A Change of Pace – Chapter 23

The hurried footsteps of three retired Heroes, clad in black fatigues, were the only sounds in the deserted hallway. All three advanced at a light jog toward the closed double door of a classroom. Their tranquilizer filled rifles were pointed safely at the ground, and away from each other. Despite not being soldiers, they all had excellent weapons discipline.

Daisy tried to ignore the cold sweat threatening to drip down into her eyes as they approached their target. Every step she took sent her stomach into a spasm, which threatened to violently expel what little she’d been able to get down for breakfast.

“You good?” asked the last person in the world Daisy want to admit weakness to.

“I’m fine, Marshall, just don’t let some kid stick his foot up your ass. That would be really embarrassing.” The ranged combat instructor gave a half-growl, half-laugh to Daisy’s blunt reply.

“Cut the small talk,” Grace, the third and final member of the three person raid, commanded.

No one was really in command, but Daisy and Marshall spent too much time trying to one-up each other for either to be an effective commander.

Marshall ignored her. “At least I wouldn’t like it and ask for more,” his response was crude, and sexually demeaning; which of course got a chuckle out of Daisy.

“Don’t make me tell Robin,” Grace’s comment shut Marshall up quick. Robin hadn’t been doing too well since they finally took the Super couple’s son to the specialized holding facility for dangerous Powereds.

“We’re here, stack up,” Grace gave the order for the three man team to line up close to each other up against the wall. “Ready?”

Daisy was not ready, and she’d been dreading this exercise during all their weekend planning sessions. For some unknown reason, the students came to the conclusion that all the professors were doing was kicking down doors and taking names. They conveniently didn’t realize that for the safety of everyone involved, careful planning had to be done. That was the primary reason there was five whole days between the freshman class whooping and their current mission. Daisy and her teammates knew everything about the eight junior students whose close combat class they were about to interrupt.

When phase two had been set into motion, Daisy hoped to feel better by Monday, but that hadn’t panned out. Her withdrawal symptoms were only getting worse. Dr. Johnson had given her something to help with the migraines and nausea. But they could only take the edge off without putting her out of action. The psychiatrist was overjoyed that Daisy was taking sobriety so seriously, and pained that he had to watch as her body violently reacted to the change. On top of that, Daisy didn’t have the luxury of taking a day off.

Daisy would have gladly given Craig the opportunity to be involved in the attack. The speedster was already pissed that he hadn’t been able to get in on the freshmen beating, but his absence would tip off the more perceptive juniors. So while he was busy sulking inside the very classroom they were about to storm, Daisy was busy trying not to lose it all over the spotlessly polished floor.

“Ready?” Grace repeated when Daisy didn’t acknowledge.

“Ready,” Daisy cringed, thinking about what they were about to come up against instead of her rumbling stomach.

The eight juniors outnumbered the professors more than 2-1, but that didn’t mean anything. The only real challenge was to disable the students in the allotted 90 second time period, while not completely trashing the room. The DVA agent-in-charge had shit a brick when John gave him the invoice for damages last Friday.

Daisy would have laughed if a sudden pressure in her colon didn’t stop her short. “Let’s get this over with.”

“They know we’re coming,” Grace alerted the other two Heroes to the small inconvenience.

It seemed Craig wanted to make this afternoon enjoyable for him too. Daisy could hear the students calling out tactics to each other through the wall, as they arranged themselves to defend against the instructors.

<Not gonna do you a lot of good.> Daisy pushed down the bubbling in her gut as Grace pulled a wicked looking cylinder from her belt, pulled the pin, cooked it for a few seconds, and tossed it through the door.

The powerful flash bang grenade was potent enough to stun the strongman and durable shifter in the group. It wouldn’t keep them down long, especially if they were farther away from the epicenter of the blast, but they would probably be the closest to the door. They were the logical first line of defense. The energy manipulator would have decent shielding, so he wouldn’t lose a step. The speedster in the group would take the hit, but she’d recover quickly. Daisy hoped the other four would get taken out altogether. Two weren’t more durable than a human, but just happened to be really good fighters. There was also a tech brilliance Super that had a knack for developing rather ingenious self-defense tools. As far as Craig could tell them, she didn’t have anything on her in class that could shield her from the blast. The last one was a healer, but couldn’t self-heal. So hopefully she’d go down and stay down.

Daisy heard a scream and scrambling a split second before a thunderous boom shook the wall they were stacked against.

“Go!” Grace yelled, kicking open the door and advancing into the room.

Daisy and Marshall followed her lead, and peeled off to cover their assigned sectors, rifles methodically firing at any sign of movement. Adrenaline coursed through Daisy’s veins, masking her internal discomfort; while carefully released microbursts of electricity into her brain sped up her perception of the unfolding attack.

They’d divided the room into three sectors. Grace’s sector was the center of the room, where two of the juniors were still twitching from the powerful effects of the grenade. Grace rapidly fired four rounds, two for each of the non-durable Supers, putting them out of action. Marshall’s sector was the third of the room immediately to the right of the entrance. More bangs from the assault rifle announced him pumping rounds into the healer, taking her out. He also had the durable shifter and technical brilliance student to deal with.

The durable shifter was already getting to its feet, its hardened scales defending it against the tranquilizer rounds. The creature was easily eight feet tall with four sturdy limbs, a barbed tail, and a pronounced snout filled with razor sharp teeth the size of kitchen knives. What looked like drool dripped from the creature’s mouth, only to ignite into flame halfway to the ground.

