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Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude.Zeta] Zen Balance

Quantum Fire

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Location: Shen's Valley

Time Frame: May to June - After Bombshell's & Danica's Arrival (9 month time period inside the temporal bubble, plenty of time to enter and leave and return if PC's wish too)

Open to: Any of Shen's students or Wards, or any nova who knows Qi Meng

Cora was going to leave, Maia'd known this. Still, she was saddened to see her go before finishing. She'd been chosen first after all. Still, Maia had committed to this path, and she would see it through."Goodluck sister, I'll join you once I'm ready."

"I welcome the opportunity to learn from others. Still Danica isn't that old, is it going to be alright for her in here?"

She went silent as she considered the next phase of the training. "The first stage for me focused on mastering my power, my own body. I can only surmise that the next aspect will focus upon mastering my own mind, my heart, and Will. Only as a master of my mind, heart, and body, can i hope to become a true master of my Self, and bring myself into a truly harmonious balance."

"It will not hurt her, the time spent will be to her advantage in the long run, besides, she's the youngest student of Qi Meng alive, there may be some merit in teaching her a few things while she is here." Shen reached out and took Maia's hand in his. "On a more important level, Jason can match your basic capabilities, which is why I am pleased she is coming, you are faster and stronger then I am, my dear, Jason will be taking up some of the more physical aspects of your training. Now, if you would both follow me, they will be arriving in the next hour." He lead them to the center pagoda and had each of them standing to either side of him, waiting..

And, Jason arrived with her Daughter just as Shen expected them too, and he was waiting in the center pagoda as they did, with the other two students he had been training with. Justin stood to Shen's left side, he was quite handsome, and there was a calm about him that any Qi Meng master could recognize, he was much more in tune with the balance that Shen taught then he use to be. Handsome as only a nova could be, he drew the eye quite well, but he seemed more of a backdrop to the beauty of the woman to the right of Shen

Maia's beauty drew the eye quite well, the woman who was already being spoken of as one of the most beautiful women in the world, one of the few people who's beauty even began to approach that of Jason's. Stark naked, with long flowing silver-white hair that reached down to her ankles, pale skin that was like flawless marble, beautiful eyes and a natural grace that only added to her considerable beauty, there was a deep calm to her now that she had learned the basics of Qi Meng, a sense of the same balance that Shen and Justin had, and she created a contrast to Jason that seemed to only enhance the beauty of both of them.

Jason leaned against the frame of the door to her daughter's bedroom, watching Danica pack a rucksack, spinning a glossy, five-inch long bar of black metal around the tip of one slim finger. The metal bar was a device designed specifically for her by an acquaintance, Masterwork, a special effects guru she had worked with on several movies and the set of Barsoom. It could telescope open into a slender staff seventy-five inches long - her exact height - as well as contained a length of monofilament wire that could be extended to hang loose for use as a whip or magnetically charged to form a monomolecular whipsword. It suited her. it simple, elegant weapon that aligned with several of the martial styles she had studied over the years.

Jason had a wistful smile on her full lips. Danica was growing so fast - four inches in the last several months, her limbs long and svelte, yet retaining an innate grace; there would be no awkward, coltish years for her daughter it seemed. And the eleven year-old girl had progressed to the point of needing a bra. Precocious and uncommon, if not precisely unusual. A rueful chuckle bubbled in Jason's throat as she remembered a girl in grade five, Liliana, who had been more endowed than their teacher Ms, Frochette. The other girls had been mean - the boys had wavered between teasing and being in awkward awe, herself included.

At least she's growing proportionally, Jason thought, with a glance down at herself, rather than certain parts maturing faster than others. Puberty wasn't something she could tell Danica she had experienced as well... At least not in the same way. Still, it wasn't the physical changes Jason found most daunting in her daughter, but the emotional and mental ones.

Still high spirited and cheerful, Danica was beginning to test the limits of her independence, seeing what she could get away, and wanting more and more to attempt things on her own. And Jason was trying to give her that slack to experience, without giving her so much she ended up hanging her self with it.

Shen's invitation had provided her and Danica with an opportunity. Dead Rising was in the can, its media awareness chugging along under its own momentum, the establishment of the Congo Branch of the Dragon's Den was set in motion. She had a stretch of free time - and Shen's invitation would potentially stretch it even further - but she had left the decision to spend it with Shen and his wards in Danica's hands, after explaining what was going to happen during it.

It was a decision that would have some real consequences, especially for Danica at her age - so much could change for her and her peers in one year. Jason was proud that her exuberant and impetuous daughter had given it some real thought - three days - before deciding she wanted to go. Near a year would pass in a few months. It would be easy for someone so young to gloss over that, but Danica seemed to understand it would change things, especially between her and those friends her age she had met at the Dragon's Den and elsewhere.

