Sometimes Cameron really wished life worked like it did on TV. There, it’d either be the first, third or last location on the list, a number with significance. One of those would be where Gladwell was hiding.
It turned out to be none.
They still didn’t find anything when they looped back and did a more thorough search. Frustrating. Cameron sighed as Allison’s Ion drones hovered in the air above a bunch of storage units, the last location on the list. Maybe Creed’s intel was off. Rare for it to happen to him but nobody was perfect and if Gladwell was easy to predict, she would have gotten caught a long time ago. Still, it would have been nice if the universe did her a favor for once and had Gladwell be in one of those places they checked.
Cameron leaned against the side of the ship and watched Matt pace back and forth. Allison stared at the storage units, unusually still. Lost in thought or communicating with Hayes privately. What would people think of them, a bunch of teenagers with no clue what to do next were their only line of defense against one of the more terrifying villains around? Lucky for them, nobody was around. No one in this side of town stayed when they saw superheroes approaching.
“You’re talking to Hayes?” Cameron asked Allison.
“I was. He told us to stay here until he decides what he wants us to do next,” she answered.
“Which should be calling for backup, right? Get some other heroes to come and do the grunt work for us?” Cameron smirked, a smiley no doubt appearing on the front of her helmet. “Or instead of running around, getting nothing done, we get Gladwell to come to us. Challenge her, see if she shows up.”
“Eager to rush into danger for people you claim not to be your friends,” Allison replied neutrally. “Or is this for the common good of the city?”
Cameron shrugged as nonchalantly as she could. Ian didn’t need the scrutiny that would come from the SAA knowing they were friends, more than that sometimes. “It’s neither. I’m a girl of action and I don’t like to be pushed around. That’s all she’ll do if we give her the chance to. She’ll push Avocet around like we’re puppets on a string.”
“We don’t have to do anything right this second,” Matt cut in. “We can call Agent Hayes, get his opinion. He might even agree.”
Allison took a step forward, her Ion drones coming to meet her. “If we had more time, perhaps.” She didn’t get a chance to figure out what that meant before the answer appeared right in front of her.
Gladwell looked like a person. No horns or tail to clearly mark her as something different, something evil. She wore stylishly ripped jeans and a white tank top, her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She greeted them with a wide smile, friendly. Despite herself, Cameron flinched. Gladwell came out of nowhere, standing in the center of the triangle they had unintentionally formed. “I thought I was doing a good job of hiding myself. What gave me away?” she asked.
“My drones didn’t find anything. They should have at least detected Point Blank’s energy, but they didn’t. Whatever you’re doing to mask your energy is working a little too well,” Allison answered. Cameron didn’t know what freaked her out more, Gladwell trailing her all this time or Allison having such a calm, casual conversation about it.
Gladwell was essentially the boogeyman. The very idea of her power would freak anybody out. Once she made a physical connection, the means varied but reportedly she preferred to drink their blood because of some gross vampire fetish, she could share her power, skills, memories with you, and you with her. She never left it at that, instead of sharing she took everything. What happened to the other person after wasn’t pretty. Being superhumans meant they had some level of protection against Gladwell’s power, more than the common person, but they weren’t immune. Her power was strong enough to bulldoze through resistance, given a strong connection.
“It’s new, it’ll take awhile for me to master it,” Gladwell said. “Now, what was that about a challenge? I love challenges, personally.”
It took Cameron a second to find her voice and speak with the same casualness Allison and Gladwell had. If Allison could do it, so could she. No way was she going to let herself look weak in front of these people. “The challenge was supposed to get you out of hiding. No point to it if you’re already here.”
“And now that I’m here, what are you planning on doing?”
Wasn’t that a good question? This would be easier if Matt and Allison weren’t here with her. They were deadweight if she needed to escape and leaving them wasn’t a good option. Things would get really messy if she left them to die at the hands of Gladwell.
