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Ryan Hawke

Aberrant: Infinite Earth - Fiction - [A&A] Once More, With Feeling...

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Ryan was off duty, not stood down mind, but he didn't need to be in his plane, or with the men. Indeed he was coming off deployment again, which almost always meant some harebrained plan from higher-up. Still it did mean he got to come to London.

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Despite the bombings, the city held great interest to him, it was where his Father's side of the family heralded from, centuries past. So once again, he was on base, heading to the women's Barracks, looking to meet up with a fellow Dynamic for lunch, to catch up on what he'd missed while deployed with his men.

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Despite the aborted run with a large group of dynamics, they'd not secured an intact plane, He and Claire had it it off rather well, after the fact, and Ryan smiled. He did feel better in the company of other dynamics, and to be fair, She wasn't part of his Chain of Command.... His thoughts caused a rare smile to curl the corners of his mouth, He knew that it was going to be a good day.

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Enid, one of the the other girls, spotted the impressive figure of the colonel approaching the barracks, and ran to get Claire. The door to her room was open; two beds, two desks and two foot lockers, all neat and square. Claire was sitting on the bed, rereading Herodotus' Histories; as usual, she wore her dark blue Rescue Services coveralls. Enid waited a few moments for Claire to notice her, then became impatient and rapped sharply on the doorframe.

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Cliare looked up and smiled. "What is it, Enid?"

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The other girl was grinning like the Cheshire cat. "Your Yank's here...all seventeen stone of him!"

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Claie laughed as she carefully marked her place in her book and set it aside. "He's not my Yank, Enid; I'm just...showing him around the City." She shrugged innocently. "Nothing more."

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Enid snorted. "Oh, he's not your Yank, is he? Is that why you spent half a week's wages on new lipstick? Ooh!" She smartly ducked a pillow thrown with considerable force by the Scottish lass.

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- - -

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A few minutes later, Claire smartly trotted down the stairs to meet Col Hawke at the security desk. Her purse was over one shoulder, her helmet and gas mask over the other, the very portrait of a lovely young lady at war. Her step was light and there was a twinkle in her eyes. "Good afternoon, Colonel. So nice of you to drop by!"

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Ryan smiled as Claire spoke, nodding happily. "Well I was in the neighborhood. two Squadrons of my boys went out on the town already, and I imagine I'll have trouble in the morning." He shrugged. "That's a problem for then though, tonight I was hoping for a bit more culture than what my men had in mind."

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"Of course catching up with you was the first thing to come to mind."

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He noticed the other ladies trying not to stare at him, and daggers at Claire. "Shall we go?"

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Claire beamed. "Yes, let's." She turned to look back at the rest of the 'Hen House', trying very hard not to revel in the moment, and not quite succeeding. "Don't wait up!" Mrs Bartleby, the barracks matron, rumbled, "Curfew's at nine o'clock sharp!"

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Once out the gate and walking along Knigtsbridge Road, Claire realized she'd been holding her breath, and let it all out in a rush. "Sorry." She ran her fingers through her hair; though it was cold out, the chill didn't seem to bother her new dynamic metabolism. "It's a sad fact that if you put a lot of females together under lock and key, the worst parts of us starts to bubble up to the surface." Her eyes wandered over the sandbags piled up against the rowhouses. "I suppose that's the nature of war, to bring out the best and worst of Mankind."

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"The same can be said of men Claire." He looked around. "War shows humanity at it's utter worst, but it can often show us at our very best as well."

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"So where are we going today? I know I said I'd let you pick, since you know pretty much everything local far better than I do, but I admit the suspense weighs on my mind." He gave her a polite nod. "I wouldn't mind a bite to eat either, in all honesty, as I've not eaten since this morning and you know how Command meetings can be."

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He looked down at her, at two meters, he looked down at a great many people. "Sorry to ramble on. How have you been Claire?"

