The Hunt is On 3.7

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Sometimes, Cameron hated technology. Sure, she grew up with it, in a world where everyone had a phone, and thus a camera, in their pockets but never before had it dramatically affected her life.

The Italian restaurant had multiple cameras stationed all over the restaurant, the ones in the kitchen and basement had captured her – and later, Reckoning’s – fight with Gladwell. The cameras were set to automatically upload all footage to an online database. The restaurant owner agreed to sell it to the SAA at a very low price and signed a contract, promising to delete their copy of the video and not to give it to anybody else. In exchange, the SAA probably wouldn’t give them much trouble for threatening a superhero or possibly knowingly housing a dangerous supervillain.

They probably wouldn’t have had it so easy if it wasn’t blindingly obvious the restaurant was run by the Automatons. The Automatons were a group of technology themed criminals and along with Creed’s group, they ran Avocet’s underworld, kept it relatively peaceful.

The PR team, spotting a good opportunity, edited the not so wonderful parts of the video out and put it online for everyone to see. The public loved it and the video got millions of views within days. It made Cameron popular, going from brand-new superhero no one knew to the newest rising star in the superhero scene.

She supposed she could see why people were excited. The SAA had made a statement saying that yes, Gladwell was still alive despite what was seen in the video but it had made her seem less invincible. It showed the public that heroes were protecting them from the scary monsters out there and they were competent. The monsters were beatable.

Some guy from the PR team told her everything would die down when her fifteen minutes of fame ran out but the publicity was great for Avocet, it’d attract more tourists.

Her newfound popularity did save her from getting in trouble for breaking out of her room, knocking out a couple of agents, and going to fight Gladwell without backup.

Oh, sure, it was bad when they arrived on the scene and found her lying in an alley and there was a lot of talk of sending her to prison for violating her probation before the PR team got their hands on the video but things were mostly okay now. Agent Camelo wasn’t happy she disobeyed orders but he got over it when some power came in from another city to check her, see if she was being influenced or controlled by Gladwell.

The power cleared her. Cameron didn’t end up meeting him though, so she didn’t know how they were so sure.  They didn’t even tell her his codename or powers. Not that she was complaining, as long as she was still allowed to roam freely, more or less.

Agent Camelo and his team had left a few days after, when it looked like Gladwell was gone from Avocet for good.

On her ride to school, Cameron checked her work phone. There was some information about the interview she was scheduled for this afternoon. The PR team had included a PDF with tips, things she could and couldn’t say. They expected her to read it before they talked to her later, to make sure she was prepared. It was her first interview as a superhero.

The interview didn’t sound fun at all. They created a sort of fake personality for her, a kid friendly version of herself.

She sighed and glanced out the window. At least the weather was kind of nice, hardly a cloud in the sky, unusual for this time of year. There was something other than a cloud up there, she realized, after taking a closer look. It was dark, vaguely human sized, and it was flying in the air, alongside the car. It did look like a small cloud – or smoke, maybe.

Oh, one of those two powers that came to their rescue during their initial fight with Gladwell had looked kinda like that, hadn’t he? It was probably him, on his way out of town now that Gladwell was gone. With his mission done, there was no more point in staying.

“Hey, do you see that?” Cameron asked, pointing up at the human cloud thing.

The agent driving glanced at her then in the direction she was pointing. “Yeah. I’ll report it to HQ but as long as it doesn’t cause any trouble, it’s likely we’ll leave it alone.”

She shrugged and leaned back in her chair. She fiddled with the radio the rest of the trip to school. Her usual dread of sitting through another long school day wasn’t there, replaced by apathy.

“Nervous?” Agent Brown asked, as someone adjusted her helmet, adding a microphone or something, Cameron didn’t really care. “It’s okay to be nervous, most people are.”

Cameron rolled her eyes. They were in a changing room the studio had provided. Agents had already swept the room to ensure they didn’t place any bugs or cameras. She wore her costume, minus the helmet. “I’m not scared of public speaking.” Or anything.

“You don’t have to be, to be nervous about the interview. I’m sure it’s not easy pretending to be someone else?”

“Maybe for my squeaky clean teammates, sure, but what I was doing before, lying was kind of essential tool of the trade.” The smirk came easily, even if she wasn’t feeling it. That sort of comment needed a smirk for full effect, regardless of her emotions, or lack of.

