I picked through the jewelry case, examining all the glittering stones that I had no use for. Granted, the gold had market value to spare, but in the end it was just shiny rocks and metal with the primary function of allowing a man to stick his dick in a woman and mark her as his property. Hmm, I must be getting cynical now that I’m the ripe old age of twenty.
My HUD lit up an incoming kinetic field which it identified as Sapphire. Man, it’s weird not seeing Com anymore. After that fiasco with Kitten, he seemed to be on vacation for some reason. My chest tingled some as I tossed the necklace I’d been holding back into the box, a moment before Sapphire ripped the door open.
Glass fell around her feet to the floor she was hovering inches above. It was fascinating to watch how the glass interacted with her flight field. Well, there goes any sleep I was gonna get tomorrow; I’mma be studying those readings until this time tomorrow. “You’re under arrest!”
Seriously? I looked up at her. “So you know the door wasn’t locked. You could have opened it.”
It was impossible for my scanners to get a proper lock on her biorhythms through the field of her power, but I liked to imagine the increased heartbeat was the result of humiliation rather than preparation for combat. “Get on your knees!”
“Sorry, lady, you’re not my type.” I spend too much time around Zach. Not half as much as I’d like, however. My armor reacted to movements that long practice had made as natural to me as walking. The exo-muscle latticework kicked into action, drawing from my armor’s batteries to create mechanical energy, momentum, without all the mess and energy waste of using machines to do it.
She chased after, as I knew she would. In a straight race, she had me outclassed by a factor of seven; she could break the sound barrier. However, I had scans which revealed a secret Sapphire kept guarded; her claim of being a flying brick was false. While I hadn’t figured out the full mechanism of her power, she was a summoner of the telekinetic variety with influence over objects which reflected light of the 475nm range.
I had some theories on why she could only control things which were blue, that wasn’t important right now; what mattered was that she was using her power in an inappropriate manner. I concede that covering herself in material infused with her power was smart, but flight was not a natural part of her powers, and so she lacked the durability to survive the g-forces of her own power.
My Tech, on the other hand, worked by altering how momentum itself functioned. I could go from terminal velocity to dead stop in a literal blink of an eye without a hair on my head getting jostled, let alone the body-annihilating forces Sapphire risked. In addition, I was running on map programmed into my computer, so I wasn’t hampered by human reaction times.
All told, I had to slow myself down to avoid losing her during the chase. First I took her out the back door, into an alleyway that was dark even during the day, and pitch black at this time of night. As she was able to fly, and my equipment glowed orange when in use, she wasn’t slowed down much under the circumstances. Running face-first into the chain-link fence I’d set up also didn’t seem to have much effect.
Were I planning to beat her, I would have used a fishing net coated in napalm; fire was the most common weakness for all Imbued. Defeating Sapphire would have been one hell of a notch on my belt, if I were a psychopath. Instead, I contented myself with the knowledge that I was collecting incredible amounts of data on one of the region’s heaviest hitters.
A pain shot through my chest. Shit, already? I didn’t stumble, my armor had internal stabilizers to prevent that, but I decided to cut my game short. The plan had been to zigzag for a few miles, following a planned path that would have looked like a natural pursuit path. Instead I shot straight for the target taking the fastest safe route available in my armor.
Five minutes of running later, I’d begun to fear I wouldn’t have the strength to carry out the mission at all. My HUD brought up the bug-out option, but I ignored it. I will push on, I won’t be controlled by that bitch after her death. I almost cried in relief when I spotted the house in the distance.
With a dive through the window that felt like being stabbed through the heart a second time, I was now inside the garage. A nice garage, with two even nicer cars. One of which was a classic 1965 Mustang. I spared a single glance at the candy apple red beauty. In a perfect world I would steal you, drive you to Canada, and marry you.
Well, guess I’ll have to keep an eye on the police auctions, see if against all odds it finds its way to the market. I took a slow, agonizing breath, and smashed through the interior wall into a house far nicer than I could afford. It wasn’t a mansion by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the sort of home that, in a neighborhood as ritzy as this one, had to come close to a seven digit price tag. I knew money when I saw it, and this place reeked of money.
“The fuck are you!?” A man, our target, jumped to his feet. Or did his best to jump to his feet considering he was naked save for his underwear around his angles, and two attractive and also naked women on his lap.
I wished I could call him a cheating bastard, just to add a bit more joy to what I was doing, but one of the two women was his wife. At least now we know why they sent the kids to their grandparents for the weekend.
In any case, I didn’t bother with something so stupid as talking to him or dwelling on the circumstances. I had a superpower cop in hot pursuit, and I was going to use her for all she was worth..
