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Super: Exile: Book 3 in the Super: Series

Super: Exile: Book 3 in the Super: Series

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Super: Exile: Book 3 in the Super: Series

583 pages
10 hours
Dec 12, 2016


Lex and her friends are beginning to settle into their work with their new team in Brussels when a threat to Lex's life appears. Upon dealing with that, they find that MSI, the company behind the illegal human experimentation they escaped, has still been trying to interfere in their lives, so they try to prosecute the company's activities the International Criminal Court. Also, Lex and her new boyfriend, Rolf, work together to solve a string of bank burglaries, further their relationship, and go through the trial of meeting his family with a united front. Stay tuned to see if there are wedding bells in their future!
Dec 12, 2016

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Super - Palladian


Super: Story to Date

Note: It’s highly recommended to read Books 1 and 2 of this series (Super: Origins and Super: Underground) before you read this one. For a full list of the places the e-book can be bought, check the lists under the headings for each book here: The story can also be read online, if you prefer; use the link above and read all of the chapters listed under the headings for Books 1 and 2.

Lex McKilliam, while job hunting, is recruited to work for the secretive M Agency headquartered in Washington, DC. She quickly realizes that her coworkers all seem to have capabilities far beyond the norm, but she works hard to improve her own martial arts skills in response. Casey, who’s far larger and stronger than the average person, befriends Lex, and they train and spar together. Lex also works on a computer-capabilities assessment for the agency with Riss, who appears to be able to mentally communicate with and command computers. Also, Lex manages to strike up a friendship with Serena, who can disappear and simply appear just about anywhere else she likes to, all around the world.

Finding it odd that most of their time is spent on call, waiting to be deployed, and that significant amounts of medical testing seems to be involved, Lex nonetheless applies herself when she and her team are finally assigned to emergency calls. On one of these calls, the team becomes friendly with a couple of people from the Alpha Team: Kate (who can partially shapeshift to use the powers of animals she’s observed) and Victor (an inventor and master repairman).

As time goes on, Lex begins to feel ill much of the time in a way she never has before. She gets involved in the chase when Kate and Victor violate their strict contracts by running away, but gets hints and later confirms that the lot of them have been the subject of unauthorized human experimentation with highly dangerous protocols, and vows to escape along with Riss and Casey. After they’ve faked their own deaths on an emergency call and made their way to the train station, however, Lex becomes gravely ill, unable to respond as she falls unconscious.

When she wakes, she finds that she has abilities she didn’t have before—the power to persuade or compel people with her voice—as well as the need to rebuild herself after spending nearly a month unconscious. The team also needs to rescue Lou, Casey’s boyfriend, after he gets captured by the labs they escaped from. They come up with a successful plan to do so while breaking the labs open so that many others can escape as well.

Afterwards, they head west in order to get out of the area, and to try to find a good place to settle. While in Phoenix, Lex comes up with the idea of working as a touring band in order to be able to scout out the territory while having a plausible excuse to do so. As they tour they become more popular, however, attracting the attention they didn’t want and eventually having to deal with it after a show, fighting people sent from the labs but managing to escape without revealing their identities.

Realizing they need to leave the country, they quickly plan a farewell concert with a number of red herrings as to their whereabouts afterwards, and successfully make it to Europe, where they receive an offer to join the Special Forces…

Chapter 37: Battle Royale

All right, everyone! Captain Shapiro said, raising his voice to be heard over the murmurs of several conversations going on between various team members. Come closer and let me brief you on what’s expected here.

Lex went with the group who recently emigrated from America as they moved forward in a cluster. As she turned her head, she saw the original Brussels team do so as well, the only link between the two groups seeming to be where she and Rolf stood in the middle.

I know it isn’t easy to get used to having so many new team members at once, and that everyone is probably pretty curious to see what everyone else can do. So, we’re going to face off against each other, the original team here and our new people. For you newcomers, this room is strengthened so that it should be able to stand up to just about anything you can dish out, so feel free to do what you think you can—if you start breaking it up, though, I’d request you try to hold back since our budget for fixing it isn’t unlimited. Also, for all of you, we’re not trying to kill each other here, just incapacitate or hold our team members. Please try to avoid actual injuries, but if there are any accidents, I’ve asked Lily Chen to stand aside for this fight just in case. Are there any questions? the captain said, surveying the room.

Yeah, said Jan Lindberg, raising one long, pale arm, his jaggedly cut black hair falling over one dark eye. His tone sounded angry and he glared at his future opponents. For the team that wins the fight, what do they get?

Captain Shapiro raised an eyebrow, but didn’t otherwise acknowledge Jan’s mood. The reward of a job well done.

How about dinner on the losing team? Jan asked, his tone still aggressive.

The captain gave him a thin smile. That’s not in the budget, Jan. If everyone in the team wants to agree that it’ll come out of their own pockets, though... he replied, not finishing his sentence but turning to the team instead.

