Kickback wasn’t very happy about me skipping training to go shopping. I ended up having to run around the courtyard several times, doing more push ups and sit ups than I ever had and then vacuuming and mopping the common room of the headquarter. I didn’t stay up late, collapsing in my bed early and falling asleep to the sound of TV.
The following morning was fairly ordinary, I woke up early enough to clean my hoodie and take a shower before putting on some of my new clothes, they weren’t anything special, just two pairs of jeans and a few shirts but they were comfortable.
School went a little better than the previous day had been, helped by the presence of my favorite classes; spanish and earth sciences where Kenzie and I teamed up to make rock candy.
When school was over, I diligently went through training, not wanting a repeat of the previous day’s punishment.
When training was over, Chuan approached me.
“Hey, I have something for you.” He said, he opened his book and gave me a paperback novel. “Mali said you would probably like it so I got it for you.”
“Oh well, thanks.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I assumed you wouldn’t have minded me telling people and I assumed wrong and I hurt you. Again, I’m really sorry.”
Having said his piece, he went down the stairs, heading home.
I put down the novel on my dresser in my room before going to the kitchen for my cooking lesson. Once it was over, I sat down on the couch with Kenzie, enjoying homemade chop suey.
About two hours later, an alarm rang through the lounge.
“Is that?” I felt a pang of panic nest in my guts. Alarms never meant anything good. “Please tell me it’s not…”
“No, that’s the internal alarm.” Kenzie said, getting up.
Stan opened the security panel next to the door.
“Security, situation report.”
“Intruders detected in courtyard.” A synthesized voice declared.
The screen displayed the intruder; a thirty foot tall robot surrounded by a hailstorm. I knew it wasn’t really a robot; Despite the awesome factor, building sized robots were impractical due to physics so tinkerer types didn't bother, the square/cube law was a harsh mistress.
Divergents capes were another story; There was one obvious suspect; one of the Ivanova mafiya; I remembered him from my internet research; Bronya the metallo-kinetic. The hailstorm was provided by another member of the group who went by the name of Liven.
“Guardians, suit up.” Volley declared. I took a step but he grabbed my arm. “Not you Paige, you’re staying here safe until the situation is contained.”
"No way!" I said. "I'm coming with you."
“Sorry.” Jessie said, she manifested a minion and it pounced on me, keeping me down while the other young guardians passed through the door. It didn’t take long for the minion to dissipate into nothingness.
“Security; lockdown the young guardian’s quarters.”
“Lockdown engaged.” The computer declared as security shutters slid over the door and windows, trapping me inside.
I paced around for a few minutes, the thought of my friends fighting and risking their skin while I was left to stay in there uselessly was the most maddening thing I had ever experienced.
After a while, I got an idea. It was a dumb idea, the kind I always had when under stress.
I went into the kitchen and took the roll of paper towels with a pair of kitchen pincer, put it on the lit stove. It caught fire quickly and I raised it to the fire containment system, it rang the detector and the sprinkler system in the kitchen activated, pouring slimy, smelly stagnant water all over that soaked my clothes. Thankfully it had the result I'd hoped; The security system detecting the emergency reversed the lockdown and the window opened. I dropped the now drenched in water paper towel and carefully dropped down the window into the snow.
Thankfully I was immune to cold or I would have caught a nasty case hypothermia soon followed by pneumonia…
The situation in the courtyard was chaotic to say the least. The divergent activity response team or DART for short were trying to contain Bronya, shooting it with foam similar to Gunk’s ability from large cannons trying to tie up it’s joints while others used riot shield to protect their comrades from the hailstorm. A handful of guardians and the other young guardians were on the scene, trying to contain them by shooting everything they had at the pair.
I looked around and noticed the lack of damage to the perimeter wall, meaning they hadn't rampaged through. Where Bronya stood there was a circle on the ground that was free of snow. Despite having the advantage of mass and strength, Bronya seemed to be fooling around, he wasn’t really hurting anyone as much as he could. Something was up, something that I knew involved skedaddle, the scene bore her power's print all over.
My experience in the liquor store’s basement came to mind, the invisible guy. Bronya and Liven were just a distraction. The stalker, that was the power designation for the sneaky types, was here, I had to find out what he wanted.
Rather than join the melee, I went down into the garage using the access door on the side of the building.
The garage was seemingly empty, parked cars and nothing else, I moved through looking for clues. In the corner that lead to the DART wing, I found a pair of DDA agents on the ground in between a pillar and a car, I went toward them and checked their pulse. They were alive, just knocked out. I noticed they had patches on their neck, similar to the nicotine ones my mom had used when she had stopped smoking years ago. I ripped them off and taped them to the nearby car hopefully it wasn’t dangerous.
One of them had had the time to pull out his weapon which he was still half holding onto, the other hadn’t.
I took the weapon and checked the magazine and chamber. It was loaded with non-lethal gel rounds. It was still full, he hadn’t fired a shot. I kept the weapon, it wasn’t that great but it was a tad bit more intimidating than an unarmed seventy-something pound girl soaked to the bone...
The DDA headquarter was like an iceberg; impressive on top but most of it was hidden beneath the surface. Still, it wasn’t hard to find which what I wanted to go; there was a trail of unconscious bodies littered through the halls.
