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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The Long Way Home – B

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Felix did end up getting more girls to entertain them. A good mixture of brunettes and blondes. They kept him up late which meant he was snoring like a baby when David woke up early. His spirit messed up yesterday by attacking and being forced to retreat. Now Gladwell knew there were people aware she was here and they wanted her dead or gone. She would be more prepared for them when having the element of surprise was an advantage they needed against someone as strong as her.

Some people just had all the luck.

David didn’t need luck, he’d make his own. Bitch was going to pay for making him look like a fool in front of the rookie.

This time he wouldn’t let his spirit do the work for him, this was a job only he could do. He summoned his spirit but seized control immediately. Most of his attention was on it and its body but he could still move his own body, was still aware of it and what was happening there just not to the same extent he had normally. He had his spirit go through the walls and grab him a cup of coffee. If he fell asleep or someone disturbed him and he lost his concentration then control of his spirit went back to it. David couldn’t afford to make a mistake here, his pride wouldn’t allow it.

He swallowed mouthfuls of coffee before he let his spirit leave the apartment. If Gladwell was smart, she would have found a new place to stay while she was in town, somewhere people wouldn’t expect her to stay at. No abandoned warehouses or sketchy motels. He decided to recheck every location on the list anyway. If she was smart, she wouldn’t be there but people like Gladwell got arrogant. Too used to being top of the food chain.

David lost track of time, it wasn’t like his spirit wore a watch. As expected, she wasn’t hiding in any of the locations on the list or maybe she was just out for awhile, doing business. He flew around Avocet, using his spirit’s unique way of perceiving the world to search for Gladwell. Yesterday’s fight had let him get a good look at Gladwell’s mist. Every power’s mist was different from the mist surrounding everything and the mist of other powers. That was just how it was. David didn’t care about the whys.

Felix had woken up while David was searching and made some noise in the kitchen before returning to his room. The kid was smart enough to keep to himself and not disturb David.

He felt his stomach growl. Well, considering all the work he had done, he deserved a break. His spirit could manage for a few minutes. He released control of his spirit and went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. Nothing too fancy, he didn’t have the time or patience to sit around and cook a good meal. His wife had usually done most of the cooking but he had been forced to learn after she left him and their daughter.

Ten minutes to make then eat the sandwich, go to the washroom, and some stretching. David returned to his room and made himself comfortable before he tuned back into what his spirit was doing.

It had been productive while he rested, continuing the search. The search was so boring David felt like dropping down to his knees and thanking the universe when he spotted bright flashing mists. Powers fighting each other. Had to be Gladwell, barring one exception the city was too peaceful for it to be anything else.

Gladwell was soaring through the air chasing after a ship, the size of two vans stuck together with glowing blue lines running across it and coated with mist. Inventor made. The ship had been damaged and was struggling to stay in the air as Gladwell pelted it with more energy blasts. The people in the ship owed him one. David swooped down and slammed into Gladwell. He didn’t give her an opportunity to get her bearings. He dug his fingers into her skin, ripped through it. One of her hands sliced through his fingers when he moved to do it again, the other cut off his spirit’s shadowy arm from the elbow down.

He flew backwards to give himself some space and she let him.

The ship was falling to the ground, too much damage done to it. David didn’t know who exactly was in there but chances were high that they were superhumans and he could use their help. His spirit wasn’t at one hundred percent. They needed his help more than he did theirs. It felt alright when he thought about it like that.

David went over and gave them a hand, helping to slow their descent by pushing it up. It opened fire on Gladwell, preventing her from stopping him. Whoever was aiming was frighteningly accurate, David noted, even when Gladwell became invisible. Huh, they had someone capable of seeing through invisibility like he was. That tended to be rare.

Gladwell managed to get a few blasts out but a forcefield soaked up most of the damage. Where the hell was that when they were getting pummeled?

Once he had gotten the ship safely on the ground, he charged at Gladwell. She had grown, nearly five times as bigger as she was before. She bisected him with a wave of her arm.

Fuck, he hated people with more than one goddamn power.

He felt so cold as his spirit fell to the ground. The two separate pieces were pulled together and his spirit was back on its feet. David let his spirit have control, he needed to go get Felix. He rushed out of his room and barged into Felix’s, uncaring. “I got Gladwell, fighting her right now. You need to get your ass over there.”

Felix looked up from the bowl of popcorn resting on his stomach as he laid down on his bed. “Where?” David had already pulled out his cell phone and punched in the location. Felix wasn’t a native to Avocet like he was, he’d need directions. He tossed the phone onto the bed. Felix grabbed it and left, pausing to grab a mask.

David returned to his room and took control again.

It took him a second to figure out what had happened. The people inside the ship had gotten out and were doing as much damage to the giant Gladwell as they could. Superheroes. He recognized Violet Knight and Ionic, the third one was new. Violet Knight was the most recent successor of the Color Knight identity. What made him notable enough for David to remember him was that he was a superhero, while the previous two knights – the Orange and Red Knights – were villains. Dangerous ones, too.

He was on the ground again, waiting as his body healed enough for him to fight again. Gladwell had chopped his spirit into itty bitty pieces.

Another embarrassment. What if Felix had been there to see his spirit get dominated like that? It stoked the anger inside of him and it didn’t take much to set him off. He could feel it building under his skin, demanding release, retribution for what she had done to his pride.

He rose and hit the back of Gladwell’s knee like a torpedo. For a moment, he lost awareness of what he was doing, could only feel the slickness of his fingers as they were coated with blood.

A merging between him and his spirit. He was still there, still inside his spirit’s body yet it was his spirit in control. It was savage, brutal, more animal than man. It cared only for violence, no strategy, no finesse. It was this that made him dangerous, one of the best enforcers in their group.

Gladwell lit up, covered herself in flames, and he caught fire too. He didn’t stop even as he could feel his real body shake from the cold. He did as much damage as he could, literally ripping heaps of flesh off of her. The only thing that stopped him was another bisection. His spirit fell from the sky and he saw a second Gladwell, smaller than the other one, floating in the air behind where he had been. Duplication.

