A Change of Pace – Chapter 20

<Well, this is something new,> Daisy thought as she sat alone in a cell.

This wasn’t the first time she’d been inside a cell. Back at The Block she’d taken more than her fair share of criminals into the fortress’ catacomb of reinforced Super cells. They’d also done tours of the cells for kids and teens when they weren’t in use. It was part of the city’s initiative to clean up the streets, say no to drugs, or whatever the slogans were at the time. She’d only done a single tour before John pulled her from that duty. The phrase “traumatized for life” was thrown around a little too much by her team leader on occasion.

Daisy thought she’d be taken to the police station after her arrest by the flying tool, and she was partially correct. She’d been taken to the “Headquarters” of the Orlando Protectorate, the only Hero team in the city. The team consisted of half a dozen active members, a few semi-retired Heroes, and a larger roster of retired Heroes they could call in case of emergency. This was Florida after all. After a life of fighting crime the Heroes that made it to retirement wanted a little time in the sun. They also liked the feeling of being close enough to the familiar Hero life that they could be called into action if needed. A place like Orlando held the perfect balance, and then there was the HCP.

The end result of this quagmire of circumstances was a mediocre Hero team that could bring a hell of a lot of firepower to bear if the situation actually called for it. Unfortunately, having a lot of powerful retired Heroes waiting in the wings didn’t translate into merchandizing. They had to deal exclusively with what the government was willing to dish out. This meant that the “Headquarters” of the Orlando Protectorate occupied the top floor of the regular police headquarters. This single floor only held two cells, one of which Daisy had the pleasure of being the sole guest.

The construction of cells to meet DVA standards for Super confinement varied. Back at The Block, the New York Patriots had nearly two dozen cells. Of those two dozen cells, most were specifically designed to hold different categorizations of Supers. They had the extra tough ones for the strongmen, one’s reinforced and void of any power source for absorbers, one with a wide variety of countermeasures to handle the shifters, and a bunch of others to handle the most likely threats. The least effective of these types of cells were the one size fits all versions. Because anyone who’d been around Supers long enough knew that trying to succeed with that mentality was a recipe for failure.

Daisy currently found herself in one of these generic cells. The floor and walls were reinforced concrete able to withstand a pounding from a midlevel strongman. It wasn’t meant to stop a powerful criminal, just to hold them long enough for the Heroes to arrive. There was a bunk bed and toilet as far as amenities went, with a knee high curtain to offer a little privacy. The whole space was about 15’x15’, and everything was contained behind an invisible laser grid. It gave the prisoner the illusion that they were free to walk away, but if you came within a foot of where the grid was, the deadly crisscross pattern of lasers would enter the visible spectrum. Those lasers were capable of severing limbs, and sometimes prisoners had to learn that the hard way. The Protectorate relied on the HCP for healers, so there was no guarantee a criminal would get that limb back. It took a few times, but the word spread quickly. Now, no one messed around with the grid.

This was the standard design of the generic cell, and the Protectorate was only able to afford two of them. That was the pitfall of government funding, without any cash being brought in by the team itself. They tried to cover as many bases as possible, and while that was economical, it didn’t lead to great security measures. Case in point; if Daisy wanted to escape, she probably could.

The deadly laser grid was powered by electricity, so while she couldn’t absorb the lasers themselves, she could drain them at the source. There were obviously countermeasures in place in case the lasers went down. Old-fashioned steel bars would come crashing down to the floor immediately after the lasers failed. Daisy could either try to escape before the bars came down, or use her kinetically backed fists to tear the bars apart. She’d end up fighting the Heroes, but a little Leeching would put them all on their collective asses.

If Daisy really wanted to, she could stroll out of the team’s headquarters with minimal effort. It would be too easy. Which made her current situation that much more unbearable. She’d be fine if they left her alone in the cell, but she was forced to listen to the jabbering of the Hero who brought her in. That in itself was enough to entice her to go straight up supervillain and stomp on him.

“Crime doesn’t pay,” the kid in his medieval style costume had his feet up on the desk in front of him, and was leaning back casually. His ankles were crossed, and his hands were behind his head. If Daisy enacted her escape plan, she could probably get him before his feet hit the floor. “A life of crime will only land you in a place like this.”

The kid had dropped his Hero persona. He wasn’t shouting out words like “miscreant”, and had abandoned the chivalrous knight routine, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a douchebag. He was literally a walking billboard of anti-crime, anti-drug, anti whatever the government was cracking down on at the moment. While that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was at this moment.

“Shut up,” Daisy groaned, her face hidden in the crook of her elbow, barely masking her displeasure.

“You do the crime, you do the time,” the Hero had a smug smile on his face, a face Daisy wanted to smash.

<Be a good girl, Daisy. People will be here soon,> she’d been saying this for the last two hours. <If John is letting me stew then I’m going to put my foot up his ass.> However this might play out, someone was getting hit.

