Buyer’s Remorse 4.3

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With the hard drive in his hand like that, there was no way he wouldn’t notice if she teleported it. Teleporting it would be too overt, anyway. If Michael was already working against her and Creed, he would know instantly who she was if she did that.

It would need to be taken through force. With the element of surprise on her side, Cameron felt confident she could knock him to the ground and rip the hard drive from his hands. That would draw the attention of everybody here and she wouldn’t be able to escape without teleporting, which again, wasn’t good for the secret identity.

Cameron stayed back, watched him. Tyler came to stand by her, shaking his head.

“Yeah,” Cameron said. “And I know where it is too. Over there, boot guy.” She titled her head in the direction of Michael.

Tyler turned. “I see it. Any ideas?”

She thought about it. “Not any smart ones,” she admitted.

He took too long to respond. “Your unsmart plan might be all we got. It’s reckless but not that bad,” he said, as if it pained him to say it.

Tyler had looked into the future to when she had explained her idea, saving her from having to explain it. At least he wasn’t trying to claim credit for this one. It wasn’t a good enough plan to steal, anyway.

“Executing it is going to be a bitch,” she said. “Unless you’re hiding something in that jacket of yours.”

He shook his head. “I didn’t see this happening, couldn’t plan for it.” The idea had barely formed in her head when he rubbed his chin, the cloth covering his chin anyway, and nodded. “Don’t think it’ll work out as well as we want but yeah, let’s do it.”

Her plan was a pretty simple one. They would wait until Michael decided to leave and then they’d go after him, attack him, and take the hard drive. As long as they didn’t start the fight here, inside where the Automatons and everybody else would be obligated to stop them, they might have a chance.

Michael knew how to take care of himself but his power wasn’t really combat-focused. He created illusions, which would have been useful if she wasn’t capable of seeing through them. He would have brought protection with him, and they would have powers good in a fight.

She wished she had her laser gun with her.

“If it comes down to it, how helpful are you going to be?” Cameron asked, quiet.

“Barely any. I’m not a fighter,” he answered.

Cameron would have laughed, if it didn’t draw attention from those nearby. It was the answer she expected but still, she had hoped he wouldn’t be completely useless. As confident as she tended to be – used to be? – going up against an unknown number of superhumans with unknown powers would be hard enough already, without thinking about how she was going to do that without any obvious uses of her power.

A challenge. Challengers were fun, in their own way, if it hit the middle ground of being hard enough to take some effort to solve but not too much effort. She doubted this challenge would.

“How’s the future look?” she said.

This close up, she saw his mask shift, a grin. “I don’t think I can without wreaking whatever chance we have.”

“It’s already wrecked, though. I mean, the other side has a precog, probably.”

“Very possible but telling you what I saw won’t help you, or me,” Tyler said. “We’ve got a good amount of time before he leaves. Why don’t you go chat to that friend of yours?”

“And lose the enjoyment of your company? Never.” Cameron grinned.

“Okay, let me be less subtle. Go talk to him. I’ll keep an eye on things.” He was pushing this pretty hard. Was it a future thing or did he need a minute to think by himself? Either way, there was no point in sticking around if she wasn’t wanted. She gave him a sloppy salute and headed off to find where Creed went.

It wasn’t hard to find him in a space like this. He was talking to the silver and gold Automaton. They parted ways just as Cameron reached him, the Automaton going off to chat with more guests.

“Did you sort everything out with the gentleman you were looking for?” Creed asked. Everything, from the way he stood and talked, made it seem casual. She would have been fooled if she didn’t know him as well as she did. He was the curious type, liked to know things. Something out of the ordinary like this? Yeah, he’d be dying to know. Not that he would ever admit to anything of the sort.

“Not yet. We’re thinking of talking to him later, privately,” she replied.

He nodded, knowingly. “I would advise you to talk to the shortest one first. Element of surprise will be key. He’s not so good when caught unaware. Everything will go a lot smoother if you convince him early on.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Cameron said. “Hey, earlier, you said you wanted to get in touch with the Detective?”

“I did, yes. I think I understand what you’re about to ask. The answer would be yes.”

His power really made conversations go faster. She smiled. That was useful information to have. Maybe not right this moment, but it was a clue. There had to be a reason beyond what Tyler had said for picking her to help him and for him getting her to come with him in some alternate universe where he didn’t know about the hard drive. “Okay.”

Tyler came up to her, then. He gave Creed a glance and a nod. Creed returned it. “We should get going, now.”

“Sorry, looks like I’ve got to run off again,” Cameron said, to Creed.

“Best of luck in your endeavor.”

Cameron saw Michael holding some kind of miniature cannon on their way out. Once they got settled into the car, she turned to Tyler. “So?”

“He should be out in a few minutes,” he said. He buckled his seat belt. Cameron didn’t. “I wasn’t joking earlier, when I said these outfits are tougher than they look, but I wouldn’t rely too much on them.” Tyler paused. “And… thanks.”

She pulled out her gun and flicked off the safety. “I’m going to take that as a sign that things go really fucking badly.”

“Maybe. Having second thoughts?”

“No.” She had already went to the trouble of agreeing and coming here with him, might as well go all the way. “But just tell me one thing, since you and I might die and all. Why do you even care so much about what happens? What makes you do this?” She gestured at the building they had just left. “What’s worth risking your life for?”

He didn’t think about it. “People.”

“Do you really care more about the lives of strangers than your own?”

“I do. We were given these powers and it’s our duty to do something with them. To do something good with them, because most can’t do what we can.” It was odd to see him so passionate, sincere. Most of the time he seemed to hover between being smug or annoyed.

“Most people wouldn’t if they could.”

“You don’t know that,” Tyler said. “They – He’s coming out.”

Cameron whipped her head around to the entrance. Michael and three other guys walked out the door. Michael seemed to be in a good mood, his hands moving rapidly as he spoke. The shortest one in their group was in the lead, his head turned as he looked over all the other cars, settling on theirs for a brief second.

They kept walking, hopping into a nondescript white van and driving off, fast. The short one and Michael had sat in the back. The other two sat in the front.

Tyler waited a moment before going after them. There was no other traffic at this time of night, in this part of town. It was pretty damn obvious they were following Michael’s group. They were waiting for Tyler and her to make the first move, she was betting. When they did, Michael would order his goons to take out their guns and demolish Tyler and his car.

“Is this car bulletproof?” she asked.

“Not as much as I’d like it to be,” Tyler answered.

“You don’t have to stick around, you know. You’re not going to be much help either way.”

“I’ll stay,” he said. “I’ll be more help than you think. The headset works as a comm unit too. I’ll talk to you through it, tell you anything important I see.”

She frowned. Did that mean he heard everything she said to Creed? It would explain why he wanted her to talk with Creed so badly. Irritating to get outplayed like that, she should have realized it sooner.

“Whatever you’re doing, do it now, I think we’re far enough away from everyone else,” Tyler said, interrupting her train of thought.

Cameron pulled out her knife, holding it in a reverse grip, held tightly at a spot below her knee. She aimed her gun at the floor. “Try not to die.” She swore she saw him smile in the briefest moment before she teleported onto the roof of the white van.

Her hat fell off and flew away.

