<This is such a turn on.> Liz sat in the hospital room with Seth, Mason, Kyoshi, Becca, Anika, and across from Agent Debora Phillips. <She’s definitely DVA.> Liz made sure to shield all of her thoughts from Kyoshi and any other telepaths in the area.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” the agent smiled thinly.
Liz was laughing inside, but she betrayed none of her emotions. <You’re sitting three feet from the person who killed your precious Hero. Hahaha!> Liz could barely control the euphoria. It was a drug that she would never stop chasing.
She gripped Seth’s hand tight. She’d need to use him as a crutch if she was going to get through this, and then she needed to finish what she’d started when they were rudely interrupted by Becca.
“Can you please tell me how you learned of Angela condition and whereabouts?” The agent had out a notepad and black pen.
“We were at home. We live in a campus townhouse, and we got a call from De…Mr. Ditmar, one of our teachers. He said Angela had been in an accident and was at this hospital.” Becca rattled off the explanation.
The agent looked like she got all of it. She scribbled on the paper in shorthand, but her eyes never left the group. They scanned back and forth, looking for any tells they were lying or holding back.
These were the kinds of people Liz was supposed to avoid while on assignment. Sitting three feet from one of them was hazardous to her health.
“There is no need for subtlety, Ms. Whitfield,” the agent referenced the slip about the dean. “Ms. Aretino, do you know that the individuals sitting here with you are HCP students?”
All eyes turned toward Liz, and she gulped nervously.
“Well, I knew Seth was, and I had my suspicions about the rest of them.” Liz turned to the rest of the group and gave a meek smile. “But I never pried. It’s not my business.”
“Do you intend to divulge their identity to the school or anyone else of your own free will?”
If the group hadn’t been staring at her hard before they sure as hell were now.
“No, ma’am. Us Supers have to stick together.”
Liz probably could have avoided telling the Agent Phillips that she was a Super, but it was best to get it out in the open. If she didn’t tell her now, then the agent would go digging, find out, and wonder why Liz hadn’t fessed up when they first met. That was enough to dig deeper into Liz Aretino, and that wasn’t something Liz wanted.
That was the trick with professionals who looked for lies for a living. You had to give them kernels of the truth; enough that their appetite was satiated, but not too much that they dug deeper and found out the truth. It was a balancing act, and a dangerous one for Liz under the circumstances. After all, she had just killed her boyfriend’s roommate’s father.
“You’re a Super, Ms. Aretino.” More notes were scribbled.
“Pretty weak teleporter,” Liz reached for the agent’s pen. “If I may?”
The agent gave her a hard look before handing over the writing utensil.
<Here we go.> Liz took a deep breath and concentrated.
The key to a good lie was the physical reactions. Any silver-tongued used car salesman could spout out convincing words, but it that the physical reactions that sold it. Thankfully, Liz didn’t have to act like a weak teleporter. If she’d been forced to, the agent would have busted her on the spot.
Liz concentrated hard on the pen. She took deep breaths; in through her nose and out through her mouth. She filled her lungs with oxygen to the point that she was getting a little dizzy. Then she held her breath and strained her mind.
She could feel the darkness fighting to break free as she engaged her power. Sweat glistened her forehead, her eyes bulged, and her hands trembled as she forced back the darkness and let her power leak through.
The tiny pen disappeared from her right hand and reappeared in her left.
Liz exhaled and sagged into her seat. She felt like she’d just done a hundred burpees and then swam a mile. “It’s nothing fancy.” Liz handed the pen back while wiping her forearm against her forehead. “But it lets me appreciate what my friends are trying to do with their lives. Not all of us are as lucky and selfless as they are.” She had to add the selfless part to make the statement believable, not only to the agent, but to her too.
“A demonstration was not required, Ms. Aretino.” The agent looked at her pen carefully and then pocketed it. She pulled out another pen to take notes.
<Jokes on you.> Liz thought as the pen went into the older woman’s pocket. Liz had been very careful not to actually touch the pen with her fingertips. She’d gripped it in the palm of her hand the whole time.
