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Sean Cassidy

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Sean Cassidy last won the day on July 24 2017

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  1. Sean Cassidy

    AWS: Mind Games

    Sean's lips twitched at Jeane's substitution for Abel's name. The substitution was seamless. Reading the big blonde's micro-expressions and body language, there was no struggle or hesitation in using the new name. Smooth... and disturbing. As disturbing as Abel's ability to capture a mental snapshot of someone. She glanced a question at Abel, who nodded and sent the technical specs on the recording devices and their implementation to her phone, while she collected one of the recorders for the case to give it a physical examination. Seems like there were some definite restrictions that prevented them from become a sure death insurance policy. The mental snapshots couldn't be used to overwrite a different individual's mental identity, they didn't seem compatible. It was like the mental snapshot was unique software that would only function on a specific piece of hardware, that it, the identity's original body. Looking at it, she wasn't even sure a cloned body would be acceptable - it might be genetically identical, but the neural pathways and development might not be established in a sufficiently similar pattern. Which did leave a concern that is one was mentally/psychically altered to too wide of an extent, might the mental snapshot not be able to be imposed? Something to consider. "Physical enhancements and psychic enhancements seem to be the most common quantum expressions, Jeane," Sean offered, pursing her delectable lips in thought. "And considering what Sara has suggested, psychic capability likely isn't limited to Keys. Interesting that you ask about how long it would take to someone to train others to be psionically active. Once Sara made the comment, I've been musing on how to develop a training program or regimen to do just that." Her lips curved in a half smile as she nodded at Abel. "Perhaps not this, exactly, but mental communication, telekinesis, psychic defenses and the like. If unlocking as a Key isn't feasible and becoming psionically active is, I'd like to see the opportunity being available. The more enhanced individuals there are, the less likely we'll see an us-versus-them scenario. Plus, there would be more people able to detect and disable psychic chicanery, which I think we all believe would be a good thing. I would conjecture there are few, if any, of Abel's power, but subtle use of more limited abilities could present their own problems, especially if they go unnoticed." The gorgeous genius gestured at Abel. "Is it as easy for you to change someone's perception of their own name - or other personal details - as it is for you to change their perception of someone else's?"
  2. Feeling Sara's eyes on her behind, Sean gave it a bit of extra wiggle as she rooted around the fridge. The Cornucopia processors were convenient and efficient, making food vastly more accessible to all, but that didn't mean people won't stop using fresh ingredients and making meals for themselves. There was something very satisfying in making a good meal with your own hands for you and others to enjoy. Sean turned back to the island with six bell peppers, two each of yellow, green, and red, and some chicken breasts in hand, along with some mushrooms and a few other vegetables. She danced about the kitchen, gathering up spices, a bag of orzo, and getting out a pot and pan. She had always enjoyed cooking, even moreso now with an expanded perception for tastes and flavours. Chicken and orzo stuffed peppers, making enough there'd be leftovers for another meal. "I more than kind of like you being you," Sean replied, playfully waggling her brows at Sara. Her hands flowed over the ingredients with a pianist's grace, preparing the meal with casual, eye-catching artistry. "Perspectives change, they should, as someone grows, matures, experiences... more. I know mine have, and it's not just being because I'm 35.5 centimeters taller and wear a bra now." She shrugged, raising her arms from cutting the chicken and looking down at herself. "But I still feel like me. This is me. I don't feel more like myself when I damp down the power. Perhaps it's because I don't go back to the boy I used to be, but remain a woman. Just as tall, for that matter." She sighed, lips curved in a small smile as she went back to preparing supper. "It's another balancing act, I suppose, where we each have to find our individual equilibrium. I might feel different if my powers and capabilities took the drastic jump yours did, or develop to that level." She pursed her lips, considering how her own powers and capabilities might expand and evolve. What she possessed now were largely just remarkable enhancements over natural human attributes and capabilities. At the minimum, her awareness would likely grow more fully realized in a manner like Sara's. "And while I know what you mean, don't start thinking of yourself when you 'power-up' as something other. It's still you in there, even if it's more complicated. I want to know you that way too."
  3. Sean Cassidy

    AWS: Mind Games

    "You are a control group, Jeane," Sean said, pursing her lips as she recovered from her surprise at Sara's revelation about the psychic potential of humanity. A potential that might serve everyone to pursue. There were already issues between Keys and the Locked. At least being able to attempt developing psychic disciplines could help ease the disparity. "With average mental defenses, by your own words, Abel can better determine the effort required to penetrate those with greater or more developed defenses. Also, you may be able to develop some psychic fortitude of your own in the process." Sean squeezed Sara's hand in return, flashing her an understanding grin, but there was just a hint of tightness to it. At times, it was vaguely disconcerting when Sara revealed something that was previously unknown to most or all. Mostly due to the fact that doing so before hadn't been in Sara's... suite of capabilities. Sean wouldn't lie to herself - she felt a small stab of envy that Sara's awareness seemed to have surpassed her own, even as she thrilled to share it with her. Sean turned her penetrating turquoise gaze on Abel, perhaps her most long-time friends, a faint frown gracing her perfect lips. "I have to tell you, Abel, I find the prospect of someone tampering with my mind more worrisome than facing a lethal threat." Her mind was her greatest asset. The idea of someone changing it, changing who she was, who she thought she was, and maybe without her even realizing it... Sara could feel Sean's shudder through their linked fingers. While she didn't have particularly developed psychic defenses, her expanded and enhanced mental functions did provide her with a formidable will and mental discipline. "But you're right, people with powers such as these are out there." She nodded at Sara. "Most than we initially expected, it seems. And we'll need someone who can counter and overcome them in kind. If someone needs to be Xavier or Jean Grey, I'd rather it was you, Abel." Sean smirked wryly. "Though if you go crazy, we'll have to put you down, and I'm not going to be able to not considering contingencies for if you do." She took a deep breath, folded her arms beneath her breasts, then nodded firmly. "So despite every part of me not wanting to do this, I'll help you practice and develop your terrifying mental mojo. But God help you if you don't put everything back the way it was."
