Black Syndicate – Part One

Part one, because I don’t do chapters. Somewhat mature content follows, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted an excerpt on my blog. Over two years even . . . So, since it’s NaNoWriMo, here’s something that may or may not be a garbage beginning to my novel. Enjoy! Or don’t . . . Your call.

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There are certain perks that come with being Katania Morningstar, Thirteenth Princess of Hell. Having servants to tend to my every whim; getting preferential treatment from the other demons; being able to do whatever I want. So, to find myself standing before Father’s throne, on what can hardly be described as a trial, for the most absurd of reasons, there isn’t enough havoc in the world for me to wreak.

“Obscene and disgraceful behaviour,” they had said. “Actions unfit for a demonic princess,” they had said. I am a goddamn succubus! What purpose do I have in life besides being obscene?

“This is insanity!” My voice bounces off the dark walls of the throne room.

Black ropes bind my hands. If all they did were cut off the circulation, that would be irritating enough, but they tame my flood of magic from crashing down on each and every being in this chamber. I take some pride in knowing they do not snuff it out completely. But with guards lining the circular wall of the room, their Earth-inspired, but vastly superior rifles locking dead on to me, surrounding me in an execution waiting to happen, I wonder if it would take much of my magic to eradicate them all, and still have some left over to burn this palace to the ground.

There is an unmistakable kissing of teeth to my side. If I try hard enough, I can feel the chilling gaze of my eldest sister boring into the side of my head. I would sink my claws into her, and destroy her too, if not for these cursed restraints. But I hold back the urge to snarl at Vasilisa. I hold back to the urge to glimpse out the corner of my eye at any of my twelve sisters, looking on from the balcony around the back half of the room. They are spread out across it, and in the very corner of my vision, it’s impossible for me to block out the vague shape of Vasilisa, to my left. But I dare not look away from father, and break my unmoving, fettering glare.

At my outburst, Father merely droops his head some, red eyes barely open. With him slumped back against the blood red throne, his legs hanging over the ornate golden arm of it, the boredom practically exuding off him, I can only hope that this is some kind of sick and twisted joke. Something simply to infuriate me for a little while, and then care little about before the day is done. I wouldn’t even put it past the damned demon.

“What do you say I just banish you to the Earth realm for a little while, and we call it a day?” Father, Lucifer, the Devil, and the Lord of Hell says.

If not for his red eyes, and cracked, ashen grey skin, he could pass off as an angel. He has the large feathery wings to mark him as one of  God’s most loyal soldiers, but the inky black of them marks him as one of God’s strongest adversaries. He would look at least vaguely intimidating, if he wasn’t wearing one of those suits the humans like to wear, to appear important. It makes him look about as threatening as a common fiend who snatches babies out of cots.

“For what?” Father just opens his eyes slightly more, at my screech that would certainly put a banshee to shame. “As long as I continue to corrupt the souls of man, who cares how I choose to do it?”

“Your family cares,” Vasilisa says, her haughty voice surprisingly not making my ears bleed. “And when how you choose to conduct yourself brings shame to the royal family, banishment is far too tame a punishment.”

I dig my claws into my charcoal black palms, the black blood dripping on to the obsidian tiles. I focus on the sharp stinging in my palms, so as to keep my eyes forward, and not look up at the balcony and bring down my words of wrath. I don’t need to see the disappointment on the sisters I actually like.

“Dearest sister,” I hiss the words, pushing them out through grit teeth, “I suggest you silence yourself before I come up there and truly bring shame to you.”

It is no empty threat, but it could have far more weight without all of the precautions preventing my imminent rampage, and the ensuing grovelling and begging for my forgiveness.

The war hammer at my back is a mere deadweight.

The magic screaming in me to be released is but a caged animal.

My claws, always at their sharpest and ready to rend and shred, lack all lethality, bound in front of me.

Unless I want to get up close and personal, my venomous tail, and ram-like horns are completely useless, too. My sisters all have far more years of training on me, anyway; my father is just unfairly powerful; and there’s still the trivial issue of the guards.

“If you can manage that in this state,” Vasilisa says, in a tone that is far too close to one she would use on a peasant who disgusts her, “I might just show a small bit of pride for you. Anything to wash your shameful behaviour from my mind.”

Father’s gaze flicks up to Vasilisa for a moment, before returning to me, with his previous, ambivalence and boredom. I know he doesn’t care about me, and the feeling is mutual, but a lump still forms in my throat. The only thing keeping the tears from falling from my silver, irisless eyes is knowing how much more harm it would do, than good.

So we stare at each other. Vasilisa’s stupid comment hanging in the air, as neither Father nor I speak. I don’t mask my feelings, at all. I know I can get away with throwing my dirtiest snarl at him, like the filth he is, and I know I would be a pile of ashes, were I anyone else.

“You would banish your daughter to the realm of man, where halfbreed nephilim dwell, and vindictive angels oversee, for the mere fact that I like to play with my food?” I narrow my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. I fully expect someone to shout that this is all just a ruse, and a stupid jest. But my heart thunders in my ears, and as no one meets my expectation, I wouldn’t doubt that it’s the loudest thing in the room. “Have you grown senile after such a long existence?”

“If all you did was play with your food—” Vasilisa starts.

With all that Vasilisa has to say, it’s clear to me that she’s the only one with any real problem. She’s the only one who can’t grasp the simple fact that I, as a succubus need to feed off humans. She’s the only one who disapproves of how I choose to have fun, during the process.

Well, I don’t care, and I’ve had enough of her shrill, infuriating voice. Instinct strikes, and not even the inconvenience of my bindings can contain the pulse of death that I send out, enveloping every being in the room. All the ropes can do is dull the effects. Instead of eradicating every last one of the lesser demons Father passes of as elite guards, they merely collapse onto the cold obsidian. Most are unmoving. Some try and fail at rising to all fours, like the worthless beings they are. To his credit, Father at least lifts his brow, in acknowledgement of my power.

Good. Let him know what I can do to him.

“Dearest sister,” my voice is quiet, my tone is poison, “unless you wish for me to tear this palace apart, whilst we fight to the death, then I suggest you shut your harlot, scum-hole of a mouth.”

Only now do I look up to the side, at my eldest sister shaking, as she holds on to the golden railings, her wide-eyed fury just as evident as mine.

“You little—!” She has the audacity to even open her mouth?

I delve deep into my infinite abyss of magic, feeling the unnatural resistance, trying to push me back. But I push on, and dig deep, and with far too large an amount for the task at hand, summon a flaming bow to levitate in the air in front of me. But just as the string of it pulls itself back, and a flaming arrow materialises, the form of the weapon falls to pieces, as it goes up in a small plume, and vanishes in black smoke.

Watching my needlessly proper sister duck behind the glass barrier of the banister would make me cry with laughter, any other time. If I actually managed to strike her, I may very have laughed, despite the situation. Around me, my other sisters look equally rattled, some on one knee, others using the railing as support. Once I get through this, I’ll make sure to apologise. But now, with the unconscious ‘guards’ no longer a hindrance, I turn back to my father, my back straight, head held high.

I delve into my pool once more, but not as deep, aware of the few recovering guards, and I send out one final, concentrated pulse of death. This time, focused on the guards, finishing them off. None of them struggle, as they become lifeless husks on the ground. If nothing else, they’ll have the privilege of being the first beings to survive one of my magical attacks, laced in absolute lethality. Even if they were dulled.

The corner of Father’s mouth quirks up ever so slightly. This is all just entertainment to him, isn’t it? He doesn’t bat an eye at my two attacks. I even managed to affect my sisters, even though I am the youngest . . . But then I am the strongest.

I take a deep breath in, through my nose, and race through all the scrambled thoughts in my head. I’ve talked myself out of worse situations before, I could talk myself out of this, too.

“Father . . . Majesty,” I force out, almost choking on the word, “think this through.” The thought of begging and grovelling before Father makes my stomach churn, but I am out of options at this point. “How would it look to banish a princess— your daughter, no less— over something so trivial? Demons would think of you not as an overseer who leads them, but a tyrant who . . .”

I can’t finish the rest. Not when a lazy grin works its way on to Father’s face. Not when he sits up, and leans forward, eating up my words, but I know it is not in the way I had intended.

