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Pack Trying To Figure Out Why Sierra Looks Like Cassidy
The following takes place during the recent commissioned interlude focusing on Amber and Dani, after the first scene (at school) but before the second scene (in the costume shop).
Benjamin Pittman was a creep. That much was patently obvious, and Dani didn’t exactly need to do any deep thinking on the subject to come to that conclusion. He was clearly a power-hungry asshole who shouldn’t have been put in charge of flipping burgers at a fast food joint, let alone determining the immortal future of the human race or whatever it was he called his biolem project. The man was just plain bad news, and anything terrible he did shouldn’t have been surprising. It felt like assuming the worst was probably the best way to go whenever it came to the question of, ‘why did Pittman do a thing?’
And yet, Dani was still confused on one particular point. Why Cassidy Evans? The secret biolem body that old Benny had had stored away in a secret room within a secret room, kept safe through all this time, given nutrients and power and allowed to grow for the years he had been locked up on Breakwater happened to be one that looked like Cassidy Evans? Why? What was the point of that? Sure, she came from a rich family, but why her specifically? Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace one of her parents, or even her older brother? When he’d made the body originally, it would have been Cassidy as a like… what, eleven-year-old? What was that going to accomplish as far as Pittman’s goals went?
She had been thinking about that basically off and on ever since she first saw Sierra and realized what was happening. How she had avoided blurting Cassidy’s name at that moment, she’d probably never know. It had been a close thing, that was for sure. A couple times she’d considered bringing it up, but that was impossible to do without explaining how she knew the Evans chick well enough to recognize her even through the hair change and all that. Maybe they wouldn’t press her too much on it with the distraction of just who Sierra’s body looked like, but still.
No, she would need to find out for herself what Pittman’s plan had been. And since he was… out of reach, to say the least, that left finding out more about Cassidy herself. Maybe there was something about the girl, or access she might have through her family, or something, that would cause all this to start to make sense. But to find that, she was going to have to be a little underhanded.
It was weird that she actually felt bad about that. Cassidy should have been, on paper, a typical spoiled rich girl who deserved to get a little comeuppance for once in her life. But having gotten to know the girl at least a little bit, she just… wasn’t like that. Dani mused on that fact while sitting in an old sedan she had borrowed from the fleet of vehicles available to La Casa Touched. Some were more eye-catching than others, but there were plenty that were meant to blend in anywhere. Those were what she preferred. Having an awesome car sounded good on paper, but it also got eyes on you. Cop eyes. And given she was already operating under a penalty for existing while black in the first place, speeding around in an eighty-thousand-dollar sports car probably wasn’t a great idea.
Yes, Cassidy wasn’t what she would’ve pictured when someone brought up ‘teenage daughter of billionaires.’ And she wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of examples of students at that school who did fit the stereotype of worthless rich fuck no one would ever miss if they fell down a well without a Lassie to bring help, but not as many as she thought there would’ve been. There were cool people there, and annoying people, and–yeah, it was complicated.
As she thought about all that, another car pulled up beside her, as Eits stepped out in his civilian clothes. “Yo,” the boy started, holding out his phone, “you ready?”
Dani confirmed she was, and a moment later her own phone showed that it was receiving a file. She watched it downloading before asking, “Did you get all of it?”
“I mean, you won’t tell me exactly what you’re looking for,” Ryder pointed out while leaning against the hood of her car so he could talk to her through the open window. “So it’s not like I can say if what you need is in there or not, you know?” His hand gestured vaguely. “But yeah, I got all the student files from that school of yours, plus like three different middle schools that feed into it. That’s report cards, parental notes, stuff the teachers scribbled in the margins of their grade books about them, any medical files that were added to the school records, police reports filed with the schools, all of it. Plus passwords for their school email accounts, locker combinations, and some other stuff. Now uhh, if you want me to help you narrow all that down…”
Smiling just a bit at his fishing attempt, Dani shook her head. “Thanks, if I change my mind I’ll let you know. Right now this is just something I have to do myself.” After saying that, she gave him a look before turning to glance into the backseat, where all her lizards were crawling around. Including Mars Bar, the iguana, sunning himself up against the rear window. “Believe me, I recognize the irony of me, the girl whose name literally means I don’t work alone, saying that. And uhh, saying it to the guy who just got all this stuff so I wouldn’t hit a dead end.” A grimace found its way to her face before she added, “Thanks, seriously. I owe you. Both for doing this and for putting up with me not telling you why I needed it.”
