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Posted (edited)

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 10:30 pm

The abode of Mona Teymourian, near the Waterfront

 

"She was adorable, Viktor," drifted from the kitchen area. "I know she wouldn't want to be described as such, but she was. The third heroine to wear the name Rossignol! A very sweet young woman, obviously quite skilled, but still finding her bearings. I wished her the very best and gave her my contact information."

 

Mona was unusually chatty, even gregarious. Viktor's arrival seemed to complete her day, and she was eager to recount the highlights. So after a quick kiss, she regaled him with the latest happenings while unpacking groceries.

 

"Do you want something to drink? I picked up some of that white tea you seemed to like." One mock glare later and she started an electric kettle. "Also some Black Death coffee, pomegranate kombucha, and a lovely micro-brew stout. A bit light on snacks at the moment. Some brie?"

 

The sounds of activity reverberated through the high-ceiling building. The space was big, certainly, with metal beams and rows of high, paneled windows above exposed brick. Perhaps, oh, a quarter had been converted into an open living space with a kitchen, adjacent seating area, curtained-off bedroom, and bath. The rest was devoted to her studio. Ghostly shapes of dust-clothed sculptures floated in the dim lights. Her workstation, an explosion of bright colors, seemed to glow through the murk. Even after months away, the place smelled of oil paint and stone dust.

 

Mona had been very proud of her handiwork. From a tour now many years ago, the fixtures and furnishings were secondhand or recycled, and Mona had bartered or DIY-ed much of the renovation. The original purpose, an ice warehouse, was abundantly clear from the Linden's Ice sign on the wall. The foundation and roof work were her doing, and superhuman strength proved a great boon in that regard. The crumbling antique had been picked up for a song. She had rather sheepishly admitted to being quite broke at the time.

 

The way her eyes lit up here, in this place, spoke volumes. The expression was much the same when seeing Viktor after a long absence.

 

As for now though, Mona deposited a tray of goodies on the coffee table. The little table was surrounded by a sofa and two armchairs. One chair stood out a bit: high-backed, Mona-sized, and eye-searingly pink. This one she drifted into tea cup in hand.

 

"Damn, it's good to be home. How was your trip?"

Edited by Dariusprime

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"Sounds like your first day back went better than expected!," Archeville happily replied from as he helped unpack groceries.  "Have you had a chance yet to -- oh, ah, coffee for now, I think, thank you -- a chance to meet up with any of the old gang?  I know this is just you first day back, but I'd imagine it would be easy to run into folks while flying through the city."

 

Viktor and Mona were still very much together.  Through all that had happened to him, even when he had been stuck fighting on an alien planet alternately fighting and evading the Communion's forces, she'd been by his side.  Through his recovery periods, recuperating from what had happened to both his mind and his body, she had been an inspiration to him, a reason to get better, to be better, to be worthy of her.  Some days, he almost felt he was there.

 

Viktor sat on the couch, on the end closest to his long-time partner, and took a handful of grapes from the tray.  "The trip was good, no troubles.  And in the first two weeks, I met with Grimalkin, some members of the Freedom League, and Miss Americana!"  She knew all this, of course, as he'd called her almost every night since he got back; the call on the night Comrade Frost sprung Aquaria on him had been an especially long one.  

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Mona stretched out one long arm and ran her fingers through his hair as he spoke. The gesture was at once soothing and affectionate. She smiled warmly as he spoke.

 

"Much better than expected. I did not run into any of the old gang, but I did also meet two heroines with similar power sets to my own. A Triakosia and Miracle Girl. We had an impromptu chat above Sentry Statue. Which is why apple turnovers aren't included among the selection."

 

Mona took a long sip of tea before continuing. Amusingly, her Freedonian accent began re-emerging. "Both were quite friendly and gave me the lowdown on the local scene. Plus Triakosia is from Centurion's dimension to boot! I tried not to be slip too far into fangirl mode, let me tell you."

 

Speaking of fangirls, a familiar patter of feet echoed from the shadows. Well, "patter" was a strong word. This particular quadruped was still adjusting to her increased mass. Which is why the couch suddenly tipped backs several inches as a giant Siamese mix scrambled over the top.

 

"Your biggest fan arrives," mused Mona.

 

Penny, creamed-colored body and gray limbs, turned her blue eyes on Viktor, meowed loudly, and plopped unceremoniously on Viktor's lap. All 60 lbs of her. Followed by a burst of motor-like purring and stretching. A clear signal of You may pet me now.

 

Mona turned her attention back to her partner, and squeezed his hand. "I'm happier every time I hear that, sweetie. And I'll say it again: you were so very brave meeting Aquaria. Yes, even with the fainting."

