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Einherjar

DR: Assessing Assets [COMPLETE]

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October 5th, 2019

"Nant Ddu?"  Kyria asked over the headset as she looked at the brochure and at the map on the back, pronouncing the name of the place to rhyme with 'aunt do'.  Steve was likewise going over his briefing package, which included the same colorful brochure advertising the getaway spot and it's facilities.

"Close."  Colonel Hatcher called back.  "Two d's together in Welsh is pronounced as 'th', and the 'a' sound is a bit flatter on the first word, rhymes with 'pant'."  The reason they were speaking loudly, even over headsets, was due to to the fact they were sitting in the belly of a huge twin-rotored Chinook as it thundered its way across the countryside.  Further back in the compartment were two dozen members of the SAS and some large pieces of scientific-looking equipment.  "Whitehall paid off the owners and the staff are getting paid leave - so we have the run of the place.  The Beacons are officially an emergency zone right now - all civilians have been gently ushered away and we've got some Terries maintaining the perimeter."

"It has a spa.  With a pool, jacuzzi, gym... ooh, 32-carat gold body wraps!"  Kyria nudged Steve.  The Colonel smiled slightly as Steve shrugged.

"It'll do.  I mean, it's not up to the high standards I've become accustomed to."  deadpanned a man who'd slept aboard tight quarters on naval warships, shared a bunkroom with twenty other snoring Marines, and on at least one occasion fallen asleep in a shallow cave in the middle of the Afghan highlands.  "I'll make do, though."

"Sadly, the spa services will be limited."  Colonel Hatcher said dryly.  "We will have use of the pool and other amenities, though.  I'm fairly certain that administering gold body wraps is not a skill currently in demand in the 22nd, or indeed the Territorials."

"So other than 22nd and the Terrys, who can we expect on the ground?"  Steve asked as he flipped through the package.

"The best minds we were able to scrape together."  Hatcher acknowledged.  "Leaders in the fields - medical doctors, neurologists, biochemists, along with physicists, head-shrinkers and, of course, a lot of civil servants to write reports on the reports that are being written."  His tone was even drier at the last statement.  "All very useful and necessary, I am sure.  Kyria, just a word for you since Colour Sergeant Nord knows this already - the civvies cannot order you around.  God knows they will try, but they cannot.  Technically, and please understand this is a formality for your protection, you are attached under my oversight.  Keep that in mind, don't lose your rag with some pompous egghead and throw him over the Fan."  The Colonel smiled at her.  "Just play along with any reasonable request, if you would."

"I'll try." she said with an air of doubt as to whether she could, then shot him a winsome smile in return.  He chuckled and sat back in his seat, and Kyria leaned against Steve's comforting bulk and studied the briefing package.  The release of her hospital records combined with a PET scan at the base had revealed that Kyria's brain was, quite literally, a new one.  Though she had knowledge of a lot of basic things, she had no memories, even suppressed or hidden, to provide emotional context for that knowledge.  This likely explained her mercurial, tempestuous nature as well as her emotional openness.  The Storm had taken a woman in a coma and turned her into a brand new woman, and though Kyria did wonder who she had been before, she was more interested in who she was going to be next.  Or now.

Steve appeared less changed, at least physically, so far as the tests over the last two weeks had determined.  His blood work, like Kyria's, showed elevated compounds of various hormones and other elements not yet fully quantified.  New cellular structures were apparent, but their purpose was unknown yet - hence the commandeering of a comfortable remote getaway spot to allow the leading minds in their fields to poke and prod the two enhanced people.  An excellent physical specimen before the Storm, they hadn't really been able to test the limits of his changes in the quarantine bubble - though this morning he had celebrated freedom from the bubble by going for a long run with the Hereford base lads - and running them into the ground, maintaining a sprinting pace without slowing or tiring for the full ten mile run.  Soldiers being soldiers, the PT sergeant had told him to run it again for being a smart-arse, which he did.  At least by the end of the second run of the course he had worked up a healthy sweat and was breathing hard.

Emotionally and mentally, he was much the same.  A little sharper, perhaps.  He was aware of an increase in his sensory acuity and that was roughly it.  He didn't feel unstable, or any different from the stoic self he had always been.  Which was a good thing - Kyria clung to that solidity over the endless days in quarantine, drawing some strength from the way he just endured, with good humor, their predicament when there were times she wanted to kick out the airlock door and scream.  Though their initial physical attraction to one another had not diminished in the slightest, they had at least mastered the art of not trashing the house in their frequent liaisons.  In addition, they just enjoyed each others company, moving from just the affectionate teasing and verbal sparring of their earlier days to a deeper level of appreciation.  There was still a lot of the teasing and verbal sparring, mind you.  It was just not the whole cloth of their relationship.

