Chapter 8

    The police were on scene in three minutes, and an ambulance was less than ten minutes behind them. The paramedics insisted on transporting Skylar to the ER for x-rays as they sanitized the small bleeding crease in her skin the bullet caused. It was probably just a deep bruise and it would probably heal within the day. But she decided to let them have her shoulder examined in case it was cracked and she needed some kind of corrective procedure to heal. Truth was she was surprised her durability had advanced far enough to stop it. She always been tough but stopping a high velocity rifle round was pretty impressive.

 

    The tricky part was communicating to Darius that she needed him to go with her. She didn't want to shout out. HEY, SOMEONE SHOT AT YOU!! She didn't know if a drifter like him wanted the attention of the law or not. So she made eyes at the younger paramedic she was the one who's thoughts were most enamored with her.

 

    “I don't suppose you could let my cousin ride with us could you?” She smiled prettily at the woman causing her to flush. “He's family and it would be a big comfort to me..” She trailed the me off and kept the smile set to stun. If she set it to kill the woman might need medical transport too.

 

    Her male partner outwardly rolled his eyes, but in his mind indulged in a fantasy where Skylar suddenly needed mouth to mouth and Katie was all over it. Men, predictable little puppies, but adorable. Streetwise Darius didn't contradict her story, but watched with a bemused half smile. But he thought at her, You are so wrong.. does everyone eat out of the palm of your head like that?

 

    Skylar winked at him when no one was watching her. It was just after that a campus cop that looked as if a Krispy Kream traffic jam piled up in his gut waddled over. Officer Krummpman had shaggy flyaway blond hair and brown eyes. He was sort of puppy-dog cute in spite of or maybe because of the extra sixty or so pounds he was carrying. Sort of like a caricature could be cute. Though if someone was going to commit a crime on campus, she had to say she liked their chances of getting away with it. She'd bet on them anyhow.

 

    “Skylar  O'shaughnessy,” He said sounding very official. “Do you know who, or know of any reason why someone would take a shot at you? Are you a student in the HCP? I remind that regulations require you to answer honestly if you are.” Skylar thought but didn't say it wasn't they were shooting at.

 

    “No... I'm not in the HCP. But I'm on the waiting list.” She said annoyed at being outed. “No one knows I'm a super on campus. I don't think anyone would want to shoot me. No one knows me that well here, and those that did know me that well would know they'd need more than rifle to put me down.” She bluffed. She wanted to cause confusion. After all Darius was just a grounds worker why would someone try to snipe him? Or the other guy. It went against the grain to lie to or mislead a cop, but the less attention she drew to Darius the better. See nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing, were the rules of her old neighborhood. While her dad was cop, that offered a lot of protection there were still times when bringing official attention to matters was unwise.

 

    “Are you a standard class strongman type?” He asked dutifully making notes.

 

    Again Skylar was annoyed, this time because what she was normally willing to talk about openly with a close friend, felt like a strange violation of privacy with a stranger. “No, I'm a adaptation type. Mental training, in my case telepathic training. Increases my physical prowess basically across the board.” She sighed..

 

    “Officer,” Katie the cute youngish EMT said “If you want to question her anymore I suggest you come down to the ER or get her contact info. We're ready to transport her now.” Her tone brooking absolute authority over the well being of her patient.

 

    After the police officer Krummpmann took down her contact information and student ID information. Darius climbed into the back with her and Katie the hopeful EMT, and they drove off for the L.U. Hospital.

 

….

 

    Angela watched the tall broad shouldered man climb into the back of the ambulance with the stacked redhead and followed as it pulled away. If that was her brother she was going to be disappointed. Could he be anymore cliched than stacked redheads? Well I guess it could be worse if she was blond ugh.

 

    She was going to find out if that was in fact Darius with her. He fit the description. Someone also shot in his direction. Dad's plans would require having both his embarrassments erased after all. The assassin either already knew, or would soon find out he missed. So the clock was running on when he'd try again. Angela wished she knew what to do next. The last six months of her life had been built on staying one step ahead of her father, it seemed though he'd caught up. She had to grab Darius and they had to get gone and fast, or die.

 

    With that thought she rolled the power on and shot forward leaning low into the turns.

 

 

    Thomas thought his mind was going to rip apart. He'd never ridden the shadow of a vehicle before, let alone a lightning fast motorcycle. He zipped past thousands of shadows, and was hammered with information from tons of them. He could limit things to a point, but while he was merged with a shadow he couldn't shut it all out. And he couldn't leave her shadow because of physics. The law of inertia still applied. He'd continue traveling at the speed he left her and in the same general direction until acted upon by an outside force, which was currently two miles per hour under ludicrous speed, and he didn't want to think about what said outside force would do him at that speed. Honestly he didn't know how she could drive so fast and maintain control. Slowly he started to gain control and focus by listening only to the throaty roar of the sports bike's engine. The overwhelming pressure was still on him, but he was riding it now instead of being crushed by it. He really felt the shadows warping around him though, felt his relation to them. If he lived, he'd have to think on what it meant to be part of the shadows.

 

….

 

    James Carswell was pissed, he shot a super. Once more he shot a super that looked like a redheaded barbie doll. But was built like a tank. That rifle round would of ripped through normal persons shoulder and still passed clean though his intended target. That man had the devil's own luck it seemed. Now his job had just gotten infinitely harder, and more dangerous. But he took the job and he was nothing if not professional.

 

 

    Skylar sat in wheel chair while she waited for a doctor to read her xray results and give her the news. Darius and she hadn't spoken yet, as there was no way they could be sure no one was listening. She heard that Darius assumed it had been his fault. He was angry with himself for putting her in danger and she wanted to slap the goon. He took far too much responsibility, it wasn't like he pulled the trigger. Darius wasn't stupid, he didn't have much formal education but he did possess a street education. That should of taught him all you can do is the best you can do and everything else action, reaction, counter action.

 

    “Look, my shoulder isn't even that sore. It barely broke the skin, and I heal pretty quick. I was coming to tell you that someone followed us from..” Skylar stopped as someone parted the curtain that was hung around her ER bed.

 

    Skylar did a double take. The girl was tall and stunning. Not as tall as Skylar herself maybe. But still tall for a woman at five foot ten or eleven. She had that graceful willow look with just enough curves to never be mistaken as a boy. When the woman's no girl's thoughts hit her. “Is he Darius? Is he my brother? Geeze if he is, I need to talk to him about his taste in women 'barbie's first boob-job' type is so last century... Skylar rolled her eyes... catty little sister enter stage right.

 

    “This is going to be interesting,” She looked at Darius.. “Hot-Stuff don't lose your shit okay.” Skylar sensed the thoughts of Thomas, faintly or hazily. He was close but not, if she hadn't talked to him before she'd never of picked up on it.

 

….

 

    Darius looked at Skylar confused. Then turned his head to look at the girl that came in. “What is this all about?”

 

    The new girl started to speak but Skylar cut her off with a raised finger. Better for all the players to be present for once. “Thomas, get your narrow, spying ass out here, quit skulking it's just creepy.”

 

    Both Darius and the new girl looked at her like she was nuts. “Remember that talk we had about you needing to sleep sometime? I know where you live... I could call your mother.. 1.. 2..” She pulled out her cell she didn't know his mothers phone number but he didn't know that. Darius thought he needed to call a nurse, the girl thought silicone did in fact rot brain cells, until a skinny sandy blond haired kid with a badly sunburned nose appeared next to the girl.

 

    “Damnit Skylar why'd you out me? And calling my mom is just low... uekp” Thomas' whine was cut short as Darius jerked the suddenly present kid towards him by the throat.

 

    “Who. The. Hell. Are. You....” Darius growled low. The bones in his face rippling suddenly.

 

    “Darius didn't I just tell you not to lose your shit?” She exhaled.. “I know I did, I was sitting right here when I said it two seconds ago.” She sighed, “Knock it off before I get out of this bed and beat the snot out of both of you..”

 

    Darius didn't want her getting out of bed. He didn't want to get the snot beat out of him either, not that he thought Skylar would. Could? Yes.. Would? No. “Fine..” he turned the boy Thomas loose sense she obviously seemed to know him.

 

    “Thanks,” Thomas squeeked the cleared his throat.. “Like I was trying to say, I saw her watching the crime scene...”

 

    Skylar nodded. “You did another solid, but these two need to talk and we need to tell Darius what you told me at the Diner...”

 

    “Someone needs to start telling me something...” Darius was feeling out of control and edgy. Something about this whole situation had him ready to hurt someone. Which was silly Skylar was fine the girl and the boy weren't threatening at all but he could almost hear the hell hounds baying for him.

 

    Skylar nodded at Thomas to go. “I saw you step in for Skylar when she was being attacked. I followed you to learn HCP secrets figuring anyone who fought like you had to be in the program. You weren't I know but I hung around and watched until you both left the bar. Someone followed you both to her apartment and watched. Then someone took a shot at Skylar or you, and I saw her watching the crime scene,” He motioned at the black haired girl.. “She was a little too interested so I tagged along with her, She drove like a bat out of hell to get here with the ambulance then she stooged around for a few minutes before coming here.”

 

    Skylar was impressed Darius must of scared his shorts stinky to get that kind of high speed rundown out of him.

 

    “How did you appear here? You turn invisible or something?”

 

    “Or something...” Thomas narrowed his eyes at Darius.

 

    “Oh hell, He has the power to slip into and travel through shadow, and apparently tag a long in one. I'm a Telepath adaptation type. Your sister there is a solar powered blaster type. And you are transformation powered that leeches other supers powers... There, all the score cards are caught up.” Skylar snapped out before she thoguht about what she was saying.

 

    “Sister?” Darius looked poleaxed..

 

    “Thanks Skylar..... way to be a douche.” Thomas grumpped...

