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(This is Erin's backstory in a number of parts, followed by her questionnaire.)

March 14, 2007 was the day Erin White's world ended. She remembers it clearly, because it was her best friend Kathy's fourteenth birthday, and there should have been a party. There had been a party planned, a sleepover complete with pizza, cake, an R-rated movie, and even makeovers with Kathy's aunt, an Avon representative. It would've been a heck of a party. Erin thought it was the end of the world when school, her parents' work, and the party itself were all cancelled that day because of the hero flu, but she didn't know until much later how right she'd been.

It all started out so small. People in Asia had started getting sick and dying that winter, but that happened sometimes. The news programs said that thirty thousand people died every year from the flu. That was scary, but she'd never known anyone who died of the flu, so she guessed it was poor people in crowded countries who died, not people in America. Not people like her, who lived in nice houses outside Seattle and had money and doctors. She had more important things to worry about, like how come it sucked so bad to be a freshman, and whether she was going to be totally uncool forever, even though she'd finally gotten her braces off. They blamed the Asian flu on a Chinese supervillian named Dr. Sin for a while, at least until a superhero working for the Chinese government found Dr. Sin and his daughters dead in their secret laboratory in Tibet. Then the heroes started dying.

Erin found out later that the first superhero, a Japanese gadgeteer named Shinnosuke Koyama, had died in January, but that the governments, more than one of them, had covered it up to try and prevent a panic. If superheroes could die, anyone could. But this was a strange flu, and by the end of February, it was obvious that something very bad was happening. This flu hit superhumans first and hardest, and no one knew why. While normal victims languished in hospitals and on respirators, superheroes who'd gone to provide relief to stricken areas died within hours, some literally falling out of the sky. Johnny Rocket was the first Freedom Leaguer to die, his public collapse the first of a new legion of horrors. The ones who remained isolated themselves, working feverishly to find a cure. A few superhumans were immune to disease, anyway, so what could possibly happen to them?

The hero flu, as it came to be called, spread across the United States with alarming rapidity, so much so that even Erin had to take notice. On March 12, the first cases arrived in Washington State, a couple of transients who'd brought it up from Los Angeles on the Greyhound, coughing all the way. A band of citizens destroyed the bus depot and four buses, but the damage was done. School was cancelled "until further notice" and all non-essential personnel were told to stay home, cover their coughs, and wash their hands frequently. A vaccine was coming, they were promised. Just sit tight and everything would be all right. When the newscasters on the local news started coughing through their broadcasts, though, people didn't want to wait anymore. There were riots outside the mayor's office and the hospital, and some people died. But that hardly made the news anymore, as the death toll in the United States climbed into the hundreds of thousands, past a million. People were dying everywhere, and there didn't seem to be any way to stop it.

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In the middle of April, Erin's mother, Clarissa, woke her in the middle of the night and told her they were going on a trip. That was very strange, since nonessential travel was absolutely prohibited since the flu had started spreading. Clarissa wasn't interested in answering any questions, though. She told Erin to pack a suitcase full of clothes and clean underwear, and maybe bring something to read as well. They were going to go visit her great-uncle down in California, and they might not be back for a little while. Erin packed her favorite outfits and plenty of underwear, both her bras, her deodorant and lip gloss, and then filled the rest of her suitcase with her favorite magazines and CDs, her diary, and a few other things she didn't think she could live without. At the last minute, she added her old teddy bear, under a pile of shirts. Things were getting so scary, it seemed like she'd need something to hold on to. When she was packed, her mom made her help her sister Megan pack, too. Megan was only seven and it seemed like she could barely find both of a pair of shoes most of the time. She was annoying and whiny, but tonight they worked together in silence, Erin filling Megan's suitcase with mostly the same essentials as she had her own, but more baby stuff.

Megan wanted to bring way more than would fit in the suitcase, but Erin reminded her that this was just for a little while, and then they would come home. Surely they would come home. Someone would find a cure, the vaccine would become available, and life would go back to normal. Her belief in that lasted until they were already in the car, and Erin suddenly realized that her father wasn't with them. "He's not coming right now," was Clarissa's only answer to her frantic questions. "Blow him kisses, okay?"Â From the window, Erin could see her father, Roger, watching them from the doorway and waving. She waved back and blew frantic kisses as they drove off, and was shocked when he nearly doubled over from coughing, there in the doorway. The flu vaccine wasn't coming in time.

Clarissa had somehow managed to get a pass that got them through the checkpoints that night, even though it meant paying money a few times to the soldiers guarding them. Erin slept for awhile on the drive, waking to find her mom's eyes red-rimmed, as though she'd been crying for a long time. She wanted to cry too, but it felt like her insides were frozen. She asked questions instead, and finally got a few answers. Clarissa's uncle Aaron, Erin's sort-of namesake, was some kind of inventor who'd made a huge pile of money with patents on various things no one in the family understood, then had gone off into the desert to be a hermit. He said he was working on a cure for the flu, one that would be better than the one the government doctors were working on. He was family, despite his eccentricities, and he would take them in.

They weren't the only ones Aaron had taken in, Erin discovered when she arrived at the desert compound. There were about twenty-five people living all together in a big garage with only one bathroom, mainly the families of Aaron's lab assistants and a couple people he seemed to like. She found it hard to get a bead on her great-uncle, who rarely came out to see them, and who looked like Santa Claus on a meth PSA poster. He gave them chores to do, mostly cleaning bathrooms and raking up hay and stuff in the yard, but other than that, he was a mystery. But he promised that he would keep them safe from the disease.

The next week brought two pieces of news. The good news was that the government had developed a vaccine! They advised every person, healthy or sick, to get the shot immediately so as to stop the progression of the flu. The surgeon general got on the television to explain that even though they hadn't been able to kill the flu virus, the virus itself expired within a hundred hours of entering its host. The shot was designed to allow the human metabolism to sustain itself through the rigors of the flu for those hundred hours, so that when the virus expired, the person would still be alive. The bad news was that it had come too late. Clarissa got a call from a neighbor who, coughing and weeping, told her that Roger was dead. They'd found him in the living room when they went in looking to borrow some supplies. Hero flu had hit bad in Seattle just after they left, Clarissa explained carefully to Erin, talking to her like a grown-up, though Erin might have preferred ignorance this once. Most of the people in their neighborhood hadn't made it. Her best friend Kathy, newly fourteen and with no birthday party, hadn't made it. Even with the cure, nothing was going to be the same again.

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There was hardly time to mourn before things got even weirder. Everyone on the compound, of course, wanted to go out and get the vaccine, but Aaron categorically forbid it. "I've seen that formula!"Â he barked, "and it's poison, through and through. They don't know what they're releasing on the world, and they won't listen when I try to tell them, the goddamn bastards. This never would have happened if Alex Atom was still alive, or if Daedalus had come back from space! This is a thousand times worse than the flu itself, goddammit. Now I have to change my formula, protect against what they're making." With those cryptic words, and the assertion that anyone who took the vaccine would be chased from the compound with lethal force, he disappeared back down into his lab. A few people left the compound, determined to take the vaccine even if it meant losing a place of shelter, but Erin and her family didn't really have anywhere to go, and Clarissa was spooked enough by Aaron's words to avoid the vaccine. Instead, they waited and watched.

Initially, it didn't seem like Aaron's predictions had any merit to them. The television showed images from all over the world of people lining up to get the shots, sick people and healthy people alike. The sick people, especially, seemed to show immediate improvement. The hundred-hour vaccine was touted as a miracle, and for a few days, the rate of death, which had been rising hourly for weeks, plummeted. Erin was angry. Why weren't they allowed to get the vaccine? What if she or her mom or her sister got sick? They were all they had left! It was stupid to let some old man tell them that the vaccine was no good, when it was obviously a miracle. If it wasn't good, why would everyone in the world be taking it and saying it was great? She stewed about that for days, four days, in fact. That's when things started going pear-shaped all over again.

At first it was just a few isolated reports, very vague, of people having a bad reaction to the vaccine, a few days after it was administered. People who were already sick and dying, mostly. The newscasters reported it, but made sure to tell people not to stop getting vaccinated. But as more days passed, and more people started reacting, the stories started getting more lurid. People who should've died from the flu weren't dying, but they weren't living, either! They were persisting as some kind of actual zombie, brain dead and with no bodily functions to speak of, but still able to move, even walk around. Some were even behaving violently, as though seeking vengeance on those who'd deprived them of heaven. At least, that was how the particularly lurid tabloid shows put it. The zombies were scary, but they were all in quarantine in hospitals anyway, and they could be restrained, destroyed. For awhile. Another few days passed, and suddenly it wasn't just people who were dying of the hero flu who were turning into zombies. Apparently the slightest immune system response could trigger the vaccine into overdrive, taking over even a healthy body, hijacking the bloodstream to the brain and sending the system into a survival mode that guaranteed the death of the living person, even as the body survived and shambled on. It was like something out of a terrible movie. Erin and the others at the compound stayed glued to the television screen, even as days passed and channel after channel went despairingly blank, even as the remaining ones reminded everyone that the government and the surviving Freedom Leaguers were working on a new and expanded cure.

Erin's fear and anger gradually turned into despair as the days passed and things got worse and worse. It was the end of the world, and they were all going to sit here in the desert until they were the only ones left, and then they would starve. She wished she'd died already, she decided on one particularly bleak day. Then she would be up in heaven, and she wouldn't have to mourn the people who'd died, or watch everything fall apart. She told her mother that, one day after yet another news channel went from one anchor and one cameraman to dead air. "Don't say that," Clarissa reprimanded her sharply. "Don't ever think that way. Every day you have is a gift, even the hardest ones. You're on this earth for a reason, to do good and help others wherever you can, and that's your responsibility. Wanting to die because you think it wouldn't be as hard? That's just cheating." It didn't exactly change Erin's mind, but it made her think. When would Aaron's cure be finished? Would it be soon enough to save them? Would it be able to save anyone else, or was there anyone out there to save?

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The period of waiting came to an abrupt end in the second week of May, when she and the others in the garage woke to the strong smell of burning in the air. There was no local television or radio, hadn't been for days, but the glow on the dawn horizon said that Flat Creek, the nearest tiny town, was burning with no one to stop it. They were standing out in the yard, trying to decide what that meant to them, when Aaron came rushing up from his lab, a syringe and a tray of ampoules in his hands. "Everyone, hurry! They're coming here, this way, hundreds of them and less than a mile off! There's no further time to refine the formula, we can only hope that it works in time, or we're doomed! Take the shot, then arm yourselves!"

This announcement caused more consternation than panic, though the panic wasn't far behind. What had so far been a crazy horror movie played out on the television screen was suddenly bearing down on them faster than they could take in. Like everyone else, Erin and her mother and sister lined up for the shot. She gasped at the flare of pain that went up and down her arm, then her body, as though someone had set her on fire. It felt like she could barely move, let alone somehow pick up a weapon and fight. As Erin staggered away and huddled in the shadow of the building, Clarissa got her dose, and tiny Megan received a fraction of a dose. "Best I can do," Aaron commented gruffly. "Full dose would kill her deader than the zombies." Clarissa gave Megan a push in her sister's direction, and suddenly everything went to hell.

Aaron had said hundreds of zombies, but it seemed like thousands, like all the zombies from every news report were bearing down on them at once. The survivors, all of them reeling like Erin from the injection, never really had a chance. They used guns, clubs, anything they could find, but the wave was unstoppable. Erin saw her mother ripped in half by a crowd of howling, screaming, wailing corpses that had once been nice people, and she didn't stay to see more. She staggered away from the fighting, dragging Megan along with her, and headed for the compost heap. If zombies looked for warmth and the smell of people, she figured, maybe they would be fooled. Or maybe they would just die in the trash, but there was nowhere else to go. She burrowed down in the filthy, stinky, hot mass of manure and straw and clapped a hand over Megan's mouth to keep her quiet. There would be time for crying later, if they lived.

The screams seemed to last for ages. First the screams and shouts of the living as they died, then the moaning and crying of the zombies as they wandered the compound, looking for whatever it was that drove them. They ate human flesh, Erin knew that from the reports, but no one was sure why. No one had really had a chance to do any tests. A few times zombies came near the compost heap, but they didn't stay. Eventually, whatever had drawn the horde to the compound drove them onward again, some memory of where people had lived, or simply the smell of humans on the wind, and they moved on, leaving an empty compound of bones.

There was time for mourning then, and Erin and Megan did plenty of it, wandering hand and hand through the compound like ghosts, staring down at what had been the last of what was real and normal, the bones of their mother, their uncle, the adults who'd cared for them. Now that the pain of the injection had faded, Erin felt great physically, better than she ever had, but mentally, emotionally, she was shattered. For days, maybe weeks, they hung around the compound, digging a hole and burying the bones while Erin mumbled prayers over them and they sang whatever hymns they could remember, then scavenging in the lab and the garage for food. Supplies had already been running low, and eventually it was hunger that sent them onward. Mostly Megan's hunger, really. Since the injection, Erin hadn't felt much like eating most days, or even like sleeping. Flat Creek was gone, but there were other towns nearby, and some of them had to have food. They were also likely to have zombies, but maybe there were still places that hadn't fallen victim. Maybe there were grownups, maybe there was help. Maybe if they got someplace big, someplace like Freedom City, there would be people still working on a real cure, something to fix the zombies and put the world back together. After a few practice runs around the compound in her uncle's Jeep, Erin and Megan took their suitcases, the guns, and the little food that remained, packed up, and left.

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They spent time driving around southern California, looking for people, looking for food, looking for gas for the jeep. Erin couldn't figure out how to make the pumps work at gas stations that had no gas, so she learned to siphon, based on trial and error and things she'd seen in movies. She swallowed some on the first couple of tries and worried that she would get sick, but it didn't seem to bother her body at all. It was impossible to keep track of days, when every day continued so hot and dry and sunny. They found plenty of grocery stores, horribly unpleasant places full of rotting food and often a body or two, but with canned and dry goods, camp fuel, and other things they needed. Megan, who didn't seem to have Erin's new resistance to eating nasty things, made herself sick twice on candy and sugary pop before she learned the error of her ways, and Erin picked up a cookbook and some pans to try and learn better cooking than "open the can and warm it up over the fire." All the gardens and farms they passed were dead in the intense summer heat, so there was nothing fresh, but plenty of cans, boxes, and bottles. Erin thought about trying to get some birdseed and catch birds, but the thought of going into any of the petstores and seeing the animals starved to death in their cages made her feel ill in a way that dead human bodies weren't really doing anymore. And at least the birds in the sky were alive and weren't trying to kill them, which was more than she could say for just about anything else they'd seen so far. She left them up there, contenting herself with Spam, canned hams, and tuna fish.

