Constraints: Follows 'Investigation'.


Synopsis: A reunion between three Legionnaires and an X-Ray.


Crystal Clear.


Content: Unknown.


Legal: Legion Of Superheroes = Warner Brothers, Daria = MTV, Legion Of Lawndale Heroes = Roentgen and Brother Grimace.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"What were the rest of the Legion doing here?" asked the Admiral.


"Same thing we were sir," replied Tiffany.


"And you didn't tell them anything?"


"No sir. We acquired the same intel they did, when Daria observed us in field and made psychic contact, we co-ordinated and achieved our objectives," said Tiffany.


"How did Daria detect you?" asked the Admiral.


"I was infiltrating the Hezbollah facility with the explosives when I saw the door open and close behind me, when I pointed a gun at the person's location, she de-cloaked and revealed herself to be Brittany, Brittany was in psychic contact with Daria and Daria made contact with me, we quickly agreed that the Legion would help the rest of my team divert Hezbollah attention from us while Brittany and myself place our charges, I placed my charges where Brittany had no access, later BDA indicated all our charges were effective. It also explains why the rest of those superpower jammers went down after we only got three of them."


"Do they know you are a SEAL?"


"No sir."


"Are you certain?"


"While it's inescapable that I am working as a special forces operative, they have no means to work out which organisation I am working for, and I have added no new information they can use to narrow the range. Sir, I could be a mercenary for all they know."


Eventually the admiral said "Okay, fair enough. I have another assignment for you. You are uniquely placed to be able to execute this one. We need you to ascertain and verify the location of the soul crystal that contains Lou Cypher."


"Sir? Any reason to believe is has moved?" asked Tiffany.


"Any reason to believe it hasn't?" asked the admiral.


"No sir. One thing to bear in mind is that Jane and Sandi have kept it's location secret in order to reduce the number of people able to betray it's location as far as possible. They're unlikely to tell me where they put it."


"Any personal objections to carrying out this mission?"


"No sir," replied Tiffany.


'Screw yeah! They're my friends,' she thought.


"We have yet to reach a decision as to weather or not to move it, but we are certain that we don't want our enemies to find it, so any information pertaining to our decision and any action we decide to take will be highly compartmentalised, is that understood?" asked the admiral.


"Yes sir."


"Okay, you have your orders, David Allen will co-ordinate with you psychically, you need any extra kit you can not obtain from within Legion tower or you did not anticipate going in, tell him, and he will get it to you, any questions?"


"No sir."




"Sir," said Tiffany as she stood to attention and left the admiral's office.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany waited as the Gridrunner landed at the airstrip, the lower halves of the ramjet cones forward to reduce if not avoid the intake of FOD from poorly maintained airstrips. She was back in her Legion clothes, her navy whites were back at base, her bag had three sets of civilian attire and 12 changes of underwear.


The Gridrunner slowed to taxiing speed and the starboard forward door opened while the aircraft was still in motion, the aircraft turned right to bring it to the side of the runway in preparation for it's about turn.


Not waiting for the aircraft to stop, Tiffany boarded, ascending the stairs as the aircraft turned left. Jane hit the button to close the door and then hit the intercom and said "Passenger aboard."


"Okay," replied Charles, "strap in, taking off as soon as I'm lined up."


Jane and Tiffany strapped into the few seats that remained in place.


Glancing back before she sat down, Tiffany asked "new L1s?" There were two L1s along with their folded wings and fins on special palettes. The reason they transported fighters in this manner was to delay observation of the aircraft's modifications at least until they were required on an operation and because the fighters weren't as fast as the Gridrunner, so this was faster and less stressful on the pilots. The palettes were designed that they could be towed in the Gridrunner's slipstream on telescoping arms (any flex in the members securing the palettes to the Gridrunner would oscillate) and thus launched and recovered in flight. Gridrunner had to drop to mach 2 or less to do this, but that meant one aircraft suddenly became three.


This displaced other payloads, including people, they often ended up fitting wherever they could as the L1s were extended out the back on their palettes or retracted back into the cargospace.


"Same ones, new skin, they now have holographic LED clusters," said Jane as the engines spooled to mil thrust, and they then felt the kick as the afterburners rasped into life. They could have just done a vertical landing and take off, but dynamic was preferred where available because it saves fuel as all the thrust goes into building forward inertia.


"Right," said Tiffany. "Told Daria I'm inbound?"


"Nope, you can tell her, preferably with a prank," said Jane.


"Gotcha," said Tiffany, "so who's prez and veep?"


"Brittany's president, Stacy's vice president."


"Daria ever have a go?"


"No," laughed Jane.


"Always the critic, never the example?" asked Tiffany.


"Performance anxiety, by the ton," said Jane, "She lets me into her mind occasionally, if she were in charge, she'd have to be on top of everything. She seems to like the role of snagger too much to give that up. She has also evolved some of our best plans on operations, she and Brittany have ended up working together to generate a plan or have ended up ending opposing teams in war games."


"She still an asshole?" asked Tiffany.


"Mmmmm .... She's improving."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Are you nuts? There's no way to know what Tiffany's organisation is into."


"She helped us demolish that terrorist mutant factory," said Brittany, "what does that tell you?"


"That she could just as easily be working for Mossad, or a rival terrorist group that doesn't want Hezbollah to have the best toys, or some crime syndicate that would be next on Hezbollah's kill list when they were no longer needed to smuggle ordnance and personal-"


"She's also a Legionnaire, Daria, do you think she would be into anything that conflicts with that?" asked Brittany.


"It's Tiffany, Brittany, just because she's gotten better doesn't mean she's smart enough to be non-malleable to the first cult that recruits her."


"Iiiiiissssss thaaaaaaat aaaaaaa faaaaaaaact?"


" ... Right, that's just super, that's ... Hi Tiffany," said Daria.


Tiffany was right behind Daria. She said "If you make real nice, I'm sure David Koresh will forgive your sins and allow you into heaven."


Daria borrowed Tiffany's powers and sunk through the floor.


"YOU JOINING US JANE?" asked Brittany.


Jane entered, doubled over with laughter, "Aww, that was just classic, Where's Daria?"


Tiffany got on her hands and knees and poked her head through the floor, before standing up and saying "Downstairs, punching the walls."


Jane laughed real loud at this.


"She'll get over this," said Tiffany.


"Welcome back," said Brittany, "gonna be staying long?"


"If that's okay with you," said Tiffany.


"Of course, you're still a Legionnaire."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"How's the fist?" asked Tiffany as she caught up with Daria.


"I suppose everyone hates me again," replied Daria.


"No, it's just you being stuck up again, everyone's probably already over it, or bracing for weeks of you taking cheap shots at me for my entire visit," said Tiffany.


"Now you're making me out to be some kind of brat," said Daria.


"You are. Sorry, but you have a problem in directing your frustration when even the slightest thing causes you embarrassment and you put all your effort into fighting everyone else to make them sound even worse," said Tiffany.






Eventually Daria said "Now who's being snooty?"


"Fair enough, but tell me you at least get what I'm saying here?"


"I do. ... Okay. Sorry I kept doing that. ... Hi Tiffany, how've you been?"


"Good, good, you?"


"Usual, I make good plans but few friends and even those barely put up with me, you've changed since you left."


"I have?"


"Yeah, you're more confident, you got this whole Jane Bond thing going," said Daria.


"Yeah, I get a new boyfriend every mission, whole stable's worth of Blum-Deckler boys ... Probably shouldn't have told you that. ... Can you forget you heard that? Don't think I want to kill you, I kind of like you."


"Could try displacing it. What can you tell me?"


"Wellll ... ... I'm going to be around for about three weeks. ... ... About a year ago I completed the Navy demolitions course, I'd like to compete with Quinn on a blast-off, compare our methods."


"I'll talk to Brittany and Quinn, see if we can set it up," said Daria.


"Oh I already ... " said Tiffany.


"Probably best it not come from me anyway I guess," said Daria.


"You do have influence, Daria, and any time you do take control of a battle it usually goes just fine, and that's because at that point you're focused on winning the fight. ... How's your flight training? You certified on fast jets yet?"


"Yes," replied Daria.


"There a two seater L1?" asked Tiffany.




"Bet you can't make me barf," said Tiffany.


"How much?" asked Daria.


"Four giant stuffed crust full range meat pizzas," said Tiffany.


"Suit up and meet me downstairs in ten minutes," said Daria as she ran off.


Tiffany walked to the supply room to pick up a flight suit, opening a sachet of ginger powder and swallowing it's contents. "Probably going to need to procure some pot to get through all that. ... Hmm."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Daria? What are you doing?" asked Jane as she walked in on Daria removing some leads from the back seat of an L1b trainer.


"Removing the leads from the VDUs, I have four pizzas riding on a wave of puke from Tiffany," said Daria.


"What?" asked Jane.


Just then Mack entered saying "There's a massive storm cell one hundred and fifty klicks east of here, will that do you?"


"You're helping her?" asked Jane.


"Apparently, Daria, what am I helping you with? And why are you removing the VDU leads from the back seat instruments of that fighter?"


"Tiffany bet me four pizzas that I can't make her puke, let's see now, sensory deprivation, wind shear, vortices, microbursts ... "


"Great ... ... You'd better clean that plane when you're done, Stacy in a temper is ... well ... Stacy in a temper."


Mack and Jane eventually walked off, passing Tiffany as she entered, dressed in some basic flight gear. "Ready?" she asked.


Daria pocketed the last of the leads and said "Flight 666 to 'why the hell did I agree to this' is now boarding,"


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany wondered how she would be feeling about now if she hadn't consumed the ginger powder.


She still felt nauseous, every time the aircraft changed direction her brain tried desperately to connect it with something she was seeing, but there was no fixed reference to see, just grey, slightly darker grey, slightly lighter grey, and the occasional buzz as they flew through a load of hailstones.


They hadn't emerged from the clouds since they had entered, although the size of the clouds they had entered prevented that from being a surprise, this was a proper storm cell, occasionally they entered a vortex and it was obvious it was a vortex because they were spinning but the hail stones appeared static relative to their field of view.


"COME ON, PUKE DAMN IT!" shouted Daria, interrupting the white noise that otherwise sounded through the comm system.


The noise was interrupted again ... ... several seconds later by the flight computer telling them "Bingo, bingo."


Daria's groan interrupted the white noise again, and they levelled out.


Several minutes later, Tiffany saw sky and the ground again. She felt the nausea abate as her brain unified her equilibrium with her visual input again.


"I'll share the pizza with you," said Tiffany.


As they continued home, Daria said "You know, then Major Armalin, the day when we were introduced to him, told me that if you don't get motion sickness when turned all over the place, there's something wrong with you."


"You don't have to be mad to work here, but it is advantageous," replied Tiffany.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany returned to her room with what was left of her two pizzas.


It was well awkward, she had learned tons from Daria but she couldn't share anything after her entry into SEAL training. All she could say about her current situation was "Oh, this and that, odd job here and there." And "I recently investigated Lex in connection with a conspiracy to sell Gene sequencing tech and metahuman DNA programs to Hezbollah."


The look on Daria's face when she 'revealed' her involvement in operations that Daria had met her on and therefore obviously knew about was just eeeeeeeeeeeeeeviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllllll ... ... ... l.


Tiffany was now full from her first pizza and left the second one on the desk. Time to go to work.


She knew from experience what kind of interaction she had with the soul crystal, she was unable to phase through it, and apparently she was immune to any effect it would have on anyone else. All she had to do was find it and report it's exact location to her commanders.


Jane and Sandi were the only ones that already knew where it was, no one else knew it's location and anyone who hadn't had any dealings with it weren't to be told, this information was already highly compartmentalised. She expected her commanders would reloc- ... ...


What exactly were they going to do with it?


Tiffany could imagine some means by which it could be disposed of and how the routes could evade surveillance or investigation, and there were plenty of subduction zones to drop it into, the crystal could basically be rendered inaccessible for the next few thousand to billion years, depending on weather or not it would end up being carried back to the surface by a volcanic eruption.