Lex turned to look at Rolf, who shrugged and then nodded. Miranda MacAllister, usually on the graveyard shift with Jan, tilted her head to the side as she considered the question, her long grey hair sweeping gracefully out in contrast with her smooth, pale skin and icy blue eyes. She finally nodded as well, then looked over at Tamara De Luca and Marguerite Lambert. Tamara moved her head from side to side as she considered the question, then swung her dark hair with fiery red highlights over her shoulder. Sure, she said, then looked to Meg at her right. Meg smiled, showing off beautiful teeth, curly dark hair, and mischievous green eyes. Yes, let’s do it, she replied in heavily French-accented English.

The captain nodded and then turned to where the new members of the team stood. Well, what do you think? he asked.

Lex couldn’t help but smile as everyone turned to Riss, who gave them a hard look in return. After a moment Casey asked, Would that be a problem?

Not at all, Riss replied with a shrug, her small smile in evidence.

All right, then, Captain Shapiro continued, the losers will buy dinner for the winners. This fight means one more thing, which I expect all of you to agree on with no complaining and no exceptions. Once this fight is done, we are all friends and we are all one team. Is that understood?

He looked all the way around the group then, meeting each person’s eyes in turn. Lex nodded as he turned to her, but she heard grumbling from some other people, and Jan even turned his head away in disgust, but after a couple of long minutes, most everyone had voiced or indicated agreement. When the captain seemed satisfied, he moved back one step.

Since we’re all in agreement, then, unless there are any other questions, let’s begin. Everyone, pick your opponents.

No one else had questions, Lex guessed, since everyone seemed to choose that moment to step back and size up the other team. She and her teammates first moved into their favorite beginning fighting stance—the one they’d come to call the deadly flower. Lex and Kate moved nearer to Lou and Casey, and the four of them ended up back to back in pairs with plenty of space in between the four of them for Riss and Victor to stand. She and her friends had originally conceived of this formation as a way to fight and to protect their members who were not as used to hand to hand, but it seemed that Victor and Riss had become adept at protecting themselves nonetheless. Today, Lex noted that Riss had a thin laptop with her and a Bluetooth piece in her ear and Victor had brought a couple of strange-looking sidearms with him along with what looked like a newer version of the goggles and gloves he’d tried out in Seattle.

A few seconds of calm descended on both groups, and Lex took a moment to assess the Brussels’ team battle formation. They stood spread-out, facing the former Americans, with the captain in the back. Rolf and Jan flanked Miranda, both appearing smaller as they stood next to her. Tall and graceful, Miranda stood somewhere around six feet, while Rolf stood nearer to Lex’s height and Jan a few inches taller than that. Rolf and Miranda both appeared to be calm, but Jan seemed angrier than he had earlier. Tamara and Meg stood nearer to one another, and Meg’s slim, petite figure contrasted with Tamara’s stronger-looking limbs. As a matter of fact, Lex had met Tamara in the gym several times and knew that the woman lifted weights as well.

After the breathless moment of waiting, both teams seemed to begin moving at the same time.

I want Rolf, Kate said, stepping forward in his direction.

Leave Shapiro to me, Riss said, her voice low and menacing.

The other team seemed to be picking targets, as well. Miranda and Tamara stepped away from their group and walked together, seeming to home in on Casey and Lou. Meg moved forward as well, but her movement seemed to propel her into the air, and Lex had a breathless moment as she watched the other woman hover then start to move upwards. As Lex glanced to the side, she saw Victor looking at Meg’s progress as well, smiling gently.

I’ll deal with her, he said softly as he walked past Lex.

Lex took a step back in order to give Victor and Meg more room, and frowned when she noticed herself standing alone. She tried to take inventory of everyone, but her eyes stuck on Riss and Captain Shapiro, who’d moved into opposite corners of the room, both seeming to be deep in concentration. She raised an eyebrow as she noted what looked like tiny cars rolling along the floor and small flying drones all heading in Riss’ direction. To her surprise, the coordinated groups of drones split, some of them breaking off into different directions or crashing into one another.

A moment later, she felt surprised again as she saw a bright light out of the corner of her eye and turned quickly to see Tamara bent forward, breathing fire out of her mouth. It came out in a small stream, but something seemed to be happening afterwards, something Miranda looked to be doing, because the tall, grey-haired woman stood near the fire with her hands spread out, and after her, the flow of flames had grown and was directly aimed at Lou and Casey.

Movement in the other corner of the room caused Lex to turn her head again, and as she watched, Rolf, now completely transformed into a wolf much larger than any she’d ever seen, all black with stunning deep gold eyes, stand facing off with Kate. They seemed to be focused on each other to the exclusion of all else, moving quickly enough that Lex had to concentrate to follow with her eyes.

Turning her head slightly brought Meg and Victor into view. It seemed that Meg could fly or hover at her discretion, and she’d used that ability to hover at a level with Victor. Lex hadn’t known that Victor had created some boots for himself like the ones he’d made for her, but she smiled to see her friend clinging to the wall as Meg floated, making some kind of signals with her hands.

Lex turned to look at the rest of the room, trying to find her opponent, closely scanning the crowd as she looked for anyone free. She couldn’t even think of who she’d forgotten until she felt someone materialize behind her. The next thing Lex knew, she felt a knife at her throat and a snarling voice in her ear.

