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Aberrant: 200X - Jungle Boogie [Complete]


Jael Carver

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Charles lay on his couch, sweat beading on his forehead. His mind was far, far away from his living room, far even from the shores of America. He was pouring over the minds of people in the Congo, looking for a specific one. He didn't know anything about this mind, other than it would be planning horrific violence and terrible suffering.

At his desk, Jael quietly did her homework. That was their deal: she'd work on her homework for as long as it took him to find someone for her to kill.

He probably could have found someone closer to home, but the point was to let Jael cut lose. He'd been neglecting that side of her, in large part because so much had happened. She'd been watched very closely for a while there, and he'd been afraid to let her go. So he'd finally decided that he'd call up Devries and have them drop her in the African contenient. She could fly to her target or targets, have some fun, and return in time for some of his kind of fun before she had to go home.

His mind touched on a man who was filled with violence and rage, and he listened to the man's thoughts. The man became nervous when he felt someone in his mind, but Sakolove eased his tension until the man didn't care. He was planning to raid a village tomorrow, to steal women and children for the Black Market, and to kill anyone else. The land could be claimed by his warlord and sold for a profit later.

Shaking, Charles pulled himself back and sat up. Jael looked at him and he nodded. She sat up straighter, swallowing quickly. Her blue eyes were intent as he picked up the phone and made a call. After a short conversation, he said, "Your ride be here in fifteen minutes. But before she gets here, I have a gift for you. Come here." He patted his lap, and Jael sat down, twining her arms around his neck.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small lump of grayish matter, holding it out to her. "You got me gray Play-doh?" she asked, but he saw a suspicion glimmer in her eyes.

"It's Eufiber, darling. I got it from a friend, but I can't wear it because its nature is obvious," Charles said. "You are at least an open nova, and people will assume that someone courting you for their group got it for you. It will protect you - just feed a bit of power into it."

Charles watched the wonder on her face as she gave the blob some juice and it responded, sliding around in her hand. "Try it on," he said, and she nodded, turning it into a shirt that slipped under the one she was wearing. "Fits you perfectly," he murmured as he slipped a hand into her hair and guided her lips to his. As always, he felt the delicious rush of possession when he kissed her, the sure knowledge that she was his.

Devries' teleporter found them kissing, her expression of embarrassment and dismay quickly hidden by her professional demeanour. She quickly cleared her throat and glanced across the room, staring at a corner. Thankful, Charles heard her and gently pushed Jael off his lap. "Ready, honey?"

"Oh, yes," she said. He'd whispered the details of her mission to her, and she had a GPS device with the village's position marked. Jael was completely ready.

"I'm ready," the teleporter said, reaching for the blonde nova. When she took her by the hand, the two disappeared.

Halfway around the world...

The cold, crisp air of Charles' apartment was replaced by a wash of hot, muggy air. The teleporter released Jael's hand and said, "My contract says I pick you up here again in six hours. If you're late, I leave your ass behind. Got it?"

"Clearly," Jael replied, pulling out her GPS and tracking her course. It would be fastest to fly over the trees, but she might be seen. As she mused, the teleporter disappeared in a rush of air, and Jael was alone in the Congo jungle. She sniffed the air, picking out the strange, exotic smells and decided the best way to go. After a moment, she decided that flying under the canopy would allow her the best coverage while making the fastest time.

She eased into the air and took off south, heading toward her target.

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She was almost in her element, hunting, though she preferred city searches to wild chases. Jael zipped under the canopy, slower than planned but faster than anything else in the area. The green vault over her head was full of life; monkeys screaming and doing their monkey things, while snakes and bugs sought quieter lives. Jael enjoyed the wild flight, testing her manueverability and skill versus the underbrush and trees.

Her GPS beeped a five hundred yard proxmity warning, and the nova cut her speed, creeping forward toward the gathering light ahead. It was a clearing in the forest, where a lake had formed and civilization had pushed the trees back. Jael stopped at the edge and glanced around the area. It was quiet now, but that would change soon enough. A brief thought of warning the people in the village came and was ignored; if they were warned, they might impinge on her fun. She'd save them, but on her terms, not their's.

She'd been waiting about half-an-hour when she heard the roar of approaching trucks. Jael wedged the piece of wood she'd been whittling into the crook of a branch and ignited her flight. Still remaining well in the shadow of the trees, Jael floated and waited. She wanted to be sure these were the guys, instead of some innocent suppliers or something.

Charles was right, though, as always; the two trucks that rolled into the village were crammed full of soldiers, or at least thugs in matching uniforms. The screaming started immediately.

