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ProfPotts

Aberrant: Quantum Zero - Quantum Zero

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The Masters Building:

"Say... what if I really need to go to the playboy mansion, or something... Could that elevator take me there?"

Standing at the door to the vault as the Novas enter Masters smiles smile.gif ,

'No... But I can have a few bunnies sent up after the meeting if you like...' wink.gif

One by one the Novas make their choice. For a moment Interface stays sitting where he is, uncertain, but a whispered word & touch on the shoulder from Doctor Chen as she rises to her feet & gracefully walks towards the vault soon sends the Nova genius scurrying after her... Emma appears nervous, but enters anyway, her hand finding Nates as they pass through the darkness into the pool of light where the chairs await.

Once everyone is inside, Masters joins them, the vault door sealing with another distinct 'hiss' behind him. Heading over to the circle of leather armchairs he seats himself in one, inviting the Novas to do the same. Once everyone is settled, the old man starts speaking,

'We're talking in here because it's safe. Not even PathFinder's various senses can get into this place... well, at least that's what the tech' boys say - & I do pay them an awful lot to know that sort of thing!' wink.gif

Relaxing back into the comfortable old leather of the armchair, Masters appears to be settling in for a long night. Running a finger along the leather of the arm rest he sighs, then explains,

'These chairs, like everything in here, have a long history. Some of you know the trouble we had dealing with just one book kept in this vault. Others may recall when Emma's alter-ego woke up from her slumber...'

Emma shudders slightly at the mention of Nefertiti, her delicate fingers squeezing Nate's hand.

'... The things in this vault are so dangerous, for the most part, because they reveal the truth. Not the history you - & the world - have been told, but some of the things which really happened. A lot of this will sound insane, but it's all true. Emma here lived through some of it, & can vouch to that fact.'

Masters rubs one hand over his chin,

'Where to start? It's a question I've been asking myself for a while. The begining may be the natural place... Or maybe jumping to how all this fits in with what's happening in the world today? Hmmm...'

After a pause the old man shrugs,

'With apologies in advanced to our genius friends,' Masters nods towards Derek & Dr Chen, 'I think it best if I take it from where it started for the Masters clan.'

Another pause to collect his thoughts is followed by a deep breath, then Masters launches into the tale,

'Over eighty years ago Johnny Masters started Masters Aviation - which eventually grew to be the multi-billion dollar business I own today. He'd been a pilot in the first World War, travelling the world in the post war years, with some of his war-buddies, acting as a barnstormer, mercenary, & general freelance troubleshooter until he'd made enough money to start the company out at the original Masters airfield on Long Island. With the launch of the world's first trans-Atlantic airline - it was all airships back then, of course - he was soon one of the world's richest men. This wealth, & some of the people he'd met over the years - such as Doctor William Maxwell - led him to discover... well, some pretty amazing things.'

'In the mid-twenties Masters & Maxwell led an expedition which unearthed the remains of a previously undiscovered pre-historic civilisation. These people had legends about a race of serpents from the stars who had arrived on Earth & given some men superhuman abilities - raising them to be gods. These gods had grown in power, until they eventually threatened the entire of Earth & the heavens. The serpent-gods - who by this time had taken on the form of golden humans - realised their mistake, but couldn't stop the rampages of the "new gods" they'd created. So they gave different powers to other humans - lesser powers, but given to more people who, together, could hunt & destroy the new gods.'

'After many generations the "hunters" eventually prevailed - destroying the last of the new gods. The hunters, finding themselves without prey, mostly died out, although a few learned to sustain themselves with human blood, & their line continued on through the ages.'

Masters pauses once again, glancing around the group,

'I know - it's not what you expected to hear, but there is a point.'

He sighs again, then continues,

'The thing is, Masters & Maxwell actually found one of the serpent-gods. It wasn't alive, but was amazingly well preserved inside what appeared to be a "golden human" right out of the legends. In the years which followed they discovered more & more evidence that the stories were based in fact. Maxwell was a genius - even by today's Nova standards. He studied the "golden man" & found out that it was actually an incredibly advanced "biological machine" - in essence it was a man-shaped vehicle which the serpent-god had "ridden". Maxwell's studies led him to develop biological technologies which haven't been replicated or matched since.'

'The pair also discovered a series of crystals & gemstones which the serpent-gods had left behind, & which had, over the years of history, become thought of as magical objects by a variety of cultures. The Tear of Isis diamond, the Eye of Odin saphire, & a dozen or so others. Each had a built-in function which, after a great deal of research, Maxwell managed to unlock - the ability to heal, or to control temperatures, for example. More interesting, though, was the discovery that each crystal had a sort of "Artificial Intelligence" which controlled it - a personality & image which had evolved over the many years.'

Masters laughs,

'There is, of course, a great deal more to the story than that! Years of adventures & escapades. Masters & Maxwell weren't alone in searching for the crystals - various cult groups wanted them, criminals, even a group of Nazi occultists who fashioned themselves after the signs of the zodiac... It was a crazy time. But the relevant point is what these crystal "personalities" told them - they proclaimed that Dr Maxwell was tainted.'

Masters pauses again, glancing at Emma. A tear runs down her face as she recalls lost friends, & for a moment it seems like the old man isn't going to continue. Eventually he looks away from her & goes on,

'A lot of strange stuff was happening in the Twenties. Most of it has been swept under the carpet of history by now, but it's still there if you look for it. You think the Gothic Knight is original? There were masked men battling mobsters right here in New York back then,' he waves at the display cases just outside the circle of light, 'we've got one of The Whistler's canes around here somewhere, & the remians of The Banshee's oufit. People all over were pushing the boundries of human ability. That era led to the formation of The Æon Society - Project Utopia's founders - to investigate all the weirdness in the world.'

'Anyway, Doctor Maxwell had split the people with "better-than-human" talents into various types: one of the most dramatic being chi expressives. Chi expressives had human talents pushed beyond normal limits - like Maxwell's own incredible intelligence & ability to withstand damage... He once got shot point-blank with a burst from a Tommy Gun & walked away unharmed - there's a newspaper clipping about it around here somewhere. What Masters & Maxwell eventually figured out was that the crystal intelligences saw the chi expressives as "tainted".'

'It turns out that the "new gods" of that ancient myth were making a come-back. Something in the early Twenties had triggered a global phenomenon which caused those members of the population with the correct mix of heritage to start to manifest "powers" once more. Of course, they weren't god-like - just really, really, good at this or that. Well... all apart from one.'

'Doctor Maxwell soon befriended a man who called himself Doctor Primoris. Primoris was nominally a member of The Æon Society & a chi expressive of vast ability. He was also the only man Maxwell met who seemed to be his intellectual equal. They started to spend more & more time together - discussing their "kind" & the evolution of the species. Maxwell suspected that Primoris was more powerful than most chi expressives, but the eventual truth changed his life. It turns out that whatever had caused all the weirdness in the world had changed Primoris into what we would call, these days, a Nova.'

'From that point on, Maxwell's own powers began to grow. It was almost as if knowing how high the bar was really set motivated some sort of growth spurt. He soon became invulnerable - quite literally. He also...'

Masters again pauses & glances towards Emma, but steels himself to what he has to say next,

'... he also went totally insane.'

Emma lets out a tear-choked sob & buries her head in Nate's shoulder. After a moment, Masters, however, appears to relax slightly. There may have been more than one reason he chose to hold the meeting in an armoured room... unsure.gif

'Maxwell wasn't the only one. Many of the chi expressives showed signs of mental breakdown, even as their powers began to grow. When Masters & Maxwell first encountered Nefertiti she could do little more than throw a few fireballs about - you all saw what she can do now.'

'Things came to a head around the time World War Two was kicking off. Masters managed to... contain... his friend after he discovered the good Doctor Maxwell's plans to wipe out humanity & start afresh with breeding stock chosen from the intellectual elite. The Æon Society was less successful with Doctor Primoris - they stopped his plot to, essentially, cause everyone on Earth to erupt or die, but he himself vanished.'

'Johnny Masters knew that, especially with Primoris on the loose, the day of the "new gods" might soon be upon humanity once again. He dedicated his life, & a good portion of his wealth to researching both the old legends & the new science & preparing for the day of the superman. His family & company - myself included - have continued that legacy.'

'Then, in ninety-eight, N-Day happened. Æon knew what had happened - that's why they could move so quickly. We had a good idea too. Primoris, or one of his followers, had managed to trigger world-wide eruptions. The gods had returned - we call them Novas.'

