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Aberrant: The Long March - Prequel: Before they were Novas

Mr Fox

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- 9 year old Omar Khudikias' life is saved by Morgan McIntyre, in during the first Gulf war.


- Morgan retires from the military to his home in Canada where he marries.


- Omar competes for the first time in the Olympics as a wrestler. Failure to achieve a gold medal earn's him a trip to a torture session.


- Morgan's wife dies of cancer.


- Omar competes for the second time and again falls just short of a medal. Omar leaves Iraq to study in America.

- Omar and Marcus meet at the University of Houston where they have classes together.


- Isabel makes her debut as an artist and garners regional popularity.

- Her brother Estaban protects her from a rich local with overly amourous intentions during her first local art exhibit.


- Marcus graduates from the University of Houston and begins playing golf on a semi-professional basis.

- Isabel's popularity as an artist quickly increases and she begins to attract an international following.

- Omar continues to prepare for the 2008 Olympics, but the US wrestling team approaches him with offers to join the US team.

Jan. 2007

- Raina Rodriguez an aspiring Puerto Rician artist is contacted by Sports Illustrated to work on a series of paintings for a human interest piece they have planned for their October 2007 issue.

- Isabel, a Chilean artist, is contracted by Sports Illustrated to work on a human interest story about several rising sports stars.

- Marcus and Omar, among other local athletes, are contacted by Sports Illustrated about being featured in an article to be published in their Oct issue.

- Morgan is contacted to be interviewed for the story being writing about Omar. He is brought to Houston where he is reunited with the child whose life he saved.

- Those who were not from Houston are flown into the city and are given housing while the painting is being done.

Isabel, her brother, Raina, Marcus, Omar, and Morgan meet in Houston while working on the project together. Despite their varied backgrounds they seem to all enjoy each others company and spend many hours together even outside the studio.

March 2007

- Marcus erupts ending his career as a baseline athlete. He retreats from the publicity, constant job offers, and charity solicitations, spending more and more time with his new friends.

October 2007

- The unveiling of the paintings is scheduled to concide with the Sports Illustrated issue being released. A moderate sized gallery exhibit is planned.

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March 23, 2007

Houston, Tx

Houston Open Qualifing Tournament

Marcus Elliot was having an excellent round of golf. The day was about as good as the weather can possibly get in Houston. Sunny, cool, with a light breeze and a cloudless sky, makes for a great day to be on the greens. The tournament was going well for Marcus, 10 under par by the 17th hole and 3 strokes ahead. The the press was warming up to the local boy who had made good. All in all, he was on top of the world, and there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.


While Marcus was teaing off on the 18th hole, lightning struck several miles away. Since his group was the last to finish and there was only one hole left, they decided to press on. The three others in his group also took their swings and moved down the fairway for their second shots.

"Best trournament of his career so far. Marcus has definitely come along way since his days caddying on this very course," announced Bill Macatee to the viewing audience. "For a minute there after that lightning bolt I was having visions of Caddyshack," he gave a chuckle and smiled for the audience.

Just then another bolt flashed out of the still clear sky closer than the first. Looking into the camera with a rueful smile, "I've never seen anything like it folks. There's a prefectly clear sky here in Houston today, but this strange lightning looks like it will cause the players to come back tomorrow to finish this last hole." The camera zooms out and pans across the sky showing the viewing audience the lack of clouds. While it is zoomed out more lightning begins to fall, at first one bolt, then another and another, until there seems to be a bolt almost every second.

The camera pans quickly and unsteadily back to the fairway, to show the golfers scrambling for cover. Just then one bolt lances out of the sky and strikes Marcus Elliot, scrambling the camera for an instant. When the picture returns to normal, a being apparently made of lightning rises into the air. Zooming out, it becomes apparent that there is now a zone around the area of the course that seems to be protected from further lightning strikes.

Announcer Bill Macatee, having been momentarily rendered speechless by events begins to speak again, "Uh, wow. Er, I mean, there you have it folks. Brought to you live by ESPN sports, the eruption of a new nova. I'm not sure, but I think that was Marcus Elliot that was struck. If so of course that means he will be disqualified from the tournement since Nova's can't play in regular sports, but he definitely the big winner as far as I'm concerned!" The cameras continue to focus on Marcus until the lightning storm stops and Marcus floats to the ground and returns to normal and collapses.

