- May 28, 2023
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 24)
Walking out of that courtroom, I feel like I’m on top. There are many things I’ve done as the Hood, but speaking isn’t one of them. Everyone is always guessing my motives, my mindset, and now they have a bit to chew on, a bit that chews into them as much as me.
Walking out and having people watch me in fear doesn’t affect me like others would. Others would feel remorse, question their actions, their motives, but I knew mine walking in and if they don’t understand that’s on them, not me.
I want people to leave me the fuck alone, so I can walk towards those double doors with pride.
That’s all I can think about as I feel familiar hands grab me from under my shoulders, pick me up, and fly me through the doors of the courthouse.
I turn my head up to face her, and give her the only snarl I’ve given her in my life, “Put me down, Burke.”
“No,” she says, like a demand, as if I need to suddenly start listening and giving into her demands.
Emily tries to fly us up to talk atop the rooftops, but I’m sick of being manhandled for her games. I bring my hands to her face, and I shock the shit out of her. I surprise her more than I hurt her to make her let me go, and as I’m several hundred feet above the courthouse and the filming cameras, I decide where I’m going, not her.
I pop out my metal wings and glide towards the roof of the courthouse, the oldest and shortest building in the South Aeg. It’s got a walkway on top that I can land and that’s all anyone really needs to know.
I hear the wind follow her flight as I stand up, and I make sure to tell her, “You know something, Burke,” letting her hear her own name as if it were venom, “before, you flying me around was cute, but now it’s really pissing me off.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she mocks me, a hand over her heart as she strikes back, “what else is new? You’re always pissed off, every time you try to chill you just come off more like a fucking sociopath.”
“I am a sociopath.”
“Yeah, and I’m Mary Magdalene, you’re not a sociopath, you’re just an asshole who wishes he was to explain the fucked up murderous tic in the back of your head.”
“Oh yeah, and how would you know, you entitled brat.”
The entitled comment really gets to rich white people, because it’s their favorite insult for others. I can tell how much it bothers by the way her expression twists around her nose. She looks like she’s about to snarl at me with the way her face furrows and tightens.
She gets that all the time from others, but not from me. Time for that to change.
Emily brings her hands to her face, her fingers clenching she holds back ripping something apart.
“Why are you like this?!” she screams at me. “Why are you so angry, violent, and- and- and an asshole! It’s like you’re out to ruin everything for the rest of us, just to keep getting your murder fix. Threatening me, threatening criminals on trial, threatening the goddamn guard just doing his job!”
She doesn’t get, even after all this time, she doesn’t even have an inkling. She thinks I’ll just change with what everyone around me wants, that I can be set into a rhythm.
No, that’s not how I work. That’s not how I process, or get on with life. I need something that everyone else doesn’t to keep on living. She needs to understand.
I beat my chest, “This is who I am! You don’t get it, I’m this way because I need to be, I kill people because I have to, because it’s fun, because it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I may be human physically, but something here,” I violently tap my head, “something here is broken, and it always has been.”
That last word makes Emily’s face loosens. She’s been shocked, taken aback as I spell it out for her. She can’t do anything but float down to the ground from her pedestal and take a hard good look at me to understand.
“I tortured that idiot who called himself a Saint because I enjoyed it.” I bring my hands to my chest and spread them out as I admit that to her, “I kill people because it’s the only way I feel alive, I kill enough people all the time so I can push down the urge,” and I think she begins to truly see me for what I am.
My hands, they tremble before me, I’m not stopping them anymore, I’m not ignoring what they crave, the need to wrap around someone’s throat and choke the life out of them, carve them into ribbons. I clench my hands, I reel them in, because by killing, “By killing people who deserve, I control it. If I ignore it, I’ll hurt innocent people and everyone will truly need me dead.”
Emily hung onto every word. She stands on the ground, but her hand is between her and me, hovering barely above her waist, because she realizes that there should be distance between us.
But then she proves me wrong, she flies to me she goes to take my head, and prove to me that she doesn’t get it. She tries to plead with me, tell me, “No, no, you’re not this monster,” and I tear my hands from her, turning my back. She just… she doesn’t get it, still. Still, she tries to argue that I’m wrong, because I’m her pet project, a dog that bites everyone but her. “I know what you said to Tommy, about killing, you’re just, just-”
“Just nothing!” I snap as I swing around, my fist moving, forcing her away from me. She’s talking about when Tommy asked me about killing, after we beat up those dirty cops? She has no idea what she was listening to, what I was thinking when he asked me how I kill people. “Emily, you don’t get it, I was lying!” That’s the truth. “When he asked me how I was able to keep killing, and I said that I had to hate what I was firing at, I was fucking lying to you both. It’s, it’s…”
It’s time for a breath, for the truth, because for me, killing people, anyone, “it’s always been easier than breathing.”
