The paperwork for the various families that had been removed to the Colony had finally come through for them to relocate, specifically Abel and Jeane's Families, and to that end it was time for Abel to face his family, and Jeane hers. For Abel, it also meant it was time to explain what he did when they first met, and hope that her parents would understand, and forgive him.
He called out to Jeane mentally. <Jeane, can you come to my office, I've got something I need to talk to you about, and that will likely require us both to act upon as soon as possible> he didn't give the ominous wording any thought, though perhaps he should have, given what they'd be doing today.
Shit. How did he know? Jeane was down in her basement staring at the ruptured remains of her punching bag. it had been one of the first things she had bought last week with her money from Nike last week, and here it hung like a poorly slaughtered piece of livestock, stuffing still pooling out of the rip her kick had just inflicted onto the floor. That was new.
Shit. At least her node had finally stopped tingling. Felt kinda good, in fact, like a runner's high.
A thought and a crackle of thunder of later, Jeane appeared outside the door of Sage's office, bare-footed and clad in a pair of yoga pants and another of her ironic 'Shelly - Home of the Irregulars' t-shirts. "Coming in," she called through the door, knowing full well he could hear her.
A quick click of the door, and she entered, ducking a little to spare her hair from brushing the door frame, grin abashed, "Look, if it's about my punching bag just now, I didn't know I could hit it that hard..."
"So your strength has improved, that's good, it will help you in many ways, provided you learn to fully control it. That however isn't why I called for you. The paperwork for our families to come home is finally cleared, and it's time for us to go get them from the Colony, or at the least offer them the choice to stay home or stay there. "
"You don't need to come with me to see mine, but I do want to speak with your parents, I need to explain this to them, and apologize. If not for me, and my actions, you and they would not have had to go through all of this." There was almost apprehension in his voice, and he sighed. "Time for us both to face the music i guess."
Jeane's thoughts came crashing down around her, voice flat, "...Oh. Isn't that great."
Her spunk was seriously wilted, arms crossed over her chest. Her brow was wrinkled in heavy thought, reflecting back to the last time she had spoken with her family. Breakfast the morning of Bear Day had been the normal terse exchange of bare minimum pleasantries and warnings, but the night before...
Mind buzzing with ideas about how to handle the homeless Key who had blown her through a tree, Jeane hurried towards her front door. The sun had long since set, but she was at *least* 5 minutes before her curfew. Maybe. Not the half hour she tried to maintain, but hopefully Mom wouldn't be playing gatekeeper tonight.
Key turned in lock to admit her into the home. Door closed and locked behind her. Shoes removed and jacket hung in the closet. The faint sound of TV playing in the living room. All she had to do was make it around the corner, past the TV, and up the stairs. Easy.
"...Hey, Dad," she said to the Marine around the corner, slowing to a halt, voice uncertain, "I don't think I'm late today. Lost track of time and missed my usual bus that's all."
"You're very close, Jeane, but no you are not late,” came the deep baritone reply of her father, Colonel Daniel Hebert, as he watched her burst into the house with a minute and change to spare. He came round to meet her, towering over her at just shy of two meters in height. "I trust you're heading for a bath, and then to make sure your studying is done. I don't mind your excursions, but they will end if your grades suffer." He spoke with a softer tone than he used as an officer, but there was no mistake that he wasn't making a deal, he was laying down the law.
There was only one answer to that statement.
"Yes, Sir," she chirped, unconsciously straightening up, "I studied a little on the bus, too."
"...How was your day? Are we still good for driving lessons next Saturday?", Jeane added, probing gently, nervous. Normal worrying was better than Key worrying.
"Of course, you being able to drive will help your mother out, and I'm glad you're willing to take on some extra responsibilities. I know you get tired of taking the bus, so I can understand, and your excursions keep you in shape and healthy, so I generally look the other way."
His steely grey gaze met hers, "Just be careful and don't cause any trouble for anyone, especially your mother. She does worry, you know."
Jeane looked down and away, a bit of defiance in her tone, "...She starts it half the time comparing me to Sam. We're not all geniuses who hate fun. Gets me hot when Mom doesn't get that."
She felt rooted in place by the gaze she was avoiding, flushing red.
"She just wants what she thinks is best for you. All parents want that. I want what is best for you, but only you can truly decide that, Jeane. Granted, so long as you live under my house, you will obey my rules, same as anyone else. I know your heart isn't in academics like Sam, but I want you to find something constructive to do with yourself. Keeping fit and in shape is great, but you can do so much more, if only you try, now go wash up before your mother notices you're only just getting home."
It was a half joke as more than anyone her mother was more aware of her absence than anyone.
"...Yes, Sir," Jeane answered and took the stairs as quickly and quietly as she could, spurred on by the implied 'threat' of her Mother's intervention but a smile dancing on her lips.
The frown deepened into apprehension as Jeane shook herself out of the flashback. This month had been good, amazing even, and this was an unwelcome dash of reality, a reminder at just whose expense her fun had been had. "Unless we have an appointment with our ride, can I go change and grab some things from my room? I... I'm not ready to play the prodigal daughter who got her family thrown off the planet," she all but begged, nervously massaging her elbows and desperately wanting some time to wrap her head around the idea.
"Of Course, we are leaving in an hour. I figure that's enough time for us to both prepare to face the music as it were." He smiled, and it was fairly bittersweet, he knew this would be hard for them both. Once she left his office he set about organizing his own thoughts, what he'd say, and be ready to do, should they demand it of him.
50 minutes later, Jeane was back outside Abel's office and very clearly uncomfortable at the fact she was. She had a dufflebag full of bribes over one shoulder in form of snacks and other things she knew they liked and may not have up there, out there, whatever the term was. She had spent far too long in front of a mirror morphing her PAM suit through an array of outfits in the hope of finding the perfect one for the situation but her late night reading was sadly silent on what to wear to the alien colony you banished your family to after lying about having powers for 7 months.
It had struck her, staring at her reflection, that they might have trouble enough recognizing her so she had defaulted to an upsized copy of the very outfit she had worn on the morning of Bear Day. Seeing herself in *that* made the guilt roil more violently through her gut. She'd rather go three rounds, no holds barred, with Proteus. Much rather in fact, but this was what she needed to do.
So Jeane knocked on the door, and waited for a call to come in.
There was no call to come in, instead there was James coming out, Followed by Abel, who looked smart in black slacks and a grey button-down. It was easy enough to say he looked dashing, and seemed to exude an air of worldly savoir-faire as he offered her a knowing smile. "Thanks for the lift James, you'll be off duty the rest of the day unless someone calls you, i don't expect to be coming home tonight."
"Sure thing Abel, y'all just call me if things change." With that, a gate was opened to the portal chamber, and they were admitted, and sent through, stepping onto another world, albeit they couldn't tell within the chamber, as it was a mirror of the one they'd come from. Ushered through the base that was serving as the core of the Terran colony, paperwork was cleared, mostly as a formality, and the pair of keys were met by a singular functionary, Abel knew her to be one of the embassy secretaries, who managed all the families who'd been sent there.
"Mr. Cross, Miss Hebert, I'll facilitate your travel here. Who will we be visiting first?" Without giving Jeane a chance, Abel spoke. "We'll see the Heberts first, I have business with them too, and Jeane can stay with them while I see to my own family if she wishes."
