A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 54

They landed…hard. Lilly hadn’t meant to drop them off a few inches off the ground, but with the weight differential to take into consideration, and the small fact they were under fire when she teleported definitely threw things off. An inch or two didn’t seem like a lot, but it made all the difference when you expected to land on the ground. Instinctually, she took a step forward to brace herself. She was supporting Seth because she wanted to help her boyfriend. Ironically, Morina, who was already prone when they teleported got off easier. She just plopped the inch or two to the ground. She was already unconscious, so she didn’t even notice.

Lilly’s attempt to brace ended miserably. The floor she expected to be there was not, she instinctually thrust out for something to grab a hold on. Seth slipped from her grip as her center of balance was compromised and gravity took over. Instead of helping her boyfriend, he went crashing into the side of a metal cage. The scream of pain that had already been building in his lungs intensified.

<Shit…shit…shit!> Lilly grabbed the same cage and caught herself, but wasn’t able to get to Seth before he toppled over. The room was filled with the sounds of his agony, and she just hoped the neighbors weren’t home. If she heard the noises Seth was making, and was a normal law-abiding citizen, then she’d call the cops.

Unfortunately, she had bigger things to worry about than her boyfriend’s level of pain. She knew what the people who attacked them were capable of, and she needed to move.

“I’m sorry, babe. Hold on,” she pleaded as she saw the tears streaming down Seth face. He was trying not to scream, and wasn’t particularly successful.

She grabbed him under the shoulder and started to pull him towards the door. The cage wasn’t big, just big enough to hold a few people that followed her after she teleported, so she didn’t have to go far.

Even then, Seth’s muscle mass didn’t help. She grunted and groaned as she dragged him inch by inch out of the cage. She tried to lift him up as much as possible over the metal lip at the door, but that was easier said than done. She wasn’t able to get his lower spine and tailbone area lifted over the lip, so she ended up dragging him. He let out another groan as his hamstrings passed over the hard metal, and then his head lolled to the side.

“Seth?” She finished dragging him, and gently lowered him to the ground. “Seth?” She asked again as she bent down and looked him over.

She put her ear down over his mouth and looked down at his chest. She felt the rush of air against her cheek and saw his chest rise and fall. He was still alive and breathing. He’d just passed out. She felt he was good for the moment, so she went back to grab Morina. The blood manipulator was much lighter than her big boyfriend, and she was able to sling the woman over her shoulder and march out of the cage. Morina’s head might have impacted metal bars once on accident, but Lilly didn’t think much of it. She was still pissed at the Super.

<Trying to ram a kinetic absorber!> She fumed. <If that isn’t the stupidest fucking shit I’ve ever heard then I don’t know what…> She let the thought rail off as she closed the cage door behind her and activated the power.

The bars electrified, and if anyone teleported into the cage, the electricity would branch out and attack the intruders. Lilly didn’t know the science behind it, but the villain she’d bought this from was respected and had no reason to fuck her over.

With the cage activated, she only felt a tiny bit less safe. <Reaper is an electric absorber as well.> She remembered. Anyone that came with her would be cooked well done by the current, but the legendary Hero wouldn’t be slowed down. <We need to move.>

She dropped Morina over to a nearby couch and turned back to Seth. Her boyfriend was still lying on the ground, but he didn’t look so peaceful anymore. He was twitching like the cage had sapped him, and foam was coming out of his mouth.

“Oh fuck!” She leapt forward and tried to restrain him from lashing out and hurting himself more. If he made contact with the cage that was game-set-match for Seth Abney.

She tried to remember was to do if someone was having a seizure, but without any supplies there wasn’t much she could do, and a quick look showed things only seemed to be getting worse. She had a decision to make and she needed to make it fast.

Option one was to get him to the nearest hospital. She wasn’t in the US anymore, so she wouldn’t be hunted immediately by any Heroes, but that wouldn’t last long. The hospital would want all of his data, and if she feigned ignorance they would get it through DNA and other methods. As a former HCP candidate, Seth would be in the system. She didn’t know if he’d been updated into Interpol’s systems as wanted, but if he was, the international police Hero equivalent would come to arrest him. From there he would be deported back to the US to stand trial for several felonies, including assault on Heroes. Judges tended to throw the book at the people who attacked public servants, especially ones who’d been trained as much as Seth had. He was too much of a risk to be put back onto the street. He’s be facing a long time in prison no matter how fancy a lawyer his family got him.

Option one sucked, but option two wasn’t going to be much better. The second option was for Lilly to get Seth to someone who could help…off the radar. Since she didn’t know anyone locally, that meant another teleport, which if the action was partially responsible for his current state, would only worsen his condition. But the bright side was that he could get medical attention and be safe.

The decision came down to whether or not Seth wanted to spend time in jail. Granted, a European jail wasn’t too bad in the short term, but going back to a supermax like Florence ADMAX was like going to hell. She was never going back, and she doubted Seth wanted to go there for the first time. Of course, this all depended on Seth surviving another teleport, and judging by his seizure, that chance diminished by the second.

Lilly took one last look over at Morina, who looked to be sleeping serenely on the couch. The blood manipulator was still alive, and came second in Lilly’s hierarchy of people she needed to take care of.

“I’ll be back.” Lilly whispered to the inert body as she grasped Seth’s hand and visualized her destination.

She was breaking the cardinal rule her father had taught her about the teleporting and avoiding Hero detection, but she didn’t have a choice. This was an emergency. She grabbed Seth under the shoulders again and got him to a sitting position, then, while executing a squat, she got him to his feet. He was still twitching, but wasn’t thrashing anymore, so he was able to support his weight and get his arm around her shoulder.

<Ok.> She took a deep breath and locked in the destination. She double checked her landing coordinates to ensure she had the proper weight ratio in her mind so they’d not have the bumpy landing they had before.

On her exhale, Lilly and Seth vanished in a flash of darkness. They appeared a few seconds later on a beautiful tropical island where the sun was already set. Stars illuminated the sky, and the moon glowed above her. It would have been incredibly romantic, if her boyfriend wasn’t nearly comatose in her arms.

Lilly started dragging him forward, but the sand was deep, and it made taking even a few steps exhausting. After half a dozen she gave up. “Help!” she yelled at the wood line of palm trees. “For fuck’s sake get out here and give me a hand!”

There was no answer for a full minute until a figure burst out from between the palm trees.

“What the damn hell, girl!” Armsman appeared with Nano hot on his heels. “You know they’ve got a satellite passing over her in less than five minutes?!”

“Then all the more reason to move your ass and help me get him inside!” Lilly shot back.

“Is that Abney?” Nano asked, walking up next to Seth to grab his other arm. The much younger and smaller Nano wasn’t a great help but he allowed them to shuffle forward a little faster than what Lilly had accomplished on her own. Armsman looked like he wanted nothing to do with the unconscious young man.

“He looks like a rapid dog.” He glared. “And why they hell did you bring him here?”

“He’s one of us now.” Lilly was getting tired of shouting. “He broke out of jail, took a bullet in the process, and fought off two Heroes. He went toe-to-toe with Reaper and Hunter and held them off long enough for us to get away.” Lilly embellished a little, but her uncle was all about reputation. If someone was going to be staying in his house, he needed to be a proper villain.

“Reaper and Hunter…” Armsman smelled the bullshit, and it showed on his face.

“He kept them at bay while I used my shadow to trump Reaper’s reaping. After that, I got us out.” Lilly was dripping sweat now that they were in the hotter climate. “I vouch for him, so for fuck’s sake help me!”

“Your judgment has always been clouded when it comes to this one,” Armsman gave a sideways glance at Seth, “but if he really helped you fight against the Heroes I’ll give him temporary asylum.”

With that decided, Armsman took over for Nano and they made much better time. They entered the subterranean complex and hustled Seth to the medical area. Hellgate was still there, right where Lilly had left him, and it hit her hard for a moment that the two men she cared about the most in her life were unconscious and injured. It made her heart tighten, but she didn’t have time to dawdle. They hooked Seth up to the various instruments and allowed the auto medic to do its job. The automated life-caring machine wasn’t as good as a healer, but it was the best technology had come up with. It had to split its attention between Hellgate and Seth, but when her father remained stable she was sure the machine could handle it.

“Ok, I’ll be back.” She stated before quickly vanishing.

“Wha…” was all she heard from Armsman before the dark comfort of the void surrounded her.

It lasted only a second, and then she was on another beach and running. She put three more destinations between her and Armsman’s island, each time putting space between her ingress and egress points, before she arrived back at the flat. Morina was still there and unconscious, as was the rift in space-time from her emergency teleport.

