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And Then a Step to the Right (IC)


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Friday, September 6th, 2013

Mara's Warehouse, Greenbank

"....can't be right. Can't be."

Mara Hallomen looked wide-eyed down at Puppy, her food forgotten in its bowl on the counter. The young woman had taken a rare day off from her job at HAX to work on some personal projects - one of the perks of being the boss - and had been idly sifting through some data while she sat in her kitchen getting a snack.

Now, snack time was over; she suddenly had a lot of work to do, and no time to do it. A quick thought had her computer dialing one Ellie Espadas, as Mara started frantically digging through the racks and bins of parts in her warehouse. "Ellie? I...need your help. It...mmmh, capacitors capacitors capacitors...." She sounded stressed, which was normal, but also almost frantically concerned, which was not. "....there, yes. Sorry. Really really really need your help."

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"I'm on my way now, hun, just sit tight!" the response came as Ellie's voice over the phone catching noticeably in reaction to the stress radiating from Mara. Her inventor girlfriend rarely asked for help and never did so frivolously. Leaving her textbooks and notepad open on the bare bones reception desk of her brother's self-defense school, she took only enough time to sling her canvass messenger bag over her shoulder and hurriedly slip the sign on the door to 'CLOSED' before locking up and sprinting down the street to the nearest bus stop, scanning the road for a free cab at the same time. Balancing her cellphone between her cheek and shoulder she continued, "You're at the warehouse today, right? Is it your head? I thought those were getting better..."

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"No, head's okay. Ish. Head is normal. Just need - wire. Heavy gauge...Puppy, where is half-inch wire? Yes? Thank you. No, sorry."

In the background of the call, Mara could be heard working on something - there was a sharp hiss as she lit a torch to cut through the sought-after cables. "Kind of an emergency, though. It's--"

She paused, torch hissing in silence for a moment before being flicked off. "....okay," the heroine said, as sincerely as was possible. "I...need you to help me hopefully save my mother. ....sounds crazy. Promise that I am not crazy."

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There was silence on the other end of the phone call for a moment, save the faint background noise of a bus stopping nearby. "...so it's gonna be one of those dates, huh?" Ellie noted finally as she boarded the bus and took a seat close to the rear doors. "Sounds like this might be more of a face-to-face conversation, hermosa. I'll be there soon, okay?"

True to her word, it wasn't long before there was a rapping on the side door of Mara's warehouse. Dropping her bag nearby the curving stairs up to the second floor, Ellie walked over to look at what Mara was working on. "Maybe you should start at the beginning, Marbar."

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"...okay, so." Mara stood up straight and rubbed her temples, taking a short breather from the contraption that was taking over her main worktable - its normal covering of half-finished projects and widgets had apparently either been salvaged for parts or shoved unceremoniously onto the nearby floor and off to one side of the warehouse floor. She'd thrown some overalls on over her pajamas, but otherwise had apparently been doing nothing but building since the phone call. "...okay. Remember the weird...time portal...thing? 2011? Portals all over city - spacetime tears. Archeville."

Even behind the concern and slowly draining frantic energy, there was a special tone reserved for Doctor Archeville's name. It wasn't a particularly flattering one.

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"Urgh, like I could forget," Ellie replied, dragging a hand over her face as though attempting to wipe the dour expression from it. "Poor Zip was never the same after that. I mean, he was older and more mature but mostly he was so damn sad..." Shoulders sagging a bit at the thought, the young pre-med student turned her attention back to the more pressing matter. "Is that what you meant about saving tu mama? Last time you mentioned her you, um. You said she'd passed away a long time ago." She wasn't entirely sure where Mara was going with all of it, but the subject of her family was always a difficult one.

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"Yes....kind of. Complicated. Physics are...." Mara paused for a moment, making her 'I'm translating this into English words' face, tapping a finger against her arm as she recalled that day. "Had a tear here. Was testing my prototype suit, think it attracted the tear. Went back to when she died, because...universe has a sense of humor...? Don't know. Very coincidental."

She frowned, obviously unhappy with not having a good answer for that bit, but shook her head. "Found her when his thugs were shooting at her. Panicked. Used prototype suit to open tear wide enough to take us both back...mostly. I got back. She's....mmmh."

Mara made very vague hand motions, pacing a bit and scowling at the limitations of human communication. "....between places. Times. Not travelling in time at the same speed, sort of. Arriving soon."

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"Not much of a joke," Ellie opined with a grimace, stepping around the workbench and placing her hands on Mara's hips from behind when the blonde young woman began pacing in agitation. "You can just let the universe know that if it doesn't smarten up I'll kick its teeth in for you," she promised, leaning over far enough to kiss Mara's ear lightly.

