“Come on…pick it up…push it!” Henry Martin, famously known as the resurrected Hero, Hunter, held the bag as his daughter pounded on it.
Angela Martin’s breathing was haggard but controlled. She sucked in as much oxygen as she could as her fists lashed out, made contact, and then retracted. She flew through multiple combinations, ducking and dodging at imaginary counterstrikes, and finished it up with a roundhouse kick that produced an oomph from her much larger father.
There was no mistaking it. Angela Martin had changed, but the freshman year she had at West Private’s HCP would have done that to anyone. She’d gone from a slightly chubby eighteen-year-old to a lean, mean, fighting machine. She battled her way to the top of class, and held it against her peers for most of the year. Then, she’d watched her father die in front of her eyes, and die violently. She’d thought that the man who’d raised her, regardless of his unique style of upbringing, had been blown to pieces by a new and powerful supervillain.
Naturally, that left its scars. She’d nearly beat a kid to death and been put on probation at the HCP she’d worked her entire life to get in. Her mother was only a moderate amount of help. The older Martin was more consumed with finding and dealing with Wraith than dealing with her grieving daughter. It hadn’t been pretty, and then a notorious international terrorist showed up and turned Orlando into the seventh circle of Hell.
Angela was forced to consider if Orlando was cursed for a moment, but then came the good news. Her father wasn’t dead. He’d just been in hiding and working from the shadows to uncover who Wraith was.
He’d survived the bombing, barely. He’d actually been pretty messed up. She could see it in his eyes when he recapped it for Angela and his wife when all the madness had finally settled down. He’d lost a lot of blood, several appendages, and barely been able to teleport away to a still unknown healer. It had taken weeks for him to get patched up and back into fighting shape, and by then everyone was so deep into the grieving process that he decided to wait before coming back.
That was about the time Sophia punched him in the face during the story. Angela rarely saw her mother overreact, but it wouldn’t be the last time she let Henry know how pissed she was.
Instead of coming back, he started researching. He followed the few breadcrumbs that had been left behind and made a couple of leaps in theorizing who Wraith could be. But he got his first real lead after Seraphim had battled Wraith in the parking garage. When no one was looking, he’d snuck in and taken a look around. He’d found the rift in space where Wraith had teleported out and followed it to a townhouse by West Private. He’d only gotten a peak around the room, but that was all he needed to figure out enough.
Then, for months, he’d staked out the residence and followed everyone who came and went. He almost intervened when he found out it was the same house Angela lived in, but he didn’t.
That was the point in the story where Angela had to physically restrain herself from following in her mother’s footsteps. She couldn’t believe her father had been sitting outside her townhouse for months watching a supervillain who slept less than fifty feet from her. The anger and pain she felt was overwhelming.
Hunter had been there watching when everything went down the day of the terrorist attack. He heard the gunshot from inside the townhouse, and investigated. He found the dead ForceOps soldier and the rift that led to Wraith’s prison. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, he jumped in, rescued Anika, and then set an ambush that captured Wraith.
To the outside world he was a Hero, but to Angela and her mother he was still on their shit list. That’s why she had him holding the bag, because she knew if she punched hard enough she might just break through and punch her dad in the face.
“Good set.” Henry had sweat dripping from his forehead, just like Angela. “Squats, let’s go.”
Angela adjusted her sports bra and walked over to the two racks bolted to the floor. They were in the garage of the one house that her parents called their home, or at least they used to. She wasn’t sure what their relationship status would be on Facebook now.
Compared to all the money that the successful Hero team of Hunter and Seraphim made, the little two bedrooms, one bathroom place in Daytona Beach was pocket change. It wasn’t on the actual beach. That was full of condominiums and hotels. Their little place sat on the intercostal waterway’s side. You couldn’t even see the beach, and you could barely see the waterway through the mansions that lined the shore. Their house was just a little place where the couple could get away for a few days, and that’s where Angela had spent her summer break.
She’d wake up early to run to the beach, ran most of the beach itself, and then ran home. She’d eat breakfast with the family, a stiff affair considering her parents’ situation, and then she’d get back to work. The small one car garage had been converted into a gym long ago complete with weights and boxing equipment. So, Angela usually spent a good chunk of the day in the garage. Sometimes her mother worked out with her, sometimes her father, but she was sure all their neighbors knew them as that crazy family that was always working out in their garage.
