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Independence Day (IC)


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It had been a long but good Fourth of July - a chance for the President and the First Family to put overt politics aside and have the celebration with military families that was de riguer these days. Judy had played her part to perfection, applauding the talent shows of little kids, cheering as the fireworks echoed above Washington, and even serving meals alongside her mother and sisters at the service table. It was all good footage for a Presidential election year, or so the news media was presenting it. She lay on her bed and listened to the news outside without having to turn on her television, then after a moment's consideration she took out her phone and texted Crystal-Gazer. 

 

Hey Lulu. :) Can you FaceTime? 

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Lulu was up in her room, sitting in her reading chair and sipping herbal tea with honey. She was scribbling down notes in a blue leather-bound journal for her first D&D campaign, occasionally visualizing a character, scene or location in the air before her. She was wearing green sleepy pants, a Skyrim T-shirt and wrapped in a bathrobe. While she pondered the proper battle dress for Evanangeline, Princess of the Elves, her phone buzzed next to her teacup. Picking it, she grinned and rapidly texted back.

 

OMG, yes!!!! 😃😃😃 How r u?

 

Eagerly setting aside her notebook and pen, she dismissed the elven monarch with a wave of her hand and signed into FaceTime. "Hey there, sunshine! Where ya been? Ah haven't seen you in forever!" Her delight in seeing her friend was quite apparent.

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Judy was sitting up in bed, wearing an oversized University of Oklahoma shirt, and grinned naughtily at the sight of Lulu. "Well Ah'm not supposed to tell anybody that unless it's an emergency," she confessed as she turned the phone around to show an ornate bedroom with some furnishings and wall posters that looked familiar. "But let's just say the British aren't invited back here anytime soon. It's been a crazy summer but Ah've had fun - I spent a whole week out west looking at reptiles with Danica and that was great. Check out the new me." She turned her head a little bit, letting Lulu see what she'd done with her hair. The long feminine locks, raven-black and glossy, that she'd worn as long as Lulu had known her were cut so short that they just barely reached her collar. The style was familiar; though it wasn't dyed, it looked closer to the way Ashley wore her hair than anything else. "Do you like it? Ah heard a lot about it, I'll tell you what." 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Oh my Lord, it looks amazin'! You look so cute!" Lulu ran her fingers through her coppery locks. "Ah don't know if ah could ever be that brave. And you doin' it in the...Pale Building, no less!" She clutched her hands to her heart dramatically. "Oh Miss Judy, you are mah hero! When ah grow up, ah want to be just like you!"

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Judy's smile fell away from her eyes for a moment - before she reached up and patted her hair. "Ah did it myself from a Youtube tutorial. With a little help cleaning it up afterwards, of course." Her smile curled at the edges on that one before she said, "You'd look nice with short hair. You should try it." She sat up and moved around her room, finally parking herself somewhere that must have been a dresser or desk with her phone propped up on it. 

 

"Ah'm really glad to see you. I, ah, wanted to ask you something about telepathy, if that's okay." 

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Lulu cringed internally; she might have struck a nerve with one of her offhanded jokes, but rather than obsess over what it might have been, she chose to focus more intently on the conversation so she wouldn't miss any nuance. But when the First Daughter turned the topic to to telepathy, you could have knocked her down with a feather!

 

"Well, ah, uh, sure! Ah'd be happy to!" Then her eyes got wide. "Wait, you don't think you're bein' spied on, do you? Because that's somethin' ah always worry about, to be honest."

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Judy laughed softly, seemingly over what had upset her. "Lulu, people watch me all the time, and that's just the people who work for the United States government, not to mention journalists and creepy perverts on the Internet. Only reason Ah can talk to you right now is because nobody is supposed to actually be in the bedroom with me." She smiled, then sat up and said, "Lulu, Ah wanted to ask you something about, uh, well...space." She ran her fingers through the back of her hair, where her long hair would have been until just recently, and said, "Ah know this is going to sound crazy and weird, but you're a very good friend, and Ah know Ah can trust you. When you look up at the stars, can you...can you hear anything? You know, with your telepathy?" 

