Chapter Eighteen

Sunday, December, 13th, 2015

Sasha should not have been shocked anymore. Seeing the Chameleon and Contagion after a night of fighting a genetically engineered superhuman should have been the icing on the cake, but she found herself much more concerned by the wolf that had been in their possession.

A wolf that could turn into a child.

A wolf that bore a striking resemblance to her father’s pet.

She was quiet as they slowed to a walk. The sticks and rocks littering the floor clung to her bare feet. It was unpleasant, but it was the furthest thing from her mind. Garrett did not speak. With every passing moment, his face just seemed to turn a deeper shade of green. He refused to release her hand.

The man crumpled to the ground, dragging Sasha with him.

“Garrett?” she gasped with too much concern. “What is wrong? Were you hit?”

He shook his head. Before Sasha could speak again, he turned onto his hands and knees and unleashed a torrent of vomit onto the ground. She cringed away, but his hand held tight. When it was clear that she would not be getting away, Sasha placed her free hand on Garrett’s back. While he released the contents of his stomach, she rubbed soothing circles into his shoulders.

He had killed for her. A young boy lay dead a few miles back because Garrett could not stand to see her hurt. She felt…strange.

“Are…are you alright?” she asked, awkwardly brushing her fingers through his knotted, blonde hair.

“I haven’t killed anyone in twenty years.”

She did not know what to say. He sat up and leaned heavily against her side, but Sasha said nothing.

“I guess you wouldn’t understand,” he chuckled. “You kill people all the time, don’t you?”

“You get used to it.”

Sasha could not tell what she was feeling anymore, but she supposed guilt was close. But guilt for what? Rejecting him? She had been rejecting him almost every hour since she met him, why did she feel so bad about it now?

“We have to keep moving, Garrett.”

“I can’t,” he mumbled. “I killed that kid.”

“He was hardly a kid. Do not think such things if they upset you.”

Garrett dropped his face into his hands. “He looked like he was eight years old, Sasha. You saw him!”

“And how were you supposed to know that the animal was going to turn into a child? It was defensive. You were helping me.”

He raised his head. “I would do anything for you.”

A warm tingle went through Sasha’s body despite the chill in the air. The sincerity in his voice was clear and his nose was so close to hers that she could feel the warmth dancing between them. His eyes grew heavy, roving over her face from her lips to her eyes. His pupils expanded with desire, as she had seen many others’ do before.

She pondered whether her eyes did the same.

He leaned in, brushing his lips against hers. She let him, but she told herself that she did not enjoy a second of it.

But, whether or not that was a lie had yet to be determined.

Garrett’s eyes were closed. Sasha did the same, but behind her lids, she could not shake the image of the boy lying dead in the grass. She wrenched her head back, ignoring the regret that ran down her spine.

She wanted to kiss him again. It was becoming much harder to tell herself that she only wanted him for his powers.

“What’s the matter?” he pleaded, gripping her chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“Something is wrong.”

“I’m sorry, I thought…” he mumbled. “You looked like you wanted to. I should’ve asked you—”

“No. That’s not it.” That wolf. It could not have been a coincidence. “The wolf that attacked me was familiar.”

“You’ve seen it before?” She nodded. “When?”

She knew what he would say before she had even gotten the words out. “In my father’s home.”

“Of course!” he snarled, pulling himself to his feet. “I knew he had to have something to do with this!”

As he stalked off, she called, “Where are you going?”

“To ‘your father’s’ house!”

“You do not know where it is.”

He growled, “Then take me to him. You’ve got to want answers just as badly as I do!”

“Answers about what? We cannot be sure that my father knew the creature was…different. For all we know, it could have been stolen!”

“What do I have to tell you to make you realize that he is not what you think he is?”

She knew what he was. Summit was a killer. A liar. A thief. But she highly doubted that he would keep something of this magnitude a secret from her for twenty years. Canis was a strange looking animal, but she had only seen him around the manor in the last year. Summit collected strange things, it was hardly enough time for him to build a trust with the beast.

“No. He did not know.”

Garrett pulled at his unkempt hair. “He isn’t even your father!”

“We do not know that!”

She bit her tongue. She should not have said that, the proof was in the way his face lifted. “You’re remembering, aren’t you?”

“No.” What was the sake in lying to him? He had to sense the confusion in her every look. She could feel herself…changing. “It does not make sense, and I should not, but…”

“But?”

“Something is not right.”

It should not have made sense. She did not know how Summit would have put fake memories in her head of being starved at a desk. Of falling asleep at the table waiting for the answer to a question to come to her so she could be gifted with a box of raisins for dinner. She did not know if such a thing were possible. All she knew was that he knew something about Poppy, and it could not have just been a coincidence that she bore such a striking resemblance to Poppy Daniels.

He was lying to her, but she would make him tell her the truth.

Saturday, February 8th, 1986

“It’s too bright,” Poppy said of my third drawing, flipping passed my newest imagining of the suit we were about to sew me into. Unfortunately, I could not get the mask just right. And if I could not get the mask just right, I could not get the suit.

