A Change of Pace – Chapter 3

Daisy took one step out of her plain, grey Ford rental and immediately remembered why she hated the South. Once outside the protective barrier offered by the SUV’s air conditioning she found herself immediately coated with a thin layer of sweat. By the time she made it to the trunk the thin layer began to drip, and after moving a few boxes of her possessions it had pooled in uncomfortable places.

As her name might suggest Daisy Lee Meyers was born in Savannah, Georgia during World War Two. She’d spent nearly two decades in the sweltering city hiding who she was before Captain Starlight revealed Supers to the world. When the HCP programs were established she jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. The last time she was south of Virginia was during the Vietnam War, and it hadn’t been long enough. The woman’s ghostly pale skin didn’t do well in this environment.

It was a miracle she’d been able to get down to Orlando this quickly. By the time she returned to her rundown apartment from her therapy session there was a West HCP welcome packet waiting on her kitchen table. It appeared Dr. Johnson wasn’t kidding about the program’s interest in her. If she’d been staying she would have torn the place apart looking for hidden surveillance equipment. Instead she threw everything she owned in a handful of boxes and called a cab. A ride to the airport got her to a rental car kiosk where she got the antiquated chariot that carried her 16 ½ hours to West. She arrived barely 24 hours before Freshman Orientation.

The welcome packet included directions to a small rental home just outside the main campus that she would be able to use during her time as an instructor. It also detailed her meager salary, benefits, and gave her the local DVA office’s number for anything else she might need. A key or code for entry wasn’t attached to the packet, so she assumed someone would meet her there. She assumed correctly when an athletic man appeared before her.

“Daisy Meyers?” he extended a slightly sweaty hand in greeting. “I’m Craig McMillian; we’ll be working together with the freshman this year.” Daisy’s decades of experience around Heroes kept her from screeching in surprise at the sudden arrival.

Daisy sized up the HCP professor as she shook his hand. He was as tall as her with a gradually receding hairline. The hair he still did have was dirty blond and buzzed. His sun tanned face was full of freckles that went well with the pair of green eyes currently evaluating her in the calculated manner of a seasoned Hero. He was fit but not as sizeable as strongmen usually were, and his skin had the same sweaty film as hers so that ruled our certain enhanced physical abilities.

“Speedster with pretty good durability and surprising strength,” he offered, releasing her hand with a lopsided grin.

<Great,> she mentally groaned. <Last thing I need is an endless pool of energy that probably has a fondness for practical jokes>. She’d been around enough speedsters to know they all fell somewhere along that spectrum.

“Absorber,” she offered in return, it was rude to not let someone know your own power if the revealed theirs.

“Cool. The Dean’s played your appointment pretty close to the chest, so no one really knows anything about you,” he gave her another look before shrugging. “We’re all having dinner tonight at his place to welcome you before we get to work tomorrow morning.”

“How kind,” she forced a smile and turned back to her possessions.

He was there before she finished turning with a box in his hands. “This everything?” he asked, turning around like he expected a moving truck to pull up soon.

“I travel light,” she responded, picking up two boxes and heading towards the door.

He beat her there, unlocked the door, and stepped aside to let her take a look. It wasn’t a big home; probably no more than 1300 square feet, but it was better than the alley cardboard box she’d frequently called home. The furniture looked pretty out of date, but she didn’t care about appearances. There was a small T.V. she’d doubt she’d get to enjoy much and a small table tucked into a corner next to the kitchen. The cupboards were stocked with the basics and a plateful of homemade chocolate chip cookies was waiting for her on the counter.

“My wife loves to indulge my sweet tooth,” Craig placed the box he was carrying in the family room. “This is her way of welcoming you to our little HCP family.”

Daisy’s stomach growled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten since leaving New York. To be polite she undid the plastic barrier surrounding the small mountain of cookies and selected a small one. The minute the morsel hit her taste buds it exploded in burst of flavor that made her knees wobble. This was the best damn cookie she’d even had.

“She’s a material manipulator specializing if food,” Craig’s face splitting grin showed he knew exactly what she was experiencing.

