A Glow in the Darkness (Part 2)
A Whateley Academy Story
A Glow in the Darkness
Somewhere above Lake Michigan. Thursday, Aug 16th, 2007
Dinah absently tugged at the uncomfortable strap that held her in her seat, distracting herself by looking out the window at Lake Michigan, which was far belong. There was quite an impressive view outside the windows, and at any other time, she would have been appropriately excited by it. However, at the moment, it was hard to feel enthusiastic about anything.
All Dinah could think about was how bad things had gone the day before. A lunatic supervillain had burst into their house, tearing her dad up right in front of her, and then chasing after James…and then Glow. Then when she and Mel had run away, they ran into two more villains, ones who not only kidnapped her dad, but Mel too. And her mom hadn’t stopped them.
Dinah glared at her mom, who was in the pilot seat, flying the odd aircraft. If she was aware of Dinah’s glare, she didn’t show any indication of it, remaining focused on the aircraft’s controls instead.
Of course, the worst thing that had happened, was that Sinsear had returned. Dinah shuddered at the very thought of that monster, and she started to cry whenever she considered what he might be doing to her dad and Mel. Though she didn’t know the details of everything he’d done to James, and she certainly didn’t want to know, she had seen the damage. That monster had shattered her brother and destroyed her family, and she absolutely dreaded what he’d do now that he was back.
After the fighting had all been over, Dinah’s mom had searched the town, looking or any sign of James, her dad, or Mel. She hadn’t seen any signs of them, or of the villains who’d taken them. She’d spent half the night looking, without any success.
“James,” Dinah whispered, her voice shaking. She’d been so sure that Glow would protect him, that she would keep him safe from the villains. But now, both James and Glow were missing too, and she was terrified that Sinsear had them. “Please no… Not again…”
“Are you all right?” her mom asked, giving her a worried look.
“I’m fine,” Dinah lied. After yesterday, she’d barely spoken to her mom, refusing to say more than a few words at a time. She had spent most of her life without talking to that woman, and saw no reason to start now.
“Did you know this whole thing is actually a devise?” her mother abruptly asked, trying to distract her from her worries. She gestured around the aircraft, adding, “There are only two of them like it in the entire world, and my team owns both of them.”
In spite of herself, Dinah looked around the cabin of the vehicle, which contained six seats, which were actually covered in leather and quite comfortable, though only two of them were currently occupied. The floor appeared to be wood paneling, and there were numerous polished bronze pieces available, which spoke of a very odd décor.
Though the inside of the aircraft was unusual, the outside was even more so. From the outside, it looked like a cross between an airplane and a helicopter, as if designed by Jules Verne. It was shaped much like an airplane, with wings and a cockpit, but it had three helicopter rotors, one on each wing, and one on the tail.
Dinah’s mom gave her a forced smile and added, “The woman who invented it, calls it a trithoptor.”
Dinah didn’t respond to that. At any other time, she would have been bursting with curiosity and asking countless questions, but at the moment, all she could think of was her family and just how worried she was about them.
“Well, there it is,” her mom said, gesturing out the window to a small island below.
As they began to descend, Dinah found herself looking out the window and watching the island get closer. She’d heard about this island for years, but had never thought that she’d get to see it for herself. Liberty Island was an artificial island in the middle of Lake Michigan, which her mom’s superhero group used as a headquarters. From there, the Liberty League could quickly reach any of the areas around Lake Michigan, or even the other Great Lakes.
A few minutes later, they landed on the island, setting the trithoptor down on a landing pad, just a short distance from an identical craft. Almost as soon as they’d landed, Dinah’s mom started for the single large building in the center of the island, and Dinah quickly followed behind.
Dinah’s mom, who currently stood at six feet tall, smiled down at her and said, “Welcome to my home.” Dinah merely grunted, which earned a look of disappointment.
Just as they entered the building, a woman said, “Welcome back, Ginormous.”
Dinah nearly jumped in surprise, then gave the woman a suspicious look. She was obviously a superhero, or she wouldn’t have been at the Liberty League’s headquarters, though she didn’t really look like the typical superhero. For one thing, she was wearing a dress instead of spandex. Of course, her dress was purple, and had some odd bronze decorations, which clearly announced that she wasn’t quite a normal person either.
“This is my teammate and friend,” Dinah’s mother told her, gesturing to the other woman. “The Bronze Lady.”
“Hello,” the Bronze Lady greeted Dinah pleasantly, speaking with a noticeable English accent. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Um…yeah,” Dinah responded awkwardly, not sure how to react.
“Do not fear,” the Bronze Lady assured her with a gentle smile. “You are quite safe here. The people who are after you will never be able to find you.”
Dinah’s mother nodded agreement at that, promising, “You’re perfectly safe. Sinsear and his people will never touch you.” Dinah scowled, remaining a little skeptical of that.
The Bronze Lady turned to Dinah’s mom and said, “As I told you, I managed to capture the woman who attacked your family. I’ve been trying to question her, without much success.”
Suddenly, Dinah’s mom grew a foot in height and looked much more intimidating, making Dinah nervously step back. “Then I’ll have to question her.”
Dinah gulped, thinking of the woman who attacked them, and to her surprise, she felt angry more than she did afraid. That woman had hurt her father, and had done who knew what to James.
“Can I watch?” Dinah blurted out.
Her mother gave her a look of surprise, and for a moment, she looked as though she was about to give a firm ‘no’. However, after staring at Dinah for a moment, she nodded agreement.
“I placed her in cell three,” the Bronze Lady said as she led them deeper into the building. “Between my devise, and the sigils my husband placed, she is unable to escape.”
“Good,” Dinah’s mother said in a grim tone. “Now, to make her tell us where my son is.”
Dinah looked around with a mixture of curiosity and nervousness as her mother and the Bronze Lady led her deeper into their headquarters. They went through several secure doors, and finally ended up in their jail, or what the Bronze Lady referred to as the ‘brig’. From the entrance, Dinah could see several different cages and prison cells, though each of them looked quite different. One was set into the wall, and was completely enclosed with a heavy door. Another was set into the wall, with the entire front being made of glass so that she could see inside. And there was even one that appeared to be a giant plastic bubble, which was set in the middle of the room and floated a foot off the floor.
“We only have five cells,” Dinah’s mom said as she gestured around the room. “Each one is unique, and is designed to neutralize different types of powers. This way, we can contain dangerous villains until we can turn them over to the proper authorities.”
“I have yet to notify Agent Winslow,” the Bronze Woman said. “I did not want to risk the MCO trying to take custody before we have finished our interrogation.”
“Good idea,” Dinah’s mom said.
Dinah merely scowled, noticing that from the cells she could see, each of them was currently empty, all except one. It was a cage that was set up in the open, with bars on all sides. On the floor, both inside and outside of the cage, there were circles with strange symbols carved in them. But as strange as the cage itself was, that was nothing compared to the surprise she felt upon seeing the occupant.
“Glow,” Dinah blurted out, running to the cage.
Glow had been sitting down on the cot, staring at the wall with an unreadable expression, but turned her head when Dinah spoke. Dinah had no doubt that if Glow was still in the cage, it was because something was keeping her from teleporting, and if she couldn’t teleport, she couldn’t gather enough energy to use any of her other abilities either. After a second, Glow stood up and simply greeted her, “Dinah.”
“Why do you have Glow locked up?” Dinah turned and demanded of the Bronze Lady.
The Bronze Lady looked surprised. “Is this not the villain who attacked you?”
“No,” Dinah exclaimed, looking back at Glow, angry to see her locked up like a criminal. “She’s the one who saved us…”
“Then, I fear there was a misunderstanding,” the Bronze Lady admitted in embarrassment. “I found this one at the scene, and believed her to be the attacker.” She gave Glow a curious look. “She would not answer any of my questions, not even her name.”
“My name is not your concern,” Glow stated, giving the Bronze Lady a flat look before turning her attention to Dinah’s mother. Glow’s eyes narrowed, and her expression turned to one of suspicion that bordered on hostility.
“Oh my God, Glow,” Dinah gasped. “Are you okay? I was so worried.”
“I am locked in a cage,” Glow responded, shifting her gaze to the Bronze Lady again. “I would not say this counts as doing well…”
“Let her out,” Dinah half demanded and half pleaded. Then as the Bronze Lady moved to unlock the cage, she asked, “Is James all right?” Suddenly, Dinah’s mother stiffened and stared at Glow suspiciously.
“He suffered minor bruising before I could intervene,” Glow responded with a scowl. Dinah knew Glow well enough to realize that Glow was blaming herself for the bruises, seeing this as a failure on her part.
Dinah’s mother stepped forward, growing a little more until she was eight feet tall again, and demanding, “My son… Where is my son?”
Glow scowled back and simply answered, “He is safe.”
“Where is James?” Dinah’s mother demanded again, growing even larger in an effort to intimidate Glow. “I need to bring him here so I can protect him…”
Glow looked up at her, clearly not impressed. “The fact that you do not know where he is, merely proves that you are not suited to protect him.”
“Mom,” Dinah cried out, seeing look of hurt and anger on her Mom’s face. She looked to Glow, who was also starting to look angry, much to Dinah’s surprise. Glow didn’t get angry. She got even.
“I am his mother,” she snarled.
However, Glow cut her off and snapped, “YOU were the one who led Sinsear to him. YOU were the one who let Sinsear take him. YOU were the one who did NOTHING while Sinsear beat and burned him.” Then her eyes narrowed and she spat out, “And when that was over, YOU were the one who abandoned us…”
“Glow,” Dinah gasped, stunned to see Glow acting like this.
Dinah’s mother was stunned as well, and had a look of confusion. “Us…?”
“I am the one who protects James,” Glow continued, her eyes blazing with anger. She stepped out of the unlocked cage, glaring up at Dinah’s mother with enough force that the larger woman took an instinctive step back. “I was the one who fought off Bombastic, not you. I was the one who dealt with those men who tried to kidnap him. I was the one who has fought off every bully who ever tried to hurt him. And I am the one who was beaten, burned and tortured by Sinsear, just so James didn’t have to experience it.”
