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Aberrant: Infinite Earth - Fiction - [A&A - Fic] The Wings of Change [Complete]


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RAF Bawdsey

June 1, 1941

7pm London Time

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Alex adjusted his flight gear, nervously. He had been assisting a injured pilot who hurt himself on a rough landing a few nights ago. Flying his shifts. Although he always got nervous before a scramble.

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"Lieutenant Aceworth!" A woman shouted, wearing a WAAF set of overalls. "Can you come here a moment, please?"

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He nodded and ran to the hangar where normally barrage balloons were filled and maintained. There he spotted some strange wreckage. Also the woman was the person he had met earlier... when he erupted. "Ah, Miss Ravensworth, nice to see you again."

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He sets his parachute down next to what looked like a wrecked aircraft.

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"This... looks nothing like what we have been dog-fighting up there... With how this got mulched I'm suprised there isn't bits of a pilot here."

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"That's the thing... no one reported finding any remains, or even anyone bailing out when one of these is shot down."

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Alex massaged his chin. "There's still a windscreen..."

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He runs his gloved hand in front of the clear windscreen. "... looks like treated aetherfiber instead of reenforced glass..."

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He kneeled next to the wreck.

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Thirty Minutes Ago

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Danielle sorted through the voluminous pile of papers on her desk, taking the effort to get things done at normal speed. She'd caught a little side-eye from the XO when she'd turned in five straight reports ahead of schedule, and it wouldn't do to attract too much attention.

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So she multitasked. She thought about Monica with a smile on her face. She went over the incident with the Signal as she did the shift schedules for the week, mindful of what everyone wanted and the tradeoffs that were inherent, especially with the football game abovedecks this week...

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She paused at a piece of fresh intel. An incident in a UK airfield. Had been stamped MPEO - Minor Possibility of Extranormal Activity. She kept an eye out for those, and a quick read of the report had her pulse quicken.

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An unpiloted aircraft? It's got to be one of his. I found you, Zenith.

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In the space of a few minutes she had an inch of reports freshly filed in her outgoing box, then she stood, pulling her glasses from her face, and opened the porthole of her office with one hand while she rearranged her hair with the other.

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Now

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"Pardon me."

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At the sound, Aceworth and Ravensworth looked around, and then up, as she floated down gently, boots resting on the tarmac.

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She wasn't officially affiliated with the Allied forces - she liked her privacy, and politely but firmly resisted formal requests to officially join the military. She was well versed in Allied war protocol, however, and worked with Allied dynamics from time to time. The sight of her red, black and white costume on the battlefield was a welcome vision to many a weary eye.

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"I'll understand if you don't want me around, of course. But I have some experience with - and some curiosity toward - unpiloted aircraft. Do you mind if I have a look?"

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Alex was taken aback...

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"Unpiloted?"

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He turned towards Miss Ravensworth. "Wendy, would you kindly notify the base XO that the Dynamic from Canada has arrived to assist me with this matter?"

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Wendy nodded and ran off.

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"Lieutenant Commander Alexander Aceworth, US Navy Technology Research Division. Assigned to assist the Royal Air Force in all matters Kraut-tech. And yes, this does seem... like a unmanned aircraft." He said, his slight Minnesotan accent showing.

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He looks where the cockpit is. "Although there are still controls. I wager that the technology was housed in the nose... Perhaps this arcraft is piloted for some distance before the pilot bails out. The configuration of the body seems to allow the pilot to jump out without hitting anything... although the seat is gone... not to mention there is no windscreen up top."

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"I wager the pilot takes care of liftoff and the initial flight to a certain stage... whatever happens after that... anyone's guess..."

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He rummages through, luckily his hands were protected by the heavy aviator's gloves he was wearing. He found some scraps of aetherfiber, copper, and some of what looked like gears and a vacuum tube. "Well I'll be."

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He holds the mechanism... well the part that still was intact in his hand. "What you make of this? Not the whole hotdish, but there is something we can work with."

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At the mention of Alex's name, Magnum Opus paused, briefly. "Alex Aceworth? Juinor? Small world. I spoke to your father, albeit briefly, not too long ago."

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Magnum Opus gently took the mechanism in a gloved hand. She turned it over, examining it.

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Similar design, but more compact. I wonder...

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"It's not far off from what I've encountered before. The previous version had a much bigger comm array, though. These would be shorter range. Cheaper to manufacture... in fact, I can't see these having a greater effective range than a mile. Doesn't make sense, unless... hmmm."

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She handed it back. "Are you as technically minded as your father? Do you have any ideas why they'd go for shorter range?"

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"I think it is obvious... these are controlled from a bomber in a squadron to draw off defenders. Bait."

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He sighed, "And we dodged a bullet as it's explosive payload already discharged in the fight."

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He looks over the "Cockpit" again.

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"Seems that the aircraft itself is manually flown to whichever airbase these launch from, then they scramble with their bomber squadron. These are designed for one-way trips, with as much fuel and other things they can carry."

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He notices something with the damaged avionics. "Interesting... this conveys heat sensitivity... Dad uses such sensors all the time to regulate the temperature of Aethergel being bonded to fabric to make Aetherfiber..."

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"Yeah I just gave away a trade secret... but this sensor is more... attuned than a simple compressor regulator. This was made to pick up on smaller signatures at greater range..."

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He looks at it. "These are autonomous... When this aircraft locks in on a specifically tuned heat signature, it will chase it. Whatever machine is placed in this cockpit will control the aircraft in on a heat signature... as weak as a human's or possibly a specific aircraft's signature..."

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"I'd say this could see out some ten miles."

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He shook his head, half in amazement and half in frustration. "These krauts are getting clever. But now... I know a counter."

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"The bomber made into a controller hub needs a massive controller/transmitter system on board... so much it cannot carry bombs. You see the bomber not dropping when others do... you got it. In fact I wager it's quite heavy, loaded with vacuum tubes and the like... They probably just have two pilots and a controller specialist. No weapons."

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"It's a obvious target."

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"That's a good counter." Smart man. Figured it out faster than I could. "Of course, spotting that in the heat of battle might be difficult. But yes, I'd relay that up the chain. You might have just saved a lot of lives. Good work."

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Magnum Opus knelt next to the wreck, examining its weight, the direction it had been flying before it crashed, and forming a rough guess of what path it had taken. Where did you launch this from, Zenith. Is this a leftover or did you want us to find it?

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Wendy came running back with some tea. "Compliments of command, Mr. Edison."

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Alex picked up his tea. "Thanks... so I finally got a codename from command?"

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"Actually, it's just what everyone piloting desks like to call you."

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Alex hands the tea intended for the Canadian Dynamic to her. "I never really caught your callsign, Ma'am."

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His Minnesotan politeness he definately was happy to let out. "Wendy, notify the command I got a clue about all of this..."

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Alex quickly wrote in his notebook, thankfully he knew a few acronyms that were universal between the US Navy's aviator corps and the RAF.

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"Get this to command, they'll know who to get it to. And thanks for the tea, Wendy."

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She nodded with a smile. "You two don't get into too much trouble."

