Reboot 5.3.2/1.3.2

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Author’s Note: This is the second half of Friday’s update. Sorry guys! Didn’t quite manage to write a bonus update like I hoped I would be able to do as an apology for splitting up this one update. I will, at some point, write a bonus update to make up for this when life settles down a little. I’ll keep you posted.

Cameron had complained before and often about the mandatory training sessions that came with being a superhero working for the SAA. It had less to do with the training itself, which she would have done on her own time anyway, and more with being forced to do it. She never had liked being forced into things.

But she didn’t hate it enough to not go. There were a lot of times in life where you just had to suck it up and deal.

Everyone that came to these were already there when Cameron arrived at the SAA’s big spacious gym. The sessions were mandatory but the team members with a little more clout could have them moved to more convenient times and days.

Ionic could have done that if she wanted, being the only one of them Agent Hayes trusted to not completely suck at leading their little team, but she liked to keep an eye on things, make sure they were all behaving properly and working hard.

Kate was here too, despite not being a field agent, practicing some hand to hand combat with Matt. He had been left out of the mission the other day against the Speed Fiends because he was a brute, not much else to him but strength and durability. Pure strength wasn’t so useful with guys too fast to engage in a regular fight. You wouldn’t guess Matt was the strongest out of them, he was tall and lean but nowhere close to matching the physique of a bodybuilder or even a football player.

Like Kate, Tom didn’t have to come but he always did. Kate did because she wanted to be a field agent more than anything but had failed the necessary examinations. It didn’t actually matter if she passed, her mom couldn’t stand the thought of her precious daughter in danger and the life of an active superhero was nothing but danger. Letting Kate work at the SAA in a non-combat role had been a compromise they came to after a lot of arguments, from what Kate told her.

It was different for Tom. He was dangerous. He didn’t have complete control over his abilities and when those abilities involved creating fire people – including his parents – got scared. Some incident he caused in the past didn’t help in quelling their fears. They sent him here so he could learn more control. It was one of the functions the SAA served beyond stopping superhuman crime.

He was in the special room they had for them to use their powers in without worrying about the damage that might be caused. The walls of the room could be set to transparent so everyone else could watch. Today it was. Tom was standing on one side of the room, two gigantic pillars of flame came out of his hands. The room was sealed so they didn’t have to worry about smoke or anything else escaping.

Ionic was in a corner by herself hitting a wooden dummy with a bunch of poles sticking out of it with her bare hands.

Everyone wore normal workout clothes, except Tom who wore a black fireproof jumpsuit. They didn’t wear costumes unless it was one of those special days where they did hardcore sparring with each other.

All teenage members. Cameron didn’t blame the adults for not wanting to hang out with them. She wouldn’t either if she were them.

Cameron went to the collection of treadmills they had in the corner.

Instructors came by once every two weeks to teach them martial arts or whatever they wanted. Matt, for example, liked to learn about different sword fighting styles. The rest of the training sessions were dedicated to making sure they stayed in tip top shape and practice what they learned from the instructors.

It wasn’t super useful, most of the time. She learned all about the proper way to fight from experience and what Creed taught her.

Her feet pounding on the treadmill, music playing from her headphones, Cameron got an idea.

The UltimateTech lab she had Ian destroy had to have had someone who was in contact with the Automatons. There was probably only one or two in the know, aware they had criminals working for them, to keep things as secure as they could. She hadn’t given it much thought at the time. Having Ian attack them too had been a whim, to send the Automatons a message that just hitting one of their bases wouldn’t have sent. Attacking both told them that there was someone out there with a grudge that knew a great deal about them and their business. Someone out there that knew what they were doing, someone with a plan.

That was what she told Ian to tell them anyway, if the Automatons ever came to question him.

The Automatons probably didn’t consider the two attacks much of a threat.

If the attacks were planned by someone with a reputation…

Someone the Automatons might actually be afraid of, that might cause them to act and if they acted, so would Creed’s organization.

Well, she hoped her acting skills were up to snuff.

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Buyer’s Remorse 4.1

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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.

He left.

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.

Burn everything.

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.

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The Hunt Is On 3.3

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“Boy or girl?”

Ian ran a hand through his messy dark hair and smirked. “Girl.”

“I’ll pass then,” Cameron said. Ian shrugged and moved to close the door, eager to return to the girl waiting in his bedroom. “Oh, and wrap it before you tap it.” He rolled his eyes and shut the door in her face. She smiled as she left. Some things never changed. Ian never had problem convincing someone to hop into his bed, male or female, and he used his skills often. Nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone involved was willing. It’d only be wrong if, somehow, he unknowingly seduced Gladwell and was having sex with her right now. She was a known shapeshifter. That would be funny in a messed up romantic comedy way.

It left her with nothing to do, though, unless she decided to change her mind about the threesome thing, which seemed kind of hard to do properly.

A walk sounded nice, help clear her head and get some exercise while she was at it. Being a superhero demanded you stay in shape and there were actually people who enforced it. It did come with its benefits, one of them was having someone to clean your costume for you. Getting blood out of her old uniform had been a pain the ass but now, the second she took it off, someone had come to collect and clean her costume for her. There hadn’t been much to clean, she only got a little of Gladwell’s blood on her costume after stabbing her with Matt’s sword.

Cameron stopped, pausing to take in her surroundings. She hadn’t been paying attention to where she was going, letting her feet lead her wherever they wanted to go. Very odd, that they’d take her here. It was the Italian restaurant they searched the other day, when she, Allison and Matt went looking for Gladwell. Maybe it wasn’t so odd. Everything that happened after had made her forget about the phone call she overheard. She couldn’t put the feeling to words now, but it had felt so important then.

She walked away.

She checked her phone, the screen displaying the latest status update. They hadn’t found Gladwell yet, unsurprisingly. Matt had also come down with a cold and would be unable to help if Agent Camelo decided to include them in the search. It was a little ominous he got sick so soon after their encounter with Gladwell. His armor had protected him though, not a single drop of his blood was spilled, no skin ripped off of him, and he was a superhuman, nothing less than her taking a sizable chunk out of him would create a strong enough connection to hurt him.

It occurred to her she never asked him what his powers were. She knew he had super strength and durability, his sword was incredibly deadly too. Matt wasn’t the first Knight either. Cameron read his Wikipedia page, there had been many Knights before him, each were distinguishable by the different colors of their armors but all of them had the same powers, the same weapon. Of course super strength and durability were far from being rare. It didn’t explain the super sharp sword, though. A hand-me-down?

“Hey, wait up!”

Cameron stopped and turned to look behind her. Running to catch up with her was someone familiar, though he had changed since she last saw him, his hair was cut shorter and his brown skin a touch lighter than she remembered. He was nineteen, three years older than her and was dressed casually in a red hoodie and jeans.

“Michael,” she said, when he caught up.

“What? No hug?” he said, smiling.

“When have I ever given you a hug?”

“Call me optimistic but I still hope you might reconsider your no hug policy,” Michael said.

“If I do, it definitely won’t be for you. What are you even doing here?”

He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Business, having a chat with a restaurant owner, no big deal yet. I’d say more but I wouldn’t want to get arrested.” He winked. Michael thought he was charming and funny. She didn’t share his opinion.

“So you heard about my new gig,” Cameron said. Unsurprising, really. Michael was Michael, the next generation of True God leaders. Testament, the leader and founder of the True Gods, handpicked anyone with a leadership position in his organization and the people he picked tended to be the ones he personally found and recruited. Creed told her Testament got him when he was still a kid, raised him to become the man he was today. Creed resented him for being controlling and manipulating him, very ironic considering Creed’s superpower.

