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Technical Difficulties (IC)

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Apr. 21, 2011, 11:00 AM

Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair

Midtown

Freedom City

Purgatory Row was the home of a rather squat building, a bit out of place amongst the more pretty buildings of Midtown. It was an auto garage, sign over the door saying "Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair". A smaller sign in the large front window looking in on the waiting room made the pun "Resurrections done cheap". The Open sign wasn't lit despite it being buisness hours, yet there was no Closed or Gone Fishin' sign or, well, anything in the windows, and the interior lights were on.

Push sat somewhat pensively in his favorite squashy armchair, down below the garage, sipping from his tenth cup of hot chocolate. Or was it eleventh? He'd lost count somewhere around midnight. His expression was a tad shellshocked, but given what he'd seen yesterday, what he'd done yesterday, that honestly was understandable. A bill sat on his coffee table, a somewhat unpleasant number of dollars and a very brief description of treatment for one J.D. Jane Doe. That was her name, as far as the hospital was concerned. The kineticist looked at the bill blankly and downed the remainder of his mug, putting it down and moving towards the caffeine machine in the kitchenette. At least he didn't have any appointments or clients to deal with today...

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Blueshift wasn't used to being stood up on dates. Rewind. Blueshift wasn't used to having dates. She was even less used to being stood up on them.

Push had promised her dinner, followed by a stop at Cat's their usual coffee spot, before showing her his garage. Though her fears of the outside world seemed to be lessened while she was with him, the were certainly prevalent when she wasn't. She'd waited for him inside again, like on their first date.

He never showed up.


It's said that curiosity has the power to kill cats. For Blueshift, this superstition was very much true. Especially since much of Schrödinger's work was as of yet unproven. Scientific conjecture aside, Blueshift was going crazy not knowing why she had been stood up.

She called Push. He didn't pick up.

She left a message. He never called back.

She tried reaching him on his radio. There was no answer.

When Blueshift wanted to know something, she found out. There was no stopping her. Right now, she just wanted to know where Push was, but for all her efforts, the further she dug the more and more it seemed like he'd fallen off the face of the planet entirely. Though after a quick scan of the solar system, she knew that couldn't be the case either. Then he suddenly reappeared the following night at Freedom City General Hospital. He wasn't admitted, he was delivering a Jane Doe who was currently in ICU.

Blueshift was relieved. At least he'd had a good reason. He was probably off doing something heroic. But she still wanted to know what it was and why he hadn't called.

She called him. He didn't pick up.

She left a message. He never called back.

She tried reaching him on his radio. There was no answer.

So she went to his house. Garage. Hideout. Whatever.

The lights were on, but it didn't look like anyone was home. She powered up her cloaking device and went in. It wasn't difficult for her to find the keypad that controlled the outer doors. It wasn't hard to unlock them either. She even got the apparently malfunctioning automatic door opener working while she was at it. She knew that speaking would give her away, but that didn't stop her from thinking, See, Push, this is why you can't have nice things. You're always breaking them.

It wasn't hard for her to download the schematics of his security system. It wasn't hard for her to determine the location of the underground bunker. It wasn't even hard for her to get the access codes for it. A few moments later, the not-so-secret trap door to the basement of the auto repair shop stood open, and she dropped through it, landing lightly on the floor below cloaking device masking her every move.

Instantly, her eyes went wide as she saw push drinking hot chocolate like nothing was wrong (save for the obvious security breach of his trap door opening seemingly by itself).

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The expression that occupied Push's face when the trapdoor opened could best be described as "dull surprise". Emphasis on the dull. Granted, for Blueshift he looked positively normal (given her tendency to miss sleep), in reality the kineticist looked like nine different shades of hell. A sleepless night, coupled with a metric ton of caffeine, capping what had been a most interesting day yesterday, all resulting in the fact that Omega himself could have come down that staircase and the only thing Push'd have done was raise an eyebrow. He took a long draught from the mug, lifting a hand which rapidly was filled with warping energy, and spoke in a somewhat dead monotone as bleary eyes looked up and down the stairs, then around the basement.

