A Change of Pace – Chapter 22

Daisy closed the door behind her, leaving Dr. Johnson and Anika alone; hoping she hadn’t screwed anything up. Daisy knew the moment Ms. Kemps had taken off that she was wrestling with the demons of her past. She hoped their talk had helped, and her genuine promise of retribution would be remembered.

Daisy meant every word of the oath she made to Anika Kemps, and intended to deliver punishment in the exact order, and manner, she described. Everything except the cape part. Only idiots wore capes. It was a great way to accidentally snap your neck when it got snagged on something, and it practically begged people to choke you with it. A young, naïve Daisy had tried capes once, and quickly discarded it. The meaning behind her statement was still there. She would face the repercussions of a rogue operation to get the justice a young woman deserved.

“That was a great thing you just did,” Grace was standing at the entrance to the infirmary, fighting the smile that was tugged at her lips.

“You telepaths always love to eavesdrop on conversations, don’t you?” Daisy reacted defensively.

Grace shrugged, ignoring Daisy’s hostility. “How did the drill go?” she asked, changing the subject.

“We managed to take out everyone but Jackson, Martin, Kemps, Fisher, Whitfield, Williams, and Schultz in the ninety second time frame,” Daisy dished. “A few more punches and Jackson would have been out cold. We’d momentarily taken out Martin and Williams; while Fisher, Schultz, and Whitfield were just scrambling to avoid the gunfire. Robin trapped Kemps with an energy dome, thus the flashback and the conversation you overheard.”

“A conversation with wide ranging ethical problems condoning the use of torture,” Grace added, her voice firm.

“They’d fucking deserve it,” Daisy tried and failed to keep the venom out of her statement. “Go tattle on me to John if you want. It won’t change anything.”

“Good,” the simple acceptance took Daisy off guard. “I might be able to pull some strings and keep you out of prison when you return.”

“Uh…thanks,” Daisy wasn’t sure how to handle this social encounter.

“I’m still a woman,” Grace gestured at her feminine frame. “Actions like what Ms. Kemps endured should never happen. Sometimes an example needs to be set.”

There were a few moments of silence as the two Heroes considered the moral implications of what they’d committed to, and accepted them.

“So the freshman class came through the drill about as expected,” Grace changed the topic again.

“Yeah, Miles laid into them a little hard,” Daisy started walking back towards the auditorium, with Grace a step behind her.

“When is the drill scheduled for the other three classes?” Grace was slated to participate in one of them, but hadn’t been filled in with all the details yet.

“We can’t get entire classes together without drawing suspicion,” Daisy relayed some of the thoughts Craig and her had brainstormed. “We’re going to have to go into each of the specialty classes separately if we want any chance of catching them off guard. Even then, word is inevitably going to get out about what we are doing.”

“Do you have a deadline?” Grace asked the simple question.

“The DVA agent-in-charge that approved it wants this done by the end of the semester?” Daisy replied.

“So why not space it out? Do a few runs in quick succession, let it die down for a few weeks, and then hit them hard again. The seniors will be on their toes the whole time, but the juniors and sophomores should let down their guard.”

<That’s actually a good idea.> Daisy tucked a stray hair behind her ear as she contemplated the idea.

“Scheduling will be a bitch.”

“Always is,” Grace shrugged again.

“It’s better than Craig’s idea,” Daisy chuckled as she remembered him laying it out the previous evening. “He wanted sex appropriate teams to attack them in the locker rooms; literally catching them with their pants down.”

Grace grimaced at the imagery of young men and women in their underwear getting gunned down. The students would never shower again without looking over their shoulder. It gave a whole new perspective to “dropping the soap”.

“Too many safety issues,” Daisy emphasized her point by allowing some static electricity to dance across her palms. “This, and kids in the shower, would be a problem.”

“And there are always the recreational activities to think about,” Grace continued when Daisy gave her a confused look. “You’re down here, late at night, to do some prep work…” Grace made circular motions with her hands implying something Daisy wasn’t picking up. “No one is here; this is a restricted area with limited access rights, so there’s no one to interrupt…” Daisy cocked her head at the situation that was going over her head. Grace gave an exasperated sigh and hit her forehead with her palm. “Students sneak down here to do it in the locker room.”

Everything clicked into place, and Daisy laughed out loud. Startling a few juniors who were passing them in the hallway.

“For a woman whose been around the block for several decades looking like a lingerie model, you’d think I wouldn’t have to spell it out for you,” despite her frustration, Grace smiled at the lighthearted moment they were sharing.

“I’m afraid there was always more work then play in my life,” Daisy responded with a hint of sadness. “But when I did play…” she wiggled her eyebrows, taking the conversation to an uncomfortable place.