“Glow,” Dinah cried out again, tears running down her cheeks as she stared at Glow.
“What are you talking about?” the towering woman gasped, stunned and confused by this anger and bitterness being directed at her, nearly as much as by the words themselves.
“I carry every bad memory and nightmare that James has ever suffered,” Glow continued in a hard tone. “Just so that he can sleep at night…so that he doesn’t wake up screaming every time he closes his eyes. I am the one who protects him…who has always protected him. We don’t need YOU or your protection.”
There was a moment of dead silence as everyone was too shocked by those words and the emotion behind them. Finally, Dinah’s mother demanded, “Who are you…and where is my son?”
Dinah gulped, wiping the tears from her eyes, though fresh ones continued to come. She stared at Glow, feeling the same ache she felt whenever she thought of how James had suffered. Until now, she’d thought that Glow was immune from that pain, that she was tough enough to shrug it off. But now, Dinah realized that Glow was the one who took the brunt of it. That she used herself as a shield, even more than Dinah had ever guessed. Without a word, she threw herself at Glow, giving the other girl a firm hug and crying on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Dinah sobbed into Glow’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry…”
“Thank you,” Glow whispered, hugging her back. Then as they pulled apart, Glow regained her composure and control, seeming perfectly calm as she promised, “I will continue to protect James, just as I always have. That is my purpose.”
Dinah nodded at that, then quietly asked, “Can you bring him back? We need to talk to him.” When Glow hesitated, she quickly added, “He’ll be safe here…I promise.”
Glow stared at Dinah for a moment, then glanced to the two heroes, scowling slightly. Finally, she nodded and told Dinah, “Very well.”
Glow closed her eyes and let out a deep breath, then her features began to shift and change. Dinah had seen this transformation on numerous occasions, but it never became any less amazing. In less than a quarter of a minute, Glow was completely gone, and James was standing in her place.
James opened his eyes and looked around in confusion before blurting out, “Where am I…?” Then he suddenly noticed the giant woman who was towering over him, and staring down with her mouth open in an expression of complete and utter shock. “Mom?”
Location Unknown. Thursday, Aug 16th, 2007
Mel sat on the hard concrete floor with her arms wrapped around her knees, as if hugging herself that way could offer some form of safety, or at least comfort. She ignored the numbness in her butt from sitting that way for too long, and slowly around the room, which hadn’t changed from the last dozen times she’d done that. The walls were cinderblocks, the floor was concrete, and there were old pipes running along the ceiling, several of which were dripping. A single light bulb hang from the ceiling, being both a blessing and a curse as it provided light to see by, yet revealed just how trapped she was.
The room was completely empty of any kind of furniture, though there was a bucket sitting in the corner, and she’d already been forced to use it several times, much to her humiliation. The only comfort she had, was the fact that she wasn’t alone in this room. John Merrick was there as well, though he was sitting on the floor a short distance away, leaning up against the wall. The kidnappers had bandaged his wound, but hadn’t bothered doing much more than that for him.
Mel closed her eyes, trying to pretend that she was somewhere else, anywhere else, but the constant dripping from the pipes kept dragging her back to reality. She looked over at James and Dinah’s dad, feeling worried about him. At least she wasn’t hurt, though she was also scared since she didn’t know how much longer that would last.
“Were you really married to Ginormous?” Mel blurted out, more to distract herself than for any other reason.
At first, Mel didn’t think he heard her, but then he responded, “She wasn’t Ginormous when we got married. That came later…” There was pain in his words, and Mel suspected that it was more than just the physical kind.
“She was huge,” Mel said, remembering just how large the woman had been. She hadn’t imagined that anyone could be that big in real life, only in some old B movies.
“She was five foot six when we met,” John said with a weak chuckle. “But she liked adding a few inches when she thought she could get away with it.”
Mel listened intently, curious about her best friend’s mom, even if she hadn’t been a super hero. After all, James almost never talked about his mom, and from what Mel understood, Dinah barely even knew her. To find out that their mysterious mom was really a superhero was amazing, though it would have been much more so if Ginormous had been able to save them.
“Do…do you think she’ll come rescue us?” Mel asked hopefully.
There was a long pause before John answered, “I don’t know.” Then, in what was obviously just an attempt to give her hope, he added, “I’m sure someone will rescue us.”
Mel just stared at the thick metal door, which was locked shut. She’d already tried opening it but found it wouldn’t budge. After staring for a few seconds, she began to laugh, though it was bitter. When John gave her a curious look, she explained, “When I was a little girl, every year for my birthday, I used to wish I could be a princess…” Though this was embarrassing to admit, since she’d long since grown out of her princess phase, she continued, “Now, here I am, locked up and waiting to be rescued, just like some video game princess…”
“Be careful what you wish for,” John said with a weak chuckle.
“I wish I had superpowers,” Mel announced, thinking that at the moment, that was the wish she really wanted granted. “Then I could kick their butts and get us out of here…” Then she paused and let out a sigh. “With my luck, I’d get the power to make my hair change color.”
Mel was about to add something else, when the door began to open. The rusty hinges creaked and groaned, making it somehow even more ominous and frightening. Mel jumped to her feet, ready to run out the door if given the opportunity, though she strongly suspected that there wouldn’t be one.
Bombastic stepped through the door and Mel cringed, glad that she hadn’t tried to make a run for it as soon as the door began opening. That woman was both scary and crazy, and Mel didn’t want to go anywhere near her.
“Ooooh, look what I found,” Bombastic commented with a creepy grin that was just a little too wide for her face.
The Ringleader came in immediately behind Bombastic, and though he was creepy, he didn’t scare Mel nearly as bad as she did. Bombastic was a psychotic lunatic, while Ringleader reminded Mel a little of the uses car salesman her dad bought his last car from. However, the sight of him was enough to make Mel reach up for her neck, and then sigh in relief that his glowing ring was still gone.
“You said we don’t need this one,” Bombastic said, looking straight at Mel with a twisted glee in her eyes. “Can I play with her?”
“That would be up to Sinsear,” Ringleader answered in the same patient tone that most used when speaking to children. “But I think he wants to keep her for a bit longer.”
“But I only wanna play with her head,” Bombastic whined, sending a chill down Mel’s spine and making her thankful for Ringleader’s presence.
“Why are you doing this?” John demanded with a grunt of pain, holding his injured side and not bothering to get up.
“Because Sinsear asked me to,” the Ringleader commented. “Because you are a means to an end.”
“Sinsear,” John spat out, his voice filled with anger and fear. “Why? Why come back after all this time?”
The Ringleader merely gestured towards the doorway, responding, “Perhaps you should ask him yourself. He does want to see at you.”
Mel froze at that, feeling a surge of terror rush through her very soul. She’d never met Sinsear, and had never even heard of him before a couple days earlier, but what she had heard was enough to fill her with dread.
Even with everything that Mel had heard about Sinsear, no one had ever said what he looked like. When she imagined him, she was certain that he would be a large and imposing man, probably wearing something like black armor with spikes and skulls. However, when Sinsear appeared in the doorway, he didn’t look anything like what Mel had pictured.
The man in the doorway was of average size, though very thin. His face was pale, with eyes and cheeks that were sunken in as though he was very ill. Instead of an intimidating costume, he wore slacks and a button up shirt. But most surprising, was the fact that he was sitting in a motorized wheelchair.
For a brief moment, Mel thought that there was a mistake, that this couldn’t be Sinsear, that this couldn’t be the monster Dinah had told her about. But then, she saw his eyes and the twisted malevolence within. A chill ran down her spine, and she suddenly knew without a doubt, that this man was indeed that monster.
“John Merrick,” Sinsear said, his voice low and tense. “Your wife and I have old business…”
“Ex-wife,” John corrected, glaring at Sinsear as though he could kill him if he willed it hard enough. “We’ve been divorced for a long time, so I won’t be a very good hostage…”
“I do not need a hostage,” Sinsear responded with a sneer. “I need bait.” Then he snapped around to face the Ringleader. “I still need her children…especially the boy.”
“NO,” John blurted out in horror.
Sinsear smirked, delighting in that reaction. “Your son and I have unfinished business as well. But this time, Ginormous will watch as I peel the skin from his body…as I sear the flesh from his bones.”
“And the toy?” Bombastic asked enthusiastically, pointing to Mel. “Can I play with her?”
“She could still be useful leverage,” Ringleader pointed out “Heroes value these bystanders, and this one is a friend of her children.”
Sinsear stared at Mel for a moment, making her cringe back and wish she could turn invisible, or teleport away like Glow. After several very long and terrifying seconds, he commented, “Yes, she can still be useful, as bait…and entertainment.”
“Entertainment?” Mel squeaked out.
“The girl and husband will serve as appetizers,” Sinsear mused aloud. “Their torments will set the mood. Then, her children will serve as the main course, and I will make Ginormous watch as I kill them very VERY slowly. And finally, for dessert, I will break that bitch in every way imaginable…”
Mel gulped, cringing down and desperately hoping that Sinsear didn’t look at her again. She quickly glanced to the doorway, but Bombastic was watching her, almost like a cat watching a mouse, silently daring her to try.
“Just remember our agreement,” Ringleader told Sinsear. “We are allies, not your servants, and we still have our own grudges to settle once you are done with yours.”
“Of course,” Sinsear agreed, holding out his palm, where a ball of fire appeared. He stared into the flame as he continued, “I played my part when we helped Caster take down the hero who vexed him.”
“Very true,” Ringleader responded. “Though I must say, it is a shame that Caster chose to renege on our agreement, as his magic could have been quite useful.”
“Caster was fun to play with,” Bombastic commented, staring at her clawed fingers with a smirk. “I kept his head to remember him by.”
“And on that note,” Ringleader told Sinsear. “Once you have your revenge, I would like to have mine next. Danger Man has humiliated me too many times, and I think that taking his wife from him will serve as sufficient payment.”
