Timing. Timing was the key. They needed to be fast, efficient, and merciless.
<But don’t kill anyone.> Lilly had promised Seth, but that was going to be a tough one. There were plenty of people who would be trying to kill her. <Does self-defense count?> It was something she would ask him on their next call.
Lilly was still a little giddy about the first call. Just hearing him call her by her real name was a little exhilarating. She was riding on a high going into this mission, and that could be an asset or a liability. It all depended on how she used it.
She did one last check of herself. She had on comfortable athleticwear beneath her traditional Wraith costume, and over that was the gel compression-like armor of Nightingale’s creation. If it had touched her bare skin it would have nullified her ability to teleport and fucked the whole team, which was why not a hair of bare skin was exposed on her entire body. She wore the scarf around her neck, the mask over her face, gloves on her hands, and her pants were tucked into her boots. That let Nightingale’s nullifying armor cover everything from her neck to her toes. She looked like a freaking ninja.
<At least it’s breathable.> Because if it wasn’t she’d have a serious case of swamp ass and crotch rot going by the time they got back.
Weapons were the tricky part for Lilly after she made her promise. She kept all her knives because they could be used to wound as well as kill. The next-gen tasers were going to be her weapons of choice, but that didn’t mean she was going to forgo all other firearms. If they were going to face an armed force – or other Supers – then a pistol wasn’t going to be any more effective at killing someone than those tasers. She had a couple other tricks up her sleeve, but those were for a rainy day.
“Are you finished doing your hair?” Damascus made a sexist comment as Lilly pulled her hair into a ponytail before putting her mask on.
She ignored him. She needed to save her ammo for whatever they were about to do.
“Ready.” Nightingale stepped forward as the unelected team leader, but after what Lilly had seen the older woman doing in her downtime she had no problem handing over that responsibility.
“You have the targets, locations, and blueprints?” Damascus did his best to micromanage.
“Yes.” Nightingale probably just didn’t know how annoying the silver-haired pyrokinetic was, but Lilly did.
“We’re solid, Damas-douche. Get off our dicks.”
“You’re just the transportation, Wraith. Get them in and get them out. Don’t interfere. They’ll get the job done.” Damascus shot back.
“What, you’re not coming?” she brought her hand to her mouth and did her best surprised impression. “I thought all you soldiers led from the front and all the jazz.”
“My presence is required elsewhere.” Damascus fired back, but it was evident she’d struck a nerve.
“Let’s get on with this.” Nightingale almost sounded bored with the whole exchange.
“I’d love to. Where are we going?” Lilly was smug and confident after offending the terrorist.
“Florence ADMAX, the Alcatraz of the Rockies. I believe you know it well.” Damascus smiled as Lilly involuntarily recoiled. “We need some fresh recruits to speed up our plans, and the DVA has done all the work for us by gathering them all together in one place.”
“HA!” Lilly barked a laugh. “Good luck getting anyone to work with you.”
“We’ll see.” There was something in the terrorist’s eyes that made him supremely confident. She just didn’t know what it was. “Get as close as you can to the elevator to the subterranean levels. The team will do the rest.”
“Subterranean levels?” Lilly’s face paled. “If we go down there I can’t teleport out. We’ll be trapped.”
“We have plans in place.” Was the only answer Nightingale gave.
That was the end of the discussion, and everyone looking impatiently at Lilly made her relent. “Fine.” She grabbed Stal and Nightingale’s momentarily ungloved hands, envisioned her location, and the three of them disappeared in a blast of darkness.
They were surrounded by the comforting embrace of the dark as for a few seconds as they traveled across the country. They arrived in the prison with a thud as the wave of black spread outwards. She’d put them right in front of the elevator. Two guards were still reacting with surprise as their senses were rendered useless by the darkness. Aside from them, there was only a prisoner, lawyer, and third guard in the nearby visitor’s section.
