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Avenger Assembled

One Out of All Things (IC)

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Tronik

May 15, 2011 (Earth calendar)

A month into his career as an independent hero, Citizen stood on the roof of Sector 30 waiting for Gina's return call. He'd stayed busy reconnecting with his family, explaining to everyone that he'd run away to join the plankton fleet but returned when he realized his mistake, and gotten back among his friends and back to his education. But somehow those friends didn't seem so close these days, and his education just a little less relevant when there was so much of the real world to deal with. He'd stayed busy flying scouting expeditions for Leroj to verify the correct development of the planned site of the new island, not to mention connecting with the old man and learning more about the original history of Tronik: he'd also kept busy saving the day! Tronik was a safer city to live in than Freedom, but with so many people and the fantastic flight speed he had in the program, it seemed like there was always a bus to catch, a fire to help fight, or even a criminal to fly down and smack around!

Despite all that, though, when the text from Gina had come down, he'd made a point to drop everything...after telling his family where he was going. Luckily his new powers really had convinced them that the story he'd been telling them was true, which meant they had only a few doubts about him going away for a while to do who knew what? He'd left them with the ability to contact him, which was good; but as he waited for his call 'away', he was growing impatient!

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Directly upon the appointed hour, Sharl's phone rang. When he answered, he heard the dulcet voice of Miss Americana, similar to but noticeably different from Gina's lighter, flatter voice. "Hello, Sharl," she said pleasantly, "I need you for a consultation, if you aren't busy. As long as you're somewhere private, I can triangulate on your phone and transport your signal into my lab computer. The holoprojectors are all set up for you. It may require a few days of your time. Are you available?"

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"I'm available," agreed Sharl readily. "I told my parents I'd be gone a couple of days, and they won't be worried." Well, no more worried than any other parents would be under the circumstances. "No one can see me here, I'm on top of the sector building." Though he knew it made no sense, Sharl looked up at the green sky overhead and said into the phone, "I'm ready." Thanks to the emulator Gina had built into him, the transit wasn't the descent into madness that it had once been: a cascade of light built up all around him, he heard a wavering noise and saw a shimmer in the air, and soon he was 'reconstituting' himself in the very familiar surroundings of the Lab.

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He was in Miss Americana's main lab, a large room he was quite familiar with by now. Gina was in her Miss Americana guise and looking lovely as ever, wearing a maroon and navy pantsuit under a snowy-white labcoat, her golden hair back in a businesslike bun. She gave Sharl a warm smile. "Hey, far-traveler," she greeted him. "Long time no see. We haven't heard much from you on this side, I trust things have been going well for you? The hardware seems to be doing its job so far."

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"Things have been going great," agreed Sharl with a smile. "My family's happy to have me back, of course, and I'm just about caught up on all my schooling. And the city...well, now there are 'Net sites all about _me_." He grinned broadly at that. "Now I'm the paranormal thing people can't stop talking about. They just call me the 'Citizen'" Sobering a little, he added honestly, "I missed this place. Knowing there's so much outside Tronik and being the only person there besides Leroj who really _can_ know...my mind keeps coming back here. And to you," he admitted. "That's why I was so eager to come. What can I do to help?"

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"Do you remember a few months ago when I told you about Eira Katastroff, the little girl suffering multiple organ failure that I'm building the robot body for? The one we plan to digitize and upload in much the same way your ancestors were?" At Sharl's nod, she continued, "Her condition has worsened significantly in the past ten days. The body isn't ready, but the digitizing process is. If we're going to succeed, we have to act now. If you're willing, I'd like you to come with me to Sweden and speak with her, and be there for her after the procedure. She's likely to be frightened and disoriented both before and after. She could use someone who knows what it's like and who can hold her hand."

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"I can do that," agreed Sharl immediately, thinking sympathetically about that poor little girl Gina had told him about before his trip to Tronik. "I mean, even if I never had a flesh body, I know what it's like to be digitized." He'd forgotten something of that faint feeling of disconnection that marked being in his hologram body; it wasn't actually unpleasant as such, just odd. "Is she going to be projected?" he asked, "Or just in a computer? Either way, it's good it's just for a couple of days. Do I need to learn Swedish?" he asked her. "I mean, I can just look it up with that fish translator thing, but it'll still be strange for her. I was lucky you were able to teach me English."

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"It sounds like her English is decent," Miss A assured Sharl, "but I can give you a translation program if needs be. She won't be projecting like you, her program is not going to be physically sophisticated in that way. You have an absolutely comprehensive muscular-skeletal system, all the necessary life processes, full parameters for projecting every motion from every angle. Eira isn't going to have that because she is not intended to live in a computer for more than a few weeks. Her computer body will be quite simplistic compared to yours, but she'll be able to interact in the same sort of habitat that you stay in when you're here. Perhaps you can help her learn to manipulate the environment and decorate her space. That would probably be a nice distraction for her."