<I’ve got to fix that.> She employed a tried and true practice.

She did a few dozen rapid teleportation’s around the room. She created a maze of rifts that Hunter would have to go through to find the real one, and even then, she had multiple teleportations going to multiple beaches around the globe. It would be a miracle if Hunter was able to track her to Armsman’s island.

With her earlier mistake rectified, she ignored the wave of exhaustion threatening to overwhelm her, scooped up Morina, and did several more teleportations to get her back to the island. She made sure to arrive in the trees without her signature explosion of darkness so any satellite overhead wouldn’t pick her up. She took her unconscious friend underground, and for the first time since fleeing Orlando with Seth felt a modicum of peace and security. As a villain she had to cherish these few and far between moments.

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A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 53

Lilly’s eyes darted around the scene. <Fuckety…fuck…fuck…fuck!> She took in the four unconscious sheriff’s deputies and replayed their call for help.

“Destroy the damshcams and bodycams now!” She yelled to Morina and Seth.

Lilly whipped out her gun and proceeded to put several rounds through the windshield and into the dashboard. She looked back to see her two co-conspirators just standing there. “Now!” she repeated trying to instill a sense of urgency in them, because if they didn’t hurry they were fucked.

Eliminating the dashcams and bodycams robbed the responders of a teleportation location. Since they were in the middle of nowhere Louisiana, she doubted a DVA teleporter, or Hero, would have the location memorized. If she could take away their mode of transportation, then they stood a chance.

Other thoughts whirled through her head, like archived footage of the location or nearby security footage, but she pushed those thoughts aside. The live stream footage of those cops’ location was the immediate threat. It would take time for law enforcement to dig into other footage to get a good teleporting location.

Lilly went to holster her weapon and nearly dropped it and toppled to the ground as the earth roiled beneath her. A pillar of rock shot from the earth and smashed into the underside of the other patrol car’s engine block. It looked like the planet was playing a game of flip cup with the car as it was flung into the air and came back down to smash on the roof. The pillar receded, looking like it was never there in the first place, and was replaced by a wave of fire that washed over the overturned vehicle. Seth stood on the other wave of flame and calmly waved it back and forth and completely bathed the car in destruction.

“Move!” Lilly yelled again seconds before the flames reached the gas tank and ignited the fumes. The whole car went up in a fireball that lifted the vehicle a foot off the ground. <A little overkill, but that’ll do.> She smiled at her boyfriend’s destructive abilities. Then she turned to find Morina.

Morina had a tire iron from the remaining cop car’s trunk and was smashing the unconscious cops in the chest with it. Plastic and bits of electronics flew into the air as she destroyed the black, blocky bodycams on their chests, but Lilly was sure a few ribs were broken too. If not for their body armor, Morina would have beaten those cops to death.

“That’s enough!” Seth yelled as Morina moved from man to man and rained down blows. “You’ve got them.”

Morina looked up at them with a crazed look in her eyes. Sometimes, and with all they’d been through together, they forgot Morina liked inflicting pain on people. She liked draining them of their blood and bettering her own life at their expense. Lilly knew Seth might be accepting his life as an outlaw now, but she knew her boyfriend didn’t see himself as an evil, or even bad person. It was more crimes of circumstance and love that landed him in this predicament.

“Enough, Morina,” Lilly echoed Seth’s sentiments. “We need to get out of here now. We bought some time, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.” She ran back to their stolen car and got in the driver’s seat. “Let’s go!”

Her two companions rushed to follow her, but by the time their doors slammed closed, they had company. A man and a woman appeared in the road just ahead of them. They were facing the opposite direction, which allowed Lilly to act before they were all eliminated. She envisioned her teleportation location, which was exactly where she was sitting, and teleported. She disappeared and then reappeared in the exact location, but the blast of shadow that exploded outward from her was what she really needed if this what who she thought it was. She waited the second for it to expand to its full radius, and then willed it to stay. It did, and hid them from their newly-arrived enemies.

Lilly wanted to throw it in reverse and get the hell out of dodge, but Morina had a different plan. “Ram her!” The blood manipulator snarled. She was sitting between Lilly and Seth, and when Lilly didn’t automatically comply, Morina stomped Lilly’s foot into the gas.

Rubber burned for a moment before the car lurched forward. It was less than fifty feet from where they started to where the Hero stood, but the car had gotten up to a solid twenty miles per hour in the time period.

“Fucking idiot!” Lilly screamed back as she tried to move her foot, and when she realized it wasn’t possible, braced for impact. Unlike Morina, she knew who she was facing. Thankfully, they were only going twenty when they made contact.

The car impacted Reaper and got stopped dead in its tracks. The air bags deployed and smashed into Lilly’s face. Her nose broke on impact, but that was better than Morina. The girl wasn’t wearing her seat belt, or in a seat that was protected by the airbag. They flew forward into the windshield with a sickening crunch and stopped moving.

“Ugh!” Seth groaned.

A spike or worry resonated through Lilly’s gut. Seth was fragile enough as is. Getting in an accident was the last thing he needed. As it turned out, worrying about Seth was the last thing that needed to be on her mind. Her grip on the shadow was beginning to slip, and the darkness was starting to leak away. She tried to hold it, but it was like trying to hold water in her hand; bit by bit it dripped away. Soon it cleared enough to see the outline of the Heroes.

Reaper was dressed in black fatigues. The crash hadn’t affected her a bit. It hadn’t even wrinkled her clothes. The engine block had been stopped by her abdomen, and her outstretched arms had kept the car from wrapping around her. It was a smart move. She still had full momentum, and wouldn’t get tangled in the wreckage, but she didn’t move. She stared straight ahead into Lilly’s unmasked face.

<Fuck me.> Lilly saw genuine hate and anger in Reaper’s eyes, a second before Lilly felt like something tried to grab her mind.

On reflex she teleported.

She reappeared right where she’d started, but a fresh wave of darkness blanketed the area around them and obscured the Hero from view. Reaper’s influence on Lilly’s mind vanished.

“We need cover!” Lilly yelled, but got no response. She crawled over Morina’s sprawled legs and grabbed Seth by his shirt. The car shifted as Reaper pulled herself from the front grill’s wreckage. “WE NEED COVER!” Lilly yelled again, right into her boyfriend’s ear.

She felt him nod through the darkness, just before a much stronger shudder ripped through the car.

“No! God damnit!” Lilly cursed as something hit the underside of the car and flipped it.

It was the sheriff deputy’s car all over again, but this time they were on the receiving the end of it. The car tumbled backwards, landed hard on the roof, and the now unbuckled Lilly fell hard on her back. It knocked the wind from her, and the shadow started to dissipate. She couldn’t wait until she could see the Heroes again.

She teleported outside of the vehicle. She could feel her surroundings through the shadow, so she was easily able to reach through the broken window and pull Seth out. She sensed him being cut by the jagged glass still sticking in the window frame, but she didn’t have much of a choice. Seth’s retrieval was easy. Morina’s was going to be more difficult.

Lilly sensed the Heroes entering the outer perimeter of her shadow. One had a large rifle pressed against his shoulder and was sweeping the area in front of him looking for movement. Reaper had her hands outstretched and pointed in the direction of where she thought the car was. She was right on the money.

“Down!” she yelled at Seth. She grabbed him and pulled him down behind the cover of the truck before the blast of electricity fanned outward.

She felt the blast in her teeth. Her muscles cramped up and her hair stood on end in the worst bad hair day ever, but the truck blocked the majority of the blast. The boom of the rifle and the smack of it tearing into the car followed shortly after. Thankfully, Lilly felt the bullet miss Morina, who she still hoped was alive.

“Another distraction please,” she asked Seth. “Maybe this time something that might make them back off and not put us on our asses.” The shadows were staring to slip again, and the Heroes weren’t that far away.

Brightness emerged from the darkness as flames shot from around Seth toward the Heroes. Lilly could tell from his aim that he was going for glancing blows, and trying to drive them back, not kill. The man with the rifle teleported away before the fire reached him, confirming it was Hunter. Reaper dodged by jumping away. The single leap took her outside Lilly’s ring of shadow.

“Do a sweep to keep them off my ass!” Lilly ordered, as she concentrated on the inside of the truck. She felt heat pass over her as Seth bathed the area in flame. “Get down!” she yelled and yanked him hard a second before a bullet tore through the space he’d just occupied. “Shoot and move! Shoot and move!” she shook her head.

<I can’t believe they didn’t teach you that in the HCP.> She reached into the car and grabbed Morina by the leg.

