<Gotta pee…gotta pee…gotta pee,> Daisy tried to think dry thoughts as she rocked back and forth in the back of the van she’d rented.
It didn’t help much.
It was hard to imagine the change that had occurred. The freshman final was only three days ago, and the last of school finals had finished up by the time she’d completed her half of the reviews. The once teeming university was now a ghost town. Daisy had never seen the school like this before. When she’d first arrived at West Private it had been right before the start of the semester. Students had already been setting up shop all over campus; especially the new freshman who were trying to learn their way around. In a way, Daisy was kind of a freshman again.
<Sand covered desert, rocky mountain cliffs, any place without liquid,> Daisy sure felt like a freshman.
It had been a long time since Reaper had done a stakeout. There were usually more junior Heroes whose powers were better suited for the task. Not only were the more capable, but they were eager to impress the veterans.
<We used to haze the kids who did this on their first stakeout,> Daisy looked over at the large, empty hot chocolate and grimaced. She was going to break the cardinal rule of stakeouts; don’t take your eyes of whatever the hell you are watching.
At the moment Daisy envied men. A penis was a great tool to have on a stakeout. All you needed was a plastic bottle and you were good to go. The place would stink for a bit, but that was manageable. <If only we could aim like that.>
The pressure on her bladder screamed at her to do something. <Fuck it. This isn’t a real stakeout anyway.>
That was true. This stakeout wasn’t sanctioned by the DVA or the HCP. It was just Daisy doing some follow up on what happened to Laurie. Her friend had been assaulted in a campus parking garage by suspected gang members. They’d given her a black eye, and to Daisy that was unacceptable. The former Hero owed Laurie a debt. The older looking, slightly plump mother had befriended Daisy the day she walked into that 20th century history class. There was a fire in the other woman that Daisy admired. Since she’d been invited to the other woman’s house over the break, Daisy really wanted to have some good news for her. Call it an early Christmas gift.
Now it looked like she was going to blow it.
It had already been three days of watching and waiting for some punk to try something. Daisy had memorized the patterns of the campus police officers, studied the latest statistics on the gangs bordering the campus, and staked out the parking structure she thought would be the most likely to get hit. That was the easy part, and had only taken her a couple of hours. The waiting was always the hard part; especially when she always had a partner in the past.
Over the last three days her partner had been the radio. If she had to listen to the latest pop song by a former Disney channel actress one more time she was going to get on a nonstop flight straight to LA to strangle that bitch.
The satisfaction of ridding the world of that pain in the ass was short-lived as her bladder brutally reminded her of her need to do something and quick. With a sigh, Daisy opened the back of the van she’d rented for the weekend and hopped out. The short hop almost made her piss herself, but she got it under control quickly. That would have been really embarrassing.
Daisy had two options. The first was to drop trow right next to the van and relieve herself. In a pinch that would have been fine, but she still considered herself a lady; so that was a no. The second, and all around more civilized option, was to leave the van and find the nearest place with a bathroom. There was a gas station across the street that would have what she needed.
Daisy took one last look around the parking structure. She’d memorized the dozen cars parked on her floor and their license plate numbers. If anything changed, she’d know about it; and if she missed anything the cameras she set up would help. Satisfied that everything was good to go Daisy locked the car and jogged for the stairs.
With each stride Daisy felt like someone was twisting her bladder with a wrench. She could already tell that this was the type of pee where nothing would happen for the first thirty seconds once she finally got to the bathroom because she’d been holding it back with all her willpower. These were the pees that literally stung, and not in an STD kind of way.
The gas station attendant was a twenty-something more interested in his phone than customers. That changed a little when he saw a super-hot, six-three blond walk into the store.
“Bathroom key now!” Daisy didn’t have time to endure his poorly worded flirtation.
The guy wanted to say something, but the look in her eye made him reach under the counter and grab the key. Like in some 80s comedy there was a brick attached to it. Daisy didn’t have time to think about it. She ran back out the door and straight for the bathroom.
She was pretty sure the attendant, and anyone else in the immediate vicinity could hear her satisfaction. When she returned the key the guy almost asked for her number, but she just turned around and walked away. It didn’t matter that there was a big sign right next to the guy that said the bathroom was for paying customers only.
Daisy took the trip back to her stakeout van at a walk. There was no sense of urgency now that she’d drained herself dry. She was free to think of all the waterfalls in the world. <That’s ironic since I’ll be visiting one of the more famous ones soon.>
Her upcoming meeting with Mastermind had been eating away at her ever since she’d learned when she was meeting him. There were so many questions she wanted to ask him, so many things she needed clarification on. She also wanted to punch the old guy right in the jejunum, but she doubted he’d make it an easy task. She only remembered meeting him a while back, but she distinctly recalled him looking spry for someone approaching a century.
