[[This is Part Three -- which doesn't know how to spell Piquant]]

     Maria hadn't worn a *lot* of clothing to Darrin's, the night before.
That was the whole point of the trenchcoat, really -- and that made a lot
of sense after midnight when the day had been a little too much and Maria
had needed something--
     All right, that was a little too close to a drug dependency for
Maria's liking. 'Allergy shot.' That was weirdly closer to what her trysts
with Darrin were supposed to accomplish.
     ...though if that were true, why couldn't she wait until the 15th,
like always? Maria's brain veered off towards Benadryl for breakthrough
allergies or using an albuterol inhaler, but then her brain worked the
metaphor to its logical conclusion and veered into a very different
direction before it shut itself down in self defense.
     Needless to say, in leaving Darrin's, Maria was pretty much stuck with
the trenchcoat over the near nothing she had shown up in. Well, and another
tee shirt of Darrin's, because... just because. Normally, on the 15th, she
brought along an overnight bag. Last night had been unplanned.
     "Note to self," she murmured, walking down O'Connell Way. "Go bag in
trunk of car." It would make more sense to leave some emergency clothes at
Darrin's condo, but the idea made her almost physically ill. She wasn't
about to do anything that suggested normalizing this arrangement.
     She looked up at one of the street markers. William Cardinal O'Connell
Way. One of the leading figures in American Catholicism back at the turn of
the last century -- somehow appropriate to have a Catholic Church on his
street. She'd always kind of liked that. Okay, O'Connell opposed setting
limits on child labor and cited the wearing of lipstick as a valid reason
to deny a woman Communion, but hey. Churches evolve, right? So long as the
eternal remained eternal...
     And having been a charter member of the 'Teen Team,' Maria was perhaps
not the right person to discuss child labor laws with anyhow. She turned
and walked up the steps to St. Joseph. Despite everything, she smiled
slightly. If lipstick gave Cardinal O'Connell pause, one look at Maria in
her 'walk of shame' togs would have probably made him apoplectic.
Fortunately, Father Elias wasn't so bad about such things. Which wasn't to
say he'd be particularly happy.
     But then, if there wasn't a problem, Maria wouldn't be there in the
first place.
     There weren't that many people on hand -- weekday noon Masses weren't
the big draw. That was just fine, from Maria's standpoint. But then, she
couldn't attend the Mass or receive Communion before she did what she
really came here to do.
     There were no lines for the Confessional -- they held Reconciliation
for about a half hour before each Mass, 'just in case.' Maria was able to
slide into the Confessional and kneel appropriately, pulling the curtain.
She felt the texture of the kneeler's padding on her bare knees, and
shivered slightly. Years, she'd been able to lower her mirror-force, but
the simple touch of texture still felt so powerful.
     The panel slid open. Through the grill, she could see Father Elias.
She wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing.
     Maria crossed herself. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has
been eleven days since my last Confession."
     "Hello, Maria," Father Elias said, his soft voice a natural basso
profundo. "It's usually closer to a month before you come in. I'm happy to
see you. May God the Father of all mercies help you make a good Confession."
     "Thank you, Father," Maria said, softly. "I am unmarried. I have
committed the Sin of Fornication over the course of a night. I can't
remember how often, that night. I have committed acts of violence eighty
two times, though all were in the defense of the innocent or to strike down
the wicked. I have taken the Lord's name in vain... at least twelve times.
Probably more. I have indulged in the Sin of Gluttony eight times,
including with alcohol. I have divided my friends and comrades with my
words... at least eleven times, maybe more. I... have been intentionally
cruel and done harm to a man who had not done me harm. I have deceived
others in the service of a greater good as I have told you before. And... I
have done other things, I'm sure. For these and all the sins I can't
remember right now... I am truly sorry."
     Father Elias paused for a moment. "I believe that you are, Maria.
Though I'm concerned that you misremember the distinction between sorrow
and contrition."
     Maria paused. "Father?"