It was harder to drag a limp body than people thought, and it took all of Lilly’s strength to pull the blood manipulator from the vehicle, but even once Morina was out, there was still the question of what the hell they were supposed to do.

There was really only one solution. It just sucked ass. Lilly checked Morina’s pulse. Despite her injuries, it was strong. The blood manipulator was just unconscious, but without an x-ray it was impossible to tell how bad her internal injuries were. Then there was Seth. He continued to blast away at random through her shrinking shadowy protection. He popped up for three-to-five seconds, blasted away, and then ducked back down behind the cover of the truck. It was smart, but it could only last so long. She could practically feel Hunter getting into position for a better shot at them.

Seth was clutching his side as he fought, which only made what Lilly knew she had to do that much harder. The only one who wouldn’t feel a massive amount of pain from what they were about to do was her. <I just hope this works.>

“Brace yourself!” she yelled to Seth. She knew it wasn’t going to do any good, but hoped it made her boyfriend feel better.

She grabbed him by the shoulder, gripped Morina’s ankle with her other hand and concentrated on a destination far away. In a blast of shadow the three fugitives vanished, leaving behind a destroyed truck, two Heroes, and the lingering sound of Seth’s scream.

***

“Did you get them?” Daisy asked when the fire finally stopped. The shadow had started to fade enough that she was working her way through the frustrating mist that obscured Wraith, Seth, and Blood Hound’s life lines, but a fresh blast of darkness blotted out anything she could feel inside the shadows.

“I don’t know.” Hunter’s scopes weren’t any more effective than Daisy’s sixth sense in penetrating the darkness. He was firing blindly based upon where the blasts of fire emerged from the shadows.

At first, he thought he’d tagged Abney with a shot, approached, and almost got roasted when the broad spectrum elemental manipulator started firing again. Daisy was pretty sure Seth was just trying to keep them back, and not really trying to hurt them, but she couldn’t let that influence her thinking. Her former student was resisting arrest and assaulting Heroes. She couldn’t let him get away. Unfortunately, that was proving harder than they thought, and the growing inferno around them wasn’t helping.

The blasts of flame hadn’t hit the Heroes, but nearly a full three-hundred-and-sixty-degree fire was blazing behind them. The lush Louisiana vegetation behind Daisy and Hunter had taken a little bit to start burning, thanks to the dew and humidity, but now it was crackling away and spreading. Hunter had already radioed for the fire department, but it was going to take hours to stop the flames from spreading without the help of a fire absorber. The DVA was working on it, but there were other crises around the country that had to manage.

Daisy got her answer when the blast quickly began to recede instead of remaining to obscure their view of the fugitives. Within twenty seconds, the shadows had completely dissipated to reveal nothing. If Daisy was being honest with herself, she was wondering why Wraith hadn’t teleported away with her two friends when Daisy and Hunter showed up. She was sure the teleporter had her reasons, and they probably had something to do with injuries, which made tracking the villain down and taking her into custody that much easier. Wherever they were, they were hurting.

“Do your thing and track them.” Daisy said as she did a complete walk around the car to make sure they were actually gone. “What are you waiting for?”

Hunter had stopped at a point behind the car and had his hand outstretched into the air. “Last time I tried to follow Wraith she nearly blew me up. I can’t just follow her like that. Her MO states there’s going to be explosives on the other end, and if it’s in a populated area, me following will only get innocent civilians killed.

Daisy opened her mouth to argue, but then snapped it shut. Wraith would do something like that. “Fuck!” she cursed instead. “What can we do?”

“Wait for backup, maybe get another Hero who can contain an explosion and any secondary effects,” Hunter replied.

“How long will that take?” Daisy thought she knew the answer, and it wasn’t going to help her worsening mood.

“Hell if I know. Dispatch is working the issue now.” Hunter shrugged.

Daisy took several deep breaths to contain her growing anger, but still ended up punching the overturned truck. Her fist went through the engine block and started leaking oil all over the place.

<Great! Now I’ll have the EPA on my ass.> She steamed, crossed her arms across her chest, and tried not to break anything while they waited for others to arrive.

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A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 52

“Owww my ass,” Seth grumbled as the bronco gave a final lurch before hitting smooth pavement.

“Oh shut up. You never hear me complaining.” Lilly threw him a grin that hid her own spinal discomfort.

Following the advice of BigDog and RandDandy, they’d backtracked all the way to the 59 using backroads, which had taken hours, but then it had been a smooth shot down to the 10, except for the checkpoint. Thankfully, she saw it coming early and was able to get off the road. After careful navigation, and one pissed off farmer later, they’d hit the 10.

“I need to pee.” Morina threw in her own two cents.

“Geez, you’re like a bunch of children.” Lilly scolded without any real anger. “We need to put a little distance between us and the interchange back there. Hold it for twenty minutes.”

Morina didn’t look happy, but she sucked it up, or in if you wanted to be specific. Seth reached behind himself with a wince, and attempted to massage his lower back, but that was hard to do with a seatbelt. Altogether, the night had been pretty fucking miserable, but it was better than prison.

Twenty minutes flew by on the smooth asphalt of the 10, which quickly split. Lilly opted to switch to the 12, because the 10 went on to head into New Orleans, and that was the last thing she wanted to do. Twenty minutes put them on the outskirts of Slidell, LA, and a fast food joint that would only allow people to use their restrooms if you purchased something. Instead of making a fuss, Lilly ordered a lukewarm burger and soggy fries with a five she had in her pocket. The appropriately distracted teen running the cash register didn’t even bat an eye lash when she kept her hood up and sunglasses on.

Since the guy reeked like weed, she was pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to identify her even if she was in her full Wraith outfit and ordering a combo platter. The tension that had been building in her shoulders had lessened a little. They’d crossed from Mississippi to Louisiana, and the farther they got into the new state, the harder it was going to be for authorities to coordinate. She doubted they were routing all criminal activity through federal channels, which just wasn’t possible, so the DVA’s response time to anything they did was going to be delayed as it got filtered through to the appropriate people. The amount of resources at law enforcement’s disposal actually worked in Lilly’s favor now.

After getting her burger, Lilly waited in the car and munched on the mushy meat. After a few bites she was worried about getting salmonella, so she put it down and waited. Seth was the first out. He walked stiffly, and in minor pain, but he was ambulatory and walked straight back out to the car. Morina didn’t. She walked up to the register.

“What the hell is she…?” Lilly didn’t get to finish before a glint of metal caught her eye just before Morina plunged it into the cashier’s neck. The guy’s shocked expression held as he sunk to the floor behind the counter.

“What the fuck!” Lilly didn’t bother using the door. With a small blast of darkness she was in the car one moment and standing next to the counter the other. Morina had already hopped over and was on top of the guy.

He was still alive, but Morina had his arms pinned so he couldn’t apply pressure to his neck wound. Instead, the blood was spurting out, flowing upward in a stream that defied gravity, and coating Morina’s face. The red clung to her like paint for a moment before being absorbed through her flesh.

“Morina, what the fuck?” Lilly repeated, but didn’t touch her friend. The piece of metal in her hand, that looked an awful lot like a shiv, still dripped with the cashier’s blood.

“We needed a car, so I got us a new car.” She held up the guy’s keys. “And I got a snack for the road.”

Lilly was just glad there were no other customers in the place. It was the early morning hours, and even those factory workers who worked a six o’clock shift wouldn’t be in for their to-go breakfast for another hour and a half. That meant…

“We need to go now!” This time Lilly did grab Morina, but the other woman didn’t swipe at her, she was finished. The last of the guy’s blood absorbed through her pores. When Lilly grabbed her hand, it was soft like a baby’s ass, and flawless, but even Lilly wasn’t willing to do that skin care regiment.

“Seth!” She called and her boyfriend quickly got out of the car. “We’re moving.”

The dead cashier had an old pickup parked in the back. The cab was going to be a much tighter squeeze, but the bronco was a known stolen vehicle. They’d be good in the pickup until someone reported the kid dead, and the car missing. They hadn’t even moved the body from behind the counter, but from the lack of blood, it might confuse anyone who found the body.

<Except the right people.> The DVA and Heroes would know exactly what they were looking at, so they needed to get the hell out of Slidell now.

Lilly did just that. She didn’t quite peel out, but she moved with a purpose, and got back on the 12. The map in the car said the road curved around the northern edge of Lake Pontchartrain and headed over to Baton Rouge. She would need to get off it before she hit the state capital, but there were plenty of options. The Mississippi Delta region was famous for their backwoods, swamps, and bayous so Lilly had no doubt she’d be able to evade the law.