Once again the old man pauses, letting his words sink in.

'So that's the basic secret history of the world... Well, apart from one more important detail. You might be asking what happened to the hunters - the ones who survived? Well, Masters & Maxwell found the last remnants of the families who had carried the legacy for all those generations. Maxwell eventually married one of them - my grandmother - before he went crazy. By that point the in-breeding had proven to be more detrimental than helpful, but Maxwell helped his future wife overcome some of the worst "side-effects". But certain genetic markers still remained - passed down, in this case, only to the females of the line. Males, like myself, carry the genes, but they're only really active... or potentially active... in the women of my family. That's what Zia found in Natalia's genetic structure.'

Masters looks over to Dr Chen, who nods & continues,

'The genetic markers carried by Natalia are located in the same gene sequences as the markers for Nova potential. However, similar though they may be, Natalia's genes aren't keyed to Quantum - what Doctor Maxwell would have call chi expression - but to another portion of the theoretical energy "spectrum" where Maxwell identified psi expressives as drawing their powers from. We don't know much about psi expressives. Maxwell's notes suggest certain "mental" powers - such as telepathy & psychokinesis - but his research is incomplete due to the obsession he acquired with chi expression, & we have no active psi expressives around today to study. Natalia could, we theorise, develop into an active psi expressive, but we don't know how such a development would be triggered. Zia's "experiments" with her do, at least, confirm what we already suspected - that psi expression isn't triggered the same way as Novahood is.'

Masters quickly takes over, not wanting to dwell, it seems, on his granddaughter's fate,

'The old legends suggest that the psi expressives were meant to be less powerful individually, but work together to oppose those we'd call Novas. It seems likely that the serpent-gods made sure it was harder for their power to be accessed naturally as well - they wanted to solve a problem, not create a new one. My grandmother's family were steeped in many strange traditions & rituals - most of which are illegal today, not to mention immoral - the key to triggering psi expression could be hidden in there somewhere, but I'm not about to try any of that on the off-chance it works.'

Masters leans back in his chair & steeples his fingers,

'Which, I think, brings us up to date. Masters International has spent the best part of the last eighty years researching all this, & I can tell you - the future of humanity now lies in the balance. Novas, like you, are a threat to us all... but can also be a great asset. It's the Novas who aren't like you who are the problem. The legends talk about the gods going mad & getting power hungry - it's what we're seeing with the Teragen today. They cast off their humanity & embrace their power. A god with all the power & none of the morality is the greatest threat that humanity can face. Beyond that, our most cutting-edge technology has comfirmed the existance of a global imbalance in the Nova power-source: the unexplained energy we call "Quantum". Doctor Chen?'

The Doctor again takes her turn,

'Novas all have an individual Quantum signature, but in general our power all comes from the same part of the theoretical energy spectrum - & we call that part Quantum. Now, the more powerful a Nova is, the more his or her individual Quantum signature is reflected in the overall Quantum energy signature. But there's a basic flaw in Quantum - what the ancients refered to as taint. It's present in all of us, but in some Novas it has become a more dominant force. In essence we see the influence of taint manifest in uncontrolled ways - such as your eyes, Blaze. That in itself isn't a big issue. What is important is the gradual imbalance which is effecting the whole of Quantum. The more Novas who suffer manifestations of taint, the more all Novas are likely to suffer such manifestations. The more powerful the tainted Nova, the more influence he or she has on Quantum, & the more all of us suffer. The taint leads to more & more drastic effects - ending up, we believe, in a total breakdown & loss of control over the Nova's power. Of course, the human brain can't take such energies running around inside it uncontrolled, so most Novas will be totally insane long before that point is reached.'

Masters again speaks,

'The Teragen actively cultivate taint - it brings with it power, & they see power as more important than humanity. You've seen what they are capable of now. What about in the future? What happens when Novas all over the world start going mad & turning on humanity? Global war? A breakdown of society? To be honest, that's the best we can hope for - at least then we have a chance. We're in this for the species, people.'

Once again the old man sighs,

'The Æon Society have a pretty good idea that this is happening. So do the Teragen - it's just that they don't care. We need to act without worrying about political fallout, but without turning all of baseline humanity against Novas,' he laughs, 'after all - some of my best friends are Novas.' wink.gif

'What we need - what we're going to do - is to fight a secret war against the Teragen. In reality we'd planed for another decade or so before we acted - but recent events have sped up the time-table. There's a good chance that Zia & other Terats have figured out some of our game-plan: throwing a small private army at someone tends to get them thinking. We have some tech' that you wouldn't believe... but most of it's still in development. You'll get some nice toys - stuff to give you an edge - as well as plenty of backup & support from dedicated people who have been training their whole lives to do this thing. But what we need right now is you guys in the front lines - in the absense of the tech' we were counting on, we need you to step up.'

Masters grins biggrin.gif ,

'So how about it guys? Ready to save the world?'

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The Blackburn Hotel:

"One of ours needs help, who's in?"

The Viruses look up from their game, & Eel looks over. Emelia just clicks quietly, drooling a little acidic bile which sizzles as it drips on the carpet...

Fixing Eel he raises and finger

"NO deaths!"

The aquatic Terat undulates towards Terry. Pausing at his raised finger she places a webbed hand across her heart & flutters her eyes in feigned innocence as she replies,

'Who? Me?' ::halo

"Thank you Synapse, you've no idea what this means to me. Glacier only needs...guidance. Where exactly are they?"

The image nods in acknowledgement of Terry's thanks, then holds up his hand, palm open. Just above the palm a two-dimensional picture forms - starting as a view of Africa from space, then zooming in - tighter & tighter - until it frames two figures standing in the desert, still seen from above - one appears to be a dark-haired young woman with tattoos covering her bare arms, the other is clearly Glacier - radiating enough cold to freeze the sand around his feet!

*Darling, do what you can to stop her mindf*cks, we'll take care of the rest.*

PathFinder's thoughts mingle with Terry's own,

*Of course - but she is very powerful. We have to be careful.*

With that thought PathFinder turns from Terry & extends her fingers towards the centre of the room. A spot of white appears, expanding into her now-familiar warp doorway. Grinning, Eel slithers towards the portal, the electrical sparks across her body increasing in power until they're a web of lightning arcing over her slime-coated scales. As she passes through she winks at Terry,

'See you on the flip-side Terat.' ::wink

The Viruses follow, the skin of each rippling with colour as it adjusts to the sandy desert backdrop on the other side.

PathFinder looks at Terry,

*After you.*

Orzaiz, meanwhile, has quietly removed himself from within line of sight of the portal - either that or he really did need to refresh his drink at the bar... ::sly

Emelia's insectile eyes follow the Count's movements... but mostly she just clicks & drools acid...

*****

The Desert:

As Glacier poors his all into his powers, at Psyche's command, the very air around him seems to freeze. The hot sand beneath & surrounding him cools until it starts to shatter into even finer powder, & what little moisture there is in the air fights to become an icy mist.

Psyche observes with little hint of being impressed,

'Well - it's a refeshing breeze, I'll give you that; but can't you...'

Her voice trails off as her eyes, for a moment, take on a faraway look. Suddenly her head whips round & she peers out over the dunes... Glacier has no idea what she could be looking at, but she seems to lose her usual calm demeanor...

'Damn.'

Looking back at Glacier she frowns slightly,

'We're about to be attacked by terrorists - Terats. Are you in a fit state to fight?'

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Her voice trails off as her eyes, for a moment, take on a faraway look. Suddenly her head whips round & she peers out over the dunes... Glacier has no idea what she could be looking at, but she seems to lose her usual calm demeanor...

'Damn.'

Looking back at Glacier she frowns slightly,

'We're about to be attacked by terrorists - Terats. Are you in a fit state to fight?'

Glacier suppresses a derisive snort.

Nice acting. You think I haven't gotten used to these mind games by now?

Out loud, however, he only answers mildly.

"Yes."

In the fierce sunlight, Glacier's shining white energy field appears even brighter than the sun, like snow on a bright winter day. The human form within the bear is utterly invisible.

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With that thought PathFinder turns from Terry & extends her fingers towards the centre of the room. A spot of white appears, expanding into her now-familiar warp doorway. Grinning, Eel slithers towards the portal, the electrical sparks across her body increasing in power until they're a web of lightning arcing over her slime-coated scales. As she passes through she winks at Terry,

'See you on the flip-side Terat.' 