From the nanosecond impression Daisy got from the scene, it seemed the student’s shifted form blocked the tech brilliance student from the majority of the blast. Having survived the initial shockwave, with the shifter blocking all of the follow on tranquillizer rounds, the female tech Super had engaged some sort of gauntlet to form a body length force field in front of her. She was now circling to the right, creating space between her and the shifter, and giving Marshall two targets to concentrate on.

<Smart,> Daisy would have loved to watch, but she had her own issues to deal with.

The energy manipulator had shielded himself, the strongman, and the speedster from the effects of the blast. All three converged on Daisy.

Daisy mentally worked through the information she’d memorized on the three Supers advancing on her. The strongman was about Jackson’s strength level, but with three years of HCP combat training under his belt. He’d take longer to dispatch than the freshmen. The speedster was pretty straight forward, and as always a pain in the ass to deal with. The energy manipulator was going to be the tricky one. A glowing bubble of transparent blue light encircled the young man as he hovered a foot off the ground. This made reacting to his attacks easier, but dealing with energy blasts in general was an unpleasant task.

The speedster charged, appearing as little more than an extended blur even to Daisy’s enhanced perception. She’d have to take the first hit, and try to quickly grab the female student. Daisy would easily be able to absorb the kinetic energy of the blow, and didn’t want to shock the young woman unless necessary. Her experience with Galavant had left her a little hesitant to engage less trained combatants that way.

Luckily, bullets moved faster than the speedster, and the young woman was forced to divert as a trio of tranquilizers sliced through the space in front of her. The young woman changed tactics, and sprinted toward Grace, leaving Daisy to deal with the remaining students. The two attacked as one, the energy manipulator firing a wave of energy forward with the strongman sprinting behind it.

Daisy dropped her rifle. It wasn’t going to be any use against these two, so it would only get damaged or get in the way. The last thing Daisy wanted was to have to sit in front of a DVA agent and explain how she’d carelessly damaged an expensive piece of equipment. As the weapon skidded toward the wall Daisy charged the attack.

The strongman faltered a half step when he saw the ninja looking instructor rushing towards him, but he wasn’t a newbie. He took a moment to reconsider his approach, and quickly concluded that his best chance was to get in close with her, even if he didn’t know the extent of her abilities. He continued his charge behind the blue light of the blast.

Daisy had two options: create a spear point of electricity to part and pass through the energy wave, or go around it. The lightening spear would take precious seconds she didn’t have, and there was always the risk of a too powerful blast harming the strongman; she settled for going around, or more accurately, over.

Daisy put a little power into one of her legs midstride, and angled her body so she was leading with her shoulder. With a powerful push she leapt off the ground and up towards the top of the wave like a pole-vaulter. She didn’t clear the top, the wave was advancing too quickly, but she didn’t expect to. She evaluated the wave before she jumped and used the convex curve to her advantage.

The wave was thickest, and most powerful, at its center. The center was at the height one would expect a person to be, and was the logical place to hit someone with. The top of the wave curved backwards, the opposite of an actually wave which curled forward. Daisy hit nearly the top, weaker section of the wave with the tip of her shoulder. She ignored the smell of burning fabric, and concentrated on her jump.

The kinetic power of her leap, and the energy of the wave, warred against each other for dominance. Daisy’s experience had allowed her to judge it well enough that the colliding forces spun her around, without doing much damage to anything but her clothing; so her feet were now facing her opponents, and slid her over the top edge of the wave.

The strongman’s surprise at the ninja-like maneuver didn’t slow his charge, while Daisy’s movement had negated nearly all of her forward momentum. Luckily she was a kinetic absorber, or she’d have been squashed like a bug.

Daisy barely had enough time to plant her feet before the strongman hit her. She crouched to absorb some of the impact, and only made a small crater in the floor, while putting her shoulder into the boy’s sternum. She felt the kinetic energy of the charge rush into her. She fought down the nausea as it reared its ugly head at the worst possible time.

The strongman took a step back, the wind knocked out of him from the charge that should have at least budged her. The backward step opened up enough space between them that she was able to hit him with a powerful body blow. The sound of her fist making contact with his stomach created a noticeable boom that echoed throughout the room, and created even more space between them.

The strongman recovered quickly, years of fighting with injuries had drilled the need to keep moving into his muscle memory. He closed the distance again, and went for a knockout blow to the head. Daisy blocked the blow with a straight arm, absorbed even more kinetic energy, and then wrapped her arm under his until it was firmly secured under her armpit. Instead of trying something different, he attempted to do the same thing with the opposite arm, and got the same result. With both arms secured under her arm pits she yanked upwards, hyperextending both of his elbows.

A painful growl escaped the young Super’s throat, while controlled anger raged in his eyes. If he’d had a little more experience he would have thought to just throw Daisy behind him so the energy manipulator could engage while he recuperated. He didn’t think of that, so Daisy had the opportunity to turn that hesitation into a devastating head-butt.

Daisy learned early on in her career there was a science to head-butting. First and foremost, you never go forehead to forehead. You’re just as likely to injure yourself as your opponent. Really, you shouldn’t be attempting a head-butt unless you were in a tough spot, and as a general rule, you wanted to avoid those. On the rare occasion you did find yourself in the unfortunate place you need to use one, you always aimed for the soft cartilage of the nose. Daisy needed to be careful to impart just the right amount of kinetic force with the blow.

Kinetic power met superhuman durability, and the kinetic force won. Daisy smashed her forehead into the soft bridge of the strongman’s nose. The impact crumpled the cartilage, effectively destroyed the sensory organ, along with breaking the upper jaw and severely fracturing the bones around the students eye sockets. A defiant growl became a howl of pain as the strongman collapsed to the floor clutching his face.