In its new location, the knife cut into the roof. Her grip on it sufficient to keep her from flying off and hitting the pavement. Cameron had appeared above where she remembered the short guy sitting. She squeezed the trigger, twice. The bullets made a dent but didn’t go through.

Stupid, to think their van wasn’t bulletproof.

She teleported the gun so the barrel went through the roof, displacing the material already there. Another two shots and she was gone, crouching above the driver’s seat, knife and gun both poking through the roof. This time, when she pulled the trigger, she knew she had hit her target.

Flecks of blood hit the windows.

She had killed before but it was different this time. It energized her, a rush of adrenaline that made her feel unstoppable, a force of nature.

Cameron took out the driver’s friend in the same manner.

She pulled the gun out, carelessly tossing it back into a pocket, and inched toward the door on the driver’s side. It was dangerous to move around at the speed the van was going. One wrong move and bye bye Cameron Pierce. She stuck her hand in the hole her knife made earlier and then pulled the knife out, putting it away too. The gloves helped, stopped the material of the van from digging and cutting into her skin.

She got into position and slammed her feet against the window. She broke it on her first try. She felt something sharp and pointy press against her legs but it didn’t cut her. Tyler hadn’t been lying, after all.

Her foot fumbled around a bit until she got them securely under the body of the driver, using his weight to help hold her in place. She let go and climbed inside.

It was cramped, between her and the body. She hit her head more than once on her way in.

She barely felt it.

Cameron teleported driver onto his buddy, to get him out of the way. She slammed the brakes. Once the van came to a complete stop, she hopped out.

Tyler was a keeping a safe distance away. It’d take him maybe half a minute to close the distance, at the rate he was going.

Cameron retrieved the gun and knife. Only one person would have gotten hit, and there was no guarantee she actually got them. She didn’t hear any movement inside as she walked to the back of the van. She shot the tires on her way, to get rid of their only mode of transportation.

Tyler skidded to stop just as Cameron reached the back.

The door swung open, smacking her in the face and off her feet.

This she felt perfectly fine. Her head throbbed where it hit the road and her vision blurred. There was something wet on her lips. Blood. Broken nose, she was pretty sure.

The short guy hopped out of the van and immediately took aim and fired at Tyler with a machine gun. Cracks appeared in the windshield.

Still lying on the ground, Cameron raised her arm and shot at the short guy. Either she missed or the form-fitting armor he wore was a lot tougher than it looked. He stopped firing and turned to face her. She teleported just as he pulled the trigger and sent a barrage of bullets where she laid less than a second ago.

Some teleporters were capable of perfect, split-second teleports. Cameron was not one of them.

She landed on the ground, her back joining a growing list of body parts in pain.

Cameron climbed to her feet. It took her a second to realize where she had ended up. She was behind him, on the sidewalk beside the road. She dropped the gun, whipping out the baton instead. She charged at him.

By the time he spun around, she had closed the distance, and knocked the weapon out of his hand. He caught her second swing and lashed out with his foot, kicking her in the stomach. She stumbled backwards, hunched over, the wind knocked out of her. He moved to get closer and she swung the knife to ward him off.

He backed up, her baton held in his hand, not any worse off than he was at the start.

The laser gun would have been real fucking useful in this situation.

He didn’t try and attack, giving Cameron time to recover. The hand that had the baton was red, covered in blood. Fingerless gloves, the guy was actually wearing fingerless gloves. Unbelievable, she was getting her ass kicked by a guy wearing fingerless gloves.

“I’ll give you a chance to leave, while you still can,” he said. His voice carried a different kind of chill than Allison with her helmet on, than Gladwell when she killed, than Cameron‘s when she first saw her mother’s body in the bathtub, motionless. It was laced with grim finality. The odd thing about it though, was she got the distinct impression he was pleading with her, begging her to leave so he wouldn’t be forced to kill her.

He hadn’t extended the same mercy to Tyler.

And Cameron Pierce didn’t run from anybody or anything.

“You got a name? Or a codename?” Cameron asked, standing up straight.

“Phantom.”

“Well, Phantom, since you were so nice, I’m going to give you the same option. Get the fuck out of here.”

He tossed the baton to her and she caught it. Phantom pulled out a pair of metal escrima sticks. He twirled them with casual ease. He sighed so hard his shoulders slumped. “Go ahead, I’ll let you make the first move.”

Very polite of him.

Cameron wished she could take off the mask and wipe some of the blood off her face. It was starting to irritate by flowing into her mouth.

So far, Phantom hadn’t done anything that was obviously beyond human capability. His power had to be good if he was so sure of his victory. She shouldn’t use her teleportation abilities more than she already had. At this point, Phantom hadn’t seen enough for him to confidently say she was a teleporter. She wanted it to stay that way but when it came to close combat, she was pretty sure he was better than her. It might her only option if she wanted to win and if she was going to do it anyway, might as well do it now.

Cameron could always kill Phantom and Michael, to protect her identity.

It was the smart thing to do, wasn’t it? Saved her the trouble of having to kill Michael later, if and when Creed succeeded in taking over the True Gods.

Had she always been so quick to go straight to killing or was this the result of Gladwell messing with her head?

Phantom stood by all the while, patiently watching her, relaxed. As if he would be comfortable standing here all night as she figured out what to do next. What the hell was up with him? It was hard for her to get a good read on the guy.

Fuck it, she wouldn’t let Gladwell win.

“Nice of you to offer but I’ll pass,” Cameron said, knife and baton at the ready. There wasn’t really any good move for her to make in this situation. Despite being shorter than everyone else in his group, he was still taller and bigger than her, probably stronger and more experienced. Might as well let him make the first move and see if he made a mistake.

He shrugged then threw the stick in his left hand at her. She stepped to the side, out of the way, instead of swatting it out of the air. Before it could land on the ground, it went into reverse, pulled back into Phantom’s hand.

Keeping his distance. It was smart tactic, with her gun on the ground somewhere behind her and two close ranged weapons in her hands.

She avoided the next five throws and he retrieved them in the same way. They were walking in a circle.

A stalemate.

Phantom threw both sticks at the same time and charged. Taking time to get out of the way gave him time to get close. She swung at him and he took a step back, fell into a crouch, and spun, one leg out to hit both of hers. Seamless. The thought went through her mind as she was swept off her feet.

He tried to follow up with a kick to the face but she rolled out away and back into a standing position.

He threw his stick again and this time, when it moved back towards him after she dodged, she caught it mid-air. She had to drop the baton to do it. The force pulling on the stick wasn’t too strong. Cameron threw the knife and let go of the stick at the same time. It wasn’t meant to hurt but to distract.

She went for the machine gun he dropped earlier.

No bullets came out when she pulled the trigger. Out of ammo, great.

He came at her, swinging his escrima stick at her, aiming for her face. She ducked under it.

The telltale sound of gunshots. The timing of it was too good, he had to have been waiting for it this entire time.

Phantom stumbled backwards. His armor was tough enough to handle a few bullets but it still hurt like a bitch, apparently. Using the gun as a club, Cameron hit him over the head.

He fell.

Tyler came running up to them, a gun in his hand. He stood a good distance away with his gun aimed at the fallen Phantom.

“You couldn’t tell me?” Cameron asked, between pants.

Always the worst part, the pain and exhaustion that came when the adrenaline started wearing off.

“Nope,” Tyler said, looking fresh as a daisy. “Go get it and let’s get out of here.”

