By Ravager4 0 Comments
Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.
Note: The thirteenth arc in my Ravager series to be remastered into prose format and edited to make it better. Reaching the homestretch now... just two more to go.
My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/
A crisp, cool breeze gusted gently through the city, typical of a quiet, October night. A light coating of grey slush covered the ground, the result of an early snowfall mixed with driving rain. Several men hurried back and forth between the warehouse and a large box truck parked out front, though they didn't pay much mind to the deep puddles. Time was of the essence right now, and they couldn't afford to be tiptoeing around a little water. This delivery needed to go out as soon as possible, before someone tipped off the cops, or worse.
One of the guys, Danny, was a newcomer to the operation, only there because his buddy told him it would be some easy money. Come in for a couple of hours, help load up the truck, make a hundred bucks. It seemed like a simple enough deal at the time, but now he wasn't so sure. He had heard the rumors, after all, that the capes of Silverstone were back in full force ever since a couple of months ago. It wasn't just that Ravager chick anymore, either. Rumors had been circulating about another woman in a hood and cloak who could teleport—freaking teleport! As if it could get any weirder, there was supposed to be a third one now, too, some indestructible broad made of metal
Danny hadn't ever actually seen any of these costumed crime fighters himself, but then he had never been involved in something like this before, transporting boxes of god knows what kinds of drugs, well past midnight. Knowing his luck, though, the one time he did, those vigilantes would show up. It was almost guaranteed.
“Hey, Ted, how much longer you think this is gonna take?” he asked.
His friend, Ted, uttered an annoyed sigh, as the two headed back into the warehouse for another load. “Relax, shouldn’t be more than another half hour. What’s got you so nervous anyway?”
“Well, you’ve heard the talk, right? What if those crime fighting chicks show up and—”
“Oh, for the last time, dude, they’re not gonna show up,” he said. “We were careful, you got that? We picked the right time, the right location, the right everything. I’d be more worried about the cops showing up than those loonies.”
Grabbing another box, Danny breathed out an unconvinced sigh and slowly shuffled his way back outside. “I hope you’re right, man. I really don’t feel like running into them. Not tonight, not ever.”
“I swear, Danny, you are such a girl.”
As the two emerged back outside into the loading area, they suddenly paused, noticing the other two loaders lying down on the ground behind the truck, unmoving. Ted hurried up to the truck to set down his box, then knelt to check on their two unconscious friends.
“What the hell? They’re out cold!” Ted said, looking around in a near panic.
“Aw man, I knew it! I told you! I’m getting out of here, dude, this isn’t worth a hundred bucks!” Dropping his box, Danny turned around and sprinted away, arms swinging wildly. He wanted to get as far from there as possible. No way he was going to let himself be—
A sudden crack exploded across the back of his skull, crumpling him unconscious to the ground. Emerging from the inky shadows next to him, a female figure coated in a metallic shell looked down and shook her head in clear disappointment. With a brief sigh, she casually brushed off her hands and then brought her attention to the one man remaining.
Heart pounding in the midst of panic, Ted reached into the back of his pants and pulled out his handgun. Even as he aimed it at her, though, hand shaking and unsteady, he knew it wouldn't do any good. “Stay back! I’ll shoot!”
When the woman continued to approach him, he fired. Of course, the bullets ricocheted like ping pong balls off her metallic skin, exactly as he'd feared. Huffing out a breath of utter hopelessness, Ted stood there and hung his head; there was no point in running.
The woman came to a stop in front of him, pausing only briefly to shake her head at him, then grabbed the gun from his hand and crushed it with a single squeeze. “You know, shooting at a woman is really impolite.”
“I’m sure you are. Now, be a good little boy and go to sleep.” She delivered a single, hard chop to the side of the man's neck, dropping him in an instant. For a moment, she worried that she might have put too much force into the blow, but a quick examination of the unconscious body revealed a steady pulse.
It had taken Becky quite a bit of practice to get a firm grasp on her newfound strength levels. In order for a blow like that to simply knock someone out and not, for example, take his head clean off, she had to really hold back.
“Well, I’d say that was simple enough,” Becky said, bringing her hands to her hips. “How’d I do?”
From atop the truck, Ravager walked into view, arms folded. “Hmm… I give it a B+.”
“What, that’s it? Come on, that had to be at least an A-.”
“Could have been, if you didn’t forget about the guy in the truck,” she said, glancing behind her. “If I didn't taken care of him, he’d have gotten away.”
“The guy in the…” Becky blinked, bowing her head. “Oh, right.”
“Hey, don’t sweat it. You’re getting better.” Ravager paused a moment to remove the faceplate of her helmet, revealing a pleased smile painted across her face. In a single, deft motion, she leaped down from the truck and landed softly on the balls of her feet. After straightening herself out again, she took a few careful steps over to Becky and leaned in close, pressing their lips together gently. The cold feel of Becky's metallic lips sent a pleasant chill down her spine, the kind of chill that made her tingle in all the right places.
“Well… at least I didn’t level half the warehouse by accident?” Becky said, with a slight chuckle.
“You mean like you did last week?”
“Hey, that place was condemned anyway,” she insisted. “If you think about it, I actually saved the city money from having to demolish it.”
Ravager smirked, as she slipped her faceplate back into place. Her voice resonated with a tin echo from behind the metal mask. “Spin it however you want, you still got a C.”
Becky lifted an eyebrow. “I thought it was a C+?”
“It was, but then you went and ripped a hole through that person’s car when you chased down the last guy, remember? I took off points for that.”
“Oh… right, I forgot about that.”
“And that's why I'm the one keeping track of your grades.”
Reaching down into one of the compartments of her utility belt, Ravager pulled out a small phone. It wasn't her normal phone, instead keeping this one around specifically to use while dressed up as Ravager. Only a small handful of numbers were stored on it, and this time her finger drifted over to the first speed dial button. Pacing several steps to the left, she waited patiently until the man on the other line picked up.
“Hey, Palmer. Yeah, it’s me. Listen, send down a couple squad cars to the old warehouse on Holland Street. Got you a box truck full of drugs and the guys moving it. Yeah, I’ll tell her. See you soon.” Hanging up the phone, she turned back to Becky and folded her arms across her chest. “Palmer says hi.”
“Oh he does, ah? He just saw me a few hours ago, too.”
“Probably still not over the whole you being alive again thing. Coming back from the dead tends to have an effect on people.”
“Ha, I suppose.” Becky grinned, shaking her head slightly. “You should have seen the looks I got on my first day back on the force. You’d think those guys saw a ghost. Hell, Stevens kept poking me with a pencil most of the day to make sure I was really there. Of course, he backed off when I crushed the pencil into powder.”
A small smile snaked its way across Ravager’s face at the thought of Becky flipping on Stevens. Then, her gaze drifted down to Becky's plain white T-shirt, now outfitted with several bullet holes. “You know, we should really consider getting you a costume or something. Maybe a codename, too. Just because Palmer and a couple other guys on the force know your identity, doesn’t mean everyone in the city has to.”
“Ah, s'alright,” Becky said, glancing down at the ruined shirt. “Never liked this shirt much anyway. Besides, the shiny metal skin is plenty; can't even tell it's me when I'm like this. And what would I call myself, anyway? The Super Metal Chica? Or maybe Silver Nanite Girl? Oh, how about The Shiny Avenger?”
“Alright, alright, I see your point. You’re fine as is.”
“That’s what I thought. So, where’s Ruby, anyway?”
“Working the East District, I believe,” Ravager said. “Something about investigating a string of weird murders involving razor blades and a hack saw.”
Becky cringed slightly at the thought. “Sounds riveting. She coming to the party tomorrow?”
“Well, I sure hope so. She said she’d pick up the cake on her way there.”
“Ha, so she did. Should be fun, ah?”
Ravager shifted her weight slightly, trying not to audibly groan. “If you don’t mind looking after a bunch of hyperactive, preteen kids, sure.”
“That’s why you got us girls to help you,” Becky replied, holding an arm around her girlfriend's shoulder. “God knows you couldn’t handle it on your own.”
Ravager let out a small, snorting laugh. “When you’re right, Becky, you really are right.”
It was a big day at Silverstone City Park. After all, what twelve-year-old girl’s birthday wasn't a big day? Any excuse to have a big party, open presents, and stuff yourself with cake was a good one in a kid’s eyes. For Holly, it was no different. Not since her last birthday had she had a chance to get together with all of her friends like this, and she had made sure to take advantage of it, inviting literally everyone she was even remotely friends with. The more people that attended, the more presents, after all! That and it made the party games (which, for Holly, consisted of things like flag football. Screw pin the tail on the jackass) a lot more exciting.
Of course, being responsible for twenty or so kids was more than a handful. If Rose had to do this herself, she probably would have gone insane. Fortunately, she had the likes of Becky, Circe, and Ruby to help her out. Ruby was especially advantageous; if things ever get too out of hand, she could always make the kids calm down with her empathic abilities. That was, of course, when she actually got there. As far as they knew, Ruby was still downtown picking up the cake.
“Holly, I’m open!” Lyta yelled, running out for a pass. “Throw it!”
Holly wasn't like most girls. While others her age were more concerned with dolls, pink ribbons, and pretty dresses, she was into things like sports and martial arts. Being raised by Rose for the last two and a half years probably had a bit of influence on that, but still. That being the case, most of her friends were actually boys, with the exception of Lyta—by far her best friend—and a few other more tomboyish girls from her class.
Right now, those kids were engaged in a heated flag football game, with Holly acting as quarterback and leader of her team. As Lyta broke out into the open, Holly pulled back the football and launched it through the air. It was far from a perfect spiral, of course, but it reached its mark, if a little overthrown. Still, Lyta managed to come down with a spectacular one handed grab in the end zone (a feat quite possibly aided by the girl’s magical abilities, but there was no need to mention that to anyone). Either way, it was cause for their team to erupt with excitement, while the opposing team could only bow their heads in disappointment.
“Nice catch!” Holly exclaimed, running up to her friend and giving a high five.
Lyta grinned. “I know, it was pretty awesome, right?”
At a nearby picnic table, the three adults watched the game carefully. Circe leaned back in her seat and folded her arms, smiling proudly. “Did you see that? My girl scored a goal.”
“It’s called a touchdown,” Becky said, trying to stifle a laugh, “and yes, we all saw it.”
Circe paused a moment, furrowing her brow and straightening her posture. “Touchdown, of course. That’s what I meant.”
“Suuure you did.”
Walking around the side of the picnic table, Rose held one hand to her hip, while pointing absently at the food items in front of her, making sure that they had everything in order. “Okay, we have sandwiches, chips, potato salad, pizza, cheese and crackers, juice, soda… am I missing anything?”
“Relax, girl, we got everything on the list,” Becky assured. “Sit down and watch the game; Holly’s team is dominating.”
“Alright, so then we’re just missing the—”
“Cake, right?” Appearing behind them, Ruby casually walked over and to the table and set down the large chocolate cake in front of her. “Got it right here. All twelve candles, too.”
Rose huffed out a relieved sigh. “Oh, there you are, good. Alright, so I guess that’s everything. You guys want to help me getting this stuff ready for everyone to eat?”
Becky nodded, still focusing intently on the football game. “Yeah, just a second.”
A quarterback sneak this time, and Holly really started to put on the moves. The other team didn't have a prayer of catching her flags, not with the way she was darting around and spinning. Within seconds, she broke away and scored another touchdown, much to her own team's delight.
Growing a small smirk, Becky turned to Circe again. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say your girl hexed the other team or something.”
“If she did, then she’s putting her power to good use,” she replied, folding her arms.
“Ha, by cheating at a football game?”
“If you have it, flaunt it. That is how the saying goes, right?”
“Uh… something like that. Anyway, let’s help with the spread.”
Turning back around to the picnic table, Becky and Circe focused their efforts in assisting Rose and Ruby with organizing all the food. When the kids finished their game, they would be wanting to dig right in. Said game was just about over, of course, with how far ahead Holly's team was, but the kids were still having fun,, so for the time being the game pressed on.
Holly’s team was back in possession now. Dropping back for a pass, Holly's sharp sharp eyes carefully scanned the field for an open receiver. Lyta broke away from her defender again, waving her arms for the ball. Spotting her friend wide open in the end zone, Holly aired out a pass and… promptly overthrew her intended target by about ten feet. Well, they couldn't all be perfect passes.
Lyta uttered a small groan, as she chased after the ball. “Aw, I’m not that tall, Holly!”
The oblong ball bounced awkwardly across the ground, rolling behind a collection of bushes near the park gate. Huffing out a small breath, Lyta hurried over to look for it. She looked around for a few minutes, searching high and low for the pigskin, but for some reason she couldn't find it anywhere. It was as if the thing had just up and vanished into thin air.
A few moments later, Holly arrived to help search. “What’s taking so long over here?”
“I dunno, can’t find the football,” Lyta replied. “I thought it rolled over here somewhere.”
“It’s probably stuck in one of the bushes.” Pushing around to the back of the bushes, Holly looked around carefully, but she, too, found nothing.
As the two girls continued searching in confusion, a calm, smooth voice, thick with a French accent, interrupted them. “Are you girls looking for zis?”
Glancing towards the sound of the voice, they noticed a very young woman standing there; she couldn't have been older than nineteen or twenty. The woman was dressed in clean business attire, including a plain blue tie and long black pants. A narrow pair of glasses sat atop her nose, framing around her sharp, green eyes, and her long blonde hair was pulled back into a loose bun.
“Oh, hey yeah,” Holly said. “Thanks.”
As she went over to take the football away, however, the woman teasingly pulled it back. “You really should be more careful where you srow your toys.”
“Um… thanks, I guess. We’ll keep that in mind.”
“So, what are you girls doing out 'ere on zis fine day?”
Lyta frowned. “Um, can we just have our ball back? We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“Euh, but of course,” the woman said. “You girls are very smart, non? Never know what kind of people you might meet in a big city like zis.”
“Right…” Holly muttered. “You want to give us the ball, please?”
“Why, certainly. 'Ere, all you 'ave to do is take it from me.”
Extending her hand forward again, the woman gave a small smile, as if daring one of the girls to take the football. Lyta furrowed her brow, looking at the woman curiously. Finally, she reached out to grab the ball. The instant her hands touched it, however, she fell forward to the ground, unconscious.
“Lyta!” Before Holly could make a move to come to her friend’s aid, the woman extended a single hand and touched her on the shoulder. Much the same as Lyta, she quickly fell unconscious, crumpling to the ground.
“Yes, I sink you girls will do nicely,” the woman said to herself, as she lifted them up with one hand each, effortlessly carrying the girls away.
Back at the picnic table, Rose was in the middle of setting up the candles on the birthday cake when one of Holly’s friends suddenly rushed up and pulled on her sleeve.
“Ms. Wilson! Ms. Wilson!” the boy called.
Curiously, Rose glanced at the kid. “Oh, what is it?”
“It’s Holly and Lyta!”
Blinking a couple of times, she looked up and carefully scanned the area. That was when she realized that she didn't see Holly or Lyta anywhere.
Circe, too, was now standing and looking around. “Where are they? Where are our daughters?”
“Over there! They were over there!” The boy pointed over near the park gate, specifically out at the nearby street. “They were looking for the ball, and then they started talking to this woman, and-and-and then she took them!”
Panic began to set in. Rose took a closer look at the street, and that was when she noticed a woman dressed in a business suit slamming closed the side door of a large white van, with the words ‘Blanchett Limelight’ written on it.
In an instant, Rose sprinted across the park towards the van. “Holly!!!”
“Dios mio, the hell is going on?” Becky said, walking up to the table.
“I… I don’t know,” Ruby replied. “Circe? Hey!”
Circe, too, ran after Rose, heading straight for the van. By now, though, the woman was in the front seat, already starting up the engine. “She took them! She took the girls!”
With a shrill screech of the tires, the white van pulled out of its spot on the side of the road and sped away. By the time Rose raced through the park gates and made it to the street, the vehicle was already a small dot in the distance.
Holding her hands to her head, she took in a deep, slow breath to stop herself from panicking. “No, no that didn’t just happen. Tell me that didn’t just happen.”
Circe, on the other hand, who was normally able to remain surprisingly calm in these kinds of situations, failed to keep her composure. “She took them! She took our daughters!” Running her hands through her hair, Circe paced back and forth briefly, and then moved towards Rose. She reached outward, grabbed Rose by the shirt collar, and pulled her close. “Why are you just standing there?! Go after them! Do something!”
“Calm down, Circe, I’m trying to think.”
“Calm down? Our children were just kidnapped! How do you expect me to remain calm?”
“Circe—” With a soft exhale, Rose lifted her hands and pressed them to her friend’s cheeks, trying to offer some sort of comfort. Despite the comfort she was trying to give, however, she felt the same stinging anxiety beginning to bubble in her chest. “—we will find them, do you understand me? We will get them back.”
Swallowing a knot in her throat, Circe uttered a small breath and took a step back. “You’re right, of course you’re right. Our girls will be fine… they know how to handle themselves. I daresay that woman made a grave mistake in taking those two.”
