Shimmer #20 – The Three Fates of Glimmer Girl (Part 3)
Even under three layers of clothing I shivered. Northern winters were never kind, especially to people who were living rough. The days weren’t so bad, especially if you were resourceful enough to not look homeless, at least then you could find a public area with heating, but the nights were frigid and unforgiving and scarce for refuge.
I looked to Chantal. “Maybe we should try one of the shelters,” she suggested blandly. Gods, even she didn’t want to entertain the thought, but as much as the scars and living nightmares haunted her they were preferable to starving and freezing to death.
Still, I shook my head to tell her that we weren’t that desperate: or rather I wasn’t that desperate. Even when all other options had run dry the shelter was the last place I’d ever go. When you’re homeless everything you have is public property, including your body. As the most vulnerable of the vulnerable the last thing we needed was to offer ours up in a packed house of potential predators.
“There’s still one last place I want to try,” I told her. She was wary, and for good reason. As many bums as there were like me who only wanted to do the right thing there was an equal number who would do anything to get ahead: violent things especially.
We probed further into the bad part of town. By ‘bad’, of course, I mean poor. It was the kind of place you’d have to be crazy to not get out of, which Is generally how the middle class and up looked at anyone without the means to escape. For others it was walls, floors and roofs with the occasional door or window thrown in for good measure. Keep your head down, don’t make too much noise and it’s a safe place to camp for the night.
There was no light in the back alley except for the drowned out stars. Squelchy fetid piles created tangy sick aromas as my paper soles pressed blindly into them. Sadly, I’d smelled worse, and I hadn’t had any lunch to lose over it anyway. Chantal on the other hand was fighting her gag reflex.
“Hold it in. We’re almost there.”
Our approach was anything but silent, and when we finally arrived the burning contents of the tall drum stood alone serving absolutely nobody. It didn’t take a genius to work out that it had been suddenly abandoned.
Desperate to absorb the heat Chantal tried to move for the fire only to be stopped short by my arm. “Someone might still be here,” I said. “We need to be careful. We don’t want to step on any toes.”
“My toes are freezing,” she whispered painfully. I knew she was suffering and the heat would do her a world of good, but I couldn’t just let her race in. There wasn’t much use in saving her if she was just going to get attacked or worse. No, I was going to have to go first.
Slowly I crept toward the drum while scanning every visible corner. Actually there were no visible corners. Somebody could have been standing there and I would never have known, but unlike my companion I could defend myself from things unseen.
“There’s food here if you want it,” I offered the darkness. Pulling my satchel open I laid out the contents on a blanket: a pair of frozen steaks, a turnip, two brown onions, four carrots and a 1.5 liter bottle of water. “We give you food, you let us sleep in the corner. Deal?”
Silence. Chantal took that as a signal to approach until I shooed her away.
And then the darkness replied. “That’s very generous of you, Angel,” he said gruffly. When the bearded stranger stepped out of the shadows I was amazed to find I recognized him. He was one of the bums who slept during the day sleeping at train stations and bus terminals passing himself off as an enthusiastic traveler. I’d never had the chance to get his name.
“I’m not an angel,” I told him sternly. “Just trying to find a safe corner for me and my friend.”
‘Safe’, of course, meant relatively safe, from wind, from police cruisers, and a few other specific things I won’t touch on. Real safety costs more than the change you scrounge after a day in the Walmart parking lot. Our mysterious host knew this, and since he’d seemed to claim the area for the night ‘safe’ rested entirely on his generosity, or hunger.
He looked over the blanket, but was more interested in me than he was the food. “You ever heard of the Urban Angel?”
“No,” I lied and turned to avoid his gaze.
“Rumor has it she lives among the destitute,” he began. “Blond hair, green eyes, tall, soft but boyish face like a cherub.”
“My hair is brown,” I stated, even though it was that way because it hadn’t been washed it properly in months. “Besides, the Urban Angel is just a myth. Nobody believes that stuff.”
