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Life Moves Pretty Fast (IC)

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Freedom City, Theater District

Friday, January 18, 2013

8:57 PM

Being mid-January, a cold night air hung over Freedom City. Throughout the city, things had begun to get back to normal following the events of a few days earlier. Though there was still damage in some places, the city's populace was well adept at dealing with such inconveniences. Down in the Theater District, the various venues were once again open, their lights glittering in the in the dark.

One of the few that stood dark tonight was the Barbary Theatre, though not because of any damage or other problems. The venue was currently in the process of changing productions, and thus was closed for a few weeks as some general maintenance was performed and the new sets and lighting were installed before the opening of its new show.

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The day of Wrath had been hard on the theater district, but people had a way of getting by, of not looking at the wreckage and not talking about the dead. Kat had noticed that comedies were the only things being performed.

It was about time. Warp appeared in a flash of red light on the roof of the Barbary, rubbed at her eye with a fist and peered around at dark streets and empty night.

She looked frayed at the edges, with a hint in her eyes of a deep tiredness sleep had little power over.

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A blur of yellow sped down the streets of Freedom City, as Velocity made her way into the Theater District. Earlier tonight she had gone with a couple of co-workers from Summit Transanational to happy hour at a local bar in the Wadding Way. The group had been smaller than was typically the case, and the bar a lot less busy that normal as well. As such, she had returned to her apartment over an hour ago, plenty of time for her to relax a little and then change into costume before heading off to meet with the Warp.

The Claremont teen had contacted Velocity earlier in the day, asking if the speedster if she would be able to meet to talk that evening. Warp had been one of the Claremont students Velocity had met on the Day of Wrath, the group having dealt with one of the robot replacements of a fellow student at a political rally being held by Congressman Walsh. Velocity was not quite sure why the teenager wanted to talk with her, but recalled Warp as being somewhat shake up by the events of that day, but also one of the ones determined to get out and help when Velocity had offered them a mission in helping deal with the control boxes scattered around the city. So the two had arranged to meet up in the Theater District at 9 PM. So she still had a little over a mintue before she would be late, which was far more than the speedster needed.

Velocity was glad to see that some semblance of normalcy had returned to the area, and particularly that the comedies were up and running again, as she had tickets for a musical comedy tomorrow evening. Running up the wall of the theater building Warp had indicated, the young woman came skidding to a halt, the heat and night vision in her goggles helping her quickly spot the teen who was already there. "Hey Warp!" She called out as she moved over at more normal speed. "I know I said it the other day, but you and the others did a great job with helping to deal with those control boxes and the war bots, not to mention stopping that robot duplicate."

"So, what can I do for you?" The speedster then asked with a warm smile.

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Velocity hadn't been there when everything had hit the fan, but she'd been their first link to anywhere. Apart from the kids at Claremont and, presumably, their teachers, Velocity was the only real hero Warp knew how to contact. From what she'd heard, Velocity knew the score. She was in the with the League and had everything together while the city was falling apart around her. The older hero had grown more impressive and reliable in Warp's mind for every hour she had to dwell on that day, when Walsh's rally went all wrong.

Suddenly all the questions Warp had wanted to ask seemed small and embarrassing. A week ago, if someone asked what her favorite hero was, she would have rolled her eyes and said she didn't have one. "Um." Warp bit down on the inside of her lip, her eyes darting and wide. Kat had one now, she realized. And she was talking to her. "I . . ." Stage fright was not a new thing for Kat. She shook her head and tried to regain her place. Something was better than nothing, always. So say something.

Warp clutched her hand behind her back and shifted from foot to foot. "What . . . What made you decide to be a hero?" Warp grimaced at the question even as it came out of her mouth and looked away, seeming every bit the lost little girl. Warp weighed the possibility of cutting and running and found it tempting.

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Velocity watched Warp as the younger girl hesitated for a few moments trying to deal with apparent nerves. The speedster kept her friendly smile in place, hoping to reassure the other girl. When Warp finally asked a question, it was not quite the one Velocity had been expecting.

