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We Didn't Start the Fire


Exile_Jeane
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March 15th, 2020

Houston, Texas

 

It was a half-hour to midnight, and she couldn't sleep.

 

This was stupid by all measures. Cassandra Durrant had had a full, amazing day to cap off a full, amazing half-week and with any luck tomorrow would continue the streak into a full, amazing life doing something she both enjoyed and fulfilled her. 8 hours on the road to finish off her trip east to the Gulf Coast. Two hours spend finding a hotel and dealing with people. Two hours getting lost buying more essentials and dealing with people. Annnd... A few more hours relaxing from dealing with people.

 

She wasn't complaining, not really, but who knew dealing with continuous positive attention could feel like just as much work? The brunette bombshell laughed into her pillow and gave up the ghost of trying to sleep. She sat up in bed, blinking at her darkened hotel room, the explosion of her things over almost every flat surface, the faint glow of the port city leaking through the blinds. Physical clutter to reflect her mental clutter.

 

Too many things to think about. So break it down into parts, the good and the bad, piece by piece. Right. Think. She wanted tomorrow to blow up the way she wanted it to when she wanted it to blow up. Like it obviously would if she held it together.

 

Easy.

 

Cassandra rolled over to the opposite side of her bed, tangling herself in a cocoon of blankets, and unplugged her sturdy little camera, flipping the screen out and pressing buttons until her own voice started chirping out of the machine.

 

“Hey, Mom, Dad, my three favorite knuckleheads. It's me, Cassie. Yup, just in case the guy from gas station number one or the people from gas station number two or the people from that rest stop haven't spoiled it yet... Or reporters are camping out by the mailbox or... Anyway! I'm a Stormer, one of those, they're calling them, er, Us I guess.., 'Butterfly' types if you couldn't tell from the improved, well... Everyth... Anyway! So, yeah. Ta Da!” 

 

Cassandra snorted at herself posing in the Arizona desert for no one, at a video she still hadn't sent two days later.

 

“Yeah. Oh. Right. Don't worry. Nothing bad happened to me. Just one more of those essays no one cares about after one more of those math assignments no one cares about after one more... I've been good, I swear. Which is why I walked fifteen minutes north of the interstate before scratching an itch I've been dying to since, well, All This changed.” 

 

She curled a little closer to her digital image, grinning just as wide as the first time she'd watched the halo of sparking lights bloom into existence around her head and then a cactus suddenly cease to be with an abrupt bang.

 

Cassandra spoke in echo with her past self, to the beat of her own fireworks, “Boom. Boom. Boom. Bang. Boom. Boom. Ba-da and...”

 

She winced as past-Cassandra misjudged her flaring energies and was flung ass over teakettle by the surge. The view of the scene shuddered to focus on the dirt, the camera in her hands bearing yet another fresh, if mercifully cosmetic scar from her escapades.

 

Not the last time the stuff inside her had decided to buck against out of control, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained...

 

Cassandra looked away from the digital glow at her phone, fighting temptation. If she picked that up, she'd definitely be getting no sleep tonight, leaping from site to site and account to account. Her, well, all of her accounts were blowing up, even with the best privacy settings in the world. Hell, people were starting Versus threads about her, mad as that seemed. Among other things she'd rather not think about. But hey, she had speculated and posted about Stormers, too, so turn about was fair play. She wasn't heading to Novastorm to be boring. And it wasn't like she had helped things by bribing people to leave her alone while she ate or got gas by putting on shows afterwards with a dufflebag out to collect money 'if they liked the show'. Gas and hotel money for days.

 

So many business cards, too.

 

It was round about Ciudad the brunette bombshell had felt slightly stupid. She didn't need to drive 1815 miles into the heart of one of the Storm zones to get a fun job free of more college debt. She could have walked up to just about any company with a little planning, and bang, she'd be good long as she didn't go crazy with it. That's 3 am logic and raw stubbornness for you. Her brothers had warned her about 'trading her smarts for stupid', and yet here she was.

 

Her phone started vibrating just as she was about to pick another recording to watch. Cassandra took one look at the name on the caller ID and sucked in a breath, a stab of guilt piercing her heart. Ooooo. Her oldest brother. She'd already not picked up on a phone call from her parents. Ya know, waiting until she had great news to share. Tomorrow or something. Which. Probably wasn't helping them. At. All...

 

She picked up, putting an extra lilt of innocence in her voice, “Hiii, Max. How's my favorite Marine doing? Korea treating you well?”

 

A pause. Another lightbulb of realization as she put two and two together, grinning and listening to the angriest tirade Max had unleashed on her for a while.

 

...I'm sorry. I'll definitely call them tomorrow. This isn't just me being dumb.”

 

You're right. Okay. It's definitely part me being dumb. But I had a plan, and it'd be dumb to leave without trying now that the Brick made it this far. All the hours and spare parts we put into it paid off, huh?”

 

Another tirade she happily absorbed with a chuckle, leaning back against the headboard. “Sorry. I'm just so happy you're not being... weirdly too nice. People have just said 'yes' to me whenever I ask them to do things since this happened. It's nice, but if anyone, even you, couldn't call me on my shit...”

 

Yeah, scary thought.”

 

What time is it over there? I'm dealing with awesome weird stuff and have an appointment to see someone over in Novastorm about a job tomorrow. Hopefully. But you...”

 

It was over an hour before she hung up on him, not that much closer to sleep, but she felt... lighter, looser, by the end of it. Screw sleep. That's what caffeine was for.