There was another reason for their advanced assessment being carried out in the middle of a large mountainous national park, too.  Steve's other ability, namely being able to control and harness the weather, was not something anyone wanted experimentation on whilst he was on a base near a town.  That, as much as the pair's more physical gifts, needed to be assessed, and quickly.  How great was his scope?  How fine was his control?  Was the weather a blunt instrument in his hands, or could he only harness existing conditions?  And finally, perhaps most worryingly: if he used his gifts, would it upset weather patterns elsewhere or was there some built in limiter on the knock-on effect?

As the Chinook started its descent, Steve glanced out of the window at the fancy-looking buildings below and the small crowd of uniformed and non-uniformed people who were gathering at the edge of the landing field.  Well, he supposed, they were going to find out.

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Good training and the warning they'd gotten before the 'copter landed kept the soldiers moving on their assigned tasks, but few could keep from openly staring at the pair. Kyria received the lion's share of heated gazes while the response to Steve was one of complete hero worship by those lucky enough to actually get to be near him. Amongst the soldiers heroism certainly carried more weight than just the inhuman beauty of the mercurial red squirrel, as Steve had dubbed her. 

A steel-haired woman in warm pants and a plush sweater stepped forward; she held a hand out to the pair and introduced herself: "Dr. Grace Jordan. I'm leading the team out here and will be coordinating the tests we're doing here."

"Doctor."  Steve said formally as he took her hand for a brief shake.  Though a little discomfited by the attention and plainly unused to celebrity, the large Marine handled it well, his demeanour businesslike and focused.  He missed being 'one of the lads', though the relaxed authoritative manner the Colonel displayed towards him, as well as the PT instructor's humorous 'punishment' were somewhat reassuring that he was still considered a soldier, at least.  It had only hit him recently how important that was to his sense of self. He gestured to the slender beauty beside him as the handshake ended. "This is Kyria." he said by way of polite introduction.

Dr. Jordan gave Kyria a clinical once-over, impressing Colonel Hatcher with her ability to completely ignore Kyria's heightened appearance. The woman nodded to her and then gestured over to the Nant Ddu Lodge. "We have the Lodge and the soldiers are over in the campgrounds. There's a bedroom put aside for you in the Lodge if you don't mind that we'll all be discussing the two of you and your abilities over breakfast like coffee-fueled high-schoolers with a new crush. Otherwise, the soldiers are bunking in at the Coed Owen Bunkhouse." 

Her expression was bland as she offered their choices, but the two could feel the keen intellect behind her warm brown eyes. Even this was a data-point to be collected and added to their files. Kyria arched a brow at Steve, a small smirk on lips.

"Well..."  Steve collected his thoughts, wondering what an 'Einherjar' was (it was familiar, but he couldn't remember what it meant)  and why someone had labelled him that. Unless he was the 'Valkyrie', but even with his hazy grasp on Norse mythology he was pretty sure that was Kyria.  It even kind of fit, name-wise.

"I'm tougher.  More tireless, less prone to fatigue and pain.  It seems to take a scalpel and a bit of pushing to get through my skin."  He reported, thinking as he spoke. "The toughness isn't just skin deep, either.  Going by the evidence, I think it goes all the way to the bones and internal organs."  The evidence was the fact that Kyria's grip was, in the throes of climax, sufficient to splinter wood and bend metal, and yet her legs squeezing around his midsection did not pulp his internals or bruise him.  He declined to explain the source of that finding, though.

"Also sharper.  My senses are all better.  My manual dexterity and balance are better, as is my running speed.  I don't know if I could race a car on a flat surface, but I was able to outrun the SAS troopers at morning PT."  He took a deep breath as he came to the last 'detail'. "I can manipulate the weather. Not sure how, or to what extent.  During the fight with the ice giant I was able to fly - rudimentarily - though manipulating the wind. I also called down lightning, like I was taking energy from the Storm and hitting the thing with it.  Finally I was able to cause a tornado, with updrafts strong enough to lift the thing from the ground so Kyria and I could slam it back down and shatter it."

"The other stuff, it's pretty straightforward, at least to me.  The only ability I've not had cause to use while in quarantine was the weather control."  he looked over the banks of screens, then back at the Doctor. "Guess that's what we're here for today?"