With a snap, Danica closed the rectangular, glass-topped case that held nine of the ten lotus blossoms Sakura had given her, and slipped it into her rucksack. The last blossom was pinned at the base of the silver and gold braid that hung to the small of her back. She shrugged the rucksack onto her shoulder and spun around to face her mother, one delicate hand holding her practice saber.

"I'm ready to go, mom," Danica said in her high, clear voice, smoothing her pale-blue, silken outfit with her free hand. The snug, flowing pants, shirt and vest suggested a traditional Asian influence with a more contemporary flair, the style similar to what Jason was wearing, though Jason's was a pure white with thin lines deep indigo embroidery and lacked the pattern of a cat standing on its hind legs wearing a pair of boots and menacing an ogre with a sword.

Jason cocked a brow at her daughter, hefting her own rucksack. "You still sure you want to do this, Dani? It's going to feel long in Shen's hidden valley. He won't mind if you decide you want to spend your time elsewhere."

Danica's lips pouted in a mulish expression of adolescent stubbornness, finely pointed chin elevated to a determined angle. She had made her decision. "I want to do this, Mom. Besides, Shen and you and Maia are going to be there. I'll be fine and..." Jason watched Danica's eyes grow distant with another thought, one she could well guess at. "I'm doing this, it'll be fun and if it's not... I can still leave, right?"

"Of course you can, honey. Well, if you want to this, let's do it." Jason held out a hand as Danica stepped up to her side, and after moment, took it. Together, the two beauties took a step forward even as they felt like they were falling back, the warmth of sunlight washing over them, blinking away from their Whistler home to appear in a valley in the Himalayas, one that Jason hadn't spent much time in since Shen had first taken her there after freeing her from Lady Envy.

Reappearing had felt slightly disconcerting as they fell under the influence of the temporal flux that enveloped the valley. Danica looked around, waving her sword, seeing if she could see some physical evidence of the temporal manipulation, but it felt the same to her. Jason smiled, then began gliding towards the pagoda centering the small island resting in the still, freshwater lake. The valley was a peaceful and restful now at it had been for the first time she was here.

"Shen, thank-you for inviting us. It's nice to be back, as a student and teacher both this time."

"Hi!" Danica chirped. "Can I see one of the time machines?"

Only someone with high levels of Mega-Perception would have noticed the moment that Justin had been slightly shaken by the beauty of both Jason and Maia in close proximity to one another, and it would have taken even greater degrees to notice Shen's pleasure at the arrival of his student. The nova teacher turned to Danica and knelt down to look into her eyes. "They arn't doing anything that you can see, dear child, but certainly, I will show you the temporal flux devices. Jason, if you would take charge of Justin and Maia's training for a moment, I'll show Danica around the valley, if that sounds good to you?"

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With Shen leaving the two younger novas to Jason's care, Justin relaxed abit, and smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you ma'am. I would have never in a million years imagined that you were a practicioner of this style as well. I've seen all your movies.." Maia chuckled as he seemed on the verge of going a little fanboy for a moment.. "It's okay Justin, She's a nova like us."

"Like you perhaps." He smiled. "I just can't believe First that I've got the two most beautiful women in the world here, one of you nude, and the other is Jason BombShell Belefleur and that I am going to be trained by and in the martial arts with the two of you. Maia it's been hard enough with you around, in your birthday suit these last three months. Now this... Before today is over I'm gonna need a very very cold shower." The way he spoke, that decidedly canjun french inflection of words, it was his natural voice, and clearly he didn't mean to offend. While he possessed great self control, This would certainly test it to the limit.

His moment of apprehension passed, and he seemed to collect himself again and nodded. "I apologize, Maia's beauty has been a trial for both of us while we're here. Both of us being raised to wear clothing and all. It has taken some serious getting used to to see her nude every morning and keep control. Now you are here as well Ma'am and I must admit I find myself to be uniquely blessed and cursed at the moment." he didn't stare, still the two beauties could feel his gaze drifting to each of them.

Maia smiled at the two of them. "I'm glad to see you again as well Jason. I still want to meet your Utopian friends when my training is finished. And I've got some questions to ask you as well, some advice I'd seek from someone who's been there."'

She walked up and put her armo around Justin, who twitched only slightly as her breast came into contact with his arm. "Please don't be offended by Justin's words, I know he didn't mean to. He's been a good man and perfect gentleman over our entire relationship. Even in here, trapped with me like this."

"No man is ever trapped with a beauty such as you Maia." The look in the younger nova's eyes was one of a profound and abiding love born from deep respect.

He looked to Jason. "Where should we begin, to continue the lessons?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jason smiled, a soft curve of her lips, and waved a hand in gracious dismissal. Justin swallowed. Maia may have had very near Jason's beauty and grace, but Bombshell's presence was something else altogether. It could have easily been overwhelming, yet she made it comfortable, warm and welcoming, if no less heady.

