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Phoenix Rising (IC)

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Monica nodded slowly. This was a good sign. Sure, her appearance would mean something, but the President was careful enough to navigate around Monica's obvious issues. After all, it was not like she couldn't work with him at all, it was all a matter of giving and taking.


"Pleasure to meet you, Joshua."


She took the tablet and began to skim over the speech. The style was amazing, of course, that was to be expected. The content was, as her teachers may put it, slightly missing the mark. Not concrete enough, dodging the issue. She'd gotten that criticism on a few of her essays. This was what Cahill wanted her to say, clearly. But he had just given her the greenlight to tweak it as she wanted, hadn't he?


"I can tell this was written by one of the best of the best. I like it. Some personal touches here and there, but overall … yeah, I can work with this."


Technically she was speaking the truth. Or so she told herself at least.

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"T-thanks," said Joshua, looking very pleased at this turn of events. Indeed, the whole room seemed to be letting out a collective breath - maybe this was going to go more easily than they'd thought. Joshua handed his tablet right over to Monica, everyone seeming to put their trust in the Sentinel of Liberty. 


The President still had his eye on Monica, though, and seemed to come to a decision. "Wonderful, wonderful. Since we're all friends here, Ah actually have somebody Ah want you to meet. If you'll follow me?" They stepped to the other door in the hotel suite, not the one where Monica's mother had disappeared, and Cahill opened it up himself to reveal four young women; one at the window, another at the hotel desk, and a third sitting on the bed, the fourth, a sunglasses-wearing Secret Service agent, was keeping a low profile in the back of the room. 


"This is mah eldest daughter Jaybee," Jaybee Cahill looked over from the window and gave Monica a cautious smile, her short dark hair barely reaching her shoulders. She was a college student back in Oklahoma, in a jean-skirt and jacket that made her look ready for a cowboy social. "Mah youngest Jaydee," Jaydee Cahill was dressed to match her sister but didn't look like she liked it, fifteen years old and already something of a social media star, "and of course, you already know Jaycee. Girls, this is Monica Guiterrez, she's gonna be on stage at the rally this week.


"Um, hey, Monica," said Judy Smith, standing up from the bed to give Monica a quick hug, her skin toasty warm to the touch. "Or should Ah say Lady Liberty?" she added with a look up at her empowered friend, a nervous smile on her face. 

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So the rest of the room was feeling similar to Monica. That was a relief. And come on, they were working in government, if they fully trusted her word on something like this, that was their own fault. She took the tablet and held it in her hand, she didn't exactly have anywhere to put it right now. Not that it mattered much, as apparently business was over and now it was part for the more casual stuff. If there was such a thing as casual in this kind of scenario.


She followed the President into what appeared to be one of the bedrooms. Sure, she'd seen the president's daughters on TV once or twice, but she'd never paid much attention to them. Which probably explained the situation she was facing right now.


Judy? Jaycee Cahill? What the… ?


Monica responded to the hug in kind, more of an automatic reaction than anything. Then, she looked at her classmate (?), around the room, at the president, and then back at Judy.



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"I'll just let you girls talk amongst yourselves," said Cahill with a wink before he stepped out of the room, closing it behind him as he went. 


"Well, um," said Judy, blushing nervously and tucking her long hair behind her ear. "Ah, uh, guess you have a lot of questions. Won't you sit down?" She turned and shot a look at her sisters, asking "Could y'all give us some room?" 


"Oh, is this _superhero_ business?" asked Jaydee archly. "You gonna talk about your clubhouse and your nicknames?" 


"Oh don't be like that," said Jaybee, pushing off from the window. "Come on, we'll go for a walk and see if we can get anything from the giftshop." She shot her younger sister a look, a sharp enough one to get her moving. The elder and the younger Cahill sister headed out, their Secret Service escort lingering in the door for just a moment.


"We'll be back in a minute." 


It was a familiar voice. 



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Monica still had no idea how to react. She didn't even really notice what was going on around her right now, all of this was too confusing, and her brain felt like it was overloading dealing with all this information. As it turned out, learning people's secret identities was the sort of experience that some of her teachers had talked about after all.


