A Change of Pace – Chapter 38

Daisy left the classroom without looking back. She was already uncomfortable losing control of her own mind twice in one class. Having her students notice the incident was even worse.

<What the hell is wrong with me?> she needed someone to talk to about this, and there were only two people who might have answers.

A quick look at her watch told Daisy that Grace would still be in the middle of her Focus class. The freshman might be getting a reduced physical training class today so they could get through as many midterm presentations as possible, but the other classes were still on a regular schedule. This left Daisy with just one person, and she hoped he wasn’t in a session.

Daisy didn’t run, but she walked with a sense of urgency; so her long legs carried her to the infirmary quickly. The large sterile space was mostly empty. A few healers were tending to a sophomore who looked like he’d been on the wrong end of a gas explosion. Dr. Sanderson was busy regrowing the young man’s eyebrows when he noticed Daisy.

The two Supers still weren’t on the best of terms. Sanderson still believed that some sort of accountability needed to be applied to Daisy for the death of his brother. They both knew that would never happen for a high profile kill of a Hero turned traitor over forty years ago. Daisy had apologized profusely for the not entirely unjustifiable action, and was looking to move on. Dwelling on the traumatic events of her past made her angry and frustrated. Instead of hating each other, they’d settled into an uneasy truce. Neither was ever going to like the other, but they could get along in a professional setting for the sake of their students.

“Can I help you with something, Professor Meyers?” Sanderson asked, his tone neutral.

“Is Dr. Johnson in?” she asked, her voice mirroring the Doctor’s tone.

“He should be,” he motioned toward the psychologist’s door, and stopped paying attention to her.

<One of our better interactions,> Daisy repressed a grin since most of the healers were still looking back and forth between her and their boss. They weren’t buying the fake pleasantries.

Daisy approached Dr. Johnson’s door and knocked softly. She made sure her emotions were under control before she did. She’d destroyed enough of the empath’s office since the start of the school year. If she put her fist through his door she might as well pay to remodel the entire place.

“Come in,” Daisy pushed open the door to see the Doctor with reading glasses on, and his face buried in files.

“So the DVA has you by the papier-mâché balls too,” she stated bluntly, a little of her frustration leaking through her peaceful façade.

Daisy could fool some people, but Dr. Johnson wasn’t one of them. The man closed the file he was reading, and gestured for Daisy to have a seat. While she was sitting down, he reached into his desk and pulled out a yellow legal pad.

“What happened?” he asked.

After the first few visits they’d learned that is was better if they cut through all the bullshit and just got to the point. “I’m having visions, or daydreaming. Actually, I’m not a hundred percent sure what the hell is happening.” Daisy replied truthfully.

“It’s obviously frustrating you,” Johnson replied, scribbling something down.

“Damn right it is,” Daisy almost brought her fist smashing down into the arm of her chair, but stopped herself. “First there was that dream about Dave. Now I’m reliving memories from my past.”

“Facing your past is one of the goals of this therapy,” Johnson replied. “We want you to understand and cope with those events. That’s why we’ve been undergoing those mental exercises for the past few weeks.”

Dr. Johnson had prescribed some focus exercises for Daisy recently. He wanted her to relax the barriers she’d constructed from decades of mental trauma, face her fears, and bring herself to a point of acceptance. Daisy thought it was a little granola for her, but she did the exercises anyway. Dr. Johnson had a pretty good record with her so far.

“Could me breaking down my mental barriers really produce something this intense?” Daisy hadn’t expected such a reaction from deep breathing , thinking pleasant thoughts, and imagine walls crumbling.

“How intense?” Johnson’s brow scrunched with interest. “Dreams and flashes of memory are common when you’re opening up and dealing with the choices that you made. Is that what you’re experiencing?”

“No way,” Daisy waved her hands in front of her. “I’m talking full on, I’m back in that time and place, living through what I’d done. The freshmen were doing their midterm presentations. When Jackson talked about Iron Giant it was like I was back at Ground Zero the first day we met. I could smell the dust, feel the debris, and see the anxiety on people’s faces. Then Martin talked about Animus Rex, and I was back in Oklahoma City. I felt the anger and anticipation as I tracked him, and the cold dispassion when I killed him,” Daisy could feel the tears building again, and she whipped her eyes with a force laugh. “I don’t even know why I’m upset about it. The guy was a huge dick, and deserved what he had coming,” Daisy knew she was deflecting, and she knew that Johnson knew what she was doing.

