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ABERRANT: WEIRDER STUFF SEASON TWO - EPISODE ONE - "WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE"

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The first sign of Jeane's return the more perceptive of the Irregulars picked up was the sound of bare footfalls hitting the ground far too rapidly for anything but a Key to manage without breaking their face tripping over themselves on flat ground. And these weren't nice, even footfalls. No, there were push-offs and thudding landings and the hiss of gloved hands vaulting a body over fallen trunks. The sounds faintly emerging from the left side of the bear's trail soon were accompanied by flashes of red and white fabric, of messy blonde hair in ponytail bouncing behind an unusually grim set of blue eyes.

A quick crack-crack-crack-thud as the blonde daredevil abruptly cut speed running up a tree and backfliping to the ground amid the treeline 50 meters out from the nearest Irregular. 

She emerged into the view of those constrained by the mere visible E-M frequency from behind one last big tree, pulling a white scarf down from her face. She was in nothing but her PAM suit, the clinging fabric shifted to white on her legs and front, red on her arms, back, and neck. A large black 'I' ran down her back, and a small 'T' adorned the left side of her chest. The scarf in question was loosely knotted about her throat, it's free ends trailing past her shoulders.

Her gaze wandered to the resting bear and Lilly as the latter touched the mountainous monster mammal. 

"Okay. One, sorry, guys," she recounted, counting off on one hand, "Two, please tell me you've got this because I *really* don't want to have to count on what the Key I found a half-mile or so that way told me. Oh. Three, there's a Key named Pete a half-mile or so that way. Or was thirty seconds ago."   

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The bear seemed in a drunken state of euphoria and oblivious to Lilly's presence. Her touch brought her in contact with energies she had never imagined. The bear was alive but the quantum was like a cancer eating and destroying as it grew and growing it subsumed what was once the bear. She didn't understand what she saw or felt even with the self trained medical knowledge she had picked up with her enhanced intelligence, but much of what she felt was...Alien.

The reaction caught her as the great paw  slapped out faster than should have been possible the blow was powerful but didn't hurt however the force threw her head over heels. Lilly flipped in the air and came down on her feet braced and slid about twenty meters before the inertia dissipated.

She looked up at the bear now some 600 meters away. It shook itself and rolled to its feet and raised it's head roaring to the sky. the energy sparking off it in a dazzling display of green fireworks.

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The roar rolled on and on it's challenge coming through even to those who held no inkling of what the beast spoke.

But one did.

*Queen of Nothing your days end Queen of lies your world will whither and die here as it did in the last realm you walked*

Spoiler

Italicized words are what Tease "hears" in the bears roar.  teas needs to make an intelligence check aided by anything she has that will help her memory

Suddenly as the roar cuts off the bear thrusts it's forelegs into the ground which shakes and the road way shatters hurling chunks of concrete about like pebbles. the Bear rears up right on it's hind legs and the quantum shoots out sparks of green death.

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Jeane was about to respond to the sudden light show when a green spark danced on her lips for a moment, on the spot where Pete had touched her to shush her. The crackle only lasted a heartbeat but the deep well of soothing heat that seeped out from the spot had the blonde daredevil moaning deep in her throat almost involuntarily, eyes closed shut. As the feeling spread from her core into her limbs, her knees nearly buckled from the feeling washing over her, hunching over as she forced her teeth closed.

There was a sudden convulsive burst of green sparks in all directions from her body as she abruptly doubled in size.

And another burst of sparks twice as large as she doubled again. And again. And again.

Jeane managed her teeth-clenched moaning only so far as the third burst of growth, yelling in a combination of pleasure and pain as she took one staggering step backwards, shaking the earth as she finished her final surge of growth and a harmless tempest of green sparks exploded for 40 feet in all directions. 88 feet worth of blonde, teenage Key straightened as the episode of growth ended, 239 tons worth of weight digging into the earth.

"What the hell was..?" came the deep, rumbling contralo of her voice in a question she never quite finished as she looked eye to eye with the demonic ice bear, freezing as she took in the Canadian vista her red-and-white clad body now towered over.

That moment of paralysis ended as she realized that at this size she probably counted as a rival and a worthy meal rather than a vermin to ignore to a feral brain. Prefight adrenaline surged through her veins, hands coming up to frame the hilt of an invisible weapon. 

One final crackle of lightning, crimson this time, heralded the emergence of a sword to fit her new scale, a deep electrical hum filling the air. Jeane took a deep breath, not daring to glance away from the bear even for a heartbeat, much as she wanted to double check where her friends were so she didn't step on them if she moved or got knocked over... 

Spoiler

Surprise Growth Sequence courtesy of Nina!

Also, if needed, splitting action.

1st Action, activate Quantum Weapon.

2nd Action, Reserving a Parry at -3 penalty (7+5 mega dice)

 

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Savant flowed over the ground like the wind, silent and unseen, her swift, long-legged strides leaving the matted pine needles and sparse underbrush undisturbed. She pinpointed the location of the earlier radio emissions and with a quick glance, analyzed the potential routes one would take from there to the Great Bear.

Several were likely and Savant circled around to come at them from the flank or behind, if Ronin's minion had been moving at a steady to accelerated pace. Nothing incongruous showed up on the infrared spectrum, but that was not too surprising - her own suit concealed her heat signature. It was surprising that Ronin had come up with such a stealth system, if it hadn't been pilfered from the Irregular Solutions Labs in the first place.

She caught the scent of something synthetic, which narrowed down her search without ending it. The rank and acrid smell of the quantum-infused Bear permeated the valley. The PAM suit must have had really good sound baffles as well, because echolocation only revealed an inconsistent impression over an area. He's somewhere... there...

Continuing the game of cat and mouse, Savant stopped humming her sonar pulses so as not to reveal her own location and started closing in flitting from tree to tree for cover. Considering the surprises she had already experienced, she wasn't going to assume Ronin's lackey didn't have a means to penetrate her own camouflage.

Savant turned her head slightly, a hidden smirk gracing her lips as Jeane returned. Dangerous, but it seemed she had regained her nerve. The sun was casting longer shadows and Sean caught sight of disturbed pine needles, broken twigs, and the faint indentation of foot steps, the minute scuff on stone breaking through the forest floor, narrowing down her search still further.

The ground shook again as the Great Bear shifted and backhanded Vanguard across the valley when something caught Savant's eye. Some dirt and pebbles shaken free from the Bear's movement and subsequent roar bounced off something unseen next to the thick trunk of an ancient Douglas Fir. Now that she knew where to look, Savant could just make the faint distortion of a man shape hiding in the lee of the big tree. The Douglas fir wouldn't off the slightest protection from something the size of the bear, but out of sight, out of mind. There you are...

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

5 peered at Bearzilla and the Irregulars from around the trunk of the tree. Ronin was right, this was going to be easy. They barely functioned as a team, let alone a cohesive one. He'd skip in, slice off a sample, and be out of there without them even--

-- His mouth dropped open as one of the girls suddenly swelled up to ninety feet tall. 5 was going to reassess their competence when he decided this was just dandy. Bearzilla would be distracted by the girl who could meet it eye-to-eye. He'd just be a mosquito, unremarked and gone before being squashed as an annoyance. He wasn't quite up to see if his sun-forged suit would stand up to that kind of punishment.

"Surrender and don't resist," said a voice, rich, sensual, and commanding that seemed to have a direct line to his crotch as an arm went under his shoulder and around his throat and a hand grabbed his wrist.

"Oh for gods sakes?!" 5 exclaimed. The sensor systems on his suit hadn't seen anything, though they were compensating now, showing him a figure - a very female figure that matched that voice - though no further details. Seems she had her own stealth systems.

"Ronin isn't getting what he wants this time," that gorgeous voice claimed firmly and with clear satisfaction, the arm tightening around his throat and the hand on his wrist.

"Sorry, ... Savant isn't it? What Ronin wants, Ronin gets," 5 countered, free arm swinging back in a devastatingly strong and fast elbow and catching only air.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Savant had calculated over ten thousand responses to her restraining action, she had seen the elbow coming even before the blurry figure had moved. And while the elbow had come faster and harder than she expected, it wasn't faster than she had allowed for. The elbow passed harmless over her head and nearly felled the tree with the 189.77cm thick trunk as she ducked and lashed out with a sweep kick faster than lightning.

Her leg slammed into his shins and... stopped, nearly all the kinetic energy dissipated and spread throughout the suit. She was far from the strongest, but she was still a hundred times stronger than the average athletic, she had expected at least some response. His knee came up and she backflipped away before it could connected with her face, her own foot catching him under the chin, but failing to take him off his feet, again most of the force harmlessly dispersed.