She sat down, and noticed the voice as the agent closed the door behind her. Was that?...


"Okay." She took a deep breath. "So. Where do I start… No Grue, no alternate dimension? Summers is obviously in on this, and Ash…"


So that was that secret that Monica was sure the sisters … sisters? … had. Everything was falling into place. Definitely not what she'd expected. It did explain a few things, sure. But it raised many, many new questions.


And concerns over some of the things Monica had planned for her appearance with Cahill…

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"Um, well, yes..." Judy closed her eyes and promised herself that if she ever told anyone else at Claremont she would make Ashley stay in the room. "After mah powers appeared, they sent me here undercover, and they made up the story about the other dimension, so nobody would ask a lot of questions. And nobody ever did!" she said with a guilty look. "Everyone was just a very...good friend, and very accepting. Ah'm really sorry," she said, "Ah...Ah really thought it was the only way, and then Ah'd promised to keep the secret, so Ah had to..." She bit her lip, and said, "Ashley and Ah have been talking to Daddy, and Ah told him that you were really great, and you love America, and that you'd be a great friend. So Ah guess it's my fault you're here..." she said, blushing again. 


"Ah don't know what would have happened without Ashley," said Judy quietly. "If you remember that terrorist attack at the White House last year? That was, um, that was me," she admitted softly, reaching back to tug at her hair. "It wasn't safe for me to stay in the White House," she said, "not with powers like mine, so it was better for everyone if Ah stayed away until Ah could control things..." 

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Did Judy…Jaycee actually want to do this? To Monica it still felt like this was her having to reveal a secret she didn't really want. Cleary one she wasn't entirely comfortable with either.


Monica listened and nodded for now. Once Judy had finished, she moved a bit closer. "Hey, hey. If there's ever been a good secret to keep, it's this one. Remember that time that Corinne almost got kidnapped? Apparently, that wasn't even the only time something like that happened to her."


Sure, Monica didn't bring up superpowered stuff with her girlfriend too often, Corinne didn't like talking about it too much, but these sorts of things had come up before.  


"I'm here because I want to be. All of the stuff I've done so far I can only blame myself for."


This entire conversation made Monica realize that she had no idea what Judy's powers even were. Or how she felt about that controlling aspect. It sounded similar to what Corinne was dealing with, and it was something that Monica had absolutely no experience with still, because, well, she had some of the best mentors out there. Mentors, who would give her some specific advice for this situation.


She moved a bit closer still, and then spoke, softly.


"Just a matter of time until things are mostly normal again, then."

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"Corinne was mah first real friend at Claremont. Ah think she figured out something was up, but she was too nice to ask, even when she was Zenith. Ah miss her." 


Judy smiled thinly and said, in a moment of honesty perhaps pulled out of her by the presence of Lady Liberty at the height of her powers, "You ever hear of Tazewell Tyler? He was the youngest son of President John Tyler by his first marriage. He was about eleven years old when his father became the President of the United States, and he was one of the first Presidential children to actually live in the White House. He became a doctor, served in the Confederate Army during the war, and drank himself to death before he turned forty-five. He died a hundred and fifty years ago but people are still writing books that talk about him."


Judy folded her hands in front of her. "It will never be normal for me." She tapped the side of her head and said, "Ah see it all, you know that? Oh they taught me how to control it, how to cut myself off from the signals at Claremont, but Ah _still_ hear every radio station, every Internet message, every time anybody says anything about my family. Or me. If it gets out what Ah am, everyone will talk about it - forever. And Ah'll never be free of it." She swallowed hard, and looked away. "So that's why we had to keep it a secret." 

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The conversation turned a bit morbid quite quickly there. Monica wasn't entirely sure what Judy was trying to say. Maybe she interpreted a bit too much into it, but it sounded mildly alarming if nothing else.


There was some concern visible on Monica's face as she listened to Judy explain her situation. And then some more as she tried to figure out how to respond. Was this the time for some motivational speech about how accepting who she was would help her? It didn't really feel like it. But then again, that was what Monica stood for, wasn't it?


