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AWS S2 EP04 - The Ordinary World

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The young teens looked at one another, all of them were there. Abel, Sean, Lilly dragging the beaten and defeated Apollo, Sara, Kia, and Jeane. They stood under the Canadian mountains nearby an young Native Tribsman named Pete and a docile bear stood watching them.  pete had his hand on the bears shoulder, the bear was eating ahoney comb but stopped to look up at the Irregulars.

Oh. Hey, Pete," greeted Jeane with a confidence she wouldn't have been able to muster during their first meeting, starstruck with the team and enamored with him that she had been, still was if she was honest, "I really need your number or some way to reach you so that we can hang out, okay? You're cute; I'm awesome. It could be fun."

Then the smile fell off her face as she took in their surroundings and the bear and everything that meant about the potential truthfulness of Pandora's claims about what she had done. She flopped backwards to the pine-needle studded ground, running her hands down her face and groaning.

"Damn it. Before someone checks a calender or starts spouting quantum technobabble, could you please delete all these other Jeanes from my head, Abel? I really don't want to face the prospect of doing *all* of that work I did setting my life up *again* with a whole peanut gallery up here. My node is killing me, God damn it."

They'd won, Undeniably, Utterly.   The Titans were gone, Leaving the Irregulars victorious, though Devin would likely never recover from what Pandora had done to him.  He had no way to fully assess the damage immediately, but with a little time, he could at least keep him alive, and work to help him come back to them.  

He moved to Kia's side, and casually slipped an arm around the petite shapeshifter, a smile on his face.  He'd had a thousand different sappy romantic comments to make, but in an instant, Jeane snapped him from the reverie.  "That sort of thing is really best done at home Jeane, just in case there's some sort of backlash.  We should all get some rest, and then if any of you want me to do as you just asked, I will."   He didn't care that he was admitting he could actually do something like that, They were his friends, and if anyone should know what he could potentially do, it should be them, as they'd have to stop him if he ever went too far.

He planned to keep his own memories, now that he could process, sort, and store them all without going insane.  There was a danger, but getting to experience so much, so many lifetimes, was something it would take him some time to ever duplicate.  He looked to each of the other Irregulars, and smiled.   Quietly, he opened his senses to the world, testing everything he knew about the real world against where he found himself, using every means and metasense at his disposal, reaching out and touching minds he knew well.

 

Pete stood silent during all of this exchange then nodded at Jeane who was much taller than he remembered. “Okay sounds nice but I don't have a phone.”

The bear went back to eating the honey comb.

Sara who was standing with her arm around Sean's waist held up her hand and turned it over an over she looked puzzled. “Do you guys … feel different?”

They did.

 

ORDINARY WORLD

 

 

Some time had passed since the return of the Irregulars. All of them had felt different their power flowed with greater intensity all of them felt it as it enhanced every facet of their being. Abel had contacted James and was surprised when James had asked where they had disappeared to a minute ago. It took only short conversation to establish that the had not been gone from the world for more than a fraction of a moment, at least as others had perceived. James opened his Warp and brought all of them back to head quarters but not before Jeane had given Pete a secure cell phone.

From there things had progressed rapidly.

Abel conferred with Alec who confirmed that when the satellites had gone live there had been some sort of quantum wave and it had effected all Keys as far as he could tell. Sean determined that the satellites wre not functioning as they had been designed indeed the were doing nothing at all as far as instrumentation could determine. They appeared dead in space.

Sara recovered several of the satellites and indeed they were dead. Moreover. When opened up the interiors were not what was built into them somehow the satellites had been reconfigured.

Sean and Abel met and briefed members of Congress and the President about the destruction of Pandora and the end of the threat the titans posed to Earth. An emergency meeting of the UN was called and Sean gave a speech repeating the salient details for the worlds governments.

Back at Irregular Solutions Abel along with Alec via guild chat was investigating the changes to the Quantum and how it was effecting the Keys. It only took them about a week to come to some conclusions.

The Irregulars were called to a meeting.

Alec attended via telepresence.

Thank you all for coming,” he said after the rest of the Keys took their seats, “We have some information about what happened to all of you who were taken captive by Pandora and somewhat what happened to Keys world wide. Most of the following data was compiled by Sean and Abel as well as myself.

We will start with the Capture of Sara. When she was hit by the energy beam it wasn't an accident they knew from close scrutiny of her actions over the months prior how she would respond from interrogations of Apollo we gleaned that Pandora feared The raw energy that Sara could potentially access and so deemed her the greatest threat to herself and the other titans. Thus she planned the removal of Sara but she didn't want to kill her so they created the elaborate set up to capture her for study. The results of that study led Pandora to a plan to capture the bulk of the Irregulars in a similar manner an use the discoveries she had made to basically steal your powers and abilities, all of your potential.

Pandora used a simulacra of Sara to fool us she would through some ability we have not figured out yet project her consciousness into the simulacra and basically play Sara while Sara was being held.

Which brings me to how Sara and eventually all of you were held. Pandora had secretly amassed a few other Keys which she kept out of the lime light One of these was a young man who could shut down a Key's ability to function rendering them dormant. Through technology boosters this Key was able to shut all of you down with the assistance of the Satellites.”

Alec looks at Sean who stands up.

Yes the satellites. Through misdirection and manipulation Pandora, as Sara, convinced us to build them to monitor quantum and slow the development of Key. What Abel and I designed and built were not the devices we have since recovered, at least not wholly. Some how after launch Pandora altered the internal make up of the devices and the puls that was supposed locate the Creation particles instead rendered us powerless and unconscious so that we could be captured and transported into it's multidimensional ship of base whatever you want to call it. Chronologically, according to our physiology readings, those of us who were taken were trapped interdenominationaly for 11 months, 16 days, 4 hour, and 23 minutes plus a handful of seconds. Because of the structure, I hesitate to call it a ship, is located between dimensions it is for all intents and purposes outside of time. Sara was prisoner for much much longer. And here in our own dimension only a fraction of second elapsed from the pulse to our relocation in Canada.” Sean sat back down.

The reason we reappeared back in Canada as far as we can surmise is that when we fought there and Apollo came and attacked us it was through some sort of dimensional doorway which left a connection of some sort between this world and her ship,” said Abel from his seat.

Preliminary findings.” Alec took over again, “indicate that the pulse did more than render the Irregular core group powerless and capture all of you; the pulse also effected the physiology of all Keys and potential keys here on earth. Initial testing shows that the Node barely understood before has mutated across the board. Where as before it stored and regulated the Quantum energy that gives us our powers, now it acts more as a guide. We don't store the energy as we did before instead it seems to flow around and trough us, we channel it for all intents and purposes. This flow directed by the node, has enhanced us all further physically as well as mentally at least to some degree.”

What about the creation partical? Did the pulse locate them and trap them like it was supposed to”, asked James?

Sean answered from her seat. “No. The initial readings were false, planted by Pandora, as of today we can still not determine with any certainty what causes the spontaneous unlocking of a Key. Aside from Abel's Ability, as far as we can determine it is a random event with no connection to environment, circumstances or anything else.”

Well we do know that there is a genetic factor in the equation,” said Alec. “While the vestigial node exist in all of human kind, in most it is simply a benign lump of flesh which will never grow or activate. In a small number of people the node may become cancerous. And in an even smaller number, we have determined a genetic connection after comparing samples from known Keys. In all cases studied so far Active Keys have several Introns that have re-spliced themselves back into the genetic code of the individual, These specific Introns appear to be missing from the general population, however Abel, who has certain abilities for the detection of Keys both locked and unlocked, has given us a list and from the samples we have so far obtained all of those potential Keys possess the same Introns.”

The room grew silent as data was processed. Mariah half way raised her hand, “What about those Keys that Pandora had holding you guys captive?”

They are Dead,” Answered Sara. “we were held on the ship in areas that were inter-phased with our reality, it was held there by Pandora allowing us and the human Keys to survive there, when Pandora committed her self to attacking us she had to let that part go. Nothing human could survive there if they didn't have the right power. None of them did.”

How did you escape?” Asked James of Sara.

Sara looked at James then at Sean and shrugged, “I don't know. I was never lucid during my captivity, I didn't dream or experience anything like what Pandora did to the rest of them. They took everything from me by sheer force. They raped my mind. But I don't remember any of it. It was like going under anesthesia , your awake, you go out, then you awake. The last thing I remember before waking up was flying to save the plane.” Sean lays a comforting hand on Sara's.

So where does this all leave us,” asked Mariah again.

Pretty much where we were before we launched the satellites,” said Abel. “Except now we have no overhanging threat of the Titans and we have a little more reliable information about some things and less about others.”

Even then,” Sean speaks, “the world still needs us. Keys are unlocking, and those unlocking will be mostly unpredictable, our world is still coming to terms with our existence and things can still go either way with that, and the titans servitor races are still out there and it is almost assured that one or more of them will try to fill the power void left by the titans.”

Basically,” says Sara, “it's our Ordinary World.

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Spoiler

you may post consider  time to be from 2-4 weeks from the reappearance... exact time is not necessary. but that gives everyone time to do what ever you need to catch up.

New characters can be introduced during this time frame as soon as I get them for approval... the world is the same as it was before the vast majority of humanity does not have any inkling of what happened. they are goignt hrought here own struggles... there are aliens among us living the trasnportal network is growing new technologies are coming into existence and changing markets. and there are Keys. There are roughly 3/4 of a million potential Keys, less than 1000 have unlocked to date and not all of those are known.

 

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*Irregular Solutions, Inc HQ*

The youngest Irregular listened to all this with her chin in one hand, outwardly attentive, but she summed most of it up along the line 'Pandora was a lying bitch who played us, but we got her back'. And Pandora was the one who called her and the other new Keys abominations, so she'd already fulfilled her promise to punch Sara in the nose for her insults. Neat. Seemed simple enough. So did the route forward. It made her think back, attention splitting in two without loss of focus, one paying attention outward as they continued speaking, the other inward replaying a memory from three weeks earlier.

******

Jeane 'Traceuse' Hebert frowned at her reflection and tried to reconcile the stranger in the mirror with herself for the second time in as many months. It was still same mirror, just... Hung a little higher to compensate for the latest wave of practical joke her node had played on her in the days immediately after returning from the quantum realm and their nightmarish struggle within. She was was already missing the days when she'd *nearly* bump her head on every doorway she didn't duck through.

The girl, no, woman really, who looked back at Jeane was more mature than the towering blonde's mental image of herself, features softer and less harsh with the ineffable quantum glamor that the other Irregulars had dazzled her with in the early days of her time on the time before Pandora's loops broke down. Only the fact that the image mirrored her every single move kept this from being any more surreal than it was. She'd never thought about herself as pretty before, especially after she had had her first quantum growth spurt. Nearly seven foot tall amazons weren't pretty, not not that way. Now though...

She wasn't half bad, oh god no, and she'd be lying to the world and herself if she said a not so little part of her not so little self wasn't loving the change, doorframe-banging extra inches and all. The way her words and her looks made people stop and listen now, so much easier than before. It was just... Strange, strange as the unfamilar speed and depth of the thoughts going on behind her blue eyes. She was going to exploit the hell out of all this, build up even more of a positive reputation, try to be able to make people listen when she offered them their one last chance rather than have to take them down.

So she was going to go run. Make some new friends. Film another commercial or three. Maybe even look into a GED if Abel's academy didn't work out.

First things first though. Amazingly confident as she felt in her default curves-hugging PAM suit configuration, the towering blonde needed irreproachably-normal to make this work, much as she failed at that standard. Dress to fit the scene, her old scene before all this thisness happened to her, and be seen. Quantum-infused fabric shifted with a thought, ballooning out into comfortably loose running pants, a tank top and jacket combo, and the lightest of gripped running shoes to help keep her moving. She tested her very best reassuring smile at her reflection, peeling off the merest sliver of PAM suit and shaping it in one hand into a hair tie to bind up her hair in a simple ponytail at the back of her skull, tucking the blonde length into her hood as the latter finished forming. Reds and whites dominated the ensemble as it stabilized into it's new form, one last whim bringing a big black 'I' into being on the back of her jacket, proclaiming her allegiance for all that had eyes.

