Darya fidgeted nervously with her backpack as she stepped off the bus, along with a few other riders, onto the scorching sidewalk of Montgomery Boulevard. The heat, which was withering to visitors in July, didn't bother locals all that much, as it was impossible to put of life and business until the cooler evening, and they dealt with it as best they could. Darya, for her part, opened up a mint green parasol and made her way down the I-25 byway and towards the FBI center of her home city.
The heat was intense, and she was unfortunately well aware of both how dehydrated she was getting and how much water was in her backpack alongside her costume. She knew that riding the bus in sweats was probably a bad idea, but she would much rather have dealt with sweating profusely than the awkward ride over in her full hero get up. And since Thunderbird had called her earlier and warned her that the agency would want a demonstration of her powers, she knew she couldn't afford to drink even a single one of the various water bottles or canteens, leaving her in misery as she walked.
As she approached her goal, she could see the red brick three story complex over the other buildings in the area. But as she rounded the corner, she noticed a small tent set up on the open space of dirt and scrub grass across the side street, with a single man underneath it. He sat on a simple folding metal chair, and a white card table loaded with paperwork on clipboards sat in front of him. To her surprise, he was actually dressed in what she had assumed all government agents wore: Black suit, thin black tie, white shirt, and black loafers.
Walking purposefully, she unzipped the main pocket of her backpack, pulling out her hood and goggles and hurriedly shoving all of her hair underneath it before approaching any closer. Immediately she regretted the colour choice her family had made. Black was not a good colour to wear in the high desert. Nevertheless, she strode forward. The agent behind the table stood up as she walked, and, seeming to read her mind, pointed off to the nearby fence around the FBI building, where three small privacy booths had been set. Darya felt her face glow with embarrassment as she veered off into the booths and changed as quickly as she could.
Coming back out, she was surprised to find another man and a woman standing behind the table. The second man was in some sort of gym outfit, while the woman now sat in a second chair, legs crossed and a clipboard across her lap. As Darya came up to the table, the first man spoke up.
“Alright, this is a new system, so we're going to do this as thoroughly as possible. First off.” He picked up one of the row of clipboards in front of him, pulled out a pen, and readied to fill blanks. “What do you go by when in that outfit?”
Darya's face heated up, but she mastered herself and said, “Tiamat.”
The man nodded. Both him and the woman scribbled something. The man in the gym clothes seemed to be examining her, which made her realise that her entire body outline, while compressed, was visible. She fought off the urge to cover herself.
“Are you willing to give your full legal name for records purposes? Before you answer, be aware that this will be kept confidential and will only be used for medical purposes or notifying next of kin.”
She shook her head. The man nodded and moved on without comment.
“What powers do you claim to have?”
This had been debated with her siblings before she left, and she said without hesitation what they had agreed upon. “Hydrokinesis.”
She noticed the gym guy and the woman look at each other for a second, though she couldn't decipher the meaning. The interview man pressed on. “On a scale of one to ten, how powerful would you say your hydrokinesis is?”
She couldn't detect any kind of sarcasm in his voice. In fact, he seemed to not care at all about the questions he was asking, though she chalked that up to bureaucratic efficiency.
“I don't know?” She said hesitantly. “I have never met another person with it, so I don't really have a measuring stick, you know?”
The gym guy nodded and the woman wrote something down. Following these questions were a lot of things that Darya had not been expecting, including queries as to whether she had health insurance and if she had next of kin she would like notified in the event of her death in the line of duty. She was well aware that they were trying to get periphery details on her so they could identify her later, and she resisted all of these resolutely, though she worried in the back of her mind that she may have accidentally given something away she wasn't aware of.
Finally, after half an hour of questioning, she was passed over to the gym guy. He made her stand out in the sunlight, and gave her another once over that made her self-conscious before he spoke up.
“Water powers, eh? So, tell me Miss Timid, what exactly can you do with water?”
Darya's eyes narrowed behind her goggles. She reached out one hand, and the water bottles in her bag, left thirty feet away by the table, moved on her command. The whole bag dragged across the sand, then accelerated into her hand. She unzipped the thing, taking each bottle one by one, opening it, and pouring it out. Instead of hitting the dirt, however, the water stayed in midair, forming a rough sphere that grew with each pour until she had a ball that was over two feet in diameter.
Staring at the man across the top surface of her sphere, she said, “It's Tiamat, thank you. Tye-ah-maht.”
The man grunted in recognition, and then paced around her ball of water. He poked it with a finger, which she made sure was dry when he pulled it out. “Alright, Tiamat, fair enough. You can make a ball. What else? I can't fight with a ball.”
“I don't want to hurt you, sir.”
“Then I suggest you control yourself. I don't need people who can't keep civilians out of the line of fire or avoid killing suspects. This isn't a military operation, we're not going in guns blazing, understand?”
Darya nodded, trying desperately not to stare at her feet. The man walked around the water ball, which was trembling slightly as her concentration faltered. He placed a hand on her shoulder, speaking much more softly than he had.
“Look, I know why you're here, and I appreciate that you've volunteered. This is dangerous, and I doubt you want to hurt anyone. It's why you put on the costume, right?”
