A Change of Pace – Season 2 – Chapter 55

“Ouch…shit!” Anna Fletcher fumed as the red, semi-solid ball hit her hard in the boob. Someone on the other side of the court laughed at her pain, and she gave them the finger.

Becca winced at the sight of her teammate being eliminated. That left Team 3 with only two other players remaining. Team Two was methodically picking them off one by one. It was sweet revenge for the other team, and mildly embarrassing for Becca’s team.

To get the sophomore class back in the swing of things the instructors had immediately planned another team event for three days into the semester. Becca and the rest of the sophomores were still busy finding the optimum route to their new classes when they were unceremoniously thrown into a classic game of dodgeball.

The game had been outlawed at most public institutions throughout the US because people said it allowed the strong to pick on the weak. They were probably right, but sometimes people need to have their ass handed to them to motivate them to do better. It was better to have a relatively-benign ball do that than fists and feet. For members of West Private University’s HCP, a red ball was a welcome change of pace from fists, feet, and super powers that routinely were thrown around the place.

Becca deftly dipped to the right as a ball missed her by inches. For a person that was used to being faster and nimbler than anyone else, this game was more than frustrating. Coach McMillian had laid out the rules before they started, and rule number one was no powers. For some, like Mason and Casey, that was impossible, but most people in the class could control their abilities. The close combat coach was keeping a close eye on the strongman types to make sure they didn’t throw the ball too hard and hurt someone. The students might not be able to use their abilities but he could, and he would be able to get to the person before the ball could.

Becca backpedaled to increase the distance between her and the four remaining players from Team Two: Anika, Teresa Shaw, Liam Garrison, and Emilia Scarborough. Anika had just tried to take Becca out, and it wasn’t to dinner and a movie.

Winter Break had been great for them. They’d split the time between Becca’s family, and Anika’s adoptive parents. They’d laughed, loved, and enjoyed their time to the fullest while still doing occasional training. Still, the first couple days back demanded that they get back into fighting shape.

Becca clutched her ball and considered whether or not to throw it. It was useful to have one to deflect shots. If she knocked away and incoming throw with her ball then she wasn’t out, and giving up that advantage when Team Two had two-to-one odds against them was tough. On the flip side, she needed to give up the protection if she wanted to even those odds. It was interesting how life’s challenges of being stuck between a rock and a hard place were exemplified in such a simple game.

Finally she decided to take a chance. She raced up to the line and looked like she was prepared to return fire against Anika. Her girlfriend backed up, but watched Becca intently. She bent her knees, lowered her center of gravity, and prepared to make the split-second decision of trying to catch the throw to eliminate Becca, or dodge. Right when Becca reached the line she quickly pivoted forty-five degrees and launched her ball diagonally at an unsuspecting Liam Garrison. The toxic obfuscator was busy trying to read what Team Three’s only other remaining player, Carson Long, was going to do. Carson was normally an ass, but his smack talk did the job of distracting Liam perfectly.

Liam still caught the flash of red in his peripherals, and tried to get out of the way, but he wasn’t fast enough. The dodgeball hit him in the shoulder with a loud SMACK.

“Garrison, out!” Coach McMillian yelled as Liam started to slouch off the court.

Becca started to back pedal again when it was her turn to see a flash of red in her peripherals. <Stupid rules!> If she had her speed she would have been able to dodge easily, but without it, it became clear she wouldn’t get away. Even worse…

SLAP! The dodgeball hit her square in the cheek. Becca felt the sting immediately, and was sure it would be red for at least an hour.

“Whitfield, out! Scarborough, no head shots, you know that. You’re out too!” The Coach ordered, and they both complied.

Becca swore she saw Emilia grinning as they both walked off the court. Becca didn’t condone the nickname assigned to Emilia and her group of friends: stuck up bitches (SUBs), but she sure thought she was one at the moment.

Back on the court, it was now two on one. Carson was facing off against Anika and Teresa. Carson still had a ball for defense, but that virtually eliminated his ability to make a catch, which would remove one of Team Three’s players from the game while bringing back in one of his teammates.

Virtually was the key word there as Anika made a throw and Carson went for the long shot. Instead of dodging, he slid into the path of the ball. He maneuvered his own ball to one arm and tried to catch her throw. It would have looked awesome if he succeeded, but Anika was a virtual strongwoman herself, and even though she was backing off her strength, it still meant the ball had some zip behind it.

Carson misjudged the slide and the ball hit him high on the shoulder and rebounded at a bad angle. He reached for it, and got his fingertips on it, but it wasn’t enough. It hit the ground and Coach McMillian called the game for Team Two.