Never knew if someone like Pandora's version of Rashoud might want to take a shot at a Key just in case she might be easy meat. But the team, her crew, had a rep all their own, and that might be the heartbeat of hesitation she'd need to win or run away.

The question was how to do her run today though. Waiting for a crew of local runners to come by and let them lead vs the spectacle of just blowing through it on her gut instinct? Keeping it on the sly at least outside the US or going full hog with anti stealth approaches? There were perks to either or any of the options...

Traceuse laughed in her empty room, amused by the wildly divergent yet parallel streams of thought running through her head that still made perfect sense as they came back together in the now and started to diverge again. Problems to solutions to more problems and to more solutions, so on and so forth in a way that somehow worked together unlike the clashing plague of voices Pandora's loops had left and Abel had healed.

Still. Enough thinking. James had been kind enough to show her a tour of his dozen favorite cities, and that's how many new 'keyholes' she had to work with today.

All right, World. Take two on my coming out party,” she warned aloud out of old fairness, grinning to split her face as she pulled up her hood, “First stop: Norfolk.”

*****

"All right. That all sounds great, guys," she voiced aloud when the memory played out, straightening up in her chair, "But it'd be nice if you guys had a list of the main groups that'd want to increase friction between Keys and everyone else and why they have beef with us. We get them off our case, we can start putting out fires by removing the fuel. At least that should take some of the heat off of the newest Keys while they learn the ropes. For instance, maybe work out some kind of agreement that will make border officials stop twitching whenever someone whispers the word 'teleporter'? Without it sucking for us. Some sort of compromise, that's all. Us with them, not us versus them, much as possible."

She laughed quietly and continued, "I mean, I don't mind jumping out there to punch every Rashoud wannabe out there in the face, but I'd like to feel safe dorming down again once in a while. Or sleeping. Haven't done either since we got back. Maybe take Abel on more long weekends to the Underverse."

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***Tokyo, Japan***

A brand new dawned in Japan, and found Cade Allister in the kitchen, making breakfast for his younger sister and himself.   Cooking was something he considered a talent of his, and he was quite good at it, and though he'd lived in Japan nearly his entire life, he found himself preferring a more western style breakfast much like his father did, on the rare occasion that he was home and awake to eat with them.  Such was the sort he was cooking this morning, with Toast, scrambled eggs, a couple oranges, and some small sausages.   Drawn by the aroma, Haruka came downstairs still clad in her pajamas, and moved to set the table.   "You know we don't have class today, right?" The blonde beauty questioned him, with a hint of a teasing tone in her voice.

"That may well be, but the second it the aromas made their way up stairs down you came from a state of dead slumber." he fired back, to which she stuck out her tongue.  She chuckled softly.  "I bet if I open a window, Akeno will come over within ten minutes." 

"Go ahead, if you want to give up some of yours for her to eat."  was his quick reply.  "I need to go to the store, I was just finishing off what we still had from the last time.  I don't think We've got enough to feed Akeno's bottomless appetite."  Their next door Neighbors, the Hikoji family, also both worked for Matsuda Technologies,  and had a daughter who was the same age as Cade.   She was his first friend in Japan, and frequent study partner.   She was the number one student in the class, and President of the Student Council.  "She never really gets to sleep in, so I think we'll let her.   Maybe for Lunch or dinner though, we can invite her over, once we're abit more prepared."

Haruka smiled up to her big brother as he finished cooking, and moved to allow her to take what she wanted first.  "That sounds like a good idea.   I bet you two will turn it into a study date by the end of it."  That teasing tone was back with a vengeance.  

"You know it's not like that, we're good long-time friends, and being ready for classes is never a bad thing, Haruka.  We can't all effortlessly ace every test like you do."   It was something he even hid from her, something he couldn't understand too well himself.  He was not just stronger and faster,  Every aspect of his being was more than he was before, and that was before he cut loose and let his quantum flow freely.  He wasn't naturally as smart as his sister, but he was more intelligent than he'd been before.

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******** THE WARROOM OBSERVATION AREA********

SHELLY MONTANA

Kia walked into the the observation room over looking the WARROOM that Abel (the thought of her friend/boyfriend sent conflicting emotions and tightness in her heart) he built for training of the Keys without endangering others and property. It was based on something he had read about in a comic book. Of course. Nearly everything he and Sean designed or built had been suggested from eother a comic book a video game, or a movie, at least that is how it seemed to Kia. She had only ever been interested in those thing peripherally. Well except for movies, She liked movies.

She had set out to talk to her best friend, Lilly, but couldn't find her then after asking around was informed the she had accompanied her father and mother the the opening of the Tokyo Transportal Hub and probably wouldn't be back until tomorrow. After hearing this Kia felt further deflated.

The young Key had a lot weighing on her mind and not just her trouble relationship with Abel. She didn't recognize the symptoms of depression that had crept into her life. The rest of the Irregulars were off doing ...whatever it was they all did nowadays since the threats had seemingly been erased. Kia kind of missed those. So she had wandered around the still under construction Academy that Abel was building to school and house young Keys to give them an education they might not get anywhere else. It was big and would be sprawling when it was done, and so far it was empty. Of all the teen keys Abel had invited to come here only a small portion, nine students ages ranging from 13 to 18, had taken up his offer. Those nine were in the training room, sorry WARROOM, but they weren't training they were playing basket ball. Part of Kia wished she were down there with them, part of her wished she were anywhere else.

“You look upset.”

The words surprised Kia and she instinctively grasped her  power flow and spun ready change and to annihilate any threat.

But it was only Pete, the First Nations Canadian Key, sitting at the far end of the room in what would be referred to as the cheap seats in a stadium. He wasn't looking at her instead he was working a cell phone with an intense look on his face. Kia looked around for the bear but didn't see it.”He is not here he doesn't like basketball.”

“Did you just read my mind” asked Kia? That shouldn't be possible not with her mind shield courtesy of Abel.

Peter chuckled, “No, just everyone expects Makwa to be with me all the time like he is a pet or something. He isn't.”

The big man shakes his head, “Jean sent me this app, but I am not good with these things. I have not gotten it to work.” He puts the phone into his shirt pocket.

“So, Kia, right, I sense you are troubled. And it is fortuitous that you should come when I am here because I have been told I have big shoulders.”

Kia can't help but smile, he does have big shoulders. “It's nothing, just missing my friends.”

Pete tilts his head like a puppy would “But your friends are all around you. Come sit tell me what is bothering you. Aside from big shoulder they also tell me I am a good listener.”

 

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***Irregular Solutions HQ, sublevel 8 Research lab 2. ***

There'd been alot of construction going on since their return, and Abel left much of it to those he'd paid to oversee the work, above ground at least.   Today he was in his own research lab, studying some data Alec had sent over, and comparing it to his own.   

It had to do largely with the new cybernetics they'd start manufacturing, designs based of the tech used for Blitz, who had elected to not "Go Downstairs" with him.  Abel understood that he didn't like being underground and he chuckled.   Few people could say they had an alien tech cybernetic doberman for a pet, and one that could speak on top of it.   He didn't insist he come, he was just going to be bored in the lab anyway as Abel  was just going over things.

They'd stripped the tech of any quantum enhancements, instead opting to make it easy to reproduce, and the first prototypes had been given to volunteers, and Alec was the one helping him with this.  The results were good, with no feedback errors, and Abel smiled.  As he pored over the data he recognized this to be a simple stopgap.  His real goal was to be able to actually regrow limbs or digits for people who'd lost them.  While he knew Lilly and Alec could do this, there was just a limit to how many they could treat.   In the mean-time, they'd developed the cybernetics, to give back a mostly full quality of life, with an eye towards keeping them from being easy to militarize.  Mariah had also helped develop the materials for them, and of course her work patented.  Abel wasn't out to cheat his comrades.

He knew there were changes coming, he could feel something in the air, and even a certain distance from the others.   There was a small part of him that still blamed himself for what they'd endured, He'd been fooled, both him and Sean, the two most intelligent Keys alive.  His thoughts turned to the Quantum realm, and he sighed.  He was getting off topic.

Once he finished the reading and making his final evaluation, he sent his approval to begin the full scale production, and pushed back from the desk.  "Well that's one project down,  a few dozen more to go."

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******** THE WARROOM OBSERVATION AREA********

Kia shrugged and started to walk over, then turned and walked past. It felt better to stay on her feet and give that restless energy a way to express itself.

"I'm just not happy," she admittedly...then immediately buried her face in her hands for a second. "God that sounds so entitled. I have super powers and can be or do anything but I'm not happy...ugh. It's just...I am really glad that I got to help save the world a couple of times, and I wouldn't trade away my memories of being an Irregular for anything, but...it's not the life I ever wanted. I did it because I felt like I had to, and..." Kia trailed off.

"...and now you don't feel like that," Pete supplied in his quiet, unobtrusive voice.

Kia nodded slowly. "Yeah. I just feel so...cut off most of the time. I never see my parents. I hardly ever see the others, and when I do it's always because we have to GO somewhere or DO something. I'm tired of it, but it feels like I'm being selfish and ungrateful..."

Pete shrugged. "Feelings don't care much about selfishness or gratitude sometimes," he reckoned. "That doesn't make them bad though."

After a moment of silence, Kia said, "You know, at the end, Pandora did something to us. She made us remember things that never happened. Like whole other lives. At the time I just kind of pushed through it but lately I've been remembering how...much happier I was in some of those other lives. No powers, no military, no weird nerdy inventions...just me and friends having good times and bad times and..." Again, she broke off.

"Do you know me?" Kia asked Pete then, looking around at him. Her eyes were moist.

He shrugged again. "Just what they tell us when we start getting trained."

"Everything about me is a lie now," she said softly. "This...thing you're looking at, it isn't me. It's how I used to be. I'd fill most of the building if I was being myself. And I'd probably scare everyone so much they'd send the Army to try to kill me." She paused and added, "But they wouldn't be able to."

Kia wiped her arm over her eyes and paced back the other way. "I hate feeling this way. I hate feeling like I'm lying to people I love. I hate feeling like...like everything I think I am is just a...skin on milk. It's like nothing means anything anymore. Going to the beach and swimming, looking at the stars, going shopping...it's like a puppet show I'm putting on with my littlest finger."

Pete was quiet all through her confession, just listening. Finally after she hadn't said anything for a little bit, he asked, "You talk to your friends about this stuff?"

She shook her head.

"I could maybe talk to Lilly. Sean wouldn't really care, and...Abel would just decide it was something broken he had to fix." Kia sniffled and wiped her nose again. "It's just...they all feel like they are where they belong, you know? So me saying I don't, it'd be like me saying I don't like them or don't want to be around them."

"Do you not?"

"Of course I do!" Kia hesitated. "I just...don't know if I can be. I don't know what to do. I mean, I guess there's nothing I can do. I can't go back to how I was."

 

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******** THE WARROOM OBSERVATION AREA********

"Why not," asked Pete.

"Well, because things don't work like that."

"I don't know Kia. I think maybe you are buying into all the hype. When I first met all of you back home, when Makwa was smashing everything, Jeane told me he was too big to fight and i told her that then she needed to be bigger, and then she was. Okay maybe I didn't use those exact words but it was something like that. None of us are created in a vacuum, we maybe made of cells and stuff the doctors talk about but we are spiritual beings. We are brought to life by great spirits and as long as we are not bad, those spirit don't want us to suffer." He pats the seat next to him. "Come sit. Ask the spirits what you wish I am sure they are listening and if it is good they will help."

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--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

The officer dodged the spray paint can as best he could in the cramped confines of the stairwell.  It slammed against the wall as his partner pushed him forward in an effort to not lose any ground against the degenerate that threw it at them.  They shouted for him to stop and pressed on as he laughed and continued spiraling up the stairwell.  "Don't make this harder than it has to be, Mikey!"  One of the officers shouted as a young man in cargo shorts and and a hoodie darted up the stairs, leaping and hooking corners with a parkour flair.

