The vacation with my daughter continues. As far as her nightmares go, they’ve eased off. It’s all about distraction. I’m good at distraction. It was nice to relax, too. Kick up my feet. Enjoy some TV, let the food build up a layer of fat. It made it easier to get ahead of things over in Ricca, too. Stamp a few things, for instance. Got some Directory guys consolidating powers. Might see the beginnings of some power-hungry assholery. I could nip it in the bud, make myself a target for any future regime changes… or maybe I’ll let them direct that energy against each other. I can swoop in at the end, put a stop to anything too bad. I’ll look good, too. A real savior of the people.
Of course, all that cut in on running down leads on our cop friend. Sam Bass, like the fish. Any resemblance to people in other dimensions is purely coincidental. There’s information on him, but some things a guy has to do on his own. Or a girl, in this case. I kept the boobage. Thinking of changing the fingernails though. Blackened zirconium is nice, but it gives me a Goth look, so I painted them. After the first attempt at ladybug nails, I gave up and just went pink.
That’s where I was when I got a knock on the door. Qiang looked up from her show as I stood up to go check it. I found pair of people out there who definitely weren’t room service, unless Qiang ordered a pair of people in civilian clothes with tights hidden underneath. It’s the neckline that gave it away.
First instinct? They looked young. Master Academy. I turned, figuring I’d pretend we weren’t in long enough to gauge what they’re after. Instead, I found Venus sticking her leg in the open hotel window. She held a finger to her lips to quiet Qiang, but the cat was out of the bag. I ran over and pushed Venus back out of the window. She swung from a cable attached further up the all, maybe the roof. She just kinda swung like that.
“Well, well… isn’t this magical?” I asked, sounding unimpressed.
Venus gave me the finger and caught the window when she got close again. I grabbed her hands and let her go, but she caught hold of my wrist. She held onto me. We shared a frustrated pair of expressions. “You here to get on my case?”
“Yup,” she said.
“This going to be a fight?” I asked.
“Not unless you make it one. I’m here to talk.”
I looked her over. She came in costume, but not her power armor. “…Fine.” I pulled her in the window. “Better let your friends know they don’t need to blow up the door.”
And that led to Qiang hogging the couch while a trio of heroes tried to make themselves comfortable. “Anyone want anything to drink?” I called from the kitchen.
“Soda if you have it,” Venus said.
I tossed the last six pack of soft drinks out the window. “Just ran out, I’m afraid.” I walked back over and tossed the three of them some cheap beer. The teen boy looked particularly happy at that, but Venus shot him a look that said she wasn’t in the mood for zero tolerance. I smiled at that and picked up Qiang so I could sit in her spot with her in my lap. “So, how’s everyone doing?”
“Did you kill a guy?” blurted out the girl with them. She was trying to pull off the sexy female mullet look that used to be popular about a decade ago, where all the hair is swept straight back over the top of the head. I rolled my eyes, and I’m pretty sure Venus did, too.
I nodded. “More than one.”
“Recently?” asked the boy. He had a few too many bags under his eyes. Sneaking out, I reckon.
“Oh, one just in the past few days. It gets a bit messier if you go back a week. Come to think of it, if that tripod still had the camera on it, it would have been like a deadly colonoscopy. I gotta remember that for next time…” I laughed at the image.
“What’s a colscopeepee?” asked Qiang.
I ran my fingers through her hair. “It’s the world’s grossest first-person shooter, dear.”
“Should we be talking with her here?” asked the girl with the femullet.
“Now you ask,” I said. “This is Qiang, my daughter. She’s led a more adventurous and dangerous life than y’all did at this age.”
She waved at them all happy. “Everything’s so good now!”
“Is this safe? He’s got his kid here, and I’m worried, you know,” said the guy, looking at Venus.
“You’re not going to hurt my kids, are you Gecko?” asked Venus with a sly smile on her face.
I leaned forward and gently rested my chin on top of Qiang’s head. “Are they yours?”
“Is she?” She asked right back.
I broke the awkward silence that ensued. “It’s safe to say we all have loved ones. Master Academy has helped me out, so I won’t go after its people barring attacks made against myself, my people, or my loved ones. You only gotta worry about me going momma grizzly if y’all try something here. Speaking of which, why the visit in the first place? A friendly reminder that you’re not going to make me leave, but I really need to leave?”
