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RACHELI


and



Location: Inside Taylor’s Garage
Time: 8:00pm


With the plan set in motion, Kayla spent the time after the ‘shopping spree’ to get ready for tonight. Having donned on her Fletch outfit after being out of it for a while, she left to go to the garage to rendezvous with the rest of her group. In the safety of underneath her shirt in her cleavage, Archie remained curled up. It was about time you got out of the house, she thought, thinking back to the last time the plant-based sugar glider was with her. It had been a month since the Hounds finally fell and that was when it had been out. Since then, it remained in the side room used for her archery gear lounging on the window sill. While it did annoy her from time to time, the archer had grown fond of her ‘familiar’.

It had been a few hours since she arrived at the garage. She focused on getting ready for tonight and throwing in a last-minute practice. While it had been a month since she last shot her bow, she hadn’t lost her touch. The years of training had ingrained the muscle memory of the tension in her traps. Making sure she expanded through the shot as the click of the release aid sent another arrow into the tattered foam boss that resided in her work cabinet. Once she had finished releasing her 24th arrow, she walked up to the target and set her compound bow down. With trained deftness, she quickly began pulling out all 24 arrows from the target.

Racheli approached the garage an hour late.

It was a nice night to simply walk. Her aura seemed to ooze out a warning to anyone stupid enough to mess with her, sparing her from harassment.

She had changed into a red checkered shirt, rolled up at the elbow and open V neckline. It stopped short of her small bust giving only a hint of what was underneath. Several small, silver chains looped across her side from her leather belt. They clinked and clanged with each slander of her hips.

A wicked, mischievous smile darted across her lips. Her eyes shifted into a darker hue before it snapped back again into the green-blue color. A hand reached up to check the short, pixie hair and ensure it was in the proper place. Then she began to walk inside.

"Hope I didn't miss the party," Rach's voice rang out, shutting the door behind her.

Pulling out the last arrow and sliding it into her leg quiver, Kayla turned her head towards the door as it opened. She’s arrived then, she thought, her mind stating the obvious fact. Arriving earlier to the garage has given her time to think and to focus on what was planned. Now that the time is almost here, she appeared unusually calm. This was despite the fact her bow was now tens of feet away from her at her shooting line.

”Oh hey Racheli,” the archer responded, eyes darting to the clock on the wall. ”In fact, you’re early.”

Slowly, she walked back towards her bow on the other side of the garage. The workbench that lined the shooting line was long, but there was a gap with another that was in line with the door her friend came through. Kayla approached the gap and shot a glance at Racheli.

”Are you ready to find that murdering bastard that has been elusive for the past few months?”

Racheli turned to face Kayla, finally noticing where she was. She seemed to think a moment before she replied.

“Yeah, if you think we can. Where are we heading to first?” Her hands moved into her jeans where she let them settle. Her posture was relaxed through her mind was anything but chilled.

Kayla kept her focus partially on Racheli, still making sure she was making her way to her bow. Her body starts making it across the gap.

”I had been thinking about the immediate area around first. There are at least 3 different families that fit the profile.” The archer’s gaze turned to her friend, waiting to see what her response was.

Like a predator, Racheli’s attention zoned in on Kayla. Her eyes watched the woman’s movements and observed it closely. Her teeth chewed on her lip, but not hard enough to bleed. A thoughtful expression crossed her face. She turned her back, walking toward the rack filled with tools and stood there.

“I recalled you had found some leads. Which one do you think he’ll hit first?” Her hand reached out to touch a wrench lying on the table.

Kayla’s eyes narrowed for a second before relaxing again. Her mind was racing to think about what to say. What lie to say. At some point, they must slip up and reveal their identity. However, being as observant as she was, she noticed a possible slip: The revealing of the gender from Racheli herself. Even the archer didn’t know for certain what gender the killer was. So how did she know? Only one near-certain answer: if the suspicions of the killer being a shifter are true and took the form of Racheli.

”Funny you should ask,” she replied, stopping as soon as she reached the gap. ”I think I also recall saying that I was not 100% sure on the killer’s gender, yet you’re confident in the killer is male. And why is that?” Her facial expression turned accusatory, the latter question also morphing into that tone.

Racheli turned and hid the makeshift weapon behind her. She shrugs. Her words were carefully chosen as she explains.

“I said he because the murders remind me of someone. Someone from my past and I rather forget. It’s impossible through. I was told he died, but I guess I was lied to.”

Her hand tightened about the handle of the screwdriver while she waited. Her eyebrow raised and she snickered, the tone finally dawned on her.

“Unless you think I’ve taken after him and been moonlight murdering. Cause if that’s what you think, it just means I can’t trust you to have my back and I might as well fucking go alone.”

Kayla’s eyes narrowed. The explanation does seem reasonable as to why the assumption of the gender was made as well as the information about her past. In her eye, she sees that there was something hidden in Racheli’s grasp. Seems that there is another slip, she thought, keeping her body calm for what was about to happen next.

”True, that did happen. I’ve read into it after you introduced the murders to me. It’s the reason why I helped you track the killer down. Your father.” And now, to press. I will have to thank Leila for getting me this information. ”I know that your father was executed and then interred by James MacGrath into Parker Funeral Home in Oregon. Only, there’s no James MacGrath or a facility called Parker Funeral Home in Oregon.”

A smirk begins to form.

“And you expect me to trust you after you did a background check on me?” Racheli growled.

Her eyes heated in anger as she closed them, exhaling her frustration out. It ended in a long sigh. She brought the weapon to her side before she loosened her fingers. The screwdriver dropped onto the ground. The impact rang out throughout the garage while Racheli lowered her face from Kayla’s view.

“If it helps… not everything is as it seems.”

And now I’ve got him.

The archer watched as Racheli’s arm that hid the screwdriver to her side. While she didn’t expect the improvised weapon to be dropped to the ground, it didn’t phase her one bit. As the head of what was her friend lowered, Kayla made a quick glance to where her compound bow was. This was in case an attack happened after her next statement.

”Indeed. Not everything is as it seems. And it is for 3 things. First, the way you tried to hide my screwdriver in your grasp as you talked to me kinda revealed your intentions. The Racheli I know was uneasy about these murders to begin with and I don’t even think she would kill one of her friends. Second, that meeting in the alleyway was far too suspicious for me to think that you are not who you look. And finally, the one thing that gave you away…”

She paused, her right hand hovering over the arrows on her leg quiver. Her eyes kept their focus on the person in front of her. While she appeared calm, Kayla was mentally prepped to dodge any oncoming attack after the next bit.

”Coffee. You had coffee at the cafe earlier today. Racheli does not drink any hot drinks. Especially as the virus that is in her creates illusions of itself to chastise her for drinking it. The same virus that should have appeared in that alleyway. The same virus that should be defending her now.”

Slowly, the archer physically appeared to shift to be ready for any attack.
”So yeah, everything isn’t as it fucking seems, Racheli. Or should I say… Michael Garth.”

“The little charade couldn’t last forever. I will admit, I was growing bored.” Michael answered.

Guess the cat’s out of the bag now, Fletch thought, instantly hearing the male voice coming from the form of Racheli.

Something dripped down his face and splattered onto the floor. It was flesh-colored liquid. He lifted his face, the female form ruined by several blobby lines running down the length. They ended in drips like wax off a candle’s surface. Muscle and bone peered through the ripping seams that appeared underneath. Long tendons began whip-like tentacles that flailed around the faceless head. The jaw widened into two parts with a long, slimy tongue hanging down, tipped by a curved bone hook.

Her right hand, hovering above the arrows on her leg quiver, instantly shot into the nearby pocket to grab something from it. She watched as Michael began showing his true self. The sleeping sugar glider instantly clambered out of her shirt and scrambled into the trouser pocket on her left side.
An inhuman roar erupted from the throat becoming guttural toward the end. Without warning, the tongue lashed forward followed by about six or seven smaller tentacles.

As the hooked tongue lashed out after the deafening roar, the archer instinctively dodged out of the way with her legs surging her towards her bow. One by one, the other tentacles joined in smashing into the wall on the other side of the garage, missing Fletch by inches. By this point, she pulled out a small device in her hand.

From the outset, it looked like a small plastic tube with plastic taped over cut out holes. Each end is capped off by a stopper, with one stopper having a string tied to a very short strike-everywhere match. Pinching the match head between her index finger and thumb, Fletch flicked the match alight and threw the improvised device at Michael.

As each tentacle came back empty, it retracted back into him with a slurping noise. Michael spotted the incoming device and lifted his arm. It flattened out and became a shield, using the interior bone and extending it through the flesh. The device exploded into a blinding light temporarily blinding him.
Continuing her run forward, she turned her head. A second later, a loud bang erupted in the garage followed by an intense light. As the last tentacle lunged at her, she leaped forward into a roll. Getting back up, her left hand grabbed the resting compound bow. She knocked an arrow she grabbed from her leg quiver. With precision she turned and let loose the string, snapping the arrow towards her target.

The arrow deflected off Michael’s new form.

Any remaining features of Racheli were gone. Bones crunched and muscles stretched, all of them had contorted into something new. Muscles had swallowed whatever remained of his human form into the larger mass before it hardened into a jagged shell. Two long, three-fingered hands whipped about on jointless arms at the top of it. On the lower part, an eyeless face peered out with feelers darting around. Needle teeth dripped with an unknown substance that hissed when the droplets hit the garage floor. He was now about the size of a school bus. Four crustacean legs bore the weight of the alien creature as its two pincers snapped.

“I will enjoy your screams nearly as much as I did hers.” He hissed then rushed forward.

He moved surprisingly fast for his size as he closed in on Kayla, his right pincer stretched out to snag her waist.

Kayla had to admit, she didn’t take into account what a monstrous form Michael would take when she confronted him. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, she thought, tensing up as he charged forward. The workbenches between them were easily thrown aside by the large beast. ”Not how I imagined things would happen, but it’ll happen regardless."

Twang!

The archer expected Michael to arrive early. It’s why she managed to spend some time after that coffee break in the garage setting up boobytraps. As the charge began, several of the near-invisible fishing lines snap apart from the abrupt force. Several snapping explosions occurred from underneath the benches, launching broken pieces of exhaust pipes, iron bars and anything sharp that Kayla could get her hands on.

With a set of 5 traps released aimed in different directions in the garage, the archer managed to dodge out of the way of one at the same time as the outstretched claw, her body going underneath. Grabbing one of the seeds in the pocket she pulled the flashbang from, she tried to stash the seed in the nook between the wrist and the claw. At the same time, she used the momentum of the claw going into the garage door and her fall to flip up onto Michael’s outstretched arm.

”Well, you’ve got to catch me first,” she retorted. As her cowl wasn’t on, she used the opportunity to raise her left arm to bring down her lower left eyelid and stick her tongue.

Michael was unable to turn on a dime. His body kept going and plowed into the doors. The thin metal warped outward on the impact leaving a gaping hole behind. Through the deafening sound, his body stumbled onto the street. Several cars veered off into the side to avoid the hulking monster slipping along the road. Their drivers stared in awe or escaping their vehicles and fleeing from the scene.

The monster came to a stop in the middle of the road, the momentum finally died. He shook his head as he noticed the weight on his pincer. Instinctively, his legs wheeled about and the pincer slammed into the ground.

