The Wolf Pack (Chapter 26)

The Tower


“When the Hood and the Rodriguez’s gets here, I want this place in complete and utter lockdown, Susan,” I order my assistant, running through the halls as everyone is bum rushing it around the Needle. First Espada was taken out, then Pyre was personally taken in by Hundress. That means Icicle is next on their list, and for that answer I turn to Susan, “Where the hell is Icicle?”

Susan, calm and cool as ever, assures me, “She’s here, agents picked her and her family up, and we’re going to meet her.”

“Good,” can always count on Susan.

Goddamnit, when did everything else start going to shit? Was it when I decided to take the job as head of S.I.L.A.S. or get my brood involved? I just don’t know anymore.

Susan stops walking through the corridors, looking at the ground, listening to the earpiece in her ear. From how the color drains from her face, I can tell it’s only more bad news. I’m almost more nervous than pissed to ask the question, “What’s going on now?”

My assistant has the misfortune of informing me that, “There’s been a riot at Mars Penitentiary, with inmates trying to escape.”

I have to take a long inhale and longer exhale before I even start thinking about that. Everything is going wrong because I let myself fall behind the Savaage, I let myself get caught up in building heroes and stopping regular crime and less time actually hunting down those who started this job.

Maybe that’s why…

Mars Penitentiary though, that’s not a big deal because of all the inmates. That’s a problem, the normal convicts will have everyone in a mass and paranoid hysteria, but that’s not why a breakout is my problem. That’s where a few certain supervillains are being held, some without proper trials or prosecution, just a cell and a key that was thrown away.

Automata, Dr. Magician, Saint Lucifer, they’re all in there.

I can’t forget that I have all of their weapons and tech, along with the suit Automata made for the Stoneman, and if they get out that will make the Aegis Needle a prime target. Then again, those three are generally powerless without their gear, so if someone comes, it won’t be them. Someone else will come for them, and I have an itching feeling that-


Before the wall beside me exploded, I was thinking that it was the Savaage who would come for them, when I should have realized that they were coming now.

The blast blew a hole open in the wall, highlighting a design flaw of walking around the exterior, but hey, this place was originally meant for science, not war.

The blast throws me forward into Susan, knocking us both across the ground, covering bystanders in debris, and killing the blaring alarm in this hallway.

There’s dust that makes me cough, and as I push myself up I realize I’m on top of Susan. I look down at the Irish ginger and see that her eyes are closed.

“No, no,” I mutter as I check her pulse without another thought, and it’s there, it’s fine, she’s just unconscious. A sigh of relief at that.

The cool breeze from the outside air hits me, informing me of how cold it is thousands of feet above the ground. I stand up on my knees and move off of Susan as the helicopter noises become loud and clear, with the first footsteps of the intruders sounding off before I turn around.

I have my taser-gun out of my trench coat, ready to shoot, until I see who stepped in first.

“It’s been a while, Guardian of the Forest,” he greets me after nearly a century and a half. He greets me by the old archaic, drawn-out name that sounds ridiculous in English, and like an insult out of his mouth. The immortal in the body of a twelve year old, the boy I cursed to walk the same path as me.

“Alet,” I gasp, my gun hand tensing up, unable to shoot. There’s no point, he’ll get back up, he’s like me, he can’t die.

He looks just like he did when I left him trapped under rubble, a pale, dark-haired, baby-faced child, even though he must have been starving. No, the Savaage must have freed him a long time ago.

“Oh, Claire,” Alet coos, “I can’t explain how priceless the look on your face is, all for Alet.”

“Huh?” I’m actually confused, Alet has lost his mind as many times as I have over our several thousand years, but talking to himself in the third person isn’t something he does. He’s reached a new level of madness.

Then goons dressed in black padded gear enter behind him, ignoring me. They wear no symbols, no eye holes, no wear and tear that separates them from each other. These aren’t individuals, they’re pawns, and they’re Alet’s.

I lower my taser-gun as they swarm past me, I can’t take them all, and I can’t take Alet. The moment I move, I’ll be gunned down, and if I get gunned down away from Susan I can’t even fake her injury. I’m gonna be shot, let’s get shot over her so I don’t lose my assistant.