She shrugged and stepped into the walls.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Sandi was awoken by the alarms and she got up, grabbing three PFTs and triplicating as she left her room. The centre Sandi checked a PDA as the other two watched up and down the corridor.


Daria, Jane, Tom, Mack, Stacy, Charles and Brittany emerged from their rooms, Daria, Charles and Brittany carrying their own PFTs.


"Right, basement five, MOVE!" said Centre Sandi as the other two formed on her and the others split, Mack and Stacy followed Sandis, Daria Jane, Tom, Charles and Brittany went for the stairwell on the opposite side of the building to the stairwell Sandis group went for.


'Stacy, Daria, holding on stairs, basement five.'


'Received,' thought Stacy.


Sandi's group arrived at their forward attack position. 'Daria, Stacy, holding on stairs, basement five.'


'Okay all Legionnaires, I have control, stand by, stand by, go.'


They emerged from the stairwells on both ends of the corridors and they quickly realised that the contact was Tiffany.


Sheepishly, Tiffany said "Sorry about that, had to walk, walked through the wrong wall."


"If you're having trouble sleeping, I could stick you in a coma for the night," said Daria.


"No you won't," said Brittany, "Everyone to bed, Tiffany, please use the doors from now on."


"Boss," acknowledged Tiffany.


Everyone dispersed and returned to their rooms. Daria looked at Tiffany, but then resumed her course back to her room.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Are you serious?" asked Jane as she and Daria conversed the following morning.


Daria pointed at her own face.


Jane winced and said "Daria ... you ALWAYS ... ... wear your serious face."


Daria sighed and said "What was she doing walking through walls on that level?"


"I don't know, what am I doing flying through the woods every now and then?"


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"So what did I set off?" asked Tiffany.


"Oh, well we have these lasers in vacuum pipes in a grid around the secure area, if someone can become intangible but not invisible, they'll block or otherwise disrupt the laser," said Stacy.


"Yeah? What else have you got?" asked Tiffany.


"We have a grid of linear Geiger counters, so if anyone uses X or gamma rays to see through, that'll be detected, Radar won't make it through the structure because we have a Faraday cage in place around everything, windows are thinner obviously," said Stacy.


"Cool," said Tiffany, "what if someone tries to teleport in?"


"Depends on the effects of their powers, floor has a tactile grid to sense what's in the room, any change will set off alarms, sound will also set off alarms if it's source can not be accounted for, there's three layers of acoustic insulation, two in the walls, one on the walls, whole thing's on springs with dense sheets to absorb any sound energy travelling up the springs, it's complicated, but the whole thing's designed to isolate the interior space from sensors and to make it easier to detect activity going on within the room," said Stacy.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"We need to be a bit more careful with Tiffany, what's she likely to be after?" asked Daria.


"I dunno, this is your thing," said Jane.


"This isn't a damn quiz, Jane, find out. ... What if it's the soul crystal?" asked Daria.


This got Jane's attention.


"Talk to Sandi, review your security on it, if Tiffany's been tasked with stealing it or locating it-"






"YE- ... ... ... Damn it, no it doesn't, but what about you?" asked Jane.


"What about me in what context?" asked Daria.


"You never really got used to the idea that members of the Fashion Club can achieve intellectual feats."


After a short strangled groan, Daria said "Jane, not again, I'm trying to alert you to a potential problem, and every time I do that, I always seem to get 'you're just jealous' or 'just because someone's happy' or 'you need to get laid' or whatever else. I think a little paranoia about now would improve our survival prospects considerably."


"Well, you are jealous, happiness of those around you drives you nuts, and frankly, yes, your disposition towards life in general would improve if you would only go out, get drunk, and score as much penis as you can attract," said Jane.


"Uh-huh. ... ... tell me you're at least going to consider that Tiffany might be here to re-appropriate the soul crystal?"


Jane looked thoughtful for a while.


At this point Stacy and Tiffany entered.


"Morning. I was just explaining to Tiffany about our security," said Stacy.


"Good idea Stacy. Don't forget to give her your pass codes, E-mail pass words, your PIN codes, your mail," replied Daria.


"Daria? What's wr-" started Stacy.


"Ask Jane," said Daria, "Tiffany, we need to talk, come on."


Tiffany followed Daria as she stormed out.


Stacy eventually asked "Jane?" and pointed after Daria.


"Daria thinks Tiffany's here to steal the soul crystal, remember the thing that made Brittany try to kill us?" asked Jane.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Tiffany," Daria eventually said, stopping suddenly, "what are you doing here? Really?"


"I'm on my holiday," said Tiffany looking perturbed, "what's gotten into you?"


"I don't believe you Tiffany. I think you're operational at this point and you're after something. Without knowing who you're working for, I can't entirely trust your bosses motivation, who do you work for?" asked Daria.


"I can't tell you that Daria," said Tiffany.


"Why not?"


"I can't say."


"What are your objectives?" asked Daria.


"To have fun and relax," said Tiffany.


"Right," said Daria. Having had enough of this, she tried entering Tiffany's mind to get the answers.


After a few seconds, she felt someone grab her.


Daria saw Tom standing in front of her. She looked around.


"Where's Tiffany?" asked Daria.


"Preparing for the blasting competition with Quinn," said Tom, "sorry, did I disturb you? You seemed to be in a trance or something."


"How did she do that?" asked Daria.


"What? How did who do what?" asked Tom.


"Forget it," said Daria as she walked off.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"And that's Tiffany done, only ten seconds slower than Quinn," said Charles.


Two identically constructed buildings, four stories, weird ass structural design (using Tom's strength and heat vision and Jane's magnetism and mischief) specifically to make imploding the building as difficult as possible, and part of the competition was to get the charges placed, tampered and fused as quickly as possible and anything that could be projected by the charges wrapped as quickly as possible.


If this were for real, of course, they'd take their time and be absolutely certain of everything, in fact, they'd test their explosives on a part before finally rigging their charges.


The next part was where they set everything off and collapse the building into as smaller heap as possible containing it as tightly as possible.


"Both contestants, I have control, arm your hell boxes."


Quinn and Tiffany checked their lever switches were all in the off position and placed their keys in the keyholes in their control boxes and turned them.


"Standby ... Standby ... FIRE!"


They both fired.


There was a flash where the det-chord took over from the electrical component of the fuse snaking into the buildings, around the inside of the buildings, and then three distinct bursts of explosions sounded as the buildings both folded in on themselves.


"We're now going to check the height of the piles and the perimeters to determine containment of the rubble within the footprint," said Charles.


They eventually determined "Quinn, the winner." Everyone who wasn't Daria cheered.


Jane and Stacy gave Daria an annoyed look, but Daria wouldn't have cheered even if she supported whoever won. It just wasn't how she reacted to anything.


"It was close though, Tiffany, you certainly gave Quinn a run for her money," said Charles.


Jane and Stacy approached Daria as everyone dispersed.


"You don't see a reason to be cautious, do you?" asked Daria.


"Daria, can't you see past your own fears?" asked Jane.


"Ho-kay, well, I got some studying to do for my hypersonic VTOL theory-" started Daria.


"Listen to me!" said Jane.


"Listen to me," replied Daria.


"No, you listen to me," said Jane.


"No, you listen to me," said Daria, mirroring Jane's heightened emotion.






They both stopped.


"I got better things to do than flood my system with cortisol trying to get you to stop trying to give my personality a makeover long enough to consider the security risk I'm trying to bring to your attention, there's a million and twelve different ways I can say this, but I know from experience you'll dismiss all of them because YOU think getting me to exude cheer is of greater urgency. We'll pick this up when the soul crystal goes missing and we have to figure out who's got it and how we're going to get it back," said Daria as she left.


Jane and Stacy looked at each other.


"I'm sure this'll stop when Tiffany leaves," said Jane.


"I'd like this to stop now and for Daria and Tiffany to get past whatever's wrong between them," said Stacy, "Tiffany's still my friend, and I would actually like everyone to get on with each other, I just wish Daria would stop being so ... ... well ... ... that," said Stacy.


"That's Daria, when Tiffany leaves, Daria will realise what she did, and will try to make it right. It's not as quick as you or I would like, it's just the way it has to happen with her," said Jane.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany entered her room and started to think of a new way to try to locate the soul crystal.


That vault was real big, if she were to get inside, it would take up to an hour for her to locate it, and that would be done by running through all the boxes until something stopped her.


But she couldn't get in without setting off the alarms. Her job was to locate it, not to steal it, but she could be tasked with stealing it at a later time.


If she could check everywhere else it could be without setting off any alarms and didn't find it anywhere else, then it was in the vault.


Probably in the vault.


Damn it, there's got to be some ...


"Bai. ... ... ... Bai Zheng? You still around?"


Tiffany waited for a response.


"Okayyyyy, how do I contact him? ... ... ... ... ... How do I normally contact him?"


Tiffany tried to remember.


"I was starving the first time and then ... ... Aww hell! ... ... ... Well, only easy day was yesterday," Tiffany said as she got up and walked through her door.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Stacy entered the gymnasium, curious about the sound she was hearing. "Tiffany?"


"Hey Stacy," said Tiffany as she continued to run on the inclined treadmill.


Tiffany was seriously sweating and fatigued.


"Midnight training?" asked Stacy.


"Yeah, you?"


"I find things to chase, rats, squirrels, whatever else. ... Something to do with my mutations, I guess."


"Found anything so far?" asked Tiffany.


"Only just woke up," said Stacy.




Stacy eventually asked "Daria still giving you a hard time?"


"She thinks I'm after the soul crystal for some reason," said Tiffany.


"Wish I could say something that would make it better," said Stacy.


"It's okay, just Daria being Daria, and I can see where she might think that too, so really, I'm not bothered. Wish she weren't hostile towards me, but what you gonna do?"


"Kick her ass?" suggested Stacy.


"Tem- ... not even tempting, no ... It'll be fine, really," said Tiffany.


"Okay, well, don't overdo it, goodnight," said Stacy as she headed off.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany new it was time to quit when she stumbled from exhaustion and didn't reach out for the handrails until she was having her face buffed by the treadmill conveyer belt.


She lifted herself to her knees and pushed herself to her feet. After regaining her equilibrium, she walked around the treadmill and turned it off. Barely able to stand, she walked out of the gym and asked "You here Bai?"


"Yes ... Have to say, you're one interesting girl."


"Thanks. I guess you know what I'm after."


"The soul crystal of Lou Cypher. Tiffany, I'm a little dubious about this, how come Armalin ain't involved?" asked Bai.


"Don't know," said Tiffany.


"Don't you think you should have asked?" asked Bai.


"Part and parcel of life in the navy, have to trust the higher-ups unless they present sufficient evidence that the orders they're giving are illegal that you have to refuse. That crystal does have national security implications, so being ordered to locate it for said higher-ups doesn't strike me as being the least bit strange. We have a few weeks in which to complete the mission, if you could check the vault and find out if it's there, and where in the vault it is, I can take that time to decide what to do with that information, but barring any signs of problems with the higher-ups, I'm going to have to pass it on as ordered."


"Okay, I'll find that crystal if it's there, but I also want to see what I can find out about your commanding officer and where his orders came from," said Bai.


"Thank you," said Tiffany.


"Now get some sleep, you look terrible."


"I'd like to know before I fall asleep actually," said Tiffany as she dragged herself back to her room.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Bai had found the crystal in the vault. It was near the back, on the left side, it was in a lead case, packed amongst 30kg of cobalt 60 ingots. Remove the lead case, pick the lock, you get a lethal dose of radiation, you'd walk five centimetres with the soul crystal and then fall over dead.


Bai had then headed off to the pentagon to try and work out where Tiffany's orders had come from.


It was difficult to see anything in a locked drawer, Bai had to feel for things, and like Tiffany, he couldn't quite phase through the soul crystal, so he would have to follow the next man up from Tiffany's CO, listen to all his conversations, hopefully he'd either confirm or deny that the admiral's orders did indeed come from a legitimate source.


So, all that left for her to do was kick back and catch up on everyone, have some fun.






'Farrington from Blum-Deckler, you there?'


'Blum-Deckler, Farrington, go ahead.'


