Deep in the dark alley, a girl sat in the corner, leaning against the rough brick wall. She sat with her knees draw toward her body and her arms around her legs as she wept.
Why did the world have to be so cruel? Why did those men have to ambush her and rape her?
Greed. Greed and selfish desires. The world was messed up, and Elisabeth Wilder finally was on the receiving end of the bad in this world.
As she crouched in the alley, make-up smeared on her face, hair snarled, and red hand marks on her face, she wished she had the strength to fight back, or something to make those men know how she felt.
Suddenly there was a flash of light. Looking up, Elisabeth saw a man who looked like he was made of fire with large, fire wings.
Frightened, Elisabeth crouched closer to the wall.
The fire man turned and his face softened. Red eyes glowed bright under his red and orange hair. “Oh Elisabeth, what have those monsters done to you?”
"How do you know my name?”
He smiled as he approached her, getting down on his knees. “I know many things Elisabeth. I know that you were meant for greater things. And I know that you want to make those men pay for what they did to you.”
Elisabeth nodded. “Can you help me?”
The man laughed, “Yes, but first, you need to know what I am.” He paused then continued, “I am a Phoenix. Now I know I don’t look it, but I none the less am. And if you want a name, I am Karth.”
"Now, you’re going to feel some pain. I have a way to help you, but I cannot do it without pain.”
Then Karth hovered his hand over Elisabeth’s body and closed his eyes. His hand started to glow and Elisabeth let out a scream as the pain shot through her.
Within a few minutes, it was over and Karth pulled away. He looked tired. “It is done,” he said before disappearing in a flash of fiery light, leaving Elisabeth in the alley alone, clutching her stomach.
~ ~ ~
Gwen Wilder blinked open her eyes and gazed around the dark colors of the alley. A warm body sat next to her. Turning her head, she saw the gleaming white hair of her best friend, Coin, peaking out beneath his black hoodie.
She smiled as she watched his steady breathing. Then frowned again when she recalled her dream – Well it was more of a memory. It was of her mother, Elisabeth Wilder, who had died last year from infection, who had also been kicked out of her parents house because of getting pregnant before graduating from high school.
Coin was the only person she had left, and she was determined not to lose him. They had been friends for years, the day she had stolen from a shop cart and found him all alone, starving. She gave him part of her food and they’ve been friends ever since.
Coin’s mother had died when he was five, soon after he discovered he had weird abilities; and not the normal human skills, he had powers.
He could walk through walls and control metal. He always carried a coin from his father around with him, hence the name Coin.
All of a sudden, he jerked awake and his blue eyes flew open.
“Easy!” called Gwen, putting a hand on his chest. “Did you have a nightmare?”
Coin looked at his friend and shook his head. “Not really, just ended up running for my life in the dream. A little strange if you ask me.”
Coin smiled at that response.
Gwen pulled herself to her feet and helped Coin follow suit. “Come on,” said Gwen, sneaking to the end of the alley and peering out. Looking around and seeing no one, she clicked her tongue, signaling to Coin that everything was clear. Then together they walked into the street, sticking as best they could to the shadows.
Rounding the corner, they saw a girl selling some food at a small booth. Gwen nodded at Coin and they split up, Coin sneaking behind the girl while Gwen distracted the girl enough for Coin to grab some of the food.
Gwen walked up and started chatting with the girl. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Coin’s hand reaching for some of the food. But just as he was about to grab some, a deep gravelly voice called out.
Coin yelped as he darted his hand away. Gwen jumped and whirled around to see a man with longish black hair, black cape, a scar across his left eye – And the weirdest part – silver eyes.
Coin and Gwen took one look at the man before turning around and running down the streets. Gwen’s brown shawl waved in the wind with her long brown hair as they ran.
Reaching an alley, Coin bent over, panting for breath. Surprisingly, Gwen wasn’t exhausted. In fact, she felt that she had more energy from being in the sunlight for so long.
“Did we lose him?” asked Coin. Then he froze when a voice sounded behind him.
“Nope,” said the same gravelly voice.
Whirling around, Coin backed up toward Gwen and grabbed her hand. He leaned forward and whispered, “Should I do it?”
Gwen shook her head as the man stepped closer.
He leaned toward them and Gwen narrowed her eyes to stop herself from gagging at his breath. It smelt like raw meat.
“You are an interesting group. Tell me, how old are you?”
Gwen and Coin didn’t answer. The man sighed then clapped twice.
“Maya, will you do the honors?”
Suddenly a woman stepped next to him and held out her hand. Touching her cold fingers to the teens’ heads, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she looked back at the man. “They are both 14. The boy is active and the girl seems to be suppressive.”