     "First, let me say -- again -- that God abhors deception, but I
believe He understands the difficulties in keeping a secret identity,
especially in these trying times. It is good to confess that sin, of
course, but I believe He has a hand in the good you do. And you *do* good,
Maria. Remember that."
     "Thank you, Father."
     "But... you come to this Confessional most of the time because of the
Sin of Fornication. Indeed, almost always on the sixteenth of a month.
Maria, God is ever forgiving and absolution is the gift he grants us, but
it isn't a spiritual car wash. Contrition and Penance -- and Reconciliation
with the Lord -- requires us to understand our Sin, to confess our Sin, to
repent and do Penance for our Sin, and to go forth... and Sin no more.
Jesus didn't tell the Adulterous Woman to go forth and check in with him
the next time she committed adultery."
     "I know that, Father." Maria's voice cracked, slightly.
     "And yet, we both know that you intend to see this man again, likely
on the fifteenth. If not sooner, apparently."
     "I... maybe."
     "I... mentioned I committed an act of cruelty. It was to him. He...."
She took a breath. "I've told you before... I have... a condition. By going
to him, I work to inoculate myself against my sensitivity--"
     "You've told me that before, yes. But--"
     "Please Father, let me finish. I... he has one too. His..." Maria took
a breath -- the Seal of the Confessional was absolute, but that didn't give
her leave to out Darrin's secret identity, by name or not. "He has... a
unique biochemistry. It gives him... advantages... but also has costs. His
endocrine system is... affected. And he is affected with it. He has
drives... which if unmet are painful. He has used this as an excuse to
indulge himself, but... I used those against him, today. Tempted him.
*Teased* him, knowing he would be in literal physical pain for much of the
day as a result, and sent him on his way."
     "After having used him for your own condition... which *you* used to
justify indulging *yourself.*"
     Maria's face reddened. "It's not like that. It..." She closed her
eyes. "I confessed this long ago, back in Austin, so we haven't discussed
it... but Father... my condition made me... vulnerable, to an evil man. He
used me. Addicted me. And made me a weapon he then wielded against the
people I loved most in the world." Maria was crying now, softly. "Some of
them... never fully recovered from that. Some never forgave me, and I can't
blame them for it. And for a while I... didn't have people depending on me,
so I couldn't be turned against them. And for a while I was in counseling
and those who did depend on me knew my vulnerability and could be prepared
for it. But now... they have to trust me, Father. They have to trust I
won't betray them, so I have to be sure I won't."
     "And you do that by hurting one of those people who needs to trust
you, and committing what you know is a sin in the process."
     Maria shuddered. "I have to make sure, Father. I have to make *sure.*"
     "And the Lord is not enough?" His voice wasn't chiding -- it was if
anything, kind.
     "I... want to believe he is, Father."
     "And that is your greatest sin, Maria. Not trusting in God. In His
love and his faith. And *that* sin you haven't confessed or repented or
     Maria shuddered again, dropping her head to her hands. "You're right.
I confess that sin too, Father. And I am so, so sorry."
     "I know you are. And so does He." Father Elias paused. "Before you
next receive Communion, pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary. After this,
you may receive, but before your next Mass go to the man you were cruel to,
admit your sin and ask his forgiveness. He may not give it, but you must
make it clear you recognize you were at fault and you hurt him."
     Maria's head snapped back up. "That's... that's it?"
     Father Elias shrugged. "You expected a decade or two, or Stations of
the Cross to excess, perhaps? You've had Penance like that before, Maria.
Sometimes, Penance can feel like a scourging of the flesh instead of an Act
of Atonement. We don't do Penance because we're being punished. We do
Penance to demonstrate our contrition. If we're not contrite, it doesn't
matter how many Rosaries we chant. If we are, then showing the Lord that we
truly are is enough." The Priest half-smiled. "This is the Confessional,
not counseling. If you want that, I encourage you to make an appointment
with me and I will gladly do so. But as for this Penance... do this... and
go forth and sin no more." He paused. "I would... encourage you to try and
make your act of cruelty right with your comrade soon. You said you commit
sin so others will trust you. Does he trust you right now?"
