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Justin OOC

Chapter 2: Marshland Madness

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In the month since the colossal battle against the Monster many simply called Zil, The world had been shaken completely.  Tokyo Harbor had been turned into a low level zone, nearly spelling the end of the massive metropolitan area.  Only the pride of the Japanese people, and the deployment of 90% of the JSDF to secure the borders of the zone allowed anyone to live within 2 miles of the water.  as it was the first mile was a designated Military zone,, the presence of any persons without authorization was met with lethal force. When Zil had finally rose from the water, a Titan straight out of Toei movies, 400 feet tall, impossibly strong, and a force of nature in terms of power, The collected novas had engaged with their full might, seemingly to little affect.  Busses, chunks of buildings, missiles, canon, all were fired, to little effect.  Growing annoyed it was only through the sacrifice of Riccochet that Zil's breath attack, an intensified blast of destructive quantum didn't strike the city itself, instead blowing off the top fifth of Mt. Fuji.  Redoubling their efforts after the massively televised and gruesome death of one of their own, The gathered novas kept up their assault, losing several more from their number, before Zil turned, and went back into the sea, followed by air, to the Marianas Trench, where he dove, and still resides.

 

it was humbling for everyone, to see powerful novas killed in such fashion, to see the horrors of a monster like Zil, the creatures spawned within his zone killed as they could be,  The 5th and 8th American Fleets, as well as the 2nd British and Australian fleets maintaining a cordon as best they can to ensure the safety of shipping in the region.

 

Novastorm had not been idle, it's best minds devoted to creating countermeasures for larger novas, and a special chosen few to develop ways to cancel the zones themselves.   Those not working toward this aim were sent out, gathering data on various zones, ,until another request came in, this time one close to home.

 

The Mississippi River system is the longest in the United states, it's tributaries ranging as far west as the Rocky Mountains.  It has been well documented that New Orleans has become a zone, Openly controlled by a nova, but still on "friendly terms" for the most part with those who would go there for research, on the surface.  The flora fauna of the region however, is not friendly, and is openly hostile.In the last month 24 attacks by Alligators in excess of thirty feet long have been documented all along the River system.  Two were slain, only through the use military grade weaponry by militant citizenry.  more than that, at least six attacks by "Bayou Shamblers" occurred over 200km from the zone.

 

The request was to find the nests where these creatures were spawning, and destroy it, as well as remove these Primalgators, as they were being called now, from the estuary proper.   Calvin knew it was the New orleans Zone, so he called the team together, assembling all those remaining from the Zil engagement, and a few new faces, recent recruits with gifts that could come in handy for the task at hand.

 

After thirty minutes he had gathered them all in the Situation room, and explained the mission.  "Allright, questions, comments, or suggestions?"   Some would likely not like to be removed from their research projects, but they had to stop this now, if they could.

 

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When the summons from Dr. Aziz came, Dr. Carol Carter had been sitting in her office reviewing some journals as well as attending a consultation with a colleague in Manchester over the internet. She had been doing pretty much the same thing everyday in one form or another since being brought on board to help with counseling for the Nova's who had survived the Tokyo Incident.. When Dr. Aziz had introduced her to the company and those Nova he made  it clear that she was here to help in whatever capacity needed and with utmost discretion and confidentiality.

 

So far none of the Novas had taken advantage of her services. They knew she was a nova as well of course but not to what extant. She had made it clear to Dr. Aziz that her status as a nova was public knowledge and of course nothing to hide but when she revealed to Aziz that she was also the anonymous Speedster, she had requested that that be kept a secret,at least for the time being. They had not at that time discussed what her involvement with the tactical response team would consist of if anything. So it was a surprise when she received the summons to the Tactical meeting and she wasn't sure what her role was to be. Never the less she hastily made her excuses to her colleague and gathering her notebook headed to the situation room.

 

When she had arrived many of the front line Nova's had already found seats, almost as if a puppet had pulled strings all of them turned and looked as she entered the room. She didn't need telepathy to know what they were thinking, Why is the shrink here?

 

"Ah Dr. Carter Thank you for attending" Dr. Aziz gestured to an empty seat which she took. "You all know Dr. Carter, she will be joining us for this mission." And without further fanfare he outlined the mission. after the briefing Dr Aziz opened the floor for questions.

 

Still unsure of her role she waited, silently, and observed her fellow Novas looking for signs of tension or unease in the face of returning to the field so soon.

