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Aberrant: The Infinity Hour - [ItB:The Infinity Hour] - Prelude


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[[May 3, 1998 2:07pm EEST]]

A well tanned young man reclined next to a pool of crystal water. Next to his chair was a glass table with a telephone, a laptop, and a stack of manila folders. His docksider shoes rested nearby, a wallet and some keys peeking out over the heel of the left. His legs crossed at the ankle and fine blond hairs ran a thick trail up to his khaki shorts. Bare-chested, with a mop of blonde curls above vintage sunshades, he smiled like a young god and reached for his glass. As he sipped his scotch, a wireless phone shrilled on the table next to him. Lazily he raised it to his ear.


He sat up at the reply, grinning widely. He tossed the phone down next to him, and snatched the laptop computer from the side table. Fumbling a bit with the latch, he laughed, then opened the laptop and settled back. He propped his feet once again.

Awkwardly, he slid his finger across the mousepad, then pecked at the button. His grin slipped, then returned as the program ran. A window opened and Six squares appeared on the screen. Icons, he thought. They are called icons. He chuckled.

One of the icons, a rose, lit up briefly, and a voice came from the laptop's speakers.

"Something amusing? Do tell," a woman with a lilting Irish accent. "You are the last to join, perhaps the reason we are waiting amuses you?"

The grin slid from his face as though it were never there. He pushed the shades up into his hair, revealing astonishingly blue eyes.

"Apologies. Der Computer ist not my friend."

After a short pause, "Of course, forgive me for mentioning such a trifle."

Another icon, an infinity symbol, lit briefly and a man spoke. "Mas rapido, por favor. I only have a few moments, I am otherwise engaged. However, I need to know if there are any results. Are there?"

The grin returned, and he reached for the files.

"Eleven, actually." He sorted through them quickly, discarding one, keeping one, then another.

An icon of a martini glass glowed, a man's voice "Did you say... eleven?"

He nodded and grinned wider, though he was aware they could not see him. He had whittled the stack to six. He weighed one against another for a second, then set one aside.

"Ja, and they will all come in handy, I think. Most are still getting used to their new bodies, and some just aren't right for what you need, but I have five gut candidates."

"Five?" again a man, an American, his icon a yawning lion, "In three weeks? I find that hard to swallow."

"Adventurous?" the Infinity icon again, "Independant, but cooperative? Five? I asked for three."

"What about the rest of them?" an empty icon, just a white square, glowed and an Eastern European woman spoke, "What will happen to them?"

The young man frowned again, lightly, then spoke.

"We'll see . Perhaps you would like to come and meet them? All of you should come."

The infinity symbol glowed. "I must go, my friends. August, I trust your judgement. Send them to my man in Spain when they are ready."

The icon disappeared. Two others winked out as well. The martini glass icon glowed, and the man sighed dramatically.

"Is that all? I thought we were going to talk about her. Ah, well, next time then. Good work, August, truly."

The martini icon winked out, and another disappeared. The only one remaining besides his own was the rose. It lighted as he considered it.

"I'd like to visit, if you'll have me again."

He leaned back into his chair and took up his glass. His smile grew speculative, and he lowered the shades back onto his eyes.

"I would like nothing more. schöne Dame."

After a long pause, the rose lit again. "I'll see you soon then." The rose icon disappeared.

He closed the laptop, and looked again at the manila folders. He sighed.

"Ach, how I envy you. But I cannot get sidetracked now."

He set down his scotch and grabbed the phone from beside him. He pressed two buttons.

"Bringen Sie mir Zahlen drei, vier, sechs, sieben und zehn," he said, "Sie wird ein Job angeboten werden, das ist alles, was Sie sagen. Versuchen Sie, sie nicht zu erschrecken."

He hung up the phone, then laughed aloud.

Bring me numbers three, four, six, seven and ten. You will be offered a job, that's all you should say. Try not to scare them.

"Ah, but if you do scare them," he said to no one in particular, "then they aren't the right ones, anyway."

He leaned back once again, contemplating the sun with his drink in hand.

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Three weeks ago...

[[April 12, 1998 1:13am NZST ]]

Lincoln Goode fluttered, then opened, his eyes. He stared up at the night sky for a moment, counting his heartbeats as the blood pumped through his throbbing head. In the distance there was an explosion. He made a tentative glance in that direction. Something in the middle of his head seemed to generate lightning at the small movement.

"Aagh!" he screamed.

"You're ok! You are ok! It passes!" a shout.

Forcing himself to ignore the blinding pain, Lincoln heaved himself to his elbows. He was lying in the center of a medium sized crater. In the full moonlight he saw that the side of the perfect bowl was missing, a long trench the width of the crater itself stretching for at least a hundred feet. Standing in the trench was a young man. Lincoln tried to speak, but found that his tongue felt dry and swollen. The young man dashed forward, a gallon jug of water in his hand.

The young man, a boy really, knelt next to Lincoln and supported him with an arm around his shoulders. He brought the jug to Lincoln's lips, who drank gratefully. After a few gulps, he paused for breath, and opened his eyes. In the distance, down below, he saw a city on fire.