<One down,> Daisy didn’t have any time to celebrate as rapid fire punches began to rain down on her from the returned speedster.

Daisy blocked every third blow from the faster woman, absorbing the rest. With the twelfth blow, a grunt, tasting like vomit, escaped her limps. Daisy wasn’t hurt in the slightest, but all the jostling around was playing hell with her stomach. The taste of the vomit on her tongue only sealed the deal.

<Shit,> Daisy gagged while continuing to block and absorb blows.

The speedster was zooming around her in a mini cyclone now, delivering weak blows from every angle. Daisy’s quick thinking allowed her to come up with a plan before she became a disgusting version of Mt. Vesuvius.

It’s a unique feeling when you telepathically communicate mid-puke with a teammate, especially when you’re channeling internal kinetic energy to turn a normal puke into projectile vomit.

<Gross…>Grace got the message.

The speedster, still running in a tight, rapid circle, didn’t have enough time to change course when Daisy’s stomach emptied like a broken fire hydrant. The speedster only took another two steps before she lost her traction and went flying across the room. As always, the female student had above average durability so she didn’t go splat whenever she hit something. That durability had a limit, and that limit was reached when she hit a telekinetic barrier thrown up by Grace. The defeated woman slid down the invisible barrier, in comically slow motion, unconscious, with a look of revolution remaining on her face.

“That’s fucking gross,” Marshall stood over the unconscious body of the student who used to be a hulking, menacing, dragon-like creature.

The technical brilliance student was slumped over not too far away, her whole body twitching from when one of Marshall’s plasma blasts caused her shield-gauntlet to malfunction.

“I’d give myself top marks for ingenuity,” Daisy replied, wiping the last bit of bile from her lips, and spitting out the remainder of the lingering vile taste.

“And that’s time,” Craig announced to the instructors, and sole remaining student.

The energy manipulator stood the maximum possible distance from Daisy, while trying not to look like he was freaked out.

“Power down, kid,” Daisy made sure she hadn’t gotten any of the puke in her hair. “I’m not contagious.”

After a few moments the remaining junior let the shimmering bubble of blue energy dissipate.

“Go get the healers for your classmates, Dustin.” They boy took off like someone had lit a fire under him.

“You know I got it all on tape,” Craig was grinning like he’d won the lottery, while juggling his phone between his hands.

“Don’t you dare,” Daisy made a grab for it, but he sped across the room.

“I’ll make you a deal for it,” Craig looked pensive, in a “you’re full of shit” kind of way.

“I’ll trade you this embarrassing moment for that Reaper t-shirt you got at the mall.”

<Son of a bitch,> Chrissy had warned Daisy he’d be relentless about this, and Marshall grinning like an idiot in the corner wasn’t helping her decision making process. Grace couldn’t do more than shrug her shoulders and telepathically apologize.

“Fine,” Daisy caved. “Delete the recording.”

“Not so fast,” Craig wiggled his phone for emphasis. “I need to see the merchandise first.”

“I’ll bring it to the freshman gym class. I promise.” Craig wasn’t going to take her word for it.

“Then we’ll make the exchange there,” Craig look pleased at the deal he’d struck. “I’ll have all the freshmen as witnesses if you decide you want to kick my ass.”

“You’ve got your shirt, and you’ll get the footage,” Grace interjected, as the healers arrived to patch up the defeated students up. “Let’s get back to work.”

 

***

 

Coach McMillian wasn’t hounding her during the warm up run, which gave Becca way too much time to think.

<I can’t believe I had sex…with a girl,> she repeated, for what must have been the thousandth time in the last five days.

She’d awoken Thursday morning blissfully content and ignorant, for about a second, before the enormity of her situation hit her. Anika was lying naked in bed next to her, half wrapped in sheets, and smiling in her sleep. The smile on the other woman’s face sent Becca’s heart soring, but then she remembered what had happened to cause the expression. Every joyful, sweet, pleasure-filled moment of the action her upbringing deemed inappropriate, overwhelmed her.

Becca knew she’d woken up Anika as she jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. She locked the door behind her and sat naked on the cold porcelain. The thin walls didn’t stop the sound of her crying, and only succeeded in waking up Kyoshi and Angela.

<I’ve betrayed everyone,> sobs wracked Becca’s entire body. The faces of her parents, siblings, friends, and townspeople back home flashing through her mind.

Kyoshi had to restrain Angela from kicking down the bathroom door to get to her friend. Then the telepath, undoubtedly knowing exactly what was going through Becca’s mind, had to confront a confused and hurt Anika.

The embarrassment of having put both Anika and Kyoshi in that situation hurt almost as much as the sense of betrayal. Thursday and Friday’s gym classes had only added fuel to the fire. Both times Anika tried to approach Becca; to figure out, understand, and comfort the woman she’s given her heart and body to. Each time Becca turned her away.

It started with, <I need to pretend it never happened.> But that turned out to be a horrible idea. The more Becca tried to ignore it, the more it kept rattling around inside her brain. That lead to, <I need to deal with it.>

                The original plan was to tell Anika it had all been a mistake. That it had been Becca’s hormones and mental state that did the deed, not Becca. But that was a cop-out, and more reflection revealed it wasn’t true.

It took the entire weekend for Becca to come to grips with the truth. The intimate time she’d spent with Anika was one of the happiest and carefree moments of her life. The handful of boys she’d been with didn’t even come close. Becca didn’t get a little jolt of excitement when they kissed her like she did with Anika. Becca didn’t feel really close with any of the guys she’d been with. Anika had been tender and gentle with her. Reacting to her wants and needs in a way even she didn’t understand.