Along his surface, rebar and other metal stuck out at various angles. Few of the arrows had managed to find purchase through the thick hide. Their remains were scattered along the path from the building.

Fletch hung on for dear life as the momentum dragged the monster through the garage door onto the street outside. At the moment, she only thought about hanging onto him to not make her prone to another attack. The momentum and speed through the garage door were enough to set off the other trap she had, though her eyes didn’t catch any glimpses of any engine valves shooting out in the direction of the doorway.

Once Michael’s body had stopped skidding into the middle of the street, the archer took the moment to try and grab her cowl to cover her face, but the sudden jerk forced her hand to cling onto the shell once again as she kept her position on his claw. Finally, with the claw on the ground, she pulled the cowl up with her right hand as she began running up his arm onto his back. With her left hand sorting out the finger sling on her glove, her right pressed the button set into the glove. Her back quiver whirred as the arrows appear to spin in place.

Happy with the arrow choice and nocking it onto the bow, she leaped from his back and fired at his face. The resulting explosion from the arrow caused the crab to stumble in place as she was launched away. Landing somewhat precariously onto an abandoned car, she drew another explosive arrow and fired it at Michael, aiming for his left side.

Another inhuman roar erupted out, a mix of frustration and pain from the creature. The arrow that exploded on his face left a bleeding mess. Bone shattered revealing cooked muscle and a small hole in the cheek. As the hazy from his own blood cleared, his senses returned. When the next arrow shot at him, his left claw reached out and jerked up a piece of the pavement. It came away easily proving a shoddy shield from the attack.

As the arrow exploded harmlessly on the pulled up pavement, Fletch growled with disappointment. That slowly went as she noticed the three poles sticking out of its body. While the rebar from the first trap looked embedded and the exhaust pipe didn’t appear to cause any significant damage, an iron bar lodged in the body was close enough to the ground for her to do something about it. Taking the opportunity, she jumped off the car and dashed forward. Darting towards Michael’s back, Kayla launched herself into a skid between the many legs of the creature and kicked out at the bar, aiming to drive it further in.

Michael tossed away the pavement to relocate Kayla. A new pain shot through his lower half and his face twisted down, seeing his target in range. Blood gushed out. The metal went in deep enough only half a foot sticking out now. Cracks began to form along the hole causing more blood to flow out and stain the street.

His lungs inhaled as a pouch on his throat expanded. The skin thinned out and revealed a liquid being poured within before it spewed at her current location.

Kayla was pleased with the end result, seeing the cracks form from the hole. What she didn’t appreciate was the blood coming from them and covering her. Note to self, need a serious shower when this is all over. It was only a brief look as she noticed the movement to see Michael looking in her direction. She saw the sack swell with the liquid inside it. ”Oh shit,” she squeaked as she pressed the button for a grappling arrow and grabbed one from her back quiver. She nocked it onto her bow before seeing him ready to send the liquid her way. Seeing no way to avoid it with her arrow, she began rolling to her side.

For the most part, the majority of the near boiling water splashed harmlessly to where she was, the tarmac hissing with the heat. She didn’t fully escape it as she felt the fizzing on the back of her jacket. She yelped out in pain from the sudden flash of heat onto her back. Fortunately for her, her recent confrontation with the werewolf with caustic acid has allowed her to upgrade her jacket from textile to leather to afford some resistance to prevent direct exposure. But her position closer to his right legs as well as the hot water seeping onto her back meant she needed to get out of there fast to ditch the jacket.

Aiming between her legs, the archer fired off an arrow to a distant car and zipped away with her grappling mechanism on her armguard. Once at a safe distance, she quickly disposed of her drenched jacket, leaving her with her black tank top, gloves, armguard and cowl. She cursed at the thought about getting told off for getting burnt from Jai and Racheli as her shoulders feel like hot embers. Still, she had to keep him occupied.
”Is that the best you can do?” Kayla called out teasingly, nocking another arrow in the process. ”I thought you wanted me to scream? I know guys who made me scream quicker than you can!”

Michael growled, his frustration building. His mind ticked through the fight until something clicked. A low rattle of enlightenment echoed through his throat. Bones to skin began to melt, becoming a liquid blob. It slithered to the nearest storm drain and disappeared into the sewers.

Kayla smirked under her cowl as he growled at her. However, the smirk disappeared when the rattle was heard. Then, much like him shifting into the crab creature, she watched as he shifts into a slime-like creature. Just realising once it started slithering, she shot a grappling arrow at it. As it passed through harmlessly into the drain, she scowled.

"Shit!" she exclaimed, spending towards the drain. Seeing her quarry getting away, she begins running towards the nearest manhole cover. She moved the cover to one side.

"Leila, heads up," the archer said, having pulled out a communication device from her left pocket. "I've lost contact with the target and he's gone into the sewers. I'm heading down after him, but be ready for him." Putting the device back into her pocket, she began her descent into the sewers to chase after Michael Garth.
RACHELI


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It was a brand new day and people were busy as always in the French Quarter of Lost Haven. People were making their way through the bustling streets, walking past the various cafes, pastry shops, and restaurants. For a normal weekend day, people who were off work spent time with friends and family with day trips to the museums and art galleries. With the summer going into full swing, various ice cream places and water fountains were open for people to enjoy the cold delights that are sorely needed under the sun. With the sun beyond the peak of noon, the intense heat was easing off with the cool breeze.

Near one of the cafes, Kayla stood by. As it was a day for her to spend time with Racheli and Jai, she decided to take the time and make herself more presentable than the usual overalls they have seen her wear. Despite the uneasiness in showing off the scarring on her left shoulder, she opted for a palm-print cami, a pair of blue jeans and floral-patterned Vans. A thin chain hung from her neck that something hid in the cover of her top. Behind her daytime shooting glasses, her eyes scanned the crowds to look out for the people she is intending to meet.

Tonight was the perfect night to go hunting, but there was one issue: Kayla. 'Racheli' reflected on the woman's reaction to her behaviour and disliked it. The woman would become an issue later. The thought drew a sigh from Racheli's lips as she picked out her outfit for the day.

After some searching, she settled on high waist military cargo pants and a black halter top. She tapped the boots to ensure they were snug before she exited the apartment.

The hot weather was suffocating to walk through. The air seemed to hand off her like a clinging child and worsen with each movement. After a bit of searching, she finally spotted Kayla.

Part of her toyed with the thought of vanishing back into the crowd and stalking this woman. She dismissed and stepped forward, breaking from the mass. Her right raised up for Kayla to spot.

It was nice that Kayla and Racheli invited Jai to join them on their day out. Though, he felt that it was unnecessary to invite him to what he could only assume was originally a girls' day out, it would no longer feel like a girl's day out if he joined. Still, Kayla insisted. (Something about him being too much of a recluse since he's moved here.)

Opting for a white linen shirt with a portion of its sleeves rolled up to his elbows and some washed-out blue jeans, Jai forwent the boots he typically wore for some non-slip Old Skool Vans in its typical black pattern. Accessorizing himself with a leather bracelet that Leila had been kind enough to give him and a leather necklace with a shark tooth as a pendant, the soldier mused the overall look. Unused to civilian life, but he found that his ordinary sense of style was fitting enough for summer. Picking up his wallet, cell phone, and his keys, he was set.

Donning a pair of Ray-Bans, Jai swam through the crowd of people, using his height to his advantage to find the meeting place that Kayla set for them. He's several yards behind a familiar silhouette, watching her wave to catch Kayla's attention.

Kayla sighed as the time ticked on. She considered going to the nearest gelateria and grabbing a scoop to have while she waited. However, a raised hand in the crowd was caught in the corner of her eye and the familiar face of Racheli was enough to smile and stand up from the wall. She began walking towards her friend, keeping a calm pace as she meandered through the crowd. A moment later, she finally reached Rach.

”I hope you didn’t have trouble finding this place,” she commented, her eyes warm in their greeting.

“I’m still new to Haven, but I managed to find it. It’s better than most places I’ve been in,” Rach pointed out, her attitude attempted to be positive.

As soon as the greeting was made, it didn’t take long for the archer to notice the hulking frame of Jai. She had thought about the last time they spoke, but with him being here it seemed that he dismissed it as another emotional episode. Her eyes changed shape to a mischievous one as she watched him approach.

”I guess we can manage to get you out of where you were hiding?" she shouted out cheekily, a smirk following her teasing taunt.

Jai glanced around their surroundings, precautionary—habit—before he settled his gaze on the two women who’s now spotted him. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and he made his way over. It was only upon his approach did she speak loud enough for him to hear and he raised a brow in response, hidden vaguely by his bangs, noting that it's her way of teasing him back.

Rach’s attention turned to Jai’s figure when Kayla noted him. Unlike Kayla, he didn’t seem to notice anything off or give her reason to believe he suspected anything. She noted that might change as the day wore on.

“I assume you didn’t call us here for a casual visit, did you?” Rach asked, getting down to the point now that they were all here.

He heard Rach's words as he came up behind her. "Greetings," he nodded in acknowledgement. "While leisurely escapades are what I imagine the pair of you often do, but I am curious as to your plans—my own plans notwithstanding." Another jab at his rather reclusive life. What he did in his own time when he was no longer in the garage will perhaps be remained to be seen.

Idly, he took note of each of their outfits and their current behavior while shifting to keep an eye out to their surroundings.

Kayla chuckled in response. ”I definitely know that feeling. Was the same for me four years ago. You’ll get used to the city in due time.” That was certainly true. While the past few months had been crazy with a lot of the major events such as D-Day and Pax Metahumana, the city had adapted and survived.

Just as Jai arrived to the little trio, both he and Racheli asked her the same question. She smiled, closing her eyes to make a faux-cutesy expression. ”Nope, just to see if we could get Jai out of his cave and enjoy some clothes shopping,” she replied to both of them, her upbeat tone hinting sarcasm in it. She chuckled, her eyes hidden underneath her eyelashes to scan for any eavesdroppers.

“I figure setting it on fire might do that trick,” Rach seemed to tease.

The soldier was impassive, tilting his head in question toward Kayla. "Your sarcasm is duly noted," Jai remarked. If they honestly thought they were going to drag him for some clothes shopping, they had another thing coming. His eyes flit to Rach, brow lifting at the seemingly harmless tease. Did Rach ever make any teasing comments like that before?

Once Kayla was certain there was no one around, her face quickly dissolved away from the happy expression she had. In its place, the cold, calculated expression she often had when the cowl was on.

”But in all seriousness, you guys are right,” she spoke, an icy tone apparent with the seriousness of the topic. ”I think I finally caught wind of those murders we have been tracking for the past month. If I am right, we need to be out in the streets tonight to stop this serial killer.”

Racheli didn’t react for a moment. She shook her head, disbelief in her movements as she spoke.

“The guy is too clever to be caught. How do you figure this new trail of information is worth following?”

Jai crossed his arms across his chest, a hand lifted to hold his chin in thought. He heard about the murders from Leila, but she was under the assumption that it had nothing to do with their current mission of finding out the string of anomalies that frequently caused supernatural disasters in Lost Haven. But, if two friends asked him to investigate it, then he would.