That’s right, just stand there, because I’ve got you now, he said, and as he spoke, Lex could hear Jan, the one person she hadn’t thought about.

You thought you could just come here and win everyone over, right? he asked, beginning what sounded like a tirade against her.

For her part, Lex turned her head as much as she could, smiling the whole time until she met Jan’s eyes. He scowled at her, still speaking harsh words. She looked into his eyes to let him know she trusted him, and began to sing. Lex couldn’t have told anyone later what she chose to sing, but she put a message into the song that the fighting should stop and that they should just be friends. After a while, Jan stopped speaking, looked at the knife in his hands and chose to put it back into its sheath. He shrugged as he let Lex go.

These things are kind of bogus, don’t you think? he asked, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Lex answered him with a smile. How about we just sit to the side and talk instead?

He nodded in reply and followed Lex over to an empty corner of the room. She sat down on the floor tailor style while he crouched beside her, resting his back against the wall. Lex made it a point to smile as she looked at him again, while he glanced down and away.

So, she said, trying to catch his eye again, I know we haven’t had time to talk since we work such different shifts. Where are you from, originally?

He looked over at her, his visible dark eye boring into hers, and she met his gaze. Jan gave her a half-grin before he broke eye contact. Ah, well, I’m from Sweden. I came down here to try to get away from some of the bad winters.

Lex nodded. I hear it’s beautiful up there, but I’m sure having that much cold weather would be hard if it’s not your thing. How do you like Brussels?

It’s not bad, he said, shrugging. I wanted to go even farther south, but I don’t know any Italian and my German isn’t that great.

Well, I bet it’s warmer here than in Sweden, anyway, Lex replied, her smile growing. What do you do for fun when you’re not here?

They both paused due to the sound as Tamara leaned forward, breathing out another column of fire. Miranda accelerated and increased the volume of the fire as it moved towards Casey and Lou, who both dropped back, Lou throwing up his arms and Casey turning to the side to protect their faces, at least, against it. Lex glanced around the room to find Victor jumping off the wall, shooting his newest version of contained shock missiles at Meg, who appeared to be putting up some sort of force field as she hovered, because Lex could see Victor’s projectiles hit something invisible in front of her, sparking before they fell to the ground. Kate had climbed part of the way up the wall and hissed at Rolf, who growled in return and attempted to run and charge up the wall to hit her with a shoulder. Riss and Captain Shapiro stood not far from one another now, each glaring as what looked like a cloud of tiny robots circled their feet and flew through the air between them. Lex spotted what appeared to be sharp prongs on some of them and raised an eyebrow.

Jan looked back at her after a moment, and Lex smiled to see the grin on his face. Looks like everyone else is busy. To answer your question, though, I DJ at one of the local clubs most nights before I come into work, and later on the weekends.

Lifting an eyebrow, Lex asked him, A DJ, huh? So, have you heard our music?

He approached something that resembled a full smile then. Yeah, I heard that your group had a band, so I checked some of your stuff out. I liked it, but it’s not exactly club music.

Lex laughed. True. If you want some CDs, though, let me know.

I’d like that, Jan replied, still looking at the fights going on in front of them.

As Lex watched, Kate and Rolf grappled on the floor, tumbling over one another in a series of snarls. Meg and Victor seemed to be at an impasse, both of them surveying each other for the moment, while Riss seemed as if she’d lost some control of the fight between her and the captain, her feet now being attacked by a few of the little robots. Casey and Lou stood on either side of Miranda and Tamara, who seemed to be trying to figure out which one of the two they should focus on. Suddenly, as Tamara had begun to switch attention from Lou to Casey, both of the big figures drew their hands back and then clapped them together hard. The resulting sound wave caused Tamara to clap her hands to her head and stagger around dizzily but appeared to have left Miranda unaffected, although she had her hands out to the side now as if trying to push something away from her.

So, Lex ventured after a space of silence, looking sideways at Jan, are you angry with me about something?

Jan shook his head once as he turned away, and on the small fraction of his face that Lex could see, she registered an expression of embarrassment. Finally, he sighed. No,’ll probably find out if you’re around me any length of time that I get angry all the time. Sometimes, there’s no real reason for it, Jan finished, meeting Lex’s eyes for a second before turning away again.

You know, if I did anything to make you angry, you can tell me, Lex responded, thinking there must have been some reason Jan had become upset. I’d rather you tell me what I did so that I can avoid doing it again and upsetting you or someone else.

He studied the floor then. Look, Lex, I heard you were on the run before you got here, and thought you might be some sort of criminal before we met. When we actually talked, though, I can see you’re just a regular person. It wasn’t anything you did that made me think that, Jan continued as he looked at Lex, answering her unspoken question. I just build things up in my mind sometimes. I was wrong this time, so I’m sorry.

His voice had dropped to a low tone on the last sentence, but Lex smiled gently as she heard him. It’s OK, she responded in a low voice, and turned to look him in the eye. Your opinion of me may change. You know, I used my power against you just now, when you had your knife at my throat, to convince you that we shouldn’t fight.