  4. "I'll admit, it certainly offers some intriguing possibilities," Sean said with amused wistfulness. It was her turn to glance at the bed with a faint grin. She had manifested as a fantasy woman, though she had grown from that initial, oh so very brief, spurious desire, and had a fantasy woman's libido. She had missed the intimacy they had shared when Sara had been depowered - it hadn't been the same between then with Sara depowered and rendering her own quantum expression quiescent. "Possibilities we should definitely explore." Sara had changed, in a way. Had become more herself. There was a new ease to her, a self-assurance and self-possession she hadn't had since before being hit by Apollo's shenanigans. No, she hadn't had it even before both of them had been empowered. Sara was sharing the room with Sean as her fully enhanced self, and while there was fondness and desire in her eyes, Sara seemed completely comfortable with herself, powered down, and the dynamic between them. There was no shame, guilt, or sense of unworthiness from her. It helped ease the guilt Sean had felt when she had been with Sara before, one empowered, the other not and made Sara all the more attractive and endearing to her. She flashed Sara a warm smile, then looked down at her hands, the breasts tenting her unbuttoned blouse, the long legs stretched before her. She studied their sublime perfection of form and function, then deeper, at the tissues, tendons, and bones forming them, the activity and division of cells. Cells that divided in flawless replication. She had studied it before and conjectured barring outside influence, her lifespan was indefinite. Her grin turned into a musing moue. If their powers truly were a reflection of who and what they were, Sean wondered what that said about herself, not for the first time. "I suppose we'll all have to find our own personal way to handle the growing energies within us when that limit approaches us," she murmured, then pursed her lips in though, considering Kia and her planar displacement of mass. "Some, like you, and possibly Kia may have already found their way." Sean swung her legs around from the end of the couch and stood up, then walked over to the bedroom area. In passing, she shot Sara an amused smile, an eyebrow arched as she tied back her hair - hair that was longer than Sara's now - in a ponytail. "And since when did you develop such Nerd-cred, that your id made you a comic-book alternate body to hold all the power?" Sean snorted in a light giggle. "It wasn't as impressive a transformation sequence as Sailor Moon, but it was your first time. I'm sure you'll get better at it. Speaking of which, I presume your other powers have also been enhanced, or evolved. Anything change in more drastic or unexpected ways? What about the voice of the noosphere, the collective consciousness of the Earth you hear?" By the bed, turned halfway away from Sara, Sean changed from her dress clothes into something casual to bum around the house, yoga pants and a red t-shirt adorned with the lightning bolt of the Flash. Then she wondered over to the kitchen area to prepare supper. She finished her Pepsi, crushed the can between her fingers and tossed it into the reclamation unit. "Anything in particular you'd like, babe?" Sean asked, rooting through the fridge and pulling things out and setting them on the isle.
  5. Sean sauntered into her home, slipping off her suit jacket and tossed it onto the coat rack with negligent grace. Gliding through the open design barn-come-bungalow towards the modest kitchen, she undid several buttons on her blouse and with deft motions, removed her bra and flicked it into the clothes hamper. Her buxom, majestic figure hardly seemed to notice the lack of support. She pulled a can of Pepsi from the fridge, cracked it open with a thumb and took a long pull. It had been a hectic and trying several days since the confrontation in Canada. Preparations to recall their families from the off-world site, multiple debriefings, and an emergency session of the UN. Catching up on world events she had missed while dealing with the situation posed by Devin and his own investigation. Explaining to Laurie what Devin had done and why. The lie on Laurie's had been obvious to anyone when she had said she didn't give a fuck. She'd let Laurie have her tears in private and decided not to tell her about Devin and Lilly. She wasn't physically tired, but she was emotionally and mentally exhausted. Devin had negated Pandora and Sara had given Apollo an ultimatum, while the rest of the Irregulars had done little more than slow him down and he was unlikely to face justice for his actions, especially since they still needed what he knew. The President had praised them again and given them accolades, but it felt empty to Sean. Sara was empowered once more, but Sean had had nothing to do with it, and she wasn't even sure Sara could be properly classified as a Key any longer. General Pryor had explained his and Devin's actions, but it felt no less a betrayal to her. Devin. His and Pryor's actions had frayed the trust and faith she had in those that should have been their allies. Perhaps in her friends. With Devin gone, she couldn't congratulate him on the audacity of his place, apologize for thinking the worse of him - even if it had been his intention - telling him he had been right, or thank him for his sacrifice. She wouldn't discount ever seeing him again, but... She could still smell him in her home, him and the girl Tawni, and Pryor in his armor. She wouldn't ever get to punch him in the face for the actions he'd taken and the words he'd said, telling him he'd been wrong. They had won, yet it felt like she had lost. She snorted with self-recrimination as she sprawled out onto the couch, prying off her shoes with her feet, crossing her long legs, and resting her heels on the far armrest. She'd called Devin friend, if sometimes reluctantly, but she couldn't seem to find any tears for his loss, and only a little bit of regret, and she didn't like what that suggested about herself. In acting the part of a megalomaniacal douche-canoe, Devin had reminded her days of her days being bullied as an underdeveloped boy with an overdeveloped mouth, despite how far she had come since then. Devin hadn't been her worse bully, but he had always had the uncanny ability to dig under her skin to get a rise out of her. Sara had followed Sean in, noticing the frustrated tension in the set of her shoulders and the faint frown on her lips with everything weighing down on her. The impossibly beautiful woman seemed like she shouldn't fit such a modest place as the converted barn, a mix of ultra-modern and rustic sensibilities, all AMP-glass and aged hardwood. The sky outside was nearly the same colour as Sean's hair, her tanned complexion hard under the fading light, but her turquoise eyes bright and penetrating. Sean tilted her head to glance at Sara from the bed, who could see the plethora of questions in her gaze, the bracing for answers she may not like but determined to hear them all the same. "So..." Sean took a sip of her can of Pepsi, "There's so much I need to know, babe, but let's start with this - when you are all powered up, is it still you, or does another set of... prerogatives take over?"
