<Who knew muscles could be a bad thing.> Morina huffed as she dragged Seth across the ground.
Wraith’s final teleport had dropped them in the middle of nowhere, which was a good thing considering what they’d fled from. The location was a dirt crossroads with some signs pointing toward the nearest civilization. She had to wipe the grime off them to read, and it told her the closest help was ten miles away. That was good and bad.
It was good that people wouldn’t ambush them, and bad because Seth looked like he was going to die. The blood dripping from him was calling to her, but she fought against the temptation. Wraith would teleport her into a volcano if she exsanguinated her man. So, she did the only thing she could think of. She pulled them off the crossroads.
She did Wraith first because that’s what friends were for. After everything that had happened in the last few months, Wraith might be the only person she could call a friend. Morina had liked Nightingale, but she knew a predator when she saw one, and what that type of person was capable of. After all, she was one.
After she dragged Wraith over to the side of the road she went back for Seth. Wraith was fit and athletic, but she didn’t weigh more than a buck thirty. With her armor, maybe one-fifty. Seth was easily over two hundred pounds. He would be good at punching things and dragging other people, but dragging him was a pain in the ass.
<Come on tons of fun.> She heaved, slipped, and landed right on her ass; making the pain he was causing her literal.
She coughed from the cloud of dust thrown into the air by her impromptu sit, and waved her hand rapidly to clear it. It might be nearing the holiday season, and the rest of the country was starting to see chilly temperatures, but wherever they were in Alabama it was still hot and dry.
She gathered herself after the dust cleared, grabbed Seth under the arm pits, and continued her slow trek to the drainage ditch where she’d placed Wraith.
She didn’t hear the person approach over her own grunting and the scrape of Seth’s body against the ground, but she did catch the clink of the weapon being taken off safe and pointed at her.
<Shit.> Her power swelled inside her, but she held it in.
She might be able to stop the blood from leaking out of her from a gunshot, but that wouldn’t fix the hole and whatever internal destruction the bullet wrought. Instead, she dropped Seth and raised her hands.
“We’re looking for a healer.” She figured saying they needed help was better than attacking him.
The fact that she didn’t get shot was a good sign she was headed in the right direction.
“These two.” The voice didn’t have that southern I-screw-my-sister drawl that the movies always portrayed people from this area having. In fact, she thought she heard some New York swagger in the person’s tone.
“Yep. One got shot and the other is purely exhausted.”
“I can fix the girl up for five hundred, but the guy is going to depend on the damage. I only take cash.”
<Shit…shit…shit…> She didn’t have anything on her, but knowing Wraith, she did.
“My friend has the money. It’s in her pockets somewhere,” she explained. “I can get it for you?”
“No sudden movements or I put a hole in you too, and then if you’re telling the truth I’ll charge you double to patch you up.” The person replied. “Keep your back to me.”
They circled each other so that the guy had a clear shot and Morina would have to turn to engage him. She couldn’t attack what she couldn’t see. She had an errant thought that this healer might know who she was, or at least who Wraith was, but the fact that he hadn’t shot them or called the cops was a good sign.
Being a Super and having a medical practice out in bumfuck nowhere told her that this guy might have his own secrets. It was common knowledge that people in this part of the country weren’t as accepting of Supers. There tended to be more Super-related crime, less tolerance from the authorities, and more animosity between Supers, humans, and then both weren’t fond of Powereds.
<Yeah, this guy is definitely sketch.> She knelt slowly and started to rummage through Wraith’s pockets.
Her eyes were rolled into the back of her head and she didn’t budge as Morina practically felt her up to find the cash. There were a lot of pockets with everything from duct tape to spare magazines for her pistols in them. She stayed well clear of the holsters on her thighs, and eventually found what she was looking for.
A wad of cash was rolled up tight and held in place by a rubber band. The outside bill was a hundred, and judging by that there was either a few grand in here or the bills got smaller. She pulled off five bills and slowly extended them behind her. The healer’s boots crunched against the dry ground as he snatched the cash away without touching her hand.
“Take ten steps forward,” he ordered.
She complied and waited for him to do what he said he would do, or shoot her. At the moment, she wasn’t sure which way it would go.
“What the shit!” Wraith’s gasp broke the tense silent. “Awwwwww that hurts like a bitch!”
“Sorry, it’s a side-effect of my healing.” The healer apologized.
“Feeling like I’m about to have diarrhea made of fire is a side-effect. No wonder you don’t get much business.” Wraith snapped back, but the apparent discomfort quickly faded.
“Hello, can I look now?”
Morina heard the click of the weapon being put back on safe, and she turned to face the man.