While in her Velocity costume, Megan's normal reaction would have been to make a joke or an otherwise lighthearted response. But right now she had a feeling that Warp was looking for something more than that, not that Megan would not try to lighthearted when she could if it could help the younger girl, who apparently was still dealing with the events from a few days earlier.

"Well, that is not exactly an easy question to answer." The speedster began, keeping her smile in place. "I mean, it was not like I just flipped a switch one day and decide this was what I wanted to be doing with my life. And unlike some others that are in this business, I did not have some tragedy that befell me or my family that I sought out to avenge nor do I have some past that I want to make amends for."

"I think if I boil it down, I like being able to help people, it’s something my parents instilled in me growing up, though what they had in mind certainly wasn’t this. In the process of doing that, I came to the realization that I could do things that not many can and that I had something of an obligation in how I used those abilities."

"But I did not come to those realizations right away. You're about sixteen right?" Velocity asked as she focused on Warp. "Well, I was younger than that when I gained my powers, and let me tell you, suddenly being able to run as fast as a race car, and do a week's worth of homework and chores in no time flat was exciting. But at the same time my life then was rather, well, regimented, and I felt as if I was under a lot of pressure, though most of that was of my own creation. So, I put together a costume." She held out arms in a small pose. "Well, it was cruder than this one of course, as it wasn't morphic molecules. And it was smaller, but it was still a costume, and it was a chance to be someone else, to be more carefree."

"And while I was out just running around, I just seemed to come across things I could not ignore. A purse snatcher here, pulling someone out from in front of a car there. It was all just small things at first, but it felt good just the same. I was still not able to drive when I stopped my first bank robbery, and let me tell you, I was terrified, but somehow I did it, and no one was hurt. Well, maybe one or two of the bank robbers were, but none of the bystanders or employees. From there, things just seemed to continue to build."

The speedster stopped a moment, regarding the younger heroine once again. "So, I didn't quite set out to do this, but I know why I keep doing it, and why I feel it is important." She paused another moment, and then grinned slightly. "And there is still a part of me that enjoys the thrill of racing around at several times the speed of sound and just causing some supercriminal a lot of trouble."

She let the grin fade before she spoke again. "So, you having some second thoughts after the other day?"

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Warp's shoulders slumped and she felt something wet gather in the corners of her eyes. "It shot before I could do anything," Warp said, her voice breaking like heartstrings. "It went right through her eye while I watched, and then she was dead." Both her hands were closed tight at her sides and she was shaking with something that wasn't just the cold. ". . . Just . . . Like . . . That."

She took a deep, shuddering breath. This was not what she'd meant to say, this was not the way it was supposed to come out. Warp's hands were shaking as she held them out in front of her and said; "I saw them all die, like they were nothing. I went to see all the ones I dropped off at the hospital but a bunch were gone before I sent them." She sniffed, loud enough for Velocity to hear. She could still see their pale, still faces.

"I wanted to help," Kat said. "I wanted to be a hero. But they died!" She said, bewildered. "They died." A strangled sound, barely more than a whisper while Warp shook like a child in the dark who'd seen the boogeyman smiling against the window.

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Velocity gave an inward sigh as she listened to the teenager, fearing the conversation was getting a little beyond her depth. "Warp," she began when the younger heroine finished, "first off, I have to say that the other day, you and your friends had to deal with a situation far more serious than anything I faced in my early years and more than was fair for you to be expected to deal with. I wish it had not been the case, but, well, it happened, so what anyone may have wanted doesn't really matter at this point."

"But you cannot blame yourself for what happened. I have read some witness reports, from that incident and others. Those robot duplicates fooled lots of people, people very close to the real individuals, so it should be of little surprise that once they were set off, they caught so many people unprepared. You had no way of knowing what was about to happen."

