Society of Justice 3: Crisis on the Earth

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Katie gave Taryn a small wave as the technopath popped in and out of the kitchen. It wasn't often that Taryn or Levi had this much contact with the rest of the Society: at least, that was how Katie saw it. They spent so much time together, it made for much less interaction with the rest of the team.

Katie gave a small sigh, set her glass down to one side and watched the Society go about their business... after a while, she noticed a few changes. Two new someones, both familiar, had entered the lounge... and someone else wasn't there. Requiem - Katie had never really gotten used to calling the cyborg Ethan - was missing. He must have stepped out for something, in which case Garrus was likely to know about it.

"'Scuse me a moment," she said to Brian, slipping out of the kitchen and approaching Garrus. "Hey, where's Requiem at?" she asked, trying to be casual. It was difficult to do so; the thought of being stuck here was still wandering about in her mind, leaving fear in its wake.

Catherine didn't answer Briān immediately. She wanted the rest of the world to vanish, as it had done when her lips had met his. She wanted the world to consist entirely of herself and the man she loved... but she knew there was more to it. There was always more.

But her words had been true. She would rather have Briān here with her and not be able to touch him, than for him to be in Canada where she couldn't even see him. And now that he was with her, she would not let him walk away again.

"Yes... yes, you're right. We should rejoin the others," she eventually said, wiping the tears from her face and doing her best to clear the redness that she expected to be in her eyes. Before opening the door, Catherine reached up and placed a brief kiss on Briān's lips for the second time. In that second, she felt the warm sensation in her chest grow in intensity - but she pulled back, not wanting to hurt him by hurting herself.

Catherine led Briān out of the room and back down the short hallway to the lounge. The clone stood aside to let them pass: the first thing the original Catherine saw was Takashi Jinrou standing with two of the others: Tommy and Jason, she remembered their names. All three of them appeared to be a little banged up, at least. A chair was overturned, and it had suffered a little bit of damage. In a flash, the formal persona that Catherine usually adopted was back, and in full force.

"Mr Jinrou, what happened here? Did you attack this man?" she demanded.

"Jason, isn't Takashi supposed to be the older one?"

"Yeah...yeah, he is." He answered, realization and intrigue increasing in droves. He took a step up towards he brother, placing a hand on his shoulders. Takashi looked on blankly, his eyes diverted from Jason's altered glance.

"Takashi, you also called me a Lieutenant Colonel. Brother...what am I in this universe?" He asked, voice filled with plead. Takashi didn't answer initially, his mind was still taking all this in. There before him, stood a man-or at least, barely a man-who seemed to be a splitting image of his brother, his much older brother. And at the same time, he wasn't. This boy before him bore the same markings, attributes, speech patterns, and possibly ideals as his alternate counterpart. However, he bore dissimilar traits as well. Other than the small change in discoloration in the cracks of his armor, the younger counterpart showed sympathy for his brother. Takashi couldn't even tell if the counterpart knew of his elder's acts, or of his emotions towards his immediate family, and yet, the boy apologized for it all, immediately taking responsibility for all his alternate's troubles. Takashi couldn't understand how a person could just take up for something they possibly never knew happened, and that person would be his brother. It was overwhelming, to say the least. Jason looked at his brother, frowning slightly as he hesitated to answer him.

"Takashi...?" He asked worriedly, snapping fingers in his brother's face in hopes to break him from his trance. Takashi pushed away from his brother, finally managing to meet his brother's gaze with his own glare.

"Do you mind? This is a bit much for me to take in. I don't know how you all can just, shrug this whole ordeal off like it's nothing, but...goddammit..." He snarled at his brother, and at the towering man behind him, quickly turning away to lower himself into murmured curses, all in the confusion of what stood before him. The confusion began to anger him. As he turned back to face the overwhelming anomaly before him, his commanding officer's voice broke him from the moment, but not from his emotions. He pushed past Tommy and Jason, and hastily approached his higher upper.

"Mr Jinrou, what happened here? Did you attack this man?"

"Second Lieutenant, with all due respect ma'am, but don't you think you should've informed your company ahead of time that you were bringing individuals into the base that easily resembled very powerful forces? Forces that we've spent months, years even, opposing against? We've lost men, shed our own blood and sweat against United America's military, and yet, you bring in a man that looks exactly like their most prominent general, and a guy that looks like my brother and their Lieutenant Colonel?" He told his superior in a faux calming manner, his true anger and confusion of the whole situation hiding beneath. Jason stepped up behind him before he could continue his rant.

"Takashi, I told you before. We're not from this universe-" As Jason tried to further explain his cause, the younger brother anxiously spun on a heel to face him, he becoming quite excited with anger as the tension rose between them.

"And what makes you think i'm supposed to believe you, huh?! Have you thought of that?! Did you think I would've just bent down, and just accepted your stupid-ass clause? Did you stop for one second and wonder on how fucking retarded this crap would sound to me?! And for that matter, Did you think it would've been easy for me to you just forgive my brother for the years of abuse he brought upon me before and after my dad died?! Like, your one 'sorry' would sway me, just like that?!" He told his brother, voice rising with every sentence as he poked at his chest.

"If you're not from here, as you insist on reminding me, then you don't know what that fucker's done to me. The fact that he tried to kill me and our people after some of us refused to integrate with the military only made things worse! I don't even know why you apologized to me in the first place." He finished, his tone immediately changing back to its lower, hateful tint. His hands began to shake again. Takashi even contemplated attacking the faulty doppelgänger a second time, only to disregard the thought as he remembered that his superior loomed behind him. Jason remained silent, distraught at what his brother said to him.

"Maybe...he was destined to hate whatever form he's in, it'll the same, huh?" He thought, sadly looking on at what conspired in front of him.

Brian leaned against the counter, sipping the juice he had poured. It sounded like a mess out there in the lounge. He wasn't going to be getting involved in that. Not quite yet.

The brash young fighter was starting to get on Briān's nerves. Especially with his superficial manner of judging people. Yes it was strange that some of these new recruits happened to look like people here. He still wasn't sure about that somewhat goofy sounding kid that was apparently his doppelganger, plus there was that other Catherine. However, one doesn't harbor a terrible power for years without learning that looks are only skin deep.

He stepped ahead of Catherine and seized the kid around his face, fingers firmly clamped on the skin. "I wonder eef you realize 'ow absolutely stupeed you sound right now? If so, I 'ighly doubt you would bee takeeng such a tone with Ms. Southe here." He put more emphasis on the accent as he was accustomed to doing when looking to intimidate. Nothing put fear into a man like a strong Canadian accent. "I, 'owever, am nowhere as patient, so I am going to say zis once and I 'ope eet sinks into zat tick leetle skull of yours." Takeshi's energy was already starting to flow out of him. Briān could feel it. "I would take great care in judging zose who 'ave decided to put zeir asses on ze line for zis cause. Oui, zere appearance is strange, even a leetle too familiar in some cases, but if zey are willing to fight to take down zose bastard Americans, zen zey can look like Pierre ze elephant man for all I care. You need to get a FUCKEENG GRIP on yourself before I start getteeng a tighter one on you, because I will not tolerate ze kind of bullsheet zat you are spewing. Zis is ze force we got. I will not stand for eet being beateeng up eetself. Now get your sorry derriere back in attonsion, before I ram a steeck up zere and do it myself." He let go of Takeshi, sending him crashing to the floor.

He left him where he lay as he returned to Catherine's side. "Pardon-ez moi, Ms. Southe. If you wish to continue speeking to zis man, zen by all means." He hated being so formal with Catherine, but he knew the image she wanted to project in public and he respected that. He turned back to the three in the lounge, standing and waiting for the next move.

Even someone as thick as Tommy could see the hypocrisy in what Briān did, using his powers to reprimand Takashi for attacking Jason else. "Are you certain that was completely necessary?" He asked Briān. He wasn't exactly sure what Briān had done, but it was obvious he had done something to weaken Takashi, and he doubted it was a painless process. Can our Brian do that? Then again, there's Catherine, so his powers could be different.

As Takashi performed his rage-fueled rant against his brother, he found himself attacked and subdued by none other than Briān McKenzie, a man who's previous actions made him a well-known face to both American and European Resistance forces. In midst his outburst, Takashi managed to face the man that stood behind him, only to receive an extent of Briān life-draining powers. As he sternly spoke to the boy in a increasingly thickening accent, Takashi couldn't help but feel his powers siphoned from him, his Key's armor receding from his hands and arms. Briān continued to talk, and kept Takashi within his grasp. Takashi's eyes began to glaze over, his steadily weakening gaze affixed on Briān. Eventually, Takashi couldn't make out what his superior was saying to him as his legs began to weaken under him, his breaths becoming ever short. The elements took over, and Takashi found himself falling under his own weight.

