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Summer 2017 

 

It was a beautiful summer day in Emerald City, Oregon - especially if you stood here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, far from the noisy, delicious minds of the city and enjoyed the peace and solitude of crashing waves at the base of this seaside cliff. The beaches here weren't like the ones Sensus had known back on the Jersey coast, much rockier and colder, but they had a wild beauty all the same. 

 

"Excuse me, miss. Did you need some help?" 

 

Turning behind her, silhouetted by an east-rising morning sun, Sensus looked up to see Citizen - the most famous superhero in Emerald City. For his part, Citizen's early morning flight had let him spot this girl by the edge of seaside cliffs that had taken the life of more than one young man or young woman in the last few years. There was a fence - but it wouldn't be hard for someone that small to slip underneath it. At first glance, he'd assumed this was a lost child - but she clearly wasn't too far from his own early twenties, though his black costume and glowing blue chest symbol marked him as a superhero.

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A few weeks ago, maybe a month, Yamazaki Moe was sitting in her third  period English class when her eyes started to bleed. Overwhelming psychic pain and hunger made her see everyone as a smorgasbord of emotions. She didn't want to do it! So she ran away as fast as she could. Everything after that was a blur. When she came to her senses, she was in an alleyway, standing over a costumed individual lying next to a huge gun. Her motorcycle was near by. There was guilt running through her mind. Even though the person was breathing. She had to get away from this city of heroes.

 

Right now she was on the west coast. Oregon. Emerald City. Which, like Freedom, had a superhuman population. She wasn't going to stick around long. She didn't want a repeat of what happened in Freedom. Though this scenery, she might come back here when she had the time and money. Seriously, motorcycle from coast to coast was no joke on the pocket book. The sunset was beautiful. The weather was not blaring hot. It was perfect. Well, until she got hungry again. She could stave it off for now.

 

A person - a hero? He had an insignia - appeared and she almost turned away until she saw something weird. He didn't have any emotions. Like he was psychically devoid of them. Her mind roiled a little, but it wasn't that bad.  She looked up to the flying man, trying to figure out who he was. Maybe it was the slight pang of psychic hunger that made her not notice him. "Well, kind of. But I don't think you can help me. Or would want to help me."

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"I want to help everybody," said Citizen, and it was true! He came in for a landing behind her and stood with folded arms behind his back, looking out at the alien yellow sun with an expression of interest on his face. "My name is Sharl Tulink, but people around here call me Citizen." It was a stock phrase, one that he'd learned worked well with people with experience with superheroes and similar guardians. "What's your name?" he asked her, still not sure if he was dealing with a potential suicide. As they spoke, he logged onto the cellular network and began the laborious process of running her face through a missing persons' search. There were too many databases on Terra, and so many of them ran so slowly. 

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It was weird, he was there, but with the absence of psychic energy she couldn't really feel his presence besides seeing him. As he got closer, she noticed that he looked... was that a Wifi symbol? She held her tongue looking down. Not that it was funny. She was here to run away from herself. Some things just brought her a little bit of hope that there were better people than her.

 

"I," she eked out before she stopping, "I'm sure you're used to things like this." She looked like she was collecting her thoughts, her eye color turning a confused yellow. "I have superpowers," she looked away from him and to the ocean. "I have the worst superpowers ever," she said in a lower voice, hanging her head again.

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"Hmm," said Sharl non-committally. "I know a lot of people with superpowers." He looked down at his left hand and flexed the fingers slightly, taking an opportunity to send a message off to one of Claremont's recruiting numbers while he was at it. "My best friend when I was in high school could control paper, and our other friend had death powers." He wasn't entirely sure what was going with Kimber these days - probably something good? "Was someone hurt?" he asked delicately.

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The word 'hurt' reverberated through her mind. She didn't remember what happened to the gun-toting costumed. These past few weeks she had fed on an assortment of weak willed people. A junkie. Two wannabe convenience store robbers. A Westboro protester. Her confusion turned into fretting, her voice cracking, "I really don't know." She looked at her hands and then up to Sharl, "My mind mind begins to hurt and hunger." She crossed her arms, "I can hold it off for a while, but eventually I have to feed." And then she shouted, into tears, "I have to eat people's emotions." she cried into her hands. At least it wasn't blood this time.

