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Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - Strawberry Bomb [5.10]


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Ichigo looked around at her new surroundings. It was nice of Shen to take her to somewhere she could rest. Right now, all she wanted to do was rest and eat, hopefully filling that aching void inside of her left by the bullet.

From the quaint house came a beautiful woman and an adorable child. Like children before her since time immemoriam, she ignored the adult and gravitated to the child. "Hi, I'm Ichigo." She tried Japanese at first, but moved on to other languages until she found one that Dani seemed to recognize. English was a safe enough bet that she tried that one second. Soon, the two were giggling with each other, completely ignoring the interplay between Shen and Jason.

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Jason watched her daughter and the girl Shen had brought with a fond, motherly smile, then arched her brows at Shen. "It's true that Danica hasn't had many novas her own age - or near enough - to interact with," she commented softly, giving a small snort. "Seems like every time I turn around nowadays, there is another quantum child poppin' up." Seeing Shen's expression, she gave a trilling giggle, placing a hand on his forearm. "That isn't a criticism, dear friend, just an observation from my circumstances."

"Mom! Mom! Can Ichigo stay for supper?" Danica pleaded, holding Ichigo's hand and she ran up to her mother.

"Of course, hon," Jason assuaged her, then nodding graciously to Ichigo and switching to melodious Japanese, her mother's eye noting the wanness to her delicate feature. "Please, stay for supper and the night, Ichigo-chan. My daughter seems to have taken a shine to you and I was just going to start dinner. If you have any preferences or dietary restrictions, please tell me, and I'll do what I can, though I should warn, we are not rabbits and like our meat."

"Yay!" Danica exclaimed, pulling Ichigo inside to show her her room. "Here, come see, Ichigo! How do you know, uncle Shen and how come I've never met you before?"

Jason offered her arm to Shen, a glint of mock-severity in her eyes, and she led him into her modest home after the children. "You're staying for dinner as well, Shen. And perhaps you can give me a few more details about..." She rolled her eyes in the direction of the girls' giggles. "Me and Danica will be here for a few days, but I have some commitments to meet back in Whistler, and Dani has a week of attending Bodwell Private Academy."

Jason's remote Congo home was a sprawling, one-story bungalow, it and nearly all the furnishings obviously handcrafted. Jason led Shen to the modest kitchen and began preparing dinner, her every motion a fluid dance of elegance. It wasn't the first time Jason had made a meal for him, but Shen was struck anew with admiration, watching her engage in such a domestic activity, like a love-goddess sent to down to Earth, to play the part of a peasant-woman.

"So, what's the story, Shen, and what can I do to help?" Jason asked, adding some teasingly sensual flourishes - a sway to her hips, a twist of her wrist, or a flip of her hair - for Shen's benefit and her own amusement.

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Glancing over at the children playing he turned back to Bombshell and sighed. "You know that I see thousands of futures, that I narrow my focus on smaller things usually in order to make it more manageable, but that I spend a few times a month were I broaden it to see the future of the world." He paused, then held out his hands. "Everything is a tapestry, all things interconnect, what one person does can affect someone on the other side of the world, even just baseline humans.. few of them are aware of it however. If each human life is a like a thread, a nova's life is like metal wire, pulling things this way and that on a grand scale.. until yesterday, that girl wasn't even in my visions, meaning that if I hadn't interfered, she would almost certainly be dead.. looking into the past, which is easier then the future, that would have terrible repercussions for many people."

He lifted a hand and made a spilling motion, like water falling out of the hand. "Balance, walking the path, seeing what is and was, and will be, and trying to thread the way though it, while others who can see as I do also try to make their own way though it, half of my time is often spend struggling against the actions of other precognitive novas, who want things to work out there way, which is why I often am not as available to the children as I could wish to be."

He looked at Bombshell a moment, eyes once more taking in the beauty of the worlds most beautiful woman and for an instant he didn't speak, then he closed his eyes and opened them again. "I am asking you a lot, I know, but I need you to keep an eye on this child, and I can't tell you why." He sighed slightly at that, sometimes the future was shaped as much by what he didn't say as what he did.