“That’s two-two. It’s the best of three, so next win takes the cake.” Becca was surprised when told there was an actual welcome back cake waiting for them after this training session. She’d be careful when she ate it though. She wasn’t a freshman anymore. There could be a ‘surprise’ training even just when the cake was starting to settle in their bellies. That was something the instructors would do.

The whole dodgeball tournament just seemed too nice.




Mason had dipped, ducked, dived, and dodged around for twenty minutes. People would think at six-nine, with the body of a bodybuilder, he’d be one of the first to go. They’d be wrong. He thought part of it was because people thought they could leave him to deal with later while they tried to get rid of his teams more deadly players. Rowan had proven to be a maniac, and since he was still a relative unknown to the class, he’d been vigorously targeted until finally being knocked out of the game. Likewise, Lorelai Gilford had proven clever and resourceful. She been the last to be knocked out, and left Mason alone to face the remainder of Team One.

Team Four hadn’t gone down easy though, and they’d been allowed for one player to remain in the game after being knocked out because they were down to six instead of seven members. No one talked about how they’d lost their seventh member.

Angela’s team was a worthy opponent, and Erin had made sure to knock out the angelic shifter as quickly as possible. Alex Webb had been tough, along with Natalia Romanoff, but when it came down to the endgame it was the last person Mason wanted to be playing against. It was a battle of the class giants, and most respected couple in the class, Mason versus Kyoshi.

“Don’t get beat by your girlfriend, dude,” Simon Skylar yelled from the sidelines. “You’ll never live it down.”

Mason ignored him and slid to the side to avoid Kyoshi’s throw. She missed, and he immediately returned fire, but she was already moving at the expected counterattack.  Despite all appearances, he knew she wasn’t using her power. It was just common sense. She knew him, she was thinking tactically, and she knew he would try and immediately take advantage of her vulnerability. Mason had even tried to foresee which nearby ball she was going to go for, but he must have telegraphed his move, because his throw was embarrassingly inaccurate.

“Come on, Mason.” Rowan groaned as Kyoshi grabbed another ball and they returned to the stalemate that had already lasted close to five minutes.

It was getting old, and Coach McMillian seemed to be thinking the same thing. The winner of this best-of-five match was going to face off against Team Three in a one match sudden death for victory. Mason was about to commit to another assault when Kyoshi beat him to it.

She surprised him by charging the center line, but more importantly, she brought her arm back to make the throw very early, and exposed her chest. Mason didn’t hesitate and stare at the chest like some love-struck idiot. He took action. He half-cocked his arm and threw. He felt a little guilty that he might have put a little extra zing on the throw since he didn’t wind up all the way, but McMillian didn’t call him out on it. There wasn’t any need to.

At six-seven, Mason didn’t think his girlfriend was capable of the maneuver. She had jumped, and while airborne, twisted so that she would not be able to land on her feet. She was going to land hard on her shoulder, and would feel it in the morning, but she clearly wasn’t thinking about that. The gutsy twist-leap made it so Mason’s center-of-mass shot passed in the space between her armpit and hip. That left him totally exposed, open for a counterstrike, but more importantly flat footed. He flexed his knees to dive away, but Kyoshi’s ball was already rocketing toward him. Of course, due to her aerial acrobatics, and her naturally uncoordinated nature, her shot wasn’t completely on target either.

The red ball flew in at a respectable speed and made solid contact with his junk. If Mason was a lesser man he probably would have gasped in pain, groaned, and fallen dramatically to his knees. However, anything short of a .50 caliber round hitting him in the nuts wasn’t going to elicit that reaction. Instead he rolled his eyes and looked at his girlfriend as she landed hard on her side and skidded to a stop.

“Really?” he asked as Team Four groaned in defeat.

She just shrugged, which included a small wince, as Team One rushed the court to help her to her feet.

“Team One wins!” Coach McMillian announced. “Why don’t you walk it off, Jackson.”

“I’m good, Coach.” Mason replied.

“Not that.” McMillian shook his head. “I’m talking about your dignity, man. You just got righteously outmaneuvered by your girlfriend. Go take a lap to earn your man card back.” The Coach’s good-natured smile accompanied the ribbing, but that didn’t stop the rest of the two teams from laughing at their class’ biggest and physically strongest member.

Mason took it all in stride, and even laughed a little himself. Kyoshi would make it up to him later.




“Are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?” Mason finally broke the silence.