"Not this time," Savant reiterated. Instant calculations of the damage done to the tree from a non-direct blow let her estimate the force her opponent could exert. He's stronger than I am. And fast, if not as fast as me. I want a look at this guy.

Savant darted forward once more, cognitive processes accelerating, making the world slow down, as though she was operating on bullet time, and launched into a series of targeted kicks and punches. She threw ten strikes to his one, but where she had to parry and dodge, the bodysuited figure largely relied on his suit to protect him... and it did.

If her blows largely did little damage, they at least disrupted the stealth function of her opponent's suit and she finally got her first real good look at him.

"Snake Eyes?" she commented in vague disbelief, taking a pair of steps back out of immediate range.

"5," he corrected.

"That, is not a PAM suit," Savant said accusingly.

Now that she could get a good look at her opponent, she could see what he was wearing wasn't truly a PAM, not as she knew them, though it was acting like one, dispersing her blows over the entire thing. A highly advanced version of distinctly different construction, dispersing force far more efficiently than her own did. Her eyes narrowed. There was no quantum reinforcement in the suit, in fact, she didn't detect a dynamic quantum signature at all.

"Huh."

She knew Ronin was super-intelligent, but he wasn't an engineer or a scientist, no had ever showed any inclination towards or expertise in those areas. She couldn't reasonably believe he could have made a combat suit with such robust capabilities, and would be baffled on how he could have, if he had made it.

"Not quite, it's better than the ones you guys have, who know maybe you'll get a set some day" 5 taunted. "Look,  I really don't want to hurt you. Just step aside, let me get the thing I need to get, and we can each go our own way, no harm, no foul."

Savant snorted, feeling vaguely affronted that what appeared to be an unenhanced human was holding his own with her. The only thing she had encountered before that could compensate for the disparity was a T'tauri battlesuit. "Sorry, that's not happening today."

They engaged once more in a balletic dance of beautiful brutality, a martial figure all in black confronting a barely discernible blur only the enhanced sensor systems of his suit let him see the shape and movements off. To any who could have watched, it looked like a scene from a modern wuxia martial film or a fighting game played at high speed.

5 had been pulling his punches - he wasn't here to fight with the Irregulars, just to get a viable sample from the Quantum Care Bear - but it took only seconds for him to realize that the woman was taking any and every advantage of his restraint. She seemed to see every attack coming before he even committed, yet he swore he could hear her teeth grinding as he would not go down.

With all her many, many blows, 5 was starting to feel rattled inside his armor, while he had only managed to land one solid blow, a punch to a tit that crackled with the electrical discharge of integrated taser that made her grunt and sent her flipping back twenty yards, though she landed in a graceful cart wheel. He thought that would be his opportunity to evade her and make it to the Bear before she could stop him, but he was wrong. He'd taken only two steps for her voice rang out.

"Stop."

A single word, but said with such conviction and surety and penetrating command that it completely bypassed his brain and went straight to his nervous system. 5 stopped and Savant raced up behind him and her foot came up between his legs hard. This time, 5 felt it, and if his suit stopped it from being crippling, it still hurt.

"That's it! I'm done being nice," 5 growled. "I don't want to fight any of you, but that was a low blow, and I'm pretty sure you were brought up better than that."

His sword came out of the sheath on his back, its blade so black it seemed to suck in the light, except for a glint on the mono-molecular edge. He swung around in a tight spin, the blade arcing like a swath of night and missed Savant by a bare millimeter as she sidestep. He couldn't see her face, but her pose seemed unsurprised and relaxed, unconcerned that he had a weapon that gave him the advantage of reach. He could imagine her smirking and wanted nothing more than to wipe that imagined smirk off her face.

5 went on the attack, trying to force her back, but she continued to duck and weave, slipping between thrusts and slashes. She tried disarming him, but couldn't manage to break his grip. Giving the blade due consideration, Savant gave more focus to defense than offense, especially after seeing the blade cleave through trees in a single slice without slowing.

She began using it to her advantage, but the falling trees were posing more of an impediment to her movement than it was to the Snake Eyes-looking fucker. Then she realized he still wasn't trying to hit her he was striking the trees, herding her. One tree fell and landed a glancing blow off his shoulder barely slowing him, and they wouldn't be heavy enough to pin him without the perfect negation of leverage. But it did convey just how sharp his sword was.

From a hard style of martial arts, Savant flowed instantly into a soft style at 5's next strike, evading the strike in a graceful pirouette and using two fingers on the flat of the blade, redirected the black sword's trajectory. The tip of the blade penetrated 5's armored suit and sliced into the top of 5's foot. 5 howled and suddenly lashed out with a speed and ferocity that Savant couldn't quite account for.

Savant glided back a step, preventing herself from being beheaded at the cost of a shallow, straight slice across her collar bones. Her PAM suit parted with a sigh, revealing the tops the most remarkable breasts and a length of enticing cleavage. The integrity of her PAM suit sundered, the thermoptic camouflage system ended and now 5 got his first good look of who was fighting.

Gorgeous didn't begin to describe the tall woman, she was so beautiful it was distracting, a goddess made flesh. 5 as prepped as he had been this was to much, he was concerned he'd screw up and that wasn't an option. And she wasn't smirking now. Her expression was cool and alarmingly lethal as blood began to seep from the slash finer than any razor could equal, and trace down the curves off her breasts into the cleft between them.

"And now I'm done being nice," Savant replied, her melodious voice so cold and sharp 5 flinched at the sound, as she took a metallic rod hanging from her hip. It looked suspiciously like... "I wanted you intact to answer questions, but I'll settle for mostly intact with extraneous bits removed."

She pressed a button and a blade of coruscating energy extended from the top of the rod with an ominous hiss, a mix of yellows, oranges, and reds, fuchsia and magenta. Unlike the item that had clearly inspired the weapon, the blade wasn't a long tube of plasma, but a flat plane that was almost invisible edge on despite the light it gave off.

Ronin might have said his armor had been tempered in the sun, but this woman who had stepped out of a goddamn comic book had a shard of the fucking dawning sun in her hand and seemed entirely too willing to use it on him. And his foot was a mass of agony. Had she cut off one or more of his toes with his own sword?

"You have got to be kidding me?!" 5 groaned in defeated exasperation as he shook a hand at her in disgusted disbelief. "That's it. I'm done. you can keep the bear."

"Good," Savant replied, a faint curve to her lips, despite the sting and sticky wetness on her chest. Her turquoise eyes focused on the gamma-ray band of the electromagnetic spectrum, to get a look at the face behind the mask. "Come in peacefully, we just want to ask some-"

"Oh, I'm done with that too," 5 interrupted, a hand going to his wrist. "As much funas being questioned by you might be, that can't happen, I'm outta here."

"No!" Savant shouted, her free hand slapping a disk on her hip a moment too late as 5 discorporated into motes of light of indeterminate colour and disappeared with a pop of in rushing air. "..." She sighed, shoulders slumping for just a moment before she straightened them. "Dammit. Only half a win."

Hopefully the tracking device she had planted on him with her first touch would yield some dividends. A new design, instead of electrical or mechanical components that emitted a signal, it was a single molecule with its own precisely attuned signature that she could lock onto with remote viewing, the signature drawing her awareness. Hopefully, there was the possibility this tracking device would go unnoticed, at least long enough to be useful.

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Abel beheld the Spectacle of Jeane's surprise growth spurt and two things went through his mind.  The first was that he was glad she was wearing a PAM suit, as the alternative would have been quite awkward later for all of them.   The second was a truly Nerdy idea, and his habit for using his telekinesis to make up for his human level physical strength.  He reached out to Jeane's mind, speaking instantly and directly to her.
 

<Hey Jeane, I've got an idea, so you don't have to worry about closing that distance.  Tell me, do you know what The "Fastball Special" is?>

"Uh, a guy throws a guy?" her gaze fixed on the bear which had most her attention.

<Yeah, that one. I can get you there faster than running. if you're up for it.>

A huge smile crosses her face, laughter rumbling, "Bring me down to hit it as I come down, and I'm in."

<"Deal.">

 

Abel quickly began computing the proper angle for everything, and mustering his telekinetic might.  One he let go she'd be on her own, and this was gonna be a bigger impact he was sure than the bear's stomping.   ""You all might want to brace yourselves, this will be a hell of an impact." he said to everyone else, as his telekinesis enveloped Jeane, before he mentally rared back, even as she took a ready stance, and with All the effort he could muster, he launched Jeane at the Bear, a smile on his face.   This could be the greatest combat move he'd been a part of, or the dumbest, but his personal leanings were more to the former.

