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The Grey Areas


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Stesha had a problem. Actually, Stesha had a lot of problems, some of which would work themselves out with time, some of which she would have to entrust to other people, and some of which she would deal with herself. But at the moment she had two problems she didn't know what to do with, and there was really only one solution. She needed a lawyer. 


It wasn't as though Stesha had never used a lawyer before. She'd gone to one of the League's attorneys just a few months ago to help her with the messy and unpleasant business that was even the simplest and most drama-free of divorces. She'd tried to do it herself, but had needed the help when it turned out that the court had problems figuring out jurisdiction when neither of the involved parties made their primary home on the planet. The briskly efficient League attorney had done some kind of legal wizardry involving domicile and precedent and degrees of contact, and it had all worked out in the end, but she kind of never wanted to see that lawyer again, friendly and professional though he'd been. She needed another lawyer. 


A little asking around in the hero community netted her a good possibility. Lucy Harker was not exactly an average lawyer, being a superhero on the side, but she had her own office on the West End and was open for business. Stesha hoped that, being a superhero and all, she'd be flexible enough to help deal with her two unusual problems, or at least point her in the right direction. She called and made an appointment for Fleur de Joie, then set herself to gathering documents. Lots of documents. 

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Lucy remember what a big deal the more senior lawyer us to make about their big offices, she guess they still did, and wonder what they would have thought of the office she worked from now. It wasn’t a massive space you could fit in more than three or four unless they were prepared to get very intimate. With some very creative effort she’d managed to fit in two mismatched desks and a similar chairs. One of the desk belonged to Erica North, who assisted Lucy even though couldn’t pay her that well, and was rather utilitarian with only a laptop and complicated looking phone.

Erica was Lucy's connection with the 21st century handling all the task Lucy hadn’t yet been  able to master. Lucy wasn’t a technophobe but even without sleep it wasn’t easy to catch up on everything.

Lucy’s desk was a little more cluttered, some of her poorer clients paid in goods rather than money and she tended to keep around a few trinkets. An ancient typewriter and rotary dial telephone, though not as old as herself, dominated the desk. But she also had a little statue of Ganesh and a Bonsai tree that Lucy spent many an hour, out of office hours of course, tending and caring.

To be honest Lucy wouldn’t swap her office for any of those big offices.

After a busy morning first in court then stopping a runaway truck Lucy was a little late back to her office, even with her own speed. On arriving back at her office she was met outside the door by a visibly nervous Erica.

“You never going to believe who we have in our little office.â€

“Of cause I do I took the appointment.â€

“But I’m a mess if you told me we were meeting an honest to goodness Superhero I would have made an effort.â€

“So what exactly am I them?†Lucy replied with a smile and Erica looked suitably embarrassed “Go get me a very strong coffee from that place down the street.â€

After a few seconds making sure she looked decent, clothes might repair themselves but stopping a truck tended to leave crease, she stepped into the room projecting confidence.


“Good afternoon I’m Lucy Harker. How might I help you today?â€

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The superhero (second superhero) in Lucy's office rose when she came in, giving Lucy a smile and extending her hand. "Good afternoon, Miss Harker. I'm Fleur de Joie, we spoke on the phone?" Fleur was wearing her familiar uniform today, green pants and shirt with brown boots and a brown hooded cowl over top, though she'd foregone the mask today. "I have some legal issues that have come up with a charitable project I've been working on, and honestly I don't really know where to begin with them. I asked around, and someone mentioned you as a superhero who is also an attorney, so I was hoping you might have a better understanding of situations where the normal Earth laws tend to fall short. And travel off-planet if need be, I kind of suspect many regular lawyers might be reluctant to take a field trip like that." She chuckled. 

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With a broad friendly smile Lucy returned the handshake.

“Please call me Lucy.†she walked round and gestured for Fleur to so before doing so herself “If my eye bother you please let know and I’ll put on some sunglasses. I know we tend to see some weird things in our business but for some of my clients it bothers the.â€

Lucy gestured to her eyes that cold dark pits of blackness, her rather cheerful demeanor seemed to overcome their strangeness to a certain extent.