     Maria looked through the grill, then put her head back down and began
to cry.
     "Speak of your contrition."
     "My God," Maria said, getting her voice under control. "I am sorry for
my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly
intend, with your help, to do penance, to... to sin no more, and to avoid
whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His Name my God, have mercy."  She took a breath. "Amen."
     "Amen," Father Elias said. He lifted his hands towards the panel --
towards Maria. "May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority
I absolve you from every bond of excommunication and interdict, so far as
my power allows and your needs require." He crossed himself. "Thereupon, I
absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. Amen."
     "Amen," Maria murmured.
     "May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed
Virgin Mary and of all the saints obtain for you that whatever good you do
or whatever evil you bear might merit for you the remission of your sins,
the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life."
     "Thank you, Father."
     "Good luck, Maria."
     "Thank you, Father," Maria said again, almost automatically. She
slipped out of the confessional. Still no line -- which was good. They'd be
starting soon and she'd been monopolizing the Priest's time.
     Go forth and sin no more. So easy to say.
     ...in her mind's eye, she remembered Samantha -- on the ground,
desperately struggling for breath as the allergens worked through her
system, her husband incapable of even seeing her as he stared into the face
of his own private Hell reborn....
     She would do her best. She didn't want to sin. But she would never,
*ever* let it happen again. If that meant she would burn in Hell<tm>...
well, her best friend used to be made out of hellfire, right?
     She made her way up the aisle, then slid into the third pew back, and
slid to the middle. She knelt, closing her eyes and bringing her hands
together. "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom
come, Thy will be done..."

                                * * * * * *

     Cairi took a deep breath. "You're on... *all* the boards. Why are you
helping them put Lochaber together? Why are you--"
     "Ah -- the hypothetical question 'why am I trying to bring down the
League?'" He laughed, somewhat ruefully. "For the most part, those are
sinecure jobs. My positions on the Rogers Industries and Rogers Foundation
boards are ex-officio. Nonvoting, in other words. I show up to a few
meetings a year and they pay me a lot of money, but no one's actually
interested in listening to what I have to say and I certainly don't have
the ability to change things. I got the Rogers Industries job after the
Masked Bruce scrambled my mind on low heat for five minutes, adding pepper
and olive oil. I think it was their way of expressing their apologies and
hoping I wouldn't sue them out of existence. I got the Rogers Foundation ex
officio seat by way of Awesome Amalgamated, mostly because they didn't want
to keep the ridiculous vice presidency they'd given me open -- and I got
that after the Industrial Revolution. A.A. has enough investment in Rogers
to pull those strings and everyone was happy enough with it. As for the
Rogers Institute...."
     "I got outvoted. Mandy had been pushing for this for a while --
sometimes I thought it was a way to just keep the government off our backs
when they thought the League was connected to us -- but Elizabeth took the
bull by the horns. Andy respects Elizabeth, so of course he went along
with, and Nouveau Skunk was *more* than willing to go along with. I'd
counterproposed reactivating the Adjusted League Unimpeachable, with an
open call to those members on Earth, but he blocked that pretty smoothly
and quickly, and it wasn't long before it was clear the Foundation and
Institute wouldn't accept it anyhow."
     "Why did he... why did he block it, and why wouldn't they take it?"
     "I gave up trying to understand Nouveau Skunk a decade ago,
Cairistiona. As for the Foundation and Rogers Industries?" He chuckled.
"You have to understand -- the Adjusted League, once upon a time, had been
set up as supernumerary to both. The Executive Board of the A.L.U. could
override decisions of Rogers Industries *or* the Rogers Foundation. Another
of Bruce Rogers's little contingencies. Even after his death the A.L.U.
retained that power -- why do you think so many worked so hard to...
encourage... the A.L.U. to fold? When all the members left, the
organization lapsed. Even one active member would have maintained
continuity -- and they didn't want that."