Maybe it was exhaustion after the adrenaline rush of Morina’s attack, or she was just getting sloppy after so long on the run, but Lilly was so busy studying the map for an alternate route that the blue flashing lights crept up on her.

 

***

 

Deputy Sheriff Brown had been a cop for two years in St. Tammany Parish, and he’d never been rousted in the middle of the night by a call from the Sheriff himself, told to get in uniform, and haul ass to the exchange where the 12 and the 190 met. All without being told why.

He had some theories. The 190 led to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which was one of the major arteries into New Orleans. If you wanted to keep people in or out of the City, you needed to control that route, but to have a bunch of cops up where the 12 met it didn’t make sense. Sure the 12 was a big highway that ran above the lake, but there were several ways to get to the causeway by avoiding the 12, so Deputy Sheriff Brown wasn’t sure what to think. The other explanation was a DUI checkpoint, but it was a little unusual to have those at four in the morning. Everyone was usually passed out by then.

In the end it didn’t matter. He was getting authorized overtime to sit with a few other cops on the highway where there was minimal traffic. Hell, half of the checkoint’s deputies were asleep. Brown didn’t even bother to wake them up when a lone pickup came to a stop.

“Hey officer.” The woman in the driver’s seat stifled a yawn. She was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up, which wasn’t uncommon for teenagers these days. She looked like someone in her late teens, maybe a college student, and the other two people in the car with her, both asleep, fit the same description.

“Good morning,” The woman’s yawn triggered Brown’s own reflux, but he fought off the urge. “Can I see your license and registration please?”

“Sure.” She handed over an Alabama license and reached over her sleeping passengers to get at the glove box. She rifled around for a minute before coming back out with a slip of paper. “This is my friend’s truck. He lent it to me so I could get these two love birds home.” She gestured to the two sleeping passengers.

The woman’s head was buried in the guy’s shoulder, and the guy’s face was plastered against the bit of plastic outlining the window. They fit the description of love birds.

“I’m just going to run this quick. You been drinking at all?”

“No, Sir.” The woman replied, and she didn’t show any indicators of intoxication.

Brown nodded and returned to his car. He nodded to his partner, who was dozing in the patrol car’s passenger seat, and waved to the two deputies blocking the road in the opposite direction.

“Anything?” The older deputy asked as he blinked to clear the sleep from his eyes.

“Three kids, two asleep, one driving them home. No signs of intoxication. I’m gonna run her and then send her on her way if nothing comes back.” Brown replied.

The other deputy squinted at the pickup twenty feet in front of them, and grunted his affirmation. “Waste of county resources if you ask me…” he mumbled as he settled back into his seat.

Brown expected it from the older deputy, but the man had a right to complain. He had twenty years on the job to Brown’s two. Brown needed to be the over-enthusiastic new guy to get on the right people’s good sides. That was how he was going to move up in the world.

He ran the license first, and it checked out with no warrants or anything. Next was the registration…which was expired, and the guy who owned the car had a warrant for failure to appear for traffic tickets.

“That sucks for these three.” Brown shook his head. He couldn’t let the car leave. He’d have to tow it, and the owner could have it back when he showed up from traffic court and paid his tickets. With a sigh, Brown hopped out of the car and found himself face to face with the female driver. “Hey, get…” that was as far as he got before something hard hit him in the leg, and his whole body locked up. All he was able to do was gurgle as he toppled over like a tree.

“Fuck!” The older deputy might be dozing, but he was quick. He jumped out of the car and drew his side arm in one fluid motion, pointed it at the suspect, and…”she’s gone!” he yelled just before something hard hit him in the ass. He collapsed like a felled tree onto the hood of the car and slid off it to crash into the ground.

“Freeze!” The deputies from the other car were coming around at the target with their guns drawn. “GUN!” One yelled when he saw a firearm in the woman’s hand.

His finger moved from the side of the trigger guard to the trigger and gently applied pressure. A split second before the gun went off, a gust of hundred mile an hour wind nearly knocked him over. His gun went up, and the shot went high and away. The deputy adjusted position for another shot, but a piece of the asphalt broke free from the road and rocketed into his chest. His vest blunted the impact, but he still felt like he’d been run over by a semi, and now it was hard to breath.

“Officers down…Super…need assistance…” were the only words the deputy’s panicked partner got out before he went rigid and fell flat on his face.

The last thing the conscious deputy saw was the two seemingly asleep passengers get out of the car and walk toward the driver. They were saying something loudly, and arguing, but he couldn’t hear them over the sound of his own blood pumping in his ears. He was sure he had internal bleeding from the impact. Something important felt like it broke when the chunk of road smashed into him, so he went for his radio. By the time he looked down to find it on his belt, and looked back up, the woman was standing over him and pointing a gun at his head.

“P…P…Ple…” that was as far as he got before Lilly tasered him.

She turned around to Seth and Morina. “We’re so fucked.”

Previous

A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 51

“Bad boys bad boys…whatya gonna do…whatya gonna do when they come for you…” Lilly sang along to the song as she drove down the dark country rode. Only her two headlights pierced the blackness as she kicked up dust in her wake. That was a good thing because it showed no one was following her. It was bad because it was only her headlights. “Shit!” she didn’t see the road drop off until she was right on top of it, and she was not obeying the posted speed limit.

The bronco went airborne for a few seconds until it hit the ground hard enough to grind her teeth.

“Jesus!”

“What the hell!” The two passengers made themselves known as they braced for further impacts.

The car fishtailed, and sent bits of gravel careening into the woods, but she got control, and continued their retreat.

“Sorry. It’s tough to see anything out here.” She leaned forward and tried to make out anything beyond her high beams directly in front of her. Her biggest fear right now, aside from Heroes descending to kick her ass, was hitting a deer or something.

“Do you want me to drive?” Seth asked, but she shook her head. She needed to control some aspect of this situation.

They didn’t have a lot going for them right now. The police knew where they’d been, but not where they were heading. That didn’t matter a lot when you were able to pull the resources they were able to pull. Lilly had almost run into a checkpoint twice while navigating these backroads with nothing better than the map in the bronco’s glove box. Beyond that, she didn’t know the area, and she could feel the noose tightening around them. Worst case scenario…she took the risk of teleporting them all away, and hoped Seth didn’t burst something internally. She’d give him the choice to stay, obviously, but she doubted he wanted to be in prison any more than she did. He was just too pretty for that.

One bright point in this dark situation was the piece of machinery sitting below the center dashboard. She had an idea, grabbed it, and didn’t see any downside to trying.

“Breaker…breaker…this is BubbleGumBooty. What’s with all the hold ups. I’ve got some priority cargo I need to get to New Orleans. Anyone got a way out of this mess?” Lilly didn’t know the procedures for talking over the radio to truckers in the area. Only what she’d seen in the movies.

“I hear ya, BubbleGum.” A frustrated voice answered her in other a minute. “BigDogBilly here. I’m stuck on the 20 at a standstill. I’ve heard from a few other weary travelers that the 55 is backed up too.”

“Hey, BigDog and BubbleGum, RandyDandy here, if you can make it to the 10 on the coastline it’s smooth sailing.

“Thanks, BigDog and Randy, next drinks are on me if we cross paths.” Lilly cut the transmission and brought the car to a stop to look at the map.

If cops were watching the 55, then she was going to have to head east, back the way she’d come, to get on the 59 and down to the 10. The cops would probably be focusing their attention to the west, especially if the Heroes were involved. No one would expect her to head back toward Orlando, but navigating the fifty plus miles back to the 59, on the backroads, in the dark, was going to be a pain.

<Better than jail.> She considered as she did a quick three-point turn and headed back the way she’d come. <This could work.> She shrugged.

Seth and Morina didn’t asked any questions or try to debate the decision. As it stood, Lilly had successfully broken both of them out of prison before, so they figured they owned her a little trust at this point.

<I’ve got this.> Her headlights cut through the night as she drove on.

 

***

 

“How about this one?”

“Nope.”

“This one?”

“Getting warmer.”

“This has got to be a winner!” Mason hefted up the pineapple to give it a good once over.

He and Kyoshi were standing in the middle of the supermarket’s produce section. Mason was much more used to the cramped bodegas in Brooklyn than the spacious Californian Whole Foods, but he couldn’t argue with the food quality.

“Let me see.” Kyoshi took the fruit from his hands and proceeded to pull out one of the spikey leaves at the top. It came out easily; she nodded, and put the fruit in her basket. “That’s how you choose a pineapple.”

