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July 4, 2014

Freedom City

"Damballah and Erzulie are with us." Cassandra Vale's doctorate was not in medicine, but between one thing and another there were few better doulas than La Sirene - especially for a water birth. Cassandra smiled and took her friend's hand. "Come on, Beth, let's get you in that tub." Despite the growing pains in her lower belly, Beth Walton-Wright was also smiling as Siren, her husband, and her midwife helped her into the tub - specially designed by Daedalus so that a woman strong enough to punch through steel wouldn't damage it while giving birth. After so many years of wanting, of prayers to Liberty and Justice and all the other gods and goddesses she'd known in her long career as a superheroine, she was about to have her baby!


July 4, 2014

Faneuil Hall

Hulking and scarred, Steve Murdock stood as an island in the middle of a small sea of VIPs, waiting for the arrival of their very special tour guide. With a red shirt, blue slacks, and a white tie, he perfectly matched the color scheme for the day - right down to the Special Access pass pinned to his shirt. His special glasses gave the city and its crowd of tourists a faint greenish air, one that he knew would soon fade once the tour began. The special holographic technology built into the Archetech tour glasses would give the tourists a chance to see the Boston of 1776 (or at least its construction) overlaid on the Boston of 2014. Normally someone as high-profile as Miss Americana would not be involved in something as small as a tour, but the chance to show her work to tech executives, academics, and journalists alike had been too much for Gina to pass up.

Intently he stared at the brochure in his hand, carefully memorizing everywhere they were going on their walking tour to the Common. People on Earth-Prime might take the idea of freedom and revolution for granted, but that was something Steve could never do - people had fought and died for the liberty of others in this city. It was very serious business. I will be here for Miss Americana to see what she has done. And after the tour, I will fly back to Freedom City, and Gina and I will watch the fireworks together. She will be happy today.

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There was a brief commotion from the crowd as a figure appeared in the sky overhead. Boston did not have the same superhero density as Freedom City, so flying people were generally more noteworthy around here. A moment later Miss Americana touched down in front of the group, feet hitting the ground with the grace of a ballet dancer despite three-inch heels. As a representative for her company rather than a working hero today, she'd eschewed her uniform in favor of a deceptively simple designer sundress in swirls of red and white, paired with navy blue leggings studded with tiny white stars. It should've been tacky, but somehow she managed to make it look striking instead.


She beamed at the asssembled VIPs, catching Steve's eye as she did. "Hello all of you, and welcome to the first official Holo-History Boston Tour, sponsored by ArcheTech! I'm so pleased to see you all today, I know that many of you have been instrumental in paving the way toward making this project a reality over the past twelve months. When the Holo-History program was first being developed in our labs, we tossed out the names of a number of cities for the pilot program, but in the end there was only one real choice. Boston's wealth of history and forward-thinking civic boosters made it the ideal place to launch our most ambitious educational initiative yet." She went on for a few minutes, thanking VIPs by name for their assistance, reeling them off without notes or prompter or ever seeming even a little bit bored, then concluded: "But I don't want to waste any more of this perfect holiday weather talking about the nuts and bolts of the project. You can feel free to talk to me afterwards with any questions about that. If you'll all put your glasses on now, we'll get started with the tour!" 

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This was certainly one hell of a place for a conference.

Well, if "conference" was the right word. Graduation had come and gone for Eliza - no more high school, as strange as it seemed. Twelve years in the Freedom City education system, and now the wider world was awaiting her. She was still taking some time to decompress, mainly through channeling her efforts into patrolling the streets and dealing with spiritual matters. Then her dad had suggested the vacation - such as it was. In essence, it was the closest thing water elementals had to a business conference - gathering where either the currents or the condensation cycle brought them, and talking about matters from raindrop to tidal wave. Her dad was somewhat mum on what actually went on at these things - "It's not all that interesting" - so she just had to make do with images of lectures on "How To Make The Most of Your Cloud."