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Sakurako hesitated in accepting the summons at first. After feeling like she was used as bait in the Tokyo attack, sitting alone with almost no support except for those who were on board the yacht, only to have to mount an assault she was in no measure to handle, outside of watching her crew blasted asunder because she was useless to even raise a hand...

 

No, the call was out again. She went to the briefing, but she was almost late. Last person in. When she sat in her labcoat and her typical, sporting the scar from the Zil battle, she was starting to wonder if she wouldn't see her next birthday.

 

Looking up at the summary of the mission, it was starting to become clear what they were going to be used for.

 

"So, we barely have time to mourn and we're gonna be getting more coffins?" Sakurako said, gripping the table. "We know what these things are, so what sort of firepower do we even have left? At least conventional weapons are working, thank god." She sighed. "Can we get assistance from the US Air Force? Perhaps we can mark the nest sites for MOAB Bombings or conventional Tomahawk strikes while we take the mobiles. It's the only solution I can think of."

 

She looked down and mumbled... "And like hell I'm gonna be bait."

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“If you feel that way, then stay home.†Beth had been lounging in her chair fairly casually until Sakurako finished speaking; now she sat up and stared hard at the other woman. “Of course, if you can’t do your fucking job, you should invoke your escape clause on your contract.

 

“Yes, this job is dangerous. If you can’t deal with that, if you want to feel like you were left to be bait, you should leave.†Beth stood and leaned forward, her displeasure falling on the other woman like a weight. “If we can’t trust you in combat, then you know where the door is. You, Aziz, and I will be discussing your attitude after this briefing.â€

 

Turning to Aziz, she asked, “Has anyone spoken to the Witchqueen? Has she offered insight or intel? Is she going to view a strike on the swamps and the creatures in it as an attack on her?â€

 

Beth is using Awe-Inspiring from the moment she started to talk.

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Sakurako stood up. "Then I am invoking it." Sakurako said, standing up and leaving the room. "I'm not going to hold you guys back."

 

ooc
I don't know how to even answer to that other than walking out. I am willing to stay with the game but with the way that Dragonstorm challenged her that is the answer I think Sakurako would give.

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"Pathetic." Jason muttered as Sakurako got up and left.  He'd been on that boat and faced that monstrosity too.  He'd witnessed the shear raw power in play and his own insignificance next to it.  He watched Ricochet sacrifice his life to it.  But he didn't shirk from it, he wouldn't flinch away even though Its quantum burned so bright his extra-ordinary senses were nearly burned out. Even though trying to leach Its strength and quantum field had nearly killed him as well.  He vowed that he would get better, get stronger, so that the next time Zil or some other giant monstrosity rears its ugly head, he’d be ready, prepared and able to put it down.

 

Jason turned his attention back to Dr. Aziz.  To the doctor and the others he looked haggard, like he hadn’t been sleeping well, and traces of the quantum burns were just barely visible over the top of his collar.  They were healing but still had a ways to go and Jason’s rededication to combat training wasn’t helping the process.  “So what is the actual plan Doc. How are we going in and what do you want me to do?”

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Sakurako stopped in her tracks at the doorway. "Pathetic? This isn't some sort of competetion, Jason. This is your life. Her life, everyone's life every time we go out there in missions like this. And right now I really got a lot of stuff burning in my head. You don't calculate every event in hindsight like I have and it left to one goddamn conclusion, that I couldn't do a thing to save those that were put under MY command. Ricochet was my responsibility, Jason! He made a goddamn stupid choice and all I could do is watch!"

 

"I don't wanna be put into that position again. His life is on MY hands, Jason." She walked over, staring at him. In his seated state she could stare him down eye to eye. "That's not pathetic, that's being human. We got one life to give, and I wanna make that payment have meaning. And not in vain."

 

"Take it what you will, but if we're going to do this we're gonna need all our assets and quite frankly I don't think I'm trusted at the moment with my commentary. But I'm sure there's something I can do here. My idea is still on the table."

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“You, out!†Beth glared at Sakurako, her inhuman presence still heavy in the room. “You’re off-mission until you and I have a discussion.

 

“You.†She leveled a finger at Jason. “You will treat your coworkers with respect regardless of your personal opinion. Name-calling has no place on any of these teams.â€

 

Crossing her arms, Dragonstorm waited for Sakurako to leave and Jason to gather himself.

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Shooting a look at Dragonstorm and Jason She thought to herself I should have presses Calvin to make seeing me mandatory, these people have a lot of things bottles up.

 

"Miss Hino, will you rejoin us?" She gestures to the chair. Sakurako nods and takes her seat.