They'd been away from the compound for more than two weeks, by her reckoning, before they found any more zombies. It was a surprise attack, a half-dozen or so coming upon the girls as they left a store with their arms full of canned goods. "Get back in the store!" Erin yelled to Megan, who dropped her bags and bolted. Erin, without access to any better weapons, began pelting the zombies with cans, throwing them as hard as she could, then using them like loaded fists as she swung wildly at the ones who got too close. Surprisingly, it worked! Her throws were so fast and hard that the cans exploded the rotten skulls of two of the zombies before they could close in. She felt them biting at her, but the teeth didn't penetrate her skin, merely ripping at her clothes and tearing her hair. It was a hideous, disgusting fight, but this time Erin was the one left standing, covered in rotten guts, with a bevy of destroyed zombies at her feet. When Megan crept back outside, she couldn't believe it, and even Erin had a hard time. She had to believe it was the serum Aaron had given her. He'd said it would protect them from what the first vaccine had made, but she hadn't understood. Maybe if he'd injected them all a little earlier, everyone would've lived through the attack. Maybe it was all just another hideous waste.

They fought zombies several more times in California before a massive wildfire sent them racing out of the state and for greener eastern pastures. Megan got caught up in the fighting just once, and was bitten by one of the zombies. Apparently, the tiny dose of serum she'd gotten wasn't enough to protect her the way it did her sister. Erin was worried that she might turn into a zombie too, like in the movies, but the vaccine didn't work like that. The bite eventually began to heal, with careful bandaging and loads of Neosporin, but it illustrated a chilling reality. There were no hospitals, no doctors here. No one would help them if they got hurt or sick. They had to get to Freedom City, or anywhere that there might still be people and society.

Many of the highways they tried to travel on were peppered with roadblocks, but the blocks had prevented traffic jams from forming, and it was usually a simple matter of moving barricades or driving around on the shoulder. Erin tried to remember to say prayers for the dead policemen and soldiers who had perished of the flu or been eaten by zombies while doing their jobs, but it was really sort of hard. She found she couldn't think about it too much. If she started concentrating on the way every corpse had been a person, every skull had, just months ago, been full of a mind that had loves and dreams and family, she couldn't do anything except cry for all that had been lost. They couldn't think like that, or they would curl up and die too. Sometime in what Erin was pretty sure was early August, they celebrated Megan's eighth birthday, because that was important. Erin didn't know how to make a cake without an oven, so she made a pile of pancakes and stacked them up with chocolate frosting between the layers, then stuck a candle in it. It was sort of a miserable birthday, but at least it was a way to mark time.

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They followed I-8 out of California and through Arizona, which took a long time. Erin wasn't willing to go more than forty miles an hour in the old Jeep, and whenever they got low on gas, it was a big chore to find more. Then there was food, and finding safe places to sleep. It was frustrating, and very, very lonely. Erin had been sure that once they got out of rural California they would start seeing more people, but weeks passed and Arizona turned into New Mexico, and still there was nothing. They had to leave the highway east of Albuquerque where a bridge over a gully had collapsed, doubling back and picking their way, finding a place in the wilderness to camp out.

It wasn't the first time they'd done it, and Erin thought nothing of letting Megan go off to collect fuel for the fire while she assembled the tent and got out their supplies. But when Megan screamed, Erin was there in a heartbeat, just in time to see her sister go tumbling over the edge of an embankment that had been screened by brush. It was stupid, was the first thought through Erin's mind as she dived after her sister. So stupid! No plague, no zombies, no horrible car crash, just a little fall, it couldn't mean anything... When she reached the bottom, skidding and tumbling, she knew she was wrong. The creek bed Megan had fallen into was full of sharp rocks, and she'd landed very badly, arms and legs askew, head bloody and lolling. Amazingly, she was still conscious, enough to see Erin and moan softly. "It hurts, it hurts..."

Erin carried her back to the jeep, a trivial feat with her added strength, but there was nothing she could do but give Megan Children's Tylenol and try to bandage the visibly bloody parts. Erin wasn't stupid, she knew about broken bones, concussion, internal injuries, but what was she supposed to do? Maybe if there'd been a hospital, even a doctor, but she wasn't any of those things. She'd never even been a girl scout. She drove through the night and into the next day to reach Albuquerque, praying all the while. She pleaded with God to give her own strength and immunity to Megan, that she didn't need it, that wasn't she owed just this one tiny little miracle, after everything else? But God, if there was a God, which she had already started to doubt, wasn't listening to this barren world anymore.

Megan's dose of serum was just enough to keep her lingering for two days in terrible pain, while Erin picked their way through the burned-out streets of Albuquerque and found it as empty as all the rest. In one empty, stinking hospital she fought off a dozen zombies and broke into a pharmacy to find some good painkillers, the stuff she'd gotten after her wisdom teeth had been removed. There were no doctors, but at least she had this. Megan hadn't eaten since the fall, but Erin crushed three pills and mixed them in water, pouring them down her sister's throat and hoping she wouldn't choke. As the pain faded, Megan started to cry again, this time because she was afraid. Erin choked back her own tears and told her sister that she'd be going to heaven to be with Mom and Dad, and that it was okay, because Erin would be joining them soon and they'd all be together again. When Megan went to sleep, she did not wake up again, and Erin hadn't expected her to. She took the shovel from the back of her Jeep, the same shovel that had buried her mother, and buried her sister in the hospital's withered garden, along with her favorite stuffed pony and all her clothes. Erin kept the music box Megan had insisted on bringing from home, just as she'd kept the wedding photograph she'd found in her mother's suitcase.

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This time, though, there was no haze of mourning, no period of aimless wandering. Erin knew what she was going to do. She was going to kill every goddamned zombie she could find, wipe the earth clean of them, until one of them got lucky and killed her first. She forgot about getting to Freedom City, forgot about finding a society to rejoin. There wasn't anything to protect anymore. She started in Albuquerque, going to the hospitals and the churches, places where zombies congregated, and cleaned them out with shotgun and bare hands, then found a sporting goods shop that catered to an odder crowd and acquired a hunting knife that was practically a machete. That worked well, also. Armed and dangerous, and half-out of her mind with grief she wouldn't acknowledge, she got back in her Jeep and headed for Texas, moving from town to town and exterminating as she went.

Erin didn't know how long she spent fighting zombies, filling out her calendar was a pointless exercise and it never seemed to get cold or rainy like it had in Seattle. Texas was a big place and had a lot of cities full of zombies, just begging to be put out of their misery. She was begging to be put out of hers, too, but nothing seemed to take. Even on the rare occasion when something did break her skin, it healed up again within hours, without even a scar. Forgetting to eat, sometimes for days at a time, wasn't much of a problem, and even the baking sun that ruined her canned supplies (which she ate anyway, and no harm) didn't burn her skin. She developed new muscles, and got a little taller as well, a bit more developed in the bust, and had to find new clothes for herself. She probably wasn't fourteen anymore, she decided eventually. It didn't matter. Eventually she started making her way north again, following the highways. Eventually she stopped being able to get fuel for the Jeep, but she realized that she could actually run faster than she was willing to drive, so that didn't matter either. She put her most important supplies into a backpack and left the Jeep behind in Oklahoma, next to a pile of destroyed zombies.

As she traveled north she found snow, and eventually spring flowers and fruits, and very slowly she began to heal inside. She'd never be the same person she'd once been, that girl was gone, but the raw suicidal pain began to fade in the light of a new season of growth. She began to wonder, once again, if there was any place that people still gathered. With the return of sanity came the realization of her own loneliness. She wasn't built to live without people. There were definitely plenty of animals around. Erin was curious and motivated enough to get into a library in Missouri and learn about hunting and dressing animals, and considered it quite a victory when she had her first meal in more than half a year where nothing came from a can. Rabbit and dandelion greens weren't gourmet fare, but they were better than pork and beans! As she traveled, Erin found herself awakening to the world again, and the possibility that things could get better. She still killed zombies wherever she could find them. She was very good at that by now, but it wasn't the only thing she did anymore. Eventually, she made her way through the Midwestern summer, learning more about what was good to eat and how to get it, and relying less and less on the increasingly unpalatable fare of supermarkets whose wares had stood in toxic miasma for a year.

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It was in Indiana that she met her first group of survivors, too. From what she could tell, they were a religious sect that had isolated itself so thoroughly from society and medicine that they missed out on both the plague and the vaccine, and had managed not to be overrun with zombies. Erin found them totally by accident as she was running cross-country after a particularly wily deer and practically stumbled over their hunting party. The two teenage boys she met were startled at her speed, and very interested to hear news of anything outside their experience. They'd never even been off their compound. Erin went back with them willingly, finding that they had a nice setup going, with farms, gardens and domestic animals, even generators providing a little bit of power. She hoped that maybe this was a group of people she could join up with, but the leaders were less than open to the idea. Calling her an "abomination" and a "bringer of plague," they ran her out of town without even giving her a sandwich. Momentarily, it crossed Erin's mind that she could have all this, if she wanted. These hateful people wouldn't be any harder to take down than zombies, certainly, and then she could have the farm and the garden and the animals. She shook the startling impulse off almost immediately. She was a human being, not a monster. She killed monsters. With a rude gesture to the elders, she took off running again. If one group of people survived, there had to be others. Freedom City had to be the answer.

She kept on going, sticking to the highways because those were the easiest to find on her maps. The encounter with the cultists in Indiana made her wonder if it was her travel strategy that kept her from meeting people. Surely anyone who survived and hadn't tried to group up and find answers would've made it by being small, unobtrusive, and hard to find. They probably wouldn't be anywhere near the highways. She had no real inclination to start randomly wandering around though, so she stuck to her plans and ran onward. Occasionally she stopped and knocked down a fence or two that hadn't been collapsed by the winter, letting free the scrawny livestock that had survived by scrounging so far. It seemed like the least she could do. Maybe in a few decades, cows would rule America, traveling in great black-and-white spotted droves across the plains. It was a weird thought. But she didn't let herself get too distracted by such things. The city was waiting for her, and she'd lost too much time already.

She cut through Pennsylvania and arrived in New Jersey at the height of summer, but stalled there for quite awhile. Even on the outskirts of Freedom City, the smell was horrendous. She'd been in large cities before, but she hadn't been paying much attention. Now that she was attuned to the world again, the stench of putrefication was overwhelming, even a year after the world had collapsed. When she finally worked up the courage to go in, she realized why. The zombies were finally dying off as well. She found them everywhere, with no marks of violence on them but their faces frozen in expressions of agony. With no better ideas, she had to conclude that they'd starved to death. If they couldn't eat each other, and they had no lingering memories of what was outside the cities, maybe they'd just wandered around until their vaccine-riddled bodies had run out of fuel. Rotting zombies smelled every bit as bad as regular rotting corpses. Steeling herself, Erin did her best to ignore the stench and made her way into the city, heading for the Goodman Building, which everyone knew was the center of superscientific discovery. Surely there would be people there, if there were people anywhere. She had to fight on the way, but the fighting was merely a distraction now, a means to an end. Finally, finally, she reached the place she'd been searching for all these months.

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It was empty. Erin sensed it as soon as she walked in the door, but she had to be sure. She walked up the endless flights of stairs, a flashlight showing her the way, checking on every floor. There were no bodies, which was very strange for a building like this, but there were no living people, either. She ended her search on the top floor, in a large, pristine lab that still glowed with emergency lights after all these months. There was no society here, there were no people working on a cure. She'd come all this way, pinned all her hopes on this, all to wind up in one more empty room. Enraged, she smashed her hands against one of the panels, pummeling it to bits as though to punish it for both their impotence. To her shock, the equipment around her began to rev to life as the lights rose. "Hey now!" a man's voice came from nowhere, sounding indignant. "Stop that! That's valuable property!" That was Erin's first meeting with Dr. Atom, and the start of yet another chapter in Erin's life.

Erin quickly learned that Dr. Atom had gone into hibernation mode months ago, as the chances of anyone having survived the plague and the vaccine had waned. Automated security had kept the zombies out during the height of their movement, but those systems had gone dormant as the generator capacity shrunk. "There was nothing I could do," the mind of the venerable scientist explained. "I have no way to expiate my guilt for my part in the vaccine. I was so wrapped up in trying to save my grandchildren, I failed to see the inevitable end result of the vaccine program. By the time it became obvious, no force on earth could've pulled it back. Perhaps if the time travelers hadn't died in the first wave, or if we'd noticed sooner... I hadn't known anyone was left. My models suggested a survival rate of perhaps one one-thousandth of a percent worldwide. Six thousand people isn't many to fill a world."

"My uncle said you were dead," Erin told him. "He said you wouldn't have let something like this happen. That you would have listened to him and not brushed him off like everybody else. Is it your fault? Did you make this happen?" she demanded.

He never really gave her a straight answer to that, but he was very interested in hearing about her uncle, and about the serum he'd given her. Since she had nothing better to do, she assented to being scanned by his instruments and letting him take a few samples. It was an amazing serum, Dr. Atom eventually declared, mournfully. If it had been produced faster and spread as widely as the vaccine, it might have changed everything. As it was, he didn't even have the tools and equipment to replicate it any longer.

"My generators are excellent," he explained to her as she ate some of the food from his emergency supply, "but they are not infinite. I decided long ago that I have no wish to live forever, contrary to appearances. They also appear to have been damaged in at least one attack during the time in which I was dormant. I'm afraid that with my current resources, coupled with the state of the world and the likely lack of a viable gene pool anywhere within reach, there are few options for you and I to make a difference. But I confess to feeling a special obligation to you. I knew your uncle. He was a very smart man, with ideas that were difficult for many to accept. Perhaps if someone had, if I had, this tragedy would've unfolded very differently. I believe that I can help you."

"What do you mean?" Erin asked, startled, her mouth full of food. It was hard to get used to being around people anymore, even one person who wasn't really a person. It took awhile, since Erin hadn't been good with science even before she'd missed more than a year of school, but eventually Dr. Atom explained a little bit about multiverse theory, enough to explain that he could send a distress call to a universe he'd had contact with before, one very much like this one, but that hopefully hadn't been infected. It wouldn't heal the world, but it could be a solution for one teenage girl who happened to be uninfected and at the Goodman Building. It didn't take long for Erin to agree to that proposal. If it had seemed like the world could recover, she might have felt obliged to stay. Like her mother had told her, it would be cheating not to do all the good you could while you could. But this world was doomed, at least as far as people went. She didn't want to grow old and die in the company of nothing but zombies and cows.