I chuckled, putting down the red colored pencil I was using. “You said that about every color.”

“They were all too bright.”

“Then what would you suggest?”

Poppy tapped her pencil against her bottom lip, looking to her sketchpad. “Let’s get the shape first. Then we’ll try the color.”

I silently agreed, beginning the hours of work we would be putting into another version of the suit. “I’m not really concerned about how it looks, Pop.’ Practicality should be number one.”

“And it will be. That doesn’t mean you have to run around looking like you picked something up at Party City.”

I laughed, kissing her again. I just could not seem to stop doing that now. All of the weight Summit had dropped on my shoulders had evaporated into the air, and, for once, I did not care whether our new house was taken, or our shiny new possessions were repossessed. So long as Poppy was around, that was enough.

“Focus,” she giggled, turning her head away from me.

I obliged, albeit reluctantly.  The costume had been her idea; it certainly had not been my first choice to fight crime like a second-hand Superman in skin-tight spandex, but she had high hopes for the public’s opinion of my cloaked alter ego. Personally, I would have been fine with hiding under the hood of a sweatshirt.

We settled with solid black, which would have been easy enough to make in my bedroom in a night, along with red slits where the eyes would be. So long as we found a material that would not catch fire or tear too easily, I could take care of the practicality on my own. My enhanced body could take care of itself, I really just needed something to hide my face from the public. And if it made the public recognize me as a hero, Poppy had me convinced that that was just a bonus.

By the time the suit itself was sewn, it was like a second skin, clinging to me tighter than my underwear. We had opted to cover my arms, even if it did restrict my movement the slightest bit, and my legs were completely covered down to the ankle. On one foot, I wore a single, black combat boot. The other was bare; she was not finished with that leg yet.

“Does it have to be so…snug?” I inquired, hesitant to move my arm even to scratch myself. I would not be surprised if it burst at the seams.

“Yes,” was her only reply before she was silenced by the needle and thread between her teeth. “Stay still. I’m not done.”

I thought I was being still. “If I stand any more still, I’ll fall over.”

“No special balance powers?” she mocked. “What kind of a superhero are you?”

“Apparently the unpractical one in the spandex. Just like all the others.”

Poppy rolled her eyes and got back to work with the needle, stitching the leg of my suit from the knee to the ankle. I thought I saw her prick me on purpose a few times, but it never penetrated the skin and, as usual, I could not feel it. “Oh, stop it, Garrett, you look great.”

“I look like a comic book.”

“What’s wrong with that?” she demanded, rising to face me.

Looking in her eyes was a strange sensation, one I always seemed to look forward to as much as I dreaded it. My tongue felt like it had swelled considerably since I last opened my mouth. Stammering, I replied, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

“Glad you agree,” she said, dusting off the shoulders of my entirely black suit with her hands. “Can’t go wrong in all black.”

“I like it. It’s good camouflage.”

“Not really recognizable, though.” Poppy pondered this for a moment. Then, she turned back to the desk, covered in scraps of cut, black spandex and red mesh. I took a step to follow her, but she hastily halted me with the wave of her hand. “Stay still! I don’t want you to see.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”

I sighed, crossing my arms. The stretchy material of my costume moved with me, growing even tighter over the thickness of my biceps, but it did not tear, a fact I was grateful for. I could imagine no worse of a scenario from here on in than ripping my costume and standing naked in the busy street. “It’s my suit.”

“Don’t move.” Apparently, her newest task was a big one. It was over an hour later that she had even finished drawing the outline on the red mesh. Cutting it out took even longer. “Close your eyes.”

“Poppy, let me see—” I pleaded.

“Garrett!”

I closed my eyes before I could meet her wrath again.

She worked carefully, sewing the addition on with expert precision. It was large, I could tell, taking up most of my chest. I could only imagine that it was red, too, a stark contrast to the black covering nearly every inch of my exposed flesh. When she finished, her voice went up a few octaves. She hugged me. “Done. It’s done!”

I did not ask permission to open my eyes, I could not help it. From my perspective, it just looked like a red blob, cut into a series of perfectly straight shapes. “What is it?” I asked, squinting.

“Look in the mirror!”

I obliged, finding a strange figure looming in my reflection. I still only wore one shoe, but the rest of my body exuded seriousness. My chest was marked with a red eagle, wings spread. I did not need her prompting to pull on my mask next, completing the costume that would carry me through my penance. “Wow,” I whispered.

If making me look like a hero was her intent, Poppy had failed. I looked like a demon, sent up from the depths of hell. Still, I felt compelled to stare into my reflection as I laced up my second boot, completing the look. “You like it?”

“I do,” I nodded. “What do I do now?”

“Now you’ve got to go do the work. Save the world.”

I did not even want to fathom how I was going to do that. “That’s seems kind of hard, how do I do that?”

“Start small I guess. Do you have a TV?”

“My mom’s down there. She can’t see me like this,” I argued.

“Then let’s think of somewhere to go. Where do bad things happen?”

We did not have to think long.

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