I poured myself another glass of wine and cranked up my radio as I tried to drown out the noise of the parade below. I honestly didn't know how many glass of wine I have drank today and I really didn't care. I don't care about much any more. I mean, what's the point?
I leaned against the glass window of my loft as I watched the colors of the parade below. There was an abundance of red, white and blues. The parade was to celebrate the grand opening of the Liberty League Headquarters. It been almost a year and a half since the former one had been violently demolished. It's funny how many threats the headquarters had received by super villains over the years and the one to finally destroy it had been one of Auburn City's greatest superheroes. I don't mean 'funny' ha ha, that was a great joke. I mean 'funny' as in the humorless, sick and twisted irony that is my life. Everything is so messed up. The fact that I even chose to get out of bed today is amazing.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Narracot." Kane greeted brightly as he emerged from my private elevator carrying a grocery bag and my bag of laundry. His upbeat optimism was tiring and I could only handle him in small doses. He was the college student I had hired to run my errands, clean my apartment and keep my goldfish alive.
Today he was wearing a red T-shirt that read "I don't run. And if you see me running, you should run too because something is chasing me.". His glasses were a size too big and he has to push them back up like every five minutes when they start to fall down the bridge of his nose, for some reason it irritates me on a level that I don't completely comprehend. His chocolate brown hair was a shaggy mess that he rarely styled.
I make a grunting noise in greeting. "I've told you at least a dozen times, it's Nova. Don't call me Ms. Narracot. You make me sound like an old lady and I am actually younger then you are."
"I don't think I am comfortable addressing Auburn's greatest hero so casually." He told me.
"Ugh, stop right there." I snap at him sharply and turn my attention back to the window.
I could hear him sigh across the room. Out of the corner of my eye I see him set my laundry down on top of one of my hot pink living room chairs. He walks into the kitchen and starts to take care of my groceries. He takes out the barely touched week old produce from my fridge and replaces it with the fresh produce. He does a sweep of the kitchen and collects all of the empty wine bottles I have scattered about. "Your food looks untouched. Have you eatten today, Ms. Narracot?" He questions me.
I just shrug in response.
"When is the last time you ate?" He lets out an irritated sigh when I just shrug again. "You do realize that I am going to have to report this to Justice, right?" He demands.
"Tell her whatever you want. I don't care." I answer without looking away from the window.
He sighed again as he walked over to me and looked down at the celebration with me. "They would love it if you joined them." He told me.
"I highly doubt that." I snicker. "I don't want anything to do with them."
"Alright. I will leave you be." He told me. "Please do me a favor and try to eat something. There are some of those Greek yogurts with the nuts on the side. I know you like those."
I shrug with indifference.
"Alright, Ms. Narracot, have a good evening. I will be back tomorrow to clean. One of those yogurts better be gone when I check tomorrow." He threatens emptily. We both know that he can't make me do anything. When I don't respond he asks me gently, "Are you going to be okay today?"
"Today is no different then any other day, Kane." I tell him as I get up and pour myself another glass of wine. He watches me for a moment. He seems to be debating on saying something to me but he just shakes his head and leaves.
"Good God, Nova."
I looked up to see the great and powerful Justice Girl standing above me. She was still in full uniform in a red skirted unitard with a blue star trim. She wore blue knee high boots and a blue bandit mask over her bright green eyes. Her long black hair was pulled back in a braid. Her bright red lips had a jagged white scar across them. Every time I saw it, it made me sick to my stomach knowing that I had been the one to give it to her and permanently disfigure her. She shook her head with disgust and disappointment at me.
I think it was still the same evening. I don't even know. Time makes no difference when you are just waiting for your death. I guess I had passed out on my bathroom floor again. I was laying on the cold black tiles and had apparently tried to make a nest out of my hot pink bathroom rugs.
"Jennifer..." I muttered in greeting as I sat up. "What do I owe this pleasure?"
"I was worried about you." She told me simply.
"Great, well obviously, I am fine. You can go back to saving the world now." I snickered as I forced myself to stand up. I was glad to see that I was wearing some short athletic shorts and a tank top. Sometimes I have a tendency to remove my top for some unknown reason with I black out.
"Nova, don't be like that." Justice told me quietly. "Can't we just talk?"
"What is there to talk about?" I demand as I walk past her into my living room. The room had a black and hot pink theme in place. I had smashed most of the pictures and personal items that had been in the room a long time ago. There were a few hot pink chairs scattered about in no real arrangement. A black leather couch with an assortment of hot pink pillows sat in front of an unplugged cracked plasma TV. I plopped down on the couch and poured myself a glass of wine from the bottle that was sitting on a glass coffee table.