He waited calmly for her to continue. “I was almost like I blacked out for a minute, and then I woke up fucking crying in front of everyone.”

“Showing emotion is not weakness,” he’d said this plenty of times through their sessions.

“I know you keep saying that, Doc, but it hurts your credibility as an ass kicker if you start crying during a PowerPoint,” she laughed despite herself.

“I don’t think anyone doubts your ability to kick ass,” it was a simple reassurance, but it made Daisy feel better. “We’re off topic though. Let’s get back to these vision’s you’ve been having.”

Daisy described everything about the two visions she had; everything she was feeling, seeing, hearing, and then her reactions when she woke up.

“Are you sure this isn’t some latent ability you might have. You haven’t absorbed some aspect of the people you dealt with,” Daisy was grateful he didn’t say killed.

“It would be the first time in half a century of Hero work that it’s manifested,” Daisy replied. “But I honestly don’t think that’s it. If they were someone else’s memories I was absorbing, then wouldn’t I be seeing them from their point of view?” Daisy poked holes in Johnson’s theory.

“That would make sense, hmmm,” he spun around in his chair and started searching through a file cabinet. “You got tested by Professor Livingston after the dream for any signs of mental manipulation?” he found the sheet he was looking for and started reading it intently.

“Yeah, Grace gave me the standard scan, and couldn’t find anything,” Daisy was pretty sure it was the results of that scan he was looking at. “She could have missed something though,” Daisy hated saying it, but it wasn’t impossible that the telepath had overlooked something.

“Especially if someone else knew what the standard scans were looking for, and ways to get around them,” Johnson places the sheet of paper back into the file cabinet.

“That’s pretty Machiavellian, especially for you, Doc,” Daisy frowned.

“That’s a pretty big word for you,” he cut through the tension in the air with the good natured jab.

Daisy rolled her eyes and smiled. “But still,” Johnson’s face became thoughtful again. “I can’t discount the possibility. The progress you’ve been making, coupled with the mental relaxation exercises, might have opened something up; mental programming, subliminal commands, a trigger phrase that brings about some sort of reaction…”

“You sound like the plot to a Cold War, KGB, sleeper agent movie,” Daisy looked at the Doctor skeptically.

“Where do you think they got the idea from,” there was nothing joking about his expression. “I’m going to talk with Professor Livingston and get you scheduled for a deeper scan. We need to look into more variables, go against standard procedure, or mix things up enough so if there is something hidden we’ll be able to find it.”

Daisy was pretty sure all blood had drained from her face. This was a DVA worst case scenario Johnson was taking about. A powerful Hero being turned by a foreign government, mentally unstable, programmed to snap when someone spoke a few key words. If the scan did turn something up then she’d probably be locked in a cell a half mile below ground.

“I don’t want you to worry, Daisy,” Johnson must have seen the look on her face.

“Too late for that,” she tried to smile, and it came out more as a sneer.

“For now, just go about you day as usual. Remember this is all just conjecture at this point. It might be nothing,” Daisy highly doubted that. “But please let me know if the visions happen again, or if your dreams deviate into uncomfortable territory.”

<Like I go ape shit crazy and kill half of Orlando,> Daisy kept the thought to herself, but Johnson must have felt her spike in anxiety.

“I’m always here to talk,” he gave her his most reassuring smile, and it helped.

Daisy wouldn’t tell the doctor to his face, but everything he’d done for her so far had worked out better than she expected.

“Thanks.” Daisy got to her feet, and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. “I’m going to head back to class.”

“Good,” his smiled stayed in place. “I’ll see you at the usual time then.”

Daisy nodded and left. She ignored Sanderson as she walked back through the infirmary, and the Doctor made no move to engage in conversation. It was probably for the best.

Daisy shortened her stride on the walk back to the midterm presentations. Other classes were letting out, so she had to navigate through other HCP students who looked like they wanted to ask her questions, or get her input on something. She had a reputation now, and people wanted to make use of her as a resource. She waved them off, said that she needed to get back to a class, and told them to make an appointment to visit her during office hours.