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Fighting off the unease of being both lifted in the air by an invisible force and where she was going to end up if Sage knew half as much about this as she hoped he did, Jeane had her quantum sword in two-handed grip over her head. She fought the urge to yell as she was launched into an arc towards the roaring ice bear. Her scarf and ponytail trailed behind her, comingling with the aurora borealis kicked up by her monstrous blade in it wake. Reaching the apex of her flight, she brought the weapon down with all the strength and momentum she could muster. 239 tons of female Key hit the ground at a substantial speed, kicking up a booming explosion of dirt, rocks, and trees in all directions.

The first thing that could be seen through the thinning dust cloud was Jeane's red-clad back, a black 'I' twenty feet tall running down the middle. She was on one knee, breathing, heavy as the cloud started to clear ...

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The impact was stupendous. If not for the warning all of the irregulars would have been thrown from their feet. The shock-wave toppled trees in a five kilometer radius and shattered windows up to twenty away. The dust cloud looked like the mushroom cloud of a small nuke.

What no one saw was the blade of quantum Essence slicing into the Primal Quantum of the bear and the subsequent unleashing of all of that energy into...nothing.

Jeane felt odd as if a great weariness came over her and suddenly dizziness and nausea hit her full on and she fell onto her side.

When the dust settled Lilly was closest and saw Jeane, almost normal sized lying on her side and not ten feet away the bear also normal sized and for all intents normal looking in a similar pose.

Spoiler

both jeane and the bear are normal the bear is incapacitated but otherwise un wounded jean is just sick fro mt he sudden change in size again. hers will pass in a few moments

 

 

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Lilly's eyes went wide as Jeane grew, and grew, and grew. She had seen Kia take enormous forms, but this was certainly news to her that Jeane could do it.

"What. The. ACTUAL. Hell." she said to herself as she watched the gigantic Jeane sail through the air, bringing her enormous sword down on the kaiju-esque, glacial bear. She could see the shockwave heading toward her from Jeane's impact and turned toward it, sending quantum surging through her legs to leap into it to counter to blow back.

When she landed, clearing the wave as the dust settled around her, Lilly spotted Jeane close by, still shrinking, but nearly back to regular size. She darted over to her at superhuman speed, kicking up a cloud of dirt behind her, ending with a thirty meter, feet first slide, stopping right beside the young key, leaving a trench in her wake.

"What the hell? Are you okay? I didn't tell me you could do THAT!" she said as she touched her, extending her senses into Jeane's body, searching for injuries or anything anomalous.

"You should be fine. Deep breaths. The nausea is from the sudden size shift. New powers are... well.. it should pass. Just relax and breath deep." she told her young friend, helping her shift to a more comfortable position.  

Lilly could see a bear, nor more than a few meters away, laying much like Jeane was, but unmoving and seemingly normal. Lilly jogged over to it and touched it with a sigh and a small smile.

"It's not dead. He's fine, just unconscious." she reported back Jeane and looked over her shoulder at her. "Dude! You did it! You stopped the bear and did not even have to kill it. That's awesome. Really great work, Traceuse." she praised the young key.

For a few moments she sat there, crouching beside the bear, idly petting it without even realizing. It was big, and soft and warm, and petting the bear offered a comfort she did not realize she needed right now with the various worries in the back of her mind that she tried to not think about and let the other Lilly handle. Her mom, Kyle, her dad, Devin... Her gaze drifted off to look at nothing as she crouched there.

Then she remembered something.

Lilly rose up and looked around, sending out another ping from her considerable node as she searched the area with her enhanced senses.

"Hey you Ronin-minion douche! If you are still alive, but hurt, I can help you. If you are thinking of doing something really stupid to one of us, then you'll have to go through me." she yelled out and listened, waiting for a response, in one form or another.

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It was a good thing she hadn't eaten since breakfast or else Jeane would have emptied the contents of her stomach then and there, listening to Vanguard go on about the bear and how great she was and whatever else she didn't fully catch.

"Not my power. Fucking Pete," she muttered as the nausea receded, and she felt well enough to uncurl and  lever herself to her feet. The small fire of satisfaction burning in her belly at having somehow not killing the bear was abruptly doused as she realized she was looking *down* at Lily. What the what? The blonde daredevil dropped heavily to her knees again, drawing in a shuddering breath or three trying not to scream or cry. One new thing too many to handle. Just keep... it... together long enough to find a locked room and a pillow.

"I'm... I'm done. Okay? I quit. Can we go home now? Whatever that means anymore, Lilly?," stammered the newly-minted 6'8 Key, streaked with mud and dust and physically stable and healthy as far as the other girl's powers could tell. 

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Seeing the soaring, giant Jeane, Sean calculated the resultant force of the impact and was prepared. She danced the shockwaves rocking the valley as though swanning across a dance floor and the tumbling trees and boulders her partners. When it grew still, she waved the billowing dust from her face and did another quick scan for 5, but he seemed to be well and truly gone.

Through the falling dust, a solid shaft of light was seen. Soon, a shadowed shape could be discerned holding it, a feminine shape as it grew closer, then Sean was gliding towards the rest of the Irregulars from the waves of dust, awesome and terrible, crimson sheathing her chest. With a quick glance, she took in the scene.

None of her friends seemed to be unduly injured and the bear had been reduced back to a typical size. Jeane, not quite so, showing a 21.21% increase in stature. Nearly as much an increase as her own metamorphosis, though Jeane had started out over half a foot taller than Sean had been as a boy. She pursed her lips, eyes narrowing. She had felt the discharge of the quantum energy infusing the bear, if not seen it, but there was no sign of what had happened to it, where it had gone. Frowning as she walked closer, she shut off her photon blade and gave Jeane a more intense glance.

Jeane's quantum signature hadn't changed as far as Sean could tell, no sign in her of that had infused the bear, no alteration or hybridization of her signature that might have accounted for her increase in stature. That was odd. Few Keys showed outward physical alterations - herself one of the few exceptions - beyond physical optimization when they manifested. Using a developed power shouldn't have caused a permanent physical change like it seemed it had in Jeane.

5 hours ago, Jeane said:

"Not my power. Fucking Pete,"

Ah, there is was. An answer and more questions.

"5, the Ronin-minion douche, is gone," Sean informed Lilly and the others as she reached them. "Either he was linked into a teleportation system like the Watchtower or the T'tauri possess, of his suit had its own personal means of translocation." She shared a look with Lilly and Abel. "As far as I could tell, 5 was all Suit and no Node. It was... formidable."

She noticed Lilly's glance down and grin self-deprecatingly. "He got a lucky shot in with a very sharp sword, moved just a smidge quicker than anticipated. Could have been a lot worse than it is. The boob punch only bruised a few ribs."

Sean patted Jeane on the shoulder sympathetically. "Glad you came back, Jeane. But we can't go quite yet. I think we need to talk with this Pete for a bit. And I'd like to see if we can find where the bear was first... infected."

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On 5/19/2018 at 6:00 PM, AWS ST said:

*Queen of Nothing your days end Queen of lies your world will whither and die here as it did in the last realm you walked*

"Last realm I walked?" Tease asked softly as the green glow faded from her eyes.  "What?  What do you know!?"

Then in ran Jeane, "No, wait!"  She help out her hand in a vain attempt to stop what was about to transpire.  The beast knew something, it told her something she didn't expect and understood even less.

Then came the megaton release of more quantum energy than she was prepared for, even with the warning.  She was blasted backwards and tossed end over end before slamming into a tree.  She cried out in pain as she felt a stabbing pain jolt through her shoulder and down her arm.  She tumbled through the snow and earth, stopping several hundred feet away from the bear.

Sean was just finishing up praising the coward when the fae empowered Tease approached the team, staggering and clutching her left shoulder as it hung limp, dislocated no doubt.  Her face was marred with dirt and grime as well as a few scrapes and bruises, there were muddy streaks on her cheeks where her tears from the pain had washed away the stuck earth on her perfect features.  Her hood has fallen from her head, her hair was in shambles and as she slowly limped forward the more perceptive of the group could see her long pointed ears slowly shrink back down to their normal size.

"You don't get to leave yet," Tease hissed to Jeane.  "You were supposed to be my partner, you were supposed to get my back," she gripped Jeane by the bicep and her about, wincing and grunting under the pain.  "So before you go, in front of them, and especially me, look me in the eyes and tell me why you ran away and left me to die."

Spoiler

Tease scored no successes on her Intelligence roll.

