Cameron woke to a small puddle leaking out of her mouth and onto whatever the hell she was lying on. She sat up and wiped it off her cheek with the back of her hand.
The dull pounding in her head made it hard to think. It took her much longer than it should have to realize this was her room, her bed, her drool covered pillow. The party, she went to that party with Ian last night that much she remembered. She remembered a red pill and the bearded glasses guy who had inadvertently revealed that Creed was still alive and well.
Everything else was a blur.
She climbed out of bed slowly and searched for her phone. She found it tucked under a messy pile of clothes she wore yesterday, tossed at the foot of her bed. They still smelled strongly of beer and other not so great smelling things. Definitely would need to give these a good wash. She teleported them into the laundry basket.
Her phone turned out to be not very useful in helping her to figure out what had happened. She had a few messages from Ian, an undecipherable mess of letters, and the email she got from Creed.
Cameron fell back onto her bed, far too tired for it to be only a little bit past noon on a Sunday.
The distinct, loud sound of sirens ruined the short moment of peace.
Another one of her cell phones. The sirens were the ringtone she set the SAA phone to. It seemed funny at the time, not so much now. She didn’t need to look to find it, it was always in the drawer of her desk. A black box sat in the middle of the screen, text written inside in white. The SAA wanted her at base as soon as possible.
Great, as if she didn’t have enough on her plate with the whole revenge thing, which now included the Vanessa and Phantom things, and the Creed thing, sooner or later.
Cameron paused halfway to the bathroom. The Vanessa thing. She had forgotten about Vanessa. Was Vanessa alright? She didn’t remember approaching the girl at the party but few things from that night were crystal clear in Cameron’s memory.
Something to check later when she wasn’t needed for a mission.
She got ready as fast as she could and was out the door, heading straight for her car. It was Sunday so Klein would be out having lunch with his family unless whatever mission she was being called to be a part of required his assistance.
Everyone, minus the adult members and Tom, were gathered in the debriefing room. As per usual, Cameron was the last person to arrive. She sat in the closest empty seat.
They all looked so awake and alert. Compared to their fresh faces, it was obvious which person in the room had a wild Saturday night.
Agent Hayes scoffed a little at seeing her. “Now that we’re all here, let’s start.” He leaned forward in his chair and let his palm rest on a transparent glass block cut out of the table. A hologram flickered, coming to life on the surface of the table. It was a young boy or girl’s head, hair shaved off, eyebrows likewise gone. Kind of unnerving to see a human face without a trace of hair on it. “Meet Johnathon Barley. Mr. and Mrs. Barley strongly suspected their son was a superhuman after he woke up one morning hairless but he ran off before when they brought up getting him tested. They want him back in their care as soon as possible.”
“Do we have any idea what powers he may or may not possess?” Ionic asked, the good operative she was.
“The parents don’t have a clue and that means neither do we. His friends were equally confused by all this when we questioned them,” Agent Hayes said, taking his hand off the glass. “But given his newfound hairless-ness we have reason to suspect he’s on the higher end of the scale, power-wise.” He looked deliberately at Cameron. “There’s a definite correlation between physical transformation and power level.”
“I knew that,” Cameron grumbled, defensive. She did – probably, the memory was just hidden under a massive headache.
He shrugged unconcerned. “That’s why I’ve decided to have everyone not already involved in an important mission on this. We all are aware of how dangerous superhumans can be especially those who have only recently discovered their abilities.”
Tom was no doubt who everyone was thinking of, although no one said it out loud.
“If we don’t know his powers, do we know other stuff? Where he might go, people who might cover for him?” Matt asked. His hands were clasped together on the table, eyes glued to the little hologram.
“We checked his call and internet history. There are a few of his friends we thought were close enough to help him out but we have already had agents search through their homes. He didn’t, as far as we’re aware, get in touch with any superhuman aid organizations. I already have some agents going through other possible locations our sensors have picked, we’ll know soon enough if he’s hiding in one of them,” Agent Hayes answered.
There were a number of superhuman aid organizations out there, nowadays, as the population of superhumans grew. Loads of people were still uncomfortable with superhumans and many of them couldn’t – wouldn’t – handle the stress of raising a superhuman. They often ended up on the streets if their parents weren’t kind enough to call a superhuman aid organization that would come and take them to a safe place.
“So we’re just going to go around the city looking for a freaky looking kid with no hair?” Cameron asked. “Can’t your mundane agents handle this? They’re already doing a bang up job. Searching shit, interrogating people.”
Agent Hayes smiled, a rare sight. “I was waiting for someone to ask me that. The True Gods have been spotted in Avocet.” He swiveled his gaze to look at Tyler. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yeah. Can’t say anymore than that,” Tyler said.
