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[Fiction] On Wizard's Watch


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She saw him sitting watching the sunset in Golden Gate Park, right were he said he would be. As she closed with him, her perceptions crossed over into the ethereal.

'Yes,' she thought,'that lone clear note. It was eerie in it' loneliness'.

As she closed the last meters, he lowered his head and looked back at her. A slight smile crossed his face, but it didn't reach his eyes. The breeze whipped his ponytail about through his baseball cap.

"Trying to sneak up on me?"

"I have been working on bending possiblities away from me. Did it work?"

Again with that weary smile. It was making her a bit nervous.

"Let me tell you what I am up to, before you agree to anything else, okay?"

A moment of silence passed between the two.

"For some time now, I have been aware of a 'group' of pre-event novas. They have remained behind the scene, manipulating things in ways I can't full understand. I need to figure out who they are and how they can be countered, if that becomes necessary."

His frankness stunned her. She had known in only the vaguest terms that there were others out there, manipulating the song in there own way; for their own ends. Until this moment, they had never conflicted with her.

"Why me?"

"Two things. One: while this may be more up Atwights alley, he is to wary to openly confront them at this time. Also, they know about him already. Two: I have been able to find out a whole lot about you, but none of it tells me who you are, if you understand me?"

"I think so."

"Good, because if I can't figure you out then they may not be able to either. This could get really bad for us. I don't think this group is going to be all that happy with us looking in to their affairs. Still interested?"

"I told you I take my debts ser.."

"Screw debts," he interupted. "You have a little girl who is expecting you to come home. If that is the only reason you came, there will be other times for you to pay me back."

"Is it just us?"

"If the hammer falls, Atwight said he might interfere. The rest of my team is too well known at the moment to be of much use, but I have a 'friend' on the net if we need that kind of help." He paused.


"Well, I need to talk to Prodigy", he said, working his way through the words,"but that concerns me a bit."


"I think they might be trying to recruit him. Due to all the trauma he has had in his life recently, he might just accept. Being as smart as he is makes him aweful lonely."

"That's it?"

"Well, I have heard a rumor of another team looking into this as well, but I am not sure why or what reaction they would have to us following the same trail."

"So, you want us to hunt down a group you aren't even sure exist. While doing so, we will be interacting with people far smarter than we are and our only serious ally might betray us. Oh, yeah, and there is another group looking into this just as likely to kill us as help us. Do you know how stupid this sounds? If you want to kill yourself; head west, take a dive and start swimming. Hawaii is only three thousand miles away. I hear the first thousand are the toughest."

'Jane' turned away and looked north. She knew this was insane. She looked back at him, his face nuetral and relaxed.

'No matter what I say, he is going to go through with this', she thought.

She looked past his shoulder, into the ocean. For a moment, all the music came to her like a welcome friend. All the lives, all the possibilities working themselves into a symphony.

"Jager," she said. "..."

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"Jager," she began, "I plan on making it home. I plan on outliving most of the jerks that think being able to manipulate energy makes them divine and incomprehensible. I plan on doing this in my own way and in my own time without betraying myself along the way."

"Understand please." For a moment she hesitated, staring into the infinity point of the horizon before continuing. "I've been there. The moments when you know no one understands why it all has to go down in a certain way. Breaking eggs to make omelets. It's all such bullshit."

Her jacket whipped in the breeze that suddenly felt so very cool. "In the end, there is only the illusion of control and lonely twisted people."

When she turns to look fully on Jager, she smiles and there is a sense of the deeply personal in her eyes. "To me, quantum meant seeing the bigger picture. Intelligence at any level is only pattern matching and memory, Jager. It allows us to see ourselves and the universe but figuring out the why of it all requires other assets."

"I'm in. How can I help?"

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This time the smile reached the clear blue ocean of his eyes.

"Well, when it comes to that Butch and Sundance moment, don't say I didn't warn you," he laughed.

"First things, first. We go to Seattle to let James know that we are on the way. Right now, he is a bit jumpy; some sort of turmoil is happening in Teragen."

She reached out with her senses, weaving through the pathes that led elsewhere and fixating on the movements that led to Prodigy. "So far, so good," she said.

She came back and read the uncertainty in Jager's face.

"I'm not a child, Jager, and by the way, that is a silly name to call somebody."

"My friends call me Jason."

"Fine, Jason. You have to trust me to know what I am doing. I didn't reach to far into the resonance, just down our immediate path. No interruptions but Prodigy himself remains unclear."

"So, do ya know the Cafe Sport on Virginia and Western?"

"I take it you mean in Seattle. One greasy spoon, coming up."

She focused and the probabilities opened up. The quantum ran hot and cold down her arm, diffusing into the reality and reshaping it.

'There you are', she thought as her mind reached the welcome symbiosis with the song.

Next to her, Jager strained his senses to match her perceptions. Though he lacked her unique relationship with reality, he could still grasp snippets of the music that slipped around the quantum rift she had just formed.

'Well, atleast he is trying,' she smiled.

They stepped through and the rift rapidly repaired itself. For a moment, she thought about attempting Atwight,s little trick, but she thought better of it. Maybe after she got to know herself a little better.

She caught sight of Jager flowing over the the shadows beside the resturant. It wasn't as if she saw him cover the distance so much as was just there. She moved up beside him as he walked up to the back enterance.

The atmosphere of seafood and garbage began leaking into their perceptions. Jager went up and knocked on the back door. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Jager shifted, leaving Wizard in and exposed position. Before she could speak, the door opened.

Jager said,"We're here to see Walt."

The newcomer was in his early twenties with combed back black hair and a days worth of growth on his face. His apron and clothing announced him to be a cook at this establishment.

"Walt don't work here no more," he replied.

"Ya, I heard there was this mouse problem."

The cook grinned, so apparently Jager's little amatuer spook banter worked. He held open the door.

"This way," he directed, leading them into a walk-in freezer. A few of the other cook staff looked up at the new faces, but quietly went back to work.

Once inside the freezer, he placed a hand upon the far wall. Not suprisingly, a small section of the wall opened up revealing a well-lit empty chamber. The man motioned for them to enter.

Jager stepped in, followed by 'Jane'.

"Whoever we are going to see has seen way to many spy flicks," she commented.

"We just dropped down about 5 meters," Jager noted.

"Please deposit all weapons on the floor," chimed in a mechanical voice. 'Jane' stole a side-glance at Jager who was already unloading a wide variety of killing implements.

"Boys," she sighed.

Wizard felt the tingle as the scanner moved over their bodies. Apparently satisfied, the door opened into what looked like a janitor's closet. The door shut behind them.

"Greetings," piped in a childish voice. "I don't get many visitors here." The 'janitor's' door opened reavealing a much larger room crammed with wiring, monitors and various computer paraphenalia.

In the center of it all, sat a child, his hands breezing across touchpads. He turned to face them.

"Well, I'm Walt. Who in the hell are you people and how did you know how to find me?" he started with mock seriousness.

Now Wizard could make out his features and realized he wasn't a child, but a dwarf. Some minor aberrations has altered him even further.

Jager scanned the room before continuing.

"Prodigy told me to look you up some time. Now, I need to find him and do so quietly. Can you help?"

The gnomish figure swung his foot impatiently.

"I'm Jager and this is Jane Doe, an associate of mine."

The gnome's eyes little up.

"Hey, your the artist that drew San Paulo on the head of the pin! I've heard of you. So what are you doing with this idiot," he said, motioning at Jager.

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The gnome's eyes little up. “Hey, you’re the artist that drew San Paulo on the head of the pin! I've heard of you. So what are you doing with this idiot," he said, motioning at Jager.

“You’ve heard of that? I can imagine you keep up on current events,” she observed, the expansive sweep of her arms encompassing the sheer volume of equipment, “but that you’ve heard of such a minor talent as mine is very gratifying.”

“Minor?” exclaimed the diminutive dwarf. “Jane, if that’s minor, then I’m Pax. Shit, the details were incredible! Last I heard, a couple of Japanese corporate sponsors were in a bidding war with the Uppies to lay their hands on it. Brazil was making noises about national treasure and talking to Marza Ceranza about safekeeping, despite them being usually willing to bend over to the big U. How the hell did you do that? I mean… I pulled a private report out of the uppie S&T archives that said there wasn’t a trace of quantum in the thing. Same report recommended placing a priority on getting a hold of the artist for ‘evaluation as a promising resource’.”

This last was said darkly, and the dwarf’s scowl made it clear he didn’t think much of the Utopian motives.

“The project does tend to be a little heavy handed,” Wizard agreed watching him closely. “As for the how of it, that was actually the first attempt at a particular style. I’ve made some improvements in my technique since then. And changed the subject matter to something a little more complex.”

“Jesus, more complex?” Rolling his eyes upward the small man seemed wonder struck. “More complex?” Turning his eyes to a bemused Jager, he demanded, “Have you seen it? The San Paulo Miracle? That’s what they’re calling it on the ‘net. Sweet ever-lovin’ Jesus. More complex?”

“I haven’t had the…” Jager began to answer before the small man cut him off and started firing questions to the small blonde woman. Wizard in response murmured softly as she began to walk slowly around the room, touching nothing but taking it all in. Dimly, Jager could feel a soft vibration in the room building coming from, no, not from Wizard. Rather, from her path as she walked. For just a moment the vibration transcended into a forlorn sound, like the wail of a saxophone then dropped instantly back below the level of sound.

Finally, arriving on the opposite side of Jager from where she started, she stood chewing the inside of her cheek for a moment while cocking her head to the side and watching the dwarf. The she asked, “Can I share a secret with you?”

Startled, the small man paused in mid-question then slowly nodded, an odd intensity coming into his eyes. Jager noted absently that one eye was blue but the left burned with an eerie spark jetting across at random intervals.

Walking to the dwarf’s console chair, extending her left hand, Wizard offered a small credit card like object to the dwarf and which he took cautiously.

“Looks like a memory card,” he noted examining it. “I don’t recognize the company.”

“Holographic cyber card” Wizard offered staring absently around the room. “Can you read it.”

The dwarf stared at the card intently for a moment and Jager could feel the tremor in the local quantum field, as reality bent awkwardly to the dwarfs will. A cyber-kinetic. It made sense though you couldn’t always judge a book by its cover. Watching, wondering where this was going he waited.

The moment stretched into another, and another after that. As his watch clicked away the seconds to three minutes Jager noted the moisture well up in the dwarfs eye, the blue one, finally collecting into a single tear that rolled down his craggy cheek.

Sniffing, the dwarf wiped his stained shirtsleeve across his eyes before speaking. “It’s not finished.”

“No. That’s why I need to talk to James. He,” she answers, looking to Jager, “is my guide. Without James, it will remain unfinished.”

Minute later, with directions to a safe house and a promise to announce their imminent arrival, Wizard and Jager walked slowly from the small man’s sanctum. Wisely, Jager waited until they were completely out of the building and walk slowly up the street amid the sounds of tourists and merchants. When he was satisfied that the dwarfs surveillance systems were behind them, he opened his mouth to ask the first of many questions when Wizard began to speak.

“He would have misled you.”

Huh? That little sonuva… “Why.”

“The intellect game. He doesn’t play at James’ level but he’d like to and you would have been practice. He would have given you simple direct sounding instructions, encoded Sphinx riddles, and before you knew it we’d be in Calcutta wondering where everything wrong.” Her step began to quicken and she turned the corner moving towards the docks.

“What was that whole thing with the disk?”

“I gave him a reason to want us to get to James. I think he may well be my first fan.”

“You said the path was clear?”

“But James is not. And we’re not following the linear directions anyway. Just by announcing us, James is now alerted that a man and woman are searching for him. Your contact has probably uploaded our appearances and MRI resonance scans to James. What would James do next under the circumstances considering his Terragen problems?”

Jager thought about that for a moment, considering, and then felt the quantum field flux. Something…

“... wicked this way comes,” intoned Wizard. Then, breaking into a sprint towards the bay, she asked "A test from James? Or part of his difficulties you spoke of?"

"I thought the path was clear?" Jager asked pacing Wizard effortlessly.

"This is part of the path, which doesn't make it safe."

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-02-2001).]

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Abruptly Wizard stopped and cocked her head to the side, listening to something unheard. Closing her eyes she inhaled slowly as if savoring a pleasant scent.

"This where we need to be," she asserted. "We wait here while decisions are being made."

Kneeling down, she began to sketch an outline on the pavement with colored chalks. Jager glanced up and down the street noting a few locals going about their business but otherwise nothing unusual. In the distance he could make out the bay, the reflection of the sun casting sparkles and shimmers of light on the choppy surface of the water.

"Give me a little more detail on what just happened with Walt. That entire scene reminded me of the first time I read the book of five rings. Clearly and concisely written but it left me with the impression I'd missed something."

"Walt," she began while continuing her sketch, "resented you in his lair. I doubt he recognized me so much as he made an educated guess as to who I was based on knowing who you were."

On the pavement she shaped a bald man, figure powerful, arms partly raised with biceps flexed but his face turned downward and away. With quick strokes his partialy revealed face resolved itself into a caste of shame.

"Recognizing me was his way of disparaging your presence in his sanctum. It felt honest though. He was expressing his appreciation of what he felt was an interesting engineering feat."

"The San Paolo pin?"

"Yeah. I really wasn't aware that was in the realm of common knowledge. Walt probably accessed the data on it as we were being scanned for weapons. He's a lonely man that spends too many hours in his own head. Staring into windows that show him an approximation of the world while isolating him from it. The melody sounds almost..."

"Like a sax?"

Wizard paused in her work and thoughtfully appraised Jager. On the pavement the face of the bald man sported a single tear working it's way down his visible cheek. Vague shapes stood behind him, a dark hand gripping his shoulder, restraining him.

"Very much like a saxophone" she agreed turning back to the pavement. "He has a need to connect to something greater than himself. Outside the walls of his own thoughts. The need is etched into the layout of his equipment. The way he sits."

"So you manipulated the situation to..."

"I showed him a possibility. Nothing more. And I asked politely."

Jager noticed the first pane was complete and she shifted to the next block of sidewalk. In the first the figure was clearly that self righteous jerk Caestus Pax. The figure restraining him was shadowed but equally as powerfully built, fingers digging into Pax's shoulder in a way that not even a tank could in real life.

In the next pane, the figure of a red headed woman laying prone, right arm crossing her face and obscuring it, left arm lying at a twisted angle, broken. In quick strokes a pool of blood formed beneath her and Wizard shifted to shape a figure in the background. Oddly, the outline was indistinct, shifting amid grey and black shadows she added like wisps of smoke and shadow. Lastly she added glowing green eyes and shifted again to the next pane of sidewalk.

Here she sketched another scene of Pax. This time kneeling, straining against the manacles binding his arms. The figure behind him was still there. Now holding him by both shoulders, forcing him down, fingers biting cruelly into flesh. Shadows wreathed the eyes and head but a sneer of disgust adorned the figure's visible mouth.

"What's on the disk?"

"A project I'm not finished with yet. I think It will done shortly but I'm waiting for inspiration."

"Speaking of inspiration, Wizard" Jager began...

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“…do you have any insight into what those three are up to?”

“Careful Jager, they are not on our path,” she said. “Remember, we should be gone by now.”

The third frame was finished and she shuffled over to the fourth.

‘Green and Gray,’ she thought. A cacophony of wires and vines erupted from her mind and through her hands. Two figures sending forth tendrils of technology and nature to capture a third, shadowy figure whom kneeled down and screamed up to an uncaring heaven.

“They are going to remove Walt from the loop, Jager.”

“Yeah, but I am not sure we should be picking another fight so soon into the hunt, Jane.”

She sketched away in silence, fingers bringing forth the pain of the central figure. Someone torn between two parents or mentors, constrained by their own indecisions.

Jager was crossing back over the street. No traffic. No cover. Still, he managed to reach the sidewalk before the rearmost figure turned to notice him.

The rest reacted instinctively to the threat; very professionally. The foremost man turned and backpedaled. The woman to his right placed her back to the building and took a defensive stance, smiling. The man in the rear began bringing his arm up and the first ripples of quantum energy began to coalesce.

“The second image is an initial post-mortem view of Slider,” Jager whispered. His right hand came up and caught the closest man above the elbow. He flipped him over so hard and fast that the impact shook the windows. The smile began fading from the girl’s face as Jager flowed over his unconscious form.

“The first image is Pax wrestling with his inner demons; his struggle for self-control.”

He effortlessly slashed through her temporal force fields, but her temporally enhanced reflexes allowed her to side step his flurry of blows.

“This is something new,” she responded, still working away at her latest vision.

The foremost man extended both his hands up from his waist. The area around Jager and the girl exploded with monomolecular darts. Again, Wizard noticed his odd little sidestepping motion. His motion continued up the side of the building, then up and over his assailant. The girl staggered and fell, her body quivering from the fast acting toxins.

A rapid jab to the back of the head fell the last man. He walked back over to the girl and delivered a quick punch to render her unconscious as well.

Wizard thought that the girl looked familiar, but couldn’t place her.

“The third image is of Pax again, but the emphasis is different. I am unsure of its meaning.”

Jager crossed back over the street.

“That girl,” Wizard murmured, still trying to remember.

“Fine. She is the temporal specialist you rescued in Oregon. Now, what about thse third and fourth visions? We also need to talk about what qualifies a safe passage in your book.”

Wizard looked up inquisitively, but then Jager tossed her the girl’s ID. She was PU all right and she looked more familiar in the photo. She was going to have to be more careful with a man whose hands were that fast. She hadn't noticed him frisking any of them.

“She looks different out of uniform.”

They exchanged looks.

“They’re on to us already,” Wizard sighed. “One test down and umpteen more to go.”

Jager looked either amused or skeptical.

“They came here investigating me and planned to question Walt. In Walt’s present frame of mind, violence would have ensued and there would have been ‘fatalities’. No more Walt and his associates would suspect us of having something to do with it.”

“So these hidden master’s are already aware of you and sensed you and Walt would be crossing path’s soon. Do you think they know I’m involved, yet?”

“Now they do. If I had tried to stop the Utopians, it would have been a lot more ‘colorful’. With you coming out of nowhere, it will be obvious to them.”

"Sorry, but letting Walt get killed really wasn't an option to me. Call me weird that way."

She looked down at the fourth image.

“Still willing to continue?”

“Only if you tell me what that means,” Jager replied, looking down at the image as well.

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Jacob hurried through the halls of Webb Enterprises' corporate headquarters, ignoring those who scrambled to get out of the way. Curious eyes followed him as he rushed past, Jacob's employees were not accustomed to seeing their employer and C.E.O. rushing around in such an undignified manner. He stopped abruptly outside of a plain wooden door and smoothed the wrinkles from his expensive, and one of a kind, Armani suit. Composing himself somewhat, he opened the door and stepped inside.

