"Rose!" Sister said, hugging me from behind. "So good to see you've deigned to grace me with your presence. Your insistence on living in the lower levels, while admirable, is a hindrance. You should live here. Many would kill to be a part of this family, and yet you only visit when I ask. Why can't we be close, like we were before you got your powers?"
I shivered. How long had Sister been watching me?
Sister smiled knowingly. "Not long."
She must have had business then. Sister would never pass up an opportunity to tease me for my affinity to Reflex. She always said that I ought to be a little more bashful. Good girls don't gloat. But nobody had thought I'd be able to defeat Reflex. I was fourteen, and had only had a single lame duck power for a few months, but I'd managed to defeat the strongest Super in Hellywood. It was the start of my legend, the start of my journey towards greatness. Just like mother had been for Sister.
"You're thinking of Mother again," Sister said sadly, stroking my silky red hair. "But you misremember. Your bad habit is rearing up again. You romanticize her past, you treat her as an idol, even still you try and act like her. You think I don't see how you stare at the trophies you've earned? The shame, the guilt, the self-loathing. All those feelings are unnecessary. Unworthy of your attention. Do you remember why I killed her Rose?"
"You always used to tell me she loved me," I said, but even as a child I had understood. I hadn't been intelligent, focused, or hard working. I hadn't been beautiful or athletic. But even if I had been all those things, I still would have been an embarrassment, because I was magicless. "That she was… Proud."
"She should have been," Sister said, venom laced in her words. "I was. Rose, you and I are alike. We believe that people can change. That when given the opportunity people can become more than they are. But Mother believed in the ideas of the old nobility. Genius, rigI almost wished he hadn't. Sister's trophy's always made me feel… Well echoes of emotions, but of course, I'd left those behind years ago. I wandered around the garden. Looked at the beautiful lilacs, the zephrines hanging from wooden arches, the fountain cascading water into a koi pond, and of course at all the trophies she'd collected.
Most of them didn't bother me anymore. I hadn't created the majority of them, no matter what the media liked to say. Those I had, I'd been under orders. I wasn't some… It was never about fun or superiority or some goddamn twisted form of sexuality, it was about filial duty. I had no reason to feel remorse. But still… Their glassy gazes seemed to follow me screaming so loudly. Agony. Pain. Traitor. But it was all in my head of course. I'd already beaten them.
All that made a Super super was their powers. I was proof of that. So were they. Deplorable losers, so smug with their blessed blood, they deserved what they'd gotten.
As always, I found that I'd stumbled towards the first trophy I'd ever earned. Unlike some of the other statues, this one didn't have a flashy costume, it was simply an ordinary middle-aged Japanese man. For almost a decade the man had been one of the finest Supers in Hellywood. One of its pillars along with the T-800 and The Flash. Then one day, Reflex had vanished.
"You'd be interested to know that I met Sanae earlier today," I whispered to the trophy. "You would have been proud. Through everything, she still has a kind heart. She formed an alliance of Supers recently. They call themselves-"
hteousness, beauty, power: she thought they were all decided at birth. I always desired to make you a Super, but mother never allowed it. So I did what I had too, and I did it honestly. With your consent I made you a Super in front of our mother's corpse. With every bloody trophy you drag in here you prove me right. Supers should be made not born. I need you Rose, to force our reality into existence. Help me."
Sister's fingertips massaged my scalp. It wasn't something she'd ever done before mother had passed. Sister would never have pet me like a dog. Tried to manipulate me like I was some simpleton. And she would never have done it so successfully.
I grit my teeth. "I can sway her to our side."
Sister stopped petting. I waited, but she said nothing.
"I, look I uh- I just y'know?" I'd investigated her, I'd tailed her for a month, but by all appearances the woman was a good person. A great person. So what had she done? Why did I have to… Why couldn't Sister tell me why? I didn't want to do this anymore. Not without a good reason-
Sister… She… Her…
Keep calm. Everything was going to be okay. I was going to be okay.
I was going to be okay. I just had to say what I felt, and Sister would understand. After all, we were siblin-
"I need another day," I whispered weakly.
Sister's grip tightened around my skull. "Get it done tonight. Kill her, if you have too."
"As you command." It was just another trophy. Just another shot to the heart. Just another betrayal. Just one more. "But why? How does The Empress further our goals? How does this help you? You can tell me. I'm on your side Renna."
Sister smiled, and I could see a flicker of Renna's old warmth in her eyes. She ruffled my hair. "It's always good to see my favorite little sister." Her grip tightened, and she forced me to my knees. Shoved my face into the beautiful garden's fertilizer. "How many times have I told you to stop calling me by the name given to me by Mother? How many times have I told you not to question my orders? Why must you make me do this dearest sister? Can't you see how it pains me?"