A short moment later, Ruby and Becky arrived next to them. The other children from the party lingered somewhere behind, as if unsure whether or not they should approach the adults right now. Most of them looked confused, wondering what had happened. After all, they were there for Holly’s birthday party… so where was Holly?
“Would someone mind explainin' just what on earth is goin' on?” Ruby asked.
“It’s Holly and Lyta…” Rose uttered. “They were just kidnapped by some nut-job woman in a white van.”
Becky's eyes flew wide. “What?! Who? Who took them? I swear I’ll tear her arms off!”
“We’re not sure, but we’re going to find out, trust me on that.”
“Well I should bloody well hope so,” Ruby said. “What kind of demented person kidnaps a couple of kids in the middle of the afternoon?”
Digging into her pocket, Rose pulled out her phone and started dialing. “All kinds, Ruby. Anyway, the party’s over. Can you and Circe work on getting these kids home? I have to make a call.”
The van slowly rumbled through the mostly empty parking garage, stopping only when it reached the fourth level. After waiting a few, brief moments, the blonde woman stepped out of the vehicle and casually walked around to the side. She slid the door open and then raised a finger, causing the two unconscious girls inside to suddenly float up into the air and drift out of the van.
Turning around, the woman made her way towards the exit, which led directly to an elevator attached to an adjacent building. Holly and Lyta continued to float in midair behind her, following exactly where she went. Finding her way into the elevator, the woman pressed the button for the top floor and waited calmly for the ascent.
The elevator doors opened again, leading directly into a large office, brightly decorated with all the latest fashion trends. Mannequins wearing elegant dresses and other outlandish garments lined a red carpet walkway that led up to an ebony desk at the back of the room. Abstract sculptures dotted the sides of the room, nothing more than metal shapes open to interpretation. The far wall was one giant window, offering a stunning view of the city skyline beyond.
Sitting behind the office desk was a calm woman with long black hair coiling around her shockingly pale face. Though having reached the ripe old age of forty some months ago, her looks defied that age, retaining a certain sense of mature beauty. She wore a low cut top that fit around her torso rather tightly, specifically to accentuate her assets, and a skirt that barely found its way halfway down her thighs. This was Michelle Blanchett, head of the Blanchett Limelight Fashion/Modeling Agency.
As her assistant approached the desk, Blanchett's eyes shifted upward to look at her. “You were gone for quite some time, Sophie... you don't normally take that long. I trust you were successful?”
“Oui, Madame. I found two for ze price of one. Would you like to inspect zem?”
Blanchett's gaze carefully moved over the two girls floating beside her assistant. They both appeared to be around twelve years old, which worked well enough. The prime age would have been fourteen, but some of her clients did prefer younger girls. Besides, they would grow into that age eventually.
Releasing a soft breath, she stood up and moved around the side of her desk, arms held behind her back. “Straighten them out a little. I want to get a good look at them.”
Sophie nodded. “As you wish, Madame.” Instantly, the two girls went from floating aimlessly to stiffening into a rigid, upright position, arms and legs straight at their sides.
Holding a hand to her chin, Blanchett began circling around them, looking closely. “The blonde should prove to be quite valuable; blondes have always been popular, and it looks like she has heterochromia, too. They'll eat that up. And the other one… is her hair purple? That can’t be its natural color… though if it is, she’ll fetch quite the fee from our clients with more exotic tastes. Hmm…”
Moving back around in front of them, Blanchett folded her arms. Her eyes narrowed, drifting slowly back and forth between the two girls. “Both seem rather well developed for their age, as well. Always a plus. Sophie, I daresay you’ve outdone yourself this time.”
“Merci, Madame. I do strive to do my best.”
“Yes, so you do. Go ahead and take these two to the others. We should have a full shipment ready for delivery tomorrow.”
“Oui, right away.” Giving her mistress a polite bow, Sophie turned and headed back towards the elevator, Holly and Lyta following closely behind.
“Oh, and Sophie?”
Sophie paused, glancing back over her shoulder.
“After you’re finished, you may join me in the sauna, if you like.”
Again, Sophie gave a simple nod. “You are too kind, Madame. I will return shortly.”
When the elevator door opened this time, it led into a sub basement level of the Blanchett building, to an area where the projected stock was kept until ready to be shipped out. The conditions of this holding area were actually quite pristine, more like an underground four-star hotel than anything. Each child was offered their own room, complete with television, a bathroom, shower, a refrigerator full of snacks, and a dresser full of clean clothes.
Of course, this lavish treatment was a ruse, designed to keep the children complacent until the time came when they were shipped away to potential clients. They weren't even allowed to leave their rooms, which made it a prison no matter how well one dressed it up. Still, Blanchett did her best to make sure that they were well cared for until that time came.
Sophie stopped at the last door on the left, at the end of the corridor. She opened it, then walked inside and floated the girls across the room, dropping each of them on one of the two beds. After waiting for a brief moment, she snapped her fingers, and in an instant the girls awoke, lurching upright with deep breaths.
“Welcome, girls,” she said. “Do try to make yourselves at ‘ome. Just don’t get too comfortable; we will be shipping you out tomorrow.”
“Shipping us… what?” Holly uttered, blinking up at the woman. “Who are you? Where are we?”
“My name is Sophie, and I ‘ave brought you to your new ‘ome, at least for ze night. You will be given a more permanent residence in good time.”
Lyta frowned, glowering at her. “You kidnapped us!”
“Euh, I would not call it zat. I have merely… relocated you for ze time being. You will be given a ‘ome soon.”
“We already have homes! We have families! Takes us back, right now!”
“Oh, I am afraid I cannot do zat,” Sophie said, shaking her head. “You see, Madame Blanchett is very strict, and she simply refuses to let any of you go. Zat would cause a loss of profits, and we can’t have zat, now can we?”
Holly's eyes widened, practically bugging out of her head. “Profits? Profits? You’re selling us?!”
“Oui, in a sense.”
“I don’t think so!” Lyta countered. “You’re gonna take us home right now!”
Lifting her hands, a surge of crackling energy rapidly built up in Lyta's palms. Sophie only had time to lift an eyebrow before a web of lightning burst forth from the girl’s fingertips, striking the woman square in the chest and throwing her backwards across the room. For several moments, Sophie lied there motionless on the floor, scant wisps of smoke billowing from her charred clothing.
“You got her!” Holly said, pumping her fist in the air. “Awesome!”
Lyta shrugged. “Yeah, well she shouldn’t have kidnapped us. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
As the girls hurried for the open doorway, however, Sophie suddenly sat upright, apparently unharmed by the lightning blast. With a simple wave of the hand, she sent the two girls flying back across the room, pinning them against the back wall. Instinctively, Lyta’s hands began to charge again with magic, but with another wave of the hand, Sophie extinguished the energy.
“So, I see we ‘ave a little witch,” Sophie stated. “Zat could be problematique, non? I fear we must find a way to fix zat, else our clients won’t be too 'appy.”
“Stop it!” Holly shouted. She struggled hard against the invisible hold pinning her to the wall, but it was useless. Try as she might, she couldn't budge a muscle. “Let us go!”
“Désolé, but I ‘ave already said why I cannot do zat. Now, your friend 'ere must go to sleep for ze time being, until I come back wiz a more permanent solution.” Walking forward across the room, Sophie lifted her hands up to press them to the side of Lyta’s head.
“No!” Lyta screamed. “Stay away from me!”
“Bonne nuit, ma petite.”
A second later, Lyta’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. She slumped forward fast asleep, a rush of air bursting from her lungs. Sophie then extended her hand, causing Lyta to float across the room and land gently on one of the beds, head resting against the pillow.
“If you hurt her, I’ll kill you!” Holly said. “You hear me? I’ll kill you!”
Sophie pursed her lips, looking back at the girl. “She is un’armed, merely asleep. I will be back later to wake 'er up, you ‘ave my word.”
“Screw your word, you... you stupid b*tch!”
“My, my, zat is no way for a young girl to speak.”
Holly narrowed her eyes, frowning. “Yeah, well my mom says I shouldn’t swear… but she’s not here right now.”
Breathing out an annoyed sigh, Sophie placed her hands on her hips and shook her head. “In any case, I must be going now. Try to relax, ma petite. It will make sings easier.” And with those parting words, she turned to walk back out the door, pausing only briefly to snap her fingers and allow Holly to fall back down from the wall. “Au revoir.”
“You have to do something, now!” Becky urged.
Leaning forward in his seat, Chief Palmer held a hand to his head, while repeatedly tapping the fingers of his other hand in front of him. Rose and Becky stood in front of his desk, poised over him and yelling; it was all he could do just to concentrate, let alone get a clear grasp on what they were telling him.
“And you're sure about this?” he said. “You actually saw this woman take the girls?”
“I saw enough,” Rose said. “One of Holly's friends pointed her out clear as day as the person they'd been talking to, and then she took off in a van! What more do you want?”
“I'd like to have more to go on than circumstantial evidence before we go knocking on someone's door and start throwing around accusations of kidnapping.”
Rose frowned, slamming her fists down on the desk. “Circumstantial, my ass! Who else took them, huh? The freaking phantom stalker of Silverstone Park?!”
Uttering a small breath, Palmer slowly rubbed his temples. He could feel the onset of a pounding headache. “I know it's likely, given what you've told me, but you didn't actually see her take them. Simply having a possible suspect doesn't make a person guilty, and it's not enough for a warrant.”
“Would you listen to yourself? Chief, this is Holly we're talking about here. You know her; Lyta, too. You've been to their soccer games for f*ck's sake.”
“Rose, believe me, I want to find them,” he insisted. “And when we do find them, I'll nail the b*stard who took them so hard that he'll be staring at the inside of a cell until goddamn judgment day. But you're not giving me enough to go on here. We need to conduct a proper investigation; there are procedures for this.”
“Forget procedure! We know who did this!” Becky exclaimed. “Jueputa, we gave you the name on the side of the van, now just go after the b*tch!”
“May I remind you, Chavez, that in spite of your recent and miraculous resurrection, and your nightly vigilante escapades, you're still a cop? Or have you forgotten that? We do things by the book.”
Becky scoffed, crossing her arms firmly across her chest. “Since when the hell have you ever cared about the book? Hell, you've been working with Rose for over a year now help clean up this city, and she hardly operates 'by the book'. Why can't you just let us do what we do best? Let us go in there and grill these assholes so we can find Holly and Lyta!”
Palmer remained silent, slowly bringing his hands in front of him on the desk and clasping them together. His gaze lowered, a long, tired sigh escaping his lips.
“Chief, what the hell is going on here?” Rose asked. “It's like you don't want us going after this Blanchett woman. What's so f*cking special about her?
“It’s not that she’s special, it’s just… it’s complicated.”
“Well then, by all means, enlighten us,” Becky said, throwing her hands up in annoyance.
“Michelle Blanchett owns the most prolific and profitable fashion and modeling agency in the country, arguably the world,” the chief explained. “That in and of itself isn’t the problem, of course; it’s more than that. She’s a very powerful woman, has a lot of pull in not just her own industry, but just about everywhere.”
“Uh huh,” Rose muttered. “So what, money is power? Big deal. What’s that have to do with us not storming her building and nailing her?”
“You have to understand, Blanchett is notorious for going out of her way to step on people to get what she wants. She's vindictive, spiteful, and power hungry, a plain lethal combination, and that isn’t exclusive to the fashion world; her lawyers could give Lex-friggin-Luthor’s a run for their money.” Slinking back in his seat, Palmer folded his arms and huffed out a sigh. “If we start going in and tossing around kidnapping charges at her and we’re wrong, or we can’t prove it, not only do we fail to expose her, but she'll do everything in her power to destroy us, whether it be financially or by reputation.”
Becky groaned, pacing back and forth for a moment. “Dios, so you’re saying we’re just supposed to sit around and do nothing?”
“No, I’m saying we need to be absolutely sure,” he said. “If you think that Blanchett might have had a part in kidnapping Holly and her friend, then we need proof, and we’ll need to conduct a proper investigation. We’re not going to arrest the woman on speculation. You got that?”
A brief wave of silence washed over the group. Rose folded her arms across her chest and looked off to the side, shaking her head slowly. She didn't want to admit that Palmer might have a point, but there wasn't a whole lot else she can do. As sure as she was on this, as much as she felt it in her gut, Palmer was right: they don’t have any proof.
“Fine then.” She suddenly reached out to grab Becky’s hand, starting to pull her out the door of Palmer’s office. “If you need proof, then we’ll get you proof. Just be ready to back us up.”
“Wilson… don’t you do anything stupid.”
“Don’t worry, Chief. I’m just gonna get my daughter back.”
Sophie quietly opened the door, stepping forward into the room and flipping the light switch on. In her hands, she carried a very unique device, made to resemble a dog collar. It was, of course, much more advanced and high tech than a simple collar, with a very specific purpose. After closing the door behind her, she quickly headed across the room towards one of the beds, where Lyta slept soundly.
“Alright now, little witch girl. I have a solution for you.” Before she made it to the girl, however, a sudden thought caused her to pause. Curiously, she looked around the room, her eyes examining things closely. “Wait… where is ze ozer one?”
Springing forward from behind, Holly delivered a hard kick to the back of the woman’s knee. Sophie's legs buckled, but she caught herself on the edge of the bed to maintain balance. Her efforts didn't serve her well for long, however, as another stiff blow exploded across the side of her face. Sophie fell to her hands and knees, only to then recoil at a third blow, this one driving straight into her gut.
“You let us go, right now!” Holly commanded.
As the young girl wound up for another strike, however, Sophie lifted a hand. Instantly, Holly’s body went stiff and flew across the room. She hit the wall with a hard thud, dropping to the floor a second later. Uttering a soft groan, Holly slowly sat upright. Her head throbbed; a dull, steady pulsing between her eyes.
Sophie, meanwhile, rose back to her feet and took a moment to straighten out her glasses. “Zat is no way for a young girl to be'ave.”
“Well maybe I wouldn’t have to behave like this if you didn’t kidnap us!”
Grumbling with frustration, Holly sprang back to her feet and ran straight at the woman. With another simple wave of the hand, Sophie sent her crashing into the wall again, this time holding her there.
“Stay,” she said, glaring at the helpless girl.
Holly struggled for a few moments, trying to break free from the invisible force keeping her in place, but just like last time, it was useless. When she finally gave up, she looked over to see Sophie slipping the strange collar around Lyta’s neck.
“Hey! You leave her alone!”
“Zis will not ‘urt your friend. It is simply to keep ‘er from acting out, so she will be more… complacent for ‘omever purchases ‘er.”
“No, you’re not going to sell us!” Holly shrieked. “That’s illegal! And mean! You can’t treat kids like this!”
“Do not worry, ma petite; our clients are very wealsy people. Zey will take good care of you.”
“Take good care of us? They’re buying us! That makes us their slaves! So they can... they can do… things to us.”
Sophie abruptly stiffened and went silent. For a long moment, she simply stared at the wall in front of her, eyes going out of focus and demeanor slackening. Holly watched curiously, tilting her head to the side and narrowing her brow. Finally, Sophie held her arms around herself, as if needing a warm body to hug, yet finding only herself for comfort.
“Oui,” she uttered, quietly. “Zey will… most likely do many sings to you. But zey will… zey will love you.”
Tightening her jaw, Holly swallowed back a lump of nausea in her throat. “If you know what they’re going to do to us, then why are you helping them? Why are you doing this to us?”
“Because Madame Blanchett wishes it.”
“And if she wanted you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?”
Sophie gave a weak nod. “Oui, if zat is what she wanted. I live to follow ‘er command.”
Pausing, Holly furrowed her brow in confusion. “You can't be serious.”
“Euh, but I am serious. If Madame Blanchett wishes it, I make it ‘appen.”
She's like a robot or something... Holly thought, blinking at the woman in shock. Programmed to follow her master's orders.
“Why?” she asked.
Sophie paused, tilting her head. “...What do you mean?”
“Why do you listen to her like that? Can’t you think for yourself?”
“I… of course I can sink for myself. I simply choose to follow Madame Blanchett’s orders.”
“But why? What did she ever do for you?”
“She… saved my life.”
Holly frowned, hardening her glare. “And that’s why you help her ruin other children’s lives? That’s why you kidnap them and sell them to people as slaves?”
Sophie nodded again, this time with more conviction. “Oui, zat is why.”
A brief moment of silence passed between the pair. Holly stared at the woman, blinking several times in disbelief. Eventually, she slowly shook her head. “Lady, my mom says I shouldn’t talk badly about people, but you are so messed up.”
“I am... not sure I understand.”
“Your whole thought process is just… wrong,” she insisted.
“I sink zat is a matter of opinion, non?”
“Uh uh, not in this case.” When Sophie didn't respond, instead glancing off to the side and holding her arms tighter around herself, Holly's eyes softened. “What did that woman do to you?”
She didn't receive an answer, not at first. Sophie fidgeted where she stood, shifting her weight several times and looking down at the floor. Gently, her eyes closed, an attempt to stop a growing wetness from leaking down her cheeks. She failed, though, as the tears traced a wet path down her face.
