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The Shadow wrote:<snip>
[Forgive me one unrealistic bit - there aren't enough misspellings and grammar mistakes. There's only so far I'm willing to torture the English language for verisimilitude. ]
[Depending on inspiration level, I might do more of these.]
Northlander wrote:Seems I am more willing to torture English than you are *evil laugh* ... though I feel dirty now. Yet, I have to admit I like the story so far, even if "the Photon" seems to be the classic unbeatable superman that can do anything as far as powers go. Not normally my type of character because they tend to overshadow everyone else. Hmm, I wonder what is his kryptonite... *whistles innocently*
=He is way too good for his own good, too. Boy is gonna get smacked hard if he continues with his "I'm too good to kill" attitude. Heck, even in the escape scene with the flunkie I'd have shot off more than the hand. Mmmhmm. *smirk*
Oh and from the perspective of someone who doesn't have english as their native language... hum, well, probably too much work for you but I'd appreciate if you could color code spoken lines. I have sometimes hard time following who talks even if you do use quotation marks.
Still. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to next installment.
The Somnambulist wrote:I finished reading these Shadow Force threads of yours yesterday evening and I was so excited about them that I tried to log in and shower you with compliments, eventually finding out I never registered. :lol:
I am lurking in this forum from a year (or so) looking for interesting things like yours, and till now my lazyness and plain hostility against remembering foreign languages always kept me at bay.
Well, keep posting man, you and SP are doing a really good work and I will sure check weekly your threads. You will always have a reader.
By the way... I'm right if I consider the first prophecy of Forestrike, the one about wispering to a knife, fullfilled by the episode in wich Photon and Siren fight Enigma? (wispering -sound -siren)
The Shadow wrote:[This was two short RP-heavy sessions further detailing the aftermath of _Dragon's Egg_. Lots of fallout from that adventure!]
Jon made the call. "Liz? It's Jon." "Jon, good to hear from you! Been keeping track of the news, you seem to be doing well." "Thanks." "...Something wrong?" "Yeah. Scott came out. Sort of." Warily, "...What exactly do you mean by 'sort of'?"
"Well, something came out. A ton-and-a-half something made of nanites that said it wasn't Scott any more, and soon it would rule the world." After a moment's pause, "Please, PLEASE tell me you're joking." "I suppose I am exaggerating a little. Actually it just wanted to remake humanity from scratch using nanites." "...Hoo, boy. At least tell me it didn't use the phrase, 'in my own image'." "No." "That's something. There's only so many villainous stereotypes I think I could take." "Yeah. Anyway, whatever it is, it's on the way to Stronghold."
"So, I guess Bill and I should be ready for the media to descend." "Oh yeah. It's going to be a firestorm. The more so because they're already gaga over my adding someone to the team." "Haven't heard about that down here yet! When did this happen?" "Last night. I'd just got done taking her on a trial run when she had to help me with Technoid." "Wow, talk about baptism by fire! What's her shtick?" "Plant powers. She's calling herself Demeter." "Hmm. You're going to need someone for melee. Preferably a brick."
"Yes, well, I'm taking whatever I can get at this point. Anyway, I'm thinking that Scott's family needs to know about him before they hear it on the news. Do you know anything about them?" "Good point, but no, I don't recall him ever talking about his family. He should have an emergency protocol sheet, though. Mike made us all fill one out." "Right, I remember. Where are they kept?" "In the safe in the vault. They'll be in a big manila envelope. You have the combination, right?" "Yes... Does the power need to be on to open it?"
Sharply, "Jon, what did you do?" Jon retorted, a little defensively, "He was a cyberkinetic. He locked the base down hard, I had to kill the power." "Kill it dead?!" "The backup generator's back online, if that's what you're asking." "Oh, whew. I thought you'd killed off the 'bots as well." "Give me a little credit. I knew the fight'd be over before they fixed it."
"...Let's just be glad that you got me instead of Bill. Not that he's much of a one for answering the phone anyway." "Why, are you saying I could have done it better?" She sighed. "No, actually. I'm saying that he would have found a way to say you could have done it better." She sounded a little disgusted with her fiance. "Huh?" "Because he'd be worried and upset and you'd be available to take it out on." "Oh... Anyway, the vault?"
