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A Matter of Recognition


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Saturday, 22 November 2014, 1400


It was a cold winter's day in Freedom City.  And across the city... two phones were ringing.  


Catherine sighed as she sat in the hotel room she was using, resting in her wheelchair.  Hopefully, she'd be able to get out of the dammed thing soon enough- her recuperation from her injuries was coming along nicely, although she'd likely never be able to walk unaided again.  Well... powers aside.  And Dad was working on a powered frame, now, which should let her fight for extended periods of time...


Now, though, her concerns were different, although related, as she called the other two heroes involved in that particular series of events, as a pair of medals glinted from where they were laid out on the bed.  "Well, let's hope things go well..."

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"One million Omegadrones were destroyed during the initial incursion, as was the doomforge used for their initial deployment. Afterwards, the Doom Coil was directed into their dimensional axis, resulting in its complete destruction. Afterwards all Omegadrones were upgraded to be immune to-" When Caradoc's phone rang, Steve looked in surprise before pausing his recording. Looking around the HAX office he had temporarily occupied to make his recordings, Steve picked up the phone and pressed the green button. 


"Thou, uh, hast reached Caradoc."

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A single bead of sweat worked its way down Yves forehead.  It was crunch time, a do or die moment.  Her training had been leading to this moment, and a mistake could not be afforded.  Lives were on the line.  Closing her eyes she jutted her hands forward.  Clutching ever so tightly as she pulled back to take her prize.
"No, cariña my mom hates that brand."  Carlos Zermeño, husband to Yves and experienced AEGIS field agent, spoke out.  Standing bedhind his wife with a bemused look on his face.  He leaned forward onto the grocery cart as he awaited her canned cherry filling selection.  Clearly entertained by the look of bewilderment she gave in response.


"Your mom hates everything.  It's kind of what endears her to me."  Yves sighed before returning the can to its shelf.  "Remind me, why did we agree to host Thanksgiving this year?"  Before he could answer, however, Yves was interrupted by the sound of her cellphone ringtone.  The generic factory tone that came with the phone.  Not recognizing the phone number Yves considered setting it to voice mail.  But eventually relented.  "Hello?"

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The same voice came over both their phones, as Catherine smiled.  "Ah, hello there, Caradoc, Argonaut.  This is Catherine Fields.  Vector.  I wanted to talk to you both about some stuff relating to what happened in March, if you've both willing to meet up?"


Catherine was rather nervous, actually.  She didn't know if they'd be willing to talk, Caradoc especially.  She didn't know his full story, but... well, what she'd seen in her hospital room told a good amount of the story, really.  And she wasn't entirely sure how they'd react to what she wanted to give them... but it was the right thing to do, and she did need to do something to make sure they knew that what they'd done had been acknowledged.  

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"What has happened?" inquired Harrier, all pretense of Caradoc's tone dropped. As he spoke he rose to his feet and closed the office door, not wanting to alert the scientist walking by - who he recognized as the refugee from Yolanda's home planet that had since relocated to work for HAX! "What new threat is there?" He could imagine no other reason why he would be called. Newman is silent in his cell and I have heard no broadcasted disasters from the southern continent. The heroes of Freedom City had of late been so concerned with the Communion that he had nearly forgotten the forces that would actually be their end. 

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"So, we're making with the doom and gloom this early in the day?  Did Newman happen to turn an Annihilist before his incarceration?  On the bright side, his plan makes more sense."  Argonaut responded casually.  Making absolutely no effort to hide her conversation.  Not that any of the shoppers walking by would understand.  She was going with the assumption that something dangerous was afoot due to her fellow freed Omegadrone's tangent.


Carlos took the opportunity to pick out the appropriate cherry pie filling and continue down the aisle.  He knew when a conversation looked serious enough give his wife space.  Even if that space was in an all too public setting.

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"No, nothing like that."


Catherine thought about what they must have gone through to jump to stuff like that as their first conclusions.  "We are still cleaning up what Newman's left behind- it's slow work, and if you had any information that could help, that would be more than appreciated, but I've got some other stuff to tell you related to those incidents.  And something to give to the both of you."