"I find nothing to be offended by, Justin, Maia." She nodded her head at the young man, her hair rippling like a waterfall under sunlight. "Indeed, as Maia has mentioned, you are being more of a gentleman than many who meet me for the first time, even if I don't quite believe your protestations of being trapped." Her luminous indigo eyes danced with amusement. "Not all bindings are unpleasant, if they are ones you choose for yourself."

Jason glanced at Maia, arching an elegant brow and taking her glorious nudity with one appreciative sweep of her eyes. Maia was near the age she had been when she had erupted, Jason noted idly. Her eruption had instantly propelled her into the sphere of the most beautiful women in the world. However, times had changed over twenty years and more and what had once been considered the pinnacle of physical perfection was but a fraction of what few now possessed, herself and Maia among them. She seems to be handling it well enough. My, what would it have been like attending school as I am now, without the experience?

Her smile widened slightly, tinged with amused wryness. "You seem to be enduring well enough as well, Maia, though I am beginning to suspect beneath Shen's serene composure, lurks a dirty old man."

Maia almost choked with an uncertain snort of laughter. "What?! Uncle Shen?"

"Mmm-hmm. When I first came here, Shen had me strutting around nude for two months."

Justin's eyes widened, unconsciously picturing Jason naked. It wasn't an unknown sight - she had worn practically nothing as Dejah Thoris there had been nudity in both Barsoom and Valkyrie, and Bombshell had graced the cover of Playboy more than any other woman - but it was different when said woman was right there in front of him without the distance provided by a monitor or a glossy page. Maia was also a little shocked.

"Oh?" she prompted faintly.

"Yup. At the time I was having... issues over what I thought I had already accepted, when in fact I had been a wearing mask, a thin one, and claiming it was the real me. But the mask had been torn away, in a brutal fashion, and I had to learn who I was, who I wanted to be and who I could accept being all over again. For that, Shen will always have my gratitude and a part of me will always love him."

Maia and Justin shared a glance. For someone so public, they were surprised to be learning so much about the woman known as Bombshell. "What, what happened?"

Jason tilted her head and tapped her lip with a finger, considering the two of them for a moment before shaking her head. "Not yet. I've accepted what happened, come to terms with it, but it is still difficult to talk about. Perhaps at a later time, if you still wish to know." Maia and Justin readily nodded their agreement. "Good. Well then, follow me. There is place here I wish to visit again."

As Jason lead the two from the pagoda and into the steep foot hills surrounding the valley, setting a seemingly languid pace with her exquisite and sensual grace, yet nonetheless ate the ground swiftly, she began explaining how Qi Meng brought a balance to her life, one she hadn't realized she needed. The details began superficially, sparse but suggesting more. As she spoke, her heavenly voice compelling and soothing, the details deepened, like the surface of a still pond, with deep currents below.

"... it isn't dealing with Taint that is Qi Meng's greatest strength, nor even an important one. It is the uniting of the extremities of our natures into a balanced whole, the sum of all that we are, and the ability to accept it. And that balance, that equilibrium, it does not have to be static."

She led the two younger novas onto a small plateau, sheltered by the rising mountains. There was a small pool water by edge, almost perfectly round, smooth as a mirror, water falling over the lip of the ledge in a small sheet. Jason slapped the bole of a large tree, inhaling deeply the scent of apple blossoms in the crisp mountain air, then trilled, pure song filtering across the valley. Maia and Justin could see the passion, the liveliness in her incandescent eyes.

"It can be dynamic as well. Shen, his emotions run deep, rarely poking above his smooth exterior. They are there, but move like the continental shelf, slow and inexorable. For others, myself, say, they sit closer to the surface, rise and fall more... volcanically. Anger, fear, love, lust, sadness, joy, passion, they are all part of us, they should all be part of us. It's how we direct them that is the thing."

Jason sat down gracefully under the boughs of the apple-tree, lotus-style. A precise tap on the trunk knocked free an apple deftly caught, lush and round and golden, with almost of hint of peach to its colouring. She took a large bite, licking the juice from her lips. "Ah! I planted this when I first came here and I'm still not sure if I've tasted a sweeter fruit." Her grin widened coyly as she added in a silken murmur, "At least, not one that grows on trees."

She motioned them to sit, looking over the valley spreading out below them, utterly relaxed. "Come, sit. Now, tell me, why do you wish to follow this path? It is a difficult one, one that never ends, and few have the will to follow." Her grin hardened, eyes flashing. "And don't tell me of 'need.' Shen, darling and lovely a man as he is, has a curse in seeing the paths that come ahead, a curse I'm feel blessed not to have. 'Need,' valid or not is not enough. We walk our own paths and they are ones we should choose of our own volition. So, why?"


As one of this oldest students led away two of his newest, Shen guided Danica through the pristine wilderness of his remote valley, not so much tamed as influenced to accept his and his students' presence. Danica bounced at his side, hopping off rocks and branches and skipping across the lush grass with all her youthful exuberance... When she didn't covertly glance up at him and decide she was too old for that behavior and tried to walk at his side, trying to imitate her mother's gracefully powerful and sensual glide. But it didn't last long, her curiosity and joie-de-vivre perking back up.

