The world spun and twisted. When the blackness finally faded Morina was standing in an unfamiliar place being viciously assaulted by a mix of vertigo and UV rays. She’d been blinded for so long that she couldn’t take more than a few seconds before it overwhelmed her.
“Come on.” She groaned as she stumbled forward with her eyes closed and hands outstretched.
Her hands found the hard, cold metal of the cage she’d arrived in, but unlike that cage she’d been in for the last several years, this one was open.
<If anyone but me comes to get you, you turn them inside out. Understood?> she remembered the last words Wraith said to her after an offer to work together.
By nature Morina was a loner. She’d been a loner all her life. Her parents had died early from meth overdoses. She’d grown up in the foster care system. She’d been abused, beaten, and broken until she got her power. The ultimate power as far as she was concerned. She could control the essence of life itself. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t the strongest, fastest, or toughest. All it took was one little scratch and her target was done for, and she had all sorts of tricks up her sleeves.
It hit her sooner than she suspected it would, but it probably had something to do with being locked in a box for so long, and she wasn’t prepared for it. The bloodlust was insatiable. It overwhelmed her, drove her mad, and focused her entire chaotic mind on one simple task.
Kill. Once she accepted that, she could focus again.
Step one was to get out of the prison rags and into something that wasn’t made out of cheap quasi-fabric. A quick search of the apartment revealed a closet full of clothes: Wraith’s clothes. The offer flickered in the back of her mind, but she pushed off making any decisions until she was whole again. Only then would she be able to think clearly.
She was shorter and thinner than Wraith, so none of the clothing really fit, but she’d be able to figure it out. Next was a shower. The smell of prison lingered on a person, especially the type of prison she was in. She kept the lights off and she stood for a solid ten minutes under the steaming hot water, but had the door open a crack. It allowed her vision to adjust.
Her eyes still burned and watered easily, but that would just take time to heal. <Maybe Wraith has a healer. That would speed up the process.> The thought filtered into her mind, but she pushed it back again. Morina had learned long ago that you couldn’t really trust anyone.
She didn’t trust Wraith, but she believed the other woman didn’t want to control her. She was willing to accept that for the time being, but she had other more important things to do.
She tried on a few tops and eventually ended up with a still-too-big shirt that she was forced pull tight around her thin stomach and tie into a knot. It gave her a vaguely Daisy Duke’s look minus the chest. On top of being taller and more athletic, Wraith was also bigger in the boob department, but it didn’t matter. The short skirt made up for that.
As she got dressed and put on some makeup, she gradually raised the brightness of the room. Thankfully, it had dimmers so she could gradually increase her exposure. By the time she was finished the sun was setting and she was ready. She was ready to stalk her prey.
Even though twilight was over by the time she exited the lobby of the apartment building, she still sported a pair of sunglasses. They were fashionable – at least before she went into prison – and it looked like that hadn’t changed. It also helped her. The sun might be down, but neon signs were blinking everywhere. If anything they were even worse on her eyes than sunlight.
She didn’t wander far because she didn’t know the area, but she didn’t have to. The flat seemed to be located in a popular part of town. There were plenty of pubs and clubs within a few blocks, and after hearing what people on the street were saying, she was pretty sure she was in England. It might or might not be London – she’d never been before – but the accented English was a pretty big giveaway. Even better, no one was talking about some prison break in the US.
“Hey, Love, you lost?” A guy no older than thirty walked up to her.
“Oh gosh, I’m sorry.” Morina fell right back into the act like she’d never left it. A guy could never resist a ‘doe in headlights’ look. “I’m on vacation and I’m not really sure where anything is.” A little bit of blood manipulation flushed her cheeks to an embarrassing shade of red.
“You’re an American.” The guy’s smile grew even wider. “I could be your guide if you like. I was going to meet a few blokes at a pub near here, but I’d much rather spend my night in better company.”
“Golly, thanks Mr…?”
“Joseph, please just call me Joseph.”
“Ok, Joseph, lead the way.” She smiled shyly and kept the blush going until the Englishman held out his arm, she took it, and they headed for a bar.
Like a gentleman, he paid for dinner and a pint of beer. Morina savored the pint. She hadn’t had a drink in forever. She was able to enhance or dull the effects of the alcohol on her blood. That had been one of her key mistakes before she got caught. Alcohol and drugs were so much more potent with her than normal people as long as she wanted them to be. After her shit existence, she wanted it. You could only be touched by so many foster fathers until you wanted to just float away on a river of bliss.
