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Aberrant: Nova Reality - The Insulted and the Injured

April Rice

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Far above the city streets, the night wind sings a cold and lonely song - interrupted only by silent wings and low-laying clouds. At this moment, the only exception is hovering fifteen hundred feet above the west side, speaking in an intermittent stream of mixed Spanish and English:

"... No, mamá ... No ... Of course it's not anything dangerous ... Tengo que hacerlo, mamá ... Sí ... Bye ... Yeah."

Popping shut her cell and making it disappear in one of her charcoal jumpsuit's many pockets, April peers down at the streets below - searching out her destination. She's seen street maps and satellite photographs, but the pictures were all taken at night and ... there it is.

The warehouse doesn't look like anything much from up here, but if Digi's information is accurate, the place is being used as a hub for CZ drug distribution. According to intel, the latest shipment hasn't hit the streets yet, so a quick raid should turn up enough evidence on site to close the hub down for good - maybe get someone to turn state's evidence in return for clemency.

Considering how hot the place is, there oughta be some guards ... and there he is. April spots his body heat after drifting down to a thousand feet, and he leaps into focus as her eyes compensate for the distance and darkness. Standard issue thug: little under six foot, Caucasian, wearing overalls and packing what looks to be a pint-sized assault rifle. Get 'em on illegal weaponry charges if nothing else.

Far down below, Tony Sheehan shifts from foot to foot behind the dumpster, trying to stay warm on this cold March night. He hadn't heard anything from the boy's inside recently, and they had fucking well better not have forgotten to change shifts out here. Wouldn't be the first time, either - buncha sons o' ...

April stops on a dime six inches above the ground and less than two feet away, having dropped out of the sky like a stooping falcon. It is still occurring to him that he should give a shout or something when the double prongs of April's Alchemist-issue stun gun hit just below his ribs, causing his teeth to chatter rapidly for a moment before his body goes quite limp.

April catches the thug with a telekinetic hand before he hits the ground, glances around, then flips him up, over, and down into the dumpster a few feet away. That was easy enough, but most of the trouble will probably be inside ...

Quietly, April kicks off the ground and shoots up to the roof level, rubbing grime off one of the clerestory windows to peer in. Seeing nothing, she drops down, unlocks the inside latch on a lower window, and slips in quietly - letting a force bubble form around her as she gets inside.

After a few moments, she's pretty sure that there isn't anyone present and lands lightly atop one of the stacks of shipping crates palletted all over the floor. Her bubble pops with a slight sound of equalizing air pressure, and she taps her wrist comm, calling home:

"Hey guys? There's no one here. Well, a guard outside."

Touching off again, she begins to drift around, looking for something - whatever might be useful. A puzzled question comes back across the comm, and she answers:

"I'm sure. I don't hear them, I don't see their body heat, and I don't see them ... it's not that big a place. Someone was here not that long ago, though."


"Um ... maybe an hour or so? I smell old cigarette smoke."


"Yeah, ok. So I'll just, uh, wait here then."

April lands on a crate again, sits, looks around, fidgets, fidgets again, looks around, kicks off to hover a few feet above the warehouse floor. Come to think of it, under the cigarette smoke, there's a sharper, more acrid smell, almost like ... solder? Faint, but ...

Tracking the scent down, April finds her way to the nearest structural support column - poured concrete with a small steel box strapped to it with metal binders. Looking around, she notices that most of the other columns have similar packages attached, along with the structural portions of the outer wall. Ok ... the boxes seem to be sealed, but there is something tickling the back of her head, something ...

... in the radio band. A carrier signal is bouncing around in the open space, echoing off of rebar and metal fixtures, but emanating from a single point source - one of the many shipping crates around the warehouse.

The guys probably wouldn't mind if she looked around a bit before the police arrived. It'd make things a little easier on everyone. Besides, only 143.7 seconds had passed (give or take), and the police would probably have a ten or fifteen minute response time. Minimum. And waiting sucks.

Dropping to the ground in front of the culprit crate, she reaches out and makes a gripping gesture with her right hand. Pulling back suddenly, she channels the movement into TK - tearing the front of the wooden crate clean off.

The crate is big (maybe two meters cubed), and probably is supposed to carry some kind of heavy equipment. But right now, it's almost empty - holding only a small cluster of boxes and electrical equipment. April lets the side of the box drop, breaking apart on the concrete floor, then steps forward for a closer look.

A number of cardboard boxes (the kind used to package reams of printer paper) are gathered around two small metal boxes, unidentifiable to April. Everything is connected together in a rat's nest of wires, with a number of them disappearing though holes punched in the sides of the boxes.

