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.”