“So…Officer Phillips,” Grace didn’t back down, and even got the famous Super to blush as red as her irises.

“Look at the time,” Daisy looked down at a watch that wasn’t there. “Gotta get back to the class. See ya later.”

Daisy beat a hasty retreat, purposefully ignoring the satisfied look on Grace’s face. <Walked right into that one,> she admitted, making it back to the auditorium. The freshmen class was still present.

“Coach Meyers,” Craig called out as she entered the heavily damaged room. “Did we ever talk to them about how to move up in their rankings?”

Craig knew damn well that they hadn’t. He was just messing with them, and the strained look on a few faces showed it was working.

“I don’t believe we did,” Daisy played along, making a short leap over a damaged portion of the stage to join Craig at the podium.

“Anyone here want to move up in the rankings?” despite the resounding defeat the class had just been handed, they nodded eagerly.

“Fuck yeah,” Daisy loved Anna Fletcher’s spunk, even if John hated her language problem.

“That what I like to hear,” Craig grinned. “If you want to challenge someone you need to get in touch with me or Coach Meyers to set it up. We’ll get you a combat cell, a healer, and either a professor or senior to make sure you don’t kill each other,” all joking was set aside for the last few words.

“Anyone can challenge anyone up to the number six spot,” Daisy did her part of the announcement. “So, Ms. Stephanie Jacobsen could challenge Mr. Mason Jackson if she desired to do so.”

Daisy doubted Ms. Jacobsen would ever do something so stupid. Her ability to create balls of glowing light that she could throw about twenty feet didn’t do much in a combat situation against a strongman. Especially since they simply dissipated in a shower of sparks when they made contact with something. Although Daisy believed Ms. Jacobsen’s ability would mature into something far more interesting; at this point, it was suicide to go up against someone powerful. Daisy just wanted to make sure everyone understood their options.

“Be careful about who you choose though,” Daisy cautioned, seeing the warning signs of people about to do something stupid. “You only get three losses a semester. If you keep winning, you keep advancing, but if you try and punch outside your weight class you’re going to get stuck where you are. You’ll have more chances next semester, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll make it that far.” The threat hung in the air, stopping the potential acts of stupidity in their tracks.

“Top five are slightly different,” Craig took over. “You can challenge two spots ahead of where you currently are. Only number 6 can challenge number 5, so anyone who wants to get into the big leagues is going to have to get through Ms. Shaw for the time being.” The multispecies shifter gave a nervous wave to the rest of the class; her eyes darting towards Jackson.

“Same three challenge rule goes for you five,” Daisy reiterated, receiving nods of understanding from the class’ most powerful members.

“One more thing,” Craig said before the conversation drew to a close. “The person you challenge has to accept that challenge.”

“Of course, if you don’t you look like a pus…wimp,” Daisy caught herself, practically feeling the intense gaze from John on the back of her head.

<It’s what the kids say these days,> she thought defensively.

“And it will affect your standing in the eyes of your peers and professors,” Craig was barely containing his laughter, knowing exactly what was going through Daisy’s head.

“Coaches McMillian and Meyers will be available outside this classroom to take down any challenges that you wish to make,” John brought the class to an end. “We’ll see you all tomorrow for physical training.”

No one could mistake the implied suggestion to get out. After all, someone needed to come in and fix the room.

Daisy and Craig dutifully waited outside the door as the crowd of students descended on them like a torch and pitchfork wielding mob. Everyone wanted a shot at someone they thought they could beat. Craig wrote all the challenges down on a notepad, and Daisy made sure that whoever was challenged agreed. No one balked at the chance to prove themselves. They were all still pissed at what had been done to them. They wanted payback, even if that payback was going to be inflicted on their fellow classmates.

Daisy took all of this as a good sign. <Heroes need to pick themselves up after getting their ass kicked, and keep on moving. And they sure as hell don’t get to back down from a fight.>

 

***

 

Becca sat cross-legged on the couch in the common room with her wet blue hair draped over one shoulder, and a biology book open on her lap. She felt calmer than earlier, now that she had taken a nice warm shower. She’d breathed in the steam, forcing her muscles to relax, and her racing heart to slow. The impatient speedster never thought she’d want things to slow down.

The drill, which was what all the professors were calling it, had freaked Becca out more than she was letting on. She was no stranger to firearms, having grown up on a farm, but she’d never had them fired at her before. She took the Dean’s words to heart. Guns were just as dangerous to her as they were normal people. Despite her super speed, she couldn’t outrun a bullet, and she couldn’t save everyone who’d been targeted. She’d been able to push Kyoshi out of the way once, but that was the extent of her heroic participation in the drill. Nothing she’d done today felt Hero worthy.