This immortal in a little boy’s body smiles, and laughs. His laugh, his smile, it’s not the same, it’s different, less twisted by the madness that comes withd decades of being alone, without chance of death.

This is just the smile of a sarcastic asshole.

It all makes sense when he shifts.

Shadow Mask gloats, “The look on your face is priceless, you’d think after a couple thousand years you would have figured out how to keep people out of your head.”

I raise my taser-gun for a shot that should paralyze him but his gun hand is faster and hits my gun arm. It stops my shot cold.

I’m so stupid, so goddamn stupid, I keep track of Alet, I would have known if he had been freed!

“Yes,” Shadow Mask says, “you would have,” reminding me of how he reads my mind.

That’s how he knows of Alet, that explains the imperfections that I should have caught.

“Well, don’t beat yourself up too much,” Shadow Mask suggests, taking care to tell me exactly how unprotected my personal thoughts are. “This wouldn’t be the first time you’ve proved you’re nothing special, I mean compared to me.”

This little… “I’m gonna kill you,” I swear to fucking god.

Shadow Mask chuckles from underneath his gas mask, and comments that, “You know, I think the Street Fighter knock off said the same thing.”

Who’s he talking about? I don’t get the reference.

“You’ll figure it out, I’m sure,” the mercenary taunts as he raises his gun towards me again.

He may be able to read my mind, but that doesn’t mean he can make the shot if I move out of the way. I reach with my left hand to grab the taser-gun, moving my shoulder out of the way, feeling the bullet zip right through me. I’ll have to shoot through the pain, it’s nothing I haven’t-


“Lights out, Director.”


“Shelley, Bruce, come on!” I yell at my siblings as I drag them through the cafeteria.

This was a mistake, a terrible mistake, coming to the Aegis Needle, taking Shelley and Bruce. I left our mother at home when she went crazy at the thought of leaving, but if she only knew.

The Savaage are here, they grabbed Tommy in front of his family. I- I thought they would do the same to me when the Director told me, but now they’re here to. I have to wonder if there was ever really somewhere to hide, somewhere we could stand and fight back. Standing and fighting isn’t something I can do with two kids.

People are running to battle stations, safe rooms, but I don’t know where I’m supposed to go, I’m supposed to be the front line. I can’t do that, I can’t fight without knowing where Shelley and Bruce are, and I can’t take them with me. There’s- there’s the Danger Zone, it can target intruders, that’s a place where we can be protected.


We’ve been caught.

Mercs, goons, whatever, all soldiers dressed in black to be unidentifiable, burst into the room with blasters! They open fire on people, S.I.L.A.S.’s own start trading bullets with them and I can’t get my kids out of here.

I shove Shelley and Marie down, before they see me, I’m the one they’re after if the Director was right, if they’re taking superhumans like Tommy and Burke.

On the verge of tears, terrified, Bruce cries, “Marie, what’s happening?!” I shush him and push under them under a cafeteria table. Shelley covers his mouth when he starts crying, herself holding her teeth together, trying to hold it all in.

I break the long metal seats, these old-style tables, and stand it up in front of the two like a barrier, pointing my finger at the ground, freezing it up straight.

I bring my hands to their heads, I bring them close to me, kissing their heads, shushing them. I have to tell them, “Your big sister needs to go,” and they start whimpering and crying, but I try to tell them, “I’m not going far, you can see me, I have to stop the bad guys, I have to stop them,” but they cling to my arm. I pull back as they cry and reach out for me, I tell them, “Stay here, please.”

Shots come towards me and I get burned across my back, making me scream out and double over in front of them.

“Marie!” they call my name, but now I freeze over and get ready to stuff them with icicles.
They attacked me in front of them. I have to stop this now.

The intruders, as I turn around and use a cafeteria table as a jumping pad, they aim for me. They shoot, thinking their cowardly weapons will work on me the same way they do on normal people. My ice armor has held before, but why risk it, why risk giving them any sense of accomplishment?