The man smiled as the woman disappeared. “Interesting…”
Gwen looked at Coin. “What does she mean by active and suppressive?”
The man answered, “Oh, she means that your friend here has abilities and has used them already. But you my dear either have powers and they’re just starting to manifest, or your mind has subconsciously kept you from using them. You may have used them when you were younger, but not now.” He paused for a second before asking, “What are your names?”
Gwen narrowed her eyes. “You first.”
He sighed. “If you so wish my dear. I am called Griff.”
Gwen nodded and looked at Coin, mentally arguing. After a few moments, Coin spoke. “Most people call me Coin.”
Gwen looked at Griff as he considered this then as his silver eyes connected with hers. Knowing she couldn’t use her own name, for names have power, she lifted her chin up and answered, “My name is Zera.”
“Okay then. Come with me then.”
The two friends shook their heads. And Griff turned to them.
He frowned and let out a sigh. “I really wish you had come along without me asking again. No matter. Kaydo!”
Suddenly there was a WOOSH sound and a man in dark gray clothing appeared and grabbed both kids by the back of their shirts. Then there was another WOOSH and the colors of the alley swirled together with whites. Eventually the swirling went away and they reappeared in a white room with three chairs, a table and some fruit.
Gwen and Coin looked at each other before slowly making their way to the table. Within a few minutes, Griff entered the room, Kaydo and Maya following.
“Welcome to our office Zera and Coin. Before we continue, I’d like to see your powers.”
Gwen looked at Coin and saw a similar expression reflected in his eyes that she wore on her face: confusion. Griff raised his arms and gestured for them to follow.
They followed him into a hall and then three doors down, entered a large room with white walls. An observer screen sat on the left side, keeping the people presenting their powers from hurting the others.
Griff put a hand on Gwen’s shoulder and walked to the observer screen. Coin started to follow, but Griff held out a hand. “We want to see yours first.”
Coin bit his lip and hesitated, but he nodded and allowed Gwen to be led away.
Sitting in a chair and watching her friend, Gwen wondered what her powers were and if she had them at all.
“Okay Coin, show us what you can do.”
Coin nodded, still uncertain, but continued. He pulled his coin from his pocket, but before he did anything, he stopped. Then he looked at Gwen, his expression told Gwen that she should run, not let them see anything.
Defiantly, Coin squared his jaw and faced the screen, tucking his coin in his fist. “No, I can’t do this.”
Zera shot a look at Griff as he leaned forward. “Coin, please show us.”
“Coin…” Griff warned.
Coin shook his head.
Griff sighed. “Oh Coin, I wish you would show us. No matter,” he waved his hand and Kaydo teleported next to Coin. He was holding a stick of some sort.
“If you won’t show us, then we’ll make you.”
Gwen’s eyes widened.
Then Kaydo approached Coin, the weapon up. He brought it down in a swift movement and Coin cried out in pain as it connected with his back.
“Coin!” shouted Gwen. Ignoring Griff and Maya, she jumped out of her chair and charged out to her friend. She shoved herself in between Coin and his assaulter. “Back away!” she called.
Kaydo narrowed his eyes and struck.
Gwen’s vision went red as she cried out and fell down on her knees. Looking up through the pain, she saw Kaydo hovering over her, preparing for another blow. Gwen then felt the warm trickled of blood run down her cheek.
Rage surged in her belly and she stood up. Not seeming to notice flames appear on her hands. “Big mistake Kaydo,” she said.
Then in a flicker of fire, she transformed. Her brown hair became red and orange and her brown clothing became red and orange as well. Fiery wings sprouted from her back as she launched herself at Kaydo.
Then she was on him, punching him with flaming fists. Suddenly, someone gripped her elbow before she could bring it back on the man beneath her. Looking up, she saw Coin’s blue eyes looking at her.
His face displayed both fear and amazement. Gwen took a look at his face, then down at Kaydo. Her red eyes turned back into blue and her clothes went back to the brown clothing as her wings disappeared. But her hair remained orange and red.
She gazed at him Kaydo and backed off of him. “What have I done?” she whispered.
Then she and Coin turned as they heard clapping. Griff and Maya walked down toward them. “Quite an impressive display Zera,” commented Griff. “Come, we have much to discuss.” Then he put a hand behind Gwen’s back and led her away.
“What about Coin?” She asked.
“Oh, Maya will take good care of him.”
A few minutes later, Gwen sat across from Griff on plush chair. A wooden table separated them.
“So Zera, I’d like you to join our company.”
“I’ve seen what you can do, and frankly, I’m impressed.”
Gwen was silent for a second. “What will happen to Coin?”