Michael and her met when he came to Avocet for a year to learn from Creed. Testament was seemingly unaware of Creed’s real feelings and thought of him as a son and one of his best and brightest. If anything were to happen to Testament, Creed would no doubt be chosen as his successor.

Of course, Testament had proven himself to be hard to get rid of. She hoped Creed knew what he was doing with his take over plan.

“Shouldn’t you be out looking for you know who? Unless that’s what you’re doing now.”

“Is you know who the reason you’re in Avocet?” she asked, avoiding his question. There was a pretty significant chance she and him would end up on opposing sides, when Creed finally made his move.

“I shouldn’t say. You understand,” Michael said, still smiling.

“I do. Tell C I said hi when you see him.”

“Sure. I better get going, see you around, Cameron.” He turned and walked away, back in the direction of the Italian restaurant she passed earlier.

Testament preferred to pick them young because it was easier for him to get their trust, to make them loyal to him. He gave them what their parents didn’t, gave them what they needed, attention and affection.

In a lot of ways, Creed really was suited to be Testament’s successor. He already had that technique mastered. Michael and her weren’t much different, two kids screwed by their parents, taken in and given purpose by someone with dubious intentions. Loyal, too loyal. It might take nothing short of death for him to accept and work for Testament’s killer.

It would really suck if and when she had to kill him.

Allison found her immediately when Cameron returned to HQ, the timing of it was a little too good just like it had been when Allison sent her that text the other day, asking her to come to Allison’s workshop. There were cameras stationed all over the SAA building except on the superhero floor, for obvious reasons. Some inventors knew nothing about computers or science despite doing things that looked suspiciously like science while others were very knowledgeable. Cameron had no clue why and didn’t really care but maybe Allison fell under the latter category, the knowledgeable inventors, and she used her special skills to gain access to the SAA’s cameras.

Cameron sat on a stool as Allison worked on the forcefield generator, taking it apart piece by piece, sometimes asking Cameron to use her perception power on one of the pieces and explain what she saw as best she could.

She couldn’t think of a subtle way to ask Allison about the camera thing. Fuck it. “Did you hack the SAA so you can spy on people with the cameras?”

“People aren’t as careful with their passwords as they should be,” Allison said, not looking away from her work.

“So, you didn’t use your master computer skills to crack it?”

“I saw no point in doing that when it’s easier to get access a different way.”

“Is that legal?”

“Let’s just say I prefer it if you keep it to yourself and I’ll continue to ignore your late night excursions.”

Cameron whistled, impressed. Allison was, surprisingly, shaping up to not be the by the books type. That made her life easier. This camera thing, it was leverage and it made Allison suspicious. Creed had asked her to observe her teammates closely, watch for sketchy behavior. Testament had spies within the SAA and even if he didn’t know a thing about Creed’s plans, having a spy in Avocet to help out his favorite in case anything happened was a plausible idea. If he did know, he could use the same spy to make trouble for Creed.

“Here, look at this.” Allison held up a rusty cog the size of her palm. The forcefield generator Allison was dismantling looked like a car engine. Did engines normally have cogs in them?

She was getting distracted. She turned super-vision on. At first, there was no difference except the cog looked sharper, clearer. That was only the surface level of her power, with that invisibility and illusions were nothing. She ventured a little deeper, slow and steady, any faster and it might go out of control. It was always a pain to deal with when that happened. She kept going, deeper and deeper, until she saw it, the images. The images overlapped the cog yet she was able to see both clearly. There were so many different images, many of them animated, packed together in such a small object, it was hard to make sense of it all. All inventor made devices were like that, most things didn’t have as many images.

She looked through the images. There was one that was pure black for two seconds before it flared a brilliant white, constantly repeating. Another was a medieval knight’s shield, motionless. Some of these images had to have originated from the generator, as a whole, and not just the cog. She tried to look harder, find the images that clung tighter to the cog in Allison’s hand. The flashing one definitely belonged to the cog and there was another, one with motion and sound. In that one, something slammed into something else, causing a sickening crunch.

“Okay, there’s… one that’s just darkness until it turns white and the other one is supposed to represent collusion, I think,” Cameron said.

Allison nodded then lowered the cog, placing it on the table beside a bunch of other parts.

Cameron shut off her power quickly, to preserve her energy. She pulled out her phone and played a game while Allison continued to work.

An hour later, Cameron was nearly knocked off her chair. She looked up angrily from her phone. The culprit floated in the air, a round ball surrounded by a red tinted air, a forcefield.

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The Hunt Is On 3.2

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Cameron doubted Agent Brown had wanted them to spend their day off in Allison’s workshop, building a better, faster forcefield generator. They were in there working until almost three in the morning. Allison really wanted it done as soon as possible and had no problems staying up late. Cameron had no problems staying up either. It was her power that stopped them from doing anymore work, it used too much energy. Cameron couldn’t have kept it up any longer unless she wanted to knock herself out from overusing her power. They might have gotten more work done if Kate had been there too help, she was an inventor too after all, but Kate had to go home while Cameron was meeting with Agent Camelo. Unlike the two of them, Kate had a life outside of being a superhero.

A good way to replenish energy was to eat, whether that was actually true or just something people said because it sounded like it could be true, Cameron didn’t know. There were still a lot of unknowns when it came to superpowers. Allison had a mini-fridge, stocked with food, so she wouldn’t have to leave if she got hungry. Cameron snorted when she explained her reasoning. “Do you ever, like, take a break? You know, go out and have fun?”

“I consider this fun,” Allison said, as she crouched down to grab a pair of water bottle and sandwiches.

She grabbed hers then sat on a stool near a mostly empty workbench. “Yeah, but what about broadening your horizons?” When that didn’t get any reaction from Allison, Cameron said, “Are you trying to tell me Agent Brown never gave you that speech?”

“To be fair, only one of us here is a known criminal,” Allison said, before taking a bite out of her sandwich.

Cameron unwrapped hers. “Known criminal, sure but who knows what you get up to behind closed doors? You have plenty of free time too, since you don’t go to school.”

“Who told you I didn’t?”

She waited until she bit, chewed, and swallowed before opening her mouth to reply. “Educated guess. Am I wrong?”

“No, you’re not. I hear I’m not missing much.”

“Well, that depends I guess. If you’re a certain type of person, school is lots of fun,” Cameron said. If you were popular and had a ton of friends, that is. It was hard to imagine Allison fitting in well at any of the public high schools in the city. Maybe at Lalonde, the school only allowed the best and brightest to attend. She had actually gotten accepted there, and went for a week until she realized it really wasn’t her kind of place and transferred to Augustine. Everyone had been a little too preppy and intense about their education for her tastes. The workload at Augustine was a lot easier to manage, too. If her dad had been around, he wouldn’t have let her transfer. He was a hardass when it came to school.

Hanging out with Kate, meeting with Agent Camelo, and working with Allison had helped keep her mind off of her dad, who was probably still in town. She briefly considered trying to find him, let him know how much it hurt when he left, maybe do more than simply letting him know.

No, doing that would be counterproductive. She wanted to move on, forget about it, not throw herself back into it the first chance she got. It was the reason she never went looking for her parents or asked Creed to use his resources to track them down for her. As satisfying as it might be for her to punch Dad in the face, it’d probably be more painful for her, just seeing him.