The Viruses follow, the skin of each rippling with colour as it adjusts to the sandy desert backdrop on the other side.

PathFinder looks at Terry,

*After you.*

Terry nods

"Stick close to me guys, they're in for a surprise...concentrate on getting Glacier out of there."

Terry's figure ripples slightly as light bends around him and he steps through the warp and onto the desert sands.

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The Streets:

In contrast to Vinnie's 'working clothes' Marco is wearing an expensive, but basic, suit, high-quality woven wool overcoat, & imported Italian leather shoes. Before they climbed out of the car he also made a point of checking & holstering a .45 automatic at his shoulder, under the suit jacket, & a smaller-framed 9mm at the back of his waist - 'just in case'...

As The Ghost pauses to check his surroundings he does spot a rustle of movement from the shop's roof - but the immediate future (for him at least) doesn't feel like it holds any dangerous surprises. He hears no stealth choppers [of course, that may be 'cos their stealth... ::ninja ]...

... As Marco & his escorts knock on the shop's front door & are, moments later, allowed inside, The Stranger checks the rear of the building. A quick inspection seems to confirm the rumours that these Rush dealers are more immoral students after some big bucks than they are hardened criminals - there's no guards at all outside the building, & no-one in the van.

Inside the front of the small electronics store is dark, & The Ghost fancies he can hear Marco's teeth grinding together as they are led through rather pointless efforts at cloak & dagger - the figure who opened the door (who Vinnie can see, even in the dim light, appears to be a twenty-something long-haired skinny guy dressed in tattered jeans & a slightly stained T-shirt) moves as if to pat-down Marco, then stops, thinks better of it, & instead leads the group through into the well-lit back room (illuminating the shop's front window anyway when he opens the door).

Inside the back of the shop is a combination store room & break room - cardboard boxes are stacked along the walls, apart from the doors to the front & out the back of the shop. A small folding table sits at one end of the room with two chairs next to it. A portable kettle & instant coffee supplies have been left in the corner of the room where a gap in the boxes exposes a wall socket.

The guy who led them in does, indeed, turn out to be a skinny white guy with long, unkempt, hair & a couple of days of stubble giving him a rather 'hippy' or 'stoner' look. He seems very nervous to be in Marco's presences - let alone the others.

Sitting at one of the chairs is a much more confident guy - this one's dressed in smart new jeans, designer-logo trainers, & a decent dark blue shirt. More athletic-looking than his friend, this second guy - also white - sports a neat, short, hairstyle with just a touch of gel in his dark hair. For a baseline, he's quite handsome.

The third figure in the room is a good-looking young Hispanic woman standing behind the smart-looking guy, leaning over him with her arms draped round him as they enter. Tight-fitting leather trousers sit low on her shapely hips, with calf-high stilletto-heeled leather boots, & a leather bikini top to finish the outfit. As the group enter she stands straight, brushing her long dark hair away from her face & observing the newcomers with surprising intellect in her eyes.

On the table in front of the smart-looking guy is a closed aluminium briefcase. When he speaks his accent suggests an upper-class, wealthy, upbringing,

'Ah, hello. You must be Marco? We talked on the phone.'

... It doesn't take Vinnie's Nova senses to realise that Marco instantly doesn't like the guy... But, to his credit, he manages to keep it civil,

'Right. You got the stuff?'

It seems that business has commenced...

The Desert:

"Yes."

Glacier notices that Psyche fails to pull him up on his errant thoughts - almost as if her mind was elsewhere. Instead she gives him a curt nod, rising a few inches off the sand as she returns to scanning her gaze along the surrounding dunes...

"Stick close to me guys, they're in for a surprise...concentrate on getting Glacier out of there."

PathFinder follows Terry through the warp, allowing it to close after her. Pausing for a moment on the sand, warm desert breeze catching her flowing white hair, she then turns to the Viruses,

'I'll give you the locations of the Utopian snipers.'

A moment later the Viruses each nod, then head off in seperate directions - their chameleonic skin allowing them to vanish quickly from sight. Eel, meanwhile, breathes in the desert air,

'It's a bit dry,' she comments, 'but that does mean a good static build-up... And I come with built-in sunscreen anyway...' She holds out one arm, allowing the sunlight to play across her slime-glistened scales in rainbow patterns.

'So, ' she adds, 'where's lover-boy?'

PathFinder turns & points,

'About a half kilometer that way - so's Psyche. I think she's trying to contact her support team... No... wait... She's figured out there are quite a few of us... she's sending a call out to...'

The pale Terat's eyes widen slightly, & she puts a hand on Terry's shoulder,

'She's sent a message to Pax - he's in a city less than a hundred kilometers from here. I'm sorry - I couldn't block her...'

Eel blinks ::blink , then glances at Terry,

'Okay Terat - your call.'

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'So, ' she adds, 'where's lover-boy?'

PathFinder turns & points,

'About a half kilometer that way - so's Psyche. I think she's trying to contact her support team... No... wait... She's figured out there are quite a few of us... she's sending a call out to...'

The pale Terat's eyes widen slightly, & she puts a hand on Terry's shoulder,

'She's sent a message to Pax - he's in a city less than a hundred kilometers from here. I'm sorry - I couldn't block her...'

Eel blinks ::blink , then glances at Terry,

'Okay Terat - your call.'

"Half a kilometer..."

Terry looks back at Pathfinder, his hand on hers.

"There's no time for you, I have to go alone."

Terry clenches his fists as his hair starts to float as if underwater, his whole body flickering as if a magnet were passing near a hologram.

"Take everyone back. When I ask you, open a port to me...We're not leaving Glacier behind!" ::mad

With that, Terry suddenly bursts in the direction Pathfinder pointed, skimming over the dunes, sand rising in his wake!

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A quick inspection seems to confirm the rumours that these Rush dealers are more immoral students after some big bucks than they are hardened criminals - there's no guards at all outside the building, & no-one in the van.

The Stranger almost rolls his eyes. *Amateur night.* Lowering himself quietly to the ground behind the shop, he moves to the rear of the van, and memorizes the license plate while slipping a tracer under the bumper.

*Be interesting to see where they go from here...*

The first objective accomplished, he moves on to trying to find the best vantage point for spying on the meeting inside.

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Glacier notices that Psyche fails to pull him up on his errant thoughts - almost as if her mind was elsewhere. Instead she gives him a curt nod, rising a few inches off the sand as she returns to scanning her gaze along the surrounding dunes...

An epiphany flashes through Glacier's mind:

She's not listening.

Psyche would never ignore a thought like that! She must have let her guard down, and now she's his - with the energy he's putting out now, a single touch from the bear could be lethal. He can carve her into six pieces in a fraction of a second.

Glacier hesitates, not moving a muscle. It can't be that simple.

He almost cringes as the bitter truth hits him. The cold nova's lip curls as he turns to face the Team Tomorrow telepath, his polar bear anima standing like a statue.

Psyche would never allow herself to be as vulnerable as she now appears. Which means that this whole thing is some sort of sick test. She was listening. In fact, it's more likely that the entire desert is an illusion. Had they ever even left the laboratory?

Glacier turns back to face the horizon. After all, Eel herself would probably be appearing over it soon enough. ::dry ::mad

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...You'll get some nice toys - stuff to give you an edge - as well as plenty of backup & support from dedicated people who have been training their whole lives to do this thing. But what we need right now is you guys in the front lines - in the absense of the tech' we were counting on, we need you to step up.'

Masters grins  ,

'So how about it guys? Ready to save the world?'

Mike looks around at the others, then back at Mr. Masters, "Wow, uh, that's a lot to digest. Mr. Masters, I want you to know I'm on the team, and I'll help any way I can... but I'm not exactly sure I'm a front line type of guy."

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The Desert:

Putting his all into the effort Terry pushes his powers to their limits, blasting across the sand at over six hundred kilometers per hour! A plume of sand leaps up in his wake, but the incredible acceleration means that he's covered the half kilometer to Psyche & Glacier in mere seconds...

Watching the horizon Glacier spots the sand-plume racing towards him, his keen senses managing to make out a figure flying low over the dunes out in front... a figure which looks a lot like Terry...