Cameron jogged to the van and hopped in. There was a lot of blood on the inside, smeared on the floor. Michael was lying on the ground, his shirt had been torn open, a blood-stained bandage covered his shoulder. Phantom must have patched him up after Cameron shot him.

It took her a second to find the hard drive, tucked away under the seat.

Tyler was already in the car when Cameron stepped out of the van, headlights on, engine revving. Cameron joined him, hard drive in hand. Phantom didn’t try to get up as they drove off.

“There’s a laptop and wire in the backseat,” he said.

“Aren’t you an eager beaver,” Cameron commented. It was kind of hard to see a black laptop on a black seat at night but she manage to find it. The USB wire was already attached. It was on so they didn’t have to wait for it to load up.

She plugged the other end of the wire into the hard drive.

A window popped up almost instantly. Some non-English language. Russian, maybe? Cameron didn’t need to read it to know what the blinking line and empty white box meant.

It made a lot of sense, honestly, for the hard drive to be password protected.

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Buyer’s Remorse 4.2

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By the time Cameron got to her apartment, Tyler was already there, leaning against the wall, looking annoyed. He glanced at his watch and his frowned deepened. “You’re six minutes and forty-three seconds late,” Tyler said, crossing his arms.

“I never said I’d be here on time,” Cameron retorted. She lightly kicked the duffel bag sitting on the ground beside his feet. “That mine?”

“Yeah,” he said. “My stuff’s in there too.”

She took out her key, unlocking the door with it and the hidden fingerprint scanner in the doorknob. She opened it up wide and let Tyler go in first. He picked up the bag and walked in, giving the apartment only a cursory glance. He dropped it onto the kitchen table then unzipped it.

The logo on the clothes he pulled out earned him an eyebrow raise from Cameron.

He didn’t turn around. “Save it,” he said. “I already know what you’re going to say and it’s not nearly as funny as you think it is.”

The logo, a white simplistic magnifying glass inside a circle on a black background, was one she saw at the beginning of her superhero career.

The Detective.

Case closed. That was one mystery solved. Sort of.

“You work for the Detective?” she asked.

“Yeah, it’s how I got myself a ticket tonight.” He gestured at the pile of clothes he had just taken out. “Get dressed, I don’t want to be late.”

She rolled her eyes, grabbed the heap, taking it with her to the bathroom.

The outfit consisted of a black jacket ending at her knees, the logo plastered on the shoulders and back, black pants, gloves, and shirt, a white mask with black domino mask painted on it, and a fedora hat, also black.

It didn’t seem like it’d offer much protection at all. Maybe that was the point, make their hosts think they weren’t here to start a fight. Maybe she was overestimating Tyler’s intelligence. Allison had warned her.

“Hey,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom. “I’m going to haunt you so hard if I die because this can’t handle a bullet or two.”

Tyler wore an identical outfit. His face was covered by his mask, like hers was, but somehow she knew he was smirking. “Don’t worry about it, tougher than it looks.”

“I’m going to take that as permission to use you as a body shield if push comes to shove,” Cameron said. “Are you going to tell me what we might end up stealing or is it going to be another one of those ‘wait and see’ you’re so fond of?”

He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. She teleported it out of his hand and into hers just as he was about to hand it to her. He let his arm drop to his sides. Hopefully he enjoyed that as much as she enjoyed his company.

Unlike the well-done drawing she saw earlier today, Tyler’s preferred medium was words. Cameron was willing to bet he had no other option, having no artistic talent and still requiring a way to get down as much information he could from his visions of the future or however his type of precognition worked, before it faded from his mind.

It’s been shoved into a corner, a back table they don’t expect anyone to spend a lot of time in front of. It looks like a hard drive, white. It’s eye-catching because of it, sandwiched between black guns and armor. Someone walks by, confident, as if he knows exactly where he’s going and what he’s looking for.

He picks it up without reading the holographic screen floating above it and goes to purchase it.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to him or it. The time frame is roughly 9:30 to 9:50. It’s Cameron that tells me about it after. She makes a comment, implying she knows him and that whatever he’s up to, it can’t be good for either of us.

We leave later, without incident, getting what I came here for. Information, not weapons unlike nearly everyone else. I check out what Cameron told me, looking into the future. It’s not good. The perfect window to stop him would have been earlier. I’ve failed, horribly. Whatever the future was, it has left me feeling devastated. I make it worse, so a past version of me sees this and can do something about it.

The weight of the world crushes me and I call Mom, even though I know she will not answer. It makes me feel worse when I get her voice-mail but this is more important than me.

Cameron wasn’t sure she wanted to know most of this stuff. The thing about the hard drive, yeah but the other stuff just gave her more questions she wouldn’t get an answer to anytime soon. The part about his mom she could have definitely done without. Cameron knew all about having a shitty mom, had one herself. It made him a little harder to hate, knowing they came from similar places. It was the whole point of leaving it in, or fabricating it, if she wanted to be paranoid. He had access to her file, her history, everyone seemed to. She passed the paper back to him.

“I was worried there you were going to ask me to sneak out a tank or something,” Cameron said. “A hard drive shouldn’t be a problem.”

He nodded. “Teleport us down to the street, the car’s parked out front.”

“It doesn’t work – ”

“Yeah, I know. I’m decent at controlling power resistance, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, interrupting her again. It was becoming an annoying habit.

Whatever, even if he wasn’t as good as he thought he was there was no harm in trying. She walked over to the window and he followed, after grabbing the duffel bag. She got a better view of the roof of the building beside them than the street. She grabbed his wrist and teleported there.

It didn’t come as easily as it normally did, the transition less smooth. They didn’t appear in the locations Cameron had meant them to, two steps to the left away. The next teleport brought them to the sidewalk near the car. She had wanted to drop them off right beside the car door.

No one lost an arm so it wasn’t too bad.

They climbed into the car, Tyler taking the wheel. Cameron would have preferred to drive them to their destination but she didn’t need to be a precog to know the answer Tyler would give.

She fiddled with the radio, switching from station to station, much to Tyler’s obvious annoyance. He swatted at her hands to keep them away from the radio. He jerked a thumb at the duffel bag he tossed in the backseat. “If you really have to do something, look through that. The weapons are in there, you can hide them in the inside pockets of your jackets.”

Cameron teleported it to her lap.

The weapons Tyler brought were pretty low-tech. Gun, taser, knife, baton, and a canister of pepper spray. She tucked them inside her jacket. The only items left was a headset and a metal rod, the size of a pencil. She held it up to her face to get a better look. There was a little LED light near one of the ends of the rod, the other end had was pushable.

“Voice modifier,” Tyler said, before she could ask. He pointed at the rod. “Put the headset on and push that to turn it on.”

She nodded.

They went right through the bad side of town and into the only area in Avocet worse off. The same tragedy that left many powers dead had also tore up a sizable chunk of Avocet. UltimateTech Industries bought up most of the property and was slowly fixing everything. The rubble had been cleared but many of the buildings looked ready to collapse at a moment’s notice. They parked behind a building near the heart of the area.

The building stood alone, whatever buildings had stood beside it had been destroyed and taken away. A big sign, as long as the building itself, hung above the door. In golden, flowery script was the store’s name, Canary Florists. The last time she had been here was more than a decade ago. Probably. Dad bought flowers for her mom from Canary Florists on their anniversary, or maybe a birthday. Some celebration. It didn’t matter much now. Their relationship and this shop were both long gone.

