time he’d actually been here. It was actually the first time I’d seen him in a couple of weeks. He didn’t look so good. He was kind of pale and much thinner. He was leaning on his cane, Locke standing close behind him.
I wasn’t in the mood to trade barbs with him today so I’d tried to be civil. “I call it organized chaos.”
It was a mess. My clothes were all strewn about, empty Chinese takeout and pizza boxes were scattered all over the floor. There was this smell too, I’m not sure where it was from but no amount of air freshener seemed to get rid of it. Hey, I may have looked and even acted like a girl but I was still a guy in my head. I was a bit of a slob, which always used to drive my mother nuts.
My grandfather walked into the room; over to the little table I had by one of the windows. Locke followed closely behind, handing him the early edition of the Daily Planet. I caught a glimpse of the headline: GREEN ARROW STRIKES AGAIN. There was a picture of the interior of the woman’s house, both the drug dealer and her bound on the couch. Underneath it was a close up shot of one of my arrows. I smiled; it worked out just as I planned. My grandfather didn’t look at the paper; instead, he eyed me up and down.
“How have your studies been progressing?” he asked, fingering the pile of books on the table.
They were all books he assigned me to read. Most of them were schoolbooks, to catch up on my work and make sure I was ready for classes when I went back. The rest of them were books on business and law and economics. He was clearly trying to make me into something I wasn’t, which was a junior him. I read the books though, in fact I absorbed them. They were boring but they were informative. I think I knew more about business than anyone on the planet. At least that’s what it felt like.
“Things are going well,” I said, sitting in the chair across from them.
I looked at the paper again, seeing the byline underneath the article. Damn Lois Lane again. Is there a story out there that she doesn’t snag?
“And your friend, Miss Dearden, how’s she doing?”
I groaned. He really was spying on me. At first, I thought I was being a little paranoid but know I knew. I felt my anger flare a bit. I gripped the edge of the table. I wanted this to be civil but he started it. I hoped he remembered that.
“Are you keeping tabs on me?”
“We both know you know that. So don’t ask questions you already know the answers to.”
I nodded. “You don’t trust me enough to make my own decisions?”
He smirked. “It's not about trust; it’s about protecting what’s important to me.”
I was ready for a fight. “To you or the future of your company?”
He changed tack. “When I’m gone, you’ll be the last Queen, there is no one else.”
“You never asked me what I wanted.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
The old man didn’t answer, not right away. Instead, he finally looked down at the paper and sighed. He stared at the headline for quite some time, not saying anything. I watched him for a while, wondering what he was thinking. Was he going to lecture me? Was he going to tell me what I could or couldn’t do? When he finally spoke, there was more edge to his voice than before.
“Have you been enjoying your free time activities?”
What did he know? I decided to play coy. “I’m not a fan of shopping but I’ve grown to love it. There’s something exhilarating about it. Have you ever been on the hunt for the perfect sale, stalking it through the store like a hunter in search of the perfect buck? There’s just something about it that makes everything worth the while.”
He nodded. “I can’t say that I have. Shopping and hunting have never truly interested me.”
He looked up from the paper and looked me in the eye. We stared each other down for a few seconds, neither of saying anything. But the look was everything. He knew, he knew everything and he didn’t approve. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn. It was my life, I was going to do what I wanted with it, and if he didn’t like, he could drop dead.
“I enjoy my free time and there’s nothing anyone can say to stop me from doing it.”
He nodded. “Mr. Cross seems to think you’re putting yourself into harm’s way.”
So it was Luke. I groaned; the bastard had sold me out. I knew there was something fishy about him tagging along and agreeing to do so. Mia had said he was on the level but I just knew he was reporting to the old man. Why wouldn’t he, he worked for the old bastard after all. Anger swelled in me again, I couldn’t believe he’d betray my trust like that. I had half a mind to kick his ass the next time I saw him.
I collected myself before I spoke again. “Mr. Cross doesn’t know what he’s talking about. My “shopping” expeditions are entirely safe. “
The old man stood up, leaving the paper. He glared at me, there was malice in his eyes, I saw it. He turned to Locke. “I want you to make sure my granddaughter is watched at all times. I want no more of this gallivanting about business.”
Locke nodded. I snapped.
I jumped up from the table and exploded at him. “YOU THINK YOU CAN STOP ME, YOU THINK YOU CAN KEEP ME HERE!”
The old man turned toward me. “That is very unbecoming behavior for a young lady, Olivia.”
