The Hunt Is On 3.6

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Cameron winced. Gladwell was licking the blood off her bladed hands, in a cat-like manner. She didn’t need to up the level of her super-vision to tell the connection between them was getting stronger the more blood was cleaned off her hand. She felt it, the tendrils of Gladwell’s power under her skin, digging deeper, entrenching themselves.

It was like Gladwell was off in her own little world, she hadn’t spoken since she started licking. Too busy expanding the connection to pay attention.

Using what little strength she had left, she raised her arm. The shaking made it harder to aim properly. Fuck it. She couldn’t wait until she got her shot lined up properly, she pulled the trigger. A headshot would have been ideal. She got a chest shot.

Gladwell stopped and looked down at her, startled.

For a second, Cameron felt another blade go through her, higher up this time. But no, there was nothing sticking out of her chest. The pain was there regardless, and this time it burned. She gasped. She couldn’t breathe, it felt like there was a hole in her chest but rationally, she knew there wasn’t one.

Gladwell’s lilting voice was barely audible through the haze of pain. “Should have thought that through better Cammie. Superpowers and memories aren’t the only things I can make us share.”

Being called Cammie annoyed her more than having her own attack turned against her.

That annoyance sharpened her focus. She teleported one of the tables blocking the door, placing it above Gladwell’s head. It did little damage.

The pain lessened, all of it. The sudden lack of it was disorientating. Her head felt heavy, like she was about to fall asleep. Gladwell gently placed her hands on the sides of Cameron’s helmet, turning it so their eyes met. “I still do like you. I think I’ll play around with you for a little bit, go through your head and take some of your memories away from you, until you become the kind of person who’d accept the offer I made. I bet they’d be really fun to hang out with.”

Cameron thought about the blond guy who had rampaged through the mall. Was that the result of Gladwell’s playing around?

She tried to pull away but Gladwell’s grip was tight and she felt so weak.

Nothing happened when she tried to teleport away. God, she couldn’t think clearly.

It reminded her of Dad. His stupid spirit tossing her in the closet, trapping her there. She had pushed as hard as she could but she was powerless against the spirit. She was weak and useless, too panicked to think of a way out.

All these years and what did she have to show for it?

She used that feeling, anger at herself for being so pathetic, as fuel.

Superpowers didn’t work well against superhumans, but with practice, they could train their natural resistance, lessen it when it became inconvenient or if they were really good, they could turn it off completely. She had plenty of experience with it.

Doing the reverse, increasing her natural resistance to superpowers, well, that would be new.

It had never, before this, come up. The strength of her power resistance was strong enough to deal with everything she had went up against. It was only the rare exceptions like Gladwell, who were able to directly use their power on another superhuman.

She felt those tendrils worm their way into her skull, shoving themselves into her brain.

For a moment, time became inconsequential.

Gladwell stepped away and smiled. “I didn’t know you had such interesting friends, Cameron. I’ve met Creed, you know. He was alright, but his boss pissed me off. Condescending asshole. You’d think he would be smart enough to know not to piss me off. I’ve been trying to kill him since but he’s surprisingly hard to find. You wouldn’t know where he is, would you?”

She needed to concentrate but answering gave her a little more time before Gladwell decided there was no time better than the present to mentally destroy someone until they became crazy psychopaths. “Shouldn’t you know if I did?”

“I did some digging through your memories but not through all your memories, there are a lot of them. I do know you’ve got reinforcements coming.” Her smile widened to show her sharp, white teeth. “It’ll be a good chance to add to my collection.”

A hand suddenly thrust out of Gladwell’s chest. Another soon joined it. The hands grabbed onto Gladwell’s hips and pushed, then, inch by inch, another Gladwell climbed out. It – she – fell to the ground at Gladwell’s feet, fully formed. It felt like the new Gladwell should be naked but she wasn’t, she wore the same clothes the original Gladwell did, clothes that surprisingly didn’t have a giant hole through them from a human being coming out of them.

The sound of metal scraping against metal. Gladwell whipped her head around toward the source of the noise.

