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Cyroa

Expanding the Mission (IC)

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James appeared outside the door to Jack's and Phantom's place. He knew the place well enough to have ported anywhere inside. But it was their home and he respected them enough to not jump in without knocking first. He shrugged his tired shoulder, tried to wipe some life back into his face. He was tired and run down and not exactly the happiest camper in the world at the moment. He looked it too. But he'd been swamped and running every which way for a few months now. And he kept taking more and more on himself which really hadn't helped much.

But he'd made a decision and Taylor needed to hear it first. James knocked quietly a few times, preferring to wait instead of risking waking the baby.

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Taylor opened the door herself, dressed simply in a uni sweatshirt and a pair of ripped jeans. She always looked so out of place among the sleek perfection of Jack's interior decoration. Where Jack fit right in with the black tight pants and the white dress shirts, Taylor lived there but still dressed... just like Taylor. Ripped jeans, boots, battered jackets. She gave James a sympathetic smile at his haggard look and beckoned him inside. "Hey, can I get you anything? Rough day?"

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He chuckled. "Oh, little of this, little of that. Been a busy time over the last month of so and I keep stretching myself thin trying to take on too much so that hasn't helped either." He walked in and shut the door behind him. "Sure. I'll take something to drink. The stronger the better." He followed her through the apartment, having been here enough times to have gotten used to it though he was almost always here to talk with Taylor or read up in her sanctum. "How's the drool machine? And the baby too," he asked with a laugh, joking in good fun.

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"Both fine, thank you. Jack's working and the baby is sleeping." Taylor said as she shut the door behind him and led the way into the kitchen. "I know how you feel. I've been picking back up but I won't share with you the gory details of being on an every three hour feeding schedule while trying to blip between dimensions and get my work done. It hasn't always been pretty, I can tell you that much."

She fished around to pour him a drink and held it out, grabbing a bottle of water for herself from the 'human food' fridge. It was important not to mix up the two fridges in the Faretti household. "So tell me how its going for you? You holding up alright?"

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James chuckled dryly. "I bet that can be hard." He gave her a nod and a small smile. "I'm doing ok I guess. Would likely be easier if I didn't try to other stuff besides the job." He sighed and flashed a little smile. "Not much chance of that though. When you get back into it, I'm sure it'll get a lot easier. But take your time and enjoy the whole motherhood thing. Not to mention family and you real life. I'm handling it well enough; we're good."

He sighed and leaned back against the counter, taking the bottle. "I did want to see how you were doing. But that's not the only reason I'm here. I wanted to talk to you about something. And I'm afraid you're not going to like it."

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Taylor sighed and turned to face him, leaning her hip against the counter. Her brow creased in concern, "Well, that's never a good lead in. Might as well have it out then. What - exactly - am I not going to like?"

She looked straight at him, and the layers of 'friend' and 'wife' and 'mother' fell away until it was just the furrowed focus of the Chosen of Heshem. It was easy to think that the cloak and costume was what gave Phantom her presence but really it was the other way around. Taylor could look exactly like who and what she was without a stitch of help. Its just that when she was in costume, she focused that intensity all the time rather than turning it on and off as needed.

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He sighed. "First, I'm still in this as your partner. I believe in the job and everything. And I'm honored to be your partner in this. I don't even mind the last few months really. Though it'll be nice when you're up for working again," he said with a chuckle, trying to lighten the mood before it got real dark.

"But...a lot has happened lately. I've seen many of other realities, and even collected data on hundreds more. I know that you know this but I need to get this out. Ours, this one, is a freaking paradise compared to practically ever other one out there. There are plenty that aren't totally hosed but there are more than a few that are. Forces of evil, darkness or whatever completely taken over. Or totally destroyed by Omega and his works. But there's a huge load of them that are on the cusp and are going to fall." He sighed. "I've never been happy about doing nothing for those, just watching them fall. Letting all those folks bite it. But I agree that we can't use this reality as a lifeboat for people. The world is crowded enough as it is."

"The thing is...I think that we can pick an empty world to put those displaced folks on. Give them a second shot. Pick a world where no sentients evolved or something. And I know your 'what if something would develop there eventually' argument. And I even sorta agree with it. But not at the cost of letting thousands and millions die." He sighed. "But it was a moot point. I couldn't save or even move all those people. I couldn't try and do a special ops kind of thing and try to tip the balance on those worlds on the cusp. I wouldn't know what to do or where or be able to pull it off myself."

He sighed and took a deep breath. "But here the kicker. Something happened recently. Something unique and unexpected. And now all those moot points have become possible. I actually CAN do something about those things now. It won't be easy, I'm not delusional. But possible. I haven't really done anything with this yet. I know some people who would want a hand in this. But I wanted to talk to you first. You're my partner and my mentor for all this. And I knew you were going to like it. But I _AM_ going to do this." He frowned. "And if those lives aren't enough, think of it this way. As it stands, one day the Mission will fail. Sooner or later, the bad guys will work through all those other dimensions and we'll be the focus of everyone. And we'll fall too under all that. Just a matter of time. And given our respective lifespans, you and I will almost certain be around to see it. Shoring up some of those others will keep us fighting back and not just waiting for them to come for us."