All the original inhabitants of Townhouse 117 were sitting in a mostly-deserted corner of the Student’s Center. It was the first chance they had to gather together as a group since the start of the semester. The get together had started with some light bragging from Angela. Team One had gone on to win the face off with Team Three. Teams One and Three had become the two top contenders in the team competition; followed by Team Two, and lastly Team Four. That bothered Mason, and he knew Seth’s absence had something to do with it. It was hard for a future group of Heroes to grasp that they’d been teammates, and even friends, with someone who’d gone as far astray as Seth Abney.

“If by ‘elephant’ you mean traitorous, backstabbing asshole, then sure,” Anika replied. She had never liked Seth, and his recent choices only validated her position in her own mind. The voice of moderation, Becca, remained silent.

“Call it what you want,” Mason could quite bring himself to rebuke Anika. “We need a plan.”

“There is no plan. There’s only the truth,” Becca stated. It didn’t sound like much coming from the good-natured speedster, but everyone present realized she was putting her foot down.

“We’re not saying to lie, or do anything like that,” Kyoshi stepped in since she had a better idea what was on Becca’s mind. “What Mason is talking about is how we move forward from this.”

Everyone had been interviewed several times by the HCP staff, the DVA, and other law enforcement agencies. They’d milked every bit of information out of the small group that they could, but since the events of Winter Break, there was a new schedule of interviews lined up.

“We don’t know anything. We know that, they know that, but they need to keep pressing. When you fail to catch the bad guy sometimes you need to go back to square one and start over again with the investigation. Unfortunately, we’re square one.” Angela laid it out clearly, and everyone nodded.

“There’s a stigma attached to us now,” Kyoshi added, which surprised some of the group. “Not necessarily from our classmates or the HCP staff, but anyone outside our immediate acquaintances comes into our discussions with jaded thoughts and preconceived notions.”

“It’s human nature.” Mason knew a little something about preconceived notions growing up as a Super in NYC after Seif al-Din’s attack.

“It’s wrong,” Becca frowned.

“But it’s reality,” Anika countered, but put her hand comfortingly on her girlfriend’s shoulder.

“It’s meaningless,” Angela put her foot down. “We go into the interviews and tell them what they want to know. We don’t leave anything out and we give them anything that could help them track down Seth. He turned his back on being a Hero, and instead of just chilling as a civilian, he became a villain. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We help them catch him. He shouldn’t be coming to us as character witnesses when it comes time for his trail anyway.” With her piece said, Angela got up and walked away.

“What she said.” Anika followed behind her. Becca didn’t say anything, she just waved goodbye.

“Well, that went well.” Kyoshi leaned her head on Mason’s shoulder and watched the few students who remained in the building go about their business.

“Things aren’t the same as freshman year.” Mason stated plainly, but Kyoshi felt the conflict inside him.

She knew he didn’t think Seth was an evil villain, but that was hard to believe after everything that had happened. Still, it wasn’t her place to judge. People were entitled to their thoughts, and she shouldn’t be prying anyway. She withdrew from her boyfriend’s mind and closed her eyes. The rise and fall of his chest coupled with the thumping of his heart lulled her to sleep.



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.”


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.


“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?”


“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.


“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 48

Daisy fought back a yawn. She was standing next to Topher at the Orlando Police Department’s annual Christmas party, although it wasn’t much of a party. Seif al-Din’s attack during the spring had killed or injured a large portion of the police force, and the recent attack by Wraith, Nightingale, and Stal had taken a few more men and women off the thin blue line. Some had lost their lives, others had limbs crushed or mangled by explosions, and some just couldn’t take it anymore. Veteran officers were taking jobs in other cities and states because Orlando was just too hot right now. They had families they need to consider. Their job was to serve and protect, but that didn’t mean they were up for getting blown up by terrorists in bi-annual attacks.

Daisy didn’t begrudge them or their courage. They were humans in a game they were ill-equipped to play, and the fact that Topher was still on the job created a ball of lead that sat in her gut whenever he was on duty.

“Hey, Sergeant.” A group of fresh-faced kids, a few with pimples still receding from their faces, walked up to Topher.

Daisy stopped the grin from spreading across her face. Topher wasn’t old by any standard, but looking around the room she saw he was one of the older faces present.

“We just wanted to…whoa,” the leader of the little gang stopped mid-sentence when he caught sight of Daisy.

She’d dressed to impress tonight; partly to be Topher’s arm candy, and partially to blend in a little more. Reaper wore black fatigues, body armor, and a mask, so Daisy wore a nearly-scandalous dress that drew eyes to anywhere but her face. The more people were looking at her rack, the less time they were considering how much she looked like the legendary Hero.

