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I didn’t exactly have a costume sitting around my (rather expansive) closet. Well, okay, I did have several costumes from various parties and holidays. But nothing like what I needed now. And I wasn’t going to assemble something out of what was there, mostly because there was too much chance of one of the maids recognizing the stuff later if they saw it. There was a lot of stuff so the chance wasn’t that great. But still, I wasn’t going to risk it.
So I needed something new. Which was why I’d asked Simon to take me to the mall. It got me out of the house, which was a huge plus as far as I was concerned right then, and I could do a little shopping around to put something together that would ensure Dad and Simon didn’t recognize me if they saw me while I was spying on them.
Not that I had really decided what I was going to do yet. Finding proof of what my family was up to and taking it to Silversmith was basically my only plan. And even that I wasn’t entirely sure about. I kept asking myself if it was really right to turn my own family in. They were my family.
But then I would think about the two people I’d seen those guys execute on what was clearly my brother’s orders, and probably my dad’s too. I thought about what they deserved, whoever they were. Did they deserve to just die without the people responsible for it being brought to justice? Did their families deserve that? Because they had families too. It wasn’t just about me.
No. Whatever the rest of my family was into, I had to do something about it. I had to find out more and… go from there. And the first step toward doing that was putting a costume together.
Carrying a bag with my pace-skates (I hadn’t wanted Simon to recognize that I was wearing them) and a few other things in it over one shoulder, I made my way through the mall. But I wasn’t planning on buying anything there. There was too much of a chance that wherever I bought it from would have records, cameras, people who remembered me, and so on. I wasn’t going to risk it. Instead, I found an ATM and withdrew a few hundred dollars, then went to the food court, had a milkshake, and doodled on a notepad as I thought up various ideas and thoughts.
But no amount of doodling would accomplish anything until I could see what was available. So, after about twenty minutes of that, I left the mall. On the way out, I reached into my bag and took out my lone remaining shoe from the night before, the one whose partner was with Simon. With a soft sigh, I tossed the shoe into the garbage can by the exit before heading out. Pulling my pace-skates from the bag and putting them on then, I tapped the heels together to bring out the wheels before starting to skate across the parking lot and down the street.
My destination was a few blocks away. I only knew about it because one of my friends at school, Tae, had to work there for a few months about a year earlier as some kind of community service thing. Some of us had gone down there to visit them, and ended up donating some things.
Yeah, it was a second-hand goods store, like Goodwill. They had basically everything in there. And best of all, they were cheap enough that they didn’t use cameras. They had them, but according to Tae, they never worked. That coupled with the fact that all the employees were bored and didn’t care that much basically meant I could be pretty sure that even if someone came asking about the things I bought later, they wouldn’t get that much information about me.
It was the best I could do, anyway. So I skated my way up to the place in question, clicking my heels to switch back to ordinary shoes, and walked inside.
“Leave your bag by the door,” the old woman reading a magazine by the checkout stand absently told me before flipping a page. She only glanced up enough to see that I was holding one, her response so automatic that I wasn’t sure she even recognized that she had said it.
I did, setting my bag down there before grabbing a shopping cart as I made my way back to look through the aisles. The place wasn’t very busy, considering it was a weeknight and they were closing in another hour. Still, I tried not to look at anyone without looking like I was trying not to look at anyone.
Yeah, I probably looked ridiculous. Eventually, I made my way to their sporting goods aisle. There was a lot of stuff all jumbled up there, even a few things that looked promising, but ended up not fitting me.
Then I found it. ‘It’, in this case, was a set of white motorcycle coveralls. Basically it was a jumpsuit with a bit more padding. I took the jumpsuit into the nearby dressing area and tried it on. It fit, somehow miraculously. It was a little baggy, but tight around the wrists and ankles, so it wouldn’t trip me up or anything.
Since I was already in the sports aisle, I added a set of knee and elbow pads, also white. Then I looked around a bit more. It took another few minutes, and I was about to give up on finding anything I actually liked. But then I saw something glinting in the light down in the bottom corner of one of the shelves, and reached down to move a pile of old jerseys out of the way.
Oh God, it was perfect. It was a helmet. Like, a motorcycle helmet. But this one was modular. Basically, it looked like a full motorcycle helmet with the part covering the mouth and chin, the dark visor, and all that. But with this one, the part covering the mouth could flip up to the top of the helmet, uncovering the face aside from the black visor, which stayed where it was. So with the front of the helmet flipped down, my entire face would be covered. With the front flipped up, just the top half, including my eyes and down over part of my nose, would be.