“That wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Venus said. “I’m working on a case but I’m given updates about everything we find out you do. It’s hard to justify leaving you alone when you’re murdering people.”
“I’m just trying to figure out who tried to kill me that day. I mean, the person who blew up the hotel, not the one who shot me with the rocket. That one’s no more of a threat.”
“That’s the case I’m working on. I’m trying to find the suspect behind the hotel, too. You’re distracting me and you’re stirring things up on the streets. I had an informant in the Wolfpack you put in the hospital with testicular torsion.”
I tried to look serious. “That sounds bad. Tell me, doctor, will he ever pee straight again?”
She gave me the ol’ death glare. It was slightly undermined by the teen boy holding in laughter. Venus turned and gave him the glare, causing him to put a lid on that reaction real quick. I chuckled at that and said, “Well, my way got me the ID of the guy who drove the bomb there.”
“Me too,” she said, shifting to cross her legs. “I didn’t kill anyone. It pays to play well with others.”
“Ugh, you didn’t even get to kill anyone?” Qiang squirmed around in my lap and eased out so she just had her head laying on my thigh. I looked down to her. “You ok, dearheart? Need anything?”
She giggled and rolled her head back and forth to indicate no.
“Can we talk without her here?” asked Venus.
“Fine fine…” I looked down at my kid. “Sweetie, I need you to go into the other room. Our guests are about to threaten me about something.”
“Ok!” she said, sliding down onto the floor before standing up and running off to her room.
“Don’t tell her that.” Venus said.
“Oh? Then what did you want to discuss?” I asked.
“I came here today to tell you to get out of town and leave this bombing alone or we will have to try and make you leave,” she said, trying to hold back a cringe on her face at the threat. “This isn’t about violence.”
“Of course not,” I said, smiling. I wanted to jump up and do a dance about telling her so. “After all, I didn’t take your subtle hint back at the infirmary, right? But more than that, what makes you think you can enforce this against me?”
The fellow piped in. “You have a kid right over there! Shouldn’t you be worried about fighting around her? She could get hurt.” Things got quiet again when he noticed me looking him over for easy access to arteries. “Venus, why is he looking at me like that?”
“You implied we might hurt his daughter. And I don’t know how much he takes offense to it, but he’s identifying as female right now,” she answered.
She was slowly leaning toward him when I turned and smiled at her. “I’d hate to think your school was teaching new heroes that sort of tactic. After all, threatening children,” I nodded toward the boy. “is the sort of thing I would do. Or our suspect in the bombing, since Qiang was staying with me as well. I’ll leave after he is dealt with.”
“I think we’re done here,” Venus said.
Her underlings were out the door first, but she hung back, closing it and turning to look at me. I’d been seeing them out, so I was right up close to her. “Hey, I just want to let you know, I really didn’t want this whole talk to go so badly. He was out of line, but he’s just a stupid kid.”
“Yeah, yeah… I’m trying to be forgiving of Master Academy and its people nowadays. Somewhat. You understand I have limits. She’s my daughter.”
“I completely understand,” she responded. “In fact, I had another reason for coming and it involves her. I don’t know what your plans are, but you really should bring her by for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it would be good. For both of you.”
I turned to look down at the hand she had been reaching out toward my arm. I looked back at her face, eyebrow raised. “I know you love, ahem, ‘Taco Tuesday,’ but I don’t have time to waste my time on your seduction games. Hands off the merchandise.”
She floundered for a moment, or at least her facial movements resembled a fish, before she said, “I’m going. Feel free to come by if you want to join us for Thanksgiving.”
As soon as they left, I headed back into my room to check on my armor while pulling up my information on Sam Bass. Satellite imagery, nearby cameras, anything that could give me a more current view. I had his last known apartment, one from before then, and his mother’s house. All three were swarming with cops and people in Master Academy field uniforms.
They actually had figured out who he was, looks like. It took some time to worm my way through police databases like a bunch of bad apples. None of them mentioned a suspect taken into custody. Bomb making materials, a few drugs, and Bass’s mother was caught with an unusual number of pain pills from various doctors. Granny’s an OG drug dealer. No, she might literally be one of the original gangsters, depending on age.
I think they took Bass for themselves for some reason. That means he’d be locked up in the special cells they build under their school.
Ya know, might do Qiang some good to have a Thanksgiving dinner with other powered children. And I need to figure out how much of this is a trap and how to stay out of it.