The plain door at the end of the room opened. This was another flaw in the security precautions. This door was comprised of thin wood. Daisy could tell the material composition by how easy the new entrant pushed it open. This was an issue because if someone escaped from the cells then there wasn’t a second layer of protection separating them from the Heroes. If the criminal got through whoever was on staff, then they’d have a free for all with the unsuspecting cops downstairs. It was a recipe for disaster.

<Whoever their subtlety specialist is should be shot,> Daisy’s bad mood was influencing her choice of punishment.

The woman who effortlessly pushed through the undependable door was dressed in a skintight costume. The primary colors were blue and white, which formed a hypnotically circular pattern. She wore a utility belt full of an assortment of contraptions, and brought the whole ensemble together with what looked like a reinforced hockey mask. It was an outfit designed to hide someone’s identity while still showing off a bit. The only telltale distinguishable features were the individual’s hair and eyes. You could only tell her skin color because she’s taken off her gloves as she entered the room.

The new Hero didn’t spare a glance for the three criminals in the opposite cell. Her eyes were on Daisy. It took a moment to place that black hair and black eyes; but cross referenced with the height, build, and the fact she was a Hero, led Daisy to the correct conclusion.

“Hey, Amped. I was just giving our newest guest…”

“Shut up, Galavant,” Amped, a.k.a, Grace, snapped. “You better have made this arrest by the books, or else you’re going to be looking at shit duties for the rest of your career.”

Galavant’s mouth dropped open at the sharp retort. “Of course I did.” He went on the defensive.

“Good. Now open the cell,” Amped was standing directly in front of the laser grid now, her hands on her hips, and a glare fixated on Daisy.

“What?” Grace turned that glare on the young Hero when he hesitated. “Open the cell, rookie,” Daisy’s thoughts were confirmed. This was a kid right out of his internship with his first team.

There was a tense moment of silence as the angry veteran stared down the scared newbie. A moment of silence Daisy just had to break.

“Skintight…really. You don’t strike me as an “if you have it flaunt it” kind of person,” Daisy swung her legs from their resting place on the bed onto to floor. “You’re also not as durable as a lot of people.”

Daisy could imagine the slight blush on Grace’s face as she turned her attention away from the kid. “It’s tougher than it looks,” she growled. “And you shouldn’t be a smartass, the boss is pissed.”

Daisy shrugged, having assumed as much already. She also knew she was in the right, so she wasn’t too worried about John. What she needed to be worried about was the DVA and the bureaucratic clusterfuck this whole incident was going to create. And although she disliked Galavant, she felt bad for the headache he was going to have to go through.

“I’m not just going to open the cell for you, Amped,” Galavant crossed his arms defiantly across his chest. “I saw this woman take out the three other Supers over there. She’s obviously dangerous.”

“I know,” Grace’s response caught him off guard. “She is probably the singularly most dangerous person around,” Galavant’s facial expression was victorious. After all, she’d just made his point for him. “But she’s also an HCP instructor, so open the damn cell.”

Galavant’s face was priceless. He’d gone from scared, to confused, to defiant, to victorious, and was now back at scared. He was still close enough to his HCP graduation that he saw HCP instructors as demi-gods instead of the combat hardened veterans they really were. Daisy could practically see him recalling their entire two hour interaction in his mind, and was a tad pleased when the little skin his mask showed got a shade whiter.

“Galavant, cell,” Daisy snapped her fingers to bring the young Hero out of his worst nightmare.

The kid sprang into action like dog eager to please its master. The controls were on the desk he was already sitting at, so all he had to do was power down the laser grid. With a dying fizzle the grid extinguished, and Daisy was allowed to come face to face with her tormenter.

“That’s better,” Daisy stretched lazily, feeling her back pop audibly. Then she set her eyes on Galavant. “So you’re this team’s fresh meat,” she invaded his personal space, causing the man to take an involuntarily step back. “When I finished up with my boss you and I are going to have a little friendly sparing match.” Daisy could see the man gulp at the implication. “I’d start stretching now; I’ll be back for you in a minute.”

“Go easy on the kid,” Grace tried to cool Daisy’s temper as the two women left Galavant in the room. “He’s really a good kid, a bit idealistic, and obviously has a chip on his shoulder, but he’s still one of the good guys.”

“I know,” Daisy’s anger was still bubbling, but a lot less than usual. She actually felt pretty calm. “He still needs a lesson. He might have graduated from the HCP, but he obviously has a lot to learn.”

Grace didn’t argue the point, mostly because John and half a dozen DVA agents were waiting for them in the other room. That didn’t surprise Daisy. What did catch her off guard were Jackson and Schultz, both in generic grey masks, standing behind John.

“Daisy,” John might look calm to everyone else, but she caught the slight twitch in the corner of his right eye.

“John,” she replied, meeting his intense gaze with a powerful one of her own.

“May I have a word with you in private?” a tall man in a traditional black suit that screamed DVA asked.