<Damn.> He wasn’t wearing blue-jean suspenders with a beer gut and straw hat.
The healer was in a professional looking three-piece suit minus the jacket. The sleeves of his white dress shirt were rolled up to his elbows, and he had some nice muscles too. The glasses on his face highlighted his hawkish nose, but Morina didn’t mind, and his hair was an unnatural white color. He had a sleek hunting rifle tucked under his armpit, and he was extending a hand out to help Wraith up.
A spike a jealousy ran through Morina’s mind before she stomped it out. She didn’t know this guy from Adam, she shouldn’t be jealous that he was being nice to Wraith and not her. Plus, Wraith had Seth.
Wraith smacked the guy’s hand aside and climbed to her feet. She stumbled a bit, put her hands on her knees to steady herself, and took some deep breaths. “Is the nausea common too?” she asked.
“Yeah, it’ll pass just as fast as your intestinal pain.” The healer took a step back and watched the two women casually. The weapon was pointed harmlessly at the ground, but the way he handled it said he knew how to use it.
“I’m good.” Wraith straightened up and took one final deep breath. “Now help him.”
“He needs more than just an influx of energy.” The healer didn’t move from where he was standing. “I need to evaluate the wound, and probably clean it before patching him up.”
“What type of healer can’t disinfect wounds with his healing power?” Wraith turned to glare at the man.
“The only healer that you’ve got, and one who’s willing to turn a blind eye to your suspicious circumstances.” The guy had a point, and Seth didn’t look like he was going to survive another teleport.
“Fine, where do you need him?” Wraith kneeled next to Seth and with a surprising amount of tenderness started to check his vitals.
“My office is a short walk this way.”
Morina looked where he pointed and saw a dirt road that she’d missed up until now. If she looked at it from the right angle she could make out a small building nestled in the trees.
“Ok, Morina, help me.” Wraith grabbed Seth under the arm pits and she grabbed the legs. Together, they carried Seth down the dust driveway and into a surprisingly modern and clean room.
The outside of the building was clearly disguised to look like a mix between a shack and small house. Inside, it had a small ground floor set up as an office, and a large basement that the healer seemed to live in.
The healer bypassed the small office and took them downstairs and to a big room in the back. He opened the door and they were standing on the edge of an operating room.
“Get him on the table and get those clothes off,” he instructed.
“Whatever you say, Doc.” Wraith led the way on striping down her boyfriend.
“Mazel tov,” was the only thing Morina could think to say when she saw his junk.
“Now out, I need to work.” The healer ushered them both out of the room and shut the door behind him.
“Now what,” Morina crossed her arms across her chest and looked around the living room.
“Now we wait.” Wraith plopped down and turned on the TV.
It didn’t take Morina long to figure out her friend wasn’t even watching the daytime soap opera on the high-definition plasma. Her eyes kept darting to the door, her foot kept tapping against the tile, and she kept having to stop herself from chewing on her cuticles.
Wraith was worried, and Morina really couldn’t do anything to help.
“SNIPER!” Someone yelled as Iron Giant hit the ground as John.
<No shit!> Daisy didn’t waste any time in reacting.
They knew who the sniper was, where she was, what she was armed with, and exactly how many hostages she was holding. Unfortunately, some people were a little trigger happy after everything that had happened today. Law enforcement started taking shots at the building Nightingale was holding up in.
“Cease fire! Cease fire!” The police captain and DVA Agent Phillips were screaming over the Dispatch link.
Daisy took the moment of cover the return fire provided and dashed into action. Her legs pumped kinetic energy into the street as she pushed herself toward John’s prone body. She stopped on a dime next to him, ignoring the whiplash it exerted on her body, and picked him up in a bridal carry. She’d never be able to do this with Iron Giant, but little old John Ditmar was a different story.
“D…D…” blood leaked out of John’s mouth, and Daisy’s uniform was already slick with his blood.
“Hold on!” She turned around, and nearly took a bullet to the head. The turn was the only thing that saved her, but she felt the air parting against the bullet right next to her face.
“Cover me!” She yelled.
A force field appeared between her and the building Nightingale was using as a sniper’s nest. Daisy pushed off at the same time the second round hit the energy barrier. The barrier shattered as the bullet dipped in Nightingale’s nullifying goo and cracked into the pavement just to Daisy’s right.
<Fuck!> this wasn’t the first time Daisy had been under fire, but it might be the first time the bullets could actually kill her.
She was tempted to jump to safety, but that was an amateur mistake. You didn’t have any maneuverability in the air, especially while you were carrying someone as fragile as the currently very vulnerable Dean of West Private’s HCP. The jump up might be quick, but once she reached the apex, and started to come back down, Nightingale would be able to pick her off easy.
