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Diplomatic Disarray I With a near soundless whirr, the roller shades began to retract, baring the floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the East and North sides of the master bedroom. Warm, morning sunlight slid across the polished, honed pale grey slate of the floor. It rippled over the textured area rug, crawled up the low bed and the humped geometric-patterned goose-down comforter to caress an exquisite, golden tanned cheek. There was the rustle of magenta silk sheets - not nearly as slippery as people assumed, it depended on how they were woven - and with a luxurious sigh, Sean sat up, sheets and blanket sliding from her shoulders. She twisted around, bare legs extending off the side of the bed and stood up with a fluid lightness, her feet seeming to barely touch the floor. She woke with an instant and energetic vitality that exceeded even the first time she’d been a teenager. The ravishing, vivacious beauty sashayed through her walk-in closet, a silvery-lilac satin robe slipping over her shoulders with an unconscious thought and the precise manipulation of gravity, the sash tying itself loosely about her minuscule waist. Sean’s enticing lips bent wryly as she continued into the en suite, slate tiles transitioning to travertine. Just over six months a woman and a nova, and her closet was already full to bursting with clothing stitched specifically for her dramatic measurements or tailored to fit. Her personal atelier Seraphine was a wonder. Sean was sure she owned more pairs of footwear right now than she had in the last forty years all combined. While she had settled into the apartment Karen had found for her, one of the four apartments on the top floor of a residential tower, and had made her own touches on the place, she wasn’t sure it was home quite yet. She was too used to having a detached house to call her own. In her office and study, she had a large stack of sketches and floorplans for potential dream houses of her own design, both in hardcopy and on her computer. She had to admit, Karen had done well by her, by all of them. With the stipend she earned being sponsored by Chicago, as well as fantastic endorsement deals with luxury brands Karen had arranged - and taking her modest cut of course - along with some contract work for NovaStorm and elsewhere, and some modeling, Sean was nearly earning in a week what she had in a year She could afford to make her dreams real, what limits she’d once had were being left behind. Access to Deezy and her material wizardry offered all sorts of wondrous design ideas as well. In the bathroom, Sean stopped by the vanity, skipping past the large walk-in shower stall and the deep bathtub. A modest make-up bag contained her limited amount of cosmetics. She hardly needed them, but sometimes it was fun to glam up a touch, and she had found it relatively easy to get the hang of it, just a different application of painting miniatures, really. On the side of the raised sink was a barber kit. She’d learned over the months that she healed extremely rapidly, like, almost Wolverine level of regeneration. As a side effect, it seemed her hair and nails regrew to their new natural length while she slept. So a haircut only lasted a day - she’d gotten used to the nails. If she wanted shorter hair, it was more convenient to do it herself, and she’d gotten handy at it. Deciding on long hair today, she gave her hip-length a few licks with a brush. It rarely tangled and in moments, it gleamed rose-gold in a glorious tail, tumbling down to her ass as she tied it back with a silken band. Humming in self-satisfaction, she sauntered back into her bedroom, following the windows, passing the gap between the windows and the wall separating her room from the rest of the apartment, the frosted glass divider recessed into the wall, like it usually was, unless she had company. And even then… The apartment had an open floor plan, the modest, one wall kitchen separated from the dining room table and living room by a half wall that acted as an island. It was decorated in muted greys and deep browns and glossy blacks, a typically masculine look, but leavened by accenting splashes of colour and a patterned area rug for definitely feminine touch. The black leather sectional couch held vividly coloured pillows and an old, well maintained quilt draped over the back that her grandmother had made when she had moved out. Textured walls, glass-topped dining table and coffee table, along with the granite counter tops, stacked stone backsplash and dark wood cabinets and furnishings gave the place a modern, organic aesthetic, but with a few flourishes to lighten the minimalism. One entire wall was glass that opened onto a terrace balcony that wrapped all the way around her corner of the building. Other walls, leading to the front door and down the hallway to her office and bedroom held prints of architectural marvels and abstract or minimalist art, and framed posters of classic