 

    The girl who's name Skylar knew to be Angela narrowed her eyes at Skylar.

 

    “People are shooting at Darius, Thomas is skulking around dangerous places looking for dangerous information. Angela is well, she'll explain why she's here in private... But she's probably not daddy's favorite little girl to say the least. And I got shot, not a big deal in and of itself, but it could have been. No lies, no holding back, no bullshit. That rifle round took this situation to the next evolution.” Skylar nearly snarled out. White lies and omissions were going to get someone killed. Her dad told her once, You've got to be able to trust the person your standing shoulder to shoulder with when the fit hits the shan honey... if you don't or can't, walk away. It isn't worth your life.

 

    Darius nodded, “Agreed, Skylar I'm sorry..”

 

    “Look it wasn't your fault, none of it. Okay?” She exhaled. The man already had himself convicted of the crime of being born. “Anyone you know pissed enough at you to shoot at you besides your father? Your a drifter any scores left unsettled?”

 

    Darius shook his head, “I fix motorcycles, Do fabrication work, and general construction jobs. I sing in bars and keep to myself Skylar. I'm worried my father might catch me someday, but I'm no drug cartel hitman or secret agent. Snipers aren't really one of those things on my radar.”

 

    “It's probably dad..” Angela spoke up..

 

    “Who the hell are you?” Darius asks. In a most impolite tone.

 

    Angela really didn't want to introduce herself in front Amazon Barbie and the AV nerd, but it was what it was. And the woman had a point. “I'm Dawn Evangelina Walker I was born, according to mother's final letter, seven months after you were ran off. She was pregnant with me when she forced you out. She told me to tell you she never meant anything she said that day and it was the hardest thing she'd ever done. She didn't feel she had a choice, given who our father is and that she was pregnant.”

 

    “So the bitch is dead? Huh... Funny how it was hard for her, yet I was the one that ate from garbage cans some nights..”

 

    Angela hissed in a breath, she'd loved her mother dearly but her brother had a right to his anger. “Look, I know you can't forgive her but you better get your head screwed on right. Daddy is planning on running for U.S. Senator on an anti-super anti-powered ticket. Registration, documentation, and even chemical neutralization laws the whole shooting match. You know how much money and power his so called church gives him. There are ultra conservatives out there and just plain bigots of every flavor that would love to see supers and powereds get theirs but if the others find out he's got one super and one powered kid running around he can kiss his chances goodbye. You might not remember him, but he will do whatever it takes to get what he thinks is his due.”

 

    “I remember, I remember being run off at seven years old. I remember a lot of things.”

 

    Angela wanted to tear up but she didn't she wouldn't none of it was her fault she'd been a collection of cells in her mothers womb.. “Well, if I'd known about you before six months ago I'd of come sooner. We stand a better chance of, surviving if we work together after all..”

 

    “No. Don't thinks so cupcake... I'm going to go collect my things from my motel room and get the hell out of dodge. You can do as you like...” Darius snapped. “But I'm a memory..”

 

    Skylar was shocked at his venom. But she understood it, his mother had loved Angela enough to protect her. To Darius's mind she'd led an easy life, and she had as far as comfort went. Darius wasn't ready to see that no one had it easy, that hiding her very nature from one of the people that was supposed to love her most every day killed her a little inside. Having to listen him spout his vitriol about who she was, about who she had no choice about being, and how she was inherently evil because of it stole a little bit of her soul everyday. Angela had her share of problems growing up too. But Darius was right, she'd at least had a loving mother, someone she could rely on.

 

    Skylar spoke before Angela could knowing the girl would say all the wrong things. “Darius, pumpkin. You are sooo pretty... But going back to your motel would be the dumbest move since new coke.... The hitman followed us. I've little doubt the guy Thomas spotted following us was just doing reconnaissance on you. Learning your schedule and habits.  He knows where you're staying, what you drive, and even your work assignments. He also knows by now he didn't kill you, and he wants to get paid. So tell me.. you think you should show up anywhere near your motel right now?”

 

    Darius growled, “So whats the plan Mata Hari? Take on a professional killer? Pretty sure intro wet-works isn't on your class schedule either princess.”

 

    Skylar growled right back, “First I'm way hotter than Mata Hari was. Seriously did you not see me in the shorts and sports bra? Whats your plan then? Run away and keep running until your cornered and alone one dark and stormy night?”

 

    Thomas spoke up. “We could call the cops. You know, and live?” Thomas didn't know these people but he was pretty sure they were all a little cracked, and he was fairly sure he was just as screwed in the brain pan as any of them because he wasn't back in Texas yet. But Heroes didn't run away when good people needed help.

 

    “Ain't no we Junior..” Darius said never taking his eyes off of Skylar. “Angela, if she is my sister and I know the bastard we're dealing with. You two don't.”

 

    The thing Darius had lived his whole life afraid of had caught up with him, and none of them freaking got it. What was worse was a woman had been shot because of his problems. She can say it wasn't a big deal but she was hurting. He didn't like women hurting, well he didn't like anyone hurting, but most especially a woman it wasn't right. Not because of him. He was well aware that his view was misogynistic, he was equally well aware that Skylar could break him like a tooth pick. And none of that mattered she was soft, and funny and beautiful and he was supposed to protect her damnit to hell, and he couldn't. Not from something like this. Best thing he could do was get out of her life as fast as he'd gotten into it.

 

    “You can try Hot-Stuff...” She arched her eyebrow at him. Answering his thoughts. Letting him know that, guilt laden misogynist or not, he didn't get to decide when the show was over. As a telepath she'd realized that some minds just clicked. Somethings people would just naturally work. It wasn't just the surface thoughts, it was the background hum behind the thoughts. The melody that made the lyrics have scope and meaning. She'd always thought of it as the tenor of a persons mind. After all, it wasn't only about what a person thought, but about the why they thought it in the first place as well. “But we both know how it'll go..”

 

    Darius just shook his head at her. She was right he did know. Didn't mean he wouldn't try anyway.


    Thomas thought the two needed to get a room and sort things out penthouse style. However the bubble around them? The damn thing needed bursting quick fast.. “Police.. viable option.. just saying.”

Chapter 1

    Darius Walker rode into town looking for short term labor or construction work, as the bills in his wallet were depressingly low. The rumor was that Lander's HCP had a disturbingly energetic bunch of young supers and anywhere energetic, young, and super collided things were bound to need fixing. But first things first he had to find a place to park his baby. It was cafe style racer, with a titanium frame built around Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa power plant, with a stage two turbo upgrade. The only thing that spoiled the look was that the rear tire was wider than the classic cafe racer to deal with the extra horse power. The fuel tank was hammered stainless steel in the shape of dragon scales with the Walker family coat of arms hammered into the side a sort of giving the metaphorical finger to the old man, that he'd done himself back a couple of years ago when he had a job in a machine shop. His bike was literally the only thing besides his guitar that was worth a damn, including himself.

 

    He found the second cheapest motel in town on the edges of where one would expect the respectable future of the nation to be hanging out. The only reason he was at the second cheapest instead of the cheapest was the cheapest didn't have a car port to park his bike under. No way was he not finding her respectable cover. As he walked up the the office behind the suitable thick bullet resistant glass with the obligatory harsh buzzing metallic intercom he negotiated a weeks rent with a balding women in early third or late second millennium. He couldn't make out any more details about the land lady because the little box she sat in was so filled with cigarette smoke that he expected to hear she died of cancer yesterday and she just hadn't gotten the tweet about it yet.

 

    So with guitar case over one shoulder and saddle bag across the other Darius unlocked the door to his palace. It was everything he expected for eighty-five dollars a week. Rust red carpet, faux dark wood paneling, and genuine 1980's color TV. Hell he'd be willing to bet it even had the foul smelling rusty brown water he'd come to expect of home. Darius settled in for the night flicking the analogue alarm clock radio on low and tuning it to a talk radio station. The voices would keep Darius from slipping into too deep a sleep, it was just one of the tips he'd learned while traveling to avoid being surprised in new places.

 

….

 

    Darius rolled through town looking for help wanted signs, construction sites. Basically anything, he was down to his last thirty-five bucks plus whatever loose change was in his pockets. There were of course the bars, collage towns equal bar business. Diners, family restaurants, hot looking women nearly all of them his age or with in one or two years plus or minus, and a slice of the American pie that ran the gambit from wholesome to down right scary. He was just grading on looks, he knew all to well that Aunt Bee could be the hatchet wielding harridan, and the guy with the tatt'd up skull and the bone through his nose the most reliable volunteer down at the local animal shelter, the safe bet was keep your head down, your nose clean, do a job till the place starts to stink too much like home, and move on before something grows on you. Nothing good ever came of sentiment.

 

    He rolled up on a crew doing road work but it was just a minor scorch mark and some busted up asphalt, the three guys they had on it was more than enough. No lead there. He  sped on down the road making a loop around the far side of town, comic book shops, electronic/computer repair and sales. No luck Darius didn't know his bottom from a black hole about computers. Time to check the campus, there was bound to be something that needed doing on that waste of land that the collage kids didn't wanna trouble themselves with.   

 

    He rolled through a parking-lot just in time to see a group of hyped up weirdos, Supers he was sure, pile into a mixed assortment of vehicles every thing from beaters to hopped up imports to daddy's luxury sedans in the oddest convoy he'd ever seen. Just as he rolled through a muscled up cat on a hog shot passed him like someone told him there was beer flavored boobs at journey's end. Must be some sort of club, probably the Super-Glee club or something.

 

    Darius, found post with various types of adds and took time to look it over. Various offers for instruction in various tasks, offers in tutoring in foreign languages, One guy selling a loving used.. yeah not something that should be shared. Here it was, Help wanted; needed grounds maintenance various tasks including small repair, and beautification projects. Contact.. Darius pulled the flier off the post and stuffed it in his pocket. He realized most of his job would entail picking up trash and doing small repair work on things drunken douches screwed up. But one thing Darius's life had taught him was that he wasn't proud.

