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  1. Heliopolis. Two Days before Ventres, in the Month of the Seeress, 848 IY. The First Month of the Flood. Mid-afternoon. A city of red tile roofs and white stucco walls rising above a majestic harbor, its entrance marked by a lighthouse three hundred feet high. Home to dozens of brightly-painted temples, libraries filled with thousands of scrolls, and markets bustling with trade. Three hundred thousand souls were safely encircled within its fortified walls. The heavy rain had come early this season, spattering the raised sidewalks still hot from the morning sun. Damp pedestrians caught in the sudden downpour huddled under awnings and balconies, watching the rainwater run down the cobbled streets and into the storm drains. Most of the shops were closed for the holiday, but the taverns and food stalls were still doing good business; after all, a little rain wasn't going to stop the Festival of Hathor! What kind of celebration of the Rising of the River would it be if people were afraid to get a little wet? Nearby the Produce Market (today a ghost town of colonnades and wet canvas stalls snapping in the wind), a young tortle girl wearing a vest and a simple skirt was rocking from side to side in the entrance hall to the Imperial Arms, an impressive insula a full five stories high. She wore a wide-brimmed straw hat trimmed with colorful wildflowers, which contrasted with her mournful expression as she surveyed the near empty street, singing softly to herself. "Oh rain, oh rain, I wish you'd go! I want to go and plaaay!"
  2. Two things traveled faster than light among the Sable Krewe: rumors and fear. The first because they were fun and second because the Tesla Cabal was terrifying and omnipresent outside of the bounds of the city. So when a full Circle of Technicians showed up on the outskirts of New Orleans, it took less than an hour for word to spread even to those currently out and about in the Upper. Calls were being made to come to the Under for safety and to try and figure out who did what that had the Cabal sniffing around. As Nym zipped her way around the Upper to gather people up, several members of the Krewe received "special invitation". Jack LaMontagine was 26 minutes into an hour long massage with Ruby Staddler, a regular client that swore by his "magic hands" for her relief from rheumatoid arthritis. Even if nobody got just how true that was, it was still nice to be appreciated. From behind him he heard Madelaine's voice call out, "Jack, please come here." Sheer shock at hearing the mage's voice in the Upper propelled him away from Ruby with a murmured, "Just a moment, Ms. Staddler," and through the doorway of his office. On the other side wasn't the small waiting area that should have been there. Instead, he found himself standing in center of the Under's amphitheater and greeted by the triumvirate that effectively ran the Under: Madelaine, the resident mage of note; Puck, who's superpower seemed to be seducing anyone with a sex drive, and Captain Nola, the spirit of New Orleans. Hundreds of members of the Krewe were already inside the amphitheater, with more streaming in to add to the chorus of whispers. The air was thick with fear and confusion; notable members of the community were directing people to sit quietly, make room for others, and wait for the meeting to start. He could hear the word "Technician" repeated over and over in the whispers. Elsewhere, Belle Fontenot was spending a lazy early-summer day in her shop. Which is to say it was annoyingly hot, the fan was only so much help, and air conditioning was for the rich and weak. Of which Belle was neither. Little Nym bounced into the shop looking sweaty and hyper. "Close up, you gotsa meeting to go to! You know where! Gotta run!" The short forever-preteen had turned on heel to bounce out as quickly as she'd come in when a young white man - almost stereotypically light-haired and blue-eyed - burst in just in front of her. He stumbled to the side, clutching a hand that looked withered and burned at the same time. Blood smeared down his face and smudged his tattered button-down shirt and jeans. He leaned against the wall next to the door, breathing heavily and clearly in a great deal of pain. "Help, please help me. I need sanctuary!" Belle's mind reeled the moment he'd stepped in: chaotic images flashed across her second sight of faces, intricate spellwork, and strange mechanical cogs. She could smell steam and thick, acrid smoke along with the harsh copper tang of blood that wasn't quite right. Low whispered chanting, metalic squeals, the hiss of steam through pipes, and winding through the entire cacophony the screams of souls - something she'd never actually heard before but knew exactly what it was the moment the "sound" hit her and knew with that same iron certainty that it would fuel nightmares for the rest of her life - assailed her. And stamped over the whole ghastly mess was the eldritch stamp of the Tesla Cabal. Standing in front of her, begging for help, was a Tesla Technician.
