(I couldn’t decide which of two prompts to use for this week’s story. I set up a Facebook poll, but then ended up using both. Whoops.)
Civet lowered her hood as she stared in admiration at the armor. Even with so many years of disuse, it didn’t have any trace of rust on it. The same couldn’t be said for the spare parts and scrap lying forgotten around the rest of the warehouse. Orn’s masterpiece: the Heaven’s Lock. The armor sat on a pedestal near the far wall, its wings extending outwards as it yearned to be free of its worldly tethers. It beckoned her to remove the tubes and pipes that anchored it down, for its original bearer was gone…
But his legacy lived on.
She removed her backpack, trying to imagine the last time the legendary ‘Defender of the Spear Gate’ had worn the famous armor. Photos and special events required him to wear it for publicity’s sake, but the last time it had truly tasted battle had to have been the final closing the of the Gate. At least, that was the last time all of it had been used together. This was just the chest piece. Orn had apparently given the vambraces and greaves to his daughter in his will. His only daughter. Civet grimaced.
She walked over to the pedestal and began unlatching the life support that fed the Heaven’s Lock. “We’re going to find out what you’re really capable of today,” she muttered, voice hushed as she spoke with eyes closed, petting the metal plating. It was hard to keep the anticipation from her voice, but then, why should she? This would be a day to remember.
“No. You aren’t.”
Civet opened her eyes, expression dark. She stood behind the pedestal, and the newcomer had entered the warehouse from the main hall. Civet couldn’t see her, but she didn’t need to. Didn’t want to.
“I’ve been hunting you all across the city, you know,” the woman’s voice said. “I’m authorized to execute you here and now, but if you come quietly I’ll consider mercy. I’m impressed at your audacity. A petty thief trying to steal the Heaven’s Lock? Who do you think you are?”
Civet took a deep breath. Then, she stepped out from behind the pedestal. “The rightful owner,” she said, fists clenched.
Tora’s eyes widened, her hand raising to her mouth as her posture lost all authority it once held. “Civet…” she gasped. “You’ve… you’ve dyed your hair.”
Civet inspected her sister, scanning her body up and down. She wore the familiar gauntlets on her arm, and though her long coat covered much of her form, there was a distinct glint of metal about her shins, as well. She stared Tora in the eyes. “Are you going to kill me?” There was no joviality in her tone.
“What? We haven’t spoken in years and… this is how we find each other?” She gestured around the warehouse and behind Civet.
“You’re the one that found me,” Civet replied. “It would have been better if you had stayed out of it.” She turned back to the Heaven’s Lock. “All of this.”
“Oh, now you call me that?” she spun back around. “You have some nerve. You wanted nothing to do with me after Orn disowned me.”
Tora glanced to the ground. Then to the Heaven’s Lock, the backpack, and finally Civet. Her voice was quiet, but firm. “He had good reason to, sister.”
“You just wanted the Heaven’s Lock for yourself,” Civet crossed her arms.
“That’s ridiculous. I just wanted to uphold the truth of this city. The truth father worked so hard to protect.”
“There is no truth!” Civet yelled. “Working in the police force should have taught you at least that much. How much has crime increased since dear old Dad died?”
“That’s not fai—”
“How much? Tell me.”
Tora bit her lip as she stared at her sister. She didn’t like the answer, but she couldn’t lie, either. “Thirty percent.”
Civet sighed. “People were scared of the ‘Defender of the Spear Gate’. A real life superhero who saved us all from the monsters of that other world. But now that he’s gone, there’s nobody to save us from the monsters of our world.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Tora put a hand on her chest. “We help people every day, Civet. Not all fighting is blood and war.”
“How did Orn die?” Civet asked.
Tora froze, taken aback by the question. “What do you mean?”
Civet shrugged. “He was barely over fifty years old, and even in retirement he was in better shape than most people ever achieve. So how did he die?”
“You’re going to tell me you know?”
“I know a good deal more than you, for all you claim to uphold the truth. Tell me, how many people have you killed with those?” Civet asked, pointing to her arm.
Tora looked down, holding her arm out as she inspected the metal gauntlet. “None. It’s the symbol that’s important.”
Civet shook her head. “You’re just like Orn. Results are the only important thing.”
Tora stared at her feet for a while. When she looked back up at Civet, her eyes were glistening, though her voice did not betray her. “I’m not going to get my sister back, am I?”
“You have no sister.” Civet looked over her shoulder to the armor, then back at Tora. “Are you going to stop me?”
A tear fell down Tora’s cheek. “If I have to.”
Civet nodded as she crouched down and unzipped her pack.
In one swift motion, she pulled the gun out and shot two of the nearby tubes that spanned the floor.
Immediately, they broke apart and flailed madly into the air, spewing gas into the room as Civet threw her pack on and slipped into the rapidly spreading smoke.
Tora tried to follow her movement, but it was no use. She stepped away from the smoke, backing into a more spacious portion of the warehouse. She was exposed now, but Civet wouldn’t shoot her. She wouldn’t dare.
Wiping away the tears, she thought about pulling out the Voice device from her pocket. She should call for backup. Civet was a wanted criminal. A vigilante at best. Even if she only had the wings of the Heaven’s Lock, she would be an enormous threat.