<You’re still new to this,> she fought the self-doubt. <You’re already getting faster, and you’ll eventually be able to do more good when you’re trained.>

                Becca was getting faster, two whole miles per hour in the time since she started the HCP. It wasn’t a lot, but she hadn’t been doing Coach McMillian’s workouts that long either. If she could keep this up, she’d hit the sound barrier by the end of freshmen year.

<But is this really the life I want to live?> The doubt continued despite her efforts. <Do I want to spend every second of my life on edge waiting for the next group of masked thugs to kick down the door and start shootin’?> Becca didn’t like where her thoughts were taking her, but she couldn’t stop the deluge she’d begun.

<Mason and Angela jumped right into the action. They put themselves in the line of fire to try and stop the killin’. Even Kyoshi threw up a couple barriers to protect people, and she saved my behind too.> Becca absentmindedly stroked her hair, trying to get out the azure tangles. <I just hid, and gave her a shove. I was so scared I didn’t even think to dial up my perception and assess the situation.> Becca’s hands moved from her hair to her face. She buried it in them, failing to fight back tears.

She had a good cry, alone in the room. Sometimes that was just what the doctor ordered.

Despite her doubts, Becca wasn’t a quitter or a stranger to hard work. She’d keep going in this program until she broke both her legs or her heart exploded. She’d get stronger and faster every day, and then use that to prove to everyone, and herself, that she had what it took.

<My family…my town deserves that much.> Becca wiped her eyes on her baggy t-shirt and turned her thoughts to biology.

HCP problems weren’t the only stressors in Becca’s life. On top of being run into the ground every day, she had her ethic’s project and homework in all four of her normal college classes. She was only taking a normal class load. She couldn’t handle the extra work like Angela seemed to be able to. Becca valued her social life, and was as equally determined to make sure her angelic friend had one too. Then there were the boys.

<Holy moly, speaking of boys,> Becca had been trying to ignore the rhythmic thumping from upstairs, but it hadn’t stopped for a half an hour.

Becca hadn’t been the only person thrown off by the drill. Mason and Kyoshi had disappeared into Mason’s room upstairs the moment they got home. While she was in the shower the thumping began. Becca planned to study in her room, but the walls were really thin. She’d rather have the common room’s T.V.in the background to help, but it wasn’t helping much.

She didn’t blame the two Supers for deciding to consummate their relationship at this particular moment. They were just as shaken as her, maybe even more so, since it looked like Mason got beat within an inch of his life protecting Kyoshi and her. The couple wanted to do something life affirming, something to celebrate life, and push back the death they thought had been so close. Becca got that, because she’d been thinking exactly the same thing.

<I’m a good Christian girl,> Becca had chanted the mantra when her hormones threatened to take over. Then there was the slight problem of not having a partner.

Becca knew there were plenty of boys who would jump into bed with her and give her a good ride, but even in this chaotic moment, that wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted the right person.

For some reason she thought the high school boys who’d she’d dealt with before would be college men now. Apparently, whatever magical process Becca thought happened in the three month break between high school and college was just a myth propagated by Hollywood rom-coms. The boys were still boys; still more interested in looking at breasts and butts than listening to what she had to say. The school’s location didn’t help with that. The women walked around in short shorts and bikini tops, Becca and Kyoshi included. But that was because it was really hot. The HCP guys were better, but she had trouble getting past the age old adage of not eating where you pooped.

<Who then?>

Since Mason was taken by one of her best friends, the only other guy she saw on a pretty regular basis was Seth. <Heck no!> The playboy was actually shaping up a bit, at least when he was around Becca, but she still wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole and a biohazard suit. She’d seen some of the girls that he talked with around campus. One looked like she got choked on a regular basis, and liked it. <Gross.>

Blake Rhodes, the guy she sat next to in Ethics, and the number 26 ranking, was another option. Blake still hadn’t moved from the boy to man category in Becca’s mind. She still found him staring at her chest every once in a while, but he looked appropriately ashamed when she caught him at it. She chalked that up to being a slave to his hormones, something she could relate to at the moment.

Blake was cute, a bit lankier than Becca liked, but with kind green eyes and a sincere smile. He was her height, and didn’t feel emasculated by that. Which was a plus, since she was short even for a girl. He was also a muscle mimic, capable of copying moves he saw that were within his physical limitations. It was a cool ability, and with bedroom activities on her mind, it was intriguing, but Blake was in the friend zone. She didn’t think of him as any more than that, she didn’t think of any of the boys she’d met as any more than that.