     "Why would they?" Cairistiona asked. "No one wants to have their
profit-schemes vetoed. Why did Trudy and Mandy go along with *that?*"
     "Mandy wanted to protect the Academy, which she successfully did. Most
of the others wanted to make something of their lives -- that one battle...
the one against Anansi? It had taken a lot out of them. Then with the
scandals surrounding Mike, Dianna, Jane and the girls--"
     "I get it, I get it. So now they won't let that Executive Board come
back into being?"
     "Precisely. I suppose Lochaber is their way of having their cake and
eating it t--"
     There was an explosion, and the glass in the front of the Store24
burst inward. Some eight men and women in red and orange colors burst
through, with several low level punks firing shots to panic everyone, while
the woman in the middle -- the one in the Hellfire Halloween Mask -- lifted
her hands and caused a torrent of flame to arc out and sear through several
Hostess cakes and off-label tinned meat. "Everyone DOWN!" she shouted.
"Lest the Fiery Wrath of She Who Burns come upon you! We are the
     Scholarman was thrown back by the explosion, hitting a freezer hard
and sliding down, red flowing along his trenchcoat at the abdominal level.
He pressed over a clear gunshot wound. "Are you *kidding* me?" he demanded.
"I wasn't *serious* -- I really did already know her!"
     Cairi dropped next to him. "You'll be all right," she said, leaning
over him. He could see her eyes begin to glow--
     "No--" he hissed. "You'll escalate the situation upstairs and blow
your cover." He pushed himself to the side, painfully and leaving blood
behind him, throwing a handful of powder which expanded into clouds of
glitter and the My Little Pony theme song. All around the Hellsfions,
shadowy figures of what looked like indistinct men and women wearing
fedoras and unicorn hats began to chant in ancient Enochian. Cairi's
circumstances let her understand enough Enochian to realize they were
talking about some children's show and their private theories about Earth
Ponies versus Alicorns versus--
"Go," Scholarman said, intensely. "Get help. Be amazing. The Bronifusion
won't last long!" He twisted his fingers, forming a sending which flitted
out the front and up towards the towers of the building.
     Behind him, the Hellsfions were thrashing, driving the spiritual
forces back, refusing to engage in long dead chthonic tongues on just how
clear it was that Rarity was Best Pony.
     Cairi looked at him for a moment, then nodded. "Thank you," she
whispered, and ran. "Everyone out!" she shouted to the customers, jumping
through the broken front window herself and running as hard as she could
when she reached the street. She could see a large mass of Hellsfions
blocking traffic on Commonwealth Avenue -- since when were *any* of these
gangs brave or stupid enough to attack the freaking *Chick-Mouse?*
She'd have to think about it later. She ran down the rest of the block,
then looped around the corner onto Cummington Mall road.
     Cairi's L-Phone pinged. <<No one's on Ops this second,>> MIKE's voice
could be heard, <<but I spliced in different security footage on
Cummington. No one's recording there and sensors show no other cameras or
     "Bless you, MIKE," Cairi said, fire surrounding her head and hands,
then flowing up her arms, her store uniform burning off her body and
leaving her in her battle uniform, a reddish flame becoming a glowing,
burning mask on her face. Her wings swept behind her and Incandescence took
to the air, arcing high enough to confuse her entry vector, then sweeping
back around towards the front of the building.

                                * * * * * *

     "So tomorrow's the big day," Alice said, buttering her role. Crusty
italian bread. Alongside prebuttered garlic bread, cups of Italian Wedding
Soup, the rescued remnants of salad, steamed broccoli and of course the
lasagna itself, the whole thing looked like enough food for an army. So, a
pretty typical night on floor A-16.
     "It is," Susan answered, having some of the Wedding Soup. She closed
her eyes. "You know, food is a part of my aspect. It's who I am, Alice. How
do you make this so much better than I can?"
