4056 words (16 minute read)

Chapter 1

Vic waits until the guard’s thoughts start to tip between frustrated boredom and resigned acceptance before she steps into the woman’s line of vison. The night is empty except for them, which is only to be expected. Vic is freezing in the tiny little dress—a black affair that barely covers her ass and dips nearly as low in the front as it does in the back—and has to focus more than she’d like on not tripping in the six inch heels due to the wind. She’d complain about it, but the weather gives her even more of an excuse to cozy on up, so. She doesn’t.

Too much.

The tiny guard station is nearly three kilometers outside the museum, to the right of the road so it can stop entering vehicles. The area around it is densely forested, the museum itself hidden by a winding road that generally guarantees next to no visitors, which is why it was chosen.

Not by Vic, of course. She has higher aspirations than simple privacy, though it is important.

The museum is a small building currently holding several Van Gogh’s for tonight only, before they’re transported onward; as a result it’s locked down and near-impenetrable, even with the secrecy of the transport going down. The guard station by the road is too far away to offer any tactical support, and only holds a single person anyway—it’s only real service is to check parking passes when the museum is open, and is only staffed now out of bureaucratic nonsense. All hands on deck to protect the paintings, even if there’s better ways to use them.

Everything about tonight combines to ensure that the guard isn’t expecting any form of trouble, making the posting even more useless. If the only way to watch the video from the surveillance cameras wasn’t hidden in the station’s interior, that is.

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” calls the guard the second she spots Vic, after a short pause to take in the fact that someone is actually here, at this time of night, dressed like Vic is. The guard uses English, not German, despite where they are and her heavy accent. Vic guesses tourists are the main problem here, for this shift. It’s not exactly a shock, considering.

The guard’s confusion on seeing Vic doesn’t stop her from putting her hand on her gun, or her face from being severe and harsh. Her hair is knotted under the uniform cap so it doesn’t blow in her face as she leans out to speak to Vic, and every single inch of her is professional. This is a damn important night, for the museum and the guard, and the oddity of Vic’s appearance is attention getting, noticeable.

Which is why Vic gets to be the one to do this.

Vic wishes she’d thought of tying her hair back like the guard, but isn’t this kind of thing supposed to be attractive? A face full of hair is in the movies, at least, and a very slight amount of attraction is radiating from the guard, so Vic mentally shrugs it off as a success. Though the dress is probably a fair bit more responsible for the response than how much hair is in her mouth right now.

The guard is pretty enough, Vic guesses, though she wishes Aubrey could have taken the role of flirting, lost little girl. But the day before Vic had passed by the guard to try and get a read on her, and had found that the girl had, unfortunately, a thing for blondes. Vic has to admit she’d been pleased that the other girl had liked women, though. It makes this so much easier.

And Aubrey has never been the better actress.

Vic keeps walking forward, and makes her eyes widen in false concern, pulling her hair back from her face in a hurried, panicked motion. It shifts the neckline of her dress so it pulls away from her body, showing an extra inch or so of skin. “Oh no, I am so sorry, my car broke down and my friends said they would pick me up in a bit, but it is so cold I started looking for places to get out of this wind, and—“

The guard doesn’t relax. “How did you get out here?” she asks roughly. It’s an automatic question, and it answers itself. This may be not be a popular museum, but the road it connects to is a busy one, linking the suburbs to the city, and more importantly it’s clubbing district. Vic has seen five cars go past in the past two minutes, packed full of people blasting music, and it’s nearing midnight.

Hopefully the color of her dress will excuse why no one stopped.

Vic wobbles forward a few more steps. She pitches her voice slightly high, her accent thickening. “My car broke down about a kilometer from here, like I said. I called my friends, and everyone said I should get somewhere warm while they came for me, you know, and that there was a museum over here. That is what this is, right?” she asks, letting her voice rise in a question. A doubtful one, as she tosses a look at the squat, ugly building half-hidden by trees.

As stereotypical as it is, Vic doesn’t have to act like she’s turning her nose up at the place. Art is art, and should be presented like it. The fact that Van Gogh’s are even sitting in this tiny little hovel is nothing short of a shame. The Louvre is world renowned for a reason.

The guard is wondering why she’s still in her heels instead of just going barefoot, but is also absolutely sure Vic is an idiot. Vic hears her thoughts, but more importantly is close enough to get some of the guard’s emotions, too. She doesn’t dive too deep, not wanting a monologue or detailed look, just an impression. The disgust is a good sign, the first of the night, so Vic stops herself when she reaches a few feet away, switching from her disdain to wide eyed innocence. As if she has no idea how offensive she had been. “Could I stay with you, maybe?”

It’s hard for Vic to keep her voice high pitched and oblivious to the stupidity of the question, the vulnerability of it. How it breaks so many safety protocols important on any night, let alone this one. The guard rakes her eyes up and down Vic’s body, and mentally Vic encourages her to take the bait. To take Vic.

This kind of thing is probably supposed to make her uncomfortable, or feel sleazy, but in truth she likes acting, and the adrenaline rush these situations bring. The sexual aspect she could live without, but even that is due more to her inability to really reciprocate it than any true discomfort.