“Go on, sweetheart,” Father drawls, in a way that sets my skin crawling. “A tyrant who what? Rules with an iron fist, and cares not what the scum of Hell think of me?” Father rises to his feet, and I curse my body for shivering. He starts down the dais, arms spread wide, as if showing me the scope of his reign, his control. “Let them call me tyrannical.” Another step down. “Let them curse my name for everything that goes wrong in their pitiful lives.”

His feet reaches my level, and with every step across the floor, the closer he gets to me, the urge to run grows stronger, deeper, and more unbearable. But I refuse to show it. I meet his smug grin, with my deadly calm, if only because a temper tantrum at this point has ‘exile’ written all over it. A good seven feet away Father stops, and raises his right hand; with a simple, echoing click, the guards I made sure I killed rise up once more, like clockwork, and point their rifles straight at me, like good little puppets.

“Father—”

“With the greatest of sincerity, I care not how you choose to please yourself in your own time.” I doubt he’s ever been sincere for a second in all his many days in Hell, but I dare not move a muscle. “But I am always welcome to the opportunity to teach my kin some respect.”

And then it hits me. My very core freezes. I’m positive my heart stops, if even for a second. The flames in my blood go out, and in a swift wave of panic, I no longer care about keeping up my bravado.

“It breaks my heart that my own daughter truly despises me, with her every waking breath.”

This is not a hearing.

“I dream of the day you will hang on to my every word, like a good little girl.”

This is not a trial.

“Perhaps some time away from me will teach you just how much of a loving, caring father I am.”

This is an excuse.

“Father,” I breath out, the breath stolen from me, “you can’t be serious.”

A circle of fire surrounds me, the edge of it just before Father’s feet. Within it, a five-pointed star, with me dead in its centre. This is his answer. And despite the flames, I have never felt colder.

I’m frozen in place, and not just out of the real, genuine, foreign fear coursing through my veins. My eyes bug wide, my mouth remains slightly ajar, and I can’t keep my bottom lip from quivering. A flood of thoughts invade my mind, and I can’t think straight. My heart feels like it will burst out of my chest, and I feel like I’m falling through Hell, to some place, even further down. And then I blink, and my father comes into my vision again.

No.

No!

“I’m sorry!” It pains me. “I’m truly deeply sorry!” Father’s face lights up in delight. “I’ll be loyal!” I want to kill myself. “I’ll be respectful!” I want to throw up the contents of my stomach. “I’ll be a good girl and do everything you tell me!” I didn’t realise I was crying, but as my voice cracks, the blurry vision and the wetness riding down my cheeks make sense. I’m crying. I’m crying in front of my father, and my sisters, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Nothing matters except staying here. “I’ll beg! I’ll get down on my knees and beg!” Dignity is a small price to pay.

“Oh, darling,” Father says, his eyebrows arched as he stands at the edge of the flaming pentagram, “you’re making me want to change my mind.” He shoots me an apologetic smile and for the briefest of moments, I allow myself to hope. “Well, okay.”

Through the wall of tears and shame, my lips start to pull up at the corners.

“Beg.”

I know I suggested it, but even so, where my blood was ice moments before, it now burns hotter than the fiery pits of Hell. I clench my jaw tight, keeping the words locked behind my fangs. Father’s grin, though . . . Those perfect white teeth just begging me to rip them out . . . The bastard is enjoying this. Making his daughter suffer. I know I can be difficult, but this is just wrong. Even to a demonic level.

But I have to. Damn it all, I do. I abandon the last tiny shred of pride I have, and slowly fall to my knees. I am only vaguely aware of my sisters watching this farce, from atop the balcony, but they don’t matter in the slightest right now. All there is is me, Father, and how low I have to go to appease his sick amusement.

A dark, soul-breaking chuckle escapes from him, and I can only look to the floor. Heartless, I can’t help but think. Heartless filth. But it would save me the trouble of ripping it out, myself, when I get my revenge. As if to prove the point, an invisible force pushes down on my shoulders, pushing me down to all fours, like a goddamned hellhound.

This is a lesson.

“I don’t hear begging.”

I want to snarl at the floor. I want to let out  a growl so bestial that even Father would think twice about punishing me. Considering my position, I’m glad I hold my tongue. “Please Father,” I can barely croak out, “I beg of you; allow me to stand at your side, and serve you as your loyal daughter.” I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him, and feed his remains to the hellhounds!

“Damn. If only you had meant that, I just might have listened.”

“I do!” I shut my eyes tightly, trying not to curse his name, and everything else about him, even in my head.

Damn him!

“I pledge my life to you!”

Damn him! Damn him!

I clench my teeth. “I won’t ever question you again!” I scream at the top of my voice.

Damn you, Satan! Damn you, Lucifer! Damn you, Father of Lies!

I sob, tears falling on to the obsidian floor. As if tugged by the strings of a marionette, I’m pulled up straight, my heart jumping near out of my chest, as I find Father standing barely an arm’s length away from me, inside the pentagram with me. I only just reach his shoulders. I was always the smallest sibling, but I’ve never felt as small as I do now.

He looks down at me, fire flickering in his eyes. I can see how he wants to break me, destroy my ego, and replace it with a loyal hound, just for his amusement. Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I can only feel undiluted, unrestrained hate for him, with every fibre of my being.

He leans down, and whispers in my ear, “How does a thousand years sound, precious?”

Fear courses through me, making my black heart beat faster, and my voice catch in my throat. This is happening. This is really happening. He pulls back, ruffling my head of blood red hair, that falls to my chest, dancing with the flames. I’m just a child in his eyes. Maybe even in the eyes of my sisters, despite the many centuries I have lived, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe they have all been punished for absolutely nothing, in such a cruel way.

“Actually, we’ll make it two thousand,” he says. I don’t have the will or the energy to register the words. I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. “We’ll miss you.” With a wink, he steps through space again, reappearing just outside of the pentagram.

“Father,” I move my mouth, but I don’t even know if any sound comes out. It doesn’t matter, anymore.

The flaming lines of the pentagram erupt in flames, and the last thing I see is Father’s smug face, just beyond the wall of flames, waving to me, before my entire world is engulfed in a sea of orange, blazing hot hellfire.

Syndicate – Chapter One

(Blogging… Effort… Lack thereof… So, here’s chapter one of Syndicate, the previous, abandoned version of my current WIP. Strong language follows, so…)

Chapter One: The Catalyst

Erin woke up. That wasn’t the problem. She woke up abruptly, from a sound dreamless sleep of complete, glorious blackness, to completely wired. In bed with her, Khloe’s blinding yellow eyes flew open, staring into Erin’s grey. But, the couple shared the same expression of tired annoyance, with their eyes half closed and their brows pulled down.

“Do you want to kill him, or shall I?” Khloe asked. The little clock on their bedside table read five-thirty-two. Khloe groaned, sounding like a wounded animal, and hid herself further underneath the warmth of their duvet, nuzzling up in Erin’s chest. Any other time and Erin might have called the way a half smile played across Khloe’s small round face cute. But her friend next door was her prime focus right now. Anthony was the prime target.

Ladies.

The thought wasn’t her own, nor did it sound like a thought. It was Anthony’s voice, clear and crisp in her head.

Are you actually looking to die? Erin thought. The number of times she had told him to stay the hell out of her head must have been bordering on the hundreds now. Even with the consequences of slashing him across the face, he still hadn’t learned. She shut her eyes tight, wishing she could just jam a knife through Anthony’s head and be done with him. That would surely stop that damned telepathy of his.

Leach called, Anthony sent to her head. He wants us to do another errand for him.

Erin’s eyes flew open as she stared past Khloe at their room door. It was five-thirty in the morning. Five-thirty in the morning and both Erin and Khloe had gone to bed only a few hours earlier. And  now Anthony woke them up because that useless swine had an errand for them?

“I’ll kill him,” Erin mumbled, rolling out of bed. She opened the drawer of her bedside table, pulling out a short, but effective combat knife, and walked through the solid wall of her bedroom, as if it were nothing but air, into Anthony’s room. He was already dressed and was on his laptop, doing one thing or another. He looked up at her and scrambled off of his bed, his laptop falling from his lap and snapping shut, upside-down.