Jan laughed softly then, looking down at his hands before he looked her in the eye again. I figured you had, he said, to which Lex couldn’t help but just stare back at him, but Jan just shrugged. There are always rumors before new people start up on a team. For some of you, like Casey and Lou, it’s pretty obvious what you can do, but for you, Meg had said that she heard your words could reach straight through into people’s minds and hearts. I figured if I was angry enough, though, that it wouldn’t matter, that I’d be able to get you anyway, but then when you sang like that, I just realized how stupid it was to be fighting. I’m not even mad about it; it’s almost like you just pointed something out to me that I should have already known.

Lex shrugged, feeling the blush on her cheeks. I can’t really change people’s minds or anything, but when I sing like that, I can convince them to try something that they would probably have wanted to do anyway. Does that make any sense?

I guess so, Jan responded with a shrug. Doesn’t really matter to me, though; I’m convinced after watching all of you fight that you’ll be good additions to the team.

Lex couldn’t help but look at their comrades again and noted that Miranda was trying to hold Lou and Casey off with what must have been heavy wind as the two of them slowly approached her, Casey’s loose hair streaming back away from her head and Lou’s braid lifting up to a horizontal position. Tamara had backed away to a nearby wall, still holding her hands to her ears. Riss, despite standing as if she’d been injured, appeared to have gained some control of the situation, and the small robots rolled between her towards Captain Shapiro, involved in tiny crashes and traffic jams. The flying ones seemed stuck between them in mini-dogfights. Kate and Rolf stood face-to-face now, Kate on the floor on all fours to growl at the wolf, muzzle to mouth. Meg had taken to the air again, defending against another assault from Victor, who’d changed weapons and continued firing at her.

Thanks, Lex said as she ducked her head, tearing her attention away from the fights. So, how did you get behind me so fast, anyway? I didn’t even see where you came from, and believe me, sneaking up on me is usually one of the last things anyone can do.

Jan smirked now as he met her gaze. Ah, you’ve figured out some of my secrets, he replied. Actually, it’s hard to explain, since no one can really tell exactly how it works, much less me. What it feels like is that I can disappear into the shadows, any shadow. I don’t know if that’s what I’m doing, or if I just cause anyone who might be looking at me not to notice me, but what I can do is follow the line of any shadow and appear at any point along it I like. If there’s someone in the shadow, or near it, that allows me to get to them so that they don’t notice me until it’s too late.

Lex could feel her eyes opening wide as she took in that information. Wow, no wonder you like to work at night! she finally responded.

When he grinned at her in response, Lex couldn’t help but return the friendly look. A moment later, however, Jan’s expression changed to one of surprise. Oh, have a look, he said, gesturing with his head. It seems like the game is changing.

When Lex glanced over, she noted that Casey had begun to move away from where Lou and Miranda faced off, albeit slowly due to the heavy wind coming her way. Once free, she went towards where Riss and Captain Shapiro stood moving their rolling or flying chess pieces. Casey walked freely through the area, however; not with gliding steps like the other two, though, because the moment she stepped on one of the little rolling robots, she crushed it. When she got close enough, Casey leaned over to say something into Riss’ ear.

Riss nodded in reply and moved back to rest against the wall, her attention now focused on the battle going on between Lou and Miranda. Lily had moved Tamara behind a barricade, where she sat in the observers’ seats to be treated.

What do you think they’re planning? Jan asked, curious about Casey and Riss’ moves.

If I had to guess, Lex replied thoughtfully, I’d say that Casey is trying to get Riss to commandeer the environmental controls to try to bring up enough air to counteract what Miranda is doing.

As she spoke, however, Lex watched as Kate and Rolf’s wrestling rolled them between Victor and Meg. Since the other two had been busy firing at one another, Lex raised an eyebrow as Kate cried out, probably the victim of a cross-fire incident. She stood up then, her expression angry, and focused in on Meg, currently hovering several feet off the floor.

Oh, this doesn’t look like it’ll end well, Jan commented, closely watching the group of four who appeared to now be switching targets.

While Meg and Kate seemed to size one another up, Victor, who’d lodged himself a few feet up the wall, took aim and fired at Rolf. Lex felt a thrill run down her back as Rolf let out a high yip, then growled and charged in Victor’s direction, snapping at his feet but turning at the last second to shove him squarely with a shoulder.

Around the time Victor fired, Kate had crouched down, still focusing on Meg. A moment later, she launched herself in the air, getting high enough to catch Meg’s calves under her arm, and pulled, aiming them both at the ground. Lex could see the panicked look on Meg’s face as she tried to keep airborne but couldn’t manage it, the two of them landing hard on the ground a split second later.

Victor had somehow managed to keep his perch on the wall, probably because he’d dropped his gun to hang on to the wall with both hands. He climbed up higher as soon as he got the foot Rolf had knocked off the wall back in play and held position about five feet up, watching Rolf snarl and pace below. He looked at the other gun he’d brought and even tried hitting Rolf once, but whatever it fired didn’t seem to have much effect on Rolf, so he slipped it back in its holster instead, looking over in Captain Shapiro’s direction.