“I’ll be honest Fleur de Joie as much as I love being a hero it’s nice to be asked to help for my legal expertise. Tell me what you need and I’ll help you however I can, and if it needs a field trip I’m happy to go along.â€

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"Oh no, I don't mind at all," Fleur assured Lucy easily, "I'm used to it. You should see my-" She broke off suddenly, looking as though she wished she hadn't spoken at all, then regrouped. "There are all kinds of interesting sights where I come from, my neighbors are dragons and giant bees. And you can call me Stesha." She settled herself into the visitor chair and opened the messenger bag she'd brought with her to pull out a folder. In the small room, it was easy to catch the scent of flowers even from across the desk. 


"The first issue I need to deal with is registering a charity," she began, opening the folder to look at the list she'd made. "I found some instructions on how to do something like that online, but it's complicated by the fact that although I have a home in Freedom City, my primary home, and the place where all the work is taking place, is on an alternate dimension Earth that I call Sanctuary. You see, we have ten thousand refugees from the Terminus that we took in this past summer, on top of the few hundred refugees of the ecological disaster the planet was before I started rehabilitating it, and the resources we have are stretched very thin. I've made arrangements with several businesses and organizations for money and in-kind donations, but only if we can sort out our tax status, and I don't even know where to begin," she admitted with a wry smile. 

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Lucy was quiet for a few seconds as she considered what was being asked, it was never the easy jobs she ended up with. Then again if she’d always gone for the easy option she wouldn’t be here in the first place.

“Forming a registered charity isn’t a problem in the slightest I can get Erica to write up the paperwork when she get back. That would be the nervous you woman you briefly met on the way out, I hate to think how she’d react to giant bee’s.†there was a cheeky grin on her face as she said that.


“There are lot’s of precedent's involving Parallel Worlds, I’ll have to do so research but we should be able to come up with something. The main sticking point I can see is over territorial rights, what is the relationship between the refuges and the locals?â€

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"Territorial rights?" Stesha looked baffled. "Wow, it's never really come up. I asked the people in Homewood, that's the first village I started, how they felt about having a new village of refugees come in, back when we were first talking about the idea, and they were all fine with it. They were refugees too, after all, and I like to think things have gotten a lot better for them in the past few years. Sanctuary is a ruined Earth," she explained, "Earth-D-Self-7(extinct), in the standard notation. I didn't think it could support human life at all when I started working there, but life finds a way, no matter how tough it is. The area I've reclaimed and rehabilitated covers a space half the size of New Jersey now, so there's plenty of room for everyone. Of course, we all expected to get a thousand new residents and ended up with ten thousand, but everyone's really stepped up to the plate and helped out. Nobody was going to leave them in the Terminus! I don't think territorial rights are much of an issue." 

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As Stesha began to explain thing Lucy began to take notes on a large pad of paper with a fountain pen.

“Good the world been documented that help, we could use a copy as part of you claim. And I;ll be honest if the records are held by the League I wouldn’t mind a chance to collect it myself. Beside I don’t think poor Erica could make it past the door without exploding from excitement.â€

She continued to make a few notes for a few more seconds as she considered the possible options.

“I think there is something we can do here. It’s clouded in complicated it complicated legal terms but in simple terms we declare you the guardian of the place looking after it’s interest, the fact that it’s not an populated by a foreign nation helps. All we have to prove is that the inhabitants are happy for you to fulfil this task. As funny as it would be for a giant bee to appear in court filmed evidence should be sufficient. â€

She leant forward slightly hand clasped her face taking on a serious manner.


“One question is how big a deal do you want to make about all this? Obviously you know what a big deal anything superhero related, if you wanted you could use that publicity to help you claim. It would probably attract the wrong type of attention to the case and probably Sanctuary.â€

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Stesha started shaking her head before Lucy even finished talking. "No publicity at all if it can be avoided, and definitely none with me. If we need a public face I can ask Gabriel to give me a hand, that's really his area of expertise anyway. He lives on Sanctuary too," she explained, "he's been very helpful in getting everything set up. Maybe later we can try to get a little publicity going, when we start up a scholarship fund and such, but right now one-on-one networking has been working to get what we need, we just need the tax implications sorted. Can you do it on the quiet, do you think?" she asked, folding the edges of her paper between her fingers. 

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Lucy gave a reassuring smile she’d had heard about Stesha complicated divorce, Erica couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks and Lawyers could be as big a gossips as everyone else. She’d wished she could have help her that time as well, she was sure she could have done a much better job.