Sometimes Cameron wondered if they used the precog card to just get everyone – mostly her, everyone else listened to Hayes’ orders without questioning them – to shut up and do whatever he wanted them to. It was effective. She couldn’t come up with a good argument against it beside ‘you’re so full of shit’ which didn’t tend to go over well.
“You didn’t answer my first question,” she pointed out, annoyed.
“No, we’re not going to have you all search the city. We have no reason to believe Johnathon is dangerous to anyone. My agents and the police can manage that on their own. What I do need all of the field ready agents to do is find where the True Gods are hiding and force them out of the city. We don’t want their presence in Avocet especially with a young potentially powerful superhuman on the loose.”
The True Gods believed superhumans were naturally superior to regular humans and thus should rule over their weaker counterparts. The SAA and other government organizations really didn’t like the idea, it made them jumpy. The True Gods were one of the few groups with enough manpower to be an actual threat to the world they were all used to.
“Your sensors are up to the task?” Agent Hayes questioned.
“As long as the True Gods don’t have the ability or the means to block them,” Ionic answered.
The Automatons, those annoying bastards, had figured out a way to get around Ionic’s superhuman scanners a long time ago. She was still hoping Ionic found a way to improve them and find all those fuckers for her. Cameron wasn’t going to bet on it, though.
“All the information on this mission so far will be sent straight to your phone, if you, for whatever reason, want to go over it again. Remember to check for status updates. Unless you have further questions, you’re all dismissed,” he said, leaning back in his chair. A series of beeps coming from all over the table let Cameron know he sent the info already. Not that she was going to go over it again. She paid attention the first time.
They stood up and followed Ionic out including Tyler. They were heading for Ionic’s lab where her special, super strong sensors were located.
“Got any Advil around here?” Cameron asked. “Forgot to take one before I left.”
“You shouldn’t need it in the first place,” Ionic commented.
Ah, right. Partying went against her probation. Agent Hayes hadn’t said a word about it so she was going to assume she wasn’t in trouble. Getting busted for partying was better than getting busted for working for, with, and against supervillains without the SAA’s permission anyway.
“I have some,” Matt said, tapping the backpack he had on. “In there. Smallest pocket.”
Cameron smiled and stepped back to unzip and reach into the indicated pocket. There were a whole bunch of on-the-go painkiller packets in there, the ones with two pills inside that you had to rip open. She opened one up and swallowed both of them down. “You always come through, Tin Man. Why do you have your backpack?”
He shrugged. “I was on my way to the library to study when I got the message from Agent Hayes.”
She rolled her eyes but chose not to comment on that.
Tyler did. “You’re wasting your time studying.”
They reached the lab. Kate and Ionic went straight to a row of computers on a table pressed up against the wall. Both became incredibly focused on the screens in front of them as their fingers hammered away on keyboards. The rest of them found seats on stools and chairs and waited. Let the science geeks do the science.
“A waste, huh? What should I be doing instead then? What you do with your free time?” Matt fired back.
“Of course you should be. Your work at the SAA is far more important than school could ever be,” Tyler said, crossing his arms.
“Not everyone hates school. Some of us care about getting good grades, getting into a good college, getting an education,” Matt said, glaring at Tyler. “I can do both. School and superhero work. I’ve done well in balancing both, so far.”
Tyler shrugged and smirked in that arrogant way of his, so confident and sure of himself. “I’ll remember you said that in the future. We’ll both get a kick out of it.”
“Hey Ty, did you ever think that maybe if you just fucking told him what happens in the future, Matt here would actually follow your advice?” Cameron said, rolling her eyes again. “You and your cryptic future bullshit, I swear.”
His light brown eyes gleamed when he met her eyes. “Oh Cameron, you should be fucking glad I haven’t said anything about your future.”
Tyler was bullshitting. If he knew anything incriminating he would have told Agent Hayes already and she would be rotting in jail right now. Yet something in the way he said it made her doubt herself.
Nobody spoke for awhile after that.
The sound of keys clacking and the occasion whisper between Kate and Ionic filled the silence.
“I – I think I found something,” Kate said, loud enough for all of them to hear.
Cameron hopped off her stool and came over. The boys were hot on her heels.
The lines of code and line graphs meant nothing to her. “Anyone willing to translate that for me?” she said.
Ionic frowned. “The sensors are apparently picking up more than a dozen new superhumans in Avocet, other than the ones in the building.” She turned back to her own screen and typed something on the keyboard. More lines of code appeared on Ionic’s screen. The graph changed. “The closest estimate I have is forty-two. There are approximately forty-two new superhumans in Avocet.”
“And they’re all True God members?” Matt said dumbfounded.
“Basically,” Tyler said.