Charlotte smiled to herself, and winked at Natalie. Good, so there would be a next time.
As it turned out running while not staying at higher speed was difficult, but not impossible. Mizuki was infuriated when Charlotte got it so quickly and still did not have so much of a hard time running.
“She has to think about not crushing people all the time,” Greer pointed out, as Mizuki, red faced and panting glared at Charlotte. “Not running so fast shouldn’t be that difficult for her all the time.”
Mostly they trained in shifts—Charlotte found herself teaching the others simpler self-defense exercises, as she was the one who had the most patience for it. Havard would work with Hexe (called Greta, in her civilian form) with swords, though he used a much larger broad sword. Greer focused on teaching everyone stealth, so that they would be able to creep around during their missions. When she was not glaring at Charlotte, Eve (Medicine) would teach some the more excitable members of the team, Greta, Paki (Wormhole) and Estefan (Gabriel) how to sit and concentrate. When Mizuki was not glaring, she would help in most of the areas the others taught. Aaliyah Hakim did not join the training at all.
When she finally answered Greer’s summons to have her hand and her eye scanned, Charlotte was the one who let her into the building.
“We could use your help,” Charlotte said, immediately, “And you’re the one who was telling me that I would be the pinnacle of the team or whatever, but you don’t show up to any trainings, and Greer was pulling his hair out because he thought he might not be able to contact you at all and then where would we be if we needed your help.” Charlotte breathed hard as Aaliyah raised a bro at her.
“I believed I would only get in the way of your training sessions,” she said. “You were doing such an excellent job on your own, and truthfully, Charlotte, there is not much any of you can teach me.”
“Then teach us,” Charlotte replied. Aaliyah laughed, and continued through the building up the steps before Charlotte.
“Some lessons are not learned so quickly, my dear. Such as that of leadership. What would happen if I led your training sessions, hmm? Then they would not trust you in battle, not listen to you. You are their general, my dear, the detective your lieutenant. There will be things I show, I suppose, when they are necessary, but until that moment arrives, on thing you can learn is patience, perhaps.”
Charlotte wanted to fume and she did, all the way to the top floor, where she deposited Aaliyah right in front of Greer and went to go and hit something in the nice training room he had built for them. The others only peaked into the room when a punching bag had the stuffing completely punched and kicked out of it.
“Are you normally given to such tantrums?” Mizuki asked.
“Only when nosy little bitches hate me for no reason,” Charlotte retorted.
“I have my reasons!” Mizuki protested. “You are not true in your confession to us, Charlotte Oros?”
“My confession of what, exactly?” Charlotte asked. “My preconceived notions of people, or because I don’t have enough faith in myself to believe that I can actually do this, lead a team of people, when it feels like I don’t even know where I’m going, let alone where I’m taking them.” Mizuki blinked.
“No, I have faith that you will figure all of that. It’s because you’re a lesbian, and you refuse to say it.” Charlotte who had been staring at the floor and the destroyed punching bag, turned precisely on her heel, wondering exactly how karma worked, and if this mean that Greer wasn’t actually gay.
“What?” she asked.
“The way you go on with Natalie, and the way you touch and fawn over her, and the way you deny Greer’s male company, I had reason to believe—”
“Wrongly, I…I like guys, Mizuki. I like thinking about them, and occasionally I enjoy dates with them. But I am at the wrong place in my life to try and date anyone, let alone Greer, who is right now helping me put together said team of people I am having trouble conceiving the very notion of leading.”
“You are a liberal arts academic aren’t you?” Mizuki asked with a smirk.
“Yes, yes I am. I mean don’t get me wrong, I see how you reached your conclusion. What with the evidence you have and me turning Greer down at every turn, and Natalie actually being a lesbian—”
“What?” Mizuki asked.
“Yeah…” Charlotte scrunched up her face. “That hasn’t come up yet?”
“No,” Mizuki insisted, shaking her head. “I believed her to be heterosexual. Are you sure?”
“I’m positive,” Charlotte said. “She was a lesbian before college, so there’s a good chance that that is actually the way her body runs things. I found out the night we became friends because she was breaking up with a cheating girl friend.”
“And…have there been any girl friends since?” Mizuki asked. Charlotte opened her mouth to answer, but did not get far enough before her eyes opened, revealing the full orb stuck into her skull.
“Jesus, for real? You liked Natalie and you thought I was…abusing her or something?”
“Perhaps not abusing, but ignoring and neglecting,” Mizuki replied with a shrug. “Or…being a closet case. Is that the right terminology?”
“Yes, it is but. Shit, well, Nat and I have a rule, so talk to me about your problems and stuff because she won’t date you if she thinks we can’t be friends. Okay?”