I show how far I’ve come; I freeze the blasts mid-air as they come for me, my hands facing forward. I bet I look ridiculous, but they shouldn’t care about that as their blaster shots turn to gas being met with such a cold force.

They must be shooting plasma or something for it to go down to gas. The shots are literally evaporating.
As I’m coming down on them, I hope they are afraid, terrified of me like Shelley is of them, like Bruce is of them. That’s what they deserve.

They definitely deserve to be frozen, so I freeze the lead from his gun to his chest as I run at them. The others are quick to change their strategy, and that spooks me a bit. They switch to fight with their hands and charge me, knocking over their own, letting him fall to the floor where his arms shatter. They don’t care at all, I didn’t go to kill him, but he’ll bleed out, now…?

There’s no blood in the ice chunks, there’s always blood.

I abandon that thought, because they take out knives. I make ice swords, ready to fight as the gun fire flies all around us.

I’ve gotten better at hand-to-hand and at sword fighting, the Director and the Palace did a lot to make sure of that. When the first man goes to stab my arm, I deflect it with one sword, and do to him what he wanted to do to me, by slicing the fingers on his hand.


I made what should have been a clean cut, only to see no blood again.

A second one attacks me, and they’re trying to take me down together. I have to block, deflect, and duck strikes from their arms and legs. I’m not terribly fast, it’s hard to keep up, needing to block with my own arms and legs and take some body shots.

They trip me up, make me fall back, and they come down together on my swords. They both try to stab me together, so I freeze them together, freeze their left and right arm, expecting them to stop, but they keep going, they punch me and shatter their own limbs on my ice armor. These soldiers, they have no sense of self-preservation, no defense, but they have something else.

They’re made of wires.

They’re not people, they’re robots, machines, androids, whatever the term is, this means I can’t be killing what’s not alive. That may sound arbitrary, but sometimes arbitrary is the easiest way to justify things, and more often than people want to admit it, the easiest way is the best.

I let out the cold. My cold heart releases from me and freeze everything around me. The robots trying to kill me, the others waiting behind them, I freeze them all. It takes seconds, I watch as they go from moving fast and professionally to moving in slow motion. The cold seeping between their bones (or circuits) and keeping them from moving, freezing them in place with hard ice collecting in their feet and making them a statue.

It only takes seconds, and those seconds save me. Now I have to save others.

I jump back up to my feet, taking the moment to punch and kick these things into hundreds of cold metal pieces, and then it’s time to live up to my name. I see the machines around me, killing off the S.I.L.A.S. agents, moving down the rows, moving towards Shelley and Bruce.

I make icicles in my hands, big, long, sharp icicles, and I hurl them like javelins, like a Greek Olympian or something. I don’t think, I just do.

I plunge them into machines before they execute the meat lady; I stick them into walls as they try to flank our guys with guns; I eviscerate those in front of me, running towards my family. It only takes a few moments moment to get them all, and I miss the moments of my icicles freezing them after I hit them. I have somewhere to be.

I’m there far later than I should be, I wasn’t paying attention as I should have. I let them get too close. The first one hears Bruce and Shelley’s cries, and he aims his gun at them as they scream in terror.

I’m let loose a cold stream, freezing the blaster in the moment it takes for the machine to pull the trigger. The weapon explodes in its user’s hand, I’m yelling as I’m leaping to tackle him, bring my hands to his head, and freeze it solid.

In the moment, I forget it’s not human, alive, because it doesn’t matter. I want it dead.


The second I freeze one, another hits me in the back of the head, knocking me to the ground. As I turn over, it climbs atop me, laying its hands on my neck, trying to squeeze me unconscious through my armor.

I’m a little dazed with my first reaction being to bring my hands to my attacker’s wrists, but I focus on looking to my left, and seeing their faces. Shelley’s eyes as I’m getting choked by this thing they don’t understand. Bruce’s horror as he screams and clings closer to his sister. It’s my fault they’re seeing this, they’ll never unsee it.

They need to know that I can protect myself and them, this just doesn’t happen.

I freeze its wrists, and crush them in my hands. My hands go to this machine’s throat and we roll over so I’m on top, roaring as I freeze its head, and it stops moving.

