The Hunt Is On 3.4

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She sat on the ground, desperately picking up pieces of a shattered vase. It was her mother’s, the latest addition to a collection of stolen goods. Her mom took stuff from her job at a furniture store. It was going to get her fired someday soon, and they were going to end up broke and hungry but Mom didn’t seem to care. The one time she had brought it up and Mom hit her hard, her long nails tore open her skin, leaving a bloody trail across her cheek. It hurt and it was hard to explain the next day when she went to school.

Mom had carelessly knocked the vase off the table as she stumbled around the apartment, drunk. She was going to get blamed for this too when Mom sobered up. Everything was her fault in this house. Mom hated her because she wasn’t good enough, wasn’t the daughter she wanted. Too stupid, too ugly, no personality, nothing special. It was why she didn’t have any friends either. Mom went on and on about her faults whenever she got in one of those moods.

She tried so hard to improve, to be the perfect daughter her mother wanted but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. She couldn’t be perfect and Mom would never forgive her for it.

Dad was no better, he got Mom pregnant and ran as fast as he could when he realized it. She liked to imagine him coming back for her one day, horrified by what a colossal mistake he made by leaving her with this mad woman. He’d love her, give her everything she always wanted, and he’d tell her he was proud of her and she was everything he could have ever hoped for in a daughter.

But she knew he would never come. Why would he ever want to come back for someone so pathetic? She was no good.

She grabbed the roll of tape, steeling herself for another long night.

Cameron woke up, covered in sweat. Having a nightmare wasn’t strange, but what was strange was the content of the nightmare. If she never had a nightmare about her mom before and the mom in her dream wasn’t anything like the mom she had in real life. Cameron could barely remember her mom but she knew the woman hadn’t worked and she was the one that left first, not Dad.

It had all felt so real though. It was like she had actually been there, feeling like something worse than shit.

Beneath all that pain had been anger, as intense as anything she had ever experienced.

She took a shower, wouldn’t want to go to school sweaty. Agent Brown talked with Hayes and Agent Camelo, both of them deciding the home team was going to sit this one out unless everything went to shit. Allison and Roger, Droid’s real name, hadn’t been happy during the short meeting when Agent Brown came to tell them the news. The other mysterious members of the team hadn’t been there.

Now that they were officially benched, they were all forced to return to their regularly scheduled lives. For Cameron, that was school. She had no clue what Roger and Matt did when they weren’t fighting the good fight. Matt probably went to school and hung out with his friends or something, normal stuff. Allison would stay cooped up in her workshop, diligently building newer and deadlier weapons. Building Cameron a weapon, to be specific. As per their deal, Allison was going to make something for Cameron in exchange for the time spent helping Allison with her forcefield generator. Cameron asked for a gun, one that would do more than stun.

Allison agreed.

It seemed risky, giving a convicted criminal a dangerous weapon. Then again, she already had superpowers. Normal humans didn’t have the same innate protection as powers did, it’d take a single thought to teleport a pencil into someone’s eye. If she wanted to cause damage, she could.

Cameron went to the parking lot where she was met by an annoyed agent. She’d be annoyed too if she was forced to drive a teenager to school but the agent still did it.

At the start of every school day, Cameron went to her locker first to drop off heavy books she wouldn’t need until later. Sometimes Sarah met up with her. Today was not one of those days, instead an unfamiliar redheaded girl leaned against Cameron’s locker, blocking it. The girl was Cameron’s height and her clothes looked dirty, which fit with her whole urban decay look she had going on with her ripped jeans. It wasn’t cool to do that anymore but the girl didn’t seem to care. She was calm and relaxed, smiling slightly. The smile widened when the girl spotted Cameron.

“Hi, Cameron, did you miss me?” the girl asked, voice unnaturally perky.

Fuck, she didn’t have time for this bullshit. “Who the hell are you and why the hell are you in my way?”

“Someone’s not a morning person, huh? Did you have a bad dream?” From the way she said it, it wasn’t really a question, she knew.

Cameron didn’t like the implications.

