The Defiant Challengers

She… he? …shot a grin and a mock salute at Skye Raider as she backed away from him.

We should make up our minds. She or he?

I’m definitely a she. Even if I’m in a male body.

The discovery that crossing back from the underworld afforded the opportunity for her to not only heal but also reshape her body had been an unexpected boon. Sandra’s supposedly dead body could hardly go to her own memorial service, especially since the last time STAR had seen her they’d been shooting at her.

On the other hand, Officer Carmichael was expected. His body didn’t look as good in the black leather bodysuit, but the original Officer Carmichael had been kind enough to lend his clothes after she knocked him out and left him tied up in an alley.

She’d been slowly piecing together who she was. A crime fighter, though that had been apparent early. A mask rather than an outright super. Dedicated. Defiant of the odds. Skye Raider had been… not a friend, exactly. Friends go out on the town and have coffees and watch movies. The only time Sandra had really seen Skye Raider was as Blackbird, fighting bad guys on the streets. But… no, maybe friend was right. Even if you only saw a friend at a hobby or work, they were still a friend. It was just that some hobbies were weirder than others.

And then there was Crane Kick. She watched with a bittersweet smile as he talked with Skye Raider. She recalled, now, meeting him for the first time; she’d just finished studying science at college and was now fighting crime with her gadgets, he’d been a bright kid in junior high who had managed to put the pieces together and work out who she was. She’d been reluctant to get him involved, but it was apparent that he wasn’t going to back down when he tracked her down during a fight with… now who was it again? Didn’t matter now. The least she could do was teach him how to keep himself safe, and taking him with her on patrols meant that he wasn’t out by himself.

He’d grown. It was strange to notice how her still hazy memories of him pegged him still as that barely teenaged boy, but now her fresh set of eyes saw him as a young man. Was it simply having to deal with her death? He certainly stood on the precipice of a life-changing choice. Would he continue without her? She wondered…

“I’m sorry to interrupt and I promise to keep this short,” Captain Thunder’s voice cut through her pondering. Around her, the assembled heroes turned. “It’s not often we are allowed to come together like this. For us to gather together as heroes, as comrades, as family. I’m sure if she were with us Sandra would be happy to see each and everyone of you.”

Not half as happy as each and everyone of you’d be surprised if I announced myself right now.

Very tempting. But no.

She listened attentively to the speech, a little surprised at how genuine and unrehearsed it seemed. Part of her sifted through the words for hints about who she’d been, another part reflecting on the strangeness of listening to her own eulogy. Two phrases lingered in her mind…

…willing to forsake their own innocence to protect others.

…finish the work she started.

He’s got a point. It’s dangerous work.

Not for us.

She glanced at Crane Kick, sharing his thoughts with the crowd.

For some, though.

The Antisocial Butterfly!

What?

The villain I was fighting when I met Crane Kick.

Oh. Right.

But yes, this work can kill those unprepared. Even those prepared.

Not us though.

Better us than another.

She grinned, a wide grin that was feeling more and more natural. Despite her resurrection, she felt that Blackbird was, in many ways, still dead. She’d heard STAR had a new name for her now: Cheshire. And she was now starting to feel she had a handle on just who Cheshire was going to be.

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