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The actual implementation of the plan was a lot more complicated than she'd thought it was going to be. It took time to set up the beacon, and parts that weren't always easy to get. Erin spent a month just following Dr. Atom's directions on where to get various fuels and battery cells and receptors she didn't have a clue the names or functions of, fighting off increasingly lethargic zombies the entire time. As she went, she kept looking for humans. As much as she looked forward to the possibility of escape, it would be better if she weren't the only one. Even though it drew attention to herself, she would walk down the empty, stinking streets of Freedom City yelling "Hello?" and "Is anyone out there? Is anyone still alive?" in the hopes that someone, somewhere, might be holed up and hear her. No one living ever turned up, though she killed probably hundreds of zombies on her trips.

She did eventually find out what had happened to Dr. Atom's grandchildren; the four teenagers and their stepmother, all in the advanced stages of the plague, preserved in cryogenic suspension beneath the Goodman Building in advance of a cure that would probably never come. Not every superhero had died; she learned; but some had taken their own lives or disappeared after the death of the world around them. They'd all stayed at their posts, though, something Dr. Atom was still very proud of. Their determination, Erin soon learned, had its downside.

The most obviously dangerous part of life in Freedom City now was the super-zombies. As best as she and Dr. Atom had been able to determine, some superhumans had taken the vaccine and been transformed into zombies, but their powers had protected them from starvation. She'd never fought anyone with superpowers before, but her human intelligence gave her a lead against minds consumed by nothing but hunger. She'd killed enough zombies by now that she knew killing the Emissary and Siren was nothing but a liberation for the people trapped inside.

Sometimes there were flashes of light in the sky that came from no lightning storm or other natural source, and Dr. Atom picked up transmissions from places that had survived the apocalypse. The robotic despot Talos was at war with the Grue who'd come to collect the dead planet and mine its resources, while elsewhere strange metallic men with energy spears occasionally passed by those few working cameras still hooked up to Dr. Atom's worldwide viewing network. Dr. Atom kept up a good face for his assistant, but she knew he was worried about her. They had to get the project finished soon.

At last, when October was finally chasing some of the stench from the air, Dr. Atom announced that he had made contact with the universe next door, and that the preliminary signs were encouraging. They had not been infected by the plague, and they weren't averse to helping bring a survivor across, if the safety of their reality could be assured. Erin was present for the second contact, and was asked to tell her story from the beginning for the first time. That was harder than she had thought it would be, especially trying to talk about the deaths of her family members, but she muscled through it without more than a few quiet tears. The other Dr. Atom, from the other universe, agreed that they would help her cross into their world. She would need to stay in quarantine for awhile, to make sure she wasn't carrying either the plague or fragments of the zombie vaccine, but that seemed like a small price to pay. She prepared for her trip, taking only the clothes on her back and the most precious of her possessions. Her diary and her bear, Megan's music box, her parents' photo, all sealed in a clear plastic bag that Dr. Atom was sure would assist in decontamination. She bid him, and her world, goodbye on a rainy fall evening, stepping onto a long-disused transporter mark and waiting for the beam that would take her away. When it came, it felt like she was dissolving from the inside out, and for an endless moment, she thought it hadn't worked, and that she was dead. When she emerged, behind a glass wall in a laboratory filled with healthy people, she still wasn't sure if it was another world, or if she'd gone to heaven. Either way, she was happy to be there.

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Erin spent nearly a month in quarantine at the Goodman Building in her new world, which was something of a relief. It was wonderful to be with people again, but it was hard, too. There were so many of them, and the world was so loud! She'd never noticed how loud people were, and cars, and buildings full of equipment. She was also, she realized, a little bit jumpier than was healthy for normal people. The first time someone in a hazmat suit woke her from a doze in front of her television, she nearly took the poor man's head off before she pulled her strike. Not everything that moved here was a zombie, and nothing here was trying to kill her. It was just a little difficult to internalize that fact. She turned sixteen in the quarantine room, but didn't mention it to anyone. It seemed wrong to celebrate, after everything. It was only after she saw Siren riding a parade float in the Thanksgiving Day parade that it even occurred to her to ask the most natural question: if this world was almost exactly like her own, were there versions of her family, too?

It took a couple of days for the technicians to get an answer for her. Yes, her family was alive and well, yes they were living in Seattle, even in the same house she'd grown up in. And yes, she was there, too. It was strange, hard news to hear, stranger still to see photos they'd printed off for her. There were her mother and father at a barbecue this past summer, happy and healthy, arms around each others' waists. There was Megan, nine now, wearing braces and glasses, looking a little sulky about being photographed. And there she was too, another Erin, this one still with a little clinging baby fat and a beautiful, easy smile that seemed like it would be alien on her own face. She was an Erin who had gone to that birthday party, an Erin who'd never really known a day of pain or fear. It was hard to imagine herself as that person. What would she do in a world where that was who she was supposed to be? After consulting with Erin and a psychologist, Dr. Atom even arranged a phone call, just as Erin was being released from quarantine. Her parents had obviously been well-briefed, but it was still a stilted conversation. They told her she should come and visit as soon as she could, that everyone would be happy to meet her.

Before Erin went anywhere, though, she had more work to do. She spent December and much of January in a small apartment at the Goodman Building, not quarantined, but not encouraged to go out, either. She had daily appointments with Dr. Franklin, a psychiatrist, and Ms. Richardson, a tutor, to get her mind in order and up to speed with this new world. She worked very hard to make up for the school she'd missed and the new world she was joining, and though she'd never exactly been a good student, she began to catch up at an acceptable rate. Getting her head in order was more difficult. Dr. Franklin was a compassionate man, and very easy to talk to, but even he couldn't tell her quite how to cope in a world where her former life was nothing but a bad dream. Should she give it up and try to forget? Or did she owe it to the people who'd died to remember them, even if they weren't dead here? Could she even forget if she tried? He prescribed a few medicines for her, but her body rejected them at anything but absurdly high dosages, and she didn't like the drugged feeling that massive medication gave her. Cliched as it was, the pain reminded her that she was alive. She just needed to work through it, get beyond it, and use it to do good. That, she and Dr. Franklin both agreed, would be the best cure for her mind and heart.

In February, she made the trip back across the country, a journey that had taken months in a Jeep and on foot lasting only hours in an airplane. She even got to ride first class with Dr. Franklin, since he was just a little bit skittish about putting her cheek by jowl with dozens of other passengers in coach. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed it, and how easy it was to enjoy things, when she just relaxed and didn't feel guilty about it. Her family, her dead family, wouldn't want her to grieve forever, as Dr. Franklin had repeatedly assured her. The meal they served was really good, and there was a movie. She even managed to sleep for a few minutes in the cushy seat. The closer she got to Seattle though, the more nervous she felt. What would it be like to see her family again, alive and well?

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It was an emotional meeting for all of them, not quite an introduction, not quite a reunion. They met at the house, in order to avoid any scenes at the airport, but Erin broke down as soon as they pulled into the driveway, and cried through most of the first meeting. Her mother cried too, very affected by even an extra daughter's tears, and her parents both hugged her, a sensation she'd never thought to feel again. Megan was very skittish, obviously not knowing what to think, but she was alive and well and being taken care of, and that was enough to know for now. The most awkward moment came when she met herself, sizing up this other version of her, and being sized up in return. She didn't really look very much like the other Erin, more like cousins than twins, what with her own hard, energetic lifestyle and the old Erin's disdain for exercise of most sorts. In the end they hugged, awkwardly, like friends-of-friends, and both looked to their parents for guidance. "Well," said Clarissa, "why don't we all go inside and have supper? I hope you like brats on the grill as much as our Erin does." It was, in fact, her favorite, a fact that made Erin relax just that much more.

With the meeting having gone as well as anyone could've asked, arrangements were made for Erin to spend some time with her family here. They made up the guest room for her, right next to her old bedroom, down the hall from Megan and her parents. She started going by "Erin Keeley," her first and middle name, just to distinguish her from her counterpart. The first few days in the house were very hard to adjust to. She'd wake up in the morning to the smells and sounds so familiar to her youth, and be so intensely disoriented that she'd need five or ten minutes before she could get out of bed. Much of the day she had to herself, with her parents at work and the kids at school, so she wandered around the neighborhood, where everyone seemed to have heard something about her. Everyone was very kind to her, even as they seemed a little nervous of her. She found it hard to blame them. It was obvious that she didn't quite belong here anymore.

Things worked out well enough that she stayed with her family through most of the spring, but as time went on, Erin became more and more aware that this wasn't her answer. She loved her family, and they'd all been more than kind to her, treating her as part of their family, for all she was a strange addition who surely had to be an uncomfortable reminder of their mortality. They never discussed her world, and she didn't want to talk about it, but sometimes it was hard not to blurt out things like "I'm so glad you're alive," or "it's just really good to see you." Even if she could somehow meld back into the family that already had a perfectly-fit version of herself, what would happen then? She was still far behind in school, and all the friends she remembered were friends of another Erin, of another lifetime for herself. Much as she appreciated being accepted, she knew she needed to find a place for herself in this world.

Erin shared her insights with Dr. Franklin in their weekly teleconference, and found him in agreement with her. He suggested that she should apply to the Claremont Academy. She still had time to be accepted to the summer session, which would give her some time to catch up before beginning the actual school year. Not only would it be a good fit for her academically and keep her close to the Goodman Building for further therapy and testing if necessary, the Claremont Academy trained superheroes. She'd said she wanted to make a real difference, and this was her chance. In the world she'd come from, superpowers hadn't been enough to save anyone except herself, but now she could change that. Erin eagerly set off the application and waited for whatever would come next.

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Erin's Questionnaire

Introduction

Give a two or three word description of yourself.

Sturdy Zombie Fighter

Do you have any nicknames, street names, titles, or nom de plume?

They said I needed a code name, but I couldn't really think of one, so I picked the first thing that came to mind, Wander. It's sort of what I'm doing now, and Wanderer just makes me think of that song about going round and round and round.

What is your full birth name?

Erin Keeley White

Where do you live?

The Claremont Academy

Why do you live there?

Because there's already a me living at my house.

What do you perceive as your greatest strength?

Nothing really scares me anymore.

What do you perceive as your greatest weakness?

I don't know how to live here anymore.

Physical Traits

How old are you?

Sixteen, seventeen on November 12.

What is your sex?

Female

What is your race?

Caucasian

How tall are you?

5'8

How much do you weigh?

Dunno, average.

What is your general body type, frame, bone structure, and poise?

Tall and kind of gangly, but I've learned how to use my body. I have a lot more muscle than I used to, that's for sure. I can't get by without wearing a bra if I want to do anything acrobatic, and that's annoying. My bones are okay, I guess. I've got some cheekbones, kind of a pointy chin. Everything else seems pretty normal. The little finger on my left hand is double jointed, if that makes any difference.

What is your skin colour?

Pasty. I don't burn, but I don't tan anymore, either.

What is your hair colour?

Brown

What is your hair style?

Short. And, I dunno, wavy?

Do you have any facial hair?

I have eyebrows.

What is your eye colour?

Brown. I used to say hazel, but that was a lie.

How attractive are you?

I guess that depends on your type. I don't really get out much.

What is your most distinguishing feature?

I'm kind of boring, really. Tall for a girl, though.

Do you have any scars, tattoos, or birthmarks?

I have a little brown birthmark shaped like Iowa on my left calf.

What is your handedness (left/right/ambidextrous)?

I write with my right, but I fight with both.

Do you resemble some currently known person?

I have a double, but I'm not sure that's what you're driving at.

What kind of clothing do you wear?

Jeans and blouses. I have two pairs of jeans, and khakis for special occasions.

Do you wear makeup?

Not anymore, I don't have any. Maybe I should start, if I want to fit in at school.

What sort of vocal tone do you have?

Alto, but please don't ask me to sing.

History

Where is your homeland?

I grew up in the Seattle suburbs. Was that the question?

Are you aware of its history?

I had a unit on it in seventh grade, but it's fuzzy now.

Are you patriotic or a social outcast?

Can I be both? Can someone be patriotic on behalf of a city? Seattle's kind of granola for that, I think.

What are your opinion of home?

I love my home, but it's not exactly my home. It's really complicated. It's a nice place to visit, but I can't live there.

Where is your home town?

Oh, Seattle. Was I supposed to say the United States before?

Are your real reasons for becoming an adventurer different from what you tell others?

Well, I do want to make a difference. But I also feel so damn guilty sometimes, that with all the power I got, I never really managed to help anyone except myself. Maybe if I can help people here, I'll be able to live with that.

How far would you go to keep such secrets from being revealed? What would you do if the truth became known?

It's not really a matter of keeping secrets. Mostly I don't tell people about where I came from because it's so depressing. I don't want to talk about it, and nobody wants to hear it.

What do you fear would occur if the truth became known?

I would fit in even less than I do now. People don't want to be around people who've seen them die in agony, then killed their reanimated corpses.

Do you have any particularly high or low ability scores?

I'm very strong, and very fast, and very hardy. I'm also pretty good with my hands. Everything else is pretty average. Sometimes I feel like a complete social moron, but my shrink tells me I'm okay, just sixteen. I don't know if that's reassuring.

How have these scores affected your life so far?

Well, they kept me alive when everyone else on the planet died and turned into zombies.

What about your race, growing up were you in the majority or a minority?

I'm white, so growing up in Seattle, I was in the majority. Then I was alive when everyone else was zombies, so I was in the minority. I don't know if that counts.

Did this impact your outlook in any way?

It's sort of lonely being the only person alive for hundreds of miles.

How do you feel about other races?

Except zombies, I think I can get along with anyone.

Were there any traumatic experiences in your early years (death of a family member, abandonment, orphaned at an early age)?

Yes.

Briefly describe a defining moment in your childhood and how it influenced your life.

There was that time when everyone died. That made me pretty sad.

What stupid things did you do when you were younger?

I didn't appreciate everything I had. I also rode my bike off a ramp and into a ditch once and broke my arm. And once I shoplifted candy from the Walgreens and my mom made me take it back and apologize.

Which toys from your childhood have you kept?

My teddy bear, and my sister's music box.

Why? What do they mean to you? If you didn't keep any, why not? What did you do to them all?

They're the only things I have left. I wanted something to hold onto, and she wanted something pretty. We couldn't bring the rest with us, and I buried her stuffed pony with her. The rest is probably all rotting in a dead world.

Do you have any deep, dark secrets in the past that may come back to haunt you?

Well, the past haunts me, but I'm getting therapy. And it's not a secret.

Are you who you claim to be?

More or less. I'm Erin Keeley White, but my social security card may not be valid here.

Do you have any sort of criminal record?

No, they don't do shoplifting pops on six year olds.

How do you view the heroes/legends of your country?

They do their best, but in a real catastrophe, they can be as helpless and ineffectual as anyone. Sometimes they're just the first to die.

Family

Who were your parents?

Roger and Clarissa White

Were you raised by them? If not, then why didn't they and who did raise you?