Becca looked back at all their interactions since meeting Anika, and she honestly couldn’t find a time she hadn’t been happy. There were a few where she’d been intimidated or scared, but they’d evolved into a warm feeling in her gut.

It was Sunday afternoon by the time Becca was able to admit she had feelings for Anika.

<But I’m a good Christian girl,> coming to grips with one problem had only made the second worse.

Becca was a small town girl, from a place older women looked down on the younger generation when their skirts rose above their knees. Everyone attended the same church, and knew everyone else by their first name. People stayed in the town their whole lives; marrying their high school sweethearts, having a litter of rugrats, and never ever divorcing. That was just how things were. The person Becca was becoming didn’t fit into the picture. In fact, they had pretty strong beliefs against it despite the changing times.

<Will Mom and Dad still love me…can I hide this from them…if I tell them, will they let me come home for Christmas?> these thoughts kept Becca secluded in her room until she had to go to class on Monday.

Becca didn’t have the will to debate the old flower child about what art really was. A behavior that was apparently so off-putting, that the teacher Becca hated most asked if she was ok at the end of class. Becca just gave a halfhearted response before heading off to Math. She hadn’t done the homework; her problems seemed a little bigger than the Pythagorean Theorem, but Kyoshi helped by telepathically giving her some answers. Aside from that, the other Super gave Becca her space. Becca got lunch to go, not ready to confront Anika just yet. She still needed to work out exactly what to say, and the courage to say it.

Apparently, the several hours of muscular pain, exhaustion, and getting yelled at by former Heroes was the perfect combination.

“Hit the showers, you all smell like shit,” Coach Meyers looked as bad as they smelled, but no one had the courage to ask her about it.

Becca was on the opposite side of the group gathered around the two professors, which meant she had to weave through the entire class to catch up with Anika.

“Anika,” the other Super jerked at the sound of Becca’s voice, and the touch of her hand on her shoulder. “Can we…”

“No, I get it,” Anika shrugged off Becca’s hand. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll just pretend it never happened.” Anika stalked away completely ignoring Becca.

For the second time in a week, Becca felt her world crashing down around her. That this was the first time she’d ever been rejected, by man or woman, didn’t help. The struggle to understand herself was brutal, and when she finally came to grips with that, despite how it conflicted with everything else she knew, it had transformed her. Now it seemed like it was all pointless.

<No.> Becca’s mind finally started to function again, but she was alone in the gym now.

Becca slowly lost her balance, and sunk to the floor. She didn’t even realize she was crying until the drops of liquid started to cascade down her cheeks and onto her uniform. “I’m sorry.” It was all Becca could think to say to the sudden void she felt.

The warm glow was gone, replaced by a hollow sphere of regret and pain.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, a little louder, bringing her knees up to her chest and gently rocking back and forth.

“I’m sorry,” she wailed for the third time, her vision blurred by the freely running tears. “I screwed up!”

“Becca?” the voice was the most beautiful thing Becca had ever heard.

Becca raised her head, from where she’d had it rested on her knees, to see a concerned Anika kneeling a few feet away.

“Bec…” Anika was halfway through her name when Becca launched herself at the stronger Super, tackling her to the ground in a hug.

“…I’m so sorry…,” were the only intelligible words of Becca’s incoherent apology.

“Shhh…it’s ok,” Anika gently ran her fingers through Becca’s still-sweaty hair, hugging her back just as tightly as Becca was hugging her.

They lay there together, in a sprawled embrace in the middle of the gym, until Becca finally calmed down.

“I’m really am sorry,” Becca continued to apologize. “I know I hurt you…I don’t deserve you…and I’m ok if you don’t want to, but you deserved an apology.”

Anika grasped Becca’s chin between her thumb and forefinger, and pulled it up so the petite speedster met her eyes. “Of course I want you.” Their lips met again in a deep but tender moment of committal.

“If you two lovebirds are finished,” Anika and Becca both jumped at Coach Meyer’s stealthy appearance.

Their teacher’s voice and eye held none of the hardness they had only a short while before. Anika had seen this softer, comforting side of the alternative instructor before, but this was a first for Becca.

“I believe your friends are waiting for you,” Coach Meyers pointed towards the doors of the gym where Kyoshi, Angela, and Mason were all waiting with big smiles on their faces. “It would be rude to keep them waiting.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the newly formed couple answered in sync.

Becca grabbed Anika’s hand and pulled her towards her waiting room mates. The warm glow in her gut, that had been gone a moment before, was now a small radiating sun. People back home might judge her and ridicule her for what she’d accepted about herself, but she was going to be a Hero. If she couldn’t deal with a little bit of backlash then she was in the wrong profession.

<Plus,> she turned to the emerald eyed beauty she could now call her girlfriend. <I’ll be by her side.>

 

***

 

“So what’s the occasion?” It was Saturday night; the first night Seth had been back at the townhouse all week.

“You seriously don’t know,” Mason wore a shocked look on his face. “Seriously…”

Seth just shook his head, grabbed a beer from the cooler, and popped it open.

“Bro, I thought you’d be the first to be beggin’ for info,” Mason chuckled, grabbed two beers, and walked away without another word.

<What the hell is going on?> Seth wasn’t used to being out of the loop, even with most people in the HCP not speaking to him, he had his ways of gathering information.

