…. EPISODE 46…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
“What did you do that for?” Riley demands. He crosses to his mother’s body and picks her up, then tenderly lays her on the fainting couch at the end of the room. Deacon looks just as appalled by his actions as Riley does.
“What was the alternative?” V answers. “She can’t be trusted. She’s totally drinking your dad’s Kool-Aid. And she’s immune to powers. So until we figure out what to do with her, knocking her out was pretty much our only option. Unless you wanted me to kill her.”
“No, I didn’t want you to kill her! That’s my mother! He could have been gentler is all!”
My heart clenches at the tears streaming down Riley’s cheeks.
“Gentler?” V scoffs. “You mean like your father’s been with us? She’s just like him, and if we give her half a chance, she’ll betray you too. She’ll try to kill you.”
“You don’t know that—”
“She’s right,” Rebel interrupts him, not showing any signs of the devastation I expected her to feel. “We can’t trust her. We don’t know what she’ll do.” She turns to Dante. “Babe, go out to the garage and get some rope. We need to tie her up to make sure she doesn’t do any more damage before we can get out of here.”
“We don’t have long,” Draven says. “If she called your dad, he or his goons could show up any moment—”
“We’ve got to go!” Deacon heads to the nearest window and looks out at the front lawn. “We can’t be here when they show up. We can’t let Rex—”
His voice breaks and he stops talking. He’s breathing heavily, his eyes darting around, and it hits home again just how messed up he is from being held captive. He’s been better the last couple days, his body finally healing from the torture. But the emotional scars are a lot deeper than the physical wounds, and for a second I think he’s going to fall apart.Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
Not that I would blame him. Not that any of us would blame him. He’s been through hell, and the fact that he’s doing so well shows just how strong he really is. “We’ll go,” Draven tells him, stepping away from me to put a supportive hand on Deacon’s shoulder. “Let’s figure out what to do with Mrs. Malone, and then we’ll get out of here. Regroup somewhere and try to figure out what to do next.” Deacon nods, but he doesn’t stop staring out the window. I don’t know if it’s because he’s watching for Rex’s troops or if he’s too ashamed to face us. I hope it’s the former, because he has nothing to be ashamed of. I’m pretty sure I’d be in a lot worse shape if Rex had done to me half of what I know he did to Deacon. Dante comes in with the rope, and he and Nitro set to work tying up Mrs. Malone. I rack my brain as they do, trying to figure a way out of this mess, which seems to get worse with every hour that passes. But before I can come up with anything, my phone buzzes in my back pocket.
As I pull it out, I realize that everyone else is doing the same. All of our phones are getting messages at the same time? That can only mean one thing: an SHN Alert.
Jeremy is the first to read the message. “Holy shitburgers.” The pop-up message on my home screen confirms my guess. Hero League Offers Villain Amnesty
I click into the private SHN app and read the full article.
In an unprecedented move, Rex Malone, president of the Superhero League, has announced a new truce initiative that, if successful, will end the longstanding battle between heroes and villains and quell the recent outbreaks of violence that threaten
the secrecy essential to our world. According to the press release, the program will grant retroactive amnesty to all villains and villain sympathizers who voluntarily register their identities and powers with the League’s Powers Protection Agency (PPA) within the next thirty-six hours. Full details of the program are available on our website. For up-to-the-minute coverage, tune in to SHN Live.
“What the hell?” Rebel whispers. “My dad’s giving the villains amnesty?” “No way,” Draven says. “No way this deal is legit.”
I shake my head. “Rex would never just forgive and forget. Not after everything that’s happened.”
Deacon nods. “He hates us way too much for that.”
He’s right. Rex Malone is not the type to wipe clean decades of hate and war. And he’s definitely not the type to let go of the public humiliation he suffered at Draven’s and my mom’s trial. He’ll want to make us suffer for that—make all villains suffer for it. The amnesty must be a trap so he can start exacting his revenge.
“We have to go,” V orders. “We need to warn Anton—”
“He must have figured it out,” Riley interrupts, his voice soft and sad.
“Figured out what?” Dante asks.
“How to break the resistance,” Riley explains. “How to control villains too. Why else would he want them all to come in?”
Everyone falls silent as we consider his words.
I don’t want to believe it. I mean, sure, Rex will stop at nothing in his quest for power. But this? Dangling the carrot of peace in front of the beleaguered villains, when instead of the carrot they’ll get a baseball bat to the skull? It’s beyond cruel. “No one will fall for it,” I say, my voice barely a whisper. “Right? No villain will be dumb enough to believe he would really—”
“Won’t they?” Jeremy holds out his phone, showing me the SHN website.
The live feed from the SHN broadcast has a crawl across the bottom of the screen that reads, Thousands of villains seek amnesty.
A field reporter is on-site at a League district office in Colorado Springs, where a line of villains—the marks that define them as such clearly visible on their necks— is already waiting to register. Dozens of them. Maybe even hundreds.
