A statement like that, it was supposed to shock her. She felt mildly surprised, at best. Maybe this whole Gladwell fucking with her head wasn’t so bad. Her mind was focused, cold, and swift, a weapon forged and refined.
Tyler had come alone. If he intended to tell anyone, he would have already, and if he had, he would have come with backup to protect him and subdue her. He came with another purpose in mind. Blackmail, it was the only thing that made sense.
“A whole week? Wow,” Cameron said. “I don’t even know what I’m going to wear tomorrow.”
“I’ve seen it,” Tyler said, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. “It looks good.”
She raised a single brow and pointedly glanced at the shut door. “I really hope, for your sake, that’s not part of the reason you’re here.”
He ignored the insinuation. “I need help and you’re going to give it to me. You can figure out what happens if you don’t.”
“I’m going to bet this thing you need help with involves illegal stuff,” Cameron said.
“It does,” he admitted. “But I doubt it’d make you lose any sleep.”
A week from now, he had said. Did that mean sometime this week Creed was going to finally give her something concrete to do? She would have been lying if she said she wasn’t the least bit curious about Creed’s plans to take over the True Gods.
“I’m going to need some more information, Fore. You can’t expect to blackmail me into doing whatever with something I may or may not do.”
“Sorry, it’d affect the future,” he said, smiling in a way that showed he wasn’t sorry at all. He enjoyed being an asshole. She could respect that, in the past she liked to rile people up too.
Still did, probably.
“Knowing about your relationship with Creed is more than enough blackmail material,” Tyler said, quiet. The chances of them being overheard was low but playing it safe never hurt, she supposed, even if it was boring.
She eyed the utility belt in her closet, holstered there was the gun Allison made her. In an instant, it could be in her hands and one shot would definitely kill him. “So, talking hypothetically, what stops me from killing you right now and making a break for it?”
“Nothing,” he said. He stood with his shoulders squared, arms crossed, expression even, eyes meeting hers without a hint of fear. He saw the future and knew she wouldn’t go through with it. It wasn’t for moral reasons, she had killed before. Killing him would only make escape harder for her. Agents and heroes sent after her would look harder, be less forgiving, lethally so. The SAA wasn’t kind to those who took out one of their own.
“I could still just leave, it’s not like you could stop me.”
“You could,” he agreed. “I think you’ll realize doing this favor for me is your best option.”
Cameron stood up from the bed and strode toward Tyler, invading his personal space. “And I think you’ll realize I’m not some little bitch you can push around. Give me something concrete, or I’m gone. Whoosh.” She appeared behind him, position adjusted so she faced his back instead of the door.
He didn’t look around the room, momentarily confused. Tyler turned to face her, as if he had been waiting for this to happen the entire time.
Irritating. Theatrics wasn’t as fun when there wasn’t that shock factor.
“Alright, I can give you something concrete. Tomorrow morning, Creed’s going to contact you, asking to meet right away, and you will but when you get there, he’s nowhere to be found. Instead, you find an envelope, with your initials on it. You’ll open it up, read what’s inside, I’d tell you what it says but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.” He was back to smirking at her again.
“And what’s inside is going to change my mind?”
“Oh, it will, I’ve already seen it,” Tyler said. “I’ll be back tomorrow, after you’ve read it.”
He turned and had opened the door when Cameron spoke up. “You know, the future’s not set in stone.”
“I hope so,” he said, voice barely above a whisper.
Well, she’d be damned, Tyler was right.
When she got the text message in the morning, like he said, she knew he wasn’t completely full of shit but the idea of a few sheets of paper inside an envelope changing her mind to the extent she was willing to let Tyler win so easily, it just didn’t seem likely. Past or present, Cameron hated to lose. Losing to someone so sure of themselves was even worse. It fed their ego, reinforced the idea that they were better than her.
It felt weird to feel so strongly about something with no clue why she did.
She didn’t dwell on it.
No point in doing so, when there were other things she had to do. First, convincing the agent designated to drive her to school that she’d find her own way to school. The guy, no doubt about it, knew she was lying and going to blow off another day of school to do whatever teenagers did but didn’t seem to care that much. She wouldn’t either if she spent years training and preparing to become an agent only to be asked to drive a teenager around, like some kind of limo driver.