He looked at her a long moment. "The Mission is important. But its got to grow, to expand. Otherwise it will be crushed and fail beneath the weight of it's adversaries. I didn't change my entire life just to get beat because I wasn't willing to try harder."

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Taylor watched him, her expression inscrutable. She didn't often do that inhuman stillness that Jack pulled off regularly but she had that now, neither blinking, nor breathing.

"You don't understand," Taylor said after a long pause, "And I suppose that's my fault. Let me tell Jack I'm going out."

She turned and walked through the wall only to reappear a few moments later. Taylor silently held out a hand for James to take, which meant their method of travel was going to be through the Void. "This is not a conversation for the kitchen. It requires.... visual aids."

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Yup. She was ticked. James sighed, knowing this was not going to be a fun process. Of course, he'd known that coming here in the first place. Still, he reached out and took her hand without pause. This was going to be an unpleasant visit and a crappy time; but he still trusted her implicitly. "Where are we going this time?"

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"Someplace that I'd really rather not be returning to," There was that moment of chill nothingness and then they popped out into someplace that looked a little like a monk's ascetic retreat. There were students of the mystic arts as well as their teachers, none of whom seemed to pay the arrival of the two with any sort of heed. Taylor's clothing had bled away into Phantom's costume and she kept a hold of James' hand, guiding him up through the almost Escher-esque monastery with the air of someone well used to the places' tangled layout, leading him up stairs and down corridors, "Did you know, before the Veil, travel between the dimensions was as easy as walking from place to place? Any mage of minor skill would have had no trouble walking to the infernal realms, or the angelic.

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James nodded, glancing around with idle curiosity. He didn't spend much time in the Void nor had he been to this particular dimension before. Despite the ridiculous amount of travel and trips and exploration he'd been doing lately, that didn't necessarily mean much. There was an almost limitless number of realities and dimensions out there. He nodded at her in reply. "Yeah, I remember reading that," he said with a half-smile. "I've read every book in your library and many more besides. Heck, I think since starting this whole thing with you, over the last few months, that I've read more books in this time than in the rest of my life combined. Who'd have ever guessed that one." He'd used every source he could to gain more knowledge whether it was books or conversations with things better left alone. Risky but it had paid off; he had needed that knowledge in a big hurry after all. He wasn't quite as knowledgeable as Phantom but it was close. She did have a tad more practical experience at this than he did after all.

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"Then you should also remember that the Veil was created to keep things from crashing into each other. The entire Coil in all of its infinite twists was created to keep everything from collapsing into Entropy." Taylor opened a door with a gesture to a small and ascetic room, her lip curling in distaste. Except for the small pallet on the floor and a wall of bookcases filled with scrolls, there was little else in it. A small bundle of clothing neatly stacked in one corner that looked like jeans and tennis shoes and a Freedom City university sweatshirt. She shut the door and headed over to a blanket covered mirror to start pulling the sheet off of it. "However that all sounds so vague, so detached. It's hard to understand why until you make a critical mistake and actually see that sort of collision happen."

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James nodded in understanding. "It keeps the whole reality from crashing into another, from taking them both out. It helps to prevent everything from going pear-shaped right quick." He looked around the room and the mirror itself curiously. Given the topic of conversation, it didn't take a genius to figure out was was coming next.

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Phantom held his hand again and James found himself as intangible as the guardian herself before she drew them both through the looking glass into a world gone mad. Gravity itself had no bearing, there was no up or down as stairs led to nowhere and buildings floated sideways, sheared off at sudden angles. People that were no humanoid type James had ever seen didn't seem to notice their presence or the sheer wrongness of the world as the bustled about their day.

"This place is sealed from the coil to keep it from shredding the dimensions around it. Too many refugees and the balance tipped, coliding one world into the other and ripping them both apart." Phantom said, her tone matter of fact but the very wrongness of this place thundered in her heart. "And this is the best case scenario. Sometimes it sends both dimensions down to be ground apart by the Terminus. Or worse, it leaves a hole for the cthonian monsters that live Outside to worm their way in. You cannot evacuate people on so large a scale, and this is why."

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James nodded, just glancing around him. He'd seen many freaky thing and had learned to cope with them quite well. Still didn't make it enjoyable or easy to deal with/see though. This place just ate at the corners of you; most unpleasant. "I couldn't evacuate a whole reality even if I wanted to. I mean, sure it'd be nice to save them all but the sheer mechanics of it are mindblowing, not to mention the ripple affect and cascading realities. It's not something I'd undertake without some serious help Talyor, I promise. It was just a thought, as 'whimsical' as it was for the extreme cases." He sighed. It definitely was something he wasn't likely to do now. Not if this could be the result.

"It's not my main intent. The main thing is going to be finding those dimension that haven't fallen yet. And making sure they don't fall. You know, helping them here. Fix a problem there. Kick some bad guys around they couldn't do on their own. Just...help shore them up. Give them a fighting chance. And it'll keep those other forces busy too." He shrugged. "Its still way outside the Mission and our job. But...I've got the means to do it now."

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