"I hate to ask this, sense it will be a source of possible heartache, but I need her to be almost as a sister to your daughter and as a second daughter to you, I need you to take her into your heart, to guard her and to love her, but also to leave her free to make her own choices, let her go when she must and trust her to return when she will. Stand with her and the other children she performs with, she is part of a musical band in japan, so I'm also asking you to get involved there as well.

It will take time I know, and it will be hard, but I need her to trust you and love you as a mother and a guardian... there are other paths, if you are uncertain of this one, but this one is the best in the long run, she has secrets she will only tell to someone she trusts, and while I can see them, I can't share them without shattering her ability to trust others for years to come.

You do not have to do this, if you feel unable or unwilling, I will find a different path."

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Ichigo responded to the offer to stay by saying, "I'd love to join you for dinner, but I won't be able to stay the night." She looked at her watch, "Really, I should have left already, but I'm just too tired to make the jump right now. I'm really going to have to rush to get everyone enough food as it is." Slowly, oh so slowly, that void inside her was beginning to tingle like a couple of random balls bouncing around inside a vast space. She could probably squeeze enough out to jump once, maybe twice at this point.

At Jason's questioning look, she explained, "I get food from a lot of places so nobody notices how much we go through... You look familiar. Do I know you?" This provoked a grin from quite possibly the best known nova on the planet. It was very rare for someone to see her and not know exactly who she was.

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"Oh, you may have seen me somewhere," Jason said with amused understatement, cheek dimpling in a smile and incandescent indigo eyes twinkling. "Jason. Pleased to meet you, Ichigo. And if you can't stay the night, perhaps you'll let me help you in another manner." Kitchen knife in hand, Jason gestured around the well-stocked kitchen, then continued slicing vegetables, the blade a nearly invisible blur. "It's only me and Dani here and we have plenty of food, all produced locally. At the very least, I can send you on your way with food enough for everyone." Jason riveted her with her gaze, glorious voice kind and concerned. "How many of you are there?"

Ichigo blushed, flustered being the center of attention to such an incredible woman. She didn't want Jason to put herself out of her way on her account, but if she could get all the food needed without having to jump around a whole bunch... And the impossibly beautiful woman was being so helpful. "Erm... um... That is, I wouldn't wanted to impose, we eat rather... a lot," Ichigo stammered. "Really you're being kind enough just having me for supper."

Jason chuckled richly. "Ichigo, my daughter and I are novas too, and will all the appetite. I assure you, it's quite alright, I don't mind. How many?"

"Uh..." Ichigo looked down at her feet, twisting her toe against the floor before looking up at the tall woman through her lowered lashes. "... twelve?"

Jason accepted the number with a pair of arched brows and a nod. "Okay, for twelve people then... I think a stew would suit."

"My mom's stew is the best, and she made fresh bread just this morning," Danica informed Ichigo.

"Why don't you show Ichigo around, Dani? Maybe she would like to get cleaned up before supper. It will take some time for the stew to cook."


Over the heads of the girls, Jason's eyes grew somber, then she inclined her head to Shen in acceptance. Danielle had died while Jason had been pregnant with Danica, so the issue of them having another child never arose. But recently she had been having vague notions about having another. This wasn't exactly the way she had been considering it, but having an equal near her own age would do Danica good, and Shen wasn't one to understate serious matters. If he said Ichigo needed help, she really needed it - and she had seen the wan distress in her face when she had first arrived to her retreat with Shen. That she has to scavenge for food for her family rather than her parents willingly providing it... poor child... For her and for Danica, and for you, Shen, I'll try...

Shen saw it all in Jason's expressive eyes and was once more eternally grateful for knowing this captivating and caring woman, and for being able to call her one of his dearest friends. He nodded back in respectful gratitude. Thank-you...

"Here, Shen, since you brought the guest, the least you can do is help prepare supper," Jason commented, tossing Shen a knife, followed by a cutting board and some of the vegetables, which she knew he would catch adroitly. Now that the serious question had been asked and answered, the two old friends chatted amiably about inconsequential things and old times as they cut the meat and vegetables and added them to the massive pot. Soon, the smell of savoury stew permeated the rustic abode and the girls returned.