 

"I wasn't with you all at ToKyo. I don't share the horror and anxiety that each of you faced out there. We all deal with grief, with pain, with regret and with Guilt in our own way. Some of us get angry. At ourselves and at others. Some of us feel helpless and abandoned. ANd some of us become lost. Thats why Dr. Aziz asked me to join NovaStorm. So you, Novas could come to someone who Understands what we are. and that In our own way Each person who is a nova shares an incredible amount of Guilt because we survived."

 

She stands up. "Each one of us even those who erupted after teh Surge feels a tinge of Guilt that we not only didnt die but we came out better than we were." She walks around to stand beside Sakurako. Ricochet understood that.From every interview and video i have seen of him He understood that. He didn't die because you couldn't save him. He died because a big fucking monster no one could have imagined killed him. But he Die trying to Save. He sacrificed."

 

She looks at each of the rest of the team. "All of you have sacrificed. and all of you will continue to. All of us. And some of us wont come back and those that do will have a bit more guilt to work through."

 

She goes back to her seat. "When this is over I would like to talk with you all one on one, or in group it doesn't matter. Talking is very good for the soul. But right now we have people to protect. we owe it to those who fell already."

 

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Kait put a hand on Beth to keep her from insisting on throwing Sakurako out of the room again when Dr. Carter invited the Smallest Engineer back into the room. "Let her speak," she said softly, pitching her voice to not reach beyond Beth's ears. "The last thing we need is another upset person in the room."

 

She watched Dr. Carter while the woman spoke, feeling that she was speaking a bit tangential to the actual problem but not enough to interrupt her. Kait gave Aziz a look, letting him know that she would be speaking and acting next; she had to suppress a small grin as the man slowly winced, imagining what the sometimes tactless scientist might say. Once Dr. Carter had finished, she stood up, gathering the attention of the room before it could wander off into other bickering. 

 

"We have three issues before us that must be addressed in order before we can move to action. And action is needed swiftly for the people of Louisiana's marshlands." Her tone dropped into a lecture mode, even and calm as she outlaid her thoughts. "First, we must establish a chain of command for these field work missions. We are not a military organization, but we are the best people equipped to handle these Zones, and that is dangerous, combat-situation work. While our general positions within Novastorm provide a fine framework for lines of responsibility and authority here, that does not translate to the kind of leadership needed out there. We need to establish field ranks and agree to abide by and respect the authority of those ranks when dealing with field situations - be that actually in the field or here at the office during debriefings."

 

"Secondly," she sighed and turned to her labmate. "Sakurako, you are dealing with psychological stress from Tokyo, and you are not dealing with it well so far. Your attitude has shown that you feel used and abandoned by the rest of us. That breaks necessary bonds of trust, going both ways, that must be addressed and repaired before it will be safe or wise to include you in the field." She glanced at Beth now, knowing her next statement was like to piss her friend off. "However, I personally have no objection to you sitting in on the briefing and providing support from here while the mission is under way. That is my opinion and suggestion, but ultimately it will be up to those of the highest field ranks once we determine that chain of command. And anyone going out in the field at any point will respect the authority of those ranks." Her tone was firm, back by her position as one of the co-founders of Novastorm. Dr. Aziz dealt with the day to day business side of Novastorm and was seen more often in the media representing the company, but Kait had been there since the inception of the organization as well. There was prerogative in that history, and she was invoking it now.

 

"Finally, we have people to go save and alligators to neutralize. People's lives depend on us, so I suggest we resolve the first two issues as quickly as possible and then get back to the debriefing." She finished with a nod to the group, but didn't sit. She intended to direct the conversation through the discussion of ranks to keep on a constructive course and get back to what they had been called together for that much quicker.

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Aziz had been sitting there quietly through the roiling conversation so far, letting everyone get their say in.   When Kaitlyn returned to her seat he rose up.  "First, Sakurako, I made the call on your team with the information we had. You did provide valuable data, and your team dd very well in the final battle directly against Zil.  Saying that, If you truly believe that I would send so many novas to die so callously as to think of them as bait, and not Inform them of such, well, perhaps you should consider your future with Novastorm."    He turned his Gaze to Jason.   "In private, here, we may speak freely, I encourage it most of the time, though I prefer we stay on topic and be constructive in how we resolve the matter at hand.  In the field, we are ONE team, one united front.  Disparaging comments regarding teammates have no place, and are to be left unsaid.   If there is real issue, Then address the field team leader, if it's with the Leader, address Field Operations Commander, and if it requires further action, It comes to me.   I have always tried to maintain an open door for issues with the company, and will do so as I have.  In the field, We will have team leads to take this task, and one overall field manager, with authority second only to my own."