Had it held even a slim possibility of requiring any more than pretty words or empty gestures from her, Aubrey and Chloe would have refused to let her even attempt to go in, and she herself would have point-blank refused if they hadn’t.

At least this guard’s thoughts are less focused on direct fantasies than general attraction, though, which makes it easier for Vic to keep herself out of the other girl’s head.

“Fine,” the guard sighs after a few seconds, “but only until your friends get here.”

At least I’ll have some entertainment, even if it is ditzy, Vic hears, and she grins internally at the success.

Actually getting into the station with this type of thing tends to be much easier with men, especially those who tend to get the night shifts as glorified rent-a-cops, but attraction lowers everyone’s guard, and Vic is in a very tight dress.

“Oh, thank you, miss,” she gushes, stepping into the confined little box, skipping the stairs so the already short skirt of her dress rides up, “I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

The guard steps back to let her in, and Vic slides in front of her, making sure she’s facing the screens and the guard is facing Vic, oblivious to anything happening in the museum. “Freeze, probably,” the guard says drily, not making any real attempt to shift away.

“Oh, lord knows you’re right,” Vic sighs, pulling her over-knotted hair back again, the motion bringing her closer to the guard; the screens are over the other girl’s shoulder, and with the heels giving her the height advantage Vic can watch for the next step in the plan. Nothing yet. “I’m always getting into things I can’t get out of.”

The guard snorts at her, and Vic sees Aubrey slide into the control room and begin to tamper with the camera system. Vic swallows. This is the tricky part.

Aubrey is a chemist, and doctor, not a mechanic or engineer; only Chloe is really suited to that particular role, and there’s no way the older girls are letting her go into a building with armed guards. Aubrey is intelligent and fully capable of following directions, but it’s a risk. A necessary one, but still. She doesn’t have any powers to fall back on if things turn south.

“You aren’t even wearing a sweater,” the guard tells Vic, voice a mix of concerned and distracted, her eyes sliding over Vic again. Vic doesn’t have to look into her mind to see that she doesn’t have any intention of turning around just yet. She snaps out of watching her friend and gives the guard a sly grin.

“Well, then I’d be covering up this amazing dress,” she giggles, sliding her hands down her waist, hoping it’s not too much. Vic is a telepath, but she can’t see the future. She can only guess if the offer will be taken or not.

She doesn’t have to wait long to find out. Vic can feel the guard’s interest going down at the blatant offer.

I have a job, she hears, but maybe if I give her my number…

Vic can’t help but respect the other girl, just a bit, but respect is different from unwilling to ruin her by robbing the thing she’s paid to protect blind. The guard opens her mouth and goes to turn around, preparing to translate her thoughts into action, seemingly in slow motion to Vic.

Short of doing something obviously intended to keep the guard facing her, there’s nothing Vic can do, nothing that wouldn’t be suspicious as hell. Fuck, Vic thinks, entire body cold. She goes to jerk the other girl around anyway, hoping at least she can keep the others out of trouble. I’ve just gotten all of us arrested.

On screen, Aubrey disappears as if teleported, the tech they’d gotten two weeks ago doing its job. Vic nearly gasps in relief, then stops herself, concealing all emotion. The guard, completing her turn and oblivious to Vic’s panic, says, “You know, I have a pen and paper in here somewhere, give me a sec and I’ll give you my number…”

Seconds after Aubrey fixes the cameras a car with its windows tinted nearly black rolls up, right on time, Chloe invisible in the driver’s side.

They’re robbing a museum for millions of dollars’ worth of paintings—whether or not the driver is old enough to be licensed seems moot.

The horn honks twice, signaling success so far.

“Oh, maybe another time, sweetheart, that’s my ride,” Vic says brightly, jerking back from the guard and stepping out, hurrying into the next phase of the plan. Her heart is pounding from the close call, and she can hear the poor girl’s confusion and hurt before it shifts into annoyance. Stupid, let her go and party, she’s clearly useless anyways…

It really makes no damn sense. They’d only just met, and all Victorie had done was widen her eyes, touch her own hips, wear a certain type of clothing. A literal mind-reader, and Vic has no idea what happens in people’s minds that makes those gestures into something more for them than they are for her—she only senses the change.

It’s not that I’d mind going any further, Vic thinks, breathing through the remaining panic of almost getting herself and her friends caught. Just...No one makes me want to. She slides into the backseat and wordlessly begins changing into clothes more suited for a proper burglary, pushing the thought away for now.


Jason sits in the back of an ambulance, tapping his fingers on the top of his thigh. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Aileron take off for the next convict, the subtle purple glow he leaves trailing him into the sky. Jason turns to watch him disappear fully, wishing Jason himself could follow—they’ve been partners all day, and quite frankly Aileron kicks ass. Maybe later Jason can hunt him down, find a real name. Spend time with someone who understands the work, or even just train together. Jason isn’t picky.