Jael shifted her Eufiber to a black suit with a half-mask to conceal part of her face. Even as it was forming, she started creeping forward in the Congo sky. She slipped up behind a building and peered around the edge in time to see a man kick down the door and run inside. With a quick glance to make sure he wasn't being followed or watched, Jael landed and darted in behind him.

The thug-soldier was screaming at a family, who were cowering in the corner. The head of the family, a large black man sweating profusely even in the cooler night, was shoving a small bag of goods forward, an offering for their life. The soldier was so intent on what he was doing that he failed to notice when the head of the family paused, staring at Jael. She didn't bother with a shushing motion; she stepped forward and jammed her claws into his back.

Her joy in death was small; she didn't get a chance to prepare him and enjoy him. Her claws sliced through skin and bone, slowed only a little by the hard skeleton. The smell of death hit her immediately - blood and violated muscle filled the air in an aroma pleasing to any who loved death. She twisted her wrists to the side and cut outward, further violating his body and sundering vital organs. The way his body sagged, emptied of life by her hand; she had all the control, all of the power in the relationship. she dragged his head back and met his eyes, watching him acknowledge her power over his life and his soul. Then the spark of life left his gaze and he went limp, sagging in her grip.

Jael released him and signalled the people to be quiet. She gave his sprawled body one last regretful look. But she was being the hero, and now was not the time to play. That would come soon enough, once she'd winnowed down the dozen or so soldiers. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

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She'd killed six before the rest realized something was up. She became aware of their realization of their change in status - from hunter to hunted - when their voices and their tone changed. Jael heard in this new sound the squeak of the hunted animal, and she felt her heart begin to pound eagerly. Sure, she'd had fun until now, but it was shooting fish in a barrel. Now, the real fun began.

The men began to hunt for her, thinking that she was the prey now. They couldn't be more wrong, Jael mused as she drifted along the top of a hut, hovering just high enough to barely break the line of the building. In her dark clothing, she was nearly invisible in the dark early dawn. Her grin only widened when she heard someone shout something in Congo's native language with one word she understood: "Nova!"

She'd thought they would become faster, tighter, better with the news that they were against a nova. Instead, they clumped together in twos and threes, retreating toward the safety of the half-packed trucks. They hadn't even had a chance to load their human cargo, though they had some selected, guarded by an armed man with a bored expression. As his companions began to shout, though, he became more nervous, glancing away from the shivering, weeping gathering of humanity.

Jael wasn't aware of the nervous gunman; she was too busy hunting the two men who were creeping back to the truck, dragging their stolen goods with them. That dragged was slowed by one of the goods, a young girl who cried and struggled as much as she dared. And it was when the girl had overcome shock enough to scream and drop to her butt that Jael attacked. She jumped from a shadow, digging both claws into the man's back. He screamed as her claws found and dug into his heart, missing both of his lungs. The girl jerked away from him as Jael cut his heart to shreds, and he fell to his knees, dead.

Jael didn't so much pull as cut her claws free of his body as she twisted to face the other soldier, who had dropped his bag of ill-gotten goods and was raising his gun. Snarling and in the first possible danger that she'd been in yet, Jael lunged for him as the gun barked. He didn't quite have it up, and the bullet winged her, cutting a line of heat over her thigh. Grimacing, she finished her rush and grabbed him by the throat, nearly decapitating him. He fell in a gurgle of blood.

A bullet whizzed by her and Jael spun to see another group of men pointing at her and shooting. Snarling, she shot straight up in the air, before doubling over in her arc and hopping to the other side of the village. Three soldiers had paused in their withdrawl and had wisely circled back-to-back. They had unwisely left enough room in the middle of their circle for Jael to quietly land.

Silent as the death she brought them, Jael landed in their midst, smiling like an angel. Sadly for the men, she was not their guardian angel. One of them caught a glimpse of her as she settled between them; he spun as he cried out an inarticulate warning. His spin was an unfortunate choice, because Jael had simply extended one finger, pointed it his eyeball and let him do all the work. There was no resistance as her finger slipped into his brain, and no resistance when she jerked the finger down and to the right, cutting through part of his face.

She spun to the next man, bringing her elbow up to strike him in the face. He screamed and fell back, yelping. The third man abandoned his friends without hesitation. Running away as fast as he could, he didn't look back on the theory that he didn't want to see her chasing him. He could see the lights of the truck when she dropped out of the sky in front of him, her feet pressed together and her arms crossed over her chest so that her bloody claws were displayed, neat and trim. She was lovely and beautiful, from what little he could see of her: she still horrifying, a bloody goddess come to destoy.