Edited by Exile_Jeane
grammar shit
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The move to Houston, well it was easy enough to manage with the judicious use of his abilities.  Still he wasn't all that happy about uprooting some of the employees they'd had to.  Certainly they'd maintain an office in Seattle, they had connections there, and it was foolish to abandon them.  They'd need a full East and West coast branch eventually, so with a little wrangling, he'd left most of  his former company there, bringing only those with expertise to get established to Houston.  They'd continue operating as a Novastorm subsidiary, with new equipment, and much better off than before.  

One of the biggest changes was how warm it was in Texas, comparatively.  East of Baytown, and most of Southwestern Louisiana had burned to the ground in the Storm, and was being reclaimed by the marshes.  Such loss of life had hit the economy like a sledgehammer, wiping out dozens of major refineries, ports, not to mention so many lives.   

They'd agreed to do everything legitimately, and as such applied for the various permits and incentives in the normal manner.  The State Economic department still damn near bent over backwards to accommodate them though.  A business run by Stormers, backed by a wealthy tycoon, it would create jobs, and guaranteed to be a shot in the arm for the local economy.   Permits were granted, and construction began quickly.   Inwardly, Ryan imagined that Deezy could probably have made it all herself, but he'd argued that using local companies was important, if they wanted to be seen as part of the community.   

The weather was undseasonably mild, causing few delays, and soon enough their new Headquarters was standing, probably the most sturdy structure in the area, with a unique and superior design.   Hiring staff was mostly handled by those far more accustomed to it, and Ryan busied himself mostly with local transportation jobs, primarily to get the lay of the land.   He spent a fair amount of time meeting local EMS and Law Enforcement, providing emergency transportation.   All in all, his work was great PR.  He didn't interfere with official business, and while not deputized, he was well respected.  Many lives were saved, and this greatly improved how the community viewed Novastorm.

 

He pushed back from his desk, It was time to head home.  He had learned some about running a business, but it was something still better left to those with more knowledge and experience.  He was quite happy with how everything had gone so far.  That party had been a great idea, and things were progressing on all fronts.  Life was good.

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Life sucked.

How she had ended up back home in Texas, in her fire ravaged bedroom in the middle of the crematorium of her past life she had had no idea. It didn't take her long to figure out though. While not a nerd her only real boyfriend, Tanner (they never really dated, but its the closest thing) had been a nerd and read comic books and science fiction so she knew enough to know what teleportation was. And even she had read some of those comics and the game books that Tanner had had in his room. She closed her eyes and thought hard. She was tired but she could see those pages, and read them in her head just as if she were holding the books right in her hands. She could teleport.

Seeing that empowered man at the facility had brought on an anxiety attack of some sort they suspected that she was hiding something and he was there to find out what. The attack had triggered her flight or fight response... she couldn't fight so she flew or in her case teleported.

She hadn't known she could do that. But why on earth did she come here. She was exhausted that trick had taken all she had. She left the house and wandered stumbling in the dark until she found a car that hadn't been completely burn she broke a window and crawled in and curled up on the back seat and fell right to sleep.

 

Her coughing woke her up it was light out, the air was smokey and her throat burned, she was thirsty. After crawling out of the car she looked around and couldn't believe the devastation it was surreal. She needed water and food. She closed her eyes and visualized the HEB where they did their grocery shopping, “That where I want to be,” she said out loud. She opened her eyes and was right there by the same car she had slept in. That pissed her off. Angry she closed her eyes and visualized the store again and suddenly she knew exactly where it was in fact her mind visualized everything about her town the DQ the schools where her parents had worked, down to the last exact detail. She saw exactly where in the HEB she wanted to be where the bottled water was shelved. T hats where I want to go, she thought silently this time, and in her mind she stepped to that place.

She felt a brief flash of intense heat coupled with intense cold and there was a sound as if a block of ice had shattered, then the sensations passed and she opened her eyes. She was in the ruins of the HEB.

Eventually she did find a couple of bottles of water and some cans of soup and a smashed box of wheat thins that weren't ruined by the fire. The town was destroyed and there was no one there except her. She did hear helicopters fling over head although she couldn't see them through the smoke. She didn't want to attract their attention anyways. She listened to them and decided that most of them seemed to be heading west, probably toward Houston. There were a lot of people in Houston, it was big it would be a good place to get lost in. She closed her eyes. She had been to Houston the zoo when she was little and her... the other her had gone there shopping during the holidays with her mother. She visualized that place where they had had those really good stuffed cheeseburgers, it was so real in her memory, she licked her lips she could taste the burger and smell the food. She knew exactly where it was there in relation to where she was now, she stepped. The felt same sensations as before but when she opened her eyes sh was in a burned out wooded area nothing but the dead husks of trees.

She panicked she ran around every which way there was no city no roads no hamburgers. Just burned woods and mud. Out of breath she stopped an fell to her knees she was scared shitless. Where was she? Why hadn't it worked. Temple sobbed for a few moments then she started to calm down she took a swallow of water from the bottle she had saved.

“Okay,” she said out laud, “I know where I was at, and I know where I wanted to go. So all I need to do is know where I am.” Temple closed her eyes and thought of where she had been and where she had wanted to go and with almost no effort at all she knew exactly where she was now. Some eight miles from her home town in the woods I-10 was about a mile north. For Christs sake she had only traveled eight miles what the fuck. She had teleported over a thousand miles last night.

