I got a text to arrive at Kid Win's lab at noon from Taylor, Chris seemed ok so I wasn't all that worried about it. I did have to ask Missy for directions though, but I eventually found my way to my target and then promptly...hit the doorbell. A few moments later the door slid aside and the boy I was searching for kicked off the desk and spun on his swivel chair as it glided across the floor.
Then he grinned at me while nodding in greeting, "Sophia, good to see you! Did Weaver tell you your gear is ready?"
I really, really wanted to say something derisive about him acting like a brat, but he looked so pleased that, well...
The bitch was pushed down.
Taylor sent me here, fucking relax.
"Yeah, she said you'd changed some things that weren't PR cleared."
Snorting and rolling his eyes he gestured me forward while quickly shaking his head, "Ugh, those idiots..."
He was silent a few awkward moments before meeting my gaze while flatly stating, "Taylor hates three things in this world. Nazis. The Youth Guard, and our Public Relations department, the only thing that makes life bearable for us? They're all fucking terrified of her. Shocking really, means they have common sense."
With that he walked over to a work table and pointed at a full facemask with a scowling woman's face painted on it, "That's what PR decided your new mask was."
I. Fucking. HATED IT.
Chris stared at me a moment, then nodded, "Yeah Taylor and Missy thought that would be your reaction. This is what I cooked up instead, plus, you know, with tinker craziness involved. I built in IR and EC scanning along with standard coms, as well as night vision like I did for the rest of the teams setups, also an NBC filter at Taylor's insistence."
He gestured towards a full sized matte black helmet that had cats eyes lashes painted around the lenses, and had glossy red lips set in a smirk over where my mouth would be, he shot me a slightly worried glance while shrugging slightly.
"Taylor really loves this Aleph TV show, Game of Thrones? Her favorite character, Arya, she said she reminded her of you. She learned to be an assassin, then tracked down the man who murdered her family, and murdered all of his, and then she tricked him into eating meat pies she'd made out of his sons."
Holy. Fuck. That is hardcore.
Chris shrugged at my lack of response, "Arya let him know what she did, what he ate, and then held him at knife point and told him, 'The last thing you will ever see, is a Stark, smiling down at you as you die.' Then she slit his throat. Taylor said she modeled the lips off of her smile as she killed him."
My heart did not stutter.
Chris sighed, then shook his head, "I was worried you'd say that... The rest of your costume is on the side table, best get equipped, you're about to make your debut."
I blinked in confusion at that, and turned away from my fucking badass as hell helmet to address Chris, "My debut isn't for another week."
At that, he grinned, "Soph, do you know what PR's costume for Taylor looks like, and what Taylor's current authorized combat kit is and how much she cares about what the bureaucrats think about it?"
I was silent for a moment, slightly offended at the abbreviation of my name, Chris's wording would be forgiven this time, before I finally said, "No."
He snorted, then shook his head as he hit a button on his computer that loaded up a girl in white spandex, with blue trimmed stormtrooper white plating armor, and she looked...
"What the fuck?"
She looked like a goddamn power ranger.
Chris chuckled, then nodded, "Yup, get dressed, the boss will be here in a few minutes."
Shaking my head I entered the bathroom, pulled my clothes off, then slipped into the divinely soft black bodysuit. Shuffling on the plated boots, sturdy gloves, combat belt, and heavy cloak, I eventually took up my helmet, and matched her smirk as I put her on and pulled my cowl up.
I was still reeling through all the technical bullshit the thing was screaming at me as I exited the bathroom, then I froze when I came face to face with an archangel.
She was clad in a dark charcoal grey bodysuit. Head to toe she was covered in matte black armor, her gauntlets had talons that clacked against her thighs in rhythmic annoyance, her hair was pulled back in a tail of dark dreadlocks, and when she noticed my presence her masked visage turned towards me and her amber lenses stared me down.
I admit, I froze like a deer staring down an incoming train.
Then she cocked her head to the side.
"Damn, you're pulling off that helmet pretty well. Err...we're kind of on the clock now and I don't want PR to have a chance to make you, well, lame, so we're going on an unsupervised patrol!"
I couldn't speak, how could I!?
Eventually Taylor approached me, my knees did not quake when she lifted her mask to stare at me, then she touched my shoulder while speaking softly.
"We need to make your presence and image known as one of the good guys. Otherwise PR is going to put you in a pink tutu and force you to visit kindergartens on a weekly basis. Instead, we're going to go violently fuck a bunch of criminals shit up, put your name out there, and completely ruin whatever plans public relations had for you."
Dropping her mask back in place, she turned away from me, and I couldn't help it, I stared at Weaver and asked, "Why?"
Even through the mask I could tell she was smirking, "Because it's fucking fun, now Wraith, lets go screw with some idiots who just...don't seem to know better."
I couldn't help it, I grinned in return and raised my crossbows feeling somewhat giddy, "Yeah...lets..."
"When you said we were screwing with some idiots that didn't know better, I can honestly say I didn't expect it would be ending up with us walking down the Boardwalk getting gawked at by tourists Ta-Weaver..."
My partner paused a moment as she glanced at me then let out an exasperated sigh as she reached out and clicked a button on the side of my helmet. Completely nonplussed I let her turn me towards the empty display window before us and I couldn't help gasping in surprise at the reflection.