He laughed manically, the sound only reached his real ears. His spirit was incapable of speech.

Fucking power thieves.

The other Gladwell chased after him, ready to take him apart. David didn’t know how much more his spirit could handle, it had sustained a lot of damage from the flames but he couldn’t retreat, not with Felix on the way, not with those heroes watching. She landed beside him. She raised her left hand above her head, like an executioner’s blade.

The third hero, the one he didn’t recognize, materialized above Gladwell, a sword in her hands. It was pointed downwards. Gravity did the rest, plunged the sword into her chest. It didn’t make it all the way through. The hero vanished before Gladwell could turn around and return the favor. The hero reappeared to Gladwell’s left and took a swing. She blocked it but the hero disappeared again the second she did. A teleporting hero came from another angle, and managed to stab Gladwell in the back again. It went all the way through, right where the heart was.

“Nice try, sweetheart but I’ve moved the location of my heart,” Gladwell said, smiling.

The hero disappeared, not making a sound but taking the sword with her.

It gave him enough time for his spirit’s body to pull together.

He leaped up from the ground and grabbed Gladwell’s head, ignoring her hands cutting into him. He squeezed as hard as he could, until he felt her skull collapse between his hands. For good measure, he ripped off her arms and legs. They came off as easily as the limbs of a barbie doll. It would have been harder to do if this Gladwell was still alive.

“You helped us not crash, I bought you time to recover. We’re even.” He spun around and the hero was standing behind him. The voice made him think it was a girl. “I don’t owe you anything else.”

He shrugged. Didn’t matter, he didn’t plan on needing her help again.

She vanished again. David looked around and found her beside her companions. The sword had remained deadly sharp even in her hands.

The giant Gladwell had shrunk back down to her regular size. Her and another copy were flying through the air avoiding small round balls shooting blue beams. Not just those balls, there was something else up there. A bolt of lightning was shooting through the air in straight lines, chasing after the Gladwells, trying to turn them into burned crisps. Small cracks sounded as the lightning changed direction. Felix, in his lightning form.

Felix got a few good hits in before the bolt hit the ground in front of David, reforming into his human shape. He had to shift back into his human form after a minute, unless he wanted to be trapped in his lightning form forever. He flashed David a grin then changed forms again, continuing the fight.

He wasn’t going to let Felix have all the fun and credit. He took to the air and slammed into the closest Gladwell while she was distracted.

The Gladwells glanced at each other then split up, flying in opposite directions. Divide and conquer, wasn’t a bad strategy to use in this situation. Felix moved to the ground and changed forms. David shook his head, he seemed to get the message and stayed put. She had more stamina than he did, chasing after her would be stupid. At least this way he could say she ran away from them.

Those balls came down to surround Ionic. She kept her distance but she was looking at them. David landed beside Felix, to give them more presence. He doubted they’d start a fight, but some heroes played dirty. They could use this opportunity to take him and Felix down, to make up for the fact they didn’t manage to capture Gladwell. It’d be a real feather in their cap too, if they got Felix in jail. Felix was new but he’d made a splash a few days ago back in LA.

“Thanks for the help,” Ionic said. “We appreciate it, regardless of whatever motive you may have for hunting Gladwell.”

Hard to tell if she was really sincere with a device altering her voice or if she was just being polite, secretly angry a criminal had to come to her rescue.

“Not a problem, not a problem,” Felix said. “We’ll be leaving then, got things to do. You know how it is.”

“Of course. We’ll let you go regardless but would you mind answering a question for me?”

Felix turned to him, looking to him for instruction. Wouldn’t hurt to listen to the question, especially if they were going to end up staying here for awhile, could earn them some goodwill. David nodded.

Ionic took that as a cue to continue. “Are you here in Avocet for Gladwell? A grudge?”

“Yeah,” Felix said. “That’s all we want. We won’t be causing you any trouble, if that’s what you want to know.”

“Fair enough. Thanks again for the help.”

David nodded at the three superheroes as Felix transformed and headed off in the direction of their apartment. David left in a different direction. He didn’t want to give them any clues on where they might be staying. Heroes were never to be trusted.

The teleporting girl watched him go.

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Home 2.6

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Sometimes Cameron really wished life worked like it did on TV. There, it’d either be the first, third or last location on the list, a number with significance. One of those would be where Gladwell was hiding.

It turned out to be none.

They still didn’t find anything when they looped back and did a more thorough search. Frustrating. Cameron sighed as Allison’s Ion drones hovered in the air above a bunch of storage units, the last location on the list. Maybe Creed’s intel was off. Rare for it to happen to him but nobody was perfect and if Gladwell was easy to predict, she would have gotten caught a long time ago. Still, it would have been nice if the universe did her a favor for once and had Gladwell be in one of those places they checked.

Cameron leaned against the side of the ship and watched Matt pace back and forth. Allison stared at the storage units, unusually still. Lost in thought or communicating with Hayes privately. What would people think of them, a bunch of teenagers with no clue what to do next were their only line of defense against one of the more terrifying villains around? Lucky for them, nobody was around. No one in this side of town stayed when they saw superheroes approaching.

“You’re talking to Hayes?” Cameron asked Allison.

“I was. He told us to stay here until he decides what he wants us to do next,” she answered.

“Which should be calling for backup, right? Get some other heroes to come and do the grunt work for us?” Cameron smirked, a smiley no doubt appearing on the front of her helmet. “Or instead of running around, getting nothing done, we get Gladwell to come to us. Challenge her, see if she shows up.”

“Eager to rush into danger for people you claim not to be your friends,” Allison replied neutrally. “Or is this for the common good of the city?”

Cameron shrugged as nonchalantly as she could. Ian didn’t need the scrutiny that would come from the SAA knowing they were friends, more than that sometimes. “It’s neither. I’m a girl of action and I don’t like to be pushed around. That’s all she’ll do if we give her the chance to. She’ll push Avocet around like we’re puppets on a string.”