It took Daisy twice as long to get back to the auditorium. She didn’t hesitate to enter the room; procrastination was her enemy. A few people looked up as she made her way back to where Craig and John were sitting, but most were paying attention to the presentation.

Bridgette Evans, the 38th ranked student, was finishing up her presentation on EagleEye; a famous hero from the 50s and 60s. It made sense the Evans would choose EagleEye. Like the famous Hero, Evans had enhanced senses. Whether or not Maria’s gut feeling about her being a body control Super was true or not, Evan’s probably saw some connection between herself and the old Hero.

Daisy had never met the man in the photo displayed on the screen. He was tall, broad, and the part of his face you could see was handsome. His costume had an avian theme to it, and a red, white, and blue color scheme. She did remember seeing him on T.V. when Supers became public knowledge.

Daisy half expected to get pulled into a vivid memory of a young girl sitting in front of the T.V. and watching the President greet several costumed Heroes for the first time. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

EagleEye’s claim to fame was being one of the first subtlety Heroes, before they were actually known as subtlety Heroes. His ability to gather information through his enhanced senses allowed him to bring down entire criminal enterprises, and all without doing any property damage. The government loved him for it, and so did the people in the city he worked in.

<Oh great, she’s getting to the sad part.>

“Sadly, EagleEye died on February 22, 1965 in Vietnam. He was hit by a North Vietnamese artillery shell while acting as a forward observer on a covert mission.” Evan looked particularly upset at the unhappy ending.

<And changed the nature of being a Hero forever,> Daisy thought before Evans went into detail.

The death of EagleEye on foreign soil prompted a lot of outrage among the average American. The American public wanted their Heroes protecting them, not going out to fight wars. Less than a year later ForceOps was established and legislation creating the DVA’s domestic jurisdiction was enacted into law.

Evans drew out the explanation for another ten minutes, and with multiple graphics. Oddly enough, the freshman woman’s voice had a calming effect on Daisy. It wasn’t an extension of the younger woman’s power, just a side effect of it. Having an enhanced appreciation of sound gave Evans a unique control over the pitch of her voice. As a result, she was able to capture the attention of the audience, and draw them in, just by speaking pleasantly. If the girl didn’t make it in the HCP, she definitely had a career as a motivational speaker.

Evan’s presentation ended with a round of applause, and half a dozen questions about EagleEye’s death. As the questions were asked, Daisy saw a few eyes look in her direction. She couldn’t blame the students for wondering if she had more inside information; that maybe it wasn’t a rogue artillery shell, but a foreign Hero assassin that took down EagleEye.

Daisy kept her face blank and her mouth shut. She really shouldn’t have told the students about Animus Rex, and there wasn’t any more to EagleEye’s story than what Evans had presented.

“Ms. Schultz, you’re up next,” John stated, apparently having stopped taking volunteers sometime during Daisy’s absence.

“Yes, Sir,” Kyoshi got to her feet, tripped over her neighbor, and nearly fell down the stairs. She recovered, but the lack of grace was noticed by everyone.

<How the hell does the girl fight like she does, but can’t get from A to B without tripping over her own feet,> it was one of those mysteries of the universe Daisy doubted she’d ever understand.

Instead, she sat back in her chair and got ready to grade another presentation.

 

***

 

<Come on feet, work with me,> Kyoshi argued with her body as she stumbled up the stairs to the podium. She was a little surprised to be called on to present, but she was ready. She might not be as academically vigilant as Angela, but Kyoshi had always been a good student.

She had to wait a minute while Bridgette logged out and gathered up her things. The thoughts in the low ranked student’s mind were ones of relief. Bridgette was confident that her presentation was good enough to keep her in the program. At this point, the Super with enhanced senses was hoping that her academics carried her through to the second semester. Combat was not an environment that Bridgette thrived in.

“That was really good,” Kyoshi gave her classmate a thumbs up. “I didn’t know anything about EagleEye.” Bridgette smiled back and wished Kyoshi good luck.

It took another minute to get logged on, and bring up the PowerPoint; but soon Kyoshi was ready to go.

<Begin when you are ready,> the Dean’s mental voice gave her permission to begin.

“Good afternoon everyone. My name is Kyoshi Schultz, and I did my presentation on Mastermind. The first advanced mind.” A couple of classmates sat up a little straighter at the name.