I was through the living room and into the foyer by the time Sapphire made her way into the house. I hesitated just long enough to let her see me duck into the hallway on the other side. I opened one of the doors, then yanked it close as if to slam it, but left a delay effect on the momentum in the door. Two seconds ought be enough. I got out the other side by the time Sapphire made it into the hall. I watched via my tracking software as she kicked open the door that slammed moments after she got into the hall.
That’ll buy me a moment. Agony tore through me, white-hot and bordering on the transcendent. It hurt worse than dying had. I collapsed in my armor, allowing the supports to keep me up. I squeezed my eyes shut, crying from the pain.
“You son of a bitch!” Our target appeared in the other door, and I heard the familiar chirps as my armor identified a firearm and activated the appropriate protocols. He unloaded the clip with the accuracy and certainty of a man who’d killed before. With my eyes closed, I couldn’t be sure quite how it looked, but I assumed me standing in silence as bullets came straight for my head, only for them to swerve off course at the last possible second, was awesome.
The other alert mattered more; Sapphire realized she was fooled, and was now back on my trail. Fuck. I would have liked a few more seconds to catch my breath.
A boost of power took me over the asshole’s head in a single jump; this guy’s house was big enough to allow that much clearance. The jump and landing were both their own special and unique agonies, almost enough to make me bug out early. As close as we were to the end, even this might have been enough to get the job done. No! I will not let Her beat me!
The scumbag spun around and shot the gun at my face before my feet had even hit the ground behind him. Now that I was close to the guy, I was forced to admit he wasn’t bad looking, in good shape, and the salt and pepper of his copious chest hair worked well on his frame. Lucky sack of shit. Well, after today, you’ll be in prison.
Sapphire ignored the guy with the gun; with her power enforced costume, a conventional hand held firearm meant about as much to her as it did to me. She flew over him as well, which put her right through the wake of my momentum distortion field. It was enough to allow me to jump several meters using strength that was only a little greater than human normal, but for someone like Sapphire it augmented her speed well beyond what she was expecting.
Plaster, panels and other garbage rained down on us. I backed up the few steps that took me into the kitchen.
On realizing he was now playing in the big leagues, the target chose the better part of valor and pussed out like a bitch, running for somewhere that didn’t matter. My tracking software identified Sapphire’s movements, reacting before my brain even recognized the alert. A simple duck and roll put me out of her range for a moment.
Agony shot through my chest, stealing my breath away from me. Fuck! Just one more minute! I swear! My armor’s servo systems kept me moving, reacting to what my conscious mind was telling my body rather than what my body was telling my mind. My body, unwilling to be ignored, screamed in protest.
Sapphire got her bearing faster than most opponents; like myself, she had a power that relied on her mind rather than her body, which gave her an edge in a fight such as this one. The time and energy it takes to keep track of your limbs is a liability in combat, a liability that neither of us had to deal with.
My tech adjusted my kinetic field, rendering my forcefield almost frictionless now that I didn’t need the speed features to run or defensive features to protect against bullet fire, ready for the next step. When Sapphire made contact, I used my field to distort hers just a little, which sent her deflecting off me, face first into the fridge.
I cringed in part for the pain shooting through me, and in part for the energy the collision between our respective energy fields cost me. I no longer had a choice but to bail in a minute; I didn’t have juice enough for longer. I selected from a series of canned voice recordings in my costume, which I used to fake confidence or, in this case, the ability to breathe.
“I’m sorry, but why are people afraid of you, again?” I know, not a good one-liner by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not easy coming up with canned lines that can be used in a wide variety of circumstances.
I took my satisfaction from watching her pull herself out of a refrigerator. Her costume seemed to be waterproof, but the target had stocked up on milk as well, and now she was covered in white fluid that was going to smell awful in an hour or two. Plus a couple tomatoes and something brown and lumpy that I didn’t recognize. Sapphire wiped her visor clean, then took flight to come after me again.
So she needs to use her eyes to track me, good to know, better knowing that I don’t share that weakness. I rode back into the dining room, jumped up so I ended up sliding across the dining room table on my back, which hurt so bad I couldn’t help but cry out, all while telling my computers what I needed them to do. When I got to the far end of the table, I altered the flow of my momentum downward, which forced the table to flip up.
The far end came up just in time to catch Sapphire in the chest. The solid oak dining table shattered in the collision, but through my scanners I got a good look at how her power worked when dealing with a serious impact. Now I knew it was all based on conscious reactions; much like myself, no part of her ability was reflexive. Unlike me, she didn’t have the benefits of a supercomputer to multitask for her.