“We don’t have to do anything right this second,” Matt cut in. “We can call Agent Hayes, get his opinion. He might even agree.”

Allison took a step forward, her Ion drones coming to meet her. “If we had more time, perhaps.” She didn’t get a chance to figure out what that meant before the answer appeared right in front of her.

Gladwell looked like a person. No horns or tail to clearly mark her as something different, something evil. She wore stylishly ripped jeans and a white tank top, her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She greeted them with a wide smile, friendly. Despite herself, Cameron flinched. Gladwell came out of nowhere, standing in the center of the triangle they had unintentionally formed. “I thought I was doing a good job of hiding myself. What gave me away?” she asked.

“My drones didn’t find anything. They should have at least detected Point Blank’s energy, but they didn’t. Whatever you’re doing to mask your energy is working a little too well,” Allison answered. Cameron didn’t know what freaked her out more, Gladwell trailing her all this time or Allison having such a calm, casual conversation about it.

Gladwell was essentially the boogeyman. The very idea of her power would freak anybody out. Once she made a physical connection, the means varied but reportedly she preferred to drink their blood because of some gross vampire fetish, she could share her power, skills, memories with you, and you with her. She never left it at that, instead of sharing she took everything. What happened to the other person after wasn’t pretty. Being superhumans meant they had some level of protection against Gladwell’s power, more than the common person, but they weren’t immune. Her power was strong enough to bulldoze through resistance, given a strong connection.

“It’s new, it’ll take awhile for me to master it,” Gladwell said. “Now, what was that about a challenge? I love challenges, personally.”

It took Cameron a second to find her voice and speak with the same casualness Allison and Gladwell had. If Allison could do it, so could she. No way was she going to let herself look weak in front of these people. “The challenge was supposed to get you out of hiding. No point to it if you’re already here.”

“And now that I’m here, what are you planning on doing?”

Wasn’t that a good question? This would be easier if Matt and Allison weren’t here with her. They were deadweight if she needed to escape and leaving them wasn’t a good option. Things would get really messy if she left them to die at the hands of Gladwell.

The problem with having a brand new costume was Cameron wasn’t sure of all the commands and features like talking without it being broadcasted by the speaker built into her helmet. She would just have to hope Matt or Allison had this covered and were talking to Agent Hayes right now.

“Well?” Gladwell prompted, when no one spoke up. “I don’t have all day, you know. I’m being nice, giving all of you the chance to make the first move.”

Allison stood, rooted to where she stood, so very still. Planning? Matt didn’t seem sure of what he should do. “Don’t suppose we can get a rain check, do this tomorrow or something?” Cameron asked.

“And what would I get out of that?” She crossed her arms.

Cameron’s power required either touch or sight to be able to teleport an object and she needed to see where she would be moving it. With her already leaning against the ship, it felt obvious what she should do. She drew the stun gun. “You won’t get squished.” She teleported the ship, putting it above all their heads. Predictably, they looked up to see the ship falling down, ready to do the squishing. She used this opportunity, fired a few shots, hitting Gladwell in the face. She didn’t expect it do more than distract her for a second or two.

Matt and Allison both moved to get out of the way, not fast enough. She teleported the ship again, moving it up and more to the right, so it wouldn’t squish her too.

It gave Gladwell too much time. Cameron blinked and Gladwell wasn’t under the ship anymore, wasn’t anywhere. When the ship hit the ground, there wasn’t a sign of a person being under there. For a horrible moment, images from the news flitted through her mind, images of people, dead in mind if not body. She looked around, finding nothing but Matt and Allison seeming equally alarmed.

This was why she hated power thieves or copiers. They were like Swiss army knives, a power for every occasion. So hard to counter when you didn’t know what they were hiding in there. Doubly annoying when they had irritating powers like fucking invisibility.

She switched on her super-vision. It came easily. Something she might worry about if she wasn’t concerned about being ripped to shreds then absorbed.

Gladwell was watching them leisurely, enjoying the spectacle, a foot away from the ship. One shot. She had one shot before Gladwell realized she could see pass her invisibility and act accordingly.

But what the hell was she supposed to do? She wasn’t a heavy hitter, couldn’t make the insanely durable hurt. The stun gun was little more than a short distraction at best against Gladwell.

She grabbed a cartridge of sticky rope from her belt, and loaded it into the gun. Gladwell’s hands shifted into razor sharp blades, her eyes moved between the three of them, assessing. Cameron aimed for the face and like always, she hit her mark. Maybe it was surprise or arrogance that stopped her from dodging it, either way Cameron wasn’t complaining.

Matt charged. He swung wildly at the space surrounding the sticky rope, cutting her open.

“We need to go!” Allison ordered. The ship moved on its own, backing away from Gladwell and Matt, its doors opening. She sprinted to the ship. “Violet Knight!”

Cameron unloaded more sticky rope on her, emptying every cartridge she had stashed in her belt. Matt reluctantly stepped back, and ran toward the ship. She covered the retreat, pelting Gladwell with stun blasts. A distraction was a distraction, no matter how little of an effect it had. And it was little. Under the sticky rope, Cameron swore she was smiling.

“Point Blank!”

She turned her head. The ship was already in the air, about to fly away. Its doors still open. Cameron teleported directly inside.

The ship took off at – what Cameron was guessing was – full speed. The doors shut behind her. Cameron rushed to the window and stared at the scene they were leaving behind.

Gladwell had burned through the ropes. She gave them a wave with her bladed hand and jumped, then soared into the air. Of course she would be able to fly.

“Fuck, fuck. She’s chasing after us. Can this thing go any faster?” Cameron asked.

“Backup? Do we have backup?” Matt said.

Gladwell wasn’t that far behind them, closing the distance a little more with every second that passed. The tip of her sword hands pointed at the back of the ship. It glowed and the glow kept getting brighter.