Even all the discipline in the world couldn't tame the chaos that came with adolescence, and adolescence was coming quick for the youngest practitioner of Qi Meng he was aware of. Not for the first time, and not for the last, he was sure, Shen wondered what the spritely girl would do with the teachings as she matured, and where she would take them. She had the dedication, he had seen that, but like her mother, it wasn't a singular focus. A spice that added to the flavour of their lives without overpowering it. In a way, he thought he might have envied them a bit.

Shen led Danica to one edge of the valley, gesturing grandly. "Here is one of the temporal flux devices, little one."

"I'm not so little no more, uncle Shen," she muttered under her breath as she peered around suspiciously.

It was an empty clearing, marked more by a sparsity of trees and underbrush rather than by anything designed. Shen watched in amusement as Danica stalked through the space, squinting and head tilted as if she was trying to see or hear for something just beyond the reach of her sense. She swept her saber slowly in front of her and to the sides, as if trying to find something invisible.

After ten patient minutes, Danica sniffed turning to look back at him with a pout and a hand on her slender hip, radiating annoyed pique. She gestured around the clearing with her saber. "It's not here, it's a trick, uncle Shen."

"Just a little one, Dani," Shen agreed with a small smile. "It's in the clearing, just not in the way you were thinking."

Curling his fingers and exerting his will, Shen pulled at the earth, the bare stone in front of Danica swelling up like soft clay under unseen hands. Danica giggled at the malleable stone formed a natural appearing pedestal, atop which rested the temporal flux device, but her delight was quickly tempered.

"It's... kinda boring looking, uncle Shen," Danica commented.

The temporal flux device was a perfect, flat-topped, cylinder of polished metal with a faint prismatic sheen, three feet tall and one and half feet wide. It didn't glow, hum, make the air around it look funny, and there certainly didn't appear to be any way to ride it.

"Looks can be deceiving, Danica. True is doesn't let you travel through time, but it does alter its flow. Come, let me show you." Shen walked up to the device, and hand gliding across its featureless surface and exerting his will again, then picking up Danica around the waist so she could see the top, which had mysteriously opened without any sign of where the top had gone. "What do you think now?"

"It's beautiful..." Danica whispered, entranced by the interior, whirling gears of infinite and intricate design and dancing arcs of energy, in colours she didn't have names for. A trick of the eye - or was it a trick - made the inside of the device look far deeper and wider than it had right to be. There was a sound - an almost sound - she almost felt like she could touch, if she simply reached for it. Her hand came up and began reaching for the inside of the temporal flux device.

"Ah-ah, Dani! That is not such a good idea. Time moving differently on different parts of you can be very dangerous. But I'll see if Alex can make you something that looks similar, if you like."

"Okay," Danica agreed as Shen put her back down, then resealed the device and returned it to the earth. She looked down, rolling around a small rock under her toes, Shen waiting easy patience for Danica to speak again. Finally, Danica looked up, hesitation and determination tightening the fine lines of her devastatingly cute face, that held every promise of even more devastating beauty as she grew older.

"Uncle Shen, what happened to Mom, before she came here? You know, I've been on the OpNet and I saw- And a girl at school said-" She frowned and shook her head. "Mom never says anything about it, but she never denies it either and what they say- it's like, it wasn't her at all. What happened?"

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Shen looked thoughtful for a moment, as he picked though the threads of the future seeing what was to be overlaid upon what was, every instant caste shadows in the future, of different choices, and just looking at them picking though the threads was like moving a light though those shadows, creating still more.. what was more, the shadows caste still more shadows as he looked further. A baseline human would have been overwhelmed, even a nova who was new to seeing the possibilities wouldn't have been able to pick out the differences between them, what was better in the long run then another..

"You really shouldn't be looking at your mother's sexual exploits on the Opnet, Danica..I'd say your a bit young for that, but your on the cusp of adolescence, just barely straddling the line, and your mother is a very sexual woman. But we both know you are looking at it as much to find out about your mother, Danielle, whose death still leaves a wound in your mother's heart." He looked at Danica for a long moment, then knelt down beside her. "I know you wonder if part of why your mother loves you so much is because of the loss.. and I will admit that lose can both close a heart and open it wider, depending on the courage of the one who lives though the loss. Danielle would have loved you dearly, child, indeed, if you believe as I do, that nothing is truly lost, she does love and your mother with a wide open heart."

A tear slipped down the young girl's face and she looked into Shen's eyes a moment and smiled, in a manner that would break more then one heart. "I.."

"You want to know both of your mother's, but you've hesitated to ask you mother because of the hurt that you can still see in her over the loss." She nodded slightly, then she frowned. "But don't change the subject, Uncle Shen.. I still want to know what happened to mom when you first brought her here."