"So, Ichigo, Shen tells me you're part of a music band in Japan. How did you get involved in the music scene and how are you enjoying it, so far?" Jason asked with polite interest.

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"If you really have enough food, I can pay you back. I'm not allowed to spend most of the money I make singing, but I get some of it to spend as I like." She paused, trying to think of how to answer the lovely woman who had invited an unknown into her home.

"I, uh, don't need to sleep much, so I started spending evenings in Tokyo to kill time a few years ago. It beat lying in bed unable to sleep all night. I'd just go and play with the other kids there; sure I had to hold back a bit to make things a challenge, but if I hadn't it wouldn't have been fun for anyone else. The police caught me jumping in and out of the area every day. At first, they thought I was some creepy hentai-terat until they actually saw me." She shuddered dramatically and made a grossed out face, to Dani's amusement.

"I don't know if you've heard of them, but there is a group called Hanaryuko that tries to give child novas in Japan a sense of stability and support. They took me in in the afternoons and didn't press me about where I was from or to be anything in particular. It was... nice." The wistful note to her voice was unmistakable. Jason might not know what she had come from, but could figure out a lot from what Ichigo was focusing on as being different, especially the lack of expectations. "I made friends there. My two closest friends, Rei and Minmay, like to sing almost as much as I do. We did a little performance for the Den, and some of them offered to set us up with an agent if we wanted to try singing publicly."

The cute young nova blushed yet again. "It was really embarrassing at first. Just doing a studio recording and knowing that thousands of people were going to be judging what I was doing, songs I had written--it almost scared me out of even trying. Then there were the clothes they wanted us to wear for the album covers and our first performances. They were pretty, but they were just so...," she gestured helplessly at the air, unable to find a word to describe it, "much, I guess. But after a little while, I really started to enjoy the whole thing. I even started making outfits for Rei and myself. Minmay's tastes are a bit too out there for me, but she's happy, so I'm happy. Our Advocate makes certain we have no more than two concerts a month, and most of the money goes into a trust fund until we are legal adults. The older kids and the grown ups say it is really important to not get too caught up in one thing, and to have some kind of normal life. A little deal hunting in countries with good exchange rates provides enough food for all of us even on the little bit I get to use." Those words jumped Jason's appraisal of the blue haired girl from 'precocious' to 'mega-smart'. She also guessed that Ichigo had never even asked for more money to take care of her family. A child who comes out of poverty to money often either becomes greedy or so ashamed about their poverty that they take only what is freely given, and not a penny more.

While Jason was occupied with the cooking, Ichigo leaned over to Dani and whispered, "Has anyone ever told you that your mom is really pretty? What? What's so funny?"

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Dani stared at Ichigo with wide glowing eyes, her silver and gold hair writhing behind her like a corona of agitated snakes, hands over her mouth as she chortled. "You really don't know who mom is?!" she exclaimed, her high, clear voice breaking into a discordant, four-part harmony. She hoped off her stool, and scampered away, calling over her shoulder, "I'll be right back!"

Jason sighed at her daughter, taxing the limits of her vibrant, tribal, fitted blouse, then turned a sympathetic smile on Ichigo, feeling a great deal of empathy for the young girl, just barely beginning to edge into womanhood. At her age, she had known the weight of familial expectations and later, the trepidation of breaking into public performance. Why Shen had asked her to look after Ichigo was already becoming more clear.

"Don't mind my daughter, Ichigo," Jason said lightly, sitting down and crossing her fantastically long legs as she let the stew simmer, and waving a hand negligently. "And don't worry about paying me back. I do... well enough. But if you insist, spending some time with Danica would be repayment enough - she has few nova friends her age. Perhaps I will look into this Hanaryuko, when we're next in Japan." She had heard of the place, but had been concerned that it would a too nova-centric environment. "I'm sure Danica would love to attend one of your concerts."

Jason leaned across the island, patting Ichigo's hand. "And I understand, I was terribly embarrassed when I first sang in public. Before, it had always been a private thing I shared only with friends." She shrugged wryly. "And then it got out and I gave it shot so see if it was fun. All in all, I prefer acting and modeling."

At that moment, Danica skipped back into the kitchen and slapped a magazine down in front of Ichigo, then beamed at her. It was Rolling Stone, on the cover the mind-numbingly beguiling image of Bombshell.