Takashi blinked awake within the minute, still slightly dizzy as he managed to catch his breath, looking up towards the man who weakened him, who was now talking to the Second Lieutenant. A man that Takashi could've generally said that he looked up to, had forced himself into something that one could argue didn't involve him. Takashi staggered his feet, using the arm of a nearby chair to steady himself, only to fall into said chair. He looked up again at Briān, eyes blinking slowly.

"Even...for s-someone with p-powers like could n-never understand my pain...S-sir." He stammered through slurred speech and long heavy breaths, still drained by the attack. Jason looked on at what transpired before him, only to frown at the result. Jason sat down next to his brother, putting a concerned hand on his shoulder, only to have Takashi sloppily, yet forcefully, push away from it. Takashi kept his gaze averted, not bothering to turn and face this strange form of his brother.

"Just...because someone else stepped in, sapped my energy, and talked about judging and still think...that i'm supposed to trust you?" Takashi asked harshly, his speech beginning to clear up. Jason shook his head, Takashi's volition seeming nigh unbreakable. It was a trait that even the other Takashi displayed on a common basis.

"You don't have to trust me Takashi. But it's okay. I'm still going to provide as much help as I can to this force. All of us will. Even if you see me as a villain, I won't act in such a way towards you. I promise you Takashi. Even if I don't know what my counterpart's done to you, I want to personally atone for everything he's done. One way or another." Jason slowly explained to his younger brother. Takashi's eyes softened as he took a slow glance in Jason's direction before diverting his gaze for a second time.

"Stop talking to me." Takashi replied simply and coldly. Jason lingered in his brother's presence momentarily before walking away from him, calmly exiting from the scene. He entered the kitchen, not noticing Brian. As he approached the sink, he found a nearby cup, and turned on the tap. As he hung his head, his breaths became heavy as he watched the cold water run before him, his eyes steadily affixed on the flowing liquid as it fell into the sink, crashing like a roaring torrent into the steel surface before making an exit into the drain.

"Are you gonna be okay Jason?" Erebus asked.

"Y-yeah. I just...need some water." He answered somberly, his hands clutching the edge of the counter, seemingly holding himself up. Tears began to quietly fall from his face as he attempted to fill his cup, his breaths were long and ragged as a horrible frown twisted onto his face.

"Mr Jinrou, hold your tongue and listen to me," Catherine ordered. Her expression and voice were both far colder than Takashi's. "Use your brain for a second. If these people were our enemies, why would I have brought them into my own home base? Second Lieutenant Bishop and I found all of these people locked up in Prison Block Theta. The man bearing similarities to Lector - " she shot a glance at the seated Levi " - had been injured, presumably by the General's own hands. As an aside, do you honestly think Lector would be caught dead out of his uniform?" Again, she glanced at Levi's clothing, noting the difference in the two men's choice of apparel.

"As for the mirror image of your brother, he was jailed just like the rest of them. He also had no knowledge of the presence of the Key Corps in United America forces, nor knowledge of you being with us, until he was informed as such," she explained.

"I do not expect you to trust these people, let alone like them, but you will not go around assaulting them in any way. They are our allies, and you will treat them as such until they are proven otherwise. For now, return to your quarters. You are dismissed," she stated. The formally clad clone gestured to the door. Once Takashi had left, the original breathed a short sigh of relief and her facial expression softened considerably. Mr Jinrou was a difficult man to deal with at the best of times, in her experience.

"I apologise for that. Sometimes a little authority goes a long way," Catherine said to the group as a whole. "Now then..." she added quietly, casting her eyes about the room. Her gaze landed on Katie: the woman who had said she could control plants was out of her green-and-brown armour, which was standing up against one wall. She was an enigma to Catherine: presumably she had come from this bizarre idea of an alternate dimension.

The cloner beckoned to Katie, gesturing to a couple of seats that were apart from the others. "You and I need to talk, Ms Demeter, whenever you are ready," she added.

Katie watched the proceedings with some alarm, her query about the missing Requiem forgotten. She was unsure of how it would conclude until Catherine stepped in, pulling rank on Takashi and giving him an earful. Jason didn't take Takashi's attitude too well, it seemed... when he walked into the kitchen, he did so almost too calmly, like there was a methodical sense to his movements.

She turned her attention back to Catherine in time for her counterpart to beckon to her. "Me? Um... alright, just give me a moment," she answered, remembering that a clone had said that the original had wanted to speak to her. She wanted to check on Jason, make sure he was alright. At Catherine's nod of approval, she slipped into the kitchen to find Brian still there, quietly observing, and Jason standing at the sink. Katie approached the latter, careful not to startle him.

"Hey, are you okay?" she asked, leaning up against the counter beside him.

With the problem of Takashi removed, Rowan and Spoon leaned back in their seats, almost identically. The former gave a sigh of relief: even if a part of him disapproved of Catherine pulling rank, it was good to eliminate issues as soon as they came up, rather than let them linger. He said as much to Spoon, quietly so the cloner wouldn't overhear.

±Hm, yes, I agree to an extent. But with that attitude you would never make it in the military, Rowan,± Spoon answered, giving the shapeshifter a look of mild amusement.

"Fair enough. I don't plan to join anyway. And hey, as I said, I haven't killed a man," Rowan reiterated.

±What would you do, though, if you were forced to take a life? If you had no other choice but to kill a man standing in front of you?±

Rowan had to think over that answer. It was a difficult question. "I guess... I guess if there were absolutely no other option, I'd do it," he eventually said. "But only if it was impossible to take any other action."

±I see... But perhaps that wasn't the right question. If you did end up killing someone, how would you feel? Would you be able to live with yourself afterwards? A day after? A month, a year?± Spoon continued to question him. Again, Rowan didn't answer immediately. The psychic's questions were both confusing and understandable at the same time.

"I... I don't know. That depends on a lot of things. Who they are, what they did to deserve it, what I use to kill them - "

±You're avoiding the question. Dancing around it won't get you anywhere.±

"Sorry, sorry. Um... yeah, I don't know. But you said it isn't something to be enjoyed."

±That I did. I do, however, feel that it is something that you should experience. Just to see how it feels. You can't hide away from it in this line of work, especially since at least one of your powers is more or less designed to be a weapon.±

Briān hated having to do use his powers like that Takeshi. He had been a good soldier for a while, they had even fought along side each other in a few battles. But he was acting completely out of line, and it was the only way he knew to cool him down. It was one thing to go off on your fellow soldiers. It was another to go off on your commander, especially when that commander was the only woman he ever loved. Besides, Takeshi had to learn that those were not the things that were to be said to the commander's face. You were only supposed to think them and spout off when they weren't around. At least his cold tactics appeared to have worked. He wasn't beating the shit out of the other person anymore, even if the other person did run off.

Catherine picked up where he had left off now that Takeshi was able to stand again. She tore into the headstrong Key Corp member with the same kind of calculating coldness she usually reserved for her enemies, again, necessary for the points to hit home. Briān almost felt sorry for Takeshi, the mental beatdown coming so soon after he sapped away his physical strength. As Catherine went off to take to the woman who bore such a resemblance to herself, Briān stayed put amidst the throng of people, maintaining some order as he pulled in Takeshi for a quick follow up.

"I apologize for using my...'powers' on you like zat, Takeshi," he whispered. "I 'ad to calm you down some'ow, before someting unfortunate 'appened. 'Owever, do not say I do not understand pain. I 'ave endured more due to zese 'powers' zan you will ever know. Next time you make such claims, take Ms. Southe's advice and tink about wat you are saying before running your maut like zat again."

The noise had come to a sudden end in the lounge, which worried Brian. It probably meant his services were going to be needed. Instead, Jason came in, and went directly to the sink, acquiring some water. He looked like he was in a state of shock, his chest was heaving, he was crying, it was a bad scene. Katie went to comfort him and Brian followed after.

"Yeah, Jase," Brian asked him. "You OK there, buddy? What's going on out there? Sounded some rough."

"Ethan?" Taryn was started to get worried. And not just because she was lost in a dimly lit hallway inside of a Resistance base located in an alternate universe. Ethan was completely unresponsive. But he wasn't immobile. His awkward, shuffling gait concerned Taryn. It was very reminiscent of the zombies that invaded the Promenade. An unpleasant comparison.

"I know I've asked already but where are you going?" Taryn's initial tone of curiosity was now quiet urgency. Had accessing the Resistance computer done something? Fried some circuits? Trying to physical restrain or direct Ethan's movement hadn't proved effective at all. Taryn silently wished that the Society's communicators still worked. She didn't want to leave Ethan in case he wandered into some hostile Resistance soldier. Or worse.  But she wasn't sure how to contact Garrus or Levi to get their attention. 'Someone will notice eventually...' she hoped. There were only...a few stairwells and hallways and one sort of half-step between them and the lounge. 'No wait, there was more than that...'