The new Gladwell was rising to her feet, when a white blur went through her skull, gore splattering everywhere.

Cameron wiped off a few tiny drops that hit the green visor over her eyes on the helmet she wore. A white sword had impaled the ground where the new Gladwell’s dead body had fallen. It, like the other duplicate, seemed to die once significant damage was done to their brains.  She was hardly an expert on the subject but the sword looked similar to one she saw a gladiator wielding in a movie, except a thin red beam of light covered the very edges of the blade.

“Well, this is an unpleasant surprise,” Gladwell said. She was looking at a newcomer, a tall man dressed in a brown leather jacket and jeans. Looking to be in his late thirties or early forties, he was still very much in shape, on the same level or better than a pro athlete. His black hair was cut short, a fuzz covering his head. He held a sword identical to the one stuck in the ground in his left hand. “I was hoping for a power I didn’t already have.”

He went to retrieve his other sword, stepping on the dead Gladwell in the process. Gladwell let him.

“I’m not going to let you escape, this time,” he said.

She scoffed. “You said that last time, too and look, I’m still here, still alive. I know you’re old, Reckoning, but changing things every once and awhile won’t kill you.”

Reckoning.

Cameron frowned at herself. How did she not realize who he was before Gladwell identified him? This was Reckoning, a mercenary on the same level as Gladwell. An Ultra, a superhuman whose power far stronger than their peers. His face used to be plastered all over the news before he went into retirement five years ago.

Creed must gotten in touch with him somehow. It looked like there was a lot of history between Gladwell and Reckoning, Creed probably used that to convince him to come and help out.

He surged forward, every movement tight and controlled, and swung the sword in his right hand. Gladwell blocked it with her left bladed arm. The sword dug into her skin.

She set him on fire. Reckoning didn’t seem bothered, and stabbed his other sword directly into the arm she used to block. While it was difficult to see at this angle, Cameron swore she saw the skin on his face repair itself the second it was burnt.

Gladwell vanished and for a moment, Cameron wondered if she had teleported. Reckoning pulled out his sword and swung again at the air in front of him. Blood dripped to the floor from an invisible source.

Somewhere, in the middle of everything, Cameron had to have accidentally turned off super-vision.

Reckoning had no problems hitting Gladwell despite her being invisible. He chased her around the kitchen and swung one of his swords and every time, more blood would hit the floor. It wasn’t a one-sided fight, Gladwell got some good hits in too but every wound inflicted healed in seconds.

In the midst of their game, Cameron was forgotten.

They were too close to the door to the outside for Cameron to go through there. She retreated to the basement. The fire had went out, dying along with the Gladwell that created it.

Gladwell had shared some of her regenerating power with Cameron. The nasty hole in her stomach was gone, nothing but unblemished skin there now.

A fight between two high-level regenerators was going to take a lot of time, if it ever ended at all. This was the perfect opportunity to try severing this dumb connection between Gladwell and her, without anyone distracting her.

It also gave her time to try and figure out what the hell she was supposed to do.

Decreasing her power resistance required intense focus to get it to the level where people could actually use their abilities on her. Ian had taught her how so he could use his power on her so they could ride around Avocet at speeds so fast, no one was able to catch them.

She breathed, in then out, until her mind quieted. Like this, she could feel it rolling over her, similar to how steam felt against the skin. She thought of it as a fog, because it looked like fog when she first saw it using super-vision, but it was energy, the energy powers used to make their abilities work.

Controlling it without using her power was hard, unnatural. When decreasing resistance, she forced the fog to stay still while some other fog rolled over and seeped into her. Then to increase, she’d try and make the fog move and push against the foreign fog.

Easier said than done.

She activated super-vision. It helped when she could see it, made it feel more tangible. She quickly went through each level of super-vision until she saw the fog with her own eyes.

Cameron tried to push outwards with her mind, all while focusing on an idea, a concept. Defend.

She watched as one image grew larger and larger around her. The fog moved around the image, until it grew even bigger and started sucking the fog into it, feeding on it to increase its growth. Empowered by the fog, the image changed, became more solid, clearer.