His grimace deepened at the obvious denial. He probably wouldn’t have said anything if he didn’t know outright who I was. Still, even with nothing left I had a secret identity to keep. You’d think powers would make homelessness easier, but you’d be wrong.
“Show me your arms,” he ordered. Without question I rolled up my sleeves and let his thumb press on the inside of my elbow. Like I said, on the street you don’t even own yourself and I was trying to appeal to his better nature. “Now your teeth,” he followed, but this time kept his fingers to himself as I showed them off.
Satisfied with what he’d seen so far his attention turned to Chantal who was still shuffling about. “What about her?” he asked.
“She’s clean. Six months. Won’t cause any trouble.”
“See that she doesn’t,” he muttered and bent down to inspect my offering.
I gestured for Chantal to come fireside, which she did while plotting a delicate path around the man before us. For the most part he was distracted, sniffling the vegetables and slicing into them with a Swiss army knife.
“Aren’t you going to look me over?” she asked.
The man didn’t even bother looking back. “Your friend vouched for you. Junkies usually stick to their own kind, so I’m willing to cut you a break. Use the fire at your leisure. There’s some stairs on the far left corner behind you and some empty rooms to squat in. Mind the smell.”
We stood on the opposite side of the barrel making sure to keep a comfortable distance. The stranger, who later introduced himself as Finn, unpacked a large cooking pot and threw everything in it to make a beef stew. He asked us about our lives and seemed only vaguely interested when Chantal told her story, about her abusive family, about the state taking her baby, and instead was more vested in the name that I wasn’t going to give.
“We can’t be friends if I don’t know your name,” he reasoned.
Too bad for him I wasn’t interested in being friends. My name belonged to me: it was the most valuable thing I had left and I wasn’t going to share it.
Once we’d eaten Chantal left to find a room. Finn warned her to not get too close to the other bums while I told her to call if she needed me. With her disappearing into the darkness it was Finn and I alone by the fireside where I was going to camp wide awake for the entire night.
“You two known each other long?” he asked between mouthfuls of stew.
“Only a couple of nights,” I told him. “Found her under a bridge, freezing, half naked and covered in cuts. I think someone might have taken her, used her, then thrown her away. I don’t know. She won’t tell me.”
Finn nodded, not so much with sympathy as it was sober comprehension. “Pretty thing like that, it doesn’t surprise me. Girls living rough have got to make themselves plain, ugly even, or else the wolves come and do all sorts of things, especially to a colored girl nobody’ll listen to.”
“Black, white or whatever, she’s still lucky to be alive,” I observed bitterly.
“But we can agree she’s been taught a hard lesson. Pretty’s not a commodity girls like you or her can afford.”
He watched me from across his tin bowl as he slurped and savored the dark broth. It was unnerving, like sitting under a spotlight with live eels being slipped under my clothes, but at least he was only interested in me and not my companion.
“Is that something you do?” he asked. “Save people, I mean.”
I rolled my eyes at him. He was going to start that Urban Angel crap again, I knew it. “Sure. Why not?”
“Better question is why at all,” he continued. “Someone like you, I reckon you’ve got a hard enough time keeping your own head above water. Why put yourself out for total strangers?”
“Because,” I told him, “people matter.”
“Do they now?”
It was an argument I’d heard a billion times before. ‘You can’t stop all the suffering in the world, so why even bother?’ Arguing with people that thick never usually went anywhere, so I leaned close and I told him seriously, “yes.”
“Very noble of you,” Finn observed. “Makes you wonder. You must see a thousand tiny little deaths every single day. If you could stop all of that, bring an end to all the suffering in the world… would you?”
“No matter the cost?”
The question halted me in my tracks, but only because I’d heard those words before. In the blink of an eye the hollow pipe slid from the arm of my coat and connected with the bum’s skull. I wasn’t going to take any chances, especially after all he’d done.
Finn stumbled away with one hand on his temple to hold back the freshly opened river of blood. He stared, shocked, but didn’t scream for help. No, he didn’t need any help.
