“You in trouble?” Chelsea asks, meeting Brandi’s gaze.
Brandi shakes her head. “No, not me.” Brandi takes out a folder and spreads out a few photos and documents. “I’ve been tracking a criminal organization, human traffickers. I think they’ll be moving some people tomorrow night.”
Chelsea slowly taps her finger against the table. “You didn’t bring in your people or the local PD?”
“No,” Brandi shakes her head. “It was just recently that I uncovered a mole in the department. As far as I know, these criminals could have bought people across all levels of government across the state – maybe even the feds.”
“The Paladins?” Chelsea takes another sip of her water.
“I’m not exactly working with my department’s budget at the moment, and I don’t really have the kind of money to just drop on hiring any of their security personnel who would be useful. And the big teams aren’t going to drop in to help on something like this. Not most of them, anyway.” Brandi sighs. “I…I just needed someone I could trust on this.”
Chelsea smiles and puts her hand on Brandi’s. “What do you need from me?”
“I can use some of the budget to hire on outside consultants, so I’ll make a request for you through the Adventurers Guild to give you a bit of legal cover, and then we’ll check out the addresses I have to figure out where they may be.”
Glancing at Chelsea, Brandi shrugs as she sees Chelsea raise an eyebrow.
“A member of the guild investigating places is easier to explain than me doing it without letting local PD know.”
“Hm, sure.” Chelsea yawns. “I’m going to turn in for tonight, then. You staying here?”
Brandi pushes her lips to both sides for a moment. “I have some more things to look into so I –”
“Are these things you need to look into tonight?” Chelsea asks and stands.
Averting her gaze, Brandi fidgets. “Well, I really should…um…” Brandi looks around as Chelsea starts pushing her.
“You look like you’ve been staying up too late all week,” Chelsea says. “Go sleep.”
“That’s a lot of addresses…” Chelsea mutters as she looks at her phone.
Brandi stops the car in front of a warehouse. “We’re not checking all those. That’s just to make sure that no one looks at them gets any suspicions. But here’s the first spot,” Brandi nods at the warehouse in front of them.
Chelsea puts her phone away and examines the building. “Doesn’t look like there’s anyone here. No guards or anyone outside. No visible lights. I’ll go take a closer look, though.”
Brandi nods as Chelsea opens the door and steps outside. She closes the door behind her as she approaches the building. Hm, no heat signatures around here. Chelsea spends a little more time searching the area and then returns to the car, sitting in the passenger’s seat. “No one’s here.”
“All right, let’s move on to the next location, then.” Brandi nods and pulls away from the building, heading to the next place.
They continue checking locations on Brandi’s list, driving by and checking each building.
“Hm,” Chelsea says as they approach the next building. “There are definitely guards around here.”
Brandi stops the car out of view from the warehouse. “Well then, let’s check it out and see what they’re guarding.”
Chelsea and Brandi step out of the car, and Brandi takes off her shoes, setting them inside the car before she closes the door. Chelsea follows as Brandi steps over to a patch of grass and steps on it with her bare feet before crouching and setting her hand against the ground.
After a moment, Brandi stands. “It’s a bit difficult to get a good feel around the place with all the concrete, but I think I can tell where they would be keeping any prisoners.”
Chelsea nods. “All right. I’ll give the guards something to focus on, then. Let me know if you find something.” Chelsea pulls out her goggles and puts them on, and Brandi nods as she also dons a pair of goggles and checks her earpiece.
“Right. I’ll get ready and I’ll wait for you to draw their attention.” Brandi breathes deeply, as Chelsea watches, her heat signature suddenly brightens as she draws energy from the ground at her feet.
Turning away after watching for a moment, Chelsea walks toward the warehouse, sinking her hands into her pants pockets as she watches the heat signatures of the people around her. Oh, it looks like they see me, she thinks as she approaches and sees sudden movement in her direction. Chelsea takes a deep breath, and the air around her slight quivers with waves of heat.
Moments later, three armed guards walk out in front of Chelsea. “Stop right there. What are you doing here?”
In Chelsea’s ear, she suddenly hears Brandi. “I’m in position. Ready whenever you are.”
Chelsea flicks her eyes between the guards. “I’m a member of the Adventurers Guild. I’m here on a request.”
The guards share a glance. “What kind of request?” The woman at the front says, the leftmost guard shifts and pulls at his collar, then wipes his forehead.
“Investigating. Possible magical beasts, that kind of thing,” Chelsea says.
The woman at the front turns away, her hand to her ear. After a moment she turns back to Chelsea. “There’s nothing like that here. You need to leave.”
“Forgive me for not taking your word for it. I have a request to fulfill, which means I need to investigate myself,” Chelsea says, not moving.
“If you don’t leave, we’ll have to show you out,” the woman says.
“Oh?” Chelsea’s eyes flick toward the right guard, who suddenly takes a step back, his eyes widening.
“H-hey, isn’t that –”
With a snap of her right hand, Chelsea sends a fire arrow at the rightmost guard. It explodes before it reaches him and sends him flying into a wall and makes the other two guard stumble.
Chelsea rushes forward as the lead guard yells and more guards approach. Before the guard can raise her weapon and fire, Chelsea is on her, smacking the gun to the side and then slamming her fist into the guard’s stomach, making her curl over as Chelsea sweeps her feet from under her.