"Backup power should be more than sufficient to open it. How're Alpha and Beta?" "Technoid hacked them; Beta seems to be OK. If anything, he seems more 'human' than usual." "He's always responded well to crisis situations. And Alpha?" "I'm working on rebooting him in diagnostic mode, just in case." Brimstone sighed. "I'm not saying anything against you, Jon, you did a great job. But I wish Mike were here." "Me too, but why especially now?" "He had greater rapport with Alpha than any of us, even Scott. I never did figure out why, they just hit it off."
[In point of fact, Alpha bewildered Mike by asking him for dating advice. (!) He had quite the cyber-romance going on with this cute Japanese AI in a top-secret corporate lab. The Phantom ended up knowing more about the AI social scene than probably any other meat-person on the planet! Given that Mike had pretty much zero dating experience, this was a little odd, but he was a very understanding and insightful guy, plus he lived in the base. And in the other direction, I think it was a relief for Mike to have a friend whose mind he *couldn't* read, even by accident.]
"Yeah, I know. He and I have been getting closer since, well." "Yeah. Anyway, you'll need full power to get Beta charged up." "I know, but I'm not sure we're going to have power even once it's repaired." "...Huh?" "This Carlton guy came by this morning, saying they're closing the base down post-haste. He was a real jerk about it, too."
"That does NOT sound like the Malcolm Carlton I know." "Agreed, I'm not sure what's going on yet. He was a Vice President of Research, named Hamilton. I had the suspicion he was after Alpha." "Hamilton... Middle-aged guy, about your size, black hair, potbelly?" "That's him." "Yeah, we've tangled with him before. He's after Alpha, all right, and he'll use any pretext. 'Dangerous, high-voltage electronic devices' is a favorite. Mike shut him down hard a number of times. The last time, Erebus savaged him - only verbally! - and he seemed to give up."
"I see. He's taking a stronger line now, going on about 'Carlton property'. I guess he sees an opening and thinks I'm too weak to stop him." "Probably, yes." "Well, he's mistaken. I've already been pondering several games of hardball I could play if I have to." "Oh?" Jon grinned smugly. "Alpha took a job with Carlton. I'll bet the ACLU would leap at the chance to file a workmen's comp claim for him." "Oooo! I like the way you think!" "Yeah, it'd be a thing of beauty. It'd go all the way to the Supreme Court, I bet - not that a corporate tool would want to chance a case like that in the first place."
"He'll be after Beta too, just so you know." Jon snorted. "Fat chance. The newspapers call him the 'veteran hero' of Seattle. If Alpha's case would be radioactive, his would be thermonuclear. Especially with the media circus we're about to experience." "Right, but be ready for trouble all the same. How far along is Alpha with his moving plans?" "I'm not sure." "Beta will know. When are you going in to talk to Carlton?" "Hopefully, first thing Monday morning." "Good. Nobody in Carlton will be able to get a team out there on a Sunday. I'll keep my cell phone on, in case you need backup from other 'veterans'." "No offense, Liz, but if at all possible I'd like to handle this myself. People need to stop seeing me as the rookie." "I know, Jon, and really, you ARE doing great. But if you need it for Alpha's sake, we're there."
"Thanks. I'd better be going. Hopefully I'll have a day of grace to get things squared away before the media storm breaks." "Bye, Jon. Good luck! And be sure to let me know what happens." "I will."
Jon hung up with a sigh. "Beta? How far along is Alpha with the moving plans?" Beta recited, "All nonessential equipment has been moved to the new location, and it has been secured." "Ah, good. So the only thing that remains is to move your charging station and Alpha himself?" "Confirmed." "What's the address?" "My brother instructed me to place it in an envelope in the safe, in case of emergency."
"Great, I was going to head down there anyway. Oh, and Beta? Next time you call me on my personal cell phone, please don't call me 'Photon'. Call me 'Jon'." "Acknowledged." "In fact, you shouldn't refer to yourself as 'Beta' in that context, either. Call yourself... 'Sidney'." "Query: Why 'Sidney' in particular?" "It's a Super term. 'Sid' stands for 'secret ID'." "...Acknowledged." [And as will come up shortly, 'Sal' is the feminine equivalent, when needed. It stands for "Secret Alternate Life".]