Tech support walked over to her and handed her the helmet before Agent Brown replied. Great timing, she sensed a speech coming about how she could leave her old life behind her if she chose to let go of it.

Cameron put the helmet on.

“Right, let’s do this thing,” she said.

Tech support held the door open as she and Agent Brown walked out. Brown escorted her all the way to the stage, offering unnecessary words of encouragement.

She rolled her eyes hard at that. Agent Brown was probably about as close as she would ever come to having an embarrassing parent.

Cameron sat in the chair beside the host’s desk, reserved for guests, when the crew told her to. The host, Katie Ward, was already behind her desk, smiling at the camera. Her makeup was done to highlight her features, enhancing her natural beauty. She was dressed casually, in t-shirt and jeans, to make her seem more like a regular person, like the audience was, except much prettier.

That, along with her dorky persona, made her one of the most popular talk show hosts on TV.

She smiled so brightly her eyes shined. “I’m so glad you’re here, I’ve been waiting all week for this, literally. Ask anyone here, they’re all sick of me talking about this. I think they were thinking about gagging me but gosh, I can’t help it. I love talking to superheroes, you guys are always so interesting and wonderful.”

Her show had a live studio audience, many of them smiled at Katie’s short ramble.

All of them watched her, soaking up every detail. When the show actually aired on TV, late at night, there would be discussion on forums analyzing small things like the words she chose, the way she sat. Superheroes were big and people rarely had an opportunity to see a superhero in this setting. It was a chance for the public to learn what the hero was like, instead of just knowing how much ass they could kick.

Some people might shrink away from the spotlight, feeling self-conscious. Cameron thought of it as a fun challenge, basking in the attention. It made her feel better, in a way she couldn’t quite describe.

Cameron smiled and the smiley popped up on the front of her helmet, earning her a ooh from the audience and look of amazement on Katie’s face. “Trust me, you wouldn’t think we were so wonderful if you saw us without our masks.” She pointed to her helmet. “I have acne like you wouldn’t believe.”

A small lie to endear herself to them. People loved shit like that, according to the PR people.

Lying was second nature to her and sometimes she lied without intending to. Today wasn’t an exception, it was the opposite really. Today had been a non-stop stream of lies, saying and doings things that didn’t quite feel natural anymore.

Going through the motions.

“Beauty is on the inside, though, right guys?” Katie said, turning to the audience. They cheered. Once it had died down, she continued. “Well, since they’re being so nice tonight, I think I’ll start off with the questions our lovely audience and viewers have submitted.” She made a big show of opening up a drawer and pulling out a pink slip. She cleared her thought. “Let’s see. This is from Lisa, sixteen years old. Dear Point Blank, what’s your backstory?”

“Dead parents,” Cameron said, solemn. Her helmet changed the pitch of her voice but the tone was unaffected. She waited a second for it to sink in before shaking her head and laughing. “Sorry, that was mean. It was a joke.”

Katie wagged a finger at her, mock disappointed. “One more joke like that miss and I’m going to give you the boot.”

The boot was some running joke on the show. They told her not to be alarmed if Katie suddenly threw a yellow rubber boot at her head.

This question was asked nearly every time a superhero was interviewed. Cameron had the company line memorized. “I wish I had something interesting to tell you guys but I don’t. My childhood was kind of ordinary, minus the whole superpower thing.”

“So your parents aren’t dead?”

“They’re as alive as you or me,” Cameron lied.

Cameron was left alone, most of the time. There was training, checkups with Dr. Klein, sessions with Agent Brown, but otherwise she could choose to spend her time doing whatever she wanted.

She wished they hadn’t.

The lights of the amusement park were bright, blocking out the stars above. Another hour and they’d close, the lights would shut off and darkness would reclaim the space stolen from it, the noise made by rides or people would be silenced, everyone would leave.

It’d be empty.

She sat on a bench, eating a big, greasy, overpriced hot dog covered in ketchup and mustard.

People passed her by, smiling and laughing, enjoying the company of their friends, family, or significant other. Happy, at least for a little while.