“I’m surprised you don’t weigh a ton,” Daisy grabbed a handful of the heavenly deserts and stuffed them in her mouth.

“I would if not for my enhanced metabolism and the workout routine we put the Freshman through. Speaking of that..” the speedster shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “I need to know your fitness status before we start tomorrow. I don’t think any of the kids will be able to keep pace with you, but if you want me to take the lead for a few weeks while you work yourself up that’s no problem.”

No one in their right mind would call Daisy out of shape, but by Hero standards she was. She’d kept up a routine despite her vodka induced stuppors but the damage she’d done to her body far outweighed her attempts to stay in shape.

“I’d say I’m at about 60% right now,” putting down the cookies took more willpower than she thought it would. “Give me two weeks and I’ll be fine. I’m sure I can keep pace with the non-physically enhanced kids, and I have means to keep my shortfalls hidden.”

Craig took her acknowledgement with a nod before leaving to grab the last of the boxes. Daisy turned her attention away from the cookies’ enticing aroma and went to explore the rest of the house. It was as dull as the family room and kitchen. There was a single bedroom with a queen sized bed, dresser, small closet, and an attached bathroom. Everything about the house screamed she wouldn’t be spending a lot of time here.

Craig had deposited the rest of the boxes in the family room when she returned, and was helping himself to a cookie. He looked a little ashamed at being caught pilfering her gift but Daisy waved him off. She grabbed one more cookie, her willpower failing her, and spent a moment savoring it.

“Well I’m you tour guide for the day,” Craig explained. “I’ll show you the campus, our HCP facilities; you have a meeting with the Dean, and then dinner tonight with the entire faculty.”

“Well at least I got a moment to relax,” Craig chuckled at her sarcasm. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

West Private University was the third largest college in the Orlando area; adding its modest collegiate footprint to a landscape heavily trodden by the University of Central Florida and Valencia Community College. Having about 10,000 undergrads and half as many graduate students called for a sizable campus preferably away from the area occupied by over 50,000 UCF students. The palm tree infested campus spread along the western and southern edges of Lake Apopka; a safe distance from the major university, the amusement parks, and downtown Orlando. The breeze coming off the lake made the environment a little less humid and more bearable than Daisy’s home farther inland.

The university’s architecture was modeled in the Spanish Colonial style. It was simple but solid construction intended to dominate and overwhelm the natural landscape. The off white walls and red tiled roofs were uniform but each building had a spattering of Baroque ornamentation to give it a little spice. Painting, murals, and sculptures using exaggerated motions and easily interpreted detail captured everything from Greek and Roman mythology to modern day Heroes. The drama and tension intended by the works was easily identifiable.

Daisy inspected the artwork as Craig drove her around in his soccer mom minivan. Apparently he was a father of two, and they needed the extra storage capacity to cart everything around for the girls’ extracurricular activities. If the vehicle was an insult to his macho sensibility he didn’t show it. Plus, it was fantastic camouflage for a pair of former Heroes. Someone came and picked up her rental before they’d left her new home. She’d been out of the life long enough to forget how things simply happened in the organized and proficient Hero world. The speedster showed her the dining halls, gyms, various scholastic buildings, administration buildings, and the modest stadium where the West University Dragon’s played their home games. He didn’t point out where any of the secret entrances to the underground HCP facility were located.

When Daisy attended Lander back in the 50s they’d simply been sequester away from the rest of the student population for training. The government hadn’t constructed the underground space yet so their time was spent in abandoned areas where they could beat on each other without civilian casualties. In all fairness they hadn’t needed to worry about cell phones and video tapes of them popping up on the internet, plus the secret identity requirement was ingrained into them from the moment their powers emerged. It was much more difficult in modern society to maintain any form of privacy. Daisy found herself missing simpler times but then immediately realized she couldn’t survive without her cell phone so she should stop being a hypocrite.

She sat though Craig’s nonstop rambling of interesting things that happened in interesting places around campus. Most of the HCP staff lived in the same neighborhood as Daisy while students were spread through university dormitories and townhomes. Occasionally they ran into each other outside the classroom and those in the Subtlety discipline often were given assignments to tale or surveille the staff. He made it all sound rather enjoyable.