“That’s sooooo good.” She savored the sip and let it rush through her. It was so good that she almost let it sweep her away, but there were other things on her mind.
“I don’t know how you Americans drink that liquid piss you call beer.” Joseph was an experienced drinker and was already on his second pint.
She saw the glint in his eye – the primal glint that every man got when he wanted a woman. She smiled back every chance she got, and that glint got bigger and bigger. When she finished the pint, and purposefully stumbled a little, she allowed him to catch her.
“Wow, a bit of a lightweight aren’t you?” He was smiling, and she smiled back. “Let’s get you home.”
Her place wasn’t far, and she made sure to press close to him as he helped her back and upstairs. In her hurry to satiate her lust she forgot about one key factor.
She opened the door, they stumbled in, and… “What the hell is a giant cage doing in your flat?”
Joseph turned toward her, but she already had a knife out and slashed it across his chest. He screamed in pain, she screamed in delight, and he shoved her hard into the wall.
<Yes!> she was overwhelmed by the sight and smell of the red liquid leaking from his chest. She breathed in deep and savored the tangy, copper scent in the air. She longed for so much more.
Joseph was already bolting. He’d rightly deduced that she was a knife-wielding batshit crazy chick, and like any person with survival instincts he was getting the hell out of there.
He did even make it to the front door.
She activated her power. She felt the blood pumping through his veins like it was her own. She mapped its progress through the body’s spider web of arteries and veins. Before he even reached the door, she had a road map of his body firmly etched into her mind.
She stopped the blood flow to his legs.
He cried and toppled face-first to the floor. Without blood, his legs didn’t work.
“What the fuck…” he didn’t get to finish before she’d jumped onto his back.
The blade slid cleanly under his shirt and parted the fabric to reveal a tan, muscular back. she ran a hand across her new canvas and shuddered. The pleasure was more than a little sexual.
Joseph tried to fight her, but her hold on him was already complete. She didn’t even allow him to roll over as she dug the knife into his flesh. He was like a jack-o-lantern on Halloween. She carved him up good.
She forced blood into his throat to keep him from screaming, and only let him breath right before he passed out. She didn’t linger too long in the room with the cage. This was just foreplay. She crawled off his back, her hands slick with blood, and maneuvered him to his feet. Complete, fluid control of someone while manipulating their blood wasn’t perfect. He looked like a zombie from one of the walking dead shows instead of someone who’d been possessed, but it did the trick. He did a herky-jerky march to the bathroom and fell to his knees in front of the tub.
This was the final part of her ritual, and she felt the anticipation reach a crescendo she just couldn’t refuse. She roughly yanked back his head and slid the knife across his throat. Then she pulled. Blood fountained unnaturally out of his jugular and quickly filled the tub. The human body had an average of over five liters of blood. He’d already lost a little in the fun and games in the living room, but she bled the rest of it out of him in less than thirty seconds.
<The Bloody Bitch is back.> she giggled out loud as Joseph’s lifeless body slid onto the ground.
She ripped off her clothes faster than a prom queen on prom night and slipped into the tub. One victim wasn’t enough to even remotely fill it, but she wasn’t willing to risk drawing too much attention. She scooped up the thick, precious liquid and let it flow over her face and down her chest. She felt it revitalize her and make her whole again. She opened her mouth on the second handful and let some trickle down her throat as she moved it back through her hair. Her taste buds exploded and her eyes rolled back into the back of her head from the sheer ecstasy of the moment.
<People don’t understand.> She rubbed her chest, arms, and legs until a thin layer of red covered everything.
Once that was done she laid back in the tub, closer her eyes, and waited. Last time she’d done this Heroes backed up by a SWAT team busted into her motel room. She waited for it to happen again. She waited for the dream to end…but it didn’t. She didn’t know how long she laid there, but no one came busting through the door.
At some point – an undeterminable amount of time later – there was a knock on the door.
“Morina…?” The door cracked open and Wraith poked her head through. “I’m…holy shit.”
“Hey, Wraith.” She opened her eyes and smiled. “Thanks for letting me crash here. I really needed this.” She smiled, showing red-stained teeth.
“Yeah, sure. No problem.” Wraith bent down, touched Joseph’s cold, pale shoulder, and he disappeared in a flash of darkness. “Just let me know when you want to go.”
“Just a few more minutes.” Morina lay back in the tub and closed her eyes again. “Then I’ll be ready to go.”