'I've located the crystal, but before I reveal it's location, I would like to know our chain of command has not been infiltrated.'


'Excuse me? Are you suggesting our superiors have been compromised?' Thought Farrington, his tone of voice conveying a note of hatred.


'It's possible, I can think of at least one person who would be motivated to find a way in and exploit it to obtain the crystal, I signed up to serve the United States, not her enemies, I don't know how you might be able to do this, but I want to know we're not being duped.'


There was some silence.


Eventually Farrington thought 'You're not doing this just because you've been asked to spy on your Legion friends, are you?'


'No, I kept putting off doubts because I thought that might be it, then I talked to my ghost, he asked why Armalin wasn't involved in this, there may be a perfectly good reason for this, but that's led to the main question of where our orders came from?'


'Okay, I'll check it out for you, but if nothing's wrong, I expect you to carry out your orders.'


'Received Farrington, out.'


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"He has no idea such an operation is in progress," replied the vice admiral.


"He ordered me in, so he knows I'm supposed to know, so if you're also supposed to know, but if it sounds like Tiffany and myself were on a bogus mission, then Tiffany will conceal the location of the crystal, or tell her friends to relocate it. I would like some assurance I'm not going to land in the faeces for doing the right thing, but if I can't confirm the origin of our orders, then-"


"Relax, tell Blum-Deckler to take no action pending further orders, I'll talk face to face with your admiral, find out what's going on ... damn DELPHI, always got to make things difficult, you're dismissed," said the Admiral as he stood up and went for his coat.


"Aye sir," said Farrington as he snapped to attention and left.


Eventually the Admiral was outside talking to his personal assistant, and Fran left the phone, growing to the size of a cat to get to the door in good time before shrinking back down to aphid size to get under it.


She couldn't become visible until she was well clear, but she didn't want to run the whole way out at aphid size, so she ran for the Admiral's shoe, growing to mouse size until she was close enough grab his laces and then shrink to aphid size again as the vice admiral finished talking to his assistant and walked out to his car.


As soon as the admiral was at his car, Fran leapt off his shoe and grew to mouse size to get clear before the vice admiral moved off.


She looked around and grew to normal size, making her way to a nearby phone booth.


She then dialled a number and as soon as her current boss answered, she said "we're about to be compromised, Farrington showed up, three star told him to tell Tiffany to take no action until he has a face to face with their lone-star, but Tiffany now knows where the crystal is. What do you want to do?"


"Infil Legion Headquarters, hack their IT and comms, I need Tiffany and as few others as possible on a plane over flying the middle of Washington State, and I need the escape system to "Accidentally" function over the middle of the forest, I'll take it from there."


"Okay, on it boss," said Fran as she hung up and ran for the nearest taxi ramp.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


The grenade Gatlin gun was a fun weapon to use.


6 40mm barrels rotated at 200RPM, producing 1200 rounds per minute, 1200 grenades per minute.


Daria pushed the trigger.


The 20Hz buzz hurt her ears.


But that was okay. It had her permission to do that.


"Don't you think you'll need your ears when you're operational?"


Daria looked at Tiffany as she stood next to her, wearing ear defenders and carrying her own grenade machinegun.


"They'll recover. Single barrel?"


"Twenty grenades a second, you'd be more mobile simply working in concert with a firebase or arranging for air support prior to infil. You don't get much in exchange for that weight penalty."


"Depends on weather you're offensive or defensive I guess," said Daria, "defensive, this'll delete entire companies way faster than a 6.54mm gatlin," said Daria.


"So will a smart mine package, and it'll be good against armour," said Tiffany.


"Enemy will just blow it up," said Daria.


"Your Gatlin grenade gun is even more visible," said Tiffany.


Daria eventually shrugged and said "These things are fun."


"Fair enough," said Tiffany as she set up her weapon on the firing line.


"Daria, Tiffany, need your help," said Jane as she entered the semi-enclosed structure covering the safe area of the range.


"What's up?" asked Daria, noting the straight intonation of Jane's voice.


"Da Feet," said Jane.


"Ughhhh," said Daria.


"What's ... " started Tiffany.


"Da Feet, power to extend his feet into prehensile limbs, look, SWAT want to fill the bank vault with an anaesthetic, if we don't get there within twenty minutes, that's what they'll do, it's a HSBC in Everett, Washington state," said Jane.


"Okay, let's do it, Charles flying us?" asked Daria.


"No, he's off base, family time, don't think we want to interrupt that for this dork," said Jane.


"Right, I'll fire up a gridrunner Jane, you mind returning our weapons?"


"No problem," said Jane, as she magnetically lifted the weapons and their ammo boxes and ran off to the armoury as Daria and Tiffany ran for the hanger.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Okay, so you'll phase Jane through the bank vault, do what you have to to take control, I'll co-opt Da Feet if possible, or as many of the hostages as possible to divert his attention and support your attack," said Daria, "Like it?"


"Love it," said Jane.


"Where we going to park this thing?" asked Tiffany.


"Bank's on the corner of Rucker and 34th, police have cleared a car park on the corner of Wetmore and 32nd, approach from the north over the drive through, a police helo will be hovering directly over the car park," said Jane.


"Then we leg it, about a minute forty," said Daria, as she checked the map.


"Okay, starting our descent, we'll be entering Oregon in two minutes," said Daria as she reduced the throttles to idle and allowed the nose to dip slowly to minus ten degrees.


"Oregon? Our destination's in Washington," said Tiffany.


"I'm going to be bleeding off all this energy, I'll need to take us through a couple of high alpha turns, then I'll be lining up for my landing," said Daria.


"Okay," said Tiffany.


Eventually Daria said "Speed mach four, forty angels altitude, turning north," said Daria as she rolled right ninety degrees, and pulled back hard, subjecting them to about 8G.


"Does this centripetal force make me look fat?" asked Tiffany.


"It's making me feel fat," said Jane.


Daria eventually started to reduce the AOA as their inertia caught up with their attitude.


"Mach two point five, thirty angels," said Daria as she levelled the aircraft.


Suddenly there was a loud pop and the flight deck was subjected to 15G, it's attitude pointed outwards as it spun like a sycamore leaf on it's velocity vector.


"Daria?" asked Jane.


"Not me, our escape system's been initiated, brace yourselves for the next phase and try and stay close," said Daria.


It was about seven seconds before the system decided they were now slow enough for the upper half to come off, bolts were fired out of their slots in the lower half of the flight deck, allowing the upper half and the attached airframe to come off, and half a second after this, the seats fired.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Fran hung on to Tiffany as she and her attached seat fell.


The comms devices that had shrunk with her would not be effective over the distance required, so some point she was going to have to separate from Tiffany and open her own parachute.


At her current scale, however, she did have a much lower terminal velocity, so she would be slower than Tiffany would be with her parachute open.


The seat finally separated and Tiffany's parachute opened.


Fran let go of Tiffany and floated away, waiting about twenty seconds before she returned to normal size and opened her parachute.


She kept as straight as possible, trying to get over Tiffany, hoping she would remain out of everyone's field of view. Daria was on point, Jane and Tiffany formed in delta behind her, Daria was looking around for somewhere to land, she headed towards a trail, but there were no roads in view.


The longer Fran remained at normal size, the longer she would be broadcasting her location to her current bosses people.


Fran decided she needed to land out of sight of Daria, Jane and Tiffany, so she started rolling left and right to dump kinetic energy, eying a clearing near where Daria seemed to be aiming for.


She didn't seem to be slowing fast enough so she started going into some high alpha turns, and then levelled out again.




She lost sight of Daria, Tiffany and Jane as she dropped below the tree line, and aimed to land as close to the end of the clearing as possible without risking having to fish her parachute out of the trees, or worse: flying into one.


As if she could use being even more ugly.


Her feet hit the floor and she ran, pulling up on her parachute to enhance drag until she could come to a complete stop.


She moved to fold up her parachute and stuff it back into it's bag. She might need it later, but she would have to lay it out, fold it and pack it properly before she could use it again, or it would most likely tangle and defeat the purpose of her carrying it in the first place.


This done, she started running through the woods, hoping to catch sight of Tiffany again.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Nearest road's the five thirty Arlington Darrington road, point eight klicks north west or about one point five along this trail," said Daria.


"If we go along the trail, we'll be more visible," said Jane.


"Not sure we want to be visible," said Daria.


"Eh?" asked Jane.


"There was no warning light indicating heat building around the det chord, we check the sensors every time we check the rest of the cockpit, it weren't atmosphere getting in, because that will have set off both the gas filled sensors and the thermal couple sensors, and if anything was going to happen from a leak, it would have done so a hell of a lot sooner, we'd have been ejected over Ohio or Indiana," said Daria.


"What about the det chord itself, we ever change that out?" asked Jane.


"No need, we use RDX70 Vinyl, we do visual inspections of the chord, but changing it out would actually increase the risk of a fault developing," said Daria, "I think we were sabotaged."


"For what purpose?" asked Jane.


"To capture us, from what you're saying, they wanted us dead, they'd have gone for the controls and the engines and all sorts of other places," said Tiffany.


"Or to crash the Gridrunner into something and make us look like assholes," said Daria, "except unless we tell it otherwise, the residual avionics that don't come with us will locate an empty spot to set down in, we would need to select the aircraft as a weapon to make it ram something."


"That could also have been sabotaged," said Jane.


Daria sighed. "Let's get out of sight and find that road."


They moved towards the trees.


Eventually Jane said "I just tried to fly, I can't."


That got Daria and Tiffany's attention.


Tiffany tried to push a hand through a nearby tree. She couldn't. "Damn it."


"Ditto," said Daria, "guess that confirms it."


"How do we communicate without anyone hearing us?" asked Jane.


Tiffany signalled for them to form on her side and to advance, and walked off.


Daria and Jane did as Tiffany had signalled.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Fran was no longer able to change size, so that meant the superpower jammers were in effect.


But now she was having trouble following the three of them.


It had been fine in the clearing, but now in the woods, it was impossible to keep sight of them.


She eventually saw a clearing, but she couldn't see them in it.


She'd lost them.


It was too big for her to cross it and try to keep up with them, she just wasn't that fit.


Fran had failed.


She took a moment to throw up.


And then she selected her comm pack and turned it on.


"Brown Recluse from Wallfly ... ... I've lost them. ... ... over."


She felt tears flow down her cheeks as she waited for a response.


"Wallfly from Brown Recluse, where did you lose them, over?"


She checked her GPS co-ordinates and said "I'm at four eight point two six zero nine zero nine north, one two one point six four five six six eight west, I last saw them headed zero four five degrees, I'd say they're at least two hundred metres ahead of me, there's no way I'm going to be able to catch up to them, over." She wiped the tears from her face as she waited for a response.


"It's okay, I think we can get them, hold your position, and we'll pick you up when we're done, over," said her current co-worker.


"Thank you, out," replied Fran, suddenly relieved. She hadn't screwed up.


Well ... She had, she had screwed up a bit, but it looked like the mission had not failed, the objectives were still open for success.


She relaxed, leaning against a tree, grinning like an idiot.


Until she felt a hand clamp over her mouth, the tip of a knife against the side of her throat, and two more pairs of hands on her own, pulling her arms back around the tree until they were united and bound by a cable tie.


The knife tip left her and reappeared on the other side of her neck as the three Legionnaires came into view, Tiffany holding the knife and her mouth, Daria and Jane looking at her webbing.


After a few seconds, Tiffany removed her hand from Fran's mouth, keeping the knife in place.


"Who are you?" asked Tiffany.


"My name's Fran - Fran Lawrence. Please don't kill me," said Fran, feeling panic sort of slowly set in. Her earlier fright was probably the reason she wasn't thrashing as hard against her restraints ash she felt she should be.


"Please answer our questions so I don't have to kill you then," said Tiffany, "who's Brown Recluse, Wallfly, and what do they want with us?"


"Brown Recluse is the leader of some mercenaries my boss hired to help with capturing you, and it's you, Tiffany, you know where the soul crystal is."


Jane looked shocked, Daria glared at Tiffany, and Tiffany, aware of the looks she was getting without looking back at them, said "okay, who's your boss?"


