All The Broken Hearts – Prologue

All The Broken Hearts – Prologue

Pink city skylines and the wind in your hair… Had Melodie not been deathly afraid of heights, it would’ve been lovely to be up there on the roof. The whole sunset was a gorgeous shade of watermelon, tinged by strawberry and raspberry with just a little bit of cotton candy blue. It was just too bad that terror fixed her to her spot, pressing herself close to Wolfgang while the massive hellhound bickered with Elliot over the binoculars again.

“Come on, give them to me!” Elliot’s voice was clipped with great emphasis on every syllable, the way it always was when he was annoyed. Looking out of the corner of her eye, Melodie could see the way his snakelike eyes gleamed behind the lenses of his gas mask, his willowy hands clawing at Wolfgang’s fur in frustration. The hellhound insistently held them far out of his reach with massive paws.

“Absolutely not. I’m the only one in the whole league who can be trusted with these things anymore. They’re expensive as hell!”

The snake-man’s tail lashed behind him, and Melodie could practically hear the way his fangs bared just by listening to his voice. “Quit being so difficult, will you?!”

“I’m not being diffi-”

The sudden sound of claws scrabbling against plastic and the loud voices of both men swearing in panicked tones filled the air as the binoculars, having been held maybe a little too high over the edge of the building out of Elliot’s reach, suddenly decided to plunge out of Wolfgang’s massive hand-paws. It tumbled down, down, down until it hit the pavement below with a loud CRACK that indicated before Melodie even looked over the edge that it was completely and irreparably broken.

“Well,” Wolfgang drew a shaky breath, “It was nice knowing you.”

Craning her neck out fully over the side of the building, Melodie could only barely see the broken fragments of the binoculars lying scattered on the ground below. “Maybe we can fix it?” she posited half-heartedly, hoping that maybe there was still a way to get around their boss’ wrath. Could they put it back together somehow? Or pretend nothing ever happened and sweep it under the rug like a guilty child?

“We’ll have to pool our money together and pay for the damages,” Elliot said in a tone full of disdain. “Given the cost of those things, that means about three months worth of half of each of our paychecks.”

Half of each of our paychecks for three months?! What the hell? Who even makes binoculars that expensive?! WHO BUYS THAT?!?!” Wolfgang exclaimed, throwing his paws up in the air for a second.

Elliot sighed and rolled his eyes behind the lenses of his gas mask. “They didn’t come that expensive. Our dear Huck has been modifying them, and they’ll want to be reimbursed for the damages. Am I seriously the only one who’s been paying attention at department meetings?”

“Yes,” Melodie said. Most people she knew would’ve been ashamed of not paying attention at important meetings, but Melodie proudly zoned out every single time. She never had the head for sitting still and paying attention for long periods of time.

When they’d finally scooped all the little binocular shards into a discarded shopping bag they found on the sidewalk, the skies had turned velvety black. Elliot led the charge back home, with Melodie in the middle and Wolfgang bringing up the rear, bag in hand. Exhausted, they tiptoed through the city streets and alleys, slipping through the shadows and tracing the quickest path back. A little dread roiled in Melodie’s stomach, fear of the trouble they might be in for breaking the binoculars, but she put it to rest as best she could. Elliot had reassured both her and Wolfgang that he would do the talking – something he had always been incredibly adept at. Though a liar and manipulator, he could be wonderfully useful at times.

Wolfgang shuffled quietly along behind Melodie, singing softly to himself while he moved. Melodie recognized the tune as “Hey There Delilah,” and sank into the sound ever-so-slightly. Eventually, Elliot caught on to the tune and began to sing along, velvety timbre filling the night air. It chilled Melodie’s skin along with the cool breeze that wafted softly through the city. Who was she not to harmonize?

Three voices in the night, three coworkers more like family making their return home. They were on their fifth or sixth round of “Hey There Delilah” when they finally got back to the mansion their organization called home, a cross between modern style and an old Greek temple, boxes and intricate columns. Sometimes, Melodie wondered who built the property and how much it had cost. Nobody ever knew when she asked, and if they did, they didn’t tell her.

The doors swung open onto the admittedly rather lavish foyer. If you thought that the outside of the building was strange, then you certainly weren’t ready for the absolutely wild hodgepodge of different eras of furniture all over the house. Different rooms had wildly different aesthetics, layouts, and so on. Such was the nature of living in a house with multiple people. As far as Melodie knew, this kind of aesthetic chaos was common all over the city.

“You’re late.”

Chester stood in the stairwell, eyeing the trio up and down. He liked to pretend he was important, which made him look very punchable sometimes.