Ryder shrugged. “No big deal. I mean, you already helped me with that other thing, so I’d say we’re even.”
“Yeah,” Dani replied while staring at him. “And are you ever gonna tell me why you needed me to help you steal stuff to get around those Sherwood spying plants? You thinking about pulling off a job in their territory?”
Ryder’s immediate response was to ask, “You thinking about pulling off a job inside your school?” When she didn’t answer, he shook his head. “I’ll tell you more when I can.”
“Right back at you,” Dani agreed. “Seriously, be careful, okay? Don’t do anything too stupid.”
“And you take that right back at yourself,” the boy retorted before coughing. “Or… you know, something like that.” He sobered then. “Let’s both be careful. And promise to ask for help if we need it.
“Something tells me, between the two of us, we’re gonna find all new ways to get in trouble.”
Once he left, Dani sat back in her seat with Riddles, the bearded dragon, sitting in her lap. She scratched under the grateful lizard’s chin while flipping through the newly arrived files on her phone with the other hand. Of course she didn’t care about the vast majority of it, but she couldn’t have told Eits that she only wanted Cassidy Evans’ file without giving him a lot more info than she wanted to at that moment. Not that she didn’t trust the boy, but… it just felt like keeping this to herself was a good idea.
First, she tried to search for the name Pittman in any of the files connected to Cassidy. Maybe he had been one of her substitute teachers, or a guest speaker, or… something. But no, his name didn’t come up anywhere. Not just in the high school records, but the middle school ones as well. As far as she could tell, Cassidy Evans had never had any official, school-related connection with Benjamin Pittman.
So, that was a dead end. She tried a few other words and names, including simply looking for the names of any teacher or substitute who worked with Cassidy at any point, then using her own phone to look up that person online to find out if they were real or if they had mysteriously disappeared around the same time Pittman went to prison. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out either. It turned out that any person who taught at one of those schools, even on a temporary basis, was thoroughly vetted and had quite the impressive resume. If only Cassidy was poor. But then, that would sort of make this entire thing pointless, wouldn’t it? Dani wasn’t sure what the connection between Pittman and Cassidy was just yet, but she was pretty confident that it had to do with Cassidy’s family being… well, rich as fuck.
Hold on, Cassidy’s family. The obvious reason for Pittman wanting a Cassidybot was to infiltrate them, and possibly spy on them. Which still didn’t explain why he wouldn’t just replace one of the adults if he actually wanted to accomplish something, but maybe it was more about getting eyes (and hands) inside their house? But why? Dani was relatively certain Cassidy wouldn’t be able to transfer any significant amount of money out of their accounts or anything, so robbing them (to any real degree) couldn’t be the answer.
Maybe she was looking at this the wrong way. Switching things up, Dani started looking through Paige’s school files. She was the one created by Pittman. And there was that whole business with Paige and Cassidy arguing and fighting all the time. Given the way Paige was with everyone else, as far as Dani had heard, it was odd that she had constantly been at odds with Cassidy.
Searching for all references to Cassidy in Paige’s files turned up a lot of results. Mostly about how much they really didn’t get along. Even though Dani was certain most of the incidents between them weren’t reported, what there was in the file painted a pretty thorough picture of Paige hating Cassidy. Which was definitely Pittman’s doing. Between knowing how Paige acted on her own, and knowing the man had built a robot replacement for Cassidy, that much was obvious.
But it was something else that made Dani stop short with her scrolling. Another time that the name Cassidy came up in Paige’s file. She had to read the thing a couple times. Buried deep in a clearly forgotten part of the girl’s original middle school file was a photocopied report about a young blonde girl being found in an alley next to three dead bodies. There was a scribbled note from one doctor or another to the middle school counselor about how they should monitor Paige, the girl in question, for lingering psychological issues from being around dead bodies and apparently being in some sort of fugue state when they found her. But most importantly, the file noted that when she was finally able to talk, the young Paige had specifically asked them to ‘find Cassidy’ and that ‘Cassidy will help me.’
It was the same Cassidy, obviously. But then… why would Paige believe Cassidy would help her? Or that she could help her?
Before she could think more about that, her phone beeped with a reminder. Reading it, Dani put the phone away and started the car once more. “Sorry guys,” she informed the lizards, “we’ll have to play detective a bit more later.
