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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