The entire ship rattled from the hit. It knocked her off balance, and Cameron fell to the floor.

Not long after, she could feel the ship falling too.

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Home 2.5

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Matt and Allison were already there in the garage, waiting for her, when she arrived. Their helmets hid any glares they might be directing her way.

“Where we heading off to first, boss?” Cameron asked, seeing as Allison held the folder with the list of Gladwell’s possible hideouts. Cameron had her own copy, but they didn’t know that.

“I’ve planned out our route, to give us the shortest travel time,” Allison said. “Are there any objections to following it?” Matt shrugged.

Cameron shook her head. “What about Droid, though? Is he coming?”

“No,” Allison answered. She didn’t elaborate and Matt didn’t feel like chiming in with an explanation either. Gee, they must get along because of their shared characteristic of being such great conversationalists. “We shouldn’t waste time, let’s go.” Without anyone moving a muscle, the ship’s hangar doors opened, the same ship Cameron and Agent Brown rode to pick up Tom. They all piled in, Allison sat in the pilot’s chair, the seat next to hers was left empty as Cameron and Matt settled down in the benches pressed against the walls of the ship. Then they lifted off, flying toward the first location.

The ship barely made a sound as it flew.

“How are we going to do this?” Matt said, breaking the silence. He tapped his armor, unlike the ship it did make a sound, and it was loud.  “I’m not the best at recon. And she’s new.”

“At least this new girl is stealthy, unlike you tin man,” Cameron retorted. “Is your stealth suit at the cleaners?”

He groaned. It sounded kind of different from his out of costume voice, though she didn’t hear enough of it to say for sure. “I don’t have any suit but this one, and I can’t change it, or anything about it, alright?”

“Cameron and I will go investigate, you stay close by and come if there’s any unexpected trouble,” Allison said. “We’ll be landing in exactly a minute and ten seconds.”

“According to the card that came with this.” Cameron gestured to her new costume. “It’s Point Blank.”

Allison shook her head, her disappointment clear as day. “Ignore her,” Matt said. “She has a thing against two word codenames, I heard she argued with the PR team when they tried to stick her with one when she was new.”

“They’re clunky,” she protested.

Conversation stopped as the ship slowed then landed on the street. The back door opened and they hopped out.

Cameron recognized this part of town. It wasn’t far from where her, and Ian’s, apartments were. Scary to think how close Gladwell could be to them without either of them knowing. One of the big reasons Gladwell hadn’t been caught before was her ability to change her appearance, there was a lot more to it than that obviously; a mere shapeshifter wouldn’t freak out some of the strongest powers in the country.

The first place on their list was an Italian restaurant, down the street from where they parked the ship. A few people on the street saw them and scattered, practically running away from them. Ah, she loved being in the bad side of town, people knew to mind their own business.

“I’ll have my Ion drones scan the area for superhumans. Point Blank, survey the restaurant. I assume a thief like yourself knows how not to be seen?” Ionic said.

Cameron smiled, and if the PR team listened to her suggestion, a big glowing smiley face would appear on the front of her helmet.

Ionic sighed. “Hurry up and go, and turn that off. You’ll attract more attention with it on.”

The PR team had called her up many times while they designed and built her costume, asking for her opinion and features she would want added. Having smiley face pop up on her helmet every time she smiled was one, a camera capable of zooming in and panorama was another. Fortunately, she actually listened when they told her how to use it. Cameron squinted. Once she got a good look at the alley beside the restaurant, she teleported there.

As much as she loathed to do it, she made a circle on her helmet with her finger, shutting off the smiley face feature.

Cameron tugged on the alley door. Locked. Of course it would be, life could never be too easy. It’d be boring if it was. A pin and tumbler, it looked like. She checked the utility belt and after digging through a few pouches, she found a lock-picking kit. Another item she had requested. A moment later, she heard the click and then she was in. The alley door led to a small room, filled with boxes and crates. Nobody was in it, fortunately. Partially concealed by the boxes was another door. She crept toward it, stopping to look through some of the many boxes. The only suspicious thing here so far was her, dolled up in her superhero suit. This other door wasn’t locked. Cameron carefully opened it, making sure it didn’t creak and give her position away.

Past it was the kitchen and they appeared normal enough, maybe not as sanitary as they could be but that was pretty normal considering where in town they were.

“- not to distract him, just be polite. Get it?”

A man standing by the sink, washing dishes, glanced down at the phone he put on speaker. “Yeah, I got it. Sorry, sir.”

“Good, I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.” 

The person on the other end was also male and Cameron couldn’t say from where but she felt like had heard it before. The owner, maybe? Cameron had probably come to this restaurant before, considering how close it was to her home.

She tried to tell herself she was imagining it but she couldn’t shake the feeling.

“Point Blank, my Ion drones found nothing. Unless you saw something odd, let’s move on to the next location,” Ionic said over the comms built into her helmet.

Cameron gave the restaurant workers another examining look before she closed the door. “I’m coming.”

Even as she teleported back to the ship, the feeling remained.

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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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When the Chips Are Down 1.6

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His name described him pretty much perfectly, Violet Knight looked like some medieval knight in violet armor, with a big, badass sword in his hands. A sword he used to cut off one of Blondie’s arms.

Cameron whistled, impressed. Were heroes allowed to be that hardcore? She might have come over to the light side sooner if she knew they didn’t all need to act like the perfect little angels the news made them out to be.

Violet Knight jumped back and away from Blondie, who was clutching an already regenerating stump. “You need to get out of here. Out of the store, far away from here,” he spoke urgently.

She knew better to stick around and ask questions when people were in the middle of executing their plan, delaying might fuck everything up. She gave him a nod before teleporting out when she got a good look at a spot outside the store. The second she appeared outside, she teleported again for good measure. She turned to look back at the store, curious. Hopefully their plan consisted of something more than dropping down from the ceiling and cutting off his arms, she expected more from Ionic. Inventor types like her usually didn’t get an intelligence boost from their powers, despite gaining the ability to do super-science, but after she hyped up her skills with that little speech about earning her position as top superhero in town, Cameron expected Ionic to live up to that.