 

    Later that night he sat in a dirty little dive. It was the kind of place that stuff happened at the kind of stuff smart people didn't talk about, and smarter people didn't see. He asked the man in charge if he could play for tips tonight, and after a short audition to make sure Darius didn't completely suck the man agreed he could play. Darius had been at it for most of the night, the tips were decent and a couple of the more appreciative patrons scent drinks whiskey neat, it was bottom barrel rot gut but it was free and Darius never bitched about free. He played, the more whiskey that came the more truth he played. It was just the way of the blues. By the end of the night, sweat and truth got him sixty-seven dollars and forty-five cents. He'd nearly tripled his money and staved off hunger another day, it was good day.

 

    Darius woke the next morning with the taste akin to a three day dead cat in his mouth. The cheap stuff will do it every time. It wasn't a pleasant sensation but it was familiar, he went into his room's bathroom opened up his toiletry kit and rinsed, and brushed showered but put his same clothes back on. He pulled the crumpled flier out of his pocket and called the number on it.

Chapter 2

        Skylar O'shaughnessy was currently hesitating. It was a situation the Boston native, and daughter of a tough street smart beat cop, had never found herself in before. The youngest of five and the only girl among them, Skylar had learned to be tougher than her older brothers even before the emergence of her super abilities; she had to to survive (ask any girl with four older brothers). After her powers emerged and she started growing, it was clear she had only one choice and that was to become tougher still. The thing about power, especially in rough neighborhoods, is that there is always someone wanting to make use of it, and if you aren't of a mind to allow them then they want that power out of their sandbox. Skylar could deal with a straight up fight; she'd been in more than a few. But this situation was completely outside her comfort zone.

 

    Being a six foot two busty red head was attention grabbing, but her natural physique was very Sports Illuminated swim suit edition.  Right down to mile long legs, high and tight bottom, and full g-cup (though on her scaled up frame, they looked more like full D's). It didn't bother her when guys drooled over her, she liked guys drooling over her, since it made them easier to manage for the most part. Back home everyone knew that, unless specifically invited, crossing certain lines would bring pain. She liked her men strong, confident, and most of all respectful. These beered up baboons were none of the above. The false confidence they were projecting, prompted by a mob mentality and liquid courage, turned Skylar's stomach.

 

    The four men, juniors if she had gauged their ages right, had lit on to the fact that yes, she was six foot two; yes, she possessed large breasts; yes, she had long ivory legs; and yes, even a bottom that most Brazilians would envy. But what really seemed to piss them off was that she was a “fake” super. She wasn't, she was the real deal, nothing on or about her was fake thank you very frigging much. Her hair when it grew out had naturally occurring metallic gold tips the length of which was proportional to the length of her hair. That, coupled with a fiery red color with natural copper highlights, made it striking. More striking still, she currently had it cut in ragged layers giving it a sheet of flame look. The other oddity that she didn't think the goons had noticed was her eyes, while hazel, were metallic so much so that her iris would glint at night if the light was right. The oddities of hair and eyes and even some variant types of skin and skin conditions were well documented in the Super world. So well in fact that an entire fashion look was predicated on emulating the various oddities. Which was the reason for the showy hair cut; if she looked to be affecting a look people would think it was an affectation. If she tried to hide her hair and eyes people would know from the word go she was a super. Strange but true.

 

    Some people thought it was others trying to make themselves special, that being human wasn't good enough for them. That they thought the variant-humans were better than them. That jealousy lead to anger and resentment. Couple that with the fact that each one of these goobers had probably been sat down hard at some point when they got too grabby with a female super, and it wasn't surprising that the pent up frustration came out like this. She understood and even empathized a little it didn't mean she liked being called a poser by these dicks.

 

    None of that understanding was helping Skylar with her current predicament. Skylar wasn't in the HCP, she had applied and been put on a waiting list and encouraged to proceed with her cover major at L.U.. Implied in her waiting list letter was that she just needed to be a little stronger, that they didn't want to lose her to another program. After all a potentially famous alumni usually meant attention, which meant more famous and possibly wealthier alumni, maybe even generous wealthy alumni. But while at L.U. she would still expected be discreet and comport herself in the tradition of maintaining a secret identity.

   

    So no flaunting her super status by pounding these d-bags into monkey-paste. It was growing more difficult to show restraint with each passing moment as currently they were taking turns grabbing at her bottom displayed in her compression shorts. The extra snug custom made support sports bra, and tight compression shorts, were not essential to her running exercises, but they did offer large amounts of comfort. The only trouble was her warm up jog  through town to get to her secluded exercise spot away from prying eyes, where she could run flat out without drawing attention. Since she had to hoof it without a car. She COULD run flat out at one of the university jogging trails or at one of the tracks, but a six foot two red head going flat out at thirty-five to forty miles per hour for oh fifty or sixty miles would break that precious secret identity rule all to hell. All of which meant she didn't have a locker room, or a place to change, or even a training partner. The hero life she wanted to live required hard, serious, near religious devotion to strict training methods. And these a-holes were trying to ruin it for her, trying to ruin her dream before it even started.

 

    She could fight them and put them down with force equal to that of human normal. After all the one upside to growing up with bratty alpha male brothers was she learned how to control her strength extremely well, after all they were still alive. But if she beat the ass of these obviously, at least to her, insecure dicks they'd do one of two things; sober up and make trouble for her or sober up and complain to someone else to make trouble for her. Either of which would escalate her problems to the next level, she needed deescalation. Even blowing them away with just enough speed to out run them might cause it. If Skylar was being honest and objective her fear of being unmasked, figuratively speaking, was overpowering her good sense. The university even knowing she was a super would cover for her defending herself, within reason, if it was a clear case of sexual assault. But like a lot of would be heroes she was slightly irrational with the fear of loosing her potential slot next semester, and it stayed her hand.

 

    “Oh come on bubble-butt,” One of the men sneered. “Don't you wanna play with us?” He made a gross grab at his junk. Bubble-butt, just the pet name to sweep a girl off her feet. That was right up there with sweet-tities which some other shit had yelled at her last summer from a passing car.

 

    “We just want to party Jugz, surely you aren't too good for regular vanilla humans right?” Scuzball number two swatted her on the butt. Jugz? Oh hell no..

 

    “Of course she thinks she is, with that hair. Shes a super-groupie. Bet she'd spread those mile long legs if we could shoot fire at our asses or some such nonsense.” Another said splashing beer out of his bottle towards her. Not even if you were Titan's better looking straight twin with a pocket full of diamonds and chocolate..

 

    “We could enlighten her to what REAL men could do for her..” said the fourth..

 

    And I could enlighten you to what a real woman could do to your squishy-vanilla-soft-serve  asses. Skylar thought, inches away from a drastic overreaction of breaking news proportions. She was a red head after all, there were limits. Just as she made her decision to show them the magnitude of their mistake, Skylar heard a dark mind approaching. If these guys knew what was coming they'd piss themselves, apologize, and run like hell; in that order. Hell, Skylar wasn't sure she didn't want to run too.

 

    The tall dark stranger approached the first goon from behind, they didn't even realize he was there. He didn't say stop or back off, or hell even boo. He just drew his foot up delivered a full force kick right to the first guys balls from behind. Skylar heard the cartilage in the pelvis break, but even before the guy went down her rescuer had an overhand right connecting with the side of the second douche's head, and then he went down faster than a drunken prom queen. The third guy had just about enough time to drop his beer and get an angry “What the fuc..” when the mystery man smashed an elbow into the mans orbital bone before delivering a near skull crushing knee to the mans chin as he went down and out. The fourth guy started to turn to run but her hero whipped her tall frame across his body out of his way so he could deliver a looping round house kick to the side of the mans head to make a complete matching set of douche bags on the ground.

 

    Skylar was impressed, it couldn't of been more than ten or fifteen seconds from first blow to last. The man had dirty fighting down pretty solid. She turned from the downed men with a look of a person appreciating the work of an artist to find him walking rapidly away. What the hell? Skylar thought, as she trotted up behind him intending to thank him properly.

 

    “Wait up, let a woman than..” She was going to say thank you properly but he cut her off, hard..

 

    “Listen lady you want to thank me? Next time deal with that shit yourself..” His voice was rough, deep, and had a the slow draw from somewhere in the deep south. But clearly he was no gentleman.

 

    “I'm sorry?” She asked perplexed..

 

    “No fewer than six times did I see you tense or shift position slightly but perfectly to put those meat-puppets down. Which tells me you could of done it anytime your little ole heart desired. Next time lady you are on your own, because that was my ever loving last bit of stupid.” He stormed off and left a speechless Skylar gaping at him. Was it odd that she found his forceful beating, and subsequent rant putting her in her place kind of hot? He shouted back over his shoulder, “Oh and run in the morning with friends for fuck's sake..”


    He was right, Skylar could of done everything he said except for train with friends. If she'd been paying closer attention, and not ogling the angry mans backside as he walked off, she might of heard another mind paying close attention to the fight. But she was too wrapped up in her confusion over the stranger and her desire to know more about him. 

Chapter 3

    Thomas Coal watched the altercation from the shadows. Well, to be more accurate, as part of the shadows. He thought about intervening but he wasn't even supposed to be on campus here yet. He couldn't even apply to the HCP for another two years. He didn't think that was fair, he'd graduated high school, he was ready. Why should he have to be held back from becoming a hero? Just because he was barely 16? please.

 

    The red head was gorgeous, though Thomas didn't know that the same thing that held her back held him back too. He didn't know what the university's stance would be on a situation like this. This school was his first choice, and only choice really. He wanted to be part of another class of legends. And if there was one thing Thomas didn't do, it was dumb. Dumb he left to his peers, but he'd dearly like to be in Big Red's good graces. Though it kind of sucked she'd be four or five inches taller than him.