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Sharl thought about that. "So she's not going to have a real body, even inside the program?" He paid attention as Miss A showed him what she had in mind for the little girl, the image reminding him of a sophisticated 3-D gaming platform (one from Earth, anyway, Tronik's being much more realistic) or a high-quality animation. "Okay, yeah, I could see her liking that. Especially if she's been sick for so long, and she's never had a real body she could do something with." He hmmed. "I could take her flying inside the program or something, let her really enjoy herself."

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"That would be nice," Miss A agreed. "She'll be able to use all the simulated habitats I built for you, though I've set up her own file to be her "home," just like you have yours. Oh, and that reminds me," she added with a smile. "I made you something to commemorate you officially becoming a hero. Every hero needs a uniform. You can change this up or ditch it if you don't like it, but it might get you started." She touched a key on the console next to her, and suddenly Sharl's clothing shimmered. His coat stayed on, and the glasses as well, but his pants became more closely fitted, his boots taller. And in place of his nondescript sweater, he now wore a black long-sleeved shirt with a glowing blue wi-fi symbol on it. A mirror appeared in the air next to him so he could get a better look.

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"Awesome!" Sharl exclaimed, studying himself with gleeful pride. "I've been thinking about making a real costume back home, but this is perfect!" He pulled out his shades and put them on, posing as he hovered in the air. "I really look like a superhero now," he said with beaming pride. "Thank you! Sharl, Citizen, Sharl, Citizen! Nice!" he added, taking his shades on and off. "And this is something I can wear at home as a costume without anyone wondering what I am, because it still looks like regular clothes. This was a great idea." He flitted around, going back and forth, until he'd tested himself from all angles, even upside down, looking satisfied from every perspective.

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Miss A smiled as she watched him, pleased that her present had been well-received. "It looks good on you," she assured him, vanishing the mirror lest teenage vanity keep them there all morning. "The jet is leaving in a couple of hours. Dragonfly and some of the support staff will be coming along with us. You can board along with us, or pop into your habitat and catch up on your websurfing if you'd rather. It's going to be a long and boring flight, but given the sensitivity of the equipment, it's preferable to teleporting this once."

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"At least we'll be going somewhere with more going on than the Sanctum." For all that it had been full of spectacular wonders, a huge empty headquarters wasn't nearly as novel as being around new and different kinds of people. "It's crazy to think about how there's a whole continent full of people over the horizon," he said, nodding in that direction as he moved around the Lab. "This is going to be a great trip. We'll have a great time, you and the other scientists will save a little girl, and I'll have a little sidekick of my own!" Sobering a little, he added, "Will you be okay with the travel and being in Europe that long?" he asked discreetly.

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"I'll be fine," Miss A reassured him. "I'll take breaks when I need them, and be prepared for times when I'll have to make long pushes. Really the only time I ever have trouble is if I'm caught unprepared." She walked around the lab too, collecting a few last odds and ends she might need for the journey. "And there will be absolutely no superheroics with the nine-year-old civilian child along," she chided Sharl, her teasing tone letting him know she didn't think he was serious. "But she wants to fly, and in the computer, she'll be able to do that. It'll be much better for her to be able to concentrate on all the good things now and in the future than on what is happening to her organic body. I have every confidence in your ability to be a distraction," she told him dryly.

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Flitting around the room, testing his familiarity with his projected body, Sharl said, "I'll take good care of her, really. I always kind of wanted a little sister, and this way I can just be there for the big stuff. And hey, we will have a lot to talk about, though if she's anything like most kids, she'll want to be flying around first." He thought for a minute, then said, "I guess downloading like that wouldn't work really well for Tronik, would it?" He smiled faintly. "Even as awesome as you are with computer stuff, fifty million growing robots would be a bad plan. We'll just worry about stuff like flying and walking, and maybe art. Maybe on the way, I'll make plans for a lightpaint board, and I'll teach her artwork..." It sounded like Sharl was already taking a shine to this idea.

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"That all sounds good," Miss A agreed, "just so long as you go slowly. It's going to take time, and she's probably going to be scared sometimes. I'll be porting in as well for part of the time, just to make sure she's settling in, and Dragonfly may pay visits as well. We'll all work together." She took a deep breath. "We also have to be prepared for the very real possibility that this may not work the way we hoped. The simulations are all good, we're as prepared as we're going to get, but it's still very much a gamble. We just need to remember that we're all doing the very best we can for her, all right?"

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Sharl frowned, floating pensively with his hands in his pockets. "I hadn't thought of that, but I guess you're right. We've gotta be realistic, and that means something bad might happen. Not everybody can be saved, not even sick little kids who are getting a lot of help." He gave Miss A a reassuring look, though, and said, "But you're the smartest person I've ever met, or even heard of," he told Miss A, "and I know how good you are at saving people. I bet things are going to be just fine," he said hopefully. "Whatever happens, you're trying to help give a little girl her childhood, and that's good."

