A Change of Pace – Chapter 71

<Come in…get caught up…> Daisy didn’t like the words she was hearing through the phone.

“With all due respect, John,” she tried the best way to phrase her thought politely. “No fucking way am I coming in. The entire Orlando PD is gearing up for war, and a lot of them aren’t bulletproof.”

“You mean Mr. Phillips isn’t bulletproof,” John sighed, reading between the lines.

“Him and all the other officers.” Daisy conceded. “Fill me in all you want, but I’m staying out here. I can do more good on the streets.”

“Do I need to remind you of your status, Professor Meyers.”

<Shit, he’s in boss-mode.> Daisy noticed the title change.

“No you don’t, Dean Ditmar,” she replied formally. “I will not do anything to jeopardize the HCP, myself, or any other Heroes’ identity. I will operate strictly in a support capacity. John,” she paused for dramatic effect, “do you really want to be getting second hand information from the DVA or the Protectorate when you can have your own eyes on the ground?”

It was a lure that Daisy knew her old friend couldn’t resist. He took the bait. “Fine. Head downtown, I’ll fill you in on the way.”

“Yes, Sir.” Daisy hit the gas, and the HCP’s SUV’s powerful V8 engine roared to life.

Basically peeling out so close to a police station was just asking for a ticket, but everyone had something better to do, and Daisy soon saw why.

It was one thing to hear John explain that two bombs had gone off in hotels in the shady area of Orlando, but it was another thing to see the charred remains and devastation.

“Fuck me,” Daisy mumbled as she approached the area.

Flashing lights were everywhere; red, white, blue, and amber. The Orlando PD had thrown everything including the kitchen sink at this. Daisy wasn’t able to get within three blocks of the site, but it didn’t matter. Smoke was still billowing into the night, staining the skyline with an ugly black smear.

People were gathered everywhere trying to figure out what was going on. They were held back by a cordon of yellow tape and patrol officers, but those couldn’t stop eyes from seeing the damage. From her parking spot Daisy saw charred, gutted buildings; like a drunken frat boy had taken a scalpel to the side of the building and then singed the wound with a lit cigarette.

Even worse, there were several black body bags on the sidewalk, and they looked full.

Daisy wanted to go up to one of the patrol officer, ask for Christopher Phillips, and then use him to get inside the perimeter. But she knew that wasn’t how this worked. She also couldn’t sneak in. That would look really suspicious. Police always made sure to take note of the crowds at tragedies like this. The psychology of the people that did these unspeakable acts sometimes drove them to return to the scene and see their work. Daisy had caught a few bad guys that way.

That left only a few options. She quickly scanned the area and looked for a vantage point. If she couldn’t get in, then she needed to at least get a better view of the crime scene. Thankfully the HCP’s vehicle had a set of binoculars with a recording feature, so she’d be able to get John all the on-site footage he could dream of.

She grabbed the equipment, locked the car, and headed a block back to where a five-story building sat. It was an apartment building with a locked entrance, but that was easily overcome. She hit the call buttons for every apartment and one buzzed her in.

She couldn’t complain, but people needed to be a little more vigilant; especially in a neighborhood like this.

“John,” she dialed her boss while she took the stairs two at a time to the roof. “I’m going to be streaming you some live footage. Get ready to receive.”

Daisy shook her head when she opened the roof access. <Not even locked.> She’d could only imagine the crime rate in this building.

She stepped out onto the roof and took the binoculars from her bag. They were a tech genius creation, but they looked almost identical to a normal set. They were a bit larger and heavier to accommodate the addition features, but Daisy was more than capable of handling it.

“Prepared to receive.” She uncapped the lenses and switched them on.

She was four city blocks from the crime scene, but the magnification of the binoculars made her feel like she was right in the middle of the destruction. She started by doing a full scan of the scene. Later on, if the police or Protectorate wanted to bring the HCP into the investigation they’d be able to build a 3-D model from this footage, so Daisy made sure to grab everything.

“We’ve got two sites.” Daisy did running commentary as she panned across the scene.

“The motel on the right was the original target,” John informed, so she started there.