"What you're feeling now, and what I am sure you felt to some degree then as well, is completely understandable reaction to seeing such a traumatic event. In fact, the moment you can see something like what happened that day and not feel anything is probably the day you should consider hanging up your costume for good."

"But as far as being a hero, I want you to think about what you did do that day, even after seeing people killed by someone you thought was a friend. You could have frozen up, or run away, but you didn't. You took a lot of bystanders to the hospital, some wounded, some not, and yes, some were already dead. But you did not stop there. You went back to the scene, and helped stop the robot. Then, when I finally got there, you did not take the opportunity to just go where it was safe until the crisis was over, you wanted to go out and do whatever you could to help prevent further deaths, and you did that. We will never know what might have happened if you and the others had not gone and dealt with those transmitters when you did, and I certainly won't try to say one life is worth more than another, but you do know that when you needed to, you were able to preserver in the face of a crisis, and that's not something everyone can do."

The speedster paused a brief moment, and then continued. "But now the crisis is over, and you have to deal with the emotions of what happened and what you saw. As I said before, what you're having to deal with is much more than anything I did early on in my costumed identity. But I think you have some advantages over me. Back then, I had no one to talk to about my failures, or even my triumphs. Not my parents, not my friends, no one. Well, I suppose I could have talked to some of those people, but rightly or wrongly, I didn't, and kept what I was doing secret. So I had to try to work though it all on my own. You have your friends that were there with you that day, you have other students at Claremont, as well as your teachers there. I would imagine they have provided counselors for all of you to talk with, and you should. And you have me as well, for whatever that is worth. I cannot promise I will always be immediately able to talk, but I will try to get back to you as soon as I can."

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Warp's arms fell limp at her side, still shaking. Shoulders slumped. She blinked rapidly at Velocity, eyes still luminous. Sniffed again. Warp tore her gaze away from Velocity, stared down at herself and sighed. Kat pinched at the morphic molecules of her own suit, stretched it so she could feel it between her fingers and let it snap back. She couldn't the things Velocity had praised in it. It seemed like a much too feeble and fickle slip of a girl to trust lives with.

"When I came to Claremont, the hero thing seemed like a lot of fun. Everyone loved to talk about them. Throw down with some idiot with a moth motif, wink at the news vans and swing down the street. They said it could get bad, so often I started dozing off when they did. I thought I got it." Her arms curled around her stomach, like she was about to be sick. Kat peered up at Velocity with eyes that begged she be Kat's hero. "But I didn't get it till then. A second's wait, and people die." If there had been any wind at all, it would have drowned out Warp's whisper. "How do you stand it?"

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“That is often a hard lesson to learn. Like I said before, I wish you did not have to learn it so soon.†Velocity replied with a sympathetic look. “As for how I deal with the pressure of responsibility, well, it’s not easy. But, I long ago realized that I would regret anything that happened because I did not even try more than the things I may fail to prevent or that were beyond my control. I find ways to deal with the guilt and remorse I feel when those things happen, but I know that if I just stop or give up, countless more will happen that I could have stopped.â€

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Warp wiped her eyes with her arm. Because if you don't act, even more people could be in trouble. Even more people could get hurt. And you deal with it . . . somehow. "Right." Super helpful, that; top of the line advice. Deal with it, the answer seemed to be; there are people on the line. Warp forced herself to stand up a little straighter, rub the redness off her face and breathed, slow and uneven, pulling herself back together. She put her hands on her hips and gave the speedster a smile she meant to be strong, and it was almost convincing.

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Velocity looked over at Warp and once again had an inward sigh. Well, your clearly doing a great job here Megan. She thought to herself as she decided it might be best to try something different.

"But that is the answer to how I deal with having the responsibility of doing what we do." She said to the younger heroine. "But perhaps you're not asking me the right question, or if you did, I did not hear it right. I guess what you really want to know is how do I deal with the guilt and remorse of seeing someone die?"