He smiled, it seemed almost rueful, but anyone who had known Shen as long as Jason would have known that he most certainly chose to bring the conversation exactly to this point. "She doesn't share the reason with everyone, but it wasn't her.. just her body, a powerful telepath who was able to litterally possess someone, like a demon in the stories, was riding her body, controlling her while she was trapped, forced to experience things she never would have otherwise, to act in ways that she found deplorable. It was several weeks she went though that hell, before I encountered her.. and at the time, my vision of the future was much less refined.. but I could see the other nova holding her in her grasp.. and I took steps.. more then that, I will not speak of, that's for your mother to tell you if she chooses. I chose to teach her Qi Meng to give her back the balance she had lost at the time."

He looked at the young girl who was listening attentively, and as she was about to speak, he answered the question she was about to ask. "Yes, that's why your mother is uncomfortable around nova's with telepathic capabilities, though she hides it well."

She stomped one of her feet in an almost angry manner that was also increadibly cute. "I hate it when you do that, Uncle Shen."

"What, answer questions before your ask them?" He chuckled as she nodded. "Well, I'll keep it to a minimum, but it is one way I find a measure of enjoyment regarding an ability that is almost as much of a curse as a blessing. Of course, this week I'll be teaching you to sharpen your thought patterns, in fact, for each week you spend here over the next nine months I'm going to be teaching you something new. Now, let's go back to the others, shall we?"

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Maia knelt down, and looked to Jason, her scarlett eyes narrowing. It was several moments before she began to speak, With Justin kneeling beside her. "I began this path because Uncle said it would help me repair the damage I did to my own quantum signature when I pushed myself to grant Justin sufficient power to stand up to what I knew would come for him."

She shook her head. "That's not why I continue though. My words to Uncle are the most honest I can speak. "I am here to learn. Whatever the two of you see fit to teach me I will learn. He's already spoken of what he's seen, and that revelation sparked Cora's departure. My little sister is out in the world now doing all she can to halt Proteus, and following every thread she can to try to prevent Shen from having to choose between Death, and saving someone he loves. Part of me wished to go with her, but my place is here."

"He's almost always been right with his predictions, and I've learned to trust him over the last twelve years. A year ago I'd have gone with Cora, hell I'd have probably led the way. In the last three months, I've learned better control of my powers, and the beginnings of accepting certain truths regarding myself."

She nodded. "I feel more at ease now than I ever have, and I know that it's due to the training so far. Beyond my desire to learn and grow, lies a reason closer to my heart." She smiled to Justin. "Here I get to be with the two most important men in my life, without having to worry for their safety, or causing them to worry for mine. This training is a chance to get to know Justin even better, and on the other side, I get to see another side of Uncle I've not really seen before. It's a chance to bond with them both over common ground, One, the Man I love, the other, the man who's been a father to me for twelve years."

She smiled. "I'm here because I want to be here." Te beautiful young nova seemed totally at peace in that moment, and there was an air of sincerity about her, moreso than usual.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jason listened to Maia explain her reasons for following Qi Meng with a serene intensity, striking indigo eyes softly luminescent and nonjudgmental. She eased a pair of small stones from the ground, slim, elegant fingers shaping them with precisely focused strength and impossible grace. Enticing lips curved faintly and she bowed her head graciously at Maia.

"Those a good reasons, Maia, as good as any," Jason agreed in her mellifluous soprano. "Learning the truth of who you are - all of it, the good and the bad - and accepting it is one of the greatest and hardest things there is, as is accepting others as they are. It will be a glorious and harrowing journey. As for controlling your gifts... that is only half of it."

With a small flourish, she revealed the stones she had picked up, now carved into spheres with deliberate, fanciful curves and ridges. She flicked her wrist and the pair of stones skipped around the small pond in a delicate and near impossible dance, their paths entwining and the ripples of their passage forming another pattern. Jason's smile widened a trifle as she nodded at the fading display.

"That took control, but control is not everything. Learning when and how to use your gifts and when not is just as important, perhaps even moreso. And it is only you who can make that determination. What I can try to impart is a framework to help you make that determination." Her eyes brightened even more, smoldering under her dark, exquisite lashes and she included Justin in her gaze.

"And there is something else you will learn, and will have to acknowledge... or not. You will make mistakes, and they will have consequences, some more dire than you would ever have expected, and some you will have no way to rectify. This too is part of accepting who you are." Her smile grew melancholy. "It is a difficult lesson, one that hurts, and one that leads - or can lead - to a great deal of growth. In all, walking this path has been worth, for me. I hope you find joy in it too, Maia."

Jason leveled her gaze on Justin and he felt his breath catch. He could see himself falling in love with this awesome woman - and not in the way millions of people fell in love with celebrities - but in a love as deep as anything he felt for Maia... And then with a subtle shift of posture, of demeanor, he could breath again, her presence no less compelling, yet he no longer felt his heart burgeoning to encompass another woman.

"And what of you, Justin? You seek much the same as Maia, I take it?"