  3. October 26 - 27th, 2019 Marama, Cook Islands The suggestion of a Stormer get-together had been an off-the-cuff remark by Davian in a meeting about how to market Nova Solutions as a corporation to work for. Ideas were bandied around and finally Davian laughed and threw out, "Well, it's October. We could throw a Halloween Stormers party." He should have known better. Ryan should have stopped him - teleported him out of the room or to another continent before the words escaped his lips. But he didn't and Deezy heard them and now Davian was making invitations and arrangements after convincing his father to let him use the private island they owned in the Cook Islands. Deezy and Ryan were responsible for getting the physical invites out, but Nova Solutions also made a press release (using Layton Industries media arm for now) inviting "all Stormers, regardless of nationality" to the Nova Solutions Halloween Storm Bash on October 26th and 27th. The island was in three parts, with the largest speck of land hosting an amazing stretch of beach with the sprawling beach house nestled just under the canopy of palm trees towards the center of the island. Cabana were set up along the beach along with a large tent home to a massive buffet. Everything was festooned in Halloween - spiders, skeletons, witches, zombies, and ghosts peaking out from every corner; candy apples, mummied sausages, and smoking punch bowls with witch's brew were tucked in with dozens of other Halloween'd gourmet foods. Inside the house, bowls of candy were scattered around, cobwebs dripped over the ornate surfaces and the servants were dressed like dancers from Michael Jackson's Thriller. Davian was dressed in sandals, a simple Grecian toga with gold braiding, and a laurel crown around his head; he looked every inch the young godling he was honestly raised to be. We've got real gods, now, he though ruefully to himself and chuckled. No more pretend. As the first guests began arriving through Ryan's portals, he effortlessly took up the duties of host, greeting and making people feel at ease while also making a mental list of just who all actually did decide to show up. "Welcome, everyone! Happy Halloween!"
  4. 3:48 AM GMT, Friday September 20th, 2019 Stevie One of the few nights in town, away from the grueling demands of SAS selection, and someone had to go ruin it. He'd been sleeping, for god's sake! Not that the men around him, the barracks building, or the storm outside cared at precisely this moment. The men, at least, were trying to help. But, what do you do for someone that keeps getting struck by lightning? Not like "several times over the course of a life" but "it's been a dozen times in the past thirty seconds and it's not stopping". Itty, so named because he was only five and a half feet tall in a group that averaged out nearly half a foot taller, grabbed his boots, put them on his hands, and shoved Stevie out of bed. He kept shoving him - through two more lightning strikes, go Itty - until the Colour Sergeant was out from under the ragged hole in the roof. Itty's face was peeling from the world's strangest sunburn and the lightning got in two more strikes before finally deciding that Stevie was well and rightly cooked and could be left alone. "Steve! Shit, someone get a defibrillator!" Men scrambled through the room and out into the halls of barracks. There was a first aid station down the hall, and Steve felt cold gel on his chest less than a minute later. That finally got his body to sync up with his mind again. "Dun...Don't do that!" He shoved Itty away from him, sparks flying between the two men and the live machine in Itty's hands. The room let out a collective gasp that immediately broke out into overlapping chatter - amazement, shouting at Steve, several prayers. One guy, a younger man that Steve was pretty sure wasn't going to make it through the full ten weeks, slid down the wall and just stared. Steve ached and every time the thunder rumbled he could feel it in his bones. He stood and stretched, rubbing sore spot on his bared chest. The thunder became regular, rhythmic, and out of sync with the ache in his boned. The barracks began to shudder with the louder rhythm; the men were looking at each other, frowning. "That feels almost like-" "Footsteps," Itty finished for the other soldier. They all poured out of the front doors of the barracks, alert and freaked out at the same time; Steve was given a larger berth in the sprint for outside. Hereford was back-lit by the angry black and purple-red clouds; lightning bursts chased through the storm, giving back as much light as the moon the clouds had blocked, but in random strobes of incandescent heat-light. Rising against that was an immense figure made of cracking ice; two blue orbs looked out from the enormous face as it reached out and put a gigantic fist through the third story of a hotel. People tumbled out, injured and terrified. A sound like glaciers cracking came from the giant - it was laughing. Karrie Busywork assignments annoyed the hell out of her. She understood that someone had to do them and that her supervisor often gave them to her when she'd be otherwise sitting at home just waiting for word that Brady was back and ok, but they still annoyed the hell out of her. She'd checked into the hotel in Hereford in the early morning, napped a few hours, and then headed to the hospital in her guise as one of the Minneford Foundation's more personable auditors. Dr. Vasilakis needed a reminder of who she was, which was exactly how it was supposed to go. Be unassuming. Be nice but not gregarious. That's how you can hold a cover for years without ever being suspected. Brady had been thrilled to get a chance to teach Karrie just a little of his side of the trade. "Jane Doe" was also exactly where she'd left her the last time she'd been in Hereford: laying on a hospital bed, a feeding