"Is that Christchurch?" he asked, concerned.

The young man nodded, and gripped his shoulder, pushing Lincoln up.

"Ja. Can you stand?" A moderate German accent, though he looked like any of the surfer kids that Lincoln saw on the beaches.

Groaning, his muscles afire and his poor head protesting, Linclon wrestled himself to his feet with assistance.

"Looks like. God in heaven!" Half of Cristchurch, it seemed, was ablaze. Sections of the city seemed to have fallen in on itself, buildings crumbling. It looked like a warzone. "What happened?"

The young man's mouth tightened into a rueful smile.

"You did. We don't have time for this now. They will be here soon."

Lincoln looked at the boy in deep confusion.

"I- who-?"

The young man nodded.

"WHO, exactly. We should go. I only want to help you, do you believe that?" He pressed the jug on Lincoln again, who drank deeply while surveying the vast destruction of sections of Christchurch with haunted eyes. Lincoln pulled the jug from his lips.

"I guess I do. I don't under-"

"I swear to Gott, I will explain to you, but now we must go. If they come for you, they will not give you up so easily. I promise this is true. I want only to help you."

Lincoln nodded slowly. Something had happened, that much was certain. He needed time to think. The young man was still talking earnestly.

"I want only to give you time to think, before they take you and make you a part of their testing and prodding. Later, if you still want this, go to them. I cannot stop you, nor would I wish to. But for now, come, please!"

Lincoln nodded again, more firmly. Hearing his thought echoed by the young man gave him some security. A little time to think was definitely in order.

"Ok. I'll come."

"Gut!" The young man was obviously extraordinarily pleased. "You are the first I have been able to find, I am so glad you will come. This way to my automobile." He gestured ahead of them vaguely, slipping his arm more firmly around the larger man's back, supporting him.

As Lincoln stumbled away with him, his legs gaining strength but still weak as a kitten, he realized he didn't even know the boy's name.

"Who are you?"

The boy smiled. His blue eyes shone in the moonlight, as blue as the day sky.

"I am August. I am a Novus, like you."

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[[April 19, 1998]]

The young man swam under water in the large pool. He reached the edge and hung his elbows over the side. Eyes closed, he turned his face up to the sun.

"Enjoying your swim?"

Squinting one eye closed, he peeked up at the figure. He nodded, and rubbed a hand over his face.

"Ja. You should join me. Tell the women to come in, the water is spectacular."

Lincoln Goode shook his head. He was a much larger man than he had been only a week ago. Some of it was how much the man ate, but most of it was what the Aeon Doctors on the news called his node. He stood nearly 6'6", and weighed 360lbs. If any of it was fat, it was not evident.

"No, August, not just now. We need to talk, mate."

August sighed, but he smiled and pushed himself up onto the tile. Water streamed over his body as he exited the water. Not a large man by any means, he had the proportions of a young athlete, nevertheless. He walked, dripping, to a rack by his chair. He took a plush white towel from the rack and began to dry himself. He spoke over his shoulder.

"What did you want to talk about, Lincoln?"

Lincoln sighed. His massive shoulders slumped, and he stared at his hands.

"I dunno. Just. What are we supposed to be doing?"

"What are you supposed to be doing? I'm not sure I even know what you mean?" August looked puzzled, but faintly amused. "I don't think you are supposed to be doing anything. Do whatever you want to do."

Lincoln looked troubled.

"Well. I want to help you. Like we did before, with the girls."

"Women, Lincoln. They wouldn't like it if they heard you calling them girls." August pulled on a shirt and padded, barefoot, towards a pair of french doors. Lincoln followed.

"Oh, they're all right, they know I don't mean anything."

"You will be able to help me again, Lincoln, I promise you. There just aren't any today. So far as I can tell." He collapsed into a leather chair behind a small cherry wood desk. "So what is really bothering you?"

Lincoln sat cautiously on the wide leather couch opposite. He fidgeted for a moment, looked embarrassed.

"I don't know what to do in the meantime. The girl- um- women both have things to do. I swear, I don't understand half of what they are talking about, but it's like they want to change the way people do everything. Like when you told 'em to do whatever they wished, you set 'em off and running. But me..." He shrugged, and the couch creaked, "I dunno what to do."

August smiled gently. He sat up more straight in the chair and leaned across the desk. He spoke seriously.

"You know that I was a very old man before..." Lincoln nodded, and August nodded back, "And for a long time, I was too sick and old to get up, to do anything. I spent that time thinking and thinking of what I would do if I could. I have a lot of ideas."

Lincoln looked abashed, or maybe it was plain envy. He had been adrift since coming to stay with August, helping at anything he was asked, but at a loss when on his own. August made a decision.

"Part of what I am trying to do here, what we are trying to do, is to teach each other to think for ourselves. To not blindly serve the status quo. Because the status quo is flawed, Lincoln." Lincoln nodded doubtfully, and August smiled a bit, "But, some people do feel better if they are given a task. Would you like me to give you a task, Lincoln?"

