Reboot 5.3.2/1.3.2

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Author’s Note: This is the second half of Friday’s update. Sorry guys! Didn’t quite manage to write a bonus update like I hoped I would be able to do as an apology for splitting up this one update. I will, at some point, write a bonus update to make up for this when life settles down a little. I’ll keep you posted.

Cameron had complained before and often about the mandatory training sessions that came with being a superhero working for the SAA. It had less to do with the training itself, which she would have done on her own time anyway, and more with being forced to do it. She never had liked being forced into things.

But she didn’t hate it enough to not go. There were a lot of times in life where you just had to suck it up and deal.

Everyone that came to these were already there when Cameron arrived at the SAA’s big spacious gym. The sessions were mandatory but the team members with a little more clout could have them moved to more convenient times and days.

Ionic could have done that if she wanted, being the only one of them Agent Hayes trusted to not completely suck at leading their little team, but she liked to keep an eye on things, make sure they were all behaving properly and working hard.

Kate was here too, despite not being a field agent, practicing some hand to hand combat with Matt. He had been left out of the mission the other day against the Speed Fiends because he was a brute, not much else to him but strength and durability. Pure strength wasn’t so useful with guys too fast to engage in a regular fight. You wouldn’t guess Matt was the strongest out of them, he was tall and lean but nowhere close to matching the physique of a bodybuilder or even a football player.

Like Kate, Tom didn’t have to come but he always did. Kate did because she wanted to be a field agent more than anything but had failed the necessary examinations. It didn’t actually matter if she passed, her mom couldn’t stand the thought of her precious daughter in danger and the life of an active superhero was nothing but danger. Letting Kate work at the SAA in a non-combat role had been a compromise they came to after a lot of arguments, from what Kate told her.

It was different for Tom. He was dangerous. He didn’t have complete control over his abilities and when those abilities involved creating fire people – including his parents – got scared. Some incident he caused in the past didn’t help in quelling their fears. They sent him here so he could learn more control. It was one of the functions the SAA served beyond stopping superhuman crime.

He was in the special room they had for them to use their powers in without worrying about the damage that might be caused. The walls of the room could be set to transparent so everyone else could watch. Today it was. Tom was standing on one side of the room, two gigantic pillars of flame came out of his hands. The room was sealed so they didn’t have to worry about smoke or anything else escaping.

Ionic was in a corner by herself hitting a wooden dummy with a bunch of poles sticking out of it with her bare hands.

Everyone wore normal workout clothes, except Tom who wore a black fireproof jumpsuit. They didn’t wear costumes unless it was one of those special days where they did hardcore sparring with each other.

All teenage members. Cameron didn’t blame the adults for not wanting to hang out with them. She wouldn’t either if she were them.

Cameron went to the collection of treadmills they had in the corner.

Instructors came by once every two weeks to teach them martial arts or whatever they wanted. Matt, for example, liked to learn about different sword fighting styles. The rest of the training sessions were dedicated to making sure they stayed in tip top shape and practice what they learned from the instructors.

It wasn’t super useful, most of the time. She learned all about the proper way to fight from experience and what Creed taught her.

Her feet pounding on the treadmill, music playing from her headphones, Cameron got an idea.

The UltimateTech lab she had Ian destroy had to have had someone who was in contact with the Automatons. There was probably only one or two in the know, aware they had criminals working for them, to keep things as secure as they could. She hadn’t given it much thought at the time. Having Ian attack them too had been a whim, to send the Automatons a message that just hitting one of their bases wouldn’t have sent. Attacking both told them that there was someone out there with a grudge that knew a great deal about them and their business. Someone out there that knew what they were doing, someone with a plan.

That was what she told Ian to tell them anyway, if the Automatons ever came to question him.

The Automatons probably didn’t consider the two attacks much of a threat.

If the attacks were planned by someone with a reputation…

Someone the Automatons might actually be afraid of, that might cause them to act and if they acted, so would Creed’s organization.

Well, she hoped her acting skills were up to snuff.

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Reboot 5.1/1.1

Author’s Note: So, this need a little bit of an introduction before you read this update. The beginning of Knave has always made me cringe because of how terrible it is in a lot of respects and it’s hard to build a serial on a weak foundation. I had planned to rewrite it but reading it over again, it needs something more than a rewrite to fix. Which brings us to the title, Reboot. This is essentially a reboot but I’m not quite sure if I want to start all over again.

The next arc will basically be a rebooted version of Knave, if you and I both prefer this version to the original, then it’ll become the ‘canon’ version and I’ll continue this version and we’ll all quietly forget the other one exists. If this new version doesn’t work out, we’ll pretend this arc happens in an alternate universe and quietly go back to the version of Cameron and pal you’re already familiar with.