Liz doubted that the DVA had fingerprints on Lilly Thermopolis. She’d been very careful and always worn gloves when conducting illegal activity. On top of that, there was no record of Lilly Thermopolis ever being born. Her father had made sure of that.
What the agent’s little move told Liz was much more important than anything the agent would learn about her. It said, very loudly, that the agent didn’t trust the Supers in this room. That thought gave Liz a headache.
<I need a drink.> Liz let her defenses weaken and a garbled version of the thought slip out.
It was important, especially around Kyoshi, that Liz slip up in her mental defense every once in a while. To have impenetrable mental walls was a red flag, even to an amateur like Kyoshi.
The large, curvy Super sat up a little straighter when she heard the random thought, and had to stifle a laugh. That earned a round of questioning from the agent, and shifted the attention away from Liz.
It was tough to judge time in an interior room like the one they were all sitting in, but Liz had to guess about an hour passed before the agent had asked all of her questions. Most of them were simple questions. How well do you know Angela? Do you know her family? Does Angela have any enemies? Why would someone do this to her? Basically the questions that got asked during any cop drama show.
Liz and the rest of the group answered those questions truthfully. They knew Angela to varying degrees. They’d only met her family once during Parent’s Weekend. They weren’t sure about enemies, and they had no idea why someone would do this. Liz just shrugged at the last question. She thought it was better to remain silent.
They were just about free when Becca had to open her pretty little mouth.
“Is this the same people from the Sprout attack?”
Liz had to refrain from smacking herself in the head with the palm of her hand.
Agent Phillips, who had been about to pack up her stuff and let them go, practically froze. “What do you know about the attack at Sprout?”
“Well most of us were there,” Becca replied innocently. “Anika, me, Seth, and Liz.”
“Mr. Abney, Ms. Aretino, you were both present at the Sprout attack?” She asked. Liz did not like the look on her face.
“Yeah, it was actually our first date.” Liz placed her hand on Seth’s shoulder and leaned against him. “We were having coffee and waiting for our food when guys in black were suddenly everywhere. One tried to hit me with his gun, but Seth stopped him.” Liz turned her face to give Seth a genuine smile. “Whoever said chivalry was dead wasn’t in that coffee shop. Then this woman flashed the main bad guy, a metal man busted through a wall, there was a fire, and the next thing I remember I’m on the street giving my statement to the cops. It all happen so fast.” Liz didn’t realize she was giving a rapid fire playback of the night.
<Becca would be so proud.> Liz stopped and took a deep breath.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “But it makes me a little nervous if these were the same people. They tried to take us hostage.”
“It’s alright,” the agent scribbled a few more notes. “I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but I’m sure your dean will keep you apprised of the situation.” The agent gave them all one last look over. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
They all got up and left the room.
“We’re going to see if we can find Angela,” Becca stated, dragging Anika toward the nurse’s station at the end of the hall.
“We’ll come with you.” Kyoshi dragged Mason in the same direction.
“Um, I think we’re going to head back to the townhouse.” Seth replied, causing the two couples to stop. “No offense to you girls, but you can be a handful. I’m sure Angela’s just been through hell and you two are going to be as much as she can handle. I’ll come by tomorrow and see her.”
It was a good excuse, but it was only half of the reason Seth was passing on the visit. The other half was that Liz had a handful of his ass and was squeezing tightly. She was turned on, he knew she was turned on, and they needed to get home and do the no pants dance.
“Ok, fine.” Becca pouted. “But make sure to bring flowers and balloons. Everyone like flowers and balloons when they’re sick.”
“Of course,” Seth agreed.
They parted ways there. Seth broke about every traffic law there was getting back to the townhouse, and the Liz broke about every moral law when she fucked his brains out.
“That was crazy?” Seth was breathing heavily and lying on fluid stained sheets.
“The thing I did with my mouth?” Liz arched an eyebrow. “I know I’m good, but that wasn’t the first time.”