 

Addressing Kaitlyn, he nodded once.  "That was the first large scale action by any nova group of more than four.  We did well considering what we faced, and what preparations we lacked.   You wish for a command Structure? very Well.  Dragonstorm will serve as Field Operations Manager.  There will be no more than three teams, to be assigned as needed.   For this current crisis, I will leave decisions to Dragonstorm,  unless a situation demands my involvement.   This is not the only situation before us, but it is the most pressing." 

 

"I have spoken with the Witchqueen, and we do have her permission to enter her domain, Her followers supposedly will not harm us, but the flora and fauna are another matter."  As he finished speaking, he sat back down, waiting to see just how this would play out further.

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Sakurako takes off her badge and sets it on the table. "Then if I'm in the wrong, then there is only one recourse at this point. I resign. I doubt a leave of absence would be allowed at this juncture."

 

"I will be removing my personal effects now."

 

Sakurako walks out, disgusted at how everything went down.

 

ooc
If this can be resolved that would be great but right now it's at a point either where Sakurako leaves or something happens after the mission is over to straighten things out. Thing is at least I doubt I will enjoy being out of a thread. Also Sakurako will disregard what anyone says to her at this point.

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Serena watched the conflict play out, for once not interjecting her opinion into the mix. Though she had a great deal of sympathy for Sakurako's mental trauma, it also meant that she wasn't ready for the field. Personally Serena had disagreed with Aziz - openly and adamantly - than any of these younger novas were ready for combat situations. While this wasn't a world that could afford these kids a lot of time to adjust when they were needed so badly, Serena had tried to press the fact that even eighteen-year old recruits to the military were given weeks of basic training before being sent into the field. But her opinion didn't carry the heft of an experienced military professional, and while Serena certainly possessed the skills to convince anyone of just about anything, she was also morally responsible enough to not be willing to use that sort of ability on someone she considered a friend and associate. 

 

For her own part, Serena had done her best to prepare by hiring a personal military trainer who was doing his best to help her prepare for martial situations. Though coming from a family with a history of public service professions certainly helped - she was relieved that she had inherited her father's family's pragmatic temperament in that regard. But she also recognized that she had an overdeveloped sense of empathy that was likely to make loss and failure difficult for her over time, and she was doing her best to make sure she was prepared for that in the field.

 

She listened to Aziz's response and nodded, satisfied that they were at least getting the command structure established for the mission. Then she turned to watch what unfolded between Dragonstorm and Sakurako, and whether the young nova would be willing to accept any type of criticism.  When she turned in her resignation and walked out, Serena simply shook her head and sighed.  

 

"It's for the best.  If that's her mental state, she's not ready for an active position in the field.  Can we proceed?"

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Holly had been training in the labs when she received her call.  She grabbed her scarf and came into the office.  She sat down and listened for most of the discussion.

 

When Becca had her outburst she tried to get up and stop her, but she let's the younger girl go.  "Damnit Saku." 

 

She looked at the rest.   And then raised her hand.

 

"How do these Bayou Shamblers and Primalgator react to powers?"

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Magnum Opus was filling up a notepad with notes as the meeting progressed. She was dressed casually (for her) in the red, black and white sweats and belt that she had habitually worn until recently. 

 

"Hopefully they won't attack us unless we provoke them somehow. A lot of animals won't. If that's not an option..." She shrugged. "Well, I don't like dumping a few hundred pounds of bricks on anyone or anything, but at least it'll slow them down if our powers don't have a direct effect. That leaves the Witchqueen, and - well, hopefully we can reason with her. Maybe there's something provoking them all that we haven't figured out yet. I'm sure there's got to be some way to stop these attacks that doesn't have us wiping out an entirely new form of life."

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2w4bqsz.jpg

 

The door to the conference room opened, admitting a young woman in a loose tanktop and plaid flannel pajama pants. Battered brown bunny slippers poked out from their hems. She had short feathered red hair with swipes of purplish around the ends of her bangs and piercings at the corners of her eyes. She was skinny and lanky in build; a far cry from the quantum-fueled muscules that populated the room.

 

"Hey losers," she murmured sleepily as she shuffled in and headed over to the table to plunk heavily in her seat. "Lets make it fast...got pop-tarts popping in a few minutes here."

 

She paused, then said, "Shit. Pop tarts. They pop up. That's fucking brilliant."