  6. "She's not someone we need to fight, Jeane," Sean assured the towering blond, placing a hand on her shoulder in passing as she began to approach the being floating before them. Sean's rich, melodious voice contrasted sharply with the devastated ruin of the valley. "Sara is my girlfriend. I think the danger is passed, Jeane, we won't need to hide at the base. We'll be reunited with our families and yes, be able to get cleaned up and any other necessities." Sean's modesty was barely retained by the straps of her tactical harness and the shredded remains of her bodysuit, revealed tanned flesh reddened and blistered, yet her heart-wrenching beauty was undiminished. Incongruously, her multicoloured haired seemed untouched, flowing in glistening waves past her shoulders, a smudge of dirt on her cheeks highlighting the flawless perfection of her face. "You'll have to do better than that, Apollo," Sean told the fallen god firmly, but her eyes remained fixed on Sara. She was a blinding figure of pure, writhing Quantum energy - it was like looking into the sun, but Sean couldn't look away, wouldn't look away, though she could discern nothing more than the coruscating light despite her super-human perceptions. "We can't trust anything Pandora told us. You're going to have to tell us what her and her... siblings plans were for us, how events have been manipulated." Sean felt more than saw Apollo power down, though physically he didn't appear any different beyond seeming relatively uninjured. The big black man shrugged again. "I can do that," he rumbled in apparent good cheer. "If you all are strong enough to hear it." He felt nearly every eye turn on him, many of them Vanguards', more than one set Chimera's, and smirked. "I guess you are." <It would take more effort and resources to try and contain Apollo than it is worth,> Sean sent to Abel, knowing the concern he would feel. <And it seems Pandora was the true villain. With her... disposed off, he may actually be of aid to us now.> Sean was a storm of conflicting emotions. The feeling of betrayal from Pryor and Devin hadn't lessened in the least, but she couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder at Devin's audacity and success in neutralizing Pandora. It was with bitter regret that Apollo was likely to escape justice for all that he had done, but there were more like Pandora arriving. And while Sean was disappointed that she hadn't had a hand in helping Sara, she was ecstatic that Sara seemed no longer in danger, if not in a manner Sean had expected or theorized. As though the threat Apollo posed was no longer, entity composed of star-stuff and primordial energy was suddenly wreathed in crackling quantum lightning then flared with a brilliant flash so bright Sean had to close her eyes against the sight, and suddenly, it was Sara again. An almost mundane Sara with short, messy blond hair, dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket, her combat boots unlaced. Sean glided closer, so close she had to look down to meet her eyes. From a being a pure quantum energy, Sara now seemed completely human, a seventeen or eighteen year old woman, just about to graduate high school rather than someone who may have just saved the world. She didn't have the uncanny symmetry most Keys possessed, her heart beat to a human rhythm, where her node should have been was a tiny, almost vestigial, lump of inert flesh like a benign tumor and was no longer drawing in any and all energy in proximity. It was not active on the quantum spectrum at all. Sean's arms went around Sara's waist and drew her close, pressing her forehead against the shorter girl's for a long moment, then gave her a tender, lingering kiss on the lips. "I was worried when I saw you and we started to fight Apollo," Sean whispered with heart-wrenching emotion she didn't bother to conceal. "I couldn't figure out how to save you and stop him and..." She inhaled deeply, drawing in the scent of her. "I hope you know what happened to you and can explain it because I can't right now."
  7. Betrayal. Failure. Solutions eluding in too many things when everything else came so easily to her. Sean could feel her heart hardening against trust and hope even as she fought against the lost with resigned determination. Apollo had shown himself to be a false god, as well as false - They had to assume Pandora has as well - and there was no else here to face him. The world seemed to slow as her thought processes sped up beyond digital capabilities. The strop of the helicopter blades was a low, deliberate thrum in the distance. Long shadows cast by sunlight and the red spear of tight, quantum lightning danced languidly across the ground. Sean could feel the tingle of Jeane's energy spear against her skin as she flowed around to flank the dark-skinned Apollo under Sage's assault. She could see every twitch and flex of tendon and muscle beneath that black, flawless flesh as Apollo stepped between or around the flaming trees Abel had thrown at him, letting some break and splinter against invulnerable hide and slapped others aside. With inhuman dexterity and strength, the alien creature redirected several of the missiles towards the tall beauty. They seemed to almost float in the air despite moving the speed of sound several times over. She didn't have Apollo's strength, but she slipped between them like an ephemeral dancer. One evading stepped landed her right in front of another tree, its velocity turning it into a giant, fire-hardened spear and in a motion too quick for the human eye to follow, Sean had her plasma-blade in her hand, like a piece of the sun itself, and cleaved the spear in half lengthwise. She was not surprised by the second giant flaming spear following the second as she leapt upon it, more graceful than a gazelle, lighter than a feather, ran down it in three flashing strides, then flew through to air to engage the feigned Sun God himself. She'd had preferred allowing him to make the first move, but the scene had been set. Instants mattered and she'd give them to her companions. Her sunblade of magnetically-constrained photons flickered as she pressed Apollo, striving to step him back, as she eluded counters with almost prescient fluidity and balletic precision, every step eye-catching and flowing into the next. It would be easy to believe she was trying to end him, but it was an illusion, each strike a test, as Savant watched and analyzed, seeking a flaw in his form, in his responses, looking for a weakness to exploit. Apollo, by his and Pandora's assertions, was hundreds of millennia old. After that much time, raw, brute force wouldn't defeat him, defeat him and Pandora and their arriving siblings, though it might weaken him. More would be needed, something other. Hypotheses and conjectures flashed around her mind faster than lightning. Jeane's great red blade shriving the quantum energy from the Bear. The pulse that had depowered Sara... There had to be a way. Infinite gears of though turned, churning away as she engaged with a being that could destroy her in a blow. "You have seen a measure of us, Apollo," Savant said with melodious, cool condemnation. "We can grow and evolve. Whereas you and Pandora, you are stagnant... You are apparently unable to grow beyond what you are, what you've always been. Too bad we've only seen the truth too late."