tube down her throat, and a strict schedule of turning to keep her from getting bed sores. Karrie didn't know the details, but for some reason they weren't allowed to just move the woman to a more private - controlled - facility. It wasn't her job to ask. Getting "Laura's" paperwork from the hospital, so the bogus foundation would continue to pay the coma victim's bills, took up the rest of the afternoon and she busied herself with real paperwork through the evening. She'd made herself go to bed on UK time; she was going to be in Europe for a few weeks and best to get on schedule the first night. She woke up in the early morning frozen in place. Literally. Everything in her room had a sheen of hoarfrost on it and the whole building was shaking. She shivered and the ice on her shattered off, not melting but disappearing. She could hear screams from nearby, less than a handful of rooms down. The building shook again and again, like small earthquakes only a few seconds apart. A loud crash, the ripping of concrete, steel, and wood, reverberated from above her as part of her ceiling was ripped away by an enormous icy fist crashing through the space. She scrambled away as part of the bed and mini-fridge from two stories up crashed down into her space. The fist retreated and the screams got louder. Over it all she heard the icy, grating laughter of the monster that had just killed at least a dozen people. Kyria In the hazy darkness there had always been bits of sounds: a beep here, a low murmur of a voice there, the constant tinny sound of argument or racing cars or other random things. She'd never been able to focus on them and make them more than indistinct noise. She'd wanted to, but it was just so tiring. The screaming finally go her attention. It was so loud and so close and so there. She forced her eyes open for the first time in years, blinking against the dim light and the rush of fresh air over her skin. The room she was in was trashed. A hospital bed lay broken into several pieces below her; monitoring equipment had been thrashed about and littered the rest of the floor. In the doorway was a young orderly, her face frozen in fear and the screams emanating from her. Behind her, she could feel the winds from outside whipping at the broken section of the wall, cold to the point of bitter. She lighted down softly onto the floor, shivering from the open back of her hospital gown. She glanced at the other woman and said in a light, smooth voice that shouldn't have been possible from vocal chords unused for three years, "I'm cold. I need better clothes." The orderly swallowed, cutting off her own screams. "Th-there's street clothes..." She pointed shakily to one of the cabinets under the sink in the room. The red-haired woman nodded and stepped over, pulling out the set of clothes with delicate movements. The orderly blushed and turned away when she slid off the gown and dressed herself. Others were peering into the doorway now, shocked silent by the destruction of the room and the up-and-moving of their long-term patient. The storm outside flickered and flashed angrily, refusing to drop water just yet but in full thundered voice across the city. A strange regularity had entered the cacophony of the storm and it was getting louder. After she'd slipped on the pair of new tennis shoes and secured them in place, she glanced out the ruin of a wall and then back to the people still stuck in the doorway by a mix of fear, awe, and hind-brain gibbering. She quirked a smile at them and shrugged. "Guess I should go see what that is. Sorry about the-" she waved vaguely at the ruined equipment and wall. She stepped backwards out of the hole in the wall and fell upward.
  5. 5:38 PM WST, Thursday September 19th, 2019 Ryan The storm had blown up out of nowhere and it wasn't just wind and water. Lightning lanced through the air around him, the plane shuddering as air pressure and wind currents danced in angry whorls. The instruments in the cockpit had gone out several seconds before the actual storm nearly just appeared around him - not a great help and certainly a little unnerving. He hadn't lost the engines, but the power kept flickering for no apparent reason and that was starting to raise his heart rate. Over the middle of the Pacific, a water landing wasn't really one you could walk away from, not even if you made it down to the ocean in one piece. The storm seemed to pulse again. It'd done that several times over the minute or so that he'd been fighting winds and ducking lightning clusters. His whole body ached with the pulse this time and the bright flash that followed after only made sense when he realized he could feel rushing air and a tingle along his hands and hair. The plane had been hit and the screech of metal, along with the hard drag on the controls, told him that he shouldn't worry about the cargo anymore - it was gone already. Lightning struck again, feeling decidedly personal in its attack on his plane. The cockpit thrummed with the energy and split open beneath him, the metal curling back with a sheen of blue light around it. That's not right, he thought to himself as his chair began to rip itself apart as the light moved up towards it. His hind-brain grabbed control of motor functions and unbuckled him from the falling furniture. It didn't exactly improve the situation, but at least he wasn't grabbed by the light and torn limb from limb himself. He fell, feeling the thin air rush past him and knowing he'd pass out from lack of oxygen before he'd actually hit the sea and die of anything else. A glint of white on the water caught his eye. A ship, his mind informed him while also playing a reel of the highlights of his life in expectation of adding the final frame. It took a moment to realize the speck was getting larger than it should. It'd been closer to the horizon and should have slipped over it as he