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10483385_1437899479805226_380972811_n.jp

New Orleans! Amber's eyes glossed over with a wistful smile. New Orleans used to be one of her top five places to go party. Even after Mardi Gras died down there was tons of stuff to do if you knew where to go and who to talk to. Now it had been lost to that damned Zone plague or whatever it was. She leaned on Sonja, sulking for a moment.

Blah, then the mission came down. Of course she knew that when she came in this room. This time it was gators. She tittered and looked up at Sonja, "hey baby, you ever rassled a gator before?" The thoughts of her gigantic girlfriend wrestling a gigantic crustacean from the Paleolithic era amused her greatly. Maybe she could even snap a few pictures during the confrontation. Hectic action scenes are a lot harder than photographing pretty girls and guys.

What happened next was something Amber wishes she could forget. The pink-haired cartoon girl said something and then got reprimanded for it. A storm off later and some strong word from others. Amber saw this, as they say in the business, as needless drama. She sighed and was quiet for the fiasco. Rolling her eyes and pulling out her phone, she let Twitter know in uncertain words that bullshit was happening.

Amber Mane @Ambrosia 15 May 2014

Drama will get you the attention you want it seems. Coppin attitude to ignite that shit makes it worse. #observed #notaffected #stillthough

Once the distressed damsel was gone (and hopefully getting some help), the talk of the mission continued. several questions and suggestions were bandied around. "These things are still animals right? They're not full on monsters? If the former, i think I can deal with the gators."

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“But they're not tart,†Kaitlyn murmured, suppressing the urge to roll her eyes as too young to have manners made her way into the debriefing.

 

Beth stared very hard at Otter for a long moment. “Death Otter, welcome to the meeting. Please be on time next time. And since you’ve missed this, we’ve already covered the part about treating your coworkers with respect. Name-calling is not appropriate in official capacities at NovaStorm.â€

 

The nova glanced at Aziz, who was giving her a “humor the crazy lady†look. Beth knew that Otter was a genius and she appreciated the other woman’s talents. She just wished that NovaStorm employees received a basic course on how to be professionals. Unfortunately, they had to coddled the talent to a certain degree or lose them to the competition.

 

“I’m glad you’re here, Otter. We have a situation and we’re down a person.†In truth, they were down several people. Zil had taken some of their heaviest hitters down in Japan, doubling the loss NovaStorm had faced. Beth quickly summarized the issue for the new arrival.

 

“Danielle, I appreciate your eco-minded thoughts, but part of our mission objective is to remove these creatures.†Beth managed to smooth her expression to apologetic as she spoke to the new member of the team but Danielle had this annoying habit of making her feel like a bad person. “If you have moral objections, you and I can discuss them privately. Or you and Dr. Aziz, if you prefer.â€

 

Clearing her throat, she turned her attention to the rest of the room. “The three groups are Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Alpha will be composed of Sonja, Amber, Nathaniel, Cold Snap, Magnum Opus, and myself. Our goal is containment and destruction of the primalgators and their nests. We’ll be using my weather abilities and Cold Snap’s control of ice to negatively affect these things, while Nathaniel can help pen them in with earth. Amber, I want you to find out if these things respond to your pheromone powers, and Sonja, I want you to stick close to her to move her around and protect her. If so, you can aid with containment.  Magnum Opus, you’ll be on-hand to help contain and combat.

 

“The Beta group is made of Drs. Carter and Weaver. Your objectives will be to assist aerially and from the ground as spotters and medics. Kait, your help from the air will be awesome, especially to find these nests and watch our sixes. Dr. Carter, we’ll have transportation provided to you so you can get around the swamp.â€

 

Beth looked at the last three people in the room. “Jason, Rena, and Otter are Gamma Team, and you’ll be going to New Orleans itself. If the WitchQueen is complicit and does try to turn the tables on us, you three can handle her, particularly you, Jason. Your powers may be so-so against creatures of zones but you should be able to pwn the WitchQueen. Otter, the city still has power and I’m sure that’s all I need to say about that.â€

 

“And everyone, feel free to hit the armory for whatever weapons and gear you deem appropriate.†She looked around the room, raising a brunette eyebrow. “Questions or insights?â€

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<To: DrAzizXXXXXXXXXX>

<From:CCarterXXXXXXXXX>

 

<need To schedule A meet with You, Dr. Weaver, and I suppose Dragonstorm. Feel some responsibility for this scene today, should have been more proactive in arranging counseling>

<want to make mandatory counseling when team returns, will write a Schedule and Plan and forward to you this afternoon>

 

<To:CCarterXXXXXXXXXX>

<From DrAzizXXXXXXXXXX>

 

<when you return, I didnt call you here in capacity as Doctor. Your going with the team, Speedster, Please pay attention to the Briefing>

 

Carol's Head shot up and she looked at Dr. Azzi across the room. he was still typing furiously into his pad, and she was about to sned another message when she herd her name coming from Dragonstorm.