"Right. Invisible monsters now. Scratch must be getting more inventive. Don't know what the hell you are, how many of you there are, or why you're here, so I reccomend you show yourself before I throw subtle out the window and turn this basement into rubble. And believe me, I'd love to blow off some steam right now,"

The monotone turned into a low snarl as he finished, and more energy began to crackle around the kineticist. Despite his exhaustion, he appeared more than willing to make good on that threat...

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"Steam's not all your blowing off." Blueshift rose to a standing position and dismissed the cloaking device. As the light in the room ceased bending around her, she slowly became visible. Between the two of them, it was Blueshift that had the tendency to spend her nights awake. Unlike Push, however, she hadn't even attempted sleeping. She'd been on a mission to find him. It had kept her more than occupied the entire night.

It was clear Blueshift was ticked. Her right hand rested on her hip, and her left arm hung at her side. Her head was cocked slightly to the side. "And who's 'Scratch'? Not that girl. I..." She stopped, sighed, and lifted her visor. Her expression softened, "Oh forget it. Puuush!" She whined at him, "You didn't pick up your phone, dummy. Or your comm link. Or your... It doesn't matter. I was worried!"

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Push visibly deflated, the energy in his palm dissipating within seconds as he stared at Blueshift with a somewhat comical look on his face.

"Blue! I...you...what..."

His eyes looked between the open trapdoor, to her in full patrol gear, to the small stack of mugs beside him, to the digital clock on the coffee table. For a moment, his brain short-circuited as various thoughts slammed into each other, sending his mindscape into disarray. Blueshift's here. How did Blueshift get in here? Why is Blueshift here? She was worried. Oh. It's 11:00. AM? Oh. I've been up all night. She said steam wasn't all I blew off. What? I had a date. I had a date with her. I had a date with her that I missed. Why did I miss it? Going back in time and rescuing my certifiable ex-girlfriend. Blue said that girl. What does she mean by that girl? Why do I have a pounding headache? Oh, right, no sleep. She looks angry. This is a bad thing.

He managed to cudgel his brain back into order, and he could only think of one word to say given the severe awkwardness of the situation.

"Coffee?"

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"I..." She raised a finger at him to argue. "Damn it. Never should have told you my weakness. Sure." She walked closer and placed her hand on his arm. "I'll help. You look like you could use a cup too. It should keep you up long enough to explain what's going on."

A few minutes later, the two were sitting across from each other in the arm chairs that bordered the coffee table with Styrofoam cups in hand. "I already know you were at the hospital. So you can skip that part. I just don't know why," She told him, "Also can't figure out how or why you disappeared. Push." She looked at him straight in the eyes, "I'm good at finding things. Finding thins out. Finding people. Really good. And I couldn't find you." She stressed the last part. Not because she was angry, but because she wanted to make sure he knew that she'd looked for him, "It's like you slipped out of the space time continuum or something." She smiled in spite of herself, "But that's ridiculous." She waved the idea off, "You can't do that. ...Can you?" She gulped down about half of her cup of coffee all at once.

How much do you really know about his powers, Blue? He moves things. Can he do more than just that?

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Masking his surprise that Blue was actually using full sentences (she must either have been worried sick or absolutely furious), Push shuffled his feet a bit, looking at the cup of mocha (he flatly refused to drink plain coffee, mocha was the sole compromise he ever made on that front) and took a fortifying gulp. And promptly regretted it, as he noted there was more coffee than cocoa in the mix. Still, it did jolt his mind into working capacity, and he started talking in a voice that was a tad steadier.

"No, I can't. Not sure what happened, but after hearing a few stories from other supers I know, I think I can guess. I got thrown back in time by one of those portals that apparently were popping up all over yesterday. It was...I was..."