She nodded again, staring at him through the goggles. He was a good foot taller than her.
“This is gonna be a bad time. I haven't seen a group like this before, and it's going to get bad out there. So we need to know you can handle yourself when the shit hits the fan, without endangering bystanders or the people you're working with. I don't foresee that being a problem with you, your power seems kinda on the weak end of what I have heard is possible.”
Darya bristled, barely controlling her temper. “I am not weak. I just can't carry around all of the water I can use on the bus.”
“Oh yeah? Well, let's see what we can do about that. What's your range?”
She blinked. Had she actually tested that limit? “Uhhhh. I guess a couple of hundred feet? I don't know. I'm. Um. Kinda new-ish.”
The man had left her side and sauntered back over to the opposite side of her water ball, which was distinctly more ovoid and had begun slowly rotating as her mind wandered. “Good, good,” he said, hands behind his back. “And how much have you found out you can use?”
Darya held her head a little higher, chin up. “I haven't found an upper limit yet.”
“Okay, good. I assume you can do more than just balls, you said that. Anything combat effective?”
Darya gestured. She knew she probably didn't have to, but it made it easier to visualise what she wanted. The ball of water quickly shifted into a flat plane more than six inches thick, blocking between her and him and covering her entire body. Another gesture and it shifted to cover her body completely, and then she lashed out with a basic punch into the empty air. The water flowed suit, moving like a snake strike across the gap and slamming past the man's shoulder, around his body without touching him, and then coming back to her. A few rapid fire punches threw fast moving, slightly hardened blocks into the dirt like shotgun blasts. She didn't want to show that the sand utterly killed her control, so she left those splatters where they were.
Lastly, she swept her leg out in a roundhouse and sent a sweeping sheet of water across the 'yard' and into the chain link fence, where it stcuk for a moment. To the untrained eye, it wasn't moving, but the grinding noise gave away what she was doing. The leading edge of it was paper thin, and the whole thing was rotating fast enough to give it the same cutting power as a low grade industrial saw. It swiftly broke through the fence before she called it back and reabsorbed it.
The woman was taking notes, now, she saw as she glanced over to the tent. No other heroes had showed up yet. The gym guy clapped to get her attention.
“Good stuff. That is certainly more than I expected. We can do some stress tests later. I noticed your body movements, though. You have martial arts training?”
Darya nodded. “Krav Maga, plus handguns, knives, and rifles.”
“That's great! We'll do a marksmanship test once we have the facility ready. I'm good with her, how about you Reeves?” That last part seemed aimed at the woman, who nodded and waived Darya back over to the table. The heroine let her water ball go, dropping it into the sand, and walked back. Reeves, she noticed, seemed to be in charge.
“Alright, Tiamat, everything looks in order. We'll notify you by phone call within the next couple of days as to where the training facility will be, once we've gotten more recruits. There, you'll be getting rudimentary training on working alongside governments agents both powered and unpowered, we'll do some stress tests on your powers since you haven't found some points we need to know, and then we'll be having a country-wide briefing from the Director.”
“So I am in?” Darya couldn't keep her voice from squeaking slightly in excitement. For her part, Reeves didn't seem to notice or care.
“Welcome to the team, Tiamat. Keep your phone close by.”
A cooling thunderstorm had rolled over during her interview, dropping the temperature swifter than she expected, so Darya was rather happy she had brought sweats. In a fit of high spirits, she decided to keep her costume on underneath them, and set off for downtown, aiming to hit up one of the eateries she rarely got a chance to go to. She was almost to Central Avenue, and fairly certain she wanted pizza of some sort, when she realised she hadn't brought any cash. Thankfully, her bank was only a block away, so she turned heel and made her way there.
The front of the bank was frosted glass, doors and windows both, facing out onto a small plaza with a massive fountain out front. This time of day, around five in the afternoon, not many people were here, but since the bank closed at six, a fact Darya was appreciative of just now, there was still a little business happening. As she walked in, she was suddenly aware of her need for a bathroom, so she looked around for the sign pointing the way. Two men were standing off to the side, discussing some sort of business, three people were in line at the teller's desk which was manned by a single put upon woman shorter than Darya, and a lone security guard sat at a desk. The guard gave her a longer-than-necessary glance, obviously suspicious of a girl in a rousari with a backpack, but she ignored his stare and located the bathroom, moving across the lobby with some haste.
A few minutes and some relief of her bladder later, Darya was washing her hands when she heard shouting from the lobby. She shut off the water quickly and listened, creeping silently towards the door. There were cries of terror and a few more shouts, and then everything sounded a little too quiet. Darya knew instinctively what was happening, and hoped she had enough time to do what she needed to before they figured out she was there.