It grew, stopping only when it the image covered Cameron from head to toe. A barrier, similar to a forcefield. Everything that wasn’t the image either was absorbed into it or bounced off of it. The not so little strip of light, connecting Cameron with Gladwell, wasn’t unaffected.

The strip fought harder than the fog did and she couldn’t get it to detach from her completely but it did shrink back to its original size.

Not ideal, but like this Gladwell couldn’t mess with her head.

Shutting off super-vision so she could see, Cameron noticed the smoke for the first time. The smoke was coming down from the kitchen and was pressed against the ceiling of the basement. Gladwell wasn’t going easy on the pyrokinesis. Cameron went up the stairs, anyway. She felt sore all over but it was especially noticeable around her stomach. Lowering the connection had also made it so Gladwell couldn’t share her healing factor.

Shit, the entire kitchen was on fire. She could barely make out two silhouettes in the midst of the flames and smoke.

Her costume was fireproof and had an air filter built into the helmet but staying inside a burning building wasn’t smart.

With her super-vision on, set to the lowest level, everything around her became clearer, crisp.

Cameron raised her gun, aimed, and fired. The beam cut through everything in its way. She adjusted her aim then fired again. She wasn’t one hundred percent certain which silhouette belonged to Gladwell, so might as well hit both.

The ensuing path created by the beams showed her who she managed to hit.

A smoking hole was in Gladwell’s chest and Reckoning’s nose was blasted out of existence.

Reckoning recovered first and used this chance to lop off Gladwell’s head.

He didn’t stop there, his swords sliced through limbs. Gladwell was reduced to a messy, crimson pile of body parts.

Cameron kicked up her super-vision a few notches until she could see the strips of the light connecting the pile to distant locations. There was one strip, thicker and brighter than all the others.

Then the strips were gone, in an instant.

The one connecting to her remained, but it wasn’t leading to the pile anymore but to some far off place.

Gladwell was far from dead.

Her strip disappeared too, at that realization. Gladwell severed it, to prevent Cameron from using it to track her down later.

Reckoning glanced in her direction and nodded at her. Already on fire, he ventured further into the flames, disappearing, the only thing visible was a silhouette of his retreating back.

She needed to leave too. Teleporting out would be a no go, she couldn’t see well through all this smoke and fire. She never tested how fireproof her costume was before. This was as good a time as any, she supposed. Cameron ran through the flames as quickly as she could, toward the only exit.

Overall, the costume was pretty fireproof except for the hole Gladwell had made when she gutted Cameron. It stung like a bitch but she pushed onward. She didn’t have time to deal with the pain right now.

Reckoning had torn through her barricade on his way in.

A few jagged edges hit the sides of Cameron’s costume as she ran past and out the door.

The other door, the one leading to the alley, had been knocked off its hinges. She stumbled out into the alley.

Falling onto all fours, exhausted, she heard the sound of sirens, off in the distance, getting louder by the second.

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The Hunt Is On 3.5

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It took Cameron a couple of minutes to decide what to do next. Telling the agent assigned to ensure she didn’t leave her room that she discovered a way to track Gladwell might not go over that well. There was a chance they would all think this was a trap, orchestrated by Gladwell to lure them somewhere and kill them. They wouldn’t believe her and when they saw she had broken out of her restraints, they’d be doubly suspicious and lock her up somewhere far more secure, somewhere she could never break out of.

So she’d do this without the SAA’s help.

They had left her in her room, with all her belongings exactly where they should be. She took her burner phone out of its hiding spot, the inside pocket of a jacket tucked in the middle of a pile of clothes. Cameron sent Creed a text, telling she needed people willing and strong to go up against Gladwell.

He was always so good about responding to texts in a timely manner.

Already done. Do you have a location for me?