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The telepath's brow furrowed. "Uh, no? But that might just be because mah range is still a bit limited. Ah normally can't pick anything up past five miles, maybe double that if ah push it." She took a long sip of tea before continuing. "Correct me if ah'm wrong, but you pick up, like, the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, right? TV, radio, infrared, etcetra?"

 

Despite her best efforts, Lulu didn't always do a good job of keeping track of her friends' powers

Edited by Heritage
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"Yes. All of it," said Judy softly. "I can't actually see by it, of course." She smiled thinly. "Life ain't like it is - is in the movies." She thought for a minute, then said, "Can you promise that you will never breathe a word of this to anybody?" When she had that promise, she admitted, "Ah've been able to see the stars for a long time. When Ah look up at the night sky, Ah can see...things Ah can't even describe to you. Ah can't actually see things any further, but even the sky around Earth is full of lights and colors, and...and so many things." She shifted in her seat, and there was the sound of movement - she had retrieved the Bible Lulu had given her a gift. "Lately, though, Ah feel like...like Ah can hear them." She clutched the Bible tighter. "Like they're...they're actually trying to say something to me, but Ah can't...Ah can't make it out." 

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Lulu set aside her tea and held her phone closer to her face as she tucked her legs under herself; this sounded serious. "Ah swear." As Judy began to describe what she'd experienced, the redhead began to gnaw on her thumbnail, nodding occasionally, her eyes locked on Judy's face on the screen.

 

"Can you pick up any, like, intent or emotion, or is it just like a neutral signal? Like you're just tunin' into FM."" 

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"It's like whispering I can't quite hear. It was like that the first time mah powers started appearing," she admitted, "but that was just TV signals and stuff, since they're the same wavelength as my body. But this is...it's not like radio signals, it's something else." She'd set the Bible on the table in front of her, and the feed was good enough that Lulu could see her hands tightening around the binding. "And Ah don't know if you've noticed this lately, uh, Lulu, but Ah noticed the other day that Ah don't breathe anymore." She made a little gesture at her throat and said, "Before she left, Ashley took me to the doctors here and they said Ah'm using energy in my throat to talk and stuff, or to just inhale, but it's not actually...going anywhere." The tone in her voice made it clear she thought it was a personal failure. 

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Lulu didn't say anything for a few moments as she processed the information, at a loss for words as how to best help her friend. Finally, she shrugged internal and plunged ahead. "How do you feel about all this? The messages and all the changes." Open ended questions, not yes or no; she'd already started to read introductory books about therapy, ordered on Amazon, and marking passages with highlighters.

Edited by Heritage
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"Scared," she admitted. "Ah look at myself in the mirror and it's like Ah'm not really there, like Ah'm just wearing a disguise of my own face." She rubbed her eyes and said, "Ah feel like Ah'm getting further and further away from people. My parents don't like me to talk about Claremont or mah powers at all, and I think it just scares my sisters." Lulu knew well enough what the emergence of her powers had been like. "Ah'm not...afraid the way Ah was before, of hurting people, Ah know Ah can control the dangerous things. Ah'm just afraid Ah'll never really get a chance to be normal, or do the things a normal person does." She blinked a few times, then admitted in a small voice, "Ah, uh, and you _really_ have to promise you can't _ever_ tell anyone this, but Ah was going t-to let Leroy m-make love to me the night of prom. Before he left." She blinked harder, the closest she came to crying, and said, "Ah guess Ah may never get a chance to do that now. Ah know it'll be hard being at Claremont this year but at least that's one place Ah'm not different than anybody else." 

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"Oh, bless your heart," Lulu said through a tight throat as tears welled up in her eyes. 'C'mere, you." She held her phone in one hand as she wrapped her arms around herself. "Ah am holdin' you right now in the tightest virtual hug in God's creation, y'hear me? Ah am holdin' on tight; ah am not lettin' go, not today, not ever. Ah'm not lettin' you go, Judy. Mm-mm."

 

With as much power as she could muster in her heart, Lulu projected her love to sweet, sweet Judy, hoping her friend could feel at least a fraction if it.