... As the bear & the T2Mer speed into view, Terry reaches out with his gravitational powers, trying to warp the gravity in the area around the pair - but it seems he's trying to do too much at once. Despite his new-found outlook on life, Terry still has his limits, & between directing his flight-path, warping gravity, & aiming for Glacier, it seems that a few seconds just isn't enough time. He manages to reduce the gravity in the area, but not enough for the spectacular results he was trying to achieve.

However, Terry has little time to worry about his failed 'wall of sand' stunt as he slams bodily into the white-glowing bear. On cue PathFinder's portal expands into existence behind the bear - Terry's incredible momentum carrying both he & Glacier through the glowing disc!

The pair emerge from the warp next to PathFinder - Glacier tumbles across the sand, but manages to end up on his feet, while Terry - the extra speed boost from his great effort fading - slows to a halt in the air above. Despite the impact, both Novas prove tough enough to suffer no damage from it - Terry also escapes his contact with Glacier's hypercold aura unscathed (thankfully Glacier's own efforts to boost his powers had faded in the moments before Terry impacted him).

Although physically unhurt, the confusing speed of the whole thing, added to the chain of recent events he's faced, causes the familiar rage to start to churn inside Glacier's gut... [Rage time, unless he starts spending Willpower to put it off]

PathFinder allows her warp to collapse immediately, but still looks concerned as she says,

'Pax wil be here in less than a minute.'

Eel grins at Glacier,

'Hiya lover!'

... then asks PathFinder,

'And their mind-witch?'

The pale Terat nods & points in the direction still marked by the slowly settling cloud of sand from Terry's flight,

'She's coming.'

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Terry scowls

"She won't reach us, get us out of here."

Terry raises his arms, a rustling is heard all around the group of terats as sand slowly rises all around them. The rustling becomes a thundering as the speed and quantity of sand increases and the Terats find themselves in a vast sand cylinder over 20m in height and a width they can only guess at. Terry eyes Glacier with his dark orbs and nods curtly, this wasn't the time to talk...once the warp opens he'll wait for the others to go through and enter himself...

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'These chairs, like everything in here, have a long history. Some of you know the trouble we had dealing with just one book kept in this vault. Others may recall when Emma's alter-ego woke up from her slumber...'

Emma shudders slightly at the mention of Nefertiti, her delicate fingers squeezing Nate's hand.

Nathan gives her a reassuring look and squeezes her hand in return.

'... The things in this vault are so dangerous, for the most part, because they reveal the truth. Not the history you - & the world - have been told, but some of the things which really happened. A lot of this will sound insane, but it's all true. Emma here lived through some of it, & can vouch to that fact.'

Raising a skeptical eyebrow, Nate glances over at Masters' 'witness' and throughout his monologue keeps an eye on her reactions.

Masters again pauses & glances towards Emma, but steels himself to what he has to say next,

'... he also went totally insane.'

Emma lets out a tear-choked sob & buries her head in Nate's shoulder. After a moment, Masters, however, appears to relax slightly. There may have been more than one reason he chose to hold the meeting in an armoured room... ::unsure

Not catching the potential threat until after the danger's over, Nathan nonetheless feels a bit annoyed with his boss for not telling him about his concerns in advance. He puts an arm around Emma and comforts her for as long as she needs it.

The Doctor again takes her turn,

'[...] But there's a basic flaw in Quantum - what the ancients refered to as taint. It's present in all of us, but in some Novas it has become a more dominant force. In essence we see the influence of taint manifest in uncontrolled ways - such as your eyes, Blaze. That in itself isn't a big issue.

::huh

*Oh really...?*

[...] The more powerful the tainted Nova, the more influence he or she has on Quantum, & the more all of us suffer. The taint leads to more & more drastic effects - ending up, we believe, in a total breakdown & loss of control over the Nova's power. Of course, the human brain can't take such energies running around inside it uncontrolled, so most Novas will be totally insane long before that point is reached.'

*How very reassuring...*

Masters grins ::biggrin ,

'So how about it guys? Ready to save the world?'

Nathan looks sideways at Emma, checking for objections or comments. Then - assuming she doesn't have any - he turns back to Masters and Dr Chen.

"So. Let me see if got this. We're gonna kick teragen butt not only because they're psycho, supremascist, lunatic terrorists who have it coming, but because their madness is contageous and will f*ck up other novas, quantum, reality, the space-time-continuinuinuum or whatever if they're allowed to go on?"

He holds up a hand to forestall an eventual answer, and sets his tainted eyes on the doctor

"And I've got a follow-up question to that: You're saying my eyes indicate that I'm already infected - tainted, you said. Does that make me, A: part of the problem? B: An easier target for Mad Terat Disease? or C: Just a guy who stands out in a crowd?"

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As The Ghost pauses to check his surroundings he does spot a rustle of movement from the shop's roof - but the immediate future (for him at least) doesn't feel like it holds any dangerous surprises. He hears no stealth choppers [of course, that may be 'cos their stealth... ::ninja ]...

Not really surprised at having company - whoever it might be - the Ghost keeps an eye upwards even when he goes inside.

Inside the back of the shop is a combination store room & break room - cardboard boxes are stacked along the walls, apart from the doors to the front & out the back of the shop. A small folding table sits at one end of the room with two chairs next to it. A portable kettle & instant coffee supplies have been left in the corner of the room where a gap in the boxes exposes a wall socket.

As soon as they enter, the hitman crosses the room to the backdoor and takes a look outside, giving every impression he's just hired help and leaving the talking to Marco.

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Watching the horizon Glacier spots the sand-plume racing towards him, his keen senses managing to make out a figure flying low over the dunes out in front... a figure which looks a lot like Terry...

Glacier's eyes widen as he sees his old friend. Not Eel, but Terry?

Terry?

It's real, then. Psyche wouldn't have him in on the rescue, she knows how much I look up to him. She'd probably want me to believe he's glad for me to be here.

The teenage nova squints.

And is he wearing sunglasses or what?

He looks back at Psyche. It's probably safe to attack her, then, and might buy Terry some time..

Suddenly, he is impacted by the same nova that was a speck on the horizon a split second ago, and flies through a portal to unfamiliar terrain!

The bear hologram turns into a vague white blur as Glacier hits the ground, tucking into a shoulder roll. As he comes out of it, he plants a leg on the ground, causing him to rise to his feet while skidding a few meters.

Before the bear anima reforms, the others can see Glacier drop back down to his knees, as he clutches his skull and howls!

OOC: He'll spend a Willpower to postpone the rage.

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Street Dealing:

Outside the shop The Stranger easily plants his bug, then finds himself a nice spot in the shadows where he can see through the window into the back room. He sees the smart looking guy & the Hispanic girl - both with their backs to him - & then the entrance of the hippy guy & Marco & friends. The Ghost crosses to open the back door & peer outside, but doesn't appear to spot The Stranger...

... Inside Marco waits for the nod that it's safe from The Ghost (who sees nothing outside apart from the van), then sits himself in the seat opposite the smart-looking guy. Trying his best to remain 'cool' the smart-looking guy opens the briefcase on the table, then spins it round to face Marco. Inside are five small medical-type bottles & a syringe still in its plastic wrapping.

Marco glances up, over the open case, at the seated guy,

'Thought this stuff came in tabs, like acid?'

The smart-looking guy grins,

'Sure - but I thought you'd like to see the undiluted effect - get a proper idea of what you're buying.'

The Hispanic girl, meanwhile, appears to be watching The Ghost - her eyes following him with interest as he checks the door, just flicking occassionally to check the other people in the room. Vinnie gets the impression that of the three, she seems the most 'professional'...

'Well,' Marco is saying, pushing the case away from himself, 'I 'ain't shooting-up with anything - do we look like junkies to you?' His controlled edge slips a little, revealing his obvious frustration of having to deal with people like that...

The smart-looking guy, however, grins a wide smile ::smile , spreading his hands in an open gesture, & replies,

'Hey - of course not! Look, that's not what I had in mind...'

With that he turns slightly, grabbing the Hispanic girl's wrist & pulling her arm forward. She struggles & swears in Spanish, but he holds her tightly as he picks up the syringe, ripping open the packet with his teeth, & rather deftly inserting the needle through the lid of one of the bottles with one hand,

'... just thought a little demonstration would be in order...'

The girl continues to struggle, hitting him on the back of the head a couple of times. That seems to get the guy mad - he twists her wrist painfully & yells at her,

'Shut the F*ck up, b!tch! You'll like it you little whore!'

The Masters Building:

"Wow, uh, that's a lot to digest. Mr. Masters, I want you to know I'm on the team, and I'll help any way I can... but I'm not exactly sure I'm a front line type of guy."