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She runs off again as Alex turns to MO, sitting on a upturned bucket next to where he sat down his parachute. "That girl knows a lot more than she thinks." He said, sighing. "I'll be honest I think she has something for me after the way we first met."

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Magnum Opus takes the tea with a smile. "Magnum Opus is the name." She sipped it, sitting in the lotus position on the ground. "Or at least, it's what I try to be."

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"I'm pretty sure she does have something for you, actually. She blushed a little when you thanked her for the tea and I could hear it in her voice. She makes good tea, too. Uses actual leaves instead of the little cloth bag - " She laughed a little. "Sorry, I pick up subtle tastes others might miss. It's turned me into a bit of a gourmand.

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"Do you feel the same way? You can say 'no comment' if I'm prying too much."

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"Actually, I can appreciate the attention to detail that Miss Ravensworth puts into her tea. And... I have noticed a little hero worship with her."

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He adjusted his flightsuit again. Opening the neck of his flightsuit a little.

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"Then again... I can't blame her... I erupted from the same crisis that I helped protect her from. To be honest, I don't like it. It can cause problems for her in the long run. Although she is a intelligent, thoughtful girl. I'm just..."

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He sighed. Thinking of the times he got razzed in High School when he never was interested in any of the girls. "I'm just not the type of guy to get interested in girls easily, I guess."

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He finished his cup of tea, setting the saucer and cup on the bucket after he rose, grabbing his parachute, there was room for Magnum Opus' tea and saucer as well there. "Well... I think I've done all I can with this. Tomorrow I'm sure I'm going to be dissecting this fur..."

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The sound of warning claxons erupts throughout the airbase. "Scratch that!"

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He fixes the collar of his flightsuit. "Seems we're going to have a little action after all! Come on! If anything if any of these limeys protest, I'll tell them you're with me! Being a member of a bunch of spooks working for Uncle Sam has it's privileges!"

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He grinned tightening his flight helmet as he ran out, He had even gotten his parachute properly set up over his flight gear, even his spare was at his stomach as he ran over to his aircraft. Many of the other pilots were setting up in the dusky sky.

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Wendy ran over with what looked like a headset, with her air-raid helmet on. "This is for Miss Opus." She said waving over Magnum Opus to Alex's aircraft. Alex looked it over. "That's the new headset designed for Dynamics to keep in contact via radio?"

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"Yeah, Already have it set to our frequency." Wendy said. It was a mounted mouth piece that was connected to a fancy looking airman's leather cap, with a wire that connected to a small backpack. "Now you should be getting in. The krauts are coming like before. Same flight path as the night that aircraft got shot down."

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Alex nodded, still getting himself set to climb in. He wasn't the slowest in the squadron, but he made damn sure the gear that could save his life was set.

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"Let me know when you're strapped in, Alex. I'll give you a boost."

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Magnum Opus waited, securing the radio in her ear as Alex strapped in. Then she gripped the underside, lifting off the ground and getting the ship up to speed.

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As they took to the skies, Magnum Opus let go, and both she and Alex surveyed the growing chaos - pilots scrambling into the air behind them, and over the horizon, the oncoming bombers.

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"If I take out the drones, can you concentrate on the central coordination ship?"

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"Sounds like a good idea."

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He banks to the left, looking at the night sky. "Ground, this is Bunyan, repeat, Bunyan, hunting for controller aircraft, over."

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"Roger that, Bunyan, large radar signature has been recieved at heading 105 mark 20 from your position, over."

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Alex nodded. "Alright, switching to local channel. Over."

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"Godspeed. Over."

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"Bunyan, Out."

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He switched channels on his dashboard.

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"Alright Magnum Opus, got a gameplan. just off to our right and I'm wagering a couple hundred feet above our altitude is the main bomber force, we're about 15 minutes from them. If you've got the drones, I gotta see if they're clustered. So we are going to approach from directly under the furball. That will be from where they're most blind."

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He adjusted his straps a bit. "It's getting darker so spotting these things will be more difficult."

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The moon appeared out of the clouds. "Well... that'll help, but I'm not sure if you've got any sensory abilities. Damn, there is something I could make for myself."

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"I can make them out just fine."

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Magnum Opus tracked the direction, range and distance of the unmanned craft. She stole a glance to the ground below, and began prioritizing. Interceptor craft, so if I dip under the furball I can outflank them since they'll be concentrating on other aircraft and not on bombing...

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She sped off, plowing through one craft like it was tissue paper, and then blocking the machinegun attacks of another as it chased after an Allied interceptor. She raised a palm in front of her face on instinct more than anything, then drove her fist into the cockpit, grabbing at the jury-rigged machinery that drove the craft...

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... that exploded in her face, sending her flying end over end. She righted herself in midair, frowning. "Okay," she said into the comm. "They explode too."

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"Yeah... I figured as much. I wager the explosive is designed to go off once the aircraft crashes... or in your case, when it is punched."

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He banks hard right, avoiding a drone before shooting down another as he made his approach. The drone exploding in a greenish white flash. Banking again, he hears the sound of the wreckage plinging against the outer skin of his aircraft. He looks at his wings and the back. No damage, thankfully. "I can see why you wanna handle the drones now... that was a close one!"

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Then he sees the big momma. "Well well well, there is our momma whale."

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He grinned. "Okay keep the drones off of me."

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He does a barrel roll and lines up behind the behemoth as other british aircraft start shooing away manned luftwaffe fighters. In fact he was shocked by their range until he saw the conformal fuel tanks built into the fuselages.

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"Dammit... they got long-range supprot fighters now?!? We are behind!"

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He juked to the left, unloading everything he had, taking out three of the six engines, starting to pick it apart before passing by to make another go. He looked down at the water behind him and the city of London ahead, anti aircraft fire and searhlights going full tilt. "Watch for friendly flack, MO. I got to set up another..."

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The yellow streaks of tracer fire tell him he just got some pilot's undivided attention. Remembering his payload as she streaked by for another pass, Alex drops his fuel tank right on the hull of the aircraft then pressing a button on his dash exploding it, smashing the tail off of the aircraft.

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"Okay... gotta get this guy off of me, but the controller craft is done! I should have enough fuel to finish this fight with this guy and make it back for dinner. MO, try to take the drones out before they hit london!"

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He turned to face the foe, his radio hissed to life. "So, a real gifted pilot... I have never seen someone use their spare fuel tank like that. You smell like a fool behind the stick."

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"No that was intended... I had to finish up quickly!"

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The two exchanged fire, missing but lighting themselves up in the night. "Haste makes waste, yankee!"

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Alex quirked his eyebrow. "You know more about us than I thought."

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Little that Alex knew, his primary fuel tank was leaking...

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"Okay, you got my attention." He leaned forward, grinning profusely as he lined up for another pass with his guns in a game of chicken. "Here's how we geet people in Minnesota."

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"Got it - "

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Magnum Opus learnt her lesson, grabbing drones by their tails and throwing them towards the water or other planes when possible, disabling them with a blast of kinetic energy when not, a ripple of force roaring from her eyes that refracted light as it tore through aircraft.