“Erin, wait. This is—” He looked down her body, and then averted his gaze.

She looked down, finding herself in only her underwear. Well, if this was the worst the telepath had seen her as she would have been grateful. But right now, she couldn’t give a damn about how he saw her. As she approached him, she let out a quiet yawn and wiped the tears it made in her eyes. He did well staying right where he was. Resistance never faired well for the man. She cornered his stuttering, jittery self and stabbed him in the knee. Nothing fatal. Nothing Jessie wouldn’t be able to heal. But painful enough for him to clench his teeth, groaning in pain, as if it made him any more of a man for not screaming. He still pathetically writhed around on the floor.

Erin shut her eyes with her head down, a reluctant smile playing across her face. If she could continue to stab the man and get away with it, she so would. Not only would she love the feeling, but she wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. But nothing more needed saying. She walked back through the wall into her own room, crawling back under her duvet with Khloe and swiftly proceeded to holding her close.

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” Khloe asked.

“Not yet,” Erin mumbled, closing her eyes and begging sleep to take her again.

Anthony managed to limp his way to Jessie’s room, all the way on the other side of the headquarters, holding back the groans he wanted to make with each step. He had knocked on her door a couple of times, but on not getting an answer, and the sharp agony in his knee getting more and more painful by the second, he resorted to banging his fist against it. The door eventually opened, revealing a young woman rubbing her eyes with one hand and the other arm leaning against the doorframe. As she stood in the doorway, she didn’t look at her boss with pity or even mild concern. She took in his injury and her frown gave way for a short giddy chuckle. “If I wasn’t here, would you still piss off Erin as much as you do?”

He shook his head. “If you weren’t here she wouldn’t be able to do this all the time.”

She gestured him in. “On the floor.”

Anthony carefully lay himself on Jessie’s floor, gritting his teeth, and pulled the leg of his trousers to past his knee. He winced at the open wound and the trails of blood all down his leg, and immediately turned away, closing his eyes before his stomach could respond to the sight.

Jessie just chuckled quietly at him. “Nice.” She placed her hands over the wound. Initially, it stung sharp and harsh. Anthony took a sharp intake of breath, but shut his eyes tighter. Jessie wasn’t the best healer out there, but she got the job done . . . eventually. After a good half minute of silence, the pain slowly subsided, and when he opened his eyes, the wound slowly but surely began to close and heal.

“What’d you do this time?” Jessie asked.

Anthony took Jessie in as she stared at her hands over his knee. Her hair, usually in a punk rock do from the eighties, was a shoulder-length mess that could only have been achieved right after getting up, natural black on one side and natural white on the other. With her pure white irises, outlined black with the black pupils, if she was in her everyday attire and not her pyjamas, she would look like a walking fad.

“Is there something on my face?” she said, briefly glimpsing up at him before resuming staring at her hands.

“I’m sorry?”

“The staring. Please stop it.”

 “Oh. Sorry.” He glanced around the room, and bit back the urge to ask her how she could live in this twister of clothes all over the place. “I didn’t do anything to Erin,” he said, absentmindedly, as he wondered how someone could let such small room get so messy. Weren’t girls supposed to be neat?

She chuckled a little, again, as the pain had all but disappeared from his knee. “Erin might have a short temper but she doesn’t stab people for no reason.”

Anthony allowed himself a small grin. “Then you don’t know her as well as you think you do.”

“Don’t piss her off. Don’t get hurt.” She stood up straight, hands on her hips and nodded at her handiwork. “There.”

Anthony stood and swung his leg back and forth from the joint of his knee, testing out her handiwork. He smiled faintly at the young healer. “Thank you.”

“No probs.” She smiled back, brushing her fingers lightly on his shoulder on her way back to her bed. “Now get out,” she said, crawling back in and covering herself from head to toe.

“I’m sorry?”

“I don’t know about you, but normal people don’t wake up before six a.m. Get out, please.”

He left it at that, and left her room.

Returning to his own room, he changed into his uniform, tight and uncomfortable as the black and green leather jumpsuit was. Leach had called, saying that a new clan had made a headquarters on his clan’s territory. And even though territory was a dead and buried concept, he had no immediate plans of getting on Leach’s bad side. He had asked Syphon, Anthony’s clan, to take care of it. If he had asked Khloe or Erin, he could have guessed that they wouldn’t have bothered. No doubt it would greatly annoy Erin. But this was Leach, and though the vast numbers of his clan in general may not have been as up to scratch as the few members of Syphon, Anthony just could not see the point in pointlessly arguing with someone like him.

As he left his room, and started down the corridor, he sighed and stopped halfway down it. “Can I help you, Erin? I thought you wanted to sleep.”

Running his hands through his head of blonde curls, he turned to face his co-leader as she stood in her robe with her arms crossed. A few seconds rummaging around in her head was all it took to validate the obvious.

“You pathetic piece of shit,” she said to him with a shake of her head, and began stalking towards him.

“Erin—”

“You pathetic piece of shit,” she said once more, enunciating it far more than before. “What has he got you doing this time?”

“Erin—”

“Why should we even bother calling you a Syphon leader? You do so much for Nexus you might as well fuck off and join them.”

“And a very good morning to you, too,” he said, as she stood right in his face. Well . . . up to his shoulders. From high school till now she had always been a malicious, little, black-haired devil. It didn’t bother him then, but now . . .

“Tell me, because I really want to know; how does it feel being Leach’s bitch?”

Anthony showed nothing on his features and turned his back to her. He wasn’t going to start an argument. There was no point. But as he made to leave her there, she took a hold of his arm, spun him around and pushed him against the door of an empty room with a mild pain shooting up his back.

She leaned in close, a glare sharp on her lightly freckled, yet seemingly poreless face, and as embarrassing as it was to admit, even if he tried he wouldn’t be able to get her off him.

“I’m going to spell this out slowly and clearly of you, Anty, dearie.”

“Erin—”

“You sure like saying my name, don’t you?” Try as he might not to, a small blush found it’s way onto his cheeks, but she thankfully ignored it. “We are one of the top clans in the whole of England. Number one in this fucking city.” London’s not exactly known for their top notch villains, though, Erin, Anthony read in her thoughts, though she kept that in her head. “We don’t need you pissing our reputation away by being Leach’s whipping boy. Okay?”

“We’re allies. Am I meant to just ignore his requests?” As his voice broke at the end, of course, she grinned, short-lived as it was. He refused to let her get to him.

“No. You’re right.” She let him go, but he stayed tensed. “You are right. Go. Wipe Leach’s fucking arse. Go suck him off. And while you’re at it, you might as well find your own damn balls.”

He knew it was sarcasm, but he still made to leave. He didn’t even take one step before Erin held him by the shoulders again and pushed him against the wall.

“Are you seriously that stupid?”

“Erin—”

“What?” she snapped back. Harsh and vicious.

“You’re being unreasonable.” She didn’t respond, but her brows pulled down more. “Besides, you can’t . . .” He swallowed and averted his gaze. She narrowed her eyes, and Anthony could feel his heart beating faster. “You can’t tell me what to do.” He mentally kicked himself. He sounded like a child. More childish than Taylor, even. And that was quite the feat.

A sound of slight mirth escaped from her, and she let him go. She lightly slapped him twice. Just a light tap. She might as well have said, ‘Aw, bless.’ It would have been just as condescending.

“You are quite the joker.”

“Erin—”

“Again with my name! Stop it! It’s freakin’ creepy!” She stepped back from him and made her way back to her own room. “You do anything stupid,” she called back as she punched in the code for her door, “and I’ll make you regret it.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, as he made his way back down the corridor. No doubt it wouldn’t be anything Jessie couldn’t heal.

Walking the streets early in the morning in his uniform was never an issue. It was certainly smarter the driving in a metal death trap that any random freak could destroy, if they had the right ability. Though, if someone was planning an attack on him, Anthony would see it coming a mile away. It would take a special kind of fool to think that they could get the jump on a telepath. It would take an even bigger fool to walk the streets of a villain-run city. Even if the streets were filled, which at the moment, they weren’t, he wouldn’t be that worried.