The thought of being able to see everything that mentioned her crossed Monica's mind, something that visibly unnerved her and was enough to make her respond.


"…oh ####." She turned away her head for a moment when she realized what she just said, then continued. "Sorry.  … I don't really know …"


She slowly reached out for a hug, checking whether or not Judy would go for it or back off.

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Judy did indeed hug Monica back - the dimension-lost orphan turned misplaced Presidential daughter hot to the touch, so warm that it was like grabbing onto a hot water bottle in the shape of a girl. She held the hug for a long moment, then took a step back. Her face was red and eyes pinched, but she took a moment to compose herself, smoothing her hair and face, turning herself from someone on the brink of emotional cracking to someone...well, someone who looked rather familiar. Whoever's idea all this had been, it was clear Judy was better at deception than anyone at Claremont might have suspected. Before she could speak, the door to the suite opened - and the Secret Service agent who had handed the other First Daughters off returned. 

"Lady Liberty. Jaycee." The Asian woman at the door cleared her throat, and Monica was able to see who that was under the black wig. Ashley smiled thinly as the door closed behind her. "How are we doing in here?" 

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Physical contact was not something Monica got a lot of, and more often than not it did make her uncomfortable, but right now, she just enjoyed the moment. It was almost definitely more than just normal body heat that Judy … Jaycee? was giving off here, but with Monica’s own powers she didn’t have to care too much.


Once that was done, she turned around to face the agent and confirm her suspicions. A lot of her behavior suddenly made sense, and yet, at the same time, many more questions were raised.


“Quite good, quite good. Have to say, when Beth told me about strange impersonation conspiracies and people not being who they claimed, I did not expect to find that here of all places.” She returned a smile, matching her rather playful tone.

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"It's...yeah." Fueled by Lady Liberty's insight, Monica could tell how tense Ashley was - but she smiled anyway. The idea that she'd disappointed Beth Walton-Wright was actually a punch right in the goddamned stomach, not that she was interested in showing that in front of the teenagers. "It hasn't been easy, but we've gotten it done." 


"This year we might..." Judy swallowed hard, then said. "Well, if anybody should know, it should be Lady Liberty, right? Ah know we can trust you, Monica. And now that you and Daddy are on the same team, that'll make everything better." She hesitated a moment, then  said, "Listen, um, you're probably wondering about me, and why Ah was in the GSA despite having, you know, mah conservative roots. Ah want you to know that knowing people like you, and Janus Danger, and everybody else...has really changed me, and how Ah saw the world. Everything I did for that club was real!

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The same team was a very simplistic way to put it, sure, but Monica did have to concede that it was right in its essence. And that it would mean more problems if that was the perception she was giving off. The personal benefits were still there – she learned about all of this thanks to it, after all!


Whatever Ashley (or whatever her actual name was) was feeling right now wasn’t a primary concern of Monica. Her entire deal was clearly a lot more complicated than it already appeared to be.


“Yeah, that’s what the GSA is there for! No matter your background, who you are, all that. Of course what you did was real, why would you think I’d think it wasn’t?”


“All of this” she waved her hands around a bit “doesn’t change that. “


…it does explain a few things, though.


“School’s still gonna be school after all, right? “

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"Right!" said Judy, who looked like she was ready to light up in ways besides the usual one that typically required sunglasses. "Ah just felt so bad, lying to everybody for so long, even if Ah knew it was for a good reason." She took a breath, let it out, then said, "Ah think this'll be the year Ah tell people. Ah don't know when, but if this worked so well, we can make it happen." She beamed up at Monica and admitted, "Ah won't be able to make it to the rally. Jaycee Cahill is notoriously a sick girl," she said with a rather watery smile, "so Ah don't get to visit the rallies where there are visiting superheroes. It would be a shame if Corinne happened to tune in to see you and saw me there. But Ah'm sure you'll do a great job. Ah'm just...Ah'm just so happy that everything is working out okay now, Ah just prayed for it so much and now it's actually happening!" 

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