SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS: CHAPTER ONE

10/02/2014 01:00:00 PM Unknown 20 Comments


By Lexie Dunne, Available 11/18/14
This chapter is just a sample. For more about the book, please visit this page.

I should probably start from the beginning. Not my beginning: Hostage Girl’s. The world thinks that’s my full name (it isn’t), supervillains think I’m handy to kidnap in a pinch (I’m small and therefore easily portable), and the world’s convinced that I’m the love of Blaze’s life (I’m not).

The first time Blaze rescued me, I was twenty-three. A villain named Sykik was terrorizing crowds at my ‘L’ train stop, and I was the only one stupid enough to challenge him. Chicago has more than its fair share of villains, super or otherwise, so I assumed I was a random, unlucky victim and did my best to ignore the nightmares and move on.

Until it happened again.

Three bank holdups, four kidnappings, and one very interesting hostage situation atop the Willis Tower later, I kind of figured there was something else going on. What it could be, I had no idea. I was an assistant editor, not some spunky investigative journalist out sticking my nose in the villains’ business, I wasn’t secretly superpowered, and I definitely didn’t court trouble by leaving bags of flaming dog crap on the front porches of local villains.

A few doctors have told me that most people, when they wake up in the hospital, ask the logical question: “Where am I?”

I learned not to bother. I knew what the hospital looked like. Instead, four years almost to the day after Blaze first snatched me from the air and dislocated my shoulder, I stared blearily at the tiles overhead, and asked: “How long?”

“Good to see you again, too, Girl.” Dr. Dimarco, my usual physician, appeared above me, his wrinkled face smiling. He was wearing his blue shirt with the checks, the one that made his eyes appear more rheumy than usual.

I sighed and gave him a look. “Must be bad.”

“Not terribly. We kept you under for about eighteen hours. Do you remember anything?”

I mentally catalogued every part of my body, careful not to move. Nothing hurt, but I’d learned the hard way that moving around would change that fantasy, and never for the better. I searched my memory, which came up dull and blank, like somebody had leached the color from my mind. “Nothing. Who was it this time?”

“Razor X.” I heard the click of a keyboard as Dr. Dimarco typed something into my chart in the corner.

“I thought War Hammer put Razor away last week.”

“They didn’t do the body-cavity search thoroughly enough, it appears.” Dr. Dimarco reappeared. “You had both Blaze and War Hammer trying to rescue you this time. The nurses are quite jealous.”

“I’ll play swapsies anytime, Doc. Just say the word.”

“I’ll let them know. It seems Razor dosed some guards on his way out of Detmer. Looks like he got you with the same stuff, according to the bloodwork.”

I looked down at the crease of my elbow. Bright pink medical tape held down a bit of gauze. It made my skin, washed-out thanks to the hospital lights, look even more diseased and sickly. “Any side effects?”

“The main side effect just seemed to be pain—some psychosis, so we had you strapped down until that passed. Memory loss is consistent with the stories we got from the guards. Now.” He looked down at me, putting his scholarly doctor face back on. “Any headaches? Double vision?”

I answered in the negative as he ran down the medical checklist I’d memorized a long time ago. “Has Jeremy been by?”

“You’ll have to check with the nurses. They’ll know if Mr. Collins has been in.” He moved over to the computer to make one final notation and gave me a nod before he left.

I sat up slowly (every muscle in my body shouted) and nudged aside the covers. Starting at my ankles, I began to probe up my legs, across my stomach, chest, and shoulders, and finally down to each individual fingertip. When the only pain turned out to be a minor bump on the back of my head and a bruise on my jaw that made the world go temporarily blurry, I breathed a sigh of relief. No new scars.

Finally, I turned to my empty bedside table and frowned. No new flowers, or old ones either. While this sometimes fit Jeremy, it was definitely out of character for Blaze. No matter which supervillain I faced, or how bad things had gotten, there was always a single white rose on my nightstand whenever I woke. Today, there was nothing.

The clock on the wall told me that it was four thirty. Afternoon, I deduced, eyeing the gray drizzle of light coming in through the window. I shifted and turned on the TV, clicking over to the news. “Let’s see what the villains are up to today, shall we?”

There’d been one threat of Armageddon in the Big Apple, two threatened nuclear attacks in Houston, and one hostage kidnapping (not mine) in Arkansas. Every threat, the newscaster assured me with plastic compassion, had been neutralized by the local superhero. Even the Raptor had emerged for the threat in New York, which added a hell of a lot of legitimacy to the whole situation. Very little drew the Raptor out of retirement these days.