The captain and Casey now faced off, since she’d completed destroying all of the small rolling robots and batting the flying ones out of the air. He tried to get around her to get at Riss, but Casey had been too well trained to let him, keeping him at bay with movements that created a virtual wall protecting Riss. He began to try some martial arts on her then, obviously frustrated, but she used her knowledge to simply block his moves. Lex had to smile as she recognized some she’d used to great effect herself.

Once Kate had tackled Meg, she rolled over and straddled the woman, drawing her fist back to strike. Meg looked horrified and panicked, yelling, All right, I yield!

Captain Shapiro looked over at the pair rolling on the floor and raised an eyebrow. OK, everybody, stand down for a minute.

Jan looked over at Lex with a grin, to which she answered with one of her own. Looks like this may be over, Jan said softly, turning his attention to the captain.

It seems as if Tamara is out of the fight for the moment, Captain Shapiro began, looking over at where Lily and Tamara sat together. Miranda?

Miranda didn’t turn, instead keeping her eyes on Lou. I think we have a stalemate here, sir, she replied.

Lou nodded after she finished speaking, standing up straight now that he no longer fought against the wind.

All right, the captain continued. I think we have a stalemate over here, as well. Casey, Riss?

Riss looked over at him from behind Casey, her expression flat, but she nodded after a few seconds. All right, I can agree to that, Casey said once Riss had responded.

Rolf? he asked, then looked slightly sheepish. Sorry. Victor, then.

I’m going to have to admit defeat, Victor replied. I don’t have anything on me right now that can affect Rolf, and I can’t stay attached to this wall forever.

He slipped a few inches while he spoke, then jumped down as he finished, brushing his hands off on his trousers. Rolf looked up at him with complete placidity and stepped back to give Victor some room to comfortably stand.

Meg and Kate, we’ve heard how that came out, Captain Shapiro summarized with a glance in their direction, which only leaves Jan and Lex.

The captain gave them a glance that said they’d better have a good explanation for what they’d been doing. Lex smiled tentatively, not sure what to say, but Jan spoke before she could think of anything. She beat me, Jan said.

I didn’t even see you two fighting, Captain Shapiro answered, looking at the pair with a furrowed brow.

She convinced me that I didn’t want to fight, Jan said, smiling now as if he actually meant it. The thing of it is, I don’t think I really wanted to all along, and she just reminded me of that.

Shaking his head, the captain replied, All right, I’ll want the full story about this later. For now, does anyone want to continue, with those who’ve been defeated withdrawing from the field, or should we call this a completed exercise?

A few small knots of people formed, discussing whether they wanted to continue, but as everyone weighed in after several minutes had passed, the group consensus that Lex heard seemed to be a vote to stop at that point.

All right then, gather around, Captain Shapiro said as he stepped to the center of the room. He looked at everyone around the circle, including Tamara and Lily. Tamara, do you need more medical attention?

Tamara shook her head, then took a step back as if that had been a bad idea. Lily says I’ll be back to normal in a day or so; my ears are still ringing from the impact earlier, though. You may have to speak up so that I can hear you.

OK, the captain continued with more volume. Two defeats and a casualty on our team, compared with one defeat on the other team. That tells me that we have a lot to learn from our newest team members. It looks like we’re picking up the tab tonight, which means our new team members get to pick where we go.

After Lex leaned nearer to her friends to have a whispered conversation, they eventually decided on a restaurant down the street that had become a favorite of theirs due to the fact that they served a lot of vegetarian food. When Casey expressed their preference, Tamara laughed in surprise. That’s it? I figured you’d want to go to one of the five-star places downtown.

The whole group came together then, talking about the meal ahead and comparing notes on the fight as they all made their way out of the training room. This time, however, the old and new members of the team had mixed together in small conversational knots. Grinning about the way both teams had integrated, Lex reached back to turn the lights off, being the last one to leave the room.

Chapter 38: New Home, New Threats

The object she saw looked small and round, spinning so quickly it appeared still. The perspective changed slightly, however, and she recognized it as a bullet. It had been moving through the sky, but now it dipped to viciously rip through the branches of a tree, scattering twigs and leaves in its wake. Sailing still lower, it creased the paint on the roof of one car before piercing the front and rear windshields of the car parked ahead. Picking up speed and defying the laws of physics, the bullet spun to the side, now traveling even faster past buildings and through knots of people on a sidewalk.

Finally, in the distance, she saw what must be the target, since the bullet headed straight for it. A head of short, dark red hair on a person dwarfed as they walked between two others. The scene changed in less than the blink of an eye as the bullet zeroed in on the person’s head. The vision of hair, bone, grey matter, and flesh passed by so fast that she couldn’t separate them as the bullet went through and then tumbled once, falling beside Lex’s surprised face, complete with a perfect hole in the middle of her forehead.