<Just gunna keep looking ‘til I find my stallion.>

                Becca turned her attention back to her biology textbook where they were studying none other than the male reproductive system. <You’ve got to be kidding me.>

Becca got her hopes up for a moment when the thumping stopped, but less than a minute later it started up again. Not as loud as beforehand, but still noticeable. Becca turned up the T.V.s volume, unable to concentrate on anything at the moment.

She was about to get up and go find something to go do on campus when there was a soft knock on the door. The knock probably wasn’t soft, but with the T.V. volume up, and Mason and Kyoshi going at it like bunnies, it came off that way. Neither Angela nor Seth was home, so Becca went to answer it. She really didn’t want to deal with another frat boy trying to invite her to a party, a door to door sales man, or a Jehovah’s Witness. Although, it would be priceless to see the look on their face when they heard what was transpiring upstairs. She was still smiling when she answered the door.

A distracted and nervous looking Anika Kemps stood in the doorway. Her eyes were a little puffier than when Becca last saw her tearing out of the destroyed auditorium. The blood was gone from her knuckles, and her hands were healed up, but that didn’t stop the worry that flooded through Becca. Anika was usually unflappably confident. The drill had visibly rattled her, and Becca had seen the destruction her friend wrought when she was rattled.

“You ok, Anika,” the smile was gone from Becca’s face now.

“Rough day,” Anika responded, stepping inside after Becca moved out of the way.

“Can I get you anything,” Becca blurred into the kitchen. “We don’t have much more than water, but I can always run out and get something.”

“No, I’m fine,” Anika waved off the suggestion. “What is that noise?”

“Welcome to my life for the last…forty-two minutes,” Becca couldn’t help but be impressed by the big guy’s stamina.

Comprehension slowly dawned on Anika’s face. Her olive skin grew hot as she put two and two together. Her blush made Becca laugh, which only made Anika blush even harder.

“At least you don’t have to be here for the awkwardness afterwards. I’ll have to sit here and pretend I didn’t hear them doing it for nearly an hour.”

“I can stick around,” Anika suggested sheepishly. “Help soften the blow.”

<What is up with her today?> Anika’s unusual behavior was seriously starting to worry Becca.

“I can handle it,” Becca smiled reassuringly. “Now, why don’t you tell me what’s got you down in the dumps?” Becca patted the seat next to her on the lumpy, uncomfortable couch.

Anika looked at it skeptically for a moment before sitting. As uncomfortable as the aged college furniture was, physical training had put them in far more uncomfortable places.

“Spill,” Becca sat uncharacteristically still while Anika collected her thoughts.

“That drill put me in a bad place,” Anika’s voice wasn’t more than a whisper. “Brought back some past shit I realized I’m nowhere near getting over.” Becca placed a hand on Anika’s when her voice caught, and a tear dripped off her face onto the couch.

“It’s ok,” Becca willed her to keep talking, knowing the unclassifiable Super needed this.

“I’m not going to burden you with the details, they’re too fucked up for conversation,” Becca let her disdain for cursing pass due to the seriousness of the moment. “But I had a nice long conversation with Dr. Johnson, and a shorter, but probably more helpful one with Coach Meyers,” Becca didn’t know what had passed between the two women, but she liked that the memory made Anika smile.

“I need to keep moving forward with my life, gaining more control, move towards being a Hero,” Becca knew the feeling, she’d had the same internal conversation only a few minutes ago. “And I’m trying to bring a bit of normal into my life. That’s where you come in,” Anika turned to Becca, who despite her earlier calm, was vibrating a bit in place with anticipation. “I’m looking to peruse a relationship…”

“Who is it?” Becca interrupted, bursting like an overfilled water balloon. “JasonOliverNathanByronDerrickBlakeSeth…please tell me it’s not Seth,” Becca sped through all the guys in the class she knew.

“No, it’s not Seth,” Anika was surprised by the speedsters animated interaction, but she was smiling that perfect white smile again. Then all of a sudden it was gone. “Do…do you like Seth?”

“No! No no no no…no no…no,” Becca shook her head back and forth with a shiver. “He’s definitely improved,” Becca felt bad for putting Seth down so hard. “But still no. He started out as a slimy perv, evolved into a slim-less perv, and is now in a position where I can tolerate his presence for a period of time, but then need to shower immediately afterward.”

Anika laughed as Becca finished her rambling. Becca was glad to see that smile back.

“So,” Becca threw her arms dramatically in the air. “Who is it? Tell me about him?”