I was floored. “I’M NOT A YOUNG LADY AND MY NAME ISN’T OLIVIA, YOU CRAZY, OLD BASTARD!”
I think I shocked him. I shocked myself. I said what I’d wanted to say to him from the moment he picked me up in the bus depot all those months ago. I saw it in his face, the look of defeat. He didn’t say anything but he lost. He nodded his head slightly and left the room. Locke glared at me but didn’t say anything either. He lingered in the door for a few seconds, waiting for my grandfather, and then left.
I sighed, triumphant. I didn’t know what it meant but I think I just won.
I didn’t know it at the time but it was the last fight the two of us ever had.
The car stopped moving but I only half paid attention.
I was still staring out the window; the rain was coming down pretty hard now. I could barely see anything, but I could make out the shapes of people as they passed by. There were a lot of them, more than before. I tried not to think about it but there was hardly a reason to avoid it. I had a half a mind to avoid it all though. I wasn’t ready for this, not so long after my parents. I kind of knew it was coming but that still didn’t mean I was prepared for it. There were only so many times one could do this before they weren’t able to do it anymore.
The partition slid open; the driver up front looked into the rearview mirror at me. “Are you ready yet, miss, or do you need some more time?’
Did I need more time, you bet your ass I did. I didn’t say that, instead I took another look out the window. There were so many people out there waiting for me, so many of them I didn’t know but would have to get to know awfully soon. I wasn’t ready for anything.
“Can you give me a few more minutes?”
He smiled weakly. “I understand.”
He closed the partition and I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and all I could see was the darkness of the hall. Only one thought was on my mind: Why couldn’t I have been faster?
“Have you given any more thought to accepting Jade’s offer?” asked Mia, her filing most of my laptop screen.
It was her idea to get the webcams; it was her way to help me through my temporary imprisonment. She sent me the webcam yesterday, after I called her last night and told her all about the conversation I had with my grandfather. The old man had been true to his word. He doubled security, changed the code on my door and made it so that I was only allowed out of my room when he deemed it necessary. I wasn’t exactly a prisoner but I sure as hell felt like it. I wasn’t the only one being punished either. Apparently, his security people discovered an “illegal hack” into their mainframe and were able to lock Mia out of it.
They weren’t able to trace her laptop---thank God---but they were able to write up a new program that she was so far unable to hack.
So, Green Arrow was suffering too. So were the people of the city who were being victimized while the Green Arrow sat in her room, grounded for trying to help them.
Luckily, I was still allowed access to the Internet or I would have died. I emailed Mia as soon as I found out I was now a prisoner and she tried to bust me out. That’s how we found out about her inaccessibility to the system now. We were both pretty bummed about that but there was nothing we could do at the moment. In essence, the Green Arrow was done for. It was all Luke’s fault too. The stupid traitorous bastard. If I ever saw him, again I was going to kick him in the balls so hard he was going to need surgery.
“You should use the ring,” said Mia, for the umpteenth time. “Maybe Jade can help. She seems to be pretty persuasive. Maybe she can convince your grandfather to let you continue what you’re doing.”
I laughed. “I’m supposed to use it for official business, not to help me get out of being grounded.”
“This is official. You can’t be the Green Arrow if you can’t get out of your room.”
I sighed; it was a conundrum.
We talked about other things. She kept moaning about school and how we were going to be so far apart. It kind of bummed me out too. We only had about half a week left before I was being shipped off up north. Mia actually started school on Monday but Elias apparently didn’t follow any set district rules. I guess that was one good thing about going to private school. But there were disadvantages too. I knew we had uniforms at SCH---Star City High---but the ones for Elias were absolutely awful. Thanks to Scarlet and Miss Frost, I had a better appreciation for fashion and I knew that the things that Elias passed for uniforms were not it. They were a hideous gray and white mess. There was a knee length pleated skirt, an itchy sweater vest and a horrible blazer. I looked like a rejected extra from a Harry Potter movie.
I was keeping the monstrosity buried at the bottom of my GA trunk. I was taking it with me of course, not that I expected to get much hero work done there. At least I’d be free to be myself there and not locked up like some kind of delinquent.
Mia groaned. ‘My mom just knocked on the door; it’s time for lights out.”
I looked at the clock on the wall and sighed. It was two in the morning, where the hell had the time gone.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
I shut the laptop, smiling. I was glad she still felt cool calling me Ollie. I couldn’t imagine being called Livy or something equally as dreadful.
