By the time Cameron got to her apartment, Tyler was already there, leaning against the wall, looking annoyed. He glanced at his watch and his frowned deepened. “You’re six minutes and forty-three seconds late,” Tyler said, crossing his arms.
“I never said I’d be here on time,” Cameron retorted. She lightly kicked the duffel bag sitting on the ground beside his feet. “That mine?”
“Yeah,” he said. “My stuff’s in there too.”
She took out her key, unlocking the door with it and the hidden fingerprint scanner in the doorknob. She opened it up wide and let Tyler go in first. He picked up the bag and walked in, giving the apartment only a cursory glance. He dropped it onto the kitchen table then unzipped it.
The logo on the clothes he pulled out earned him an eyebrow raise from Cameron.
He didn’t turn around. “Save it,” he said. “I already know what you’re going to say and it’s not nearly as funny as you think it is.”
The logo, a white simplistic magnifying glass inside a circle on a black background, was one she saw at the beginning of her superhero career.
Case closed. That was one mystery solved. Sort of.
“You work for the Detective?” she asked.
“Yeah, it’s how I got myself a ticket tonight.” He gestured at the pile of clothes he had just taken out. “Get dressed, I don’t want to be late.”
She rolled her eyes, grabbed the heap, taking it with her to the bathroom.
The outfit consisted of a black jacket ending at her knees, the logo plastered on the shoulders and back, black pants, gloves, and shirt, a white mask with black domino mask painted on it, and a fedora hat, also black.
It didn’t seem like it’d offer much protection at all. Maybe that was the point, make their hosts think they weren’t here to start a fight. Maybe she was overestimating Tyler’s intelligence. Allison had warned her.
“Hey,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom. “I’m going to haunt you so hard if I die because this can’t handle a bullet or two.”
Tyler wore an identical outfit. His face was covered by his mask, like hers was, but somehow she knew he was smirking. “Don’t worry about it, tougher than it looks.”
“I’m going to take that as permission to use you as a body shield if push comes to shove,” Cameron said. “Are you going to tell me what we might end up stealing or is it going to be another one of those ‘wait and see’ you’re so fond of?”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. She teleported it out of his hand and into hers just as he was about to hand it to her. He let his arm drop to his sides. Hopefully he enjoyed that as much as she enjoyed his company.
Unlike the well-done drawing she saw earlier today, Tyler’s preferred medium was words. Cameron was willing to bet he had no other option, having no artistic talent and still requiring a way to get down as much information he could from his visions of the future or however his type of precognition worked, before it faded from his mind.
It’s been shoved into a corner, a back table they don’t expect anyone to spend a lot of time in front of. It looks like a hard drive, white. It’s eye-catching because of it, sandwiched between black guns and armor. Someone walks by, confident, as if he knows exactly where he’s going and what he’s looking for.
He picks it up without reading the holographic screen floating above it and goes to purchase it.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to him or it. The time frame is roughly 9:30 to 9:50. It’s Cameron that tells me about it after. She makes a comment, implying she knows him and that whatever he’s up to, it can’t be good for either of us.
We leave later, without incident, getting what I came here for. Information, not weapons unlike nearly everyone else. I check out what Cameron told me, looking into the future. It’s not good. The perfect window to stop him would have been earlier. I’ve failed, horribly. Whatever the future was, it has left me feeling devastated. I make it worse, so a past version of me sees this and can do something about it.
The weight of the world crushes me and I call Mom, even though I know she will not answer. It makes me feel worse when I get her voice-mail but this is more important than me.
Cameron wasn’t sure she wanted to know most of this stuff. The thing about the hard drive, yeah but the other stuff just gave her more questions she wouldn’t get an answer to anytime soon. The part about his mom she could have definitely done without. Cameron knew all about having a shitty mom, had one herself. It made him a little harder to hate, knowing they came from similar places. It was the whole point of leaving it in, or fabricating it, if she wanted to be paranoid. He had access to her file, her history, everyone seemed to. She passed the paper back to him.
“I was worried there you were going to ask me to sneak out a tank or something,” Cameron said. “A hard drive shouldn’t be a problem.”
He nodded. “Teleport us down to the street, the car’s parked out front.”