He emptied his gun at her, firing so many shots that one had to have hit, one had to have stopped her. She was fast, though, so very fast and when his clip was empty, she was gone. He didn't see any blood, and with a sob, clutching his useless gun, he ran again, hoping for the truck.

He burst from between the houses, screaming at his boss - who was the one watching the prisoners because it was the easy job - to start the truck because the nova was coming. Hot pain filled him and he looked down to see glittering, blood-soaked claws sticking out of his chest.

The boss of the operation stared in stark terror. The nova was slowing to play with his dying man, and the boss took advantage of that, abandoning his prisoners and jumping into the truck. He started it up, glancing in the mirror to see the nova watching him go, his man slumped at her feet, screaming for his help. The boss didn't look again as he drove back to headquarters.

His boss would help, the warlord for his region. He would. He had to.

The desperate man was so intent on his driving that he failed to realize that he had another passenger, one who had flown into the covered back of his truck and was quietly, patiently hiding.

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Bill was sitting, puffing away at the cheap immitation Zino that His Supreme Warlord General Afuha Lumumba Elimo had bestowed upon him hoping to impress the Elite.

It hadn't worked.

Bill wasn't a student of the world, history, politics or religion, but he was becoming a pretty fair judge of tin-pot dictators and puffed up generals. Elimo was ranking pretty low on the list right now. He ran a shit outfit, there was zero discipline and most of his men seemed to be running things by themselves for themselves once they got out of earshot. Most times Bill would parrot the company line about Elite money being well spent because most of the times it was. Not this time. That this twerp even thought there could be a nova after him, something he spoke about with a mixture of dread and self-importance at least twice an hour, was laughable.

"Your Excellency!!" a panting, panicked "soldier" who couldn't have been more than fourteen busted through the door, "Radio from Farasi's outpost. They've been attacked!"

Elimo leaped to his feat, grabbing his AK and almost looked like a real leader until kid let loose with his next sentence, "They think it was Nova!"

Well fuck me, Bill thought, I didn't see that shit coming. Must be someone desperate to make a name.

Elimo looked to Vile Bill in a barely hidden panic but Bill was already on his feet and lugging the BFG NovaKiller that Elimo had insisted he be equipped with, "Already on it General, I'll get out, round up your men and we'll take care of this problem for ya. Just like you paid for"

He hadn't made it three steps before Elimo shouted "You will stay right here Elite Vile Bill! My men can handle any normal threats. If this truly is a Nova they are here for me and here with me you shall stay!"

You got to be shitting me.

"Umm, General Sir, this cannon here," he hefted the BFG,"Will turn this building into dust and shit if I let loose with it in-doors. You really want me out there." His words weren't as forceful as his thoughts but Andre had chewed him out already about backtalking these types of guys.

"And I say," Elimo boomed, as if he was addressing his troops on some parade ground, "That you will stay here and protect me. Without me there is no protection for the people of this region. This is why I have hired you."

You hired me because it makes you feel like you actually mean shit and you got lucky enough to intercept the cash necessary to get my ass here you fuck, but okay. he thought before speaking.

"Okay your Excellency, you got it. I'll stay right in here. And I will protect you from whatever comes through that door but you got to do what I say then, if you want to keep alive, okay?"

Elimo looked relieved, "Yes, of course. You are a professional, I would be foolish to disregard your advice. And Elimo is no fool."

That almost made him bust up, but Bill stifled it. He put the General underneath his heavy wood desk and planted a file cabinet behind him keeping him hidden and protected if not cramped. Bill then went to all the windows and closed the shutters, using special zip-ties to ensure that someone would have to break through to open them up. Then he placed some shaped charges at each window so that if someone did try them they'd eat a facefull of ouch first. Then he shoo'd out the junior soldier with a whispered urging for the kid to run fast and far. And then he locked and barred the door.

Of course, he thought, it this is some pissy little DeathStar coming they'll just Molotov the entire place and I'll be digging my ass out of rubble and hoofing it home.

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The truck roared through a gate, which Jael saw after the fact. She heard the engine die; then the door slammed and she heard the boss running toward the building. She peeked under the cloth covering the back of the truck, scoping out the area. With a shift of quantum, she changed her facial features, rendering her features non-descript.