Emily looks like a little girl when she hears that her father’s going to jail, unable to accept me for what I really am, and she reaches for my arm again, pleading “No, that’s not true,” but I pull it back.
I tell her, I set her straight, I make sure she understands the man she wants so much to be her friend. “Deep down, I’m telling you who I am, I’m not different on the inside from any psycho we’ve taken down, it’s time you got that, and realize that I’m never gonna be the pet you want me to be.”
Emily, she stares me down, she still believes that I’m lying to her, that I’m only trying to push her away. I bet she thinks I’m only trying to make it easier on myself, but I’m not, telling the truth is what’s hard.
She grinds her teeth as she grows angry with me, getting angry at feeling lied to. She still thinks she can make her demands, but this next one is the last one I expected.
“Take off that stupid helmet, and say that again,” she demands. I don’t know how I never expected it, how I didn’t expect her to demand that I face her. “Take off that helmet, tell me that you’re a monster, a killer, and no different from anyone of the people we’ve fought these last few months!” Her hands make fists at her sides as she tries to restrain herself, calming only to growl, “Take off that mask and tell me with your own face, you coward.”
That, that’s what she wants. She thinks I won’t, she thinks I can’t, she thinks taking off this helmet is removing my protection from the truth. It’s the exact opposite, the helmet is protection from the lies. When it’s off, that’s when it’s harder to tell the truth.
But the truth is what she needs to understand.
“Fine,” I agree to her demands, and for a moment her eyes flare in surprise as I give her what she asked for.
She doesn’t believe it, I don’t think, not as I’m bringing my hands to my helmet, and letting the mist from the colder air come out. She doesn’t believe me as the helmet slips up and over my head, letting my skin feel the cold breeze on this rooftop, be touched by something other than cloth and steel. Emily only begins to believe in me when my other hand goes to the ski mask, and rips it clean off.
She gets to see my face.
“Is it what you expected?” I ask her. “Does my face meet the violence and madness I keep trying to tell you about?” She reaches her hand out, like I’m an animal who may be scared away, but in reality, I just have scars that I don’t want touched, so I pull my head away. “No, now you need to hear it again, Emily, look at me, listen,” and with my order her eyes flick away from whatever scar on my face she was looking, to my eyes.
I say the words she needs to hear. “I’m a monster, I love killing, I need to kill, because deep down I’m like all the bad people we fight.”
Emily stops reaching, her face is frozen as she hears and sees the words come from my mouth, and her hand reveals everything. She pulls it back, she moves it over her chest, and she holds the bicep of her other arm. She blocks herself from me, protects herself.
I put the ski mask back on, seeing her dip her head as she finally begins to fathom exactly who I am. I put on the helmet, the truest face, and pop out the wings on my back. “Emily,” I say her name, and her eyes don’t flicker to me, so I hope she hears me tell her, “don’t call me, don’t come to me, we don’t help each other anymore.”
I always knew this would happen, that one day I’d remember what it was like to be alone, and I’d miss it. And like now, I knew I’d leave, believing I’m better off without people, people like Emily, Tommy, and Marie, and they’re better off without me.
I jetpack off the roof, away from her, to the building just slightly higher among the rooftops. I can’t drive right now, I need to walk this off, run. I order the car to follow for another time, because I don’t want to be confined behind a wheel.
Running is something I’ve noticed I’m pretty good at, running across rooftops especially. I do that a lot, run across rooftops away from problems. When one does it as often as I do to be alone, one notices sounds that I know I shouldn’t hear. Like the sounds of not only helicopters, but the winds from its blades hitting the ground. It’s gotta be whatever stupid media station trying to get a better-
I watch as two helicopters fly over my head towards the courthouse, and they are not media helicopters. Media helicopters don’t have missile launchers under the wings. Why the hell are military helicopters flying through a goddamn city?
They’re flying right for the courthouse, but… no, no, no, no, no.
I turn around, and I hightail it back to that damn courthouse but I barely see the top of the short building when the missiles launch for the roof, and I see a figure flying right for them. Stupid, idiot, girl is getting herself killed and-!
The missiles explode, but they’re sound, high enough decibels to make everyone in a mile radius deaf for a week, and everyone within a block feels the soundwave. It actually stops me in my tracks.
Imagine what it does to the girl with super hearing.
I hear the impact she makes into the ground, my helmet being the reason I’m not deaf right not. I need to get there faster, so I’m leaping off the building to the streets, seeing trained goons with guns rappel down to the ground. They move amid all the chaos of people crawling and screaming on the ground. Under different circumstances I would have enjoyed seeing the reporters and their cameraman like that.
I land to the street with a thud as I bolt down half a block as Emily gets to her knees in a crater. The goons don’t have normal weapons, they came to fight her, to capitalize on her powers. With these guns that need to be held up by two people, they look like battering rams. I bet they feel like one when they hit Emily with constant sound waves.
