When Daisy was told she was going to be able to participate in the take down she thought she would be a little more involved. Instead, she was running at the back of Team Three down the deserted street, toward the club, with Dispatch squawking in her ear the whole way.
“Reaper, you’re being given temporary authorization to act in the capacity as a Hero under DVA statute…” Daisy tuned the emotionless woman’s voice out when she started saying a bunch of number and the provisions of the temporary status.
Daisy already knew what she was going to say so it wasn’t like she was going into this blind. Daisy had heard the temporary authorization speech a dozen times over her career; although they’d never been directed at her before.
“…only authorized powers for use are electric and kinetic absorption…”
That statement made Daisy tune back in. “What?”
Despite being interrupted, Dispatch didn’t sound upset. “Due to the fragile nature of extraneous events and operations the DVA and ForceOps both agree that certain aspects of your abilities should not be used unless under dire circumstances. If the requirements are met for your unique abilities use, then you will be informed and authorized.”
<You’ve got to be shitting me.> Daisy nearly tripped over the guy’s feet in front of her. <You’re actually going to tell me when superpowers and bullets are flying around when I can drop a bad guy. This is fucking ridiculous. No,> she quickly reminded herself, <this is politics.>
Team Three reached the back alley of the building and turned down it. There were two soft popping sounds and the two men guarding the back entrance fell over. They’d been tranquillized not killed, and would just be taking a nice six hour nap.
Commander Jenkins motioned everyone against the wall and prepared to breech. There were two clicks over the radio signifying the other two teams were ready to go.
“Breech, breech, breech!” The Commander stated over the radio as he moved off the wall to kick the door open.
<Good luck, Grace.>
Debora darted in front of him and grabbed the doorknob before he could kick. She turned the knob and the door opened while giving the SWAT commander an eye roll. Daisy tried hard to stop the laugh, and only partially succeeded. No one noticed though, they were already swarming into the door and heading up the stairs. KaBoom was in the lead, bounding up them quickly, with the SWAT commander and Debora next.
Daisy tried not to let it get to her that she was bringing up the rear.
They were halfway up the stairs when they heard the first gunshots. Then came the screams, both of horror and pain, then the yells of the police and their return fire. Daisy didn’t like how many weapons she heard discharging. Either all the cops were shooting, or the first two teams were running into heavy resistance.
Then it was Team Three’s chance to get in on the action. Weapons started to fire from the head of the column of SWAT members running down the hallway toward the VIP room and offices. Rounds started heading their way too. The whoosh and snap of various bullets flying by Daisy didn’t bother her as much as the men in front of her. The SWAT members moved to either side of the hallway, ducking for cover into shallow doorways or behind boxes, anything to put something between them and the growing amount of fire being returned in their direction.
Daisy felt the slight pressure of a bullet hitting her and its kinetic force being added to her internal battery just as she heard a scream to her right. One of the unlucky SWAT members whose only cover was a stack of cardboard boxes had just been hit. The bullet had punched right through the boxes and its contents like it was tissue paper, and hit the officer in the leg.
“We’re going to need medics and healers standing by.” Daisy walked over to see the man’s wound, using her own body to shield him.
There was blood, but not a lot; which was a good thing. “It looks like it missed the artery!” Daisy yelled over the barrage of gunfire. “Keep pressure on it, stay down, and you’ll be fine.” Her advice wasn’t motivational, it was just common sense, but it was better than letting the young man sit there and freak out after being shot.
The best way to end this was to get into the fight and take down the bad guys. If there was one thing Daisy had proven she was good at, it was that.
<Let’s do this.> Daisy couldn’t control the surge of excitement that spiked through her. It had been too long since she’d felt the thrill of a real fight.
Manipulating her electrical absorption she flooded her brain with electricity, forcing the neurons to fire faster, and her perception to speed up. One quick glance of her vicinity showed things weren’t going well. The entire team, except for KaBoom was pinned down in the hallway. Even Mr. Morningstar, whose power wasn’t much use over the roar of gunfire, was ducking for cover. Her fellow kinetic absorber had made it into the main room. She saw him move in slow motion behind the three gunmen who were raining down lead into the hallway. KaBoom was clearly fighting for his life against a Gumby-looking motherfucker with ridiculously long limbs and a giant twelve-foot tall humanoid squid.
