BEEP…BEEP…BEEP… Daisy’s dreamless sleep was pointedly interrupted by the nagging of her alarm clock. <Fuck.> with a groan she rolled off of her stomach, wiping the drool from the corner of her mouth. She glanced at the clock in irritation, ready to send an electrical shock through its circuitry so it never bothered her again. <9:45, come on!> she’d set the alarm for 9:15, and apparently slept through thirty minutes of the constant beeping.
Daisy hoisted her upper half off the bed, while rotating her legs to hang over the side. The wave of nausea that hit her was instantaneous and overwhelming. This wasn’t the first time this had happened to her, so she slowly got to her feet and headed towards the bathroom. Her vision was blurry and her head throbbed as she navigated the short distance. She slipped on one bottle but caught herself with the grace of a bull in a china shop, but the second one nearly put her on her ass. Eventually she made it onto the cool linoleum and emptied the contents of her stomach into the porcelain throne.
The relief as her evening cocktails and churning bile flowed out of her was immediate, but incomplete. The world still seemed to rotate slightly off its normal axis, and her head was pounding. <Water.> her throat felt raw and disgusting as she pulled herself off the floor and found her way to the kitchen. She didn’t even wait the minute for the water to cool down before filling a glass and downing it.
Daisy fought back the growing sense of nausea in her rebelling stomach. <No time for food.> She switched on the coffee maker, roughly thrusting a thermos underneath the spout. <Caffeine… caffeine will help.> In reality it would dehydrate her even more, but she needed to take the edge off her headache.
She made her way back to the bathroom as the coffee prepared itself. She flushed the toilet, not bothering to wipe the little chunks of half-digested whatever from the seat, and rinsed quickly with mouthwash. Dr. Johnson was going to be unhappy enough without her breath smelling like rancid ass. She collected her mug of coffee, foregoing her usual ritual for the sake of the caffeine kick, and hit the button in her closet for the HCP lift. Her feet were a little steadier under her than they had been ten minutes ago, but she knew she wasn’t going to make it to her appointment on time. A quick look in the mirror showed her she looked like she’d lost a fight with her hair dryer, which had simultaneous blown hot air into her eyes for hours. She grabbed a pair of sunglasses from a shelf on the closet, not even bothering to remove the tags.
<This should be fun.> she took a sip of the black coffee, grimacing as the strong liquid hit her taste buds.
The elevator ride was uneventfully, mostly because it was so smooth, and didn’t upset her still protesting stomach. Daisy worked on controlling her breathing and collecting herself. She breathed deeply in through her nose and out through her mouth. She repeated the process through the whole ride, deliberately ignoring the slightly spinning world around her, and thinking happy thoughts. The door to the HCP opened, and she was immediately glad she’d opted for the sunglasses.
Lights began to illuminate the area as sensors acknowledged her presence. Those lights bounced off the metallic walls, enhancing their effect, and trying their best to stab into her eyeballs. She’d never noticed the amount of light that got bounced around thanks to those walls. The program probably saved a fortune on electricity. All they needed was a few energy efficient bulbs and the light was naturally spread by the hallway’s material.
Daisy moved slowly away from the lift in the direction of the infirmary. <Maybe I can get an IV while I’m there,> she joked to herself only half serious. The fluid would do wonders in her recovery, but Dr. Sanderson was probably an uptight prick when it came to his medical supplies.
The hallways were mostly deserted; after all it was a Saturday. Daisy still passed a few people on her trek. When she noticed someone coming she tried to stand a little straighter, walk a little more confident, and basically not look or feel how she really did. A few seniors and a handful of upperclassmen gave her a wide berth as she passed them in the hallway. As far as she could make out they didn’t say anything, but she knew this wasn’t doing wonders for her image.
Daisy entered the infirmary at 10:10, proud that she’d been able to cross this much distance, in her condition, in that amount of time. The room only had two other occupants. Both wore grey uniforms, and since they weren’t lying in any of the beds, she deduced they were the healers on staff. Daisy made a beeline for the nearest one, seeing a solution to all her problems.
“Ms. Meyers, glad you decided to show,” Dr. Johnson was at his office door, arms crossed across his chest.