She replied:

not yet but will soon i’ll be in touch thanks

First things first, Cameron needed to get out of this room and arm herself. She normally kept her equipment in her room but agents had taken all of it after the Gladwell fight to clean it. It was standard procedure, couldn’t have their heroes walking around covered in blood, that didn’t help to make the public feel safe. A little inconvenient but fixable, she had been a highly successful thief, after all. Sneaking around here was no big deal.

Not all her weapons, she realized, spotting a gun sitting on her desk beside the keyboard. On second thought, no, this wasn’t her gun, a regulation stun gun given to her by the SAA. Its design was different, much sleeker with smooth curved lines and a nice round barrel. It was painted green and black, matching her costume’s color scheme, and had a dial on the side. There was a note attached, written in incredibly neat and precise handwriting. I had some extra time and finished early. A manual is in your desk drawer.

It didn’t seem all that complicated. Point, pull the trigger, then someone got hurt. Cameron opened up her drawer and took out a thin stack of stapled papers. She glanced at the sub-headings. A lot of dealt with how to take care of the gun and the rest was on its features. She read the section on the dial. The higher the number the dial was turned to, the more damage the gun would do. On its higher settings, it’d be strong enough to kill a person.

Cameron tossed the manual onto her desk and tucked the gun into the pocket of her jacket, checking to make sure it was off first. This would be a good offense, now she needed to go get her defense.

There were two options for escape, either through the window or the door. Going through the door required knocking out every agent stationed out there, which, honestly, she could do. It would take time though, and be loud. A black screen covered the window from the outside, blocking her view. She needed to see to use teleportation. The screen may or may not have some kind of alarm or sensor, going off the instant someone messed with the screen. Both options had different risks attached.

Window was definitely the smarter choice.

Cameron teleported the screen to the floor of her room, being careful to have it laid flat against the floor so it wouldn’t make any noise and alert anyone standing guard outside. From there, she teleported herself onto the rooftop across the street from her window. Another series of teleports, using other rooftops as landing points, brought her to the other side of the SAA building where she got a clear look at the inside of a window. And then she was inside again.

It was a workout room, full of equipment. A row of treadmills faced the window and the three agents using them were startled as she suddenly appeared. She gave them a quick smile and ran out, not giving them time to question or stop her. She didn’t know if they were informed about the current situation about Gladwell and her being connected. Cameron walked briskly the rest of the way. Running would attract too much attention but she did have a time limit here.

There were agents guarding the equipment room where costumes and weapons were repaired, washed, or made. Their hands immediately went to the guns – only stun guns – at their sides. They knew. Cameron teleported the closest stun gun to her hand and shot the other agent. She fell, and her partner joined her a second later. Quickly and efficiently, she searched for one of their access cards and then used it to get inside the equipment room. Her costume was still there, sealed behind a glass case and worn by a mannequin. Another use of her power had her costume against a long table, laid out nicely.

She changed fast and holstered her new gun onto her utility belt, tossing her phone into a pouch while she was at it.

She rushed out of the room to the nearest window to teleport herself outside, giving only a second’s thought to how easy this was. Cameron was probably only a minor concern compared to Gladwell.

After moving a safe distance from the SAA, Cameron stopped to figure out the next phase in her plan.

Obviously finding Gladwell was what she needed to do now so she could tell Creed and he could send in his guys but there were some problems she needed to sort out. Deeper level super-vision and teleporting didn’t mesh well together. Deeper level super-vision didn’t mesh well with any kind of action, really. It was too hard to focus on the super-vision and anything else that needed to be done.

But she didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste. Who knew when Gladwell wised up to what Cameron was about to do?

If she didn’t already know.

As long as Gladwell move around too much, Cameron could use super-vision to find what direction the strip of light headed to and then moved in that direction, stopping occasionally to see where the link was pointing to now.

The idea worked even if it got annoying when she accidentally went too far and had to go back and then move in the correct direction. Throughout it all, Gladwell mostly stayed where she was.

Cameron wanted to laugh when she realized where she ended up. Of all the places Gladwell could have chosen, she had picked the stupid Italian restaurant Cameron visited the other day, the one she searched and overheard an oddly familiar voice talk over the phone to an employee, the one Michael went to because he had business there. It was a scary thought, Testament and Gladwell working together to kill Creed and those loyal to him or worse.