 

 

 

“The Beta group is made of Drs. Carter and Weaver. Your objectives will be to assist aerially and from the ground as spotters and medics. Kait, your help from the air will be awesome, especially to find these nests and watch our sixes. Dr. Carter, we’ll have transportation provided to you so you can get around the swamp.â€

 She noticed several of the other Novas looking at her. Quelling her Sudden nervousness She smiled back at them.

 

After Dragonstorm finished Carol cleared her throat and spoke.

 

"I wont need the transportation, I can go where boats and airboats can't and they would just slow me down and put others at risk." She cuts her gaze around the table. "And once we are in the field I will need to be addressed as Speedster."

 

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Nathaniel had been silent during the dramatic beginnings of the meeting, the events in japan had left him exhausted for several days after he was forced to pull an entire building down to the bedrock layer of the island in order to avoid the destruction of the refugees corralled inside.  It took the lion's share of his power to accomplish that feat and still make sure the building was intact enough to be safe, this left him under considerable strain when the major offensives began and he'd attempted to ensnare the kaiju beast.  The whole ordeal had taught him that he was severely lacking in combat training, a fact he would have to remedy in a hurry lest he become a liability.  Despite his nova physique, years of a research-oriented lifestyle meant it took him longer to recover from combat expenditures.  Even now he was still somewhat sore and unfocused, but he managed to concentrate on the situation once he was named.  Sakurako's reaction was about what he might expect, and he sympathized, as she was more suited to research work the way he was, still this was what the job entailed and he'd already committed to it.

 

"I've no issues with the proposed command structure, cohesive command was one of the more obvious elements we needed to improve upon.  I assume the witch-queen will not be put out by the various environmental side-effects of our powers once we begin operations to pen in these creatures?  Bulwarks of earth large enough to stop these creatures may have permanent side-effects..."

 

Dr.Carter's mention of being referred to as Speedster in the field registered and then fell right out of Nathaniel's mind.  He could only dimly remember the efforts of such a person during the incident since it happened after he'd been entombed in the earth, though it did seem strange to have the counselor serving double-duty like this.

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Death Otter lolled her head back and yawned at the ceiling as she was dressed down. Oh man, the people that got put in charge of things. She made a bet with herself that Boss Lady was already throwing around words like 'unprofessional' and 'disrespectful' in her noggin...and then she made a note to give herself a lot of money because she knew she won that bet. OH YES SHE DID.

 

Truth was, this whole op didn't seem like her gig. Her DEELIO. Lizards. Weather. Queens of bitches or whatever. Boring.

 

On the other side, it meant they were going to give her a bunch of money to, most likely, sit around in Nawlins and do jack shit.

 

And that was a pretty good day, in the Bible of L'Otter du Mort.

 

She lazily lifted a hand.

 

"So if the Bitch Queen doesn't try to insert a pointy thing into your collective backs...you want me to do anything? She's probably got selfies I could find. People who call themselves queen uuuuuuuusually do."

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"Hopefully we can get her around to our way of thinking without doxxing or blackmailing her. It wasn't fun when it happened to me." MO nodded to Beth. "Okay, Beth. Obviously: if it's people or critters, I'll pick people. This won't be a problem."

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"I hope so too! So far everyone here seems pretty all right." MO returned the smile. "So if these alligators are still alligators, then they need external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature, and a brief burst of winter might put them down for the count without killing them. Assuming they didn't acquire internal heat regulating metabolisms with the super-whatever they've been hit with, but: worth a shot."

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Rising head and shoulders and more over everyone even sitting, Sonja kept her silence, a faint, contemplative frown on her world famous visage. The losses they had suffered famous the monstrous Zil still hurt, but the Zones and the World didn't care for their feelings. Ah, Max... another one dear to me loss to the Zones... It was unfortunate Sakurako was hurting so much after her first major encounter in a Zone, but she was young and inexperienced yet despite all her vast intelligence. NovaStorm was the poorer for losing her, even just in the R&D department, but Sakurako would do fine in the private sector, she was sure.

 

Sonja was a major shareholder in NovaStorm, having invested in the company before it was NovaStorm, but just  an alternative energy concern. She had pull, if she chose to use it, but settled for helping with Public Relations and Licensing Deals. She had other endeavors and companies that demanded her attention as well. The enormous woman was glad Beth was taking a greater leadership role.

