Speculative Contemporary Science Fiction


“We could still leave.” Crosser said as Valor checked the noodles. Nearly done.

“We can’t. Too much is at stake.” The screams of friends echoed in her mind.

“They won’t help us.”

Her watch beeped. Valor pulled up the video screen and zoomed in. Dressed in their normal dark colors, not bothering to conceal their identities, Vilen and Bruiser entered the warehouse.

“And yet here they are.” They would help. Valor had to believe that Vilen and Bruiser would come around.

“They won’t help.” Crosser repeated. They had to, she thought. It was their only chance.

“We don’t know that.” She thought of the man. Of the way he had laughed as he had brought down a building on top of her, and then slaughtered her friends. She should have died. But she had lived. And now Vilen might be their only hope. She looked at Crosser. “Just, give them a chance.


They entered the elevator of the old warehouse. From the outside the placed had seemed abandoned. Graffiti covered the walls. No lights shown through the broken windows. But there were signs.

Like the strategically placed cameras.

The corner of Vilen’s mouth curled. “We’re expected.”

“Yeah. Because this is a trap.” Bruiser’s mouth pressed into a thin line. A rusted grate lowered and the elevator began to rise with heavy protest. “I don’t even know why we’re here.”

“We were invited.” An invitation for dinner with her enemy. It was strange to say the least. Valor had left her own little gang and gone off to fight somewhere else for the last week. Only a day after returning, an invitation had arrived via Vilen’s messengers. Irritating, considering she had thought her network was more secure than that.

Bruiser eyed another security camera. “Who invites their mortal enemies to dinner?”

Vilen didn’t answer. She knew a rhetorical question when she heard one. Bruiser continued on. “It’s just weird. Maybe something is wrong with them. Or you know, it’s a trap. We could leave.”

“We’re not leaving.” She said. The elevator groaned to a stop. The grate slid aside.  She walked out into a dirty, moldy hallway. Lightbulbs flickered along the ceiling. At the end of the hallway was a door. Their destination. “Aren’t you curious?”


Vilen stopped in front of the door. Bruiser gave her a hard look. “When this turns out to be a trap, I’m saying I told you so.”

She smiled. “I would expect nothing less.” Vilen knocked.

Locks clicked and the door opened without a noise. Valor nodded to them. “I wasn’t sure you would come.” The supposed hero wasn’t wearing her super suit but a pair of jeans and a dark t-shirt. Her mask though, was firmly in place. Whatever this was, it was still business.

“How could we refuse?”

A snort sounded behind her. Standing by a rickety card table, glaring at them from behind a navy blue mask was Crosser- Valor’s sidekick. It seemed he didn’t approve of tonight’s invitation either.

“Please come in.” Valor stepped backed and gestured them inside.

Vilen swept across the threshold. Bruiser followed. The room was small. A kitchenette that wouldn’t pass anyone’s health inspection was squashed in a corner. Like in the hallway, a few bare lightbulbs hung from the ceiling, flickering occasionally.

She took a seat the card table in one of the miss-matched chairs. Bruiser sat on her right. He flicked an imaginary piece of dirt off the table. “Nice place you have here.”

“You’re more than welcome to leave.” Crosser said.

“Cross.” A hint of warning entered Valor’s voice. Their eyes met and an unspoken conversation happened. Valor won as Crosser turned his back on her and stalked over to the kitchen.

“Forgive us. There’s been…” Valor looked lost for words. The hero who could always summon some rousing speech, or a quick retort was having trouble? What was going on? “A lot.” She finally settled with.

“That’s…clear.” Bruiser muttered under his breath.

“I hope you like spaghetti and garlic bread.” Valor said.

“That’s fine. I’m not a vampire.” Vilen smirked.

The corner of Valor’s mouth lifted before falling as if she couldn’t quite summon the energy to be amused. She moved stiffly to the kitchenette where she and Crosser began to fill plates. Vilen’s eyes narrowed. Injuries? The hero had been gone overseas for over a week. Helping some local chapter of the United League.

Crosser set a hand on her shoulder. They looked at each other for a moment having another unspoken conversation. Valor nodded. Crosser picked up the plates and brought them over. Vilen’s stomach rumbled at the sight.

From a cooler, Valor pulled four water bottles and brought them over. “They’re still sealed.”

She inclined her head in thanks. Crosser sat a plate of garlic bread in the center of the table and the two heroes took their seats. The side-kick started eating immediately. Not to be outdone, Bruiser did as well.