 

    Thomas knew there was another man standing quietly in the shadows watching. If he was in the area he could hear and see through any or all of the shadows in a fair radius, that was a side effect of merging with the shadows to travel through them. It wasn't as fast a teleporting, but he could go across the country in minutes. Right now he couldn't do much more than that, but he was training his power.

 

    Research on what Heroes had let slip in statements and biographies about their time in the HCP was that it was a grueling four year course. Also that a super was expected to be powerful when they arrived and grow more powerful as the course progressed. Thomas was intelligent and driven; he'd be the best of his class, then he'd work to make the class better too. So good that the glory of the class of legends would pale in comparison.

 

    Finally the other guy in the shadows let out disgusted sound and advanced quickly on the douches. Thomas thought about stepping out and helping him. Before he could? The poor douches never knew what hit them, even before Thomas's resolve fully firmed and he could think about stepping out to help, they were down. All of them; and the stranger was walking away with the beautiful girl following behind him. He listened in long enough to hear the cool guy giving the hot girl hell, you'd almost think they were dating.

 

    If he's an HCP candidate, Thomas had a lot more work to do.

 

….

 

    Later that night, in the bar Darius was playing for tips again. He might need the cash to make it to the next town if the drunks recognized him enough to raise hell with the school. He couldn't believe he'd been stupid enough to get involved in that situation. He didn't know reds story but, he could tell right off she wasn't one to be taken lightly, why she let them have their way was beyond him. Worse he broke his cardinal rule, blend in and be forgettable. What he had done was anything but. He drank down a whiskey neat faster than was probably wise and played on thinking about the color red, and elfin features.

 

    The night stretched on, and he played a few blues requests, which he normally didn't do. Blues was supposed to come from the heart, not a play list. But he was just fuzzed up enough by the whiskey to think screw it why not?

 

    He saw a blurry someone in a hoodie drop a twenty into his guitar case, and the female voice simply requested, “Play something original, something of yours?”

 

    He had songs, but only one song that came to his whiskey addled brain, and his heel stomped out a beat on the stage as he worked his slide down the neck of the guitar, making it moan low and mournful.

 

And he sang his song, voice low and whiskey rough.

 

The Black top was on fire

the day I-- ran away,

 

the Black top was burning

with hell hounds dogging my raggedy tail

 

"Get you gone, devil's spawn"

My momma she chased her son away

Oh yeah, she done ran her only boy off that day

 

Black top was scorching

The day they ran me out my delta home

Ran me out, they ran me out the place;

I was born and raised

 

Black tops been hot for years

been burning all my living days

can't go back without being roasted,

can't go forward without a ra-ise in pay

 

They say, “It's a long road out of hell..

I wouldn't know, …. I ain't made it out this god damned maze.

One day I'll go see my delta home,

I'll see it!  See it set a blaze..

 

Oh yes I'll set that husk a blaze....

 

    The guitar finished it's soulful lament, to the scattered applause of the apathetic. He didn't notice the strange metallic hazel eyes watching from a back booth. In truth he wouldn't of recognized the eyes from when he'd met her earlier that evening; he'd done the guy thing and only registered the overall package. But considering the package had been amazing, and only dressed in workout clothes, any reasonable guy would of forgiven him for missing her eye color in the first pass.

 

….

 

    Skylar sat back, her eyes tearing up at the pain of the song. The song itself was angry and sad, the thoughts it evoked in her hero had been worse. If his memories were accurate then he had every right to be one pissed off man. He wasn't handsome, he'd seen to much, been scarred too much by life to be GQ cover material. But there was something; a nobility in his gruff honesty that was beautiful. The fact that he was a little taller than she also helped. She didn't automatically disqualify a guy shorter than she from dates, but what girl didn't like tall, dark, and... well, scruffy. That last part was just packaging. She could fix the window dressing for occasions.

 

    And just like that Skylar realized she was going to try and get him to go on a date with her. Though she wasn't sure he did her typical dinner and movie first date thing. After all she'd been training hard she deserved a little fun too, and she knew he could use a little of that.

 

…..

 

    In the same bar during the same song, James Carswell watched his boss's son play his guitar and sing. The kid wasn't bad, to bad the contract on the kid said dead and vanished. The boy might of went on to be the next great blues man of his time. James didn't know why the man wanted his kid dead, didn't care why. Questions like why, and what for, ceased to have much meaning for James they lead to trouble and eventually more bodies to bury.

 

    No, James prided himself on being a professional, the contract stipulated dead with no one ever hearing from the drifter again; so that's what it'd be. James had a particular skill set well suited to this type of job, and as soon has the right opening presented itself he'd take and collect the cool half-million this job paid. This kid's dad wanted him gone in the worst way.

Chapter 4

    His phone chirped a notification, he slid his thumb over the screen, then pulled the notification slider down. Tapping on the notification opened a forum ostensible dedicated to an online version of table top gaming. The message was in code and read, White queen has taken the field to join the demon's armies.. The Queen must fall rally the troops to your cause Black Knight! The message went on with meaningless stats and dice rolls. He tapped the photo link and it opened a picture stored on a secure cloud. It showed a tight face shot of a lovely girl, with black hair, bright light-blue eyes, and lovely clear skin. The girl's picture showed the promise of a pretty youth soon to grow into a very beautiful woman. That is if his handlers hadn't alerted him that he'd been contracted kill her as well if she showed up. Damn shame James thought but he'd do it. He'd check the dossier on the new target later right now he sat back and pretended to enjoy the rest of the evening while he watched his mark.

 

….

 

    Darius sat on what was far to grandly named "the stage.”  What it really was?  A five inch high five foot square platform in a dive. But what the hell, he'd played worse places. Right putting the guitar up. Problem was he wasn't sure if he could successfully navigate the two and half feet of treacherously non-level platform to his guitar case to do it. He'd drank far too much and it had piled up on him, something about that red head or her situation rattled him pretty good. Darius didn't go in for soul searching too much outside of his music; he did the jobs that were in front of him. If not he'd probably would of ended it years ago.

 

    “You want me to get that for you? Because if you stare at it any harder it's probably going to burst into flames.”

 

    Darius looked up and forced his eyes to focus. He'd count that as one of his more titanic efforts later in life. “Red?!” he stood and the whiskey hit his head hard and he sat back down before he fell down.

 

    “Funny thing being six-two, you don't get carded much.” She grinned.

 

    “That didn't have shitall to do with it, excuse my roughness. They wanted to sleep with you.” He got out slowly and as precisely as he could.

 

    “Oh I know, that helps too.” She blew it off. Of course she knew the thoughts that went on in the heads of the men around her. As she grew into womanhood she had two choices; get, and stay, pissed off about it, or learn to roll with it. She chose roll with it. After all, she had her own thoughts about hot guys. It'd be hypocritical of her to hold a man's against him. “It's Skylar by the way.. And you'd be Darius.. Nice to meet you.”

 

    “How'd you kno my name?” He slurred out shocked. “I didn't tell you...” he said this time in the slow careful drunk voice.

 

    “Simple,” She smiled and lied with a perfectly straight face, “I asked the bartender.” And learned from his mind what he wanted to do with cherries, a bottle of vodka, and two golf balls to me in the process. Just one of the hazards of being a telepath.  Ick.

 

    “Oh, prolly should of guessed that.” he trailed off, his syntax drunken sloppy

 

    Smiling at him amused she nudged the case to him with her foot. “So, thanks.” She said simply.

 

    “You gotta be careful, you're too pretty to be hurt.” Darius said in dunk honesty. The loss of an internal filter was one of the hazards of whiskey for some people. Drunken truth was often times no ones friend.

 

    “If I could only explain.” She mumbled, and realized she wanted to.. Which meant she probably would at some point. She wasn't great at the whole denial of desire thing. She figured why ice skate up hill?

 

    “Those horsesasses couldn't see you were a super. I could tell just from watching. Wht the they teach at that collage ..” He rambled on in drunkanese

 

    He knew? Or at least he thought he knew about her? “What makes you think I'm not just a pretender?”

 

    Darius eyed her. “Listen Red, no... red too common I'll call ya Scarlet... Scarlet I saw you in them shorts and that bra-thingy. Not one ounce of fat, but then your musschls are still rounded and chiseled stone but your still soft to touch... too perfect a balance, people lean in a direction.” He was sure he was getting things out of order but he didn't have much in working order at the moment. “Then the way you moved in the fight, you're either a trained fighter or a mind reader.” If he'd been sober he'd of seen her eyes flinch at that, he might even of guessed she was both.

 

    “You aren't going to rat me out are you? You work for the school after all...” Technically he could blow her cover.

 

    “That why ya didn't fight? HCP crap?” Then he went on “What a bunch of nonsense.”

 

    “Nope, got wait-listed... Only recently found out the key to my power.”

 

    “Heroes are nonsense... Everyone's got enough to worry about on their own.”

 

    Okay that sort of burned Skylar's butt, “You didn't think that way when you helped me.”

 

    “Shouldn't of...” he closed his case and stood to leave the closing dive. And never realized he passed out.

 

….

 

    Skylar had an arm full of a six-three 230 pound man in her arms. The night wasn't progressing as she'd hoped. She wasn't even worried about keeping up appearances of normal strength as she stood there wondering what to do with Darius. She didn't know where he lived, or how to find it. He was obviously a drifter of sorts. What the hell could she do with him?

 

    She decided to take him to her apartment, freshmen weren't allowed to live off campus usually. But her special situation required special dispensation from the university. After all she couldn't be expected to keep a secret identity twenty-four seven from a normal human who would start to wonder if she never took her “Contacts” out. Or if said room mate noticed that the gold tips on the end of her hair grew with her hair. No there were a thousand tiny personal things that could out someone. So her housing fees went to pay for a tiny one bedroom efficiency with a spectacular view of the tiny one bedroom efficiency right next to her.   

