AN: Hey everybody! Thanks for reading thus far! Please leave reviews and let me know what you think, and stay tuned for some more! -HB
Stephanie sat in the familiar and sterile med bay bed, the golden rosy light of the sunset shining on the wall across from her. Kit just left, maybe an hour or two ago, having healed and bandaged her arms, however they told Stephanie that they will in fact scar. I mean, could be worse, right? Wrong. The Police Captain, Officer Michael Higgins, had called as soon as they returned to the tower stating that Hecate was only willing to talk. To her. This woman, this trickster, confuses Stephanie to no ends. She shakes her head, before standing up and heading to the Tower's kitchen to find a snack. Who would've thought that using your powers can make you so hungry?
Walking softly through the winding halls and up the levels in the elevator, the tower is quiet, giving Steph exactly what she doesn't want. Time to think. She doesn't want to think about the villainess who messed with her mind. She doesn't want to think about what would've happened if they had failed. She especially didn't want to think about what Kit said, about how she could've nearly died from blood loss. A shiver runs up her spine at that. Death is all too real now, especially with the attack earlier today. The door to the kitchen slid open with a muted whoosh and the lights automatically crackled to life as Stephanie walked in, making a bee-line to the huge fridge, seemingly alone.
"Oi, lass, what're ye doin here?"
"OH MY JEEZ! WHOS THERE?!" Stephanie yells in fear, brandishing a nearby loaf of French bread as a sword.
"Oh shite, forgot ye couldn't see me. One mo lass." Near the door that Stephanie just walked through, a ginger man phases back into visibility.
"Oh! Mr. O'Brian! I am so sorry! I didn't see you there."
"Aye, it's fine lass, don worry. How're ya doin aft that baytin earlier?"
"The whaaa- oh! The fight! Yeah, no, I'm ok! A bit sore but I'll survive!"
There's a heavy pause in the air as though Fionn is thinking about wether or not he should say what's on his mind.
"…Lass, may I be blunt with ya for a moment?"
"Sure Mr. O'Brian! What's up?" Steph chirps happily, sitting in a barstool at the center island to better focus on the conversation.
"Lass, don get me wrong when I say this. I like ya. You're a good kid. But you're not ready to be in the field. Not yet at least. You need to train more an unlock the rest of your power before you get inta fights with ONYX. You remind me of my little sister. I don't wan to see you hurt like Kit said you were today."
"B-But Mr. O'Brian, sir, um Kit said the damage wasn't as bad as it looked?"
"Lassy, Kit lied. You lost bout thirty percent of your total blood. You don remember what happened because you fell unconscious. You were so close to death."
You could hear a pin drop. Time felt as though it stopped for Stephanie. I could have died? Why didn't Kit tell me?
"Lass, are you ok? I 'pologize if what I said scared ya, I just worry is all." Fionn asked softly, having knelt down next to Steph without her noticing.
"I-I-I think you're right, Mr. O'Brian. I need to stay here in the tower and train more. Only do search and rescue sort of things."
"Now lass, hold on there. I'm not saying you did a bad job. I'm saying that you just need to train more. Get better. That way, we won't lose you like we lost Marco. I lost a good friend that day. I don't want us to lose you too."
With that, Fionn O'Brian left Stephanie in what now feel like a cavernous kitchen alone with her spiraling thoughts. Thoughts that led to what she assumed would be the best course of action.
After a few days of rest for her wounds, a metamorphosis took place. Steph slowly changed from the 17 going on 18 year old who's main concern was getting a good grade on an upcoming test to someone who was tossed headfirst into the whirlwind life of a hero into something akin to a hermit. She was only really seen in the gym and library. All she did was study, eat, and practice, trying to push herself to reach that of peak ability. Those who knew her well enough, could read minds, or where just able to read body language, could tell something was wrong. Gone was the girl who went out of her way to bring joy to her peers. In her place was a girl so absorbed in getting better physically and mentally, she neglected everything else. Her parents, her teammates, even her health and hygiene some days. If it weren't for her mom, she would have withered away from lack of food. This routine started, but was interrupted a few days in by her dad, with a job and a gift for her.
It happened while Stephanie was training with the training dummy that Tucker Verne, the Pig and resident genius, engineered to be able to withstand even the strength of Logan going full force. Punches, jabs, elbows, knees, kicks, and blows of all types impacted the dummy, a faint orange glow surrounding her. The metal door slid open, and in walked Alejandro Hernandez, with a nondescript clothes box in hand. A bit of history on dear old dad here. He was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to the US on his own when he was 18 years old. He got a job in LA working at a local taqueria. While here, he met Emelda, who was a waitress at the time. They got married at 21 and had Stephanie at 28. To keep up with his growing family, Alejandro took up three jobs. He may not have been the most present dad, but he was the best he could be. He showed up for every award and school event for his daughter. They were and still are very close. He approached slowly, quietly observing his child's hard work. He has never been more proud and more worried about her.
This startled the poor girl, making her jump. Due to her powers, said jump took her right up to the ceiling, landing stomach first on the metal beams up there.
"Hola papí. ¿Cómo estás?" Steph asks awkwardly, sliding forward and down, landing back on the floor with a flip.
"Estoy bien, but are you? Mija I'm worried about you."
"I'm ok papí, really! That last fight made me realize that I need more practice before I go back out in the field."
"Speaking of that fight.. I have something for you mija. The team wanted to surprise you at dinner with it, but I convinced them otherwise." Papí chuckles softly, shooting his kid a wink, before handing off the box.
It was heavier than Steph thought it would be. Inside the plain white box what a black suit with blood orange accents. It was airy and light while remaining strong. Flexing her hands, she tests it against her strength and was surprised to see it not effected at all. Pulling it fully out of the box revealed that it was all one piece, with long sleeves and what looked to be a built-in utility belt. Right in the center of the chest is her Mark. A tribal Tiger head. Something clattered to the ground as she pulled it out. A mask. Tossing the suit over her shoulder, she knelt down to pick it up. It was smooth and hard. Cold like metal but somehow soft like cloth. A mask that looked vaguely like a tiger's face, but all black. She brought it up to her face and tried it on. It only really covered the top half of her face, ending around the bridge of the nose, like where glasses usually sit. Somehow, without straps it stuck to her face, and honestly she didn't even want to ask how. After blinking a few times, the lens activated, revealing a targeting and face recognition system, a communicator, and a night-vision option. Taking it off was as easy as putting in on too. This was beyond awesome.
"Do you like it, mija?"
The dark haired girl was silent for awhile, looking over the uniform mask in her hands. These were definitely not toys, like the ones that will no doubt be made shortly as soon as she is seen wearing it. These were made for stealth, for life or death situations.
"I love it papí. It's perfect."