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The girls closed their eyes together, and Judy thought about her friend who she loved, the first person at Claremont who had really seemed to be like her - and how terribly she missed her, and how far a few hundred miles could be - and suddenly - 

 

There was a flash of brilliant rainbow light inside Lulu's bedroom, a curling circle of iridescent beauty that flared up like a new star and vanished with just as much speed. A moment later, Judith Claudia Cahill was sitting there just a few inches from Lulu. The carpet underneath the wooden chair she'd brought with her no longer matched the one on Lulu's floor, a precise, smouldering circle standing out where she'd landed. Still clutching her Bible to her chest, Judy stared at Lulu, her mouth open - and fell out of her chair. 

 

"Oh mah God, oh mah God, oh mah precious Lord," she babbled, clutching her Bible to her chest as she looked wildly around the room, and even in her panic she wasn't raising her voice but rainbow light was spilling from her eyes and across her skin as she transformed into Daystar, scrabbling backwards across the room. "Ah confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead. Ah confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead..."

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Lulu was almost as shocked as Judy by her sudden appearance, but quickly realized that the poor girl was having some sort of religious episode/panic attack. Acting swiftly, she dropped her phone moved to wrap her arms around the new arrival, holding her close and murmuring softly.

 

 "Hey, hey, it's alright! Ah gotcha, ah gotcha....ah aint' goin' nowhere..."

 

A brand new power or a familiar one she was just scared to use? Regardless, Lulu has overjoyed to see her friend in the flesh, and she continued to hold her close.

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Judy stared at Lulu with glowing rainbow eyes. The colors on her skin skated through every color Crystal-Gazer had ever seen and some she hadn't, as if a soap bubble could somehow shine with the radiance of a sun. Her voice was resonant when she spoke, and deeper than its usual. "Ah don't...ah don't..." She hugged Lulu back, her skin hot as ever, and pulled back with the edge of panic in her soft voice. "Ah don't know what happened," she whispered softly. "Ah was there, and now Ah'm here, and Ah've never done anything like that before." She put her hand over her mouth and concentrated, and slowly the glowing colors on her skin faded until she was herself again. 

 

"Oh Lord, Ah just disappeared right out of the White House." Her eyes widened. "They have sensors outside my room, they must have picked up on it. Ah don't...Ah have to call Ashley. She's on vacation but she'll know what to do...Oh Ah'm gonna ruin her vacation," she said despondently. "She was so happy to be going home to her family and Ah'm gonna ruin it!" 

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"Well, it could be worse; you did teleport out of the White House, but you did stay within the US borders. Go ahead and call Ashley, and uh..." Lulu put her hand on her hip and began thinking out loud. "You know, if it comes down to it, ah do know a friendly speedster who could maybe run you back to DC. Maybe drop you off in a secure location where the Secret Service can come get you? Ah don't know how these protocols work." She sat down on the edge of her bed and patiently waited for her friend to call her 'sister'.

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Judy's eyes widened. "We can't tell the Freedom League," she whispered. "You haven't...you haven't told Velocity, right?" Her eyes were as big as saucers. "They'd tell - they'd tell the world. And then everyone would know." She typed onto Lulu's phone, sighing as it rang, then held it to her ear. 


"Hello? Hello no it's not that bad, it's okay...Ah'm...Ah teleported," she said, looking at Lulu, "Ah landed in Lulu's house." She started pacing anxiously, then said "Oh-okay." 

 

She shot Lulu a look. "Ah'm on call-waiting," she said quickly, "her emergency line from the White House just rang. They must know." She laughed bitterly and said, "Well Ah guess Ah don't have to worry about being pulled out of Claremont this year if Ah'm teleporting across the country willy-nilly. Can't let _that_ happen during a rally..." she said, her tone edging bitter as her phone rang again. With an apologetic look, she picked it up. 

 

"Yes? Yes, Ah'm safe here. No, no, um, radiation around here looks safe, so Ah think everyone else here must be safe too..." 