Betrayal! Abel was lucky he was so fucking charming or else he would have gotten an indignant earful from the tall blonde. As it was, she fumed inside at the intolerable, necessary lack of choices she had in this situation, the bed she had made and needed to lay in at least for a little bit. Didn't mean it was going to suck any less. At least the theory was that she'd feel better or something after taking this verbal beating, less guilt plaguing her dreams when she tried sleeping.
"Sounds good. Lead the way," she singsonged with a pained smiled that didn't reach her eyes.
With that they were brought to the domicile for The various Key families, specifically the one housing the Heberts. All of the homes were the same here, and part of a larger prefabricated building. There was construction being done on more long-term buildings but it had only been a month, and none of the keys had been enlisted to aid with the construction. The Secretary let them go on ahead. "Call for me, when you're ready to see your family, Mr. Cross."
He looked to Jeane, who was closest to the door, and nodded, "Go ahead"
He looked to the Secretary, and smiled, "Thank you for your time and showing us the way."
There was no better way to say it. There Jeane was, just a few strides away from knocking on the door and she couldn't move. Her jaw clenched as she fought a treacherous little voice that urged her to teleport away and seek a hiding place in the colony. Just to buy a little time to prepare herself. It wasn't like she was never coming back...
She growled to herself at the thought, forcing herself to take first one step and then the next and finally, after a few heartbeats of final hesitation… She knocked, once, twice, thrice. There was a moment of silence, a moment for the traitor in the back of her head to start to whisper that they weren't here now and that they should go check on Abel's family...
Then hurrying footsteps and a young voice calling from the other side of the door, "Dad! Dad! I got it!"
Her heart skipped a beat as Paul Hebert, age 8, opened the wooden barrier and stared up at her with blue eyes that so matched her own beneath brown hair cut short in imitation of their father. He sucked in a breath as she tried to muster a response through the surge of unbottling emotions.
"DAD!!! IT'S JEANE AND SHE'S A GIANT!" he yelled in excitement before launching himself at her midsection in a hug that tried it's very, very best to squeeze the air out of her to no avail.
"...Hey, squirt. Missed you," she managed to answer back, returning the hug as much as possible without dislodging her new limpet. She barely had any time to process just how accurate the affectionate nickname felt right now when slower, heavier footsteps from inside the residence reminded her that at least one other person was here.
Daniel Hebert was surprised to see his daughter, to say the least, Especially having to look up to her. Still he saw she wasn't alone, and nodded. "You should both come inside, I'll get you something to drink and I look forward to hearing the explanation of just what's been going on, and why we've had to stay here." He'd spent alot of time wondering why they were here, and seeing his daughter he knew.
Abel winced inwardly, but knew it had to be this way, and that the Marine is only going to be polite so long, and that this potentially would get ugly.
Jeane wasn't far off from that feeling, smile falter, voice subdued, "...Yes, Sir."
Paul looked up at all the serious talk, smile failing, "Dad told me you were on an important mission. Did you win? Are you coming back?"
Her heart breaking a little, the towering blonde forced a smile back on her face, "Let's go inside, Paul. Dad obviously wants to have a family meeting, and you can help me divvy up the snacks I brought."
Gently prying him off and handing him the dufflebag, she followed her happily encumbered sibling through the door into a sparsely furnished prefab apartment. Kitchen. Living room area. Two bed rooms and one bathroom. "Just a water for me, Dad," she called to her father's back pulling out a chair from around the kitchen table to sit in, "Uh... This is nice and cozy. So what *have* they told you about my... Uh, mission?"
Paul exclaiming over the bounty of her last minute 7-11 run from the living room area was tragic background music to the nervousness leaking out of every pore in Jeane's body.
Daniel Hebert looked at his daughter as he came back with water, both for her and Abel, and handed it to them. "That it was related to the Keys, and that you were safe.Your mother didn't like that, but we've been well taken care of here, and assured things were for the best. It's been very hard on her."
Abel sighed, and looked at him. "I'm afraid everything you've endured Mr. Hebert is my fault. We received a tip that a key had been spotted, and traced it back to your daughter. I went to speak with her at her school, under the supervision of her principal and counselor, inquiring as to where she'd seen the Key, and asking for any other information she could remember. When a new key, especially a young one is reported, They tend to lack fine control, and can often be unintentionally dangerous to those around them. My concern was to ensure no one else was hurt."
He sat there giving the older man a chance to digest that much, "You're one of the Irregulars, Sage, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir, or you can call me Abel, if you wish. I honestly answer to it more still."
"You say its your fault, but just questioning my daughter couldn't nearly have been enough to get us isolated here for a month. There's more you're not telling me, both of you."
Abel looked to Jeane, it was time to state the obvious.
"I have powers, Dad. I'm a Key, too."
There. She had gotten the hard part out without stuttering. Well, the first hard part. She held one hand above the table, fist held flat over the table. A heartbeat latter, a crackling blade of energy was clenched in that hand, underlighting her features as she tried to get the first wave of words out. Jeane could hear Paul gasp and pause in his rummaging, but didn't look away from her Father.
"Seven months ago... It just happened, and I can turn them off, so I did most of the time except for two nights a week when I was alone in the park. I... I didn't tell anyone, scared about what might happen when I did. Lose my friends, get forced into some kind of secret super soldier stuff, get targeted by other Keys who could beat me with one hand behind their back... I didn't tell anyone and it was so hard not to scream it out sometimes when Mom would start tearing at me about school and..."
She sucked in a breath and banished the dagger, "I met another Key, a street kid who threw me through a damn tree with a glance. Didn't hurt me, but he could hurt others, so I sent a text, and apparently the NSA *is* watching because the next day Abel and his friends showed up before I could look for the kid again, and it all spiraled from there. Day ended up with me adding literal tallness powers to my collection, and you all being sent to another planet."
Jeane dropped her gaze to her lap then, "Sorry doesn't really cut it, does it?"
Daniel looked from his daughter to the other Key there, and he simply nodded, "Everything your daughter has told you is true."
"I don't doubt that, despite her hiding this from me for so long," he answered gruffly, "Her having powers isn't an excuse for for us to be carted off to another world. I've lived in the field, and while this isn't quite that level, I'd never thought my family would be in conditions like this too."
Abel nodded, "Indeed, sir. While we were trying to find Kyle, we were attacked by another entity, the failed result of someone's research. We weren't harmed and the threat dealt with, but the source was highly dangerous. Before we could even catch our collective breath, our base in Montana was attacked, and allies killed, or so we thought at the time. Given the nature of the attack, emergency protocols went into effect to evacuate the base, and all our families to a safe location, here."
"Another incident cropped up, this time with a large ursine monster in Canada. It had already destroyed one town, and was moving towards a larger one. The Irregulars were mustered to combat this threat, and Jeane elected to come along. She herself struck the final blow, after gaining her aforementioned size changing powers. She saved that town, without killing anything."
Daniel looked at him, and seemed to digest what he'd said, "So you kidnapped my daughter, took her not just to one fight, but two, one of them in another country. You put her at risk, even if it was her own choice. Tell me why I don't just have you charged and locked away, why I don't just beat the ever living hell out of you for it all, Abel."
Abel's steely gaze met Dan's, "I gave her a choice, and she made it, Mr. Hebert. I didn't force her to do anything, and I have done everything I could without revoking her choice to keep Jeane safe from harm. I have caused your family some difficulties, and I own that. If I thought you'd accept I'd put your children through the school of their choice, just as the beginnings of an apology. If hitting me is however the only thing that will make you feel better, then so be it."
