A microwave beeping stirs me from my sleep. Lyle the cat dozes on my chest, rolled up into a fuzzy cat ball. The kitchen light is on, casting the rest of Bedevil’s living room apartment in an eerie mix of sterile, buzzing fluorescent and pale, cold sunlight of the early morning. I check my phone: It’s 5:56 AM. I grimace at the date. It’s been nine days since Pandahead took Maisa. We’ve got nothing to show for it.
I overhear Bedevil talking at the microwave.
“Hush, you’ll wake the Gabe bun.”
Butterflies spring to life in my stomach.
“He’s sleeping with a cat, it is very nice. He’s very nice.” She groans, and I hear a thunk. “All ‘e can think about is… is his frens…”
She starts to snore.
I better help her. She sounds really drunk, possibly even Black-Out Bedevil drunk. I sit up and carefully move Lyle from my chest. He is a pliable ball of cat dough, he flops exactly where I lay him, purring the whole time.
“Level wi’ me, mister microwave,” Bedevil slurs. “What shood I do? I’m…” She hiccups and swallows. “I’m kina into him, but iss compli- compli- compcated.”
I can’t focus on what she’s saying, she’s too drunk to know what she means right now.
She’s half undressed, floating by her microwave. She got one arm into a large, black sweater with a pastel galaxy printed on the sleeves, and oh good lord help me the only thing she’s wearing over her panties are high-waisted fishnet tights. She’s wearing exactly 1.3 combat boots, one firmly on her feet, the other dangling from her toes and slipping around like she’s using telekinesis on it.
“Oh! Oh! Shut up, mister microwave, there he is.” Bedevil turns in the air like a rotisserie chicken. She puts a hand on her cheek and arches an eyebrow at me. She combines that with a smirk, and the drunkest “Hiya,” I’ve ever heard.
“Uh, hey, what are you doing?” I ask.
“Making taquitos.” She giggles and floats to the floor. Her legs dangle in the air. “Did y’ know they tell you not to use your power when you’re… you’re… intoximated? In Basics, they tell you that. Did you know, Gabe Babe?”
Oh, Lord, now she’s calling me that, too.
“No, I’ve never been to Basics,” I tell her.
“You would love it, it’s like college but for superheroes.” The microwave opens and her taquitos float out. They dip themselves into a cup of ranch on the counter, and wobble through the air to her mouth. She’s not precise at all: half the ranch she collected ends up on her nose. “Dorms and all. Parties and all.” She revolves and floats toward me. “Taquito?”
“Uh, no thanks.”
Bedevil gently falls to the floor, and sprawls there. “Sssso cold. So nice. Is nice havin’ someone here beside me.”
I kneel down next to her, and all I can think about is that broken band. That memory must be so painful, so why keep it? Not that I feel like I can ask her about it, not in this state, at least. “Hey, let’s go to bed.”
Bedevil rubs her face into the floor. “Don’ wanna.”
Her phone buzzes on the counter. I check to see if she’s getting a call from Marcy, or something, but it’s a text notification. A dozen text notifications.
Are you sure it was one, not two, or three guys? We could get beer goggles installed in your costume, I know a guy. – Danger Close
don’t care what you were used to while Mega was wiping your ass, I’ll get you barred from OPI, you drunk bitch – Tachikaze
Then, there’s a whole batch from Krater:
Bedevil, we’re gonna talk
You fuckin left again
Both times, I’m the one who gets fucked
We brought you onto the team to help us both, and you fuck us
You weren’t there when tachi got shot, you shoulda been, you fucked her, too
I’m wondering if you ever fucked mega, you got that sidekick thirst?
Maybe I have a chance, but damn, I’m supposed to enjoy you fucking me
May ain’t gonna hear the end of it from me
I breathe in slowly, and count to ten. My fingers fight me to try and fire back a message at the fucking asshole, but I restrain myself.
One last one, from Director May:
OPI may tolerate you, but my days of taking you seriously are over. We’re putting you on review tomorrow, strongly considering rehab.
“What happened?” I ask.
“Thought I saw one of those Hammers during a street interview,” Bedevil says. “The girl you told me about. Left right in the middle of a question.” She rights herself with her power, and stumbles away. Pawpaw comes up to her as she stands at the threshold of the kitchen, and nuzzles his head into her legs. He whines with worry.
It dawns on me. She ran off because she thought she could save Maisa.
Bedevil turns to me. She still sounds drunk, but she composes herself enough to talk straight: “I don’t get it, I don’t get what I did.” Tears well in her eyes. “I don’t know why everyone treats me like this. They don’t say, “There goes Bedevil, off to be a hero,” they think I’m fucking up or drunk. They treat me like I need to be swept under the rug.” Her voice rises to full scream: “Like I’m a fucking loose end, only worth a text when Megajoule died!”
I hate that I never know what to say to her. Right now, I really want to thank her, but I can’t even open my damn mouth.
Bedevil stares at me, her lips open just a little, her messy hair cascading all over her shoulders. Her eyebrows knit, and her eyes glisten. I think she’s about to tumble over into sad drunk, but she stands upright and snarls through her tears.“I don’t understand what I did to piss them off, but I don’t regret it. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
She’s dressed like depression’s done her wardrobe for six years. She has a broken ring hiding in her movies.