Before the darkness even cleared, Lilly had both Tasers out. These nex-gen weapons didn’t have wires attached to metal prods. They fired concentrated bursts of electricity. Two blue-white bolts flew from the tasers into the chests of the guards. On this floor, they were vanilla humans, and they dropped like a sack of bricks, when a hundred-thousand volts went screaming through their bodies.
“Two down, we’ve got a third behind us and around that bend,” she stated as the darkness cleared.
Stal leapt around the corner and there was a loud crunching noise. <Wasn’t me.> Lilly told herself. She was all too familiar with the sound of a person’s spine being snapped.
Nightingale grabbed a key card off one of the unconscious, drooling guards and quickly activated the elevator. “I’m going down to level five. Stal is going to start at level one. We are releasing all the prisoners. You’re happy to join us if you want, or you can stay here and wait for the Heroes. We’ve got a fifteen minute head-start before they discover the Trojan horse we planted in their system. They’re locked out now, but it won’t last long.” With her piece said, Nightingale turned and boarded the elevator.
“I’ll catch the next one.” Lilly really didn’t want to go back down there again.
Stal shouldered past her and leaned against the back wall. She crossed her shoulders and didn’t bother hiding her disapproval as the double doors closed. That left Lilly all alone in the hallway while the two mercenaries wreaked havoc below. She moved out of the open hallway and over toward where Stal had broken the guard in half. She stepped over the body and looked into the visitor’s room.
The lawyer looked like he was getting over the shock of seeing the guard killed and was taking out his cell phone.
“Tsk tsk tsk.” Lilly made the noise and wagged her finger back and forth. The lawyer dropped the newest edition of the iPhone like it was the proverbial hot potato.
The prisoner just sat in the chair. “I’m up for parole soon. I ain’t gonna help you, but I ain’t gonna try and stop you neither.” He shrugged. “I’m just gonna chill.” He folded his hands on the table in front of him and looked straight ahead at the wall.”
“Fine by me.” Lilly’s eyes were on the lawyer.
The lawyer’s own beady little eyes were practically popping out of his skull. “You…you’re…”
“Awesome, beautiful, kick ass?” she offered possible suggestions. “Thanks, that’s so kind of you to say.”
“…Wraith.” He finished anticlimactically as he blushed. “If you get caught today and ever need representation.” He fumbled in his blazer’s chest pocket for a business card.
<Shameless.> She shook her head and contemplated shooting the man. <They call me a criminal.>
There was a ding in the hallway as the elevator arrived followed by a loud cheer. She heard footsteps pounding against the polished floors as the subterranean prisoners rushed the exit. There would be mostly Supers in the group, and they’d help screw with the guards and Heroes when they arrived.
<Ah, fuck it.> She walked back to the elevator and stuck her hand out to stop it from closing. She hit Level 3 and let the doors shut.
The thirty seconds that it took to descend to her former level were nerve-racking, so just in case she holstered one of the tasers and pulled out her Glock 40. It was a good thing too, because when the doors opened she saw a friendly face standing less than twenty feet away.
“Reggie, you big hunk of man, how’ve you been?”
She’d only seen Reggie surprised twice. The first was when the guy betrayed them in the tunnels on the way to her trial. This was the second, but this time she got to see an inkling of fear in his expression.
“Wraith!” He jumped to his feet and charged her. He had the obvious strength advantage, and to someone who didn’t know her. It looked like she was screwed. She couldn’t teleport down here.
She really didn’t need to.
She strode confidently out of the elevator firing the Glock 40 into Reggie’s chest. The low-level strongman was strong, but not that strong. They didn’t penetrate, but they made him stumble and lose focus. She used the momentary confusion to race up and slide into the big man. Hitting him low tangled up his feet and sent him sprawling to the ground. She capitalized on the movement, rolling, and using her taser to put a hundred thousand volts into the man. That seized up his muscles and stopped him from getting up. That gave her enough time to get to him, put her gun to his head, and fire.