He didn't smile, but his voice became a bit deeper, "I don't regret this, because your daughter saved thousands of lives by making her choice."
Dan looked between the two keys, and Jeane could tell he was mulling over whether to do as he said, regardless.
Jeane couldn't help but smile a little at her Dad's protectiveness, gladdened that part of his anger, the first of his anger he expressed was directed *for her*, not *at her*.
"Yeah, that first day really, really bad and, the whole government conspiracy behind this was really, really poorly done, but they've taken good care of me since then," she added into the pregnant pause, "Given me some self-study reading since all the schools kick Keys out soon as we're discovered. Place to live, place to train. Kept me out of trouble... Well, there was one thing, but the Irregulars had my back and got me out of there before anything really happened. Showed me new places to run, too. It's been good. Abel's working on the whole school for Key's thing, too."
"Big thing making me not happy is how shitty they've done by you. All of you shouldn't be kicked off the planet just because of me and my screw ups."
With so much new information, Dan would need some time to process it all, but the government was directly involved, and he knew well how they operated, "We weren't kicked off the planet, it's more like witness protection if I understand the situation and what we have been told. Yes, it's because you chose to get involved, but it isn't like we aren't well taken care of. This facility is better equipped than any base I've served at, even though it's not finished yet.." His eyes narrowed and his gaze turned to Abel.
"Now, tell me about this school."
Abel nodded once, "First, let me say that I have been a key for nearly three years now, longer than almost anyone else, I was one of the first. I know how hard it is to hide the new abilities most keys may possess, and the constant fear of being "found out." When I first saw that schools were turning out students who manifested as Keys, I understood the safety and security concerns, but still, simply turning a student away denies them the chance to continue growing as people. To that end I began working towards founding a school staffed with regular educators that wouldn't turn Keys away. In fact, the entire student body currently would be comprised of Keys."
"So you're some sort of Charles Xavier then are you?" There was a little surprise on Abel's face, but he nodded. "More than a little, I have all of his powers, and it turns out, I'm a gifted educator. In addition to working with Jeane, I've been doing the same with two other Keys."
"I don't recall giving permission for her to attend this school, Mr. Cross."
"No, sir, you didn't. I've not had the chance to ask, so I simply did as I promised Jeane I would, until you could be asked. I have worked to help her understand her abilities, and the new ones and changes that have shown up following the last incident. We are all changing, and I want to be sure Jeane has an environment where she can grow and develop properly."
Her father looked between them, and then his narrowed gaze lined up with Jeane. "Do you feel he has kept his word? That your choice is your own?"
There was a heartbeat's temptation to let Abel dangle there, but she quashed it. Especially with the other item she had stuffed into her dufflebag and what she'd need to get it taken care of. Paul's continued rustling assured her she had more time before she had to cross that bridge.
"Yes, Sir," Jeane replied with a crispness she reserved for her talks with her Father, "Aside from being responsible and seeing me back to either you or someone who'd help me do the things I need help to do if I wanted to avoid living under a bridge or in a shelter, I can leave at any time. The Irregulars are good people, Dad."
She inhaled, tension stiffening her shoulders, "...How are Mom and Sam doing? WHAT do they have you doing? Has it been safe? I know you said this was better than any base you've been to, but... It's another planet. I don't even know how many moons you guys have to deal with right now. That's kind of a big thing to deal with."
"There's 2 moons here, and they're in a schedule you could set a clock by,” the marine answered. He seemed to leave the question of the irregulars aside for now. "As for your mother and Sam, and myself, we work here at the embassy, we've been helping construct new additions, and in the various offices. As a colonel, I'm used to doing a lot of paperwork so its nothing new. I think something's at work here, keeping the children happy, to them it's a vacation, and it's not abnormal at all that they're on another world.” He looked to Abel. "I take it that's NOT your doing."
Abel shook his head. "I am the world's most powerful psychic. I am not the Only one. I've not gone looking, because right now if I do, It Will spark a confrontation with the Government we simply cannot afford, But I imagine there's one here who's helping to smooth over operations, and make things easier for everyone."
"That's not comforting Abel, not at all."
"You are a veteran Marine, Colonel Hebert, I wasn't trying to comfort you sir. Giving you the truth as I see it. It is in the government's best interests to keep you safe, to keep the Keys they have happy, and to not antagonize anyone. Things are going to change, faster and sooner now, and our fight is Far from done. While it is true I don't require any Key at my school to fight, I do offer self defense courses, and actual usage training of their newfound abilities. There's a threat on the horizon that we'll need all hands on Deck, and we must be ready."
Jeane's frown mirrored her father's expression at Sage's explanation as to why the colony was so calm. Of all the passive aggressive, evil-smelling bullshit... She only had to glance over at Paul happily sorting the contents of her dufflebag to get doubly angry on his and Sam's behalf, some government spook poking through their head in the name of order and the greater good. Her siblings. Her family. Her fault. Her fingers tightened their grip around the cup as Sage went on about the struggles to come.
"It's always about control, control, control, isn't it? Sacrificing a little bit of happiness at a time until the whole thing goes bad," she darkly muttered, eyes narrowed, "Can't let people be people, oh now they need to..."
Her rant died aborning as she glanced at her hands and the shattered glass spilling water through her unharmed fingers, "...Shit. Um. Sorry, Dad? That's new to me. The super strength, that is. I'll work on it. And Abel has the paperwork to get you guys out of here, sooner the better. If you want to. Don't know if the FBI sold the house or not yet... Kinda lost track of time with everything, lame as that is... Yeah... Sorry is such a lame way to put it... But..."
Her voice dropped with her gaze, falling to silence as she tried to soak up the spill with the cuffs of her sleeves.
"Your home is just as it was, better honestly, there's no mortgage on it anymore." He looked at the older man. "No bribe, no strings. Just a small portion of the debt owed. It was something I did for all the families who were forcibly relocated. I took the government out of that equation, so they've got no claim later. I meant my offer about putting your children through the schools of your choice as well. As bleak as things may sound, I will always plan for the future, as though the world will continue to turn, and we will endure."
"And your family Abel, they..."
"Know my status, yes, but not what I can do in full, and likely yes, they've been subject of the same calming effects. I am not happy with regard to that, but it is done now. Going forward I hope to develop better ways of handling that sort of situation."
He still had to make that visit too, later, and he sighed.
"At least I'll say this much, you must have made an impression on these aliens, for them to agree to this."
"They fight the same foes we will, same as the T'Tauri. We are allies against common foes, it was somewhat easy. Though I admit, the fact this all began for me when they stole my dog that I'd worked so hard for, there's a bit of annoyance there for me."
"That's crazy Abel."
"True though, they opened a portal to grab my dog, but he was damaged in the transfer. They sent him back with advanced replacements for the damaged parts, and able to speak and comprehend. It's safe to say Blitz is among the most intelligent terrestrial sentients at this point, for now. If they'd not taken him, he'd not have been able to come back and help us defeat the first scout wave of the Asheen. Though a canine, he's just as much a member of the team, in my opinion."
"What breed of dog, surely not some sheepdog?"
"No sir, Blitz is a doberman, from a good strong bloodline. No one in Shelly had one, so it made him special, and he is a good, loyal dog."