“Then ME ME ME,” Bombastic exclaimed, nearly bouncing with excitement. “Crucibelle was really mean to me, and she took my favorite toy away.”
As the villains continued talking among themselves, they turned and left the room, seeming to have forgotten about John and Mel. As soon as the door closed and locked behind them, Mel looked to John, shaking in fear and expecting him to offer some words of wisdom, or at least of hope. However, when she saw the look of dread on his face, she realized that he didn’t have much hope to share.
Liberty League Headquarters, Lake Michigan. Thursday, Aug 16th, 2007
Ginormous sat by herself in the Liberty League’s recreation room, holding a large glass that contained half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. At her current height of eight feet tall, it might as well have just been a single shot. Without a word, she downed the contents in one gulp, then shuddered at the disgusting taste. Though she’d never liked to drink, this definitely seemed a good time to start.
Sarah Coleman, formerly Sarah Merrick before she’d divorced and returned to her maiden name, removed her mask and then rubbed her temples. Normally, being bigger than everything around her gave her confidence, making her feel as though she was bigger than any of her problems. However, at that moment, she suspected that she could grow to her largest size, and it still wouldn’t do any good.
From the corner of her eye, Sarah saw the Bronze Lady entering the room. The Bronze Lady…Eliza was not only her teammate, but also her best friend. Sarah was thankful that when she’d received the call from John, telling her that their children were in danger, Eliza had chosen to go with her to help. Because of that, she and Eliza were the only two members of the Liberty League present, dealing with this issue while the rest of the team was off dealing with another mission. Eliza was the only member of the team that Sarah would have trusted with something this personal.
“Are you all right, Sarah?” Eliza asked, giving her a concerned look.
“How can I possibly be all right?” Sarah responded bitterly.
Sarah emptied the bottle of Jack Daniels into her glass, then downed the entire thing in a single gulp. She shuddered at the disgusting taste, wondering just how many more she’d have to take before her taste buds went numb. Her eyes went to the liquor cabinet, which she knew was fully stocked. Her teammate Adonis considered himself a connoisseur of hard alcohol, and insisted that they keep plenty on hand.
“How can I possibly be all right?” Sarah repeated, barely aware of the tears forming in her eyes or the tremble in her voice. “I just found out my son is a mutant. He manifested three years ago…and I didn’t have any DAMN idea.” She stared at the far wall, her voice so low that it was nearly a whisper. “I should have been there… I should have helped him learn to use his powers…”
Eliza put a comforting hand on Sarah’s arm, though she seemed almost like a child when compared to the much larger woman. “It isn’t too late. Your children are both alive and well.”
Sarah closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, hearing Eliza’s words but not listening to them. “And Glow,” she said, her voice shaking even more. “James has another personality, and I didn’t have the faintest clue. I knew he was traumatized, and that he had PTSD, but I had no idea it was that bad.” Sarah stared at Eliza with tear filled eyes. “My son has another personality, and she hates me…”
“This isn’t your fault,” Eliza tried to assure her.
“Of course it’s my fault,” Sarah snapped back, smashing her massive hand down on the table, which was sturdy enough to avoid shattering. The old and familiar feelings of anger and guilt were bubbling up inside of her, and she didn’t know how to release them. Not this time. “How is it not my fault?”
Eliza slowly stood up and went to the liquor cabinet, where she pulled out a bottle of brandy and poured two glasses. She made sure that Sarah was given the same amount as herself, as she didn’t want to risk the much larger woman getting drunk. In these circumstances, they would need to keep their wits about them.
Sarah accepted the glass of brandy, which was small in her hand. For a moment, she was tempted to shrink down, just so the glass would be larger in comparison. But instead, she took a tiny sip, wincing a little at the taste.
“When I married John,” Sarah finally said in a quiet voice, “he knew I was a mutant, though I misled him a bit about how strong my powers were. At the time, I just wanted to live a normal life.” She paused at that, taking another tiny sip of the brandy. “When James was just a baby, I began to get bored with my normal life…with just being a housewife and mother. I wanted more. I wanted some excitement in my life, so I started to sneak out every once in awhile to play hero. At the time, it was more of a hobby than anything. Then, when I found out I was pregnant with Dinah, I put the costume away and quit.”
There was a long pause, so Eliza gently asked, “Then what happened?”
Sarah gave a bitter smile. “I missed the excitement. I missed doing something productive and useful with my power, so I put my costume back on and went to work. This time, it was more than a hobby. After my break from it, I realized that this was my purpose. This was what I was meant to be doing with my life.”
Eliza nodded in understanding. “This life is a difficult one to walk away from. The exhilaration. The sense of purpose. The knowledge that you have the power to make a positive difference in the world.” She took a sip of her own brandy and admitted, “It is rather addictive.”
“Yes it is,” Sarah agreed with a sigh. She was silent for several more seconds before continuing. “For a time, I thought I could have it all. I could have a normal life with my husband and kids, and at the same time, I could be a hero…and keep it a secret from my family.” She gave a sharp and bitter laugh.
“Then I assume,” Eliza said carefully, “that Sinsear changed this.” The glass suddenly shattered in Sarah’s hand, and between that and the look on her face, Eliza knew that she had her answer.
“Sinsear,” Sarah spat out the name as though it burned her tongue. She scowled intensely and took nearly a minute to calm down. Finally, Sarah said, “Sinsear started off as a vigilante…” She gave a short and bitter laugh. “He would find sinners…people who were among the worst of the worst…and burn them alive.”
“Dear Lord,” Eliza gasped in horror.
“He said they were evil and deserved it,” Sarah continued grimly. “But the truth was, he’s a sadistic monster who got off on hurting them. At first, he was just trying to rationalize it…to justify it to himself. Eventually, he stopped even trying. Over time, his ‘punishments’ became even more cruel and sadistic, and his idea of who should be punished became a lot more flexible. In the end, the local police found his real identity and sent in a SWAT team to take him down. Since they knew he had powers, they asked me to come along to help deal with him…”
Eliza stared at Sarah, who’d paused her story and was staring at the wall with a haunted look. “So,” Eliza said with a deep sigh. “This is all about revenge, because you helped to capture him.”
“Yes…and no,” Sarah responded quietly. “We raided his home, attempting to catch him by surprise while his guard was down, but he still fought back hard…setting his entire house on fire. The entire thing was engulfed in flames, and he was still inside when it collapsed. At the time, we thought he was dead…” Sara shook her head sadly, and Eliza could see the tears. “We found out later, that Sinsear’s pregnant girlfriend was in there with him…”
“Dear Lord,” Eliza gasped in horror.
“He survived, of course,” Sarah said, grimly stating the obvious. “And he blamed me for the death of his girlfriend and unborn child. He followed me, learned of my real identity, and then he went after my family.” Then her voice was filled with long anguish as she added, “He took James…”
Eliza put her hand on Sarah’s arm again, staring up at her enormous friend, who at that moment, somehow seemed almost small and vulnerable. She gulped, then gently reminded Sarah, “But you did rescue him…”
“Six weeks,” Sarah blurted out bitterly. “That monster had James for six fucking week, and every one of those damn weeks, he’d send me pictures…” Eliza gasped at that, horrified by the idea that anyone would be that evil. “Ironically, those pictures were what let us rescue James… The detectives were able to follow the trail back to Sinsear…”
“And what of Sinsear?” Eliza asked grimly. She looked up at her friend and asked, “What happened to him after that?”
“I stepped on him,” Sarah answered in a cold hard voice. She stared down at Eliza and continued, “I stomped on him like the cockroach he is, and until now, I was sure I’d never have to worry about him again…”
“Quite understandable,” Eliza stated, patting Sarah’s arm reassuringly. “Quite an understandable reaction indeed.”
Sarah closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the old dread returning as she remembered the countless hours she’d spent, alternating between searching in frantic desperation, and curled in a ball sobbing. She remembered praying to any deity who would listen, for James to still be alive…yet hoping that her son was dead so that he could finally have peace. Those long and agonizing six weeks, had been the worst in her entire life, and not before or since had she felt so small and powerless.
Of course, Sarah hadn’t gone through that ordeal alone. John had been going through much the same thing, though he’d directed much of his rage and grief at her. After all, she was the one who’d become a superhero behind his back, who’d lied to him and put the entire family in danger. She was the one who led that monster right to their home and family. But as much as John blamed her, that was nothing compared to how much she blamed herself.
After James had been rescued, what had been left of her marriage almost immediately collapsed. She moved away, leaving her family, and cutting off contact as much as she could. At the time, she’d told herself that she was doing this to protect them, keeping her distance so that no other enemy would go after them the way Sinsear had. However, the truth was, Sarah couldn’t bear the crushing guilt that she felt every time she looked at her son.
“I failed James,” Sarah said as the tears began to flow freely. “I failed him then, and I’ve failed him every day since…”
Sarah knew that James wasn’t the only one she’d failed. She’d failed Dinah, abandoning her daughter along with her son, and not being the mother they needed. She’d failed John, first by lying to him about becoming a hero, then by leading a monster to their home, and again by letting him get captured. She’d even failed Mel, the girl who was Dinah and James’ friend. Now, John and Mel were both in the hands of the same monster who’d taken James, and who had hurt him so badly. Once again, she felt that sense of helplessness, as she had no idea how she’d find them…or what condition they’d be in once she did.
At that moment, Sarah’s body felt heavy. So very, very heavy. Without consciously realizing it, she began to slowly shrink, as though her size was being carried away on her tears. It didn’t take long before she reached her base height of 5 foot 6 and stopped. Over the last twelve years, she had almost never allowed herself to be that small, as it made her feel weak and helpless…and vulnerable to her own overwhelming sense of guilt. Without saying another word, Sarah turned and grabbed the now taller woman in a hug, and quietly sobbed on her shoulder.