But this year, the confluence was off Cape Cod on the 7th, so the family had decided to spend a few days in Boston before the big to-do. So she had some days to walk about what a lot of people - probably a lot of them from Boston - called "the birthplace of America," taking in the sights and sounds. It wasn't bad, to be honest - there was some fun to be had on Newbury Street, even if her wallet was crying out in pain by the time she was done. Tonight, they'd be attending the Pops show at the Hatchshell - apparently, her dad had done a favor for the Baron of the Charles a few years back, and he'd been able to cough up the tickets. For now, she was content to stroll about the Common, taking in the sunshine and the good spirits.

Somewhat more literally, in her case.

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"Phaw! Truly a wasted trip," Set grumbled, tapping absentmindedly at his phone with one hand as he stepped out of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. A long night of aimlessly following website link to link a week before had led the godling to the museum's online Giza Archive where one preserved manuscript in particular had caught his eye. Cajoling Sekhmet into making the journey to the City on a Hill had taken some doing and Set had merely ended up disappointed when in person the scroll proved to be a reproduction and utterly worthless for his purposes.

Opting for what for him constituted understated dress, the bronze skinned deity wore a bold red dress pants and a matching blazer with the sleeves rolled up hanging open over a nearly transparent black mesh top, accented with a chunky silver necklace that hung down to his sternum and immaculate black shoes with squared heels. Along with his heavy eye makeup and brick red dreadlocks, he caused a bit of a stir as he walked down the street, not coincidentally encouraging a flurry of hastily posted cameraphone snapshots.

Walking to his right, Sekhmet had - after some convincing - opted for a collared shirt in a raucous pattern of white, blue and gold, the front corners tied together in a knot rather than buttoned shut, highlighting a regal neck and collarbone. Flaring black pants of an almost glossy material were cinched high at the waist with golden chains worked together into a belt with a smooth rectangle of gold-trimmed black at the center. Together they gave the impression of having just walked off of a fashion show runway but the Heliopolians seemed pleased with their efforts to blend. "I disagree. Tis heartening to observe the mortals preserving weighty history despite their limited spans."

"Mmhmm. Mayhap we might at least procure some dish involving clams for my daily meal pictorial..."

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Good ol' Beantown happened to be home to Samantha Carson, alias Terrifica. But tonight, the costume was packed in her briefcase. Her best friend, Dr. Benjamin Beardly, had been given tickets for the Pops this evening, but as was usual for him he gave them away. Specifically, to Sam herself. However, that was later. Today was a family day out, starting with a visit to Christopher Columbus Park. She walked alongside her husband Stan and their young children Lucas and Meili. Lucas, a toddler, sat on his father's shoulders while Meili, not much more than an infant, was in Sam's arms. Her aforementioned briefcase was on her hip via shoulder strap, and Stan had the diaper bag. On occasion, life is perfect.


Stan's questioning look brought her out of her reverie. "You brought it?"


Sam blinked. "Oh, yes. I can't remember the last time a 4th of July in a major city on the East Coast went off without a hitch, so it's best to be prepared."


"You're not the only one in town. That flying woman from earlier, plus the usual suspects. You should relax, and enjoy the holiday. Won't be long before classes start up again and I barely see you."


Sam nodded in agreement. "Yes, I know. It's just...I have a feeling."


Stan regarded his wife bemusedly. "A feeling? From you?"


Sam...blushed. "I know. It's embarrassing. I can't put my finger on why, but I know I'll be needed today."


Lucas suddenly cut in. "Daddy, look at the boat! It's doing it wrong!"


Stan glanced out at the water. "Lucas, that's a ferry. It's supposed to do that. All right, Sam. Just let me know if I need to get the kids out of downtown again."


Sam smiled. "You say that like it happens all the time."


Stan returned the smile with a teasing grin. "I'm practicing."


Meili burbled something in slurred Mandarin, and Sam whispered something back before replying. "You need practice? Didn't you tell me you were born ready?"


Stan waved the question away. "Semantics."


"That word...I don't think it means what you think it means."


Stan chuckled. "Keep that up, young lady, and you won't get any ice cream after the aquarium."


Sam raised her free hand in mock surrender. "Anything for ice cream. I'll be good, I promise." The two continued their banter as they walked towards the aquarium, the next stop on today's list.