“Because even if I didn’t really see that Warspeed chick, I still ran after her with everything I had. Maybe it looks bad, maybe it makes me look insane and drunk on the job.” Bedevil shakes, drawing in shuddering breaths every sentence. Tears dribble off her chin. “But I don’t care! I still did what was right. That’s all I’ve ever done.”
She’s been through so much more than I have, and she’s still standing. I’ve never seen anyone with strength like her.
Bedevil slams her fist onto the archway, startling Pawpaw. “They can treat me however they like! As long as I stay alive, and as long as I’m a hero, I win! I win every day I take from them, every day that I’m one of the top ten heroes, every god damn day I take a breath, I. Win.”
Sometimes, people amaze me.
Bedevil slumps against the archway, and slides down to the floor. I catch her before she slams her head against the kitchen tile. She mumbles to herself, but her words are so slurred I can’t tell them apart.
I carry her to the couch. I tuck her into the blankets she gave me. I tilt her head to the side, so if she pukes, it won’t choke her to death.
I fix her hair out of her face.
Bedevil sighs in her daze, and grabs my hand. She holds it to her heart.
I let her squeeze my fingers, even though my heart’s pounding at a BPM better suited for sprinting. “Even if it was only you after her, I’d say Maisa’s in good hands.”
Bedevil’s eyes flutter, and she drifts into sleep. I wait until she’s good and snoring to slip my hand free. I place the still pliable Lyle onto her chest.
Morning’s fully arrived. After all that, I couldn’t get to sleep if I tried. I sit down at the foot of the couch, and grab the book I’ve been reading from Bedevil’s glass coffee table.
I’ve upgraded from Physics for Dummies to University Physics, and I’ve just gotten to the Ideal Gas Law. “Pvnrt,” I say out loud to Pawpaw, reading the formula as one word.
He lolls his tongue and wags his tail, unappreciative of my funny noise.
“Okay, Pawpaw,” I say. “Says here that a mole of gas occupies 22.4 Liters. And in a mole of gas there are six point zero two two one times ten to the… to the twenty third power of molecules?”
I look up from the book, at the space in front of me. I search the internet for a conversion between liters to cubic meters. .0224 cubic meters has a dick ton of molecules in it.
The book says that molecules are moving, bouncing off each other. That’s where heat comes from.
Isn’t that just kinetic energy? I put my book down.
I hold my hand out, unsure of what to visualize. I’ve seen different supers use powers that created shields in front of them, and I guess that’s what I’m thinking of. But that doesn’t get me anywhere. I can’t just visualize a shield and make it happen. I have to figure out how I can freeze these molecules in air.
Freeze. That’s it. Kinetic energy and temperature are intimately tied, especially at the molecular level. At least, according to the physics book.
I imagine that I’m freezing all the molecules in place in that disk.
Heat enters me, and the air chills just a bit. I don’t notice anything different about the space in front of me, so I reach out to see if I’ve done anything.
My hand grazes on an invisible surface, and pushes in like I’m touching plastic. As soon as I do, the surface gives way, and I feel a small whoosh of wind in my face. I restrain a whoop for Bedevil’s sake.
Okay, so, stopping the molecules is possible, but if I don’t keep it up, they’ll start moving again if something interacts with the surface, namely all the air around the disk. I try to form the disk again, this time maintaining my power instead of one quick burst. I feel a surge of heat from the kinetic energy taken from the whole shape, and then little bits of it taken from the edges as other air molecules smash into the disk.
I press my other hand against the disk, and find that I’ve crafted myself a solid shield. I exert my power and guide the disk to a wider radius, until the disk bumps against Bedevil’s floor.
I let the shield go, even though my inner kid is screaming in my head.
I’ve spent these nine days training my power everyday. Mostly stamina exercises, but when I have a minute, I try to form new techniques like this. I’m worried, since I don’t have all the same power that Megajoule did, that if I get hit by a lightning bolt or some stupid radiation beam, there won’t be anything I can do. I’m trying to find some way to counteract that.
The rest of the morning I watch shark documentaries while Bedevil snores behind me, and pet Pawpaw. I also flick my fingers and shoot small blasts of air around the room, working backwards from my shield idea. If I can freeze them, I can move them, too. That gives me some range, now.
Around 10 AM, Bedevil coughs, and sits up. “Urg.”
Excited to show her my new technique, I say, “Check this shit out!” and blast a fork off her coffee table with my finger flick trick. “I have telekinesis.”
“Shut the fuck up,” she groans, covering her eyes. “I have a migraine.”
I chuckle. “A hangover.”
Bedevil lowers her hand to glare at me.
“A migraine,” I manage.
“I have to get up.” Bedevil says this, but she doesn’t move.
“And yet, there you lie.”
She throws her arms down, and shouts, “I have to get up now!” She looks over at the TV and sees I’m watching her shark thing. “Oh, no. What have you done?”
“What time is that thing? That review?” I know that’s painful, but it’s happening, whether she wants it to, or not.
“Noon,” Bedevil says. She stares at the TV screen.
“You gonna be okay?” I ask.
“No.” Bedevil glances at me. “They might send me to rehab.”
Bedevil sits up and rubs her temples.
My phone buzzes on the glass table. The table reverberates, breaking the quiet tension.
Remise is calling me. I answer. “Hello?”
“Ye gotta get down ‘ere, Gabe!” Remise shouts. “The Bay Biters were attacked!”