If I can hit one of them with my handgun, they’ll divert their attention and-
I gave them to Emily, god knows where she put them.
I pop out my knife as I can hear Emily screaming, her hands to her ears as these goons dressed in all black bodysuits blow out her eardrums. I take my knife as soon as I’m in throwing distance, and beam it right in the back of the head of the closest one. They stop blasting Emily, giving her the chance to fall forward, ears bleeding.
The partner of the one I killed turns to see me, and others are turning their attention to me as I jetpack from the ground and come down on him with my other knife. I wrench it from his head and grab my other as I turn to tear apart the others. Flip the knife in my left hand to throw for one of the next pairs as they turn their gun.
I don’t get to throw it.
I hear a missile launch the second before I get hit by one. It reminds of when Emily first punched me into a wall, this force directly blowing up on my back and smashing me into the ground. It knocks my head for a loop, and I’m halfway into making a concrete angel.
At that same time, as my body aches to stay in the ground, I hear a familiar voice order the goons from above, “Get the girl, that’s who we came for.”
It’s a woman’s voice, one I remember killing.
I hear them blasting Emily again, I hear her scream. I have to get out, I have to get up. I can’t let them take her.
I boost the jetpack, smooshing my head against the earth to work some leverage, and feel the pressure on my neck as I get my ass out of the ground. Knife in hand, I lift with all I have, feeling the ground crack some more before my right arm frees itself.
At that same time, I hear the guns stop going and I can hear the groans of the people again. Emily’s out, I hear their boots moving to take her, and I rip my head out of the ground, because I can’t le-
“Aaahh.” I can’t help but groan, feeling like ten tons just smacked me in the side of the head. I don’t remember hitting the ground, but I feel it as I roll over to my back.
My vision is blurry, with this black mass moving over me. Whatever hit me has thrown me for a loop, and of the women who have that kind of strength, one of them is being captured.
“Did that hurt?” she asks, her words without the sarcasm any other person would have. She doesn’t have it in her.
She does have it in her to place her foot on my neck. My vision is clearing as she taunts me, “Poor Hood, I’d take you,” with her black hair coming into focus, “but wasting time on someone so, mortal,” as her red lips become clear, “would be a waste.”
Hundress Dawn… but, but, “But I,” she steps harder on my throat, “*ack* killed you.”
Hundress tilts her head, with that cold, dead mask she wears as a face, and bends down with her hand over her knee. Behind her head I see Emily, tied up, hands and feet bound in steel.
“No,” I groan as I lift my hand towards Emily, then bringing it back to Hundress’s foot as she digs into my neck again. I have to bring my hands under her foot, with her strength she’ll crush it… but Emily.
The rocks Hundress calls eyes dig into me, and I see the truth. I thought she was like me, dead inside, but I was mistaken. To be dead something must have lived and died, but she’s empty, there was never anything in her.
I croak out, “What are you?”
She doesn’t answer me, she reaches over my head where her foot won’t allow me to look. It comes back with a knife, my knife. “I wonder which will hurt more,” she whispers, “having Ion’s machine drain her dry, or the guilt you’ll feel knowing you couldn’t save her, or any of your friends.”
Damn, damn bitch is coming for us all. She’s going to go after Tommy and Marie too, because they’re superhumans for, whoever, whatever Ion is.
She stands up with my knife in her hand, twirling it around, and the idiot takes her foot off my neck so-
The goddamn, psychotic robot stabbed with my own knife. This armor, it’s meant to protect against energy, bullets, but sharp objects, especially one made of cantorium. The knife cuts through me right between my intestines. “Aaahhh, Jesus!” I wrap my hand around the knife in my gut, and turn over to my side. I try to push myself up with my other hand, but she kicks me to my stomach, making the knife move…
My suit works to release sealants so I don’t start bleeding out, but they can’t stop me from feeling cold hard steel rubbing against my insides.
I hear Hundress walking away from me. She must think I’ll bleed out.
I bring both hands to the ground. I push myself up to my knees as she takes hold of the rappel rope, dressed in the same combat gear as her goons. She leaves me with words that I’ll never forget.
“It’d be easier for everyone if you just laid down and died. It’d save you all the guilt.”
The helicopter lifts off, with her goons lifting the rappel rope.
Hundress hangs from the rope, watching me as I watch her get away with my, my, damn… I’ll kill her, rip her open, tear her apart. She, she thinks her, and the Savaage, can attack my team? No.
I bring both hands to the knife in my gut, and step up on one knee, because I still have more pieces of shit to kill, more scum that think they can get away with whatever they want. No.
I stand, I pull, and this fucker, comes out!
My blood paints the ground before me, the first time in a long time, because someone thought they could stab me, with my knife…
That, that… That won’t stand.
I’m… I’m gonna need to get this fixed. I don’t… I don’t think I should have pulled this out…