Very sorry for the suddenness of this but I think it’s necessary and perfect timing, story-wise, with the end of the arc and the introduction of alternate universes. Your feedback will be especially appreciated, now more than ever.

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It was too nice of a day to spend it chasing after supervillains.

Cameron stood on the rooftop of UltimateTech Industries’ corporate headquarters, the tallest building in Avocet. She was so close to the edge a strong enough gust might send her falling to her death.

It did give her a very nice view of the ongoing chase happening down below. A bright red blur sped through the empty streets. In the air following the blur’s trail was a ship, a tiny bird-like thing, a sphere in the center, two wings sticking out of it, and a sharp, pointed beak on the front. You’d think something so stupid looking might at least be fast to make up for it but the ship wasn’t even close to catching up to the blur, and Cameron was being charitable here.

“Point Blank, do you have eyes on the target?” Agent Hayes said, speaking on comms.

He was the boss, the Man, the agent in charge of coordinating Avocet’s superheroes. Her boss.

She tapped the side of her helmet three times with her first two fingers. “Yeah, I see him,” she said. “You’re sucking really hard right now Ionic.”

Ionic, the pilot of the ship, didn’t bother to reply.

“Can you take him out?” Agent Hayes questioned, harsh and demanding.

Her eyes tracked the blur in spite of the speed it moved at. It was pretty easy to do once she had time to get a feel for how fast it was going then she could predict where it would be fairly accurately. It came with her intuitive knowledge of an object’s position, as long as she could see it with her own eyes.

“If I can’t, we’re kind of fucked aren’t we?”

“That’s not an answer.”

Cameron smirked, hidden by the helmet she wore, and he wouldn’t be able to see it anyway, sitting in his office at the base, watching and listening.

She drew her laser gun from its holster. There was no scope attached. With her thumb, she turned the dial on the side to three. That would be enough power to hurt their little blur without killing him even if she got him in the head but it would do some damage.

She took aim.

“I’ll give it a shot,” Cameron said.

No one reacted to her stellar pun, not even a small chuckle or an acknowledgement. Geez, what was the point of being a superhero if no one appreciated a good joke?

If she wanted to, Cameron was pretty damn sure she could knock him off his ride, stopping him dead in his tracks. She didn’t want to.

Cameron pulled the trigger and a laser beam faster than the human eye could see came out of the barrel. The blur spun in place before righting itself and going on its merry way, at about half the speed. Still too fast for Ionic in her ship to compete with.

The blur slid out of the area they had blocked off, escaping into traffic.

It was too dangerous for them to try and capture him now. Forcing him to stop by hitting the other wheel of his motorcycle would send him crashing into another vehicle and at the speed he was going, it wouldn’t bode well for whoever was in the car. They would be the ones who got blamed too. As dangerous as it might seem, a motorcycle driving down the streets faster than some jets, its driver took care to not damage property or cause any harm at all.

He was still breaking the law and people wanted him caught and arrested but they would be quick to turn on their superpowered civil servants.

“Damn,” Cameron said.

“Ionic, Point Blank, come back to base. Go immediately to the debriefing room, the rest of the team will be waiting for you there,” Agent Hayes ordered, sounding tired.

“Roger,”Ionic replied and Cameron saw her ship turn and fly in the opposite direction. They had worked together for long enough now for Ionic to know Cameron never wanted a ride back unless she physically was unable to get there on her own. Ships were great and all but they took too long to get where they were going for Cameron’s liking.

From where she stood, Cameron could practically see everything if she looked hard enough, including the people down on the streets going about their business. It took her a second to spot the SAA, short for Superhuman Affairs Agency, base. It was situated downtown, surrounded by shops and restaurants with superhero themes. It was a tourist hotspot, the entire city was.

She teleported, appearing on top of the base in an instant. There was a helipad on the roof for ships and other flying vehicles to safely land on and a door leading down to the rest of the building.

She hopped off the pad and walked to the door. The tiny LED light beside it turned from red to green as she approached. Her costume automatically sent a signal to the door to unlock it or something. Ionic was the main science person, not her.

It’d take Ionic a couple of minutes to get here. She would have teleported Ionic and the ship straight to base and save them all time if her power worked on other superhumans.

Cameron strolled down the stairs and to the debriefing room. The top floors of the building were reserved for superheroes, lower level agents weren’t allowed up here for security reasons. Some of them had secret identities to protect.