The inside of the store gained a crimson tint, becoming more red than pink. Cameron couldn’t see much from this distance, just red and violet silhouettes.

“What’s going on in there?” Cameron asked. “You guys kicking his ass?”

“Yeah, what the hell is going on over there?” Droid chimed in.

No response.

Well, she couldn’t hear or see anyone screaming in pain, she wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. “Hey, Droid, you saw me do everything they asked of me, right? And that it was totally not my fault if those two got themselves killed, right?”

“Can’t see much of an- Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuck.” Cameron was still close enough to the food court to hear the thud.

Cameron snickered. A shame she couldn’t record him falling down from the ceiling, swearing the entire way down, it’d probably get tons of views on the internet, maybe earn a few bucks from it.

“We have him subdued, more or less. If you can pick yourself up, Droid, the more eyes watching him the better. You too, Teleporter. And nice work,” Ionic said.

The tint was gone, returning the store to its normal shade of pink. She teleported to the front of the store, where Ionic stood between Violet Knight and Blondie, both covered from the neck down in sticky rope. Sticky rope was used whenever conventional bindings wouldn’t hold up to the strain people with super strength could put them under. They stuck to you and the harder you tried to escape, the tighter it constricts.

“What happened here?” Cameron asked, nudging Violet Knight with the tip of her boot. He moved his head in her direction, glaring under that helmet of his probably.

“My plan,” Ionic said, a hint of triumphant in her synthesized voice. “I set up a forcefield to trap him inside, had Violet Knight hold him down while I dropped a load of sticky rope on the both of them.” She indicated Blondie with a wave of her hand. “He seems to have fallen unconscious, it’s likely he overused his power and exhausted himself.”

“Wonder why he did all this, with how he was acting I didn’t feel like there was any real purpose to it,” Violet Knight mused.

Cameron frowned, remembering what he said before Violet Knight cut off his arm. She turned on her super-vision. That girl with the pigtails was nowhere in sight. Like she was never here. “You guys didn’t happen to see a little girl with him, did you? Pigtails?”

“No,” Violet Knight said, Ionic shook her head. “Why?”

This was the sort of thing she’d usually ignore if she didn’t receive a note earlier in the day from Creed, telling her to keep her eyes open. Super-vision had a habit of making her see strange things, things she couldn’t make sense of. Superpowers weren’t perfect, there were stories on the news all the time about people being driven insane by them, people dying because they couldn’t properly control their abilities.

“I saw her standing beside him, and when I brought it up, he freaked out,” Cameron admitted.

“Weird.”

Ionic pulled out a knife from her belt and cut through the rope around Violet Knight. The edge of the blade had a blue glow, the same shade as the blue on her costume.

The silence that came after was interrupted when Ionic spoke up. “You mentioned earlier your power doesn’t work so well when used against a superhuman?”

“Yeah, I can’t teleport them unless they consciously don’t resist.” It wasn’t too different from trying to turn on her super-vision, trying to stop a natural instinct, one they weren’t really aware of doing.

“It wouldn’t work then, if they’re unconscious?”

“It wouldn’t.”

“Damn. Transporting him would have been a lot easier if you were capable of teleporting him there.” She paused. “Trucks will be arriving in two minutes to take him away.”

He was still on the ground, out like a light or pretending to be. Cameron couldn’t tell for sure with the amount of sticky rope on him, but his arm had completely regenerated. Those shock collars they had that knocked you out if you tried to use your powers wouldn’t work as well for him as it did when they used it on her. They were flawed anyway, if Cameron had really wanted to, she could have teleported it off before it could zap her.

Droid entered the store with his armor looking a little more banged up than the last time Cameron saw him. “Enjoy your fall?” she asked.

“It was fantastic,” Droid answered with forced cheerfulness. He pressed the heel of his boot against Blondie’s nose. “Looks like he’s out cold.” He pushed a little harder. Blondie didn’t react.

“Stop. He’s tied up, defenseless, there’s no need to rough him up anymore than he already is,” Ionic said, meeting his eyes, or close enough to it since they were both wearing helmets.

Droid scoffed. “Maniacs like him are the reason why there’s only a handful of us left in this damn city.” Still, he stepped away from their captive and deliberately looked away. It reminded Cameron of a comment Ionic had made the other day, about Droid being unfit for leadership and how they kept him around as a figurehead. One of the main reasons for his popularity inside and out of Avocet city was because of an incident that happened awhile ago, resulting in the death of half of heroes in the city. Everybody loved a good tragedy, a reason to come together, something to talk about, and they adored the survivors of tragedies even more.

Standing around, without anything to distract her, the pain from getting slammed into the wall twice made itself known. Her costume had softened the hits, but it didn’t provide the sort of protection Ionic, Droid, and Violet Knight’s costumes no doubt did.

Blondie didn’t move an inch in the minutes it took for agents to arrive with special equipment to restrain him. Couldn’t tell for sure, but he didn’t look like he was breathing. Ionic had knelt down and checked his pulse, finding it weak but definitely there. The agents sealed him inside a metal box, with small holes for air. Droid and Violet Knight carried it to the trucks and the rest of them followed, in case he woke up and caused trouble. Once he was safely loaded up into the truck, they hopped into another truck that trailed behind the other, waiting, watching.

Nothing happened, Blondie was still unconscious when they got to HQ and moved him to a cell. Ionic and Violet Knight went with the agents to the cells, while Droid wandered off to do his own thing.

Cameron was escorted to medical, after Droid mentioned how hard she got hit. She would have preferred to have just been allowed to go to her room with a bottle of painkillers. Doctors were never her favorite people, an old habit ingrained from childhood by daddy dearest.

Well, at least he was easy on the eyes. A few more inches and he’d be a shoe in for tall, dark, and handsome doctor in some soap opera set in a hospital.