"My my Jacob, thats a record isn't it?" Said a small, thin, young looking brown haired man sitting behind an average-looking, pre-fab office desk in an average looking, pre-fab office. "What did you do, run here?"

"Dammit Andrew, I wouldn't have to if you had your office upstairs with mine, where it belongs." Jacob replied as he took a seat accross from the young man. "Now what is so damn important?" Andrew's face darkened, he stood, and turned to the window for a moment. Taking a deep breath and carefully smoothing his lab coat, He turned his attention back to Jacob.

"Its Jager. He's decided to investigate pre-Galatea novas. He's convinced Wizard to go along with him and he wants to recruit Meehan."

Jacob raised his eyebrows, "Is that all? So let them. I don't see what the big deal is," He caught Andrew's stare and shifted in his seat uncomfortably, instantly regretting his words. Even in his dormed down form, Dr. Sommerville, Atwight, Was still unbelievably brilliant.

"Its not that simple and you know it. Read this," Andrew moved from where he was leaning against the windowsill, fiddling with what looked like a t.v. remote and turned his computer monitor towards the seated gentleman. "He's already drawn attention to himself, and its not the good kind."

Jacob read from the screen and looked up at the enigma before him. "So how does this affect us and our plans? Are we in any danger here?"

"Not yet, but the probabilities are shifting too wildly, there are too many factors to stabilize a prediction. I've considered sending an agent, but who? Felicia is still on Primus, and Tesseract......well, only God knows where he is at the moment. So who can we rely on?" Andrew sat heavily in his chair and fell silent. Jacob, still trying to absorb all the ramifications of what he'd just been told looked up sharply. "Don't even think about the kids. They're not ready. Only Thomas and Erik would be capable of handling any type of physical confrontation, and we would have hell to pay if anything happened to them!" Jacob realized he was standing, almost shouting and recomposed himself imediately. "Sorry," He said running his fingers through his dark hair.

Andrew looked at his friend and gently said, "I am not that heartless Jacob. You have no idea how much those children mean to me. However we still need to keep tabs on this situation." Slowly, Jacob paced the small room and Andrew returned to toying with the remote. Jacob looked up quickly, an idea forming. "I've got it! Use the Foundation!" He said eagerly

"Excuse me? You don't mean Renaud's outfit do you? They couldn't investigate their way out of a paper bag!" Andrew snorted in obvious contempt. Jacob sighed, "Their not that bad Andrew. They figured out that wolf mystery, correct? Montpillar has the time, resources and most importantly, the staff to pull this off. All we have to do is whet his appetite," he responded. Andrew considered the idea. His eyes brightened and Jacob could see that fantastic machine that was Atwight's brain kicking into gear. "Lock the door Jacob," he said as his body began to transform.

When he turned back, Atwight had already completed his transformation, his slightly luminescent golden form solidifying into its proper shape. Jacob hadn't ever realized Atwight's coat was Eufiber, but there it was, slowly reshaping itself to be a perfect fit. He couldn't help but stand in awe for a moment. His friend's transformation always amazed him. He looked down at himself, his wrists, and again examined the deformities there. "Huh, he gets to manipulate the fabric of the universe and what do I get? Spinerettes and a few super smarts," he thinks silently to himself "Oh well, thats what I get for reading spiderman comics as a kid."

"Jacob, my friend, we have much to do and very little time," Atwight said, drawing Jacob's attention back to the matter at hand. "Hand me your PDA."

Wordlessly, he handed over the small device. Atwight's gracefull hands slid over the black plastic casing a moment before a small release of energy traveled up his arm and into the device. He handed it back to Jacob and turned his attention to the computer on the desk. A soft golden glow started from deep within his body until he was glowing softly from every portion of his body. Even the Efiber lab coat was emitting the same warm glow. His eyes, now only orbs of pure golden energy, pulsed rythmically and the computer jumped to life.

Jacob tried to follow what was happening on the screen but the data was flowing too fast. All he could see were brief flashes of zeros and ones. And then it was over. the computer went blank and the light from Atwight slowly dimmed down to it's normal level. "The information has been sent to the Foundation's computers, and I have left intructions for you on your PDA. Now if you will excuse me, I have some things to prepair," With that, Atwight retrieved the remote from his pocket. Jacob looked at his list and then back at the remote in Atwight's hand. "Wait a minute, where are you going while I'm doing all this?"

Atwight looked at his friend and pressed one of the buttons. Silently, a shimmering gateway opened on the wall beside them. "Home," He said with a small enigmatic smile. "I have to prepair for my guests."

With that, he stepped through the gateway and vanished, leaving Jacob alone in the office. "Wait! What guests! Damn........."

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“Only if you tell me what that means,” Jager replied, looking down at the image as well.

"Knowledge and intuition are not the same," Jane murmurs distractedly. Realizing what she's just said, she stands quickly and turns to face Jager. Her hands extend palm upward, apologizing. "I'm sorry, that was condescending. You know the difference between the two at least as well as I do. But there is something we need to talk about," she said, looking away. "Now. Before this goes any further."

Expression washed from Jager's face, pouring away behind the wall in his mind, leave his face carefully blank. It was the same face he wore when pulling a trigger, though Jane couldn't know that. The same face he wore when he watched someone die. Annoyance and just a touch of frustration touched his thoughts and these too he thrust behind the wall, waiting for her to go on. He trusted her. Always searching for the ambush, the angle, the edge, he had admitted to himself yesterday that he had little reason too. It was more a matter of faith though the faith was less in her than in his own judgements. He knew she wouldn't knife him in the back, her eyes were too expressive and she wore her heart on her sleeve. But she was an anomoly that drifted in and out of awareness never quite coming into view. Not mysterious. Her actions were too loud for that. And she was quietly stubborn.

He knew the trick of light and awareness that could be used to draw attention away when he wanted to. More than a few novas did. Knowing the trick himself he knew how to see through it when others tried to pull it on him. Wizard lacked that skill or power. It was something more subtle. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

She was waiting for him. Nodding, a quick incline of the head, without taking his eyes off her, he signaled for her to go on. Unconscious bodies lay motionless nearby, the steady rise and fall of their chests the only signal of life. Only the neighborhood and the weekend kept them from being discovered. That wouldn't last forever.

"Tessereact almost lost his, excuse me, her life in Egypt because she made some blatantly wrong assumptions. About me. About what I do. About power. You're going to get yourself killed if you depend on those same assumptions."

"Look, Wizard... Jane. You're not a soldier. I knew that before I ever met you. You confirmed it when I finally did meet you. Not all of us have the temperment or the..."

"No." Her voice was quiet but emphatic. "That's not it. Let's try this another way. Do you remember when we were first corresponding on the 'net. I mentioned constructs and Atwight jumped on that. He even shared something about himself and his childhood to let me know I wasn't the only one."

"Yeah, I remember," he responded wondering where this was going. Atwight had said he created monsters to protect him when he was a child. He'd never mentioned his childhood before except in the most gerneral of terms.

"Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed," she quoted. "They taught that back when I was in high school and the word quantum meant something completely different to the world. Jason, I don't create anything but my art. I realized that in Oregon. No, that's not quite correct. I realized that after I remembered my own eruption and the moment when the universe seems to stop and hold it's breath. I remembered what I needed, felt and thought."

"Jane," Jager began slowly, "I'm interested in this. Really, I am. I think that, in a more appropriate place, we can have a long talk about all of this. But right now we need to find James. We need to distance ourselves from these field agents before they wake up and," his voice raising slightly, "you need to explain this picture to me!"

"Its related, believe me it is."

Her eyes were lambent green and exposed more in this moment than Jager had in years. He felt strangely awkward even though he knew from the way she moved, the momentary change in skin pigementation when she touched something. Knew that, with a thought he could kill her. Instantly. He knew how and that he didn't need to kill today.

"You know," she stated, "from personal experience that a man can move between potentials states of reality. You told me that when you wished me luck on world walking into the quantum potentials. During my trip to Oregon. Remember this if nothing else; everything I do, everything," she said accenting that one word, "is a matter of perception. Of awareness. It's not power the way most people define it. I look for what I need, I feel for it. And then..."

Her eyes locked on a spot in the air somewhere just inches from his chest. Her breathing slowed as she concentrated on the spot. He realized she was doing this slowly for his benefit and he concentrated as well, trying to see what she perceived. In the quantum he felt a momentary vibration like a quiver in the ether and her left hand reached slowly, so very slowly, towards his chest. And then it disappeared.

Jager felt a breeze blow across his shoulders and heard the soft pop. He blinked and her hand was visible. Holding a pistol towards him butt first. Ruthlessly, he squashed his initial reaction and the straining of the barrier in his mind. Pushed the snarling other down and wordlessly took the pistol to examine.

"PU Special Forces Turbo Pistol. Ten shot capacity," he commented studying the weapon, "plasma containment shielding for single pulse overload, multiphasic setting. It was banned in 2018, because it tends to go through anything that isn't stronge enough to even partially resist it. This is designed to kill novas." A shiver tried to creep up his spine but he suppressed it. He'd held this weapon before, or one very much like it. Not in this universe though. And there was something so incongrous about this woman holding such a lethal object.

"Jane," he asked carefully, "where did you get this?"

"Where do I get everything," she said answering question for question. "Beyond the world most people see, beyond the veil of energy most novas limit themselves to. It's always there and always real. It's not a matter of making it real, its only a matter of... Well, shifting the reference to one I can relate to. Of bringing it to me if you want to look at it that way."

"And this will fade in how long?" he asked checking the safety on this old/new gun. Locked. Not equiped with the anti-tamper device that would be implemented until 2020, two years after the banning. Rotating the barrel focus which would widen the beam to a full meter at a half at a range of five meters or narrow to a pinpoint capable of reaching half way to the moon. Some of the blackest of black tech.

"It won't."

"Huh" That surprised him in spite of himself and he stared at her. "Atwight's manipulations..."

"Are different. Before Oregon, I was doing it wrong and wasting effort and energy. I fed quantum into things to maintain the resonance with my local reality. I've realized that by rotating an equal mass to replace what I took everything stays where it's put. The universe, all the universes, really do hate a vacuum. Even a quantum vacuum. Its not hard and really doesn't even take that much energy. Sometimes I mess up and it's not smooth but I've been getting better."

"The picture?"

"You don't recognize our missing, umm, assoiciate? Jager... Jason look at the logical progressions you see here," she directed kneeling to the drawings.

"One - Pax turns a blind eye to what he knows will happen, is happening, when Jenifer's investigations begin reaching into Galatea itself. Wrestling with his inner demon as you say. He chose expedience for the best of reasons and as a direct result of that you have event number two. The question is this, who convinced the most self-righteous man on the planet, stuffed with the sense of his own worth, to look away from what was happening."

Wizard finger tips trace the path of the tear down Pax's chalk image, then she shifts to regard the second image. "Then there's this; Slider dies. The order is given to terminate but by who? By the directors of the one organization on the planet that has cateloged all known manifestations of quantum power? Give me a break!"

Jager hadn't heard her sound this angry except when she was chasing a vile little body jumper with a penchance for pedophilia. Terrified, not for herself but for the future victims.

"Utopia has studied nova's since 1998. Their recruiters are on scene for powerful novas within hours. Even low key ones get a visit inside of a day. Remember Jordan Rossi's story? He was contacted while he was still piecing it together."

"What kind of idiots would they have to be to deliberately pull a stunt like that! Jeez, I know three people that could 'cog the area and tell you what color the previous tenants eyes were! Another two that can track anyone or anything that stayed on the planet just from a flake of skin! Utopia black op or not, it wasn't Utopia that pushed it into happening. And remember, they had her at anytime and didn't act until after she pulled PU files on Galatea, pulled stakes from the main facility and went to an organization that is tied closely enough to PU to be designated a department. The same place all new utopian novas have to go for their community service time. Do we really need to discuss the fact that this single incident shook Utopia to it's core, destabilized a position AEON had worked for publicly since 1998 and lost them a growing number of novas each year since? They could have stopped her in a hundred ways and didn't. They should have seen the damage coming but let it pass. Somebody inside Utopia pushed the panic button when, and only when, she went somewhere beyond Utopia's control policies. She went looking into Galatea and before."

"Three; Pax is in too deep. He's become the antithesis of all that he ever hoped for because of the compromised position, the manacles, he put himself in. His only outlet is his hatred of Mal, based on the fear of what Teras espouses, and he's turning to dangerous and more powerful stunts to close the gap between Mal and himself. Taint is just the tip of the iceberg. He's being willingly forged into the weapon that will be pointed at Mal and the Teragen. Will Mal the philosopher be prepared for the juggernaut Pax is being twisted into?"

"Look at this last one carefully Jason. Take the next logical step. Look at the picture and tell me what you see."

"A lot of people put Utopia at the center of every thing conspiracy related," he commented sardonically. "This isn't new."

"Not Utopia. They're being played just like Cornelius was. Someone lets them organize, do a little good and then quashs them with mediocrity and turmoil when they step into areas that are carefully controlled. The seeds of Utopia's destruction were sown in the first three years of it's birth. How could their dirt not come out in the face of the kinds of insight novas possess?"

"One question."


"I understand, I think, what it is that you do. For some reason its actually a little more freaky than the idea of making stuff from raw quantum but I can deal. I even think I understand how you know some of what you know. You perceive quantum potential directly. You see the shifts and ebbs. But here's my question; how the hell do you know the rest of this crap! How do you know it so thoroughly? How can you be sure!"

"You know that old saw about deadmen telling no tales?" she asked, raw emotion bleeding from her eyes.

"Yeah. I've heard it."

"Everyone talks eventually. The dead just speak more softly than most. It's all energy and potentials. Or did you think that it was just our memories that haunt us?"

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-05-2001).]
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Jager took another look at the gun. The smile flowed backwards, this time, starting at the eyes and moving to his lips.

"Everything has to have a crucial point were the planning breaks down and chance takes over. Chaos Theory. Someone, or is it everyone, approaches that point within themselves. In this case, this has got to be the point when we as a people/race/whatever rip apart our reality to decide a new possibility, for lack of a better term."

"It starts with James, I think. Though you have never met him, that is a pretty good likeness," he said, regarding the drawing again.

"Now what do we do, now that we know that they are manipulating us? Pax is on the horizon."

"I trust my luck, Wizard. Do you trust me?"

She didn't answer. She just stared at him, almost burning a whole into his heart. She knew it wasn't really about trust. It was something else.

"Do you trust me, Jason?"

No answer, but his eyes said yes.

"Were do we go from here?"

"That's easy", he laughed. "We are going to Chicago."

A momentary pause.

"Jane, have you ever heard of Zelazny?"

A vague something from way back in her youth, so many hours ago. She nodded.

"Do the dead come unasked?"

She looked away, not answering. In her case, the asking of the question was more important than any answer she needed to give. He knew...some of it, anyway.

He put the gun into his jacket pocket. A warp to Chicago's Lakeside began to open. Jager knew they needed that moment. Things were likely to get alot hairier before they got any real answers. His hand caressed the gun in anger. Then the anger became something else.

"Never let them get to you", he whispered the old mantra, "cause getting to people is MY job."

He smiled as it came to him.

"Ah, 'Jane'. What did you replace this gun with?"

Despite the threat they were both walking into, she couldn't quite suppress that chuckle.

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"Ah, 'Jane'. What did you replace this gun with?" Jager asked, humor dancing in his eyes. Despite the threat they were both walking into, she couldn't quite suppress her laughter.

“You needn’t say my name that way,” she said smiling. “I’ve used lots of names but that one’s actually as close to my birth name as I’ve ever come and a lot closer than most.”

“Yeah. To tell you the truth,” he confessed, “I was pretty certain you were a guy until recently. I suspected after reviewing the logs on your conversation with Sovem. Other than that your posts were very gender neutral, almost pointedly so. I think that’s what made me suspect more than anything else.”

“It wasn’t deliberate! Excuse me, it wasn't intended to defraud anyone. Partly, I wanted to see what you could dig up on me in the Utopian computers with as little information as possible, which as I recall was about what you got out of them. And partly it’s just one tool in the kit for maintaining a low profile. Few men look twice at an average woman. Doubly true if you’re looking for a guy to begin with.”

“Your not completely unattractive,” joked Jager. “But I take your meaning. In a nova world you fit in as baseline without trying too hard. But you’re dodging the question. What did you replace the gun with?”

Wizard’s eyes concentrated on the air in front of her as she replied distractedly. “Let’s just say, Utopia’s going to be issuing more ID’s and equipment in the near future. I had to make up for almost 3 kilos mass and if I don’t get it exactly right things tend to slip.”

Jager’s eyes narrowed momentarily with the thought of this dangerous weapon ‘slipping’ and then he saw the faint upturn of her lips. She was jerking his chain although in a relatively nice way. There were a million questions he wanted to ask now that he understood what she did. Philosophical questions and otherwise, but Jane was already working the warp construct and he didn’t want to distract her when his molecules were going to be in her hands. Besides, he had told the truth when he said before that it was a little freaky to think that all these things were coming from somewhere. The strangeness lay in the realization that this wasn’t the handiwork of someone’s imagination and subconscious control of energy. These things were actually coming from somewhere. In Egypt she had pulled out a weapon that had reacted negatively with stored quantum energy. Like Eclipsidol, but based on energetic particles rather than chemical reactions. What world understood quantum well enough to construct such a device and why had they seen the need to build it?

A telltale wind gusted, followed by a soft blue glow announcing the arrival of their transportation. With newfound understanding, the warrior studied the construct appearing before him over Wizards shoulder as she worked her talent. It was big, a good meter and a half in diameter and appeared to be flat burnished metal ring set in a crystalline base shot with filaments of golden color. The outer edges of the rings were unfocused, as if it were vibrating at a speed too rapid for his eyes to follow. Strange symbol were etched in base relief in the surface of the ring, not quite like anything he’d ever seen before but similar to the characters used in Japan or China. In the base was pressed a largish symbol that tickled at his memory until her realized that it resembled a stylized version of the Triton Foundation logo. Where far flung improbability was she getting this from!

“This isn’t the same as the one you used to get us to Seattle,” he observed cautiously.

“No. This is less disruptive on the quantum field and I want to make it to our destination without leaving signs behind. Probably an overdeveloped sense of caution but I’m always careful when other people are depending on me.”

Her face was serious and her eyes spoke a volume of truth that some would find mildly embarrassing. She was being utterly honest and she was concerned for his well-being. If only she knew.