Unfortunately, having been pulled into such an investigation without any information left him with only the ability to observe and listen for what information they currently had. He took further notes on both Kayla and Rach for the duration of the conversation, monitoring for any changes.

"Is this really the place to be talking about this?" he asked. He made a mental note to ask Leila to use her abilities and natural talent for finding information after this meeting about these murders.

Kayla paused for a moment, causing her to think carefully about the information she was about to give. While her initial look made it seem that no one is watching them, hearing them out in the open was another matter and someone could catch wind of the conversation.

”I think the tiredness of everything that happened yesterday played with the cases in mind and something clicked,” she replied, her right hand raised towards her chin in a fist. When Jai spoke up about this being the place to talk about it, the archer nodded. ”I figured as much. Just figured we meet and raise that point before we go into details. There’s a quiet bookstore that has a cafe inside. I’ll take you to it.” Using the balled right hand to produce a wave, unclenching it to motion them to follow her, she began walking.

-----------

The bookstore was located around the corner from where they met. Stuck between two busy restaurants, it was often overlooked by most of the crowd. The weathered bookshelves were crammed with some of the latest bestsellers and favourites of years gone by, the old wooden floorboards matching the bookshelves. With chandeliers hanging above and a fireplace in the middle of the ground floor, the floor gave off a pleasant atmosphere. Further towards the back of the store, past the first set of staircases to another floor of books, a dinky cafe resided. With the coffeemaker lining against the back wall and a case of homemade cakes and treats next to the counter, there were plenty of places for people to sit between the two floors.

Kayla quickly ordered a green tea from the lady behind the counter. While she waited for the others to get whatever they wanted, she found a table in the corner of the room that was far away from prying eyes and ears. Sitting down, she poured the sachet of honey that came with the tea and stirred it around, making sure the golden liquid dissolved thoroughly. Taking another sip, she waited for her friends to sit down before she told them the information.

Racheli sighed then followed Kayla. Her eyes shifted from side to side across the interior when she entered the small dingy cafe. Casually she placed her hands in her pockets. She paid for a small, black coffee. Unbothered by the heat, she walked back to the table where everyone was going to meet.

As she reached her seat, Rach slouched down into it. She tapped her fingers on the table while she crossed her leg underneath. Obviously, she was waiting for Kayla to continue.

After Jai's initial perusal of their surroundings upon their arrival, he opted for an espresso, the dainty cup waiting to drained of its contents on the table Kayla selected for this meeting. Once he sat down, like Rach, he waited with a questionable lift of his brow.

From the moment she saw Racheli grabbing the coffee, Kayla knew something was up. From the moment both women had been in the Hound’s base to now, she has known her friend to avoid hot drinks. Not unless the apparition that came with Rach made its irritable moan. And the moment between getting the coffee and sitting down to listen to what she has to say would have been the perfect opportunity for it to show up. It was that moment that all the pieces came together. Gotcha, you motherfucker, she thought triumphantly, keeping her stone-faced façade up to hide that fact.

As soon as Jai sat down, Kayla was ready to give her information, ”At first, the murders of the women didn’t seem to connect in any way at all. The different backgrounds of the women made it difficult for the police to figure out. Just the dark brown hair, blue eyes and slim build and that it was the husband that did it.” The archer paused to take a sip of her green tea. ”However, with everything that happened yesterday, I just looked at the wall with the information and I noticed one thing in common with all of them outside of the description. It was not the women, but the family composition. They always had the parents and a child between eight and ten. The man has black hair, grey eyes and is taller. In this killer’s mind, a family's make up is important to them.

“But that isn’t everything,”
she added, pausing to take another sip of her green tea. ”I have noticed a pattern in the killings too. It was always night time and it happens on a biweekly occurrence. Outside of an extended gap that occurred about a month ago, it always was two weeks. Guess when was the last murder?"

Racheli remained silent. She knew exactly when the last murder was, but saying it would’ve given her away. Her eyes glanced over to Jai, expecting him to answer the question instead.

Jai furrowed his brow in thought, a hand on his chin. What they don't see is the method in which he was cycling through the last several months of information he had already seen on the news and other police reports on top of the ones Leila provided for him. After a moment longer, he finally responded, "A few weeks ago, at best, according to your victim profile."

”That’s right,” she replied. Kayla looked at both Jai and Racheli to wait for her response. While not making it obvious about her knowing that her female friend isn’t who she was, the archer made a mental note about the lack of response. I guess you’re trying not to reveal that you aren’t who you are, she thought, imitating the idea of saying those words to ‘Rach’. Instead, she turned her head towards Jai as he answered the question.

His gaze flicked briefly in Rach's direction before returning to Kayla. "Am I correct in assuming that you think he will be presently striking at any given time? Perhaps, even tonight?"

”Your assumptions are correct, though I’m not 100% sure if the killer is a guy,” she answered. Her hands wrapped around the cup that held the rest of her green tea to keep them warm. ”However, judging from the other murders, I would assume it would be at night. It would fit in with the MO of the killer, especially if the husband was out at work during the time. And tonight would be a good time to be out there and put a stop to this. While I am still not fully recovered from everything that happened yesterday, I’m good enough to nail this guy.”

With his hand still holding his chin in thought, he appeared to be looking at the table, only his thoughts were elsewhere altogether. "Apologies—I didn't mean to sound presumptuous. But, yes, I agree that tonight is as good as any to go after them." Jai shook his head.

"If all else, you'll have me to assist you."

She picks up her mug as she drank half of the tea that was inside. Now comes the difficult part. She knew that she had to get the message to Jai about a possible identity of the killer, but make it subtle enough that the killer missed it.

”The only thing that didn’t seem right with all of this is the child seeing the father murdering the mother. If the killer had killed the mother in that instance, then why was the father seen?” The archer’s eyes turned to Racheli. ”Then a thought came to me: remember the ‘werewolf’ we came across at the Hounds’ base?” She paused for a moment, her eyes expressing unease as she remembered fighting it. She shook her head slightly as she closed her eyes to wipe away the images. Then, once they were gone, she focused on the pair of them again.

”Well, if there was something like that existing—and us living in a world where superpowers exist—a thought and a question came into my mind. What if our killer was capable of shapeshifting into someone or something else entirely?”

Rach was silent for a few moments, then she spoke. Her words borderline on laughing as she took another second to regain control.

"If I didn't know better, I would've thought you were crazy. It sounds crazy though. Way crazier than accepting a few people snapped from stress." The words sounded forced as she leaned back farther into her chair.

Jai let the words sink in, his gaze remaining on Rach.

"So... what's the plan then?" She asked, eager to listen into the woman's idea of how to catch this killer.

Then he looked away, regarding Kayla with the subtle lift of his brow. Ah, so my hunch was correct, Jai thought.

"It certainly sounds as though you're prepared if you've found and concluded as much," the soldier said with the crossing of his arms. "Is there anything you need of me? I trust you to let me handle the dirty work if push came to shove, given your condition."

He hoped she got the hint, much as how she did the same for him.

Fortunately for Jai, Kayla had been observant enough to notice the slight shift in his brow. At least I can talk to him after all this, she thought. This was through ‘Rach’s exasperated comments about the idea. However, the archer remained silent through them, barring one comment. ”Believe me, if we weren’t in a world of metahumans, I would have thought that it was crazy too.”

Racheli missed the exchange, but the tension had become obvious. She could taste it and she suspected both individuals were stepping on glass around her. Instead of making a scene, she merely pretended to notice nothing.

Draining the rest of her tea, Kayla got straight back to the point. ”I think the plan is simple enough. We meet at the garage and fan out to find the guy, whether it is by following women that are similar in appearance or listening to the disturbances in the area. I say we meet at the garage at 8:30 pm. Sound good?”

“Do you have a list of suspected victims? It’s sort of pointless if we don’t know who is going to be a possible target in the area and I doubt we all could do the detective work in a short time.” Rach pointed out.

Kayla’s eyes turned to ‘Rach’. ”Fortunately, I have found a few people to start from. That list I will bring with me tonight and we choose a few people from the list and we’ll go from there.”

Following suit, Jai drained the sub-par espresso and nodded. "I guess we'll further discuss this tonight." After setting the small cup back down on the little saucer, he lifted his brow again in a mild frown. "Is that all or were you serious in trying to drag me for a shopping trip?"

“You wouldn’t survive one. Nor would I.” Rach replied with sarcasm.

"That makes it sound like Kayla's shopping excursions are something else," Jai said. He waited a moment, watching Kayla.

Kayla looked at Jai, a smirk forming on her lips. ”I think there’s no way I’m letting you off the hook of a shopping trip.” While her mischievous expression was saying one thing, her eyes were subtly hinting that she needed to talk to him. And if he put two and two together, he would have an idea on what the topic is.

Oh, he did. He was dramatizing a point to a person who wasn't Rach to think otherwise.

Racheli took a sip of the coffee as she stood up, “I don’t see anything else we need to do. I might be late as I got something to do before this. So just leave me a copy and I’ll catch up with you guys when I can. Is that all right?”

Rach didn’t appear to be asking permission as much as stating a fact.

Kayla turned to look at ‘Rach’. ”I don’t see any problem with that. I guess we’ll see each other tonight.” She got up from her chair as she gets ready to leave.

Glancing between both "Rach" and Kayla, he sighed, seemingly displeased with the plans that Kayla had made for them. "Yes, Rach is leaving me so I can suffer shopping alone," Jai said as he rose to standing. "Excuse me for a moment and see you tonight then." He turned to each person respectively before he moved off to hand off the little espresso cup back to the barista.

“Stop being a baby. Big tip: just smile and nod while you hold the bags. It makes things easier,” Rach smiled in a cheeky fashion, tossing the coffee away on her way out. She didn’t seem to want to waste more time here than was needed. It was hard to tell if it was because she feared that Kayla might drag her into the shopping trip or she had something more pressing to deal with.

Kayla saw the opportunity to talk as soon as ‘Rach’ left the cafe. Following Jai’s suit, she brought her empty cup to the barista and thanked him for the service. She led the soldier away from the cafe in the direction of the shops. Might as well make the shopping trip believable, she thought. She didn’t know if their mutual ‘friend’ was following them in case something else was on the cards. Once she was sure that they weren’t followed and were out of earshot of any dark place, the archer turned to Jai.

”Ok, this is the real plan…”
I think it is finally time for me to do this. As The Psionic Nexus isn't being used much and is still a part of the CaH-verse, I'm demoting it to an NPC.

 
In
 
A Man Out of Time #8: Breaking the Silence

Location: Pacific Point, California

 
It had been days since The Wanderer’s introduction to the fantastic building that is the library. So much knowledge within the walls that few people surprisingly didn’t use often enough. The mutant poured over the history of the world and everything he could during the time he hadn’t been searching for the cause of the Esper family death. While the information about the world before him was fascinating, it was frustrating that he could not find anything relating to it. Not in the archive of newspapers, not in the local gossip, not even from words of the other patrons of the library. His frustrations boiled over a few times with loud moans but were quickly silenced with various hushes.
 
The Wanderer had made a little corner for himself towards the back of the library. The chief librarian had agreed that with him not having a home to go to that he would make himself comfortable near the breakroom. Despite many protestations from the mutant and the thought the moans would get the better of them, the librarian insisted that he stay there. “After all, he did save us from those monsters,” was the typical retort to his arguments. In the end, he gave up and just resided there. Another even managed to lend him a gym membership to access the shower facilities. With a steady place to stay and cleaner than he has ever been, The Wanderer carried on with his research.
 