It was at this point that Daria noticed a puff of grey smoke, barely visible, on the opposite tree line, and she barely perceived the object coming at them before it blew open in front of them, coating the entire area around the four women in a heavy aerosol. "Oh, damnit," Tiffany growled; to the surprise of the other women, she stood up and held her arms so they hung limp, yet away from her body. "You've got about twenty seconds to get up and stand exactly the way I am," she continued. "Keep your mouths open - trust me, it's worse if you don't!"

"We know," Daria said, her face falling. Seconds later, the four women were unable to move as the confinement mist released into the air coalesced and they felt their bodies being covered in a clear, adhesive fluid with the consistency of syrup.

Feeling an enforced calm due to the sedatives within the mist's formula, the women barely perceived the arrival of four men and two women dressed in forest digicam under leaf net capes, tooled to the gills as they went about capturing the Legionnaires and freeing Fran.


"Ugh, man, you're the spy? No wonder you're having problems," commented the man freeing Fran.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Major General Armalin waited patiently as the second Gridrunner landed 200 metres from him. He'd been pulled from his post at the USAES temporarily for this.


The cops had been aghast when Armalin directed Charles to land on the impromptu airstrip, but really, there was no mystery after the ejection, the now lobotomised airplane had found somewhere to set down pending recovery. Gridrunners had three settings for their residual autopilots, first was to land at the first safe place it encounters, second was to land at a specific location, such as an airbase or the LZ, they run out of defensive or decoy ammo, the flight crew eject, and hopefully the enemy will assume they've done enough long enough for the fuselage to get away, and the third setting was programmed by the weapons management computer, you select kamikaze, point the reticule at whatever you want the airplane to fly into, and eject, turning the aircraft into a kinetic energy and incendiary (depending on how much fuel remains) weapon.


The flight path after the ejection wasn't that strange.


The thing that was strange was WHY THE HELL HAD DARIA EJECTED IN THE FIRST PLACE? Armalin had been drawn into this because he knew the Legion, and because brain dead airplanes flying around represented a potential threat to national security.


The engines on the second Gridrunner shut down and Charles, Brittany, Stacy, Tom, Quinn and Mack emerged.


"Any of you know what's going on here?" asked Armalin.


"Apparently there was an emergency call from Everatt Police Department regarding a superhuman threat, but when we contacted Everatt PD, they had no idea this call had taken place, seems our computer got hacked, and I mean physically hacked, someone got in and wired their gear directly to our computers, the Sandis are examining everything as we speak, one thing a Sandi mentioned was that there were a number of identical but different sized fingerprints, we think it's a superhuman with shrinking abilities, no apparent record on AFIS, so either first crime or never been caught," said Brittany.


"Motivation?" asked Armalin.


"Get some Legionnaires over here, no idea why, and Da Feet? That's more whoever can be assed territory than scramble all Legionnaires territory, they either wanted one of them specifically, or as many as they thought they could handle which would have been someone intangible, someone psychic, plus anyone with a weapon power such as telemagnetisim, tele-electricity, or, to be honest, anyone with moderate ass kicking abilities," said Brittany.


"Okay, the cops have located all the parts of the flight deck and the ejector seats, a specialist from Questcorp's headed out to help them examine it, the cops really hate you guys right now," said Armalin.


"Think they'll like us when we catch the saboteur?" asked Quinn.


"Good idea, got a plan?" asked Armalin.


"I'm going to try to identify where they might have landed, see if I can locate them, we'll stay in contact through our flight rings, Brittany, you hide everyone else, everyone stays close enough to assist if I shake anyone loose, like it?" asked Stacy.


"Love it," said Brittany.


They all took off.


Armalin pulled a satellite phone and started a call. As soon as someone answered, he said "Legion's in theatre, any activity?"


"No," replied the other guy.


"Superpower jamming fields?" asked Armalin.




That meant whoever had done this was probably long gone.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Daria involuntarily kicked the cage as she awoke.


"You awake then?" asked Jane.


Daria suddenly realised her hands were cuffed behind her in a set of rigid cuffs that no cop would use because they were too heavy. These cuffs were so wide that they held her forearms parallel, any effort to move her elbows apart threatened to break her wrists. She also felt like her head was spinning and like she wanted to puke.


Daria rolled onto her knees and lifted her head up, but she found the ceiling of the cage was 0.7 metres high.


Cage was 1.2m long and 0.6m wide.


Room was 4m by 6m, bare block walls, ceiling was 2.5 metres high.


A number of lengths of chain hung from the ceiling, stopping a metre off the floor, there were eight lengths in two rows of four.


"Yeah ... this someone's idea of getting vengeance on behalf of the battery hens and veal calves I don't really give a damn about?" asked Daria.


"That's possible, as a secondary to finding the SOUL CRYSTAL TIFFANY! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WENT AND DID THAT!" said Jane, turning to Tiffany's cage.


Daria became aware of a wet band on her neck, and realised there was a collar on it. "We all have compliance bands on?" asked Daria. That would explain the sick feeling she was feeling.


"I do, apparently you do, can't tell with Tiffany, she hasn't woken up yet."


"Okay, so who knows we have that thing? Think Black Majesty would use mercs?" asked Daria.


"For what? He could do this himself," said Jane.


"Okay, anyone else?" asked Daria.


"John Dynell?" asked Jane.


"He's got access to his own meta-humans," Said Daria.


"Yeah, Tiffany apparently knows where it is, can we trust her?" asked Jane.


"How should I know? For all I know she could be working for a rival gang who also want to use it for evil," asked Daria.


"She's not," said a barely audible voice.


Then a spec became visible between the three of them, this speck expanded into the full size of the woman, Fran Lawrence, they had encountered earlier, she was sat down.


"She's not what?" asked Daria.


"Not working for any gang. She's in the Navy. Had she not started asking awkward questions, you wouldn't have been brought here, we could have removed the crystal without having to hurt any of you. I'm sorry you have to go through all this. ... Please just co-operate, tell him what he wants to know."


"Tell who?" asked Daria.


"I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you ... I probably shouldn't have told you what Tiffany was doing ... I'm sorry." Fran's voice remained apologetic throughout.


"You know, you keep saying you're sorry, but I'm not really feeling that you are sorry, so you have to ask yourself: ... Are you sorry?" asked Daria.


Fran started to shrink again, but then the door opened, and two mercs and their apparent boss entered.


Fran returned to normal size and stood up.


"Surprised it's me?" asked the man standing before them.


"Well ... ... no ... ... who are you?" asked Daria.


"Come on, you can't not know who I am," said the man. He was about 1.5m tall, white, 5mm long brown hair, not particularly impressive, dressed in what looked like WWE wrestler spandex but built like someone who would last less than 200 microseconds in the ring.


"Well ... Apparently I don't know who you are," said Daria. She closely examined the


"Aw come on, I played five different villains in Walker Texas Ranger, remember Bobby Lewis, got done for double parking? ... Or, or, how about John Irma who was done for urinating in a public space in that alleyway behind the boozer? Then I portrayed a shoplifter In that episode where this kid was abducted from the mall," he said, apparently proud of his roles.


Daria shook her head saying "I'm sorry, I can barely remember some of the main characters of shows I do like, how am I supposed to remember a five time sub plot actor who's only been in five episodes of a really long running series?"


"They did it on purpose, after I spent all that time getting their food and mixing up materials for casting their props, and when they finally give me a chance, I'm so good, they get jealous and keep me from advancing."


The barely restrained smirk on the mercenaries faces told Daria and Jane everything they needed to know about this guy.


"Well ... pretend we don't know you and introduce yourself will you?" asked Daria.


"I'm Wyatt Goldberg, and I got my powers about three years ago. I'm a mystic, and I want your soul crystal."


"Sorry, don't know where that is," said Daria


"Well then, who does?" asked Wyatt.


Daria remained silent.


"Okay, we'll do this the hard way," he said as he leaned down.


He opened the cage and grabbed Daria's collar by a hand grip she didn't notice was dangling from it.


He pulled her out and to her feet.


"Nice bracelet there," Daria said, having noticed when he was reaching in that he had a compliance band on. "Who put that on you?"


Wyatt scowled.


"Come on, you're a bad guy, you're supposed to rant and rave over this stuff," said Jane.


"If you must know, I put it on, apparently Xavier's taken an interest in me, he keeps sending three of his minions after me, one can teleport, one that can drain health and can mimic people's abilities, and a third one that shuts down all mutant abilities and electrical systems, had to get this thing to hide from them," said Wyatt.


"Oh yeah, Rogue, Dorian and Nightcrawler, good people them, and you have to wear a Mk. 40, that's actually quite funny," said Daria.


"Actually, it's a Mk. 50. I have to use four because you can only wear one of these for nine hours before it's irreparably screwed."


"Okay, well, that makes it sort of less funny," said Daria.


"Yeah, originally it's just rogue and Nightcrawler, but when I co-opted Rogue, he had to find Dorian. Now rogue stays well clear of me and goes after my minions instead while Nightcrawler keeps Dorian right next to me, hence my current entourage. Of course that means we're going to have to do things the old fashioned way, and instead of getting my answer in seconds without causing physical injury, I'll have to take hours taking you apart until you or someone here tells me where the soul crystal is, so I can send someone to go and get it."


After a few seconds of no one responding, he dragged Daria over to a chain that was dangling from the ceiling.


He then threaded the chain through a ring apparently in the back of the collar and pulled it through until the collar pulled up against Daria's trachea, forcing Daria to stand on her toes.


She then heard a click behind her head and Wyatt stepped in front of her, the tension in the chain remaining.


After watching her for a few seconds, Wyatt turned to Fran with the shrinking powers and said "Fran, you did well, I almost have the soul crystal," as he pulled a syringe and a box out of his pocket. He handed her an antiseptic wipe and then pulled an ampoule out of the box. The Ampoule held a light violet coloured liquid.


As Fran wiped a spot on her neck with the wipe, he uncapped the needle on the syringe and broke open the ampoule, he then loaded the syringe out of it and tapped the syringe to de-gas the contends before he expelled the air.


He then injected the liquid into Fran's neck.


It took seconds for the effect to become noticeable on Fran's disfigured face. She looked beautiful now.


He pit the cap back on the needle and removed it from the syringe, placing it and the empty ampoule in her hands saying "would you mind disposing of this?"


"Not at all, thanks," said Fran as she left.


He then put another needle, it's cap in place, on the syringe and put it back in his pocket.


"Sweet girl. Pity about the car crash. She used to work for this William Appleton guy, and he wanted to form an alliance with me, and when I said no, he made the mistake of assuming he was negotiating from a position of strength. ... Silly man ... Inherited her off of him, learned to synthesise the stuff he was giving her. Some point I might be able to make the effects permanent," said Wyatt.


"But not before she outlives her utility value, right?" asked Daria.


"Really Daria, that's not the way to motivate employees. I will make the effects permanent as soon as I have the ability, and I am also paying her for her work. Now, how do I motivate you and your friends to give me the soul crystal?"


"You'd need to prove that we can trust you not to misuse it. ... good luck," said Daria.


Wyatt chuckled as he stepped around Daria.


He whispered something in a mercenary's ear, the mercenary nodded and left the room.


Daria felt her calves burn from the sustained force she was having to project, but she had to stay on her toes to allow blood to flow through her head.


"I know it was too much to hope, but I would like to make this easy on you, so please, tell me where that crystal is. I only want what is mine."


"Yeah? You also consider the world yours?" asked Daria as her calves shuddered, really burning now.


"The world is everyone's, why shouldn't I be included in that?"


The Mercenary returned, carrying a roll of black PVC tape and an electrically fused detonator.


"Ah, thank you," said Wyatt as he took the roll of tape off the mercenary and picked at the end of the tape with his fingernails. Eventually he managed to pick up the end of the tape and he unrolled about 100mm, borrowing the mercenary's knife to cut the tape. he gave back the roll of tape and took the detonator and stepped out of Daria's view.


Daria then felt him grab her left pinkie finger, pressing the back of the detonator against the back of the tip of her finger.