A single snicker escaped Jeane's lips.
"That damn dog nearly made me quit then and there even after seeing a giant robot and a brain in a jar and a bully bitch who was hotter than anyone had a right to be. one weird thing too many," she muttered without any venom, looking up again and still snickering, mostly at herself, "Seriously, Dad. That day was ridiculous. It's like the universe was out screw with us. I cured one-third of bear with my sword after a guy named..."
"Jeane? I found this," came Paul's voice from her side, prompting her to pause her story. He was holding up a red folder marked with the Nike 'swoosh', chocolate staining his cheeks. She chuckled and claimed it, pulling him for a one-armed hug.
Abel chuckled at her brother's entrance, and what he was holding. "Yes, I was wondering if you were going to bring that up too Jeane."
Her father looked at them and took the folder from her hand, reading it and then looking at her, "The corporations move swiftly don't they."
Abel nodded, "Sean and I got a great many ourselves, it was part of the reason we went into business for ourselves, so we had some sort of control."
"You're both young for that though..,” he answered still reading.
The government essentially forced our parents to emancipate all of us so that we'd be free to respond to situations that arose, and to assuage their guilt over needing children to resolve such things."
"You expect me to do that for my Daughter?" there was a hard edge to his voice, one that told Abel to be careful.
"No, I don't. I don't think it truly necessary. You're a father, but also a man who strikes me as the sort to let his children walk their own path. For legal purposes, yes, you'd have to sign some paperwork, acknowledging Jeane's rights to choose this, but that's all I'd be asking. Others probably want more, of course, as a friend I'm willing to help ensure Jeane is taken care of in these other situations, that no one gets one over on her. Still all of that is contingent on what you all want to do."
"You're my parents. I wouldn't take any deal that forced me to get emancipated. You have to be ready to live on your own to do that. Suddenly having powers doesn't mean that," Jeane commented bluntly, "I just want to not have to worry about owing everyone money while I figure out how I want to do this whole Key thing. Sean says they're not out to screw me, and she's smart. I was going to have to get a job eventually, right? I could do worse with my skills, and you know I'm stubborn enough to not let them push me into anything too shady."
She paused, frowning a little at the man who continued to skim the paperwork, the man whose blessing she was really after on this big crazy idea that was her, "...Right, Dad?"
Finally he looked up, and nodded. I know Jeane. Much as your friend here seems to be made of money, I know the value of doing something for yourself,” he sighed, "If it's something you want to do, I will back you on this, but you must still sell your mother on it."
He looked at Abel, "I'm not happy, but I'll take that offer, I care more about my kids than my ego, and I want to see them all happy and successful."
"That's what I'd want for them too, were I in your place,” Abel replied quietly.
Jeane blanched a little at the thought of confronting her Mother and getting her to agree to anything, especially after all this. Dodging her direct attention or yelling her way past it like she had before wasn't an option here, and it shook her in a way fighting Apollo hadn't. Her thoughts whirled around this stumbling block and how fucked up a person she had to be to think that about her own family so that meant...
Paul squirming his way into another hug broke that spiral, "Please don't leave because of Mom. She gets sad about you being gone, too. Even before. Please, Jeane..?"
The quiet pleading in his voice struck a chord that left her even more shaken, fumbling for words, "...I wouldn't... I didn't... Not to you, Squirt... I..."
Paul's eyes looked up from his hug in challenge, shattering the comforting, rationalizing lie before she fully realized what she was building, "...I've been a really bad sister, haven't I?"
Abel's hand rest on her shoulder, and smiled, "No, Jeane, I don't think you have. You didn't ask for your powers, none of us did. You did choose to come with us, and in doing so, your family was evacuated during the last incident, but you saved thousands of lives. I know your Father understands that sort of choice. You can't keep beating yourself up over this."
He sighed, "I've lived the lie of being normal for three years. I do know what it's like, hiding something from family every day. The best way to lift that weight is to be honest with them, and stop running from this. You're strong enough face it head on and win. Can it really be any harder than the Bear?" he said with a warm smile.
Jeane didn't immediately answer the telepath, instead grabbing Paul and returning the hug with almost crushing force, shoulders shaking as he tried to squirm out her grip. A shaking laugh escaped her lips, the kind that didn't know if it was happy or sad. She kissed the top of his head and let him flee, finally looking over one shoulder at the two men in the room.
"Idiot. Powers have almost nothing to do with why I'm a bad sister. I was acting like a bad sister long before that," she shot back, the shimmer of unshed tears dancing in her eyes, "Sure the whole situation may have brought it to a head, but for all that I was there mentally, I may as well have ran away from home years ago. Stupid, selfish..."
She sniffed, wiping her eyes with an already damp sleeve, "You taught me better than that, Dad. Sorry for being a little shit. When do they get off work from the Embassy?"
He shrugged. He really did understand, he had the experiences of so many, their hopes, dreams, desires, all in their tiny areas of his expanding mental library, "That's not who you really are though, and you realized the truth of things."
Her father looked from his daughter to the male Key, then to his watch, "They'll be home in twenty minutes or so. Abel, your Father is Dr. Cross?"
"Yes sir. My mother is a teacher, and I have two younger sisters."
"I know him well enough, now, he's the doctor who's handled the Embassy since we came here, He's a good man. Your mother visited as well, offering any help she could in sitting for Paul, or with any guidance issues we may need."
"My mother likes to stay busy, and has an affinity for all children. I'm sure she's kept on my sisters to continue their studies, even here. Until coming here, she was still on me about it."
"What are you going to tell them?"
Abel was quiet for a moment, "The same Jeane told you. I'm sorry my actions got them exiled from Earth for a month essentially. My family at least knows I'm a key, and that I've been part of a team who handles incidents like this, and that me not having to worry about them lets me accomplish my task as quickly and efficiently as possible."
"Do you even miss them?" Jeane could hear some irritation in her father's voice.
"Of course I do. They're my family. I hate that this was the only option, and have devoted some serious thought to ensuring it isn't something that happens again. Given the threat we faced, this exile to this embassy and colony made and makes sense, however unpalatable emotionally it is. Surely as a military man, you can understand that sentiment. None of us liked our families being shipped off like you were, None of the Irregulars are happy about it."
"I met him only briefly, but the guy who set this whole mess into motion seemed to think he was the smartest person in the room, best get what he wanted by lying to and hurting the people around him. When things went wrong with his plan almost immediately? He died. Alone. And given he was a fellow traceur or sounded like one… He should have known better," Jeane added with a frown, "Then we would have had another powerful Key to face the next threat and the one after. But, no... He let ego get in the way. Not a mistake I'm going to make if I have to fight again."
She looked up at her Dad again, smiling uncertainly, "Can I show you something that'll make Mom happier with me? Maybe a little?"
"He's gone now, and we have to move forward."
"Is that all the concern you have for another Key, Abel?"
Abel looked to Jeane's father, "No, he was a Key because of me. I took responsibility for him, I didn't stop him when I could have. People got hurt, some died. He played us all for fools, and in the end, I do think he got the last laugh on the ones who thought they were playing him. Trust me when I say that the path he walked was tragic, but he chose to walk it, without the rest of us. I have to live with the guilt I feel over what happened every day, sir. Saying that, I cannot dwell on it. I have to move forward. The Irregulars need me, and the World needs Keys and the Irregulars. I'm not asking everyone to fight, God knows I don't want to at times. I just ask everyone to do all they can to realize their potential, and I'm willing to do nearly anything I can to facilitate that for the betterment of all."