“We’ve got a pretty large blast radius,” she cringed as she took it all in. “I’d say the blast completely took out three to four rooms. And I’d bet my yearly salary the floor in there is structurally unstable now. Yeah…the detectives look like they’re avoiding it. They’re going to need to get someone who can fly in there to get decent photographs.”

“Requests have already been sent through the proper channels. Shift over to the next building.” John was taking notes the old fashioned way. Daisy could hear the scratch of pencil against paper.

“The blast radius from the first bomb reaches a good twenty feet into the parking lot,” she noted as she shifted her focus.

There were a few cars that were recently on fire, and several more that had been riddled with shrapnel.

<Shrapnel that far out. That can’t be right.>

“John, if they aren’t already, make sure they look into the shrapnel material and pattern. I’m seeing cars that have been hit by it, but their damage is much too neat to just be the brick and mortar of the building.” She hoped she was wrong, but if she wasn’t then they were dealing with a sick son of a bitch. “This could have been a homemade claymore.”

“That’s what I’m hearing from teams on the ground.” John sounded just as frustrated as she felt.

A memory tugged at the back of Daisy’s mind and she allowed it to play out.

She and Mastermind were running through a jungle, their faces painted in greens, browns, and blacks, and their fatigues soaked with sweat. Something was chasing them, but she couldn’t remember what and the memory wasn’t showing her.

There were others with her, four humans, big guys with big guns who looked just as tired.

“We need to get back to our lines,” Mastermind yelled, ducking around a leaf the size of a car door. “They need to know what’s coming. They need to…”

Mastermind never finished his sentence. He dropped to the ground. <What?> Daisy was turning to see what happened. When the world around her exploded.

Thankfully, she’d kept her kinetic absorption abilities on at all times while in country. You never knew when a Vietcong sniper was going to take a shot at you. Her power saved her life, but it didn’t leave her unscathed. She rode the shockwave of the explosion like a surfer, just like the old veterans had taught her in the HCP. The kinetic blast minimized her injury from the fiery explosion, but she still had some decent third degree burns. She was going to need a healer when they got back to base.

“Holy shit…holy shit…holy shit…” a young soldier, maybe eighteen years old, appeared in front of Daisy. “We didn’t mean…Sarge told us to set up a defensive line here. We used the claymores.”

That was all Daisy needed to hear. She didn’t even have to lift her head to know that the four soldiers who’d been fighting alongside her for the last few days were nothing more than hamburger meat now. They’d have to be scooped into bags and shipped home. There wouldn’t be any bodies for their families to bury.

Mastermind was alive, but he was messed up. The eighteen-year-old soldier and his squad helped them to the healers, but Daisy sure as shit would never forget what a claymore could do to a human being.

The memory ended and Daisy felt a familiar bubble of rage building in her gut. She wanted to find who’d done this. She wanted to find who’d set off an anti-personnel bomb in an American city, and she wanted to shove her foot so far up their ass that they’d never forget what toenails tasted like.

<Easy.> Her more practical side cautioned. <Take some deep breaths.>

“Freeze!” A few police officer and Daisy’s favorite ginger Hero rushed through the roof access.

Apparently, they’d had the same idea Daisy did about good vantage points and the possibility of the bomber returning to the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, it left her in a compromising position.

“Lower the binoculars slowly, place them on the ground, place you hands on top of your head, and get on your knees.” Police officers were edging around to the sides of her.

“Can’t do that boys. Galavant over there will tell you why.” The rookie Hero finally got control of the adrenaline pumping through his veins and recognized who was on the roof with him.

“Everybody stand down,” he hastily ordered.

The cops hesitated, which was never a good thing.

“I said stand down.” Galavant strode forward toward Daisy, putting himself between the officers’ weapons and her.

“How do we know you aren’t being mind controlled?”

Daisy couldn’t stop the loud sigh from escaping her lips. After what she’d seen and the memory she’d remembered she wasn’t in the best of moods.

“He’s not.” She snapped. “If I wanted you all dead you’d already be dead. But you’re not dead, because I’m a good guy, so stop fucking around and lower your weapons or I‘ll make you lower them.”

A bad attitude wasn’t the smartest way to go. Daisy knew the cops were just trying to do their job, but she needed to talk to Galavant, and it was always nice to talk to someone without having to hide your face.