She nodded. "That's what the array of monitors on the peaks are for." She quirked a brow at Kyria, waiting for the flame-haired woman to give her own self-report. 

"I can fly," she said with an uncomfortable shrug. It was strange to Steve - he'd not actually seen her uncomfortable before. Bored, horned, manic, and utterly stir crazy, but never self-conscious before. "I break things easily." Another uneasy shrug and she finished with, "That's it, as far as I know, as far as powers."

Dr. Jordan kept her eyes on the woman for a few beats longer, impassive expression giving no impression of the reason for the pause. "Alright," she finally said, "on to the tests, then. The tests they did in quarantine gave us a physiological baseline, so this set is meant to be of your more energetic expressions, shall we say. Kyria, we would like to take some footage and readings of you flying first. Then, Mr. Nord, we would like to see your control of the weather. Depending on how that goes, we may ask for examples of your lightning control and tornado creation, but we'll be going a bit slowly to make sure we're not starting a heatwave in London or somesuch. Understood?"

The two nodded. Kyria was fitted with an armband that would measure heart-rate, body temperature and surely a dozen other things, and then sent to fly up and down the road at varying heights and speeds for the next hour. She was calm and focused, something Steve hadn't been sure she could do for extended periods of time, but her smile was missing, too. Finally she touched back down after the last "run;" she was waved to chair while the crew of scientists finished collating data and printing off summaries to tuck into the "Valkyrie" file. 

Dr. Jordan had fitted Steve with another armband during Kyria's last run; now she motioned to the sky. "Mr. Nord, call us a storm, please."

He nodded at the doctor, then excused himself for a moment and went to crouch by Kyria's chair, his expression one of concern.  He knew there was more to her than her strength and flying - and knew that she knew that too. But he'd kept quiet on the matter, figuring that it wasn't his choice what to say about Kyria abilities unless ordered to give a report on what he knew - at which point he knew he'd find his loyalties tested.  Whatever reason she'd had for concealment, she was a private citizen and therefore had the right to do so.

"You okay, love?"  he asked quietly, pitching his voice below the hum and chatter of the scientists and their radios as they told the various listening posts to stand by.  He cupped her cheek in his palm, reassured when she nestled against his touch and met his eyes. It wasn't fair, he realized, for her to be put through this rigmarole.  He had signed up for - well, not this, but to be considered subject to the Crown and it's duly appointed officers. "You just relax now, duck. You don't have to do anything else unless you want to."  He told her calmly. "We'll go for a walk once I've given the eggheads plenty of numbers to crunch, right?"

She gave him a little smile, turning her head and kissing his palm.  Whatever was causing her smile to vanish was still there, he saw, but her spirits seemed somewhat buoyed.

"Mr Nord?"  Dr. Jordan called.  "We're ready for the test now."  She was polite enough, but the subtext was clear.  'Time to perform'. Steve gave Kyria a solemn wink and straightened up, turning to regard the scientists with eyes that glowed a steady electric blue.

"Mr Nord is my dad, Doc."  he said as he moved towards the entrance to the pavilion.  Sparks started to dance between his teeth as he spoke, lightning crawling across his exposed arms as he shucked his fleece jersey, revealing a t-shirt beneath.  From overhead, there was a rumble that came in time with his words. Steve was annoyed - not for himself but for Kyria. They had bonded in more than one way over the last week or two, and he was so used to her smile that it's absence seemed to indicate a wrongness in the world.  "It's Colour Sergeant Nord." his voice rumbled - or was it the thunder overhead speaking? The scientists looked at him, at the lightning now coruscating over his form as he strode out of the pavilion, then looked at their monitors.

The storm rolled in from all points of the compass, the leading edges surging over the monitoring posts.  Satellite imaging saw the Brecon National Park and a large part of Wales and the West Midlands quickly become covered in thick impenetrable cloud.  Standing on the edge of the reservoir, wreathed in lightning and looking up at the sky, Steve could feel the clouds struggling, like horses tugging futilely at reins being held by a giant - him.  He could feel the winds driving the clouds whipping at the surface of the reservoir, causing white foam to form in tiny crests.

It felt good.  He laughed, the sound echoed by a crash of thunder from overheard, and raised a hand to the sky as if bidding the clouds to halt their roiling, surging struggle.  They did, building up into layers as the outlying area of the stormfront shrank, contracting so that just the National Park now lay under thick, slow-moving thunderclouds.