Angela got the bar firmly settled on her shoulder, hefted the weight off the rack, took a few steps back, made sure he feet were spread to where she wanted them, and then she squatted low, almost until her ass touched the floor, and then shot back up. She was doing light weight and working on her explosiveness. The time for heavy stuff would come later.
As far as afternoons went, she had them mostly to herself. She’d take a book to the beach and read. It had taken a few weeks, but she finally got used to all the guys coming up to her and flirting. That was a new experience, but it was good training, just like all the running and lifting she was doing. She needed to be able to interact with people, even boys who could barely hide their arousal at her well-sculpted body.
The farthest she went while at the beach was accepting an invitation and play a pickup game of volleyball. After all she was taken.
“Angela, phone!” Her mother yelled from inside.
Seraphim hadn’t been present all break. She’d get called away every couple of days, but the seasoned Hero was trying to be around as much as possible. She and Henry were working through things, which couldn’t have been going too well since Angela still knew her father was sleeping on the couch. Either way, the Martin’s were working through spousal issues that only a few dozen couples in the US had to worry about.
Angela reracked the weights and walked into the house to take the call.
“This is Angela.” She took the phone from her mother.
“Um…hey…hi.” The voice on the other end was nervous, but Angela had grown to find it adorable.
“Hello, Alec.” She smiled and went to grab herself a bottle of water.
“Alec, your Alec?” Henry had followed her inside, and she shot dagger-eyes at him for the stupid question.
A dynamic of their family had clearly changed in the last year. Angela was no longer the quiet obedient daughter. She was her own force of nature now, especially when it came to her interactions with her father. When you thought someone was dead you tended to learn to live without them.
“Who is that?” Alec asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Angela walked out of the kitchen, into her room, and shut the door behind her. “So what’s going on.”
“I’m just packing up and getting ready to head back for classes on Tuesday. When are you going to get back?”
He was fishing for information. He wanted to set something up, and after a summer of dating long distance she did to.
“I’m moving in on Monday. Where are you living?”
“I scored a two-person dorm with my chemistry lab partner from last year. He’s got a big screen, every gaming consul, and just about every game to go with them. But most importantly, he has the proper appreciation for… Wait, you don’t care about any of this, never mind.”
Angela couldn’t stop the giggle from escaping her lips. Alec has a tendency to get passionate about something, usually science or tech related, and he just started rambling. It was cute, but it was even cuter when reality set back in and he realized what he’d been doing.
“Enough about me. Where are you living?” he asked.
“I’ve got an off-campus apartment with two other girls. You’ve met them.”
“The really tall, clearly Super one?”
Angela bit back an instinctually defensive reply. Alec was smart and he didn’t just dismiss people with clearly Super features as just people with Super style or fetishes. Especially when it came to someone like Kyoshi: six-seven, golden eyes, and pale hair was the real deal or someone committed to the culture in an unhealthy way.
“It’s Anika and Becca.”
“Tattoo girl, and hair-dye girl.” Alec could come off as a bit rude if you didn’t know him well enough, but he wasn’t trying to be that way at all. “Aren’t they together?”
“Yeah.” She already knew Alec didn’t care about something as stupid as someone’s sexual orientation. He was just trying to orient himself to the environment this coming school year.
“What about the other four people you roomed with last year. I assumed you’d all stay together again in another townhouse.”
“No, not exactly. Mason and Kyoshi are in the same building so we’ll still see them a lot. I haven’t heard from Seth all summer, and…his girlfriend dropped out.” It was the easiest way for her to put it without getting into details and pissed off.
<Dropped out of school and right into a maximum security Super prison. Serves you right bitch.> Angela took a few deep breaths to get under control.
“Cool. Well call me when you get in on Monday. I’d like to take you out to dinner if that’s ok.”
“I’d love it. I’ll see you soon.” She hung up the phone and went to open the door, but not before she heard some feet scrambling.
She opened the door to see her father meandering what he thought was nonchalantly in the small hallway.
“So you and Alec?” He smiled in the way only a father could when discussing his only daughter’s boyfriend, which was to say very forced and painful to watch.
“None of your business,” she shot back and shouldered past him.
<If you really wanted to know then you would have told me you were alive.>
Angela understood why he’d kept it a secret, but that didn’t fix everything she was feeling. <He’s going to need to work to make things better.> And a summer helping her train was just the beginning.
