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Freedom Fallout


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GM

 

A Tuesday afternoon in early February, 2021

Claremont Academy

 

"I don't know why I gotta bring the punk along, sorry about that, Miss Cahill." Travis Armstrong seemed to shift between being in a great mood, and, well, being in a spectacularly bad mood. The good mood seemed to come whenever he looked at Judy, and the bad? Well, he obviously wasn't a fan of one Luke Landers.

 

He was leading Luke and Judy down a hallway in the administrative building. Ashley was there too, of course. Travis Armstrong was not about to take Judy's bodyguard away, especially not now. They stopped inside the room, where a screen was on, showing a group of people somewhere in Southside, holding signs. Some kind of demonstration. The signs were hard to make out, but one in particular was easy to make out, with big black letters on white: "WHERE IS JAYCEE?" 

 

"It seems like you've gotten quite a following, Miss Cahill."

 

Luke would recognize the young man holding the sign.

 

His name was Matt Wagner.

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Was he in trouble? Again? Being dragged by the Coach before he could finish his training session so suddenly seemed to suggest it, but the fact that he was together with the freaking daughter of the ex-president pointed in a different direction… He was gonna know soon anyway, so yeah, with no need to worry, Luke strolled through the halls with a confident pace and a cocky grin on his lips.

 

The punk has a name by the way.” Luke smirked. Now of course he knew who Judy was (she was on TV after all), but he hadn’t had many chances to hang out with the senior himself during his short stay at Claremont. “Luke here.” He offered to shake hands with the girls.

 

By the way… I know you must have heard this a million time already...” He gave Jay a playful smile the two were still on the way, ignoring the coach’s glares. “...but it takes guts of steel to do what you did Jay. You were freakin’ awesome.

 

Once they got to the surveillance room, Luke gave a quick look at the monitors. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a demonstration, there was no supervillain swinging in the sky (as far as he could see) and the protester didn’t seem dangerous…

 

Feigning a lack of interest, he grabbed the gym water botte from his battered backpack and took a generous sip from it.

 

It was then that his eyes glanced on a familiar face. Matt!

 

Color drained from his cheeks as he spat out the water in a cone rivaling in magnitude his dragonfire breath. Damn!

Edited by Nerdzul
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"Thank you," said Judy to Luke, seeming to radiate warmth in more ways than one with a soft smile. "Y'all are very kind." She was in person a far cry from the glowing angel of righteousness that had reshaped American politics with a few well-placed words. 

 

The daughter of the former President looked faintly sick for just a moment, then looked away and closed her eyes. 

 

"This isn't anything new," said Ashley softly, putting a hand sympathetically on Judy's shoulder. "We've seen demonstrations like this before." 

 

"Ah know that," said Judy, biting her lip for a moment. "Ah can hear them talking about it sometimes. But Ah never thought Ah'd see one here." She shot the teacher a frightened look, but fearfully asked Ashley as much as him, "we're safe, aren't we? They didn't find out about the school?" 

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GM

 

"Yeah. I thought you might recognize that guy, Landers." Armstrong crossed his arms and shook his head. "You better clean up that mess."

 

Looking over at Judy and Ashley, his expression softened somewhat. "That's the question, Miss Cahill. They're in Southside now, but they've been moving through the city. The man holding the sign is one of Landers' known associates from before he got here. Who knows what Landers might have told him?"

 

He paused, despite his otherwise stern demeanor, his voice was softer yet when he spoke again.

 

"Have you considered making some sort of statement? Even with the new president being sworn in, these things are getting worse, Miss Cahill."

 

On the screen, the demonstration were starting to push back against the perimeter a group of armored officers had formed.

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Don’t worry ok? I can’t believe they would want to hurt you anyway, I mean…” He gave Jaycee a sympathetic smile. Yeah he could vouch for his friend at least, but the rest? Who knew right? “Plus it’s safe here anyway.