“No, not that, but kudos.” He interrupted his train of thought to give her a kiss. “No I’m talking about Angela and the DVA. It’s just crazy, and we still don’t know what really happened.”
Everyone was playing things close to the vest; the media, the HCP, the DVA, and the Hero community. News of Hunter’s death hadn’t broken yet, so Liz had to keep her mouth shut.
Now that the agent was gone, she was allowed to be a little more vulnerable. “It just makes me nervous that it could be the same people from Sprout.” Liz laid on her side and nuzzled against Seth’s sweaty chest. Despite their fervent physical activity, he didn’t stink.
“Don’t worry. I protected you then and I’ll protect you again. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m stronger now than I was then. If anyone tries to hurt you they won’t stand a chance.”
Liz didn’t need a man to protect her, but it made her feel warm and fuzzy that one was willing to do it anyway.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” Liz nuzzled more, and the smile on her face was pure joy.
Then her phone rang. She ignored it. It rang again, and she continued to ignore it.
“Liz?” Seth tilted her chin with his hand so she was looking at him. “Do you want to get that?”
“No,” she grumbled as the phone started to ring for the fifth time. “But I guess I should.”
“You get that and I’ll chug a Gatorade. Then you can do that thing with your mouth again.” Seth had to dodge a good-natured slap as he retreat toward the mini-fridge.
“No, this time we get to see what you can do with your mouth.” Liz shot back while watching her boyfriend’s magnificently sculpted, naked ass.
“Challenge accepted.” The grinned at each other.
Liz reached her phone just before it ended the fifth ring cycle. “Yes.” She couldn’t keep the growl out of her voice.
“Hey it’s me.” Mika’s voice was hesitant, and Liz thought for a second he might have been watching all of her and Seth’s depraved activities through whatever surveillance methods he used.
“This isn’t a good time.” Liz didn’t use names on purpose. Not with Seth only fifteen feet away.
“Ok, but I thought you’d want to know they’re going to be breaking the news about you know who at the top of the hour.”
Liz looked at the clock. It was late, coming up on eleven o’clock; but that was a prime news slot.
“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Ok, goodni…” Mika didn’t get to finish saying goodbye before Liz cut him off.
“Sorry, babe.” Liz jumped out of bed, pulled on her panties, and searched for her bra. “I’ve got to run out for a quick errand.”
Her remark took the wind out of Seth’s sail, anatomically speaking. “But…” He argued feebly.
“Don’t worry, you can eat me out a little later, I’ll just be gone an hour, two tops.”
“But…” Seth looked like a sad puppy dog. “What about…” He pointed down at his rebounding junk.
Liz gave it a playful slap as she walked by. “We’ll have fun later.” She pulled on shorts, a t-shirt, and then stopped to give him a long, deep kiss. “I’ll be back soon.”
She left Seth with a hard on, standing naked in his room, with a half bottle of Gatorade, looking like he’d just had someone else blow out his candles on his birthday cake. She couldn’t help but chuckle and as she ran out of the house, down the street, and into the alley. In a blast of darkness, she disappeared and reappeared in her lavished underground mansion bedroom.
“Dad!” She yelled, hoping he was home.
“Lilly?” His confused, but alert response came back.
“Turn on the TV, dad. You’re going to want to see this!”
Altair Thermopolis could have heard about the demise of his arch-nemesis over the television, but Liz didn’t want that. She wanted to break the news about the Hero’s death standing next to her father.
<I did it. I killed him. It was me dad!> She was already practicing her speech as she ran into their vast living room, and powered up the seventy inch 4K HDTV.
This was going to be a night neither of them would ever forget.
“This is a shit show.” Daisy didn’t bother to keep her thoughts to herself. “Someone just came into our house, left an upperdecker, and you’re telling me we don’t have much to go on.”
Daisy sat in the confines of the HCP conference room surrounded by the other teachers. They’d all been woken up and alerted right after the explosions, but they were just now getting together to prep for what was to come.