“Prisoner, on your feet.” The intercom system within her cell crackled to life.
It had been days since anyone had bothered to stop by for a chat with Lilly, other than the people in the cells next to her.
<And its Reggie, mmmhhhmmm.> She appreciated the tall, dark, and handsome guard who was ordering her around. After all, she didn’t get much male interaction in this place.
She didn’t know where the Feds were holding her, the lettering on the outside of her cell stated she was on Subterranean Level 3 of something, but everyone she’d met inside called the place the Doghouse. She did know the air outside was thin, windy, and a bit on the chilly side for summertime.
From the outside, it didn’t seem like much. A large brick and concrete building, with a rec-yard for basketball, weightlifting, and places just to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. All while being surrounded by a triple layer of fencing and barbed wire. Rumor had it the fences were electrocuted, and the space between them was full of landmines. The first Lilly believed, the second she wasn’t as sure about. Not that it mattered. Only those on their best behavior or low risk got to be jailed on the surface.
For three months, Lilly hadn’t seen the sun or breathed fresh air. She was down in the real holding facility. While the surface level looked like any other large building, the subterranean levels were something else. The walls were all unnecessarily bright white and made of a resistant plastic instead of metal. From what she’d seen, the facility huddled in multiple rings around a central shaft like spokes on a wheel.
When they brought her in, Lilly knew she was on level S3. The rumor mill in this place told her there were five levels, and the farther down you got the worse of a human being you were, with level five being reserved for the people who’d lost all their humanity.
<And I only made level three.> Lilly was mildly offended until she’d spent a month in the place.
Her little slice of heaven, an eight-by-eight cell, looked just like all the other ones. A single bed, with a mattress as hard as a rock and springs that jabbed you in the spine. With that you got one scratchy blanket. The blanket wasn’t large enough to cover you unless you curled up into a small ball. That was because the guards didn’t want anyone hanging themselves with it, so they had to keep it tiny.
In the corner of the room was a plastic toilet with no privacy barriers, so Lilly got to drop deuces while anyone who walked by got a money shot of her. Luckily, there weren’t many people just strolling around Level 3.
<Still bet the guards are sitting up there wankin’ it to us.> Lilly knew some of the guards had a darker side, but Reggie wasn’t one of them. She didn’t have to worry about getting felt up as she was patted down by the man.
“Prisoner will the place her hands on the yellow circles.” Reggie’s strong authoritative voice commanded.
“I’m going. Keep it in your pants!” She yelled back, as she got out of bed and walked to the back of the cell where two yellow circles stood about chest height.
She put her hands in the circle and the yellow immediately reacted. It swarmed over her hands and solidified in place so she couldn’t move them even if she wanted. There was a barely discernable hiss as the front wall of her cell slid aside and Reggie walked in.
The guard reminded her a bit of Mason. He was big, at least six-five, well-muscled, shaved bald, but he had a silent strength to him, and above all he was respectful.
“Good morning, prisoner.” Reggie rumbled as he stepped behind her and started to run his hands over her arms and legs.
There wasn’t anything in the place she could have forged into a shank, but they were always thorough when they came to get a person out of their cell.
“You know you can call me Lilly, or Liz, or even Wraith if that floats your boat.” Lilly replied. “It must get old calling everyone prisoner. What do you do if you’ve got more than one person you’re talking to? That has to be really confusing. Me, I’d give them names, maybe based on their power. That guy with the rhino horn growing out of his head, that’s Unicorn Man, and the flame chick a few cells down is Liar Liar Pants on Fire because she told me we’d get pudding and I haven’t seen any yet.” Lilly droned on as Reggie did a competent sweep of her for contraband.
In the three months Lilly had been a prisoner she hadn’t changed much. She was still the five-ten bombshell she’d always been, and if anything, she was a little more in shape than she had been before. She didn’t have any equipment or anything, but when you had nothing to do all day you developed a pretty intense workout regimen to stay sane. The added benefit was your body got tired and you could crash eventually instead of staying up at night and looking at the white ceiling of nothingness. The one thing that had changed, and was pissing her off, was her hair. She’d dyed it blonde for her Liz gig, but her natural hair color was brunette, so roots on her head had a solid bit of brown that then transitioned into blonde. It was a fashion nightmare paired with the orange jumpsuit that totally didn’t go with her complexion.