 

Yeah I…” Luke ruffled the hair on the back of his neck after the Coach’s remark. What the hell are you doing Matt?  He felt guilty a bit perhaps, since getting to Claremont he hadn’t been around his old friends as much as he should have, immersed as he was in this new life of heroes and wonders...

 

Hey…” Luke frowned, and instinctively clenched his fists. “I didn’t tell him jack shit. What kind of man do you think I am?” He angrily remarked. Indeed he had put his friend at risk already, there was no way he was gonna share with him something that could get him in trouble. 

 

Whatever. I have to go and talk to him…” Yeah and calm down the crowd? How? Scare them off maybe? No way, he wasn't gonna use his powers on these people... He had no idea, yet he had to do something...

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"Ah know all the things they say," said Judy, crossing her arms over her chest. "All the time." She looked away for a moment, listening to Luke's argument with the teacher, then said, "Ah need to go." 

 

"I really don't think that's such a good idea, honey," said Ashley, eyes widening as she considered the prospects. "We'd have to get your whole team out there, and you know how hard that is logistically." 


"They're just normal people," said Judy, and as she spoke colors bled over her skin, an almost dazzling rainbow brightness that seemed to fill the room. When she spoke, it echoed as she added, "They can't hurt me. And if you're coming with me, you know Ah'll be safe," she said, giving her mentor a smile. Her glowing face hardened as she added, "This is the path Ah put myself on when Ah decided Ah wasn't going to be afraid anymore."

 

"...okay. Okay, let's go," said Ashley. "But no teleporting. We're all going in together." 

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GM

 

"I think you're a criminal that was given a chance he doesn't deserve, Landers." Armstrong crossed his arms, obviously not afraid of Luke in any way. 

 

With both Judy and Luke stating they had to go and talk with the people at the riot, he sighed. "Look, the headmistress won't like it, but I'll look the other way, alright? Go out there and try to get them to calm down, and if anyone asks, I didn't tell you about any of this, got it?"

 

"Just stay safe, alright? I'll try to cover for you."

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Ashley blinked a moment and said "Judy, Luke, if you'll wait outside the door, I'll meet you in just a moment. We'll take our car." She folded her hands behind her back, watched as Judy and Luke exited the room, then turned and walked up to Armstrong.

 

Outside, Judy looked unaccountably nervous as the door closed behind them, glancing back in and seeming to peer right through the metal - her eyes glowing a faint but obvious shade of rainbow. 

 

Inside, Ashley chose her words with great care, her tone not actually rising above a conversational tone as she said, "That was a very ugly thing you said to that boy just now." She didn't sound like a high school student at all - but of course by now Claremont's faculty knew that this visitor to the campus wasn't just a bratty senior who'd been held back a few years. It occurred to her that she could probably threaten him effectively with a report to Summers but that was not something she'd ever be willing to entertain. "If I ever hear about you talking like that to a student again, I will come back here and you will not like what I teach you." She met his eyes, gaze hard, then turned and walked out of the room. 

 

"Okay," she said with a smile as the door closed behind her, "let's head for the parking lot. I think you'll like the car," she commented to Luke as they went, "we call it the Dawg..." 

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Yet here I’m… Am I right?” He forced a cocky smirk, but his eyes told a different story. Damn the coach did know to hit where it hurts didn’t him? Luke’s knuckles whitened as he kept clenching his fists. Calm down Luke...

 

What if he was right, though? What if he was just playing pretend… With all the ‘hero’ thing. No way! And yet… The young man lowered his eyes, looking away from Mr. Armstrong.

 

He relaxed, if only a little, when the man ‘allowed’ them to try and sort it out. Like if he wasn’t going to go anyway, permission or not. He saw himself out the door without a word.

 

………..

 

Whatever, right?” The young man shrugged once it was just the two of them. His gaze then darted to meet Judy’s. It must suck for her too, yeah… A thousand times worse perhaps. “Hey…” He gently put one hand on her shoulder. “You are going to do great. I know that.” He smiled. 