“Certainly,” Mizuki replied. “And as for you being our leader.” Charlotte winced, waiting for her confession to bite her. “You should be surer of yourself. You told us from the beginning, we did not have much information, though IT is doing her best to deconstruct the computer you obtained. You are doing good work with those on the team who do not have some necessary skills for missions and rescuing. And you do an excellent job of keeping us all humble.” Charlotte snorted at that as Mizuki smiled shyly. “You are more than a worthy woman to lead us. Do not doubt so much.”
“Thank you,” Charlotte replied. “Thank you, I think I needed to hear that.”
“The punching bag is evidence that you needed to hear something. And watch your wrists. You may be invincible, so nothing will break when you punch incorrectly, but that is no reason to be sloppy.” Mizuki left the training room before she saw Charlotte kick the bag a few more times.
At one of the weekly meetings, where half the group was dressed to patrol, and the other half would be taking the later evening patrol, Natalie said that she had something to report.
“It’s from Maestro’s files,” she said, typing on a wireless keyboard and bringing up string of files on what appeared to be twelve different people. “As near as I can figure, these are all the people in something he calls the Scheme. He only had information on a few of them, Kenji being one, the Sorceress another, Ice-Giant and a few others. But he knew there were more all working under our guy, the Boss. For a crazy guy, he actually gives some really good speculation and did a lot of leg work to find out more about these people.
“He thinks the Boss was using them all to keep an eye on each other, so that no one would get to cocky and over step his or her bounds, before someone else brought them down and became the boss’ new favorite. But he worked a lot of stuff out—members he had never even met or heard from are listed here by at least one name if not two. He looked up family members, holdings, anything he could get his hands on really. The only one he doesn’t have any information on is the Boss himself. He says that they only ever contacted each other by phone or non face to face communication.”
“How much of this did you follow up?” Greer asked.
“Most of it,” Natalie said. “All of the civilian names here stopped existing at the very least ten years ago. Any family they have is hidden pretty well by them or the government. I haven’t gotten to all of it because of the trends I was noticing, but I plan on finding out the rest later on. The thing I really wanted to talk to you about is he finally followed them all so much, he found out where some of their bases were located.”
“Feasibly, we could launch a strike on some of them?” Einherjar asked.
“Feasibly,” Natalie agreed. “Unfortunately, the two he has definitely locations for are both magic types, and we haven’t faced many like them yet”
“Who?” Mizuki asked.
“Sorceress and Ice Giant,” she said. “The other might take some doing, but I could pin point a location if given a little time.” The room turned to Charlotte, who was dressed as Atalanta ready for patrol.
“Gabriel, Wormhole, do a sweep of the city, and report if you find any major crimes you need assistance with.” Paki looked at the warrior angel, and teleported away to go suit up. “Gabriel, I do mean it when I say call if you need back up. I have a feeling we’re going to need you two especially to crack either stronghold. If there’s nothing big, return as soon as you can. Everyone else, suit up and be ready to move out if Gabriel and Wormhole need our help. We’ll do another sweep at second watch, but for tonight, we stay here.”
“Then what about me?” Mizuki asked. “I have more combat experience, and I am fast.”
“Yes, but I need you here,” Atalanta told her. “You are one of our better strategists, and if that story about the kitsune was true, you have some experience with magic as well.” Mizuki blushed at the mention of an embellished tale she had been telling t Natalie. “We’ll all be needed to plan and understand the attack though. Go and suit up, if Wormhole and Gabriel need help, you’ll probably be one of our first responders.” Mizuki nodded, and moved toward the bowls of the Fortress.
It took them a week before Charlotte was satisfied with the plans. Everyone seemed like pure balls of energy when they made it to the end of the week, and were ready to launch their attack on the Sorceress’s palace. They had picked the Sorceress, for though she was more magical, she would probably have fewer creatures, and fewer things to defeat. Medicine Woman and Hexe felt confident that they could counter enough of Sorceress’s magic that they would not be to too much of a disadvantage. Natalie hacked a few satellites to monitor them as best as she could from the sky, and would also be directing them from blue prints Maestro had had on his computer, should they become lost.
Havard seemed particularly on edge as he raised his hood and placed his broad sword in its sheath.
“He wants to be attacking Ice Giant,” Greer muttered to her, fitting his mask into place. “He thinks that once we attack Sorceress, Ice Giant will get spooked and move his base.”
“And since Ice Giant was Walkyrie’s nemesis, he thinks that we’ll lose our chance of finding her,” Atalanta concluded as she pulled on her gloves. “You’ve been spending more time around him than I have. Can we take him on this mission?”
“I don’t think it would be a good idea to drop him,” Strike said. “After all, he is one of the ones who have had experience with a magical enemy before, out of you and I included. Furthermore he might be brooding, but at least he agreed to go, or hasn’t said anything against it.”
“But will his head be where it needs to be?” Atalanta asked.
“I believe so,” Strike told her. “But in the end, it’s up to you to make that decision. You are the leader after all.”
“Your word is good for me,” Atalanta said. “I just needed someone who had been spending time with him, and who could gauge him beyond just this moment.” Strike nodded and squeezed her shoulder.