“H…Hi, I’m Jeff.” The young officer extended his hand.

“Daisy, I’m banging your Sergeant here.” She struggled not to laugh as Jeff’s face went a vivid shade of red.

Daisy knew how the male mind worked. This group of young officers had respected Topher already, but now, they really respected him. She didn’t even feel the kid’s handshake. She was still absorbing kinetic energy because after everything that happened she wouldn’t put it past someone to attack the party and she wanted to be ready.

“I’ll catch you guys later. Go easy tonight.” Topher gently shooed them away, before turning his attention on Daisy. “Did you have to do that?”

“What…make you look like a god among men…I guess I didn’t, but you’re welcome anyway.”

“Wow, you have a high opinion of yourself.” Topher grinned.

“You weren’t complaining last night,” Daisy shot back as she took a sip of her drink.

“Touché.” Topher raised his beer to her.

He might be sampling the imported brews the police brass had gotten for the party, but Daisy was sticking strictly to water. The pull of the alcohol was always there beneath the surface, but she was better at controlling things now, and in general she had very good self-control when she put her mind to something. That and her bluntness made her pretty good at handling anything this party could throw her way. Even Jeff.

“Can I get you a drink?” The young officer made his move when Topher was chatting with his Lieutenant.

Jeff was half a head shorter than Daisy, but with a stocky build. She guessed football in high school, and maybe some junior college, before getting the job in the OPD when they went on a recruitment spree. She didn’t know him well, but he was hitting on a girl he knew was with someone else, and not just anyone else, but his boss.

She was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. She hadn’t stated her full relationship with Topher, and her banging comment hadn’t helped. “No thanks. I’m a recovering alcoholic.” Her answer clearly wasn’t something Jeff was expecting, so he stood there awkwardly for a moment with a second beer in his hand.

<Play nice.> Daisy took a breath and remembered that she’d promised to be on her best behavior tonight. Ever since Wraith had escaped, she’d been a little on the bitchy side.

“So, Jeff, how long have you been on the job?” She attempted to make polite conversation.

“Six months.” His chest puffed out proudly. “It’s a great job, and I’ve gotten to see some really crazy stuff. This one time, it was only my third day on the job…” Jeff continued, but Daisy tuned him out.

Most cops she’d met had taken this tactic with her when trying to pick her up. It didn’t matter if it was the Sixties or Twenty-Tens, cops always tried to work in their crazy on-the-job stories to impress a lady. It might be a panty dropper with some, but Daisy’s stories put everyone else’s to shame.

“So this guy’s brains are everywhere. The car…” Jeff was still engrossed in his story when Daisy tuned back in.

<I literally have twisted a guy’s head around one hundred and eighty degrees, and another time there was a shifter villain who I literally shoved my hand up his ass and pulled out a portion of his lower intestine to get him to shift back.> She shivered at that memory. <When a guy’s skin is nearly impenetrable you’ve got to work with the openings you’ve got.> Unfortunately, Jeff thought his story was making her shiver, and that only egged him on.

Eventually, Topher spotted her, and they shared one of their moments. Her eyes met his, and an eyebrow went up, before darting to Jeff and back to him. Topher shook his head sadly back and forth before nodding and heading over.

“To make a long story short,” Jeff saw Topher heading their way, “we got the drunk driver.”

“Good work.” Daisy had to work to put a polite smile on her face.

“How’s everything going over here?” Topher stepped back into the conversation.

“Great, Sarge, I’ll catch you later, Daisy.” Jeff smiled as he left.

Daisy just hoped some macho thing between Topher and Jeff didn’t result from tonight. “I was just being nice.” She defended herself as the night wore on.

“I know,” Topher wasn’t holding anything against her. “We just had to cut some corners in recruitment to fill our numbers after last spring. Jeff came back ok, but there were some unsubstantiated claims that he might be a little possessive when it comes to women, and the last thing you need is someone being too clingy.”

“True,” Daisy looked out over the room, and spotted Jeff with the other young officers. He was looking at her, but quickly looked away when he saw her looking.

“Might be a little late on that. Just keep an eye on him?” she asked.

“That quick?” Topher wasn’t angry, but it was clearly something he didn’t want to have to deal with personally or professionally.

“What can I say? I’ve got a hell of a personality.” Daisy threw back the rest of her water and went to turn that charm on Topher’s bosses. If she could get the underlings to love her, then she might as well try and get her man a promotion that might even get him out of the field. If she was successful, she’d call tonight a win.