"Really, Nova?" Jennifer demanded.
"Sorry, did you want a glass?" I questioned.
"You know superheroes don't drink alcohol." She replied tiredly.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing I am no longer a superhero." I snicker as I take a sip.
"We missed you at the grand opening today." She told me.
"Oh, was that today? I must have forgot." I snickered back. "You know how busy my schedule is."
"You should stop by and check out the new headquarters. It's pretty amazing. We have a super high tech training center now and state of the art computers. Everyone would really like to see you." Jennifer told me.
"I doubt that." I roll my eyes.
"No one blames you for what happened nearly as much as you do." She scolded me. "I am not the only one that worries about you. You haven't left this apartment in a year."
"Do you see that?" I pointed towards the ceiling.
"What?" She demanded as she looked up.
"That's how many fucks I give. Go ahead and count them."
She gave me an exasperated look. "I know Starburst is in there somewhere. Underneath all of that hurt and bitterness is my partner; Starburst, who saw the good in everyone and believed that everyone deserved a second chance and that the whole world was kittens and rainbows."
"That worked out well, didn't it?" I rolled my eyes. "I hate to break it to you but Starburst is dead."
"I don't believe that. You might have given up but I still believe in you." Jennifer replied quietly.
I rolled my eyes. "You've seen too many after school specials. This is the real world. Wake up."
"No." She snapped. "You wake up. There are people that care about you. You can't live in this state of self-hatred forever. You need to get out of this apartment. You need to go back to doing the things that you enjoy. Maybe take a vacation and get away for a while."
I shrugged. Her words bounced off me like rain on an umbrella. I don't know why she keeps coming to see me. Sometimes we fight and sometimes we cry. Neither one of us enjoys it. She needs to move on with her life and stop visiting my grave. She was head of the Auburn City Liberty League now. She had other things to worry about besides the current state of my liver.
She sighed. "Your therapist told me that you have canceled your last few appointments and Kane told me today that you've stopped eating again."
"I am not of your damsels in distress. I don't need rescuing. For once, just let it go." I tell her as I reached for the wine bottle to give myself a refill. I yelped out as she grabbed the end of the table and threw the entire table and it's contents with her super strength across the room. It slammed into the wall, where it shattered into a million pieces.
"That was a brand new table." I tell her.
"GODDAMN IT, NOVA!" She snarled out venomously at me. "Do you think I enjoy this?! Coming here day after day yelling at the husk of who you used to be?! I don't know you any more because who you are right now is not the Nova that I know!"
"Would you prefer the brainwashed super villain?" I snicker.
"I miss my best friend! I miss the girl that spent her free time volunteering at animal shelters and cries at Disney movies! The girl that was the superhero, Starburst, who always knew what to say to make someone's day! That's the girl I would prefer!" Her voice was choked with tears. "You are not the only one suffering. You are not the only one that's been hurt from this. Dark Starburst tried to kill me. She looked me in the eyes as she choked me out. The numbness and indifference in your eyes now is almost worse then all of the hate in her eyes."
"Stop talking like Dark Starburst is a different person. She is me." I said with annoyance.
"Switch ripped out your personality and completely reversed it. The things you did as Dark Starburst was not you. You are not that person." She told me.
"Everyone keeps saying that but it's my memories. It's my hands that were choking you. I destroyed headquarters and did more damage to the city then any of the villains ever have. I am the one that has to live with the things I've done." I responded.
"You aren't alone, Nova. If you would just let me in, I could help you." She sighed tiredly. This was a rebounding argument that we got into almost weekly. "Look, I know that you are scared but you are not going to become that person again. Switch is locked up at the Super Human Detainment Center. She is not getting out anytime soon. Even if she somehow managed to bring back Dark Starburst we have the ray that we had created from her powers to reverse them."
"There's no way that could possibly bite you in the ass." I mutter sarcastically.
A red athletic bracelet wrapped around Justice's wrist began to vibrate with a buzzing noise. She was on call and somewhere nearby a super villain was wreaking havoc. She let out an annoyed groan. "Uggh. I have to go. I want you to think about what we talked about. Reschedule your therapy appointments and start eating again or I will have you institutionalized as a danger to yourself. I am serious this time, Nova." She informed me.
"Right." I answered with an impassive shrug. The hero just shook her head as she headed over to the elevator.
"Have a good day, Nova." She told me as she got into the elevator. "Take care of yourself. I will stop by IKEA and get you a new table."
As soon as she was gone I went into the kitchen to find one of the several bottles of wine I have hidden throughout the apartment. This one happened to be in an empty cereal box. I grabbed the bottle and went back to bed.