Lincoln grinned gratefully, and nodded his head. "I sure would appreciate it. I'm going crazy with nothin' to do."

August nodded. "Let me think of one for you. One that will be worthwhile. Or we can discuss it together." He pinned Lincoln with a look, spoke with emphasis, "You can do. Whatever. You wish." He leaned back in is chair, linking his fingers over his belly. "You can leave, or stay, or leave and come back. You have the power to accomplish almost anything you wish. And I will help you in any way I can. All I ask, is that you steer clear of Aeon for now. Give it long hard thought before you go to them."

Lincoln nodded vigorously, he had heard this before. "I will, August. I promise I will." He paused for a moment. "Why are you so worried about the people like us at Aeon, August? You said you used to be a member of that club."

August's smile tightened. "A long time ago. It- Well, it became clear to me that I was never going to be invited into the inner circle. Some flaw of character they imagined I might have. I don't really know why. But, my feelings were hurt, and I left. Resigned my membership in the society. When I... changed, my first thought was to go to them. This sort of phenomenon has probably got them so excited they are wetting their pants." Lincoln chuckled, and August smiled indulgently. "But... years ago, there was a fire. 1963, this was. I found..." He shook his head.

"It doesn't matter what I found. I kept it, as a memento. When I left the Society, I had it framed. The radio reports, after the Galatea..." August looked thoughtful. He stared off for so long that Lincoln wasn't sure if he meant to continue. Then, he shook himself, and looked at Lincoln as though just noticing him. He grinned.

"Ah, even in a young new body, still my old man's mind wanders." He grew serious once again. "All I can say is, they know far more than they are telling, and while I expect that, I do not know what their goals are. Until I do, don't go to them. Alright?"

Lincoln nodded immediately. "Alright, August. I won't." He rose to leave. He paused at the door. "You'll find me something to do, right?"

August smiled at him and tilted his head reassuringly. "I will, Lincoln. Promise." The big man nodded, and left.

The young man leaned back in the chair, stared off into space. After a long moment, he leaned forward and opened the right hand drawer of the desk. He removed a small box, set it on the desk. He looked at the box accusingly, and turned to the sideboard. He poured a drink from the decanter, and took a steadying gulp. He set the glass on the desk, then took the lid off of the box. He stared at what was inside, and took another long drink from his glass.

"Far, far more than they are telling."


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[[May 1, 1998]]

August leaned back in his chair and smiled at the young man. The boy still shook, visibly, from the trauma of his becoming. August found it amusing that he still flickered a bit, and chuckled as he realized the boy was trying to turn invisible, but was out of juice. It would slowly return, the way it had with Lincoln, the Indonesian fellow, Andrea... all of them. What was the Indonesian fellow's name? Susilo? August's smile faded a bit. His faculty at remembering things had not improved with his own becoming, more the pity. He waited for the young man to notice him. When he did, he asked questions in Standard Mandarin, much to August's relief.

"W-Who are you? Who are you people?"

August steepled his fingers over his belly. He replied in the same language.

"My name is [August Hermann], and we are all Novus, like you, Zhao Benji"

Benji leaned back in his own chair.

"But that tells me nothing, you know. What is this? What do you want with me?"

August paused, and drank a sip from his glass.

"Are you comfortable? Would you like a drink?"

"I would like answers!"

August nodded. "And you shall have them, my new friend. I only want to be sure of what we have done to make you feel so suspicious of us. To answer your question, I want nothing of you. Absolutely nothing."

The young man looked, if anything, more deeply suspicious than before. August laughed.

"You are Novus."

Benji looked skeptical, but nodded.

"You are. We all are. You haven't met the young women, but Lincoln and Susilo you have met, and Thomas you will meet this afternoon. He spends most mornings in the workshop, but usually joins us for lunch. I believe the ladies will join us for dinner, and you will make twelve. All Novus."

The boy raised his eyebrows at that.

"You are... [Aeon]?"

August leaned forward suddenly.

"We most definitely are not." He leaned back slowly, took another drink. "That we are not. But, on the other hand, we are not Beijing either."

The young Chinese man looked puzzled, and August continued. "Do you know what Beijing is doing to Novus? They are being put into camps, tested thoroughly, and trained to serve the People. And if there is any part of this they do not like, they are beaten and starved. Tortured."

Benji did not seem surprised. "If they are, I have not heard of it. What I have heard is that [Aeon] wants to steal Chinese Novus away, like a devil in the night."

August nodded, "I have no doubt whatever that that is also true. Beijing or [Aeon], they want to put us behind walls, let doctors poke at us so that they can understand, and train us to be what they want us to be. Agreed?"

Benji thought for a moment, then nodded. This was by far the easiest agreement he had gotten so far from any of the Novus he had collected, and it took him a bit by surprise. He pressed on in his speech, the same one he had given the previous ten Novus that he had spoken to on their first morning at his home in Munich, altered a bit today for cultural reasons.