“She did… nussing,” Sophie said, swallowing a hard knot in her throat. Her voice quivered, weak. “She saved me. Zat is all.”
“It’s okay if you want to talk about it. If she did bad things to you... you can tell me. I had someone do bad things to me once, too…” Breathing out a long, heavy sigh, Holly lowered her gaze sadly. “I know what it’s like.”
For a brief moment, Sophie glanced back at the girl, as if contemplating whether or not to say something. She opened her mouth, but paused, then looked away again. “Je suis désolé… I cannot say anysing. I… I must go. Your friend will wake up soon, I promise.” She quickly turned from the room, heading out the door and locking it behind her.
Holly dropped down to the floor a second later, the invisible hold releasing her. For a long moment, she just sat there, staring at the door. As a cold, numb sensation began to spread through her body, she bowed her head and tucked her knees up to her chest, holding her arms around them.
Becky's fingers firmly tightened around the metal cable, as she hoisted herself up through the elevator shaft. Ravager hung from her waist, arms gripping tightly as they ascended. Given Becky’s phenomenal new levels of strength, lifting both Ravager and herself upward proved to be a relatively simple task.
It was something that she still had trouble believing at times, how strong she was, though such disbelief was swiftly squashed whenever she accidentally ripped a door off its hinges, or something of an equally embarrassing nature. The amount she had to hold back on a daily basis to make sure she didn't tear through walls like tissue paper was astounding. Fortunately, her strength was greatly reduced when not coated in her nanite shell, like she was now, but it could be still a major headache at times.
“How much farther?” Ravager asked.
Becky glanced down at the elevator door below them. “I think we just passed the twentieth floor.”
“So thirty more to go before we get to Blanchett’s office.”
“Ah,” Becky said, growing a smirk, “so you’re not completely useless with math, I see.”
“Well, you know, when you were gone I had to help Holly with it,” she said, with a small shrug. “I learned a few things.”
A soft laugh emerged from Becky’s throat, as she continued to scale the elevator cable. “You’re sure the elevator isn’t going to suddenly activate, right? That could cause problems.”
“It’s disabled, don’t worry.”
“And the security cameras?”
“Also disabled. We just have to worry about not being seen by anyone.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, then.” Becky grunted slightly, quickening her pace. “That Blanchett woman got off work hours ago, and I doubt she hires security guards to sit in her private office all night.”
“Not like it matters,” Ravager insisted. “We see any guards, and we do what we do best.”
A smirk curled its way across Becky’s metallic face. “A huevo.”
When they finally reached the top floor, Becky positioned herself in front of the elevator doors and effortlessly pulled them open. She then stepped out into the large office, which looked more like a fashion museum than anything. Letting go of her girlfriend, Ravager walked a short ways away and held her hands to her hips.
“Interesting setup she’s got here…” she muttered.
“You know, I will never understand the fashion world.” Moving up to one of the nearest mannequins, Becky disdainfully examined the shiny, gaudy garment. “Wouldn’t catch me dead wearing something like this. Looks ridiculous.”
“Well it’s a good thing we’re not here to shop, then. We’re here to look for clues.” Heading down the long carpet, Ravager approached the desk near the back of the office, right in front of the large window-wall. With a small, contemplative breath, she sat down at the desk and turned on the computer. “While I’m looking through her computer, check the drawers for any hard evidence.”
“Somehow, I don’t think she’d leave behind a paper in her desk that could tie her to recent kidnappings.” When Ravager slowly glared back up at her, Becky held her hands up and joined her girlfriend behind the desk. “But hey, I’ll look anyway.”
About twenty minutes later, the two hadn't found anything that could help them locate Holly and Lyta. While Becky had already gone through everything in the desk several times, Ravager hadn't found anything on the computer other than financial statements, fashion concepts, model profiles, and other such useless information.
“I’m beginning to think we aren’t going to find anything here,” Becky said, uttering a disappointed sigh. “Maybe we should just go straight for Blanchett herself and force her to give us some answers?”
Ravager shook her head. “Save that as a last resort. As much as I hate it, Palmer was right. Accusing someone like that of a crime is a big deal, and if we go after her directly, and we’re wrong, it won’t end well for anyone.”
“I just hate having to be so passive aggressive about this. I mean, this is Holly and Lyta. They’re counting on us. Circe’s counting on us. Mierda, everyone’s counting on us, it seems.”
“You think I don’t know that?” She lowered her gaze slightly, huffing out quick breath. “Sh*t, Becky, Holly’s my daughter for crying out loud. I want to get her back more than anything… but if we screw this up, then we might never find them.”
“I know, I know…”
“But trust me, if we find out Blanchett is behind this...” Ravager's gaze hardened at the computer screen, a frown forming behind her mask. “I’ll hit her so hard she’ll be spitting out teeth for a week. Now keep looking.”
Down in a lower level of the building, Michelle Blanchett lied back against the edge of a large bathtub, which was closer in resemblance to a hot tub than anything, complete with three separate faucets and multiple air jets. The hot water rose up just past her chest, soothing her tired body, while a light fog of steam filled the bathroom.
The bathroom itself was incredibly sleek and high end, with gold and silver fixtures, a marble floor, mirrored ceiling, even a waterproof television hanging from the wall in front of her. Right now, though, she wasn't watching television. She merely sat back and relaxed, enjoying the feel of the hot water soaking into her soft, alabaster skin.
After several minutes of peaceful silence, she raised a hand and snapped her fingers. “Sophie, be a dear and get me some soap.”
Sophie, who had up until now been waiting quietly off to the side, headed over to the nearby towel closet and opened the door. Several containers outfitted with all sorts of bath supplies—everything from soap and shampoo to bubbles and bath salts—hung from the back of the door. She grabbed the first bar of soap that she saw from one of these containers and brought it over to her mistress.
“‘Ere you are, Madame.”
Blanchett took the bar of soap from her, only to then pause and stare at it scornfully. “No, not this one! Uck, I hate the strawberry scented soap.” With a casual flip of the hand, she tossed the bar back over shoulder. Sophie caught it deftly in one hand. “Bring me the pomegranate.”
“Right away, Madame.” Sophie replaced the original bar of soap back in the closet, then grabbed a different bar and brought it to the bathing woman.
This time, Blanchett took the soap and began to wash herself. “Now, shampoo. Apple scented.”
Once again, Sophie returned to the closet, grabbing a large shampoo bottle. She then knelt behind Blanchett at the edge of the tub and took the bucket next to her, a bucket filled to the brim with warm, steaming water. Without warning, she dumped some of the water over the woman’s head, to wet her hair. Instantly, Blanchett recoiled, coughing and sputtering.
“You stupid girl! How many times have we been over this?!” Turning around, she rose up from the tub and delivered a biting slap to Sophie’s face, then sank back down to her previous position. Sophie just continued kneeling there, staring down at her and showing no change in emotion. “You don’t wet my hair until after I give you permission! Now, since you’ve already gone and done so, you may proceed with scrubbing.”
Swallowing briefly, Sophie took the shampoo, squirted a small amount into her hands, and then began to scrub Blanchett’s hair. “As you say, Madame.”
“Much better.” Blanchett relaxed back against the edge of the tub, uttering a long, satisfied breath and closing her eyes. After several minutes of scrubbing, Blanchett flippantly waved one of her hands. “You may rinse now.”
Sophie quickly obeyed, taking the bucket of water and gradually pouring it over the woman's head, to remove all the suds from her hair. When completely cleaned, Blanchett rose out of the tub and stepped up to the bathroom floor.
“Robe,” she ordered. Sophie brought her a soft, fluffy bathrobe, holding it open for her to slip into and then tying it off at the waist with a sash. The robe barely came midway down Blanchett's thighs. “Thank you, my dear. If you continue to behave, I may even let you join me next time. How does that sound?”
“Très bien, Madame,” she replied, bowing her head slightly. “I will be on my best behavior.”
Suddenly, the two were interrupted by a shrill, incessant beeping. Narrowing her eyes, Blanchett walked over to granite sink, where her mobile phone vibrated across the smooth surface. Clicking it on, she held the phone to her ear and uttered a very annoyed sigh. “Yes, Jake, what is it?”
“Uh, Ma'am, sorry to interrupt you so late, but you may want to take a look at something,” the voice replied. “I'm sending the feed to your bathroom monitor now.”
Turning towards the television screen, Blanchett watched as it flickered on, revealing a security camera feed of her office. In said office, two familiar individuals were rummaging around her desk, one on the computer and the other searching through the papers in her drawers. Instantly, her expression soured.
“What are those two rodents doing in my office, Jake?”
“I, uh, I honestly have no idea. We think they may have infiltrated the building some time ago. We found the security cameras disabled and were able to bring them back online fairly quick, but we still can't get the elevator to respond.”
Blanchett uttered a long sigh, rubbing her eyes tiredly. “Of course you can't. Fine then, I'll handle it. But as my chief of security, Jake, I expect you to prevent instances like this. Screw up again and you'll find your ass out on the curb, have I made myself understood?”
“Uh, Y-yes, Ma'am, of course. Very sorry.”
When she hung up the phone, Blanchett exhaled another breath and slowly looked over to her assistant. “Sophie, why do you suppose the local vigilantes are digging around my office?”
“I... I don't know, Madame.”
“Could it be because they suspect me for something? Say, kidnapping, perhaps?”
Sophie blinked, fidgeting nervously. “I don't see 'ow—”
“When you retrieved our latest two girls, Sophie, did anyone see you?” Blanchett took a couple steps closer, bringing a hand up and touching it tenderly to the girl's cheek. “Could anyone have known you took the girls and connected you to me?”
“Speak up, Sophie!” she snapped, expression suddenly shifting into violent rage. “Did you f*ck up or not?!”
Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, Sophie slowly bowed her head and closed her eyes. “I-I might 'ave.”
Blanchett delivered a staggering backhand to Sophie's face, causing the young woman to stumble back against the sink. Sophie held the edge of the sink tightly, barely able to maintain her balance as the sting of the blow flared across her face. Slowly, she lifted a hand to her now bright red cheek, and stared down at the floor, not daring to look her mistress in the eyes.
“How many more times, Sophie? How many more times are you going to screw up?!” Coming forward, Blanchett reached forward and grabbed the sides of the woman's face, forcing her to look straight forward. “ I saved you, don't you remember? I'm the one who gave you a better life. I raised you. I showed you love. And this is how you repay me? With utter incompetence?!”
“F-forgive me, Madame. I-I will fix zis.”
“You had better,” she said, voice stinging with menace.
Sophie sniffled, once again lowering her gaze and blinking the tears away from her eyes. Seeing this, Blanchett's demeanor suddenly softened. Leaning forward, she tenderly kissed the younger woman on the forehead.
“My dear, sweet Sophie... you know how much I hate having to hurt you,” she cooed, shaking her head idly. “But sometimes... you just don't leave me any choice.”
“Oui, Madame, I understand,” Sophie replied, slowly nodding. “I... I am sorry.”
“And I forgive you. Now, go and clean up your mess, hmm? Show those intruders what happens to those who mess with Michelle Blanchett.”
With a long, frustrated sigh, Becky pushed the bottom drawer of the desk back in with a loud slam. Rising to her feet, she folded her arms callously across her chest and shifted her eyes over towards Ravager. “Fifth time I’ve been through her desk. There’s nothing here.”
Ravager bowed her head, uttering a sigh of equal disappointment. “I’m starting to think you’re right…”
Moving the cursor across the computer screen, she closed out of yet another dead end file. She had been through most of the documents on the computer now, yet hadn't found a single piece of useful information.
“I told you we weren’t going to find anything this way. No kidnapper is going to keep a record on their crimes.”
“Normally, I’d agree with you,” Ravager said, leaning back in her seat. “But consider the woman behind it. What possible purpose would Blanchett have to kidnap a bunch of children? She doesn’t need the petty cash she’d get from a ransom, and there can’t be any revenge involved since we’ve never crossed the woman before.”
Becky shrugged. “It could be for selfish reasons. Some kidnappers take children because they can’t have one of their own and they get desperate.”
“Then she would have taken a much younger kid, probably a baby so she could raise it herself. It doesn’t make much sense to take a couple of twelve year old girls who know what you did and will hate you for it.”
Becky paused a moment, uncomfortably shifting her weight and glancing absently off to the side. “Well, there is another reason why some people kidnap older children…”
“I know what you’re going to say, and I don’t want to think about it. But if that is the case, then there isn’t a damn place on this earth where Blanchett can hide from my wrath, that’s a promise.”
Suddenly, the soft hum of a moving elevator broke the silence of the office. The two woman slowly glanced across the room at the elevator doors to see the numbers above beginning to light up one at a time.
“I thought the elevator was disabled,” Becky said.
“It was.” Ravager quickly pushed herself back to her feet, staring at the elevator. She hesitated a moment, gaze drifting up towards the ceiling to a security camera pointed straight at the desk. A small red light glowed next to the lens, indicating that the camera was up and running. “And so were the security cameras. We took too long.”
“Time to go then, ah? I say we pay Blanchett a visit next. Her penthouse is just three blocks from here.”
Ravager pushed the chair into the desk and quickly powered down the computer. In spite of their predicament, she remained calm, cool. She had been in far more nerve-wracking situations before than being caught breaking into an office. No cause for alarm.
“At this point, we may have to,” she muttered. “Let’s just take care of the wayward security guards first, then we can be on our way.”
Becky smirked, while cracking her knuckles. “Now that I can do.”
Ravager took point, hurrying across the floor towards the elevator. The moment that it opened, she would ready ready to strike. It would be quick, brutal, and over before they goons inside even had a chance to react. At least, that was the plan. One thing she should have learned by now, though, was that things almost never went according to plan.
Right as the doors began to slide open, a powerful, invisible force pushed violently through the air and collided into Ravager’s chest. A surprised puff of air burst from her lungs, as her body lifted off the ground and flew airborne wildly. She crashed through several of the nearby mannequins, shattering the fiberglass figures into countless, glittering shards. Shortly after she rolled to a stop, Becky came to a harsh landing nearby, sliding straight into one of the abstract sculptures. The metal structure teetered momentarily and then finally toppled forward, landing with a crash atop her.
“Alright…” Groaning, Becky shoved the sculpture off herself with a single hand, sending it spinning into the wall next to her. “...wasn’t prepared for that.”
Ravager took a brief respite to gain her breath back, sucking in several large gulps of air. When the throbbing in her chest finally ceased, she pushed her way up to her hand and knees, then slowly rose to her feet. When she looked back over to the elevator, she momentarily froze at what she saw.
Or rather, who she saw.
Sophie nodded, taking several steps forward and calmly straightening out her glasses. “Oui, moi.”
It was the same woman from the park, Ravager was sure of it. The hair was the same, the clothes were the same, the body type was the same… but now that she got a real good look at the woman's face, a strange grip of surprise took hold. She looks… my age. No, younger. She can't be out of her teens.
“You can’t be… Blanchett?”
“Non, I am not Madame Blanchett,” she replied. “I am ‘er assistant, Sophie.”
“Well, Sophie—” Standing straight on her feet, Becky marched towards the woman. Her hands tightened to fists, arms lifting slightly in preparation to attack. “—you took two girls from the park today. So, here’s the deal. You tell us where they are and I won’t rip your freaking arms off.”
Sophie shook her head, while retaining the same calm, stolid demeanor. “Non, I do not sink so.”
Without even turning to give Becky a look of acknowledgment, Sophie lifted a palm and held it straight out. Instantly, Becky levitated up from the floor and shot through the air with disturbing force into the wall next to her. Given her now considerable levels of durability, however, the impact barely dazed her, and in a short moment she was back on her feet.
“That the best you can do, ah?” Becky asked, pushing her way through the debris of plaster and Sheetrock. “Didn't even tickle.”
“Becky, calm down,” Ravager urged. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”
“She took the girls!” Becky countered. “I don’t care who or what she is, I’m stopping her right now!”
Sophie held her hands casually to her hips, uttering a quiet sigh. “Zat would be most unwise.”
Ignoring the warning, Becky sprinted across the room again. This time, Sophie raised an arm and caused the metallic woman to fly straight upward, crashing violently into the ceiling. With another sweeping motion, she sent Becky plummeting back to the floor, cracking the tile.
“That’s enough!” Ravager called.
Slowly, Sophie turned her gaze. “Non, not yet. You broke into Madame Blanchett’s private office. Now, you must pay ze price.”
“We only broke in here because you kidnapped two innocent girls!”
“I am afraid I do not know what you speak of.”
“Oh bullsh*t!” Ravager took a few steps forward, pointing at the woman in accusation. “I saw you at the park today. I saw you take my daughter and her friend! You’re going to tell us where they are and what you’ve done to them, or so help me—”
“So 'elp you, what?” Sopihe asked. She lifted her eyebrows, head tilting in genuine curiosity. “What do you intend to do to me?”