 

 

 

 

Edited by Dariusprime

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"Oh, nice, nice," he said, nodding, happy to hear of more heroes in the area.  Even if they were more flying powerhouses.  Why are those so prevalent?  Statistically, one would expect as many meta-intellects as there are meta-physical types, but that is not the case.  Perhaps I should work up a paper on cultural zeitgeists and metahuman manifestations.

 

Just then Penny arrived, interrupting his train of thought, though in moments Mona would have caught him and given him A Look.  He exaggerated an "oof!" as she jumped up on him, and obeyed the feline's silent command, stroking her with his free hand.  He squeezed Mona's back, "thank you, liebchen.  I'm still a bit miffed at Frost for pulling that, but," he shrugged, "I do understand the need for some blind testing."

 

"So this woman you met, Triakosia, she is from Centurion's dimension?  Fascinating!"  His tone and rate of speech lifted, "and she's a new agent on the scene, a recent addition to Freedom's superhero roster?  Did she recently appear in this dimension?  Or had she been here for some time, lying low?  Perhaps unpowered until some recent dimensional event?  Oh, I wonder if-" He stopped, chuckling, "sorry, sorry, trying not to slip into Super-Scientist mode."

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Mona watched Viktor's face. Technorganic or not, his face was quite expressive when thinking. Or perhaps Mona had just known him long enough to know his tells. Either way watching him think was fascinating to watch in its own right. Even if she had to lovingly steer him back to the topic.

 

"Understandable yes, but not exactly well considered. Being a blind test of sorts for both of you from the sound of it." Judging from the tightness of her mouth, she was still a bit miffed herself.

 

Listening to Viktor, her face softened to her contented baseline when the super scientist was about. She was drifting along with his new chain of thought when he derailed himself.

 

She squeezed his hand again. "Viktor Helmut Archeville. You do not have to apologize for slipping into Super-Scientist mode. Remember it was that big brain that attracted me to you in the first place."

 

"It's true," she added momentarily, "Yes, you were, and are, quite dashing, but that wasn't all. I'm just amazed you can tolerate someone who can't keep up with you."

 

"To answer your questions, she has been active in Freedom City for a few years now. From what I gathered, she arrived here with powers. I do not know if she was lying low. She was a Centurion of the Triakosia Legion, and volunteered for the mission when Omega attacked her world. Apparently, the technology used wasn't quite stable, and left her suspended between worlds for decades by our reckoning."

 

Mona rambled off the facts as if by rote. She did have shockingly good recall at times. Viktor was well aware of her penchant for painting landscapes from memory.

 

"Now what were you wondering?"

 

And Penny? Her purring suggested she was quite satisfied as well.

Edited by Dariusprime

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He looked down and blushed, temporarily chastised, and glad for having someone in his life who could -- and would -- handle him.  "Thank you," he said, softly.  He then turned to look up to her, "I will always find a way for us to be by each other's side."  He looked down briefly to kiss her hand, then stroked it as he gazed into her eyes a moment.

 

I really am quite lucky.

 

He took a steadying breath, "I was wondering if she had a similar reaction to Daka crystals as you."  He'd long sought a way to counter their effects on Mona, in part because so much advanced technology -- including his own, and now including himself (in minuscule amounts) -- incorporated Daka crystals.  "But... she was suspended between worlds for a decade?  No, sorry, you said decades, plural.  Wait, how many decades?  If she was from the same alternate as Centurion, launched at the same time he was, and he first appeared in '38, and she appeared just a few years ago, then she would have been suspended for... 90 years?!"  He let out a low whistle, which judging by her movements was slightly irritating to Penny.  "Sorry, kätzchen, sorry," he said softly while stroking behind her ears and under her chin.  "But was she in the Terminus," he turned back to Mona, "or some other interstitial plane?  If she was suspended in the Terminus for nine decades, surely something would have happened to her, yes?  Omega's forces would have captured her, or something.  Unless..." his eyes widened, and Mona could swear she heard gears turning, "unless whatever went awry also protected her in some way, making her undetectable or unassailable!  Oh, if so, that would definitely be worth looking into."

Edited by Dr Archeville

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"I love you too." Her eyes said she meant every word.

 

Someday, she knew, he would make peace with himself. A new, whole Viktor who was so much more than anyone who came before.

 

A dainty ding sounded as he began speaking. Her form blurred for split second, but before his hand registered her absence, she returned coffee cup in (off) hand. A fresh brew, just the way he liked it, and with a pinkish sheen of his manganese supplement to boot.

 

The word "daka", as usual, elicited a reaction somewhere between annoyance and grimace. This was especially true after her jaunt through space and time three years ago. Paradoxically, her tolerance level had improved while the effects were more pronounced in her coordination and motor skills. She was ever grateful to have a truly great mind pondering on her strange resonance. Before she could refocus herself this time, Viktor moved on.