Liberty League Headquarters, Lake Michigan. Friday, Aug 17th, 2007
James stared blankly at the wall, just as he’d been doing for the last half hour. Though his body was still, his mind raced, going in circles as he thought about everything that had happened, repeating the events over and over. His emotions were a maelstrom of fear and confusion.
Though James was still trying to deal with the existence of Glow, and the horror of learning that Sinsear was back, what consumed him the most was worry for Mel and his dad. Sinsear had them, and if anyone knew what that monster might do to them, it was him. The very thought of them being in Sinsear’s hands, filled him with dread.
“It’s my fault,” James whispered, shaking as he finally broke the silence.
When those men had jumped them while he was getting parts for his bike, it had been because Sinsear had sent them after him. When those supervillains showed up, it was because they were trying to get him to. If he hadn’t run away…if they’d taken him…then Mel and his dad would still be safe.
Though James was desperately worried about them, a part of him was actually grateful that they were the ones that Sinsear had, instead of him. He cringed at that thought, ashamed of himself for feeling that way.
“I’m a horrible person,” James cried as tears of shame and guilt ran down his cheeks.
Suddenly, James froze as he heard a voice echoing in his ears, a very old voice that filled him with terror. “Your mother is a very bad person,” Sinsear had once told him. “You’re being punished for her sins…”
James gasped for breath, his heart racing frantically at those words. He remained completely frozen, unable to escape the memory that had somehow emerged from the depths of his mind. It was so real… He could hear Sinsear’s voice, as if he was really there.
James had no idea how long her he remained like that, only that he was snapped out of it by a loud knocking on the door. He blinked, gasping for breath and looked around the small bedroom he’d been given to use, then he looked for the door.
“Yes?” he gasped.
“It’s me,” Dinah announced as she opened the door and let herself inside. She stopped and started at James with a worried look. “Are you okay?”
“Define okay,” James muttered bitterly.
Dinah came over and dropped down on the bed beside him, grabbing his hand and holding it. She didn’t say a word at first, though she looked like she wanted to. Finally, she said, “I’m worried too…”
“He has Dad,” James said, his voice shaking. “And Mel…”
“Mom will rescue them,” Dinah told him quietly.
James gave a start of surprise, blurting out, “Since when are you a fan of Mom?” Then at the look of hurt on her face, he hung his head in shame. “I’m sorry.”
Dinah was always looking out for James, trying to comfort or protect him. Sometimes, it was easy to forget that she was his little sister, and that she was two years younger than he was. As the big brother, he knew that he was the one who should be looking out for her, but to his shame, he was fully aware of the fact that he couldn’t even protect himself.
After a minute, Dinah said, “Mom told me she has a bunch of people trying to find Sinsear… She’ll find Dad and Mel… She’s a superhero, and that’s what they do.”
James stared at his sister without saying a word, knowing that she resented their mother’s absence from their lives even more than he did. He understood that Dinah’s words were less about faith in their mother, and more about her clinging to a desperate hope.
“I’m sure she will,” James lied, giving a forced smile. For once, he could comfort Dinah. For once, he could do his part as her big brother. He put his arm around her shoulders and promised, “They’re going to be fine…”
Dinah just nodded at that and continued hugging him. “I hope you’re right…”
They sat there for nearly half an hour, neither of them saying a word. Finally, by unspoken agreement, they decided that they’d had enough of that bonding and got up to leave.
“I’ve gotta go take care of something,” Dinah said before she hurried off. James watched her go, seeing the way she was heading for the bathroom and chuckling faintly.
James looked up and down the hallway, feeling lost and unsure of what to do. Of course, he’d been given a quick tour yesterday, and he knew where the rec room was. Admittedly, it was a pretty impressive rec room, with three separate areas, including a bar section, a TV watching section, and even one that had a pool table and some old arcade games. However, at the moment, none of that appealed to him in the least.
Without having any destination in mind, James began to wander aimlessly through the headquarters. After a few minutes, he realized that he was looking for his mom, which caught him by surprise. In spite of what he’d told Dinah, he didn’t really have any faith that his mom would be able to save Mel and his dad in time.
James shuddered, feeling a surge of fear, worry, and guilt as he thought of Mel and his dad, and he tried to think of something else. Anything else. It was then that he found his mom, or at least heard her.
“Please,” James heard his mom’s voice from an open doorway. “If you find out anything…anything at all…”
James stopped at the doorway and peeked inside, keeping back enough to avoid being seen. His mom was sitting in front of some kind of communications console, talking to someone on the phone. She was smaller than he’d seen her in a very long time, with her mask off and a look of desperation on her face.
“I need to find Sinsear and his people,” she told whoever was on the other end, her voice pleading. “Time is of the essence…”
James stepped back, feeling guilty for eavesdropping on his mom, yet oddly relieved as well. He was thankful, to discover that his mom really was taking this seriously, that she wasn’t just shrugging it off because one of them was her ex-husband. At the same time, James was also a little concerned, as his mom was behaving less like a superhero, and more like a normal person.
“I can’t fail him again,” James’ mom whispered tearfully. “I can’t let that monster have John too…”
For a moment, James just stood there, feeling a bit shaken by what he’d just overheard. Then, he backed away and hurried down the hall before his mom realized that he was there. Still feeling a bit dazed, he decided he needed some fresh air, so left the building.
As soon as James stepped outside, he noticed the chill air and the wind blowing across Lake Michigan. It was just what he needed, and he took several deep breaths, trying to forget about everything else. Breath in. Breath out.
Once James had calmed down enough, he looked around the small island, which was only a couple hundred yards across. His eyes settled on the landing pad, and on the two oddly shaped helicopter things that had been invented by the Bronze Lady.
Then James saw the Bronze Lady coming out of one of the machines. She had a toolbox in her hand, so he guessed that she must be doing some kind of maintenance. After a minute of looking over the outside of the odd aircraft, she started back towards the building, and towards him.
“Hello, James,” the Bronze Lady greeted him politely.
“Um…hi,” he responded awkwardly.
James had talked to the Bronze Lady a few times since he’d found himself on this island, though he still didn’t know what to make of the devisor. She was nice enough, but a bit odd, which was to be expected of someone that obsessed with all things steampunk. However, the thing that really made him nervous around her, was the knowledge that she was not only his mom’s teammate, but also her best friend. This woman, who he barely knew, knew his mom far better than he did. He couldn’t help but feeling a little jealous of that.
“How are you doing?” the Bronze Lady asked him, looking genuinely concerned.
James scowled at that, since he thought it was a pretty stupid question. “I’ve been better.”
She gave a faint nod of understanding. “We will find your father and friend. We will rescue them.”
James gave her a skeptical look, knowing that she was offering him the same false promises that he’d given Dinah, and for the same reason. She wanted to comfort him, to make him feel better. However, she didn’t know Sinsear. She didn’t know what that monster would do to them.
“This island is square,” James blurted in attempt to change the topic.
“Indeed it is,” the Bronze Lady agreed. “Truthfully, Liberty Island is more of a large barge than a true island. It has subaquatic stabilizers, which allows us to maintain our position, though we can tow it to a new position when necessary.”
“Did you make this?” James asked her in surprise.
“No,” the Bronze Lady responded with a faint smile. “But I did upgrade the stabilizers. We don’t know who originally created the island, only that it was found long abandoned, and floating into shipping lanes. Afterward, it was donated to the Liberty League to use as our headquarters.”
James nodded at that as he looked across the island, then out into the lake. Lake Michigan was huge, and there was a LOT of water between them and the shore. “You’re safe here,” he finally said. “It’s like having a giant moat…”
“Very true,” the Bronze Lady agreed, removing her goggles and cleaning the lenses. “And though our location is quite advantageous for security purposes, that is certainly not our only reason for using this island. You see, from this location, we can reach much of Wisconsin and Michigan, and often serve as the primary superhero groups for places like Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Grand Rapids…”
“What about Chicago?” James asked curiously.
The Bronze Lady smiled faintly. “Chicago has several dedicated groups, and has little need of the Liberty League. We have a much wider area that we cover, but a less active one.”
“I guess, I never thought of that,” James admitted. He scowled, realizing that in spite of the fact that his mom was a superhero, he’d never given a lot of thought about them or how they worked.
There was a long pause, where neither of them spoke. They just stared out at the water in silence. Then, the Bronze Lady commented, “I don’t think that Liberty Island is what you were really concerned about.”
James hesitated a moment before admitting, “No.” He clenched his fists as he thought of Sinsear, and the people he cared about who were in that monster’s hands. “My dad,” he started, his voice choking. “Mel…”
The Bronze Lady gave him a gentle smile. “I assure you, that we are doing everything within our power to locate them. Your mother won’t rest until we have succeeded.”
James grunted faintly at that. He probably would have been skeptical of those claims, but he remembered what he’d overheard his mom saying, so nodded instead.
“Once the rest of the Liberty League returns from their mission,” the Bronze Lady continued, “we will have these kidnappers outnumbered and overpowered. And as my husband is a magic user, he may even have a spell to help us locate them…”
James barely paid attention to what the Bronze Lady was saying. Instead, his thoughts were on Mel and his dad. But as he pictured them, probably locked up in similar room to the one where he’d been chained up, he could also envision Sinsear standing in front of them, wearing that red and gray costume that he’d had on the last time James saw him. A familiar chill of dread ran down his spine, and James found his heart racing in fear. He could see Sinsear…hear his voice…
Suddenly, James realized that someone was holding his shoulder and repeating his name. “James,” the Bronze Lady asked with a worried look. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” James lied, but he could see from the look on the hero’s face, that she didn’t believe him.
“You spent the last two minutes staring off into space,” she responded with a scowl. “You didn’t respond to me.”
“I was…thinking,” James told her awkwardly, not sure what to say. He didn’t know her well enough to tell her that he’d been remembering Sinsear, and that it had been so realistic that it had almost been like he’d been there. He closed his eyes, taking several deep breaths to calm himself.
For several seconds, the Bronze Lady stared at him with a doubtful look, and one that was filled with worry. However, she finally let out a sigh, put her goggles back on to her head, though leaving them on her forehead instead of over her eyes.
