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15th April 2005

"So are you sure this is the place?" said the young woman, looking skeptically at the building in front of them. It hardly seemed the place to go for a biology consult. Hell, it looked like an apartment building. 

The man beside her checked his email on his smartphone. "Yuuup. Sharl said it was here. Something about a fake front to the building" After they'd got in contact during the problem with the Communion, Geckoman and Sharl had stayed loosely in contact. Being a member of Young Freedom was, while really only a big deal during school, still a thing. They'd all presumably come running if one member sent out an SOS. Or help out if one came asking around. "You ready to go in?"

Liz Lawlett sighed. "Well, we've tried a bunch of stuff, Kenzie. This'd hardly be the weirdest place we've asked about this. Come on." She strode on into the gym, long black coat whipping around her ankles as she went. Chris hurried after her, until they hit the door.

"How do we get in?"

"I don't know, you know the weird digital guy."

"He's not that weird! Ummmm." Geckoman reached out and pressed a buzzer down for a few seconds. Then the one below it. Then another below that. "Hit the buttons until someone answers?"

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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As one might suspect, Maxima spent quite a lot of time in the gym.  She got more mileage out of training as Cassandra, but she tended to lose control and restraint if she didn't work out as Maxima.  While she did have her own gym at her house/base she often spent time at Average Joe's to try to meet other heroes, and to lend credibility to the establishment.  She hadn't been particularly successful in either endeavor yet, but was hoping it would catch on eventually.  And besides, if she's going to pay the electric bill on this place, she's going to make sure it gets some use. 

Today, she was attempting to swim, trading out her usual costume for a modest, light blue two piece swim suit.  Usually, as Maxima, her body was far too dense to be buoyant in water, but she was hoping her newest serum would help alleviate this problem.  Her hopes however didn't pan out, she still sunk like a stone, but now a slightly lighter stone.  Even with her prodigious strength, she basically only managed to get an inch or two off the bottom of the pool.  Thankfully she was tall enough where she could just take a few steps towards the shallow end for her head to break the surface enough for her to take a breath. 

As Maxima came up for air, she heard the buzzer go off from upstairs.  She had created a functional apartment exterior, mostly because it would look weird if it didn't have a working one, she hadn't actually expected it to work.  Anyone who needed it get inside surely had a keycard by this point.  She looked at the monitor on the nearby intercomm, seeing a young man and woman, neither of whom she recognized, on the stoop of the apartment, with the man systematically ringing every buzzer.  Maxima hit the button on her own console so the others could hear, but not see her "Uh hello?  Who's there?" asked Maxima, wondering what precisely was going on. 

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"Hi!" said the young man enthusiastically. "We're looking for Average Joe's? You don't know us, but we're friends of Sharl. Well, more like associates."

"Yes, cast doubt on our good intentions," said the woman drily. "We were asking around about a certain matter, and he told us that the proprietor of Average Joe's could help us with an issue we're having." She looked significantly less confident than the young man about what they were doing.

"What she said," chirped the man. "So... are we in the right place? Not sure, really. It's the directions he gave us, anyway." He shrugged. "So if it is, can we come in and talk?"

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As a response, the door buzzed and you could audibly hear the lock unlatch itself.  "Take the elevator on your left, basement level." replied the voice over the intercom.  Either the base has been compromised or I'm going to be having a very screwy conversation... probably don't want to have it while still dripping wet. mused Maxima as she made her way back to the pool area, grabbing her towel, which frankly looked more like a blanket and began to hurriedly dry herself off.  "Why do you never get company when you're ready for it?" she grumbled as she looked over the area, her giant wet foot prints and puddles of water making a general mess of the floor. 

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Upstairs, Chris & Liz found the interior of the building to look completely ordinary.  In the small lobby area, there were mailboxes on one wall, with room numbers plastered on them, as well as an outgoing mail slot.  Another wall held a cork board covered in pamphlets, flyers, and passive-aggressive notes between neighbors.  The clue that they were in the right place was went the door leading deeper into the building opened of its own accord, accompanied by a computerized voice "Administrator Zero-Zero-One. Security override accepted.  Welcome."  The next room appeared to just be an elevator lobby, with an elevator on the left and another on the right, with a door marked as stairs on the opposite wall. 

