Five Years Ago
“And this,” Missile said, the steel doors swinging wide open at his approach. “This is my office. Impressive, don’t you think?” He looked down at her, smiling.
“Um…” The room was empty. No chairs to sit in, no table to put coffee on. Empty, and white, very white. Too white, it kind of hurt her eyes if she stared at it. It wasn’t the room’s fault though, her eyes were pretty sensitive.
“You’re not impressed, huh?”
Cameron didn’t say anything, he might get angry if she told him the truth and he might get angry if she lied and he could tell. Dad got angry if she lied and he could tell.
Missile strode into the room and waved his arms in a sweeping gesture. Holographic screens and people popped into existence as his arms moved past. The screens rotated so Missile could see all of them no matter where he stood in the room. Cameron didn’t recognize any of the people but she was new here. Some moved their hands and lips as if they were talking but no sound was coming out. Recordings? Video footage? The room was crowded by the time he let his arms drop. He turned his head to look at her. “Impressed now?”
It was pretty cool, Cameron had to admit. She nodded.
Satisfied, he gestured for her to come closer. She did, careful to step around a row of guns hovering in the air. He rested his hand on her shoulder. “Tell me, Cameron, what do you know about science? About technology?”
Cameron didn’t know how to answer. There were a lot of different ways to respond and she couldn’t tell which one he wanted to hear. “I learned some stuff at school,” she mumbled.
“I always found school to be a waste, moved far too slow for me,” Missile said, stroking his chin. “You’ll never learn what’s important there. You’ll never learn to love science. You’ll never learn to crave more knowledge, to want to learn, to understand the world we live in. Take superpowers, for example. We don’t know the precise mechanics involved in why some are granted powers and not others. That’s a mystery worth investigating, don’t you think?”
Oh, this was an easy one. She nodded enthusiastically.
“Right!” He grinned. “If a child understands, grown men and women have no excuse. But, alas, most governments have agreed to not delve too deep into the subject, afraid of any one country having an army of superhumans at their beck and call.”
“Did they actually not um, delve too deep?” Cameron asked uncertain. She’d look really dumb if that didn’t mean what she thought it meant.
“Now that is a good question. I have no evidence one way or the other but I think they’re still studying it, despite what they said. It is a very interesting subject, I haven’t been able to stay away from it either. There’s just so much potential there.”
Missile said something similar earlier, she remembered. “To make a perfect world?”
“Yes, exactly. I think I’ll like having you around, Cameron.”
She tried to smile at him. It wasn’t like she had a lot of options. Dad owed them money and the only way he had of paying them was through her, having her use her powers to help them. Like how she helped him sometimes, when he tricked people. Some kids delivered newspapers, she committed crimes.
That was just how life was. People had to do things they didn’t want to do if they wanted to survive. Dad said stuff like that all the time.
“Come on,” Missile said, giving her a gentle push toward the door. “I’ll show you where we’re doing research on teleportation then I’ll take you to the room you’ll be staying in. Can you imagine a world you never have to sit in a car again? Think of all the time we’ll save!”
Cameron saw it in the corner of her eye. It floated, almost indistinguishable from the area it occupied. Experience and better eyesight than most let her identify it immediately.
She turned the chair until she faced it head on. It made the wall a touch darker than it ought to be. A shadow, almost. “Dad?”
It didn’t answer. She knew it couldn’t speak but it could have nodded or something. Any acknowledgement would do. Its presence here at the Automatons’ lab made her nervous. Dad never checked up on her when he knew she was working. He would only risk angering the Automatons by snooping around their lab if he was in life-threatening danger. He had powers too but his weren’t as good as hers.
“Do you need me to come home?” she asked. “I was just doing some homework on the computer, I can go at anytime.”
Nothing. It remained eerily motionless.
“Are you here or is this your power doing its own thing again?”
Not even a twitch.
“Goddamn it, Dad. Do you always have to make things harder than they need – “
It disappeared, the space it was in returned to its regular color.
That… That couldn’t be good. She grabbed her coat off the back of the chair. She shoved the laptop she was using into her bag and ran out of the little office they let her borrow if nobody else needed it.
There were a whole lot of people who might want to hurt Dad. Enemies from when he stole and conned people out of their money. He didn’t need to do that anymore with the income she brought in from working for the Automatons. They were nice enough to offer after she worked off the debt Dad owed to them.
Off the top of her head, Cameron couldn’t think of anybody in particular who was motivated to track down Dad years after the fact. Or maybe someone just got lucky and thought there was no better time than the present to get their revenge.
As far as dads go, he sucked but he stuck by her and did the best he could after Mom left when she was a little kid.
She couldn’t go through that again. She couldn’t lose another parent.
Cameron took out her phone and called him. It rang and rang and rang but nobody picked up. She sent a text, in case he was busy and couldn’t answer. She got the feeling he wouldn’t reply.