Cameron took a bus to get to the same diner she met Creed at last time. Her new popularity still hadn’t changed Hayes’ mind about giving her access to a vehicle and it’d be awhile until she saved up enough to buy her own.
Creed wasn’t there when she arrived, just as Tyler predicted.
A waiter spotted her and handed over an envelope, on the front were her initials written in Creed’s curvy handwriting.
She brought it out to the parking lot before she tore it open. The envelope held four pieces of paper, three were pictures, one was a note. The pictures were hand drawn, done in pencil. Each picture depicted a scene, the first looked an awful lot like her apartment with a body on the ground near her open safe, a heavily shaded in puddle surrounding the body, covering it in some parts. The drawing of her apartment was really detailed, getting the small stuff right like the damaged zipper of a jacket she owned, hanging on the back of a chair. Maybe to contrast, the body lacked any significant detail, a human-shaped blob. Cameron couldn’t tell if that was intentional or the artist got lazy.
The second picture was her, in her Point Blank costume, drawn with the same attention to detail her apartment got. In one hand was her laser gun, the other held a handgun, bullets coming out of it. Her helmet had a huge crack in it, bits and pieces of her costume had been torn off, exposing flesh, and right leg was bent in a funny way.
The third picture took a nosedive in quality compared to the first two. It looked like a quick sketch, each line was jagged and didn’t properly connect with each other. The background was non-existent, just an empty expanse of white. In the middle of the page was a person, from the general shape of the body and the hair tied in a ponytail she assumed it was a girl, on their knees with a black rectangle pointed at her head. A gun?
Cameron realized what these pictures were before she took a look at the note.
I have recently received these from one of my employees. They were drawn yesterday night, so as far as I am aware, they are accurate, for now at least. Her co-workers should be getting back to me soon with more information.
If there’s something you’ve done or decided to do last night, I advise you to alter it as much as you can before we stumble into an unfortunate future.
I’ll contact you again, soon.
Some part of her didn’t want to believe, wanted to think this was all staged by Tyler. It wasn’t likely, though, that he could perfectly replicate Creed’s handwriting, get his hands on Creed’s phone, and know the location of their last meeting.
She had to be missing some pieces of information here, something Creed may have expected her to know. Precog stuff could get complicated, looking into the future would then change it, maybe making it so the events seen never come to past depending on the actions the precog takes and how those actions alter the actions of others. Why did Creed think it would be her actions that’d make the future depicted in the drawings happen? The precog Creed got these from could be more specialized than a regular one, she supposed. Had she and this employee of his met before?
It sounded plausible, but it was mostly guesswork. Fuck Gladwell, why would she even take that memory? Cameron couldn’t ask Creed either, without cluing him in on the fact Gladwell messed with her head. Things would change if he knew. She wouldn’t just be Cameron anymore, she’d become a ticking time bomb. He liked order and a bomb was the last thing he needed when he already had to worry about the rest of the True Gods.
Cameron shoved the sheets back into the envelope. She checked her pockets for a lighter. Sometimes she stashed things in her pockets and forgot about them, only remembering she left them there after she did laundry. She had more than a few soggy bills drying up on her desk. Nothing.
She folded the envelope until it fit in her jacket pocket. She could deal with it later, after she had another chat with Tyler.
After that, well, she would need to dig up some dirt on Tyler. Outside of developing the ability to wipe minds, finding good blackmail material on your blackmailer was one of the smartest ways to get out of being blackmailed. Mutually assured destruction, it wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.
The trip back to HQ felt a lot shorter, despite taking roughly the same amount of time. Tyler was sitting on the ground beside her door, playing a game involving numbers on his phone. He looked up at her, frowning. “You’re two minutes late.”
“Good,” Cameron said, punching in a code to unlock the door. She went in once the lock beeped affirmatively, leaving the door open. Tyler followed and closed the door. “So, I found the envelope.”
“And you’ve changed your mind?” Tyler asked, smug.
“Depends on what the hell you want me to do.” If his favor seemed like more trouble than it was worth, she’d take her chances with whatever future was in store for her.