 

    She sat tall, dark, and hammered back down in his chair on stage pulled out a cell phone and called a cab. Once the cab arrived she'd solicited help from the vodka and cherry loving bartender to help put Darius in the cab. Then broke his heart by climbing into the seat next to Darius. With a brief adjustment of his guitar case, and a quick recitation of her address for the cab driver, they were on their way.

 

    Once in the parking lot of the apartment complex she got the guitar case out first and set it on the ground. Then she struggled pulling Darius out of the cab. It wouldn't of been difficult at all except he was completely arm flopping sloppy dead weight, and she had to be careful about his appendages getting snagged on the various brackets and braces that fastened the cabs seats to the floorboards.

 

    “Hey Lady, you sure you can handle him? I'm not supposed to, but I suppose I could help ya get him upstairs.”

 

    Time for another little white lie. “No thanks mister, His sister lives two efficiencies over, she's a hefty girl between us we can get him tucked away. But hey thanks”

 

    “No problem..” With that and the twelve fifty, plus two dollar tip the man drove off happy and oblivious.

 

    “We're so splitting the cab fare sweet cheeks..” She said.

 

    She tossed her load up on to one shoulder knelt down to get the guitar case and carried him up the stairs to her apartment thinking, You yarp down my back and I'll break something on you..Once at her door it took a bit of juggling to get her keys out but she managed. The thing about super strength is, it's always a balancing act. How much strength can you apply to a given area without breaking or at least bruising something, and one of the hardest things to manage is a limp body. Simply because nothing ever seems to want to go the same direction on them. She wrestled man and guitar case through the door, and toed the the door closed behind her. She sat the case down in one of her thrift-store armchairs and carried her load to her bed room.

 

    This was a situation for which she wished she had a couch, or at least a coach with game plan, because past getting him here she was out of ideas. But her floor plan was just too small for a couch since she liked having her “living room” open enough to do yoga in. And a coach would have been just one more person calling her a fool. So no couch, just two small armchairs in the corner and just herself to figure out what to do with a drunken guitar player.

   

    So she switched her load from over the shoulder fireman's carry to him cradled against her as she sat him down the only place they could both sleep in comfortably; her bed. But he was not staying in her bed in those clothes he'd worked in all day. If she could of she'd of made him shower first too but that was an adventure she wasn't up to just yet.

 

    She stripped off his plain black T, and exposed a chest and body that spoke of hard physical labor and not always enough to eat. He wasn't gaunt, per se, just leaner than most folks his size. She unbuckled his belt and undid his pants before slipping his boots off, she grabbed the hem of both pants legs and gave a sharp tug making a mental bet with her self on tighty whities or boxers. And rolled... neither. Commando!  She blushed and covered her eyes and breathed out, “whoa...”

 

    Then looked again through her fingers covering her eyes and had a couple of lewd thoughts before she shook herself out of it and went to a small plastic set of drawers and pulled out a pair of hot pink cotton shorts displaying the legend “Hot Stuff” across the butt that she wore around the apartment. She then began the tricky task of putting them on him. Tricky because, while similar in size, their respective proportions were different and of course getting certain things done without touching certain things was proving a challenge. After a few tries she gave up exhaled closed her eyes and tucked everything safely away. After all it's only weird if you look, right?

 

    Skylar grabbed her oldest set of sweats, a long t-shirt, and most covering set of underwear she owned. She even grabbed a bra, slipped into the bathroom to change for bed. Normally she wore less than her guest to sleep in. But for some reason she wanted it clear when he woke that nothing happened. Aside from her undressing him, then dressing him in girly shorts. Wow... She blushed again and came out to see just how little of her own bed she could lay on and get absolutely no sleep.

 

    Skylar knew in some part of her she could have let him be last night and he'd probably have been fairly okay. But she hadn't wanted to. Of course she also didn't want to sleep next to the man with the legend of “Hot Stuff” across his butt either, at least not yet anyway, but she wanted to leave him alone even less.

 

….

 

    Darius woke up in a strange place, with a bottle of water bearing a note that said “Drink me” next to a couple of pills and another note that read “Swallow me”. Seeing the stamp of a pain relief brand on the pills he did, and drank down the water in one long guzzle before getting up. He realized that something out of the ordinary had happened last night. For one thing, he was barely in hot pink shorts. For another, his clothes were nowhere to be found. And there was this whole Alice in Wonderland thing going on that was just freaking creepy.

 

    He staggered out of the obviously female room. It smelled too sweet to be a guy's room with the lotions and perfume scents lingering in it. He marshaled up his courage and went out to see just how big of a mistake he had made. The few other times he'd gotten that drunk before... well yeah. The smell of biscuits and scrambled eggs hit him square in the appetite, causing his mouth to water, and the sight of the woman from last night hit him square in the chest stealing his breath away. Her long copper highlighted scarlet hair was up in a messy pony tail high on the back of her head. The gold tips glinted in the cheap florescent overhead light. The tank top was loose, obviously cut from an old sweat shirt, with "Property of Wilton High School" across her breasts. Thankfully the gray yoga pants covered up the legs he remembered from last evening. He didn't know she'd already changed and gone through her morning exercise routine.

 

    “Well, good morning to you too.” She said eying him up and down.

 

    He ignored what she wasn't, somethings shouldn't be commented on it's just rude, “Hi..”

 

    She laughed, Darius didn't understand it wasn't that funny it was just morning time that's all. “STOP..” She wiped tears from her eyes. “Okay your right, not that funny except really it is.. Let me explain.. No there is too much, let me sum up..” She got crickets. “What no princess bride love? What the hell.. Okay I tracked you down last night to thank you even though you were an ass. I heard you play, and I liked it so I stuck around. By the time you were done you were too hammered to find the floor on your own. So I let you sleep it off here.. But I wasn't going to let you sleep it off wearing your funky, sweaty, whiskey smelling clothes, in my bed so I stripped you down to find you full on commando.” She exhaled.. “And I wasn't sleeping next to a naked stranger so I let you borrow my shorts Hot Stuff.”

 

    “Oh..Okay..” He wasn't exactly clear on everything. “Where are my clothes I'll change and get out of your hair.”

 

    “They are in the laundry washing, I'll go put them in the dryer after breakfast.”

 

    She put about four scrambled eggs, four buttered biscuits and three slices of ham on a hard plastic plate and handed it to him. He hadn't ate that much in awhile he was sure he couldn't eat that much now. Then she piled her plate up with even more food, looked like six eggs, four slices of ham and only three biscuits.  He eyed it.

 

    “Healthy appetite..” he said, and she blushed.

 

    “Look you called it last night I'm a super, I burn a lot of calories about three times more than a normal active person would and that's when I'm sitting still.”

 

    Hazy memories of her saying she wanted in the HCP or something flitted through his head. “Right, so that's why you held back yesterday. Dumb reason if you ask me.”

 

    “Well I didn't, Hot Stuff, so just eat your eggs.” He shut up and wisely ate his eggs.

 

    “So whats your deal.. I know you're a drifter but I don't know why.” She took a bite of eggs chewed and swallowed then said, “Just don't want to be tied down?”

 

    Darius had gone very still, “How do you know I'm a drifter?”

 

    Her brain was smacked around with a barrage of Does she know, is this a trap? Did he find me. “Whoa, whoa whoa, Slow down there.. No I don't know, this isn't a trap, and I don't know who He is. I'm a sort of, well, telepathic. It's part of my superness. I'm blocking most everything out, but this close? There will be bleed through; just saying it's not all my doing or in my control so don't freak.”

 

    Darius stilled, he didn't particularly have anything in his head other people couldn't know. But he didn't relish someone able to hear what he thought either. But it was disturbing to know she could hear everything in his head if she wanted to. “Sorry, I've got problems. They tend to follow me.” Like my father wanting me dead.

 

    “Why does your dad want you dead?” She asked not even pretending she hadn't heard the last  thought. It would be a polite lie to pretend he had mental privacy, but Skylar didn't like even the polite lies and hated the ones she had to live everyday.

 

    “Well you've sort of shown me yours, so I guess I should show you mine.” he said.

 

    Skylar laughed and blushed, “Seen it, was duly impressed, keep it tucked away sport.”

 

    Darius grinned in spite of himself, “I'm a powered..” He expected her to toss him out for it, most people would. She didn't however.

 

    “Go on..” She said calmly listening as she put some scrambled eggs in a piece of her ham into a biscuit.

 

    “Well, I transform into something that looks sort of like a demon. Jagged onyx horns, raptor slitted eyes, Dog like muzzle and ears, black and orange furry mane, and legs contort like the hind legs on a goat. I steal other supers powers that use them on me. I leave them powerless for an hour or two. But when the powers return to the other super, they are sometimes stronger than they were. Sometimes not. Don't know why, but sometimes the upgrade is permanent, sometimes just for a an hour or so.”

 

    “Wow.. Too bad you're powered and can't control it. You'd be awesome to have on a team. Is your transformation stronger than human? They usually are.”

 

    “Yeah but only marginally stronger and tougher, not much above human peak. Though I regenerate incredible fast from injury. I think it's because the power I absorb has to hit me, so I have to live through the strike. I only change though when I'm either right on the cusp of death or am about to be. I think that's why we didn't figure out I was powered until much later in life than most do.”

 

    “Still don't get why the parental wants to go filicidal on you. Some people would be embarrassed to have a powered in the family sure, but it's not like you are going to accidentally blow up the house or something with your power. It sounds pretty reactive, not proactive.”