“Be right with you, Doc,” she pointed at the nearest healer and waved her over.
“That won’t be necessary,” Johnson waved off the healer Daisy was beckoning. “Let’s start our session.”
Daisy tried very hard to not glare at everyone in the room, mostly because the effort that went into the gesture just made her head hurt. She moved slowly past the psychologist, like a hangman towards the noose, and heard the door close behind her.
<Here it comes,> Daisy had a good idea where the first part of this conversation was going to go. She took her seat, crossed her legs casually, and waited for the medical man to rip her a new one.
“I do not tolerate tardiness, Daisy,” Johnson switched to her first name now that they were in private. “There are a lot of people whose mental well-being I look out for. Please be on time from this point forward.
“Understood,” It wasn’t quite what she’d thought he would say, but she could see she was in the wrong.
“I would like to begin our discussion where we left off last, discussing your anger,” he pulled out a notepad and leaned backwards in his chair.
“Really,” Daisy had seen this whole conversation going a very different direction. “Not even a comment on how fucked up I look,” the doctor opened his mouth the speak, but Daisy bowled right over him. “Not even a peep about the booze or puke on my breath, how I’m still probably wasted, nothing…nothing at all,” Daisy didn’t know why she was so angry, but she was.
“Would you like to talk about that?” Johnson wasn’t leaning casually back in his chair now.
“Fuck no,” an arch of electricity accompanies her dismissive wave. “I shouldn’t have to do your job for you, that’s all,” she took a deep breath to calm herself.
“It would seem to me,” he proceeded slowly. “That the issue I would like to discuss, and your previous activities might be related.”
“Did you really need all those years of medical school to figure that one out, Doc,” Daisy laughed.
Dr. Johnson was sitting straight in his chair now, his elbows firmly planted on the desk, and his face was hard. “I’m going to cut the bullshit, Daisy.” His voice was harder than before, void of that bedside manner he’d previously projected. “You’re messed up. You’ve lived a pretty harsh life, watched a lot of good people die, and some bad people get away. A lot of those bad people who didn’t give up, you pulled the trigger on yourself. You’re a living weapon, a walking nuke, whose timer is very close to detonation.” Daisy remained silent so he kept going. “From a brief look at your file, and five minutes with you, I can easily diagnose you with PTSD, antisocial personality disorder, anger issues, possibly bipolar if I could see a manic episode from you, and of course alcoholism. I usually like to tiptoe around these issues until I get a better feel for how the patient will react, but you’re pretty easy to understand. You lash out with your anger, you push people away, and you drink yourself into oblivion. Part of that is to get rid of the traumatic images on loop in your head, but part of that is also to get away from yourself.” Daisy sat motionless and expressionless at the psychologist’s diagnosis. “I don’t know what your excuses are for doing the things you do. That is what I’m trying to do here. I want to figure those triggers out, work through them with you, and get you to a place of understanding. If you’re onboard with that then we can continue this conversation. If not, then you might as well pack your bags and jump back into the bottle because no one will ever trust you again. How can you be a Hero if you don’t have anyone’s trust?”
Silence hovered between the two Supers. Dr. Johnson was well aware of the risk he’d taken when throwing down the gauntlet with the woman in front of him. She could kill him without lifting a finger, but that was preferable to her killing everyone in her reach when she finally snapped. Daisy’s expressionless air finally began to crack. First she smiled, and that made the doctor uneasy. It wasn’t a nice smile. The she giggled, a sound he would never in a million years associate with this woman, then she chuckled, and finally she laughed. It was a full body laugh, rocking everything from her fingers to her toes. She laughed so hard she started to gag, and he quickly retrieved the trash can so she could puke into it. It took another moment of half sputtering laughter; half bile producing gags before she stopped.
“Shit, Doc,” Daisy’s eyes were brighter than he remembered seeing them before. “You got some stones.” The psychologist released a breath he hadn’t noticed he’d been holding. “Ok, let’s do this.” She clapped her hands and leaned forward.
Daisy still looked and felt like shit, a little bit of puke was lingering on her chin, but she felt determined now. “Ok,” Johnson leaned back in his chair again. “Tell me what happened last night.”