“It doesn’t work – ”
“Yeah, I know. I’m decent at controlling power resistance, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, interrupting her again. It was becoming an annoying habit.
Whatever, even if he wasn’t as good as he thought he was there was no harm in trying. She walked over to the window and he followed, after grabbing the duffel bag. She got a better view of the roof of the building beside them than the street. She grabbed his wrist and teleported there.
It didn’t come as easily as it normally did, the transition less smooth. They didn’t appear in the locations Cameron had meant them to, two steps to the left away. The next teleport brought them to the sidewalk near the car. She had wanted to drop them off right beside the car door.
No one lost an arm so it wasn’t too bad.
They climbed into the car, Tyler taking the wheel. Cameron would have preferred to drive them to their destination but she didn’t need to be a precog to know the answer Tyler would give.
She fiddled with the radio, switching from station to station, much to Tyler’s obvious annoyance. He swatted at her hands to keep them away from the radio. He jerked a thumb at the duffel bag he tossed in the backseat. “If you really have to do something, look through that. The weapons are in there, you can hide them in the inside pockets of your jackets.”
Cameron teleported it to her lap.
The weapons Tyler brought were pretty low-tech. Gun, taser, knife, baton, and a canister of pepper spray. She tucked them inside her jacket. The only items left was a headset and a metal rod, the size of a pencil. She held it up to her face to get a better look. There was a little LED light near one of the ends of the rod, the other end had was pushable.
“Voice modifier,” Tyler said, before she could ask. He pointed at the rod. “Put the headset on and push that to turn it on.”
They went right through the bad side of town and into the only area in Avocet worse off. The same tragedy that left many powers dead had also tore up a sizable chunk of Avocet. UltimateTech Industries bought up most of the property and was slowly fixing everything. The rubble had been cleared but many of the buildings looked ready to collapse at a moment’s notice. They parked behind a building near the heart of the area.
The building stood alone, whatever buildings had stood beside it had been destroyed and taken away. A big sign, as long as the building itself, hung above the door. In golden, flowery script was the store’s name, Canary Florists. The last time she had been here was more than a decade ago. Probably. Dad bought flowers for her mom from Canary Florists on their anniversary, or maybe a birthday. Some celebration. It didn’t matter much now. Their relationship and this shop were both long gone.
On either side of the front door was a window, where their best and prettiest flowers would be on display. Both windows had been smashed and shards of glass still littered the ground around it, joining dead petals left behind and forgotten as they were devoured by insects.
It was dark inside, no sound except their own breathing.
“You sure this is the right place?” Cameron asked.
Tyler strode forward, putting on his headset as he walked, and went in through the gaping hole in the window, ignoring the jagged edges.
He disappeared, gone the second he had passed the threshold.
Cameron went after him. She hesitated more than he had. Despite his assurance, what she wore seemed like they’d be no help against the sharp point of the glass. It didn’t cut when she hopped through.
The light stung her eye, too bright compared to the darkness she saw a moment ago.
The abandoned flower shop went away with the darkness. Cameron stood on an expensive looking red carpet. A chandelier hung above her head, oak tables with all sorts of gear on them were strategically placed throughout the available space as to not have any one table too close to another, and paintings were on the walls, depicting some really old people that may have been famous historical figures.
History never really interested her.
People stood at the tables, dressed in costumes, their weapons openly displayed. People who maybe didn’t normally wear costumes still had masks on but wore suits or dresses.
Tyler tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. She gave him a nod.
He walked past the crowd, heading straight for a man in lightweight armor, an Automaton. Cameron stayed a step behind him at all times. It gave the impression that out of the two of them, he was in charge, which she supposed he was. Anyone approaching them would talk to him. It was better if they did, less chance for Cameron to mess up and make it obvious she wasn’t really working for the Detective by saying something someone in her position should know.
This Automaton looked to be more of an entertainer than the the Automatons stationed throughout with heavy armor and heavy weapons, helmets turning left and right, on the lookout for any trouble that might arise. Like his friends, his armor was made to look similar to old school robots, block-y, buttons and switches on his chest, antennas sticking out of the side of his helmet. His in particular was painted gold and silver, flashy compared to the black and grey of his associates.