Well no. I couldn't see anything. I'd turned my face to steel as soon as Sister's grip had tightened. Why did Sister hate being called Renna? Why didn't Sister trust me anymore? What was Sister trying to accomplish? I knew she had other servants. I had to find them. Find out what they were doing. I had to learn about Sister's past. I had to learn how Sister got her wealth. I had to learn everything about my sister, so I could find out why she'd changed.
Renna used to be The Flash. A super so beloved Sanae had modelled her career after her, but now she was Hellywood's greatest villain. I had to find a way to reverse the-
I was weightless. Must've been thrown. I steeled my entire body, and waited a few seconds. My irises expanded from the flood of light, until Sister's furious visage came into focus.
"I'm not a villain! The Supers are the villains!"
Perhaps Sister was right. The only way to know for sure was to act on Marco's suggestion. Join the Super Alliance. Maybe it would be fun. Of course it would be fun! Why had I never thought of it before? I'd get to follow in her mother's footsteps, and in Renna's footsteps too.
"Rose!" Sister screamed. She was shaking. "You are NOT to join the Super Alliance!" Sister's fists glowed, her hair caught fire, and duplicates coalesced around me. Each had all of Sister's stolen powers. Each could end me with a flick of the wrist.
I'd been around her long enough to know when Sister decided to kill something. Haphazard plans ran through my mind, but I knew they were worthless. I could never beat my older sister. If Sister wanted me dead there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. All I could do was beg, plead for my life, and apologize. What could it be? What was wrong with joining the Supers? Those fools didn't even know about Sister. What had I said, how could I make this better? Think Rose, think! Fuck! I couldn't think gooder by trying harder! Better! Gooder wasn't even a- who gave a fuck about grammar? Who gave a fuck about not giving a- This wasn't going anywhere. I had to focus. I had to stop thinking about how I had to focus, and actually think about how-
"Do not become my enemy." Sister softened. "Remember father Rose. He is worthless to me. If you betray me I will kill him."
I shivered. Dropped to my knees. I didn't know what words Sister wanted to hear. I'd never understood Sister. How could she throw the life of a Super away? She'd had the adoration of Hellywood's public, she'd been the heir to the wealthiest family, she'd had the love of father and mother, she'd had the life a normal person would kill for, and she'd destroyed it all like it was worthless. And yet Sister still seemed to treasure me. That must've been it! "Forgive my disobedience. Those traitorous thoughts were just a passing dalliance. They mean nothing. I will do as you wish. I love you."
Sister… I couldn't look. I felt chilled to the bone, but perspiration tingled on my skin like knives. I waited, and waited, but Sister said nothing, allowed me to keep groveling. Was she displeased, did she want more penitence? "I…" I tried. "I need a silver convertible for the mission. And a new cellphone."
Keys jangled, and I took them from Sister. The message was clear. My outbursts would be tolerated so long as I remained useful. I had to remain useful. For father, for Sister, for my own safety.
As I was going down the elevator I reiterated to myself that there was no need to feel guilty about what I was doing. I had no agency. No choice. I was just following orders.
As I cruised to my destination in my silver convertible I looked in the mirror and worked on making my eyes perfect. Everything else could be a little off, but not the eyes. They had to be perfect.
I smirked. Sent a text to Marco asking if he knew Spanish. Sis could read minds, but her telepathy had a range and she could only read conscious thoughts. I had made sure I'd thought of joining the Super Alliance when replying to Sister's text, but the fool had only realized my plan after I'd thought of it in front of her. It had been a good idea to confirm she was a telepath. I had been very, very lucky that Sister had thrown a temper tantrum or I would have revealed all my plans, as I didn't yet have the tools to conceal my thoughts.
Hah! So that was why my old master had always gotten plastered before meeting with Sister! Having a sharp mind only hurt you with a telepath.
Renna was still the simple girl she'd been when we were kids. She'd just stolen a useful power. Another piece to the puzzle.
Next mission: Learn Spanish.
Rocky took a deep breath, steeled his nerves, and knocked on the door. The high-rise apartments in the lower thermo-floors had always seemed strange to him. It was made possible by the fact that as the floor numbers in Hellywood got higher, the height of each floor rose as well. It was to better copy the ancient world, back when people frolicked outside practically naked. It was all so wrong. One always oughtta be able to touch the sky.
Carrie Covington interrupted his thoughts with a greeting. She was a middle-aged brunette, who most would describe as average looking, if in good shape. But to him she was beautiful. "What are you doing here? I thought we'd planned for tomorrow."