After several hours of researching, another moan escaped his lips. ” It can’t be this hard to find at least a clue to a possible suspect,” he said, muffled by the shushes from the other patrons. Realizing that this wasn’t getting him anywhere again, he walks towards the breakroom and enters it. With his trademark coat still by his place, his frame was nothing but the slightly rusted armour covering his body and the revolver that hung on his hip. ” If there’s one thing I’m glad that I’ve come to this timeline for, it’s for this… ‘coffee’…” He grabs one of the mugs near the sink and pours yet another cup of the black liquid. Coffee hadn’t been around in the future, and if there were, it was nothing but a mouldy powder that was undrinkable. The caffeine that registered in his head and the bitter taste took to him like a fish to water. Taking a sip, he looked at the empty pot. While he had contemplated walking back to where he was staying, he decided to make another brew. At least that would be courteous to the librarians, he thought as he set the machine up for the umpteenth time. I really should pay them back for this genero…
 
Once the machine was set, a loud bang was heard from the other side of the door. Sounding like gunfire, The Wanderer walked out of the breakroom to investigate, coffee in hand. It didn’t take him long before he found the source of the shot, keeping out of sight behind a few bookshelves. “Come on, old man… We know you’ve been hiding a few superpowered heroes in this fine establishment of yours. Just give them up, and no one else would be harmed.” The mutant looked at the scene as one of the men held the receptionist at gunpoint. Several other men had spread themselves out throughout the library, keeping all the patrons hostage. Between one of the stairs to the upper levels and the desk was a body, limp in position as the carpet was slowly being stained with blood.
 
“This is a public library… We wouldn’t have any…” the librarian muttered, her voice scared from the shock.
 
The masked man frowned, his eyes showing some annoyance. “I will give you to the count of 5 before I put a maggot hole in that thick skull of yours, bitch. One…” The man cocked his pistol and fired another shot into the ceiling. “Two!” He holsters his pistol as he storms up to one of his compatriots. “Three!” Reaching his companion, he was given a spare rifle. Cocking the gun, the man storms back to the desk. “Four!” Reaching the counter, he raises the gun towards the receptionist.
 
Before he could pull the trigger, a loud sipping noise was head in the immediate area. The men that heard it raised their guns towards its source, including the man that was about to shoot the receptionist. The Wanderer had seen enough and decided to deal with the problem. With coffee in hand, he lowered the mug from his lips and sighed with delight as the liquid went down smoothly. ” Nothing quite beats a cup of coffee on this beautiful day,” he announced, looking at the mug. He had been bored from the entire affair of research, so he was going to have some fun. ” It would be a shame if I had to spill some of it due to a couple of assholes…”
 
“Who the fuck do you think you are?!” The man with the rifle shouted.
 
” To most of these people, just an annoyance that moans too much. To you guys, I guess you could say I’m one of those… ‘heroes’ you are looking out for.”
 
The man with the rifle couldn’t believe his luck. “Alright, boys! Looks like we’re getting paid! If you would like to come with us, no one else would be harmed.”
 
” And who said I would be going?” The Wanderer, still not giving them their full attention, raised the mug to his lips for another sip.
 
Bang!
 
The mug shattered under the impact of the bullet, splashing coffee everywhere. “We make the demands here, asshole! You’re coming with us!” Looking at nothing but the handle and drenched in the coffee he was drinking, the mutant turned his head towards the supposed ring leader. Fury was now in his eyes, an ebb of purple flames emanating from them.
 
”Big mistake, jerkoff.”
 
Raising his hand, The Wanderer blasted the ringleader square in the chest. With the surprise attack, the man was sent flying into the wall near the entrance. Instantly unconscious, he crumpled into a heap. After a few moments to take in the surprise of their boss being taken down, the rest of them trained their guns at him, aiming to kill. The mutant then walked into view of everyone. With a smirk on his face, put his hands together and cracked his knuckles. ”Well… let’s get this over with, shall we?”
--------
A few moments later, with nothing but gunfire sounding out from the library and the sirens of the police, the lead officer grabbed the megaphone. “Remember men, we save the hostages first and arrest the captors,” the bald man said. Finally ready, he pulled the device to his lips. “We have you surr…”
 
Before he could finish, one man came crashing through the glass door, falling into an unconscious heap. With all police officers raising their weapons in readiness, more of the gunmen were thrown out of the building. After the 10th man was thrown out, The Wanderer emerged. With now the police aiming their guns at the coffee-soaked mutant, he sighs. ”Relax… These are the men you are after…”
 
Hours went by as the gunmen were rounded up, statements were given, and the injured man was taken to the hospital, The Wanderer walked up to the officer in charge. ” I take it you were as surprised as I was when these gunmen attacked a library in broad daylight?” he inquired.
 
“Surprised doesn’t quite cover it,” the bald man responded, eyes looking at the hero. “However, with a lot of criminals going after superpowered heroes in the past couple of days it’s, it’s only going to get worse.”
 
The news of criminals attacking heroes being a surprise, The Wanderer took a more serious tone. ” What do you mean ‘criminals going after superpowered heroes’?”
 
“Well… talking to a few of the ones we arrested and were cooperating, there seems to be a $500k bounty placed on heroes winding up dead. We have no idea where this came about, but a few of the small-time heroes were already killed in the process.”
 
”I see… Well, I guess I have to help find out where this bounty is coming from. Thanks for the information.” The Wanderer turned and began walking towards the broken library entrance.
 
“And Wanderer… Be safe…” The mutant raised his hand in acknowledgement as he entered the library.
 
Once inside, the mutant immediately walked to the place where his stuff was. Donning on the coat, he turned to walk back out of the building to begin his exit. He paused for a moment to think about something. After a brief moment, he turned again and walked towards the breakroom. When he entered, he said hi to the shaken librarians and reached the coffee pot. Grabbing another mug, he poured himself another cup. As he turned to leave, he caught a glimpse of the broken door. ” When I get back, I’ll make sure I get anything damaged replaced,” he said, feeling guilty for the damage he had done throwing the men about.
 
“I think after being taken hostage and you saving us, you don’t have to worry,” the receptionist replied, appreciation apparent in her tone. “But make sure you get back safe an unharmed, ok?”
 
Smiling as he walked out, he called back to them. ” I intend to. But I’m still replacing damaged items.” Walking out of the building, The Wanderer looked to the city. ”Now then… where to begin…” he said as he took a sip of his coffee.


IN

Chapter 1: The Falling Pieces


Location:
Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge




Weeks passed since The Hounds of Humanity lost their battle to the superheroes of Lost Haven, and the Eye of Osiris was busy. The sudden influx of recruits from the former organization that were mostly scattered in most of Lost Haven and Crown Ridge were rounded up and were either drafted into the fold or ‘purged’ at the whim of Dullahan. The faithful already in the Eye before the influx were consolidating their positions in the two cities that were left because of both the gang war between the Yakuza and Triads plus the Hounds. In each case, the use of the Penose in Lost Haven and the Haitians in Crown Ridge made keeping the secrecy of the organization easier in the long run.

In Crown Ridge, Dullahan and a few of the key figures in the Eye were in a separate room. Altogether, there was him, his bodyguard Sobek, the spear-wielding man and the axe-wielding man standing around a table with a fifth person lurking near the ominous leader. “Right now,” Sobek spoke, keeping his eyes on the table that had the map of Maine and smaller maps of both the city of Lost Haven and Crown Ridge. “We have the base facilities for the import of our needed equipment set up in the Chinatown edge of Lost Haven, so we can get the specialized gear from our main warehouse across the Atlantic. As for the facilities here, we are mostly using them to keep stock of Eye personnel and military gear. That plus the warehouse on the edge of town allows for the drugs that will be coming in from the Netherlands and Haiti could be supplied throughout North America. Funds from previous endeavours allow for the goods to leave the city easier. The city’s no capes policy, although will be circumvented by local heroes such as Lyger, will make things easier as well.”

“But what about the big heroes like Lyger?” The spear-wielding man spoke up. “Small heroes could be easily deterred by the No Capes policy in the city, but heroes that stopped D-Day and Pax Metahuman will certainly cause problems down the line.”

“But you forget that in the process of setting up shop that some of our high-tech gear used to obtain those facilities will be there,” replied the axe-wielding man. “While the turrets and the gear we used was only specific to target the gangs and Hounds, they will be targeting both human and superhuman invaders when we finally set up everything.”

Sobek looks up at the two men. “Sekhmet’s right, Montu. The gear we have already is getting changed over as we speak in terms of the programming so that it will target heroes like Lyger and with them being high-tech, any of the known instruments used by Lyger himself will have reduced effectiveness against them. Trust me… He won’t be much of an issue and things being low-key will not warrant the attention to Iron Knight and Icon.”

” And of the location of our missing item?” Everyone bar the lurking figure turned towards their leader as he spoke for the first time during the meeting. ”Is there any progress?”

Sobek’s face turned sombre as he shook his head. “Anhur reports in that since locating the woman in question weeks ago, she had gone underground and with…”

Dullahan’s fist curled into a fist on the table as the red eyes of his helmet turned bloodier in colour. Both Montu and Sekhmet silently gulped in trepidation. Sobek was the only one unmoved by the sudden threatening posture from the leader. ”Get Anhur on a line… NOW!”


Location: An unknown warehouse, Chinatown, Lost Haven


The Penose were hard at work. Since the warehouse facilities on dockside Chinatown were obtained, shipments from worldwide came in and were running like clockwork. While some of the cargo was for legitimate uses such as imported food and textiles, some of the Penose product was also important and were prepared to be distributed. Overwatching it all, Anhur leaned against the railing on the upper floor of the warehouse. “Everything seems to be going along smoothly,” the man with the skull-face tattoo muttered to himself. “Just wish that Pasadena bitch would be found.” He had spent the past few weeks getting the network of Penose to locate the woman in question, who he knew as Kayla. That was the only information he had, despite the accurate description of her looks and the rough area of where she lived.

The closest he got to get to her was a college student who wanted the money for blow. He had managed to find her. And how did that turn out? An arrest and interrogation from a bow-wielding vigilante that came to be known as Fletch. Since word got out from what happened that night, not only had the woman disappeared, but no one followed up on obtaining the bounty he placed on her. And the fruitless endeavour was the reason why Dirk, the tall-blond Dutchman that led most of the Penose in the reclamation of the warehouses, was by his side with a phone in his hand. Reaching for the offered phone, Anhur pressed it to his ear. “Can I help you?”

“It’s Sobek. How goes preparations in Lost Haven? Any news about the girl?”

Anhur sighed, left hand raised to the bridge of his nose. “Things have been proceeding as scheduled. More of our turrets and ground-based attack drones have arrived and being distributed to the warehouses in Lost Haven as we speak. Once the next shipment arrives, they will be shipped to Crown Ridge. As for the girl…” He sighed. He had an idea that Dullahan was on speaker too to hear everything. “… Still, no signs. She seems to have slipped the…”

”Find her.”