At least Armageddon had a way of keeping the news cycle from covering me provided I wasn’t directly involved. I flicked over to The Bird Also Sings to see which of my favorite characters had discovered a heretofore-unknown half sibling in the time I’d been unconscious. Nobody had, but Chance was now seriously debating sleeping with Lucille. Luckily, some of the characters in the show had already reminded him she might be his half sister, so I wouldn’t have to shout it at the TV later.

“Ah, she lives.”

I tore my gaze away from Chance’s soulful eyes (blue, unlike Jeremy’s and Blaze’s green stare). Jeremy stood in the doorway, hands shoved into his pockets so that his thumbs stuck out. They drummed against his hipbones. He was smiling, so I must not have looked too horrible.

“Hey, you,” I said, reaching out a hand.

He took it and kissed my hair, careful to avoid the bump. “How do you feel?”

“Like I went a few rounds with a sledgehammer and lost.”

Jeremy wrinkled his nose. He had such an attractive face, sometimes I wondered what he was doing with somebody who looked like me. I’m not a hag, but I’m not a stunning beauty, either. Jeremy, on the other hand, was a paragon of male perfection. His eyes were direct and wide-spaced, his features aristocratic. A sprinkling of dark freckles under his eyes somehow made him even cuter. “And which villain did the sledgehammer belong to?”

“Razor X. The mask with the yellow bug eyes, terrible breath. Not so good with the people skills.”

“Oh. Right.” Jeremy searched his memory for a minute, now playing with my fingers. “Red cape?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it a proper cape. It’s a little half cape.” I reached over for the remote and muted Damien and Lucille’s argument—one that would probably lead to the bed. “Apparently, he got me with some sort of pain juice. You called Angus and let him know I’m shored up in the hospital again, right?”

“Right. I said you’d probably be released tomorrow.”

I groaned. “Why would you do that? Now he’ll expect me back tomorrow.”

Jeremy shrugged. “Wasn’t thinking. Sorry.”

Something felt off, I realized. He’d always been good about visiting me after one of the supervillain attacks, but now he had yet to fully meet my gaze. He kept playing with my fingers, his hands never still. “What’s up?” I asked him, sensing there was an elephant that I couldn’t see somewhere in the room.

“Nothing.” He attempted a smile. “How d’you feel?”

I narrowed my eyes. “You asked me that already.”

“Well, I was worried. You know.” One of his shoulders moved in his patented half shrug. “My girlfriend’s in the hospital. I’m not allowed to be worried?”

“Something’s definitely up,” I said, squinting at him. Jeremy was usually direct and honest—at least when it came to me. Though I’d been told before that I could be unnecessarily blunt, the kidnappings had turned me into a rather squirrelly person whenever emotions were involved. I didn’t like sharing feelings, while Jeremy regularly announced whatever was on his mind to the world. Sometimes he even filtered it first. “What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing.” Jeremy dropped my hand, but he still didn’t look at me.

For a second, I was tempted to let it go. The last couple of weeks had been rough. We were close to print on two of the magazines at work, there had been a train holdup on the way home from work last Tuesday, and Razor X had seriously put a crimp in our plans for a nice anniversary dinner out. By all means, I should have dropped it.

Instead, I gave him what he calls the Girl Look.

“Gail…” Jeremy ran an exasperated hand over his shoulder, pushing down on an unfelt ache.

I stared harder.

He got up to pace. Given how long his legs were, it didn’t take many strides to reach the other side of the room and return. Once. Twice. Finally: “I got a job offer.”

“Really? That’s great!” Jeremy hated his job. In truth, he would have hated any job that took him away from his video games, but Jeremy hated his boss. And unlike me, he could afford to do something about it. After all, he didn’t have to worry about the healthcare plan. “Where is it? Doing what?”

“It’s…it’s the same stuff I’m doing now. Same company.”

“Oh.”

“The thing is, it’s in Miami.”

“Wait, what?”

“Girl.” Jeremy paused and took a deep breath even as he shot me an annoyed look. “I didn’t want to get into this until you were better. I still don’t.”

A new job in Miami? Miami was half a country away, and I certainly couldn’t afford to fly. Nor could I really afford to move. Any other employer would have found some reason to let me go, what with the constant danger I caused everybody around me. I was lucky to have what I did. But I’d been with Jeremy for years. I knew what that look on his face meant.

