Months after her first meeting with Janice, Dylan found herself pacing the floor of the tactical centre, nerves fluttering in her stomach. Her first time out as part of the group.
There had been weeks where anyone and everyone tried to find ways to not just control, but also extend, her abilities. Both had eventually succeeded.
Dylan now had a small damper, the colour of her own skin, which was placed on her temple, When turned on, this reduced the blurs to almost nothing, allowing Dylan to be around people again. Becca smilingly called this “Social Mode”.
With a single tap, the damper could be turned into what Becca, with less amusement, called “Combat Mode”, where it would allow her to see the blurs, but also allow her the ability to focus her Skill, singling out one or multiple targets, extending the reach and duration of the blurs.
The training had been rigorous, and not limited to just the blurs. She was still undergoing tactical instruction, and learning how to use her Skill to fight.
The latter had initially just wound up covering her in endless aches and bruises, but as she learned to focus the damper, she had gotten better and better at reacting not to the person, but to those few seconds extra, where their intent was shown. First, getting out of the way had been the priority, then learning how to use those seconds against them. Dylan’s reaction time had gotten faster and faster as she learned, and it was decided that today would be her first patrol.
Meeting the first two people had been fine. They were gentle, kind, ensuring she was comfortable, letting her know everything they were doing and thinking. And bit by bit, as she met the people building the technology, learning to understand, beginning her tactical training, and when the damper was ready, taking her to their HQ, she began to get a good view of what she had first assumed was a small, ragtag band.
In fact, they were quite the organised group, and far bigger than she had expected. They connected these Skills with their technology (and had their tech geniuses constantly improving it) to create a net across several cities in the UK.
Each one had a central HQ like this one. Not big, as very few were generally onsite at the same time. A few rooms allowed the techies to work and sleep, and some beds were available when needed, but most lived offsite, doing their thing remotely unless something extra-sensitive required an in-person meeting.
Dylan’s first time out meant Janice had asked her to be onsite today, for her first prep session and a last check of her damper.
So here she was, pacing the carpet, looking at the various screens and the backs of the heads of the handlers—those currently working with operatives in the field—while she waited.
Eventually, Janice hurried in, smiling, and followed by Wyn, a stocky, box-braided, dark skinned, tank of a person. Wyn was one of the variously Skilled people Dylan had learned to fight against, and though she had never downed hir yet, she was adamant she would get there and they had a friendly rivalry in the training room. Wyn’s Skill was in hir super-fast reflexes and muscle-memory, meaning that promise from Dylan was still a long shot.
Outside of that, she didn’t know Wyn well. Perhaps tonight would change that.
Janice indicated everyone should sit, and joined them herself.
“Glad to see you both here and ready to go. Normally I don’t do this part, Dylan, but seeing as I brought you in I get to do it for your first time. Your handler should be here momentarily. Wyn’s too. Then I can give you all tonight’s brief.”
It wasn’t long before the door opened, and two others entered.
One, tall and broad, olive-skinned, with a scruffy mess of dark hair, wore a rectangular lens over one brown eye. She sat by Dylan.
The other, a fair-skinned, long-haired, man, brow set into a permanent brooding look, entered right behind, sitting by Wyn.
Janice nodded at them both.
“This blonde bombshell here is Izak, he’s Wyn’s handler. This genius on your other side is Alexis, and that thing on their face is their HUD. I’ll let them both tell you what they bring to the table.
Izak reached out a hand to shake Dylan’s. His smile was warm, and his voice so deep it almost vibrated their air around them. “You probably know by now that most of the handlers are techies of some form. Not me. I’m good at tech, but that’s training not Skill. What I’m best at is what you might call precognition. It’s not exact, but I’m generally able to let you know if something not good—person, event, whatever—is heading your way, so you can avoid it or face it prepared.”
As Izak sat back, Alexis turned to her, nodding a friendly greeting, “I’m not a techie either except by training, but it comes in handy for my Skill. I’m your tactical front line. Any and every situation, I can offer immediate and accurate tactical advice. Say Izak sees something violent coming at you, I can assess every single thing in a microsecond, and feed back your best options. Basically, my brain is a biological tactical computer, and this lens I wear stops my getting overwhelmed by every single one of the scenarios my brain runs, letting me quickly see the top options as something like a superimposed diagram over whatever I’m looking at.”