The house was crowded with most of the HCP freshmen class, at what was apparently the first house-party of the year for the new college students. Well, not for Seth. He’d been out a lot in the past two weeks, and had rarely spent a night alone. All while continuing to excel in academics and HCP training.

“Anna?” Seth turned to the first person he saw; attempting to figure out what was being kept from him.

“Fuck off, sleazebag,” Anna didn’t even break stride as she pushed past him.

Seth could feel the jolt of static electricity as she passed him. <Can’t say I didn’t see that coming.> He didn’t let the volatile woman get under his skin. <All because I said she had a nice ass. Can’t a woman take a compliment.> He shook his head, remembering the world-class butt. <So, who here will actually talk to me?>

His first choice was Becca. Unlike most of the female Supers in his class, she didn’t automatically dismiss him. In fact, Seth actually enjoyed her company. He’d started laying the groundwork for the friendship, and possibly more, since the day she’d needed his reassurance during the combat rankings. Unfortunately, he hadn’t seen her yet, so he scouted out possible substitutes.

Seth watched as Anna made her way through the open entrance, out of the kitchen, and into the common room; giving him a great view of her marvelous butt in a pair of Lara Croft style khaki shorts. Anna had to slide to the side when she reached the opening to allow another female Super into the kitchen, where all the beer was being stored.

<No way in hell she’s going to talk to me.> Seth didn’t even bother approaching the girl.

Kimberly Goodman, despite being in a class full of athletic, powerful, mostly beautiful women, was the class bombshell. She had pixy cut pink hair, on top of a face with high, aristocratic cheek bones. She was tall, six feet; almost as tall as him. With legs that went on for days, and a rack that ran above a double D. Her naturally white skin had been professionally tanned in the Florida sun, and that was all on top of world class gymnast’s physique.

In addition to that, she was the number nine ranked freshman. Due to his first round knockout by Angela, Seth had ample opportunity to stop and watch her fight. Kimberly was a blaster, capable of firing spheres at her opponents. She could do a variety of damage depending on her intent. Seth had seen her defeat her classmates through sheer explosive force, freezing them, and even encasing them inside a sphere and sucking out all the oxygen. She’d eventually lost to Webb’s shifted form, but that was primarily due to a miscalculation on her part. From what Seth could make out, Kimberly had the power to control the properties of the sphere itself. Making her quite flexible.

Seth had been particularly interested in the match where she froze her opponent with a small sphere that rapidly expanded when it made contact with human flesh. Being an elemental manipulator, he naturally wanted to talk to her afterwards to discuss their abilities. Despite Seth’s early misfortunes with the class, mostly thanks to Coach Meyers, Kimberly had been willing to talk to him. Talking had led to laughing, laughing to drinking, and drinking to a drunken all night sexscapade.

<Then I had to open my big mouth.>

Seth had ended up bragging about it to get back in the good graces of the other guys. Word got back to Kimberly, and she’d rallied the girls to socially banish him. Seth would never again let a love of pink, and a fascination with glitter, influence his perception of a woman. Nor did he want to meet her in a combat cell any time soon.

Seth couldn’t help but glance upwards at her. After all, she was probably the hottest woman he’d ever slept with. Their eyes met for a moment, and a flicker of pink light appeared in her hand. Through a video screen, he’d seen that flicker of pink light grown into a basketball-sized sphere that blasted a person ten feet into the air.

Seth quickly averted his gaze, ending the awkward moment. Kimberly grabbed a wine cooler from the fridge and exited without a word.

<Who else can I talk to that won’t try and kill me?> Seth needed to leave the kitchen to find someone.

The house was crowded with the thirty plus students that showed up, so Seth had to squeeze through the densely packed room to get anywhere. Most people, especially the girls, scurried away from him like he was infected.

<I don’t have an STD,> Seth mentally grumbled, remembering why he’d been spending a lot of time away from these people.

He knew he’d messed up with accepting the challenge from Coach Meyers without talking with the rest of the class. He knew his one night stand with Kimberly, and his reputation with women, wasn’t endearing him to the large number of female Supers. Because none of the girls liked him, most of the guys stayed clear as well. If they were associated with him, that ruined their chances of hooking up with anyone.

<Aren’t we all training to be Heroes though,> Seth thought as he found another person that would talk to him. <You’d think they’d give a guy a break.>

Sean Perez saw Seth coming and frantically looked for an exit. The small, scrawny Super was sitting alone in a corner, nursing a beer, and just trying to blend into the crowd. Seth didn’t want to intimidate Sean, but he needed to know what was going on. Even if Seth didn’t stand a chance of actually talking to anyone about whatever was going on, his curiosity demanded he figure it out.

At 5’0” tall, Sean was the smallest person in the class, but that hadn’t stopped him from reaching the 31st rank. Sean was a tech brilliance Super with a specialization in biochemistry, so he was more dangerous than he looked. From what Seth had seen, the little guy could pose a threat if he went mad scientist.

It still irked Seth that this little guy, with zero body fat, and zero muscular definition, outranked him by 12 spots. He kept that emotion off his face as he smiled down at Sean.

“Hey there, Sean,” Seth leaned up against the wall next to the smaller Super, trying not to scare him off.

“Hello, Seth. How are you?” the greeting and questions sounded forced and rehearsed, like something that was said dozens of times in front of a mirror before actually spoken to someone.

Seth was pretty sure that was the case. Rumor was that Sean spent all of his free time in the lab he’d set up in his townhouse’s basement. Seth was even a little surprised Sean was here tonight. Social interaction wasn’t really Sean’s strong point.