Sh closed her eyes and repeated the whole visualization again and stepped. Eight miles. It was starting to piss her off. She did it again. Eight miles. And again and again until her head hurt and her nose had started bleeding. Each time she only teleported eight miles.

 

It was late that night and after eleven jumps that she finally made it to Houston. Temple was exhausted, hungry, filthy and her head hurt. The restaurant was still there but it was closed for the night. It hurt but she managed to jump into the place by looking through the window. She found her way into the kitchen and was a bit overwhelmed by the size and everything. She ate her fill and packed away some already made stuff for later then feeling refreshed jumped outside again. There was a hotel a a little ways down the road she felt strong enough that she figured she could get a bed, maybe even take a bath. She would need some new clothes too.

 

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Breakfast was important, a small shove to get you rolling into the rest of your day.

 

One of the nicest things about what had happened to Cassandra was how little work it took for her to look 'good enough' to be out among people. A quick shower, a fresh set of clothes, and a dash of toothpaste and deodorant was enough for her peace of mind to go get breakfast. She'd do more for her appointment later, but for now... Eggs. Coffee. A bagel if they had something non-blueberry. She'd managed to get... too little sleep, and those cobwebs needed urgent clearing. There was every chance she'd be meeting with someone who could tell her exactly where to shove her new charisma, and 3.2 semesters worth of classes and a string of short-lived jobs wasn't the strongest resume on the planet.

 

The whine of an air-conditioning unit as it fought to keep the slap of Texas humidity at bay in the hotel lobby brought her back around to full alertness, a half dozen hotel guests pausing in their own meals and conversations as she cleared the corner. Oh right. Other people. Cassandra paused for a heartbeat before smiling and giving a short 'nothing to see here' wave. Yeah. That would work. Totally. She started moving again, grabbing a plate and scooping up some scrambled eggs. Oooo, raisin bagels. Nice.  Two halves of starchy goodness started on their way through the toaster, leaving her a pause in which she couldn't help but be aware of restarting conversations and in one case, the sound of money changing hands.

 

"Fine. You weren't lying about her being here. Stop looking smug about it."

 

Tunk. Tunk. The two bagel slices slid to a halt, toasting having brought the best of their odor out. Cassandra picked a type of coffee almost at random, letting the warmth seep through the paper cup and into her fingers like the promise of good things and better times. One empty table and seat later, she started in on her breakfast. The brunette bombshell occasionally ran a finger over her phone while she ate, lips quirking as she clicked and scrolled through an article on Novastorm, it's two big founders. Get the lay of the land. That *was* a big, new, and beautiful building. Couldn't wait to get a closer look.  

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Temple froze at the end of the hallway right before entering the lobby, the desk attendant that she had glamoured ( she had read that term in a book about fairies) last night wasn't there, instead there was an older, in his mid-forties, man with a well groomed beard and a large belly. Shit. She could smell the food from the breakfast room across the lobby and her own tummy let out a long growl. She had two choices, one, turn around and head back down the hall to the exit there which led into the parking lot and to safe freedom, she could eat something from her bag later, or two, walk across the lobby as if she belonged there and go fill her belly with eggs and bacon. Temple chewed her lip, her tummy growled again.

Hunger won.

 

She looked at the man behind the desk he still hadn't notice her, looked at him hard, his name was Cecil, and he had been manger here for almost five years, he thought of himself as Captain Kirk and the hotel as his Enterprise (Really? That is sad.) //go into the back office that is where you left it and you need to find it you had better go now\\, Temple pushed the directive into Cecil's brain as if it were his own thought, the wannabe starship captain looked up, a wave of confusion passing across his face, he turned and went through the door behind him into the office where he started rummaging through the desk in search of it. Satisfied Temple scooted across the lobby and into the small dining area.

 

Temple slowed as she came into the breakfast room there were seven people eating and one hotel employee who was attending to the waffle maker. The food was set out buffet style along the back wall and she would have to pass all of the diners to get there. She could see the piles of fluffy scrambled eggs the huge platter of bacon and a smaller one of sausage patties, donuts, bagels, fruit, even little boxes of cereal. Her mouth was watering but this was to many people, they couldn't help but notice her filthy clothes. She was about to cut and run when she noticed that most all of them were looking from their food at the one woman nearest the entrance.

Fuck me.

 

Temple instinctive scanned the woman and immediately jerked her mind back and away a jolt of panic. She was an Empowered, a Stormer! WTF!

Breathing heavily, Temple stepped into the room, against her better judgment, and made her way toward the food, the Stormer was engrossed with her own plate and her phone (she wondered where her phone was). From the brief scan she had picked up a plethora of emotions and energy the very attractive woman, she was happy, no giddy, was a better term and was thinking about fireworks and explosions and something called Novastorm. it was a place or a thing maybe both, Temple wasn't sure and either way the woman wasn't paying any attention to Temple.

 

Temple took a tray and put a plate and utensils on it and began filling her plate. Overfilling it actually she intended to take a bunch with her when she left. After finishing loading her tray with two glasses of juice and a glass of milk she turned back to the tables, wanting to get a table close to the door so she could get out as soon as she was done eating. And froze. The empowered woman was watching her.