“Go and check the next building,” Galavant ordered, more steel in his voice this time.

After another tense moment of hesitation, the cops lowered their guns and left the rooftop.

“Sorry about that.” Galvant quickly apologized. “Everyone’s a little tense, and when they spotted you up here they thought you might be the bomber.

“That’s understandable,” her temper was still raw. “But they should be obeying your orders. The Protectorate is probably the primary on this, and they need to do what you tell them for your own safety. Make sure to write that up in your report. It will suck for them now, but it might save their lives down the road.”

“Yeah,” Galavant didn’t look happy about it, but he understood it was the right move.

Now it was Daisy’s turn to apologize. “Sorry if I’m causing such a fuss. I’m just taking a look at the scene and letting the Dean know what I’m seeing. We’re not butting into your investigation, but we’re happy to offer our assistance if you need it.”

“Thanks, but I think we can handle it.” Galavant’s response was a little defensive, but Daisy saw that as a good thing.

Sometimes you needed to do things for yourself.

“Plus, Dr. Sanderson already swung by to pick her up and heal anyone who needed patching up.”

“Pick who up?” This was the first Daisy was hearing of it.

“You don’t know?” Galavant looked surprised.

“You insisted on remaining in the field instead of coming in.” John sounded guilty on the phone, and that sent a wave of fear through Daisy’s soul.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Daisy wanted to sound terrifying and intimidating to ensure no one ever left her out of the loop again, but she failed spectacularly. Her voice broke as fear wormed its way into her mind.

“Daisy, Angela Martin was at the scene when the explosions occurred. We believe the target of the attack was her father; which is why the Protectorate and the DVA are taking the lead in the investigation and not the Orlando PD.”

Daisy didn’t give two shits about who was leading the investigation. “Where’s Angela?” The thought that one of her students had been caught in that meat-churning explosion as unthinkable.

“She’s at the hospital, but…”

Daisy stopped listening. She headed straight for the door and back to her car. She was in the wrong place. She needed to make sure Angela was ok. If she wasn’t, then Daisy would focus on killing the parties responsible.

<But first Angela.> Daisy didn’t even say goodbye to Galavant as she rushed off.

 

***

 

It took Becca and the rest of the residents of Townhouse 117 a while to get to the hospital. They fit everyone they could into Seth’s little Porsche, but it was a two seater. They were able to get him, Liz, and Becca in and that was only because she was so small.

It was incredibly awkward being so close to the couple. <Geez, they were doin’ it less than five minutes ago. I don’t even think they finished.> The image of Liz writhing on top of Seth was permanently seared into Becca’s brain.

Becca tried to shift into a more comfortable position next to Liz, but it wasn’t physically possible. The two women were practically on top of each other.

<Don’t think about it…don’t think about it.> She repeated over and over again as she chewed on her fingernails.

<EWWWWW!> She caught herself and forced herself to stop.

Becca hated finding nail clippings all over the place from the boys, and she hated people who chewed on their nails. She knew she was being a hypocrite, but she couldn’t stop herself. Chewing her nails was her nervous habit.

“Slow down.”

“Speed up and make that light,” Becca’s statement was overridden by Liz’s.

They were flying downtown at speeds meant for the highway, and Seth showed no inclination to slow down.

“Don’t worry, Becca,” Liz gave Becca a pat on the thigh. “I can personally vouch for Seth’s ability to handle anything.”

<She winked!> Becca was mortified. <She actually winked at me.>

Thankfully, the uncomfortably close quarters and even more uncomfortable conversation were nearly over. Becca could see the large hospital building just a few blocks ahead, but that wasn’t what caught her attention. What she noticed was the smoke in the distance, and the flashing lights that were bouncing around the night sky.

<Angela.>

Becca had gotten the phone call, but there hadn’t been a lot of information. She was told by someone that Angela was in the hospital. The person on the other end might have said something else, but all Becca heard was that her friend was in the hospital. If Anika hadn’t been there to calm her down, Becca might have blown her secret identity and ran all the way down to see her friend.

<It’s going to be ok, Becca.> Kyoshi’s comforting voice, and a sense of peace, entered Becca’s mind.