Never could leave out the worse part.

Criminals didn’t tend to be nice to their enemies.

Her heart was pounding hard enough Cameron worried she might pass out. Come on Pierce, keep it together. It’s just one crazy supervillain, not like you’re fighting an army of them.

She took a deep breath.

Wait, shit, Gladwell had the power to duplicate herself.

It was intimidating, to face someone who had been inside her head, knew about the complicated feelings she had for her dad, maybe knew all about the insecurities she tried to ignore until they went away, although they never did. Con men were hardly as effective when people knew they were cons, and Gladwell knew. She took a deep breath, then another until her nerves calmed down.

Cameron retrieved her cell phone from one of the pouches on her belt. She only needed to keep Gladwell distracted for awhile, give time for Creed’s reinforcements to arrive. That was doable, it had to be.

She texted Creed the location and told him to hurry before putting the phone back in its spot.

Now or never.

She teleported from the roof to the ground, right in front of the locked alley door she used to sneak in the first time she was came, looking for Gladwell. There was a nice sort of symmetry to it. Ending where it started – sort of, technically it really started with Ian pissing off Gladwell. The knob turned easily in her hand. Ominous, maybe Gladwell had left it unlocked intentionally. She was cocky and arrogant, of course she had a right to be. You could act however you wanted if nobody had the power to stop you.

This time, she didn’t try to be stealthy. Cameron walked forward, back straight, shoulders squared, boots pounding against the ground. The sounds of her boots were drowned out by a TV, a violent, explosive show or movie playing in the kitchen. She supposed it wouldn’t all that busy at this time, too late for lunch but too early for dinner. She peeked into the kitchen and saw employees sitting around the small TV, attention focused solely on the screen.

Cameron turned on super-vision. No images, just at a level where she could see through invisibility.

Gladwell wasn’t among the employees.

A quick look at the strip of light, and she knew where to go. She teleported to the corner of the kitchen, a few steps away from another door. Her teleportation was silent, it didn’t come with some dramatic visual effect. They wouldn’t realize she was there unless one of them happened to look in her direction. They didn’t. That had to be one entertaining movie, maybe she ought to get the name of it on her way out.

If she got out.

The door didn’t budge when Cameron tried opening it. She sighed, turned her head a little, before teleporting it off its hinges, doorknob included. It fell to the ground beside her with a loud clatter. The employees were looking at her now, warily. One or two pulled out guns, another reached for a knife sitting on top of an unused cutting board.

Definitely weren’t ordinary restaurant workers.

Cameron felt a surge of confidence. It was kinda cute that they thought they stood a chance.

Their weapons were out of their hands and on the ground in front of her before they knew what hit them. Just as easily, she could have teleported it into their skulls and killed them all, provided one of them wasn’t secretly a power.

She smiled at them and her helmet lit up with a smiley face. “You’re missing the good part,” she said, pointing at the television. “Go ahead, watch, I’ll try not to make too much noise.” She winked and the smiley turned into a winky, one eye a dot, the other a straight line, a line curving upwards for a mouth. She bent down and picked up one of the guns. She lightly tossed it up in the air and caught it, for dramatic effect. “Can’t make any promises, not with the company you’ve decided to keep.” One of the employees, a older man with huge arms, slowly inched toward the walk-in freezer, eyes still staring right at her helmet. Cameron lazily pointed the gun at him. He stopped in his tracks.”If I were you, I’d rethink that decision. If I were you, I’d go in the other direction, out that door and into the alley.”

She changed targets, pointed and shot pearly white plate in the sink. The sound of it made most of the employees jump, except the few experienced ones. She had plenty of experience with guns, too much to be surprised at the noise they made. A classic scare tactic, it would make them consciously aware of how easily their brains could be reduced to a bloody smear on the wall.