 

Cassandra was very conscious, as she ate, of the other diners stealing glances at her. For the most part she paid it no mind but when it registered to her that some of them were no longer looking at her but rather past her, Cassandra looked over her shoulder to find what could possibly be more interesting than her. At first all she saw was a kid getting food, but then she began picking out the details. What she saw was a teen aged girl, maybe eighteen probably younger, white, long straight light brown  hair, kind of short and skinny, wearing filthy clothes. That is what really got Cassandra's attention, the clothes. The girl was wearing what looked like some sort of hospital scrubs over a once white t-shirt, they had been beige once now the were dirty brown and the legs of the pants looked as if the girl had crawled through a mud pit. The shoes she wore with no socks, where the kind of slip on tennis shoes you see in prisons or mental institutions. All in all not the normal clothes of a eighteen year old girl staying at a hotel. The girl was also piling way more food onto her tray than she could possibly eat and the attendant didn't seem to notice. By the time the girl finished filling her tray and turned back to the tables Cassandra had straightened up and half turned in her chair to face the girl. The girl froze when she saw Cassandra, her eyes widening in panic.

 

Temple froze. The empowered was looking right at her. her heart raced, everyone in the room had to hear it pounding!

The sound of ice cracking and....

Cassandra saw the panic as the girl froze and sudden there was an audible sound like ice cracking under pressure and the girl vanished...

...Temple was standing back in the hotel room she had slept in still holding the tray. She sat on the bad as she gulped air, her body shaking with fear of being caught.

 

 

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The phone rang, just as he was about to close his laptop.  "Ryan, you need to look at this."  just like that, a message appeared from one of the media managers they'd hired for Novastorm.  There was a link to a video from a hotel, specifically the area where they served a continental breakfast.  It centered mostly on a really attractive young woman, and he wondered briefly why he was being sent this video.   Behind her though, there was another, much scruffier looking teen though.  The attractive teen turned to look at her, and the other teen looked at her, and he could see her panic.  Then he could actually hear the sound of ice cracking and the scruffy young woman vanished.


"it's all over the net boss..."  

Ryan scowled  "There goes their anonymity."  He concentrated, they needed to get there and talk to them.  "I know there's no stopping it, so find out who they both are, discreetly.  Get me the location of the Diner, and I'll go over and see if I can talk to the people there."

"That's a pretty hardcore reaction."

"There are very few people with powers like that, or mine.  I'd like to talk to both of them."

The media manager, an assistant named Danny, nodded.  "i'll get on it boss."
 

Edited by Shameless
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Several minutes later Ryan got a text from Davian - it had the address and several pictures of the exterior and interior of the hotel. I've cleared my own schedule if you'd be willing to pick me up on your way out. We can play Stormer and normal, give the people there the option of who they want to talk to. If we find the teleporter, she might be less panicked by someone that isn't a Stormer. I've got some friends trying to track down who they are before the paparazzi do, but it's going to be a small window before their names are plastered everywhere, most likely.

Davian had let Ryan and Deezy do most of the "fun" work of putting Novastorm together. The merely mortal co-owner had taken care of most of the paperwork and tedious business side of things. He'd used his rather impressive connections to smooth the path behind the scenes on the move to Houston, for example, but the public-relations side of things and the flashy inventions - he left that to Ryan and Deezy. Ryan still couldn't tell if the young man had just adapted well to a post-Storm world and taken the opportunity he'd literally stumbled across with Deezy or if just maybe the quiet silver-spooner actually had deeper feelings than gratitude for his rescuer. Certainly he seemed to have more patience for Deezy's scatter-shot personality and high-energy way of interacting with people. Regardless, Davian was a master of "I know a guy" and right now that might just help the two young women Ryan was trying to track down.

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By the time the crack had finished echoing around the dining area, Cassandra was on her feet, thoughts racing as she processed the look of sheer terror on the younger girl's face. *Terror* at sight of her. The words 'hunted' and 'haunted' chased one another through her brain. The brunette bombshell didn't know anything about Tray Girl beyond that fleeting impression and the shock of her first encounter with another Stormer since becoming one herself... But she wanted to help her. Somehow. The problem being she had no idea how to do that, not new to the area, ignorant of Tray Girl's situation, and caught with 3/4th of a warm bagel literally in hand.

 

She had about six seconds before this situation completely exploded, the covert filming and pictures of her meaning the other girl was sure as sure exposed, the room sucking in a collective breath, invisible sparks racing down the det cord.

 

RIP, warm bagel.

 

"Man, anyone have days like that? Jump out of your skin if people look at you sideways? Freaking Mondays," she joked with a wave, waiting just long enough until she had everyone's attention again, "Hi. Name's Cassandra Durrant, but you can call me 'Bada Boom' if you want to have fun with it. I got powers four days ago, drove from Cali to here to try and get a job, and love questions. Starting with... You."

 

A collective blink, and Cassandra could see what was about to hit her, smiling her million watt smile. Bring it on, world. 

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Temple sat on the bed rocking back and forth for a minute, when she realized she was still holding the tray she set it on the bed beside. As if that act of stetting the tray down was meaningful in and of itself,  she jumped up galvanized and stepped to the door. She paused with her hand on the nob, her mind reached out to see if they were coming down the hall for her. If it was clear, it was her intention to make a run for the parking lot and get lost in the city. But she didn't see any minds coming down the hall instead she saw them still in the breakfast dining room and more importantly were in rapt attention to the one she had seen the empowered woman.