The house was a mess, different than their usual mess. It looked like somebody tossed the place. “Dad!” she yelled as she walked into each room in search of him. No response.
She didn’t know what to do. If she knew who was after him she could try and hunt them down, ask the Automatons for help. They found her useful but they wouldn’t go out of their way to lend a hand unless she was willing to get into debt with them again. Cameron did another check of the house, searching for any clues they might have left behind. Praying her dad would give her a call or a text and yell at her for bothering him when he was out having a drink with his friends.
Blood. God, why didn’t she notice the blood sooner? There was faint traces of it on the carpet in the living room. Tiny red droplets. It was a lighter shade of red. A half-hearted attempt to clean the mess up?
Forget getting into debt. She needed the Automatons’ help and she didn’t care if they wanted to do the same painful shit they did back then. Who knew how much time Dad had if… if he was even alive at all?
Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She spun to face them, arm already swinging. Her fist went right through it, as easily as a hot knife through wet snow.
It was Dad’s ghost thing, his power. It was darker than it was before, seemingly made out of smoke like substance.
She exhaled, relieved. He was still alive, at least. “Dad – ” She stopped. It was moving, picking up a pen and loose sheet of paper off the ground. Its handwriting was atrocious but readable.
“The Automatons have me, I don’t have a lot of time left. I’m sorry,” Cameron read, quiet.
It nodded its head.
This didn’t make sense. Why would they do this to her dad? She hadn’t done anything to piss them off and neither did –
Or did he?
She remembered hearing Dad and Missile get into a screaming match from the other side of the door. Dad had wanted to talk to Missile privately for a moment on one of the rare occasions he came to pick her up. Her hearing wasn’t as good as her eyesight but she had heard the word ‘money’ thrown around a couple times.
It was in character for him to ask for more money. Spending too much was what got them involved with the Automatons in the first place. Maybe he threatened to get her to stop working for them.
They never did figure out how to make a working teleporter and she refused to let them do experiments on her after she earned enough money to make up for the money Dad borrowed plus interest. It was really smart if she thought about it. She just was on her way to beg them to help her, so desperate she would do anything to get her dad back.
They could have done this hoping she would come to them immediately and didn’t account for Dad sending her a message through his power before they had time to do whatever they were going to do to him. There was a very good chance they didn’t know he could use his power while unconscious, most couldn’t.
She kicked the nearest object – the coffee table – and sent it flying. Her foot stung from the impact. She hit it, again and again.
Why did he always have to fucking do this to her? What they had wasn’t so fucking bad, why couldn’t he leave it alone?
Goddamn it, Dad.
Fuck the Automatons, fuck them and their fucking perfect world. They were a bunch of deluded assholes if they thought they were going to make a perfect world.
How fucking perfect could a world be if people had to suffer to make it?
She stopped. There wasn’t much of a table left to kick. It was a piece of crap Dad found lying on the side of the road. Her sock felt wet.
The pulsing pain in her foot was nice in its own twisted way. Now her outsides matched her insides.
She gave the table one last, good kick.
It watched, silent, unmoving.
She hopped to Dad’s room. Dad kept a gun in the house, for obvious reasons.
Those assholes probably thought they were so fucking smart. They thought they could play her like that?
She took the gun out of the wooden box he put it in and checked to see if it was loaded. It was, more than enough bullets to kill the man responsible. Enough to kill some of his friends too, the ones he got to help him.
She passed her dad’s power on her way out the door. It followed, hovering in the air behind her.
Cameron was going to assume that meant he approved.
She teleported the rest of the way there. No way could she walk fast enough on her injured foot.
The great thing about teleportation was there wasn’t anywhere she couldn’t go.
She teleported a huge chunk of the wall off the lab so she could see inside and teleport in. Drones were deployed but she teleported past them, tearing out sections of the roof to find more places to move to.
She went up. That was where Missile’s office was.
Anybody she saw on her way there, she shot, keeping in mind the number of bullets left. Cameron didn’t feel a thing. No, that wasn’t true. There was the anger, the rage, always simmering in the background. Always waiting to come out, to explode.
The office was empty. Missile, the coward, had to have escaped the second the drones were sent out. Pulling on a fucking jetpack and flying off.
She fell to the ground, the sharp pain in her back took away her strength to stand.
She turned and shot at the cubed shaped drone. It wobbled but didn’t fall. More of them were coming, flying as fast as they could toward the office.
Cameron teleported a piece of the wall on top of the drone. That made it fall.
Cold night air flowed into the room through the freshly made hole.
She left, disappearing before the other drones could attack.
Cameron winced as she landed on her injured foot outside the building. “Fuck,” she breathed.
It made her feel a little better.
Everything wasn’t good, far from it, but it was a little better.
What more could she hope for at this point?