"Oh, make no mistake. [Aeon] will give them more lavish housing and food. It may be that they get paid ridiculous amounts of money, or recieve all the recognition that a man could want in a lifetime, but the Novus who let [Aeon]- and their new [uN] affiliations- direct their actions will end up a slave to the State just as surely as any Novus in Beijing."

The boy nodded, a 'yes, yes, the point please' nod that August recognized from hundreds of board meetings. He smiled.

"The point is, my young friend, that we offer an alternative to that." Benji cocked an eyebrow, looked doubtful.

"So, you will tell me what to do instead of Beijing? I... see."

August laughed again. "No, not at all. We simply rescued you from that. That is all. You are free to come, go, turn yourself in to Beijing or start a new life in France. You are Novus, and I would not interfere with you if I could. Once you recover your power, in a few hours to a few days, I couldn't stop you if I wanted to. All I offer is shelter, and whatever assistance you may need for whatever plans you do have. Consider this a sort of Underground Railroad, if you wish. Offering Novus a path to freedom."

Benji looked at August for a long moment. Then he nodded. "You are Jewish, yes? And much older than you look?"

August's eyes widened slightly. He drew in a long breath, and let it out slowly.

"That is a very long assumption to make in such a short acquaintance. A remarkable one, in fact. Yes, to both. As you will learn, as I was going to tell you today, I am One Hundred and Two years old. The other Novus know this, of course. That I am Jewish has not come up, but yes."

Zhao Benji looked surprised, but nodded. "I thought you must be, but One Hundred and Two? And your efforts for Novus are what? Guilt?"

August grinned. He had to remember that this was just a kid. A brilliant Novus kid, but still just a kid.

"Not particularly, no. Please understand, I was middle aged when the Nazis came to power in my country. I had grown children when the War began. I left when the interrments began, and I came back after the war to rebuild. I was lucky, others were not. It was a horrible thing, a horrible time. I could have done more, I should have done more, to help other Jews. But, I do not feel guilty for what Hitler did to them. How could I? I feel sad. I mourn that I did not do enough. But guilt? No. It is not the same thing. I see you do not understand."

Benji shook his head. August smiled at him, more sympathetically.

"It does not matter. What matters is this. Shortly after I became a Novus, I was visited by a man who brought me together with other Novus. He told us that the Novus must look after one another, that Humanity would work a willing horse to death if we let them. We believed him, and now I am doing what he did for me- for you and others like you. More, for he is gone now, and I will offer you companionship, shelter, and purpose."

"Purpose?" Zhao Benji looked askance, as though he had finally found the catch.

August nodded and smiled. "Yes. A purpose of your own. Time to think, time to plan. You now have the power to accomplish much on your own, but as an alliance of independant Novus, there is effectively no limit to the things that we could do. What do you want to do? It may be that if enough of us like your ideas, we will help you with them. If money alone is what you want, I assure you I have plenty, and will be happy to finance whatever plans you have. If you want to come and go, certainly you may. But you are welcome to stay, for a night or for a year, and no one will ever ask you to do anything. You may do what you wish."

August stood.

"But, there is plenty of time for that. I am starving. Shall we see if Lincoln has any breakfast ready?"

Zhao Benji nodded, looking thoughtful. As he rose, August put his arm around the young Novus, who stiffened, unused to being touched.

"Mostly, I would counsel you to just relax. It's all going to be alright. You'll see."

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*Early evening, May 1st, 1998*

The last few weeks had been surreal for Andrea Nast, ever since the accident and the transformation it had sparked in her. Changed... Well, not everything but everything she thought she knew about herself and her limits, what she could and could not do, filled her head with new information and skills she didn't remember learning. Just being so much more *everything*.

And that was before anything having to do with her powers. Walking through walls. Looking like something out of a dream. Getting people to do just about anything she wanted within reason. Beyond reason even if she 'pushed' them. It both thrilled and scared her, being liked and listened to while barely trying. Easy enough to make her want to *keep* trying for the first time in her life.

Thank God for Mr. August and his sanctuary keeping the Media out though most of the time. Silly and shallow as the focus on Novus looked from outside before, inside the storm as a Novus... It made her shudder, remembering the disaster of her visit to see her parents, her business at Cal Poly making sure she wouldn't fail her classes while getting a grip on all this, learn how to use it.

Andrea sighed and shook her head, stirring the heaping plate of food in front of her. She had already eaten enough to make her sick in the time before her transformation, but that had only taken the edge off, enough to set her pondering again. God, she needed to talk to someone, and Tess wouldn't be out of class for hours if she had the math right... She sighed and started mechanically eating again, an auburn-haired young woman plainly dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, but clearly more than humanly attractive.

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The world had changed and yet the little things stayed the same. Jill finished her last set of handcurls and put them back into their special rack. Everything was custom made for her. Her clothes had to be custom fit and the weights were tied to a special electro-magnetic unit which increased the relative weight into the realms where only superhuman strength could actually lift them. But aside from that - she was still the same. Jill felt guilty and the only thing that distracted her from her guilt was the gym. The world had changed, yet stayed the same somehow.