Those haunting indigo eyes were so full of accepting, Justin knew he could say anything, give voice to any lie for his reasons, and Bombshell would take them at face value. And it was the awesome willingness of the woman that stopped from from even considering it. It wasn't that he would feel lessened in her eyes, it was that he would feel lessened in his own.

"Yes... for a lot of it, but.. not all." He took a deep breath, forcing himself to continue. "I'm... concerned, maybe even a.. afraid of what I am now. Maia damaged herself, twisted her quantum in knots to give me this gift. And though I willingly embraced it, it was traumatic for my body and mind too. The taint, quantum backlash syndrome, you hear so much about it these days. It worries me that in using these gifts, I may lose myself..."

Jason's smile faded, but her attention and regard never wavered, urging him to continue without pressing him. After moment to collect himself and giving Maia a small, slightly self-conscious smile and a sheepish shrug, he continued.

"And the other thing, I feel... I feel like there are two of me sometimes and they are tearing apart, going in different directions, despite wanting the same things. The baseline me and the nova me. There are both me, and yet, at time, they seem almost strangers." He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with a pair of fingers and his thumb. "I sound like an idiot, but I don't know how else to say it. It like, I look at things, and I see them with two sets of eyes. Do you know what I mean?"

"I do," Jason assured him warmly. "I've known the feeling quite well from my younger days." Her lips quirked wryly. "I had another issue that widened the feeling of disparity as well. Following this path can help you greatly with this, taking the dichotomy of your two natures, pre-quantum and post-quantum, as it were, and smoothing away the illusion, to reveal the whole that is you. There is only one you, though one with an infinite of facets."

Jason flowed to her feet as she saw Shen and Danica heading up the foothills towards, her expression growing more serious even as it brightened at the sight of her daughter walking with sedate exuberance at Shen's side. "The fear though, of taint, of what you may or may not become under its influence, you will have to leave it behind, Justin. The fear will gnaw unseen at the roots of what you will learn, and instead of blossoming, they will wither. I hope you can, Justin. I have seen failure turn to bitterness and I don't wish to witness it again."

Then Shen and Danica were there on the small plateau with them, Jason arching her fine brows as her daughter came up to her and gave her a quick and fierce hug. She caught the tilt of Shen's head and the light in Danica's eyes - eyes as blue as Danielle's but glowed like her own - and knew her daughter had questions for her, ones with answers she'd have to decide if she was old enough to hear. Feeling the taut determination in Danica's slender back, she supposed it up to Danica to decide if she wanted to hear the answers, the full answers that Shen had only partially revealed.

And she had been waiting for Danica to really ask about her other mother.

"So, kiddo, was the 'time machine' everything you were hoping for?" Jason asked with a teasing grin.

"The 'temporal flux device' kinda boring on the outside, but really neat on the inside all glowy and gears and funny lightning and bigger on the inside than on the outside or at least it looks that way, Uncle Shen said he'd ask Alex if she could make me one."

Jason looked a question at Shen, shook he said with an amused grin. "Appearance only, Jason."

"Oh, well, that's okay then. I don't want a child of mine living in a bubble all the time, even - or especially - in a bubble of time." Jason glanced around at the others then arched at brow at Shen. "Shall we see about taking these youngsters a few more steps along the path of Qi Meng, Old Man?"

"A dirty old man, am I?" Shen questioned with a wide smile and mock affront.

"But spry and vigorous," Jason chortled melodiously with a delightfully wicked grin that had Danica looking from her mother to Shen and back in suspicion. "Spry and vigorous."

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"If I was a really dirty old man, I would insist that you and Maia dress the same.. but.. that would be cruel to Justin here, though I imagine neither Justin or I would have any issues with it if you preferred to do so." He smiled slightly, and his tone was teasing as he moved to stand beside Jason and turned his eyes to his students for a moment.

"Besides, Maia's situation is a matter of balance and acceptance of what is.. as was yours the first time you were here, though Maia's situation is different. Regardless of her inclinations, Maia's powers and capabilities mean that this is her natural state of being, even more so then most of us, if she's to unleash her full capabilities, she must accept that she's going to end up wearing her birthday suit. Besides, the only reason for someone with her capabilities and on her level of power to wear clothing is modesty, which is all well and good, but modesty becomes folly if it restricts or limits your full capabilities or slows you from taking necessary action at a moment when seconds matter.

And Qi Meng is as much about acceptance of what is as it is about balancing one's quantum structure, it's the essence, the heart of it that that matters, the master of Qi Meng should seek to understand one's self, one's place in the universe, and the nature of the universe, not as one wants it to be, but as it truly is, which means in essence, to truly embrace this learning is to embrace being a student of existence. In a few centuries or so, Maia may not even care about being dressed.. " He winked at her slightly.