Cameron finished her sandwich and teleported the plastic wrap above the garbage can in the corner. It floated down, joining the rest of the trash.

“Do you always use your powers like that?” Allison asked, frowning.

“Like what?”

“For things you could easily accomplish without them.”

It didn’t really cross her mind to stand up, walk over to the garbage can, and toss it in there. “Yeah. Why? You have a problem with it?”

“No, I don’t. I was just curious, my – the place I grew up, they were very much against using powers frivolously.”

Cameron wondered what Allison was about to say. Her home? She felt like there was a story there but she doubted Allison would tell her if she asked. “A lot of people are,” Cameron said. “They’re scared. It reminds them what we’re capable of, when pushed too far.”

Allison smiled briefly at that. She rolled her plastic wrap into a ball and threw it into the trash with remarkable accuracy. “It’s late, you should go to bed.”

She glanced over at a holographic screen displayed in front of one of the walls. Along with the date, weather, news, and stock market information, it had a clock in the corner. “I guess it is. I’ll see you later.” Cameron rose from seat.

“Goodnight, Cameron.”

She left. The halls were unsurprisingly empty at this time of night. Even if she went straight to bed, she’d still be dead tired, too tired for school. They wouldn’t expect her to go to school, right? Not with Gladwell still on the loose somewhere in the city, doing who knows what. Then again, maybe Agent Camelo didn’t intend to include them in the search at all. He had said he thought all of three of them should be given time to rest but didn’t specify how long and he brought up the point of them being teenagers still. Teenagers were allowed to be superheroes but that didn’t mean their bosses had to treat them the same as their adult peers.

As long as Gladwell was taken care of, Cameron didn’t care. Doing what she had done yesterday – or the day before yesterday, now – was more than enough. She had done her share. Agent Camelo and his crew could handle the rest and then Ian would be safe. Everybody wins, except for Gladwell but who the hell wanted Gladwell to win?

Well, maybe somebody did. Cameron wasn’t as connected to Avocet’s criminal underworld like she used to be. The two biggest players in town wouldn’t want Gladwell to stick around, Creed and the Automatons needed Avocet to stay peaceful, fewer tourists would come if they thought Avocet was unstable. All the other criminals tended to follow their lead most of the time, unless they spotted a good opportunity. Gladwell coming and instantly getting everyone’s attention was a pretty good opportunity. People would be too busy dealing with Gladwell to deal with them.

Cameron reached her bedroom. She changed into her pajamas and hopped into bed.

She woke up hours later, heart hammering away in her chest, memories of dark, impossibly cold smoke smothering her still vivid in her mind. The nightmares were getting better, until recently.

She told herself she wouldn’t let it bother her, wouldn’t let him being back change anything. If it was that easy to ignore your problems, it wouldn’t be considered a problem.

Since she was up, might as well go get ready. She checked her work phone first. The phone periodically received status updates about the general state of the city. Most of the time, it said things were all good. This wasn’t most of the time. Apparently Agent Camelo’s team were already out there searching, along with Droid and Spy, a member of the team she hadn’t gotten a chance to meet yet. Every other hero was to remain on standby.

Oh god, she only got four hours of sleep.

After she was done getting ready, Cameron grabbed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder. Normally, an agent would drop her off at school, usually one of the low-level ones, sometimes Agent Brown did it. The agent in question typically sent her a text telling her where and when to meet them in the parking lot. She hadn’t received any messages which meant they didn’t expect her to go. Cameron wasn’t planning on going but if anyone passed her in the halls, saw her with her backpack on, they probably wouldn’t ask any questions.

Cameron left the SAA building through the back door, which led to an alley behind the building, sandwiched between the building and a coffee shop. Teleporting out the window would have been faster but might have ruined the whole secret identity thing. Personally, she didn’t care all that much. The SAA was pretty big on maintaining secret identities, so whatever, she’d take the long way.

Once she got to the sidewalks, she went to a bus stop across the street from the coffee shop. She had to wait ten minutes for the bus to arrive and from experience, she knew it’d take twenty minutes to get to her stop after getting on. The SAA had plenty of cars in their garage that just sat there, collecting dust. They were willing to put her out in the field, endangering not only her life but the lives of her teammates, but letting her use one of their cars was too much responsibility for her to handle, apparently.

Those twenty minutes passed by slowly. She played a game on her phone but it still felt like it took forever for the bus to get there. It was a bit of walk from the bus stop to her destination but it was way better than taking the bus. At least when she was walking, she was moving, being active.

Ian’s apartment building was awful, as always. She knocked on his door. The sounds of shuffling and bed sheet ruffling could be heard from the inside of the apartment. Ian opened the door just enough to poke part of his upper half out the door – his naked upper half. If Cameron had to guess, his lower half was just as naked. “You have someone over,” Cameron said, a statement.

“Yeah, so either scram or come join.”

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The Hunt Is On 3.1

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Having someone new in charge changed everything. You were forced to get used to how this new person ran things even though you had gotten comfortable with how the old person did it. Kind of reminded Cameron of her foster care days. Those days ended when she got her powers, no one was willing to take her in after, too difficult to deal with a damaged child let alone one with superpowers, and they put her in that place for troubled superpowered youth.

“Ah, Miss Pierce, thank you for coming to my office so quickly,” Agent Camelo said, smiling pleasantly as he sat in Hayes’ chair, in Hayes’ office. That was a red flag if Cameron had ever saw one. “Close the door behind you.” She did, then took a seat in one of the two chairs facing Agent Camelo. That smile never left his face as his eyes looked at her from top to bottom. “You haven’t met my team yet, have you? They came with me to Avocet, since you’re all lacking in firepower here.”

What kind of game was he playing? Of course Cameron hadn’t met any members of his team yet, he had called her to his office a minute after the status update came. “No,” Cameron said. “I haven’t.”

“That’s a shame, but I’m sure you will meet soon enough. I think you might get along with them, Miss Pierce, like yourself some of them are former criminals. You wouldn’t be able to tell, looking at them now but I assure you they were.” He leaned back in the big leather chair Hayes owned. The warmth of his smile never reached his eyes.

“Oh, don’t you worry Agent Camelo, I assure you I’m just as reformed as they are.” Cameron gave him her biggest, brightest smile.

“That’s not what I asked you here to talk about but that’s very nice to hear. I just wanted to know your opinion on your team, so far. You’re likely to have a more unbiased opinion than the others,” Agent Camelo said.

Cameron shrugged with her uninjured shoulder. “They’re pretty cool. I don’t have anything to complain about.”

“Great, that’s great. How’s your arm, by the way? I read in a report you were injured in your fight with Gladwell?”

“I did, and I’m fine.”

“It was Agent Brown’s recommendation that you, Ionic, and Violet Knight were all given time to properly rest and I agree, despite being qualified for being a superhero, all of you are still teenagers. Do you have a problem with that?”

“If you think you can find Gladwell without me, then yeah, no problems here.”

He nodded. “We’ll do fine without your ability. It would be nice though, if you told me more about it and how it works. It’d be useful information for Victory Lad to have once he copies your powers.”

Cameron hated power copies almost as much as she hated power thieves, even if they were on her side. It just didn’t feel fair that they were able to copy what made you special. “Victory Lad is a part of your team?” she asked.

“Well, no, he’s not. I doubt you’ve been told but Victory Lad isn’t part of any official team yet. He moves from team to team, learn something from all the superheroes we have. I don’t just mean powers, of course. He’s recently been assigned to my team for the next while, part of the reason why we were allowed to come here and help with your Gladwell problem,” Agent Camelo said.