They trained Heroes in the HCP to fight multiple opponents, and KaBoom was using every ounce of that training right now. But training or not, if she didn’t get to him quickly he was going to be in for a bad day.
The first obstacle was the gunman. Three of them stood in front of the door firing their weapons on full automatic to keep the team’s heads down. The spray and pray tactic didn’t do more than that. So far they’d gotten lucky and hit one officer, but the way they were screaming and firing made it unlikely they would hit another, even with the limited cover available to the team.
They were the first targets.
Before Daisy consciously knew what she was doing the floor cracked beneath her feet as she started to charge their position. A few bullets slammed into her, but far fewer than there would have been if the guys were actually aiming and not drunk. She’d gotten a close enough look with her enhanced perception to see that these guys’ eyes were unfocused, and two of the three had white powder residue under their noses.
While absorbing the bullets’ punch, and pushing kinetic energy through the soles of her feet, Daisy summoned a trickle of electricity from her battery. She aimed, drawing an imaginary line between herself and the three targets, and fired. A three-pronged lightning bolt, like an electric trident, smashed into the three men. Their bodies instantly went limp, and there was a distinct smell of shit that filled the air.
“Mmmooooooovvveeee!” Commander Jenkins yelled in slow motion as Daisy sprinted passed them, vaulted over the unconscious gunmen, and barreled into the room.
She was immediately met by a bright flare of light. <Fucking Torch!> She cursed as the female light manipulator pulsed like a flash bang grenade.
Before the light blinded her, Daisy got a good view of the room and where the people were, including Torch. She instantly committed the layout to memory, as she pivoted. The force of her stopping and turning filled the whole room with a crunching noise. Daisy felt her body resisting the sudden change of direction, but her legs held. She then pushed off at a ninety-degree angle toward where Torch was standing and spread her arms.
Torch’s body did not hold up as well as Daisy’s when exposed to severe kinetic forces. At the very least Torch would be reeling from several broken bones, and at most she was dead from the force of the impact. Daisy didn’t really care if it was the latter.
Torch’s limp body slid rather than fell off Daisy’s chest. Daisy turned to the rest of the room, recalling her mental blueprint, and started to march forward. KaBoom had been tangling with Squid in the far corner of the room, and the guy with unnaturally long arms and legs had been approaching to join that fight.
Just as she started to see the spots of her vision returning, Daisy felt the heavy pressure of something slamming into her hip. Before the force could withdraw she clamped down on it with both hands and squeezed until something snapped. Even over the gunfire echoing throughout the club she made out the scream of the Fist member known as Big Mike.
After Daisy turned whatever bone she’d gotten a hold of into powder she didn’t stop there. She rotated her body, using her core and back to whip the broken appendage around away from the direction of the door. There was a small delay before Daisy felt the slight tug of Big Mike’s body getting picked up off the ground and getting thrown away from KaBoom, Squid, and the advancing SWAT team.
The gunfire was starting to die down, which only made the crash of Big Mike breaking the room that much more satisfying. Daisy kept a hold of the appendage she’d grabbed until the room started to come fully back into focus.
Torch was along one wall with several parts of her body bent at weird angles, Big Mike was struggling to get up from where Daisy had put him through the wall, but he was quickly being surrounded by SWAT members, and he didn’t look like he wanted to be repeatedly shot. The only remaining threat was Squid, who had KaBoom pinned into a corner and was yanking both his arms to the side like he was trying to draw and quarter the Hero.
Daisy knew how to handle the situation, that was the easy part. The hard part was to do it without killing Squid. She wished she had more information on Squid’s strength, but the situation didn’t allow for her to make a call and wait on a response.
With a bit of effort Daisy built another electrical attack and launched it at the Fist leader’s back. The foot-thick electric barb smashed into the twelve-foot shifter. He stood for a few seconds, roaring his defiance, so Daisy increased the power and sustained the blast. Finally, the twitching tentacles dropped KaBoom, whose plastic infused costume saved him from the deadly shock. He rolled out of the way just before Squid crashed face first onto the spot where he’d fallen.