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Initially intrigued by the 4 part harmony in Dani's voice, since that was a trick she could do too, it took her a moment of looking back and forth from the cover to go, "This is?! That's you! You're her! Wow, my friends are going to be sooo jealous I got to meet you! I don't pay much attention to magazines, but I've seen both of them sighing over pictures of you and wishing they were more like you. Any chance I could get your autograph for them?" Jason happily obliged, this being a task she had grown very used to over the years. Something that caught the edge of her attention was that Ichigo had only mentioned seeing her in magazines, not on television or the web. She filed that away for comment later, along with the many other things she wanted to ask but knew better than to push.

The ease with which Ichigo turned her attention back to Dani was something Jason was accustomed to only seeing in children. Once hormones got involved, sexual orientation didn't matter all that much to anyone actually in her presence. "So you can sing in harmony with yourself, too? I've never met anyone else who could do that. Would you like to try singing together after supper?" Someone willingly giving Dani attention without her having to fight her mother for it was something she was not particularly used to. She found that she rather liked it. It hadn't taken any effort on her part, this other girl was just honestly interested in her.

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Jason didn't keep much pertaining to her public persona at her Congo home, so with mechanical precision, she ripped two pages from her photo spread in the magazine and with a scrounged up marker, signed them personally to Rei and Minmay Jason 'Bombshell' BW with her stylized signature. Checking on dinner, she watched the girls fondly, smiling softly as Dani preened under the attention from the slightly older girl. She tried to give her daughter distance to shine on her own, but her fame and presence cast a very large shadow.

In some ways, Jason interacted easier with children, to some parents surprise and concern. But with adults and those otherwise sexually active, male or female, there was always a sexual component, even if it was subconscious or subliminal. With the young, they and she were spared that, though they were hardly any less affected by her presence. Ichigo appeared to be nearing the threshold Jason noted, thinking wistfully of her first ward, unless she quickly began seeing her as surrogate family. She glanced sidelong at Shen, realizing Sunshine was another reason why Shen had thought of her when considering what was best for Ichigo. Funny, considering that while most praised her as a positive and decent role-model world-wide, there was an adamant minority who condemned her, for a variety of reasons.

"I'd love singing with you!" Danica squealed, giving Ichigo a careless hug, her voice rippling through varying tones again in her excitement. "Mom can do it too of course. I 'herited it from her. She can sing with us too!"

"No, no, I'll let you two share the spotlight tonight," Jason smoothly demurred, a speculative light in her luminous eyes, not wanting to overshadow them with her own peerless voice. Ichigo seemed truly unaware of her beyond seeing her in a magazine. It wasn't her ego she was concerned about, but rather the seeming isolation Ichigo had endured, especially for one who could teleport at will. Everyone at least knew of her. "But I'll provide some musical accompaniment if you like."

Danica clapped enthusiastically, turning back to Ichigo as they began talking about what songs and music they had in common. Keeping half an ear on their conversation, Jason tasted the stew and after adding a pinch more spices, pronounced supper ready, lifting the massive pot from the stove with effortless ease that belied the appearance of her svelte, sleek arms. She served everyone a generous helping in fine, clay dishware she had crafted herself then sat down with her own large bowl.

"Dinner is served," Jason announced. "So, Ichigo, I'm Canadian. Grew up in Ottawa, but have lived in Whistler for a long time. That's where this little trouble maker was born."

"I've been all over the world with mommy, but I think this is my favourite, maybe Whistler though," Danica elaborated, adorably shoveling down the stew.

"Where are you from, Ichigo?" Jason gently pried with a smile, though Ichigo could tell she was genuinely interested.

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Ooh, this was a hard one. She didn't want to lie to these people, but she'd never told anyone who knew her as Ichigo where she was from. She didn't want to admit what life was like there, didn't want people to come looking for her. On the other hand, these people had been so open and nice to her, and she was still rather naive and trusting compared to the other 2nd gens in the area.