 

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9 hours ago, Jeane said:

"Not my power. Fucking Pete," she muttered as the nausea receded, and she felt well enough to uncurl and  lever herself to her feet. The small fire of satisfaction burning in her belly at having somehow not killing the bear was abruptly doused as she realized she was looking *down* at Lily. What the what? The blonde daredevil dropped heavily to her knees again, drawing in a shuddering breath or three trying not to scream or cry. One new thing too many to handle. Just keep... it... together long enough to find a locked room and a pillow.

"I'm... I'm done. Okay? I quit. Can we go home now? Whatever that means anymore, Lilly?," stammered the newly-minted 6'8 Key, streaked with mud and dust and physically stable and healthy as far as the other girl's powers could tell. 

 

"I know. We'll go soon. For now, you just rest. I can carry you if you need, but you seem to be okay, just Super Sized." Lilly explained as she walked back over to Jeane and touched her again, checking her out.

"Like Sean said though, we're gonna try to find where the was.. enhanced?... and see if we can find anything there. And who the hell is Pete? If he did that to you, then he is somebody worth talking to. He may somehow connected to all of this." Lilly added as Tease approached.

2 hours ago, Tease said:

"You don't get to leave yet," Tease hissed to Jeane.  "You were supposed to be my partner, you were supposed to get my back," she gripped Jeane by the bicep and her about, wincing and grunting under the pain.  "So before you go, in front of them, and especially me, look me in the eyes and tell me why you ran away and left me to die."

Lilly stepped between Tease and Jeane, separating the two. She turned to face Tease, noting her obvious arm injury with a splash of concern on her face. 

"One. We are still on mission, so now is really not the time for this.

Two. You say she abandoned you. Well, you walked off from the rest of us, by yourself. So we could say the same about you. Now, you were trying to do something and help, so was she, both in your own ways. That does not make things right though.

Three. Sean and the rest of us were here, either chasing after you when you walked off, or close by enough that we could protect you. Jeane was not your only means of protection.

Four. I offered to temporarily enhanced you physically, which would have helped your balance, made you tougher and stronger, in which case you probably would not be in the condition you are in now. You passed on it though. I offered because this is not mine, or our, first rodeo. Learn to benefit from our experience.

And Five. You did a great job. You calmed the bear and communicated with it. Without your help, things would have likely turned out a hell of a lot worse for us and it. Because of both your and Jeane's efforts, the situation is resolved and nobody else had to die, even the bear. That's really great work. We all appreciate it." Lilly explained, her voice firm, but not berating or accusatory.

"Now," she said as she reached out for Tease's arm, "if you let me have a look at that arm, I can fix it right up in an instant." she said before adding, "And the elf ears were pretty hot." with a small smile, trying to ease the tension.

 

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Tease's barbed words hit not so much stone as bubbling quicksand, earning her no more than a blink or three before being pulled off by Lilly.

Her mental state wasn't much better by the time the joke about elf ears was cracked, but by the shifting of her shoulders, Jeane wasn't going to collapse immediately, lack of emotion in her eyes excepted.

"He has my clothes. I gave them to him to keep safe. Don't touch him unless you want a surprise like I'm having," she murmured almost under her breath, the fingers of one hand briefly brushing her lips. She violently shook her head and giggled brokenly before regaining her fragile control.

"Right. Pete. Native American. Native Canadian? Our age. He called me little fire. Heh. Heh heh. Hot guy with super powers type who showed up out of nowhere and sent me back your way with Dancing With Wolves quotes," she rambled as she levered to her feet and looked around the group with dazed eyes, "Wow. Okay..."

The blonde daredevil jerked a thumb towards the bear's point of origin, "He was that way."

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Abel hand Instinctively placed his barrier field in front of them to blunt the force of the blast, and for those behind it, it did do that, but it didn't hold up under the pummeling and some energy did get past to buffet all who'd been back there with him.    As soon as the dust began to clear, he had felt the quantum of both of them, then its absence, but he couldn't see or explain exactly what had happened.   Abel was in motion, running far more swiftly than they'd seen him move before, closing the distance to the gathering Irregulars, his thoughts more on Jeane than the bear, and as he moved in of course he'd heard what was said.


When she'd jerked a thumb back the way they'd come, Abel halted and reversed course running back the way Jeane had come.    <Jeane, I'm going to ask if I can see your memories of Pete>  Having heard what he had, well, he wanted to speak with Pete himself, if only because he might have information they needed.  <Sure> came her reply, and she thought back on her meeting with Pete, what was said and what he looked like.   Abel took all this, and the emotional memories she unintentionally let slip in there as well, but he didn't comment, he never did,  focusing on the task at hand.   


Armed with this new information, he opened his senses up to their maximum, and then reached out with his mind to find this Pete, wondering who, and what he was.  His search quickly ended as he found Pete, and restrained himself from digging through the man's mind right away.  He did want his questions answered, but if it was true, he had helped them, and he wasn't going to begrudge him his privacy.   Pete was actually heading towards them, at his own pace, and Abel dialed back some of his sensory abilities, but still moved to intercept him.  He'd had his fill of entities showing up and vanishing since this all began, so he wasn't going to take that particular chance this time.

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While the irregulars looked one and other over the bear had been dazed and unresponsive, but the caresses that Lilly had given it almost unconsciously had soothed it's slumbering mind and it had opened an eye to watch the two legs. When Lilly jumped up and went to defend jeane the bear saw the Queen she looked different but she was the same and she was being threatened. With supreme effort the bear pushed itself to it's feet and once again challenged those who threatened

GRAWRRRRRRRR!

*Harm not the Queen of Air or face the wrath of all Summer*

Spoiler

What Tease hears in the growl

The tall tribesman came sauntering up the road is long stride eating up the distance even though he was in no hurry. He saw Abel coming toward him and he waved.

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Abel waved back and slowed down to a normal speed, until he came to where Pete was, and then matched his pace without either of them really stopping.   "You must be Pete.  My name is Abel, I'm a friend of Jeane's.   It seems what you said to Jeane had some effect, the Bear's back to normal now.   At least, it's not giant sized and exuding an aura of death that destroys all life around it.   So, I was wondering if you had some insight to offer on all of this."

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Pete continues walking and shrugs.

"Just told Little Fire the truth. bear was corrupted and had to be put down, Little Fire was the only one who could do that." He shrugs again.

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"Well, the Bear isn't dead, it's back to what would be it's normal size and shape, and I think it's trying to menace the others."  perhaps they had a different interpretation of "Put down"   "I do believe she wants to speak with you, as do several of my other friends."  He spoke quietly as they walked together, and wondered just what the normal man could see.   "How did you know that about her, about the bear?"   He was having flashbacks to Taleena, Alec's girlfriend, and wondered if Pete would say the same things she had.

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"While I appreciate the offer," she said to Lilly, with about as much venom as a single phrase could hold.  Lilly was astonished she managed to cram that much 'go fuck yourself' into so few words with just tone and inflection.  "But this gaggle of fools is about as incompetent as they come.  I'll be damned if I'll let any of you anywhere near me.  It's probably best if a medical professional tends to it, considering you fools got it this way to begin with."

The bear rolled up and shocked them all, roaring and standing (as best it could) in defense of its 'Queen'.

"Woah, woah, big guy," Tease shirked back a bit, scared as hell as the awakened bear rolled back up and began roaring in her defense.  "No, no... they aren't harming me."

Tease didn't like bears.  Or nature.  Mostly because nature generally meant no wifi or zero bars on her phone, but it was also because nature was dirty.  There was mud and dirt, and bugs and... well, anyway, nature sucked.  Tease didn't like people either.  Mostly for all the reasons standing around her.  The more they spoke the more she was convinced that her brother was going to absolutely obliterate them.  At this point, she almost considered it a mercy to the world.  She had resigned herself that there was no point arguing with these people, they were either insane, crazy, ignorant, not in the reality as her or... possibly a little bit of everything.

Despite her train of thought, and he absolute disdain for anything 'nature', there was something about the bear that made her not discount it out it out of hand.  Animals weren't really her thing, and when there is a 1,200lb bear not a few inches by you hollering up a storm, most people would have crapped themselves and started running (well, not the Irregulars... they were so cool that they didn't consider how majestic and dangerous mundane creatures were any more), but Tease... she just couldn't help but look at it and simply not be afraid.  If she'd ever considered connecting with nature before, starting with an angry, confused, and probably hungry, grizzly bear was no where near the top of her list.  Yet she reached out to it anyway.  Her hand touched the soft fur atop its snout and it, in a friendly gesture pushed its head closer toward her.

