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Arrows In The Hands Of A Warrior (IC)


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"Right, you folks are big on titles," Ellie recalled as she extended her own hand. "The butch-lady-VINCE calls me a 'mender perilous', which is fun. I do nicknames, too." A moment before her hand clasped Aarden's a soft crackle of bio-electricity rippled down her forearm and coalesced into a soft blue glow, a forcefield that enveloped her hand like a glove. "My name is Dr. Eliza Espadas. Ellie to my friends." She returned the handshake with just enough force to match the broad shouldered elder's grip. "I appreciate that you aren't here as your first choice. If a title makes you feel more comfortable, you can call me 'Doctor'. Not 'child' or 'outlier' or whatever else. On this world 'Doctor' is a promise. An oath, yeah? It means that I will do everything in my power to help you. And to do that I need your full cooperation. Fair?"

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Erin accepted the baby without complaint, tucking him securely in the crook of her arm so he could look around and chew on his own fist. "Doctor Espadas has faced the Terminus by my side before," she said, talking towards Aarden but looking at Serpa. "We answered a distress call from a world about to be overrun for the final time by Mandragora and his forces. The world was beyond help, but we mounted a rescue mission to save the last survivors. Ellie saved dozens of lives with her medical care, including those of men and women poisoned by dragon bites. Her skill and her courage are unquestionable, and so is her compassion. If anybody can help Lightbringer, I'm convinced she can." 

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There was a moment's tension, but then it eased almost immediately as Aarden and even Serpa smiled. It had evidently been exactly the right thing to say. "Well-met, Doctor!" The elder struck the table hard enough to make it shake. "By all means, take Lightbringer to your bosom, as the Dethroner has. One who has stood with her and for herself is all we need to know."  


"Are all the warriors of this plane women?" asked Teledar in a child's voice as he looked around the room. He did not sound displeased by the idea, just intrigued, as one might when hearing about a fascinating new species. 

 

"Many of the mightiest are," said Steve in a soft rumble, a faint smile on his face. 

 

The soft-headed baby looked up at Ellie, eyes dark, and immediately tried to stick her finger in his mouth. He was overall healthy as far as she could judge, big and responsive, but peering closer something seemed amiss... 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ellie's metamagi abilities didn't give her any special insight into diagnosis; that skill came entirely from her own rigorous medical training. Which did not specifically cover Furion paediatrics, weirdly enough. Fortunately she did have the benefit of experience treating a number of unique individuals and there were basics from which she could build. "Yes, that's my face you're poking, ninõ." She carefully went over everything she would have done while examining a human infant. After a pause she willing a pale blue light into being around one hand, dappled with faint shadows like sunlight streaming through a leafy canopy. She let Lightbringer grab at her extended finger and allowed a small drip of magic to flow into the baby. She felt it gobbled up like a vacuum and inhaled sharply.

 

"Okay, so." She bounced her patient a bit and turned her attention to the adults in the room. "He's perfectly healthy by human standards. There's nothing wrong with him, there's just..." Ellie took a deep breath and tried not to grimace as she looked for the best way to explain. "Alright, so imagine a full glass of water. Then imagine you poured the same amount of water into a rain barrel. Do you have rain barrels? Whatever, you have barrels, probably. You get the idea. Humans are the glass, you're the barrel, yeah?" She looked back down at Lightbringer. "I could try to restore the... energy level he'd naturally have but one, I have no idea how long that might take and two, we're talking about trying to do surgery with a firehose. Do you have firehoses? Dios, I am this close to talking about 'life-force' like freaking... ugh. It would be dangerous and I couldn't even tell you how dangerous."

