The flight back did a lot to calm Tori down. She flew high above the coast, out over the forested parklands where there weren’t many people to see her. She stayed solid so she could smell the sea and feel the sun. That kept her speed down to about sixty miles-per-hour. Any faster and she would freeze in the chill Pacific air.
Not really. Her metabolism seemed to keep the chill from doing any real damage, but she still hated feeling cold and it was a beautiful day. She wanted to enjoy the end of it.
If she could.
Tori’s hand drifted up to her surplus flight jacket, pressing down over the copied files folded safely in an inner pocket. Immediately she felt the air tug at her arm and her course drifted a little. She almost lost orientation and started to roll left.
Tori straightened out, dropped her hand back to her side and went back to flying bullet style: head forward, arms and legs straight back. Flying was definitely harder than it looked. Especially when she had to contend with air flow.
This was her fourth time making a long flight and, coincidentally, her second time making the trip back from San Fran. The first time there and back she had visited the Army/Navy store where she got the jacket. She would have gotten a motorcycle helmet too, but the jacket had drained most of her allowance. If she wanted to have any spending money she would have to go without head protection for now.
Tori slowed to a stop and pulled her phone out of a breast pocket with cold, careful fingers. If she lost it up here she wasn’t sure she would be able to catch it again. She pulled up the GPS and checked her position on the satellite maps.
Right. From where she was it was a straight shot over the mountains back to the school. Hopefully no one would notice her walking back onto campus without a car anywhere in sight.
As she put the phone back the setting sun caught her eye. She watched it sink into the Pacific, red and gold centering a purple-blue sky with a few pink-tinged cirrus clouds glowing up high.
Tori relaxed. This she could always enjoy.
* * * * * * *
Tori made it back to her shared room at the Evers Academy for Young Ladies well after sunset. The guard at the front gate didn’t even say anything as he took her card, signed her in and waved her through. Only a few girls were in the hallways of Greene dorm and none of them paid her much attention.
Except Lara Quentin, busy watching TV in the front lounge but still aware enough to notice Tori and laugh at her windblown hair. Tori pretended to ignore her and walked on through. Lara was already on her list of people who had sent her teasing text messages based on the word “dyke” or “lesbo”. She had also said other things that hurt much more, but the first two were usually the focus.
She would find a way to prank Lara sometime soon. Anna Laurence was not going to be the only one who got what she deserved.
Tori smiled to herself as she thought of Anna, her worst tormentor. Two weeks and the girl still had no idea who had sent all her private photos to everyone in the school. Tori knew she should feel bad for it, but Anna definitely had it coming. It was nice to be forgotten by all the bullies while they ripped up one of their own.
When Tori got to her room she found it unoccupied. She was happy for that, as she and Keisha were not on good terms. The state of their room said it all. Beds, desks and shelves carefully arranged on opposite sides of the room with a line of tape bisecting the space in the middle.
Tori used her toe to flick one of Keisha’s dirty t-shirts back over the line and sat down at her desk. Pulling a key out of her jeans she unlocked the main side-drawer in the desk, pulled out her ePad Quicksilver (complete with a picture of the eponymous female speedster on the back) and plugged it into the keyboarded docking station on the desk top.
While she waited for it to load she glared at the collage of rappers and villains over Keisha’s bed. A 16 by 20 inch poster of Nexus glared back from the center of the photo explosion, dark and imposing in black shirt and pants only three shades darker than his skin, with his face hidden under a reflective-visored half-mask so the eighty or so countries looking for the world’s only “Public Performance Assassin” wouldn’t be able to figure out who he really was when off camera.
Nexus had a logo emblazoned on his chest, a golden fist holding a blue Earth. Keisha had three shirts and a half-jacket with the same symbol on them, two presently lying dirty on the floor. She wanted to make sure no one forgot she was a bad girl.
Meanwhile her father was a major executive making deals for Estrela do Brazil, the fourth-largest space-launch corporation in the world. The girl wouldn’t know gangsta if it mugged her.
Tori hear the eTech start music play and knew her pad was ready. She opened the browser and went straight to HeroWatch.com to do a search in their directory.