He secured the detonator with the strip of tape, and then turned back to the mercenary, and said "I need another 100mm of tape."


After the mercenary unrolled and cut the desired length of tape.


Daria then felt him secure the other end of the detonator against the knuckle of the finger. The detonator held her finger straight, and she didn't want to bend the detonator because she was kind of attached to her finger and didn't want to lose it.


"Now, why don't I give you half an hour to think about what you want me to do when I get back, do you want me to remove the detonator or set it off? Excuse me," he said as he left. The Mercenaries left with him.


Daria shifted her weight to try to keep her calves from cramping up.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Their scent ends here," said Stacy, "I smell diesel exhaust, but there's no tracks to indicate a wheeled or tracked vehicle, trying hard to imagine someone trying to use a hovercraft here, grass has been blown outwards, I think they used a helicopter."


"Fuelled on diesel?" asked Brittany.


"Get the revs up, you get over the weight penalty easy," said Ruttheimer, "remember those engines that had the variable orifice injectors? Means aircraft can now be equipped with diesel engines."


"What about the fact NORAD didn't see anything?" asked Quinn.


"Stealth ain't as hard as you think, a bit of sense can make anything radar invisible," said Charles.


"I think the helo remained at treetop level, that'll help me follow it," said Stacy as she advanced off west.


"Okay, let's see where it takes us," said Brittany.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Jane? You making any progress?" asked Daria.


"No. You?"


"Err ... ... No."


Daria then looked at Tiffany, still asleep.




Tiffany didn't even move.


"Heavy sleeper, isn't she?" Commented Daria.


"No idea ... She isn't allergic to confinement mist is she?" asked Jane.


"No idea, could just as easily be the compliance band though ... ... HEY, FRAN! ... ... I KNOW YOU'RE IN HERE! ... ... GROW UP AND STOP PLAYING YOUR SPY GAMES WILL YOU?"


The door opened and Fran entered, full size, saying "I was outside actually. He will set that detonator off if you don't co-operate."


"And if we co-operate, he gets his hands on the soul crystal, and him getting that soul crystal equals a very bad thing, do you see my dilemma?" asked Daria.


"He's not a bad guy, he just wants to be powerful," said Fran.


"Our intention is to secure it so no one can use it, we can't release it to anyone, not ever, we lose control of it, the world could end, it gets in to anyone ... you ever watch any Stargate?" asked Daria.


"Yeah, you're saying it's like a goa'uld?" asked Fran.


"Yeah. Specifically, Ba'al," said Daria.


"Right," said the Fran. After a few seconds she said "I don't think my boss wants to lose control of it either, I mean, you don't know him like I do."


"Yeah, he pays you money and beauty serum, whereas he threatens and tortures me and my friends, I can definitely see why he would grow on you," said Daria.


"You know what he can do, why do you resist?" asked Fran.


"Because I know what he can do," said Daria, "it's precisely because he scares me that I can't give him the crystal."


"He'll take your finger off, and I don't think he'll stop there," said Fran, on the verge of crying.


"That case, I'll just have to get out of here or get rescued somehow," said Daria.


"But there's no way your friends will find this place, we're buried under the forest, it won't show up on any satellite scans because the only surface disturbance occurred at the entrance."


"How did he build this thing?" asked Jane.


"He froze  ... ... I shouldn't be telling you any of this," said Fran.


"I won't say anything," asked Daria.


"Yeah, go on, you can trust us," said Jane.


"No, I really can't, I probably shouldn't have told you as much as I did," said Fran.


She then left the room.


Daria sighed inwardly and then asked "How long's Tiffany been asleep now?"


"Bit too long really," said Jane.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"They must have climbed out here, the scent just ends," said Stacy.


"So now what?" asked Brittany.


"Absence of anything else, I'd say we need to look for any signs of unusual activity," said Charles.


"Unusual activity, what, like star trek costumed gridiron matches? How do we determine what unusual activity to look for?" asked Quinn.


"There were a lot of scents, whoever took our people has to be based somewhere, and a large group of people just standing around like spare dicks has to be noticeable somehow," said Stacy.


"We know they used confinement mist, Xavier says no apparent mutant activity he could register, and he'd definitely have noticed someone using telepathy," said Quinn.


"Hydra maybe?" asked Brittany.


"X23 deleted them ages ago," said Charles.


"We don't even know what they were after specifically," said Quinn, "all we know, they just wanted to sell our people to someone."


"What about what Daria said she thought Tiffany was after?" asked Stacy.


"The soul crystal?" asked Quinn.


"Okay, back to what we can establish, these guys are based somewhere close by or they would have drawn our people somewhere else," said Charles, "they also want to house how many people?"


"I detected fifteen," said Stacy, "so that's food, water, shelter, let's get back to the Gridrunner, get on the computer, see what we can find using thermal imaging."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"I have spent most of my time searching for this Wyatt Goldberg individual, but he's remained invisible to me, I think he is wearing a Mk 50 band," said Xavier.


"If he's involved, I hope it's a Mk 40, that would make it funny. Are there any mutants you can sense in Washington State?" asked Armalin over the phone.


"I can only sense Micheal Mackenzie and fourteen other mutants at the moment, the rest are the wrong kind of mutants," said Xavier.


"Aside from you and your Legionnaires, we have fourteen, same as Xavier, but there's no way to determine if any of them are involved in anything," said Agent Lance Alvers, Armalin's SHIELD contact, they were on a party line.


"Okay ... Any of them could surface at any time, meanwhile, Xavier, I'd like to send one of my men over to you so that as soon as you have their location we can get an idea of their situation, would you have a problem with this?" asked Armalin.


"I don't think so, who are you sending?"


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"No massive food purchases have been recorded, how the hell do they hide that?" asked Stacy as she looked through the information they had gathered from every supermarket in Washington State.


"Make a series of small purchases and have the buyer place each purchase in the back of the truck?" suggested Brittany.


"What about power? Any power lines going off to the middle of nowhere?" asked Quinn.


"They could just use generators," said Brittany.


"How much power would then need?" asked Stacy.


"You can get wind up TVs now, so not much," said Charles.


"How about preserving perishable foods?" asked Quinn, "that's got to eat some amount of power."


"Yeah, that would depend on what they decide to eat," said Charles.


"If they want to eat healthy, then they absolutely have to have refrigeration and freezing capability, some foods you just can't can," said Quinn.


"What kind of heat signature would we be talking?" asked Stacy.


"Seven hundred watt per fridge, it'd be a stretch to say they'd be far enough from the nearest town that they'd need to freeze anything," said Charles, "I suppose it depends on how much they're willing to spend on fuel getting the food to their base, let's see, at least fifteen people, combined food per day would be about nineteen point six kilojoules, 3.6kg carbohydrates, 0.815kg Protein, 0.836kg fat, you know what, most the stuff needed can be canned, in fact, if they use vitamin pills, they can skip raw fruit and veg all together, Damn it!"


"What else do they need?" asked Quinn.


"Well, they still need wat- ... ... They'd have to drink two point five litres per person, and that's just sitting around doing nothing, but you have to pasteurise it, you do that by boiling it, so fifteen people makes thirty seven point five litres, you want to boil that to be extra sure, forty two hundred Joule per kilogram kelvin times thirty seven point five times about ninety five Celsius, fifteen megajoules a day, that's one hundred and seventy three watts over the whole day," said Charles.


"Well ... they're going to wait all day for their water?" asked Quinn.


"Good point. Aside from that, it's more efficient to heat it quickly, so it'll be as fast as they can, they could use kettles or hot water urns ... ... You know what? This is getting us nowhere, what are we missing here? Why set up here at all? We got forests, mountains, some volcanoes ... ... You know what, you want to hide a large structure in the middle of nowhere indefinitely, make sure no one can stumble across it, Aww, they have a permanent installation, I can think of a LOT of ways you can build something without the CIA having so much as a clue, you'd need to stabilise the ground, that can be done with grout injection or by injecting cryogenic fluids to freeze it, precast segments will draw attention, but you can build a shotcrete pump yourself, you can make rebar grids yourself if you're okay with doubling up to overcome the use of steel cable not designed for it, but you know what will really narrow this down?"


Charles waited a full thirty seconds waiting for someone to ask "What?"


He then just said "Energy, they want a long term facility that'll remain undetected indefinitely, they need energy, we find out if there's been a spike in the amount of concrete being procured near a volcano, they'll also want pipes, wires, it'll be a major construction project, but it won't have gone through the planning office."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Wyatt entered. At this point, Daria was in a state where she somehow was unconcerned about what he was about to do. She was aware that that could easily change once he blows her finger off. She remembered how her resolve had dissolved within seconds of him entering her mind.


"So, where's my crystal?" he asked.


"I can't tell you," said Daria. She wondered how long it would be before she would tell him who could tell him.


"Is tat your final answer?"




"Oh dear," he said as he put on his goggles and accepted the hellbox off of one of his mercenaries.


"Don't do this," said Jane.


Daria felt tension on the detonator's wire as he removed the tape from the bundle of wire so he could unfold the wire and initiate the detonator from a distance.


After he wired it up, he stepped in front of Daria and said "If you guys could join me over here please? I'm sure you absorb enough shrapnel from live combat."


They did as instructed.


Daria started to turn her back towards them, but Wyatt grabbed the front of her trousers and pulled her forwards, forcing her to face them if she didn't want her throat crushed by the collar.


"Okay, fire in the hole," he said before he pushed the button.


"NO!" shouted Jane.


She felt a stinging sensation in her ears and she felt three finger bones slap her other hand.


She then felt a cold sensation in her left ring finger and she couldn't feel her left pinkie.


He let go of her trousers and said "I'm sure the pain will be along in a minute." He then walked around her and inspected the damage. "Hmm. ... Might lose a bit too much blood if we don't do something." He then unlocked the padlock holding the chain to her collar and lifted her hands.


Daria realised there must be a ring attached to the base of the cuffs as the chain wasn't threaded between her wrists, and the momentary relief to her legs ended as her hands were pulled up as high as they would go. The sudden movement awakening her leg muscles hurt like hell, as did the pressure on her wrists as her bodyweight pulled her elbows apart.


Wyatt looked at her current posture and said "Maybe we should have started with caning her ass. ... Ah well, maybe we'll do that with Jane or Tiffany if it comes to that. We'll be back later, we have hundreds of detonators, so we can do your fingers, your toes, we can slowly carve you up to nothing."


He then walked to Tiffany's cage. There was a load of saliva pooling under her face. He kicked the cage. No response. "She should be awake by now shouldn't she?"


"The dose a person receives from confinement mist can vary depending on body mass, lung capacity, exposed skin area, give her another hour before we start getting worried," said one of the mercenaries.


"Okay." He then went for the door saying "I'll be back, I'll bring another detonator, then I'll be back again to use it if you're still not ready to talk."


Then they were alone again.


A few minutes later, the sensation started to return to the knuckle that no longer had a finger attached. She could also feel the muscles in her arm cramping because the tendons no longer had anything keeping the muscles from simply bunching up. She felt the damage to her ring finger join in where the overpressure had peeled back some of the skin.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Okay, we've seen a large amount of hundred kilo bags of cement, hundred kilo bags of sand, hundred kilo bags of aggregate, seven megapascal block, six mil steel cable, and, well, miles of two point five twin and earth, from stores within Carbonado and Eatonville.


"Same with cast iron pipes, nothing for drilling equipment, but something that specialised, they'll probably go as far as possible for it to evade detection.


"The purchases didn't coincide with any known construction projects, and it all happened too quickly for the normal pattern of DIY builds, so I think we have our bad guys." said Charles.


"Nearest volcano's mount rainier," said Stacy, looking at the map.


"Okay, let's check it out," said Brittany, "Stacy, see if you can smell that diesel signature again, maybe some of those bad guys."


"Okay," said Stacy as she flew off.


"Probably want to tell Armalin," said Quinn.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


The pain in her hand was really starting to bug her now. The way the nervous system handles serious injury is to numb it until the creature it's in has either neutralised the threat or legged it, THEN it hurts to stop the creature from exacerbating the injury.