  8. Sean Cassidy

    Sean Cassidy

  9. Sean noticed Apollo's appearance even before Pete pointed. Her eyes glittered but her expression was smooth and calm, despite Apollo appearing like a dark skinned Dr. Manhattan. There might have been an innocuous reason for him arriving in such a way, but Sean doubted it, not naked and with the quantum roiling in his eyes. Could Ronin have suborned him as well in his plans like he had General Pryor? Initially, Sean would have doubted it, but now... "Interesting Pete," Sean murmured, her turquoise eyes almost glowing as she focused on the quantum spectrum, seeking a hint of what stirred inside Apollo or what his appearance portended, assessing him for any sense and direction of threat. "You aren't the only I've heard talking like that with the advent of Keys, and I'd like to talk more about it with you, but I think it might be best if you took the opportunity to head back home. Not sure how friendly he's going to be." Her ability to trust was rapidly falling, not that Apollo's appearance was engendering trust or security. Guildchat was down and Sean presumed Apollo had senses as near as sharp as her, if not greater, so even whispers would be a give away. She caught the eyes of her companions with a warning glance and flicked her eyes, suggesting they begin spreading apart so they would be less likely to all be caught in a single attack. She doubted she fooled Apollo, but it's what she had at hand. Sean glided fluidly forward and to one side, and arched an unassuming brow towards Apollo, while ready to explode into action, calculating potential moves and countermoves an ever escalating series ahead. "Surprised that you showed up here, Apollo, just at this time, and without even a bathing suit," Sean called out smoothly, her voice clear despite the distance between them. "To what do we owe the pleasure of this... visit, if I may ask?"
  10. Tease's claim about Lilly and Devin could have been just another barb to get a rise, but she had said with such desire to see Lilly taken down that Sean didn't believe she was lying. And then too, the subtle change on body language between Lilly and Devin made sense with that revelation. It would have to be addressed, but not at the moment. Still, she couldn't refrain from giving Lilly a hard look, and the faint tightness of her mouth, a tenseness about her eyes said the accusation was true. Aware of the helicopters, calculating their route and velocity, she urged the others on, directing them so they could use any cover they could from the terrain for as long as they could. Some of the helicopters would stay at the crater where the bear was dealt with, but not all. Her phone vibrated in a distinct pattern of pulses, and Sean's jaw tightened as she pulled her phone from a dedicated sleeve for it. Though with it's functions and more computing power than most top of the line gaming rigs, smartphone was a misnomer - she'd have to come up with a better term. The vibration pattern told what the alert was for and with a flick of her thumb, she brought up the feed from her home. She practically ground her teeth audibly before she forced herself to calm down. It seemed to be a particularly aggravating act, flaunting and meant to antagonize, serving no purpose beyond to annoy. Especially after realizing General Pryor's death had been faked, meant to fool her in particular. Her mouth tightened as she considered the reasons Ronin would do such a thing and why Pryor would seemingly work with him of his own apparent volition. Sean fell into step with Pete, the oversized Jeane on his other side, and gave the man a tight smile and a casually intense once-over, not willing to take anything at face value anymore. Human, Key, or something else altogether. They hadn't seen or heard from Hooli in some time. Sean pursed her lips, musing on Pete. Nor had there been evidence of entity riding or possessing Taleena. "If it was you, thank-you for... influencing Jeane to come back and whatever 'little' aid you could provide," Sean said, ignoring his jibe about their ages. She couldn't exactly say he or Tease were completely wrong. "Is there any chance you saw what was done to the bear or have some inkling on how?" Her nostrils flared in a silent snort - it still troubled her she hadn't seen or could figure out where all that energy had gone. "Or who or what did it?" Her lips quirked wryly. "We don't have much time left before we have to depart. Will you need a lift someplace? We can do that for you at least."