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"Dangerous to you?" Erin asked immediately. She'd passed over the baby but stayed close by to watch the proceedings, brow furrowed with concern. The speed at which the blue light of Ellie's magic had been sucked into the baby was a little alarming. Erin was the last person to claim to know anything about magic, but she was pretty sure every kind of energy was finite. If the baby needed a rain barrel-sized amount of energy and Ellie was a glass of energy, or even a jug of energy, it didn't sound like something that could possibly be good for her. At the same time, she wasn't sure that suggesting maybe they should find somebody with a lot more power wouldn't put Ellie's back up. Ellie was stubborn in the best doctor way, but Erin wasn't about to let her hurt herself in this effort. 

 

As far as the baby went, the little drop of extra energy didn't seem to have changed much so far.  Erin looked to Serpa and her family. "The good news is, he's not getting any worse," she told them. "He's going to be able to grow up. If he's human normal, with the medical technology you have, he could get a century, maybe more. We have learned to do a lot with the years that we have. But I know it's not quite the same for you." 

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Serpa's face twisted in pain as she took her mother's hand, Aarden's look stoic but no less sympathetic as she locked eyes with the younger woman. For his part, Steve kept his own council in the corner but he wondered what his friends knew of the Furions. The shining champions beneath the Silver Tree, who risked all and spent all and lived all, in their Forever War against the Omnicide. He thought of the Furion children he had seen, with the perfect confidence of immortality, knowing always that the best death would be a death laughing against the power of Omega itself. 

 

And how they fell silent when they saw a shadow of the monster approach. 

 

He closed hie eyes as Aarden said, looking back at the two. "I understand your words, Doctor. If the flow has been diverted, a new stream must be found." She looked at Ellie and said in an ancient voice that bespoke a great many centuries, "Take from my waters." 

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"That is... very noble," Ellie said diplomatically, biting back on a more brusque reply. "But first off, I'm not a siphon. I could try to manage a transfusion between you but that's a whole additional layer of questions and risk. Second, I wasn't talking about dangerous for me.She directed that partly toward Erin with a weak smile to indicate appreciation for the concern, undercut by the grim tone of the larger conversation. "We don't know how quickly Lightbringer's system could metabolize that energy or how to slow down his rate of intake if it starts to go badly. There's not a delicate way to say this: just trying to restore his natural levels could drown or burn him out."

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Erin studied the baby, brow furrowed as she tried to work through the problem. "If the problem is rate of flow, then maybe what we need is something or somebody whose power is to siphon energy, somebody who can step in if things get too intense and pull away the extra power before it can hurt the baby." She looked up at Ellie. "What about your brother?" she asked. "I've seen him pulling power from people and things to make his swords, could he pull extra power out of Lightbringer if he needed to? Or there was this girl, back at Claremont... I don't think you would've known her, she graduated when I was a junior, but her power was literally that she could take peoples' power and use it. Her name was Copycat, I think. Or maybe make some sort of device?" She tried to think of some way to describe it without saying "turkey baster for power" but came up pretty empty. "Could something like that help?" 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can't believe this thing still fits me. 

 

Copycat's costume was not too different from the Raven's; a short, dark cape slicked down to avoid being a target for grabbing, an armored black bodysuit, gauntlets curled like claws, and the mask. The white Chesire-cat mask had looked elegant and sophisticated when Ashley was sixteen and now; studying herself in her motorcycle rearview mirror, she made a small unpleasant noise. She hadn't worn it, save for that one very interesting interlude in Louisiana a couple of summers ago, since high school. But duty called and she headed for the front door of HAX, blinking when she realized she needed to buzz in. It had only been, what, some twenty minutes since she'd gotten the call about a power consult? 

 

"Copycat to see Wander, Jill O'Cure, and party?" 

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"That was quick," Erin observed, pulling up the outside security camera to get a look at the visitor. They'd retreated from the conference room for "consultation" which more meant "talk about the baby without the baby and his whole family watching." The security office was not far away, and a place where she felt a lot more personally comfortable. "Wow, she's still wearing her high school costume. Bold choice." 

 

Pressing the outside intercom button, she spoke to Copycat. "Thanks for coming so quickly. One second and we'll get you inside." She looked over to Steve. "Can you go escort her in?" 