Masters smiles,

'Yeah - it is a lot... & that's the condensed version. But you Mike, you're a star, remember? With your talents, some tech', & a little help from your friends you'll do amazing things... You all will!'

Meanwhile, Emma has - thanks in great part to Nate - managed to calm & compose herself - although she keeps tight hold of his hand, even as he takes his turn to speak...

"So. Let me see if got this. We're gonna kick teragen butt not only because they're psycho, supremascist, lunatic terrorists who have it coming, but because their madness is contageous and will f*ck up other novas, quantum, reality, the space-time-continuinuinuum or whatever if they're allowed to go on?.. And I've got a follow-up question to that: You're saying my eyes indicate that I'm already infected - tainted, you said. Does that make me, A: part of the problem? B: An easier target for Mad Terat Disease? or C: Just a guy who stands out in a crowd?"

Masters shrugs,

"In answer to your first question - yes. Wild isn't it?' ::biggrin

The old man then turns to Dr Chen, who sighs & goes into her 'trying to explain to the slow kid' mode of speech (which she uses a lot),

'In that respect, Blaze, we are all of us - all Novas - infected. Even those chi-expressives who we could think of as proto-Novas were infected. That's the point. If we are to believe the evidence the MI archeological teams have unearthed over the last eighty years then that was the original mistake - & the cause of the great war with the "new gods" of ancient times. The serpent-gods - aliens - whatever we want to call them - made an error in whatever they did to those humans in prehistoric times - a fundamental error, which was passed down to those of us who, in modern times, have manifested the recessive genes which grant us Nova potential.'

'So - are you a part of the problem?: yes - but then we all are. It's like asking if humanity pollutes the planet are all humans part of the problem?: yes - but some more than others. What effect does that have on you? Well, your eyes are the obvious manifestation, but our research also suggests that, yes, you're less mentally stable than most people. That doesn't make you "mad" - it just means that if you do manifest any mental problems you're less equiped than most people to deal with them."

The beautiful, but cold, Asian scientist pauses to make sure that Blaze is following what she says, then goes on,

'From what we know, it appears to be a sharp curve of degeneration. Low-levels of "taint" such as you manifest aren't a serious problem, but things get rapidly worse the more "tainted" a Nova becomes. Novas who push their powers too far too quickly seem most likely to follow this rapid degeneration - Novas like the Teragen. However, their powers tend to increase greatly as well - power & taint appear to go hand-in-hand.'

'Of course, the scale itself is in constant flux. A level of degeneration which takes a Nova years of abusing his powers to reach now could very well be the natural state of all Novas upon eruption in say, a hundred or so years. We can't know for sure how fast things are getting worse - but we do know how to slow it down... Perhaps indefinately. If we eliminate those Novas who are the most tainted & the most powerful, then the Quantum part of the theoretical energy spectrum will be that much more balanced.'

Masters again smiles,

'Don't worry Blaze, the good Doctor assures me there are quite a few Novas above you on the list of people who need to be eliminated...' ::wink

Chen doesn't smile, but adds,

'The essential point is really a simple matter of threshold: at some stage there is enough tainted Quantum out there that tainted power becomes the norm for all Novas. There will be increasing incidents as that threshold is approached - more & more Novas becoming physically & mentally twisted - but one day that point will be reached &... to use an unscientific term... "Bang" - Novas are mad aberrations with the powers of gods. It is, naturally, our goal to prevent that threshold from ever being reached.'

The Desert:

"She won't reach us, get us out of here."

PathFinder nods, streching out her fingers, even as Terry forms a dome of sand over the small group - but then she stops & stares at Glacier,

'She's trying to set him off - unleash his rage on us. He's fighting it, but can't hold out for long. I can try to help... but it will take all my concentration. She's dug deeply into his mind - even if we take him away, she'll be able to track him & control him.'

With that she walks over to stand in front of the bear - holding her hands out to him as close as she can without touching his dangerous aura of cold...

... Glacier feels the rage die down... just a little... it's still there, but he can function normally for the moment...

Glancing at the intense look of concentration on PathFinder's face, Eel sighs & grins,

'It's never easy, is it? Guess we have less than a minute to take down a T2M mind-witch & get the Hell out of here...' she looks at first Terry then Glacier, '... You boys gonna' ask the lady to dance?'

With that, she turns towards the wall of sand &, somewhere beyond it, Psyche...

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The Desert:

PathFinder nods, streching out her fingers, even as Terry forms a dome of sand over the small group - but then she stops & stares at Glacier,

'She's trying to set him off - unleash his rage on us. He's fighting it, but can't hold out for long. I can try to help... but it will take all my concentration. She's dug deeply into his mind - even if we take him away, she'll be able to track him & control him.'

Terry nods and looks at Glacier

"Fight her John, don't let Psyche win!"

With that she walks over to stand in front of the bear - holding her hands out to him as close as she can without touching his dangerous aura of cold...

... Glacier feels the rage die down... just a little... it's still there, but he can function normally for the moment...

Glancing at the intense look of concentration on PathFinder's face, Eel sighs & grins,

'It's never easy, is it? Guess we have less than a minute to take down a T2M mind-witch & get the Hell out of here...' she looks at first Terry then Glacier, '... You boys gonna' ask the lady to dance?'

With that, she turns towards the wall of sand &, somewhere beyond it, Psyche...

[

Terry looks at Pathfinder, worry blearing his features for a moment before he looks in the direction Eel is facing

"Nobody messes with my girl!"

The sand walls suddenly collapse faster than would seem possible, only the sand "roof" remains above them...floating...

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'She's trying to set him off - unleash his rage on us. He's fighting it, but can't hold out for long. I can try to help... but it will take all my concentration. She's dug deeply into his mind - even if we take him away, she'll be able to track him & control him.'

Pathfinder's mental supression of the bear seems to have a physical effect on the anima - its substance remains the same, but the bear image is no longer visible, and a Glacier-shaped shadow is visible within the sub-zero energy field as it turns to the telepath.

"Can I fight?"

"Fight her John, don't let Psyche win!"

The shadow gives Terry a nod.

Glacier waits on tenterhooks for a portal - any portal - to appear, for him to come through like an avalanche and end all this for good.

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The Hispanic girl, meanwhile, appears to be watching The Ghost - her eyes following him with interest as he checks the door, just flicking occassionally to check the other people in the room. Vinnie gets the impression that of the three, she seems the most 'professional'...

Most of the Ghost's attention is elsewhere, his subconscious still going over the fact that someone's watching and looking at various implications and consequences of that fact. The part of his brain that's focuses on the here and now notes the girl's keen intellect, alert demeanor - and of course cute butt ::cool - with interest.

'Well,' Marco is saying, pushing the case away from himself, 'I 'ain't shooting-up with anything - do we look like junkies to you?' His controlled edge slips a little, revealing his obvious frustration of having to deal with people like that...

The smart-looking guy, however, grins a wide smile ::smile , spreading his hands in an open gesture, & replies,

'Hey - of course not! Look, that's not what I had in mind...'

Sharing Marco's impression of and feelings for the guy, the Ghost is hardly surprised by Asshole's next action...

With that he turns slightly, grabbing the Hispanic girl's wrist & pulling her arm forward. She struggles & swears in Spanish, but he holds her tightly as he picks up the syringe, ripping open the packet with his teeth, & rather deftly inserting the needle through the lid of one of the bottles with one hand,

'... just thought a little demonstration would be in order...'

It strikes Vinnie as almost funny how slowly the world seems to move lately. Not only has his body and reflexes improved since joining homo sapiens novus, but his mind moves faster too. Often he finds himself coming to a conclusion and acting on it even before he's had time to spell out and rationalize his reasons. Like now...

*What the f*ck do we need this guy for, anyway?*

The girl continues to struggle, hitting him on the back of the head a couple of times. That seems to get the guy mad - he twists her wrist painfully & yells at her,

'Shut the F*ck up, b!tch! You'll like it you little whore!'

Deciding to step out of the background, the Ghost leaps into motion with just a brief glance at Marco. A minute folding of space, and the mercenary is behind Asshole's chair, and in one rapid motion places the muzzle of a silenced gun against the nape of his neck. His other gloved hand reaches forward to grab the idiot's forehead - fingers pressed lightly against his eyelids - and pulls his head back.

