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Freedom's Finest #2: Undeadication Ceremony


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May 25, 2015

"...thanks to the selfless commitment and bravery all those who..."

It wasn't that the sentiment wasn't heartfelt but the halting, uneven delivery by teenaged grandson of one of the veterans in gathered in the small park next to the VFW building did nothing to breathe new life into the paint-by-numbers speech and after growing up on military base after military base it was nothing Vicki Adams couldn't have recited even without the cue cards the kid was relying upon. As Memorial Day ceremonies went it was on the more solemn side, attended mainly by aging veterans and their family members but the promise of bingo and a raffle with an ArcheTech tablet as the grand prize robbed it of a little of it gravitas. More than anything it was a welcome opportunity to gather generations together and consider how lucky they were to be there together.

The small cemetery on the other side of the park, its ornate fence lying just past the folding table holding the punch bowl and bingo hopper, was a sobering reminder of that. Looking serene as the bright sunlight shone over neat, well maintained rows of gravestones it was a quiet oasis next to the sounds of squeaking metal chairs, buzz from an inexpertly deployed sound system and intermittent coughing.

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Vicki listened to the young man struggle with the speech and her heart felt for him.  These affairs were difficult in that often the young and living had a hard time relating to the men and women who had survived the challenges he attempted to articulate.  Regardless, she thought, he was better for it, giving his time and effort to honor those who had come before him.  While there was supposed to be some kind of raffle, one which she suspected that many of the attendees were here for, she had not entered it.  Standing in a modest black dress she was here to give her own silent prayers to those who had come before.  Those who had passed when her own father had returned.  They deserved to be remembered and she made a point of attending the ceremonies each year.

Although, it didn't mean that she always stayed for every speech.  Instead, she quietly willed the poor young man some luck even as she wandered over to the graveyard.  She was told it was old, and it looked the part.  So it was unlikely that many soldiers had been recently buried there.  Still, she decided a walk through the grounds, quietly contemplating life would be a fitting tribute.  Perhaps a prayer and a word of thanks to dead ears would go well... as much a word as she could manage that is.

Pausing at an old stone in a quiet corner of the yard, she looked down and wondered what had happened to the poor person.

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A sudden gust of cold wind cut through the warmth of the midday sun and drew Vicki's attention over her shoulder to find another young woman standing just a few feet behind her, looking a little surprised to have been noticed. "Oh! Sorry!" the brunette exclaimed reflexively, bouncing slightly on her heels and blinking expressive, sea green eyes. The teen wore denim overall shorts over a black and white striped blouse with a brimmed black hat. The outfit seemed a little too dated for the year and a little too casual for the locale but the parasol that blocked the sunlight from touching a tan that suggested someone who enjoyed the outdoors was the most out of place.

"I hope I'm not bothering you!" With a bright, friendly smile the girl took a step forward, waving with her free hand. Her accent was heavy enough to make it clear that she wasn't a New Jersey native. "Graveyards like this are always a little more active this time of year!" Vicki new she hadn't seen anyone else in the cemetery as she'd wandered over from the VFW ceremony but perhaps her new acquaintance had been standing behind one of the trees?

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Vicki gave a polite smile and looked around, wondering where the girl had come from.  Probably from the ceremony as she had, although it was certainly a little more casual than she would have attempted.  Still, there were no dress requirements that she knew of and certainly everyone had their own upbringing.  While it was a little unnerving to be snuck up on so easily, that was perhaps something to be forgiven since she had been so intent on reading the markers of the fallen.  Really the only issue was one that she had long standing experience with, her inability to speak.

Turning more to face the girl she tapped her lips and shook her head before pulling out her phone and hitting the saved message, "Hello.  I am mute, but I can talk through this if you don't know ASL."

Then, she quickly cleared the message, and typed out a quick one so that it wasn't quite the boilerplate greeting, "No, you are not bothering me.  I was just wandering from the ceremony and guess I like to pay my respects a little different."

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The brunette slapped her free hand to the side of her face as she caught on. "Oh! Sign language! No, I'm sorry, I don't know enough," she apologized again, making it seem like something of a habit. With a regretful look she explained, "I really ought to! One of my best friends-- well, it's a really long story, actually, and I wasn't even there for most of it, so maybe never mind?" Twirling her parasol absently she looked over to the grave Vicki had been regarding so intently. "The people here appreciate it, for sure! Er. I mean, I'd assume, anyway. Seems like they would!" Giving the slightly shorter young woman a broad smile, she rocked energetically on her heels. "But I'm being totally rude! I'm Kimber, it's nice to meet you! I, uh, don't really shake hands, though, sorry. Also a long story!"