Swiftly, she pulled her mask and gloves out and tugged them on, followed by her goggles. She turned on all three faucets in the bathroom, and with some distaste pulled the water out of the four toilets, both bowl and tank, adding to the growing puddle on the floor, because she was not sure about using the water ball form quite yet. She was pulling water from the pipes of the sinks forcefully, hoping they would hold up to the pressure, and moving it directly to the floor. When she had more than fifty gallons, she figured it was enough, but left the sinks flowing at less pressure to keep gathering, just in case. Thankfully, the robbers seemed to be too busy to have heard the bathroom overflowing, so she moved to the door, cracked it open just slightly, and peered out, careful to keep all of the water in with her and away from her feet so she didn't splash.
The bathroom was in a hallway coming off of the main hallway, so she had a view of most of the lobby from her position, though not of the desk or the doors. She could see two men pointing handguns towards the counter, and the shadow of someone else near the doors, highlighted by the afternoon sun. Okay, this is it, Darya. First solo mission. How do you disarm these guys with water? Her first thought was to simply cover them, but if they fired wildly in surprise, they might hit an innocent. She might be able to block the bullets. She vaguely remembered that water would do that, maybe a Mythbusters episode, but she didn't know how much it would take, and it would be a huge risk. And then she hit upon the idea of ice.
She had tried it before, and been surprised that with just a little extra concentration(which she had an odd amount of to spare, she had noticed, she could freeze quite a bit, and fairly quickly too if it was in smaller amounts. If she could somehow get enough onto the triggers of the weapons, she could block it up and stop them from firing. Getting into the barrels might be effective too, but far more dangerous, since she wasn't sure at all that wouldn't just send icy shrapnel into the civilians. The problem now was getting their guns to freeze before they shot her or the hostages.
Her thoughts were broken as the man near the windows shouted an alert. Apparently the police had arrived to either the silent alarm or some passerby noticing things through the glass front of the lobby and calling it in. Either way, they were here now. As the two men guarding the hostages moved to the front to see, Darya wasn't sure whether this new development was to her benefit or not. Adrenaline slammed through her system, causing her pulse to hammer in her ears and her breath to quicken. With them temporarily distracted, this was her chance.
She slid quietly around the corner, sparing a glance to the civilians and holding up a finger to her mouth through the mask, before looking at the three men at the front. Thank Allah, they haven't noticed. Water flowed along the ceiling of the hallways, gallons upon gallons of it, pouring up to the ceiling of the lobby fifteen feet above her. She moved quickly, along the wall and around the teller's desk, stopping when she heard voices.
A man was saying, “I know you've got a bunch of money around here somewhere, bitch. Tell us where it is if it isn't in the vault!”
“Sir,” a woman's voice said, quavering with fear. “I swear, we only keep enough money in the vault to cover a few days of activity. The rest is stored offsite. Look! We don't even have safe deposit boxes here, they're in Santa Fe!”
A thump and a cry made her wince. Someone had struck the manager. A second man's voice spoke up. “The cops are here, man, we gotta grab what we can and get the hell out.”
“Look around, maybe she's hiding another door or something.”
The last of her built up water now pooled along the ceiling. She was surprised to realise that she knew exactly how much she had up there, enough to fill the entire ceiling to a depth of two feet. It was essentially a wading pool that was currently spitting in gravity's face. The two guards had moved back to their positions and were yelling for the men in the vault. She had to move now, before she was discovered. The vault door was only a few paces from where she was, and when they cam out she would be in plain view.
Three streams of water shot down from her pool and slammed into the robber's gun hands as she rose up from behind the counter to see what she was doing. She used slightly more force than she expected, and all three dropped their guns in shock, yelling in surprise. One man's shouts were more of pain, and she realised she had broken his wrist. Quickly, the water still clinging to their hands froze over, and she directed yet more water at them, knocking them into the walls and freezing them to it. It didn't take much, since leverage was not easy to find when your limbs were stretched out. More water froze the dropped guns to the floor, encasing them enough to prevent their being picked up by anyone.
The two in the vault rushed out, one dragging a blonde woman in her forties with him by the hair. Both of them immediately noticed her, and one raised his gun at her while the other gave a vicious yank and hauled the manager around to face her. He was in the act of placing his gun to her head and making some sort of dire threat when both of them took the full force of two massive jets of water full to the face. She made the pressure as high as she dared, throwing them back into the vault with surprising force. Water kept pouring over them to keep them in place while she worked on freezing them down as well. When they were secured, she grinned under her mask I did it! Allah be praised, no one got hurt! The hostages poured out of the front door as she waved at the police to come in.
At first they were wary of her, but as she gently pushed the rest of her water out the door and held her hands up to show them she was otherwise unarmed and not a threat, they ignored her and moved over to the would-be robbers. Once they had guns at the ready and pointing, Darya let the ice go and melt off swiftly, allowing them to capture and cuff the suspects. A lieutenant walked up to her.
“I don't know who you are, ma'am, but you did good work. We might've been here all-” He stopped suddenly and shouted for a medic. Darya was confused, but looked down as she wavered on her feet, and as the adrenaline wore off she felt a stabbing pain in her upper arm. Looking down, she saw the blood and a hole through her costume, where one of the men in the vault must have gotten a shot of on her on reflex. She grinned at the lieutenant stupidly under her mask as he caught her and said, “Please leave the mask on. My family might be at risk, you know?” As soon as he nodded, she fainted.