“I’m good Sean, but a little confused,” Seth ignored Sean’s little quirk. “No one told me why we’re having this little shindig here. Any idea what the special occasion is?” Sean twitched a little bit as Seth asked his question.

“All in know is that it has to do with Becca and Anika, that’s all?” Sean tried to leave, but Seth casually blocked his way.

“That’s not a lot to go off of. What’s up with them?” Seth couldn’t help that he came off a little overbearing, but he knew Sean was holding back what he wanted to know.

“Hey, Sean,” a subtle shift in the electrical composition of the air around them announced the arrival of Anna. “Why don’t you grab me a drink, and then you can tell me all about that new concoction I heard you telling Coach McMillian about?” Sean’s eyes lit up at the offer.

“Sure thing, Anna,” Sean scurried past Seth to grab that drink.

When he was out of ear shot, Anna turned on Seth. “I ever see you messing with Sean again I’m gonna toast your ass, Abney,” the air vibrated with the additional electrical current flowing through it.

“I wasn’t messing with him, Fletcher,” Seth replied, his anger building. “I was just asking him a question. A question I can’t ask the rest of you because you’re all a bunch of vindictive bitches.”

Electricity danced up and down Anna’s spine, while flame engulfed Seth’s hands. In anticipation of a fight people began to scatter, running over each other to get away from the dangerous elements.

“What’s goin’ on here?” the lumbering giant that was Mason approached the two angry Supers, caring very little about their dangerous abilities. “Nobody is fightin’ in my house.”

“Anna, stop being combative, and Seth, stop snooping around,” Kyoshi appeared behind her massive boyfriend, a little more worried about the flames and lightening in front of her.

<Mom and Dad trying to calm all the kids down,> Seth smirked internally while releasing the flames.

With the flames gone, Anna backed off, and everything returned to a semblance of normalcy. Leave it to a bunch of teenage Supers to come within seconds of destroying a building, and then carry on like nothing ever happened.

“The answer to your question is that Becca and Anika are dating,” Kyoshi stood next to him, while everyone else gave him plenty of space.

The realization hit Seth harder than he thought it would. Seth had no problems with homosexuality; particularly lesbians, especially if they were inclined to let him join in. So that wasn’t what threw him off. It was because it was Becca.

Seth had consciously been establishing a friendship with Becca, and eventually, it seemed he wanted to take that to the next level. She’d been the first girl he hadn’t blatantly taken advantage of in a moment of weakness, and despite what other people might think, that had been a big moment for him.

<I know I’m not the greatest guy, but I thought I might have had a chance at something remotely healthy with her.>

Seth looked over towards Becca just in time to see her laugh at something Anika said, and give the other woman an exaggerated kiss on the lips. It was the nail in the coffin as far as Seth was concerned.

Kyoshi heard the unprotected mental thoughts, and her eyes widened. Seth could tell by her expression that she was trying to find the right words to say, probably something cheesy like “there’s someone out there for everyone” or “you’ll find her, just give it time”. Seth wasn’t naïve enough to think that Becca was “the one”, but she’d been the first girl in a long time he’d genuinely liked.

“I’m gonna take off,” Seth didn’t let Kyoshi try and cheer him up. “Call me if you need something.”

The smile and wave Becca gave him on his way out only made it worse. Seth felt like he was suffocating under the sudden surge of unfamiliar emotions. He needed some fresh air, and something to take his mind off of Becca.

The humid air wasn’t so fresh as Seth took a deep breath to steady his emotions. <What the hell is wrong with me?> He pulled out his phone, desperate for some interaction from someone who didn’t detest him, couldn’t read his mind, and wasn’t in a lesbian relationship.

Where are you? He texted his usual squeeze, although he wasn’t in the mood to do any of the squeezing.

At Butch’s. Cum hang out

Her text spoke volumes of the gutter her mind was in, but Seth had nothing better to do. Butch was a freshman star on West’s lacrosse team, and Seth had gotten to know him and his roommates over the past couple weeks. They came from similar backgrounds, both liked to party, and both had the same taste in women. Butch lived at townhouse #33, just down the street, and there were usually plenty of the latter at his weekly parties. Seth spent the walk over trying to distract himself from Becca, and thinking about what to tell his fuckbuddy. For the first time in a long time, he just wasn’t in the mood.

“Hey there good looking,” she was waiting for him on the porch. “Want a quickie in the alley before we get wasted?”

Seth was usually instantly turned on by this type of offer, but not tonight. “Long day, just want to get plastered.” She pouted a little at his refusal, but let it go.

“Just don’t get whiskey dick on me,” she winked, grabbed his hand, and led him inside.

Anika and Becca’s party was tame compared to Butch’s weekly fiestas. There had to be nearly a hundred people crammed into the house, which had the same exact layout as Seth’s. Unlike the other party, Butch’s guests were on all three levels, with the third bedroom being rented out to anyone who didn’t have the patience to get back to their own room. It was lucrative business idea; one Seth had taken up on a few occasions.

“Seth, my man!” Butch came out of nowhere to give Seth a big, drunken hug.

Butch would have been a tall, broad, intimidating man if Seth wasn’t in the HCP. Unfortunately, people with Mason’s size and Anna’s temperament made him look like a stuffed teddy bear. In general, Butch was a good guy.

“Hey, Butch,” the big lacrosse defenseman noticed his buddy’s lack of enthusiasm, even through his beer goggles.

