Glory and Vengeance – Part 1

There was nothing as absolutely despicable as the first day of school, Vicky thought. It wasn't just that it was the end of the summer vacation, it also reminded her of every shitty little thing that Arcadia had to offer. Even the name itself was a lie. Sure, Arcadia was probably the best school in Brockton Bay, but that meant very little. A school like Winslow might be an even bigger shithole, but the only real difference was the thugs here didn't have knives.

She perked up as the bell rang, and class was done for the day.

"Hey Vicky, Fiona, you girls wanna go see that new Cape movie from Aleph?" Joanne asked her as they left the classroom together.

"What, the one with the sexy tinker in the flying armor? Hell yeah!" Vicky replied. "Didn't know it was out yet."

"Tonight's an early screening, and I managed to get my hand on three tickets!" she said, smiling.

"Do I want to know how you got your hands on those?" Vicky asked her friend, she already knew she didn't. Then again, she couldn't really blame Joanne for what she did, Brockton Bay being what it was. All the gifts were just nice extras.

"Vicky, you know it's not like that…" Joanne replied.

"He's like forty years old or something, it's fucked up," Vicky said. "Back me up on this Fiona,"

"I don't know… As long as you don't do anything you don't want to do… I don't really see the problem," Fiona replied.

"Seriously, I haven't given him more than a peck on the cheek. We don't all live in the towers Vicky, and this helps protect my family," Joanne said, defending herself.

"And it doesn't bother you that he, you know, murders people and shit?" Vicky asked her friend.

"He's not a thug Vicky, he does administration and stuff, he went to college." Joanne replied.

"For how late are the tickets?" Fiona asked, changing the subject.

"This afternoon, movie starts at four thirty," Joanne replied.

"Oh… that's during visitor's hours…" Fiona replied.

"Oh… didn't think about that, sorry," Joanne said.

Fiona's brother, Ryan, had been arrested two months back. A drug charge, plus some tacked on shit because he was a suspected ABB member. It was all entirely unfair to Fiona, but Lung's men took care of her and her family while her brother was doing time for them.

Brockton Bay really wasn't a place where you wanted to be a teenager without some sort of protection, and it showed. Half the kids in school were either in a gang, related to a gang member, or dating one. The other half was either rich enough for the Protectorate to give a shit about them, or desperately tried to stay in the background. Vicky was just happy that her father's life insurance and mother's career meant she belonged in the category of people who were rich, or rich enough

"Still got three tickets…" Joanne said.

"Want me to ask my sister? I bet she's as done as I am after her first day at Arcadia," Vicky said.

"Sure, sound fun, you'll finally have to introduce me to her," Joanne said, smiling.

"I'll go look for her quickly, I think I know what class she had this period. And Fi… good luck with your bro." Vicky said

"Thanks…" the Asian girl replied. "And I'd like to meet your sister someday too."

"Meet you at the froyo store?" Joanne yelled back.

"What, meaning I'll have to work out for half an hour to sweat it out again? We'll get some coffee instead!" Vicky said as she started to head towards her sister's classroom.

"Yeah sure, like that mocha-caramel shit is good for your waist!" Joanne yelled after her, but Vicky had already turned the corner, and didn't really have the time to yell anything back.

***

Marquis surrounded himself in plates of bone that resembled the petals of a flower blooming in reverse, and sank into the ground.

Any other day, Brandish would have followed him into the room below. A wine cellar, it seemed. But with what she'd seen of him today, here in his home, she had a better plan.

She turned towards the closet, the one he'd been nervous about, and charged it, creating a massive blade with her power. She held it back, and readied an overhead swing.

Barely half a second before she struck true, Marquis appeared from the ground again, crying out. "No!" he yelled, shooting out a shield of bone. The yelling was uncharacteristic, not like him. It didn't matter, Marquis' shied was too slow, and Brandish's great weapon completed its overhead arc, slicing into the closet from top to bottom, straight through wood, flesh, and bone.

***

Vicky rushed through hallways of Arcadia, through the section of the school containing the cafeteria, into the wing she needed to reach. Then, she practically flew up the stairs, long hours of basketball practice having trained her to make it in three jumps.

Third turn right, second turn left, and she made it to her sister's classroom.

Which was when she spotted the two girls surrounding her sister. One of them was a redhead that Vicky knew quite well, the other an African American girl she had never seen before.

"Or what, you're going to cry again?" Emma said to Taylor, tauntingly.

"Emma… why are you being so mean?" Taylor asked her best friend.

"Because I've gotten sick of your shit Taylor, it's time for you to grow up, seriously," Emma said back.

"I don't…" Taylor replied, unsure of what to say.

"We're not friend anymore Taylor, so get that bullshit out of your head!" Emma said to her.

Taylor stumbled forward, trying to plead with Emma, trying to understand what was happening, when the African-American girl pushed her away. "Stay away from us you loser," the girl said.