“Well,” Anika’s face took on a dreamy expression Becca had never seen before. Warmth, happiness, and possibly love were etched into her beauty; instead of the normal haughty confidence and newly displayed distress. “They are beautiful.” Anika managed to get out after several long seconds of thought.

“That’s always a good start,” Becca smiled back; glad to see this totally new, and adorable, side of her friend. “What else?”

“They’re just the perfect person to be around,” the platitudes started to come faster. “They make me laugh, they make me feel happy, and I want to be my best possible self around them. To make them feel safe, to make them laugh, to make them happy. They even take my mind off all of my past shit and the HCP stress.”

“Relationships outside the HCP are tough,” Becca cautioned. She’d heard some juniors giving a sophomore advice. “The relationship gets built on a lie, and that’s tough to overcome. It’s also tough to have a relationship in the HCP,” Becca added. “If one doesn’t make the cut they’re forced to leave. That’s a pretty crummy way to break up.”

Anika considered the information carefully. “What would you do?”

“I’m a live and let live kind of person,” Becca beamed. “I’d go for it.”

Anika’s smile brightened, and she leaned forward. “Ok.”

Being a speedster, the fastest person in the class, and probably in the top percentage of the worldwide population, it would be a logical conclusion that Becca could be prepared for anything. She was not ready for what came next.

Anika’s lips met Becca’s; a short, light brush of tender skin. It wasn’t lustful, it didn’t scream of hormones and endorphins running wild. It was soft and sweet, like any girl imagined their first kiss would be. Anika pulled back a few inches to gage Becca’s reaction, but Becca didn’t really have one. Foreign and unfamiliar sensations were spiraling inside a mind that had the capacity to nearly slow time to a halt, but at the moment wasn’t capable of much.

The second kiss built on the first. It was still gentle, but there was more passion. The initial hurdle had been overcome, and some of the nervousness was gone. The third and fourth kiss built on the first two. Gentle lips became probing tongues, with exploring hands making flesh shiver with excitement.

Becca eventually pulled away, unwilling to do what her body and mind were yearning for in the common room of her townhouse. Anika didn’t resist as Becca grabbed her hand and led her to the bedroom. The stronger woman accidentally slammed the door hard enough to ensure the Becca would never get back her security deposit.

Becca couldn’t care less.

 

***

 

Kyoshi lay against Mason, breathing hard, but completely content.

“Damn,” Mason irreverently summed up the last forty-five minutes in a single word.

Kyoshi playfully slapped his broad chest, a chest she was now intimately familiar with. She had something witty locked and loaded when the loud banging of a door made them both jump.

Kyoshi hadn’t been in the mindset to pay attention to her surroundings when she was with Mason. Something so intimate and precious shouldn’t be dirtied by the stray thoughts of others. It turned out that was a good thing, because if she had been paying attention, there would have been a lot of confused thoughts flying around.

“What was that,” Mason started to rise, but a Kyoshi’s hand firmly pushed him back down.

Mason gave her a questioning look, but she held up a finger signaling him to wait.

<These walls are thin,> Kyoshi noticed as a groaning bed and giggles reached her ears.

A tidal wave of embarrassment washed over her, but she’d have to deal with that later. What was happening now was much more ground breaking.

“It’s Becca,” Kyoshi still explained to a still confused Mason. “She’s in her room with someone.” The giggling was loud enough that it didn’t need any explanation.

“It had better not be Seth,” Mason stared up at the ceiling. “I know he’s been getting close to her, but if he’s using this drill to make a move,” the cracking of Mason’s knuckles spoke volumes about the repercussions of such actions.

“No,” Kyoshi replied. “It’s Anika.”

“Wait…what,” the giggles, and other more intimate sounds, were starting to filter downstairs. “Anika is…”

“Yes,” Kyoshi replied, putting the pieces together for her slightly slower boyfriend.

“And Becca is…”

“Apparently,” Kyoshi repeated.

“They are…”

“Yes,” Kyoshi frowned at her boyfriend, hoping she hadn’t misread how he felt about this sort of thing.

“Huh,” the thoughts behind Mason’s final response put Kyoshi at ease. He was just surprised.

<That’s not the only thing that’s going to surprise him,> Kyoshi ran her hands along Mason’s chest, starting a chain reaction of physiological responses until she got the one she wanted.

Mason and Kyoshi didn’t think about Anika and Becca for another forty-five minutes.

 

 

***

 

Lilly sat on her bed in a white tank top and black booty shorts with “Princess” bedazzled on the butt. She’d woken up on Saturday morning hating everything about her appearance, which led to an entire morning of fixing her look.