On either side of the front door was a window, where their best and prettiest flowers would be on display. Both windows had been smashed and shards of glass still littered the ground around it, joining dead petals left behind and forgotten as they were devoured by insects.

It was dark inside, no sound except their own breathing.

“You sure this is the right place?” Cameron asked.

Tyler strode forward, putting on his headset as he walked, and went in through the gaping hole in the window, ignoring the jagged edges.

He disappeared, gone the second he had passed the threshold.

A hologram?

Cameron went after him. She hesitated more than he had. Despite his assurance, what she wore seemed like they’d be no help against the sharp point of the glass. It didn’t cut when she hopped through.

The light stung her eye,  too bright compared to the darkness she saw a moment ago.

The abandoned flower shop went away with the darkness. Cameron stood on an expensive looking red carpet. A chandelier hung above her head, oak tables with all sorts of gear on them were strategically placed throughout the available space as to not have any one table too close to another, and paintings were on the walls, depicting some really old people that may have been famous historical figures.

History never really interested her.

People stood at the tables, dressed in costumes, their weapons openly displayed. People who maybe didn’t normally wear costumes still had masks on but wore suits or dresses.

Tyler tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. She gave him a nod.

He walked past the crowd, heading straight for a man in lightweight armor, an Automaton. Cameron stayed a step behind him at all times. It gave the impression that out of the two of them, he was in charge, which she supposed he was. Anyone approaching them would talk to him. It was better if they did, less chance for Cameron to mess up and make it obvious she wasn’t really working for the Detective by saying something someone in her position should know.

This Automaton looked to be more of an entertainer than the the Automatons stationed throughout with heavy armor and heavy weapons, helmets turning left and right, on the lookout for any trouble that might arise. Like his friends, his armor was made to look similar to old school robots, block-y, buttons and switches on his chest, antennas sticking out of the side of his helmet. His in particular was painted gold and silver, flashy compared to the black and grey of his associates.

“Welcome,” he said, voice sounding normal and not at all robotic. “Thanks for coming.”

Tyler reached into his jacket and with an audible click, he activated his voice modifier. “Thank you, for having us here. We appreciate you inviting us here.” His voice came out much deeper than his usual, but not to the point where it was unnatural or fake sounding.

“I can hardly say no to the Detective or to her associates,” the Automaton said. “Not when she’s such a useful ally to have.”

“Having her as an ally also has its costs,” Tyler replied, holding out his hand.

“Of course, of course.” The Automaton pulled out an USB stick and dropped it on Tyler’s palm. “This should satisfy her. Give her my regards if and when you see her.”

Tyler nodded. “I will. Thank you.”

“Stay as long as you like, enjoy yourselves. If you’ll excuse me, I have some other guests to entertain.” He didn’t wait for an answer and headed to talk to a group of people, all wearing bright red clothes.

That would be the information Tyler had originally came for. Now that that was taken care of, there was nothing left for them to do but find the white hard drive before this other person could. It could be a good idea to split up. She could go look for this person, someone she knows apparently, and distract them while Tyler went to get the hard drive, buying it before anyone else could.

“Let’s split up. You go distract and I’ll get it,” Tyler said.

Cameron frowned. Did he just look far enough into the future to experience her telling him her plan then tried to steal it, pretend he was the one that came up with it?

“What a brilliant idea. Almost as if I came up with it,” she said, evenly.

“Weird.” He shrugged. “Let’s get to it. Come on, we don’t have time to waste.”

That wasn’t true either. They had a solid twenty minutes to do this. It shouldn’t be too hard, considering their opponent would act the same as he did in the future Tyler saw, unless he was a precog too or worked with a preocg.

They split up, Cameron going in one direction, Tyler in the other.

The number of people she knew who could be at an event like this was small. Creed was one, maybe a few of his trusted lackeys, and…

Michael. Michael had the connections to score himself an invitation. She doubted that if Creed had been the one to find and pick up the hard drive, she would have told any version of Tyler that whatever he was planning was bad for the both of them. Michael, on the other hand, was a completely different story. She considered him a friend but in time, circumstance would force them to come in conflict. It was inevitable.

Maybe Testament knew and had asked Michael to collect the hard drive for him, a weapon he planned on using against Creed. If Michael had come here at Testament’s command, maybe they weren’t in as good shape as Cameron had assumed.

Cameron combed through the crowds, looking for someone with Michael’s build or height.

There were more than a few and checking out any one might lead to Michael slipping out of her grasp.

“It’s unexpected, seeing you here.”

She recognized the voice before she turned around to face Creed. He wore a black suit and tie, a mask with a stylized ‘C’ concealed his identity. The suit was deceptive, made his shoulders seem broader than they were, made him look taller and skinner. His suit, she knew, would be able to take more than a bullet or two, despite it looking like it offered no protection at all.

“How is the Detective, these days?” Creed continued, without missing a beat. No mistaking it, he knew.

Cameron reached into her jacket, fumbling a little as she tried to remember which pocket she put the rod into. She found it and clicked it, turning her voice modifier on. “She’s great,” Cameron said.

“Wonderful to hear,” he said. “I don’t suppose there’s any way I could help her, is there? I’ve been meaning to talk to her for awhile now, and it would serve as a good gesture to help out one of her associates, wouldn’t it?”

“Not really. Well, there is one thing. Have you seen someone around here, a guy, he’s been known to hang around you, not so much recently but – ”

“I know who you’re referring to,” Creed said. “I talked to him just a few minutes ago. You’ll find him to my right, the one in red, looking at a table full of jetpacks and hover-boots.”

She spotted him, holding up a metal boot. “Thanks, I’ve got to go.”

“Yes, don’t let me keep you if you have better places to be. I would like to talk to you later, if you have the time.”

Cameron nodded and headed off to confront Michael.

Distracting him without him realizing who she really was might be more difficult than she wanted to deal with right now. Michael was smart, smart and knowledgeable.

As she got closer, she saw what he had in his other hand, a white hard drive.

Stealing it is, then.

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Buyer’s Remorse 4.1

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A statement like that, it was supposed to shock her. She felt mildly surprised, at best. Maybe this whole Gladwell fucking with her head wasn’t so bad. Her mind was focused, cold, and swift, a weapon forged and refined.

Tyler had come alone. If he intended to tell anyone, he would have already, and if he had, he would have come with backup to protect him and subdue her. He came with another purpose in mind. Blackmail, it was the only thing that made sense.

“A whole week? Wow,” Cameron said. “I don’t even know what I’m going to wear tomorrow.”

“I’ve seen it,” Tyler said, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. “It looks good.”

She raised a single brow and pointedly glanced at the shut door. “I really hope, for your sake, that’s not part of the reason you’re here.”

He ignored the insinuation. “I need help and you’re going to give it to me. You can figure out what happens if you don’t.”

“I’m going to bet this thing you need help with involves illegal stuff,” Cameron said.

“It does,” he admitted. “But I doubt it’d make you lose any sleep.”

A week from now, he had said. Did that mean sometime this week Creed was going to finally give her something concrete to do? She would have been lying if she said she wasn’t the least bit curious about Creed’s plans to take over the True Gods.