“Cheer up, S-Man,” Butch gave him a slap on the back that would have toppled a lesser man. “It’s Saturday night, the beer is flowing, the girls are dancing,” he waved his arms to show a good dozen girls gyrating drunkenly in the confined space. “Plus,” he leaned in close. “Your girl is super horny, gotta tap that.”

A quick look over his shoulder showed the girl in question, twirling a strand of her black hair, and practically undressed Seth with hungry eyes. Everything she was doing would have normally revved his engine, but not tonight.

“Just point me to the keg,” Seth sidestepped the topic, and followed Butch to the large metal cylinder.

Seth poured himself a drink and surveyed the crowd. There were a lot of regulars that Seth noticed. When they caught his eye, they smiled and waved. Guys came up to him asking how he thought the school’s football team would do this season, or what he knew about the new cute girl on the dancefloor; while girls asked him to dance. He usually declined the girls. His usual female companion, despite continuously being told they weren’t in relationship, was very territorial. When she wasn’t there, Seth would indulge himself.

<No one here judges me,> Seth gave a salute, with his red solo cup, to another member of the lacrosse team who was heading upstairs with a pretty red-head. <They don’t critique my lifestyle choices, avoid me like the plague, or treat me like trash.> Seth barely noticed when his friend with benefits grabbed his butt from behind.

“Come on,” she groaned in his ear. “I want you,” she slowly moved her hands around to his front.

<And to think I’d ever get something like this with Becca.> The thought, meant to cheer him up, backfired.

Seth moved away from the groping woman, removing her hands from his crotch. “Not tonight.”

“You making me work for it, baby,” she started to unbutton her top in the middle of the crowded room. She wasn’t afraid of her body, and Seth knew it was a personal goal for her to appear on Girls Gone Wild.

“I said no,” Seth growled in a tone he’d never taken with her before.

She took a step back, at the unexpected reaction. “What the fuck’s up with you tonight, Seth?”

“I already told you. Bad day, not in the mood,” the exasperation in his tone was thick.

“Sure, fine,” she started to button up her shirt, trying to hide the hurt.

<It’s not you, it’s me,> Seth thought the completely cliché thought, but it was true. He didn’t want her blaming herself. Even if she was a bit masochistic, and would probably get off on it.

“Call me when you’re in the mood,” she tried to sound sexy, but Seth could still see the hurt in her eyes.

“Of course,” he tried to sound sincere and smile, even if he didn’t know when he’d want to be with her again.

She walked away, leaving Seth alone with his thoughts, but not for long.

“You’re acting weird S-Man. You never turn down poontang like that,” Seth could make out the concern behind the drunken glaze in Butch’s eyes.

<They actually care about me. They’re not a bunch of judgmental Supers with a chip on their shoulders. Heroes my ass.>

                “I’m good, Butch, just tired,” Seth might have lost one thing, but he realized he did have friends and people who cared about him. “I think I’ll take off. We still on for tomorrow’s…”he almost finished the question when a peculiar scent hit his nostrils.

It was a scent Seth knew all too well. A scent he’d seen many of his high school friends partake in before spiraling out of control. A scent he was prepared to dedicate a part of his life to never smell again.

Without an explanation Seth took off through the house, and out the back door. It was just as crowded in the small cement courtyard, but Seth’s power allowed his to immediately identify the embers of the lit blunt.

“Hey!” Seth’s yell caught the attention of all fifteen people. “Don’t smoke that shit here.” Twelve of the fifteen people knew exactly what he was talking about, and turned their attention to the trio of guys smoking the illegal plant.

“Don’t worry, it’s cool,” the three guys didn’t look like they went to school at West. And the small pile of baggies in front of them said they were here to do business. Butch didn’t mind people smoking, but he definitely minded people dealing. He wasn’t going to lose his scholarship on a felony drug charge.

“No it isn’t,” Seth descended the three rotting wooden stairs. “Get out of here, now.” The twelve other people saw where this was going, and quickly began to get out of there.

“The fucks your problem, son,” the three guys got to their feet. “You affecting my business.”

“Take your business somewhere else,” Seth stopped a couple feet from the apparent leader, making sure to keep the other two in sight.

“That ain’t how this works. How it works is we do what we want, and you shut your bitch ass up.” The other two started to move to either side of Seth. “Leave now and I won’t fuck you up.”

“Leave now and I won’t break both your arms,” Seth countered.

The dealer sneered, and gave the signal for his man to attack.

The man to Seth right charged, throwing a haphazard jab at Seth. He was a bigger guy, who’d probably used intimidation, or his sheer size, to win fights in the past. Being intimidated never crossed Seth’s mind. He easily dodged the punch, grabbed the larger man, and used his opponent’s own momentum to throw him to the ground. After that all it took was a little torque and leverage to break the man’s arm at the shoulder.

“Fuck!” the big foot soldier screamed, cradling his arm as it hung at an awkward angle.

Seth didn’t have time to listen to more of the guys complaining before the other foot soldier joined the fight. He had a little more training, pulling back his fists when Seth dodged, so Seth couldn’t do the same thing to him. The second foot soldier forced Seth back, until Seth landed a kick right in his solar plexus. The man doubled over in pain, allowing Seth to finish him off with a knee to the face.

<Must have been what it looked like when Coach Meyers finished off Mason,> Seth thought as he tossed the unconscious body to the side.

Only to come face to face with the dealer pointing a .57 magnum directly at his chest.

<Fuck.> Seth didn’t have time to use his abilities.

“Die, bitch.”