I walked into living room, padding about in my bare feet. Once again, I was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and my underwear. Most of my pajamas were dirty, save for a sheer black baby doll but I wasn’t quite ready for that. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever be ready for it but Scarlet insisted I buy it. I tried to force it out of my mind as I walked over to the TV and shut it off. As soon as I did so, all the lights in the room shut off. I cursed, what the hell did I do now? I stumbled through the room, over to the wall where the intercom was. I hated using it but I was glad it was there. Sometimes when I didn’t feel like calling for my own food, I made the receptionist downstairs do it for me.
I pressed the button and took a deep breath. “Hello, is anyone there?’
I let go of the button and waited. But nothing happened. In fact, when I stopped to listen, I realized there was static coming from the other end of the intercom. What the hell? There was no way that it was a coincidence. I took a guess and tried my door. I grabbed the knob and gave it a twist, the door opened without a problem. Son of a bitch. I peered out into the little foyer area but everything was pitch black. The whole floor had no power. I shut the door and ran to the window, pressing my face to the glass and looking down. Unusually I could see the lights from the other floors reflected on the buildings around the Tower.
But the only lights I saw were from the ones the other buildings. The main source of illumination came from the building across the way. It was brand new and half way complete. I saw a lot of floor lights still on. They’d been working later and later each night, racing to get it done on time. Last night they were out there until at least three am. Tonight there didn’t seem to be anyone there but that didn’t mean a thing. I often didn’t see anyone from my window anyway.
I padded away from my window, a little confused. If the power was out, the backup power should have kicked in. Not only that but security was on a completely different system, there was no way that it could go out unless someone deliberately cut it.
The realization dawned on me quickly. Someone was in the building. Just like before but somehow they’d figured out how to get past security. Without any power, whoever they were after was a sitting duck.
I ran over to my trunk, thinking of only one thing. They’re here to finish the job; it was the only answer. For weeks, they’d been trying and had failed so far. Someone was out to get my grandfather, this company and me. I opened the trunk, tossing everything out as I grabbed my suit, my hood and my arrows. My bow was always nearby and at the ready. I’m glad the old man hadn’t pried too far into the room and poked in my stuff.
I dressed quickly and slowly the reflection in the glass changed. Gone was Olivia Queen to be replaced by the Green Arrow once again.
I nocked an arrow, raised the bow and left the room.
If all the power was out, I knew the elevators wouldn’t be working either. So I took the stairs. This time of night, I would assume my grandfather would be asleep so I was about to go up but stopped. Scarlet told me that my grandfather was getting a lot of pressure to sell the company and he was spending all hours in the office, crunching numbers, trying to figure out ways to stop the greedy circling vultures. Everyone knew my grandfather’s health was waning and it was only a matter of time before he was gone. They were all circling, trying to pick the carcass that was Queen Industries. The old man had yet to make any public and formal announcement but he had plans to name me his heir. He told me a few weeks ago, over breakfast one morning. I was a little floored by it, but I’d been expecting it for some time now. Not that I was too happy about the whole thing. I wouldn’t actually be running the company; someone else would do that for me until I finished college and officially took over. It was kind of daunting and scary but I had a lot of time to prepare for it.
So instead of up, I went down.
I made my way quickly down the stairs, taking them two at a time. When I reached my destination, I pushed the door open with my foot, bow raised high. I stepped into the hallway and saw a gruesome sight. The hall was bathed in dim lighting, tinted and sparse. It was the emergency lighting system; it was only throughout the business part of the Tower. The residential part was supposed to have their own lighting but apparently, it hadn’t gone on. Or maybe someone hadn’t had the chance to do so because scattered before me were three or four bodies.
All of them were killed where they stood, their weapons still in their holsters, dead before they knew what hit them. I bent down next to the nearest one and paused. A bullet didn’t kill him or a knife, sticking out of his back, like a deadly flag, was an arrow shaft. I touched the fletching with my fingers; it was as black as the shaft. It was a deadly shot, a kill shot, right between his shoulder blades. The guy on the ground was probably the first to go. The other few around him were shot in various stages of alertness; the one furthest down the hall actually had a black arrow in his throat.
I felt sick to my stomach. I recognized the arrows immediately. They were from the same archer that killed those mercs on the cruise ship. I felt my heart thud into my chest. Why the hell would he save me and kill all these guys? What the hell was he doing here?
I crept down the hall slowly, alert the whole time.