The debriefing room consisted of a long rectangular table, far more chairs than there were superheroes in the city, a big screen TV on the wall playing the news, and potted plants in every corner. Agent Hayes sat at one end, silent, glaring at the TV across from him. Not all of Cameron’s teammates were here, they were rarely all gathered together. If there was no need for them to be here, they didn’t come.

Other than Agent Hayes, Tyler and Kate were here, sitting on opposite sides of the table, both of them surrounded by empty chairs. Tyler was a precog, he had told Agent Hayes their speedy friend would be taking another ride around town today and Agent Hayes had decided today was the perfect time to try and take him in. Kate was the team’s other science person, she had helped Ionic build the ship.

They were in civvies. They didn’t need costumes, considering they both weren’t field agents.

Cameron sat down beside Kate and took off her helmet. She rested her feet on the table and leaned back in the chair. Agent Hayes was too distracted by other things to yell at her.

They waited in silence.

Ionic came in and claimed the seat on the other end of the table.

“That was horrible,” Agent Hayes said, shaking his head. “This was our second attempt at capturing one of them and we failed again. From what we can tell so far, the Speed Fiends are just a bunch of thrill seekers. A gang of stupid teenagers and we fail. All we needed to do was capture one and convince them to tell us who their leader is, the one using his power to make them move so fast.”

We’re kind of a gang of stupid teenagers,” Cameron said.

Avocet’s superhero team was made up of almost exclusively teenagers. Their adult members hadn’t been as lucky as they were. Well, it wasn’t luck, exactly. Each generation of superhumans were more powerful than the last. The older members simply were as strong as they were.

“We’ll do better next time, sir,” Ionic said, her voice was altered by her helmet, making it sound more mechanical, more robot than human. “We’ll upgrade the ship.”

“I have some ideas of what we can do to improve,” Kate chimed in.

Agent Hayes sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “That’s fine. You’re all dismissed, don’t forget to write up your reports.”

Ionic was the first person out the door. In a rush to finish her report and get back to working on the ship, no doubt. Kate followed. It wasn’t easy trying to keep up with Ionic’s work ethic. The girl literally had no life outside of superheroing.

Tyler and Agent Hayes were still sitting when Cameron left.

Tyler hardly ever talked to anyone on the team but he and Agent Hayes got along swimmingly, she assumed from all the time they seemed to spend in each other’s company.

Agent Hayes was desperate for a win. All the deaths on his team looked terrible on his record and she bet that if he didn’t shape up soon he would have to go looking for a new job. It was hard to score a win when their opponents, the Speed Fiends excepted, were so well organized while they had never bounced back from the events that led to the death of their older, more experienced members. Cameron hadn’t been a superhero back then but some of the others had and they talked about it maybe once or twice in the entire time Cameron had been with the SAA. It was a touchy subject for them.

Avocet had two major villain groups, the Automatons and Creed’s organization. It didn’t have a name for whatever reason. The Automatons and Creed were peaceful, as far as criminals went, and stopped other villains from setting up shop here. They were basically matched when it came to strength so the city was equally divided in half. Their team wasn’t good enough to take out either one at this point and they weren’t a big enough problem to call in backup from other cities.

Cameron went to her room, located on the same floor as the debriefing room. It was decently sized, mostly undecorated, and furnished with nothing but a bed, a nightstand, and a mannequin for her to hang her costume up on. At one point, during her early days of being a superhero, Cameron had lived in this room but now it served the purpose it was supposed to, she took naps here sometimes if she was dead tired after training or a mission and stored her costume and weapons here.

She changed into some clothes she had left in the closet.

Other than the report and mandatory training sessions, Cameron was free to do whatever she wanted with her time unless called upon to do a mission. Very rarely did superheroes go on patrol because the chances of actually stumbling on a crime worthy of their powers was pretty damn low. The police could handle muggings and getting cats out of trees. Superheroes only tended to go on patrol to let the public see them out and about, so they felt safe and protected.

Her car was parked in a special section of the garage, only superheroes or high level agents were allowed access. It had a secret tunnel that led to a parking garage down the street so heroes could enter and leave the building without having their identities compromised.

It was kind of a pain in the ass for Cameron. It added an extra five minutes whenever Cameron was coming or going.

It probably meant she was going to be late in meeting up with her friend, Ian.

Of course he didn’t have to attend debriefings.

They had scheduled this ahead of time, she was going to meet with him at this cheap burger joint on the other side of town. Ian was strapped for cash most of the time and he definitely wouldn’t be able to afford anything too expensive now that she damaged his motorcycle with her laser gun earlier.

Cameron smirked. Ian was going to be pissed.

And the glare he gave her as she slid into the other side of the booth confirmed her suspicions.