Because she was focused on Ethan, and how to get the attention of a solider without getting shot, Taryn paid no attention to the cameras and monitoring equipment on the walls. If she had bothered to check, she would have noticed that they were all angled toward the closest wall. And some of the lights were blinking. Lights that indicated that the equipment was enabled and functioning properly.

When Ethan finally stopped it was in front of a metal door. Completely solid with no discernible handle. Taryn sighed with relief, happy to have reached an end point. "Okay." she said firmly, taking a hold of Ethan's sleeve, "Let's go back now because-what are you doing?"

But of course there was no response. Taryn's grip was lost when Ethan's arm jerked forward and his hand wrapped around a numeric keypad she hadn't noticed. With another quick jerk the faceplate of the device was removed. Pulling some of the wires free Ethan held up his hand and fed the ends of the wires into his index finger. His body jerked, and Taryn jumped backwards in reflex. She glanced around the hallway, expecting alarms, but there were none. There was also still no one in sight. With the wire still anchoring him to the door panel Ethan slowly turned toward Taryn.

"Hey.." she said cautiously. "Are you go?" Taryn kept her voice low and steady. She still couldn't decipher Ethan's attitude. 'Easy does it...' Taryn took a deliberate step forward and moved to take Ethan's sleeve. She gasped when Ethan's free hand shot out to grip her wrist instead and she was pulled forward.

Off-balance, Taryn stumbled through the doorway just as the door slid open. There were no lights. Only darkness. Taryn held her hand out, bracing for the impact of table or chair. But there was none. She regained her balance and immediately turned back to the doorway.

"Ethan, we're not supposed to be-." A deceptively normal-looking fist slammed into the side of Taryn's head. Stunned, she fell to the ground.

Levi had sprung out of his seat when the conflict between Jason and the alternate Takashi escalated. Magnetic energy was focused into his hands in anticipation for a brawl that never came to fruition. This universe's Brian, apparently known as Briān, quickly subdued the uncooperative Keyholder with the assistance of Tommy, and Catherine gave him a firm chewing-out. A very distraught Jason shuffled off into the kitchen, with Katie and Brian not far behind. Takashi's unbridled anger had struck something deep within him. Hopefully, he would be better after having some time to cool off.

The gathered energy dissipated as Levi sighed tiredly. Once more unhappy with the idea of standing, he slouched back into his seat. He reached for his glass of water and took a drink. The water had a very distinct metallic tang to it, probably from being excessively filtered and disinfected. A necessary measure to be sure, but it didn't do anything to prevent the copper taste the liquid left behind. Better than nothing, he thought with a mental shrug as he took another sip.

Still only gathering his bearings, Takashi could only watch as his commanding officer coldly dug into him, informing him on cruical points leading to the Society's innocence. Takashi hung his head in shame, a realization of his naļvety. She promptly dismissed him from the room afterward, leaving him to think of what he's done. He stormed from the room, doing his best to not make any eye contact. He managed a quick glance in the direction of the kitchen, noticing the one that called himself a brother, slumped over the sink in a fairly distraught state, comforted by his friends. Takashi diverted his gaze in haste, beginning to realize how much his blunder affected this peculiar group of people. As he made his way out, Briān fell in beside him and gave him one last piece of his mind. Takashi slowly looked towards him, shaking his head as he sighed.

"I don't think you completely heard me when I said that. Sir...I understand your pain. We all do, I think. Shit, I practically got an even better understanding not too long ago. I can only imagine how hard it must be for you to go on and live a normal life, with powers like yours. It's one of the reasons why we look up to you, y'know? The way you can present yourself in such a confident way, despite your cons. And have you ever seen yourself in battle? Even when you don't resort to your powers, you were a force to be reckoned with." He stated, his last lines uttered with a fanboyish tone.

"I feel like I should be that way. Like you. Not letting my own problems interfere with other problems. But whenever I looked into that Keyholder's eyes, hell, when I just shot a glance in his direction, all I saw was my older brother. All I saw was the way he treated me, the way he betrayed's hard to just get over these things, for me at least. All I felt was the rage that I wanted to unleash on him. When he apologized to me, it gave me a brief feeling that things could go back to normal, that there could've been even a sliver of a returned normality. That I could've even had my big brother back. But things never can go back to normal. I then thought that he was only performing some sort of mind trick on me, as if he were feigning some sort of false trust. Even if wanted to, I still wouldn't be able to trust him, not yet at least. I would've hoped you, of all people, would've understood that." Takashi replied, his voice lowering steadily. As he finished, he realized he and Briān had stopped walking, and stood at the threshold of the lounge. He shared one last look with Briān before walking off.

Jason began to struggle to fill his cup, his vision blurring from the tears. As he stood at that sink, distraught thoughts began to plague his mind. He usually tends to keep said thoughts away, but now, in his weakened state, they flowed from his psyche like a consistant stream. Erebus made attempts at calming his host down, but to no avail.

"Dammit...I'm still a wanted man at the Key Corps, my brother hates me no matter which universe i'm in, this...thing...inside me makes daily attempts to destroy everything I've kept's becoming to much to bare...agh...Goddammit!" He thought somber thoughts as he refused to break contact from the sink. He put a hand to his face as the tears became heavier, becoming harder to hide his thickening, stifled breaths.

For once, it felt all his problems had become too much. He hated the feeling, it was one of the things he could've legitimately admitted to hating, and yet, it leaked through him uninterrupted. This feeling of hopelessness. Eventually, a voice broke through his self-inflicting barrage of negative thoughts. He slowly looked up from his lowered position, realizing it was Katie who spoke to him, Brian following in after her. What they asked were simple questions, and yet, he couldn't help but feel a bit better after them. Maybe he was just acting on some sort of subconscious defense mechanism. He managed to stand up straight, to properly face the two.

"...yeah, Kate...Brian...I'm fine. was a lot to take in, is all." He hesitantly replied to the two, displaying a small, faux smile.

The worst part for Ethan was that he knew what he was being forced to do and could do nothing to stop it. Whoever was controlling him had gotten into his system somehow; either through sheer luck or skill. Ethan couldn't decide which option was worse, but the fact that he was not able to fight back made him believe it was the latter.

That brought up the question of how this person was causing him to do this; was it through sheer technology? Ethan knew that that shouldn't be possible; he had more than enough safeguards to stop a takeover like that from happening. Which meant it was someone with a power that had caused this.

The conclusion did not help him at all as he watched his body punch out poor Taryn after leading her into a secluded area. Cords and wires were grabbed from boxes in the dark room and used to restrain Taryn after her jacket was taken off. Ethan tried to regain control of his movements as she was taken to a chair and tied up, but stopped after hearing a sickening snap as he was forced to tie her arm down to the chair.

'Maybe it's best for me to just stop fighting it. I can't win,' he thought solemnly, sadly accepting that there was nothing he could.

Tommy grimaced when he saw Jason, it might not be a bad thing for someone to talk to Takashi on for him. Tommy walked over and gave his friend a soft pat on the back. Prefering not to say anything. He then walked over to Catherine. "Excuse me, Lieutenant Southe?" He asked, " There was something I wanted to ask, do you have anyone in the resistance who would be considered an expert on Magic? Defected mages, outcast types, or cultists? See I had some things I wanted to investigate concerning with what I saw back in the Prison."

Bishop had watched the ordeal with disgust. Less of it was directed at how Catherine's soldier Takashi acted and more was directed at Briān's abuse with his powers. This was something that he wouldn't let go, was also something he wasn't going to make a public scene out of. Tyson chose to bide his time and follow the two; listening to their conversation and making sure Briān didn't do something of a disgraceful manner again.

As soon as Takashi left, Bishop moved beside Briān. He turned his head towards the soldier and spoke softly so only the two of them could hear. "The problem is you didn't endure his pain and he didn't endure yours. It's been said that all pain is different and you can only sympathize by the degrees of separation between. His betrayal by his brother, your isolation from making contact with the ones you love, and the loss of my wife and child are all painful, but in their differences we will never truly understand each other's pain.

That however is philosophy and I am a soldier. I can't say anything with truth in that field because it isn't my own. What I can do is speak volumes about things in regards to a military life. One topic is the rules we have to follow as soldiers. Using your powers to "calm down" Takashi in that manner breaks several of those rules. Another one is how to differentiate ourselves from our enemies. Using a power that inflicts pain to control a soldier is a United America tactic. In short I'll leave you with the message Corporal. If I ever see you use your powers in that fashion again on a fellow soldier, I'll put you down like the United America dogs who do the same. Is that understood?"