“Caution can kill as well,” he warned shaking his head as he stepped through the portal. There was a sound like the buzzing of thousands of insect and a disconcerting sensation of …


Jager stood in a world of complete and coldly crystal stillness. No wind. No rustle of vegetation. Not a single sound except that his slowly laboring heartbeat. Study the terrain; he noted that he stood in a vast field frozen and completely unmoving. Overhead, the sun shone high but tinged with an oddly reddish hue and unwarming. The vegetation was almost black which sent a chill down his spine reflexively. This was uncomfortably close to the dreams he’d had a lifetime ago when thoughts of hell occupied his imagination. Turning, he saw wizard standing behind him holding her finger to her lips in a quieting sign. No talking.

‘Okay,’ he thought, ‘I promised trust.’ Holding his hands palm up and spread wide he signed, ‘Where are we?’

Wizard held a single finger up. Jager noticed she didn’t use polish. 'Wait a moment,' she seemed to be saying. Okay. Turning, he regarded his surroundings again and realized that what he had originally taken for hills were in fact distant low buildings and deeply shadowed. Quietly, Jager promised himself that if she’d gotten them stranded on some far-flung world he was going to never, never let her forget making the mistake!

The moment seemed to stretch on and then his keen eyes noted the dawning changes. The color of the sunlight shifted slightly as the vegetation took on a healthier shade of green. The low buildings were beginning to shift in shape and numbers as some disappeared and others grew like trees in a stop motion film to take their place. The air around him was filled with blurs of motions and a high-pitched keening noise filled his ears almost to a thunderous level. Through it all he held his ground after confirming Wizard herself stood unconcerned and looking around interestedly. If she wasn’t going to flinch then neither was he.

Resolved he waited as the motions began to slow and then fade, taking the annoying sounds with them. In moments the world returned to normal and he realized he stood in Capone’s city. The stench of fish filled his nostrils though he had to admit it was better since Utopia introduced the environmental measures to clean up the great lakes. Better fish than the rotting stench of his childhood.

“Wiz… Jane, what in the name of god did we just do? And if the explanation involves the words time and travel you had better figure out a good lie” he stated semi-seriously. This was weird.

“Actually, first hand accounts from Apep aside, I don’t think you actually can travel in time. But that’s not really my specialty” she answered. As his expression darkened she hurriedly added, “I told you we were going quietly! This warp subsumes into the local quantum field.”

Puzzlement or irritation must have shown in his body language because she continued. “Think of it as an optical illusion. The shift from potentiality to actually standing at this location isn’t accomplished instantaneously. We’re merged into the location over a very small but definite period of time and begin emerging from the local quantum starting with the area of lowest probability. What’s already happened.”

“So we came here by way of the past?” he asked.

“Umm… more like our quantum signature is dispersed through the past,” she responded slowly.

“So it’s a stealth warp?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Cool. Next time just say so.”

“Okay. Now that we're were here by almost untracable means, where do we go and how do we get there?

“All good questions, Jane. Here’s what we’re going to do…”

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-07-2001).]
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He floated above the glacial snow, reddish hair and untucked golf shirt blowing in the below freezing gusts, wondering for the umpteenth time why he agreed to this. "Because Michael, you do so love a challenge." he thought to himself with some amusement.

Slowly, he propelled himself forward as the winds picked up, blowing snow back and forth across the glacier creating a wall of white power through which no humans' sight could penetrate. Michael did not seem concerned with this particular obsticle as he moved through the freezing wall. "Where is it?" He thought coming to a halt and this time lowering himself to the ground, snow instantly covering his birkenstocks.

Michael closed his eyes. He reached deep into himself, felt the pulse, the source, his connection to everything. He felt himself drift ever deeper, until he was one with himself, with the universe. Slowly he lifted his head, eyes of lambent green flame scanning the terrain before him. The landscape revealed itself to him, nothing was hidden, nothing was unknown. He sensed what he was looking for, the energy could not be hidden from him. Michael rose into the air once more,and rocketed silently towards his destination. He knew where he was to be.


"Doctor.............Doctor your guest has arrived," The soft gentle voice intoned bringing Atwight out of his reverie.

"Very well Stella, please give him access." he said putting down the well worn paperback he had been reading. "I will recieve him here in the arbouritum."

"Acknowledged." said the slightly androgenous voice of the computer and then he was left in silence with only the natural sounds of the arbouritum to keep him company while he waited.


Michael walked through the halls of the bio-engineered arcology, following the small humanoid creature that was his guide. He had to admit to himself, he was truly impressed with the mammoth structure. Not only had his host managed to build, no, make that grow, it in less than ten years, but he had also managed to keep it hidden from, well, everyone. That was not a feat to be taken lightly. Again he thought about the wisdom of this particular path.

As he travelled deeper into the living structure, Michael witnessed other creatures both similar and completely alien to his diminuative guide. They were all over the place, some small, some large, many were vaguely humanoid. The ones that were not seemed to be patterned after an insect motiff, and quite a few blended humanoid and insectile features in the most fascinating ways. While they were somewhat disturbing, there was a beauty and artistry to them as well. He could tell that great care had been taken with their design.

The transparent membranes that were the doors to the arbouritum parted at the aproach of Michael and his guide. As the two entered, Michael had to stop and take in the wonderous sight before him. The arbouritum streched out in front of the awestruck nova for what seemed like miles. Were it not for the dome far above his head, Michael could almost believe he was outside, admiring a natural wonderland. Trees, bushes and grasses of all types were laid out before him, the smells and sounds coming from the tangle of nature told him this was real. His guide, sensing Michael's hesitation, turned and motioned for him to follow down the path it had picked out from among the trees.

After a few minutes, the path opened up to reveal a small clearing with a gazebo about 30 feet from a small brook that broke from the trees on the right to cut across the clearing and reenter the foilage on the other side. A small footbrige arced over the water near the gazebo. "Thank you," Michael said to is guide. "But I think I can find my way from here." The tiny creature nodded, turned, and headed back from the direction they had just come from.

Michael made his way to the gazebo, crossing the bridge and mounting the steps. There was a man seated across from him. Small, he had brownish hair, and wore casual office attire. He had a book in his hand and a pitcher of lemonade with two glasses on a small wooden end table beside him. This was not the man he was expecting. "Excuse me," he said to the seated gentleman who closed his book and regarded Michael. Michael instantly recognized the man before him. "Good afternoon Dr. Sommerville, I did not realize you were an associate of Atwight's. Where is our gracious host if I may ask?"

A smile played across the doctors lips. "Don't you recognize me, Michael?" Said the doctor. "I'm suprised."

Michael looked at the man, his brain already working. Images of hundreds, thousands of people flashed in his mind and in a moment, a memory came to the surface, bringing awareness with it. "Lester Atwight," he said. "The last time I saw you, you were 23. If I remember correctly, you were hovering at the back of the drawing room of the Aeon Society, New York chapter, during the debate on the merits of my plan. All these years, I've never put you and 'Atwight' together. Well played old man, well played."

Atwight nodded his head in acceptance of the praise. "I hope you found my home without any difficulty?" was all he said in return.

"Not too much. I am impressed with you work here. Is this the colony to which you have refered to in the past?"

"Only a prototype. But come, that is not why you have come to visit now is it?"

Michael sat down, across from the man before him. "We both know why I am here Lester. The others are not happy. Its bad enough you muddle in their experiments, but now your revealing secrets to people who could do quite a bit of damage with those secrets. What are you up to?" He motioned with his hand towards the pitcher. It lifted, poured out a measure of the lemonade into one of the glasses, halfway filling it, and set itself back on the spot it had one rested. The half full glass gently glided into Michael's waiting hand. He sipped lightly while waiting for a reply.

"Michael, or should I call you Divis Mal?" Michael shrugged casually. "It is never as cut and dry as the others want to make it sound, you should know that better than anyone else," Michael nodded and Atwight continued. "Dana's experiments on the animal kingdom, not to mention her chosen proxy, put all of us at grave risk. I simply lowered the chance of that particular scenario of escalating any further than it already had. I know you wanted to use Primus for your own plans, but what can I say? I did what I had to do. As for Daedelus, well, you know our history. He used that toad of his Praetorian to steal my technology and handed it to Delphi. Tesseract and the childeren would not exist if it were not for that. Daedelus knows that better than any of the others. Thats why he hasen't made a move against me in response."

Michael thought quietly for a moment before continuing. "None of that explains your behavior regarding Jager and the others. Why on earth would you give them confirmation about us?"

"You of all people should understand this Divis. If anything, what I have given them should support the Teregen's theories about evolution."

"That still doesn't explain what you gain out of it," Divis countered quickly. "All it gets you is the ire of several older, wiser, and more powerful individuals. Its just making you enemies."

Atwight shifted a moment, and looked deep into the eyes of the man before him. Slowly he responded. "Look at the people involed with this game. Jager, a man out of time and space. He knows better than anyone else on the planet what could become of us, of our people. He has lived it. Wizard, A woman who is almost one with quantum possibility, she is a bridge between time and space, between the parallel universes. Then there is James. He represents understanding. How many people outside of the Cabal could even come close to understanding who and what we are? He has even bent time and space to his will, at least technologically. Need I go on?" He sat back and watched Michael, Divis Mal, take in what he has said, what he has revealed to him.

Michael looked up sharply. "So how do you plan on surviving this little power play? You know it won't go unopposed."

"That is why you are here. I believe I am finally ready for the transition. You promised to guide me though it when I started on this path, and now I am asking for you to keep that promise."

Michael looked at the man before him critically. He seemed so earnest, so benign, yet something lurked deep within this man. Perhaps he was ready after all. "Very well Atwight, I will be your guide through the Chrysalis. I hope you are prepaired for what lies ahead........."

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An office building in Tokyo. A sub-basement not on any blueprint or building layout. Dark shadows broken up by flashing lights from a dozen monitors. One man sitting at the center of a web of electronics, surrounded by keyboards, control panels and microphones. A voice cuts in, interupting the flow of data from outside sources.

"Bernard here James." A gruff voice, emenating from an unaturally small frame.


"You're going to have some visitors soon. They came by looking for you. One female, Wizard, the genius behind the San Paulo Miracle." Bernard's voice is still touched with a sense of awe.

"Really? It shall be an honor."

"Spook too. Some yahoo with about twelve pounds of death in his pockets. Not too bright, but Wizard seemed to know how to play the game."

"I wonder if it is the elusive Jager. I hope so, I've been itching to make his aquaintence."

"Just wanted to give you a heads up. I hope you don't mind, it's just that I couldn't imagine that you would pass up an opportunity to talk with such an incredible artist." Fear colors his voice now. James has been a little touchy lately. The murders have been stepped up since Nimoe's death. He's been difficult to read.

"No, no problem at all Bernard. I appreciate the favor you've done me. Now I'm going to do you one, ok?"

"Uh sure, absolutely. What?"

"You have some visitors, uninvited guests. They look to be fairly unfriendly. And no, don't even think that your security measures will handle them. Your sensors didn't detect me leaving my bugs, they're not going to help you now. I suggest you start running. If you need some capital to help replace what you're about to lose, go to account # 66501-01 at Wachovia International. Take the balance. Good luck." Despite the accent changing twice in that exchange the genuine concern is unmistakable.

"Oh shit! Bye!"

The last sounds audible are the flickering his of Bernards body folding in on itself as it redefines its presence elswhere and then an explosion as security doors are torn apart like so much papier mache.

"Hmmm, I guess I should prepare for visitors. Oh Mike?"

"Yes James?" A stunning tenor with just the hint of the mechanical answers.

"Yes, please adjust climate control for visitors, turn on the lights, and send out the cleaners. Thank you. I shall prepare the feast myself. It's been too long since I've cooked for company."

He hums as he prepares the food, finding enjoyment in the simple preparation of a stunning meal. Nova palates are so much more the challenge. You never know when you're preparing dinner for someone who's tastebuds can detect imperfections a thousand times more accurately than some baseline's palate.

"I wonder when they will be here? Well, I simply use the stasis tray until they arrive."

"Oh, and Mike?"

"Yes James?"

Adjust the security controls also. We wouldn't want to reduce our guests to their composite atoms now would we?"

"No, of course not James. Also, you asked to be notified if any Beta Level targets became available. One Alfredo De La Paz recently gave notice to his superiors at Utopia. He was a senior manager in the PR department over the Asia sector. He has been offered employment at Novelty Consultants and has accepted. His employment file does show a tendency towards disagreeing with orders that have a 87% probability from coming from Proteus sources. No write ups, but some acknowledgements of verbal warnings."

"Really, sounds perfect. Farm it out to Spartan Inc, minimum of four intermediaries, torch the cyber connects and pay out of the Kenyan accounts. Don't hit his family."

"Yes James. This makes four targets in the last 6 months of Beta or Alpha level. Do you wish for the media to be notified?"

"Hmmmm, yes. Four is enough for a good consipracy. Bypass all major media, lets start this in the trash press. They're particularly anti-Utopia right now. Let them run with it. I think two more targets and the mainstream will pick up on it. Then we drop the practice, makes it look like Utopia got caught with it's nasty little paw in the cookie jar. Anything else?"

"Yes, you have a delivery of fresh Fugu. Would you like it for this evening's entertainment?"

"Ah yes, please. I am suddenly in the mood for a little 'extreme cusisine'. When they arrive, check them over, make them comfortable in the outer chambers. Play a little music, Shubert's good and make drinks available. Then ring me."

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“All good questions, Jane. Here’s what we’re going to do…”

"...first; locate this Bernard fellow that Walt told us about. Since both Utopia and the Directive are all over NextStep's Chicago offices, doing this quietly may take a little extra finesse."

"Uh, Jager, isn't that Bernard right down there," Jane said, pointing to a scuttling little man moving toward a non-dexcript auto.

"No way!" he whispered, thinking rapidly.


"On it," she replied. Her mind reached out and located the fading appeture that fluxiated 30 meters down the slope. As she moved hypnotically toward the point, Bernard noticed her. A suprised smile leapt to his face. As his eyes wandered past her, he noticed the young man moving at her side and matching his stare. Bernard blanched. The man's hands were in his pockets.

"Dammit, James," he cursed. "You set me up." The note promising a car and enough equipment to facilitate his start up had been too good to pass up.

"Don't do it, Jason," she whispered. Even as the words left her lips, Bernard folded himself out of existance.

Jager reached out and put a casual hand on her hip as the strolled down the slope.

"Why does everyone assume that I am always going to kill someone? I do have other interests, ya know."

"Yes, but Bernard is being hunted down and we are going to have a passle of Utopians here in about five minutes thanks to his Warping about."

She stopped at Bernard's initial appeture and reached through the pinprick in space with her mind. He was good and his form of warping didn't leave alot to work with, still...

"Asheville; up in the mountains."

Jager continued down the slope and up to the car. He circled it and then removed the keys that Bernard had left dangling in the door. He took a good wiff, and started walking back up slope.

"Bernard liked alot of seafood and rice wine."

Jane turned her head slightly and cocked an eyebrow.

"He eats dried rice balls on a regular basis, leaving fragments underneath his finger nails. Definitely not a casual conessuir, either. Japanese, I think. Honshu, central plain, somewhere between Kyoto and Edo."

He tossed the keys over his shoulder. They sailed and hooked on the side view mirror.

Jane nodded and pushed herself. Using one point to find another was hard enough. Using it to locate a third, sympathetic one was far worse. She had never tried it before. Maybe that is why she liked Jason so much. He pushed her while still being in awe of her power; not an easy combination.

Within her, the quantum spark flickered and then pulsed out with a blindingly intense surge. Possiblities merged, trombones thundered and the symphony of woodwinds crashed about her, high and low.

She staggered and fell back into Jason's arms.

"You were right," she answered, suprised. "He came from a destination in Tokyo."

There was that kind smile she saw so rarely. He helped her steedy herself.

"I told you I was good at this."

"Yeah, but all that with just a wiff of his keys. I mean, ..."

"Can we make it there? I have a feeling James might need us soon. My node is starting to tremble that way."

"I'm on it."

As the preception of reality began stretching again, Jager turned and smiled a more mischevious grin.

"So, how many of your alternates are girls as opposed to guys?"

The off-handed comment startled her for a nano-second. Her power flared and the notes of the biwa flowed through. She mastered it.

'Damn him, he knows who hard this is.'

As she turned to chastise him, he tapped his nose and smiled with those impish eyes.

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"Jordan, do you realize what you've stumbled on to here?"

"What?" he said to the beautiful blonde giant sitting at the computer terminal before him.

Bridget looked at the young man before her, god he looked older than his 17 years. Bald suited him well she thought. she shook her head to clear it. Those damn pheromones.

"Jordan, not only have you been in communication with some of the spook worlds heavy hitters, but you've been given confirmation of pre-event novas! Why the hell didn't you bring this to us before?"

Jordan shrugged. "It didn't seem all that important at the time. Besides, we had other things to deal with," He said as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Your not gonna tell Renaud about this, are you?" Bridget had already turned her attention back to the computer projection. her eyes were dialated and she seemed to be in an almost trance-like state. Info-zone, Jordan thought to himself. That was her gift. The ability to manipulate and understand any and all information, in any medium, or something like that. "Incredible," She said, more to herself than to Jordan. Suddenly, her eyes refocused.

"We have work to do Jordan, I'll explain on the way," She said as she stood, minding her head didn't brush the cealing, and headed out of the room. Jordan rushed to catch up with her.

Explain what Bridget, whats going on?"

Bridget kept walking, she didn't even turn around. "The game, you know? Those messages hidden within mundane information passed between those novas blessed with hyper intelligence. I would say most, if not all, novas that are capable play this game on some level, even myself. While I was aware there was more to it than what I saw, I just believed it was a way for us super brains to communicate with each other without being bothered by people who couldn't understand us. What I didn't realize just how complex this really gets," She stopped talking as several other Foundation employees passed them by. She waited until she was sure they were out of hearing range before continuing. "I know this is a little confusing but it'll get clearer in a moment. Now the game is played over every medium. Anthing that can convey information can be used as a vessel for the hidden messages. Even that forum you frequent is a playing field."

"So your saying that the people on the boards are really talking about something else, not just what they typed? He interupted, Bridgit had a tendancy to head off into left field if you didn't keep her to track and he had a feeling thats where they were headed. "How is this important to us?"

Bridget stopped in her tracks and looked at him. He wasn't getting it. "Hmm," She said, "Ok, from going through the archives of the site, as choopy as they are, I found that the game was only being played on the most basic of levels. Occasionaly more complex messages would spike through the boards, but nothing major. At least not as far as I could tell anyways. All of a sudden, a couple of months ago, the boards got really active, it had become a major battleground in the politics of the game with some very heavy hitters. I don't know who they are, but it started around the time that kook, Cornelius, started to loose it. Its only gotten deeper since then. Then that Atwight guy claimed he was pre-event. Well, lets just say the shit hit the fan. At first I didn't believe it, then I started to unravel some of the hidden messages. Whoever he is, he's pissed off a lot of people. So has your friend, Jager. He's investigating those rumors of pre-events. He's drawn attention to himself from those same people who are pissed at Atwight." She breathed deeply, and watched as Jordan absorbed everything she said.