The speedster reached up with her right hand and gently took a hold of the upper part of Warp's left arm. "I can talk about that, but first, let me ask you Warp. How are you dealing with what you saw the other day?"

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Warp bit down on her lip for a moment. "I don't think of it all the time," she said, very quiet. "Except, I'll slow down for a bit, and relax, and I'll remember, think of what I should've done instead. Or I'll be going around the city, hear someone scream down the road and think . . ." Her lips felt so dry. An awkward shrug. Shifty eyes. "I'll wonder if I'm too late again. I just . . . Stay busy, when I can. Training, going on patrol, homework. Anything, really. You know? Just give myself something to do, keep my mind off things."

"But . . ." Deep breath. "The rest? They couldn't do a thing. At best they could just fly off with someone, and the robot probably had good enough aim to shoot at whatever they were holding. But I could've taken all of them someplace safe, just like that, if . . ." Warp squirmed where she stood. "If I hadn't froze up when the robot started hailing arrows, I could have dropped them somewhere far away. Someplace safe, if I'd just been a little quicker."

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Velocity listened as Warp talked, nodding slightly as she talked about keeping herself busy, and was not surprised that she was still blaming herself for hesitating or not being quick enough. "Well, I certainly know about trying to keep busy and not think about things." The speedster replied with a small smile. "I used to do that a lot when I started out, though, homework did not really help much, unless I forced myself to slow down and do it at normal speed. But I would spend time with my friends from my high school, practice new dance routines, make out with my boyfriend, and a ton of other things. Intentionally or not, I still manage to find ways to be stay busy. Since Tuesday, in addition to time helping to clean things up around the city, I have a job that has kept me very busy, including a sixteen hour work day yesterday."

"But as useful as keeping busy is to help give yourself a bit of time to process everything and get some distance, it is only delaying what you need to do, namely letting yourself feel the emotions associated with seeing, and unless I am very mistaken, probably for the very first time, a number of people die on Tuesday."

The speedster paused for a moment, looking closely at Warp as her hand on the teen's arm gave a reassuring squeeze. "Maybe you're not quite ready to do that Warp. But you have to promise me that you won’t keep putting it off for too much longer."

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Velocity's squeeze said more. It told with an honesty words didn't know, in a language that had been used since before men learned to make their tongue speak. It said; 'you are not alone.' Kat found comfort in it, felt some of the tension bleeding out of her shoulders. Panic spent, she smiled up at the older hero. It wasn't large, but it was genuine. Warp grabbed hold of right elbow shifting her weight from one foot to the other, a child not sure quite where she stood. "Thanks," she said. "I'll try."

Warp looked up at Velocity. "Has anything like this happened?" She asked. "Before? Anything this bad?"

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Velocity felt a feeling of relief that Warp seemed to finally be relaxing a bit. It was not much, but it was something. The speedster returned Warp's small smile with a wide one of her own. "Well, that's all I can ask." She replied as the teen stated she would try.

When Warp asked if there had ever been incidents as bad as the recent events, Velocity let out a small sigh. "Yeah, there have. The most obvious is the Terminus Invasion, though I was just a toddler when that happened. But I have heard about it from Captain Thunder, Lady Liberty, Daedalus and Raven, who were all there. And back when I was on the League's active roster, I spent an hour or so reading over most of the reports on some of adventures of both versions of the League. There have been more than a few I am afraid to say."

But then the speedster brightened up, a wide smile coming to her face as she stepped next to Warp and turned to face the same way as the teen was, putting one arm around her shoulder. "But listen, don't start dwelling on when the next catastrophe will happen, you'll get grey hairs that way. Instead, let me give you another little bit of advice. Training to do better, getting out more on patrols, etc, all that is good, especially if you really want to stick with this. But, you have to give yourself permission to just live your life as well."

"You're only going to be a teenager once, well, unless you have some unusual superpower or something, and you deserve a chance to enjoy it, at least some." She stopped a moment and looked slightly down at Warp, gesturing with her free hand. "Listen closely, you-deserve-the-chance."