"Hard?" The guy chuckled.  "C'mon, I ain't even winded O'Brian.  You, uh... might wanna sit your pudgy ass down though, you likely to have a heart attack at this rate."  The guy laughed without breaking his stride.

The officers chased him through the stairwell, passing through corners littered with trash and debris and passed spray painted walls until they burst through the door to the roof and the light of the mid-day sun dazed them from the sudden transition of inside to outside.  Mikey laughed as they gave chase until he reached the ledge of the ten story apartment building.  The two officers slowed their pace, which took several paces as neither were in the best of shape.

Holding up his hand, trying to catch his breath, officer O'Brian shouted to him in a thick New York accent.  "C'mon, Mikey.  Cut the shit, you had your fun... now get down and get over here.  You're not gonna jump, and we're not in the mood for games.  How many times have I busted you kid?  Eh?  Six, seven... this month?"

"Four." Mikey laughed, hopping about like he had an adrenaline rush, his sun glasses didn'tmove to far off his nose as he hopped about.  "That shit on Twelfth I'm not counting, because I wasn't doing anything wrong, bruh!"

"You were loitering!"  Officer O'Brian shot back.

"Pfffft," Mikey scoffed.  "Loitering ain't illegal!  I was just sleeping, damn."

"Uh, yeah, it kinda is."  O'Brian's partner said, resting his hands on his knees still trying to catch his breath.

"No shit?"  He looked puzzled under his glasses.  "Seriously?"  When they both nodded their heads, still out of breath, he chuckled.  "Well, shit.  Okay, five then, I'll give you that."

"Fabulous," O'Brian said sarcastically.  He held out his cuffs, "Now c'mon Mikey.  I'm getting too old to chase you, boy.  You know how this works and how to put em' on.  Get off the ledge and quit screwing around."

Mikey smirked through pursed lips, holding his arms out in a shrug.  "Yeah... no.  Not today, O'Brian."  From his back exploded flaming wings of orange, white and gold heat.  Each feather a luminous inferno of blazing heat.  The feathers began to explode downward, spraying flames downward like feathery jet engines that provided enough thrust for him to elevate a few inches off the ground.  Mikey smirked.  "See you around, O.B..  Better luck next time."  He rose higher and the wings exploded with and flared once more providing enough lift to send him soaring through the sky at a break neck speed.

"Oh, shit," O'Brian's partner huffed in moderate disbelief.  "I'll get on the radio, I mean, it can't be too hard to miss that landing somewhere."

"No," The veteran officer said shaking his head.  "Let him go.  The kid's as dumb as the day is long, we'll get him.  We provoke him and he might do something that both he, and we regret.  He's a life criminal, but the kid's crafty."

Mikey spiraled through the air and soared past them leaving a trail of a heat wave exhaust behind his wings.  "This is nuts!  Bananas, bruh!  Bananaaaaaaaaaas!   Woooooooooo! Later O.B.!"

As O'Brian's partner looked at him the officer shrugged.  "Yeah, definitely a bit dumb though."

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The doctor walked into the hospital room as Devin pulled shirt down over perfectly sculpted shoulders. He was facing the window, looking down on the courtyard below where patients sat in their wheelchairs or walked about with their family members.

Mr. Jauntsen,” the doctor started.

Jaunt.” Devin corrected him. He'd adopted a manner where only 'friends' could call him Devin, and Mr. was a bit too formal for him so the rest of the world who didn't know him, would call him Jaunt, his key moniker.

Yes, uh, Jaunt,” he cleared his throat and continued on. “Your nurse tells me that you plan on checking out. I'm afraid I have to disagree with your decision. You suffered a great deal of trauma and, well, your gamma and beta waves are highly irregular. Frankly, there's no medical reason for it.”

I'm a key, doc.” He rolled his shoulders and picked his trademark purple leather duster up from the bed. As always it was a horrendous choice in fashion, but it certainly made a statement. “My waves don't regulate because my perceptions and sensory faculties never shut off. I see when I'm asleep, I hear with my nose and I can taste with my finger tips. I'd explain it all to you, but there's no real point. Trust me, I'm fine. While I slept I traveled to Rome, Beijing, Niue. It's pretty this time of year.”

His doctor sighed. “That doesn't address your trauma. Swelling, contusions in and around your brain. Whatever happened to you may have left permanent damage.”

There's only one expert in key physiology, Jaunt, and no one knows where she is these days.”

I do.” The teen said softly. His perceptions were so honed that even he was in a coma his consciousness continued to wander and roam the world. Passing through wall, through the Earth, no one could hide from him and no barrier could keep him out. On the other side of that coin, no one could see him or interact with him, like a ghost trapped between worlds and of there was some power or ability that could detect his presence, it had yet to be discovered. “I was unconscious when I got here, or I'd never have trusted a human to treat me. I have a facility in mind that can do far more for me than you can. While I appreciate the help, let's face it,” he faced the doctor and the jovial smart alec known the world over for his good cheer and jokes had not a single smirk or smile to offer. “You have limits.”

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Tease, Jaunt's sister, Marissa, slowly walked into the room, not wanting to interrupt the conversation that was going on. She did little to hide her grin as her brother reminded the doctor that he and his staff were incapable of doing their jobs given his unique physiology. The echo of her modest heels announced her several steps before she arrived but she stopped not far the doctor, waiting for an opportune time to interject. When the doctor turned to leave, visibly irritated by Jaunt's lack of tact, she didn't waste any time speaking up. “Good to see you up and about. How are you feeling?”

Well as can be expected, I suppose,” he replied to his twin. She could hear it in his voice that he still wasn't at one hundred percent. “What did I miss?”

I don't know. I didn't jive with your friends very well. Abel's a brain raper, Lilly is a self-righteous bitch, a monster bear tried to kill us... that was fun,” her brother chuckled at her absolute disdain for heroics. “And despite my powers not getting us all killed, they decide to inform me that I'm no help help at all and can go home... so fuck them, I did. You're friends are assholes. Not sayin', just sayin'.”

So, basically, you were a four alarm blazing bitch the whole time and Lilly told you to either play nice or kick rocks... so you threw a tantrum and kicked rocks while she drank your loser tears.”

Marissa crossed her arms, looking off in every direction but her brother while her red lips tightened. “...no. Look, you were doing god knows what for god knows what reasons, and I knew it wasn't you! I just wanted them to help me find you and bring you home safe... and... well, they're not very good and following my directions. They wanted to do, like, their own thing. It totally got in the way of finding you and I wasn't having it. The prospect of Lily losing her shit and punching me though... I decided at home was the best place for me.”

Devin approached his sister and held out his arms. “C'mere.” She hugged him tightly and finally let her self cry the tears of joy she'd been keeping in since she heard he'd woken up. Quietly they held one another in silence as they soaked in the moment of their reunion. “Mmm, your hair smells like berry flavored win-sauce.”

She managed half of a laugh and pulled away, wiping her eyes with one finger while her make-up seemed to magically correct itself and go back to being flawlessly applied. “Mom and Dad are home. All we have to do is get you checked out at the nurse's station and you'll-”

Pffft. Yeah, that'll happen.” He laughed as reality around them rippled and bent. With nothing more that a slight ripple and soft breeze of displaced air the siblings were gone.

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*New York City, New York*

The Canadian Visa Application Centre didn't look like too much as Jeane Hebert stepped out of James' warp, just another office front with the minor edition of a maple leaf flag hanging over the door and a few blown up pictures of the picturesque Canadian landscape and, maybe, the Montreal skyline. Add a trail of frozen destruction to that center one, actually, and they'd have captured her the Bear battle quite well.

A smile tugged at her lips at the memory, one she glued in place as the warp snapped shut, leaving her alone on the sidewalk with a handful of pedestrians who were just recovering from the shock of the arrival of the blue-clad blonde. She gracefully turned on one sneakered heel and ducked through the main door of the centre, eyes sweeping the room once. Not too busy. Ahhh, there they were. Jeane made a point of nodding ever-so-slightly at the two nearly invisible cameras in the corner. She'd have liked the theatrics of doing this at the actual embassy, but apparently the Canadians separated her errand from the other functions. She'd deal.

"Not here to cause a problem. Just here to do some paperwork, really. See? I'm taking a number and sitting down to wait my turn," she called to the empty room, putting word to action and holding up her little tab of perforated paper in one hand. A semblance of animation returned to the room, workers, clients, and she suspected was a guard getting back into gear, albeit with subtle and not so subtle looks in her direction every so often, micro expressions displaying irritation at fumbles and mistakes.

People were so easy now, and if she wanted to, the towering blonde could have probably just made them let her skip ahead in line. But that wasn't part of the plan, and judging by the after effects on the people who had attended that one shoot where she had turned her charm all the way up on a whim... Yeah, no. Maybe next time she got in a fight with someone she'd rather bend emotionally than break physically.

Sean had showed her how effective that could be.

Her mind forked and forked again, one part keeping alert for danger, another going over the plan again and again, the last critiquing and reassessing where it'd be best to take Pete on their first off campass outing. Unless she kept it somewhere completely abandoned, it would get out onto the Internet and then her parents would find out and oh dear God, she wasn't even sure where she wanted to go with it yet, but she didn't...

'B16' flashed up on the 'now serving' displayed despite the fact that B13 had been the previous one in the series to be called up. B16 was her number. Jeane sighed and rose to her feet, smiling apologetically down at the holder of 'B15' as she strode past, fishing out a bundle of paperwork from her bag.

"Good morning, Miss... Hebert. I see you're applying for a... multiple entry tourist visa today. Are you aware that you're waived from such a requirement?"

Jeane was impressed by the even delivery of the line, nodding her head and putting her hands into the pockets of her jacket, "I am, but you skipped several people to get me up here early."

"My supervisor felt it would be less... disruptive to take care of your needs as soon as possible, Miss Hebert," answered the woman, steady and entering the information from the form in a sure clack-clack-clackity of data entry. The teen couldn't entirely fault the logic, much as it sat wrong with her, producing each required piece of paperwork as requested.

There was a pause as the woman examined Jeane's passport, "This is a very new, Miss."

"Growth spurt. Would you believe I was 5'6 three months ago? Needed new everthing," replied the blonde with a faint chuckle, rubbing the back of her head.

"Hmmm. well. That'll be everything. If you'll follow me over to station 12..."

One biometric later, Jeane stepped into the bathroom, confirmed it was empty, and grinned. Part one of Operation Coalmine Canary was a go. All she had to do was wait to get her passport back. Apply for one in the next country. And so on until they had enough to make a testing run interesting. Let the Rashouds of the world know she was coming. She had a crew at her back and a dream in her head.  On a whim, she cheated a few opportunistic photographers of another shot at her by virtue of the crackle of quantum lightning on the way back home the HQ. 

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War-Room Observation Area

"Come sit. Ask the spirits what you wish I am sure they are listening and if it is good they will help."

Kia sat down and tried to think, but it was no good. Her head was just a jumble. Trying to sort through all the conflicting feelings and make sense of it only made it worse. So she stopped trying, and just started talking.

"I don't really know if I believe in spirits, but...I want to feel like I'm part of the world again. Not all coiled up in some...other place, just poking my finger out into it. Right now, it's like...I'm growing into a world of my own almost, but that's never what I wanted. I want to be connected to THIS world. And all the people and places and things and INVOLVED and...and that's how I used to feel, and even if I have to give up my powers I just really want to feel like that again. I want to need things, so that I want things, so that getting things feels important and good."

She sighs. "It's good that I had powers when I needed them. I'm grateful I got to help protect people. I'm just afraid that right now, what I am...what I'm becoming...is going to take me away from everything I love. Everyone. Sometimes I look around and everything looks so small. Or I'll see some animal or something, and for a second I'll only see it as something I want to add to the creatures I can make."

"So I don't know if they're listening, or if it's good, but...I'd really like to just be myself again. Please."

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*Irregular Solutions HQ, Jeane's obstacle course room in the subbasement*

Lightning crackled, and Jeane reappeared, still grinning to split her face and punching the air a few times as she forked off an entire stream of thought worth of 'yesyesyesyes..!' to run in the background. Her antics were greeted by James' chuckle, the warper leaning against the wall.