Till I was fourteen, and then they died. After that I was sort of on my own. Now they're back, but I don't know that I need a lot more raising.

What was their standing in the community?

Dad worked in the tech industry, like practically everyone else. He had a good job, and we had a nice house. Mom was the secretary for the HOA, and she was on a billion committees. People liked them. We had a lot of friends.

Did your family stay in one area or move around a lot?

I grew up in the same house my first fourteen years. We never moved around.

How did you get along with their parents?

It was okay. I was just starting to get into the rebellious phase when it was all over. After that, I was just so glad to see them again, it was hard to argue.

How would your parents describe you? Answer this in the voice of your mother, then in your father's.

I can't. I don't want to do that. I don't know what they would think of me. Look what happened to them. Look what happened to Megan. And I just ran away to a place where their lives and deaths are nothing more than bad dreams.

Do you have any siblings? If so how many and what were their names? How did you get along with each of your siblings?

I have a little sister, Megan. I used to think she was bratty and annoying. When it was just the two of us, though, we got very close. Then she died, and it was my fault. Now she's back, though, and we're like strangers. There's also the duplicate me, but I don't know if that counts.

What was your birth position in the family?

Oldest of two. My parents waited a long time before having another, so I was seven when Megan came along.

List all current knowledge of family locations, spouses, children, birth dates, schooling, and any important incidents that only you and they might remember.

This family in this world is all in Seattle. In my world. Dad is buried in one of the Seattle mass graves, because he died before they stopped burying people. Mom is with Uncle Aaron and the other people from the compound behind the garage at Uncle Aaron's place. We couldn't tell who was who. Megan is buried in the garden outside the Kasemen Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.

Do you stay in touch with them or have you become estranged?

I keep in touch with the family here. Our relationship is weird, but they're my family.

Do you love or hate one member of the family in particular?

I love them all. I don't think I could hate them, not after everything that happened.

Is any member of the family special to you in any way (perhaps, as a confidant, mentor, or arch-rival)?

It's sort of hard to get along with myself. It's just so weird. I think both of us feel a little threatened by the existence of the other. We're each other's road not taken.

Are there any black (or white) sheep in the family (including you)?

That would be me.

If so, who are they and how did they "gain" the position?

Well, there was the time when everyone died, and I didn't.

Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor?

Not unless you count Uncle Aaron.

If so, what did this person do to become famous or infamous?

He made a lot of money patenting things I can't begin to understand. In this universe, that's about it.

Do you try to live up to the reputation of your ancestor, try to live it down, or ignore it?

He made me who I am. I live with it every day.

Do you ever want to have a family of your own someday?

I don't know. I can't think about it right now.

Would anything change your mind on this issue and if so, what?

If I can get better.

What type of person would be your ideal mate?

I don't know. He'd have to be really patient.

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Relationships

Do you have any close friends? If so, who and what are they like?

No, not here. I used to, but they died.

What is the history of their relationship(s) with you?

Seriously, I don't have any.

Do you currently have a best friend whom you would protect with your reputation or your life?

No, I hardly know anyone here.

Do you have any bitter enemies?

I don't even know anyone well enough to hate them.

Which person(s) or group(s) are you most loyal to?

My family

Who is your most trusted ally?

Doctor Franklin, my shrink. He's not exactly a hero, but he's helped me a lot. I don't know if I would have made it here without him.

Who do you trust, in general?

I trust the Freedom League. I don't think they're infallible, but I think they do everything they can. I trust my family, but I know there isn't much they can do to help me. I have to fight my own battles.

Who do you despise and why?

Drug companies. It's their fault. They weren't careful. I don't know if I despise Dr. Atom or not. In this universe, I guess not. He did what he could to help me.

Name seven things you hate in others.

Lack of compassion, ungratefulness, conspicuous waste, cavalierness about the undead,

carelessness in using power, overdeveloped sense of self pity, asking too many questions.

Is your image consistent?

I've only got the one.

Do you deliberately present yourself differently in different situations, and how?

Well, I wouldn't show up for a job interview in my pajamas, if that's what you mean.

What would you die for?

I once thought I would die just to get it over with, but then I got better. I'd die for my family, for my country, or for the greater good. I know that I'm extra, and that I shouldn't be here. If it takes my life to make a difference, is it even a sacrifice?

What is the worst thing someone has done to you?

Gave me just enough superpowers to let me watch everything I loved die horribly.

What is your general reaction to an attractive member of the opposite sex who lets you know they are available?

I don't really know. I'm not 100% sure I would notice.

How do you get along with others of the same adventuring class?

I don't know.

Have you lost any loves?

Not romantic loves.

Who would miss you should you go missing?

No one, for very long. The Erin slot in this world is covered.

How close are you to your adventuring companions?

I don't really have any.

Are you a member of any house, guild, organization, or church? What is your level of involvement?

We used to be Episcopalian. I was confirmed, but now I don't think I believe in God anymore. God wouldn't have let the things I saw happen. God is supposed to love us.

Personality & Beliefs

Do you, or did you, have any role models?

Once upon a time, I wanted to be an actress like Angelina Jolie, and be really beautiful and adopt babies from foreign lands. Not so much anymore, though.

Do you have any heroes or idols, either contemporary or from legend?

Not really

Did you ever become disillusioned with former heroes or idols? If so, why and what were the circumstances?

Well, Angelina and her kids all died in the plague. I started to realize that acting and adopting kids isn't much good when the world falls apart.

When did you decide to become an adventurer?

I spent some time with my family after I got here, but I really didn't fit in anymore. I needed to find something worthwhile to do with my life and the power I was given.

Why have you chosen to risk your life as a career?

If I'm still alive here no matter what happens, am I really risking my life at all? Wouldn't I have been better off if none of this had ever happened, and if the me that I am never existed?

What do you expect to get out of being an adventurer? What, if anything, would make you stop adventuring?

A sense of purpose, expiation of guilt, something to do with my life. Maybe if I found something better, something that would make me feel good inside and like I was doing something worthwhile, I'd do that instead.

Do you have any dreams or ambitions? If not, why?

I just want to help. Maybe the dreams and ambitions will come after that.

What are your short term goals (what would you like to be doing within a year)?

I want to be caught up to my grade level again and understand what this universe is like, how it's not like my home. I want to be ready to be a real superhero

What are your long term goals (what would you like to be doing twenty years from now)?

I don't know. I don't think that far ahead anymore.

If these goals seem at odds with each other, or with your dreams, how do you reconcile the differences?

If I live through this year, and next year, and the next, maybe I'll make more plans.

Do you have any great rational or irrational fears or phobias? If so, what are the origins of, or reasons behind them?

I'm afraid of being alone or in groups. I'm afraid of being snuck up on. I'm afraid of the people I love dying in hideous ways. I'm afraid of waking up and being back in my world. I'm afraid of trying to make a life in this world. This is why I'm in therapy.

How do you react when this fear manifests itself?

I have some breathing exercises I try and do, and some meditations. Sometimes it helps.

What are your attitudes regarding material wealth?

It's all just waste and rot waiting to happen. Your Mercedes won't give you one extra day on earth. But there's no harm in being comfortable while you can.

Are you miserly with your share of the wealth, or do you spend it freely?

I don't have any wealth. If I did, I would share it. What's the point otherwise?

Do you see wealth as a mark of success, or just as a means to an end?

It's nothing more than trying to insulate yourself from the dark. Like if you have enough money, bad things won't happen to you. It's stupid, but maybe it makes them feel better.

How do you generally treat others?

I try to be polite and friendly. I'm still a little rusty at it.

Do you trust easily (perhaps too easily) or not?

I have a generally good sense of people. If someone seems trustworthy, I take them at their word.

Are you introverted (shy and withdrawn) or extroverted (outgoing)?

I used to have a lot of friends. Now I live mostly in my own head.

Are you a humble soul or blusteringly proud?

I don't know that it's up to me to decide that.

What habits do you find most annoying in friends?

Taking people for granted.

What are your most annoying habits?

I'm very jumpy, and I have a tendency to want to hoard essential items. There's no harm in keeping an emergency stash, I guess, but it speaks to something in me that I don't like, some deep pessimism. Sometimes I forget that other people need to sleep and eat a lot more than I do. And sometimes I have a hard time following directions I don't understand perfectly. Maybe it's because I was on my own for a long time, it doesn't come naturally.

Is there any race, creed, alignment, religion, class, profession, political viewpoint, or the like against which you are strongly prejudiced, and why?

I hate zombies and drug companies. Well, maybe not hate zombies, but I'm not going to let any keep shambling around while I can stop them. Drug companies would kill the world to make a buck. I've seen it.

What is your favourite food?

I love brats boiled in beer and then cooked on the grill, slathered in mustard and fried onions.

What is your favourite drink?

Fresh squeezed lemonade with lots of sugar

What is your favourite treat (dessert)?

Fresh cherries on any flavor of ice cream

Do you favour a particular cuisine?

I'm pretty flexible, as long as it's fresh and not processed. If I never ate canned food again, I wouldn't mind a bit.

Do you savor the tastes when eating or "wolf down" your food?

I don't need to eat very much, so when I do eat, I try to enjoy it. I went a long time without.

Do you like food mild or heavily spiced?

I prefer food with a lot of flavor, whatever the flavor is.

Are there any specific foodstuffs that you find disgusting or refuse to eat?

I don't like canned food, but there's nothing I'd refuse to eat if I were hungry.

What are your favourite colour(s)?

Sky blue and lavender

Is there any colour that you dislike?

Puce. Even the word is ugly.

Do you have a favourite (or hated) song, type of music, or instrument?

Not really, I don't keep up. I always change the channel when I hear "Bad Day" playing. It was really popular right before the end, my friend Kathy's favorite. She would play it over and over again. Now it just seems ironic and horrible.

If you have a favourite scent, what is it?

Good cooking smells. Especially baking. I never figured out how to bake, and now it make my mouth water just to smell bread or cookies.

What is your favourite type of animal?

I like birds. They're so free.

Are you allergic to any kinds of animals?

No, I'm not allergic to anything.

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Is there anything that enrages you?

People being careless with one another, like they don't realize what a gift they have in each other. I don't usually do anything about it, because that would be too weird, but it makes me so angry inside. They don't understand how fast one of them, or both of them, or all of them could be gone, just like that, and if I tried to explain, they'd just look at me like some kind of freakshow.

Is there anything which embarrasses you?

Being singled out for anything. I just want to blend in. And, I guess, being so far behind in school. I know it isn't my fault, it wasn't like I skipped for two years on purpose, but it still doesn't feel good. I hope I don't make a fool of myself at school.

Do you enjoy "roughing it", or do you prefer your creature comforts?

I have no problem roughing it, but I won't do it if I don't have to. Had enough of that for one lifetime, thanks.

Do you have a patron deity?

Like I said, I don't think I believe in God anymore.

Are you devout or impious?

If there's no god, how could I be impious? If he were going to smite me, he'd have done it. Come to think of it, maybe He already did. But how would that be fair? I believed in Him, before he let everything fall apart!

Was your faith influenced or molded by anyone special?

Watching my sister die while I begged God to save her was a pretty formative moment for my faith.

Will you kill?

I would kill evil to save the innocent. I don't know if I would feel comfortable, in the moment, making that judgment.

When did you decide (or learn) that you would?

Just now, I guess. I hadn't really thought of it before.

When do you consider it okay to kill (under what circumstances)?

When I know that the person I'm killing is evil, and that by killing him, I would save people who are innocent.

When do you consider it wrong to kill (under what circumstances)?

When I can't be sure.

What would you do if someone else attempted to (or successfully did) kill under your "wrong" circumstances, what would be your reaction?

I don't know. I don't know if I'm qualified to pass judgment on anybody else. Who am I to be anyone's moral compass? I don't think I'm even a good person, but I don't want to be a hypocrite, too.

What would you do if something were stolen from you?

I probably wouldn't care unless if it was one of my mementoes. Then I would go to the ends of the earth to recover it. Those are the only things that matter to me.

What would you do if you were badly insulted publicly?

Probably leave the area. Or I might punch someone. That's why I'm in therapy.

What would you do if a good friend or relative were killed by means other than natural death?

Bury them. What the hell else are you supposed to do? God, this navel gazing is making me twitchy. I don't like thinking about this stuff. Are we almost finished?

What is the one task you would absolutely refuse to do?

Go back. I'm not strong enough, and I don't think I ever will be.

What do you consider to be the worst crime someone could commit and why?

Kill people for profit, either directly or through criminal negligence.

How do you feel about government (rulers) in general? Why do you feel that way?

We need them for infrastructure and to keep the lights on. But if something had happens, I don't trust them to keep anyone safe. I've seen what happens.

Do you support the current government of your homeland?

I don't really know. I'm not up to date on that stuff. I mean, I can name the president, but I don't know what he stands for or what he campaigned on.

If so, how far are you willing to go to defend the government? If not, do you actively oppose it?

I'm still learning, I don't know enough to say one way or another.

What form of government do you believe is the best (democracy, monarchy, anarchy, aristocratic rule, oligarchy, matriarchy) and why?

Anything that keeps the world from falling apart. Besides that, I don't think there's much difference. Well, I guess that's not true. I guess you need some sort of personal freedom to let people be happy. But I don't know what government is best for that.

Do you have any unusual habits or dominant personality traits that are evident to others?

I don't know, I haven't seen myself from the outside. At least, not the me that would have the habit. The other me only looks and acts a little like me.

Do you have any unusual or nervous mannerisms, such as when talking, thinking, afraid, under stress, or when embarrassed?

I sometimes chew with my mouth open. It's bad manners, but I forget. When I'm under stress, I will sometimes hit first and ask questions later. I'm really working on it.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mementos. My bear, Megan's music box, my parents' picture.

If your life were to end in 24 hours, what 5 things would you do in those remaining hours?

End it on my terms. That's only one, but it would be complicated. I'm not easy to kill. If there were some way to make my death meaningful, I would try and do that. I'm not afraid of the dark, just of slipping under without a ripple.

Career & Training

Where and how were you educated?

Seattle Public Schools, K-9. I've had a little tutoring as well since then. I've got some catching up to do.

Who trained you in your adventuring class(es)?

Nobody. I'm not exactly a pretty fighter. It's probably kind of gross to watch from outside.

Look at your skills. How did you acquire them (especially the unusual ones)?

I picked up most of my skills while living on my own. I raided a lot of libraries and took the books I needed, and did a lot of trial and error.

Have you ever done anything else for a living?

I've never really done anything for a living.

How do you function in combat (maneuvers, weaknesses)?

I hit things and make them fall down, and then I chop them into little pieces so they don't come back.

Have you ever received any awards or honours?