“Wow. You both sound really useful. And I can see where yours works with mine, Alexis,” Dylan shifted in her seat, aware she was being awkward in her attempts to greet the others.
“Now remember,” Janice spoke again. “Your handlers are there to answer questions, give advice, and offer you the knowledge they have both generally and in any specific situation you encounter. You do not have to do as they advise, but unless you have a good reason for it, you probably should. Especially while you’re learning the ropes.”
Three hours later, Dylan and Wyn were patrolling their given route. A quiet sector of the city, for Dylan’s first run, but it was by no means guaranteed that they wouldn’t come up against either someone with a Skill, or the shadowy figures that for some reason forced them on people who saw them.
And as beginner’s luck would have it, Izak chimed in their ear, urgently, “Stop you two, take cover. Something coming. It feels like one of Them.”
Alexis took over as they sought cover, offering the best angles of attack and defense for them to get into, and recommending the ones where they could hide.
Dylan and Wyn hid separately, but within view of each other.
They both wore weapons. A short, double-bladed staff for Wyn, that could release a sting of electrical current at the touch of a button in the centre, coupled with a specially made 4-cartridge shotgun and ammo belt, off of which hung a number of fast-reloaders filled with cartridges.
Dylan had two long, slightly curved daggers, each of which held a paralysing oil that could be refreshed by a small bottle, with a sponge attached to the inside of the bottle’s neck, that she held in her tactical belt. Alongside this, was a semi-automatic pistol, with a guided shot attachment, allowing her to use the sights to paint a target for both hers and Wyn’s guns to aim for.
Both also carried two frag grenades, upgraded with targeting sensors which let them correct course a small amount to ensure the best hit, and it was one of these which Wyn waved in hir left hand, motioning for Dylan to stay down.
For a long minute, they stayed where they were. Still. Silent. Tense.
Then Izak’s voice spoke, “It’s here!”
Immediately, a shadowy figure shimmered into view, a hundred metres ahead, and began walking in their direction.
Wyn bounced the grenade in hir hand, focused on the figure, “Alexis, tell me when yeah?”
“Of course,” Alexis came back. A few moments later, they began a countdown. “5…4…3…2…1…go!”
Wyn stood up and lobbed the grenade overhand towards the figure, who hadn’t yet spotted them.
It stopped its walk, looking curiously at the grenade as it came its way. At the moment before impact, the figure reached up a hand and plucked it out of the sky.
There was a loud crump, and the area around the figure was black with smoke and debris.
Wyn looked over and grinned at Dylan, but she was staring, open-mouthed, at the impact site.
The figure, still carrying part of the grenade casing, walked out of the smoke. It stopped to put the piece in its pocket, then turned in the direction of Wyn.
“Hello there, young one.”
Wyn again motioned for Dylan to stay, and stood up, “Well that was new. How’d you do that?”
The figure said nothing, simply marched towards Wyn and reached out a hand.
Wyn dodged easily and was a few steps away before the figure’s hand even closed upon nothing, “That it? C’mon. What else you got?”
Wyn stood, arms open, declaring hir challenge at the figure. Once hir had its attention, and its back was to Dylan, she tapped her damper into Combat Mode and moved, steps quiet as a mouse, a dagger in each hand.
Wyn taunted the figure, leading it away a little, ensuring its attention was on hir as Dylan got slowly closer and closer. When she was close enough, seeing the intent of the figure was to continue after Wyn, she used the newly strengthened muscles in her haunches to drive up, one dagger stabbing into the figure’s lower back, the other entering its neck. She yanked them both sideways and out, and stepped sharply back, ready for riposte. But she quickly saw this wouldn’t come.
She watched first the blur, and then the solid figure, sink to the ground and stop moving.
Wyn came to her side as she stood there in shock, sliding an arm around her shoulders and turning her away until the dead thing had shimmered back to wherever it came from.