“I must return to work,” the Bronze Lady stated in a casual tone. “If luck holds, I just may find a clue to your father’s whereabouts.”
The Bronze Lady stared at James for a moment more before turning and walking back into the building. He remained where he was, looking back out into the lake. However, what he saw in his mind’s eye wasn’t the lake, but the monster who’d destroyed his life…and who now held two of the people he cared about.
“No,” James whispered, clenching his fists as he thought of Sinsear. For perhaps the first time, instead of feeling the cold dread of terror when he thought of that monster, he felt something else. He felt a bubbling anger…a growing rage. “Not again…”
Location Unknown. Friday, Aug 17th, 2007
The man once known as Geoffrey Clayton sat in his quarters, staring intently at the burning light of the candle on his desk. Geoffrey Clayton was a name that he no longer ascribed to himself, and rarely even thought of. He’d abandoned that name long ago, and was now known only by the name he had taken upon committing to his purpose. Sinsear.
Sinsear was in pain, though that was nothing new. He and pain were old friends. Old lovers. Over the past twelve years, he’d come to understand pain quite intimately, and he’d long since embraced it as the constant reminder that he yet lived.
Tearing his eyes from the burning candle, Sinsear instead looked at the photos that were spread out across his desk. They were pictures of that enormous bitch and her family. A burning hatred smoldered in his heart, though these pictures fed that hatred, letting it burn just a little hotter.
“Ginormous,” he said in a raspy voice.
Sinsear closed his eyes, remembering the day long ago, when he had been imbued not only with power, but with a purpose…to punish the wicked. He took to that purpose as though born to it, and the sheer joy he felt upon fulfilling it, assured him that this was what he had been created for.
At one time, Sinsear thought it was simple, that all he had to do was find those who were evil and deliver the punishment they deserved. However, it hadn’t taken him long to realize that everyone had evil in their hearts…that deep down inside, everyone was wicked. He himself was no exception, and once he’d accepted this truth…and embraced it…it made everything so much easier.
Sinsear picked up one of the photos, one of Ginormous in her civilian identity. It was an old picture, since she had long since given up that civilian identity and now lived as Ginormous full time. Ginormous had cost him the woman he loved, the only person he had EVER loved, along with their unborn child. This ‘hero’ was the one who’d opened his eyes to the truth, who’d forced him to accept the evil within mankind and himself. He was going to thank her for that…and punish her with every ounce of pain he could create. Admittedly, this was in service to his own vengeance rather than his true purpose, but he had absolutely no doubt that she deserved it. Everyone did.
Of course, Sinsear had sought revenge on that enormous bitch before, taking her child in retaliation for the loss of his own. Though the boy had been no more wicked than any other child, Sinsear had known that nothing would hurt Ginormous more than the suffering of her own child. He’d taken great delight in inflicting pain on the boy, and drawing it out longer than he’d ever done before. And every moment that he’d done so, Ginormous had suffered along with the boy.
However, as Sinsear well knew, all things must end. Ginormous had found them, and then she’d inflicted her own punishment on him. She’d crushed him beneath her heel, leaving his lower body in shattered ruins…and leaving him in constant agony.
For the last twelve years, Sinsear had been in hiding, and for half that time, he’d been confined to a hospital bed. However, once he’d recovered enough to focus past his injuries and pain, he began planning for his revenge. It had been easy to find Ginormous, as she’d joined the Liberty Legion and was often in public view. Unfortunately, her husband and children were a different matter. Ginormous no longer seemed to have contact with them, and they complicated the search even more, by moving every couple years. In the end, it only delayed the inevitable, as Sinsear had finally been able to locate them.
In spite of knowing where the husband and children where, Sinsear was no longer in any physical condition to take advantage of this knowledge. He feared that his revenge would go unfulfilled…until he found four like-minded individuals with similar goals. Each of them held a deep grudge against a hero, and each needed assistance in order to carry out their revenge. Because of this, they’d formed an alliance, where each agreed to help the others achieve their revenge.
Caster had been the first, and their success in destroying his enemy had proven how effective their alliance was. Unfortunately, once Caster had achieved his revenge, he’d attempted to leave the alliance and abandon the debt he owed the rest. Sinsear regretted that they no longer had Caster’s magic, but at least, the man had provided some amusement before he died.
“Now, it is MY turn,” Sinsear stated. His hand burst into flames, which immediately engulfed the picture of Ginormous. Then he reached down to touch a picture of the boy, who had once been in his possession. The picture smoldered and burned, bringing a faint smile as Sinsear anticipated their reunion. Years ago, that boy was to be his masterpiece, but they had been interrupted before it was finished. “We will continue where we left off…”
Sinsear thought about the prisoners they’d captured, the husband and a friend of the children. He nearly trembled in anticipation of the pain he would unleash upon them. The power to unleash such agony in others, was the only pleasure that remained for him, so he knew he would savor every delicious morsel of it. But for now, he would wait. He would wait until he had Ginormous, and could force her to watch. The anticipation would make it all the more enjoyable.
“Unfortunately, you will have to wait,” Sinsear mused, staring at another picture of the boy, who was now a teenager.
Though Sinsear desperately wanted both of Ginormous’ children, so he could torture them in front of her, this was no longer an option…at least for the time being. Ginormous had taken them away, and though he would find them again in time, this was time he currently lacked. His allies would not stay focused on the task of his revenge for long, and just as importantly, Ginormous’ team was away on a mission. There was no way that his alliance could defeat all of the Liberty League, but for just two of them, it should be quite easy. Sinsear knew that he had a very limited window of opportunity, and if he did not seize what he could of his revenge now, he would lose it entirely.
Sinsear picked up another photo of Ginormous, then stared at it with a burning intensity. Once he had Ginormous in his hands, he would force her to watch as he tortured her husband and the girl, making her listen to each and every scream until they finally died in front of her. Then, he would go to work on her, drawing out every ounce of pain possible, making her plead for release, and even give up the location of her children just so he would let her die. And with her final breath, he would promise her, that her children would be next.
“But first,” Sinsear said, setting the photo on fire, “I have to lure you into my hands.” A cold, cruel smile formed on his lips as he whispered, “Fortunately, I know exactly how to do that.”
Liberty League Headquarters, Lake Michigan. Saturday, Aug 18th, 2007
James took a deep breath, focusing intently on the basketball hoop. A moment later, he threw the ball, and just as he thought it was going to go in, it hit the rim and bounced off.
“You suck,” Dinah called out as she ran for the ball.
“Bite me,” James responded with a forced grin.
He’d been surprised to discover that the Liberty League actually had their own basketball court inside their headquarters, though he realized that he probably shouldn’t have been. Most of the members actually lived here full time, and they needed something for recreation since they couldn’t run around in spandex all the time.
“This is how you do it,” Dinah announced, making her own free throw attempt, though her shot missed the hoop entirely.
“Loooser,” James teased his sister, thankful that at least for that moment, he could pretend that everything was normal. As long as he was focusing on this game, he could put all this worry and frustration out of his mind…at least for a short time. He gave Dinah a forced smile, saying, “Now, THIS is how you do it…” With that, he threw the ball, bouncing it off the backdrop and right into the net. Then he smirked at Dinah and added, “Now beat that.”
“Bite me,” Dinah said as she gave James the finger.
Suddenly, someone started clapping from the doorway, and a moment later, his mom said, “Good shot.”
James looked at his mom, who was dressed in her costume, though she wasn’t wearing her mask. At that moment, she was about seven feet tall, towering over him and making him feel like a little boy in comparison. Though James would never admit it, there was a certain comfort in having her be so large, as though she would be able to protect him from the dangers of the world. However, he knew quite well that this wasn’t the case. It was a false sense of protection, if anything.
Dinah glared up at their mother with a look of annoyance, almost making James smile faintly. His sister hated the fact that their mom always made herself bigger than everyone else, and he knew that she thought it was because their mom was trying to make everyone else feel small and intimidated in comparison. However, he’d always suspected that the real reason their mom always stayed big, was so that she didn’t feel small and intimidated herself.
“Can I play?” she asked with a false cheerfulness. James could see the exhausted look in her eyes, and knew that she was just trying to raise their spirits a bit, or at least keep them from being so worried. However, the fact that she thought she needed to do so, only worried James more.
“I hardly think that would be a fair game,” James commented, gesturing at his mom to indicate her distinct height advantage.
She shrunk down nearly a foot, stopping at six feet tall. “How about now?”
“You’re still using your powers,” Dinah pointed out with a clear note of disapproval.
“Then how about this,” their mom said with a faint smirk.
For a brief moment, James thought that she was going to shrink back down to her ‘real’ height, but instead, she grew to over ten feet tall. Then, she picked up the basketball, which looked to be about the size of a tennis ball in her hand, and she casually dropped it into the hoop. With a smug look, she took a bow, as though expecting applause. James gave a light clap, just to be polite.
As James went to retrieve the ball, he suddenly wondered if Glow liked basketball. He glanced at Dinah, about to ask her, but from what she’d said, Glow’s only hobbies and interests seemed to be related to protecting him…or getting even with the people who’d hurt him. It was scary enough having another personality, but to have one who was that obsessed… He was just thankful that she wasn’t dangerous to him or his family.
“So,” Dinah asked their mom in a tone that bordered on accusatory. “Did you just come in to show off?”
Their mom looked hurt at that but forced a faint smile. “Actually, I just finished making lunch for you…”
James saw that Dinah was about to say something, and from the look on his sister’s face, he was pretty sure it wouldn’t be either polite or helpful. “Thank you,” he quickly said. He hesitated a moment, already suspecting the answer, but still asking, “Have you found anything yet?”
His mom hesitated a moment before shaking her head sadly. “Not yet.” She let out a sigh, and James could see the worry and exhaustion that was eating away at her. “Eliza is on the mainland, checking on a few leads in person. Hopefully, she’ll find something we can use.”