He looked at her, understanding slowly creeping accross his face. "So what you saying is that if Atwight were lying, nobody would be reacting the way they are, and no one would care what Jager was doing, because there would be nothing for him to find?"

"Something like that," She said, smiling. "I'm glad your starting to use that brain of yours, now come on."

"Wait! You still haven't told me why we're getting into all this," He called after her, hurring to catch up. They came to the end of the hall, and passed through a large metallic sliding door of an elevator.

"Roof," Brigdet said before turning back to Jordan. "Jordan, we're getting ito this because its what we do. This kind of investigation is what the Foundation is all about. Besides, I thought you would want to help your friend."

"Ok, you got a point. Jager's a friend and I owe him. So where do we start?"

"Chicago," She said. "We start looking in Chicago."

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Jordan hauled himself over the edge of the building and rolled onto his back. He was breathing heavily through the Eufiber that covered his face. He groaned softly. "Jordan? Jordan Respond please!"

Brdget's voice screamed in his eardrum through the sub-vocal mike in his ear and he winced. "Stop yelling Bidge, I can here you just fine," he said quietly. "Give me a minute will ya." His Eufiber had already begun readjusting itself, the finger and toe claws slowly shifting back into the form of boots and gloves.

"What the hell are you doing?" came the reply. She sounded impatient.

"I'm dying, do you mind?"

"Well," came her reply. "You better find another place to do it 'cause security will be there any moment."

"Ah shit. Why you wait so long to warn me," he said, rolling up into a crouched position. he scanned the roof, looking for cover. He moved quickly to the stairway entrance and lept to the roof of the tiny structure. "Relax Jordan, your doing fine. 30 seconds till the guard gets to the roof. Take him out quietly and quickly, no permanent damage."

The door beneath him opened and a middle aged, out of shape man in a security guard uniform stepped out. He looked around before checking in with the guard station. The door closed behind the guard as he took a few steps forward and fished a pack of smokes from his back pocket. Jordan dropped to the ground behind the guard making a slight crunching sound on the gravel. Jordan was already in motion as the guard turned to the sound. He let out a slight gasp at the sight of the man clad entirely in black before unconsciousness overtook him. Jordan looked down at the unmoving guard, he was still breathing. "Sorry," he said quietly, and then entered through the unlocked door.

"Repeat Jordan, I didn't get a clear copy on that." Bridget inquired over the radio. "Nothing," he said. "The guard has been neutralized."

"Copy that. You have 15 minutes, after that, they'll be looking for the missing guard when he doesn't check in. Head for the 30th floor, Bernard's office is there. Left from the stairs, then left again. Sixth door on the right. Let me know when your there, over."

Jordan sped down the stairwell, mindful to count the floors as he went. He stopped on the 30th floor and put his ear to the door. While the door blocked some of his hearing, his hyper enhanced senses told him all was quiet on the other side. Slipping quietly through the door, He scanned the lobby. Empty just like he thought. He followed Bridget's instructions and soon found himself standing in front of a non descript wooden office door. It was slightly ajar. "Bridget I'm here," he whispered quietly, "Somethings not right. His door, its open a little, like someone left in a hurry and didn't make sure it was closed properly."

"Hmm, well be careful. We have no choice but to proceed." came her reply. "Hook the uplink up to the back of his computer like I showed you, than turn on his computer. We'll see what I can come up with."

"Roger that," Jordan carefully pushed the door open and stepped inside. the office was a mess. Papers were everywhere and all the cabinets were open. Someone had rifled throught this office in a big hurry and they didn't care about being neat. The computer on the desk seem relativly unmolested and he moved quickly over to where the cpu was sitting. The Eufiber on his hip shifted slightly and he reached in to the newly formed pocket, fishing out a small electronic device. He hooked it up to the computer, following Bridget's instructions exactly and turned the machine on when he was done. It hummed to life and went through its boot up sequence before settling on the desktop. "Bidget, the computer's up and running, what now?"

"Keep a lookout while I do my thing," She said. "This will only take a few minutes." He watched for a moment while windows popped open and closed on the screen, before turning to check the door. Nothing, the hallway was still empty. He shifted his Eufiber away from his wrist to check his watch. "Dammit," he said under his breath. Four minutes before the guard was supposed to check in. He turned back to the computer. "Come on girl, were runnin out of time."

"Fuck," came over his ear mike. "There's nothing here Jordan, Its a bust."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean the drives have been wiped clean, not even a trace of whatever had been there. Probably the work of a cyber-psi," She sounded irritated. "Get out of there, we'll have to tackle this some other way."

"Hold on, I'm gonna check around the office, someone was making a mess in here earlier, maybe they missed something." He started sifting through the papers on the floor, scanning each one quickly before discarding it. "You've got two minutes, Jordan. Thats all we can afford. Do you even know what your looking for?"

He kept sifting through the paper. "Nope, but I'll know it when I see it." After a couple of minutes he stopped, holding what looked like a menu, written in an oriental language. He picked up a few other pieces that he had previously discarded, in that same language. "Bridget, I'm scanning a few things, tell me what language they are in and where they come from." he said eagerly while scanning the documents into the office computer.

It took a few moments for her to respond. "Jordan, this is great! The language is Japanese, this is a restaurant menu and a few bills. They come from a restaurant in Japan. Tokyo to be exact. The bills are dated from today, a few hours ago. There is no way he could have gotten to Chicago without the use of nova powers that fast. I'm betting thats where you need to be. Now get out of there, head to the airport. I'll set up the arrangements."

"I heard you, I'm out of here." whith that, he shut down the computer, grabbed the electronics and slipped quietly out of the office, never noticing the tiny camera light blinking softly in the upper corner of the room.

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James Meehan was a flurry in his kitchen. Throwing ingredients together with lightning speed he prepared a sumptuous feast for his expected visitors. "I hope they like Japanese/Southwestern Fusion. A meeting such as this calls for an equally interesting blend of cuisine."

"James" the voice broke through the frenzied atmosphere of the kitchen.

"Yes Michael? You know I don't like to be disturbed when I'm cooking. So, I hope it's important." with the annoyance comes a thick Russian accent. A voice analysis expert would bet his life that the speaker was born and raised in Kiev, in the early 1940's.

"I apologize, but yes, it is important. There is another intruder in Bernard's office. The files tag him as one Jordan Rossi. I am providing the video now."

"Ah,the young Mr. Rossi. Nice to see that you've decided to play the game. Oh, does he really expect Bernard to have left anything on that PC? No, of course not. Hmmm, frantic searching, what does he expect? Oh ho, he's found a clue, good instincts that one." the Russian accent leaves to be replaced by Meehan's natural Western American accent.

"Yes James, he should be in Tokyo very soon. His contact should be able to get him passage to Japan in short order. What are your wishes?"

"Lets just see how dedicated Mr. Rossi is. Leave an order at Hoshi's for some food under Mr. Rossi's name and description. Include a nice salutation with a triple tier encryption. Mr. Rossi is bright enough, but lets not push him. Use, let's see, hmmm, use some basic word structure hidden message, follow up with a Japanese/Hebrew idiom translation puzzle and then a simple pop trivia question. The answer gives this address. Now, I guess it's dinner for four."

"Yes James, I shall enter his profile into the security system. Anything else?"

"Yes, Wizard and Jaeger might take the same route. Just in case, leave them an order also. Wizard's a tough one, go all out on her. Minimum ten levels, throw in some chaos mathematics and some ancient Aramaic. Maybe I'll actually be able to challenge her."

"Yes James. The orders have been made. I shall alert you when they arrive. Oh, Mr. Rossi is underage, does he receive alcohol?"

"I assume you are joking Mike." again, a hint of Russian creeps in.

"Of course James, was it funny?"

Jame's eye's flared momentarily, that would teach him to pay homage to the classics the next time he built something. But Mike was the only company he'd had in quite some time and didn't want alienate him with an unnecessarily short temper. His voiced relaxed and took on a feminine timbre, "One time funny my friend. And now we wait."

[This message has been edited by James 'Prodigy' Meehan (edited 06-12-2001).]

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As she turned to chastise him, he tapped his nose and smiled with those impish eyes

Returning his smile, Wizard gestures to the newly materialized warp portal and he steps through, vanishing from sight into swirling of energy. In mid-step to follow, she pauses for a moment and turns slowly to regard the landscape surrounding her. Looking for... What? A reason, she thinks, a reason to go against the powers and thrones and dominions of the world. A reason to press luck one more time and get bloody one more time. There were warm fires, cups of coco, sketches and Nyla to make it all worth-while and this errand was taking her farther away with each tick of the clock. There was...

The piece. She could feel the radiated warmth of the cyber card in her waist pocket and gently drew it out, considering. It had begun as a fragment seen in a dream and she had reached across whole universes to snatch this electronic marvel to hold it and protect it while she strode the world nurturing that dream into a reality. She was missing a critical perspective that only James could supply to complement the others. And then there was Atwight for his expertise in quantum fields, if he could be convinced to offer that power. The odds against successfully mid-wifeing this creation into existence were significantly less than surviving the coming confrontation. Would it truly be worth it? The potentials were a twisted knot a writhing probabilities. Nothing was completely certain and even the immediate probabilities were shifting unexpectedly as change gathered momentum. There was no way to know how this was going to come out. It was, in essence, a matter of faith. Faith in her ability to collect the needed pieces while staying alive long enough to assemble them properly. Faith in her ability to keep Jason alive when he was hunting the most dangerous game on the planet. Faith in her ability to realize the piece that she had only glimpsed in the jungle that lies between sleep and consciousness.

Walt had cried when he experienced the fragment she had captured. That was only a static aspect of the piece and it had pierced his heart. There was, in truth, no choice for her she realized as she slipped the card back into her pants pocket. She brought her closed fist to her mouth and gently breathed into it a single word, written in sound and quantum, then she spread her hand wide and let it waft softly into the afternoon sun.

"Sometimes, the glass of lemonade is half full," she spoke aloud wondering why the glass held lemonade as she stepped into the portal and vanished.

A world away, a small child stirred from her nap. The voice of her friend whispered her name, "Nyla," and breath blew across her small ear. Smiling, the little girl opened her eyes and peered around the small room (her room!) searching for her friend. The evening sun lit the opulence of toys and books such as she could never have imagined a mere week ago but of Wizard there was no sign. Downstairs she could distantly hear 'Nana' moving pots and pans noisily as their supper was constructed. Cuddling her pillow tightly, she snuggled into her quilt and resolved to journey back into dream and seek her friend.

In Tokyo Jager stands in a large open room, softly lit by candles arrayed around a central statue of the Buddha. The scent of incense and oils tickle his senses as Wizard steps into a reality.

"Problems?" His voice was concerned. Each second had clicked away into a seeming eternity as he had waited for her to emerge.

"No," she said removing her running shoes and placing them carefully on the matting which covered the floor. "But give me just a moment. I need to clear my perspective."

Jager quizzically watched as she approaches the statue and, slipping to her knees, performs an obeisance. Shrugging, he moves soundlessly across the tatami matting and reaches for the door after checking for hidden danger. Sliding it with the merest hint of wood rubbing against wood, he opens it a fraction of an inch and peers outside. Senses honed in quantum potential collect information which his enhanced mind collates into a mental three dimensional assessment of the terrain. A temple in the quiet heart of Tokyo, well as quiet as it's going to get without a natural disaster to remove the people. The pre-dawn glow of a cool morning that promises to be very warm. Traffic, never completely stopped, is rising in volume and the sounds of early morning commuters echo in the air. Close by he catches the faint sounds of monks beginning to stir and behind him the sound of Wizard
rising to join him. The scent of rice, fish and other taste treats wafts through the air and his stomach rumbles in response as he remembers it's been hours since his last meal.

"I don't think this temple does takeout," he notes softly a touch of smile flitting across his features.

"I needed to stop and refresh. Besides, Bernard was spooked about something," she replies. "I didn't want to warp into the middle of an unknown so I diverted here. The restaraunt is about a quarter klik down the main road. Outside that gate."

"You think he was being chased from Tokyo?" Jager looked askance.

"Unlikely. As you said, he got take out from Tokyo, returned to Chicago either after he ate or he ate there, then something spooked him. Enough that you, dangerous man that you are, sent him flying from the site of his offices in abject terror at the sight of you."

Her breath gently touches stray hairs on his neck as she speaks over his shoulder. Absently he notes her words carry the scent of oranges and peppermint. "That wasn't my fault, you know. I didn't do anything. I
really don't see why..."

"It's your body language. You exude a sense of alpha 'I'm going to eat your liver' male. It's part of your charm actually, although I can see where it might put some people off. I bet Jordan eats it up on those weekend sparring sessions."

"We're just friends, Jane."

"Good friends," she teased questioningly, one eyebrow arched.

"Focus, Wizard."

"Spoiled sport. Anyway, the restaraunt is close. My only question is whether we want to find James or let him find us."

"If we chose the former course, how would we find him?" Jager studied the courtyard outside, concentrating on the problem of exiting the temple grounds and not warmth radiating from her skin.

"Well, we have a number of clues although the restaraunt would be easier. James mentions food and scents alot as analogies. Remember the comments concerning taint as a crispy creamy dessert? He's also fonds of centers."

"Centers? Spell that one out for me."

"Novacentric. Control centers. Collecting anything implies bringing it to a central point. Ego-centric, though he has more than a little reason to justify his attitudes. It's a recurrent theme. Same with his attitudes about leaving the planet. If he is a center, why would he depart the center of man. Utopia's suborning the usefulness of Novacentric was a blow to his ego and perceptions that he's never forgiven them for committing."

"That's a little tenuous. With all of Tokyo's sheer size..."

"There's also his multiple persona's. His persona's all share his basic drives filtered through their individual perceptions. He is the center of his own universe of personalities but they exist and influence that universe which means he needs a location which would satisfy his/their esthetic desires."

"Are you really certain you could locate him? Play the intellect game on his level."

"What? Are kidding me? Intelligence may only be memory and pattern matching but with the exception of Atwight I don't know of anyone that operates at his level. No, if we locate him it's because he has made a game of it. The game is only interesting if there is a possibility of us winning without his intercession to block us. How we proceed is your call, I'm just pointing out possibilities."

"Hmmmm..." Jager thought carefully, assessing tactical possiblities. "There's the downside of wandering around downtown Tokyo as foreigners. We're going to stand out among the Japanese like a sore thumb. I don't relish being in the open like tourists gawking at the sights while we explore all of Tokyo."

Wizard shrugs smiling, "We would fit in with all the other tourists though I take your point. It's your call boss. What are you most comfortable with."

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-12-2001).]
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"How long will he be in there?" Thomas asked, looking first at the small metallic device in his hand, then back at the man standing before him.

Michael looked at the young man before him. "Well that depends entirely on the good doctor. Think though, how long did you and the others stay in the nursery? Six years or so?"

"Yeah," Thomas responded. "But it was something like a couple of months in the real world," he thought about this for a moment. "So he should be out in a month?"

Michael smiled. "I cannot give you an exact time Thomas, the Chrysalis is a personal experience and it takes its own time to complete. You do realize what this means though, don't you?" He watched the young man carefully.

Thomas thought for a moment, Michael could see the wheels turning in his mind as he considered all of the ramifications. "Well, I know we're the only thing standing between Atwight and any of his enemies that come calling....."

The three other young adults in the room shifted uncomfortably at that and Michael though a moment before speaking. "This isn't meant to worry you, any of you. I have to warn you though, Atwights enemies are not what you might think. They are powerful. Not just personal power either. They have influence, contacts, and resources that you can only imagine. If an attack comes, it will not be through the front door. They will target the things most important to him first. Do you understand now?"

"I....I think so," Thomas responded. Michael watched as the sheer enormity of what he said sank into the minds of the four youths and wondered if it wasn't too much for them to handle. Thomas looked at him critically for a moment. "Mr. Mal, can I ask you something?" The imposing figure nodded. "Why did you help him? I mean, what do you get out of helping him?"

Michael smiled genuinely at this honest question and the use of a formal title. "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. All of you should remember that. By helping Atwight evolve, I only help myself, and my cause. Now, I must go. Good luck to you all."

The four watched as Micheal, Divis Mal, the most powerful nova in the world, slowly faded from view. Mila turned to their leader. "Do you think he was telling the truth Thomas?" she asked.

"I don't know, but it doesn't matter really. We have work to do and not a lot of time."

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Jordan banged his head on the expensive mahogany desk for the fourth time in as many minutes. Puzzles, why did everyone have to use puzzles, he thought. He stared dumbly at the computer screen but it didn't show him anything new. He looked over at his guide and Foundation contact. Maria Ito, half spanish half Japanese. They don't come more exotic, to bad she wasen't a nova, didn't have super smarts. Maybe she could penetrate this stupid cryptogram!

Ok, satrt from the begining he though gloomily. "You picked up an order of sashimi from Hoshi's, someone had left it there with your description," he said softly to himself. " So either Jags or Wizard knows your here, unless......wait. Why would either of them bother with this kind of game? It's not Jager's style and I doubt Wizard would use it either. So who does that leave?" he sat quietly for a minute, thinking. "Whoever they are looking for! I'll bet anything this is Jimmy's handiwork. Well I'll prove to him I'm no monkey mind. Ok, so knowing James sent this, he's trying to tell one me of two things, either he is saying buzz off, or he's testing me. If he was shoving me off, he'd probably be more obvious about it, so this has to be a test." He sighed and rubbed his eyes.

"Your logic is sound Mr. Rossi."

"Huh!? Oh Maria, you startled me. Was I talking out loud? Sorry, nervous habit I guess," he said looking at the Eurasian beauty standing in the office doorway. "What were you saying?"

She crossed the room and sat in the empty chair beside him, looking at the figures and characters on the screen. "I said your logic is sound. So now that you have deduced who has sent you the riddle, and what the purpose of it is, it should be that much easier to solve. What have you figured out so far?"

Jordan leaned back and examined the screen once again. "Aside from an order of food waiting for me in a country I have never visited, it was the order itself that showed me the clue. First, I looked at the dishes, each name of the dish. Look at the way they were arragned. Each dish was prepaired, packaged and stacked in a particular order. That way when you opened and went through the dishes, you would be exposed to the message subconsciously. I've translated that part of it. When arragned properly the message says 'Welcome to the first level Jordan, can you find me?' Now I'm stuck. I thought that was the whole message, but there has to be more to it. I have twisteed and manipulated this message every way I know how but I'm just not getting it." He let out an annoyed huff and pushed his chair away from the table.

"Perhaps you have missed something?" She suggested passivly.