Anhur shivered at the sound of Dullahan’s voice over the phone. “I’m trying, sir. But no one is taking up on the bounty that has been placed. Not while a vigilante with a bow is going after them.”

” I don’t care how you do it… Raise the bounty on finding her… Allow people wanting it to use our weapons… I don’t care… Just get it done, Anhur. You know what’ll happen if you disappoint me again…”

Then, Anhur was left in silence as the phone was hung up, with Dirk behind him wondering on the conversation.


Location: Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge


With the phone to Anhur hung up, Dullahan sighs. ” Now that matter has been dealt with, what about our other sources? Have they narrowed the search?”

Sobek perks up a little. “While we haven’t had much progress with finding the girl, our network has sensed that the search area is on the western side of the US. We’re still narrowing down as we speak, though anything from Anhur will help significantly.”

Dullahan sighs. ”Very good. Keep your eyes on that. As for what to do, Sekhmet will head to Lost Haven and help with keeping our men in line. He would also help Anhur with his search for this… Kayla. Dismissed.”


Location: An unknown warehouse, Chinatown, Lost Haven


With the monotonous tone of the call ending, Anhur paused there in silence. On the one hand, everything was going smoothly with bringing the Eye’s equipment and product through that it would make the upcoming operation smoother to run for Dullahan. On the other, the smooth operation going on now meant jack shit if the girl was not located. The skull-faced man knew that without her, the critical item for the operation would not be found and scupper everything. And the last thought, tied in with the vigilante archer, pissed him off.

The skull-faced man threw the phone onto the floor below, yelling in anger that surprised Dirk. Then, Anhur turned to the Dutchman, his golden eyes swirling with hatred. “Get… the word out to every motherfucker in the city!” he bellowed, the Dutchman cowering with the overwhelming fear he was facing. “I am tripling the bounty on the bitch’s head for her to be brought to me alive. I’m also putting a $2 million bounty on the archer’s head to be brought to me on a fucking platter!”

While he was on a role, he thought about the hotbed of heroes that were present in the city. He thought about the thousands of poor people and criminals in the city that were in desperate need of the cash. If the operation were to run smoother than it already is, might as well remove a few more obstacles out of our way. The thought made Anhur smirk maniacally. It was for this reason that Dullahan had put him in charge of the operations in Lost Haven. “And while we are at it, send the word out to every poor soul and low-life thug that is out there. I am putting a $500k reward for each hero’s head. If they need the gear to do so, they get it through our suppliers.”

Dirk stood there, still frozen with fear.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO!”


Location: Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge


With the three men gone, only Dullahan and the lone figure remained in the planning room. The Eye leader paused for a moment, pondering on something. ” For now, keep a close eye on your phone for any new orders from me. In the meantime, you carry on with whatever contracts you have open. Is that understood, Anput?”

The lurking figure stood up. Moving into the light, the figure wore a full military gear, hooded and mask covering any features that would identify what gender they were. Through the purple lenses of the goggles, they looked at Dullahan. ”Understood.” Then, as if by an unknown ability, the assassin disappears from the room.

Dullahan remained in his chair. While he sounded menacing to their comrade in Lost Haven, he knew that the words he said were to only fire up Anhur to getting things into motion. After all, a city of heroes is hard to cause chaos from the get-go. Weeks are needed before his plan could finally go into action and the better prepared they were for the operation, the smoother things will run, and the probability of success will increase. Then, much like the moment with the Hound recruitment, Dullahan smirks under his helmet.

”Everything is now falling into place.”

and
JAI HALE


Kayla’s eyes flickered towards Jai. While she was still getting her bearings straight from the healing process from hell, she did manage to catch some of the words he said. Slowly, she propped herself up into a sitting position, her cognac eyes looking at him. ”Maybe at some point, when I have come to terms with it,” she replied to the comment. Her head throbbed, her sense of balance thrown into spinning circles as she tried to regain her other senses. When she felt her body was stable enough, she raised her left hand to go to rub the temple.

About halfway through the movement, her hand stopped mid-motion. Without her willing it, her hand - her whole body - slowly shifted towards Racheli. Much like what had happened in Sherman Square when the Hounds attacked. Kayla’s mind still bogged down from the pain, recalled the same moment when Racheli was also annoyed at that kid. That moment caused her to stop too. She also controls metals or magnetism? But before she could follow that thought with the same question, her friend turned and left the garage. She winced as the door was slammed shut.

It was at that moment she noticed a change in demeanour in the virus in the room. Normally, she wouldn’t be bothered by the apparition, but something was different. The words that came from its mouth stunned the archer before it disappeared into thin air. In her moment of showing both Jai and Racheli that she wasn’t weak - that she wanted to feel as strong in her human form as those two - she pissed off her friend. ”Oh hell,” she spoke, exasperated in tone. ”Looks like I need to talk to her before she disappears…” Slowly, she tried to get up onto her feet.

Jai was near unresponsive at Kayla's remark, just shifting his dual irises in her direction with a subtle quirk of his brow. His blue eye had mechanical like circles inside it as if he was continuously analyzing the scene and her. But, the gaze shifted its focus when Racheli stormed out, slamming the door behind her. The virus's words were ominous, but he said nothing. At the moment, everything seemed well enough…

He moved when she did, hands reaching for her to hold her steady. "Steady, Kayla," Jai warned, gripping her forearm and shoulder. "I do not think it is advisable to move quite yet."

He blinked and his sensors were giving him the information he didn't notice before. Switching his one eye to a different view, he noted the strange electrical energy coming off of her. "She will be back in a moment, but pace yourself. I should warn you that there are changes happening that I'm not entirely sure is happening."

Leila was observing and taking notes and seemed to be very dedicated to it while she paced the room.

Kayla was surprised to see Jai near her when she tried to get up from the ground. Logically, she understood his concerns and should be following them. However, her stubbornness and determination weren’t having any of it. ”And doctors told me it wasn’t advisable to do archery ever again, but look how that turned out.” As she looked at him, her eyes gave off a sense of deviousness to them. There wasn’t hiding the fact that she was going to ignore what was advised and try to get up. If she wasn’t to get onto her feet, then at least she could get onto the nearby chair. ”Besides, I bet you’d love to say ‘I told you so’ if I collapse onto the floor again.”

Slowly and hesitantly, she got off of the floor and moved onto the nearby chair. She wasn’t going to lie to herself and say that was a piece of cake. Her entire body ached throughout the move. When Jai spoke again, the archer looked somewhat perplexed at what he had said. ”There are changes you aren’t sure of? What’s that supposed to mean?” The concern in her voice raised the volume slightly to make it more audible in the garage than what it would normally be.

When she rejected his aid, he dropped his arms to his sides. Still, that didn't prevent him from standing close enough to catch her if she did stumble. There's a wry smile that ghosted over his lips, a faint semblance of amusement at her words of practising archery. "As amusing as it would be for me to say 'I told you so,' I don't think that would give me or you any sort of enjoyment for rubbing it in." The only look he received was a raised eyebrow as Kayla doubted he wouldn’t enjoy the comment.

There was a wary glance when she shifted to the chair without much trouble. Still, the sparks of energy had yet to cease. The amusement dissipates when she asks and from the corner of his eye, he can see Leila shifting, and listen in with a keen eye.

Kneeling down in front of her, his elbows on his knees, he said, "You have strange electrical energies radiating off of you that shouldn't be normal in someone who just received what Leila gave you." His eyes darted to her and returned his focus to the woman in front of him. "Not only that, but I was absolutely certain that there was nothing entirely metallic in that injection and I'm watching—" His eyes slide to her shoulder blade where she had been previously shot, "—where you've been previously shot slowly be filled with something metallic." He looked away and returned his focus on her.

"Is there something either me or Leila should know?"

At first, a puzzled expression was etched on Kayla’s face as the information on electrical energies came up. While the nanites she was injected with could be something that is the cause of that, she doubted that as Leila had tested it before and it didn’t come up. And the concoction that Evergreen gave her that enhanced her agility? That certainly wouldn’t be the cause of this energy.

The expression changed into shock at the mention of something metallic being in her body. She knew that the modified nanites that came from Racheli’s blood were organic, so that definitely came from something else. Her eyes widened with shock and panic at the idea that something was inside her that she didn’t know about. Her heart rate began increasing once again as panic set in. ”There’s something inside of me?!" she gasped, her voice breaking. It certainly didn’t help her that whatever was inside of her was going back to where she was shot before. The whole thought of that night giving her something else made her nauseous. Her skin paled as her skin began to clam up.

It didn’t take long before the archer’s arms scrambled for the nearby bin and threw up. It had been too much for her. Once she finished, she slumped into the chair. She felt more exhausted than she did the moment the healing process finished. Breathing heavily, her eyes slowly moved from the bin to Jai and Leila. ”I swear… I don’t know… I didn’t know…”

Jai could only sympathetically watch when Kayla did not take the news well. But, clearly, there was someone else intervening with Kayla and her body that was not Leila. Setting the thought for another day, he needed Kayla to focus on something else and try to move past the initial news. They need to try to figure out a way to find the answers rather than worrying about it. Though, as concerning as it was, he supposed that it was only normal. Most, if not all, do not take too kindly to finding out that there was something invading one's body. The very thought gave him pause, and he forwent the idea of further contemplation.

The soldier shook his head, glanced in Leila's direction where she gave a hard look. At Kayla, he stood up so that he could reach forward and place a hand on her shoulder as a means of reassurance. "If you don't know, then perhaps it will be best if you let Leila take a few samples from you to figure out what it is exactly you have in your body. Much like how she did for Racheli."

At her cue, Leila walked over with her arms crossed, a finger tapping her chin in thought. "Certainly," she said with a nod. "I'll definitely have to take samples and analyze. I want to make sure that they are not going to wreak havoc on you, but it doesn't seem to be anything alarming since it seems as though it is helping you rather than being a concern. So I do not imagine it'll be too much of a problem for the time being." The woman hummed. "But rest first and we'll collect the necessary samples later. Don't worry, I'll take good care of you as I did with Racheli."

Jai dropped his hand from Kayla's shoulder. "You are in good hands, Kayla."

Kayla gaze sank to the floor in front of her, her mind still trying to process everything that was said. While she thought of the possibilities into what caused whatever was inside her to get there in the first place, her thoughts instantly returned to the night she almost died. It seemed to be more than a coincidence that the place the metal inside of her was returning to the same spot of where her injuries were, but it was reopening a wound she spent the past few years trying to close. It was getting too much for her and she was on the verge of breaking down.

When the warmth of Jai’s hand touched her shoulder, she stiffened slightly. It was the first time someone outside of her family and Mr Taylor had placed a hand on her in a while. The added thought of someone else getting in her personal bubble was mixing her addled mind more. However, the touch and warmth of it grounded her tumultuous emotions to allow her to think more clearly. She failed to notice her body slowly gravitating towards the source of the touch as she zoned out for the briefest of moments. It wasn’t long before she focused back on the conversation about Leila going to examine what was inside of her.

”It sounds like a logical course of action,” she replied, her voice still choked up from the shock. Her body returned to its normal position when Jai’s hand was taken away from her. ”The sooner it is examined, the sooner it can get out of me.”

