Chapter 45

Compassion was a thing very much foreign to Andy. She knew not what it meant, and she had no desire to ever act it out. She didn't care for charity or mercy—not unless it was expressed towards her. It wasn't selfishness or cruelty, though. It was simply her primal nature—unreserved and unchecked because no one had ever taught her to do so.

But rage? She knew that emotion well. She knew how to express, she knew how to feel it, and, most of all, she knew how to provoke it. It was the emotion she felt was most needed to achieve the level of success that she had always wanted. Compassion, charity, mirth, kindness, empathy—none of those would get here anywhere desirable. Who wanted to be a philanthropist?

That did not make her a cruel creature. No, for all Andy's flaws, she was not a beast. She was false and she was abrasive, but she was perfect. Perfect in that she would never deviate from her intentions. That is something to be respected in a world so full of yes-mans and beggars.

Now, once again, there was blood on her hands, and she had the feeling that such a stain would be permanent. There would be no more miraculous rebirths for Jade. He was finished and he was through.

The thought almost saddened her. He had, after all, promised to do so many things for her. Thinking of the power that she could have gotten but never would was almost depressing. But then the memories of all the things she had had to do and all the things she one day would banished all future feelings of remorse. Jade had brought her more trouble than aid.

She looked down at her hands, which were scalded and red from the magic she had channeled through them, and sighed. She wondered how much grief she would get from killing Jade, and she wondered if she would be able to leave the base without a fight. Knowing how her luck tended to run, she would probably have to fight her way out. It sounded very familiar to the last time she had tried to get out of the eternally needing hands of the Black Sleeves.

Would it be safe for her to leave the room? She really wasn't sure. She knew that the door was sealed—Jade had told her about it when they first came in—but she didn't think that it would hold for long. Maybe it was magic that protected her, but that magic wouldn't remain steadfast if the one who implemented it was dead. She wasn't too keen on magical theory, but she wasn't too keen on wishful thinking either.

She would be ready, though. There would be no weak, lame retreat from Andrea The Great. She would be sure to give that damned cult what was coming to it. Be it destruction or only minor damages—she would be sure.

That's when the sound of a gunshot caught her attention. It was faint, but she could hear it. Her thoughts instantly ran to her being under attack.

"I've only got a little bit of time, then," she told herself, breathing heavily.

She could wait until the seal on the door broke down, or she could charge them, perhaps getting the upper hand. She liked the upper hand, too—it was nice. Slowly, she pulled as much magic out of the room that she could. Most of it was from her final assault upon Jade—still lingering in the air like the smell of clean laundry—but some of it seemed to be the magic that made up Jade himself. It was a grim feeling, ciphering off the magic that might have, at one time, kept Jade's nose so Roman. She had to shake the feeling if she wanted to make it out of there alive, though.

"I can think about how gross this place is when I'm safe," she told herself.

With all the courage that remained in her weakening self, she walked over to the door and stole the remaining magic from the seal. Once it was gone, the door swung open.

Andy found herself facing a very odd scene.

Odd in the worst way.

Thomas had little left in him. The very large man that held him by his neck was slowly cutting of the supply of oxygen to his brain, and he was rather sure that he would pass out soon. The pounding racket of his pulse in his ears was starting to fade, and all he could see was Karen on the other side of the room. He focused on her fiery red hair because it was all he could hold onto.

All he could do was stare at it, no longer strong enough to fight his capture, and pretend that he could understand the conversation that was going on in front of him.

"Kill them all," though? He could hear that. Those words echoed throughout his mind several times before even a second had passed. What must have been no more than twenty minutes felt like several days to him.

How wise he had grown in those days.

Hearing those words, though, made him want to fight again. There was little left in him—a kick here and a punch there—but the need to survive was overwhelming. He knew that Andy was alive, and he didn't want to give up before he could see her again.

Thomas had already forgiven her, you see. His sense of hopelessness had passed even before Karen had told him the truth.

That's when the door opened. That damned door that he had spent so much to try and open it. Right there in front of him, it sat. It opened so effortlessly that he felt like screaming and crying and yelling.

But he couldn't. Not with Bruno holding onto him like that.

It was then that something very strange happened. For the first time in all of time, Andy looked to Thomas before everyone else. She saw him and only him. Before the chaos ensued and before he lost track of everything that was going on, their eyes met. The look they both gave each other was of both greeting and farewell.

A grim foretelling of what they both felt, in their gut, would happen.

Andy let loose the magic, thrusting it upon everyone with a weapon out. She wasn't counting good guys or bad guys, only dangerous guys. Karen and Miss Scott were not victimized, but most everyone was. Only those in charge, it seemed managed to get through the first paralyzing blast.

She had not killed anyone, however.

Norman and Drayke were amongst those who had yet to draw their weapons. That was the type of people they were—willing to give orders but never willing to help out.