“That’s the last time I ever do you any favors,” he huffed, running a hand through his dark, messy curls.

Cameron was still smirking. “Had to make it look good, you know? Don’t want them to start thinking I suck ass.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Ian said. “You’ve whined about what happens if they do before. Can we go back to talking about the motorcycle?

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll pay for it, but first, I’m going to need another favor from you.”

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Home 2.7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Green.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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Home 2.4

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Picking up the phone now, with Tom and Agent Brown standing right next to her, wasn’t an option. So she waited until they got back to HQ and she headed to her room, hoping Creed left a message or something.

He did.

It was a short message, giving her a progress report of his search of the city. His subordinates found a couple of places that Gladwell might be hiding in, though they didn’t venture inside to find out for sure, afraid she’d spot them and kill them. Creed didn’t want to start a conflict between his organization and Gladwell, and he’d be forced to if Gladwell killed any of his men. They were still looking for more possible hideouts, he estimated he’d narrow it down to two or three by tomorrow evening. She had been hoping he would somehow manage to get it done by tonight but tomorrow wasn’t bad. Ian could stay out of trouble for that long.

The extra time did give her a chance to figure out the little details of her plan, like how she was going to get the SAA to come investigate. Initiating a big fight that would cause a ton of property damage didn’t seem like a good idea and it was always a pain in the ass for everyone involved.

Or she could just not be an idiot and forward the information to the SAA. Right, why didn’t she think about that earlier? If Agent Hayes knew Gladwell was in town from his precog, he would be more inclined to believe and act on it. If he didn’t, Cameron could always go ahead with her current plan. Cameron liked her challenges but there were limits, stuff she wouldn’t even consider. Messing with Gladwell wasn’t past her limits but it was pretty damn close, too close for anyone’s comfort.

That was a problem for tomorrow, when she received the info.

For now, Cameron was hungry. The heroes’ floor had its own kitchen, shared by everyone who had access to it. The fridge was almost always fully stocked with only a few items clearly marked as belonging to someone. After meeting Tom earlier today, she now knew T.H was him, which left A.N. Cameron was betting A.N was Ionic. She tossed a steak TV dinner into the microwave and sat down on the kitchen counter as she waited.

“Sit in a chair, not the counter.”

She looked up from the bird game she was playing on her phone. “Ionic?”

“Or Allison Nakamura, I’ll respond to either.”

True to Agent Brown’s word, Ionic or Allison, was young, fourteen or fifteen at the most. Her long dark hair was tied in a ponytail and from the sweat and clothes she wore, she probably just came from the gym. A few inches shorter than Cameron but today wasn’t a special occasion; Allison worked out often and had the muscles to prove it.

“Hmm.” She tapped her finger against her chin as she thought. “I think I’m going to call you A, I when in costume.”

Allison shook her head, unamused. “AI. Funny.”

“I thought so.” She grinned. The microwave beeped. She hopped off the counter and popped open the microwave to retrieve her dinner. Allison rummaged through the fridge, pulling out ingredients for her own dinner. Athletic, smart, and knew how to cook, Allison had it all, it seemed. Cameron grabbed a fork and was careful to grip the edges of the box, so she wouldn’t burn her fingers. “See you later.”

“Tomorrow,” Allison said before Cameron could head to her room. “We’ll be seeing each other tomorrow, during the training session we have scheduled.”

Training session tomorrow, that sounded vaguely familiar. Cameron probably hadn’t been listening when Agent Brown told her. Allison glanced away from the contents of the fridge to Cameron’s face. “No one told you?”

“Maybe. I don’t remember.”

Allison sighed, closing the fridge. “We have one training session every week, sometimes more. It’s four to seven. You’ll arrive at the gym on time. There’s no need to wear your costume, either. It’ll be mostly CQC practice.”

This wasn’t ideal. She didn’t want to be all worn out when she went to deal with Gladwell. “I’m going to guess it’s not optional.”

“It’s not. You’ll be there.”

“Aye aye captain,” she said, forcing a smile on her face. First order of business, she’d need to text Creed and get him to send Hayes the info the moment he got enough. Second order of business, dinner. Allison was taking out a knife and a cutting board when Cameron went to her room. She grabbed the burner phone from the pocket of a leather jacket hidden in a stack of dirty clothes. With the message sent, she ate her crappy microwavable meal, wondering what Allison was cooking in the kitchen. You’d think she would have learned how to cook already, with her mom being absent for most of her life and Dad being hopeless in the kitchen.

What were they both doing now? Dead, their bodies buried in a ditch somewhere, or alive, doing whatever they wanted?