As the ordeal cleared Tyson saw Levi sitting alone. He had wanted to talk to the man about a few things in private for a while, but Taryn was practically stuck to him. After doing a quick scan and not seeing her nearby, Tyson took his chance and approached Levi. "I was wondering if you had some time to talk about a few things?" Tyson asked as the pain in his body started to build again.

Katie was in no way convinced that Jason was okay. She figured that it would be a lot to take in, and he wouldn't just be able to brush it off so quickly. The hesitation in his voice and the tears in his eyes told her otherwise. "Jase... don't give me that. We all know that's not true. It sounded like Takashi hurt you in more ways than one... Come on, spill. You'll feel better." She was trying to coax the Keyholder into giving her and Brian a proper answer.

Catherine gave the seven-foot tall Tommy a quizzical look. "Magic, you say..." she mused. Knowledge of the magical arts was commonplace: the ability to display such power was a bit less common. The European Union was where many magic-users lived. There were none these days in the America-based resistance effort. The few that had been a part of the Resistance had been captured and executed. How, she didn't know.

"That's a no. We have no-one with magical capabilities in United America," she answered. "We had a small group of them on the front line at one point, but soon after they showed signs of magical power, their camp was raided. I do not know how, but United America knew we had magicians in our ranks. The four of them were all executed soon after their capture." She had a tinge of regret to her voice, though she knew full well that the magic-users had not been under her command, and that she couldn't have done anything to save them.

"Most magical people can be found in the European Union, so you'll have better luck after the flight," Catherine added.

Brian was standing in line with Katie, nodding. "Yeah buddy, I mean, this is a lot for all of us to take in there, but looks like there is something going on. Something kinda harsh, you know? You can tell us man, we'll listen."

Briān mulled over Takashi's parting words in his head as the Key Corp member left. Is zere really no hope left in zat man? Zat 'e can feel such ennui with 'is life? Is it almost saddening. Should I be tinking similar thoughts? Is zere really no 'ope for me to be close to mon Caterine? .......Non. Non, I can not be tinking zat. I must be strong. For 'er. For my one love.

While affirming himself in his mind, Briān received another unwelcome visitor, Bishop. No doubt 'ere to chew me out for Takashi. All right zen, let's 'ere this. Bishop went on about philosophic affairs and Briān nodded along, paying mental lip service until he got towards the end of his speech.

"Using a power that inflicts pain to control a soldier is a United America tactic. In short I'll leave you with the message Corporal. If I ever see you use your powers in that fashion again on a fellow soldier, I'll put you down like the United America dogs who do the same. Is that understood?"

That struck a nerve. Being chewed out was one thing. Being compared to the enemy was another thing. Briān wasn't going to take that one lying down.

"I understand my methods were too extreme, Second Lieutenant but to compare me to zose dogs is misinformed. I do not use my powers for pleasure, not do I get a great joy in seeing people suffer as such by my own 'and. I know zat none of you may 'ave cared to keep track of my beliefs after what 'appened all zose months ago, but understand zis. I came back down to Washington for one person, and if zat person is under any perceived danger, I do not care if it is from zose bastard Americans, someone on zis team, one of zose prisoners, Jerry Lewis, whoever! If zey are liable to cause 'arm to zat person, I will take ze measures to protect zem from zat possible threat. Per'aps if you were so worried about what happened, you would 'ave reined in Takashi like a Commander should, non? Zen I would not 'ave been forced to step in as I did."

Briān started to walk away, back towards the main room. He stopped as if to add something else, but nothing was said. He continued on.

Tommy nodded, the fact that the resistance didn't have any mages was telling. "What about New Eldorado, the Island city of mage just in central America?" New Eldorado was like a second home to Tommy he had lived there for years before joining the SoJ. Back in his old universe he had friends and family there. He wasn't sure what he had now. He checked his watch, and wondered how long until the plane was ready, and made sure he was standing up straight.

The artificial smile Jason displayed to his two friends began to slowly deteriorate, indication that they saw clean through his poor ruse, and he was aware of it. He took a quick glance in Katie's direction, saw the look of concern in her eyes.

"Figured that wouldn't work...Katie...after all this time, you're still so adamant in your ways." He thought slowly, mentally shaking his head. He was in a state he wished no one would see him in. A state of weakness. With the people that were currently addressing him about his current state, the situation felt even worse for him.

"I wanted to protect...her...still do...I hoped she would never have to see me like this..." He thought seemingly at random, his thoughts taking advantage of his feelings, delving further into a negative state. Erebus quickly retorted, now growing agitated in his host's sulking.

"That's enough Jason. There's no reason for you to be thinking of things like that. Not here, not now, not ever. Your friends are here for you. I'm here for you. So please, cheer up. Please?" Erebus told him, initially very stern in his prose, but soon calming to his usual tone. Jason failed to reply, but understood Erebus' plead loud and clear. He looked up towards Katie and Brian, his tear flow slowing significantly.

"There's a lot of things that've been on my mind. Along with the Society's ordeals, I still have my own...problems, to worry about. Thoughts regarding my, apparently indefinite sentence, my family's well being, and...other things..." He said to the two, changing around the ending half of his sentence as he looked over Brian.

"Being told off by a younger version of my older brother just hit me like a ton of bricks, and I collapsed under all the weight. Even with all the time I spend crafting my mind into a steel fortress, the bad thoughts still manage to leak out." He thought with a short sigh. His dark eyes lowered again.

"Dammit." He thought lowly. It didn't feel like talking helped him. Instead it just felt like he was letting outside forces know of his vulnerabilities.

"In the hands of United America," was Catherine's simple answer. "That is public knowledge. They have most likely stripped it bare by now, exploiting the magic of the city and bending it to their will. United America's 'leaders' seek power purely for the sake of having it: as such, they will do whatever they can to keep it all under its control."

Though she did not say it, Catherine wanted to watch the leaders and generals of United America beg for mercy at her feet. Then she would personally put a bullet in each and every one of their skulls. Maybe two for good measure. Their regime was entirely unfit for governing even a smaller country, let alone the considerably larger one over which they had power.

"You've asked a fair few questions about magic. Are you a magician yourself?" Catherine asked. "If so, I request that you do not use any spells that you may have at your disposal. Such an act will likely be detected in the same way as the few mages we had had before."

Katie nodded as Jason finished up his explanation. Even the strongest defense had a chink somewhere that could affect it one way or another. She tentatively put a hand on the Keyholder's shoulder. "Jase, we all have our own problems to take care of. Might not look like it, but they're there," she said, in an attempt to reassure him. "Unless you have some way to lock away your own thoughts, they're gonna resurface when you least expect it, I think. It happens, and you just need to find ways to cope with it, is all."

"Stop me if I'm completely wrong, of course," she added as an afterthought, a small smile crossing her face momentarily.

You were staring at me.
>I saw you is all. You stand out.
In this company, Captain, I believe you're the one who stands out.

She was tired. Too tired to be having a coherent discussion. But 'Firefly Friday' was almost over. Almost...almost. The people dancing on screen blurred when Taryn yawned. She kept her eyes closed for a few seconds, just listening to the Captain and his Companion banter. Even in the dark Taryn saw chiffon dresses and tailored suits spinning. It sounded like fun...

"I've never been to a dance..." Taryn said quietly.

You have no call to try to make me ashamed of my job. What I do is legal. And how's that smuggling coming?
>My work's illegal, but at least it's honest.

There was a muted sound as Levi shifted. But Taryn kept her gaze on the TV screen as she continued. "I mean, we had them. Back in school. But I never went. Too many people. I was afraid I'd...shock someone. Or accidentally fry the equipment. And I didn't have anyo-um..." Taryn sat up abruptly. "I mean..." Suddenly more awake, she shifted to sit cross-legged on the bed. Her hands dropped to her lap. "It wasn't worth the risk." Taryn finished. She held her hands a few inches apart and released her control for a brief moment. Tiny sparks drifted down her bare arms, stopping to collect at her hands. Taryn flexed her fingers slowly, watching the electricity freely jump back and forth.

Whoa now. Watch yourself. Ain't no need for hands on.
> Excuse me, she's not here with you, Captain. She's mine.
Yours? She don't belong to nobody.

Levi appeared to consider something for a moment, then smiled warmly. "You know, there's a nice dance studio not too from here. If we ever have the spare time..."

I hope you're prepared, Captain.
>What? You all talking about a fight? That's fine.
-It's not a fist fight, Mal.

Taryn looked up, and almost looked back. But her gazed stopped on the TV. Captain Mal and some fancy guy were arguing. Dance studio. They could go dancing. But...'I'm not really sure how...' Being coordinated in battle was one thing. Being coordinated for a dance seemed...different. What if she stepped on his foot? What if?...Taryn shook her head.