"You cannot be everywhere, all the time. You need to take time for yourself. Me? Sure this weekend I'll probably zip around town some during the day, stop a few minor crimes here or there. Hopefully I'll be nearby to help some people in ways that don't involve fighting, you know, keep someone from falling off a ladder, or help some old lady get her cat out of a tree. But tomorrow night, I am going on my second date with a guy I met a couple of weeks ago, and, should things go as well as our first date, I look forward to a nice long kiss goodnight. And then I will be seeing him again Sunday when we get together with some college friends of his and their girlfriends to watch the NFL playoffs."

"So Warp, can you promise me this weekend you will take some time to just be the teenager behind the mask?"

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Velocity wrung a snort out of Warp; being a teenager twice? "I don't think so, but mutant puberty can get weird."

Her smile faded away as Velocity went on, her thoughts gone back to different, but still somber places. She'd called in and canceled on her last rehearsal . . . The one after that too, in advance, in anticipation for exactly what Velocity was telling her not to do. She could go home, maybe. Sleep in her bed; talk to Mom and Dad. Go see a movie, maybe. Warp nodded. "I can try that." Something playful flashed behind her eyes. "But I won't be held responsible for what I do if I see someone running through the streets with a shrink ray."

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Warp's small chuckle at the bit about possibly repeating being a teenager made Velocity's smile a bit wider. Then the older heroine gave Warp a small look as the teen indicated she would "try" to just relax some over the weekend. "Hmm…" She murmured as she twisted her mouth to one side for a moment. "Not exactly a confident promise, but I guess I will have to take it." Her tone was light, and she gave Warp a comforting squeeze with the arm that was around the teen's shoulders.

Then the speedster let out a little laugh of her own as the teen made a joke about possibly running into someone with a shrink ray while trying to relax. "Well, how being a hero can completely interfere with attempts to be normal for awhile, causing you to miss things, slip way from dates or the like, is a whole other conversation. But suffice to say, Taylor Swift and I could sit down for a pity party for our failed relationships and I would totally have her beat." With her last comment, Velocity made a wide, sweeping gesture with her free hand.

The speedster then released Warp, stepping a little ways away as she turned back to face the teen. "So, for the moment we're feeling at least a little bit better about things, and we're going to try to find time for ourselves this weekend. So what else would you like to talk about? I've got plenty of time." She gave Warp a warm smile.

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Again Warp smiled, her shoulders relaxing under Velocity's arms before she pulled away. "Themed villains," she sighed. "Just go out for a nice dinner with friends and suddenly it's all 'tremble, drones, and beware the sting of the Wasp!'" Warp rolled her eyes, crossed her arms and huffed.

Velocity's last question caught her a little bit off guard. "Aah . . ." Warp chewed on her lip, trying to see if she could drone up something to give the speedster, but the well was coming up desert dry. She gave a shy grin and held up her hands apologetically. "That was . . . Well, that was pretty much it." Warp scratched at the back of her neck, looking embarrassed.

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"Well, it's not like we didn't hit on some pretty weighting issues." Velocity replied, her smile still firmly in place. "But remember, you can always give me a call if you want to talk more, about anything we talked about tonight, or anything else you just are not sure who to turn to about. I can't promise I'll always have answers, but I can certainly listen, and maybe help find someone who does have the answers."

Just then there was a fait beeping sound coming from one of the pouches on the speedster's belt. In a movement Warp was not able to follow, Velocity had drawn her Freedom League communicator out. "Hmm." She said, looking at the screen. "It seems like I don't have the time I thought I did, there's something not far from here I need to go check out." She paused for a fraction of a second, then looked back over at the teen. "Interested in giving me a hand?"

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Crossing her ankles and tugging her vest further closed, Kat felt the awkward weight of the moment between when the comforting is done and finally the body got the message to stop sniffling, which Velocity had been kind enough to ignore. Warp thumbed her eyes, but they were still red around the rims, and likely to stay that way for a while. "Uh, Velocity?" A shy smile, while she was looking downward, only half of her face turned toward the speedster. "Thanks again. I mean it."