Shifting the lid off one of the boxes, April sees stacks of pale white foot-long bars wrapped in olive-drab cellophane. Each is about two inches across and one inch thick, and there are a whole lot of them gathered together in these boxes. There's fine print ...

"Hey guys? What's cyclotrimethylene trinitramine?"




A nasty feeling is growing in April's stomach as she stares down at the pile of electronics and wires. Answering her comm, she adds, "I think ..."

And she hears something new - a radio signal broadcast in from somewhere off site. An instant later, the carrier signal bouncing around in the warehouse goes live as the electronics in front of April begin to broadcast a series of coded bursts. The necessary realizations already made, April turns to run.

Time slows as she pushes more juice into already over-clocked muscles and synapses, letting loose with every ounce of energy she can muster. Senses honed by quantum and adrenalin bring her the sound of detonator caps popping one by one throughout the building while she makes a first couple of steps, kicking off of the ground and launching herself at the nearest window.

The support columns go a fraction of a second early as spikes of heat and kinetic energy punch through concrete and rebar. The building starts to fold - a slow, lazy dance of falling masonry to April's hyperactive senses. That done, the transmitter self-destructs, sending the signal for detonation trickling along hardwired connections to the blasting caps lining the nearby cluster of cardboard boxes.

April is almost to the window when the shockwave hits her and kicks her sideways, slamming her against the concrete masonry wall and punching her clear through - Alchemist's armor and her own exceptional durability giving up somewhere along the way. Something important (maybe more more than one thing) snaps, and she feels blank, undifferentiated pain, giving way to a stunned, distanced feeling as the world pinwheels and a sick, rushing sound fills her ears.

The wall follows just behind her as hundreds of 8" by 8" concrete blocks tear apart and turn into high-speed projectiles. April reflexively clenches her body into the fetal position, the movement causing rods of pain to stab into her body as she feels broken off ends of bone grating against one another.

With pain fragmenting her concentration, her weak attempt to draw a bubble around her before she hits the ground fails miserably, and she strikes earth hard - her fading consciousness continuing on into darkness.

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An uncertain amount of time later, April regains consciousness - suddenly jerking back to wakefulness. Her entire body is alive with pain, but it is blessedly dulled by some industrial strength drug from Alchemist's pharmacy.

Her senses are foggy, to begin with. She hears one or more voices as if she were immersed in water - the sounds refusing to resolve into words. Her vision comes back a little more quickly, and she blinks in the painfully bright light, making out the sterile environment of the WCK med center.

Aprils ears decide to start working again, but she still feels concussed, and her mind skitters away from the words - unable to focus on any thought but one:

"¿Qué pasó? ... uh, happened?"

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Jager is sitting on the bed across from April, a grim look to his features.

"A beginners mistake. You walked into a trap ... a trap meant to kill you and anyone else over-eager enough to go running in. It was definitely meant to take out a nova."

He looks away for a minute. Jager had been spending the weekend with his girlfriend down in Mexico when the tip had come up. No one had thought it worthwhile to break into his personal time in what was supposed to be a quick 'in-and-out'.

Looking back at her, the veteran elite continues,

"It isn't so much that you did something wrong, since no one expected a local criminal ring to blow up an entire warehouse to kill one of us, but you got anxious ... too anxious to do good."

"I will tell the others that you have regained conciousness. The police will want to talk to you too. Don't forget to thank Alchemist. His suit saved your life. I will go back to the site and see what else I can dig up."

Jager gets up and eases out of the room. The look the others get is a man ready to kill somebody.

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Alchemist sees the look in Jager's eyes as he stalks out of the room, but says nothing. Jager is a man of action, but not prone to useless or misdirected violence.

Moving up from the other side of the bed, Alchemist smiles down at April. Her prone form is covered by the medical bed's blankets, but it is fairly obvious that both her arms and her left leg are covered by a thin cast. Invisible beneath the sheets and is the flexform mattress that April is laying on, at once cushioning and restraining her body to keep her from re-injuring herself.

The room itself is instantly recognizable as a modern doctor's office. There are a pair of expensive looking medical beds with attached diagnosis equipment, one of which is occupied by April. White cabinets and a work table completely cover another wall. A couple of chairs, a small desk, a window, and an opnet terminal are the only other accessories in the room.

"I'll start with the bad news, since there's more of it."

Alchemist gives April a look of sympathy as she winces after turning her head to look at him.

"Several of the smaller bones in both of your arms, as well as your fibula in your left leg have cracked. Thankfully, they weren't compound fractures so I was able to set them and cast them. Worse in many ways are the strains on your spine, shoulders and back from being pushed through a wall. Nothing that won't repair itself, but you're going to feel like your body is one big bruise for several days. And I'm keeping you in that bed for at least a week, no arguments. After that, we'll see how you're doing and you can start negotiating."