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"Kimber, nice to meet you.  I'm Vicki.  I suppose they might appreciate it, if they were looking at me now I suppose.  Wouldn't that be kind of a scary thought?" her phone intoned in it's monotone voice.

Her hand, which had been reaching to shake, fell back to her side.  While that was an unusual request, it wasn't that abnormal.  There were plenty of people who had space issues, or germ issues, or all sorts of reasons they didn't want to be touched.  If Kimber hadn't been so friendly Vicki might have noticed the hairs on the back of her neck standing up and not from static electricity.  However, the open and cheerful girl belayed the instincts that her body was trying to communicate.

As she looked back at the grave, she then realized that Kimber must be here to pay her respects and it was just coincidence that she had chosen this one to pause at.  Her fingers tapped out a reply, "I'm sorry.  Am I in the way?  Just let me know as I was just stopping her for a moment."

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"I guess that depends on what's scary to you, eh?" Kimber mused with brief, bright laugh, her smile extending to her entire face. "Pretty silly to be in a graveyard if you're afraid of running into dead folks now and then, don't you think?" She twirled her parasol between her fingers cheerfully, evidently oblivious to anything odd about that sentiment or phrasing. "You're not in the way at all, though, really! This isn't my graveyard and I'm always happy to meet new people! It's nice to see these guys getting some attention and-- I'm not asking her that!"

The last bit was hissed in a whisper directed just over Vicki's shoulder, the eccentric brunette's eyes focusing on a point in the air a little between the other young woman and the simple gravestone. "Because it's 2015 and I don't think that was ever a polite thing to ask a lady! Aheh ha, sorry, sorry, got distracted there for a second!" she attempted to recover with a slightly more nervous smile, shifting from foot to foot awkwardly. "Ha, yeeeaaah... So! Are you here with family or...?" Kimber nodded over to the gathering where the speeches had apparently wrapped up and people had left their chairs to mill about and take advantage of the picnic foods laid out for them.

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Vicki paused, again, nothing she had said was so strange as to raise any alarms.  Kimber seemed to be very pleasant, if a bit eccentric.  Which, considering they were both in a graveyard not visiting family, wasn't as odd as it could be.  Still, it was almost as if she was talking to someone behind her, enough so that Vicki turned around to look.

Seeing no one, she tapped at her phone, "No, my father may stop by later, he's stationed at Lonely Point.  I promised him that I'd stop by a service today as it's normally something that he likes to do.  However, they were transferring some guy out to the island and wanted as many people on duty as possible.  Is your family back at the service?"

She was going to leave it go at that, and her mother would have told her that prying wasn't very polite, but she was a curious person.  Her fingers danced on the glass surface of the phone and she hit play as she looked up, tilting her head questioningly, "I'm sorry.  I have to ask.  Were you talking to someone else there?  Also, shouldn't ask me what?"

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"Whaaat, nooooo..." Kimber insisted with an exaggerated surprise that proved that whatever idiosyncrasies she possessed being a convincing liar was not among them. "I... was just mumbling to myself! I do that sometimes and Americans sometimes have trouble understanding my accent so maybe it sounded like something else! Haha, yeah, that's totally--"

Her rationalization was interrupted as a loud clatter and splash came from the direction of the gathering. One of the elderly attendees had accidentally knocked the punch bowl from the table and onto the grass then proceeded to stagger about as though in a daze, grasping aimlessly at the air. More immediately worrying than the loss of the communal beverage container was the fact than no one in the crowd was moving to help the grey haired man or seemed to be reacting to the mishap at all. Instead they all seemed to be similarly lurching awkwardly, heads lolling as deep, rolling moans escaped their lips.

Kimber stood up on her tiptoes to get a better look at the shambling group and as Vicki watched the other girl floated a good inch or two off to the ground and simply hung in the air, bobbing slightly. "Well, that doesn't sound good at all!"

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Several things were happening, and all at once.  Vicki was about to ask where she was from, but her sudden levitation left her figuratively speechless.  Which considering that she was literally speechless, was not quite as bad as it sounded.  Yet that was perhaps only the second most disturbing thing that was going on.  The fact that the crowd was doing some kind of perverted dance step was drawing her attention even more.  She watched as they seemed to be milling about aimlessly still in the large crowd of the reception.