“Time to go meet KD and find a decent costume for my date tonight.”
What Were Jae And Damarko Doing When The ‘Mugger’ Tried To Ambush Them Before Being Stopped By Paintball?
“Are you absolutely sure you told your parents about being attacked and almost kidnapped when you were at Jae’s house?” As Damarko (or the currently-solid version of him that called himself Armadillo) said those words, his gaze flicked back and forth between the two fourteen-year-old twins who sat together on an old wooden crate in the middle of this old junkyard. “Cuz, you know, seems like they’d want you to be… oh, literally anywhere but back in Detroit if they knew about that.”
“He has a point,” Jae agreed from where she was standing a few feet away with her arms folded. “Your mother is a police detective and your father is a crime reporter. They know how dangerous this sort of thing can be.”
Lexi immediately shook her head, that long dark hair flailing in every direction. “Okay, first of all, we were totally not almost kidnapped. Those guys didn’t know what hit ‘em.” As she spoke, the girl grabbed an abandoned bottle from the ground and tilted it back and forth as though mimicking someone walking. “They were like, ‘oh hello helpless children, we’re gonna throw bags over your heads and take you in our vaaaaaaaaaayyee!’” The exaggerated scream was accompanied by Lexi touching the bottle with a silver ‘egg’ from her other hand. The egg broke and the bottle turned translucent before flying off like it had been shot out of a cannon. The effect wore off just as it was over a dumpster, allowing the bottle to shatter against the wall and fall into the trash where it belonged.
“Only less murdery than that looked,” Zed, her blond, well-dressed and coiffed brother, noted. “Anyway, Mom thinks she’s handling the situation. She got a few of her cop buddies up here to look into it and they arrested the guys who were at the house. Even took a couple of those Spartans with them for Touched backup. And they found out those guys were hired by someone down in LA, which is what her and Dad are looking into right now. Apparently he’s some dangerous guy, so they were pretty happy to send us up here for a few days when we said we wanted to visit Jae some more. Especially when her stepmom said it was okay for us to stay there.”
“Except we don’t think the bad guy in LA is the only problem,” Lexi put in. “We think he’s got a partner here still. You know, a partner of the non-nameless thug variety. So we wanna find out who that guy is while Mom and Dad deal with the bigger threat down in California.”
“And school isn’t an issue?” Armadillo couldn’t believe he was asking that, but still.
“We’re on a year-round schedule,” came the casual reply from Lexi. “Sixty days on, twenty days off. We just started the twenty days off. Which means we have that long to find out what’s really going on with those guys.”
Exchanging a look with Jae before turning back to them, Armadillo nodded. “Yeah, I gotta admit, when Jae said she needed help skipping school to go deal with some bad guys under the radar yesterday, we thought she was messing with us.” He gestured to the three other versions of himself, all intangible, who were standing up on the roofs or down at the end of the alley playing lookouts. “And we seriously did not expect you guys to show up this morning playing backup.”
“Technically we showed up last night,” Zed pointed out with a shrug. “We just didn’t have time to talk about anything till now. And Jae said you guys found a list of names in that place after you dealt with the stragglers who were still hanging around.”
Jae nodded once. “At the address you sent, the one the man who rented one of the cars that was at my house used. The place was almost cleaned out, and the bad guys who ran away when we showed up took more stuff with them. But this was under one of the trash cans. Rabbit found it.” She looked down the alley toward the Damarko duplicate who stood there before turning back to them while holding up a piece of paper with about seventeen names, first and last, scrawled across it.
“None of them are the guys who were arrested for being at Jae’s house trying to kidnap you,” Armadillo noted. “We don’t know if they’re part of it or also targets. We’ll have to find out by looking into them.”
“And we’ll help,” Lexi put in. “As soon as we know for sure what they wanted, we’ll call our parents and they can handle the heavy lifting. We just… we just wanna prove we’re not helpless, that we can take care of ourselves and… and contribute.”
Letting out a sigh, Armadillo gestured. “Right, well, we’re definitely calling in help as soon as we’ve got something substantial. But for now, Jae and me, we’ve gotta get to school. Some of us aren’t on a break, and skipping two days in a row is just begging for attention I don’t think we want. Just promise–”
“We won’t look into the names without you,” Zed assured him without needing to be told. “We swear. We’re just gonna get breakfast and look around a bit, then go back to Jae’s house and wait for you. Her stepmom said she’d take us out to lunch later. Nothing dangerous.”