“My head was killing me, had been for most of the week,” the explanation flowed from Daisy. “I wasn’t sleeping well, bad memories and all, so I took a drink. I don’t remember much after that,” she shrugged.
“How much did you drink?”
“I don’t know. I almost slipped on two bottles when I got up, so at least that much,” Daisy was surprised at how effortless it was to give the guy answers.
“I’m not going to report this to the Dean,” Daisy’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Doctor patient confidentiality and all,” he smiled warmly, his earlier anger, fear, and discomfort gone; his bedside manner back in place. “But you do need to stop drinking. If you persist, then I will have to inform the Dean for your own health and safety.” Daisy knew he would. “The headache you had was a withdrawal symptom,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
“Yeah, I assumed as much,” Daisy confronted the fact that had been lingering in her subconscious all week. She’d avoided admitting it for so long. “So I guess I don’t just drink to forget.”
“That’s not entirely true,” he corrected. “That was probably how it started, and it is sometimes occurs with people with PTSD. Your body just took it to another level.
Daisy nodded, and listened carefully to Johnson’s recommendations. The first step was the obvious one, cleaning the booze out of her place again. Even though Dr. Johnson wasn’t going to tell John about what had happened, she probably would. She was rarely able to pull something over on John, even when he was her team leader, and she doubted this was something she should keep to herself. The psychologist also wrote her a script. Nothing else she could get addicted to, but a little something to help her through the worst of the symptoms. The next week or so was going to suck, but she’d been through worse.
After getting a handle on her drinking problem they delved into her anger issues. “I’ve always been angry,” Daisy replied, when he probed her on it. “I don’t like dealing with people’s stupid shit. People bitch about their first world problems, and are ignorant to the real issues.”
“I can see where that can be frustrating for you.” He scribbled something on his pad. “It makes sense then that you respond more to blunt, direct individuals who don’t give you any fluff,” Johnson described his own technique at the beginning of their session.
“I guess that’s the chink in my mental armor, Doc,” Daisy could recall Craig, John, and a few others who’d taken the same approach with her.
“Let’s delve into what is making you angry. Can you give me an example of a situation where you had to deal with people acting this way,” this prompted a laugh from Daisy.
“I can give you a million examples. Once I had to come through a wall of a burning building to save a guy who’d set his own house on fire. Got him out fine, just minor scrapes and bruises, but he then tried to sue me for the damage to his house,” she was getting angry just thinking about it, and the psychologist taking notes wasn’t helping. “Save a guy’s life and he pulls shit like that, sometimes makes you wonder what we’re really fighting for.”
“Would it have been better if you left him to die?” Johnson questioned casually.
“Of course not,” Daisy looked appalled at the suggestion, something that was noted by the psychologist. “I just wished a guy whose life I saved showed a little appreciation. Even a fucking thank you would have been nice.”
“So you want respect and gratitude for doing your job,” Daisy looked at him like it was a trick question.
“I’m not trying to bait you into anything, Daisy,” he quickly tried to amend any rift in the trust between them. “It is perfectly natural to want to be recognized and rewarded for doing something exceptional.”
“I don’t need money or fame,” Daisy replied. “I just want to make a difference, help people, and not get sued when I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”
“How’d that case play out?” Daisy didn’t expect the follow up, and had to dig through her memory.
“The judge threw him out on his ass for being an idiot,” she recalled the incident some decades ago.
“So the system worked everything out in the end?” it was as much a statement as a question.
“Yeah, I guess it did,” he noted the slight smile on her face.
“I might be a little biased in what I’m saying next, but I think the best treatment for this particular anger trigger is a bit of empathy,” Daisy chuckled, a much richer version than the creepy one from earlier.
“Coming from an empath, I think that’s a bit of an understatement,” Johnson nodded his head in acknowledgement.
“I think a lot of the anger, and probably more than one reason for your antisocial nature, has to do with your inability to connect to people,” he continued quickly when she frowned at him. “I’m not saying to get to know the guy who tried to sue you, because he was an ungrateful douche, but you do need to interact with the people you’re charged with protecting. “
“Easier said than done, Doc,” Daisy gestured around the room they were in. “I’m down in the HCP just about all the time, and there aren’t really a lot of civilians down here to interact with.”