"Went well I take it?" he asked, clearly amused.

"Obviously. I know Sean and Abel said this part *should* go smoothly when they approved the plan, but easy as it was, feels good to have something work out when the fate of the planet isn't immediately on the line. In fact, you got any plans the next few days?"

"Nooo… What do you have in mind?"

"Let me put this out on brainblast. Don't want to have to explain this awesome idea more than once," Jeane delayed, sucking in a breath to keep her emotions from surging too strongly through the link as she reached out to the entire team, 'Hey, guys. Not sure what all of you have on your plates the next few days, but I was thinking... All Irregulars beach day. New. Old. Current. We just, basically, saved the world, and at least on my end, I've been keeping busy every day since we got back. I'm sure there's somewhere gorgeous and sunny without people we can kill a few hours. Whose up for it?'

The grin danced on her lips, the chipper echo of her good mood bouncing out into the link as she waited for a reply, an emotional chorus sung in harmony with herself. 

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War-Room Observation Area/Kia's Bedroom

Pete nods giving the impression of sagely wisdom "It really bothers me that i can't get this app to work, " he says taking his phone out again and starts playing with it.

Kia sits there for a few moments expecting him to say something, anything but he doesn't. "Okay...well Thanks I guess I'll be going." Kia gets up and looks wisfully out at the kids playing basketball. "See you around Pete."

The depessed girl walks toward the exit when Petes voice makes her stop. "It was good talking with you Kia." She turns to look at him but he is still engrossed in his phone. "And Kia, you are always yourself, you can't be anyone else."

Later that evening, after a dinner with her mom and dad and a talk with Lilly who was in Japan, the two made plans for Kia to portal over and join Lilly and her family for the opening of the hub, Kia went to bed.

Sleep came easily but the dreams were disturbing all full of thrashing tentacles and great and terrible beasts chasing her. The nightmares made her toss and trun as they chased her through Shelly, through the base, even trough their old home in Hawaii.

It was there in the part of her dream in Hawaii that she was cornered bythe beasts in her veryown bed room the one place in all the world that she had always felt safe, the one place where she had always dreamed of returning to. Then in the dream she spied her toybox, the beast were chargin her tentacles reaching , she lept behind the toybox and flipped open the lid and all the beasts fell inside as Kia slammed the lid shut locking them away forever!

Kia sat upright in her bed her head throbbing but not hurting, her heart racing, she was sweaty and she couldn't feel her powers, couldn't feel guildchat, couldn't feel the Quantum. She was alone, Her connection was gone.

 

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Spoiler

A NOTE ON THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS - the following posts as well as all posts above EXCEPT those by CADE AND KIA AS WELL AS ANY LILLY MAKES WHEN SHE IS IN TOKYO all take place before KIA's  posts  with PETE in this thread Exactly when doesn't matter. CADE AND LILLY SHOULD NOT POST IN TOKYO UNTIL AFTER KIA POSTS. LILLY HOWEVER MAY POST FROM BEFORE SHE WENT TO TOKYO. IF ANYONE IS CONFUSED I AM HERE TO HELP.

***Irregular Solutions HQ, sublevel 8 Research lab 2. ***

On 3/5/2019 at 2:12 PM, Abel Cross said:

Once he finished the reading and making his final evaluation, he sent his approval to begin the full scale production, and pushed back from the desk.  "Well that's one project down,  a few dozen more to go."

"

“Well that's one project down, a few dozen more to go.” The voices were in perfect unison.

Abel froze.

Slowly he looked to his left where to his astonishment he saw himself looking back at him. Both Abel's had the same open mouthed look, but there were differences, the other Abel wore glasses for one thing and his hair was styled like he had stepped out of a 1950's movie. Also the Irregular Solutions Logo on the lab coat didn't resemble the one on his at all.

--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

Spoiler

 

Mikey flamed out as he landed on the roof top of the tenement building, he was hungry and Sugrillo's Sandwich Shop was on the corner, and thought of a meatball sandwich was making his mouth water and his stomach growl. On a whim, before heading to the roof access stairs he glanced over the the edge of the roof to the street four stories below and grimaced.

There down on the sidewalk below were three men obvious hoods mugging a woman or worse, and while tow of them were struggling whth the lady the third was looking up having been attracted by the flaming aura.

Before Mikey acted the tough raised his hand pointing a pistol in Mikey's general direction not sure what he had seen, then went stiff as his head jerked unnaturally to the right and a fine mist of blood exited the side of the kids skull.

The body started to fall to the ground when the second hood chest exploded spraying blood and gore across the side walk the bullet slamming into the concrete of the side walk and ricocheting into a nearby parked car.

Mikey, with his enhanced senses barley heard the muffled sound of the shot and the sharp clicks of a shell being ejected and another bullet loaded then firing. But it was enough to tell him where to look, just in time for the third shot to go off.

 

SHELLY MONTANA

Tease was cranky. She hated this piss-hole of a town that was starting to put on airs, hated the people and hated damn near everything else. She wanted to go HOME. Home to California the last place all of them had been happy.

They could do it DeeJay could whisk them all back they could even get there old house if they wanted or a new one. She or Devin could easily get the money to buy any home. Hell Marissa could make some one give her any home if she wanted. But Mom and Dad hadn't quite grasped what it meant to have kids that were some of the most powerful beings in the world who could pretty much write their own ticket. So the parents kept going to their lame ass 9- 5 and Devin, Jaunt, he was off looking for the perfect place to build his utopia. Marissa was the only realist in this family, which is why he was also sitting on the couch watching “The Price Is Right”

She heard the car drive up outside. It wasn't mom or dad she could recognize those cars by sound. The door bell rang. Marissa frowned and even that looked sexy as she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the TV screen. she clicked the remote and muted the game show on TV and went to the door and opened it to reveal the smiling face of Dennis Carpenter, the movie guy she had met in Norfolk. She glanced over at the driveway and saw a rental Corvette, silver this time.

“Hi Marissa, remember me?”

CASSIDY CONSTRUCTION

SHELLY MONTANA

Plans, plans, plans. Plans for what Sean wished to accomplish with her amazing intellectual powers. Plans for building the perfect society. Plans for exploring the galaxies. And plans for building a home.

That one had actually been Sean's dads idea. He had suggested that two girls were outgrowing the old barn and should think about building a real home. Sara who had turned eighteen unnoticed several months into their adventurous life latched onto that. When she wasn't being the avenger of the world she dormed down and was working as just another hand in her lovers dads construction business. She found it comforting and normal after what she, all of them had been through.

Both Sean and Sara had loved the idea and that's where the problems started. Neither could settle on where they wanted to live, what kind of house, and a hundred other domestic things that neither being teenagers had really given any real thought about.

They had argued, actually fought about what both of them would have thought silly if it had been their parents fighting. But it hadn't been. It had been them

Today Sean was off in Helsinki at some science thing and Sara had swept the planet and finding her abilities unneeded had gone home dormed down and went to work.

 

On 3/10/2019 at 10:47 AM, Jeane said:

"Let me put this out on brainblast. Don't want to have to explain this awesome idea more than once," Jeane delayed, sucking in a breath to keep her emotions from surging too strongly through the link as she reached out to the entire team, 'Hey, guys. Not sure what all of you have on your plates the next few days, but I was thinking... All Irregulars beach day. New. Old. Current. We just, basically, saved the world, and at least on my end, I've been keeping busy every day since we got back. I'm sure there's somewhere gorgeous and sunny without people we can kill a few hours. Whose up for it?'

The grin danced on her lips, the chipper echo of her good mood bouncing out into the link as she waited for a reply, an emotional chorus sung in harmony with herself. 

Spoiler

those with guild chat have just now received Jeane's convo starter. This includes Abel, Sean, Lilly, Kia (before the Pete convo, but kia being depressed should probably be noncommittal if she responds at all) and Sara. James and the other NPC Keys may be included at jean's discretion. Pete does not have guildchat, none of the new charcters have guildchat, and i am assuming that tease and Jaunt have disconnected themselves

ask if you have any questions.


 


 


 

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In response to Jeanne:

Normally a 'beach day' would have sounded like great fun, but Kia's heart wasn't in it at the moment. Even so, she sent a 'Sure, sounds good,' over the guild chat. Maybe it'd cheer her up a little.

 

Kia's Bedroom

Kia sat upright in her bed her head throbbing but not hurting, her heart racing, she was sweaty and she couldn't feel her powers, couldn't feel guildchat, couldn't feel the Quantum. She was alone, Her connection was gone.

Her first reaction was panic. Was it an attack?! Had someone figured out a way to neutralize her somehow?! Feeling small and helpless, she lay in the dark, heart hammering, not knowing if the end would come. It didn't.

On reaching out to the 'guild chat,' she realized it was gone for her. Aside from making her feel very isolated and vulnerable, she also realized that Abel was probably freaking out by now, so she felt around for her phone (when was the last time she noticed a thing like darkness?) and fired off a quick text to everyone on her Irregulars group.

...this is kia something happened and i'm not on chat anymore but i'm ok...

By the time she'd finished texting, and taking dogged pride in actually using apostrophes, the reality of the situation was starting soak past her knee-jerk instinctive reactions to the deeper pools of her brain where reflection and cognition churned.

Was this because of what she'd asked? Was she really...normal again? Kia knew Lilly could 'turn off' her powers when she wanted, at least most of them. Even then though Lilly remained virtually superhuman. Kia had no idea how turning off her own powers would work...or how it HAD worked? Was her larger self just gone, or was there a giant glob of biomass floating around in a pocket dimension just outside reality forever?

That was SUPER disturbing. Hopefully it had all just vanished.

Abel would know. Or Sean. She texted them both individually.

guys, i lost my powers...we need 2 talk...

She turned on the little lamp on her bedside table and started getting dressed. Was it weird that she was weaker than she'd been in months now...but somehow felt lighter? It was finally soaking in. She wasn't going to have to turn into things anymore, or conjure hordes of weird critters from her own flesh or...or be weird and inhuman and kind of gross. It was finally over. She could be normal again.

By the time Kia was tying her shoes the pounding of her heart was from excitement, not fear. She even spared a silent moment of thanks, just in case the spirits were still listening.

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***Irregular Solutions HQ, sublevel 8 Research lab 2. ***
The Abels closed their mouths and maintained eye contact, with the younger looking one (Abel sans glasses)  staring back at him, even as Abel's fully sensory suite of abilities activated.   "So I'm not detecting any sort of temporal flux, or dimensional rip, nor psychic anomaly.  Who exactly are you, and where did you come from, and why are you wearing my form?  I recognize the rudiments of the Irregular Solutions logo, but that's not the same as mine."


He had wanted to to go relax, a day or three at the beach sounded like a great idea to him.  Jeane, I'll be along when I can, I have a slight situation I need to resolve first.  Keep me posted on when and where.  Even mentally, his voice was tinged with some concern, which wasn't all that common for him anymore.

***The Watchtower***

Abel's phone beeped, and his ringtone for Kia, "Eye to Eye" which was an obscure song from his childhood, began to play, and he snatched it up.   The Watchtower was one of two places Abel felt he could safely sleep, and truth be told he was concerned that he was becoming too distant from everyone.   He always said it was for the greater good but that was a flimsy excuse.  He had control of his power now, it wasn't so necessary.  The first text didn't truly alarm him, he was used to others closing their links to guild chat, they were just always there, and like doors, could be knocked upon to signal an emergency.

Those thoughts were contradicted when he  read Kia's second text, and quickly moved to to the door.   He'd turned off the gravity in this part of the station since he was practically alone, and had been floating there, in front of the observation window, Sleeping while dreaming of home.
"Dammit, not again."   He quickly reached out via guildchat, only to find that Kia's portion of the network was simply gone, as if it had never been there.  This spurred him to action as he moved to the door, his PAM suit coming to resemble its combat form, reflecting his agitation.  He briefly considered calling James, but didn't.  He figured Kia sent he and Sean that second message, and it was best to not call everyone until they actually knew something.