     "Aspect shmaspect. I watched Julia Child as a kid."
     "I'm kind of floored Julia Child was even on at that point," Elizabeth
said. "I thought I was the only old lady at this table."
     "You're not old," Alice and Susan said in unison, voices naturally
     "You two have been practicing that. When, I don't know, but--"
     "What's the big deal?" Kirby said. "I've seen, like, all two hundred
and one episodes of the French Chef."
     The others paused.
     "You have?" Elizabeth asked.
     "Why?" Alice asked.
     Kirby shrugged. "She's entertaining, friendly, and doesn't talk down
while she's cooking. And she cooks in real time and leaves the mistakes in,
unlike pretty much every other cooking show. And she's not a jerk or smug.
And she was an operative for the OSS who literally made shark repellant to
keep sharks from detonating underwater mines. They still *use* it. You
think the Department of Defense uses anything Bobby Flay ever made as part
of operational security?"
     "You know... that's a pretty good answer," Alice said.
     "But to answer you," Susan said, smoothly, "yes, tomorrow's the big
day. Morning press conference. Introduction of Lochaber to the world."
     "Lochaber... and Carillon," Elizabeth said. Alice didn't quite wince.
Lil was good at tearing the bandaid off. It made her a great therapist.
     "Oh yes." Susan half-smiled, tucking her straight brown hair behind
one ear. It almost looked slightly pointed. Well, it would, right? "It's...
interesting to consider."
     "Yeah," Lil said. "Media was never my favorite part of the job. Back
in the day I was always glad to leave that to Templar, Chal, Key, Yury,
Manny, Badass -- honestly, anyone but Faith."
     "I dunno," Alice said, fighting down the knot of conflicting emotions
she was feeling about all of that. "I always liked that part. Smiling for
the cameras, tasteful photoshoots...."
     "Well, yes," Susan said. "But you're pretty."
     "You're prettier than I am, Susan."
     Susan shook her head. "Nuh-uh. You're the prettiest."
     Alice paused -- for a second, it was like Susan was speaking from the
past, when her unreconciled nature made her seem developmentally disabled
-- a child in an adult's body. "Am not. You are," she answered smoothly.
     "Nuh-uh. Kirby, tell her she's the prettiest."
     "Wha-- no way. I'm not in the middle of this." He vanished from sight.
     "He's gotten really good at that," Susan said to Lil.
     "He has. And he knows it." Lil grinned too, her nose wrinkling as she
looked at the apparently empty chair. "Even if he knows there's a 'no overt
powers at the table' rule."
     "He's moved behind Alice, off to the left, about three meters from
me," Susan said, smiling a bit more as she took a bite of lasagna. "Oh
Alice, it's just like I remember...."
     "It should be. I went to Austin for the groceries. Jenny says hi, by
the way."
     "Wait, you ran to Austin to get vegetables?" Lil asked. }{Show off,}{
she sent with quiet amusement.
     "What, I'm going to make lasagna with what you Northerners call
tomatoes?" Alice winked back to Lil. "I admit I miss the Xolchaportation
     "We all miss the Xolchaportation Network," Lil said. "It's been years
since I got to do laundry at the Sit'n'Spin."
     "The rule isn't fair. You guys use telepathy all meal long. The rule
only applies to me. How did you know where I was?" Kirby said, unstealthing
exactly where Susan said he would be.
     Susan grinned a bit enigmatically. "If I told you that, you could hide
from me. Maybe I don't want to let you do that, Nephew Kirby. And I notice
Alice is keeping her speed below the sound barrier, so it's not just you."
     "Aw, don't be like that," Kirby said, sitting down.
     "Like what?"
     "Like a Mom. I have two'a then. You're a fun Aunt."
     "But not a Taunta like Trudy?" Lil asked.
     "No one's like Taunta Trudy," Kirby answered.
     "Kid's got you, Lil," Alice said. "Though the Trudis sometimes pretend
to try."