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As the elevator dinged as it reached the basement level the doors opened to reveal a large common area with a smattering of tables, chairs and sofas. The inclusion of a coffee bar made it obvious this was intended to be a meeting area. There were a number of doors, each bearing a different label “Pool, garage, observation, infirmary”. Before they could get too good a look at the place, the nearly nine foot tall heroine Maxima came strolling out of the pool area, still in her swim suit and barefoot, toweling off her hair. Suddenly the high ceilings in this place made a lot more sense. “Hello. Name's Maxima.” she said nodding at the newcomers, throwing her towel behind her neck. “You interrupted my sw- hrmm can't really call it 'swimming' can I?- anyways I was floundering about in the pool when you two showed up, so excuse the appearance, also watch your footing, wet floors and all. Sounded pretty important over the intercom, what can I do you for?”

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Chris and Liz cocked their heads and looked at each other. "This is the place," they said in unison. Liz reached into her coat and pulled out a large manilla folder, while Chris craned his neck to look up at Maxima. Man, she was biiiiig. Like, super big. Did she have to get stuff tailored?

"Um. Hi. So, uh, Citizen told us there'd be a metabiologist here who could help us out with some things." Chris gestured vaguely. "It's not so much a superhero thing, as like... a medical matter with some, certain... genetic components? So, like, uh..." He was visibly struggling to make his words match up and make sense, a rivulet of sweat dripping down his forehead.

Liz rolled her eyes. "Good grief, this'll hardly be the most personal information you might need to disclose. I'm Liz Lawlett, this is Chris Kenzie, a.k.a. Geckoman. We're trying to have a baby, but his unique genetic situation is hindering conception, and we were wondering if anyone could help," she said matter-of-factly. She was less nervous about this part. Not entirely keen on this insidious infiltration of superheroes into every aspect of her life. But hard science? This was what she did. "Most of the scientists we know are more into engineering." And Ellie hadn't graduated yet, which would have vastly simplified this whole process.

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Maxima just kind of froze when Liz went on her matter-of-fact speech, and hung like that for a moment after.  Then all of a sudden she turned on her heel and wordlessly walked out the room, just the way she came in.  Just a moment later, a 5'8" woman with dirty blonde hair wearing blue jeans and a button down black blouse walked back into the room.  She offered her hand to Liz "Dr. Cassandra Steel, one of the world's foremost experts in metahuman biology; you're in the right place." she offered her hand to Chris as well "Pleasure to meet you.  If you'll follow me, the infirmary is this way." she said leading the pair to one of the other doors.  "The facility here is rather basic, having only the essentials-" started Cassandra, the ArcheTech logo plastered on the massive amount of equipment in the room painted her as a liar however. "-But we should have more than enough at our finger tips to get us started."

She sat down at one of the tables, gesturing for Chris & Liz to do the same.  A quick tap revealed the surface of the table to be a computer, as Cassandra brought up a few files and an ordinary word document.  "I like to start these sorts of things off with an interview of sorts, rather than wander in blindly.  So if you wouldn't mind, tell me a bit about yourselves and what you know about your own biology; it'll help narrow down what sorts of tests we need to run."

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Geckoman eyed the ArcheTech logos warily as he sat down. "Basic, huh?" He was also unsure where the big woman had gone and this other woman had appeared from. "Ummm... well, basically, I got my powers accidentally, through a serumy thingie."

"It was an experimental nanobot system which rewrote DNA," continued Liz. She was also quite wary of all the ArcheTech logos. If this was a basic facility, what exactly was an advanced one? "The thing is, it shouldn't have worked. I've used it on myself multiple times, and it just gave me lingering pains for a few weeks. Chris was the first, and to my knowledge, only person it's ever worked on. Basically, it shouldn't work."

"Well, it did," protested Chris. "I've got all these superpowers and everything."

