Reclaiming – A Scarlet Angel story

TUKWILA, WA:

Midnight and change.

Annaliese Korper sat on the broken chair in the run-down studio apartment in the worst suburb of Seattle. Mentally, she reviewed what she had, and admitted to herself it didn’t amount to much.

Four years ago, she’d had everything she could have wanted: a good job, money coming in, a nice apartment, and a night job as a superhero. She’d even, thinking back, had what looked like a relationship. But it hadn’t been, really. And that was the problem, right there.

She’d been stupid. Mirella had been everything she’d wanted, or so Annaliese had thought. Fun, vivacious, outgoing. She pulled Annaliese out to parties and clubs, where they could touch and kiss and no one cared. Even when they first had sex, it was great. Annaliese had known she was a lesbian since she was seven and had a crush on Mindy Eisenstein, and that with her love of archery had driven her away from her family and into the cult of Artemis.

Ever since the Ares Incident more than twenty years ago, Hellenic Paganism had been considered to be in bad form, sometimes worse than old-school Satanism. So she’d been quiet about it, but her parents had thrown her out when they found out she was gay.

But Mirella hadn’t loved her. Had barely cared. She just used Anna – for a place to sleep, for sex, for money.

{ “Hon, can I borrow two hundred? I’m short right now…” }

And when Anna had lost her job when the company she worked for went down, well, she came home from an interview the next week to find the only things in the apartment were two dented cans of tomato sauce and the big heavy case she’d used as a coffee table. Not only had Mirella taken everything Anna had owned, but had also taken the refrigerator and stove which were owned by the apartment complex.

The police had been nice enough, but Mirella was long gone. They found her six months later, but by then this pit was the only place Anna could afford after her building management had evicted her, despite the police report. It turned out that Mirella was not the first person she’d scammed this way, and the one right after Anna was the last one: they found her through DNA traces from her corpse, a gunshot to the back of the head having taken her face and jaw apart, and the crabs in the bay having taken her fingers.

“Michelle Erickson, aka Mirella Davidson,” the detective informed her. “Con artist, blackmailer, petty thief. Looks like she ripped off the wrong person. Can you confirm this is her?”

Annaliese shrugged. “You told me the DNA said it was her. It doesn’t look like there’s enough of her for me to identify.”

“Unfortunately, there was nothing to say where any money she’d had could be. I’m sorry, Miss Korper.”

Annaliese shrugged again. “She took everything that mattered to me. I didn’t think it mattered that much to her.”

So now she had nothing but that case, and this broken chair, and the inflatable mattress in the corner, and some clothes. She had lived off of paper plates. She’d quit heroing when Mirella entered her life, and now no other member of the team had been seen in months. There was nothing.

Listlessly, she tapped the security code, her hand steady. Nor for the first time, she cursed the SPIDER agents who made a hash out of her life, giving her that serum that gave her superhuman dexterity at the cost of her silver medal. The latches opened, and she raised the lid to reveal her masterpiece.

The light red armor; the helmet with mask and the fake wig attached to it; the bow and the arrows and the arrowheads; finally, the flight pack. It had been a moment of brilliance, and only hands as inhumanly steady as hers could have made the small turbines.

It would be easy, and safe, to put it on and fly out to sea until it ran out of fuel, and then drown. She glanced up at the portrait of Artemis painted on the inner lid, and for the first time in months, she prayed to her goddess.

She received no answer.

She hadn’t expected one — she never had gotten one — but at this point she didn’t have much to lose, did she?

It had been years but she’d taken care of the suit. The pieces went on, interlocking; the helmet with its readouts and notifications; the pack went on. The bow collapsed and went onto the right arm’s lower plate; the arrow in their receptacles between flight pack and back plate. She opened the door, spread the wings, and took to the sky.

The Scarlet Angel flew the skies of Seattle one more time.


It was only a little way north that she spotted the cars. Three of them were chasing a fourth – three big cars with heavy engines following a small car, down the road in the middle of the mall complex. Somehow she’d turned around and was flying away from the water instead of towards it (but, that little voice whispered, mountains were just as good a place to crash into than the sea).

Impulses she’d forgotten she felt took her, and she swooped down. There was nothing on the police band – wait, a call just came in, but they wouldn’t have the chance to do much. The only person around was…

…her.

She throttled back, pacing the cars, high enough to not be visible in the mirrors, until she thought he’d have a chance to take action. She reached over and pulled the bow off the right vambrace, but didn’t expand it, holding it ready. A moment later, one of the chasing cars took action, the passenger side window rolling down and someone reaching out with a gun. One shot later and the small car was careening wildly, then screeching to a stop. It didn’t roll, didn’t crash, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

That’s when she opened the bow, then pulled one of the trick arrows. As the other cars rolled to a stop, she brought herself to a hover and drew. As the drivers emerged, wearing jeans and sweatshirts instead of the uniforms she’d briefly feared, she let fly the arrow. A cloud of tear gas enveloped the three cars, blinding and choking the attackers. Two of them still managed to draw guns, and taser arrows hit them and took them down.

The sounds of police sirens could be heard, and they started to stagger back into their cars.  Blunt arrows slammed into the remaining four, and as they came into view, she collapsed the bow and rocketed upwards. The fuel gauge started blinking, and she turned for the apartment.

The landing was simple, and she locked the wings, then walked back into the shabby apartment. Anna took the armor off, put it away, and locked the case, then, wearing nothing more than a t-shirt, crawled onto the inflata-mattress and slept the sleep of the just.


The next morning she woke up to the sound of her prepaid cell ringing.

“H’lo,” she said, blurry still with sleep.

“Miss Korper? This is Stanley Wildenstern with Boeing. Your resume just hit my desk, and I think I may have a place on my team. Can you come over here later today? I’d like to talk to you about opportunites.”

“Uh.. sure.” She peered blearily at the phone’s screen, then talked again. “Would 1:30 be all right?”

“Fine, fine,” the man said. “I’ll see you then.”

As she sat up, Annaliese Korper felt oddly energized, like she hadn’t in a couple of years. She rose, and prepared for a shower.

It looked like that one wrong turn was going to be the start of reclaiming her life.

She got in the shower, and for the first time in a long time, unconciously, she hummed the Olympic anthem.

 


Posted by mephron

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