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Friday, April 18th. 96 hours.

Coil contacted us again with a meeting place and time and I made sure to do a quick investigation of the area before the meeting. I skipped school for the day, and caught a bus into town, walking past the area in plain clothes. School was so much less important than potentially saving the city that it really shouldn't have even rated a mention.

There was always the chance that this meeting could go badly, and I was pretty unfamiliar with this part of the city. I needed to know the best ways to get us both out if things went sour, and there was one large problem with the location that kept pulling at my attention. It was really close to the waterfront, barely a street away in fact, and I was having trouble keeping my composure. I always made an effort to stay as far away from large bodies of water as I could manage, and the ocean definitely qualified.

The meeting was happening inside a dirty but otherwise unremarkable alleyway, the only notable feature was a chain link fence that sealed the entire thing off from the street. The only location nearby that I had been too was the southern ferry station, although it had been years since I had been there.

This entire area of the city was covered in high rises, massive rectangular monstrosities that stretched far up into the air, blotting out the sky with their bulk. I was almost sure that if I went up to the roof of the nearest building, I would be able to see the floating fortress in the middle of the bay.

The Protectorate's Brockton Bay headquarters, that's where the big boys and girls were working from. The wards were one thing, and I could deal with them confidently, at least for now, but the Protectorate was an entirely different beast. If you were a naughty cape, those were the capes that you had to worry about coming down on you, and if that wasn't bad enough, they were even known to work alongside New Wave.

After I had thoroughly investigated the location, I returned home confident that we would be able to handle anything that occurred. It was several hours later that I once more returned to the alleyway, only this time I was accompanied by Gaston. It was dark now, the sun having vanished about half an hour ago and the both of us were dressed in dark clothes, to better help us hide if we needed to.

Gaston didn't seem to enjoy the flight over too much, but that might have been because I kept making airplane noises and swinging him around in the air behind me, I couldn't really be sure. I brought us down to the alleyway and then over the chain-link fence. Gaston took a moment to regain his composure and then we stepped around the corner.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a woman standing right in the middle of the alleyway, dominating it with her presence and absolutely impossible to overlook. The woman was tall, six foot if he had to guess, and she stood with her hands on her hips, looking completely confident. She was wearing a bright white bodysuit that covered her entire body all the way up to her neck while her face was covered by a partial mask of the same colour that left her mouth uncovered. The woman's bright blonde hair spilled down her back, with a surprising amount of volume to it. The most notable feature she possessed was the massive shit-eating grin that sat easily on her face. This cape was obviously the villain, Size Queen.

Gaston walked straight up to the potentially dangerous woman and shook her hand without any sign of hesitation. I couldn't tell if he was fearless or just insane, but it was probably some combination of both. I was able to relax minutely when she didn't immediately destroy him.

"No sign of Quest?" I asked curiously, stepping up next to Gaston, I didn't bother offering my hand.

Size Queen gave me a quick look over, before jerking her head behind herself.

"She's hiding behind that dumpster over there." Size Queen said confidently, and I leaned around her shoulder to have a look.

"Ah!" A voice said from behind the bin, "I wasn't hiding! I just got here."

We all waited for a moment, but the owner of the voice didn't emerge.

"Um, are you going to come out?" I asked strangely, after the awkward pause.

"Of course I will." The voice said, as if she was about to do just that, only she continued to stay behind the bin.

Gaston strode around Size Queen and towards the bin with his hand outstretched in front of him the entire way. It looked vaguely intimidating and his body language screamed, 'I want to shake your hand!'

"Pleased to meet you, Quest!" Gaston said cheerfully and a hand emerged from behind the bin.

Gaston seized it without hesitation, pumping it up and down enthusiastically.

"Let's discuss the job, shall we?" Gaston prompted.

"Yes." Quest said nervously, before stepping out from behind the bin.

Quest followed Gaston back over to us, her hands were clasped in front of herself. I couldn't help but notice that her body language was spectacularly awkward. She was extraordinarily short, a couple of inches below five foot at best, and her shoulder-length black hair was cut straight across her forehead, with longer bangs that framed the side of her head. She was pretty in a sort of plain way, with rather large eyes and a small nose. She was dressed in a white lab coat, a slightly different shade of white then Gaston's own and it hung down around her ankles looking huge on her small frame. Underneath it, she wore a black sweater and a simple pair of blue jeans. Her mouth was covered by a black mask that wrapped around her ears with a piece of elastic on both sides.

I stared down at her strangely, the height disparity between us was incredible. I bent forward at the waist to get a closer look at her feet before raising an eyebrow incredulously.