"Yes, but it shouldn't have. Basically, it rewrote his DNA to alter parts of his nervous system and cellular structure. I'm... not a biologist, which is probably why it doesn't work on everyone. Perhaps Chris already had existing compatible markers in his DNA that Iack. Maybe it's a dud and he was just a metahuman who hadn't got his powers to work yet." Liz shrugged, looking a little frustrated. She was a scientist, this was her serum, and she had no idea why it'd never worked properly. 

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Ordinarily at this point in the process, Cassandra would be scribbling furiously on her note pad, making notes of possible avenues of research and experimentation, key data points, the usual stuff.  This time however, Cassandra just sort of sat there in a blank stare until after Liz finished.  "Okay... J-Just time out - just time out." she said shaking her head clearly flabbergasted as she threw down her pen and used her hands to call 'time out' with enough vigor one would think she was attempting to get the attention of a referee hiding out of sight behind Chris & Liz.  Cassandra began speaking very slowly and deliberately, pausing after each sentence, making sure she understood the full ramifications of what she was just told.  "You have developed a programmable nanoswarm.  One that is capable of rewriting human DNA.  In such a way that they can develop super-powers.  In developed, living subjects.  But so far has only produced one success.  Who is your significant other.  And knowing this, you injected yourself with this serum.  On multiple occasions.  Meaning you are capable of reproducing this serum, but not its results.  And having done all this, you claim to not be a biologist?" asked Cassandra incredulously. 

Having gotten that off of her chest, Cassandra took a calming breath.  "Ok, cards on the table, I modified my own DNA structure.  Severely.  Back at base, I have a mainframe that specializes in genetic sequencing, and I'm able to remote in from here, so I think it would help if I got a sample of your DNA Chris to get a baseline for what we're dealing with.  Also, since you were exposed to the same serum Liz, I would like to get a sample from you as well."

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"Well, not a trained one," shrugged Liz. "I'm not not a scientist, I'm a nuclear engineer. So the nanobots weren't hard, but the actual genetic stuff thing was a little bit beyond me, which is why I think it doesn't work."

"Hold on, DNA?" interjected Chris. "Like, cheek swab, blood, peeing in a cup? Combination of the three? I'm fine with those, so long as you don't do that thing where they just rip out hair follicles. That one hurts."

"You literally get shot on a daily basis, and you're fine," said Liz drily.

"And I'm not fine with that either!"

"Sigh," said Liz in a monotone. "Anyway, sure. We'll give you samples. We can gag him if it helps? But anything that'll help you figure out what's up here, it's not something I've tried because I don't have the facilities and wouldn't really understand the results."

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Cassandra just smirked as Chris and Liz had their joking little spat while she got up, put on some rubber gloves and grabbed some cotton swaps out of one of the nearby cabinets.  There was some technology on site that could collect DNA through more advanced means, but it might been deemed a little... invasive so Cassandra decided to go with the low tech method before ramping to the sci-fi.  "Say 'aaaaaaahhhh'." said Cassandra half jokingly as she collected her samples from Chris and Liz, before depositing them into a machine that proceeded the scan the swabs as it systematically scanned the area with a green laser grid. 

Cassandra threw her gloves into the nearby garbage and retook her seat at the surface computer.  A few quick key strokes later and the data from the scanner was being displayed, with Chris and Liz's DNA slowly being sequenced.  "The machine we've got here just collects the data, we'll need something else to analyze it." explained Cassandra as she began typing away again, bringing up a parallel screen that had a completed DNA sequence.  "This is my own genetic sequence that I brought up from my mainframe I mentioned earlier.  Now spooling through the whole code would take far too long, especially since I have a few extra pairs of chromosomes in my DNA, so I developed a program that scans DNA for statistically unlikely protein sequences in your DNA.  Most of the DNA sequence from one person to another is identical, as most of your DNA is just instructions on how to build basic proteins or to indicate basic stuff like the number of limbs.  So if I were to highlight the odd strains in my DNA, like sooo..." said Cassandra as she made a few more movements on the computer before sections of her genetic code were highlighted in green "we can see what, genetically speaking, makes you unique."

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