Realizing that she didn't have time to try and type out messages to her odd acquaintance, she went to tap the girl's shoulder so she could communicate with her.

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Instead of connecting with Kimber's shoulder Vicki's hand passed through without resistance, no different than if she were waving it through thin air save for a slight chilled feeling akin to standing in front of an open window on a winter day. It took the hovering young woman several moments to notice the invasive hand, turning about in the air so that Vicki' finger was buried into her clavicle. "Oh. Jams. Well, manticore's out of the bag, I guess!" She took her hand away from the handle of her parasol, which hung in place for a moment before tossing itself over to rest neatly folded and propped against the base of a tree. As soon as the sunlight fell upon her the colour drained away from Kimber's flesh and clothing, leaving her cast in a range of faint blues that paled further until they were transparent. The blouse and hat shifted, seeming to blur disconcertingly out of focus before quickly resolving into a tattered reaper's cloak with the hood up, uneven edges carried aloft by a wind that wasn't really there. The ominous aesthetic of the cloak was at odds with the classically heroic form-fitting bodysuit into which the overalls similarly reformed themselves, the chest emblazoned with a bold 'G'.

"Work clothes," she explained with an apologetic smile, waving a hand over her face and leaving behind a little domino mask. "Sorry for faking, it's just nice to pretend to be alive for real now and then, y'know? Anyway, I better go find out what's going on over there. You should be safe if you stay put, okay?"

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Vicky's hand quivered as it impaled the ghostly form. Her eyes went wide as saucers as she looked at the undead girl having a hard time coming to grips with what she was seeing. She had thought that something was odd but this certainly had not been it. Under normal circumstances she might have fled. Yes the ghostly girl seems so apologetically nice that it bolstered her confidence.

She looked over to the scene with the very strange acting crowd. Swallowing nervously, she shook her head no, and vanished from sight. Seconds later she reappeared. The formal dress she was wearing had been replaced by a white and black costume. It was loose fitting and while well done also looked to be handmade. She flashed a nervous smile before shaking her head no.

She pointed to Kimber and then to herself allowing a short pause before making her hands into fists and bringing them together, palms facing each other, while looking at Kimber questioningly. Ghost or not, heroes should stick together.

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Kimber cocked her head to one side as Vicki vanished into thin air but her own metric for 'weird' meant that she was considerably less startled by the sudden show of superhuman ability than the average person might have been. When the other girl reappeared dressed in a uniform of her own the poltergeist let out an excited gasp and pumped both fists into the air above her head with a smile that took up most of her face. "Oh! Oh! Team-up! Yesssss!" She flew in a tight circle around the white and black clad heroine to get a better look at her new outfit. "Avro is going to be so annoyed that he missed this! Avro's my manticore, he-- well, long story, again. Lot of that going around! Ooh, don't tell me what your thing is yet, though, it'll be more fun to find out as we go! Codenames, though! You can call me Ghost Girl."

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Manticore?  Was that a half goat half lion?  Or was it the snake headed one?  Either way, why did she have a Manticore in the first place?

Pausing for just a moment to contemplate that she decided that it would have to wait until later.  Something was amiss and she was going to have go with... Ghost Girl.  Ghost Girl, that was certainly a fitting name she decided still not sure if she should be scared or not.  Yet, regardless what her mind was telling her, Kimber's exuberant spirit was something that was so inviting that she made a team up sound fun.  Although, team up against what was the question as more of the crowd began to mill about.

Punching furriously into her phone, it squaked, "I'm Hestina, but it's going to be hard to communicate.  What do you think is going on?  Oh... if I can actually touch you, I can probably make talking easier too.  Is that possible?"

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"Touch...? Oh, is this a powers thing?" Ghost Girl asked, catching on quickly to Hestina's meaning. "Well, you can't really touch me at all, no. Ghost stuff! But telepathy works on me if that's what you're thinking! Hee! Telepathy, thinking..." The translucent blue girl bobbed in the air with a grin that slipped from her face as a particularly loud moan drew her attention back to the shambling group of veterans and their families. They'd stopped wandering aimlessly and we beginning to congregate around a figure she couldn't make out from where they stood in the graveyard. "Uh oh. That can't be good. If you're gonna try something, go for it!"

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