James nodded, trying not to show his disappointment. He knew his mom was worried, and saw no reason to make her feel worse than she already did. However, Dinah scowled, and her expression suggested that she blamed their mother.
As their mother shrunk back to seven feet tall and left the room, James put a hand on Dinah’s shoulder as a show of comfort. He knew that before long, she’d probably go back into one of her hopeful moods, and would once again try to convince herself that their mom would rescue Mel and their dad. Dinah gave James a faint nod, then the two of them followed after their mom.
When they reached the kitchen area, James found that his mom had made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. Since she was actually making an effort, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he didn’t like tomato soup. He also noticed a small stack of folder spread out on the counter, so it looked like his mom had been doing a little work while she’d been making lunch.
“What’s this?” James asked, opening one of the folders and seeing a picture of a man in a red and dark gray costume with gold trim.
Dinah leaned over and blurted out, “That’s the guy who took Dad and Mel…”
“He’s called the Ringleader,” James’ mom said with a deep scowl. She reached for the folder, but James snatched it away and started to look through it. “You don’t need to…” Then she paused and let out a sigh. “I suppose you both have a right to know who is involved.”
“Damn right,” Dinah exclaimed, glaring at her mom defiantly, as though daring her to argue.
Their mom shook her head faintly. “The Ringleader is a power gem user, who creates energy rings that he can move around. He’s fairly small time, though he has aspirations of being a mastermind. He first appeared in Detroit about seven years ago, united most of the street gangs in the city, and attempted a takeover. He came pretty close, until one of the local heroes stopped him. He’s repeated the same stunt several times, with even less success.”
Dinah opened one of the other folders and held up a picture of a large armored figure. “He’s Ironworks,” she announced, looking a little smug at knowing something that James didn’t.
“I couldn’t find out much about Ironworks,” the large woman said with a shake of her head. “Besides the fact that he’s a brick with a hammer. He first appeared about a year ago, and has since shown up in several different locations, causing a lot of property damage and then disappearing.”
“And this is the one who attacked our house,” Dinah said, holding up Bombastic’s picture. James scowled, remembering the way she’d burst into their house and hurt his dad. Shortly after that, Glow had taken over, so he didn’t know what had happened to the villain after that.
“Bombastic,” their mom said. “She’s a mutant with claws, regeneration, and concussion blasts. She’s also a certified lunatic, who has a long history of fighting the Seattle Supers and the Seattle Knights.”
James nodded at that, and glanced at the fourth and final folder. It sat on the counter unopened, and his mom made no move towards it. He gulped, knowing exactly who that file had to be for. After a moment of hesitation, he reached out and opened the folder, seeing that he was right.
“Sinsear,” James whispered, seeing Dinah and his mom both wince.
James stared at the picture, feeling his heart race as memories bubbled to the surface until he felt like he was drowning. This was the man…the monster that had haunted his nightmares for nearly his entire life. Though James couldn’t remember much of what Sinsear had done to him, he remembered enough to still be terrified of him, twelve years later.
“James,” Dinah said, shaking him and knocking him out of it. “You were staring off into space again...”
“Are you all right?” his mom asked him, putting a worried hand on his shoulder.
“Just some bad memories,” he muttered, staring down at the table in shame.
To his surprise, his mom threw her arms around him and gave him a hug. “You’re safe now,” she promised him. “I won’t let him ever touch you again…”
Dinah picked up a grilled cheese sandwich and pointed out, “Glow is already taking care of that.” Their mother winced slightly at the reminder.
While they turned their attention to eating, James continued to stare at Sinsear’s folder, feeling angry and frustrated. The boogeyman had taken his dad and best friend, and he was helpless…powerless to do anything about it. James as sick and tired of feeling weak and helpless.
“Come on,” his mom told him gently. “Eat up while it’s still warm.”
James nodded, turning his attention away from the folder and to the food in front of him. The sandwich was good, the tomato soup, not so much. However, since his mom had gone through the trouble of making it, he made a show of eating half of it.
They were just finishing up with lunch with the Bronze Lady returned. She walked into the kitchen area, set some kind of odd looking bronze gun onto the counter, then handed a large envelope to her teammate.
“I have discovered several leads into our investigation,” the Bronze Lady said. “Unfortunately, it will take some time to follow those leads to the end.”
“And this?” James’ mother asked, holding up the envelope that she’d just been given.
“While I was on my errands,” the Bronze Lady answered in a pleasant tone, “I decided to check the Liberty League’s mail drop. This had been delivered to us, and is addressed to you.”
James watched as his mom tore open the envelope, and a moment later, her expression turned hard and grim. Without a word, she spilled the contents onto the counter, revealing that there were half a dozen photographs. It took him a moment to realize what they were pictures of, but as soon as he did, he let out a gasp.
“DAD,” Dinah blurted out in horror. “Mel…”
“No,” James gasped, quickly picking up two of the pictures. They were pictures of Mel and his dad, both bruised and bleeding, looking as though they’d been beaten up. Anger and frustration bubbled up again, and he grabbed the counter so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “What did he do to them?”
“They’re alive,” his mom told him in a firm tone, putting a hand on his shoulder. “This means that they’re both still alive…and that he plans on keeping them that way for a little longer.”
The Bronze Lady stared at the pictures, then mused, “He means to taunt us…”
James was surprised when his mom smiled, though it wasn’t a pleasant smile. “He’s made a mistake,” she stated, holding up one of the photos with a look of grim satisfaction. “You can see a business logo on the wall behind them. Sinsear just gave us the clue we need to lead us right to him.”
Liberty League Headquarters, Lake Michigan. Saturday night, Aug 18th, 2007
James was in his bedroom, in the one place that was truly his and his alone…the one place where he truly felt safe and secure. He sat at his desk in the corner, trying to finish his homework, though it wasn’t easy. The writing on the page made no sense at all, and the writing kept shifting and changing as he looked at it. James wasn’t sure how long he stared at that page with a growing sense of unease, and the certainty that something wasn’t right.
When James finally looked around his room, he saw nothing wrong at first, but then it suddenly came to him. It was his room…but it wasn’t. The room itself was the same one where he’d lived over the last couple years, though it did seem a little larger. The bed and dresser were both from the last house where he’d lived. Posters and decorations covered the walls and shelves, but they included items that he’d lost or broken long ago. This was like every bedroom that he’d ever had, all mashed together into one.
For several long seconds, James continued to look around in confusion, until realization dawned on him. “I’m dreaming.”
With that declaration, the fog cleared from his mind, and he suddenly saw everything around him with greater clarity. For the first time, he also saw a curtain where the wall should have been. James stared at the curtain, both startled and curious as to where it had come from or why it was there. He’d never had a curtain like that in any of his real bedrooms. With only a moment of hesitation, he pulled the curtain aside.
James suddenly found himself standing face to face with a girl his own age, and he jumped back in surprise. She remained where she was, so he gulped and stared at her, noticing that she was quite pretty, though she did have a strong resemblance to Dinah. However, it was her glowing blue eyes, and her glowing blue hair, which told him who she was.
“You’re Glow,” James blurted out. Then before she could say anything, he demanded, “What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” Glow answered, gesturing behind her.
As James looked past Glow, he finally noticed everything else that had been hidden by the curtain. To his surprise, his bedroom was larger than what he’d previously thought, though this newly revealed section was definitely smaller, only about a third of the total room. There was a bed, a dresser, and a book shelf, but the colors were all dull, and there were very few decorations or personal items. The only ones that James could see, were a plate of cookies on the dresser, along with a photo of him.
“What…what is this?” James asked, though he already knew the answer.
“I am your roommate,” Glow told him with a sad smile. “I have been for a long time.”
James just stared at Glow, feeling a little uncertain and not sure what to make of this strange girl. He’d known about her for less than a week, though she had known about him for far longer. For most of his life, she had been there, protecting him without his even knowing it. And though James didn’t know much about Glow, other than what Dinah and his dad had told him, he still felt the connection between them.
“You’re real, aren’t you?” James asked her in surprise. “You’re not just a dream… You’re the real Glow…”
“I am real,” Glow responded with a faint smile. “Though some would argue that point…such as the doctor who tried curing us.”
“I…I don’t really remember him,” James said quietly, not wanting to admit that he didn’t remember her either. According to Dinah, Glow was the one who took away those memories, and James wasn’t sure whether to be angry or grateful for that.
Glow nodded her understanding and gestured to the book shelf, which was filled with photo albums that James hadn’t noticed until then. “Much of our sessions with Doctor Simmons are in there.” At his blank look, she explained, “These are our bad memories…the ones that are too painful to remember…or that you needed to forget.”
James stared at the book shelf, shocked by how many photo albums were on it. “How many things have I forgotten?” Glow didn’t answer, nor did she need to. The sheer number of photo albums was answer enough. “Oh God…”
“It has been a long time since we have spoken like this,” Glow told him, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder and leading him over to his bed, where they sat down next to each other.
“I’m sorry,” James told her, giving a faint smile. “But I don’t remember…”
“I know,” Glow responded, looking sad. She stared across the room, at the book shelves, then gestured to where the curtain had been. “You were ashamed of me and what I represented, so hung a curtain to hide me from your view.”
James stared at Glow, a little startled at that since he’d been under the impression that she was the one who was hiding from him. “But…”
However, Glow continued, as though James hadn’t spoken. “You still come to this place in your dreams, yet you do not even look in my direction. You act as though I do not exist…” She paused at that, looking as though she was hurt by this, but trying not to show it. Still, James could see her eyes were watering. “On rare occasion, you have noticed the curtain, but after a quick glance behind it…you turn away in fear, and once again forget me.”
“I…I’m sorry,” James told her, beginning to tear up himself. He wiped at his eyes, feeling guilty for how he’d been treating Glow, after everything she’d done for him, even though he didn’t remember doing it.
Glow gave him a gentle smile and pointed out, “This time, you saw the curtain. You did not hesitate to look beyond it. And, you did not turn away from me in fear. Something has changed. Something has given you cause to seek me.”