For the rest of the day news agencies constantly replay the incredible events caught on film, as news anchors and talk radio pundits speculate on what caused the lightning storm in the first place. The headlines the next day are split between assessments of the damage to the city and corresponding death toll and the Nova eruption caught on live opnet broadcast.

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Saturday, October 13th, 2007 (9:00pm)

Houston, TX

After months of preperation, the big night has finally arrived. It's no Hollywood red carpet afair, but perhaps as close to it as the Houston art crowd gets. The building you've been using to do the paintings has been fully renovated now. It was once an old movie theater, then later a video store and now an art gallery; definitely it's finest incarnation yet. Located just off the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer, it sits in the heart of the arts district.

Despite the coolness of the evening a number of people can be seen milling about with wine glasses in hand in the fenced garden at the building's side. The stillness of the air and erie grey-green glow of the clouds, bottom lit by the city lights, gives the evening an almost peaceful feeling. Art critics mix with professional atheletes, tuxedos with sweatshirts and jeans. It's an odd mix of cultures to say the least. Of course, it's no stranger than the group of friends who are at the center of it all.

Standing on a raised platform in front of where the movie screen once hung, the group finds themselves beset by the press, all the while having the event captured by Sports Illustrated's own photographers.

A heavyset man in a grey suit speaks out from the crowd, "Isabel; Morton Hassel from the Houston Post. Its been said that you have a very unique style as we can well see in the beautiful paintings surrounding us here. What do you call your style?"

"Marcus," a woman in a black formal, but with a micro voice recorder in hand gracefully steps in front of the other reporter, "You had a rather promising sports career going until your rather public eruption, since then there's been no word from you about your plans. Can you see yourself getting into Nova sports?"

The questions keep coming, eventually even Morgan finds himself the target of inquisitive reporters.

Having flown in from Chile just for this night, Isabel and Estaban's parents look on proudly as their children shine in front of the cameras.

The questions go on for a good thirty minutes before Estaban thanks the reporters for coming and politely lets them know it's time for everyone to enjoy the party.


Ok, everyone please post saying what you are doing at the party, and give a description of yourself in your post. Thanks.

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Saturday, October 13th 2007 (9:p.m.)

Houston, Tx.

Estaban Mendoza waits until his sister has situated herself in a quieter corner with some other artists she can be comfortable with before he ceases his hovering. He makes his way over to the bar, is takes a ginger ale for himself and a white wine for his sister before returning to her side. Estaban carefully slides the wine into his sister's grasp without breaking her train of speech and takes his place at her flank.

From his hawkish vantage point, Estaban sees his Father and Mother mingling with unfamiliar faces. Undoubtably, so segment of the Houston academic community has arranged to be here, because neither parent seems put out, or bored. Still looking around, he spots the female correspondant from SI's South American bureau and Estaban decides to make his play.

"Greetings, Ms. Cordova," Estaban grins, toasting his ginger ale to what appears to be a wine glass of water.

Ms. Cordova turns to face the newcomer and gives the boy a slightly condescending smile.

"A pleasure to see your sister doing so well here, Mr. Mendoza. You've both handled yourselves quite well so far."

Estaban gives her a knowing smile and starts to speak when Ms. Cordova raises a finger to still his lips.

"Come now, Estaban. You're 15 and I'm ... well I'm a whole lot closer to thirty. Handsome and charming as you are, and as honored as I am by your attentions, I think you might do better endearing someone closer to your own age."

"Ms. Cordova, I am 16 - almost 17," Estaban nearly lies, "I have lived much in my short years, and childish girls hold little attraction for me. I would rather risk the loftier goal of pursuing a lady barely approaching the full glory of womanhood than to keep playing childish games."

It is all Ms. Cordova can do to not laugh at the sincerity and determination on her would-be lover's face.

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Omar watched, as the photographers took picture after picture. Eventually, the cameras moved on to the nova celebrity, Marcus, and the artist herself. He shook hands wih his old comrad Morgan, and excused himself. Omar was free to enjoy the night.