It was several days later in my wine and Ambien cycle as I awakened from my slumber with a start. It was pitch black in my bedroom but I could sense that someone was there. It was an uneasy feeling that crept into my spine and crawled into my stomach. Something was not quite right in my sanctuary. I sat up as I tried to adjust my eyes to the darkness and evaluate my surroundings. I could make out the outline of my dresser and the large butterfly chair in the corner.
A pair of glowing blue eyes appeared out of the darkness. Before I could even react a hand roughly clamped down over my mouth and shoved me back down onto my bed. He pounced on me and pinned me in place. "Starburst, it's been a while." A familiar voice chuckled in my ear. His voice had a predatory growl to it. I could feel him sniffing my hair and the curves of my neck. He pulled back and took his hand off my mouth.
"Hyena..." I growled out.
"Aww, you do remember me." He snickered back. He ran his fingers through my hair. I roughly smacked his hand away and he tightly grabbed onto my arms.
"How did you even get in here?" I demanded. "My apartment is Liberty League protected."
"There are holes in your security system." He shrugged. "It only took me about a week to find them. You might want to get that looked into."
I sighed tiredly. "What do you want?"
"I am kidnapping you." He informed me.
"No, you aren't." I answered back.
"It's so adorable that you think you have a choice." He chuckled coldly. I started struggling roughly and bucking like a wild bronco underneath him. Both of our physical strengths are accelerated above average human strength, nothing too powerful. I couldn't bend steel or anything like Justice Girl can but I could out bench-press most men. Hyena and I were evenly matched on our best days. Today was not one of those days. I was very out of practice and in a slight daze from the lingering effects of the sleeping pills I had mixed with alcohol. He let go of me and slapped me hard across the face. I felt blood drip down my chin from a cut in my lip. While I was stunned he shoved me hard into the bed. I yelped as something sharp stabbed me in the abdomen. A needle?
"What was that?!" I demanded.
"A tranquilizer." He shrugged.
"Tranquilizer?! I eat that shit for breakfast!" I informed him as I produced a pink burst of energy in the palm of my hand. It quickly faded back into nonexistence as I passed out before I could smash it into his skull.
Even on the days when I drink to the point of throwing up everything I have ever put in my stomach, I have never been hung over. It took me a while to realize that I don't get hung over. I got my superpowers when I was fourteen and was fast tracked into the Liberty League training. I became a full superhero at eighteen and I followed the strict moral code of superheroes. I never had a drink till recently. I have yet to have a hang over. It might be a side effect of my powers. I don't really know.
My head was throbbing and it hurt to look directly into the lights of the room. I think this is what it would feel like to be hung over. It is probably a side effect from the tranquilizer I had been jabbed with.
It took me a moment to be able to get a good assessment of my surroundings. My arms were chained above me. If I was at full strength I might have been able to break out of them but currently, that was not an option. There was a cloth gag or something that had been shoved into my mouth. I was still in my pajamas; a pair of purple shorts and a grey tie-dyed tank top that was intended for yoga.
There was blood everywhere. I watched a stream of blood trickle across the white floors into a drain. As my eyes adjusted to the light I was able to lift my eyes up from the floor. I was in a large open white room. Several chains with hooks hung from the ceiling. Slabs of meat from a large animal, probably a cow, hung from a few of them. I could hear the whirl of saw blades coming from the next room. I was in a slaughterhouse.
"Oh good, you're awake."
I looked over to see my nemesis, Levi 'Hyena' Monroe lounging on a leather couch. He seriously had a lounge set up in the middle of the slaughter house with a leather couch, a couch of matching chairs and a small cart that normally would be holding instruments of animal slaughter but had been transformed into a mini bar. He must have a Pintrest board specializing in lair décor for sociopaths. His feet were propped up on a steel industrial coffee table that had been covered in various band and skater stickers.
Besides the glowing blue eyes and predatory aura he had about him, Levi could almost be confused with a normal young adult. He didn't play the secret identities and capes game. Everyone knew who he was. He was wearing a black v-neck and torn jeans that had probably came from the mall with some bright red Converse.
I felt a wave of nausea as I saw that he was eating a raw heart. It was large so it was most likely from a cow or something similar. It was bloody raw but he was eating it in a civilized manor with a knife and a fork. He made eye contact with me as he licked away a drop of blood that rolled down his chin. I really hoped that I wasn't about to throw up with a gag shoved my throat. I was aware that dying in a pool of my own vomit was highly likely but I wasn't ready for that day to be today.
