|Mon, 15 Nov 1999
D Benway <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[YJ/Arrowette] Arrow Through The Heart
The characters here belong to DC Comics, but the story belongs to me. It is set six months after the end of Young Justice #16, and ignores any further YJ continuity. I'm going to ignore the whole Destruction of Gotham City thing, too. If you don't know who the characters are, see the notes at the end. Many thanks to Indigo for beta-reading.
Arrow Through The Heart
The Lord is my shepherd;
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil;
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
I came in second. No surprise. It's been happening a lot lately.
It was Marcey's idea for me to come here. She's dead now.
Bart said I would have won if my project had been able to take the judges for flights around the arena. Cassie said I deserved to win, but then she would say that.
I don't think I would have come in second if I hadn't worn my little red dress. The one that Cassie's mom says is too old for me. No-one older than me could fit in it. I've been stared at for three days. Every kid at this science fair, every judge, every sponsor who came to my booth stared at me. Some of them stared at the project too. I don't think any of them thought that you could make anything like that out of carbon fibre composite. I got four offers for rights to the patent and turned them all down. I learned all about contracts, so that I would be able to market action figures of myself. Thank you, Mommie Dearest. Sorry you couldn't be here. Yeah, right.
They're all here. All my friends. The four people in this world who never called me Little Miss Perfect, who just took me as I am. Or was. No, am. Cassie's asleep in the room, tired from her flight. Bart's checking out the prototype games, Kon's checking out the other red dresses. He knows I'm not interested. Not any more.
Rob's here too. He has a friend here, from Gotham. She's a blonde, just like me. She's got a butt like Cassie's mom, and she's a year older than me. Her face says 20. I think she might be one of us. Or was. She didn't place in the fair. Didn't know how to present herself. Sounded like she was brought up in a trailer park. I was brought up in a trailer park, but Mommie Dearest bought me elocution lessons, so now I sound like I grew up next door to Rob.
It's almost over. I start packing things up, folding away the posters, putting the displays back in their cases, when I see them. All my friends, standing together. Cassie's glancing over her shoulder in my direction, looking worried. I've felt the buzz in the crowd for the last hour, and I know they know what it's about. It's going to be bad.
What's up? I ask.
Nothing, says Bart. Nothing, nope, not a thing.
Bart, says Cassie.
There's been a shooting, says Rob.
At a school, I say.
Yes, says Rob.
So what's the scoop, I say.
Kon looks at the ceiling. Bart fidgets, supersonically. Cassie opens her mouth, then stops.
I'm not sure there is a scoop, says Rob.
He spaces in that special way that he does when he's listening in. The others are still silent. I pretend it's out of respect for Marcey.
It's a mess, says Rob. Some kid got off a bus at a suburban high school, opened fire with a pistol, then ran away. They don't have an age, they don't have a height or a weight, the witnesses can't even decide if he was White or Black or Asian.
How'd he get away? asks Cassie.
Just ran, says Rob. Everyone else hit the ground, so no-one followed.
How many dead? I ask.
Silence, for a moment. More girder inspection. Who do they think I am? I guess I know the answer to that.
Four, says Rob. All students.
He adds that for my benefit, I'm sure. Just so I would know that the school psychiatrist didn't get killed too.
Anything we can do? I ask.
I haven't done anything for months, not like this, not with them, but I'm not going to let them treat me like this.
Maybe, says Rob. They've totally messed up. All the cops are stopping school buses and questioning all the kids. All 50 thousand of them. Either that or their trying to stop the parents from burning the buses.
I know all about that. Almost all the kids at Elias go there so they won't have to go to school with kids who are bused in.
How long ago? I ask.
Three hours, says Rob.
He could be anywhere, says Cassie.
He could be heading our way, says Rob.
You think? says Kon.
Most of the cops are out there in the suburbs, says Rob. This convention centre's next to the bus station, and if he hasn't hitched and he's running, he could be heading this way now. The cops haven't checked out the area just north of here, yet. Not seriously.