James squirmed self-consciously, realizing that she was right. When he’d gone to bed, he’d been thinking about leaving a message for Glow, about asking her to help. “My dad,” he said quietly, his voice cracking a little. “Mel…” He stared at Glow for a moment, annoyed that she could look so calm with everything that was going on. “But you already know that…”
“Yes,” she responded with a faint nod. “I know the trouble they are in, and I deeply regret it.”
“Then help them,” James urged her. “You have powers. You can rescue them…” When Glow didn’t respond, he tearfully begged, “Please…”
“I am sorry,” Glow told him apologetically. “My purpose is to protect you, not your loved ones. I do care for them, and would help them if I could, but I cannot risk us falling into Sinsear’s hands again. I will not allow Sinsear to ever touch us again. To intentionally go to him, would be to betray the very purpose of my existence.”
“We have to do something,” James blurted out with a mixture of worry, anger, and frustration. “Sinsear’s gonna hurt them… He’ll do WORSE than kill them…”
Glow just calmly stared back, looking like she wasn’t even bothered by the idea, which only made James angrier. “But here on this island,” Glow told him, “you will be safe. Sinsear cannot find you here…”
“I’m tired of hiding,” James yelled as he jumped to his feet, tears running down his cheeks. He glared at Glow, the one person he thought he could trust, and snarled, “I’m sick and tired of hiding…of running away. I’m tired of doing NOTHING…” James’ whole body trembled as he thought of Sinsear, but the fear was overshadowed by his anger and desperation. “I can’t let them go through that… I have to do something.”
Glow watched him with a curious expression, asking, “And what can you do?”
“I don’t know,” James admitted, clenching his fists and glaring at Glow. “But I can’t just run away… For once in my life, I want to fight…”
“What did you say?” Glow demanded, getting to her feet and staring at James with an intensity that would have made him instinctively step back, if he wasn’t so angry.
James met Glow’s stare and defiantly stated, “I said I want to fight.”
To James’ surprise, Glow smiled and exclaimed, “FINALLY!”
“What?” he gasped in surprise, as well as a little confusion.
“I cannot rescue Mel or your father for you,” Glow said, putting a hand on James’ shoulder. “But if you are determined enough…if you are strong enough and willing to fight for it…I can give you the power you need to do so.”
“What do you mean?” James asked, stunned by this sudden turnabout. “How?”
Glow was silent for several long seconds, her expression turning grim. “Remember,” she said in an even tone, “my power is your power. You can claim it as your own, though it will not be easy.”
James stared at Glow for several long seconds as he absorbed what she’d said. According to Dinah and their dad, he’d manifested as a mutant three years earlier, though he’d never been able to use his mutant abilities. Glow was the one who had the powers, and she was the only one of them who could use them. However, she had just made it very clear that it didn’t need to be that way.
“What do I have to do?” he asked, taking a deep breath and bracing himself. From the way she was acting, he was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to like the answer, but he was determined to do it anyway. He had to if he wanted any chance of helping his Dad and Mel.
“If we succeed,” Glow warned him, “there will be no going back. If you succeed…then things will never be the same.”
James hesitated for only a second before repeating, “What do I have to do?”
Glow bowed her head faintly in acknowledgement, then instructed, “Say my name.”
“Glow?” James answered, a little confused by why she’d told him to do that.
“No,” she shook her head. “Not the name that Dinah gave me. Say my true name…the one that has been mine since my creation.”
“But, how should I…,” James started in surprise, wondering how he could possibly be expected to know her name. Before last week, he hadn’t even known she’d existed, and according to Dinah, Glow had never told anyone what her name was. But in spite of that, a name suddenly came to him, and he knew without a doubt that it belonged to her. He took a deep breath, then said, “Rachael.”
As soon as that name passed his lips, James felt a chill, realizing that he knew exactly where that name had come from. Rachael was his mother’s middle name. A moment later, he let out a gasp, suddenly remembering that Rachael had also been the name of his imaginary friend when he’d been a little boy. She’d been there whenever he felt scared or alone, playing with him and promising to protect him.
James’ eyes shot wide in surprise and he blurted out, “You’re her…”
Glow bowed her head and smiled faintly at that. Before James could ask any of the questions that came to mind, an old memory bubbled to the surface and completely overwhelmed him.
Suddenly, he was nine years old again and Billy Jones was bullying him on the school playground. “Come on,” Billy demanded as he shoved James, who froze in fear. Billy saw that and began laughing, as did the other boys, who began taunting, “Chicken. Chicken.”
“Who are you calling a chicken?” Rachael demanded as she suddenly appeared beside James. Then without saying another word, she punched Billy as hard as she could. James watched in awe as Rachael protected him, giving Billy a fat lip and a black eye, and convincing him to leave James alone.
The memory shifted and began to replay itself, though this time, from a different perspective. This time, James was the one who demanded, “Who are you calling a chicken,” right before punching Billy. As the boy went down, James leapt on top of him punching him several more times.
The next thing James knew, he was thirteen years old, and was surround by three of the bullies from school. As usual, he was too frozen in fear to fight back or even run away. While he absorbed the situation, Rachael took over for him, and as with the last memory, he was now Rachael. Without a moment of hesitation, Rachael leapt forward and began to fight the boys, though even as she did this, she realized that her body felt…different. Somehow, it felt…right.
Once the fight was over, and Rachael had chased away the three bruised and bloody boys, she looked down at herself and gasped in surprise. Instead of James’ familiar but uncomfortable body, she actually saw her own. She was a girl. For the first time in her life, her body actually matched who she was.
James was at his psychiatric appointment with Dr. Simmons. A moment later he was curled up on his bed, sobbing because he was a crazy freak who heard who heard voices in his head. Then he was Rachael, teleporting around a parking lot and driving a blade of energy into the engine block of Todd’s truck.
New memories kept coming, one after another. Some were his own memories, ones that had been lost and forgotten, while others belonged to Rachael. They came so fast and so quickly that he felt like he was going to drown beneath them, yet he held on and tried as hard as he could, just to stay afloat in his own mind.
Though James was lost in these memories, he could still feel when Glow embraced him in a hug. She didn’t say a word, but he knew that she couldn’t protect him from what was coming, only offer what comfort she could.
Eventually, James was struck by the memories he’d been expecting, yet dreaded the most. Memories of Sinsear filled his world, and James screamed in terror and agony.
James was a small child, no match for an adult man, much less one with powers. Sinsear grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed him to the ground. His heart raced with terror and he sobbed uncontrollably, calling out, “MOMMY,” but she didn’t come.
“Your mother has wronged me a great deal,” Sinsear snarled, scaring the young James even more. “The sins of mother shall be visited upon the son…”
With that, Sinsear placed his hand onto James’ back, and the boy screamed as his flesh was blistered and burned. He cried out with every fiber of his being for someone to come protect him, and when his mother failed to appear, the seed of a new protector was formed.
A thousand nightmares struck James at once, ones that had been locked away in the depths of his mind until that very moment. Every instinct he possessed, screamed for him to pull away…to push those memories back into the dark depths where they belonged. However, he somehow knew that if he did that, then he’d fail. He wouldn’t get the power he needed.
“I have to help them,” James told himself, sobbing as he did so. “I can’t give up…”
Terror, shame and agony ripped through James’ mind, threatening to drive him insane. He felt a nearly overwhelming desire to run and hide from these memories, like he had been doing for the last twelve years, but he couldn’t afford to do so now…not when others would pay the price. Instead, he gathered every ounce of willpower he possessed, braced himself against the onslaught, and screamed in defiance.
Liberty League Headquarters, Lake Michigan. Sunday early morning, Aug 19th, 2007
Dinah rolled over in bed, trying to get back to sleep, though without much success. Over the last couple nights, she hadn’t been able to sleep more than an hour at a time, before the nightmares would wake her up. Every time she closed her eyes, she imagined what Sinsear must be doing to her dad and Mel, and it left her insides all knotted up with worry.
“That’s it,” Dinah grumbled as she sat up in bed, giving up on the idea of getting back to sleep at the moment. She let out a yawn, wondering if a glass of warm milk would help her go to sleep. After all, their neighbor Mrs. Brunner, always swore that a glass of warm milk helped her go to sleep, though Dinah suspected that the old woman also used a few pills in addition. “It wouldn’t hurt to try.”
While Dinah was trying to decide whether or not to make the trip to the kitchen, she suddenly heard a scream from the room beside hers. It came from James’ room, and the walls were thick enough that she barely heard it. However, she knew her brother had plenty of reasons for nightmares, and wasn’t too surprised, though she was worried.
“JAMES,” she yelled through the wall, hoping to wake him up, though he continued to scream.
Dinah was wearing the pajamas her mother had given her, so she didn’t hesitate before rushing out into the all, and then to the room next door. She pounded on James’ door, but when he didn’t answer, she opened it and let herself in. A moment later, she stared across the pitch black room…freezing as she saw two glowing blue dots in the dark.
“James?” Dinah asked, suddenly feeling very nervous.
She flipped the light switch, and was relieved to see that James was the only other person in the room. He was still in his bed, screaming with his eyes opened. But when Dinah ran to him, she froze again, stunned to see that his eyes were glowing blue…just like Glow’s.
“Wake up,” Dinah commanded as she began shaking her brother.
James stopped screaming, but he didn’t seem to wake up, even if his eyes were still open. Then, as Dinah watched, his features shifted and changed, becoming a little softer. She let out a gasp and tried waking him again, but he remained unresponsive. After a few more seconds, she turned and ran out the door, going straight to her mom’s quarters down the hall and pounding on the door.
When the door opened, Dinah stared up at her mom, who was seven feet tall and wearing an enormous bathrobe. “What are you making all this noise for?”
Dinah bit down her annoyance over the fact that her mother stayed that large, even while asleep, and blurted out, “James… There’s something wrong with him…”
Her mother’s eyes immediately went wide, and without saying a word, she ran down the hall to James’ room. Dinah followed close behind, though by the time she went back into the room, her mom was leaning over James’ bed, checking on him.