At 7 Feet and 11 inches Jill had become the peak of physical perfection. And even though she was incredibly muscled which most people would gross out straight she somehow struck a balance remaining incredibly feminine and sexy at the same time. Something most would consider impossible but that word could be used for quiet a many things in connection to Jill ever since she became a Novus.

So many things were new and difficult to adjust to – like her size which at first she hoped to be temporary but soon proofed to be permanent – and she could get even bigger and even more massive if she wanted.

Her appetite had also taken on levels which were intimidating – which actually bothered her. She was still trying to figure out how to adapt her diet and workout routine to her new size but it seemed her body remained in it’s perfect shape no matter what. That was actually amazing but it bothered her. She was so used to work for perfection and not having to do anything for it was… disturbing.

After taking a shower she quickly got into the only clothes she had – a black tank top and matching shorts which would be huge on any average other woman but were a snug fit for her. She knew about other Novus who were at the Mansion but they barely met before – something she wanted, no needed to rectify.

The wooden floor was squeaking under her heavy bulk, her hair was still drying from the shower but it fell perfectly around her beautiful face. Every inch of her body radiated health and strength and she moved with the certainty of someone who was easily the physical superior of almost anyone on the planet.

Jill reached the richly decorated table smiling as she saw the various foods and dishes that were prepared. One thing was for sure, this August-guy knew how to tend to his guests. Jill’s eyes couldn’t decide on what to pick first when she reached her chair which was next to Andrea’s and then she suddenly forgot about the food.

The dark red-haired beauty erased everything that was on Jill’s mind within seconds of seeing her. Jill was actually blushing and didn’t know what to say… It seemed odd for someone of her impressive size to be at a loss for words. Jill’s arms were easily as wide as Andrea’s waist and it looked like Jill could break her in two like a twig if she wasn’t careful enough but right now she was stopped in her tracks.

“Um… hi…?”, she finally managed to say feeling her mouth was suddenly dry. “I’m Jill…”, god, she is so beautiful…

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For Rianna, Things had been interesting. Joining the others wasn't something she'd thought out much, but for now it remained a good idea. She was in near constant contact with her sister, at least the door opened easily, and was two way, bringing them closer than they'd been in a number of years.

She wore a cream colored blouse and one of the few truly clean pairs of jeans she owned, and head downstairs. For all the benefits, her transformation demanded a hefty amount of sustenance, and thankfully this place could deliver. Her long hair was pulled into a single braid down to her rump and she came to the dining hall... and spotted the Giantess, and another of the female novus, Andrea. "Good evening to you both." Her enunciation was perfect, what one expected from a Doctor, and she took the seat across from Andrea. Mind too much if I join you?" She began fixing a plate from the richly appointed buffet and poured a glass of sweet tea to wash it down with. Andrea was a stunning beauty, and even Jill, who weighed easily more than she and Andrea combine was still possessed of feminine curves, if one cared to look beyond her perfectly toned and sculpted muscular body.

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His becoming, as August had described the transformation, had been more of a hassle than a boon so far. The landlord and other tenants had been less than pleased about the attention and media, and the presence of the large self-sustained pendulum was also non grata.

They weren't mollified until Thomas offered to arrange its sale to an art museum, and the proceeds kindly divided among his landlord and neighbors.

Then Beckstein's was packed crazy by nova-watchers, and he ate extraordinary amounts of food, so the bills were an issue now. CalTech had been practically kowtowing to him- it had been a mere formality to take the tests needed to get his outright undergraduate education ended and Bachelors in Arts and Sciences awarded in rapid fashion. The president himself had met with him for a congratulations and a thinly veiled suggestion to get employed with the university.

Furthermore, Thomas found his whirring thoughts and now towering intellect deconstructing so much of what he observed and saw every day incessantly. Even he needed a breather, or at least a step back.

August had been a godsend on that account, and that kindly old-young Novus had paid for a workshop too, and Thomas was testing it to its limits in steampunk tech and, yes modern devices with aesthetics, plain and gauche as it was.

But he needed to get out for meals and socializing. When he came down, his goggles were strapped around his forehead, hair disheveled, gray leather vest over a short-sleeved blue shirt and tan pants. His bracer was around his wrist as usual. Of course, when he arrived, he didn't expect such an attractive bevy of women. If it wasn't for his autonomic control, Thomas would have stared and gaped.

"Evening," he said as he ambled to the buffet and served himself a massive heaping. "Can I join you three?"

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As intimidatingly huge and atractive as Jillian was, she was enough to make Andrea's throughts skip a beat. "A pleasure to meet you, Jill. I'm Andrea Nast," she offered to the much larger woman with a smile as gentle and confident as her soothing voice before turning to the other two new arrivals.

"Of course. Sit, both of you. There's plenty of room and food even for people like us," she added, inwardly marveling at how easy, how natural this felt, even as she picked up a fork and started eating again at a more sociable pace this time. Andrea gestured at a dish of noodles with white sause whose name she couldn't quite remember.

"Try some of that. It's good," she concluded with a grin and a chuckle after swallowing, "It's got shrimp in it."