But we don't know what he looks like, says Kon.
We could look for someone unusual, says Cassie.
Bart and Kon could do a wide sweep, says Rob. Cassie and Cissie, you could do the blocks just north of here.
Couldn't we do it faster if Cassie joined the sweep and I went with you? I ask.
I have a lead of my own to look into, he says.
For a moment, I think he doesn't trust me, then I see that there's no-one in the booth where his little friend from Gotham was. I think of the worst, but then kick myself inside. Three hours ago, she was here.
It takes us 15 minutes to get suited up. All but me. I haven't got a suit, or a bow, or a mom anymore. Just Mommie Dearest. Cassie's wearing that mop on her head and the goggles. Wonder Girl, world's geekiest looking superhero. I kick myself inside. It would be so easy to be mean. I've just got the usual. T-shirt, Jeans. Leather jacket that really belongs to someone else. Construction boots with steel tipped toes, and maybe a little something up my sleeve. Just another kid on a Thursday night in downtown nowhere.
Rob agreed with Cassie that we look for anything unusual. Hah. Compared to the school, everything is unusual. Elias is out there, out where everyone lives in a nice big house and there are no smelly factories or the people who work in them. Not like here. This is where Mommie Dearest would take me to train. Not in this town, but somewhere just like here. That's how I got to know the difference in smell between fresh and stale piss on concrete, and what it could mean. Not too many of the other kids at Elias know that.
On the first block, we meet the lady with the ignition coil. She's got a nice coat on, and she's crying. She says her car's broken down, and her husband will be mad if she can't get it towed. Cassie gives her a twenty. I see the worn out shoes and the line of scars along her ankle. I know how hard it is to get an ignition coil that rusty out of a car that old, but I'm not going to tell Cassie. She's next to invulnerable, not like me. Her gods shower good fortune on her, most of the time. I don't want to spoil it for her.
On the third block we come up behind some kids. They run. We're white. They're not. They're too small, anyway.
On the fifth block, we come to the guys burning wood in a barrel. One of them says something to me and Cassie over-reacts. It's ugly. We ask, but they just clam up. Cassie's shaking as we go. She hasn't been out as much as I have. I've been called worse.
On the eighth block, there's a park. It's out of place. It's elegant, all old stone arches and benches, or what's left of them. It's dark, and we wouldn't be able to see any of it if it wasn't for the full moon. It makes me think of those New Orleans graveyards that we see in Wendy The Werewolf Killer. Marcey used to like New Orleans. She had pictures of it in her office. Pictures of graveyards like this. She thought they were quaint.
Cassie takes my elbow and I almost lose it. She points to the corner opposite the park. There's someone there. It's Rob's little friend, hard to see because she's wearing a black hood and dark baggy pants. She sees us and beckons us over. She points into the park.
I think that's who you're looking for, she says. Cassie doesn't like it, and neither do I. Rob's never said anything about her.
Come on, she says. I was waiting for back-up.
We walk into the park, It takes my eyes a minute to adjust. Rob's little friend Steph is wearing night goggles. We stop, hidden by a hedge from our quarry. We can barely make him out, walking in a tight little circle in a clearing. Walking in little circles like some of the people in the mental hospital do. He's small, maybe a short man, maybe just a kid. His mumbling's too deep for him to be a girl.
Has he got a gun? I whisper.
Steph shakes her head.
A twig breaks. We didn't move. He looks up. He runs. Cassie takes off. I can fly, just a little, if I really work at it. Steph sighs. Kid's on the ground pinned, screaming all weird. As if anyone's going to come and help him out, out here in the dark.
I run up to Cassie, and the kid goes quiet. It is a kid. He's Black, then he twists his head and he looks kind of Chinese. That's not why his face is wrong. He has the oddest look. I've seen that before, too. I check behind me.