Her thoughts on the subject skidded to a halt when she heard the crash of breaking glass and the hurried voices coming from the other side of the door. Daisy was in the stairwell with her hand on the doorknob. She was less than twenty feet from her van, and from the sounds of it, that was the vehicle that was the target.
<Son of a bitch!> thankfully she’d gotten the insurance, but now she wasn’t going to get that deposit back.
Daisy reached inside her grunge style jacket and pulled out a plain gray mask. The HCP had a bunch of these for emergencies. They weren’t much, but they completely hid your face. Daisy didn’t want anyone knowing Reaper was in town; especially not when she had some growing suspicions. There were more questions for Mastermind to answer.
Daisy secured the mask to her face and reached out with her extra sense. The life threads of the people breaking into her van came into focus. There were three of them, all normal humans; and there was no one else nearby. That was all the information Daisy needed. She opened the door and calmly walked into the parking structure.
Daisy quickly took in the scene; three guys, all different races, but working together to steal her car. From what Daisy had researched about the Fist these guys fit the bill. The Fist didn’t care about race, orientation, or creed; all they cared about was power. <Apparently they don’t care for brains either.>
No one noticed as Daisy approached, and she wasn’t even trying to be in stealth-mode. All three of the guys were so focused on getting into the van that none of them were keeping an eye out for other people. <Rookie mistake…no…that’s beyond a rookie mistake.> Daisy took comfort in the fact that her own students would never be this stupid.
She closed half the distance at a leisurely walk before they noticed her. “Aw shit!” a white guy in a dirty wife beater’s eyebrows skyrocketed nearly into his hairline. That was saying a lot since you could land a plane on his forehead.
“S…stop right there b…bitch!” he stuttered out his warning as he drew a gun from his waist.
Daisy was surprised the guy didn’t shoot his own dick off right there. She saw that the safety was off, and the way the guy held the gun sideways was just asking for a broken wrist. Daisy didn’t bother to heed his warning. She kept on walking.
<These have got to be the worst gang members ever,> Daisy sighed and shook her head.
“Do it B-Dog, she think you playin’,” another gang member goaded the guy with the gun.
Honestly, Daisy couldn’t care less. She’d engaged her kinetic absorption the moment she heard voices back in the stairwell. All she wanted was information. If the kid fired he sealed all of their fates.
Since the kid wasn’t too bright, that’s exactly what he did.
The gunshot was amplified about a hundred times in the confined concrete space. The soundwaves bounced off the walls growing stronger, and assaulting their senses. Daisy winced, not from the bullet that anti-climatically struck her chest, but from the sharp pain in her ears.
The three wannabe gangsters just stood there with their mouths open as Daisy wordlessly bent over and picked up the crushed bullet. What she’d done next was an intimidation tactic she’d perfected decades ago for just this type of situation.
She placed the crushed bullet on the side of her thumb, making sure her body was turned perpendicular to the young men so they could see exactly what she was doing. She then drew her pointer finger all the way back as far as it could go. To the three boys it looked like she was going to flick the bullet lying on her thumb.
That was exactly what she did. Daisy took the kinetic energy she’d absorbed from the gunshot and redirected all of it back into flicking the bullet. The small piece of metal shot out her hold and directly into a concrete support beam ten feet away. Dust and small chunks of concrete fell to the floor from the impact. Unlike when the kid shot her, there was no noise aside from the snap of the bullet drilling into the concrete. Daisy’s little show-and-tell didn’t have the same chemical explosion as firing a gun, but it was just as affected.
She did all of this while looking straight at the three young men. All three watched the bullet rocket into the concrete, and all three knew they were in deep shit. The boy farthest from Daisy tried to run. A bolt of electricity no stronger than a taser leapt from Daisy’s finger and shocked him to the floor. One boy started to shake uncontrollably, and it had nothing to do with the slight December chill in the air. The last guy, the one who shot her, turned the palest shade of white, gulped, and dropped the gun. It was clear the weapon made him feel powerful, because he literally curled inwardly when she approached.
“Let’s talk,” Daisy disguised her voice as best she could.
The two gangsters didn’t say anything while the third continued to drool onto the floor.
“Why are you here?”
Daisy got nothing. So she let a little bit of blue electricity flow down her arms and flash across her knuckles.
“Fuck, it’s an initiation,” the guy who’d shot her yelped while taking a step back. His back hit the van, but he tried to force himself farther away from Daisy.