He looked back at her and raised his eyebrows. "Thats obvious," he said sarcastically. "Say, what do I owe you for dinner anyways?" He picked up the bill and looked at it. Japanese, he thought, why couldn't they give me the bill in English. something caught his eye. "Maria, what does this character mean?" She took the bill from his hand and scanned it the hand written note carefully. "I do not know," she replied. "It is not Japanese, I can tell you that much." They looked at each other dumbly for a moment. Bingo, Jordan thought.

Quickly, he sat back down at the computer and logged on to the OPnet. "By the way," Maria said. "You owe me 35 American dollars."

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They sat outside in the light rain, waiting for Jordan to make his move. Wizard was looking through the walls, having 'borrowed' a scanner that fit the task. Jager sat back, away from the ledge, eyes closed. They both occasionally dipped into their take-out as they waited.

"Okay,"she said,"he is finally onto something. For baselines, these Foundation people are really on the ball."

Jager put his food down. He stood up, opened his eyes as he walked over to Wizard's side.

"So, tell me again why didn't we just follow the clues that Prodigy left us? It would have taken us a little while to figure it out, but it might have taken us to a different place."

"You said it yourself, Jane. You didn't feel that this was a specific challenge from James, but a challenge by proxy. Seeing Jordon sinched it."

"We could have let him know we were here. Why not?" She wasn't questioning so much for his answers but to study his responsiveness.

"Jordan has a hell of a lot of natural talent. He just isn't paranoid enough. He isn't used to being the one that is hunted. Besides, he is doing wonderfully well without us."

He studied her for a moment as she continued watching Jordon hunt down the last clue.

"What are you taking from me, Wizard?"

That brought her up short, but only for a second. Still, it was enough to let him know and she knew it. She kept looking over at Jordan.

He walked right up into her 'comfort' zone and slid his right arm around her waist. He was just off her left side-rear, his other hand resting on her left hip. His head was just over her left shoulder. Despite her control, she felt a slight shiver as death hovered so close.

"If it was something bad," he whispered, "I would have sensed it by now. You have been drawing me in despite my warnings about my past. Pretty sublte, too. Jane, everyone I have ever loved has betrayed me in one way or another, so let's be real careful here. What is it that your after?"

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Light erupts across the city, a bolt of lightning splitting sky, the motion of the city frozen in a moment of time that burns the eye. The moment balances precipitously on the jagged edge the infinite and then, accompanied to the roar of the elements, is carried into motion again

Wizard relaxes, leaning into Jager's embrace and turning her gaze upward to catch his profile in the after glow of light and quantum echo.

"Jason," she mouths softly, "you just said that you love me."

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The rain washes down upon them. Water streams down Jager's forehead, along his nose and bridges the infintesmal gap to her. He shifts slightly to sheild her face from the rain. She turns more into him.

"I know what I said. You know only bad things happen to the people I love. I warned you."

For a moment his face clouds with sorrow and rage. The moment passes and the softer smile returns.

"Now stop dancing away from the question, dammit. What are you really playing at? I am not likely to run off screaming, ya know?"

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She stalked through the building, black vinal outfit shining in the cold office light. For the second time this week, Webb Enterprises employees were treated to an unusual site. No one approached the beautiful, dark haired nova. She had the look of someone more than willing to use force to get what she wanted and the guns strapped to various positions on her body confirmed that for the rather average office workers. Even security kept a respectable distance while they followed her progress.

She stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor. As the door closed, she smiled slightly to herself at the small crowd of onlookers and security watching her from a few feet away. The elevator rose quickly, and soon she was standing in the lobby of the 40th floor corporate headquarters of W. E. She quickly walked through the glass doors to her left, passed a startled and stammering secretary and through the wide doors proudly displaying the name Jacob Webb, CEO, on a shiny brass nameplate.

The interior of the office was richly and tastefully decorated. In front of the large pane of glass that was the outer wall, was a large, Victorian-era desk made from exotic woods that she couldn't identity, nor was she particularly interested in it. Around the right wall were shelves of the same woods and style, filled with personal trophies of Jacob's life. Near the window was a small door which presumedly led to a small private bathroom. To her left, the remainder of the spacious office was set more like a Victorian parlor, with big comfy-looking, overstuffed chairs and a small loveseat centered around a wooden coffie table. There was also a wooden conference table with chairs for four. Behind the desk sat the familiar form of Jacob Webb, impeccably dressed in a fine Italian suit, as always. Flanking him on each side were two burly, baseline, bodyguards.

He was waiting for her as she stepped through the door. The two guards were tense, ready and willing to pounce at the slightest command. "Who are you and what do you want?" he said in a harsh and emotionless voice. He was angry, she could read it his eyes, he was also a little scared.

She smiled warmly, reassuringly. She spoke, and her voice filled the room. A melodious sound that surrounded you and invaded your every pore. Her words spoke of passion and sorrow, joy and anger. There was so much contained in that sound that the listeners could not comprehend it all, they could only here the music, and through that, her words. "Why Jacob, don't you recognize me? Did Atwight not inform you of my 'change'?" She moved accross the office to sit in the loveseat and removed her sunglasses.

Jacob was stunned for a moment by that rapturous voice. He watched her as sit and remove the sunglasses, revealing her eyes. He knew those eyes. Two black voids that seem to sink into forever, with only pinpricks of white light, like distant stars in the night sky, to give any refrence of physical form. He spoke slowly as he rose from his seat, and moved to one of the armchairs across form where she was sitting. "My god! Tesseract, is that you? Atwight told me about the gender shift but....Well its hard to believe it untill you see it," He stared at her, disbelieving.

"Try getting use it from my end," She said smoothly. Tess cast a look at the guards, who were still watching her for any sign of violence, and then back at Jacob. "Can we talk in private?" she said. "I want to catch up on whats been going on since I've been gone." Jacob nodded and waved the two goons out of the room.

"Why'd you go through the building like that? why not just 'port straight into my office?" He asked her, "And what's with all the hardware?"

"If I had done that, There would have been violence. The hardware is a long story that I'll tell you about some other time. Right now I want to know what's going on with Atwight and the others. I can't locate them," She said casually but stared straight into his eyes. He knew she was demanding an answer but was still trying to remain polite.

He sighed heavily before answering. "This is going to take some time. I'm not sure where Atwight and the children are, he said something about having to prepair home for guests, but he isn't at the penthouse. The kids aren't at the school either. I know Felicia is still on Primus, but otherwise, I've been kept out of the loop."

"So Atwight's gone underground, and taken the kids with him?"

"It looks like it." He responded iritably.

She watched him carefully, his every movement, every gesture. He wasen't telling her something. "What caused this?" she asked.

"Like I said, its a long story. The short of it is; Jager has recruited Wizard and is attempting to recruit a genius nova named James Meehan. He is attempting to descover the truth behind the pre-event novas. Atwight felt we should keep an eye on things, and since neither you nor Felicia were available we had to turn to other options. He tricked Renaud Montpillar's investigative foundation into sending one of their agents to track and keep an eye on Jager. I have been able to keep abreast of whats going on by reding the reports he sends back. They are about to make contact with Mr. Meehan." He took a deep breath, hoping she didn't delve any deeper. He wasen't prepaired to answer too many more questions. he didn't have the answers.

She considered everything he said for a moment, working out the logic and the details in her mind. "Who did the foundation send?" she asked.

"One Jordan Rossi. I was a little suprised actually. He is relativly untrained and not very experienced. Hell, he's still under age! Still, he does have some sort of relationship with Jager. He's less likely to be too deeply questioned by him when they do finally meet."

Tess sighed. "Well I guess I'm off to join in the fun. I should probably head out, they have a big head start on me already."

Jacob looked at her, more than a little confusion showing on his face. "Why do you need to bother? We have Jordan there, and no one can trace our involement back here. I don't see the need."

She looked straight at him. "Jacob, this is not your field of expertise. You even said that Jordan is unexperienced and untrained. They are going to need some one who is competent. Besides, I need to talk to the two of them anyways. I have some questions only they can answer."

Jacob shook his head. Do what you must then, Its not like I can stop you anyways. Just keep me informed, in case Atwight makes an appearance. I want to be able to fill him in if I have to."

"Agreed, " she said. Tess stood up and placed the sunglasses back over her eyes. she streached out her hand, feeling for the flow of energy she knew was there. It called to her, sang out to her. In a moment, she found what she was looking for and was gone. No flashy light show, no big display. One moment, Jacob was sitting watching this dark haired beauty tap into the quantum flow. The next, she was fading out of existance, leaving Jacob alone. Alone with his thoughts, anone with his fears.

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Hebraic, that damn bastard mixed hebrew idiograms with Japanese. Jordan thought darkly from the back of the taxi. It took me forever just to figure out what those stupid characters meant. He rolled down the window to get some fresh air, the slight headache from staring at a computer screen for hours quickly receding. His mind kept going back to the encrypted question. Britney-Fucking-Spears. Who the hell gives a shit about that has-been bitch. So what if she erupted last year, she still sucks. Where did she have her Tokeyo press confrence appearance? What kind of secret message was that?

The cab slowed and then stopped at a stoplight. Jordan looked out at the crowded downtown Tokeyo streets. 2:00 in the morning and the streets are still bustling, he though. And they say New York is the City that never sleeps. He listened to the incoherent hum of life in the city. The cars and their horns, the people, the buzz of neon, it was all so hypnotic. "What the?!" he said to himself, startled. That voice, he thought scanning the crowds outside the car. Nothing. I know that voice though. Same voice I heard out the window at the hotel. That cinches it, I'm being followed. Jordan reached down to the duffelbag sitting between his legs. He pulled it onto his lap and unzipped it. Looking into the bag, he found; a lockpick gun, electronic lockpick, infrasonic beeper, subvocal ear microphone, white noise generator, 3 quickwash spraybottles, a micro grapple launcher, 2 mini-smoke canisters, 5 trank darts, and 20 solid steel balls half the size of a golf ball. "Quan-Li must have packed this," he said to himself as he examined each item before replacing it back in the duffel. "Well, at least I'm ready for whoever it is."

Meanwhile, the cab had continued on, finally coming to a stop outside of a large corporate tower. Jordan paid the fare and stepped out of the car, waiting for it to leave before turning back to look at the imposing megalith of concrete and steel. He turned and walked around the side of the building. the close proximity the buildings in the area created small, dark allyways perfect for the skulldugery he was prepairing himself for.

He wandered deep into the ally, stopping about the midway point between the two enterences. crouching down in the shadows he let what little quantum he could access flow through his Eufiber, reshaping it into that comfortable black bodysuit covering his entire body. He took out each of the objects from the duffelbag, pressing them into the suit and allowing it to reshape around the objects, craddling nicely in the protective fiber. He stepped back into the inky darkness of a side door and waited. That slight quantum trickle flowing through him, boosting his auditory capacity to inhuman levels. Whoever's following me is gonna get a rude supprise, he thought grimly......

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"Dammit, Jordan," said the voice from up above.

Jordan whirled, bringing a globe up to his right hand and a dart to his left. He followed through with his turning motion by rolling with his left shoulder into a complete summersault. He couldn't see the source of the voice, but he could echo-locate close to its point of origin. The right hand came up rapidly as he calculated the vectors to get a ricochet hit.

"Jordan," continued the voice, "how many times do I have to tell you that you can't keep thinking of the battlefield as two dimensional."

The shadow, a meter off from were he thought it was, detached itself from the wall and seemed to flow down to the bottom of the alleyway.

"Now you have given the enemy both the high ground and the initiative."


As Jager came down into the light of the back entrance, Jordan could see that he was slowing his fall down the wall by using his left hand to grab onto the defromaties in the structure. His right was rapped around someone(?). His matte black eufiber pulled back from around his head, so that Jordan could see him clearly as he landed. As he did so, he also drew in the eufiber 'wing' that had sheltered the person on his right.

Jordan remained defensive as Jager approached.

"Are you my enemy, Jager?"

Jager stopped and smiled. Jordan used that moment to analyse the situation. Jager was positioning himself too close for him to get a good shot on the other person while allowing them to keep a clear shot on him. If he wanted to seek cover from her (?); definitely a her he could see now; he would have to cross into Jager's threat zone. He recalled Jager telling him about always seeing life in the tactical. Oh, well.

Jager smiled and said,"Not today, Jordan. We are curious as to why your also involved in our little outing, though."

Jager relaxed slightly.

"Jordan, meet Jane."

"You were right about him being so sound sensitive", she said, looking him over. "You might say it was a bit inconvient." She transfered a curious look over to Jager.

"I was trying to help you, Jager. It would seem whatever you and 'Jane' here are up to has gotten the interest of the Foundation."

Jane watched the two young men move slightly closer to each other. Both very human, young, beautiful, and dangerous. The problem was that for all his looks, Jager was neither young or very human. He was a bit too prefect. Those minute imperfection were part of Jordan's charm. He put you at ease with it while Jason attracted a little too much envy. It was good to see the two of them relaxing. She could still sense some tension in Jordan and something else.

Jordan felt the post-combat jitters beginning to flow through him. Now he remembered on of those 'chats' that Jager wove into their little sparing sessions. The one about dying alone in some forgotten alleyway with no one else watching or caring. Up to that moment, Jordan had always felt that Jager was too bleak. A little too beaten down by past misfortunes. Now, Jordan had seen that moment seconds earlier. The very real danger of someone killing him in that alley had flashed through his mind. He had been surprised by someone. That moment when his reactions took over had also thrilled him. 'What a rush.'

"Since we are still technically following you, Jordan, why don't you lead on. Jane, are there going to be anymore complications before dinner?"

Jane gave a sly little smile that made it hard to not like her. There was something about her that was...different. Jordan found that intriguing.

"We just have to pick up Tesseract at the Imperial Gardens and we can eat."

As they headed out of the alleyway, Jager passed a bit too close to Jane. 'He was acting odd, thought Jordan. Maybe this was a more reckless side of him.'

Their suits morphed into more acceptable street attire as they moved back into the crowd.

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"Now stop dancing away from the question, dammit. What are you really playing at? I am not likely to run off screaming, ya know?"

"I know, Jason," Jane answers softly, the tip of her finger tracing the line of his strong jaw. Her touch is cool and leaves a trace of fire on his skin as it passes. Green eyes mutely reflect the fire of his gaze as her breathing slows and deepens. "First things first." Reaching upward, she strokes the crown of his head and gently guides him to her. Her back arches upward and she stretches to meet him halfway. Her lips brush his and continue onward as he his arms draw her tightly to him.

"Are you sure," she asks, her warm breath wafting across his ear and steaming into the morning mist enveloping them, "that you're ready for this?"

Jason grips her tightly, careful not to draw on the power that enabled him to shatter bricks barehanded before he'd ever learned martial arts.

"Jane..." he starts then stops in surprise at the thickness of his own voice. Swallowing hard he starts again. "This isn't being careful."

"Careful is vastly over-rated," she responds, her arms encircling his chest and squeezing.

"Jager, are you okay?" Jordan questions with concerns. "You seem a little out of it, man. Is everything okay?"

"Fine," he answers abruptly. At the sight of the hurt expression that flashes across Jordan's face he smiles and adds, "It's good to see you. I thought you were going to be with your friends this weekend. Introducing Apep to one of your buddies."

The momentary confusion vanishes instantly from the young nova's face and he fairly bubbles with enthusiasm. "Yeah, well... With this being a new job I couldn't exactly turn down the 'opportunity' you know. The foundation is cool but I want to make a good impression and dodging assignments just aren't the way to do it. I was kinda looking forward to seeing her myself. Just to see what she was like in person," Jordan's stride shifts slightly to bring him closer to Jager and he asks softly, "What's the story anyway. Who's Jane?"

A simple question and one he wished to god he knew the answer to. A myriad of possible replies cascade through his mind as he considers how much to admit, to withold, to mislead. As the moment stretches he realizes that the simplest answer is coicidentally the most truthful. Jordan was inexperienced but not stupid. He would discern it for himself.

"Jordan, meet Wizard."

Jane turns momentarily and looks back to smile at Jordan then turns back to the task of navigating the crowd. Distracted by the presence of another nova that he knows but is only now meeting, Jordan closes the gap between them and launches into an animated series of questions and conversation. Absently watching them, Jager notes the manner in which Jane manages to maintain her pace through the crowd as they walk. People tended to maintain a distance from Jager, as if he were a shark trolling slowly for prawns, subconsciously they stepped to open the distance. Jordan, on the other hand, drew attention at close range as the strangers reacted to him and stepped to get a glimpse before the sight of him was swallowed. Jane, (Focus! Think of her as Wizard) rather Wizard, seemed to sense without looking exactly where to step in at the moment a gap was opening in the crowd, or outward as one was closing. Shaking his head ruefully, Jager wonders at the whims of fate that would toss throw such a group as this together.

"I'm not taking anything from you, Jason. No more so than you take something by remembering a place you love or sketching the features of a friend." She was sincere and though he could be deceived he didn't believe she was trying to. "I'll answer your questions but it has to be after we meet with James."

"Why? Don't you trust me?" His voice was quiet and intense.

"It's not you I don't trust. Shhh..." she put her finger to his lips. "Jordan is cursing the music of your misspent youth. He's close."

"Okay, I read the logs from your Egypt case, but what or who is Tesseract? Was she really a guy before?" asked Jordan curiously.

Wizard smiles at his romantising the event in the Middle East as a 'case.' Was she ever that young and enthisiastic? "Tess was a man when I first met him, her rather, and something happened when she was in the channels..."

"The channels? What're the channels?" His words were demanding but his tone that of a curious boy seeing a wonder for the first time.

"Know anything about Quantum theory? Not," she cut off his first answer, "the nova centered stuff on N. I'm talking about the structure of reality not media candy."

As Jordan shook his head likably she tried to explain, "Think of the universe as a sphere..."

"I thought they said space and time were curved?"

'He's smart,' she thought. "The curvature of time and space are an internal phenomena, uniform within the context of the universe, this universe. Natural law if you want to look at it that way. When looked at from outside, the universe is a spherical object almost completely self contained."

"Almost? And if the universe is self contained what's outside? Isn't it impossible to step outside of reality?" he questioned rapidl fire.

"As impossible as lighting a fire by looking at something hard? As impossible as stepping through a wall. Impossible like your reaction time actually exceeding the speed at which information can be transmitted through biological media?" she teased stepping around a slender Japanese woman that almost ran squarely into Jordan.

Distractedly Jordan caught the young woman's hand as it reached for his bicep and left her staring after him as he continued walking next to Wizard. "That's different. That's quantum," he dismissed with a wave of his hand.

"That's the same tone of voice they used 500 years ago," she answered. "Only then, the word they were speaking was magic. We manipulate energy using that little nerve cluster that grew up here," she explained tapping her forehead. "If you start doing comparative analysis of myths and legends there is a considerable resemblance to stories concerning magic told by our ancestors who were ignorant of the scientific principle governing the energies of the universe. Much as we, as a civilization, are ignorant of the greater principles affecting levels of reality beyond that which is accessible to the basic senses. There are some that even compare our current situations with the stories of ancient greek gods," Wizard continued, glancing back at Jager.