“You’re clean, let’s go.” Reggie hit some buttons on his utility belt and the yellow started to flow off her hand and back into circular form on the wall.
“Thanks, Reggie. I take personal hygiene very seriously.” Lilly smiled and looked over her shoulder to wink at him.
If she had an escape plan this would be the time to attack, but it wouldn’t do any good. Reggie was a low-level strongman. He’d demonstrated it before, and that was why he’d been tasked to deal with all the criminals like Lilly. Even if she was able to take down Reggie, she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere. Her specially designed cell had anti-teleportation technology that was a constant pain in her well-toned ass.
<If I could get out of the cell…> That was a different question, but they had a counter for that too.
The collar snapped into place around her neck. It was snug enough so she couldn’t get a hand or finger under it to try and pry it off, but it also wasn’t tight enough to choke her. Oddly, it was made of a very comfortable material. Why the manufacturer of this device from hell would take the time to make it comfortable was beyond her, but as it snapped into place around her throat at least she wouldn’t be itching herself like a dog every minute. After that came the regular restraints, a pair of handcuffs and ankle chains.
“You know the drill, prisoner. You don’t follow my orders when I give them I put you down, you resist in any way I put you down, you try and touch your visitor I put you down.”
“I fart without permission I get put down. Honestly, Reggie, your flirting needs a little work.” She heard the big man grumble something under his breath and he walked her out of the cell and around the ring toward the elevator.
“Have fun, Wraith.” The woman in the cell next to her giggled.
The woman’s name was Morina, but she was more popularly known as Bloodhound. Although she referred to herself as the Blood Bitch. On top of being crazy, the woman was a blood manipulator. She drained her victims of their blood and then used it to create armor, weapons, and other tools to attack and defend herself. Rumor had it she was close to being able to control the blood when it was still in a person’s body, but she got caught before she could perfect the technique.
As Lilly and Reggie passed by the cell, she saw Morina, dirty blonde hair down past her waist now, fingernails chewed down to the cuticles, and a solid metal mask fastened to her face. Bloodhound’s abilities required a line of sight to target her victims, so that countermeasure kept her relatively powerless.
“You know me. It’s always a good time.”
Morina giggled at the reply. Lilly always tried to stay on the woman’s good side, because if that mask ever came off a lot of people would die.
“Come on.” Reggie pulled her along past Unicorn Man and Liar Liar Pants on Fire.
Lilly didn’t know their real names, but they must have done some serious shit to get down on Level 3.
The elevator up to the surface looked pretty ordinary, but she knew it had to be decked out with all types of gear. The least of which probably blew the place up and sent its occupants falling to a fiery death. She tried not to think about it as the display counted up to one. With a soft ding, and a refreshing wave of air, Lilly stepped out into the prison’s ground floor.
Low-risk prisoners in the same orange jumpsuits were walking the hallways in groups with guards and doing tasks under their supervision. They all looked toward Lilly and Reggie when the chime announced their arrival, and she could see them involuntarily shrink away from her.
<Good.> she put on her best shit-eating grin and got hauled by Reggie toward the visitor’s center.
“You can release my client now.” The man sitting in the private room set aside for their legal meeting was impeccably dressed. He was also acting the part of the upset lawyer to the T.
“Cuffs stay on.” Reggie replied sternly, as he plopped her down in the seat and snapped her cuffs into waiting brackets. Now she was secured to the sturdy, bolted table and the floor.
“This is quite unnecessary.”
“No,” Reggie cut the lawyer off with a glare. “It really is.”
“It’s cool, guys.” Lilly did her best to smile and lean back in her chair. “Don’t fight over little old me.”
She couldn’t see behind her, but she was sure Reggie was rolling his eyes, and the lawyer just looked confused.
“I’ll be right outside the door watching you two.” Reggie stated before stepping out.
“Uuuhummm.” The lawyer coughed. “Very well, let’s begin.” He took a seat across from Lilly and started pulling out stacks of paperwork.
“The Justice Department took their time in filing charges, along with a couple of states and individuals.” The man began.
“What are the charges?” Lilly was interested to see what they thought they could convict her on.
“Well right at the top of the list is terrorism, and being a national security threat to the United States of America.”