The address Leach had given him for the intruding clan was quite a few blocks away from Syphon headquarters. Anthony had known a new clan were converting an old school into a headquarters. It just hadn’t interested him enough to look further into it. All he knew was that they were a fairly new clan called Vitality that had somehow managed to slip under everyone’s radars for so long. He turned on to the road, and it was easy to see that the building right at the end of the dead-end road was the headquarters for Vitality.

It was maybe a three-hundred yard road, and he already knew he had been spotted. A bird perched atop a hanging stone gargoyle on the front of the building had spotted him. Except Anthony was in its head, and it wasn’t a bird. It had been a long time since he had come across a shapeshifter.

As he approached the headquarters, he still couldn’t see the bird clearly, but getting into the mind of the shapeshifter, he knew it some sort of large owl. A smart choice of bird for a lookout. Nevertheless, as much as he could appreciate that tiny act of competence, taking them out was the first thing on his agenda. Getting scolded by Erin was the second. Still in the head of the bird, he listened as the bird-man thought about changing into an eagle, and watched as the far away shape changed and vaguely grew in size. It cried out loudly. An alarm, no doubt.

Anthony pulled out his revolvers, but didn’t quicken his pace. If he was going to get torn to pieces by Erin when he got back, he might as well have fun with this now. Maybe one-hundred feet away now, and in unbelievably quick time from the bird’s alarm, two other members of the clan ran out, and in their own uniform. He had to give them credit. For a new clan, they seemed to be on top of things. Their headquarters wasn’t too shabby, either. But as he neared the clan and the most recent arrivals, he stopped dead in his tracks.

The new arrivals did the same as they took in the sight of Anthony. Neither party could believe it to be true. He willed his legs to move forward. The two new arrivals couldn’t be who he thought they were. Still, as he neared them, there was no mistaking it.

He holstered his guns again and approached Damon and Jon LeRoux.

“Uh . . .” was all that came out of Anthony’s mouth. Damon with his headband, holding back that long blue hair of his, and his turquoise eyes to match. This was Damon LeRoux. “Um . . .” This was new. Anthony rarely came up speechless. But if this was who Leach wanted gone from his territory, then Anthony couldn’t have made a better choice in coming.

Jon looked Anthony up and down. And just like him, even after all the years since high school, he was just as expressionless as ever. “Anthony Raine.” Jon gave him another once over. “In Syphon attire. I never would have guessed.”

He wanted to respond to that, but Damon was the one who took his attention. Damon was the one who had some serious explaining to do. Damon was the one, as much as he knew Erin would hate to admit it, they couldn’t harm. “Damon,” Anthony said as Damon averted his gaze. He knew what Anthony was thinking. How could he not?

“I know,” Damon said when Anthony didn’t look away from him. Both him and Jon sounded so different from all those years ago. Naturally they would, but it was still a strange sound to him. “I know.”

Anthony opened his mouth, and waited for his mind to catch up with something to say. “If you weren’t Taylor’s father . . .” Damon noticeably winced as Anthony said his daughter’s name. If he wasn’t Taylor’s father, if his old friend, Jon, wasn’t in this clan too, Anthony would just let Leach take out this clan and be done with it. But that was not the case. He looked between the two men and sighed through his nose. “If you’d be so kind to invite me in, I think we need to catch up.” It wasn’t said with the friendly tone of meeting a close friend from high school. He couldn’t keep his gaze off of Damon. He couldn’t even imagine how pissed off Erin would get at the mere sight of him.

“Come then,” Jon said, and turned back, walking back towards his headquarters.

Both Anthony and Damon stayed behind. “Could you . . . stop staring . . . please?”

“Could you give Taylor a childhood where she has a father?” Damon looked to the floor, and Anthony started to follow Jon. “No? Then I suggest against requesting anything of me.”

As Anthony passed the gate, he could read all the scenarios Damon was playing over in his head about how things would go should he see Erin again. None resulted in him being beaten to a bloody pulp.

“Optimistic jackass,” Anthony mumbled, entering Vitality headquarters.

Syphon – Chapter One

Right, so, here’s a little warning. I’m not going to put any on any other chapters. This has some strong language, at the end of the chapter there’s very small bit of slightly graphic violence, so easily offended people feel free to read it if you want. This is chapter one, but there’s a prologue, if you want to look back for it.

I admire my classmates. I really do. Anyone who can stay awake for a whole two hours while Collin goes off on one of his speeches deserves to have a medal. I don’t like history, I don’t care about it in the slightest, but damn, does he know how to make you want to kill yourself. When the bell goes for us to finally get the hell out of here, I lift my head off of my desk.

“Oh, thank god,” I call out. That attracts some attention, and Collin shoots me a sharp look of disapproval.

“Miss Ashley, if I didn’t know any better, I would think that you were volunteering to head to the principle’s office.”

“Well, it’s a good think you don’t know any better, Collin.” Some of the students snigger at that. Collin just deepens his scowl.

“That’s Mr. Francis to you.”

“No, it’s not,” I say bluntly, and stand, swinging my bag over my shoulder.

“Okay, you’re going to the principle’s office.”

“No, I’m not.” As if he can tell me what to do.

“I’m not negotiating.”

“No, you’re not.” It’s amazing how he still thinks he has some control over me. The quicker I no longer have to take this lesson, the better. I turn to Mel, who’s still sitting there, smirking at our little exchange. I just roll my eyes at her, resisting the urge to smirk back.

“Hurry up,” I say, referring to her text books still laid out on the table. I think I lost mine the second I brought them home. Oh well. “I’d kind of like to leave, now.”

“What? Are we physically attached? Just go, I’ll catch up.”

“Yeah, I’ll show you who’s physically attached,” I mumble under my breath. Ladies and gentlemen, my fantastic attempt at a comeback.

“Taylor, you are not leaving.” Collin raises his voice.

I sigh. Yes, because as we all know, when someone tells me to do something, I do it. Ha! What a joke. “See you on Monday, Collin.” Unfortunately.

And within a millisecond, the scenario changes from the air-conditioned classroom to the passenger seat of Mel’s car, in the school parking lot. I wait for her to hurry the hell up, so I can hang out at her house, like I do almost everyday. It’s much more pleasant than going home to mum’s constant bitching and moaning. So I’m friends with Mel. What the hell do I care what she did? That’s only more points in her favour, if you ask me.

Right now, though, she’s probably being that one student who always has to help the teacher with everything, just so she gets on their good side, for whatever ridiculous reason. She, very unlike me, actually cares about school. Why, when we can steal whatever the hell we want? No idea. Then again, I don’t care. But still, it’s amazing how so many of the teachers are willing to let her help, knowing what she is. I turn the radio on while I wait, but when I hear what the news is, I almost turn it right off again.

“Goddamn it,” I mumble.

“Yes, that’s right. Today is the eighth anniversary of Dead End’s glorious defeat. And with only one surviving member, I imagine that this day will be hitting Erin Ashley harder than anyone. We still don’t know who or what caused their deaths, and perhaps we never will. But for villains everywhere, this is a day for celebrating the absence of London’s former number one hero team.”

At that, I kick the off switch. Dead End. I wish I could hate Mel for what she did, but it was mum’s fault. I can’t bring myself to blame Mel. She only did what any self-respecting villain would do. Rule number one: An eye for an eye. Someone kills someone close to you, you retaliate twice as hard. If only my dad wasn’t a hero I might actually cry today. Imagine that. Though, there’s probably no need to. I can feel myself starting to lose it, I can feel myself start to well up, and I’ll be damned if I let Mel see me like this, so I force them back.

I’m not sad. I can’t be sad. The words, ‘Taylor’ and ‘tears’ are not compatible.

Out of the window, Mel is jogging over to the car, and I make one last desperate attempt to bury my emotions deep, closing my eyes and taking in a deep breath. My dad was a hero. My dad is dead. That is a good thing. I exhale. I would grin at that, too, but Mel opens the car door, and throws her stuff in the back seat, getting in and putting her seatbelt on.

“Ready?” she says, turning to me, with that all too arrogant grin of hers. But it disappears immediately once she looks at me. “What’s wrong?”

“What?” I try and laugh off her accusation, but I silently curse myself when I do. Me? Laugh? Good one. But I just roll with it. “Nothing’s wrong.” I turn away, and catch my reflection in the side-view mirror. Oh, you stupid, sneaky tears.