Bridgette wasn’t the only one to go with a Hero she thought she could relate with. Kyoshi knew for a fact a lot of the class had taken a similar approach. She just hoped she didn’t get points off for being unoriginal. So far, Angela was the only one who had done something unexpected.

<And Coach Meyers’ answer surely helped,> Kyoshi had listened to her classmates, and a few were going to head to the library tonight and try to find out who had killed Animus Rex. A week off from their daily torture was worth one late night.

Kyoshi wasn’t going to participate. She already knew that Coach Meyers was responsible for Animus Rex’s death. She’d caught parts of the memory when the alternative coach blacked out. Even though she didn’t see Coach Meyers do anything, Kyoshi felt the similarities between the memory and the time Coach Meyers had lost control around her and Mason in the infirmary. The hurt and anger that punctuated the memories was something the young telepath would never forget.

<That reminds me. I need to talk to Professor Livingston. I’m starting to get some emotional feedback from thoughts and memories that I’m seeing. It might be an evolution of my ability.> She made the mental note.

<Now concentrate!> Kyoshi realized she’d been standing silently on the stage for a few seconds too long.

“Here’s what we’re going to talk about today,” she went over the agenda and got back her mental footing.

“As we all know, Mastermind was one of the original Heroes who was revealed alongside Captain Starlight and EagleEye; so it’s appropriate that he’s the next Hero we talk about.” Kyoshi made sure she wasn’t just reading the PowerPoint, but also talking to the class.

“Records from the DOD show that Mastermind was a Lieutenant in the Army during World War Two, and a Major by the time the Korean War started,” she started with the history of the hero. “He served in the Intelligence branch and was well known for his nonviolent ability to extract information from prisoners. He was also a notable tactician. Obviously, a lot of that had to do with literally being able to see the enemy’s plan,” she got a few chuckles with the bad joke. Mason’s laugh being half of the sound she heard. “During Korea he met Captain Starlight, and when the Captain approached him about revealing the identities of Supers to the country, he agreed.”

Kyoshi wished there was a little more background on Mastermind, but it was a risk she took with looking into one of the original Heroes. Record keeping wasn’t up to modern standards back then; paper copies were often lost or destroyed, and when the DVA was instituted she suspected some information was stolen in the move. All she had were the DOD records, but those didn’t go into nearly as much detail.

Kyoshi didn’t let this get her down. Mastermind made up for his lack of background with his effect of society. “As I stated at the beginning of my presentation, Mastermind was the first documented advanced mind. As such, legal precedent for the use of telepathy was largely due to his work. Before Mastermind and the DVA took cases all the way to the Supreme Court, it was illegal to use telepathically gained evidence, confessions, or any other information in court. In some places, it wasn’t even enough to get a warrant.”

Kyoshi was pleased to see a lot of surprised expressions. Today, it was standard procedure to have a telepath brought in when questioning a suspect. And any information gained during the questions was admissible in court. There were obviously a lot of qualifications and standards these telepaths had to meet to be allowed in those interrogation rooms, but the services advanced minds provided law enforcement were priceless. It was impossible to wrap your head around a time when that wasn’t the case.

“With the positive comes the negative,” Kyoshi continued, after outlining important precedent setting cases, and their effects on the way law enforcement operated. “The knowledge that there was a group of people in the world that could read your mind frightened a lot of humans. Privacy became a huge issue, and there were even movements to round up all advanced minds and exile them to what amounted to internment camps. Hate crimes were perpetrated against them, and the first anti-Super groups were focused on us.” Kyoshi was giving this presentation for an unbiased third person view, but she couldn’t help but feel for those advanced minds that came before her. Supers like her had been forced to fight for their rights as human beings just because they were born with a brain that worked differently than everyone else’s.

“Mastermind was at the forefront of bringing down these prejudiced movements,” she switched to the next slide.

The picture showed a march in what looked like Washington, D.C. There were a lot of people with pro-Super signs, and a few with shirts proudly proclaiming they were Supers. At the front of the march was a costumed man. It was hard to tell from the picture, but with information in his file, Kyoshi was able to determine that Mastermind wasn’t a physically intimidating man. He was an average height and weight; which was concealed by the brown trench coat that was part of his costume. The collar was turned up; framing a plain red mask with a blank expression, and his head was covered with a matching fedora. If his outfit was yellow you would have been able to see the similarities of the comic strip that had been adjusted to be based on his exploits.

