I flipped the meat over in the skillet again, then set it back on the stove top we put together. It wasn’t a real stove, it didn’t have electricity or even gas, but with Chloe’s power we didn’t need any of those things.
A green glow lit the room, courtesy of Chloe’s power draining energy from the air. It had nowhere to go in her, so it made the jump to me at range, and I dumped it into the building through my feet. Domenic followed right behind her, only able to see because of her power. He can see a shipwreck through miles of ocean, but can’t see in the dark. Guess it’s not his fault powers are fucking weird.
With a little effort, I kicked up my power to a nice, orange glow. Hints of blue-green flickered through from Chloe’s power. I slid the fried meat out onto the platter. Our silverware was all made of solid steel, rather than cheap plastic and paper. I set that down at the table so they could dig in.
I glanced between them, as they started to consider the food. They’d forgiven each other for earlier, but not me. They’ll stay mad at me if this continues, I should remind them of what matters. “So, what’s the pay-day on our drug bust? That was a lot of money, right?”
ConcernInsulted SurpriseRealization. “Hmm, I hadn’t considered that.” HesitationChagrin. “I saw the photo, and, well,” SheepishStupid “the paper said there was something like a quarter mil worth of drugs when they were done with the bag ‘n tag. I’d translate that to about a thousand bucks for us.”
HesitationConfusion. Chloe pulled her choice of meat from the main plate. “Shouldn’t it be more than that? I mean, the bounty’s supposed to be one percent of market value, isn’t it?”
DismissalAnnoyance. “The papers always exaggerate value on illegal drug prices. Bigger numbers make better headlines, and all they care about is the headlines.” Domenic stopped to take a bite of his squirrel. “Oh, this is good! I was, well, kinda expecting it to taste like rat or something.”
Thanks. I took a bite of my own, to hide my smile. “I was getting sick of wild boar.”
Done with his bite, Domenic continued his explanation. “As I was saying, can’t trust the media. They won’t do anything obscene, but they’ll say a gram of good weed will run thirty bucks. I suppose that may be true in New York, but I could go to the street corner and get the same bag for twenty, maybe fifteen if the dealer’s having a bad week. Now, the people who decide our bounty are going to use the low-ball numbers, probably a few years outdated, so they’ll say that same bag’s worth ten. And since drugs are illegal, we can’t point to the open market like we could with the guns.”
UnderstandingFrustration. “Sounds an awful lot like company stocks,” Chloe said. “Tell investors one thing, and tax collectors quite another.” DismissalPride. “Well, what matters is we did a good deed and got a bunch of poison off the streets. Compared to our treasure hunt with Captain Cline, a thousand is pocket change. Convenient while we wait for our more substantive income, irrelevant in the long run.”
I wasn’t sure what most of those numbers or claims even meant, but it seemed to me like my father’s rantings about corrupt, lying businesses and government wasn’t wrong. They were talking about newspapers leaving out information and cops cheating people out of money as if it was the most natural thing. I ate, because I had nothing to say. If everyone’s crooked, then so be it, I’ll just learn to be better at it than they are.
AgreementHope. “Considering it might take years to get everything sorted out with the ships? Yeah, it’s going to be useful. At least I know I can fund my own private scholarship.” Domenic went back to eating, giving a sign he was done for a moment.
AmusedThoughtful. Chloe leaned forward a little, making the shadows shift around us. Her loose shirt slid down, a glimpse of what he’d spent plenty of time getting familiar with. I couldn’t do the same; my shirt was a size too small, instead.
“You know, you could always ditch that medical degree. With my skills and your street smarts, we could take this seed money to Wall Street and become a power couple. They say the first mil is the hardest.”
UncertainDistaste. “Not worth the risk.” Domenic glanced over at me for a moment. “They point too many Espers at the big markets. I have no idea how your parents pulled it off, but we can’t afford to take that chance.” So I’m to blame.
ResignationLoss. Chloe, too, gave me a glance. ConcernSympathy. “And you don’t want to be a businessman.”