  11. Sean's eyes flicked back and forth in thought, fitting new pieces to the puzzle that had taken up residence in her mind as she let the recriminations and bickering among the group wash over her. Her back turned to the others, she absently wiped the blood from her chest with the last of her water and at first Jeane thought she hadn't even heard her. She opened her mouth to repeat herself when Sean glanced up at her. "I didn't say Tease was wrong. You did fuck up. I said I was glad you came back - otherwise, you'd still be running, if not from this, than from something else, from yourself," Sean explained. Her voice wasn't harsh with condemnation, but it was firm. "I just didn't believe this was the time or place to dress you down, not on your first foray." Sean glanced down, making sure she'd gotten all the blood and just able to see the puckered wound across her collar bones, a livid pink-red, though the bleeding had stopped. She straightened her shoulders and nodded, making a decision. There were too many secrets, even among themselves. "And we'll go in a bit. I believe Abel may be speaking with this Pete of yours, and I'm not expecting a lab, just a hint or a residue where the bear was... infected." Sean gave the younger girl a wry smile, but her turquoise eyes revealed nothing. "You are not the only one feeling insecure, nor are Lilly and Tease the only ones hurting. There's something we all need to hear, but them especially. And it might end up hurting them more. C'mon." As she turned to go, she saw Abel along with the self-identified Pete. She pointed a finger at him in passing, giving him a scrutinizing glance. "I have some questions for you, Pete," Sean said with a bite. "But they'll have to come after. I have something more pressing this instant." She nodded at Abel. "You'll want to hear this too, Abel." Sean headed towards Lilly, being the closer of the two. Her mouth tightened at Lilly's tears and Kia's warning look, but Sean's expression was resolute. "Despite what was said," Sean said without preamble, "I need to speak with you and Tease, well, everyone, but you two in particular." Sean's tone suggested this wasn't to make up, but was something far more serious. "Could you please join me to speak with Tease? I'm not up for saying this twice. Once will be hard enough." Giving Lilly time to collect herself, Sean walked over to Tease, giving the bear rumbling under her touch due consideration. She wasn't afraid of it - apex predator it may have been, but it was hard to feel the danger when you've face giant, organic war machines - but didn't want to arise its ire and disrupt the conversation. It would have been nice if she had mentioned she could take to animals when I asked her if she could use her emotion sensing mojo to pacify it. Sean ignored Tease's haughty, frosty glare as she approached, frowning for a moment at her dislocated arm. If Tease was going to ignore it to spite them all, Sean would let her. "Before you leave us to our purported incompetence, Tease, can you stomach Lilly's presence a bit more? There's something you both need to know." Sean's voice was cool but her brow furrowed in something that almost might have pleading. "Please?" Sean gave Tease several moments to make her decision, walking to a spot between her and Lilly, giving neither of them the advantage of the one going to the other, and siding with neither after their last verbal exchange. When they -and the others - joined her, Sean took a deep breath and... hesitated. God! She hated being wrong, and she hated even more getting played. She couldn't wait for Tease's next round of insults and disparagements. "So... I think... General Pryor isn't dead and I'm pretty sure he was who I just fought off from getting a sample from the bear," Sean said, haltingly at first and finishing in a rush. Lilly and Marissa had nearly identical expressions of shock, disbelief, hope, and fear on their faces. They opened their mouths at the same time and Sean held up a hand in a halting gesture to still the oncoming flood of questions. "Let me explain my conclusions first, then I'll answer what questions I can," she told them, firm but not unkindly. "It may not be much, I have more questions myself." Sean laced her fingers against her stomach and took a breath, head nodding slightly, as though running through what she was going to say. "I've been puzzling over Ronin's attack against Bulwark and General Pryor ever since it happened. And reflecting on the fight I just had with the person known as 5, certain pieces have fallen into place. 5's fighting style was distinctly military. More, he must have seen me training, knows me to at least some fashion. I fight with a manner than integrates several styles together, but 5 was able to respond to and anticipate my anticipate my attacks to a significantly higher degree than probability would dictate. I spoke with him as well. The cadence and inflections of his voice were familiar, and adding them to his word choice and sentence structure, it made his voice more distinctive, despite the artificial modulation. Pruning away the modulation, I'm almost definite the voice belongs to General Pryor. I can give you exact probabilities, if you want. Now, back the Bulwark attack. Pryor only shot Ronin in the arm, though he was willing to risk you, Lilly, to deliver a nuke, that likely could have overcome your considerable damage threshold, never mind about the clones. He didn't even try for a kill shot, despite the threat posed by a Key as extreme and dangerous as Ronin, even if he knew him, had known him. Pryor was the only one 'killed' in the attack, though Ronin has shown little concern for human life. That was in large part due to soldiers on base wearing the latest versions of personal armor developed to date. With no emergency or call for deployment, there was no reason for them to be wearing it. But General Pryor could have ordered it, as an exercise or extra training. Finally, there is the star field, that bloody, be damned star field. I couldn't identify it, despite a flawless memory, my own direct observations, and access to nearly every star chart gathered the world over. In wanting to find your father, a detail eluded me. It was meant to. The star field had no depth. Taking that into account and looking at it again, I could determine conclusively what part of the sky it was, but that's not the point. The point is what I saw during the incident - the field behind the General was two dimensional. It was an image, not real." Sean folded her arms under her full breasts, hands balled into fists, and her jaw was tight. "It was a scene deliberately staged to deceive me and it could only have worked with General Pryor collaborating with Ronin." She gave Lilly and Tease a sympathetic glance, but it was brief and sharp. "I believe Ronin is innocent of General Pryor's death, but that doesn't make him less dangerous, but more, with his power and access to what Pryor knows of us and Guardian Shield... and Pryor's apparently willing participation."