“What the hell are you doing!?” he growled.
I jerked forward and ordered him, “show yourself!”
“What are you…!?”
A burst of light erupted from my eyes to show him I wasn’t kidding around. Through it I could see everything, including the tiny cracks in his façade. “Show yourself. Now.”
Finally Finn stopped. The terror and fury in his features quickly faded into ambivalence. So too did the color of his hair fade, as well as the tears in his coat, the layered slacks he wore for warmth and over-worn hiking boots. His hand, however, continued to linger by his wound. That part was all too real. By the end of the process he was a new man: one that I had hoped never to see again.
“I only want to talk, Miss Cade,” he stated flatly.
“Why? So I can listen to you preach like a Nazi Spock!? ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ and all that crap!? #@$% you!”
“I understand there may be some reluctance…”
“You killed my family,” I spat, “and everyone I ever loved. If that weren’t bad enough you want to kill everyone else too! Why in the name of all that is sane do you think I’d be reluctant!?”
Dr. Vortex shifted and tilted his head like a curious bird. “Remind me again, Miss Cade, how exactly did I murder your family?”
No time for games: just the battle for survival. In a burst that lit up the entire slum I charged with fists blazing! And then he was gone. Damn it! I hated that portal trick of his.
“It’s a serious question,” drifted an aimless voice. “How did your mother and father die?”
Just then a phone rang. It rang like a stab to my chest and resonated deeply, like it had been there all along and I’d been ignoring it. Why? It was just a stupid phone… so why I didn’t want to answer it?
Vortex was toying with me. Maybe he’d implanted something in my head or… I don’t know. He was sick. Even after everything we’d been through I still wasn’t completely sure of what he was capable of.
The phone rang.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” he prompted. “There’s somebody who really wants to talk to you.”
It rang and I lingered in spite of it.
“How,” the theonaut pressed again, “did your parents die?”
With each subsequent ring the knife plunged deeper. He wanted me to pick up, and for that reason I had to resist, but…
“No,” I spat. “You killed them! I saw you! I was there! I remember!” Except that I didn’t remember, not exactly. I knew it all factually, how Dr. Vortex murdered in cold blood every person dear to me, how I came to be on the street, how I grew from Glimmer Girl into the Urban Angel, but I couldn’t picture it like it had really happened.
“Answer,” he said. This time I listened.
Highlighted under a streetlamp was a payphone. It hadn’t been there before. It had arrived just so it could call to me, just to let me hear the sound of her voice. I reached for the handle with the same caution a lion tamer places their hand in the mouth of a beast. The very moment I picked up it all came flooding back.
“Are you beginning to understand?”
My Mom explained it to me, not in words. Actually I had no idea what she said, but in an instant I knew names and faces of people I’d never met who might have never even existed. Jenna, AJ, Demon Dog, the Pride, Phillip Diamond, even Chantal: they weren’t real. The only thing that felt solid anymore was the argument, followed by a crash and ending with her body as it collapsed against the asphalt.
“This is a dream,” I seethed. No, more like a #$%&ing nightmare, one after the other.
The doctor shifted back to the street with bum clothes replaced by his garish costume. “Not a dream,” he explained, “but universes in miniature. All the things you have seen are quite real, but they were all born from you. These micro-worlds, Miss Cade, are the future as you’ve envisioned them.”
“Are you the real Dr. Vortex?” Gods, to crack every single tooth out of his mouth…
“I am a Dr. Vortex,” he muttered. “There are as many of me as there are microcosms. When you defeat one of us another rises to talk his place. Ingenious, don’t you think?”
“You really hate me so much that you would destroy life after life, world after world…”
He glared. I hated it when he glared. “You are the loose string holding together a multiverse of pain. That makes you alone responsible for all the suffering that was, is, and ever will be, and yet you are willing to do nothing. Miss Cade, if there is anything worthy of hate then it is you.”