Jon went down the stairs to the vault. The absence of Mike's still, sleeping form smote him; Carlton had moved Mike's body to a private hospital the previous week. Opening the safe, he first opened Alpha's envelope, read the address therein, and committed it to memory. Replacing it, he then drew out the large manila envelope full of the emergency forms. Opening it, he found a number of smaller envelopes labelled by name. 'Michael', 'James', 'William', 'Elizabeth', 'Al' (interesting, that), 'Jonathan' ... 'Scott'. It had evidently been replaced last. Drawing it out with some trepidation, Jon opened it.
Instead of the standard protocol form of instructions Mike had created, Scott had left a legal document: His last will and testament. Reading through it slowly, Jon had a sinking sensation. There were no bequests to any family members whatever. Rather, there were gifts to several charities: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, the Betty Ford Foundation... "Ouch," Jon said to himself softly. It didn't seem to speak of a happy, functional family life. The smallest amount given was a million dollars; Scott was no Bill Gates, but he had definitely done well for himself.
There was also a bequest to Shadow-Force itself, and a fund for scholarships for disadvantaged youth in the sciences and engineering. Finally, there was a large amount set aside for a purpose that took Jon's breath away: A research grant to study the relationship between the esper metagene and mental instability. The really shocking thing was that the grant was contingent upon Dr. Sebastian Poe being invited to participate in the research - the original founder of P.S.I.!
At least the contact info for his lawyer was present. Jon went upstairs and called, then told the answering service that yes, it was an emergency. After being told he'd get a call back in about an hour, he hung up and returned to poring over Alpha's manual.
Finally feeling some assurance about what to do, he set about sending the already slowly-rebooting AI the commands to shift to level-3 diagnostic mode. Thankfully, the transaction went off without a hitch... But alas, the book said it'd take 48 hours to run through the whole thing. Stroking the console, Jon murmured, "I wish you could be here with me through this mess, friend. But it's more important for you to get better."
Shortly after, the lawyer called, a Josh Peters. "Hello," Jon told him wearily, "This is Photon at the Shadow-Force base... I'm calling about Scott Campbell's last will and testament." "...Oh. It sounds like his experiment did not succeed, then." "...What do you know about it?" "Nothing, only that it was dangerous and he wasn't sure he would survive. I assume that, well, he is now deceased?"
"That's... not totally clear. I'm not sure if he would be legally be considered dead or alive at this point." "...I beg your pardon?" "The thing that came out of the experiment weighed a ton and a half, was made out of nanites, and claimed not to be Scott Campbell any longer. It should be in Stronghold by now." "Oh my. That does sound difficult to untangle. I'll have to research it."
"Do you know how to contact his family? They need to know before this is splashed all over the news." "I'm afraid that Mr. Campbell had no immediate family." "Surely he had a next-of-kin." "I'm it." Jon took a moment to process that, then said, "I'm sorry." "I'm Scott's second cousin. Everyone in his branch of the family died young, generally through reckless or self-destructive behavior. He was worried that they had inherited a damaged version of the metagene."
Jon sighed. "That explains a lot." "Yes. Even before his ... accident... a few months ago, he had been growing increasingly distant." "I know." "It weighed heavily on his mind; it's why he never had children." "I... wish we'd known." "Believe me, Mr. Photon, when I say that my cousin was not an easy man to help. God knows I tried. Please do not blame yourself."
"I'm not. I just... wish it had been different." "As do I." "Please keep me informed of your research." "Actually, I will be recusing myself due to conflict of interest; one of my partners will do the work. I will let you know what conclusions we reach." "Thank you."
Not long after that, FAQ arrived. Jon went to the front to let him in. "What's the lockdown all about?" the young hero wanted to know. "Political issues with Carlton. How're you feeling?" "Better, they say I'm good to go." "Good. So what brings you by? You said you wanted to stop by before heading home."
"Yeah. I just wanted to thank you again now that I'm coherent." Jon smiled. "You're welcome, once again. But honestly, FAQ, you'd have done the same for me, right?" "Yeah, but I didn't." "True, but if you hadn't been here, my city might be a real mess." The young man looked around at some of the debris from the battle. "Hate to see what you'd call a 'real' mess." "Upwards of half my city turned into a radioactive wasteland?" "Yeah."
Jon paused, studying him. "Is there something else on your mind?" FAQ sighed. "Yeah, I'm a lot less enthusiastic about nanites than I used to be..." When the joke fell flat, he looked away and asked quietly, "But seriously... What's up with Technoid?" "The RR Team took it away. I imagine it's at Stronghold by now." "No, I mean... Why did he do that to himself?"