In that cold, business-like voice Vinnie knows is next to impossible to argue with [Commanding Presence ON], he says

"Let her go. Now."

Provided he does what he's told, the Ghost goes on - still holding the gun to his head.

"If I was in charge, you'd be dead now. You see, I don't like cocky little idiots with high opinions of themselves. I like them even less when they turn out to be f*cking amateurs, and when they're about to stab one of their own in the back and inject a nova-derivated, speed-enhancing drug in an unwilling subject I start thinking I'll be doing humanity a favor by removing you from the gene pool."

Pausing a second to let the words sink in, Vinnie glances over at Marco for an indication of what he think's Asshole's fate should be, then finishes:

"So. Remind me again why we need you here?"

[Lie Detector ON]

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With that he turns slightly, grabbing the Hispanic girl's wrist & pulling her arm forward. She struggles & swears in Spanish, but he holds her tightly as he picks up the syringe, ripping open the packet with his teeth, & rather deftly inserting the needle through the lid of one of the bottles with one hand,

'... just thought a little demonstration would be in order...'

Watching from outside, The Stranger's jaw tightens. *He like needles, does he?*

In a deft motion, a throwing spike slides into his gloved hand. He gauges the distance, aiming.

Deciding to step out of the background, the Ghost leaps into motion with just a brief glance at Marco. A minute folding of space, and the mercenary is behind Asshole's chair, and in one rapid motion places the muzzle of a silenced gun against the nape of his neck. His other gloved hand reaches forward to grab the idiot's forehead - fingers pressed lightly against his eyelids - and pulls his head back.

*Damn!*

Well, the girl should be fine, but now the vigilante had to worry about Vinnie wasting one of his best leads. That, and he suspected one of the kid's cronies might decide to do something really stupid, like try to get the jump on Ghost.

That would be a bloodbath.

While Ghost kept talking, The Stranger ran through his options, and finally decided on the subtle approach. He coughed briefly, loud enough for only the Ghost to hear(he hoped), and dialed Vinnie's phone.

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Back Room Antics:

"Let her go. Now."

'Asshole' [as we like to call him... ::wink ] is both stunned & terrified by the sudden blur of activity - he releases his grip on the girl's wrist immediately, & drops the syringe on the table. For her part, the girl gasps in surprise as The Ghost just 'appears' next to her, then backs away slightly from both him & his captive, rubbing her sore wrist as she does so - large dark eyes fixed on the Elite...

"If I was in charge, you'd be dead now. You see, I don't like cocky little idiots with high opinions of themselves. I like them even less when they turn out to be f*cking amateurs, and when they're about to stab one of their own in the back and inject a nova-derivated, speed-enhancing drug in an unwilling subject I start thinking I'll be doing humanity a favor by removing you from the gene pool."

Glancing over towards Marco Vinnie realises that the family-man was also startled, but that he's managed to hide it quite well. At The Ghost's look the made man shrugs in a noncommital way - & Vinnie can well believe that Marco honestly doesn't care what happens to the guy - to him it is, after all, business as usual.

"So. Remind me again why we need you here?"

The Ghost's captive is obviously paniced as he quickly replies,

'Shit man, shit - don't kill me! I... we,' he waves one hand in the direction of his hippy-looking friend, 'we made it - discovered it - you know what I mean! We're bio-chem' grad' students - we were looking into Nova stuff & making some speed & acid & shit on the side. We figured out how to make the stuff - well Anton there did. But you need me too! I found a guy, a Nova, who donates the key ingredient - says he'll keep doing it for a cut of the money - a big cut - but he wanted us to get, you know, "serious" - so I set up this meeting with you guys. Please, please God don't kill me!'

Over by the door into the shop the hippy guy, 'Anton', stares at the scene with the wide-eyed look of a rabbit in headlights... ::blink

Marco meanwhile allows a sly smile to cross his lips,

'Ghost - maybe you should ask our friend here about this Nova contact of his?' ::sly

About at that point Vinnie hears the subtle cough from outside & feels his phone start to gently vibrate in his pocket...

The Desert:

Just staring to feel slightly fatigued from using so much power in such a short space of time Terry allows the sand-wall to collapse, with just the disc of sand remaining above the small group. Sure enough Psyche can be seen - now wearing her 'uniform' which consists of little more than a purple swimsuit & matching boots - flying low over the dunes, about a eighty meters away & closing rapidly. The intricate vine-like purple tattoos covering her arms & legs are clearly visible, & her long purple hair streams out behind her as she approaches...

Seeing the sand-wall collapse the T2Mer halts her forward flight, hovering about ten meters in the air roughly seventy meters away. Terry attempts to refocus his gravity manipulations to pull her from the sky, but she's at an extreme range for his powers & they prove too weak to have any noticable effect on her.

Spotting the T2Mer Eel sneers, then darts out across the sand, her undulating form crossing the distance to Psyche in meer seconds, arcs of electrical power dancing over her scaled skin as she goes. Psyche's gaze whips round & down at Eel's rapid approach, a flare of purple-black energy arcing from her towards the Terat for just a second. Even though the energy flare seems to dissipate before it even touches her, Eel lets loose a scream, one webbed hand clutching her head as the other drops to the sand to support herself as obvious pain staggers her. Keeping one eye on Eel, Psyche calls out,

'Don't fall for it John - you're not a terrorist. What would your parents say?'

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The Desert:

Just staring to feel slightly fatigued from using so much power in such a short space of time Terry allows the sand-wall to collapse, with just the disc of sand remaining above the small group. Sure enough Psyche can be seen - now wearing her 'uniform' which consists of little more than a purple swimsuit & matching boots - flying low over the dunes, about a eighty meters away & closing rapidly. The intricate vine-like purple tattoos covering her arms & legs are clearly visible, & her long purple hair streams out behind her as she approaches...

Seeing the sand-wall collapse the T2Mer halts her forward flight, hovering about ten meters in the air roughly seventy meters away. Terry attempts to refocus his gravity manipulations to pull her from the sky, but she's at an extreme range for his powers & they prove too weak to have any noticable effect on her.

Spotting the T2Mer Eel sneers, then darts out across the sand, her undulating form crossing the distance to Psyche in meer seconds, arcs of electrical power dancing over her scaled skin as she goes. Psyche's gaze whips round & down at Eel's rapid approach, a flare of purple-black energy arcing from her towards the Terat for just a second. Even though the energy flare seems to dissipate before it even touches her, Eel lets loose a scream, one webbed hand clutching her head as the other drops to the sand to support herself as obvious pain staggers her. Keeping one eye on Eel, Psyche calls out,

'Don't fall for it John - you're not a terrorist. What would your parents say?'

Terry thrusts an open hand forward, pointing it at Psyche, and suddenly closes it.

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"Eel!"

Seeing the Terat fall, Glacier sprints towards her and the T2Mer, shouting to Terry as he moves,

"Bring her down!"

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Mike sat there listening, trying to take it all in. The part that he actually understood made sense, but then just because it made sense didn't mean it was true. Mike rolled his neck around, trying to relieve some of the tension; wishing that he hadn't had to cut his night short with Carla, and that she was waiting to give him a massage. Clapping his hands together, he glanced at Blaze and Derek, "Right, well, anyone else need a drink after that?"

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The Desert:

"Eel!"

Glacier starts to sprint towards the aquatic Terat, but [without Enhancements active] can't quite match her pace...

"Bring her down!"

Psyche quickly glances up at Terry & Glacier but, seeing that Glacier is still a good few seconds away (& seeming to pretty much ignore Terry as any sort of a real threat), turns her attention back to Eel. As the Terat pushes herself up, then rears up towards the hovering Psyche on her tail, the T2Mer sends another arc of purple energy out. This time Eel clutches her head with both hands, toppling backwards to fall heavily into the sand where she lies, twitching slightly, but otherwise unmoving...

Terry feels the energy drain hitting him as he unleashes the full fury of his gravity might upon the woman in purple - as his hand closes into a fist, there's a distortion in the air around the T2Mer - Psyche convulses, a pained grunt escaping her lips as first her back arches, then she doubles over - still hovering in the air. This time she does look at Terry, flipping her long hair back out of her face & fixing him with a stare,

'Big mistake, mister... big mistake...'

This time the arc of energy flies towards Terry, once again dissipating before it even touches him - but an incredible pain flashes through his brain, like hot needles jabbed into his skull! However, behind him he hears PathFinder grunt, as in his mind he feels the familiar soothing presence of her thoughts... It's enough, this time, & he fights off the attack without injury...