 

    “Not completely true, the demon form sort of jacks up the temperature around me, and I start to stink of brimstone, and sulfur. The temperature rise isn't enough to cause things to burn on there own, but.. Things change even for powereds. I mean, I could spike a heat wave one day that sets things ablaze. I don't know why the temp rises around when I transform, or why I stink of brimstone and sulfur. Must have something to do with the transformations biology but I don't know what it could be.”

 

    “Well, your powered ability sounds awesome. There are rumors raging that people are working to stabilize powered's abilities.  Who knows maybe one day?” She trailed off. Then added, “Hell all I do is hear voices and punch things..”

 

    “The voices thing I get, but punch things?” Darius said, glad to get her talking about herself. “Whats that about?”

 

    “Well, most telepathic types are also telekinetic, it seems I'm a little different. I seem to be closer to an adaptation type that takes the mind-body connection to the next level. My advanced mind is linked to my body, the more I advance my minds potential the greater my bodies potential. I just realized that this year though. I'd been breaking my back trying to advance my physical strength with no luck at all. When a training guide for telepaths was leaked to the internet. Leaked or just put out there, I don't know how big a secret it was. But when I gave up on trying to train my body, I tried training my mind since one of my abilities had to be stronger to make hero.”

   

    “So go on..” He urged

 

    “So as a child when I started hearing thoughts, I learned enough to block out most of it and never really used it. Instead I focused on the strength, endurance, and durability aspect. Since I never used my telepathy much I never knew that using it increased my strength until this year, when I finally started breaking through my previous limits.”

 

    “I see, so you can read the bad guys mind and then kick his ass with it... I'm calling that unfair.” Darius said.

 

    “I can't do anything until I make it into a program. Then I got to make it through the program.” She sighed. “Neither of which is easy.”

 

    He let that drop as she finished off the last of her breakfast, and then excused herself to check on his clothes. He gathered up the dirty breakfast dishes and set himself to washing them. If she was nice enough to cook for him then she shouldn't have to clean up too.

 

 

    She came back to her apartment to find a half naked man washing her dishes and thought. Ain't this the life? She wondered why she was so comfortable with him. She knew the anger and frustration he carried, and he had a tendency towards pretty dark thoughts. If he'd done what he wanted to do to her harassers she'd of had to of taken him down instead. But he didn't, he  controlled his rage.

 

    He looked over at her, “Oh hey, almost done..”


    “No worries just soaking up the impossible over here..” Skylar didn't know it but she actually leered. 

Chapter 5

    Back in Texas, Thomas was tapping his foot on the Galveston seawall impatiently. He wanted to get back to California and find a way to warn the redhead and that cool guy that someone followed them from the bar. That he looked ok but something didn't sit right with the way he watched. Thomas was curious about the older guy he thought might be HCP. So Thomas followed him even faster than the red head had, in her defense he had to admit that he didn't have to change clothes. As part of the shadows Thomas wasn't entirely sure he had clothes, just so long as he had them going in and coming out was good enough for now. The reason he wasn't sure was that he speculated that he was skimming across one dimension or was completely out side the standard three dimensions of our physical reality. He wasn't sure yet.

 

    What he was sure of was three things, One; He had to learn to play guitar. The singing thing might be hopeless, he wouldn't know until his voice stopped squeaking. But the women in that bar looked at Darius like well.. Thomas didn't know a good simile for how they were looking at Darius, but he knew that was the butter zone. Two; the red head was living life dangerously if she didn't see how all the males leered at her. It was just offensive. And Three; whatever was going on with those, two trouble was on the way. Just from gauging how the one guy watched them almost like it was a hunger. Yeah that was it; like he was hungry

 

    “Put some more sunscreen on that nose Thomas Anthony Cole, or by this evening it'll look like fried bacon.” His Mom had insisted that she drive he and his friends to the Island for a spring break day at the beach. Thomas wasn't technically on Spring Break, since he was already graduated from high school, but his few friends were and his mom was doing her level best to ruin it.

 

    “MOM, we talked about the passive aggressive helicopter parenting, with Dr. Shmitz.” Mom didn't know her boy was sneaking out at night in the shadows. No one knew about his super talent, everyone knew a good super told almost no one his real name, or showed he had powers. It was in all the comic books. “You promised to back off a bit..” He said, his frustration clear..

 

    “Fine, but how you'll ever meet a girl with your nose half burned away is beyond me. You boys be safe and meet me back here at 6:30pm sharp! We'll pick up Mario's pizza on the way home..”

 

    To his relief, She drove off. He could feel the smirks of the people on the seawall around him. Geeze it was galling.

 

….

 

    Dawn Evangelina Walker(Angela to her mom),  rolled into Lander early in the afternoon, and wasn't impressed. She pulled over into a Burger Chute parking lot and put the kick stand down on her bike. It wasn't anything too fancy, just an old Ducati 996R, but it got her from place to place. Angela's bike was nearly as old as she was, but she'd kept it lovingly maintained since she'd stolen it from her father's garage six months ago. He hadn't ridden in years anyway and keeping it in a garage was just a sin.

 

    From what she picked up on her brother's trail, he had a bike too.  A high performance custom job. It was sort of nice knowing they both liked motorcycles. It was a connection of sorts, the only connection in a sense, seeing as how he was run off before she was even born.

 

    Momma had been very circumspect in getting Angela the note. In the last of her lucid days before the cancer finished her and the medically induced comma put her under to pass quietly, she'd asked Angela to read a passage from one of her favorite books after she died. The book was Emma, by Jane Austen, a book her father would never touch, but when Angela had turned tearfully to the page her mother had given her she found a folded letter. In the letter her mother told her of her older brother Darius, and why he'd been ran off. Why she'd made damn certain her father never found out that she had a super talent, but she hardly needed that one. Unlike poor Darius who was a powered, she'd been a super; and hiding that fact had been harder in some ways and easier in others. In the letter she begged her daughter to find him and tell him she was sorry for what she said, that she had known she was pregnant and couldn't of ran with him in any case.

 

    For most women that would sound like bullshit, but running with her son would of simply put Darius in more danger. Though the bigoted bastard might simply have loathed Darius's, and if he had known about her secret Angela's, existence on general principal. Had Jolene Walker left however, it would have been a personal affront to the old bastard and no place would have been safe for them. In a very real sense he had owned her mother and had enough power to back up the claim. She could see where her mother had no good choices. The Reverend Isaiah Walker ran an evangelical congregation that preached hellfire and damnation for the abominations known as supers and powereds. He was the most dangerous kind of zealot, the kind that drank his own kool-aid, and had a long line of loyal disenfranchised followers whom he was able to convince that all the bad in their lives stemmed primarily from supers and powereds.

 

    Thankfully, the bastard was sexist too. So he paid little attention to his wife or daughter beyond seeing to it that they looked like his view of proper ladies at all times, which was why her taut belly sported a navel ring she wanted a tattoo but since she food came through her skin she wasn't sure that was a good idea.

   

    He had thought nothing of it at all when his wife had taken her on a sudden retreat to their mountain cabin when she was nine, The part he didn't know was she'd started radiating light from every pore on her body. Her mother never flinched Simply wrapped her daughter up in a blanket and rushed her out to the SUV. They had been on the road within minutes. Thankfully her father had insisted his daughter be home schooled or there would have been no keeping it quiet.

 

    Apparently since Darius's revelation momma had kept a go bag and emergency supplies stocked up and hidden. Because they were away in minutes even before the house's servants had a hint the lady of the house had a problem. No one said boo about what Jolene Walker did except her husband, least not more than the first time anyway. Once in the secluded mountain retreat a full state away, momma had made a phone call and within an hour a tutor showed up. She didn't know the guy beyond a code name Mr. Grease. He had been a funny little guy with unfortunately large ears, who could with the wave of his hand cause surfaces to loose all friction, nothing she'd seen could gain traction when he didn't want it to. He could cause you to literally walk in place and be all but unable to make progress, you could hop, but heaven help your landing. He told her she was probably a “blaster type” worked her through basic exercises until she could get her radiance under control and focused her mind until keeping things under wraps was second nature.

 

    It had been a tense couple of hours when words like “powered” had been tossed around. Her mother sighed a huge sigh when she was finally able to work with her ability in minor ways. Now Angela understood she'd been afraid to lose another child. But knowing her mother Angela was sure she had some contingency for that too. A plan that always kept Angela and herself as safe as possible. She'd done her best for Darius on short notice. With Angela, she'd been prepared.

 

    Over the summers Mr. Grease would show up periodically to work with her, always not long after momma had taken her on some, one or two day trip. He taught her to focus the light into beams of astonishing power blasting cinder block targets to dust. And later to release powerful bursts of energy around her, or to focus it into explosive punches and kicks. Then three years ago he showed up in her hospital room in a flash of smoke, when she'd started to reject solid food. He was the one that figured out she didn't have to eat, and the only thing at all she could stomach was water everything else she needed to live she absorbed through sunlight or rather it's ambient radiation. That had been the tough part to figure out to hide. Which was why she was pulled over into the parking lot now, she was hungry.

 

    Angela shrugged out of her heavy riding leathers rolled them into a pillow of sorts and laid back across her bike in a bikini top exposing as much of her pale skin as possible to the sun. She wasn't pasty, she was pale with an almost pearl like luminescence, and of course she never tanned or burned. She thought her skin was quite striking with her raven black hair and blue eyes. Given that her food was the definition of light eating she had no reason to be self conscious of her willowy figure. Once she left her father's home for the last time, she'd decided she wasn't hiding anything anymore. Anyone who had a problem with supers in general or her in particular could go fuck themselves. Though she had been pleasantly shocked to find that her father's beliefs actually held little sway with anyone out in the “real” world for the most part.


    From what she could piece together from her brother's last known direction he was headed here. Not a bad place for a drifter to lite for awhile she guessed. Soon as she was done eating she'd start cruising around looking for likely haunts. Till then, the sun is high and she was hungry.