Jai isn't accustomed to touching since he's "returned" to Earth. Reappearing as he did, touch felt almost foreign to him that doing it seems almost a necessity rather than any sort of habit. Rehabilitating him when he was with Leila helped, he noted, and that was perhaps why touching never seemed to give him the same sort of initial aversion when he "came" back. So seeing Kayla relax and perhaps become grounded from his touch was something he noted to do a bit more of in the future.

"I suppose this is a lot to take in one go," Jai said with a subtle lift of his brow, but his tone of voice was almost… concerned.

"We'll take this one step at a time," Leila said, frowning. "Just focus on recovering and resting from this first and we'll tackle this another day. I'll figure out whatever it is later, I promise."

Jai crouched in front of Kayla, looking her over with his eye. While the electrical energies had yet calmed, still, it was fascinating to watch it bounce off of her the way it was. For now, it seemed harmless and he hoped it would stay that way.

"Like Leila said, it seems harmless and it's helping you so I cannot think it's going to hurt you. I just wanted to let you know to be on the lookout for any changes."

Leila nodded. "Mhm. You should be experiencing the things I've outlined in that documentation that I had you sign before we started all of this. If you experience anything outside of that, tell me right away."

Kayla listened to both of them as they both understood that the information was a lot to take in and it was something they would deal with. At least that is reassuring, she thought, nodding to them as she understood that she needs to rest after the healing process. It was at this moment that everything caught up to her. Exhaustion kicked in as her energy levels plummeted. Her back slowly fell to the back of the chair she was sitting in, allowing it to support her as she fully relaxed.

When it came to the topic of letting them know she was experiencing things that were unexpected. ”Yeah, I’ll make sure I’m on top of it,” she sighed, the sudden fatigue apparent. ”It’s certainly the last thing I want to happen, especially when the trail of the Penose is still warm.” While she hadn’t mentioned much about it, Kayla had spoken to them about a problem she encountered prior to the Hounds attack and that she obtained some information to follow up on. The specifics of Mark’s injuries and her infiltration of the police HQ to ‘question’ the man who attacked her were left out as it had been need-to-know. Roadblock was the only one who had an inkling of an idea of the former and knew of the latter. With him involved now, she needed to make sure some of the information is correct.

It was a moment in her reflection on the Penose that she noticed Jai was looking at her, crouching in front of her. She noted the fascinated look on his face. ”Anything that eye of yours noticing?” Her left eyebrow curled up as she asked him that question, her gaze curiously looking at his response.

Leila, at this point, had wandered off to the other part of the garage once Kayla gave her confirmation, taking a seat on one of the chairs in the corner as she recorded her notes.

Any comments either of them could've made regarding the Penose fell short when Kayla seemed to be lost in thought.

"To be frank, it's interesting to see how your body is reacting to both the injection and how there was already something else inside of you that is creating what I see," Jai answered, gesturing to the sparks that hovered over the surface of her skin. Even if she couldn't see it, he could. "It is not often that I can see the effects of something like this." And in person, he might've added, if he were to consider his stance on the matter.

He dropped his hand to return his focus to Kayla. "Forgive my impertinence," he said with the shake of his head. "How are you feeling?"

Kayla listened as Jai talked about what he was seeing. She had to admit that it was interesting to hear what he was seeing, still wrapping her head around the idea that one of his eyes can see more than what she can with her own. Her gaze on him remained as curious as ever. The corners of her lips curled up slightly as her subconscious noted the gaze he was giving her as well as his hand hovering over her. She failed to notice her heart skipping slightly with his hand being close to her.

The fleeting moment disappeared as soon as his hand returned to his side. Her curious gaze disappeared and returned to a resting face she had before, the signs of fatigue returning. ”I’m feeling ok, all things considering,” she replied. ”Tired as all hell though.” Her eyes looked up at the clock on the wall, noting that it was getting closer to when she was due to leave. Jeremy had other business at another location he was hoping to buy, so he was giving everyone in the shop half a day. She cursed under her breath. ”And it’s almost the end of the working day too. I still have a lot to do before closing up for the day.”

Tentatively, Kayla pushed herself up onto her feet, her footing feeling slightly uneasy from everything earlier. After a few moment, her entire body was steady again. ”I shouldn’t keep you guys waiting. I’m sure you have other important plans waiting for you back at where you’re based than to babysit me.” Her lips curled up slightly as to try to reassure both Leila and Jai that she was going to be alright. ”I’ll be fine with doing the closing and getting myself back home, okay?”

When her gaze shifted to the clock on the wall, Jai knew what she was thinking moments later. He frowned and stood with the shake of his head. "As appreciative as I am of your work ethic, you just went through a huge ordeal that I don't think it's advisable that you move when you just said that you're 'tired as all hell'," he said when she pushed herself to standing. His hand shot out to her side, hovering next to her when she was unsteady on her feet.

It was only when she was steady once more that he slowly dropped his hand once more. Still, he didn't move too far from her. His gaze subtly narrowed and he sighed, despite the reassuring smile. "I wouldn't call this babysitting as it's more out of concern for your wellbeing."

Leila lifted her brow at Kayla once she was finished with her notes. Rising to stand, she said, "Kayla, Jai can finish up your work for you—just direct him and he'll do it for you." She glanced around the garage. "I'd rather you not push yourself this first day." She shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. "And we only did this today because it was a halfday and Jai can help cover if need be since he was the only other mechanic in the shop that knew what we were going to do," she pointed out.

"Unless you don't believe I can help you finish your work properly? In which case, I have half the mind to prove you otherwise." There was a ghost of a smile curling at the edges of his lips, hinting toward something of amusement. It seemed unlikely, given how he was just as qualified and competent as she was for the job. Still, it was what most would've considered a joke and it's perhaps the first one that Jai had ever made.

When Jai retorted to her wanting to close up shop, Kayla wanted to object. ”I’ll be fine,” she replied back, her tone turning sterner. In her mind, she knew she was the complete opposite. She had never been fine since that night. She knew that her physical capabilities would never be the same with the muscles in her shoulder being damaged. But she endured through that and she was sure as hell was thinking she’ll endure this. And she was sure as hell not letting anyone get in the way of that.

Kayla had to bite her tongue when Jai tried to reassure her that he wasn’t babysitting but ‘being concerned’ for her wellbeing. While she knew that they do mean well and whatever she was going to say will only make her feel better, she didn’t know the impact on the words. The archer had an inkling of an idea that Leila would have picked up on the types of medication she is currently on with the condition she’s on. It didn’t help that the same medication on her medical file was wearing off and she would be needing it soon. It hadn’t helped when Leila herself interjected into the conversation and mentioned that Jai should help.

”Fine…” Kayla responded curtly, her right hand rising up so her thumb, index and middle finger pinched the bridge of her nose. There’s only so much I can hold back of my irritability, she thought. She needed to take her medication before it wore off and her annoyance becomes too much. ”Just make sure all of the machinery in the shop is shut off for the day. I’ll get the end of shift paperwork sorted out and shut the computer systems in Jeremy’s office.” Reaching for her bag that was by her bench, she began walking towards the office to fill in the sheet and shut the computer down.

Despite the fact that Jai suspected otherwise in Kayla's demeanor that she was anything but fine, he dropped the subject. In fact, he lifted his brow but said nothing when there was an indication that she wanted to say differently. He waited several beats before Kayla finally responded, sounding exasperated, if not at herself, but at him.

He only turned away when she pinched the bridge of her nose, and he began their closing procedures with shutting each of the machines and closing up shop. Their current cars were parked and locked, and current projects left for the next day to tackle. He did a cursory glance, switching between his visions to make sure all of the machinery were off before proceeding to doing a quick cleanup. It was a lot quicker than he expected but by the time he was done, Kayla stood off to the side, watching him.

"How do you like supervising me?" he asked and he walked over to her. "I trust it meets your expectations?" Jai glanced around the garage for another glance, but dropped his gaze back on Kayla. He knew he did a fine job, having been at the garage long enough that the closing procedures was committed to memory. Still, maybe he ought to tease the ruffled feathers of a certain archer.

Leila seemed to be finishing up her notes from where she was sitting. She hadn't moved from where she initially sat down.

Kayla arrived in the office after storming out of the shop floor for the electrical work. She closed the door behind her before resting her back against the door. The archer took heavy breaths as she finally slumped fully against the door, her body slightly shaking from the pent up emotions. She didn’t know what it was, but the way Jai teased her struck a chord in her. The shaking in her shoulders moved heavier as she raised both her hands to her head, her finger tips running through her hair. The more she thought about it, the more the question she thought resonated with what she felt. Why of all things he is doing reminds me of him? With her body propped up against the door to prevent her from slipping down, her head slowly sank towards her chest, fighting the tears back.

Gathering a few moments to try and compose herself, the archer got back up onto her two feet and walked over to the computer. Wiping her eyes from the excess water, Kayla began closing the running programmes. Once satisfied, she began closing the computer down. With that task done, the only thing left was to sign both her and Jai out. She walked over to the clipboard where the sign out sheet was. Seeing a water bottle by the stored archery kit she had at the garage, she took a moment to pick it up. Her left hand reached in the bag to pick up the medication and deftly opened it with one hand. Shaking the contents towards her mouth so two of the tablets entered her mouth, she closed it again and drank the contents of the bottle. Once happy with getting everything done, she turned to walk out. While she thought about it, she decided that the arrows in the kit would need to be refletched. Decided in the last minute, she turned back to her archery bag and slipped the arrow tube of the case and walked out of the office.

When she returned, Jai was almost finished with the cleaning. Kayla had half a thought about watching him, though the emotional drain caused her to zone out. She was tired. She felt overwhelmed. She wanted to just be left alone for the rest of the day. Despite all that, she did want to say sorry to Jai, Leila and Rach for everything that has happened today. It was the one thing she wanted after the past few weeks: she wanted to feel like she wasn’t burdening everyone she came across. Especially in a world where there are people with amazing abilities.

Just as Jai finished cleaning up and was looking back at her, Kayla zoned back in. Listening to him, she instantly felt the teasing nature behind the words. Her head slouched forward once again, trying hard to regain her composure. When she thought she had her emotions in check, despite the redness around her eyes suggesting otherwise, they all flooded back. ”Just stop…” she muttered, choking on the words. But the words weren’t enough to stop the emotional breakdown she was about to face.

”JUST STOP IT!”

Her face shot up as she screamed in the shop. Her eyes welled up to the point of her starting to cry. The glare she was giving fully betrayed the hurt behind them. She couldn’t take this any more. The only thing Kayla wanted at this moment was to get out of here. Without much warning, she tightened her grip and ran out the door. Ripping the door open, she left without any further word and slammed the door behind her.
After all that stuff happening last month, I can finally get back on the bandwagon with everyone's favourite archer.

And The Wanderer



&



In

Take a Look, It's In a Book!


Location: Pacific Point, CA


”Here we are, quiet, out of the way, and one of the coolest places in Pacific Point!”

When arriving, The Wanderer couldn’t believe what he was seeing, leaving him speechless. Upon finishing their business in the street, Voyager had insisted on the time traveller to visit a library. Most of the libraries he was used to was either rubble or gutted of most of its contents. This one had been different to him.