“He’ll have one more chance to show us his gift or he’ll be back on the streets.”
Gwen looked down at her hands and thought for a moment. A plan started forming in her head. “I’ll join, but only if I have a guaranty that he’ll be safe from harm and he doesn’t have to show you his powers.”
Griff smiled. “We can do more than that. We can provide you with a home, and you guys can live together. But you will be watched closely to make sure you don’t make any, uh…brash decisions.”
Gwen considered his offer and then nodded. “Agreed.”
“Excellent!” Griff said. And sliding a paper across to her, he said, “Here is the contract, please sign your name.”
Zera took the pen he gave her and signed her name.
~ FOUR YEARS LATER ~
Zera sat on a couch next to her best friend, Coin. She glanced over at him as he snored softly.
Carefully dislodging herself from him as to not wake him, she walked over to where her mission card glowed. Picking it up, she read the message.
Then looking back at Coin one last time, she slipped out of the room and left. Little did she know that that was the last time she was going to see him, except in her dreams.
She went out on her assignment. Sitting in the limo with a black, drivers suit on, she waited for her target to come. She heard the door open and close. Looking in the mirror from beneath her cap, she saw her target. He leaned forward and said a destination. Zera nodded and started the car. Then she drove off.
After a few minutes, she pulled into a driveway where Griff waited, smiling. Next to him stood his mind-reader, Maya and his teleporter, Kaydo.
“Wait, this isn’t where I wanted to go.”
Zera turned and smiled at him. “I know,” she said as Kaydo stepped forward and yanked open the door.
“You’re coming with us.”
“What? No!” shouted the man as Kaydo grabbed him and teleported away.
Griff smiled and tossed Zera a bag. She caught it with her left hand and looked in it. Shinny coins glittered and Zera smiled. “Your payment.”
Zera nodded and turning away, transformed and flew off.
When she arrived home, Coin was awake. He looked at her as she came in. A smiled broke out on his face. “You’re home!”
“Yep!” she said, walking up to him. Then Coin stiffened.
“Zera, where did you get that money?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. You know I can sense metal.”
Zera looked down. “Griff,” she whispered.
“What? Why are you working with him?”
“Coin, he promised he wouldn’t harm you if I did.”
Coin’s face reddened in anger. “I don’t need you to look after me. We’re the same age.”
“No, if you’re going to work with him, then I don’t think we should ever see each other again.”
“You heard me.” Coin stomped to their room and grabbed his stuff. Then he came by Zera on his way out the door. “Have a good life Gwen,” he said as he left.
Zera flinched at her real name. Then watched as he left, calling after him, “Coin!” He didn’t come back.
Zera watched the door before falling to the floor and crying.
~TWO YEARS LATER~
Flames engulfed her. Dark shadows swarmed around her. Buildings lay in ruins, consumed with fire and all sorts of destruction. Zera stood, looking around her at the chaos. Then there came laughter, one she knew all too well.
“Well done Zera, you have shown us what you are truly capable of.”
Zera looked at her hands, smoke rose from them. “No...” she whispered. “What happened?”
Griff gave a wicked smile. “You destroyed the Sidekicks once and for all, you and a few others.”
“Well, we do have one left...”
There was a screech and two villains walked up with a form in between them, one with white and green hair. Zera’s heart sped up as he turned to look up at her. She recognized him, her childhood friend. He had lived on the streets like her. But he got beat up on a daily basis and he looked at her with his ice blue eyes before it dropped back onto his chest, chin touching his black hoodie.
Zera looked up at the man who she had been working under for all those years, his dark eyes glittered silver and an emotion flashed in his eyes - wolf like hunger.
Zera set her jaw and stood her ground as she came to a decision. Closing her eyes she replied firmly, “NO.”
“No? Are you sure?”
“I will not do what you want anymore, I will no longer be a slave to you!”
The man’s lips curled up into a snarl and he growled, “Fine, then I will.”
He approached the boy as black fur morphed along his body and ears grew from his head. His face elongated and he fell onto all fours.
He let out a bark, now a black wolf with a scar on the right side of his face and silver eyes. He launched forward, teeth bared and before Zera could stop him, he latched his teeth onto the boy’s throat and bit down hard. Red blood spilled from the boy’s neck as the wolf pulled away.
Morphing back into a human, the man wiped his mouth off with a white cloth, giving it a red stain.
Zera lurched forward towards her friend and crouched over him. “No!” she screamed. In her heart, she knew it was too late for him, but in her mind, she refused to except it. She fell to the ground and stared at him. Looking up at her tormentor, her eyes flashed with hidden fire. “You murderer. You monster!” Then she launched herself at him, turning into a phoenix.