"Are you wearing flip flops?" I asked bemused, and Quest looked down at her feet as if to check for herself, she wiggled her toes nervously.

"Yes?" Quest said hesitantly, looking rather embarrassed as she wrung her hands together.

"Okay then. Cool." I said amused before turning to Gaston, "Shall we get this show on the road?"

Gaston beamed at me and I had to look away from his cheerful radiance.

"Yes, lets." Gaston clapped his hands once, and Quest jumped a foot in the air at the sudden noise. "I would like to hire you both for a rather delicate task."

"Mm. Go on." Size Queen said easily, joining the discussion once more.

"Unfortunately, I can't tell you the exact details of the job until I have you both onboard." Gaston continued, looking apologetic. "I'm afraid you'll have to decide if you want to participate somewhat blindly."

Quest wrung her hands together again, seemingly even more nervous than before, clearly worried that we might want her to agree to something terrible, she was a Rogue, not a villain like Size Queen.

"It's a sneak job, right?" Size Queen guessed, not seeming too bothered by the idea. "I can't see why you would hire me if it wasn't."

"You are correct, but there are several things we aim to accomplish. One of which requires utmost secrecy."

Gaston nodded to Size Queen, indicating that he was addressing her in particular.

"I will need you to infiltrate a very heavily defended building." Gaston explained cheerfully, "If you are detected in any way, it will be an instant mission failure and the consequences to which will be most dire."

Size Queen nodded in understanding, still seemingly unbothered and Gaston turned to nod at Quest.

"Quest," Gaston said happily, and the short woman hunched even further down as everyone turned to look at her. "Your task would be to take control of a very important computer, without alerting the owner, this also needs to be done without alerting anyone."

Quest nodded hesitantly, not yet finding anything morally objectionable about the request.

"I cannot stress enough, that if we are detected during either event," Gaston said seriously, "a lot of innocent people are going to die."

Quest immediately started looking worried again, and even Size Queen had crossed her arms defensively.

"Why will people die?" Size Queen asked bluntly. "I'm a thief who occasionally beats people up, I am not a killer."

Quest nodded in support of the sentiment; even though she wasn't any of the things the taller woman had listed. Gaston hesitated, not quite sure how to phrase it without giving anything away.

"Look," I said bluntly, drawing everyone's attention to me. "We aren't the bad guys here."

Gaston wisely didn't correct me on the technicality, seeing as he was actually a bad guy a couple of days ago, and I was in fact a mercenary, which was illegal.

Size Queen raised an eyebrow at my contribution to the talk.

"I can't tell you exactly what is going on." I continued, "But three days from now a lot of people are going to die."

"The job we are hiring you for is to stop that from happening." I finished evenly, staring them both down.

God damn, I was an inspiration to everybody around me, I would have been such a badass hero. Quest surprisingly was the first to speak up after my interruption.

"Are we expected to fight during our employment?" Quest said hesitantly, as if she were interviewing for a job at the grocers.

Gaston hummed thoughtfully for a moment before he answered.

"While I wish that it weren't the case, it is highly likely that combat will occur at some point. You will both be expected to fight should the need arise." Gaston explained, stroking his chin.

"Can you fight?" I asked Quest, curiously.

As far as I knew, she was a Thinker and not the combat kind. Given how short she was, I was having difficulties picturing her fighting anyone other than a child, and the flip flops weren't helping the image.

"Not really." Quest mumbled nervously, "I have a taser?" She phrased it like a question, to which I didn't have an answer, Huh.

I looked to Size Queen raised an eyebrow in question, I had seen the videos, but I wanted to hear her say it.

"Sure. If we have to fight, I'll handle it." Size Queen said easily. "There is a combat pay bonus right?"

Gaston nodded cheerfully, and the three of them spent the next several minutes discussing payment, duties, and expectations. Size Queen haggled up to almost double the starting amount and Gaston let her drive it up without much push back. Once they had come to an agreement Gaston transferred their payment's from his phone.

When they were done, Gaston turned to Quest, and the short woman immediately asked for the same amount. Gaston accepted the price without issues, and our mountain of money just became a small hill.

"Well boss, what's the job?" Size Queen asked.

"Ah, it will take a while to explain," Gaston said optimistically, "I'll explain everything when we get back to the base."

Yeah, we couldn't stay here all night, and the proximity to the ocean was starting to set my teeth on edge, wait a minute.

"The base is my house." I said suddenly, "We can't take these two with us."

Somehow, we hadn't considered this until now, it was a glaring oversight, and now we would have to hire them a room in the city or something, more money down the drain, it physically sickened me.

"Who's this guy anyway?" Size Queen asked confidently.