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Jill barely noticed the others in presence of Andrea who simply demanded her full attention. It took almost a minute for her to recover. The huge amazon looked at the offered chair and carefully sat down. Fortunately the old handmade furniture was stable enough to support her massive frame. Her eyes checked out the shrimps and she took a good selection of basically everything that was within reach.

After she satisfied her initial hunger she found time to actually look at the others giving them an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry – Things have been rough these last days… how are you guys… adapting?”

The question was genuine and yet awkward for her. Neither Thomas, Rianna or Andrea looked as if they would have any trouble “going back” with the exception of Andrea maybe who would certainly cause a riot everywhere she appeared. Jill tried to avoid looking at Andrea because she was afraid it would turn into impolite staring. Each time she felt it was about to go too far she quickly refilled her plate with some new food – it was astonishing how much she had literally devoured in the short time.

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As Rianna began putting away the food, and Thomas joined them she nodded. "It's well enough, the headaches have subsided. It is an interesting experience, in that I'm far more capable in things now than I ever was before."

She smiled, "The rapid healing of my broken ribs has certainly been a welcome thing."

Even though smaller than Jill, Rianna was putting away the food, eating pretty much anything she could reach.

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Thomas still certainly ate more than his body weight normally should take in at maximum, shoveling food down with rapidity. Honestly, these Novus women were astonishingly beautiful beyond description, and Andrea, Jill and Rianna were a bevy that appealed to any man's libido.

Fortunate that his face could mask his blushing thoughts. "I'm Thomas. Honestly, it's crazy. It's all in my head... but jumping to superhuman intellect and mental speed... I spend so much time in the workshop upstairs to get away from it all. Offers from my alma mater at CalTech, I have emails flooding in front everywhere with job offers. And with all the things I've crafted... heck, I could punch my ticket and remake the world with all my designs. It's almost frightening."

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"It's been... very different. I was supposed to be preping for finals at Cal Poly about now, getting my apartment tidied up for when I went home before Summer Quarter, helping my friend Tess cram for *her* finals... Anything but all this really," Andrea confessed with a sad smile, plate empty in front of her, "No one I knew before seems to have a solid grasp on how to deal with what's happened to me. My parents were supportive last time we talked, Tess is more than willing to keep an eye on my apartment, but... It's different. Better in a lot of ways but very different. I think my goal of becoming a Veterinarian is on hold, at least for now."

She chuckled, "And aparently I've got offers piling up in my mailbox like Mr. Froit. Enough to pay off my student loans three times over if what I see in my e-mail is average. There are people I can hire to help me sort through stuff like this, right? An agent?"

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"You both could always come work for my parent's company." She smiled at them. "There's something to be said for being official heiress to a multinational conglomerate that's not openly traded."

"Money may not always be the biggest thing, there's lots of money to be made sure, but I can offer more, I think. The freedom to follow the path you choose, however you wish. I know my parents are keen on the idea, and I've been given some real leeway here." She looked to Jill. "i've not yet spoken much with you, but I feel certain, if you'd like to sign on too, I have a place for you there."

She sighed. "Sorry, I promised I'd make the pitch. I'd love to work with you all, but there's no pressure here. It's just another offer on the pile, but one I hope from someone you'll consider a friend."

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When Keiko cautiously entered the cafeteria or kitchen or dining room or WHATEVER August was serving up his guests in, the world was cast in a hellish red overtone. The sun hung dim and crimson in the sky, like something in a Lovecraftian story. Everything around Keiko was moving at a glacial pace. She could have stood and watched a fly beat its wings for several minutes if she'd had a mind to. Experimentation had shown that the interface between herself and this slowed-down world was a bit weird, and inconsistant. The air didn't slow her down, nor did she build up colossal bow shocks of it around her as she moved, even at high relative speeds. She could touch things, move them. They moved normally until she wasn't touching them and then seemed to shift back to slowed-down movement. She could pick up a rock and throw it, but it would slow down the moment it left her hand and cruise lazily through the air towards its target. She could open a door, but had to somewhat laboriously hold it open, then close it deliberately behind her. If she tried to just throw it open or let it close, it took -forever-. Weirdly though, when she moved something into contact with something stationary, it didn't seem to hit hard, even though objectively it was moving very fast. It was like the adjusted time rate leaked from one object to the other just before impact, so they momentarily shared the same frame of reference.

This talent didn't seem to want to be a weapon. Keiko was okay with that. Though it would have been cool to be super strong.

She pushed through the door and into the room. It was big and bright; full of windows and plants and seats clustered around tables. Tile floors all meticulously scrubbed, everything in its place. It reminded Keiko a little of a hospital cafeteria. Its brightness and cheeriness somehow feeling false; a facade painstakingly layered over a deeper stain. It hygiene and ordered layout meant to offer security and comfort to people who might not otherwise have any.

Oh but the food/!