"All of that said, we are moving to a new stage now, Jason and I are going to be spending a lot of time teaching, Jason can match you blow for blow action for action, Maia, in a way I can not.. you are faster, tougher and stronger then I am, Jason matches you better then I can now that your past Apotheosis, so she is going to be your sparing partner here on out, where as Justin and I match better on that level. Additionally, I am going to be teaching you all a number of my own capabilities.. I'm going to be starting to ask you to come up with challenges of your own, to match the one's I've given you."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Maia nodded. "I look forward to learning from you both." She bowed to Jason and smiled. She'd already looked up to Jason from her stint as a model. She looked to Shen. "Perhaps a new set of exercises focusing on multitasking yet remaining balanced would be of some use, Uncle. Perhaps Protecting a circular patch of ground or a statue from assault, writing a report, meditating and moving only as much as nessary during the task, all while doing something such as reciting plays, or the Art of war, or learning another language at the same time?"

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Jason returned Shen's teasing smile with a devastating one of her own, indigo eyes twinkling as she inhaled deeply, her breasts swelling greatly within the silken confines of her top, a hand toying with the hem. "Oh, I understand the reasoning, Shen, and it certainly helped, me, at least," Jason said, turned her dimpled grin towards Maia and Justin and arching an elegant brow, "but it does seem awfully convenient that you still ended up spending a great deal of time with unimaginably beautiful women wandering around nude, just for you, doesn't it?"

The woman loved and lusted after by billions sighed theatrically and inched the hem of her blouse higher, revealing a swathe of trim, perfect midriff. Justin could feel a bead of sweat trickling down his forehead. Acclimating to a nude Maia had been difficult enough. "If I do decide to parade around in my birthday suit, will that in fact, make you a dirty, old man, Shen? Not that there's any wrong with that. As you said, Qi Meng is all about knowing yourself."

"If you two can run around naked, I can too," Danica piped up, her eufiber beginning to writhe before it transformed.

Jason snorted playfully and let the hem of her blouse fall. "And that's enough of that, I think," she said, her mellifluous voice rippling with mirth. "I had a hard enough time keeping you in your clothes when you were three, Danica. Let's not start that again, eh? When you're a bit older, you can decide for yourself." She bowed her head towards Shen. "I like Uncle Shen's idea, give it a few centuries, kiddo."

Danica rolled her eyes and pouted, then nodded, eyes narrowing in thought. If she went naked all the time, then it wouldn't be special anymore, it would lose the impact. And there was still someone, two someones she planned on making an impact with, once she grew up a bit more, developed a bit more. "Okay, mom. I don't need to be naked... for now."

Jason laughed, a symphony of silvery bells, and ruffled her daughter's silver-and-gold hair, making Danica scowl even as she pressed against those gentle and graceful fingers. The group of students and teachers - and one irrepressible girl - left the plateau and began heading back down into the vale.

Jason's enticing lips curved into a wry smile as she glanced at Shen. "There is another reason for clothing beyond mere modesty and adornment, Shen. It helps... mitigate the effects our appearance can have - accidents, nose bleeds, y'know. Admittedly, this is primarily due to societal norms, and if those change over time too... "

Jason shrugged, then shook her head in remembrance, chuckling softly. "Barsoom was difficult to shoot, at first, and only got slightly easier over time. And the first time I did a nude scene, on the set of Valkyrie..." Jason whistled. "They had to cancel production for the day and it took a week to shoot."

Seeing the interested look in Danica's eyes, and the question, Jason thought it was time to leave the topic alone for now. She nodded at Maia. "It'll be a pleasure to spar with you, Maia. I hope to learn as much as you do. There is only so much you can learn on your own without someone helping you to meet and push your boundaries."

Jason glided over to Shen's side, almost seeming to float above the ground, so smoothly and fluidly did she move. "As for what I'm seeking... well, I like to believe I understand myself and accept it quite well. I've looked inward plenty, by necessity. Now, I think, it's time to look outward, to expand my perceptions, and witness the depths of the universe as you can, Shen, though in my own way, of course. The journey is made greater the more you experience along the way." She pursed her lips contemplatively, her glorious soprano "I've experienced a lot in forty years, but how have I missed during that time as well?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"So be it.. let's begin."

Over the next nine months, though it was only three for those outside the temporal bubble, training continued, Shen utilized all of his abilities training his students, alongside Jason, teaching Danica, Justin and Maia as much as he could, and teaching Jason enough that she would become as much of a master of Qi Meng as he was. The teaching went beyond anything that was humanly possible, including balancing on the head of a pin in the midst of battle.. fighting without being allowed to make a sound, even in strikes.. feats of meditation, of self-analysis, of perfectly understand who and what one was, and where she was in relation to everything.. balance and self-control.

On a more personal level, Justin and Maia grew closer, spending a lot of time together, talking, studying, sparing with one another, even with Shen's attention as heavily focus on Justin, it was clear that Shen and Jason were sharing a bed themselves, and Danica explored the valley and the limits of her own powers, as well as the new things that Shen taught her using his ability with Quantum Instruction, making the girl even more remarkable then before. Toward the end of the months together, it was at last time for Justin to learn to purge the taint gained.. and it was difficult, but at the end of the final weeks of training, he at last managed to purge the majority of collected taint he possessed.