My grandfather’s office was through the big doors at the end. Usually there were two guys standing outside of it but I figured that they must have been either in the hall dead or somewhere inside. When I approached the door, I nudged it open with my foot. I’d never been in his office but I knew the layout. The reception area was large, with a lot of comfy chairs, a table and a little coffee area. His secretary had her desk over by the doors that led into the main office. Everything now was shrouded in darkness. I felt my way through the room, using the moonlight shining through the big windows to guide me.
When I got to the secretary’s desk, I found a middle-aged woman slumped back in her chair, an arrow in her heart. There was an expression of shocked surprise on her face, her eyes open and staring. I closed her eyes, sad for this person who never even saw it coming. I was also afraid, afraid for my grandfather and what possibly lay beyond those double doors.
I took a deep breath and pushed the doors open, prepared for anything. The office was bathed in darkness like the reception area but I could see two primary shapes: one of them a large desk and other a man standing behind it. At first, I thought it was my grandfather but this guy was taller, crouched over a computer terminal, typing away. He didn’t seem to notice me at first because he was busy on the computer. I slipped into the room as quiet as a mouse. I’m not sure when he caught onto my presence but as soon as he did he reached for something resting against the desk, probably his own bow.
I fired at arrow. Even in the dark, I had a fifty- fifty chance. I put the arrow between his fingers, right into the desk, startling the hell out of him. He snapped his hand back quickly, searching the darkness. He leaned forward, stepping into the glow of the moonlight and I gasped. I knew that face, I knew it well. The same brown hair now streaked with gray. The same goatee and the same chiseled features. I’d been searching for this man for years, scouring the Internet for any recollection of him but I’d never been able to find any.
Now here he was, standing in my grandfather’s office, dressed all in black, the man from the cruise ship.
“Merlyn” I said, my voice soft and unbelieving.
The man squinted and smiled. “Only three people in the world could make a shot that accurate in the dark. I’ve killed the other two and the third is me.”
I harrumphed. I knew how to shoot in the dark because he taught me. It was one of his lessons. He tied a blindfold around my eyes and made me shoot at a target bell. It took me a few tries but I was able to do it eventually. He had been so impressed at the time.
“A student learns a lot from their teacher,” I said coldly, nocking another arrow and keeping on him like a hawk.
“”You’ve come a long way from the little pipsqueak of all those years ago, Miss Green Arrow.”
I smirked. Of course, he knew, how could he not. He taught me everything I knew, so of course he’d recognize his own work. “Why did you let me go on the boat?”
His eyes narrowed. “It wasn’t my job to kill you.”
“And it is now?”
He didn’t answer right away; instead, he kind of dodged the question. “Your grandfather has made a lot of friends and even more enemies. My employer has been very keen to get rid of him for some time now. He tried subtle business tactics at first but when they didn’t work he tried more drastic means.”
It was another lesson Merlyn taught me. The ideal way to kill something was to go for the heart. I realized it then and there. I knew all along but he just confirmed it for me. “He sent those guys after our boat, didn’t he?”
“It was supposed to shake the old man, make him more flexible and grieving. But who knew he was a cold-hearted bastard. When killing you and your parents didn’t work, my employer decided to use more ruthless means. He hired a bunch of mercenaries to take one of his cruise ships, hoping that the bad publicity would tarnish your grandfather’s reputation and cause him to lose stockholders, enough so that his company would end up in the hole.”
I screwed that plan up. I smiled at that. “What were you doing there?”
“Making sure they succeeded and then kill them all when they were done. I was surprised to see you there actually. I didn’t know it was you then but it didn’t take me long to make the connection. You did my work for up until the end there. You could have had those two if you’d listened to what I’d taught you.”
I sneered. “I’m no murderer, not like you.”
He laughed. “Still don’t have the gall for it yet. But don’t worry someday you will and you’ll be just like me.”
I looked at my grandfather’s chair, noticing it was empty. I had hope; maybe Merlyn hadn’t finished his job. He saw me looking at the chair and smiled.
“I thought he might be here too. I came here first, actually, but the old bastard wasn’t here. So I went upstairs and found him in the bed” He smirked.
“Unlike you, I have no problem doing what it necessary to get the job done.”
A tear rolled down my cheek. My hand shook, the arrow wobbled a bit.
“Don’t be so shocked,” he said, slowly moving his hand toward the side of the table. “You knew it was going to come to this eventually. I mean after all, I’m Merlyn the Magician, the Greatest Archer the world has ever seen.”