Daisy nodded and wordlessly followed the DVA representative into an interrogation room. He took one seat while she took another. He took a minute to set up a tape recorder. It was one of the fancy new digital ones, not one of the old ones that had the actual magnetic tape. Daisy liked the older versions because you could actually tell when they started recording you. For all she knew, the DVA agent had been recording her since the moment they met. This was the primary reason Daisy kept her mouth shut. There was no reason to say something stupid and get it on the record.

“This conversation if between Agent Clark of the DVA, and Daisy Meyers, the former Hero, Reaper,” the man stated out loud while he organized his notes.

“Thanks for adding the former Hero bit,” Daisy replied despite herself. “Really builds that Agent-Hero relationship they want us to strive for.” The agent studiously ignored her until he was ready to proceed.

“We’re here to discuss your actions and conduct, Ms. Meyers,” Agent Clark said it like she didn’t know what this was all about. “We’ve gotten the accounts of everyone involved in the incidents, except the people you allegedly assaulted, and would now like to hear your own recollection.”

“Well we started out the day shopping; girl stuff really. I got a pretty cute outfit from this one store. I think red is just my color; you think?” Daisy winked at the agent, trying to illicit some reaction.

She got a frown for her effort. “Please skip forward to the incident in question.” There was a hint of exasperation in his voice.

<Victory!> Daisy would take what she could get.

“The incident in question began with us finishing up dinner at Chrissy’s restaurant. If you’re staying in town, she makes a kick ass spaghetti and meatballs just FYI.” She wagged her eyebrows this time, but the agent had already composed himself. “I saw two of my students eating dinner there, Mr. Jackson, and Ms. Schultz. I wanted to do my good deed for the day, so I anonymously picked up their tab. We didn’t want to ruin their evening, so we waited for them to leave before getting the car. I saw them heading into the park, and I got a bad vibe from it, so I decided to follow.”

“Can you please elaborate on this “vibe” you claim to have felt,” Agent Clark cut in, scribbling something in his notes.

“It’s a vibe I got from a half centuries worth of experience. It’s a vibe anyone gets when they see two young people walking alone into a park at night. And it’s a vibe you get when someone who knows the area has told you beforehand that this particular park isn’t somewhere anyone wants to find themselves after nightfall,” Daisy’s temper spiked just a bit during the explanation.

<Just because I’m a former Hero doesn’t mean I don’t know my shit.> She took a few deep breaths while the agent scribbled down the information she’d given. It would jive with Chrissy’s testimony, so Daisy wasn’t worried.

“Very well, continue.” Daisy saved the frustration she was feeling for her session with Galavant.

“So I followed them into the park, just as all the lights went out. The girl in the cell is an electrical absorber, so she most likely did that. When I arrived on the scene I assessed the situation my students were in. They were in danger, and being threatened by a numerically superior opponent, so I stepped in to deescalate the situation.”

“In what manner did you attempt to deescalate the situation,” Agent Clark asked the question before Daisy could continue.

“I informed the three people threatening my students that they should let everyone go. If they wanted money they could try and take it from me, but that would be a bad idea. In that moment of hesitation I was able to get the students away from the situation before the assailants attacked. I had my back turned to the oldest male, a speedster, when he tried to stab me. So that’s unlawful use of an ability, and assault with a deadly weapon if you’re not keeping track,” Daisy couldn’t help but grin. “Once I deemed my life was being threatened, I proceeded to dispatch that threats quickly, and with nonlethal force. After I’d neutralized the threats, Galavant showed up and placed me under arrest, even though it was self-defense.” Daisy let her statement end there. Galavant would pay for his attitude soon enough.

“In what way were you more capable to handle the imminent threat to yourself by three armed and hostile Supers than Galavant?” the Agent actually asked the idiotic question.

“First, Galavant didn’t make his presence known, and didn’t take action when the speedster tried to stick a knife in my back. That, and I’m just gonna refer you to my earlier comment about roughly fifty years of experience,” Daisy left it at that, knowing she’d make a scene if she kept talking.

“Thank you for your time Ms. Meyers. We’ll call if we have any other questions,” the agent made no move to disengage the recording device; one last attempt to get her to trip up and say something incriminating.

“You know where to find me,” Daisy didn’t fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Daisy exited the room quickly, only to come face to face with Jackson and Schultz.

“We’re so sorry, Coach Meyers,” Schultz was fighting back tears.

“This whole incident shouldn’t have happened, Ma’am,” Daisy knew Mason Jackson well enough to see the shame through the grey mask.

