Friday nights meant the HCP was nearly vacant. Despite all the work ethic, dedication, and drive to be a Hero people still needed a break. Daisy liked Friday nights. It gave her some peace and quiet.
<Janet Ibsen.> Daisy grabbed the next file in her to-do pile.
Janet Ibsen was a light manipulator, and the twenty-seventh ranked freshman. She could summon what Daisy described as a light-rope. During the first semester Janet had concentrated on shrinking, growing, and learning to bash people with her object. Despite its appearance, the light-rope could dish out some punishment.
But first semester was behind Janet now. She was in Daisy’s alternative class, which meant they were exploring new ways to work the young Super’s power. Currently, Daisy had her experimenting with different techniques. A critical flaw in Janet’s form was she basically used the rope as a chain to bash her enemies with. That wouldn’t fly, especially when she was just as vulnerable as your average human. Her light-rope was strong, a lot stronger than it looked, so Daisy had her training to use the rope like a lasso. Keeping the rope swirling around Janet would give her a partial defense, subtler control of her manifestation, and the skill to use her power to contain rather than smash.
<But there’s more there,> Daisy thought as she scribbled some notes in Janet’s file.
Later in the semester Daisy wanted Janet to experiment with manipulating the properties of her light-rope. There was always the possibility of her making her rope do more than just shine, deflect attacks, and bash people’s skulls. Daisy saw it as a good sign that the rope was already more resilient and sturdy than a flexible beam of light had any right to be. It gave her hope that Janet might be able to manipulate other aspects of the rope.
<Maybe try and have her make the end adhesive.> Daisy let her mind wander. <If she can get it to stick then that would increase her mobility. She’d have to really condition herself, but she might be able to climb up the sides of buildings, swing between them, or be able to latch onto anything. That would be a lot to work with.>
Daisy couldn’t help but revel in the rush of excitement. She’d been in the Hero business a long time, and she always loved brainstorming and thinking about the possible uses of a Super’s abilities. Of course, things had changed. She used to apply this particular set of skills to evaluate criminal Supers and build contingencies of what she was going to do if one attacked her.
A Super trained with Janet’s ability could be a handful. They would have solid offensive and defensive skills, plus extra movement options. It would be a pain in the ass, and make Daisy look like an idiot, if she was chasing after a villain who was swinging through a city like Tarzan.
It was a solid power, but still no match for Reaper.
A memory surfaced at the forefront of Daisy’s mind. She was with Mastermind and a few other people. They were in some type of bazar in a hot, sandy place. Judging by the fashion on some of the people this had to be the seventies. The ForceOps team was in disguise, and walking down the street spaced apart so they could watch each other’s backs. Daisy wore a head to toe garment. The only thing you could see where her eyes, and judging by the irritation she remembered she was wearing contacts.
They were approaching a café where someone was laughing, yelling obscenities in a foreign language, and demanding more drink. Daisy moved into the café and past the target. The man was broad in the shoulders and thick in the waist, making him rather large all around. He had an uncomfortable looking woman on his arm, and was surounded by half a dozen armed men.
None of them watched Daisy as she passed. She wasn’t a threat in their minds. None of them even gave her a second look until she used her power on them. Every armed man in the room collapsed and convulsed as they puked up everything they’d eaten. Daisy held them like that while the rest of her team pulled out silenced pistols and began methodically executing them.
Their target was a weapons smuggler who was making life very difficult for a fledgling U.S.-backed government. The hit couldn’t look like a Super assassination, that would draw too many suspicious eyes. It was much more plausible that a competitor found the gun-peddler and took him out; poisoning and then killing everyone.
Daisy didn’t remember feeling any regret as someone put two in the man’s chest and one in his head. The only regret stemmed from the other people in the café. This had to look like a turf war, and that meant everyone had to go.
The woman who’d been uncomfortably attached to the weapons dealer’s arm was the person she really remembered, and it wasn’t because the woman looked scared. Whoever she was, the woman looked relieved as Daisy’s team backed out to the entrance where a member of the team pulled out an AK47, and sprayed the place down with bullets.