The thought of them being happy made her angry. After leaving her, at two different points in her life, with no goodbye and all the shit she went through because of it, they didn’t deserve to be happy. They should be twice as miserable as she ever was or burning in hell. Those were the only two outcomes she’d accept.

Cameron arrived four minutes late to training and she received a glare from Allison. Allison should have been happy Cameron showed up at all. Honestly, Cameron spent a lot of time debating about whether she should go or not.

There were two other people with her, a girl about Allison’s age with brown hair a shade or two lighter than Cameron’s own, and a lanky teenage boy holding a sword. The boy had to be Violet Knight. They were all just standing around, waiting.

“We doing this training thing or what?” Cameron asked.

Allison shook her head. “Agent Hayes told us not to start yet, he needs to speak to us first.”

The girl came up to her, smiling, hand outstretched. The preppy type. “Hi, I’m Kate, it’s nice to meet you,” she said, perky.

“I’m Cameron, but I’m betting you already knew that. Nice to meet you too,” Cameron said without even ten percent of the cheer in Kate’s voice. She made sure her voice was loud enough for Violet Knight to hear from where he stood. “And that’s VK, over there?”

He nodded. “It’s Matt.”

“Glad to see you all got introductions out of the way,” Agent Hayes said. She whirled around and saw him striding over to them, holding a yellow folder. “I just received this packet and if it’s true then we’re all going in to be in a lot of trouble.” He met Cameron’s eyes. “Though you may already know about this.”

She could feel her heart rate spike. Experience let her keep her expression even, indifferent. “Know what?”

“I had a few of our agents working on this since we got it.” He tapped the folder. “They’re fast workers, and get even faster with Foresight helping to guide them. Her target, as far as we can tell, are the Speed Fiends and you’ve been known to associate with them.”

Luckily, plausible deniability was still on her side. “They helped me out, once or twice. We’re not friends but in a city like Avocet, with all the big crime groups running around, we little guys like to stick together, you know? Whose this ‘she’ you’re talking about, anyway?”

Hayes broke their little staring contest and turned to address the others. “Gladwell.”

Remembering that she shouldn’t already know this, Cameron tried to look shocked, like anyone would be upon hearing a scary fucker like Gladwell was in the same city as you. “Shit,” she added, to help sell the act.

Kate’s eyes were as wide as saucers and Matt had nearly dropped his sword when Hayes spoke.

Allison didn’t even bat an eyelash.

“What else do we know about the situation?” she asked, going straight to business.

Hayes handed Allison the folder. “We know the Speed Fiends were spotted in New York, around the same time as Gladwell. They could have gotten into an disagreement and now she’s here to get her revenge. I’m assuming you all know the details of her powers and her general personality?”

“Hard not to,” Matt said. The news loved to talk about Gladwell, the havoc she wreaked made entertaining if sometimes tragic headlines.

“Included in the folder is a list of places Gladwell might be hiding in. With my more mundane operatives lacking in the innate protection you all have to powers, I’ll have you three go check out it instead,” Agent Hayes said, deliberately not looking at Kate as he said the last part. Maybe she was like Tom, someone who came here to learn how to control their abilities, not be a superhero.

The frown on her face told Cameron otherwise.

Allison finished reading and passed the folder to Matt. “You are not to engage Gladwell if you find her,” he continued. “This is strictly recon, understand? She’s dangerous and I’d like to have a plan before we even attempt to capture her.” The barest hint of a smile was on his face. Catching Gladwell would take him right out of the doghouse and put him first in line for a promotion. For once, he and Cameron were on the same page. There would be no other way to stop Gladwell from going after Ian. “Go, get suited up. Cameron, you’ll find your official costume has been completed and delivered to your room.”

Matt and Allison rushed out the second Hayes gave the order. “If it doesn’t look badass I want my money back,” Cameron said to Hayes, as she moved to follow them.

“Hey, um, Cameron?” Kate said. She stopped and turned to face her. “We should hang out, sometime. When you’re free.”

“Uh, sure,” Cameron replied. It wasn’t very often people she barely knew asked her to hang out, especially people well aware of Cameron’s criminal history. She hurried out, wouldn’t want Matt and Allison to leave without her.

As promised, a brand new costume was laid out on her bed with a note on top of it. Boots sat at the foot of her bed. She picked up the note and fully admired the costume. It reminded Cameron of Droid’s outfit, with its forest green jacket over a body armor. The body armor was black with green lines over the chest and arms, and it actually looked like body armor, not like skintight spandex that some superheroes wore. There were a pair of gloves laying on the side, beside a utility belt. She picked up the black helmet with her right hand as her eyes moved over to the note she held in her left.

Three words: Welcome, Point Blank.

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