Jon sighed. "I'm not totally sure, though I have some guesses. How well did you know him?" FAQ swallowed. "Um, not that well, I guess. But... He was kind of my inspiration for doing all this." "Oh," Jon said, suddenly understanding. He reached out and gripped FAQ's shoulder. "Listen, man. Technoid was pretty messed up. He got melded with his devices a few months ago, and hadn't been the same since."
"I heard about that. But is that all of it? I mean, he was really smart. What did he see in becoming that... thing?" "Listen, FAQ," Jon said firmly, "Scott's choices are not yours. You are free to choose your own path." FAQ took a deep breath, let it out. "Yeah. ... You said you had some guesses?"
Jon hesitated, then said truthfully, "I learned just this morning that he was afraid his metagene was causing mental instability." The young hero's eyes flew wide. "Oh my God!" "No, relax. He was afraid his family's version was damaged. They... apparently all did crazy things." "Oh." Silence.
Jon waited, then asked, "Are you OK?" "...Yeah. Thanks, Photon." Jon released him. "You're welcome." After an awkward silence, Jon changed the subject. "So what did Technoid do to you while I was cutting the power?" "Oh. He was apparently ready for another wrench - I dunno whether he had me or Siren or someone else in mind. He shorted my suit out completely." [Wrench: Super term for a gadgeteer.] "Harsh." "Yeah, I'm going to make some mods to keep it from happening again. It wasn't much fun being completely useless."
"You weren't..." "Yeah, I know. I'd better keep it down, or Moke'll get on my case. You never want to run down your abilities when he's around." "He does have a way of... making his point heard, doesn't he?" FAQ said seriously, "He can make the corny seem believable. I honestly don't know how he does it." "While he's talking, anyway." "Yeah, but often for a lot longer, too. I've often found that his advice comes back to me when I need it." "Well, he's a seasoned, experienced hero. You learn a lot when you've been around the block as much as Moke has - you have to." "Yeah."
FAQ finally said, "Well, I guess I'd better be going." Jon had a sudden thought. "Could you do me a favor before you go?" "Sure. What is it?" "Like I said, we're having political issues with Carlton at the moment. I suspect the power's been turned off, and I need it to recharge Beta. Could you rig up an ultracapacitor or something that would let me power the base by shooting lightning at it every so often?"
"Easy. Show me your power system." Jon led him to the junction box he'd melted the previous night. "Wow, you really did a number on it." "I was kind of pressed for time." "Yeah." The gadgeteer hooked up leads to several conduits. "Yep, you're right, the power's off. It'll take some work to wire around the damage, but I'll see what I can do." "The repair 'bots will be getting to this area soon, I'm sure." "I'll take that into account."
As the teen hero worked, his intense expression reminded Jon of something from the night before. "You know..." "Yeah?" "This isn't an easy subject to broach, but I think it's worth mentioning. Did you realize you were pretty rude to the scientists last night?" FAQ looked up from his wiring. "What do you mean?" Jon quoted, "'Who're these bozos?' 'Amateur brigade.' Not exactly terms to endear you to them." "Oh, that. Well, I figured they were just specks, you know?" [Speck: Super term for a 'spectator' to a super battle.] "They were doing their part. And even if they weren't, it's worthwhile to leave a good impression." FAQ shrugged, a little uncomfortably. "I just could see they didn't have any idea what they were doing. They were barely even started on understanding that thing, and they were going about it all wrong."
"Yeah. They're not as smart as you. The vast majority of people aren't. If you get annoyed and rude every time people are dumber than you are, you're going to be annoyed all the time and alienate a lot of people. And aren't all those stupid people the ones we're doing all this to protect?" FAQ sighed. "Yeah." "Just think about it." "...OK." Jon changed the subject and made small talk as FAQ worked.
After half an hour or so of tinkering, FAQ had a whole array of cables leading to the various conduits, all connected by complicated-looking adapters to a large metal plate emerging from a circuit-encrusted base. "OK, it's not pretty, but it should work. Give it a try." Jon shot a lightning bolt at the plate, which sparked and coruscated; indicator lights flashed on its base, one of the adapters sparked, and the room's lights came fully on. FAQ made a few adjustments, then announced, "We're good." "How often will I need to hit it with a max-strength bolt to keep it at full power?" "Dunno, depends on what your 'max strength' is. Hit it again and I'll take some readings."