Her father seemed to be somewhat upset by that, and moved close to Abel, "It wouldn't do any good, me hitting you would it?"
"Physically you won't harm me no, but if that's really something that you need.."
He didn't even wait for Abel to finish, instead he socked him with a right cross that would have laid out anyone not a Key. The impact rocked Abel's head around, but did little more.
"Well I do feel a bit better now. I've wanted to punch your robotic ass since you came in. I'll back my daughter's choice because I said I would, but understand, I don't like you Abel. But right now, I do recognize Jeane needs you, and the Irregulars to help her grow. I'll be watching you."
The old Marine, the fury that had been building up spent now, looked to his daughter, "Alright Jeane, I could use something that might make your mother happy, I think we all could, Let's see it."
His outburst was uncharacteristic, He'd never let the kids seem him lose his cool, and Abel shook his head imperceptibly, as if to signal Jeane he was letting it go, part of his own penance for their exile here.
Jeane knew she got her temper from somewhere, but the raw surprise of seeing her Father cut loose momentarily derailed her train of thought. Oof. Collecting herself again, she nodded and tugged on her dark hoodie.
"Well, this isn't my old stuff. Kinda obvious but none of my clothes fit after my spurt on Bear Day. So Sean, the smart one who helped me figure what was up with the Nike deal, got me something called a PAM suit. Part armor, part battery, part infinite closet if I concentrate," she explained, closing her eyes, "And some of Mom's lectures about looking like less of a slob came to mind now that I represent more than myself. Did some reading and..."
The fabric of her clothing shifted, much-loved blue jeans darkening to a new black pair, dark hoodie lightening to a more flattering blue that matched her eyes. She opened her eyes, checking that she got it right.
"...This is closer to what I wear going out to explore. Put a little effort into things that I didn't before. Maybe even growing up a little."
He watched the demonstration, and smiled. "Good, you think ahead a bit more. You're going to need to if you're going to walk the path you have chosen. Still, that does look good on you. I expect your mother and sister will have some tips too, As you can certainly expect."
He smiled at her, "You've grown up a lot already, just don't rush. You only get one adolescence."
Jeane let the potential issue of her chosen 'heroic mode' PAM suit configuration sit for now, not wanting to complicate things with her Father anymore than she was.
"I'll try, Dad. Hard as it is for me to look before I leap when I'm in the moment," she responded with a chuckle, "You mentioned an embassy? With who, more aliens? That'd be the kind of thing to make Sam a little happier about losing her perfect school record..."
She frown and looked at Abel sidelong, "If you want to go talk to your family before Mom gets here, I won't be hurt. Probably won't go as nicely as this has so far."
"Well my family knows about me being a Key, It sucks that all our families got taken here, but at least they're not lone families stuck on an alien world. I bet my sisters have made all sorts of friends here already, that's just how they are. Besides, I told you I'd stay with you for this, and then we'll go see my family."
"The aliens here. They're like you Abel, extremely logical, and they follow a plan to the letter. Nothing they do isn't ordained. It's what we wish our military was like. Having seen it though, I see the flaw. There's no ingenuity, it's stagnant. Certainly uniformity has benefits, but without a bit of chaos, imagination, adaptation is very difficult."
“It might surprise you to know that that is my thought as well, Mr. Hebert. We can't remain in stasis, we are all changing, just not all in the same way."
Things went better after that, the topic turning to some lighter if still weird stories from living as a Key and on an alien planet respectively, Paul growing bored with his pile and claiming one of the chairs at the table to interject loudly and ask excited questions about what is was like to be a superhero. Trying to defuse that bomb of a question took a bit of time, and Jeane quite lost track of hers.
Until there was the click of a key in the door and a blonde woman in her late thirties froze in the doorway with it halfway open, blue eyes widening. She looked like a smaller version of Jeane, professionally done up, but mouth gaping as a storm of emotions flitted across her eyes. Shock into disbelief. Belief into relief as Jeane half rose herself in reflex, biting her lips, all the words falling out her brain now that it was crunch time.
"Jeane?" Sarah Hebert managed to exhale as she rallied a little.
The sliver of an uncertain smile danced across Jeane's lips, finally coming up with something, anything to say, "...Surprise? I have powers."
Her Mother sucked in a breath and again, expression building to an anger born of worry that all three of the males in the room could see was going to be a big.
Abel saw the oncoming storm clearly, and yet, made no move to halt it. It needed to happen better or worse, and he'd only intervene if it truly became necessary.
Paul, for his part clung to Jeane, hoping that their mother wouldn't be too mad.
Dan knew this was liable to be explosive, but at the same time his attention was focused mostly on Abel. After his admission, he wondered what the young man would do in this situation, how much he could trust him.
"Do you have any idea how worried we've been about you?! For all that you've pulled things like this before, this time you've..! If it was just that we all got sent here and had our lives disrupted for your stunt, it would be bad enough, Jeane, but I've been beside myself with fear and worry and not knowing if you were okay! And if you having powers is at the cause and the root of it," Sarah exclaimed, visibly working to keep her volume down, pinching her nose and exhaling loudly, "They gave us training, Jeane, at social services about what to do if we ran into a Key. Keep the situation calm. Back off. Call a number none of us had ever heard of before."
Jeane gritted her teeth, keeping as tight a clamp on her emotions as she could, acutely aware of Paul clinging to her leg, "Mom, I..."
"Not yet. This boy is a Key, right? And the fact you're so different looking probably means you've been doing something dangerous with him, worse than breaking your arm falling off a roof or getting in another fight. I love you, Jeane. We all do, but when you just ignore everything we try to tell just because it's us telling it you... I can't..! I'm tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to help and if you would just bend a little...!"
She gestured violently at the tall Key with both hands, sucking in a breath for another go, and Jeane took her chance, "I'm sorry for quitting ballet, Mom!"
Sarah's anger slowed at non sequitur, "...What? That was six years ago, what does that even have to..?"
"I was angry about the move and Paul and Dad having even less time and wanted to hurt you and I was stupid and I'm sorry, okay!? It wasn't the first thing, and God knows this won't be the last thing I'll be stupid about, but I'm sorry! You just get me so hot sometimes, and the anger makes it easy to push back, and it's easier to push past you and run rather than try and think about all our shit, and I'm sorry, okay?!?"
Jeane was shaking by the end of her outburst, voice echoing through and out the apartment, Paul's deathgrip on her leg the only shackle keeping her from closing the distance and delivering it at point-blank range to her Mother.
Abel sighed. Powered up as he was he'd always have to be so careful with what he said and how, as quantum forces were always at work with him. He needed to interject now, before things got worse. "I am indeed a Key, one of the very first. My name is Abel Cross, or "Sage" if I'm on duty. I'm one of the Founding members of the Irregulars, as well as a cofounder of Irregular Solutions, a Research and Development company, as well as a school for new Keys. For the past month, since the incident that forced the government to evacuate our base, and indeed, our families as well to this unreachable by common means locale, Jeane has been working along side us."