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She intercepted others, placing herself between them and the friendly fighters. A stray ricochet tore through an Allied plane, and it spiraled towards the ground. She flew after it in pursuit, catching the plane. She looked back towards the ball of yarn, and saw a drone heading downwards, having decided to shoot at something that wasn't shooting back, heading straight for an occupied area...

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She clawed her way along the craft, tapping on the cockpit. She saw the pilot inside frantically trying to force it open, and she grabbed, the cockpit, tearing it free.

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"Does your chute work?"

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"I..."

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"One of the drones is heading towards a civilian area! Does your chute work!"

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The pilot nodded. She gave the man a hand out of his seat, and the pilot bailed out, pulling at his ripcord. Magnum Opus gave the craft a push, sending it towards the water. She spend off after the drone, tossing a glance over her shoulder, and yes, the pilot's chute was opening. He'd be okay.

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The friction of the air seared in her wake as she sped after the falling bomb. She looked at the ground, a public square that was clearing out, but not fast enough. She was going to make it, though. She was going to -

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Allied flak caught her square in the chest, sending her pinwheeling. She shook it off, resighted the drone, and sped after it.

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Can't used kinetic vision - if I miss it'll blow right past and hit something - come on, Danielle, come on -

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She grabbed the tail section. The pilot's compartment popped open. The drone system ejected -

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And she caught it. She threw it upwards with all her might, and with nothing to hit by air, fire a blast of kinetic energy, blowing it to pieces.

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She exhaled, as she drifted downwards. Hoo boy. Oh boy. Let's not cut it that close again, she thought, as she counted the meters to the ground. She set the plane down gently in the square.

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"Close one. Okay. Everyone get inside. It's not safe out - here - "

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She blinked at the one person out of all the onlookers who had the presence of mind to start clapping - everyone else was too shocked or fearful to do so. Magnum Opus smiled.

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"Showoff," said Monica Pine.

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"You're one to talk, Miss Pine." Magnum Opus looked over the craft, not quite able to hide her grin. "I thought you were behind enemy lines?"

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"I was. I came back to file the story in person. I picked a hell of a day to go shopping." She looked skywards. "Looks like it's all over but the shouting..."

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"Well, not quite over yet. I have to make sure none of these fall out of the sky again. Please get inside, Monica. It's not safe out here." Satisfied that the plane held no surprises, Magnum Opus lifted off, returning to the skies.

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"Uh huh," said Monica, watching the skies as she readied her camera. "I'll be a good girl later, MO. Honest." She took a picture of the downed ship, then kept an eye out for any others.

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Alex and his pilot tangle with each other, pressing for advantages as they circled like hungry vultures. Eventually darting through the city of London itself, flanked by buildings before flying high above the Thames.

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The pilot of the German craft continued his taunting. With strangely proper english. "You're not like the others. But I will still put you down like the dog you are."

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The German banked hard left looking to change his currently bad position in the dogfight, but Alex saw his best and probably only opportunity left as he started to see the fuel light blink on his dashboard. When he looked there he saw his moment. He unloaded, and all of his shots went into the wing of the enemy craft, plucking it as Alex shot forward of the enemy craft. He looked back and saw the pilot hop out fast, then a warning alarm sounded as his engine sputtered out. But not before a explosion suddenly rips through his plane behind him.

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A stray AA shot that was sent towards the German fighter went past and struck his plane dead on. The plane was now a flaming wreck instead of potentially a salvageable one if he glided it home.

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"Dammit!"

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He swings his windscreen open, and jumps out, seemingly in moments he was past a flaming meteor and into the night sky.

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The sound if his opening his chute was a welcome relief as he drifted. Then he realized were. "Not good... either London Bridge or the Thames... I'd prefer the Thames right now with the way these winds are..."

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He looked down to make sure there weren't any obvious punctures to his life preserver. Luckily his Dad's Aetherfiber firm had also got into making such preservers for the war effort, in particular a auto-inflating model.

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Alex couldn't steer for anything though, as a gust of wind finally pushed his landing spot to the London Bridge. Or more in particular a overhanging ledge hooked him. Leaving him swinging on a slowly tearing canope, with the water below.

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"Well... this is new..."

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He could survive the fall, but he's gonna break something on this fall... unless...

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He pulls out his survival knife and starts cutting. Making a break-fall for himself with half frayed cords he tied together and looped on a support beam sticking out from the road. He purposely damaged the cords to snap once the rope straightened, but it would absorb most of his falling energy. It turned a fall he won't walk from into one he could. He dangled with what he had left and those lines were snapping slowly.

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"Herr Yankee!"

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"Oh hell..."

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Alex turned and the German pilot had landed... far better on the road with a odd design parachute, as well as pointing a odd pistol at Alex. "I told you I would put you down."

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The whine was familiar. It was a Aetherwave generator, but it was small... probably good for one or two uses but if it was weaponized...

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Alex pulled out his pistol and didn't think twice as the sound of what sounded like an electrical arc ripped through the night matched with the report of a Naval pattern M1911.

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The German pilot collapsed, a new hole between his eyes, but the German fired off a shot that struck Alex square in his face. Alex started to go unconcious before his parachute ripped completely and he fell. Spared further injury by his makeshift safety line.

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He hit the water with a splash. This whole drama was seen by police, people coming to Alex's aid or looking to stop the German, or to simply look.

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Monica had even snuck on to the bridge and hid, taking pictures. The sudden flashes of flack and anti-aircraft fire hiding her flashbulb flashes.

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Monica look down to the water and saw Alex floating by his life preserver but something looked off from her perspective as she adjusted her air-raid helmet she got from a air raid warden for saving his life a few nights prior...

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"Nice one, Aceworth." Magnum Opus hovered at a slight remove from the rapidly unraveling furball, counting planes. "I think that's - wait, where's his - "

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She looked towards the Thames, as Alex's parachute was cut. She heard the gunshot and knew, at the speed that sound traveled, that by the time it reached her ears it was already too late.

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She was off like a shot, remembering in time to slow her acceleration before she hit the water or else the shockwave would pulp everything inside. She picked up the floating form, hoisting it out of the river Thames, a quick check of the ACEWORTH nametag assuring her that it was Alex.

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She floated up onto the bridge and set herself down, looking towards the German officer. The hole in his head said everything. Magnum Opus sighed, as the sirens of the police grew and the air raid sirens receded. If only.

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Magnum Opus looked towards the sound of a camera, and locked eyes with Monica. Monica then looked towards Alex, frowning.

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Alex massaged her head, wiping blood from her nose and looking at the bewildered crowd. Some cheering for MO and Alex who had made things interesting. Particularly Alex taking some mysterious shot to the face and surviving. She took off her flight helmet and goggles and everyone gasped.

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"What? Is my face horribly disfigured? Do I look like some..."

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Her eyes widened. "Wait... my voice.."

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She felt her neck. "No if I was wounded i couldn't speak..." She felt her face. "Everything looks in place... smoother but..."

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She pulls out her signaling mirror and turns on the light on her life preserver to see, and what she saw...

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She screamed. "What did they do to me!?!"

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She felt her chest and could feel her flight suit was tight and her life preserver seemed out of place. She looked at her body turning around to MO.