This was it. This was what I wanted, what I needed. The helmet was red, but I could take care of that. I took the helmet, adding it to my cart.
Coveralls, helmet, knee and elbow pads, what else? I went through the winter stuff and took out a ski mask, checking it over a bit. I already had the helmet, but if I lost that, my face would still be covered. Worth it. Definitely worth it.
Along with the mask, I added a pair of thin gloves. Then I started putting more things in the cart. I didn’t really care what they were, I just wanted to cover up everything else that I was buying so it didn’t immediately stand out. I threw a bunch more random stuff in there, toys, games, more clothes, a few shoes, and so on. Then I went to the checkout stand.
The lady there raised an eyebrow at how much stuff I had, which was a point I hadn’t considered until that moment. Still, I kept my head down while trying to be as pleasant, yet unmemorable as possible. I passed the money along, let her count and check it, then took my bags and left with a few mumbled words about having a good night.
Once I was outside, I looked around before checking my phone. I still had an hour before the meeting was supposed to happen. So, I took my bags and hauled them around the back of the store. Abandoning the rest of the stuff that I didn’t actually need at the donation box for the store I had just bought them from, I took the rest in a couple bags and kept going until I reached an alley a couple blocks away. The whole place was empty and quiet at this time, so I could quickly do what I needed to without being interrupted.
First, I made the helmet (aside from the visor), the ski mask, and the gloves all white to match the coveralls. As far as I’d been able to tell, the color would stay unless I actually powered it up into the whole glowing flashlight stuff. It also dried instantly, which was useful.
After giving a quick glance around, I changed clothes into the coveralls. Sliding them on, I zipped the thing up and jumped up and down a couple times before leaning one way, then the other to test the range of motion. It all felt good. Adding the knee and elbow pads, I tested it again. Still okay. Then I tugged on the ski mask and tucked it under the collar of the coveralls before slipping my hands into the gloves.
Finally, I picked up the helmet and put it on my head, sliding the visor down over my eyes, then the whole front plate. Now I basically looked like a dirtbike rider or something, wearing a white jumpsuit and safety protection. I didn’t look like a superhero, I looked like a stunt driver. A male stunt driver, given my general luck.
But whatever, this was good enough. And it would hide my identity, which was the whole point.
Putting the rest of my clothes in my bag, I hid it behind a nearby dumpster before checking my phone. Right, time to call a…
Shit. I couldn’t call an Uber or a taxi like this! What the hell was I thinking? It might just stand out a little bit. And I couldn’t even quickly change back to normal clothes to get a ride, because that would still put me near the scene if they checked records or anything later. I’d already risked that enough with the ride last night. Taking this one would… yeah. I had to get there another way.
Skating. I was going to have to skate, taking the back alleys as much as I could to avoid crowds. At least my costume looked simple enough that it wouldn’t instantly make people point and say ‘Touched’. I would attract some looks, but (hopefully) not a huge crowd.
Slipping my pace-skates on, I used the voice code to pop out the wheels, shifted my bag on my shoulder, and took off. Skating out of the alley, I crossed the street around a couple cars, hopped the curb, and went through the next alley over on my way to Simon’s meeting point.
Too slow. I needed to be faster, or I’d miss the whole damn thing. Hurry up, Cassidy!
Right, I could be faster. I just needed to use my green paint. Pointing a hand down at one my skates, I started to summon my power… when my skate suddenly turned green all on its own.
Wait, what? I was so startled by that, I actually lost my balance and, with a yelp, went sprawling across the ground. Owww. At least I was in the alley so no one saw.
Rolling over, I stared down at the skate. It was still green. How–what–huh?
Thinking about it for a second, I squinted intently at the skate and thought, red, red, red.
It worked. The pace-skate turned red. My eyes widened and I covered my mouth. Then I looked at my arm and focused once more. Blue circle. Blue circle. Blue circle.
A blue circle appeared on my arm. It worked. It worked! I tried it a couple more times sitting there in the alley. I couldn’t just make color appear everywhere, but I could do so on anything I was wearing. I had to spray paint at anything else, but I could make whatever I was actually wearing turn various colors with just a thought. Holy shit, this was useful. This was–
Late. I was going to be late! With a yelp, I scrambled to my feet. Then I looked down at my skates. Green.
Both turned green, and I activated the one on the right while pushing off. Suddenly skating a hell of a lot faster (I had no idea exactly how fast, but if I could run about thirty miles an hour when it was activated, skating had to be even more of a boost), I blew past a crowd of very confused pedestrians, narrowly avoided a car in the street that blared its horn at me, and kept on going. Despite myself, a loud whoop escaped me that I immediately felt embarrassed about as the boost wore off and my skate turned back to its normal color, almost as if it was embarrassed too.