God help her, for a moment she understood. It wasn’t fair, everyone around her got to be happy, got to have family and friends. Bitter, angry, with too much power in her hands, lashing out, forcing everyone else to join her in her misery, it sounded appealing, better than sitting here feeling sorry for herself.

She took another bite out of the hot dog.

Fatty foods were supposed to make you happier. Right now it wasn’t but fuck it, she already paid for it, might as well eat the damn thing. Wasting food never sat right with her, never growing out of the habits ingrained by years of wondering whether they could afford to eat tomorrow.

They.

It was the question that had brought her here, in search of comfort food.

There were holes in her memories, she was almost positive. Things she couldn’t quite remember, like a word on the tip of your tongue.

If it had been just that, Cameron would have ignored it and moved on.

Gladwell won. It had just taken her awhile to realize it.

She finished up and dumped the wrapper in the nearest garbage can. There was still time left for her to grab something to drink. She was in the mood for something cavity-inducing and tongue-coloring.

There wasn’t a line at the slushie stand. It looked like they were just about to turn off the machines and close for the night. The blue and red machines were already down. She bought a pure green one. She preferred to her slushies to be a mix of different colors but this was a minor annoyance compared to everything else.

Cameron left after that, called and paid for a cab. She could have walked or teleported but goddamn, she was tired. She wanted to sit down and do nothing but enjoy the sugary drink she purchased.

At night, there weren’t as many agents roaming the hallways. Still, she wasn’t in the mood to be around other people, to pretend and return pleasantries. Cameron teleported straight into her bedroom once she got a good look at the open window of her bedroom. The lights were on.

Someone stood in the doorway to her bedroom, his arms crossed over his chest. A teenage boy, short and thin, pimples all over his face, and Asian. His eyes were hard when they landed on her. It reminded her of a veteran, someone who had seen some horrible, awful things and came out of it serious and a bit haunted.

“Can I help you? Or is this some misguided attempt at flirting?” Cameron said, returning the favor, stare for stare.

“Tempted,” he replied, dry. “I’m Tyler. I’m also Foresight.”

She remembered Hayes mention a Foresight, once. A precog, almost definitely.

Cameron sat down on her bed, breaking eye contact, and took off her shoes. “And?”

His lips curled into a smile, smug, confident. The look of someone who knew he had won and was waiting for the moment his opponent realized it. He lived for that moment, probably, thrived on the satisfaction that came from proving your superiority.

“I know who you are, Cameron, who you’re working for, what you joined to do, what you’re going to do, a week from now.”

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Home 2.3

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Cameron yawned for the second time in as many minutes.

She sat slumped in a chair pushed against the wall, staring at the door Agent Brown had disappeared into ten minutes ago. Definitely more than the moment she said it would take. The many games she had downloaded on her personal phone weren’t entertaining enough to keep her attention when she was this tired. Last night was one of those nights where sleep was practically impossible.

“Sorry for making you wait, hopefully this will make up for it,” Agent Brown said, finally emerging from the room with two cups of coffee in her hands, handing one to Cameron. She took a sip, testing to see how hot it was, and was pleasantly surprised to find it almost the perfect level of warmth. “They’re going to let us in, soon. They need to finish a few things up.”

“Okay, so clarify something for me while we wait. Why am I even here?” Cameron gestured to the cramped hallway they were waiting in. “Visiting a facilities for crazy powers isn’t on my bucket list.”

Agent Brown smiled indulgently. “I told you last night, remember? After I caught you staying out past your curfew. You could call this a punishment, I suppose.”

“Getting to miss school is a punishment? I think we have very different definitions of punishment. Unless you’re planning on putting me here, because I’m already getting the creeps from the cheery flower wallpaper.”

“Well, maybe warning is the better word to use here. We’re not tracking you anymore but we will take that freedom away if you continue to push it.” She paused to drink some of her own coffee. “The warning is a bonus, the real reason I wanted you to come with me is because I wanted you to meet Tom.”

“He lives here?”

“Used to, now he lives at the SAA building in Avocet, like yourself. He’s been gone for a couple of weeks, he was required to come back to do some tests, so they’re certain he’s safe to be out in the world. He is, and that’s why we traveled all the way here to pick him up and bring him back with us.”

“And you want me to meet him because…?”

