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All Things End [IC]


alderwitch

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Bombshell had vanished from even her casual contact with Scarab for about three days. Long enough to really being to grow concerned about just how deep in the lovely thief had gotten herself. Elena arrived home to her apartment, to find things subtly amiss. A bottle of alcohol missing from the rarely used rack and a glass with lipstick on the counter top. Her swift ESP didn't reveal the intruder herself but it did reveal Bombshell's discarded uniform tossed on the floor of the restroom.

Instead of a rendezvous, however, Elena would find her erstwhile love perched in a towel on the edge of the tub with one eye rapidly swelling shut and the distinctive patterns of bruises decorating the pale skin above the towel around one shoulder from a dislocation and relocation. She was currently using a bobby pin to pop the lock on the handcuff still manacled around one wrist. "We have a problem."

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Elena glared at the manacles, enraged at the thought of someone daring to harm Talya. Invisible forces tore steel like it was tissue paper, and the pieces clattered to the tile floor. Elena dashed to Talya's side, wrapping her up in an embrace. She held Talya tightly, but mindful of her injuries. She kissed Talya's blackened eye, so gently that the sensation of her lips against Talya's skin was almost impercetible. Then she kissed Talya's forehead, hard. The door to the medicine cabinet popped open by itself, and a bottle of painkillers flew into Elena's outstretched hand. She never looked away from Talya, her expression a mix of worry, rage, and relief. Her eyes misted up as her hand stroked her lover's cheek. [bg=#BF0000]"I thought I told you to be careful."[/bg]

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"I made a mistake." Talya said simply, rubbing the chaffed skin as the manacle fell away, her fingertips rubbing over the skin thoughtfully. She didn't seem unduly bothered by the faint markings and Elena's quick check confirmed that it was mostly surface wounds. She'd taken the backhand to the face and her shoulder was bruised from a self inflicted dislocation to get out of the handcuffs but other than that, she was mostly shaken and no small amount angry herself. "A grievous mistake, I must confess. And now, now we are all but out of time."

She put one hand on top of the painkillers and looked up. "Listen to me, Elena, its the scions. They've set up a way to hold the city hostage unless you surrender yourself into their clutches. The mean not only to kill you, but to trap your entire essence into this crystal. When you die, your curse will be stopped. You'll be trapped outside of the cycle for all time. They stand poised to poison millions should you, or anyone, try to stop them. They have the time and capabilities to make good on their threat. It took me far too long to find a window to get out of their cell and if they notice I'm gone, they will know that you've been warned."

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Elena's eyes widened. Her jaw dropped open. [bg=#BF0000]"The Scions of Sobek? Gods..."[/bg]

Her eyes darted back and forth between Talya's bruises. She shook her head firmly and grabbed Talya's shoulders. [bg=#BF0000]"No. No. You are not giving yourself up to them. You got out, and you're staying out. We'll stop them. Together. If we need reinforcments, I can say the words 'Scions of Sobek' and have the Freedom League and the Midnighters here in full force within minutes. I could rustle up Young Freedom with one phonecall to Alexandra Albright's private line. And if we get truly desperate, I can even get in touch with the Interceptors. I was strong enough to break the Scions' hold over the League thirty years ago, and my powers seem to grow with every new incarnation."[/bg]

Elena's fingers squeezed Talya. [bg=#BF0000]"You are not going back there to be tortured or killed at their whim. No."[/bg]

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"And do you really want to gamble that even all those marshaled forces are going to be fast enough - good enough - to stop this plan they have in motion. Just one waterway poisoned and we lose. I know you, my darling. I know you'll sacrifice yourself when you play out all the odds in that brilliant mind of yours. All the good of the many outweighs the good of the one."

She smiled, displaying those perfect white teeth in a smile that was sharp edged and wicked, "So, we cheat. It takes a day for them to trust that stupid crystal has gotten a firm enough hold. Take what you need from my thoughts and feed that information to all of your friends and then turn yourself in. They'll have a day to take down the Sword of Damocles at which point we'll make our daring escape. It shouldn't take Ace an entire day to infiltrate as a guard. An hour tops or he's lost his touch. You and I can do a day of incarceration standing on our heads. Simple."