“You fight fire with fire so you fight power thief with power copier,” Cameron commented.

Victory Lad was the up and coming superhero. He was one of those ultra powers, superhumans much stronger than their peers, and his ability to copy the powers of any superhuman he spent time with made him very useful, but dangerous. The SAA was grooming him to become the next Champion, the current highest ranking superhero in the country.

Why they let him call himself Victory Lad was a mystery.

“Honestly, he should stay away from that power, it’s hard to control. I haven’t even mastered it yet,” she admitted. “It’s more distracting than helpful, most of the time.” What she didn’t say was how useful it was when used properly. It saved her ass more than once.

Agent Camelo nodded. “Thank you again, for your time Miss Pierce. You may go unless you have something you want to talk to me about.”

“Nope.” She rose from her chair and left before he could change his mind. She was about to go back to her room, enjoy her day off, when her phone beeped the second she reached the elevator. It wasn’t Agent Camelo calling her back to his office, no, it was Allison. Cameron remembered finding the phone numbers of everyone important already programmed into her phone but it was the first time a team member had contacted her.

That was almost never a good sign.

Cameron, please come to my workshop, I’d like to talk to you about weapons.

Boy, Allison sure knew how to get Cameron’s attention. The only way she could make that more appealing to Cameron was if she had half naked men serving them pizza.

She stepped into the elevator, tapped her ID card against a panel, and hit the button to take her to where the workshops were located. Then she got out at her stop, heading straight for a door clearly marked as being Ionic’s workshop. The door opened as she approached it. She walked in and the door automatically closed behind her.

Cameron wasn’t sure what she expected to see but it felt very Allison. Everything was neatly organized, tools were nicely arranged on the walls, each workbench contained only the essential items, no clutter as far as Cameron could tell. Personally, Cameron liked a little mess, made things feel more real, natural. Allison stood behind a table, a partly dismantled Ion drone in front of her and beside it was something that looked kind of like a car engine.

“Thanks for coming, I needed to talk,” Allison said, looking up from the parts on the table and pulling off her gloves. “It won’t make you uncomfortable if I ask about your past?”

“Depends on which part you want to ask about,” Cameron said as she walked up to the table and stood across from Allison.

“Specifically, I want to talk about your time as a thief.”

“Oh, that.” She smiled. “I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to brag, so go ahead, ask away.”

“You stole equipment from all sorts of people, at least some of which had to have a fairly sophisticated tracker, considering you stole from inventors. I’m wondering how you dealt with that.”

That wasn’t what Cameron was expecting but she wasn’t lying before, she loved an opportunity to brag. “I have more than teleporting powers. I’ve also got a perception power and it’s more complicated than just letting me see invisible people. Don’t really know how to describe it but if I concentrate I can see these images that overlap everything. They’re not really images, really, they’re more like… concepts? Or ideas. I use it, look at all the parts and then I can mostly figure out what part does what from their images. I knew a guy who helped me with the technical stuff.”

“Very interesting. How much do you know about inventors, Cameron?”

She shrugged. “You guys build stuff, and those things can do some crazy shit.”

“Well, yes, that’s correct,” Allison said. “But when inventors first started appearing, a lot of effort went in determining whether it was actual science being used, which we would be able to replicate, or if it was a power making it worked, which we wouldn’t be able to be replicate. For the most part, it’s not real science, so when I look at the inventions of other inventors, I’m almost as clueless as anybody else.”

“Okay, I think I get it. You want me to look over something, tell you about it, so you can try and copy it?”

Allison pointed to the engine thing. “That’s from Hoplite, another inventor. It generates forcefields but unlike mine, this doesn’t take as long to start up. It’d be very good for the both of us if you helped me.”

“Wait, what do you mean when you said good for the both of us?”

“To compensate you for your time spent, I’d be willing to do you a favor, make you a weapon or improve your armor or something. You can pick,” Allison said.

Cameron thought about the standard stun gun the SAA gave her, about how it barely affected Gladwell. “Cool,” she said. “Sounds like a good deal to me. When do you want to work on it?”

“Right now would be my preference.”

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The Long Way Home – B

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Felix did end up getting more girls to entertain them. A good mixture of brunettes and blondes. They kept him up late which meant he was snoring like a baby when David woke up early. His spirit messed up yesterday by attacking and being forced to retreat. Now Gladwell knew there were people aware she was here and they wanted her dead or gone. She would be more prepared for them when having the element of surprise was an advantage they needed against someone as strong as her.

Some people just had all the luck.

David didn’t need luck, he’d make his own. Bitch was going to pay for making him look like a fool in front of the rookie.

This time he wouldn’t let his spirit do the work for him, this was a job only he could do. He summoned his spirit but seized control immediately. Most of his attention was on it and its body but he could still move his own body, was still aware of it and what was happening there just not to the same extent he had normally. He had his spirit go through the walls and grab him a cup of coffee. If he fell asleep or someone disturbed him and he lost his concentration then control of his spirit went back to it. David couldn’t afford to make a mistake here, his pride wouldn’t allow it.

He swallowed mouthfuls of coffee before he let his spirit leave the apartment. If Gladwell was smart, she would have found a new place to stay while she was in town, somewhere people wouldn’t expect her to stay at. No abandoned warehouses or sketchy motels. He decided to recheck every location on the list anyway. If she was smart, she wouldn’t be there but people like Gladwell got arrogant. Too used to being top of the food chain.

David lost track of time, it wasn’t like his spirit wore a watch. As expected, she wasn’t hiding in any of the locations on the list or maybe she was just out for awhile, doing business. He flew around Avocet, using his spirit’s unique way of perceiving the world to search for Gladwell. Yesterday’s fight had let him get a good look at Gladwell’s mist. Every power’s mist was different from the mist surrounding everything and the mist of other powers. That was just how it was. David didn’t care about the whys.

Felix had woken up while David was searching and made some noise in the kitchen before returning to his room. The kid was smart enough to keep to himself and not disturb David.

He felt his stomach growl. Well, considering all the work he had done, he deserved a break. His spirit could manage for a few minutes. He released control of his spirit and went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. Nothing too fancy, he didn’t have the time or patience to sit around and cook a good meal. His wife had usually done most of the cooking but he had been forced to learn after she left him and their daughter.

Ten minutes to make then eat the sandwich, go to the washroom, and some stretching. David returned to his room and made himself comfortable before he tuned back into what his spirit was doing.

It had been productive while he rested, continuing the search. The search was so boring David felt like dropping down to his knees and thanking the universe when he spotted bright flashing mists. Powers fighting each other. Had to be Gladwell, barring one exception the city was too peaceful for it to be anything else.

Gladwell was soaring through the air chasing after a ship, the size of two vans stuck together with glowing blue lines running across it and coated with mist. Inventor made. The ship had been damaged and was struggling to stay in the air as Gladwell pelted it with more energy blasts. The people in the ship owed him one. David swooped down and slammed into Gladwell. He didn’t give her an opportunity to get her bearings. He dug his fingers into her skin, ripped through it. One of her hands sliced through his fingers when he moved to do it again, the other cut off his spirit’s shadowy arm from the elbow down.

He flew backwards to give himself some space and she let him.

The ship was falling to the ground, too much damage done to it. David didn’t know who exactly was in there but chances were high that they were superhumans and he could use their help. His spirit wasn’t at one hundred percent. They needed his help more than he did theirs. It felt alright when he thought about it like that.