I got "most valuable player" on my softball team in seventh grade. Then I quit because my new coach wouldn't let me play first base. Maybe I hate him still. I'll have to think about that. He's dead, though, and that's probably punishment enough.

Is there anything that you don't currently know how to do that you wish you could?

Fight things without killing them. Live in the world.

Are you envious of others who can do such things in a good-natured way or are you sullen and morose about it?

I'm very determined. It's a waste of time to be envious when you could be working on what you don't know. I don't think there's anything I don't know that I can't learn if I try hard enough.

Lifestyle & Hobbies

When not adventuring, what is your normal daily routine?

I don't really have one yet. It seems like it would be a nice thing to develop. I kind of miss habits and routines.

What are your hobbies when you are not adventuring or training?

I don't really have any. I spend a lot of time trying to catch up on everything I don't know.

What do you do for relaxation? What things do you do for enjoyment? What interests do you have?

I sleep and eat. Sometimes I watch movies, but a lot of them make me sad for no reason. It's embarrassing to start tearing up during a comedy movie over a family dinner or a birthday party. Therapy, therapy, therapy!

How do you normally dress when not in your adventuring gear?

Jeans and blouses. I have six blouses now, courtesy of my parents. I felt weird asking them to spring for more. But I needed something, I only had one set of clothes.

What do you normally wear in bed at home?

I have a t-shirt nightgown

What do you normally wear in bed while adventuring?

I don't know, whatever I wore in the day, I guess.

Do you wear any identifiable jewelry?

I don't have any. I was going to take Mom's ring and put it on a necklace, but I couldn't find her left arm. I suppose I could've gotten all the diamonds and stuff that I wanted, but it never really occurred to me. What would I have done with that?

Where do you normally put your weapons, magic items, or other valuables when you are sleeping?

In my bureau drawer. They aren't valuable to anyone but me.

What morning or evening routines do you normally have?

Brush teeth, eat breakfast, brush teeth, go to bed

Do these change when you are adventuring?

I don't brush my teeth. I don't even know if my teeth can rot. But it makes my breath minty fresh.

Travel: how do you get around locally?

Mass transit or walking. I don't really go places very much. I find large groups of people kind of unnerving.

Do you have a Last Will and Testament? What does it say?

I don't own anything.

Miscellaneous

What would you like to be remembered for after your death?

That I died doing something really good for the world.

What kind of threat do you present to the public?

I'm sort of dangerous to be out in public right now. But I'm working on that with my therapist, and looking to get some fight training.

If your features were to be destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?

Well, you could get a DNA sample and compare it to the Erin here, but I don't know that anyone would bother. A corpse is a corpse, of course, of course.

As a player, if you could, what advice would you give your character? Speak as if he/she were sitting right here in front of you. Use proper tone so they might heed your advice...

You're more valuable than you think, and there is a place for you in this world. Don't let your quest for some greater purpose blind you to the possibility of satisfaction and joy in making smaller differences for more people.

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May 26, 2009, 1:30am, somewhere over Iowa

Bored with looking out the window of the plane into darkness, Erin takes out her notebook and flips on the overhead light. Her seatmate groans, but she ignores him, as she has been for the past few hours. Licking the tip of her pen, she begins to write. Dear Mom and Dad... It still feels strange to call them that, knowing that they are and yet they aren't. She can't call them Roger and Clarissa though, so she lets it stand.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I wanted to send you a note to let you know that I got out from the airport okay and that I'm having a good trip. The food is kind of nasty, so thanks for the sandwiches! I wanted to thank both of you for how nice you've been to me since I came here. I know it can't have been easy having an extra person around, especially when it's weird like this. But you really made me feel welcome, and I won't forget it. I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable sometimes, I didn't mean to. It's hard to get used to being around people, I guess. Thanks for the clothes and the soap, and the money for the trip, and everything else. The pilot says we're going to stop in Cincinnati to change planes, so I figure I will mail this then. I'm going to call you when I get to school, so you'll already know by the time you get this letter that everything is fine.

I hope things are going good for all of you, and that you have a really nice summer. I will think of you going to the Pike's Place Market for the weekend shows like we always used to, and out to the 4th of July fireworks on the water. I'll miss you all, but I know this is the right solution for all of us. Tell Erin and Megan that I said hi.

Erin sits for a minute and thinks, trying to come up with anything else to say. It shouldn't be this hard to talk to your own family, should it? Finally she scrawls a hasty "Love, Erin Keeley," then tears out the paper and folds it into one of the envelopes she brought along. She addresses it, then flips off the light, drawing yet another groan from her seatmate as the plane circles to begin its descent.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 7:00am, over Freedom City

It's several hours before Erin starts writing again, on a new plane, full of early-morning commuters and at least one soccer team heading to a tournament. The plane is in a holding pattern before landing, and when Erin looks out, she can see the tall silver buildings of downtown and the crush of midmorning traffic. Every once in awhile someone points and shouts that there's a superhero in the air, but the supers tend to stay away from plane traffic, for fear of accidents. As the plane banks for yet another turn, Erin pulls out the little bound book she's been using as her diary for Dr. Franklin. He likes it when she records her feelings, even if she mostly does it when she's bored.

May 26

In a few minutes, I'll be landing in Freedom City and going to the school. I think I should probably be terrified. It's been two years and two months since I last went to school, and now I'm supposed to be heading to this elite private gig. But I'm not. I guess after a certain point, nothing really scares you. I am kind of nervous, though. I really want this to work out. I want to make friends, and not have people think I'm some kind of freak or emo or something. I wonder what it will be like to meet other people with powers. I wonder if I'll meet anybody I've read about. I wonder if I'll meet anybody I fought. It's already going to be weird seeing Freedom City all full of people. I mean, when I left in January, I wasn't really paying that much attention. But now I'm going to live here. I don't think I can go back to Seattle, not to stay, so this is home now. I hope I like it, and that they like me. I should remember to ask if I can learn to drive sometime. Not like I have a car or anything, but I've been driving for so long, it would be cool to get a license.

Erin lifts her head and closes her book when her ears pop to signal increasing descent. The captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker to welcome them to Freedom City and tell them that it's a beautiful day. She tucks away her book and pen. It's showtime.

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Clothes

When Erin packed her bag to go to school, it contained all of her worldly possessions. That was a little weird, since many things that she remembered as being hers were right next door in the second bedroom, but they didn't actually belong to her here. The other Erin was nice enough about sharing, but in the end, those things were still hers. In the weeks she'd spent in Freedom City, then in Seattle, Erin had managed to pick up some things of her own.

She went shopping for school clothes for Claremont with Clarissa and the other kids. It felt strange to have to pick what to wear again, and to know it mattered somehow. And that money meant things, and she couldn't just take what she wanted. The idea of spending money seemed strange and extravagant, and it affected how much she was willing to buy. It wasn't as though she weren't already putting these people out! She was happy to find a clearance rack with slacks and blouses on it, and bought mainly from that, enough clothes that she would be wearing something different every day of the week. Other Erin thought they were unfashionable as sin, and even Clarissa tried to steer her towards a few things that were a bit more flattering, but Erin didn't see how it could possibly be that important. They covered everything that needed covered, and the fabrics were sturdy and durable. She got socks and underthings as well, and wound up spending an amount that she considered to be acceptable. Being a burden would only make her feel more uncomfortable.

Two cream blouses

One blue blouse

One purple blouse

One red sweater

One blue pullover top

One pair yellow cotton pajamas

Two pairs blue jeans

One pair khaki slacks

One blue windbreaker

Seven pairs socks

Seven pairs underwear

Two brassieres

One pair tennis shoes

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Inventory

Besides clothes, there were room for a few other things in Erin's bag. Her mementos went in first, of course. She'd thought about buying a new frame for the picture of her parents. The one she had was badly mangled after spending nearly two years in one piece of luggage or another, with the metal parts banged up and a long crack across the glass. But she'd gotten used to seeing it like that, and it wasn't as though she were finished with her traveling, anyway. It went into the bag, wrapped carefully in her shirts. Megan's music box went in next. It, too, had seen better days, though the sturdy cardboard had held up, with the help of a little scotch tape on the corners. The Disney princess motif was still clearly visible, and the princess inside, Sleeping Beauty, Erin was pretty sure, still twirled around to a lullaby whenever the lid was open. Tucked securely in among her socks and underwear, it would make the trip safely. Bear needed much less protection. He'd had a hard two years, serving as pillow often as not when she was sleeping outdoors, and his brown fur had seen better days. She put him in a plastic bag before packing him, more to protect her clothes from him than the other way around.

Picture frame with photo

Music Box, pink, plays "So This is Love"

Stuffed Bear, brown, fair to poor condition

Erin's mom and dad didn't want to send her off to school without at least the basic supplies, and Erin felt more comfortable having them too. She did her best to be frugal in this area as well, and was a little chagrined to realize that the lovely-smelling soap she'd liked to use for her infrequent hosing off back in her own world was actually quite expensive when you had to pay money for it. She stuck to store brands and inexpensive accessories wherever she could, amassing a tidy little pile of things to take with.

Four spiral bound perforated notebooks

Ten black ballpoint pens

Ten blue ballpoint pens

One box colored pencils

One hardbound diary

One protractor

One box envelopes

Twelve "forever" stamps

One toothbrush

One tube tartar-control toothpaste

Two sticks deodorant, "powder fresh"

One hairbrush

One bottle shampoo for normal/oily hair

One bottle conditioner

One box feminine napkins

Three bars aloe soap

One nylon loofah sponge

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Clothes, Updated

In the days following the disaster that was supposed to have been the baseball game field trip, Erin kept even busier than usual. Group training added even more hours to her time on the weekends, and both Mr. Archer and Dr. Marquez wanted a couple of extra sessions, all thanks to one stupid punch. Didn't anyone care that those two idiot villains could've killed everyone in that stadium? They should've felt privileged to escape with just a few broken bones and a punctured lung. Why were their lives so much more important than the lives of all the innocent civilians, or the lives of her classmates? It would've been just as fair, in her estimation, to turn off their powers and set them against a few huge monsters that they couldn't control, just so they could see what it felt like. Whatever happened to them would be their own damn fault.

Of course, she couldn't say any of that out loud. She simply didn't have the hours in the day for the extra counseling that would've netted her, if it didn't get her the boot from the school entirely. Instead, she carefully laid out a schedule on a sheet of graph paper, pinned it to the wall, and meticulously attended every meeting, every class, every meal, and every training session. Because she was fine, and because she fit in, and because she was being very, very cooperative. It didn't leave much time for anything else, but when she was snatching an hour of sleep in the common room between lessons, she was much less likely to have bad dreams. When she did have a few spare minutes, usually in the darkest hours of the night, she went dumpster diving around the school. The laundry room, especially, held a great deal of interest for her. There were quite a few wealthy students and teachers at the school, the types who would throw out clothes that were worn or torn, rather than try to fix them. Erin had enough pride not to wear other peoples' thrown-away clothes, but they provided the scrap materials she needed to patch her own clothes when they were damaged.

She put up with the counseling, with the chastisement, with the hours of extra training, but it was the clothes that finally set her off. It took hours of work to get her blue jeans patched, even poorly, but they were wearable again. The shirt, though, was another story. Erin worked on it past dawn, till even after Alex had gotten up for her morning classes, and she should've been doing the same thing. It was no use, though. Too much of the fabric had been burned to let it be mended, and every patch she tried just made it look worse. There was no way to fix it. Finally, already late for her first class, she put her head on her desk and cried, over the stupid shirt of all things.

Two cream blouses

One purple blouse

One red sweater

One blue pullover top

One Madman Finale t-shirt

One pair yellow cotton pajamas

One pair blue jeans

One pair patched blue jeans

One pair khaki slacks

One blue windbreaker

Seven pairs socks

Seven pairs underwear

Two brassieres

One pair tennis shoes

One Claremont Athletic Uniform

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October 28, 2009

Dear Erin,

Happy birthday, a little early. I've been very busy lately, but I wanted to make sure I got a letter to you before the tenth. I know we haven't talked much since I left, but I've been following your Facebook page. Congratulations on the homecoming court thing, and on getting into the play. That's really cool, and the pictures looked great. Megan must have been really jealous over that homecoming dress. Has she stolen it to play dress-up in yet? I saw the pictures of you and Ben Bowen on the trip, too. He's really gotten tall. Are you still going out with him?

Things have been busy here, like I said. I've got a full load of classes, and some extra phys ed training besides, and it takes up most of my time. When I'm not doing homework, I sometimes go and hang out with some friends I made here this summer. Freedom City is a pretty nice place, but it's already getting colder here than Seattle. Some of the guys here are pretty hot, too. I went out with one of them the other week, but I don't think it's going anywhere. Turns out he has this huge crush on my roommate, so I don't think I'm going to bother.

I know your mom and dad were thinking about having me come out for the Christmas holidays, but I don't think that's going to work out. It's a long plane trip for just a couple weeks, and I've got so much work to catch up on. That's okay, though, a bunch of my friends live here in the city, so it's not like I'll be here alone. There's always stuff to do. It's kind of hard to believe I've been here a year already, and at school for five months. I really like it here a lot. There are lots of internships and things available in the summers, and they'll help me get a job after I graduate. I know us both being in Seattle is kind of weird, and you were there first. I've been thinking about staying out here permanently, after I finish up at Claremont.

Tell your mom and dad (in a few days) that I said thanks for the birthday box they sent. It came in the mail yesterday and I didn't really want to wait to open it. Too impatient. The new clothes will really come in handy with the weather getting colder, and so will the gift card for the winter coat. I really appreciate it, especially with times being pretty hard. Has your dad gotten put back on his full hours at work yet? I know they say it's just a matter of time, but it must be hard to wait. Say hello to Megan for me, and the dogs, and maybe if it wouldn't be too weird, to your friends that I know. If you guys ever get a chance to visit Freedom City, you should come and visit the school. It's really a nice place, and I think you'd like it. I hope your birthday is a lot of fun, and that Luke doesn't catch you in the closet again this year. Ha-ha, just kidding. Have a good time, and a happy Halloween and Thanksgiving, too.

Your friend,

Keeley Erin

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((Audio Transcript Teen Hero interview with Young Freedom members Edge and Wander, 04212010, 1645))

((Features Reporter Tina Treadman conducting interview))

TT: Welcome, Edge! It's so good of you to come and do this interview with us. I just can't tell you how excited we are that you agreed to participate in our charity issue. The readers just can't wait to find out more about you. (pause) Oh, and I see you brought a friend along, too. It's Wander, isn't it? Two Young Freedom members for the price of one, even better! Have a seat, and we'll get started.

Edge: Yes, this is my friend Wander. She's pretty great. We're both really excited to be here, Tina! I'm a big fan of your magazine; I have been since I was just a little kid myself. And you especially! I loved that interview you did with Soul Power out in LA last year. I've got it up on my wall.

