Zero

Chapter One

Filth. Sleaze. Dereliction.

Scout's skin was crawling, the sickly sweet taste of anticipation on her tongue. It was only a matter of time before one of them stumbled into the alley way, trailed by some twisted mind who was willing to fork over their own children for a shot. The dealers were like vermin in these parts: overpopulated and parasitic. From her camouflaged hiding spot in the grime and dirt, Scout watched. The sun was almost invisible from the shell of what was once New York City. Any moment now, prey would come.

On cue, a tall blond in a trench coat and sunglasses ducked into the alley, followed by a short man in boots that were much too large for him. Scout could barely hear them over the generic cries and wails of the city.

The blond glanced around, but did not see Scout spying them from her mess of garbage and waste. Once he was sure they were alone, he muttered, "What'll it be? I've got a new batch in from the West. Flight, Clairsentience, Elasticity, Prismatic Translation…"

The short man lowered his eyebrows. "D'you have anything, more, you know…useful?"

"You've gotta pay more than you showed me earlier to get those."

"I've got a lockbox back home with some stuff my mom left me. Jewelry, antiques. Nice stuff. I can get it for you."

The blond shook his head, a smug smile on his face. "No, that won't do. For a higher ability I'm going to need something more valuable. Blood or labor. You pick."

The short man flushed. "F-fine. Labor. I'll work for you. Just leave my family out of this."

"As you wish," the blond man said. "Though everyone is drawn into this conflict inevitably..." He reached inside his coat and withdrew a small brown box. Opening it, he revealed a set of identical vials set neatly into a foam bed. "These are my best wares right now. Pyrokinesis. Cryokinesis. Alchemy. Phasing. And this little darling," he smiled, tapping the leftmost vial with his gloved hand, "is Induced Radioactivity. Had a hell of a time getting my hands on that one."

"That one," the short man spat. "That's the one I want."

"They always do," the blond man sighed. He seemed almost sad for a moment, and Scout almost felt sorry for him, before she remembered why he was here. To sell powers off to desperate people, adding further corruption to this already dead world.

While the blond man searched his pockets for a syringe, Scout soundlessly pulled herself from the grimy shadows. The short man spoke. "Is it going to hurt?"

"Like hell," said Scout, removing her taser from her belt and shooting it at the short man. He yelped and crumpled to the ground.

The blond man turned to her, his eyes invisible through the sunglasses. "You know, for having a weapon with only one shot, you certainly attacked the wrong person," he smirked as he calmly shut his box of vials and slid it back into his coat pocket. "Tsk, tsk."

Scout grinned. She liked this one. He had spunk. Charisma. So many of these dealers were broken spirited and outright vile. "I love a challenge," she said in a sing-song voice.

The blond's eyes narrowed. "Funny. I don't remember accepting a challenge." He flicked his wrist, and a web of tangled electricity flew like darts towards Scout.

She grinned at the approaching light, letting it come close as possible before she teleported, vanishing like a puff of smoke. She appeared on the opposite side of the blond man.

The blond sneered. "How intriguing. I've never gotten my hands on Teleportation before. But I'd love to have yours." He hooked his index finger, and Scout went flying forward into the ground. He savored the smack of her dirty body against the wet grime. Then he lifted her into the air with a flick of his finger.

But Scout wasn't worried. She was never worried. She'd been in this position before, and she always came out on top. Always. She relaxed and tapped into the most special part of her—that power, that one power that had always been hers.

"Don't kill me, please don't kill me! I'm just an innocent girl, trying to help people..." Scout sobbed, seizing her ability. "I'll never bother you again. Please, what will happen to my poor mother when I don't come home? To my baby brother? They need me. Please, don't hurt me…" she spieled.

The blond felt himself overcome with compassion and remorse. How could he kill this girl? She was so young, so full of life and hope. In that instant, he loved her. He could never hurt her. What had he been thinking?

"Forgive me," the blonde muttered as he eased Scout out of the air and set her gently on her feet. "I am ashamed of myself."

Scout pursed her lips and said sadly, "Me too." She withdrew a syringe from the depths of her muck-covered coat and injected it into neck of the blond man. He collapsed to the ground. "Me too."

She set to work quickly before someone else happened down the alley. She pulled off the black gloves, her fair skin like pearls against a sea of blackness. She wiped the sticky grime from her face, somewhat diverting the horrid stench of muck. It was refreshing to feel somewhat uncovered from her camouflage. She felt like she spent too much time buried in filth, doing exactly what she had just done. Taking down dealers.

She leaned over the blond man and unbuttoned his coat. She rummaged through his pockets, finding the box of vials, a handgun, three syringes, and a switchblade. In his pants pocket she found a handful of other vials, labeled with Greek letters. Scout guessed these must have been the lesser powers he had first mentioned.

She tucked these items inside her own pockets, then frisked his body for anything important she may have missed. She felt a strap around his torso. Unbuttoning his shirt, she found the strap had buckled yet another vial to his body. She wondered what it could be, that it was important enough to keep separate from even the vials in the box.

"You shouldn't take advantage of a man while he's unconscious, Scout," a male voice said with mirth. Scout jumped, grabbing the handgun she had just lifted from the dealer and pointed it at this new figure.

But then recognizing the face, she relaxed. "Good hell, Riley. Don't do that. You're going to get bullet in the face one of these days."

"Doesn't everyone?" He quipped, walking over to where Scout was crouched over the blond man. Riley was fair and high spirited, a very rare thing for the times. He had messy brown hair and eyes that crinkled with laughter, not sorrow. Scout wasn't a pessimist herself, more a cock-eyed optimist. But how Riley managed to find so much merriment in such a fractured society she had no idea.

Scout ignored him. "He's telekinetic, but that's the only power he used against me. He probably has more."

"What was in his stash?"

"A bit of this and that," Scout replied. "Induced Radioactivity was what the client wanted. But he had another vial strapped to his chest. I don't think it was one of the ones he mentioned."

Riley tapped his chin. "We'll have to just do some detective work, then. I love a good mystery." He glanced from the short man to the blond man, his tongue between his teeth. "Let's just leave them. Are you ready to head home, or would you rather stay and feel up pretty boy some more?"

Scout glared at him, gathering up the handgun and the special vial. "I'm ready."

Riley stripped off his over coat and handed it to Scout to cover her grimy exterior. He would have liked his coat if it were to rain, but there was no telling when it was going to rain those days. The world seemed perpetually in overcast those days. Damn weather controllers, Scout thought. Can't give us one bloody sunny day.

As they stepped out of the alley and onto the deserted street, Riley, said, "By the way…"

Scout glanced up at him. "Yes?"

His lips twitched. "You look like hell."

As they walked away from the alley, feeling proud over their latest victory, a pair of dark brown eyes watched them. Those eyes had watched the whole scene, and they had been intrigued by what they saw. A dark smile accompanied those eyes. Their owner slithered out of the shadows.

It was time to feast.

Authoress Note: Holy pockets, Batman. It's been forEVAR since I've written fanfiction, but here I am. This fic is brought to you by watching all three seasons of heroes in one week, Smashing Pumpkin's song "The Beginning is the End is the Beginning," and some Watchmen influences. I know OC-centric can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but the Heroes-verse is pretty accessible and characters from the series WILL be showing up shortly (one of them already has). Please please PLEASE review. I cannot stress that enough! If I don't get any reviews, I have no motivation to write any more, and that is sadness.

Enough blathering for now. Hope you liked it!