“Damn right it shouldn’t have,” her tone of voice, and glare, cut into the two apologetic freshmen. “What the fuck were you two thinking? You not only put your attendance in the HCP at risk, but your lives too. I’d expect better out of you Ms. Schultz. You’re a damn telepath, and you couldn’t identify that you were going to be ambushed,” Daisy had to look up at the taller woman, but Schultz was shrinking back at the verbal assault. “And don’t think you’re off the hook, Jackson.” Daisy turned her attention on the larger man. “You might be the big strongman in the class, but that doesn’t translate to shit in the real world. Those three might not have been able to take you, that’s an “if” I’m willing to concede, but Schultz here would have been easy prey.” That comment cut deeper into the man than anything else, and Daisy saw it. “I’ve been preaching constant vigilance since day one. Way to prove you haven’t been paying attention. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, because you’re gonna want to crawl back to mommy and daddy crying by the end of Monday’s EXTENDED gym session.” The two students recoiled like she’d physically hit them.

“Daisy,” the boom of John’s deep voice carried without effort. “I need a word with you as well.”

Daisy left the two students to ruminate on their failings. Hopefully they’d learn from this mistake. They’d take the anger they felt at the situation, or at Daisy herself, she didn’t really care which, and funnel it into something productive. If they didn’t do that, if they let the failure consume them, then they’d wash out. Even though Daisy was reluctant to admit it, she wanted Jackson and Schultz to succeed. She wanted all of her students to succeed, but not everyone was capable of that.

“John,” Daisy acknowledged her pissed off boss when they were out of the students’ earshot.

“I don’t know whether to be pissed at you, or praise you,” John’s tone was tempered with a sigh. “And don’t think for a moment that you fooled me in there.”

Daisy gave her oldest, probably only real friend, an exaggerated surprised expression. “Whatever do you mean?”

“I have to admire the way you stood up for the students, protected them, put yourself in danger for their well-being,” John’s tone softened. “That is everything I could ever want in a member of my staff. If I could recommend you for an award then I would.”

“You know that’s not the reason I do this,” Daisy felt incredibly uncomfortable at the thought of public recognition. She preferred to work in the shadows. It worked out better if the criminals, and villains, couldn’t pull all of your information off Google.

“But then you go and beat down a bunch of kids. The fact they are Supers doesn’t excuse the fact,” he added before Daisy could retort. “And you’re going to get off easy because it was self-defense. That much is fact, but you could have used a softer hand. Not put them down so hard.”

A softer hand in Daisy’s book meant not killing someone. <And that’s John’s point.> the realization hit Daisy like a ton of bricks. That was the old Reaper’s modus operandi. If old Reaper didn’t kill someone then they got off easy, but new Reaper needed to be different. New Reaper needed to be better, because the way old Reaper did business wasn’t good for Daisy.

“You’re right,” the look on John’s face was total and complete surprise. Never in a million years did he think she would admit it. “I’m trying to turnover a new leaf here,” Daisy frowned at his stupefied expression. “If you’re expecting change don’t be so surprised when you see it.”

“Just make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she’d thrown off John’s argument with her admittance.

“Sir, yes, Sir,” she gave him a poor excuse for a salute, which her father would have slapped her upside the head for.

“Where are you headed?” John asked when she marched back towards the cells.

“I may need to fix the severity of my approach,” Daisy paused dramatically at the door. “But there’s a young Hero in here that needs a good lesson in humility.”

“And you don’t,” John knew that look in his old friend’s eye. It was the kind of look that said property damage with imminent.

“When you’re ready to try and give me one I’m all ears,” Daisy’s grin brought a chuckle to John’s lips. Enough for him to momentarily forget the stress of the situation.

Daisy left her boss behind as she ducked back into the small prison. The three other prisoners glared as she passed their cell. They were a lot more cramped in the 15’x15’ space than she’d been. Galavant was still sitting at the control desk, but he jumped to his feet when she saw him approach.

“Where does your team do training?” Daisy asked.

“We share a training site with the local police departments and National Guard units,” Galavant answered quickly.

<Don’t shit your pants kid,> the difference between the man who’d arrested her, and the man she saw now was night and day.

“Get someone to cover your shift,” her statement was a command. “We’re going to have a little fun.” It wasn’t going to be fun for him.

The drive to the training area was a ten minute car trip across town; or it would have been ten minutes if it wasn’t around midnight on a weekend. This was still a college town, and they had to pass through the heart of UCF territory to get there. Grace, still decked out in her Amped gear, drove a government issued SUV while Daisy sat impatiently in the passenger seat. The heavily tinted windows of the vehicle hid its inhabitant’s identities from the hordes of roaming drunken students. Daisy was as excited as Grace’s Hero name, and ready for a little payback. Grace was her usual collected self, and was only coming along to ensure Daisy didn’t do any real damage to the Protectorate’s newest member.

Galavant decided to fly out to the site. Daisy couldn’t blame him. The kid needed to get focused, talk himself out of backing down from a fight with an HCP professor, psych himself up, and of course stretch out. People underestimated the value of a good stretch.

“So…the costume,” it was the third time Daisy brought up Grace’s clingy outfit on the trip.

She finally relented. “I was young,” Grace admitted. “I looked good; it made me feel powerful, so I went with it.”