  12. Seeing the soaring, giant Jeane, Sean calculated the resultant force of the impact and was prepared. She danced the shockwaves rocking the valley as though swanning across a dance floor and the tumbling trees and boulders her partners. When it grew still, she waved the billowing dust from her face and did another quick scan for 5, but he seemed to be well and truly gone. Through the falling dust, a solid shaft of light was seen. Soon, a shadowed shape could be discerned holding it, a feminine shape as it grew closer, then Sean was gliding towards the rest of the Irregulars from the waves of dust, awesome and terrible, crimson sheathing her chest. With a quick glance, she took in the scene. None of her friends seemed to be unduly injured and the bear had been reduced back to a typical size. Jeane, not quite so, showing a 21.21% increase in stature. Nearly as much an increase as her own metamorphosis, though Jeane had started out over half a foot taller than Sean had been as a boy. She pursed her lips, eyes narrowing. She had felt the discharge of the quantum energy infusing the bear, if not seen it, but there was no sign of what had happened to it, where it had gone. Frowning as she walked closer, she shut off her photon blade and gave Jeane a more intense glance. Jeane's quantum signature hadn't changed as far as Sean could tell, no sign in her of that had infused the bear, no alteration or hybridization of her signature that might have accounted for her increase in stature. That was odd. Few Keys showed outward physical alterations - herself one of the few exceptions - beyond physical optimization when they manifested. Using a developed power shouldn't have caused a permanent physical change like it seemed it had in Jeane. Ah, there is was. An answer and more questions. "5, the Ronin-minion douche, is gone," Sean informed Lilly and the others as she reached them. "Either he was linked into a teleportation system like the Watchtower or the T'tauri possess, of his suit had its own personal means of translocation." She shared a look with Lilly and Abel. "As far as I could tell, 5 was all Suit and no Node. It was... formidable." She noticed Lilly's glance down and grin self-deprecatingly. "He got a lucky shot in with a very sharp sword, moved just a smidge quicker than anticipated. Could have been a lot worse than it is. The boob punch only bruised a few ribs." Sean patted Jeane on the shoulder sympathetically. "Glad you came back, Jeane. But we can't go quite yet. I think we need to talk with this Pete for a bit. And I'd like to see if we can find where the bear was first... infected."
  13. Savant flowed over the ground like the wind, silent and unseen, her swift, long-legged strides leaving the matted pine needles and sparse underbrush undisturbed. She pinpointed the location of the earlier radio emissions and with a quick glance, analyzed the potential routes one would take from there to the Great Bear. Several were likely and Savant circled around to come at them from the flank or behind, if Ronin's minion had been moving at a steady to accelerated pace. Nothing incongruous showed up on the infrared spectrum, but that was not too surprising - her own suit concealed her heat signature. It was surprising that Ronin had come up with such a stealth system, if it hadn't been pilfered from the Irregular Solutions Labs in the first place. She caught the scent of something synthetic, which narrowed down her search without ending it. The rank and acrid smell of the quantum-infused Bear permeated the valley. The PAM suit must have had really good sound baffles as well, because echolocation only revealed an inconsistent impression over an area. He's somewhere... there... Continuing the game of cat and mouse, Savant stopped humming her sonar pulses so as not to reveal her own location and started closing in flitting from tree to tree for cover. Considering the surprises she had already experienced, she wasn't going to assume Ronin's lackey didn't have a means to penetrate her own camouflage. Savant turned her head slightly, a hidden smirk gracing her lips as Jeane returned. Dangerous, but it seemed she had regained her nerve. The sun was casting longer shadows and Sean caught sight of disturbed pine needles, broken twigs, and the faint indentation of foot steps, the minute scuff on stone breaking through the forest floor, narrowing down her search still further. The ground shook again as the Great Bear shifted and backhanded Vanguard across the valley when something caught Savant's eye. Some dirt and pebbles shaken free from the Bear's movement and subsequent roar bounced off something unseen next to the thick trunk of an ancient Douglas Fir. Now that she knew where to look, Savant could just make the faint distortion of a man shape hiding in the lee of the big tree. The Douglas fir wouldn't off the slightest protection from something the size of the bear, but out of sight, out of mind. There you are... ~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~ 5 peered at Bearzilla and the Irregulars from around the trunk of the tree. Ronin was right, this was going to be easy. They barely functioned as a team, let alone a cohesive one. He'd skip in, slice off a sample, and be out of there without them even-- -- His mouth dropped open as one of the girls suddenly swelled up to ninety feet tall. 5 was going to reassess their competence when he decided this was just dandy. Bearzilla would be distracted by the girl who could meet it eye-to-eye. He'd just be a mosquito, unremarked and gone before being squashed as an annoyance. He wasn't quite up to see if his sun-forged suit would stand up to that kind of punishment. "Surrender and don't resist," said a voice, rich, sensual, and commanding that seemed to have a direct line to his crotch as an arm went under his shoulder and around his throat and a hand grabbed his wrist. "Oh for gods sakes?!" 5 exclaimed. The sensor systems on his suit hadn't seen anything, though they were compensating now, showing him a figure - a very female figure that matched that voice - though no further details. Seems she had her own stealth systems. "Ronin isn't getting what he wants this time," that gorgeous voice claimed firmly and with clear satisfaction, the arm tightening around his throat and the hand on his wrist. "Sorry, ... Savant isn't it? What Ronin wants, Ronin gets," 5 countered, free arm swinging back in a devastatingly strong and fast elbow and catching only air. ~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~ Savant had calculated over ten thousand responses to her restraining action, she had seen the elbow coming even before the blurry figure had moved. And while the elbow had come faster and harder than she expected, it wasn't faster than she had allowed for. The elbow passed harmless over her head and nearly felled the tree with the 189.77cm thick trunk as she ducked and lashed out with a sweep kick faster than lightning. Her leg slammed into his shins and... stopped, nearly all the kinetic energy dissipated and spread throughout the suit. She was far from the strongest, but she was still a hundred times stronger than the average athletic, she had expected at least some response. His knee came up and she backflipped away before it could connected with her face, her own foot catching him under the chin, but failing to take him off his feet, again most of the force harmlessly dispersed. "Not this time," Savant reiterated. Instant calculations of the damage done to the tree from a non-direct blow let her estimate the force her opponent could exert. He's stronger than I am. And fast, if not as fast as me. I want a look at this guy. Savant darted forward once more, cognitive processes accelerating, making the world slow down, as though she was operating on bullet time, and launched into a series of targeted kicks and punches. She threw ten strikes to his one, but where she had to parry and dodge, the bodysuited figure largely relied on his suit to protect him... and it did. If her blows largely did little damage, they at least disrupted the