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[Four years ago] "How old did you say this kid was?" Joe Horst flipped through the file the colonel had handed him as they waited. In the bunker, the only natural light came from the heavily-screened viewing slits the two men were standing before. Several sets of high-powered binoculars were on the ledge ready for use, and dim red light permeated the rest of the bunker as aides and technical personnel quietly intoned into various microphones. Kinda like a church, Horst mused as he turned back to the summary page and looked at the picture of the youth there. But for what religion? "Sixteen now. He was fifteen when we picked him up. Seems he popped when the Refugees first came through." The colonel tapped one of the technicians monitoring the range's sensors on the shoulder. "How long?" "Ten minutes, sir." "Let me know when it's one minute till." "Yessir." The colonel looked back at the man who, if rumor was right, was going to be the newly-appointed head of the newly-formed Department of Superhuman Affairs. Horst looked up from his reading. "Says here he killed his stepfather." the bureaucrat said levelly. "Accident." The colonel tapped an attached psych report. "The kid's really cut up about it still. It took nearly six months just to try and get him to practice his powers. And he's a long way from comfortable with it." "Hmm." was all Horst said as he looked back down at the page. Then he looked back up again. "So... magnetism?" The one-word question was loaded with all sorts of meaning. "I know, sir. But comic books aside, he's no supervillain." "It's more than magnetism!" The excitable tones of the white-coated woman nearby intruded on the calm discussion. "Our Mr Mitchell can tap into the very currents of the Earth itself." The dirty-blonde hair was piled up in loose disarray, a pencil stuck in it over the ear as she focused on the readout of one of the monitors. "Explain that to me, Doctor...?" "Yurgen. Anna Yurgen." she turned towards Horst long enough to shake his hand. "I'm the project lead on the Mitchell boy. He's quite extraordinary, which is why we've had to work to make his environment as ordinary as possible." "His environment?" "Home, school, friends. It's manipulative to a degree, but we need to keep his feelings of alienation down. Because otherwise, Mister Horst, we are looking at a supervillain." "Oh come on, Doc." the colonel started in a tone that told Horst that this discussion was an old one. "The kid's a nice guy." "Of course he is!" Dr Yurgen said defensively. "But if you try to use him for military purposes, a supersoldier, you'll take that away from him." "He'd be trained to follow orders-" "Until he decides he doesn't have to!" the doctor argued vociferously. "His mind is already faster and more powerful than a Cray supercomputer, colonel. You'll be left with a super-smart young man with the power to cause earthquakes and rip cities apart, and with military conditioning to respond to threats. Maybe you should read more comic books. That scenario never ends well." "The Department of Superhuman Affairs is not, and never will be, a military organisation." Horst said firmly. "It is the considered opinion of the White House that, as Doctor Yurgen says, novas are not suited to being soldiers. We may aid peacekeeping actions - though that's not certain yet - but we aren't in the business of fighting wars." That seemed to satisfy the doctor, and the colonel merely nodded aquiescence. "Now explain to me about the earthquakes thing, Doctor." "Mr Mitchell can manipulate gravity, electromagnetism, rock and minerals. He's not so much Magneto as the mythical figure Antaeus, who drew his strength from the Earth. Though we've been told by the Refugees that there was an Antaeus on their home world, so we're not using that codename. The best analogy we can give you is that Rob taps into the telluric currents that run through this planet - and the universe generally." "So do all novas." said the colonel curtly. "The quantum forces: they all tap into those." "In Rob's case, it's simply more direct." Dr Yurgen explained. "He can make himself stronger and more dense, or reshape metal, or raise huge walls of earth and rock. We think his mental and hand-eye acuity is due to electromagnetic enhancement of his brain and neural system. And yes, he can cause earthquakes. Or, theoretically, stop them." "And the gravity?" "He uses it to fly, and can affect the gravity of an area by either increasing or decreasing it. He's also capable of a form of telekinesis with it, altering the microgravities around an object to lift and move it. Oh, and he can shield himself with it." "Shield himself?" "Oh yes. An intensely strong gravitic forcefield. We've scanned him when he's shielding at full strength, and it even distorts our sensors. EM energy, gravitic anomalies... it's fascinating." "You'll get to see that in action, sir." the colonel supplied. "Wait. Are we going to be shooting at a sixteen year old boy?" Horst demanded, looking from doctor to soldier incredulously. "Oh, don't fret Mr Horst." Dr Yurgen said with a laugh. "He enjoys it." * * * * * [A little over one year ago] "This sucks." The young man in the chair with his sandaled feet up on the table said with brutal honesty, as he levitated the last doughnut over to his