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  1. October 5th, 2019 "Nant Ddu?" Kyria asked over the headset as she looked at the brochure and at the map on the back, pronouncing the name of the place to rhyme with 'aunt do'. Steve was likewise going over his briefing package, which included the same colorful brochure advertising the getaway spot and it's facilities. "Close." Colonel Hatcher called back. "Two d's together in Welsh is pronounced as 'th', and the 'a' sound is a bit flatter on the first word, rhymes with 'pant'." The reason they were speaking loudly, even over headsets, was due to to the fact they were sitting in the belly of a huge twin-rotored Chinook as it thundered its way across the countryside. Further back in the compartment were two dozen members of the SAS and some large pieces of scientific-looking equipment. "Whitehall paid off the owners and the staff are getting paid leave - so we have the run of the place. The Beacons are officially an emergency zone right now - all civilians have been gently ushered away and we've got some Terries maintaining the perimeter." "It has a spa. With a pool, jacuzzi, gym... ooh, 32-carat gold body wraps!" Kyria nudged Steve. The Colonel smiled slightly as Steve shrugged. "It'll do. I mean, it's not up to the high standards I've become accustomed to." deadpanned a man who'd slept aboard tight quarters on naval warships, shared a bunkroom with twenty other snoring Marines, and on at least one occasion fallen asleep in a shallow cave in the middle of the Afghan highlands. "I'll make do, though." "Sadly, the spa services will be limited." Colonel Hatcher said dryly. "We will have use of the pool and other amenities, though. I'm fairly certain that administering gold body wraps is not a skill currently in demand in the 22nd, or indeed the Territorials." "So other than 22nd and the Terrys, who can we expect on the ground?" Steve asked as he flipped through the package. "The best minds we were able to scrape together." Hatcher acknowledged. "Leaders in the fields - medical doctors, neurologists, biochemists, along with physicists, head-shrinkers and, of course, a lot of civil servants to write reports on the reports that are being written." His tone was even drier at the last statement. "All very useful and necessary, I am sure. Kyria, just a word for you since Colour Sergeant Nord knows this already - the civvies cannot order you around. God knows they will try, but they cannot. Technically, and please understand this is a formality for your protection, you are attached under my oversight. Keep that in mind, don't lose your rag with some pompous egghead and throw him over the Fan." The Colonel smiled at her. "Just play along with any reasonable request, if you would." "I'll try." she said with an air of doubt as to whether she could, then shot him a winsome smile in return. He chuckled and sat back in his seat, and Kyria leaned against Steve's comforting bulk and studied the briefing package. The release of her hospital records combined with a PET scan at the base had revealed that Kyria's brain was, quite literally, a new one. Though she had knowledge of a lot of basic things, she had no memories, even suppressed or hidden, to provide emotional context for that knowledge. This likely explained her mercurial, tempestuous nature as well as her emotional openness. The Storm had taken a woman in a coma and turned her into a brand new woman, and though Kyria did wonder who she had been before, she was more interested in who she was going to be next. Or now. Steve appeared less changed, at least physically, so far as the tests over the last two weeks had determined. His blood work, like Kyria's, showed elevated compounds of various hormones and other elements not yet fully quantified. New cellular structures were apparent, but their purpose was unknown yet - hence the commandeering of a comfortable remote getaway spot to allow the leading minds in their fields to poke and prod the two enhanced people. An excellent physical specimen before the Storm, they hadn't really been able to test the limits of his changes in the quarantine bubble - though this morning he had celebrated freedom from the bubble by going for a long run with the Hereford base lads - and running them into the ground, maintaining a sprinting pace without slowing or tiring for the full ten mile run. Soldiers being soldiers, the PT sergeant had told him to run it again for being a smart-arse, which he did. At least by the end of the second run of the course he had worked up a healthy sweat and was breathing hard. Emotionally and mentally, he was much the same. A little sharper, perhaps. He was aware of an increase in his sensory acuity and that was roughly it. He didn't feel unstable, or any different from the stoic self he had always been. Which was a good thing - Kyria clung to that solidity over the endless days in quarantine, drawing some strength from the way he just endured, with good humor, their predicament when there were times she wanted to kick out the airlock door and scream. Though their initial physical attraction to one another had not diminished in the slightest, they had at least mastered the art of not trashing the house in their frequent liaisons. In addition, they just enjoyed each others company, moving from just the affectionate teasing and verbal sparring of their earlier days to a deeper level of appreciation. There was still a lot of the teasing and verbal sparring, mind you. It was just not the whole cloth of their relationship. There was another reason for their advanced assessment being carried out in the middle of a large mountainous national park, too. Steve's other ability, namely being able to control and harness the weather, was not something anyone wanted experimentation on whilst he was on a base near a town. That, as much as the pair's more physical gifts, needed to be assessed, and quickly. How great was his scope? How fine was his control? Was the weather a blunt instrument in his hands, or could he only harness existing conditions? And finally, perhaps most worryingly: if he used his gifts, would it upset weather patterns elsewhere or was there some built in limiter on the knock-on effect? As the Chinook started its descent, Steve glanced out of the window at the fancy-looking buildings below and the small crowd of uniformed and non-uniformed people who were gathering at the edge of the landing field. Well, he supposed, they were going to find out.
  2. Late Afternoon, September 21, 2019 Steve, Karrie, and their nameless friend had been given a friendly but insistent escort to the barracks. SAS soldiers had kept the cordoned off from everyone else, much to Itty's loud annoyance. The local HPT team was already there and everyone was ushered through chemical showers, and radiations test, then split up into smaller sealed bubble rooms inside the base's gym. Doctors cycled through in HAZMAT suits taking blood samples and handing out bags with bright pink sets of PHE clothes in them. When they got to Steve, there was a snag in the procedure when needles bent rather than pierce Steve's skin. Pictures were taken. A lot of needles were broken. Some enterprising doctor finally just asked Steve if he could cut him with a scalpel. The soldier bemusedly watched the doctor strain to get the blade to pierce skin, though everyone in the room sighed in relief when a small line of blood finally welled up. They gave him a butterfly needle after that and came to check it every so often to make sure he hadn't healed it out or something equally weird. Several hours after sunrise, the other soldiers were cleared and released. Bubbles consolidated down until Steve, Karrie, and their still unnamed red-headed were together and alone. "We're running more tests and waiting for word from our main office," Terrance, the PHE lead told them matter-of-factly from the other side of the seal. "Once we hear, we'll know what to do next. Right now, there's for it but to wait. I suggest getting some sleep. Let us know if you need more blankets." That had been six hours ago. Afternoon light streamed into the gym from the windows. Lunch had come and gone and not been half enough even though it'd been a double portion for each of them. The red-head not only hadn't slept, she'd refused to even sit on the third bed. She was pacing now, looking anxious and... "I'm bored," she said with a sigh. She hung herself over Steve's shoulders. "Entertain me! Let's go fight another monster. Or play cards. Something."
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