It was a compound, which was fenced with barb wire and rough brick walls. Jael glanced around, then hopped out of the back of the truck. "For a compound, it's awfully deserted," she muttered. She could smell that lots and lots of people were around here regularly, but there was the heavy smell of exhaust and fear in the area. "Ten to one, they fled," she muttered irritably before trotting toward the building that the driver had run into. His scent was fresh and hot in her nose, pulling her forward toward his hiding hole.

She found him beating on a door, begging to be let in, as near as Jael could tell. Again, her lack of language was starting to look like a bad idea. Shrugging the consideration off for a later time, she walked up the hallway, moving toward her target. He saw her when he glanced back over his shoulder and with the desperation of a dead man, he spun, pressed his back to the door and sprayed the hallway with bullets. Jael was trapped for a second; she ignited her flight and slammed her body against the ceiling, giving her a moment out of the path of the bullets, but he angled his shot to follow her. Grimacing, she shot forward, trying to stay just ahead of his projectiles while not colliding with the wall over the door.

He got her once, with his last bullet. Jael gasped as white-hot pain rolled through her gut before turning ice-cold as her body began to reply to the wound. Grinding her teeth against the pain - she'd never thought it'd hurt so much to get shot, not as a nova - she landed in front of the man. "You shot me," she whispered. The expression on his face didn't change. "You don't speak English, do you?" This close, she realized that he was about her age, just built thicker and wider. It didn't matter to her, but without his cocky self-assurance, gun and beard growth, he could have mingled at her high school without notice.

There was no comprehension, and Jael lifted a clawless hand to caress his cheek. He whimpered and flinched, but didn't even fight her; he was petrified with fear. Grinning, she ran her hand down his chest before bringing her other hand up. "Blink, and you'll miss this," she murmured just before she called forth her claws.

They just appeared on the tips of her fingers, long, delicate curves of metal that came from nowhere. They glittered in the dim light of the building, six inches of silver on each finger with a shorter inch-long curl off her thumbs. They were shockingly beautiful, though part of that was their power more than the aestetic of their form. However, her companion was beyond noting this, because when she'd extended her claws, they'd gone through him.

Jael turned her attention from her own claws to him, watching him try to scream. He coughed up blood, a sure sign his lungs had been punctured. Smiling, Jael dipped her head and pressed her lips to his open mouth, her tongue seeking out the sweet, copper vitae coating the inside of his mouth. Oddly, he didn't seem at all comforted by this, though he didn't linger long to consider his situation. Jael shivered as she caught his death rattle, as if it were something that she could catch on her tongue and suck for its taste.

Regretfully, she stepped back, letting the body slump to the ground. A sense of accomplishment filled her; she'd killed all the men that Charles had sent her after. But, there's probably one more person to kill in there, she thought as she considered the door.

She gave it her usual thirty seconds of thought before going off-mission. The door was locked, that didn't matter in the slightest. Jael formed a "lock-pick" with the first two fingers of her right hand, then "picked" the lock with a twist of her wrist that destroyed the mechanism. The door still didn't give and Jael sighed and jammed all eight claws into the door and cut upward, slicing through the bar holding it in place. "About time," she growled to herself as she removed the last barricade between herself and her prey.

* * *

Vile Bill waited as patiently as he could, smoking down his cigar and holding the BFG loosely in one hand. It was something of a relief when the guy started to scream and pound on the door, begging to be let in. "No, don't open the door!" Elimo cried from under the desk, sounding like a kid hiding from his parents.

Irritated that Elimo could think he was so dumb, Vile Bill had to count to ten before he replied, "No General, Sir, I wouldn't dream of it. Not a good idea."

Gunshots rang out, and Elimo whimpered while sounding like he was trying to dig into the floor. Vile Bill removed his cigar and calmly ground it out on the corner of the petty dictator's desk. He took a two handed grip on the BFG as the gunfire stopped and a thud sounded. He waited and wished that he hadn't agreed to protect the buildings as well as the General; otherwise he could pull the trigger right now, and be done with it. Probably done with it. There was always the chance that someone could eat the BFG. Weirder things had happened.

Long, slender blades inserted themselves through the door and twisted; then eight of them cut up through the heavy metal door and bar. Vile Bill put the gun into position and prepared.

The door swung open; a body, seated against the door, flopped onto the floor. But what held Bill's attention was the slim form in the doorway. She - most clearly a she - was dressed in a tight-fitting suit, designed to hide her in shadows. Her fingers were tipped with the slender blades. Her face was covered, not with an Elite's mask, but with a simple hood-and-google effect designed to hide her identity. "Howdy," Bill called in greeting, giving her a nod. "You've got time to surrender before I have to beat ya into it. I recommend doing that now, little lady."

