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[Time Warp] Where Your Eyes Don't Go (Miss Americana)

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Freedom City was in danger! That was hardly different from any day in the city where weirdness never slept, but today was worse than most. Disappearances were being reported all over the city, people suddenly vanishing, other people and strange creatures appearing out of nowhere, fights and rampages in the streets! It was a bad time, but luckily, Freedom City had its heroes to protect it. One of those heroes, Miss Americana, was already in the air, flying over Hanover as she attempted to suss out the situation. There were disturbances on the ground, sirens blasting, and what looked like... was that a band of Vikings on the ground? A superhero in the blue and gold colors of Claremont Academy seemed to have the situation in hand there, so Miss A flew onward. A few blocks away, she noticed a strange disruption, almost as though reality were bending like the air on a hot summer day. She flew down to get a closer look, turning midair to land...


Gina's eyes snapped open as her consciousness rudely and abruptly thudded back into her squishy flesh body. "Goddamn radios," she muttered, hastening over to her work chair and rolling it to her main interface console. Within seconds, she'd activated the robot's implanted locator beacon, the same type used on black boxes and EPIRB units to be traceable from half a world away and in just about any conditions. She zoomed in on Hanover, recalling exactly where she'd been, down to the millimeter and... nothing. There was nothing there. No disturbance, no robot, no locator ping. It was an empty stretch of sidewalk that didn't even show signs of radio interference. She quickly widened the scan, to take in the city, then the whole region. Still nothing! Scanning further would take time, but what else was she going to do?


As she waited for the search to run, Gina considered the possibilities. Could the robot have fallen victim to one of the portals and been whisked away to who-knows-where? She had to admit it was looking distinctly likely. That was... not good. Nobody knew what the portals were, or where they opened onto, or if anything that went through one would come back. The Miss Americana robot had only an extremely basic artificial intelligence, enough to maintain a human mien, walk and act as specifically instructed, and seek out solar energy when its battery ran low. There was no possible way it could return on its own to Freedom City. For now, possibly for the foreseeable future, Miss Americana was out of commission. But Freedom City still needed heroes.


Gina went upstairs and looked out her front window. It was quiet in the direct view of her house, but she could hear sirens, and people yelling in the distance. Bad things were happening. Surely she could do something. She headed for the door, only to catch a glimpse of herself in the reflection off her cabinets. Dumpy, dowdy, out of shape, dressed in sweats and with her hair ratty, she was nobody's idea of a hero. What the hell was she supposed to do out there anyway, just stand there and hope she scared the invaders or made them recoil with revulsion just to look at her? She didn't have laser beams, she couldn't fly. When it came to saving the city, she was absolutely worthless. Gina retreated downstairs to continue the futile search.


Hours later, her search had covered the entire world to no avail. Gina was forced to concede that the robot might be gone entirely. That was a very depressing thought. She prepared herself a supposedly healthy frozen dinner, then added a half pint of Cherry Garcia and a bag of Doritos to her tray and carried it all downstairs to keep working. It could be months before she had another robot working, and even that would require a lot of very uncomfortable contact with the outside world. In that time, who knew what would happen to the contacts and work that Miss Americana had been doing? What would happen to the little girl in Switzerland?


Just as Gina stuck the first spoonful of ice cream in her mouth, the locator beacon alert shrilled at her from the computer! Fumbling aside her dinner tray, she dove for the keyboard and interfaced with the local satellite to get a close-up picture of its location. The robot was exactly where she'd left it, in the middle of Hanover, on an empty sidewalk. Only... it didn't look the same at all. Gone was Miss Americana's skintight red-white-and blue uniform, replaced with a long blue dress that looked distinctly Victorian, corseted and with a full skirt that dropped to her ankles. Her golden hair was pinned up in ringlets and partially hidden by a large, feathered hat. Wherever she'd been, someone had been playing dress-up and gotten really carried away, it seemed. A bit of reflected light on the satellite picture caught her eye, and Gina magnified again. On the robot's finger was a gold wedding band.


"What the hell were you doing while you were gone?" Gina demanded aloud, then dropped her body to go and retrieve the damned thing before it did anything worse.

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