He took another sip, trying to keep his face impassive. His mind reeled at the thought of what would be broached if he told Blue about what had happened. For the most part, he'd managed to be fairly reticent about his past before coming to Freedom City; he'd gone out with Blueshift all of twice, that semi-success at Kat's, and a patrol that ended in a rather nice dinner, but neither had seemed to be proper situations to even consider approaching the past two years of his life. Still, he was getting awfully fond of her, and that scared the crap out of him in more ways than one.

"Got dropped into an...awkward period in my life. Think high school breakup, but way worse." And the prize for understatement of the year goes to... "Got back and found I'd...brought along a passenger. Didn't know what to do about it, so I dropped her off at a hospital for safekeeping. Then, I was a bit...well...shellshocked, so I went home." Without getting bandaged up, checked for smoke inhalation, or anything else. Well done, Push, really well done. At least you're not telling the girl a lie, but it's not entirely the truth either. And I really don't know what to do about it.

The kineticist drained his cup, idly leaving the styrofoam cup on the coffee table, and cudgeled his mind again. Something she said struck him...wait, how did she...and when did she... "Wait, back up a sec. You were looking...for me? And...you broke into my...garage..." Push stared at her, somewhat dumbstruck. "...to find me?"

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Through the albeit short story, Blueshift had sat, and patiently listened, despite draining the rest of her coffee by the time he'd finished his second sentence. There were a million questions running through her head all at once, but Push managed to forestall them.

"Wait, back up a sec. You were looking...for me? And...you broke into my...garage..." Push stared at her, somewhat dumbstruck. "...to find me?"

Blueshift became indignant, "Well, yea." Her eyebrows raised and scrunched up, she was having trouble deciding which question to ask first and finally settled on: "What was I supposed to do, wait?" without waiting for an answer she soldiered on. "Obviously you weren't coming. If you were really standing me up, you would have answered at least one of my calls. I made enough of them."

Normally, being around Push had the tendency to center Blueshift. There was something solid about him she could count on, and that relaxed her. However, with him acting crazy, acting like her, that feeling started to wane. As she got more and more excited, she strayed further back to her broken patterns of speech. She stood from the chair, unceremoniously slapping the cup on the table as she did, "The garage? How's that even an issue? Besides the fact that I fixed your front door on the way in," She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, "Didn't break anything. Didn't touch anything but keypads. Didn't have to. Security's like Swiss cheese in here. We're gonna talk. About that, by the way."

Push had never seen Blueshift mad. He wasn't even sure if she could get mad. But if he'd had to guess, he would say she was close. In truth, she was just upset. She put so much time and effort into knowing things that when she couldn't figure something out, it frazzled her.

Slowly but surely, she started putting some of the pieces together. "Wait. Scratch. That's what you said, right?" She placed one hand on the back of the chair for stability and another against her head as she thought, "I've heard that name. The Gray Man. Thought you brought him in. Thought he's behind bars." She passed around behind the chair, and started pacing. It almost seemed like she'd forgotten Push was even there. It almost seemed like her brain was picking up the work that Push's tired brain should have been doing. "Wait. No. He's Warlock magic. Not Time Magic. Not really related. Time. Time magic. Oh no. Bad. This is bad. Push..." She looked up at him from across the chair, bracing herself with both hands, "You brought someone BACK?!" She looked mortified, "That's like the definition of Hitler's Time Exemption Act! This isn't Bill and Ted, Push! You can't just bring people here from the past!" She was more whining than yelling. This was giving her a headache. "Tell me. Please tell me." She had one hand on her head, the other waving at him like she was trying to shield herself from responses she didn't want to hear, "This person, this girl, whoever, whatever. Tell me they weren't about to die or anything. Because there is really no end to the amount of time and space that would screw with. And I mean that literally," She gazed at him sternly, "The possibilities are actually infinite."

Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod...

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Push just gave a somewhat helpless shrug, chugging yet another mug back. His awkward posture spoke volumes about his answer to Blueshift's question, even before she said it. His mind was running on overdrive at this point, though he made a point of skipping the fact that she'd blown right through his security, effectively committing breaking and entering. But she was worried about him, which was...gratifying, in a way. He hadn't felt that in a while.