Draven pounds his fist on a nearby table. “Damn it. How could they be so stupid?” “Hope makes a desperate person let go of logic.” Deacon’s voice has that same haunted sound as when we first rescued him, and I know his mind is back in the hell that Rex and the Collective put him through.
And that fills me with even more rage. Because as awful as it is that Deacon has to live with those memories, it would be even worse for him not to have them. To have suffered and to never know because someone screwed with his mind. Which is surely what Rex intends to do to every villain on the planet.
That is not okay.
“We have to stop this,” I say.
Rebel’s voice is shaky. “How?”
“I can break into the SHN live feed,” Jeremy offers. “We can tell the world what Rex is doing so the villains won’t trust him.”
“They already don’t trust him,” Dante counters. “Still, they’re lining up to turn themselves over to him.”
Rebel wraps herself around his waist. “Not to mention many of them won’t trust us because some of us are heroes.”
“And all of us are wanted fugitives,” Deacon adds.
“Besides,” Nitro says, “that won’t help the scores of villains who have already surrendered.”
My stomach roils at the thought of just how many villains Rex might already control. We’ve seen, up close and dangerous, what happens when a hero is under the Collective’s control. Add villains to his army of super drones, and we don’t stand a chance.
Neither does the ordinary world. The idea that Rex’s greed for power is limited to the super world is as naïve as the villains who think the amnesty offer is for real. Villains have been the only thing keeping him in check over the years. Take them out of the picture, and the rest of the world is next. He’s not the kind of guy to rest on his laurels or be content with some power when he could have it all.
“We have to stop this.” I can’t take my eyes off the news feed, which has shifted to the loading dock behind the League office, where relieved and eager-looking villains are being loaded into unmarked white vans. “We have to end it. Once and for all.”
“But how?” Dante asks. “We don’t even know where Rex is taking them.”
Riley makes a sour face. “The League owns property in every corner of the globe. We—” he begins, then quickly corrects himself. “They have hundreds of locations.”
“They could be heading literally anywhere,” Nitro adds.
“I could track them remotely,” Jeremy suggests. “Between traffic cameras, cell phone towers, and surveillance drones, I could probably follow them anywhere.” “Probably?” Draven asks.
“There are physical limits to every technology. If they leave urban areas, tracking them gets harder. But I can do it. Hell, I can hijack an NSA satellite if I have enough time.”
“We don’t have that kind of time,” I tell him. “We have no idea how fast Rex can implement the mind control. The villains might have only a few hours before their thoughts belong to him.”
“Or less,” Rebel says. “It only took seconds with me.”
We all fall silent. It’s one thing to think of this in the abstract, to imagine some nameless, faceless villain under Rex’s control. It’s another to know it happened to my best friend.
Seeing her turned from the heroes’ most vocal critic into a lockstep mouthpiece for the bad guys tells me exactly how badly this can go. If they can do that to the girl who started the Zeroes, Not Heroes Facebook group, there are no limits to what they can do. To who they can control. It could be any of us. Or all of us.
Suddenly, an idea occurs to me. Maybe the answer isn’t to fight Rex’s control, but give in to it. Or at least pretend to.
“What if I turn myself in?” I suggest.
“What?” Draven turns to stare at me, fury burning in his gaze. “No way.”
“If I go in outfitted with a tracker, Jeremy won’t have to task a satellite to follow me.”
Draven crosses his arms over his chest, narrows his eyes. “Absolutely not.” “Just hear me out—”
“There’s nothing to hear,” Draven barks. “If you think for one second that I’m sending you gift-wrapped into that lunatic’s clutches, then you don’t know me nearly as well as I thought you do.”
“Seriously, Kenna,” Deacon says, and this time it’s his turn to lay a calming hand
on his cousin’s shoulder. “That’s a terrible idea. You know what Rex will do to
you if he gets his hands on you.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Rebel adds.
“Not if I take the immunity serum.” Especially not with the version that lets me keep my power. Scratch that, powers.
Draven rolls his eyes at my argument. “Immunity to powers doesn’t make you immortal.”
I know he’s only freaking out because he cares about me, but I’m tired of everyone telling me what I can and can’t do. Of other people deciding what’s too dangerous for little old me to take on.
I’m not powerless Kenna anymore. It’s time people stopped treating me like I am.
Draven of all people knows how powerful I can be.
“If he thinks I’m having regrets,” I argue, “that I want to rejoin the hero side, maybe he’ll—”
“No.” Riley says the word so forcefully that we all stop and stare at him.
His face is bright red. Not with embarrassment, but with anger. He is literally vibrating with rage.
Nitro wraps a supportive arm around his shoulders. Riley closes his eyes and leans into the touch. For several long seconds, he doesn’t say anything—just seems to take strength from Nitro’s support. But when I’m about to share more of my plan, he says, “Rex doesn’t forgive. Rex doesn’t believe in second chances. One strike with him and you’re done.”