Lex’s gasp startled her as she sat upright in her bed. Her eyes and ears informed her of the quiet in the house, and a glance at the clock told her no one else in the house would have woken yet, not for hours. She sat for a moment, took a sip of water from the glass on her bedside table, and then headed for the adjoining bathroom as she realized that her galloping heart wouldn’t allow her to get back to sleep right away.

The door hadn’t been locked and no one answered to her quiet knock, so Lex quickly ducked into the bathroom and ran some cold water, splashing it over her face. After she’d dried off and looked back into the mirror for a moment, she jumped as she met eyes other than her own looking back at her. She’d automatically turned, but subsided back against the edge of the sink as she caught full sight of Riss leaning against the doorway leading into her room.

You scared me, Lex said with a sigh. Did I wake you?

Riss raised an eyebrow in response, while shaking her head. No, I got home from work not too long ago. Apparently I’m not the only thing that scared you, though. Bad dream?

Grimacing, Lex nodded and glanced at the floor.

Is this the first time you’ve had this one? Riss asked in a low tone.

Lex shook her head and quietly summarized the dream, then looked up at Riss. Her friend’s expression looked grim. Lex, the last time you had one of these kind of dreams and didn’t tell anyone...well, you know what happened. Will you tell someone else today when you go to work? Maybe someone who could do something? Because it sounds pretty fucking serious to me.

Yeah, OK, Lex said, knowing her voice sounded shaky. She looked back up at Riss, trying to gauge her friend’s mood, and felt concerned since Riss never usually swore. Riss sighed and shook her head.

I’m not mad, I’m just worried about you. Do you want to sit and talk for a while, or are you going back to sleep?

Lex tried to smile in return. Thanks, Riss, but I probably should try to get some more sleep since I’ve got to work in a few hours.

All right, Riss replied, turning back towards her own room. Don’t forget, though.

I won’t, Lex promised.

Due to actually being able to fall asleep again and the normal excitement surrounding getting up and to work, however, Lex didn’t even remember their conversation until much later in the day. She and Rolf had ended up on one of the upper floors checking on one of the breaker banks and replacing some faulty fuses. On days when no exercises had been scheduled and everyone was, in effect, on call, Lex had been informed that a chore list existed that those on duty would be expected to work on. A number of their teammates had opted to listen for calls, so she and Rolf had decided to complete some of the tasks on the list.

I don’t know, Rolf said, trying to fit a new fuse in place and failing. Maybe you should try it; you have smaller fingers.

Lex moved in closer as she took the new fuse, standing right next to Rolf as she pressed the new piece in place and managed to get into position so that it snapped in. She smiled over at Rolf as she closed the breaker box back up. He smiled in return as he took her hand.

Such lovely hands, he said as he met her eyes. Nothing like my big paws.

Hey, she replied in a murmur, I like your big paws.

Her heart seemed to be fluttering, it beat so hard, and Lex wondered if she’d ever get used to the sensation of touching Rolf. She felt like an idiot, but in situations like these her heart would pound so intensely she couldn’t hear much else and her breathing would pick up until it sounded like panting. Lex had just known Rolf would find her idiotic until the day she realized he seemed to be about as affected as she was. All of that was pushed to the back of her mind, though, the moment she could see him getting even closer, and Lex’s eyes had barely closed as she felt Rolf’s lips against hers.

She breathed in deeply through her nose, inhaling his wild, fresh scent as her lips moved against his and then opened slightly so that she could run her tongue against his. Rolf tasted even better than he smelled, in Lex’s opinion—somehow sweet and savory all at the same time—and she could never get enough of it. Her lips parted some more as he brushed her top lip with his tongue, shivering at the gentle sensation and hungry for more, but they both gasped as they heard a voice in the hallway behind them.

Hey, lovebirds. Lex and Rolf both turned to see their teammate Tamara standing behind them. She had a characteristic hand in her hair to sweep it back from her face, and Lex could see the light glinting on the red highlights in Tamara’s hair when she ducked her own head in embarrassment. Their teammate’s golden-brown eyes had humor in them, however, and she inclined her head towards them, maybe to make the other two feel more comfortable since she stood about half a head taller than either Lex or Rolf. Lex could feel herself blushing but decided she didn’t mind when she felt Rolf’s hand still behind her, at the small of her back.

Tamara stood there grinning in a good-natured way. The captain sent me around to look for you, Lex. He said he had something he wanted to talk to you about.

Did he say what he wanted? Rolf asked, his brows furrowing.

Shrugging, Tamara replied, Not really. It didn’t sound like anything confidential, so I guess you can go too if you want to. If he has a problem with it, he can always throw you out of his office.

Thanks, Tamara, Lex said, threading her fingers together with Rolf’s so that their joined hands swung hidden between the two of them, and starting down the hallway. I guess we’ll head there now.

The other woman sketched a wave over her shoulder as she continued down the hall in the opposite direction.

What do you think he wants? Lex asked Rolf during their walk down the three flights of stairs that would bring them to the ground floor and the team Captain’s office.