Okay, Kaira. Enough talking. You’re in a mini-multiverse prison thingy. Just beat the $#@& out of him and get out of here already! If only it were that simple.
“Why are you telling me all of this?” I pressed.
“A foolish whim. I’m not as callous as you think I am. Time and again I’ve been appealing to your better judgment. Help, don’t hurt my cause. As lowly as I think of you I would be less of a man if I robbed you of final redemption.”
“It hasn’t worked before,” I laughed. “What makes you think I’d join you now?”
Dr. Vortex turned his nose up and sniffed the air. I was glad I couldn’t taste the putrid back alley, but I guess that was kind of the point. “Because it wasn’t until now that you knew absolute joy, and absolute despair,” he explained.
“I wouldn’t call eating scraps and roasting pigeons absolute despair,” I told him. “Yeah, it’s rough, but people are tougher than you give them credit for.”
And that’s when I got the plan, when he smiled at me again like he never usually did. Twice in a night, that had to be some sort of record. “I’m not talking about this place. You don’t remember, do you?”
“The wasteland of Milestone littered with the undead, the Galaxy Crusaders and the wonders of the thirty-first century, a world enslaved under Konquero and the new Crell…”
It seemed like I should have known these things, but I didn’t. None of that mattered. Rage came pouring back. “All I know is that this started when you tried to kill my mom. She nearly died!”
“Means to an end,” he sighed as if she was nothing.
My fists had run out of patience. They exploded with lances of petrified light shooting right through the doctor’s ghostly form. Funny thing about fighting bad guys who could side step reality was that you never knew where they really were unless you looked really closely. Meanwhile Vortex took full advantage of the confusion and brought me down with a hard blow to the gut.
It hurt more than it should. Pain was supposed to go out the window in hard light mode, yet there I was doubled over with the taste of bile on the back of my tongue, maybe blood too. It wasn’t his normal kind of strike: where in the world did he learn to hit that hard?
“Are you ready to talk now?”
The angry flail gave a clear answer. He hit me again, in the face this time, and I was rolling in the snow.
Getting up was harder than anything I’d done before. Something was broken, several cracked teeth rolled in my mouth and my cheek throbbed. Yet still I had to resist, just because I could.
This was the way it always was with Dr. Vortex: he wanted to talk while you’re left throwing punches in a tumble dryer. By all accounts it should have been useless, but still I would keep fighting: and fighting and fighting. There was no alternative, but I would do it forever if I had to. As much fear and anguish as he’d caused there were much higher things at stake.
For a moment the storm stopped. My bones ached but I could breathe. Meanwhile, Dr. Vortex had another million dollar question. “Why?”
Get up, Kaira. Get up!
“You’re fighting for a broken world,” he said. “Since its inception there has been pain and it will continue to be there unless drastic action is taken. I don’t understand. Are you really that scared of living in paradise?”
Gods, I wish he’d shut up. He didn’t care. He never did before. My consent was not required for him to unmake the universe, so why did he keep asking?
“Because,” I told him, hating his cynical eyes that demanded more, “I haven’t… given up on them yet…”
He looked at me like I was stupid: maybe I was, and he was going to punish me for it. Didn’t matter. I was going to take it, and still get up, and beat him and… and…
The world cracked apart. Every piece flew by showing me places and times I’d forgotten. San Fransisco, New York, Manchester during the Crell occupation, Mars in the thirty-first century and so many more roared through memory as harsh gravity pulled my back down to the earth.
I hit the ground hard: bleeding, bruised and in shock. Wherever I was it was packed full of TASK soldiers, and I was seventeen again, fresh out of a car wreck and crying on the cold cement.
Artemis bent down and turned me over. Was he real? He seemed real, but that entire ordeal left me wondering. His assurances that everything was alright meant nothing, even when he tried to tell me over and again that “we got him.” That still didn’t make anything safe, or right, or good.
“Where’s my mom?” I demanded. “I need to see my mom!”