The path branched in a perpendicular intersection, one side was marked cells while the other was command & control. In the corridor leading to C&C I could see two guards unconscious on the ground and went that way.
I luckily was barefoot, which meant I made very little noise and I moved closer, staying low to avoid detection. I came to the open door and peeked inside; There were two people still standing in the control room. A man in his thirties with a balaclava that he’d rolled back up and Skedaddle, wearing her trademark costume.
Somehow she and the Russians had struck a deal.
“I’ve found the location of Burner, she’s been transferred to the Lockwood juvenile detention center.” The man said, his accent pretty noticeable.
“I don’t fucking care about that cunt!” Skedaddle screamed. “Where the fuck is Royal?”
“It just says that he’s been transferred to Facility E-12.”
“What’s that?” She asked, more calmly this time. She spoke with a rather noticeable nasal accent, but I couldn't tell what kind.
“I don’t know, the linked information is encrypted.”
“De-encrypt it then!”
“This isn’t hollywood, with the best tinkerer tech supercomputer in the world, it could take months to brute force our way through without the key.”
“I don’t care just fucking do something or the deal is off!”
I checked my gun one last time and I went into the room, weapons raised.
“Freeze!” I screamed.
The hacker guy stopped, skedaddle turned my way and even through her mask I felt as if she was giving me a ‘seriously?’ kind of look.
She disappeared and I felt her baton hit me in the legs with a broad sweeping motion from behind. I might have had my armor, but it couldn’t cancel the laws of physics; the blow took my feet from under me and I fell on my ass. Skedaddle kicked my arm and I let go of the gun.
Her companion took out his pistol and emptied the clip into my belly yelling something in Russian, my armor protected me from suffering a fatal wound, but it stung pretty hard I was in for more bruising and my last ones had only just healed too...
Skedaddle teleported and punched him before twisting the gun out of his hand.
“You goddamn russian psychopath. Do your fucking job or you’re the one who gets the next bullet.”
I reached out for the gun but it teleported away and into Skedaddle’s hands, she removed the clip and dropped the it and gun on the ground away from each other. She probably didn’t have much weapons handling experience because she’d neglected to take the round of the chamber, leaving one cartridge ready to fire.
“Just stay down Shell, this doesn’t fucking concern you.”
“I’ve got everything I could get.”
“Let’s get out then.”
He picked his gun from the floor and she teleported the two of them just out of the control room.
I got back to my feet and found the two parts of my own weapon.
As I got outside, I saw the large double door of the prisoner wing blow open, Koshei had broken out. He was giant, empowered by his ability and mostly naked, the tattered remains of his prisoner jumpsuit partially clinging to him but not hiding much.
Seeing his boss, hacker guy gave a flash drive to Skedaddle.
Noticing I had followed them , hacker guy yelled something at Koshei in Russian while pointing at me. Whatever it was, Koshei would have none of it and grabbed the hacker by the throat like he didn’t weigh a thing and told him something in a menacing tone before tossing him to the ground and starting to walk again. Hacker guy glared at me before following his boss.
It took me a moment to process what had happened, as they started walking away I emptied the pistol at Koshei, the gel rounds hitting him harmlessly. After unloading the ten rounds the magazine contained, I hadn’t done a thing. So I threw the gun at him.
That got his attention.
“Do not try my patience again little girl!” He snarled, it wasn’t exactly comprehensible but I got the gist of it.
I wasn’t good enough to handle Skedaddle alone, least of all her and one, possibly two other capes, depending on where stalker-guy was.
I really was useless...
They left the building and Skedaddle teleported them along with Bronya and Liven away, marking this as a crushing, humiliating defeat for the guardians.
After a few minutes, the DART guys swept the building and found me, thankfully one of them recognized me and they brought me back to the lounge to face the disapproving glare of the others.
“What part of ‘Stay here?’ was unclear?” Stan asked.
“I just wanted to help…”
“Well, you didn’t, all you did was make the situation worse.”
The kitchen was an absolute mess, covered in filthy disgusting water, some of which had leaked to the common room, making the wooden floor there swell.
“The damage are getting docked out of your pay.” Kickback said, coming up behind me.
“I don’t get paid.”
“That won’t always be the case. You’re also going to clean the entire kitchen by yourself and anyone caught helping you will not be happy. I’m also confining you to your quarters for the next three days, you go to school, then train, then alone into your room, your meals will be delivered to you. Maybe then you’ll have time to think about your irresponsible behavior.” She pointed at the kitchen and snapped her finger. “Get to it.”
The others technically helped me, getting me mops, towels and everything I needed to clean but they didn’t dare disobey kickback.
“Need help?” Chuan asked once the others had cleared up.
“What are you doing here?”
“Stan told me what happened, I wanted to make sure everything was alright. So, about that help.”
“Kickback says she’ll punish anyone who helps.”
“She can do her worst then.” He said, grabbing a clean rag and helping me clean.
“Don’t mention it, I still owe you for being a dick.”
We spent a few hours cleaning up until everything was spotless and sterilized, when it was over, Kenzie and I crashed down, falling asleep without effort.