Talya downplayed what it would take to escape deliberately as she didn't want to be left behind. She wasn't going to be, of course, but she'd rather not argue with Elena over it. She took the time for Elena to process that to carefully suppress what she was hiding with all the training that she had.

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Elena stared at Talya appraisingly for a few seconds. Then she smiled. "Misdirection. Cheating. The Raven would approve. As would Sun-Tzu for that matter...I like it." She held both of her hands up to the sides of Talya's head, pressed her palms down gently over Talya's ears, and closed her eyes. [bg=#BF0000]So if the Scions can't know that you escaped to warn me, how am I supposed to know to surrender myself to them? When, where, and how were they planning to make their offer?[/bg] Elena imagined herself sitting in a train car, at the entrance to an amusement park ride. She would go only where the train led her, see only what Talya showed her. She imagined herself, not an intruder in Talya's mind, but a guest.

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Talya relaxed under the intrusion. Not for the first time, Elena was treated to the very structured way that Talya organized her thoughts. It was rather like reading a zen master or another non psychic who'd spent years undergoing the sort of mental and physical training to achieve near perfect focus. Talya's mind was always very different from the way she presented herself in the world. Martial and militaristic, it was certainly a hold over from the woman she'd been many, many years ago.

First she provided the information on the installations for Elena to pass on to the teams that would be taking it out and then the complex where Talya herself was a 'guest' and Elena would be as well, no doubt. It had only a handful of the actual mystics with real power but that was plenty, and a good thirty or so standard guards. It was an old military building on the outskirts of town that had been re-purposed to temple and jail. Then she gave Scarab the details on their intent to contact her with the usual threat delivered to a news station and location that they'd be asking for her surrender at.

"You'll probably hear from the station in the next hour or two." Talya reached out to gently touch Elena's face, her touch unusually tender and her expression shuttered. "I'll call Ace and work out the extraction plans. I... you know I do love you, don't you?"

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[bg=#BF0000]"I'll send a message to my primary Freedom League contact, outlining the plan, so they can plan the primary assault."[/bg]

Talya reached out to gently touch Elena's face, her touch unusually tender and her expression shuttered. "I'll call Ace and work out the extraction plans. I... you know I do love you, don't you?"

Elena inhaled reflexively at Talya's touch, closing her eyes as she leaned her face in to her hand. She smiled, covering Talya's hand with her own, pressing it harder against her own cheek. She pulled Talya close and kissed her passionately. [bg=#BF0000]"Yes. I know."[/bg] she stroked the side of Tayla's face with her free hand. [bg=#BF0000]"I'm a world-class precognitive telepath. I knew about a half-second before you did. But I'll never get tired of hearing you say it."[/bg]

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Talya's hands sank into Elena's dark hair to hold her close and after she broke the kiss, Talya left her forehead to rest against Elena's for a moment, her eyes closed. There was a flicker of teasing emotion from Talya's mind, love overlaying sorrow and a whisper soft flash of guilt before Talya pulled away, her small smile once more in place, "Darling, I'm British. You know we're terrible with the showing emotion and I am certainly worse at it than many of my countrymen. Still, for you, I will make the effort. I should go. They'll miss me. I'm going to borrow a cell, I'll call Ace on the way. And I'll see you soon."

When she was gone, she called Ace's cell and left a quiet and terse message. "Remember Prague? July, 1942. Scarab has details."

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A few quick calls to Scarab's leaguer contacts and she was done before the local news station blipped onto her radar. They were all to happy to turn the grainy tape to the hero. It was the usual melodrama that was expected. Just enough details of the poisoning they had on-line to prove they were valid and dire warnings to come alone to a specific location. They refrained from making it clear just who they were but the trappings of ceremony in the background would have given it away to Scarab's keen eye if Bombshell hadn't already informed her. The location wasn't far from the base they were using, an old run down warehouse and scrying the area would reveal that the bulk of their armed forces were ringing the area with guns and two priests on hand to deal with Scarab's arrival should she decide to 'not come quietly'.