Edited by EternalPhoenix
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Steve focused with great intensity on the tour, immersing himself in the urban life of Boston in the 1770s as best he could given that his education in these matters had primarily come while studying for his American citizenship. The holographic program was certainly impressive, simulating buildings, people, and even domestic animals as they passed by, with the single earbud that came with the glasses even providing auditory feedback like conversations and city noise. Overall it was a sanitized picture of an 18th century city, Gina had told him at home when she'd used his eyes for a test case, but it was certainly something that would appeal to Boston's many historically-minded tourists. He stared intently at the holographic people around them as the group progressed around the city, winding up well at the back of the little knot of VIPs. While he was no student of history as such, it fascinated him how the people of this recreated Boston (and others in this nation-state at the time) had fought for their political freedoms while practicing race-based slavery. It was a good reminder that even on Earth-Prime, inhumanity was only a step away. 


Still, he mused, trying to stay positive, even in this moment of their history, freedom was not so far away. Two hundred and fifty years of slavery in the Terminus, after all, was as yesterday. And here, they had never...With great and deliberate energy, he stared at a holographic representation of Samuel Adams (helpfully labeled by popup) and put any other thoughts  out of his mind. He ended his reverie as they reached the Common and as Miss Americana wrapped up her tour, applauding loudly and distinctly as the VIPs began peppering Miss Americana with questions. They weren't alone; the charismatic heroine had attracted attention from the moment they'd landed with the streets so full of tourists and picture-takers, and here on the Common with so many more tourists, their tour was definitely getting some attention. 


"Miss Americana!" said Dave Williams, who worked for the city of Chattanooga, one of the few US cities to rival just how wired Freedom City was. "Thank you for the tour. How applicable do you think this system will be for sensory-disabled users?" 

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The Aquarium had been wonderful, as expected. Before Sam had even bought their tickets, Lucas had been enchanted by the seals. His eyes had lit up when he got to touch a real live ray. He was full of questions about everything, and Sam deferred to the employees whenever possible. The boy's intellect dwarfed those of his peers, and she shared more than one glance with Stan. It was something they had discussed before, and likely would discuss again. Meili, for her part, took in everything quietly, with only the occasional slurred Mandarin comment on the whole affair.

Afterward, as the Gresham family strolled out, Lucas, excited, ran ahead of his parents. Sam and Stan had exchanged baby and diaper bag at some point. At Sam's questioning look, Stan spoke up. "Yes, I made the reservations. You really like that place, don't you?"

Sam smiled at him."Dick's Last Resort? Yes, I do. It's so...lively. And the servers are allowed to have personalities aside from generically pleasant and helpful."

Stan nodded. "You want to get the car?"

Sam shook her head. "No, we'd just have to find another place to park. We can walk. Lucas! Stay close to us!"

Lucas ran back. "I'm here, Mama."

Sam rubbed his head. "There's a lot of people around today. I don't want you getting lost."

Lucas made a face. "I won't get lost. I'm smart like you, Mama."

Sam smiled at him. "Of course you are, bao bei. But you're still small. You know how small things can get lost or stolen without anyone noticing."


Lucas looked thoughtful for a moment. "Okay, Mama. For you." He fell into step beside his parents as they walked.


Meili spoke clearly for the first time today. "Bendan gege."


Stan raised an eyebrow. "You're really going to have to teach me more Chinese. I don't know if that was an insult or affectionate."


Sam just walked. "Stupid brother, but affectionate. I would, but your accent is atrocious. Your Mandarin is barely a step above gibberish."


Stan's eyebrow got higher. "Oh really? This from the woman who couldn't pronounce R's until after she could legally vote?"


Sam flushed and looked away. "Th-Those were occasional slips when I was flustered. I overcame my accent before I want to college, as you well know."


Stan just looked at her. "Riiight. So that must've been my other wife who said 'balbecue" the other day."


Sam fixed with a sly look. "This from the man who often can't restrain the thickest Bawston accent in the world?"


Stan chuckled. "Point, Samantha. But what about..." They continued to banter on the way to the restaurant.