"...It was a warehouse fire."

The kineticist slumped in his chair after saying that, looking at Blueshift without even bothering to mask the exhaustion on his face.

"Three years back, when I was still running in Gear City, I...there was a fire. Girl I knew was stuck in it. Tried to get her out at the time, but...my abilities weren't as developed as they are now. The smoke and flames forced me out. I bolted for a payphone, called police and the fire department, but...when I returned the whole building was in flames."

"It took an hour for that warehouse to burn. Right to the ground, I watched it from a rooftop across the street. They never found her body. Or her equipment. One of my adversaries was very close to her, and he held a funeral. I even attended, incognito." Couldn't even get the guts to apologize to Wyrd himself, poor bastard. He never really had the heart for anything major after that...but then, neither did I.

"Blue, I can remember that timeline clearly. I remember seeing the warehouse, the funeral, no body, exactly the same as when I was hurled back in time. I can remember bolting for a pay phone and coming back a good few minutes later to watch the place burn and...pray. But I can also remember watching from the outside, hurling myself through the roof of that warehouse after watching my...after watching the cause of the blaze. I can remember blasting my way through the ceiling with her. And I dropped out cold on a rooftop opposite that warehouse right as a vortex appeared at my feet. Next thing I know, I'm downtown with an unconscious...look, fact is I remember both clear as day. But, in hindsight, one fits right in with the other. I never got close to the blaze, and if she'd died, her body could have been...but if I did save her, then again, no body. Both before and after I fell through that vortex, either could have happened. I mean..."

The kineticist caught himself babbling, and clamped his mouth shut, merely giving a shrug. He'd been spending the better part of an evening arguing that very same point in his head, and he still didn't know one way or the other which was right and which was wrong. Her mention of Mr. Scratch threw him for a loop, given the cavalier way she mentioned that name *and* the name The Grey Man, although the fact that she had heard of him didn't surprise him. That she thought he'd brought in Mr. Scratch did, though. But no way in hell was he bringing her in on that, that was his cross to bear.

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About halfway through Push's speech, Blueshift lowered her head into her right hand and cradled it. By the time he was wrapping up, she was pressing her forefingers into her temples to try and relieve some of the pressure as well as making a whiney groaning noise, "Hrrmmmmm.."

...but if I did save her, then again, no body. Both before and after I fell through that vortex, either could have happened. I mean..."

"Okay. Okay." She held out a hand, signaling for him to stop talking, whether he'd planned on it or not, "Just stop before you break my head. Either Alan Turing is turning over in his grave, or you forgot your "while" after your "do"." She enunciated the key terms with finger quotes. Noting the blank look on Push's face she sighed, "You really should just stick to motors. Here, I'll show you."

She pulled a small square object from her belt. Grasping the corners, she pulled an it expanded outward revealing a large glass-like screen that began hovering in the air. It possessed a small ambient light of it's own and served as it's own back lighting. She pulled a pen-like device from the side and began drawing. Before long, the board showed what looked like a page out of a college football playbook. Instead of X's, O's, blocking lines, and passing lanes, there were hammers, fires, swirly symbols, and little telephones. Every image on the board glowed an incandescent blue color similar to what was found on her gear, "Here's you." She pointed to a hammer at the top. Following one of the lines around the board down to a small fire she drew an arrow, "You go back in time, save the girl, and bring her back here." She drew another arrow back to the original fire. "Meanwhile. Other Push (we'll call him Push Prime) has no knowledge of this." She drew an arrow from the fire to a second hammer below, and drew a hash mark next to it to symbolize the prime, "He calls the Po-Po." miniature pigs with badges marched on from one side of the screen, "I animated that a while ago when I was bored," She confided in Push. "And then watches the fire from a distance." She draws an arrow from the phone back to the fire.