fell closer to the water, but instead it was steadily resolving itself into a twin-stacked white and blue NOAA vessel. That was beneath him. He'd somehow fallen sideways. He stared at the ship, his mind caught in the weirdness of the moment. It'd stopped growing. He was still a hundred feet or so above it. He'd stopped moving. There was an honest-to-go sea monster attacking it. And he was still a hundred feet above it, hanging in mid-air. Emily The Hi'ialakai had just crossed the international date line and it'd been a pretty good day, all in all. They'd been bringing in a range of sea creatures onto the ship to chip and install the new mini-cameras they'd just gotten, then release back out into the wild (usually after a free meal for the indignity). The research would help them understand what climate change and changing fishing patterns were doing to the Pacific wildlife. They'd dropped a couple of sensor-bots too, intending to come back after a year and pick them up. Emily was in the computer lab, sending out pings in a rather bored fashion to the 'bots and noting how long it took them to ping back. Necessary grunt work to make sure they'd made it to the depth they were supposed to float along at and hadn't already gotten eaten by a whale or something. There was a betting pool already on how many of the bots would be in the area, in one piece, or what they'd be in by the time they came back for them. She had a few dollars in the "used as a play toy by a pod of dolphins" bin. It usually paid out. The storm alarms blared across the speakers, startling her almost off her chair. She rolled her eyes at her own antics and resettled herself. A storm, great. She didn't get seasick, but there were some new civilian recruits that apparently hadn't worked that out of their system before signing up for a life out on the water. Everyone suffered for it. She sent out her next ping, waiting the 12 seconds it should have taken to get back to her. There was an odd whirring sound instead and after a moment she realized it was the CPU cycling up like crazy. The program she used hadn't frozen, but it was stuck counting up the data it was receiving from the probe - it should have been about 4 bytes of data and it was already past 26 kilobytes. And climbing quickly. The computer gave out a sad whine after another few seconds and then died. Emily blinked and frowned. She tried to reboot the computer, but in the moments of silence that followed she began to hear other sounds from the ship: the sounds of ripping metal and screams. Something was terribly wrong.
  6. 11:48 PM EST, Thursday September 19, 2019 EvoAlpha Rho Kappa threw the best parties. The members were almost universally well-monied, well-connected, and that particularly helpful blend of bored co-ed and disaffected degenerate. The Dean wasn't going to shut down the parties when he remembered them himself and when it might affect how much their parents donate to the school. So: booze, co-eds looking for a good time and to impress the ARK boys, and pretty loose regulations on other "recreationals". Donald wasn't a member, but his lineage and trust fund meant he always got a personal invite. The music was loud and even at nearly midnight no one was winding down yet. Lightning burst against the clouds outside - it'd been a clear day, but weather? right. Thunder followed quickly after and Donald fell the faint wave of pressure that meant it had be close. That might also have been Allison Cartwright pressing up against him while dancing on the patio, though, too. Not a lot of skill or natural dexterity, but the tall girl had enthusiasm. "It's gonna rain," she said in a tipsy purr. "I can feel it. Why don't we go somewhere inside? My sorority house is just down the street." Donald opened his mouth to say something clever when laughter - loud, deep, utterly insane laughter - burst out from the ARK mansion. He glanced back into the house to see people looking around wildly and heading for exits. That is, those that weren't biting other people.RenataARK threw the worst parties, Renata thought darkly as she walked the perimeter of the over-sized testosterone factory called a chapter house. She'd been hearing bad things for a while about the fraternity and the clear favoritism by the college only set her further on edge. The boys could get away with everything short of murder so long as it wasn't caught on tape. And given the lawyers they could call on, maybe even then. She was in camouflage tonight: a school shirt and dark pants, just enough school spirit that no one thought she was too out of place, but non-sexy enough that she'd been avoided for the easier targets of the night. A telescoping baton on her key-ring that looked like a travel pill bottle (seriously, you could find anything online) kept her nice and armed, and a solo cup of Monster and soda was keeping her awake. Picking apart who was willing drunken partners of the night and if anyone actually needed a rescue wasn't easy, but she'd been ancy in her room earlier in the night and being out and about at least helped with that. She'd felt the clouds roll in, quick and ominous and covering up the moon, but the lightning and thunder still made her start. Her head was pounding and the second flash of lighting - the one that was pink and green and orange instead of white-blue - nearly blinded her when it struck the tree only a few feet from her. It didn't even register that she hadn't heard anything with it, no crackle of charring bark, no displacement of air and energy. She rubbed her eyes and her temples. A girl screamed in the house. That snapped her head up and sent her running for the front door when the booming laughter of something inescapably evil rolled over her from inside. She rushed into the front hall in time to see one of the more bimbo-blond party-goers lean into an ARK boy and bite down on his collar bone.