“We’ll start by knocking those teeth out of your pretty face, how’s that?” Breathing in deeply, Becky slowly rose back to her feet, legs quivering. Whatever force that this woman had attacked her with had managed to form spidery cracks along her metallic shell, and left her body within numb and throbbing.
“What Madame Blanchett does is none of your concern,” Sophie said, “but I assure that you will not find 'olly or 'er friend 'ere.”
Ravager stiffened at the statement, eyes narrowing coldly behind her mask. “So then how did you know her name?”
With a brief intake of air, Sophie’s mouth opened partially, as if about to speak. She hesitated, though, no words finding their way out of her throat. Instead, she paused, thinking carefully and blinking in surprise. Eventually, her gaze lowered towards the floor, as she gradually realized her mistake.
“Yeah,” Ravager said, hands tightening to fists. “Oh.”
Sophie shifted on her feet slightly, bringing up a hand to rub the back of her head. “Well, zis is embarrassing.”
“Don’t worry; you won’t be embarrassed much longer.” Reaching down to her belt, Ravager fumbled her fingers around inside one of the compartments momentarily. She pulled out a small, round pellet, cracked it open, and then threw it straight at the woman across from her. Sophie noticed the tiny object flying towards her and reacted instantly, holding up a hand to stop the pellet cold in the air. “Becky, eyes!”
A bright, blinding flash lit the room, allowing only a brief second for Ravager and Becky to shield their eyes. Sophie, on the other hand, was unprepared for the flash, staring straight at the pellet when it went off. She recoiled backwards, stumbling over her own two feet and holding her hands up against her face.
“My… my eyes!” she shrieked. “I can’t see!”
“That's the whole point!” Ravager retorted, whipping her whole arm forward in a wild, almost frenzied motion.
The backhand clubbed Sophie square in the jaw, knuckles cracking against bone. With a startled and pained cry, the woman fell back to one knee, clutching her cheek. “P-please, I can’t… I am sorry! Stop! Please! Arrêter!”
“You kidnap children and now you’re sorry? Mierda!” A scowl twisted across Becky’s silvery face. She marched forward, standing over Sophie for a moment. Then, she reached down to grab her by the front of her blouse. Effortlessly, she lifted the woman up with one arm and then pushed her up against the elevator. The doors dented inward upon impact, eliciting a pained cry from Sophie’s throat. “It doesn’t work that way! You don’t just get to apologize and walk away!”
“Becky,” Ravager said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Careful. Remember your strength.”
“Relax, I haven’t lost control. Yet.”
Sophie blinked several times. All she saw were vague, hazy shapes in front of her. She squinted, trying to better identify things, but her vision was only slowly returning. She quivered beneath Becky's grip, her face contorting into genuine fear and remorse. Tears, not only from the flash but also from fear of her own life, streaked down her cheeks. “I.. I am sorry. Please... Please.”
Ravager breathed outward, glaring at Sophie. “Why did you take the girls, Sophie?”
“I… I do nussing unless Madame Blanchett wishes it.”
“So then she’s the one who had them kidnapped?”
Sophie nodded quickly. “Oui… zem and many ozers.”
Ravager blinked, eyebrows lifting. “Wait, there’s more?”
“Why?” Becky asked. “What does she want with them?!” When Sophie failed to answer right away, Becky pulled her back a few feet and then once again slammed her against the elevator doors, further denting the metal. “Cuéntanos!”
“Please, I cannot say!” Sophie squirmed frantically in Becky's grasp, fighting to get away. It was futile, though. “Ze Madame will… she wouldn’t like it.”
“Sophie, you need to tell us why Blanchett took them,” Ravager said. “And you need to tell us where they are.”
She shook her head wildly again, hiccuping out a sob. “Non… please, I cannot.”
“Sophie, it’s alright. You just need to—”
“Non!” Sophie squinted her eyes shut, blocking off another stream of tears. “I said, NON!”
Another massive wave of invisible energy burst forth, ripping Becky’s grip away from Sophie’s blouse. Uttering a surprised gasp, Becky tumbled backwards and smashed through several nearby mannequins. Ravager, however, received a much larger impact. An unseen hand reached out and grabbed her, dragging her across the room. She tried to struggle against the vice-like hold, but there was no escaping it, not until it released her of its own volition.
The large window wall behind Blanchett’s desk exploded outward in a cascading shower of glass shards, as Ravager crashed through it. For the briefest of moments, she hung there, suspended in midair.
“ROSE!” Becky called, scrambling back to her feet. She stumbled briefly before managing to sprint at the open window.
A brief moment later, Ravager plummeted, fifteen hundred feet of empty, open air between her and solid pavement. Becky didn't even think when she reached the window, didn't hesitated. No more than a second after Ravager fell, Becky leaped out the window and followed.
Ravager twisted her body around in midair, looking downward at the rapidly approaching ground. Though the descent took mere seconds, things went in slow motion for her, dragging for what felt like hours. All the while, her heart thumped madly in her chest, panic beginning to set in.
Not good, not good, not good!
It was the only thought she managed to formulate in her head, repeating it over and over again to herself like some kind of desperate mantra.
A sudden flare of shock surged through her body. Twisting back around, she saw Becky plummeting through the air mere feet behind, body straight and rigid, arms down by her sides. She descended like a missile, quickly closing the distance between them.
“Becky, what the hell are you doing?!”
“Just... hold on!”
By the time Becky finally reached her, they were fractions of a second from hitting pavement. Instinctively, Ravager's body tensed up, preparing for her life to end in an explosive mess of blood and bone. But Becky grabbed onto her tightly, and suddenly a cold tingling spread its way across her entire body in an instant. In that last moment before they smacked against the concrete sidewalk, Becky flipped them both over so that she landed first with Ravager held in her arms.
When they finally hit the ground, the sidewalk shattered, opening up a small crater beneath them. Small chunks of concrete sprayed in all directions like shrapnel from a grenade, causing the few passersby to run away screaming. No one was sticking around long enough to determine just exactly caused the miniature quake that just blew apart the sidewalk. Once they were gone, the street was empty. No cars, no people, just Ravager and Becky lying in a human sized indent on the pavement.
For a long, quiet moment, Ravager just stared up at the sky. She blinked a few times, not really sure if she was still alive. Then, slowly, she sat up. Though a dull pain throbbed throughout her entire body, it wasn't that severe. In fact, she was able to roll over to her hands and knees without much difficulty. After taking another second to suck in several deep breaths, she glanced down at herself to finally noticed the hard, metallic shell coating her body. Within moments, however, the metal cracked apart and began to melt down into a liquid-like state, dripping onto the sidewalk.
“Well, that's... nifty,” she muttered.
“Hrrngh...” Slowly, Becky sat upright. Having taken the large brunt of that impact, her body was in a worse state. The only plus side was that her body was now built to handle damage like that. Regardless of the intense pain flaring through her chest, she would be fine. “Ay dios mio... promise me we'll never do that again, ah?”
Becky exhaled another soft groan of discomfort, as she leaned over and held her hand to the silvery pool in front of Ravager. Instantly, the same metallic shell around her own body began to liquify, all merging together and then absorbing back into her skin. Now back in her normal form, Becky staggered up to her feet and sucked in a deep breath.
“Okay, so we learned two things tonight,” she said. “One, Blanchett definitely has Holly and Lyta, along with god knows how many others. We have find them, and we have to free them, no matter what it takes.”
“No argument there. Come on, let's get out of here and figure out a plan.” Swallowing back a nauseous lump in her throat, Ravager rose back up to her feet again and arched her back, cracking loose several tight knots. Then, she held an arm around Becky's shoulder and began walking with her down into the nearest alleyway. “So what's the second thing?”
Becky huffed out an annoyed breath. “Telekinetics really suck.”
Lyta sat next to Holly on the edge of the bed, staring down at her hands with a certain emptiness in her eyes. For the hundredth time, she splayed her fingers and concentrated, trying to summon her magical energy, and for the hundredth time nothing happened. Finally, she gave up, hanging her head and burying her face into her palms.
“It's no use,” she said. “I can't do anything.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you could—”
“I said I can't!”
Holly recoiled at the bitterness in her friend's tone. She didn't understand the first thing about having magical powers or what it would feel like to have them taken away, but apparently it was a very difficult thing for Lyta to deal with.
“I... I'm sorry,” Lyta uttered, bowing her head shamefully. “I didn't mean to yell, I just... if I could use my magic, I could get us out of here. Why can't I use it?”
“It must be the collar that Sophie person put on you last night.” Leaning forward cautiously, Holly gently poked at the metal choker clamped firmly around Lyta's throat. “I wonder if I could...”
She carefully gripped the sides of the collar. Once she had a firm grasp, she brought her other hand up to take hold of the opposite side. Then, she made an attempt to pull the thing apart, concentrating on the seam where it came together. Her fingers fumbled briefly, pushing and tugging at the metal band, until suddenly she yanked it just the wrong way.
A stinging electrical shock sparked to life, surging into her fingertips and through the rest of her body. With a startled yelp, she jolted backwards and stumbled to the floor. Lyta, too, suffered from the same shock, sliding forward off the bed and landing on her hands and knees. Unlike, Holly, however, whose pain ended the moment she let go, Lyta could not escape the shock ripping into her body.
“It HURTS!” she cried. “Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!”
Eventually, the electric shock ceased on its own, roughly fifteen seconds after it started. When the pain finally left, Lyta collapsed to the floor and curled up into a ball, body shaking and twitching. Her eyes squinted shut tightly, wet tears seeping out down the sides of her face. For several long moments, the only sounds she made were frightened, pained sobs.
“Oh my god, Lyta, I... I'm so sorry,” Holly uttered. Crawling her way across the ground, she sat at Lyta's side and gently lifted her up into a comforting hug. Lyta instinctively buried her face into Holly's shoulder, while reaching around with her arms to return the embrace. “I didn't mean to— I didn't know it would do that.”
“I don't like it here...” Lyta whimpered. “I want my mom.”
“I know, Lyta... but it'll be alright. I'll protect you, I promise.”
An abrupt slam interrupted their tender moment, as the door to the bedroom burst open. A thin, pale woman with long dark hair stepped into the room. Her movements were elegant, graceful, as if gliding across the floor. Behind her, a more familiar woman followed. Sophie gave the two girls a brief, careful look, then immediately bowed her gaze towards the floor.
“Oh, good, they're already awake,” Blanchett said. “Saves us the trouble of getting them up.”
“Who are you?” Holly asked. “What are you doing here?”
“My dear, you don't need to know who I am,” she replied. “All you need to know is that if you do exactly what you're told, we'll get along just fine, and no one has to get hurt. Do you understand?”
Holly didn't answer, instead holding Lyta closer, defensively.
Raising an eyebrow, Blanchett took a step forward and held her hands to her hips. “Don't feel like saying anything now, hmm? Fine, we don't have time to talk anyway. Sophie, see to it that they shower and change. We leave in an hour.”
“As you wish, Madame.”
Blanchett gave the two girls one more hard look, her eyes lingering over their bodies much too long for comfort. Then, she turned and left the room, swinging the door closed behind her. Sophie glanced back over her shoulder briefly, before bringing her full attention to Holly and Lyta.
“Let's go, girls, time to get ready,” Sophie stated, walking towards them. “We will be giving you a new 'ome very shortly.”
A dead silence hung over the office; a calm before the storm, so to speak. The blinds were drawn down over the windows, casting most of the room in shadow, save for a series of small slits of light. Pungent wisps of cigar smoke billowed up from the used butts smoldering in an ashtray, choking the room in a thick, gray haze. Hovering over the desk, a man with slicked back, salt-and-pepper hair stared carefully at his phone in front of him.
This man, dressed in a clean pressed business suit, was Isaiah Slaton, an esteemed and highly accomplished businessman. Normally, he was quite the patient man, but as the afternoon dragged on, that patience began to wear thin. The call should have come an hour ago, yet that disdainful woman chose instead to make him wait. He did so hate it when she made him wait.
When at last the phone rang, Slaton narrowed his eyes at the phone and slowly reached out to answer it. His hand paused momentarily, allowing it to ring several more times, until finally he decided to answer. “I expected your call over an hour ago.”
Blanchett uttered an annoyed sigh from the other end of the line. “Yes, yes, so I had some things I needed to take care of, big deal. Besides, you’re a big boy. You can handle a little wait, can’t you?”
“Do you have the shipment prepared?”
“Don’t I always? Quite the selection this time around, too. Our best in years, I’d say.”
Slaton lifted an eyebrow. “Is that right? I look forward to… examining the product, then.”
“Just remember to keep your hands to yourself, this time,” she said. “Remember what happened last time? Our clients don’t want to bid on damaged goods.”
“You let me worry about that.” Leaning back against his chair, Slaton kicked his feet up on the desk in front of him and gazed emptily at the far wall. “I trust you’ll be here on time?”
“Of course. My assistant is taking the shipment up there shortly so you can prepare them for tonight. I’ll be meeting you later.”
He paused a moment, raising a hand to his chin in thought. “Your assistant… you mean that Sophie girl? How is she doing?”
“She’s a stupid, naïve girl,” Blanchett replied. A moment later, however, she uttered a swooning sigh. “And yet, she’s my stupid, naïve girl. No matter how many times she screws up, I can’t stay mad at her.”
“Hmph, if you ever get sick of her, send her my way. I wouldn’t mind a new… assistant.”
Blanchett snorted out a laugh. “Ha, you wish. She belongs to me, Isaiah, no one else. Even if I did get sick of her, she still has her uses.”
“If you say so,” he muttered. “I’m surprised that you kept her around after she grew up, though. Last I checked, you preferred younger girls.”
A soft breath echoed in over the phone, followed by the slam of a car door. The familiar sounds of a busy city street followed. “Preferences change, Slaton. I raised the girl, pulled her off the streets. We have a… connection.”
“Of course you do.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to be— yes? What is it?”
Slaton listened carefully, sitting up straighter in his seat. He could hear muffled voices in the background, voices directed at Blanchett, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“No, I don’t see what— hold on a moment.” The woman exuded an annoyed sigh from her lips, briefly bringing her attention back to her phone. “It appears I may be delayed a little while. Sophie should still be there on time, so be ready for her arrival. I’ll see you later.”
A small frown slowly formed its way across Slaton’s face, as the line clicked dead. Breathing outwardly, he lowered the phone and placed it back down on the desk, then casually leaned back again in his chair. So much to prepare for, and Blanchett feels the need to be ‘delayed’. She’d better have a good reason.
Quickly slipping her cell phone back into her purse, Blanchett lifted her gaze at the two officers in front of her, eying them contemptuously. She didn't recognize them, which wasn't a good thing. Over the years, she had managed to bribe quite a number of cops to leave her alone, but these two didn't appear to be on her payroll. Unfortunate, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“Now, what is it you wanted with me?” she asked.
“We just need you to come down to the station with us, answer a few questions,” Becky said, narrowing her eyes coldly.
“Am I being charged with something?”
The other officer, Stevens, shook his head. “No, you’re not being charged with anything. Not yet, anyway.”
“And are you detaining me, or am I free to go?”
“Not detaining you either,” Stevens replied. “As we said, we'd just like to ask you some questions. You don't have to come with us... but we would hope that such a prominent and respected woman as yourself would be cooperative with local law enforcement, when requested.”
Blanchett’s gaze shifted between the two officers curiously, as if trying to decipher their thoughts. Several moments later, she exhaled a long sigh and lifted her shoulders with an indifferent shrug. “Very well, I'll play along with you for now. I do have a little time to spare. If it’s all the same to you, though, I’d prefer to take my own car; I can’t have some tabloid printing up a story of why I was being taken away in a police car. You can follow me, if you like, make sure I don’t flee.”
Officer Stevens briefly glanced over at his partner. Becky merely rolled her eyes and flippantly waved her hand, while turning to enter their squad car. “Alright, we’ll follow you back to the station. I assume you know the way?”
“Why yes, I assure you that I do.”
Blanchett sat calmly at the lone table in the middle of the interrogation room. She leaned forward, opening her purse and pulling out a compact makeup kit. Without a care or concern about where she was or why she was there, she casually began to touch up her makeup, carefully examining her reflection in the mirror.
“How long do you suppose she’ll stay that calm?” Rose asked.
In the next room, the small team of Rose, Chief Palmer, Becky, and Stevens stood around in the darkened interior, watching the woman closely from the other side of the large two-way mirror. While Palmer stood straight and stiff, his arms folded firmly across his chest, Rose and Becky leaned close to the glass, eyeing the woman intently. This was the woman responsible for Holly and Lyta being taken. This was the woman they were going to burn to the ground.
From the other side of the room, sitting lazily in a fold-up chair, Stevens widened his mouth in a long, tired yawn, before answering her question. “Give it another hour. Maybe two. Once she starts sweating, then we can grill her for some answers.”
“We may not have that much time,” Palmer stated. “We’re holding her now, sure, but we haven’t charged her with anything. We can’t charge her with anything, not yet. We don't even have enough evidence to detain her while conducting an investigation. Because of that, she's free to leave at any time; if she stops being cooperative, we're out of luck.”