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Lulu frowned and shook her head. "No, of course not!" It was indeed hard for her to keep that secret from her beloved foster mother, but the telepath had made a promise to a friend. Besides, surely Velocity would understand the need to protect a secret identity?

 

All of the Southern-born heroine's instincts told her to make tea or bring Judy some food, the better to comfort her, but her logical brain told her that Daystar no longer needed sustenance. So for lack of anything better to do, she sat behind Judy, put her arms around her, and laid her head on her shoulder.

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Judy talked with Ashley for a few more minutes, saying a few things that sounded distinctly like codephrases, then hung up with an "Ah'm sorry, Ashley...yes, it _is_ mah fault. Ah'll talk to you later....Ah love you." 

 

"Mah backup team is on its way up from Philadelphia," she said disconsolately as she slumped back against Lulu. "And Ashley is cutting her vacation short. At least Ah'm somewhere safe," she said with a hard smile. "Or Ah might have to make mah way on foot to an extraction spot. Wouldn't that be fun." She rubbed her eyes and admitted, "Ah'm sorry, Ah'm not very good company right now. It's just...it's hard on days like this. When Ah have to pretend to be normal for everyone in the...in the country." 

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"You don't ever have to apologize to me, hon; ah know you got a lot on your plate, plus the weight of the world on your shoulders, seems like. The struggle is real." Lulu sighed and looked around her room. "So, this is home. Can ah...can ah get you anythin'? Ah know you don't need for much nowadays, but mah manners require me to ask." She laughed and looked embarrassed. "You know how it is."

 

Southern hospitality was deeply ingrained, and very hard to overcome.

Edited by Heritage
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Judy thanked Lulu, but it didn't seem like she wanted anything. She sat down on Lulu's bed and looked around. "Nice room." Her face struggled with thoughts as she looked around, then finally voiced them. "Lulu, do...do you ever miss your birth parents?" she asked softly. "The way things were with them - before your powers." She spread her hands wide, taking in the room, not sure how to go further. 

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Lulu drew in a long slow breath before letting it out slowly. "Ah miss home, ah mean, the town ah grew up in; our house...not really." She waved her hand, and an image appeared of a ramshackle home, which incorporate a construction trailer in its makeup. The yard around it was filled with weeds and scrap iron, and several cars and a pontoon boat rusted nearby. Behind the house were a few trees and then a muddy river, nearly at the level of the yard. As she looked upon it, tears spontaneously appeared in Lulu's eyes, and her throat got tight.

 

"That's...that's home. Where you make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner most days. Two fridges, one for food and the other for beer. One air conditioner in mah parents' room to cool off the whole house; you'd set up...sheets and fans to blow some of that cool air around. We kept our clothes in plastic tubs so the floodin' wouldn't make 'em stink like the rest of the house. Like the AstroTurf and the linoleum stank."

 

Then she turned to Judy, her eyes red with tears. "Ah don't miss it too much-" Lulu collapsed into her friend's arms as she couldn't hold in the shame and loathing any more, her body wracked with sobs. 

Edited by Heritage
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Judy's eyes widened and she threw her arms around Lulu, her embrace fever-hot as she held her friend. "Oh, Ah'm sorry, Ah'm sorry," she said as she held Lulu tight. "Ah should never have asked you that, Ah promise Ah'll never bring it up again..." 

 

As she held onto Lulu, Lulu felt things from inside Judy's mind - not clear images like her own, but sensory and emotional impressions. 

 

Daddy, big and jovial, a presence that could fill the room or turn thundercloud angry when crossed. 

 

Momma, cool and sharp, the disciplinarian because Daddy was always working to make things better, just how everyone in the family had to work to make things better.

 

The knowledge that her family was the safest, most trustworthy place on Earth, and that everything would be all right if she just did what her parents said. 

 

And then the slow trickling reality that told her the hard, cold truth. That her family had picked the world over her, and her sisters had picked obedience over her, and that all her sacrifices pointed only to the alien song of cold and naked stars above. 

 

Seeming to sense the connection, Judy pulled away, looking nervous. 

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