No more time, no more staying here. I turn to Shelley and Bruce so we can go, and the moment I’m there for them under the table they’re looking at me different. They cower when I reach my hand towards them.
I scare my little brother and sister now.

“I’m sorry,” I try to say, I let down my armor, let them see my face, that it’s still me. “It’s Marie, come on, I would never hurt you, please, we need to go, it’s not safe.” They cling to each other, hesitating to take my hand. “I’ll keep you safe,” I promise, “I won’t let anyone hurt you, please just, take my hand.”

We have to wait, and I hear more footsteps the sounds of people screaming in the halls. People are still hurt and need help here, but it’s not over yet.

Shelley pushes Bruce to me first, I grab him and pull him from under the table, I lift him into my arms as he naturally clings to me. He cries with is head atop my shoulder, crying, “Don’t leave me again, don’t leave.”

“I won’t, never again, I promise,” and Shelley comes out and clings to my leg, so I grab her hand and tell them, “we need to go now.”

I don’t want to go back the way we came, that had more goons, but so does the outer rim. That’s where the ones I just fought came from. The Danger Zone is on the outer rim, it’s closer, but the hangar is a ticket out and it’s in the middle of the Aegis Needle. No, I have to continue the way we were going, I can’t fly a helicopter or work three parachutes, if there even are any. I have to take them to a place that will defend us, and that I can easily defend.

I go the way of those I destroyed, pulling Shelley close to my leg as she looks over at them. I assure her, “I didn’t kill anyone, they’re robots, they’re not alive.”

Bruce only sniffles and tightens the grip of his arms and legs, but Shelley looks around and she thinks about the machines on the ground. To her, “They look like people.”

“Well, they’re not,” I don’t want her thinking that I’m a murderer, that’s not who I am, what I am.
I just have to protect them, get to the Danger Zone.

I take them to the edge, and I see everyone around me, all the people of S.I.L.A.S. Some of them look to me, expect me to save them. That’s… that’s what they were told to expect of me, to be a hero. I don’t even know them, yet I owe them.

I owe my brother and sister safety first, and even after.

I look outside into the hallway, see the machine warriors heading the other way. It occurs to me that they’re looking for me and me alone, if I leave, they’ll follow, but only if I lure them away, and only if I lure every single one away from Shelley and Bruce. I’m no Hood, or Director, I’m no strategist, I…
I don’t know what to do.

Icicle isn’t the team leader, she sticks to the plan, but I gotta make a plan, and I gotta stick to it. I hurry in the other direction of the intruders, thankfully, in the direction of the Danger Zone. I pull Shelley along as I carry Bruce, hoping that I can get there before I run into anyone else.

With every step, a new corner comes into sight, and I fear someone ahead of me. All I need is to miss one stray shot — one stray shot — and who matters most is gone. I wish it wasn’t me making this decision, I wish an actually experienced adult was protecting these two kids, not me, just… not me.

Then we go so long without seeing anyone, anyone at all, and my heart rate just keeps beating faster and faster. We should have met someone, a friend or an enemy, the chances of reaching the Danger Zone without meeting anyone are just too low.

Yet, it’s what happens.

We get there, and I don’t believe it. I stop and stare at the empty room where I’ve trained for hours on end — the bane of my existence for most of it — fighting stupid hardlight ninjas and crap. Sometimes, something we hate becomes something we need the most.

I bring my eye to the scanner, and the door opens.

The all-white room opens, seeming almost endless without the knowledge of where the corners are. I put Bruce down and yell towards the ceiling, “This is Operative Icicle, instantiate lockdown!”

The setting changes to that of a field, with tall grass taller than both my siblings, with samurai and ninjas appearing around us, with gunmen hiding beneath the ferns, all facing the door. The kids are amazed at first, but I take their hands and pull them back because I know they’ll be scared of the other constructs.
When the giant arachnids form over our heads, with androids underneath to back the samurai, Bruce and Shelley cower, and I have to tell them, “No, don’t be scared, they’re all here to protect us, even the scary ones.”

Nevertheless, they cling to my legs, each one getting their own.