She looked ready to speak, and The look in Abel's eyes showed he wasn't done talking. "I came with Jeane, because it was I who gave her the choice on the spot to help us, or not. She'd run into another Key, one that had attacked her, and we were notified of it. We dispatched a small team to search for this new key, and part of that meant we needed to speak with Jeane, which we were allowed to do. In the end, she came along with us, to help find the young boy, and we were attacked. She defended herself well, and escaped without harm. It was at this point that the incident at our base happened, and despite not being a member of the team, you as her family were pulled into the evacuation dragnet. After that, a major threat in Canada was unleashed, destroying 2 small towns, and nearing a larger town of thousands. Jeane chose to come with us to face that threat, and was instrumental in facing it down, and preventing further loss of life."
He paused a moment then finished, "Following that we took stock of the situation, and Jeane remained with us, continuing her education, as well as learning about her abilities as a Key. The government's wheels grind slowly, and it was only just yesterday that we received the go-ahead to start bringing everyone home, or allowing you to officially become the first colonists on another world." The entire time he spoke, he kept his voice and tone neutral, so as to not cause any alarm or more uproar than he was sure he was going to.
"I made the choice to let her come along, so her safety was my responsibility. That's part of why I am here today, the other is because Jeane is a friend, and I know that this is hard for her, It wasn't easy for any of us to tell our families the truth."
If looks could kill and Abel been any less ridiculously charming, he would have died within five seconds of interjecting into the fight aborning, cut down by twin blue-eyed glares. As it was, he had Sarah's unmitigated focus and Jeane's grateful look.
Sarah drew in a deep breath and looked at her daughter as the retelling ended, expression measuring, "And this is true, Jeane?"
"Yeah, Mom. It's been crazy," the younger Hebert replied, "Six months of hiding all this from everyone afraid of what might happen, and it all blows up because of a stupid text."
"I see," Sarah replied evenly, sighing before facing Abel, "My daughter has gotten good at making the kind of friends who get her in just enough trouble to make me lose sleep but not enough to get arrested. It is my hope that you're at least that good under your charm, but what I'm hearing makes me want to have my husband throw you out the door and ground her forever."
"Mom, that's not..."
"Jeane, I want you happy. I want you safe, and I know a thing or two about how bad the world can get if you aren't ready. You fighting 'a major threat in Canada' wasn't something I'd expect to hear unless you followed in your Father's footsteps. If that's what I should expect if you go do this and learn from them..," Sarah continued, softly, insistently, sparing one sidelong look for her Husband and his input.
"Everything Abel's said, he's already said to me too. They've actually been here, ostensibly waiting for all of us, for little while,” Dan answered her look, "I don't like the idea of Jeane in any sort of danger, but this is a choice she's made."
"You know Abel's parents already, Dr. Cross is his father, and his mother is a teacher, she's come by offering help with Paul and Sam. Evidently they were forced to emancipate their son, indeed all the Irregulars families did so, at the behest of our federal government. Abel, at least is giving us another option, though it is a bit after the fact."
"The last thing I want is to force others to break bonds like that. Though the emancipation meant little to us, It made us masters of our own fates, not beholden to anyone, and freed the government to make requests of us directly. Understand, We don't work For the government, despite Lily's Father's situation. We work with them, both in crisis and incident resolution, as well as research, development of technology, and providing a reasonably safe environment for New keys to come to develop their powers. Each and Every key has so much potential, I don't want them forced into something by unscrupulous corporations, or the government."
Sarah considered Abel and her husband before sighing and turning on Jeane, "You've almost always found a way to do what you wanted regardless of what I think. And your powers apparently won't go away, so we have to deal with them, so what do you want this time, Jeane?"
The weariness in her voice was sharply contrasted by the spike of anger in her daughter's, the tall blonde shooting to her full height, "What do I want, Mom? Really?! What I don't want is emancipation or whatever. I want you guys. Back on Earth in whatever stupid base Dad gets sent to next. I live with you and try to be a less horrible big sister. You guys can sign whatever I need you to until I'm ready, and I can learn how to Key better until the next big crisis when I need to help! That's what you've always taught us, to help however we can! And guess what? Apparently some of the scariest aliens around are allergic to one of my powers. No pressure, right?!"
Sarah froze, thoughts working to handle this new twist.
"It's true, her powers are actually quite unique in some regards. I've been helping her learn about them, and how to use them in different ways."
He smiled disarmingly. "The base near my hometown is an AirForce base, though we do have other branches there. I'm sure if it's something you want, a transfer can be arranged, or you can return to your previous home. Jeane can transport herself to our HQ at will, so that's no issue."
He looked to Sarah, "As part of my apology for my part in this, I'm prepared to pay for the education of your children, to schools of your or their choice, once the time for that comes. I place a high value on education, and if I can help others grow, then that's something I prefer. Just offering money seems insincere, but I want you to understand that's not why I do this. I made my own choices, and some of those have caused you all hardship. I wish to make amends for that.”
Sarah blinked, taken aback, "That's... extremely generous, Abel. I... So. Transport herself. Like the portal that brought us here?"
The older woman moved into the kitchen, starting to prepare a cup of coffee, obviously buying herself time to think. "Kinda not really? It's just me and about what I can stuff in a backpack and line of sight unless I've been there before, Mom," Jeane added with a cautious smile, "Still fun, most of the time..."
"So what you're saying, Jeane, is that you have a whole lot less excuses to miss curfew now?"
Jeane had no words, jaw dropping at her Mother's flatly delivered zinger.
“Her method is not like the portal, though I do have a friend with a similar power, he just can't quite go interplanetary yet,” Abel smiled as her mother quickly zeroed in on the weakpoint Jeane's admission showed.
He chuckled, "Well, Jeane's range isn't as great as others, as the ability is still very new. In time, she'll be capable of amazing distances."
He looked to Jeane and smiled Thinking in his link to her <You didn't want emancipation, well enjoy curfew, despite the powers.> he teased lightly, and the looked over at her parents. "So, She does have your permission to continue her training, and learning with the Irregulars, and potentially joining us in the field? Of course, she will be duly paid commensurately with the work she does, and potential threat. Understand field work isn't required, but I want you to give your permission, or not, just so it's all on the up and up from here on out."
Dan looked to his wife, and nodded, but as he said, the final decision would rest with her mother.
'Oh shut up.'
The telepathic answer to Abel was the only reply for a good thirty seconds while Sarah stirred the instant coffee into her cup. She turned around, expression composed, cup in one hand.
"In short, Mr. Cross? Yes," she said before raising one hand and meeting Jeane's gaze, "The limits of what my husband and I will permit depend on exactly what Jeane has to tell us about what she's been up to at the family meeting we're going to have once I call Samantha and tell her to come home from her friend's."
The tall Key gulped a little at the simmering cocktail of emotions in her Mother's eyes before the older blond finished, "I'll give you both that long to say good bye for now before we need her."
"Okay, Mom," Jeane answered, giving Paul a one-armed hug before getting out of her chair.
Abel nodded and rose, "Well then, Jeane, when you're done, contact me, We've still got to visit my family, and fair is fair, after all."
He looked to her parents, and her little brother. "It was good to meet you all, and thank you for understanding." There was no offer to shake hands, and everything he could feel told him it was time for him to leave. With that, he made for the front door.
Dan called out to him, "You take a punch well, Abel."
Abel paused, "I was trained by the best. Just as Jeane will be."
Without saying more, he opened the door and head outside.