They wanted a storm.  He narrowed his incandescent blue eyes.

The next roll of thunder split the sky as the ripping tear of lightning danced in the clouds so brightly that even inside the pavilion the colour was leached from everything for a second.  The winds struck next, howling down the mountain passes, whipping the surface of the reservoir into a frenzy and whistling eerily as it made the pavilion's guy-ropes hum. Then came the rains, a torrent driven by gale-force winds strong enough to make grown men stagger and seek shelter.

But not him.  The winds ruffled his hair and clothing, but did not cause him to stagger.  The rain soaked him, but he did not care, nor did the drops sting on his face.  He felt the storm leap and bound, obedient to his wishes, and knew that if he wished he could blow the pavilion away, cause lightning to dance among the peaks of the Beacons, uproot trees and topple buildings...  If he wished. He laughed again, sparks jumping from his tongue to his teeth, and the thunder crashed once more like the percussion of an angry god. He wryly wondered if the scientists were getting the data they needed.

Inside the tent there was a mad scramble to lower the clear plastic walls as the storm came in quick and heavy. They'd prepared for something like this, but actually experiencing had the room buzzing with amazed excitement; as the storm kept intensifying the chatter died down as they by turns watched readouts or stared at the monitors showing the sheer size of the weather alteration. Even Dr. Jordan finally succumbed to frighten awe, crossing herself and muttering, "Good Lord, that's covering half the country." 

Kyria chuckled at that and pushed open the tent walls at a corner. She pushed through the wind and wet, grinning now at the effort he had to put into just walking forward. When she finally made it to him she threw her arms around him and clung to him; she laid her cheek against his so she could speak directly into his ear - it was the only way to be heard over the roar of thunder and rain. "That all you have, 'Einherjar'?" she teased, back to the Kyria he'd known for the past two weeks. She glanced back at the pavilion where Dr. Jordan was peering out with a dozen people crowded behind her. "She said it was only half the island."

"Oh, is that how it is?"  he laughed, the thunder rumbling in sympathetic amusement.  "Considered going all-out, but I contracted the storm to just fairly local right now - don't want to ground air traffic or cause accidents.  This-"  he gestured at the sky.  "Is the dial set to 'four'."  He glanced at the tent, looping an arm around Kyria and holding her close, kissing her rain-soaked cheek.  She giggled and looped her strong little arms around his neck.

"More!"  she laughed.

"Alright.  Let's see what we can do..."  Steve's eyes flickered, the storm abating suddenly, the clouds ceasing their dark roiling motion.  The rain continued to fall, but as more of a steady downpour without the driving winds which, in turn, slackened to a drizzle.  The air grew cooler, causing the scientists to huddle in their fleeces and parkas and Kyria to press tightly against Steve - as the mist began to rise, coalescing and thickening, becoming a fog that deadened sound.  The temperature dropped further, creating freezing fog, ice crystals starting to form on the wet pavilions, sparkling on the stonework of the reservoir and creating tiny diamonds on Kyria's lashes.

The sensors monitoring Steve's energies registered a surge, a strain of his energy matrices as the radiation he was tapping into spiked along with the power output.  He felt the strain, but pushed on through it as if it were an exercise burn or crippling fatigue -something to be overcome through force of will.
.
The scientists watched their instruments, unable to see more than a dim flickering light of Colour Sergeant Nord's aura outside.  Satellite imagery showed the fogbank roiling outward from the Brecon Park at speed, but also rising in other places and likewise spreading like ink dropped into water.

"London.  Plymouth.  Aberdeen."  One scientist pointed where other fogbanks were rising.  "Southampton, Dover.  It's moving out across the Channel."  There was a shocked silence as they watched the British Isles become blotted out in freezing fog on the thermal imagery.  "Ireland is covered.  The Orkneys and Shetland islands.  Jersey.  Holy shit.  The lower edge is brushing the French coast."

"Chatter from DoT.  All aircraft have been grounded across Europe."  another scientist reported, holding a phone to his ear.  "Governments are issuing emergency broadcasts to all drivers and shutting down motorways.  The media is going berserk."

"Calais now, heading into the continental mainland."  The satellite technician said, fascinated by the expanding circle on his display.  "The fog is heading out over the North Sea and the Atlantic."

"Doctor, perhaps it is a good time to abort the test?"  suggested a civil servant, his face pale.  "A case could be made that Colour Sergeant Nord is invading sovereign French territory."