David went over and gave them a hand, helping to slow their descent by pushing it up. It opened fire on Gladwell, preventing her from stopping him. Whoever was aiming was frighteningly accurate, David noted, even when Gladwell became invisible. Huh, they had someone capable of seeing through invisibility like he was. That tended to be rare.

Gladwell managed to get a few blasts out but a forcefield soaked up most of the damage. Where the hell was that when they were getting pummeled?

Once he had gotten the ship safely on the ground, he charged at Gladwell. She had grown, nearly five times as bigger as she was before. She bisected him with a wave of her arm.

Fuck, he hated people with more than one goddamn power.

He felt so cold as his spirit fell to the ground. The two separate pieces were pulled together and his spirit was back on its feet. David let his spirit have control, he needed to go get Felix. He rushed out of his room and barged into Felix’s, uncaring. “I got Gladwell, fighting her right now. You need to get your ass over there.”

Felix looked up from the bowl of popcorn resting on his stomach as he laid down on his bed. “Where?” David had already pulled out his cell phone and punched in the location. Felix wasn’t a native to Avocet like he was, he’d need directions. He tossed the phone onto the bed. Felix grabbed it and left, pausing to grab a mask.

David returned to his room and took control again.

It took him a second to figure out what had happened. The people inside the ship had gotten out and were doing as much damage to the giant Gladwell as they could. Superheroes. He recognized Violet Knight and Ionic, the third one was new. Violet Knight was the most recent successor of the Color Knight identity. What made him notable enough for David to remember him was that he was a superhero, while the previous two knights – the Orange and Red Knights – were villains. Dangerous ones, too.

He was on the ground again, waiting as his body healed enough for him to fight again. Gladwell had chopped his spirit into itty bitty pieces.

Another embarrassment. What if Felix had been there to see his spirit get dominated like that? It stoked the anger inside of him and it didn’t take much to set him off. He could feel it building under his skin, demanding release, retribution for what she had done to his pride.

He rose and hit the back of Gladwell’s knee like a torpedo. For a moment, he lost awareness of what he was doing, could only feel the slickness of his fingers as they were coated with blood.

A merging between him and his spirit. He was still there, still inside his spirit’s body yet it was his spirit in control. It was savage, brutal, more animal than man. It cared only for violence, no strategy, no finesse. It was this that made him dangerous, one of the best enforcers in their group.

Gladwell lit up, covered herself in flames, and he caught fire too. He didn’t stop even as he could feel his real body shake from the cold. He did as much damage as he could, literally ripping heaps of flesh off of her. The only thing that stopped him was another bisection. His spirit fell from the sky and he saw a second Gladwell, smaller than the other one, floating in the air behind where he had been. Duplication.

He laughed manically, the sound only reached his real ears. His spirit was incapable of speech.

Fucking power thieves.

The other Gladwell chased after him, ready to take him apart. David didn’t know how much more his spirit could handle, it had sustained a lot of damage from the flames but he couldn’t retreat, not with Felix on the way, not with those heroes watching. She landed beside him. She raised her left hand above her head, like an executioner’s blade.

The third hero, the one he didn’t recognize, materialized above Gladwell, a sword in her hands. It was pointed downwards. Gravity did the rest, plunged the sword into her chest. It didn’t make it all the way through. The hero vanished before Gladwell could turn around and return the favor. The hero reappeared to Gladwell’s left and took a swing. She blocked it but the hero disappeared again the second she did. A teleporting hero came from another angle, and managed to stab Gladwell in the back again. It went all the way through, right where the heart was.

“Nice try, sweetheart but I’ve moved the location of my heart,” Gladwell said, smiling.

The hero disappeared, not making a sound but taking the sword with her.

It gave him enough time for his spirit’s body to pull together.

He leaped up from the ground and grabbed Gladwell’s head, ignoring her hands cutting into him. He squeezed as hard as he could, until he felt her skull collapse between his hands. For good measure, he ripped off her arms and legs. They came off as easily as the limbs of a barbie doll. It would have been harder to do if this Gladwell was still alive.

“You helped us not crash, I bought you time to recover. We’re even.” He spun around and the hero was standing behind him. The voice made him think it was a girl. “I don’t owe you anything else.”

He shrugged. Didn’t matter, he didn’t plan on needing her help again.

She vanished again. David looked around and found her beside her companions. The sword had remained deadly sharp even in her hands.

The giant Gladwell had shrunk back down to her regular size. Her and another copy were flying through the air avoiding small round balls shooting blue beams. Not just those balls, there was something else up there. A bolt of lightning was shooting through the air in straight lines, chasing after the Gladwells, trying to turn them into burned crisps. Small cracks sounded as the lightning changed direction. Felix, in his lightning form.

Felix got a few good hits in before the bolt hit the ground in front of David, reforming into his human shape. He had to shift back into his human form after a minute, unless he wanted to be trapped in his lightning form forever. He flashed David a grin then changed forms again, continuing the fight.

He wasn’t going to let Felix have all the fun and credit. He took to the air and slammed into the closest Gladwell while she was distracted.

The Gladwells glanced at each other then split up, flying in opposite directions. Divide and conquer, wasn’t a bad strategy to use in this situation. Felix moved to the ground and changed forms. David shook his head, he seemed to get the message and stayed put. She had more stamina than he did, chasing after her would be stupid. At least this way he could say she ran away from them.

Those balls came down to surround Ionic. She kept her distance but she was looking at them. David landed beside Felix, to give them more presence. He doubted they’d start a fight, but some heroes played dirty. They could use this opportunity to take him and Felix down, to make up for the fact they didn’t manage to capture Gladwell. It’d be a real feather in their cap too, if they got Felix in jail. Felix was new but he’d made a splash a few days ago back in LA.

“Thanks for the help,” Ionic said. “We appreciate it, regardless of whatever motive you may have for hunting Gladwell.”

Hard to tell if she was really sincere with a device altering her voice or if she was just being polite, secretly angry a criminal had to come to her rescue.

“Not a problem, not a problem,” Felix said. “We’ll be leaving then, got things to do. You know how it is.”

“Of course. We’ll let you go regardless but would you mind answering a question for me?”

Felix turned to him, looking to him for instruction. Wouldn’t hurt to listen to the question, especially if they were going to end up staying here for awhile, could earn them some goodwill. David nodded.

Ionic took that as a cue to continue. “Are you here in Avocet for Gladwell? A grudge?”

“Yeah,” Felix said. “That’s all we want. We won’t be causing you any trouble, if that’s what you want to know.”

“Fair enough. Thanks again for the help.”

David nodded at the three superheroes as Felix transformed and headed off in the direction of their apartment. David left in a different direction. He didn’t want to give them any clues on where they might be staying. Heroes were never to be trusted.

The teleporting girl watched him go.

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Home 2.6

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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.

“Point Blank!”

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.

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Home 2.5

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Matt and Allison were already there in the garage, waiting for her, when she arrived. Their helmets hid any glares they might be directing her way.

“Where we heading off to first, boss?” Cameron asked, seeing as Allison held the folder with the list of Gladwell’s possible hideouts. Cameron had her own copy, but they didn’t know that.

“I’ve planned out our route, to give us the shortest travel time,” Allison said. “Are there any objections to following it?” Matt shrugged.

Cameron shook her head. “What about Droid, though? Is he coming?”