He moved through the station to the command deck, and the Teleportation pads there.  The only other inhabitants at the time were the two Alien ambassadors, who'd come up to send a signal home.  "I need you to transport me back to my home, immediately.  There's a situation I need to be there for."   Abel was texting Kia back.  On my way back, Will be at your place shortly

Both nodded, understanding that for it to have been something to have him agitated, it had to be big.  Keystrokes were made, and Abel seemed to visibly shut part of himself down.    Emotion would lead to problems, he needed to be calm and analytical, and so he was.  They gave him a thumbs up and soon Abel was transported to his room in his family home, from which he opened the window and shot out towards Kia's home, not really caring who saw him do so.
 

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20 hours ago, Abel Cross said:

***Irregular Solutions HQ, sublevel 8 Research lab 2. ***
The Abels closed their mouths and maintained eye contact, with the younger looking one (Abel sans glasses)  staring back at him, even as Abel's fully sensory suite of abilities activated.   "So I'm not detecting any sort of temporal flux, or dimensional rip, nor psychic anomaly.  Who exactly are you, and where did you come from, and why are you wearing my form?  I recognize the rudiments of the Irregular Solutions logo, but that's not the same as mine."

The other Abel Glanced down at his lab coat where the insignia was then back at Abel. Just then...

On 3/10/2019 at 10:47 AM, Jeane said:

'Hey, guys. Not sure what all of you have on your plates the next few days, but I was thinking... All Irregulars beach day. New. Old. Current. We just, basically, saved the world, and at least on my end, I've been keeping busy every day since we got back. I'm sure there's somewhere gorgeous and sunny without people we can kill a few hours. Whose up for it?'

Jeane's thoughts echoed in Abel's head the Other Abel visibly flinch and looked around "What the Fuck was that?!?" then he grabbed what looked like a TV remote off the table pointed it at Abel and pushed a button and vanished.

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*The HQ Basement, Then*

There was a faint ripple in the link, but Jeane had enough faith in Abel to let him bring it up if it was a problem. Counting off the two yeses so far in her head, she grinned down her partner in transnational-tourism-based crime, "Let's go find the new guys and spread the word, James. They're Irregulars, too, and should get the perks if they're willing take the heat being on this crew means. I've got a keyhole in the common room, so I'll start looking there. You can hit up somewhere else. And let's brainstorm places while we hunt. Sound cool?"

She ported away soon as she saw the beginning on his nod. This was gonna be good.

*The Hebert residence, That Night*

Before all this, Jeane would have laughed at anyone who told her how stupid, oppressively long the night could be. That was what sleeping was for. Or sneaking in game time on your phone on the latest brightly-colored distraction. Or sneaking out for a midnight run in one of the safer neighborhoods if you were feeling cheeky.

That was before she cared too much to do the third or was smart enough to get bored with most of the second or didn't dare do the first... The hours between 2100 and 0600 lagged, her curfew a voluntary prison she accepted as the price of her freedom during all the other hours of the day, a better relationship with her parents and siblings. The towering blonde didn't like it, but she could see the why. Gave her time to finish the academic worksheets she needed to do. Learn how to cook to further sooth things over with her Mom. Stop and think about the impact of the day's actions as she browsed the internet and occasionally posted a reply or a picture if things needed tweaking. Still... She liked being around people... This sucked. 

It was lonely. And boring. And frustrating. And all of those things encouraged memories she very, very carefully kept looping deep out of sight and mind on their own very special stream of thought.

Grunting aloud and sitting up on her plus-sized bed, Jeane put aside a book on motorcycles, and picked up her phone, hoping against hope that... Oh, God... 0217... Over three hours to go... Pete was 1) awake and 2) had  figured out how to use the secure message app she had helped him download. 'Hey, Pete. It's Jeane. Free to text?', she typed in and let fly across the aether, a soft musical chime sending it on it's way. 

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***Irregular Solutions HQ, sublevel 8 Research lab 2. ***

 

Abel frowned as his doppelganger vanished, the message via guildchat having clearly been heard by him.  He checked the chat itself to make sure there were no residual traces, and downloaded the security footage.   Sean I need to talk to you could you come down to sublevel 8, Lab 2.  I definitely want a second opinion on this.  To emphasize his point, he sent the recording to him and waited patiently.  it was uncommon for Abel to request Sean's physical presence, If only because there were things Sean could do in person Abel couldn't, and he wanted to know what was going on.   With the other Abel having been part of guildchat enough to hear Jeane, this was beyond odd, and now he was utterly gone.  if not for the video, there'd be no real proof of his presence at all.     "Somewhere, Christopher Walken is probably smiling, or laughing."

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On 3/11/2019 at 2:09 PM, AWS ST said:

--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

Mikey, with his enhanced senses barley heard the muffled sound of the shot and the sharp clicks of a shell being ejected and another bullet loaded then firing. But it was enough to tell him where to look, just in time for the third shot to go off.

Mikey was a fast guy, especially dropping from a building, fast, but that speed would not out run a bullet.  His senses helped him to slow the world, at least, to the ordinary human that's was the closest approximation.  As his brain processed and took in information it often felt like everything else went in to slo-mo while he made his decisions and acted accordingly.  His perceptions caught the echo of sound of the next round firing.  He knew he couldn't save whomever it was being fired at, he wasn't that good... hell, he'd just gotten these powers a few weeks ago and the most he'd managed to do with them was light can drum fires for the bums in the Kitchen.

Hey.  It was the little things.

He scanned the area and the glimmer of the sniper's scope spurred his body into action.  He as certainly no hero, but this was dude was poppin' of slugs in the hood and while he didn't care for hoods in his district, killing them was certainly not the way to handle things (okay, so he was a softy)!  He didn't need the wings, they were just for show and kind of fun.  Last week it was bat wings, and ealier this week it was insect wings, which looked really cool with veins of multicolored flames wrapping through them.  He leapt from the building, thankfully he'd had a good grasp of his ability to fly as gouts of flame exploded from his shoulder blades like a pair of flaming dorsal fins or stabilizers on a plane.  From his feet gouted flame like that of a jet engine and from the palms of his hands as well and in a simple motion he soared up into the air looking like an Iron Man without his armor with thrust coming from his back, hands and feet.

A trail of heat marked his trajectory as he flew towards the sniper, who decided to cut his losses and turn tail, running back into the building he was firing from.  That didn't stop Mikey, he soared right through the window, the room and the door, tackling the man in the hallway of the abandoned tenement building.  He hit hard.  A bit too hard.  He could handle the velocity, but man, that impact when flying into something was sure a bitch.  They both tumbled as the sputtering of Mikey's flames extinguished and the rolled in separate directions down the trash filled hallway.  The managed to rise to their feet at about the same time, wobbly from the impact they were both struggling to catch their bearings.

Mike's sunglasses had fallen off in the tumble. he stood and looked at the man, his eyes were pure white, no hint of color or pupils, just pure Deadpool CGI.  "Wrong hood, ass hat.  You wanna blow people away, take that shit up to Baltimore or Philly," his hands ignited into thick flames that writhed up his forearms, the moment his hands ignited, his eyes went from white, to being set aflame as well.  The flames dances and licked across his eyebrows.  His voice was an intense combination of adrenaline and street slang.  "So I'm gon' make this shit simple.  We gon' walk down them stairs and you're gonna wait with me til the cops arrive, or I'ma start dolling out third degree ass whoopins'.  So, you lookin' to get down right here?"

He held out his hands, cocked his head and took a step forward egging the man on for a fight.

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--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

He had thought it was a rpg, but it wasn't, it was a man. Strike that a Boy.

That much was apparent as Agent Twelve  rolled back to his feet and assumed a Ke'he'dow' Attack/Defensive stance. The boy spoke but his accent was so unusual that Twelve couldn't really understand what he was saying even though some of the words sounded Anglese. Then the kids hand burst into flames. "Wat? Huo?"

Twelve was not easily shaken, but shaken he was.

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On 3/11/2019 at 2:09 PM, AWS ST said:

SHELLY MONTANA

She heard the car drive up outside. It wasn't mom or dad she could recognize those cars by sound. The door bell rang. Marissa frowned and even that looked sexy as she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the TV screen. she clicked the remote and muted the game show on TV and went to the door and opened it to reveal the smiling face of Dennis Carpenter, the movie guy she had met in Norfolk. She glanced over at the driveway and saw a rental Corvette, silver this time. 

“Hi Marissa, remember me?”

"I do." She said flatly, standing in the doorway looking like living medication for ED.  She'd just been lounging all day so she didn't bother dressing in anticipation for any adulting.  Yoga pants that hugged her skin and a short tee that did little to hide her midriff where a sparkly black gemstone shaped like a heart glimmered at the piecing in her navel.

Dennis caught himself staring, and didn't care one bit.  It wasn't his fault that whatever powers the young woman acquired made, nay, practically forced, people to stop and oogle for a moment or two.  Marissa seemed used to it at this point.  He motioned past her.  "May I?"

"Sure," she said lazily, stepping aside with the door to let him in.  "My parent's aren't home if you wanna fool around."

"Very funny," he said with an amused smirk as he took in the Jauntsen home.

Marissa smirked back as she closed the door.  She walked past her guest and he couldn't help but notice that the rear of her yoga pants said 'NSFW' across the cheeks.  She collapsed back onto the couch, curling her legs up close while leaning against the arm of the sofa all comfy like.  She grabbed her phone and swiped the screen to unlock it.  "So, Mr. Carpenter, let me guess.  You have a commercial I'd be perfect for... all I have to do is blow the director?"

"Wow, aren't you a ray of sunshine," he motioned to the loveseat that was just at a right angle close to Marissa.  She offered a dismissive gesture awarding her approval for him to have a seat.  The Jauntsen's, despite their obvious problems, kept a very clean home and the home itself was certainly a bit more pricey than most of the others in the Shelby area.  "Your home is quite lovely, by the way."

"Thanks," she didn't look up from her phone.  "Mom and Dad both have pretty decent jobs.  Mom teaches and my Dad does like, Forestry or something?  Good money in telling people they don't have a license so you're keeping their fish.  Who knew, right?  Anyway, they both make way over ten bucks an hour, so we're pretty much the richest people in Shelby.  Like backwater Kardashians... oh, we also have all our teeth, so the native Montanans practically worship us."

"Good to know," he chuckled.  "You seem, and I'm just spit balling here, irritated.  Did I come at a bad time?"

She slapped her phone down on the arm of the sofa.  Before Dennis realized what he'd unleashed by rubbing Marissa's particular lamp of neurosis the genie of her crazy side was already out and granting wishes in the form of answers.  "You know what?  Kinda, yeah.  My brother and I get home and drop the big reveal on my parents that their twin children are gods, gods!"  She clenched her fist as she emphasized that word, glaring at a silent Drew Carey on the screen, daring him to challenge the appraisal of herself.  "And you know what they're reaction is to hearing their daughter has tapped into the very essence of the Primal Wyld and their son can manipulate time and space to exists instantly in any location he pleases is?  Do you know what it was?"

"Ah," was all he managed to muster.

"Of course you don't," she cut him off, talking over his... mumble.  "Because you weren't here for the fiasco that was dropping the bomb of reality on my parents, who after being transported to another planet in order to hide from the buttface Titans of Eternity still, for some dumb ass reason don't seem to want to embrace the fact that their children are not normal anymore.  Mom went back to work, still comes home, preps dinner, yells at me to pick up my shoes on the stairs.  Dad does the same and not once, not, once has either of them posed the simple question of: so what can you do exactly?"

"Per-"

"Oh, and that doesn't cover my asshole brother who, like always, as soon as him and dad get loud with each other, he decides to just stormed out.  Now, however, instead of him running into the garage or up to his room to wank off to Japanese drawings or his one, one," she thrust a single digit in Dennis's face who had to lean back to avoid it.  "Picture of that skanktard Lily Pryor, ew, by the way, he fawns over over much, he just pops over to Rome, or South America... thousands of miles away.  But can he pop back home to take his loving and adoring sister out to Paris for some shopping and a decent cup of coffee?  Oh, heeellllll, no."