“If you want to avoid danger,” Jae put in, “don’t let Kella drive you anywhere.
“There is no one more terrifying behind the wheel.”
After leaving the Chambers twins for the time being, Jae and three of the Damarkos (Puma was staying with the twins to keep an eye on them) started making their way to school. They went to different ones, but the Damarkos wanted to keep talking to Jae about what was going on, so they stuck with her for the moment. To make the trip quicker, they took a shortcut through one of the many doors across the city that had been set up by the Ten Towers Tech-Touched Switchshift to allow them to have easy access into the Minority base from almost anywhere. In this case, they simply passed through the base briefly, chose an exit near Jae’s school, and left again. On the way out, Armadillo and Rabbit stayed behind to take a different exit, one nearer to Damarko’s school. After Colt dropped the girl off, they would switch which of them was solid in time for Armadillo or Rabbit (whichever lost their paper-rock-scissors match) to head in for class.
They didn’t talk about things inside the Clubhouse, considering they really had no idea who might be listening in. But as soon as they were in the alley across from Jae’s school, she and Colt whispered intently about the situation. Neither of them liked the idea of not telling anyone about what was going on, but they did know that the moment the authorities found out the truth, they would contact Zed and Lexi’s parents, who would immediately pull them back to Los Angeles. The twins just wanted a chance to prove they weren’t helpless, that they could use their powers and join their own local Minority. And, Jae and Colt were both pretty sure, they wanted to prove to themselves that they could do it.
Still, the second there was a real threat, they would absolutely be calling in help. Giving the twins the chance to prove themselves against a few random thugs was one thing, but as soon as any other Touched were involved, Jae and the Damarkos were going to call in the cavalry, no matter what.
They had both just agreed to that as they heard movement behind them. Both spun that way, just in time to see some… random guy with a gun. But before they could react, Paintball came flying in out of nowhere. A shot of red paint announced his presence, before the gun was yanked out of the man’s hand while Paintball himself collided with the man.
Colt made as though to take a step that way, but Jae quickly put a hand against his chest, keeping her voice low. “He’s got it, and he doesn’t know about us.” Instead, she quickly looked around to see if there were any other attackers. The area looked clear. Just an ordinary mugger?
No. No, she doubted that very much.
By that point, Paintball had the man… well, basically in hand. The guy was ranting and rambling something about monsters, which was even more confusing. Jae really wanted to ask him what he meant, but that felt like a bad idea right now.
“Hey, you’re the girl from the grocery store, right?” Paintball snapped his fingers and pointed at Jae before asking if they were okay.
She and Colt looked at one another. Jae could see the unspoken question in the boy’s gaze, whether they should say anything to let Paintball know the truth. She gave a very slight, almost imperceptible shake of her head. Paintball was cool, but he wasn’t part of the team. Besides, they still had that ranting guy on the ground as an unwanted audience.
So, Colt turned back that way and replied, “Uh, thanks, Paintball. Lucky you were there.”
Paintball shrugged and said something about being out for a run. Something about that felt weird, but Jae was more focused on trying to figure out who this guy was who had tried to attack them. Was he one of the people on the list of names they’d found? Was there any way she could get his name out of him?
Unfortunately, Paintball had just told them they should head out and leave him to talk to the cops. Hesitantly, Jae asked, “Are you sure… you don’t need help?” Yeah, there was no way to do this without telling the boy more than she wanted to, and he insisted they didn’t need to stay.
So, they left, after Damarko got his shirt signed by Paintball. The two of them headed out, looking back repeatedly. Jae was trying to commit the ‘mugger’s’ face to memory so she’d recognize him if they saw his picture later.
“You think this is connected to the Chambers?” Colt asked just as they passed out of sight from where Paintball was. “Pretty weird timing if it’s not.”
“Yeah, weird timing,” Jae quietly murmured, frowning thoughtfully to herself. “Was he waiting there for us? Was he after us? How would he know we were coming out of that door? There’s nothing–how would he know?”
Colt shrugged. “Dude, I dunno. But I’ll tell you one thing. Okay, two things. First, we need to find out what that guy’s name is.
“And second, the other Damarkos are totally jealous of my new Paintball shirt.”