Her eyes reflected a warmth and tenderness none of them thought possible from the ice queen that was Tease.  Reflected in her eyes was a the awe and majesty one might find in a child's eyes when they meet Micky Mouse or sit on Santa's lap for the first time.  Here, under her hand, was one of natures most powerful wardens, and it was soft.  It was kind.  It was almost magical the way such a strong, powerful beast could be so gentle, kind and nurturing.

She was going to grind Lilly's ass to dust, but forgot what scathing insult she was going to fling her way.  Jeane was a lost cause, and Sean was cracking jokes about almost being cut in half... she found it best to left the children play in their own ignorance for awhile.  It hurt her to see such smart people be so foolish.

"C'mon, big guy," she walked away from them, the magic having left her eyes to replaced with something that honestly and sorrowful.  "At least someone here has my back."

Spoiler

Tease is still in the scene, she and 'Beartholomew' have moved several paces away from the 'crowd'.  She's mad at the Irregulars and would rather stay injured and away from them then be anywhere near them.

"So," she asked the bear.  Still not believing she was actually talking to a fricking bear.  "Are you... y'know... okay?  I mean, do you even understand anything that's going on?  I know I'm asking a lot of questions and I'm sorry, but so far, you're the smartest guy I've talked to all day.  Plus, you're really soft, so that's pretty cool... I haven't known any bears before... is there, like... stuff you guys do for fun or... what?"

There was a long pause then finally she touched the side of her head.  "Did I really have long ears?  Be honest, did they look tacky?"

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19 minutes ago, Tease said:

"C'mon, big guy," she walked away from them, the magic having left her eyes to replaced with something that honestly and sorrowful.  "At least someone here has my back."

Lilly's eyes narrowed at the comment from Tease to the bear hit her ears. Her hands clinched into fists containing enough power within them to casually demolish tanks and her nostrils flared once as she took in a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. She could tolerate many things, even a lack of gratitude, but not to the point of insults and disrespect. She tried to make a point Tease twice now, and apparently she had not gotten the message.

"Don't you ever say that again." Lilly called out at Tease in an uncharacteristic tone.

She walked up to Tease and the bear snuggling, her footfalls echoing through the felled trees around them, causing them to shake, almost like tuning forks, amplifying the sound. The bear's demeanor instantly shifted as it looked to Lilly and began to rear up again, taking in a deep breath, but Lilly reached out and grabbed it's snout with enough force to hold it's mouth closed but not hurt it, the action surprising and confusing to bear for a moment.

"Look. We tried not to hurt you, and we are not going to start now, but you need to settle down." she said to the bear releasing it's snout, causing it to blink in confusion. She then looked to Tease.

"Did you hear me you stuck up, little brat? Don't you fucking EVER say that again." she growled, her voice dripping with anger as she got right in Tease's face, causing her to take a step back, caught off guard by the uncharacteristic outburst from Lilly.

The bear composted itself and reared back up, the motion of which Lilly caught out of the corner of her eye, causing her to pick up a huge, felled tree with one hand and hold it out, parallel to the ground as a barricade, keeping the bear at bay without really even looking at him. The sight was so outlandish as to be almost comical, aside from the sternness in Lilly's voice and tone. Still, the causal display of such strength was not an east thing for most minds to wrap around.

"YOU got out of the car and YOU refused the offer of a list elsewhere. YOU refused my enhancement, and YOU refused my healing. So any harm that has come to you has been by YOUR own pride and bitchy attitude and I am fucking sick of it!" Tease was truly setting a record. None of the Irregulars has ever seen Lilly this angry, and here Tease has managed to do so within a few hours. Sh tried not to be so reactionary, and had even told Jeane not to be so, but she has just had enough for one day.

"We've ALWAYS had your back, and DESPITE what you have said and how you treated us. And we STILL fucking do! We evacuated you to protect you, we gave you a PAM suit to protect you, I offered to enhance you to protect you, and we have been here protecting you the entire fucking time and even before it. I was and am ready to fucking DIE to protect you, and any one of them, and that means the other Lilly is too. We do it because you are Devin's sister and one of us." she snarled.

"My father DIED at the hands of YOUR brother, trying to protect us, all of us, YOU included, from him. So don't you EVER say, suggest, or even so much as fucking THINK that we do not have your back, because we have it even when you do not have ours and I am fucking DONE with your shit!" Lilly said, her tone, narrowed eyes and heard breathing leaving no doubt as to the veracity of her words.

"So if you TRULY want to help, then drop the attitude, grow the fuck up, and get with the fucking TEAM. Because this shit," she said as she pointed down all around Tease, "..this shit ends now."

Lilly dropped the tree with just as little effort as she had picked it up with and turned to the bear.

"I am NOT your enemy, but if it will make you feel better, than take a few swings." she said to the bear who did not seem to need to the invitation. Still, just as unusual to see as her lifting the tree was Lilly standing there, letting a bear try to maul her for a few moments, even though it's efforts were totally ineffectual. She then turned and walked away, leaving to bear to rear up again and roar at her as she walked away, casually kicking a felled tree to splinters (away from the others) as she departed.

 

A few dozen feet away from Tease, the bear, and the others, Lilly found a stump, sat down with her back to the others. Overcome with emotions, Lilly rested her face in her hands and began to cry...

 

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Kia trotted up to a scene composed of tragedy and triumph, and immediately felt awful that she'd let her own insecurities drive her to hesitate before. Maybe in this fight nothing she could have done would have saved the day, but she could have at least been here for her friends instead of stressing out over what to do and what not to do. And now Marissa was off by herself, angry at everyone...and Lilly was off crying...and it felt like everything was just falling apart, even though they'd won.

She wanted to help everyone, all at once. There wasn't a superpower to do that though, not really. This was the kind of hurt that would need patience and good faith to heal. A mending of trust that couldn't be forced.

Kia went to Lilly and hunkered down beside her, reaching out to put a hand on her friend's shoulder.

"Hey," she said soothingly.

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Charlie stood like the eye of the storm while everyone blew over. The awkward thing was, from his position, he could see everyone's points. Jeane had not reacted well on the one hand, breaking the plan and leaving Tease exposed. On the other hand, she had been directed and influenced by this Pete guy, assuming her sudden power boost was his work. Lilly was trying to keep the fractious elements of the Irregulars together, and the fact that Ronin had left people watching was not a good reminder on top of him murdering her dad.

And Tease? Well, it seemed she had actually forged some kind of connection with the bear, and obviously was really pissed as hell about the turn to violence.

We need a group therapy session, stat. But how am I going to drag everyone into one?

Meanwhile, he joined Tease. "I get it. You really like this big guy, and hate that he got hurt. But everyone's gone through a hell of a roller-coaster." Finally his red energy fizzled out and he returned to normal flesh and blood. "You need to find a way to explain your side of things at a lower setting than 'C4.'"

A pause, then he observed: "Remember what Apollo did in training? With the insects?"

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Expecting both barrels of an insult gun pointed directly at him, Charlie's waited for the worst to come out of her mouth.  "Did you hear her?  Seriously?  And she knows she can get to me so she taunted the bear... are you fucking kidding?  It's a fucking bear, it doen't know any better.  How retarded do you have to be to pick a fight with a fucking bear when you know it can't hurt you.  And that's the only reason she does it.  She knows no one can hurt her so she dares everyone to try.  So easy to be the bad ass when you know you'll always win."

Surprisingly all her venom was directed at Lilly.  Charlie breathed a slight sigh of relief.  "Charlie, there is no way to explain anything to these guys, they're morons.  I give up.  I'm so done trying to be a part of this circus.  I'm just going to sit back and watch this freak show unfold and I guaran-damn-tee you that my brother is going to decimate them.  And they're gonna deserve it."  She looked at Beartholomew and smiled.  It was genuine and Charlie could actually remember ever seeing her smile.  It was like she was honestly and truly never happy.  "I don't know about really like.  I don't know... I've never seen a real bear, let alone pet one... it's just..." she shrugged and for a moment her expression said 'I'm just a regular eighteen year old'.  "I don't know... kinda cool.  He's not too hurt though, I don't think.  He seems to be alright."

With the mention of Apollo Tease's face turned more terse.  She stood up, wincing painfully as her dislocated arm shifted.  Her pride was legendary it seemed, more than willing to sit there in pain then have any of the others come near her, let alone touch her.  "Wait, yeah.  And Apollo is a god.  So if he can do it, then it stands to reason that only another god could... maybe using the power on mammals has a different effect than on insects.  Charlie, mammals have higher brain functions that insects and fish don't, that might be why they're going all haywire."  Her face grew sullen and she winched with grief.  "Ugh, shit."

"What?" He asked.