Several hundred miles away, in another police station, Seth was not enjoying a party. <Jesus,> he wondered when the SUV pulled up to a big, brightly lit building off the highway. It even looked relatively modern, something the rest of the county didn’t share in common.

“We’ve got state of the art equipment,” the cop seemed to be reading Seth’s mind as they pulled into a spot. “We’ll run your prints and know who you are in a few hours.” The cop threw the car into park and turned around to look Seth in the eyes. “I’ll give you one more chance,” he offered. “Tell me your name and date of birth, I’ll run you, and then call you a cab if everything checks out.”

The cop was going above and beyond to give Seth a break. Seth realized that, but he still couldn’t do what the cop wanted. Instead, he muttered, “this is such bullshit,” under his breath.

“Fine.” The cop shrugged, pulled Seth out of the car, and walked him inside.

For a building as big as it was, it was pretty empty, but being Christmas Eve explained that.

“Hey, Sheriff. I thought you were going home?” A deputy at the front desk put down a paperback and got to her feet.

“I was on my way when I found this guy. Process him for failure to identify. He says he’s from Bama and is heading to Texas for break, but break os halfway over, and he wouldn’t tell me his name or date of birth. Maybe you’ll have better luck.”

“Sure thing,” she took Seth’s shackled wrists from the Sheriff and took him back for processing.

By now, Seth’s mind was running on overdrive. He needed a way to counteract the searches they were going to do on him. He hoped they would be doing his fingerprints the old-fashioned way with ink and paper, but as she plopped him on a bench and shackled his feet to a slab of metal on the floor, he doubted things were headed in that direction.

“You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by just telling us who you are.” She came back with a portable fingerprint scanner. “If you don’t have warrants he would have let you go, but by failing to cooperate, you’re stuck with us until we find out who you are and can get you in front of the judge. Since its Christmas Eve, that’s not going to be until the twenty-sixth, so by being stubborn you just earned Christmas in jail. Think about that next time and we can avoid all of this.” She repositioned Seth so she could get his thumb on the scanner.

Seth hoped what he was planning to do would work. “Hey, why is this Sheriff’s building huge. I don’t mean to sound mean, but this doesn’t look like a place that’s rolling in dough.”

While Seth pulled the Deputy’s attention away from the scanner with his question, he channeled his pyrokinesis into his thumb. It wasn’t enough for the scanner to melt, or for Seth’s thumb to burst into flames, but he hoped it would short circuit the machine enough to get a bad reading or no reading at all.

“We’re the only police force in the entire county. All of the local towns count on us for their law enforcement needs, so we have a bigger budget than most counties. We’ve also got a small jail attached to the building and the local court. Everything is conveniently located in a one-stop-shop.” The Deputy answered before looking back at the scanner.

“Huh…must be out of batteries.” She gave the small device a shake, but nothing happened. “Sorry about that. Let me get another one.” She left to grab another one.

Seth considered what he’d seen on the way in. As far as he knew, the Sheriff was the only other person here. If Seth melted through the cuffs he’d be able to walk right out the front door.

<I won’t get far.> Seth found the flaw in his plan. He didn’t know how to hotwire a car, and without one he wouldn’t make it a quarter mile before the Sheriff and his Deputy tracked him down, and when they did things would escalate fast. <No. I need to wait for Lilly.> It was slightly emasculating to know he needed his girlfriend to save him, but he pushed that aside. It was the best way to get out of this without anyone getting hurt.

The Deputy showed back up with another scanner. While she was positioning Seth’s thumb the Sheriff walked in and provided Seth with the other opportunity for a distraction.

“You’re awfully young to be a Sheriff. How’d you get the job?” The question pulled the Deputy’s attention toward her boss and Seth worked his magic again.

“The voters thought I was the best qualified to do it. I was born and raised in the area, graduated top of my class from the academy, and have a few years of experience under my belt. It’s a small, close-knit county and we like to put our trust in people we know.”

Seth was pretty sure there was a barb in there meant for him, but he didn’t care. The Deputy was smacking the scanner in her palm behind him.

“Sorry, boss, but the scanners are on the fritz.” She shrugged apologetically.

The Sheriff sighed and rubbed his eyes. It looked like he’d had a long day. “Book him as John Doe for now. When everyone gets off leave day after tomorrow we’ll try again. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

The Deputy nodded and led Seth back to fill out some paperwork and put him in a cell. Seth had successfully bought himself more time, but it wouldn’t mean anything if Lilly and Morina couldn’t find him.

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