“Must have been a bitch to maintain,” Daisy wasn’t hefty by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d eased back on the training during her three years off. Those subtle changes might not show as much in regular clothing, but a skintight bodysuit was a whole different ballgame.

“It was good motivation,” Grace let the point hang in the air, and Daisy didn’t press her. She’d gotten what she wanted.

<Proper Grace was a bit of a hell raiser back in the day,> Daisy needed to do a little more research on the beginning of Amped’s career.

Daisy was still thinking about how she could get Miles to divulge the information he most likely had on Grace when they arrived.

“Damn,” Daisy couldn’t help but be impressed by the training area.

The Protectorate might be constrained by the government’s funding, but it seemed they’d been able to pool the cash with the local police departments and National Guard to create this area. The site consisted of two constructed towns, each about two city blocks in size. One of the towns was distinctly Middle Eastern. The style of buildings and clearly identifiable mosques were a dead giveaway. That was where the military did the majority of their training. The second town could have been picked up from any place in the middle of the US, and plopped down here. It held the distinct feel of small town, Main Street America, if you looked past some of the bullet holes in the wall. It registered a pang of nostalgia with Daisy.

The two towns were the main focus of the training area, but the largest section of space was a wide open field behind the collection of structures. There was enough space to do physical training, drills on small unit tactics, and of course fighting. This was where Galavant was standing, waiting.

“Pretty sweet training space,” Daisy commented as she approached her opponent.

Galavant was on guard, keeping his distance. “Yeah it works well for individual, group, and joint exercises. We do something big every quarter; get everyone from the EMTs to the DOD involved. Good training and a good chance to interact with other first responders.” Daisy nodded her head in appreciation.

“So where’d you go to school, Galavant?” Daisy was already thinking how to defeat the young Hero, and that started with information.

“I’m an Overton grad,” Daisy could just make out the slight twang of his accent.

“A good old southern boy,” she shot a smile his way.

“Born and bred, Ma’am,” he was extremely proud of that.

“Is Kathryn Jilles still down there?” Daisy placed the name with the Hero she’d met on a handful of occasions.

“Yes she is. She’s the Dean.” The boy’s expression became fond, or at least that was what it appeared to be behind his mask.

“Good woman,” Daisy decided to change up tactics. “So what can you do Galavant? All I’ve seen is flight. Please tell me you’re not a one trick pony.”

Her taunting question had the desired outcome. “Flight isn’t my ability, ma’am. I’m a density manipulator. I can affect up to three things at once, with some limitations. I can’t make my body denser, but I can make it lighter, so that gives me the ability to float really. My armor has some hidden thrusters to give the appearance of flight.” The kid was giving Daisy everything she wanted, so she sat back and let him blab.

“I’m constantly using my power on my armor,” he tapped the overlapping layers of metal circles that formed the chainmail. “This mail is some tech brilliance’s version of a durable, lightweight metal, but with my ability, I can make it stronger than tank armor.”

“Wouldn’t that crush you?” Daisy was a little confused about the limits of his ability. “You don’t seem to have any enhanced strength.”

“It’s a weird quirk in my ability, Ma’am,” Galavant shrugged. “My body is immune to the effects of my power when I use it on foreign objects. So to me this armor weights about twenty-thirty pounds; while it would be about half a ton to you. Same with my maul here,” he twirled the weapon like a baton. “A couple hundred pounds to anyone else. My ability gives me extra defense and offense without any of the setbacks.” Galavant was grinning cockily.

<He is interesting,> Daisy evaluated the young Hero in a whole different light.

Daisy knew of a few density manipulators like Galavant. There was a guy in Brewster who was similar, but Galavant’s quirk was special. It was definitely something she needed to consider in her strategy.

<I can take hits from the maul for a while, no problem, but it’s going to be difficult to do damage with that much armor to punch through. Not to mention he can fly. I can only use electricity as a last resort. I don’t want to kill him, so I need to stick to hand to hand combat. Leeching would just take all the fun out of it.> Daisy thought about her options. She noted the weak points in the armor; joints, where it appeared thinner, and then of course places like the neck and face. <He said he could only use his ability on three things at once. Body…check, Armor…check, and Maul…check. Face will be a weak point unless he can rapidly change what he’s manipulating.>

“That’s impressive,” Daisy let her feeling show, building up his ego. “Can you switch it up?”

“Yeah,” his grin grew a little broader. “Doesn’t take more than a few seconds to transfer my ability from one thing to another.”

“Impressive,” she repeated, continuing to study the Hero.

“What about you, Ma’am? I don’t even know your name.”

“Ma’am is fine,” Daisy decided to take the same approach as with her students. “And why would I tell you my ability?”

The cocky grin disappeared, and the color drained from his face. Grace even let out a snort of laughter at his expression.

“But I told you what I can do.”

“Thanks for that,” Daisy began to circle the kid, forcing him to react. “I’ve made it abundantly clear that I was going to fight you. I don’t know why you would go and give all that juicy intelligence away to an enemy. That’s just stupid. I’m going to have to send Dean Jilles an email about her former student’s lack of tactical awareness.”

