Don't Date Your Nemesis... And Other Helpful Hints For The Modern Superhero

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Hint 15. An Eye For An Eye

I arrive in my bedroom, tear stains streaking my cheeks, and throw myself into bed. I don’t even bother getting undressed I just pull my duvet up to my chin and try to catch my breath.

Three minutes later, Shark explodes through the window, stumbling in a very unShark-like manner.

“Maya!” He exclaims, staggering towards the bed. He must have been going at a pace to be so unbalanced as he lands.

“Are you alright?” He asks, bending over me. “I’m so sorry. I was so far away, I got there so late. And by the time I arrived you were spinning lies.” He smiles, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Such perfect lies,” he says. “I didn’t want to interrupt and ruin it all.”

“Good lies?” I ask, trying to chuckle even though it comes out more like a cough. “All this criminality must be rubbing off on me.”

Shark laughs but when he peels the duvet cocoon away from my face, his expression darkens immediately. He moves a hand forwards, pressing two fingers against my eye. When they come back, they’re dark with blood.

“He hurt you,” he says. “I told you he’d hurt you.”

“It’s nothing,” I say but Shark’s not having any of it. He looks ready to kill. Leaning in, he flicks a few switches in my subconscious and presses go. We arrive in his living room and I sink down onto the sofa.

The Lady must be having her dog day after all, curled up by the fire. At our arrival, however, she leaps to her feet, switching fluidly back into the slender woman that’s becoming so familiar. She snatches her abandoned mask from the hearth, tying it over her face.

“What happened?” She asks.

“Can you take a look at this already?” Shark growls, gesturing to my face. “You’re the one with the medical degree.”

“You have a medical degree?” I ask as she walks over.

“No. Sort of. I read all the books.”

The Lady bends over, biting her lip. “It’ll scar,” she says, licking her thumb and rubbing it across my eyebrow. “That’s what you get for almost sleeping with Jack Docklen. Mine’s still better, though. Did you get to see his back?”

I shake my head and she smiles. Shark’s still standing in the background, an air of fury so dense about his shoulders that I’m half expecting miniature storm clouds to form above his head. He makes a tiny noise in the back of his throat, barely concealing anger. I don’t understand. Is he getting impatient with her?

“Pity,” she says, ignoring him. “I was proud of that one.”

She straightens, leaving the room and returning a second later with a fluorescent orange first aid kit. She bends down, applying butterfly stitches to my eye, tongue poking out slightly.

“I take it this is Jack’s work, yes?” She says, not waiting for an answer. “Brings back memories,” she says. “There was a period of two years - from sixteen to eighteen - where it felt like I was doing this to Shark every week.”

“Lies,” he says and I don’t understand why he’s still so angry. “I had to do it for you just as often as you did it for me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m a lady. We don’t get in fights.”

“So who patched your ribs up then, when you almost slept with Jack Dockeln?”

She finishes with my eye, straightening up before she glares at him. She’s so quick to switch from calmness to insanity, I wonder if she’s going to attack him.

“Oh you’re getting angry with me now?” He snaps at her expression, fidgeting. “Always so angry.”

“Why are you taking this out on me, Shark?” She snarls and somehow there’s a blade in her hand, waving underneath his nose. “You’re the one that didn’t get to her in time, Jack’s the one who hit her. She’s the one who let him. Why are you starting with me?”

His eyes flick down to where I’m sitting and then back up again. His expression hardens.

“I’m sorry, Maya,” he says, turning towards the door. “They were such good lies but I can’t, I just can’t let him get away with this every single time.”

“No!” I jump to my feet, grabbing his arm. “Shark, it’s nothing. Please. If they find out about you, they’ll kick me off the force. It’s all I have. Please.”

“You’re not angry with him?” He asks, confused.

“No, I am,” I say. And I realise that I really am. I’m furious. About everything since he stepped into my life, about how he’s strung me along without any of my input. About how he just does what he wants, assuming that an apology will make it alright. I do want to hurt him. I just don’t want to do it the way Shark wants to. I don’t want to hit him: that’s not who I am.

I want him humiliated.

Shark cocks his head, pausing in his steps.

“You’re about to say yes,” he says and the anger just falls away.


He turns away from the door, folding his arms. For a second he just looks at me, forcing down a smile. I raise a querying eyebrow and he shakes his head, biting a knuckle.

“Sorry, no, I just saw it in your head and I got excited. You carry on. Get there on your own.”

The Lady rolls her eyes, slipping the knife back into her boot.

“He does this,” she says, taking hold of his shoulders and steering him from the room. “Reads your thoughts before you’ve even properly thought them yet. The best thing is to kick him out until you get there on your own. There’s nothing worse than getting spoilers to your own life.”

Shark lets her push him a certain distance, only choosing to dart from her grip as he reaches the door. He grins cheekily, catching my eye over her shoulder.

“Just FYI, Maya,” he says, “when you do get there: I love it. It’s an incredible idea.”

“Get out,” The Lady laughs, shutting the door in his face. “Whatever you’re thinking, Whisper,” she says, “I, at least, can’t wait to hear it.”

“I don’t know what I’m thinking anymore,” I say and The Lady waves my words away.

“Don’t worry he’ll remind you if you need it.”

“He’s confusing today. Actually, he’s confusing everyday. He’s not… what I would have expected.”

“What? Shark?”

She throws herself onto the floor, back up against the flickering warmth of the fire.

“What would you have expected? Wait. No.” She holds up a finger. “I know what you thought, you thought he was going to be heartless and selfish and cruel. You thought that because of what we do, he was going to be scum.”

“Yeah,” I say awkwardly. “But he’s not and neither are you.”

She leans her head back at this and grins, teeth flashing.