Admittedly, she wasn't entirely clear on the mechanics involved in that or in time travel. "She's going to show up here? Wouldn't she still be where she was being attacked? Not to mention the bulle-- oh!" Straightening in realization she slid around to face Mara again, keeping one hand on the small of her girlfriend's back. "You're worried she might already be hit, right? Or the bullets will come through, too, and you'll need a force field."

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"You are brilliant," Mara complimented, giving Ellie a swift kiss on the cheek. "Location isn't a big problem - time/space...thing. Lots of math. Basically followed my path back here. But, mmh, bullets...."

Little lights danced behind her eyes as the wall-dominating monitor behind her main workbench flickered on, displaying a crude but clear model of a human body suspended in mid-fall, multiple small shapes - bullets - suspended in front of them; given the date in one corner of the screen, it had apparently been created quite some time ago. "Bullets, yes," she said, "but force field...yes and no."

An idle gesture and a thought had the point of view zoom in and rotate to display at least two bullets less unsettlingly close to the figure's midsection. "Mostly yes. These, maybe one or two others - mostly working from memory - these, no, if she isn't already hit. Even with a computer controlling the field, no. Can only approximate where she'll end up," she explained, sounding almost apologetic - though whether to Ellie or the suspended model of her mother, it wasn't clear. "Time within a few minutes, space within a few feet. Not close enough to stop these. Didn't even think it would BE today - original calculations were...not correct. Work I do here bends space a little. Sped her up - should have realized before now."

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"I have my moments," Ellie agreed with a small smile, glad to see that Mara wasn't too harried to spare a moment on flattery and affection. There were times when the inventive prodigy got on a real tear that not slowing her down was about the best on could honestly hope for. "Either that or bullet wounds have become far too common a factor in out lives."

It had been intended as a glib, off-hand remark but as Ellie looked at the computer generated wire frame of a woman and the approaching projectiles, the hand on Mara's back clenched enough to scrunch together the fabric of the overalls beneath her palm. "I'll stop it this time," she promised in a soft voice, seeing a very different scene before her until she blinked her eyes back into focus. "T-this time with tu mama, I mean. Because time-travel and all. We'll make sure she's okay."

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"Yes, we will." There was only the faintest trace of doubt in Mara's voice - born only of things she knew they had absolutely zero control over - and she gave Ellie a relieved smile as she stepped away and grabbed one of the many parts still sitting next to her contraption. "My...doesn't actually have a name. My thing is almost done," she said, sliding the arm-like array into place and slipping some screws in one-handed with an ease earned with practice. "Kind of like a landing pad? Should keep the tear in place. Safer. Could use your help, if you don't mind grease and bruised fingers."

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"Fine, but you have to promise to talk me up a bit, okay?" Ellie replied with feigned reluctance, covering her momentary discomfort with humour even as she willed her hands to steady themselves. They did so on command, veterans of suture stitches and removing everything from bullets to shards of glass from wounds. "I want her to like me, after all."

Following Mara over to the machinery she provided another set of hands where she could, following instruction with implicit trust and confidence. "Actually, on that note... This is going to seem frivolous, but are you going to have time to change, corazon? I just mean, you haven't seen her in a long, long time. Actual pants might be nice."

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Mara raised her eyebrows, pursing her lips and looking down at her well-worn, only-mostly-clean overalls and old pajamas shirt. "....overalls are like pants," she defended. She hadn't actually been considering it, but the more she thought about it the more the idea bothered her.

"....yes, okay. First impressions. Re-impressions? Won't take long. Can you bolt on the last arm?" She pointed at the piece they'd been working on, assembled but unattached. "Think that will be it before we plug it in. I'll...go get changed."

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"Go ahead and wash up, hun," Ellie insisted, making a small shooing motion with her hand, "I've got you covered here." The medic might not have understood the principles of advanced physics that governed the workings of the device she was helping to construct but she was deft of hand and had developed a sense of Mara's design aesthetics to the point where determining which tab went into which slot was fairly straightforward for her. Attaching the last arm, she retrieved a individually wrapped wet wipe from her canvas messenger bag to take the oil from her fingers. It wasn't just for the sake of impressions; once things started moving she suspected she'd be glad for clean hand ready to practice her own craft.

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Mara had apparently had similar thoughts - running water could be heard from the upstairs bathroom, and when she came back downstairs in a clean but simple blouse and slacks combo her hands were remarkably grease-free. Ellie's work got a critical inspection and an approving nod. "Okay, done now. Getting close, though," she added, grabbing a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves off a chair. "Power time."

The surprisingly literal power plug was hard to miss - the cable had to be as big around as either woman's arm, ending in a trio of thick, sharp prongs. Its creator rather unceremoniously - albeit very very carefully - picked it up with her now-shielded hands and dragged it toward a panel in the wall. She winced a bit as she plugged it in and one of the contraption's arms made a sharp whining sound, but otherwise it seemed to hold.