Wander: (inaudible)

TT: That's very flattering! I'm so glad you like my work. I really did think that interview was one of my best... but enough about me, we're here to talk about you! Ah, both of you! (paper rustling) First question: Edge, we all know you're a second generation hero, even if you've been very secretive about your origin. What made you decide to follow in your parent's footsteps? (pause) Or more generally, what made the two of you decide to become heroes? (1)

(brief pause)

Edge: Tina, I knew from the minute I was born that I was going to be a hero. I was lucky enough to have a parent on the Freedom League, a true hero who stood alongside the Centurion and the first Lady Liberty in the brightest, and darkest hours of Freedom City's history. The lessons I learned about duty, commitment, and honor have stuck with me since then....plus, it's really fun! Yeah, I've always wanted to be a hero. I'm just glad I've got the powers to go with it!

Wander: (inaudible)

TT: Could you speak up a little? I'm recording this.

Wander: Sorry. I guess I sort of fell into it. I got these powers sort of by chance, and I decided I should try and do something good with them. I wanted to help people. Joining Young Freedom-

TT: Yes, that brings me right to the next question! Young Freedom burst onto the scene last summer in that spectacular televised battle at the baseball stadium. When did you all decide to become a team and start working together? (2)

Edge: Right then and there! We'd been friends for a while before that, but once we knew what a great team we were, we decided we'd be crazy not to go into action together! You should have been there, Tina, it was a really great fight! I made robots explode, and Wander ripped their heads off! It was totally wild.

Wander: Well, it was on TV, she probably saw it. We'd sort of already been working together, like Edge said, but not in any real fights. It's not like we go out looking for trouble or-

TT: Trouble finds you, of course! That's the amazing thing about being a superhero, isn't it? Edge, we know already how amazing your luck powers are, we've seen them turn the tide in fantastic ways in battles before. Do you feel it's this power that makes you the heart of Young Freedom, or is it your charisma and leadership? (3a)

Wander: (coughs)

Edge: With all due respect, Tina, I'm not the heart of Young Freedom. They've all got the heart of a true hero inside them, and that's what makes us such a great team. I'm just there to make things a little easier for all of them. That's what really makes a hero, you know, it's not just having powers. If you believe in yourself, if you really, truly believe you can do something, you can. That's what I believe, and that's what everyone else on our team believes too.

TT: Beautifully said, Edge. But as a team member, Wander, what do you think it is that makes Edge such a compelling leader? (3b)

Wander: Well... he's really lucky. And he's a nice guy, too. Maybe he doesn't come up with all the ideas, but I guess he knows the most of anyone about how to act like superheroes. And he likes to stand front and center, I guess that helps too.

TT: (laughs) That's very funny! And it brings up another question. Young Freedom is a team with such diverse powers, you must have diverse personalities as well. How do you get along, working together day in and day out? (4)

Edge: Like gangbusters! (laughs) We're all really good friends, on and off the team. Some of us are even more than friends, in fact, but I don't want to name names, heh-heh.

TT: So does that mean you two are- (5a)

Edge: No! No, I mean, Wander and I are just really good friends. She's saved my bacon many times. I'm actually going out with Seraph right now. (coughs) Seraph's great, though, really great. Next question?

Wander: Most of us are just friends. We have so much to do already, between school and training and actually doing hero work, there's not a lot of time for anything else. Some people manage it better than others, I guess.

TT: Tell me, uh, Wander, is it difficult for you being a teenage superheroine these days? I know being a role model for young women must be very difficult, especially with people like Edge and Phalanx on your team. (5b)

Wander: What's that supposed to mean?

Edge: I, uh, think she meant that it's tough because it's mostly guys who have the showy powers on our team, right Tina? So if you're trying to be a role model for women, you have to work twice as hard to get noticed.

Wander: Oh. Well, with teammates like Psyche and Seraph, that's not much of a problem. They take care of all that. I just try to do my job and not worry about it. If people do pay attention, I figure I'll be enough of a role model if I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and doing it as best-

TT: Of course! That's an admirable sentiment. Another thing we've noticed at Teen Hero is the great variety in costumes you all have. How did you come up with your costume designs? (6)

Edge: I made mine myself! It was way back before I knew what kind of powers I was going to have. That's why it's got a lot of design elements, I didn't know what I'd have to cover. I should add, by the way, that I just did the design: it was my mom who sewed it together and found all the parts and design. She's an artist. Thanks, Mom!

Wander: (inaudible)

TT: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.

Wander: I had my costume given to me. I didn't design it or anything, I just took what was available. It's okay.

TT: Ah, I see. Edge, Wander, where do you see yourself in five years? (7)

Edge: On the Freedom League, fighting bad guys. Or maybe teaching at our school, I just dunno. I want to pass things on to future generations, you know? I've been really lucky my whole life, and I want to try and pass down some of that luck to the people I care about the whole world. And my friends and family too.

Wander: Probably on the Freedom League. I guess. Or doing hero work somewhere else. I like working with Young Freedom, so I guess that's probably what I'll end up doing-

TT: That's great! I had no idea you had aspirations to be a teacher, Edge, that's so admirable. What's your favorite subject in school? (8)

Edge: Um, I guess I like all of them pretty well. History, I guess! That's how you know where you came from, and where you're going. I really like history.

Wander: English is my favorite. I like to read, and the reports and stuff don't bother me. I don't like diagramming sentences and that kind of thing, though.

TT: Ah, I see. Well, it's good that you're both setting such a good example for our younger readers. Tell me, what would you say was the strangest adventure you've ever been on? (9)

Edge: Me personally? Uh, the time my dad and some of his old buddies took me to the gender-reversed dimension. That place was a little weird...but on the team, the weirdest was probably that time we fought those giant Nazi robots. They were some pretty bad guys!

(pause)

TT: And how about you, Wander?

Wander: Well, one time I helped chase a three-foot tall talking rabbit across a couple of dimensions to rescue a mall security guard. I think that was probably the strangest thing I've done so far. But the Nazi robots were weird, too.

TT: Wow, the things we don't always get to hear are amazing! Tell me, what goes through your mind when you get the call to action? Are you nervous, excited? (10)

Edge: I'm never nervous. Well. a little sometimes. But I'm always excited, and ready to go out and do my best to stop the bad guys and make a better world for everybody else. There's no better feeling than realizing that the world needs you!

Wander: It's hard to say, because you never know what's going on when you first get the call. It could be something really terrible that's going to threaten the whole city, or it could be a training drill. I guess I try to reserve judgment until I know what's going on, but I always feel... anticipation, I guess.

TT: What do you think has been your greatest triumph to date, the one you know you'll tell your grandkids about? (11)

Edge: We saved a village of people in Africa from being destroyed by a volcanic eruption. I know, it wasn't anything showy or flashy, nothing world-saving or anything....but there were kids there, and they were really happy, and they hugged us afterwards. They all got to keep their homes and stay safe, and we even helped them make peace with their neighbors afterwards. It was a good day.

Wander: It's hard to say. We can't always talk about all our missions, for a lot of reasons. But the trip to Erde, even though it was weird, was a really good one. I think we really managed to make a difference there, at least for the moment. They still have a long way to go, but now they have a better chance.

TT: And what about regrets? You do so many difficult, near-impossible things. Are there any missions that didn't go the way you planned, or rescues that just couldn't be done? (12)

Edge: No, I think we've always accomplished what we've set out to do. I mean not everything has gone right all the time, but I think we've always won our fights and beaten the bad guys at the end of the day.

(pause)

TT: And how about you, Wander?

(pause)

Edge: Tina, I think what Wander wants to say is that we've all come a long way to get where we are, and that hasn't always been easy. But the important thing is, now we're all working together to build a better world.

Wander: Sometimes things don't work out the way you wish they would have. Sometimes there's nothing even superpowers will do about it. But you keep going on, because you still have a job to do. Next question, please.

(pause)

TT: Wander, do you find it difficult to balance your academic career with your heroing work? (13a)

Wander: Sometimes. It helps that I only sleep every few days. When I first... I mean, last summer I had to spend a lot of time catching up on some things I was behind on, but now that's taken care of. But I've learned not to put off my homework, in case some emergency comes up when I was planning on doing it.

TT: Good advice! And how about you, Edge? Are you enjoying school? (13b)

Edge: I am! School's not that hard when you get right down to it. I mean, I have to study just like anyone else. Wander and I are in a lot of the same kinds of classes. But if you just go in, work hard, and make sure you're prepared, you can do great anywhere. Stay in school, kids, and you can reach for the stars!

TT: That's great to hear, Edge! Kids today really need that kind of encouragement. Do you see yourself having kids some day? (14)

Edge: Oh, uh, eventually, some day, but not for a while yet. I mean, I'm still in high school. My dad waited till he was older to settle down, and I think I'd like to do the same. There's a lot of the world to see out there.

Wander: Um... I don't know. It's hard to say right now, who knows what's going to happen, right? I kind of think I'll probably be too busy doing hero work. That's not the sort of thing that's easy to do if you have a family.

TT: Well, you have lots of time to decide, I'm sure! What's it like to try and maintain a heroic identity and still live a normal life? Do you feel like you can ever be normal teenagers? (15)

Edge: Oh, sure, I mean, I'm a perfectly normal teenager. Maybe I grew up hearing stories other kids didn't, and got some training they didn't, but it's actually pretty easy to balance your normal life with your heroic life. Right, Wander?

Wander: (pause) Yeah, sure it is, Edge. No problem. I guess if you don't really know what it's like to have a totally normal life, you don't even know what you're missing. It just seems normal to you.

TT: What would you say to children who want to follow in your footsteps? (16)

Edge: Well, uh, Tina, that depends on the kids and what they can do. Kids born with superpowers should definitely find a way to get powers-training, either at a special school or through the government. Kids without powers, well, that's a little tougher. Get in really good shape, stay in school, and find your niche! And for goodness sake, don't try and be a hero if you don't know how to be. Dozens of kids die every year trying to be imitators. Just don't do it.

Wander: I'm not sure that's going to come up, but I'd tell them to appreciate what they've got. It's not so bad being a regular person with family and friends and school and sports. You might miss it more than you think if it went away.

TT: Now Edge, I hate to embarrass you, but our female readers are desperate to know. What would you consider your ideal girl? (17a)

Edge: Well, uh, I would describe my ideal girl as a, um, a friend. You know, someone who I can respect, and who respects me, and who has a lot of mutual interests with me. I guess that's my answer, then.

(pause)

TT: And you, Wander? Who would be your ideal boyfriend? (17b)

Wander: I don't really know. I guess I'll know him when I see him.

TT: I see. Edge, what are your thoughts on the Freedom League's current composition? If there is a shakeup in the next few years, who would you like to see move onto it? (18a)

Edge: Well, uh, I want you to know that I have nothing but respect for Captain Thunder and everything he's done as team leader. But you know, I think Lady Liberty would make an equally good leader. I mean, she's the symbol of America and liberty, what better symbol do you have than that? I think if Captain Thunder retired or moved into a supporting role, that might make things easier. I mean, the current League, it's had some PR issues lately, you know? Some new blood could really help them out.

TT: And what are your thoughts on that, Wander? (18b)

Wander: Um. (pause) I like Lady Liberty too. I think she's great. The whole League is pretty amazing.

TT: They certainly are, aren't they? We're lucky to have heroes like them, and like you kids, protecting us. Edge, or Wander, what would you say is the greatest single threat to the human race right now? (19)

Edge: Global warming? I mean, all the bad guys out there, they're things we can punch and blow up and make go away. The heroes of Freedom City and the world can handle that. But the other problems, the ones people cause for themselves, like pollution and stuff, they've got to handle without us. And that's pretty important, because that's about the whole planet.

Wander: Drug companies. They advertise in magazines like yours, acting like they're benevolent saviors, like they're superheroes themselves, when they're really just bloodthirsty robbers who don't care if they get rich off of murdering-

TT: All right then! That's very, ah, a very interesting perspective, but we're almost out of time for this interview. For our last question, why don't you tell our readers what the very best thing about being a superhero is? (20)

Edge: The best thing about being a superhero? Why that's easy! It's saving the day! Putting your life on the line for other people is the best feeling there is. I'll be doing it till I'm too old to go any further.

Wander: Making a difference. It's hard work to always be training, and to go out day after day to face whatever's coming our way, but if you can see at the end of the day that you've made things better, that people are better off because of what you did, that's what counts. It's like Edge says, it's the best feeling there is.

TT: That's all the questions I have for today, and I know you both have very busy schedules. Thanks so much for stopping by to talk with Teen Hero!

Edge: It's always a pleasure, Tina! Watch for Young Freedom, because we're watching for YOU!

Wander: (pause) Right. Thanks for having us.

(end transcript)

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HOUSE OF L VIGNETTE: WANDER

 


Home is Where the Heart Is


((Given that there is already a Wander in the Lucasverse, and it is not my character, instead of a crossover, consider this more a “what if” scenario. What if Erin didn't have temporal inertia when she was launched into the new universe?))


The bright morning sun shone into Erin's eyes, making her groan and roll onto her side before waking up. That was weird, being on the bottom bunk usually... Her thought shattered as she opened her eyes to find herself in her own bedroom, the slice of blue sky in the window suggesting that it was the start of a beautiful day. For a moment, she was terribly disoriented. It didn't feel like her room at all, it was someplace she had never lived, but that was silly. She'd had this bedroom for three years now, ever since she'd gotten her superpowers and the whole family had moved to Freedom City. Weren't those her softball trophies on the shelf, wasn't that her Teen Freedom team picture on the wall, next to the shot of her and her whole family at the beach this summer? Why did it all seem so foreign, like she'd woken up in a life that wasn't hers?

For a moment she tried to remember the bunk bed, whatever it was she'd been thinking of as she woke up, but trying to focus on it brought only a sickening sense of despair and loss. Everyone had been gone, she remembered vaguely, all the people she cared about lost or changed, and the whole world empty and dark. Shaken, she pushed it all back into the furthest-away corner of her mind and climbed out of bed. “It's going to be a great day for justice!” she reminded herself aloud as she pulled on her robe and slippers over her nightgown. Even with that familiar affirmation, she felt uncertain enough to call “Mom?” as she made her way into the hallway.

“She's downstairs,” Megan reported, peeking out from the doorway of her very pink bedroom. Megan was as girly as her older sister was a tomboy, and even at twelve was experimenting with putting her hair in curlers and trying on makeup. The makeup, of course, was only when Mom wouldn't catch her! “She says we're having pancakes for breakfast, and that after you get done at Freedom Hall, we all get to go to school and see Eve sing.” Megan loved visiting Claremont, for all her own superpowers were still very faint. She had big dreams. She studied Erin for a moment. “Are you okay?” she asked. “You look kind of sick.”