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"Thank you so much, everyone, for coming on the tour," Miss Americana addressed the crowd. "In the next few days we'll be emailing out a survey about your experience, I'd love to get everyone's thoughts on the historical immersion experience. And if anyone has any questions now, I'm happy to answer them." She let the tour group break up as her assistants collected the special glasses, moving into the crowd to address the individual questions various people had. "That's an excellent question, Mr. Williams. We're working on several types of assistive devices for consumers with various disabilities. The current glasses work seamlessly over any type of corrective lenses, and we are currently fine-tuning the earpiece to interact with more types of hearing aid. The beauty of the holotour is that it takes advantage of existing local infrastructure, so takes advantage of accessibility accommodations already in place..." 


She worked the crowd effortlessly, with only about half her attention devoted to the questions and handshakes and photos and autographs. It was all routine by now, even if it was a routine that would've had Gina herself running for the hills in thirty seconds. She mentally allotted another hour to wrap up the session, then back to the hotel to change and teleconference with her teams at ArcheTech before attending the Pops concert with Steve and the various city boosters who wanted to be seen with her on this very patriotic holiday. With any luck, they could be back in Freedom City before midnight. Overnights in hotels just weren't that fun when she didn't actually have her body along. 


As the tour broke up, other people began to approach as well, drawn by her familiar face and voice. She didn't mind, it was certainly more entertaining to talk to the kids than to the town fathers. 

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Eliza was considering wending her way to Faneuil Hall, or maybe the North End - she'd heard things about Mike's Pastry, and felt she could do with a cannoli or two. But there was also the draw of the Waterfront, and not just for the obvious reasons - there was the New England Aquarium, the Seaport, and no doubt a hundred permutations of lobster. As she was trying to plot her next steps, she noticed Miss Americana over towards Tremont Avenue. That was a bit of a surprise - she knew Miss Americana had one high profile, but she seemed like more of a Freedom City woman. She was wondering what she was doing in Boston when she saw the crowd following with her.

She's leading a tour? She really does put a lot of work into the image. Can't fault her for it if she means it. Eliza figured that the Waterfront and the North End could wait. She slipped towards the edge of the crowd, wanting to hear what one of Freedom's heroes had to say about the Revolution.

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Drawn by the crowd of cameras and onlookers like a moth to a flame, Set inevitably led Sekhmet toward the press conference wrapping up after the tour. "Eh, Miss Americana?!" Hurriedly tapping away at his phone the godling smacked his forehead with the heel of his empty palm. "Argh, why did I unfollow the ArcheTech corporate Twitter account?! Well, aye, they failed to follow back, which be the barest minimum of basic etiquette..." He dissolved into vague mutters as he focused more and more on his emergency browser search.

Sekhmet looked between the perturbed godling and the blonde woman in the sundress as though trying to decide whether or not she was missing some key piece of information which would explain the context of the situation. "By her title, she be another of the realm's mortal champions?"

Set slipped his phone into his crimson pocket and glared at the warrior goddess as though she had just asked whether or not it was advisable to stare directly into Ra's sun. "Tis the least of note, Sekhmet! Heroic paragon, aye, but as well head of the very guild that crafts my intelligent phone and the tablet upon which you so enjoy watching the Netflix! And well respected arcanist in her own right, and mayhap the most beloved woman in the nation! Do you ken how many friends have pledged themselves to her upon the Facebook?!" He narrowed his eyes and clenched a fist melodramatically, adopting an artificially deeper voice. "I must devour her heart and gain her might."

With a bored sigh, Sekhmet crossed her arms. "Rrrowr. Very well, but quickly. And do not expect aid; thou shall have to best her thyself."

Body language abruptly confused and apprehensive, Set squinted back at her. "I... what? No, my meaning-- What?"


"...mayhap we should simply introduce ourselves," the youthful Heliopolian suggested carefully, to which his taller companion remained equally blasé. Rubbing his temples for a moment, Set affixed a broad grin to his face and strutted forward.

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Miss Americana seemed to take notice of the two new heroes in the crowd, looking in their direction and beginning to move towards them. When she was still a few yards away, though, her knees seemed to buckle for a moment, an alarming lapse for an inhumanly graceful woman. For a moment, her smile disappeared, replaced by a startled and horrified look, and then it was gone again, replaced by a toothy and determined smile. "So sorry, must go, duty calls!" In a second she was in the sky, flying away from the city at top speed. 