I don’t know how he distracted me but he did. It was only for a split second but it was all the time he needed. He had a crossbow at his side; I never saw it. He raised it and fired. The bolt flew through the air but it came at me in slow motion, just like on the ship, just like with Brick. I moved my body, allowing the bolt to sail through the air, past my head and into the wall behind me. I fired my arrow, hitting Merlyn in the shoulder. The world came snapping back at me in full motion; Merlyn screwed and dropped his crossbow.
“NO” he shouted. “IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. I HAD YOU, THERE’S NO WAY YOU COULD HAVE ESCAPED IT.”
I drew another arrow, not paying attention to the fact that it was a number six.
“I guess that means I’m the better archer after all.”
“You” he groaned through the pain, clutching his shoulder, while he gasped on his knees. “You’re no archer because you’re still unable to take the killing shot.”
‘No I can’t and I never will because I’m not like you, Merlyn.”
I smirked and fired. The arrow flew by his head and stuck in the glass behind him. He started laughing and arrow exploded. The blast threw us both back into the room. I went stumbling through the open doorway, back into the reception area. Merlyn was blasted forward but only for a few moments. The suction from the broken window pulled him back. He was screaming as he was sucked out the window, pulling the desk and a few other things in the room with him.
I slammed the double doors before I met the same fate, slumping to the ground, panting.
I stared there for the longest time, trying to figure what the hell just happened. It occurred to me seconds later that I shot a number six. I didn’t even know I had one in the quiver. I laid there for a few more minutes, panting and praying before I got back up. The lights snapped back on but I didn’t care. I got up and ran out of the room, down the hall and toward the stairs. I took them two at a time, tears streaming down my face as I ran. When I reached the floor of my grandfather’s pent house, I found Spencer and Locke, both dead. I ignored them and ran into my grandfather’s room.
He was lying on the bed just like Merlyn said, a black arrow shaft in his chest. I ran forward and checked his pulse. But I knew as soon as I touched his body that he was dead. He was cold to the touch and not breathing. I fell on his chest, crying. I’m not sure how long I was there but I think it was Marko who found me. He lifted me off the old man, passing me into Luke’s arms. Luke carried me back to my room and put me to bed.
I cried myself to sleep, cursing myself for being so slow.
I wiped the tears from eyes; it was too painful.
After finding him dead, I shut down. Scarlet made all the arrangements. I only nodded and signed what needed to be signed. There were still a lot of things that needed to be done but we both decided that that could wait until after the funeral. It was a large affair, all over the news. The official report was that he finally died after his long battle with lung cancer. There was nothing in there about John Merlyn or any attempt by someone to kill us. Quiet arrangements were made with the family of the guards who Merlyn killed; Scarlet took care of all that.
There were some rumblings about who was going to take over the company; most of them had my name at the top of the list. The media had a field day with it and everyone was asking interviews. The only one who wasn’t going to get the exclusive was Lois Lane. There was another reporter at the Planet who wanted so I was seriously thinking about giving it to him. He seemed like a nice guy, he had an honest face. I refused all of the interviews at the moment for now, maybe in a few days, after everything cooled down. But it didn’t stop everyone from wanting to know more about the mysterious Olivia Queen. Scarlet released a press packet about me, giving them all the fake crap that the two of us cooked up. I was in no mood to correct anyone anymore. Even though the threat to our lives seemed to be over for the moment, there were still people out there clamoring for a piece of the company.
I sighed, forcing myself to stop crying. I leaned forward and tapped the partition. It slid open and driver turned his head.
“Are you ready now, miss?’
I nodded. “I don’t suppose we could just turn around and forget this?’
He didn’t say anything. He closed the partition and a few seconds later, he opened my door, holding an umbrella open for me. I stepped out of the limo, into the rain, the umbrella keeping it from my new dress and newly done hair. It was now business appropriate.
There was a swarm of reporters around the limo, all of them snapping pictures at me. They were shouting questions, each one trying to get my attention. Luke was there, trying to keep them off me. Today I wasn’t hiding my face. Today I was ready for the world to know me.
I slipped the green ring on my finger. I did it behind my back, so no one saw. It was a big moment for me but it was right. I wasn’t agreeing to anything but it was a good idea to have help if I needed it. There would be a time again like Merlyn and Brick, a time where all the odds were against me and I needed to act without a conscience.
But I’m not sure if I was ready to face it alone.
And I definitely wasn’t ready to take the kill shot