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Then she heard the crowd...

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"Those damn krauts took that Yank's manhood!"

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"Damn... and still walking, what a champ! Those Yanks are something else!"

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"That plot managed to survive all that? Even getting turned into a girl?"

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"The Americans have female fighter pilots?!"

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"Man now I want to be an aviator when I graduate... forget just guys being able to do it. If she can do it so can I!"

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Alex slipped back to the railing and leaned. Many in the crowd cheering and whooping for the brave, newly minted Aviatrix. More press was taking pictures as she saw some more rough members of society beginning to attempt to loot the dead German.

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"No!"

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Alex shouted... Should she even call herself Alex anymore she thought before running over, confiscating the mysterious weapon. "No... We don't do this. British or American... we're better than that, and I should take this one back to my airbase. There's probably alot this one is carrying that can help our war efforts! Please... He may have been German... but he was a soldier and even if they don't treat our captured with decency... we can show decency just to spite them."

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She knelt next to the pilot. "That... and he was outmatched from the start." She closed his eyes. "The goal of war isn't to die for your country but to make the other poor bastard die for his..."

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The crowd quietly nodded, some praying.

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"MO... I need to look at this Wunderwaffe, and collect this parachute... it's design is new and allowed the pilot when he bailed unparalleled control..."

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She sighed. catching her breath and falling back to her butt. "Use my damaged chute as a sling for the body and to carry the confiscated stuff... I'll organize everything."

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She shook her head collecting things together. "Didn't think my career would end like this..."

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Magnum Opus looked over her three times to make sure, and each time, all her senses told her the same thing: this was definitely Alex and he was definitely a she now.

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Do they have a gender-changing gun now, or was it the same thing that happened to me? But he'd already gotten his powers...

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At the pop of a flashbulb, she locked eyes with Monica, and shook her head. "No."

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"C'mon - it's news - "

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"Monica, this isn't the time."

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"Everyone else is - "

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"Monica, I know - " I know exactly what he's going through because I went through it and the moment I tell you that I don't know what's going to happen. "I know everyone else is. Just - look, I'll talk to him."

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"Her."

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"Not unless he starts using that pronoun, no. Just - give me a second."

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Magnum Opus walked over to Alex, giving the fallen soldier the flimsy dignity of being blocked from camera view, with a shroud made from the remains of Alex's parachute. She knelt. "Forget the parachute. Alex, whatever happened to you, we will find a way to fix it. ... if that's what you want."

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Careful, Danielle. That's going to arouse suspicion.

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Alex leaned against the rail looking down at the Thames. Something about this sudden change started resonating.

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"Actually MO, right now the big questions we should save for another time. To be honest after getting blasted by whatever this is..."

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She looked at the crystal focusing lens on the odd pistol. "I should be dead."

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"This lens should have outputted enough force behind it to make my blood pressure spike and cause my head to... catastrophically burst. Trust me I've had experience with this before... first hand. It's how I became a Dynamic in the first place."

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"That... and I think there are 1000 unique circumstances that came into play tonight that lead to this change... and probably permanent."

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Alex walked over to MO, Whispering. "To be honest... something in me likes the change."

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"So how do you propose we get back to base? I wager I got... a lot of explaining to do."

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It was starting to become obvious Alex was hiding something about this change. And himself... well, herself now.

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"I can fly us both back - " Magnum Opus paused, as Monica came running up. "Uh... Monica, a little privacy...?"

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"I'll just ask one question and I'll be out of your hair." She looked Magnum Opus over from head to toe. "Every time we meet, you're dripping wet."

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Magnum Opus blushed, as Monica turned her attention back to Alex. "Look, everyone saw you. You're going to be all over the papers. You give me an exclusive interview when you're ready, and I'll give you the opportunity to take anything you say off the record. And I don't do that for too many people. You can get the story out on your terms and tell it right. And if this is as permanent as you said - "

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"Monica!"

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"I can't help it, I've got good ears. If it's permanent, I'll give you all the pointers on ladyhood you need. Any that MO here doesn't have for you, that is. What do you say?"

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Any that I don't - did I slip? Magnum Opus kept quiet, thinking. Did I not come off girly, or...

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"I can fly you both. It's not that hard. If you're up for it, Alex."

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Alex crossed her arms.

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"Well... MO wait a minute..." Alex said with a sigh.

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You know, I could play this to my advantage an keep some semblance of normalcy... I really wanna stay flying dammit... But... I really don't know what to do... not now.

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"First this is gonna be awkward keeping calling me Alex... Call me Anne... It was my Grandmother's name. Second this really isn't a time for an interview."

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Anne whispered the location to Monica. "0800 hours, have security ring me up. Until then JUST don't get killed out here, alright?"

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Anne did seem more natural, she showed genuine concern and the former Alex seemed to adapt quickly... something about it seemed odd, but more the fact Anne was not freaking out.

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Anne nodded to MO and within a few moments, they were underway back to base.

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As the wind went past Anne's re-helmeted head, MO asked; "Anne... if that is what you wanna go by... You're taking this pretty well."

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She started to hear Anne sob. Suddenly it was all answered as Anne looked up with her goggles down. "I don't know what to do... All I had was what happened on the bridge... and now... I..."

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"I'm scared.. so damn scared, MO."

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"Hey..." Magnum Opus coasted to a gentle midair stop. She gave Anne a hug. "Hey, listen. I..."

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She exhaled, sparing a glance in either direction. "I can't go into it more than this, but trust me. I know what you're going through. I really do. Because the same thing happened to me too. And, and it took a lot of adjusting, no question. I had no idea what the word 'privilege' really meant until I wasn't a man any more. But deep down? I think it's what I always wanted.

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"Now - " She held a finger up. "Now, that doesn't mean it's what you want, and if it isn't, then that's all there is to it. You can call yourself Alex if you want. You can call yourself a he if you want. You can dress how you want - that's what I do. There's no way I'm wearing an evening dress or a bikini when I'm out saving the world. Your identity is yours to define. It's kind of why I chose the name when Monica suggested it - I wanted to be the best version of myself."

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She looked around at the dissipating fog and smoke of battle. "So listen, yeah. You've been through a lot. If it's not what you want, then there has to be some solution. But the way you're acting? It... kind of reminds me of myself, and I decided that it was what I wanted. So no judgments up here, no sidelong glances, but: if you want to talk to anyone who'll understand? I think I will."

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Anne looked down at the madness below. "Yeah... I think... this was always there."

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She looked back up at MO, smiling. "At least I'm not the only one I guess..."

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As they headed for the coast, where the airbase they were stationed a was, the evidence was apparent that there was a lot lost tonight. Some craft had landed with almost useless wings, swiss cheese fuel tanks, and some fighters were smoking from fires that happened on landing.

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"Damn... seems our team got it's noses bloodied tonight."

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She shook her head as MO landed at the main Headquarters, lodged at a manor on the estate. The commander of the base runs out, and scratches his head looking at Anne.

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"My word... Alex?"

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There was a lot still there with Alex's facial features, particularly the eyes. Anne held up the wonderwaffe. "Blame this." She said, pointing to the slight burn marks on her face. "I guess I got lucky."