“Initiation for who?”
“Don’t tell this demon bitch anything,” the other guy shot at his partner, his eyes were more defiant. “They’re gonna kill you.”
“Shit, man, she gonna kill us if we don’t talk,” the gunman shot back.
Daisy didn’t say she wouldn’t, and let the guys mind take it from there.
“It’s the Fist. They wanted us to boost a van so they could transport some stuff. We pull it off and we’re in. After all the shit they pulled a few days ago they’re recrutin’ like crazy, the guy kept talking, and Daisy registered the information, but her mind was going in a different direction.
“Do you know why they did it?” Daisy asked.
“To make bank, diablo,” the other guy spoke up.
“I need your contact,” Daisy’s red eyes bore into their frightened ones. “Now.”
“We don’t know who he is,” the gunman through up his hands defensively. “He just told us to grab the van and meet him at an address at two.”
“Give me the address.”
“What’s in it for us,” the other wannabe gangster asked, and immediately received a shock. He yelped and fell over, but was otherwise uninjured.
The gunman quickly gave her the address. “Thank you,” Daisy smiled right before she grabbed the two lifelines and knocked them unconscious.
She thought about what to do next as she walked to the back of the truck and grabbed a roll of duct tape. She could go to this address and crack some skulls, or she could pass it on to the proper authorities. The old Reaper would have gone the skull cracking route, but the new Daisy was still on a one year probation until she could get her Hero certification back. This little altercation could be explained as simple self-defense. After all, all she had been doing was walking to her van when she got shot. If she went after the gang recruiter then she’d be breaking that probation.
She ran the pros and cons through her mind as she dragged the three guys over to the concrete pillar one at a time and duct taped them together. She bound their hands, feet, and then all three of them to the pillar. It would hurt like a bitch to get all the tape off, and they’d lose a lot of hair in the process. But if that was what it took to deter them from a future life of crime that was a sacrifice Daisy was willing for them to make.
Once her prisoners were secured Daisy grabbed her phone and dialed a familiar number. “Officer Christopher Phillips,” her boyfriend answered professionally.
“Hey, hun, it’s me,” Daisy mood improved at the sound of his voice. “I’ve got a pick up for you.”
There was a short silence and then a laugh. “Do I even want to know.”
“Hey, I just went to the bathroom and came back to a bunch of kids trying to steal my car,” Daisy tried to sound offended, but failed when she giggled.
“You don’t have a car,” Topher deadpanned.
“I rented a van for the weekend,” she left it at that and he didn’t prod. He knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth; especially when that gift horse looked like Daisy.
“Where are you?” Daisy gave him the parking structures address, and he said he’d needed to have campus police come along.
“Oh,” Daisy stated when she thought they were done. “I’ve got an early Christmas present for you.”
“You didn’t need to get me anything,” he answered automatically, but Daisy ignored him. She gave him the gang recruiter’s address.
“That’s…” he was momentarily speechless. “That’s just the break we needed. Thanks, babe.”
Daisy smiled, and the garage temperature seemed to go up a few degrees. “We still on for my place at six?”
“I’ll bring the Chinese food,” she could hear the delight in his voice.
“See you then,” Daisy hung up.
She took one last look at the unconscious criminals before going back to sit in her van. The driver’s side window was broken, but the rest of the van looked fine. She wrapped her jacket around her hand and wiped the glass off the seat before hopping back inside. With the window gone there was nothing the keep the chill out, but a Florida chill was like a New York summer.
She wouldn’t have to wait long. She could already hear the sirens approaching. She’d have to give a brief statement and John would get a call, but everything was on the up and up.
<On the bright side, you crossed one thing off your list for this Christmas break,> she smiled at the thought.
Laurie would get that early Christmas present after all.
The line went dead and Topher couldn’t help but grin. <I’ve got the best girlfriend in the world.> That was the truth.
Some of the girls he’d dated had been good at a lot of stuff, but nothing like this. This one girl had made cookies to die for, and another had been a sex machine in the bedroom. There were more that fell somewhere in the overall spectrum of bringing something to the table, but Daisy took the cake. She was the only woman he knew who could call with an intelligence tip and make dinner plans all at once.