Vilen picked up her plastic fork and twirled the long noodles around. She ate slowly, observing. Bruiser and Crosser acted as if they were in an eating contest-shoving food into their mouths after barely swallowing the last bite. Valor, however, pushed her food around on her plate as if the dish held no appeal to her.

She sat down the fork. “All right. What is going on? Why did you invite us here?”

Valor abandoned her pretense of eating. The two men actually glanced at each other, before swallowing their last bites and setting down their utensils.

“What do you know about Le Rouge?” The hero asked.

Her heart skipped a beat. It had been a decade since she had heard the moniker or seen the man. Le Rouge. The Red.

“Why would I know anything about Le Rouge?” Did anyone hear the strain in her voice?

“Because you’re working with him.” Crosser said as if that was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Vilen would never work with that monster.” Bruiser snapped. Even among people like them- those who chose to walk outside of the law- Le Rouge was a monster. There was a reason he was called The Red. Perhaps it would have been better to call him Le Sang- The Blood. It was what he spilt with reckless, and cruel abandon.

“But she did.” Crosser said.

Valor didn’t speak. She merely looked at Vilen as if expecting something.

“What do you want to know?” Vilen said, her mouth twisting. “That he’s a monster? That he’s insane? That he will kill anyone just for the sake of spilling their blood? I’m sure you know all that.”

Valor’s eyes fell. “Yes. I do.”

Vilen had learned long ago to shove her feelings into a drawer and not acknowledge them. She knew how to laugh off an injury or a plan gone wrong. But right now, she felt her blood turn cold. “What happened?” Her words felt like ice on her tongue. When Valor looked up, Vilen saw a woman who was finally starting to break. No other explanation was needed. “You faced him.”

Valor’s voice held no emotion as she answered. “There will be an official press release tomorrow. Six of us were killed. Three badly injured. The only reason I’m even alive is that he thought the building got me first.”

A mistake that Le Rouge would not make again. Valor’s super strength and durability had protected her. Next time, it wouldn’t.

“You want me to help you.” Finally she knew what this entire night was for. It was a trap, she thought. Just not the type she or Bruiser had expected.


Vilen’s hands trembled in her lap. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”

“Don’t I?” Valor’s voice was quiet.

She didn’t. If Valor knew all that Vilen had done for Le Rouge and what she had done to escape him, she wouldn’t be asking this of her.

“You know him. You know how he thinks. Your information is invaluable.” Valor said. “Please help us.”

The spaghetti sat in her stomach like a rock. Maybe it was poisoned. It would be a kinder fate then what was coming. “I can’t help you.”

Valor studied her. “Can’t or won’t?”

Vilen stood up. “It means the same thing.”

Valor stood up as well. “No, it doesn’t.”

Bruiser pushed back his chair. “If Vilen says we’re not helping, then we’re not helping. Call upon your stupid league to help you, and leave us alone.”

“Do you think he’ll leave you alone?” Crosser asked. “You said it yourself. He’s a monster. If you won’t work with him, he’ll kill the two of you just as easily as he’ll kill us.” His eyes flicked to Vilen. “And from what I’ve heard, he won’t be merciful.”

No, he wouldn’t be. Still… “We can’t help you.” Vilen turned towards the door.

“Vilen.” Valor sucked in a quick breath as she took a step. She took a deeper breath. “Please. I know you’re scared. We are too. But if we work together…”

“Nothing will change.” The words hung in the air. There was nothing left to say.

Vilen left. Bruiser followed.

As the elevator descended, protesting as it did so, she tried to make herself believe her words. Nothing would change. They would all be dead. Le Rouge would kill her personally and without hesitation or mercy.

She was a villain. The bad guy. Valor and Crosser and the United League were her enemies. Not her friends.

“Crosser’s right. Le Rouge will come for us.” Bruiser said. Vilen nearly smiled. Us. Bruiser could escape. Le Rouge would come after her but her friend could get away. But she knew he wouldn’t leave and she couldn’t ask it of him.

“I know.”

“We running?”

It would be the smart thing to do. The sensible thing. She looked at Bruiser. “I don’t know.”


Valor stared at the closed door.

“I told you they wouldn’t help.” Crosser said as he dumped the plates into a trash bag. “This entire night was a waste of time.”

“No. It wasn’t.” She’s seen the fear in Vilen. The loyalty of Bruiser. They were technically her enemies. But Le Rouge was bigger than any of them. She had hope, and maybe it was a fool’s hope but she believed that Vilen would come around and Bruiser with her.

After all, the enemy of an enemy is always a friend.

July 03, 2021 00:59

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