Tori started by pulling all the class five males with careers starting after 1987 and before 2003. The list she got was surprisingly long, but then HeroWatch did claim to have a “comprehensive database covering all publicly known talents in the world.”
She used an advanced search to pull all the files listing a height of 5’11, 6’ or 6’1”. Most of the “in-depth” bios had estimates on that.
The list was still depressingly long, so she went through culling all the ones that looked like they weren’t hispanic. That cut the list down to three. These she read in full.
The first was Fuego de Dios, an excommunicated Jesuit monk considered responsible for single-handedly burning the Colombian drug cartels out of that country in the early 90s. Rumored to still live there hiding in the smaller villages.
Maybe he visited San Fran and dropped by the fertility clinic. Hmm. No.
The second was Salazar. A near-invulnerable telekinetic employed by the defunct mexican Federal Government. Named for the historical Mexican peasant hero, whom he claimed was a distant relative. Killed during the Narco-Aristocracy takeover in 2000.
Died too early. Definitely a no.
The last was Skyhawk. Strong, tough, fast flier with extraordinary projective sensory powers. Noted for his record-setting detective work for the Federal Special Tasks Agency. Considered part of the inner circle of President Michael Amado (The Eagle) up until the President’s death in 2004. Appointed as the leader of the Federal Special Tasks Agency West Coast Guardian Team from 2002 to 2013. Disappeared from public view in 2013 when he took early retirement. Believed to be a San Francisco native owing to a comment he made during his inauguration as team leader in July of 2002.
Tori swore. Her father was Skyhawk. The Skyhawk. Who had a statue of himself in front of city hall. Who had a street named after him. Skyhawk Road, out past Skyline, where the burbs were creeping up into the hills.
The only male hero Pam had ever agreed to get her a poster of when she was little.
Tori shook her head. That couldn’t be true. She had asked Pam and her mother who her father was and they had both said they didn’t know. Her mother wouldn’t have lied like that for so long. Pam wouldn’t either. She wasn’t that much of a bitch.
No. She is.
Tori swore again, still unable to believe it. She pulled up every picture of Skyhawk she could find and looked through them. Again and again she saw him in his black and white combat suit, chest blazoned with a stooping crimson hawk. She tried to find confirmation in the pictures, but they were just public photos.
Still, she clicked through hundreds, hungry for something.
This is stupid.
Tori opened Google and did a search for Andrew Rascon Hernandez. She got a number of results for Andrew and Andy R Hernandez. Far too many to do anything with.
Tori search how to find someone, found advice on an answer site, and went to a popular people-searching site. There she searched for Andrew Rascon Hernandez. No results. Andrew R Hernandez got way too many. Restricting it to California got a manageable number, but none the right age.
Tori went to the forum, searching for posts talking about both Skyhawk and Andrew Hernandez together. She found a few threads where someone hinted they knew who Skyhawk was, but the key posts were always deleted.
The Agent Privacy Protection Act at work. Even retired, Skyhawk was still considered a public defender with a protected identity and the Information Protection Bureau would work to keep his identity from becoming common knowledge.
Tori could send personal emails to the people on the forums, but those she asked might not respond. The last thread talking about Skyhawk was four years old. Getting answers could take weeks, and even then, the posters on the forum might only know who Skyhawk was, not where.
Tori cried out in frustration.
“What’s eating you? ‘nother girl blow your ugly ass off?”
Tori jumped and spun around. Keisha had gotten back and she hadn’t even noticed. Tori did not want to deal with the girl right now.
“Keisha, I will break you and feed you to your fantasy boyfriend if you don’t shut up right now.”
Keisha looked up from the text she had been writing and met Tori’s eyes. As the two locked gazes Keisha’s large brown eyes went wide.
Tori was serious.
Keisha nodded and broke eye contact. Tori turned away and heard Keisha resume tapping away on her phone.
Tori tried to center herself and resume the search, but her mind wouldn’t focus. She had hit a dead end and she knew it. Suddenly tired she slouched in her chair and aimlessly flipped through photos of Skyhawk again.