movies. Bookshelves bracketed a huge, flatscreen OLED TV mounted on the wall, game systems discreetly hidden away. Keesha, Sean’s four year-old golden retriever raised her head from her dog bed, tail thumping against the glass wall and the slate floor at her excitement at seeing her mistress. Sean grinned, cooing at her dog - Keesha hadn’t been tricked at all by her drastic transformation when she’d picked her up from the kennel, crouching down to scritch her behind the ears and under the chin. “Let’s get you breakfast, Princess,” Sean said, gliding towards the kitchen, a scoop of kibble floating from a cabinet to fill her dog’s food dish, her water bowl floating to the sink, the tap turning on under Sean’s gravitic command. “Alexa, music.” While Keesha started on her breakfast, Sean sang along to Mister Blue Sky, her hips swinging, her sweet, sultry soprano filling the apartment as she started on preparing her own breakfast, first with coffee. She perused her collection, selecting a pure Jamaican Blue Mountain. She’d become something of a coffee snob, well a food snob in general, a gourmand of sorts really, her enhanced sense of smell and taste urging her towards quality and variety. It certainly helped that she could make wormholes to collect the highest quality ingredients from the source. From once being an indifferent cook at best, she’d really taken to cooking now, as well as visiting all sorts of restaurants and food trucks, not just in Chicago, but all over the world. It didn’t have to a super high end or expensive restaurant, it just had to be good food. She’d been binge watching Anthony Bourdain shows when she could, and had been on an episode of The Chef Show with Jon Favreau, that had been fun. That was another thing any house she designed would need a much more expansive kitchen, more counter space, more cooking tops, bigger pantry, bigger fridge and freezing. A true industrial, restaurant quality. Putting together a really good meal was another type of architecture and as much as her interests had evolved, she hadn’t lost the delight in imaginative creation. As her coffee brewed, Sean prepped a frittata, cooking some maple-glazed bacon in the oven, sauteing mushrooms and other veggies in the grease. The stunning woman worked using her mastery over gravity than with her hands, knives and pans and veggies and deftly cracked eggs flying through the air under Sean’s lambent lavender gaze. When the iron-cast skillet full of eggs, Gruyere and Buffalo Mozzarella, bacon, mushrooms, red peppers and a few other things slid itself into the oven to finish over the next twenty minutes or so, Sean collected her big mug of coffee, inhaling the delicious aroma. Done with her breakfast, Keesha sat on her haunches, looking up at the tall, seemingly young, impossibly gorgeous woman with pleading amber eyes. Sean gave her dog a teasing grin. “I’ll take you for a walk in a bit. Let Mama have her breakfast and then a shower first, ‘kay?” Sean sauntered over the floor-to-ceiling windows, one panel sliding aside, and stepped onto the terrace. The morning chill brushed against her legs, the stone still cold under her bare feet, contrasting with the warm mug in her hands. She nodded at her other neighbor across the gap to his terrace, offering him a gracious, welcoming smile. She hadn’t really been friendly with her neighbors at her home back in Ottawa, despite having lived in the same house for ten years. Just a distant acknowledgment, only taking with them if they had to share costs to replace a fence or something. She was a great deal more outgoing and social now. Jack Langston was an old man, a retired service member who ended up as an exec in a number of companies. He’d been widowed for the last ten years, and couldn’t resist catching a glance at the unbelievably gorgeous young woman who had moved in next to him. Sean appreciated he kept his admiration subdued and respectful, and often chatted amiably with him during her morning coffee. His anecdotes from his time in the military and the business world were hilarious, and he seemed to appreciate Sean taking the time to listen to his stories, with his wife having passed on and his kids never visiting. She leaned on the raised, molded railing, savoring her coffee as she looked over the city. From where she was, she could just see a sliver of the sun rising above Lake Michigan. Dawn still only hinted at the warmth of day, but the sky was already clear and so very blue. Even in the middle of a metropolis such as Chicago, Sean could smell the season beginning to change. The chime from her laptop sounded, and she turned wondering who would be sending mail this early. She settled in her chair and scanned the news feed for headlines before checking the mail. Good, no Brigit or Dauntless sightings overnight, so she did go home like she said she would. That girl just does not know when to stop. Sean opened her mail program and saw an e-mail from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Department