Slowly, the tentacles receded back into the shifter and he shrunk down to an average size. SWAT officers converged on him immediately, fitting him with an IV to keep him unconscious, and picking him up to transport him back to the Protectorate HQ.
Daisy let go of the flow of electricity to her mind, and the world slowed back down to a normal pace. She’d need some healing. She already had a terrible migraine and her vision was still spotty.
“After all the rehearsing and all the intel gathering it only took you and KaBoom a few minutes to take down all the bad guys,” Daisy looked over as Debora approached, not sure if the DVA agent was impressed or pissed.
“We got the bad guys.” Daisy was still blinking to try and clear her vision. “How’d the other two teams do?”
Now it was Debora’s turn to grimace. “A bunch of Fist foot-soldiers were in the club tonight. We’ve got police and civilian casualties. A few deaths already, and that’ll probably climb in the next few hours.”
“Shit’s right,” Debora sighed, running her hand through her hair. “But we got the job done.”
<Hopefully it means something.> Daisy was going to make sure Squid spilled his guts. Literally or metaphorically, she didn’t really care as long as they got the information they needed.
“Head down and get healed up. Dr. Sanderson and a few healers the DVA called in are helping out the injured.” Debora pointed toward the door that led to the rest of the cub.
“They should handle the civilians first. I’m fine for a while.” Daisy continued to blink. She could still see, although any optometrist wouldn’t let her drive anything anytime soon.
“Suit yourself,” Debora shrugged. “Why don’t you give my brother a call. I’m sure he’s worried about how everything went down. And of course you can talk in the annoying baby-voice I know you two must.”
“I only do that when we role play.” Daisy smiled politely back, and gaining a decent amount of pleasure at the grimace on Debora’s face.
“Just keep it off the official channels. I don’t want everyone knowing the depraved stuff you do to my brother.”
“No promises,” Daisy winked as Debora rolled her eyes and walked away. Their friendly, inappropriate banter involving Topher completed.
“Reaper, you are removed from temporary Hero status effective immediately,” Dispatch’s businesslike tone echoed through the earbud.
<Well that was quick.> Daisy sighed as took a seat on one of the few intact pieces of furniture. <At least this gets me out of doing the paperwork.>
That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
“I fucking hate this part of the job,” Daisy squinted at the pile of papers stacked on the side of the desk.
She’d been fully healed by Dr. Sanderson and hour ago, but her eyes still hurt from straining to read the miniscule script of the legal documents. Daisy had thought she wouldn’t have to go through all of this because of her temporary status. <WRONG!> If anything there was even more paperwork.
She had to fill out the normal incident reports, then give statements about her battle with each of the Fist members she’d taken down. Of the four they knew had been in the room she’d taken down three. Mr. Morningstar had come in and subdued Rat rather easily. The paperwork for Torch was particularly draining since she’d sustained life-threatening injuries. The woman had survived, but the DVA still wanted to know why Daisy had almost killed her.
<Because with her power she would have blinded the entire team and then proceeded to kill us. You’re welcome.> Daisy didn’t have the patience to deal with bureaucrats right now.
Big Mike’s paperwork wasn’t as bad, but they still wanted to know why she’d pulverized his arm. Thankfully, she’d already seen KaBoom’s statement and how grateful he was that she’d drawn some of the gang Super’s fire from him. That would get the paper-pushers off her back.
But the worst part about all of this was that the DVA wasn’t allowing Daisy to see the prisoner until she’d finished all of her paperwork. So now she was rushing to get through all of the crap to get to the thing that actually mattered.
Debora and Mr. Morningstar were already in the holding cells talking with him. At him would be a more apt description, but Mr. Morningstar would eventually start to whittle away at him. Toxicology had already come back with the amount of shit in the guy’s system, and it was a miracle he was still alive. In fact, if they hadn’t raided the club and forced him to shift he probably would have overdosed on something.
<Irony.> Daisy shook her head as she typed out the last paragraph of her statement on Squid’s takedown. A sustained electrical blast wasn’t anything fancy, and with KaBoom’s corroboration she wasn’t worried about anything.
<Finished!> She electronically signed the last form, hit submit, and waited a second until she got the received message before logging out of her account. <Time to get back to work.>
Daisy marched right out of the commandeered office and right up to the two armed SWAT team members who were standing guard. Both men looked tired, and that was understandable after the rush of battle; but they were also alert. That was good, because with the head of the city’s most powerful gang in custody they had to worry about counterattacks to jailbreak the boss.