Inside and far away, Gina was in a full-out panic. Something was pressing on her, something huge and inexorable and at the same time ineffable and filled with light and a strange kind of... goodness? Whatever it was, it wanted control of the robot real bad, and it was about to get it. Gina automatically activated the kill switch that would disable the robot, only to find it already possessed and nonfunctional. More of her systems disappeared by the second, she had little time before she was booted entirely. She had to get away from the civilians that pressed in around her, get over the ocean maybe, or north towards less populated areas. With a cheerful cry that sounded grotesquely fake to her own ears, she rocketed into the sky and headed east, broadcasting a distress call on the semi-encrypted Freedom League Alert channels. "This is Miss Americana in Boston airspace, I'm being overtaken by a hostile mental presence with unknown intent. I can't hold on, don't let me hurt anyone--" 

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It was all very mundane, albeit peculiar to mortal eyes, but for Temperance and Set something remarkable indeed happened - a mighty force of chaos had come zipping down out of the sky at an incredible rate of speed reserved only for forces of nature. Glowing with a cheerful, optimistic power that radiated the promise of hope and change, the vaguely humanoid, vaguely feminine form hadn't hesitated before diving directly inside Miss Americana - just before the patriotic heroine had made a hasty exit and taken off into the wild blue yonder. 




As the patriotic heroine disappeared into the sky, Steve stared in bafflement at her retreating form before he took action. Eyes smoldering with suppressed fear, he turned and pushed his way past the two strangely-dressed teenagers, disappearing momentarily behind a copse of trees before re-emerging with the familiar signs of someone who thought he was invisible. He snapped open his pike as his armor erupted from his body and holographic disguise flared to life at the same moment - and on a glowing column of fire with a belching roar, a shining knight took off into the air after Miss Americana, visible now even to the onlookers in the square. Steve had no idea what was going on, but he knew that was no normal departure for Miss Americana. Once he was a few hundred feet up, he scanned the skyline, only to see a familiar red, white, and blue form heading down at a rapid rate of speed. 



Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a tall, leggy blonde in a deceptively simple designer sundress in swirls of red and white, paired with navy blue leggings studded with tiny white stars, fell from the sky and landed awkwardly just a few feet from Samantha Carson and her family. The instantly recognizable form of Miss Americana looked around, eyes wide and staring, before they seemed to focus on the little family group with laser intensity. 

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Sam’s family stared, stunned. It wasn’t every day a blonde woman fell out of the sky in front of them, much less Miss Americana. Sam herself was shocked enough that she slipped into a higher mental speed and thus was the first to recover, apparently with effortless ease. She eyed Miss A warily. “Is there something we can do for you, Miss Americana? We were just on our way to a late lunch.â€

Stan was the first of the rest to recover. He took the diaper bag off his wife’s shoulder, and she offered no resistance. “You did say you had a feeling this was going to be one of those days, love.â€

Sam couldn’t help but smile, though she kept her eyes on Miss A. “Yes, I did, didn’t I? As we enjoyed this, the most American of holidays in this, one of the most American of cities, who else would fall from the sky but this, the most American of heroes.â€

Stan let out a chuckle, but he didn’t take his eyes off the heroine either. “Couldn’t get any more American without a founding father showing up. So you’re Miss Americana? I’ve heard a lot about you. Nice to finally see you in person. As my wife said, we were on our way to a late lunch. You’re welcome to join us, if you like. I’d imagine there’ll be room at our table.â€

Lucas tugged his mother’s hand. “Yes, bao bei?

“Something’s wrong with the lady, Mama.â€

Sam absentmindedly patted her son’s head without averting her eyes from Miss A. “She did just fall from the sky. She could just be disoriented, my son. In fact..are you feeling all right, Miss Americana? That landing looked rather unpleasant.â€

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Set blinked a few times as Miss Americana flew off, tilting his head to one side in consideration. "Sekhmet, methinks we had best be after her."

The goddess gave her charge a quizzical look, placing her hands on her hips. "Surely there shall be other opportunities to ingratiate thyself with those above thy station, betrayer."

"Clearly she be not herself, oh Mistress of Dread! Leaving a public appearance while cameras still roll? Tis absolute madness!" Seeing the taller deity rapidly loosing patience he added, "Further, she was just now invaded by an entity of immense power, if you must know."