 

Sonja's major concern with NovaStorm was exploring and interacting with the Zones, to see if there were some way of recovering those lost to them. In the mean time, she could exact some vengeance. She couldn't do that from the Board of Directors.

 

"Hey baby, you ever rassled a gator before?" her girlfriend Amber teased.

 

"Not quite," Sonja admitted softly in her deep, resonant voice, lips curved in a smirk. "But I did bronco-bust a... sort of dinosaur. I'll tell you about it sometime." From her lofty height, Sonja got a good view of Amber's phone and gave the impossibly beautiful woman she shared a bed with a disapproval look and firmly mouthed: Delete it!

 

Sonja listened attentively at Beth outlined the plan and others added their concerns and questions, nodding appropriately, raising her brows in surprise at Dr. Carter's revelation at being the Speedster. As big and strong as she was, Sonja was also very fast. She had read the occasional article on the Speedster with interest - the Speedster was much faster than she was... And almost as tiny as her girlfriend.

 

Sonja barely suppressed an eye-roll at Death Otter's antics. She had worked and interacted with many models and athletes and a few actors, many were divas or superstitious, with all sorts of eccentric or self-centered behavior and demands. They could be extremely aggravating, yet you still had to work with them all too frequently.

 

"Plan sounds good, Beth," Sonja acknowledged with a nod, lips quirking in a small grin. "We'll see how it holds up once we're in the field, of course." She flashed a welcoming smile to the newcomers. "Magnum Opus, Dr. Carter - or Speedster, if you prefer, welcome to organized chaos of NovaStorm." Her smile turned a touch more professional as she included Death Otter with a nod. "Death Otter, you too, of course."

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"Got it.   Just give the water a good wintery freeze and they should either go dormant (or what ever it is reptiles do when the get too cold) or at least stop them in their tracks.    Gonna need to go less offensive with my blasts, but it's doable, Mag."

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"I've no issues with the proposed command structure, cohesive command was one of the more obvious elements we needed to improve upon.  I assume the witch-queen will not be put out by the various environmental side-effects of our powers once we begin operations to pen in these creatures?  Bulwarks of earth large enough to stop these creatures may have permanent side-effects..."

 

“That’s the other reason I want Rena, Otter, and Jason in New Orleans.†Beth looked grim. “If she starts to object to the measures we have to take to help people, I want someone there to oppose her.â€

 

 

"So if the Bitch Queen doesn't try to insert a pointy thing into your collective backs...you want me to do anything? She's probably got selfies I could find. People who call themselves queen uuuuuuuusually do."

 

Beth hesitated only a second. “I have no interest in her personal momentos,†she said softly but it wasn’t her ‘I’m pissed and talking softly to keep from shouting’. She glanced at Dr. Aziz and asked, “Does NovaStorm need us to grab things like that from her?â€

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Death Otter gave Sonja an look of obviously mock happiness. "Oh and me too, of course. Well, thank you, so much, for that spirited and obviously not at all perfunctory welcome, Gigantor. Lookin' forward to learning the ropes and doing the new kid on the block routine! I'll be keeping an eye on you for sure. After all, with all those cameras around...you'll be in your element, right?"

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Carol was quietly observing the way the team worked and was impressed with how some members, those with more experience like Dragonstorm, Dr. Weaver, and Sonja, seemed to function smoothly, but she was a bit worried by the flippant attitude some of the members seemed to be taking, especially in regards to The Witchqueen. Novas as a whole tended to regard themselves as invulnerable much like an adolescent, at least until they experience something like Tokyo themselves. Something she knew intellectually but hadn't experienced herself.

 

“Don't disregard the danger The Witchqueen could pose. For one thing it has not been verified that she is indeed a nova. She claims to be a woman called Marie Laveau who was a voodoo practitioner in nineteenth century New Orleans who died in 1851. This woman in New Orelans today does have some sort of powers but her actual Identity is unknown as are the extent of those powers..†She indicated the members of Gamma team with a nod. “Not saying the three of you can't handle one nova, if that's what she is but there were roughly 340,000 inhabitants of New Orleans who perished when the Surge happened and the zone was created. Most of those people rose up out of the swamps as, well... zombies, and she controls them.â€

 

She paused knowing there would be questions she hoped she could answer.