After a post from Maia and Bombshell.. allowing both of you to respond, this thread will be closed.

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The training was more rigorous than anything Maia had ever done before. It left her nights, or sometimes her days spent with Justin as here sole recourse for free time, not that she minded at all. It was all about balance. She learned so much in her training, about her powers, about the world, and most importantly about herself. Justin stood with her helpful, never a hindrance. Even as she was one given to moments of passion still, he was calm and stoic. They shared a bed often, though never did they consummate their union. There were times true enough it was exceedingly hard not to, not just for him, but for them both. Still, they remained respectful, of each other, and those around. Justin found Maia to have a naughty streak, despite her more classical sensibilities, and while lovemaking was not on the table yet, she still made him feel like a God as often as she was able, as his own touch made her wish to simply give in and give herself to him wholly.

More than that, she came to love him even more after a year spent at his side, and during his trials purging the taint from his system, she stayed with him, a pillar of love and kindness, helping as needed, as even her guilt over what she'd done to him in that regard faded, and his smile told the truth she knew. He didn't regret it, not even now. He'd have told her yes again and again, even knowing the outcome.

Her final days were spent in meditation of all she knew, putting into practice her own impressive control of quantum energies, Smoothing out her own imperfections, rebalancing herself and readying herself to face her siblings after her long absence. She woould meet the world a new woman, with the men she loved with her, and a friend and Mentor in Jason, and someone who after so long together, she considered another little Sister in Danica. She smiled as her eyes shone with quantum fires in a brief moment as she realized a new journey would now begin for her, and she welcomed it.

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Standing next to Shen, Jason watched her daughter flit through the valley one last time before they, their time there done, for now. With glorious indigo eyes that saw deeper and truer than ever before, she gazed upon Danica, noticing how far she had come, how much she had grown, in nine months. Her lips curved in a smile full of pride and yet tinged with melancholy. It was every parent's lament that their children grew up too fast.

Closer to twelve than eleven, now, Danica was a bit taller, more physically developed, but it was the changes on the inside, to her quantum template that had changed the most. Jason could see it now for herself, almost wincing at the entire beauty of her daughter, inside and out. Danica had kept her high-spirited joie-de-vive, but it had deepened with a maturity that had developed as she had. She was young yet, but could hardly be called a mere 'girl' anymore. You'll always be my baby-girl, Dani. Oh, Danielle, I wish you could see our daughter now...

She had shared everything she knew of Danielle with her daughter, letting her know the mother who had died before she was born. Even the fateful day when she had died, and piece of her heart had died with her. Danica absorbed it all, glad to hear it - even the bad parts - and yet, it made her sad a bit too. She wished she could have known her herself. Jason's voice was so hypnotic and evocative that she could almost see her mother Danielle, but it still wasn't enough. Still, of all that she had learned here, from Uncle Shen, her mother, and even Maia and Justin, when it came to Novas, nothing was impossible. She learned so much from them, that now, she was beginning to learn things on her own, developing in ways they hadn't. Maybe one day...

Danica wasn't the only one who had changed and grown during their time here. Jason could see the new ease Maia and Justin shared with themselves and each other; their blossoming love a blessing to watch, reminding her of the early times she and Danielle had shared, awkward in their first budding romantic relationship since they had become women. She had grown fond of the pair, saw them akin to a niece and nephew she was close with.

Even Shen's serenity wasn't as... reserved anymore, he let his deep-dwelling passion ride closer to surface, or at least, allowed it to happen more frequently than he used to. Glancing over at him, she allowed herself a small, feminine smirk. She liked to think she had something to do with that.

Not only had Shen helped her travel further down the path of Qi Meng, near as far as he had, in the process allowing her to help other down that path in the same way, she had come to understand more how he say the world and their places in it. If she didn't quite have the same vision he did, his helped her to see her own with a broader perspective. And in return, she had shared some of her nature and the way she viewed things with him. Among other things. In more than fifteen years, that had developed quite a relationship, close friends, and fit well together, despite - or maybe because of - their differences in personality and motives. They certainly loved each other, they just weren't in love with each. And that was alright.

Yes, she had changed, had become... more, but she felt more like herself than ever before, her passionate nature burnished by a serene sense of self. And perhaps, while starting her time teaching at the Den, she would find others - or rather, others would find her - who were willing and able to walk the path she had taken. So few had ever asked her about her how she lived as a nova - more likely asking her what it was like to be a nova, along with all the tabloid fodder and gossip. Perhaps, she might ease some into the direction of the Path and see if they took the steps themselves.

She leaned over and gave Shen a quick kiss, and thank-you and goodbye (for now), then hugged her daughter, who bore it with a roll of her eyes, but she hugged back too. "Time to step back out into the world, guys."

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