Only problem is that for creatures such as homo-sapiens or meta-homo-sapiens was that the pain was generally useless, sometimes it can usefully indicate that an injury has occurred and needs addressing, but these levels where useless to Daria and useful to the enemy.


Jane wanted to ask Daria if she was okay or say something of comfort, but knowing Daria, Jane was afraid to. 'How are you feeling?' 'MY FINGER'S GONE, HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL?' 'Erm ... ' and things go steadily downhill from there.


Daria was doing all she could to hold back any expression of pain, about the most she was allowing herself was some movement and heavier breathing. There was no external indication as to how she was holding out from telling them that only Jane and Stacy were supposed to know, they obviously knew Tiffany knew where the soul crystal was located, but Tiffany was still unconscious.


A mercenary entered the room and walked over to Tiffany.


"Still asleep there?" he asked.


He then grabbed the cage and started shaking it hard.


He then left the room and returned with another mercenary and they opened Tiffany's cage.


"You know she could be faking, right?" asked one as they reached around Tiffany's knees and pulled her out.


They then rolled her on her back and one of them shook her head by her jaw.


One of them got a mischievous look on his face and said "I know what'll wake her up."


He then slid his hand down her trousers.


His friend chuckled and said "If you don't tell us otherwise, we'll assume you want our babies."


"DON'T YOU DARE!" shouted Jane.


"Or what, you'll shout at us to death?" said the guy who was feeling Tiffany. He chuckled as Jane tried to force herself up against the roof of her cage.


He then looked down at Tiffany and said "She should be awake now, or at least twitching."


The other guy opened her mouth and put his ear over it. "There's saliva pooling in her trachea, I don't think she can fake that, get her in the recovery position, I'll get help."


He wasn't stupid, he still had a sneaking suspicion that Tiffany was faking it, so when he rolled her onto her side rather than release her hands to support her head, he held her head.


That was still insufficient. Tiffany bent forwards, rolled onto her back and kicked him in the side of the head. With him punch drunk from the first kick, Tiffany got on her feet and kicked him in the throat, flipping him onto his back. Her next move was to stamp foot onto the bridge of his nose with sufficient force to cave his cranium in. She then took his knife and moved to his neck.


"TIFFANY!" shouted Jane.


Tiffany looked up.


"He's down, you don't need to kill him."


"What? ... Are you willing to bet your life on that Jane?" asked Tiffany. The guy was probably dead anyway, this was just to make sure. Aside from that, unknown hours wearing a Mk. 40 screwing with her nervous system, she really wanted to kill someone.


"Tiffany, just don't, okay? Grab his keys," said Jane.


Tiffany eventually dropped his knife and checked his pockets and located a bunch of keys.


She then opened Jane's cage and Jane rapidly shuffled out. Tiffany tried each key until one fit and freed Jane's hands.


Jane then moved to free Tiffany and then Daria. With everyone's hands free, Tiffany took the mercenary's gun, which turned out to be a PFT-M2, and retrieved his knife from the floor. She also located a small first aid kit and handed it to Daria. "We don't have time at the moment, but as soon as we have a minute, I want to get that wound sterilised and dressed. We don't have time to debate any of this, we're not cops busting a couple of vandals for tagging, we're in extreme danger, we're well out numbered, we pick up any grenades along the way, and we need to clear a large formation out of the way-"


"NO!" interrupted Jane.


"YES!" replied Tiffany.


"BOTH OF YOU KNOCK IT OFF! YOU'RE DOING MY HEAD IN! Tiffany do what you have to, Jane and I will do what we have to," said Daria. Daria had checked the damage to her hand: As expected, her pinkie finger was gone, and the skin on her ring finger was slightly torn, but the wound had clotted, and while she didn't want to move her ring finger, she figured she could still fight if she had to.


About ten seconds after they were all free, they heard boots approaching.


Tiffany stood ready at the door, but a loud bang suddenly sounded.


"What was that?" asked Jane.


Tiffany took the handle of the door and opened it, looking ahead. Seeing no threats, but a lot of smoke, she then opened to the rest of the way and saw three mercenaries on the floor, one of them had his leg badly chewed up. There was a patch of soot on the floor and a shallow crater indicating an explosive device the size of a grenade about a metre from the door, and there were pits in the wall in a pattern consistent with a fragmentation grenade.


Tiffany signalled the other legionnaires to follow her. As soon as they were out, Daria and Jane grabbed their guns, also PFT-M2s.


They then heard people running and four mercenaries appeared from the direction Daria and Jane were facing, guns drawn. Daria and Jane knocked them out as they emerged, these guys were clearly not expecting guests this deep in their stronghold.


"Check for keys too, we can get out of these collars, we'll be better able to fight."


Daria and Jane quickly checked the bodies.


"No joy," said Daria.


"Ditto, did we miss anywhere?" asked Jane.


"We could cavity search them and find an MRI or something, but us being in the middle of an enemy stronghold, I vote we move on," said Daria.


"Agreed, my direction let's MOVE!" said Tiffany, causing Daria and Jane to wince.


They followed Tiffany, covering their rear.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Mt. Rainier ... ... Yes, I have one mutant, she is located underground," said Xavier.


"The Legion were headed there anyway," said Armalin over the phone.


"We'd better join them," said Wolverine.


"Okay, gather around people, I'll get us within half a klick," said their guest as Wolverine, Dorean, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Scott, Jean and Hank gathered around him.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


A series of explosions happened around the corner.


Tiffany approached the corner and glanced around. Three doors were blown in, and Tiffany could see a fourth with a claymore mine taped to it. To the outside with the shrapnel facing the door.


She saw the doorknob move down, and ducked back, and another explosion sounded.


"What's going on?" asked Daria.


"Someone's helping us. We're going to pass some doors that got blown in. TELL me Armalin covered house-clearing," said Tiffany.


"He did," said Daria.


"Including the part about people who appear dead or unconscious?" asked Tiffany.


"Yesssssssss," Daria and Jane chorused.


"Okay then. MOVE!" said Tiffany.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"How the hell did you accidentally hit play instead of record?" asked Wyatt.


The embarrassed mercenary said "I don't know, or it wouldn't have been an accident."


This pissed Harman Roberts, call sign Brown Recluse Zero One, off. Most the day he'd been in conflict with Wyatt over their interrogation strategy, they had been keeping the prisoners together, his justification was if they see what'll happen to themselves later and that their empathy towards each other will add to their duress. Guy had probably never read a horror novel in his entire life, fact is, snippets of other prisoners distress would do far more than seeing it happen.


Giving the prisoners time to dwel on the consequences of resistance is all well and good to the uninitiated, but that time only ends up building resolve, you give them time to adapt or collect their thoughts, he was leaving them too long between blows. Simulated chaos in the administration of the duress such as apparent rage combined with something that could accidentally kill or permanently injure or disable motivates the person to try to regain control before they are killed or rendered unable to escape when freed. The only means available being to give the interrogator something they want, Reinforce that and eventually the prisoner runs out of things other than the information they're after, and another reason to separate the prisoners is so they feel less shame when they do co-operate. They remain in sight and sound of each other, their sense of shame will reinforce their determination to withhold the information.


The stress positions, strapedo and hanging on tiptoes were a good move, and the compliance bands would further harass their senses, but he failed to mix in other things, he just wasn't keeping up the fear.


It also didn't help that the rooms were so unfinished. They should have plastered and painted the walls, tiled the floors, quadrupled the light levels, the collars would be making the prisoners photosensitive, pipe in a high pitched tone to harass their ears (not much point in using white noise, just use something constant and irritating again to break their concentration), remove distractions, smell of cleaning fluids and disinfectants, make them look somewhat obsessive, right now it looked like a half finished building site.


Harman had been in the Rangers, as had three of his team, another four were former Green Berets. The rest were former gang members they had managed to tempt away with the money a mercenary can make, and the Green Berets took a special pride in being 'Force Multipliers'. Their ability to train up indigenous groups being one of the main points of their existence, and the former gangsters were now as capable as any other member of their group. Harman thought the Rangers would take him places and let him fight. Apparently not, he could count the number of actual operations he had been on throughout the decade of his career on one hand, and he found himself going crazy to the point of developing a bad discipline record, so he quit before he did something to get fired and set up his own rent-a-squaddie business.


To be fair, Wyatt knew how to build and wire this place, and was fairly good at tactics and strategy, basically keeping their overall profile to near invisibility, he never picked a fight they couldn't win, and that stealth Helo was just mint, but he was a bit slow when it came to the psychology of war, and didn't want to admit it.


Still, Fran had bugged the Legionnaires facilities so thoroughly that they had a shot at following the crystal if it was ever moved.


That's another point, they could have used Fran as a friend, according to the debrief, Fran would have been fairly plausible, and she could have been used as a 'Good cop', let the prisoners try to recruit her and gather information off of her, she could be used to manipulate the prisoners. Fran, underneath her usually calm exterior, felt empathy. Empathy with your co-workers improves unit cohesion, but empathy with enemy operatives was a problem, it was obvious Fran was not a villain at heart, it was just the only job she could get. Push her too hard and she might grow a spine and react. Like Jonathon Levinson off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer after Warren Meers killed his ex-girlfriend and was trying to kill Buffy.


Wyatt didn't want to hear about the possibility of Fran defecting, apparently, she's "Too scared of me to defy me."


She's actually too scared of being abandoned with no support, and that card has a limit. It just felt like they were playing out an episode of Orange County Chopper, only with Paul Teutul Sr. not knowing his ass from his elbow.


Like, for instance, just as a vague example, that stunt with the detonators was likely to turn Fran against them, seeing prisoners being disfigured would probably be a bit close to home for her.


Wyatt hit stop and they saw blue with a message saying "No Signal."


He hit more stop button and screen after screen showed the same message.


The mercenary grabbed his comm and said "All call signs, we're under attack, surveillance is down, we may have an invisible or intangible intruder, and can someone check on the prisoners please? Over."


He waited for a reply.


He then picked up another comm unit and turned it on, he placed them next to each other and heard no feedback.


He then used the fresh unit, asking "Any call sign, comm check, over?" After receiving no reply, he pulled his gun and grabbed another, handing it to Wyatt.


He then opened the door looking ahead of him, seeing no one, he popped out the door looking the other way.


Wyatt jumped out behind him.


The mercenary then advanced along the corridor to the room they were keeping their prisoners in, the second corner he rounded he saw four unconscious people at a junction. He ran up to them and saw three more dead people near the door to the room they were storing their prisoners in.


He picked up a comm off of one of the dead mercenaries and quietly asked "Any call sign, this is Brown Recluse zero one, please respond, over?"


"Zero One this is Zero Five, I've been trying to contact you for ten minutes, where have you been?" responded another Mercenary.


"In a world of our own apparently, give me a sitrep, over?"


"We heard some explosions, we think we're under attack, but we don't know where from, Zero Three's got ten men at the front door, I have another twelve with me in the cafeteria, area front door and cafeteria is secure, over."


As he advanced to the prisoner closet, he said "zero five, do not assume anywhere is secure, someone sabotaged everything in the security office with me sitting there the whole time," he then arrived at the door and looked in and said "The prisoners have escaped, I see handcuffs but no collars, I have no way to know if they have removed them, over."


"Daria's a psychic, if the collars were off, all your men would have cuffed themselves to every available fixture," said Wyatt.


"That raises another point, the Legion don't kill, it's a big thing for them, someone else is throwing grenades. If the Legion has found us, it's likely Delphi, Shield and the Xavier institute would have also found us and we'd have a massive fire fight on our hands, instead we 'think' we're under attack ... Boss, you know that thing you never wanted to hear me say again?"


Wyatt frowned as he considered it.


"If she has, then I will have to kill her. ... I'm going to have to use my powers, and then we're going to have to run like hell, I'll locate them and knock them out," he said as he started undoing his Mk 50.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany, Jane and Daria approached the door, Tiffany waved them back against the opposite wall as she backed against the wall on her side.


She pushed the doorknob down and pushed the door slowly forward.