He grabbed a glass of wine, and began to look around at the various paintings. He had been raised with an appreciation of art. When he was younger, his family used to take him to Baghdad to see the Gardens of Babylon, and the various archeological exhibits. So being here tonight was a treat for him.

Omar noticed an attractive middle aged woman looking at the large painting that Isabel did of him for Sports Illustrated. Decidig he didn't want to be a hermit, he walked over to her and stood next to her. After a few seconds the woman turned her head and looked at hi midsection. Her head began to slowly move upward until she reached his smiling face. At 6'8' tall, he was a sight to behold.

"You are much bigger in person than you are in the paining." Her husky voice crooned as she smiled to him. "My name is Rachelle, and my husband is a fan of yours."

"Thank you maam, I appreciate it." His deep baritone voice replied. "What does your husband do?"

"He's the wrestling coach at Central High School here in Houston." Her voice was friendly and respectful. "Hopefully he'll be here later. He would love to meet you."

"Where is he now?" Omar asked.

"He's coaching the team at a wrestling meet a few blocks away. He always said that you were the incarnation of Gilgamesh."

Omar smiled at the complement. It was amazing how much the Americans knew about his nations past stories. He hoped that some day his nation would be safe enough for Americans to visit, so they could share in the beauty of his nation's historical landmarks and stories.

"I have an idea, If I may be so bold, maam."

"What is it?" she replied.

"Why don't I go to the meet and watch your husband and his team. It has been a while since I have seen a wrestling match as a spectator."

"He would be so excited. He will be stunned when you walk in the gymnasium." She began to giggle in anticipation at the look on her husband's face"

Omar held out his trunk-like arm for her to hold and they left to surprise her husband.

After the match, all three would return to the exhibit.

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Be it casual or be it formal, the garb of the crowd was almost invariably of the highest quality available, obtained only with the highest price-tag attached. The beautiful people of sport and art and media had come to this place to view the work of artists who were up-and-coming or childhood prodigy. They ooh'ed and aah'ed in appreciation of Isabel Mendoza's extraordinary skill, admired the rippling muscles of the wrestler Omar, sought the attention of the nova Marcus and enjoyed the social grace of Estaban Mendoza and the war stories of Morgan McIntyre. It was the world of high society, a rarefied sphere which only a few could aspire to.

But amidst the garden of glitz and glamour was a weed. Her pink floral-patterned dress was about five years out of date and obviously from the specials rack at Sears, but the brown leather sandals on her feet were obviously hand-made to a high standard, if quite worn and starting to crack a little. Almond-shaped brown eyes watched the gathering from above sharp cheekbones, an angular face crowned with a mass of frizzy black hair pulled back with a cheap faux-tortoiseshell hairclasp giving her an appearance that would not be out of place in a Seven-Eleven or in the barrio, but only stood out here because of averageness, not good looks.

A trace of paint under her short nails revealed the reason why she was here: Raina Rodriguez was one of the artists selected for the Sports Illustrated paintings. Her artwork was Impressionist-inspired, competent enough but nothing close to the level of skill Isabel Mendoza showed. There was no doubt a little 'equal opportunity' going on in her selection, or the friendship that she had struck up with the famous Chilean prodigy and her brother might have had something to do with it. But Omar showed off and Estaban worked the ladies and Isabel was too busy conversing with more competent artists than herself, so she merely sat by and watched the party go on, only speaking if spoken to. This was not her world, and she was not comfortable here.

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Isabel gave barely-audible and ambigous responses to the press in the few occasions when her brother couldn't answer, and breathed a sigh of relief with a thankful look towards Esteban when he disperses the crowd. She loved to paint, and she liked that so many people enjoyed and admired her work, but she didn't like this, all the attention that seemed to come with it. Look at the paintings, not at me, she wanted to say, but she knew well that no one would understand her, so she stood there, dressed in an impressive synthetic eufiber dress that seemed to float around her rather than hang on her, designed by her and made with the best materials and care money could buy; soft, straight and bright purple hair arranged in an equally intricate style; and heels that made her taller than her less impressive five foot six, something she was starting to regret as the rather obvious effect of being all the more noticeable dawned on her. Impressive clothing around a body that speaks of how she could've been a model if she weren't an artist, slightly contradicted by a beautiful face contorted into an intensely nervous expression.