  7. 8:48 PM MST, Thursday September 19th, 2019 Eva Eva held onto her companion's arm in just the way that she was supposed to, but a tremor of nervousness was still travelling up and down her spine. Rick Felman was by far the richest client she'd had so far - or at least the one that had spent the most money on her. They'd spent a week coming to terms over the evening - he'd wanted her to come with him to Mexico for an evening of socializing and networking and she was nervous about travelling out of the country with a man she'd only barely met, even for work. Especially for work. His money was good, his business checked out and he didn't have any arrests or even tabloid articles about anger issues or the other red flags she checked for when taking on a new client. So, here she was, just on the other side of the US-Mexican border in a small town called Sasabe. It seemed an odd place for an international business meeting, but once she saw the decked out private club, she understood. This was, most of all, a private and unassuming place for the meeting, where everyone there had been shipped in from somewhere just for the event and no one would think to look for such a meeting. Well, hopefully it's just business and not the start of a rich group serial killing spree or something. Despite her mental misgivings, she had to admit that the place was beautiful. The small complex of buildings looked like a converted missionary from the outside, but the insides were modern chic and sumptuous. The attendees didn't disappoint as well: they were young, beautiful, and clearly rich. She didn't recognize anyone specifically, but these weren't the circles she'd run in for years now. Rick smiled down at her, his mop of shaggy blond hair framing his face attractively. "Nervous?" Thunder rolled outside as if to punctuate his question. She opened her mouth to give a coy and clever response, but the ceiling exploded upwards instead. Plaster, glass, and wiring rained down on the two dozen in the room as lightning flashed erratically in the sky above. Eva let out a startled yelp; Rick was already pulling her to one of the tables and pushing her underneath. When she looked around she could see that everyone else was likewise taking cover, with a quickness of response and not at all the screaming one would expect from such a crowd. The assortment of small arms suddenly appearing was honestly a little more disconcerting than the explosion. "Stay here," Rick said in a firm command. "What is going on out there?" The question was snapped out, but not at her. She could see from his expression and moment of stillness that he was listening to someone. "LIARS!" The shout came from a ways above her. Eva snuck out from the table just in time to see someone - a man in a tattered suit, one shoe kicked off - floating nearly fifty feet off the ground. His face was flushed with orange-white glowing veins and his hair had transformed into living flame that licked furiously at his head. "ALL OF YOU! LIARS AND DECEIVERS! YOU MUST BE PURGED FROM THE WORLD TO MAKE IT PURE!" One of the women two tables down leaned out and called to flying man, "Grant! Stop-" Her she clawed at her throat as her words cut off, turning red and then blue. Her body slumped to the ground; a blast of something pushed her away from the table and into the far wall with a sickening crack. Gunfire rang out. Rick had disappeared. For several long, loud moments, Eva froze. She came to to the feel of metal pressed into her hands and a strong, warm hand on her shoulder. The metal was a high-powered sniper rifle and the hand was Rick's. "I need you to get around behind him," Rick was saying in a voice way too business-like for the insanity surrounding them. "He's knocking off the bullets in front of him but maybe you can kill him if he doesn't see it coming. I know you can make the shot, Eva." All of the sudden, "Rick Felman" was transparent to her. That wasn't his name. He wasn't a business man. He was trained. Someone you didn't want to meet in a dark alley and someone that knew all the right things to get you to do whatever he wanted. Everyone in the room showed that same training, that same response instead of retreat to this moment of utter chaos. "Rick" was using all that training at the moment to keep his mind on the insane emergency on hand and not have his hands all over her. He was also quite clearly terrified.
  8. Late Afternoon, September 21, 2019 Steve, Karrie, and their nameless friend had been given a friendly but insistent escort to the barracks. SAS soldiers had kept the cordoned off from everyone else, much to Itty's loud annoyance. The local HPT team was already there and everyone was ushered through chemical showers, and radiations test, then split up into smaller sealed bubble rooms inside the base's gym. Doctors cycled through in HAZMAT suits taking blood samples and handing out bags with bright pink sets of PHE clothes in them. When they got to Steve, there was a snag in the procedure when needles bent rather than pierce Steve's skin. Pictures were taken. A lot of needles were broken. Some enterprising doctor finally just asked Steve if he could cut him with a scalpel. The soldier bemusedly watched the doctor strain to get the blade to pierce skin, though everyone in the room sighed in relief when a small line of blood finally welled up. They gave him a butterfly needle after that and came to check it every so often to make sure he hadn't healed it out or something equally weird. Several hours after sunrise, the other soldiers were cleared and released. Bubbles consolidated down until Steve, Karrie, and their still unnamed red-headed were together and alone. "We're running more tests and waiting for word from our main office," Terrance, the PHE lead told them matter-of-factly from the other side of the seal. "Once we hear, we'll know what to do next. Right now, there's for it but to wait. I suggest getting some sleep. Let us know if you need more blankets." That had been six hours ago. Afternoon light streamed into the gym from the windows. Lunch had come and gone and not been half enough even though it'd been a double portion for each of them. The red-head not only hadn't slept, she'd refused to even sit on the third bed. She was pacing now, looking anxious and... "I'm bored," she said with a sigh. She hung herself over Steve's shoulders. "Entertain me! Let's go fight another monster. Or play cards. Something."