"Two separate circles. Both happen simultaneously. Push and Push Prime never interact. Time does not break. It forges ever onward. The key here being that with no body, yet a plausible logical explanation, history is allowed to continue in the eye of the observer. You. Had you left her there? Things would have turned out differently." She took a step back from the diagram for a second. Without stopping to field any questions she drew another line from Push Prime to Push. "Years later, after clearing his name with AEGIS, Push Prime becomes Push. Spends time in Freedom City. Bam! Time paradox!" She drew another arrow from Push back to the fire. "The whole thing starts all over again. QED. Stable Time Loop." She gestured at the board with both hands, presenting her hard work to her captive audience.

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Surprisingly, the more Blueshift explained, the clearer Push's face became. He stroked his chin as he looked at the diagram, mixed expressions crossing his features. Some amusement at Blue's own expression, an intrigued look as she went through the description, and a light dawning as he connected the dots about midway through the lecture. A stable time loop. Like in several of the books he'd read, H. Beam Piper had an excellent example of one, although he couldn't remember the name of that particular book itself. For a bit, it seemed like a bit of weight had been yanked off of his shoulders, and he relaxed.

Alright. No worries about any time cops or anything busting my tail. And Ana's...technically...fine, so for now I'll just play that one by ear. Though...probably shouldn't tell Blueshift she's my slightly crazed ex right now. Don't think she'd take that too well...

As she continued, he tried to pay attention, but found more worrisome thoughts rolling through his head; he was dating Blueshift, and he was more than a little fond of her. Granted, he had way more problems than he wanted to drop onto her shoulders, but for some reason he couldn't see himself exactly breaking it off. Picturing the look on the girl's face wasn't an appealing option, and judging by her actions before, it was both surprising and heartwarming to know that he had someone who was that worried about his disappearance. Admittedly, her methods were a bit...extreme...but he'd have done the same for a few of his compatriots if they'd just dropped off the face of the earth. Though I better make sure I give her a key to the place so she doesn't have to break in... The fact that Ana was now alive threw some serious difficulties into that, though. He'd been close to marrying the girl before she had him strapped to that machine, but now...he didn't know. And it was distinctly frustrating.

Her last words only exacerbated the situation, causing his mental processes to resemble a train wreck yet again. "Whoa, wait a sec." She said Scratch. She said AEGIS. She...How much... "Blue, you...how...wha'...okay, back up. You know about AEGIS?" A look of consternation, and actual fear went across his face, and he looked the girl right in the eyes. "And...you know about Scratch...Blueshift...how?"

I don't know who's listening up above, but please, for the love of all that's holy, leave her out of this! I'm not having anyone else get sucked into this nightmare!

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Crap! Did I really just say that out loud?!

"I... Um... Oops." Blueshift grabbed the corners of her futuristic chalk board, and hastily collapsed it down to the size of teacup saucer again. "Okay, Push," She began gingerly as she slipped the item and it's special pen back into her belt, "Remember how I said I find things out? Well that's basically all I do. All day long. Research. Explore. Understand."

She moved to the seat in front of him and sat lightly on the edge, looking him in the eyes. "Remember when we met on Haiti? I pretty much already knew everything about you then. I knew everything about everyone on that trip. I knew who the government was going to send before they told the President." She smiled at him, hoping he'd understand.

If he doesn't... Well, let's not think about that. Okay stop. I said don't think about it. Don't!

"Knowledge is what I do. Period. And I am really, really good at it." She confessed, "Is it that hard to believe that I'd know about Scratch, and Gear City?"

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Push's sole response to that was to get up and fill another mug of hot chocolate, returning to his chair with a very flat face. It wasn't a cold look by any means, but he was obviously mulling things over in his sorely abused head, considering the words his ersatz girlfriend (for lack of a better term at the time) had told him. The kineticist took a sip from his mug, before speaking slowly and carefully.

"Blue...there's a reason I didn't tell you about my past. I mean, part of it was that...well...telling your date you were framed for fifteen counts of murder one for two years and face down eldrich abominations sent by an incredibly powerful warlock on a daily basis while simultaneously fumbling in the dark for answers...yeah. And...you managed to find all that out yourself. Christ."