When her brother leaves her, after bringing her a drink and exchanging a few words in Spanish, to flirt with some woman twice his age, no less, (she can't help but grin) she's left receiving miscellaneous praise and attempts at conversation, including a few passes by handsome and muscled athletes, who she simply ignores while fervently wishing they'd go away, all while futilely trying to give the impression that she's really having a good time. She hated gatherings and parties, but as one of the guests of honor here, she knew she could not avoid it.

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It has been almost 7 months since the eruption. The first few months had been the worst. The depresion, the blame, the self-doubt it all weighed on Marcus. Thankfully he had some good friends and a built in survival instinct to help pull himself backup. Still he had stayed out of the public eye as much as possible. Tonight however was not about him and he was determined to see it through.

Standing up on the raised platform, Marcus looked like any other guy dressed in a Tux. Standing 5'9'' and looking fairly average he would hardly stand out among the others on the platform. Except he did stand out, for the yellow glow and occastional lightning crackle in his eyes made sure of that. He did his best to deflect questions about his eruption and about his future carrer. His standard response beacame like a montra, "This is not about me tonight, it is about these wonderful artists, lets focus on them and their work," always said with a smile.

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The evening wore on much the same. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and the opening was a tremendous success. Several of the reporters had taken the opportunity to send in their reviews by way of handhelds, and were now socializing instead of hounding the guests of honor. A number of the paintings of both artists had sold and the funds were already transferred electronically. For Isabel this meant little other than the satisfaction of knowing her work was appreciated, but for Raina it meant a new start. She wouldn't have to go back to her old life when this was over. For the athletes, it meant great press and focus that would bring endorsements and that meant a comfortable life rather than struggling for scholarships and raising enough to afford travel to the next competition. For Morgan the evening was the first social event he'd been to since his wife had died and it was sad, but it was also a rebirth; perhaps living could go on. Except for a few moments earlier in the evening that few noticed, Isabel and Estaban's parents seemed to be having a great time. That practically glowed with pride in their daughter’s accomplishments, and even their son's social abilities as he wore down the resistance of the Chilean reporter.

Omar had left to view the high school wrestling competition and enjoyed the event. The kids were so inspired by meeting him that the matches after he arrived were particularly fierce, but well fought from both sides. Afterwards, the coach and his wife were accompanying him back to the gallery for drinks and socializing. Even in the coaches van which had plenty of headroom Omar felt a little cramped. He was considering again the merits of convertibles when they arrived back at the parking lot and exited the van.

Meanwhile, back in the party, Satan was still enjoying the chase of the reporter while always keeping one eye on his sister to make sure that she was safe. He felt he was just about to achieve his victory when he noticed a woman approaching his sister and Raina. She was unusual in that she wasn't dressed for a party, in fact she looked a little disheveled and carried what appeared to be a stack of large photographs in her hands.

Morgan was in an animated political discussion with a pair of the party’s guests and a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. He hadn't felt this alive in ages. It was good to not be shut in his house brooding anymore. He happened to glance at an ornate wall clock over the shoulder of the reporter he was speaking to and noticed that it was almost midnight.

Marcus was feeling a little out of place and just a little sad that this was no longer about his own sports career, but it was still a good party and the best time he'd had since his eruption. It was all due to his new friends and their insistence that he attend the event and have a good time. Thanks to Estaban and a few polite but pointed words he had made to a group of reporters the press had finally backed off and stopped digging for information. His drink had just run out and he was thinking about hitting the h'dourves table for the fourth time when he noticed his watch had a few seconds till midnight.

Isabel and Raina just finished a long discussion with a group of art critics about their styles and what they hoped to accomplish and where they felt art should be going in the next century. Just when they thought to have a few minutes peace another woman approached them with a stack of photos in hand. She looked a bit out of place for this gathering, but she seemed harmless enough.

"Good evening. I'm terribly sorry to intrude on your party, but I wanted to get an artists opinion on these." She looked a little nervous but excited. "My name is Dr. Elizabeth Smith, with the University of Texas. Anyway, please look at these and tell me what you think." With that she handed over one photo to each of the artists. In the few seconds you have to look at the photos you are taken by the artistry of the works captured in the photos.

