The Long Way Home – A

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Most hated working with rookies, but they were idiots, unable to recognize the perks that went with it. David wasn’t an idiot. He sat down and enjoyed the sight of some very beautiful women with a very beautiful lack of clothes prance around their apartment.

There was a certain power that came with being a part of an organization like theirs, made them confident, bold, daring. When someone asked if they needed anything at all, they didn’t hesitate to answer. Some would scoff at the lack of professionalism and tell the rookie off, get them to do it on their own time, not when they have a mission to accomplish. David liked to kick back, grab a beer, and indulge in whatever fun the rookie planned. There wasn’t a point to this life they were living if they couldn’t enjoy themselves.

This rookie, Felix, preferred the simple pleasures, women and cars. All of this was on their gracious host’s dime, of course. It was the least they could do, considering David and Felix were only here at their request. Avocet City was having some troubles – completely unsurprisingly to anyone who paid a lick of attention to Avocet – and it changed from being the kind of trouble criminals like them thrived in to being the kind of trouble they hated and needed to deal with. Avocet survived because it was a lucky city; its villains were, mostly, committed to keeping it peaceful. It was a tourist hotspot and that meant a lot of cash flowing into the city, and the pockets of its villains.

The setup was good for the local SAA branch, the criminals, and the tourists coming to gawk at fancy inventor made shit but the nobodies on the fringes suffered. If they ever got too uppity, made too much noise, they’d get taken care of before they knew what hit them. David knew from experience. He used to live in this dump, the places carefully hidden and kept away from tourists, and he didn’t have a lot of options when he lost his job when the factory closed down to make room for another fucking tourist attraction. He borrowed money from the Russian mob to feed his family and when he couldn’t pay, they gave him a choice. Leave Avocet and work off his debt in another city or have his corpse dumped into the river.

Best decision he ever made in his damn life.

Mostly.

Sometimes, very late at night, it was the worst thing he had ever done and would ever do.

The women left after Felix and David got their money’s worth. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and tossed one to Felix, who sat on the couch, a manila envelope in his hands.

“That from the kid Park has looking after us?” David asked as he popped open his can. Park – their host and a business partner of their boss – ordered a waiter from one of the restaurants he owned to attend to their every want and need while they were in the city working on this situation.

“Yeah,” Felix said. “They’ve got Gladwell’s hideout narrowed down already, wants us to check them out and fight her if she’s there.”

Answering an unspoken need, his spirit stepped out of his body. It looked like him, if he was a featureless mass of black smoke shaped like a human. Despite what it looked like, it was as solid as a truck if it wanted to be. It strode forward and read the paper in Felix’s hands over his shoulder. Then it was off, phasing through the walls, to hunt down Gladwell.

It acted on its own most of the time, doing whatever David wanted to be done, even if he wasn’t aware of that want. He could sense it, feel it doing something but the details were fuzzy. Years of experience let him take over or see from its perspective if he concentrated. It was the reason why he got picked for the job. Gladwell needed to make a physical connection to use her crazy ass ability and she couldn’t do that if he was safely hidden in this apartment, far away from the fight.

Felix got chosen for a similar reason.

“You can relax, enjoy your beer. It’ll do the searching for us while we relax,” David said, grinning.

Felix returned the grin. “Maybe I should get some more girls. Brunettes, this time.”

“Later. After my spirit is done with the list.”

Felix shrugged. That was one of the other perks of working with rookies. A lot of the time, when working with more experienced people, David tended to butt heads. He liked being in control, being the leader. He was good at it, despite what people might think. So many dismissed him because of where he came from but he’d show them, someday when he saw the perfect opportunity. He’d show them. Behind this skull of his was one hell of an intellect.

He downed the rest of his beer. “I’m going on a walk. Don’t trash the place until I get back.”

David grabbed his jacket from off the other couch and left. If he was in town on business, he might as well check things out, see if anything changed in the years he’d been gone. Maybe he was looking for someone. It didn’t matter if it had, he couldn’t, wouldn’t come back, stay here. There was still the matter of all the money he owed to the man he was working for and he wasn’t sure he could handle it, all the awful memories he made here.

But if he stayed, maybe he’d get a chance to fix what he had done. A chance to find his daughter and make things right, be a family again if she was willing. He hated leaving her, just like his wife had done after she found out about the affair, but what choice did he have? She would understand, wouldn’t she?

She was better off without him. He wasn’t a good man or a good father, too little patience, too much anger. How could someone who knew fuck all about – and experienced just as little – good parenting grow up to be a good parent?

He stopped in his tracks, brought out of his thoughts by a sudden sensation. Wasn’t pain, but a chill. Shit, guess his spirit found Gladwell. David took a deep breath and concentrated, shifting his attention over to his spirit, not enough to take over just enough to see what the hell was going on over there.

It was Gladwell alright, sharp blade-like hands carving chunks out of his spirit. Every smoky pound of flesh grew back within seconds of being chopped off but there was a limit to how much it could endure before having to retreat. Didn’t help that in the moments before the spirit healed itself, it was less solid than it usually was, dealt less damage. His spirit was mindlessly punching Gladwell. It wasn’t doing much good, Gladwell’s wounds were repaired as easily as his spirit’s.

His spirit saw the world differently. It could easily see the mist invisible to most. The mist surrounded everything, grew a little bit denser every day, and was especially thick around powers. With it, he saw through invisibility and illusions as if they weren’t even there. Whenever someone was using their powers, the mist around them would flare.

When the mist around Gladwell flared, brighter than most, he – and by extension the spirit – knew to hightail it out of there. This was a fishing trip, meant to figure out where Gladwell was hiding, he didn’t need to stay and fight til his spirit couldn’t anymore. It flew away from Gladwell. Not fast enough. A beam of energy, very concentrated mist, ripped through the lower half of his spirit. It didn’t feel pain. It kept going, phasing through the wall and headed straight for him.

Fuck, he was going to make Gladwell pay for the damage done on his spirit. The damn thing would take hours to get back into fighting shape, days to fully recover.

David hated to lose even if it was up against a badass like Gladwell.

He returned his focus back to his own body and grabbed his phone out of his jacket pocket. He dialed Felix’s number. The kid picked up promptly. “Something wrong, D?”

“I found Gladwell but the asshole wreaked my spirit. I did some damage to that motherfucker. We’re going to wait until tomorrow to launch our actual attack and drive her out of town. Put her into the ground if we can,” David said.

“Cool with me, I was about to watch a movie,” Felix replied. “Gonna be a pain in the ass tracking her down tomorrow.”

David’s eyebrow twitched. “You let me handle that, Felix. Won’t even be a problem.”

“Sure, sure. Call me before you get into a fight with her, so we can kick her ass and get this job done, alright?”

“I was testing her, seeing if she was as tough as everyone says she is. We weren’t planning on taking the bitch out today anyway,” David said, defensive.

“Yeah, of course. Gonna start that movie, see ya later D, when you get back.” Felix hung up.

David frowned as he stuffed his phone back into his jacket. Damn, damn, damn. Now the rookie was going to think he was weak and David couldn’t stand the thought.

He was going to fucking devastate Gladwell tomorrow.

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