It was a weird thing for a couple of HCP trainees to be doing the day after Christmas. Just about everyone else was hitting up the stores for the deals that always occurred, but Kyoshi’s family had a different tradition. They were gathering up a feast of foods that were out of season, as a reminder that the warm weather was right around the corner; because it was not warm in San Francisco in the winter. It wasn’t New York, but it was in the mid-forties and raining. It was like all the happiness of Christmas went right out the door a day later and allowed the gloom to come sweeping in.

<Speaking of gloom,> Mason saw the Breaking News bulletin flash across the bottom of the TV hanging from the ceiling. There wasn’t a lot of volume, and that made it impossible to hear in the crowded store, but the closed captions were going, so he could read along.

Some reporter was outside a police station in Mississippi. Mason only had to watch for thirty seconds for his whole day to be ruined. <Hey,> he thought, and gave Kyoshi the equivalent of a mental poke in the shoulder.

She turned up to the news report just as mug shots splashed across the screen. Two of the three they knew very well.

<Oh, Seth, what had you gotten yourself in to?> The couple’s thoughts echoed each other, but there was nothing they could do.

 

***

 

“Can you believe this shi…stuff?” Anika fumed as she watched the same news coverage from Becca’s family room. Most of the Whitfield clan was out and about, but Becca’s youngest sister wanted to stay with the ‘cool’ girls at the house instead of going with mom shopping.

Becca watched the news coverage with the same frown, but not as much venom, as her girlfriend.

“Who’s that? He’s hot.” Becca’s sister stated plainly.

“You better not say that around Momma!” Becca chided.

Despite the long drive, Anika loved it when they came home to the Whitfield’s for holidays. She loved her own adoptive parents, but there was something so natural about being with her girlfriend’s family. Although, someone thinking Seth Abney was hot, instead of a steaming pile of no-good shit, was something new.

“It’s not all about looks.” Becca was trying to impart some wisdom on her sister. “You see that he’s wanted by the police. It says he’s done a lot of things wrong. He’s…he’s a bad guy.” Becca choked up a little bit, so Anika walked over to put her hand on her shoulder.

Becca might have trouble getting accustomed to this, but Anika wasn’t. She’d know Seth was an arrogant, egotistical ass from the beginning. She never thought he’d go this far, but she never thought he’d make it as a Hero. He just didn’t have what it took.

“You know what will help…ice cream.” Anika smiled when Becca’s sister immediately lost interest in what was on TV.

“It’s not even noon yet.” Becca frowned.

“Do you want ice cream or to continue that conversation?” Anika was already following the little Whitfield into the kitchen.

“Point taken.” Becca got up and joined them, while throwing one last look over her shoulder at the pictures on the screen.

<Oh, Seth, what had you gotten yourself in to?>

 

***

 

<One…two. One…two. One…two…three.> Angela said the combinations in her mind as she threw punches at that heavy bag. She followed up with some punishing knees and elbows, dropped back for a final kick, and then needed to wipe the sweat from her eyes. She’d let her hair grow out since earlier in the year. Now, she’d need to get it cut.

The HCP was virtually empty, but a few students and instructors still roamed the halls. Most everyone went home for the break, but Angela wasn’t everyone. She was top of her class, and needed to stay that way. Plus, both of her parents were gone on assignment, so her going anywhere else was a waste of time.

“Martin!” Coach McMillian walked into the gym where she was practicing. “What are you doing here?”

“Training, Coach.”

“Geez, you’re never not here, Martin. Go out, buy something, and have a hamburger.” The Close Combat instructor approached with a frown on his face.

“Heroes don’t shop, coach.” Angela continued with her next set of combination.

“Tell that to my bank account,” Craig mumbled.

“What?” Angela’s frown deepened.

“Nothing,” he waved away the statement like a bad smell. “The point is that you need to get out. There is going to be plenty of time for you to be unavailable to do anything but eat and breathe because you’re a Hero. Take a second and live a little while you’ve got the chance. Everyone needs the opportunity to decompress.”

“I can’t, Coach.” She continued with her training.

“Why not?”

“That’s why.” Angela pointed at a TV hanging from the ceiling. During the school year, and designated workout with coaches, the TVs were off, but during off time, and during the evenings, they were turned on to let everyone keep up with what was going on in the world. Today, that meant Seth Abney’s face plastered on national TV as a criminal.

“Oh.” Craig was momentarily speechless.

“We’ve got one of our own who’s gone rogue. Better yet, he’s gone rogue with a teleporter. He knows the layout of this place like the back of his hand. If they come looking for a fight. I want to be ready.”

“Security procedures have been changed since Abney got the boot. He’s not going to be able to get back in conventionally, and if he tries unconventionally, we’ll be ready for him.” Craig gave Angela a closer look. “Does this have anything to do with Wraith being the one who set off the bomb that nearly killed your dad, and forced you to see things no teenager ever should?”

“No.” Her answer was too quick, and betrayed her real emotions.

“You know Doctor Johnson is…”

“I’m fine,” she shot back and started hitting the bag faster and harder.

Craig took that as his cue to leave. “Just think about it.” Were his parting words as he left the sophomore class’s top student to work out her anger on a punching bag, which was better than Seth Abney’s face.

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A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 49

“Nine-One-One, what’s your emergency?”

“Hiya. I got a parking ticket and I want to know where to go to pay it?”

“A parking ticket?”

“Yeah, you know, one of those things in an orange envelope. It got left on my car. I’m not from around here and I need to pay it before I head out of town and don’t forget about it.”

“Ma’am, this is an emergency line. You shouldn’t call nine-one-one to figure out where to pay a ticket.” The anger in the dispatcher’s voice leaked through her professionalism.

“Oh, my bad, so where should I go.”

“We’re located at…” the dispatcher sent over the address, gave the caller another admonishment, and disconnected.

“Fuck you very much,” Lilly made sure the call was disconnected. She was standing next to the dead truck that she’d left Seth in. Morina was waiting impatiently in the Bronco they’d stolen.

“Are we just going to keep heading west, or are we going to get him?” The blood manipulator didn’t look like a strung-out junkie like she had been an hour ago.

Lilly hoped to be long gone by the time the cops found the bodies of Morina’s unfortunate victims, but they had to do something first. “We’re going to get him.” She hopped back into the Bronco and slid it into drive.

The car didn’t have a GPS, but it did have an actual map, which Morina was completely inept at reading. Lilly ended up doing double duty. It was a comical sight as she steered with one hand down the back-country roads and held the map against the wheel with another. It was a challenge until they reached the interstate, and from there it was a pretty straight shot.

The building loomed large off the highway, but Lilly didn’t stop. She drove past it a couple of times to get a good lay of the land. It held three distinct sections, all of which had their purpose labeled on the building’s siding with ten foot metal letters: Police, Jail, and Courts. Lilly didn’t know if Seth would be in the jail or police sections. She had no idea how long it had been since her boyfriend had been picked up.

On the third pass she exited the interstate and took the off ramp that led to the building. She was conflicted about how to proceed. On one hand, time was of the essence. If the cops identified Seth, the DVA and Heroes would be on scene in minutes. On the other hand, going in without a plan could lead to disaster.

One good sign was that the parking lot at the front of the building was empty, and the gated lot on the side was full of patrol cars. That meant the station was running a skeleton crew and so was the shift. Most of the cops probably had the holidays off, or were simply on call. In a quiet town like this, they could get away with that.

Lilly pulled the Bronco into a parking spot right in front of the door and shut down the engine. She pulled a hoodie from the bag of Walmart clothes they’d pick up and pulled the hood up over her head. She’d spotted a few external cameras on her approach, and she could avoid them easily with the clothing. Plus, it was a bit chilly out, so it didn’t look suspicious.

“Wait here. I’ll let you know if I need help.” Lilly focused, and a small blast of shadow emitted from her hands. When it faded, two weapons took its place. One was the fancy taser she’d used since really promising Seth to not kill people, and the second was a legit pistol. She didn’t know what she was going to be up against in there, but she’d rather be prepared. Just because she shot someone didn’t mean she had to kill them. Both of the weapons went into the back of her jeans.

“How will I know you need me?” Morina looked content to stay in the car, but she had a good point.

“You’ll know,” was all Lilly replied with as she hopped out of the car and headed for the door.

The two weapons rubbed uncomfortably against her ass as she pushed open the glass door with the county seal on it and peered around the lobby. As she suspected, it was empty, and the only other person was a female deputy on duty behind a pane of bulletproof glass. Lilly didn’t know that for sure, but who would build a new police station and then make the person watching the lobby vulnerable to anyone who walked in with a gun. Since that was what Lilly had planned to do, it was mildly irritating.

“Can I help you?” The deputy put down the book she was reading and sat a little straighter.