Topher savored that moment, and then pushed all of it into the back of his mind. There was no time for thinking about Daisy until tonight. It was game time. <Let’s get these pricks.>
Topher was only a regular cop, despite nearly a decade doing police work. Being a low rank was his fault. He’d been up for detective in New York before the attack and everything went to hell. After cleaning up that shit show he couldn’t stay there. He loved the Big Apple, but after everything he’d seen he needed something a little quieter. Orlando offered that with good pay and benefits. They offered him a job right away, but he had to work his way back up from the bottom. Topher just took the detective’s exam last year and crushed it. There was a list of guys ahead of him, but he figured another six months and he’d be the man investigating the crimes. The tip he’d just gotten from Daisy might even speed things up.
Per protocol, Topher brought the information to his sergeant. “This info good?” was all the man asked. There were dark circles under his eyes and a permanent grimace fixed to his face. The last three days had been tough on everyone.
“Yes, Sergeant. This CI is good.” Topher just couldn’t tell everyone that he was getting info from his ex-Hero girlfriend who was an HCP instructor. That would just lead to a lot more paperwork.
“Ok,” the sergeant’s posture straightened a little bit, like a small weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “I’ll put a team together. You’re my number two.”
“Yes, Sergeant,” that was exactly what Topher had hoped for.
The team consisted of a handful of other officers Topher knew. It would have been better to get a tactical team, but with the department still putting out fires all over the city, such a team wasn’t available. They were able to requisition a drone; which would allow them to gather some great intel before going in.
As everything came together and they prepared to roll out, Topher felt a familiar sensation settle in his gut. A sensation that had been missing for a long time.
<Not now,> Topher tried to push the fear down, but it stubbornly bubbled in his gut.
Topher wasn’t a robot who didn’t feel fear, but fear before a mission like this stemmed from something. This type of fear meant that there was something he would miss if something happened to him. <A relationship can be a double-edged sword.>
Topher took a few deep breaths to steady his nerves. He was going to have a grease filled Chinese takeout dinner with Daisy tonight, and that was the end of it. “Ok people, let’s mount up.”
The sergeant led the way down to the motor pool where three undercover cars were waiting. All of the officers were in plain clothes, so they would be able to drive right up to the building without rousing any suspicion.
“Radio check,” the sergeant’s voice announced over the comms in everyone’s ears. “Count off.” Everyone said their number, Topher was two. “Let’s review the plan.”
As was to be expected the address Daisy had given them wasn’t in the greatest part of town. It belonged to a shady warehouse in an old industrial section of the city. It was far away from the business district, schools, and amusement parks. That was good, because the last thing the department wanted was for those huge companies to start making a fuss about their customers being able to hear gunshots. That was one thing Topher found very different from his time in NYC.
The plan was for one car to stop at the rear of the building and one in the front. All of the officers but the driver would get out and proceed into the building. The third car would pull up just after that, and those officers would form a perimeter. The warehouse had two floors according to public building records. The team that went in the back would sweep and secure the first floor; while the team that came through the front would proceed to secure the second floor. Information from the drone would offer more information, and they’d be able to adapt the plan as necessary.
“Drone online and coming into range,” the man in the backseat directly opposite Topher had the task of controlling the drone. Topher peaked over and saw their target come into view.
It was a pretty stereotypical abandoned warehouse. There was a lot of rust, flaking paint, and a sign for the former owner that was missing letters. Unfortunately for the vandals they couldn’t spell anything dirty. What Topher really cared about were the two entrances; two big sliding doors at the front and rear of the building. Whatever they used to build here it was big. Zooming in on them showed that there were no locks to be seen; in fact, they were both slightly ajar.
<Someone’s looking out for us,> Topher wasn’t particularly religious, but he still believed in good omens.
“Switching to thermal,” the screen changed with a push of a button.
Most of the new image was cold, lifeless blue. But there were a few warmed signatures. A few large block looking items were blazing red, while two more humanoid figures had a red and yellow look to them. Both Topher and the officer watched the screen for a few moments before making any announcements.
“We’re got two confirmed targets on the second floor looking out of the rear of the building. Rear team, confirm.”
“Confirmed. We’ll plan a different entry plan.” The leader of that team replied. He sounded upset at not getting to be the ones that took down the gangbangers.
Topher didn’t share the man’s disappointment; not just because he was on the team heading to the second floor, but also because he knew there could definitely be more people inside. Those big red blocks were throwing off a lot of heat and could be hiding other people. It was also important to remember that they were dealing with the Fist, a superpowered gang. They could have someone with cold-based powers that could hide people from the thermal scan they were doing, or they had an illusionist that could defeat the scan altogether. You couldn’t take any chances when dealing with Supers.
Topher didn’t mean that in a bigoted sort of way. Hell, he was dating a Super. Topher meant it in a seasoned, law enforcement professional sort of way. He knew the dangers that Supers on the wrong side of the law posed, and he needed to be prepared for that likelihood. <I wish Daisy was here.> She’d probably love it, and it would be nice to have a little extra firepower on their side.