"If we tell them," she motioned to the Irregulars.  "They're going to find some way to fuck it up.  Maybe we should follow this lead on our own."  She knew some of the others had super hearing, she just didn't care.

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Sometimes seeing someone who seemed to have their shit together crumple had an acute way of helping you get your own shit back together. At least long enough to jump on the pile and get a finger grip on the ledge above you. This *was* a free-running street crew, just one using quantum cancer-granted super powers instead of parkour techniques. Jeane had been co-leading her little crew down in Norfolk for months now since their old leader had moved away last Christmas.

She wasn't ready. Didn't feel ready. But maybe babysteps before she jumped again?

"Sean? Tease was right. I fucked up, freaked out, and left you hanging because I felt useless, and you could have all been hurt because of that," she said as calmly as she could manage down at the older teen, "I'm dumb. You're smart. But Canada would send *something* to look at a nuclear crater, right? So it would be a good idea to not be here now?"

The towering, red-and-white clad teen gestured at the devastation they had wrought, "So maybe we can gather everyone not fit for further action and send them home? Leave just two or three of us behind to find the lab? I don't know. I'm overtired, undertrained, and feeling insecure, but Lilly is hurting worse. And maybe Tease is, too." 

Her lips quirked at how painful that last admission was.

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14 hours ago, Abel Cross said:

"Well, the Bear isn't dead, it's back to what would be it's normal size and shape, and I think it's trying to menace the others."  perhaps they had a different interpretation of "Put down"   "I do believe she wants to speak with you, as do several of my other friends."  He spoke quietly as they walked together, and wondered just what the normal man could see.   "How did you know that about her, about the bear?"   He was having flashbacks to Taleena, Alec's girlfriend, and wondered if Pete would say the same things she had.

Pete shrugged again "Maybe what was the bear you saw is dead and the bear that's left is another bear, maybe the real bear. But then who really knows whats real and whats not." He stopped suddenly and faced. "We might not even be real." he shrugged and turned back and started walking again.

In a few moments they arrived where everyone else was. "Seems the bear has a friend now," then his gaze fell on a much taller Jeane, "hmm, Little Fire is not so little anymore."

He gave a wave to everyone "Hi I'm Pete"

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Sean's eyes flicked back and forth in thought, fitting new pieces to the puzzle that had taken up residence in her mind as she let the recriminations and bickering among the group wash over her. Her back turned to the others, she absently wiped the blood from her chest with the last of her water and at first Jeane thought she hadn't even heard her. She opened her mouth to repeat herself when Sean glanced up at her.

"I didn't say Tease was wrong. You did fuck up. I said I was glad you came back - otherwise, you'd still be running, if not from this, than from something else, from yourself," Sean explained. Her voice wasn't harsh with condemnation, but it was firm. "I just didn't believe this was the time or place to dress you down, not on your first foray."

Sean glanced down, making sure she'd gotten all the blood and just able to see the puckered wound across her collar bones, a livid pink-red, though the bleeding had stopped. She straightened her shoulders and nodded, making a decision. There were too many secrets, even among themselves.

"And we'll go in a bit. I believe Abel may be speaking with this Pete of yours, and I'm not expecting a lab, just a hint or a residue where the bear was... infected." Sean gave the younger girl a wry smile, but her turquoise eyes revealed nothing. "You are not the only one feeling insecure, nor are Lilly and Tease the only ones hurting. There's something we all need to hear, but them especially. And it might end up hurting them more. C'mon."

As she turned to go, she saw Abel along with the self-identified Pete. She pointed a finger at him in passing, giving him a scrutinizing glance. "I have some questions for you, Pete," Sean said with a bite. "But they'll have to come after. I have something more pressing this instant." She nodded at Abel. "You'll want to hear this too, Abel."

Sean headed towards Lilly, being the closer of the two. Her mouth tightened at Lilly's tears and Kia's warning look, but Sean's expression was resolute. "Despite what was said," Sean said without preamble, "I need to speak with you and Tease, well, everyone, but you two in particular." Sean's tone suggested this wasn't to make up, but was something far more serious. "Could you please join me to speak with Tease? I'm not up for saying this twice. Once will be hard enough."

Giving Lilly time to collect herself, Sean walked over to Tease, giving the bear rumbling under her touch due consideration. She wasn't afraid of it - apex predator it may have been, but it was hard to feel the danger when you've face giant, organic war machines - but didn't want to arise its ire and disrupt the conversation. It would have been nice if she had mentioned she could take to animals when I asked her if she could use her emotion sensing mojo to pacify it.

Sean ignored Tease's haughty, frosty glare as she approached, frowning for a moment at her dislocated arm. If Tease was going to ignore it to spite them all, Sean would let her.

"Before you leave us to our purported incompetence, Tease, can you stomach Lilly's presence a bit more? There's something you both need to know." Sean's voice was cool but her brow furrowed in something that almost might have pleading. "Please?"

Sean gave Tease several moments to make her decision, walking to a spot between her and Lilly, giving neither of them the advantage of the one going to the other, and siding with neither after their last verbal exchange. When they -and the others - joined her, Sean took a deep breath and... hesitated.

God! She hated being wrong, and she hated even more getting played. She couldn't wait for Tease's next round of insults and disparagements.

"So... I think... General Pryor isn't dead and I'm pretty sure he was who I just fought off from getting a sample from the bear," Sean said, haltingly at first and finishing in a rush.

Lilly and Marissa had nearly identical expressions of shock, disbelief, hope, and fear on their faces. They opened their mouths at the same time and Sean held up a hand in a halting gesture to still the oncoming flood of questions.

"Let me explain my conclusions first, then I'll answer what questions I can," she told them, firm but not unkindly. "It may not be much, I have more questions myself."

Sean laced her fingers against her stomach and took a breath, head nodding slightly, as though running through what she was going to say.

"I've been puzzling over Ronin's attack against Bulwark and General Pryor ever since it happened. And reflecting on the fight I just had with the person known as 5, certain pieces have fallen into place.

5's fighting style was distinctly military. More, he must have seen me training, knows me to at least some fashion. I fight with a manner than integrates several styles together, but 5 was able to respond to and anticipate my anticipate my attacks to a significantly higher degree than probability would dictate.

I spoke with him as well. The cadence and inflections of his voice were familiar, and adding them to his word choice and sentence structure, it made his voice more distinctive, despite the artificial modulation. Pruning away the modulation, I'm almost definite the voice belongs to General Pryor. I can give you exact probabilities, if you want.

Now, back the Bulwark attack. Pryor only shot Ronin in the arm, though he was willing to risk you, Lilly, to deliver a nuke, that likely could have overcome your considerable damage threshold, never mind about the clones. He didn't even try for a kill shot, despite the threat posed by a Key as extreme and dangerous as Ronin, even if he knew him, had known him.

Pryor was the only one 'killed' in the attack, though Ronin has shown little concern for human life. That was in large part due to soldiers on base wearing the latest versions of personal armor developed to date. With no emergency or call for deployment, there was no reason for them to be wearing it. But General Pryor could have ordered it, as an exercise or extra training.

Finally, there is the star field, that bloody, be damned star field. I couldn't identify it, despite a flawless memory, my own direct observations, and access to nearly every star chart gathered the world over. In wanting to find your father, a detail eluded me. It was meant to. The star field had no depth. Taking that into account and looking at it again, I could determine conclusively what part of the sky it was, but that's not the point. The point is what I saw during the incident - the field behind the General was two dimensional. It was an image, not real."

Sean folded her arms under her full breasts, hands balled into fists, and her jaw was tight.

"It was a scene deliberately staged to deceive me and it could only have worked with General Pryor collaborating with Ronin." She gave Lilly and Tease a sympathetic glance, but it was brief and sharp. "I believe Ronin is innocent of General Pryor's death, but that doesn't make him less dangerous, but more, with his power and access to what Pryor knows of us and Guardian Shield... and Pryor's apparently willing participation."

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21 hours ago, Kia Mizuki said:

Kia went to Lilly and hunkered down beside her, reaching out to put a hand on her friend's shoulder.

"Hey," she said soothingly.

Lilly stiffened a bit she felt Kia's hand on her shoulder and took in a deep breath, sniffling a few times and wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her PAM suit.

"Hey." she said back to Kia, trying to compose herself.

"Do you.." Kia began to ask, prompting Lillt to shake her head quickly.

"No. It's nothing. I'm fine. Thanks" Lilly said, her voice still cracking a bit.

"Lilly..." Kia offered soothingly again, and once again Lilly shook her head.