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"She's got the best chance we can give her, so keep your fingers crossed," Miss A agreed. Within a short time, they were both ready to go, leaving the lab for the short flight out to the airfield. The equipment was already there, but Miss A wanted to personally supervising the loading and storing for the trip. She left Sharl to his own devices, figuring that the teenage program usually had little trouble finding ways to keep himself busy in the big new world outside his computer.

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A lone armored figure sat cross-legged on top of one of the less sensitive boxes, her posture unmistakably sulking. She didn't even turn around when Miss Americana showed up; she just sat there hunched, gazing at the airfield and looking annoyed.

[bg=#555555]"Was asked to 'remain on or close to the ground for the time being',"[/bg] Dragonfly supplied, her voice coming out a little filtered and electronic. A quartet of articulated nodes pushed out of a more armored spot on her back, and flickered frustrated energy before retreating. [bg=#555555]"Very...annoying. But reasonable. Which makes it more annoying. Didn't want to start loading without you: know it's usually preferable to be there in person - make sure nothing's missed or damaged. No possible loading report or manifest detailed enough to make up for lack of personal oversight."[/bg]

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Sharl enjoyed the flight over with Miss A, taking in the sights of Freedom City as if he'd never left it. What an exotic, alien place even after living here for so long! He didn't recognize Dragonfly at first, but the first time he heard her voice, he knew his old teammate was there. Citizen flew up and over Dragonfly's head, having made a neat touchdown alongside Miss Americana nearby. "Hi, Dragonfly!" said the program, looking very pleased with himself. His outfit had been modified from the last time she'd seen him, with a glowing wi-fi symbol over the chest. "Oh man, you've got armor! That's great! You look really badass." He beamed. "Miss A brought me back so I can hang out with our patient inside the computer. Did you miss me?"

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Dragonfly tilted her head, sizing Sharl up in his new clothes. costume? - interesting - phrase...'suits him' [bg=#555555]"Suits you,"[/bg] she replied, nodding. [bg=#555555]"Interesting choice of symbol. Appropriate. Amusing coincidence, as well - didn't finish the armor too long ago. Not sure I'm happy with the plating, but difficult to test the metal without fielding it...mmh."[/bg] She regarded an armored arm with what was probably a frown, and shook her head. [bg=#555555]"Not important for now. Welcome back, and it's a good idea - patient will probably appreciate having someone to hang out with."[/bg]

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"Thanks," Miss A told Dragonfly. "Once we get there, we're going to be on a tight schedule. We can't afford anything getting lost or broken." She smiled, looking over her colleague's new getup. "The new suit looks good. Guess you got the flight built into it now? I hope we'll have time later for you to show us how it works. Sharl's coming along as patient liaison for this one, but I have a feeling he'll be better off if he knows Swedish by the time we get there. If you've got a few minutes, perhaps you could knock something together for him?" With no apparent effort, she picked up one of the heavy boxes and carried it herself into the plane, the better to supervise its placement.

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[bg=#555555]"Swedish...mmh."[/bg] Dragonfly tilted her head back the other way, frowning under her helmet at Sharl and, more abstractly, the problem. [bg=#555555]"Don't know that language. Probably wouldn't help if I did. Difficult to download that kind of data in isolation for use elsewhere. Can work on it during the flight, maybe; will need to ask Miss Americana if the computer will have internet access...take advantage of translation services already existing, maybe a learning algorithm for compiling and comparing various translation results. Would need to translate from audio to text first, but that isn't a problem. Mmmmh...."[/bg]

She tapped her metal-clad leg, sitting cross-legged on the box and staring off into space as her brain started building and discarding designs.

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The small group didn't have long to wait. There was a quiet hum, and out of another hangar at the airport, an impressive-looking jet rolled down towards their location. It had an airport vehicle guiding it, but seemed to be moving under its own power. It stopped almost on a dime, and almost simultaneously, the passenger door and the cargo door opened up.

From the passenger door stepped Baron Magnus Katastroff, clad in an immaculate business suit. His posture was that of a man stressed and somewhat exhausted, though. He quickly trotted down the stairs that had folded out, walking over to the others with a tired smile on his face.

"Excellent. Glad you're all here. I'll have them start loading things up ASAP. We actually just brought the jet back from Sweden. Once we get it all buttoned up, it should take us...about 4.5 hours. Roughly."

Already, professional loaders were moving in to gently take the equipment on board.

"Again, thank you. All of you. I...well, just...thank you."

He was clearly feeling awkward, so he gestured for them to follow.

"Come on, let's hop on."

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Citizen sobered a little at Magnus' arrival, conscious that the man probably wouldn't want a lot of smiles around when he was seriously worried about his niece. Instead he was a close and solicitous ally of Miss Americana, helping supervise the loading of the last of their stuff into the airplane, then helping Dragonfly double-check her lists as well. He still flittered around and had a good time, but tried to be serious around the guy who had very serious reasons to be there. After all, this wasn't just an adventure for Magnus and his family; this was somebody's life.

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