<Promise kept.> The bullet didn’t penetrate, but it knocked the guard out cold. He’d need healing, but he’d live until the Heroes arrived.
“Sorry, buddy. We had some good times.” She gave the back of his rapidly bruising head a little kiss before jumping to her feet and heading to the guard station.
She didn’t recognize the other guard frantically trying to call out for backup – probably a new hire to replace the guy Armsman had killed – but he was completely unprepared for her to stroll into the office and shoot him. She used the taser first and he went down fine, so whatever his power it wasn’t physical.
Now came the hard part, she needed to figure out how to open the cells. There were lots of buttons, blinking lights, and do-dads all over. Nothing was labelled, so she had to take a few guesses. She hoped she didn’t kill anyone with her trial and error methodology. There were a few alarms and some people screaming after she tried a few buttons, but eventually she got to the right thing. It required the unconscious new guy’s palm print and key card, but that did the trick. There was a blaring wail and then a hissing sound as the climate controlled individual cells slid open.
At first there was nothing. She couldn’t blame them. She would have been thinking things were too good to be true as well, but one by one people started to poke their heads out. When they didn’t see any guards they took a few cautious steps into the hallway. Finally, they started moving toward the guard station and elevator.
“Come on!” She waved them on. “FREEDOM!” She did her best Braveheart impression.
A savage cheer went up from the freed criminals.
“Go give ‘em hell.” She loaded the first group into the elevator and sent them up top.
She might not be killing anyone, but the look on a few of those prisoners’ faces showed they didn’t share her sentiment. She showed the people who didn’t make the first ride what to do when it came back before heading back toward the cells. She had one last thing to do.
She found her wandering aimlessly around the ring with her hands using the wall as a guide.
The blood manipulator whirled around. Her eyes were completely covered by a security device, but there was still a fierce snarl on her face.
“I’m going to boil your blood you . . .”
“Morina, it’s Wraith.”
“Oh,” the snarl was replaced by a lopsided smile. “Hi, Wraith. Long time no see.”
“Sorry,” Lilly grinned behind her mask. “But I’m back.”
“And you aren’t in a cell or in handcuffs.” There was a dangerous flicker of hope in the other woman’s tone. A small belief that maybe, just maybe, something wonderful was about to happen.
“Nope, I’m busting you out of this shithole. First thing’s first.” Lilly walked up to Morina, and gently started to undo the device used to control her power.
It was designed to be complicated. Morina would have been rendered unconscious if she’d tried to do it herself, and even then, there was a small key required to do the last part. Lilly had taken that from its clearly marked peg in the security office.
“Ahhhhh…AHHHH!” Morina’s sigh of relief turned into a sharp intake of breath as the florescent lighting stabbed into her eyes. She’d been wearing the high-tech blindfold for years, and now it was screwing her.
“I’ve got you.” Lilly took the other woman’s hand as she led them quickly toward the elevators.
The rest of the Level 3 prisoners were already gone, but the fifteen-minute time frame was almost up. She jabbed her finger repeatedly into the up button until the elevator arrived with Nightingale and a few other prisoners in toe.
“Mmmmm…tasty.” A guy standing next to her licked his lips which were split and bleeding from a recent fight.
Morina cracked an eye and Lilly saw a flash of red. The split lip was all she needed. The man’s hand grabbed his heart as he grimaced.
“Wha…” he didn’t get to say anything else before his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed.
Everyone in the elevator took a step back except Nightingale.
“I sent a blood clot to his heart.” Morina pointed at the fallen man. He was still breathing, but it was shallow. “Anyone fucking touches me or my friend and I’ll make you explode like a bloody water balloon.”
“What she said.” Lilly stared down the rest of the men because Morina pinching her eyes closed wasn’t the most intimidating thing in the world.
When the elevator opened on the surface level the men streamed around Lilly, Morina, and Nightingale. There were the clear sounds of battle in the air. Loud explosions rang nearly continuously through the building, and outside it. Lilly took a quick look out the window and saw several people flying around.