As soon as she got a look at the line of Mercenaries in what looked like some kind of eatery, she pulled herself back against the wall in time to avoid absorbing any of the bullets that were coming through the door.


"Okay, I think we're in trouble," said Tiffany, "we try to withdraw, we lose the protection of the walls around the door."


"How many?" asked Daria.


"Too many," said Tiffany.


"Sounds like more then we can handle then," said Jane.


"Fits the definition," said Daria.


Tiffany glanced through a bullet hole and saw Fran looking around one of the door jambs behind the mercenaries.


Fran leaned forth, holding something small, green and cuboid with a little strap hanging between the ends.


Fran tossed it at one of the mercenaries and ducked back.


He looked down at it, confused. Tiffany pulled her head back, plugging her ears, mouthing 'fire in the hole', Daria  and Jane also got her fingers in their ears. The shrunken satchel charge had the same energy as it had when at full sized.


"LET'S GO!" said Tiffany as she advanced and started shooting any mercenary still moving and shooting any that appeared dead, hopefully knocking out any that were still alive.


She then picked up a minimi one of the mercenaries was using and slung it over her shoulder, she also grabbed some grenades, hooking the levers over her trouser waistband.


"Tiffany," started Jane.


"Forget it," said Daria as she grabbed a type 86 AK off one of the inanimate mercenaries and pulling as many clips as she could find. "Use it to scare or immobilise them if you have to, there's plenty of ways to shoot someone without killing them."


Jane sighed and did the same as Daria, slinging the type 86 AKs and pocketing as many of their clips as she could find.


"Thanks Fran, any more ahead of us?" asked Tiffany.


"Yes, I heard them talking over their comm system, there's ten more at the main entrance."


"Okay, let's go," said Tiffany.


About this time purple puffs of smoke erupted from the sides of their collars.


The three girls looked confused.


"I stuffed the locks with nitrogen tri-iodide paste, I was hoping that would open them, but the latch seemed too secure. I think they're magnetic," said Fran.


"Thanks for trying," said Tiffany.


"I'm sorry I waited as long as I did before realising what kind of people I was working for," said the girl, "I'll get some ice and cut some of their fingers off before we leave, one of them might be a good enough tissue match for a transplant."


Daria looked a little dubious and said "we need to escape now, and we have regenerators now, so ... ... I appreciate the offer."


"Wallfly, grab a gun and some ammo and form on me," said Tiffany.


"Just hope we don't end up shooting each other if we get bumped in the forest," said Jane.


Fran did as Tiffany said and Jane joined Tiffany on point, the girl formed next to Daria and they headed out.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Tastes like araldite," said the mercenary as he tasted the shavings he scraped off the buckle on the Mk 50.


"She gets in, mixes a glob of araldite, and leaves, and the glob of araldite returns to it's normal volume," said Wyatt, "and the strap's composed of omnium steel fibres."


"What do you want to do boss?" asked the mercenary.


"I want to get this off of me," he said.


The mercenary looked at his hand. He then asked "How badly do you want that off?"


Wyatt realised the tone the mercenary was using, and then shuddered.


"You have healing powers, right?"


"Yeah," said Wyatt, still looking pale.


"If I remove your thumb, that'll slide right off."


Wyatt considered this and eventually he just nodded.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


The four girls approached a door but stopped and hugged the walls when the door disintegrated as two groups of three blades sliced through it and a mean looking man in a costume poked his head through.


"Come on," he said, waving them through.


They opened the door and met with a blue guy with a prehensile tail, a large blue guy without a prehensile tail, a girl with white steaks at the front of her brown hair with ashen skin, a tall girl with red hair, a tall guy with red tinted goggles, a small girl with long brown hair, and "Hi Betty," said Tiffany.


"Tiffany," acknowledged Betty, "Let's get you guys out of here."


"FRAN LAWRENCE, I AM SEVERELY DISSAPOINTED IN YOU!" shouted a loud booming voice in their heads.


"Bugger," said Betty.


He then looked distracted for a second and said "Xavier, please locate him ... Right," he then addressed the others and said "excuse me a minute," before he teleported out.


He then teleported back and said "Okay, now let's go."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"And our main story, a blast estimated to be of two hundred megatons in yield occurred at forty one degrees north, one five three degrees west in the northern pacific ocean, no government has taken responsibility for the blast, and several terrorist organisations have claimed responsibility for it, however, a CIA representative accidentally let slip that the Russians had deleted records of one of their boomers within minutes of the blast, indicating that a Russian submarine may have accidentally detonated all it's nuclear warheads and possibly it's reactor too."


The news reader continued on as the Legionnaires and the X-men watched the TV in the Xavier institute. The exceptions were Daria, Fran and Jean who were downstairs.


"Think that killed him?" asked Tiffany.


"It better have, if it hasn't, he is going to be well pissed," said Betty. He had basically teleported himself and Wyatt out to the middle of the pacific ocean and shoved an explosive energy ball up his ass before beaming out. He had given Wyatt no time to react. "Given what you three said about him, guy was a total bollock, I think I got him."


"Here's hoping," said Jane.


"I'm glad I didn't have to touch him again, every time I absorb his personality, the professor has to go in and undo the damage," said Rogue.


"Thing is," said Tiffany, "I should have handled this way better, I mean, I had a feeling there was something wrong right at the start, and I didn't act on it until I talked with my ghost. And even then I should have been alert to the possibility that whoever was orchestrating this had some means to follow me."


"Based on what?" asked Quinn.


"Well ... I don't know, I keep maintaining that I'm not an idiot, and first chance to prove it, I go and get a bunch of us captured," said Tiffany.


"Your chain of command got subverted, not your fault," said Betty, "sometimes you get stupid orders without the chain of command being subverted, unless they constitute actual war crimes, you gotta follow them."


"I'm not the one who got a finger blown off because of my own stupidity," said Tiffany.


"Sometimes the enemy's just plain better," said Daria as she entered the room, "I've screwed up spectacularly myself, I should have been on the lookout for something like this, at the very least I should have remembered you had a ghost who happens to be so undetectable he could get you your answers in about five minutes."


"How's the new finger?" asked Jane.


"Have to go easy on it for a while, but otherwise, fine."


"Cool," said Jane.


"That was some quality acting you did there Tiffany, how the hell did you learn to do that?" asked Daria.


"Well, 'You Know Where', teaches mind control resistance techniques, and mental relaxation in case I ever need to fake death or unconsciousness. It's harder to do when someone's kicking the faeces out of you of course, but these guys gave me the opportunity to prepare my mind for the task ahead," said Tiffany.


"That was a good thing, I don't think the tri-iodide Fran stuck in the locks would have been enough, even with the mechanical locks," said Daria.


"You trust Fran do you?" asked Rogue.


"Well ... for the moment," said Daria.


"Daria, Fran manipulated you guys for this Wyatt guy," said Rogue.


"And she turned on him at considerable risk to her own wellbeing," said Daria, "and I'm supposed to be the paranoid one, what's driving this Rogue?"


"Mystique," said Nightcrawler.


Rogue glared at Nightcrawler for a second and then looked away.


"Mystique's been the one that's persistently manipulated Rogue as so many people that it's a sore issue-"




'Knock it off,' thoughtcast Xavier.


Rogue and Nightcrawler stopped arguing.


"Jane," said Daria, "That soul crystal must become totally inaccessible to anyone, if we can access it, so can someone else. Apparently Wyatt became aware of it because one of Black Majesty's minions doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut."


"You're not in charge here," said Quinn.


"Appreciated, but that thing's a magnet for Black Majesty league bad guys, and for all we know Wyatt could resurface again, it's got to go, do you concur?"


Quinn thought about it and said "Yes, I do."


"Good, I have a few suggestions I can make, I suggest everyone think up possible disposal methods and we get together and decide which one to implement, top two would be a subduction zone and a black hole."


"Tiffany, Stacy, Brittany, I need a word with you," said Jane.


Jane walked off with the three selected girls in tow.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Have you killed?" asked Jane.


"Can't discuss it," said Tiffany.


"State Secret or the fifth?"


"State Secret," said Tiffany.


"Convenient," said Jane.


"I would tell you if I was allowed, and you know what? I actually find your attitude paradoxical. I get the reluctance to kill, that's a good thing, but if you're spending all your time finding any way you can to survive without taking a life, you could die, or your friends, or you AND your friends along with you. You don't always have PFTs, and PFTs aren't always effective, and sometimes you only have your bare hands or a butter knife, do you get what I'm saying?" asked Tiffany.


"Yeah, I do ... Tiffany, if you felt you had to kill to achieve something, would you?"


"Depends on the objective, my survival or the survival of people I care about or the survival of people I'm barely aware of, and I have no alternative course of action? I won't ignore alternative courses of action that present themselves, but I won't be frozen by indecision either," said Tiffany.


"So you will kill?" ask Jane.


"I don't know," said Tiffany, "how can I know? Ask a precog."


They stood in silence.


"Anything else?" asked Tiffany.


" ... ... I think that's it, need a word with Brittany and Stacy," said Jane.


"You can go now."


"Good," growled Tiffany as she left.


A few seconds after Tiffany left, Jane asked "What do we want to do? We have a cast adamantium rule about not killing, and she said she won't live by that."


"Well, we don't know she did kill anyone, I don't doubt she has as a SEAL, but unless the records are released to us, we have no evidence to act on."


"She Can't discuss it," snorted Jane.


"You'd get that response if you ask her if she de-orbited the moon last week," said Brittany.


"Some point she might," said Jane.


"Some point you might swear near a toddler," said Brittany, "can't dismiss her on 'Might' either," said Brittany.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Daria saw Tiffany re-enter the room and approached her, noting the furious look on her face. Daria asked "What happened?"


"Can't discuss it, need to talk to Xavier. Want to try out the Danger Room," said Tiffany.


"Okay, have fun," said Daria as she turned to the door Tiffany had entered the room from.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"You're not chucking Tiffany out over this are you?" asked Daria.


Jane, Stacy and Brittany looked stunned at her, having been interrupted by her entry.


"No, there's nothing to base dismissal on, why?" asked Stacy.


"She just came from you guys looking pissed off, Jane, she helped us escape, we had no way of knowing help was inbound," said Daria.


"That's a sudden turn around, earlier you were all against Tiffany," said Jane.




"Well, this hasn't, you know full well we absolutely can not go around killing people," said Jane.


"Yeah, absolute, nice word there, like those F15 pilots following Gulf War One that saw those Republican Guard helos incinerating Kurds and ABSOLUTELY could not intervene," said Daria, "fully loaded with more than enough AIM-9s and AMRAAMs," said Daria.


"You still don't agree with that policy," said Jane, "that's fine, and we'll keep considering your proposals that we cha-"


Daria walked off.


"DARIA! GET BACK HERE!" shouted Jane.


Jane ran after Daria and stopped right in front of her, saying "YOU WOULD HAVE US HEAR YOU OUT WHEN YOU REPEAT THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER, YOU CAN AT LEAST HEAR ME OUT BACK!"








"WHATEVER! HAVE FUN!" replied Jane.


"THANKYOU, I WILL!" Replied Daria.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Fran was not legion material because she had killed. She was staying at the Xavier institute.


The first Gridrunner had been retrieved by Quest corporation, the second was parked on the Xavier Institute lawn.


Daria and Tiffany were outpacing the other Legionnaires as they walked towards it.


"I can't tell them if I killed anyone because it's a state secret, Daria, what the hell happened after I left? We've had disagreements, but this feels like something else entirely," said Tiffany.


"I dunno, it's just Jane being Jane I guess," said Daria.


"Just Jane being Jane ... Daria, I've never known Jane to be that serious, even when she was Legion Prez," said Tiffany.


"Yeah, well, we made a constitution, one of the things that got included was that Legionnaires can not kill, even in self defence, apparently the benefit of the doubt makes it too easy to disguise unjustifiable kills as justifiable ones, I disagree because it can slow down our response in a crisis and get more people killed. And then our differences were cemented because Jane thinks I'm being a 'misery chick', and that I want a way to vent frustration at life or something along those lines."


"It's all about perception," said Tiffany.