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Kait listened attentively as the strategy was laid out and the group gave their recommendations to alter it. She wholeheartedly approved of Aziz's appointment of Beth as their field commander, and while she was annoyed with Sakurako's theatrics, she agreed with Rena. The diminutive woman had issues to work through and wasn't temperamentally suited to going on field missions, in Kait's opinion. That is seemed Sakurako was taking this as a personal affront enough to quit the company entirely saddened the scientist, but everyone had to make their own decisions in life. And grow up at their own pace. Silently she wished her former coworker well, then focused back again on the task at hand. 

 

"Is there any other critical information we need to discuss?" she asked the room. "Again, we're working on a timetable here, and I for one would like to get started as quickly as possible."

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"Oh hey, a real name," Otter said gleefully. "Now THAT, I can work with. A hundred thousand zombies is nothing compared to actionable intelligence!"

 

She tucked on a pair of sunglasses and leaned back in her seat.

 

"So what does she WANT, by the way? Any demands? Any moves? Any ANYTHING?"

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"Nothing apparently," Carol answers the woman called otter, "When the first rescue team went in to NO they were attacked by the zombies, She appeared and stopped them. She told the team that she was Marie Laveau, the Witchqueen and claimed dominion over the zone. She lets groups into the city, and they are relatively safe there, None of the groups who have gone to New Orleans have had anything bad happen to them but leaving the city is another matter."

 

She take a sip of coffee and continues. "Reports indicate the city proper is under siege by the Shamblers, who appear to be able to control the mutated fauna. As far as i know there has been no communication witht eh Shamblers at least not that been realeaseed by the authorities. These Shamblers are vaguely Humanoid but seem to be composed of Mixture of plant and animal matter. The area immediately around the City is basically a war zone between the Shamblers and the Zombies. None of the research teams who have left the city have returned."

 

A pause as she recalls other information which may be pertinent. "The Zombies aren't the Walking Dead/George Romero type we have become so familiar with. These are throwbacks to the old traditional zombies supposedly created by voodoo. Shooting them in the head won't stop them, nothing short of complete dismemberment will. And in the bayous and marsh don't get fixated on the gators. My dad says that all of the wildlife in the zone is affected, fish, bird, animals, everything."

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Amber flinched when she heard the talk about zombies, "and here I am without any knowledge of zombies other than they're dead and they eat brains." She squinted as she tried to remember something, "wasn't there a zombie survival movie something. Rules about being a zombie movie?" She tapped 'zombie rules' into her browser, "Cardio. Double Tap. Beware of bathrooms. Buckle up. Travel light. Don’t be a hero. Limber Up. When in doubt, know your way out. The buddy system. Check the back seat. Enjoy the little things." She shook her head, "yup these mean nothing to me."

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"These shamblers, do we have any additional information on their abilities?  They sound like just another mindless minion, but I'd like to know if they have any special feature that allows them to overcome compromising terrain.  I was thinking of trying to create pools of quicksand in which to trap them and walls to corral them in, both of which mean nothing to a creature that can burrow.

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Death Otter rubbed her forehead and winced a little.

 

"Okay, So. What you're telling me is that the 'witch queen' isn't the problem at all. In fact the problem is something else, which we have no intel on, except it seems to be on her shit list as well. So REALLY what we need to be doing is going up to her and making a DEAL with her. Like, we help her with her plant-thing and gator problem, and she...I dunno...gives us some zombies or something?"

 

She frowned. "What do you guys want with zombies anyway? That sounds really gross."

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“Nathaniel, we don’t have much intel on what they can do, which means we’ll be learning in the field.†Beth’s sarcastic smile indicated her enjoyment of that idea.

 

“As I said in the layout of battle plans, Otter,†Beth said, doing a remarkable job of holding onto her temper – she had little patience for repeating herself when giving orders, “You, Jason, and Rena will be going there in case she tries something. Rena’s powers work best on non-mindless opponents, Jason’s powers don’t work very well against Zone monsters, and you fare better in a city than a swamp.

 

“Is that clearer?â€

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"Not really, because it turns out the city is full of mindless, zone-monster zombies...and we're going there to keep an eye on her instead of actually talk to her...but you know what? It's fine. You go fight the gators, and we'll go to New Orleans and...follow the plan or whatever. The amazing, well-thought-out plan. It's fine."

 

She made wavy gestures.

 

"We got it. It's good."

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"Do we at least know if the Witch Queen created these zombies or are they zone creatures that she has somehow learned how to control?  What about her actual abilities?  Do we have any idea of what she is actually capable of?" Jason addressed Beth directly, shaking off the the bad thoughts brewing inside and ignoring the entirely unpleasant Death Otter.

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