Just then your world changes forever. All is light and sound beyond sound. So loud and bright that you don't see and hear it so much as feel it.

Estaban reacts to the light, as his body is shredded by flying debris. Where his body stood there is a darkness that instantly reaches out to protect his sister without thought.

Isabel also reacts to the light. Somehow from deep within her she draws on the light that is within her and forms a barrier made of solid light more intense even than the light of the explosion that occurred only feet from where she stood.

With a speed of thought and reaction faster than anything she could have imagined only a nano-second earlier. Raina simply lets the concussion wave from the blast carry her into the protective sphere that is beginning to form around Isabel. She also notices with interest that outside the sphere of light surrounding them is a layer of darkness that seems to be partially keeping back the flying debris.

Marcus has been through this before, the day his world changed forever. Saddened by what is happening, he just shifts his body into living lightning and forms a shield of lightning around the two artists who stand near him, hoping they at least survive as parts of the building go sailing through his own body.

Morgan has lived through war. There is no thought involved in his reaction. When the explosion occurs he dives for cover only to find himself sprawled flat outside in the parking lot behind a large SUV.

Omar is walking toward the building when it explodes sending brick and timber and steel in all directions. He doesn't have time to react before it's all over. He looks to the people at his side only to discover that they are no longer there. They lie crumpled together next to a heavily dented truck in a pile of debris. The next thought to cross his mind is that every friend he has in the world is inside that building which is even now collapsing in on itself. Like the others, he reacts without thought. He has always been bigger and stronger than everyone around him; it has set him apart since childhood. So be it, let it be of use. As he runs forward, he grows each step becoming longer as he first doubles, then triples and finally quadruples his original size. Grabbing huge handfuls of building materials he tosses them effortlessly away, clearing in seconds what it would take a bulldozer hours to move.

Morgan pops back to his feet a few seconds later when he realizes where he is. Seeing Omar charging into the rubble to save their friends he runs in behind. Not knowing how he does it he sends bolts of energy out at parts of the structure blasting them away so they won't fall inward possibly crushing those who might still be alive inside.

After what seems like a lifetime, but in reality is barely more than a minute, Omar uncovers a triple shielded area near the center of the building. A living shadow, and a living being of light surround a shield made of pure light, within which stand Isabel and Raina, changed, but surprisingly unharmed.

It is only after the friends are reunited and relieved in each others survival that they take notice of the utter destruction around them. Then Isabel and Estaban one light and one dark, both realize that not everyone is safe. Their parents were in the building too.

Minutes pass as the friends all do their parts in searching the rubble for Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza. Houston's fire department and police begin to arrive and cordon off the area so that innocent bystanders don't get hit by the materials sent flying out of the building by the group of novas within.

A man in a suit stands talking with a police detective and fire chief, and seems to be using his influence to keep anyone from going inside. Within minutes a large number of people have gathered and talk can be heard asking if it's T2M inside affecting a rescue, while others speculate if it might be a terrorist attack. No one seems to know what happened though.

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Morgan stares at the building in shock, not from the attack but from the energy he threw from his hands earlier. He hadn't followed the others in after the first blasts he had thrown, to deeply suprised and afraid to move. The arriving emergency personnel had given him a once over a few minutes ago, worried that the grey haired old man was a health risk but he had angrily pointed them in the direction of the actual injured.

"Sweet Jesus..." He whispers, rubbing his palms against the soft fabric of his rumpled tuxedo.

He runs it through his mind, the white light, his dive... then being outside by someones van. The vague twisting sensation of movement, like being in a rapidly decending helocopter. Morgan had assumed that the headache that was still building was from the sudden surge of adrenaline but now he was fairly certain that it was from something else... something possibly worse.

Morgan's opinion of novas had never been very high. He had seen what the so called "Elites" had done in the Middle East and he was appalled by Project Utopia and the U.N.'s lack of response to their wanton warfare in that part of the world. He called them diva's, starlets, and killers but most of all he called them useless. But now... he was a nova. He had to be. Was he going to get like that? Addicted to the worship of baselines?