And then they all left, like nothing ever happened.
<Damn.> Daisy reached for the dream journal she kept with her at all times.
Ever since Kevin helped her with her brain problem everyday activities had been bringing back once forgotten memories. It was small things that would trigger them, but thankfully they weren’t all encompassing visions like they’d been before. They were normal memories and Daisy experienced them like a normal person. Although, it wasn’t normal to remember a café assassination when one of her students looked like an innocent woman who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Daisy would have felt bad, but this memory was over forty years old. The woman had been dead a long time. There was nothing Daisy could do but write down the memory, try and explain her emotions, and then share them with Dr. Johnson when she saw him next.
<Ok, I think that’s enough for tonight.> Daisy closed Janet’s folder. She’d lost any motivation to continue thinking about various uses of powers.
She looked down at her watch and saw it was seven-fifty. She needed to hurry up if she was going to surprise Topher on his first night back to work.
Only a month after taking a shotgun blast to the chest, and three weeks after getting out of the hospital, Officer Christopher Phillips was back on the job keeping the streets of Orlando safe.
That might be what Topher had in mind, but Daisy wasn’t going to allow him back into harm’s way just yet. Between the impressions she’d made during her time with Topher at the hospital, and her Hero connections in the community, Daisy had convinced Topher’s boss that he wasn’t quite ready to go on patrol yet. Topher was on light duty for another week to slowly work back into the swing of things, so Daisy had peace of mind for another week before her very vulnerable boyfriend went back to man the thin blue line.
<And I’m going to take full advantage of it.> She’d told herself, which was why she was leaving the HCP hours before she usually did on a Friday. <My man needs some healthy food, and I’m going to get it for him.>
By healthy food she meant bacon cheeseburgers, and by get she meant pick up in a drive through. It wasn’t a romantic candlelit dinner, but she knew he would appreciate it.
She passed by the gym on her way out. There were a few seniors in there sparing. Her eyes met with Hannah Dixon’s, and the senior gave her a brief nod before resuming her telekinetic attack. She’d been nominated to participate in intermural by her class. And although Daisy was pretty sure the senior subtlety student didn’t want to, she wasn’t going to let her class down.
<You can try and hide what you can do, but your first day as an intern you’re going to have to show your team what you’re capable of. Anything less than full knowledge to your mentor will only piss them off.> Another memory from Daisy’s past began to surface, but she repressed it. She didn’t have time. She needed to get to Topher.
The ride over was uneventful. She pulled through the drive through and grabbed the burgers, fries, and milkshakes. It wasn’t the diet one would expect from a Hero but Daisy didn’t really give a shit. She was hungry, and she knew Topher would love it. She turned the radio up and blared the latest country hit, singing alone off-key in a way that would make everyone within earshot shudder.
Daisy drove to the police station without a care in the world. She was just a girl going to see a boy, bringing him ice cream, and hoping to sneak a kiss when no one was looking.
That was her hope, and those hopes were dashed when she arrived.
Police stations were by nature busy places. Criminals were being dragged in or being shipped out. Cops were coming and going, and civilians were too. There was always a flurry of activity, and Friday nights were usually bad; but Daisy had never seen anything like this.
It looked like every car in the precinct had its lights on and was peeling out of the motorpool. Daisy turned down the radio and heard more sirens farther away. Something had happened. The nice bubble of excitement she’d been feeling about bringing Topher dinner had just shattered.
<Something’s wrong.> No sooner had she thought it than her phone began to vibrate.
“Topher!” Daisy read the caller ID.
For a second, one brief but terrifying second, Daisy thought something had happened to him again. The thought had nearly crushed her.
“Hey.” Topher sounded breathless like he’d been running. “I just wanted to let you know I’m not going to be able to eat with you tonight.”
“What?” The bags of food in the passenger seat were completely forgotten by whatever the hell was going on.
“I know you were going to surprise me with food, and I love you for that, but something happened. We had to leave in a hurry.” Topher sounded upset, Daisy could hear it in his voice.
“I thought you were on desk duty for the week.” Daisy knew her attempt to rationalize it sounded weak.