 

Yeah, let’s go do this.” Luke gave Ash a grateful smile. Now he didn’t know what she had Armstrong had talked about, but the fact that she was willing to bring him with them, regardless of the coach insinuations had definitely scored her a few points in the young man books. “ ‘nks” He muttered.

Edited by Nerdzul
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GM

 

Armstrong was silent for a moment as Ashley turned, then finally spoke up again, just before she left. "Last I heard, you don't really have any say in what's happening here, so how about you just run along and make sure those kids don't get in over their head? Wouldn't want anything to happen to Cahill's daughter." If it was meant as an apology, Armstrong sure hid it well. "Some people are just trouble and can't be trusted. Its as simple as that."

 

---

 

Once they were all far away, and Armstrong could see that they had reached the parking lot, he pulled out his phone. He clicked through a few security screens to filter it, then brought it up to his ear. "Alright, they're headed your way. That's it, we're done."

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Once they were in the car, Ashley took the opportunity to make a few phone calls, reaching out to Judy's detail and making sure they were in position to move out to the protest site. They kept a close eye on Cahill-related stuff in Freedom City anyway, so odds were good they had eyes on it anyway. Once they were on the road, she took the usual indirect route to get out there, the better to make sure nobody could follow them one way or another from Claremont to their destination. 

 

"Thank you for being so nice," Judy had told Luke in the car. "Ah know we don't really know each other, but Ah really appreciate it. Ah'm sure we can help your friend if we just work together on it." The inside of the car was pretty nice, complete with sound system and snack holder, though the latter was mostly bottles of water and energy bars. "It's just for emergencies," said Judy with a little  smile. "Since Ah don't eat anything."

 

Once they reached the protest, Ashley circled the whole scene, keeping the Dawg in discreet mode while she studied what was going on and waited for the rest of Judy's detail to arrive in the area. 

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He is right by the way…” He tossed when they were out of earshot from Mr. Armstrong. “I mean I have done a lot of stupid stuff, before…” He lowered his eyes, now he was not sure about how much to confess, but these two had actually decided to trust him, so it was only fair that he shared at least a little. “I mean, my friend… Matt… The guy with the sign… We were bunkmates in juvie…” He sighed. 

 

Woah that’s cool.” Luke had a childish grin of his lips when he saw their ride. He playfully caressed the hood before jumping inside with the others. Now perhaps it was not enough to put his mind fully at ease, but the Dawg had definitely managed to lift his spirit at least a little.

 

It’s nothing… And you deserve it.” He smiled gathering as much of his confidence as he could, his gaze shifted to cross with her own.

 

Yeah, I’m sure that we will… Besides, they just need to know you a bit better…” Yep, maybe? Matt definitely didn’t have much against Luke having actual super powers, but then again… It was when Luke was using those gifts to provide for him and his friends. Plus he was just one voice in a crowd.

 

Can I?” He asked while grabbing one of the bars. “You don’t eat? Woah that must suck. I mean, it can be neat...” Plus it’d let her save a lot of money, but then daughter of a former president, yeah, likely not one of her concerns. "But you just miss out a lot."

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GM

 

By the time the Dawg reached the area and Ashley circled, the protest had not quite turned violent yet, but it seemed close. Tempers were flaring. Protesters were yelling at the police officers that had been stationed around to keep an eye out, calling them sellouts, saying they were part of the conspiracy. Still, no one had been hurt or attacked yet, no property damage.

 

From what they could see and hear, the protest seemed to be in support of Judy, and they were, if anything, pissed that she was missing, thinking that she must have been disappeared by someone. Some of their banners bore the name Jaycee's Children.

 

By now, they were shouting some sort of rhytm: "WHERE. Is. JAY. CEE? SHE. SHOULD. BE. FREE!"

 

They could not see Matt Wagner. Either he had left, or disappeared into the crowds.

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"I want to talk to them."