“Aside from being a first rate crime fighter, Mastermind was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement, along with Captain Starlight and a number of other Heroes,” Kyoshi skipped ahead to the next slide.

“If you search for major battles that Mastermind fought in you won’t find any,” the surprise on her classmates’ faces was an echo of what Kyoshi had felt when she couldn’t find anything. “Since the HCP majors didn’t exist when Mastermind became a Hero, and he was certified after being vetted by the DVA, it’s difficult to group him into a category like we do with Heroes today. If I had to take a guess, I would say he was a little bit of control, focus, and subtlety, but he wasn’t a weapons or close combat specialist. Mastermind’s weapon was his mind, and the type of battles he fought were the ones the public never heard about.”

Kyoshi’s next slide held names, dates, and pictures of a dozen men and women. All of them wearing scowls or grimaces in their mugshots. She hit another button, and graphics began to cross some of them off with big red X’s.

“When Mastermind wasn’t busy gathering information for cases, and generally being used as an interrogator; his mission was to hunt down rogue advanced minds,” Kyoshi let the class stare at the graphics for a moment. “In terms of raw power, Mastermind wasn’t near the top. He was midlevel at best,” Kyoshi was making it a pattern of practice to surprise her classmates. “What Mastermind was the best at was skill. There was no one who could maneuver the waters of mental combat like Mastermind. He would lock people prisoner in their own minds, and only release them when they were behind bars; or he could overload them with psionic energy, and kill them. Although, those two options were used rarely. Mastermind preferred to knock out his opponents and simply turn them over to the police. He was very good at his job.”

Kyoshi went on the explain some of the big name bad guys Mastermind had taken down over the years. Most of those battles involved no civilian casualties or property damage, and sometimes were fought as the two telepaths sat across from each other in the same room at a party. The research Kyoshi had done for this presentation helped her with her own power significantly. She was exposed to many aspects of telepathy she was unaware of, and it gave her ideas for her own training. Angela’s critique of Kyoshi’s special telepathic ability’s weaknesses was still fresh in her head.

“Mastermind had a long and distinguished career as a Hero,” Kyoshi started to wrap it up. She’d been so into the presentation that she hadn’t noticed it had nearly been twenty minutes since she started. “He served for forty years before finally retiring. “

<1959 to 1999,> the timespan still blew Kyoshi’s mind.

“I haven’t been able to find any DVA record of Mastermind’s death, so it is safe to assume that this legend is still alive, somewhere out there, at ninety-five years old.” She’d successfully blown everyone else’s mind. It was a great way to end her presentation. “Any questions?”

People were silent for a few moments, still trying to comprehend the magnitude of that this one Hero did.

“Oh shit,” the statement took Kyoshi by surprise.

Her mind automatically looked for whoever said it, and she got caught up in one of Coach Meyer’s memories.

 

***

 

Daisy listened intently as Schultz cited the cases where Mastermind had helped change the very fabric of law enforcement, and noted the ones the younger woman missed. No vivid, lucid hallucinations popped up as Daisy recalled some of the pivotal cases Schutz was referencing. Just normal memories of times long past.

Unlike the students in the room, Daisy had been a Hero during the time when telepathic testimony and evidence was inadmissible in court. Even the youthful, less jaded version of Daisy had found it to be a giant load of crap. She remembered several occasions where they knew where the bad guys were, what they were doing, and who all of their friends were. They could have stopped whole drug smuggling rings, dozens of murders, and put vile Supers and humans behind bars. Instead, they’d been forced to sit back and let it all happen because someone high up in the “system” got their panties in a bunch over intruding on people’s thoughts.

Daisy had even gone off the reservation for a few of the worst cases, caught the bad guys, and lied about where she got the intel. In one of those particularly nasty cases the intel had come from Mastermind himself. The bright side about that handful of rogue operations was that the “system” couldn’t be hypocritical and bring in a telepath to read Daisy’s mind and get the truth. It was a fitting punishment to have seething DVA agents not being able to pin anything on her because they couldn’t use the very tactic they were accusing her of using. Then once telepathic evidence was allowed it all became a non-issue.

<Has it been that long since his retirement?> the last time Daisy saw the old Hero was a few years before she moved to New York, and that had been in 2001. She hadn’t even thought about him until Schultz presentation.