"We can go dancing?" She asked. Just to be sure. To make it...official.

He'll need a second.
>I'll take on the job.
He fights if you refuse.

Sitting up from his reclined position, Levi wrapped his arms around Taryn's waist and kissed her cheek. "I'd love to."

Taryn smiled, relaxing back against Levi with a happy sigh. "I love you" she said quietly. So it might be awkward at first. It would be worth it.

On screen, Captain Mal was looking a bit smug. Things seemed to be going his way, after all. But Taryn had seen this episode many times. There was still- Another yawn broke through her train of thought. Taryn closed her eyes, and let her mind drift.

You taking on this job... being my second...does this mean we're in business?
>It means you're in mortal danger.


Taryn awoke with a strangled gasp and what felt like fire in her arm. She was seated on...something...and her shoulders were immobilized. Panicking, Taryn tried to simultaneously move her feet and bring her arm forward. But she gasped audibly when the motions were halted. Panic turned into nausea. Taryn closed her eyes. Slowly, very slowly, she counted to ten. Then fifteen. Then she opened her eyes to the darkness.

Responding to her pain, there were small electrical sparks running along her arms and legs. She could feel the arcs as they traveled, but it wasn't nearly enough light to be useful. She was...trapped. But where? Breathing in short, shallow bursts Taryn carefully shifted her right hand, the one that she could move without passing out. She was tied with...something...but it wasn't wasn't metal. Plastic maybe? she could burn plastic if she could just...

It was the prong at the end of the 'rope' that gave it away. 'Cord'. She was tied with cords. 'What...what is this? Where is...'

"Ethan...Ethan?" her voice was hoarse, and shaky. How long had she been out? Wait...Ethan had hit her...why?

There was no response. And her eyes weren't adjusted to the dark yet. Not when she was using energy just to stay alert. Taryn leaned forward, trying to ignore the pain, just to see what her boundaries were. Cords were restraining her shoulders to what felt like a chair, wrapped around her waist, and bound her feet together. Taryn struggled to picture the room she'd glimpsed earlier.

There was a quiet hum of activation. A subtle noise that Taryn felt more than heard. Monitors. There were monitors on the wall. Rectangles of back-lit black. And they were turning on.

Monitors meant light. As the first screen came on Taryn immediately looked to her left. Where the door had been before. She needed to know where the exit was. She had to get out of-

"Well, well."

Taryn's entire body froze. A small noise of pain escaped as she her arm was tensed. "No..." it was a whisper, a horrified utterance of denial.

"I thought you'd never wake up. You've been out for 525.34 seconds." That voice. That voice...

'Please' Fighting the urge to hyperventilate, Taryn slowly turned her head to look at the screen. And there it was. There she was. Her face. It was her face. On every monitor, every screen. In hundreds of perfectly placed pixels. And not just her was all her. Clothed in white and grey material, that could have once been a shirt with very very long sleeves. Pants of the same white cloth but covered in blackened and torn threads. Short, so very short, bleached hair did nothing to cover the manic expression. And where Taryn's electricity was blue the figure's was pure white, the rapidly traveling arcs so strong that each one was audible over what had to be built-in speakers. The figure on screen raised her hand, and Taryn could see that where there wasn't cloth her arms were covered in burns. Familiar burns.

"I'm so glad you could make it." That voice was hers...but...different. There was something strange about the cadence. Even as she thought of the word Taryn lost its definition. Her vision was starting to get blurry. And still the figure kept talking. "Though I have to admit I didn't think it would be this easy."

"Who are you?" Taryn demanded. Or, she tried to. It came out as a whisper. She couldn't watch anymore. Taryn turned her head away from the screen. And on the far side of the room, she saw Ethan silhouette. Revealed in the soft light of the monitors he was standing at rigid attention, hands behind his back, feet together. He looked like a soldier. Taryn caught flashes of light from the boy's visor but couldn't see what they were.

"What did you Ethan?" It hurt to talk. It hurt to move. To try to move. But if she kept her free hand in just the right angle there was enough slack in the restraints that she could breathe without wanting to throw up.

"Who am I?" The figure on screen laughed. " no no you're asking the wrong questions. Not who am I. Who are you?

"What?-" was all Taryn could say. Her words were overridden by the figure's ranting.

"Because you can't be me. I am singular. I am absolute. You are just some...some hacker. Plastic surgeon extraordinaire who knows what I look like. But no one knows what I look like. I've scrubbed all the systems just for that purpose and you! You've managed to duplicate my appearance almost decently. Bravo." The figure clapped but with the bits of cloth haphazardly tied around her hands and wrists there was no sound. Then, like a conductor with a symphony the figure raised both hands and made a slashing motion.

Cameras Taryn hadn't noticed on the walls suddenly all came to life and swiveled to point at where Ethan stood motionless.

"And this?" The figure jerked her hand and a camera mimicked the motion. "This I borrowed. Such a fun little invention. I was going to bring him home to play with but then you started to come too and well..." the figure twirled her hand around. And with the motion the cameras also rotated. Complete control. Completely effortless control.

"I couldn't let the opportunity go to waste." The figure stood up from her chair and walked closer. There was a brief shaking on the screen as what was apparently a camera was adjusted.

"So tell me." The figure sat back down. "Who are you?"

"" The captive whispered. She was Taryn...she was...she was. Taryn's head slowly dropped forward.

"Father's birth date? Hey. Hey I'm talking at you!" The speaker volume ratcheted up, followed by loud squealing feedback that made Taryn flinch. Her eyes opened and she grunted but raised her head. Obediently.

"Father's birth date. Speak." A quick flick of a wrist, another camera rotation.

"He never admits to having one." Taryn answered slowly. Last name. Mother's maiden name. First pet. First laptop brand. As the questions were answered the figure on the screen became more and more agitated. Taryn closed her eyes again, after ten questions, and just focused on answering. As long as her mind was distracted it didn't hurt as much. It didn' didn't. Or maybe she was just going numb. If she could just-

"Mother's death date!" The figure snapped. Standing now, she had one arm outstretched and apparently holding the camera because it shook with each word.

"What?" Taryn jerked in surprise. Over her hiss of pain the figure began to smile. "I don't-" The smile became a full laugh.

"Gotcha." It was her grin, on a maniac's face. Twisted and distorted and just wrong "And on such an easy question, too. Why that one's practically public record." The annoyance was completely gone now, replaced by a smug expression. And an almost childish delight.

"An almost perfect copycat. You were so close, too." The figure held up a hand and made a 'tsk' sound.

Taryn dropped her head down again. She hurt. And what didn't hurt felt...cold...numb...she was in shock. And some distant part of her knew. But if she could just close her eyes...maybe it would all go away. She just wanted to go back to Levi...

Sudden whirring noises indicated the cameras were moving again. A small window appeared on screen, showing Taryn's own self strapped to a chair. The camera lens altered, and the video zoomed in. "You're hiding something." the figure declared. "I want to know what. Is it a trap? Wait, are you wired?"

Taryn's breathing slowed, approaching a normal rhythm. There was only the slightest hitch whenever she reached the end of an exhale.

"Hey. Hey! I didn't say you could nap!" But Taryn was no longer listening.

"So weak..." the figure muttered angrily. The cameras whirled toward Ethan.

"You! You can tell me the truth. Well. Part of you can. Part of you is weak, malleable. Breakable. Try not to break, would you? And Pay. Attention."

Ethan had stayed still beside the wall of the small, dark room; watching as the monitors lit up and showed a familiar face.

'At least somewhat familiar. Just what happened?' he wondered, taking a good look at this different Taryn on the screen. He knew that was why he had a familiar feeling when he had first been hacked, though now that he found out the reason he wished it weren't the case. 'I don't like this universes' Taryn,' he decided as he listened to the two women talk to each other, before seeing normal Taryn fall to unconsciousness.

The alternate Taryn then turned the cameras to look at him, and the familiar feeling of being taken over came back once more. Again he did his best to fight it, but he lost the battle over himself quicker than before.

The memory group of files were being rifled through by psycho Taryn (as Ethan now called her) with images of events popping up so he could see them himself. Most seemed to be unimportant to her and were promptly ignored, but then she found the ones with Taryn. The first was the battle back at the Nova City Museum years ago with it being the first time he had seen Taryn. That fight was replayed a few times before the next memories were viewed. Society related ones caught her interest for a few seconds, but not as much as the ones with both Taryn and Levi.

'I should have purged these like some of the others,' Ethan thought as he watched, the screen turning into his tech vision for a moment before he was forced to grab Taryn's electronics. Her computer and phone were taken, with the former being hooked up to a jack in the wall and the phone being hooked straight to the computer. The screens for both turned into a scrambled mess and started to emit static after being connected. Ethan then moved back over against the wall, once more waiting to see what would happen next.