She smiled, although they wouldn't see it over the phone.  "But all of this is probably done better at a time that's more convenient to you, which is why I suggested that we meet."

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Harrier frowned. "The southern continent is four days away for Argonaut and I at maximum speed. We can buy tickets on one of your commercial airlines if necessary..." Miss Americana would probably have opened up one of the old Archetech teleporters for him under normal circumstances, but with the role she was taking in organizing the defenses of Earth against the Communion, he was loathe to tear her away from her work - at least for more work. "Is it possible for you to meet us on this continent? I am sure someone can be sent to retrieve you. I can also arrange a video-conference" a hard-learned word that he slowly picked out, syllable by syllable. "if that would be more convenient." 

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Catherine smiled.  "I'm actually in Freedom City on a business trip anyway- that's no problem.  There's a couple of places I can think of to meet up- Cape and Cowl's my immediate suggestion, although if either of you have one, I'd like to hear it."


Mostly Network business, although she was handling a few things on behalf of her father, as well.  Part of the benefit of having a public identity was she didn't have to take too much of an effort to seperate the two things.  "As far as time goes... I'm here for the next week before I fly to Canberra.  I have most of my evenings open during that time period, or during the day this weekend."

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"The Cape and Cowl club on a government salary?  Pass."  Yves wasn't even sure how Catherine had even heard of the Cape and Cowl club.  Though it stood to reason she might have been in the city for some period.  Perhaps someone watched her identity reveal online and passed on the details.  Even if Argonaut did have a proper invite to the club, it wasn't her sort of place.  While she doubted anyone in AEGIS had anything bad to say about Jack Simmons career.  The other end of the heroic community might perceive the act as spying if found out.  And well there were implications...


"Champions?"  Argonaut was referring to the family friendly restaurant with good food and better ambiance.  Especially for a tourist visiting.  Now knowing that there wasn't anything of dire concern unless they found some more Terminus artifacts Newman kept hidden.  Her attention span on the conversation waned.  Keeping the sentences shorter and sweet.  Yves was friendly enough, but she didn't exactly call people up to socialize.

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"I must admit, while it's not urgent, part of why I suggested Cape and Cowl is because it's relatively private for the stuff that'll be coming up.  Champions is nice enough, but it's... not exactly a place for when a lot of the conversation's not stuff any of us really needs to go public?  I'd prefer something that's not too public, really."


Catherine smiled as she continued.  "I can cover the bill if need be, that's not a concern.  It's the least I could do after what you two did."

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"Champions is a respectable establishment by the standards of Earth-Prime," Steve replied, remembering the years he had spent working in the kitchen. "The volume of conversation there does offer a modicum of privacy, but we would be vulnerable to potential eavesdroppers." He remembered many conversations among the other busboys and dishwashers about the stories they had heard from other patrons, stories that he himself barely understood. "If privacy and a meal in an establishment are desired," he said, his tone suggesting a man baffled by alien, though not unpleasant behavior, "my...the owner of Gruen Tanzer's will be able to offer us a private room," he said, remembering when Miss Americana had used the space to conduct business negotiations. "There will be no charge," he assured Argonaut, "and the workers there are paid enough to live in comfort." 

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"I could agree to that one.  Food's not necessary.  But, I think it's a better choice.  Even if you, Vector, are a member of the Cape and Cowl club."  Argonaut responded.  Having the cognizance of mind to lower her voice to a more hushed tone as her statement trailed at the end.  While she didn't care too much if someone overheard her speaking on Terminus matters.  She could easily use her job as a cover for the information.  She wasn't going to draw unneeded attention either.


The video conference option sounded more appealing as the passage of time went on.  But, Yves didn't want to be rude either.  The young woman did get maimed when last they met.

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Catherine smiled.  "Gruen Tanzer's sounds good to me.  What time would suit you both?"


She politely ignored the almost-slip by Caradoc.  The owner had to be someone special to him, but she didn't see much point in pressing him on the details.  Blatantly unprofessional, and she was possibly going to be asking some stuff that... they probably wouldn't be entirely comfortable with answering anyway.  


She did want to do this face-to-face, though.  