"Ano, I come from further South. A lot further South. South America, actually. I chose Japan as a place to spend my nights because of the time zone difference. It was really easy to learn the language, a bit harder to get used to the culture, but I like it there. Things are really different. Not all good, but mostly good." Her discomfort caused her to clam up at this point. Specific questions might be able to pry some answers out of her, but really what she needed was time to grow to trust them more.

Jason picked up on Ichigo's discomfort talking about her home and neatly steered the conversation back to various places she had been.

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"South America has some very lovely locations, I've done a fair bit of modeling down there and even filmed a movie in the Amazon," Jason revealed, charmingly glossing over Ichigo's reticence and restraining her extraordinary presence so the girl could develop trust at something closer to her own pace, rather than instantly. "Visiting Machu Picchu was amazing, they've done an extraordinary job restoring the site. Now, if you're looking for places on the other side of the world to spend your nights, you might want to consider Australia. I have a private island over there, you'd be welcome to visit anytime. It's very peaceful, when the sun sets and the stars come out over the endless horizon of the ocean..."

Throughout dinner, Jason kept the conversation smoothly running, giving Ichigo a panoramic description of the many, many places she had visited, leaving opening for her to ask any questions she wished without pushing any of her own. When bowls emptied, Jason filled them with another helping for whoever wished them and when supper finished, she insisted Ichigo stay seating, since she was their guest, instead having Danica help with the dishes.

Jason placed the rest of the stew in a number of biodegradable sugar-based plastic containers and glanced over a shapely shoulder, her gleaming argent hair shading half the stunning sight of her face. "And yes, I quite agree with you, the Japanese culture is definitely one that takes some getting used to," Jason said with a smile. "There are still some of the idiosyncrasies I don't understand."

With casual grace, Jason stacked the containers of stew in one hand, then placed it in front of Ichigo and gestured towards the den with a flick of her elegant fingers. "Here, these will be here for whenever you're ready to go - and if you need any help carrying all of them you only need ask. But how about I collect my guitar and you girls give me and Shen a little, private concert?"

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Ichigo listened raptly to Jason's tales of places she had yet to visit. Sure, she could go any where she wanted, but she hadn't quite worked up the confidence to wander the globe so freely. She repeatedly asked about the places Dani had been to, and about her impressions of the places; how they differed from her mother's, the perspective of a child who wasn't there for a job. She fidgeted a bit at not being allowed to help with the dishes, but the laws of hospitality were pretty consistent on that detail no matter where you went. That reminded her, she needed to bring a guest gift the next time she came; being brought here straight from the hospital excused the gaff once, but not twice.

"Carrying them won't be a problem, Ms Belliflour. That's the easy part." Walking over to the stack she put her hands to the side and pushed in in such a way that the containers folded in on themselves in ways that hurt the eye to try to follow, until they just vanished. "Keeps hot foods hot and cold foods cold, too. I'll get the containers back to you after I clean them properly."

She should probably be getting home, but that could wait just a little bit longer, surely. It wouldn't be the first time she had gone a day without any sleep. She could go most of a month without it beginning to bother her, actually, but preferred to get at least a little sleep every night.

Once they got to singing, it was clear that Dani had lots of enthusiasm and natural ability, but had not spent the effort to properly refine her voice. Ichigo adjusted her voice to account for this, and soon an eight part harmony was accompanying Jason's guitar, singing all sorts of songs from lullabies and children's songs to pop songs they both knew the words too. All too soon, though, Ichigo really had to leave.

"I've had lots of fun, Dani, Dani's mom, but I really do need to get home." She didn't want to admit it, but she was still feeling sore and sick from being shot earlier, and the need to change was kind of like going without using the restroom all day while chugging glasses of water and sitting next to a waterfall in its intensity.

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Jason's eyes had widened in surprise when Ichigo had compressed the containers of stew into nothingness, but she took it in stride. In her more than twenty years as a nova, she had witnessed all sorts of unique powers, many used in an effort to impress her. She smiled. "That's neat, Ichigo. Very useful."

Jason cast a covert glance at Shen, then stood up gracefully and set her guitar aside, leaning it against her chair. She could tell Ichigo was very anxious to go. Shen wasn't exaggerating about needing to give her her space, but that wouldn't make it any less difficult for Jason if she was to care for her.