I opened my mouth to respond but she just talked right over me.

"Is he troubling you, boss? Want me to knock him out?" Size Queen said cheekily, and I stared at her in disbelief. "We can deal with him back at the base."

Gaston looked like he was considering it too, scratching his chin in thought. Bastard. Quest just looked worried at the byplay.

"What's your power?" Size Queen smirked.

Fuck it, I sprouted some wires and waved them around.

"Oh." Size Queen said sadly, before looking over to Gaston with a expression of understanding on her face.

"I can see why you needed my help." Size Queen said put her hand on Gaston's shoulder in sympathy, "You've had it pretty rough huh?"

I was left standing with my mouth open, unable to believe the balls on this woman.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I snapped, "You god damned Amazonian!"

Size Queen checked her fingernails calmly, not even bothering to look my way.

"What do you even bring to the table?" Size Queen taunted, "Now that I'm here, do we even need you anymore?"

This. Bitch. I was getting roasted here, I needed to do something to retake control of the situation.

"I'm out of your league lady." I declared imperiously. "Totally and completely."

I was an A-lister easily; this small timer was B-tier on her best days.

"Out of my league huh?" Size Queen laughed, "Why don't we test that?" Before she suddenly started to grow.

Gaston was trying and failing to get us to settle down. Too late, motherfucker, my reputation was on the line. I was going to kick her ass; I knew I could do it too. It was a matter of information and power disparity; we had researched all the known information about the two capes meanwhile Size Queen had no idea who I was, she was flying completely blind.

Size Queen's power was a form of self-biokinesis, that allowed her to grow bigger or smaller. She was able to grow everything at once, or different parts of her body individually, she could grow to about eight feet tall, with six times her body weight. She could also shrink to about thirty centimetres and at that height she would weigh in at about ten kilograms. I was curious about where the extra mass went when it wasn't in use.

That was all the publicly available information about her power, she had been around for several years and had a pretty successful career, all things told. There were a couple of videos of her fighting with other capes, but her focus was theft, and she was responsible for hundreds of heists.

In combat she used her power to bulk up, right now she currently stood around seven feet tall and her muscles bulged beneath her skin. Each of her arms was the size of my torso around the thickest section, she was totally jacked, and I down think I had even seen a person so large. It was also very strange having to look up at someone, as almost everybody I had met was shorter than me.

When she had first started to grow, I had expected her costume to rip open, but it had simply stretched to accommodate her new size. I cursed whoever had made her such a stretchable suit and denied us all at what could only be an interesting view. Hilariously enough, her head remained the same size as it normally was, and she looked completely ridiculous because of it. There was a joke there about growing a brain, but I couldn't quite reach it. This wasn't the time to make fun of her appearance anyhow, not when I had a gigantically muscled ass to kick.

Besides, I had immediately noticed a problem with her current form.

"Still want to go, scaredy-cat?" Size Queen cackled, staring down at me with a shit-eating grin on her tiny face.

I forced myself to relax, affecting a look of something who was completely safe.

"You will never, ever defeat me with that form," I said calmly, completely at ease.

I was slowly generating wires underneath my costume, weaving it around into a armoured bodysuit.

"But why, it's so strong?" Size Queen asked curiously.

Gaston and Quest had skedaddled behind the dumpster, they were both currently peeking out from behind it to watch the dick swinging contest.

"Oh yeah." I agreed easily, "In raw power? It can't be beat."

She had finally noticed my Armor as it crept up my neck, now clearly visible. She tilted her head to the side, possible updating her view on whatever she had guessed my power to be. It was now time to baffle her with bullshit, my true superpower.

"But the amount of concentrated energy causes an extreme expansion in mass, the body can't compensate." I lectured, "And while you'll see a fifty percent power increase, you'll see a seventy-five percent decrease in speed and mobility."

"What?" Size Queen said flabbergasted.

My armour had slipped under my mask and finished covering my head.

"You'd never hit your opponent." I cracked my neck confidently. "In layman's terms, you can't hit me."

Size Queen's grin vanished at my taunt and she stomped forward with her massive hand stretched out to take hold of me.

Five minutes later she still hadn't managed to lay a hand on me. I always made sure to maintain a couple of meters distance, because that was a definitely a lose condition in our little tussle. I dragged myself out of the way of her hand again, staying just out of her reach. She would switch in some leaps every now and then trying to juke close enough to grab me, but I could see them coming from a mile away.

Size Queen was starting to get pissed off, and her tiny head was becoming quite red.

"Stop running away you little pussy!" Size Queen yelled, stamping her foot on the concrete apparently having quite the tantrum.