“You seem to be alright,” Dr. Klein said, his eyes on the clipboard in his hands, after she went through a bunch of tests. “I can give you something for the pain, I guess, maybe see if you qualify for special medication. Otherwise, you can go back to your room, get some rest or do homework, avoid physical activity. Putting some ice on it wouldn’t hurt either.”

“Special medication?” she asked, zipping her costume back up.

“Inventor made, they speed up healing. We try not to use them too often, we’re not sure on the long term effects if there are any.”

“Don’t think it’s that bad,” Cameron said.

Dr. Klein shrugged. “You’ll be the one dealing with it. Hang on a sec.” He walked over to a cabinet on the far side of the room and searched the shelves.

“Are you close to being finished?”

Cameron jumped a little, very glad that Dr. Klein wasn’t facing her when it happened. She’d have to bury herself into a hole six feet deep if someone saw her get startled so easily. She forgot there were speakers in here, along with many other rooms in the building so Agent Hayes could quickly and easily get in contact with people.

“She’s done, Agent Hayes, I’m just grabbing something for her,” Dr. Klein called out, loud enough to be easily picked up by the microphones.

“Good, I want to have a quick conversation with her in her room. Tell her to come immediately, I don’t have much time to waste.”

“He does realize I’m right here and can hear every word he’s saying, right?” Cameron said.

Dr. Klein crossed the room and handed her a bottle of over the counter painkillers. “You do realize he’s kind of an asshole, right?”

“Learned that on my first day.” She smiled, hopping off the bed she was sitting on. She gave him a wave goodbye before pulling on her helmet and going straight to her room. The idea of Hayes being in her room made her skin crawl.

He had made himself comfortable in her computer chair, idly tapping his fingers against the edge of her desk. “Hello Cameron, I’ve heard you were a big help today.”

“And?” She took off the helmet and put on the bed, beside her backpack and the clothes she was wearing earlier, someone must have brought them to her room from the car.

“You’ve heard of the tragedy, haven’t you? That left me with half a team, most of them children. Not many heroes wanted to transfer here after we fucked up that badly. I do the best I can with what I have, regardless. We managed well so far but it’s been quiet and I have it on good authority that it won’t stay that way for long. Anymore screw ups and I’m liable to be out of a job. Today’s not as bad as it could have been, but it wasn’t good either. See my predicament?”

He didn’t wait for her to respond.

“Start packing up your things, we’ll be moving you to the fourth floor by the end of the week. Welcome to the team, Cameron.”

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When the Chips Are Down 1.5

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Well. Maybe he wasn’t completely insane but that didn’t change what she had to do here. Keep him occupied for a few minutes while Ionic set stuff up. Easy peasy.

She teleported a table this time, positioning it next to his head instead of his legs. This time, she didn’t stop and wait, she teleported every piece of heavy looking furniture stuck to the wall within her line of sight, one at a time. She only managed to whack him with four tables and a chair when the attraction effect on the wall wore off, every object pinned to the wall fell to the ground in a loud clatter. No chairs or anything above her, fortunately, just paper bags, straws, and plastic cups. She shut off her perception power. It’d do her no good if it started distracting her when she lost control of it.

Cameron felt that pull again, dragging her forward, closer to Blondie and Little Blondie. Then, it really pulled, but from a different direction. One was dragging her forward, the other forced her up, both with the same dizzying speed it had earlier. It didn’t last long.

It hurt all over, like someone ran her over with a bulldozer. She knew she should be doing something, but she couldn’t hear herself think over her pounding head.

“Hey, kid, you alright?”

That voice, she recognized it. Comms? To talk you had to… tap. Right, tap the helmet. She tapped her fingers against the helmet four – five? – times.

“Kid, hey. Hey! Over here, look to your right and up.”

She did. This guy she’d seen before, on the news, sometimes even flying high in the sky over the city on a patrol. When talking about Avocet’s superheroes, he was the guy at the heart of the discussion. He was Droid, the city’s most promising star. Suited up in a slick costume, a white trench coat over grey knight armor, he was against the ceiling, looking down at the food court, arms at his side. “Are you alright?” he asked.

“Shit,” Cameron said. “Damn. That fucking hurt.”

How far was the range on this guy’s power? It was good enough to drag all tables and chairs to the wall, so safe to assume nowhere in the food court was a good place to teleport to, unless she wanted to ram into the wall again when his power took hold of her. From this angle, up at the part of the wall that met the ceiling, she could only see the left half of the food court. Her head was starting to feel a little better, or maybe she was just getting used to it, but she could think.

Blondie was over by the wall, his hands on a table and chair. He stepped back as they flew through the air, little furniture missiles. Cameron teleported, stumbling when she appeared beside Blondie. She looked behind her, then teleported again, putting some distance between them. Definitely wouldn’t be pleasant if he was capable of using his power on other superhumans. When she didn’t feel the pull of his power at her new location, she drew the stun gun, aimed, and fired. With each pull of the trigger, a ball of red energy came out of the barrel. They knocked him back, tore up his clothes even more. He slapped the floor, and the blasts changed their trajectories mid-flight, diving at the spot he touched.

He was still smiling, staying where he stood. Toying with her, seeing what she could come up with.

“You guys done yet?” Cameron said.

“Almost, just need him to get into position. If you could get him out of the food court and to the clothing store to your left, the pink one, that would be great,” Violet Knight answered.

“Any chance you could teleport me off this roof? I could help with the luring.”

“Doesn’t work so well with other powers,” Cameron admitted. Superhumans seemed to have a natural resistance against other powers. Most people were either incapable of applying their powers directly to another superhuman or the effect was severely diminished. A telekinetic wouldn’t be able to lift a superhuman, a telepath wouldn’t be able to read a superhuman’s mind, a teleporter couldn’t teleport other superhumans.  A pyrokinetic couldn’t make someone burst into flames but they could set fire to the objects around a superhuman, and the fire would still burn them.