"....so. Not...actually sure how this meeting is supposed to work," she said some minutes later, nervously tapping her arm as she sat on a workbench, watching the frustratingly placid shimmering above her temporal landing pad. "But glad you'll be here for it."

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Ellie hadn't been able to sit still, worried that she'd need to leap into action without warning and instead paced back and forth between the warehouse's workbenches, fidgeting with her hands. "They don't quite make a greeting card for this scenario, no," she agreed, walking back over to Mara's side and leaning to rest her head on her girlfriend's shoulder. "The whole last second rescue thing has to earn you a lot of leeway, though. And hey, this is the future, basically! Wow her with our fabulous cultural advancements." The dark haired girl made jazz hands to emphasize her suggestion.

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"Sure," Mara dryly replied, tilting her head to lean it against Ellie's. "'Welcome to the future, mom! Still have wars and crime and racism and famine. But batteries are really really small now.'" The corner of her mouth pulled up into a half of a grin. "Should have cards for this, though. Think I saw one the other day for--"

She never got to finish the thought. Without warning, the shimmering space over Mara's workbench wrapped in on itself and violently tore open; where once had been distorted air there was a bleeding hole in reality and a sound like gunshots being played in reverse. The young inventor barely had time to scramble for her old heroing gauntlets - now half-salvaged and connected directly to her machine by long tangles of cables and wire - before the tear yawned wide and revealed a blonde woman suspended in mid-fall.

She hung there for half a horrible instant, still stuck outside of time, before falling; Mara's contraption had a force field between her and most of the bullets the moment she was free of the tear, but it was clear from her state on landing - and the acrid, sizzling snap as one of the landing pad's arms flickered and died - that some had been too close to catch.

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Ellie was crouched next to the wounded woman the moment she hit the floor, one hand radiating a diffuse light like sunbeams through a leafy canopy while the other gently turned the time-traveler onto her back. "<I need you to focus on my voice and try to keep still, okay? You're going to be just fine,>" she assumed her patient soothingly in a lightly accented French, her brow creasing in concentration as she placed the glowing hand over the rapidly spreading spots of dark red across the woman's abdomen. While the healing energies gradually flowed downward, retracing the path of the warm blood, Ellie had a finely crafted instrument of sterile steel in her other hand, dexterously pulling a still hot slug of lead from the first of the wounds. "<Well, we know where Mara got her good looks, huh? Trust me, that's going to seem really funny and charming a little later.>" Without taking her eyes off her work, she called, "Need somewhere to put these as I take them out, corazon. So far so good."

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Their patient didn't say much - in fact, she seemed to be in shock, though whether it was due to her newly-made wounds or her prolonged trip through time wasn't clear to even Ellie's experienced and educated eye.

Mara silently grabbed an empty pie tray - usually kept on hand for keeping loose screws from rolling away - and placed it near her girlfriend. She was trying her hardest to not watch the medic work too closely; she imagined Ellie could certainly do her work better without someone with only basic first aid training hanging around and taking up space.

Though, speaking of space, not watching her mother's stomach get healed was made much easier by the tear in reality that was still hanging in the air overhead, and - worryingly - still growing in fits and stutters toward the damaged and offline arm of her device. The engineer swore softly in French, lighting her salvaged gauntlets up and trying to run the math in her head. "<Don't stand up,>" she warned, glancing down. "<Don't let her, either. Need to fix this.>"

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Ellie did spare a look upward over her shoulder at that, noting the expanding tear in the sheer fabric of empty space with a slightly annoyed pursing of her lips before resuming her focus. She was perfectly confident that Mara would have the traitorous affront to physics and linear logic taken care of shortly and in the meantime she had work to do. "<Alright, that's two,>" she announced, dropping the second slug into the tray with a metallic clatter, her voice calm and steady as her hands. "<Doing great, Josie. Alright, that was weirdly informal and some people really hate having their name shortened and I really am trying to make a good first impression here so-->"

Cutting her off, the injured woman gave a violent start and let out a strangled, wet cough. Her entire body convulsed in panic, hands reaching upward and forcing Ellie to pin her to the floor using her knees in a hold that had more to do with her hand-to-hand training than her medical education. "<Collapsing a lung might be going a little far to change the subject, honestly,>" the younger woman noted in a strained voice, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead as she divided her focus even further, continuing to pour soothing energies into the fresh wounds while forming a delicately small force field, balloon-like, within the damaged organ.

Teeth gritted behind lips pressed into a thin line, she slowly and oh so carefully inflated the force field, unable to see what she was doing and relying solely on her knowledge of anatomy with no room for error. "Mara," she called, a note of strain adding a quiver to her carefully enunciation, "I need to take the last bullet out before I can close the wound but my hands are all tied up, okay? Whatever you're doing to that portal, hurry."