<I hope so,> she answered, and then they arrived.

Becca sprang over Liz, out of the car, and was through the sliding glass doors before Seth put the car in park.

Once she was through those doors she was assaulted by the sights and smells of a big city hospital, something she hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing before. There was blood, puke, sweat, people crying, people yelling, nurses trying to gather information and console people, and an obvious drug addict who smelled like he’d pooped himself. A guard was watching him closely to make sure he didn’t mug people of their medications as they left.

The scene was overwhelming and Becca faltered. <What am I supposed to do, where do I go. I don’t know where Angela is?>

The doctor in Becca’s hometown still made house calls, and if things got really bad you were taken to the county hospital, which was still about a third the size of this place. She didn’t realize until she was inside the building how unprepared for this situation she really was.

<For Pete’s sake, me and all my siblings were born at home!>

Thankfully, Becca wasn’t alone.

Seth and Liz strode into the hospital like they owned the building. Their eyes scanned the room and zeroed in on a nurse. They walked with a purpose toward the haggard looking woman, not paying any attention to the chaos surrounding them.

“We’re looking for a patient, Angela Martin. We received a call that she was being treated here.” Seth blocked the woman’s path so she couldn’t walk away.

“I’m sorry, Sir. You need to wait for…”

“Please!” Liz grabbed the woman’s sleeve, and Becca saw tears streaming from her eyes. “She’s our friend…and we got a call…they didn’t tell us…” Liz sobbed between each broken statement.

The nurse took pitty on them. “Ok,” she walked over to a computer. “Ms. Martin is in room 413, but that’s in an entirely different wing on the hospital.”

“We’ll find it, thank you.” Seth slipped his arm around Liz and led her toward a door leading out of the ER.

Becca followed, not knowing what ese to do.

“Man,” Liz used a finger to wipe away the tears without smearing her mascara. “I deserve an Oscar for that performance.”

Becca couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping. <It seemed so real.>

Liz was her staring. “You’ve got to do what you have to if you want to get what you want.” Liz winked at her again.

“Text Mason and the rest of them the room number,” Seth advised, as they worked their way through the confusing hallways of the hospital.

There were color coded lines that ran along the halls, but Becca hadn’t seen a chart explaining what the colors meant, so all they amounted to was a confusing floor-rainbow. Seth seemed to have an idea because he kept following a white line. It vanished a few times and they struggled to find it again, but eventually it led to a group of rooms on the fourth floor, and one of them was room 413.

It was obvious they were in the right place because the door was flanked by two cops, who placed their hands on their holstered weapons as Becca approached.

“Can I help you?” One of the cops asked. Holding up his hand so the three teenagers stopped several feet away from them.

“Hiya, I’m Rebecca Whitfield and this is Seth and Liz. I got a call that Angela was in the hospital, and the nurse told us this was her room number.” Becca put on her best smiled, trying to let these good police officers know she wasn’t here to cause any trouble.

“I’m going to need to see some identification.” One of the officers stepped forward with his hand out.

Everyone handed over their driver’s licenses, even though the only one with a car was Seth.

The officer accepted them and scrutinized them.

“Just a heads up there are more of us coming. The entire townhouse was home when we got the call.” Seth added.

I was good that he did, because the officers took a hesitant step back when Mason and Kyoshi stepped thought the door with Anika right behind them. They handed over their ID’s for inspection just like Becca, Seth, and Liv.

When the two officers determined their IDs were legit one of them disappeared into the room while the other kept an eye on them. After a minute the officer returned with an angry looking woman in a black pants suit.

“Seth Abney, Liz Aretino, Rebecca Whitfield, Mason Jackson, Kyoshi Schultz, and Anika Kemps,” she listed them all off like she was reading bingo numbers. “My name is Agent Debora Phillips with the DVA. I’ve got some questions for all of you. Please follow me.”

 

***

 

“It’s ok, Angela. Take your time and try to remember. Any detail, even a small one, will help our investigation.”

Angela took a deep breath and tried to concentrate. She reached for the glass of water, but her hands were trembling so bad she sloshed water all over the table.

<Get a grip!> She yelled at herself, abandoning the attempt.

