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Chimera

MetaWars - 4

by

Kelly Meding

For the dreamers and the rebels who make their own paths, instead of trodding the same familiar roads.

One

New Game

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Do you have to do that?”

“Yes.” Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Are you certain?”

“Yes.” I twisted around in the van’s passenger seat and glared at the older woman in the backseat. I tapped my fingertips on the window glass three more times to emphasize my point.

Alexia Lowe wore what I call her Mom Face—a flat, disapproving stare that probably made five-year-olds nervous, but had no effect on me. I wasn’t five, she wasn’t my mom, and frankly, I could have done without her presence altogether in tonight’s little operation.

Three months ago, if you’d told me I’d be on a stakeout with a recently pardoned Bane as one of my two partners, I’d have told you to go fuck yourself. Maybe followed up by a swift punch in the mouth. Getting any of the Banes out of Manhattan Island Prison, much less working with one, was so far at the bottom of my priority list as to be the inner core to my exosphere.

Yes, I know the name for the outermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere. You try being homeschooled from the age of twelve by two rigorous (but kindhearted) foster parents who firmly believed I deserved the best education possible, despite the double whammy of being a former Meta and blue. Of course I came out of it with the world’s most random comparisons. Plus, I liked geology.

Anyway, the Banes belong in their prison; end of discussion.

My, oh, my, how things change in a couple of months. Things have changed for pretty much everyone in my life. My thoughts on the matter, however? The same. It’s lucky for the Banes that my vote doesn’t matter.

I didn’t mind sitting on a stakeout in a nondescript black delivery van with Ethan. I’ve known him since we were kids. He’s one of my best friends, I love him to pieces, and I trust him with my life. The same could not be said for Alexia. Despite the fact that she’d been part of the Quake Relief effort last month and then cashed in that assistance for a full pardon for past crimes, she is and always will be a Bane. A villain. A bad guy.

It’s a good thing Teresa West is in charge of this entire operation, and not me. I’d have gotten us all killed a long time ago. Leader I was not. Balanced, either, if you want the God’s honest truth. I mean, how would you feel if you’d been burned over 70 percent of your body by an insane genetic hybrid created for the sole purpose of . . . well, we still weren’t sure of the exact purpose of the Recombinants. Just that they’ve been a huge fucking pain in the ass.

The warehouse Ethan, Alexia, and I were staking out tonight belonged to a chain of grocery stores that had swallowed up every other major chain grocer on the East Coast about six years ago. The main distribution center was in Tallahassee (one of the fastest-growing cities in the South right now), but they had other warehouses spread all over the place. In the last year or so, eight of them had been robbed and tractor-trailers full of food stolen. Considering the size of those distribution warehouses, a single tractor-trailer load wasn’t a huge amount, but stealing is stealing.

The human police were stumped. No evidence, nothing caught on security cameras, no trace of the trucks ever found, which, to the geniuses in charge, suggested Meta involvement.

Which logically meant they got us involved.

We were in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, parked a block away from the warehouse’s main gate, tracking all movement on a laptop. Thanks to Marco’s genius with computers, as well as some handy surveillance gadgets gifted to us by a friend in the FBI, we had sound and motion detectors set up around the entire perimeter gate. We didn’t need to have actual eyes on the gate to know if someone showed up.

Ethan “Tempest” Swift sat in the driver’s seat, his face illuminated by the pale glow of the laptop monitor. He’d spent most of the last few hours staring at it, as if he could use his brain to make something happen. Not that telekinesis is his superpower, in case you’re just catching up. Ethan’s power is controlling the wind. He can move it, funnel it, and even use it to fly, the lucky bastard. It’s an active power that’s saved our collective asses more than once, and I’d trade mine for his in a second. Not that I’d ever say that to his face.

Anyway, the laptop would ding and alert us if there was any movement, but I guess staring was better than making idle conversation. Not that Ethan and I ever had trouble idly conversing. I just preferred to not make nice with our third wheel.

Alexia is nice enough, I suppose, and she has an incredibly useful power—she can sense most metals, differentiate between various kinds, and telekinetically manipulate most of them. The ability helped us save a lot of lives during the Quake Relief. Her eight-year-old daughter, Muriel, still lived in Manhattan with her father, whose parole hearing was in about three weeks. If things went baby daddy’s way, all three of them would be living with us at our new headquarters.

In case you were wondering, our little trio wasn’t the only group spending their Friday night on a stakeout. The thieves were too random with their targets for us to determine exactly where they’d rob next. The only thing we knew for sure was that it would happen tonight—every forty-four days the thieves hit another warehouse. The significance of forty-four was lost on me, though, and despite an abundance of useless knowledge imparted to me by my foster parents and their guerilla education tactics, I wasn’t the brains of our operation.

I wasn’t really much of a soldier lately, but I can’t do much to help that. The burns, which have mostly healed, affected my Flex ability to bend and stretch my entire body into contortions epic enough to make a treble clef jealous. Nowadays I’d be lucky to impress a curlicue. My right arm isn’t useful for anything except the occasional punch, or aiming a gun. My foster father Alfred taught me how to handle, clean, and shoot a variety of rifles and handguns, and I’m pretty damned good. I abhor actually doing it, and I’ve never aimed a gun at an actual person before, but it’s nice to know I still have a useful skill under my belt, since I kind of suck at Flexing now. I can still bend and twist my torso, but I can’t stretch it out anymore. The only parts of my body that still stretch to any unusual length are my legs and my left arm.

Losing so much of my Flex power was like being twelve years old again. Those first few months after all our powers were stolen away were the most difficult of my life—no powers, no friends, no one to turn to except the uncaring doctors of the Mercy Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit. Not until my foster parents took me in and saved my sanity. Having Teresa, Gage, Ethan, and Marco around while I adapted to my latest loss in powers was the only reason I hadn’t completely lost my shit again.

Even if I am a bitch to be around a lot of the time. But I bet if Teresa really knew everything rolling around in my head, she’d say something along the lines of Better to have your foot in your mouth than your arms in a straitjacket. And I’d agree. Except Teresa doesn’t know everything in my head. The only person who knew, the first person I’d confessed it all to, was William Hill, and all of those secrets died with him back in January.

I just can’t be that vulnerable again. So I play the part of the confident, prickly uber-bitch.

Like right now with Alexia. She knew I didn’t approve of her presence. I was, in fact, pretty well known around the new HQ as the only original ex-Ranger to still silently disapprove of everything Bane-related. Silently— key word. Teresa is my best friend in the world, but I’m not stupid enough to actively oppose her decisions.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Renee,” Ethan said, exasperation clear in his tone. “It really is annoying.”

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