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After Talya left, Elena sat on the edge of her bathtub for several minutes, just staring off into space. [bg=#BF0000]Thirty years. That's about the average. This was a good run.[/bg]

She made a call to the cleaning service, and left a message instructing the maids to empty the apartment of any perishables, donating whatever could be salvaged to the Rhodes-funded battered womens shelter run by Maria Gonzalez and throwing the rest away. [bg=#BF0000]No sense leaving it here to rot and stink up the place for the next owners.[/bg] After retrieving certain documents from her safe, she made her way downstairs. She stopped by the mailbox, dropping in envelopes addressed to her lawyers and various other "interested parties." On her way down to The Lair's secret entrance, she stopped by the Starbase Coffee shop in the lobby. [bg=#BF0000]Heh. Can't die before having one last lattè, now, can I?[/bg]

Once down in The Lair, Elena sent Doktor Archeville an email. She described the situation, her role as a distraction, all the information the League would need to storm the Scions' base. She also included a series of contingencies, asking for Viktor's help should she not escape. Her lawyers would do the work distributing her property. Most of her Rhodes Foundation shares would go to Sofia, and the rest would be sold to provide Talya with some rainy-day funds, the profits set aside for Talya in a numbered offshore account. Viktor had found her once, she mused. He could find her again. The penthouse apartment was signed over to Sofia, and the movers would arrive tomorrow to put Elena's things in storage. [bg=#BF0000]That place is too big for me anyway.[/bg] She included a list of all magical items in her collection for him to pass along to Taylor Chun, who she trusted to take over their care, and installed a subroutine in The Lair's computer which would, if not deactived by her within the next week, make Viktor the sole network administrator, with unrestricted access to everything. The Lair's resources would be his to use with the League, or pass along to the Midnighters, at his discretion. She even mentioned a directory in the computer system containing pre-recorded messages to a handful of friends and comrades, should she not return.

[bg=#BF0000]Well, that's it then.[/bg] A telepathic command to the psycho-sensitive morphic molecules under her clothes triggered their transformation into the distinctive crimson & gold armor of The Scarab. She hovered to the teleporter junction room, opened a portal to the roof of Pyramid Plaza, and flew through. She slowly turned a complete circle in the air, taking in the breathtaking view of Freedom City. All of Freedom City. [bg=#BF0000]It's so beautiful. I wish I could remember it sooner.[/bg]

The Scarab sighed, then soared through the air across the Freedom skyline, and her destiny.

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Scarab appeared in the appointed clearing and the sound of guns being cocked was almost deafening. This branch of the scions had gone very militaristic to support the waning numbers of the mystics. Only three had escaped the last time but they had spent the last few decades garnering strength for the next show down with their ancient enemy. The guards wore urban camoflauge uniforms, their heads capped with orange berets that matched the orange sigil encrusted robes of the two human sorcerers who stood off to the side, their faces hidden with deep hoods.

At an unseen signal, the ring of soldiers parted, the sorcerers moving in eerie and silent symmatry to flank the newly formed entrance. A twisted figure moved slowly up between them. Although like the sorcerers, he was robed in orange, but instead of a human head, he had the head of a hideous crocodile, one thick scar bisecting his eye ridge and twisting the corner of his fanged mouth into a grimace.

"" The dread Ka-Khemet himself hissed. He spat words in ancient Egyptian, a thick milky crystal held in his wrinkled hands, ""

He thrust the crystal up in one leathery hand and began intoning the litany of Heru-Ra's noble ancestry of gods-who-were-men and Scarab felt the sudden sickening drain of all of her vaunted psychic prowess being drawn slowly into the crystal held in one withered talon. Within the items milky depths, a red pulsing glow started throbbing.