“The last time I tried a big public case I ended up getting murdered.†she gestured to a framed paper from the 1920’s “And don’t worry the whole undead thing doesn’t bother me, in fact the happiest people I’ve met seem to be undead.†to back this up she gave the Stasha a reassuring smile.

“We can do things to keep things quiet. It’ll mean late starts and end of the day sessions for a start and other little tricks not to draw attention.â€

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"Whatever you can do would be great," Stesha agreed readily. "Eventually I want people to know about Sanctuary and the work we're doing there. We have children and teenagers there who I'd like to send to college on Earth Prime, and I don't want it to be a secret they have to keep. But right now, the timing... it's just complicated." She grimaced. "So as quiet as possible is perfect." 


She shuffled the papers in her folder, then pulled out a small sheaf secured with a binder clip. "This other issue, I'm not entirely sure whether you can help me or not, but I thought I might ask while I'm here." She passed over the pages, and Lucy could see that they were pictures and brief dossiers of about two dozen people, men, women and children, none of them looking very happy. "These are a different group of refugees now, from a world with no name, one that doesn't even exist anymore. A few months ago, there was an invasion of giant hostile insects on Sanctuary, and I and most of my colleagues on the FLA went to try and stop it. We found a world where the cities were overrun with giant carnivorous insects and most of the humans were dead. I found a group of survivors and sent them to Sanctuary in order to keep them safe while the fighting was still going on. But one thing led to another, and we wound up accidentally teleporting through time and rewriting the original temporal incursion that caused the invasion in the first place. History was rewritten and the world was saved, but unfortunately the people who were on Sanctuary were not rewritten into it. They had no lives in that world, no past or future, and it was my fault." Stesha ducked her head. 


"They didn't have any place to go anymore, so I offered them a home on Sanctuary, but most of them aren't settling in well. They're not agrarian types, they want cities and modern jobs and things I just can't offer them. I'd like to find a way to establish some kind of identity for them so they can live here if the want, instead of having to stay in the village." 

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“I’m not sure if you knew this but I’m the daughter of immigrants who fled here from overseas, from a darkness that had threatened my mother. I grew up here in the West End among the immigrants from a dozen or more different countries. I stay here to help though people now as I did when I could back then. I would say you’ve come to the right person.â€

She gave a smile as she shut the folder.


“There have been quite a few cases of people from parallels moving to our’s, I believe one world even sends an ambassador to our own. If there from a here you could even argue that they are already citizen of an United States and are therefore already granted the right to stay. We can begin working on this right away, but it might take awhile, if some of them can’t wait you might want to find somewhere that would house them while the claims go through.â€

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"They're not on Prime right now," Stesha explained. "They're not actively in danger, so League policy would be to return them to their world of origin, but even though their world wasn't destroyed by insects, it was still obliterated and replaced. They had nowhere to go there. I tried to pull some strings anyway, but there's no room in the Cline Building for another twenty-five people, and with everything that happened earlier this year on the Lighthouse, trying to get anything organized in terms of paperwork is a nightmare. They're safe and fed and housed for the moment on Sanctuary, but I hate that they're so unhappy. But they are from Freedom City on their world, so maybe that will help. Um, and two of them are technically unattached minors, even though they're sort of de facto adopted by the others."


She leaned over to lift up the pages for the children, sorting them till she found pictures of a boy about five years old and a girl about seven. "Their parents were in the original group of survivors, but they didn't make it. I could keep them on Sanctuary with no problem, but I think they're all going to want to stay together, so we might have to work out adoptions, but they don't have any identities yet..." She sat back in her seat and massaged her forehead. "I'm a florist," she admitted. "This is not my area of expertise." 

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“I know a few people we might be able to temporarily house a few at a time for a couple of weeks at a time. I you want I can keep an eye on them and show them the sights, I know what’s it like to arrive from nowhere to this bustling city. Obviously all this won’t be as you lawyer, just helping out. One advantage of not sleeping is that I have plenty of time to help out.†she gave another of her friendly smiles.


“I can maybe hurry thing along but we’re still talking month of paperwork and interviews, though we could probably do some of it at Sanctuary if you don’t mind taking people there.â€

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"Yes, I'd be happy to facilitate that," Stesha agreed, "I go back and forth myself almost every day anyway. I think most of them would be happy to get back into a city even temporarily, they really miss the lives they used to have. Everyone else on Sanctuary, either they never lived in a high-tech society, or it's been gone so long they don't miss it anymore, or they volunteered to live there. It has caused some friction, honestly," she admitted. "They're happy that we managed to save their world, but the fact that they sort of didn't get saved along with it is a source of some justifiable anger, especially to me. If I'd left them where they were, they might have all been fine. Or they might have all been unwritten from history, but who can know, right?" She shrugged. "If you'd like, I can take you there now and you can get a look at the place, meet some of the people?" 