"May-"

"And you know what else?  Mom didn't even wash my skirt like I asked her to, so I had the perfect outfit planned today but," she waved her hands down her frame to indicate a cue for a once over.  "Here I am, still in my pajamas because she couldn't do one.  Simple.  Little.  Thing.  I've had to rearrange my whole day.  We're out of mocha K-Cups, I can't find my favorite lip gloss and this day is pretty much completely wastedUUGGHHH!"  She tensed up and clenched her fists and vented her rage.  Drew Carey was on the screen and they got a close up of him laughing with one of the contestants.  Marissa flipped him off, as if Drew was mocking her pain, and screamed at the TV.  "Oh, fuck you Drew!"

He waited for a moment to make sure her noise hole has gone into it's recharging mode before confidently adding: "You know it's only eight thirty, right?"  The glare she shot him from her narrowed eyes could have melted ice.  Still, he pressed on.  "Look, I see you are obviously neck deep in what is certainly a landfill sized load of over privileged white girl problems."

"Right?" Marissa replied with a victimized mopey tone to her voice.  "I am so stressed right now, you don't even know."

"Wow.  Just, wow."  He had no words.  "Perhaps, however, I can help cheer you up," he smiled at her.  "After all, there is a reason why I've come all this way to see you..."

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49 minutes ago, AWS ST said:

--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

He had thought it was a rpg, but it wasn't, it was a man. Strike that a Boy.

That much was apparent as Agent Twelve  rolled back to his feet and assumed a Ke'he'dow' Attack/Defensive stance. The boy spoke but his accent was so unusual that Twelve couldn't really understand what he was saying even though some of the words sounded Anglese. Then the kids hand burst into flames. "Wat? Huo?"

Twelve was not easily shaken, but shaken he was.

"What?"  Mikey asked back.  "Who what?"

Realizing that he was a guy on fire he thought it might be best to diffuse (hehe) the situation a bit.  Either way, bro was going to jail, no point in letting the guy accidentally burn himself trying doing something stupid.  He looked to his hands.  "Oh.  This?"  He waved them about and the made that wooshing sounds flames make when you wave them around.  His accent was gone as he dropped the hood rat mentality in lew of something a bit calmer.  "Yeah, it's fire, bro.  Totally real, and it will burn you.  Me?  No.  But you?  Oh, hell yes.  And what the hell, dude?  Are you like the dude on Netflix who goes around killing people?  Did you lose family to muggers or some shit?  I get it, those people suck, but killing?  Dude, that just makes you as bad as the people you're trying to stop.  Give it some thought when you're in lock up.  I hope this experience changes you, man."

He took another step and flicked his finger a few times forward to indicate for the man to turn and start walking.  "C'mon bro, getcho' stride on."

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Agent Twelve took a step back as the flaming boy stepped forward. This was all wrong. people did just burn without burning up and they certainly didn't fly but this one did.

Twelve panicked.

"Exitant! Exitant Immediant!"

She shouted and stepped back again as the boy seemed to reach for him.

As Mikey flicked his fingers the man shouted gibberish and took several more back ward stepss then Mikey saw the air behind the man ripple and in a blink the man seemd to shrink into nothing ness like he had fallen into a bottomless hole.

Inferno just stood there not really believing what he had just seen. he looked around. Yep the guy was gone, but over there on the floor was the rifle he had dropped when Mikey had run into him. Mikey went over and looked at it, he didn't touch. It was an old style bolt action but the scope was very modern, too modern.

The serial number on the breech caught his eye. "Hmmph" he grunted.

It was in what looked like Roman Numerals.

 

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*Irregular Solutions, Inc HQ*

Lilly sat back and listened to the presentation about what had happened to them all, considering what they said. There were indeed changes the Keys, the Irregulars included. Since their return Lilly had noticed more looks then before. She had always been fit and, pretty good looking, but now the increase in attention was obvious, as were the willingness of people do things for her. She seemed to instinctively understand just how to behave with people of different cultures and backgrounds, garnering a good impression with them. Even her mind had sharpened. She was a pretty good student and understood many of the out-there concepts that had become a part of their lives, but now things were on a new level. 

Her own theory on the changes was fairly simple. If energy could be destroyed, then all the power bound up in those Titans had to go somewhere. Considering their own reality bending abilities, it would not be a stretch to consider that it washed through the universe, releasing the primordial energies and changing things, especially those sensitive to quantum, such as the Keys' nodes.

That, or it was their gold star sticker give by the universe as a reward for fixing the problem the Titans posed. You know. Whatever.

Taking in what was explained, she simply added to the other things she was thinking about, such as preparing for her trip with her parents to Tokyo for the opening of the transportal. Though Sean had given speeches at the United Nations and written scientific papers, Lilly still tended to be the more public 'face' of the Irregulars (and to a lesser degree, Keys in general) to the masses. Lilly was not an utterly unearthly beauty like Sean, nor was her presence so overpowering as Sean's either, whereas Able, due to his enhanced intelligence, had become a bit detached. Lilly was still clearly a Key, but was a natural leader even before her Unlocking, and was far more approachable to the average person.

Lilly's pre-unlocking background, her activities and feats before and since, and the fact that she was one of the most powerful Keys in the world, she had become something of a role model as well, which Lilly was not still fully aware of, or at least fully believed, and it was that humility which only endeared her to the people more. As such, she was in demand more and more for public events, such as the opening of the Tokyo Transportal, as well as endorsements and offers from all manner of companies. She did not mind the public appearances, as she knew that it they were in a very delicate period as the masses came to accept the existence and presence of Keys. Anything she could do to make people feel more and ease with, and accepting of, Keys, including closing the gap of division that some Keys, even her own friends to a degree, kept insisting on making, she (usually) gladly did. (She was still a teen, after all).

Once the meeting concluded, Lilly offered her help any way that it would be needed (which went without saying among her friends), and set about preparing for her trip. She was excited to see Japan and get to really experience, as anywhere the Irregulars went for 'work' were always just in and out. The only real recreational trip she had taken was with Devin to Australia... and some beach house somewhere...

 

Later in Tokyo...

On 3/10/2019 at 8:47 AM, Jeane said:

"Let me put this out on brainblast. Don't want to have to explain this awesome idea more than once," Jeane delayed, sucking in a breath to keep her emotions from surging too strongly through the link as she reached out to the entire team, 'Hey, guys. Not sure what all of you have on your plates the next few days, but I was thinking... All Irregulars beach day. New. Old. Current. We just, basically, saved the world, and at least on my end, I've been keeping busy every day since we got back. I'm sure there's somewhere gorgeous and sunny without people we can kill a few hours. Whose up for it?'

The grin danced on her lips, the chipper echo of her good mood bouncing out into the link as she waited for a reply, an emotional chorus sung in harmony with herself. 

'Sounds good. Maybe the US Virgin Islands? That way those without passports have no headaches.' Lilly thought back.

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--==[Manhattan, New York]==--

"Okay....," Mikey stepped away from the gun and looked at the vacant hallway where mystery dude just upped and poofed.  "Think, Mikey.  Think.  Is this shit really so strange?  I mean... you were just on fire... so, there's that.  The hell though?"  He walked around looking at... well, he had no idea what he was looking for.  Dude was here, now he's not, but he left a gun.

The gun.

His thumb slid across the screen of his smartphone, his fingers tapping in a few keys for a Google search.  He tapped the number Google provided and waited for someone to pick up while he paced around.  The police would be there soon, but they never negotiated stairs very well so he figured he had some time.  "Uh, yeah," he began as a receptionist answered.  "Uh, hi, look uh, some dude was just on a roof top sniping people and then teleported away when I confronted him.  You guys have people that handle this sorta thing, or is it like an F.B.I. thing?  This is Irregular Solutions, right?  The mutant group that helps other mutants?  Cuz, seriously lady... I have no idea who to call right now, three people are dead and if this dude it teleporting, there's no way regular police are gonna find him.  He left a gun behind, weird kinda tech on it... is there a finders fee?"

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--==[The Dance Loft - Miami, Florida]==--

Maria staggered into the restroom a the dance studio, holding her head and wincing in pain. The headache was excruciating, sending Maria to the cold tile on her knees. She had been having headaches lately, and they seemed to be getting worse, but she had had chalked it up to a too much caffeine or too many energy drinks to fuel the long nights out, but this was different. Her mind jumped to thoughts of blood clot in the brain or a stroke or something even worse that just did know about. That was for the few seconds that she could still think at least, before everything went black.

The grimace on her face slowly faded as she returned to consciousness, the tension caused by the pain receding as her eyes blinked open. She lay there, on the tiled floor of the restroom and sneezed as the scent of the time released air freshener hit her like a punch in the nose. She never remembered it being that strong, and for that matter, she remembered the walls being better insulated, and yet she could hear the music of class she had just left better than she ever could before from in the restroom, and several more classes as well. On top of that she could feel somebody staring at her through the gap between the wall and the door of the bathroom stall as she vanished.

Maria was, in fact, still standing there, though even hyper-perceptive Keys would be hard pressed to tell. Maria held up her hand and looked closely her palm and the back of her hand for a moment before noticing that there was no reflection of her in the mirror anymore. She stuck out a finger and pressed it to the mirror, passing right through it.

"Wha-?" the girl in stall stammered in surprised by Maria's vanishing act, followed quickly by a flush.

The pain in her head was gone, but somehow was replaced with a sudden clarity. She somehow just knew that she has become a... "Key" was the term she had heard, and she instinctively knew what she was capable of now. She felt... awake, strong, energetic... She had won the genetic lottery and become like those super people she saw on tv! The implications of were just beginning to race through her mind when Julia, a fellow aspiring dancer and student in the same dance calls as Maria, exited the stall. She looked all around cautiously and then raced out of the restroom and back to the studio. Maria followed, reflexively walking to the doorway, and then right through the closed door.

"Uhh.. some girl in the restroom just vanished." Julia announced to the class.

Maria sighed, though nobody could hear it.

She had been taking the same dance class with Julia, three nights a week, for two years now, and she did not know her name or even recognize her as being in the same class. Unfortunately, this was nothing new for Maria. She had been looked past and forgotten all her life, no matter how well she danced, how hard she tried to look her best or a plethora of other things. She was not ignored, because that would take actual effort. Instead, she was utterly and remarkably average in appearance and charisma, just another face in the crowd, rarely getting any sort of recognition, and it had chipped away at her self-image and confidence for years now.

"Yeah. It was me," Maria said as she became visible again, causing the class to gasp.

"Where did you come from?"

"How'd you do that?"

"You.. You're one of those "Key" people?"

The questions came rapid fire and, for the first time in her life, outside of family events, she was the center of attention. She displayed her newfound abilities like they were parlor tricks as the other fawned over her, or more accurately, the spectacle of a Key first hand, for some time, until the end of class came and the other students had to get going, making room for the next class. With a smile on her face, Maria vanished and walked around, listening to the girls talk as they left.

"Who was that girl?"

"I dunno. She must have just wandered in off the street."

"Didn't you get a selfie with her?"

"Yeah I did.. Huh... it's just me in the selfie..."

Maria silently sighed again as she came to better understand that her abilities where really just an extension of her regular self, even to the point of causing people to forget her, what she looked like, and obfuscating her from cameras. It would be hard to get any degree of fame or fortune when nobody could film or even remember you...

Maria picked up her bag, causing it to vanish from view as well, and began to walk home with tears welling up in her eyes, utterly unnoticed by every pedestrian and motorist...

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*Cleveland, Ohio, Day of the Transportal Expo*

If Lilly was perceived as the 'public face' of the Irregulars, Jeane had become their friendly Bigfoot since their escape from Pandora's Box, the towering blonde flashing through a different city or three every day with a smile, a laugh, and two simple questions before she blurred over and between the architecture of her hosts, sampling the local food, and running loops seeing and being seen in vibrant shades of red and white and blue, a bit of summer in a loosening winter. Generally seeing and being seen. Her questions, the ones that had a certain section of the population with a certain skill set buzzing?

"How would you get there from here without breaking something? Mind showing me?"