"It's okay Kia. Really. We got a mission. She's just ungrateful and fails to see what she did wrong, but is the first to make a big scene and point out anybody else's mistakes. It's fine though. We got stuff to do with a clock on it. She and her BS can wait. I shouln't have lost if like that either. She just... ugh... Anyways.. Thanks though." Lilly replied, her voice a good bit more steady this time.

Both Kia and Lilly glanced over their shoulders as the hears Sean's approach.

 

 

8 hours ago, Sean Cassidy said:

"So... I think... General Pryor isn't dead and I'm pretty sure he was who I just fought off from getting a sample from the bear," Sean said, haltingly at first and finishing in a rush.

- - - - - - 

Sean folded her arms under her full breasts, hands balled into fists, and her jaw was tight.

"It was a scene deliberately staged to deceive me and it could only have worked with General Pryor collaborating with Ronin." She gave Lilly and Tease a sympathetic glance, but it was brief and sharp. "I believe Ronin is innocent of General Pryor's death, but that doesn't make him less dangerous, but more, with his power and access to what Pryor knows of us and Guardian Shield... and Pryor's apparently willing participation."

Lilly shook her head, causing her ponytail to swing about her shoulders, as she held her hands up and push at nothing, as if pushing away what Sean was saying. Rejecting it.

"No way. No possible way. I know you Sean,. I know you are smart and pick up on details and all of that, but you either missed something, misconstrued something, or are just trying to force things to fit a result you want." she said, still shaking her head as she took a step back.

"Because there is NO WAY my father would do that. He wouldn't work with 'Ronin'. He wouldn't abandon his post. He wouldn't discard his oath. He wouldn't abandon my mom and me. And he sure as hell would not put my mom and me through his 'death'. No way. No fucking way." she stated emphatically with another shake of her head.

"It might have been a false starfield, and that guy might not have had a node even, but there's no way it was him. I mean, are you even listening to yourself? Devin never liked my father. He was always disrespecting at best. And my dad was not overly thrilled about us bringing Devin in either. They never got along, and now you are telling me that not only are they working together, but that they have been for some time, planned this all, set it up, and then carried it out, discarding his post, my mom, and me, and willingly and knowingly put us through his death, just to work with 'Ronin'? Do you even hear yourself?" she said, ended with a rhetorical question and tone that made her disbelief, fueled my emotion fat, far more than logic, very clear. 

"Lilly. I know it's a tough pi-" Sean managed to get out being being cut off by Lilly, who spoke with her eyes closed tight, as if trying to avoid more of Sean's theory.

"No! Just.. no. I've known my dad all my life. He's the one that instilled so much in me that makes me.. I don't know... do this stuff..  protect others... He would NOT do this..." she said, her eyes still closed as she lifted her head and opened her eyes, tears well up inside them, and only being barely held back by her anger at Sean's suggestion.

"Do you think I want to be here? Don't you think I want to curl up in my mom's lap and just cry for days? I am here to protect you. ALL of you."" she said and then looked to Tease, "You included." and looked back to Sean, "Because I do not get to throw in the towel or take a break just because shit gets's hard. That is what my dad taught me. You do your job because others are depending on you.

And yes, the other Lilly is wherever, grieving with my mom while I am here doing this, no matter how insulting and ungrateful some may be for it. So you might discount what I said. But you know what? You might think of the me here and the me with my mom as 'me and her.' But it's not. It's ME. We are both me. I am here and there. We are both the same person, in two places at the same time. And you know what? If I couldn't split myself like this, then I would STILL be the here, doing my job and upholding my responsibilities, because I know my mom is safe and others are depending on me. My DAD taught me that." she said defiantly as looked at Sean while the tears fought to slip from her eyes.

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Tease listened, holding her arm.  Afterwards, instead of some outburst of denial all she could do was chuckle softly and shake her head.  "He's going to decimate you, and you're going to deny it the whole time he's doing it.  You guys have no idea how screwed we are, you really don't.  Devin has always been a 'winner', he's a competitor and he's always looking to 'win'.  Whatever you guys did to him," she still held true to the idea that whatever was wrong with Devin was their fault.  "he's going for the win, and he'll do anything he can to get that 'gold'."

She offered absolutely nothing of value, just a condescending shrug.  "Good luck with that.  I'm sure you super pros have it all figured out though, so no worries, right?  Be sure and keep us plebs posted, yeah?"

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Sean's Garage, Shelly Montana...

Five appeared in a plume of quantum vapor.  "No go," he said immediately, not even breaking stride from his jaunt.  "Savant stood in my way.  She manipulated me."

"Made you follow orders?"  Ronin asked with a smirk.  "No worries, I'll update you visor with the B.E.E.R. enhancements and the H.U.H. implant is ready for your helmet.  Her words and charms won't work a second time.  So, how did the suit hold up?"

"Better than anticipated, although I didn't test against her laser sword."  He spun his own blade around and slid it back into its sheath flawlessly.

"Should have taken the hit.  The unobtainium I made the MA.R.Y. S.U.I.T. from would have diffused the blade."

"If this thing is so great, why don't you wear it?"  Five asked.

"Can't,"  was all he replied with.  "The bear sample is largely unnecessary.  Just as predicted they heard everything we said, and no doubt they think we're out doing something nefarious at this very moment, when in reality we're just chilling in the 'The Barn', drinking all of Sean's energy drinks and eating all his hot pockets.  Considered even raiding Laurie's panty drawer... but I think she took all the good ones with her to D.C."

"Classy," Lodestone said with a smirk.  Her P.A.M. suit was woven into pant/shirt combo of black pleather and a knit top that fell off her shoulders showing off some skin.  "So, what's the next move?"

Ronin smiled and tipped back a Red Bull.  "We keep 'em guessing.  The infighting is our best weapon.  We exploit it, divide them, and destroy them.  If they will not come to me to learn, I will go to them and teach."

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There wasn't a whole lot Jeane could do to support Lilly here and now, the gentle yet precise dismissal of her earlier concerns feeling quite abit like she imagined a nipped ear felt, a warning not to push and reminder that teeth could rip flesh as well as hold it still. So she offered a 'get 'er' nod to Lilly and withdrew to the edge of the group where a bemused-looking Pete waited with that air of infinite calm that made Jeane want to slug him in the face right now.

Sage took one look at her face and fell back to give them some room, looking fairly unflustered himself. Not her problem, not right now.

"Did you know this would happen?!" she demanded in a furious whisper, gesturing at her, well, everything and glaring down at him. The anger helped center her, a tiny pilot light in the murk of confusion and so much muchness today.

"A river overflowing it's banks oft traces unexpected paths, Little Fire. You did well in jumping yours," he replied, eyes following her hands and reminding Jeane that she was in a skin tight bodyglove. A faint blush lit her checks, and she looked away.

"...Well, thanks for your help. Glad the bear didn't have to die to fix at least one problem."

She could freaking imagine his smile widening, even without looking at him as he spoke, "Sickness died to make way for health. Cycle restored."

Yup. There it was, catching her eye as she looked back. "If my friends ask you the right questions. can you please give them a straight answer? Just one, maybe two?"

"Perhaps, Little Fire. Perhaps."

And Jeane couldn't help but laugh once, despite everything, the sound high and healthy and happy as she pictured the migraine Pete might bestow upon them all and not just her.   
 

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Pete shook his head. "Wow. I seen most of you on TV. I thought you'd be, I don't know, more superheroeish." He looks at Little Fire, "Is that a word? Superheroish?"

He shakes his head again, "Anyway, your more like my little cousins, their 11 and 12."

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"We're abit older than that Pete, all between fifteen and eighteen."   Abel said dryly.    He wasn't in the mood for much more insanity, he really just wanted to go back to the abandoned base under the ice.   "We aren't Super heroes, we're people like everyone else, or we were up until about a  better part of a year ago in most cases.  We're still dealing with changes too, and the stress of everything today has us all on edge."

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"We know, Lilly," Kia said, and gave her friend a quick hug. "Everyone's just...scared and mad and it's hard to think."

She knew how that felt.

On seeing Pete, she gave him a bright smile and a wave.

"Hii...Pete? Jeane said you helped her, so...thanks for that. None of us really knew what to do other than just try to kill it. That felt kind of wrong though."

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Lilly clinched her jaw at what Tease said, looked down, crouched, and picked up a large rock in each hand before rising again. She clinched her fists around each rock and closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath and slowly exhaled it. Visible heat distortions emanated from each of her fists as bits of glowing, liquid slag dripped from between her fingers, the sheer force of her grip being so great that she was heating and melting the rock in her bared hands by pressure alone. She opened her hands, letting the globs of glowing, red hot slag fall to the ground beside her, finishing her exhale.