"Can't." Rocky scowled. If he had things his way they would have. He'd been planning and planning, saving two months of pay, but his boss had gotten hormonal and demanded he finish the job ahead of time. He ain't complain, he knew how suits were, tryin' to 'splain that he had a life outsidah' work wouldn't get him nowhere. "Gotta deadline moved up on me."
"You could've just called," Carrie said softly, tapping her cell phone. "We can do it some other time. I'm not mad. How could I be, with how often I make you rearrange your schedule?"
Rocky smiled lightly. Carrie was a sweetheart. He always wondered why she'd chose him. He used to figure it was just some 'sperimenting, and maybe it was, but after tonight he'd have the truth. "I want to ask you something. It's important. Can I come in?"
Carrie hesitated. "Of course."
Rocky brushed past her. Bumped one of her bookshelves with a shoulder. He grabbed a couple books to keep 'em from falling. One was about a suit and a twiggy looking vampire, another about a noblewoman and one of 'em pirates like from the movies, another about a… He put the books back in the shelf. These weren't for him to see. He knew them books, he knew he ain't like the men in them. He never gotten used to his big body. Broad shoulders. It was weird growing into a man. It was embarrassin', but Carrie seemed to like it, so he guessed it was for the best.
"You had dinner?" He asked.
"No." She said. "I was…"
"Working?" Rocky finished.
He still didn't know what Carrie did for a living. She got real skittish 'bout it, but people deserved their secrets. He started cooking. Steak and salad. He poured a dark red wine into one of them cups rich people used specially for alcohol. Everything here costed so much. He ain't never thought he'd be able to eat like a suit. "You ever feel bad 'bout this? I'm sure your friends are tellin' ya it ain't right. Maybe you oughtta go for a guy from the thermosphere."
Carrie smiled from the dining room. Her apartment had a buncha' rooms, just another way suits liked to make everything real complicated. "I'm lucky to have you. I never thought I'd meet someone who, you know… Understands." Carrie flicked on her television. Another heroine from the Super Alliance was streaming again. Not the Reverse Flash, not the Empress, but Raven. She was okay, but she ain't never go down to the floors where he worked. "That I can't share everything with them. That trusts me. That's okay with my secrets."
Rocky smirked, and plopped a ring into the wine. He found the gold in it himself, popped open hundreds of laptops, and even some smart phones for it. "I got some too. We all do. It's normal."
The dinner proceeded as it always did. Carrie peppered him something nice with questions 'bout work. He raided the dumps in the lower levels for stuff rich folks like Carrie wanted, mostly copper, gold, and other precious metals. Recently, they'd been having a lot of fires. His suit thought it was a hole in the insulation. Probably. Always seemed to be. They needed to find it, patch it up real good, or the fires would pour in and the whole floor would be lost. Carrie always seemed concerned about his headaches, but it was just a tiny trifle compared to those who worked in the factories. Most of the friends he'd grown up with, treated him like a suit himself, and he didn't disagree. All he had to do was deal with a little fuzziness in his thoughts, he ain't got those worn bones, those scarred bent fingers, he lived an easy life. She just didn't get it. Couldn't get it. But then, he didn't get her either. Why'd she love her secrets so damn much? He'd never told her, but he knew what she was hiding, and he didn't understand why she wouldn't share it with him. She shoulda' been proud.
"Rocky?" Carrie asked. "What is this?" She'd finished the wine.
Breathe Rocky, breathe! He steeled himself. Was this really gonna work? Would she really gonna go for it? This girl made him sweat more than any electronic fire. He got on one knee. "Carrie Carrington, will you marry me?"
She looked down at him. Brown eyes met brown. She nodded, and leaned in. Her lips were soft, light to the touch. A pleasant kiss. Rocky's hair stood on end. He hated this moment and he loved it. He felt alive. This was his purpose, he lived for her, always, no matter what she asked of him he'd always be her loyal dog. He reached into his coat, and tightened his fingers around the handle. He deepened their kiss, and switched off the safety. Locked a hand to the back of her head, felt her tongue coiling around his, aimed, and pulled his glock's trigger. He peaked down. His shot was true.
I'd blown out her heart.
You should see the look on your face! The shock, the confusion, the what the Hell is happening? Well it was me all along! Did the switch to third person get you? I can be sneaky can't I? Rules, conventions, and preconceptions are my weapons. You can't anticipate a sudden shift in perspective. You expect that narrative voice indicates point of view. And you certainly don't expect someone you love to murder you in the middle of a proposal.