“I’m going to need some more information, Fore. You can’t expect to blackmail me into doing whatever with something I may or may not do.”

“Sorry, it’d affect the future,” he said, smiling in a way that showed he wasn’t sorry at all. He enjoyed being an asshole. She could respect that, in the past she liked to rile people up too.

Still did, probably.

“Knowing about your relationship with Creed is more than enough blackmail material,” Tyler said, quiet. The chances of them being overheard was low but playing it safe never hurt, she supposed, even if it was boring.

She eyed the utility belt in her closet, holstered there was the gun Allison made her. In an instant, it could be in her hands and one shot would definitely kill him. “So, talking hypothetically, what stops me from killing you right now and making a break for it?”

“Nothing,” he said. He stood with his shoulders squared, arms crossed, expression even, eyes meeting hers without a hint of fear. He saw the future and knew she wouldn’t go through with it. It wasn’t for moral reasons, she had killed before. Killing him would only make escape harder for her. Agents and heroes sent after her would look harder, be less forgiving, lethally so. The SAA wasn’t kind to those who took out one of their own.

“I could still just leave, it’s not like you could stop me.”

“You could,” he agreed. “I think you’ll realize doing this favor for me is your best option.”

Cameron stood up from the bed and strode toward Tyler, invading his personal space. “And I think you’ll realize I’m not some little bitch you can push around. Give me something concrete, or I’m gone. Whoosh.” She appeared behind him, position adjusted so she faced his back instead of the door.

He didn’t look around the room, momentarily confused. Tyler turned to face her, as if he had been waiting for this to happen the entire time.

Irritating. Theatrics wasn’t as fun when there wasn’t that shock factor.

“Alright, I can give you something concrete. Tomorrow morning, Creed’s going to contact you, asking to meet right away, and you will but when you get there, he’s nowhere to be found. Instead, you find an envelope, with your initials on it. You’ll open it up, read what’s inside, I’d tell you what it says but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.” He was back to smirking at her again.

“And what’s inside is going to change my mind?”

“Oh, it will, I’ve already seen it,” Tyler said. “I’ll be back tomorrow, after you’ve read it.”

He turned and had opened the door when Cameron spoke up. “You know, the future’s not set in stone.”

“I hope so,” he said, voice barely above a whisper.

He left.

Well, she’d be damned, Tyler was right.

When she got the text message in the morning, like he said, she knew he wasn’t completely full of shit but the idea of a few sheets of paper inside an envelope changing her mind to the extent she was willing to let Tyler win so easily, it just didn’t seem likely. Past or present, Cameron hated to lose. Losing to someone so sure of themselves was even worse. It fed their ego, reinforced the idea that they were better than her.

It felt weird to feel so strongly about something with no clue why she did.

She didn’t dwell on it.

No point in doing so, when there were other things she had to do. First, convincing the agent designated to drive her to school that she’d find her own way to school. The guy, no doubt about it, knew she was lying and going to blow off another day of school to do whatever teenagers did but didn’t seem to care that much. She wouldn’t either if she spent years training and preparing to become an agent only to be asked to drive a teenager around, like some kind of limo driver.

Cameron took a bus to get to the same diner she met Creed at last time. Her new popularity still hadn’t changed Hayes’ mind about giving her access to a vehicle and it’d be awhile until she saved up enough to buy her own.

Creed wasn’t there when she arrived, just as Tyler predicted.

A waiter spotted her and handed over an envelope, on the front were her initials written in Creed’s curvy handwriting.

She brought it out to the parking lot before she tore it open. The envelope held four pieces of paper, three were pictures, one was a note. The pictures were hand drawn, done in pencil. Each picture depicted a scene, the first looked an awful lot like her apartment with a body on the ground near her open safe, a heavily shaded in puddle surrounding the body, covering it in some parts. The drawing of her apartment was really detailed, getting the small stuff right like the damaged zipper of a jacket she owned, hanging on the back of a chair. Maybe to contrast, the body lacked any significant detail, a human-shaped blob. Cameron couldn’t tell if that was intentional or the artist got lazy.

The second picture was her, in her Point Blank costume, drawn with the same attention to detail her apartment got. In one hand was her laser gun, the other held a handgun, bullets coming out of it. Her helmet had a huge crack in it, bits and pieces of her costume had been torn off, exposing flesh, and right leg was bent in a funny way.

The third picture took a nosedive in quality compared to the first two. It looked like a quick sketch, each line was jagged and didn’t properly connect with each other. The background was non-existent, just an empty expanse of white. In the middle of the page was a person, from the general shape of the body and the hair tied in a ponytail she assumed it was a girl, on their knees with a black rectangle pointed at her head. A gun?

Cameron realized what these pictures were before she took a look at the note.

I have recently received these from one of my employees. They were drawn yesterday night, so as far as I am aware, they are accurate, for now at least. Her co-workers should be getting back to me soon with more information.

If there’s something you’ve done or decided to do last night, I advise you to alter it as much as you can before we stumble into an unfortunate future.

I’ll contact you again, soon.

Burn everything.

Some part of her didn’t want to believe, wanted to think this was all staged by Tyler. It wasn’t likely, though, that he could perfectly replicate Creed’s handwriting, get his hands on Creed’s phone, and know the location of their last meeting.

She had to be missing some pieces of information here, something Creed may have expected her to know. Precog stuff could get complicated, looking into the future would then change it, maybe making it so the events seen never come to past depending on the actions the precog takes and how those actions alter the actions of others. Why did Creed think it would be her actions that’d make the future depicted in the drawings happen? The precog Creed got these from could be more specialized than a regular one, she supposed. Had she and this employee of his met before?

It sounded plausible, but it was mostly guesswork. Fuck Gladwell, why would she even take that memory? Cameron couldn’t ask Creed either, without cluing him in on the fact Gladwell messed with her head. Things would change if he knew. She wouldn’t just be Cameron anymore, she’d become a ticking time bomb. He liked order and a bomb was the last thing he needed when he already had to worry about the rest of the True Gods.

Cameron shoved the sheets back into the envelope. She checked her pockets for a lighter. Sometimes she stashed things in her pockets and forgot about them, only remembering she left them there after she did laundry. She had more than a few soggy bills drying up on her desk. Nothing.

She folded the envelope until it fit in her jacket pocket. She could deal with it later, after she had another chat with Tyler.

After that, well, she would need to dig up some dirt on Tyler. Outside of developing the ability to wipe minds, finding good blackmail material on your blackmailer was one of the smartest ways to get out of being blackmailed. Mutually assured destruction, it wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.

The trip back to HQ felt a lot shorter, despite taking roughly the same amount of time. Tyler was sitting on the ground beside her door, playing a game involving numbers on his phone. He looked up at her, frowning. “You’re two minutes late.”

“Good,” Cameron said, punching in a code to unlock the door. She went in once the lock beeped affirmatively, leaving the door open. Tyler followed and closed the door. “So, I found the envelope.”

“And you’ve changed your mind?” Tyler asked, smug.

“Depends on what the hell you want me to do.” If his favor seemed like more trouble than it was worth, she’d take her chances with whatever future was in store for her.

“I need you to be my bodyguard, and maybe a thief, it depends on how it goes. You know about the Automaton showcase?”