He took a chug from the mug, wondering what would happen when he ran out of cocoa mix. Probably have to make a dash to the nearby convinience store. Or grocery. Or - Focus!

The mutant winced, leaning back in his chair and looking at her. "Honestly, I'd call it a gross invasion of my privacy overall, but at the moment I'm too tired to complain. Fact is, you'd have dug it up eventually. But...damnit, why didn't you tell me back in Haiti, or in Kat's? You heard me skipping things, or glossing them over. Why'd you...ah, hell...I didn't want you hip-deep in the mess I'm stuck in right now. And I'm rambling again." Push's face wasn't angry when he finished talking, just tired and somewhat disappointed.

"Blue...I'm used to people knowing more than me. Two years of it along with AEGIS and Kent have kinda cemented that fact in my head. I've even known people who've done way crazier things than using technology I can only dream of to scan the whole planet looking for me, and breaking into a fairly well secured underground hideout just to see if they're okay. And digging up my history...well, it saves me a bit of a lecture, sure. Frankly, if I wasn't caffeinated to the hilt and feeling like several miles of bad road, I'd probably find it a bit endearing. But...I don't think many other people would."

He took another draught from the mug, his tired look turning pensive.

"And I'm angsting something horrible here. Damnit, I need days of sleep right now, and I got questions that need answers...how'd you find out? And how much? Saying 'everything' 's fairly descriptive, but there's a lot the official reports don't tell."

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"And...you managed to find all that out yourself. Christ."

Blueshift let out a sigh of relief, "So glad you're not furious." she spoke quietly as he continued.

"...and breaking into a fairly well secured underground hideout just to see if they're okay..."

Blueshift let out a small "snerk," in spite of herself, but let him finish his tirade.

When he finally ran out of steam, Blueshift took a moment to compose herself before responding. "I... tried. Tried to tell you. On Haiti. You introduced yourself, and said if we wanted to know any more about you we'd have to buy you dinner. That's why I said 'oops', and said I owed you dinner and when did you want it but I was too scared." She'd gone straight from speaking in broken sentences to using run-ons. "At Kat's I pretty much opened up and told you everything about me. Admittedly, it's not much, I'm kind of a recluse, I'm kind of boring, but I figured if you wanted to tell me you would, I figured that since you didn't I wasn't supposed to know but it isn't like I can forget it. I literally never forget anything. I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."

Blueshift rose from her chair, and sat down on the arm of the one Push was seated in, "In for a penny. In for a pound. We haven't been going out that long, Push, but you had to know that by my efforts or someone else's eventually I would be hip deep in this mess. Whatever it is. I'd say it's better that I'm finding out on my own terms rather than being blind sided by it. Knowledge is power, after all. I'm used to being neck deep in trouble. I've hacked so many servers and gotten nearly caught too many times to count. I don't mind it. It comes with the territory. Especially now that I'm wearing this get-up nearly full time."

Blueshift really wasn't used to being taller than people, she still felt awkward when she looked down at Push. Sitting on the arm of the chair only made it worse. But she looked anyway, and she rested a hand on his shoulder. "I haven't told you this yet. But the reason I like you so much is that when you're around, I feel centered. Just thinking about you calms me down. In ways the meds I have to take can't even accomplish. I like that. Fact is you've helped me in the past few weeks more than you know. It should be my turn to help you. But you have to let me. You asked how much I really know? A lot. But I have a hunch that in the grand scheme of things, I know very little. I've only managed to turn up what IS on those official reports, and a few things on the rumor mill here and there. I know you're tired, and I know you need rest. But there's got to be a reason you won't let yourself sleep yet," She waved her other hand over the sea of Styrofoam cups littering the basement. "Fill in the blanks for me, Push. You say you want answers? Well, you know how good I am at finding them. Let me help you. I can access most of my equipment from here. I can stay up a little longer. I can do it while you sleep. I know my brain won't shut off until I do know what's going on so trying to sleep now is pointless for me anyway. If anyone is out to get you, I can assure you I'll know about it before your security system does. I know because I've seen it, and it couldn't see me. You need help with this one, Push. Let me pay you back for what you've given me."