“Yes.” The single word coming out of John’s mouth was tinged with abject failure. “All we have is a name.”
“Well that’s a solid starting point.” Daisy’s fist hit the table hard enough to rattle the sturdy piece of furniture. “Then start kicking down doors and gathering information. Grace you’re still part-time, you must have some contacts you can leverage.”
“Daisy, no.” Again the HCP Dean’s words were tinged with sadness. “This investigation is going to be handled by the DVA and the certified Heroes in this area.”
Daisy bit back her response because she knew John was right. As much as she wanted to kick ass, that would just push her farther away from recertifying.
“So what the hell are we doing here then?” Daisy’s words were still harsh.
“We’re here to remember.” John pulled out a large, old bottle of amber liquid. “I’m sorry Daisy, but this is tradition.”
Shot glasses were divvied out to the entire HCP staff. Even Dr. Johnson accepted a glass full of the sharply scented liquor. Daisy accepted the first glass, and raised it with the rest of the staff.
“To Hunter, Henry Martin, may your deeds never be forgotten.” John raised the glass high and then turned it on its side, letting the liquid flow out and onto the floor.
“Never forgotten.” The rest of the staff chanted, and poured out their own glasses.
The bottle was passed around and the glasses were refilled. Daisy passed this time. What came next was an ancient tradition, that would leave most of the people in the room needing to see Dr. Sanderson in the next few hours.
<At least one of us should be sober in case something happens.>
Daisy’s sobriety was hard, but it was really put to the test during occasions when you just wanted to get fucked up.
Craig raised his glass this time. “To his loved ones, may they find peace.”
“May they find peace.” This time, instead of pouring out the drink, the Heroes and former Heroes drank.
Daisy had to cough as a lump formed in her throat. It was clear by Craig’s comment that they were thinking about Angela. As her student, Daisy felt a sense of responsibility toward the young shifter. Sure, Angela was rough around the edges, too focused to the point of burning out, and lacking in certain social skills; but she was still Daisy and Craig’s student. The emotions stung even more because Angela had been on the scene when it happened, lived through one of the two explosions, and was still in DVA custody. Not even John had been able to ascertain her status.
The glasses were refilled, and Miles Willis cleared his throat. “To the Heroes that will avenge him, may their aim be true.”
The toast was a little theatrical for Daisy’s taste, but that was Miles.
When the bottle came around to refill, Daisy grabbed it as it passed. John gave her a hard look, but she gave him a quick shake of her head. <No falling off the wagon.> She raised her glass, and the rest of the staff followed.
“To the fuckers that killed him, may they rot in hell.”
“May they rot in hell.” There were several cruel smiles around the table as staff downed another shot.
<Have another one on me, Hunter.> Daisy tipped her glass over and let the liquid pour out. <A warrior deserves more than one drink at their funeral.>
The ceremony for a fallen comrade continued until every staff member had said something. By then, a good chunk of the staff was hovering on the edge of alcohol poisoning, so Dr. Sanderson fixed them all up. Even with the healing, they’d be feeling it the next morning.
“We will miss, Hunter, but now we must consider what his death means.” John said.
The tiny dean had been unable to stand a few minutes ago, and that was a memory Daisy would cherish forever.
“As you all know, the main culprit in Hunter’s murder is Wraith.” An image appeared above the center of the conference table, the same blurry image taken from the battle in the Nevada desert. “We still don’t know much about her, but Hunter’s investigation does put her in the area.”
“From what I’ve reviewed of Hunter’s investigation, Wraith has teamed up with the Super gang, the Fist, and is working toward goals unknown.” Miles, the subtlety Hero, took over the conversation. “Hunter had his theories, foremost being an unsubstantiated link between Wraith and Hellgate.”
“The Sprout incident,” Daisy nodded. “Have we looked over the crime scene notes?”
“The DVA and Protectorate are on it now. I’ve put in a request, but I’m at the bottom of the list.” Miles looked a little peeved by that.