Daisy had just enough time to crack a mischievous grin before Galavant charged. <Taking the initiative…trying to catch your opponent off guard…good thinking.>

Galavant crossed the distance fast, a combination of his lean athletic build, a power that bypassed the density manipulation of his heavy armor, but still allowed him to be light and agile. He covered about three times the distance as a normal person would for every step he took. It reminded Daisy a little bit of someone running on the moon. She didn’t have too much time to daydream before he was right in front of her.

Daisy was taller than Galavant’s 5’11”, but his maul gave him the advantage in reach. He used this advantage when he swung the blunt object right at her head. As far as first moves went, it was more psychological than anything else. The chances of hitting such a small part of the body were slim, but it could put the fear of God in someone that wasn’t well trained. The trick might work on criminals, and Super gangbangers, but not on Daisy.

Daisy easily ducked under his attack and stepped in quickly. She used her forward momentum and powerful rotation of her core to strike him hard in the gut. This was the type of move directed to hurt an opponent. Daisy’s fist making contact with the armor sounded like someone ringing a ceremonial gong in ancient China. A deep booming noise echoed through the empty field, thankfully loud enough to hide Daisy’s painful grunt.

<Damn, that shit is tough!>

Galavant looked unfazed by the powerful body shot, and was already twisting around in a downward backswing. This wasn’t aimed at Daisy’s head; he’d identified his miscalculation and was adjusting. This blow was aimed at her nearest shoulder with the intent of driving her into the ground. It wouldn’t have, Daisy would just absorb it, but what she’d learned so far indicated it might hurt a bit.

Daisy summersaulted away just to the left of her opponent’s leg. The move surprised Galavant a bit, he thought she’d try to back out of range, or dive to the side. The summersault put her almost directly behind Galavant as his maul pummeled into the hard earth where she’d been a moment before.

Daisy used the momentary distraction of Galavant having his weapon stuck in the ground to her advantage. Instead of completing a full summersault she stopped the roll when she reached her upper back. Using her back, shoulder, and core muscles she rotated herself around her central axis like a break-dancer. She spun once to build up momentum, bringing her body to its full height, before lashing out with one of her legs. Daisy’s long leg reached out and struck Galavant in the side of the head while he was slightly bent over and trying to pull his maul out of the ground. The blow was a glancing one at best. Her reach was fully extended, and she didn’t have much leverage to work with, but with a bit of kinetic energy behind it, the spin-kick was enough to knock Galavant off his feet.

Daisy completed the rotation, and threw herself from her back to the feet without any assistance. Daisy had committed the move to memory the first time after seeing a Kung Fu master do it on video. It looked bad ass, and was pretty useful in a pinch. The usefulness of the move meant that she was on her feet moving between her opponent and his weapon while he was still trying to pull himself together from her strike.

“So you’re a kinetic absorber,” Galavant rubbed the back of his head while he twisted his neck around experimentally.

Daisy shrugged, firmly situated between Galavant and his weapon. She placed a hand on the maul and gave it a tug. Surprisingly, it easily came out of the ground.

“Thanks for showing me a weak spot,” Galavant pointed at his head.

<He gave up manipulating the density of his maul to reinforce his head. Hmmm.> Daisy saw the logic in his move, even if it was flawed.

Galavant’s head was covered by a hood of white fabric, the same style of garment that was normally worn underneath the helmet of a traditional medieval knight. It was smart to not wear an actual helmet. It compromised your vision way too much to be effective in a fight. The new problem for Daisy was that the garment was a one piece that covered his entire body underneath the armor. It was clearly a planned second layer of defense against someone strong enough to get through just the manipulated armor. Now Galavant’s whole body was reinforced. The armor portions were even tougher with the manipulated fabric beneath them. The weak points in the joints were still weaker points, since they were only covered in the fabric, but they would be that much harder to inflict damage on. Galavant was going to be a tough nut to crack.

The good news was that he’d given up his best offensive tool. Daisy juggled the maul between her hands before tossing it into the distance. She now had the advantage in reach, and could set the tempo of the fight. His defenses were impressive, but you needed a good offense to win.

“Don’t you get hot in that full bodysuit, plus armor?” Daisy casually wiped the dirt from her clothing.

“Yeah, swamp ass every damn day,” Galavant laughed before resuming the attack.

Galavant’s plan was simple. He needed to get in close and grapple with Daisy. If he could get her to the ground the manipulated density of his clothing would crush her, or suffocate her as easily as any chokehold. His reckless charge telegraphed his plan as if he’d written a nice note and hand delivered it to Daisy.

Daisy’s roundhouse kick caught him in the head again. It didn’t do the damage it did the first time, but it was enough to throw him off balance and disrupt the charge. Galavant stumbled past Daisy, shook his head, and turned to face her again.