Lilly finished scanning the room and smiled at the deputy. “Hey. I got a ticket and like I want to pay it. I’ve got some credit left after gifts and like I want to get it taken care of.” She knew the excuse was lame, but she tried to play up the bimbo angle to put the deputy at ease.

“Sorry, you’ll have to go to the court building, but they’re closed for the holidays until the twenty-sixth. I also know Judge Johnson likes to take the twenty-sixth off to hit the shopping deals in Birmingham, so your best bet, if you want to contest the ticket, is the twenty-seventh. If you’re going to pay, just talk with the clerk on the twenty-sixth.”

“Wow, thanks,” Lilly added a little bit of slack jaw as she pretended to take in all the information. She looked behind the deputy at the wall of pamphlets covering everything from STD information to talking with a medical professional about rape. “Can I have one of those?” Lilly pointed to the one about teenage mothers.

She saw the deputy have to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes, but she got up and walked the ten feet to grab the pamphlet. That was when Lilly made her move. The deputy had turned her back to the modestly disguised supervillain, but that wasn’t really the deputy’s fault. There was thick bulletproof glass between her and what appeared to be a dumb teenager who managed to get knocked up and had a parking ticket to pay. Lilly credited her acting skills in selling that bullshit.

Once the deputy’s back was turned, Lilly’s hand darted to the taser tucked in the back of her pants, and teleported to the other side of the glass. She reappeared just to the side of the deputy’s chair with the taser pointed right at the deputy’s back. The woman didn’t even notice the slight displacement of air Lilly’s arrival created.

Lilly took aim and fired. At first, she aimed at the woman’s back. It was the biggest target, but the tightness of the woman’s shirt had nothing to do with the size of her tits. She had a vest on, and hitting that wouldn’t have done jackshit, so Lilly aimed for the next biggest target.

The gun discharged the nodes with a small pop, which quickly traveled the distance, and hit the woman right in her ass.

“Uuuugh.” The deputy’s body locked up as the volts flooded her system. She toppled forward and hit the wall hard. It sounded like a gun shot in the silent station, so Lilly rushed forward to restrain the woman.

She quickly grabbed handcuffs and cuffed her hands and feet. The deputy’s eyes were still unfocused as Lilly rummaged through the doors and found some tape. It was packing tape, not duct tape, but it would have to do. She wrapped the tape quickly around the deputy’s head, but made sure to leave her nostrils clear. By now, the deputy had regained her composure and was struggling against the restraints, so Lilly clocked her in the head and knocked her out cold.

“You ok, Emily!” A voice called from the hallway outside the door.

<Come on.> Lilly sighed, and quickly glanced at the security monitors the deputy would have been watching if she wasn’t tied up and unconscious.

The cameras showed the lobby, the exterior cameras, some back door, the hallway outside the office, and the hallway the people they arrested took to what Lilly assumed was processing. Those two hallways intersected, and at that intersection stood another cop.

“Emily?” The cop asked, but Lilly kept silent.

She watched the screens closely until the cop slowly drew his own weapon and walked in what she assumed was the direction of the office. Lilly counted to three and then teleported out of the office and to that intersection.

She held in the darkness when she appeared and felt the tightening sensation, but it gave her a clear shot of the other cop. He didn’t notice her appearance, so Lilly did the same thing she’d done with the first deputy: she shot him right in the ass.

The bullets were right on target and delivered their electrical payload. “Fuck!” The man went down to one knee, and dropped his gun, but that was it.

“Oh shit,” Lilly cursed when the man got back to his feet. He wavered a bit, but he stood tall and turned around to face her.

Lilly reacted out of instinct. Her other hand darted to her back, grabbed the real gun, brought it on target, and fired. Two bullets hit the man hard in the chest. He staggered again, but didn’t go down. The vest had something to do with it, but there was more to it than that.

<Super,> she thought just as the man went to pick up his own gun off the floor. He was quick, but Lilly was already gone.

She looked to her right and teleported to the next intersection. It gave her a few seconds to read the signs and figure out what to do. <Processing or jail.> Those were the only two places Seth could be, so she followed the arrows. She teleported from intersection to intersection, which put more and more distance between her and Super cop, but she could hear the heavy pounding of his feet in hot pursuit.

Processing turned out to be empty, so she headed for the jail. She teleported just as she heard a BOOM behind her. She appeared on the opposite side of a thick-looking door, but a burning sensation had traced its way across her thigh. She looked down and red bubbled to the surface of the flesh wound.

Anger flared in her chest, and she wanted to teleport back for another surprise attack, but this time she’d shoot him in the fucking head. <Later.> She procrastinated, and focused on finding Seth. The cop had to stop and open doors. She didn’t.

It didn’t take her long to find the jail. It was bigger than she thought it would be, but nothing like the Supermax facility she’d been in. Even better, there weren’t many people in it. She counted three. Two looked like they were sleeping off a Christmas Eve that had gotten little too merry, and third was Seth. He looked upset, but that turned to surprise as an explosion of darkness revealed her arrival.

“What…?”

“Don’t talk, just do,” she hit the button on the door. “Get out of here. I’ll lead him away. Get to the bronco out front.” She didn’t wait around. The cop was closing in.

As she promised, she led the cop away from the cells and toward the back of the building. It looked like it was where they did all the maintenance on the police cars, and that gave her an idea. She concentrated, and two grenades appeared in her hands. She pulled the pins and tossed them under two cars, just as the door exploded outward. The cop came out looking pissed and ready to kick her ass. He scanned the area with his pistol raised, spotted her, and was about to pull the trigger when the two cars went up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. The explosion made him stumble, and by the time he looked back she was gone.

Lilly appeared just outside the driver’s side door of the Bronco. Morina looked comfortable in the middle seat, while Seth was in the passenger’s. He slid down low, like that would help hide him.

“Let’s go.” She jumped in the driver’s seat, gunned the engine, and peeled out of the parking lot.

Alarms were blaring all over the place now, but she ignored them as she hit the interstate and headed west as fast as she could. She needed to put as much distance between her and the station as she could, because they were right back where they started.

This Bronco was going to be on every news station in the state. They were going to set up check points, monitor bus stations, and the airports in the area in an effort to box them in. All that meant that at a minimum, Lilly needed to steal a new car, or they needed to lay low for a while until Seth was healthy enough to teleport.

Either way, the last half day had been a gigantic waste of time and effort.

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A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 47

More than two hours passed since Lilly and Morina left before anything happened. The shadows continued to creep across the road as the afternoon slid into evening, and the temperature dropped with it. All Seth could do was roll up the windows and suck it up.

With the engine dead he couldn’t get the heater working, but even if he did he’d fill the car with a rusty smell that made him violently hack when they’d tried to warm up last night. He had the few possessions he’d purchase at a Walmart, which included a sweater, but he didn’t want to aggravate his injuries any more than he had to. He’d just embrace the suck for a few more hours until Lilly got back with a new car.

<Hopefully one with a working heater,> he grumbled.

Intellectually, he knew that the car Lilly would bring back was stolen, and stealing was wrong. That’s what his momma had taught him since he was old enough to reach out and grab things. When he’d been rich, getting what he wanted was never a problem. Everything was at his disposal. He could always get his hands on anything: boobs, booze, and the latest toys; it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that he was only eighteen. He’d flash his black triple platinum credit card and the bartenders would grab top-shelf stuff. That same credit card would get panties to drop and Ultra 5K interactive HDTVs developed by some tech genius somewhere. It was one hell of a good feeling when everything was at his fingertips.

<That’s gone now.> The thought hit him like a punch to the gut, and along with it came the realization that he didn’t really care if the car was stolen. <They’ll have insurance, and if the commercials are true they’ll replace the car with the same model year or newer. Hell, it might even be helping out the family we stole it from. Who doesn’t want a new car.> He continued without realizing that it was the first time he’d used “we” when thinking about the theft.

It was surprising how fast a person’s thoughts on something could switch when they really needed something to get by instead of a luxury just for fun.

He was in the middle of hoping Lilly could find a nice Porsche, Lexus, or he’d even take an Audi, when twin beams of light crested the slight hill behind him.

“Finally.” He turned around, but the smile that had been forming froze on his face. Lilly had gone the opposite direction, and he didn’t remember some big loop around when reading the map earlier. “Fuck.”

The twin beams of yellow light were joined by flashing blue and red as the police SUV pulled off the road behind him. “Shit…shit…shit…” he looked around the car like he had half a kilo of cocaine to stash, but there wasn’t much. They had a few Walmart shopping bags filled with what could loosely be defined as gear, but not much else; certainly nothing suspicious or illegal.