“Oh no,” she says, “I’m scum. I’m exactly what you thought. This here,” she gestures between us, “is because I like you. But I only like you because Shark likes you and if that ever crumbles, I will not hesitate to kill you.” She shrugs. “Simple fact.”

I laugh and Shark’s voice rockets through my head. He might be out of the room but he certainly hasn't left the conversation.

Don’t push her. She means it.

I’m not afraid of her.

“You wouldn’t. You’re better than that.”

She takes in a deep, calming breath. Somehow she’s holding her knife again but it’s just resting at her side. It’s not threatening. Not yet.

“Shark’s shouting very loudly in my brain right now,” she says, “so how about we agree to disagree?”

I shrug.

“Why’s everyone so edgy today? I don’t see why you’re so offended that I think you’re not inherently a bad person.”

This seems to flip her over the edge and she launches to her feet. I’m ready for it, though, expecting her to move faster than a normal human being. Just as that knife’s about to swipe into my personal space, I disappear, materialising at her back. It’s a textbook move from here to take hold of her wrist as she turns, breaking the knife from her grip.

And this is when it stops being textbook. This is when she shows me what she’s really capable of. I don’t expect the second blade, hidden in her sleeve. I don’t expect her to be able to push herself into faster movement, darting under my arms and throwing herself up against my chest. There’s a blade at my throat already and as I stand there, limp with shock, she peels the first knife from my palm.

Her fringe slowly falls over her face as she stares down at me, eyes hard.

And then the grin unfolds across her face.

“Fuck,” she says. “Fuck! You bastards were right. I dolike you. Here.” She stands back, releasing me, and gently pushes her first blade back into my grip. “You take this… and next time you decide to pick a fight with someone that’s really very capable of hospitalising you - I’m including Jack Docklen in this - you try and shove it in their gut. Just stick it right in there before they even know what’s happening.”

“… Thank you?”

You’re an idiot, Maya. Did Jack not do a good enough job this morning?

Thanks for helping me. Were you so so far away again?

I warned you. I’m not your babysitter; if you want to get into a fight, it’s not my job to dive in and save you. Perhaps you should consider that next time.

The Lady’s still grinning. She points at her forehead, she points at mine.

“You getting a telling off too?”

I nod.

“Mine’s along the lines of ‘this is why we don’t get nice things’,” she says.

“Mine’s along the lines of ‘Maya you’re a dick, you deserve what you get’.”

You put it so much better than I ever could. I can feel him laughing. It’s a surreal experience, to have someone laughing in your skull.

The Lady steps back, using the knife to gesture at the sofa, implying we both sit. I still have mine in my hand too but I think I’m going to leave it that way, at least until she sheathes hers.

Can I come back in now?

“No!” She screams, collapsing onto the sofa, and I realise the last was something of a broadcast message to both minds. “We’re talking about you!”

“No, it’s OK,” I say. “I get it. You’re terrible human beings.”

“Shark isn’t. Just me. You got us the wrong way round.” She cocks her head, very similar to her brother as she thinks. “Actually no, Shark’s a more subtle kind of scum.” She curls a leg beneath herself, leaning forwards eagerly. She says they don’t really have friends so I guess she doesn’t get to do this girly gossip thing often. “He can’t be heartless. How could he be? He can see every tiny doubt in every human being. To be heartless, you’ve got to see people as things, you’ve got to not care how they feel. That doesn’t work for him. He sees the worth in everyone, he can’t help himself. He knows every good thing you’ve ever done, every evil thought you’ve ever thought. If you remember it, he remembers it. With only the smallest amount of effort, he can reach into your mind and pluck out the very essence of your soul. He can look at anybody and instantly know exactly who they are.”

“That’s actually weirdly sweet.”

Lady shrugs.

“Yeah, sure,” she says. “But he’s manipulating you. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get his way. Every single time. Everything he says, everything he does: it’s very meticulously planned, right down to the details, and it will work every time.”

“But if I…?”

“There’s nothing you can do about it. Knowing about it won’t change it. He already knows you know and if you decide to try and not do what he wants, it just means he has to change his tactics. There’s always something he can say to change your mind and he doesn’t have to work to find it. Makes no difference to him.”

That’s not true. I’m not a robot, I do have my own emotions to contend with. I don’t just do things to get a result.

I ignore him.

“That’s like completely opposite to Jack then, isn’t it?” I say. “He just bulldozes through with what he wants and you’ve got to keep up or fall under the wheels.”

Lady laughs, nodding to my eye.

“And we fell under the wheels, did we?”

“Yeah… I don’t know. Kinda feels like someone strapped me to the back and now I’m just dragging along behind. Normally you only fall under the wheels once and then you get left behind. Jack Docklen’s reversed back over me three times now.”

The anger’s building again, hot in my stomach. The Lady just sits opposite me, watching.

“Sounds like you need to do something about that,” she says and I know she’s prompting me, trying to force the thought that Shark’s already seen.

I nod slowly, finishing the idea in my own time.

“I’m going to help you,” I say finally and Lady smiles softly. “I’ll find out how to activate your serum… but you have to do something for me first. You have to make it so much more public than it is now. This can’t be a subtle revolution. I don’t know what you were planning but you can’t just release superpowers into the general population and be done with it. There’s got to be build up, turn it into a fight. I want you to push him. He’ll snap eventually, he’ll tell the papers he’s on this case. If it’s notorious enough, he’ll be too desperate for the glory to resist. And then I’ll pull the rug out from under him. I’ll take the The Facility’s secrets and I’ll do it in such a way that Jack Docklen will never live it down.”

“That’s slightly more than an eye for an eye, Maya,” Shark says, leaning round the door, “but as I already said: I love it.”

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