“Is that all you’ve got,” he taunted, slamming his gauntleted hands onto his chainmail like a gorilla. “I can do this all day.”

<He’s right,> Galavant’s costume was too dense at this point to make good headway with purely kinetic attacks. She needed to think smarter to win this one, and step one was to give her punches a little more zing. <I’m sure he can take just a little electrocution.>

This time Daisy charged. Unlike the reckless onslaught Galavant had attempted, Daisy’s was calculated because it needed to be. The young Hero might weigh upwards of a ton in his costume, but he moved as well as anyone could in bulky armor; which wasn’t great. That was a weakness she could use to her advantage.

Daisy sped up her perception to find the best angle of attack. Galavant was already reacting to her charge, throwing out a jab, in an attempt to stop her, and sliding to the side. His counter seemed very exaggerated at the pace her mind was working. Daisy corrected course, knowing what she was going to do, and hoping it worked. She’d look like a fool if she let this kid beat her.

Galavant left his arm extended too long. He wanted to keep the distance between them open, but in combination with his sideways slide he’d left his body exposed. Daisy ran into this open space, an electrical charge building at the point of her knee. She had to be careful with the charge, too little and he’d catch her, too much and she’d stop his heart. Luckily, her mind was working a lot faster than her body was moving. By the time her knee made contact with the thickest portion of his armor Daisy felt she’d anticipated an appropriate charge.

There was a small explosion as the electricity leapt from Daisy’s knee to the conductive metal of Galavant’s armor. Sparks radiated from the epicenter of attack, creating waves of blue current across the Hero. Small lightning bolts shot into the air as the electricity completed its journey through the Hero and sought an outlet. It was quite a spectacle. Galavant went ridged, the grab he was attempting stopped just before he got a grip on Daisy’s back.

<At least it was enough,> Daisy hoped the kid’s heart was still beating as she withdrew her knee enough to bring her foot up in position.

While she was moving into position to plant her foot on the same spot she’d electrocuted Galavant, she securely grabbed his shoulders and began to fall backwards. The motions of the controlled fall got her foot into position just in time. Daisy rounded her back to ease the force of impact, and allow her to continue the backwards roll onto her upper back, shoulders, and neck. At this point Galavant’s still ridged body was completely off the ground, and balanced on Daisy’s foot. Using the momentum of the roll, and a hefty bit of kinetic energy, Daisy launched Galavant into the air behind her.

Another of Galavant’s weaknesses was that he couldn’t really fly. His density manipulation gave him the ability to float, but without thrusters he wasn’t much more than a human balloon. The electrical charge had tensed every muscle in his body, which included his brain. Daisy doubted the Hero had any control of his abilities as long as the electrical shock remained in his system.

Daisy realized her mistake a split second too late. Galavant was airborne now, already a good ten feet above the ground, and not even close to the apex of the arc she’d sent him on. This was a win for her. Her enemy was immobilized, and literally being tossed from the battlefield without the use of his abilities. The problem was that the human body tended to not react well to falling thirty or forty feet onto solid ground, and that was a conservative estimation. Without reinforced armor to protect him Galavant was about to end up like a bug on a windshield.

Luckily, Grace was thinking along the same wavelength. <Shit!> Grace was already moving to intervene.

Galavant had traveled about two hundred feet, and was a good fifty feet in the air, when he reached the pinnacle of his flight trajectory. Slowly, from Daisy’s accelerated point of view, he began to fall back to earth. If Grace hadn’t decided to tag along Daisy would have found herself right back in the cell she’d just been released from. It would have been a little more difficult to explain to the Protectorate and DVA why their youngest Hero was crippled or dead. This still wasn’t going to be gentle.

Daisy saw Grace’s shoulders tighten in concentration as she extended her arms toward the falling Hero. She didn’t need to telegraph her intentions with her arms, and definitely wouldn’t in a fight, but Daisy wasn’t going to comment on technique when Grace was about to save her ass.

Grace was an Advanced Mind, which was why she was the Focus instructor, with a pretty solid reputation. She was gifted both telepathically and telekinetically, so she could adapt to whatever the situation called for. Her unique talent lay on the telepathic side of things, which surprised Daisy since she always got the feeling Grace preferred the telekinetic aspect of her powers. Grace took the Hero name, Amped, for more reasons than it was a kick ass name. Grace could literally amp up someone’s mental faculties. She could increase someone’s perception, like Daisy and some speedsters; give them peace of mind, or unparalleled clarity or insight into a solution to a problem. She wasn’t an amplifier, which needed to be understood, her ability only affected a person’s cognitive properties. The actual effects of the mental boost lasted only a short time, but the subjects retained what they learned during their time under her power. It was an incredibly useful talent.

In the current situation Daisy found herself in, Grace’s unique ability didn’t help much. Maybe she could zap Daisy with it to find a better, less painful, solution for Galavant, but there wasn’t enough time. This was going to boil down to plain old telekinetic strength.