“We got her assistant to confess,” Rose muttered, glancing back at the chief. “What more do you need?”
“With all due respect, Wilson,” he replied, “a coerced confession from the Ravager hardly qualifies as 'official' evidence. We know she's guilty, sure, but as far as the law and due process goes, it doesn't work that way.”
Becky huffed out a quiet breath. “He’s right. We should go in there and starting talking her down, get her to confess and tell us where she’s keeping those children.”
Palmer’s eyes slowly tured towards her. “With all due respect, Chavez, I don’t think you should be questioning her. Technically, you shouldn’t even be on this case, since you’re personally involved.”
“No buts. You’ll have to sit this one out.”
“Then I’ll do it,” Rose said, cracking her knuckles. “I’ll have her talking in ten minutes. Hell, I’ll have singing.”
Palmer glared at her. “You’re not even a cop anymore, Wilson. You have even less of a chance of going in there than Rebecca. You’re lucky you’re even sitting back here with us.”
Clearing his throat, Stevens began to straighten himself in his seat. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but before a single word even left his throat, the chief was on him.
“And before you even speak, Stevens, need I remind you that you have one of the worst track records in interrogation? I’m not letting you anywhere near that room.”
“Jueputa,” Becky said. “Then who’s supposed to question her?”
“If the few detectives in this department weren’t busy on other cases, I’d have them in here,” Palmer said. “But, in the meantime… I’ll handle it.”
When the door to the interrogation room opened, Blanchett quickly flipped her compact closed and placed it back into her purse. Sitting up straight, she smoothed out the front of her blouse and folded her hands in front of her on the table, while her eyes ever so slightly shifted upwards to look at Palmer. “Afternoon, officer. What can I do for you?”
“I’m hoping that you can answer a few questions for me, Miss Banchett.”
“Please, call me Michelle.”
Palmer pulled up a seat on the other side of the table. He sat straight and rigid, arms resting calmly in front of him. “Very well… Michelle. Now, are you aware that there have been a growing number of kidnappings in the city over the past few months?”
“Oh yes, I’ve heard about it on the news,” she said, face twisting with sympathy. “It’s just awful, isn’t it?”
“Quite,” he said. “Did you also happen to hear that, most recently, two girls were taken from the park yesterday afternoon?”
“No, I’m afraid I didn’t hear that one. Sounds terrible.”
The chief’s eyes narrowed sternly at the woman. He knew a facade when he saw one, and this one was paper-thin. “I have several eyewitness claims that one of your vans was parked outside the gates that afternoon. Reports also say that your personal assistant—Sophie I believe her name is—was spotted entering the park at around the same time those girls were taken.”
“Is that correct?” Blanchett pursed her lips ever so slightly, thinking deeply. “Well, Sophie does love the park; I think she’s taken a liking to feeding the ducks at the pond. Between you and me, that girl is quite easily amused. I think she might actually be a little slow.”
“And does she often visit the park in the middle of a workday?”
“My employees are free to do what they wish during their lunch break,” she said, with a casual wave of her hand, “so long as they’re back at the office on time. So, yes, I’d say it’s not out of the ordinary.”
“And did you know that one eyewitness in particular claims she saw your assistant loading two girls into her van when she left?”
At this question, a delightfully amused chuckle emerged from Blanchett’s lips. Forming a wide smile across her face, she leaned back in her seat and folded her arms across her chest. “Well then I’m afraid that this witness must have been mistaken, because that is wholly impossible. I think I would have noticed if Sophie returned from her lunch with two kidnapped girls loaded into a van that we use multiple times throughout the day.”
“I see. That’s interesting.” Carefully scribbling down a few notes on his notepad, Palmer pressed his questioning. “I say it’s interesting because we’ve been told by a very reliable source that your assistant all but confessed to kidnapping them. She even knew one of their names, when the story and the identities of the girls has not yet been released.”
Blanchett stiffened in her seat, expression quickly souring. No longer was she smiling with amusement, but instead scowling. “I assure you, such a thing would be quite impossible. Sophie was with me all last night; I kept her working late, and she never left my presence. She could not have confessed such a thing to anyone without me knowing, especially considering she committed no such crime to begin with.” Gaze hardening even further, she slowly leaned forward against the table, her eyes locking on coldly to Palmer’s. “Or do you mean to tell me that perhaps one of your little hero pets illegally broke into my building last night and coerced a confession out of her? Is that what you would have me believe?”
Her statement caused Palmer to shift slightly in his chair. He crossed one leg over the other, tilting his notepad and writing down another few words. For now, he ignored her question and moved on. “And where is your assistant right now? I’d like to ask her a few questions, as well, see if she can corroborate your story.”
“She’s unavailable right now; I have her running an errand,” she explained. “Even if she were available, though, I would not have her come down here to suffer such accusations, as I have.”
“No one’s accusing you of anything. We’re just talking.”
“Insinuations, then. Either way, we are quite done here. If I’m correct, you haven’t actually detained me for investigation, so I'm free to leave when I want. You’ve already wasted enough of my time, and I have a very important meeting in Gotham tonight. So, if you’ll excuse me.”
Pushing herself away from the table, Blanchett stood up quickly and grabbed her purse. She didn't give Palmer so much as a single glance as she stormed out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind her. Once she gone, Palmer exhaled a long breath and turned to look over at the mirror behind him.
“Could have gone worse,” he said, with a small shrug.
From behind the mirror, Rose slowly glanced over at Becky. “Did you hear what I heard?”
Becky nodded, smirking. “Si. We’re going to Gotham.”
“You’re going to Gotham?” Standing there in the middle of the apartment, Circe watched as Rose quickly packed the Ravager equipment into a large, sturdy duffel bag. Becky lounged on the couch behind them, next to Ruby.
“That’s where Blanchett is heading, yeah,” Rose replied. “Chances are, that’s where that Sophie girl is, too. If we’re lucky, they’ll lead us right to our daughters, and the other children. If not, we can corner them and get some real answers.”
“Then I’m going with you,” Circe said, folding her arms firmly across her chest.
Rose paused, looking up from her duffel bag and giving Circe a surprised gaze. “What do you mean you’re going?”
“You heard me. I’m not going to sit around again while my daughter is out there in trouble. How many times have I relied on you to help her? How many times have I sat back and waited for other people to solve my problems for me? Not this time.”
“But Circe… I mean, you’re not… you can’t…”
“Yes, Rose, I know I have no power, nor any skill.” Circe spat out an insulted breath and looked away, frowning. “Thank you oh so much for reminding me. You think I care? How can I be a good mother if I can’t even protect my daughter?
“Circe… I get how you feel, really,” Rose said. “But you can’t come with us. We already know that Blanchett has a girl with telekinesis trained to attack for her, and there’s no telling what else she’ll pull on us. You’d only be putting yourself in danger.”
Circe glared back at her. “I told you, I don’t care! I just want to help my daughter!”
Rose carefully walked up to the woman and put a hand on her shoulder. She breathed out a sigh of understanding and looked deeply into Circe’s eyes, trying to offer some form of comfort. “I know, Circe. But you won’t be much help to her if you get yourself killed. We’ll find her, I promise.”
Circe shrugged away from Rose’s touch. She turned around, taking several short steps and glaring at the floor. “You’d better.”
Sitting up in her seat, Becky offered a reassuring nod, hands clasping together in front of her. “We will, it’s a promise. Now, are we ready to head out or what?”
“Just a second,” Rose said. “Ruby, think you can handle the city on your own for a while?”
The blood-haired woman lounged back on the couch and uttered a tiny laugh. “I managed when you were retired for three months, didn’t I?
“Right, just help Palmer continue his investigation; see if anything turns up around here.”
“You got it,” she said, giving a firm thumbs-up. “Now, get out of here and go kick their bloody arses.”
The large elevator doors glided open with an audible ding to announce their arrival. Cautiously, a group of twenty or so children shuffled out into the small lobby. The children ranged from age eight to sixteen, both boys and girls. They looked around nervously and huddled close to each other, as though it gave them some semblance of safety. A few sobbed to themselves, terrified of their impending fates. They sniffled and blinked their wet eyes, wiping away the tears leaking down their cheeks. Others hung their heads in silent contemplation, distant, broken expressions plastered across their faces. None of them spoke, though. They had already learned what happens when they speak.
“Zis way, children.” Moving quickly to the front of the group, Sophie waved them along. They hesitated, giving each other careful glances, until finally dragging their feet behind them and following.
The lobby they moved through looked like any other lobby you'd find in an office building like this, except for the fact that it was built underground. Two couches sat on either side of the central space, along with two end-tables, both with stacks of magazines. Near the back of the room was a large reception desk, behind which stood a portly man with glasses. He leaned forward, as the group approached, and gave Sophie a welcoming smile.
“Ah, Miss Blanchett's assistant, yes?” the receptionist asked.
“Oui, zat is correct. I am 'ere wis ze shipment.”
The man gave the group of young children a long, careful look. “Yes, yes I can see that. Looks like a lively bunch this year.”
“I sink our clients will be very 'appy, non?”
“Well, go on ahead,” he said, waving her through. “Mr. Slaton is waiting to conduct his own personal inspection so he can determine how to organize tonight's auctions.”
Sophie gave the man a polite bow. “Merci. Come, children, time is short.”
As the group continued to shuffle its way forward towards the long corridor in front of them, Holly took a few steps back. She reached out to tightly grab Lyta's hand, then pulled her back in front of the reception desk. With the receptionist now preoccupied with his computer, and the girls both shorter than the top of the desk, they went unnoticed for now.
Holly leaned in and held a finger over her lips, then whispered, “Just follow my lead.”
Placing her hands gently against the top of the counter, Holly suddenly jumped upward, pulling down with her arms and using her momentum to fling her body through the air. She landed on top of the desk with a loud thud, causing the receptionist to lurch backward with a shocked yelp, his hand flying to his chest and eyes wide. She didn't give him a chance to do much else, throwing herself at him wildly with her elbow swinging forward and cracking the man across the side of the face.
The receptionist stumbled backwards, tripping over his chair and plummeting to the floor. Holly was on him in an instant, landing on his chest and bringing both hands high above her head. With a viciousness the likes of which she had never had to show before, she delivered two powerful chops, one to either side of the man's neck. His eyes went wide momentarily, before rolling into the back of his head, unconscious.
“Whoa.” Peering around the side of the desk, Lyta blinked in astonishment. “Holly, that was amazing! You are so awesome!”
“Just did what I had to do...” she muttered, with a small shrug, “Now come on, let's get out of here quick.”
The two girls hurried back across the lobby towards the elevator. Holly repeatedly clicked the button to make the thing open, each passing second feeling more and more like an eternity. When finally the doors opened, they desperately stumbled inside. Frantically, Holly pushed the ground floor button and then took a few steps backwards, watching as the doors closed in front of them.
As the elevator began to rise, Lyta uttered a long, relieved breath, and smiled broadly. “We made it!”
“Now we just need to get out of here and contact our moms,” Holly said. “I know this city, too. I can get Batman here to help free the other kids.”
“Wait, you know Batman?”
“Yeah, he and my mom are pretty good friends.”
Lyta grinned. “Wow... sweet.”
Suddenly, the elevator trembled. In seconds, the emergency brakes turned on, screeching loudly as they came to an abrupt halt. Holly and Lyta held on to the sides carefully, looking up at the flickering light above them.
“Holly... what's going on? Why did we stop?”
“I... I'm not sure.”
And then, the elevator plummeted down the shaft. The girls screamed in terror, certain that they were about to flatten against the ground when they crash landed. Before the lift smashed into a pile of twisted steel and cables, however, it rapidly decelerated, coming to a slow and easy stop. Then, the doors flew open. An invisible force wrapped around both girls, yanking them through the air back out into the basement lobby. When they finally came to a stop, they hovered there in midair, Sophie standing calmly in front of them.
“You should not 'ave done zat,” she said.
Holly squirmed, trying to break free. “Let us go!”
“You are beginning to sound like a broken record, non? Repeating again why I cannot let you go would be, 'ow you say, redundant.”
“Our moms are going to find us, you know,” Lyta said. Her eyes narrowed coldly. “And when they do, they're going to hurt you.”
Sophie shook her head. “Non, I don't sink so. Soon enough, you both will be 'alfway around ze world in a new 'ome.”
Holly gave the woman a long look, tightening her jaw and swallowing a hard lump in her throat. “You don't have to do this... you don't have to keep hurting people. I know you don't like to.”
A soft breath exuded from Sophie's lips. For a brief moment, her gaze shifted off to the side. “You are wrong, ma petite... zis is sumsing I must do. Sumsing I must always do. For what it is worth... I am sorry.”
“Saying you're sorry doesn't make up for what you're doing.”
“Oui, I know. But it is all I 'ave. Now come... Monsieur Slaton awaits.”
Slaton paced slowly back and forth across the office floor, his eyes drifting carefully from child to child. His gaze lingered a little longer over the last two, the blonde girl and her violet-haired friend. Their attempted escape did little to delay the proceedings, yet it was still cause for annoyance. He'd have to keep a close eye on those two; they were trouble.
“You weren't exaggerating, Sophie,” he said. “This crop is simply exquisite.”
“Merci. Madame Blanchett and I utilized all our resources to bring you ze very best that we could find. I sink your clients will be most impressed, non?”
“Yes, quite. Now, let's see...” Bringing a hand to his chin, he paused momentarily to think. Suddenly, a twinkle of revelation came to his eyes. He snapped his fingers and pointed at Sophie, smirking. “Yes, here's how we'll do it this year. Organize them by age first, gender second. We'll bring them out two at a time, one girl and one boy, then let the bidding commence as usual. But, we'll add a buyout price to entice our clients to purchase each pair outright for a greater fee. Set the buyouts at a twenty percent increase over last year's averages, and we should be able to increase our earnings by a significant amount.”
Sophie shifted slightly, holding one arm up to her shoulder and slowly nodding. “Zat sounds... like a good plan. I'm certain Madame Blanchett will approve, when she arrives.”
“Good, good...” He breathed in a deep, heavy gulp of air, then paced back and forth in front of the group once again, his shiny black dress shoes clacking methodically against the tile floor. After a brief second of contemplation, he began pointing out various individuals. “When you bring them to their chambers to prepare for tonight, pay special attention to her... her... him... her... him...” He continued pacing, eyes shifting back towards the end of the line. His icy, twisted gaze settled firmly on Holly and Lyta. “And those two. I have a good feeling about them, so make sure to dress them up nicely.”
“As you wish, Monsieur. Right away.”
“I'm not wearing this,” Holly said, adamantly.
“But you must,” Sophie replied.
“I don't care what you say, I'm not wearing it.” Standing in the middle of the small changing room, Holly held the white flowered sundress out at arm's length, as if trying to keep it as far from her body as possible. She glared contemptuously at it, a bubble of nausea building up in her gut just at the prospect of having to wear something like this again.
“Zis is what you 'ave been given to wear. Monsieur Slaton demands it.”
“I don't care what that bad man in there wants! I'm not wearing it!”
Sophie blinked in genuine confusion, looking back and forth between the girl and the dress. “I don't understand, ma petite. Why can't you just put it on?”
“I told you before that another bad man did things to me a long time ago,” Holly muttered. “Well he made me wear dresses just like this! Just looking at it makes me so... so mad... I am never, ever, never wearing another dress again!”
Crumpling up the dress into a ball, she whipped it across the room and then folded her arms across her chest with a pout. Her breaths eased in shakily, stuttering as she tried to calm herself down. She clenched her jaw tightly in attempts to fight back the growing numbness knotting itself in her throat, and her rage-filled eyes already glistened with small pools of tears that threatened to spill out down her cheeks.
“Euh... I see.” A brief, awkward moment of silence passed between them. Sophie shifted her weight, holding her hands out in front of her and clearing her throat. “Is it... I mean, do you wish to talk about it?”
“No, I don't want to talk about it! I've already talked about it!” Holly bowed her gaze, staring at the floor. The rage was starting to build up again. “I spent so long just trying to forget it... It's in the past now. That bad man is gone; my mom killed him, and he can't hurt me anymore.”
“Well, zat is a good sing, non? I am glad 'e is no longer able to 'urt you.”
Holly snapped her hateful gaze back at Sophie. “What the hell do you care?! You're trying to sell me off to someone else who'll do the same things to me! And not just me, to my friend, too, and all those other kids! Don't try to act all sympathetic and pretend you care! All those people out there who abuse us kids like this, those people you're selling us to? You're just as bad as they are!”
For a moment, Holly's words had a profound effect on the young woman. Sophie recoiled, as if physically struck, eyes going wide and mouth hanging open a little. At first, she appeared stunned, unable to formulate a response. Shortly, though, her eyebrows grew cross and a scowl slashed across her face. “I am nussing like zem! Zey are animals! Monsters! Zey... zey should all be locked up, or worse!”
“You're lying, trying to trick me,” Holly said, firmly shaking her head. “If you really thought that, then you wouldn't be helping them. You'd be trying to stop them.”
Sophie paused, blinking several times at the girl. With a huff, she crossed her arms across her chest and glared at the floor. “I can't! I... I must listen to Madame Blanchett.”