“I’ll talk to Galavant and see if he can’t keep us apprised of any additional information,” Daisy offered.
“Will Galavant come through for us?” Miles sounded skeptical, but the look on Daisy’s face shut him up.
“Ronnie and I have a deep bond, forged in the heat of combat,” Daisy’s smiled was downright frightening. “Once you make a person shit their pants they never forget it.”
“Very well,” Miles grinned. “If Galavant can keep us up to date on what the Protectorate and DVA discover that will keep us in the loop. Hunter was doing some research on our servers, so I’ll read through those logs and figure out what he was looking into. We’ve also got some of his notes, so I’ll look into those too.”
“Do I need to remind everyone that we are in a supporting role with this investigation until told otherwise.” John gave them all a hard look. “We’re all on the same side, so don’t interfere to the point it disrupts the common goal of finding Hunter’s murderer.”
Heads nodded around the table.
“Boss,” Craig asked tentatively. “Is the DVA going to bring her in?”
Everyone knew who Craig was talking about, but no one had been willing to bring up the topic yet.
“Someone just killed her husband, Craig. She’s already here.”
Daisy felt bad for the criminals of Orlando, especially the Fist. The death of Hunter was literally going to bring angelic wrath down upon the city’s underworld. Daisy knew the female Hero’s reputation. The shifter was going to leave a trail of arrests and bodies in her wake. It was not going to be pretty, and she was not going to stop until Wraith was locked up, or dead in a gutter somewhere.
The room had broken down into a few side conversations, so Daisy caught John’s attention. “Any idea where Seraphim is now?” Daisy asked.
“She’s being briefed at Protectorate HQ, and then will probably do a quick recon of the bombing site, before doing a patrol.” John replied.
Daisy nodded her head. Seraphim wanted people to know she was here, she wanted criminals pissing their pants and thinking she would kick down their door or fly through their ceiling at any moment. It was a basic but very effective intimidation tactic. The problem was that Daisy thought the woman was forgetting one very important thing.
“Is anyone scheduled to pick up Angela when she’s released?”
“Not at the moment.” The look in John’s eye told Daisy he’d been thinking along the same lines.
“I can do it. It’s not a problem. I need to swing by and see Topher anyway.” Daisy stated.
“Sure,” John gave a tired sigh. “She’s been sedated for now. The DVA’s interview with her did not go well.”
“Yes. She saw her father die and could do nothing to stop it.” A hint of sadness crept into John’s voice.
“Maybe Dr. Johnson should come with me. God knows he’s had enough practice with this kind of thing.” Daisy’s self-deprecating joke brought a tiny smile to John’s lips.
“Have I told you how much progress you’ve made.” That tiny smile turned big and genuine. “I’m very proud of you, Daisy.”
“Aww shucks, Pa,” Daisy’s goofy face and accent coaxed a laugh out of the Dean.
“You better get going.” John’s face looked like its normal self again. “They’re going to make the announcement soon, and we want to make sure Angela has no exposure to it or the media. We still have the SI clause to consider.”
“I’m on it boss.” Daisy gave a firm nod and headed toward the door. “Johnson, you’re with me.” The psychologist didn’t argue, but he looked confused as he followed Daisy out the door.
“We’re going to make sure Angela is ok,” she explained. “I’m sorry, but I think your workload just dramatically increased this semester.”
“Don’t worry about my workload.” Dr. Johnson’s expression was surprisingly determined. “I’ll do what needs to be done.”
<As will we all, Doc.> The two Supers were on the same wavelength, but Daisy doubted the good doctor’s involved as much blood as what she had in mind.
“We have a special report out of Orlando, Florida.” The national news anchor with fake tits and an even faker face announced.
“Dad it’s on!” Lilly couldn’t stop her eagerness from showing.