At least he was feeding the hyena. Levi was easier to deal with when his human side was running the show. I knew his Liberty League file back to back. Levi Monroe had once been the stereotypical perfect Catholic private school football player. He had been born into an upper class family and had lived a life of privilege but grew up with a generous nature. He spent a lot of his time doing volunteer work and helping out the unfortunate. He had gone to an Ivy League college on a football scholarship. After his completion of college he went on a missionary trip to Ethiopia. That trip change his entire life.
The details are a bit sketchy of what happened in Ethiopia but he stayed in a small village for a while just helping out and spreading the word of Jesus, whatever it is that missionaries do. One night a war lord went through the village and slaughtered all of them. Levi ran and became lost in the savanna. He wandered for days till he found some caves that had been forgotten many many years ago, even among the locals. The caves had once been sacred to an ancient animal deity worshiping civilization. Something was still apparently active in those caves because Levi had left them completely changed by the spirit of a hyena.
His before and after personality tests the League somehow acquired are a psychologist's wet dream. His aggression levels had increased tenfold. He had been a vegetarian in his pre-Hyena days but now he was cruel and blood thirsty with a hunger for raw flesh. He was more beast than man most of the time. He was a dangerous foe to get on the wrong side of. It made him the perfect candidate for the leader of the Thieves' Guild, a burglary ring that was behind much of the major thefts in Auburn City. He was the alpha hyena and it was his pack for him to lead.
He walked over and roughly grabbed me by the back of my hair. He grabbed my jaw in his other hand so I had nowhere else to look besides into the primal blue fires of his eyes. "If I take out this gag, am I going to get Nice Starburst or Crazy Bitch Starburst?"
I give him a dark glare and he just smirked in return. "Crazy bitch, it is." He muttered and roughly yanked the gag from my mouth.
I coughed out as I tried to get moisture back into my mouth. As soon as I could form words I growled out, "You bastard!".
He backhanded me hard across the jaw splitting my swollen lip again. "That doesn't sound like something a superhero would say." He informed me.
"Would you like to hear a few more things a superhero wouldn't say?" I snickered as I spat out a mouth full of blood across the floor.
He looked me over with an amused expression and laughed. His laughter was an eerie unhuman sound. It always sent shivers down by spine. "I was afraid the fight had been knocked out you. It's good to see that there's something left."
"Untie me and I will show you exactly what's left." I growled back.
He growled as he grabbed the back of my neck and pulled himself close to me. He had very little sense of personal boundaries. "Tempting but I didn't just go through the trouble of bringing you here because I missed you. I actually brought you here for a reason."
"If...if it's because of what happened last time we met...I am really truly and honestly sorry..." I told him quietly.
A surprised expression crossed his face. He shook his head and chuckled. "You mean when you broke my collar bone and tried to kill me?"
"Yeah, I... I am sorry..." I said lamely. "I know that doesn't mean anything to you but I do mean it."
"I know you do." He shrugged as he reached out and stroked my hair. "But there's no need for it. Your evil ego was a psychotic bitch. You are not the same as her. You don't even smell the same."
"We smell different?" I questioned.
"You smell like stardust and vanilla, well you did, now it's mostly wine and loathing but your natural scent is still underneath it. She reeked of burnt stardust." He told me.
"I don't think those are real scents..."
"Do you have the super senses of a hyena?! Just because they aren't in Bath and Body works doesn't mean that they aren't real scents." He growled out at me.
"Okay. Jesus." i rolled my eyes. I didn't realize that was a touchy subject with him.
"I am not going to punish you for something she did." He reached up and ran his fingers over my arms chained above me. "Unless you want me to."
"Levi..." I said with an edge of irritation. "I am not in a good mood and I am honestly not feeling too great. If you have a point, please make it."
"That's what I like about you, Stardust, you get straight to the point." He smirked. "If I unchain you, are you going to behave?"
I let out an annoyed sigh and nodded.
"If you misbehave I will hang you back up here from your feet." He sneered in my ear as he unhooked the chains holding me up. He caught me around the waist as I nearly fell. I let him help me over to his lounge.
"Want a bite?" He teased as he moved his plate of half eaten heart from the couch to his coffee table.
"No but I will take a drink." I told him
He smirked with amusement as he walked over to his minibar and made some sort of gin tonic with what appeared to be pomegranate juice in it.
"Thanks." I said as he walked back over and handed me a glass. He just shrugged as he took a sip from his own glass. He causally put his arm around the back of the couch where I was sitting. I tried not to let it show that it irritated me.
"As much as I enjoy toying with you, let's get down to business. I need your help with something." He informed me.
"You realize that I am retired, right? Why don't you go bother Justice Girl or Flare?" I question.
"Retired?" He snickered. "Is that what you tell yourself?" He shakes his head. "No, it has to be you. Those two are idiots."