It took Cameron waving the gun in the direction of the door for the employees to start to leave. She waited until they were gone before barricading the door with all the furniture in the room. She sent another text to Creed, to clarify where in the restaurant Gladwell was. Whoever he was sending shouldn’t have too much problem breaking through the barricade.

Cameron walked through the threshold, down the stairs and into the basement.

Gladwell was waiting for her. She sat on a lumpy sofa, feet propped up on the table, looking like a blonde bombshell. “Well, Cameron, I don’t know what to say. I gave you such a nice offer, I even said I wouldn’t kill you for it, and you decide to spit in my face and come kill me.”

Gun still in her hand, Cameron fired off two shots, one in head, one in the throat. Gladwell’s skin shifted, flowing like waves to push the bullets out so she could heal properly.

Bullets were going to do shit. She dropped the gun and drew the laser gun out of its holster. She turned the dial to five and squeezed the trigger. It wasn’t like the lasers she was used to seeing. There was no brightly colored beam of light shooting through the air. One second she was pulling the trigger and the next, Gladwell was clutching her stomach, in genuine pain. The laser had torn through entire layers, her internal organs visible between the gaps of her arms. The couch she sat on and the wall behind her were untouched.

Cameron followed up with more lasers. If she had an advantage, she was going to take it.

She didn’t get a chance.

Arms from behind her encircled her throat, a choke-hold. Cameron teleported out of her grasp, a foot away from where she had stood. She spun around and saw another Gladwell standing at the foot of the stairs.

Stuck between a Gladwell and a Gladwell.

The one sitting on the couch had recovered and rose to her feet, her hands morphing to deadly sharp swords. She swung and Cameron barely got out of the way in time. There wasn’t a whole lot of room to move here in the basement, especially with another Gladwell standing on the sidelines, eyes gleaming with a predator’s excitement.

Each wave of her arms was calculated to drive Cameron closer to the other Gladwell. The swings came too fast, dodging took too much of her focus for her to teleport away. Guns wouldn’t be useful at this range and the baton was even more useless when Gladwell had the strength to easily knock it out of her hand.

This time, after dodging another swing, Cameron jumped forward, tackling her. There wasn’t enough force behind it to knock Gladwell off her feet but it broke the rhythm they had settled into. Her head was positioned in just the right way to look over Gladwell’s shoulder while their bodies collided. She landed on top of the table, far away from both Gladwells.

The other one already had her hand out, flames extending from her palm to light the table on fire. Instead of jumping off, she teleported again, this time to the foot of the staircase. Then she was back in the kitchen. She turned to face the staircase and shot the ground at the bottom of the steps, a warning. The Gladwells stayed put, out of her line of sight. It gave her time to fiddle with the gun. There wouldn’t be a manual if this was all there was to it. Allison wasn’t that crazy. The gun had a trigger and the stupid dial, no other thing that screamed push me for maximum destructive capabilities.

Push. The thought triggered a memory, a line she saw when she glanced through the manual. If this worked she was going to slap herself later when she wasn’t in life-threatening danger. With her index finger, she pushed the center of the dial down. It moved.

A pillar of flame so big it filled the entire staircase shot out at her. Cameron hurriedly backpedaled. It was dumb, in retrospect, her costume was fireproof.

The Gladwells walked out of the flames, were wreathed in it, smirking as fiendishly as any devil.

Cameron pulled the trigger.

The laser itself was too fast for Cameron to see but the path it left behind wasn’t. It pierced through Gladwell’s head and kept going, cutting through the flames and the wall behind her. That Gladwell fell to the ground.

The other Gladwell was nowhere in sight.

Most of her anyway.

Cameron saw the crimson blade coming out of her stomach before she felt it. Then it was gone and her strength went with it. She fell to the ground, the hand not holding the gun moved to press against the wound.

Gladwell raised her hand above Cameron’s head, like an executioner’s blade, ready to deliver its sentence.

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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 3.3

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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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Home 2.7

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Sneaking out was ridiculous easy when you could teleport. Took the fun out of it. Sneaking back in while drunk, that was a bit more of a challenge.