 

Temple resisted the urge to slip into the woman's mind instead backing back to the bed and sitting back down. The woman wasn't coming after instead she was occupying the minds of everyone else, holding them in that room keeping them from coming after Temple. Absentmindedly she reached out and picked up a piece of bacon and started eating it. She was starving and for the moment she was safe, she grabbed her fork and dug in to the food while keeping her minds eyes open for anyone coming. She saw no need to abandon the room right this instance or let the food go to waste, after all she might need her strength at any moment.

 

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Ryan chuckled.  "Thanks for the offer Davian, but showing up with you, a billionaire, isn't exactly going to cause anyone to panic less.  I'll bring Danny,  he was the one to find them and report it in after all.  If they do end up wanting to sign on with us, then I'll be sure to bring you in to meet them like the others, that sound good?"   He had the message typed out, but then considered.  Davian almost never made a request like this, and he had actually helped them out a great deal. 

He erased the message, and typed out " Alright, I'll be there momentarily I'll bring Danny as well."  He opened a gate to Davian who at that point already had the location, so it was easy for Ryan to open yet another gate, outside the hotel.   There were several onlookers that morning when the fabric of space opened up and two men stepped through, both were fairly casually dressed, though their clothes were clean and looked nice nonetheless one was considerably older than the other, and finally a third man, dressed quite nicely, stepped out.   He had the sort of air about him of a man who was well traveled, and lived a comfortable life.

Ryan looked to Danny, who'd never traveled by gate before and he beamed back at the older man.  "That was pretty awesome."   Ryan smiled and Davian chuckled.  "It never gets old, now let's head inside before we draw a bigger crowd."  Ryan nodded, and took point, with Davian behind him and Danny last, heading into the hotel.

 

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"...And that's how I lost my eyebrows for the third time. Good times," Cassandra concluded in response to yet another question, placing her pointer fingers over her eyebrows to help present the visual of the beloved memory, "Who's next?"

 

This was going so well, Operation Make People Forget About Tray Girl working to a 'T' except for some smart ass who made his first question about Tray Girl. A snarky little shrug and 'Don't know. Next question.' had put paid to that, the rest going smoothly. Assuming she got out of here in time for her interview, she was going to *kill* it so hard. Easy peasy.  Her Stormwatch page was going to fill with so many of these stupid little stories, mistakes and small triumphs and terrible minimum wage jobs. Cassandra had always had a problem with the concept of a filter, the only tidbit she'd managed to keep out of this little Q+A her near stint in juvie thanks to Bob. God bless that man for putting up with her, bouncing off the walls without her sibling posse to hold her in check.

 

She slowed mid spiel as three men entered the hotel lobby behind her flock of seven listeners. She recognized first one, and then after a pause, the other. Oh. Wow, the two male founders of Novastorm here. For her? Or maybe for Tray Girl..? One way to find out. "Good Morning, Sirs," the brunette bombshell called with another big wave and a laugh, a young queen holding court in t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, "Are you here for me? I swear I didn't break anything. Today anyway." 

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As she wolfed down the now cool breakfast foods Temple, one part of her mind open to any changes she might detect, felt a shift in the emotions emanating from the nearby dining area. She scanned  that area concentrating hard and felt new minds but she didn't know what was going on. 

 

One of the three new minds was very open and quite in awe of what was going on around it, it was perfect. Of the other two, one was guarded but accessible but temple felt the disturbance like static this was another empowered she believed so she stayed out of his mind. The third was... unlike anything she had felt before, she could get no sense of it at all, it was as if you tried to look inside a window with shutters and heavy curtains. It frightened her.

 

Nibbling on a piece of bacon, she concentrated on that first mind and with ease Temple slipped into Danny's mind and now she could see and hear everything that was going on down the hall as if she were there.

 

Spoiler

Temple has used Mind scan to establish the noetic connections needed and selectively done a few surface skims, she is now employing Access on Danny (ryan's npc) to observe what is going on in the dining area from this point forward

 

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The video didn't do Cassandra justice.  He knew she was attractive, but seeing her in person, well it wasn't all that easy to remain cool and collected.  He could definitely tell how she had the other onlookers completely eating from the palm of her hand.  her attention turned to the trio of them, he smiled.  "Hello Miss Durrant.  You're quite perceptive."  Danny was in awe of her even moreso, and he wondered just how his two bosses weren't.

"We came to speak to you both, though I think it will be harder to reach the other young woman."  Ryan smiled and Davian chuckled.  "Indeed.  If you like we can talk here, though I would say going somewhere abit more private is best.   We can go to our new headquarters and speak there if you like as well."

 

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Confidence, Cassandra, Confidence! 

 

The cheery little mantra chased off the unhelpful flurries of concern and anxiety sparked off by Mr. Hawke's words. She wasn't dressed for an interview. Her pitiful resume with it's shotgun blast worth of short-lived jobs was back in her room. And Tray Girl, whatever her story, clearly had no desire for causal interest, let alone Official Interest. Still. When pushed off a ledge into a lake, no good screaming about it.

 

"Sounds good, Mr. Hawke, Mr. Layton. I have an 0830 with Novastorm, but if you want me now, who am I to argue?" she replied with just the tiniest bit of uncertainty in her luminous smile, "If you're talking about Miss Too Much Breakfast though, definitely seemed like she could use more time and space until she's ready to face the rest of Monday. Best to give it to her, right?"

 

Her eyes flicked from her hopeful future employers to scan her audience to push her point, a core of protective steel beneath the seductive honey of her tone and body language.   