Now all there is to do is wait. Maybe someone was tipped off by the doors opening, but it doesn’t matter, in lockdown mode the hardlights not only get deadly, but they are immediately replaced. It’s an unlimited army as long as we stay here, and its hard to break, I’ve tried. I can’t even freeze this place and if that won’t break it, there’s nothing a few drones can do.

All these thoughts run through my head, and my heart still skips a beat when the door opens.
“Clever, this was a smart place to hide,” the Director says as she opens the door, a grin on her face that shows how full of herself she is.

For once I don’t have mixed feelings about seeing her, I’m glad to know that Director Knight is here to take charge. At least until she says, “Danger Zone, Director Override, shut down.”

She supersedes my order, causing the hardlight constructs to break down and disappear, turning the room back to its normal white with the lights off. “Keep the lights on at least,” she complains, giving us back our sight.

Bruce and Shelley tighten their grips on my legs, they don’t understand what’s going on, and neither do I. I ask the Director, “What are you doing? Those were supposed to protect us!”

“I know,” the Director admits, taking a threatening step forward, pushing me back even with yards between us. “But why would I,” she begins to ask, as she shifts, “want that?” into him.

Shadow Mask.

“I’m glad I left an impression,” he gloats with a bow. “Is it strong enough for you to, I don’t know, just surrender? Or are you going to make this hard for me?”

I take my hands to Shelley and Bruce’s heads, and push them off my legs. They try to cling to me as I shove them back, making Shadow Mask tilt his head with this twisted fascination.

“Bruce, Shelley, get off,” I order them, “get back, and stay back.” Sometimes the only way to get them to listen is to be stern, but I assure them, “I’m not leaving, but I have to take care of him.”

Shadow Mask’s shoulders slump as he complains, “Oh, the hard way. Did you forget what happened the last time we met? I kicked your ass and several of your friends until the cavewoman showed up.”
I unleash the cold and let my armor coax over my skin, ensuring that my little brother and sister won’t want to touch me.

It also serves to remind Shadow Mask of something he’s forgetting. “Last time you fought us without our powers, now the playing field is even.” I hold up my hand, bringing the icy mist to his attention. “And somehow I doubt a rhino is safe from the cold.”

“Hmph,” Shadow Mask grumbles. He rolls his neck around, cracking it back and forth. “Alright then, let’s see if you hold up any better than your friends, you didn’t hear this from me,” he starts as he brings his mouth behind his hand, “but I heard they went down easy.”

“Fuck, you,” and I spray my icy stream straight for him, an angry reflex.

He shifts into a bird to dodge and shifts into an elephant. He roars, scaring Shelley and Bruce behind me, but that only pisses me off. I shoot ice at the ground under his feet, because it doesn’t matter if he can see it coming, an elephant is fat and slow if it’s not moving in a straight line.

I make an ice pillar that stabs him up his gut and crushes the animal into the ceiling. As he swings its little arms and bellows, I shoot ice at its head. Shadow Mask changes into a giant anaconda to slither and dodge, but I still freeze his side, slowing him down and earning a hiss.

“You should have brought your drones, they would have had the numbers at least,” I tell him as I bring my hands together. As I pool the cold into a ball, I remember how so many of these assholes like to taunt us as we fight, and try to get in our heads, but this one is actually in my head. That doesn’t have to be a disadvantage.

I’m finished with this trick I’ve been practicing for a few days, and as I charge my energy. I give him a hint, I think about how hard it’s going to be to dodge, in any form.

He takes the bait, he knows it too as he shifts back into his normal form, splinters of ice sticking in him around his body. He challenges me, “Don’t just think about it all day, do it.”

“You asked for it!”

I push the ball of ice before me, and from it launches a barrage of icicles towards him, a range too wide for him to fly out of the way of. He tries to shift into a bird, dodges a few before getting clipped, changes into a snake and takes a couple of body shots, and changes back into a man with his arms crossed to block.

The barrage is over pretty quickly, leaving him bleeding out of several holes. If I was only more experienced it could have lasted longer, but it still worked pretty well.

“Too well if you ask me,” Shadow Mask grunts, and coughs as he falls to one knee, and tries to pull out the icicles.