“True, but I think we can wrangle an hour for you to conduct a socialization exercise twice a week,” the smile the doctor was giving was making Daisy feel uneasy.
“Ok…” she hesitated, and for good reason.
“I’m going to advise the Dean that you be allowed to audit one class at the university this semester. It can be your choice, whatever you’re interested in; I just want you to interact with the people there.”
“Fucking hell, Doc,” the anger was back. “You want me to go back to college.”
“Not at all,” the psychologist kept his face neutral. “I want you to interact with people. You don’t even need to do that work if you don’t want to, but participating in group projects might be a good idea.”
“Ugh! I’m probably not going to have a choice am I?” Daisy placed her head in her hands, as much due to the last vestiges of the hangover, as the idea of being in a classroom with a bunch of kids.
“I’m going to recommend it strongly to the Dean, so probably not,” Johnson’s smile was almost apologetic, but not quite.
Daisy gave a noncommittal grunt, which he took as her assent. “Good,” they only had a few minutes left in their session. “Lastly, I’d like to cover some anger management techniques with you…”
“Let me guess,” Daisy cut him off. “Take deep breaths, exercise, count to ten…” she trailed off.
“Those are the most common techniques, yes,” Johnson replied. “I would also suggest massages to relieve tension, and tuning into the way your body is channeling the anger. Why don’t we try a few with the final minutes we have.”
Daisy had no problem finding fuel for her anger. The last thing she wanted was to go back to school. No matter how John or Johnson sugar coated it, that was what it was. She took some deep breaths, but that didn’t help too much. Counting to ten only made her think of ten ways she was going to have to deal with pre-Madonna bullshit. She couldn’t exercise, but she did get out of her seat and start stretching. It helped a bit.
“Want to come over and give me a massage, Doc?” Daisy asked, wiggling her eyebrows in his direction.
“I’ll leave that to the professionals,” he couldn’t hide the exasperated shake of his head.
Lastly, Daisy focused on how the anger was affecting her body. She felt tense, her whole body coiled and ready to explode. She didn’t even remember clenching her fists. She made sure to unclench them, and shake the out for good measure. If she had to make a guess she was about one third less angry than before.
“That’s all the time for today,” Johnson got to his feet, and helped Daisy off the floor from her stretching positon. “I’d like to do sessions Monday and Wednesday at 6 p.m. if that works for you?”
“Students leave around five, so barring any special circumstance I should be able to work that in,” she replied.
“Just stop by, or send a runner to let me know if you can’t make it. The healers usually carry information to Dr. Sanderson and I all the time.”
“Sure thing,” Daisy said goodbye to the psychologist, only to emerge into the infirmary where Maria was waiting.
“You look like shit,” she commented, handing her a coffee from one of the pricier cafés on campus. “Thought you might need this.”
“You’re the second person to say that to me since last night,” Daisy replied, taking a sip of the heavenly nectar.
“Craig?” Daisy didn’t even need to respond to the obvious. “Well today will make you feel a hundred percent better.”
<I hope so,> Daisy consented to being pulled away by the smaller, fierce-looking woman. <I could really use a good day about now.>
“I’ll give you 500,” the fence inspected one of the diamonds from the pile.
“750, and you know that’s being generous,” Lilly seemed to be casually lounging in her chair, but her finger was on the trigger of the Beretta in her pocket, and it was pointed right at the man sitting across from her.
<Trying to low ball me right off the bat, RUDE,> she thought, glancing around the shop while still keeping the man in her sights. <Could it be any more stereotypical to meet in a pawn shop?>
The shop, in the middle of Harlem, was small, no more than a couple hundred square feet. It held knickknacks ranging from low-end electronics to gold chains and watches. All of which seemed to have a perpetual layer of dust or grime coating them. To anyone who looked, it appeared like any other struggling business in the neighborhood, and that was the point. The owner of the shop, the squinty-faced fence, actually did quite well for himself. Lilly’s contacts pegged him as one of the best black market jewelry dealers in New York. At the moment, she was beginning to question those contacts.