of the Canadian government. She clicked and read. Not a lot of information in the text but it certainly looked official. They wanted to interview her on Monday, next week. Nothing about what. Just a date and time and an office in the C.D. Howe Building in Ottawa. How strange. Then her phone range. Sean’s eyes shifted to the clock and noticed that it had just turned eight o’clock. She picked it up on the third ring. “Hello?” “Good morning,” a smooth pleasant voice came through the phone and Sean could literally hear the smile, “ Is this Ms. Sean Cassidy? My name is Agent Carson with Homeland Security, I’m very sorry to bother you so early in the morning, and I know you’re a very busy woman but I was hoping that I could have a few minutes of your time?” ******** Earlier that morning… Brigit had gone home after dinner with Sean last night and after promising to go home and not go on another night patrol. Both Sean and Karen thought it a good idea for her to lay low for a bit until this lawsuit from Rene Espa could be sorted out. Brigit had gone home where she tossed and turned and when she did drift off to sleep, she dreamed of the fight and what she had done to Espa. Rene Espa had been a champion Boxer possible the best that had ever been, until she had stepped into the ring with Brigit for an exposition fight. Everything had been going well in the ring at least for Brigit who had not been knocked out, but she was still going to lose the fight, only she erupted and shoved Espa out of the ring and into the seats. The blow and subsequent crash into the stands had left Espa permanently paralyzed. Barring some miraculous breakthrough, the former champ would never walk again and only had use of one arm. Espa sued and now Brigit had joined the growing number of Nova based lawsuits crowding the civil court system since the Storm. But Brigit couldn’t sleep so she had donned her Hoodie and hopped the bus to the old neighborhood. After looking in on her folks and sisters, careful not to wake them, she hit she streets. It was early morning after three a.m. and even the bad guys were snug in their beds. Still she had that itch she really wanted to punch something. She made her way along the warehouse district by the river using the roofs to travel. She couldn’t jump as far as Apex but she could easily clear the distance between the warehouses and other building and most were only three or four stories. She had paused watching a tug in the river pushing a line of barges when the sharp sound of a muffled explosion came to her ears. It didn’t take long to locate the source, weird flashes of light and more muffled explosive sounds a few blocks away. She didn’t hear sirens so she leapt off the building and crossed the street at a full run. Brigit skidded to a stop she wasn’t foolish enough to just run out into an unknown situation not with out at least seeing what was what. And what she saw peering around the corner of the deli she had paused at was four men standing guard across the street. They were decked out in assault gear wearing full helmets with facemasks and large backpacks. She wondered about the back packs but then she got a good look at the large futuristic looking weapons that each of them was carrying. They were standing in front of a big hole in one of the neighborhood bank kiosks, the hole was large enough for all of them to have gone through and it was perfectly round with edges that still glowed with red hot heat. There was a sound from inside the four were moving away from the hole but still keeping watch and two more men came out each holding a strange device which emitted a field of some sort. In the field was the Banks safe floating between the two men. Brigit shrugged out of her hoodie which was her favorite put it on the outside window ledge of the delli and stepped out into the street. “Okay you guys, nice and fancy gear but you had best put the guns down and take a break cause the cops are on their way and I’m not gonna let you get away.” All of the men froze but looked her way then one of the guards raised his gun and shouted, “Blast her!’ All four guns swiveled at her and they let loose from the hip. Brigit tied to dodge but the weapon blast were like some sort of cone of red hot energy, she was engulfed and the combined blasts lifted her from her feet and threw her trough the now open front of the deli since the wall and window were likewise blast into shards. Brigit smoke rising from her cloths and hair shook her head and leapt to her feet and ran outside she was singed and a bit embarrassed but not hurt. She skidded to a stop as she cleared the ruins of the deli and stared up. All six men were rising into the air the same sort of weird energy coming off their bulky back packs, the safe going right along with them. Brigit just stood there watching them get away, in the distance she could hear sirens finally. She took a deep breath put her hands on her hips let it out with a very frustrated sigh, “Well fuck me,” and waited for the cops.