Her frown told him she didn't appreciate the last two words. In fairness, she was little in comparison to him, and he was being nice by assuming she was a lady, even with the blood smeared across her lips. She stared at him for a moment before jumping into motion, skittering sideways and turning back to lunge for him.

She was inside the gun's range before he could react, but that's fine; he wasn't planning on shooting it. He swung it sideways, narrowly missing her when she ducked under and came back up, her claws cutting the air. He brought the end of the gun up, putting it between her claws and his skin, because after seeing it go through that metal, he wasn't eager to see them go through him. Her claws sliced through the gun with ease, leaving it in one piece but probably unusable, which just pissed him off. He liked this gun, damnit!

With a roar, he rushed her, seeing the shadow of her eyes widen behind the googles as he charged. She recovered quickly, leaping over the gun before tumbling over his shoulder. She landed behind him, and cut him as she settled herself. Her claws cut flesh as easily as metal, and hurt like ever-loving hell. He ran into the wall that held the door with a loud boom, shaking the entire building and bowing out the wall. Without hesitation, he spun, sighted her halfway across the room and tossed the gun at her. She ducked, folding her body back and letting the gun fly over her. She should have rolled forward; he was nearly on top of her by the time she'd regained her stance. She jerked away from him, but his hand caught her head. He thought he had her for a moment; then the eufiber shifted and he had a handful of hair. Before he could pull her in for the hug that end this fight, she had slashed at his hand. They parted, and he had a handful of hair, while she had an awful new haircut.

"This is your second chance," Bill said, holding up the hair. "You've already lost your hair - don't lose your head, too." The conversation was allowing him to study her, but she was the most non-descript woman he'd ever seen in his life. Picking her out in a lineup would have been damn near impossible and Bill pursed his lips in understanding. He'd seen this trick before. "Whadda say?"

Her answer became a series of fast attacks, always pressing to his left, trying to circle him. He managed to block the few that weren't feints, his beefy arms deflecting her attacks. He keeps her firmly in front of him, away from the only clean exit. He's going to outlast her; he can see the signs of weariness already from her, the frustration in her eyes and the sweat starting to gather on her face. She's not bad, he notes, just a bit inexperienced and falling into a pattern that he can read like a book. He's actually getting a little bored - feint, feint, strike feint, strike, kick, feint-strike, feint, feint - which is another sign of exhaustion. So when he's sure he has her pattern figured out, he takes complete advantage.

She's shocked; the wide blue flash of her eyes was clear enough when he reached into her pattern and grabbed her. He pulled her close, inhumanly strong arms closing around her as he started to work his throat, getting ready to take her out. Still she fought, kicking downward and catching him in both thighs with claws from her feet. Again, they cut deep and hurt like hell, but then he was coughing, and the good ole Black Nasty was spewing forth, and she was done. Within seconds, she was limp in his arms, her face changing, becoming prettier - and more familiar.

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Blood streamed down his arms, his chest and his legs, but she laid still on the ground, breathing quickly but shallowly. He could feel her energy course through him and he was  glad of it. Whatever those little silver blades where they cut through him quicker and nastier than anything he'd felt these last few years.

"Well now, sucks to be you, doesn't it little lady?", he chuckled as he reached down and picked her back up. "Slay her, Vile Bill! Kill her now!", Elimo screamed. Somehow he'd managed to free himself from his hiding place and had regained his courage. Now that she was unconscious that is.

,,

Bill turned to Elimo, hardly able to hide his disgust, "Well, sorry about that chief but no can do. See, this little lady has been defeated and that means the fight is done over." Bill tossed her over his shoulder and looked about for that hunk of hair he'd dropped earlier. He found it in short order, nearly a foot of silky hair, blonde in color. Smiling he tucked it into his jacket and turned back to Elimo as the General again demanded that Bill kill the young woman.

"Now now General, I've done what you paid for. I protected you from the big, bad nova. She ain't gonna bother you no more." He said with the same tone he used on the rare occasion he spoke to children.

"Nevertheless I demand you slay her. She threatened my life. Attacked my base. And killed my men!" this last bit was said almost in an afterthought, "She must die. This is what I hired you for!"

Bill pulled out his satellite phone and called up Andre. He explained the situation: Nova attack, nova attack thwarted and the client was now demanding the killing of said nova. He chuckled when he handed the phone over to Elimo and watched the warlord's face contort and twist in fury as Andre explained that yes, Bill could of course crush the young ladies skull but that would entail the addition of an additional kill clause to the contract, for those deaths caused outside of the normal course of the mission which in this case was specifically written out as a defense contract.