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Ryan didn't frown, though he'd hoped the other young woman would emerge as well.  He could feel that something wasn't quite right, but nothing more.  He made his way over to the front desk.  "There's a young woman staying here.  This card is for her.  Please give it to her if she asks."  He withdrew a Card with the Novastorm Logo, and his own contact information, as well as the address to the building.    Danny saw him do this, and nodded.  it wasn't pressuring anyone, but it was some way to allow her to make contact on her own.

Ryan came back to the group and nodded.  "Alright then."    He opened another portal back to HQ, and gestured for the others to go through.

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Davian had paused almost mid-step once he caught sight of Cassandra, staring at her openly for several seconds before being able to look away. A small frown halfway flashed across his expression but quickly smoothed back into his usual professional cool.

He stepped over next to Ryan and spoke quietly. "Why don't you take Ms. Durrant back to Novastorm. Maybe introduce her to Deezy and start the intake process? I'd like to look around here for a little bit, see if the other young woman is still around." He gave Ryan a smile, "I'll text you and see if you're free to get us home or we'll just take the next flight, either way. Is that fine for you?"

 

Ryan nodded, and then let Danny and Cassandra head into the portal first, before following, trusting Davian to handle this, wondering exactly why he'd come along.

 

Davian stood quietly for a moment, thinking through how to go about this and finally turned to back to the front desk clerk. "I'd like to reserve a room for the night." 

The older man blinked at the man far too many wealth brackets above ever staying in a hotel like this and frowned. "Ehh. . .why?" he asked, just a touch of suspicion in his voice. 

 

"For the ambiance," Davian retorted with an equal (though small) amount of testiness. He pulled out his wallet and laid a handful of hundred dollars on the counter, both knowing and not caring that it was several times the cost of a night's stay. The man grunted took the money, and made up a hotel key for him - one of the rooms closest to the rackety ice machine on the second floor and the busy street out front. He'd take the bribe, but Suitboy wasn't going to get a good room while he was being an ass about his money. Slim, manicured fingers flicked the key card into the breast pocket of the suit and, excuse now in hand, the wealthy businessman headed off deeper into the hotel.

Several minutes later, Temple heard a soft knock on the door. "Can we talk?" Davian asked from the other side of the door, his voice gentle and pitched not to carry in the hallway.

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Temple had ridden Danny for a few minutes and observed as the one man left a card and had a brief conversation with Cecil. Then when the man she had been unable to get a clear scan told the card guy to take her ride and the hot chick back to this Novastorm, she realized he would be staying. 

 

Card guy did something and the portal opened up and as they walked into it she slipped out of Danny and into Cecil. Then the well dressed scary guy gave Cecil a lot of money, who in turn gave him a key and watched as the smug bastard walked away into the Hall off the lobby.

 

Temple left Cecil and was back in her room, she closed her eyes and opened the ones in her head.

Shit. Fuck.

 

In her mind she could see the long hallway right outside her room and coming down the hall without pausing was Mr Money-bags. 

 

Temple opened her eyes an the hallway vanished. She stood up and looked around her first instinct was to step away but where? She was afraid she would end up back home in her burned out bedroom.

 

16 minutes ago, Malachite said:

Temple heard a soft knock on the door. "Can we talk?" Davian asked from the other side of the door, his voice gentle and pitched not to carry in the hallway.

 

Temple stared at the door. She should Jump but where. She stepped to the nightstand and grabbed the night-lamp, picked it up and yanked the cord from the wall then holding it behind her back went to the door.

 

She opened it just a crack, enough to see the rich guy, she kept the lamp behind her back but ready to swing it if she had too. "Who are you? What do you want?"

 

 

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A portal.

 

She knew he could do that, but seeing him do it was entirely different from reading about it or watching a video. And being expected to just... walk through it from here to there gave her just enough pause that the young man accompanying Mr. Hawke offered an encouraging smile of his own before stepping through, an example. The brunette bombshell exhaled and squeezed one hand into a fist, forcing a melodic chuckle to escape her lips. She gave a final mock salute to her captive audience of hotel goers, "You've all been great. Enjoy the free Likes."

 

Silhouetted against the rift, Cassandra stepped through and into a room empty save for the young man.

 

Giving the room a once over and double-checking that all her bits were still attached far as she could tell, she crossed her arms over her chest, "So now what? I'd love it to be as simple as 'Ta da, I'm here.' and I now have a job, but I don't think I'm that great, thank goodness. I'm afraid I didn't catch your name, Mr..?"   

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He put his hands in his pockets and, had he not been wearing a suit that cost more than the a year's salary for the vast majority of the country, he would have looked almost endearing. He smiled. "My name is Davian Layton and all I want to do is talk. You seemed startled and scared when you ran into Ms. Durrant, so I thought talking with someone that wasn't a Stormer might be easier."

 

Temple's eyes narrowed. "You aren't a Stormer?" she asked as she tilted her head.

 

"Just rich," he said with a self-deprecating grin and a little shrug.

 

Her eyes cut to look past him down the hall, then she swung the door open and stepped back away from the door. "You better come in before someone sees you." She waited for him to step in and closed the door. "If you ain't empowered how'd you know where I was and why can't I see in your head?"

 

His eyes widened just a fraction at the last part of that, but he addressed the first part when he spoke. "I was knocking on most of the doors. My room is just a few down and since I knew you wouldn't be there, I figured it was a good place to start. And. . .uh, you can see in people's heads? Telepathically?"