Andy made up for this, though, before they had the chance to do her any harm. She threw them back against the wall and used the binding magic she had taken from the door to keep them there. She wanted to know where they were when she decided to finish them off.

"I'll kill you two later," she told them before she began to attack the men that were starting to recover. They were the real dangers. Men with guns often beat girls with magic.

Logic dictated such things.

Thomas had been knocked free during this. He scurried around, searching the men that had been rendered useless for any sort of weapon that he could use. He wasn't a fool—he knew that he could do nothing like Andy—but he hoped that he could help her in some way.

He found a gun on the person of the man that had shot at Wade originally. He had no idea how to fire such a thing—that wasn't his world—but he took it up all the same. After all, he had watched enough action movies and had read enough comic books to know that all you have to do is point and squeeze the trigger.

Andy barked out something along the lines of, "Put down your weapons or you're dead," but Thomas hadn't the energy to spare to losing her. His feet were destroyed by the torture he had put them through by trying to kick the door down, and he had a terrible headache from the oxygen deprivation. He wasn't even thinking clearly.

Thomas held up the gun and aimed it at one of the men that was starting to get up. He wasn't sure if he could bring himself to shoot someone, but he knew that he could at least threaten him. Yeah, he had it in him to threaten—

He had been hit by magic before. It wasn't that horrible. He supposed the upset he had felt over the years from being so close yet so distant with Andy was much worse than any pain that she could physically dish out. Even so, it was a shock to feel it course through him.

Only Karen noticed him fall. Andy was too busy attacking and seeking vengeance. She didn't even realize that Thomas was dying by her hand.

What was it like to die? To lie there and stare up at the ceiling as every bit of life slowly seeped onto the floor. He didn't know why he was bleeding, but he was. He had always thought that death by magic was a clean death, and yet he was bleeding.

So many thoughts crossed his mind. He thought about Andy, who had murdered him in her own way, and he thought about Jade, who had once before tried to murder him. How strange it was that his life had revolved around a man that he shouldn't normally know.

Was it wrong that he was dying? He had been depressed for a long time, so he did not feel cheated by it. He would have gladly taken the chance to survive, but death did not feel wrong to him. He wasn't cursing the gods. He wasn't begging for another chance. It was just happening—slowly but surely he was dying.

He did not feel denial. He did not feel apathy. He was just dying. It was painful, but the pain was starting to fade. Much like his vision and his hearing, it all became a muddled mess of gray, lifeless emotions and memories. Yes, there had been life before death, but he was forgetting it all.

As his vision became nothing more than a depressing copy of its former self, he saw a red glimmer before his eyes. The hot feel of hands on him, pressing on the places that were seeping blood… It was nice, but it made him afraid. It made him realize that he was on the verge of leaving that world.

He gazed at the girl who he had never been able to shake his whole life, and felt a touch of sorrow. It was not Andy that came to his side as he died, but Karen. Karen was there when Andy was not. Why wasn't Andy there? She should have been there. He wanted to say goodbye. He wanted her to say goodbye.

He wondered what it would feel like if Andy was there, desperately trying to save his life as he died ever so slowly. If she was there, he would be alive.

If she was there…

Andy could not notice, though. She was too busy destroying the crumbling organization called the Black Sleeves. She had no idea that Thomas had died by her own hand. There was no room for such a thought in a person like her.

When the destruction was nearly complete, she walked over to Norman and Drayke. She didn't even see Karen, who was stopped over Thomas and weeping silently. She only saw her enemies. That's all person like her could focus on.

"I've hated you two for a very long time now," Andy told them both in a slow, calculated voice. Her breathing was shallow and her skin was pale by the immense amount of power she had used in the past few minutes, but her gaze was strong and full of hatred.

Neither of them could speak—she had bound them too perfectly for that—but their eyes told her everything they felt for her. Norman's hatred was much more refined than Drayke's. He looked at her with a mixture of rage and detachment. He was already resigned to his fate. He had been ever since Drayke had pulled the ultimate stunt of stupidity. Drayke simply looked at her with hot, seething detestation.

"I'm going to kill you now. I think that it would help both me but those people over there," she pointed to Wade as she spoke. "I think they mighty quite like me if I did." She leaned in terribly close, looking them both in the eye with a level of defiance and cruelty that neither had ever seen before.

Just as she was amount to start her attack she heard the faint, uneasy voice of someone who was crying. It was so sudden and so strange that it managed to distract her from her grim act.

She turned around to find Karen sitting there, holding Thomas' head in her hands and she sobbed gently. "Don't die, Tommy," she said. "Don't die."

Needless to say, Andy could not bring herself to kill neither Norman nor Drayke that day. Honestly, she wasn't able to stomach killing at all for the rest of her life. The horrible truth often does that to people, and even Andrea The Mighty, Magnificent and Malevolent was not immune.