Within moments Andre had beaten down the warlord and sent Bill's ride (and interestingly enough Jael's as well) in to pick up the Elite and his cargo.

Back in the Devries Base Bill went over the details with Andre, describing the situation and giving his assesment of the newly identified Jael Carver as a potential employee of Devries. He wasn't kind, considering her foolish and amatuerish but also noting that she seemed to have a natural instinct for killing that belied her youth. "And you can see," he added showing off the wounds the medic was sewing up, "she cuts like one of them fucking Ginsu knives. Shit hurts too."

Andre completed his interview with Bill and walked over to the bed Jael was recuperating in. The Nasty Black and reached into the depths of her being and tore out nearly every ounce of energy within her. She could barely move, just able to listen as Andre talked to her, explaining that she still had a transport coming to her as it was paid for and she would receive it. He also suggested that she look to train before trying such work again and of course that Devries was one of the premier sources of such training. He left shortly thereafter.

Bill watched as Andre talked to her and thought things through. She was young and despite what she'd done in the Congo she was still pretty innocent. Maybe she'd think it was a good idea, the training and all. And it could be. But fact was she'd gotten off a little easy.

He walked over to her bed, "Hey there little lady. You know, you sliced me up pretty good there," he grunted a little as he pulled his coat back on to cover the bandages, " and it's got me thinking. You wanna dance in my club, you wanna play my game and it don't seem right that your first time out go so easy, y'know?"

He looked into her eyes. She was begining to be able to focus and he could tell she could hear him and that she'd likely remember. "Yeah, it ain't never a good thing for the first time to go so easy. Yeah. Especial like when you suck as bad as you do. I'd hate you to think this life was a walk in the park. I got these to remember you by," he pointed to the bandages across his chest, " so I want you to have something to remember me by."

He grinned a little as he reached out and carefully, very carefully hit her just hard enough to break her jaw.

"This ain't a fucking game."

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"Oh, god!" Charles' exclamation upon seeing Jael was understandable; she'd left proud and upright and returned sagging against the teleporter, barely able to stand.

"I've filled my contract," the teleporter growled, easing Jael to her knees. "Do me a favor, Sakolove - don't have me drop an untried, untested kid near a battle zone with the intention of having her attack a Devries Elite. You almost got her killed. This isn't a game."

A tug on her shirt brought her attention back down to Jael. The kneeling nova was giving her the finger, rage darkening her blue eyes. "Nice," the teleporter groused and disappeared.

"Jael, what happened?" Charles demanded, rushing to her side and siding an arm around his lover's shoulder.

"Vile Bill," Jael said, or tried to - speaking was an issue.

"Fuck. FUCK!" Charles growled, angry. He stared at her before shaking his head. "No way around it. You need medical help. Come on."

Later, he would remember that he probably could have called Devries and gotten a healer, but he panicked a bit. He got her close to the hospital, and she flew the rest of the way, admitting herself alone. Through slurred words and lots of interpretive hand gestures, she managed to tell them that she'd been practicing flying and someone had shot at her. No, she hadn't seen any assailants; once hit, she'd dropped to skim the rocks and had misjudged her distance, clipping one face-first.

"Don't worry," the doctor assured her with a smile. "As a nova, you'll be patched up in no time." Privately, he wondered if the story was hiding abuse, but it was the first time she'd been admitted and if the bruising looked a little more like a fist and less like a rock, it also could easily be the truth. He flagged her file so that if she was admitted again with suspicious injuries, someone would look into it. "Just don't try to kiss any more rocks at flight speeds, ok?"

Detective Gutierrez had stared at her with glittering eyes until she asked him, using pen and paper, which department he was in, that he got to monitor both Jimmy's disappearance and her assault. He didn't answer her. The other cops asked her questions, and she mislead them to the point that they assumed that the Church of Michael the Archangel had been responsible. "Saw you flying and took a pot shot at you. I doubt they were planning this; it seems random." This theory was reinforced after Sakolove had a talk with the officers.

Her parents were shocked and upset. Her mother took it particularly hard; on some level, Donna had assumed that Jael's eruption would render her safe forever and ever. This was a blow to that assumption. "You'll be more careful, sweetie. You have to be," her mother begged her.

Jael agreed. The next time she went to a foreign country to kill people, she needed to be a lot more careful.

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