“Don’t worry, they don’t both you too much,” he stated after recounting a story where a senior broke into a professors’ home to gather intelligence and ended up in Texas for his trouble.

“Yeah sounds like it,” she plastered a fake smile in place and privately wondered what they hell she’d gotten herself into.

Craig pulled into a faculty lot behind one of the administration buildings and turned the car off. He turned to her, his face suddenly serious. “Look, I get how you must be feeling. You were probably some big shot Hero and now you’re retired and working at an HCP. We might not be saving lives but we are making sure the next generation does it better than we did. What we do is important and rewarding if you give it a chance.”

Green eyes bore into red ones before Daisy broke the awkward tension with a genuine laugh. “I think we’ll get along just fine, Craig,” she couldn’t help but like people who called her on her shit.

He nodded and in a flash his serious expression was replaced with what appeared to be his natural comical grin. Instead of driving off he got out of the car and led Daisy towards the administration building. It also happened to be the visitor’s entrance to the HCP.

“There are elevators conveniently located all over campus,” Craig explained as he led the way down into the basement. Being the Saturday before classes started the place was dead. “Once we get your bio-signature you’ll be able to access the one in your home. Much more convenient and easy that way,” Daisy nodded as he pulled back a hidden panel and pressed his hand to it.

A red light changed to green and a section of the wall slid to the side revealing a large elevator. It was big enough to hold twenty people and was definitely convenient if you had a group of Congressmen, Heroes, or visiting parents. With just Craig and Daisy it just felt exposed. After twenty seconds, and ten stories of solid earth, the doors opened to reveal the HCP center.

The walls of the corridors were smooth steel designed to take Mother Nature’s stress on the structure. They walked past a few classrooms with stadium seating, a large auditorium, and into a section filled with individual offices.

“Orientation will take place in the big auditorium back there tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.” Craig explained, leading the way into an office without a name on the door. “This will be your office. I know it’s pretty bare bones, but you can spruce it up a bit.”

“Can I assume yours will always have some sweets in it?” she asked, attempting to be more cordial with the speedster.

His grinned widened and he nodded. “Think of my humble workplace as the office water cooler, but with pastries, pies, and an assortment of baked goods instead of water.”

“Do you have milk in a little mini fridge? You can’t have cookies without milk,” Daisy had to eat her own words when Craig led her into his office and opened a mini fridge door to reveal just that.

“And you’re lucky enough that you’re right across the hall,” Daisy rolled her eyes but couldn’t keep the smile off her face.

“I’ll show you the combat rooms before your meeting with the Boss. His office is at the end of the hall,” he motioned toward a closed wooden door before heading in the opposite direction.

West had a whole section of their facility dedicated to the reinforced chambers where powerful Supers could beat the crap out of each other. Glass that could stand up to tank rounds looked down on some while others could only be viewed through camera feeds. All were circular and made with super dense concrete reinforced by titanium rods. Craig explained that there were even more simulations rooms farther underground that could be configured to whatever they decided to torture the students with. He went into too much detail on the boring meetings she was going have to sit through and the mountain of paperwork to requisition room configurations. He said it all with an evil glint in his eye that made Daisy think her DVA recertification paperwork couldn’t hold a flame to the paper cut rich environment she was about to enter. Despite the bureaucratic stings that needed pulling, things had certainly come a long way since she was a student.

“The kids will fight on Monday for combat rankings, so bring popcorn for the afternoon viewing party,” Craig’s face lit up in excitement.

“Does everything with you revolve around food?” she asked seriously.

The speedster simply gave a non-committal shrug and led her back to the office section and the imposing door of their employer. With a quick look at his watch he knocked on the thick door and waited. “Boss is a freaking legend,” he whispered to Daisy. “Lead his own team and saved god only knows how many people when he was active.”

“Come in,” the powerful voice was muffled through the thick door, but it was enough to stop Daisy in her tracks.