“I was, but they needed all hands on deck for this one.” Topher’s voice took on a grim tone of determination.
<What the hell happened?>
“Call your boss.” Daisy got the hint. “And I love you.”
“I love you too.” It was like Daisy’s heart was do backflips while nearly exploding with fear at the same time.
She couldn’t have something happen to Topher, not again. Not so soon after she’d almost lost him. Not so soon after they’d finally confessed their love for each other.
<Maybe if I screw his brains out he’ll stop playing hero cop and stay home with me.> They didn’t need the money. Daisy was loaded. But even as she thought it she knew Topher wouldn’t go for it. He was a cop just as much as she was a Hero.
<Maybe I’ll dunk him in a vat of toxic sludge. If he gets superpowers I might not be so afraid for his well-being.> It was wishful thinking on her part.
“I’ll call you as soon as I can, ok.”
“Sure. Stay safe.” The line went dead, and Daisy immediately dialed the HCP secure line.
“Put me through to the Dean, now!” Daisy felt bad for the DVA operator who’d just gotten the voice recognition off her irate tone. No one wanted to be called by a renowned Hero who sounded like she was going to murder someone.
There were several clicks and a moment later John’s voice came over the line.
“Daisy, I was waiting for…”
“John, what the fuck happened?” She cut him off.
“Ah, you’ve heard,” John’s voice did something Daisy had rarely heard from the man. It cracked with emotion.
“I think you’d better come in. We need to get you caught up.”
The alley was dark and quiet, wrapped in the cloak of a warm Orlando night. A blast of darkness disrupted that calm, and then Lilly appeared.
<Flawless victory,> she thought with a surge of pride.
No one had followed her or Mika as they covered their tracks across the world, and that could only mean one thing. If Hunter was alive, then he would have followed. He’d be compelled to. It was his nature as much as it was his Hero’s persona. Just like it was Lilly’s nature to remove people who threatened her from the equation.
<It couldn’t have gone any better.> She started to whistle in the dark depths of that alley. A cheerful whistle that was out of place, but oddly made it more eerie in the confined space.
<Time to face the music.> Lilly took a deep breath and started walking toward the townhouse, toward Seth. Although, there was a lightness in her step that made it an almost-skip.
It was a short walk back to her home away from home. Probably too short. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say to the man she loved. Her excitement from her victory quickly dissolved into anxiety.
<Hi honey, I’m home. Sorry I’ve been a raging bitch for the past few weeks. Planning to kill a famous Hero is just really hard work and requires a lot of dedication, but that’s done now. So take me upstairs and fuck my brains out.>
She smiled nervously. Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth had a certain appeal to it, but Lilly wasn’t stupid. If she did that now she’d definitely lose him forever.
<I’ve got to bring him in slowly, over time, convert him. Wait…what?> Lilly stopped a few houses from her destination and shook her head. <Get it together,> she chided. <That went from makeup sex to reveal your deepest, darkest secrets to a hero-in-training way too quickly. Let’s not do anything stupid.>
Lilly cleared her mind and walked the last few houses, but she couldn’t lie to herself. <It would be nice if he knew and accepted me for who I am.>
As she reached the door to the townhouse she effortlessly shed the skin of Lilly Thermopolis and became Liz Aretino. It was a good thing that the two people weren’t that different.
“Oh…hiya, Liz.” Becca was sitting on the couch watching TV by herself when Liz pushed through the door. “I thought you were gone for the night.”
“I thought I would have been, but I finished up everything I had to do.”
Becca just nodded.
“Hey, do you have a minute for some girl talk?” Liz was just as surprised as Becca by her own question.
“Um…sure. What’s goin’ on?” If Becca didn’t look uncomfortable before, then she definitely did now.
“I know we don’t know each other very well. But you’ve been here and I haven’t lately. So I want you to be straight with me. How has Seth been? And does he blame me?”
“Oh geez,” Becca’s face softened a little at the question. “Well, he’s been as cranky as an old goat ever since you stopping comin’ around so much. But I honestly try not to pry too much.”