“Fabulous acting, Tay.” I don’t face her. She’s no doubt scrutinising me, and I don’t need this. It’s almost enough to make me just teleport home, and endure the evening with mum. “Is it because of today?”

“You know what? I’ll just walk.” I unbuckle my seatbelt and open my door. I put a leg out, but it comes right back in. The door slams shut again, and my seatbelt buckles itself, with me sitting firmly in my seat, sighing. Damn telekinetic.

“You can teleport,” she points out, “and you’re not leaving.”

“I easily could.”

“Tay, you realise it happened when I was ten?” she says it so incredulously, as if it makes any difference.

“Shut up.” It’s pretty much a whisper to myself. “Please, just shut up.”

“I didn’t even know you back then, and you can’t say you wouldn’t have done the same thing.”

Oh, I think I can. If her dad just broke into my house and killed one of my parents, I’d slaughter him, not his team.

“Is that what’s wrong?”

I don’t say a word. Nothing can be wrong. ‘Emotional’ is not in my vocabulary.

“Just answer.”

I don’t bother pointing out how stupid that request is. She obviously knows what’s wrong. It’s the same thing that I’ve tried and failed at hiding every year for the past six years that we’ve been friends.

“Can we just go?”

“Tay, sooner or later you’re just gonna have to—”

“I am fine,” I insist. Very convincing. But if it will stop her talking, and get this car moving, I don’t care. Why can’t she just shut up?

“You’re just going to have to accept that I did what I did. Nothing is going to change that fact.”

Dad dying was a good thing. It was a good thing. It was fucking a good thing. Don’t you dare cry, Taylor!

I take another deep breath, and hold it, keeping my gaze away from Mel.

“And you’re just going to have to accept that I didn’t regret it. I still don’t.”

Real villains don’t cry. Villains aren’t this pathetic. Keep yourself in check, Taylor.

But I can already feel them coming down my cheek.

“Tay . . .” She places her hand on my shoulder. I quickly shrug it off.

“I’ve gotta go,” I choke out.

Nobody needs to see this.

***

Every year . . .  I hope that someday she’ll forgive me. As much as she says that there is nothing to forgive, I know that is not true. If ever there was a reason to hate the Thirteenth of November, Taylor has it. I really believed that she would be fine this year. I guess that was foolish on my part. With a sigh, I start the car.

“—Synergy,” the radio booms out.

This cannot be good. I turn it down a little, so I don’t deafen myself. There are very few reasons why the radio presenter would say that name, especially today of all days.

“Ex-leader of the world renowned clan Syphon. So, fellow villains, as well as a day for celebrating Dead End’s downfall, today is also a day for commemorating an inspiration to many. And now, from inspiration, to abomination; the bounty on Erin Ashley’s head is at it’s peak at this time of the year. Syphon will be paying out a ton of money to whoever can bring her to them, dead or alive, so get planning and embed your name in London’s history by being one of those who contributed towards the eradication of Dead End. Happy planning, and happy November Thirteenth, to you all.”

Garbage, lies and idiocy. Oh, Tay, please tell me you didn’t listen to this.

I spend the rest of the ride home in silence. As pleasing as listening to news of dead heroes is, it just reminds me of how depressing this must all be for her, and that’s something I definitely don’t need a reminder of. As I pull up in front of my house, I take note of the car in the driveway, and just park in front of the house.

“Ugh. You vile woman.”

I can’t deal with this right now. Mother may be a fairly well-known hero, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to earn a little extra money on the side. Well, a whole lot of extra money, really. Of course, she chooses the most vulgar job, and decides to ‘entertain gentlemen callers’ for money. What’s worse is that she thinks that it is appropriate to talk about her . . . activities with me.

No mother. It is far from appropriate to talk about your sexual activities with your seventeen year old daughter. It is disgusting.

I recognise the car, though. This man comes every Friday, without fail, and from what I’ve reluctantly heard, he is her best customer, both financially and . . . the other way. Oh, no, I’m definitely not going in there.

So, I wait, resisting the urge to turn on the radio. I practice trying to lift and move my car, mentally. I get nowhere. I wind the window down, send a fly out of my car, and wind it up again, mentally. I even attempt to levitate myself. I don’t even move an inch.

How long does it take to—actually, I really do not want to know, but I get my answer soon. I don’t know when he arrived, but since I have been out here, he has been in there for around thirty minutes. He straightens up his tie as he exits my house, with mother leaning in the doorway, wearing nothing but a shirt that barely covers her underwear.

She notices my car immediately, and her smile falls. She says her quick goodbyes, and shuts the door, leaving the man to just stroll to his car and drive away, fully satisfied that he just defiled my mother. It’s really quite interesting how men never seem to notice me in my car, right outside the house, when they leave. Maybe I should kill them all as they leave. At least they would die happy. Ugh . . .

Before I get out, I start the car up again, and park it in the driveway. Maybe that will deter any other ‘gentlemen callers’ for the day, because I am not just going to sit in my room and endure the sounds if more come. Swinging my bag over my shoulder, I get out, and prepare myself for the wreckage that I know I’ll find.

I’ll be honest, I would not have even needed to see the man or his car to know that it was him who was here, because as I walk through to the living room, so many pieces of furniture have been broken and shuffled. Yes, the living room. I used to call it the family room, but hardly any family friendly activities happen in here anymore. The coffee table has collapsed, the couch has tipped over backwards, all my bookshelves have also either fallen or broken with my books scattered all over the floor. And if those don’t prove the fact of what took place here, I make a show out of picking up her bra from the floor with my thumb and forefinger. She comes in, actually wearing legwear for once, when we don’t have guests.

“You whore,” I say, holding up the exhibit for her to see. Her hair is still out of control, not as much as Tay’s, but hey, she is actually wearing something appropriate, so I won’t complain.

She cranes her head around me and above me, looking out of the door of our little bungalow. “Where’s Taylor? I thought she was—”

I just shake my head before she even finishes.

“Same as always?”

I nod slightly. Maybe she needs a psychiatrist. It might help.

She sighs, much like I did. “So, I put my clothes on for nothing.”

“Whore.” I try not to laugh. It doesn’t work out.

I pass her on my way to my room, and she calls back down the hall, “Hey, if you’re good at something and it feels good, why not do it for money?”

“Whore,” I call back, and throw my bag across the tiny space that is my room. You wouldn’t think that mother earns a lot from both of her jobs, just by looking at this place.

The bed feels fabulous, though, as I fall back on it, fully clothed. Today was, indeed, tiring, enduring mind-numbingly tedious lessons, having to pretend to be nice to people who I wish would just hurry up and die, and then there’s Taylor; just waiting for that inevitable moment when she would just break, and not believing how much she is still hurting from it. Yes, if there is one thing that I regret, it’s hurting her.

***

Stop . . . Stop . . . Just stop. This is sick. I need to stop. My pillow is swamped with tears, with my face buried in it. Mum, for once, is knocking at the door, hoping that I’ll let her in. That’s not going to happen. I remember when we all used to be so happy, when everything was carefree and I didn’t have to restrain myself from killing every last person who felt the need to make me feel better.

“Taylor, please let me in.” Wow. Mum’s being nice. I hate nice.

Dad’s dead. It’s her fault. Why would I let her in? I can’t let her in. I don’t want to kill her. No.

Just stop, Taylor.

I’m sobbing. I never sob . . . except every year on this day. That’s when I’m always weak. Pathetic. I roll over, with my back to the door. As much as I try to wipe the tears away, more come, and more, and more, endlessly. I may be crying, but it’s as if my body is just laughing at me, saying, “Ha, ha! You’re life’s a joke. Why don’t you do something helpful for once and just die. Ha, ha!” Sounds like a plan, to be honest.

“Dad.” It’s barely a croak. I didn’t mean for it to come out. Mum sighs outside of my door. Why can’t she leave me alone?

I quickly bury my face in my pillow again, and drown in it, letting it soak everything up, wishing my body could just tire out, wishing this day would just hurry up and leave me alone. Hell, maybe I’m right. Maybe I should just die.

“Taylor, listen.”

Leave me alone!

I shoot a sharp glare at her, before turning away again. Why is she here?