This is a new Riley I haven’t seen before. One who finally has his hero blinders off. And while I know it’s important that he sees his father for what he is, I can’t help mourning the guy who wore Superman pajamas and a coat that looked like a cape. The guy who believed that every decision really was black and white, that heroes were good, villains were bad, and there was no middle ground.
A tiny part of me misses being able to see the world that way. But once you start seeing things clearly, there’s no going back.
“He will kill you, Kenna,” Riley continues. “After what you did at the trial, after you embarrassed him like that, he won’t rest until you’re dead. And he’ll make it as painful as possible.”
Riley’s certainty sends a sickening chill down my spine. It’s no more than I said earlier, but it’s awful to hear it laid out like that. Awful to truly understand how badly this plan can go wrong—and what will happen if it does.
“You were spot-on about the tracking though,” Jeremy says. “I’ve been working on a new microscopic device that is totally organic and can be rendered undetectable. If we sent someone in, I’d be able to follow them directly to the source.”
“We could recruit someone,” Rebel suggests. “Ask some other villain to go in with the tracker.”
Draven shakes his head. “Out of the question. We’re not asking someone else to put their life on the line.”
“We can’t ask someone to risk suffering what I went through,” Deacon says. “I won’t do it.”
He has a point. But I’m sure there are plenty of villains who would risk almost anything if they knew what the heroes were really up to. In the scheme of things,
one life versus the perpetual mental prison of tens of thousands? Any villain with even an ounce of integrity would see that as a no-brainer. That’s not the only concern though.
“There’s another problem,” I argue. “How could we trust someone to be our mole even if they offered? We couldn’t know for sure whether Rex has them under mind control already. We might be putting our faith in someone who is already lost.” Riley nods. “And that person could tell Rex everything about our plans.” “We use the immunity serum,” Rebel says.
Deacon gestures at the room around us. “That worked out so well here. We can’t guarantee it will work fast enough to keep us safe.”
Draven covers my hand with his. “The only supers we can trust for certain are the ones in this room.”
“Too bad we’ve all been burned,” Nitro says.
Dante snorts. “Some of us literally.”
Nitro glares at him. “I mean Rex knows our faces, arsehole.”
“Guys, come on,” Rebel says, trying to prevent another all-out war between them. “He didn’t mean anything by it, Nitro.”
“Then your boyfriend shouldn’t have teased him about his control issues,” Riley shoots back. “Especially since all he can do is blow a little hot air around.” “Wow, hero boy, don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.”
ln an instant, everyone is yelling, tossing barbs, and hitting below the belt. The great thing about being friends is we know each other’s vulnerabilities and can watch each other’s backs. But in a fight, we know exactly where to hit to do the most damage.
And right now, it seems almost all of us are intent on causing damage of one type or another. Emotions are on edge; nerves are frazzled to the breaking point. And it’s no wonder. We know what Rex is planning, what he’s implementing, and we have no idea how to stop him. It’s starting to feel like we’ll never get ahead of this, like we’ll be chasing Rex and his evil plans forever. The very thought is exhausting.
“He doesn’t know my face.” V’s quiet words silence the chaos.
Dante turns to face her. “What did you say?”
“Malone doesn’t know me,” she tells him. “Which means I’m the perfect person to go in. You know I’m not compromised. You know you can trust me. Give me the immunity serum and I’ll turn myself in.”
Every last one of us stares at her as she finishes her mini speech. Not because we think it’s a bad idea, but because V is actually volunteering. Over the few days
she’s been with us, she’s had our backs. She’s kept us safe and—with some coaxing—pretty much gone along with all of our wild plans.
But she’s always seemed kind of…removed from it. Removed from us.
It’s been us and her. As in two separate forces.
And by volunteering, she’s saying she’s part of us. She’s part of the team. I don’t know how to respond to that.
“What?” she asks, looking irritated that we aren’t immediately either jumping up and down or telling her we can’t let her do that. “You idiots are the only ones allowed to come up with suicidal plans?”
Draven breaks the stunned silence first. “No, you’re right,” he says. “You’re the best option.”
“Screw that,” she snaps. “I’m the only option.”
That’s when I see the fear lurking beneath her bravado. She likes to keep up the tough-girl image, but underneath it all she is just as vulnerable—just as human—as the rest of us.
“You are,” I tell her. “You are the only way we can keep Rex from getting total, unstoppable control.”
She nods and takes a deep breath. “Now what?”
“First,” I say, gesturing at where Mrs. Malone is tied up on the couch. She’s awake now and staring at us with huge eyes. “We have to find someplace to leave her.”
Because the last thing we need in our quest to stop Rex is his wife getting in the way or, worse, tipping him off. He has to know we’ll be coming for him. Hell, he might have even set up this whole amnesty ruse to draw us out. But right now he doesn’t know where or when or how we will come for him. Our only advantage is surprise. We need to keep it that way.
“I know where we can dump the old bag,” Nitro says.
From the maniacal look on his face, I can tell this idea is either devious or delightful. Or maybe both.