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"After five."  Argonaut replied making her down the grocery aisle in pursuit of something else on her shopping itinerary.  From her understanding the conversation was coming to a close.  Which meant the task oriented woman could focus on a separate task.  Now it was just a matter of dialing through the motions waiting for the confirmation as to what their agreed upon meeting time would be.


The clandestine meeting was still a strange thought process to her.  Spreading information about the Terminus was not inherently a bad thing.  After all, that's how people knew when to start running.  And related to Newman it was the only shared purview of conversation she could consider the non-urgent matter was over. But, maybe it was an Australian thing.

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"After five on the appointed date," agreed Harrier, though come to think of it there was really no time he could not have met. Dragonfly would surely give me leave for a meeting about the Terminus! Such a thing had been part of his employment contract, now that he remembered. Nothing was more important than discussing the way entropy gnawed at the base of the multiverse like a hungry predator, aiming to devour them all and void them into the Doom Coil. "I will be there earlier to ensure our privacy." Perhaps I should invite Miss Americana - the employees will give even more space if they are acting under the orders of their employer. It had taken him years to use that word, even in his head, and not the one more natural to one born in Nihilor - "Master." 

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"Tuesday would work fine.  Five o'clock, got it."


After the call wrapped up, Catherine set the date aside...




Tuesday, 1700


As the time for the meeting arrived, Catherine's car pulled up outside the restaurant.  Helped out of the car and into her wheelchair by her driver, she smiled.  "Thanks, Susan.  I'll give you a call when it's time for a pickup, all right?"


Then, she wheeled herself inside, looking around.  She was wearing smart casual clothing- a shirt and pants, mostly for convenience's sake, and had a laptop case sitting on her lap.  


Catherine grumbled as she looked around.  "Man, I'm looking forward to when I can get off this thing... so, where are they..."

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Yves pulled into the parking log at a high velocity.  Her pixie cut lace wig undisturbed by the wild driving of the Omegadrone's SUV.  Not that it would have been in the first place, the human hair was essentially sutured on.  Clearly this was a person who could get a mass on people to their appointments on time.  


She had actually expected that they would have met the date of the phone call.  But, seeing as the matter could apparently be held off for days at a time Yves found the meeting even more peculiar.  Maybe, Newman had eyes on the girl somehow.  It would explain the pressing need for privacy.

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Steve stepped out of the big truck, the vehicle bouncing on its shocks as his weight left it. From the other side, Erin White, the driver, exited. He would have brought Miss Americana under other circumstances (certainly not Gina) - but she was occupied with Cosmic Entity 403. Erin White, on the other hand, had excellent claim to attend any gathering about the Terminus. "They...there she is." He walked over slowly, taking in the sight both of Yves Zermeño. "Erin White, this is my...compatriot, Yves." Despite the way Steve loomed over the much smaller Yves, the 'family' resemblance was instantly notable despite the latter's wig. "Catherine Fields, from the Australian continent, is the one who summoned us for the conference at this....place." He gave the German restaurant a baffled look. "She was injured during the conflict with the Annihilist cell there." He shifted awkwardly on his feet, obviously unused to being the center of a conversation. "Erin is a colleague of mine - and a veteran of wars against the Terminus." He eyed Yves and added, "She is a Dethroner." 

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"It's a pleasure to meet you." Erin extended a hand in her best professional manner, even as her eyes flickered in quick assessment of the reclaimed Omegadrone. When Steve had told her he was meeting someone with information related to the Terminus, she'd been more than willing to tag along. It had been a couple years now since the incident with Madrigal's Hounds, and since then they'd seemed to be avoiding the former members of Young Freedom, but she suspected that couldn't possibly last. Any Terminus activity on Earth was a high priority threat anyway, even with the Evil Whatever From Space potentially bearing down on them. "Is Catherine inside, then?"

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When Yves met Steve in Australia she put it into to do list to compile a list of AEGIS threat reports, assessments, and even a timeline of activity on him and his known contacts.  This was done only with the information known of his identity as Caradoc, not carrying.  Plus, she didn't want a random head of security to pop up in her search history, she worked with spies after all.  It wasn't that she didn't trust Steve and there were major information gaps as could be expected with the lack of reliability on a Government database.  But, she just had to know about one of the few people who knew what it was to be a drone.  To come out the other side with strings fully severed, no longer one of Omega's many marionettes.