"Okay, this one is on me, that was De-Clockblocker's suggestion to your outfit, sorry for forgetting about it."
The shadows around my hood and surrounding my mask began to shift into an oily cloying mass, the smirking lips turned a dark sanguine, and the cats eyes canted lenses turned a slightly reflective silver.
I could easily tell Taylor was grinning, "Yup, all you're missing is the chest and thigh plate armour, but we're working against the tide here so we have to go make our appearances as partners in cr-Heroism as soon as fucking possible. I really wasn't joking about the PR tutu thing as much as I wish I had been..."
Weaver waved at the crowds we passed who were shooting us with constant camera flashes and idiotic questions, I couldn't help glowering while muttering out, "This...was not what I..."
"You wanted to be busting some heads, I get it. Problem is, publicity is a thing when it comes to being a Hero, as much as I detest it. You have three options when it comes to public relations Wraith; One, you accept what PR decides who you are like a bitch, Two, you buck against it and let the endless flame wars online destroy everything good you've accomplished due to group think and general human idiocy, and eventually giving in to the endless unyielding peer pressure to be what you are supposed to be. Or you go for route Three no matter what it costs you."
I couldn't help myself as I responded to the obvious prompt, "What's route Three then?"
Even through her mask I could tell Weaver was grinning, "You grab Fate by the throat, and throw that bitch aside and you claim your own Destiny and to fucking hell with anyone else who holds you back. Just like mom taught me, You Do You. If you aren't directly hurting an innocent, fuck the consequences, and if it makes the authorities look insipidly incompetent along the way? Heh, all the better."
With that Ta-Weaver, wrapped her arm around my waist pulling me close and waved at the massive gathering of sycophant's with flashing cameras and cell cams while loudly stating, "Hello everyone! You all know me as your friendly neighborhood Weaver! This is my partner in crime prevention newly appointed by the Protectorate, Wraith! Say hello to the masses partner!"
Mind racing I eventually decided to delve into what I'd absorbed from my team in the short time I knew them and shouted out, "Hello everyone! It's an honor to be serving with Brockton's best and I'm humbled by the fact I was partnered with this city's longest serving Ward and I hope I can prove to do my best just like her!"
Where...where the fuck...where the fuck did that come from!?
There were cheers and polite clapping, waving again Weaver led me away from the crowd, then chuckled.
"Hot damn, way to play the ham...well done. You're Wraith now, nothing PR can ever do will change that, now it's up to you to keep it up, good job partner. You passed the first test, lets see if you can pass two through ten."
I couldn't help gulping lightly, but also couldn't help feeling the burning hint of anticipation of a real challenge standing before me.
I knew we were in trouble when we got back to the base, the fact that the rank and file seemed just as amused as Taylor didn't help in the slightest. I had only been friends with her for something going on two days, and I already knew that she found this chaotic bullshit incredibly entertaining.
"Miss Hess," Stormtrooper Number One stated, "The director would like to speak to you, now."
"Miss Hebert," Stormtrooper Number Two began, "Miss Militia would like you to m-"
Then Taylor began sprinting away down the catwalk while shouting out, "Or hey we can not deal with that bullshit and you guys get to deal with all the BEES!"
It took all of my willpower to not break out laughing as the soldiers around me collectively stated, "GODDAMNIT NOT AGAIN WEAVER!" as a cloud of insects blocked their path towards wherever the fuck Taylor had run off to.
I was trying not to gasp for breath between my laughs, really, when one of the troopers approached me while doing her level best not to laugh along with me as she touched my shoulder lightly.
"Sorry you didn't catch us at our finest, Weaver is...an interesting young lady who sort of, kind of, does what ever the hell she wants to in so long that it's beneficial for us all. Sergeant Danica MacGyver, by the way."
I waved at her lightly while muttering, "It's cool," as she guided me down the hall. Eventually though I couldn't help my curiosity as I tilted my head towards Sarge Dany.
"Is she always like that?"
The trooper was silent for a time, then she nodded slowly while replying in a low tone, "Weaver...look kid I know you've been fucking up Nazis for awhile now, and good for you on that, because seriously, fuck Nazis. But honesty set to on, she's been doing this shit for...hell, five or six years? When she actually stops emulating a goddess damned Terminator and acts her age? Look, you're new, you don't get it yet, but Weaver, she's our little girl. She likes you, and she's acting up in a good way. And now that you're here enabling her.. Ugh.. I am no good at this crap. No, she isn't always like this, but she's doing better, so please.. Just try to keep your head low for the time being."
With that the security door before us opened, and Sarge Dany gestured me into a room housing an IKEA desk and chair set, cheap coffee steaming from cheap styrophome cups, and a woman that looked like she'd be more comfortable holding a battle axe than a pen.
Glancing at her nametag I couldn't help smirking slightly.
Director Piggot...my bosses boss...this ought to be...interesting.
She smiled at me in a manner that made my blood freeze as she dryly stated, "Shadow Stalker, a pleasure to finally meet you."
Then the doors behind me slammed open, and before I could spin around Taylor dropped into the seat beside me while happily stating, "Wraith actually auntie! And lemme tell you, PR is pissed!"
The imposing woman stared at us for a few seconds, then muttered out, "Goddamnit Taylor..."
My partner in crime was practically beaming in pride as she took my hand and squeezed it.
I didn't blush, seriously.