He nodded knowing exactly what I was talking about, thank the gods, but he wouldn’t let me go. “We need to get you checked out,” he said sternly, “then I’ll take you to her personally. I promise.”
Not that I could argue. I couldn’t stand at all.
* * * *
True to his word Artemis gave me a ride to the hospital. No way would I have had the strength to make the trip on my own, what with having been pulled through a kaleidoscope of universes in an attempt to break my spirit.
Every so often I’d catch his eye wandering from the road and to the passenger seat. The first few times it was okay and I was too exhausted to complain, but after a few minutes I was getting paranoid.
“Nothing,” he said, then reevaluated his answer. “I’ve never seen you like this before.”
Like what? It took a few moments for my tired brain to pick up on his meaning. “You mean the whole girl thing? Come on, Crowe. You’ve seen me in costume a ton of times.”
“But not in civvies,” he explained, then chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong. It suits you and I’m happy you came out, but it’s going to take a while to adjust in my mind.”
I looked down again to inspect myself. My dress was torn at the bottom, the neckline was stained with the blood that was earlier seeping from my brow, my hair was a frizzy mess: and apparently that ‘suited’ me. “Thanks,” I told him. “I hear car wreck abduction chic is in this year.”
Somewhere in there I tried to let him know that I wasn’t in the mood to talk. Pity the suggestion didn’t take.
“You need to be more careful,” he warned. “We almost didn’t find you this time. Ted Fellows is a dangerous man.”
“He says to the girl that creep has stalked since she was thirteen.”
Artemis nodded. “Okay, that’s fair. But still you need to watch out. Every time he gets out his plans become more sophisticated. Our lab boys have a theory that he’s somehow skipped an evolutionary step and isn’t limited by linear thinking. Even when we pull apart his tech it can take up to a year just to find out what it does.”
“Fascinating,” I told him. It wasn’t.
Long story short Dr. Vortex was a bad guy that only got badder, as if I somehow didn’t know that.
Finally Artemis clued onto the fact his words were wasted and left me to the not so peaceful silence. All I could think about was my Mom on that road. Yeah, they told me she was okay, but after skipping from universe to universe and hearing her voice I had to see it to believe it.
We arrived at our destination shortly after. Once Artemis had a quick word with the nurse at the front desk one of the orderlies appeared to escort me from the triage. There in the emergency room was my Mom laid out on a bed: the doctors wanted to keep her overnight for observation, but she was alive, lucid and smiling, that was good enough for me.
When she caught sight of me she darted up. “Justin,” she gasped and threw her arms around me. Even while I was still a girl she was happy to see me. That was a relief.
I managed to squeeze back shakily, wondering if or not I should have said something about her botching my name. Somehow the semi-crowded ward didn’t seem a good place to talk about it. “Hey, Mom,” I croaked. I must have been in worse shape than I thought: I was crying.
She pulled away and looked me over as if surprised to see me in one piece. “Where have you been? I was worried out of my mind!”
Time for the official cover story cooked up by TASK. “I got lost, I think. I don’t know. I don’t really remember much of anything before the cops picked me up. They said I just wandered off. Then they brought me over here and…”
“Well, I’m just glad that you’re safe.” She pulled me back into another squeeze. The scare had brought out in her the kind of warmness usually reserved for alcohol.
I looked around the area and saw no sign. “Why isn’t Dad here?” I wondered aloud. Weird, because he was usually right on top of these kinds of emergencies.
“He’s gone to fetch me some real food.” Her smile was even wider this time.
“Let me guess. Crab cakes from that place that does the fish?”
“Mhm,” she nodded in slow motion, salivating at the mere mention. “That makes it twice this week. Your father, he spoils me rotten. May as well enjoy it while it lasts though. A bill from the hospital may break the bank if our insurance doesn’t pull through.”
Oddly she didn’t seem all that stressed about that last part. Gods, she was really out of it. “You okay, Mom? Did they give you anything? Painkillers, morphine?”