Morgan shook that thought off, disgusted with his own cowardice.

"Well dammit if Omar is in there; I can help him. I just hope to God this nova buisiness is as useful as they say."

Concentrating for a moment, a vertical line a few meters tall extends from the center point appears in front of him. It glows with a blue light as it opens like an iris, expanding into a rough circular shape.

Morgan hears the gasps from the other survivors and lookers in the area for a brief moment before he steps through. He thinks of where he wants to go, the main area where most of the people would have been. If there was an area in that wreckage that could contain survovors, he wanted his new abilities to take him there. Maybe he could still save a few.

No one is close enough to hear his sigh as he disapears:

"Holy God... a nova... thats all I need."

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When the building in front of him exploded, all he could think of were the innocents inside. In his home country, things like this happened every week, and his reactions were always the same. Run into the rubble and start digging.

This time, however, he knew the people inside, and the level of panic and urgency was high. He tossed chunks of concrete and stone as if they were pieces of balsa wood. He figured his adrenaline must be flowing for him to be so strong. I was not until he reached a shielded pocket filled with two forms that he began to realize what had happened.

The two people seemed small, almost like action figures. One person was a being of light and the other one dark. When he bent down to look at the small figures, he realized they were Isabel and Raina. He began to think to himself, Either they shrank, or I grew.

He reached down into the rubble and scooped up a handful of the rubble and looked at it closer. He could see the sections of brick wall and steel in his hand. In the sections, the bricks were miniscule in size compared to his hand. He had been tossing aside whole sections of crumbled building. Thank you God, for giving me the power to save these people, he prayed to himself.

Even after he understood what had happened and saw that two of his friends were safe, he knew that other survivors were still trapped. He began to dig for the others, even as the first responders came on scene.

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Light. Pain. For several minutes, this was what Raina's world consisted of even as she moved to save herself and remain within the shield.

Her head throbbed with agony as she struggled to comprehend what had happened. Always quick on the uptake, her mind supplied the answer with the speed of a computer - or so it felt, her previous mental reactions seeming slower than a snail now.

Isabel glowed like light - she was light - and Estaban was shadow. Marcus' lightning-body crackled as he dropped the shield and searched for survivors. Omar was even bigger than usual.

They had all erupted.

"Isabel, drop the light and let us help the others," she murmured in Spanish. Somehow she knew that she could tell Omar where to dig in the weakest part of the pile to free people.

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Guilt gnaws at Estaban. Guilt for not saving the beautiful woman who was literally torn from his suddenly shadowy arms and crushed; guilt for thinking only of his sister as his parents were dying; guilt for living while some many truly gifted people were broken, maimed, and/or killed. Only his inky-black insubstantiability keeps others from seeing the tears streaming through him. Only his sister notices the crack in his voice as he makes brief comments to people around him as he helps in the 'recovery' efforts. The shadows that surround the bodies respond to his thoughts effortlessly. Close to ton-sized blocks are lifted by their own shadows and placed aside so that the rescue workers can do thier jobs.

It is not enough. Nothing Estaban does will bring his parents back. He exhausts himself working the impossible task of redeeming himself in his own eyes. In the end, Estaban sits down on a cleared stack of rubble and buries his head in his hands and starts to sob noticably.

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Isabel let's the shield of light flicker and fade, and, with disturbing calm for someone who has most surely just lost both parents, does what she can to help the others recover survivors or, as is most usual, bodies. This mostly involves pointing out places to dig, as her command over light (and she can feel it, the power, the intimate knowledge that she can create and destroy light at will, it's a rush, but it will have to wait). doesn't seem suited to the removal of rubble. Even when they find the corpses of her parents she shows little reaction. There will be tears, and many more that can be cried in one night, but they will wait as well. She's discovered an incredible capacity to put these things on hold, until it's convenient. It almosts scares her, but she's too glad of it. She doesn't want people fussing over her, making a lot of noise to try and convince themselves that they're helping her, especially not tonight.

In the end, she goes to sit beside her brother. She doesn't do anything, because Isabel certainly never hugs anyone, and she doesn't say anything, but the message being sent is easy enough to interpret in the silence.

I'm here.

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