Gods, thought Jager. She had said something before about gods. When and where? Something posted to the board?

"So the channels are what exactly?" asked Jordan slowing as Wizard slowed. They were near the Imperial Gardens. "Hey, Jager said you guys were following me. I thought you didn't know where this was?"

"I didn't, I was following you. Our universe is a sphere, but if you can look beyond that paradigm you would see that there would be more universes. Possibly an infinite number of them, each seperated by areas of low quantum probability..."

'Gods she had said. She had talked about gods and titans, thought Jager remembering vaguely a line in one of the messages she had posted to the board. That had been an allegory. Hadn't it?

"Wait a second. Wait a second. You're saying parallel dimensions. Alternate realities, right? How could you follow me if you were ahead of me?"

"I followed where you were most likely to lead us to by following the path you were going to take. Yes, we're talking about various in quantum state potentials. When there is a sufficient shift in quantum potential, the most likely outcome is the generation of a...."

At the same moment Jager detected a slight popping noise as solid matter displaced air, and Jordan sensed a shift in the acoustic landscape, an etherally melodious voice said "Excuse me, could we start at the beginning."

"TESS!" yells Wizard spinning and hugging the taller woman. "We've been worried about you!"

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-16-2001).]
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Jager detected a slight popping noise as solid matter displaced air, and Jordan sensed a shift in the acoustic landscape, an etherally melodious voice said "Excuse me, could we start at the beginning."

"TESS!" yells Wizard spinning and hugging the taller woman. "We've been worried about you!"

Tesseract returned the hug with equal enthusiasm and then turned to Jager embracing him despite both their awkwardness. "No need to worry my friends, I have been well." her voice floated across the empty garden only adding to its etherial atmosphere.

"If that were so, you wouldn't be packing all that hardware," Jager responded with a sly grin. "And you've cut your hair."

"Uh, excuse me!? Hello? I'm still here!" Jordan piped up and he stood watching the reunion from a pace or two away. "Introductions Please?"

"Appologies, my young man," The woman in the trenchcoat and black vinyl said while stepping up to the young nova. She extended her hand in a gesture of friendship. "I'm Tesseract, although you can call me Tess if you like. And you are Jordan Rossi. Correct?" She smiled at his confused look.

"How did you know?" All three novas watched her carefully as she spoke, each seeking something different in her answer.

"We've met, in another world," she said, somewhat abuptly. "You were an associate of my alternate self in that reality."

"Really?" the young nova querried. "What was I like? Was I older, younger? Come on, tell me."

"Another time perhaps" Tesseract turned her attention back to the other two. "We are expected at Mr. Mehhan's if I have been informed correctly, are we not? We should head there now."

"And you are informed how, exactly?" Jager was concerned. People had information about their agenda and that couldn't be a good thing. He glanced at Wizard who shared his same expression of concern.

"Yes," she said. "Please enlighten us as to how you knew to be here and what our goal is."

Tess sighed. "I was hoping to hold this off until later, but......I knew about this little venture thought two sources. The first is Atwight's information network. That told me about where you were," she gestured to Jordan. "The second source was Jordan himself."

She paused momentarily as the others gave her a questioning look. She held out a hand to quiet their questions as she continued. "In the world of my duplicate, the timeframe is around 2053. Jordan," she turned to him, "you are a general and leader of men in that time." she regarded the others, her voice reduced to a quiet, melancholy aria, "The events we are about to take part in have already happened in that world, although without either Jager's or my own involement. Wizard, You and Prodigy died in this. Only Jordan survived. It made him a hard and dangerous man, willing to do anything, take any risk, to achieve his goals. When I was drawn back to this world I wasn't sure why. Then I was brought up to speed on what was happening and knew that my very involvement, as well as Jager's, would be enough to alter the outcome. Hopefully, its for the better."

The enormity of her words slowly sank into the thoughts of the three novas before her. She bit her lip, wondering if she had said too much. Before anyone could respond, she said simply, "Perhaps we should continue this in Mr. Meehan's company. This concerns him as much as anyone else."

She lifted her hand and a doorway in the air silently appeared. through the door different locations could be seen rapidly flashing. Some locations familiar to those assembled, some not. She looked at the others. "Where exactly am I taking us?"

[This message has been edited by Atwight (edited 06-17-2001).]
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Originally posted by Atwight:

She lifted her hand and a doorway in the air silently appeared. through the door different locations could be seen rapidly flashing. Some locations familiar to those assembled, some not. She looked at the others. "Where exactly am I taking us?"

"Hissan Square, the Yamata Building." answered Jordan. "That's where Meehan told me to find him. Well, 'told' isn't exactly right."

Wizard gave a rueful grin, "Yes, he does seem a little overfond of puzzles. I think we would do well to keep that in mind when it comes to dealing with him. He isn't likely to give direct answers all the time."

Tesseract nodded and the doorway she had opened slowly coalesced into an image of their destination. "After you"

As they passed through the doorway the subtle change in temperature and air pressure between the two points was noted by those with sharper senses. "Okay, now where do we go?" Wizard asked, looking around. "I'm not getting any sense of a quantum presence anywhere near here, especially not one as focused as Prodigy's."

"Over there, in that alleyway," Jaeger pointed out "that graffiti, it's not Japanese, or English." He walked over and ran his hand over the wall, leaned close and sniffed. " It's not paint either. I don't get any sense of a chemical agent." He backed away a step and glanced all over the wall, looking, examining.

"Wait," Wizard put a hand on his shoulder, "there is some quantum activity here, very faint. Hmmm, strange." She glances from the wall to Jordan and back again. "It seems to be mimicing you Jordan."

"What?! I've never met the man, how the hell could he copy me? Ah hell, I recognize that symbol, it looks kind of like the Hebrew character that he hid in my bill. Weird" Jordan reached out and brushed his hand against the symbol. A faint glow erupts from the surface as Jordan's eufibre covered hand comes in contact with the wall and suddenly all resistence is gone, his hand sinks ever so slightly into the surface before he pulls it back quickly. "What the f***?!"

Wizard grinned, "Looks like you are our key young man. After you if you will."

"Uhm, okay. Now, we are all remembering here that Prodigy has occasionally mentioned some fairly extreme opinions as to the ethics of killing people right?"

"Don't worry Jordan, just remember what we've studied and you should be fine. Anyway, I doubt Prodigy would be able to kill all of us. So, we would avenge you." Jaeger's straight face betrayed no clue as to whether he was completely serious or just fooling around.

"Yah, thanks a hell of a lot. Okay" With that Jordan walked forward and passed though the wall effortlessly.

Inside was a wide hallway with pictures, plaques, and documents in frames along each side. The light was low and pleasant, enhancing a sense of welcome that the visitors felt.

"Well, I knew that Meehan was proud of his intellect, I just didn't know he would be such a show off about it." Jaeger said as he peered over a few of the framed articles.

"What do you mean? These all look like they're written by different people." Jordan asked as he glanced at a few himself.

"Prodigy has already mentioned a few of these as pen names that he used when he was involved in Utopia."

Tesseract walked ahead, glancing from side to side. "Wizard, could you tell me what's happening here? I feel shut off. I can't open a warp here."

Wizard let her glance unfocus, not paying attention to the three dimensional world that was so close at hand, peering farther into the scope of reality. "It seems that Meehan's defenses extend farther into the quantum than I would have expected. There seems to be a field of interference when it comes to bending space."

"Okay, it's his home, I won't complain. But I don't really like it."

A rich voice called out to the group from the walls, "Welcome visitors. I am Mycroft, you may call me Mike. I shall inform James that you are here. Please continue on and make yourselves comfortable in the chamber at the end of the hall."

"That wasn't a person," Jordan stated. " The voice was completely artificial."

Jaeger smiled, "At least it didn't call itself HAL."

"What? Whats the name got to do with anything?"

"Sorry, a little before your time I guess."

At the end of the hall was a large room. Decorated in what seemed to be a random mishmash of styles; Modern American, Japanese, Art Deco, Mediteranean and a dozen others. Somehow however, the whole was more than the sum of its parts. A sense of completeness was achieved that seemed to welcome guests, regardless of their background or tastes.

"Nice" Wizard remarked, " I guess multiple personalities can have some advantages."

"Again, I welcome you on behalf of James. I am going to have to ask those of you who are armed to please put your weapons in the safe on your right. I hesitate to risk offending you, but please be aware that I have scanned you and I am aware of your armaments, including the hidden ones."

Wizard looked on with a sense of strange curiousity as she observed her companions strip themselves of enough weaponry to threaten Fort Knox. "Oh no Jordan, don't tell me that Jaeger's rubbed off on you that much." she said as she watched him pull out a number of darts, throwing spheres, and more.

"Thank you. You will find drinks waiting for you at various seats. Please let me know if you need anything to improve your stay. I will let you know when James is ready for you."

The visitors walked around the room. Each found a drink and a chair that somehow matched their preferences, with one exception.

"Kool Aid? Kool Aid!? Alright, I know I'm not as old as you guys, but this is ridiculous!!" Jordan fumed as he found a glass of bright blue liquid.

"Well, James has poked at you on occasion, maybe this is his way of just continuing the practice." Wizard said as she sipped her cocktail. "Mmm, this is good. I wonder how he knew what kind of drink I liked? I've never mentioned it in the forum."

As time passed they looked around the room and found a few mementos of Prodigy's past. picture that Jaeger found was especially amusing "Look at this. This is James standing in front of the Statue of David at the Louvre. Notice anything different?"

Wizard looked closely, "Is that a clown wig? Is James the one who broke in and did that? Good Lord, what kind of a man would do that?"

"A bored one apparently. That happened a couple of years ago, before James ever left Utopia. He'd have caught six different kinds of hell if he got caught doing that."

"Attention please, Mr. Meehan is prepared to received you. The double doors lead to the dining room." With that the doors opened up and revealed a lush dining room. The table was filled with a sumptuous feast, and at the head of the table was James Meehan.

"Welcome guests. I apologize for the delay, but I was only expecting three guests. Some quick preparation was required so that Tesseract did not feel unwelcome." His smile was radiant and he was dressed in a glorious costume from the days of Colonial New England, with the exception of the fabric, which was awash in shifting colors and patterns. "Please have a seat. I wait with baited breath to find out exactly why you have chosen to track me down. I've enjoyed our little conversations over the Net, why change all of that?" His glowing blue eyes flashed with an intensity that belied his gentle words.

They all took to their seats and were faced with a feast that would shame all but the most oppulent of resturants. " I hope the meal is to your liking. Mr. Rossi, I apoligize for Mike's little joke. I had no intention of poking fun at your age. He is currently exploring humor and thought this a good opportunity for experimentation. Allright, now, as we eat, who would like to explain your visit?"
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As James spoke, Jane drifted into the room languidly, taking in the dining room with the air she breathed and moved to place herself on the opposite side of the table from Jason. While his concern for James as a friend was honest, she had no idea whether James reciprocated the feeling. Perhaps from the tower of his intellect James felt nothing but scorn for the concept of friends. As an outdate expression of the pack mentality and simply an evolutionary tool for propagating the genes of the social. Better to take the center chair on the opposite side which would place her out of Jason's field of vision while he spoke with 'The Prodigy." Her presence would only distract him and he needed to focus if he wanted to breach that shell of justified arrogance that enshrouded James.

Shrugging out of her coat she thought for the millionth time how easy it would be if she just had eufiber. Might as well wish for the stars to go with the moon. Eufiber quantum resonance made her skin crawl in a way that was difficult to ignore and far too distracting. It just never seemed to match her own resonance closely enough to be dismissed or accepted. Synthetic eufiber actually felt better but seemed unable to adapt to her completely. Over time, a very short time if she were quantum active, it grew weak and fatigued. She'd never kept it long enough to see what happened in the long run. That would have been too casually cruel and besides, there was always a sneaking suspicion in the back of her mind that the fiber colonies were somehow sentient. That they were always dismayed by their inability to play proper guest to her role as a host. They did seem happier when she gave them away to the lucky few that thought she was crazy to engage in largesse of that caliber. Ah, well. Dropping her coat on the floor next to the chair she had chosen, she was glanced at the table and was gratified with the rich aromas rising on clouds of steam from the servers littering the table. Wonderful. She would wait a few minutes, savoring the scents before digging it. Jason and Jordan were speaking alternately to James but this was their show and needed no kibitzing from her. At this point she was the proverbial fifth wheel.

Turning her attention to Tess she leaned towards her and sotto voiced remarked, "Your look is beautiful. How is the 'adjustment' coming along." The look of consternation alone would have been enough to make her break into peals of laughter if Tess, as well as the rest of the situation, weren't so utterly serious.

"Wizard, I..." Tesseract began.

"Jane." she said firmly. "My friends call me Jane today. And I call you Tess and we have girl talk while the boys figure out who's who in the zoo. Alpha male stuff."

"And tomorrow," spoke the stunning brunet, her head cocked slightly to the right with her brow slightly furrowed as she regarded the smaller woman askance.

"And tomorrow what?"

"What will I call you tomorrow?"

For just a moment she froze, her mouth hanging slightly open to speak and then saw the light dancing in the darker woman's eyes. "As I live and breath, a joke. Tess, I really wasn't sure whether you had a sense of humor," she admitted knocking a soggy curl out of her eyes. Next time Jason wanted to play spy he could leave her out of it.

"Wiz... Jane, I'm a little surprised by how you're taking all this?" Tess remarked.

"Dinner? It smells wonderful and I happen to like vegetables," she replied. "Though the meats smell divine I usually abstain from animal flesh."

"No," Tesseract's voice dropped to a whisper and she continued looking at Jane intently, "the news I brought. About What Will Happen."

Jane could hear the spoken capitalization in the dark Amazon's tone but replied, "Did happen. Not necessarily will happen. Besides, I have a secret. Would you like to hear it?"

Tesseract felt an odd sensation of disconnectedness, what Atwight had described to her once as 'surreal' when he was speaking of the extremes of human existence, but she nodded anyway. A part of her wanted to hear what this strange little woman would say.

"The secret is this. It happens to us all eventually. We make use of the time we have. Hopefully, make it a little easier for others when we can, not because they need us to but rather because we need us to. And then we take our leave. Exit stage left. If we've lived a good life then we can say we're leaving it a little better than we found the place to begin with."

"You're not," she paused in mid question then plunged on, "Afraid, I mean?"

"There are worse things," said Jane shrugging. "I've seen some of them. Remind me to tell you about Oregon sometime."


"Oregon. And stop looking so claustrophobic."

"I can't help it," Tess said staring into space. "I... when I want to go I just visualize space folding and I go. This is the first time I've ever been trapped like this and I don't like it!"

Her whispered voice betrayed a hidden fierceness and her eyes flashed darkly. From the corner of her eye Jane noted a slight quiver in James glass as he raised it to his lips. The pause before Jager's next words emerged was just a microsecond longer than nominal. Of course they were following the women's conversation, but like gentlemen were pretending not to. With James it was probably courtesy learned as a matter of breeding. Jager was... Well, Jason was Jason and that's all there was to it. Jordan was looking askance at the women. Smiling gently, Jane reached out and placed her small hand over Tess's and squeezed softly. Tess looked slightly embarrassed and then her eyes opened fractionally wider for a moment.

Streams of color and the scent of salt spray in a breeze whipped through her mind speaking to her.

/quantum field/


/the field/

/not fight/


/put fear away/

/study the field/


For a moment she saw the room as a series of quantum potentials, not as the flow of the four groups comprising the quantum field but rather as potentials for where those energies could be. Understood what Jane was telling her, that whole sets of probabilities were being negated but not all. They couldn't all be negated without effectively negating reality. It wasn't actually a hole in the protection and it wouldn't be easy to exploit even from inside but there was a very good possibility the box wasn't quite as secure as advertised. As Jane drew her hand away, the scene took on the hue of the normal colors and the sounds were that of silver implements on fine china. Of James and Jager speaking.

"Feel better?" Jane asked reaching for her fork to eat.

Tess didn't feel quite so claustrophobic anymore. "Yeah. So tell me," she whispered to Jane, "does Jordan give you this tight feeling down here as well or is it just me?" Her index finger tapped the edge of the table indicating an area somewhere in the vicinity of her lap. Across the table Jordan flushed slightly and continued to chew on his food, studiously watching his plate.

Jane paused a moment, a carrot speared on her fork halfway to her mouth, and said, "Tess, I think we're going to need to have that talk. Soon."

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-18-2001).]

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Jager felt like a mouse playing chess with a titan. The food was, of course, superb. James easily folding his and Jordan's conversations together with no visible effort.

'Well, I didn't just come here to dance,' he thought. 'I came to lead. Quantum enhanced neurons don't fail me now.'

Tess and Jane were locked in a private conversation and Jordan was momentarily off his game.

It began quitely enough. Jordan wasn't sure if he caught some sort of change in the tenor of Jager's voice. James hardly missed a beat. Wizard hadn't noticed the change yet, but it wouldn't take her long. Tess was still playing catch-up.

For a moment, Prodigy almost paniced. He had accurately predicted every person's abilities at this table. He knew what each one of them was capable of. When Jager suddenly jumped the conversation up three levels, he had almost tumbled backward out of his seat. The concensus in his head began to fall apart and only by the greatest force of will was Prodigy able to drive the multitude of thoughts back. Frantically, he broke down the puzzle and fired off the counter. Jager responded, building on the code as the bantered on about Dial's masochism during the blue period.

'Thirty-eight seconds', thought Jager. 'I work on this for two days, and it takes him thirty-eight seconds to break it. Still...'

The cocaphony in his head was dying down, the voices still arguing over the mydraid possibilities. Once he had mastered the code, the puzzle had been simple enough. The answer, though, was difficult.

He scanned the room. Jordan knew something was up, but had no idea what. Tess was more alert now, but was just going off of Wizard's lead. Wizard...Wizard suspected the game that had just been played but not by following the game. She followed the players. She knew.

'Well,' he thought,'that was very polite of him. If my answer is Yes, the only one I have to kill is Jager. Maybe Wizard as well, though that would be a waste. Tess will decide to save Jordan and Jordan...? Should Jordan walk out of here?'

Prodigy paused with the fork half way to his lips. Time cascaded before his eyes as he analyzed the options; discarding the unwanted and the unlikely. Of the 128 outcomes, 113 would be suitably interesting.

'Jordan lives. Now that the side dishes are cleaned away, time to take on the main course. Do I stay or do I go?'

An old british punk anthem came unheralded to his mind.

As the answers tumbled in a yin/yang cresendo, he could almost hear the ghost of the Saint call out to him.