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With a nod, Steve rose to his feet and left the room, making his way to the front door where the felinoid superhero awaited. He was in his uniform, the proud colors of HAX that were the most honorable colors he could wear beyond the costume Gina had made for him, and so was a little surprised when Copycat looked up at him and said 

 

"It's you.

 

Having long since learned to distinguish wariness from hostility, Steve gave the usual response to the former, looking down at those big masked eyes. "...yes. Thank you for coming. They are waiting for you on the second floor." 

 

It was easy enough to fall back into old habits in the costume, hands at her sides, head turning slightly, back and forth, the better to expand her peripheral vision. The costume definitely did not fit as well as it had when she was eighteen, more a product of how much more she was benching these days than anything else - though of course nobody had the body at almost thirty that they had at almost twenty. Putting those thoughts aside, she followed the Omegadrone to the security office. 

 

Copycat had a soft, measured voice; a professional's tone. "I got your message. I'd have been here sooner but there's a pileup on Pacific Street. You said there's a kid who needs help?" 

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"I still wear basically the same costume I did when we were in high school," Ellie pointed out to Erin while they waited. "And it has a crop top. It's about having the confidence to own it. Confidence and vee-cut abs."

 

The young doctor had taken a seat on the edge of a counter by the time Copycat entered the office and gave the new arrival a nod and casual half-wave, half-salute. "Hey, appreciate it. Ol' Dethroner here is really going through the contacts list on this one. Here's the situation." She caught their old classmate up to speed with the medical side of the situation with a minimum of fuss or snappy repartee. "So the plan was that if you can copy me and be another stream of healing then I should be able to focus on making sure we throw the proverbial cutoff switch before anybody gets hurt. Idea more than plan. Notion, really."

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Her name is Dethroner now? Bold choice. 

 

The truth was Ashley hadn't really followed much of the adventures of Young Freedom, having been a little busy with her own stuff senior year and then being far away from Freedom City when whatever weird crap had gone down at next year's graduation had happened. Geez, thank God I sat through Cosmology 202 again last year, or I'd have no idea what O'Cure was talking about at all. Ashley had been more focused on the important things back then, like bringing her father's killer to justice. O'Cure's not on the Liberty League, though, she's on the Interceptors. Crap is this a cosmic baby crisis going on? What the hell is wrong with this city.

 

"Okay. I've actually done something like before. I think we can make it work." She shifted where she was sitting, realized her back was definitely itching and there was no scratching it without taking off the damn armored costume, so she spread her hands. "I won't feel great about it afterwards and neither will you, but hell, it's a baby, right? Just your normal...cosmic baby." She shook her head and added "You should know that because my powers are technically psychic, there's sometimes a low-level telepathic effect when I copy someone. That's why I don't do it very much," she admitted dryly. "Nothing...invasive, just occasional stray thoughts. So I won't know your secret ID but I might know if you want Chinese later. You might get something similar on your end. We may start speaking Furion if we pick up something from the baby," she added to Erin, "but don't worry, it'll only be temporary. So..." she hazarded. "is it just the one baby, or...?" 

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"Just one," Wander told her, then briefly outlined Lightbringer's history as the Furions had explained it. "They came to us for a miracle, and I'm hoping we can give them one, but it's more important that everybody comes out of this alive. You've got to be the circuit breaker and start pulling energy out if the kid gets overwhelmed. Steve and I will be standing by in case... whatever. We should probably not do this in the conference room, HAX has a pretty good on-site infirmary. Let's head that way." 

 

Delegating Steve once again to collect the visiting family, Erin led the way to the infirmary, which was small but well-supplied for emergencies. "This is Copycat," Erin told Aarden and Serpa. "She's another champion of this world, and her specialty is energy management. We believe that we can help Lightbringer, but it will be dangerous. You have to decide if it's a risk you're willing to take." 