Dr. Jordan snorted and shrugged. "There are no laws governing the movement of weather," she pointed out. "Welcome to a new world. Let's see how far he can push this before the politicians write those laws."

Colonel Hatcher narrowed his eyes at Jordan. "International incident isn't the only concern here, doctor. That's dangerous weather out there. People could get injured or die. The panic from the public is going to be real and justified. He can stretch his powers after we've posted a general warning and coordinated with any countries that are likely to be affected by it. At this point, we don't know if he's just knocked the entire planet's weather system out of whack. Shut it down."

The doctor gestured to the tent wall, indicating the fog. "You're welcome to go tell him to stop. I'd recommend locating some infrared goggles first." She snorted at his deadpan look. "Didn't bring any, eh? Well, pity - next time, then. We're at his mercy right now. I would get used to it, that's functionally going to be the truth from now, if he's an indication of what the affected people can do."

"A bit of good news," a timid meteorologist cut in, knowing Dr. Jordan enough by reputation to want to diffuse the confrontation. "Everywhere the storm wasn't, the weather didn't react. The way it would next to a supercell like that. We should have seen some reactions on the satellites - other clouds getting pushed around, for one. There's been nothing. It's like to the planet, the storm doesn't actually exist."

"Fog?"  Kyria peered at the dim shape of her storm god, aware that even hugging him and feeling his body's warmth could not completely ameliorate the odd sensation of not being able to see him clearly.  Even her words came forth flat in the oppressive blanket of swirling vapour.

"Freezing fog."  Einherjar (and didn't that name seem somehow more appropriate to her now) glanced down at her, his eyes twin orbs of electric blue radiance that matched the dance of ghostly lightning in his aura that didn't seem to hurt her as she embraced him.  "A huge bank of it, rolling over the world. Extending thousands of kilometers in every direction. It will be covering Europe, reaching most of the way to Moscow. It will be in North Africa. It will be coming close to the United States' east coast."  His deep voice seemed to carry through the fog, thrumming through their touching forms. "I could blanket the world in it. Or a polar storm. Or a hurricane, or something like the Storm that made me this way..."

He raised a hand and waved it abruptly - and the fog lifted with such suddenness that the radiance of unfiltered daylight was momentarily dazzling.  One moment a stifling, freezing blanket of mist, the next moment tattered wisps remained that dissipated before their very eyes.

"This is way too much power for a man to have."  Steve breathed, the glow of his eyes subsiding and the flicker of his aura fading out.  The god receded, the man emerged. He blinked, looking at Kyria, then back at the tent. "Shit, this is too much power for anyone to have."

Colonel Hatcher stepped outside the tent, looking fit to chew nails. His expression shifted into something more neutral when he took in Steve's contemplative look. "Sergeant," he said, his tone serious, "no more testing that particular power today. In fact, I think we're done completely for the day. Why don't the two of you head back to Nant Ddu and spend the evening in the spa? There isn't staff, but the pool and hot tub are available." 

He motioned the two of them to one of the Humvee's that had brought them there and gestured at a few soldiers to accompany them back. It might have been phrased as a suggestion, but Steve knew an order when heard one.

"Sir." he saluted, one arm still around Kyria, and headed for the jeep.  Hatcher watched them go, a considering look in his eyes, then turned back to regard Dr. Jordan as she emerged from the tent, looking askance at the two enhanced as they left.

"Where are they going?  We've got more tests to-"

"Doctor."  Colonel Hatcher's voice was calm, but underscored with years of authority.  "You've got plenty of data to crunch. I, on the other hand, as the ranking officer here have to manage the morale of a man, not a test monkey.  A good man, might I add. A decorated soldier who is bright enough to know that what he did today has global ramifications. No more tests until further notice, which will be when I decide it's wise.  Let them relax for the rest of the day. We're not in a rush."

Jordan drew herself up, clearly aggravated at being balked at. Her jaw twitched as she weighed the cost and benefit of having this power struggle out with the Colonel here and now. Coming to a decision, she shrugged. "That'll be up to Parliament, no doubt," she said with the air of someone commiserating over a sad state of affairs. 

She ducked back into the tent without another word. Hatcher could hear her giving orders like the best of drill sergeants with unruly recruits. For today at least, she was packing up as directed. There would be other days. Other tests. Either under her purview or because the only thing this world would deny it's new demigods would be an unremarkable life.