Jon did so, and after closing his eyes and calculating briefly, FAQ announced, "About every half hour. Or every hour and fifteen minutes if you turn off everything nonessential." "OK, that'll be enough to charge Beta, anyway. Thanks a lot, FAQ!" "Don't mention it. It'd take a lot more than this to be worth my life."
Jon smiled and offered his hand. "Tell you what. Pay it back to the stupid people. Though if you want to save my life sometime, be my guest!" FAQ laughed and shook on it. "Okay, you're on. See you around, Photon."
"Likewise. ... By the way, Siren mentioned you guys were going to get people up here on a rotating basis? How's that coming?" FAQ sighed. "Yeah, well, we hit a snag." "Oh?" "Well... I probably shouldn't tell you this, so keep it quiet. But we're hitting a lot of red tape, transportation-wise." "The teleportals?" "Uh huh. You would not believe the number of permits, caveats, and rules the state of Washington wants for us to use it in their territory. And now the feds are getting involved too!"
Now it was Jon's turn to sigh. "Oh, great, let me guess - interstate commerce." "You got it." "Surely there's some sort of provision for emergencies." "Oh, sure. That's how I got up here last night. But Moke's probably got writer's cramp by now filling out all the forms certifying it as an emergency, and I'm sure he'll have a ream ready for me when I get back too." The young hero rolled his eyes. "I'll probably have to sign in blood that I didn't bring any insects or fruit with me, and who knows what else!"
Jon laughed. "Sounds like fun." "Oh yeah. You'll see soon enough. I heard you're applying for second-level registration... depending on your powers, all sorts of federal agencies will want to shove their oars in. In your case, I'll bet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is gonna want their pound of flesh, along with who knows how many others." Jon sighed, covering his eyes. "The joys of bureaucracy. At least tell me the IAEA won't get involved." "Probably not, but I wouldn't count on it."
"Gee, thanks for brightening my day." FAQ grinned and said in an exaggerated 'heroic' tone, "My work here is done!" Jon laughed and punched him in the arm. "Not yet. You still have all those fun forms to fill out. Get to it, wrench-boy." "Aie! Truly, you are avenged, sir!" After a little more light-hearted banter, FAQ finally took his leave, whistling to himself.
By then it was getting close to noon. Jon wandered over to the door, and sure enough, Demeter rang the bell at 12 sharp. He unsealed the door to let her in; she looked quizzically at all the preparations when he sealed it back down. "What's that all about?" "We're having issues with Carlton. One of their higher-ups is after Alpha, and so they're trying to shut the base down early. They told me to keep it sealed, and I'm cooperating. For now."
"That... doesn't seem to make sense." "Oh, it does. You knew Shadow-Force was funded by Carlton Industries, right?" She nodded, and he continued, "Well, Mr. Carlton himself is a great guy. But there are other people in the company who... aren't so much. One of them wants to get his hands on Alpha, and he thinks he can do that by kicking us out."
"What's he want him for?" "I'm not totally sure, but I can tell you he doesn't see Alpha as a person, just a machine. I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to take him apart and figure out how he works." Demeter frowned. "And we're not going to let him." "Darn straight we're not!" "What's the plan?"
"Well, the first thing you need to know is that we're in for a major media feeding frenzy." "About me, Technoid, or something else?" "All of the above. Technoid's the biggest thing, but they were already doing cartwheels over you last night; Alpha told me about it before the fight went down." "Oh, great. And the something else?" "The explosion. Depending on circumstances, we may need to keep that very quiet, or we may need to shout it from the rooftops. Anyway, I'm going to arrange a press conference for Monday afternoon or evening. How much experience do you have with the press?"
"Just the papparazzi last night." Jon sighed. "Great. OK, imagine dozens of him all at once." She shuddered. "Lovely." "Yeah. Don't worry, I'll do most of the talking, but you'll probably need to make a statement. Be thinking about it." "Yeah, I think I can see how it works. Are we in a relationship? No comment." "Actually, it'd probably be better to say our relationship is purely professional. 'No comment' almost makes it sound like we have something to hide." "Got it. But you said it to the guy last night?" "Sure, I was trying to get rid of him. There wouldn't be much point in trying to get rid of reporters at a press conference."