"Of course, Ichigo, we understand," Jason said with a sympathetic smile, speaking for Danica and Shen as well. The tall, impossibly beautiful woman knelt on a knee in front of the girl, placing a gentle hand on her slender shoulder. "We were very glad to have you visit us and we certainly hope you'll visit us again, don't we, Dani?"

"Yes! Yes, please you'll come back, Ichigo!" Danica pleaded adorably.

Jason rolled her eyes, but her sensual lips curved in fond amusement, as she pulled out her satellite up-linked OpPhone. "Feel free to pop in here or our Whistler home whenever you wish, Ichigo. And if we're not there, Kwame, one of the elders of this village, or my house-sitter Jessi Lorentza in Whistler should be able to contact us."

A brush of a long finger made the holographic display on her phone spring to life. "I don't know the characteristics of your jumping ability - it seems it's different for every nova - but here is are the addresses, GPS coordinates, and photos of the locations. It was very nice to meet you, Ichigo."

Danica dashed forward, wrapping her arms around Ichigo in an impetuous hug. "It was awesome Shen bringing me another friend. And I'd love to meet your other friends sometime too, Ichigo."

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Ichigo smiled at Jason and Dani and said, "I'll come back when I can. It was nice meeting you." Then, without a whisper, pop, or even the traditional BAMF, she vanished.

Reappearing at home, she finally relaxed, letting her quantum energies flow as they wanted. The changes to her form were slight at this age. Her features grew a little more angular, her head slightly larger. Her shoulders widened a fraction, even as her hips shrunk. The circumference of her chest didn't really change, for as the small mounds on her chest shrank, her ribcage expanded to match her wider shoulders. Muscles became a little more defined, bones slightly thicker, leaving behind features that were still delicate, but definitely masculine. He was also no less cute than his female form; if not for his incredible toughness and ability to mask his appearance, he would have died years ago from having his cheeks pinched by grandmothers.

He enjoyed the relaxation that came with giving in to the need to shift for a moment, though he still felt a bit ill from being shot and was far from replenished in his quantum energies, before a muscle cramp sent him to the floor. His siblings, who had begun to wake with his arrival, rushed over, worry in their voices as they asked what was wrong. "It's nothing," he said, "Just pushed things a bit too long, didn't change soon enough. I'll be alright." Already, the cramps were easing up. All of his life he had had to spend half of his day female, half male, something his Machismo obsessed father hated. The man had gone out to celebrate the birth of his son, and come home to a daughter, which he had taken as a personal affront. Potty training had been just as much about learning to control which form he was in as controlling his bodily functions. For a while, he had managed to trick his dad by spending more time as a girl when she could get away with it, and switching back only to use the potty, but there were subtle differences between the forms even then that had given him away, and started the beatings that were part and parcel of his life.

It hurt at first, but when he noticed that it didn't hurt him as much or as long as it hurt his mother, he started deliberately drawing his father's wrath onto himself whenever he was in a bad mood. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't just stay one gender, though this was the first time he'd had cramps from holding one form too long. On the other hand, he also hadn't bothered to try extending how long he could hold one of them for a while. He knew he was a freak and couldn't change that, so why bother? He'd maintained a status quo for years, until she had been 10, and her father had noticed that she wasn't so much a child anymore... but that was something s/he didn't like to think about. She just stayed away from the house at night, her father wasn't tempted by her freakishness, and everything was ok.

Cramps abated enough for him to stand, he prepared the breakfast Ms Bellifleur had been nice enough to send with him. He could tell that his siblings appreciated food cooked by hands other than the decidedly amateur chef who provided them enough calories to keep them from stealing food during the scant meals of the day, though most of them were too polite to say anything, and those who weren't were young enough to not realize they were saying anything wrong.

While they were eating, he changed into his football uniform(soccer to you crazy Americans). He really wanted to skip out on the game today, as he really wasn't feeling well, but knew his dad would never tolerate it. So, like most things in his life, he prepared himself to shoulder the burden of trying to live up to his father's expectations without even a thought of complaint. He could never manage to walk the fine line between being not quite good enough and being too good. Anything that made people suspect that his dad had a nova for a kid was just as much a cause for a beating as not being good enough to give his dad something to brag about to his friends.

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