Her momentum interrupted, she dropped to the ground, and my scanners noted she almost grabbed her chest, but her power held her arms in place. The impact force was distributed through her armor enough that she would only suffer some bruising, but that bruising was over her breasts. I was led to understand women found that uncomfortable.
Pity I’m going straight; the intel I’m getting could be worth a metric fuckton on the market. I contented myself with a promise that I’d study everything I could about her powers, and use that data knowledge to improve upon my equipment. Better Tech was one of the few things more valuable than money.
Still, she had me beat, now. I was almost out of power, and for all intents and purposes she was still at full strength. For all I’d hit her with, this was little more than a light workout as far as her power was concerned. Maybe if I kept laying on the hits for an hour or two she’d feel it, but I used everything I had in a matter of minutes. If I ever had to fight her for real, I would have to invest in the napalm and pray it was enough.
Sapphire hovered up, facing me. “You just turned a fine and perhaps a year in jail into at least five years. Do you want to surrender now, or are we going to make it fifteen?”
Standard Operating Procedure with Imbued; don’t push too hard, or they might push back harder. Most of us would go to prison rather than Surge, many would rather die, but if we were pushed too hard, too fast, some of us were stupid enough to take the ‘worse than death’ option. Zach, as an example.
“After what I did?” In any case, I was in desperate need for the breather, so I took the moment I could. I didn’t even bother hiding my short, gasping breaths. I even slumped down to the ground; I’d lost. “I’d last a week in the joint.”
I reached under the cabinet, grabbed the bag taped there, and tossed it out into the dining room floor. I would have liked if the white powder spilled out everywhere, but the contents were far too well packed for that.
“This was intentional?” Sapphire lowered down, though she still kept her feet off the ground. By all accounts, she was an intelligent woman; now that I had her thinking, she was no doubt putting together all the little coincidences, and noting that running into a home like this one was suspicious in its own right.
I eliminated their need for a warrant, and now an investigation would occur. She didn’t know it yet, but they would discover this to be the home of a Carlos Perez, one of Los Fieles’ non-powered bigwigs. Once, long before before I was born, the mafia would call someone like him a ‘made man’. Today, nobody used titles and most gangs didn’t name themselves. Names let people know who you were, and thus how to find you; a liability, where criminal enterprise was concerned.
“Deactivate your equipment, and we’ll talk.” Sapphire followed the police script; get the surrender first, then start to deal.
“One thing.” I took the deepest breath I could. “I got a scan. Of Respawn’s power.” I activated the bug-out button, and a moment later found myself sitting on the couch of Laura’s apartment.
The screaming agony in my chest was replaced with the dull ache I’d grown accustomed to, and my armor had been reset to when he tagged me around ten minutes ago. Even the internal memory banks had been returned to prior condition. Somehow, my memories of the events seemed to be unchanged, but the technology had been scrubbed. It was enough to send a normal man into an existential crisis. I was just glad I was uploading everything I scanned into an external databank.
Zach was next to me on the couch, watching the news, and the others were coming in from the kitchen. Laura first, with Genius Loci’s energy wrapped around her like a second skin. Behind them, White Lady stayed in the doorway, observing us rather than participating.
I assume Zach alerted them before he teleported me back.
“How’d it go?” Laura asked.
“The primary objective was a complete success.” There was no way Perez would get out of this without losing a fortune and his freedom, unless someone killed him to keep him from spilling secrets. “Failed both secondary conditions. Sorry, there were too many factors at play to make it believable.” A twinge of pain ran through my chest. I overestimated what I could get away with.
“Hey, man, don’t beat yourself up.” Zach put his hand on my shoulder, giving a pat. Speaking of pain. “We all knew selling it as dumb luck was a long shot. You, uh, don’t think they figured out, well…”
That I’m working with you and Genius Loci planted the drugs there to begin with? “Not unless Sapphire’s a telepath.” I looked over at White Lady, who stayed quiet save for what I think was a shrug under the robe. “Speaking of, got the tertiary goal. A fence, a ceiling, and a fridge.”
A bark of a laugh sounded from under the robe. “A fridge?” The surprise was genuine, but try as she might she couldn’t disguise the happy tone in her voice with her attempt to sound uninterested.
I had no idea what Sapphire did to make White Lady hate her so, and I didn’t feel it was my place to pry. To quote some old wisdom; you can’t climb to the top without stepping on a few people.
“I felt embarrassed watching. I’ll get you the recordings later.”
“I don’t want one, thanks,” she said without fooling anyone in the room. “So, uh, what’s the next mission? This is kinda fun.”
“Well, I’m useless for the brain stuff.” Zach leaned forward, then stood. “I’m going to go out for a walk, if that’s okay with everyone.”