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This, at least, was something Citizen understood - at least in the abstract. "You're a mentat," he told her, using the Lor term he was the most comfortable with. "On Earth, many people call them psychics. Those powers appearing for the first time can be pretty frightening." He hmmed for a moment, making connections with the other part of his brain. He patted her back, having learned his lesson that going in for a Centurion-style hug didn't actually work on people most of the time. Frankly he appreciated that, not being a big toucher. "I don't know much about them, but I know people who do. Are you staying with anyone here?" he hazarded, guessing that her accent didn't place her as a native of the Pacific Northwest. 

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Mentat. Psychic. Pronouns she was stuck with for life now.  She looked up with dark eyes, trying to keep her tears back, wiping them from her cheek with the back of her hand. "Uh, not really," she pointed to her custom motorcycle. "I've been riding for a while. Freedom City." She laughed dejectedly, "I guess it makes sense. You stay around weird stuff you become weird stuff." She faked a smile, dark eyes showing she was not truly happy, "Sharl," she said before clearing her voice, "I really don't know if I can be helped." She began to chuckle nervously, "at... at least I can be around you." Oh god, this sounded weird. "I didn't mean it like that. I mean, like when I get around people with," now that would be insulting, wouldn't it? She angrily kicked a rock. "My power is to eat people's emotions. I can't be around people." She stopped herself. "Wait, are they all like you?"

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"No, there's only one of me," said Sharl with a laugh. "Unless you count - well you know, that's a really long story you don't need to hear right now. Psychics have never been able to do much with me, because I don't have the organic brain they can tap into." He thought for a moment, then said, much more seriously, "Moe, I'm going to be honest with you. Out here in the Emerald Cities, there's me and there's Emerald Spider who could actually do something to help you. Most of the people here are new. Can you tell me why you left Freedom City?" he asked frankly. That was certainly the best place on Terra for anyone with superpowers, but if she'd been fleeing abuse, or a warrant, or anything in between, pointing that out might not help much. 

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Cold summer was weird. She inhaled the air, to mellow out some, but it stung.  She coughed some. OK, don't do that again. She looked to Sharl and tried to recall, but the hunger blurred everything. "It was a couple of weeks ago. At least a month. I was in school. And this overwhelming headache. And then something clicked in my head. I didn't see people I saw blurry outlines, even with my eyes closed. When I did close my eyes i found that my eyes were bleeding. Everyone stared at me in fear, shame, awe. I saw all of it and I wanted it all. But a little part of my brain said run. And I ran." She closed her eyes, "I don't remember what happened next. When the pain stopped I was in an alley. a man with a costume and a giant gun laid at my feet, unconscious. But breathing."  Opening her eyes, they were pure black, sadness, "I didn't want to face anyone I knew. My bike was  with me. I made one trip home to suit up and leave. I've been riding ever since."

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"Oh yes," said Citizen, as conversationally as if she was discussing winning a cheerleading contest, "I think I heard about that." There was no point in dwelling on it if he didn't want to freak the kid out, but even in Freedom City, that story had gotten out. He made a point of taking a breath, then said, "The best thing for me to do is going to be to take you back to Freedom City. There are people there who are experienced in dealing with mentats with uncontrolled powers - especially teenagers. It's a half-hour flight for me, and if I put up a magnetic screen, you won't suffocate along the way." He smiled a little. "How about it, you up for a trans-continental flight? I can take you to a place that serves great breakfast."

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Her eyes widened when he knew about it. How much did he know? "I, uh," her eyes turned panicked light purple, "no I really can't, Sharl. I mean, I'll accept help but I can't just be dropped off in the middle of a bunch of teenagers. Do you know how much emotional stuff happens. I, I can't. Anything but that. Maybe some psychics one on one." A picture of a beast in a meat shop ran through her mind. She flinched trying to calm herself down, taking a bit of her energy to do so. Opening her eyes, she was under the influence of herself. The purple had turned into dull calmed grey. "Sorry Sharl, but you have to understand. I accept your help. But maybe we can refine where I find help?"

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"Hah-hah, don't worry," said Sharl reassuringly, gesturing for emphasis as he spoke. "I'm not going to just fly you somewhere and drop you off at a school. I'll take you to a place with mentats who can talk to you about your powers and help you control them - after that, we can figure out where you're going to go next." He'd also have to call her parents, of course, but that was something that could wait until he got her back to Freedom. "We're not in any hurry. Do you like the show Supercrime!? It's the one on the Discovery Channel, with the hosts Fast-Forward and Hologram, the speedster and the mentat." For his part, Citizen loved the way that show had disproved so many Terran superstitions and false beliefs over the years. "

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Now that she was calm in her thoughts. She could think, possibly out load, about her helper. 2000 miles on the road couldn't clear her head, but a few words of help made everything better. Had she not been keeping herself mentally sedated, she would have been all for this. Calm was the best emotion, she thought.