Reaching Eel's side, Glacier sees that she's stirring again, even as he feels the pressure of his inner rage slipping loose once again... [another Willpower or rage time - although he can pick his target right now...]

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The Desert:

Glacier starts to sprint towards the aquatic Terat, but [without Enhancements active] can't quite match her pace...

Psyche quickly glances up at Terry & Glacier but, seeing that Glacier is still a good few seconds away (& seeming to pretty much ignore Terry as any sort of a real threat), turns her attention back to Eel. As the Terat pushes herself up, then rears up towards the hovering Psyche on her tail, the T2Mer sends another arc of purple energy out. This time Eel clutches her head with both hands, toppling backwards to fall heavily into the sand where she lies, twitching slightly, but otherwise unmoving...

Terry feels the energy drain hitting him as he unleashes the full fury of his gravity might upon the woman in purple - as his hand closes into a fist, there's a distortion in the air around the T2Mer - Psyche convulses, a pained grunt escaping her lips as first her back arches, then she doubles over - still hovering in the air. This time she does look at Terry, flipping her long hair back out of her face & fixing him with a stare,

'Big mistake, mister... big mistake...'

This time the arc of energy flies towards Terry, once again dissipating before it even touches him - but an incredible pain flashes through his brain, like hot needles jabbed into his skull! However, behind him he hears PathFinder grunt, as in his mind he feels the familiar soothing presence of her thoughts... It's enough, this time, & he fights off the attack without injury...

Reaching Eel's side, Glacier sees that she's stirring again, even as he feels the pressure of his inner rage slipping loose once again... [another Willpower or rage time - although he can pick his target right now...]

Terry darts towards Psyche

"Ice up, John!"

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The Back Room:

The night had been....confusing. Slither had been out on a job which didn't feel like a job, attempting to worm her way into the heart of Mike from Masters International. She was fairly sure she'd had an effect, though she also knew that he'd done quite a job on her as well. Even now, called in to provide Nova muscle on this stupid deal, she kept thinking about the PR man: how he smelled, the way he moved...

Enough. Focus on the now.

When at first they had arrived at the meet, she was dressed to the nines, all Emma Peel in leather and heels, but as they moved through the store, she decided a different approach might be in order. She subtly dropped layers of mystery and allure, both her clothes and appearance shifting from gleaming sexuality to dull inert passivity. By the time they were face to face with the heart of the operation, she'd fully 'gone gray', human background noise of no significance.

(Ms. Nobody active.)

No one noticed her anymore, or even acknowledged her prescence - this was good. She waited like wallpaper - when things started to get tense, she inched closer to Ghost, ready to back him up.

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[Another Willpower or rage time - although he can pick his target right now...]
"Ice up, John!"

No better time for a moment of violence. John lets it all go..

The vague white glow snaps into sharp focus, regaining the image of a savage cave bear, as Glacier lunges for his tormentor, claws outstretched!

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The Desert:

"Ice up, John!"

Terry flies a dozen or so meters closer to Psyche, reaching out to twist the gravity around Glacier & propel him towards the T2Mer, but Psyche smoothly twists out of the way of the initial thrust.

As John, still suspended in the air next to his target, loses control to the feral bear within, Psyche glares at Terry & calls out,

'Nathanson - you want to kill PathFinder, not me!'

With Glacier's rage tripped, it seems that Psyche has been freed to concentrate fully on what she's doing. Even with his mental link to PathFinder buffering him Terry's will crumbles to nothing against the founder Team Tomorrow member's awsome power. [not even spending Willpower can help him reduce the effect - she scored too many net successes]

Still, before Terry can respond to the commands now dominating his mind completely, Glacier gets his chance. Even as he feels the gravity around him start to shift again, to pull him away from Psyche, his claws strike out, ripping through the invisible energy field around Psyche's body, through her Eufiber uniform, & piercing her flesh...

... But only just. Although the bear draws blood & leaves five parallel slashes across the abdomen of Psyche's uniform, the wounds are little more serious than deep scratches. Still, the T2Mer grunts & grits her teeth with pain, her hand moving down to cover the wound, even as her uniform seals itself again...

... By then Glacier has been pulled a good ten meters away from Psyche as Terry turns his sights on - as instructed - killing PathFinder & not Psyche...

Below the floating drama the ever-resilient Eel stirs, pushes herself upright, & looks about.

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Driven even further into a frenzy by smelling his target's blood in the air, Glacier scrabbles madly, trying to get another shot at Psyche.

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Terry turns his eyes on Pathfinder, face a mask of hatred as he extends a hand towards the floating Glacier and pulls it, and Glacier, in her direction.

"Die!"

(This is where I hope Glacier resists the power and takes Psyche out..:P)

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'Shit man, shit - don't kill me! I... we,' he waves one hand in the direction of his hippy-looking friend, 'we made it - discovered it - you know what I mean! We're bio-chem' grad' students - we were looking into Nova stuff & making some speed & acid & shit on the side. We figured out how to make the stuff - well Anton there did. But you need me too! I found a guy, a Nova, who donates the key ingredient - says he'll keep doing it for a cut of the money - a big cut - but he wanted us to get, you know, "serious" - so I set up this meeting with you guys. Please, please God don't kill me!'

The Ghost straightens up and pulls his gun back - letting it seemingly magically disappear somewhere on his person - but remains standing behind the panicked kid.

Marco meanwhile allows a sly smile to cross his lips,

'Ghost - maybe you should ask our friend here about this Nova contact of his?' ::sly

"I'm sure he'll be delighted to tell us... Won't you, kid? So let's hear it. Who's the nova, and what's your deal with him?"

About at that point Vinnie hears the subtle cough from outside & feels his phone start to gently vibrate in his pocket...

Suddenly cocking an ear like he heard something, the Ghost looks at Slither and jerks a thumb towards the front of the shop, then crosses the room towards the backdoor.

As he opens it and steps outside, he activates his hands-free set, hits the 'answer' button, and turns briefly to the people inside as if talking to the kid:

"Go on, I'm listening."

He then turns to scan the rooftops and shadows again, while keeping one ear on each conversation.

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"In answer to your first question - yes. Wild isn't it?' ::biggrin

"Funky." ::dry

'In that respect, Blaze, we are all of us - all Novas - infected. Even those chi-expressives who we could think of as proto-Novas were infected. That's the point. If we are to believe the evidence the MI archeological teams have unearthed over the last eighty years then that was the original mistake - & the cause of the great war with the "new gods" of ancient times. The serpent-gods - aliens - whatever we want to call them - made an error in whatever they did to those humans in prehistoric times - a fundamental error, which was passed down to those of us who, in modern times, have manifested the recessive genes which grant us Nova potential.'

"Heh. I'd say the error was giving us that kind of power in the first place. What the hell did they do that for?"

'So - are you a part of the problem?: yes - but then we all are. It's like asking if humanity pollutes the planet are all humans part of the problem?: yes - but some more than others. What effect does that have on you? Well, your eyes are the obvious manifestation, but our research also suggests that, yes, you're less mentally stable than most people. That doesn't make you "mad" - it just means that if you do manifest any mental problems you're less equiped than most people to deal with them."

*So I'm mentally unstable, huh? ::huh Well, it's better than being the Ice Queen... ::biggrin *

'From what we know, it appears to be a sharp curve of degeneration. Low-levels of "taint" such as you manifest aren't a serious problem, but things get rapidly worse the more "tainted" a Nova becomes. Novas who push their powers too far too quickly seem most likely to follow this rapid degeneration - Novas like the Teragen. However, their powers tend to increase greatly as well - power & taint appear to go hand-in-hand.'

At this Nate lights up, unable to resist this opportunity to really play up to Dr Chen's impression of him as the slow kid.

"Why didn't you just say that at once? We're talking Star Wars here! We're Jedis, they're the Sith, and quantum is the Force. You know, 'Once you start down the Dark Path, forever will it dominate your destiny' kinda thing. And you're Yoda... ::wink 'Is the Dark Side stronger? - No. Easier, quicker, more seductive.' All we have to do is figure out who the Emperor is, and go blow up his Death Star..." ::biggrin

Masters again smiles,

'Don't worry Blaze, the good Doctor assures me there are quite a few Novas above you on the list of people who need to be eliminated...' ::wink

"You'll give me a heads up if I ever advance on that list, I hope..?"