Morina wasn’t able to look too far into the future because the lust was already starting to build again. She’d need to do this again soon, very soon. This had been a dribble into a lake that had run dry years ago. She needed to fill it again, and the floodgates were wide open. That was her mindset: feed the lust. She’d help Wraith. She owed the woman that much for getting her out of jail, but if Morina had learned anything during her eventful life, it was to look out for number one.
“Ok,” she stood up to reveal glistening snow-white flesh. There was no trace of the blood she’d rubbed all over herself. “Let’s go.”
Daisy had been dreading this moment for more than one reason. The first reason was that she’d been on this detail more than once, and every time it sucked donkey dick.
Hunter placed his hand on Daisy and KaBoom’s shoulder while making contact with the pine box sitting in front of them. They ceased to exist in the normal universe for a second and then reappeared back in the Protectorate HQ in Orlando.
The room was packed – standing room only – so it was a good thing that Hunter put them down in the roped off space. The Heroes were nearest to the designated area. The remaining members of the Protectorate were the first to walk through the small opening and stop next to the casket. Each had a piece of black fabric tied around their arm just below the shoulder. It was an outward sign of their mourning.
Daisy and KaBoom stood silently on either side of the casket as ceremonial guards. KaBoom was there because he was now the leader of The Protectorate. He’d been training under Mr. Morningstar for years, and was looking forward to taking over.
<Not this way.> Daisy knew the kinetic absorber’s thoughts just from the look on his face.
Daisy was there because she was the first to reach him after he’d been killed, and was the strongest Hero. Unlike when she’d been forced to jump away to the prison break, this time Daisy was dressed in her full Reaper regalia: black fatigues, mask, armor and everything. She was a pillar of strength next to the fallen leader, and that was what everyone needed at the moment, which was why Dispatch hadn’t canceled her temporary Hero authorization.
After the Protectorate said goodbye to their leader – there were more than a few tears involved – the independent Heroes operating in the city were next. Jetwash was there, and she tried not to hate the arrogant little prick. He’d done well at the prison break, and even succeeded in catching more than one prisoner who tried to flee.
<He’s not a total asshat,> she told herself when he passed. She even gave him a respectful head nod.
After the independent Heroes came the entirety of the Orlando PD. That lasted awhile. They weren’t the biggest force in the country, but they were sizable even after the deaths in the Seif al-Din incident. They rotated officers off of their shifts to ensure the public was still protected, and the Heroes covered down on them as well. It was all well-organized – if lengthy – but Daisy stood there respectfully the whole time.
The hardest time was probably when Topher arrived to pay his respects. After the shitstorm of the last day, all she wanted was a hug and a kiss from her man. They couldn’t do that in front of everyone. Topher nodded politely to KaBoom and her like all the other cops, bowed his head over Mr. Morningstar’s body, said a short prayer, and then left.
She’d get that hug and kiss when she got home, but that wasn’t going to be for a while. She had to wrap up stuff here at the station, deal with problem number two, and only after that would she be able to head home. Luckily, she didn’t have to leave the building to complete her tasks.
“Jesus,” KaBoom sighed a few hours later as he plopped into a chair in the conference room.
The blinds were drawn, the windows frosted over to obscure the Heroes’ identities, and electronic countermeasures were activated. KaBoom removed his mask and became Marcus. The rest of the Protectorate and Daisy followed his lead. A lot of sad faces stared back at Daisy.
“The public funeral will be held on Friday.” After a deep breath, Marcus got to work. “We’ll need an honor guard as well as security. Orlando PD is going to be out in force, and they want to make it big.”
“Big?” Galavant, aka Ronnie asked.
“We got shat on by Seif al-din, and before him the Fist was wreaking havoc. All of that is still fresh in people’s minds, and now the leader of the local Hero group is dead. Not just dead…assassinated on national TV by a criminal that we put away less than six months ago. A little bitch that we had in those very cells over there.” Daisy’s hands balled into fists and the bleeded off of kinetic energy made the air shake around them.
“We need to reassure the public that even though our leader is gone, we are still capable of defending them,” KaBoom said confidently. Heads nodded around the table. “Reaper,” those same heads all turned toward the seasoned Hero. “We didn’t get to go through the entire questionnaire, but under the circumstances, and taking Dr. Johnson’s recommendation into consideration, I’m going to request that the DVA reactivate your Hero credentials.”
The first smile in over a day split Daisy’s face.