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'Jordan lives. Now that the side dishes are cleaned away, time to take on the main course. Do I stay or do I go?'
An old british punk anthem came unheralded to his mind.
As the answers tumbled in a yin/yang cresendo, he could almost hear the ghost of the Saint call out to him.

"Interesting offer Jager. By the way, I heartily appreciate the package you delivered it in. You had me sweating for a moment there."

The lack of eyes made reading his face only a tad more difficult. Jaeger could tell that James had been deep in thought for some time, relatively speaking of course. His calm demeanor was comforting as comforting as verbal reply.

Wizard, Tesseract and Jordan looked back and forth between the two gentlemen. Tesseract could see that the result would not lead to bloodshed, a pleasant happenstance. Wizard felt that she had missed something important, something communicated between the two, but Jaeger had proclaimed an inability to play that kind of game. Something else she would have to talk with him about later.

Only Jordan spoke up, "Uhm, excuse me. But how about making room for everybody in the sandbox?", he was mildly annoyed.

"Of course, I apologize. I should mind my manners better. Jaeger, as a symbol of trust, I agree to communicate to you, to all of you, on a more comprehensible level. Is this acceptable?"

"More than, thank you." Jaeger relaxed minutely. This had gone well so far, which was good, for while he had identified and compensated for several security systems already he couldn't be sure that was all. It was that kind of complacency that led to a bad end.

James smiled even wider "I have to admit, your arrival provides me with welcome distraction. I am afraid that the recent unpleasantries in my life have led me to a meloncholy mood. I believe that it has begun to reflect in my work." With that he cast a casual glance over at a worktable that was suddenly visable through a momentarily crystal clear wall.

"But now, I have the company of good and trustworthy companions once again. It is my hope that you come to a better end than the others."

Jordan was the only one to give even the merest hint at what he saw in the workroom. It was only a momentary glance, but it was enough. The possibilities made his blood run cold. Maps. Locations outlined. Quantum powered spatial adjusters. Bomb schematics. Chemical equations. Take these ingrediants, mix in a genius intellect whose interests spanned nuclear physics, biology, genetics, demolition and mob psychology. A frightening thought.

"Well, James, hopefully we can provide you with some positive goals." Wizard looked meaningfully over at Jaeger. "Perhaps now is the time for proper explanations?"
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Jagers stands up and begins to pace. Occasionally, he rubs his eyes to the bridge of his nose.

"Well, now that everyone but Jordon suspects what I am trying to do, I really should lay it out."

Jager eyed Jordan and gave him the 'Sorry, but your in too deep' look.

"For a long time now, I have suspected the existance of a loose association of pre-event novas. A few weeks ago, I got a single-source confirmation of this. I trust this person on this matter. Put together with James' little discovery, I realized that a unique opportunity had presented itself."

Jager paused, collecting his thought.

"Actually, Jager, the Foundation is also up on this. Seeing Tess here makes me think Atwight is also involved. Is he your single-source," Jordan asks?

Jager pauses, nodding. James can almost see the quantum pulsing through his brain, working overtime.

"No, Jordan. It wasn't Atwight, though I have no doubt that he is aware of them as well."

This suprised Jordan a bit. Hadn't Jager nodded his head?

"He has been of some help, so far and he certainly hasn't dissuaded me from my task. As far as understanding his motivations, I don't."

"Just because you like him, that doesn't make him your friend," Jane finished, holding up a hand for Tess to be patient.

"As I was saying", Jager smiled,"we have a unique opportunity to learn about these people, thier goals, resources and motivations. Whatever they are doing, I believe they are laying the groundwork for things to come to a head within 50 to 55 years."

"48", James corrected, "at the outside."

"And we are rushing in because?"joked Jordan. "Sorry, couldn't help myself."

"Actually, Jordan, your on the mark," replied James. "Jager, continue."

"As we all know, initially, all novas have a fantastic early start-up curve. We all pick up new things relatively easily, but the more we master a quantum art, the harder progressing along that path becomes. The more time and energy it takes. So while today, I have Jordan well in hand, in twenty to twenty-five years, that advantage will have all but evaporated. I will have been a nova for 100 years, Jordan 25."

Jager paused and watched those simple facts sink in.

"Before the advent of the nova age, progress was significantly slower."

James nods, as does Tess, though somewhat quizically.

"The pre-event novas are rapidly exhausting their leads over the other novas. Today, they can still impress upon us their superior ability and experience, but what about tomorrow? Soon, the differences will only be that of degrees and not whole evolutionary steps."

"The taint exasserbates the problem," continued James, waving his hands past his face as the most telling example. Jordon shifted uncomfortably.

"Karl, your tired and you need to rest. Tomorrow will be here soon enough."

Jager should have looked startled, but the use of his real name and what that entailed had apparently been expected.

Jager starts to speak again, but James holds up his hand, silencing him.

"Tomorrow we may see things with a renewed clarity," James continued. "Your 'items' are in your rooms, so you two," his eyeless face moved eerily from Jager to Jordan, "can sleep well in the comfort of your toys."

James waved his hands for effect and three of the walls became translucent and then fell to the ground like water, soaking into the floor.

"Make yourself at home and rest. If you need anything, but me, you have but to ask. I need to talk to...some people."

As he rose up, the table itself began flowing into the floor. Jordan quickly grabbed his plate and his water. The rest let the floor take dinner away. As the rest stood, the room darkened, slightly and the chairs dissolved. James turned and walked over to the wall at his rear. He moved through it like a man walking into a lake. Only the slowly fading ripples reminded them that he had gone.

As Jordan looked back from the wall, he caught Jager staring at him. It was like the look his father gave him when he caught him doing some good deed that he hadn't wanted anyone to know about. Jager smiled and walked toward Wizard.

"Damn, that isn't the look I wanted him to give me," said Jordan, miffed.

Jager walked over to Jane and slid a hand around her waist. She leaned slightly against him and they began to walk out. Suddenly, she stopped and and ran back over to Tess.

Wizard whispered, "This might help", as she palmed a little something to her. She then sauntered back over to Jager and they left. A watery wall rose up behind them.

Jordan watched them go as he took another drink of water. His gaze wandered over to Tess as their eyes met and she smiled. Now what?

[This message has been edited by Jager (edited 06-19-2001).]

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(from the earlier conversation between Jager and Wizard on the roof)

“Jane, now is the time we have to be careful, don’t you see that? What I meant was this isn’t the time for me to become involved with anyone.”

At the same time he nuzzled her neck and breathed in her scent. No matter what he said, he couldn’t seem to make his body obey him in this.

“Jason we are going to get through this.”

She squeezed him again and tucked her head into his shoulder. While she could feel her heat rise, she could also make out a slight change in Jordan’s sonata. He was getting ready to move, damn him.

He pulled back from her, slightly. Her arms came around from his back and cradled against his chest. His hands came up to rest on her shoulders.

“You can’t know that for sure. If things go poorly with James, I need to know that you and the others will walk away from this. James and I will have a little business to settle.”

She couldn’t decide if she was touched that he was trying to protect her or sad that he was falling back into a stereotype. She shook her head.

“Jane, some people I know took some Anthrax-7 compound out of the Wailing Wall. Utopia has recently rushed a CRASH team to the UN. A few other incidents have happened around the world, but have been hushed up. The one tie in is James. After the Saint died in Prague, he hasn’t been the same. If he has cracked, or they have gotten too him, you need to leave.”

“What about Jordan”, she whispered, for the first time uncertain? Damn this man and his unpredictability.

“He is bound to do something equally heroic.”

The rain cascading down was like a river of tears. Where any of them hers? She didn’t know. Was this fear? She hadn’t been afraid for another person’s life in forever. She was the all-seeing Wizard. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her.

“He will follow you out, trust me. He’ll know.”

He brushed an errant strand of hair away from her eyes.

“He has it in him to be one of the best our generation has to offer. He will do fine.”

[This message has been edited by Jager (edited 06-19-2001).]

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Jordan downed the last of the water, tasting the impurities as it slid over his tounge and down his throat. He watched Tess smile down at the object in her hand and quickly slipped it into her pocket. She looked back up at him, she seemed to be waiting for something. Jordan knew exactly what she was waiting for, she was waiting for his questions. He popped another rice ball into his mouth and chewed it quickly before he spoke. "You already know what I'm going to ask, don't you," He said simply.

That same melodious voice filled the room, like the whispering of a thousand voices, as she replied, "Of course, I would be curious too, if I were you. You want to know about the other Jordan, your alternate." She walked out of the dining room and back into the recieving room. She moved to a large wingback chair and aranged herself comfortably. Jordan followed her out, still holding his plate which he picked at as Tess continued.

"I'm not sure how much of what I can tell you will be of any use. While the general is your analog on that world you are still fundamentally different people. Do you understand?"

"I think so. Just because he is me on another world, doesn't mean he's me....Right?"

"Exactly. That world is a mess of war and destruction, so while you may have some things in common, you come from two fundamentally different backgrounds. Wizard could describe this much better than I can, but I think you get my point."

"So, you said that only I survived the events that are to come," Jordan shifted in his seat to get comfortable and set aside the almost empty plate of food. "Does that mean you know what is going to happen? What we are really investigating?"

"No, I wasn't there and neither was my alternate. Remember , in that world the year was 2053, at least 40 years from now. It doesn't matter anyways because the circumstances are different."

So, what am 'I' like?"

"As I said in the garden, your alternate, the general, is a hard and dangerous man. He has had to make difficult choices and has done many things he regrets. He is a general in the army of novas and he is fighting for the freedom of his world. Thats really all the important stuff."

"But, why did I, he, turn out that way?"

"Jordan," she looked him directly in the eyes. "He chose the path of violence, the same path Jager and I walk down. You don't have to be that way," she stated simply. "You have other options."

He held her gaze a moment before looking away, her eyes were so odd and he felt like he would loose himself in them. "What do you mean?" He asked quietly.

"Think about it, you even stated what I am talking about on the net. Utopia described you as having the potential to be the perfect nova, mentally, physically, and socially right? So what have you been doing with your potential?" Tess fished out the object Jane has given her while she spoke. It was a small makeup compact. she opened it and handed it mirror side to Jordan. "Look in that and tell me what you see."

"Well, I see me," he said.

"So, describe yourself."

"I see a gorgeous bald athelete, well built and very healthy looking." he shrugged.

"Excatly," she said, snapping close the little compact. "You only see the physical. What about the other gifts you have? You have incredible senses, you are probably smarter than any baseline scientist, and you can charm the pants off of anybody, yet you only focus on the physical. Why?"

"I..........don't know," he said slowly. "I guess I never really gave it much thought before, but it gives me something to think about."

"Indeed," the lovely young woman said as she rose up from her chair and moved to one of the free bedrooms. Pausing before she entered, she looked back at the contemplative young nova still seated. "While your thinking about that, think on this as well. We are hitchhikers on this little adventure. Jager chose Wizard and Prodigy for this mission because they are thinkers, not fighters. Makes you wonder, doesn't it," With that, she entered the room and the door closed behind her of its own accord, leaving the stunned young man alone with his thoughts.

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A watery wall rose from the floor and sealed them off from the dining room. Without pausing Jager continued to walk down a corridor of burnished silver dimly lit by some sort of light source recessed into the walls near the floor. The effect was to casting a soft inverted cone of light towards the ceiling at regular intervals. And within each cone of light was an object of note. Here a photograph, there a sketch, and so on down the length of the corridor. The walls themselves were constructed of tightly interlocking sheets of some material Jane didn't recognize. The accuracy of the fit between the sheets were such that she could just bearly discern the seam of the joining. And even that was less the spotting of the seam than the slight deforming of the their reflection as they walked. Jager's hand stilled cupped her left hip warmly. It felt good, comforting almost, and she was going to miss it.

"What do you suppose they're talking about," Jager asked softly.

For several long moments Jane said nothing, then gradually she drifted from Jager's embrace while still continuing the walk down the corridor. When she finally spoke it was to voice a question as she slowed to a halt.

"Do you know why I don't date very much," she asked looking up into Jager's eyes as he turned to face her.

He studied her carefully for a few moments of his own before shrugging as he replied, "I suppose you have your reasons." Where was she going with this?

"I always know when they aren't going to call." Her face was... Her expression could almost be described as beatific except for the hint of something else in her eyes.

"Jane, I..." he started and then stopped looking puzzled for a moment before continuing, "I was expecting you to interrupt me." She remained quiet and waited as he thought it through. He had expected her to interrupt and tell him, what? While he and James had danced the intellect game, thrust and counterthrust, feint and strike she had watched with the same expression she wore now, though then she had alternated with a pensive concern for his safety. Watching not the game, rather the players themselves. With the same dangerous combination of intellect and instinct he had used to engage James, Jager now tore this problem apart. He had thought she was going to tell him he was occupied and already focused on someone, someone that was not her. That she wasn't his preference. Not nearly leggy or dangerous enough to ignite his blood with the thrill of someone that could rip him to component atoms but chose instead to exchange acts of controlled violence between sheets. She was something else, but not that particular combination of something else that could excite him just by the sound of her voice. He opened his mouth to speak but his throat was an arid wasteland and the words were stillborn. Standing on tiptoe she took his face in her cool hands and kissed him softly on the lips, a feather light touch alive with love and warmth but not passion.

"We'll get through this," she said. Then her hands dropped away and she turned to walk slowly into the dim distance of the corridor, her steps soft as a kittens. For just a moment sadness touched his heart and his lips parted to speak.

"I could love you," he whispered.

Without turning, her voiced reached back to him from the growing distance and answered, "It wouldn't have been enough."

For me, he wondered as she walked away. Or for you?

Hours later she sat in an empty room meditating and clearing her thoughts for the task ahead. On the one hand she recognized the reality of impermanence as a condition of life yet she still prepared for the next step of her task. Control might well be an illusion but even without control one might still ride the raging waters to a calmer place of contemplation and enlightenment. A place where the universe might speak if one were prepared to listen. That was the task she had chosen for herself though she had been tempted to strive towards the one Atwight had first identified for her. It was tempting even now. To begin examining the nature of what men had begun to call taint these last short years. To analyze cold impersonal data and to lose herself within the serpentine path of postulates and theories, reaching for the golden ring of discovery.

She smiled within her meditations at the lack of real attraction even that monumental task presented in light of the one she had ultimately chosen. Discovery was often an inherently violent and intrusive act. Too often devoid of any personal responsibility that might detract from the thrill or joy of attaining the quarry. The seekers often chose to ignore all that might detract from the contest. How many had compared the act of discovery with the conquest of nature? With wrestling the elements as their drive to reach the end of the quest refused to allow for reflection? And the ring only appeared to be gold when it was really brass.

She'd walked that path before and really had only to look within the shadows of Utopia to see where it ultimately led. Even the Directive had become a caricature of itself which was ultimately ready to bargain with the devil if it meant avoiding the validation of their own fears and maintaining the elusive illusion of control. As much work as had been wasted investigating the protean's and for what? The only difference between the Directive and the protean's were the goals themselves. Both fostered beliefs that were illusionary. Neither of them could see that the poison they used was ultimately present in the fruit they harvested. No, that was not the way.

She could sense Mycroft's ever present observations in the slight hum of electrical activity and mild disturbances it's sensors created. Radiant energies subsumed into molecules as ambient heat, redirection of light, etc. To be honest, it had reduced it's activity when she had requested privacy but true to type would probably only cease completely if James ordered it. Or would it? How conscious was it really? A being worthy of compassion if James had managed to achieve true sentience within it's circuitry. Relaxing, she accepted the observation as she would the rising of the sun or rain falling from the sky.

Her breathing sank to levels increasingly shallow and then finally stilled. Within her small breast her heart beat more slowly until it finally paused between beats in an infinite moment of anticipation. Her mind cleared finally of all distractions, she slowly drew forth the credit card-like object she had carried with her shortly after she had argued with Sovem II. 'It will not be baselines that attack you,' she had written. 'It will be nova on nova. My hand raised against you and yours.' She had meant it at the time and only later realized the ultimate futility in even articulating such a basic response, let alone the response itself. She would have apologized to him but if he could not understand the futility of the response, how much less would he have grasped the apology for it? It was the same with Ashnod. Secure in their beliefs and knowledge, they had no reason and less desire to open themselves to another perspective. To discuss, yes. To actually be another, possibly less than divine being, no. And, of course, words were so very fragile to carry such weighty messages.

She had thought, acted, and thought again until she had conceived of this task. A task that had required her to search across entire universes to reach one, insignificantly different from others, but holding the ownerless item she needed to commence her quest. Breath did not disturb her breast. Her heart did not beat and disturb her blood. Such was the power of the energies flowing through her as they emanated from the modern day chakra in her brain. Yet still her hand moved and stroked the card softly, powering its tiny circuitry with the heat of her cooling flesh. In her grasp it's awareness opened to her and prepared to accept the treasures to be placed with the others.

Now was the critical time. Not only must all be placed as carefully as possible within this vault, but it must be placed in exact positions to maximum effect. Extending her awareness, she sensed first Nyla, already in place. Innocence and the yearning for liberty, tempered with the knowledge of an acceptable future of servitude to family and husband. Deeper still, the sinful needs that glamorized a possible future of prostitution with the acceptance of that servitude but with the greater freedoms it might grant. Sleep little Nyla, though neither dream holds you any longer. You will see horror and delights that none of your ancestors could have imagined. I would spare you my daughter, but the future must show you terror in a handful of dust and that cannot be stayed.

Now, Jager/Jason/Karl flowed through her nervous system as if sound played the strings of the guitar. His needs burned hot and feral while his love burned hotter still. Not for her though. He accepted the bondage of his debts and this debt was greater than all the others in that it carried a love deep enough to drown oceans. She would have burned like a moth to the flame in the heat of even the reflected love that would have been given to her. It was not for her though and she could not delude herself to that truth. The quantum spire had burned away those illusions in offering the moment of its truth. She would love him for the rare warm smile, accept that he did not love her, and accept what was.

Next came James in his brilliance and madness. Tears flowed freely down her cold cheeks but there was no help for it. She felt his pain and wept the tears he could not, would not, shed for himself and his loved ones. He would approach his moment of truth far sooner than he realized and his future in reaching his true potential stretched so far! Or he would wallow in the madness and bring terror to lives beyond counting. A living cantonment of seething rage and pain. Into the vault this mind storm funneled, so powerful she had captured it's dim reflection without even a touch. With the last of this fragile wealth safely stored her heartbeat commenced and her breath returned. Even to her own senses her flesh felt cold, though it rapidly warmed with her return from quiescence. Just in time. Rising to her bare feet she left her jacket and shoes where they lay and followed the call. The wisp of thought and need funneled through a slowly rotating cycle of probability led her through the complex. At first a confusing maze, the twisting labyrinthine corridors collapsed into a linear set of probabilities when she opened herself to the larger awareness. Following the quantum architecture forming the nascent space fold of the building, she at last arrived at the correct door and paused. Considered and examined the possiblities. Smiled.