“Ah!” The remaining guard from the group of three lets off a burst of gunfire, but Chelsea dashes to the side and then launches at him, slamming her fist into him and making him stumble back until Chelsea rushes forward inside his guard and flips him on to the ground.
Turning slightly, Chelsea unleashes another arrow of fire that explodes and knocks back an approaching group of guards.
More gunfire sounds, and bullets whiz past Chelsea, who stands and blasts forward, unleashing a propulsive, yellow-hot flame that sends her right to the next group of guards, who hesitate at Chelsea’s sudden appearance.
Chelsea tears into them, slamming her foot into the closest guard and sending her into the ground as Chelsea turns to the next, pushing his gun away from her and then smashing a palm strike into his solar plexus before she kicks at a third.
Stepping forward, Chelsea continues her attack, using quick strikes that bring down the guards around her. Chelsea lets loose another fire arrow and the last two guard standing are sent flying.
For a moment, Chelsea looks around at the guards, all on the ground.
“Chelsea,” Brandi’s voice comes into Chelsea’s ear.
Shaking her head, Chelsea puts her hand to her earpiece. “The guards are taken care of.”
“It looks like this isn’t the place. There are drugs, but no people.”
Chelsea frowns as she hears Brandi grunt. “Everything all right?” She walks toward the warehouse.
“Yeah… yep. I guess we should go ahead and get out of here.”
The door in front of Chelsea suddenly bursts open and a female guard flies out of the building and rolls on the ground, unmoving. Chelsea glances down at the guard as Brandi walks out, and Chelsea can see that her heat signature has dimmed closer to its normal level.
“Let’s go –” Brandi stops and looks at the multiple groups of guard Chelsea took care of. She turns to look at Chelsea, who doesn’t have a single scratch and is not even breathing hard. “L-let’s go.”
The two return to the car and then Brandi moves on to the next location. They continue checking a few more locations until –
“Don’t stop,” Chelsea says as they approach the latest address that Brandi drives toward.
Nodding, Brandi doesn’t slow down as they pass the location, and Chelsea glances in the direction of the docks. Brandi pulls over out of sight a little way from the docks and then turns to Chelsea.
“A lot of guards. Probably a meta around there somewhere, too. And…” Chelsea looks at Brandi. “A lot people guarding something inside.”
Brandi nods and then stops. “You sure saw a lot …”
Chelsea grins as they leave the car, with Brandi removing her shoes. Brandi crouches by a patch of grass and presses her palm against the ground, closing her eyes a moment. “There’s definitely an underground room over there,” she says, standing.
Glancing in the direction of the building, Chelsea purses her lips. “All right. You investigate the building. I’ll deal with the guards again.”
Brandi bites her lip. “Are you sure? You said that there are a lot more of them…”
Chelsea pats Brandi’s shoulder. “It’ll be fine. I won’t let them do a thing.”
Nodding, Brandi sets her feet against the ground, and with a deep breath, Chelsea sees her pull power from the ground into herself, which is represented as heat in her vision moving from the ground up and coiling and condensing inside Brandi’s body. “All right. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” Brandi takes off, moving with superhuman speed under the cover of the night.
Chelsea puts her goggles into place and then walks toward the docks. She keeps an eye on the heat signatures she can see patrolling the area, and just before she comes into view of the guards in higher positions, she raises her hand –
A blazing arrow of red-hot fire soars from Chelsea’s hand and blasts the gate in front of her open. She walks calmly as the guards are stirred into action with shouts as they run and search the area.
Chelsea flicks her fingers upward and unleashes a ball of fire, shooting it straight into the air above the guards as she continues to walk toward them, seeing some of them take notice of her and aim their weapons at her.
The guards flinch at the blazing mini sun that stops and hangs in the air above them.
Refocusing on Chelsea, the guards start to call out to her. Chelsea flicks her wrist.
The mini sun splits, launching dozens of fiery arrows that hover only feet away from each of the guards. Chelsea stops in front of the guards by the opened gate, who alternate between looking at Chelsea and the arrow of fire aimed at them.
“As you’ve probably figured out by now, if you try to move, you’ll be attacked by the fire arrow trained on you –“
“Shut up! Ah!” As a guard in front of Chelsea tries to aim his gun at her, a blast of fire shoots off the fire arrow in front him, burning through his weapon and into his hand.
Chelsea starts to say something when her eyes flick to the side and then she jumps back –
Unleashing a fire arrow, Chelsea’s attack hits a figure soaring toward her, and with a grunt, the figure veers off course, crashing and rolling on the ground. Chelsea turns toward the rising person to see a pale-skinned, blonde woman.
Chelsea turns back to the guards to see another holding her hand. “I wouldn’t try anything,” Chelsea says. “I don’t have to look at you to control them.”
“You can’t keep this up forever,” the lead guard tells her.
Chelsea shrugs. “Don’t have to. Besides, at the snap of my fingers,” she snaps and the guards flinch as an arrow of flame flies from her fingers and explodes in front of the blonde woman, sending her rolling until she stops. “Every guard in this place would have an additional hole in their body. So, be quiet a moment.” Chelsea turns to the woman who is now hovering a foot of the ground in front of her. So there was a meta.
“Gina is going to rip you apart!” Someone says.
Chelsea raises an eyebrow as Gina launches forward with a yell.
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