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"You to get in, and what is that smell?"

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Anne pointed to her tattered chute. "One dead pilot with potentially a lot of intel for our spooks to look over, and a new chute design."

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The commander smiled. "Well I guess it was worth you getting zapped. Come on in you two, we're really in triage mode right now we got a lot of injured... Wendy will handle your needs and have some coffee prepared shortly."

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He looked to Anne. "I'm... so sorry."

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"Don't worry about it... it's better than being dead, honestly." She said with a smile as he walked off talking to some lower-ranking lieutenants, some with patches over their eyes or around their heads.

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Magnum Opus set to her job in silence.

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She remarked, as she took in the suffering around her, that she was going to need to learn a bit more about paramedic training and first aid, as she lifted still-smoking husks of aircraft off of people and carried them two at a time to the infirmary.

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She also replayed the mistakes of the battle over in her head - a zig where she should have zagged, a fumbled miscalculation. A stray bullet bounced off her and didn't hit its mark but it had taken down another plane - it could have easily gone through the pilot's chest or head. So all I need to do is learn how to catch a bullet as it bounces off. Sure. Easy.

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She worked mostly in silence, offering reassurances when called for, but was never chatty to the point of time being wasted. If Anne needed to talk, they'd talk - otherwise, there was much work to do.

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Anne went over everything in her head of what happened. The drones, the pilot, losing practically everything... possibly.

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She sat on a upturned bucket as before. Wondering just what the heck was going on with her. She kept thinking but then her thoughts were just too much.

She walked up to MO as she was, herself, stuck in thought. There wasn't anyone around.

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"Penny for your thoughts?" She said, putting her bucket down. "What is bothering me is... I should be freaking out. I'm more freaked by the fact I'm not."

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She sighed, sitting down. "I'm more worried about my career, my future... you know that's a cool outfit. Very... post modern."

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"Thanks! I made it myself. Well, the ætherfiber was a gift, but the design's all mine. Took forever to nail down." Magnum Opus was reading a book on rudimentary paramedic techniques, which she set aside once Anne came over.

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"I wouldn't worry too much about your career. No one in this war will turn down dynamic assistance if they can help it. No one worth a damn, anyways. It's actually causing quite a bit of social unrest back in my country - people upset about ladies who don't know their place, and why can't they get super-housecleaning powers or something." She shrugged. "I don't think a lot of the men out here are quite ready for the fact that the women on the homefront won't be giving up their jobs so quickly once the war's over.

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"If you're not freaking out... I don't know. It may be that deep down you wanted this. Of course, wanting it and having to deal with it aren't the same thing. Or it may be that you just deal with stress well."

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Anne smiled.

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"I'm used to crisis detail." She said. "Back before I became a dynamic I was running search and rescue missions out of Pensacola. Heck it was my calm that saved wendy. The sabotage that caused me to pop almost killed the poor girl." She looked up. "That and all the times I've had to jump into the water to grab someone... I'm not even a registered rescue swimmer... but we had to make due a few times. Sometimes you gotta pull double duty."

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She looked over at MO's book. "So... now I'm a girl. And until I'm discharged... that's my duty. To figure out this stuff the Germans keep throwing at us."

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She looks at the blaster she took from the dead german pilot. The very thing that changed her. Holding what looked like a red crystal.

"You know what this is?"

Magnum Opus looked over. "This, is a crystalized node." She says, pointing between MO's eyes. "Right there is a new organ that appears when you're able to control Aetheric energy. The doctors call it a "Node". It's pretty much a extra lobe of the brain. Well... seems the Germans decided to pluck some poor Dynamic's grey matter out of them to make something like this... and this is what created the burst. Luckily the rest of the brain is needed to control what a node does, so the pistol just fires off a mass of Aetheric radiation."

She looked at her softened hands. The pistol on the ground. "See, what I'm thinking is that my "eruption" was not completely done. I still had some X-Fequency Aetheric Wave radiation still in me when the blast hit. Somehow it triggered the rest of my eruption... but... it was a healing effect, yet I know for a fact I was unhurt. Embarassed I was hanging over the Thames with a ripped parachute, but still..."

She scratched her chin. "Why would I be "restored" as a female... I asked Hennepin County General to wire me any aberrations in my medical record. In particular as a child. my childhood is a bit... complicated at it's beginning."

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"Something about a reassignment and a ambiguity...." She said, scratching her head. "...if that is the case, I was restored as a woman because... that was what was taken from me. In a way... at least for a dynamic, this is a healing ray. I also wired my Dad a little while ago. I... already told him. He has some business in London anyways with old Winston himself for the war effort here, he should be here in a day or so."

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"But..." There was tears, but tears of joy. "...he told me what I'm starting to understand right now... he was happy I was alright and still loved me, but now as his Daughter. "

She held up the pistol. "I'm sending this to the Ministry of Defense to see what else they can analyze. Although by the time anything is found out I might not have the clearances."

"I'm going to be meeting with my commanding officer the day after I meet up with my dad. Although all of my old superiors and even the Admiral were well... shocked."

"It sucks that we have to keep up appearances, but the alliance is far more important to me... Although I'll also be standing in eyeshot of what they called "VIPs"."

"Not sure what that means, but... that does get me... nervous..."

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"Speaking of nervous... can you... umm... be with me when I talk to your reporter friend?"

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"Sure, I can be there with Monica. Ah, she doesn't know what I just told you about myself, so..." She made a show of locking her lips shut and tossing an imaginary key over her shoulder. "I mean, I've been meaning to, but... well, things are complicated right now."

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The bright side is that I can see how she reacts to you and then, well... well, we can go from there.

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0815 hours, the next morning...

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Monica was let in at the checkpoint at the main entrance to the airbase. Wasn't long before she was taken to where a rested Anne was, having breakfast including a fairly large glass of milk, while reading the news paper. While her incident hadn't made the top article, it was included in the events of the latest night raid.

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Anne was wearing her issued flightsuit, the only baggy thing she had to wear, as her uniform just didn't fit well enough in the chest, and everywhere else for that matter, and Anne hadn't had a chance to go shopping... if it was easy to find any wardrobe not heavily rationed. Her dad was bringing some outfits with him, but otherwise the pale-blonde girl was happy making due with what she could find.

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MO was also enjoying breakfast next to her, wearing her costume.

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Monica entered, regarding the two women. "Do you wear that all the time?" she asked, pointing to Magnum Opus.

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"It's my costume," she said, a bit defensively.

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"You don't have casual Fridays at the justice club or whatever team you're on?"

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Magnum Opus sighed, reshaping the outfit into a red blazer, white blouse and black slacks. "I'm not in a justice club."

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"Lighten up. I'm teasing." She winked, and sat down. "Okay, Alex... or Anne, if you prefer. Let's start with the facts. Can you recount, from your perspective, the events that led to you and Magnum Opus taking to the skies and ending with you on the bridge where we all saw you? And then, the next obvious question, I guess, is where do you plan to go from here? Is this permanent?"