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"I've been well, thank you. I've been busy." She looked up at him and tried on her bravest smile. "I like it best when I'm busy; there's less time to think about things and doubt yourself." The young Scot took in a deep breath. "Nighttime's still the hardest, especially if there's a raid. I want to be out there every night, but they won't let me; 'You need your rest, young lady.' And of course I still have the nightmares; I expect I'll have them for years."

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With great effort, she shook her head and smiled again. "But enough of that, aye? I'm a smartly-dressed lass, walking the streets of London with a great big handsome pile of a Yank." She stopped and looked about. "I'd love a spot of lunch, actually; they say the resturaunt at the Savoy is serving proper beef again, if you have enough ration coupons, which-" She pulled out a fat wad of colored paper. "I do." She stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled sharply for one of the hulking black London cabs, which quickly drew up to the curb. Claire smiled, clearly proud of herself. "One of your countrymen taught me how to do that."

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He nodded. "You can put those away, save them for later on. Tonight is on me. I asked you after all." He gave her sly smile. "Besides, I just got paid when we rotated off, and I really don't have much to spend my money or ration coupons on."

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"They taught you that very well." He have a soft chuckle before he reached down and opened the door for her, letting her in before getting in himself, Dressed in his uniform. "Would you take us to the Savoy, please?"

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He'd not replied to her first words, mostly becuae he wanted to leave the war behind for a night, as much as they could.

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It was exciting, being in the back of a cab with this handsome American airman; he smelled really nice. "Thank you for lunch in advance, Colonel; it's very kind of you."

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She watched the bombed-out buildings roll past her window for a few quiet moments, then eagerly turned back to her companion.

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"As far as what to do after lunch, I was thinking we might take in The Philadelphia Story at the Rio; I haven't been to the cinema in ages, and I simply adore both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. I also think Katherine Hepburn is very underrated; 'box office poison' indeed!" She snorted in disbelief. "Does that sound like something you'd enjoy?"

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"I haven't been to the Cinema since I volunteered to cross the pond, so it sounds like fun. What I'm sure will make it all the better is the company I'll see it in."

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He wasn't a cinema buff, he never really had alot of time for it back home, his passion was flying, and he'd given up alot to pursue it. "I can't remember the last movie I saw, to give you an idea how long ago it was." He gave her a charming smile, and those who knew him would be surprised that he'd already smiled so much, it was something to be said for Claire, in that he just felt comfortable around her.

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Oh dear God, that smile! Claire felt like someone had just run a finger up her spine, which she tried to hide with an innocent stretch. "So, Colonel, how do you...how do you find it here in Britain? Have you adjusted to the warm beer and myriad other differences?'

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Keep the talk simple, lass, and this wonderful, terrible cab ride will be over soon enough! Not that you ever want it to end...

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"It's a great deal colder than back home. The Rain I'm used to, but it almost never snows at home where I live." He looked at her and nodded. "The warm beer bit certainly took some getting used to, not that it affects me anymore. It's a wholly different taste, back home if someone brought me a warm beer I paid for, well they'd be taking it back. Of course, the looks the boys get when they ask for ice are priceless too."

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"The food's alot less spicy too, but still it has some unique flavors." He wasn't a big fan of the cuisine, but being Cajun, could and would eat anything, when he was hungry.

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"How about you? Adjusting to have to deal with a few air corps of uncivilized colonials?" the twinkle in his eye was almost playful at this point.

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Claire laughed. "Oh, aye! Some of you Yanks are quite forward, you know, especially the ones from New York." She rolled her eyes. "A lass can get exhuasted explaining that yes, no does, in fact, really mean 'no'." Then she smiled coyly. "But then you meet one of the so-called 'Southern gentlemen', and that's, well..." The pretty girl sighed. "That's a very different story, isn't it?"

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I'm feeling a wee bit warm now...

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The young volunteer cleared her throat and adjusted herself, smoothing down her coveralls. "Well, have you had a go at any Scottish cuisine?" She gave him a playful wink. "All the sheep's stomach and blood pudding you can eat! Put hair on your chest, lad!"