Stop crying. Stop. Stop, damn it! She can’t see you like this.

My mattress falls a little as she sits down on it. She’s here to stay.

“Do you know why I put up with all your shit?”

Put up with me? That makes me feel fabulous mum, thanks.

“It’s because you’re my daughter and I love you.”

The L-word. I think I might puke.

“And I know you won’t care, you won’t listen, but it wasn’t my fault.”

Of course not. Your knife just jumped out of your bandolier and inserted itself into Anthony’s chest. I really believe you, keep it up.

“But you can’t keep doing this to yourself. I really mean it, you need to stop being friends with her.”

I need to stop being friends with the only person I care about, anymore?

“You know it makes sense.”

No. Just leave. Come on, Tay. Just tell her to fuck the hell off.

But it does make sense, and yet she’s my best-friend. That’s not going to happen, mum.

“Come on. At least talk to me.”

And say what? If I open my mouth, I know what will come out and I don’t want to start that again. I’ve learned to just stay quiet with her. It’s better for both of us, that way. But she does need to leave now, and what better way than to make her wish I was never her daughter?

“Mum—”

And there’s the unmistakable sound of a door being blown off. It would be far more startling if this didn’t happen every year. If I wasn’t trying to just block everything out and just cry myself out. Why can’t the world just leave me alone?

“Where are you, you dumb bitch?” some half-brained cunt shouts from downstairs.

Worthless, pathetic, swine. I roll out of the bed, and open my drawer, pulling out a black carbon steel knife. Taking a firm grip of the black leather handle, I glance at mum, as she walks out, probably going to get hers, and I teleport downstairs, into the entrance hall.

There’s a whole crowd of people about to storm the house, all wearing the same very dark green jumpsuits, with the letter V embedded on the left and their small logo of the head of a bull on the right. This is a clan, one of the more well-known ones, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing. They still stop when they witness me just appear in front of them, out of nowhere.

“Every year,” I mumble. “Take a fucking hint!” I scream at the crowd of wannabe villains, commonly known as criminals. No self-respecting villain clan would have a uniform. Same colours? Maybe. Uniform. Never. Even I know that. “You’re not gonna kill my mum, so stop trying. Now get the fuck out of my house, and go die!” That really does a number on my throat. I can usually scream until the sky turns black.

As enjoyable as taking out every last one of them can be, I am just not in the mood. I never thought the day would come when I would stand in front of a group of idiots like these, a knife in my hand, ready to hack, slash and stab, and I wouldn’t be in the mood to slaughter them all. I need to get a grip.

“Get out of the way,” one of the men in the doorway says, stepping in, making his way towards me. “We don’t want to hurt a comrade.” He brushes his hair out of his eyes, staring intently at me, with his arms out. He may not want to hurt me, but if he even so much as touches me or mum, there’s only going to be one outcome.

They’re not my comrades. They’re just pathetic criminals, way in over their heads.

“Put the knife down.” He actually has the audacity to reach out to me, edging closer so that we’re inches apart. The other criminals behind him, there must be at least thirty, slowly start to file in. And then he makes the biggest mistake of his worthless life. He places his hand around mine and says “We won’t hurt you, and we won’t kill her, but we will take her.”

You’d think that people would be smart enough to not piss off a girl who could kill them in a second. You learn something new everyday, I guess. One very simple thing happens when he says that. I teleport behind him and jam my knife in his back, through his spine, between his ribs and right where his heart should be. Dead. I jam it in there deep, very slowly twisting, savouring the moment, and very slowly pulling it out. He falls forward with a thud, staining our carpet with his blood. That does makes me chuckle a little. Oh god, that gives me goose bumps all over! To say that was satisfying would be a massive understatement! And to think, I thought that this wouldn’t cheer me up. I’ve got a whole horde of criminals in front of me with a death wish. What could be better?

“I think you enjoyed that a little too much,” mum says, coming down the stairs with her bandolier and knife belt, two knives in her hands. It’s funny, the only time I like her is when we’re killing together. Every year on this day when she’s either your inspiration to do good, or to hate heroes for life. “Wanna make it a contest?”

That gets something of a smile out of me, and as she throws one of her knives into the head of an idiot at the door, they all charge in.

Syphon – Prologue

I’ve quite literally written less than 100 words this past week. That’s definitely my fault for just procrastinating, but anyway it’s another week . . . Well, it’s the middle of the week, and I’ve got nothing to rant about, so here’s an excerpt (the whole prologue) from my story that I just renamed to something far less ridiculous. It’s the prologue and it’s pretty long and I don’t expect anyone to really get through all of it, but here it is anyway. Oh, and by the way, strong language follows . . . so there’s that warning.

“Remind me again why I agreed to this.”

“Because we’re a team, and if you chicken out, I’ll make it my personal duty to hunt you down and rip your spine out, myself,” I say.

“Yeah . . . yeah, that.”

This is no time for Robbie’s games. He can pout and mumble to himself all he wants, we have an opportunity to make a hit—the hit—and I’ll be damned if I pass this up, just because it’s a little dangerous. What’s life without a little danger? But looking out of the car window at this completely ordinary, albeit fairly large, run of the mill house, it doesn’t look like the home of one of England’s most notorious villains. It’s far too conspicuous.

“Erin, are you sure this is the place?” Damon asks me. There is a definite tone of derision in his voice, and if I could, I’d answer with a fist to his face.

He’s questioning my sleuthing skills again. I would love to see what this team would be like without me, and maybe Jon. I would love to see Damon and Robbie attempt to keep to the shadows, tail villains without being noticed or without getting themselves killed. I would love to see how they would get themselves out of the headquarters of the top villain clans after being captured because of their idiocy. I would love to see how long they could sustain being London’s number one hero team without me. They’d probably be dead within a week. Now, I would love to see that.

I turn to him, the questioning stare he gives is probably a bigger insult than the actual question.

“Are you sure you need your vocal cords anymore? I’ll be happy to cut them out for you.”

That makes everyone shut up, Robbie’s mumbling included. In the rear-view mirror I see Robbie avert his gaze as I glare at him. Jon doesn’t though. He hasn’t moved an inch since we picked him up, and of course, Robbie couldn’t stop being a prick and making wise cracks, but at least there was an atmosphere. I make one tiny threat and everything becomes deathly silent. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stop breathing. What a lovely reputation I’ve made for myself. Jon smiles feebly back at me, and I return it.

Maybe if things had been different . . . Maybe if I wasn’t an idiot and hadn’t been a massive whore in the team, I might not have to spend so much time with Damon. No. I can’t think of that. I have Taylor, now. I can’t change things. And even if I could, I’d probably only want to change her dad.

With a sigh, I unbuckle my seatbelt and exit the car without opening the door, walking through the glass and metal. The joys of walking through walls.

“Come on, guys. We have a job to do.”

One of them opens their door and slams it shut, not understanding the concept of subtlety. I would scorn whoever it was, but it would be pointless. Frisking myself one more time, I take note of all my knives, ready to be thrown and ready to kill. There are five in my bandolier, four in my knife belt, and for close combat a boot knife, sheathed in the backs of each of my boots. This is overkill and we all know it.

“Wait, Erin, let’s not do this,” Damon calls behind me.

I’ve already started walking towards the house. He’s not my leader.

“We should leave it to someone else.”

I draw two knives from the front of my belt. What has gotten into him? Why not bring this up during the ride here? He’s acting like we’re not high profile heroes who do this all the time—who do this for a living!

“I really don’t like this.”

“Then don’t follow me.” Why is he being such a wuss, all of a sudden? That’s real leadership material right there. I reach the door and press my ear to it.

“Come on,” he whispers harshly. “We should just pull out now.”

“When has pulling out ever worked for us?” I whisper back. I instantly wish I hadn’t.

Trust Robbie to be the one to snigger at that, and trust Jon to look away the second I turn to look at him.

What are you doing with your life, Erin?

I can’t hear a thing on the other side. I don’t know what I was expecting to hear, but Damon has made one good point. My heart is pounding in my chest, adrenaline pumping around my body, ready for action. I guess that’s why I have a wide grin on my face as I look back at him, with the guys either side of him.

“You coming?”

“This is a terrible idea,” I hear him mumble as he and the team come over.