<What did we talk about last time we met?> Schultz was wrapping up, and for some reason Daisy really wanted to remember their last conversation.

Then something in her mind snapped.

“Oh shit,” Daisy groaned, a moment before everything went black. She didn’t even feel herself falling out of her chair and hitting the floor.

 

***

 

It was night, and everything was black, except for a large campsite ringed with generator powered light posts. Everything was silent in a way that was only possible in the middle of the night, and the brightness of the stars showed they were far from civilization.

<Is this another dream, or am I just losing my fucking mind,> Daisy’s irritation felt real enough as she floated thirty feet above the ground. This disembodied dream-state was something she’d experienced only once before. <At least last time I had an idea where I was.>

                Daisy didn’t recognize anything about the scene she was watching. If this was a memory then it wasn’t one of hers. <Kind of like last time.> At least the foreign memory after Dave’s death had started with something she remembered.

Daisy studied the scene, looking for anything that might jog her memory. The small camp didn’t offer any hints. The large tan tents looked like something from Army surplus, but that didn’t offer any sudden revelation. The ground was made of sand, so they were probably in a desert; but that was even less help.

<Zero…zip…zilch,> she might as well be trying to dig a hole to China.

Then a tent at the edge of the campsite exploded.

Daisy had no memory of what was about to happen, but she knew what something looked like when it got shot by an energy blaster. She willed her phantom body forward, and floated silently toward the chaos.

Heavy machine gun fire erupted in a crescent moon shape around the camp; the tracer rounds marking the positions of the soldiers. <Soldiers?> she didn’t know how she’d drawn the conclusion, but she knew she was right.

Another bolt of yellowish-white energy shot forward from the middle of the soldier’s formation, destroying the tent directly behind the first one that was quickly burning to the ground. A third and a fourth bolt did the same, until there was a clear path to the center of the camp.

The camp’s inhabitants were returning fire with their own rifles, and a column of flame blasted toward the energy blaster that was carving a path through the camp. Lightening flew towards the flame’s origin point, and the smell of roasted flesh reached Daisy’s nostrils.

<Wait…why am I smelling roasted flesh?> it didn’t make sense in her incorporeal state. She couldn’t interact with the world. She waved her hand, and it went through her opposite arm without any resistance. <That’s a new one.>

The resistance from the camp’s defenders was growing more sporadic. The soldiers were well positioned with cover and concealment. Every time one of the camp’s inhabitants shot back, their location was identified, and machine guns quickly mowed them down. It was quick, efficient, and brutal. Soon there was only silence from the camp. Either the defenders were playing it smart and not revealing their positions, or they were all dead.

“Let’s go, move, move , move!” a voice yelled, and a half dozen black camouflaged soldiers emerged from the darkness, and entered the camp.

It was the first familiar thing Daisy recognized.

<You’ve got to be shitting me.> Daisy descended to the ground, and floated alongside the team clearing the campsite.

All six people were covered from head to toe in black, and were wearing enough gear that identifying sex was impossible. Five of them were armed with assault rifles, and they were peeling off to check tents as they progressed further toward the heart of the camp. The sixth soldier didn’t seem to be armed with anything, and that soldier walked confidently toward the empty center.

A lone defender leapt from his hiding place after the confident soldier passed, spraying the black clad figure’s back with bullets. Each bullet made contact, was stopped dead it is tracks, and fell uselessly to the ground. The defender opened his mouth to scream something, but a bolt of lightning punched through his chest. He fell to the ground dead, his mouth still open in an attempt to scream his defiance.

Now Daisy knew why she was smelling burned flesh. The voice, the confident walk, the power set. She’d have to be blind to miss the signs. It was her.

<How can I not remember this?> Daisy’s disembodied form floated upward, following her real life self as she made it to the center of the camp.

“Is the target secure?” real life Daisy spoke out loud.

Another black clad figure popped into existence. Unlike Daisy, he had a pistol in his hand. “Roger that, Reaper. Target is secure. Start wrapping it up here.”

“Don’t call me that, Major” Daisy’s tone was firm and level. “The less people that know I’m here the better.”

The second black clad figure didn’t respond, he just disappeared with a pop.

“Gather intel, we’re out of here in five,” Daisy was talking to the rest of her team now.