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"Well... We scramble from here last night to intercept a bombing raid the Germans were so kind to send here." Anne stated, plain as day, choosing not to reveal any info about the German drone program. "I got into a nice little dogfight with that German you saw on the bridge and we both ended up popping silk."

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"We ended up landing at London Bridge, me hanging over the Thames and a pissed off German pointing a god knows what at me. That... pretty much sealed it. I catch a aetheric bolt to the face and he caught a .45 round."

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"Then things went black. Well more a hazy red. Hitting the river then bobbing back up sort of woke me up a little. I didn't realize I was changed until well... I looked myself over and there I was."

She sighed. "I prefer Anne now, to be honest. This is... a permanent change. The factors going into this were one in a quadrillion... and the chances of a reversal are just as long, and fatal otherwise. This... is me."

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"I really don't know where I am going from here, but I'm not discharged yet. So... I'm doing what Uncle Sam asked me to do and that's help old England with their Kraut problem."

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She put her boots on the table. "The commander here, we talked, and if there is another raid, he'll let me go up. I guess until someone says otherwise I am the only female in the US Navy, and a officer no less."

Smiling she sipped her milk. "You know it would be funny if they kept me on. And I wonder if this qualifies me for a Purple Heart. Gonna be a pain getting a new wardrobe though."

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"You might not want to do that if you're ever wearing a skirt," said Magnum Opus, pointing to Anne's propped up boots. "You might be giving people a peek at a side of you you'd rather not show..."

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"Hmmm." Monica nodded, making her notes. "You know, I have a few favorite shops here in London. We could go and help you out there. Unless MO's promised you a trip already?"

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There was a flicker of relief on Magnum Opus' face. "Hey - people stare at me no matter what I wear. It's why I wear the outfit with the bright colors. You'd have an easier time with Monica."

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Monica nodded. "Getting back to it, is there anything you can tell us about the weapon that did this to you? It's a fairly exotic sidearm for an Axis air commander. You wouldn't expect them to draw that too often. I know it's classified top secret and I'm going to be a good little girl and abide by that, but - well, people are fascinated. The idea that gender is far more fluid than we dared think."

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"Oh, I don't mind skirts at all as long as they go to the ankles or at least fall mid-shin." Anne said, Blushing. She pulls out the modified pistol, sans-nodecrystal. "Look... I had to turn over the device's most important component as I believe it is evidence of a crime against humanity, namely the murder of a Dynamic for this to work."

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She adjusted her flight suit. "And to be honest on the home front, I'd rather be easily spotted myself, at least after I get shot down." She said with a giggle. You know, I'd like to have a nice shopping trip. I got some ration stamps. I'd just need something casual now... as walking about in a RAF flight suit would be... telling."

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Wendy walked in with a folded up air raid warden's pair of overalls. "You could wear this at least." Wendy then blushed. "Oh! I didn't see you had company Ale... I mean Anne."

She seemed sort of dissapointed. "I'll leave this here... More milk?" She said setting down the overalls and picking up the bottle of milk Anne emptied.

Anne nodded. "Please, if you can spare it."

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Wendy nodded and walked out. Once she was out of earshot, Anne resumed talking with Monica. "Sorry... Wendy... she's... not taken it very well what happened."

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"The two of you are close?" Monica made notes intently, stopping for a second to steal a glance at Magnum Opus, who blushed slightly.

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"Well, I suppose that'll be hard on you both. If you don't mind my asking, do either I or Magnum Opus - but really, with a chest like that, it'd be her - "

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"Hardy har har."

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" - do either of us still do it for you? Or did your, you know, your preferences change as well?"

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"Actually I can't comment on that... it would... threaten my potential of keeping my rank and mission. But off the record. I've always was more comfortable around men than women. Now... I feel I can be honest about it. Just note in your little blotter that it was a 100% flip and we're fine."

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"As for Wendy, I helped save her life... well, made sure the conditions we were in wouldn't kill her... I can't go into details as Dynamic weaknesses are a matter of national security both in the UK and in the US... but, needless to say it's pretty interesting what you can engineer to protect someone from the elements with what you got on hand."

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Smiling she looked over MO's outfit then Monica's. "I'm really going to look tomboyish for a while... I still got to get used to the fact my whole body type changed. Although I probably fit in a cockpit better."

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"Then again, I should start thinking of a way to hide my identity and be a combat flier if I do end up on the sidelines... I've had a few ideas on aircraft designs and suits a pilot could wear, and we're developing quite a junkyard... Strictly off the record, of course."

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Wendy came back with another bottle of milk. "Mind if I take that gun, the Ministry of Defense wants to take a look."

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"Ah sure." Anne hands it off and Wendy nods to the three women before running off again.

"So... anything else?"

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Monica shook her head, then slid her notebook with shordhand descriptions of their conversation over to Anne. "Like I said. Anything you want to take off the record, I'll do it. Anything relating to your story, of course..."

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Magnum Opus looked over Anne's shoulder at the notes. "You found another crashed drone?"

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"They're hauling it off to ACE Base Alpha as we speak. The people on the boat will have a look at it."

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"Hmmm." MO sat back in her chair, thinking.

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"Ace Base Alpha huh? What is that?" Anne asked, curious.

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"ACE Base Alpha's also known as ACE Base Atlantic. It's a refitted aircraft carrier out in the Atlantic. Coordinates ACE - the Allied Coalition of Extranormals - in the Atlantic theater of war." Monica shrugged. "I'm banned from the boat for life."

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"You did sneak on board."

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"I did have a good reason to." She smiled. "It's okay, I've got a source on the inside. No, I'm not telling you who."

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That's good because I'd like to not get banned from the boat too. "Let me know what you find out. I'm curious about the maker of these... but, that is another story. Anne's had a long day. Did you two want to go shopping?"

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"You sure you can't come? There's a Frederick's that's still open." Monica arched an eyebrow, then broke out laughing as Magnum Opus blushed. "I'm teasing. I don't think they sell any lacy things in your size, anyways... pity."

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Anne drummed her fingers on the table. "Oh, the long day was yesterday." She says, finishing her scrambled eggs as she placed them on her last piece of toast. "Although the shopping trip would be... a welcome change."

Anne quirked her eyebrow. "Also, Monica, how did you get your hands on the survival gear needed to make such a trip? I doubt you just flew there... Ah hell, I still got clearances I can read the intel, seeing a civilian violate the security of a military vessel like that is troublesome."

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She scratched her chin... "You know... perhaps something can be arranged where I can help with the drone situation, MO." She said, standing up with her dishes. "I think someone with my expertise would be quite welcome... that and I have carrier certification, so my arriving there won't be an issue... I'm sure carrying me around is bothersome."

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She sighed. "I am really going to be causing a stir tomorrow... so today... fun! Let's go shopping and support the businesses around here. Another thumb in old Adolph's eye!" She giggled.

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Monica laughed. "Trade secrets, Anne. I wouldn't be much of a reporter if I gave them all away."

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"I actually don't work on board the boat, Anne," added Magnum Opus. "If they request my presence I'll come flying in - the Commander and I worked out a distress code to broadcast - but I'm not officially military. They don't know my real name - "

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Monica coughed.