“I’m also going to request a part-time appointment to the Protectorate. You can’t come on full –time with your HCP duties, but I’m sure we can work something out like Grace is doing. This way we’ll be able to cut through all the red tape.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Daisy controlled her emotions and nodded. It didn’t seem right to be smiling when a dead Hero was lying in the other room.
They spent another half an hour dealing with some of the details for the coming funeral, and promised to reconvene in two days to put the final touches on their parts of the ceremony. Once Marcus declared the meeting adjourned, Daisy moved in to discuss her other bit of information.
“An HCP student assaulted the front desk attendant of his apartment building. Come on, Daisy.” Marcus pinched the bridge of his nose when he heard the story. “You know there isn’t much I can do here.”
“I know.” She completely agreed. “I’m just asking that you talk to the Chief and he talks to the lawyers. If it’s an option, we’d like to handle it in-house. The kid’s had a rough go of it in the last few months, we don’t want to just give him the boot just yet, and he’s more than able to cover any or all of the victim’s medical bills plus some.”
After a moment, and a dramatic sigh, Marcus nodded. “I’ll pass the word along, but I don’t know what good it will do.”
“Don’t underestimate your ability to extend your influence, Marcus.” Daisy gave the new leader a hard look. “You’re the top dog now. Your team can do more good than most of the Chief’s whole department. You hold a lot of power in this town. Morningstar understood that, even if he let it go to his head sometimes. Despite the shitty situation, you probably will hold more goodwill in the next week than the rest of your career. Make your mark, build relationships, and don’t be coy. You could do that as KaBoom number two, but you can’t do that as the boss. Got it?”
“Yes.” Marcus’ back straightened a bit from the steel Daisy had injected into his spine.
“Good.” Daisy nodded in satisfaction. “Now I’m out of here. I’ve got a man waiting for me. Let me know if you need anything else from me concerning all that paperwork.”
“Thanks for everything, Daisy.” The thanks was heartfelt.
“Just doing my job, Boss.” Daisy smiled and left. She made sure to say her own goodbye to Mr. Morningstar on the way out.
The last thing Lilly wanted to walk into was seeing a girl letting it all hang out in her bathroom, covered in blood, and with a bloodless corpse stinking up the small flat.
“Hey, Wraith.” The blood manipulator replied with a radiant smile that was only slightly disturbing.
Lilly hadn’t heard the woman sound this happy in all the time she’d known her.
“Thanks for letting me crash here. I really needed this.”
“Yeah, sure. No problem. Just let me know when you want to go.”
“Just a few more minutes.” Morina lay back in the tub and closed her eyes again. “Then I’ll be ready to go.”
Lilly nodded and retreated back out of the room. She made sure to banish the dead dude’s body to an active volcano in the Pacific before she left. <Air freshener. I need air freshener.> She went to the small kitchen nook and got the aerosol spray.
In her business, it was always good to have air freshener and bleach handy. Bodies could be messy even for a teleporter. <Not anymore.> She shook her head as she sprayed the room liberally. <No more killing.>
She was determined to keep her promise to Seth. Mr. Morningstar wasn’t even an afterthought. He didn’t count. He’d been the one that revealed her true life, coupled with a few lies, and then broke them up. She was sure her man would understand the Hero’s need to die.
“Ok, let’s go.” Morina emerged for the bathroom clothed and with a new glow around her.
The blood was gone, but her skin was flush with life. Even though she was Snow White pale, there was something different about her now.
“I’ve got some people for you to meet. They want your help. They can pay you well and it’ll give us a chance to work together and put some real assholes…” Lilly stopped abruptly. She was going to say ‘in the ground’, but with her promise she really wasn’t sure. She had to talk with Seth about killing the blonde bimbo. “…out of commission,” she settled on. “It’ll be fun.”
“I’m going to need more fun.” Morina looked back at the empty bathroom.
“Then you’ve come to the right place.” Lilly grabbed her shoulder and the disappeared in a blast of darkness.
They appeared a few seconds later in Orlando where Stal, Nightingale, and Damascus were waiting for them. Stal looked bored, Nightingale was still covered from head to foot in her armor, and Damascus looked unimpressed.
“This is who you were able to rescue?”
As usual, the terrorist just had to speak to get Lilly’s blood boiling. “Fuck off, butt-muncher. She’s a crazy bitch.”
Morina smiled at the clear term of endearment and turned her gaze on Damascus. Sometimes you could just tell when a person was off their rocker, and Damascus saw that in Morina’s eyes. Her next words didn’t help.