A Change of Pace – Prologue

Rain propelled by hurricane force winds splattered on bulletproof glass and drummed on the reinforced concrete of the New York Patriots’ headquarters. The compact square building, affectionately called “The Block” by its inhabitants, sat on the site of the old Castle Clinton National Museum in Battery Park. After the original museum was destroyed by a rampaging strongman the Patriots bought the land and rebuilt the circular historic fort around the cube shaped headquarters. After getting all the city’s Hero teams to pitch in the new museum became the epicenter of Hero history in the Big Apple. The little revenue they made was split between the teams who donated memorabilia and the rest given to charity. While having the museum, and the good press that came along with it, was good for their image the real reason for the Patriots choice was location, location, location. The breathtaking view of the Statue of Liberty alone was enough to drive the decision. But at the moment the prime piece of real-estate was being a giant pain in the ass.

Hurricane Sandy was doing her best to drown the city despite everything the Heroes could do, and the Block’s location wasn’t going to improve their flood insurance premium. Daisy Lee Meyers growled from her seat at the communication station ignoring the frightened looks from her civilian counterparts. Despite her Southern Bell looks and Daisy Duke figure she wasn’t known for being particularly pleasant.

The Hero’s appearance would make a lot of people uncomfortable. She was 6’3”, ridiculously tall for a woman who wasn’t a strongman, with an athletic physique covered in black fatigues which looked more at home on a Navy SEAL. Unbeknownst to civilians the black material was the product of the team’s technical brilliance Super and was as tough as tank armor. Something the real SEALs wish they were issued. Her shoulder length fair hair was done in a single french braid and worn under a matching black patrol cap. Her simple domino mask was the same color and material as her fatigues, which went well with her vampirically pale skin and haunting blood red eyes. Her costume was complete with a matching, intricately woven red scythe on her back. To the world she was the Hero Reaper, someone no one wanted to cross. Unfortunately for Daisy, she was ill equipped to deal with Mother Nature being a bitch.

The Patriots were deployed nearby at Governor’s Island, rescuing the tourists who failed to heed the weather service’s warning in time. While Dispatch was coordinating with them and the other teams directly, Daisy was trying to keep the team in the loop with the numerous other agencies that’d finally pulled their heads out of the sand. The problem was everyone was claiming jurisdiction and too occupied measuring dicks to actually be doing any good at the moment; thus the reason for Daisy’s growl.

“Dispatch, the last civilians are clear,” the deep boom of Iron Giant’s voice was heard clearly over the howling winds. “I’m returning to the Block to resupply before I head back into the city.”

Daisy was on her feet and heading for the door before Dispatch’s affirmative reply. She couldn’t stand sitting around not doing anything. She made it about a foot out the front door before the hundred plus mile and hour winds took her off her feet. Daisy was not more resilient than an average human, so she felt the pain of landing hard on her tailbone. She let forth a slew of four letter words only to hear booming laughter and receive a helping hand.

“That’s no way for a sophisticated southern woman to behave,” Iron Giant’s lopsided grin looked ridiculously out of place on a face made of metal.

John Ditmar, also known as Iron Giant, was a shifter. In his unshifted form John was about five and a half feet tall, lanky, with salt and pepper hair and tired grey eyes hidden behind thick spectacles. On the other hand Iron Giant was over seven feet tall and comprised of a bright silver alloy that was so far unidentified. So far the Super hadn’t encountered anything that could severely damage his body, he could bench press a tank, and even run along with freeway traffic. He didn’t require air, food, or sleep in his shifted form and could stay transformed for as long as he wanted. He was the epitome of a traditional hero and the leader of the most well-respected team in the city, but most importantly he was one of the few people Daisy could call a friend. She was also the only known Super who could kill him.

Daisy was humble enough to blush as she took his hand and followed him back inside. She had a big muddy stain on her backside, but ignored the squishy discomfort as she followed him to the elevator.

“How is it out there?” she was desperate for information that wasn’t relayed over a radio.

“It’s not great but I’ve seen worse,” John replied, ever the eternal optimist. “We got everyone out with only a few bumps and bruises, and they’ll make sure to watch the weather channel next time they’re on vacation.” His little joke wasn’t as funny as he thought it was.

Her red iris’ bore into his steely ones, “I need to do more.”

“I’m sorry, Reaper, this just isn’t your skillset.”

He was right and she knew it, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Daisy was an absorber with a unique twist. While she was able to take in kinetic and electric energy and dish it back out her unique talent was much darker. The power that got her the name Reaper was the ability to drain someone’s life energy. It sounded more like a supervillain’s ability, and she could have easily turned out that way. A loving family, excellent mentors, and Lander’s HCP staff helped shape her into the Hero she was today. Although just about everyone for her class was now dead. Most were killed in the line of duty, but the few that lived to retire simply got old and died.