“Ma’am.” One of the guards held up a hand to stop Daisy.
Daisy was still wearing the plain grey mask she’d been given at the start of the operation, but that didn’t stop anyone from knowing what she’d done; especially after the SWAT member she’d given some common sense advice to started blabbing his mouth about how she’d saved his life.
<I just stood in front of some bullets for you.> She’d replied, desperately trying to get away from her new biggest fan. <Not as big a deal for me as it is for you.>
“All my paperwork is finished, so tell Morningstar it’s time to let me take a crack at him.” Daisy put her hands on her hips in an expectant fashion. She was taller than both of the SWAT guys, and after today’s actions, probably intimidated them a little.
“Yes, Ma’am,” one guard relayed her request and then waved her through. “Good luck.”
Daisy didn’t need luck, she had experience.
Daisy was surprised to see that Squid wasn’t in his cell when she entered the room. He was sitting at a table. On the other side was Debora, sipping a cup of coffee, and looking pretty blasé about the whole situation. Mr. Morningstar was leaning against the corner nearest Squid talking smoothly about something. KaBoom stood in the corner keeping an eye on the situation, and Daisy saw him visibly relax when she entered the room. He obviously didn’t like Squid outside his cell even if he was restrained.
Squid’s restraints were state of the art. Both of his hands were turned inward and completely enclosed with metal up to the middle of his forearms, and were connected together so it looked like he was being forced to pray. The same was true of his feet, up to the middle of his calf. But those were coupled with a gravity lock that locked him to the floor. Both his hand and feet restraints were connected by a thick, unyielding bar of metal.
The arrangement was typical of shifters who grew as they shifted. If Squid tried to shift while restrained he’d dislocate both of his shoulders and possibly break his spine as he grew since his arms and legs were locked in their current position.
And then there was the collar.
The last restraint operated under the same theory as the others. If Squid tried to shift the collar would choke or break his neck. A second bar connecting his collar and arm restraint guaranteed a broken spine if he tried to change. Squid wasn’t going to be going anywhere or doing anything to anyone anytime soon.
“So what do you like to do in your free time?” Mr. Morningstar asked nonchalantly.
The Protectorate team leader was leaning casually against the desk like he was shooting the shit on Monday morning by the watercooler.
“I do blow, I get blown, and I fuck up jokesters like you.” Squid spit back. Trying and failing to move his head enough to actually spit at the Hero.
“We already know that you like drugs, girls, and violence Squid.”
“That’s Mr. Squid to you, G-string.”
Debora shrugged off the derogatory name for a female federal government agent and continued. “We are interested in a particular girl though.”
“I’ve got lots of bitches and none of them are snitches.” Squid tried to turn his head again to glare at the cell behind him.
Dragon was looking like someone had taken a dump in his morning cereal. He’d woken up to a ruckus and found his boss being dragged in all doped and chained up. Since a chunk of Dragon’s identity was wrapped up as being a member of the Fist, seeing his leader casually restrained and dumped into a cell next to him was enough to emotionally crush him.
Daisy would place money on Squid bitching Dragon out every other sentence at the beginning of his interrogation.
“We’ll get to your human trafficking charges soon enough,” Debora snapped her fingers and brought Squid’s attention back on her. “But what we want to talk about right now is her.”
Debora slid the grainy photo of Wraith to the middle for the table so Squid could get a good look at it.
“Shadow? What about her?” Squid’s tone changed.
“Yo Squid, they be after Shadow. Give them what they want and you can get a deal.” Dragon spoke up, but a glare from KaBoom shut him up.
“I don’t know much about her,” Squid went on defensively.
Dragon’s outburst had helped and hurt their interrogation. It had helped because they were now on topic, Squid was talking, and there was the possibility of hope reentered into the equation. Nothing was better to leverage in a situation like this than hope. On the bad side, they were now going to have to dance around terms and then get the DA involved; which was just going to take more time. Any information they received needed to be acted on quickly. News of the raid and Squid being taken would spread through the criminal underworld quickly, so there was an expiration date on any intelligence.