“No,” Allison answered. She didn’t elaborate and Matt didn’t feel like chiming in with an explanation either. Gee, they must get along because of their shared characteristic of being such great conversationalists. “We shouldn’t waste time, let’s go.” Without anyone moving a muscle, the ship’s hangar doors opened, the same ship Cameron and Agent Brown rode to pick up Tom. They all piled in, Allison sat in the pilot’s chair, the seat next to hers was left empty as Cameron and Matt settled down in the benches pressed against the walls of the ship. Then they lifted off, flying toward the first location.

The ship barely made a sound as it flew.

“How are we going to do this?” Matt said, breaking the silence. He tapped his armor, unlike the ship it did make a sound, and it was loud.  “I’m not the best at recon. And she’s new.”

“At least this new girl is stealthy, unlike you tin man,” Cameron retorted. “Is your stealth suit at the cleaners?”

He groaned. It sounded kind of different from his out of costume voice, though she didn’t hear enough of it to say for sure. “I don’t have any suit but this one, and I can’t change it, or anything about it, alright?”

“Cameron and I will go investigate, you stay close by and come if there’s any unexpected trouble,” Allison said. “We’ll be landing in exactly a minute and ten seconds.”

“According to the card that came with this.” Cameron gestured to her new costume. “It’s Point Blank.”

Allison shook her head, her disappointment clear as day. “Ignore her,” Matt said. “She has a thing against two word codenames, I heard she argued with the PR team when they tried to stick her with one when she was new.”

“They’re clunky,” she protested.

Conversation stopped as the ship slowed then landed on the street. The back door opened and they hopped out.

Cameron recognized this part of town. It wasn’t far from where her, and Ian’s, apartments were. Scary to think how close Gladwell could be to them without either of them knowing. One of the big reasons Gladwell hadn’t been caught before was her ability to change her appearance, there was a lot more to it than that obviously; a mere shapeshifter wouldn’t freak out some of the strongest powers in the country.

The first place on their list was an Italian restaurant, down the street from where they parked the ship. A few people on the street saw them and scattered, practically running away from them. Ah, she loved being in the bad side of town, people knew to mind their own business.

“I’ll have my Ion drones scan the area for superhumans. Point Blank, survey the restaurant. I assume a thief like yourself knows how not to be seen?” Ionic said.

Cameron smiled, and if the PR team listened to her suggestion, a big glowing smiley face would appear on the front of her helmet.

Ionic sighed. “Hurry up and go, and turn that off. You’ll attract more attention with it on.”

The PR team had called her up many times while they designed and built her costume, asking for her opinion and features she would want added. Having smiley face pop up on her helmet every time she smiled was one, a camera capable of zooming in and panorama was another. Fortunately, she actually listened when they told her how to use it. Cameron squinted. Once she got a good look at the alley beside the restaurant, she teleported there.

As much as she loathed to do it, she made a circle on her helmet with her finger, shutting off the smiley face feature.

Cameron tugged on the alley door. Locked. Of course it would be, life could never be too easy. It’d be boring if it was. A pin and tumbler, it looked like. She checked the utility belt and after digging through a few pouches, she found a lock-picking kit. Another item she had requested. A moment later, she heard the click and then she was in. The alley door led to a small room, filled with boxes and crates. Nobody was in it, fortunately. Partially concealed by the boxes was another door. She crept toward it, stopping to look through some of the many boxes. The only suspicious thing here so far was her, dolled up in her superhero suit. This other door wasn’t locked. Cameron carefully opened it, making sure it didn’t creak and give her position away.

Past it was the kitchen and they appeared normal enough, maybe not as sanitary as they could be but that was pretty normal considering where in town they were.

“- not to distract him, just be polite. Get it?”

A man standing by the sink, washing dishes, glanced down at the phone he put on speaker. “Yeah, I got it. Sorry, sir.”

“Good, I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.” 

The person on the other end was also male and Cameron couldn’t say from where but she felt like had heard it before. The owner, maybe? Cameron had probably come to this restaurant before, considering how close it was to her home.

She tried to tell herself she was imagining it but she couldn’t shake the feeling.

“Point Blank, my Ion drones found nothing. Unless you saw something odd, let’s move on to the next location,” Ionic said over the comms built into her helmet.

Cameron gave the restaurant workers another examining look before she closed the door. “I’m coming.”

Even as she teleported back to the ship, the feeling remained.

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Home 2.4

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Picking up the phone now, with Tom and Agent Brown standing right next to her, wasn’t an option. So she waited until they got back to HQ and she headed to her room, hoping Creed left a message or something.

He did.

It was a short message, giving her a progress report of his search of the city. His subordinates found a couple of places that Gladwell might be hiding in, though they didn’t venture inside to find out for sure, afraid she’d spot them and kill them. Creed didn’t want to start a conflict between his organization and Gladwell, and he’d be forced to if Gladwell killed any of his men. They were still looking for more possible hideouts, he estimated he’d narrow it down to two or three by tomorrow evening. She had been hoping he would somehow manage to get it done by tonight but tomorrow wasn’t bad. Ian could stay out of trouble for that long.

The extra time did give her a chance to figure out the little details of her plan, like how she was going to get the SAA to come investigate. Initiating a big fight that would cause a ton of property damage didn’t seem like a good idea and it was always a pain in the ass for everyone involved.

Or she could just not be an idiot and forward the information to the SAA. Right, why didn’t she think about that earlier? If Agent Hayes knew Gladwell was in town from his precog, he would be more inclined to believe and act on it. If he didn’t, Cameron could always go ahead with her current plan. Cameron liked her challenges but there were limits, stuff she wouldn’t even consider. Messing with Gladwell wasn’t past her limits but it was pretty damn close, too close for anyone’s comfort.

That was a problem for tomorrow, when she received the info.

For now, Cameron was hungry. The heroes’ floor had its own kitchen, shared by everyone who had access to it. The fridge was almost always fully stocked with only a few items clearly marked as belonging to someone. After meeting Tom earlier today, she now knew T.H was him, which left A.N. Cameron was betting A.N was Ionic. She tossed a steak TV dinner into the microwave and sat down on the kitchen counter as she waited.

“Sit in a chair, not the counter.”

She looked up from the bird game she was playing on her phone. “Ionic?”

“Or Allison Nakamura, I’ll respond to either.”

True to Agent Brown’s word, Ionic or Allison, was young, fourteen or fifteen at the most. Her long dark hair was tied in a ponytail and from the sweat and clothes she wore, she probably just came from the gym. A few inches shorter than Cameron but today wasn’t a special occasion; Allison worked out often and had the muscles to prove it.

“Hmm.” She tapped her finger against her chin as she thought. “I think I’m going to call you A, I when in costume.”

Allison shook her head, unamused. “AI. Funny.”

“I thought so.” She grinned. The microwave beeped. She hopped off the counter and popped open the microwave to retrieve her dinner. Allison rummaged through the fridge, pulling out ingredients for her own dinner. Athletic, smart, and knew how to cook, Allison had it all, it seemed. Cameron grabbed a fork and was careful to grip the edges of the box, so she wouldn’t burn her fingers. “See you later.”

“Tomorrow,” Allison said before Cameron could head to her room. “We’ll be seeing each other tomorrow, during the training session we have scheduled.”

Training session tomorrow, that sounded vaguely familiar. Cameron probably hadn’t been listening when Agent Brown told her. Allison glanced away from the contents of the fridge to Cameron’s face. “No one told you?”

“Maybe. I don’t remember.”