The Automatons were a gang of inventors. They made a huge chunk of their money from selling weapons. Most of the crimes they committed was done to advertise their gear. Every once and awhile, they invited rich buyers from all over to come to their base in Avocet to check out and purchase their newest and best stuff. Creed always went. His organization and the Automatons were rivals, both of them trying to be the alpha dog in town, but it was a friendly rivalry, as friendly as supervillains could be.

“How the hell did you manage to score an invite?”

He shrugged. “You’ll figure it out, soon.” Tyler pulled out his phone, to look at the time, before tucking it back into his pocket. “One of the weapons they’re selling can’t fall into the wrong hands. I’ll try to buy it but if that doesn’t work, you’re going to need to steal it for me.”

Cameron sat down in her computer chair. “Starting trouble in a place like that, everyone’s going to be shooting at you. Me, I’m good at making quick exits. You, on the other hand, I’m guessing, are not. And it’s bound to make some enemies, for the both of us.”

“I don’t expect you to walk in as Point Blank,” Tyler said. “I’ll get you another costume to wear but the rest is up to you.”

Which meant she had to avoid overt uses of her power. There were plenty of other teleporters in the world but very few resided in Avocet. This was something very doable though, within her comfort zone, something she had experience with.

“Okay, I’ll do it,” Cameron said, begrudgingly. “When?”

He didn’t look at all surprised. “Tonight, nine.”

Cameron whistled. “Pretty short notice there, pal. What if I had said no?”

“I would have gone with my second choice but she’d be a lot harder to work with than you.”

“Anyone I know?”

“Spoilers,” he said. “I have to go, got other things to deal with first. Meet me at your apartment, at eight. Don’t worry about getting weapons either, I’ll handle it.”

“Shit,” she said, grinning in spite of herself. “What don’t you know?”

Cameron saw the barest hint of a frown on his face before he turned his back to her and made his exit. No fanfare, no goodbye.

It was still pretty early in the day, which gave her several hours to find out more about Tyler. Too bad she didn’t have the clearance to access personnel files, like the other members of the team did.

Creed could be able to help, probably, but she didn’t want to go running to Creed every time she got stuck. She needed to be able to handle her own shit.

The others on the team would know more about Tyler than she did, working with him for months, at least. It gave her a place to start. Out of everyone she had met, Allison seemed like her best bet. She would be easy to find, too.

As always, Allison was in her workshop, opening the door a minute after Cameron knocked. Cameron wouldn’t have waited that long if she hadn’t heard the sounds of metal on metal coming from behind the closed door. “Do you need something?” Allison asked. Her voice was as even as it always was, as was her posture and expression, yet Cameron could just tell Allison was itching to get rid of her. It was a gut feeling but her gut feelings tended to be right.

“I met Tyler,” she said. “Kind of an asshole.”

Allison nodded, in understanding. “And you want to know more about him.”

“What gave you that idea?”

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked.” She opened the door wider and retreated back into her workshop. Cameron walked in, finding it much the same as it was last time except a new project was occupying space on Allison’s worktable. She gestured to a bunch of stools and Cameron sat down in one. “What do you want to know?” she asked, putting on a pair of safety glasses.

Cameron adopted a thinking pose, rubbing her chin with one arm crossed. “Hmm. Well, how long has he been with the SAA?”

“Fours years, no time spent in the field.”

“You guys very friendly?”

Allison smiled, amused. “We co-exist.”

Hard to think of questions that wouldn’t seem too suspicious. Asking about his personal life was out of the question. “What about him and the others?”

“Not that I know of. He spends most of his time here with Agent Hayes.”

“Guess that means you don’t deal with his brand of annoying a lot?”

“You’ll have to figure out your own way of dealing with it.” Allison paused. “Don’t let him fool you, he’s much easier to trick than he thinks, or makes you think.”

Cameron smiled and stood up. “Thanks for the advice, A. I’ll see you.”

“Close the door on your way out,” she said, returning to her work.

Cameron did then headed back to her room.

What had Tyler said?

Second choice. Spoilers.

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The Hunt Is On 3.5

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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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Home 2.1

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“Thank you for meeting me. They didn’t give you any trouble, did they?”

Cameron slid into the other side of the booth. Creed had a laptop set up in front of him and a cup of hot coffee placed beside it. He had said the words casually, but she knew the importance of making sure she wasn’t being followed. “No trouble,” Cameron said. “They’ve been a lot more willing to let me go do stuff now that I’m officially on the team. Still on probation though, obviously. Can’t rock the boat too hard.”

Creed nodded, looking back down at the screen of his laptop and started to type. “Yes, that’s why I chose here to meet. A lot less suspicious to meet somewhere public, a simple conversation between lawyer and client. If anyone asks, you have more than enough evidence to back up your claim.” He took a sip of coffee, putting it back exactly where it was when he was done. Cameron’s powers also came with a good sense of position, so when she said exactly, she meant exactly. She always thought it was weird how he could do that. “Would you like anything?”

“I would, if some big shot lawyer would be willing to pay for a poor high school student.”

He paused in his typing to give her a look. “I thought it went without saying that I’d take care of the bill. If it needs to be said then, yes, Cameron, I’ll pay for whatever you want to order.”

“Cool,” she said, smiling. She waved over a waitress, who had been looking at them from the other side of the counter. She ordered a plate of fries and chicken fingers, and a glass of orange soda. When the waitress left, Cameron turned back to Creed, who was working away on his laptop still. “So, what do you want to talk about?” The place was loud enough between the music playing and people talking that they didn’t have to worry about being overheard as long as they talked normally.

“The future, and I do apologize for not giving you my full attention, I’m very busy. It’s hard to manage the workload of two demanding, full-time jobs.”

“You’re going to tell me what exactly I’m doing wearing a white hat?”

“Not exactly, not yet, anyway. Combined with my precogs interfering, not telling you until it’s necessary will throw off any precogs watching your future. What I can tell you, however, is that I’ve been planning a takeover for awhile now.”

She sat up straighter in her seat. “Seriously? Hasn’t the guy running the TG’s been there for ages? Bad and good guys have teamed up but still haven’t managed to kick him off his throne.”

“Yes, I know he’s powerful, I know how loyal many of his followers are to him. I’ve been with them for long enough to know how they operate, how he operates. This is a plan years in the making, Cameron. Taking my time to put all the pieces in the proper place. I highly doubt I’ll get a second chance at this, if I fail.”

“Okay, I’ll trust that you know what you’re doing, you being the mastermind and all. I’m one of these pieces?”

He gave her a nod. “You’ll have to forgive me for arranging your capture, it was necessary. As far as pieces go, you’re fairly important.”

“This is what you meant, right? When I first joined up with you and you asked me what I was willing to do.”

“And you answered that you’d do whatever, as long as I don’t fuck you over. I don’t want to pressure you into this, if you’re unwilling I’m more than capable of making new arrangements to get you out of where you are now. I can find someone else to fill your role, although I do prefer you. You can back out at anytime.”

She wondered if he said that knowing she was going to agree and go along with his plan to take over the True Gods. Not because she was some puppet, incapable of thinking for herself, but he knew the kind of person she was. Without him, she’d probably be dead right now. That wasn’t a minor thing and she hated leaving debts unpaid. “Well, I guess as long as you’re not fucking me over, I’m in,” Cameron said, lightly.