“Tell us what you do know.” Debora started the dance.
“What’s in it for me?”
Total immunity was obviously off the table. Squid had done too many bad things to get off scot free. Plus, politically the city needed a win. They needed the people of Orlando to know that they’d taken down the man responsible for the blackout. Squid needed to be gone long enough for that day to fade into memory and the news cycle to forget about him.
Lawyers were called, the actual DA showed up, and a compromise was hammered out. Squid was going to serve a ten year sentence at a federal Super facility out of state. He would be available for parole in six with good behavior with the remainder of his sentence to be monitored by the DVA. It was the best deal Squid was going to get. It was either that or life behind bars.
Squid was still pretty young so he took the deal.
It took three hours to get everything signed off on. Only when Squid had seen, had his lawyer review, and signed the agreement did he agree to talk.
“We knew her as Shadow, but I guess everyone else calls her Wraith.” Squid started. “What do you want to know.”
“Start with a physical description, personality, any habits you recognized. Basically tell us everything in detail of every interaction you had with her.” Debora had good old-fashioned pen and paper out, but everything was being recorded by the surveillance equipment in the room.
“We never saw her face, and we really never saw her,” Squid started to explain their first meeting. “She’s secretive, stays in the shadows, and jumps around during the conversation to keep you off balance. We were thinkin’ about trying to take her out, but didn’t know how to do it yet.”
“Confident and a bit of a bitch. She whooped Dragon’s ass the first time they met.” Squid laughed, and Dragon rolled over on his bunk to avoid everyone’s gaze.
Debora asked questions and Squid answered them. There was a lot of stuff that the DVA had already guessed, but it was good to get confirmation. But there were still too many unknowns for Daisy’s liking.
“How did she pay you?” Debora was clearly starting to get a little frustrated.
“Cash. We had a routine monthly meeting so she could pay us our retainer. It was only ten grand. We were gonna ask for a raise.”
“When and where were the meetings?”
“Actually,” a smile passed across Squid’s lips. “We’ve got one scheduled for tonight.”
Daisy, Debora, Mr. Morningstar, and KaBoom’s ears perked up at the juicy bit on intel.
“In the basement of a parking garage,” Squid gave the address. “But she ain’t gonna show if word about me spreads.”
“Will you make a call?” Debora obviously didn’t like asking the question. It put the Heroes and DVA in a bad position.
“Sure…under one condition.”
“Dragon goes to the same prison as me.” The request was unsuspected.
“Boss?” Dragon perked up at the request, but Squid quickly stomped on him.
“I’m gonna make you my bitch, Dragon. You fucked me, you fucked the Fist, and now you’re gonna work off your debt. Got it!”
Dragon went back to trying not to be noticed in his cell, but Debora didn’t have any problems with what Squid wanted to do to Dragon in prison. An hour later Dragon’s deal was worked out.
“Broken Arrow?” Debora nodded to Daisy as she slid a disposable cell phone across the table to Squid.
KaBoom had freed one of his hands so he could make the call. Squid gave Daisy a spiteful look, so she just grinned back. “You screw this up and I turn you into calamari.” Daisy’s comment didn’t help the situation, but it put the ball in Squid’s court.
Squid dialed a number from memory.
“Yo, it’s me.” They couldn’t hear the specifics on the other end of the conversation. “Nawh I got away. You think a few five-oh could take me down.” There was muffled laughter form the other end. “Yeah, exactly. I’m lyin’ low for the next few days though. Business goes on as usual, understood?”
Squid hung up and slid the phone back to Debora.
“This better work,” Debora pocketed the phone. The DVA would go through it later and track down whoever Squid had called.
“My part’s done,” Squid sat back with a content look. “It’s on you now.”
“Don’t worry,” Daisy couldn’t help but respond. “We’ve got it from here. Why don’t you go take a nap and plan your next six years.” She smiled.
Daisy knew some of the Super criminals who were in the place Squid was going. She’d put more than a few there herself. Squid and Dragon would both be minnows in a pond full of sharks.
<It’s the least of what they deserve.> She walked out of the room and headed back toward her commandeered office.
She needed to get to work on this sting. It was the best lead they’d ever had on Wraith and they couldn’t screw it up.
If they did, they wouldn’t get another chance.