  9. Monday, October 7th, 2019 Deezy landed in Seattle with a list in her hand. The helicopter wasn't hers, of course, it was Davian's. Having a loaded friend was handy, even if Deezy was well aware she was racking up a 'bill' to be assessed not in cash but in favorable terms later. That was fine. There would be pleeeeeeenty of money to go around. That was of secondary importance to her though. Useful as a means to an end, and also a good way to fill otherwise boring moments, but not the objective by itself. The first item on her list, a trip to the world-famous Starbucks HQ for a fresh cuppa joe. It was delicious. She treated Davian to one too, seeing his free chopper ride and raising him one. Checkmate. The second item...required Davian to get a company car. She was going to just rent one, but he insisted, and for this it actually did make a difference to roll up in a sleek, blingy roadster instead of a Honda Civic. Deezy had even gotten kinda dressed up, though her navy blue suit had already gotten rumpled. She seemed to have that effect on pretty much anything she put on. Instant rumple. It was fine though, she still looked about 1000% more professional than usual. The third item on her list: the horizon. Specifically, Horizon Delivery and Transportation. Davian had thought the move was rather odd until Deezy had let him in on something...at which point he was all in. And so it was that a black and silver Lexus prowled into the Horizon D&T parking lot and pulled into the Visitor Parking place nearest the main entrance. From within emerged two figures. A tallish man in a pressed black suit, and a young woman in a navy blue blazer and skirt, with red hair in a tight ponytail and librarian glasses propped on her nose. For Ryan, it might have taken a moment to recognize her as Deezy, from Quarantine. They headed into the lobby and went to the receptionist's desk. "Hi," Deezy said cheerfully. "Is Ryan busy?"
  10. October 12th, 2019 Donald leaned back on the couch, listening to the track running through his iPod. Hero, by Skillet. It seemed appropriate for these madcap past few weeks. After being released by the CDC, a limo was waiting for Donald at the door. Whisked away to the airport - a private jet taking him to Logan Airport. Mom, Grandpa and Grandma waiting for him at Logan Airport. The Wallaces managed to route away from pararazzi and journalists, but they had caught on and started appearing on the outskirts as Donald got into the limo. Isaac sniffed at them as the limo left them behind. Some people might have gone along with their family's business in the camera eye. Isaac Wallace was not one of those people. He'd had to adjust enough business is dealing with the media's response to Donald being plastered across the nation battling zombies. Free now from the issue of public propriety, Deidre Kennedy... it wouldn't be quite right to say she hugged her son like he was 6 again and scraped his knee, but neither was it quite wrong. Isaac and Maeve sought to remain far more composed in their concerns, but Donald could tell they had a profound sense of relief written all over them. Crazed Stormers did a number on Boston and the North End would be rebuilding for a long time. The University of Pennsylvania decided in light of Donald's quarantine and general fame to give him an indeterminate amount of time off. So Donald took advantage of the time to be with his family again, relax... Well, within limits. There really was no way to get around the media, and Maeve guided Donald through a basic statement to send to the press. More or less it boiled down to: "I figured protecting others from the zombies was the right thing to do. Super-powers was just a welcome surprise. No further comment." Donald had been tempted to have at least one interview but Isaac sternly advised against it. In fact, his grandfather had politely inquired into what abilities Donald had gotten, listened and while not directly saying 'start thinking about your future,' had made sure his grandson remembered the names and numbers of the family's legal staff and not jump into anything without contacting them. Donald loved Grandpa Isaac, but he came off like a buzzkill there. Well, that wasn't fair. Donald had begun starting to think about it, honestly. Being cooped up in the Wallace mansion didn't help though. So after several days, having insisted he didn't need therapy or anything like that, Donald chosen to return to college for now. Some tad of normalcy, if he could pretend. Except you can't pretend when there had been student protests at the U of PA calling for Donald and "Ski-Mask Girl's" release. And counter-protests insisting they'd been released too early. Death threat emails from the Northflow Pentecoastal Whatever because he was the Antichrist's Midwife. Everyone on campus wanting to know everything about him. Thinking they were entitled to. Donald being dropped from the basketball team - because of fairness - though he'd only joined that year because it gave him something to do. Mind you, there were perks. Donald brought girls back every night. Girls plural. When he went out, Donald could get free stuff from a ton of places and share the bounty with his buddies. But then there were moments like these when Donald wanted a break. Thankfully, Lucas and Aaron were the best bros and roommates ever, and went to bat helping keep unwanted callers at bay. Donald just felt the need of... something. Then it settled on him. Someone to talk to. Donald and Renata had traded Skype contacts before leaving, since they both were attending the same college and might want to talk later. TheAmazingRacer wrote: Hey, how's it going?