The library was modern in appearance with a glass front that exposed the literature that was inside. People inside were reading through the books, working on their laptops or flicking through the catalogue of books to determine where everything was. To a normal person, it was just your average library. To the mutant, this was something he couldn’t get his eyes off. There were more books in this one building alone that those he had seen in the whole of Pine Bluff 200 years in the future.

The pair of them approached the front desk, prompting the attention of the blond, curly-haired librarian sorting returns and the puppy curled up in a blanket next to him, yipping happily at the two superheroes.

“Ah, good morning...er...Voyager…” the librarian said, pausing as he took in the appearance of Wanderer.

“Morning, Mr. Savo!” Voyager said, reaching over to scratch the puppy behind the ears. “How are you and Lee doing today?”

“Fine, fine,” Mr. Savo said, not taking his eyes off the more dangerous looking of the two. “Er….who is your friend here?”

”While I do not have a name to give myself,” The Wanderer started, his attention returning to the new conversation at hand. ”But for simplicity, I am known as The Wanderer. The name might be familiar from the monster metahuman problem the city had a month ago, where I stopped the problem alongside the heroes Gajana and Firefox.”

The time traveller looked around the building. ”Actually, as we are here, I was hoping if there was any information in relation to world history and the news of the city within the past few months. Can’t say much, but I’m not from around here so any of that information would be helpful.”

“Ahh, I do think I remember you from that incident. Always nice to see more heroes around here.” Mr. Savo murmured as he crossed to his computer to perform a search. “In any case, besides our historical encyclopedias, we have an archive of local and national newspapers backed up on our systems. Should help you get caught up, eh?”

”That should help me get caught up a lot,” the mutant replied, a small smile forming on his usually stern face. ”Thank you very much for the help.”

With the information he wanted being here, The Wanderer began to walk further into the library. The number of books in this building had been more than what he had seen from the outside. As his hand touched the books, feeling like-new to his fingertips, he sighed with a sense of peace. ”When I had been trying to survive back in my time,” he started, directing it to Voyager when out of earshot of everyone else in the library. ”There had been only a few dozen books that were salvaged from all the buildings around our settlement. None of them had been in the same quality as these books. This will certainly help with everything that our knowledge didn’t have back then.”

“Yeah, I came here a lot when I was figuring out stuff. It is very calming to just spend some time here, thinking.” Voyager responded, flipping through a picture-filled history text. “I cannot imagine what it was like to not have all this stuff to access...though it was not very helpful when it came to understanding what I can do...or what I was...” Her voice faltered slightly before she set down the book to look at Wanderer curiously. ”Do you think that is why I had that vision a month ago? Because the Psionic Nexus being wanted to send me to someone who knew about what I could do?”

The Wanderer looked up from the book he had picked up while Voyager had been talking to him. He immediately put down the encyclopedia and raised the now-freed right hand to his chin. He thought about the meeting he had with the Nexus. While it had given him a mission to try and find Voyager, the reason behind trying to meet it was something that he still thought about to this day.

”To be frank about it,” the mutant started, both eyes looking at her. ”I have no idea what the Psionic Nexus is planning or if it’s in relation to the visions you had a month ago.”

Relaxing his body, The Wanderer allowed his right hand to slide down to his side. ”To be honest, if it wasn’t for that psionic event you caused during the Hounds attack, I probably wouldn’t know it would have existed. But it did want me to find you for something or another. Probably to train you in psionics, seeing as you had used them like a kid with a new toy. No offense.”

”None taken.” Voyager said, sounding understanding as she flipped through a stack of archived newspapers. ”I cannot exactly take classes on it, and the visions are often the least confusing parts”

The Wanderer looked away, thinking about the vision Voyager kept mentioning. This vision, his chance encounter with The Psionic Nexus and its message to find her and that psionic event came from her. They were all connected in some way. ”As for your vision, when did you get it? Did you also experience something like that when you were in Pacific Point a month ago?”

Voyager paused, looking up from the newspaper stack thoughtfully. ”Ah...yeah, I think I did experience that vision a month ago. I remember, it was right when we were heading back from Lost Haven, and the whole Hounds incident. I think it happened before too, and maybe a little...after?” Voyager rubbed her temples to repress her frustration. “Ech, it is so confusing. I can understand how to travel into space but I cannot decipher this vision. Is the Nexus always this….vague, with you?”

”Hmmm…” The Wanderer murmured. The information on the visions was certainly more helpful to him to try and understand what Voyager was trying to figure out. ”From what I can gather, these visions might be directing you to try and find the things that are in them. I think that much is evident as you did have a vision of me in them.”

When referring to the Nexus, the mutant couldn’t hold back a chuckle. ”To be honest, I’d be lying if I said I understand its cryptic messages. It didn’t specify why I was to find you a month ago, just told me that it was. These visions of yours, however… I do not fully think that those were from the Psionic Nexus. I could very well be wrong, though. There’s a whole lot to it that I have no idea about. The only thing I know is that it was the cause of that psychic ‘earthquake’ that happened a month ago, and I think that was just it arriving to the vicinity of this planet.”

”Yeah, I sort of have memories of that happening...” Voyager pondered. ”My vision that I have of you didn’t feel like that though, so maybe it was something else that sent it? Maybe it had something to do with that creature that was also in the vision...”

The Wanderer listened to Voyager as she spoke more on the visions. The whole thing was still a bit confusing, despite knowing about the type of psionics in his future to certain individuals. For someone to give someone else visions? That was a first for him. ”Well, it sounds like you have a plan of action then,” he replied. No doubt, whatever she needed to do was something she would do herself. He was only there to meet with her, as per The Psionic Nexus’s instruction. Perhaps to train her? Perhaps to band together to help stop the apocalypse from happening? For now, those answers remained elusive to him.

Equally lost for any further information, Voyager glanced over at the newspapers Wanderer was sorting through, spotting the familiar shape of a anchor-wielding monster on the cover. ”Hey, I remember that, it is the Game Genie incident! My first time trying out my powers and helping people. I even met my first friend, Miss Pendragon and...her…”

Wanderer’s mind drifted off as she began talking about an event that happened in Pacific Point before the Hound attacks. He paid no attention to her flipping through the pages like crazy. He just focused on reading the news stories of the time when the Esper family was killed to try and see what events led up to that moment. So it came to his surprise the instant a news article was shoved in front of his face, the mutant hiding none of the look.

“DICKENS!” Voyager shouted, prompting angry stares from the other patrons, though she could care less right now. ”This dragon, Dickens! He was in my vision, the one that led me to you! The Psionic Nexus or whoever sent the vision must want me to find him again!” Voyager looked like she was about twelve seconds from bouncing off the walls, she was so excited. ”I bet Martel would know where to find Pendragon and Dickens. He knows everything!”

Voyager handed the paper back to Wanderer, pointing out the building in the background of the photograph. ”I have to go and find him, if you need me I’ll be around this place! This...this feels like the right thing to do. Like it is going to answer all my questions.” And with a flash of purple and an excited yelp, Voyager shot out of the library and was gone.

Being bombarded with information at a very quick page, he was still focusing on processing it when she dashed off out of the library. With a confused look on his face, The Wanderer looked around to see some of the annoyed people in the library with him. Unsure with what to do now, the mutant shrugged and carried on sifting through the newspapers, carrying on with his search.


&



In

One Psionic Headache


Location: Pacific Point, CA

One Month Later…


While he did leave Gajana and Firefox in a condition that was of great concern, The Wanderer had pulled through it and had almost returned to normal. The mutant had kept a low profile since then as the revelation that he was from the future had made those who had heard him declare it skeptical of him as a person itself. While it didn’t concern him that people might not believe his word on his origin, but the view that he could be ‘insane’ was something that did. With that, he kept it from everyone else that he did come across and kept his presence unknown. This was despite the fact that he was one of the heroes in Pacific Point that helped with the enraged metahumans that had appeared out of nowhere in the city. While there had been a few questions about where one of the heroes, Voyager, had been a month ago, the news of her being in Lost Haven to fight the Hounds of Humanity was enough to answer them. But the news about him had been made, his disappearance also making the pages of the news, kept appearing in one form or another.

If I am declared a hero by the people my ancestors grouped with, then so be it.

The Wanderer had wandered the streets, trying to avoid the eyes of onlookers as he continued to nurse the almost-healed injuries from the month before. The time he took off was good for his recovery, the strength of his psionics returning to 100% afterwards. In fact, the mutant had noticed that there was a larger capacity within him than before and that reflected in the strength of his psionics. Not only he noticed it, but the control he had before the time jump had returned to him. Now he was able to control the full extent of his psionics with the right amount of power. With the Hounds of Humanity also being no more, his focus had turned away from them and slowly return to figuring out the calamity that was to happen that cause the apocalypse in his time. Meanwhile, he slowly began to work in the city helping those in need from the crimes that he thought were abhorrent to have in this society.

From the corner of his eyes, he sees a disturbance in a grocery shop in the street. Two men had began the proceedings of robbing the store, a gun in one guy’s hand and a baseball bat in another. Sighing, The Wanderer crossed the road towards the store, his eyes fixated on the two men. With the same confident strides as when he faced the metahumans, he walked into the store. After a few shouts and sounds of a scuffle, both the robbers were hurled out of the window. From inside, a voice calmly came out of the door. ”Call the police. I’ll keep them under wraps. Look after their weapons as the police will need them to send these guys down.” With that, he walked out and began walking towards the thrown men, slowly getting up in a daze.

“Useless idiots,” grumbled an unseen man overlooking the commotion in front of the store from the rooftop of the post office. “Can’t even bait the right muties out.” Grumbling, he heaved the massive silver case lying next to him onto its side and began punching in the password, allowing the crate to open with a hiss.

“The Hounds may be down,” the man said solemnly, taking a moment to admire his precious cargo. “But humanity is not going to fall to these abominations. No, not while I have anything to say about it.” Adjusting the black armband with the homemade logo, the man removed the long tube of a rocket launcher from the case; evidence from a Hounds armory that was misplaced by the Pacific Point police department before he was unceremoniously fired by said police department for “losing” evidence.

“I wanted the growing girl, or one of those animal freak shows,” the man mused, loading in a deadly payload and hoisting the whole setup onto his shoulder. “I guess this one will have to do.” Putting his eye to the viewpiece, he placed the back of Wanderer’s head right in the crosshairs, but was stymied when his view began to drift up and to the left from a sudden weight on the back end of the launcher.

“Wha….who the ...?” the man spluttered as his view began to dance back and forth. Turning his head around, he glanced up at the alien heroine Voyager, pushing the back end of the launcher back and forth with one finger playfully. Looking up, the alien caught the would-be killer’s gaze and smiled cheerily.

”I was wondering how long it would take you to notice,” Voyager said. ”I was not overly annoying, I hope.”

Answering with a violent swear, the man swung Voyager off the end of the launcher, turning it towards her and slamming on the trigger, filled with glee at the prospect of taking this popular freak with him in a blaze of glory. Voyager lurched backwards as the rocket sprung from the weapon with a blaze, but the explosion did not come. Staring in disbelief, the man’s jaw dropped as he saw the rocket he fired suspended in a hazy purple energy field between both of Voyager’s hands.