She then turned to Tease and stepped closer to her under Sean's weary gaze. They had never seen Lilly, the rock of the group.. the glue.. quite like she was today. It was to be expected to a degree, really, but with Tease's unrelenting verbal and emotional jabs at her, it was clear that she was breaking. Already she had had several totally uncharacteristic outbursts, seeming growing more and more unstable with each one. Kia, Sean and Abel all knew Lilly and where her morals and standard were, but right now, it was hard to tell just how intact they still were, though, at this very moment, she at least seemed to be composed once again.

Lilly spoke to Tease in a calm tone, not a forced one, but one of seemingly true sincerity, 

"You have been given chance after chance, and talked to over and over again, but you do not want to get with the program, for whatever reason. All you seem to want to do is bitch, nag, insult, nay say, berate, and kick people when they are down. Even though you disregarded the plan, and walked off to do your own thing, just like Jeane who you are so pissed about for doing the exact same thing after you did it yourself, you were of some true help today, and we honestly appreciate that." she said, offering her now-cooled hand to Tease to shake, but knew full well it was a pointless gesture with her.

She continued anyways though,

"But thus far at least, we have not been able to depend on you in any meaningful way. You are doing far, far more harm than good. You have made that abundantly clear. So IF you do not want want to be here, be part of a team, stow your attitude, get with the program and help out, then we neither want nor need you here. We truly appreciate what assistance you did manage to provide, but we will get by without you. We did before, and I am sure we will continue to do so." she said as she turned and began to talk away, saying over her shoulder, "I am sure Abel can see to your transportation if you wish to go."

Lilly stopped after a step or two, and turned back around to face Tease again,

"But... IF you stay, then you stow that attitude and get with the program. PERIOD. No more  bitching, nagging, insults, nay saying, berating. You work as part of a team that supports and helps each other. I imagine that is probably impossible for you to do, and that is fine, but I try to see the best in people and give them a chance to show it. That is something my father taught me." she said as she looked Tease in the eye, her gaze becomes more calm... serious.. intent...  "Otherwise, go please and be thankful the next time you hug your father that you still have one to hug, because that is something your brother has robbed from me." she said with a faint, sincere smile and a single blink of her watery eyes to hold back some tears.

"The choice is yours. But no more fence sitting, or half-ass committing." she said as she turned and began walking away again. 

"I'll follow the bear back to the point of... enhancement?... and look for anything unusual, since there may be a timer on it. I'll see if I can pick up other tracks in the area too. Any of you who want can stay here and talk to Pete, or bring him along if you want. He seems to know more about what was going on that we do. I'll leave that up to you. I am heading that way though," she said as she pointed toward the obvious trail left by the formerly gigantic bear. "If anybody needs a lift, let me know." layed out, apparently totally composed once again, or at least focusing on the task at hand to the point of mentally pushing everything else aside.

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"See?"  She looked to Sean with a smirk.  "People are easy to manipulate.  I'm living rent-free in her head, and she's too much of a coward to stand here and listen to anything I have to say.  Always turning her back, like what she did to Laurie and Sandy when she was busy fucking my brother.  But, oh, watch as she takes the moral high road with everyone else.  You want me to take orders from you?  From any of you?!  Then be people worth taking orders from.  Be leaders.  You're not.  You're pathetic, every fucking last one of you."

She looked at Pete, quirking up an eyebrow.  "Okay... maybe not the lead singer of the The Cult over here, I can't really judge him yet, considering we just met."

"Summon your slave, Abel, and send me home." she waved her hand.  "I'll find and help my brother on my own.  I don't need any of you.  Your P.A.M. suit will at my place, pick it up anytime you like."

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Charlie pinched the brow of this nose as Tease ran her mouth off again, turning from an extremely beautiful girl with a hidden heart someone to... a bitch. This happened again and again. "So I'm guessing you don't want me along on the thing we discussed?"

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"We didn't discuss anything, we were going to, but were interrupted by Sean."  She pointed out.  "Charlie, you're sweet, and I see what you're trying to do, but I'm not an Irregular anymore.  I can't keep doing this with people I positively hate and I blame for what happened to my brother.  It's like working with the enemy, and all I ever hear is 'we'll look for him soon', or we'll get on that right after this', or 'this is more important'.  If it were Lilly's dad that was missing, best bet we'd be looking for him, but no, it's just my brother and they don't don't seem to overly concerned to help me with that, so I'm done.  I'll find him on my own, somehow."

"It's a club full of empty promises that I simply can't be a part of."  The hand on her dislocated shoulder began to spasm and she held it tightly with her still good one.  "You'll never actually be one of them Charlie.  You'll always be 'the help' while they play the hero.  Good luck to you, though."  She offered him a warm smile as she waited for Abel to summon his personal gate maker to send her home... to a house where the Irregulars had evacuated her parents to some unknown planet.

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Tease had exploded well and good and Abel found himself sending a thought to James without really thinking about it.

<Yo boss, how did things go?> came James' jovial response.

<Good, bad. I need you to open a gate for Tease. Send her anywhere she wants. We have to back track this bear and see what we can find.>

 

Almost instantly the gate formed and Tease, who was being stared at by Sean with a extremely shocked look on her face. Tease nodded and pointed a finger at Lilly's clone then vanished as she stepped through the gate which closed immediately.

Sean Glared over at Lilly...Lilly's clone, her eyes narrowing. Shit, she thought to herself. We'll deal with this later.

She joined the rest of the Irregulars and Pete.

 

It was small really maybe 70 feet long and half that at one end, the other end came to a needle point. It's overall shape if anyone on Earth could have seen it was that of a flattened tear. However no one born in this dimension would ever be able to see it visually or interact with it in any fundamental way. Oh some Keys may but so far the only ones of worry was Savant and Sage, possibly Ronin... no Jaunt... Ronin was a facade and it had been a good one.

Apollo flowed through the lens and took his physical human form. He saw Pandora standing at the control column manipulating it. He was a little taken aback, she was in her true form. And that was not something one should see without being prepared before hand.

 

Sweat began to form on his brow the temperature was unbearable for the Human form. Only his powers kept him from bursting into flame. Pandora paid no notice of him.

“Ahem. I found them. And where their new base is some place called greenland. I don't understand these Humans. It's a frozen wasteland. Not green at all.” He said in their normal tongue which wasn't her native tongue but was his.

Pandora stopped what she was doing and part of her turned and focused on him. “Jaunt didn't kill General Pryor.” Her voice registered on many levels and was harsh. Apollo stepped back involuntarily

“He survived?”

She moved again or parts of her did, it was hard to follow. She flanked him on two sides as well as from the front. He didn't dare to look to see if any of her was behind him. He felt threatened.

“No the attack was a ruse all of it was a ruse. He lied to us and we fell for it.” Her voice came from all around him and he felt it penetrating into his brain she was holding nothing of her true self back.

“This has faild he didn't turn on them not really and we can nolong trust that he will come under ...our sway.

I think this little experiment is over. Time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. We'll come up with something to tell my brothers when they arrive.”

“As you wish Pandora, I can show you...”

“No you go and deal with the Irregulars. I will take care of Devin myself.”

 

They materialized back at there hideaway in California. Pryor pulled the helmet off and put his hand on Devin's arm as Tawni headed back toward the Kitchen. Devin stopped and looked at the hand then at the General.

“I hope all that was for Sean's recorders and that your not losing sight of what we are doing here Devin.”

Devin patted the hand then pushed it away. “Relax sir, I'm just playing the part.”

 

Sara's eyes flew open and she found herself looking up at Lilly, staring deep into her eyes. Her hand came up and gently touched the side of Lilly's face. “Done worry I'm fine. But we have to go back to Earth now.” she said matter of factually.

Sara sat up and saw Kyle. She smiled at him. “Kyle me and Lilly have to go but you need to stay here. My dad will watch over you and tell you all about how he's the best sheriff in Montana.”

 

They wnet through the dead town and into the mountains Abel had nudged the bear to make it want to go home and they were following it at a distance. The extraordinary sense of the Keys could hear the sounds of approaching helicopters now and they knew they had little time

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Jeane didn't have the senses to pick up the incoming choppers at this range, but then again she had a more personal issue to deal with, trying not to get more overwhelmed with today and what it had brought.

"...So, Pete. Do you have a number I can reach you at in case I want... Er, we need to talk to you again? I can..," she trailed off and looked away as she realized she had no phone, paper, or pen on her. Hell, she had no pockets in her PAM suit at the moment. Something to try and fix later.

Her cheeks colored with embarrassment as she forced herself to look down at Pete's face, "...Try and remember it until I can write it down. If you don't mind that is."   

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