  11. Time: September 21st through 27th, 2019 No one likes being locked up. No one likes being run through chemical showers and blood tests and poking and prodding of just about every kind a person could think. Psychological evaluations, "interviews" about what happened during the Storm, background checks and invasions into every aspect of your life. No one likes it, but at least some people understand the necessity. And at least some of the soldiers and officials and pathologists running the quarantine at whatever base you'd all be flown into in the desert were as nice as they could be about it. Some of them. The base itself had been split between the sealed off zones for the "guests" and the free-range areas for everyone else. At the start, there'd just been the large workroom that had been stuffed with cots and blankets for the dozen or so people being kept there, but on the morning of the second day actual semi-private rooms were announced as having been sealed off for people to use. They were paired off and told that rooms would be opened to them by the evening. Workers in HAZMAT suits brought in tables and board games and cards for the internees to keep themselves occupied while doctors tried to figure out if their weirdness was contagious or their if their minds were just falling apart more slowly than all of the people that had turned into monsters immediately. "This is the worst," Lucia complained. "Why can't we have phones or something? At least give us movies to watch!" The last was halfheartedly bemoaned at one of the soldiers guarding the communal bubble in the main room. He just shrugged, clearly not about to leave his post to go get a movie for the young woman. Her all-black eyes rolled, which couldn't be seen, and she slumped in her chair. She looked around the room, picking someone out to go say hi to and maybe make a friend - anything was better than another round of Solitaire.
  12. October 5th, 2019 "Nant Ddu?" Kyria asked over the headset as she looked at the brochure and at the map on the back, pronouncing the name of the place to rhyme with 'aunt do'. Steve was likewise going over his briefing package, which included the same colorful brochure advertising the getaway spot and it's facilities. "Close." Colonel Hatcher called back. "Two d's together in Welsh is pronounced as 'th', and the 'a' sound is a bit flatter on the first word, rhymes with 'pant'." The reason they were speaking loudly, even over headsets, was due to to the fact they were sitting in the belly of a huge twin-rotored Chinook as it thundered its way across the countryside. Further back in the compartment were two dozen members of the SAS and some large pieces of scientific-looking equipment. "Whitehall paid off the owners and the staff are getting paid leave - so we have the run of the place. The Beacons are officially an emergency zone right now - all civilians have been gently ushered away and we've got some Terries maintaining the perimeter." "It has a spa. With a pool, jacuzzi, gym... ooh, 32-carat gold body wraps!" Kyria nudged Steve. The Colonel smiled slightly as Steve shrugged. "It'll do. I mean, it's not up to the high standards I've become accustomed to." deadpanned a man who'd slept aboard tight quarters on naval warships, shared a bunkroom with twenty other snoring Marines, and on at least one occasion fallen asleep in a shallow cave in the middle of the Afghan highlands. "I'll make do, though." "Sadly, the spa services will be limited." Colonel Hatcher said dryly. "We will have use of the pool and other amenities, though. I'm fairly certain that administering gold body wraps is not a skill currently in demand in the 22nd, or indeed the Territorials." "So other than 22nd and the Terrys, who can we expect on the ground?" Steve asked as he flipped through the package. "The best minds we were able to scrape together." Hatcher acknowledged. "Leaders in the fields - medical doctors, neurologists, biochemists, along with physicists, head-shrinkers and, of course, a lot of civil servants to write reports on the reports that are being written." His tone was even drier at the last statement. "All very useful and necessary, I am sure. Kyria, just a word for you since Colour Sergeant Nord knows this already - the civvies cannot order you around. God knows they will try, but they cannot. Technically, and please understand this is a formality for your protection, you are attached under my oversight. Keep that in mind, don't lose your rag with some pompous egghead and throw him over the Fan." The Colonel smiled at her. "Just play along with any reasonable request, if you would." "I'll try." she said with an air of doubt as to whether she could, then shot him a winsome smile in return. He chuckled and sat back in his seat, and Kyria leaned against Steve's comforting bulk and studied the briefing package. The release of her hospital records combined with a PET scan at the base had revealed that Kyria's brain was, quite literally, a new one. Though she had knowledge of a lot of basic things, she had no memories, even suppressed or hidden, to provide emotional context for that knowledge. This likely explained her mercurial, tempestuous nature as well as her emotional openness. The Storm had taken a woman in a coma and turned her into a brand new woman, and though Kyria did wonder who she had been before, she was more interested in who she was going to be next. Or now. Steve appeared less changed, at least physically, so far as the tests over the last two weeks had determined. His blood work, like Kyria's, showed elevated compounds of various hormones and other elements not yet fully quantified. New cellular structures were apparent, but their purpose was unknown yet - hence the commandeering of a comfortable remote getaway spot to allow the leading minds in