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He leaned his head back briefly, closing his eyes to think as she gave him her explanation. Her enthusiasm worried him, truth be told, and her methods even more so. More feelings of frustration creeped in at the edges of his mind, but he clamped down on them fast. This wasn't the time to take her to task for that kind of thing, and he doubted he could convince her otherwise. Well, Blue did say I was a calming influence. Maybe I can at least keep her from doing this kind of thing again. In for a penny, in for a pound...

He stroked his chin as he ordered his body to remain awake for the foreseeable future. There were numerous complaints from different areas, but he ignored them as he settled back into the chair.

"Honestly...Blue, you gotta understand we've only gone out twice. Not including patrols, of course. And the way you're talking...well, it scares me a bit. No offense, but it does sound like creepy stalker talk. I mean, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here, but promise me you'll let me help you calm that drive for information a bit?"

He pondered for a moment, pulling his thoughts together; "There's not much I can tell you besides my own perspective on the whole situation; what happened back in Gear City, the two years of the chase...but eh, you want the whole crop, I might as well."

The pile of styrofoam cups grew exponentially as Push told his story, through the afternoon and into the night. He told Blueshift about his early days in Gear City (omitting only any mention of his real name, or Michael Sharpe, instead telling it as if he'd bootstrapped himself up), about Professor Wyrd (that part brought a few laughs) and his daughter, Associate Professor Wyrd (omitting the fact that they had been significant to each other, but that she was indeed the girl in the ICU). He told her about a few of his previous adventures back in GC after that, even saving the world once (although it had been by accident), of his favorite haunts and how his patrols kept expanding as he found new places to stop by and visit. Then he told her about Mr. Scratch, and the massacre at the museum. The kineticist was understandably reluctant, but eventually he placed a DVD into the machine, and showed her the video of that fateful night when he first encountered the Gentleman Warlock. From there, the rest of his story was fairly plain; leaving home, framed for multiple counts of murder and on the run, the endless chase across the USA, finding basements and hovels where monsters and demons were inevitably waiting for him, having to stomp them so they wouldn't cause havoc instead of catching up with Scratch, his one previous visit to Freedom City (he still didn't know why he started singing, but it was rather funny remembering the spontaneous tune that he'd broken into), getting caught by Victory (still rankled a bit, but eh), his "chat" with AEGIS, building the LAIR, and the single sortie he and Nick Cimitere booted back through their portal.

It was rather cathartic, in a way. Getting it all off his chest. Admittedly, Blueshift was no therapist, and he sure as hell would've been the worst patient imaginable, but he'd never really told the whole story before, save on tape. It was getting near midnight when he finally finished talking, looking still somewhat rumpled but surprisingly spry. He'd only attributed that to "long experience skipping sleep". Still, he wouldn't have much liked the odds if a demon attack erupted in the joint. During the whole explanation, he flatly refused to let her take over the search; that was still his job, his mission, his responsibility. And the idea of her staying up and looking about while he sacked out was...not exactly appealing.

"...How many mugs of coffee and cocoa have we gone through by this point?"

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"Honestly...Blue, you gotta understand we've only gone out twice. Not including patrols, of course. And the way you're talking...well, it scares me a bit. No offense, but it does sound like creepy stalker talk. I mean, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here, but promise me you'll let me help you calm that drive for information a bit?"

"I know." Blueshift began wringing her hands. She felt guilty about the invasion of privacy. She knew it was wrong, but at the time, she just had to know more. "It's a problem. I know it is. Everyone says it is. Even my psychiatrist. But sometimes I just can't help it. My brain just gets so bored! It has to be doing something, and with practically a direct link to the internet..." She motioned toward her visor which was perched on the table, Well, you do the math."

Bluehshift turned to look at Push. "I know it's creepy. It's like the definition of creepy. And I'm sorry. I just can't help it sometimes. Learning is like a disease I've caught, or a really really bad itch I just need to scratch. But I'm going to try. I really will." She presented him with a wide, earnest smile.