Cameron must have done alright considering she woke up in her own bed, an empty bottle of orange juice sat on her bedside table. Right, she remembered pouring vodka into it last night. It was a bad habit from when she used to be more of a party girl, turning to alcohol whenever she couldn’t deal. How did regular people deal with finding out their father wasn’t dead and instead had abandoned them to join the fucking mob? Was there some kind of pamphlet for her to read or a how to guide online? He hadn’t even left her a fucking note, her mom had managed that much, making clear she was leaving and never coming back and doing so of her own free will.

She had so wanted to believe he was dead. It would have been better than knowing he had betrayed her, breaking the only promise she needed him to keep, and left like Mom did. Now he was back in Avocet, hunting Gladwell. She recognized his spirit the second it showed up. It was really hard to forget what it looked like when it still haunted her nightmares. That thing had been the bane of her existence when she had been a kid. A force of nature she couldn’t win against, could only avoid if she was lucky.

Seeing Gladwell carve it up like a turkey had been nice. Real nice.

Her phone buzzed and it didn’t stop despite her begging. It laid on the floor near her leather jacket, close to the window. She teleported it to her hand. Thank god for superpowers. Without them, she might have actually had to get out of bed. She hit accept and put it on speaker, too lazy to move it up to her ear. “For your sake, I really hope this is important,” she grumbled.

“I guess you’re not having a good morning. I just wanted to check up on you, see if you’re alright. I haven’t heard from you and I saw the news and you’re not at school.” Ah, Sarah, always the good one, always there.

“I’m fine,” she said. It was probably a good idea to leave out the part where Gladwell’s copy had hit her with those energy blasts of hers. “Just wasn’t up for school. Well, even less up for school than I usually am.”

“I have to go to class, talk to you later?” Cameron could hear the smile in her voice.

“Yep. I’ll text you or something. Annoy Mr. Mullet enough for the both of us.”

Sarah hung up and Cameron went back to curling up in her warm blanket, enjoying the moment. If only she could stay here for the rest of her life. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed from Sarah’s phone call to someone banging on her door but it didn’t feel like enough. “It’s not locked, you can come on in,” she shouted.

A girl walked in, light brown hair tied in a ponytail, dressed in a purple hoodie and jeans. She looked concerned when she saw Cameron still in bed. “Oh, are you okay? I know you got hurt yesterday.”

“Oh yeah, I’m fine.” As long as she didn’t apply pressure to her bandaged arm and shoulder. “I’m lazy is all.”

“Okay, um.” She brushed a few strands of hair out of her face. “I’m Kate, if you don’t remember. From the training session that got interrupted. I asked you if you wanted to hang out, sometime?”

That jogged Cameron’s memory. She did remember Kate, and remembered thinking it was weird how Kate wanted to hang out with her. “Yeah, course I remember. Gladwell didn’t hit me in the head,” Cameron said. “You came because you wanted to hang?” Kate nodded. Doing something other than wallowing sounded good. “I guess I’m free. Give me a few minutes.”

Kate smiled, the kind that lit up her whole face. “I’ll wait in the living room.” She practically skipped out of the room.

Cameron climbed out of bed and walked to her own private bathroom, one of the perks of finally being moved to the superhero floor. She brushed her teeth and combed her hair. Most of her clothes were a mess, tossed on the floor in the area around her closet. She would need to do laundry soon. She picked out some clean clothes, nothing fancy, a grey sweater and jeans and went to meet Kate in the living room.

“So, you wanted to hang,” Cameron said, as she plopped down on the couch beside Kate.

“Yeah, I thought it might be nice if we got to know each other. Since you’re on the team, and everything,” Kate said.

“And here I was, starting to think friendliness was a foreign concept here.” They hadn’t been mean but she didn’t exactly get a party or anything. Not that she wanted one but it would have been a nice gesture.

“But if I’m being honest, I have other reasons.”

Cameron smiled. Her instincts were right, it seemed. “Color me unsurprised. So? What is it?”

She stared down at the floor, avoiding eye contact. “Later. I don’t think now is the right time but I don’t want to start this with a lie, so. Yeah.”