From phantom Daisy’s viewpoint she saw the rest of the soldiers abandon their positions and make their way into the half destroyed camp. A few peeled off from the main group and disappeared into tents, but the majority of the soldiers spaced themselves around the camp, forming a three hundred and sixty degree perimeter.

The next three minutes were uneventful. Daisy drifted down from her airborne perch and peered into some of the tents the soldiers were searching through, but everything was blurred. Real life Daisy couldn’t tell what they were doing inside the tents, so neither could phantom Daisy.

<When the fuck was this,> Daisy wracked her brain for an answer. <The weapons and gear is relatively modern, so this has to have been in the last decade.> Even with all of the evidence staring her in the face, Daisy couldn’t remember when this happened.

Daisy was so busy concentrating she didn’t notice the ground starting to shake. When she finally did feel it, it reminded her of the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex was coming. The only difference was Daisy probably could have kicked the crap out of the dinosaur. Whatever this was, it gave her a bad feeling; a feeling that was confirmed by an ear splitting scream.

“Report!” real life Daisy ordered, moving towards were the scream originated. Her feet sunk into the sand when she tried to run, so she wasn’t getting anywhere quickly.

There was a thump, and a spray of wet sand hit Daisy’s back. Phantom Daisy watched as her real life self slowly turned to see one of her black clad soldiers torn clean in half.

“Incoming!” It was the only thing she was able to yell before a roar drowned out everything. “Cover fire…fall back to the center…move your ass!” Daisy yelled.

The communication line was filled with gunfire and screaming. Half a dozen bolts of yellow-white energy lanced into the darkness. The soldiers only had a moments reprieve before that blaster’s dying gasp was heard by everyone. Phantom Daisy found the dead man’s body, and his head a solid fifty feet away.

“We need emergency evac now, Major” Daisy screamed when only half of her original force sprinted into the center of the camp.

The teleporter popped back into existence, grabbed a pair of soldiers farthest from Daisy and disappeared again. This continued until Daisy was the last one present, it was something she insisted on. Phantom Daisy floated around the perimeter, looking for the unseen enemy. Her real life self was doing the same, probably with her super powered sixth sense.

Daisy saw a shape move in the darkness, and her eyes tracked it as it stalked around the perimeter. Phantom Daisy flew closer, trying to get a better look, but she wasn’t going to get anything better than what her real life self saw. Whatever the thing was, it was huge.

“So you found my training camp,” a voice from the darkness stated. It was rich, cultured, and didn’t fit with the hulking shadow hidden in the night. “Bravo, my little Reaper, bravo.”

“It wasn’t hard,” her real life self answered, but Daisy heard the tension in her banter. “You’re not as sneaky as you think you are.”

“Or perhaps I am,” the giant shadow circled the perimeter the light created, never coming into the open. “Maybe I was looking forward to meeting you, and interested in having a little chat. What are a dozen dead men and a measly pyrokinetic for the chance to meet the famous Reaper? ”

There was another thump, a spray of wet sand, and Daisy was forced to see another one of her soldiers with all his limps ripped off. The creature in the shadows chuckled.

“As much as I’d like to stay and chat, I’ve got shit to do,” Daisy replied. “Maybe some other time.”

“A raincheck then,” whatever was cocooned in darkness didn’t sound upset. “I hear New York City is lovely in the fall,” even in her intangible state, phantom Daisy could sense the creature sneering. “I’ll stop by, kill you, kill everything you’ve ever loved, and then I’ll take back what you have stolen from me.”

The teleporter reappeared behind Daisy, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Fuck you very much for this little chat,” Daisy gave the darkness the finger. “If I see you again I’ll rip out your heart and feed it to you.” With a pop she was gone, and the scene disintegrated around her.

<Good thing I’m not claustrophobic,> Daisy could feel her body being squeezed. It was like she was being forced down a dark, dank drain.

She could tell she was being forced out of her memory and back into her body, but that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable. What made the situation even worse what that she remembered everything. It was like someone had punch a hole in a damn, and everything was now spilling out.

That wasn’t the only thing she remembered.

<I don’t care how old that bastard is. I’m gonna stick my foot up his ass when I see him,> it was Daisy’s last thought before she woke up to Craig, John, and half the freshman class standing over her.

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