Touching the door with the open palm of her hands she heard the lonely song within and perceived the stark scent of the primary colors. Pushing slightly she stepped through into the darkness beyond and heard the slight shift in the breathing of the occupant, knew she was awake.

"I can talk now if you'd like to, Tess."

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-22-2001).]

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The room looked like it was carved out of seamless blue glass. One whole wall mimiced the view from a Tokyo high-rise, the rains still beating against the glass.

Jager looked down from the edge. The garish lights wove back up through the gloom and danced across his face.

'You're fighting it, again,' his reflection whispered.

'Yeah, I know,' he thought back. 'I keep the one step forward, two steps back thing going on.'

'You need to let go of all that crap. You have to move on. That is what they all keep telling you and it isn't like you have found any answers.'

'Brilliant piece of self-analysis there,' he jibbed. 'Still, I had better move on or this will eat me up.'

'It isn't like you didn't try to make things better. You failed. Get over it. It isn't the failings that make you, its how you grow from there.'

'Talking to myself isn't making things any better.'

'Yeah, but who else is there? As the lady said, "It wouldn't have been enough." She can see into the future, remember.'

'Yeah, but not my future. No one can. Not unless I open myself up, and now isn't the time.'

Jaeger backed away from the window and found a good spot with a good view of his surroundings. He crouched down and waited. The time to resume the hunt would be coming soon enough. He needed to sort out his mind and fix it on the task ahead. In that, he found what little solace that was to be had.

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As he walked throught the phase shifted material of the wall James called out. "Mike, I would appreciate it if you would give our company some privacy in their rooms tonight. No sensors are necessary."

"Are you sure James? Three of them are well armed, and the quantum sensors mark even the least of them as being definate Life Threatening Class. Jaeger is impossible to read, no matter how far I push the sensors, he seems a quantum non-entity." Concern colored the tone, Mike was never this harsh.

"Yes, I know. But I would like to earn their trust."

"Is that why you showed them the workshop? Jordan's heart rate jumped drastically. I thought he was going to kill you."

"Yes, a calculated risk. To be honest, if he had tried I think I would have let him. He is so earnest and true. If what I do shocks him deeply enough to react with lethal force, perhaps I am the monster that the good Father calls me."

"That's not what you've been saying all this time. You only want to help them. 'Spare the rod..' and all of that. Isn't that what you were trying to do for humanity?"

"Oh Mike, I programmed you remember? I love you dearly my only child, but I am afraid I did not teach you to question me enough. Yes, I do feel what I am doing might be necessary. 'Might' being the operative word. Everything I see tells me that a horror is coming that I don't wish to be a part of of. No matter how I twist the variables, no matter how I interpret the data, war is the inevitable result." as always, with sorrow comes a slow transformation; the voice softens and the high end of the register is emphasized, body language takes on a feminine cast and the Spanish toungue the dominant language. "Ai, but don't you see Miguel? Jaeger, Wizard, and the mysterious one, they act outside my data. Maybe, just maybe they can change things. Now, enough talking, leave them be, I must talk with our friends in New York."

James wipes the tears from his eyes, barely acknowledging there presence. His frame straightens and he takes on a more purposeful stance. A few taps at a keyboard and a familiar face comes up on the viewscreen.

"What do you want Prodigy?" the face sneers out.

"I've told you before Sammuel that I only use that 'name' in my public writings. My name is James. Prodigy exists only to remind Utopia that they are responsible for me."

"And I've told you that I don't use zip names. Just as I've told *you* not to call me Sammuel, my name is Mako, Sammuel was a monkey." Teeth gnash and inhumanely black eyes roll about as Mako roars out his defiance.

"Fine, fine. Mako, I need intel on Utopia hunting parties. Bernard's place was hit and some friends of mine might be targets. I need to know who's out and about. And yes, of course I want to know about any of the off the book black hats they have out."

"Oooh, don't ask much do you? How do you think I'm gonna get this for you?"

"Please, I already know you're staying at the Blackburn. And I know that the Primacy is having their Bi-Annual bash day after tommorow. I may not have gotten an invite, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid. Now, you know what I did to Apostle's people when they pissed me off."

"Yeah you f@cking turncoat, you turned them over to the 'Topes."

"Turncoat? Now my little friend, I simply used available tools. I only do that to my enemies, and aren't we friends? Aren't I the one who looks over your little gangs plans? Haven't I given you nice toys to play with? Do you want me to go elsewhere for the assistance of a friend?"

"Crap, no damnit. Uh, I'm sorry, you know that. It's just that I'm hungry and I, uh, always get short tempered on an empty stomach. Ok, I'll ask around, I'll send it to the first OpNet drop we used. 'Kay?"

"Of course. I appreciate the assistance. Good evening. Oh, and Mako?"


"I have a new toy for you're little platoon. How would you like to be able to walk through Utopia's quantum sensors and be read as nothing more than a baseline? We'll talk later. After you get me the info."

James backs away from the console and walks over the the fireplace. He gazes at a portrait of fresh faced Utopian recruits. "I really wonder sometimes, at the road not traveled. Did I make the right choice? Maybe I shall ask one of my new friends. But not right now. Now is the time for slumber."

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Jager started with a sudden tremor.

"Someone has decided they really don't like me," he smiled. "Don't they know that...." The realization hit him like a bolt out of the blue. She can't see beyond 'me' in the here and now, but she can see him. Oh, shit!"

Jager spun around and leapt for the wall. The door was gone and he pulled up short. He could feel the edge of his hand refine itself to his desire. He hesitated.

"Mike? Door please."

For a moment, there was no reply.


"Sorry Mr. Jager, I wasn't monitoring your situation. What may I do for you?"

"I need to get to Janes' room."


A wall section flowed open into the hallway.

"She is ..." said Mike, but Jager was already running.

He drew up short as he came into the room. He could smell her intoxicating aroma, but sensed she was no longer there.

"Mike, were is she?"

"As I was trying to tell you, Mr.Jager, she isn't in her room."

Jager laughed at the insanity of it all. It felt good.

"Do you want me to inform her that she is looking for you?"

"No, I want to talk to her myself."

"I really think I should inform her of your desire," replied Mike testily.

"Were you raised by nuns?"

"Well, actually, I do have experiences that.."

"Sorry I asked, then. I apologize Mike, but I hate dealing with fools, especially when that fool is me."

"Please inform her that I want to see her asap."

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He stood motionlessly in the center of the room, head slightly tilted and eyes closed. Her scent and aura had not been enough this time. She could sense it now. He had opened himself up like this once before in Cairo, except this was no peek into the future. He had lowered all his defenses and was oblivious to her. He had walked into her visions and become lost in them.

‘Why,’ she thought, suddenly at a loss to understand him. ‘What is he looking for?’

As she continued to look, she suddenly felt him throughout the room. He became her and her vision, all at once. He had even joined her at the edge of death, with only the energy she left behind to maintain him. He began to fail as the first tremors of true death reached for him.

“Come back to me,” she whispered to him. He responded very slowly.

The pain of rebirth wracked his frame, but he mastered it. He remained with his eyes closed, looking away from her.

“This isn’t about forever,” he started, “It isn't about anyone but us. Is there anything you want, here and now, with no reservations?”

She waited on him to finish.

“What is it that you want…here and now?”

“Jason, I am supposed to be the presentiant one. Always thinking about how the present affects the future. That is what other people need me to be. Right now, this is what you need me to be. I know that there is something else that you have to deal with. I am here as your friend.”

“Is that all that you want?” he repeated. She couldn’t bring herself to answer that. In that single moment, her strength failed her and a tiny selfish desire bound her tight. He waited another long moment, and then he made up his mind.

As he turned around to face her, she could feel his innermost walls falling aside. She could almost feel his aura reaching out and caressing her. As his face came out of the shadows, she staggered back from the sight of him. She could feel him take and devour every little fear and insecurity from her.

‘Men weren’t like this,’ she though. ‘They don’t get this beautiful.’

Every teenage failing washed away. Everyone who had ever walked away or laughed behind her back, every guy who had gone past her to be with someone else evaporated then and there. This was someone who wanted to be with her with every fiber of his being and with every ache of his soul. Her rational mind tried to scream at her that people like her didn’t get guys like this. She crushed this last fear on her own with a newfound fierce passion.

He started to move toward her, but she attacked him half way to the bed. He staggered slightly, as she ravaged his lips with a kiss and wrapped her legs around him. Desperately, she tried to rip his close off his body. In the back of her mind, she realized the futility of ripping eufiber only to have it come apart in her hands. He fell backwards, toward the floor, but caught himself with one hand. His other hand moved along the small of her back to her ass.

Moaning, she lowered herself down his body. The kisses moved to his chin-line, then his neck and finally to his nipple. Her legs unwrapped themselves as she rode him to the floor. She was vaguely aware of his clothing slipping away and becoming a blue satin sheet beneath them.

Both hands now free, he continued to explore her body and she, his. Heated kisses continued as she struggled out of her clothing. Two of her shirt buttons went spinning away in her rush, but her pants proved more difficult. With a single fingernail, he cut them away, leaving an icy trail along her thigh. She shuttered in passion and his breathing became deeper and more labored.

Finally, their rhythms matched and their intensity increased. Their eyes locked together as they struggled to share that one moment, that one sense of freedom away from everything else. He rolled on top of her as her nails drew faint trails along his skin. She began to feel the lightning sparking off of him and into her. His body quickened with the intensity as he sought deeply into her eyes.

The sensation started out as a tingling in the souls of her feet and raced up her through her calves and thighs, gaining in speed and power. It exploded in an inferno of sensation as it raced across her hips and abdomen, drawing the breath out of her lungs and causing her back to arch dangerously. Fire, heat, and excitement raced over her breasts and into her throat. She could sense a gasping noise escaping as the surge raced on. It hit her brain with a tidal wave of electricity and fury. She could feel the quantum spiking through her node as she lost her grasp of this conscious reality. The music and passion rippled through her as the sounds thundered in her mind and through the light of her being. She disintegrated before the onslaught and rebuilt herself, only to fall back into the fiery storm. Visions of otherness flooded over her as she became one with each and every one of them. She felt her mind falling away to sensation as the fear of this overwhelming change consumed her. Desperately, she grasped hold of one clear note that rose above the rest. Her mind clung to it, pulling her world together around its strength and beauty. She drew upon its strength and it led her back to the rapture of consciousness. She knew this note like an old friend, long forgotten.

She came to and realized that the note was being torn from her throat. It was the physical extension and expression of her intense pleasure. She gasped for air as the waves of passion lessened. Using the momentary respite, she looked up into his eyes. They were filled with mixture of compassion and concern. She took a second, painful breath and felt her body begin to tremble. A third breath, not as ragged as the rest, came to her. The room still warped around her, only he remained constant in his singularity. Finally, she drew a breath through her nose as more of her body began to return to her control. A few more panted breaths and then another tremor passed through her body.

“What…what did you just do to me? “ she whispered. “That was…” as words failed her. She wanted to share that feeling with him, that intensity.

“Are you going to be okay?” he said with a hint of worry in his voice.

She nodded. She saw the worry fade and a passionate smile come to his face and his eyes. She could tell he was still hungry for more, but there wasn’t his earlier urgency.

“Well, I believe you know the technique as ‘Synergy’, but most novas don’t think about using it this way. I have always found it better if we share the moment, so to speak. I borrowed a bit of yours as well. I hope you don't mind. What did you think sex with me would be like, anyway?”

She just stared at him. How do you answer that kind of question? Slowly and gingerly, he rose up and walked over to get a glass of water. He returned and knelt down besides her, offering her the drink. She drank deeply before taking her eyes off him at last and resting her head against the satiny cover.

The floor still felt warm, but she was drenched in sweat. She almost brought a corner up to dry off and then thought better of it. Seeing her need, he offered her the shirt. She dried off her face and mopped up a shallow pool between her breasts. He took it from her as his eyes once again danced over her body. He smiled.

Now that her head had cleared a bit, she studied him. She was momentarily surprised. He looked ready to run another marathon, rested and in complete control, while she wasn’t even sure she could stand. Anger, jealousy, and a little thrill ran through her all at once. Here he was, ready to go again and instead of ravishing her, he was just sitting back, naked as the day he was born, and patiently waiting for her to catch up.

“I don’t know if I should hit you or hug you,” she breathed. Already her voice was getting husky again. Just looking at him, looking so perfect to her was driving any other thought from her mind. She clamped down on it and fought back into control. “Maybe I’ll do both.” He smiled suggestively, but waited for her to make her move.

“First, though, I wanted a shower and something to eat. Now help me stand up.” He rolled his legs underneath him and rose up. He bent over and offered him both hands. He helped her up with a little lift and she followed it up into his arms. Her naked body smacked against his. She looked up into those intense eyes again.

“I would tell you to keep the home fires burning, but I see that want be a problem.” She touched him casually and he murmured back in pleasure.

“Actually, I thought we would shower together.” She smiled at that and led him toward the bathroom.

In another room Tess and Jordan looked away from the monitor and looked at one another. The wall panel had just opened up moments after Jordan entered the room. He had started ask about ‘future’ Jordan, again, but had just stopped in mid-sentence. He felt awkward, watching them, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away. When the monitor had activated, Tess had been pleasantly surprised. They had made a few jokes early on but had spent the last several minutes in utter silence. Jordan felt conflicted and Tess was aroused. She felt it his confusion but was suffering from her own immediate desires as well.

James sat back and smiled. Mike had taken his advice to heart and was showing true initiative. This may not have what James had initially intended by helping them learn to work together, but it certainly held interesting possibilities.

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"... so after a tremendous burst of speed I snag the perp by the shoulder, pull him off the bumper of the bus and toss him to ground," explains Jager to a drowsily smiling Jane.

"I'm half-way through reading him his Miranda rights when my partner comes running up wheezing like he's going to collapse and just stares at me. I'm standing over the guy that we've been trying to catch for the last three weeks and instead of congratulating me he's staring at me like I'm a crazy man. After a few seconds of this I finally ask his what his problem is and he says, 'Jim... where the hell are your pants.' I shredded 'em completely off in that burst of speed and didn't even notice. That's when I broke down and bought eufiber."

Wizard's body doubled up as her peals of muffled laughter rang in the room. Annoyed, Jager stoically tries to explain how utterly embarrassed he was in that moment of complete loss of dignity but even he finally cracked a grin and joined her in laughter. When their mirth finally subsided, or at least reached manageable levels, he volleyed the question back to her.

"Your turn, spill it. The mighty wizard's most embarrassing quantum moment was?"

"Umm...Well it was...," she began.

"Time?" Jager asked reminding her of the rules she had set for the game.

"Seven days ago. Ten p.m. in the evening on a Thursday. I was curled up for a cat-nap on the couch after re-reading In The Garden of Idenn," she admitted.

"Good book. Now get to the juicy stuff, mitigating factors," Jager said as he stroked her curls. Amazing, the hot shower hadn't straightened her hair permanently. Nor had their exertions in the shower or anywhere else. God, she was tight muscled and limber, like a dancer. Well of course she was.

"Lack of close relations with, well anyone in a long time and I had been reading the forum earlier in the afternoon," she continued. "I was drowsing and I... I started dreaming. I was in a room with another figure, another woman actually and..." Abruptly, she stopped the tale and pushed herself up from the tangle of blankets and Jager. Balanced on her extended arm with her hand braced against Jager abodomen, she pivoted and landed in a seated tailor position on his lap while she studied his face closely.

"What?" he asked, intrigued by the clever display of coordination. She had shown off for him.

"You're human." Just as abruptly, she flowed into a prone position ending with her body parallel to his longer one, an indolent smile sketched across her features. "You have that same silly grin men always get whenever a woman talks about being with another woman. What is that anyway?"

"A guy thing as far as I know. And you're changing the subject. I told you mine, now stop trying to welch on the rules and spill it, wench."

"Okay, to make a long story short. Not too short," she mollified to forestall his protest, "We had sex. Pretty good sex. Actually, it was really good sex. Full sense sharing."

"Wicked dream. What was the embarrassing part?" he asked, the described scene pictured in his mind and causing his body to react.

"The climax, if you'll pardon the pun and wipe that silly grin off your face. Sent me yelling and I fell straight off the couch. Even woke Nyla up," she admitted then paused. A sense of the dramatic appeared to be a character trait when she relaxed and just flowed with the situations.

Jager felt cheated after admitting his inadvertent public nudity. "That's it! Thief! Welcher! I share a profoundly personal moment of extreme indignity and this is how you repay me?"

"It wasn't my orgasm, it was hers. I told you, full sense sensory sharing and everything while we were both dreaming," she explained stretching languidly as her smile grew wider.

"Okay," he said working it through in his head. "So who was she?"

"Olive skinned, big almond shaped eyes, compact but with really strong legs, someone you know..." she supplied waiting for him to finish working it out.

"Someone I know? The only woman I know that comes even close to that description... Oh my god!" He sat up abruptly and caught her by her forearms before she tumbled to the floor. "Do you have any idea how slowly Ashnod would kill you if she ever found out?"

"I don't see why. After all, she's always going on in the forum about how we need to take up with our own kind," Jane argues. "Always complaining that we need to get over our 'baseline' mentalities. It's not like she can bitch about having her advice taken at face value. Besides, it wasn't my dream. Hell it wasn't even my orgasm! People have all sorts of interesting dreams that don't really mean anything. And," she said to make her point, "you wanted embarrassing, remember?"

For a moment Jager stared at her and then started to chuckle, the mental image he had constructed instantly wiped away by that of an unearthly beautiful and completely enraged terat being told it was her own fault. Jane, her arms still gripped tightly in his hands, just smiled like a cat and then suddenly scissored her body into a twist that flipped both of them into a reverse of their previous position. Her legs twined tightly about his waist as he maintained his new position, arms outstretched and braced against the mattress on either side of her shoulders to lever himself up. In a flash she pulled herself to him and nuzzled his neck diligently.

"Leverage beats strength every time." she murmured.

Concerned, he asks, "Jane, are you sure you can ..."

"Elizabeth. And the body adapts but only if the demand is constant. One of my gifts."

She didn't repeat his performance with synergy. This was new.

"Oh that sensory sharing..." were the last coherent words spoken for some time.

Hurriedly, Mike killed the sensors in the room and scurried along the network paths to place distance between his consciousness and the room. He'd already experienced one of Wizard's gifts this evening and it had cost him two backup drives and a hundred meters of eufiber cable. An interesting experience to be examined later if he could convince James to explain how the simple action of friction between viscous surfaces could lead to such a series of emotional spikes.

[This message has been edited by Wizard (edited 06-24-2001).]

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