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"" the Scion of Sobek crowed his triumph as he thrust the jewel towards the costumed crusader and spat out the last of the spell. Scarab could see her Ka flow out of her body to glow ever brighter inside the jewel in his fist. For the first time in a very long while, Scarab was utterly alone in her head.

""

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Heru-Ra had died a hundred times, in nearly a hundred different ways. S/He'd been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, and disemboweled. But s/he'd never felt trauma quite like this. It was like being blinded, deafened, muted, bound, hobbled, dismembered, and even rendered aphasiac, all at once. S/He reached out with her/his hand, attempting to exert his/her will upon something, anything, but her/his power refused to extend beyond her/his own fingertips.

The Scarab didn't put up any resistance to the guards as they dragged her to the dungeon. [bg=#BF0000]That's it, then. Please, don't let this have been in vain.[/bg]

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Scarab was led down into the small basement and locked into a cell alongside Bombshell. Her lover was laying down, hands behind her back and long legs loosely crossed with her heels propped up against the far wall. She rolled to her feet with lazy grace, her hands bound behind her back once again.

"You brought me company but still, no bread or water. This is a terrible secret prison and I've been in some real dives before." She drawled bumping one shoulder against the bars as she ignored the gun waved in her face. She kept the bored and amused expression on her face until the door closed at which point it fell away like a mask. With a wiggle and twist, the cuffs dropped off behind her and she went over to the Scarab where she knelt down and carefully began to unlock the cuffs with a small bent wire.

"Have these off you in a jiff, darling," Bombshell said gently. "Then we'll wait for the cavalry. I'm afraid I didn't bring cards but we'll manage to stay entertained somehow."

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Elena grabbed at Talya's head, pressing against her skull and the side of her face with her palms. [bg=#BF0000]"I can't hear you. I can't feel you. You were always so much more difficult to get a read on than anyone else. Your mind was always a whisper at a crowded party. But now...nothing. Nothing."[/bg] Elena's eyes were filled with frantic desperation, along with an emotion Talya had never seen on her face before, either of them: Fear. Her hands felt sweaty, and they were shaking against Talya's skin. [bg=#BF0000]"I try to look into the past or the future of this cell, and all I see are the walls. I peer out through the bars of this cell, trying to look at the world outside, and all I can see is the hallway. There's nothing around me but darkness and silence."[/bg]

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"Oh, darling," Talya straightened and covered the hands on her cheeks with her own palms, her husky voice taking on a soothing tone, "I am right here. Nothing has changed except for your perception of the world which is entirely temporary. Its just as foggy as its ever been inside my head as I play through the various routes of escape and the back up plans. I'm also thinking how nice that armor fits your shapely backside, one of the few tells that its a woman inside the suit rather than a man. I'm also remembering the cell I was in during 1943, deep inside enemy territory, also waiting for Ace to finish seducing an officer out of his uniform and get on with the plan."

Talya smiled and turned her face to press a kiss against the palm of Elena's hand, doing her best to distract Elena from her fear and panic. "It was near the end of the war and my cover was blown to hell in hand basket. I was supposed to be executed as a traitor to the motherland. My cover, of course, being German at the time. I spoke the language fluently along with a handful of others. There weren't many women spies and those that did play the game weren't considered, well, very highly by the command that sent us in so I was very expendable."

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The Scarab alternately listened to Bombshell's stories and told some of her own, working double-time to distract herself from her newfound helplessness and pass the time until the Freedom League could begin their assault. [bg=#BF0000]"It was 1963."[/bg] She held Bombshell's hand tightly, sitting next to her on the bench. [bg=#BF0000]"The Bee-Keeper had unleashed swarms of bees across Downtown, distracting us with relief efforts while he tried to steal the Red Star Ruby from the F.C. Historical Museum. I tried to use my powers to find him so we could bring a quick end to the whole mess, but I didn't wear armor back then, just the tights, and the bees kept stinging me through my suit..."[/bg]