“I need you to be my bodyguard, and maybe a thief, it depends on how it goes. You know about the Automaton showcase?”
The Automatons were a gang of inventors. They made a huge chunk of their money from selling weapons. Most of the crimes they committed was done to advertise their gear. Every once and awhile, they invited rich buyers from all over to come to their base in Avocet to check out and purchase their newest and best stuff. Creed always went. His organization and the Automatons were rivals, both of them trying to be the alpha dog in town, but it was a friendly rivalry, as friendly as supervillains could be.
“How the hell did you manage to score an invite?”
He shrugged. “You’ll figure it out, soon.” Tyler pulled out his phone, to look at the time, before tucking it back into his pocket. “One of the weapons they’re selling can’t fall into the wrong hands. I’ll try to buy it but if that doesn’t work, you’re going to need to steal it for me.”
Cameron sat down in her computer chair. “Starting trouble in a place like that, everyone’s going to be shooting at you. Me, I’m good at making quick exits. You, on the other hand, I’m guessing, are not. And it’s bound to make some enemies, for the both of us.”
“I don’t expect you to walk in as Point Blank,” Tyler said. “I’ll get you another costume to wear but the rest is up to you.”
Which meant she had to avoid overt uses of her power. There were plenty of other teleporters in the world but very few resided in Avocet. This was something very doable though, within her comfort zone, something she had experience with.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Cameron said, begrudgingly. “When?”
He didn’t look at all surprised. “Tonight, nine.”
Cameron whistled. “Pretty short notice there, pal. What if I had said no?”
“I would have gone with my second choice but she’d be a lot harder to work with than you.”
“Anyone I know?”
“Spoilers,” he said. “I have to go, got other things to deal with first. Meet me at your apartment, at eight. Don’t worry about getting weapons either, I’ll handle it.”
“Shit,” she said, grinning in spite of herself. “What don’t you know?”
Cameron saw the barest hint of a frown on his face before he turned his back to her and made his exit. No fanfare, no goodbye.
It was still pretty early in the day, which gave her several hours to find out more about Tyler. Too bad she didn’t have the clearance to access personnel files, like the other members of the team did.
Creed could be able to help, probably, but she didn’t want to go running to Creed every time she got stuck. She needed to be able to handle her own shit.
The others on the team would know more about Tyler than she did, working with him for months, at least. It gave her a place to start. Out of everyone she had met, Allison seemed like her best bet. She would be easy to find, too.
As always, Allison was in her workshop, opening the door a minute after Cameron knocked. Cameron wouldn’t have waited that long if she hadn’t heard the sounds of metal on metal coming from behind the closed door. “Do you need something?” Allison asked. Her voice was as even as it always was, as was her posture and expression, yet Cameron could just tell Allison was itching to get rid of her. It was a gut feeling but her gut feelings tended to be right.
“I met Tyler,” she said. “Kind of an asshole.”
Allison nodded, in understanding. “And you want to know more about him.”
“What gave you that idea?”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked.” She opened the door wider and retreated back into her workshop. Cameron walked in, finding it much the same as it was last time except a new project was occupying space on Allison’s worktable. She gestured to a bunch of stools and Cameron sat down in one. “What do you want to know?” she asked, putting on a pair of safety glasses.
Cameron adopted a thinking pose, rubbing her chin with one arm crossed. “Hmm. Well, how long has he been with the SAA?”
“Fours years, no time spent in the field.”
“You guys very friendly?”
Allison smiled, amused. “We co-exist.”
Hard to think of questions that wouldn’t seem too suspicious. Asking about his personal life was out of the question. “What about him and the others?”
“Not that I know of. He spends most of his time here with Agent Hayes.”
“Guess that means you don’t deal with his brand of annoying a lot?”
“You’ll have to figure out your own way of dealing with it.” Allison paused. “Don’t let him fool you, he’s much easier to trick than he thinks, or makes you think.”
Cameron smiled and stood up. “Thanks for the advice, A. I’ll see you.”
“Close the door on your way out,” she said, returning to her work.
Cameron did then headed back to her room.
What had Tyler said?
Second choice. Spoilers.