Chapter 6

    Skylar always showed up for her shifts at Crazy Eddy's  Wings and Waffle Emporium right on time, plus but more usually minus five or ten minutes. The job at the eccentric diner wasn't as glamorous as supper with supers, but it had it's moments. She'd actually applied to the restaurant, and was turned down on spec. Seems a six foot two glamazon didn't fit in so well with the vibe they were going for, Skylar couldn't help it if she made every costume look too professional dominatrix, or sex-kitten-ish unless it was a shapeless sack. Besides at Supper with Supers she'd never get to work with Crazy Eddy, and that was an experience that she was glad she hadn't missed.

 

    You never knew what or when Eddy might go a little off the regularly scheduled programing. Anything from impromptu hoodoo rituals with old hot wing bones for better juju, to tossing uncooked buttermilk biscuit dough at customers with a shouted epitaph of “Mess with the donkey, you get the biscuits!”. Skylar knew from experience the thoughts in that mans head made no sense and shared only a passing acquaintance with reality, but for all that somehow the man owned and operated a successful restaurant. Skylar would of said the “crazy” was all an act to draw people in, if only so they could see what he was going to do next. However the aforementioned adventures in reading the man's mind defied such mundane explanations.

 

    About the only down side to work at Crazy Eddy's was the uniform. Which for the servers was short pleated plaid school girl skirts, white button up dress shirts tied in a knot, knee high black patent leather lace up boots with three inch heels, and either a ribbon woven in the hair or tied in a bow around a ponytail, for male or female servers. Needless to say not many males took the job as a server but there were a couple on staff that did. Least that had been the uniform since Skylar started, the older hands told her that it could and had in the past changed on an Eddy whim. Most of the uniform Skylar was fine with, except for the boots putting a six two girl in three inch heels was just wrong, and if her feet hadn't had enhanced durability it'd be assault with intent to do grave bodily harm waiting tables in them for six or eight hours a stretch.

 

    Skylar spotted a boy sitting in booth six, one of her's. So she grabbed a menu a roll of silver wear, a water glass and headed over. When she got to the table she saw his face was a little red and the bridge of his nose was a second degree sunburn. Poor kid was going to feel that in the morning.

 

    “Welcome to Eddy's, here is our menu.. Our specials today are.” Skylar started her server spiel but didn't get the chance to finish.

 

    “I'll just take a cola, Skylar thanks..” The boy looked up at her, like she was angel and answer to his prayers. To his credit his eye only darted down to her cleavage twice. At his age, in the shirt she was wearing at the time, and with the amount showing it demonstrated impressive will power.

 

    “Okay hun be right back with it.” She started to turn away when she heard him thinking.

 

    Skylar please tell me you're listening in right now. I've come to give you a warning to pass on to Darius. There is a guy following you two, who isn't me. I was following Darius after he helped you out to get inside HCP tips, this guy was decidedly not an admirer. He followed you both home from the bar last night. Please nod if you are getting this, I've not got a lot of time to spend on this, right now I'm on a clock.” He said as he distinctly thought about the gear stats on his MMO character. Then chanted the characters attack chain in his mind like a mantra. All so the hottest woman he'd ever seen wouldn't realize he was a geek that had to get back to Texas so his mom could pick him up.

 

    Skylar nodded, “Be right back..” she stammered again and went to get the kid's coke. She wasn't thrilled that the kid had somehow followed Darius. But if Skylar had just seen the speed and efficiency with which he'd taken down her harassers she might of assumed he had to be in the HCP and not just a street wise brawler. At least if you added into the equation the context of where the brawl took place, on one of only five campuses in the country with an HCP program. She'd trust, but with her eyes open.

 

    She filled a glass with ice and coke at the waitress station, then yelled to Tabitha that she was taking her break and grabbed her bottle of water from the mini-fridge at her knees where they kept the little tabs of butter and other prep items. Tabitha looked up surprised from where she was flirting with a truck driver at the counter by letting him look down the front of her shirt like she was unaware of what he was doing. It was a shameless bid for better tips, and Skylar didn't fault her for it. She just wished it worked for her, for some odd reason a lot of guys saw her as a competitor. One even wanted to arm wrestler her.

 

    “Sure sweetie, everything okay?” the slightly older woman called back in a matronly way. She was shocked because the only break Skylar usually took was her meal break her enhanced endurance and the toughness of her body making the usual breaks unnecessary, and the more tables she actually caught to serve the more money she made so she usually skipped them. The others thought that odd at first considering most of the wait staff wanted to get as much time off their feet as possible.

 

    “Fine,” she said “Just a friend stopped in, wanna say hi for a few minutes.”

 

    “OH!” Tabitha said, “Sure no worries, I got your tables for awhile.”

 

    Skylar sat the coke in front of the boy, and she realized he was a boy. He couldn't even be out of High School yet. And slid into the booth across from him. “Now, explain how and why you were following us.”

 

    “I graduated high school last year..”

 

    “Bullshit.... you look fifteen.”

 

    He gave her a long suffering look, sort of like he was a puppy and she'd just kicked him. “I turned sixteen last month thank you very much.”

 

    Oh.. well that showed her huh? He was smarter than she was if this was true. Best to try and catch him in a falsehood if you can unwind one then sometimes the whole mess comes undone. “Okay then.. So you graduated high school at an obnoxiously young age... Then..” She was being condescending but then she didn't like being followed and she liked not knowing that she had been followed even less. Telepaths aren't easy to sneak up on.

 

    “Okay..” He thought, this is going shitty. She thinks I'm a stalker she's probably had a few. His brain rambled on at high speed. “Okay, So I applied to the..” He paused and glanced around.. “The program, and was turned down, the administration told to reapply at eighteen thanks but no thanks see you then kind of thing. Stupid rule no one younger than eighteen gets in but whatever right? Nothing says I can't spend the two year interval between now and then investigating and preparing so when I do get in I got a better handle what I need to know, an edge if you will. After all, it's the  prepared mind that conquers.”

 

    Skylar just arched an eyebrow at him. But thought, Get a girlfriend all ready, this can't be good for you.

 

    Thomas continued. “Anyhow.. I have a way of travel that gets me back and forth pretty quickly..”

 

    Skylar interrupted him. “Shadows?” The image of him slipping into a shadow and hearing all sorts of weird echos came to her mind.

 

    “Shhhh..” he hissed at her. Yeah he thought wryly he was talking with a telepath.. no thinking about her boobs he reminded himself.. It backfired.. CRAP just thought about her boobs..”

 

    “If I flash them at you, would you be able to get your mind off of them and back on topic??” She said with hair more snarky sarcasm then was probably warranted.

 

    He looked to Skylar like she'd pole axed him. “Umm no, probably not. I don't think that would be too very helpful.” He said seriously as if it had been a genuine offer.

 

    “Geeze lighten up you think your the only dude hell in even the last ten minutes that hasn't scoped them? Or hell the woman three booths behind you trying to convince herself that they have to be fakies since no skinny slip of a girl can grow a set like these. Her mental words not mine. I stick out and draw attention, I'm used to it. Now explain before I drag you out of here by your ear and beat the snot out of you, while screaming about you trying to grope me.”

 

    Predictably the poor kid went ghost white. “Ri-ight.” he swallowed hard, “Okay, so I saw the altercation, I was getting ready to step out and help when I noticed Darius. You see I don't just travel through shadows I hear and see through them too. So I heard him mutter something, and by the time I blinked the fight was over. Well you were there.”

 

    Skylar nodded..  “Go on..”

 

    “I figured that anyone who could take down four guys that efficiently had to be in the.. program. So I followed him to the bar, where you showed up.”

 

    “I was there I didn't see..”

 

    “Think they'd of let me in if they saw me? I'm surprised they let you in. I stayed in the shadows, watching and listening. Then when you umm.. helped Darius out of the bar and into the cab Mr. Creepy was very interested, He sat out in your apartment parking lot long into the night watching your door. I didn't stay all night I had to get home before I got caught by m...”

 

    “Kid you've got a mother, your hiding the fact that you've got powers from her. She's not going to know until you enter the program. I get it. But if I catch one peep of a thought that you've been in my apartment bathroom.... Well you've got to sleep sometime, we clear cupcake?”

 

    “I wouldn't... I've never..” He stammered.

 

    “You've never spied on the girls locker room shadow boy?” She heard the denial screaming in his thoughts. “Ever?    Wow, maybe you should look into that, loosen your goose a little. Your much too tightly wound.”

 

    “Huh? Really?” He was confused it wasn't that he wasn't tempted to do it but it didn't seem right some how.

 

    “Of course not!  Perv...” Skylar smirked jerking his chain was fun. She could see why her older brothers jerked hers and each others so much. “Get home before your mom freaks.. I won't tell you not to do it again because you did us a solid, and I'm not your mom. but be careful, don't get caught, and Darius isn't in the program, he's...”

 

    “I know he's not, from what he said at the bar. I'll probably be around the campus again. Still haven't gotten any useful information about the program yet. I know where the shadows are that lead to the underground, but I'm betting there are  a few telepaths on staff that would catch me or worse students if I tried. I don't want to be expelled before I'm accepted.”

 

    “Good call, now I gotta get back to work.. Don't get caught, and get a girlfriend already al-l this,” Skylar motioned in his general vicinity “can't be healthy Skippy... And just between me and you when your trying to convince a pretty girl that is also a telepath that your cool.. Maybe going over MMO stats in your head shouldn't be your first choice for thougt camouflage. Just saying.”


    Thomas smirked then between one blink and the next he was gone the five dollars on the table and the half empty glass of coke the only thing to say he'd ever been there. Least the kid tipped well. 