stealth function of her opponent's suit and she finally got her first real good look at him. "Snake Eyes?" she commented in vague disbelief, taking a pair of steps back out of immediate range. "5," he corrected. "That, is not a PAM suit," Savant said accusingly. Now that she could get a good look at her opponent, she could see what he was wearing wasn't truly a PAM, not as she knew them, though it was acting like one, dispersing her blows over the entire thing. A highly advanced version of distinctly different construction, dispersing force far more efficiently than her own did. Her eyes narrowed. There was no quantum reinforcement in the suit, in fact, she didn't detect a dynamic quantum signature at all. "Huh." She knew Ronin was super-intelligent, but he wasn't an engineer or a scientist, no had ever showed any inclination towards or expertise in those areas. She couldn't reasonably believe he could have made a combat suit with such robust capabilities, and would be baffled on how he could have, if he had made it. "Not quite, it's better than the ones you guys have, who know maybe you'll get a set some day" 5 taunted. "Look, I really don't want to hurt you. Just step aside, let me get the thing I need to get, and we can each go our own way, no harm, no foul." Savant snorted, feeling vaguely affronted that what appeared to be an unenhanced human was holding his own with her. The only thing she had encountered before that could compensate for the disparity was a T'tauri battlesuit. "Sorry, that's not happening today." They engaged once more in a balletic dance of beautiful brutality, a martial figure all in black confronting a barely discernible blur only the enhanced sensor systems of his suit let him see the shape and movements off. To any who could have watched, it looked like a scene from a modern wuxia martial film or a fighting game played at high speed. 5 had been pulling his punches - he wasn't here to fight with the Irregulars, just to get a viable sample from the Quantum Care Bear - but it took only seconds for him to realize that the woman was taking any and every advantage of his restraint. She seemed to see every attack coming before he even committed, yet he swore he could hear her teeth grinding as he would not go down. With all her many, many blows, 5 was starting to feel rattled inside his armor, while he had only managed to land one solid blow, a punch to a tit that crackled with the electrical discharge of integrated taser that made her grunt and sent her flipping back twenty yards, though she landed in a graceful cart wheel. He thought that would be his opportunity to evade her and make it to the Bear before she could stop him, but he was wrong. He'd taken only two steps for her voice rang out. "Stop." A single word, but said with such conviction and surety and penetrating command that it completely bypassed his brain and went straight to his nervous system. 5 stopped and Savant raced up behind him and her foot came up between his legs hard. This time, 5 felt it, and if his suit stopped it from being crippling, it still hurt. "That's it! I'm done being nice," 5 growled. "I don't want to fight any of you, but that was a low blow, and I'm pretty sure you were brought up better than that." His sword came out of the sheath on his back, its blade so black it seemed to suck in the light, except for a glint on the mono-molecular edge. He swung around in a tight spin, the blade arcing like a swath of night and missed Savant by a bare millimeter as she sidestep. He couldn't see her face, but her pose seemed unsurprised and relaxed, unconcerned that he had a weapon that gave him the advantage of reach. He could imagine her smirking and wanted nothing more than to wipe that imagined smirk off her face. 5 went on the attack, trying to force her back, but she continued to duck and weave, slipping between thrusts and slashes. She tried disarming him, but couldn't manage to break his grip. Giving the blade due consideration, Savant gave more focus to defense than offense, especially after seeing the blade cleave through trees in a single slice without slowing. She began using it to her advantage, but the falling trees were posing more of an impediment to her movement than it was to the Snake Eyes-looking fucker. Then she realized he still wasn't trying to hit her he was striking the trees, herding her. One tree fell and landed a glancing blow off his shoulder barely slowing him, and they wouldn't be heavy enough to pin him without the perfect negation of leverage. But it did convey just how sharp his sword was. From a hard style of martial arts, Savant flowed instantly into a soft style at 5's next strike, evading the strike in a graceful pirouette and using two fingers on the flat of the blade, redirected the black sword's trajectory. The tip of the blade penetrated 5's armored suit and sliced into the top of 5's foot. 5 howled and suddenly lashed out with a speed and ferocity that Savant couldn't quite account for. Savant glided back a step, preventing herself from being beheaded at the cost of a shallow, straight slice across her collar bones. Her PAM suit parted with a sigh, revealing the tops the most remarkable breasts and a length of enticing cleavage. The integrity of her PAM suit sundered, the thermoptic camouflage system ended and now 5 got his first good look of who was fighting. Gorgeous didn't begin to describe the tall woman, she was so beautiful it was distracting, a goddess made flesh. 5 as prepped as he had been this was to much, he was concerned he'd screw up and that wasn't an option. And she wasn't smirking now. Her expression was cool and alarmingly lethal as blood began to seep from the slash finer than any razor could equal, and trace down the curves off her breasts into the cleft between them. "And now I'm done being nice," Savant replied, her melodious voice so cold and sharp 5 flinched at the sound, as she took a metallic rod hanging from her hip. It looked suspiciously like... "I wanted you intact to answer questions, but I'll settle for mostly intact with extraneous bits removed." She pressed a button and a blade of coruscating energy extended from the top of the rod with an ominous hiss, a mix of yellows, oranges, and reds, fuchsia and magenta. Unlike the item that had clearly inspired the weapon, the blade wasn't a long tube of plasma, but a flat plane that was almost invisible edge on despite the light it gave off. Ronin might have said his armor had been tempered in the sun, but this woman who had stepped out of a goddamn comic book had a shard of the fucking dawning sun in her hand and seemed entirely too willing to use it on him. And his foot was a mass of agony. Had she cut off one or more of his toes with his own sword? "You have got to be kidding me?!" 5 groaned in defeated exasperation as he shook a hand at her in disgusted disbelief. "That's it. I'm done. you can keep the bear." "Good," Savant replied, a faint curve to her lips, despite the sting and sticky wetness on her chest. Her turquoise eyes focused on the gamma-ray band of the electromagnetic spectrum, to get a look at the face behind the mask. "Come in peacefully, we just want to ask some-" "Oh, I'm done with that too," 5 interrupted, a hand going to his wrist. "As much funas being questioned by you might be, that can't happen, I'm outta here." "No!" Savant shouted, her free hand slapping a disk on her hip a moment too late as 5 discorporated into motes of light of indeterminate colour and disappeared with a pop of in rushing air. "..." She sighed, shoulders slumping for just a moment before she straightened them. "Dammit. Only half a win." Hopefully the tracking device she had planted on him with her first touch would yield some dividends. A new design, instead of electrical or mechanical components that emitted a signal, it was a single molecule with its own precisely attuned signature that she could lock onto with remote viewing, the signature drawing her awareness. Hopefully, there was the possibility this tracking device would go unnoticed, at least long enough to be useful.