Then I remembered that no one knew who I was. So I activated the green paint on my other shoe and took off again. As I all-but flew through a parking lot next to a fast food joint, I raised my fists and gave a loud yell. Oh my God, that felt good. For a few seconds, I forgot about what I was actually doing and just skated. The paint on that shoe wore off, but I just quickly recolored them with a thought and took off again.
I didn’t use the boost constantly, just enough to keep me going so I wouldn’t miss Simon completely. Taking back alleys and side streets, and keeping track of my progress on the maps app of my phone, I skated my way to the address.
It was an old used car lot. When I was still a couple blocks away, I slowed and coasted behind an empty doctor’s office. Then I looked down at myself. Bright white. That was probably a bad idea.
But now I knew what to do about it! With a thought, I turned my entire outfit completely black. From the top of the helmet down to my pace-skates, all of it went dark. There, that was better.
With that done, I checked the map on my phone once more, zooming in before heading around the building the doctor’s office was in. Shifting the skates back to shoes, I climbed the fence there, dropping off the other side before making my way past a few more buildings.
Finally, I reached the back of the car lot. The place was dark, the big overhead lights that were meant to show off the cars shut down, either to save power or to hide whatever was actually going on there tonight.
There was also a larger fence in the way, this one topped by barbed wire. I wasn’t going to be able to just climb over it.
So, I took a few steps back and hyped myself up while spraying out a bit of blue paint into a circle at the base of the fence. Taking a quick look around, I whispered to myself, “You can do this. You can do this. Just jump. You did it earlier. No big deal.”
Before I could chicken out, I took a running start and jumped onto the blue circle. It propelled me up and over the fence, as I actually cried out. Thankfully, I was smart enough to activate a bit of the black paint on one of my shoes to silence myself. Which also silenced my landing as I half-sprawled between two SUV’s with prices painted across their hoods.
Footsteps. Someone was coming. Hurriedly, I rolled under the nearest car, watching with wide eyes while someone walked past. Carefully poking my head out, I saw a man in a suit with close-cropped black hair. More importantly, I saw the gun he was holding. I wasn’t exactly an expert, but it looked like some kind of submachine gun held loosely in one hand, like he didn’t actually expect any trouble.
But relaxed or not, the guy was still holding a gun. An actual gun, just like the guys who had shot at me last night. And as I watched, the man met up with another guy dressed the same way holding a gun of his own. They were clearly patrolling the lot.
What the hell was Simon involved with here?
As if in answer to my question, my brother’s voice suddenly interrupted my thoughts, as he came out of the nearby sales office. Simon, just like the other guys, carried a gun. In his case, it was a pistol of some kind. He was looking to the men who had just met up.
“All good!” One of them called back with a wave. “Lot’s clear.”
“Good,” Simon announced. “Keep it that way.” Then he took a radio from his belt, held it up, and ordered, “Bring them in.”
A few seconds later, a car approached from around the corner. It slowed before parking near Simon, and two men got out. Seeing them, my eyes went even wider than they had already been. Because I recognized them. Or rather, I recognized the symbols on their clothes. Both of them wore ragged old jeans full of holes and random leather jackets. Nothing unusual. But on the back of each jacket was the symbol of the numeral 8. Behind the 8 was a letter E, with the ends of the latter poking through the holes in the former so they were almost on top of each other, interlocked that way.
It was the symbol of the Easy Eight’s, the collection of street gangs that had allied together to stand up against Oscuro. They were the ones Dad was working with?
Oh, right. Evidence. Digging into my pocket, I took out my phone and held it up to start to record a video of what was happening.
“You got it?” Simon asked, standing there expectantly as the two men moved around to the back of the car. I shifted a bit, trying to keep the camera from my phone on them the whole time.
And then a hand caught hold of my arm. I let out a surprised yelp, almost dropping my phone as I was yanked out from under the car and dropped onto my back.
Two-Step. It was him, the Touched mercenary from last night whose power let him create a semi-solid duplicate of himself that copied everything he did. He stood above me in his black slacks, red turtleneck, and black leather jacket, his face covered by a combination of a red scarf over the lower half and a bandana over his head, leaving only his eyes exposed. The same red bat he’d had the night before was pointed down at me. “Well, well, well,” he drawled. “What do we have here?”
All around me, other men were appearing. Simon was pointing his gun at me, as were several other guys in suits. Even the two Easy Eight thugs were aiming their own weapons my way.