Demeter nodded, taking it all in. Jon suddenly realized with a queasy sensation that to her, he was the veteran; she was listening to him the way he'd listened to the Phantom. I'm not the clueless newbie any more, he thought. Or at any rate, I'm the least clueless newbie. And that... is kind of scary.
He cleared his throat and said, "Anyway, just so you know ahead of time, it may be that I'll need to make Carlton Industries look bad in the conference. I really, really don't want to have to do that, but if they force my hand, I will." "Okay... how will you tip me off, so I know not to praise the wrong people and so on?" "I'll be meeting with them hopefully Monday morning. I'll know going in what our stance is going to be, and I'll tell you." "Okay, good."
Jon announced, "OK, next item on the agenda. We formulate a patrol plan." He gathered some maps and spread them out on a table. Then he pointed to the map with Tex's compass on it, and added, "Oh, and don't bump that map over there." Demeter agreed, clearly bemused by the request. She seemed to just be taking things as they came at this point.
Jon uncapped a marker and wrote the days of the week at the top of a whiteboard, then asked, "OK, so what days and times do you need to see Sidney?"
[This bit was rather confusing, as they'd clearly learned different shades of meaning for that particular Super slang term. To Photon, 'Sid' or 'Sidney' just means secret-ID stuff. You use 'Sal' or 'Sally' only when necessary to be clear or avoid embarrassing phrases. But to Demeter, apparently you use the same-sex term for your life in general, and the opposite-sex term for your love interest. I thought at the time that maybe SP and I weren't on the same page about it at the player level, but he says no, he thought it was a realistic sort of mix-up to happen.]
"Er, I don't have a Sidney right now. I have to meet Sally from 8 to noon each weekday." Photon paused in confusion, and they were at cross-purposes for a time until finally working what the other meant. [To him it sounded like she'd just said she didn't have a secret ID, and needed 8 to noon each weekday to see her lesbian lover. Or at any rate someone whom it was necessary to specifically call out as female.] That impasse gotten over, they were finally able to work out a three-person patrol schedule. The businesslike camaraderie of it seemed to set Demeter noticeably at ease.
About halfway through the planning session, Photon suddenly announced, "Hold on, I need to go shoot some lightning." Demeter took that in her stride and didn't even ask why.
Jon finally said, "OK, I think we're set. But there's something you need to know. At times, you're going to be patrolling with Beta." "Yeah?" "He's, well, not very bright. He's pretty good with combat, but all the same, you're the one who's going to have to supply the tactical coordination." "...Oh. Well, can we do a joint patrol on Saturday so I get a feel for working with him without being on my own?" "Sure, that's a good idea. Don't worry, it's not so bad. You just have to patient with him. He's... a bit slow." Demeter laughed. Jon asked, "What?" "Sorry. I just worked as a candystriper once, and it sounds a lot like working in the mental ward." "Not a bad analogy. We supers can be a crazy lot."
Jon immediately regretted saying it, thinking of Scott. They both winced. Demeter finally cleared her throat and mused, "...I suppose the basics aren't too hard. Get the big robot between you and the dangerous stuff." Jon nodded seriously. "Absolutely. He's a lot less squishy than you are. Also, he's totally immune to almost all mental stuff." "Oh! That sounds very handy!" "It is, believe me."
"What's the deal with him and Alpha, anyway?" Demeter asked. "They think of themselves as 'brothers'." "...That's pretty weird." "Not really. They were made by the same guy; I suspect that Beta may originally have been intended as Alpha's telepresence unit." "Oh, so if they get broken, he can fix them?" "No... He was murdered shortly after they were created. They don't talk about their 'father' much - I don't know why."
"Is that everything, Photon?" "Almost. You'll need to fill this out." He handed her a blank emergency protocol form and an envelope. "Seal it up, and I'll put it in a safe place. I promise I won't look at it unless you're... not able to speak for yourself." Demeter accepted it solemnly; clearly it was coming home to her that 'this is real'.
"And finally. Having slept on the whole prophecy thing, I have a question for you and then something to say." She looked a little uneasy, but said, "Okay... shoot." Jon paused, then said, "Thinking it over, I can see why you might want to punch Forestrike. But I'm not clear on why you would want to thank him."