Jason turns back just in time to see Gary Marger being shoved into a power-restricting prison transport, tailored especially to him. The crater the three of them had made is only twenty feet or so away, everything around it stretched like taffy towards the center. Cars and lamp posts leak smoke in the hot noon sun. Marger will probably be executed for this; it’s a shock he hasn’t been already. No one is kind to criminals with powers, especially powerful ones.

Weak control over gravity, Jason thinks darkly, recalling the words of his briefing from this morning. ‘Weak’, my ass.

Jason’s communicator buzzes static in his ear, damaged from being slightly warped in the fight. At least it had worked well enough to communicate his injury, and let the Techies—or the Technology and Command division of Pearl’s Guild, to be formal—tell him and Aileron the necessary information. It hadn’t lasted any longer than that before shorting out, though.

Jason reaches up with his good arm and yanks it out of his ear, not feeling like using his power, not after that spectacle; it wouldn’t a drain, but his head’s started throbbing and the last thing he wants to do is push it.

Without the white noise, the yelling from his left comes through clearly, but Jason refuses to turn around. The reporters have been pushed to a radius by local police and won’t be able to see his face as long as he stays like this; Jason has negative urge to change that. Having them hound him with questions at his own house when they find his address is more than annoying, it’s exhausting, and some of them may try and catch him at work. Not pleasant, when this kind of destruction is a normal result, leaning towards a resounding success.

Or would be, if it hadn’t been in the middle of downtown Reisen. The property damage alone will probably have him and Aileron being pseudo-demoted to desk work for weeks.

The EMT that jogs up to treat him has a serious face and skin a few shades darker than Jason’s. “You should have called out,” she snaps, openly angry. Jason lifts his shoulder absently. It makes him look as young as he is, and sulking, but he doesn’t care. Both of those are true, anyway. She has more important people to treat than him, anyway.

The EMT clearly doesn’t appreciate his self-pity. “Sitting here does nothing for your injury, and above all it wastes my time,” she says lowly, forcing eye contact. Jason hides a wince. Though satisfying, his reaction had been a jerk move, and an immature one, and he knows it.

“Sorry,” he says, a peace offering, and the EMT snorts. She relaxes, though.

She also unwinds the fabric Aileron had wrapped around Jason’s arm as a makeshift bandage, causing the blood to pour out in full force. Jason hisses but doesn’t complain, the pain minimal to what it had been. It’s a necessary move, anyway. No point in whining about it.

Carefully, the EMT—Jason glances down while she’s looking at his arm, trying to look for a nametag or something without seeming like he’s checking out her tits—wipes the blood away with easy gentleness. She turns his forearm at different angles to see the full extent of the damage, prodding gently on occasion. It makes the glass inside shift painfully, but Jason stays silent.

He finally spots her nametag, but it’s turned away from him. Probably to stop complaints or requests when she’s on call. Jason, situated in the one spot where press can’t see him, can respect that.

He swings his feet since they don’t quite touch the ground. A Techie walks by, shirt declaring he’s from the financial subdivision. The thin agent looks up to see Jason watching him, and drops his eyes to glare at the ground immediately, pale skin flushing. Jason snickers, and resolves to hunt him down later. He’s found a delicious burger joint, and his apartment has been feeling painfully empty of late. Aileron might be worth hanging out with, but Jason doesn’t sleep with direct coworkers.

The techie being easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt the chances of Jason calling, either.

The EMT chooses that moment to poke just a little harder, to the point that Jason hisses, jerking back on instinct. Distraction isn’t the best thing for manly, stoic silence. She glances at him, frowning, but Jason shakes his head. He’s fine enough.

Without pause her hands catch on the bandages still wrapped around his arm, and they come off as one. Jason’s arm throbs, hard, the only warning he gets before blood starts pumping out of it, a darker red than before. The parts of his suit that had curled in a little and scratched him ever so slightly are pencil thin, harmless—nothing compared to how everything else is split wide open in deep gashes.

On the parts of his armor still intact blood clots and dries, staying in the tiny metal chinks from where it had pooled. Jason had sealed the suit on automatic after the injury, and all of the blood it had held had dumped out when Jason had peeled his suit back for Aileron. He’d asked to see the damage, and to bandage it, as soon as possible after securing Marger. Jason can still see the small pool where Aileron had patched him up from here.

God, Jason’s having a shit day.

At the outpouring of blood, the EMT reacts immediately, snagging bandages from somewhere in the truck behind her and rewrapping Jason’s arm to stop the bleeding. She looks up at him, lips thin, and there’s no trace of anger or teasing harshness in her eyes now. “You need to go to the hospital,” she tells him, and Jason shakes his head.

“You can fix it out here—“

“And ruin your arm in the process.” Jason opens his mouth, and she cuts him off. “If this was any worse, then yes, I could treat it here, enough to get you to the hospital. Which is where you belong, and where I’m taking you.” She doesn’t look away from him, eyes hard.

Jason relents. She wouldn’t be talking to him like this if he was a civilian, he knows, but medics have a little more power in situations like this than he does. And permanent injury isn’t worth his aversion to medical facilities.

“You know where the closet Guild hospital is,” he tells her, not a question, and she nods sharply.

“Let me call my partner to drive, and we’ll be off.”