"Eh?! Should this be some sour jest--"

"Truly, Sekhmet, if anyone knows about violent possession by terrible chaos beings...!" With a roll of his shoulders, Set's arms, jacket sleeves and all melted and spread outward, quickly becoming raptor wings resplendent with brick read feathers. "Do keep up!" Without another word he was flapping though the air toward the site where the patriotic paragon had dropped out of the sky, followed by an irritated but speedy tawny lioness on the ground.

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Well. That was the very opposite of normal. Eliza knew some conceptuals could get a little fuzzy around the edges when it came to exhibiting their personification, but she'd never seen such a blur of potential before. That either meant it was very powerful, very undefined, or both - and she was quite iffy on any of those types of spirits hijacking one of Freedom's more prominent heroes.

She beat feet quite quickly in the opposite direction. She hadn't been planning on getting involved in anything like this, but she'd at least had the forethought to store her pea coat in one of her shopping bags - it might have stood out in a Boston summer, but then again, she didn't quite feel the weather. Nor was she fleeing. She needed water, and quite a bit of it, and she knew where to get it.

Dashing across the street, she ended up right in the midst of the Public Gardens, where tourists and young couples took to the swan boats in the pond at the center. Aiming for a quiet patch of lake, she drew up a great gout of water - a little to form her mask, and a good deal more to form an ice sled. By the time she was done, she had drawn quite a crowd.

"I apologize for the inconvenience," she said. "It shall be returned." And with that, she took to the sky, trailing after Miss Americana.

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Miss Americana's focus on Sam and her family faltered, replaced by a rather glassy-eyed expression as she bounced lightly back to her feet. "Yes, I am Miss Americana," she told Stan cheerfully, then lurched forward a step before catching herself and straightening. "Thank you for your concern, but I am uninjured," she added, turning to address Sam. "I must... I must return home now. Stay in school," she told Lucas, and then took off again, wobbling a bit as she climbed.



Many miles away, Gina picked herself up off the floor with assistance from a worried Emerson and climbed back into her seat. She wiped a thin trail of blood from under her nose and reached for her computer. "What the hell was that?" she demanded of the empty air. 

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Caradoc, a shining beacon of hope and justice, and someone Terrifica remembered for his skill in fighting cockroach swarms, abruptly plunged onto the sidewalk only a few feet from where Miss Americana had been standing. "Miss Americana!" he called to the family, "have...ye seen Miss Americana? Yon lady is urgently needed." Knowing Gina's pride, Steve wasn't about to broadcast that something was happening to her or the robot unless absolutely necessary. A moment later, he looked up as the titular titaness of all-American values flew overhead again, this time going east - and then abruptly switched around and engaged the people following her in the air. When the tawny lioness arrived nearby, Steve was actually distracted enough that he hardly looked her way. Instead he rocketed into the air, in time to arrive in the middle of a very strange conversation.


"You!" said Miss Americana, pointing a glowing red finger at Set. "That's great! Can you do a bald eagle? If we're going to be teaming up, you need to wear the _symbols_," she said with great determination. "You!" she added, pointing a finger at Temperance as well. "I don't get you. Is that some kind of patriotic blue like the ocean thing? Because that's good, but you need to be MORE blue." Miss A's head whipped around to an almost-alarming degree as it took in the flying knight behind it. "Caradoc, I need to go home," she said in a slow, deliberate voice before declaring, "home to Washington! It's time for FREEDOM to come home for all Americans!

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In the face of the sheer tide of... everything, Temperance felt she needed to take a moment to breathe. If she didn't, swearing or - worse - laughter might issue forth. So... logical examination. She was dealing with a conceptual spirit. This conceptual spirit was clearly a little fuzzy around the edges, both ephemerally and - to a clear extent - mentally. It seemed to be the bastard lovechild of Sam the Eagle and Stephen Colbert, all cranked up on Red Bull, white lines, and blue crystal meth. But, whatever it was, it had just possessed one of Freedom's most powerful heroes and seemed to be packing plenty of metaphysical firepower behind it. She could try beating it black and blue - and possibly getting shot out of the sky - or she could try to figure out what she was dealing with. And that would mean humoring it.