“Don’t be silly. They don’t give morphine to people with concussions. That’s actually quite dangerous. I’m just shaken up from the accident, that’s all. You too, I’ll bet.”
She stopped before I could answer, and looked at me in a way that was oh so rare for her, then reached over and stroked my cheek. There was pain in her eyes born from hours of worry, and something else. Emptiness? Longing? Like she was trying so hard to peer through me to find someone.
I took her hand and pulled it away. I hated when she looked at me like that. I hadn’t done anything wrong, so why did I feel so guilty?
“Where have you been, baby boy?” she whispered vaguely. It was too painful to even look at her. I knew she was worried, but did she really have to rub salt in the wounds? “You don’t like it when I call you that,” she observed.
“Well it’s what you are. You’ve grown a lot, but you always have been and always will be.” In her mind that was probably supposed to be assuring.
Awkward silence, the kind they cut out of movies to make life look more interesting from the outside. It dragged on hellishly as we avoided eye contact and cycled through the myriad of unspoken words that were too frightening to say. Like it or not the talk was going to happen, and damn it, it was probably going to happen there.
Ultimately she was the one that shattered the silence, and I cringed as each piece struck the floor. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean for it to happen like this. We didn’t mean for you to have this kind of life.”
“It’s not your fault I’m transexual, Mom,” I murmured so low I’d be surprised if she heard.
“I think I know that, but… it’s still sad. Nobody who has ever had a sex change is happy. If you go down this road the most you can ever hope for is half a life, and Justin, you deserve so much better than that! You deserve to grow up and get married and start a family with whoever you want. It would just be a shame if you just callously threw that away for…” Her hands ran up and down, putting the focus back on my clothing. “This.”
Her words burned like acid. If only she knew what she was saying. “Half a life is better than no life at all,” a part of me moped. The other half of me wanted to fly off the handle and scream about how wrong she was, but I held back.
I didn’t want to look at her. Even though I could hear the regret thick in her voice the damage had already been done, and I was pissed.
“You don’t know any of that,” I pleaded quietly. “How do you know this won’t make things better? I mean, gods, how many miserable trans people do you know personally to be able to say something like that, huh? Because I’m pretty sure I know more than you and they’re all perfectly happy with who they are.” Silently I had to concede, okay, maybe not a hundred percent, but it was truer than she thought it was, and if you knew them you could see how they’re better off. Not that she’d ever listen, of course.
“Please, Justin, you’re young. You don’t know-“
“I know myself,” I sniped sharply, “and I’ve had a whole lifetime to figure out who that is. Now I’m stepping up and expressing something honest about myself, you come along and tell me that it’s wrong. And that I don’t know who I am as well as you do. And… and that I can’t be trusted to define myself because I’m not old or grizzled enough.”
“What if you regret doing this?”
“Yeah, but what if I don’t, Mom? Even worse, what if I did listen to you and regretted that later on? You’re so quick to assume that I’m making a bad move without even thinking about what I need!”
“Please don’t do this right now,” she croaked, like she wasn’t the one who started it. Still, there were at least a half dozen people in plain view and all of them were turned away uncomfortably pretending they hadn’t been eavesdropping.
I had to agree that it really wasn’t the time for it, but I was still pissed. This was going to be one of those things that took years to resolve, I knew it. Why did everything have to be so difficult?
“Justin,” she sighed, reaching out for the hand pulled stiffly to my side. “I’m glad you’re okay. I was really worried about you.”
“I’m glad you’re okay,” came the dutiful reply. I meant it even though I didn’t think about it. My mind was somewhere else.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you too,” I said, but gods knew that wasn’t ever going to be enough.
* * * *
The hospital visit lasted for as long as I could stand. I had to get out of there: the situation had left me compromised beyond my capacity to handle. I ran as far as I could, then changed into costume and flew even further.