“Look, I dunno what kind of sick hold you think she has on you, but you don't have to listen to her,” she urged. “You can help us.”
“I wish, I could, ma petite... I wish I could. But ze Madame is... I owe everysing to 'er. No matter 'ow 'orrible she is, I... I cannot disobey.”
Holly swallowed a tight knot in her throat, sucking in a deep breath through her nostrils. “She really messed you up, didn't she?”
Sophie merely bowed her head, bringing her arms up to hold around herself. Then, she turned away and gingerly stepped over to the door. “I will... find sumsing else for you to wear.”
Ravager paced frantically back and forth across the rooftop, brimming with anxiety the likes of which she hadn't known in a long time. She hated waiting around like this, hated not being able to do anything. Yet, she knew that she had to if they wanted any hope of discovering where Blanchett had disappeared to, and hopefully where the girls were being held.
“Anything yet?” Becky asked.
Ravager shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Well, it's only been five minutes. Maybe she's working on something important? Batman did say it might take a few minutes to connect you.”
“I know, I know, it's just—”
Suddenly, a shrill hiss of static echoed loudly in her helmet's built-in comm. It cut out a moment later, followed by a strong, female voice. “Well, as I live and breath. The infamous Ravager.”
“And the all seeing Oracle,” she replied. “Pleasure, really.”
“Batman tells me you're in need of my services.”
“It would definitely be appreciated, yeah. I need to know where Michelle Blanchett is. She was supposed to be coming here for a meeting tonight, but we don't know where.”
Oracle chuckled. “And here I thought you'd give me a challenge.”
“So you can help?”
“Can do,” she affirmed. “Just let me run through my system files, see what I can dig up around the city. A high profile individual like that won't go unnoticed around Gotham.”
Ravager breathed out quick sigh of relief, then gave a silent thumbs-up to Becky. “Right, thanks.”
“So, Dick talks about you a lot, you know,” Oracle stated. “Says you've come a long way.”
“Oh does he, now? That's funny, because he talks about you a lot, too.”
“Is that right? And what does tall, dark, and mysterious have to say about me?”
“Oh, you know, he says lots of things,” Ravager said, leaning back against the rooftop parapet. “I think I recall him mentioning that you'd look good in white.”
“I see... and what exactly are you trying to say there?”
“You're smart; you'll figure it out.”
A brief pause followed, before Oracle's voice returned over the line. “Ah, here we go. Michelle Blanchett was scheduled for a meeting at Slaton Enterprises tonight. From what I can gather, she arrived just a short while ago.”
Ravager nodded. “Don't suppose you could give me the address?”
“Already sent you the coordinates to your helmet's GPS.”
“How did you...?”
“Please,” Oracle stated, with another laugh. “You forget who you're talking to?”
“I also heard that you might need some backup,” Oracle said. “Had a nasty run in with a telepath?”
Ravager folded her arms, grumbling quietly to herself. “Something like that... but really, we're fine. There's no need to send any of your Birds.”
“Oh, my Birds are busy with the mob right now,” she replied. “But I still found another couple of ladies to help you out.”
“Er... that's great, really. But we don't have time to wait around for—”
“I already sent them to your position five minutes ago. They should be there soon. Play nice, now.”
And with that, the line went dead. Ravager blinked a couple of times, then held her hands to her hips and slowly shook her head. What on earth does Dick see in that woman?
“Uh, Rose?” Becky said.
Ravager turned her gaze. Becky stood just a few feet away, staring over at the other side of the roof, where a dark, caped figure crouched atop the parapet. Squinting her eyes, Ravager cautiously walked forward to get a better look at the woman. It didn't take long to realize just who the new arrival was affiliated with, judging from the black suit, cowl, and bright red bat symbol across her chest.
“So... which one are you?” Ravager asked.
“Call me Batwoman,” she replied. “Oracle said you two required aid.”
“We don't require it... but I guess we'll take it. Where's the other one? We don't have time to sit around here.”
That's when she felt an ever so slight tug on the long hair coiling out the back of her helmet. Slowly, she turned her head to see another woman standing behind her and gently holding a few stray locks of her hair. This woman wore a suit and tie, trench coat, and fedora cap. Oh, and she didn't have a face, either.
“White hair...” the Question muttered. “Curious.”
Ravager frowned. “Please stop doing that.”
The woman's fingers suddenly released their hold on Ravager's hair. Tilting her head up, the Question stared intently at her. At least, probably. It was hard to tell when someone with no eyes was staring at you. “I think we know each other.”
“Uh, yeah, you're the woman with no face...” Ravager replied. “I think we met a long time ago, remember? You were trying to ask for Wonder Woman's autograph?”
“I remember, but that's not what I meant.”
Taking a few careful steps forward, Becky leaned in close, blinking intently at the woman. “She doesn't have a face... why doesn't she have a face?”
Ravager ignored Becky, still concentrating on the Question. “Wait a minute... say something else.”
“What am I supposed to say?” she replied.
“I know that voice...” Of course she knew that voice. She had spent three years—a relative three years, anyway—around that voice in Nanda Parbat. “...Renee?”
“Uh, yeah I asked you a question. What's the answer?”
“Now that's a good question.”
“Okay, now we're just wasting time.”
Ravager paused, hands coming to her hips “...you're enjoying this way too much, aren't you?”
“You have no idea.”
“Alright, that's enough.” Jumping off her perch, Batwoman came to a soft landing and slowly straightened herself out to full height, cape draping around her body. “We have a job to do.”
The Question nodded. “To Slaton Enterprises, as I understand. Should be fun.”
As the group began to head off the roof, Becky continued staring at the Question, dumbfounded. “Okay, seriously. Why doesn't she have a face?”
Ten years ago...
“<Damn it, come back here!>*”
(*translated from French.)
The bakery door burst open, as the large, portly store owner raced down the street. Snowflakes brushed past his face, icy air stinging at his face. A short distance from him, a young girl with short blonde hair sprinted away, clutching a baguette firmly against her chest. She glanced back only briefly at him before quickening her pace.
“<You have to pay for that!>”
Soon, the distance between them grew. By the time she turned the street corner, the store owner had slowed down, leaning forward and pressing his hands to his knees. He took in deep, exhausted breaths. By no means was he in the proper shape to be sprinting after a fleet-footed thief.
“<Damn kids...>” he muttered.
The young girl gradually slowed her pace down to a brisk walk. Already, the icy air began to numb her throat, but at least she had got away. Briefly, she paused to look around at the people walking by, going about their business and paying her no attention. She didn't come here often, to the nicer parts of Paris, but when she did she always took time to marvel at the fancy clothes and expensive jewelery that these people wore.
<They're so lucky...> she thought. <To be able to afford such nice things, it must be... wonderful.>
But her? She couldn't even afford one lousy loaf of bread. Glancing down at the baguette, she quickly tore off a piece with her teeth. She chewed the bread slowly, savoring the flavor. Even if it did taste a little stale, it beat digging through the trash for rancid leftovers any day. A small, tired sigh exuded from her lips as she swallowed, eyes drifting emptily toward the ground. She knew she couldn't eat a lot of it right now; this single baguette might have to last her the rest of the week.
Turning along another snowy street corner, the girl quickened her pace until reaching a particular back alley. She looked around briefly, making sure that no one was watching her. Of course, no one paid any attention to her. No one ever paid any attention to her. Quickly she darted into the alley, behind a dumpster and next to a large pile of empty cardboard boxes, with stacks of used newspapers nearby.
<I guess this will have to do for tonight...>
She carefully set down the baguette on one of the cardboard boxes, while opening another and turning it on its side. Then, she spread out a few of the newspapers inside it, creating a makeshift sleeping area. There should be plenty of other newspapers here to keep herself warm tonight... at least, she hoped so. The night was already cold enough, and with the snowflakes steadily drifting down overhead, it only threatened to get colder.
As she grabbed her long loaf of bread again and prepared to settle in for what was sure to be a very unpleasant night of sleep, several voices resonated from behind her.
“<What do we have here?>”
“<Looks like a little girl lost her way.>”
“<That's a nice looking loaf she's got there.>”
The young girl turned around in a panic, clutching the baguette close to her heart. The three boys were older than her, maybe thirteen or fourteen, and much larger, too. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence, homeless folk stealing from other homeless folk. On the streets, it was a constant struggle for survival, and sometimes you had to dirty your hands to see the sun rise again.
But she couldn't afford to go another week without food. The constant pangs of desperate hunger already burned uncomfortably in her gut. She needed this food. She couldn't let them take it!
“<This is mine!>” she exclaimed. “<You can't have it!>
“<Don't make this difficult, alright?>” Walking towards her, one of the boys reached out to grab the bread. A quick kick to the shins, however, abruptly forced him to jump back on one leg. “<Ow! Stupid girl kicked me!>”
She wasted no time in taking that opportunity to run from them. Turning tail, she sprinted down the length of the alley, hoping desperately that she would come out to another street where she could lose them. Unfortunately, these boys weren't as slow as the store owner she had run from earlier. They were able to keep pace with her, even close the distance. By the time she turned the corner, they were almost on her. She could see the mouth of the alley ahead, could see people walking down the sidewalk. She was almost there!
...and then she felt them on her. A blunt force exploded into her backside as one of the boys tackled her, dragging her to the ground. Desperately, she tried to hold on to her baguette, but the second boy effortlessly tore it from her arms, leaving her to clutch empty air. The third boy kicked her, hard. His worn, beaten shoe bounced violently off the side of her head, causing an explosion of bright lights in front of her eyes. She blinked, dazed, strength beginning to leave her.
“<Stupid bitch! Should have just given it up!>”
A second kick drove into her ribcage. She cringed, crying out loudly and curling into a ball. She was too young to handle pain very well, stomach already beginning to bubble with nausea. By the time the third kick struck her, she was sobbing and coughing in pain, wet, cold streaks staining her cheeks.
“<Ha, look, we made her cry!>”
“<Stop it! Please... please stop it!>” she yelled, desperately.
“<Gonna cry for your mommy? Go on!>”
The girl curled inward, holding her arms around her stomach. It hurt... it hurt so much. She was in pain, frightened... she just wanted it all to... to... “<STOP!>”
As her scream erupted into the cold winter air, a rush of invisible energy exploded from her body, rushing in all directions. Suddenly, the boys lifted from their feet, flying like missiles into the wall behind them. One boy hit the wall headfirst, neck snapping with a sickening crack. His limp body tumbled back down, landing face first in the snow, unmoving. The other two boys, while shaken and in need of a change in pants, managed to crawl away in a panic.
“<Sh-she killed him!>” one of the boys said, panicking. “<The crazy bitch killed him!>”
While the two remaining boys scrambled back to their feet and sprinted out into the streets, the young girl slowly sat up. She blinked several times, a mix of shock and horror over what she had just done twisting itself across her face. A cold knot formed in her throat, and she swallowed it back with great difficulty. She could not for the life of her tear her gaze away from the dead boy just five feet from her.
<How did I...? That isn't possible... what did I do?>
As she stared, utterly mesmerized by the boy's corpse, a silky smooth voice called out to her. “Well, well, what do we have here?”
The young girl slowly turned her head. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the woman: long dark hair, deathly pale skin, bright red lips, and such an amazing figure fit into the most elegant dress she had ever seen. Only one word could describe this woman. <Beautiful...>
But her English was nearly non existent, and so the woman's soothing words went understood to her ears. “Pardon? Je ne sais pas Anglais.”
“Oh, of course, where are my manners?” the woman said. “<Can you understand me now?>”
The girl nodded. “<Yes... who are you?>”
“<My name is Michelle Blanchett.>”
An amused chuckle found its way out of Blanchett's throat. She curled her soft lips into a smile, while one hand came up to rest on her perfectly shaped hips.”<Thank you, my dear. And what can I call you?>”
“<Sophie... my name is Sophie.>”
“<Well, Sophie, it is a pleasure to meet you. I saw what you did.>”
Instantly, Sophie's eyes widened, expression contorting into utter terror. “<No! I didn't mean to do it! I swear! They... they were hurting me, and I just got mad and... and then that happened! I didn't mean to kill him!>”
The woman held up a hand, attempting to soothe her. “<Calm yourself, Sophie. I don't care that you killed the boy.>”
“<You... you don't?>”
“<Not at all. In fact, I care about you. I see that you have a very special gift, Sophie... I would like to see more of it.>”
“<What do you mean?>”
“<I mean, I'm offering you to come with me,>” Taking a small step back, Blanchett motioned towards the street, where a shiny black limousine was parked behind her. The driver waited patiently, holding the rear door open.
Sophie's eyes widened, mouth hanging open slightly. “<That's yours?>”
Blanchett nodded. “<It is. As a matter of fact, I was just on my way to the airport. I'm heading back to America, you see.>”
“<You live in America?>”
“<That's right,>” she replied. “If you like, I can take you with me and give you a new life. A better life. What do you say?>”
“<I... I don't know if I should.>”
Despite her apparent hesitation, however, Sophie's nerves tingled like wildfire with excitement. The prospect of being miraculously taken off the streets by a wealthy woman in a limousine was simply unbelievable!
“<From what I can see, you have nowhere else to go.>” Blanchett said. “<What do you have to lose?>
Twelve hours later...
When the door opened, Sophie's eyes widened. Never before had she had the opportunity to set foot in such an amazing, lavish home as this. She had seen glimpses of wealthy lives before, yes, but she'd never been a part of it. All that appeared to be changing, though.
“<This I where I live,>” Blanchett said. “<And as of right now, so do you. Do you like it?>”
A huge grin formed across the girl's face. She ran across the penthouse apartment, carefully inspecting everything. Eventually, she found her way into the large, open living room, where she promptly threw herself down on the soft white sofa, snuggling against the pillows.
“<I love it!>” she exclaimed. “<This is amazing!>”
Blanchett smiled. “<That's good, I'm glad you like it. However, if you're going to be living here, we will need to work on your English.>”
Rolling off the couch, Sophie stood up straight and gazed out the window in front of her, and at the Silverstone City skyline beyond. A brief moment later, she turned and hurried back over to Blanchett, throwing her arms tightly around the woman. “<Thank you so much! I owe you everything!>”
“<You're quite welcome, my dear. Now...>” Widening a gentle smirk across her face, Blanchett reached down with one of her hands and tenderly stroked the side of Sophie's face. “<...let's get you out of those old clothes.>”
“Sophie?” Blanchett said, snapping her fingers in front of the girl's eyes. “Oh for Christ’s sake, Sophie, wake up!”
Snapping out of her daze, Sophie blinked and lurched up straight in her seat. She paused momentarily, glancing around the small, darkened room. “Oui, Madame?”
“You were daydreaming again. Honestly, I don't know why I put up with you sometimes.”
Sophie bowed her head. “Désolé... I will be more alert.”
“Good, because the festivities will be starting soon.”
Taking in a deep breath, Sophie rubbed her eyes. She couldn't believe she had actually drifted off like that again; she'd been doing it more and more lately, fading out and daydreaming about the past. Blanchett didn't like it very much when she did. Right now, she had to remain attentive. It was her job to keep track of the bids, after all, and she couldn't very well do that if she was half asleep.
Carefully, her eyes shifted around the room, moving first past Blanchett, and then to Slaton, who leaned back in a large leather armchair, one leg crossed over the other. On the table next to him, a spent cigar butt smoldered in a filled ashtray, adjacent to a half empty glass of whiskey. As the coordinator of this annual event, he was full prepared for things to commence.
The room they were in was not a large one, just space enough for the three of them. The large glass panel in front of them looked out into a staging area, some ten feet below. Encircling the staging area up above were ten more similar glass panels, each one leading into another private, darkened room. There, their clients had already arrived and awaited patiently for the bidding to begin.
“How much longer?” Blanchett asked.
“Five minutes,” Slaton said. “We're giving our clients a chance to get settled. Once they have their drinks, we can bring out the first pair.”
Sophie looked to Slaton. “Who is ze first pair?”
“How should I know? I don't bother to learn their names; that's your job. The only thing I care about is that they look nice and our clients place generous bids.”
“Euh... of course.” Going silent, Sophie returned her gaze to the table in front of her, specifically the glowing laptop screen. She watched the program carefully, as various indicators lit up next to certain names. Within several minutes, each name was lit. “Zey are all ready to commence.”
“Good. Bring them out.”
Down in the staging area below, the doors on the far wall slid open, revealing a young pair of children. Behind them, a muscled thug in a business suit shoved them forward. Though the boy was an unknown, the girl was strikingly familiar. No one else possessed such vibrant, violet colored hair, after all.
Lyta stumbled forward to the center of the stage, followed closely by the other boy next to her. Her eyes shifted around nervously, gazing up at the dark windows above her. She couldn't see any of them staring at her, but god she could feel them. Nausea abruptly tickled up within her small, shaking body, as she swallowed back a cold knot in her throat.