“His eyes are glowing,” her mom said, looking to Dinah. “Is this normal?”
“No,” Dinah responded, shaking her head emphatically. “He was screaming, and when I came to wake him up, I found him like this. He won’t wake up…and he’s turning into Glow…and they NEVER change this slow…” She was starting to tear up. “There’s something wrong with him…”
Her mother pulled her into a hug, promising, “It’s going to be all right…” Then, she turned her attention back to James and tried to wake him up, to no effect. “I need to take him to the infirmary.” And with that, she picked James up off the bed, cradling him in her arms as though he was a small child, and carrying him out the door.
Hours later, Dinah was in the infirmary, sitting beside an unconscious Glow. Dinah silently watched over the other girl, occasionally even reaching over to brush her glowing hair or hold her hand. Glow was her friend, and in an odd way, her sister as well. But as worried as Dinah was about Glow, she was even more concerned about James.
“Come on,” Dinah pleaded. “You’ve got to wake up…”
Dinah didn’t know why James had suddenly started screaming, though she strongly suspected it had been because of a nightmare. However, what she was even less certain of, was why he’d begun changing into Glow. The process had been slow, much slower than Dinah had ever seen, and it had taken about an hour before it was finished. During that time, James had curled up and sobbed for awhile, though he’d still been completely unresponsive when she or their mom had tried to wake him. But once they’d finished changing, Glow had closed her eyes, and now appeared to be peacefully asleep, except for the fact, that Dinah still couldn’t wake her.
“Physically, she seems to be quite healthy,” the Bronze Lady said from a short distance away. “But admittedly, I am not a doctor. My talents and interests lay more towards the mechanical then the biological.”
“But she’s still asleep,” Dinah exclaimed, standing up and stretching her legs. “Why did they change?”
“Maybe Glow was trying to protect James from a nightmare,” her mother suggested from the doorway. She came in and crouched down beside Glow, hesitating a moment before running her hair over the sleeping girl’s cheek.
Dinah scowled, not at all satisfied with that answer. “Then why won’t she wake up?”
“I don’t know,” her mom admitted, looking pained. “I wish I did, but there is so much about Glow that I don’t know…”
“It is possible that this is a side effect of their power,” the Bronze Lady offered. “But considering the fact that James has been under a great deal of stress lately, and with his...condition…I suspect that this is psychological rather than physical.”
Dinah stared at Glow again, then yelled, “Come on you lazy bum. Get your butt out of bed…”
“Dinah,” her mom said, giving her a disapproving look. “I don’t think…”
But to Dinah’s surprise, Glow began to move. She opened her eyes and slowly sat up. Dinah was immediately by her side again, grabbing her in a hug and exclaiming, “You’re awake…”
“Of course I’m awake,” Glow responded, rubbing her eyes and then looking around the room with a confused look. “Where am I?”
“You’re in the infirmary,” the Bronze Lady answered. “You wouldn’t wake up, and we were concerned that something was wrong…”
Glow stared at her for a moment, then looked down at herself. Suddenly, she grabbed her breasts as though surprised to find them there, blurting out, “I’m a girl…”
“Of course you’re a girl,” Dinah responded a little confused by the way Glow was acting.
A moment later, Glow abruptly looked up at Dinah’s mom, her expression turning grim as she asked, “Did you find out where Dad is yet?”
“Not yet,” her mother responded, though her eyes seemed to burn with a fierce determination. “But we’re close. Very close…”
“Wait,” Dinah blurted out, staring at Glow in surprise. “You called him Dad. You NEVER call him Dad…” She paused for a moment, staring at Glow until everything suddenly made sense. “James?”
“Yeah,” Glow responded, giving her a self-conscious smile, the kind that definitely belonged on James’ face more than Glow’s.
“But you look like Glow,” Dinah exclaimed, stunned by this revelation.
Glow, or at least the person who looked like her, looked confused for a moment, then responded, “But I am Glow…” However, a moment later, she added, “But I’m James too…”
“What are you saying?” their mother asked, giving Glow a worried look.
“I…I remember,” Glow whispered in a shaky voice. She licked her lips and seemed to stare off into nothing as she continued, “I remember all those sessions with Doctor Simmons…when he was trying to help me with the missing time and my repressed memories. I remember fighting Bombastic…and those men who attacked us downtown. I remember freezing in panic when Jessica Barnes said I was cute and kissed me. I remember learning how to use my powers. And I remember…” She froze, her skin going pale as a haunted expression appeared on her face. “And I remember Sinsear... I remember…everything.”
“Stop being such a freak,” Dinah weakly teased her, feeling nervous by how strange Glow was acting. “You’re starting to scare me…”
“Sorry,” Glow responded with a faint smile. “It’s not my fault you’re so jumpy.”
“I’m a little confused,” their mother said, putting a gentle hand on Glow’s shoulder and looking down at her. “Are you James or Glow?”
Glow hesitated for several second, then with a gasp of realization, she answered, “I think I’m both.” She stared down at her body, then at her hands, which were familiar yet strange at the same time. Tears of joy began to fill her eyes, and in a tone of awe, she gasped, “I’m…I’m whole.”
Location unknown. Sunday, Aug 19th, 2007
Mel sat on the cold hard floor, wanting to get up and move around so she could stretch her legs, but feeling too sore and tired to bother. Half her body was badly bruised, including her face. The other day, one of Sinsear’s goons had worked her over, then took pictures. But as bad as that was, she was just thankful that Sinsear himself hadn’t been the one to do it.
“How are you holding up?” John asked her from where he was leaning up against the wall a short distance away.
“Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?” Mel asked.
John looked just as bad as she felt, if not worse. He had two black eyes and a swollen lip, and that didn’t even take into account all the other bruises she couldn’t see, or the gash in his side that still hadn’t healed. As much as Mel was hurting, she had no doubt that John had it worse, though he refused to complain about it. In fact, she was pretty sure that he was trying to put up a brave face, just to make her feel better.
“We’ll get out of here,” John promised her, not for the first or even tenth time. “Sarah is going to come for us…”
“Because she did such a good job rescuing James,” Mel muttered under her breath.
A minute later, the heavy door creaked open and Mel got to her feet, though she no longer had any illusions about being able to run for it. The Ringleader stepped into the room, with six glowing rings floating in the air around him, each a weapon that could take her out if she tried anything. Mel gulped in fear at the sight of him and those rings, and took a step back.
Two days ago, the Ringleader had come into the room in the same fashion, and before Mel had known it, one of those rings had snapped tightly around each of her arms and legs. She’d been thrown up against the far wall and pinned there, helpless to do anything while the supervillain had punched her, over and over. Once he was done with her, he’d done the same thing to John, and then he’d taken pictures of them both.
The Ringleader stared at her for a moment before snorting in disdain. “I am not going to hurt you, girl,” he said as he set a plate of food onto the floor. “Not unless you cross me.”
Mel just stared at him, too scared to speak or move. Suddenly, she wondered if this was what it was like for James. Was this the way he felt, every time he got into a confrontation with someone? She shuddered, having a much better understanding of her friend. However, she didn’t want to be like that. She couldn’t bear the thought of being so terrified that she wouldn’t even stand up for herself.
“Yeah, right,” Mel responded, knowing that she couldn’t curl up and hide like she wanted to. She thought of James again, afraid that if she did do that, then she might never stop. “Then what about the other day?”
“Sinsear’s instructions,” Ringleader answered dismissively. “It was necessary to bait the trap…”
“You certainly seemed to enjoy yourself though,” John added with a grimace.
“This abuse does not suit me,” Ringleader stated. “If you are going to kill someone, it should be done and over quickly. However, this is Sinsear’s operation so the choice is not mine.”
When the Ringleader turned to leave, Mel blurted out, “Wait…”
“What?” the villain demanded, making her want to step back.
Mel was terrified, but she had an idea. It was a stupid idea…a desperate one. However, it was the only chance she had.
“Please,” she begged. “Don’t let Sinsear kill us… I don’t want to die that way... I know what he does to people…”
Ringleader nodded in understanding and came closer. “I would do you the favor of killing you quickly,” he said, sounding almost sympathetic. “But I won’t cross Sinsear, not when I still need him.”
“Please,” Mel begged, moving closer to Ringleader. “You have to…” Then she drove her knee right into his groin as hard as she could. The supervillain let out a yelp of pain and dropped to the floor. She followed up by kicking him in the head, he collapsed completely. “Sucker.”
“Good job,” John said, grinning in approval, then gesturing to the still open door. “Now run…”
“Come on,” she urged him, glancing back and forth between him and the door.
“I can’t,” John said with a pained look and a shake of his head. “I can barely stand, much less run…”
Mel gasped, growing frantic as she knew they didn’t have the time for this. “But…”
“NOW,” John ordered. “Go. Get help.”
Mel hesitated only a moment more before she nodded and promised, “I’ll be back,” right before she ran for the door.
The building was large, old, and mostly empty. Mel didn’t know what the building had originally been used for, whether it was a factor, a warehouse, or something else entirely. All she knew was that she had to get out before the supervillains found her again.
Several minutes later, Mel found the exit and ran through it as fast as she could. However, she suddenly found herself facing the massive metal form of Ironworks, who was looking straight at her.
“Oh shit,” Mel blurted out, pretty sure that what she pulled on Ringleader, would not work on that monstrosity.
Ironworks slung his massive hammer over his shoulder, then to Mel’s surprise, he turned and walked away. She watched him go in stunned disbelief, unsure why he was ignoring her, but thankful that he was.
“I’m free,” Mel whispered, feeling giddy from the triumph.
Then, Mel looked around, seeing an old train track a short distance away, with several rusty rail cars on it that looked like they hadn’t moved in decades. There were old cargo containers scattered about, some stacked upon each other, many of them covered with old graffiti. However, she couldn’t see anything else beyond these. She was free, but had no idea where she was, other than in the middle of nowhere.
To be Concluded