 

Ashley looked in the rearview mirror, met Judy's eyes, and sighed softly. "Okay. Okay, give me a minute." She found a place to park the Dawg, neatly sliding it into a gas station's parking lot, and said, "Okay, here's the plan. Luke, you get out and try and find your friend." Watchdog was already getting dressed, putting her red helmet on and buttoning up her leather and denim outfit. "I'll hang back out of sight. Judy, come in under that awning if you can. Nobody can see us from above there. Everybody got it?" When they were ready, they let Luke out first, giving Ashley a moment alone with Judy. 

 

"Are you sure about this?" 

 

"They wanted to see me," said Judy softly, her skin beginning to glow with a rainbow light. "Ah'd better give them what they asked for."

 

And so it was that while her Secret Service agent slipped out to take point while she waited for her backup team, Daystar appeared before the crowd in a flash of light just like the one they'd seen on television, her form the rainbow radiance that had been the subject of so many viral videos. 

 

"...Ah'm here!" she called as loudly she could in a voice that warbled from nearby phones. "You wanted to see me - and here Ah am!" 

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Luke could breathe a sigh of relief when he noticed that the crowd was in fact enthusiastic to see Judy and not the other way around. Thanks God. I was just being paranoid. Then again, anything could still happen, he should better keep his eyes well open.

 

He nodded at Ash. “Sure.”

 

I’ll also be around in case of troubles. And anyway you’d do great. They love you. See?” Luke smiled again. “See you later.” He waved at Judy and Ash before darting out of the car.

 

Luke meld into the crowd, hopefully, still in plainclothes there was little about him that could give away his true nature. He scanned the area from any sign of his friend, but truth was, he was mostly trying to follow his instinct, he had always known where to find him and the others after all. 

 

Where are you buddy?

Edited by Nerdzul
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GM

 

The moment Judy started glowing, the crowd fell silent. You could probably hear a pin drop by the time she started talking.

 

After her statement, the murmurs began, running through the crowds. Now that Jaycee Cahill was actually here, it seemed like they didn't really know what to do, or who would speak up.

 

Finally, after what seemed like forever, a man was pushed out in front of the crowds. He was unkempt, dressed in a jacket with a few holes, holding a hat in his hands. "Er... Miss Cahill? Are you alright? Did anyone take your away or hurt you after your speech?" He kept wringing the hat in his hand while he asked.

 

For Luke, it seemed like finding Matt would be finding a needle in a haystack. So many people, all moving, muttering. One big mass of interchangeable parts, with signs only adding to the confusion. It would not be as easy to find Matt as he had hoped, if he was even still there.

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Damn!” Looked like Matt was nowhere to be seen. Then again, it was a huge crowd. Yeah he must be there somewhere right? Come on Luke, focus. There was little else to do than keep searching, at least until Judy revealed herself to the crowd. It was… Cool wasn’t it that all these people where there for her? Heartwarming to be honest. Although he begun to wonder why the coach thought it was gonna be a problem. But well… Whatever, things were doing fine.

 

He gave a couple of glances toward her position, just in case someone actually dangerous had infiltrated the crowd or something, but otherwise he kept looking for his friend.

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From her position behind a nearby car, Ashley watched the scene too, keeping her gaze fixed on the crowd near Judy for threats both foreign and domestic. It didn't really matter to her one way or another if Luke found whoever he was looking for, but she supposed the presence of a glowing goddess before them was probably making it easier to spot faces. 

 

-

 

"Ah'm well, thank you," said Judy, folding her glowing hands in front of her for a moment. She could see them all, see the light that played over their skin, their hearts, the infinite song of the EM spectrum around them. "Ah'm here to tell you that you don't need to worry about me. You should worry about the world." She smiled at the man, her teeth dazzling white in more ways than one, and said more loudly, "There's a whole world out there that needs people willing to stand up for it!

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GM

 

There he was. Luke finally spotted Matt, his face illuminated by Judy's light, up near the front of the group. He seemed almost enraptured as he listened, standing so close to the Jaycee.