“650,” the fence countered, putting down his jeweler’s loupe and looking her directly in the eye.
Lilly didn’t like the way he looked at her. It was sleezy. She knew she was 18, had grown into her body, and she often used that to her advantage. Still, she didn’t like how some guys, including this one, looked at her. <Villains need to be more like Dad,> she made sure not to break eye contact with the other criminal. <People don’t have principles anymore. Its money, sex, or drugs, and they’ll do anything to get them.>
Lilly thought of herself as a proper villain, but she knew meeting with these creeps was part of the game. “700, final offer.”
“Deal,” she took the man’s offered hand. She knew she was getting less than was warranted, but she had other places to be tonight.
“Where’s my money?” one of the fence’s associates deposited a silver briefcase on the diamond filled table, while the fence scooped the precious stones into a velvet bag.
Lilly flipped the clasps on the case and pulled it open to reveal 700,000 dollars in cash. She was tense, waiting for a betrayal. They each had what they wanted now, and if someone was going to try to reclaim their goods this would be the time. Fortunately, no one made a move, and Lilly quickly made a rough tally of the bills. Everything looked to be in order. She’d pay the fence an uncourteous midnight visit if it wasn’t.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” Lilly pocketed two stacks of cash, shoving them into her jacket pocket opposite the one holding the gun.
Late August in NYC wasn’t exactly cold, so Lilly was sweating under all her layers. She had on a miniskirt, fishnet stockings, a t-shirt, and knee high boots as her regular civilian wear. She was dressed in a cyberpunk style, with green hair extensions, bright neon colors, and a trippy computer chip design on the t-shirt. She could strip down to this and blend into the crowd if she got cornered, although with her power that was highly unlikely.
On top of the t-shirt she wore a custom made bulletproof vest. You had to get them custom made for women; boobs were a pain in the asses when trying to protect yourself from getting shot. She had a zip up hoodie on top of that in the same fashion trend, and topped everything off with a grungy leather coat that was slightly too big for her. Throughout the meeting she’d kept her hood up to hide her face in shadow, even though she had a plain black volto mask covering everything but her eyes. The vest was for this meeting, her outfit for the next one.
With everything secure on her person she closed the case, secured the clasps, and headed for the door. She watched the mirrors to make sure the two criminals didn’t try to pull one on her at the last second. She was so fixated on watching the two men that she almost missed the brightly colored Hero land right outside the pawn shop’s front door.
Lilly didn’t even break stride as her masked face met the Heroes’. She needed to show that she wasn’t afraid. She needed to show that even though the Hero had found out their meeting, and was in a position to detain the fence, she wasn’t scared. It helped that Lilly knew she wasn’t going to have to fight the Hero, and she wasn’t too broken up about the fence getting busted.
<Didn’t like him much anyway,> Lilly tossed away the burner phone she was carrying just as the Hero opened the door. It was clean; no fingerprints, had been purchased in Hong Kong, and no calls had been made even remotely close to home. She was in the clear.
“Freeze, you’re under…” Lilly didn’t hear the rest of the Hero’s cliché statement as she disappeared into the comforting embrace of the darkness.
Lilly reappeared in an alleyway not far from Pier 33 in San Francisco. She walked a few blocks and the teleported again to the Strip in Las Vegas. No one paid attention to a masked girl in their late teens walking alone at night along the Strip. She walked another few blocks, took a cab, and walked again before teleporting home. Any tracker trying to find her would come up empty after her countermeasures.
Blackness exploded outward in her bedroom, altering her to the presence of her father. “Welcome home, Daughter.”
Hellgate, a.k.a Altair Thermopolis, a.k.a Dad, was standing in her doorway in casual Dockers and a premium cotton blend button down. His brown loafers had been shined clean enough you could eat a meal off them. The tidy appearance matched his face; cleanly shaven except for a neatly trimmed beard, precisely combed hair above hard brown eyes, and a veneer that always hinted at potential violence. He only dropped that stance when he looked at his daughter.