Rolf shrugged. I’m not really sure, he said, his voice puzzled. I know the group of you already had your initial scary talk with him, so that can’t be it. Other than that, he usually only calls people to his office if there’s some sort of job for that person and not the whole team, or if they’re in trouble.

Well, hopefully I didn’t mess anything up, Lex said, then bit her lip.

She frowned as she recalled the scary talk. Captain Shapiro had called Lex and all of her friends into his office to warn them against breaking the law and tell them that if they did, the whole rest of the team would be sent after them. In particular, he had seemed to have some problem with Riss, raising his voice as he spoke to her and making it clear that he would be watching her. When she’d asked Rolf about it later, he’d mentioned that their Captain had abilities similar to Riss’.

Riss herself had laughed when Lex had passed that information to her. Thanks for the heads up, but I think I know who the guy is online. I’ve just had to be more careful with what I do so that he can’t track it. I think he knows that I keep outsmarting him, though, and that’s why he’s pissed.

Shaking her head, Lex hoped that Riss had been careful as she peeked over at Rolf, smiling, before the two of them reached the captain’s office. She’d lifted her hand to knock on the door when a voice from inside told her to come in. After exchanging a look with Rolf, Lex opened the door.

Captain Shapiro? Lex said, her voice questioning.

Yes, come on in, Lex, he said, looking up. Lex took him in a moment, the tall, lanky limbs, thinning hair, permanently sun-darkened skin, and the kind expression in his brown eyes as he looked at her, which seemed unusual for the man. It changed as he spotted, Rolf, however. I didn’t–

He stopped as the small woman at his side began to speak, however. The woman looked straight at Lex as she talked, and Lex strained to understand what she said, until she realized the woman spoke in another language, probably Flemish. Lex looked expectantly at Captain Shapiro then, because although she’d heard that he’d moved to Israel for a number of years and spent several of them serving in the Israeli army, he spoke Flemish, having been born in Belgium.

Mrs. Flavian here is an auxiliary member, Captain Shapiro began once the older woman had finished speaking. When Lex only looked confused, he continued. There are some people who are unable to serve full-time in the Special Forces, or whose services we only need on a sporadic basis, so they have auxiliary membership. Mrs. Flavian’s special talent is to see into the future.

Lex met the woman’s eyes at that point, feeling her stomach sink. Mrs. Flavian appeared to be around 70, but she had a sharp look in her blue eyes, and when Lex’s eyes met hers, she lifted her eyebrows and nodded as if a thought had been confirmed. Wordlessly looking back over at Captain Shapiro, Lex waited for him to continue.

Rolf, he said once he started speaking again, this information is really only for Lex–

It’s all right if he stays, Lex interrupted, her eyes moving between the two men. I have a feeling he’ll probably need to know all of this, anyway.

The captain raised an eyebrow a fraction, then shrugged and continued speaking. All right. Well, Mrs. Flavian said that she had a dream. She said that in it, she saw you get shot, Lex.

Lex put a hand to her stomach as she felt it turn over and she suddenly, vividly recalled her dream early that morning. Did she see a bullet in it, doing crazy things? Lex asked hoarsely, her hand gesturing, showing some of the impossible path that the bullet had taken.

Captain Shapiro gave her a surprised look but translated her question to Mrs. Flavian. The elderly woman nodded, then looked straight at Lex, almost as if she could see right through into Lex’s thoughts. When the woman said something a moment later, Lex nearly jumped.

She asked if you saw it, too, the captain said, now looking between the two of them.

Yes, Lex replied in a tight voice, I had a dream last night like that. Please ask her if she saw where the bullet came from.

Mrs. Flavian listened to the captain’s recounting of Lex’s question and nodded. She pulled a blank sheet of paper towards her on the desk and began making a rough sketch. Once she had finished and pushed it back so that the other three could see the picture, Lex took a breath in surprise. She’d drawn a building, one a dozen or so stories tall that stood a few blocks away from the route that all of them usually took from the house to the Special Forces building for work. After recovering from her surprise a moment later, however, Lex heard Mrs. Flavian speaking again and listened, unable to understand but hanging on every word the woman said nonetheless, hoping she’d say something that might help.

Captain Shapiro appeared confused as he began speaking again. She went on to say that she consulted the cards afterwards.

What cards? Lex asked.

Maybe tarot cards, Rolf supplied, and Lex let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she’d been holding as she realized that his hand had slipped to the small of her back again. She smiled at him as the captain continued speaking.

Probably, because she said that the cards told her that someone could interfere with what she’d seen in her dream, Captain Shapiro continued, and then the three of them watched Mrs. Flavian as she sketched a face.

When the elderly woman had finished the sketch, Lex studied it, thinking the man looking familiar, but unable to place him. The captain immediately begin typing on his computer after catching sight of the sketch, however, and finally turned his monitor around for all of them to see. He’d brought up a picture of Victor, and Lex’s jaw dropped open as it finally clicked that the woman had drawn him. Mrs. Flavian beamed, pointing at the monitor and nodding.

How come you recognized it and I didn’t? Lex said, her brow furrowing as she looked back at the sketch and wondered how she couldn’t have seen Victor in it.