Their conversation paused as the waitress came by and dropped off her meal and drink, resuming when she was gone.

“I will be sending you your escape package soon, regardless. In case anything were to ever happen to me, I wouldn’t want you to be trapped in my plan.”

She dipped a fry into ketchup. “What do you even want me to do?”

He had looked up from his laptop screen and met her eyes. “For now? Nothing. Continue doing what you’ve been doing, get their trust, be as good a superhero as you’re capable of being. Within reason, of course, no need to suddenly become a girl scout. And lastly, most importantly, keep your eyes open, watch your teammates and other heroes closely for suspicious behavior. I’m certain our opponent has spies within the SAA, I’d like to find out who is and isn’t one.”

“You planted a spy for the purpose of looking for spies. That’s – wait, the note you sent me. Is that what you were talking about?”

Creed dipped his head in a nod, returning his attention back to the screen. “Yes. Care to explain your surprise?”

“Nothing, I guess. Thought you meant something else, something I saw the day I got the note. It was probably, well, I don’t know. Shared hallucination, maybe,” Cameron said dismissively before shoving a couple of fries in her mouth.

“If you think it’s nothing, then it’s nothing. If you change your mind, I am here to talk, no matter when. I owe you for helping me with this, I’ll make time.”

His tone was so nonchalant, so matter-of-fact. Not the bombshell she felt like it was. She drank some orange soda to cover the big smile she could feel about to form on her face. She’d feel really dumb if he saw it.

“I’m pretty sure it’s nothing.”

“Then it is.”

They fell into a comfortable silence as Creed worked and she ate.

“Agent Hayes has been treating you well, I hope? I can cause a lot of trouble for him, he’s already standing on shaky ground, been for awhile now.”

That was tempting, very tempting. Cameron sighed. “He’s annoying but not that bad. That offer is still on the table if I change my mind?”

“Of course, Cameron. I’m at your service.”

She was still getting used to the new room. It was bigger than her old one, which was nice, and she didn’t have to hear agents running back and forth, at all hours of the day. The only people on this floor were superheroes like herself, most lived offsite but they still had rooms. She hadn’t actually seen any of her new teammates since she moved all her stuff into the room last night. Cameron had thought she would at least see Ionic, since she lived in the building too.

Maybe Ionic didn’t go to school? It’d explain why Cameron didn’t see her up this morning. Maybe she already graduated.

Something she had to ask about if she found a good opportunity. As far as spies went, Ionic was pretty suspicious given her connections to those crooks at the Wrench. A good place to start all this spy hunting shit.

She was in the middle of writing an essay when her phone rang, the incredibly catchy song she had as her ringtone too loud to ignore. She found where she had tossed it and slid her thumb across the screen to accept the call. “Hello?”

“Hey, heard from Sarah they’ve loosened the leash a little. Need to talk to you. Think you can sneak out and meet?” Ian, sounding oddly desperate.

Fuck English class.

“I can sneak out of anywhere.”

“Meet me at my apartment, see you in a few.” He hung up.

Ian had the dubious honor of being the one who convinced her to run away when she had been stuck in a facility for troubled super-teens, basically a group home for young superhumans. Not that she was hard to convince, she hated it there. He also ran a motorcycle gang, the Speed Fiends, they mostly drove around town at insane speeds, sometimes committing crimes. They were in it for the thrills, and with Ian’s power backing them up, it was nothing but.

Cameron grabbed a jacket, before moving to her window, and teleporting herself to the sidewalk across the street. Ian lived in a dingy apartment in the bad side of town, the kind of place where people didn’t call the cops or ask questions. She was pretty familiar with the area, she grew up in the neighborhood and came back after she had run away.

He opened the door after the second knock. Ian embodied the classic bad boy, messy black hair, a leather jacket, and it was obvious he worked out. He smirked. “That was fast, bet you rushed here, so excited to see me.” She rolled her eyes and pushed past him to get inside his apartment. Looked the same as always, his clothes were thrown everywhere, dirty dishes and empty takeout boxes took up space on tables and chairs. It’d probably be an absolute mess if Sarah didn’t come by occasionally to clean the place up.

Ian laid down on the couch, leaving Cameron to sit on the other couch. His small TV played some action movie on low volume.

“How much freedom are they giving you?” Ian asked, failing to sound disinterested.

“They took off my tracker yesterday, I’m going to take that to mean I can go wherever I want. Pretty sure they’re not following me around either.”

“Took you three months to earn their trust, huh? Are you sure about them taking off your tracker? I don’t want your new pals to know where I live.”

Cameron shrugged. “I talked to Creed last night, he checked to make sure.” She gave him a long, hard look but he kept his gaze fixed on the television screen. “What the hell is going on, anyway?”

“Honestly, I fucked up and now some scary fuckers are after me. I’ve been trying to get them to back off but they’re persistent.” He sighed. “There’s not a lot the guys can do to help. They’re just ordinary guys, not like you and me. Besides, you’ve got experience with this kind of shit.”

“Wait, you’re not seriously talking about that one time I got kidnapped and almost killed after I pissed off the wrong people? That definitely does not make me an expert in dealing with scary fuckers. I had to get bailed out by Creed.” It was how they met, actually. Their first time meeting and Creed saved her life.

Ian turned to meet her eyes. “You’re all I got, Cameron. I don’t have a lot of friends who can help.”

Who could say no to a face like that?

“So, these scary fuckers, they got names?” Cameron asked, casually.

“I feel like I should get you to agree to help me before I tell you. Don’t want to scare you away.”

Cameron scoffed. “I don’t scare easily.”

He broke their eye contact and stared at his feet. “It’s Gladwell.”

She stared at him for a moment, waiting for Ian to admit this was one of his lame ass jokes. He didn’t. “…Yeah, you know what? Forget what I just said.”

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Previous Chapter

When the Chips Are Down 1.1

Author’s Note: A possible reboot is happening as of now (4/25/2014), so this may no longer be canon or continued. To proceed to the reboot, click here

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How did her life go from living it up, doing whatever she damn well pleased, to wishing the walls of her cell at least had tiles for her to count?

Whoever designed this cell didn’t even have the decency to consider what incredibly bored prisoners would do for entertainment without a single tile to count. The walls were smooth metal, sturdy enough to withstand someone with superstrength using them as punching bags all day.

There was a small stack of three books lying beside Cameron’s pillow, and despite all of them being mediocre, she had read them from cover to cover twice already.

Two days of being trapped in this room and she felt like pulling her hair out, just to have something to do and keep her thoughts away from what was going to happen to her when they released her.

The government didn’t take too kindly to people who stole their things, especially when those things were very expensive pieces of equipment that had the added bonus of being hard to make, requiring the assistance of an inventor, a superhuman with the powers of creating advanced technology. They really didn’t like it if you did it more than once.

Cameron tapped the metal braclet on her wrist, another inventor made gadget that stopped people from using their powers. Well, that wasn’t true exactly. It could detect when you were about to use your powers and when it did, it shocked you hard enough to render you unconcious. If she didn’t have this, she probably would have already escaped by now. Cameron could still go and try to escape but it was a bit of a gamble. What would happen first, her magical powers of teleportation getting this damn bracelet off, or the bracelet sending her to see the sandman? Not a gamble she was willing to take, considering if she tried and failed they’d tighten up her security even more, maybe even put her in a medically induced coma or something. Cameron had heard stories.