But even as she considered it, she found the thought ebbing away. She could handle this alone. She could prove to her sister that violence wasn’t the answer. Barring that, wearing the limbs of her father’s armor gave Tora the upper hand.
She glanced about her, watching for any signs of movement or sound that could clue her in to Civet’s location. The whole time, though, she kept an eye on the wings.
Something metal slammed against the ground behind her. Tora swiveled around to see Civet glance back at her, more annoyance than anything else written on her face. She rose the gun towards Tora’s chest.
Tora’s breath caught. She took a stance and engaged the greaves.
Just as the gun fired, Tora was pushed sideways in a flash of blue energy, out of harm’s way.
In a flash of anger, she engaged the greaves again, launching herself forwards towards her sister.
She closed the gap instantly, and grabbed Civet by the scruff of her jacket. With the enhanced strength of the vambraces, Tora heaved her up and threw her back.
Civet was thrown across the room and landed with a loud crash in a forgotten pile of what might have been a recycled generator. An involuntary gasp of pain accompanied the impact.
Tora clenched her jaw as she approached, walking with purpose.
“I’m glad you’re not afraid to use it, then,” Civet choked as she got to her feet. She dropped the gun, and Tora sighed in relief.
But that relief faded when she noticed that her sister didn’t quite seem to be surrendering. Instead, she was taking her backpack off.
“Here,” Civet said. She zipped the backpack up and tossed it to Tora. It bounced more than slid across the cement floor, and Tora glanced up in suspicion.
And engaged her greaves immediately when she saw the detonator in Civet’s hands.
The room exploded with raw power, enhanced by the flammable gas Civet had released earlier. Tora always was the clumsy one. Slow to react in a fight. This had been her plan all along, of course. Misleading her to think that releasing the gas was to conceal an escape was an obvious ruse.
Tora wasn’t dead. Civet had to trust she wasn’t that slow.
So Civet used the rising flames as cover as she ran to the Heaven’s Lock.
Unlatching the lock on the breastplate, she heaved it up and climbed inside, pulling her arms out the sides and clamping it back down over her own body.
As soon as it locked, she felt two drills bore into her back, cutting through the jacket. She screamed in sudden agony. The drills were thick, and were actively removing her flesh as it dug into her skin, right where Tora had thrown her against the generator. For what felt like an eternity, she forgot the roaring flames, her sister, and everything else.
Eventually, the drilling subsided, and even though her back still ached. She clenched her fists…
And felt her metal wings retract at the same time.
As soon as she thought about it, she realized that she could move the wings on her armor as if they were actually a part of her, like extra limbs. She flexed them, stretching them outwards, then inwards.
With a smile, she got off the pedestal.
“You’re not going to leave with that, Civet,” Tora said, projecting her voice over the flames that were slowly consuming the entire building. “I’m sorry, but I’m not the scared little sister you grew up with. I have a duty to uphold.”
Civet nodded. “I suppose I would think less of you if you let me go now.”
Tora rose her vambrace in a defensive posture, and a long blade shot out of it. “I don’t want to kill you,” she said.
“I don’t want to kill you, either.”
Civet launched herself forward using the power of the wings. Tora extended the blade on her second vambrace as well, crossing them in a block.
The momentum carried Civet right into her sister and the two flew backwards into the flames.
Tora grabbed her by the shoulders and swung around, then used the greaves to propel herself away from the fire.
Civet crashed into the debris, but used her wings to push herself up and out. She rose above the flames and glided up into the air. The smoke obscured her vision, but she could see her sister starting to get her bearings as she recalibrated.
This felt natural. She felt like she was floating above all the troubles of the world. The wings of the Heaven’s Lock didn’t need to flutter like the wings of a bird, so she just hovered there. “You know,” she called down. “If you had been willing to kill me, you might have won.”
She watched as Tora turned into a flash of light, jumping straight up at her sister with blinding speed.
Civet glided out of the path of her blades and caught her by the throat, holding her up with an unexpected ease as the wings helped shoulder the added weight.
“You’re… so easily provoked,” she said with an air of disappointment. “It must be nice to be an only child. I bet it would suck to be on the losing end of a sibling rivalry.”
Tora choked, her vitality fading as the combination of the smoke and Civet’s grasp on her neck proved too much. Civet watched as the expression in her sister’s eyes shifted from rage, to sorrow, and finally… to fear.
Civet looked away. She knew she wouldn’t be able to do it. Was that weakness or strength? She curled an arm around her sister to ease the pressure on her neck, then lowered herself to the ground and laid her down on the floor. The flames rolled about with a vicious hunger, but this particular spot was safe. For now. Civet rose back into the air and started to make her way to the exit as Tora tried heaving air back into her lungs.
“So what happens now?” Tora called after her, voice weak.
“Now I’ll seek my own truths. On my own terms, and uphold Orn’s legacy as I see fit, not as he would have wanted me to,” Civet replied. This, of course, meant recovering the rest of the Heaven’s Lock from Tora, but she could wait. She would need time to get used to her new… heights. “But if you can make your way out of here without dying, I suggest you quit your job. You’ll be humiliated after today. And Tora.” She looked back down at the girl laying in defeat amidst the curling flames. “Consider today a mercy. Don’t cross me again.”