It was a few hours later before a much more subdued Jeane rejoined Abel near the entrance of the residential block as agreed over the link. Jeane was showing the emotional exhaustion of someone who has fought a battle they've been dreading for a while. By her expression, she wasn't quite sure if she had won or lost.
The taller Key plopped down across from him leaning back against the wall, and buried her face in her arms, groaning. "Whoever said 'be careful what you wish for' was an evil genius who I want to punch across the room. Being a shitty daughter is so much easier. They'll be coming back to Earth. They're... okay with the Irregulars and the deal with Nike, sort of, but now I have actually *try* at school and make it into a college."
"But whatever," she exhaled, tilting her head enough to look at Abel with one eye, "Where to next ?"
Abel chuckled, "You know you don't have to go to a normal school, we have that handled at Irregular Solutions. No not some brain download tech, just very good licensed educators on staff."
He paused, and sighed, "We're heading to my family back near the back end of the residential block. It's not a long walk."
As they set out, he smiled, "It's the first time I've seen them all since the Incident, which means its the longest that my sisters have been away from me in their whole lives. Despite being very different, We've always been pretty close, even with a five year age difference."
As they walked, Abel told her a couple stories about the three Cross children growing up, what it was like with identical twins, and their annoyance to never really fooling him."Try as they might, I have always been able to tell them apart."
"Well, you'd be a shitty older brother if you couldn't. Not that I'm one to talk. God, even with the mind control in the drinking water, Sam mostly glared at me. *Another* failing for me to work on," she rambled, hands behind her head, "Hopefully we can get your family out here, too. If you're right about the bad aliens coming back, this place would burn long before the Earth. At least it looks it."
Her blue-eyed gaze roamed over the settlement, noting that a massive nuclear and quantum deterrent wasn't something they seemed to have.
The Cross home was much like every other, though, with knowledge Abel was coming by, his parents were there, as well as his sisters. It was his father who answered, his eyes drawn to his son, then to the even taller key with him. Their home was spatanly furnished, though they did have a TV, likely the sole source of entertainment. "Abel, good to see you son, why don't you and your friend come inside. " Sebastian Cross was a doctor, and had ice in his veins, remaining calm no matter what. His mother was next coming to hug her son, oblivious to Jeane at first, and then standing back joining her husband. "Abel, it's so good to see you. So much has happened, I'm sure you've a lot to tell us too."
She looked up to Jeane, "Who's this and what happened to Kia?"
He shook his head, "Nothing mom, we're good, this is Jeane, she's the newest member of the Irregulars. Her family is the Hebert's, who are here too."
His mother nodded, "I know her mother fairly well then, she's been helping with the kids."
Peeking around the corner there were two blondes, twins by the look of it, both thirteen, and then they both exclaimed "Abel!" and came charging at their brother, it looked like they were coming to hit him but at the last moment, he caught them as they jumped, hugging him tightly. Abel felt something, as they touched him, and then both teen girls groaned, and Abel held them to him so they didn't fall when he expected them to release him.They clung to him tightly, and he watched as they both unlocked holding him, without him using his ability.
Abel held them tight, as he could do nothing more to help them, at least for now.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Cross," she added with a wave and a smile, "The government finally put the paperwork needed to let you all go home if you want to. Took 'em long enough, eh?"
His parents heard her but were more involved with the twins. "Abel what's going on?" his mother asked, almost hysterically. "Well Mom, given that I've seen this before, I can safely say that you now have three children who are Keys."
His father looked at him, "You're serious."
The girls had both passed out, but were still clinging to him subconsciously. "I suggest we take them to bed, and let them rest. The process can be a bit much. Likely, the excitement from seeing me, their age, as well as reexposure to high concentrations of quantum energies caused them to unlock. This is astonishing, though not the first set of twin Keys, it's virtually unheard of for multiple children in a family to unlock." Abel was curious though, he'd felt them try to get into his head whe they touched him, but he felt nothing from them now. It was curious, but not wholly unprecedented.
Abel carried his sisters to their room, without further ado, and with Jeane's help, he managed to get them to release him, laying them in their beds, covering them up, and sending his parents to get chairs. Now the room crowded with chairs, he and Jeane took a seat. "Why are we here all like sardines?"
Abel answered, I want to be here when they wake up, Since they passed out when they saw me." His father nodded at his son's decision. "makes sense. So, Jeane is it? Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself? You say Abel's a teacher?"
"I'm pretty simple. Marine brat, so I've lived at little bit of everywhere. Not happy about that, so four years ago I quit everything, became a juvenile delinquent, and learned how to jump off buildings as a traceuse. Got pretty good at it," she answered with a bittersweet smile as she watched the twins getting fussed over by the rest of their family.
"Abel has good reflexes. I fainted when I unlocked seven months ago and no one caught me as I hit the pavement."
"Anyway, I basically hid my powers for six months, but a fight with another Key and a stupid text sent the Irregulars after us. Stuff got really bad that first day, and all of our families got exiled here. Key named Pete gave me a growth spurt, I had nowhere else to go but stay with the team, so I did and your son has been teaching me how to Key better. That's what I meant about him teaching me," the towering blonde clarified, "Although he is talking about starting a school."
Abel nodded, "That was the original purpose of my coming here, to tell you it was all clear now, that it was safe for you to come home."
His father looked at him, "What happened son, they've been very good about not telling us anything."
"Our base was attacked, and we believed General Pryor was slain during the attack. That set everything into motion. We were mostly in Virginia, dealing with another situation, including a rogue agency that attacked all of us. We dealt with them, and were recalled to base, then moved to a secondary base further away. We were then alerted to another major disturbance in Canada."
He sighed, "We handled that and stopped thousands from dying, and then had to face down a veritable God. It literally took all of us, and the whole time, I got the feeling he was mostly toying with us."
"All true mom, Apollo is far beyond us in terms of what he can do, though we will close the gap. At least for now, he's not a threat. But that's the reality of the world now. I'm starting a school for young keys, to help them control their powers, as well as finish their education since the current idea is expel them as a danger to their classmates. I've hired educators, and worked to get certifications done, so it's accredited. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I've been up to."
Abel smiled, and reached down stroking a cheek of each of his siblings, and he nodded, "Now I find out my own two sisters are Keys, and their lives will change forever."
"How about I go and get you guys something from the colony store? Don't want to intrude on your family time after so long, and we might have caught you at the end of grocery cycle," Jeane offered, expression bittersweet and the prospect of being genuinely helpful lifting her. Abel's father shook his head. "We're fine, besides we've already gotten our allottment for the week."
Abel's mother nodded, "Why don't we go get some drinks from the kitchen?."
She got up, going to the kitchen with Jeane in tow. Once there the older woman seemed almost mechanical in how she put a pot of tea on. Obviously the families here lacked for nothing essential, and she smiled, "How do you deal with being a key, Jeane?"
She didn't look at her, still tending the pot, and seemed a bit upset, "My son, and especially his friend Sean, they're so different."
She seemed at odds with how cool Abel was, "You never knew them before, but who they are now, that's not anything like who they were."
She didn't seem to care that Abel could likely hear her.
"Well, to be perfectly honest, I find them a little spooky myself. To be that smart and be able to help that many people and see so many things? I can't really imagine it," Jeane confessed as she helped put together a tray for the next room, "as for how I deal with being a Key..?"