<Just me.> A feeling a dread pressed down on Seth’s shoulders. He hadn’t even made it through more than a few days of consciousness as a wanted fugitive before getting caught.

The tapping on the passenger side window made him jump and he immediately regretted it. He winced audibly before reaching across the seats to the window crank. The car was so old it didn’t have automatic windows.

“Good Evenin’, Sir.” The cop had the twang Seth associated with the Deep South, but he wasn’t a pot-bellied redneck. The cop was fit, like he dutifully weightlifted four times a week, and had a rugged jaw with a healthy five o’clock shadow. He looked like he fit the role of handsome town cop on some Hollywood TV show a hell of a lot better that his real backwoods Mississippi job. “Everythin’ ok?”

“Everything’s fine,” Seth tried to act relaxed. “The truck broke down and my friends went into town to get help.”

“Why didn’t you call 911?” Seth already didn’t like the cop’s line of questioning.

“No bars.” Seth replied with a shrug. It was the truth.

“Well I can’t get a tow out here until at least day after tomorrow with it being Christmas Eve and all,” the cop informed.

“Yeah,” Seth’s reply sounded lame even to his ears, but he didn’t even know it was the twenty-fourth.

“Where you from?” The cop leaned casually against the door, but Seth saw his hand resting on the butt of his pistol. For the moment, the clasp of his holster still secured the weapon.

“I’m from South Carolina,” Seth told him a partial truth. He was from a Carolina, just not that one. “My girlfriend is from Texas, and we’re driving out to her place for Christmas break. Her friend is with us and…” Seth thought of where Morina could be from and came up with nothing. “Honestly, I don’t know where she’s from. She’s my girlfriend’s friend and she’s tagging along for the ride.” He let a genuine laugh escape in the hopes it calmed the cop down a bit.

“Where you go to school?”

“Alabama…Roll Tide.” Seth, being from the South, knew how serious they took college football down here. Much more serious than the NFL or Super League.

“I’ve got a cousin who goes to Bama,” the cops posture didn’t relax like Seth hoped. “So I know class ended there over two weeks ago.”

“We got a late start,” Seth felt the mood in the cop shift, and looked at his options.

The cop was still a normal human and Seth was a Super, so Seth automatically had the upper hand. The real question was what to do. He could jam the gun with his metalokinesis, but he wasn’t angry enough to do that. He could throw a fireball at the cop, but that seemed a bit harsh. The pushing water down someone’s throat trick seemed equally harsh, and blowing him over with a gust of wind wouldn’t get the job done. Seth wasn’t going to get far in his condition. Although he might be more onboard with stealing stuff he needed to stay alive and on the run, he wasn’t about to roast a cop just for doing his job. Then there was the certainty that the cop had radioed in his position and situation. It was just an all around shitty situation for Seth.

“Please step out of the car, Sir.” The friendly voice the cop had used was gone and his gun was out of his holster.

<Damn, that was fast.> Seth hadn’t even seen the man draw. <Maybe this isn’t Super versus human after all.> He didn’t know that for sure.

“Yes, Sir.” Seth remained respectful and went through his options.

He opened the door slowly and hopped out.

“Turn around and face away from me…put your hands up…walk backwards toward the sound of my voice…go to your knees.” Seth followed the cop’s instructions with the final one eliciting an audible groan for him.

“Watch the ribs, I was in an accident,” Seth informed as the cop yanked his arms behind his back and cuffed him.

To his credit, the cop helped Seth back to his feet before leading him back toward his car. The car, which read Sheriff on the side, was the type of car Seth wanted Lilly to steal. It was a suped-up SUV that looked like it could take on a tank and survive. Seth was busy wondering how the poor-looking county could afford this beast while the cop patted him down, then opened the door and plopped him in the passenger seat. This wasn’t the first time Seth had been in a cop car, but it was the first time sitting up front.

“You aren’t under arrest, but I’m detaining you for suspicious behavior.” The cop booted up his laptop and started typing away. “If you cooperate, and don’t have warrants, then you’re free to go, so what’s your name.”

Seth knew for a fact if he gave the cop his real name the laptop would light up like a Christmas tree and a Hero would be on scene in minutes. He needed to think of something fast.

The answer turned out to be simple. He’d seen it portrayed on the news for years, and it guaranteed that the cop wouldn’t find out who he was and it wouldn’t be too suspicious. Seth’s generation was full of entitled brats who thought they knew more than they actually did. They thought they had a right to everything without giving anything in return. Seth could leverage that millennial arrogance to his advantage.

“This is bullshit, man. This is police brutality. I didn’t do anything wrong!” Seth stopped short of yelling Attica, but the cop’s reaction was immediate.

The cop rolled his eyes and visibly bit the inside of his cheek. “Just tell me who you are, Sir, and I’ll send you on your way.”

“No way, this is profiling!” Seth might have gone a little far on that one, but he was in character now.

“Sir, calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down. You calm down. You’re the one who put me in handcuffs for no reason!” Seth continued to rant and struggle against his handcuffs. That was a bad idea as pain flared in his side and wrists.

“Sir, are you not going to tell me who you are?” The cop asked. He was clearly running out of patience.

“Not without a reason.” Seth shot back arrogantly like he’d just won an argument.

“Sir, Mississippi requires you to identify yourself if involved in a law enforcement investigation. Please just tell me who you are, I’ll check for warrants, if you’re clear I’ll even give you a ride into town and put in a call to Sal’s Garage to pick up your car when they open. Just give me your name and date of birth.”

“Why, so you can steal my identity!” Seth knew he’d hit the breaking point when the cop sighed and shook his head.

“Ok, have it your way, Sir. You’re under arrest for failure to identify. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand your rights?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” The cop hopped out, walked around the side, pulled Seth out, and deposited him in the cramped back seat where a bulletproof partition now separating them. Then, just to add insult to injury, he wrote up a ticket, put it in one of those florescent orange envelopes, and slid it under the truck’s windshield wiper.

Without another word, the cop hopped in the car, and headed back toward the station. The suspension on the vehicle was excellent because Seth didn’t wince once as they drove the dirt backroads to the interstate and onward to the county sheriff’s office.

Seth had bought himself a little time, but when he got to the station they would undoubtedly try to fingerprint him and run him through the system while booking him. He’d tackle those problems when he got there. He just hoped Lilly and Morina showed up to bail his ass out…again.

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A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 46

“Well…this is ass.” Lilly smacked the raised hood of the car.

The hinge creaked threateningly, and the impact chipped off shards of rust from the metal arm. Lilly just glared at it and dared it to snap and send the hood falling onto her head. It would be the perfect end to a perfectly shitty day.

<Well not totally shitty.> She wiped her forehead, ignored the streak of grime it left across her skin, and looked around the side of the raised hood.

Morina sat in the middle seat of the beat-up pickup. Her skin seemed a little paler than usual, and she kept liking her lips and fidgeting like a strung-out junkie. She was acting like that because she was one. Lilly knew her power was addictive. The blood-manipulator needed to kill, she needed to bathe in the blood of victims. It was nauseating, but Lilly wasn’t one to judge one of her few friends…or she wasn’t one to judge them too hard.

Her eyes passed over Morina and fell on Seth. Looking at him as he watched the soft sway of the trees on the side of the country road untangled the knot in her stomach. Her boyfriend, <yeah, we’re official again,> was doing a lot better. He still wasn’t great, which was why they were driving their piece-of-shit truck west as fast as possible. The healer had fixed up the worst of the damage, but he wasn’t the best Super to fix major injuries.

“Think of it like putty,” he’d tried to explain the intricacies of his ability.

“Putty?” Lilly was close to turning the guy’s face into putty.

“My power recreates new tissue and fuses it to the original. While Seth was in his coma I performed the procedure and fuses new tissue to his damaged internal organs.” When Seth had been shot the bullet tore through his lung, ricocheted off a rib – cracking it in the process – and ended up in his stomach. If the bullet hadn’t forced its way through the reinforced glass first it would have been fatal. “It took time to settle until he woke up, but he’s not out of the woods. Strenuous movement or exercise could still easily ruin the work I’ve done. In other words, the putty is solid, but doing too much can fray and rip it before it fully becomes a part of Seth’s body.”

<Thus the driving and our current predicament.>

Seth saw Lilly watching and smiled. She smiled back.

“This is ass?” he questioned her earlier statement with that cute smile she loved.

“Yeah,” she replied and leaned casually, if a little provocatively, against the side of the truck. “It’s worse than a bag of dicks, but better than a clusterfuck of epic proportions.”