“Hmm.” Trying to figure this out before Kate made the reveal would be a nice distraction from thinking about her dad being in town. “Okay. Whatever, I can wait.” She raised a finger and swung it back and forth, alternating between pointing at Kate and pointing at herself. “What, exactly do you mean by ‘this’? Or is that a secret too?”

Her eyes widened when she understood Cameron’s meaning. “Just the beginning of our friendship, that’s all,” Kate insisted with more force than necessary.

Didn’t look like she was lying. Cameron lowered her hand. “Easy there, I was just curious.”

“I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s definitely not what this is,” Kate said, flustered.

Cameron’s smile turned into a smirk. She hadn’t been expecting that strong of a reaction when she made the joke. “Right, so, in the spirit of friendship and since you were nice enough to answer my questions, I’ll answer any you have.”

“Favorite color?” Kate asked. She gave her a look, the kind that asked whether you were being serious or not. That question was so boring, kind of cliched, and pointless, really. What did it matter what your favorite color was? “Are you going to answer it or not?” Kate said, crossing her arms and met Cameron’s eyes.

“Green.”

“That explains the color of your costume, Point Blank.”

She leaned back into the couch. “Well, since you wasted your question on an easy one, it’s my turn.”

Kate gave her a questioning look. “I didn’t know we were taking turns.”

“We are now. So, my turn. What’s your deal, are you like Tom who is only kinda on the team? Trying to learn to control your powers from our resident specialist Agent Brown?”

Kate shook her head. “I control my abilities just fine. I’m an inventor, like Ionic, most inventors don’t have too much trouble controlling their powers, not like Tom does, anyway. I want to be on the team, really badly, but I haven’t managed to pass my exams, the ones that will let me go out into the field. Even if I do pass them, my mom would never let me do it, she’s overprotective.”

“Don’t think you can call it overprotective when you’re talking about throwing yourself into harm’s way.” She lightly touched her shoulder; the bandages were covered by her sweater. “It’s good that your mom cares. Most moms would, I bet.”

From the sympathetic look that crossed Kate’s face, Cameron knew she had read her file. Everyone had, no doubt. She never really knew how to deal with the looks, or the pity that always came with them.

“Well, um, my mom and I have a deal. She lets me come here and work for them, even practice for the tests. I just can’t, you know, fight crime if I do pass. It’s not so bad, my power lets me work on the sidelines pretty well,” Kate said.

“This is Avocet City, known for its inventors,” Cameron replied.

Back when the public was first becoming aware of superpowers, the first few inventors in America all lived in Avocet. It attracted a lot of attention at the time, some were even saying inventors would save mankind, level the playing field with their technology, and the people in charge decided to capitalize on it, get them to build something pretty to wow people. They did and people came rushing to see realistic holograms casually walking through the park. They started to add other crap after inventors appeared in other states and cities. UltimateTech Industries, the company responsible for making most of the standard equipment used by the SAA, had started out here, too.

“But they still keep you informed on what’s going on and stuff, right?” Cameron asked.

“Yeah, why?”

Cameron shrugged. “Just wondering if you knew whether they made any progress on the Gladwell search.”

“Last I heard they haven’t found anything yet. Which is not surprising, since you guys said she has some power that lets her avoid being detected by our sensors and she can become invisible. Maybe if we’re lucky you guys hurt her enough that she decided to give up and leave town.”

“In an ideal world, maybe. In this one? I doubt it,” Cameron said. “Kinda surprised Hayes hasn’t gotten me to help with the search. I’m the only one in town who can see pass her invisibility.”

“I think I remember Agent Brown telling Agent Hayes not to bother any of you guys for awhile, give you a chance to rest.” A phone beeped, too loud to ignore. Kate pulled hers out and swiped her thumb across the screen. Cameron realized she left her phone in her room.

“Oh, good timing I guess. It’s a status update. The reinforcements Agent Hayes requested are here and… they’re taking over. Agent Camelo is officially in charge while they look for Gladwell.”

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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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