[bg=#BF0000]Pull it together[/bg], she admonished herself as she clenched her other hand into a fist. [bg=#BF0000]Mark never gave up when The Roman found a way to drain his powers. That Gardner fellow on the new League didn't panic when Stratos brought him to his knees on national television. So suck it up.[/bg]

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Bombshell's long leather legs were stretched out in front of her, loosely crossed as she kept her fingers lightly laced through Scarab's hand. Her gloves were off and tucked in the belt and her palms were cool, the nails short and neatly trimmed and the pads of her fingertips rough with the callouses from years of athletic activity. She rubbed one thumb over the back of Scarab's hand and if she was in the state of mind to note any of it, it was the most at ease Scarab could remember her lover being as she talked as she wasn't focused on keeping up all those rigid mental barriers.

"I liked the tights. You looked good in them. Never understood why you always feel the need to hide under that massive cape." Bombshell said fondly before she went quiet. The story she started next wasn't one that she'd mentioned before, as it was far younger than the later war years story she was more willing to dole out. "It was 1938 and tensions were brewing. In my early twenties, I was like most other bored and young aristocrats, spending my time pub crawling and hitting the parties. The economy was terrible, of course, but it never hits those at the peak as hard and the young tend to think they're immortal anyways."

She smiled at that and continued on. "A few of them were signing up for the service even then. It has always been the 'in' thing especially for the second sons to hie off and get some shiny medals to attach onto their coat. So, I went a long with it. I was a gymnast, did you know? Before, I mean. And in possession of a certain sort of moral flexibility and a smattering of accent-less languages. Next thing I knew, I was off to France before we'd even declared our intention along with a handful of others."

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"I liked the tights. You looked good in them. Never understood why you always feel the need to hide under that massive cape."

[bg=#BF0000]"Never underestimate the power of theatricality and showmanship. A cape like this gives me an edge. It makes me appear larger and more imposing, to enemies and allies alike. It helps me take over a room just by walking (or flying) in. With the subtle application of some sleight telekinesis, I avoid the usual pitfalls which accompany them. I don't have to worry about it hanging limply, or dragging, or getting caught on anything. (Well, until now, that is.) And a cape which is in constant motion, even slightly, gives me an otherworldly aura which people find simultaneously unsettling, thus knocking them off-balance at the very start of our interactions. Really, it would be a waste for me not to wear one."[/bg]

"It was 1938 and tensions were brewing...

[bg=#BF0000]"Rhodes was a small child in 1938. You were garrotting Nazis and seducing their sons and daughters while he was still in primary school. A fact you used to love reminding him of. If only you'd known."[/bg]

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"I always was a fan of theatricality myself." came Aces voice from the guard that opened the door. "Hello Lovelies." he said with a smile and quickly pulled out the small morphic molecule match to Scarabs costume from a pocket along with a small bag of shimmering dust. "Your escort shall be here directly so best make this quick eh?"

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Bombshell glanced up as Ace arrived, uncoiling from the bench in one smooth motion. Her expression was serene as of all the thoughts that had raced through her mind through the long night, never had she doubted Ace's arrival in the nick of time. It was what he did after all.

She held her hand out for the small scarlet and gold ball, her smile wonderous, "You yanks always have the best toys."

Bombshell held her hand out, palm up as the red and gold metal began to run down her fingertips, coating her black leather catsuit in distinctive heraldry as she twisted back to face Scarab. "Here's the twist, my darling. We both know there's only one way to break that crystal. You've been expecting to die all night and this, right here, is where you make a noble speech about duty and sacrifice. About what it is to be a hero."

She lifted her chin up, giving Elena that small maddening smile. Bombshell glanced down as her costume was rapidly altered to mimic the Scarab's, "You'll have to save it, I'm afraid. I win the match but the game is yours. I'll be the hero I was once before, but as I've tried to warn you, she's a rather devious sort. Hurry, love, Ace will smuggle you out and then when you're whole again... give them hell for me."

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