This started out as me trying to come up with a free read and then exploded. The full story is actually written but this is the part that the prompt inspired. This week the prompt is Life. I’ve been reading a lot of Batman lately and a lot of questions suddenly came up. And since I grew up worshipping superheroes…well…this seemed like a natural story for me to write.
“You’re late,” Mayor Johnson grunted without ever looking up from whatever mumbo-jumbo doctrine she was drafting on her laptop. She was the only person that always knew when The Rose Demon was lurking about. It was obnoxious as hell and Alicia stuck her tongue out behind the mask as she closed the window behind her.
“I assumed you wanted me to check on your fair city before I came calling,” she shot back. Remember, you’re the rock star, here. You called this meeting; this is your show!
The woman across the desk was a good eight years older than Alicia, but she acted like she was immortal and had the knowledge of the ages on her side. “It’s not like I live here, you know.” She went back to typing while The Demon glanced at the offered chair and snorted.
.“Could’ve fooled me. Seems like your entire life revolves around making this dump of a town bigger and better.”
A blonde eyebrow raised on the mayor’s cool face. “I could say the same thing about you.” The taunt in her voice was obvious.
“I keep it safe!” The Demon snarled, though her voice had the definite hint of a whine about it.
“We’re both obsessive in our own ways. This town is our lives.” It was true enough, which made the topic of discussion even harder to bring up. “You hear from Mom and Dad lately?”
“They’re doing well. Dad still refuses to retire,” Alicia admitted, finally giving in and taking a seat.
“Leave it to him to move to Florida for work,” Sam agreed with a snicker.
“You should call them.”
“They’d rather talk to you. You’re the golden child, after all.” Every word was designed to ruffle the younger sibling and it almost worked. Don’t get deterred. Find your focus and stick with it, Al reminded herself. You’re the Rose freakin’ Demon, not just Sammi Johnson’s little sister!
Finally, finally Samantha closed the laptop and stretched. Her smile was as fake as it was every time she gave a damn speech. “Now then, what can I do for the Rose Demon of my fair city?” Alicia’s crimson-gloved fingers curled in irritation. Here she was tricked out in more armor and special weapons than a freakin’ warlord’s armory and her sister was grinning like she’d just showed up to work in a Halloween costume. It was only because she’d gotten used to it through the years that Alicia didn’t drag Sam across the table and put her in a rear naked choke hold. “You finally agree to do some publicity? We could really use you at public events—”
“I’m not a freakin’ party clown, Sam! Why can’t you admit that I’ve helped you out?”
Eyes that matched Alicia’s light green ones narrowed then tried to appear friendly. “Things would die down in time anyway.” It was the same breezy sentence that accompanied all of Sam’s on-air speeches to the news about The Rose Demon.
It took everything in Al’s resolve not to pummel her sister with the sedative darts tucked in their chamber on her right forearm. Stupid cow always hated that I outdid her. She could never get over the fact that a so-called slacker could do more than the overachiever. She forced herself to appear calm and unfeeling, the façade that always had the criminals she caught backing up in terror. Sam just gave a polite chuckle and waited for her to speak, the jerk-face. Just remember, you hold the ace. You gave your life to this town and she’s just a two-bit politician too afraid to make it in the big-leagues.
“I’m sure the Apocalypse Society would have just decided to not use Plague 78,” Alicia replied, her voice smooth and deep thanks to the vocal manipulators in her helmet. “Thank God you locked it up,” she added. The glee at finally having one up on her sister was ruined by the horrific reality of the situation. Still, Sam’s sudden green cast was something Alicia’d waited her whole life to see.
“You know.” The mayor’s whisper was barely audible.
“I like how you didn’t even call to tell me. That was really classy, Sam.”
“I was trying to protect you.”
“You were trying to protect yourself!” Alicia jumped to her feet and towered over her sister’s desk, all black and crimson Kevlar. The armored chestplate was dull in the crappy florescent lighting, but the tribal rose image still burned bright. For the first time with her older sister she felt every inch the demon. Her eyes weren’t the green ones she shared with Sam, nor did she have the same tawny blonde hair that would eventually start going grey around the hairline the way their mother’s did. Her eyes were the obsidian slits in her helmet. Instead of hair she had silver and black spikes that jutted up from the mask that conformed to her entire head like a second face. “I gave it to you because you’re supposed to be my eyes and ears since the police force is questionable. That’s why you originally ran for office, remember? Not to be some pompous idiot behind a desk all day. I gave that to you so you’d either keep it safe or turn it in to the right people. You’re the one that insists on everything being done by the book on your end, right? And suddenly the flash drive disappears!”
Sam said nothing and a cold, terrible suspicion worked its way through the suit and under Alicia’s skin. “Please tell me you didn’t sell it.”
Her sister blanched and smacked her fists on the desk. “No, I didn’t sell it! This city’s my life, too, you know! Just because you put on a suit and scare off a few criminals doesn’t give you the right to think you have it so hard. I have to play the game, Al. I don’t like it much either but just like you have to do things you don’t like, I have to play along to make sure Roseburg doesn’t die off! There’s so many meetings, so much paperwork – it was an accident! I thought I was handing off the new budget changes! They looked exactly alike—” Sam broke off and covered her mouth in a bad effort to compose herself. Al didn’t know what she’d been expecting but her sister’s wails and the utter helplessness in her eyes wasn’t it. It would have been easier if she’d done it on purpose. “It was an accident, I swear.” Silence hung over the office like a funeral shroud and when Al refused to say anything Sam finally continued. “I should have told you. I should’ve known you’d find out faster than I wanted.”
She had a point but Alicia’s disgust refused to leave her. “I can’t believe you weren’t gonna say anything.”
Samantha didn’t reply to the accusation, but her cheeks flamed. “Who has it now?
“I don’t know what the official trail is but it ended up with Chief Harris, who’s in with the A.S. That’s why I gave it to you. The Apocalypse Society is made up of influential people, Sam. You’re one of the few with power in this town that I could trust.”
“So now we’re right back where we started from.” Sam’s voice was world-weary and Al just knew she was furious at herself. They were the same in that respect; neither of them had ever needed to be nagged or have failure rubbed in. They were their own worst critics.
“Only this time they’re going to move forward as fast as possible and be on their guard,” Sam added.
“Pretty much,” Alicia agreed. “It was sheer luck that I got that flash drive the first time.”
I wish I could whip out some magic formula. I wish I knew the future and had some gadget that would let me travel back in time or something. I wish the Rose Demon was more than just me. I’m not some made-up character! I’m only human! “I don’t know. I’ve tried hacking every computer that might lead me to an answer but like you said, they’re on their guard. And everything’s peaceful in the streets tonight. Too peaceful.”
“Will Mom and Dad be okay?”
“I’ve let them know. The plague is airborne but it has to be passed by a host. It’ll spread fast enough but it’s good that they’re states away. He’s set things up with the company and they talked about going off somewhere, but not to retire, of course.”
“Of course.” Sam’s voice was hollow and her eyes were far away.
“You wanna go for a ride?”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. I guess we really don’t have much of a choice.”
Without another word Alicia stood and waited for Sam to pack up her laptop. She almost headed to the window before she remembered that not everyone walked around with grappling hooks and chord hidden on their person. A tiny, last remnant of a smile managed to work its way through before they headed out the door.
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