“I'm fine,” Erin told her. For some reason, she found it hard to stop looking at Megan, someone she saw every day of her life. “I just... I had a really bad dream. It's better now, though.” She made herself laugh, and it made her feel better. “You better get a move on if you want me to leave you any pancakes, squirt!” In a blink, she'd left Megan's indignant shout behind and was at the kitchen table, which was already set for breakfast.

“Erin, you know better than to run in the house,” her mother told her, an indulgent note in her voice even with the reprimand. Clarissa White was very proud of her superhero daughter, after all. “It took your father all weekend to repair the wall the last time you got distracted.”

Erin grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Mom. I forgot.” She looked at her mom, clad in what was practically a uniform of tasteful blouse and slacks under an apron, and for a moment, the whole scene seemed to be washed with blood and screaming. She gripped the table hard enough to make the wood creak in protest and forced the images away. What was wrong with her? Impulsively, she went over and gave her mom a firm hug, then went upstairs to change into her uniform, then toss on civvies over it. The sound of the weedwacker meant her dad was doing yardwork, and it never hurt to score a few points by helping out.

No sooner had she stepped out the door than she was targeted by a small missile that came shooting out of the trees, directly for her! Instinctively Erin reached for... nothing, as her fingers touched only air, leaving her confused. What had she been trying to find, anyway? She carried a bat when she was working, she always had, but why would she want it now, when it was only Oliver? The cat landed neatly at her feet, his little red cape fluttering in the morning breeze as he looked up at her and meowed. She scooped him up and rubbed her cheek against the top of his head, which he allowed for a moment before squirming away. He seemed agitated, which was extremely rare for the superkitty. “What's the matter, Oliver?” she asked.

Oliver meowed piteously, ducking his head and pawing at it, then looking plaintively up at her. “I know,” she said, “I felt kind of strange today, too. But don't worry, everything's going to be fine. Wander and Happycat are on the job!” Oliver didn't look at all convinced, but Erin didn't have more time for him right now. Besides, looking at him too long made the uneasiness come back, like she knew him, but in a very different way than she remembered. Darned dream! Resolving not to think about it anymore, she followed the sound of lawn equipment to the backyard and found her dad trimming the hedges into perfect symmetrical blocks.

“Morning, daddy,” she said, coming up behind him and giving him a hug. It felt the same as always, right down to the smell of his deodorant and aftershave, but Erin still felt just a little off, a little desperate and sad about it. Without really thinking about it, she rested her ear against his back and listened to his perfectly clear lungs. “Mom's almost got breakfast ready. You want some help with that?”

“Hello, pumpkin,” he greeted her, patting her cheek, then handed her the heavy gas-powered weedwacker. “Sure, if you want to finish this last bush, I'll go get the compost basket and we'll pick up the scraps. You know how your mother is about things left lying around.”

“Sounds good.” Erin took the weedwacker from him and watched as he rounded the corner of the house. For a moment she was alone, and the only noise was the droning of insects, the chirping of birds. No cars broke the silence, no televisions, no one's noisy cell phone. She could've been the only person in the world... “No,” she said aloud. “No, that's not real. That's not real, and this is, and that's all there is to say about it.” Resolutely, she turned on the weedwacker and chased away the silence and the memories in one loud roar.

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Character Score: Wander

Theme Song:

[groove]21724578[/groove]

I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today,

I just want to feel something today,

I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today,

Feel like maybe I will be okay.

Fight Song

[groove]21724715[/groove]

One, nothing wrong with me, two, nothing wrong with me,

Three, something's got to give, four something's got to give...

Let the bodies hit the floor!

Romance Song:

[groove]21724561[/groove]

Let them shuffle the numbers, watch them come and go,

We're the ones who are out here, out past the edge of what they know.

We can only be who we are,

Doesn't matter if they don't understand...

Tragedy Song:

[groove]23299960[/groove]

Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.

Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

(That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,

when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.)

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Introduction

Who are you? Sum yourself up in one sentence.

I'm an interdimensional refugee superhero who has accomplished my lifetime goal by eighteen, so now I'm a security guard.

Do you have any nicknames, street names, titles, or nom de plume?

My codename is Wander. It's dumb, but I still can't think of anything better. To my friends I go by Erin, even though it's not really my name anymore.

What is your full birth name?

My birth name is Erin Keeley White. My full legal name is Keeley Erin White, so as to cause marginally less confusion.

Where do you live?

I have a little apartment on the North End of downtown Freedom City.

How old are you? What year were you born (if applicable)?

I'll be turning nineteen this fall. I was born November 12, 1992.

Physical Traits

What is your gender? If not applicable, please explain.

Female

How would you describe your heritage?

Caucasian Mix, not really sure. I know there's some English, Scottish and German, but not where it all comes from.

How tall are you?

5'8

What is your body type?

Um, spare but muscled, I guess. Not like a bodybuilder, but I have some heft. I can't do a lot of acrobatics and stuff without some, you know, support, but generally my costume takes care of that.

Do you have any particular weaknesses, such as allergies or physical disabilities?

I have post traumatic stress disorder that messes me up pretty good from time to time, but nothing physical. I'm immune to most anything.

How do you carry yourself? Are you graceful, or heavy on your feet? Can you be stealthy, do you walk with confidence?

I walk like a fighter, on the balls of my feet and with my head moving. If I think about it I can walk normally, and I manage that a lot, but it's less natural.

Describe your skin, eye, and hair color.

Very pale white skin since I can't suntan. Brown eyes without much else to say about them, and auburn hair that gets a little redder in the sunlight.

How do you wear your hair, if applicable? Do you have facial hair?

I used to pull it back in a band, but I got it chopped when I graduated so I look a little older and more sophisticated. Uh, no facial hair besides, like, eyebrows.

Do you consider yourself attractive? Do others?

Trevor thinks I'm attractive. I've known guys who go for the powerful woman build, so I guess I've got that going for me, but I'm not much to look at altogether.

Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings, or birthmarks?

No scars, tattoos or piercings, they won't touch my skin. Just getting a shot is a huge hassle. I do have a little birthmark shaped like Iowa on my left calf.

Do you resemble anyone famous?

No, not really. I have two doubles, but neither of them are famous either. I look pretty nondescript.

Do you have a dominant hand?

I write with my right, and hold a fork with it too. I fight equally well with either hand, and often both at once.

What kind of clothing do you wear?

Worn-out poor people clothing. Well, that's not exactly fair, my clothes are good, they just get worn hard and often. And now that I'm working, I'm gradually getting some newer and nicer stuff. Mostly what I have is jeans and khaki slacks, t-shirts and blouses. I have some work uniforms and two costumes, for when one is in the wash.

Do you wear makeup?

Sometimes, when I'm dressing up. Not so much for everyday, though again, maybe I can get some now that I have a job and have to look professional.

What is your vocal range? Is your voice distinctive in some way?

I sing alto. Don't ask me to sing.

Do you have any distinctive habits, nervous tics, or mannerisms? Where did they come from, and what causes them? Do other people notice and remark on these habits? Do they annoy you or other people?

When I'm nervous or uneasy, I tend to mess with my hair a lot. I don't think people notice it that much, or at least no one says anything. Whenever I come into a new place, I have to take note and count the exits and the ambush points, anything that could come up in a fight, even if there's no reason to expect one.

History

Where do you come from?

I come from Seattle, Washington, on Earth Z-Omega-One(destroyed). Before this May it was "only" (extinct), but Rick Lucas pulled it into the Zero Zone, and now it's totally gone.

Have you made any major moves, or do you live in your hometown?

I've made a number of major moves. I live in Freedom City on Earth Prime these days.

Do you feel loyal to your country of citizenship? Do you consider yourself patriotic? How do you feel about the government of your country?

Yes, I guess so. I mean, protecting the whole earth or universe or multiverse comes first, but I definitely want to protect America. I only turned eighteen this year so it's not like I've ever voted, but I probably will.

How do you feel about the place you come from?

How the hell do you think I feel? Sorry. It just... it still hurts my heart, okay? Going back and seeing it, and now knowing that it's gone forever, it opened everything back up again.

Where is your home town? What was/is it like?

Seattle's a nice town, I really liked living there. Back before everything went to hell, anyway. I had lots of friends, there was always stuff to do, and it never got really miserably hot like it does here.

Growing up, were most of the people you knew similar to you, or were you somehow a minority? How did that affect you?

I was pretty much in the majority, though there are parts of the city that are very diverse. I don't know if it had a big effect on me, but it was hard to go from that to being alone.

Is there something you've always been really good at or really bad at? How has that affected your life?

Not always, but for years now I've been very good at fighting, and it's the only thing that's kept me alive. I've been piss-poor about saving people when it really counts, and being there when it really counts. I'm working on that.

Were there any traumatic experiences in your early years (death of a family member, abandonment, orphaned at an early age)?

Yes, I'd say so.

Briefly describe a defining moment in your childhood and how it influenced your life.

When I was fourteen, my whole world was destroyed, and I don't mean that in the typical fourteen-year-old stupidity way. Because everyone else was dead, I wound up crossing the country, then leaving the dimension and coming to Prime.

What stupid things did you do when you were younger?

I did lots of stupid things. I didn't know how to get by, what food to store, how to eat the right things or set up a proper camp. I didn't know how to keep an eye on someone smaller and weaker than myself.

Where did you go to school? How much school did you have, and did you enjoy it?

I did my elementary school stuff in Seattle, then ended up at Claremont for high school. I used to like school, but by the time I hit Claremont I was so far behind that it was hell just trying to keep up. I'm sort of almost glad that college isn't in the cards.

Do you have any mementos of your childhood? What are they, and why did you keep them? If you have none, why not?

I have a few special things, a few more since the trip back to EZO1. Pictures of my family, Megan's jewelry box, Mom's necklaces, Dad's watch and letter. They're all I've got, but I won't forget. I had my old bear, but Singularity needed him more than I do.

When did you decide to become a hero? Why? Did anyone influence you one way or another in the decision?

When I got to Prime, the Freedom League took care of me and sent me to Claremont. Using my powers to become a superhero came pretty naturally.

Is the reason you give people for becoming a hero different than your real reason? If so, why?

I don't always talk about my past, so just saying it was a natural choice is easier. Becoming a hero is also a way for me to make up for all the people I couldn't save, or had a chance to save and failed.

Do you have any deep, dark secrets in the past that may come back to haunt you?

What happened on my world is classified, but not exactly a deep dark secret. I just don't like to talk about it. I'm sure there are villains I've taken down who would be super-happy to know I've lost most of my powers.

Do you represent yourself as being different from who you really are? Why?

These days I represent myself as Wander, the stupendous fighter who can take down anything, but I'm just Wander the street brawler.

If you do have these secrets, what do you fear would happen if the truth became known? How far would you go to protect those secrets?

If people knew, they would look differently at me. My relationships would change in ways I don't want. I've already started misdirecting and lying to cover myself. I'm not sure where it will end.

Do you have any sort of criminal record? If so, is it public knowledge?

I got a literal slap on the wrist for shoplifting when I was really little, but my mom just made me take it back and apologize. So not really.

Family

What are your biological parents' names?

Roger and Clarissa White

Were you raised by them? If not, please explain and describe who raised you.

I was raised by them till I was 14. After that I was on my own for awhile, and finished out my time as a ward of the state of New Jersey.

What was their standing in the community? What did/do they do for a living?

They were pretty respectable types, people liked them. My mom was a stay-at-home, so she did a lot with the neighborhood and the PTA and stuff. My dad was a software engineer and made a pretty good living for us.

Where are your parents now?

They're dead. My mom is buried down in California, my dad in Seattle. Not here, but on my old world. Which is gone. So... I don't know. I guess they aren't anywhere anymore. Hadn't really thought about it.

Did your family stay in one area or move around a lot?

I spent my whole childhood in Seattle. We didn't really move around.

How did you get along with your parents? How do you get along with them now (if applicable).

Mostly it was good. They were good people, good parents. I mean, sometimes I didn't like the rules they made, but that's sort of typical. I think if I'd had a chance, we'd have gotten through all of that stuff okay. Now I just miss them.

How do your parents view you now, or how would they?

I like to think they would be proud of me, and happy that I've made a place for myself here. I hope they know how sorry I am that I wasn't able to take care of Megan, and that they could forgive me for that.

Do you have any siblings? If so how many and what are their names? Describe your relationship with them.

I have one younger sibling, Megan. She was seven years younger than me, just eight years old. .

What was your birth order in the family?

Firstborn of two girls.

Where are your siblings now (if applicable)? Do they have families of their own? What do they do?

She's dead. And like my folks, I guess she's nowhere.

Do you stay in touch with them or have you become estranged?

It's weird, actually, because there is a replica version of my family on Prime, and a Megan there. We talk occasionally, but it's really not the same.

Do you love or hate one member of the family in particular?

I'd say I hate myself, but that's not as true now as it used to be. Lots of good therapy went into that. My double on Prime and I still have a hard time relating, and don't even get me started on Singularity.

Is any member of the family special to you in any way (perhaps, as a confidant, mentor, or arch-rival)?

I guess Erin-Prime and I are arch-rivals, sort of. We compete for the same scarce resources. But she won decisively, so I don't know if that counts. I don't actually want to make things tough for her.

Are there any black (or white) sheep in the family (including you)? If so, please explain.

I guess it's probably me. From my real family, I'm the only one even left. From my Prime family, I'm just an extra copy of the real deal. Of course, again there's Singularity, so I guess things could always be worse.

Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? If so, please explain, including how it has affected your life.

My Uncle Aaron was a famous scientist a long time ago, but he didn't get along or make friends and wound up on the outside of the community. If they'd listened to him, my world might have survived. He's the one who gave me the serum that saved my life.

Do you have a partner and children currently? If so, please describe them.

I have a boyfriend, Trevor. He is amazing, way better than I deserve, which honestly makes me nervous sometimes. He understands the dark parts of me in a way I never really thought anybody would, and when I'm with him,they don't seem quite as dark. Ironic, I guess, for someone who goes by Midnight. Plus he's, you know, rich and good-looking and from a family with roots in Freedom City that go way back, all sorts of things I'm not.

If you do not have a partner or children, do you want them someday? How firm are you in your opinion on this, and what might change your mind?

I don't know if I will ever be really healthy enough for a long-term relationship that works, let alone parenthood. I have seen other realities where I've apparently had a child, but things don't seem to have gone well there. Right now I'm trying to enjoy what I have.

What type of person would be your ideal mate?

Someone who puts up with all my quirks and tics and annoying personal problems, and who will just be there to hold onto me, even when I can't reach out.