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"Trying!" Mara replied, eyes darting around the tear as she simultaneously tried to do some very complex math and tried to figure out how much oomph she could get out of her temporal landing pad without frying it prematurely. "Not actually going to kill us but would probably send us who knows where and would really rather not meet dinosaurs under these conditions, wouldn't---mmh! There, yes."

She pulled the gauntlets off and let them fall to the ground unattended as she dashed the scant feet toward Ellie, falling to her knees and putting her hands on her mother's upper arms. Overhead, the tear slowed and then reversed, gradually receding like a pool of water disappearing through an unseen drain. "Have her, I think," she said, resting as much weight on her arms as she felt she could, trying to keep the woman still. "She is surprisingly strong."

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"Convulsions will do that for you, hun," Ellie agreed, gingerly shifting her weight as quickly as she dared to center herself over the time-traveler's torso again while still kneeling atop her legs. Taking a quiet, steadying breath through her nose, the medic concentrated on the rhythmic inflation and deflation of the force field as she reached over to pick up the forceps. She'd never kept a construct moving in such a fraught situation without using a hand to help visualize it and doing so without being able to actually see what she was doing was completely alien. There simply wasn't any other option or time for doubt.

Using the fine edge of the cleverly designed instrument to rip the hole in the fitted long sleeve top a little wider, she carefully took stock of the damage. Out of the hail of lead that had been meant for Mara's mother the final bullet would have been a death sentence all on its own if not for their immediate intervention. Nicking the lung and lodging in the muscle of the organ, the flattened slug tore a little more into its target with every movement, her own laboured breathing shredding internally.

And then it was out, plucked from where it had landed with the delicate finesse of concert pianist. Tossing the instrument and bullet aside with a focused disregard, she tore the remains of the shirt open from the base upward with a sharp pull and placed both palms down on bare abdomen. "Huah!" Shouting, she poured her metamagi energies like a breaking dam, willing tissue to mend and muscle to knit, cracked bone to fuse and blood to replenish. When she was finished Josephine was whole and well, if looking much in a need of rest.

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Josephine grew significantly calmer as Ellie's metamagi talents pulled her body back back into good health; by the time she was well and truly healed she'd relaxed enough that Mara was able to let go and back off a couple feet, and as soon as she was free of Ellie she pulled herself - weakly, but capably - up to sit with her back against the workbench.

She was likely a decade older than either of the young heroines, and quite attractive - all the more so now that she was freed from her wounds. She looked, in fact, like an older, idealized version of Mara - taller, more shapely, and with wavy, lighter hair, but the basic features were there...and it was strikingly clear where Mara got her blue eyes.

Her attention, other than a quick scan of her environment, seemed largely focused on Ellie; Mara had managed to move to the side a bit, and seemed a bit paralyzed. "Your French is very good, for an American," 'Josie' offered in pleasant, French-tinted English, putting a hand down to her stomach as if she couldn't believe there weren't still holes under the remaining blood. "I think I am going to guess that I am no longer in France."

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"Well, I had a good teacher," Ellie explained, clearing her throat lightly and looking over to Mara. With the engineer seemingly at a loss, she decided forge ahead for the time being. She took a seat across from the healed woman, crossing her legs beneath her. "Try not to move around too much, still. You've got a fair bit of brand new tissue there, it's going to be tender for a while. I'm, uh, sure there's a more intact shirt we can set you up with once you're cleaned up some," she continued, producing and handing Josephine another towelette.

The resemblance to Mara was throwing her more than a little; given the age difference it would have been easier to see her as an older sister rather than a mother. Ellie had no idea what Mara herself had to be thinking. "You're in Freedom City, on the East Coast," she supplied before wincing and looking away, one hand behind her head. "Totally unrelated question, if someone were to hypothetically have some pretty alarming news for you, would you prefer it all in one go or bit by bit? It's for a survey."

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"Oh, thank you, dear." Josephine took the towelette and began carefully wiping away the blood, gingerly poking her stomach with a disbelief that was slowly fading into curiosity. "It's a shame; I did like this shirt. I could do worse than Freedom City, though. I should have a couple of friends here, if I need them."

"I suppose it is best to get the alarming news all at once, no?" She set the now-bloodied towelette aside, sighing. "But first, I am afraid I must impose once more: do either of you have a phone I may use? I must make a very important phone call," she explained, finally glancing up at her other host. "It is very important for the safety of...my...."

It became very clear very fast that Josephine had been holding herself together with practiced grace and only a facade of calm; the more she looked at Mara the more it crumbled away beneath her, and she quickly had both hands over her mouth and her knees pulled up to her chest. "....oh. Oh, no no non non. ....quel âge?"

Mara looked no more calm, hunched in on herself with her arms wrapped around her own torso. "....vingt-et-un ans."

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