The problem with having a brand new costume was Cameron wasn’t sure of all the commands and features like talking without it being broadcasted by the speaker built into her helmet. She would just have to hope Matt or Allison had this covered and were talking to Agent Hayes right now.
“Well?” Gladwell prompted, when no one spoke up. “I don’t have all day, you know. I’m being nice, giving all of you the chance to make the first move.”
Allison stood, rooted to where she stood, so very still. Planning? Matt didn’t seem sure of what he should do. “Don’t suppose we can get a rain check, do this tomorrow or something?” Cameron asked.
“And what would I get out of that?” She crossed her arms.
Cameron’s power required either touch or sight to be able to teleport an object and she needed to see where she would be moving it. With her already leaning against the ship, it felt obvious what she should do. She drew the stun gun. “You won’t get squished.” She teleported the ship, putting it above all their heads. Predictably, they looked up to see the ship falling down, ready to do the squishing. She used this opportunity, fired a few shots, hitting Gladwell in the face. She didn’t expect it do more than distract her for a second or two.
Matt and Allison both moved to get out of the way, not fast enough. She teleported the ship again, moving it up and more to the right, so it wouldn’t squish her too.
It gave Gladwell too much time. Cameron blinked and Gladwell wasn’t under the ship anymore, wasn’t anywhere. When the ship hit the ground, there wasn’t a sign of a person being under there. For a horrible moment, images from the news flitted through her mind, images of people, dead in mind if not body. She looked around, finding nothing but Matt and Allison seeming equally alarmed.
This was why she hated power thieves or copiers. They were like Swiss army knives, a power for every occasion. So hard to counter when you didn’t know what they were hiding in there. Doubly annoying when they had irritating powers like fucking invisibility.
She switched on her super-vision. It came easily. Something she might worry about if she wasn’t concerned about being ripped to shreds then absorbed.
Gladwell was watching them leisurely, enjoying the spectacle, a foot away from the ship. One shot. She had one shot before Gladwell realized she could see pass her invisibility and act accordingly.
But what the hell was she supposed to do? She wasn’t a heavy hitter, couldn’t make the insanely durable hurt. The stun gun was little more than a short distraction at best against Gladwell.
She grabbed a cartridge of sticky rope from her belt, and loaded it into the gun. Gladwell’s hands shifted into razor sharp blades, her eyes moved between the three of them, assessing. Cameron aimed for the face and like always, she hit her mark. Maybe it was surprise or arrogance that stopped her from dodging it, either way Cameron wasn’t complaining.
Matt charged. He swung wildly at the space surrounding the sticky rope, cutting her open.
“We need to go!” Allison ordered. The ship moved on its own, backing away from Gladwell and Matt, its doors opening. She sprinted to the ship. “Violet Knight!”
Cameron unloaded more sticky rope on her, emptying every cartridge she had stashed in her belt. Matt reluctantly stepped back, and ran toward the ship. She covered the retreat, pelting Gladwell with stun blasts. A distraction was a distraction, no matter how little of an effect it had. And it was little. Under the sticky rope, Cameron swore she was smiling.
She turned her head. The ship was already in the air, about to fly away. Its doors still open. Cameron teleported directly inside.
The ship took off at – what Cameron was guessing was – full speed. The doors shut behind her. Cameron rushed to the window and stared at the scene they were leaving behind.
Gladwell had burned through the ropes. She gave them a wave with her bladed hand and jumped, then soared into the air. Of course she would be able to fly.
“Fuck, fuck. She’s chasing after us. Can this thing go any faster?” Cameron asked.
“Backup? Do we have backup?” Matt said.
Gladwell wasn’t that far behind them, closing the distance a little more with every second that passed. The tip of her sword hands pointed at the back of the ship. It glowed and the glow kept getting brighter.
The entire ship rattled from the hit. It knocked her off balance, and Cameron fell to the floor.
Not long after, she could feel the ship falling too.