Slaton casually pressed a small button on the side of his arm chair, activating a speaker system and allowing his calm voice to resonate over the PA system. “Bidding for the girl will begin at two-hundred thousand. One-fifty for the boy. But remember, we've added a new feature this year. The buyout for the complete pair is two-point-five million. You may begin.”
“No!” Lyta shrieked. “Let us go! Please! I just want to go home! I just want my mom!”
Sophie lowered her gaze to the computer screen again, trying not to listen to the girl's frantic cries. She had to concentrate on the bidding. “Sree-'undred for ze girl. Two-'undred for ze boy. Four-fifty for ze girl... six-'undred for ze girl. Four for ze boy. Seven-'undred for ze girl.... eight-fifty for ze girl.” A sudden bell chimed in from the laptop's speakers. Sophie blinked, surprised. “We 'ave a buyout.”
Slaton's lips curled into a pleased grin. “Excellent. Take them to the waiting room.”
The large goon down below reached forward and clamped his iron grip down on either child's arm, pulling them back towards the doors.
“No!” Lyta struggled and twisted in the man's grip, trying to break free. “Let us go! Don't do this!” Of course, her cries went unheeded. Within moments, both she and the boy were gone.
“Bring in the next pair,” Slaton said.
When the doors opened again, a different thug pushed in the next two children. Holly glanced back at the guy and glared coldly at him. “Quite pushing!”
Slaton stared for a moment, rapping his fingers methodically against the arm of his chair. “A schoolgirl outfit? Really? I specifically ordered this one to wear the flowered dress.”
“Désolé, Monsieur... but she simply refused to wear ze dress,” Sophie explained. “I had to find sumsing else for 'er.”
A gruff, annoyed groan puffed from his lips. “I don't like it; it's too... gimmicky. But too late now, let's get on with it.” His finger firmly pressed down on the intercom button once again. “Bidding will start at four-hundred thousand for the girl, three-hundred for the—”
“NO!” Holly screamed.
The young girl suddenly sprang into action, throwing herself backwards at the guard behind her. Her attack was unexpected, taking the man by surprise. A grunt escaped his lips when her elbow drove into the center of his gut, causing him to stagger down to one knee. Quickly, he reached down to grab the gun holstered in his pants, but his fingers never even grazed it. Holly's foot swung up sharply, catching him in the jaw and sending him toppling backwards. She was on him in a heartbeat, exploding her knee into the bottom of his jaw and snapping his head back hard. He went limp nearly instantly.
“You're not going to sell me!”
Blurry figures appeared in the darkened glass frames up above, surprised bidders coming forward for closer observation. Soon after, their muffled voices sounded throughout the staging area, some shocked, some intrigued, and others angered. Holly took several steps back to the center of the stage, looking up at the shadowy forms. The boy accompanying her, meanwhile, had taken to cowering against the far wall.
Slaton's voice reappeared over the intercom. “As you can see, this one will require some... taming. Keep that in mind when placing your bids.” Removing his finger from the button, Slaton turned his gaze towards Blanchett. “Get someone down there to restrain that girl. Now!”
“Sophie, if you would be so kind.”
Sophie didn't respond at first, her eyes instead drifting towards the defiant young girl down below. Eventually, however, she did stand from her seat, while sucking a large, slow breath of air into her lungs. “Oui, Madame, I will—”
Without any advanced warning, one of the glass window panes encircling the staging area shattered, exploding outward in a downpour of countless broken shards. Holly cried out, turning her body and covering her eyes for protection, but fortunately very little of the glass pieces reached her. With a sickening thud, a middle aged man with slicked back hair and a three-thousand dollar suit slammed into the stage, not getting up. The other clients went into a panic, faces pressed up closely to their windows and staring down at the mayhem. Smoke then began to fill the room, a thick gray haze that rapidly obstructed their view.
Slaton was on his feet now, fingers tightly digging into the arms of his chair. “What the hell is going on?!”
“I don't know, I can't see anything down there!” Blanchett replied. “Sophie, damn it, do something!”
“I- I can't see, eizer,” she stammered. “I don't know what—”
Blanchett's backhand slapped violently into the side of Sophie's face, whipping her head to the side. “Then what good are you?!”
And that's when the smoke began to clear. Ever so gradually, the staging area came back into view, complete with two figures that were not there when the smog first appeared. Standing back to back, with Holly safeguarded between them, were Ravager and Becky. Slowly, Ravager's gaze moved up towards the window panels above them, hands reaching up to grab the sword hilts crossing behind each shoulder. Becky simply pounded her fist into her palm, a sharp, metallic clank echoing across the stage.
“Alright—” Ravager said.
Becky grinned. “—which one of you sick motherf*ckers is next, ah?”
Holly's eyes instantly brightened at the sight of her mother. Even Becky came to help save her! Seeing both of them standing there, back to back and ready to put some serious hurt on, filled her previously desperate, frantic heart with a new sense of excitement and relief, the likes of which she hadn't known in a long, long time.
“Mom! Becky!” she proclaimed. “I knew you'd come!”
“Damn straight we came,” Ravager said. Her eyes darted up towards the darkened glass panels above them. “Now who wants their ass kicked first, huh?!”
The doors at the back of the room abruptly slid open, allowing a small group of thugs to rush into the staging area. They each carried a small pistol, already pointed and ready to fire. Unfortunately, the poor b*stards might as well have brought popguns. Becky charged at them, giving them no other choice in target. Bullets ripped through the air, ricocheting harmlessly off her metallic skin and doing absolutely nothing to slow her down.
She clotheslined the first guy she came to, spinning him through the air. His body crashed limply against the far wall, sliding back down to the floor with a sickening thud. Becky turned to the next nearest goon and sent her fist crashing into his face, effortlessly unhinging the man's jaw. By the time she kicked the third guy through one of the glass panels up above them, the other guards had turned tail to retreat.
“Get outta here!” one of the guards yelled. “They're crazy!”
“Oh no you don't!”
Becky gave chase, closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. When she caught up, she tackled the first man she saw. They hit the wall, crashing straight through it in an explosion of steel and plaster. The entire floor quaked at the impact.
Ravager looked quickly to her daughter. “Holly where are the other kids?”
Taking her mother's hand, Holly started tugging her along, leading her out the staging area doors. “They're back this way!”
Watching the group flee through the doors, Slaton moved quickly up to the glass wall in front of him, staring intently. His arms shook violently at his sides, hands curled to tight fists. Turning his head sharply, he glared at Blanchett, eyes burning hatefully. “What the f*ck is this? Who are they?!”
“Just a couple of pests, nothing to worry about,” she replied. “Though, to think they'd have the gall to follow me here...”
“Nothing to worry about?! They're ruining everything! Stop them!”
Blanchett sighed, then snapped her fingers. “Sophie, make yourself useful, for once.”
The young woman immediately rose from her chair. Holding her arms out, she began levitating her body towards the glass wall, and with a simple thought caused the pane to shatter outwards, allowing a clear path down into the staging area. Before she could pursue, however, the door behind them quite literally exploded inward, at the mercy of a miniature explosive. Slaton dove to the side, barely avoiding the projectile, but Sophie wasn't so lucky. With her back turned, she didn't notice it in time to get out of the way. When the door cracked across the back of her skull, she plummeted ten feet through the air and landed with loud smack against the floor.
“Oh for heaven's sake, what now?!” Blanchett exclaimed.
Two heads poked their way into the open doorway, one wearing a dark cowl with long red hair, and the other a fedora cap and no face at all.
“Looks like we got the right address,” the Question said.
Batwoman nodded. “I do hope we're not interrupting anything.”
“Goddamn it!” Slaton's face twists into an even more intense scowl, as he reached behind his back to grasp the gun tucked into his pants.
But by the time he brought the weapon around to take aim the the two intruders, the faceless one was already on him, kicking it out of his hands. The Question followed up with a crippling palm strike to the bottom of his jaw, pushing him backwards. Her spinning roundhouse kick caught him squarely in the chest, launching him out of the open window and plummeting the ten feet down to the floor below. Twitching and coughing in pain, he made no move to get up.
“Hmm, I think I may have over done it,” Question stated, leaning out to look at the injured man below.
“Sophie!” Blanchett called. “Sophie, I need you!”
Batwoman was already halfway to her. Blanchett stumbled backwards in a panic, throwing up her arms desperately to defend against the kick aimed at her head. While she deflected most of the impact, her feet twisted together, balance escaping her. She reached out, just managing to grab onto the side of the window frame to keep from suffering the same fate as Slaton.
“Sophie, damn it! Get up!”
Sophie uttered a pained groan, rolling over on the floor. A heavy pounding assaulted the back of her head as she pushed her way to her feet, but she tried to ignore it. Her mistress was in danger and required aid, so she... she needed go help.
“I am... on my way, Madame,” she said, wearily.
“Lady, you really don't want to make this any more difficult,” Batwoman insisted. “With what we got you on here, you're in for a world of hurt already.”
“Actually, I wouldn't mind so much if she wanted to make it more difficult,” the Question said, cracking her knuckles. “I could use the workout.”
Before they could make another move on Blanchett, however, the two crime fighters abruptly lifted off their feet and rocketed backwards into the wall. Sophie levitated back through the shattered glass wall, a single hand outstretched. For the first time since developing her power, her eyes glowed bright blue while using it.
“Leave ze Madame alone!”
The two woman struggle against the hold, but the grip is unyielding, pinning them firmly against the wall.
“I take it... we found the telepath,” Batwoman muttered.
“Telekinetic,” the Question corrected.
“She's a... mmf... telekinetic. Telepaths have telepathy. She's using telekinesis.”
“Please, what telekinetic have you ever come across that didn't also have telepathy?”
“Well, that's... a good question.”
“Enough!” Sophie demanded.
Both Batwoman and the Question suddenly recoiled, throwing their heads back and screaming. A sharp, electric pain began to crawl its way up the backs of their spines, spreading through their skulls like wildfire.
“And there's the... ggaaargh... the answer!” Question said.
“Sophie, that's enough,” Blanchett stated. “Stop wasting your time with those two, just put them out of their misery and go after the others!”
“Oui, Madame.” Sophie's eyes glowed brighter, as she lifted her hand higher. “As you wish.”
The Question groaned, trying desperately to fight the explosive pain in her skull. “Any time, Kate. I know you... have something up your sleeve. You do have something up your sleeve, right?”
“You know me...” Batwoman replied.
Gritting her teeth, she curled her fingers inward, pushing down hard on a small button on the palm of her glove. Instantly, the sonic device built into her utility belt went off, emitting a high pitched, shrill, deafeningly annoying whistle. Sophie suddenly staggered, hands coming up to her ears. She dropped to one knee, squinting her eyes shut and screaming. Both the Question and Batwoman drop back down to the floor, the telekinetic hold releasing them. When they landed, both immediately covered their own ears, as well.
“...always with a plan!”
The Question glared at her. “Not quite what I had in mind!”
“Hey, it got the job done! Let's just finish her before—”
“STOP IT! STOP IT!”
And then, both women were in the air, again. This time, they hit the wall and went straight through it, landing violently back out in the hallway. The shrill siren abruptly cut out, leaving the room in a cold, dead silence. Sophie sucked in several large gulps of air, slowly straightening herself out again and lowering her hands.
“It... it stopped,” she uttered, breathing out a sigh of relief. “Sank goodness, it stopped.”
“Yes, that's just lovely.” Blanchett brought her hands down from her ears, staring carefully at the new hole in the wall. Her attention turned quickly, however, as she scurried over to the broken window pane and began to lower herself down into the staging area. “Come, Sophie! We have to stop the others from escaping!”
The door to the waiting room burst inward with a loud crash, as an unconscious guard flew inside, coming to an abrupt halt by smacking against the far wall. The group of children within the room ran back in a panic, staring first at the unmoving thug on the floor, and then toward the open doorway.
“Everything's going to be okay!” Holly said.
Running into the room, she waved her arms over at the door, calling attention to the two women standing there. Almost instantly, the entire group shrank away in fear. Ravager and Becky carefully stepped into the room, lowering their guards to clearly indicate that they mean no harm.
“We're not here to hurt you kids,” Ravagers said. “We're here to help.”
“Si, we're gonna get you outta here,” Becky confirmed.
The trust came gradually, reluctantly. The children moved forward cautiously, giving each other nervous glances. None of them wanted to go along with another couple of adults they knew nothing about. What if these two women were just as bad as Blanchett? Or even worse? Yet, at the same time, they knew they really had no other choice. They either trusted the oddly dressed women, or waited here to be sold.
“That's it, come on,” Ravager urged. “Let's go.”
“No one is going anywhere.”
All attention turned instantly back to the open doorway. Michelle Blanchett stood there, hips cocked to the side and a sinister smirk cutting across her face. Sophie stood next to her patiently, awaiting orders.
“You...” Ravager curled her hands into fists, a scowl slashing across her face. “I'm going to tear your teeth out one at a time for all of this, you hear me?”
“Not before I do the same to her fingers,” Becky said. “And arms.”
Blanchett scoffed. “Your threats are amusing, but petty. After what happened last time, I would have expected you two to learn. It appears I vastly overestimated your intelligence.”
“Well that's the thing about us,” Ravager said. “We're slow learners.”
Becky punched her fist into her palm. “But damned if we don't hit hard. Just wait until we get our hands on you.”
“Too bad you won't. Sophie, be a dear.”
Sophie stepped forward, hand raising. “Oui, Madame. As you wish.”
Back in Silverstone, Circe shuffled frantically across the floor of her apartment, pacing back and forth. Hands clasped behind her, she kept her eyes planted firmly downward, too engrossed in her thoughts to look anywhere else. A growing sense of nausea burned strongly in the pit of her stomach. It hadn't been much, at first, but now she was about ready to double over and puke her guts out.
Something is wrong... I can feel it. Something with Lyta... She's in trouble, more now than before... I know she is.
Abruptly, she came to a stop, standing still. A twinge of pain tingled in her chest, and in seconds she dropped to her knees, a hand clutched at her heart. This wasn't a physical pain, though, no. This was something deeper. Emotional, spiritual, metaphysical, whatever the hell you want to call it. Something was most definitely wrong.
“Lyta... please be safe. Please be...”
As her words trailed off, Circe slowly lifted her gaze, first at the wall in front of her, and then up to the ceiling. For a long moment, she just stared blankly forward, vision going out of focus. Eventually, her fingers clenched into fists, jaw tightening.
“I am sick of this, do you hear me?” she said, glaring at the ceiling. “I'm sick of waiting around in worry, useless. What kind of torment is this supposed to be, reduced to being able to only hope that my daughter comes back to me safely? I should be doing something about it!”
No response came, of course. She hardly expected them to be listening to her, of all people.
“You know I'm not one to pray. And I know we never got along, not with any of you. But please... I can't do this any longer. If I can't protect my daughter... what good am I?”
Another long pause descended over the apartment. Circe continued waiting, hoping—or rather, praying—that one of them would respond. As the minutes ticked by, however, it soon became plainly apparent that her prayers would not be answered. Not now, not ever.
She bowed her head again, holding a hand to her face and shrinking down closer to the floor on her knees. A numb, tight knot quickly formed in her throat. She couldn't even swallow it down, instead allowing it to sit there as she wallowed in self pity and loathing.
Then, something extraordinary happened. A bright, heavenly light beamed down upon her, opening up from the ceiling. Circe lowered her hand in surprise, just staring at the the floor. She feared that if she looked up at the light, it would disappear, just an illusion. She couldn't bear to have her hopes crushed like that. When the voice called out to her, however, she promptly looked up in awe.
Awe. There's something I never felt as an all powerful sorceress. But now, I... there is no other word for it.
“Circe.” The goddess Athena had appeared before her, standing there bathed in the light of Olympus. Her expression was stolid, yet at the same time filled with compassion, a compassion that perhaps Circe did no deserve. “Your prayers have been heard.”
Circe couldn't bring herself to speak, only able to stare at the goddess. Slowly, she pushed herself upright and rose to her feet, now making level eye contact.
“We understand you wish the ability to protect your daughter.”
“Y-yes,” she stuttered. It was strange. Years ago, when she had her power, when she was the most dangerous sorceress in the world, she would not have trembled so when in the presence of a goddess. Yet now, as a mortal... she could do nothing but. “More than anything. I gave up my power, my immortality, everything about my past life, all so I could raise her properly. But what point is there in that if I cannot protect her? What kind of mother does that make me?
Athena nodded. “We understand your concerns. You are, however, still under close watch by the gods. In spite of your parole, your past crimes have not been forgotten.”
“I have lived up to my promise!” she insisted. “I've done nothing criminal! Or spiteful, or cruel, or anything. I've lived to love my daughter. I... I have changed. For the better, I think.”
“So you have. The sincerity of your plea is genuine, and the goddess Aletheia confirms that you speak the truth about your intentions. You wish not to harm, not to maim, not to kill, not to control. Rather, you wish only to protect.”
“My daughter... she is my everything,” Circe said, softening her eyes. “I want to keep her safe. I must keep her save.”
“And so you will.”
The light began to glow more intensely, so strong now that Circe was forced to lift an arm upward to shield her eyes. No longer could she see the goddess. The light engulfed her, warmed her, and soon, her entire body began to surge with a sensation she hadn't known in a long, long time.
