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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."
  3. 3:48 AM Stevie One of the few nights in town, away from the grueling demands of SAS selection, and someone had to go ruin it. He'd been sleeping, for god's sake! Not that the men around him, the barracks building, or the storm outside cared at precisely this moment. The men, at least, were trying to help. But, what do you do for someone that keeps getting struck by lightning? Not like "several times over the course of a life" but "it's been a dozen times in the past thirty seconds and it's not stopping". Itty, so named because he was only five and a half feet tall in a group that averaged out nearly half a foot taller, grabbed his boots, put them on his hands, and shoved Stevie out of bed. He kept shoving him - through two more lightning strikes, go Itty - until the Colour Sergeant was out from under the ragged hole in the roof. Itty's face was peeling from the world's strangest sunburn and the lightning got in two more strikes before finally deciding that Stevie was well and rightly cooked and could be left alone. "Steve! Shit, someone get a defibrillator!" Men scrambled through the room and out into the halls of barracks. There was a first aid station down the hall, and Steve felt cold gel on his chest less than a minute later. That finally got his body to sync up with his mind again. "Dun...Don't do that!" He shoved Itty away from him, sparks flying between the two men and the live machine in Itty's hands. The room let out a collective gasp that immediately broke out into overlapping chatter - amazement, shouting at Steve, several prayers. One guy, a younger man that Steve was pretty sure wasn't going to make it through the full ten weeks, slid down the wall and just stared. Steve ached and every time the thunder rumbled he could feel it in his bones. He stood and stretched, rubbing sore spot on his bared chest. The thunder became regular, rhythmic, and out of sync with the ache in his boned. The barracks began to shudder with the louder rhythm; the men were looking at each other, frowning. "That feels almost like-" "Footsteps," Itty finished for the other soldier. They all poured out of the front doors of the barracks, alert and freaked out at the same time; Steve was given a larger berth in the sprint for outside. Hereford was back-lit by the angry black and purple-red clouds; lightning bursts chased through the storm, giving back as much light as the moon the clouds had blocked, but in random strobes of incandescent heat-light. Rising against that was an immense figure made of cracking ice; two blue orbs looked out from the enormous face as it reached out and put a gigantic fist through the third story of a hotel. People tumbled out, injured and terrified. A sound like glaciers cracking came from the giant - it was laughing. Karrie Busywork assignments annoyed the hell out of her. She understood that someone had to do them and that her supervisor often gave them to her when she'd be otherwise sitting at home just waiting for word that Brady was back and ok, but they still annoyed the hell out of her. She'd checked into the hotel in Hereford in the early morning, napped a few hours, and then headed to the hospital in her guise as one of the Minneford Foundation's more personable auditors. Dr. Vasilakis needed a reminder of who she was, which was exactly how it was supposed to go. Be unassuming. Be nice but not gregarious. That's how you can hold a cover for years without ever being suspected. Brady had been thrilled to get a chance to teach Karrie just a little of his side of the trade. "Jane Doe" was also exactly where she'd left her the last time she'd been in Hereford: laying on a hospital bed, a feeding tube down her throat, and a strict schedule of turning to keep her from getting bed sores. Karrie didn't know the details, but for some reason they weren't allowed to just move the woman to a more private - controlled - facility. It wasn't her job to ask. Getting "Laura's" paperwork from the hospital, so the bogus foundation would continue to pay the coma victim's bills, took up the rest of the afternoon and she busied herself with real paperwork through the evening. She'd made herself go to bed on UK time; she was going to be in Europe for a few weeks and best to get on schedule the first night. She woke up in the early morning frozen in place. Literally. Everything in her room had a sheen of hoarfrost on it and the whole building was shaking. She shivered and the ice on her shattered off, not melting but disappearing. She could hear screams from nearby, less than a handful of rooms down. The building shook again and again, like small earthquakes only a few seconds apart. A loud crash, the ripping of concrete, steel, and wood, reverberated from above her as part of her ceiling was ripped away by an enormous icy fist crashing through the space. She scrambled away as part of the bed and mini-fridge from two stories up crashed down into her space. The fist retreated and the screams got louder. Over it all she heard the icy, grating laughter of the monster that had just killed at least a dozen people. Kyria In the hazy darkness there had always been bits of sounds: a beep here, a low murmur of a voice there, the constant tinny sound of argument or racing cars or other random things. She'd never been able to focus on them and make them more than indistinct noise. She'd wanted to, but it was just so tiring. The screaming finally go her attention. It was so loud and so close and so there. She forced her eyes open for the first time in years, blinking against the dim light and the rush of fresh air over her skin. The room she was in was trashed. A hospital bed lay broken into several pieces below her; monitoring equipment had been thrashed about and littered the rest of the floor. In the doorway was a young orderly, her face frozen in fear and the screams emanating from her. Behind her, she could feel the winds from outside whipping at the broken section of the wall, cold to the point of bitter. She lighted down softly onto the floor, shivering from the open back of her hospital gown. She glanced at the other woman and said in a light, smooth voice that shouldn't have been possible from vocal chords unused for three years, "I'm cold. I need better clothes." The orderly swallowed, cutting off her own screams. "Th-there's street clothes..." She pointed shakily to one of the cabinets under the sink in the room. The red-haired woman nodded and stepped over, pulling out the set of clothes with delicate movements. The orderly blushed and turned away when she slid off the gown and dressed herself. Others were peering into the doorway now, shocked silent by the destruction of the room and the up-and-moving of their long-term patient. The storm outside flickered and flashed angrily, refusing to drop water just yet but in full thundered voice across the city. A strange regularity had entered the cacophony of the storm and it was getting louder. After she'd slipped on the pair of new tennis shoes and secured them in place, she glanced out the ruin of a wall and then back to the people still stuck in the doorway by a mix of fear, awe, and hind-brain gibbering. She quirked a smile at them and shrugged. "Guess I should go see what that is. Sorry about the-" she waved vaguely at the ruined equipment and wall. She stepped backwards out of the hole in the wall and fell upward.
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