Daisy’s ability had the unfortunate side effect of eternal life. Every time she took life from someone else she was awarded with youth, but never younger than her physical prime. She didn’t go full on Benjamin Button. So although she looked no older than her late twenties Daisy was 68 years old. She’d graduated from Lander’s HCP in 1966 and served as an active Hero for the last 46 years. She’d seen plenty of action and taken plenty of lives in nearly a half century of service. John kept pushing her to retire and settle down. If she didn’t use her ability she could grow old and die like everyone else, but that would be selfish. Daisy was the best deterrent out there. She was a living legend. If she was within half a mile she could drain anyone into a feeble old timer without them ever seeing her. Just the mention of her name ended battles before they started. New York hadn’t seen a major Super or Powered incident since she joined on with the Patriots after 9/11, and she intended to keep it that way. The people of New York City deserved that much.

Even knowing she couldn’t do more to help in the storm she followed John down into the depths of the Block. Only two of the structures five stories were above ground. Below the surface they kept all their equipment, the gym, and their quarters. Without missing a step she stormed after the Patriot’s leader into the crowded equipment section. There were a dozen civilian employees sorting through and preparing emergency supplies to go out when the storm cleared. Knowing better than to renew her argument in from of the civilians, and the few DVA representatives present, she switched to a new strategy.

Before she could argue her EMT qualifications to justify getting deployed a loud crash echoed throughout the room. Daisy jumped a foot in the air in surprise before flinging herself to the side and emerging in a defensive crouch hands crackling with lightening. She was met with equal looks of surprise and fear by the man who’d accidentally knocked over a shelf of meals ready to eat (MREs) into a row of oxygen tanks. The poor guy held his hands up in surrender a noticeable stain growing around his crotch. This was the effect Reaper had on people.

Daisy took a deep breath before loosening her posture and dissipating her electrical attack. She turned back to John and couldn’t help but giggle. What passed for concern on a metal man’s face was funny. The giggling continued as she turned to face the civilian employees who were now backing away from her.

<How do they not think this is funny?>

The giggles became a laugh, a laugh that came from a place deep inside her. In the back of her mind she rationalized that this wasn’t that funny, just a stupid mistake that led to a stupid expression, but she couldn’t stop herself. She didn’t even realize she was shaking until John grabbed ahold of her. Her laugh became strained as she struggled for breath, her heart was racing, and it felt like her fatigues where trying to choke her.

“Reaper,” she heard her name and felt the accompanying shake, but everything was swallowed in a tidal wave of imagery.

She was 22, just out of the HCP, and was looking down at her friend and classmate Jane Watson, the hero Tempest. Her classmate’s head was pulverized mush from the chunk of concrete a criminal telekinetic struck her down with. Daisy killed the criminal without a second though.

“Reaper…Daisy,” John’s shout was barely a whisper in her mind.

She was much older and experienced now, but that didn’t stop the pain of seeing her sidekick dead. James Paddington was a good kid, a little headstrong, but pure of heart. He didn’t deserve to have a metal stake impaling something so wholesome. Her attention returned to the speedster who’d ambushed them and killed James. The murderer begged and pleaded for her life, but Daisy could never forgive the woman. The speedsters face wrinkled and skin sagged as she let out a dying gasp. The woman’s energy flowed into Daisy as she dropped the speedster like a piece of garbage. She had a funeral to arrange.

“I don’t care where the hell he is, get Electrolyte in here now,” John was calling for the team healer now.

<Why…who’s been hurt,> the deluge of thoughts made it difficult to concentrate.

It was now New Year’s Eve and she’d planned to usher in the new millennia with a bottle of expensive wine and a boyfriend who was willing to be taken advantage of. Criminals were never so accommodating, and Heroes didn’t take time off when people were in danger. It was the first time she’d gotten her love life off the ground in two decades and an Advanced Mind decided that it was a good idea to induce a cerebral hemorrhage in her man’s brain. She felt the Powered’s life energy call to her and she took it. It didn’t matter the man didn’t have full control of his ability. He still killed Danny and had to pay. She could still feel her broken fists from the repeated blows she rained down on the corpse’s skull. It looked like a split watermelon when she was done, but that didn’t satisfy her, nothing did.

“Stay with me, Daisy,” John’s voice was frantic but the hurricane of imagery drowned out even his powerful cries.

<So much pain…so much death…when will it end?>

Every time she took a criminal down two more popped back up. It was like fighting a hydra and every time she went into battle she drew that much farther from seeing everyone she cared about. She was tired, so very tired.

Despite John’s desperate cries Daisy Lee Meyers, the legendary hero Reaper, closed her eyes. She’d done enough recently; she deserved a change of pace.

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