“Oh, suck it up. That’s what makes it that much more exciting. Come on guys, let’s do this.”

“Erin, you are not the leader, you don’t give—”

I’ve already walked through the closed door. I don’t need another one of his I’m-the-leader-and-when-I-say-we-stand-here-and-be-boring-that’s-what-we’re-going-to-do speeches. I’d rather take my chances in the home of a villain. Hell, I’d rather have ears ripped off.

Now that I’m in here, I can hear the faint drone of a television. As much as I don’t want to admit it, this guy is much classier than I had expected. The generic outside definitely is not representative of the inside. It’s a quite a large entrance hall and it’s still filled with so many fancy things; there are cabinets and bookshelves that have elegant carvings, a chandelier, fancy armchairs in the corners, and a pretty big staircase in the centre. For a brief moment, I think that he must earn quite a bit, but then I remember he’s a no good filthy villain, he probably hasn’t earned a single thing in his life.

“Erin, either come back or let us in,” I hear Damon say through the door.

But there’s one thing that has all my remaining attention. A painting. A tall blond haired man walking through a garden with tall grass and an oak swaying in the breeze, leaves flying through the background and foreground. The sun is creating a glow on the man. A glow that makes him look far more pleasant than a mind reading villain. It’s no doubt Synergy in this painting, our hit. All of this would be irrelevant, though; I would still easily put my knife between his eyes, if there wasn’t a young girl on his shoulders in the painting, with a wide grin like she’s having the time of her life. She can’t be older than five in it. This may just be a painting, albeit an incredibly obnoxious one, but I don’t like what it’s making me think of.

“Ridiculous,” I mumble. There’s no way a scumbag like him . . . This is Synergy, public enemy number two. But none of this makes any sense. Why the house so out in the open. And the girl in the painting with him . . .

“A daughter?” I whisper. “Goddamn it.”

No. I do not like this one bit.

***

There’s no way he has a daughter. How can I kill him if he has a daughter? I hate these damn rules! Damon’s going to be such a dick when he finds out.

Damon? Damon Curtis? And his team? Dead End is here? In my home? Okay . . . someone’s going to die today.

Melissa is just sitting by my side, doing one thing or another on her PDA, occasionally looking up at the television whenever she hears that a hero has died, to smile at that fact, completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a knife wielding bitch in the entrance hall, thinking about whether or not she can kill me. I’ll help her figure that out, then. I don’t let Erin’s presence faze me. She wouldn’t be able to kill me if I painted a bull’s-eye on my forehead.

“Melissa, go to your room. We’ve got guests,” I whisper. As I stand, I grab the remote and turn the television off. I open a drawer by the couch and pull out my empty revolver, loading it will the few bullets that are scattered around in the drawer.

“Heroes?” she whispers back. There’s not a glint of worry in her voice, and when I turn to her, she has a slight grin on her face. I frown back.

“That’s out of the question. Just go to your room.”

“Oh please,” she says, a little too loud for my liking, and jumps to her feet. “I can help. I can really help, and you know it.”

And just like that, the gun levitates out of my hands and into the grasp of my ten-year-old daughter. She can hold it like a professional killer, closing one eye and pointing it at the door to the entrance hall. If she hadn’t saved my life with it before, and couldn’t actually shoot well with it, I would take it back immediately. Her mother taught her. Her filthy hero of a mother taught her how to shoot when she was only six years old! It’s a relief that she barely comes to the Villain District anymore.

It’s heart-warming to know that she’ll be able to protect herself when she grows up, and she may even take out some heroes in the process, but right now, she’s far too young to be a killer, no matter how enthusiastic she may be to become one. It’s sickeningly wonderful.

“No, you’re too young.” Before she retorts to that, I go over and retrieve my revolver from her. She glares up at me, and if I choose to read her mind right now, something that I’ll never do right after a stupid disagreement again, I bet I’d find many bitter comments about me.

“Fine.” She finally gives in, but when she walks towards the door of the entrance hall, I flush that idea right down the toilet. Damn it.

“Wait!” I whisper urgently, and she stops in her tracks to look back at me with an eyebrow raised. “Erin’s in there. Okay just—just stay here.”

“That was him! I swear that was him I just heard,” I hear Erin think. Well, there goes the element of surprise.

“Can’t even decide what to do about me. How are you going to kill a hero?” she mumbles under her breath, definitely intending for me to hear.

She turns the television back on and sits back down on the couch, smiling when the first thing we hear is that Jess White, one of my close friends, leader of her clan and a fairly young villainess, escaped prison with most of her twenty person crew. Well, the murder rate is bound to rise this week.

I turn away from it, though, and reach for the door, trying to open it very slowly. But the second it moves an inch, I hear something hit hard against it.

“What am I doing? It could have been the girl! No, stop it Erin. He can’t have a daughter. It makes no sense.”

She’s an eagle-eyed one. I’ll have to be one step ahead of her if I’m going to beat her. I try to tap into the minds of her teammates, and realise that they’re still outside, waiting for Erin to let them in. We both know that’s not going to happen.

She’s hesitant. I could use that to my advantage. Quickly run out, she’ll stall for long enough, thinking that it could be Melissa, and I put a bullet between her eyes. I know it will work. She’s thinking too much about the buts and the what ifs.

“Easy kill.” I smile.

“So arrogant,” Melissa mumbles.

“It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence.” And I run out, with my revolver up, and shoot the second I see her standing there, by the stairs. I shoot when I see her pull her hand back way too late. I shoot when she throws a knife towards me. I shoot all of the bullets, all of them hit, but none of them do a damn thing but make dents in the wall. They go straight through her.

“Shit.” Run!

I duck, missing the knife by the skin of my teeth, and it flies past me into the living room. Before she can equip another one, I retreat back into the living room and slam the door shut, just in time for another knife to jam itself in the door.

How can you kill someone when bullets go right through them?

“Why does this not surprise me?” Melissa get’s up and throws her PDA on the couch again. “Don’t worry, father, I’m sure many high profile villains need their ten year old daughter’s help.” She grins as she walks towards the door, but I stand straight in front of it. Like hell I’m going to let her out there! “Father, I don’t think that you realise you’re in the way.”

“You’re not going out there.”

“I don’t need your permission to protect you.”

And just like that, all control of my body leaves me. I start to turn around so I’m facing the closed door, but I don’t want to go back out there. The door handle turns, but nobody even has a hand close to it, and the door swings open.

“Stop this, damn it!”

But there’s no way that she’ll listen. Villainy rule number five: do not negotiate with your victim. Do not negotiate with your comrades, with the exception of negotiations between clan leaders. Simply put, as long as you abide by the other rules, do whatever the hell you want. Still, I can’t help admire her decision. But I’m her father and this is still demeaning.

Standing there, having not moved, waiting for me is Erin, and the moment she spots me, she throws a knife straight towards me. Even in Melissa’s control, I can’t help but flinch slightly as it comes insanely close to my face.

“That was too close.”

“How—”Erin breaks in. Her confused little face is satisfying to see, but that is still no excuse for this.

“Don’t think this won’t go unpunished,” I say, as Melissa walks past me, far too happy with the sight of the knife levitating millimetres from my face.

“You are very welcome, father.”

“How is this possible? Villains having kids? There should be a law against that.”

I smile slightly at that, but don’t respond. She’s just ignorant and a pathetic, filthy hero. I’m not going to waste my time educating her.

“Now,” Melissa turns to Erin. “Would you like to die quick and painless or slow and screaming in pain?”

***

She’s just a kid and she’s already started going down this path. Her dad may be a lost cause, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t save her.

“What’s your name?” I ask, completely diverting the conversation from the negative issue of my death.

She scoffs at it, though. “You’re funny. I’ll make it quick, then.”

I would have made a run for it, but as I try to run, all the feeling in my body drains out of me, as if she’s sapping every last bit of energy I have. I can’t move. And then it hits me; this girl, this little prepubescent girl has got one seriously powerful ability, and she’s being targeted at heroes like an angry wolf. My knife, the one that is levitating in front of Synergy, rotates, and shoots straight at me. My heart nearly jumps right out of my chest, but the knife stops only when it makes contact with my forehead. I hold my breath, trying not to show any outward signs of emotion. Heroics rule number five: when a villain thinks that they have you cornered, show no signs of emotion. Give them no reason to doubt their flawed plan.