She paused for thought, adding more softly, "Well, I handle it by taking the time to be human between acts of ridiculousness. Keep myself from floating away. And it's all relative. Sure we may face big problems, but we have big solutions, too. I like to think the universe isn't out to screw us."
"Abel has always been fairly quiet, and guarded, but there've been times, he just seems almost robotic. He's my son, and nothing will ever change that, but he's just so different."
She looked down and shuddered. "And now my daughters are Keys too. I just don't know what it is I'm supposed to do. I can only do so much.."
In the other room, his father looked at him. "You can hear them perfectly can't you?" His father knew the other two women were speaking, and he just knew Abel did too.
"I can. I can hear grass growing, when I want to."
"So what happens now, son?"
"Well the twins are a lot younger than when this began with the Irregulars, but school is likely out. Of course they will be welcome at the one I'm creating for Keys, and I don't expect you to emancipate them like you were forced to with me."
"You didn't want that did you?"
"None of us did Dad, but it was the only way the government would deal with us, and let us do what we had to to save everyone." The younger man sat there, looking down at his sisters, watching for any sign of quantum energies, and finding none. Still, he smiled. "I will take care of them, not just as keys, but as my little sisters."
"I know you will Abel, you have always been there... Even when they pestered you." He put a hand on Abel's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. "I'm proud of what you and your friends have done, Abel. I know you can be trusted."
Abel just nodded, "They're good people dad."
Jeane smiled widely at that, glad to have an easy answer for once.
"Well, here's the thing. Keys don't start out able to toss mountains. They start out able to lift rocks, and our nodes, the things up here in our brains, grow into more power as we adapt to them. At least in my experience. It doesn't make you a different person, anymore then learning a skill or climbing a mountain does. Not magically by itself," she expounded, "Powers are tools, and if you've been raised right and have good friends, you'll still be that no matter what happens. Your daughters will be fine. You have my guarantee on that."
Abel's mother smiled at Jeane, and fixed several extra glasses, obviously one for all of them. In the other room, the twins were already waking up, and Abel was there, smiling. "Welcome back squirts."
A pillow from each of them smacked him, and he laughed, the good-hearted laugh of an older brother happy to see his sisters. His Father smiled, as Abel fended off the follow up attacks with his hands, until the two blonde teens calmed a bit, and sat up, hugging him.
"We missed you,” they said in unison.
"Okay, you two stop that, you'll weird mom and dad out."
Mellyssa smiled at him, "okay, just you're here to bring us home right?"
Dalia picked up right after that, "Yeah, it's been a month that we've been here, and mom even made us keep up with school work."
"Well yeah, did you think mom wouldn't? And yes, I am here to bring you home. We'll be helping the Heberts return home too, and anyone else, now that the Danger has passed. But the five of us are gonna have to have a conversation when we get home. It won't be bad, really but there's some things you need to know now."
The two sisters shared a look, then hugged him, "So long as you don't go off and leave us somewhere for a month, Abel."
"I won't, I promise."
Cornelia, his mother looked to Jeane, asking quietly to get the door, and then brought the drinks into the room, passing them out and hugging her children.
For Jeane the scene was a reminder, that no matter what else Abel said or did, there was a very human side to him, though it wasn't something that others saw much.
"Welcome back, you two. I'm Jeane Hebert. You might know my sister Sam, too smart and responsible for her own good? Anyway, I work with your brother," she commented warmly as she sat down, "Or he's working with me while I get my act together. So who's who? Didn't quite catch your names in all the excitement."
The one to Abel's right nodded, "I'm Dalia Cross."
The one to his right smiled. "I'm Mellyssa Cross. It's nice to meet you, Jeane."
Cornelia, their mother sat and sipped her tea, as Abel took up his own glass, "Jeane is a new Member of the Irregulars team, and she's already been so helpful."
"Dalia. Mellyssa. Got it," Jeane replied with a grin and a chuckle, pointing at each of them in turn, thoughts spinning behind her blue eyes at the lack of response from the twins to her ping.
<Something's off, Abel. Don't know what it was like for you when you unlocked, but I knew something was different the instant I woke up and exactly what I could do. Unless your entire family has poker faces for days, they should be freaking out at least a little.>
"So. Tell me about yourselves. What makes each of you cool?" she followed up, making sure to meet each of their gazes as she spoke, addressing them as individuals and not a matched set. Some twins were prickly about that stuff.
<They've been around me for over three years with me being a key. They are weaker comparatively than I was when I first got my powers, but they're actually younger. They'll be fine, best to not worry too much right now. I think they've been keys awhile, but under a month. They tried to do something when they touched me, but haven't since. It's something I will talk to them about privately once we're home.>
Dalia took the lead. "Well We're both cheerleaders, and while not as smart as Abel we make decent grades. I love to sing, and am in choir both at school and church."
Mellyssa seemed a bit quieter, "I love to draw and paint."
Abel smiled, "You're both good at what you put your minds to. Even if it's pestering me... Espescially pestering me when we were younger."
Abel got the telepathic equivalent of a displeased grunt for his dismissal, but Jeane was far too engaged with making sure the twins were solid to try to wrangle an answer out of the situation.
"School sports were never my thing, but I know they work you plenty hard in cheerleading, so good on you two for that. As well as keeping this one on his toes," she chuckled, pointing a thumb at Abel with a smirk, "Does everyone good to have that from time to time."
The tall blonde turned the intensity down a notch, tilting her head at the quieter twin, "Want to see something cool?"
When she got the nod from both the girls, Jeane held both hands palm up in front of her and concentrated. She dove deep into her armory, flickering past deadly implement until she got into the neighborhood she was after. She opened her eyes as red lightning danced from her hands and into the form of a sword with six branch-like 'L' blades protruding from it, looking like someone had woken up one day and decided they wanted to kill people with a 2-D metal tree with a hilt.
"Don't worry. It's perfectly safe long as you don't touch the blade," she added, keeping careful grip on the hilt of the sparking weapon, "Design showed up in my head one day, and after a little digging, turns out 3rd century Koreans made things like this for real."
Their eyes went wide as they looked on, and Abel sighed, "I honestly think you have every melee weapon humanity's created in your armory, It's good that you're doing research on them. I think it will help you wield them better."
His parents looked on, and seemed a bit taken aback by it.. "Really, that's.."
"Something that few can do. As for the twins here, I think they're going to be a bit more like me, with my abilities."
he looked at them and sent <aren't you?>
<Abel? we can hear their thoughts.>
<All the time?>
<Just when I concentrate.> came the reply in unison.
<Good, that's less headache for you. I can teach you to control it better, it's best to keep this ability hidden for now. Anything else you can do?>
They both looked back and each one levitated a different object from the small end table and nodded. "Yeah, I think so too,” they said in unison.
The blade vanished into sparks and thin air, appreciation in her eyes, "Oh, nice trick. I'd keep an eye out for surprises, too. Until I met your brother and his friends, I topped out at five and a half feet tall. Key named Pete apparently gave my node ideas, but that's a story about how your brother was awesome I'm not sure you want to know..."
The girls sat wide-eyed at the disappearance and gave Jeane a mischievous smile. Of course they wanted to hear the story, and with permission, Jeane and Abel told them. After that Jeane returned to her family and helped them pack. The next day they began bringing them home, and anyone else who wanted to come back.
Abel and Jeane were back to training following that and he smiled as he held her offense back, "You know, it was pretty fun, meeting your family, aside from your dad punching me."