 

A man spoke up. "How can we help, Miss Jaycee?" Another joined him. "Yes, yes! Let us help you make the world better!" The crowd was starting to get more rowdy, others joining them. "What can we do?" "Tell us!" "Lead us!" "We believe in you!"

 

They did not seem violent, but rather, they were almost europhic. 

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Truth to be told, Luke felt a bit of a pang of jealousy at the level of adoration that Judy was receiving now. Himself, the times he got out as Nightscale, well, they didn’t end exactly had the same kind of warm reactions. Then again, it was mostly his own fault...

 

There he was! Finally, he could see Matt among the crowd, seemingly enraptured by Jay’s appearance.

 

Hey man.” Luke approached his friend, giving him a high five. “Didn’t know you were also a fan… Although I can see why.” He chuckled, a playful grin on his lips and a strong pat on Matt’s back quickly followed.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Judy fell silent for a moment, watching the way they stared enraptured at her light. Oh My Lord, am I brainwashing them? 

 

She considered her responses, then said seriously, "Jesus said 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." She hesitated just a second, then went on, "Everybody's got a god, something bigger than themselves they believe in, and everybody's got a neighbor. Remember to treat each other the way you'd want to be treated, and to forgive those who've wronged you, and to stand up for what's right, and you'll do all right.

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GM

 

Matt continued to stare. He was wearing a red hoodie, with the hood pulled up over his head and an open black jacket over it. He had his hands in the pockets, while he looked at Judy. He didn't even seem to recognize Luke as he came nearer.

 

The crowd seemed to consider Judy's words for a moment, before someone spoke up. "But... how can we do that? Like, some of us got powers?" He stood up straight. His skin was scaly, green, but otherwise looked quite human, not like a lizard in any way. "Its not always easy bein' green! I just get so... angry some times. Like, they all wanna come for me, then what? I gotta protect myself, don't I?"

 

Matt slowly raised a hand out of his pocket. It was not human. It looked robotic. Judy and Ashley caught the light reflected from Judy in the metal. Up close, Luke could see that Matt's eyes were starting to glow with a dull red color. Inside the hoodie, he could see glimpses of more metal.

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What the hell? Matt was some kind of robot now? Was he still Matt? What kind of troubles you got yourself into man? There was something definitely wrong wasn’t it? He could feel it in his guts. Damn…

 

Come on man. We should go… Something is freaking messed up here.”  Not that he believed that his buddy would listen, after all, there was no way he would fail to recognize him if things were alright. Swiftly, he placed himself between Matt and Judy. Seeing the flash of metal, he tried to grab his friend’s hand. Planning to stop him before he could do something that he would then regret and then maybe, drag him away from the crowd if he could.

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"Well, that's hard," Judy admitted. She considered just a moment before walking right up to the lizard-boy and taking his hand, her glowing smile impossibly radiant. "Sometimes you have to fight, and there's no getting around that. There are people who, however many times you turn the other cheek, will always keep trying to hit you." She closed her glowing eyes for just a moment, squeezing them tight, then opened them to smile. "But what you have to do is look for the helpers. No matter how alone you feel, someone is always going to be there for you. And that someone is Jesus-"

 

She turned towards the strange-looking cyborg boy nearby as he struggled with Luke, frowning as she wondered exactly what he was doing - and then she heard a noise from behind her as Ashley sprinted across the street, chest heaving, and without a word interposed herself menacingly between Judy and Matt. "Back the hell off!" 

 

"You must be Matt," said Judy suddenly, her energized voice resonant. "It's all right, Ashley, he can't hurt me.

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GM

 

"Eh?" Matt blinked and shook his head. His eyes returned to their normal color as he seemed to recognize Luke. "Luke, dude, I was recording!" He held his hands up, revealing one robotic. With his hood falling down, it became clear that he was not quite human. A robotic left hand. His eyes seemed robotic. If one looked from behind him he seemed to have some sort of metal attachment on his spine, stretching up to the back of his neck.

 

"I'm, I'm a big fan! I just wanted to record Ms. Cahill! Honestly!"

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