Never had she imagined such a place. Such energy, such conflict, and so many battles! Mirror images of the real world implanted with radical personalities. It was almost amusing in its paradoxical way. It was like a film, of the highest budget, directed by an rather inventive mind. She simply had to know more. But above all she was interested in the pathetic attempt at duplication. Her own mirror image. There was much material to cover with the little copycat. And Taryn simply insisted on that discussion being uninterrupted. That 'team' or whatever it was...well they needed to stay out of the way. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for following one another...and there was just so much to cover...

Pulling interesting tidbits from the robot's puny mind had been easy. Re-routing the phone to piggyback off of a satellite signal, to amplify it's range - easy. So experiencing a delay when trying to get the antiquated phone to break its 140 character limit was unacceptable. 'Character limits! How archaic. How confining.' With a hiss of frustration Taryn duplicated the phone's software. She created a short message and masked it with the ID and number stored in the phone's tiny little SIM card. A quick scan using her newest toy's visor located another antiquated phone, its signal a laughable 818.24-2012. The specifications matched the phone she'd duplicated. 'Good enough.' She used her own - well it might have once belonged to a conglomerate - internet backbone to send the message to that signal.

'Now to see what else is hiding.' From phone to computer, Taryn's attention shifted. In her 'waiting room' two cameras moved on fixed rotations. One was focused on the robot, the other machine casually observed an unmoving captive.

As she retrieved and copied data by the terabyte Taryn's computer rapidly produced error messages. Window upon window protested the amount and speed of data that was being transferred. The weaknesses of machines annoyed Taryn. Her system had a RAID setup to compensate for such mechanical deficiency. If one drive failed the rest could compensate. And so on and so forth until she was forced to 'purchase' more drives. Taryn ignored most of the errors, her goal to gather as much data as possible. Fast. But there was one message that made her pause.

Warning: Network drive disconnected. Data transfer incomplete. Warning: Files might be corrupted. Run recovery? (Y/N) Y

An idle thought froze the error message in place. A simple command gave her access to some very interesting files. Encrypted files, but what was encryption but a twist and a wave? Such interesting information. One might even call it...personal.

As Katie addressed him, Jason could feel the liquid running down his face begin to slow even further, eventually dying upon his cheeks as Katie placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. She was right in her talk, after all. He began to think. Remembering several instances where the present situation became too much for he and his peers to emotionally handle. Like a few years back, when Alex learned of her possible sterility, Levi before and after he was plagued with Victor, and ever further so, when Richard lost the schematics to his armor, bringing an uprising and war with it. He began to vaguely remember how hard Richard took it, as well as how it momentarily forced Katie to run away from the Society. He began to think further, and remembered how he too ran away during that tense event, with the beast inside of him on the verge of unleashing itself.

"Katie did run away that time didn't she? And everyone...wanted me to go after her...back when we..." The seldom thought popped into his psyche, Jason shaking it away before it could fully process. It was a thought he didn't want to elaborate further on, and yet it kept spawning itself. He was trying to get away, yet it kept coming back. Why was this happening to him, and right now of all times? He looked up to Katie, saw the soft look of sincerity in her eyes. He couldn't help but return her small smile with one of his own. It was one of those rare times where, for once, Jason didn't feel like he was in danger. Like his thoughts of paranoia and fear melted away into oblivion. It was one of those feelings that he once thought couldn't be emitted through all humans.

", you're right. Maybe I've just been thinking too much about my own problems lately. I really shouldn't be doing that when I...when we have other worlds counting on us." He answered finally, turning back towards the sink to fix his glass of water. As the clear, cool liquid filled the cup, Jason took a long, slow exhale. He'd have to bypass his dilemmas for the moment, for the sake of the team. For her.

"Okay, I think i'm gonna make it. Thank you. Both of you." He said to the two of them, his smile growing slightly as he put the glass to his lips. He was fully finished with moping for the moment, and thought it'd be best to change the air in the room.

"You sure, Jase?" Katie persisted. Receiving a small nod for her trouble, she gave a small sigh of relief. It wasn't very beneficial when someone on the team was down... she would know, having been that weak link in the chain herself on a fair few occasions. "Good to hear. If you ever need to talk, you know I'm here for you. We all are..." Or, well, most of us are, she thought to herself, knowing that some people wouldn't want to hear about the problems of others.

"Um... I gotta go. Catherine wants to see me. Take care of yourself, okay?" Katie asked rhetorically as she made to leave the kitchen. Upon returning to the lounge, she immediately spotted the Second Lieutenant with whom she shared a surname, standing and waiting for her to return. Catherine beckoned for Katie to follow her to the back of the lounge: she followed obediently, knowing that the two of them would want at least some degree of privacy.

The two of them sat opposite one another at a small table, designed for two, or maybe even one. Before Katie could speak up, Catherine opened her mouth. "Alright... here's the deal," she began. Not for the first time Katie was a bit weirded out by the fact that she was listening to a copy of herself.

"I don't know you, Ms Demeter, so I can't take any major chances without good reason. But I am willing to believe that you and your fellows are from some sort of parallel universe... if you alone can convince me. There is evidence enough to suggest it. Mr Rojas being opposed to United America, for one. But I want solid, factual truth, especially about you. So you and I are going to do a bit of questioning and answering. To begin with, you will be answering my questions, and I trust that you will answer them honestly and truthfully. Are you ready to begin?"

Katie held her tongue for a moment. It was easy enough to agree to Catherine's terms straight off the bat, but she didn't want to just rush into this. "If I may, I just have one question before you start," she answered. "I can understand why you chose me. I look like you and I have a similar name. But what are you going to do with the information I freely give you? And please, call me Katie," she added as an afterthought.

"I will compare your answers to the answers I myself would give, and determine if there is enough difference in them to eliminate the possibility of you being a United America agent slipped into the prison to infiltrate my compound," Catherine answered. "That is the higher priority of the two. The second is that I will use your answers, and how you give them, to see if you are in fact telling the truth." Her voice was plain, deadpan. It startled Katie a little: even now Catherine was unsure of her origins, even going so far as to imply that she did not trust her.

"Alright," was all that Katie needed to say. Immediately Catherine launched into her questions.

Full name: Katie Gabrielle Southe. Parents' full names: Jordan Gabriel Southe, Lucille Danielle Southe (née Petersen). Parents' current status: deceased. Siblings: None. Extended family: None. Date of birth: eleventh of June. Age: twenty. Highest level of education: a high school diploma. Katie had never been to college. Age at which she became a registered super: seventeen.

These were all simple questions, though Katie choked up a little at the mention of her parents' death. That was still a sore spot, she realised, even though it had barely been mentioned in recent times. She silently cursed the memory of Marilyn Reinhardt before Catherine spoke again.

The questions turned to Katie's plant control. How she had obtained her powers: a passive mimicry ability, which had evolved into full-fledged plant control over constant exposure to gardens and the work involved with the plants therein. It could have turned into anything, but Katie had been around plants the longest. The cause of the passive power: born with it, despite no history of superpowers in her small family. Recessive genes, perhaps.

Though she did not show it, Catherine was intrigued by these answers... she herself had been gifted her cloning powers at the age of eight, in a mishap involving a destroyed photocopier among other things. As such she could not be more different from Katie in terms of how their powers came to be.

Catherine's questions became oriented towards Katie's history with the Society of Justice. After asking for information on any nemeses the Society had, and the times they had clashed, she asked what life was like in a world of peace as opposed to a totalitarian regime. Katie corrected her on this note. There were external forces that were opposed to peace... the Union, for one. She did not know why the Union did what they did, only that their actions were immoral and often illegal. She could not claim to know their motives.

Catherine was intrigued by this group known as the Union, though she raised an eyebrow at the acronym their full name could be shortened to. There was an easy way to stop them from pestering the Society and Katie's world in general; why not just kill them and be done with it? Katie responded that she had never killed anyone and did not plan to. That was something she had failed to do in the past, and was something that she had since resolved to never do. There were peaceful ways to subdue opponents, she stated, even if they were using lethal force against her.

The cloner was starting to believe Katie, both in her answers and the claim that they were not of this plane of reality.

"I was wondering if you had some time to talk about a few things?"

Levi set down his glass of water and faced Tyson. "What did you need?" he inquired. The man looked rather troubled, which given the circumstances was to be expected; their sudden appearance into this universe, subsequent capture, and escape had all happened so quickly. But Levi had to wonder what exactly Tyson wanted to discuss, because there were some things he was meaning to bring up himself. But only if he mentioned them first. Because if it was related to what he suspected it was, then Tyson had a good reason to be visibly shaken.