She focused on the photos in front of her.
Something. Back. There. Who is she?
Tori stared at a picture of Skyhawk at a public event with the other West Coast Guardians. Standing next to Skyhawk there was a short brunette woman in a nicely tailored white and orange technician’s outfit. Over her ears she had a beautiful pair of… earrings? They weren’t quite earrings. Instead they traced the inner edge of her ears. Tori was sure she had seen the woman, and her distinctive jewelry, standing next to Skyhawk before.
She dragged the photo into a new folder and went back to through the group pictures she had already seen. There the woman was again and again, and again. That she was part of the WCG support crew was obvious. Yet… there she was next to Skyhawk again.
There he was talking to her.
There he was touching her on the shoulder.
There she was whispering into his ear.
There they were again. They weren’t next to each other, but the woman was looking his way with a smile on her face and… she had an engagement ring on her finger. A very nice one, too.
In the next picture Tori spotted a wedding ring nestled in next to the engagement ring.
Tori kept finding her in group photos until 2013, the year Skyhawk had quit. She disappeared after then.
Who was this woman?
Eventually Tori found a tagged picture of the 2011 West Coast Guardian Tower support crew on a social site. Skyhawk’s mystery woman was in there, tagged with, “Cecilia, our chief crafter technician.”
She was a crafter then, able to manipulate the molecular structure of any nonliving thing she touched. If she was the chief crafter then that meant she would have been the one maintaining the WCG team’s high-tech gear.
Tori tried some web searches on Cecilia the WCG crafter technician, but found nothing more. If Cecilia had a social page it wasn’t public.
Tori needed another way to search.
She did a search on searches and found one.
Facial recognition. Proprietary technology. Premium search.
Just one search would drain the rest of her allowance. She would be effectively broke until the summer.
Tori went over the photos with Skyhawk and Cecilia again. She lingered on the first one where Cecilia had the engagement ring. The look she was giving Skyhawk… they had to be together.
She paid the fee and put in the best pictures of Cecilia she could find.
Hundreds of results on her face. Tori filtered out all the hits from the websites she’d already visited. That left a much smaller number, none newer than 2010 and all in interesting places.
Such as the class rosters for the MIT Crafter Engineering Program from 2001 to 2005.
Cecilia I. Bianchi, scholarship student from Camaiore, Italy.
Tori tried a web search again using the first and last name but got nothing useful. A people search also found no useful results. She went back to the photos.
One was attached to a 2006 blog entry by Sandra Hartwell, head of Shepherd of Lost Angels Women’s Shelter. Sandra wrote:
“Ceci has been a miracle. It’s been one week and she has the shelter back up to code. We won’t be closing, praise God!”
Tori searched the blog for all instances of the name Ceci. She scanned through the returns quickly, finding plenty of pictures of Ceci standing with women of all ages. The last entry on her, dated in 2013, was significant.
“Ceci is finally leaving us. Tears all around, but she has to stay with her husband and she’ll have her own family to raise soon. She has promised us a portion of all profits from her jewelry business. You can find her site here. Be sure to tell everyone you know, and remember to keep Ceci in your prayers.”
Tori followed the link.
Elegance by Ilenia. Custom crafted jewelry for all occasions.
That explains the “I”.
Tori spotted Cecilia’s signature ear-pieces at the top of the page next to the title. Elsewhere in the site Cecilia mentioned that she was based out of Napa, but that was as specific as she got.
How to find her?
Tori went over every page of the website, scanning content at top, middle, bottom and sides. Most everything was about the jewelry on the page. There was information on ordering custom pieces, a submission mechanism for that, an ordering interface that took all major credit and debit cards, but nothing that offered information.
Except at the bottom of the pages. All designs copyright Elegance by Ilenia, LLC.
Businesses needed licenses, right? Maybe the state had the information.
Tori searched on business licenses and found out most were part of the public record. After that it only took a moment to search California public records for Elegance by Ilenia. She got a current business license, renewed 2019.
License issued to Ilenia Bianchi. 2055 Henry Road, Napa, California.