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- - -

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Soon the cab pulled up to the hotel, on the Grill Room side as Claire specified. The uniformed pair entered the famous resturaunt, were escorted to a table and provided with menues. Claire's eyes grew wide as they tried to take in all the offerings. "Ooh, everything looks so good! Why should we try?"

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He shook his head. "No, I have not. " He followed the waiter who sat them, and brought them water, while they reviewed the menu. His own tastes were largely mundane, though he liked spicy foods. "It does all sound pretty good, but I think, I'll let you order for us both tonight. I imagine everything is good, but I want to see the sorts of things you think exemplify cuisine."

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He smiled. "When the war's over, if you're ever in Louisiana, I'll happily return the favor." A quick look in his blue eyes revealed he genuinely meant the offer, though probably not in the other way it sounded. He was a good upstanding man, and trusting.

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He did order some sweet tea, as it was something he was accustomed to.

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The colonel's offer clearly took Claire by surprise, for she looked genuinely startled. "That...that would be lovely..." She focused intently on her menu for a while, barely looking up. When it came time to place their orders, Claire selected the breaded pork cutlet with garlic butter for Ryan, and in a bit of patriotism, the steamed Scottish mussells in cream and cider sauce for herself, as well as soup and salad. As she sheepishly sipped her wine, her dark brown eyes occasionally found his pale blue ones until she once again found the will to speak.

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"This is really quite lovely." A slender finger ran around the rim of her glass. "Do you ever think about what you'll do after the war? I know it's hard to even think in those terms sometimes; this whole bloody mess seems like it will last forever." Her eyes found his again. "But...do you?"

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"Go back home most likely, I imagine I'll teach aviation at the Academy, If given the chance." He looked at her intently. "I don't really like all the fighting and killing, I do it because I'm a soldier, and Hitler's madness must be stopped before he ravages anymore of the world."

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"My passion in life is flying, I was good at it before I became a dynamic, and I'm better at it now." He nodded once. "Much as i love home, I dunno, I've done and experienced alot of new things since volunteering to cross the pond, and of course the most important bit."

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"I've met some most intriguing and amazing people, so I guess you could say it's up in the air, what I'll do, and where I go when it all ends. I can promise that much, it will end, Even if I have to see to it alone."

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He gave her an unassuming smile "And you, Claire, what will you do when this war ends, and dynamics like us aren't needed to fight anymore?"

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The lovely young women furrowed her brow in thought. "I'm not entirely sure; wih my degree from Oxford, I suppose I could try and get a job at the British Museum, or something equally boring." Claire shrugged. "It's different for us girls; everyone expects you to get married and have a family, which would be nice, I suppose." She traced little patterns on the tablecloth with the tines of her fork. "It just doesn't...it just doesn't seem like enough anymore, does it? Finding a nice bloke and building your whole life around him?" She waved the fork about vaguely. "How do we go back a normal life after all we've been through? I can barely imagine wearing a dress anymore..."

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She sighed as she tucked into her soup; like all dynamics, she now had a much heartier appetite. "Of course, it would be nice to wear a nice frock now and then. As much as the world has changed, I doubt we'll ever stop dressing up for a night out." Claire leveled her gaze at her dining companion. 'What's your favorite part about being a dynamic? And the worst bit?"

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"Well I wouldn't mind seeing you in one." He let out before he caught himself. "I can't imagine myself not in uniform or the "battle costume" I wear."

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He sighed with resignation. "We don't go back to normal, we go forward, whereever the future leads."

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"The best part of being a dynamic? Honestly, being able to just fly whenever I want, as long as I want. That's freedom there... The worst part, The unrealistic expectations." He sipped at his tea. "Everyone expects amazing fantastic feats from all dynamics, and some can't do that. I don't move things with my mind, I do it the old fashioned way."

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His eyes met hers. "Another plus, I did get to meet you because we're dynamics."

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He nodded. "How about you?"