The tall supervillain had a soft spot for his only child, a soft spot that included decapitating anyone that threatened to harm a hair on her head. Lilly knew that her striking out on her own villain career was hard on him, but he focused that anxiety into training her to be the best. Although her teleportation didn’t have the offensive capabilities that his did, her’s was even greater for the subtle acts she was currently committing.
“Did the meeting go well?” he asked as she heaved the briefcase of money onto her bed.
“The guy was a bit of a perv, Dad,” Lilly replied casually, dumping the cash, and vanishing the case in a blast of darkness.
“That is…disconcerting,” his face was hardening again, which indicated the fence was lucky the Hero was picking him up.
“No worries, some chick in yellow spandex swooped in just as I was leaving. Probably rounded up everything,” she made a “calm down” gesture with her hands.
“Yes, I used proper precautions getting back here,” Lilly interrupted as she shrugged out of her jacket, hoody, and unstrapped her bulletproof vest.
“Good,” it was obvious Altair’s mind was wandering, but he reigned it in with a shake of the head. “I was thinking of having a late night snack if you would like to join me?”
“Sorry, Dad, no can do,” Lilly was already pulling her hoody back over her tight t-shirt. A single look from her father told her he didn’t approve of her fashion choice. “Got another errand to run before the night is over.”
“Would you like company?” It was uncharacteristic for her father to be so insistent on spending time with her, and even more unusual for him to go out if it wasn’t on a job. Everyone in the world was on the lookout for Hellgate, even if they didn’t know he was Altair Thermopolis.
Lilly made a mental note to look into this. “Tell ya what, Pops. I’ll pick up some gelato from that place in Rome we love on my way home. Sound good?”
Altair smiled at his daughter. “That would be lovely. Be safe, and call if you need me.”
“And have Hellgate busting down doors. I think not,” Lilly shot him a smirk before disappearing in another cloud of darkness.
Lilly reappeared in a damp Chicago alley. There was a light rain coming down, but her hoody was more than enough to handle the accompanying chill. A thumping bass could be heard through the asphalt and brick masonry of the building she’d teleported next to, and that was her destination. She rounded the corner onto the street and passed behind the bouncer of the club. The big, slightly overweight local muscle had seen her. He’d be pretty horrible at his job if he hadn’t, but that didn’t stop the angry shouts from waiting patrons. He ignored them too. The club owner made it very clear to anyone who worked there, “Don’t fuck with the girl in the black mask.”
Even the owner didn’t know who Lilly was, and she wasn’t here to see him. She was here to see the tenant who rented his basement at a rate of 500 bucks a night. People stared as she made her way through the crowd on the gyrating dance floor. Euro-techno was pumping out some serious decibels, and if she wasn’t on an important errand she probably would have joined in. After all, she was dressed for the occasion. A couple guys tried to get handsy, but she easily avoided them. People didn’t realize how fragile the human wrist really was.
Lilly’s destination was the very back corner of the club, right at the end of the lengthy bar. The bartender, a cute, muscled college guy, gave her a smile that she reciprocated. If she had time she’d catch a drink with him, and then take his tips when he wasn’t looking. <Need some spending money for the gelato.>
The guard at the door reading “employees only” pressed his finger to his ear as someone more important than him ordered him to let her through. He nodded, pushed open the door for her, and made sure no one else tried to make a break for it. Lilly took a left down the hallway until it ended at a flight of stairs. When she reached the bottom, she opened the metal grate in the floor and proceeded down into the depths beneath the club.
The whirl of cooling fans was the predominant sound in the sweltering space. It also smelled pretty rank, like a lot of BO and some singed circuitry. Lilly navigated her way through the maze of processors, half-finished motherboards, and a deactivated sentry robot. The last bit annoyed her.
“Mika, if you aren’t going to use the stuff that you build, then what’s the point of building it,” she pulled off her mask and allowed her long dark curls to fall down to her shoulders. “Plus you’re security is pretty lax, I’d turn the thing on if I were you.”
Mika, a thin pasty boy who couldn’t be older than fourteen, jumped at the sound of her voice. The welding tool he’d been using met something that didn’t agree with it, and the whole piece of circuitry sparked and smoked.
