By the time I felt comfortable with my punches, Sumerset was greeting the delivery man at the front door. I'd soon discover his idea of 'making dinner' consisted of a phone book and a twenty dollar bill.
We discussed sleeping arrangements over hot wings and soda.
I expected things to be a little awkward--what with him taking over as my temporary guardian--but really, it wasn't. Maybe it was because I knew that my mother had trusted him with her life--so I instinctively trusted him too.
"How many people with powers have you heard of that didn't--you know--go into caping?" I asked him.
"Actually, a good number," he replied. "Folks don't need a costume to make a fortune these days. If you can shoot lightning out of your eyes, chances are someone'll have a use for you. One that doesn't involve electrocuting criminals. And often, they'll pay big."
"So why do people get into the whole 'villain' business?" I asked. "I mean, crap, Sharkface could have gotten a job as--I don't know--one of those professional power wrestlers or something."
"You mean the Powered Wrestling Federation?" he said. "Yeah, a lot of powers get into that sort of thing. Not everyone can make it in, though. Plus, it's a prestige thing--y'know, the PWF is mostly fake. All the matches are decided ahead of time."
"Seriously?" I said.
"It's more theatre than anything," he said. "Not that I'm harping on the guys who do it--it's a hell of job. But some powers feel as if they're being put on parade. Like they're part of a freakshow."
"Maybe I should get into it. Easy money, right?"
"I hope you're joking. Besides, they don't have a women's league. And you're too young. And your mother would claw her way out of her grave just to kill me."
"So why didn't--"
Before I could finish my thought, I heard the telltale screech of a smoke alarm. I turned around to try and catch the source of the sound--in an instant, Sumerset was on his feet, holding his cane out in front of him like a sword.
"Huh? What's up?" I asked. "It's just--"
"It's the bunker alarm," he said. "Somebody's down there."
The alarm cut off. Sumerset lead the way down into the basement; when we got there, he fished a ski mask out of one of the boxes and threw it to me.
"Seriously?" I asked.
"Best to be careful."
"Probably like, a squirrel or something. Probably crawled down there when I came up and I didn't notice it."
"Best to be careful," he repeated.
I put it on as we went down into the bunker. Nothing looked disturbed or out of place--Sumerset immediately went to the computer screen. He typed in a few keystrokes and stared at the security log.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Weird as hell," he said. "Apparently someone tripped a motion sensor in here--without tripping any of the surrounding ones."
"What's that mean?"
"Teleportation, maybe. Or--"
A girl stumbled out of the hallway to our left. She was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, with thick bandages wrapped around her eyes and head. Thick, dark bloodstains had seeped through her shirt at her stomach--she clutched at it with one hand, using the other to hold herself at the door frame.
"Oh holy crap," I said.
"Shit," Sumerset responded, standing up and reaching into his coat. He pulled a gun--it was nearly bigger than my head. I didn't know how the hell he could even fit that thing under his coat.
"She's hurt," I said, reaching for his arm.
"She's in a place she doesn't belong," he replied, his voice low.
The girl groaned and stumbled forward, dropping to her knees. I glared at Sumerset. "Get a medical kit or something, dammit!"
He shoved the gun in my hand. "Don't take off your mask," he told me, and then he disappeared down the hallway.
I turned to the girl. Without giving it much more thought, I moved toward her and pulled off my ski mask. She couldn't possibly see through those bandages--and besides, I could use it to stop the bleeding. I sat the gun down on the ground and knelt next to her.
"Lay down," I told her, trying to help her back. "Can you breathe okay? Let me put pressure on the wound, alright?"
It took me a moment to locate it through all the blood stains. It looked like a bullet had caught her in the lower left rib.
I pressed the ski mask down on the spot, replacing her hands. "We'll get you an ambulance," I told her. "Just keep breathing. Tell me if you're having any trouble with--"
Her hand caught me by my left arm. "You were right," she said.
"Relax," I told her. I wanted to ask her how she got in here--what on earth she was doing--who shot her. But my first priority was to keep her alive, which meant keeping her calm and breathing.
"You were right," she repeated. "I can't stop it--I can't stop anything. But maybe I can--maybe we can--fix things. This time," she said. "This time, maybe we'll get it right."
"Stop talking. Just concentrate on breathing," I said.
"There's one more place I need to be," she said. "One more thing I can possibly do. Maybe it'll be enough. Maybe this time you won't die."
Her other hand snapped out, grabbing Sumerset's gun. I opened my mouth to say something--to shout out a warning--but suddenly, she was awash in a cerulean glow. Sparks of energy crackled around her--she seemed to streak into every direction at once.
I drew my hands away with surprise--a tingle ran up my fingertips. Dimly, I realized she was disappearing.
"Find him," she said. "Find the Mulligan. You'll need our help."
"Who are--" I started, but in a burst of light, she was gone.
Sumerset burst in a moment later, holding the medical kit. All he found was me kneeling in front of a scorch mark with blood on my hands.
"She disappeared," I told him. "And she took your gun."