“I think you two might get along,” Brown admitted. “You’re both around the same age and I saw you reading that book, the one with the bar of soap on the cover, I’ve seen him reading it too. People with similar taste in literature tend to get along, so they say anyway.”

Cameron drank more of her coffee. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to introduce this possibly psychotic teenage boy to a convicted criminal?”

Agent Brown laughed, and laughed and laughed. Cameron wondered if she’d pass out. Finally, she got herself under control. “Tom is a lot of things, Cameron but psychotic is the last word I’d ever use to describe him. He wasn’t sent here because he’s unhinged or violent, Tom just can’t control his powers very well and with a power like his, that’s very dangerous to the people around him.”

Most powers had trouble learning to control their abilities at first, when Cameron got hers she would accidentally teleport random objects into new locations. It was a huge pain in the ass to find where she moved her stuff. “But he’s got it handled now?”

“Of course, I’ve been helping him, he’s made a lot of progress since we first met. It won’t be long before he’ll be capable of having a normal of a life as he wants.”

The door opened enough for a nurse to poke her head out and smile politely at them. “Sorry about the wait, Agent Brown. You can come in, now.” They both got up from their seats as the nurse pushed the door all the way open. “Follow me, I’ll show you where he is.” They did, entering the room – a small office between the waiting room and another hallway – and passing it go walk down the hall. All the walls had the same pastel green paint with little flowers in random places. The doors were identical too except for the number on each one. They stopped in front of the one marked B15. The nurse knocked on the door, the sounding echoing down the hall.

A teenage boy came out after the third knock. He was only a few inches taller than her, his dirty blond hair cut short, and his green eyes brightened when he smiled at Agent Brown.

“I assume you can take it from here?” the nurse asked Brown.

“Yes, thank you,” she said. The nurse left, going further down the long hallway, disappearing when she reached the end and turned right. “Tom, this is Cameron Pierce. Cameron, this is Tom Harris.”

He extended his hand, still smiling. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

She shook it. “Likewise.” His hand was unusually warm, as if he held it against a heating vent for several minutes.

“Come on, let’s go. Our ride is waiting for us,” Agent Brown said, before the silence that ensued could get awkward. Cameron and Agent Brown had ridden an inventor made ship to get here. There wasn’t actually a pilot, the ship drove itself once someone inputted the coordinates. They walked back to where they just came from.

“So, what were you doing in there?” Cameron asked.

He shrugged. “Just having me test out my powers, see how well I control it, check what my power level is. That kind of stuff.”

Ten years after the government officially acknowledged the existence of superhumans, an inventor came forward with a device that could detect the energy surrounding all superhumans. Power levels were based around the amount of energy around a superhuman. The device wasn’t perfect, though, there had been some cases of superhumans not being detected by the device at all. Creed told her it was possible to learn how to conceal this energy to bypass the detectors, it was how he managed to keep his identity hidden despite interacting with the SAA often.

“That so? What’s your level?” Agent Brown gave her a warning look. Cameron rolled her eyes. “If you don’t mind me asking, of course,” she added.

“I don’t mind, really,” Tom said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Thirteen. I’m a level thirteen.”

Cameron whistled, impressed. Thirteen was considered to be very high, it was estimated that in twenty years, thirteen would be the average power level for superhumans. What a scary thought. “I’m only seven myself.”

“Seven isn’t anything to be ashamed about, Cameron. It’s quite impressive, really,” Agent Brown said.

“I don’t think level is anywhere near as important as the power itself, I consider yours to be way more useful than mine,” Tom said.

She felt her phone vibrate, distracting her from the conversation. Her personal and SAA phones were both set to ring if someone sent her text message or called, this had to be the burner phone.

Creed was trying to get in touch with her.

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When the Chips Are Down 1.2

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Cameron surprised herself by not leaving the second she got the chance to.

The only reason she suffered through the interviews, the training, school, and all the restrictions was because of the note Creed had left taped to the window. Stay put and get ready. Whatever he was planning, all of this, her being a superhero, it was a part of it. She trusted him, maybe more than she should have, especially given his powers.