Allison sighed, closing the fridge. “We have one training session every week, sometimes more. It’s four to seven. You’ll arrive at the gym on time. There’s no need to wear your costume, either. It’ll be mostly CQC practice.”

This wasn’t ideal. She didn’t want to be all worn out when she went to deal with Gladwell. “I’m going to guess it’s not optional.”

“It’s not. You’ll be there.”

“Aye aye captain,” she said, forcing a smile on her face. First order of business, she’d need to text Creed and get him to send Hayes the info the moment he got enough. Second order of business, dinner. Allison was taking out a knife and a cutting board when Cameron went to her room. She grabbed the burner phone from the pocket of a leather jacket hidden in a stack of dirty clothes. With the message sent, she ate her crappy microwavable meal, wondering what Allison was cooking in the kitchen. You’d think she would have learned how to cook already, with her mom being absent for most of her life and Dad being hopeless in the kitchen.

What were they both doing now? Dead, their bodies buried in a ditch somewhere, or alive, doing whatever they wanted?

The thought of them being happy made her angry. After leaving her, at two different points in her life, with no goodbye and all the shit she went through because of it, they didn’t deserve to be happy. They should be twice as miserable as she ever was or burning in hell. Those were the only two outcomes she’d accept.

Cameron arrived four minutes late to training and she received a glare from Allison. Allison should have been happy Cameron showed up at all. Honestly, Cameron spent a lot of time debating about whether she should go or not.

There were two other people with her, a girl about Allison’s age with brown hair a shade or two lighter than Cameron’s own, and a lanky teenage boy holding a sword. The boy had to be Violet Knight. They were all just standing around, waiting.

“We doing this training thing or what?” Cameron asked.

Allison shook her head. “Agent Hayes told us not to start yet, he needs to speak to us first.”

The girl came up to her, smiling, hand outstretched. The preppy type. “Hi, I’m Kate, it’s nice to meet you,” she said, perky.

“I’m Cameron, but I’m betting you already knew that. Nice to meet you too,” Cameron said without even ten percent of the cheer in Kate’s voice. She made sure her voice was loud enough for Violet Knight to hear from where he stood. “And that’s VK, over there?”

He nodded. “It’s Matt.”

“Glad to see you all got introductions out of the way,” Agent Hayes said. She whirled around and saw him striding over to them, holding a yellow folder. “I just received this packet and if it’s true then we’re all going in to be in a lot of trouble.” He met Cameron’s eyes. “Though you may already know about this.”

She could feel her heart rate spike. Experience let her keep her expression even, indifferent. “Know what?”

“I had a few of our agents working on this since we got it.” He tapped the folder. “They’re fast workers, and get even faster with Foresight helping to guide them. Her target, as far as we can tell, are the Speed Fiends and you’ve been known to associate with them.”

Luckily, plausible deniability was still on her side. “They helped me out, once or twice. We’re not friends but in a city like Avocet, with all the big crime groups running around, we little guys like to stick together, you know? Whose this ‘she’ you’re talking about, anyway?”

Hayes broke their little staring contest and turned to address the others. “Gladwell.”

Remembering that she shouldn’t already know this, Cameron tried to look shocked, like anyone would be upon hearing a scary fucker like Gladwell was in the same city as you. “Shit,” she added, to help sell the act.

Kate’s eyes were as wide as saucers and Matt had nearly dropped his sword when Hayes spoke.

Allison didn’t even bat an eyelash.

“What else do we know about the situation?” she asked, going straight to business.

Hayes handed Allison the folder. “We know the Speed Fiends were spotted in New York, around the same time as Gladwell. They could have gotten into an disagreement and now she’s here to get her revenge. I’m assuming you all know the details of her powers and her general personality?”

“Hard not to,” Matt said. The news loved to talk about Gladwell, the havoc she wreaked made entertaining if sometimes tragic headlines.

“Included in the folder is a list of places Gladwell might be hiding in. With my more mundane operatives lacking in the innate protection you all have to powers, I’ll have you three go check out it instead,” Agent Hayes said, deliberately not looking at Kate as he said the last part. Maybe she was like Tom, someone who came here to learn how to control their abilities, not be a superhero.

The frown on her face told Cameron otherwise.

Allison finished reading and passed the folder to Matt. “You are not to engage Gladwell if you find her,” he continued. “This is strictly recon, understand? She’s dangerous and I’d like to have a plan before we even attempt to capture her.” The barest hint of a smile was on his face. Catching Gladwell would take him right out of the doghouse and put him first in line for a promotion. For once, he and Cameron were on the same page. There would be no other way to stop Gladwell from going after Ian. “Go, get suited up. Cameron, you’ll find your official costume has been completed and delivered to your room.”

Matt and Allison rushed out the second Hayes gave the order. “If it doesn’t look badass I want my money back,” Cameron said to Hayes, as she moved to follow them.

“Hey, um, Cameron?” Kate said. She stopped and turned to face her. “We should hang out, sometime. When you’re free.”

“Uh, sure,” Cameron replied. It wasn’t very often people she barely knew asked her to hang out, especially people well aware of Cameron’s criminal history. She hurried out, wouldn’t want Matt and Allison to leave without her.

As promised, a brand new costume was laid out on her bed with a note on top of it. Boots sat at the foot of her bed. She picked up the note and fully admired the costume. It reminded Cameron of Droid’s outfit, with its forest green jacket over a body armor. The body armor was black with green lines over the chest and arms, and it actually looked like body armor, not like skintight spandex that some superheroes wore. There were a pair of gloves laying on the side, beside a utility belt. She picked up the black helmet with her right hand as her eyes moved over to the note she held in her left.

Three words: Welcome, Point Blank.

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When the Chips Are Down 1.6

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His name described him pretty much perfectly, Violet Knight looked like some medieval knight in violet armor, with a big, badass sword in his hands. A sword he used to cut off one of Blondie’s arms.

Cameron whistled, impressed. Were heroes allowed to be that hardcore? She might have come over to the light side sooner if she knew they didn’t all need to act like the perfect little angels the news made them out to be.

Violet Knight jumped back and away from Blondie, who was clutching an already regenerating stump. “You need to get out of here. Out of the store, far away from here,” he spoke urgently.

She knew better to stick around and ask questions when people were in the middle of executing their plan, delaying might fuck everything up. She gave him a nod before teleporting out when she got a good look at a spot outside the store. The second she appeared outside, she teleported again for good measure. She turned to look back at the store, curious. Hopefully their plan consisted of something more than dropping down from the ceiling and cutting off his arms, she expected more from Ionic. Inventor types like her usually didn’t get an intelligence boost from their powers, despite gaining the ability to do super-science, but after she hyped up her skills with that little speech about earning her position as top superhero in town, Cameron expected Ionic to live up to that.

The inside of the store gained a crimson tint, becoming more red than pink. Cameron couldn’t see much from this distance, just red and violet silhouettes.

“What’s going on in there?” Cameron asked. “You guys kicking his ass?”

“Yeah, what the hell is going on over there?” Droid chimed in.

No response.

Well, she couldn’t hear or see anyone screaming in pain, she wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. “Hey, Droid, you saw me do everything they asked of me, right? And that it was totally not my fault if those two got themselves killed, right?”

“Can’t see much of an- Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuck.” Cameron was still close enough to the food court to hear the thud.

Cameron snickered. A shame she couldn’t record him falling down from the ceiling, swearing the entire way down, it’d probably get tons of views on the internet, maybe earn a few bucks from it.