Becca tried to hide it, but Liz caught something pass across the petite, blue-haired woman’s face.
“Wait! Did you and he…”
“No…NO!” Becca threw up her hands defensively. “At least not for me. He might have been crushin’ on me, but that was before I figured stuff out.”
“You prefer a donut to a hot dog.” Liz couldn’t help the sigh of relief from escaping. This was awkward enough between her and Seth, they didn’t need to add an ex to the mix; especially one as cute as Becca.
<I wonder what happened to the one dollar ho I sent packing.> Liz briefly remembered the encounter after the coffee shop attack, and quickly determined she didn’t give two shits.
“So he’s just been a grumpy old man lately. Does he talk about me, blame me for anything?” Liz grimaced when Becca hesitated.
“I haven’t heard anything from the horse’s mouth, but Kyoshi has mentioned that his thoughts have been a little…negative lately.” Becca looked uncomfortable. “Kyoshi doesn’t do that a lot, but sometimes it’s hard to block it all out if someone is projecting like that, at least that’s what they tell me.” Becca quickly defended her friend’s actions.
It said a lot about how far Liz had come in this operation that these HCP students were freely talking about aspects of their powers in front of her. If she waited this out, then she might gain more insight into the HCP than any other person not associated with the schools or DVA. That information would be priceless among her like-minded, morally ambiguous, criminal associates.
<Dad and the client won’t wait that long.> It was a missed opportunity, but an opportunity she was willing to forego to stay on the good side of their client. He was not a man to be jerked around.
“I get it.” Liz turned her attention back to the conversation. “I’ve got nothing against Kyoshi. That actually helps me. I’ve fucked things up, and now I’ve got to fix them.”
“I wouldn’t say that you fudged them up, but…” Becca started to respond, but Liz was already on her feet and moving.
“Thanks for the talk, Becca. We should grab lunch sometimes and get to know each other better.”
“Yeah, ok.” Liz left Becca looking confused and unsure if she’d done the right thing.
Liz gathered her resolve as she climbed the stairs. She needed to sell this, make it look good; or everything she’d done to kill off the overrated Hero was going to come back and bite her in the ass. But the more she climbed the more conflicted she felt, and the more her emotions warred.
<You did kind of toss him aside for two weeks.> She could imagine a white, ankle-length, robe and halo wearing angel appear on her shoulder.
<What?> A devil, in a skimpy black, latex outfit appeared on the opposite shoulder. <You’re a powerful, dedicated woman who’s got her own shit going on. Why should you be waiting around for some man to say you can go somewhere or do something?>
<It’s not that you can or can’t do something. It’s the way you handled it.> Miss Goody-two-shoes shot back.
<It’s a dog eat dog world, honey. You know that better than most. Don’t let anyone else set the rules. You make your own rules, and fuck everyone else.>
The imaginary manifestations went back and forth as Liz finished climbing the stairs. It only left her more conflicted when she arrived.
Seth’s door was closed. Normally she’d barge right in. It didn’t matter if he was getting changed or choking the sheriff and waiting for the posse to come, and in the latter case she’d probably just finish him off. But this time she knocked and waited. She’d lost her barging privileges when she partially abandoned him without any reason.
<But did I really abandon him?>
Seth opened the door, and all she got was a cocked eyebrow. “Yeah.”
Liz couldn’t help herself. The way he looked and sounded pissed her off.
She slapped him.
“Yeah! That’s all you’re going to give me?” She advanced into the room as Seth staggered back in surprise.
“What the shit was that for?”
“That was for your stupid face.” The comeback sounded like it came from an eight-year-old, but she rolled with it.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, Liz?” Shock wore off and Seth got defensive.
“You’re what’s wrong with me.” She shot back. She could feel the conversation spiraling out of control, and her mouth loosing whatever filter she’d thought she could bring to this fight.
Seth just stared at her dumbstruck.
“You’re just standing there looking perfect, with your abs and your smile.” It didn’t help that Seth was shirtless.
“I’m gone for a few weeks, a few weeks, Seth, and all of a sudden you’re this mopey little bitch who needs to call the whambulence.”