No, I’m not scared. It’s practically impossible to stab or shoot me when I’m all too aware of a threat, but how the hell do I get my movement back? I have to get out of here. Think, damn it! Think!

My eyes dart to the telepath, and his smile widens a little.

Erin you idiot!

The second I realise what I was about to do I try to empty my mind. Thinking is out of the question. The slight grin that was on his face is replaced by a grimace of displeasure. Instinct. That’s all that I have to go on. So, not thinking at all I call out, “Guys, now would be a fabulous time to break the damn door down!”

“I told you not to go in there,” Damon’s muffled voice calls back.

“Shut up and get in here!”

“Move aside, I think the one guy with actual muscle should handle this.” Robbie, you cocky prick.

Robbie must be attempting to kick the door down, or something, because a continuous  barrage of something hard hitting against something else hard reverberates around the room. The wood in the door even begins to splinter, and the more Robbie barges it, the weaker it gets. Surprisingly, it doesn’t break down on his first barge. The girl watches the door with a far less cocky expression, and I hope that it’s for the reason I think it is.

“Father, I can’t control that many,” she whispers behind her.

As if whispering would do any good. For someone who can also control the shadows and make things out of the darkness, for someone who has pretty much found her comfort zone in pitch blackness, hearing is not an issue for me.

“So, how’re you holding up in there?” Robbie asks, as he hits the door again. The lock is really starting to look flimsy. One more hit should break it down.

“I’ve been in worse situations,” I call back to him.

The little girl snorts at that, and her smile returns as she turns back to me. “I really don’t think you have, Erin. I’m not as compassionate as other villainesses.”

With that, the knife at my forehead is thrust forward, through my skull, through my brain, and through the other side. Since I don’t hear it clatter on the floor, I assume that it has jammed into the wall.

“Great idea. I can tell that you’re going to make a great villainess,” I say, smirking, as hers disappears. “Hey Synergy, you want to contribute anything? Maybe you could read my mind to death.”

“You filthy bi—” he starts.

The door breaks down at that moment. With Robbie sauntering in, shirtless, and looking around the place, nodding with admiration. Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t killed him myself, yet. Jon comes in behind him, and after spotting Synergy, instantly extends a hand at him. Synergy instantly collapses, falling to the floor unconscious.

“Father!” The little girl kneels down by his side—her father’s side. Her father who is a villain, raising this little girl. “What did you do?” she screams at Jon.

Before any of us can answer, and tell her that he’s perfectly fine, she sends Jon flying back out of the door, into Damon. Being the silent type, he doesn’t even cry out a little, though Damon does, as they fall over each other. It’s a good thing that she’s not that powerful, because as she does that, I regain control of my motions.

“Who the hell is this?” Robbie says.

“Shut up!” she screams at him, sending him flying back into the other guys. They tumble over again, fumbling over each other as they try to get up.

Before she can do the same to me, I fall into the shadows, sinking into the ground to become nothing more than a shapeless shadow. The joys of travelling as a shadow. I can’t see a thing, but I can sense everything. I know that the girl is panicking, shuffling back as I edge ever closer to her, trying to force back a shadow, but failing miserably.

“Get away from me!” her echoic voice bounces around in my head. “Leave us alone!”

She backs up into the living room door, and her echoic voice becomes echoic cries. At the door, the guys are finally getting a grip, and they hurry back in here.

“Jon, put her to sleep.” That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard Damon say all day. And just like her father, the little girl collapses to the floor, unconscious.

I rise up out of the ground, taking my form again. Simple scare tactics. If I wanted to, I could have been on her in an instant, and brought her into the ground. I could have stopped while she was half way in, cutting her body in half, and, effectively, killing her. But she’s just a kid. A kid who was brought up in the worst environment. It’s not her fault her dad raised her like this.

“Please tell me she isn’t what I think she is,” Damon says, and the guys come over, looking over the little girl, sleeping peacefully with her villain of a father inches away.

“Let’s go,” I say, turning for the door. This is not happening. I refuse to be a part of this. I’m not doing this again.

“Erin. . . ”

“No, Damon.” I sigh, as I reach the door, pinching the bridge of my nose. I can’t even find the will to yell at him. “I’m not orphaning a little girl. I don’t care who her dad is, that’s not happening.”

“We can’t just leave him . . . can we?”

“That’s what I’m doing and I suggest you all do the same.” But that would require Damon and Robbie to be smart. “I’m not doing this again.”

“Erin.” When Robbie takes on a serious tone, that’s when we all know that something cruel and cold is about to happen. Something nobody in this team likes doing, but ‘needs’ to be done. “We’re heroes, and as heroes, we have to abide by the rules, otherwise we’re just misguided everyday vigilantes.”

The rules. These goddamn rules. Sure, some of them may be reasonable and pretty smart. But you know what? Fuck the rules and fuck this damn system! Rule number thirteen: If it comes to light while committing your hit on a villain that he/she has a child, regardless of said child’s age, you must complete the hit and kill the villain, thus making the world a safer place.

A safer place? Is that what justifies this? I’ve already done that once, and it took me far too long to get over what I’d done. I’m not being a part of this, this time.

“Do you honestly agree with these rules?” I ask, not wanting to believe that I’m the only one in this house with a working conscience.

“We don’t have a say in this. We don’t follow the rules, we’re just everyday vigilantes, breaking the law. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to end up in a prison full of angry villains.”

“I can’t believe this,” I mumble. “Robbie, you spineless coward! We are not hitmen. We are heroes. We do what is right, not what we’re told to do. I couldn’t care less if I end up in a prison full of pansies!”

Nobody speaks. Robbie just tries to stare me down, while Damon slowly nods, edging closer to him. If we didn’t have a child together . . .

Jon is still as silent as ever, and he’s looking down at the ground, with a furrowed brow. Surely he must see how ridiculous they’re being.

“Jon?” I say, my voice softening. He’s never caused any drama, probably because he can’t really cause drama, but he usually makes the right decisions. He glances up at me, darts his eyes at the guys, and settles on me again, curving his lip upwards slightly as he walks over.

I return the smile but it’s short-lived, because when he brushes past me and walks away, I’m left standing here, in front of possibly two of the most stubborn people alive.

“You’re not doing this. You can’t do this.” Down on the floor beside them, the two villains start to rouse, now that Jon is out of range his ability must be wearing off. Good.

Robbie notices, and his eyes widen. “It’s now or never,” he mumbles.

It takes me far too long to process that, because he’s already run over to me, snatched a knife out of my bandolier and pushed me back hard, so I fall, a wave of pain sent through my head. I shut my eyes tight. There’s a ringing in my ears. I open my eyes again. There are black patches in my vision.

No. Stay awake. Robbie . . . Robbie! No, you stupid idiot! I can’t pass out. I refuse to.

I don’t know when Damon got here, but he’s by my side, helping me sit up. His hands reach around the back of my head. What is he doing? He pulls his hand back and there’s a red liquid on them. He looks worried. Why? Is he bleeding? Am . . . am I? No, that’s not important. I don’t care if I have patches in my vision. I don’t care that I can’t hear well. He shoots a sharp glare behind him, and I follow his gaze.

No, Robbie, stop!

I force myself up, despite Damon trying to keep me down. Robbie has already reached Synergy. I try to run at him, but fall to my hands and knees after one step.

Get up, Erin!

Robbie shoots me a cold stare, and his mouth moves in a way that I don’t understand. Is he talking? I don’t know. I think he is. But then he smiles in a twisted disgusting way that would be perfectly suitable for a villainous piece of shit. He kneels down, pushing Synergy by the shoulder, keeping him down, and thrusts my knife deep into his chest.

No. Not again. Not again!

I have to get up, I don’t care about the pain shooting through my head. My vision is very close to almost black, but so help me god, Robbie is going to pay for this. I run at him, with as much speed as I can in my state, and tackle him to the ground, and lay as many punches as I can to him. I think I’m screaming out at him, but I can’t be sure. He’s too strong against me. I don’t even think I scratched him, and he throws me off him, across the room, into the solid wall, and my final patches of vision black out, as I let go.