Seth didn’t even see the girl come out of nowhere. Her punch caught the dealer right in the jaw, snapping back his head, and luckily his arm. The powerful handgun discharged with a resounding BOOM, but the bullet went high and to the right, disappearing into the night sky. The mystery girl followed up with a kick to his nearest knee, snapping the vital joint, and sending the already dazed dealer tumbling to the ground. His head hit the ground with a sickening crunch, and he was out cold.

Seth didn’t waste any time in getting close and kicking the pistol out of his reach. He then checked the criminal’s pulse to make sure the fall hadn’t killed the scumbag, not that Seth would have minded if it did. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the dealer was still alive.

People were screaming now as they reacted to the gunshot. Campus security and the police would be here in minutes, which meant Seth needed to get the hell out of there. Despite how he might not like the people in the HCP, he still needed to be a Hero.

<I literally just risked my life to stop drug dealers. I should get fucking extra credit or something,> Seth thought as he took off, but then stopped at the yard’s fence.

He turned back to the mystery girl who had just saved his life. “Come on! Unless you want to spend the night getting questioned by the cops?” The girl gave herself a quick shake and followed him.

Together, they ran across the street, which Butch’s party guests were rapidly emptying into, and into the open student union. They didn’t stay in the building, because that was the first place campus security would check for witnesses. The exited out the back and continued running for a few minutes until there were several buildings between them and the drug dealers whose asses they had thoroughly kicked. Neither of them was winded after the mad sprint to freedom.

“Thanks for saving me back there,” Seth turned to the girl, evaluating him for the first time.

<Holy Shit,> Seth couldn’t fight back his instant attraction to her fit, but curvy frame.

She a few inches under six feet tall, but was still packing a set of jugs as big as Kimberly’s. Her skin was naturally tan, Mediterranean if he had to guess, with warm chocolate eyes, and brilliant blond hair. She was wearing a set of clingy athletic clothes that made everything pop. For a moment Seth was speechless.

“No problem,” the girl arched her back in a stretch that was going to feed Seth’s dreams for weeks.

“I…I’m Seth,” Seth floundered feeling unusually nervous around the girl.

“Elizabeth, but my friends call me Liz,” she replied with a smile.

“Nice to meet you, Liz,” Seth extended his hand.

“So you’re my friend now?” she gave Seth a mischievous grin while taking his hand. “That’s awfully forward of you.”

“I think sharing a near-death experience, gets me immediate friend status,” Seth replied smoothly, getting back into his groove. “How about I buy you a drink? To thank you for the rescue.”

“Slow down there, big guy,” but even as she said it, Seth noticed her giving him the once over. “I can’t just drop everything because I saved your ass. I’ve got plans.” Seth tried to keep the disappointment off his face. “But here’s my number…if you need me to pull you from a burning building or something.” The impish grin was back, and it made Seth’s heart beat harder.

The wink she gave him as she walked away did a whole lot more than speed up his heartrate.

<Women,> Seth tried to clear his head of the rollercoaster of emotions they’d put him through in the last twenty minutes. <I need a cold shower.> He didn’t want to go back to the town house, not with everyone still there, so he found the nearest lift, and headed down into the HCP.

 

***

 

Lilly watched from the shadows as the boy, Seth, walked away in the opposite direction. She pulled out her tablet and watched a blinking red dot head into a nearby building. She zoomed in, her device automatically pulling up the blueprints on file, and providing an overlay to see where exactly the dot was heading.

<He bought that pretty easily,> Lilly though with a smile. <Saving someone’s life will have that effect.>

                Even if Seth Abney wasn’t as trustworthy as he seemed during their encounter, everything about Elizabeth Aretino would check out in the school’s databases. <I personally thought the Liz bit sealed the deal.> she watched as the red dot became fuzzy, and then disappear, as it seemed to walk right into one of the walls without stopping.

Lilly couldn’t believe the lack of perception from the other human students. A little bit of research, on an easy to crack system, would give anyone the bio of the whole Abney family. THE Super family of North Carolina. With that body of his, how could anyone not see he was in the HCP. <People just ignore what they don’t want to see or believe,> she gave a mental shrug.

Lilly didn’t expect to be able to track Seth in the actual HCP facility; Heroes didn’t make those kinds of security mistakes. Plus, her little tracker had an autodestruct sequence built in when it encountered any advanced bit of tech. But at least she knew where an entrance was.

Lilly had Mika to thank for all of this. He was still a little pissed at her for the whole Jewel thing, but all she had to do was show up in a little skimpy something showing side boob and he was putty in her hand again.

<Boys,> she shook her head at the ease of it all. <Seth ain’t no boy though.> Her heart beat a little faster at the memory of him kicking the crap out of those two guys. He might have been able to take the gun-wielding leader, but she didn’t want to compromise the initial stages of her plan.

She felt hot all over, had to fan herself quickly, and collect her thoughts.

He would call; she could see it plain as day on his Adonis-like face. She’d ignore his first few calls, but she’d eventually agree to go out with him. <It’s all about the anticipation.> Lilly wasn’t embarrassed to admit she felt a decent amount of that herself. <Maybe I’ll actually have a bit of fun with this one.> The thought brought a lot more than a smile to her face.

<But for now, a cold shower it is,> Lilly disappeared in a blast of darkness, more confident than ever that her plan would get her to the girl with the silver tattoos.

Previous                                                                                                                                                Next

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “A Change of Pace – Chapter 23

    • I looked back, and it just looks like i did it for the first two dozen chapters of the first COP, probably me just finding my footing when first starting out with the story. It’s only 5 times, but i think they’re referred to as tech genius for the rest of the story. I’ll go back and fix it when i have time. Thanks for the catch.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s