Alchemist follows this with a stern look that's only partially spoiled by the look of concern that's behind it. Before she can ask the obvious question, he continues.

"The good news is that your nova metabolism should heal you up without any permanent damage, as long as you don't re-injure yourself. That's why you're being held down. Tomorrow, I should be able to re-mold the bed so that you're just cushioned, but for now, no moving. Oh, and also on the good side, I fixed your suit up. It held up better than I would have expected."

"Enough of this. I'm just glad you're OK. Oh, and you've got visitors already."

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"Mornin' tae ye," Jager hears as the ghostly shadow of a woman materialises in front of him, resolving into a white-haired lady of obvious mixed race and middle age. Her eufiber is shaped into a simple black suit, around which is wrapped a long, wide scarf of gauzy turquoise silk sewn with metallic thread and copper sequins, part of which is draped over her head.

"I'm Rose O'Meara," the half-caste lady continues, her Irish brogue thick and her deep brown eyes merry. "Sorry tae just show up like this, but I'm between jobs at Argus an' got yuir euros on me, sae I figured I'd 'ghost' by an' pay ye back."

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"Hey, April. It's good to see you awake; you had us worried. Or at least those of us who don't know your limits." Damanor seems very awkward speaking to the other nova; his expression shifts between embarassment, anger, and guilt. "The other good news is that the only fatality was the guard. The explosion was contained to a relatively small area."

"We're trying to track down the source of the explosives. The stuff is military grade, used in C-4; it's not the sort of thing that drug dealers ought to have. We also wonder how much more of it is around." His jaw clenches and his eyes narrow. "It was a trap, and I didn't see it. I'm sorry, April. I promise you, Intel will find those C-Z [Edited For Television]. We'll nail them for this one."

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As an aside to Damanor, Alchemist says, "Actually, the explosive was military. But not local. From the residue left behind, I would guess Russian or Eastern Europian manufacture. It was definitely manufactured in bulk, but not to US specs. If I had a sample of the explosive itself, I could tell you more."

Alchemist frowns in thought. "The big question is how they knew you were coming. Only one guard on site, no trace of the drugs that were supposed to be there, and lots of explosives placed to kill a nova. It's so obvious that it has to be more than just a trap. It's a message too."

Casting a guilty glance at April, Alchemist abruptly changes subjects. "Maybe I should go stop Ms. O'Meara from distracting our hunter from his prey."

So saying, Alchemist moves from the small room into the hall where Rose is attempting to greet Jager.

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Jager stares at Rose for a moment with shocking dark and predatory eyes. The moment passes and Jager's eyes lighten to an artic blue and he smiles.

"I'm a bit surprised to see you here, MoonShadow, and with your hectic schedule ta boot."

"Money? Oh, yeah. Sorry, but I am a bit distracted. One of my team mates was almost murdered tonight and I need to get on it before the trail gets cold."

Jager's predatory nature softens with some effort and he offer to shake Rose's hand.

"It means alot to me for coming here in person and I appreciate it."

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"That would be my job, Rose."

DigiGeist says, quietly entering the room, only his voice announcing his presence to all present.

"So, if anyone would care to drop on me what has been found out so far, I can ferret out the rest of what's needed to bust this guy or girl or it... these days I wouldn't be suprised what comes out of the woodwork."

He looks towards Jager, his eyes holding within them anger just as bad as Jager expressed. Except it seems more like a caged animal. Waiting to do it's work when ordered.

"Personally... I don't like terrorists walking around with mil-spec explosives walking around town." He says, a slight growl in his tone. "Damn anarchists."

DigiGeist clenches his fist, holding back his anger. He knows for one to find justice he must do it according to protocol, not personal revenge.

"Jager, after we're done visiting April, we gotta talk about this. Set up some sort of investication strategy so we can find out who is pulling the strings here. The sooner we can get enough evidence for the Chicago Police, the better."

He walks over to April, remembering something.

"Crap, I forgot, this is for you..." He pulls out a vase with a dozen roses. Setting it on an unused table nearby. "I... Thought it'd be a nice gesture. Just get well soon, alright?"

He sheepishly grins, his pronounced canines somewhat visible.

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April muzzily accepts what Alchemist tells her (though not without a spark of unvoiced rebellion at the idea of a week in bed). Raising her head to glance down at her body, she carefully tests her limits, wincing at the attempt and noting the gentle restraint exerted by the bed. Dropping back with a sigh, she says resignedly, "Thanks guys ... sorry to put you all to this. I really shoulda been faster getting out of there."