“Ok, thanks for clarifying,” Seth leaned out the window and winced slightly. “I’m fine.” He moved slowly back to a normal seated position.

Morina looked back and forth between them and looked like she was going to throw up. <It might just be the withdrawal.> She wasn’t looking too hot.

Lilly’s father had been thorough in her villainous education, which involved learning about cars. She knew how to steal one, how to hotwire the older models, and how to hack the newer smart cars. This truck was beyond old, and her quick inspection told her it was leaking oil, the sparkplugs needed replacing, and worse of all the transmission was shot. It was fine for driving back and forth to the healer’s place in the small, rural, Alabaman town, but it had crapped out before they got halfway through Mississippi.

<It’s not like we can call AAA.> Lilly slammed the hood closed and fought the urge to run her hands through her hair in frustration. The good feeling in her gut and the light flirting with Seth had turned back into a ball of anxiety.

“Truck’s dead. We’d need a shop to repair it, which means money and IDs that was don’t have.” The Healer had thoroughly screwed Lilly out of nearly all the cash she had. It seemed worth it at the time, but now that they were traveling cross-country she was second guessing her decision.

“What now?” Seth asked as he got out of the truck. There was no wincing this time, but he wasn’t going to be able to walk far, which meant him going for help in the macho fashion he was thinking about was not going to happen.

“There’s a town less than ten miles away.” Morina had the map out, but it was shaking slightly in her trembling hands. “We can get what we need there.”

Lilly was pretty sure what Morina was thinking about when she said “get what we need”, but there wasn’t much she could do about that. She wasn’t a psychologist or counselor, she had her own shit to work on and getting involved in other people’s shit was never a good idea; especially when they had super powers.

“Morina and I will go to town and find a ride. Seth, stay here and watch our stuff. We’ll be back soon.”

Seth looked like he wanted to argue, but he didn’t have a leg to stand on when he winced every few minutes as his organs shifted around. Lilly knew her plan was the best solution to everyone’s problems. Seth kept out of sight and wouldn’t rip his internal stitches. Morina would undoubtedly get her fix, and even better, Seth wouldn’t be around to see it. Lastly, Lilly would be able to get them all safely away from the last place the Heroes could positively ID them at. There still hadn’t been any sign of anyone snooping around when they’d left, but with the resources the DVA had at its disposal, it was better safe than sorry.

“Hold down the fort,” she gave Seth a wink before starting the multi-mile trek to civilization. Hurried footsteps followed as Morina joined her.

It would have been simple and easy to make the eight-mile teleport to the small town of bum-fuck nowhere, but she didn’t have a picture to go off location-wise and she didn’t have cell reception. That turned a three-second teleport into a three-hour walk. They passed most of the time in silence, but the little mumbles from Morina grew more and more pronounced the longer they walked and the more effort they exerted. By the time the lights of the town came into view she was mumbling like she belonged in a psych ward.

“Why don’t…” that was as far as Lilly got before Morina wandered off into the twilight after some unsuspecting victim. “Ok then.” Lilly watched her friends retreating back and shrugged.

The town was a perfect example of a one-horse town…literally. There was a statue of a man on a horse waving a stone flag that had faded over hundreds of years. It sat in the middle of a circle of grass at the center of a round-a-bout. The town seemed to branch outward from the statue, but it didn’t make it far.

<Bar, diner, gas station, family grocery store, and a McDonalds,” it was comforting to know fast food capitalism had penetrated this far into the backwoods. <I bet there’s a Walmart within a few more miles.> She chuckled at the thought and headed for the bar, which conveniently sat right next to the diner.

It smelled like BO, wood, and grease in the packed space. Lilly didn’t know if this was a regular occurrence in the town’s watering hole or a special occasion, but when she walked in the door things literally ground to a halt. It was like one of those awkward moments in a teen high school movie where the pretty girl walks into the room and the AV club full of nerds is stunned speechless. Lilly was the stunning girl, and for the first time was realizing just how out of place she looked at the moment. She had on yoga pants that were probably a size too big, but it was all the Walmart they’d passed had in stock. Above the black pants she had a red, Roll-Tide t-shirt. She didn’t know what it meant, but they’d been everywhere, and things that were everywhere were the best things to buy to blend in. Judging by the way everyone was staring at her chest, she thought they might actually be taking in the shirt instead of her tits.

“Merry Christmas Eve,” the bartender, who was more her age, and kind of cute, was the first one to speak. “Sit anywhere you want.”

Lilly sauntered up to the bar and took the end seat. She could feel eyes watching her, but had that tingle in the base of her neck. She couldn’t tell if they were checking her out or legitimately suspicious of her being here. She tried to act casual either way, but she wasn’t a fan of the circumstances. This much attention was bad for her cover.

The single TV above the bar was playing a football game rerun, and she caught the same symbol on her t-shirt next the leading team’s score. <Football…duh…> she fixed a smile to her face when the bartender came over.

“Merry Christmas Eve,” he repeated with a smile that probably made the female townies weak in the knees.

“Yeah…you too.” Lilly replied with another easy smile. She didn’t even know it was the twenty-fourth, and she had no idea why a bunch of guys were at the bar instead of at home with their families or church. Church was something people did on Christmas Eve.

“What can I get you?”

“A car,” the words slipped out of Lilly’s mouth before she could stop herself. “Mine broke down and I’m looking for a rental place.”

“Nothing within twenty miles of here,” the bartender’s smile was apologetic. “I can have Sal from the garage give you a lift over tomorrow if you want.”

“That’s too long.” Lilly had meant to say “that would be nice” but wasn’t able to.

<What’s wrong with me?>

“What’s the rush?” The bartender was calmly cleaning a glass with a rag. “It’s Christmas Eve, nobody is open.”

“I’m traveling with my friends and…we’ve really got somewhere to be.” Lilly had to force herself to say the final six words. She’d almost said they were running.

“Friends?”

“One’s out…hunting… and the other is back with the car. He was in an…accident…not long ago and couldn’t make the trip.” She almost slipped up again.

“Hunting on Christmas Eve?”

“She needs her fix,” Lilly’s statement came out ambiguous enough that it didn’t elicit more questions. That was a good thing. She was pretty sure she was talking to another Super.

The bartender didn’t seem like a Hero in disguise. He was too comfortable behind the bar. The room filled with customers was at ease with him, and he bantered effortlessly back and forth with them. To her eyes it was a natural flow with none of the little hiccups that would occur if this was thrown together over the last few days.

<Probably some low-grade truth power,> she deduced. <It’s great for getting drunks to pour out their hearts at the bar, over several drinks, and leave a big tip, but not enough to warrant HCP training.> He could still be a problem though. She couldn’t stick around here. <Plan B: steal a ride.>

She thanked the bartender when he came back around and made a quick exit. Eyes followed her ass as she left. Since it was Christmas Eve, the streets were deserted, which was good for her. A number of cars were parked next to the bar, eighty percent were American made trucks, and she seriously considered stealing one, but that would be easy to pin on her. Everyone had seen her in the bar. It would be simple to deduce she was the thief. She walked a few blocks, which led her to the opposite side of the small town, to an auto shop.

There was more than one junker behind the metal fence separating the shop’s yard from the street. She would have kept moving but a big sign on the gate made her decision for her. <Closed the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth,> she read.

They’d be halfway through Texas before the shop opened in a few days. Lilly gave a quick scan to see if the coast was clear before doing a short teleport to the opposite side of the fence. From there she moved quickly to find a ride. There were only a few options but she settled on a Ford Bronco that was at least a decade old. A quick inspection told her that whatever it was in the shop for was already completed, so she popped into the office to find the keys, popped the padlock on the fence and drove off into the deepening darkness in her new ride.

She didn’t get far though. She stopped on the edge of town, parked the Bronco a little way down a dirt side road, and walked back in. “Morina,” she whispered her call over and over again as she walked through the deserted streets. “Where the fuck are you?”

It took her twice as long to find the Super as it did their new car. Finally, she located Morina coming out a duplex not too far from the bar. Her smile was brighter than the street lamp across the street, and she showed none of the withdrawal symptoms she had earlier.

“Let’s go.” Lilly didn’t want to know anything about what had happened, so she led the way back to the Bronco and drove back to Seth. They’d left him alone for nearly five hours and she was worried.

She had every right to be.

When they pulled the Bronco up next to the pick-up truck it was empty, Seth was gone, and there was an orange ticket stuck to the windshield courtesy of the county sheriff.

“Ah shit…” Lilly moaned. The last thing she wanted to do was tangle with cops. “Who gives someone a ticket on Christmas Eve?”

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