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"... and when I'm ready, you will. You might wind up with a better security clearance than I have, honestly. I'm going to head out, if that's okay. Leave you both to the joys of shopping."

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Anne nodded. She could use some fun today. "Alright, Monica... where to first?"

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The next day There was alot of conversation before Anne walked in. About protocol, and what was right for Anne now that the change has happened. Assessing what would be lost if Anne was medically discharged, or what sort of things they could do that could work and be acceptable. Winston Churchill and FDR were both quite motivated in this conversation as the fact Anne's change has hit the public's interest. Many seeing Alex/Anne as a victim of Nazi aggression. Anne's father, Alex Sr... well now just Alex sat on the same meeting with different command team of ACE Atlantic. Anne walked in with her full officer's uniform. She found a pencil-skirt that was long enough to be regulation that was the same color as what was needed for her dress uniform. When she walked in seeing the secret VIPs she stood at attention, saluting. "Sir... Lieutenant Commander Anne Aceworth, reporting as ordered."

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Her accepting her new name took most at the table by surprise. "Sit down, Lieutenant." A officer from the US Navy asked, as Anne sat down, taking off her cover and setting it on her lap.

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"I suppose you are aware of why you are here, Miss Aceworth?" Prime Minister Churchill asked, his trademark cigar in his mouth.

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"Yes... this is to assess what my future is with the military, my security clearances, or even if I can keep flying, Sir." President Roosevelt, in his wheelchair nodded. "Indeed, my dear. This is... a... unprecedented turn of events. We have conversed about this, and we have considered this a wound earned in battle so indeed, you have earned a Purple Heart. Also since that last aircraft you shot down was the one you needed to be called an Ace... you are the first female ace on the British/US side... the only one." Anne blushed. "That... isn't why I fight though." "Then why is it?" "When reading my intel on the Nazi regime, and seeing what they have done to certain Dynamics, in particular that weapon that caused my transformation, I realized what we are fighting. These Nazis are demons, sir. they have no consideration to the sanctity of life nor the ethics and morals of a just society. I fight to reduce the suffering here, and... well depending on how things go here I would like to continue that duty." "I am afraid..." An admiral leaned forward into the light. "...it's not that easy, Lieutenant. There is a reason why I still call you Lieutenant. I've already put things into motion to indeed keep you in the Navy. You are a brilliant, fantastic even, asset to our combat aviation program. But... there is our men we have to think of..." Anne sighed, downcast. "Our plan, approved by the ACE command is as follows. You will keep our commission in the US Navy, and be transferred to now to ACE Atlantic. your duties will be transferred from the Navy's research department to ACE's Technological Investigation unit. For your service, you will be promoted to the rank of Commander, although and this is highly likely, you're not going to much higher."

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Anne looked up, happy. "So... I'm still a combat pilot?" The officers cleared their throats. "Unfortunately... publicly... no. You are being placed in command of shuttling test aircraft to and from ACE Atlanti, as well as the development of said aircraft. Publicly, you're now our top test pilot." "I see..." "Confidentially... you are now under orders if you fly in combat, you must hide your identity to allow complete anonymity. We in Naval Intelligence will ensure that the identity you adopt will be recognized by any allied forces in this conflict. A Dynamic intelligene agent." Anne was exited. "I have just the thing I've been working with my dad for something like that!!!"

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"That's good, spare the details... I'm sure it'll work out great. But needless to say this puts us at... a bit of a conundrum. We have a Female now in our ranks, you are going to be more scrutinized, analyzed, and put to a standard higher than is probably fair."

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The admiral slides forward two documents. "The forms on the left are your Medical Discharge papers, if you sign these you're officially discharged, your duties in this war over with. While I am sure you know what you are about to be put through, I figured this option should be there. This will be open at any time, and if we feel it is necessary we can do this involuntarily. I want you to know, Commander, that this is at our leisure. Not yours." Anne nodded. "Understood, Sir." "The form on the right is your re-assignment papers. These also have been signed off on. you agree to go through with this, this is your new assignment. Of course you will have to make arrangements for your alternate identity, and ACE Atlantic will be responsible for accommodating your other identity. I fought to not have you Medically Discharged. You have served us with distinction and to have your career end like that didn't seem fair, Commander."

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Anne nodded. "Understood, Sir." "Then, make your choice."

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Anne's hands trembled as she looked at her discharge papers... she could sign off... she was a Ace now, no matter what she chose. That could be important if the US needed her to tour to drum up support to fight the Krauts... but in the back of her mind was that hunger to keep fighting. Even with having to keep up a charade. She signs her transfer orders. "Very well, we will see you on ACE Atlantic in a week... Commander Aceworth." the admiral and his group stand up, and Anne stands with her cover under arm, accepting a handshake. "Still as strong as your handshake was when I first knew you as Alex... god speed."

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After the handshake, Anne saluted. "Thank you, Sir."

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The officers leave, followed by Winston Churchill smiling. "My lady, something to remember... something another female dynamic told me at one time before she died. "If you're goin' through hell... keep goin'." she said... bit inspirational."

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"What was her name, sir?"

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"June."

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"She had her head in the right place."

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"No, she didn't. but you do. Good luck." Winston said before leaving. FDR wheeled up to Anne, assisted by a secret service agent, her father next to him. "So... what do you propose you will use for your dramatis personae, Anne?" "Well, my Dad and I have a suit we've been whipping up for aviators operating in extreme high altitudes or over cold water. I think that has enough to it with the design where I can hide who I am pretty effectively."

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Her dad nods. "Yeah! I actually got the Mark 1 just about done!"

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Anne smiled. "Great! I'll just need something to wear under it so that I can hide my face decently well."

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"I've got a new Aetherfiber kit you can use... just fabricated it today and have it with me in addition to the Mark 1."

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Anne looked quite exited. "Well... I think we got a plan... does the Mark 1 have that color shift treatment I came up with? I'll need it."

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"Yep... all the extras just for you when you test it." Anne clapped her hands together. "Well sir..." she said, looking to the President. "I think I got a lot to prepare for now."

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President Roosevelt nodded. "Well as my colleague said, good luck."

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Anne nodded as he left.

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Once he was out of earshot Anne cheered, hugging her Father. "Still in the game Dad!"

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Alex smiled, ruffling her hair. "It's going to be a rougher road for you, Anne."

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"I know. but we both didn't join the Navy for a easy life, didn't we?"

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"Nope, we didn't." Alex said, running his fingers though his balding, greying hair. "I think your mom always wanted a daughter than a son..." Alex said, looking a bit crestfallen. "Don't worry about it, Dad... it's all right now."

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They hugged in the briefing room, knowing their lives had become a bit more interesting.

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Epilogue One

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"You've been staring at that piece of paper for a full minute, Danielle. That's fifty-five seconds longer than you usually do."

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. Everything checks out on Anne Aceworth, sir. I was just… lost in thought."

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"Mmmm." Commander Pine reclined at his desk, regarding his personal assistant. "As chief of the boat, I order you to tell me what thoughts you're lost in."

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"A boy one minute and a girl the next," said Danielle, cautiously.