For the last week she’d been sporting pigtailed, bubble gum pink hair, complete with matching nail polish, to pull together a sexy private schoolgirl look. She’d had boys eating out of her hand at schools all over the country. Those that didn’t, found their lunch money mysteriously missing, or their bank accounts emptied. It was cute and fun, but it wasn’t her, and now it was so yesterday.

Lilly started by dying her hair, going for a dark black instead of her natural brunette curls. After taking the time to dye it, she’d spent just as much time straightening it. Her straight black hair now lay down to the middle of her shoulder blades. Next was her nail polish, because as trendsetting as it would be to be a Goth with pink nails, she just wasn’t feeling it.

Lilly’s head bobbed along to some old school Metallica as she finished painting her final pinky toe in what the cosmetic company called Black Onyx. She sat back to survey her work, and blew a little on her toes. She wiggled them as much as she could with cotton stuffed between them, and smiled as they reflected the light from her ceiling light.

<A little while to dry, and then maybe I’ll hit a club in Russia,> she pondered her plans for the day in a manner only someone with the world at their fingertips could.

Her cell phone rang across the room, causing Lilly to frown at the device. Only a handful of people had that number, and anyone calling it would be ruining her plans of conning some Siberian stud. She hoped off her bed, and began to waddle on her heels; duck legged, toward the phone. She looked and felt stupid.

<Duh.> The phone disappeared in a small poof of darkness, and reappeared in her hand.

“Talk to me,” she didn’t even look at the caller I.D.

“Hey, Shadow, it’s Mika,” Lilly could practically hear the pubescent boy’s heart pounding. “Um…I think I found your girl.”

<That was fast, even for the boy genius,> Lilly didn’t let him hear her surprise. Perception was a powerful weapon.

“I’ll be there in an hour. My nails need to dry,” she replied, audibly blowing on them again.

“Seriously…” Lilly sighed at how oblivious the young technopath was.

“Don’t you want me to look pretty,” she added flirtatiously to the boy who probably had wet dreams about her.

“Um…uh…no…I mean yes.”

Lilly failed at holding back a giggle. “See you in an hour.”

<Boys, even easier than men,> she teleported the phone into the middle of the Pacific, and grabbed another burner from her dresser drawer.

Lilly would text the appropriate code phrases once she was safely away from the house, so that her contacts knew that she’d changed phones. It was standard operating procedure for the family. Any means of contact used on the premise was quickly disposed of after that communication was over. It kept them safe and secure in their underground mansion.

Lilly had never known another home. She’d been born in this place, would inherit it, and probably die in it. A lot would find the complete isolation unnerving, but a place like this was a teleporter’s best friend. They knew their own gifts better than anyone else, and to have a place no one else could get to was priceless.

Her father had spared no expense, and incorporated their Greek heritage into the design. Lilly’s own room was flanked by twin stone columns, with priceless statues of the goddess Aphrodite standing in their shadow. It made Lilly feel like the princess the writing on her shorts claimed her to be.

<Don’t be silly,> Lilly cut her little girl fantasy thoughts short. <I’m much richer, and more powerful, than any old princess.> she giggled, and fanned her toes with her hands trying to speed up the drying process.

“Daughter, lunch,” Lilly’s father called over the intercom system.

“Coming, Dad,” her nails weren’t totally dry, but she didn’t need the cotton anymore.

Instead of teleporting, which would smear the nail polish, she walked across the football field length hallway and down a set of stairs to the kitchen. The marble was cold against her bare feet as she skipped into the kitchen

“I made melts,” Altair stated, the aroma of perfectly toasted Italian bread, fresh turkey, and Gouda wafting toward Lilly.

Lilly’s stomach rumbled. She’d missed breakfast due to her fashion emergency.

“Please tell me you aren’t going through this phase again,” Altair sighed at his semi-gothic daughter. “Again with the shorts.” Lilly did a little twirl, so the light reflected off her bedazzling, and wrote princess on the wall.

“I’m not your little princess?” Lilly pouted.

“My little princess would wear a full length dress and a tiara, not those thin, small garments you call clothes. I don’t know much about women’s fashion, but I do know a black bra doesn’t go with a white shirt,” Lilly didn’t let the fact she was talking about bras with her father get to her. They had a conversation like this, in one form or another, at least once a week.

He would always see her as his baby girl, not the hotty with a body that she’d become.

“Join the 21st century, Dad,” despite Lilly’s condescending statement, she said it with a smile.

Altair shook his head as he handed her the expertly made sandwich. One of the perks of being wanted by every major law enforcement agency in the world, being semi-retired, and living in an underground mansion, was that you got to devote yourself to hobbies. Luckily for both their sakes, he’d taken well to cooking.