 

She sniffed as she moved to the other side of the room putting the bed between them. "Okay, I guess your telling the truth." She scratched her neck unconsciously, "Yeah I can do things, since the fire. You didn't answer me. Why's your head all fuzzy. I ain't seen that before." Something about him put her at ease.

 

He shrugged again and leaned against the wall with the door so she could have as much space as she wanted from him in the room. "No clue. We don't have a telepath at Novastorm yet, or at least none of the Stormers working with us have said they can do that. Maybe some people are just harder to read?" 

 

He thought about it for a moment. "My family is. . .eh, well, those soap operas you see on tv? The ones about rich people doing awful things each other, repeatedly? Not the random murders or monologues, but all the intrigue and corporate politics are pretty spot-on. You learn to pull in. To keep yourself as untouchable and unreadable as you can. Maybe that extends to telepathy, too? I mean, I know most of the corporate world is both throwing parties and having nervous breakdowns over the fact that telepathy is an actual thing now."

 

She mirrored him, leaning back against the the wall on her side beside the heavily curtained window.  "It was a thing in books so maybe it was always a thing just not many had it? I mean someone knew what it was or it wouldn't have a name." She suddenly realized that her clothes were filthy and wished he hadn't seen her like this. She looked sideways at the TV on it's stand, anywhere but at him. "Ms. Durrant, that was the woman in the breakfast nook? She 's empowered, that's why i was scared. I panicked - thought she was after me. What's that Novastorm thing? And who was that guy that brought you and Danny here and took them back to there?"

He noted the use of Danny's name and tucked away a whole filing cabinet's worth of questions, worries, and speculations in regards to telepaths running loose in the world. "We've named thousands of things that aren't real. We're just using the word that fits the abilities people have now. Or yeah, something like the Storm or powers have happened before and we still have leftover knowledge from really long ago. I don't know that it really matters for us today." He shrugged again: there was so much uncertainty in the post-Storm world, but more possibilities, too.

"Ms. Durrant is one of the post-Storm Stormers. Speaking of words, we really need better ones for people with powers," he said with another wry grin. "And the man that brought Danny and I here is Ryan Hawke, one of my business partners and Stormer with the ability to create wormholes. Portals. Novastorm is the business we run. We're recruiting Stormers, post-Stormers, and pretty much anyone we can get our hands on that wants to see how much better we can make the world with all these new powers people have. Our third partner, Ms. Klatta, is a Stormer that's superhumanly smart and can literally make things out of air. She makes things, Ryan gets them where they need to be, and I make sure the paperwork gets filled out on all of it."

 

Temple smiled back at him then looked away again and blushed, she chewed her lip, "I don't have any place to go," she stated matter of factly.

 

Just as matter-of-factly he said, "Lots of people in that position these days. We can get you set up at an extended stay hotel until you pick out an apartment, if you'd like." He crossed his arms and chuckled, "Maybe I should put buying an apartment complex on the budget. Houston's pretty full right now, the parts of it still standing. That's actually not a bad idea. We could buy up the wrecked blocks, build up-"

 

He stopped himself, flushing just a little bit as he realized he'd slipped his CEO tie on mid-conversation. He cleared his throat and put his hands back in his pockets. "We can get you a room at a hotel or if you don't want to do that, I do have a couple of guest bedrooms at my house in Houston you could use until you're up on your feet again. Your choice."

 

She looked around at the room, staying in a hotel with a lot of people did not appeal to her in the least. "Okay," she said taking a deep breath and committing, "but I want to stay with you, not a hotel."

 

He pulled out his phone and sent a quick text off to Ryan, asking for a portal when the Stormer had a moment. He held out an arm to her, looking dashing in the suit and the gesture. "Welcome to Novastorm."

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As Ryan followed the two of them, the gate closed behind him, and they emerged in the main lobby of the headquarters, and the few who were there looked up, and unlike other times their gazes didn't go back to what they'd been doing, being captivated by Cassandra, more than the appearance of one of the three founders.
 

"My name is Ryan Hawke, miss Durant."  He gestured to the other man there, and nodded. "This is Danny Melancon, He's one of our media managers here.  It was Danny who let me know about you, and the other young woman."
 

Danny smiled and seemed abit embarrassed at the attention of his boss.  "Mr. Hawke, Miss Durant, perhaps we should go to one of the offices.."  Ryan looked around and noticed the gazes of the others, who after being caught by one of the "Bosses" went back to work still stealing glances at Cassandra.   
 

"Indeed,  Let's do that, I can conduct Cassandra's interview, since Stacy's out of the office.   I'll see if Deezy's available too."  He looked to Cassandra, "If you'll follow me."
 

He took out his phone and shot a message to Deezy.  "Hey I've got a potential new hire for us, a new Stormer.  We're going to talk in Office 3-A on the third floor, if you'd like to come meet her feel free."
 

He looked to Cassandra  "are you still hungry?  I know your breakfast was interrupted.  If you like Danny can go get something for you."   The young media manager nodded.  It was somewhat beneath his job, but it was a chance to get in good with Cassandra, which outweighed pretty much everything.

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"Sorry for any headaches in advance then, Mr. Melancon. I could definitely use another bagel. Surprise me. And some coffee with *a little* sugar if you have it," she replied with a grateful nod and brushing a  rogue lock of dark hair behind one ear. Managers didn't fetch coffee. They had interns and stockroom monkeys for that. So she'd show respect for that position. God knew she might, no definitely would, be causing those headaches if she got hired. Know thyself and thy enemy and all that.