"Certainly," she said. With a little focus, she attempted to concentrate the water, altering its tint. It was tricky, especially given the heat bearing down on her, but she still managed to produce a more solid bluish tint in both her sled and her mask. "I can throw in some white, too. But you really don't want to see me try to add red."

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"Leave the red to me, ladies!" Set called, swooping downward and reverting his arms into crimson jacket sleeves just in time to land nimbly behind the hydrokinetic on her ice sled. "Temperance, oh unequaled snowflake, have you been following me?" he asked jauntily, steadying himself on the slippery surface with a rather familiar hand on the hip of her pea coat. "I'm terribly flattered!" Taking advantage of the pose to lean in more closely to Temperance's ear, the godling lowered his voice, sotto voce, and whispered, "Separating our manically patriotic friend from the darling of the developer's conference may be within my significant and arousing power but I would need time. Meanwhile, festive death beams be literally at her fingertips. I am left to hope you possess a plan?"

Standing upright back in her human form, Sekhmet stalked over to the armored knight, keeping one smouldering golden eye on the scene overhead. "Hail! The madwoman named thee Caradoc, aye? What transpires here?" The goddess' tones were imperial and demanding but generally polite. She glanced toward the family who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, regarding the small children as though not entirely sure how to react to them before shifting her stance slightly to place herself between them and Miss Americana.

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It was a good question the cat-woman asked - good enough that Steve was able to overcome any surprise at her transformation. "Miss Americana is not herself," he called, his flat, synthesized voice devoid of any hint of his Caradoc persona. He thought fast, drawing on uncounted battles, and his own familiarity with the Miss Americana robot. Gina is capable of reaching me even now - but I am hours away from her by air without the robot. Confident she had not gone mad for flag and nation, he wondered if she had been trapped inside the robot by whatever force was now animating it - something he knew that was a perennial fear given the nature of her powers. "Miss Americana, please return with us to Freedom City." He wanted to strike the robot, hard and fast, before it could access the mechanical parts that could make it an almost unstoppable juggernaut. 


"Caradoc, I need to go home," agreed Miss Americana before she added as if talking to herself, "No way! Do you have any idea how long I've spent in that place? I am tired of being chained to one place and one person!" With the others seemingly contained, she turned and flew close to Caradoc, a formidable presence indeed. "There is an entire nation that needs saving! As for you, mister, I believe we fought a revolution so we didn't have to bow down to knights and kings and overlords. And your little lion too!" she added, pointing at Sekhmet. "This town is full of Irish-Americans! You might as well spit in their face!" 

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With all the heroes crowding in, Sam felt comfortable enough to motion to Stan. He took Lucas's hand and pulled him along. They turned and walked around the corner from all the heroes. Stan gave his wife a look. "Plenty of heroes there. They should handle it just fine."

Sam smiled, somewhat wryly. "Yes, I imagine they'll do just fine."

Stan matched her smile with one of his own. "We're not going to make our reservation, are we?"

Sam sighed. "Sadly, no. After lunch, I was planning on stopping by work, just to tidy up before the summer session. We're not going to make it to the restaurant, so I might as well do it now."

Stan nodded. "All right. I'll get the car and take the kids home. You'll be home in time for dinner?"

Sam considered briefly. "I don't know right now. You know how Benjamin can be."

Stan looked disquieted. "Don't get carried away, Sam."

Sam smiled. "I never do, love." At that, Stan took the kids and stared walking away as fast as Lucas could move. He questioned his father, not realizing the entire preceeding conversation was for his benefit. Samantha Carson slipped in a dark alley and opened her briefcase. Not two minutes later, Terrifica strolled out. She had the long coat with her, and the briefcase-now full of her civilian attire-was artfully hidden underneath it. She returned to the scene, striding up next to the imperious dark skinned woman. When she noticed the new arrival, Terrifica spoke to no one in particular. "You know...I'd like one holiday in this town to go smoothly. Just one. You would not believe what I had to deal with on Father's Day." Miss Americana clearly wasn't herself, and she was indeed quite powerful. However, Caradoc was here and he was quite powerful as well. Between the five of them, they could solve this one without unnecessary damage to her city and it's people. Hopefully.