What all this meant pertaining to this specific situation?  Yves had absolutely no idea who Erin was.  Or what the significance of being a Dethroner was.  Such a realization made Yves take a measured response with this Erin.  Sizing Erin up before making the handshake awkward by taking too long in returning it.  Yves did, however, smile upon extending her own hand.  "As much of a pleasure as it is to make your acquaintance.  It is unfortunate to hear that.  Not unfortunate that you survived opposing the Terminus, but that you had to encounter the hand of Entropy in the first place."


Turning her head to the restaurant she shrugged.  She assumed Catherine had a driver so waiting around in the parking lot wasn't likely.  "I would assume as much."

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Not one to pick up on the details of personal interaction, Yves' bafflement went over her fellow Omegadrone's head too fast for him to catch. Steve led the way inside the restaurant, casting his eyes about for Catherine Fields before remembering where they were. Ignoring the festive German decor, complete with oompah bands and wood-carved memorabilia, he waved to the maitre d' and soon they were guided back into the private room where Catherine had been escorted by the liederhosen-wearing staff. Even in here, the faint sound of tuba music echoed inside the room, one wall covered in a collection of decorative beer steins. Awkwardly, as the door closed behind them, he fell silent. Does she have a display prepared? he wondered. 

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Catherine didn't, in fact, have a display prepared, as she made her way over to the three other heroes.  A close eye would notice that she wasn't moving her wheelchair by pushing the wheels- instead, as her hands lightly touched the wheels, they just moved.  She smiled as she came to a stop besides them.  "Good to see you all again.  Steve, Yves.  And it's a pleasure to meet you too, Miss..."


After getting Wander's name, Catherine wheeled her way over to the table, where her laptop was already set up.  After stopping her wheelchair, she touched a button on the seat rest, projecting a map of Darwin onto the clearest wall.  "There's a couple of things I'd like to go over... but the first thing I thought would be to give you an update on what exactly's been happening.  And get some information."


As she typed onto her laptop, several red spots appeared on the map, with the biggest one being located at the location of Evolution on Gardiner.  "There's been a lot of hard questions asked about how, exactly, Newman slipped under the radar.  Or... well, more like got ignored.  The answer seems to be simply that..."


She sighed.  "No one thought he was actually serious about allegiance to the Terminus.  He used the symbols, but... everyone who actually considered the idea ended up concluding that an actual infiltrator from the Terminus would... be more subtle.  Not call themselves the Omega Boss of all things.


And there's the fact that we didn't get hit nearly as hard by either Terminus invasion as Freedom City did.  I suspect that if he'd tried that trick in Freedom City, people would have gone after him with a lot more focus on general principle."


She sighed.  "However it happened, we almost had Darwin destroyed.  Again."

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"Don't take it too much to heart," Erin advised sympathetically. "Freedom City almost gets destroyed a lot more often than most people think. The entire Earth, really. And when the entire universe gets threatened, most of the time hardly anyone knows about it at all, or they know about it and forget afterwards."


She took a hot pretzel from the tray on the table and broke off a piece. "The thing to concentrate on is not that it almost got destroyed, but that you managed to stop it. And how to stop it better next time. I'm guessing you're making sure that key people are more informed on Terminus issues and what to look for from here on out?" 

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"Pleasure to see you again Catherine.  While I can't quantify how often Freedom City may have almost been destroyed.  There are plenty of worlds and cities that have been destroyed when combating the Terminus.  I still hear the screams."  Yves shrugged before making her way further inside.  "Anyways, it's all moot.  Almost is a victory.  No need to worry."

For once, she was glad to not have to be the one having to explain to her superiors about property damage. As was the case when Physician Friendly's strange Lor abomination ship disappeared in a massive psychic explosion without a trace.  That was a day that involved heavy drinking.  She could already tell this meal would go down a similar route


"But, you said you wanted to get some information as well first.  What's the information in question?"

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