“Damn. Just gotta wait for it to wear off, I suppose.” 

“Get him here, now,” Ionic ordered.

How did they expect her to do that? Nothing she had done so far did more than a paper cut to the guy. He was there, smirking, fully aware that he didn’t have a scratch on him despite fighting against multiple heroes. Could she use that, his confidence? He thought he was strong, invincible, he didn’t look at all worried about any tricks she might pull. Taunt him, get him angry enough to chase after her if she runs? A little simple, but hey, Creed always said simple plans are better.

“You think you’re tough? I can see her, you know, that girl. Is she your sister? Because I have to say, it’s pretty hard to be all scary and intimidating when you have your cute little sister by your side. I mean, she’s got pigtails man, that’s the opposite of scary,” Cameron said, loud enough so he’d hear.

He flinched, body language changing from tough, confident to… he looked like a trapped animal. “You see her?” He sounded hopeful.

That definitely wasn’t the reaction she wanted, or needed. “Yes,” she said. Wait, no, she could still do this, this might work just as well as the ‘getting him angry’ plan. “Who is she?”

“You have to listen to me! She’s a monster and no one even believes she exists, except the people she wants to know about her,” he yelled, wild and desperate. “Please, you have to-”

Cameron sprinted to the pink clothing store.

“Wait! Come back here!”

She risked a glance back, he was chasing her and he was fast when he wanted to be. Much faster than her when she was running but she was closer to the store than he was. She nearly crashed into a mannequin as she barged into the store. He came in a second after her, and he did crash into the mannequin at the front of the store, knocking it right to the ground.

He ignored it, stabbing a finger in her direction. “Hey! Listen to me! This might just be the most important thing I can do before I go away. Might make this whole thing worth it.”

“Ionic? Now would be a great time for your plan,” Cameron whispered. Louder, she said, “Well, I’m listening now. What the hell are you talking about?”

“I made a mistake and I’m not the only one paying for it. I didn’t want this to happen, you have to believe me, I’m not – I wouldn’t do something like this. She’s doing it, this is all her fault, god, I didn’t want this to happen. Jesus Christ, no one knows what they’re up against,” he rambled, she could barely hear him.

“Ionic, where the hell are you,” she muttered.

“She’s after all of us and I can’t stop her, maybe none of us can. But we have to try or it’ll be worse, be a lot worse. Goddamn it, you have to fucking try, understand? Jesus, I don’t even know how much I have left and the fact she’s letting me tell you this isn’t a good sign. She wouldn’t have let me if she thought you might be able to do anything. Fuck. I don’t know what to do, if there’s anything I can do.”

Cameron blinked. Droid was right, this guy was missing a few screws. “What is any of that even supposed to mean? I can’t really do anything if you don’t tell me clearly. Who is she?”

A purple blur came down from the ceiling. Gleaming metal, then a spray of blood.

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When the Chips Are Down 1.4

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Other than being a place of learning, school provided a place for Cameron to meet up with some of her old partners in crime without someone in authority breathing down her neck, watching.

She had passed all their interrogations, where they sat her down, strapped a lie detector on her, and asked a bunch of questions. To be extra sure, they brought in this woman who could ‘see’ emotions. She wasn’t really sure how she managed to make it through all of that, maybe Creed had pulled some strings or something. After, they considered her safe enough to rejoin the rest of society. They didn’t think she was evil or anything anymore, but they were still being careful, not letting her out of HQ much unless there was a solid reason, like school. The SAA got her enrolled back into Augustine High, the school she went to before she ran away, many of her friends went there too.

It was actually really nice hanging out with them, even if it was within a school building. She missed the freedom, being able to go and do whatever she wanted, no rules she had to follow, no Agent Hayes. The man had a stick up his ass, maybe more than one. It’d explain why he cared so much about the font she used for reports.

Sarah was already sitting down at their lunch table in the cafeteria, eating all by her lonesome, by the time Cameron arrived. It was kind of funny, when they were freshmen, Sarah had been surrounded by friends almost constantly while Cameron was the loner. Oh, how things could change.

“You’re late,” she commented, curious.

“Had some business related stuff I had to deal with,” Cameron said, as she sat down.

“Can I ask or is it top secret?” Sarah asked. She had the privilege of being the only civilian that knew about Cameron’s criminal activities, and her current not-so criminal activities.

Cameron handed her a folded up piece of paper she kept in her jacket pocket. Someone had been waiting in front of the locker to give it to her.

Sarah frowned. “What’s this supposed to mean?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Cameron admitted. The message was short, and incredibly vague. Keep your eyes wide open today. What was the point in being so cryptic? It was like the least efficient way of communicating. She stuffed the note back into her pocket. There had to be something more to this note, maybe the rest of the message was written in invisible ink.

“It could be future stuff, those things are always vague, right?”

Cameron groaned. “I hate future stuff.”

Working with precogs was always frustrating. They were vague and cryptic a lot of the time, fearful that saying too much would change the future in a bad way, if things weren’t completely horrible. Telling someone they were going to win a fight might make them lose it if they got cocky because of it.

Keep your eyes wide open today.

Oh. Eyes. He was probably talking about that, her perception power. She rarely used it, it had a habit of overwhelming her if she lost focus, and it was hard to focus on it while teleporting things. Worth a try.

She took a deep breath. Turning it on was tons harder than turning it off. It was like trying to fall forward, resisting the body’s natural instinct to throw out your arms. There were a few false starts but then, everything became crisp, clearer than it was before. With her power on, she could see past illusions or invisibility, maybe other things. She did a quick scan of the cafeteria. Nothing out of the ordinary. She sighed, turning it off. It’d be too tiring to keep it on the whole day.

“Are you working tonight?” Cameron asked, retrieving a sandwich from her backpack.

Sarah looked down at the pasta she ate. “I’m almost always working.”

“So it’s cool if I stop by during your break?”

“If you want.” She smiled.