“We have him subdued, more or less. If you can pick yourself up, Droid, the more eyes watching him the better. You too, Teleporter. And nice work,” Ionic said.

The tint was gone, returning the store to its normal shade of pink. She teleported to the front of the store, where Ionic stood between Violet Knight and Blondie, both covered from the neck down in sticky rope. Sticky rope was used whenever conventional bindings wouldn’t hold up to the strain people with super strength could put them under. They stuck to you and the harder you tried to escape, the tighter it constricts.

“What happened here?” Cameron asked, nudging Violet Knight with the tip of her boot. He moved his head in her direction, glaring under that helmet of his probably.

“My plan,” Ionic said, a hint of triumphant in her synthesized voice. “I set up a forcefield to trap him inside, had Violet Knight hold him down while I dropped a load of sticky rope on the both of them.” She indicated Blondie with a wave of her hand. “He seems to have fallen unconscious, it’s likely he overused his power and exhausted himself.”

“Wonder why he did all this, with how he was acting I didn’t feel like there was any real purpose to it,” Violet Knight mused.

Cameron frowned, remembering what he said before Violet Knight cut off his arm. She turned on her super-vision. That girl with the pigtails was nowhere in sight. Like she was never here. “You guys didn’t happen to see a little girl with him, did you? Pigtails?”

“No,” Violet Knight said, Ionic shook her head. “Why?”

This was the sort of thing she’d usually ignore if she didn’t receive a note earlier in the day from Creed, telling her to keep her eyes open. Super-vision had a habit of making her see strange things, things she couldn’t make sense of. Superpowers weren’t perfect, there were stories on the news all the time about people being driven insane by them, people dying because they couldn’t properly control their abilities.

“I saw her standing beside him, and when I brought it up, he freaked out,” Cameron admitted.

“Weird.”

Ionic pulled out a knife from her belt and cut through the rope around Violet Knight. The edge of the blade had a blue glow, the same shade as the blue on her costume.

The silence that came after was interrupted when Ionic spoke up. “You mentioned earlier your power doesn’t work so well when used against a superhuman?”

“Yeah, I can’t teleport them unless they consciously don’t resist.” It wasn’t too different from trying to turn on her super-vision, trying to stop a natural instinct, one they weren’t really aware of doing.

“It wouldn’t work then, if they’re unconscious?”

“It wouldn’t.”

“Damn. Transporting him would have been a lot easier if you were capable of teleporting him there.” She paused. “Trucks will be arriving in two minutes to take him away.”

He was still on the ground, out like a light or pretending to be. Cameron couldn’t tell for sure with the amount of sticky rope on him, but his arm had completely regenerated. Those shock collars they had that knocked you out if you tried to use your powers wouldn’t work as well for him as it did when they used it on her. They were flawed anyway, if Cameron had really wanted to, she could have teleported it off before it could zap her.

Droid entered the store with his armor looking a little more banged up than the last time Cameron saw him. “Enjoy your fall?” she asked.

“It was fantastic,” Droid answered with forced cheerfulness. He pressed the heel of his boot against Blondie’s nose. “Looks like he’s out cold.” He pushed a little harder. Blondie didn’t react.

“Stop. He’s tied up, defenseless, there’s no need to rough him up anymore than he already is,” Ionic said, meeting his eyes, or close enough to it since they were both wearing helmets.

Droid scoffed. “Maniacs like him are the reason why there’s only a handful of us left in this damn city.” Still, he stepped away from their captive and deliberately looked away. It reminded Cameron of a comment Ionic had made the other day, about Droid being unfit for leadership and how they kept him around as a figurehead. One of the main reasons for his popularity inside and out of Avocet city was because of an incident that happened awhile ago, resulting in the death of half of heroes in the city. Everybody loved a good tragedy, a reason to come together, something to talk about, and they adored the survivors of tragedies even more.

Standing around, without anything to distract her, the pain from getting slammed into the wall twice made itself known. Her costume had softened the hits, but it didn’t provide the sort of protection Ionic, Droid, and Violet Knight’s costumes no doubt did.

Blondie didn’t move an inch in the minutes it took for agents to arrive with special equipment to restrain him. Couldn’t tell for sure, but he didn’t look like he was breathing. Ionic had knelt down and checked his pulse, finding it weak but definitely there. The agents sealed him inside a metal box, with small holes for air. Droid and Violet Knight carried it to the trucks and the rest of them followed, in case he woke up and caused trouble. Once he was safely loaded up into the truck, they hopped into another truck that trailed behind the other, waiting, watching.

Nothing happened, Blondie was still unconscious when they got to HQ and moved him to a cell. Ionic and Violet Knight went with the agents to the cells, while Droid wandered off to do his own thing.

Cameron was escorted to medical, after Droid mentioned how hard she got hit. She would have preferred to have just been allowed to go to her room with a bottle of painkillers. Doctors were never her favorite people, an old habit ingrained from childhood by daddy dearest.

Well, at least he was easy on the eyes. A few more inches and he’d be a shoe in for tall, dark, and handsome doctor in some soap opera set in a hospital.

“You seem to be alright,” Dr. Klein said, his eyes on the clipboard in his hands, after she went through a bunch of tests. “I can give you something for the pain, I guess, maybe see if you qualify for special medication. Otherwise, you can go back to your room, get some rest or do homework, avoid physical activity. Putting some ice on it wouldn’t hurt either.”

“Special medication?” she asked, zipping her costume back up.

“Inventor made, they speed up healing. We try not to use them too often, we’re not sure on the long term effects if there are any.”

“Don’t think it’s that bad,” Cameron said.

Dr. Klein shrugged. “You’ll be the one dealing with it. Hang on a sec.” He walked over to a cabinet on the far side of the room and searched the shelves.

“Are you close to being finished?”

Cameron jumped a little, very glad that Dr. Klein wasn’t facing her when it happened. She’d have to bury herself into a hole six feet deep if someone saw her get startled so easily. She forgot there were speakers in here, along with many other rooms in the building so Agent Hayes could quickly and easily get in contact with people.

“She’s done, Agent Hayes, I’m just grabbing something for her,” Dr. Klein called out, loud enough to be easily picked up by the microphones.

“Good, I want to have a quick conversation with her in her room. Tell her to come immediately, I don’t have much time to waste.”

“He does realize I’m right here and can hear every word he’s saying, right?” Cameron said.

Dr. Klein crossed the room and handed her a bottle of over the counter painkillers. “You do realize he’s kind of an asshole, right?”

“Learned that on my first day.” She smiled, hopping off the bed she was sitting on. She gave him a wave goodbye before pulling on her helmet and going straight to her room. The idea of Hayes being in her room made her skin crawl.

He had made himself comfortable in her computer chair, idly tapping his fingers against the edge of her desk. “Hello Cameron, I’ve heard you were a big help today.”

“And?” She took off the helmet and put on the bed, beside her backpack and the clothes she was wearing earlier, someone must have brought them to her room from the car.

“You’ve heard of the tragedy, haven’t you? That left me with half a team, most of them children. Not many heroes wanted to transfer here after we fucked up that badly. I do the best I can with what I have, regardless. We managed well so far but it’s been quiet and I have it on good authority that it won’t stay that way for long. Anymore screw ups and I’m liable to be out of a job. Today’s not as bad as it could have been, but it wasn’t good either. See my predicament?”

He didn’t wait for her to respond.

“Start packing up your things, we’ll be moving you to the fourth floor by the end of the week. Welcome to the team, Cameron.”

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