hand. The Director scowled at him, and the various technicians, doctors and other officials wore expressions varying between annoyance and sympathy as they glanced down to the end of the table where Telluris sat. "I mean, seriously guys. Novas aren't a big damn secret. But you've got me running around doing sneaky disaster relief, for crying out loud. C'mon, Director! When are we gonna unleash Telluris on the world stage?" "You've been 'unleashed' enough." Horst growled at him, waving a large photograph of the naked rear-end of Rob as he flew off into the sky. "We told you to keep the speeds down below two hundred, but you had to go faster, didn't you?" "So get me a new supersuit." Rob shrugged and bit into the doughnut, wolfing it down in three bites. "What about that new inventor-brain you guys are bringing in? Karrie Diner." "Dineh. And yes, one of the first things we will be getting Ms Dineh to design is something that allows public decency laws to be observed by supersonic idiots." Horst said acidly. "'Gee, thanks for saving that Airbus, Telluris.' 'I don't know what we'd have done if the plane had crashed, Telluris'." Rob said in an affected growl, then smiled at Horst. "See, that's what it sounds like when people appreciate me speeding to the rescue. Those folks on the plane didn't care that my ass was bare." "Oh, judging by the number of snaps on the Internet, they did." said an official, trying not to smile. Rob grinned. "Okay, so there's some publicity. So let's counter it with awesome publicity. Take me off the bench, coach." he told Horst. "You are staying benched until your clothes stay on, and that's final." Horst scowled. "Now lets move on to the training review." "Boring..." Rob sighed, slumping down more in the chair.
Horst was worried. He wasn’t concerned because Karrie was getting a dressing-down. She got yelled at all the time; the girl thrived on getting told to sit down and behave. She never listened – except to Rob but that was only because he was almost as crazy as her. That almost was key; even Karrie knew that when Rob was cautioning her, it was serious. Horst knew that the Navajo nova loved to push her limits. That’s why he set ones for her; so that she’d have something to rail against. But if real limits were set for her and the consequences were grave enough, he was sure she’d leave. Coyote had the option of walking; any company in the world would snap her up in a heartbeat and cater to her every whim. Horst didn’t want the DSA to lose her brain. But the president was going to try to contain the mad scientist; try to talk “reasonably” with her. Horst had already gotten his dressing-down, for not “controlling” Coyote, as if such an insane creature could be controlled. Horst liked the girl for the most part; she was funny and brilliant and did great work. She was also a good person, if not quite as obviously generous as Telluris. If one wanted the results of her insane genius, one had to accept that she was insane. The president seemed to think he could lay on the charm and convince her to “settle down”, to “play ball” and magically manage her where Horst had not. “Manage”: like she was some kind of errant child who needed to be shown the proper way to be. Horst almost wished Carlson flubbed this, just to show the President that Horst wasn’t a moron. Carlson had talked on and on about having a firm hand with her and Horst’s assertions that Coyote would not react well to that were not well-received. The President thought that Horst was being too soft on her and didn’t want anyone else to show him where he’d been wrong. This was all political, of course. The EuroZone was bitching about Karrie’s little stunt; they hadn’t stopped giving the president shit about it. Yes, she’d been trespassing. Yes, she’d technically violated EU law. However, all she’d done was talk to someone; when arrested, she’d cooperated – though he’d heard stories that she’d given them lip the entire time, which sounded like something she’d do. And yes, she should be punished for trespassing; Horst agreed with that. However, how you punished someone like Karrie and kept her working for you was the question. The president was going to lay down the law with her and it was probably only going to be a warning from him. But she’d go out and do what she was ordered not to do, just to see if the President would actually follow through on his threats. And when she was actually punished, truly disciplined, for that – because she’d have to be – she’d leave. Horst sighed and shifted in the chair, watching Karrie sitting in the Oval Office on the small camera. He was currently in the White House security office, waiting for this mess to be over so he could start damage control – or maybe just take Karrie to lunch, if she wasn’t talking about quitting. The Secret Service agent in the next chair glanced at him. His name was Carl Eastman, and he was the head of security today. Horst liked the older man; he seemed competent and respectful. “Sir, are you sure you want to stay? We can make sure that Ms. Dineh gets back to the DSA.” “No, I’ll wait.” Horst didn’t add the reason why. Horst wanted time on the drive back to convince her not to quit. He was sure she would, if she felt like she was being constrained too much. And if he couldn’t do it, he’d get Rob to work on her. Horst wasn’t sure how