He can read my mind all he wants now, but I’m rushing him while he’s down, while he can’t fight back, like how he attacked me and my friends when we couldn’t fight back! I ice together a pillar to turn into a launching pad.

I go up in an arch while he’s struggling with the icicles already in him.

I make an ice sword in a reverse grip and bring it down on him. He moves his head to the side but my leg comes down and crushes his chest.

“Ulk!” he groans and I raise my fist until he shifts. “Marie please!” my dad cries out, and I hesitate, my dead dad, that’s who this piece of shit uses to save his face. With a look of fear, it quickly changes into a smug smile, I bring down my fist.

I hesitated, it gave him time to grab my hand and bring his knee up to kick me over his head. I roll over him and we’re both on our knees. He shakes his head and wags his finger, “TskTsk* Oldest trick in the book, you angsty kids always fall for it.”

“Fall for this!” I yell as I shoot ice at him. He jumps and I miss, but my shot keeps going. “No, look out!”
My stream heads straight for them, and they just barely move out of the way, ducking and covering their heads as they scream.

Shadow Mask lands on his feet and looks back at them, and that’s not allowed. “I wasn’t looking to bring them in, but if you insist,” he taunts but he’s not paying attention, I go to punch him.

He spins and brings his elbow down on my head, knocking me to the ground, but I’m in between him and the kids. That’s enough for me until he pulls out a handgun from behind his back and shows it off. That’s, that’s exactly what I was worried about, they’re not-


“Ack!” he shoots me in the ribs immediately, as I worry about Bruce and Shelley, forgetting that maybe his gun can hurt me.

He aims his smoking gun at me as he admires his work. “Incendiary rounds, burns right through your armor,” he informs me, “maybe you should spend more time paying attention than worrying about them, don’t you think?”

I growl and bring out two ice swords. There’s a burning sensation shooting up my left side, but it’s a flesh wound, it didn’t dig deep. If anything, it’s just as a ‘fuck you’ from Shadow Mask. the bullet barely burned through my armor, it’s like a hot splinter.

Shadow Mask lets me in on just how much he can read from my mind. “The pain that fills your head begs to differ, Marie, but please continue, the tough girl act suits you.”

It better especially as I charge him, and I realize I’m slowing down. I swing one sword to cut his shoulder, but he ducks, and brings his gun to touch my shoulder.


“Aaaah!” I scream as the burning bullet goes through my shoulder and gets stuck in the ice on the other side.

“Tell me,” Shadow Mask taunts me. Then he tosses his gun over my head and shifts into a snake, dodging my follow-up swing. He wraps around me and coils up above where he switches to his human form and grabs his gun mid-air. “Is this only a flesh wound?” he asks as he aims his gun.


“Eeehhhh,” I groan as he shoots me in the back of my leg. I can’t bend it. I bend on the bullet lodged inside. It’s the most intense pain I’ve ever felt. My leg buckles from the bullet, but that only makes it worse.


I freeze, and by freeze, I mean I stop moving, dead cold. That tap was his gun at the back of my head.
“Well, that was a better fight than I expected,” he compliments me, but he adds, “though not as good as I wanted; beggars can’t be choosers.”

I look to my right, I look at Shelley and Bruce, huddling on the ground, shaking, watching me with a gun to my head. The Savaage needs to capture me, but do they need me alive?

The gun lowers from my hand, and trails down my spine, sending a chill down my body. I’m at this piece of shit’s mercy, and it’s killing me. He rests it right in the middle of my back a paralyzing shot. “They want you alive, not unharmed, so if you want… make my day.”

This is where he’s at his strongest, I’m not stupid. I can’t stop him because he knows what I’m thinking, and I’m too injured and immobile to counter that. I’m fucked.

“It’s good that you realize,” he comments on my personal thoughts, “but do you accept it?”

No, I still feel like there’s a chance, I don’t want to go down yet, my body is still fighting, but I don’t know how.

Shadow Mask kneels down and wraps an arm around my neck, squeezing me as he brings his mask against my face. “Well, you better, and fast. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to put you in a wheelchair for life, or,” he threatens as he stops to point my head, straight for Shelley and Bruce, “I could leave you alone with only your mother as family.”