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October 16th, 2019 
London, England

A new broadcast plays, the banner indicating the broadcaster as the BBC.  It shows Steve Nord looking both imposing and dashing in dress uniform, Kyria looking radiantly lovely in a formal gown, and Kerrie in an elegant but more business-like dress, all being introduced to the Queen, Princes William and Harry, and their wives.  Words are being exchanged, hands shaken, and everyone is smiling as an anchor provides the voiceover:

"Scenes from Buckingham Palace earlier today as Her Majesty the Queen received three supermen - or should that be superpersons - as her personal guests for a private investiture ceremony.  Colour Sergeant Stephen Nord, of the Royal Marine Commandos and the mysterious beauty known as Kyria Stormborn, and the American Karen Sherman are the first of the 'Storm Enhanced' to receive official Royal attention for their part in defeating a literal giant threat to the town of Hereford and its surroundings."

There is a cut to grainy shaky video footage of the ice monster being struck by lightning and attacked by two flying figures while the main camera shows them both kneeling to receive an ornate medal being draped around their necks by the Queen.

"Today both Colour Sergeant Nord and Ms. Stormborn received the Victoria Cross, the highest award that can be given for valour by Her Majesty, and especially note-worthy as Ms. Stormborn is the first woman to ever receive it as well as the first civilian to receive one in over one hundred years. Ms. Sherman received the George’s Cross for her own part in the battle, as well. This sends a strong signal, according to experts, that the U.K. Government at all levels fully supports and endorses the presence of the Enhanced on British soil.  And it is a popular position – most polls show overwhelming grass roots popularity for the two British Stormers, code-named ‘Einherjar’ and ‘Valkyrie’ according to leaked memos from Downing Street.”

Further shot of the fight against the ice monster appears in the corner of the screen as the shot changes to a small podium outside the palace gates.

“And now we go live to the gates of Buckingham Palace, where Einhjerar and Valkyrie are making ready to meet the press for the first time...”

"Remember, don't be too stiff, don't be too formal."  The press officer murmured, mostly to Steve as the Marine looked out over the crowd.  Beside him, Kyria was bright-eyed and curious.  "Public opinion in the UK is mostly with you two, but there are some foreign journos here and while they're not likely to start an incident, be ready for hardball."

"Right."  Steve nodded, rolling his shoulders in his dress blues and looking down at Kyria.  "You ready for this?"

Kyria gave the press officer a bright smile, the one Steve knew always meant trouble. "So....don't throw the annoying woman into the next building?" The man blinked and paled and Kyria gave a silvery laugh and took Steve's arm, all impish delight. "Now I'm ready."
The first reporter went for it off the bat. "Desmond White, the Guardian. Color Sergeant Nord, Ms. Stormborn. What are your plans going forward?"

"Professionally?  I'm not sure."  Steve replied with a glance at Kyria.  "I mean: I'm still a soldier, I still serve the Crown and its interests.  I haven't been magically promoted to Colonel overnight - thank God."  That was good for a small chuckle from the crowd.  "Personally?  I'm still adjusting.  It's hard to make plans when everything is still settling.  Ask me again in six months, Mr White."  He finished with a smile, glancing at Kyria questioningly.

He saw a million minxy replies shining in her eyes and he could feel the press officer having a separate heart attack for each and every one of them. "I did try to promote him to Captain," Kyria told the gathered press with coquettish delight of sharing a secret. "Apparently the field promotion didn't stick." 

The gathered people chuckled, most of them clearly charmed by the stunning woman, and she neatly sidestepped actually answering the question. Hands went up again as the energy of the conversation moved on.

"Cassandra Allen, for the Wall Street Journal." said the face belonging to the next hand, a well-presented blonde who managed to walk the line between pretty and professional in her attire.  "Colour Sergeant - you said you 'serve the Crown and its interests'.  Does that mean the British government has a policy regarding the use of superhumans in military actions?"

Steve blinked, then leaned into the mic a little, his blue eyes glowing faintly.  "Uh, not that I've been told, Ms. Allen.  All I meant was that I was a soldier when I changed, and I'm still a soldier now.  And like any soldier, my deployment would be a matter for the duly elected government of my country to decide."
 
A stiff-necked young man in a suit lifted his right hand, pen still gripped in its fingers. He held a pad of paper, eschewing the phones and tablets that many other reporters used. "Tom Cottington, Anglican Communion News Service. Earlier you thanked God that you had not been promoted to Colonel." He smiled a thin-lipped smile. "An amusing jest, but it does bring to mind an important question. Are you a church-going man? What do you see as the larger, theological implications of your transformation?"
 