Craig opened the door and stepped back to let her enter, but she didn’t move a muscle. Her relaxed posture was gone, replaced by the rigidness someone experienced when the fight or flight instinct kicked in. Her eyes were wide and pupils dilated as she stared into the office. Tears began to form and he hands began to shake as she saw the face of the man with the powerful voice. John Ditmar stared back at her, his head barely cresting the mountain of paperwork on his simple desk. He looked just as tired as the last time she’d seen him, but that time he’d been half dead in a hospital room being patched together by the healer who survived the battle.

“Hello again, Daisy,” he stood, only brining a little more of his head into view.

“Shit, John,” was all she was able to get out, her vocal chords suddenly deciding not to cooperate.

“I apologize for meeting you this way, but I feared if you knew I was the Dean you wouldn’t take the job,” he came around from the far side of the desk to stand in front of her.

“Damn right I wouldn’t have,” she replied, whipping away a tear.

“Ummm…I think I’m missing something,” Craig stood awkwardly behind Daisy, his eyes darting between the two Supers.

“Sorry, Craig,” John smiled at him. “Daisy Meyers and I have a history. We’ve worked together in the past but haven’t seen each other for many years.” Daisy nodded, not trusting herself to talk. “If you would be kind enough to wait outside I would like a short conversation with her before you take her to get her scans done.” Craig nodded, knowing when to make himself scarce.

With the speedster gone the two former team mates were left alone. Daisy had no idea how to begin the conversation. Her friend’s battle broken body and sad glare from her intervention kept playing on a loop in her head. She could feel her breathing quicken and her chest tighten. She took deep breath to get her emotions under control and thought of the good times they shared. John waited patiently for her to speak knowing she had to work through this moment.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come to the funerals,” she whispered as panic was replaced by shame.

“I know you were there in spirit, Daisy,” he reached up and hugged her, his tiny arms barely making it around her athletic frame. “I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too,” she returned the embrace, easily engulfing the smaller man.

Neither was sure how long the hug lasted, but both felt infinitely better after. Good enough that a little of the old Daisy found its way back to the surface.

“I hope you didn’t call in any favors to get me this job,” her good natured glare targeted the legendary shifter.

“I would never put my own personal motivations ahead of my student’s education,” John answered matter-of-factly. “Despite your hiatus you were still the most qualified applicant, and the position will offer you the best resources for personal improvement.”

She knew he didn’t mean it in a bad way, but she still got defensive. “Still trying to save me John?”

“I want Reaper back on the streets stopping bad people for doing bad things,” he answered without hesitation. “If I’m able to help along the process then that’s icing on the cake.”

“Is there going to be cake tonight?” Daisy took his answer for the unbridled truth she knew it to be. “Because if Craig’s wife is making it I’ll need you to keep an eye on me. I don’t think I’m quite up to HCP fitness standards,” she patted her still thin belly for emphasis.

John laughed in spite of himself. This sounded more like the carefree banter they’d exchanged before everything went to hell. “Speaking of keeping an eye on you, are you still indulging in your…vice?”

“You can call it booze or Vodka, John. It’s not like if you say it I’ll instantly become trashed,” Daisy rolled her eyes but became serious. “I’ve told the docs this, and I’m going to tell you the same thing. I drink to forget. If I don’t need to forget then I don’t need to drink. Do I still drink occasionally? Yes.”

John’s eyes hardened. “I will not let your personal life effect…”

“Blah, blah, blah, I get it,” Daisy interrupted with a theatrical twirl of her hand. “You won’t let me endanger the students education, message received. I won’t let it interfere with my performance and if I do then I’ll give you a free punch.”

It was John’s turn to roll his eyes. Even with her kinetic absorption power a punch from John’s shifted form would do a number on her. He decided to take it as a sign she was taking the situation seriously. “Very well, but I will be watching you.”

“Noted,” the look the two exchanged signified that part of the conversation was over. “I hear you’re cooking dinner tonight. Must be a real special occasion.”

John sighed. Daisy might come off a bitchy hard ass to everyone but she always took on a smart ass roll around him. It was both endearing and frustrating. Still he would rather have her lounging in his office joking than at the bottom of a bottle. Being her sounding board was a small price to pay for an old friend.