     "Oh -- speakin' of the Trudis," Kirby said. "Did you guys hear about
the new powered street gang?"
     Lil arched an eyebrow. "Another one?"
     "Yeah -- saw it on the news. The Hellsfions. Apparently they, like,
worship Hellfire."
     Alice paused. "You mean... the flames of Hell?"
     "No... I mean the one who was in the Mob? Used to date that guy who
did those things?"
     "Guy?" Susan asked.
     "Rip Davis," Lil said. "You saw this on the news, Kirby?"
     Kirby nodded. "Yeah. They were being taken into custody. Reflects an'
Capacitor took them down."
     Susan pursed her lips slightly. "An entirely new street gang in the
same mold as the other gangs. Intriguing. And a potential opportunity."
     "Opportunity?" Lil asked.
     Susan nodded. "If they're new... they probably don't have the same
level of infrastructure as the other gangs. If we assume the gangs all have
the same supplier--"
     "Why would we assume that?" Alice asked, more out of form than
anything else. She could tell Susan was onto something.
     "Occam's Razor. All these different gangs have to be getting supplied
-- but if there were routes for every gang through the Exclusionary Zone
borders, someone would have found one by now. If there's only one and the
right people were concealing it--"
     Alice half-smiled. "Wow. Lil's right."
     "You *are* a hunter."
     Susan paused. "I am, Alice. And I'm good at it. Is... that okay?"
     Alice took a deep breath. "It... isn't up to me if it's okay, Susan.
It's up to you. All I can say is whatever you do in life I'm going to worry
about you, and you don't get a say in that because I earned my worry the
old fashioned way. But I'll worry less if I know what I'm worrying about,
moving forward."
     Susan cocked her head, slightly. "I will never hide who I am from you
again, sister. On my heart and veins."
     "That's a weird oath," Kirby said.
     Susan shrugged. "I'm pretty weird, and I'm told I'm weirdly pretty, so
it all works out, Kirby."
     "Well, yeah. So you're gonna go investigate the Hellsfions? 'Cause I
can help -- I'm a *great* investigator and with my stealth--"
     "Nope," Lil said.
     "Absolutely nope," Alice said.
     "Thrice nope over," Susan said.
     "Aw... I can--"
     "That's a no, Kirby," Lil said. "You're so far away from
Mission-Rated-status the light from Mission-Rated-status won't reach you
until at least your sixteenth birthday."
     Kirby made a face, and ate more lasagna.
     "Uh oh," Susan said with a grin, drinking more chocolate milk. "Looks
like someone's got the Glowers."
     "Oh no," Alice said. "And we don't know *what* to do about the
Glowers, do we, Susan?"
     "Oh no. No one knows how to deal with the Glowers! Well, no one but--"
     Lil dropped her fork, starting in pain, her hand moving to her head.
     "Lil?!" Alice asked, standing next to her in less than a second. She
echoed her question telepathically, reaching out to see--
     "Speed at the table," Kirby murmured. "See what I mean?"
     "It's -- sorry, sense pain. Had a magical ping sent... it's...
Scholarman? He's been shot?"
     "Again?" Susan and Alice asked in harmonious unison.
     "They *have* been practicing that," Kirby said.
     "There -- there's an attack on... oh Gods there's a gang attack on the
downstairs Store24!"
     "A gang's attacking *this building?*" Alice half-shouted. "Are they
     "Who's to stop them? Me? They don't know--"
     "Momma Alice can stop them."
     Alice looked frustrated. "No, I can't -- I can clear out civilians and
do something for Scholarman, but--"
     "I need a mask."
     Alice froze, and looked at her little sister.
     Susan's face was sharp, her eyes cold. She looked almost alien. "I
need a mask, Alice," she said. "Right now."
     "Right -- hang on, I'll run down to--"
     "Here!" Kirby said, pulling out a pair of goggles and throwing them to
Susan. "The band stretches. Make sure you don't turn nightvision on!"