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“That sounds like a good idea, though I need to ask you one favor.†as Lucy talked she got up and walked quietly to the offices door before flinging it open.


As she did a rather surprised Erica fell through into the room, apparently she’d been listening at the door.


“Oh hey boss you’d started talking so rather than disturb you I thought I’d wait outside. Oh look I got you coffee.â€


Lucy just smiled and offered a hand to offer her up.


“I’m trying my best but with so much technology I’m not quite up with everything yet. Do you mind if Erica come along to take a few photographs and maybe record a few things?â€


The poor girl looked she was going to collapse again.

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Stesha looked surprised, then amused to see the little farce playing out in front of her. She smiled at Erica. "It's nice to meet you, Erica. Sure, that would be totally fine. I have to warn you that normal cell phones don't work on Sanctuary, we use walkie-talkies and radios, and our League phones when we need to talk across to Prime. But you can still take pictures and make notes, it's just a lot easier in airplane mode. Smartphones kinda freak out when they can't find anything to connect to anywhere." 


She closed the folder and returned it to her bag, then rose. "We could go now, if you'd like? It's just about lunchtime, so people will be congregating in the cafeterias at the various villages. I've got the temporal refugees at Homewood right now, so maybe we should start there?" 

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Erica gave a nervous little wave as Stesha introduced herself, obviously not yet trusting herself to speak. As the conversation moved onto technology and Lucy started to look a little lost that she found her voice.


“It’s okay Lucy I understood that perfectly.â€


“I guess that means we’re all go for a little journey. If we’re all ready to leave that is?â€


Erica had wasted no time and already had her cell phone and her lunch bag ready in hand.


“Hell beats another lunch break in the park. I believe we’re ready Mz de Joie.â€

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"Well then, by all means. And please, call me Fleur or Stesha," the green-clad heroine told Erica with a smile. "Hold hands with each other now." Resting a light hand on Lucy's shoulder, Stesha touched the flowers braided in her hair, and suddenly they were no longer in the office. There was a moment of green light, diffuse and warm as sunlight through leaves, and a nigh-overwhelming scent of fresh-mown grass, and then they were back on solid ground again. Springy, grassy solid ground. The trio now stood in a large clearing, surrounded by thick-trunked old maple trees on one side and one edge of what looked to be an enormous garden on the other. 


Several people working in the garden looked up at their appearance, waving and calling "Hi Fleur!" Stesha waved back cheerfully, then turned to her companions. "Welcome to Sanctuary, my own little corner of alternate-universe New Jersey. We're right on the edge of Homewood, the oldest and smallest of the three villages. There's also Mayberry and Springfield a couple of miles away, past the Bee Meadow. On a clear day you can see Gaian Knight's floating castle from town square here, you should look out for it, and Gabriel's monastery is about five miles west of here towards what in our world is Wharton Forest. We've kept things pretty close so far, there's lots of land going pretty unused at the moment, and far more that's currently unusable. Come on, let me show you around." 

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Erica was walking around in little circles trying to take in everything at once. She started to take a few pictures as she took in the scene’s.


“That dragon floating around it’s not the same as you told me about boss? I’m sure they tend to keep grudgesâ€


“I’m pretty sure that the one i fought wasn’t quite real, just hope I didn’t upset any bee’s.†suppressing a laugh she fell into step with Stesha “She’s a hard worker but one reason I keep her around is how amazed she is by everything in our world. I’m not sure if it’s something with being undead but nothing seemed to phase me anymore. I worry sometimes that I might eventually lose touch with the world and there's not many people around to compare note with.â€

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"Our world is pretty amazing," Stesha said with an easy laugh. "Sometimes I forget just how much, and it's nice to be reminded. You might see Tiamat, the local dragon, flying around if you keep an eye out, but you'll almost certainly see... yep, there's some now." She pointed at two flying shapes in the distance, big round zeppelin bodies flying through the air in loopy, slightly erratic patterns. They looked small with the distance, but in person would probably be the size of semi trucks. "Looks like a food run," Stesha guessed, shading her eyes to watch for a moment. "They won't come too near the village. We have almost five hundred adult bees now, and I have no idea how many juveniles. Luckily, they have no legal problems," she assured Lucy with a grin. 