 

Slowly, comprehension dawned on her face. Her jaw fell open at the full gravity of the situation. "I completely agree! Would that suggest another phase to the Terminus? A different frequency? She only said 'Void', which I took to mean the Terminus. This though...depending on how it functioned..."

 

Mona was no scientist, but she could see the possibilities. Stealth technology, anti-Terminus cloaking, suspended animation, even containment...maybe not that last one.

 

 

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"Ah, so it might not have been the Terminus then," he replied between sips of coffee.  "She may have -- oh, this is good -- may have, when she said 'Void,' been referring to the Zero Zone, where Centurion and the League have sent some of their most dangerous foes."  He nodded, "that would certainly fit the 'not aging or requiring sustenance' part.  I know Centurion was the one who discovered the Zone, but I don't know if his findings were based on methods developed in his own universe -- if it was, then perhaps Triakosia's rocket used similar principles, and was meant to travel through the Zone, not the Terminus as Centurion's had, but some error lead her to getting stuck there.  And prisoners have escaped from the- oh!"  A large grin appeared on his face, but he was careful to contain his excitement to that display, so as not to disturb Penny, "if that is the case, and we could access her ship, perhaps how she got in and got out and be examined, and a way could be found to make the Zone more escape-proof!  Or even ways to channel the Zone's properties in small doses, for suspended animation here!"

 

He turned his attention for a moment to focus on giving Penny some deep tissue massages.  Part of his mind still worked on Zero Zone theories, but other parts were focusing on other aspects of earlier conversations.  "And you said there was another, Miracle Girl?  I believe I've seen her mentioned a few times in the papers.  Is she as much an 'American Sweetheart' as the stories make her out to be?"

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Mona looked crestfallen. Despite all its associations, the Terminus was a favorite topic of hers. Still she perked up at the mention of the Zero Zone. The term wasn't totally unfamiliar, but frankly, she had only heard the layman's basics. Viktor, having been a member of the League, on the other hand...

 

She smiled in parallel. Though hers had as much to do with him being happy. Being himself again.

 

...probably knew a lot about it. "I will text her first thing in the morning! This is so exciting. The technological breakthroughs alone would be worth the look, but the basic science would be groundbreaking. I mean, has much research actually been conducted on the Zero Zone? From what I understand, you'd need ArcheTech-level resources. Her ship's tech could open an entire new avenue of funding for physicists!"

 

Penny, uncaring of the conversation about her, purred away and tried valiantly to guide Viktor's hand back to her ears. But deep tissue massages? Now while Penny was a dense ball of muscle, such attention reduced her to a cat's natural state: fluid. She was putty in his hands. The large cat yielded into a loaf and yawned. Her slowly flexing claws tugged at space itself.

 

Mona, long accustomed to his diverging thought chains, didn't miss a beat. "I went in blind. What I can tell you is that she is the perhaps the most earnest, wholesome, flying brick I have ever encountered. Now I realize that heroes have public personas, but she completely embodies the 'American Sweetheart' role. Perhaps, just perhaps, she really is that good of a person."

 

A wistful look came over her, while her voice sounded, jealous? Though she pushed that tone away. "Reminds me of Centurion. Just so damn kind and true and virtuous and inspirational."

 

"Sorry, I'm rambling." With a light chuckle, she turned her attention back to her tea.

 

 

 

 

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He squeezed her hand and looked at her lovingly, "nothing to apologize for, liebchen.  We both know you've listened to plenty of my rantings and ravings," he chuckled.  "It's good to know she seems that good."  He chuckled again, "might give Miss Americana a run for her money.  Ah, so, back to your question: from what I recall..."

 

Viktor's memory was sharp as ever, but there were gaps.  After the ArchEvil incident, several heroes -- an assortment of mystics, psychics, and techies -- wiped parts of his memory (his own and his computers), erasing knowledge of superhero secret identities.  He could still re-learn it, if he proved worthy of such trust, same as any other hero.  A fresh start, in a way, since he'd been as much a victim during the incident.  And while they assured him that such compromising information is all they'd erased, a part of him still had some doubts, worries that they had erased -- intentionally or accidentally -- some other memories, other knowledge.  So far, that fear had proven unwarranted, but it still lingered.

 

"... Centurion and Daedalus are the only ones who've performed much study of the Zero Zone, though Siren was also called in a few times for a more mystical perspective, and I believe they once reached out to the Star Knights.  Perhaps offering it as a prison for some of their criminals?," he shrugged.  "I was not in on that call.  I did have a few looks at their notes, while I was in the Auxiliary; it is advanced stuff, yes, and would need a lot of resources to work on.  But if that is how her ship got here, and it's still intact, and she's willing to let it be studied, and if the proper researchers could get to it," he cocked his head slightly, then took another sip of his coffee, "well, like you said, a lot could be done."

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"Thank you," was her soft reply, along with a loving look of her own.