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"It's fine, you're allowed to think about how cute I am Ceecee," Ellie breezed while they headed to the infirmary, rolling her shoulders and stretching her neck from side to side to try to relax muscles threatening to knot up from anxious tension. "Just remember I'm a married woman." She still wasn't thrilled with attempting an experimental and technically nonessential procedure on an infant but it was a obviously a very weird situation. She didn't see any way to test their plan without putting it into practice; how did one go about simulating a Furion child with entropic damage? She hoped she was making the right decision. "And make sure you copy the healing touch and not the bad murder touch, yeah?" she added under her breath as Aarden and Serpa spoke with Erin.

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Ashley tensed inside the costume. I don't care what Aggie says, I do not give off 'powerful bisexual energy'. That's not even a thing! Probably!  Dammit is actual gaydar an actual superpower because that doesn't even make any sense. Wait, she didn't actually say anything outright; maybe she's just really flirty. And now they both caught me hesitating. Dammit! 

 

After a moment, she decided to play it the way she would have with one of Judy's friends. Well, assuming it wasn't one she felt allowed to curse out anyway. "That's...for off the clock," she finally said. "...and you're not my first rodeo, O'Cure," she added, confidence growing in her voice once they were on professional ground. "You just try not to faint when I'm inside your head." She smiled, realized it wasn't visible behind the stupid cat mask, and took off her gloves. Her hands were strong and looked like she worked out with a punching bag, which was certainly true; she wasn't wearing a ring but her short-trimmed nails were a bright shade of pink that matched the current color of her hair. Lightbringer was freshly nursed, and had the familiar, wriggly look of a baby getting sleepy. 

 

With the support of the Dethroner and of the Doctor, grandmother and mother were willing to assent to the 'operation' on their scion, though they seemed a bit more skeptical of the mask-wearing, nom de guerre using Copycat than they had been of the two other champions. "Still," said Aarden, "you show bold choices - and that shows the promise of truth." Copycat took her seat on Jill O'Cure's left side, Aarden and Serpa on the other, the baby in front of Jill with dark eyes that seemed to ask the eternal questions of the small and helpless. He stuck his left fist in his mouth and waved his legs back and forth. 

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Erin found a spot against the wall that was close by, but far enough back to be out of the way. She'd been empowered and disempowered and reempowered enough times herself to have a healthy respect for the process when performed on someone else. Mostly she just felt helpless, watching Ellie and Copycat turning their combined skills to this unusual and tricky operation, hoping that it would work, hoping that nobody would get hurt. She herself was nobody's miracle worker; all she could do was hope for the best. At least the baby was being cool about it so far, that was definitely better than if he was crying before anything even started. 

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Ellie pretended not to notice Copycat's tense hesitation and snorted softly in amusement at her 'rodeo' quip. "Listen, magic is about confidence, y'know?" she noted under her breath. Luckily I'm only half magic so it should be fine that this only seems like half a good idea. She slid off her jacket and indicated the space between her shoulderblades exposed by the arc of her top's collar. "Going to need both hands free for this. Saddle up."

 

Exhaling, she extended both hands in front of herself with her fingertips almost touching. A ripple of bio-electricity caused the fine hairs on her arms to stand on end and tingled Copycat's palm before tiny sparks arced between her knuckles. Soft blue light gradually appeared around each hand, growing in intensity as she pulled them further apart until she had to squint to watch what she was doing.

 

Slowly she brought her hands down on either side of Lightbringer, making small soothing sounds as the infant reacted to the brightness. That light pulsed as it reached the little Furion, immediately dimming and stuttering, visibly bending in his direction. Ellie clenched her jaw and refocused, working to stabilize the energy she pouring off of her. Don't need to fill the tank, just need to burn off the entropy damage that's keeping him from metabolizing the energy of the Silver Tree. Probably. She'd done something similar before and she was prepared by the malignant, snarling feedback as something that was beyond illness pushed back against her. "<There you are, you baby-killing @#$%,>" she muttered in Spanish.