 

She nodded when he mentioned the show, "I've seen clips of it online. Any show that gives you superheroes vs dinosaurs is awesome in my book." She mentioned a few other scenes too. She was well versed in the show and superheroes in general. Naming a few obscure ones for the trivia. After she got done chatting one sided (mostly), she stopped.

 

"I really don't mean to talk your ear off. And I would love for this situation to work out. The taking me back thing." She  looked, squinting a bit, as if to let the calming effect go. "Just to let you know. I'm not going to freak out, but I've never actually flew. In anyway." She pointed to her motorcycle, "can you take her with us too?"

Edited by Cool Homosapien

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Figuring out the logistics took a little work. But the motorcycle was easy enough for Citizen to carry. Moe was a little harder, but only just. Opening up some compartments in his back gave him access to metal discs that he gave to Moe to attach to her clothes, highly magnetized metal that easily clung to Citizen's own ferrously conductive flesh once she climbed on his back. After a few minutes to adjust themselves, the two of them were up in the air. He kept things low and relatively slow at first, not wanting to alarm his passenger, flying no higher and no faster than one of the Terran civilian single-engine planes that he could so easily outfly if he was so inclined. They kept their route over the Columbia River, glittering blue-brown water beneath them. The height meant Citizen was losing some of his radio connectivity, but he'd already sent out several important messages. 

 

"Does the bike need to be dropped off with its owner?" he asked Moe delicately, a thousand feet or so above the river. 

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Moe had never been flying before. Not even by plane. Now being up in the air with Sharl her only way of holding on. "The motorcycle is mine, Sharl." She beamed, her eyes showing a prideful violet. "Built her over the past year or so. I'm really into building and taking care of cars and bikes. It's one of my favorite hobbies."

 

The view was, well, a bit blurred, but she guessed he didn't want to go the scenic route. He had responsibilities other than her, being a hero of his city and all. Moe had heard very few tales of heroes from Emerald City, but it was on the rise. Still the beautiful was a sight. Flying this fast and being magnetized, she left her phone in her jacket.

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"Apologies," said Citizen, who wasn't entirely sure he believed Moe but figured this wasn't the right time for an argument. "If you are that mechanically inclined, there are plenty of people in Freedom City who might find a use for you. My mentor Miss Americana," an instantly recognizable name for anyone with an interest in technology in Freedom City, a beautiful paragon of all-American genius, "is always looking to hire people." Miss Americana was another person that the young mentat could be around safely, he mused, given that Miss Americana wasn't really 'there' at all. 

 

He looked down at the river as they went, and commented, "It still amazes me, the rivers here. In places I've visited, all this would be dammed up or underground, providing power and water to cities all around," he gestured to the banks of the river, which were mostly unspoiled this far inland. "the towers as high as we're flying now. It's beautiful here," he added, knowing people on Terra usually didn't like his views on urban development.

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While Moe was a bit of a busy hobbyist, she could understand people's doubt. She worked on vehicles, raced, painted and drew, collected tons of information on current news and entertainment. The only time she wasn't active is when she was sleeping. And she ut a lot of that out to make room for things. If she weren't a nervous wreck about the whole vampire thing, she'd attribute her psychic awakening to doing too much stuff. Her eyes did brighten a bit when Sharl mentioned Miss Americana. She was the pretty superhero from her youth that saved the city from beasts. Well, not alone, but she inherited the mad doctor's business. It would be an honor to work with... wait, wasn't Citizen supposed to be working with her? Apparently Moe's knowledge was not up to date!

 

She looked over Sharl's back at the scenery below. He wasn't lying. It was very beautiful. Being a city girl, she couldn't live without civilization, but having been on the road for a bout a month, the nature she'd seen. The rolling hills and mountains. The plains and forests. "Yeah," she said adjusting her voice for the wind blowing, "I hear you. The city life is for me, but I get that we need places like this." She looked to Sharl, him obviously navigating, "you're alright Sharl. I mean, a selfless person who put away things just to help out a person who lived 3000 miles away?I really wish we could hang out more later on."