“It’s more of a pot luck affair,” he replied, glancing at the clock. “And if you don’t head down to the infirmary you’re going to be late to your own welcome party. Craig!”

The door opened a nano second later to reveal the speedster. The Super looked more than a little perplexed at the radically different emotional states than when he left. A seasoned Hero knew how to roll with the punches, so he collected Daisy and they made their way to the infirmary. The long bed filled room looked immaculately clean and smelled of chemicals. Craig put Daisy through the paces of drawing blood, doing a full body scan, iris scans, fingerprint scans, voice recognition and everything else anyone ever invented as a security measure. HCP’s didn’t take security lightly.

“So you and Boss man go way back?” he asked, trying to keep the conversation casual.

“Not way back,” Daisy replied. “A little over a decade. We worked together but didn’t leave on the best of terms.”

“More than a decade,” he whistled giving Daisy another look over. “Can you do me a favor and tell me whatever moisturizers or creams you use. If I can get them for my wife then I’ll be husband of the year.”

Daisy’s second genuine laugh of the day escaped her. She really was starting to like this amped speedster. “Sorry to disappoint,” she shrugged, not sure how open the staff was about the Hero identities. “They’re not for sale.”

Craig deflated a bit but announced the successful completion of all the scans. It took nearly a full hour to do them all, so instead of going back topside to get the van he showed her the private faculty elevator bank. She punched in her number and after a minute found herself stepping into her bedroom closet. The home’s internal security systems acknowledged her and made her feel far more secure than she had in a long time.

“Don’t forget dinner’s in twenty,” were Craig’s last words, and she doubted running shorts and a t-shirt were proper attire.

Unfortunately Daisy didn’t have much in the way of clothing. She put it down on her list of shit to do and settled on her only nice pair of dress pants with a blouse that matched her eyes. They were both a little wrinkled, but there wasn’t enough time to go buy an iron or toss them in the dryer. A quick look in the mirror convinced her it was as good as it was going to get.

<Ok Daisy you can do this,> she mentally pumped herself up while trying to smooth the wrinkled materials. <Dr. Johnson wanted you to get to know other Heroes in a social setting and let down your hair a bit.> At the thought she grabbed a comb and ran it quickly through her blond frizz. <This humidity is going to kill me.> She smiled a few times into the mirror, grimacing at the unnatural expression before heading down the block to John’s house.

John lived in an adobe style home at the end of the street that was quite a bit larger than Daisy’s. Apparently seniority had its perks. She noted the street was well lit and the police made two patrols through the neighborhood during her walk.

“Do you need any assistance, Ma’am,” they pulled up next to her on their second pass.

While many might feel uncomfortable being randomly approached by the police she knew they were just trying to interact with residents to better serve the community. “No thank you, Officer Phillips,” she read the officers name tag; she found that personalizing an interaction between Hero and civil authorities led to better relationships. “I just moved in down the street and am going to see a friend.”

The officer got the gist. It was important for the school to cultivate good relationships with local authorities and it seemed the police reciprocated these with the community’s Heroes. A quick look at her height, physique, and eyes coupled with the neighborhood they were in did all the talking.

“Welcome to Orlando, Ma’am,” the young officer tipped his hat. “Have a nice night.”

He was cute, so Daisy gave him what she thought was a nice smile. He smiled back, and maybe even blushed before driving away. She followed along the same path and eventually found herself at her destination. All the lights were on and she could make out Craig’s enthused conversation along with quite a few other voiced.

<Ok, game face> she collected herself and was about to knock when the door opened unexpectedly.

“No need for a game face here, Daisy. We’re all friends,” the unknown woman smiled.

<Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world…AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH,> the door opener grimaced as the mental annoyance washed across her advanced mind.

“You must be the token telepath, probably the Focus instructor,” Daisy extended her hand politely.

The medium height raven haired woman shook off Daisy’s mental barrage. “Yes, Grace Livingston. Now please come in.”