Angela tried to remember, she wanted nothing more than to remember. The IV of fluids sticking out of her arm itched, but she didn’t scratch it. That would just be more pain. She didn’t want to feel any more pain today.

Angela remembered the ending. She remembered the argument. Her father and Mr. Morningstar arguing about the best course of action to stop whoever had tried to blow up the hotel with Angela and her father inside of it.

She remembered her father being so sure of himself, despite the injuries he’d sustained in the blast. He knew who the culprit was, he knew where they were, and he was going to catch them.

<Wraith.> The name was permanently carved into Angela’s mind.

“Thanks for dinner. It was nice to catch up.” Angela mumbled the last words her father would ever say to her.

“What was that?” One of the DVA agents asked.

“He said it was nice to catch up. Then he vanished. Then I heard the explosion.” Angela sniffled, successfully holding back tears, but just barely.

She couldn’t remember anything after that point. Something had snapped. It was like someone had dug inside her head and snipped out the portions of what happened next. The next memory Angela had was of waking up in this hospital with doctors and DVA agents.

Then the questions started.

“Ok.” One of the agents scribbled down her statement. “How about we start at the beginning.”

“The beginning,” Angela couldn’t stop the harsh laugh from escaping her throat.

“The beginning of what? Hunter’s Last Supper? Is that what you all are calling it.” The anger was irrational and misdirected. Angela knew that but she didn’t care.

“It was Wraith!” She exclaimed, smashing her hand down hard on the bedside table. Hard enough that it sent a spike of pain all the way up her arm. “He said it was Wrath. He knew it was Wraith. Find Wraith…find Wraith…FIND WRAITH!” She screamed, causing the DVA agents to jump to their feet in alarm.

“She teleported the bag. I saw it…poof…blackness…and there it was. Then BOOM!” She gestured wildly. “I saved him with my wings,” she pointed toward her back. “I’m strong when I shift, stronger than Wraith’s bomb. We need to find Wraith and we need to kill her!”

“Doctor!” One of the DVA agents called into the hall.

“Doctors, we don’t need doctors.” Angela threw the sheet off herself, revealing the paper-thin hospital gown she was wearing. “We need Titan, we need Iron Giant, we need Zero, we need some grade-A Heroes to come in here and put her down. She’s a cockroach, A COACKROACH! We need to step on her now before she can kill anyone else.”

The doctor arrived just in time for Angela to crumble into uncontrollable sobs.

“Shhh,” the old man helped maneuver her back into bed, wrapped a blanket around her, took out a needle, and administered a sedative through the IV.

The choking sobs slowly abated until they were soft snores. The soft snores of a girl whose father had been brutally murdered right in front of her.

“We’re not going to get anything out of her anytime soon.” The DVA agents started to pack up their stuff.

“Let’s let her rest and then start again tomorrow.” The only female agent present suggested.

“Yeah, sure.” Her male counterpart nodded dismissively. “I’ll start on the report. A lot of that might have been crazy talk, but Hunter’s last communications with Mr. Morningstar did talk about Wraith. So that’s a lead.”

“It’s a good place to start.” The female agent agreed.

The door to the room opened before either DVA agent reached it. “Excuse me, Ma’am.” One of the two police officers assigned to guard the girl’s room stuck his head in. “I’ve got a bunch of her friends outside asking for her.”

“Jesus,” the male agent rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to spend the next few hours babysitting. They’re all yours Phillips.” The man turned around and took another door out of the room.

<Lazy sack of shit.> Debora kept the thought to herself, the guy was her immediate boss.

“Ok, Officer,” Agent Phillips caught the man’s attention with a wave of her hand. “Take me to them. Might as well get started on those interviews.”

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8 thoughts on “A Change of Pace – Chapter 71

  1. Now I’m caught up to your most recent chapter, sleep-deprived and going to bed way too late. I’m delighted that this is the last chapter so far, since I will now actually go to sleep, but I am looking forward to the next chapter when it becomes available. Thank you for some delightful and engrossing writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The choking sobs slowly abated until they were soft snores. The soft snores of a girl whose father had been brutally murdered right in front of her.”

    Noooooooooooo!!!! Hunter can not be dead!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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