Matt had gotten sick so soon after their fight with Gladwell and his sword was covered in Gladwell’s blood after she stabbed Gladwell with it. Gladwell needed to make a physical connection to use her power. People had always thought it meant Gladwell had to take something from a person, their blood or skin or any body part, and do something with it. No one knew the specifics and Gladwell had never shared. Maybe some of her blood on her target worked just as well to create a connection she could use.

Her horror must have showed on her face because the girl laughed. “Don’t be scared, Cameron. If I was could absorb you, I would have already. You’re safe.”

“How much do you know?” Cameron asked, quiet.

“Oh, relax, I don’t know too much. I have been getting some of your thoughts and emotions, nothing damaging. I thought it was fair you got one of my memories.”

“The dream.”

“Yes, the dream. It seems we have things in common, don’t we Cameron? I was touched, when you felt that turmoil over your father. It reminded me of my mother, god bless her soul.” Gladwell rolled her eyes as she said the last part. “It warms my heart. I don’t get the chance to connect with a person on this level often. Usually I take what I need and leave behind what I don’t. I can’t do that here.”

Cameron looked around. People were too wrapped up in their own lives to eavesdrop on their conversation. Funny how that was working out in her favor this time. Maybe an interruption wouldn’t be so bad. It couldn’t be worse than standing and listening to Gladwell go on about how they weren’t so different. Not only was it cliched, it was slightly disturbing.

“And that’s all you’ve come here to say?” Cameron asked, painfully aware all Gladwell had to do was swing a bladed arm to end Cameron’s life or strengthen their connection.

Her heart quickened as Gladwell took a step forward and took Cameron’s hand. “Let’s finish this conversation outside. I think we’re both more comfortable that way.”

Cameron nodded and let Gladwell lead them to the nearest exit, doing her best to ignore the voice screaming at her to teleport as far away as possible. Doing that would probably make Gladwell angry and she had proven she could track Cameron down if she wanted to.

Gladwell took her to the teacher’s parking lot, completely empty of people except the two of them. She let go of Cameron’s hand. Cameron backed away immediately and wiped the sweat on her hand off on her jeans.

“You’re jumpy,” Gladwell commented.

“Can you blame me? You tried to kill me.”

“And you tried to kill me. I do still remember you driving a sword through my chest. We can let bygones be bygones, can’t we?”

“Bygones,” Cameron repeated, slowly.

“Yeah, bygones. I wanted to come here and offer you a spot on in my group.”

Cameron nearly choked from shock alone. “You’re kidding?”

“No, no! I’m absolutely serious. I’m a man down since you guys took down one of my newer recruits, no hard feelings by the way, and you interest me. You did good when you fought me too. What do you say, Cameron? Come join me?”

“Will you kill me if I say no?”

Gladwell smiled, sending a shiver down Cameron’s spine. It was a cold smile, more predator than human. “I’d be tempted but I would let you go.” The bell rung, signaling the official start of the school day. “Whoops, I’ve made you late. Sorry. You can go to class now, just think about my offer, alright? Give me your answer the next time we see each other.”

“Um, sure.”

Gladwell waved goodbye as Cameron walked away, heading to class. Once she was confident she was out of sight, Cameron pulled out her phone – her work phone. It took her a moment to remember how to send a red alert but she did it. The screen flashed bright red for a second. It instantly connected her with the agent in charge. “What’s going on?” Agent Camelo asked, confused.

There wasn’t anyone around but Cameron wouldn’t have cared if there was. This couldn’t wait even a second. “I met with Gladwell, she’s at my school. Well, probably not anymore. She tracked me down, she knows my name.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, she didn’t try to hurt me.”

“If you’re fine then let’s continue this conversation back at HQ. A car’s already heading for you.”

The screen flashed white then the call disconnected.

Her heart only calmed down a minute into the emergency meeting Agent Camelo called. She willingly blindfolded herself. She couldn’t tell if Gladwell was telling the truth when she said she only got some thoughts and emotions. Everyone at the meeting was silent as she told them what happened.