It took three months for her to go through all the training and be deemed ready for fieldwork. In those three months, Cameron had a lot of time to herself, locked away in her room with nothing but a computer. It gave her a chance to think about her life, how she got here. Too much time. Talking with Agent Brown, the woman responsible for convincing Agent Hayes, the guy in charge of every superhero in the city, to let her become a hero instead of sending her to jail, was bad enough but some of the things she said, Cameron couldn’t help but wonder about in her spare time.

She was a nice lady though, much better than Agent Hayes.

Agent Brown stood beside her today, dressed in a black business suit with a pencil skirt, her long dark hair in a professional bun. Hayes was in charge of the local heroes but Agent Brown was an expert in handling them, making sure they were taken care of mentally and physically. From what Cameron heard, she had an excellent track record when it came to young superhumans and agents from other cities often came to her for advice, sometimes even sending their troubled young heroes to her.

“This isn’t something you should be worried about,” Brown said, as the elevator moved toward the fourth floor. “It’s a test run, see how well you do out in the field, working with a team member. It won’t be very exciting.”

Cameron smirked. Worried was the last word she’d use to describe how she felt right now. Apathetic didn’t quite fit, either.  She didn’t care whether she did well or not on this outing because she didn’t care about this superhero crap. She was kind of excited to get the opportunity to fight again, though, when they finally gave her superhero status. It was one of the things she had liked about being a criminal, the excitement and danger. “I can take care of myself.”

The elevator stopped, and the doors slid open. Standing around in front of the elevator was the team member assigned to go with her, Ionic. Agent Brown had told her a little about Ionic before they got into the elevator. Under that smooth black helmet was apparently a teenage girl around Cameron’s age. She lived in the building like Cameron did, for a reason Agent Brown didn’t feel like sharing, and she was an inventor, an odd type of superhuman who appeared to make highly advanced pieces of technology but the things they built could break the laws of physics. People liked to argue whether they did ‘real’ science or not. Even if Agent Brown hadn’t told her that, Cameron would have been able to guess from the costume Ionic wore. The girl looked like a grey, black, and blue robot. Unlike the helmet, the rest of it wasn’t as smooth, Cameron could see the seams, where pieces of the armor connected with each other. It was mostly grey, with the helmet, boots, belt, and gauntlets in black. Two fingers of the gauntlets, the middles ones, were a glowing sky blue, tracing a line from the fingertips to her shoulders.

On the front of her armor, above the chest glowed a blue circle ringed with smaller circles.

Very cliche, having your emblem on the chest.

Cameron’s own costume was just a black bodysuit, not skintight, a matching black helmet, and utility belt. They were apparently in the process of making her an actual costume while the PR team thought of a good name. They told her she could come up with names and they’d consider it but honestly, Cameron sucked ass at names and she didn’t have the patience to sit around, trying to think of a name that sounded cool, fit her, and wasn’t taken. Too much work.

They stepped out of the elevator and walked up to Ionic. Agent Brown smiled. “Ionic, meet Cameron, you can call her Teleporter during the mission.”

“Teleporter?” Cameron said. “I can see why you’re not on the PR team.”

“It works though, doesn’t it?” Agent Brown said, still smiling. “You’ve both been informed about the mission today. Are there any questions, before you go?”

An agent had given Cameron a packet with everything she needed to know about what they were doing today. The person they were after, the rules they expected her to follow, and there were very clear instructions on what to do if the situation got too much for her to handle. Cameron had scoffed when she read that part. They really had no idea what she had to deal with, while she worked for the True Gods, one of the most powerful supervillain organizations in North America. Then again, they didn’t know about that, her being a member of the True Gods. If they did, well, Cameron supposed she would have been occupying another jail cell, far away from young, impressionable superheroes like Ionic.

“No,” Ionic said, voice altered by some device in her helmet, it made her seem even more like a robot. Cameron shook her head.

“Okay. Follow Ionic’s lead, Cameron, she’s the one with experience. Good luck.”