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Temperance desperately tried to pretend she understood what was going on. Okay, the spirit had said it wanted to go to Washington, and that it was tired of being confined to "one place and one person." So, a mortal host. Who could that - Wait. The patriotism, the light show, the talk about "saving" people, the fact that it went for a strong superheroine in stars and stripes... could this be the "Spirit of Liberty" that Lady Liberty kept talking about? With a mouth like this, it was a wonder that Lady Liberty managed to carry such a staid, stentorian image and not sound like Sarah Palin on a glue binge.

"I understand the people here may have concerns," said Temperance, "but Sekhmet's appearance is a key part of her. And we should take all comers, no matter what far-fledged lands they come from. But you clearly care about this nation. How do you plan to save it?"

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"She Before Whom Evil Trembles tis African not European!" Set added less cautiously, his own warnings and plans for ritual preparation overthrown by his indignation. "Don't even consider making an 'average airspeed velocity' jest, either..."

The goddess in question drew herself up with a snarl and stalked a few steps closer to the possessed patriot, splayed fingers clenched like claws at her sides, the one golden eye not obscured by her black hair practically burning with restrained anger. "Who do thee name 'small', mortal?" she growled in a warning tone.

Set pointed emphatically first at Sekhmet then at Miss Americana, coming perilously close to knocking into the young woman in front of him on the ice platform. "And that as well, aye! Should anyone be sensitive on the subject of your Revolutionary War, mayhaps pay more mind to those who did not immigrate voluntarily!" Set could feel his aspect as the god of foreign lands and their peoples rising to the fore and made no attempt to dampen it. He was hardly about to stand by and watch Sekhmet be species shamed by some hopped up, nationalist ignoramus!

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"I might have known you'd say that," sneered Miss Americana as she wheeled back towards Set, her voice suddenly changing into a Southern drawl. "Those people were better off in this country, freer 'n happier than they'd ever have been back in...no no no!" Suddenly the patriotic paragon struck herself on the side of the head, her pretty face twisting with righteous anger. "Oh, don't you start this now, Mary Preston Hammer!" she hissed, her voice returning to normal. Well, as normal as it sounded like she got. "You are not going to ruin this for us right when we...argh!" She bent double in the air, wracked as if in a spasm, as energy coruscated from her fingertips and eyes. Suddenly, the crackling red, white, and blue colors (albeit with a decidedly more sinister hue) erupted from Miss Americana and reached down like a crack of lightning to lash against a civilian in the crowd. 


The young woman, a uniformed Boston police officer, didn't seem hurt - in fact, as the energy erupted into her form, she stayed on her feet and gave a heavily accented laugh. "Yesss! I can feel the power surging in me! Power to fight for truth, justice, and the REAL American way!" She took to the sky, her police uniform changing on her body into a long, flowing Victorian dress that was a brilliant, eye-catching white - except for the red square and sinister blue and white saltire over the chest. "THE SOUTHERN BELLE LIVES AGAIN!


"I'll handle this!" detonated Miss American an instant before she punched her antagonist completely across Boston Common. 

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Wonderful. Simply wonderful. Terrifica had a few far less polite words for this situation as well. Really? Really? "REALLY?" She strode forward, coldly furious, stopping just a step to the right and back of Miss A. "The living incarnation of Confederate racism returns?" The severe disdain of her Aunt Cassandra echo in Terrifica's perfect memory. She wasn't Southern by any means, but the naked hatred for anyone that wasn't lily white (cloaked by manners and fine breeding) was exactly the same. "Liberty and justice only for the whites, is it? Freedom only for those with the correct blood in their veins? I'm the most intelligent person on earth, and even I can barely grasp the staggering amount of hypocrisy it takes to believe that and claim to be any part of the Spirit of Liberty." She took a breath and pointed across the Common. "Take a good look, heroes. That is Southern Belle. Champion of the Confederate States of American, with all that implies. What did she call you? Mary Preston Hammer? Take a good look around. See the Boston of 2014. All races, all creeds. Intermingling freely." Terrifica smirked. "And it's not just Boston. Richmond. Chattanooga. Charleston. Atlanta. Savannah. Name a city. Any city. It's much the same. The color of one's skin is far less important is this day and age. You lost the war, Mary. You've even lost the argument."
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