She was playing it up a lot I was sure, there was no way she was genuinely this mad, actually I had better test that just in case.

"I've been chased by hookers that run faster than you!" I taunted.

Size Queen looked appalled for a second, before a look of confusion overtook her face as she attempted to work out if that was an insult or not. Hopefully, she would tell me when she figured it out, because I had no idea what the hell I had just implied.

I was currently reclining in a tangle of wires as if it were a chaise lounge, stretching languidly and making sure that she knew exactly how large the power gap was between us. I was well out of the reach of the ground, completely safe from even her towering height. I glanced down at her and let out a loud yawn.

Size Queen looked so mad at this point that I was struggling to keep it together. I gave her the come-hither gesture and it tipped her over the edge. She snarled and hopped backwards to grab the dumpster that the other two were still hiding behind, before lifting it into the air with no difficulty whatsoever. Gaston and Quest covered their heads with their hands as they ran further up the alleyway. I watched in amusement as they both stuck their heads back around the corner to watch us duke it out.

Size Queen lobbed the dumpster at me with a shout and I caught it straight out of the air without even trying. I made a show of winding up before tossing it back towards her at twice the speed and she let out a startled yelp before diving out of the way.

It made a terrible racket as it scraped and screeched along the walls before it smashed straight into the far wall and continued straight through into the building. We all stopped to stare at the massive hole in the brick wall for a moment in horror.

Whoops.

There was a bunch of yelling coming from the building and even out on the street. The sound of sirens almost immediately started up barely a street away from our position, and we quickly decided as a group that we should probably get the fuck out of there.

I led everyone back to base despondently, I suppose that I could always sell my apartment and move somewhere else. I would just need to keep my mask on while in the house, and make sure to hide anything with my name on it.

If anyone came here looking for Urchin in the next couple of months, I would track them both down and kick their asses. Then I would hand-deliver them to the Protectorate, I made sure to tell them as much. Size Queen had immediately given me the biggest middle finger I have ever received in my entire life. Quest at least seemed to take my threat seriously, judging by her nervous expression.

Gaston explained everything to them once we were safely inside, and I took the time to run around my apartment hiding anything that would identify me. They were both shocked that String Theory was attempting to blow up the moon, such a thing sounded fantastical.

Size Queen was quite pissed off that we had baited them both into a city that was probably going to explode at some point. Quest was more curious about the bombs and how we were going to get access to the computer. We discussed the plan that we had come up with, and together we worked out the kinks until it was shiny and new. We also set up some clear objectives for each of them.

Quest would start designing a program that would allow her to take over the computer and stop the bombs from exploding. She would be putting the program on a portable device that could be inserted into the computer on site. Everything would look normal to String Theory, but the computer would be completely disconnected from the bombs and they would be rendered harmless. If anybody used the computer to detonate the bombs it wouldn't have anything to connect to and instead simply do nothing. The physical location of the three bombs was most likely being monitored in some way, so we would leave the clean-up of the bombs until after we had captured String Theory.

Size Queen would be taking Quest's program, and then infiltrating String Theories base. Once inside she would stick Quest's program in and take control of the computer. She would hide until Quest was finished disconnecting the bombs before exfiltrating and returning to base.

Simple and easy, it was the perfect solution. Should all parts go according to plan the three bombs would no longer be a threat, then we can plan out how to take down the guards, capture String Theory, and destroy the G-Driver. Once we have captured String Theory, we could just drop an anonymous tip to the Protectorate telling them about the leftover bombs, which takes another issue off our hands.

We started to wrap up our strategizing for the day and we quickly realized that we have exactly one couch and one bed. Gaston sends me out to grab a couple of blow-up mattresses, which solves our issue.

When I get back, I found Size Queen laying upside down on the couch and kicking her legs in the air. I toss the package of blow-up mattresses so that they land on her face.

"UP! GUNTA UP!" I scream at her and Size Queen immediately uses her power to start growing bigger and knocks the couch over as she tries to grab me.

I immediately run and hide behind Gaston in the kitchen, and Size Queen scowls at me before giving me the 'I'm watching you' gesture. Gaston tells me that Quest has commandeered my computer to begin working on the program.

"This makes me incredibly uncomfortable," I tell him seriously, realizing that my identity is a bust by this point.

I'll just have to hope she doesn't check my browser history; I idly note that Size Queen has a very malicious look on her face.

"MAKE SURE TO CHECK HIS BROWSER HISTORY!" Size Queen yells at the top of her lungs, and I stare at her in horror.

This. Bitch.

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About the author

Elbowsnapper

Bio: I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.

My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.

I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.

https://www.elbowsnapper.com/

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