A somewhat queasy note enters her voice as she adds, "Heh, uh ... first time someone's tried to kill me. That's definitely something to write home about. [pauses a beat] Um, speaking of which, has anybody told my family about this? I kind of ... downplayed the danger of all this, you know?"

DigiGeist's awkwardness gets April to smile for the first time. Reminded of her restraints, she telekinetically arranges the roses in the vase - smoothing out the blooms as she beams at him (then winces slightly as the throbbing in her neck flares up).

"Thanks, Digi."

Doing his best not to make a splash on the scene, a scrawny-looking cameraman slips into the room with his camera and tripod, edging past Jager and Rose. He glances around, spots the room's existing cameras, and goes to set up in the corner. Noticing at least a couple eyes on him, he smiles weakly at the assembled novas and says, "Uh, don't mind me. We'll edit this out later."

Somewhat distracted by the new arrival, April keeps half an eye on him while speaking up - making sure to catch DigiGeist and Damanor at the very least:

"Oh! Guys. I nearly forgot. The ... bomb, I guess? Someone set it off from somewhere outside the warehouse. There wasn't a timer or anything - I heard a radio signal come in just at the right time. It sounded ... kind of like a cell phone signal - like maybe there was a cell wired into the bomb, and they set is off with a call. Can't you, like, get records on that kind of thing somehow?"

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"Thanks, MoonShadow, but are you sure you want to buy into this? We appear to be dealing with a MegaSyndicate operation here and that could give you some serious problems in the future."

Jager gives a quick hand-signal off-camera to DigiGiest that tells him "not here, not now".

"MoonShadow, this is DigiGeist. A member of our field team."

Turning back to the room, Jager introduces Rose to rest of the team.

"MoonShadow, these are some other members of the team. The bed-bound one is April Rice. The attending physician is Alchemist and this is Damanor, another field team member."

Once the introductions are done, Jager will say,

"Damanor and DigiGiest, we should go back over the scene and walk through the event again, to see if we missed anything. Rose, this way if you are willing."

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As Alchemist sees Jager successfully throttle back his emotions, he returns to the medical room where April lies.

"If you don't mind, April, I'll stay here and keep you company. I doubt that a fifth nova investigating one crime scene will yield anything worthwhile."

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Bandwidth walks into the room only hearing the last bit of April's words.

"Tracking a call shouldn't be a problem. We have a time record from wrist communicators, I'll just have to get some records and filter through them all, but that can wait a few moments. It's just good to see that you are 'OK."

"I shall be keeping you company as well, I can work pretty much anywhere, and I doubt I'd do any good on the actual field in this situation."

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"We've contacted your family, April. Or one of the producers did. You'll want to give them a call to let you know you're okay."

Damanor turns to Rose. "Delighted to meet you, MoonShadow. It's always a pleasure to see a new face around here. Too bad it couldn't be under better circumstances."

"We definitely need to examine the crime scene. Alchemist's analysis of the explosives is helpful, but how were the drugs replaced with C-4 without either us or the Chicago P.D. knowing about it?"

It is obvious that Damanor is much more comfortable talking business than he is expressing his emotions.

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DigiGeist nods, forgetting that there's cameras around. He walks over to Jager, and cranes his neck and head in a way as not to allow any "lip readers" to pick up on what he's saying, and whispers against the background noise of the room. He's sure Jager though can still hear him.

"While I'm digging around, I'll check leads dealing with the recently deceased security guard. I'm not going to leave any stone unturned on this. Any reccomendations? If so, I think I know of a way to do this withought having any cameras watching."

He brings his head back, with a bit of a grin.

"Bandwidth, follow the idea you got and toss me a copy. Might give me some ideas of my own. If you all will excuse me, I got some notes to jot down."

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  • 3 weeks later...

The room empties as the field team (sans April) gathers outside to ride Rose's ghosting effect to the incident site - setting themselves to the task of tracking down whatever leads might have been left behind.

Aside from the cameraman (who soon packs up), that leaves April held in the firm embrace of her bed, Bandwidth settling in and going online, and Alchemist being subjected to a bit of wheedling from April:

"So ... don't you think a week might be a little much, maybe? I mean, I might not be totally healthy by then, but I wouldn't be overdoing - if I need to get around, I can just, y'know, fly ..."

Catching a second attempt at a stern look from Alchemist, April rolls her eyes and continues with a mock threat, saying:

"... Fine. But don't blame me if you find things moving around in your lab. Poltergeist activity is s'posed to come from unconscious, stress-induced telekinesis, you know, and I get stir crazy really easy. So totally not my fault if the dietary supplements get mixed in with the super solvents ..."


Next: Breaking Down Bricks and The Optimal Solution

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