"Yeah, approximately," said Daria as she and Tiffany entered through the front starboard door.


"Jane really had it in for me," said Tiffany, "felt like she thinks I'm some kind of monster."


"Yeah, that has me worried," said Daria, "I think Jane's getting some kind of mental myopia. I keep thinking about that night those people from the future tried to kill us in our sleep, Penny Lane, Jane's sister, tried to kill Jane, I mean, I realise Penny was absolutely bat faeces, but I wonder if there was a grain of truth in there?"


"Is that something you mentioned to Jane?" asked Tiffany as they sat down, Daria in the Co-pilot's station, Tiffany right behind her.


As Daria fired up the APU and ran system diagnostics in preparation for take off, she said "Not in those terms, Penny being bat faeces means the baby getting chucked with the bath water. I've based my arguments on projected scenarios we're likely to face and situations where we're not in control. I'm arguing for flexibility, she's trying to reign everything in, and it's hard for me to get Quinn on side most of the time. Quinn favours Jane because of the misery chick thing, and whoever the prez and vice prez are, they generally go with the advice of the majority of the founders, so most the time my input is outright ignored."


"Damn ... This sounds bad," said Tiffany, "I've actually learned a lot of military history from USAES, main reason a lot of the spectacular screw ups occur is because personal conflict interferes with the decision making process."


"Yeah," said Daria.


Charles and Brittany arrived in the flight deck, the rest of the legionnaires taking seats in the main seating area. The lights indicating the door was open changed shortly after they heard the doors close.


"Home?" asked Daria, as she checked the throttles were at idle.


"Home," said Brittany.


Charles pushed the engine start button.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


"Welcome back Blum Deckler," said the Admiral as Tiffany entered his office.


"Glad to be back, sir," said Tiffany.


"I suppose I shouldn't ask about the crystal, given where the orders actually originated from," said the Admiral.


"It's been relocated, and I trust the people doing the relocating," said Tiffany, "The Legion can't use it for anything, it's only of use to anyone opposing the Legion, so whatever you think of the Legion, you can trust the Legion's motivated."


"And how do you feel about the Legion?" asked the Admiral.


Tiffany sighed and said "it's somewhat ... ... I'll need some time to think about that one sir, but I think the Legion might be in trouble."


"In what sense? ... Are they likely to become a threat?" asked the Admiral.


"No, nothing like that, just some internal politics, it's personal, and I think it's only something the conflicted persons can solve," said Tiffany.


"What kind of conflict?" asked the Admiral.


"I only got Daria's side of this, and a dose of venom from Jane, it came up because I tried to kill someone when we escaped from Black Majesty's rent-a-soldier stronghold, Jane asked me if I killed anyone, I couldn't answer of course because all my kills occurred after I became a SEAL, if the operations ever become declassified, I'm probably out of the Legion. I guess I'm pissed off at that, but it was more than just some rule Jane thought might be a good idea at the time, she's really pissed off at me. ... Daria, she feels Jane's losing the plot, pushing for policies that will make the Legion less effective. ... I'm afraid the Legion might split along those lines, I don't see open hostility occurring, people kicking the faeces out of each other or anything like that ... ... Like I said, only-"


"The conflicted persons can solve it, okay, I'm with you. ... Given what your last mission entailed, I'm inclined to give you leave to get your head together, take a night to think about it, tell me tomorrow if you think you need it, I only want you operational if you're head's in the game. Dismissed."


"Sir," said Tiffany as she stood to attention and then left.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Tiffany placed her Legion uniform in her cupboard next to her dress uniforms, her various UCP uniforms, and her civilian attire.


She retrieved the Legion badge out of her bag and sat on her bed. She opened it and looked at it.


"To think I was more worried about the Navy accepting me while I was still a Legionnaire."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Stacy saved the files and turned to Brittany. "That's it then."


"I sure hope so," said Brittany, "having all those spies going through our files and sabotaging everything is just so embarrassing."


"Yeah, speaking of awkward topics, Tiffany: ... What do we do?"


"We can't prove she killed anyone, unless the files become declassified, we can't expel her," said Brittany.




Brittany looked sympathetic.


"Sorry, but this is just some awful screw up isn't it?" said Stacy.


"Quinn's just as smart as Daria and Jane, they're two to one in favour of the no kill rule," said Brittany.


"That's what they think, what do you think? You're not exactly intellectually challenged when it comes to war," said Stacy.


Brittany pushed her chair back from her desk and span around.


Eventually she said "I think there's a public relations side that's of equal importance to us, we're not just a combat force, we're also meant to be role models, we promote death and destruction, we promote a new generation of villains, I think that's Jane's motivation, Daria's straight up self defence and screw what the world thinks of you for it. ... If we modify that rule, we need something that meets both needs to replace it with."


"A compromise. They'll love that," said Stacy.


"A compromise is a deal where nobody's happy," said Brittany. After a pause she said "I don't know who originally said it, but I think Daria recited it at least once."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


The cockpit of the submarine consisted of a tube of diamond with an adamantium hatch on the back.


Any electronic systems interfaced to the outside through optical electronic connections, there were lithium battery banks that used four propellers for main thrust, pitch and yaw, and the four propellers could be turned 90 degrees for roll.


The submarine had two arms, one carried a giant shaped charge, it's buoyancy neutralised with tanks of ammonia, the other carried the soul crystal and a thermite charge, also neutralised by ammonia tanks.


The first thing Jane had to do was blast as much of the sand and loose soil away from under the shaped charge as possible. This was achieved by blasting water from the middle of a panel under the shaped charge, this blasted the mud out from under it and it just fell into place.


Creating a vacuum at that depth was not realistic, so they connected a bottle of liquid hydrogen and piped water around the tank to boil it off as they dived, filling the void with pressurised hydrogen. There was also a lump of thermite to heat the hydrogen up, a refractory liner on the plate lining the hollow stopped the charge from cooking off, but this won't be used until Jane was at an appropriate standoff.


The charge placed, Jane disconnected the charge from the submarine and disconnected the ammonia tank from the charge, letting it rise to the surface. Jane backed the submarine off about 300 metres.


The shaped charge was big, it had to punch a hole wide enough to accept the crystal as deep as possible. Daria had designed the submarine to withstand the overpressure at that distance, but the way they had been getting along lately, Jane found herself wondering if she could really trust Daria not to take advantage of this.


She eventually armed the hellbox and fired.


She felt the submarine oscillate away from and towards the hypocentre.


There was too much solid material suspended in the water for her to see anything ahead of her, the submarine was using a sonar mapping system to locate itself.


Jane returned to the hypocentre.


The Soul Crystal was in a steel casket filled with cobalt 60, the casket had some tabs welded to it, and those tabs had shaped charges on the end that would nail the tabs to the inside of the hole, and there was a quantity of sand over the crystal so that the casket and tabs would remain intact. There was a hose to blast mud and sand out of the way in case a load of that had gotten in the way.


The ammonia tank on the soul crystal floated away, the thermite charge weighed down on the water blast.


It seemed to drop right into the hole, but did not continue to sink at a slower rate as it would if there was a load of sand in the way, and Jane was close enough that she'd see if there was sand being blasted out the way. Looks like they added something they didn't need.


'Well, when you need it, and haven't got it, ...'


That was it then.


She backed the submarine away about twenty metres and armed the hell box again.


She fired.


She didn't see anything until the sintered thermite was about 90% consumed. The hole was never going to completely absorb that amount of thermite, that was deliberate so that the thermite would completely fill the hole and cover it, sand currently suspended in the water would eventually settle on it.


In a couple of months the crystal will be sucked under the continent of South America, and it shouldn't appear again unless it got sucked into a volcanic eruption, and the location was picked specifically to avoid that.


Jane parked the submarine at the top of the trench and asked her passenger and said "Okay, make the earth move."


"Lame," said Lance. He then started the quake that would loosen the plates sufficiently to allow the plates to move, pushing the crystal under the overriding plate.


Also, if a rockslide were to land on the top of the burial site, that wouldn't be a bad thing.


Eventually Lance said "Aww man, that's as far as I can do at the moment."


Jane, having locked the sonar onto some terrain features so she could measure movement, said "One hundred and thirty metres subduction ... that should do it."


"How come I never hard of this soul crystal thing?" asked Lance, "sounds like something SHIELD should have been all over."


"We did what we could to contain knowledge of the soul crystal to try to reduce the number of bad guys chasing after it," said Jane.


"Okay, seems sensible," said Lance, "the Navy seemed to know."


"Probably through Armalin," said Jane, "he became involved when Brittany stole the crystal from us, this was before we became aware of her abilities, it co-opted her, made her try to kill and then brainwash Stacy, we recovered the crystal and had to explain the whole thing to him, and then, couple months later, Black Majesty shows up, kicks everyone's ass, and Armalin was the one who had to show up with this big alien gun with irreplaceable ammo and shot him to near nothingness."


"And he came back from that did he?" asked Lance.


"Yeah, he came to Xavier's attention when he freed Juggernaut to try to divert us, sent Nightcrawler and Rogue after them both, and he kept up the pressure on Black Majesty to the point where Black Majesty started wearing a compliance band to get off of Cerebro, then he lost Xavier's people through old fashioned slight of hand and evasion."


"Then he appears again, abducting you, Daria and Tiffany, and then Betty takes him out to sea and blows him up," said Lance.


"Hope we don't have to deal with that guy again," said Jane.


"Yeah, now I'm aware of that guy, so is SHIELD," said Lance.


"Lance, if he gets inside your head and finds out where that god damn crystal is, I'll personally find you and kick your ass to the far side of the Andromeda galaxy," said Jane.


"Wasn't the whole point of this exercise to MAKE the crystal inaccessible?" asked Lance.


"The Titanic's unsinkable, Space travel's so safe now we should send a teacher up, that fan disc's cracked ... ah, just a little crack, Iraq's army's crap, let's invade, it'll be easy, oh, big crisis, little bit of foam bouncing off the shuttle," said Jane.


"Okay, okay, I get it," said Lance, "but if a case involving the guy crosses my desk, I HAVE to deal with it, okay?"


"Okay," said Jane, "just don't EVER get complacent, only reason we're doing this is because we can't find a black hole we can easily get to, we send it in an unmanned probe, aliens could get it before it reaches it's target, and the aliens able to get it would have the ability to give Earth a Venus makeover."


"Yeah, I got it, thank you," said Lance.


[Insert Scene Separator Here]


Quinn headed off to bed.


The crystal had been successfully relocated. There were some Legionnaires that had not been told of it's existence, let alone it's location, and getting them to restrain their curiosity and convincing them to "Just trust that we know what we're doing" was such a pain in the ass, containing knowledge was vital. Jane, Daria and Lance were the ones that had finally decided what to do with the crystal, and all anyone knew was it would be dropped somewhere on the Pacific basin. Of course Quinn, and probably everyone else knew that the logical place to stick it was a subduction zone, and Lance's involvement ... Lance, callsign Avalanche, causes earthquakes, so any earthquakes occurring on a deep sea trench would be a dead give away.


She arrived in her quarters and turned on the news.


"An unusual amount of earthquakes occurred all along the so called 'Ring Of Fire' today, the epicentres were so numerous that geologists are baffled," said the newsreader.


Quinn smiled.


How long is that subduction zone? Nine thousand kilometres? No way was anyone going to be able to determine it's location from that.


"The activity started at locations far enough from population centres that preparations could be made before any structural collapse could occur, but the actual strength of the quakes never seemed to do more than throw some small tsunamis, the damage totals less than fifteen million dollars in flooded out homes and beached watercraft, any watercraft that had their owners nearby made got far enough off the continental shelf to avoid getting caught."


Did Daria and/or Xavier have something to do with that?


Quinn turned off the news and turned to her bed.


She pulled her nightwear out of her cupboard and changed into it and peeled back the quilt.


"AWW COME ON!" Shouted Quinn as she found a rose and love note in the middle of her bed, "IT'S CALLED STALKING, NOT VERY ROMANTIC! HELLO! ... ... Stupid bunny boiling superpowered asshole."


[Insert Scene Separator Here]