"They are not idiots." I argued.
He just rolled his eyes. "That's debatable but not important right now. I chose to bring you here."
"Why?" I asked with irritation.
"What's wrong, Darling? Didn't you miss me?" He teased.
"Get to the point. I don't have all night, Levi." I growled back.
"Really? Why? Do you have a hot date or a busy day at work tomorrow?" He snickered. "Stalking you for the past week has been very depressing."
"You always tell me the sweetest things." I grumbled. It unnerved me that's he's been stalking me for a week without my knowledge.
He sighed as his expression grew serious. He leaned forward with his forearms resting on his knees as he seemed to be thinking about what to say. "There has quite a few disappearances lately."
"What?" I frowned. His statement took me by surprise and I had no idea what he was talking about.
"Mostly some of the street runaways. I wasn't aware of it till a couple of Thrash's crew went missing." He told me.
"Thrash?" I questioned.
"He has a small pickpocketing ring. They pay me for protection." He explained. "I promised them protection and I keep my promises. I am looking into the disappearance of a pair of twins that worked for him. They are supers and ran away from home at a young age. They are fourteen year old girls with telepathic powers, apparently only to each other."
"I am sorry... why am I here?" I wanted to know.
"I am a hunter, not a detective. I need your help finding them." He explained.
"I am not a detective either." I reminded him.
"You worked in law enforcement." He argued.
"I beat the shit out of people on camera for a living." I rolled my eyes.
"I don't think I have ever heard crime fighting phrased quite like that." He smirked a little.
"Surprisingly, your heart is actually in the right place on this one but I am afraid I can't help you. I have never done investigative work in my life. I can get Justice or Flare to help you or I can put in a word with the police but there is nothing I can do." I told him.
"You would turn your backs on innocents?"
"They are pickpockets, they aren't exactly innocent. How do you know they didn't just run away?" I asked.
"They left an abusive environment that didn't understand their powers. Many of the other teens in Thrash's crew have the same upbringing. They wouldn't just leave without a word." He explained. "When I started looking into this I found out that there are others. All runaways. All supers. They are just disappearing." He actually looked worried. "Something is happening. What if it's a hate crime? Are you going to turn your back on your people, Nova?"
"Slow down. You said that there are disappearances. Not murders. Why would this be a hate crime?" I demanded.
He rolled my eyes like I was stupid. "Why is it only supers that are disappearing? Supers that most people wouldn't care about or notice were gone?"
"You need to go to the police." I told him.
"Really? You think that would go over well?" He snickered.
"You can put in an anonymous tip or-"
He shook his head. "No, this needs to be taken care of by a super. Help me find the twins and I will let you live out the rest of your alcoholic days undisturbed."
"Why do you need my help?" I wanted to know.
"I trust you." He shrugged. "I have a criminal empire to run. I don't have the time and most people probably wouldn't talk to me but you are a beloved icon and most of the kids would probably talk to you. All I am asking for you to do is ask around and see what you can find out. If you find that someone is responsible for the disappearances, give the information to me and I will take care of it." He said with a slight growl.
"I...Uggggghhh... I will see what I can do..." I groaned out. "In return I want a favor from you."
"A favor?" He questioned.
"I don't know yet. I am saving it for a rainy day." I replied. "But I am not going to just run your errands for free. I want a future favor in return."
He nodded with a wicked grin. "I should know better then to underestimate you. Very well, I will grant you that request." He held his hand out to me. I frowned at him but put my hand in his handshake. He squeezed harder and longer then necessary.
"Am I going to regret this?" I ask him.
He just shrugs. "It's too early to tell." He nods his head towards the front doors of the slaughterhouse. "My driver will take you home now. He will pick you up tomorrow afternoon to go speak with Thrash. I will be in contact with you. I intend on being kept in the loop. You may leave now... unless you want to spent the night with me."
I shoot him a dark glare. "Good night, Levi."
"Sweet dreams, Nova." He smirked back.
I turned on my heels and walked out of the slaughterhouse where a tinted black car was waiting for me. One of Hyena's henchmen got out of the car and opened the door for me. I hesitated as I looked around. We were somewhere on the outskirts of town. I could hear cows nearby that were waiting for their doom.
"Ms. Starburst, Hyena has advised me to make sure you get home safe. I assure you that nothing will happen to you in my care." The henchman told me politely.
I sigh and get into the car. A year ago I would never have gotten into one of Hyena's car. A year ago I would not be caught dead doing favors for my enemies. Things were more black and white back then. There was only good and evil; right and wrong. Things were so much easier back before my life was filled with a grey void. I no longer can tell what is right and wrong.