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how the hell could she tell i'm bi 

                                                       "We've got a _hell_ of a lot of temporal refugees who we can't just leave wandering the Arizona desert now that they've traveled seventy-five  years into the motherf*cking future!"

if a job is worth doing it's worth doing well if a job is worth doing it's worth doing well 

                                                      "Because part of love is respect, and I think I would respect your choices, because I love my sister. If loving...her made my life harder, that's what I'd do."

god i hope we save this kid i haven't done this in so damn long 

                                                     "I am so proud of you, honey."

i'm just so tired but mary in heaven somebody has to do it

 

As the power poured out from Jill O'Cure, Copycat found it and matched it with her own, the psychic powers that never made her as good as Psyche, or Blue Fox, or anyone else with her particular gifts roaring to life as the Espadas's powers were mirrored by her own. Ashley could feel the effort pouring through her, her lent strength helping Jill throttle her own energy, pouring power into the wide-eyed staring baby. Jill was powerful, a lot more than the half-grown teens at Claremont who were the last people she'd actually used her superpowers on, and channeling her was exhausting. But with one deep inner effort, she reached inside herself and added her own fire to the power pouring into the baby - 

 

There was a brief flash of white and suddenly Lightbrighter was crying lustily, waving his fat little arms and legs and wailing to beat the band. Her eyes wide, Serpa leaped from her seat and scooped up her baby, clutching him to her chest with a look of one who had truly seen a miracle. "It is done!" declared Aarden. "I can feel the cosmic balance restored in him! Oh by the Silver Tree and the Nameless Gods, the Dethroner and her champions have saved him! Thank you, Doctor, thank you, Dethroner, thank you - oh dear is that-" 

 

Copycat wordlessly tilted forward, her mask striking the table in front of her with a thunk, and began the process of bonelessly sliding out of her seat and onto the floor. 

                                                        

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Even with the distraction of the suddenly empowered baby, Erin was watching closely enough to notice the moment that Copycat started to fade. She stepped in and snagged the woman by the back of the catsuit before she could slide too far, then effortlessly scooped her up and placed her on the infirmary's exam table. "Bottle of water, please, Steve," she asked calmly, then put a couple of pillows under Copycat's legs to elevate them. "How are you doing?" she asked Ellie. "You need to lay down too? Don't make me call your wife to remind you that doctors aren't invincible." She was incredibly relieved to see that the kid seemed to be doing fine, better than fine, even, but she'd deal with the crisis of the moment before paying attention to any of that. 

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"Je vais bien," Ellie replied immediately, her tone clipped and inflection a little odd. She heard it in her own voice and shook her head, eyebrows raised a little. "Gah, that is weird. But yeah, I think I'm good. Ceecee took the brunt of it, maybe?" She looked down to see her hands visibly shaking, fingers clenching into uncomfortable claws. She moved them under the table before the Furions' attention could move from Lightbringer. "Or maybe I just don't try to stand up for a few minutes, that would be good, too. Please don't call Mara unless I actually pass out. She'll make the grumpy face." Leaning back in her seat she half closed her eyes and focused on rhythmic breathing to bring her heart rate down.

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Steve had watched, fist pressed against his mouth, as the demonstration of life and light and power played out; but when Erin spoke, he jumped into action, stepping forward to pull a bottle of water out of the infirmary's refrigerator, then moving to Copycat's side just as the latter sprang to life too. 

 

Ah, chingado!" Ashley jerked as her body hit the bed and almost fell down, before grabbing onto Erin to help the latter steady her. "Thanks, uh, buddy," she murmured. I am not calling her Dethroner unless I have to, I don't care if that's her new name. Gratefully accepting the bottle of water from the Omegadrone, she looked down at the bottle, then began pulling on the bottom part of her mask. With a hard yank, she pulled off the cat face entirely. Underneath was an Asian woman with short-cut pink hair and a domino mask with opaque, iridescent lenses over the eyes. She looked at the celebrating family before them, who seemed to be engaged in a collective act of wordless prayer, and smiled slightly. "Demonios si...well that's not so bad. I didn't even puke inside the mask this time.."