You got him? says Bart.
We've got someone, says Cassie.
No gun, says Bart.
He dumps a handful of old kleenexes and a battered, shapeless wallet on the ground.
You got him? says Kon, flying in.
I look around for Steph, but she's gone. Done a Rob. The kid on the ground just stares at Kon. I think the kid wets himself. It sure smells like it.
I don't know, says Cassie.
Bart, she asks. Was there anything on him?
Six bucks, says Bart. Half a Gotham school ID card.
Gotham? I say.
Two years old, says Bart.
What now? says Cassie.
Let him go, I say.
Cassie lets him go. He gets up, kind of. He's not really standing straight, kind of all folded over, hiding from our stares.
I'm Cissie, I say.
He moans. I give him my 100-watt special. Thank you, Mommie Dearest, for all the orthodontics.
Pretty, he says.
You were all out here in the park by yourself, I say.
He looks away.
Its cold and lonely out here, I say.
I'm cold, too, he says.
Walking keeps you warm, I say.
I know enough not to ask a direct question. I know why I have to pretend that this is all normal, all perfectly normal. The others aren't saying anything, thank God. Maybe they think it takes one to know one.
My mom's dead, he says.
Mine too, I say.
It just slips out. Oh, Marcey. Almost tears, but I hold them back.
Did you kill her? Kon says.
Yes, I say.
Then I realize that he wasn't speaking to me.
The kid starts to moan, not a human sound. Not a normal human sound, anyways.
What? says Kon.
Steph, no! Rob yells from somewhere near.
There's a sound, a click, so familiar. I'm throwing myself at the kid as I hear the bowstring resonating. I'm moving across the front of him, and I know it's wrong, I'm too fast or too slow. I hear Kon take off. I see Cassie turning.
It catches me, just. I feel the bolt tear through the sleeve of my leather jacket and through just a little bit of me, then into him. Then we're falling, falling down. I'm looking into his face. He spasms as his eyes roll back, but I don't get thrown. I'm still pinned to him by the bolt, and now I'm covered in his heart's blood. I lay there for a moment, listening the death rattle through the lips only inches from my eyes. I can hear it, see it, taste it, smell it, feel it. I don't want to move again. Maybe if I just close my eyes. I see Marcey screaming, begging for her life. I hear her scream cut off as the last bullet tears through her heart.
There's a scuffle behind me, and someone takes a hit from Kon. Remarkably, they get up. So do I, sort of. I take off my jacket, get unpinned. The arm's not so bad, just a graze. Bart's got Steph, but her crossbow is too small to kill and it still has a bolt in it. Cassie and Kon are dragging someone out of the bushes. It's a woman, and she's got a crossbow, too. It doesn't have a bolt in it.
Huntress, says Rob.
Let me go, she snarls.
I look back at the kid. He's still twitching, a little. If I close my eyes, I'll see Marcey lying on the floor, twitching.
I don't close my eyes. I look at the murderer, and I feel my eyes go wider. She wears a crucifix.
Why, I ask.
Justice, she says.
She doesn't understand the question. Then I'm on her, because Bart isn't looking. Even Cassie and Kon don't see the carbon fibre knife flashing from my sleeve until it's too late. I slash, and it comes free. I take it my hand. She stares back at me. Then Bart has me and the knife, but when he see's what I've done he lets me keep the crucifix.
That's mine, she says.
How can you wear this? I ask. Is this what He died for?
What did those kids die for? says the Huntress. Give it to me. It's mine.
Who is he? I ask.
Kieron Chang, she says. Pulled this shit in Gotham twice last year.
His ID says he's Antwon Marcos, says Bart. We're going to lose lots of points over this one.
I put the crucifix in Antwon's hands and close them around it.
It's for the righteous, not the self-righteous, I say.