”Ooh, it works!” Voyager said excitedly as the flaming tail of the rocket went out. ”You said it disarms if the tail goes out, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a safety feature, in case it flies into the sky and stuff like that,” Jordan Fletcher remarked on the other end of Voyager’s communicator, breezing through the specs of the would-be terrorist’s weapon.

”Then that means…” Voyager said, trailing off as she turned her attention back to the rocket. Clenching her fingers slightly, the rocket began to pucker and distort, crushing itself into a misshapen lump of metal. The terrorist mumbled nonsense words under his breath as Voyager released her grip and the busted rocket fell to the ground with a soft ‘plink’.

”Those things are dangerous, you know!” Voyager scolded the terrorist wannabe, dusting off her superhero suit, updated with silver garnish to match the purple. This was the final straw for the terrorist, and with a primal scream of rage, he tried to swing the launcher around to clobber her and promptly lost his balance and caught his heel on the edge of the roof. Feeling his life flash before his eyes, the terrorist felt himself topple over the side before what felt like a cloud of static caught him, slowing in midair. Looking around in a panic, he recognized the same purple haze that stopped the rocket now holding him like a cloud.

”Hey, that is dangerous too!” Voyager called out, poking over the edge with her hands out in front of her, concentration evident in her voice.

“PUT ME DOWN YOU MUTIE FREAK!!!!”

”Okay!”

The man screamed as the cloud suddenly gave way and he began falling, only to stop again as he landed face-first in a bush.

”Now you stay there and -unf- think about what you did!” Voyager called out, grunting as she picked up the rocket launcher, figuring out that best way to disable it was breaking off important looking chunks. ”Or...something like that. Just sit there!”

As the two men finally came to their senses, the mutant had reached them. Grabbing the pair of them, The Wanderer extended his arms. In one, violent motion, he whipped them towards each other. The resulting impact that the two men faced was enough to send them unconscious. Satisfied with the result, he threw the two men back towards the convenience store, the pair of them collapsing into a heap when they stopped.

Sensing that his job here was done, The Wanderer began to walk away from the scene. The only thing that stopped him was a yell from behind. He turned to where he thought he heard the sound from and managed to catch a glimpse of a man starting to fall from the top of the building to the bushes below. While there wasn’t much he could do for the fallen man, his steeled gaze focused on the person on the rooftop. While it had faded from view, the mutant’s psionic eye noticed a disturbance in the air above where the man had fallen into the bushes. It can’t be psionics, can it? he thought, wondering on the thought. While he knew he was still looking for the one called Voyager, the figure up on the rooftop didn’t act like a hero.

The only conclusion he had: a new threat had arrived and he had to deal with it.

In his mind, the thought of him facing a possible person with psionic potential had been realized when he watched them take something off of a tube that he recognized as a rocket launcher. With civilians around, he knew he had to act quickly before any damage could be done. He raised his right arm up into the air, his right hand in the direction of the figure on the rooftop.

”Don’t think I’d let you use that here, you bastard!” he called out to figure, his eyes steeling in preparation of what was to come next. Without much concentration, he allowed the purple flames of his psionics envelop his body. A moment later, a beam shot out of his raised hand, the beam surging towards the figure with speed right as his opponent looked up.

”...uh oh…”

Voyager barely had time to throw up a PsiBarrier in front of her eyes before the beam collided with her, producing an almighty bang and, oddly enough, a mauve cloud of dissipated entry. Thrown backwards by the blast but remaining upright, Voyager steeled herself and kicked off the ground into the air.

”I am made of tougher stuff then that!” she declared triumphantly. ”But if you seek to play the proverbial “hard ball”…!” Determined to stop what must be the ringleader of these bandits, Voyager tilted forward and flew right at her assailant, chucking PsiBlasts with each hand.

Just as I had feared, The Wanderer thought. While the dust kicked up from the impact had blinded his normal eye of its vision, the psionics the figure used was clear as day in the other eye. The purple mist created turbulence in the psionic energy throughout the area, the mist itself appearing as a lighter shade of purple in his psionic eye. This isn’t going to go down as easy as I thought.

With him now knowing that he was fighting someone else who was capable of using psionics, he knew he had to end this fight quickly. That would be a challenge, though, as it was apparent shortly afterwards that the figure was capable of flight using psychic energy. As they declared themselves to be tough, her voice betraying her gender, she began flying through the air towards him, firing balls of energy at him. With him watching what his opponent was doing, only one word escaped his lips in a mutter.

”Amateur…”

With his right hand now lowered, he raised his left to create a barrier. While he would normally cast a dome-shaped wall to protect himself, he created a concave wall. With that, the blasts of psionic energy from her would destroy themselves safely without harming any observers of the fight. But the destruction of the blasts also would act as a catalyst for what he planned next.

As the first of the blasts exploded safely against the barrier, The Wanderer clenched his left fist. The barrier seemed to have disappeared in a concussive wave of an explosion. The leftover remnants of the blasts’ explosion re-exploded and kicked up the dust and smoke forward back at the figure.

As she charged into the smoke, a declaration was said to her. ”Don’t get cocky! You have no idea on the full extent of psionics!” His voice sounded scarily close, despite appearing far away prior to the explosion. Before she knew what was happening, The Wanderer shot beside her, purple flames enveloping his entire body. As soon as the smoke formed, he engaged his aura and surged forward on his legs. His right hand clasped her right shoulder and his left grasping the uniform on her right hip. With his strength imbued with his enhanced psionics, he whipped his body around. He released his grip on her. The momentum of her flight with his added strength sent her flying towards the ground with force.

Once gravity had brought him back to the ground, The Wanderer’s body skidded along the tarmac on his left hand and knees as he watches for movement of his opponent. His right hand was poised ready to attack in case they tried to get back up.

Voyager wasn’t downed, mostly thanks to some well-timed Psibarriers and her inhuman physiology, but she was certainly rattled. Shaking her head to reorient herself, she leapt to her feet in one elegant, agile movement, wobbling slightly as she recovered from the body slam.

”Oof...well at least I am awake and alert now...if rather bruised.” Brushing her tentacle hair aside, she lowered into a fighting stance only to stop short at the sight of her opponent, more out of surprise then anything else.

In all honesty, The Wanderer had wanted the last attack to have worked and not wanted to resort to further violence. However, as soon as she got back onto her feet, he sighed. ”If only you had stayed down,” he muttered to himself. While his aura was still on, he summoned his trusted psionic weapon: his psionic blade. With the same sudden speed as before, he launched himself forward, the blade forming an arc to attack the mysterious figure.

”Hey, do we not know each other from somewhere?” Voyager pondered, just barely dodging the shimmering blade. ”Wait...yes, that strange dream! With the space dragon and the wolf!”

As he watched as the person he was fighting dodged his attacks, the sudden change in tactics from all out assault had puzzled him. If she said she was ‘made of tougher stuff’, then why is she all of a sudden dodging? he thought. If someone wanted to prove that they were tough, at least from his experience, they’d be going all out to prove that point. So why? Why change tactics all of a sudden.

As his attack missed, The Wanderer planted the blade into the tarmac, allowing him to skid in a near-circle to face her again. ”What’s the matter, figuring out that you’re biting off more than you can chew?” he barked, raising his right hand. In another change in tactic, he stopped using his psionic aura around him. If she’s not going to attack, then I can focus on other abilities. ”If you’re not going fight me, I’ll go on ahead and beat the living tar out of you. Then you’ll give me the answers to how you know about the Psionic Nexus, cooperatively or not.”

”The Psionic What?” Voyager asked, more then a little indignant. “The only Nexus I know about is the weird ribbon thingy from Star Trek Generations, and that was just a heaven-thingy, or something.”

As soon as she raised questions about the identity of the Psionic Nexus, The Wanderer had hesitated. She doesn’t know about it being the entity behind the psionic energy? First the dodging, now this? With her sudden referencing of something relating to a Nexus, he was beginning to question who this woman was. The conclusion in mind was either a very talkative bad guy, like The Officer, or someone who had caught his attention at the wrong place at the wrong time.

”I’m just trying to help and you are trying to interrogate me? That’s just...aaah!”

Without so much as a warning, Voyager charged forward and jumped at him, the Wanderer flinching at her sudden charge, getting ready to fight in close quarters when it came to it. A distraction technique aimed to lower my guard? his initial thoughts were. As he was ready to counter the move, he couldn’t hold his surprise when the woman had grappled him. Then, the all too familiar sounds of gunfire exploded in his ears from behind, Voyager wincing as the bullets bounced off the PsiBarrier protecting her arms and the Wanderer’s upper back.

“Mutie freaks!” the rocket launcher man screamed at the two of them, firing wildly with an undiscovered revolver, his face bleeding and raw from his fall into the bushes. “Scum-sucking parasites! Inhuman pieces of sh-”

”Watch your mouth!” Voyager cut off, her eyes turning a gleaming shade of solid violet, before firing off a PsiBeam. The angry radical yelped in pain as the beam annihilated the gun in his hand, seconds before he was body-slammed to the ground by one of the nearby officers.

“I’LL KILL YOU VOYAGER!!!” the man screamed as he was unceremoniously cuffed by the officer. “YOU AND THE REST OF YOUR FUCKING FREAK SHOW!!! THEY’LL BUILD STATUES OF ME FOR SAVING HUMANITY FROM YOUR KIND!!!”

”It will be nice when they do not show up anymore,” Voyager said with a sigh, still clinging around Wanderer’s neck.

The mutant’s head turned to see who was firing at them. He recognized the man was thrown off of the roof a moment earlier. In that split second, the pieces fit together. So he was the one who was about to use the rocket launcher and not her? This entire time, his assumptions of the woman, alien-like in appearance, was wrong.

Before he had a chance to think about teleporting and disabling the threat, the woman managed to destroy the revolver in hand. As the authorities took the man down, he paid very close attention to what the man was saying. His eyes widened when he learnt the identity of the woman that had her arms around his shoulders. All this time, I’ve been fighting Voyager? It wasn’t something that he was expecting, his search for her lasting a month since being told to find her. The Wanderer turned his attention back to Voyager.

”So…” she said, grinning sheepishly .”We were fighting, yes?”

A chuckle escaped his lips. ”We were fighting,” he replied. A moment later, the sound of the psionic blade disappeared as it vanished. ”But seeing as I now know who you are, I no longer need to.” Placing both hands underneath her arm, he removed her from around his shoulders and placed her on the ground. His eyes and body then turned to focus on the three men being led away by the police. ”I take it that those guys were former members of the Hounds?”

”It is hard to say,” Voyager said, dusting herself off. ”Probably just admirers. He is not the first guy I caught in the last month who screamed about muties.”

”To be honest, whether he’s an admirer or not, I wouldn’t blame him. With those Hound bastards using devices that changed regular metahumans into tough berserkers that rampaged through the city, I bet there will be a handful of people who think they are dangerous. Just glad that they were dealt with while you were fighting them in the other city.”

”Yeah, I wanted to stay and help but the Finger of God was definitely more of a priority,” Voyager mused, a bit of guilt in her voice as she took in the appearance of the Wanderer. Even a month after that vision his face had not faded from her memory. Whoever he was, he had to be important to whatever gave her that vision.

”So..uh...you mentioned something about a Nexus?”

Heads up that I have tweaked The Wanderer's attributes to reflect the power boost he received shortly after his last post and during the transition period.
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