“Lockdown…Lockdown…Lockdown!” A voice yelled throughout the building.
“Time’s up.” Nightingale said calmly as they stepped out of the elevator.
The metal doors clanged closed and locked in place.
<Whew, that was close.> But they weren’t out of the woods yet.
“Let’s find Stal and get out of here.” Nightingale stated as she led the way in the opposite direction of the fighting.
Three people waited at the end of that hallway, all in prison uniforms.
“Have you thought it over?” Nightingale stopped a few feet from them.
“We have.” A tall, broad-shouldered man answered for them. “We accept, but we require an upfront payment.”
“That’s fair.” Nightingale nodded. “Our transportation will get us out of here and then we can negotiate.”
Stal ran up behind them. “We need to…!”
Windows all round them exploded as costumed Heroes arrived on the scene.
Daisy had been in a lot of fights in her decades as a Hero, but there was a difference between fights and battles. A fight was one-on-one or a Hero against a few bad guys. Those were fairly common, and she remembered times when it was a daily occurrence. Battles were something else entirely. Battles involved whole teams raiding gang hideouts or a strike force trapping a villain and taking them on along with all his goons.
As Hunter grabbed them all and transported them across the country, she realized just how many battles she’d been in since starting at the HCP.
<The stuff with the Fist and Seif al-Din,> she shook her head. <And I thought being a teacher was going to be boring.>
They appeared on the fringe of was most definitely a battle. One sweep of the battlefield showed dozens of Heroes working together to contain criminals spilling out of the prison. Florence ADMAX was one of the few supermax facilities rated to be able to hold the worst of the worst super criminals, and now it looked like every one of them was going free.
“The Protectorate will reinforce the perimeter.” Dispatch’s voice announced to everyone.
It wasn’t the most glamorous assignment, but they knew it needed to be done, and they were late to the show. The prison was out in the middle of nowhere, but it wasn’t that far to the nearest town and innocent civilians. Nearly every prisoner here was a murderer, and those innocent people didn’t need to be exposed to that.
Hunter started teleporting everyone away to predetermined locations. “Reaper,” he saved her for last, “We’re giving you an overwatch position. On top of containment we want you to try and differentiate and disable criminals if you can.” They popped out of existence and back into it at the edge of a tree line that looked down on the scene.
There was one more Hero present. He was tall, muscular, and looked like a strongman. Daisy would have made the assumption if not for the giant rifle slung across his back. He was busy setting up a sniper’s nest while Hunter explained her orders.
“Gotcha,” she nodded, and Hunter disappeared.
The big guy was settling into a prone position with his rifle nestled into his shoulder.
“They call me Bender,” he introduced himself quickly as he placed a high-calibur round next to him while staring through his scope.
“Reaper,” she replied.
The man’s routine stopped and he pulled away from the rifle to look at her. “That a legacy name?” he asked cautiously.
“Nope,” she shot him a smile.
“Well,” he sounded very self-conscious, “ladies first.”
“Thanks,” she turned her attention to the battle below and activated her power.
The life threads of more than a hundred people sprang to life in front of her. It was easy to find her first target. She dropped out of her Reaper-vision to make sure it was a criminal to take action. One prisoner had some sort of jumping power. He was leaping hundreds of feet at a time away from the fight. It was clear his goal was escape, and she couldn’t let that happen.
She timed her leeching to catch the guy before he jumped so he didn’t fall and break his neck. It partially worked. The guy was tougher than he looked – likely to compensate for the force of his drops – so it took a few seconds longer to weaken his life-thread. She caught him when he was eight feet off the ground. His body seized up and started twitching. He was too far away to see any of his facial features, but his trajectory radically altered. He still plowed hard into the ground. It knocked him unconscious, but from her perspective he was still alive.
<One down.> She pulled out of her Reaper-vision to acquire another target, but her attention got pulled to the guy lying prone twenty yards away.