Daisy accepted the invitation and found herself in a tastefully decorated foyer. The accent pieces, furniture, and even the painting on the wall seemed to be metallic; tasteful but still metallic. It didn’t surprise her world’s most famous metal man would have an affinity for the material. It was just so John.

“Fantastic you’re here,” the subject of her thoughts beckoned her into the family room where he was gathered with several other Supers. “Everyone I’d like to introduce our new Alternative Instructor, Daisy Lee Meyers.” Daisy waved awkwardly at the group while she studied her old friend.

It had been a long time since she’d seen him, but her memory was good. The naked happiness on his face was something she’d only seen after the success of a particularly tough mission. The HCP life obviously agreed with him, and that made her happy.

“We’ll do introductions once we’re seated, so everyone please dig in,” John gestured towards a long table filled with tupperware.

It seemed Daisy was the last to arrive, so she went last in the buffet line. The food smelled delicious. There was pulled pork with mouthwatering BBQ sauce, some sort of stew, homemade enchiladas, chips, vegetables, and then an entire section with what could only be Craig’s wife’s baked goods. Daisy made sure her plate was pretty full by the time she got to the end. She still ended up carrying two cookies in her hand to her seat.

Everyone dug in with gusto. Heroes always tended to eat fast because Murphey’s Law always held true. Things will always go wrong if you give them a chance to, and Heroes eating always seemed to be a golden opportunity. She engaged in pleasant conversation with Grace, who’d only been with the HCP a year. She was glad to pass on the newbie torch so soon. On Daisy’s other side was Christina McMillian, or Chrissy as she liked to be called. She was indeed a material food manipulator and an executive chef who owned and operated several restaurants in the Orlando area. She had a reputation for bouncing around from place to place giving the regular chef a night off to cook herself. She was a little on the heavier side, but anyone in the food business was bound to get caught up in food. Chrissy insisted Daisy come by all of her restaurants to try the various cuisines, and she tentatively accepted. Craig came to the rescue and reminded his equally energized wife that they’d be really busy during the semester.

“Well it seems we are all well-nourished,” John inclined his head to everyone who contributed, especially Chrissy. “I’ll start the introductions. I’m John, formerly Iron Giant, and I’m the Dean. I’ll be teacher the Ethics of Heroism class and will be doing some mentoring and individual projects with the upperclassman.”

“Don’t forget rubbing elbows with the political elite,” Craig’s ribbing would have been funny if not for the pained expressions going around the table.

“I like to think about the good I’m doing, not the red tape I’m drowning in,” John replied, passing the introduction baton to his right.

“Well you all know and love me,” Craig got to his feet. “Craig McMillian, resident Close Combat instructor extraordinaire, formerly the Hero Shotgun, and mentor to our newest addition.” Daisy didn’t recognize the hero name, but she’d been pretty concentrated on the northeast over the last decade and a half.

Chrissy introduced herself, minus any hero revelations, and insisted everyone take some of her pastries home with her. “Craig doesn’t need to sneak any more sweets,” were her exact words.

They skipped Daisy, leaving her for last, and moved on to Grace. “Grace Livingston, still the Hero Amped on a semi-retired status, but comfortably settling into the Focus instructor role and no longer the rookie instructor,” she shot Daisy an I’m sorry look.

The next introducer was a dark haired and dark eyed Latino woman Daisy hadn’t spoken to yet. Her athletic stature was noticeable even at 5’2”, and her sharp facial features made her look fierce. Daisy would think twice about squabbling with her.

“Welcome to the family, Daisy,” her high pitched accented voice was the last thing Daisy expected. “I’m Maria Huerta, the Weapons instructor, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the alternative duties from me. I’m the retired Hero Puppeteer, and I’m happy to finally have a single non-telepathic woman to talk to.” Daisy smiled in response, but it wasn’t genuine. The last thing she wanted was to be someone’s love life confidant.