“You’re going to take it,” I said.

A mutinous scowl crossed Jeremy’s face. “We don’t have to talk about this now.”

“Just tell me.”

Now Jeremy looked deeply unhappy. His hands had started moving once more, thumbs tapping a new rhythm against his hips as he resumed pacing, albeit more slowly. “The pay’s better,” he said at length. “And it’s a promotion. I’d be an idiot to turn it down.”

“And what about us?”

“We could do the long-distance thing,” Jeremy said, but it sounded halfhearted. I didn’t blame him. A long-distance relationship was hard enough without having to wonder if your girlfriend wasn’t picking up the phone because she was in the shower—or in the claws of a supervillain.

So I shook my head, and Jeremy sighed.

“Look,” he said, dropping back down into the chair by my bedside. “Let’s just not think about this right now. We’ll get you feeling better, get you out of here, and then we’ll talk, okay?”

I opened my mouth to tell him that with my luck, there was always going to be sometime when I was in the hospital or recuperating from some supervillain’s attempt to get Blaze’s attention, but Jeremy knew that. He’d lived the past few years with me, even when all signs indicated that he should bail, should run fast and run hard. He knew just as well as I did that it was only a stalling tactic, and I didn’t have the heart to point that out.

So instead I sat there dumbly, with my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend holding my hand in the hospital, and tried not to think about how much breaking up was going to suck.


Read Chapter Two here! Gail Godwin and her friends hit stores on November 18, but you can pre-order now!

20 comments:

  1. Not letting Ayefah beat me again. I hope.

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    1. Ah, yes, but the true race will be "which one of you comments on the actual content first"? Also, she's not reading anything until it's published.

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    2. Good chapter. Please update soon!

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    3. [img]http://media.tumblr.com/3b848cae4752d70eb1953e67e005ab61/tumblr_mom77rKfvZ1qgb3zso3_250.gif[/img]

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  2. Congratulations! This is so exciting.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Girl gets into next.

    (I was going to say, "You go, Girl" but nope. Reeeeallly can't pull that off.)

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    1. Awww, thank you! I'm nervous and excited and dancing. The singing schoolchildren behind me really help with that last bit.

      You know, I don't think anybody shouts, "You go, Girl!" ever in the book. Huh. Whoops. I must fix this in the sequel.

      SHE'S ABOUT TO GET IN SO MUCH TROUBLE.

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  3. That's a really fun first chapter. There's some nice pokes at the treatment of female characters in superhero stories. Now I'm curious to see if Girl gets a nice arc to turn that around.

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    1. Muhahaha.

      ...I mean, um, you'll have to wait and see. She certainly starts off the book as a Lois Lane type, that's for sure. Thank you for the wonderful compliments! I'm glad you liked it and I hope you come back next week for Chapter 2. ;)

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    2. I will, for sure.

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  4. It was great to read this chapter again after originally seeing it in the Voyager ebook. The 18.11.14 can't come some enough to see the whole tale :)

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    1. Yeah, this version has at least been copy-edited. ;) Hope you like the whole tale. It gets twisty!

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  5. This "Anonima Supereroi" looks interesting! Isn't it November yet? :-)

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    1. Hahaha, so freaking cool to know the Italian names of stuff! Thanks, Henry! And SOON VERY SOON!

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  6. Really great stuff!!! Congratulations!! I'm so happy for you and looking forward to reading the book when it comes out

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    1. Thanks, Michael!! I hope you like what you'll find. Methinks you might. ;)

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  7. Starting off the chapter with a break-up, huh. Doesn't throw me off though. You are a romantic after all.

    Also, Girl is a baddie. Can't wait to read more of her.

    Very happy for you amiga. Here's to many more book releases in your future!

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    1. I LIKE TO BE UNCONVENTIONAL, CAT. ;) Me? A romantic? Get out of town.

      Girl is SUCH a baddie. She's secretly the villain of the entire—I mean, um, wait, forget I said that.

      Thanks!!!! Here's to the great friends to celebrate those releases with!

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  8. Loving this so far! \o/

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  9. Hehee! Let the skewering commence. This is gonna be a lot of fun!

    Congrats!

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  10. Aww yiss, this is exciting! I am already looking forward to the day your book will appear on my Kindle :D

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Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.