Capes 6-I

HANNAH

Never Look Back.

New Chicago Supervillains. I paused for a second, finger hanging over the search button, then tapped the screen. The screen blanked for a moment as it loaded, then began filling with results, links, and most importantly, news articles.

It turns out that, in the wake of a hostage situation, it’s surprisingly hard to get a moment to yourself. After the villains had disappeared, the heroes (with plenty of help from EM responders) had quickly organized the room, interviewing people and getting medical attention to those that needed it. Myself belonging to the latter category, I had to vaguely hover around my visible body as it had its hand bandaged and answered questions in an awkward, stammer manner, trying not to breathe too loud or bump into anyone. It was rather disconcerting, watching this stranger who was me, watching all the things she did that I hadn’t consciously noted were habits of mine, like rubbing her nails against her palms or tilting her head to the side whenever she was trying to look like she was listening. Eventually, they’d left me alone to deal with others, but I still couldn’t find any privacy before my parents had arrived, and it was more through luck than skill that I managed to get in the backseat of the car.

I opened a few of the most relevant-sounding ones in their own tabs. The first one was a general piece from the Insider, talking about the sudden surge of superpowered criminal activity in the last few days, of which the attack on Dresden High belonged to. According to the article, the authorities had been caught off guard with the wave, crime usually taking a dive during the season due to heavy snows. The embedded video showed a clip from the police chief's press conference, talking about some major robbery. Apparently, approximately 2 billion dollars in bearer bonds had been stolen by a group of supers, although I noticed that he didn't actually mention from whom they'd taken it. I copied the video file and relevant bits of the article over into my notes, then replayed the video, writing down the most relevant bits. The prime suspects were apparently the Disciples of Shiva, the Cabal of the Enlightened Savior, and some coalition of vigilantes, so I gave each of those their own section in the notes, blank for now.

A knock sounded out from the door, and I lay back in my bed and sighed.

"Hanners?" It was my mom. "Can I come in?"

"It's open," I replied, putting my pad face-down beside me.

The door swung open, and she poked her head in. When it comes to appearance, I'd not followed in her footsteps. With her black hair, dark eyes and general height, she looked more like Sabi's mom than mine (and when we were kids, she'd often been mistaken as such). The only trait she passed to me was her nose, which we'd always joked looked like a horse's. She'd obviously just gotten back from work, dressed to the nines in a fancy suit, complete with hat.

"How are you doing, honey? I got out from work as soon as I heard."

"You shouldn't have bothered," I said, still staring at the ceiling. "I told Dad I'm fine."

She came over and sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you sure? You don't sound very fine."

"Mom, I'm okay," I insisted. "It wasn't even that bad. No one even got hurt."

She raised an eyebrow at that. "Really?" she asked, looking down at my heavily-bruised hand. "Not a single person?"

"Seriously hurt," I amended. "No one was seriously hurt."

She frowned. "That's a little hard to believe, honey."

I shrugged, the motion rustling the duvet. "It's the truth. Did you not read any articles or anything? Didn't Dad tell you?"

"I thought it was best to hear it from you, and he agreed."

I groaned, and rolled onto my side, facing away from her. "Really?"

"If you don't want to..." she said gently.

"Ugh, fine." I gave her the same highly-edited version that I'd given the paramedic who'd looked at my arm, one where after getting stomped on, I just lay on the floor and cried, which had the believability benefit of being corroborated by multiple sources. I'd meant to tell Dad the proper story, but I'd chickened out, and now I had to lie to Mom as well, which… didn’t tear me up as much as it probably should have.

I’d spent most of my story staring at the wall and fiddling with my hands (and now that I knew I did it, I couldn’t stop noticing), so it wasn’t until I finished and rolled back over that I saw The Look on her face.

I groaned inwardly.

“Oh you poor dear,” she cooed, an expression of utmost concern and pity. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I ground my teeth together. “Mom, you know I love you, right?”

“Of course, honey,” she said, sounding confused.

“Good. Because I’m going to have to ask you to leave now, before I have to rescind that statement.”

“I’m… not sure what you mean, dear. Are you-”

“Mother,” I cut her off. “Leave. I can’t do this right now.” I rolled over so I wouldn’t have to look at her.

There was a catch of breath, as if she’d started to say something but refrained, and then the click of the door told me she’d gone.

I breathed out a long sigh, full of… I’m not really sure. A mix of frustration, exasperation and worry, I suppose. Mom and I have a bit of a complicated relationship. When I was younger, we got along like a whole suburb on fire. I adored her in that way only young children could, and she returned it with interest. I have more fond memories of those years than I could count, but unfortunately they’ve become slightly tainted with the current state of things. Long story short, I grew up, mom didn’t handle it well. She still tried to treat me like I was the six-year-old with the gap-tooth and overalls, which went from mildly annoying to outright rage-inducing depending on the situation. Needless to say, I got on better with Dad these days.

As an attempt to distract myself, both from my parental issue and the Event, as I’d unconsciously begun referring to it as, I threw myself back into my research. I dug through articles, blog posts, forums, the whole nine yards, but nothing returned a single mention of any teleporters in green cloaks or men with metal masks or combat gear. Even the news articles reporting on the attack didn’t include any details about them, a fact I wasn’t sure whether to attribute to suppression or mere lack of knowledge. It wasn’t until, on a frustrated whim, I expanded my search parameters to the surrounding area, that I found something.

It wasn't much, just an article about the happenings of a county fair in some small town a few states southwest. But in the middle of a poorly formatted paragraph sat the tiny lead I needed.

Apparently, a hooded woman, accompanied by two men, one large and one lean, had attempted to extort some money from a shopkeeper, but had disappeared when confronted. A day later, the local bank found that all their money had mysteriously disappeared, and the night watchman had been replaced with a bloody smear on the wall. It seemed their threats at the school weren't bluffs.

Another quick change to the search parameters to incorporate general crimes and to focus on locations close to the last article, and I started finding more breadcrumbs. There'd been no more sightings in any of the towns nearby, but one to the northeast had experienced a string of unsolved burglaries. Given the proximity, I didn't doubt for a second that it was related. Reapplying the search to that town, yielded another result, and again and so on, until I began noticing a pattern. Acting on a hunch, I took a map and marked out all the locations I'd found, which confirmed my suspicions. Aside from an outlier, the path between them all pointed towards New Chicago. The only reason it'd taken me so long to notice was the zigzagging pattern necessary to actually move between them. I'd be willing to bet that if I followed the pattern, I'd find a string of larcenies, extortions and straight-up murder all the way up to Lake Michigan.

All of which told me... absolutely nothing. I sighed, and leant back against the wall. Well, that wasn't exactly true. I had a better sense of their methodology now, as well as some idea of the type of target they might go for next. 

Except they hadn't followed the pattern, had they? In everything that they'd done before, they'd managed to keep a low profile, only appearing in passing mentions, never directly relating themselves to whatever crimes just happened to take place near them. But this time, they'd attacked a school. Something had caused them to break their routine, and if I could discover what it was, there was a pretty good chance it'd lead me right to them. And then...

Well, I'd burn that bridge when I came to it. For now, with no concrete leads I was going to have to resort to more... Batman-esque investigative methods.

And for that, I needed a costume.