“For the protection of your daughter, we grant you this gift,” Athena stated. “Use it wisely, for we will be watching.”
Becky and Ravager held their ground, preparing for whatever this woman decided to throw at them. When they had fought before, they had been uninformed. Sophie’s powers had taken them by surprise, but not this time. This time, they knew what they were dealing with, and they weren't about to give her a chance to get the upper hand. Ravager turned her body slightly to the side, shielding her opposite hand as she reached into a compartment on her utility belt. Her fingers grasped one of the flash pellets, which had been effective before.
From what Ravager had been able to gather then, Sophie could only maintain her telekinesis when concentrating. Break that concentration, or keep her from being able to concentrate, and she lost her edge. This time around, Ravager intended to break the woman’s concentration early and press a relentless attack, giving her no opportunity to focus. Doing that, they should be able to stop her before things get too out of hand.
“You two should not ‘ave come ‘ere,” Sophie stated. “I sought that you would ‘ave learned from our last meeting, but now… zis will not end well for you, non?”
“Speak for yourself, pendejo,” Becky said. “You don’t have a building to throw us out of this time.”
Slowly, Sophie raised a hand and pointed it at them. “I do not need to srow you off a building to ‘urt you.”
“Neither…” Spinning her body around again, Ravager whipped her arm and tossed the flash pellet. The small, round device rocketed through the air, straight at Sophie. “…do we!”
This time, however, when the pellet reached its target, Sophie caught it in a single hand and squeezed. From the center of her palm and leaking through the gaps in her fingers, a bright white light surged briefly and then extinguished. She then opened her hand and allowed the spent pellet to fall to the floor.
“Non, not zis time.”
Both Becky and Ravager abruptly flew backwards through the air. They hit the far wall hard, causing a web of thick cracks to slash across the concrete. Ravager clenched her fists tightly, struggling against the powerful psychic grip, but just as before there was no way to break free. Becky had better luck, slowly and strenuously pushing herself away from the wall inch by inch. But before she could do anything to significantly resist the telekinetic force, her arms went limp, and once again she smacked firmly against the wall. Even her super strength was overpowered.
“Excellent work, Sophie,” Blanchett said, with a grin. “Now, break their necks.”
“No, stop!” Holly ran forward and stood with her arms stretched out at her sides. She knew what Sophie could do with that power of hers; she knew that her mother and Becky were in trouble. “Please, don’t hurt them!”
“I… am sorry, ‘olly, but I must,” Sophie insisted. “Madame Blanchett—”
“I don’t care what she wants! That’s my mom and my friend you’re hurting!”
“Zey got involved when zey should not ‘ave. It is zeir own fault.”
Holly frowned, eyebrows going cross. “Their own fault? They were just trying to help me! Because they love me! You’re the one who kidnapped me! You’re the one who’s selling children like slaves! This is your fault!
Becky strenuously turned her head, giving her partner a curious look. “What’s she doing?”
“Shh, let her talk,” Ravager replied.
Ever so slightly, Sophie hesitated. Her hand lowered, eyes gently narrowing at the girl. “My… fault? Non, zis is… zis is not my fault. I just do what I am told! Ze Madame is the one who did zis, pas moi!”
Blanchett glared coldly. “Watch your mouth, you stupid girl. You don’t talk to me that way.”
“Euh… Je suis désolé, Madame,” she uttered, bowing her head. “Forgive me.”
“Would you listen to yourself?” Holly said. “Why do you let her talk that way to you?”
“She… speaks like zat when I am out of line. When I make a mistake. When I… deserve it.”
Holly folded her arms across her chest and huffed out an annoyed breath. “And why do you deserve it? Because you don’t want to take her crap anymore? Because you’re actually thinking for yourself?”
“That’s enough, girl!” Blanchett snapped. “You’d do well to shut your pretty little mouth. Sophie, enough chatter. Just kill them already!”
Sophie nodded slowly. She swallowed a hard knot in her throat, trying to wipe the confusion from her face. “I… I must listen to ze Madame… she saved me. She raised me… she loves me.”
“You call that love?” Holly threw up her hands, gesturing towards Blanchett in disbelief. “She yells at you, she hits you, she… she did other bad things to you… that’s not love, Sophie. That’s abuse.”
Sophie’s hand lowered even more, now barely raised up past her waist. The psychic hold on both Ravager and Becky slipped, sliding them back down towards the floor, yet not completely releasing them yet.
Blanchett scowled. “Don’t you listen to her, Sophie!”
“My mom says that if you love someone, you should never hurt them,” Holly continued. “But if for some reason you do, you should always apologize. So how can she love you if she always hurts you and never apologizes?”
Sophie took a step backwards, eyes drifting rapidly back and forth between Blanchett and Holly. The hurt was beginning to show. The pain, the scarring, the abuse.... all of it. “I… I don’t…”
“Sophie… I order you to attack them!” Blanchett said. “Now!”
Holly shook her head. “She’s just using you, Sophie… she abused you and manipulated you for years, and now you're just a weapon for her… but you don’t have to be a weapon. You can be your own person.”
“That’s it!” Moving forward, Blanchett reached into the back of her skirt and pulled out a small handgun. It wasn't big or flashy, but it would still kill just as well as any other. She brushed past Sophie, giving the young woman a harsh shove. “Stupid girl, you can be so useless sometimes. Goddamn waste of space, that’s what you are. Have to make me do everything.”
Then, Blanchett aimed the gun forward, pointing it straight at Holly’s face. The girl went stiff, eyes widening.
Ravager's heart skipped a beat. She struggled, tried to break free. She had to help her daughter! “No! Don’t—”
Holly cowered back, arms raised up in a desperate attempt to protect herself from the shot. She stood there for several moments, before slowly lowering her arms and peeking her eyes open. She didn't feel like she had just been shot… in fact, she felt no pain at all. She soon realized exactly why, as she noticed the bullet hovering in midair, still spinning rapidly just six inches from her eyes.
“Non!” Sophie declared. “I won’t let you ‘urt zem!”
Blanchett spun around, face livid. “Sophie, what the hell are you going?!”
“Sumsing I’ve always been too afraid to do. Until now!”
With a sweep of her arm, the bullet suddenly changed course and rifled its way through the air. Blanchett had no time to react before the projectile ripped into her shoulder and clean out the other side. A shocked, pained cry erupted from her throat as she crumpled to the floor. She clutched at the wound tightly, but could do nothing to stop the bleeding.
“Damn it! Sophie, how could you… aaargh!”
Sophie stood over the fallen woman. A scowl quickly formed across her face, as wet, angry tears began to leak down her face. “You promised to take care of me! You said… you said you would give me a better life!”
She extended a hand, pointing her palm downward. Blanchett’s body instantly lifted upwards several feet, only to then come crashing back down with astonishing force. The bleeding woman screamed, face twisting with agony.
“You said you loved me! You said I would be ‘appy!” Once again, she raised Blanchett into the air, then slammed her against the floor. “But I was miserable! You ‘urt me! You abused me! But I… I never said anysing. I sought I owed you sumsing for taking me off ze streets. I convinced myself zat I deserved everysing you did to me…”
The third time Blanchett crashed into the floor, her body started going limp, twitching. She blinked sporadically, gazing upward with a blank, glazed over look on her face.
“…Every time you 'it me, every time you… you touched me, I had to say to myself… Zis is just sumsing I’m supposed to do. You saved me, so I 'ave to… 'ave to let you do zese sings to me…” This time, Sophie raised her arm and sent Blanchett higher into the air, well above her head. “But zat wasn’t right. None of it was. You took… advantage of me. You did… ‘orrible sings to me. You are a bad woman, Madame… a very, very bad woman.”
Just as Sophie prepared to bring her arm down and send Blanchett slamming into the floor one final time, she felt a gentle hold on her wrist. Her gaze shifted slightly, slowly coming down to see Holly standing there.
“It’s okay, Sophie,” the young girl said. “You don’t have to hurt her anymore.”
“But she… she deserves it. For everysing she did to me, she…”
“I know. Believe me, I know. But killing her doesn’t solve anything. You stood up to her, and that’s enough… she can’t hurt you or anyone else again.”
Sophie paused, gradually bringing her hand down. Blanchett’s battered body followed suit, coming to a gentle rest on the floor. A numb lump suddenly knotted in her throat, accompanied by a nauseous wave of remorse and guilt. “I am… so sorry, ‘olly… for everysing I did, I…”
And then, Sophie collapsed to her knees. She buried her face into her hands, shrinking down and sobbing. Holly didn't even hesitate. She moved forward and warmly wrapped her arms around the woman, a selfless offer of comfort and compassion.
“It’s okay,” Holly said. “Everything will be okay. I promise.”
Now free from the telekinetic hold, Ravager slowly walked forward, arms folded across her chest. Standing next to her, Becky watched the scene closely for a long moment.
“That really is one special girl you got there,” Becky said.
Ravager nodded. “Yeah… she really is.”
Soon, two other figures appear in the doorway. They looked around inside the room briefly, carefully observing.
“Hmm, looks like we missed the party,” Question stated.
“Hey, how did things go on your end?” Ravager asked.
Batwoman stepped into the room, cracking her neck from side to side. “Took down everyone still floating around. Got Slaton and his clients tied up and waiting for the Gotham PD to find them.”
“Good… then we can finally get these kids out of here and end this nightmare.”
“Uh… Rose?” Becky’s eyes darted around the room frantically. She spun around several times, carefully inspecting each child in the room.
“What is it?”
“I don’t see Lyta anywhere.”
Ravager’s heart leaped into her throat. She, too, now scanned the group of children for any sign of Circe’s daughter. But, just like Becky, she found nothing.
“Lyta… oh no,” Holly said, pulling away from Sophie. “She went ahead of me. Someone already bought her before you guys got here!”
Becky's eyes went wide. “What?!”
“Shit!” Ravager spat. “So then where is she now?!”
Sophie slowly looked up at them, rubbing her fingers into her wet eyes in attempts to dry them. “She… she would have been brought back ‘ere to wait for ze one who purchased ‘er. But, if… if ze buyer already came to take ‘er, zen… zen she is gone.”
“No… no, no, no, no! How do we find her? How do we get her back?!”
“I… I don’t know,” Sophie said. “Ze clients always kept zeir identities anonymous, and Monsieur Slaton’s system designed zeir bank transfers to be untraceable.”
Becky lunged forward, grabbing the woman by the shirt collar and lifting her upright. “What are you saying? That we have no way of finding her now?”
“Oui… zeir is no way I know of to get ‘er back now.”
The limousine pulled up to a stop on the tarmac, just a short distance away from the small, private jet. When the driver opened the side door, a firm hand pushed the two kids out. Lyta stumbled to her hands and knees momentarily, while the boy, Nathan, fell flat on his face. Sliding out of the vehicle, the tall man looked down at the pathetic sight and shook his head.
“Get up,” he said, pulling the boy to his feet. “We’re leaving in five minutes.”
This man was Esteban Juarez, a very rich and powerful man in his home nation of Mexico. Though playing the part of the clean businessman, most of his funds came from the local drug trade, a system he had managed to amass near total control of.
“No… please, I just want to go home,” Lyta said, sobbing back a few tears.
“You are going home,” Esteban replied. He gave her a little grin, his eyes lingering over her tiny form. “Your new home. Don’t worry, niña chiquita, you will be very happy. I’ll take care of you. Both of you.”
Nathan shivered, panic and fear spreading through him like wildfire. Briefly, he contemplated making a run for it, but then his eyes caught sight of the large gun holstered to the man’s waist and he promptly reconsidered. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because, I bought you fair and square, si? You are mis hijos, now. You will come to like it, in time. I have others like you back home, too. Muchos amigos for you. Now, get on the plane!”
Suddenly, the sky opened up with a boom of thunder and lightning. Esteban shielded his himself with his arms, as a hot bolt of lightning struck the ground in front of them. A woman stood in its wake, appearing seemingly out of thin air. Her long, pinkish hair flowed elegantly in the wind, along with the long robes that adorned her body.
Esteban stared in wonder, taking several cautious steps backwards. “Qué diablos?”
“They’re not going anywhere with you,” Circe stated, taking calm steps forward. Miniature lightning bolts flickered around her body, and her eyes glowed bright purple in color.
“Mom!” Lyta proclaimed. A warm, relieved smile grew on her face, and her once panicked heart instantly began to soothe.
“Yes, Lyta, it’s me. Now stand back, while I deal with this insect.”
As Circe advanced, Esteban pulled his gun and aimed it at her. With a simple wave of her hand, however, the gun melted down into liquid metal. Esteban recoiled, pulling his own hand back and screaming in pain as the hot metal burned the flesh away from his hand.
“El diablo!” he screamed. “El diablo!”
“No, I'm not the devil.” With a simple snap of Circe's fingers, the man collapsed to the ground shrieking in pain. Countless skin boils began springing up across his face and hands, some bursting within seconds and leaking thick, white pus. “But I am no angel, either.”
“No... no please... I beg you!”
“Begging will get you nothing from me,” she said. Raising her hands, a surge of crackling energy jumps between her fingertips and brightened up the night air.
Esteban desperately crawled backwards, whimpering as each motion causes another boil to pop and ooze. “No! NO!!!”
Thirty seconds later...
Circe lowered her hands, turning away from the charred mess on the tarmac. The only thing left of Esteban now was the horrible smell of melted flesh and singed hair. And the stain on the pavement. Now, though, with her daughter safe, Circe's appearance altered. Her clothing magically morphed from flowing sorceress robes, back into a pair of plain blue jeans and a white sweater. She breathed outwardly, closing her eyes and holding a tired hand to her forehead.
Lyta cautiously approached, gazing in wonder up at her mother. “Mom? You... you have you power back?”
“Yes,” she replied. “So long as it is to protect you, dear child.” Dropping to one knee, Circe held her arms out and gave a broad, loving smile.
Lyta returned the grin, running forward and lunging into her mother's arms. “I love you, Mom. So much, you have no idea.”
“Oh, I believe I have some idea.” Holding her arms around her daughter, Circe leaned forward and gently kissed the girl's forehead. “I love you just as much, after all.”
Nathan, the other kid present, stared blankly at the woman, having no idea what to say or do around her. He had just witnessed her fry a man into ash, though considering the man had been about to take him and the other girl on a plane to who knows where, he wasn't all that broken up about it. Still, his lips simply refused to move. When Circe finally looked over at him, he stiffened up straight, arms tightening at his sides.
“What's your name?” she asked.
“Hmm, a fine name. Would you like to go home, Nathan?”
He slowly nodded his head up and down, eyes still wide. “Y-yes... I miss my parents.”
Circe nodded in return. “Then let's get going. I believe I should call a cab now.”
Rose leaned forward on the sofa, head buried in her hands. Becky stood next to her, arms folded and foot tapping methodically against the floor, while Holly curled up fast asleep on the armchair.
“Still nothing?” Becky asked.
Rose shook her head. “No. She's not answering her phone.” A long, exhausted breath seeped past her lips. “All the better, I suppose. Telling her that we couldn't find her daughter... probably something that should be done in person.”
“Right... but we can still find her, can't we? I mean, we got Oracle on the job.”
“I don't know, Becky,” she muttered, planting her elbows on her knees as she stared at the floor. “If anyone can trace those bank transactions it's her, no matter how encrypted they are. But if she can't...”
Another long moment of silence passed between. Shifting her weight tiredly, Becky abruptly plopped herself down on the couch. She reached an arm around Rose, holding the woman close. “You think that Sophie girl will be alright?”
“I hope so... can't imagine how messed up she is after a decade of abuse. With any luck, the therapy sessions will help sort her head out, now that she's free of Blanchett.”
“Should have just sent her to Belle Reve or something.”
“No, she deserves a chance to be her own person,” Rose said. “Any crimes she committed were a direct extension and result of her abuse. Holly showed us that much.”
Turning her head calmly, Becky gave the sleeping girl a long look. “So she did.”
A knock at the door suddenly drew their attention away. Rose blinked, glancing back over her shoulder at the front of the penthouse. With a tired yawn, she reluctantly stood up from the couch and ambled slowly down the hallway.
“Who on earth could that be this early?”
When she opened the door, however, they were greeted by the sight of Circe standing tall and calm. Rose's gut twisted with a knot of anxiety, knowing now that she would have to inform the woman about Lyta. She wasn't looking forward to it by any means.
“Circe...” she uttered, bowing her head shamefully.
But before she could get the words out, Lyta poked her head into view, looking around her mother and into the apartment. “Is Holly awake?”
“Wh-wha?” Rose sputtered, dumbfounded. “Lyta! You're- I mean, you- how...?”
“My mom's pretty much awesome, that's how.”
“We'll explain everything shortly, though first I could use some breakfast,” Circe said. “May we come in?”
Rose blinked dumbly several more times, until finally she shook out of her daze. An exasperated breath found its way out of her throat, as she stepped back and waved them inside, smiling widely. “Of course, come on in.”