Captain Shapiro smiled but shrugged before he answered. Probably because I’ve had a lot more experience with police sketches than you have. They never look exactly like the person, but if you can get a sense of what they’re trying to represent, you can use them to help you identify someone.

Rolf and Lex exchanged concerned glances as Mrs. Flavian and Captain Shapiro finished speaking, and then the old woman put a hand on Lex’s arm before she left the room, saying a final couple of sentences. Lex watched her go, then turned to the captain for a translation.

She said that she knew you’d be safe since Victor was someone on this team, and wished you good luck, Captain Shapiro said. He paused for a moment after that, then sighed and continued. All right, Lex, please don’t leave the facilities for lunch or at all for the next couple of hours. I’m going to be calling everyone in so that we can discuss this and figure out what to do.

Lex looked stunned. Why are you bringing the whole team in? Surely we can do what we need to with everyone that’s here now.

The captain shook his head. Lex, do you remember when you joined this team and I warned all of you that if you committed a crime, the rest of the team members would come after you? He watched as she nodded, then continued speaking. Good. Well, the reverse is true, as well. We’re a team; if one of us is targeted, all of us will deal with it. Plus, who’s to say that you’re the only one that’s being targeted here? The two of you may have just picked up on part of the plan against us, so everyone needs to be warned as soon as possible.

Lex nodded in response. That’s a good point; I didn’t think about that.

Now that she had, she began to worry about the rest of her teammates. She looked over at Rolf with a frown and her eyebrows drawn together, to which he responded by bringing the hand at the small of her back in tighter, as if to remind her of his presence.

All right, you two, keep busy until everyone else gets here. It’s about 11 a.m. now, the captain said, looking at his watch, so I’m going to try to schedule the briefing for 1:30. Make sure to be in the situation room by then.

He looked at the both of them in turn, then nodded. We’ll think of a plan of action, and we’ll take care of whoever it is that’s behind this. Lex, he said, turning in her direction again, you may want to take some of this time to think about where this attack might be coming from. This job sounds professionally planned, and pretty unusual from the way you and Mrs. Flavian have described it.

She nodded out of habit and somehow followed Rolf out of the office. They’d only gotten a few feet down the hall when Rolf turned back to look Lex in the eye.

Don’t worry, he said with an intensity that brought Lex out of it for a moment. She shook her head in response.

I just can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that dream right away! I don’t think much of bad dreams the first time they happen, but then today–

Lex, Rolf said as he took her hands, his tone firm and deep, we’re both here right now, and we’re both safe. That’s all that matters. If you think you should have done something differently, take that as a lesson and do it next time. As for right now, we will find out what’s going on and we will keep everyone safe, all right?

The seriousness in his tone made Lex feel solemn as well, and she thought for a moment that whoever had planned the killing might be in some real trouble. All right. I just...feel kind of bad for putting everyone out.

Rolf shook his head. Lex, every one of us has been in trouble before. That’s why we have a team: so we can look out for each other. What if someone else on the team was in trouble; would you hesitate to help them?

Of course not! I’d do whatever I could, Lex replied.

As it should be. And that’s how it is with everyone on this team; we all look out for each other, he concluded.

They continued down the hall and Lex sighed as she caught sight of a calendar on the wall. We were supposed to go out to lunch today, she said to Rolf with a sigh.

He fixed her with a grin as he walked at her side. We’ll go out to celebrate once we’ve caught whoever’s behind this, he said, his voice calm and reassuring. In the meantime, let’s go by the kitchen. I bet Casey is making something she wouldn’t mind sharing.

Lex smiled in response and slid her hand back into his as they walked the rest of the way to the kitchen. After bringing Casey up to speed, they accepted an invitation from her for a lunch of lentil stew and bread from the bakery down the street. She smiled as she watched Casey dishing up food for everyone, happy that the woman had let the dark color wash out of her hair, starting the minute they’d gotten to Europe.

Lex felt comforted as she ate Casey’s delicious cooking, and somehow when Lou and Mr. Chen joined them, she felt safe, even after summarizing the afternoon’s plans for them. As she walked to the meeting room with Casey and Lou moving ahead and Rolf following just behind, however, Lex remembered a flash of her dream showing two people walking alongside her, and knew without a doubt who they’d been.

Although she’d been feeling nervous as she walked into the room, by the time everyone had assembled, Lex felt a lot more comfortable. Rolf sat right beside her while Lou and Casey took chairs behind her. Riss and Victor, looking tired, took some seats just in front of her. Kate sat on the other side of the aisle along with Lily. Captain Shapiro stood at the front of the room with his laptop, setting it up so that he could project to the group, and Tamara had already taken the other side of the aisle from Victor. Miranda and Jan had showed up several minutes prior. Miranda, looking drawn and pale, had taken a seat on Rolf’s other side. Jan, with his head drooping, had sat one chair away from Tamara. Meg, who’d been out to lunch with Tamara earlier, had taken a seat in the row behind her friend.

Lex watched as all of them focused on the captain as he went through the information they had in

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