Grabbing someone out of the air, even by someone as skilled as Grace, wasn’t a good idea. Especially when they were moving at the high speed brought about by a kinetically enhanced toss. It took incredible finesse to not crush someone when telekinetically picking someone up, and unfortunately people with more power tended to have less finesse. The solution to the predicament was simple. Instead of trying to grab him out of the air, Grace would create a secondary surface for him to fall onto. It would be just as hard as the ground, but he’d fare much better after getting caught from a ten foot drop then a fifty foot one.

Galavant had descended about ten feet when he hit the invisible surface Grace constructed. He hit hard, shoulder first, and skipped across the surface like a stone across a pond. Two skips and he was falling again.

“Cup the edges!” Daisy yelled out to Grace.

Galavant fell another ten feet before landing hard, this time on his back. The angle was better; falling from the first telekinetically created surface had left him going more-or-less straight down instead of continuing his arc. His second impact was more of a painful up-down bounce than a skip, but it effectively stopped him thirty feet above the ground.

Daisy couldn’t see any sweat on Grace’s masked face, but she wouldn’t blame the Hero if she was. That had been a little too close for comfort.

“Damnit, Daisy,” Grace was lowering Galavant to the ground, and multitasking by glaring at her. “What the hell was that?”

“I made a mistake,” it irked Daisy to admit that for the second time tonight. “I didn’t take into consideration his powers shorting out after I electrocuted him.”

Galavant was lying on the ground beside them now. His chest was rising and falling rapidly, so he was breathing. His extremities still twitched involuntarily, but he was alive.

“You didn’t have to roast the poor kid,” Grace was removing Galavant’s hood and mask. “Call John and get a healer over here.”

Galavant’s flame red hair was standing on end now that it was free of his hood. He was young looking, even for someone in their early twenties, and his face was covered in vibrant freckles. The kid looked like a stereotypical Irishman, so much so Daisy could imagine him in a green hat protecting his pot of gold.

“Hello,” John answered on the first ring.

“Could you send a healer to the Protectorate’s training site,” Daisy tried to be very casual with the request. She was already on thin ice.

“Daisy…”

“It’s not bad,” she cut John off. “Just a few injuries after a good sparing session.”

“Jesus, he shit his pants,” Grace’s exclamation wasn’t helping Daisy’s argument.

“Gotta go,” Daisy quickly hung up the phone.

Galavant was beginning to regain consciousness, and Daisy was beginning to inhale the wafting scent of burned shit.

“Wh..what happened,” Galavant tried to get up, but Grace pushed him back down.

“You got your ass kicked, so don’t move until a healer gets here,” as if on command there was a whoosh of air and Dr. Sanderson appeared with a masked, white uniformed, senior.

Despite Daisy’s positive strides concerning her anger, she felt like making an attempt to get the doctor to shit his pants. The expression he gave her only made it that much more difficult. <Deep breaths.> Daisy calmed herself as the golden mist reached from Sanderson to Galavant.

The doctor gave the young Hero a quick look over, a nodded of approval, and then teleported away with the senior. Leaving Daisy and Grace to do the explaining.

“Ahhh…did I shit myself?” Galavant was taking care to walk with his legs extra far apart.

“Electricity will do that to you,” Daisy had to stifle the laugh as she watched him walk around.

“So you’re a kinetic and electrical absorber,” Galavant replaced his hood and mask, taking care to tuck all of his red hair underneath it.

“Yep.”

“Please…please don’t tell my team about this,” Galavant pleaded.

Daisy felt bad for the kid. When she’d first joined a team they’d been some of the first Hero teams in existence. The orientations and rituals for new members hadn’t been developed yet. The Protectorate was already going to be tough on their newest member. They needed to be to build comradery and trust, but Daisy didn’t need to help any of the indoctrination along. At the same time, she wasn’t going to do it for free.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” Daisy gestured for Galavant to stop walking around. “I won’t tell anyone I made you shit your pants if you come by West some time.” Galavant looked hesitant until she continued. “I’m the alternative instructor, so you know I need to try and find ways to bring people’s hidden talents out. Your ability doesn’t seem like it manifested like it is now. I’m sure you had some trial and error, and a bit of discovery throughout your HCP career.” Galavant nodded agreement. “I just want you to come in and share those experiences. It’ll also be good for the students to see a Hero who isn’t boring old me.”

“You’re anything but boring,” Galavant was looking at Daisy with the respect earned from besting someone in something they thought they were good at. “You’ve got a deal. When I get back to headquarters I’ll take a look at my schedule and we can set it up.”

“Thanks, Galavant.”

“Ronnie…Ronnie Fitzpatrick,” Ronnie extended his hand.

“Thanks, Ronnie,” Daisy took his hand and smiled.

<Look at me, making new friends already,> Grace made sure Ronnie got back without alerting any of his team to his accident. <If making friends was as easy as making people shit their pants, I’d be the most popular girl in the world.>

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