“Our apologies, Chester,” Elliot intoned smoothly, taking off his gas mask to reveal dark skin and pale, snakelike eyes. His upper eyelids were dusted in purple eyeshadow, which matched the scales like freckles across his cheeks. His lips were, as usual, pulled back into a snide smile. “We got a bit hung up after a little mishap.”

“We broke the binoculars!” Wolfgang blurted, suddenly looking almost ready to cry. “We dropped them off the top of a building by accident and they shattered!”

Chester held back laughter at this, which made him look like he’d just eaten a lemon. “Wha-?”

“Elliot tried taking them from me but I didn’t want to give them to him so I held them over the side of the building and they fell!”

Elliot grabbed Wolfgang’s snout in one hand with an insistent ‘Shh!’ 

“What he meant to say,” Elliot began in his most hypnotic tone, “Was that an unfortunate series of events caused them to plummet over the side of our lookout post and shatter upon hitting the ground below. We sincerely hope that such a mistake can be forgiven, and hope that perhaps you can convince Huck and the Boss to be a little more… lenient in their reactions to our mistake.”

Silence hung in the air for a moment, and then Chester gently nodded his head. “Fine, fair enough. I’ll go let them know, you guys sit down for dinner.”

With a near sickening amount of pride, Elliot sauntered off down the hallway to the dining room, Wolfgang in tow and Melodie speed-walking to keep up in the rear. 

Dinner had been shepherd’s pie, a mess of mashed potatoes and gravy with peas and carrots. After she’d finished eating, Melodie perched solo in her loft, gazing out the window across the stars and numerous city lights shining in the dark. Apartment lights blinked on and off with their owners’ movements from room to room, some going completely dark as someone retired to bed and others blinking yellow with tinges of red, blue, and green as their owners prepared dinner or watched TV. Some that were previously dark flickered on as their residents got home from work.

Melodie’s room was a hodgepodge of Vocaloid posters, musical equipment, plushies, and a whole wall of knives. In other words; everything a young musical artist and supervillainess needed. The keyboard, her computer, and various silly fidget toys sat in the corner by the window, but she avoided them for the time being, turning from watching the world from her favorite gamer chair and standing up. Without much hesitation, she leapt onto her bed, immediately crashing down among the pillows and stuffies that waited for her there, faceplanting happily in the blankets. 

After a brief moment of fishing around on her bedside table for her phone, she rolled over onto her side and opened her Spotify, flicking on her usual playlist and sinking into the sounds. Some of them were her songs, some were Vocaloid and hyperpop from other artists, and some were phonk or rap. EDM, techno, a little pop, too. Whatever she felt like.

Since she’d started supervillainy, Melodie had discovered that listening to music was the best way to end her day. No matter how stressful the mission had been or how badly injured she was, music was her constant, a warm bath washing all the dirt and grime away. Swaying to the beat, no more thoughts. Perfection.

Save for the sudden and rather disruptive pinging sound from her phone, at least. It nearly gave her a heart attack in its unexpected volume, causing her to snatch up the device and quickly power it on to see what on Earth had caused such a sound. The notification on her eye-bleedingly bright lockscreen was from a news outlet Elliot had subscribed her to some years ago.

“New Heroes Join the Aura Champions Hero Organization: Everything we Know so Far”

Huh. New heroes in the Aura Champions? That meant new enemies. Better read up. With a flick of her finger, Melodie opened her phone to the article and did her best to scrutinize every letter of it. She might’ve been the youngest in her own organization, but she wasn’t about to ignore one of the greatest lessons ever taught to her; never skimp out on good information.

The article listed quite a few new names in the local hero business, along with pictures of each hero mid-attack on a training dummy of one kind or another. Bloodline of Anubis, Salamander, Cyberknight, Groundbreaker, the Mountain Blade, Cherry Prophecy, and a few others.

It was Bloodline of Anubis who caught her eye the most. His legal name wasn’t listed, but he clearly took after his title. The head of a jackal, a fluffy tail, pitch-black fur covering his whole body, truly like a modernized god. His attacks consisted of two sickles and summoning up some kind of ghostly energy, according to the article. In the photo, she could see the way he was built; lean muscle and sharp angles. Some girls probably would’ve been obsessed with it. Some boys, too, and yet that wasn’t what caught Melodie’s eye most in that picture. Not even in the slightest. No, no… it was the hieroglyphs marked on his shoulder that drew her in the most. A quick search and a little translation later, she knew what it meant.

“Hello, Cairo.

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