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Claire nodded and groaned in agreement with Ryan, but when he mentioned 'another plus', her cheeks went bright pink. "Well, yes," she managed to stammer. "One does get to meet very interesting people..." She took another sip of wine to compose herself, then quickly ran her fingers through her hair.

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"You're right about the expectations, of course; i also find out that sometimes I expect too much of myself, pushing myself harder and harder to contribute to the war effort." She sighed and picked at her salad. "Losing both my parents to the Blitz...it's rather like I'm punishing myself for surviving, or perhaps not doing enough to save them. That any moment i'm not doing everything in my power to help means I'm somehow betraying them, or dishonoring their memory. It's ridiculous..."

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Her eyes wandered off to look at the other couples dining with them; many of them were also in uniform, and if they were somehow torturing themselves, the weren't showing it. At last, Claire spoke again, a tad wistfully.

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"The best bit..is the freedom." She turned back to American and flashed him a dazzling smile of her own. "I suppose it's a bit like what you said about flying; being able to do things other people can't. And not in a selfish way, like we're all better than everybody else, but more like-" She struggled to find the words. "Like when you were little, and dreamed about the Arabian Nights, or read The Odyssey for the first time. I always dreamed about being beautiful and courageous and doing amazing things, but of course I never really thought I'd do anything like that." She giggled and drummed her fingers on the tabletop. "It's quite fun, really. At least some of the time."

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"Times Change, and the world turns, and now we find that all of the above are true, You are beautiful, you are courageous, and Every time you go out, you accomplish what few others can do." He smiled, noting the others around them. "There are times where I do not like what I'm expected to do because I'm not normal anymore, I may be a pilot, a soldier, but I don't like the killing. If I could take them down without it, I would."

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"Never feel guilty because you're alive. That I think would anger your parents. They would want you to live, I think. All parents want their children to live and be happy, as my mother was fond of saying. "

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He looked at her. "There's so much more to Living than fighting in this war. The War will end, and life will go on." Those soldiers who heard his words nodded in quiet assent. It was known that he was a believer in taking time for the mundane aspects of life, So they didn't forget why they fought so hard. He wasn't there to destroy the enemy, he was there to protect and defend freedom, and those who hadn't the strength to protect themselves.

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Claire sighed. "I certainly hope so, and soon for all our sakes." She daintily wiped her mouth with her napkin, having devoured her salad and now switched focus to her soup. "Of course, being able to essentially eat whatever I want is also an advantage of being a dynamic, though I do wish my appetite was not so pronounced while the world is rationing."

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She paused to blow on her soup, and then a thought struck her. "So what would you do, colonel, if you were in the High Command? What strategies would you employ?" Then she reconsidered. "That's a bit of a lot to summarize over lunch, isn't it? Let's just limit it to us and our fellow dynamics, shall we? How do you think we should be deployed?'

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"Depends on the Dynamic." He nodded as their food arrived, and he waited for the waiter to leave before continuing. "I expect they would prefer to use me as a posterchild to drum up enlistment, which Might be a good thing, but certainly not what I want. If I am to be a part of this war, then I will fight. I will not ask others to do something I won't do myself."

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He considered the team they'd gathered. "Special missions against high ranking targets comes to mind, but remember the Axis has their dynamics too. I dare say one of the better uses might be to hunt enemy dynamics, at least to take them out of battlefield equations."

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"My personal favorite is simple, let them choose how best to use their gifts. High Command can offer all the suggestions, but non military dynamics are under no compulsion to act on them, unless they wish to. Even for us, they do give us a great deal of wiggle room in completing the special missions we are asked to undertake."

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Claire wrinkled her nose and shuddered at the thought of the 'promotional tour'. "Yeugh, no thank you! I mean, I appreciate the concept, but I don't think that would be the best use of our abilities." Then she cocked her head to one side. "Still, it might be a good use of our downtime between missions, although personally I'd rather be back here in London, digging through the rubble."

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Her brow furrowed in thought as she enjoyed a few more spoonfuls of soup.