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"It's nothing," said Citizen, shaking his head. "You were lost and now you're going to be found. Somebody did that for me when I needed it, so I want to make sure I pass it on." It was, all in all, one of the things he believed in the most strongly. He was silent for another few moments, lost in cybernetic thoughts. "Yes, it's wonderful how this area is so, uh...unspoiled!" He kept up some not terribly convincing chatter about nature for a while, then said "Okay, here's the plan. I've contacted Hologram, and she's going to be waiting for us in a place in Freedom City with a lot of visibility but not much people. That way the two of you can talk about your powers, you won't have to worry about the people around you, and we can help find you a place to go. What do you think?" 

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If Moe could have nodded, she would have. A simple but heartfelt, "yeah," trailed off into the wind as he talked about the environment. But her ears perked up when she heard Hologram, "you mean the lady from the show we were just talking about?" Not that she disbelieved Sharl, she was just taken aback. It was almost too good to be true. If she hadn't went through that all to real travel, she would have thought this was a dream. "That's cool. I can dig it," she laughed a bit at the thought. "So, how long will this magic carpet ride last?" She didn't want to sound rude but hanging on for dear life was kind of astray.

Edited by Cool Homosapien

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"Another hour and a half or so. This body's top speed is actually substantially faster than this, but you might not like it if I accelerated to maximum speed and held it for a cross-continental trip." He smiled, the look in his eyes suggesting long experience. "We can land somewhere if you want and get food. I've learned that if I follow the small roads away from the interstates and touch down quickly, I can sometimes get through a whole meal before people start calling the media." Sharl didn't actually need to eat while in the android body, but it was a nice way of reassuring people that Citizen wasn't going to hurt them. As bizarre as Terra still looked to his Lor-born eyes, there was an exotic beauty in the countryside when you got this far out. 

 

"Hologram has helped many new, ah, psychics with their powers," said Citizen. "She's a very admirable person. I can put in a call to her now, if you want." 

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She morbidly laughed to herself about the thought of him kicking into overdrive and her falling to her doom in some backwater fly over country. "Yeah, I can wait. Like you said, the scenery's awesome," she said, still holding on. This was going to be the weirdest story yet! "About Hologram and psychics. How many others are there? Like is there a population?" She stopped herself, maybe she was asking the wrong person. Then again, his computer wit was what kept them talking. Maybe he was a giant computer. "Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. Sure, give her a call. Ask her add one more to the line up!"

Edited by Cool Homosapien

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"I don't actually know that many mentants on Terra," admitted Sharl ruefully. "Their mental powers don't work on me." He was as vulnerable to telekinesis as any other amalgam of steel and plastic, but there was no reason to dwell on that for Sensus's benefit. "I know there's Hologram, and Blue Fox, and Psyche in Freedom City - and others across the United States and elsewhere. Just a moment..."

 

Citizen concentrated for a moment, dipping low enough to pick up cell coverage. It was the work of a couple of minutes to find the emergency contact number used by volunteer metahumans, then dial the specific extension that would connect him to Hologram. From Sensus's perspective, at first he seemed to be screwing up his face and staring at nothing. 

 

Hologram? Hello. This is Citizen. 

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Hologram picked up her phone quickly, but seemed a bit distracted. "Paige Cl- sorry, Hologram here," she said upon picking up the phone, static and bumping making her a little hard to hear. In the background there were squealing noises, like a small child or some kind of tortured animal. "Citizen? Citizen, right, you went to school with my son? Miss Americana's sidekick?" Her voice warmed a little as she placed him. "Just one second." The phone went staticky again, then more squealing. "You do not throw that, Bryant Halliday Cline, you put that in your mouth and you eat it right now!" She had an impressive mom voice. "Now what can I do for you, Citizen?" 

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A little belatedly, Citizen remembered to speak aloud for Sensus's benefit. "I'm flying in from Emerald City with a new psychic. I promised her I'd take her to meet a veteran mentant in Freedom City - if you're available." His tone made this sound like a casual get-together, but Citizen had been trained in the same school of super-response as Will. "I'll go ahead and put you on speaker."

 

As he spoke, a text came up on Hologram's phone from the person she was speaking to. RUNAWAY. HAD POWER ACCIDENT - NO CASUALTIES. WAS FRIGHTENED - SETTLING HER DOWN FOR NOW. FLYING ABOVE HER RANGE. 

 

Meanwhile, now Sensus could hear Hologram's side of the conversation too - a sound that seemed to come from somewhere in Citizen's midsection.

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