“Come on, Shadow, I’ve been working on this for the last hour,” he used greasy hands to push up the protective eyewear that had slipped down his nose.
“You’re making my point for me,” Lilly placed her mask on the desk before hopping up onto it. “You get so preoccupied you don’t know what’s going on around you. I’d hate for someone to take out my favorite technopath,” she gave him a smile.
At the angle she was sitting she was showing the pubescent boy more leg than he’d probably ever seen outside the internet. She saw him gulp nervously as his eyes lingered on her thigh, and she knew she had his attention. <Kid is a fucking genius, but he’d hand over the country’s nuclear codes for a handful of boob.> she kept up her smile.
“What’s up, Shadow?” Lilly had enlisted him in suggesting names a while back, but that skill was outside his repertoire.
“I need a favor…”
“I don’t do favors,” the boys face was hard until she pulled a wad of cash from her pocket.
“I’ll obviously pay you, but I want it completely off the books,” Mika failed to catch the bundled cash she threw his way.
Lilly pretended not to notice his embarrassed blush. “I want you to run stuff through all your high-tech gadgets, and see if you can find someone for me.”
“Who,” Mika flipped through the cash, eyes getting wider. There was fifty grand in the bundle.
“Just a friend I’m looking for. Think of it as a nationwide game of hide and seek. She’s hiding, I’m seeking, and I don’t want to lose,” Lilly’s smile was there, but a touch of her inherited violence leaked into it.
Mika gulped again, taking another sidelong glance at her thigh. Lilly snapped her finger’s to get his attention. “I’ll give you another 25k if you find her in the next month. Any longer than that and you’ll just have to settle with the fifty.”
“Ok,” Mika’s expression relaxed as he turned back to his computers.
There were nearly a dozen monitors, top of the line, big and small, lined up on a large table. “Do you have a name, social security number, face, biometrics or anything I can use?”
“All I’ve got it a picture,” Lilly handed the photo of the girl with the silver tattoos to him.
“Pretty,” Mika mumbled, and Lilly had to refrain from smacking him lightly upside the head.
<Boys,> she thought with a sigh. <At this age it’s all about sex, but then again that’s probably not too different from most men,> her thoughts drifted to the pervy fence, and she couldn’t help but grin. He’d get what was coming to him in prison.
“Doable?” Lilly asked, immediately wishing she’d phrased the one word question differently.
“Sure,” Mika didn’t look her way as databases and home pages of various federal, state, and local agencies began to appear on the monitors. “Anywhere in particular I should look.”
“She looks to be about eighteen, so focus on high schools seniors, college freshmen, new military enlistees, and occupations relating to that age group,” Mika nodded, data already beginning to fly across the screens faster than Lilly could follow.
Mika didn’t even move. He just sat in his chair covered in small bits of food, grease and oil from his projects, ignoring the fresh singes on his hands, and stared at the monitors. “Want me to check the HCPs, those tats are obviously Super related.”
“Don’t do anything beyond surface level,” Lilly cautioned. “You don’t want some Hero techno-geek getting a bead on you.” Mika frowned at her derogatory remark.
“You’re cool, Mika,” she could practically feel the jolt that went through his body when she touched his shoulder. “You’re my techno-geek.”
Mika stammered something unintelligible, and Lilly took that as her cue to leave. If anyone could find something on the mystery girl it was Mika. And if anyone could maneuver Mika it was Lilly. As a courtesy she made her way out of the club and back into the alleyway before teleporting away. Teenage boys could be so moody, and she didn’t want to break Mika’s focus.
<Damn, forget to get the bartender’s cash,> she grimaced as she reappeared in Rome.
The sun was just beginning to peak its head above the horizon, and the neighborhood with her favorite gelato place was empty. Another short hop put her inside the empty shop. She helped herself to the products, getting straight vanilla for her, and chocolate for her dad. They’d added the toppings at the house. Confident she had everything she needed she dropped a Benjamin on the counter.
<Can’t have them getting a better security system,> she licked the spoon before securing lids to the two cups. <Gotta get my fix.>
With a blast of darkness Lilly teleported home, determined to eat her gelato, and find out why her dad was acting weird.