That was it, Vicky had no idea what had gotten into the normally sweet Emma, but she wouldn't stand by and let this happen.

"Hey, what the fuck do you think you're doing!" she yelled out as she started marching towards the girl.

"Who's this idiot?" the black girl asked Emma.

"Taylor's sister, total bitch," Emma replied.

As Vicky reached her sister's side, she folded her arms, and looked at the two girls sternly.

"I don't know what your problem is, but hands off my sister!" she said to the black girl. Then, she turned to Emma. "And you, what's gotten into you, seriously? Do you want me to go and talk to your father about this?"

Emma laughed and ignored her, turning towards Taylor again, who had just grabbed hold of Vicky's hand. "What, can't do shit without your fake sister defending you? You're pathetic!"

"Shut up Emma, seriously," Vicky said, placing herself in between her sister and the redhead.

"What, you think you're hot shit or something?" the black girl asked, standing in front of Emma in the same manner Vicky was standing in front of Taylor.

It looked ridiculous, Vicky thought. Four girls standing like this, a tiny fourteen year old trying to hold of the star of the basketball team. People had noticed, and quite a few of them were surrounding them now, waiting for the almost inevitable fight to break out. Vicky scanned her opponent, looking for hidden weapons and finding none.

"Leave, my sister, the fuck, alone." Vicky said.

"Fuck off," the girl replied. She pushed Vicky backwards, and Vicky stumbled into Taylor.

"Oh no you didn't," Vicky replied.

"Yes I did," the girl said, and she tried to push Vicky again.

This time, Vicky was faster, and she punched the other girl in the face before she could hit her.

The girl didn't yell, didn't stand back, she just laughed like an idiot.

"Ooooh, you fucked up," Emma suddenly said. "Sophia's important you know, she's got friends in high places."

"Yeah, like I haven't heard that one before," Vicky replied.

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and a guy's voice whispered something in her ear.

"Yeah, except this time it's true," the voice said.

Vicky turned around, and saw a large guy standing behind her. Sporty, muscled, strong. The guy cracked his knuckles.

"What, you're gonna fight a girl?" she asked him, tauntingly.

"Not just me," the guy replied.

Vicky looked around herself, spotting people who had come forward from the crowd, quite a few of them.

The black girl, Sophia, wiped her bloody lip on her sleeve, and started talking again.

"Looks like you need to learn how to respect your betters," the girl said. "John, Eric, Charley, teach her a lesson will you?"

"Will do ma'am," the guy that had touched her shoulder said.

Before he could continue to do anything, Vicky ducked down, and launched a forward kick into his balls. The man stumbled, but before Vicky could continue, someone, Emma, had grabbed her hair, and pulled on it.

Vicky tried to turn around, tried to punch Emma in her stupid fucking face, but one of the other guys grabbed her arm.

She twisted, hitting the man in the knee with her left foot, and made him fall over, but he held on to her arm. A second later, the third thug grabbed her other arm, overpowering her with sheer strength.

The dude she'd delivered the nutshot to stood up again, and Vicky took pleasure noticing that he wasn't standing straight. The pleasure didn't last long, as the thug took aim and hit her in the stomach. Vicky tried to fight, but the two thugs holding her had a steady grip. In the corner of her eyes, she saw Emma and that Sophia girl standing. Sophia had a smug look on her face, while Emma's expression was just a tad horrified.

She looked around in panic, bracing herself for the next hit. Where was Taylor? Was she safe? Was she getting a teacher? Little good that that would do…

Again, the thug hit her. This time, he followed it up with a punch in Vicky's face. She felt her lip split open, and warm wetness came out of her nose.

This was bad, really bad.

***

For the second time in as many seconds, Marquis cried out, "No!"

This time however, it wasn't pleading. It was a cry of anguish, of hate, of death.

Lady Photon looked at her sister, at the closet she'd attacked. At the blood.

The girl's corpse had been cut in two, and Sarah couldn't look away. Her own children were just a few years older than this little girl.

They should've known, should've stopped themselves from attacking someone in his home, but Carol had convinced them…

Marquis dashed forwards, a spear of bone in his hand, rushing towards Carol. He would try to hit her in the leg, disable her, take her out of the fight.

Except he didn't. Instead, he aimed for the heart. Carol had still been in shock at seeing what she'd done, and was unable to change into her ball-shaped form as the bone lance pierced her chest. The moment Marquis saw the insides laid bare before him, he started manipulating Carol's bones.

Sarah Pelham's sister was dead within the second, killed by a man who's code stopped him from doing just that thing.

Then again, code's didn't really mean anything when someone just murdered your daughter.

Flashbang rushed forwards in anger, trying to avenge his wife. He too was reduced to ribbons of flesh by the anger of the Marquis.

"Neil! The children!" Sarah cried out as Marquis turned his attention to Lightstar.