They ate their sandwiches in silence, both studying each other for information. Lilly asked her father, when she returned for Rome with gelato, what the big deal was with him wanting to spend all this time with her. She made it clear she didn’t have a problem with it; it was actually a nice change of pace from when he’d been gone a lot in the past. He sidestepped the question, deflected onto another topic; which only made her want to know more.

On the flip side, her father was studying her because he knew she was up to something. She was always up to something. She was just breaking into her career, and needed to keep up the momentum. This was different. He could sense she was up to something big, and he wanted to know what. She’d respectfully declined to divulge that information, so they had started trying to get information from each other at every available opportunity.

“I’m going out,” she gave him a heads up, just to see what his reaction was.

It was quizzical, but nothing more. <Nothing big going down today on his end. No major operations in motion, or he would of asked me where I was going.>

“Ok,” his eyes didn’t leave hers, as they engaged in a staring contest.

Without taking her eyes from his she brought the turkey melt to her mouth, and took a huge bite. She did it all in slow motion, making sure to chew extra loudly and slowly with her mouth open; very un-ladylike.

“Please chew with your mouth closed,” her father rolled his eyes and conceded the battle of wills.

Lilly smiled, with a mouthful of turkey and bread puffing out her cheeks like a blowfish. She finished her lunch, gave her father a kiss on the cheek, and ran back up to her room to finish getting ready.

Once back in her room Lilly set about the important task of selecting an outfit. Clothes began to appear and disappear in poofs of shadow from her closet, and onto her bed, as she looked for something to express how she was feeling. It needed to be fashionable, yet serve the purpose of the meeting. A pair a tight, black leather pants fit that bill. A few dozen micro-teleportations later she selected a white tub top, leaving her shoulders and tight stomach exposed, but threw a fishnet shirt over top of it. She finished off her self-expression with a spiked black leather choker, lipstick to match her nails, and enough eye shadow to make an ancient Egyptian look tame.

<That’s it,> Lilly looked herself over in the mirror before pulling on black heavy combat boots, and a grungy parka. <In case I still want to check out Moscow.> she hoped her entire day wouldn’t be derailed by Mika.

With the fashionable outfit complete, and sure to influence the pimple faced technopath, she set about the more utilitarian aspects of the ensemble. Her gun went into a holster at the small of her back. It wasn’t the most useful position to have it in if she needed it in a pinch, but she didn’t foresee using it. Besides she was a teleporter. Her extendable baton went in the inside pocket by her left breast. Again, not something she thought she would need when just popping in to see Mika, but easier to get to than her gun. Lastly was the can of mace in her exterior right pocket. She’d keep her hand in that pocket until she was alone with Mika.

<Ah what the hell,> she grabbed the set of brass knuckles and put them in her left exterior pocket. <It goes with the outfit.>

One last look in the mirror revealed a sexy Goth chick ready to kick ass and take names if needed. <Perfect.> She slipped on her mask.

“Want me to pick anything up on my way home, Dad,” Lilly called into the intercom system.

“We need more sugar,” her dad answered. They obviously couldn’t ask a neighbor for a cup of the stuff. “Stop by that store in Jamaica and grab a bag.”

“Sure thing, love you!”

“Love you too!” Lilly disappeared in a blast of darkness.

The infinite blackness cocooned around her in a warm embrace. It was affectionate cuddle, but just as she was settling into it she reappeared in the grimy Chicago alley. A few crack heads yelped, and ran from their uninvited guest. Lilly made sure to avoid the dirty needle they’d left behind. She ignored the midday summer heat as she stepped past the unguarded door into the air conditioned interior.

“Hey, you’re not sup…” a female bartender began to demand Lilly leave when one of her coworkers stopped her. A hand on her shoulder, and a few whispered words turned the woman’s tanned skin pale. “Sorry.”

Lilly never stopped moving despite the bartender’s words. She gave the bartender a pointed stare, which the other woman took as an invitation to find anything that needed cleaning away from Lilly. With the new help dealt with, Lilly continued to the back door. A beefy man stood guard, despite the establishment being closed. He didn’t wait to usher her in. Lilly followed the familiar path down into Mika’s equally familiar, unpleasant smelling room.

The constant hum of the cooling fans was present as always, along with what sounded like an electric drill. It looked like Mika had cleaned up a bit since her previous visit. The amount of half-finished motherboards was down to just a few large ones, spare parts were better organized, and the sentry robot wasn’t rusting away in its docking station.

“Halt! State your intention,” the droid in question stepped out from behind a shelf with weapons trained on Lilly.