 

Glancing at Ashley's vitals on the bed's automatic readout, Steve gave Erin a reassuring nod. Whatever had happened to Copycat didn't seem to be too bad.

 

Aarden did not take to her knees, even the Nomads among the Furions do not do that, but she did bow, along with Serpa. "How may I serve you? All of you?" the former asked, her tone sincere and not at all resentful for the question.

 

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"Good," Erin said to Copycat, "not puking is always a good sign." When it looked like she could sit steady on her own, Erin grabbed another bottle of water from the fridge and gave it to Ellie. "Drink that, and I'll have somebody get some sandwiches in here. Maybe it's like giving blood, you get your juice and your snack and you feel better afterwards, and nobody has to tell Mara how risky it all was." She finally took the time to look over at the celebrating Furions and relaxed her shoulders. "Thanks for doing that. I just... I didn't want to turn them away." 

 

The tension ratcheted right back up again when Aarden and Serpa started in with the bowing. "That's, um, that's really not necessary," Erin assured them, looking to Steve in a vain hope that he would have a better idea what to do. "The Furions and the people of Earth are allies against the forces of the Terminus. If you know the story of Young Freedom, you know that the Furion Red Falcon gave his life helping us stop Omega. And when I was hurt fighting the Madrigal Martinet and her Hounds, the Furions at the Silver Tree healed me. We're glad we could help Lightbringer today." 

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Ellie accepted the water bottle and forced herself up to her feet, hiding her unsteadiness with a slow saunter over to Copycat's infirmary bed. Having someone bow to her while seated was somehow another layer of uncomfortable. "That's why they call her 'Dethroner'," she explained to their old classmate under her breath, offering a small shrug. Louder she added, "What she said, with slightly less name-dropping. You just keep an eye on the kid's recovery and let us know if there are any side effects, yeah?" She paused to consider, looking sidelong at Copycat then back to the Furions, deadpan. "Although we do have this big party and parade every June you'd be welcome to swing by for. I feel like you ladies would go over really well."

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"The Dethroner and her allies prefer not to be seen as gods," said Steve diplomatically, stepping in to support Erin's play as best he could, "but as inspirations to the many." That was not technically true but between the three of them, they managed to put aside the Furions' efforts to worship Erin and Ellie. He considered a moment, pondering Ellie's words, then stepped aside to open the door to a small but firm knock. 

 

"Red Falcon was known to us," offered Aarden simply, reaching down to ruffle Teledar's hair as the little boy entered the room with an excited look on his face. Scion of a cosmic-god-race or not, he was a child delighted to see his baby cousin healed. As he made sign to Serpa and embraced the baby, Aarden said, "As all will know of this deed, and what you have wrought. We will not be the last who come to look upon you. What is this festival you speak of?" 

 

"...you want to invite them to Pride?" asked Ashley hesitantly, her black eyebrow going up. 

 

Steve snapped his fingers. "Yes, of course! The Pride festival!"  Pride had taken some explanation for Steve before his first visit some years earlier, more to reassure him that it was not a legacy of some past time when same-sex relationships had dominated Earth-Prime than anything else. It had actually ended with him being given a man's phone number, and fortunately Erik had intervened before he had called the man to thank him but to let him know that he was not sexually attracted to men. 

 

"A fitting name!" declared Aarden. "You should well celebrate your deed, Dethroner, and all. You are wise, Doctor, and we give you thanks. We will come, when the war at the end of time permits." She hesitated a moment, then embraced all of them, one after the other, and if she was a giant space goddess she was also a grandmother who whispered in Erin's ear "you are your legend in the flesh." 

 

"Well...okay," said Ashley, figuring that space gods at Freedom Pride were a matter for the Freedom League, not her. A little hesitantly, she accepted Teledar's hug, then said tentatively, "I've only ever gone for work. You might not see the, ah, Dethroner much, though." What the hell, if that's her supername, that's her supername. 

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