their fields to poke and prod the two enhanced people. An excellent physical specimen before the Storm, they hadn't really been able to test the limits of his changes in the quarantine bubble - though this morning he had celebrated freedom from the bubble by going for a long run with the Hereford base lads - and running them into the ground, maintaining a sprinting pace without slowing or tiring for the full ten mile run. Soldiers being soldiers, the PT sergeant had told him to run it again for being a smart-arse, which he did. At least by the end of the second run of the course he had worked up a healthy sweat and was breathing hard. Emotionally and mentally, he was much the same. A little sharper, perhaps. He was aware of an increase in his sensory acuity and that was roughly it. He didn't feel unstable, or any different from the stoic self he had always been. Which was a good thing - Kyria clung to that solidity over the endless days in quarantine, drawing some strength from the way he just endured, with good humor, their predicament when there were times she wanted to kick out the airlock door and scream. Though their initial physical attraction to one another had not diminished in the slightest, they had at least mastered the art of not trashing the house in their frequent liaisons. In addition, they just enjoyed each others company, moving from just the affectionate teasing and verbal sparring of their earlier days to a deeper level of appreciation. There was still a lot of the teasing and verbal sparring, mind you. It was just not the whole cloth of their relationship. There was another reason for their advanced assessment being carried out in the middle of a large mountainous national park, too. Steve's other ability, namely being able to control and harness the weather, was not something anyone wanted experimentation on whilst he was on a base near a town. That, as much as the pair's more physical gifts, needed to be assessed, and quickly. How great was his scope? How fine was his control? Was the weather a blunt instrument in his hands, or could he only harness existing conditions? And finally, perhaps most worryingly: if he used his gifts, would it upset weather patterns elsewhere or was there some built in limiter on the knock-on effect? As the Chinook started its descent, Steve glanced out of the window at the fancy-looking buildings below and the small crowd of uniformed and non-uniformed people who were gathering at the edge of the landing field. Well, he supposed, they were going to find out.
  13. September 24, 2019 Karrie exited the New Headquarters Building and right into Brady’s arms. They kissed and Karrie leaned into him, so grateful to be able to touch him again. He pulled her close, burying his face in her hair for a long moment. Karrie inhaled his scent, the familiar mix of citrus bodywash and shampoo, along with his spicy cologne. For the space of a few heartbeats, all was right with the world. “All right, that’s enough, Brady,” Anna said firmly after a moment, putting a hand on the man’s arm. “You’re blocking a mother from her child and that is a poor idea.” “Sorry,” Brady said, stepped back so that Anna and Fred could enfold their child in a hug. Karrie leaned against her parents, feeling safe once more, even if she knew that was a lie. “You’re coming to our house,” Anna said firmly once she and her husband let Karrie go, though Fred kept his arm around Karrie’s shoulders. Tugging her jacket straight in a nervous habit Karrie had identified at five years of age, she added, “Jack and Holly are bringing the kids and we’re having dinner. Brady, you’re invited of course.” “Thank you, ma’am,” he told her with a smile. “Stop it,” Anna said, smacking him on the arm. “Just for that, you’re riding with me.” Karrie opened her mouth to protest but her father’s arm over her shoulder tightened. She stopped what she was going to say and gave Brady a little head nod instead. “That’s what you get for not calling her Anna, as she’s asked,” Karrie told her fiance with a little smile. They kept up the light chatter all the way to the cars, where Anna loaded Brady into her sporty two-seater and buzzed away. Fred and Karrie got in the town car; in the front seat, Jordan, the driver, made sure they were settled, then raised the barrier between the seats. “So, how bad, really?” Fred asked, turning in his seat to look at her more directly. “It’s not good,” Karrie replied, falling back into analyst mode. “A lot of predictability just got removed from the world stage, because anyone can create change on the world stage, if they get these powers. Dad, the things I saw people doing in quarantine are world-altering.” “I got that from the reports,” Fred replies, muscles tightening in his jaw, “but I need to know what the country does next.” Karrie folded her hands and looked her father in the eye. “We prepare by recruiting powered individuals into a response force that can deal with problems that arise. And Dad, this is a global issue now.” Fred grimaced and Karrie persisted. “I know, I know. But not liking it doesn’t make it true. Someone who could teleport can deposit a dirty bomb in any populated center. We have flyers, super-strong people, water control, and lightning powers, shadow manipulation, and that’s just among us and Britain. We have no clue what other countries have.” “At least you got the ability to stop the use of powers,” Fred said. “I can’t think of a better, more responsible person to have it.” “I wish we had a lot more people with this ability,” Karrie said softly, glancing out the window. “I can’t be everywhere, and I can’t answer all the issues our country will face.” She turned to her father. “I need to talk to some people, and I need your help. We have a lot of work to do.”
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