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"Yes. Chose the new name right away. Took it very much in stride, if this story by my daughter is to be believed." The commander picked up the copy of the Los Angeles Times he had on his desk. "Does that bother you?"

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"No, sir. Does it bother you?"

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"I'm old fashioned." He sighed. "I remember a time before dynamics, before everything was so… fluid. I suppose this is just another thing I'm going to have to get used to, along with flying people in capes and their underwear. We need her expertise, regardless. We get a lot of strange aethertech coming through here."

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"We do."

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"But I don't think I'll ever be entirely comfortable with it, no. I had to remind myself to call her a 'her' twice already. Does it bother you?"

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"Not really. I mean - that's not what bothers me. Commander, why is she the highest ranking woman on the boat?"

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Commander Pine shifted slightly. "If you're implying that I don't value the contributions of the women on this ship…"

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"I'm not. I apologize if I sounded like I did." Danielle adjusted her glasses. "But I can't help but wonder: if Alex had become Anne years ago, would she be a Commander right now? Could you sincerely see that?"

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Pine sighed. "What would you have me do, Danielle? I don't run the entire armed forces for every country in the Allies. I keep an eye out for talent - which she has, and which you have - and that's as well as I can do."

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Danielle bit her tongue, suddenly tired - not physically tired, she didn't get tired easily any more - but tired of an argument she didn't know how to win just yet. "I'm not upset with you, sir. I'm just upset with all of it. It's a dull ache by now."

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"Relax. I outrank her. She's not giving you any trouble on my watch. I'd be lost without you."

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Right. Yeah. Think I might have to steer clear of Commander Aceworth for a bit, until I'm sure she can't detect dynamics. "Understood, sir. I'll finish the rest of - " Danielle paused, holding up a request from the press pool.

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"I see you found it."

"Your daughter's coming here? I thought she was - you told me to use the words 'lifetime ban.' Even had me underline it."

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"Out of the blue, yesterday, she told me that she wanted to try out a few months on the boat. Said she'd let us vet everything she wrote personally. She'd even accept security on her quarters until she proved herself. Something's clearly changed. I'm going to give her another chance."

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"I see." Danielle shuffled a few more papers and handed them over. "I'm going to go sort out that accounting error with the pay stubs."

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"Good girl. Dismissed, Danielle."

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Danielle saluted, and exited. She walked down the corridor, lost in thought. Something's changed? What's changed? What… Anne.

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Alex is now Anne, Anne is now here, and Monica suddenly wants to be here.

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Danielle slowed to a stop, leaning up against a bulkhead, turning the black thought over in her head. She personally interviewed Anne and let the Army vet it. Just to get a chance to be close. She took her shopping and - and I turned her down.

,,

No. That's not - did I play too hard to get? Did I not trust her? Or is this just what she does? What exactly do we have? I…

,,

I will not cry.

,,

I'm just overreacting. I'm not jealous. Monica seemed fine the last time we met. She's not hooking up with Anne or…

,,

I will not cry.

,,

If there's nothing between us then that's that. It's wrong of me to be upset.

,,

I will not cry.

,,

Danielle kept her promise to herself until she reached her quarters.

,,

* * *

,,

Epilogue Two

,,

"An aetheric telegram, cross-Atlantic? That's a lot of money, Miss Pine. You sure?"

,,

Monica nodded. "He really came through for me. He should know that I won't be filing a story for a while."

,,

The telegraph operator nodded, and Monica dictated the letter to her editor, thanking her for the opportunities thus far, promising that she'd return and that she wasn't about to become a stenographer for the military, and incidentally, thanks for sending that transcription of that newspaper article she needed.

,,

She paid the fee, and left the office, sitting down on the bench, exhaling. She looked towards what she imagined the general direction of ACE Base Atlantic to be. A stenographer. Me.

,,

Well, I made my bed. Might as well lie in it.

,,

She closed her eyes, and imagined the face of the mysterious nova called Magnum Opus, blushing fiercely after Monica had kissed her. That face had stayed with her for months. It was perfect. All of her was perfect.

,,

She saw the reports of how tirelessly Magnum Opus worked, saving lives night and day, fighting Nazi dogfighters with honor and respect - even that incident where she'd stood up to an allied dynamic who'd gotten far too zealous in his treatment of prisoners. Monica had taught herself to be cynical and mistrusting of power, and she was. But she'd also taught herself to see the facts first and the story second, and the facts were that if the memo was "power corrupts," Magnum Opus had been left off the list.

,,

But mostly, Monica remembered the sound of her voice as she shouted Monica's name and flew in to save her from the crumbling ice.

,,

She also remembered the face of Danielle, a little shy and unassuming for her own good, but every bit as good at her job as Monica was at hers, fighting her own battles for justice on the inside, earning her position with Commander Pine every day, with all the small bureaucratic victories that made the Army work - even if too much of the credit didn't go to her. She remembered how grateful Danielle was after Monica had saved her… and how she hadn't been afraid.

,,

In the back of her head, Monica always wondered why she wasn't frightened in that ship with that man. And Monica had always wondered how Magnum Opus knew her name enough to shout it.

,,

Then Monica had observed Alex adjusting to being Anne - and more, had observed Mangum Opus' reaction to Anne, to the questions she'd posed.

,,

Then Monica had asked for a list of those confirmed missing or dead in the attack on Calgary by Zenith. She'd had it sent by aetheric telegram.

,,

Then, after reading the list, Monica had taken a long walk through the streets of London, piecing it all together, and trying to figure out what she'd felt.

,,

On the list of the missing, presumed dead: Daniel Finn. Magnum Opus had just the faintest trace of a Canadian accent. She'd shouted Monica's name, and the only person Monica had run into that week that worked on the boat was… well, Danielle Waters.

,,

At first, Monica couldn't believe it. Daniel Finn is Danielle Waters and Danielle Waters is Magnum Opus. The thought was ridiculous… but really, no more ridiculous than turning into a woman after being hit with aetheric rays, which she'd seen happen.

,,

Then Monica was angry. She's been keeping this from me for months. Me and 'Danielle' talked several times! How could she keep this from me?

,,

Then Monica had stopped, and asked herself if she'd really done a lot to endear herself as trustworthy, between breaking into where Danielle worked and asking some uncomfortable questions. She hadn't even been very polite towards Anne, seeing her as a news item first and a woman second - and Monica realized that all the while she'd been watching how Magnum Opus reacted to her, she in turn was watching Monica.

,,

Did I say something that came off as insulting towards her, when I was talking about Anne?

,,

Then as the sun rose, Monica made a decision, then made a few phone calls. In a few hours, she'd be on a steamer heading to the boat, and there she'd learn to say "yes, sir," a lot and let them sniff over her reports, and she'd work with the team... and part of that team was Danielle.

,,

And Monica would watch Danielle very, very closely, and someday - well, someday, everything willing, she'd pull Danielle aside, and she'd take those adorable little glasses off her nose, and whisper it in her ear…

,,

And then everything would change.

,,

But really, Monica thought, as she thought of Anne - who wasn't half a bad catch herself, if only she still liked girls - really, change is all there is.

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