“Exaggerations.” Lilly waved away what she knew they were going to try and get her with. “What else?”
“Well we’ve got a couple of murder charges.”
The number the lawyer listed was low, only accounting for the Mafioso whose ticket she’d punched in Chicago, and the ForceOps guys she’d put down. <They don’t have them all, but one is enough.>
“I’ve also got grand theft, extortion, prostitution…”
“No that one is bullshit,” She replied with agitation. “I didn’t actually sleep with him.”
“Ok.” The guy scribbled a note about the charge. “I’ve also got an espionage charge.”
“Why the fuck are they targeting me for espionage?” That one was a surprise.
“There was an alleged armored car robbery that they are saying you participated in, and an item in said armored car was of sufficient importance to warrant the charge.”
“That’s more bullshit.” Lilly remembered the silver briefcase she’d purposefully left behind.
“These are just the charges, and we’ll fight them one by one.” The lawyer reassured her. “I’ve also got a kidnapping charge, dozens of assaults with a deadly weapon.”
“You mean these?” Lilly raised her fists and couldn’t help but chuckle at her own joke. Three months underground with a crazy chick in the cell next to you tended to have an adverse effect on your psyche.
“Among other things. In the state of Colorado, a Super’s powers are considered a deadly weapon.”
For the life of her, Lilly couldn’t remember who’d she kicked the shit out of in Colorado.
“So what’s the damage?” Lilly cut through the rest of the red tape.
“What do they want to do?” Lilly clarified.
“Ma’am.” The lawyer clearly didn’t know how to address her. “They want to kill you. The terrorism charge alone is enough to get you the needle.”
“Huh,” Lilly knew it was coming, but it felt different to hear someone else say it. “Well, that fucking sucks.”
“That’s it.” Daisy put down the last file with a triumphant sigh. “That’s our new freshman class.”
She saw potential and felt an excitement that she hadn’t felt the first time around. When she was in this position last year, she thought the HCP’s professors were just on the good side of washed up. She thought they couldn’t cut it as Heroes anymore so they taught instead.
She couldn’t have been more wrong, and now with a year under her belt she felt like she was finally a part of their family.
<And Craig won’t be able to pull any shit over on me again.> That part was probably the most important point of all.
“Yep.” The speedster looked exhausted, but that was business as usual for a Hero, and a Hero teacher. “So it’s the same as last year. We’ll go in kick some ass, and give them a look at what it’s like to go up against a real Hero.”
“Knock them down a peg or two, gottcha.” Daisy grinned back. She just needed to keep an eye on the three speedsters and hope most of them got on Craig’s side when they split the room. “I remember.”
“Good. Don’t get tagged because I really don’t want to have to whoop your ass in front of the freshmen.”
That made her laugh, and she exaggerated it to rub in her point. “We’ll just have to see about that.” The two professors grinned at each other, each with a competitive glint in their eye.
“Well, I think that’s good enough for today.” Craig finally broke off the stare down. “Don’t you have to get to the airport?”
“Shit!” Daisy glanced at her phone.
She had ten minutes until her boyfriend’s parents landed at the newly reconstructed Orlando Airport, and she was at least twenty minutes away.
<I hope they haven’t fixed the glitches in baggage claim yet.> She grabbed her purse and hauled ass out the door, but not before she glanced at the list hanging from it.
The sophomores might not be trained directly by her anymore, but her first class would always have a special place in her heart, and she wanted to stay up-to-date on their rankings. That way she could step in and give some people a motivational ass kicking if she thought they were slacking.
She’d already committed it to memory, but she went over it again in her head as she raced down the HCP’s sci-fi corridors towards the lift that would dump her out closest to her car.
- Angela Martin
- Jason Cook
- Kimberly Goodman
- Erin Fisher
- Mason Jackson
- Anna Fletcher
- Teresa Shaw
- Anika Kemps
- Alexander Webb
- Seth Abney
- Casey Williams
- Lorelei Gilford
- Kyoshi Schultz
- Liam Garrison
- Simon Skylar
- Emilia Scarborough
- Fiona Richardson
- Rebecca Whitfield
- Natalia Romanoff
- Carson Long
- Oliver Carpenter
- Jacqueline Eaton
- Ashley Bates
- Richard Gibson
- Danny Mason
- Janet Ibsen
- Blake Rhodes
- Rowan Michaelson