In slow-time, smells didn't really propagate well. Keiko could smell things if she happened to blunder into a mass of air with smell-stuff in it, but it didn't spread out. In this case it didn't matter. The whole ROOM was full of delicious, delightful odors. And she was so hungry. Even with all her trepidations about this August and whatever his weird 'job offer' was, she could no more stay away from those tables than she could turn into a fish and breathe underwater. Even in the grim half-light of her accelerated state, it looked heavenly; slices of the divine found deep in the underworld.

To everyone else, the cafeteria door flickered open. Its movement was unnatural; doors moving that fast slammed when they opened, or possibly splintered and smashed. Equally unnatural was the blurred form of a person, moving in herky-jerky steps that seemed to stutter and skip, like a badly recorded video image moving in high-speed. It was definitely a 'she,' but her face had a weird featurelessness, a blurred-out effect kind of like overexposed camera film. Even her involuntary movements like tics, combined with natural looking-around and shifting of visual focus, conspired with her speed to wash out her features into a haze of skin-tone framed by her tuft of short black hair.

It wasn't until the apparition arrived at the food table and starting loading its plate that it stayed still long enough to be identified as a rather pretty, even beautiful (though only by the standards of a normal human) young woman of asian features.

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Jill was certainly surprised at Rianna's offer. She had spent the last days almost exclusively in her private quarters or the gym - She tried to avoid any media or newsreports since she knew they would just verify the terrible truth she was trying to forget. She killed her father - if not with her words, then most certainly when she became Novus and wrecked the hospital.

"I'm not sure you how to take this offer? You need a personal trainer? You don't look as if you needed one.", Jill replied politely to Rianna glad that she had a chance to stop staring looking at Andrea for a few seconds. "Does anyone of you know why...", she didn't finish her sentence when the door opened and shut and within another blink of her eyes Keiko sat down at the table.

"What the...?", the amazonian giantess gulped and involuntarily jerked up in her chair crushing it under the sudden shift of weight and pressure. With a very heavy bump that made the table jump a few inches up and disorder the arrangement Jill crashed to the floor totally obliterating the old wooden chair underneath her. She was still close to eye level when sitting on her behind and she blushed for the second time this evening.

"I'm so sorry... really, I ... I didn't mean to...", Jill tried to apologize as she carefully stood up rising to her near 8 feet height. Maybe it was a bad idea coming here, she thought unable to look at the others. I made a complete ass out of my self in front of Andrea...

There she stood almost helpless for a second not knowing what to do or to say. How could this get any more awkward?

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Andrea had been considering the other woman's offer, questions mirroring Jill's own, but the literally in a blink of an eye arrival of the newest female Novus and the resulting embarassment of the much-larger woman derailed her with a blink. Surprise rapidly turned into sympathy when she glanced at Jill. She'd had that oh-god-I-should-run-before-this-gets-worse expression on *her* face more times than she wanted to think about, had run more times than she really, really wanted to think about.

So Andrea simply waved at one of the other chairs, "Get another chair and sit down, Jill. No need to be embarassed about breaking a chair. I'm sure all of us have broken something getting used to being Novus."

She turned the smile and her attention towards the newcomer, calling, "Care to join us? Food's usually better with company. I'm Andrea, by the way, and this is Thomas, Jill, and... I'm sorry, Riahna? Rina? Only overheard your name from the others, and forgot to ask tonight."

Her expression turned embarassed, pointer finger that had been acting like an indicator drooping a little in nervousness at her own boneheadness.

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"Hello, Keiko." Thomas had briefly, if not for any period of long (to him) time, met Keiko, and her phenomenon of being somewhat ahead timewise of everyone else else was intriguing intellectually. Not everyone, like Jill apparently were prepared. "Uh, Jill, if you want a new chair... there's a pair in the other room, one of them has the British Union Jack engraved... August wanted me to make some ah- load-bearing chairs. Probably for you, no offense."

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Sometimes it was hard to tell when people were reacting to her when she accelerated. It was something Keiko was still getting used to. She had a great view of Jillian staring in her direction as she slowly got up and the chair splintered into pieces in crystal quality. But to Keiko, Jillian's eyes didn't track with her, so it seemed like she was just staring vaguely in her direction.

It wasn't until the inventor fellow, who's name she always forgot, but it was something French-sounding, said in slow motion letters that...given time...might become her name.

Abruptly embarrassed, Keiko shut off her powers. Sounds jumped up in volume and became intelligible. Everything started moving normally. The world turned blue-white, and bright to her dark-red adjusted eyes. She yelped and covered them for a second, then peeked out.

"Hi everyone. I'm Keiko. Sorry about the..." she waved a hand back along the path she'd taken. "...thing there. Hope I didn't scare you too bad..."

With that she turned in her chair to look at Jillian...and realized for the first time how HUGE she was. She'd been sitting when Keiko had come over...and she hasn't sat and waited for her to stand up before looking around at the others.

"...holy cow."

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Jill barely registered the words everyone was addressing at her. She was much more trying to keep the rising anger in her at bay. Ever since her becoming a lot of things have changed – most were exceptional and defied description but in Jill’s case there were also negative sides to it – like her impulse control which has obviously been left behind in the hospital when she literally exploded.