Two strong hands gripped her and she struggled against them. The man smiled wickedly, “So are you my dear.”
Zera’s eyes widened and she stopped fighting. Then she sunk to the ground, crying.
As she sat on the ground with her friend’s blood pooling around her, she heard a light gasp. At first she thought she was imagining things, at least until she saw a pale hand come into her line of sight. She followed it with her eyes and her gaze connected with that of the narrowed blue eyes of Coin.
She want to leap with joy, he was alive! Instead, she bent forward and leaned toward his face as if she was mourning over him.
“Take him down,” whispered Coin.
“But how, I’m not sure I have the strength.”
Coin gave her a small smile. “You can do anything; you are stronger than you think. He can’t control you, you proved that when you defied him time and time again.”
Zera blinked a thank you once she realized he was right and then touched their foreheads together. Zera then put a hand on his chest and hauled herself to her feet, blood smeared across her face.
“Griff,” she growled, igniting her hands on fire.
Griff turned and his eyes focused on her. “What Zera?”
Lifting her chin up in defiance, she replied, “You do not control me. And I will no longer be your slave, blindlessly following your orders.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“It is,” said Zera. Then in a flicker of flames, she turned into her phoenix form and launched herself at him. She shot fire toward him as she came nearer, catching his clothes on fire.
Then she dove down at him and knocked him over. She put a red boot on his chest and growled, applying enough pressure that he couldn’t escape. Leaning down she said, “Any last words?”
Griff glared at her and she shrugged. “Oh well.” Then reaching on her belt, pulled out a dagger, with which she planned on killing him with. On an instinct, she slashed the dagger behind her, cutting Kaydo as he tried to help Griff. Zera saw Maya approach, but before she could, Coin manipulated metal pipes around her body, keeping her from escaping.
Then Zera took the dagger in both hands again. In a swift motion, she drove the dagger home, right through Griff’s heart.
She opened her wings and launched away, igniting her hand again. Then in one final motion, she lifted her hand up and flames swirled toward Griff’s body, burning him.
After it was done, she sagged against a pole. Coin walked up shakily toward her and they leaned against each other, watching Zera’s tormentor burn, ignoring the other villains as they watched the two. A few minutes later, Coin and Zera glanced at each other.
After two years being apart, Zera missed his blue eyes. Smiling, she pushed away her red and orange bangs out of her face.
Coin leaned closer toward her till his mouth was near her ear. “You know you’re cute when you do that?”
She looked at him shocked. “What?”
“When you brush your hair out of your face,” he responded.
“That’s also cute.”
This time Zera held back a giggle and gave him a mischievous smile. Before he could do anything else, Zera lurched forward and pressed her lips to his. From then on, Zera would never be controlled again; she would be free to make her own choices.
A figure wearing a red cloak watched nearby with interest as Gwen and Coin kissed. The girl took after her mother. She didn’t like being pushed around and seemed to have pent up rage within her. He had been watching her all these years, watching as she grew up and matured into a woman worth being proud of.
She fought to be free from her tormentor, which is something he admired. Gwen and Coin pulled away and he saw a smile on both of their faces.
He looked down. The only one he had come close to this relationship was Elisabeth, and even then, he could never be with her; for she was human, and he was a phoenix. Gwen was lucky, because of her hybrid blood; she wasn’t bound by the same rules as he was.
All of a sudden, Gwen seemed to sense someone other than the other villains watching her. She turned and his eyes connected with hers. While hers were bright blue, his were red.
She narrowed her eyes, the phoenix tattoo on her face giving her a fiercer appearance. Then she put a hand on Coin, saying a few words to him before she transformed.
He took a step back, even though he could transform, he’s never seen anything as interesting and beautiful as hers. Then she flew towards him, charging her fist with fire.
He chuckled and threw off his red cloak, his bright hair catching the sunlight and he caught her fist.
She stared up at him as he extinguished the fire.
"Who are you?”
He frowned. “You should recognize something about me in yourself.” Then he whispered into her ear, “I made you who you are.”
Her eyes widened and then hardened. “No, you didn’t.”
"Remember how you were conceived young one? You and I are more alike than you think. But I did not come here to fight you, I came to say I’m proud of you, and so is your mother.”
"How do you know my mother? She died.”
"Seven years ago, I know. And not long after, the phoenix within you was awoken.”
She stared at him with wide eyes before whispering, “Karth?”
Karth nodded. “Yes, my dear.”
Then her face broke out into a smile and she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. Karth smiled and hugged her back, his chin resting on his daughter’s head.
He looked back to see Coin staring at them with confusion. Pulling away from her he said, “You going to introduce us?”
Gwen smiled and took his hand, leading him over to Coin.