She needed to make herself a hard target to hit, and to do that she need some help. “Jetwash, you pompous ass, create a distraction. Blind her with wind, kick up enough shit so she can’t see, or draw her attention!” Daisy screamed the order.
Unlike her, the wind manipulator could easily maneuver in the air.
“Force Field, keep throwing up barriers. I don’t know if they’re deflecting shots a little, but even an inch helps.” Daisy knew Nightingale was a top-notch shot, so the last miss probably had something to do with the barrier’s temporary interference. “Get a healer ready.”
Daisy was running in a serpentine as she said all of this. She tried to keep out of the buildings line of sight as much as possible, but with the way the street was designed there just wasn’t anywhere to hide.
The wind started whipping and dust was kicked up enough that it made it hard to see.
<Not me you idiot!> It looked like something out of those old dust bowl films rolling onto the street, but instead of focusing on Nightingale it affected everyone.
Daisy ran right into it, and her visibility was cut to nothing immediately. Even worse, the dust stung at her eyes and made it difficult to see at all.
“Someone talk me through this. I can’t see shit!” Daisy had slowed to a straightforward walk as the dust swirled all around her.
<God, I hope she doesn’t have some type of heat vision.>
That got answered soon enough. A round tore through Force Fields barrier at a different angle. Nightingale had compensated, but her aim still wasn’t perfect. Instead of punching into Daisy’s center of mass, or John, it went into and through her calf.
Daisy dropped John who went rolling away into the dust storm while she cursed up her own storm. <Don’t stop!> She knew a lack of movement meant death, so she started to crawl.
Opposite leg and arm went up and she pulled herself forward, and then the other two. Every other crawl pain lanced through her as her open wound scraped against the ground. She searched out in front of her with her hands until they finally made contact. It wasn’t John. It was someone’s boot.
“Reaper, Ma’am.” A man in a SWAT tactical uniform stepped in-between her and Nightingale’s position with a large riot shield. “This should give us some cover.”
More police officers rushed forward and made a shield wall to protect the two injured Heroes.
“Iron Giant first.” Daisy grimaced as two more officers helped her to her feet. “He’s hit a lot worse than I am.”
“We’re on it, Ma’am.” The first officer to arrive nodded to another team of barely discernable black blobs moving in the dust cloud only a few feet away. “On my command we move!” He yelled to the rest of his team.
On three, the team started to shift. More fire rained down on them from Nightingale’s position, but their riot shields did what Daisy’s power couldn’t. Rounds pinged off the shield but didn’t penetrate. The team moved slowly and cautiously. They were respectful of Nightingale’s skill as a marksman. The fact the villain was hitting anything in this storm was amazing. Force Field threw up barriers more as a way to light the way to safety than protect them. Finally, after a few tense minutes, the team rounded a corner, the dust died down, and they were out of the villain’s line of sight.
“Healer!” The SWAT commander yelled as a pair of costumed Heroes approached Daisy and John. Dr. Sanderson was one of them.
“I’ve got him.” Golden mist stared to pour off the good Doctor as he crouched protectively over John.
Daisy didn’t recognize the other Hero, but his method of healing made her itch like a motherfucker. While she was waiting for the sensation to claw her own leg off to pass, Agent Phillips found her.
“Reaper.” The woman’s tone and voice made it clear she was pissed. “How about we don’t run out into the middle of an open street during an active shooter incident, where your powers are useless, and then we have to put more lives at risk coming out to save you.” She took a step closer. “Plus, do you know how much shit I would catch from my brother if you didn’t get out of this alive.”
“I’m sure a ton.” Daisy just shrugged. “I couldn’t leave Iron Giant.”
The DVA agent didn’t try to lecture her there because she knew it wouldn’t do any good.
“So what now?”
“Now we wait for the hostage negotiator to arrive, we set up a perimeter, cut the power to the building, and try to get the hostages to safety. Anything you can give us there?” Agent Phillips looked in the direction of the building.
“Thirty-two people not including Nightingale.” Daisy relayed what she was seeing with her sixth sight. “Do you think she’ll come quietly?”
“With her record…not a chance in hell. If she gets caught she’s going back to Avalon, and I don’t want to think what the government there has in store for the old regime’s chief torturer.”
“Good point.” Daisy suppressed a shiver.
<Things are about to get interesting.> She looked over at where John was transforming back into Iron Giant. <Or at least more interesting than a few minutes ago. It’s been a while since I’ve been in on a hostage negotiation.>