“Welcome,” he said, voice sounding normal and not at all robotic. “Thanks for coming.”
Tyler reached into his jacket and with an audible click, he activated his voice modifier. “Thank you, for having us here. We appreciate you inviting us here.” His voice came out much deeper than his usual, but not to the point where it was unnatural or fake sounding.
“I can hardly say no to the Detective or to her associates,” the Automaton said. “Not when she’s such a useful ally to have.”
“Having her as an ally also has its costs,” Tyler replied, holding out his hand.
“Of course, of course.” The Automaton pulled out an USB stick and dropped it on Tyler’s palm. “This should satisfy her. Give her my regards if and when you see her.”
Tyler nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
“Stay as long as you like, enjoy yourselves. If you’ll excuse me, I have some other guests to entertain.” He didn’t wait for an answer and headed to talk to a group of people, all wearing bright red clothes.
That would be the information Tyler had originally came for. Now that that was taken care of, there was nothing left for them to do but find the white hard drive before this other person could. It could be a good idea to split up. She could go look for this person, someone she knows apparently, and distract them while Tyler went to get the hard drive, buying it before anyone else could.
“Let’s split up. You go distract and I’ll get it,” Tyler said.
Cameron frowned. Did he just look far enough into the future to experience her telling him her plan then tried to steal it, pretend he was the one that came up with it?
“What a brilliant idea. Almost as if I came up with it,” she said, evenly.
“Weird.” He shrugged. “Let’s get to it. Come on, we don’t have time to waste.”
That wasn’t true either. They had a solid twenty minutes to do this. It shouldn’t be too hard, considering their opponent would act the same as he did in the future Tyler saw, unless he was a precog too or worked with a preocg.
They split up, Cameron going in one direction, Tyler in the other.
The number of people she knew who could be at an event like this was small. Creed was one, maybe a few of his trusted lackeys, and…
Michael. Michael had the connections to score himself an invitation. She doubted that if Creed had been the one to find and pick up the hard drive, she would have told any version of Tyler that whatever he was planning was bad for the both of them. Michael, on the other hand, was a completely different story. She considered him a friend but in time, circumstance would force them to come in conflict. It was inevitable.
Maybe Testament knew and had asked Michael to collect the hard drive for him, a weapon he planned on using against Creed. If Michael had come here at Testament’s command, maybe they weren’t in as good shape as Cameron had assumed.
Cameron combed through the crowds, looking for someone with Michael’s build or height.
There were more than a few and checking out any one might lead to Michael slipping out of her grasp.
“It’s unexpected, seeing you here.”
She recognized the voice before she turned around to face Creed. He wore a black suit and tie, a mask with a stylized ‘C’ concealed his identity. The suit was deceptive, made his shoulders seem broader than they were, made him look taller and skinner. His suit, she knew, would be able to take more than a bullet or two, despite it looking like it offered no protection at all.
“How is the Detective, these days?” Creed continued, without missing a beat. No mistaking it, he knew.
Cameron reached into her jacket, fumbling a little as she tried to remember which pocket she put the rod into. She found it and clicked it, turning her voice modifier on. “She’s great,” Cameron said.
“Wonderful to hear,” he said. “I don’t suppose there’s any way I could help her, is there? I’ve been meaning to talk to her for awhile now, and it would serve as a good gesture to help out one of her associates, wouldn’t it?”
“Not really. Well, there is one thing. Have you seen someone around here, a guy, he’s been known to hang around you, not so much recently but – ”
“I know who you’re referring to,” Creed said. “I talked to him just a few minutes ago. You’ll find him to my right, the one in red, looking at a table full of jetpacks and hover-boots.”
She spotted him, holding up a metal boot. “Thanks, I’ve got to go.”
“Yes, don’t let me keep you if you have better places to be. I would like to talk to you later, if you have the time.”
Cameron nodded and headed off to confront Michael.
Distracting him without him realizing who she really was might be more difficult than she wanted to deal with right now. Michael was smart, smart and knowledgeable.
As she got closer, she saw what he had in his other hand, a white hard drive.
Stealing it is, then.