And now she pities me, that’s not what I wanted. I’m better than that; I deserve fear, lust, and hate, but nobody gets to look down on me. I wanted to scream at her, but I said nothing.
ApologyMistake. Domenic turned over the bones on his plate, as if there would be something hidden beneath them. “And I don’t want to be a businessman.” He slid his plate back as he talked. “I don’t want to be the sort of person who lives off the hard work of others.”
Dammit, think of something cheerful. “So, does that mean we keep smacking around drug dealers? Because I may know the location of a couple more safe houses.”
SurprisedEager UncertainCurious. “Uh, did you pick those up with your Fate-sense?” Domenic hesitated for a moment. “For that matter, how does your power detect drugs? I mean, I could see where you could pick things out with enhanced olfactory abilities, but do drugs have a fate?”
Hmm, good questions, and with him paying attention I can’t bullshit my way through. “They feel different. Like, around them I can see the way people will react. Without your powers to boost mine, I don’t think I’d be so good at it.” True enough, in its own way. “Oh, and I may have asked the guys about other stashes before the cops showed up last night. Don’t worry, I zapped their brains, they’ll be lucky to remember their own names for a day or three.”
UneaseGuilt. Chloe wanted to say something, but she remained silent while Domenic took a minute to think. ResignationAcceptance. “I think that’s a violation of the Geneva Convention, and I want to be upset, but they’re Nazi drug dealers. You’re certain there’s no permanent damage, or anything that they can trace back to us?”
That’s what I like about Domenic, he’s not the strongest or best looking, but he’s able to use his brain. “They’ll be fine, just a few minutes of blackout and one hell of a migraine when they wake up.”
ConsiderationAcceptance. “Okay, they’ll probably dismiss that as part of being knocked out. If you have to, tell the police you have a taser. You don’t have to reveal it’s not a part of your outfit unless you’re under arrest. Speaking of, if you are arrested for any reason, the first and only thing you say is ‘I want a lawyer’. Do that, and they can’t use Truthsayers or violate your privacy rights with Espers as long as you don’t get violent.”
If I get violent, they’ll need Espers to find their bodies. “Lawyer, sure, I can do that.”
UncertainRelief HesitationSupport. Domenic kept his eyes on me, rather than going right back to Chloe as he usually did. “So what did you get as far as places to hit go? Weapons or money stashes are an order of magnitude more effective than drugs.”
I didn’t know I should ask. “I guess we’ll have to do ask when we get there. Why’s it matter?”
“It does more damage. Gangs are organizations held together by money and violence; take those away, and you kill the gang. Drugs only matter only in as much as they provide money.”
AgreementLove. Chloe leaned back, her own plate clear unless she felt like eating the bones. “Makes sense. Like any other business, you need liquid assets.”
ResolveInitiative. “Okay, we’re doing it.” He looked over at me. “We hit them hard and fast, take every stockpile they got in a single fell swoop if at all possible.” SurpriseEager. Domenic leaned onto the table, and small box buildings began to form, along with little square pieces. I was reminded of monopoly pieces.
“We’ll treat this as a war, and every war starts by taking out as many enemy assets as possible in a single strike. Then, once you’ve got control of the board, you keep momentum going forward.” He looked up at Chloe. “We’ll be letting them know we have a Tracker or Esper with some real power, so it won’t take long before they stop stashing goods in the city. Once that happens, our ability to catch them is diminished.” Another handful of ‘buildings’ formed outside the ‘city’. “But they also have longer supply lines, higher cost of doing business, greater risk of police response. Even if we can’t take out their supers, we’ll break them with time.”
Ooh, I like. “They’ll get desperate,” I added. Not a bad thing by any stretch; they’re most fun at that moment. “You’ll have to be prepared for the final act of retaliation.”
RecognitionShame. “Fuck, you’re right. Pretend to be Napoleon, then make the same mistakes he made.” He looked at the table, which seemed to change in random to his mood. “Aggression at the start of a war, but once you’re established you have to be cautious. Blitzkrieg works great, until you make a mistake, and then the whole war falls apart.”