Steve blinked, pondering for a moment as the press officer held his breath.  To his credit, the soldier didn't say the first or second things that rolled through his mind - one comment being profane and the other flippant.  The gathered journalists sensed his hesitation and waited with poised pens and microphones.

"Not as much as my mum would like me to be, in answer to your first question,"  he admitted with a slight smile.  "I'm baptized C of E, but the only services I regularly attend in a church are when I visit my family for Christmas and memorial services for the fallen.  If I was being honest, I'd describe myself as agnostic.  As to the second question..."  He pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"Sir, I'd say the Storm, and the changes it brought for good and ill, are one of those 'pick your truth' situations.  You can have absolute faith, which means you can believe God, or whoever you believe in, was responsible and the Storm was utter proof he exists - or you're an atheist who holds that it's all science, particles, radiation, and what-have-you.  Or you can be somewhere in the middle, like most people I imagine.  As for me - I don't know if God exists.  Sometimes I hope he does - usually at 3 am when I'm standing watch at a FOB.  These powers?  I don't think they've changed that for me."
 
A prim brunette woman in a sharp business suit with her cellphone clipped securely to her collar to pick up sound raised her hand. "Danika Carrols for The Intersect. My question is for Mz. Stormborn. I have sources that state that not only do you suffer from amnesia but that your brain has been fundamentally altered by the effects of the Storm. That you are essentially a new person."

She paused for a moment and Kyria arched her brows. "So far you haven't asked a question." 

"Is that true, Mz. Stormborn? That your personality is functionally only a month or so old?"

The Stormer tilted her head curiously at the woman, sensing that that wasn't the real question. "I have complete retrograde amnesia," she said, her normal carefree amusement at the world muted for a moment. "My doctors have said that in the normal course of recovery they would not expect me to regain my memories. They also admit that applying 'normal' to me is problematic at best." 

"So yes, functionally, your personality is a month old." Danika pressed, getting annoyed glares shot at her from others that wanted their chance. The woman turned her hawkish attention to Steve now, asking immediately, "Do you think your relationship with Mz. Stormborn is at all appropriate or healthy when she has no other life experience than being in alone in quarantine with you?"
 
The press officer held his breath.  Some of the older / more savvy reporters held their breath.  Kyria held her breath - though in her case in was more of a shocked intake of breath shortly followed by the urge to see if Mizz Carrols would bounce if hurled hard enough against the nearest building.

"Actually you're wrong, madam."  Steve said mildly, his deep voice calm as he leaned forward and spoke into the mic before Kyria could.  "Kyria did have life experience before quarantine with me:  she fought a bloody great monster made of ice and saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives with me."  He let that hang there for a moment, and there was a murmur of agreement in the crowd as Danika Carrols felt some smirks from other reporters.

"Hardly the point."  she almost snapped, only to be cut off.

"Sorry, I wasn't finished."  Steve's voice projected, no longer conversational or friendly.  It wasn't the 'drill sergeant encouragement' voice, which could be loud, raucous and somewhat bawdy in language choices.  This was the 'senior NCO disapproval' voice - the cold ominous tone that said that there would be no humorous vulgarity in this dressing-down and that, in fact, said NCO found nothing humorous about the current hapless object of their attentions.

"You are asking the question from the perspective that I have been - and am  - taking advantage of Kyria, due to her diminished capacity for judgment resulting from a lack of life experience.  I have never observed Kyria to have a diminished capacity for anything - least of all courage and the ability to know her own mind."  His eyes left Danika and swept the other reporters briefly as he straightened back up, his demeanor relaxing a little.

"Besides, I suggested much the same thing to her before we became, ah, involved." he finished with a rueful smile, glancing at the redheaded beauty beside him.
 
Kyria gave Steve a lascivious wink and leaned over to add into the mike, "Also, I jumped him."
 
The ripple of laughter, mostly heartfelt, some uncomfortably polite spread through the press pack, underlaid with a tinge of relief.  The press officer stepped up next, leaning in and stating that they had time for one or two more questions right now.
 
"Hakim Nazari, Al Jazeera," said a smooth-voiced man, his accent flavoured with a British Education. "My question is for Colour Sergeant Nord. As you have said, you are still a soldier of the British Government. Given the... demonstration of your abilities, do you believe this may start a new arms race, with world governments and their militaries and other political entities all seeking to enlist as many empowered beings - Stormers as they have been informally called - as possible? And that this may lead to a new form of warfare, the collateral consequences of which cannot be known yet?"
 