  14. "Hmm..." More dramatic than Sean had expected with the glowing eyes, Tease's words more grandiose. And she calls us nerds! But it seemed to be working, the Great Bear lumbering towards rather than charging, hesitance instead of fury in its steps. She didn't intend to let Tease's attempt be interrupted or interfered with by Ronin's minion. "Keep covering her, I'm going to look for our guest before he makes an nuisance of himself," Sean said, her voice low and soft so as not to distract from Tease's majestic, calming tones. With Vanguard, Chimera, Sage, and Proteus, Tease should be safe enough with her absence. "But stay alert for another surprise." One minion to interfere with some of the most powerful Keys on the planet, even if he was encouraged to refrain from direct engagement? Ronin was aware of her and Sage's enhanced perceptions, was familiar with most of the capabilities of the Irregulars. This guy could easily be a distraction from a different avenue of interference. Or meant to be caught. Surprisingly unobtrusive for someone so eye-catching, Sean slipped away with Batman-like skill, slinging her rifle back over her shoulder - she could have it back in her hands in an instant. Gliding behind the boles of pine trees, her bodysuit began to take on the appearance of whatever what behind it, light itself contorting around her curves, until only the faintest hint of an outline remained. Major Motoko, eat your heart out. Savant stalked through the hills with skill beyond any human hunter's, swifter than Usain Bolt without seeming to hurry. Her senses were attuned for any sign of her prey. She could feel the swirl and eddy of the faintest air currents, her nose seeking the slightest trace of an out of place scent. Her eyes found the infrared spectrum, as she looked for conspicuous spots of heat, or cold. With her incredible voice, she hummed in a register beyond the range of human - and many animals' - hearing, emitting sonar waves and listened for the echoes. She was aware of the most minute disturbance around her. She was going to find him, stop him, and get some answers.
  15. "I need a damn coffee," Sean muttered crossly, her only sign of frustration and distress as the newest Irregular fled tactically withdrew, the energetic dispersion of her quantum weapon drawing the attention of the colossal, mutated bear, which was clearly a threat now, her hair shifting at its mighty bellow, even at this distance. It was unfair to Jeane that this was her first encounter as an Irregular in training, but little in life was fair. And there was also Ronin's... associate. Few had senses as keen as hers, and only one, maybe two, that exceeded them. For her own sanity, she had to put filters on the tremendous breadth of her perceptions, but she still registered all the stimuli she was exposed to, if only on a subconscious level. But incongruous stimuli and an intuitive sense for probabilities allowed for things to pass through her filters. Just as she caught the bare whisper of a voice from way upwind and deciphered it, Sean noticed the bloom of electromagnetic radiation of a broadcast signal almost equidistant from them and the bear and was able to interpret it into sound. She listened in on the conversation and grunted. Sounded more like boastful bullshit to her. Then again, Ronin was continually surprising them, so she wouldn't totally discount it - she knew he was smart beyond a human scale, but he hadn't displayed any particular engineering or scientific prowess before. <Company courtesy of Ronin. He wants a sample of the creature,> Sean confirmed to Abel as she unslung her rifle from her shoulder as she studied the oncoming behemoth. Its dimensions were immediately apparent to her - 82.012m at the shoulder, 159.898m long - and calculating its volume and mass took only a fraction of an instant, though she had to extrapolate and account for a difference in muscular density and the ice due to quantum enhancement and a more stocky build than the average kermode bear. <It should weigh in somewhere around 7.112 million pounds, give or take several tons.> "Fair enough, Tease, especially now that that ship has sailed," Sean agreed, her tone calm and resolute in the face of something that could crush her with ease, her eyes focused on it, looking for any particular weak points, eyes, the roof of the mouth, a way to disrupt the infusion of quantum energy, anything to slow it or bring it down. "Since we guys are so easy to manipulate, how about I give you one to deal with instead of Cuddles, here? Ronin has someone here to collect a sample from it. I'd rather he not get it - I don't want him to weaponize godzilla-mobs. He's a sneaky fucker and still a ways away that way, but when he gets closer, if I pick him out for you, think you can distract him and keep him out of our hair with your mojo?" Savant's suggestion wasn't just because Tease's quantum mojo seemed to be more directed towards people than Giant Death Animals, but also that she was Ronin's twin sister. Sean could makes guesses on how the guy was directed to respond to them if they came into conflict. She was hoping that whatever remained of Devin inside Ronin would get Tease an edge in such an encounter. Tease could hear the idea in Sean's voice and that she hadn't tried to hide it from her. The Spirit Animal of Destruction didn't make the ground tremble as it rumbled towards them, it made it shake, every step seeming to strike the bones of the earth itself, and Sean rode the waves with sublime, ineffable grace. She was completely in tune with her surroundings, everything in it and its relation to herself. Every movement was fluid and precise, as though she was operating at 200 frames per second to everyone else's 30. "I hope this thing doesn't have a Care Bear Stare."