The Huntress just kind of collapses between them. There's red and blue lights, and a cop car coming across the grass. One cop. He has his cuffs out. He locks up the Huntress without saying anything. There's five kids in costume and me all covered in blood and it's like he doesn't even see us.
I'm sorry, she says.
Save it, says the cop.
The cop takes the Huntress to his car. He doesn't even look at Antwon.
Get lost, he says, then drives off.
We're all staring at Rob. He's staring at Steph.
I could have stopped her, if you'd had any faith in me at all, she says.
She vanishes into the bushes quiet as he ever did.
Rob stares at the place where she stood.
We have to go, he whispers.
What about him, says Cassie, pointing at Antwon.
Please, begs Rob, his voice cracking.
They can't stand it any longer, not to see him like this. Kon picks him up and flies off. Cassie picks me up and flies after him. Bart's gone. I look down at the darkness, at the park, until it disappears behind the old factories and I can't see it any more.
We fly back to my room in the hotel and go in through the window. If we went through the lobby now, I wonder how many would be looking at my red t-shirt. Rob tells his invisible friend the minimum, and the cops find Antwon. The real cops, that is.
Cassie takes me to the bathroom. She's crying. I'm not. She gets me clean. I don't need help, but it's something she needs to do. At the end, there's blood on the towels, on the wallpaper, on the tiles. There's even a red ring around the bathtub.
We're watching the news. They find the kid who shot up the school bus. They find him in his bedroom at home listening to KMFDM on his Discman. He wasn't the one who the Huntress was after. They show parents burning a record store somewhere. Antwon gets half a sentence from the Black newsguy and not even a picture. Guess they figure his name tells the story all by itself.
After the news, I don't say much. Bart and Kon and Cassie say a lot of things that they'll wish they hadn't. Kon flies off to wherever it is he goes to be alone when things get bad. Bart finds more news, and just sits there watching it, not moving at all. Cassie falls asleep in a chair, her face all puffy from the tears.
I go over to where Rob's sitting, where we haven't been watching him. He was always the one to look to, always standing tall, never breaking, never bending. Now, he's broken. There's a good chance that the man in the black cape will take it all away, and he'll just be Tim Drake again. No-one's figured out that I know, yet, not even him. I keep wondering if I should tell him, to let him know how easy it was to track him down. If I do, it won't be now. Instead, I sit on the arm of the chair and I hold him. He's so small, so light. He cries in silence, only by holding him can I feel it. He's gone somewhere that I've been, maybe he thinks he hasn't got anyone to show him the way back. He'll want to know Why but there isn't a why. Not that we can know. In the end, I know there will be justice. But for now, there's just us.
Young Justice is Robin [Rob], Arrowette [Cissie, the narrator], Wonder Girl [Cassie], Superboy [Kon], and Impulse [Bart]. The Secret is also in the group, although I didn't use her. YJ is slowly becoming a better book, though YJ 15 is a high point above many lows in the series. Also, Nightwing is apparently in training to become a Bludhaven cop, while the Huntress is a notably more murderous female version of Batman. She has become the new Batgirl (or so I've heard), but I'm ignoring all that.
Our heroine is in her early teens, and was pushed by her mother (Mommie Dearest) into becoming a super-heroine a bit too soon. After MD is taken away in a van, Cissie gets sent to a private boarding school, where she is put in the care of the school shrink [Marcey]. Marcey helps Cissie to discover that she didn't need to be pushed into super-hero-dom at all by MD, and after that she takes up with YJ. In YJ 15, Marcey gets murdered by a psychotic ex, and Cissie sees the murder on tape and snaps. She hunts down the killer with trademark bow and arrows, and is only stopped at the last minute from summarily executing the murderer by the intervention of Kon.
If you've been following the news, this story was inspired by the latest example of a public burning of a person who committed murder while in a seriously deranged state. The text style was nicked from Cormac McCarthy, and the righteousness line and some of the themes came out of a review of Kevin Smith's film Dogma and out of Warren Ellis' The Authority.