Steve threw a glance at the press officer, who nodded slowly - they had expected something like this.

"It's definitely a concern,"  Steve said, nodding to Mr Nazari.  "I was a soldier when the Storm changed me, had been for over a decade."  The ribbons on his left breast became the focus of several cameras at that, as he continued speaking.  "I do know, and can informally say, that the British government does not at this time have a policy for the recruitment of Stormers into its military.  Speaking for myself..."  He took a grip on the podium, his tone and expression serious.

"Look, we all know that there are governments, and officials within governments, that see everyone as potential resources.  To them, I'd issue a friendly caution - read a comic book."  He smiled grimly as some reporters blinked.  "Seriously.  I grew up reading them.  Most people did.  Very few comic books that deal with the issue of governments exploiting super-powered people end well for the government.  Don't press Stormers into service, don't weaponize us in some kind of reckless arms race.  We are still human in many ways - the psychology of a Stormer is the psychology of any person you might meet on the street.  Not every person can be a soldier - super powers don't change that."  He paused for a moment, reading the crowd before continuing.

"It's too much to hope that there won't be an arms race.  Human nature is as it has been for centuries.  Given the scope of my own abilities, I sincerely hope that the rational world leaders will think twice before actually starting wars with Stormers as troops.  The potential collateral consequences are sobering, sure.  But that's not just a factor of cities wiped out, as we saw during the Storm.  It's also about what it will do to the super-powered people that get sent to war, and that is the real unintended consequence governments should be worried about."
He fell silent, stepping back from the mic as he watched the crowd.
 
"Janina Hunter, Vanity Fair." Now this was an unexpected person, her having very well manicured and groomed long blond hair, and striking green eyes. "Ms. Stormborn. Among the Enhanced we've been seeing those like yourself with - for lack of a better term, superhuman attractiveness. Do you think this might impact the public's perception of you?"
 
"Well, I would assume so," Kyria said a half-shrug. "I mean, that's how movie stars and models even get their jobs, right? By being more attractive than the average person."

"Are you going to become an actress or model?" Someone shouted from the back of the crowd; no one even looked back to see who it was. 

Kyria bit her lip cutely in thought and then laughed, "Nah, I don't think so. I don't like shoes enough to be a model and as Steve and Colonel Hatcher have pointed out multiple times now, I'm not all that good at taking orders."

* * * * * 

The playback stopped as Karrie lowered the remote, her expression thoughtful. Harrison watched her in silence, occasionally checking her phone when it silently buzzed in her hand. She’d learned long ago to be patient and let Karrie think without interruption or prompting. “I find it interesting that they focused on their personal relationship more than the political ramifications,” Karrie said. “Notice that Kyria didn’t talk about her plans?”

“Do you think the retrograde amnesia is accurate?” Harrison asked the most pressing question first, a little unsettled when Karrie turned her full attention to her. The woman had always had a thousand yard stare, but it had gotten worse since The Storm. Now Karrie’s steady gaze felt as if it penetrated and dissected. Harrison refused to show her unease, but it was difficult.
“There’s no sign that she’ll remember her time as an agent,” Karrie replied. “I think that the change from the Storm plus the damage from before makes her remembering that unlikely in the extreme.”

“Is it a possibility that we need to create a contingency for?” Harrison asked.

Karrie’s expression shifted a touch and Harrison wondered what the Stormer had just learned from her. Karrie had been decent at that before but now she was uncanny. “Of course we should develop a contingency for it, but I doubt we’ll need it,” Karrie said, turning her gaze back to her fellow Stormers, frozen on the screen. “The Agency lucked out.”

After a moment, Harrison asked, “You’ll be keeping an eye on her, and warning us if her memories return.”

“Of course,” Karrie said, her expression thoughtful. “Our biggest problem won’t be her burning the Agency if she remembers. It’ll be what will happen if her former personality reasserts itself. Without a reliable way to control her anymore, we’ll have another power-mad Stormer with ties to another Stormer of immense power.”

“Start working on plans to deal with that,” Harrison ordered.

Karrie turned that calculating stare to her boss. “I’ll prepare it but I warn you: the cost of taking her out will be astronomical, both in resources expended and lives lost.”

“Just do it.”

With a nod, Karrie returned to her study of the British Stormers.

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