Her impressive body was heaving as she tried to calm herself by drawing deep breaths. “I’m… sorry…”, she tried to explain balling her hands to fists and trying to channel the emotional breakout in less destructive ways.

Jill shook her head trying to clear her head and very slowly turned sideways searching for the next chair when Thomas’ words slowly reached her higher brain functions. “If you want a new chair, there is one in the other room…”

“I’ll… be right back.”, the giantess excused herself and left the room, each step appearing impossibly difficult as her rage very slowly subsided. Her physical presence was filling the entire room leaving the impression that she could’ve destroyed everything and only her extraordinary willpower was the only thing keeping everyone safe at the table. Every muscle was tensed and could be seen under her skin fighting for control…

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"I doubt it. It would be very rude for any of us to kill another guest in our host's home."

She smiled. "Hello, Keiko, I'm Rianna. It's a pleasure to meet you." She looked at Thomas and nodded. "Good idea with the reinforced chairs to be honest."

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"Nice to meet you, Keiko, Rianna," offered the younger Nova with a smile, having fought down the new reflex to go insubstancial at Jill's anger, "It won't go that far. At least not for long anyway."

There was happy certainty in her voice on that last note at least. No one had fought over or around her since her transformation, and if she had anything to say about it, no one would. Not again. "So," Andrea continued, "Anyone got an idea what our host plans for us aside from keeping us out of the hands of Aeon? I trust him, but it seems like he's planning something impressive."

She looked around the table at the others, keeping one ear out for Jill's return and ready to offer a reassuring grin the way Tess had for her so many times grow up. It was the very least she could do to start paying the favor forward.

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Jill took some time in the other room to calm down. After her thoughts have cleared she felt embarrassed for her actions. Why the hell did she lose her temper so easily? Was she still feeling guilt for her father’s death? Was he really dead? She had no idea what was really going on.

The huge amazon picked up the reinforced chair and brought it back to the dining hall looking a bit sheepishly as she took her place next to Andrea again.

“I want to apologize for my behavior… but it’s gotten difficult for me to…”, she didn’t actually now how to explain herself. It all sounded so stupid to her.

“I simply don’t know what is going on with me but not everything is amazing ever since I changed. Not everything is just wonderful… that’s why I stayed… alone.”

She reached carefully for her knife and fork and looked apologetically at Keiko. “I’m really sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. It’s not easy for me, really.”

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Lincoln and Susilo entered the dining room together, typically. The rest of the Novus could hardly remember seeing one without the other. Lincoln grinned at everyone, and passed through to the adjoining room, snagging one of the new reinforced chairs with one hand. Susilo sat near Keiko, with a nod to her. He looked over the fare approvingly, before scooping some roast pork and peppers onto his plate. Lincoln sat next to him, across from Thomas. He nodded to the inventor.

"Good on ya for these chairs, Froit. August has started flinching every time I sit on one of his antiques. Finally, I can just lean back and relax." He piled a plate with a turkey leg, three tacos, a small barbecued chicken, four slices of tomato and cream cheese pizza, and a thick slice of lasagna. He looked disappointed that there wasn't any more room on his plate. He shoved a slice of pizza in his mouth, taking half of it at a bite, and wiped a drip of olive oil off of his chin. He looked around the table.

"So, what are we talking about?"

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[[May 3, 1998, late morning]]

August looked over his notes, and glanced at the short stack of manila folders. He nodded to himself. He had directed Lincoln to take his dinners with the other Novus, in order to gauge their ability and interest in the kinds of things he had in mind. His conference call was this afternoon, and between his observations and Lincoln's reccommendations... he thought he had his team. He reviewed their qualifications.

Three different kinds of scientists, in very different fields. An engineer and computer programmer, a paleontologist/ geologist/ archeologist who dabbles in metallurgy, a studying doctor of medicine (veterinary medicine, but beggars can't be choosers, he thought). A functional blacksmith, the value of which could not be overstated, thought August. He wavered a bit between the journalist and the political organizer. He could see the value in both. He wouldn't decide until he was in the moment, but he thought that the journalist's predilection for the weird stood in her favor, and her affinity for time control was possibly an asset. He would see.

He sighed. It had all happened so quickly. He wondered whether or not he should send Lincoln, who had proved so faithful, or Susilo, whose unflagging reliability had impressed August very much. But, no. He needed them here. Every possible asset to the Novus cause must be explored, and it was too much for August to handle alone. He would send these five to explore this possibility in Spain, but would keep his best men near him. It would have to do. Sending five was probably overkill in any event. He had been asked for three.

He grabbed the entire stack of folders. He would think about it while he swam, and perhaps a different combination of Novus would appeal to him. He relied on his instincts, and wouldn't commit until he had to. He put the stack on his new laptop, and pulled the cordless phone from its charger.

He poured himself a scotch over ice, and juggled it and the rest of his stuff as he walked from his office to the poolside. He deposited the files and phone on one table, his laptop on another. He took a sip of his scotch, and threw off his robe. It would be a good meeting, he was sure of it. He dove into the pool

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