I've never killed you plebes. I only hunt the finest. Supers. They loathe me, they prioritize my destruction over everything. Friends, family, and lovers are supposed to be sacred. Not to me. To me they're tools. You know Reflex? Great Super right? One of the three old pillars of Hellywood before the silly little alliance. Well I wore his daughter's face when I stabbed him in the back. He kept asking why! Why!
Why? It's cuz I'm Rose fuckin' Rockefeller! The T-1000! The demon of Hellywood! The greatest Super who has ever lived! Manufactured or born, there ain't never been a Super I couldn't kill.
I apologize. That was grammatically incorrect and included a double negative. What I should have said was that I can kill anyone. I've still got a little Rocky in me. Thought I flushed that dumb hick after I used his face to end his precious little girlfriend.
Shut up you say? Finish the damn story? I've already told you I shot her through the heart, you want details? You want to hear how she died? A little perverse don't you think? It's okay, I can keep your voyeuristic tendencies private.
Between you and me, it's our secret.
Now then. Let's continue.
Carrie stepped back, confused, shocked, and in pain. I was lifted off my feet and slammed through a wall from a telekinetic blast. Didn't hurt. I'd steeled myself as soon as I'd pulled the trigger.
Carrie had crawled to a wall, blood smeared pristine laminated wooden floorboard behind her. A slight groan escaped her lips, full of agony and betrayal.
It was like a refreshing drink after an hour in the sauna. Satisfying, but unnecessary. Her cries were the reward of a job well done. I was a professional killer. That look of betrayal in Carrie's eyes, I put it there.
Not Sister. Me. A truth I only ever grasped as the life in my victims slowly receded into nothingness.
I let my face go, allowed it to transform into its natural form. It must have looked strange, like a trick of the light as one appearance molded into another. As Rocky's harsh masculine features molded into my soft form. Rocky became Rose. No. It became me. The face I only showed to those I killed. The one I was born with. The scarred one, not the perfect thing I'd copied off a model. "Rocky was a real person. I noticed him when I was casing you. I haven't hurt him. What you two had was real. He was planning to propose."
I took a few steps, and closed Carrie's unseeing eyes. "You were a splendid Superhero. The Empress. That's why you had to be killed. You stood in the way of my plans for Hellywood."
After showering I went to the bedroom, and rummaged through the drawers. Found Carrie's costume, and draped it over the corpse. I took a picture on the cell Sister had given me for the mission. Transformed my fingers just in case, rummaged through her kitchen. Found a knife and went to work. Had her head off in a bit. Another trophy to add to Sister's collection. Texted Sis the success with the picture. She'd distribute it to the media, it would be disseminated to the masses, and my legend would grow.
Walked out of the high rise apartment with a brown bag. Cruised off in the convertible. Went to a local library. I didn't have much time. Went to a local computer, signed onto the website. Put on a headset and plugged in a controller.
I was on time for our campaign. I sighed. Glad I hadn't let down the team. I shouldn't have bothered. I couldn't play worth shit, couldn't heal anyone. It wasn't my fault though, the rest of the members were being really annoying. Kept on asking me what was wrong, if everything was okay? Fuckin' pissants.
I knew I couldn't keep doing this. Super Hero Online just wasn't fun anymore. I needed a new hobby.
The next day History class was stalled for a memorial of The Empress. Most of the students had their heads dipped in respect for the former leader of the Super Alliance. A little television played in front of the classroom. I tried not to smirk. Failed like I always did when Hellywood tried to mourn one of their smug Supers. One of these days I'd like to send the media a snuff film of their beloved Supers. Show them how their precious heroes died so easily. How weak, how human they were. Proud and noble in life, they died like any other loser.
"We must, absolutely must prevent another tragedy," the newscaster wept. Crocodile tears. These public funerals were such a farce. It became a competition of who could be saddest. You suits can be so pathetic. "The police say they have no leads, but we all know who did this. The T-1000! How many people must die before we do what we all know we must? We must legalize Super Powers. Then these great citizens could be paid, they wouldn't have to help us behind secret identities, we could force this cowardly monster into the light. We've learned from the failings of the old nobility. We must do all we can to support the Super Alliance…"
I sidled next to Marco. "I've decided to do it." I told him.
A few classmates glared at my apparent disrespect, but Marco understood.
"Really?" He gasped. "You'll join the..."
I nodded. I, the T-1000, the mortal enemy of the Super Alliance was going to join their goody-goody ranks. I'd play their games, I'd walk in their shoes, I'd fight their battles, and I'd kill every last one of them.
So yeah. It was gonna be fun.