Tyson took in a deep breath as he sat down in the seat across from Levi. Concern, confusion, and fear all ran along his face as his composed mask was being destroyed by his current mental state. "I need to talk and hopefully get some advice. You may be the only person who remembers what happened to me during the fight in your mind against Victor. I'm also fairly sure that you are the only other person who knows what it's like to lose control of yourself to someone else in your head. Actually I'm jumping way too far ahead. I guess I'll start with the source of my problem.

Like some of us in the Society I wasn't born a super. I was genetically modified when I was sixteen years old. The experiment that I was in didn't go as expected and I ended up with some mutations to my body. Some of these mutations were located in various sections of my brain and some weird things happened as a result. Whenever I go over a certain decibel level when using my power, I lose control of my body, and someone or rather something else takes control.

Whatever it is you've seen it and I think I have too. I have no idea what it is or what its intentions are. The fact that I'm powerless in my own body against this thing is driving me insane. I mean things that I'm scared of are few and far between, but my powers can bring down a city if pushed to their fullest extent. Right now I have no clue about what to do about it. I was hoping that since you've experienced something like this before, that maybe you could give me some advice or help me?" Tyson said in barely composed voice, only loud enough for Levi to hear.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Sure Briān had a point about him not seeking pleasure in his power abuse, but that was quickly washed away with what followed. The past had nothing to do with what he did just now, and the only person who was under any perceived danger would have been Jason. On top of that the contemptuous words about Bishop not stepping into a situation where the soldier involved wasn't only not under his command, but also already restrained by one of the endangered man's friends.

Bishop wasn't going to let that contempt go and silently watched as Briān left the room before following him out. Silence was kept as the last of his nerve towards Briān withered away. The isolation from Catherine would hopefully prevent her from intervening if things got out of hand. Bishop was getting angrier as he repeated the last of Briān's words in his over again. It wasn't long before Bishop caught up.

As soon as he was within reach Bishop placed a hand on Briān's shoulder pulling him to a stop. "I don't know who you think you are you piece of shit, but I never wanted you here. Catherine asked you to come here without asking for my wishes which is insulting enough. I won't stand for unneeded help to spat off contemptuous words to a superior officer. So either check that attitude, or we will be having a problem," Bishop stated in a voice that did little to mask his anger and annoyance with the man. He might have just taken a swing at him if he wasn't required to be a restrained officer.

"Hey, no problem there buddy," Brian told Jason as he seemed to be getting better. "I mean that's what we're here for right? We're a team. We gotta look out for each other and all that you know?"

"My attitude?" Briān asked him with mock surprise. "My attitude? As your compatriots would be saying, 'Check yourself in ze mirror,' Commander. I knew you would not want me 'ere, I told Caterine zat wen she first contacted me, but you know wat? I came anyway. I feel oh so sorry zat you leetle mission is not going exactly as your vision entailed, zat you will not 'ave ze picture perfect romp through ze UA forces zat you surely 'ave planned, simply because I exist. You know what, Com-man-dere. If you do not want me 'ere, you are more zan welcome to try and remove me from ze picture. Explain to Caterine wat happened. Why you are breaking apart ze meagre forces zis Resistance 'as, purely because your ego can't 'andle someone who sees zis world for ze muddled mess zat it is. I will be fighting to protect Caterine, and if you don't care for zat, zen you are ze one who 'as more in common with zose pig dog United Americans zen 'e realizes."

Briān pulled Bishop's hand off of his shoulder, with the same amount of disgust one might remove a banana peel that has landed on them, and continued back towards the main chamber.

With Catherine's focus directed elsewhere, Tommy wheeled about for a bit, he went to the sink and got a drink of water. His eye was hurting again, a throbbing pain coursed through his entire skull. Tommy's knee buckled and he had to catch himself on the rim of the sink. The pain receded and got back to his feet. That wasn't a cramp. Or anything else Tommy could think off. He supposed it might be natural to feel pain shocks after healing something like the eye. He took another drink of water to center himself. And returned to find Garrus. "Garrus, I got a question, what's our plan?" Tommy wanted know. Would they being staying here, pay off our debt to the resistance, or trying to find their way home as soon as possible.

The twelve hour time span that they had been given to rest while their plane was to be prepped was a much needed one for Garrus. The sheer stress of finding themselves in this predicament was tiring, and he had decided to try and take a nap during this down time. The first time he started to drift into sleep was interrupted by the short scuffle between Jason and this universe's version of his brother, Takashi. Garrus had listened into the fight, but it was over quickly and everything seemed to go back to being peaceful.

And now once more he was awoken out of his slumber, slumping back into his chair and rubbing his eyes before answering Tommy. "We're going to the European Union. I'm told that we'll be meeting with someone who helps out the Resistance over there and might be able to help us out in getting back. Mordtoten exists in this universe, and he's going to be our best bet in getting back. Hopefully everything will go relatively smoothly. I certainly don't want to stay here much longer; though I will admit that a part of me is interested in what I'm doing in this universe. The alternate version I mean; not me me," Garrus responded with a chuckle.

Levi nodded sympathetically. First Jason, now Tyson. Sharing a body with an unspeakable evil seemed to be more common than he thought. Still, that would explain the specific questions Tyson had asked shortly after the battle in his mindscape. And what had happened to Tyson during that fight. The grotesque bat creature he mutated into was the stuff of nightmares. Claws and wings that sprouted violently from the flesh, the black eyes not unlike Victor's...

In the time that Levi knew him, it was rare to see Tyson so openly distraught. Afraid. Whatever this thing was, it absolutely terrified him.

"I more than anyone else should know what that feels like, Tyson," Levi answered grimly. "And you're not alone. Believe it or not, Jason and I had a similar talk...not long before we were teleported here. I'll tell you the same thing I told him. If you resign yourself to defeat, whatever's in your head will win. I'm not sure how open you are to the idea, but I learned to keep Victor at bay through meditation and similar mental exercises. You're ex-military, you've been through some kind of conditioning, I'm sure."

"Don't forget that willpower is number one in any mental struggle. You can't give up, not even for a second. If your personal demon sees a moment of weakness, I'm certain it wouldn't pass up the opportunity. It requires constant vigilance to keep the evil at bay, but I know you can do it, Tyson. If you need help, you're always free to ask."

Rowan and Spoon had been sitting in silence for a few minutes, before the shapeshifter posed another question to the psychic. "Say... you said at least one of my powers is designed to be a weapon. Keyword being at least. What did you mean by that? I know the obvious weapon at my disposal: psychic bolts. The only other power I have is... well, my shapeshifting. How is that a weapon?"

±It's quite simple, really. A shapeshifter can go anywhere, be anyone, cause nearly any kind of damage or repair. You have used your powers in a multitude of different situations, from what you tell me, including attempted mimicry of other Society members. To properly impersonate a subject, however... ah, but that would be telling. Use of powers are not something someone can just tell you. They have to be properly learned.± Spoon's voice laughed a little in Rowan's mind, though it was not a derisive chuckle. Rather, he was laughing with the shapeshifter.

Learned... Rowan had heard stories of Society members giving each other tips on how best to improve their abilities. But was Spoon suggesting that he figure this one out himself? From his college studies, he had learned acting... that was a good place to start. "Is it... acting? Or rather, learning to act like the subject? Studying them carefully, making sure not to miss any details?"

Spoon's response was enigmatic. ±One can learn only so much through observation and study. The ways you have learned must be forgotten and replaced. Shapeshifters can be living mirrors... perhaps Silhouette is not the most appropriate name for you.±

Rowan frowned. He hated people who spoke in riddles; or, rather, the fact that they did. That was what had annoyed him about Cadizki before his death. Still, this was his double. A man who likely knew everything about him now, due to his ability to get into people's minds. It would help to listen, and try to decode the message. With luck understanding would come sooner rather than later.

Upon asking Katie to recount something personal to her, Catherine had fallen silent, allowing the plant manipulator to speak freely. Katie had chosen the events following her parents' death, up to and including the battle with the woman herself. The murderess' name was Marilyn Reinhardt, otherwise known as Hellfire. An apt name for someone whose primary talent was setting things alight and watching them burn: fire was one of Katie's greatest weaknesses and fears. Hellfire had had half a dozen followers, each with their own abilities or talents... in a sense it had been her own little band of villains similar to the Union.

The Society had only properly began to plan a raid of Hellfire's base of operations after her shapeshifting associate had disguised themselves as her comrade and ambushed one of the Society members to deliver a message. The base had been subsequently attacked, and the followers eliminated. But the one-on-one confrontation with the murderer herself... that had been a troubling time indeed. Katie recalled it in exact detail.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

While Hellfire was caught off-guard from other attacks, Katie rushed forward, yelling as she did so. "Get back, both of you! She is MINE!" She tackled the woman to the ground, one hand's talons at her throat while the other pinned her arm down.