She smirked, teleported behind the machine, and gave it a swift kick in its metallic ass. The robot, unable to compensate, fell on its face where it floundered like a fish out of water.

“Baby, what was that noise?” the sound of a voice other than Mika’s put Lilly on high alert.

The scantily clad teenager, who made bimbos look like debutants of high society, poked her head around the corner only to catch the tail end of a flash of shadow.

“Who are you?” the new girl screamed, as she was first assaulted by Lilly’s reappearing blast of darkness, and then again as the villain grabbed her wrist, forced it behind her back, and then kicked her in the back of the knee, forcing her to the ground.

“Shadow, chill,” Mika appeared in his trademark grease stained t-shirt.

“I don’t like people I don’t know, Mika,” Lilly didn’t let up, even as the girl struggled vainly to push her off.

“Jewel is cool, Shadow,” Lilly highly doubted a whore named Jewel was “cool”, and hoped she’d arrived before Jewel could give Mika an STD.

“You…stay,” Lilly spoke to Jewel like she was a dog; pulling her gun from its holster for emphasis. Any fight the prostitute had in her vanished at the sight of the weapon.

“Chill, Shadow,” Mika put up his hands defensively.

“Show me what you got,” Lilly was all business now.

She scanned the room while Mika retrieved a laptop and USB drive. Jewel was probably nothing more than a two bit hoe that Mika brought home. He probably didn’t even know she blew guys for money, but if her pimp followed her then this location was compromised.

<Call me protective, but I prefer my tech guy’s junk not to rot off,> she shot a glare at Jewel, who cowered further into a ball.

“Here.” Mika opened up the flash drive to show Lilly the information. “I started the search where you suggested, and came up with squat with high school graduates and new military enlistees. I moved on to colleges, doing a pretty standard untraceable hack to pull the students’ information. Still nothing. I took a different approach with the HCP schools like you said, hacking third level systems for pictures. I got this.”

It was her sure enough. The pretty, tan skinned girl with the silver tattoos was smiling back at her from the front of a city bus pass. You couldn’t make out more than the edges of the tattoos, but this was definitely her.

“Good job, right?” Mika bounced back and forth on his feet like a puppy waiting for a treat.

“This is good,” Lilly pocketed the flashdrive, and tossed a small wad of cash at Mika.

“Hey,” Mika stopped as he flipped through the bundle. “This is only five grand. You said twenty-five.”

Lilly sighed, placing a hand on Mika’s shoulder, and giving him a sad smile. The young teen tensed at the contact.

“It was twenty-five before you brought her here,” Lilly pointed her thumb at Jewel. “Then you went and talked about the job in front of her. Not to mention probably showing her specific details when she wanted to get “shown around” your place.” Mika’s blush told Lilly she was correct.

“It’s now five because I’m going to have to spend the other twenty getting her mind wiped,” Jewel yelped at the unexpected statement, and whimpered even more when Lilly pointed her pistol at her.

“But don’t worry,” Lilly drew close, and whispered the words in Mika’s ear. “I’ll make it up to you.” She planted a kiss on Mika’s cheek, leaving a black lipstick imprint he probably wouldn’t wash off for days.

<So easy,> Lilly thought as Mika descended into unintelligible rambles of apology, and trying to get her to stay.

She ignored him as she sauntered over to Jewel, grabbing her under the armpit, and hoisting the whore to her feet.

“I’ll be in touch, big guy,” Lilly winked, and teleported away, leaving Mika womanless.

She reappeared in the middle of the woods somewhere in Canada. The area was deep in the Yukon, untouched by man for thousands of years; except for the large metal box sitting under the thick coniferous tree. Jewel’s attention was on the box, fear spreading across her face, when Lilly extended her baton and bashed her in the back of the head. The little harlot collapsed like a ton of bricks.

<Should have done it closer to the box,> she complained as she was forced to drag the girl across the pine needles.

The box was unlocked, so Lilly opened it, and placed Jewel inside. She grabbed the pen and paper from a protective pouch on the side of the box, and wrote her request.

<Mind wipe going back one week. Here’s twenty grand. Thanks!> she ended the short note with a smiley face.

Lilly tossed the note and cash into the box along with Jewel, and shut it. She didn’t need to worry about the job being done. Her father had used this advanced mind countless times, and this wasn’t Lilly’s first rodeo with him. He’d get the job done, assuming he was a he? She’d never met the Super.

<Problem solved,> she brushed some stray needles off her leather pants, and considered what to do next. <I need a drink,> she pulled the parka tight around her and prepared to jet off to Moscow.

They had the best vodka, and she needed some of the liquid courage to plan her infiltration of West Private University.

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