Demeter sighed. "Well... It's moot now, I guess. But I was afraid that our powers meshed poorly enough that I wouldn't even get an audition." "...How does that translate into thanking him?" She shrugged. "Negative attention is still attention. I thought at the time that maybe you felt a greater need to check me out because of the prophecy." "Oh, I see." "So what did you want to tell me?"
Jon said, "So far as I can see, there's really only three possibilities for the prophecy." Demeter nodded warily, but said nothing, so Jon continued. "One. Despite all appearances, we're both wrong about you being 'Nephrite'. In which case, the prophecy doesn't apply to you at all, so: Welcome to the team."
"Two. You are in fact 'Nephrite', but we're misinterpreting what 'worthless' and 'faithless' mean." She interjected, "Well, while I've never been very religious, I don't think I'm what you could call 'faithless'." "Right, but of course there's the other meaning of, well, 'treacherous'." She nodded uncomfortably, and added, "I do feel my powers were pretty 'worthless' last night." "Let's come back to that later, okay? I have some ideas on that topic." "Okay..." "Anyway, to continue, in this second case, where we've misinterpreted things, or Forestrike was just being spitefully obscure, there's no reason to fear, so: Welcome to the team."
"Three. You are 'Nephrite', and the words 'worthless' and 'faithless' should be taken at face value." Demeter braced herself, looking very defensive, as Jon continued. "In that case, I say this. You've already averted part of the prophecy using your free will, by not taking the name 'Jade'. And I am choosing to trust you to avert the rest of it using your free will as well. So: Welcome to the team."
Demeter smiled beautifully at him, relieved. Jon told her seriously, "I can't go through life constantly looking over my shoulder. So I won't." He paused and they both let that sink in, then he said, "And believe me, your powers weren't 'worthless'. We just need to figure out how to get all the use out of them we can."
"But..." "Demeter. You knocked Technoid off-balance long enough for me to get another shot at him. That's not even remotely 'worthless'. There's no way we can know for sure, of course, but that extra shot might have spelled the difference between victory and defeat." She nodded slowly, thinking that over. Jon added, "And it's not uncommon for a particular power suite to be useless against a certain kind of foe, you know. It happens all the time. I mean, look at the Phantom."
Demeter looked puzzled. "What about him?" "Big, nationally-known, universally-respected hero, right?" "Yeah?" "He was totally helpless against robots." She blinked, and he continued, "Oh, he could lift the smaller ones with his telekinesis. But big, heavy ones? They couldn't hurt him, at least not without some pretty fancy technology, but he couldn't hurt them either. There was just nothing he could do to them." "So what did he do?" Jon shrugged. "Either he relied on his teammates, or else he found clever ways to leverage his powers. Or, most often, both. And that's what we're going to do with yours." "How?"
"I've been thinking about that. The trouble is, indoors where there's no plants, you have to rely on your pollen. If an enemy happens to be immune to your pollen, you're out of luck... unless we can bring plants into the picture. Supposing you carried a bag of, say, kudzu seeds. Could you make them grow fast enough to snare people?"
Demeter's eyes widened and she thought it over. "Hmmm. Yes... I would need a little time to get them started, but yes." "How long?" "You'd have to cover for me for a few seconds, but then I could snare probably several people at once." "See? That's doable. And definitely worthwhile. My only concern is, how well will they do as snares considering they can't get rooted?" "Oh believe me, they'll get rooted - you've seen how strong the trees are. It'll do damage to the floor, of course."
"Well, that's fine, then. There's lots of powers that do more property damage than that! ... I don't know if kudzu is the right plant to use, of course, I just said that off the top of my head." "I can think of any number of promising varietals. Thanks, Photon." "No problem! The more we can work out how to use our powers together, the more effective a team we'll be." They smiled at each other.
Just then the 'doorbell' rang. "Huh," Jon said, and went and checked the door monitor.
He saw a man with shoulder-length brown hair who, apart from wearing a blank full-face mask of dark, rigid material, appeared to have stepped out of a Ren Faire. He wore a blousy white shirt and leather leggings, with a rust-red cloak over all. A sturdy leather baldric bearing a bright silver buckle crossed his chest, supporting a sword with a basket hilt.
Thoroughly puzzled, Jon told Demeter, "Be ready, just in case." He unsealed the door and opened it.
"Greetings," the man said with a sweeping bow. "I wish to join you."
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