Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza

by Carrie Vaughn

The thing Ana Cortez remembered most about being shot was not realizing she’d been shot. It was more than adrenaline or the chaos of the situation. It was thinking, this can’t possibly be happening. No way was this really happening. When you have ace powers, you’re supposed to be able to save the world. But then you get shot.

She’d been part of the group that ditched American Hero to try to do some good intervening in Egypt’s civil war. And maybe they had done some good—they’d done something, at any rate. Maybe they’d stopped a conflict that would have raged out of control; maybe they’d saved some lives. But they’d killed, too. She’d killed. She avoided news coverage and replays of the event, but she still saw it playing over in her mind: a crack in the earth opening under her touch, part of an army falling in, hundreds of soldiers buried alive. . . Self-defense, she told herself. Those soldiers had been about to attack her and the people she was helping to defend. It had been mostly instinct. She hadn’t believed she was capable of such massive power, of so much destruction.

And then she got shot. She didn’t think she’d been in serious danger of dying—help had been close by. Michael—Drummer Boy—carried her to a first aid tent, his six arms feeling like a cage around her while she was still trying to figure out exactly what had happened, her blood spilling over them both. Others had died; friends had died. She was lucky. That was what she kept telling herself.

A month had passed. She was home now, on the dried-out fringes of Las Vegas, New Mexico. She’d been told to go home, visit her family, rest. She didn’t really want to be here. If she slowed down, if she rested—if she came home—she might never get out again. Her getting out of here the first time was almost a miracle.

But she was here. She couldn’t sleep. Her heart ached.

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Original Fiction from • Illustrated by John Picacio