She couldn’t make out what he was saying, but it wasn’t English. <Latin or Greek?> She’d heard some words spoken in the old languages, but nothing as complex as what she was hearing now.
As he spoke, Bender moved his index finger over the large bullet. A soft light emitted from his fingertip as it passed over the metal. When he pulled his finger away an arcane symbol was etched into the side of the round. It seemed to ripple like water against the cold metal.
With a smooth, practiced motion Bender slid the round into his rifle and took aim. Daisy knew it probably wasn’t a great idea, but she shot electricity through her brain and enhanced her perception. She watched the Hero’s breathing steady as he gently squeezed the trigger. Even with her perception enhanced she didn’t see the bullet fire, but she did look downrange to see who he hit.
She didn’t see anything at first. Everyone in the line of the bullet was still standing. <Did he miss?> was her first thought, but she pushed it aside. The guy was a Hero. He wouldn’t be one if he missed a shot like that.
Finally, she found the prisoner Bender gunned down. He just wasn’t where she thought. The target was writhing on the ground with a big hole in their leg about thirty degrees out of the line of fire.
“I get why they call you Bender.” She was impressed. It had to have something to deal with the rune the Hero carved into his bullets, but she could see the advantages of having a sniper who could hit nearly anything from anywhere.
Working in tandem, Daisy and Bender took down a dozen bad guys in the next few minutes. She learned that not only was Bender able to curve his bullets to hit targets, but he could charm them to do other things. She saw one round hit another criminal in the leg and encase the appendage in ice. Another round exploded into ropes before it hit a woman in the chest.
Bender was a talented and versatile Hero. Both of them were grinning when Hunter popped back into existence.
“We’ve got the exterior under control and we’re going to breech. We’d like you there, Reaper.”
“Lead the way big guy.”
Hunter popped them away from the tree line and into an assembly area.
A dozen Heroes were getting ready to enter the prison. Mr. Morningstar, KaBoom, and Grace were three of them. Information was exchanged and a strategy was established. They’d use Mr. Morningstar’s compulsion to start. There were several Heroes with ranged attacks that could be used if that failed, and finally close combatants to finish it off.
It was a pretty basic plan, but it was all they had time to do. The staff of the prison was still trapped inside, and every minute they waited put them in more danger. The chance of a hostage situation once they entered was a very real possibility.
“We’ll use the windows.” Hunter wasn’t going to teleport them in, just to the exterior of the building. “You know what to do, Amped.”
Grace nodded, as everyone gathered around Hunter. Teleporting a dozen people was going to be a difficult task even for the famed teleporter, but he managed. They popped back into existence right outside the building. The immediately spread out to avoid getting taken out in a single attack, and fifteen seconds after their arrival a wave of telekinetic force hit the building. The Heroes followed Amped’s attack into the prison.
Seth was nursing a beer – alone – on the sofa in his apartment. The news was on low volume in front of him. His textbooks were open but abandoned in front of him. He had conventional and HCP homework to get working on, but the conversation with Liz was still weighing him down.
<Lilly not Liz.> He reminded himself for the thousandth time.
He needed some liquid courage to figure out what he was feeling. He tipped back the beer, drained it dry, and then crushed it with his mind. His metalokinesis was advancing, but so far it only worked when he was pissed or drunk.
Right now, he was inebriated enough that he lifted up the can and started to rotate it in front of him. He was so focused on it he missed the breaking news bulletin that flashed across the screen. Apparently, a local camera crew had risked life and limb to get close enough to a prison riot in progress. The camera caught the Hero strike team appearing outside the building and blasting their way inside.
Seth looked up just in time for the camera to zoom in on the masked, but unmistakable face of his ex-girlfriend as she faced off against the Heroes.
Since you have the day off tomorrow make sure to pick my books: The Harbinger Tales and Two Worlds: Rags & Riches. Enjoy your Labor Day with a good book or two. Once you’re done, please take the time and write a review. It’ll really help me out promoting the book.
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