 

Danny left with all the vigor of the inspired, the senior Stormer leading her through the halls and into office 3-A. Everything was new and functionally expensive, money well spent on presentation. Cassandra felt badly underdressed and under prepared, but the slack-jawed pause of surprise from anyone who crossed their paths buoyed her up and into a very, very nice leather chair as Mr. Hawke did the same across from her. He looked cool and composed despite her, well, everything, but being one of the first Stormers and have having seen what he had apparently seen would help with that.

 

He broke the brunette bombshell out of her train of thought with a question, a reminder that this *was* an interview, "So, Miss Durrant. What exactly are your abilities?" 

 

"Well, I'm very... obvious all the time for one, at least in person. And I can blow things up, either far away once per shot or over and over up close  when I focus. Got about a dozen shots in the tank before it starts to hurt," Cassandra answered with a little 'pew pew finger guns' gesture up in the air. 

 

"How is your control of that?" he followed up, tone flat.

 

"Pretty good? I haven't practiced that much, so I've been tossed on my b... back a few time during my shows. But I've been working with fireworks since I was a kid and have 26 units worth of an Engineering degree under my belt to help out. No one's been hurt except me. It's just more boom, right?"

 

There was a pause, just long enough to make Cassandra sweat a little and smile fade before Ryan's next question speared out at her, "Hmmm. What do you want to do with your life?"

 

Oh. That was the big one, one she had been thinking about. A lot. "...Uh. Love what I do and be able to make a living at it without hurting people, I guess. It's been four days since this happened to me, and... and... Yeah. The plans I had before about doing something with fireworks or pyrotechnics once I had a degree under my belt so that I'd be hired? Done. Gone. Boom. This is me flying by the seat of my pants in front of an explosion and hoping to hit the ground running," Cassandra finished with a flush in her cheeks, and the breathless realization a bit too late that maybe that was too much honesty, "...Not-that-I'm-complaining-or-anything-about-this-opportunity-I-swear!" 

 

Another pause as she hoped she hadn't blown it. 

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"Would you like to continue working on your Engineering degree?   It's something you started, and I'm certain we can get you on at one of the local colleges.  I understand if you choose not to, of course, but It is certainly an option.  As part of your compensation Novastorm would be happy to foot the bill."  Ryan said with a smile.  "Though if I am being honest, it might be best to do as much as you can online, as you said, you do stand out."

"You mentioned using your abilities actually hurting after a point, could you describe that in abit more detail?"

"I'd also like to see a demonstration of your abilities, though that can of course wait for now.  We don't exactly have the facilities here for that, and it is a brand new building."

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A quick frown of annoyance crossed Cassandra's face at the mention of finishing her degree, the tedium of it. The frown lingered at the need for doing her stuff online. She wasn't intending on hiding from this, much as she knew she need to take steps to keep herself anchored. No, she wasn't going to hide. It wasn't like she was pretty *and* helpless.

 

"It is a big, beautiful building, Mr. Hawke, probably harder than most for even me to bring down," the brunette bombshell agreed with a much more happy smile, pushing the thought behind her, "And I'd love to give a demo in something other than an empty field behind a rest stop. All I know is that I'm very good at blowing things up, not the kind of numbers you'd want to stake a controlled demolition on. As for the pain..."

 

She held up both hands as if she was holding an invisible ball, gradually bringing her fingers together until they met, "There's this... no, that's a stupid metaphor... Oh, duh... I can feel this star in my chest, and every time I shoot off a blast, it gets smaller and dimmer and colder until it doesn't want to anymore. I can squeeze past that point, bad as that feels, but I have a feeling that would be a bad idea to go much deeper. You're the expert compared to me on that point."

 

Cassandra left the question unspoken, curiosity dancing in her eyes.  

Edited by Exile_Jeane
Post was a failed concept that didn't work out and shouldn't have ever been. It happens.
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Ryan hadn't meant to upset her, merely pointing out options, but it was clear she meant for that part of her life to be over.    That was her choice, and he'd let it be.  Still, if her mind changed he'd make good on it.

He nodded at her explanation.  "Yes, I know that sort of feeling, I was just curious because you mentioned pain.   I've not actually used my powers so much it hurt before, thus my question there."

Just then his phone chimed.  "Pardon me, that's Davian."

He took it out and smiled.  "Well, never let it be said that the man doesn't have his ways.  It seems he and the other young woman will be joining us."

Ryan opened a Portal to where Davian and Temple were, and it was at that point that Danny returned, with far more food and drinks than just one person  could eat, having heard of the prodigious appetites of some of the various stormers.   "Expecting someone else?" he asked, wondering just what was happening now.

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Cassandra's attention was torn between giving Danny a delighted grin at the sight of more breakfast, yes, including bagels, and the quantum miracle of people crossing into here from there without, technically speaking, going through the space in-between. But it was just *who* the billionaire brought through in his wake that brought a real twinkle of relief into her eye, half turning in her seat to face the flighty young woman. She didn't seem any worse off than she had before, so there was that. Hopefully it would all work out.

 

"Hey. Sorry about scaring you earlier," she apologized, "I just have loud powers to go with my loud personality. No one bothered you after your impressive disappearing act, I hope. At least that you didn't mind bothering you. Oh. Right. Never got your name. You can call me Cassie."

 

She let it hang at that, give the younger woman the choice of how to respond, shifting half her attention back to Danny and his bounty of food and drink. Choices, choices... 

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