At the mention of action Warp blinked, clicked her boots together and raised her hand in a faux-salute. "Yes ma'am!" Warp said. "Where too?"

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"You are very welcome Warp." The Velocity replied with broad smile as Warp thanked her. "I am glad to offer what help I can."

The speedster chuckled slightly as teen came to something resembling attention and gave a salute, indicating she was ready to come along to investigate the alert the older heroine had received. "Well, based on the information I got, it should be about half a mile that way." She stated, turning to the Northeast and pointing off in the direction of the Liberty Dome, the large stadium where several of the city’s sports teams play. "It is at a bank two blocks south of the Liberty Dome on 44th."

She looked back over to Warp with a grin. "So, see you there in a second?"

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At the mention of the street Kat tried to pin down the exact address in her mind. She had a good idea, but a good idea was different than knowing someplace. Which, in the end, only meant that it would take, counting opening the way, about five seconds to get there instead of one.

There weren't a lot of people who could match Warp's raw mobility, but Velocity seemed like she'd be pretty good at it. Warp put a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow, her eyes glowed with a red light. The world split behind her with a hushed snarl, pulsing red darkness wide enough for the little girl to step through. "Meetcha there." Warp inclined her head toward Velocity and stepped inside.

Generally speaking, opening a portal directly into trouble was a bad idea. So Warp's gate dumped her on the rooftop of the 45th. She shook her head, reorienting herself in the wake of her portal.

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While Warp very likely would be able to more quickly cover longer distances with a teleport than Velocity, the few seconds she needed to try to focus on her destination here worked against her, as the speedster could simply run and adjust as she went. Given the short distance, Velocity did not need much time to cover the ground, and as such, arrived a couple of seconds before Warp. Arriving on the rooftop of a building a block away, Warp notice a distinct drop in the temperature in the air.

Glancing down at the intersection by the bank a block away, where Velocity had stopped closer to down on the street, she saw what looked like a miniature snow storm. Small flakes of snow were swirling around almost half the block around the bank.

Standing on the sidewalk next to the bank's ATM machine was a woman dressed in blue. It was hard for Warp to tell from where she was, but somehow it looked like the ATM was open and the woman had been pulling money from inside to put into a bag in one hand. But the woman was now looking at Velocity, and appeared to also glance up towards where Warp was standing as well before focusing back on the closer heroine.

Velocity pointed towards the woman. "Okay, I don't know who you are, but this is your warning. I'm Velocity and back there is Warp." The speedster gestured back over her shoulder with a thumb without even looking back. "I highly suggest just giving up now and save yourself a lot of grief." As Velocity called out at the woman in blue, Warp could see her breath hanging in the air in front of her.

"I don't want to hurt anyone." The woman shouted back. "But I am not going to jail."

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This distance, on the other hand, was child's play. A flash of red light and Warp was standing behind Velocity, right next to Velocity. She got a closer look at Miss Winter, bag stuffed halfway full of money already. "You really should have thought of that before you tried withdrawing without a card," Warp called out over the snow, letting caustic power collect in her belly. She'd never fought a weather controller before! Could this one fly? Could she do things besides make a white Christmas any time she felt the need?

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When Warp teleported down near Velocity, she suddenly felt a biting cold in the air that had her shivering as the faint flurry of snow swirled around her. She could also now see that the ATM machine appears to have been frozen until it became brittle, and then simply smashed be the woman in blue.

Now able to see her better, the teen could see she was a slender, small-framed woman in her mid-twenties, with long, straight blonde hair and blue eyes. Her costume was a long blue coat with white fur trim, and she also wore dark blue boots and fingerless gloves and had a pair of ski goggles pulled up on her head.

She appeared slightly hesitant, but then tensed as if she realized she had no choice but to try to run or fight her way clear.

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