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"But I think you're right; we need to be in the thick of it, taking the fight to our equal numbers on the other side. The regular troops, though very well-trained, can't be expected to handle Dynamic threats, at least not on their own." She pointed her spoon to the East. "That's where we need to be heading..."

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He nodded. "I have something on that, if you want to talk business now, but perhaps it should wait. Suffice it to say, we two have a mission option from High Command." He looked around at the other tables knowing many could hear them.

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As the main course arrived he set into the food, he ate quickly, a product of his training, though he was making an effort to pace himself with her, and savor the food as well as the company.

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Claire's eyes went a bit wide at the American's statement, and she started to eat a bit faster; she even attempted to speak softly between mouthfuls, and utterly failed. "We should..sorry." A polite cough cleared her throat. "Excuse me! We should, of course, wait until we're in a secure location to discuss any mission details." Her gaze slid warily around the room as she raised another forkful to her mouth. For the rest of the meal her tone was pleasant but the conversation got a bit light on content; the previously planned trip to the cinema was barely mentioned, and when it was, it felt much more like a cover story than a pleasant afternoon's diversion.

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After the delicious lunch was over, the pair heading back into the street to hail a cab. Claire's playful while was replaced with a somewhat more business like wave of the hand. "So how sooon do we have to start preparing?"

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"We would leave tomorrow night. High Command has little care regarding actually giving us leave, and this would be a voluntary mission."

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Once in the cab, he directed them to another part of london and paid. He quietly led Claire down an alley, and then took a couple turns to end up at a deadend, amidst a bombed out husk of a building, He lead her inside, to a small dirty office, and lifted the desk up like a small bag of potatoes, revealing a door. He knelt down, hefting it up, and nodded to her. "There's a switch on the left about three feet down, flip it to turn on the lights. There was a set of stairs leading downward, and having no reason to distrust him, she followed his instructions. He meanwhile followed her, getting them down to a massive door, again something she could tell even he strained against pulling open. Inside was a small war room, big enough for about eight people, with maps of europe, and other things one would expect. "I'd nearly completed this the last time they called us all together, but after the bombing raids, it took more time. You're the first to see it in it's finished state. This is my personal bunker complex within London, a safehouse where no one would expect."

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Nodding her head in approval, the young Dynamic took a few moments to assess the cleverly-hidden refuge. "Very nice indeed!" With a rescue worker's trained eye, she noted the reinforced walls and ceiling, rapping the heel of her hand against them to test their resilience. "The construction's quite solid; ought to hold up to anything short of a direct hit, and might even weather one or two of those." She also clucked her tongue in appreciation of the air vents, complete with sealable shutters, both at ground level and up near the ceiling. "Those are excellent; even if the roof fell in, you'd still get fresh air down here. And if there's a leaking gas pipe, the whole place can be sealed off."

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She took a seat at the small table placed in the middle of the room and pulled out a small stenographer's notebook and a mechanical pencil; her posture was erect, her demeanor fully attentive..

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"So, colonel, what can you tell me about this mission?"

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"We're rescuing a rogue German Dynamic." The Germans call him Donnerkiel, and in this instance, it's meaning is "Thunderstone." His real name is Rolf Edelstein, he's a former German Chemist. He came to his dynamic powers after a German officer tampered with his expiriments, resulting in an explosion that left him looking partially like a monster, but with powers beyond mortal men."

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"He covertly made contact with high command offering the sum totality of his research, some of which supposedly involves the nature of Dynamics. Fearing a trap, they specified a location in Northern France, a s small coastal town named Luz, about fifty miles west of the German border. He agreed to meet us there to defect in exchange for asylum, and a full pardon, should it be needed. They have agreed."

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He looked at her, and opened a file showing pictures of a somewhat older gentleman, who's skin in some places seemed to be made of a dark stone. "He's said to have some ability to control lightning. We can almost assuredly expect someone to be after him, or at the least watching him, though we're to maintain a low profile, though we aren't prohibited from fighting as needed."

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