Turning towards the village, she escorted her two visitors past the massive garden and into the town square, where more than a dozen local children were taking advantage of the good weather to have recess. The clothes they were wearing were a bit odd, often mismatched and mostly slightly too big, but clean and in good condition. The exception was a green-haired preschooler wearing overalls with pink ruffles and a matching pink t-shirt beneath; aside from the hair she'd have fit into any playgroup on Prime. "Oops, I don't want to interrupt," Fleur said, hanging back a bit from the square. "We'll let them play a minute. I was wondering, Lucy, how did you come to be undead? I mean, if that's not too personal a question! You're obviously no vampire, and you don't look at all like the zombies I've seen." 

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“Oh secret origin stories, these are always interesting.†Erica piped in from behind them


“Erica think I should license my story, but she’s obsessed with everything to do with superheroes.†she shot a not unfriendly glance back to her assistant


“And no I’m fine to talk about how I became like this, though it was a bit of a scandal before I was born. There’s a bit of vampire in me with a dash of zombie. My mother was bitten by a vampire and almost turned when she was pregnant with me, they moved to Freedom City to avoid the shame of it all and told me nothing. I thought for a while it might have been Dracula, we’re Harker’s after all, but it turned out it was another Elder vampire trying to improve the breed.†her tone suggested she wasn’t happy with his efforts


“I wouldn’t have know anything about it but I volunteered to try a gangster bought in by one of the first mystery men. He got sent to prison but his men got their revenge on me with a bullet to the brain.†she moved up her hair to show a small scar on her forehead “Then I spent the rest of the 20th Century in concrete until some monster attack in 2011 woke me from my slumber.†she seemed pretty calm and fine with the whole thing.

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"Oh, Harkers, like from the books!" Stesha's voice was surprised. "I didn't realize that was your original name, I thought it was an- an homage or something, I suppose. That really is an interesting story. Erica may be right about licensing it and making it into a movie. You could be world-famous, for better or worse." She chuckled, then turned to look at the game. "There, over there by the wheelbarrows, not playing, that's Caelyn and Micah, the ones I told you about. They both lost their parents in the insect invasion. We looked for their families after time got rewritten, but Micah's parents weren't together and one lives in Australia now, and we couldn't find Caelyn's mother at all. We think she may have ended up written out of history when the world rebooted. They feel safer with the other refugees and with each other, so we're keeping them all together right now. 


On the other side of the boisterous game of tag happening in the square, Lucy and Erica could see the two non-participating children, sitting on a bale of foam insulation and watching the play with grave expressions on their faces. Micah was big for his reported five years, tall and stocky with freckles and the sort of white-blonde hair that would darken to brown at puberty, while dark-haired, brown-skinned Caelyn looked pinched and strained all over, as though stress and grief had stolen the vitality from her flesh. They held hands, but didn't say a word.


"We have one counselor on-planet, and she's been working with them, but there's only so much time in the day when there's so much trauma to go around." Stesha sighed. "Another reason to get them to Prime if we can." 

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“I have a signed first edition at home so I guess Mr Stoker borrowed some elements from what happened. And I’ve told Erica countless times I wouldn’t allow them to make a movie about me unless they found a way to cast...â€


“...an old actress that no one has ever heard off!†there was a gentle banter of a conversation had many times before. With the tak of the two children her mode soon however turned more somber.


“It’s not quite the same but I understand what they're going through, I was a mess when I realised everything I knew was gone forever. If it won’t do any harm I’d like to try and talk with them, maybe I can act as a kindred spirit?â€

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"Feel free," Stesha encouraged, gesturing towards the kids. "They haven't been very responsive to anybody outside their group, but I like to think they're starting to feel a little bit more comfortable here.Maybe you'll be able to get through to them now. At any rate, they ought to learn who you are if you're going to be representing them, right?" She looked around, scoping out possible places for a conference. "If you don't want to talk to them out here in the open, you could probably go into the tool storage shed, it's cramped but nobody should disturb you. Or we can ask the teacher to hold recess long and you can go in the classroom. We only have the one here," she admitted with a rueful smile. 

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