 

She leaned back in her chair as Viktor delved further into the topic. Given her reach though, their hands remained intertwined. The thoughtful look on her betrayed little information, but she nodded to his conclusion. Nothing really more to say perhaps.

 

Truth be told, she was drifting down other trains of thought again too. Mona worried about Viktor. He was a fundamentally good man, but so much had happened to him. The decision to erase his memories were well outside of her control. After all she was still dreaming the sleepless dream of death in the Terminus at the time. Why the powers-that-be would do so made sense. The long-term repercussions hadn't been fully considered though. Only after the fact had his doctors formulated a plan. No wonder the man had providers across continents.

 

Triakosia's ship did bring up another issue: space. Mona did not know Miss Americana well, but the two seemed to share the same reservations. Maybe not reservations, but questions, about Viktor's motivations for this journey. The couple had discussed this idea at length. Lately though he seemed more firm in his convictions. She decided to broach the subject again.

 

"Speaking of ships, how is your ship coming along? Finally settle on a name?"

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"Coming along quite nicely!" he replied cheerfully, momentarily focused on inspecting Penny's claws.  "I got the last of my personal effects that the League had confiscated from my homes, including the tesseract generators from the house in Hanover.  Those took the longest time to incorporate into the craft, due to their power requirements, and I had to wind up downgrading them.  So the inside won't be quite as large as it was when set up at the house, but it's still much bigger than the outer dimensions would indicate, enough to carry everything I think we'll be needing."

 

Mona had seen the craft a few times already, as he'd been working on it sporadically for years.  He'd started not long after becoming a member of the Freedom League Auxiliary (a year and a half before the ArchEvil incident), after talking Daedalus into letting him upgrade one of the League's Pegasus space planes.  After that unpleasantness, and the League realized they could not figure out some of the modifications he had made, they simply locked it away, as they had with so much of his technology.  Once he was capable of doing so, Archeville helped them sort out what was safe and what wasn't.  Following his most recent encounter with the League two few months ago, and he'd expressed interest in exploring space, they allowed him full access to his craft, and moved it to a private hangar at Jameson Airport.

 

With a final stroke of her toe beans, he turned his attention from Penny to Mona, furrowing his brow a bit, "I am still stuck on a name, I admit.  Tradition is to name a craft after some mythological figure or creature, so I've been combing through those.  Nothing's really grabbed me, though.  Did you have any ideas?"  His desire to leave Earth and explore outer space had been growing of late, and he was overjoyed that Mona had agreed to come with him for some of the journey.

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Penny cupped one of his hands with her paw and, this time, successfully guided it back to her ears. The action, however, released a visible ripple in space, as if his hand was moving through water. The sensation wasn't bad, per say, just tingling and hair raising. Viktor's electromagnetic senses detected a small burst of seemingly random static. This was the new normal for Penny. Who know what she would do next.

 

His brow may have furrowed, but Mona raised one of her own. "If nothing grabs you, then forget that tradition. Try something else." The response was simple, not simplistic, and straightforward. Viktor knew, her heroic inspiration aside, Mona was rather anti-traditionalist. "Name it around a childhood memory, a fictional ship, something funny, or something that brings you joy. Jumble them together. Build an algorithm. Ask a stranger on the street for a boat name."

 

She cocked her head in thought. "Perhaps your mother? Cynthia Bauer sounds like a lovely ship name." Mona channeled the bittersweet conversations about his family and the mother he never met. "Or more lighthearted: Red Ship. Don't look at me like that. It's a bad pun that matches the paint job."

 

A sip of tea lapsed her into a thoughtful silence. Her eyes drifted over the darkened work room. "Hmm...how long before this bird flies?"

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Viktor said nothing, but his rapidly shifting expressions almost showed how quickly his mind was working.  Disbelief, beratement, acceptance, wonder, exploration, joy, all raced across his face.  Suddenly he leaped into the air -- sending Penny tumbling, gracefully, down -- and did a few somersaults, laughing with unbridled joy.

 

"Oh, my lovely, clever, amazing Mona!  That's it!  That's it exactly!"  He dove down and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, then backed away and did a barrel roll.  "Cynthia Bauer!  Or, rather..." he hovered before her, held up his palms, and a hologram of soft blue letters appeared, first spelling his departed mother's name, then shifting to, "Synthia Bower!  An artificial dwelling or retreat!  Yes, 'bower' usually refers to a retreat under a shady tree, but it's been used for private apartments and the like, so it still works."

 

He settled back down onto the couch, and murmured several hasty apologies to Penny.  "Oh, that's twice I've upset you, kätzchen, I'm so sorry."  He held one hand out, palm up, and held the other one up at prime ear-scritching height, and waited for Penny's reaction.  "Oh, um, it could be ready in about a week," he said over his shoulder, "but if you still had some things you needed to wrap up here before we go..."

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