much influence Telluris could have on the young woman in this case, but it would be more than his. Frankly, there were times he didn’t know how he would have been able to have as much sway as he did over Karrie without Rob; the kid was a stabilizing influence on her. It had been a true boon for Horst in his dealings. Also, dealing with Rob had been great practice for dealing with Karrie. Horst was about ready to authorize Karrie for full field work. That could be a carrot I could offer to convince her to stay, he mused. Of course, then she’d think he’d done it just to keep her. In truth was something he’d been considering for a while now. She’d done well in Germany and if she had a touch more training, she’d be a good field agent. And if she were paired with Rob, he could keep her in line and watch her back. They’d be a good team; Rob was smart enough to not slow Karrie down and he could protect her – and protect others from her. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The two Secret Service agents moved through the West Wing of the White House, their steps unhurried. Though they were relatively new, having been here for less than a year, they were known to the staff. Nods were exchanged; in one case, the cuter of the two gave a pretty staff member a wink. She giggled and turned red before ducking into a room. Behind the two men trailed four more. They were wearing overalls and carrying electrical equipment; one of them pushed a cart filled with bigger tools. Their two-man escort showed them to the electrical room just behind the Roosevelt Room, following the technicians inside and shutting the door behind them. As the agents watched, the four began to set up their equipment. After five minutes of work, a box-like container had been set up by one of the men; it looked to be a cube about the size of an air conditioner. It had only a single button on it. There was no need to adjust the settings; that was already prepared for the team. Meanwhile, the other three were opening a secret panel in the box and pulling out firearms. They passed them around to everyone, including the two traitorous Secret Service agents. The technicians had removed their overalls to reveal Kevlar vests covered in various equipment; the “agents” were shedding their jackets and white shirts to reveal the same. “We ready?” the leader asked, his cold blue eyes sweeping over his team. “Is POTUS were he’s supposed to be?” “Yes. We’re ready.” Their technician reached out and pushed the button. It immediately began to hum. Moving quickly, the six men exited the room. They quickly broke into three groups; one went for the office of the Vice-President, one group went to collect the other staff and the third went to the Oval Office.
Sometime last summer… The buzzing of her phone interrupted Karrie’s writing. “Damn it,” she growled, shoving the laptop further down the couch and kicking her feet over it. She’d really been in the grove; Shadows of the Endless Night, the latest installment of her Endless Night fanfiction series, was just reaching its emotional climax. The glance at the caller id didn’t help her mood: Mom. With a groan, the girl rolled her eyes. “‘Karen, do you have a boyfriend yet?’” she squeaked in a high falsetto. “‘Karen, are you still collecting that stupid anime?’” She punched the connect button with a sharp tap of her thumb. “Hi, Mom.” “Karen?” The sound of her mother’s voice wiped away all her anger. “Something’s happened. We need you to come home.” “What’s wrong Mom?” Karrie asked, her fingers tightening around the phone. “Is Dad okay?” Oh, please… not his heart… “Karen… Sami’s dead.” -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- “You can’t catch me!” The girl scurried up the rock face, her nut-brown skin scraped and dirty. She wore ragged jean-shorts and a thread-bare hand-me-down Power Puff Girls t-shirt. “Samantha, wait!” the other girl called. She was just as dirty and brown as Sami, but where the older girl moved with grace and confidence, young Karen moved less certainly. Still, she gamely followed her cousin up the rock face, pulling herself up as rapidly as she dared. Her own t-shirt was an oversized tee that proclaimed her a diva. Like Sami, her shirt had come from the local mission. The two girls went higher and higher, the world falling away behind them. It was only twenty feet, but to two children less than four feet tall, it was as high as the world. Karen was panting by the time she’d pulled herself up onto the top, but even she had to admit that it was worth the climb. Being on top filled her with an exaltation and sense of success rare in her life. Her house was below them; other buildings dotted the area. Sami was sitting on the edge, looking out over the sparse beauty of their ancestral land. “You can see all the way to New York,” she told Karen, who believed her because Sami’s eyesight was better than hers and she had no idea how far away New York was from the Four Corners. “What’s it look like?” young Karen asked. “It shines in the sun and everyone’s smiling,” Sami said, her gaze faraway. “No one’s hungry, and everyone’s happy. The children play all the time, and adults laugh at least once a day.” Karen knew that wasn’t true, but even at that age, she understood the necessity of dreams. They were free, and that was all most on the Rez could afford.