They could have gotten the Protectorate involved, but the Heroes were overextended even more than the tactical teams. Topher’s information might be solid, but this was something a squad of trained police officers could handle. If shit went sideways on them, one of the perimeter guards would call for Protectorate assistance.
“ETA two minutes,” the Sergeant announced, sending everyone into last minute checks.
Topher checked his sidearm. The police issued pistol was a solid weapon, but wasn’t good to use for targets over fifty feet. Even a good marksman would start to have some trouble after that. After he checked that and slid it into his leg holster he checked the assault rifle. It was an old school MP5, nothing fancy, and pretty low tech compared to some of the tech Super weapons that bigger police forces had. Topher was qualified to use the weapon, and he had it on him for its enhanced range and power. He switched it to single shot as finishing his safety check. He wasn’t going to spray and pray with the weapon, even if they weren’t in a residential district.
“Let’s get this done, guys; clean entry, watch your corners, and don’t go blowing away these bastards. Phillips got us some good intel, but if we can work our way up their chain of command that’ll be a win for the entire city.” Everyone in the car nodded. This could be the beginning of taking down the Fist.
Topher felt the momentum of the car begin to slow, and he got his hand on the doorknob. They needed to move fast and get inside before anyone watching could raise the alarm. The car stopped abruptly and Topher pulled the knob and pushed. He was on the far side of the car away from the building. He snapped the MP5 up and swept the opposite side of the street. There was nothing. He turned while moving and did a pass over the second floor of the building. He was looking for the shine of metal poking out the windows, but again there was nothing. His feet never stopped moving doing this whole time, and in less than five seconds all the cars passengers were stacked against the wall next to the door. Topher was last in line so he covered the street behind them.
Topher was ass cheek to ass cheek with the next officer in line, the sergeant, waiting for the go. The officer who’d been operating the drone was at the front of the three man team, and had switched from the small computer to his own assault rifle. He would be the first man inside.
“Rear team, we’re in position,” the sergeant radioed the second team.
“Rear in position,” came the response.
“Go in three…two…one,” Topher felt them surge forward. The moment their ass cheeks weren’t touching anymore Topher turned and followed the team into the building.
They all had their own sectors of fire to cover as they slipped through the large, rusted, open door of the warehouse. Topher didn’t hear any gunshots as he cleared his sector. There was a humming coming from fifty yards in front of them, and the ambient heat the machinery was letting off explained the fiery red blocks on the thermal scan. Topher didn’t have time to figure out what they were. His team was already moving to the stairs.
They climbed the stairs as quickly and quietly as they could. Still no gunshots, so they took a moment at the top landing the check the drone footage. The footage still showed the targets on the far side of the building. Both were stationary, probably watching T.V. Topher got a pat on his shoulder and they were moving again. They silently went through the door at the top of the stairs and proceeded through the room before the room that held their targets. They tried to be as quiet as possible, but the old warehouse’s floors creaked every so often.
They stopped outside the door to their targets. On the other side of this wall, the top of which was that old fashioned cloudy glass, was a person who would betray a more important member of the Fist if they cut them a deal. That was how these things worked. Get a small fish, flip them, and get a bigger fish. It was a standard tactic to build an investigation and a solid case. That started today.
All three police officers crouched low. The glass half-wall wasn’t see-through, but a dark shape right against it would be obvious. It left them in a weird position to breach the last room, but they’d make it work. The sergeant held up three fingers; dropped one, then another, and then BANG. They burst through the door, swept into the room while spreading out, and then saw nothing but brilliant white light.
“Fuck!” three voiced yelled in unison. It was like someone had thrown a flashbang grenade in their faces, except their ears weren’t ringing. They just couldn’t see.
The police officers were like new born babies in a strange and confusing world as they flailed. Topher wanted nothing more than to pull the trigger, but he didn’t know where anyone was anymore. If he fired he could kill another cop.
All three cops were temporarily blind, but their hearing was fine, and all three heard the cocking of a shotgun shell being loaded. Topher threw himself to the side, but immediately hit something hard and solid. He was at the edge of the room and he briefly remembered a large old-fashioned locker that took up that space. That was his last thought before the BOOM!
A shotgun blast hit Topher full in the chest like a stampeding elephant. It didn’t pick him up off his feet like in the movies, but it did knock him over. He felt himself falling. There was pain, a shit load of pain, and then the momentary sensation of his head making contact with something hard before everything became nothing. All there was, was darkness.