Visiting Sarah at work gave her an excuse to leave HQ, eat some decent food, and Sarah seemed to appreciate it. She liked to complain how between school and working she didn’t have much time left over for hanging out with friends. One of the reasons why she didn’t have that many friends these days.

She had finished her sandwich when her phone rang, the SAA issued phone. First time they’ve called her at school. The screen flashed red, which meant it was an emergency, and it had be pretty bad if they wanted her to help out.

Cameron slid her thumb across the screen, answering the call. “Yo, what’s up?”

“You need to come immediately, a car will arrive in a minute to pick you up, and give you a ride. Someone will call and get you out of class,” some woman said, Cameron didn’t recognize her voice.

Was the note supposed to warn her about this? “What’s going on?”

“Someone’s rampaging, the agent picking you up will explain the rest. Be prepared to meet them at the front of your school.” She hung up.

Sarah gave her a concerned look. “Hey, is everything okay?”

“Depends on who you ask,” Cameron said. This was, by far, the most exciting news she’d heard in the last three months. She couldn’t stop herself from grinning, she had been getting pretty restless. Nothing made you feel more alive than putting your life on the line. “Looks like I gotta go. I’ll see you later, if shit doesn’t get in the way.”

“Be careful, Cam.” She sounded distinctly uncomfortable.

Cameron grabbed her bag and left, going straight to the front of the school to wait for her ride. They wouldn’t need to send someone if they just gave me a damn car to drive, she thought. She had been trying to convince Agent Hayes for awhile now but he refused to listen to her. A beige minivan stopped in front of her, the same car they used to drop her off in the morning. They left the second she hopped in.

The agent driving looked to be in his thirties, red hair cut short, and fit like most agents were. “We have a situation at Starry Sky mall. There’s a currently unknown superhuman tearing through the mall, destroying everything he can see. As far as we can tell, he’s super strong and durable, and he has some kind of suction power. We already have heroes engaging him but they’re not doing as well as we like.” He gestured to the back of the van. “Your temporary costume is there, along with some basic equipment like a stun gun and a baton. You need to get dressed.”

“Well, guess it’s a good thing I’m not modest,” she said, dryly. She climbed into the back where her costume and utility belt were carefully placed on the backseat. She stripped down to her underwear and put her costume on, taking a minute to examine some of the stuff in the pouches on her belt. Aside from the gun and baton, there were handcuffs, sticky rope, a few packets of first aid stuff, and a spare mask. “Is that all you have to tell me? If it is, I’m going to go, I’m pretty sure I’ll get there faster by teleporting.”

“One more thing,” he said, tapping two fingers against his temple. “Do that on your helmet three times to turn on comms, twice if you want to talk, do it again if you want to turn it off.”

She tapped her helmet three times.

“-act him, there are still civilians in this part of the mall,” Ionic ordered.

“I’m trying! He keeps pulling me around, I can’t land a good hit, or any hit. If someone could get him to stay still for a minute, I could put him down,” a voice, young and male, responded.

“Give me a sec,” a deeper male voice said.

She glanced out the window, at a empty sidewalk. Using her power was like second nature, requiring very little of her attention. One second she was in the car, in the next she was standing on the sidewalk, no sensation of motion, the only indication of her being teleported was the tingling feeling she got from using her powers. She adjusted quickly, looking ahead to find another empty spot to teleport herself into. Distance didn’t matter as long as she could see where she was going. Ten, maybe twenty, seconds later she reached the entrance to the mall and found it completely trashed.

The Starry Sky mall had always been the cool place to hang out, with its many stores and the movie theater attached to it. Cameron had a lot of fond memories here, shopping, spending time away from home. To see it like this, ruined, large gaping holes in the walls, merchandise strewing the floors, it wasn’t… a good feeling.

More motivation to do what needed to be done.

She tapped the helmet twice. “Yo, Teleporter here, ready to defend our fair city.”

“Food court.” That would be Ionic, sounding almost out of breath.

Two teleports, and she was there. The food court was clear except for the blond man, standing in the center of the food court.

Her boots slid against the floors, stopping only when she hit the wall, hard enough she knew she’d have a nasty bruise tomorrow. Trying to get off the wall, it was like pushing against the current. Tables and chairs were pressed against the wall all around her, along with takeout bags and garbage cans. Some kind of suction power.

“Nice of you join us,” the deep voice said. “Sorry, should have given you more of a warning. As you can see, everything gets pulled to that wall over there. He can pull off the same effect on any object he touches.”

With everything attracted to the wall, Cameron got a very good look at the blond man responsible for all this. He was tall, not particularly attractive, and his clothes were torn and stained with blood to the point he was practically naked. He turned his head, glancing in her direction. He had a dazed look in his eyes and he was muttering something to himself.

“So what’s the plan?” Cameron murmured. “And what’s he saying?”

“Well, my plan involves somehow getting myself unstuck from the ceiling. As for what he’s saying, well, the man is clearly missing a few screws. Something about a devil, not anything important. Ionic?”

“Violet Knight and I are working on it. Stall for time, Teleporter.”

The weapons she brought probably wouldn’t be much help. She wouldn’t even be able to fight here in the food court if she got slammed into the wall every time she teleported away from it.

“How much time do you need?”

“A couple of minutes, maybe,” it was the other voice again, Violet Knight she assumed.

She moved her head, lining up her shot. The chair to her left vanished, appearing beside the blond guy. His power quickly took hold of it, drawing it toward the wall, knocking him off his feet in the process. And then he was up, on his feet again, staring right at her. The dazed look was still there but now it was joined by wide smirk, his teeth tinged red.

Smirks like those she saw often enough on the faces of Creed’s most brutal enforcers. It reminded her of the note, sitting in the van with the rest of her stuff. Keep your eyes wide open today.

She activated her perception power, and it came much easier than when she tried it earlier.

Hovering in the air beside him, whispering in his ears, was a girl, in a yellow dress, blonde hair, the same shade as the man, done in pigtails.

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