Hopefully, being around him will help...


"...How many mugs of coffee and cocoa have we gone through by this point?"

Tired as he was, Push could see Blueshift's eyes move rapidly back and forth for a split second before she responded, "One Hundred and Three." Somehow Push knew she'd actually counted. "But that was mostly me. Counting the twelve you sweeped into the trash can when I got here we're at a total of one hundred fifteen. We started reusing the cups at sixty. You only bought three twenty packs."

"Okay, so." During the story she'd taken up residence on the other armchair again. Now uncrossing her legs, she stood and started pacing. Push could hear the barely audible whispers of her counting footsteps as she went. "Sorry if this bugs you. It helps me think." After a few iterations she stopped, and turned to face Push. "This is your fight. I'm not looking to take that from you. It's just not right. I can see that now. Now that I know the whole story. But how's this: If you need info, or intel, you come to me. I can at least save you some time in that respect. If you think you've overlooked something, throw it my way. I've got an eye for details. You... You get the idea. Let me play backup. I'll be here if you need me. I... I'm just worried that you're going to get yourself really hurt if you keep trying to fly solo like this."

She walked over and sat next to him again, "Admittedly, I'm not that great in a fight. But I've read Sun Tzu cover to cover thirty two times. This week. So if you need help planning things out, I'm your girl. Well, I'm your girl regardless. But you get the idea." She picked up a nearby coffee cup and downed the last half of the brown liquid. "One hundred four. What do you say we get some sleep, Push? We can start fresh in like three days when we wake up. I can help you get home if you want. Where do you live?" She chuckled briefly, "See? Didn't even look that one up." She gave him a broad smile, and placed her hand on his.

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Push facepalmed, then motioned to the trapdoor, a wry smile creasing his features.

"Yeah. Though when I've had some sleep I'll probably wake up wanting to change all of my security codes and go hide from creepy stalker girl. No offense."

The kineticist sighed, pushing himself out of the chair and looking at the mess that was his basement, and walked towards the staircase.

"Well, so much for giving you a tour of the L.A.I.R. Heck with it, maybe next time. Although, please...knock first?"

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"Yeah. Though when I've had some sleep I'll probably wake up wanting to change all of my security codes and go hide from creepy stalker girl. No offense."

Blueshift opened her mouth, about to say something, Don't say it! You're trying to not be that creepy stalker girl, remember? But closed it again quickly. She settled with, "Yea. None taken." and smiled.

The kineticist sighed, pushing himself out of the chair and looking at the mess that was his basement, and walked towards the staircase.

"Well, so much for giving you a tour of the L.A.I.R. Heck with it, maybe next time. Although, please...knock first?"

"Hmm. Sure." She followed him to the stairs. "Rain check on the tour, then. I'd still like to see it. I'll definitely knock next time too."

She followed him to the door, and was soon on her way out. She got the feeling she'd overstepped a few too many boundaries already that night, so she simply exited rather than pursuing a hug or anything of the sort. "Goodnight!" called to him and turned to walk away. Just before he closed the door, she turned back and said with a smile, "Push? I'm really glad you're okay."

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Push simply nodded as he closed the trapdoor, slapping the usual brick on the wall to activate the wards and trucking into the library to restart the security system. He noted with some amusement that the garage door had finally been fixed, but he never trusted repairs on that thing to last longer than a week.

He shook his head, sighing. At this point, he'd pretty much given up trying to work things through in favor of running on autopilot, and it took him nearly an hour to tidy the place up. Still, the mindless activity was good, almost soothing. Styrofoam cups were thrown out, mugs put in the sink with soap and water, the machine was turned off (his supply of coffee and hot choc was drained to nothing, an intolerable situation. Must be rectified. Tomorrow.).

Finally, he staggered into his bedroom and collapsed on the futon, relishing the soft comfort. Then he got back up, set a tripwire across the floor and placed a bucket of water on the gap between the door and the door trim, then finally hit the sack.

And for once, there were no nightmares.

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