Cameron frowned. More experience being a superhero, definitely, but when it came down to combat experience, Cameron doubted Ionic had more. While she had passed her combat exam with flying colors, she heard it was rare for teenagers to actually pass the exams, unless they were one of those ultra-strong powers. Ultra-strong powers were superhumans who had superpowers at a level far beyond their peers, there used to only be a handful of them but more and more of them were popping up every year. A continuation of the trend, each generation of superhumans, on average, was stronger than the last. One of the major reasons why teenagers were even allowed to be superheroes. Inventor types like Ionic, while versatile, never reached the level of power that ultra-strong superhumans did. Ionic obviously passed her exam, which meant Ionic had to be somewhat decent in a fight but Cameron had learned from other villains, they weren’t the type to coddle you.

Without a word, Ionic started walking. Cameron followed.

This was her first time being on the fourth floor, an entire floor reserved for the local superheroes to use as their base of operations. There weren’t that many of them, these days.

They passed a lounge with a nice looking TV, a kitchen, and a dozen rooms with closed doors on their way to another elevator. This elevator took them directly to a special parking garage separate from the one non-powered agents used. Superheroes kept their vehicles and inventions too big to store in their equipment rooms here. Ionic led her to a row of four differently colored motorcycles.

“I’ve been told you can drive a motorcycle?” Ionic said.

This guy she was… friends with had taught her. “Yeah,” she answered. “I officially got my license about a month ago.”

Ionic climbed onto a motorcycle that shared the same colors as her armor. “Which one do you want?” Cameron didn’t know a whole lot about motorcycles but she liked how the black and yellow one looked, she pointed to it. Ionic didn’t move a muscle but the engine of the motorcycle Cameron picked suddenly revved up. “Stay behind me, don’t get lost.”

Lost? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Cameron knew exactly where they were headed to, it was in the packet, Ionic had to know that. Ionic’s voice modifier changed her tone, turning it into an even monotone, not something Cameron could use to figure out if it was a joke or not. That girl didn’t seem like the joking type, anyway. Either way, Cameron did what she was told, even if she didn’t like it, and let Ionic lead them out of the garage and onto the street. There would come a time when she’d be calling the shots, soon hopefully.

When they stopped at a red light, some people reached for their phones, a few aimed it at them, taking a picture. They were both in full costumes, and Ionic had been around long enough for people to recognize her. No one tried to follow them, this would look like a routine patrol to them, nothing noteworthy.

They reached their destination, a warehouse on the edge of town.

The mission was simple, with very little chance of things becoming interesting. They were here to help track down the Detective, notorious information gatherer. She was apparently somewhere in the city, and an informant swore they met her outside this warehouse. The packet included loads of information on the Detective, while skirting around the issue of why the SAA wanted her. It was obvious, though. Either she got her hands on information they definitely did not want leaking to the public or she knew something they wanted to know. The Detective was a hard person to get a hold of, and she didn’t like working with the government unless it was absolutely necessary.

Agents had already come and interviewed the people who worked at the warehouse that might have seen her, finding very little. They thought two superheroes – or one superhero and one criminal-turned-superhero – might be more approachable than a bunch of guys in suits. That, and Ionic had a lot of fancy gadgets that might help.

“We’re going to take a look around,” Ionic said. “I’ll be scanning our surroundings with my equipment.” She pulled two black metal spheres the size of a tennis ball out of a pouch on her belt, the same symbol on her chest adorned both of them. The symbols glowed blue and hovered in the air when she let go of them.  They went in opposite directions around the warehouse. “Alright, follow me. Let me do the talking, but observe. Combat skills aren’t the only ones you’ll need for this job.”

Well, wasn’t that familiar. Creed had said something similar once, after recruiting her. Cameron shrugged and gestured toward the door to the warehouse. “After you then, captain.”

“I am your commander officer, here, on this mission, as well as when we get back to base. It’s an unofficial position, but Agent Hayes has made me the leader of our city’s team of superheroes.”

Cameron quirked an eyebrow, then remembered she was wearing a helmet. “Yeah? I wasn’t told that. Aren’t you kind of young for that? They never let kids be the leader.”

“It’s why my position is unofficial. The man, who in the eyes of the public, is in charge is unfit. For many reasons. Keep my position in mind, Teleporter, because I wouldn’t have it if I wasn’t capable.”

Even without a tone to read, Cameron got the message loud and clear. It was her way of telling Cameron not to mess with her or give any attitude, to show a little respect instead. She got the feeling respect was important to Ionic.

Cameron gave her a sloppy salute.

Without another word, they entered the warehouse.

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