“We need to discuss this,” Agent Camelo said, after a moment. “Without you in the room, Point Blank. Escort her to her room, have someone stand guard to ensure she doesn’t leave. We’ll figure out what to do with her later.”

She didn’t say a word as she felt hands grip her forearms, pulling her out of her seat and guiding her out. It was annoying, walking around blind, led by two seeing eye agents. They didn’t know if Gladwell was lying, if she was lying, about how strong the connection was. For all they knew, Gladwell could be the one calling the shots, controlling Cameron. The idea freaked her out but she felt the same. The guy who attacked the mall had been out of his mind, completely deranged. Cameron wasn’t. That had to be a good sign.

It didn’t feel as reassuring as she hoped it would.

They dropped her off on her bed. They put her hands behind her back before she heard the click of handcuffs on her wrists, felt the cool metal against her skin. Another click and there were cuffs around her ankles too, binding them together. Even without the use of her eyes, Cameron knew they had put a power zapper on her. Power zappers were special devices, made by an inventor, to zap superhumans unconscious when they tried to use their abilities. Highly effective against people like her who weren’t able to brush off who knows how many volts of electricity.

She heard the door shut.

The thing about Cameron was that she didn’t do well with being confined. The days she spent in her cell were hell and this was worse because she couldn’t even see with the stupid blindfold on. She regretted putting it on in the first place.

Cameron waited and listened. There was a chance the agents were trying to fake her out, closing the door to make her think they left when really they were still in the room, watching her. If they caught her doing something like trying to take off her blindfold, that would make her seem really suspicious. So she waited as long as she could before the urge to escape got too intense. They hadn’t made a sound so either they were really good at being quiet, which wasn’t impossible given they were trained agents, or they weren’t in the room.

Slowly, she stood up from the bed. No one screamed at her to sit back down. A good sign. The handcuff’s slack was enough for her to get her hands past her hips. She jumped over them and lost her balance, then fell, the bed cushioning her fall. Her hands were out from behind her back though, which was what she needed. She reached up and pulled off her blindfold.

The room was dark, darker than it should be at this time of day.

A black screen blocked sunlight from coming in through the windows and the agents had left the lights off.

Where would she go from here?

Cameron could hop over to her computer, mess around until they got Gladwell and deemed it safe. There was a chance they would never let her go, even if they managed to kill Gladwell. No one knew the specifics of Gladwell’s powers and today proved it worked differently than they had assumed. What if they killed her? What if they locked her up for life, because there was too big of a risk of her being turned into Gladwell 2.0? After all, who cared about the life of some teenaged convict?

She liked to pretend she wasn’t afraid of anything.

A life in captivity sounded worse than death. Slowly going crazy, powerless to escape from the small hellhole they tossed her in.

Cameron had never tested it but she thought she might be able to teleport the power zapper off before it could shock her. Both sets of cuffs were power zappers, by the looks of it. She could only teleport one thing at a time. If she teleported the one around her wrists, the other would be free to electrocute her.

She took a deep breath. She needed to calm down, think this through. Gladwell had connected them, used it to her advantage to track Cameron down. Maybe Cameron could do the same.

She positioned herself, made it so her wrists were touching, so she could see both cuffs clearly. She only had one shot at this.

Her hands were freed as she teleported the cuff into the other one. In its new location, it cut through the chain and sections of the metal loop, the part that housed the battery and energy sensor. The matter the cuffs displaced weren’t there, weren’t anywhere.

Another use of her power removed the merged handcuffs from her ankles, putting them on the ground beside her feet.

So far so good.

She turned on super-vision. On the surface level, there wasn’t anything interesting, not like she expected there would be. She pushed deeper until she could see those images and then pushed some more until she saw a thin strip of light coming from her and extending off into the distance. The strip held a steady stream of images, moving further along the strip.

It was hard to see a lot with her sight like this. There was this… fog covering everything. She could see through it but it still limited her vision and was distracting.

But she found it. If she followed this strip, she could find out where Gladwell was hiding.

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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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