Save the gentle wind blowing atop the InfiniTech building Milestone City was quiet. There was nobody around to cause havoc at two AM on a Tuesday and for that I was glad. I’d had enough drama for one day, hell, for one lifetime. It almost had me thinking about putting the mask away for good: then I could be one of those people who are able to take the still moments for granted. Then again I couldn’t, even if I tried.
It had been a close race but finally the nightmare week had caught up with me. Between being poisoned, suspended, the drama with my Mom, watching her being laid out by a stun-gun and being pushed through countless realities by a genocidal psycho I was at my wits end. Gods, how was I supposed to handle this?
There was only one thing left to do: I cried.
I cried, and I cried, and I cried. I can’t say for how long. It might have been minutes, or even hours. All I knew was the weight of my burden and how lost I felt in an uncertain world. I cried until my emotions were numb: not feeling better per se, more that I just wasn’t aware of myself for a while.
Okay. Glad I got that out of my system. There was still more recovery to be made, and a lot of dramas to follow, but at least I’d regained some ground.
Inhaling the thick, chilled air I was certain that I was in the real world: dreams just didn’t taste this good, not even the elaborate kind whipped up by Dr. Vortex. He’d only taken a day and in return had given me several lifetimes, none of which were as solid or as crisp as what was laid out at my feet. I had to wonder, how had I not noticed it before?
Suddenly the sky lit up as a comet shot past. The blazing fireball plummeted toward the earth, threatening to take out the entire business district. In a split I was after it, my brain racing to think of a potential solution in the scant few seconds before impact. Gods, it never ended. Quiet one second, apocalypse the next!
I’d nearly cleared the distance between us when the tumbling inferno arced back into the sky and spiraled to the east, leaving me behind to watch in awe. There was obviously something guiding its path, perhaps from inside the comet itself. A sharp turn had me soaring after it again until finally it stopped and made a gentle landing in the middle of Centenary Park.
The flames died away and sure enough at its heart was what appeared to be a skinny boy with cropped blonde hair and a domino mask. He wore gold and orange tights not dissimilar to my own, and smirked when he caught sight of my approach on foot.
“Finally,” he practically squeaked. Gods, his voice hadn’t even broken yet. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for days!”
Again my reputation preceded me. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing. “Looks like you have me at a disadvantage, kid,” I told him cautiously. There was still a chance he could be one of those blowhard villains who wanted to monologue or announce himself before an ‘honorable’ battle.
“Who are you calling ‘kid’?” he growled with acid thick in his tone. Note to self: the kid was sensitive about his age. “I’m freakin’ seventeen,” he continued, “same age as you.”
“And you are?” I replied with my trademark world’s worst poker face.
The stranger smirked, the insult already forgotten. “This is going to blow your mind,” he beamed. “My name is Starbolt, but my real name is Jason Cade.” …What? “I’m you from another dimension.”
Me? No. He looked nothing like me. He sounded nothing like me. Actually, there might have been a vague resemblance, but “no. I don’t buy it.”
“It’s true,” Starbolt protested. “You and me are the same person! The only difference is that while you spent your whole life hating your boy parts…” He paused for effect, then continued: “…I spent mine hating my girl parts. Capice?”
It was jarring to hear a stranger talk about my gender so casually. Maybe that’s what had my mind jump back twenty feet and utter “no way.” He knew a scary amount about my secret identity as well, but lately that seemed to be a trend.
“You want proof? I’ll unzip my costume, show you my binder, my packer, all that stuff if I have to, but it’s the truth.” His eyes didn’t break with mine for a second. Good gods, he was serious. Cue my brain exploding in five, four, three, two…
“Well what do you want? Our universes aren’t going to collapse on each other, are they?”
“No, nothing like that,” he explained. “I’m here to make you an offer. You give me everything I want, I give you everything you want, and we live happy. Ever. After.”
* * * *
NEXT ISSUE: Jason Cade arrives in Kaira’s life to make her an offer she’d be stupid to refuse. But is there more to him than meets the eye? Things change big time for Glimmer Girl next in “Crossover.”