Hope was not completely lost. Her life of crime had benefits, connections she was using to help get her out of this mess. A lawyer, in this case.

Robert Blackwell.

Robert Blackwell was a name that popped up in the news often enough to stick in the public’s mind. He was a defense lawyer who became famous for his willingness to work for supervillains, then to balance it out, he took on many cases for free, selecting people who couldn’t afford a topnotch lawyer and were victims of circumstance.

By night, he was a supervillain himself, going by the name Creed.

He was one of the best and he assured her she wouldn’t be going to jail. He probably planned on playing the tragic past and the oh she’s just a teenager, she doesn’t know what she’s doing cards.

And as long as they didn’t find out about the really bad stuff in her past, Cameron had a fighting chance.

The doors swooshed open. A tall, imposing man with a scarred face stepped into the room, a pair of handcuffs held in his hands. Not a superhero, an SAA, short for Superhuman Affairs Agency, agent.

It must be important. They tried to avoid letting her out of her cell as much as possible, the chance that she’d use the opportunity to escape was too high. They didn’t even let her leave to speak to her lawyer, forcing her to talk to him over the phone, one they were probably monitoring.

“Don’t make this difficult. Hands,” he ordered. He never introduced himself but she remembered someone calling him Agent Hayes.

Cameron gave him a look. She felt tempted to give him trouble, make things difficult, just because he assumed she would. She sighed as she extended her arms and let him handcuff her. Later, she promised herself.

Silently, they walked out of the cell and down the hall, into a room she recognized, the interrogation room. They had brought her here shortly after they captured her. There was already someone sitting at the table, a phone in his hand. Creed. He wore a black business suit, his dirty blond hair neatly brushed, attractive in a clean-cut way. He looked up from his phone and smiled winningly at her. “Miss Pierce, it’s a pleasure to meet you, face to face.”

She returned the smile as she took the seat next to him.

The agent sat down in the chair on the other side of the table. “Mr. Blackwell and I have managed to come to an agreement. He seems to think you’re an ideal candidate for one of our special rehabilitation programs. He’s talked to you about it?”

He had. There were a bunch of facilities where some of the less violent supervillains could be sent to, in the hopes of one day turning them into productive, law-abiding members of society. Creed had said there was a pretty high chance of them trying to send her to one of those. That idea sounded horrible, Cameron spent time in a similar place before, a place young, troubled powers got tossed in, and it had been far from being a pleasant experience. Creed had offered an alternative. Apparently, if someone had a useful enough superpower and their crimes and personality weren’t too bad, they were given the opportunity to become superheroes, as a form of community service. Something about positive peer pressure making them more likely to stay on the straight and narrow.

She would have said no to that too but Creed subtly hinted that it was important for her to say yes. He couldn’t explain his real reasons, not with the SAA listening in. Cameron trusted him, and owed him, maybe more than she could ever repay.

“Yeah, he has,” Cameron said. “He told me you don’t think I would be a good fit.”

“Still don’t. Someone else agrees with your lawyer though, and she tends to handle that kind of crap. I’ll leave it to her. What I handle is the tactical aspect of our operations here in this city, figuring out ways to efficiently and effectively defeat and capture superpowered crooks. I look at you and I don’t see a team player, someone I could use out on the battlefield. You’ll cause more harm than good. That said, more people disagree with me than agree, so I’m willing to give you a shot.”

“Great.” She raised her arms, rattling the chain a little as she pulled her hands apart. “Can I get these off then?”

Agent Hayes smirked. “After. There’s a few things we have to go over, first.”

“You’ll live here, in the SAA building, until something else can be arranged. I assumed you wouldn’t want to return to where you lived before,” Creed said. “You will, of course, be monitored for a while with a tracker to let them know where you are, and you must start attending school again.”

High school. Ugh.

“And there’s a curfew,” Hayes chimed in.

“Whatever. Is that it?” Cameron tugged at the handcuffs again.

He shrugged. “Agent Brown will, undoubtedly, go into more detail later.” He reached into his pocket and retrieved a key which he used to unlock the handcuffs. “Stay here, someone will come in a minute for you. I have more important things to do with my time.” Hayes stood up and left, leaving her and Creed alone in the room.

“Is this satisfactory?” Creed asked.

“It’s alright, I guess.” She sighed. “Better than jail. I could do without a curfew.”

“The woman Agent Hayes mentioned, the one who convinced him, is a much more reasonable person than Agent Hayes. I’ve spoken to her, Agent Brown, and I think she would be willing to lift the curfew, provided you stay on your best behavior,” he said, lightly.

Cameron wanted to ask what his endgame was. Creed was a planner, every move he made was carefully thought out, designed to put himself in a better position. He was a pretty nice guy to her, going above and beyond the call of duty in helping her but at the end of the day, he was a supervillain. Successful criminals were rarely selfless beings. Not that there were a lot of selfless people running around generally, in any group.

It just seemed a little too good that she avoided jail and was going be putting on a white hat instead thanks to a criminal mastermind.

The door opened as a younger agent came in, also male, he gestured for them to stand up. They did, and Creed gave her another smile, extended his hand for her to shake. “Good luck, Miss Pierce. If anything comes up, you have my number.”

“Thanks,” she said as she shook his hand.

Once Creed was gone, the agent turned to her. “It’s not official yet, but I’ve been asked to escort you to your new room regardless. Follow me.”

They walked out of the room, with him in the lead. He guided her to the elevator at the end of the hall. Cameron would have preferred taking the stairs, if there were any down here, but this guy didn’t seem like he wanted to take the long way. They didn’t pass any other agents on their way to the elevator. The agent tapped his ID card against a panel below the numbers before he pushed a button. Third floor. The elevator lurched into motion. “Most heroes have a space set aside for them on the fourth floor,” he said. “You’ll be allowed there when they vet you.”

“Are they going to make me take a lie detector test or something?” Cameron asked. She looked down at the sweats she was wearing, they were comfortable but, well, she’d rather be wearing something she owned.

He shook his head. “They’ll use some mental power instead.”

There were a number of mental superpowers that could do the job, mind reading, some analysis power, maybe even precognition. The chances of them using telepathy was low, thank god, it was one of the powers that didn’t work well or at all when used against someone else with powers. The elevator doors opened, and from there it was a short walk to a hallway to her room. It didn’t have much in it, just a bed, nightstand, and a desk with a computer. Bigger than her cell, though, and there was a window, covered by a curtain.

“Someone will come up later with food, until then you’re free to entertain yourself with the computer, it’s already connected to the internet. The bathroom is two doors to your left. Other than that, you’re not allowed to leave this room.”

“What if there’s an emergency?” Cameron said melodramatically. He gave her a questioning look. She smirked, and shoved her hand in his face. “See? My nail polish is starting to chip.”

He rolled his eyes and left, closing the door behind him, without a goodbye.

That made her feel better about this crappy situation. Wasn’t as bad as it could be, but it was far from ideal.

A little sunlight sounded really good right now, after days of being locked inside that cell. Cameron walked over to the window and pushed the curtains aside. Her view of the outside world was blocked by a sheet of paper taped to the glass. A message, written in black marker.

STAY PUT AND GET READY – CD

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