Siphone sniffed the air, angling for that familiar scent of power. Mmmm. Smelled like stuffed chicken. Being in the money district of Jack City, it was hard to differentiate the scent of one fat cat from another, to get a bead on Overdrive through the reek of caviar and entitlement, but he had a special odor that made her insides all tingly. So strong, she could almost taste, almost lick, his sweat, his pheromones, the photons crackling from his pores.
“What you looking at, lunch meat?” she said to the well-dressed robber-barons all around her on Main Street. They bumped into and slid around each other to avoid her as she marched forward, clearly not used to seeing a Cape–especially one of the darker persuasion–around their parts in the light of day. Superpeople were dangerous things to these people, an unsettling of the status quo, or at least, their type of it.
Someone like Siphone, all spandex and attitude, leather boots and angry brownness, didn’t belong around the respectable.
Screw them. There was a new dawn coming, and outsiders like Siphon owned the future.
She bumped shoulders with a girl around her age, draped in Gucci and Coach. The girl averted her eyes and walked away, and Siphone felt a tinge of guilt. Clothes she couldn’t afford. An image she couldn’t maintain. Commoditized sex. Fakeness was a stench like anything else.
Siphone had spent enough of her life being that girl. She wouldn’t spend any more of her life scrubbing away weaknesss.
Sniff, sniff. There, to the right. Siphone jerked into the alley flanking her, away from the ivory towers, the crystal-infused cement and the carved stone where money and wealth flowed like rain, but the accompanying power never trickled down.
“Come out! I just want to talk!” she yelled into the sudden darkness. Her voice echoed off the exposed joints and crumbling brickwork here between places, finally bouncing around and up where towers reached the sky. Every step, every breath, their sounds strained to escape, scraping every inch, stripping itself of every secret.
No use in trying to sneak up on him. He knew where she was. And there was nowhere for him to hide either. They both knew this was the kind of place superpeople belonged, somewhere nice and tight, away from the light, somewhere confined, like a pressure cooker on too high, where after the boom there’s either burning coal or a shiny diamond.
“Stay away from me! I ain’t did jack to you!” The voice echoed, coming from nowhere in particular and still everywhere. With her focus narrowed on the dumpster on the far side of the alley, she crouched and kept her pace, her face in a twisted smirk, her hands behind her back the way her momma used to when it was time for Siphone to get a whupping.
“You have too much juice; I need a little bit to go on my way. Fair trade, brotha! Just let me get a taste,” she said, hoping he’d take the bait.
Of course he did. In the split second before the blasts pulsed from his hands, she saw him as he jumped from hiding: ragged, strong, ashen, sweaty, caked, handsome, warped. Like a functional crackhead after a full meal. Teeth clenched, he let it out, lighting the alley.
Hunger being the ultimate equalizer, Siphone used hers to avoid what should’ve been instant death. Her boots gripped the unseemly wall to the left, and with just enough momentum, she lurched herself forward and upward into a vertical spin. Her prey’s eyes began to glow, and for a moment she felt a smug satisfaction in his mistaken perception of his place on the food chain.
Before the stupid thought even had time to reveal itself wrong, she had two fingers in his eyes. There was a boiled crackle, and the entire alley exploded in blue. The surge was so strong, the hue so intense, it made the world outside the alley look dark and old.
Siphone ate, and met eyes with Ms. Coach & Gucci standing at the alley’s entrance. Yeah, they were about the same age, yet before that moment, and maybe since birth, lifetimes apart. No longer. Siphone smiled, and for a split second so did the women, until she finally ran, dropping her bag and probably a bit of pretense too. Good.
After a minute, Siphone was finished, and Overdrive was on the ground. He’d live, of course. She’d never meant to kill him. All she wanted was power and a place in the world that came with it. She grabbed him by the collar and threw him upwards, catching him on her shoulder.
Being someone’s everyday meal wasn’t ideal, but Overdrive wasn’t a bad guy. He’d understand. He might even come to love it. Siphone would give him relief, Overdrive would give her the power to change the world.
Reaching the now empty, dimmed street, she marched on. She had no idea what was next, no concept of what direction she was going. All she knew is that with the power in her possession, she’d do something besides hoard it, besides watch the world around her crumble in her stone, ivory towers.
If you enjoyed this story, check out Expired .