Chen doesn't smile, but adds,

'The essential point is really a simple matter of threshold: at some stage there is enough tainted Quantum out there that tainted power becomes the norm for all Novas. There will be increasing incidents as that threshold is approached - more & more Novas becoming physically & mentally twisted - but one day that point will be reached &... to use an unscientific term... "Bang" - Novas are mad aberrations with the powers of gods. It is, naturally, our goal to prevent that threshold from ever being reached.'

"Right. So... er. How do we do that, exactly?"

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As he opens it and steps outside, he activates his hands-free set, hits the 'answer' button, and turns briefly to the people inside as if talking to the kid:

"Go on, I'm listening."

He then turns to scan the rooftops and shadows again, while keeping one ear on each conversation.

The deep, rough-sounding whisper of The Stranger comes through Ghost's earpiece.

"Doesn't matter where I am, though I'm sure you'll spot me soon enough. Just wanted interrupt you from killing the kid. I need the information he can provide."

With that simple statement, the line goes dead.

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With that simple statement, the line goes dead.

Seemingly satisfied with what he sees - or doesn't see - outside, the Ghost turns back to the negotiations and closes the door, setting his eyes on the would-be drug-dealers again.

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The Masters Building:

"Heh. I'd say the error was giving us that kind of power in the first place. What the hell did they do that for?"

Masters shrugs,

'No idea really. Some of the archeology lads think they might have been conducting experiments - pure research stuff - maybe stuff they couldn't do back home. Or weren't allowed to. Guess it does all have a "Frankenstein" feel to it...'

"Why didn't you just say that at once? We're talking Star Wars here! We're Jedis, they're the Sith, and quantum is the Force. You know, 'Once you start down the Dark Path, forever will it dominate your destiny' kinda thing. And you're Yoda...  'Is the Dark Side stronger? - No. Easier, quicker, more seductive.' All we have to do is figure out who the Emperor is, and go blow up his Death Star..."

::blink

Dr Chen stares at Blaze for a moment before commenting, totally deadpan,

'If it helps.'

::blink

"You'll give me a heads up if I ever advance on that list, I hope..?"

'You'll be the first to know... Do I strike you as the sort of guy to just pop a cap in the back of someone's head with no warning?..' Masters makes a 'gun' gesture with his fingers & winks. ::wink

"Right. So... er. How do we do that, exactly?"
"Right, well, anyone else need a drink after that?"

Masters shakes his head,

'No can do at the moment, Mike.'

Doctor Chen nods,

'First we have to perform some cranial surgury on each of you, then...'

'What the good Doctor means. ' interupts Masters, 'is that we've developed a nifty little thingamabob which can be used for secure communication & helps to scramble the ability of people like PathFinder to read you like open books. There is a minor operation, but it's pretty essential. Don't worry, I've got one - & I turned out okay!' ::sly

Street Stuff:

"I'm sure he'll be delighted to tell us... Won't you, kid? So let's hear it. Who's the nova, and what's your deal with him?"

The guy's still terrified & nods quickly,

'Yeah, yeah, sure - anything!'

"Go on, I'm listening."

'I... I don't know his name or anything. I met him at a club - the old Blackburn Hotel up in Harlem? Novas hang out there, see - it's a really tough scene to get into, but worth it - anything & everything goes on there - & there are Novas. They even have, like, a Nova-only bar & all that. I saw Count Orzaiz there once - I swear! I had to grease a lot of palms to get in...' he casts a nervous glance towards The Ghost as he realises he's starting to ramble a bit, '... Anyway - I was in there, talking to some Novaphile girl about the Nova-related stuff we were doing in bio-chem - just trying to impress her really, you know? This guy comes over - just looks like a normal guy: well-built & good looking, I guess, but not "Nova" or anything. He says he's interested & we get talking. Later on he said he could get me into one of the private rooms upstairs - that's where all the really wild stuff happens - so I jump at the chance, right? Once we get up there it's just me & him, & I'm, like, starting to freak out. Then he changes into this sort of hideous lump of flesh thing - all pulsating tentacles & sh!t. I'm about to chuck my guts up, but he talks to me, suggests the "business" & offers samples. Long story short - I took the stuff back to the lab & we found we could whip-up some major product.'

The Desert:

As he struggles to get back to Psyche the blue-white aura around Glacier flares for a moment, Terry loses his gravitational grip on the bear, & Glacier falls to the sand. Leaping towards his prey he swipes - but the enraged Nova fails to leap high enough to reach the T2Mer.

"Die!"

As Terry reaches his hand & power, once again, towards Glacier, PathFinder stands & faces him across the sand. Suddenly a familiar wave of thoughts crashes across his brain in a deafening mental shout,

*Terry!*

... Forcing out the instructions from Psyche & allowing Terry to regain control of his actions...

Below where Psyche is hovering Eel undulates to one side (out of Glacier's way...) then casts her webbed hands out towards the T2Mer - sending crackling arcs of lightning out in a continuous flow of energy. Psyche, however, simply turns to again look down at the Terat - ignoring the electrical power dancing across & around her,

'Time for another lesson, worm.' Psyche spits the words out with venom as purple energy flashes across her eyes. Eel's intense attack suddenly ceases as her eyes roll up, her tongue flops out, drool joins the slime coating her scales, & she goes limp - just dropping back down to the sand to flounder limply like some landed fish. Psyche snorts with derision & turns back to face her other opponents...

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Doctor Chen nods,

'First we have to perform some cranial surgury on each of you, then...'

Nathan - having just helped himself to a drink and taken a big sip - suddenly gives an involuntary demonstration of the versatility of superhuman strength, sending a quantum-powered spray of coke into the air in front of him.

::blink

"Say what!?!?!"

'What the good Doctor means. ' interupts Masters, 'is that we've developed a nifty little thingamabob which can be used for secure communication & helps to scramble the ability of people like PathFinder to read you like open books. There is a minor operation, but it's pretty essential. Don't worry, I've got one - & I turned out okay!' ::sly

Wiping his mouth and giving the rest of the room an apologetic and slightly embarassed look - which in Blaze's case means his face takes on a faint, argent glow.

"Sorry about that..." ::blush

"But, er... an anti-telepath implant? And that's safe?" ::huh

Nate looks around at the geniuses in the room, hoping for a reassuring comment from Derek or - not likely - Dr Chen, and then his eyes move on to Emma, curious about her reaction to this as well.

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The Desert:

As he struggles to get back to Psyche the blue-white aura around Glacier flares for a moment, Terry loses his gravitational grip on the bear, & Glacier falls to the sand. Leaping towards his prey he swipes - but the enraged Nova fails to leap high enough to reach the T2Mer.

As Terry reaches his hand & power, once again, towards Glacier, PathFinder stands & faces him across the sand. Suddenly a familiar wave of thoughts crashes across his brain in a deafening mental shout,

*Terry!*

... Forcing out the instructions from Psyche & allowing Terry to regain control of his actions...

::blink

As Terry realises what Psyche nearly made him do he lets a roar of utter rage

"RRrraaaaaugggh!" ::mad

Raising his flexed arms, himself slowly lifting in the air, darkness spreads from his hands...still screaming he thrusts his hands towards the T2Mer...

(we need more evil looking emoticons...;))

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Glacier's voice raises in a howl of rage to join, then quickly overwhelm Terry's as his frustration at being unable to get Psyche clashes with his berserk anger, like a knife being whetted inside his skull. As the roar dies down, he leaps for her again.

Roar, then another leap.

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Ian casually strolls down the street and glances back the way he came. Things could have gone better with his brother, but at least now there was some clarification on the situation and a way to find them. The one drawback was, Ian had a feeling his brother wasn't going to just let him do this one alone. Slipping his mask over his head in the shadows of the alley, Link emerged near where he was told the meet was going down.

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'First we have to perform some cranial surgury on each of you, then...'

'What the good Doctor means. ' interupts Masters, 'is that we've developed a nifty little thingamabob which can be used for secure communication & helps to scramble the ability of people like PathFinder to read you like open books. There is a minor operation, but it's pretty essential. Don't worry, I've got one - & I turned out okay!'

Mike's facial expression seems to mirror Nate's more obivous reaction of surprise. Taking a few moments to let everything register, Mike turns to Masters, "Uhm, no offense Mr. Masters, but I'm not a huge fan of people messing around with my head. Besides, I'm fairly certain that I can keep people like Pathfinder out of my head well enough on my own."

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