Relationships

Do you have any close friends? If so, please describe them, and how you came to be close to them.

My teammates on Young Freedom, well, when we were Young Freedom, are the closest friends I've ever had. I'm not even really sure how it happened, but they sort of snuck in there. Alex and Mark, and of course Trevor, Mike and Eve and Corbin, there's not much I wouldn't do for any of them.

Do you have a best friend? If so, how did they become your best friend? How close are you to your best friend? Alex and I were roommates when I arrived at Claremont. We're so different, but she's so nice and smart and just has this bubbly personality that's hard to resist. She never pushed me, but she was insistent on being there and being a friend, and it eventually took.

If you were to go missing, who would worry about you?

It used to be that I thought no one would, but now I have friends and obligation and a home of my own. It's a good feeling, even though it's kind of scary.

Have you lost any loves? If so, how did it happen, and what did you do?

I lost everyone I loved, but not loves in the romantic sort of way.

Do you have any bitter enemies? If so, please describe them and their history with you.

Omega... does not like me very much. When he reforms or resurrects or whatever he does, I suspect he may come looking for some vengeance. Unfortunately, since I no longer have most of my powers, he'll certainly find me an easy target for annihilation.

If you have enemies, how do you think they might attempt to work against you in the future?

I think he's going to disintegrate me with his powers.

What is the worst thing someone has done to you?

Left me alone and next to helpless in a pitiless world.

Where do your loyalties lie? In what order?

Trevor, Young Freedom (you know what I mean), everything else that needs saving

Who or what do you trust the most? Why?

Trevor and Alex. They have always been there for me.

Who or what do you despise? Why?

Omega and his followers, evil necromancers (which is basically all of them), drug companies, people who betray or abandon their friends.

What qualities do you admire most in other people? Are these qualities you possess?

Loyalty, perseverance, tactical acumen, the ability to deal well and make friends with others. I have some of them, but not necessarily as much as I'd like.

What qualities do you hate most in other people? Do you have any of those qualities?

Disloyalty, cowardice, moneygrubbing, arrogance. I am sometimes more of a coward than I'd like.

Do you have a secret identity? If so, who knows it? Do you hide it from people who are close to you? Why?

Yes, but I don't do much with it. It would not be hard to find who I am just because I rarely bother taking any precautions.

Do you work well on teams and in groups? Are you a leader or a follower?

I am a follower, but I do work well in groups. It's the best when I have people who will get an enemy all twisted up and then let me hit them. Or at least, that's the way it used to be. I'm still kind of finding my new style.

Are you on a super team? If so, how do you get along with your comrades? Do you trust them, or do you have secrets from them?

I was on Young Freedom, but we graduated. Now Mark is getting this new Liberty League thing together, which could be cool. I like working with him and Trevor, and Ace and Bombshell are very good at what they do.

Are you a member of any church, fraternal organization, club, committee, political party, or other group? How much time do you spend on that?

No, not really. Outside of hero work, I'm sort of a loner.

Personality & Beliefs

Who are your heroes?

My friends are heroes to me, as well as some of the heroes in Freedom City. Headmaster Summers is a hero, and Trevor's grandpa, which is part of why he sometimes makes me so uncomfortable.

Did you ever become disillusioned with former heroes or idols? If so, why and what were the circumstances?

I don't feel quite the same way about the Freedom League as I used to. Not just because they wouldn't let me join. I can see their point, I am more unstable than some people, no matter how hard I've worked. But when they didn't believe us about Omega, just because of their reverence for an old dead hero, that made me mad.

Do you like being a hero? If so, what is the most rewarding part? If not, what makes you keep doing it?

Yes, I do. It's hard and sometimes thankless, but I feel like when I do hero work, I am saving other people from some of the pain and heartache and misery that I went through, and it makes me feel happier.

Is there anything that would make you give up hero work, or even switch sides?

If I found I couldn't do it anymore, like if having my powers gone means I can't keep up, or that I put people in danger instead of helping them, I would hang it up. But I don't know if I would ever feel good about myself afterwards. Maybe if I found an equally rewarding non-hero job. I would never go villain.

What are your short term goals (what would you like to be doing within a year)?

I want to do a really good job as security chief at Dragonfly's company. In a year, I want security to be a well-oiled machine that I feel really good about.

What are your long term goals (what would you like to be doing twenty years from now)?

It's kind of funny because I didn't used to have goals like that, like I was daring God or something. Now I sort of feel like I at least have half a chance. I want a good job and a home, and friends. Nothing spectacular I guess, just what people have when they're living normal lives.

What is your greatest fear? Why? What do you do when something triggers this fear?

That I will fail again at protecting what's important to me. When that starts to seem likely, in combat or just in life, I can start thinking irrationally, overreacting, anything to make the threat go away.

Is there anything you would give you life for?

Yeah, definitely. Threats to the earth, to the universe, to Freedom City... my life is not worth letting other people suffer and die. I thought I was going to buy it back in May and it was scary, but it was okay so long as we won.

How do you feel about money and material wealth? Do you desire it or disdain it? Are you miserly with what you have, or do you like to share? Is it a mark of success, or a means to an end?

Money is important to have, but it's not the be-all and end-all. I have to think about money a lot, and I am really, really glad to finally be making some, but being rich isn't all it's cracked up to be. Rich doesn't save your life when the end of the world comes, it just means you leave more stuff behind to rot.

How do you generally treat others?

I try to be nice to people, even if I have a hard time trusting at first. If I can't be nice, I try to be polite, if I can't be polite, I try to refrain from hitting.

Are you a trusting person? Has your trust ever been abused?

I don't trust easily, no. It's hard for me to let people in, just because once someone is in, that makes them important, and risks my own feelings and well-being.

Are you introverted (shy and withdrawn) or extroverted (outgoing)? Do you have a lot of self-confidence?

I thought I was introverted till I met Trevor and Eve. Now I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

How do you act around attractive, available members of your preferred sex?

It took like six months before I even kissed Trevor. I have a lot of issues, and sex is especially fraught. But these days it's a lot better.

What are your most annoying habits?

I can't go into a room without casing it, and sometimes I act like I think I'm going to be jumped from behind even when it's totally not that kind of situation. I have also been informed that I am a cover hog.

Do you feel contempt for any general category of people? Who are they, and why?

Most villains in general, really. They have power or money or smarts, they could use it for good but they don't because they're bastards. The same thing goes for anyone who could do good and doesn't because they're greedy bastards.

What is your favorite food? Do you prefer any particular type of food? Do you take the time to enjoy your food, or do you eat as fast as you can?

I love fresh fruit especially, and vegetables. I also love brats cooked on the grill with lots of mustard. Chocolate is excellent too.

What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?

I'm trying to develop a taste for coffee, but it's really not coming. Fruit juice, especially fresh-squeezed lemonade.

What is your favorite treat (dessert)?

Chocolate is excellent. Chocolate ice cream with fresh cherries sliced up and mixed in may be the world's perfect food.

Are there any specific foodstuffs that you find disgusting or refuse to eat?

I will not eat the skin on the kiwi, dammit. That's just nasty.

What is your favorite color? Are there any colors you dislike?

I like purple, especially lavender, and light blue. I don't really like the pukey greeny-yellow colors like puce.

What sort of music do you like? Is there any that you hate?

I like rock music especially, but I can listen to a lot of things. I'm developing more of a taste for swing now that I'm learning to dance to it, which is pretty fun.

If you have a favorite scent, what is it?

Bread or cookies in the oven. I'm not much of a cook, but I want one of those bread machines just to have the smell in my apartment.

Do you have a favorite animal?

I like cats. Well, I don't know if they're actually 100% cats, but close enough. I miss Oliver like crazy, but Charlie is growing on me. I think he may be much more "just a cat" than Oliver was.

What is your most treasured possession? Why?

The things I brought from home. They're the only memorial, grave marker, obituary, whatever you want to call it, that I have for my whole world.

Do you enjoy "roughing it", or do you prefer your creature comforts?

I like creature comforts. I've roughed it enough for one lifetime, thanks. I am good at roughing it when the need arises, because there are things you don't forget, but I'd rather be indoors and comfy.

Is there a job or a task you would absolutely refuse to do?

I don't think I would like to do things like telemarket or repossess cars or something like that. It seems mean to me.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, how do your beliefs affect your life?How important is it to you?

I used to go to church often when I was a kid, and I was a believer. But when my whole world died, and then when I learned about Omega and the Terminus, I became convinced that no loving God would let that happen. So either God isn't there, or he hates us, and I'd rather the former.

Was your faith influenced or molded by anyone special?

Heyzel, Freedom Angel, confirmed for me that God is not in his heaven anymore, which agrees with what I already thought. Beats the alternative.

If you belong to a religious organization, how often do you attend? Do you have a specific place of worship, or friends within the organization? How much do you agree with the beliefs of your organization?

I don't attend. I respect people who do, because everybody does what they have to to get by, but I don't think I ever will again.

Could you kill? Have you killed?

Yes, I could. Yes, I have.

What circumstances led to you forming that conviction, or taking that action?

I've killed many zombies in order to survive. They were the walking dead, even if the dead was irreversible brain damage, and if I hadn't they'd have starved anyway. It was a mercy when you get right down to it. And I killed Physician Friendly, a living monster, with cold mind and in cold blood so that he couldn't hurt anyone else.

Are there circumstances under which you believe it is permissible to kill? What are they?

If it's necessary to survive, you can kill the person threatening you. If it's the only way to stop someone from doing something incredibly horrible.

How would you react to watching someone kill another person? Would your reaction be different if the killer was a friend or an enemy of yours?

It depends on whether it fit the criteria. I can't hold anyone else to higher standards than my own.

How would you react if something important was stolen from you?

I would get it back. Whatever it took. There aren't many objects that are truly important to me, but the ones that are, are worth the trouble.

How would you react to public humiliation?

History shows I tend to slink away and sulk about it.

How would you react if a good friend or relative were purposely or accidentally killed? Has it happened to you?

All my good friends and relatives were killed. It made me sad. I don't know, what the hell do you want me to say? This is a stupid question.

What do you consider to be the worst crime someone could commit and why?

Putting money and personal gain ahead of the well-being of people.

If your life were to end in 24 hours, what five things would you do in those remaining hours?

I guess I would try to spend time with Trevor and my friends, eat something nice, find someone to take care of Charlie, and maybe call in to work.

Career & Training

Do you have any special training in your hero skills? If so, where and how did you get it?

I spent two years getting the crap beaten out of me by Mr. Archer and his hellish simulations. It was no fun, but that training is all I've got going for me anymore, so I guess I have to be grateful.

Who taught you the most about your heroing abilities? What was your relationship with that person?

Well, I'm mostly self-taught, but again there's Mr. Archer. It's kind of a hate-like-hate relationship, where I mostly hate him but have to admire his techniques, and at the end of the day I respect him.

Do you have any particularly unusual skills? How did you acquire them?

Well, I can fall out of a plane and land okay, and throw cars. I got them in a syringe from my uncle, along with the ability to not die of the hero flu. Oh, and I can swing dance.

Do you do something besides hero work for a living? Have you ever done anything else, or do you plan to?

I just got a new job as chief of security at Dragonfly's new company. I'm pretty excited because it pays well and shouldn't involve too much world-threatening evil, at least not during business hours.

What is your preferred combat style?

Generally I hit things with my bat until they fall down. If that doesnt' work, I use my hands.

Have you ever received any awards or honours?

One time I got to be Most Valuable Player on my softball team. The weird thing about Young Freedom was that so much of our work was the kind that, because we succeeded, nobody ever even noticed.

What skill areas would you like most to improve in? Is there anything you can't do that you wish desperately you could?

I wish I had my powers back! But that's not going to happen, so I just wish I were better at using what I've got left more effectively.

How do you act around people who are more skilled than you in areas you'd like to improve? Are you jealous, or do you try and learn?

I want to find someone to teach me. I think maybe Bombshell could, but she's awfully busy and just a little bit intimidating.

Lifestyle & Hobbies

What is a normal day for you? How do you feel when something interrupts this routine?

I'm sort of getting into my new routine. Wake up and have breakfast, feed the cat, look at the weather. Get dressed, run or drive to work. After work, maybe stop by Trevor's or hit up the library or just go home and watch TV while I eat supper. At night, patrolling or sometimes sleeping. It's a routine I expect to get interrupted, just because the world is full of weirdness, especially for superheroes.

Do you have any hobbies, or interests outside hero work? What are they, and where did you pick them up?

I like to work on cars. A lot of times I work on my own truck, but Trevor's got a whole garage full of amazing vehicles. He's promised to show me his spaceship.

What do you do for fun?

Spend time at the Manor or with Alex, read, watch TV, play video games.

Do you have a costume? What does it look like?

My costume is a bodysuit, just like at Claremont, but this one is purple and black and much easier to sneak around in than the blue and gold.

How do you normally dress when not in costume?

In my everyday clothes or my work uniform. You asked that one already.

What do you wear to bed most nights?

Now that I don't live in the dorm anymore, an oversized t-shirt or nothing.

Do you wear any special jewelry? What is it, and what does it look like?

I have some special jewelry from my mom and grandma, but I don't wear it every day. It's too special, and the work I do is too rough.

Do you have a special place where you keep your valuables?

Not really, on top of my dresser or in the drawer. Things like Omega's armor, I keep at Trevor's for safekeeping.

What's your preferred means of local travel? How about long distance?

I take my truck or go rooftop jumping to travel in the city. For long distance, I usually hit up a teleporter, usually Mark.

Miscellaneous

Have you ever made a will, or tried to make arrangements for your death? What provisions did you make?

No, I don't really have enough stuff. I mean, one of my friends would take Charlie, and most of the rest of it only has meaning for me.

If your features were to be destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?

Um... what? That's kind of weird. DNA-print Prime Erin or Singularity, I guess. We all have the same DNA, so you could guess me by process of elimination.

What would you like to be remembered for after your death?

Doing something that mattered, saving people, being a hero.

Do you believe you pose a threat to the public? Why or why not?

Not nearly as much as I used to, that's for sure. All that training and therapy has made me something close to passable in society, which is sort of a miracle.

What do you perceive as your greatest strength?

I am very determined, and when I set out to do something, I finish it.

What do you perceive as your greatest weakness?

I literally don't know my own strength anymore, and it saps my confidence. Losing my powers has thrown me off balance in a lot of ways, not just in a fight.

As a player, if you could, what advice would you give your character? Speak as if he/she were sitting right here in front of you. Use proper tone so they might heed your advice...

You've come a really long way from where you started, and you should be very proud. Cut yourself a break once in awhile, and let yourself enjoy the happiness you've earned. Don't spoil that happiness with fears or false pride, while you're at it.

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