     "You carry nightvision goggles around with you?" Lil asked.
     "You *don't?*"
     Alice didn't say anything. She was watching Susan.
"Give me thirty seconds from engagement," Susan said to Alice, moving the
goggles into place. They opaqued, then cleared. Alice knew the Mask
Principle would protect Susan's identity, which is why she needed them.
"Then get down there, clear out civilians and help Scholarman. MIKE!"
     <<Yeah? Police have been called, and I'm pinging Mandy, but she's
     "Open the Commonwealth facing window on A-16."
     "*What?*" Alice demanded.
     "Open the window, MIKE," Susan repeated. "Lochaber Override Major
     <<Those codes aren't active yet, but I don't actually care. Window's
     Alice could hear the sound of Boston, suddenly loud in the suite,
along with the wind. "Susan, I'll carry--"
     Susan deftly jumped up onto her chair and over her table, disturbing
none of the food. She ran at full tilt for the window, pumps left behind
leaving her in bare feet. She leaned forward, arms back, holding nothing
back as she ran. "Kirby, don't follow me," she snapped, her head clearly
already in the game.
     "Susan -- you can't *fly!*" Alice shouted, but though she could have
caught and stopped Susan trivially, she didn't.
     Susan didn't answer. She just threw herself out the window in a
perfect swan dive, seventeen stories above Commonwealth Avenue.
     Alice stared for a long moment -- well, long for Alice, which is to
say Kirby and Lil only recognized it as a long moment because they knew her
so well. She then moved -- up to slipstream speed, as the Dash described it
to her, once -- using her nature to minimize air disruption, moving within
the ticks of the clock -- into the bedroom and over to the cabinet where
they kept the fighting togs. Clothes in the hamper. Green and gold
skintights pulled on. The old familiar boots pulled up, then back out to
where she'd been standing way less than a second before.
     She knew that as far as Lil and Kirby could see, she had been dressed
for dinner one moment, and the next she was in uniform. The lightning bolt
     The Momentum uniform.
     Lil blinked. "She... she said wait thirty seconds--"
     "Yeah, but I don't work for her. I'll keep in contact -- you've got
your hands full. Kirby -- *don't follow.*" With her words came a telepathic
contact with Lil -- the one arena where Lil was faster than Alice. Anything
that needed saying was said, in something far beneath words.
     And then she was gone.
     Elizabeth took a deep breath, and ran for the elevator. "MIKE --
Lockdown! We don't know if this is a general attack. Full sensor sweep --
*damn* I wish we still had Xolchaprobes." }{All students in-building, this
is Head of School Tirkoff.}{ she sent on a broad telepathic wave. }{This is
a General Lockdown. This is not a drill. All mission rated students to the
C-3 deployment bay. All non-mission rated students to Lockdown locations.
This is *not* a drill. All students signed out check in and *stay where you
are.* Lochaber personnel to B-3 Staging!}{ There weren't likely any
Lochaber officers in the building -- tomorrow was the big launch, so
tonight they were off celebrating. Still, just in case....
     Elizabeth tore for the elevator. "Kirby, get to your Lockdown shelter
and check in! *Don't follow!*"  The elevator doors were open as Elizabeth
reached them, then slammed shut much faster than elevator doors were
supposed to behind her.
     Kirby looked at the elevator. He looked the other way at the window,
which was now closing. He looked at Susan's shoes, and dinner.
     He reached over, and picked up Susan's glass. He took a deep drink of
chocolate milk, then checked the level.
     It was still full to the brim.
     "...oh I'm keeping you in my minifridge," he said, carefully carrying
it to his room to do just that. He had to get to Lockdown station -- no
sneaking out this time -- but there were priorities, here.


The answers? Happen. And they happen on Superguy.

Eric Burns-White

"You're Persky the Great?" Kugelmass said.
"The Great Persky. You want a tea?"
"No, I want romance. I want music. I want love and beauty."
"But not tea, eh? Amazing. O.K., sit down."

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