Chapter 7

    Angela rode through town with her heavy leather jacket off. Yes the bikini top drew eyes, but the sun just felt too good to cover up. She could understand why Lady Godiva would do what she did if the sun felt like this to her. Not that Dawn Evangelina Walker, would ever do something like that on her bike, road rash would be a bitch, plus hot metal, and sharp edges and all that. But still the sun filled her with energy and riding at city speeds of no more than twenty to thirty miles per hour made the heavy leather coat seemed like over kill.

 

    On a whim, Angela rode through the nearly empty L.U. campus looking at the various buildings wondering what it would have been like to go to normal skills as a kid. Instead of being home schooled by momma. She wondered what challenges she'd have faced and friends she could have made. She didn't often indulge in the what if game anymore. It had been almost an obsession as a lonely child. Now that she was for all intents and purposes out on her own, on a quest of sorts, she tried to focus more on the now. She just wished her brother wouldn't have picked such seedy places to stay, or made such unsavory characters acquaintances of his. That cat in Albuquerque who offered to tell her about Darius's whereabouts wouldn't be walking up right for awhile after she blasted his junk with a light infused punch. She might dress skimpy on occasion out of necessity, but she would be treated like a lady damn it.

 

    She stopped long enough to shrug back into her jacket, but didn't zip it up and rolled the power on and sped out of the parking lot, headed towards the less savory areas of town. Her brother usually only stopped drifting when he was broke, so he'd be in whatever rat nest was most affordable. She'd check with the campus maintenance department tomorrow to see if there was a Darius Jericho Walker working for them, or someone that matched his description. She knew he liked physical labor and since the campus was undoubtedly the largest employer nearby it'd be a logical start. Then she'd cruise by the local bike shops, machine shops, and bars looking for his stainless steel cafe racer style motorcycle. She couldn't explain it but she felt she was close.

 

 

    Thomas saw the black haired girl wearing the white leather pants and the white bikini top long before he realized she was on a black beast of a motor cycle. His heart skipped a beat, He was going to have to come to this school. If only because the girls were unbelievable! Crimson the older guy that ran his MMO guild told a story over StratChat, the VoIP client the guild used to communicate in game about his collage days. Crim as he was known was a full on character, and perhaps the coolest gaming nerd around. I didn't mention what collage I was thinking of, but he was full of stories of where he met “the wif..” as he called her. Seemed he was right.

 

    Anyhow Thomas roamed the campus having stepped in out of the deep shadow of an old oak. Dressed in what he hoped was sloppy student casual. While students were mostly absent from campus during spring break he was hoping if he looked enough the part no one would notice or question him. Getting in and out of places unnoticed was sort of his stock and trade right now, since he'd yet to harness any offensive ability out of his power yet. So getting caught snooping would really look bad for him.

 

 

    Thomas was already caught, he never saw the small old woman watching him with a smirk. If he had he wouldn't of clicked to the fact that she was a telepath vastly more powerful, and skilled than Skylar at reading minds. He'd of thought, “I must remind her of her grandson..”. The old lady pulled a new smart phone from her hand bag and keyed a fast pre-programed text. Every camera on campus was now following Thomas, and feeding the images to facial recognition software even as he strolled. It was fortunate that he wasn't planning on invading the underground at least not yet. Or he'd of found armed guards with nasty tasers waiting for him. No today was just basic familiarization, and reconnoitering of the area. The lady wasn't too worried, the boy wasn't the first young super trying to jump the gun, and if he got too egar well a nasty scare would do the boy some good.

 

...

    Thomas saw Dairus working with another man on replacing a metal door. The old one rested against the wall bent nearly in to at the long access. He kept his head down and kept walking. He'd already warned Skylar who seemed like the most approachable of the two, and since Darius wasn't HCP there wasn't anything he could glean from the man about the program. Better to just roam about and see if he could pick up any hints about where access to the underground was, any normal access routes. If he could clock a few HCP students he'd have a shot at working his way into information. Problem was he wasn't exactly sure what he should be looking for. If Skylar in her full on amazon glory wasn't HCP material who was?

 

 

    People heard, “super” and they thought heroes. Darius knew the truth was that even with the limited population of supers, there was far many more people with powers than ever became heroes. Often the people with powers were just as flawed as or even more flawed than regular folks. Case in point the young super in the accounting program that found out his girlfriend was cheating on him with a physical education major.

 

    He was much stronger than the average human and in a fit of despair he murdered a fire exit door. The girl was obviously not worth it. And the physed guy would be fat and bloated with a beer belly in ten years. While the accountant would probably be signing his minimum wage checks. But still it was sort of comforting to know that life was fucked up for everyone at times. It was one of things that kept Darius sane, the fact that it wasn't personal life crapped on everyone, maybe not equally but everyone got a share.

 

    He balanced the weight of the door while Ned, the guy he'd been assigned to help jimmied the pins into the hinges of the replacement door.

 

 

    Skylar, came around the corner of  some dorm or other. She wasn't sure exactly which one this was, as she didn't have any friends in it. However her telepathy said that Darius was working around here fixing a door? She needed to pass on the kids warning, she thought that maybe this had something to do with why Darius was a drifter. After all that talk about his troubles having a habit of following him she was almost sure it did.

 

    She stopped to admire the man working. She didn't know what she liked about the guy? He was fit, and strong, he could handle himself well in a fight. But he wasn't her typical choice. She liked pretty, and Darius wasn't pretty, he was scruffy at best, and had sort of a rogue's charm. Maybe it was because he didn't fixate on her? She was more than a little vane, and used to being the center of most male's and quite a few female's attention and Darius while he thought she was attractive he didn't seem all that interested in her. No that wasn't true the tenor of his thoughts were more a long the lines of he shouldn't be interested in her for her own good. He sort of buried his attraction, refusing to acknowledge it even to himself. Save for a few slips.

 

    For Skylar O'shaughnessy there was nothing more attractive than the unattainable challenge. She knew it. She accepted it. She even knew that the vanity wasn't the most attractive side of her personality. But she'd grown up hearing how boy's and later mens' minds gushed about her. Especially in eighth grade when she really started shedding the skinny boy look and getting curves. She wasn't perfect, she could admit that. She was arrogant, vain, often times tempestuous, but no one could ever claim she didn't know what she wanted. Darius would simply have to accept it eventually.

 

    She started forward to tell him about the message Thomas delivered, and to lay some ground work for future plans.

 

 

    James laid on the service walk of a water tower roughly three quarters of a mile from campus. His eye to the scope of his .308 rifle. He'd used a laser to mark the range at just under three quarters of a mile call it 1,200 meters. James usually liked to work up close and be more sure of his kill. That was part of the satisfaction he derived from his calling. But this was Lander, Lander posed problems even for James Carswell. Even on holidays you didn't know what cape or cape wannabe would be haunting the campus. So distance was his friend, distance and a fast get away.

 

    He sighted in on the scruffy guy doing basic maintanance. He got a good sight picture, took a deep breath, relaxed, aimed, slack, and then squeezed just as a red head bobbed into his scope. It was too late, the bullet was on the way and James saw, the girls shoulder take the shot aimed at the Walker boys heart. Maybe he'd get him through her. He couldn't wait around to see. He didn't work the action on his rifle ejecting the brass because he didn't want to risk dropping it. Instead he slung rifle and all over his shoulder and slid over the side the of the service walk. Sliding down the rope he was already clipped to.

 

    Once on the ground he whipped out his lighter from his pocket and touched the flame to the rope. It burst into a cloud of smoke and flames vaporizing in less than three seconds. He stowed his rifle in the hidden compartment in his SUV and drove off in less that two minutes after his shot. He knew he didn't get his mark. He knew he'd have to try again, and this time his mark knew he was coming.

 

 

    Just as she'd bounded up to Darius in her best, “perky” all American girl act. Skylar felt a crushing blow to her shoulder that spun her off balance, and a sharp distant crack. Someone shot her. Someone had actually fucking shot her. Damn it stung like a mother. “Son of a bastard whore spawned ..” the curses flowed freely even as she grabbed Darius by the belt buckle and jerked him down. Clothes might tear free, but a thick leather belt was sturdy.

 

    “Get down you ass..” someone is shooting. She didn't say that she'd been shot.

 

    “Skylar your shoulder..” He trailed off..

 

    “I know.. It's fine..” She winced as she worked it around.. “I don't think it penetrated, but it dinged the hell out of me.” They crawled past the new door and into the Hall. A guy with the name patch “Ned” sewn to the breast of a faded gray work shirt already had his phone out calling campus police.

 

    Skylar moaned internally, there went her secret. Normal girls don't stop rifle rounds. Hell normal girls generally don't even slow high velocity rifle rounds down all that much. And finally normal girls don't walk away from high velocity rifle rounds with nothing more than sharp ache in the shoulder and a pissy mood.

 

   

    Angela heard the sharp crack of a rifle report. Having grown up in the deep south their isn't anything sounds quite like it. She planted her left foot on the ground rolled the throttle and spun the bike around and raced back towards the campus. She didn't know why she just felt she had to.

 

...

 

    Thomas's head whipped up and he dived into the nearest shadow. Quickly he turned his mind loose parsing the information coming in he often imagined this is what it must be like for blood hounds or powerful telepaths finding the right information to track. Till he heard the sound of a familiar voice cursing. It was Skylar and she was in pain. He let the images roll through his mind and he didn't find a shooter anywhere near by though, so the shot was a pretty distance. He saw Skylar was okay, and that there was nothing he could do for her. So he decided to shadow them, literally, to keep watch just in case. When he noticed the black beast of a motorcycle whip in with the gorgeous girl on it. She parked a good distance from the scene right on the edge of his observable range.


    Thomas found this interesting. In truth he found her interesting so he slipped closer to her than in side the shadow of her bike to watch. He'd find out if she was a morbid observer or if she was a part of this mess.