“I guess that leaves little old me,” the last man at the table shrugged. “And Maria you can always confide in me if you need to.” The playful punch he got and his fake pained expression told Daisy this banter was nothing new. “I’m Miles Willis, the Subtlety instructor. Before my retirement,” he indicated his full head of white hair. “I was the Hero Mirage. If you want any dirt on your fellow faculty I’m your man,” his blue eyes twinkled dangerously in the way only a seasoned spy’s could.

“Thank you Miles,” John stepped in. “Unfortunately our Control and Ranged Combat instructors had an emergency they needed to deal with. It should be no problem to meet them at another time,” there was a sad look in John’s eyes Daisy resolved to ask him about later. “But now on to the main event. Daisy the floor is yours.”

“Wow,” Daisy cleared her throat. “Well thanks everyone for the warm welcome. I’m not used to this type of thing. Especially how free everyone is with their Hero identities.”

“We are a family here, Daisy,” Chrissy patted her arm reassuringly.

“Thanks.” Daisy paused for a moment wondering how to play this, but after a quick look around decided these people deserved the truth. “John how much have you told them about me?”

The Dean went a little red, just as she’d feared. “Nothing yet. You don’t have to share if you’re unwilling,” his statement was met with confused expressions from the gathered instructors.

“No that’s fine,” she put everyone at ease. “Just wondering how big of a bombshell this is going to be for some.” Her serious expression had Miles leaning in with rapt attention. “Well my name is Daisy Lee Meyers but you might know me as the Hero Reaper.”

She let the wide eyes and surprised gasps settle. “That’s a pretty big bombshell,” Craig looked a little shell shocked. “I thought you were dead. You’ve been off the grid for years.”

Daisy’s laugh didn’t fool anyone; there was too much pain in it. “Not quite dead, Craig. Not quite,” she trailed off as some unpleasant memories resurfaced.

“Daisy stepped down from the New York Patriots for personal reasons,” John stepped in after a too long pause. “Her time in the life has left her dealing with… episodes…”

“…of the post-traumatic stress variety; which I initially coped with poorly” Daisy found her voice again.

The reactions around the table varied. Craig looked confused while Chrissy practically cried. Grace just frowned while Maria gave her a supportive expression. John reassuring smile never wavered. The surprise was Miles who just nodded in acceptance.

“And we need to know in case an episode hits you when you are instructing,” the retired Subtlety Hero deduced.

“Exactly,” she made sure Craig was recovered enough before she continued, since he would be dealing with her frequently. “I’ve been getting better at handling them or else the DVA doc wouldn’t have recommended me for the position. But serious ones have knocked me on my ass before. I haven’t lost control as far as I remember, but they take a toll on me,” she didn’t let on about the drinking, although she thought Miles would connect the dots and John would have a conversation with some of the others.

“Sorry for the bombshell,” Daisy didn’t really mean it as she sat back and took a deep pull of water.

The mood was pretty well killed after that, so John wrapped everything up. There weren’t any goodbyes since everyone would be seeing each other again in about nine hours. Craig instructed her to meet in his office at five for some pre-planning before offering her an awkward hug. After the uncomfortable display Daisy made her way quickly home.

She feared she’d get this reaction from some of them. She wasn’t a baby to be coddled and she didn’t need special handling. She was one of the best god damn Heroes ever and she was here to get better. Before she knew it she was back in his house rummaging through one of her few boxes. She’d hid away a small bottle of her Vodka in case John decided to come over and do a random search. She placed it on the counter and stared at it a long time.

<Could one drink really hurt?> she warred with herself, trying to push everyone’s expressions at her revelation out of her head.

She genuinely liked Craig and Chrissy and their immediate acceptance of her was something new. Heroes tended to be less trusting upfront. They trusted you to do your job when the situation went to hell, but it was tough to break through and be real friends with some. She was getting that vibe from Grace already. John was the only one she’d been able to connect with in a long time, and the ones before him were mostly dead. She sighed as she headed into the bedroom leaving the bottle untouched. It felt like walking away from a magnet. It wouldn’t help her case with John if she showed up hung over on the first day. She wasn’t going to sleep well, memories were already swirling of her deceased friends, but she had to be up in five hours anyway. Going on no sleep was part of a Hero’s job description.

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