He would, he’s scum, he would hurt children.

“Yes, I would, now drop your shield, or armor, whatever it is.” I obey his order and I feel the bullets in me much more. They move and tear so much more, there’s no ice to hold them together.

The doors open again to the Danger Zone and Shadow Mask turns my head along with his own towards the door. In the doorway are members of S.I.L.A.S.’s strike team, they must have fought their way to get here. They must be taking the Needle back.

They aim their guns at Shadow Mask, but he’s already hiding his head behind my own. It takes a second to pull me up and hold me as a meat shield in front of him. They won’t shoot me. S.I.L.A.S. values me more, the Director values me more.

Shadow Mask aims his gun at my head, but I don’t feel like the hostage, not as he whispers into my ear, “Kill them, Marie,” and I can’t believe my ears. “Well believe it, because if you don’t save my hide, not only will I make sure yours is filled with holes, I’m putting lead in the kiddies behind me, do you understand?” Whether I understand was never the problem. “Good, you said you still have some fight in you, use it on them. Save your family.”

But said family is watching… he wants me to freeze innocent men, to save myself in front of them. That’s an unbelievable cost.

“No, no,” Shadow Mask corrects, “I’m not telling you to only freeze them, I’m telling you to kill them. Do you think I want this to be easy for you? I want it to be the hardest thing for you to ever live with, as punishment for making this hard in the first place.”

“You’re a sick fuck,” I tell him.

“Yeah,” he agrees, tapping my head with the gun, “but I’m the sick fuck with the gun to your head.”
The lead soldier yells at Shadow Mask, “Let her go, now! You can’t get out of here alive.”

“On the contrary,” Shadow Mask jokes with a flutter of his hand, and then he smacks me in the side of the head. “Do it, do it now.”

I can’t, I can’t kill these innocent men.

“They’ve killed tons of people, how do you know they’re innocent?”

The men get confused, they only hear one side and wonder, “What the, what the hell are you saying?!”
I won’t, I can’t, I’m not a murderer, I’m a hero. That’s what Shelley and Bruce need to see, a hero, not a murderer of good people.

“They also need to be alive,” Shadow Mask reminds me. He’s right, they do need to live. I can’t let them die, and I can’t kill these innocent men. “Yes, you can, do it for the children,” he tells me again, and he’s just going on and on, making me start to lose it.

I can’t, I can’t decide! This is why I don’t kill! Why I’m not like any supervillain or the Hood, I don’t want that on my conscious, one was already too much, but I couldn’t live with myself if Bruce and Shelley died…

“People live with guilt all the time, eventually it numbs everything,” Shadow Mask whispers to me, as if he were telling me sweet nothings instead of who to murder. He tells me, “People live with guilt because the feeling fades but the guilt and loneliness? Now that’s unbearable. Trust me, Marie, your heart is just cold enough to bear the deaths of a few strangers, I mean, you can still blame me.”

One soldier says, “Switching to stun,” and they switch to tasers, that will hit me, to free me, and then Shadow Mask next, but that’s no guarantee, they’re taking a chance, a chance with my family.

“Do it…”

“Let her go on by the count of three! One!” the soldier orders, and he’s ruining everything, taking away my time. “TWO!” No, no, no!

“Stop!” I scream, because between them and my siblings, I’ll never choose them, they’re forcing the choice.

They ignore me, “THREE!”

“I’m sorry.”


I let out the stream as they fire, I stop their taser shots first, I freeze them midair and then the next. I didn’t get them fast enough, fast enough that I don’t see their faces. I see the betrayal, as I freeze them solid…

“Good,” Shadow Mask says.

“Ack!” He wraps his arms around me and begins to choke me out, the gun still to my head.

“Shhhh,” he shushes me, “go to sleep, let it happen, let it be over, or else…” or else more death, “… you know.”

I have to stop struggling, I let him choke the air from my throat, but not before he twists me around and I see. I see them look at me, Bruce and Shelley, they look at me like I’m one of the murder machines, right before I go to sleep.

And they’re not wrong.

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