She had asked her question of the first crew of freerunners she had encountered once popping out of James' warp, crackling into existence atop a near-by wall with a wave just after they finished stretching, and happily volunteered to take tail duty. The first caveat had become a regretful necessity after some of what she still considered her peers despite how much more she'd become had tried... impressing her by being stupid. That was *not* her brand of Parkour, and if anyone kept it up after a warning… Crackle and she was gone. Thankfully this was not one of those runs, and she followed, restricting herself to the pace and possibilities of their slowest member, blue eyes drinking in the route they showed her.

She'd be back. Later. Push herself without cheating her way via teleporting. Shave seconds off her time with each and every attempt. Be better. Oh, yeah this was a cool group so...

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, the one with only a dozen very important contacts on it, bringing her pleasant musing to a halt even as her body kept up her ascent and pulled herself onto the latest roof.

"Hold up a sec, guys. Gotta take this," she called, bringing her hosts to a stop as she popped out the offending device, frowning as she recognized the very very important message on a phone that had as much to do with a commercially-available model as a chariot to an APC. Shit. Okay. This wasn't bad. Not yet.

"Something wrong?" volunteered the leader of the crew, a guy who looked like he was really pushing his confidence interrupting her silence.

The blonde forced a smile and a chuckle, rubbing the back of her hair, "Nah. Just Key stuff. Someone else needs to take tail, okay? Gotta go." 

And without another word, she was gone, chasing an eerily familiar story about a young Key who stumbled over a secret and determined to see what else the others picked up by the time she got back to HQ.

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The office space was dark and quiet with but a single desk lamp to keep her eyes from straining from the monitors. She had three on her desk, the left one displays a nearly endless stream of updating emails, the right one displayed a 'Secret' logo on the desktop wallpaper where she performed her duties as the 'Alien Ambassador', sending emails and compiling briefs and documentation for those who made a lot more than her but did half as much work.

To say that there were many who didn't appreciate her and the work she did was an understatement, she wasn't even a legal adult but was forced to be read into some of the nation's secrets simply because the aliens refused to work worth anyone but her. Politics was a brutal environment and Laurie Cassidy was surrounded on all sides by an innumerable amount of high society, next generation ivy league graduates that wanted nothing more than to take her place and prove that a fifteen year old girl had no place in a government office. They didn't know Laurie very well. The harder they pushed her, the harder the fiery little redhead pushed back. Her sister and her best friends were the very first keys and they'd saved the world, no, the universe, twice.

She didn't know what mediocrity looked like and she'd be damned if she'd let anyone in the Capitol tell her she was just some stupid country girl. So, for weeks, long after the rest of the office had gone home she'd pour over documents, gather intel and work on compiling the future proposals for human and alien kind. That's where her middle monitor came in. Currently she was on page eleven of what seemed like an unending proposal that she needed to present to the NSA in two weeks.

She read over the last paragraph she typed up, nibbling on the end of her pen as the words reflected in the lenses of her glasses. Softly she read a few of the phrases aloud, trying to make sure they made as much sense aloud as they did in her head.

Hey, Red,” came a soft, familiar voice from behind her.

Her pen hit the desk with a rattle as the shock of hearing that voice along with the small fact that someone had sneaked up on her while she was working all hit her at once. She stood and turned to face her guest. Just as she thought she wasn't just hearing things out of fatigue and weariness. Devin stood there looking nervous and just touch shy for the right words. She crossed her arms and scowled at him.

Look, I know I'm probably the last guy you wanna see, but-” he staggered back several steps holding his face after her fist caught him mid-sentence. He sucked his teeth as he spun about, trying to shake off the pain of what was one hell of a left hook. She winced and shook her hand, as hitting any Key was tantamount to hitting a wall. “Ow! What the shit, Laurie.”

I-,” Devin pinched his nose tilted his head back, looking at her at an awkward angle, his voice was nasally. “I think you broke my nose.”

Yeah? Well,” she pushed him even further away, causing him to stagger and almost loose footing. “You broke my heart, so fuck you Jauntsen. What was your plan? Say some more mean things to me and leave me hanging? Hmm? Maybe pop in here, say a few smooth words, make me giggle like a school girl and we'd be back to being “it's romantically complicated”? Maybe we'd make out a couple of times and be remain as vaguely noncommittal as possible so that way when the opportunity comes along you can, oh, I don't know... sleep with one of my other friends again?”

He pinched his nose while trying not to give away darting eyes that noted he was already searching for an escape route in the off chance ginger rage went critical. “Okay, first of all, we weren't exclusive!” Like that excuse ever worked.

Her glare could have melted a hole through him like laser beams. “If I wasn't wearing a skirt right now, I swear to god I would kick you in the junk. Who the hell do you think you are, Devin? You tell me off, in front of everyone no less, sleep with one of best friends, and then pop in like you wanna get a slice of pizza and I'm supposed to be what? Thrilled to see you? Spin about and leap into your arms in slow motion like one of your anime girls and we live happily ever after? I don't care how many times you save the world Devin and I don't care how many apologies you vomit in my direction. I loved you. I fell so hard for you and you tore my heart out. There's nothing you can say, Devin. Nothing. Don't you get it? There are no witty quips or one liners or immature jokes that are going to fix what you did to me. So please, just go. I don't want to see you.”

The key lowered his head and inhaled deeply. It was never easy, no matter who you were, to hear people spout the unfiltered truth loudly into your ear holes and Jaunt, wittiest of keys, Captain One-Liner, was no exception to the rule. He pinched his nose a few times, he could boast that it would heal in a few minutes, but the simple truth was that the pain was real and it was happening now, on both a physical and emotional level and it was very real. Jaunt's immaturity was nearly as legendary as his feats, so dealing with the fall out of his own actions was certainly not easy for him.

You're right,” he said. “Laurie, I didn't come here to ask forgiveness. Those things I said, what I did, I own them and they hurt you. I needed people to believe I went rogue and I was so wrapped up in being some undercover super hero I didn't think about who might hurt getting there.”

And Lily?” She asked sternly.

Devin chuckled. “I'm not apologizing for that. Look, I'm sorry that you were hurt as a result of mine and hers actions, but Laurie, we we not together. I was asking you, and asking you over and over if we were a thing. Over and over you played it off coyly and never gave me a straight a answer. What happened between Lily and I was not something we planned, it just happened and hate me of you want, but I don't regret it. My biggest problem in that whole mess was that I fell in love with both of you. I wanted my cake and wanted to eat it too, and that makes me a colossal douche'.”

He took a step forward unafraid of a fist that might find it's way to his face. Laurie took a step back as she started to cry. She tried to cover her face but that never worked, instead she just let the tears flow while she covered her mouth to partially conceal her crying face. “I came to tell you that I am sorry for all the hurt I caused you and that frankly you deserve better,” he paused and sighed with self-realization. “You both do, and I hope you find someone who treats you with the kindness and respect that I didn't. That's alI came to say, but... should you need me, Red, I'll always be-”

Just, go, Devin.” She pointed to the door. “Go.”

He took a step back from her and she could feel and see the spatial distortion forming around him in preparation for one of his famous teleportations. “It's Jaunt,” was all he offered as a farewell before disappearing in a purplish 'bamf' of quantum energy.

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Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

Warm sunlight flooded through the high windows of the auditorium of the Otaniemi Campus of Aalto University. Sean had spoken first at the conference on the social and economic impacts of the introduction rapidly advancing technology and what was and could be done to reduce those impacts and make the introductions more smooth.

A German scientist was speaking at the moment. With strong social safety nets, the Scandinavian nations were adapting better than most, members of the EU to lesser extent. South America was in flux, as was Africa, the vast majority of the populous receiving benefits while dictators and corrupt leaders finding their strangleholds weakening. A similar situation was affecting North American, the lower and middle-class being lifted up while overly wealthy tech CEO, Executives, Venture Capitalists, and shareholders finding their power and share of the economy falling. Surprisingly, the economy wasn't collapsing, the shrinking hoards of the uber-rich being replaced by more spending capital from the lower and middle class.

Sean listened with only a fraction of her attention, enough to follow the speeches and conversations and track the positions of everyone with her other senses as she let her vision roam far afield. Her sight flowed over the vast forests of Finland, then over Norway and Sweden, then picturesque fjords along the coasts. It wasn't as cold in Helsinki as most would think, as were the southern parts of Sweden and Norway. If anything, it was more mild than Montana was at this time.

She wondered if Sara would like it here.

They had ended an existential threat to the Earth and the human race - and Sean could still regret destroying entities that had existed since the beginning of the universe without begrudging the necessity - yet Sean couldn't avoid an argument with Sara. And over something that seemed so... minor in the grand scheme of things, just what they each had in mind for a house they would live in, and just where they would live, and even what kind of dinnerware they preferred.

Part of it was a reluctance on her part to leave the only home she had known. It was a tie to her old life, one she had grown far beyond. Enticing lips curved in a rueful grin. Sara wanted something simple, classic, almost something with a white picket fence. Sean wanted something more grandiose, futuristic.

She had started looking at the works of various architects, including Aalto, for which the Finnish University was named, and believed she found inspiration that was a compromise of both her and Sara's preferences in Frank Lloyd Wright, specifically Fallingwater and Massaro House, homes built with the local topography in mind, actually incorporating it into the design. With her and Sara's abilities, they could build it together, any modern - okay, hyper modern - conveniences could be incorporated in a more subtle fashion.

She would speak with Sara about it when she made it make to Shelly. Or maybe when she went on vacation. Sean had already started making preparations for some time off, days or weeks, to let IS and her other concerns to function smoothly in her absence. She needed some time off saving and changing the world. There was a mystery she wanted to investigate, a mystery that had caught her interest back when she'd been a boy, and she believed it might interest Sara too. And it would give them time to away to talk and just be with themselves.

On 3/10/2019 at 11:47 AM, Jeane said:

'Hey, guys. Not sure what all of you have on your plates the next few days, but I was thinking... All Irregulars beach day. New. Old. Current. We just, basically, saved the world, and at least on my end, I've been keeping busy every day since we got back. I'm sure there's somewhere gorgeous and sunny without people we can kill a few hours. Whose up for it?'

<Let me know when you want to do it, Jeane, and if I can make it, I'll show up,> Sean replied idly, her awareness - or lease her extraordinary vision - swooping south and south from Scandinavian lands to sweep high over the Sahara Desert and then low.

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

The conference had ended for the day and Sean was sitting on the coping of the terrace of her hotel room, legs crossed. The snow was gone, but night had fallen and the air was brisk, the cold making itself known with the tight protuberances seen clearly beneath her thin shirt. She'd called Sara earlier, who had sounded tired after a long day working her with her dad while dormed. Sean had almost - almost - apologized for the argument, and was still considering ditching the rest of the conference to head back to Shelly and Sara.

She took a sip of coffee, then pursed her lips in thought. She was making good progress at the conference, laying groundwork to make her ideas and suggestions more palatable and easier to implement, tailored for specific nations and socio-economic strata. Change wouldn't happen without turmoil - even a good deal of turmoil - but it could be managed, or at the very least, there could be something beneficial in place or waiting to be put in place when the turmoil subsided.

She was somewhat concerned about the Russian delegate, Alexei Mendeelev, a noted material engineer and chemist. Definitely human, Sean had seen an energetic quantum imprint overlaying him. She had seen something somewhat similar when she had encountered Death Otter, but this didn't seem like one overwhelming the other, but rather the two working in concert, a symbiotic relationship, rather than parasitic. Other than the quantum imprint however, Sean hadn't found evidence of the Key with a cursory search.

Something else to keep an eye on, if the Russian government had Keys working directly for them. Keys that could boost or enhance their locked agents and delegates.

On 3/11/2019 at 3:33 PM, Kia Mizuki said:

Abel would know. Or Sean. She texted them both individually.

guys, i lost my powers...we need 2 talk...