Who’s Napoleon? Maybe it’s some kind of weird costume name. Whatever. “Sounds good. So, who’s the supers we gotta fight? Any of them much threat to us?”
ConsiderationUncertain. “Well, Quash himself is a nasty fighter, with gravity control powers that I can partially counter. With our Pairbond, I think I can snipe him at range.” LossGuilt FocusResist. We stumbled into another feedback loop, but Domenic pushed through before it got bad. “Sal- Salamander’s nasty. Feral package, with poison claws and a ‘limbs grow back’ regeneration level. Don’t think he can get through my armor, let me deal with him.”
I smiled as sweet as I could. “No promises.” I’ve never played with anyone I can carve up like a turkey more than once.
UneaseIrrelevant. “Uh, then there’s Biohazard. Tank, strength, and gets more powerful by exposing herself to toxic materials. She’s a walking chemical weapon, with god only knows what freaky shit coursing through her blood. She’s been in one fight since getting her powers, and nobody’s been willing to try her a second time.” DisgustDread. “Worse than any poison you can imagine. You see her, you run.”
I dunno, I can imagine some awesome poisons. Nothing short of a solid wall could stop some of them. Hmm, there’s a thought. “What about your power? Could you, say, lock her in a metal ball?”
AgreementHope ConsiderationRejection. Domenic toyed with the metal, considering its strength. “Maybe, with some time, but I don’t know how fast or strong she is. Nobody does. Also don’t know if she’d be able to survive once she runs out of oxygen. If we get desperate, I’ll try it, but we’re better off not pressing our luck. She plays bodyguard and a sort of implicit hostage situation rather than a combatant. When we run, and we will, she’ll let us.”
Chloe took a breath. “Then there’s Myriad. She’s got the power to create a copy of other Imbued. Temporary, of course, one at a time, and it’s a physical puppet, no copied memories. It can’t, say, tell anyone your name or address, but if she copies you, you’ll be fighting something that has all your powers.”
Fun. “And a disposable target?” I looked over at Domenic. “We all get to fight our own copies, right? They shouldn’t get our Pairbond boosts, so it’ll be easy.”
HesitantAcceptance. “That’s a start. We should probably not rely on it to work that way, though.” The metal shapes Domenic created started to fold back into a smooth table. “Next big threat is Parapet. Creates monodirectional forcefield walls.” UncertainConfusion. “Uh… things can pass through it, but only in the direction she decides. Expect her allies to hide behind the shield wall.”
Fucking cowards. How would we beat such a thing, anyway?
DeterminationCertainty. “She has to have an upper limit, and I bet I can break it. Just be there to back me up if it consumes my whole battery, okay?”
“Always.” SupportLove HappyTrust. Do they ever stop? “Next, there’s Survivalist, nobody’s sure if he’s even a ‘he’, but he can Gift skills, mostly military training. Guns, wilderness survival, stuff like that. Most of the training of a special forces unit, none of the hard work or discipline. Again, temporary boosts, maybe an hour or two at most.”
ConfidentDismissive. Right, that’s almost useless against us. “I’m fastest, I can go through the normals without much problem. You guys are tough enough that even if we got someone you can’t beat, you won’t get hurt while I’m cleaning up the mooks.”
ConcernFear. Chloe looked up at the roof, as if she could see through it the way Dom could. “If they’re good in the woods, do you think they might spot our base if they track us here?”
DreadUncertainty. Domenic hesitated, searching for some way to calm Chloe’s fears. I found my answer before him. “And do what? Start a fight with us in the spot where we’re at our strongest? How much more powerful are we here?”
ApprovalConfidence SuprisePride. Chloe’s power dimmed some, and a few more bursts of orange lightning jumped to her skin from the floor. “I… I think with as much as we’ve charged this building with our powers, we could fight at full strength for hours out here.”
Exactly. “And our full strength is very, very good.” I used my power to take control of the table, and build some shapes of my own. The lightning dancing between them was a nice touch, if I do say so myself. “So, are we going to talk all day, or are we going to kick some ass?”
EagerConfident ApprovalReady. About time we get to have some real fun.