The anticipation of this moment had everything down to her bones vibrating in excitement. <Finally, you’ll see what I’m capable of Dad. I’m a real Supervillain now. One of the best there will ever be. I’ve killed a Hero at eighteen, that has to be some kind of fucking record!>
“Did you take something?” Hellgate sank down onto the couch in front of the massive television. “You’re awfully…”
“Nope,” Lilly cut him off. “This is all natural, Dad. I’m just fucking pumped. You’ll see why…look!” She gestured frantically at the TV.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” A local anchor was reporting live from the scene of the bombing. Lilly recognized the buildings. “It is with a heavy heart that I must report a tragedy for Orlando, Florida, and the entire United States of America.”
<Damn, she’s good.> Lilly saw tears glistening in the field reporter’s eyes.
“Earlier this evening the sounds of bombs disrupted the night of this great American city. Two detonations, both behind me,” the camera panned to the ravaged motels, “claimed the lives of twenty-two innocent civilians and the life of the man trying to save them. I regret to inform you that the beloved Hero Hunter was confirmed dead after sustaining injuries from the explosions.”
Lilly didn’t bother to listen to the rest of broadcast. She turned her attention to her father.
The older man’s mouth was hanging open slightly, and the drink in his hand was forgotten.
“So…” she couldn’t wait any longer. “What do you think?”
“What…?” Hellgate shook his head and turned toward Lilly. “What do you mean what do I think?”
“Hunter’s dead, Dad. I killed him for you.” She smiled her best smile. A smile that could launch a thousand ships.
“You…you killed Hunter.” He repeated her statement very carefully, as if he didn’t believe her.
“Yeah, Dad. I intercepted an unsecure call from the Protectorate HQ to one of his safe houses. I staked it out for weeks, spent over a hundred grand figuring out a way to infiltrate then sent in a bomb. I rigged several follow-up positions in case he followed, just like you taught me.”
Hellgate still looked shocked.
“It was hard work, and I won’t say there wasn’t a little bit of luck involved, but I killed him Dad. I killed a Hero! I’m only eighteen, if this doesn’t propel me to the top of the charts I don’t know what…”
Lilly never saw the slap coming.
It hit her hard in the face, knocked her off the couch and onto the floor. Her training took over before the shock wore off. She rolled out of the fall and came up in a fighting stance.
“You stupid bitch,” Hellgate’s word were soaked in venom. “You ignorant little shit. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
There was rage in her father’s voice, but even that couldn’t hide the sadness in his eyes.
“I…I killed your nemesis, Dad. I did what you failed to do.” She couldn’t stop the defiance the creeped into her last sentence.
“No,” Hellgate shook his head. “You killed yourself.”
“What? I’m pretty sure I’m still here.” She patted herself dramatically.
“Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but you’re already dead.” He kept shaking his head. “I didn’t want this for you. After your mother…I didn’t want you to end up like her.”
“I’m not going to end up like her.” Lilly’s defiance mixed with anger. “I’m going to be a legend. I’m going to be as big as you, as big as Armsman!”
“Do you know why we never see your godfather? Why we live underground away from everyone and everything?” He took a threatening step forward but stopped himself.
“Because we’re bad guys, duh. We do bad things. People want to arrest us and throw us in jail.” Lilly couldn’t stop from rolling her eyes.
She wasn’t five, she knew the dangers of her chosen profession.
“We have standing kill orders on us. Any Hero, anywhere, who spots us is automatically authorized to use lethal force. There’s even a reward for us, dead or alive.” His words burrowed into her.
There was a spark of fear at having a kill order on her head for the rest of her life, but it was quickly replaced by determination.
“They can try,” she growled.
“Spoken like an ignorant child,” Hellgate scoffed at her resistance. “Tell me that when she finds you.”
He pointed back to the TV. Circling above the ruined motels, scanning the area calmly, was a large winged woman with a spiked tail.
“Seraphim will rip out your heart, Lilly.” Hellgate’s voice was much softer now. “Then you’ll be nothing more than a footnote in history, another notch on her belt.”
In a blast of fire, that made Lilly scramble back to avoid getting singed, Hellgate disappeared.
She was left alone to figure out what she was going to do next.