Sean arched a brow in surprise as she read the text from Kia. The text didn't convey a sense of desperation or danger, but nonetheless, Sean spun around on the coping and glided into her hotel room to pack up and leave. She considered checking out, but she might be back. She texted Kia to say she'll get back as soon as she could, then texted several others at the conference to say she'd be absent the next day, and possibly for the rest of the conference, mentioning a few other key points she'd like presented and that she'd keep an eye on the conference, time and circumstances permitting.

On 3/12/2019 at 5:47 PM, Abel Cross said:

Sean I need to talk to you could you come down to sublevel 8, Lab 2.  I definitely want a second opinion on this.  To emphasize his point, he sent the recording to him and waited patiently.

Sean sighed in slight exasperation. It was never one thing, but a dozen. <I'll stop by there to take a quick look before we go see Kia, if you like,> Sean replied. <But Kia is concerning me more at the moment, especially with your... doppelganger gone currently. Be there in a moment.>

Sean manipulated a device on her wrist that superficially resembled a watch, but obviously wasn't when a blue ray projected from it and opened into a portal. She hadn't be able to manage a true, maneuverable teleportation system comparable to the one on the Watchtower - yet- but had managed a more restricted recall device that could contact a specific portal in the growing Trans-Earth Portal System. This one was connected to the Portal at IS HQ.

Sean stepped through the Portal and strode towards the nearest elevator with access to sublevel 8.

Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia

Laurie Cassidy let her arm drop as the purple cloud of quantum energy dissipated, her shoulders slumping with the weariness and pain of fractured relationships. Of growing up. This was harder, hurt more, than being a bare sixteen years old and being thrust into the upper echelons of governmental politics as an alien liaison.

She let the tears slip down her cheeks without wiping them away. "No matter how many times you say it, you're still Devin Jauntsen."

Irregular Solutions HQ, Shelly, Montana
 

Quote

"Uh, yeah," he began as a receptionist answered.  "Uh, hi, look uh, some dude was just on a roof top sniping people and then teleported away when I confronted him.  You guys have people that handle this sorta thing, or is it like an F.B.I. thing?  This is Irregular Solutions, right?  The mutant group that helps other mutants?  Cuz, seriously lady... I have no idea who to call right now, three people are dead and if this dude it teleporting, there's no way regular police are gonna find him.  He left a gun behind, weird kinda tech on it... is there a finders fee?" 

"This is Irregular Solutions, yes," the voice on the other end of the phone replied, her tone professional, perky, and not a little sexy. Mikey decided she probably had killer dimples. "I'm Alexa - named before Amazon came up with it - and yes, we try to help any Key in need..."

Alexa trailed off and after a moment, Mikey realized she was leading him towards providing a name. "Call me Mi - er Gerry Dorsey."

"Gerry then." She sounded like she was taking the name at face value, but Mikey thought he heard a smile in the way she said 'Gerry'.

"Gerry, this is a serious matter, one the FBI will definitely need to be apprised of. But we know circumstances can be difficult for newly unlocked Keys. I've escalated this and someone from IS will get on site as soon as possible, and that will be soon indeed, trust me. We can contact the FBI on yourself behalf, if that is preferable to you and leave you out of this as much as possible. If - and only if - you feel comfortable, can you stay on site until someone arrives? If not, that is okay, I totally understand, Gerry. No one should have to see a dead body, let alone three, let alone seeing them become dead. Get somewhere you feel safe, but please stay on the line with me, share with me all the details you can. If it's possible - don't put or leave yourself in danger, take any pics you can."

Alexa gave Mikey a number he could text them to as well as an email address, both she assured him were secure and couldn't be traced back to him. Well, they probably could, but the few people who could manage it would be dangerous to Mikey in other ways and there was no need to give the boy something else to worry about.

"And while we don't have an official statement on finder's fees, I'll see what I can do, especially if you are in need. You deserve something for getting something dangerous off the streets."

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Spoiler

I am unlocking the thread so I can clear one line. at this point only Kia Sean and Abel should post other need to hold off unless they are specifically brought in to this line. Please bear with me.

 

On 3/11/2019 at 2:33 PM, Kia Mizuki said:

Abel would know. Or Sean. She texted them both individually.

guys, i lost my powers...we need 2 talk...

She turned on the little lamp on her bedside table and started getting dressed. Was it weird that she was weaker than she'd been in months now...but somehow felt lighter? It was finally soaking in. She wasn't going to have to turn into things anymore, or conjure hordes of weird critters from her own flesh or...or be weird and inhuman and kind of gross. It was finally over. She could be normal again.

By the time Kia was tying her shoes the pounding of her heart was from excitement, not fear. She even spared a silent moment of thanks, just in case the spirits were still listening. 

 

On 3/17/2019 at 10:07 AM, Sean Cassidy said:

Sean arched a brow in surprise as she read the text from Kia. The text didn't convey a sense of desperation or danger, but nonetheless, Sean spun around on the coping and glided into her hotel room to pack up and leave. She considered checking out, but she might be back. She texted Kia to say she'll get back as soon as she could, then texted several others at the conference to say she'd be absent the next day, and possibly for the rest of the conference, mentioning a few other key points she'd like presented and that she'd keep an eye on the conference, time and circumstances permitting.

 

On 3/11/2019 at 6:38 PM, Abel Cross said:

Abel's phone beeped, and his ringtone for Kia, "Eye to Eye" which was an obscure song from his childhood, began to play, and he snatched it up.   The Watchtower was one of two places Abel felt he could safely sleep, and truth be told he was concerned that he was becoming too distant from everyone.   He always said it was for the greater good but that was a flimsy excuse.  He had control of his power now, it wasn't so necessary.  The first text didn't truly alarm him, he was used to others closing their links to guild chat, they were just always there, and like doors, could be knocked upon to signal an emergency.

Those thoughts were contradicted when he  read Kia's second text, and quickly moved to to the door.   He'd turned off the gravity in this part of the station since he was practically alone, and had been floating there, in front of the observation window, Sleeping while dreaming of home.
"Dammit, not again."   He quickly reached out via guildchat, only to find that Kia's portion of the network was simply gone, as if it had never been there.  This spurred him to action as he moved to the door, his PAM suit coming to resemble its combat form, reflecting his agitation.  He briefly considered calling James, but didn't.  He figured Kia sent he and Sean that second message, and it was best to not call everyone until they actually knew something.

He moved through the station to the command deck, and the Teleportation pads there.  The only other inhabitants at the time were the two Alien ambassadors, who'd come up to send a signal home.  "I need you to transport me back to my home, immediately.  There's a situation I need to be there for."   Abel was texting Kia back.  On my way back, Will be at your place shortly

Both nodded, understanding that for it to have been something to have him agitated, it had to be big.  Keystrokes were made, and Abel seemed to visibly shut part of himself down.    Emotion would lead to problems, he needed to be calm and analytical, and so he was.  They gave him a thumbs up and soon Abel was transported to his room in his family home, from which he opened the window and shot out towards Kia's home, not really caring who saw him do so.
 

Spoiler

KIA, ABEL, and SEAN.... do this conversation please.. it is current time nothing else has happened inthe thread (i'm doing a little time juggling to clean my mess) bear with me people

 

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Abel arrived first.

Kia was in the kitchen, humming to herself as she put together a plate of snacks. She'd put on a blousy orange and yellow sun dress...the kind it was still a bit chilly to wear outside, but she turned up the thermostat inside. It was...kind of nice to have that sort of feedback from her body about the world. As a key, she'd been capable of being aware of temperature, but over time had sort of stopped paying attention to it. Because heat or cold didn't limit her, or threaten her, it just sort of faded from her perceptions as irrelevant. The same thing with her feeling of energy, of pep...as a key she'd been literally indefatigable...possessed of enough energy to run a marathon around the equator. And yet now she FELT more energetic, because there was a tangible limit she could measure herself against. Any amount of movement against an infinite backdrop felt minuscule. Hence, a bit of spring in her step, a bit of sway in her hips as she turned some music on.

She heard a rumble in the distance, the sound of air displacing around something moving quickly. Almost as fast as she heard it there was a knock on her door. Abel calling her name.

"Come in!" Kia called as she brought the platter of snacks over to the coffee table in front of the couch. When Abel entered she went over and up on her toes to give him a hug around the neck.

This wasn't going to be easy. None of it. It was right though. It felt righter than just about anything for nearly a year.

Was it weird that she had to lose her powers to gain control over her life?

"Hi. Thanks for coming." Kia waved at the couch. "I have snacks. Sean isn't here yet."

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Abel seemed quite tense.  Still when she wrapped her arms around his neck, despite him having damped down his emotional responses, his arms moved almost as if out of reflex, hugging her back, and nodding.  "Well unless she calls James or the Station, he won't be back tonight."

He couldn't feel anything from her, not the psychic defenses, not the radiant quantum from an active node, hell no connection to quantum at all.   She seemed totally normal, human.    

The part that seemed to be the biggest disconnect, at least for him, was that she wasn't worried,or concerned, she seemed well, happy.  Which is pretty much the opposite of how he'd be, but then he knew well they didn't look at everything the same way.

Abel allowed her to guide him to the couch, where he sat as she joined him picking up a platter of snacks from the coffee table and offering him some with a gesture, he just stared at the platter and processed how this could have happened.

"How are you feeling Kia?"   He'd known her long enough to have a general idea, and certainly his powers would just let him know, but he wanted to hear her voice, her own words.  More of his emotions seemed to bleed through, showing that his concern trumped his own abilities this time.   She could easily hear the concern in his voice.  He was the only other person who'd seen the very nature of her powers, he knew how she'd felt before, and seeing her now,  she seemed so relieved.

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She smiled at him and shrugged.

"I feel good. Actually great. Abel..."

Kia leaned over to put her hand on his arm. "I want Sean to be here before I go into detail, but you should know this happened because...I asked for it to. I don't really know if this is it, or if things will change again, but this isn't something someone did to me."

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Abel's eyes narrowed, and he nodded.   "I see."   While most would have sounded cold with those words, Abel was still showing his concern.  The fact she wanted this, well, it told him some things, and they weren't things he was all that fond of.   Still, this was Kia, and he would do practically anything to help her.

Since she wanted to wait to explain things to both of the resident members of the brain trust, he shrugged.  "Well, i don't mind waiting, I get to spend some time with you."   He smiled and it was genuine.  "You look, well happy, about this Kia.   I can say I don't sense anything that's out of the norm for a normal regular person, you're in great health."

"I just can't feel any quantum energy or connection anymore, at all."  Even when dormed, there'd been ways to detect a dormed Key, but with this, he couldn't feel any of that.  She'd asked to no longer have powers, and now she didn't.   Their Wills were connected directly to Quantum now, likely thanks to the trip to the quantum realm.   But she severed the connection willfully.   This was interesting, but also alarming, if that was all it took for a Key to no longer be a Key.

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The former cheerleader nodded.

"I think it's gone. I'm not sure how...but I feel like I know why. Anyway, that's why I wanted Sean to be here. She probably knows more about this quantum stuff than anyone. And as for why, well, my powers were...taking me places I decided I didn't want to go. Taking me away from Earth, and away from the people and things I care about. Away from me, if that makes any sense."

She sighed and waved a hand around at the room.

"Do you know how long it's been since I really felt hot or cold, or hungry, or tired, or...like a person? Everything...everyone...looked so small, like I was seeing them from a long ways away."

Kia smiled. "But I'm back now. I feel...more in touch with things. Like I'm part of the world again, not all curled up in a cave like a dragon in one of Sean's games, peeping in through a hole in the wall."

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Abel nodded, forcing himself not to go down that path as he had so often before.  Fearing his powers, what they could do, what they could make him do, had acted as a brake on his powers for a long time.  Only after embracing what he could do,  had he truly achieved mastery and control.

"The little things can mean the most to us.   The human touch of things,  things we take for granted.   It makes perfect sense Kia.  Remember I did get a glimpse of the true nature of your powers, I've admired how you handled that as long as you have without losing yourself to them."   He smiled again.  "I won't lie and say your complete loss of powers, as well as any expressed quantum traits, doesn't concern me, that all concerns me greatly, for what it could mean for Keys on the whole.   Still, You're happy, and if this is how you want to be, then i'm happy for you too."

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