That was back when Katie had used makeshift blades as part of her armour. Surprsingly there were some plants that produced razor-sharp edges, and she had used them to adequate effect. These days she preferred to use vines and razor leaves, not to mention minute spores that were always in the air wherever she went.

"Going to kill me, Demeter?" Hellfire eked out, her head strained as far back as possible to try and prevent the talons from cutting her skin.

"You... you murdered my parents," was Katie's halting response, her voice shaking from her rage. She ignored the words of caution, throwing them aside in favour of her desire to end the life of her foe. "It's what you deserve. You shouldn't be allowed to live."

"I don't deny it. But Masterson's right, bitch. You don't have the guts to do it," Hellfire mocked, a cruel sneer twisting her lips. "You could have fucking killed me a year ago and this wouldn't have ever happened. But you didn't do it then, and you won't do it now. You wouldn't be able to live with yourself and your actions. My blood on your hands..."

"Shut the fuck up," Katie snarled, pressing her talons against Hellfire's throat. They pricked the skin, each drawing a tiny drop of blood. Hellfire fell silent. And then the world slowed to a crawl for Katie as she thought about her intended action. Killing another human, taking a life in battle, even if it was justified... those were things Katie knew in her heart she didn't want to associate herself with. Hellfire was speaking the truth. They both knew Katie wouldn't be able to clear her conscience.

There was a silence in the room that spoke volumes, during which time Katie weighed up her options. It was as if time itself had slowed just to allow her to make this decision.

She had done what she thought was right. Even now Katie believed that. But such actions had nearly cost her her own life.

Katie withdrew her hand, instead pinning down Hellfire's other arm. "No. You're right, all of you. I can't do it. I can't kill her."

"You stupid fool," Hellfire immediately whispered. In Katie's moment of weakness she pounced, thrashing wildly underneath her captor's grip. She dislodged the younger girl through brute strength, rolling on top of her to pin her down. At the same time, she drew a dagger from somewhere. The firestarter raised the weapon, heedless of the Society members standing around, and in a split-second flames danced along its keen-edged blade.

"Now you pay the price for your weakness, bitch," she snarled, preparing to plunge the fiery knife into Katie's heart. The next thing Katie saw was a flash of metal and a spray of blood, though it was not her own. Richard had driven his own blade through Hellfire's chest, ending her life through his actions rather than through those of Katie.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"That's... that's it," Katie finished. Her voice had started to quiver during her recount; even now that years had passed between the death of her parents and the present day, her memory of the ordeal was a strong one.

"I see... this is the reason you have never taken a life?" Catherine asked. Katie nodded, though she remained silent, inviting Catherine to continue. She did. "Had I been there, I would have taken a different path. But then, we are different but the same. I am a soldier: sometimes I am a one-woman army. I think that you, Katie, seek peaceful solutions rather than taking a more violent option."

That was the first time Catherine had used Katie's given name. The plant-manipulator noted that fact. "Yes. I do not kill, merely take my opponents out of the fighting," Katie eventually said after thinking it over. "Our choices define who we are."

"Correct. And now it is time for me to make a choice myself." Catherine fell silent for a moment, her eyes looking down at the table as she was lost in thought. She had received plenty of information from Katie, including the world that she lived in. Friends, comrades, family, enemies, lovers. Names, places, dates, times, events. It all added up to paint a clearly defined picture in the cloner's mind.

Jason nodded at Brian's words with an enthusiastic smirk, meeting his affections with an agreeing fistbump as he downed his glass of water. He may have gained his composure, but Jason's mind was still reeling from the events past. One of the things that stood out the most was what Katie told him lastly before she left.

"Take care of...myself." He thought simply with a low grunt. As the phrase repeated itself within him, he couldn't help but realize that taking care of himself was one the things that he never did. He always put the team before himself, one of his major priorities during missions were that his friends were safe. He was never hesitant to lunge headfirst into the fray, doing so much as to even jump in front of bullets to protect those he cared about. He knew how durable his armor was, and always assumed that he really didn't need to watch after himself. But maybe he was going about things the wrong way. It was starting to become an conundrum for him. After finishing his water, he placed the tall glass in the sink before leaning against the counter, his arms crossing themselves as his brow furrowed. His train of thought was promptly derailed as Tommy appeared in the area, pushing himself away from the sink as he saw the towering man beelining towards it. He flinched forward as he saw Tommy lose his footing momentarily, and tried to offer his help. But before he could mouth the words, Tommy had already left from the kitchen. Jason shrugged off the predicament and left from the kitchen himself, slowly reappearing in the main area of the lounge. He took a scan of the surroundings, his comrades talking amongst themselves. Finding a seat along the furthest wall, Jason placed himself into it, and after managing to curl his long legs into a crossed stance, he closed his eyes, and began to meditate.

Bishop started laughing. It was kind of a forced laugh, but it was clear that there was a genuine aspect to it. It took a second before Bishop stopped laughing. "It's truly quite funny that you keep talking about protecting Catherine. I mean come on. Who are you trying to fool? All you do is hurt people; you literally suck the life right out of them. And yet you claim that you will protect her. You're fucking liable to harm her by being in the same area as her. Could you tend to her if she was hurt or sick? Could you hold her close and let the warmth of your skin ease her worries? Could you wipe away her tears without causing more?

Face it. You're just a monster. You were meant to be in a cage alone somewhere. The only thing that you'll be able to do is hurt people," Tyson's voice was cold and hard. Briān had insulted Bishop enough for him to result to personal attacks. It didn't matter though; Brian had had crossed the line when questioning his actions as a commander and as a resistance member.

Tyson wasn't convinced by Levi's words. He knew that Levi was definitely trying to help him, but Tyson was too skeptical for Tyson. "I appreciate your advice. I'll definitely think on it. If there's anything you ever need help with, just ask," Tyson said to Levi before walking away to a chair on the far side of the room, away from everyone else. Maybe he couldn't understand. I mean Victor was at least human. He knew what he wanted. Meanwhile, I just don't know what this beast even wants, if it wants anything at all. It's motiveless as far as I can tell and it even seemed to listen to me before. I just don't know. Tyson shut his eyes and leaned his head back in an attempt to fall asleep. There was a vague hope that he could just sleep this whole thing off.

Bishop was starting to hit all of Briān's nerves. The fact that he would even insinuate such things, to mock his condition, to call him a monster. That was too much. If he wanted to get personal, he would get personal.

He turned around, facing the Commander. "You insignificant fucking worm! 'Ow dare you say such a ting? Especially considering you 'ave no excuse for yourself. Tell me Bishop, 'ow did your wife and child die? Was it alone? Because you could not do a damn ting to protect zem? You do not even deserve to be Commander. You do not even deserve a second chance at love, since you failed so 'orribly ze first time! I may not be able to embrace my love right now, but I will damn well make sure I am zere for 'er, in ze good times, in ze bad times, and your god forbid in ze end. You, you are a spineless coward who can not even keep 'the most important ting to 'im' safe. 'Ow much did you really love zem Bishop. It could not 'ave been too much to let zem go like zat. 'Ell, you were probably trilled zat zey would not be in your way anymore, you miserable, 'eartless old fool.

And if you call me a monster again, I will show you exactly what kind of monster I can be."

Briān words hurt; it didn't matter if they were true or not. Still the fact that he was attacking the dead meant that he was getting desperate. Bishop had him at his ends and he wasn't about to get defensive again. Instead he kept a composed face as he continued to step towards Briān; lying in wait for the first blow.

"You didn't answer my questions, and instead you attacked my dead family. How pathetic of a man are you? You know that I'm right, and you try to bite into something that you know I could do nothing about. You truly are a monster and I'll damn well make sure that you are moved to Alaska. You can be all alone by yourself, with no one there for you to hurt. Think of it as a fitting cage for such a monster," Bishop said with a venomous smirk on his face.

That was it. Bishop had crossed the line and now Briān was intent on making him pay for his attitude. He reared back and smacked him the face, but he didn't remove his hand, keeping it planted on his skin, fingertips digging in.

"Listen well, Bishop, since you obviously did not ze first time. I said if anyone stood between me and my love, zey would feel my wrath, and zat certainly includes you, you fucking shiteater. I used to feel sorry for your kin, for what zey went through, but now I see their death was truly a blessing, for zey do not have to deal wit you anymore.

Also, I know wat I am, at least I am trying to deal wit it. I am trying to change. I take precautions to make sure I do not 'urt who should not be 'urt. You make no effort to try and better yourself, and zat is why I would feel absolutely no remorse if I drained your life right now." He could feel the energy starting to ebb away from Bishop. It was a sickly energy, and Briān hated feeling it, but Bishop was out of his way to anger him with his comments.

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