She used her power to fly upwards, to get away from the boneheaded madman they had just created. She blasted a hole in the roof, trying to make it through, but fragments of bone had been spread through the area, and a spike lanced out from one of them, through her leg.

Seconds later, the Marquis charged her. The last thoughts on Sarah's mind were of little Eric and Crystal, hoping they would be safe.

***

Vicky flew through the stars, space twisting and turning around her. She saw herself from a thousand different perspectives, but couldn't figure out which was her.

The others felt familiar, but they weren't people, just… things? Strange things that shifted between worlds and between stars, but they were like family, and she was… she was not, not yet. She knew, somehow, that she was flying through the stars with her family. It was strange, wondrous and strange.

Slightly further out, she could see the rest. Still kin, still the same thing, the same greater family, but not like the three of them were, her parents. Even further out, another great clustering, a different one belonging to something which was at the same time equal and opposite.

Just barely, she could hear her family communicating with that other family, speaking in concepts of a single word that was also a library.

She opened her eyes again, and found herself in the infirmary. Taylor was bending over her, her long hair tickling Vicky's face.

"Hey sis," Taylor said.

"Hey…" she replied. Her lips, her tongue, her throat, her chest, everything hurt. She'd blacked out somewhere after the first hit, but it was clear that they hadn't stopped hitting her.

"You okay?" her sister asked.

"Yeah… I've had worse," Vicky replied.

"That's a lie and you know it," Taylor said.

"What, can't a girl look cool in front of her little sister?" Vicky asked, trying to laugh without it hurting too much. Trying not to pay too much attention to the things her body was trying to tell her, the impossible things.

"Idiot…" Taylor replied. "You know I'll always think you're cool, no matter what you do!" she said as she started laughing, too, happy that her sister was going to be all right.

Vicky tried to lift her torso, to sit instead of lie down. Instead, her entire body rose up from the bed, just a centimetre or so.

Quickly, she dropped down again, before Taylor could notice.

Okay… that was interesting, and worrisome.

***

Victoria started on her third pizza tonight, still watching TV, wondering when mom and dad would come home.

They'd said it wouldn't be long, that it would be just a few hours. Victoria had told them she was a good girl, that she could stay home alone for just a few hours. Just her and the TV, and a microwave pizza.

Victoria was smart, she knew how to use the microwave already, and she knew not to put any metal things in the microwave, so mommy and daddy trusted her with that.

But it was dark outside, and it had been dark for a while. All the tv-shows Victoria normally watched were done, and the stuff that was on right now was full of people yelling at each other, saying bad words, kissing, that sort of things.

It wasn't the sort of television a good girl should watch, but it was probably okay, because mommy had told her she could watch TV until they came back, and Victoria hadn't touched the channel.

She was getting awfully sleepy, but she wanted to stay awake until mommy and daddy came back. Maybe Uncle Philip would be there too, that would be great!

Eventually, she heard a car park outside, but it wasn't mommy and daddy's car. It was a car she didn't recognize.

She went to the door, and peeked through the little peeking hole. A tall thin woman in a nice suit stepped out of the car. The suit looked like the one mommy wore when she went to work.

Victoria recognized the woman now, from when mommy had taken her to work one day. She wasn't sure what the woman was called, but she knew the woman was Taylor's mom, and Taylor was really nice. Sure, Taylor was a bit younger than Victoria, but that didn't matter, because it meant Taylor was like a little sister. That also made Taylor way better than Eric and Crystal. Especially Crystal. She was older, and bigger, and kept stealing Victoria's dolls.

But something was wrong, Victoria saw. Taylor's mom wasn't being nice, she looked like she was afraid and in a hurry.

As Taylor's mom ran for the front door, Victoria took a few steps back.

Then, Taylor's mom rang the doorbell, and started knocking as well.

"Victoria? Victoria are you in there? You need to let me in, this is really important!" Taylor's mom yelled.

Victoria thought about it for a bit. Mommy had told her never to let stranger into the house, told her she might get kidnapped. But Taylor's mom wasn't a stranger, and she worked at the same place mommy worked. And mommy had also told Victoria to always help people in need, and Taylor's mom sure looked like she needed some help.

Victoria walked to the door, and opened it. The moment she unlocked the door, Taylor's mom swung it open and grabbed Victoria, holding her tightly to her chest. It felt strange. Whenever mommy hugged her, it was soft and bouncy, but Taylor's mom's hugs were more like daddy's hugs.

"It's alright Victoria, It's alright, I'll keep you safe," Taylor's mom said. Victoria wasn't entirely sure what Taylor's mom was talking about, but the woman lifted Victoria up, grabbed the set of keys that always hung on a tiny chain next to the door, left again, closing the door behind her, Victoria in her hands.

"Where are we going?" Victoria said, just about to panic. She liked Taylor's mom, but she wanted to be home for when her parents arrived.

"Somewhere safe sweety, I promise."