Liz knew she’d taken it too far. Seth had been surprised but not upset when she barged in, but now his face turned red with anger.
“What the fuck is your problem? You think this is my fault?” He roared so hard the picture frames on the wall shook as he unconsciously manipulated the air in the room. “You just up and left me, Liz. Without an explanation or a goodbye BJ. One day you were here and the next you were gone.”
“I wasn’t gone. I just had shit to do!” She matched his volume.
“Yeah sure. Did that shit you were doing have you on your back with your legs behind your head?”
<Wrong move, asshole.>
Seth knew he’d done something bad by the snarl on Liz’s face. Apparently, the last slap she’d given him when he suggested she was cheating wasn’t enough.
So this time she threw a haymaker into the side of his head.
Liz was strong, well-trained, and angry. That meant that all the HCP training in the world wasn’t going to save Seth from getting knocked on his ass.
Seth crashed to the floor, an outstretched arm knocked several things off his desk as he tried to break his fall.
She didn’t give him time to recover, she jumped on top of him, and prepared to pound his face into the ground.
“Don’t you get it you stupid fucktard!” She dug her fingernails into the skin. “I love you, I wouldn’t cheat on you. I haven’t met a man who can make me feel like you can.”
Liz didn’t realize until now that she was crying.
She let her concentration slip and Seth rolled them both over, so now he was on top of her.
“Then why the fuck are you acting like this?”
Instead of leaning forward and putting all his weight on her, like someone would in a real fight; Seth sat up and checked the wounds on his chest.
“I don’t know.” A sob escaped her. “I’ve never loved someone before. And no one has ever loved me.”
Seth paused in his assessment and looked at her.
Liz didn’t want him to see her like this. Her mascara was running, she had blood on her fingernails from attacking him, her fist was starting the throb from hitting his thick skull, and she was tired; just so tired.
She thought she looked pathetic, but apparently Seth didn’t.
He leaned forward slowly, making sure he didn’t startle her. Liz let him, until his lips pressed softly against hers.
It was like someone set off a firework in her heart. She’d literally just punched this man in the head, and he still loved her.
<Wow, we’re dysfunctional.> But that was just the way she liked it. <Normal is overrated.>
When Seth tried to pull away Liz didn’t let him. She wrapped her arms gently around his neck and pulled him back in for another tender kiss.
It was an intimate moment, and in that moment, she needed to share something with him. It didn’t have to be big, it couldn’t be big, but she needed to share something from the real her, not the pseudo her.
“Seth,” she pulled back, and looked into his beautiful emerald eyes. “I’m not a nice person. I’ve done bad things in my life and I’m not sorry about them.”
It was vague, and only held a spec of the truth; but it should have thrown up warning signs to a normal person.
But not Seth.
Instead of looking concerned, confused, or even turned off; Seth smiled down at her.
“In case you haven’t noticed. I like it when you’re a little naughty.” His smile turned mischievous. “And in case you missed it, I’m no angel myself.”
Seth had no idea the disparaging gap between his personal, sexual proclivities and the many crimes Liz had committed, but she could still feel a kindred spirit in him. They might be several degrees of separation apart, but this could work.
“God I love you.” She raked her nails across his back summoning a groan of painful pleasure from deep inside him.
“Now shut up and fuck me.”
And he did…oh he did.
Unfortunetly, Becca burst in mid-reverse cowgirl.
“Seth, Liz, oh golly!” She shielded her eyes, but not before getting a full view of her grinding on top of him.
“Jesus Christ, Becca.” Seth pulled out and they scrambled for clothes. “Can’t you see we’re…busy.”
“Yeah, glad y’all have made up, but we got an emergency.”
Seth nodded for her to continue while he threw on some shorts. Not that it helped the boner.
“What’s going on?” Liz was a little more casual about getting dressed. After all, she was totally up for a threesome with Seth’s hot roommate.
“It’s Angela. She’s in the hospital.”
That put an end to any ménage á trois fantasies Liz was having.
“Then what are we waiting for?” Liz slipped her bra on and grabbed a shirt. “Let’s go.”