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160 years later, the time portal no longer absorbed or radiate visible light. But it glowed like a torch at the higher and lower end of the spectrum - standing out like brightest day to Miss Americana and Dragonfly on their arrivals, and in fact putting out so much radio waves that the former couldn't get very close without the risk of losing connection to her controller. For those with normal eyes, the strip mall parking lot in the West End was quiet and still - any eyewitnesses to any recent events at this location had either fled the premises or were in hiding. 

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Miss Americana was on the scene within minutes of Caradoc's abortive communication, still wearing an ArcheTech labcoat and with her usually impeccably-styled hair pulled back in a ponytail. Despite her speed, she was still too late, the parking lot was empty, the heroes nowhere to be found. Steve wasn't answering his communicator anymore, and the sensors she'd put in his suit weren't registering him anywhere in Freedom City. Even so, she called out into the night. "Caradoc! Interceptors! Can you hear me?" 

Pulling out her handheld sensor sweeper, she aimed it at the field she still couldn't get close to. Coming within less than fifty feet made her feel dizzy and nauseous on the other end of the link, not good for concentration. She placed a quick call to ArcheTech for people and field equipment, then called the number she had for Interceptors HQ. "This is Miss Americana. I'm looking for any of the Interceptors. Are you there?" 

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"I've got it," Talya volunteered from where she was attempting to retrieve her black domino mask from a giggling Eden. The rest of her costume she was already wearing, dressed in black leather from boots to neck but she'd made the mistake once of letting Eden play with the leather domino that covered her eyes and now there was some question as to who it belonged to. Scooping the toddler up with one arm while she laughed, Talya reached for the phone with her free hand, her voice affectionate as she added to Eden, "Little monkey, I need that if I'm going to out and figure out what happened to your father. I'll get you one of your own - when you're older!"

Putting the phone against her ear, Talya expected to the call to be a belated check in but the voice was unfamiliar, "Well, you're speaking to one of them," came the clipped British voice as Talya righted Eden onto one hip. "Hullo, Miss Americana. What's the news?" 

She raised her voice just a little so that the other ladies in the room would know who was calling. "Let me put you on the speaker." She added, touching a button on the phone so that everyone would hear the woman's news. It probably wasn't a good sign.

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"Seven minutes ago, I received a communication from Caradoc," came Miss A's terse yet dulcet voice over the speaker. "He reported that they had located a "car-stealing cloud," and that it was an unstable temporal field in the parking lot of the strip mall. He was then cut off by static and the transmission ended. Two minutes ago, I arrived on the scene and ascertained that there is definitely an energy field in the parking lot, but there is no vortex present, nor is Ste- Caradoc, or any other heroes. I'm unable to approach the field due to high levels of interference. Are you in contact with your field team?" 

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Mara's face was almost perfectly blank for a moment, looking vacantly toward the phone while her brain processed those...tidbits. "....a temporal field that steals cars?" she finally questioned, frowning; she'd been working on one of her drones with her multi-tool when the call came, and now it sat abandoned on the nearest flat surface as she took in the news. "....in a strip mall parking lot. ....okay. We are not in contact, no, but this might explain why."

Little lights danced behind dark blue eyes, and the heavy metal choker at the base of her neck lit up in response - it sent a wave of twisted space washing over the young engineer's body, leaving behind familiar armor that wasted no time in spinning to life. "Will be there shortly," she announced, picking her drone up. Lines ran across it like creases in paper, and the mass of metal and wires folded in on itself until it had disappeared. "Can probably get closer than you, though the suit won't like it. Need to get a look at this...thing. Anyone else coming?"

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"I've called in a support team from ArcheTech, they'll be bringing in equipment to analyze the field and seal off the area." Miss A replied, with maybe just the tiniest hint of relief in her ultra-professional voice at hearing Dragonfly had not gone AWOL with the team. "Civilian activity is low at this hour, but the field is invisible to the naked eye. We don't need any accidents. If you've got any equipment to analyze temporospatial claudications, bring it with you." It went unspoken that of the two of them, Dragonfly was far more conversant with tears in the fabric of reality. 

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"This sounds like it might be an all hands on deck situation," Ellie commented, tugging on her costume's jacket and tossing her work clothes unceremoniously into the hamper she was standing next to. After a full EMT-B shift she'd been hoping that the stakeout would be a bust and she could just take advantage of her brother's washing machine, change into something that didn't smell like other people's puke and maybe spend a little bit of time with her girlfriend in between science experiments but that clearly wasn't happening. At least the bandanna mask would probably hide the circles under her eyes. "I think we'll all feel better the sooner we get the boys back to the future. Mi hermano doesn't even know how to play Johnny B. Goode."

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"Of course it was a magic time-displacing dumpster. Of course," Talya said, her voice dry. She went to swing Eden down onto her feet, telling her in an undertone as the other ladies agreed the remaining Interceptors would be en-route momentarily, "Go tell your mum that it looks like tonight's a 'Grandma's house' sort of evening." Talya coaxed as she finally retrieved her mask and pressed the black leather into place along the bridge of her nose. She gave Ellie's weary expression a briefly concerned look but refrained from commenting. Once she had her hands free, Talya turned back to the phone, "I think you'll be getting all of us that are left here in as short an order as we can manage it to offer whatever help you need in resolving the situation," Talya's voice was calm and composed. "We'll be en route but if you need to reach us before we arrive, you can call this number," she offered her cell phone, rattling the number off in short order. 

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Min shortly joined the other heroines carrying Mia in her arms and preceded by her eldest daughter.  The look on her face was that of a carefully crafted mask of neutrality but Talya could see the concern lurking in her amber eyes.  Talya knew Min well enough by now to realize it was more than mere concern, the dryad was barely holding it together as one of her greatest fears was playing out.

"Do you have Gina's address?" she quietly asked, afraid to raise her voice above a whisper for fear of losing control of it.

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"All right, keep me appraised." Miss Americana hung up the phone to let the remaining Interceptors gather themselves and get moving, and concentrated her own efforts on securing a command post. A little searching netted an outdoor power outlet in front of the strip mall for the equipment she'd brought with her, and the security guard was quickly persuaded to help keep any passers-by at bay. It was a little shocking that such a high-energy phenomenon was invisible to the naked eye, but the fact that the parking lot looked empty and dark was probably helpful for the moment. Her assistant called to say that the field team was underway and would be at the West End in ten more minutes. She tried to raise Steve again. No answer. 

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"She might not, but I do," Dragonfly established, with the phone call completed and a strong desire to be on the move. "Going to have to pocket you to take you all at once. It's...not really pleasant, going to be really disorienting. And the adults need to not think too hard about leaving; kids'll be fine, though, and it's perfectly safe. First stop, Gina's."

She held out a gauntleted hand for anyone who was coming, and when they took it the process was, indeed, a bit disorienting: where someone on the outside of the dimensional trickery saw their friend fold up and disappear, each found that when they were the ones being put away it was the world that folded up - twisting in alien geometries until they were left in a blank white void, standing on a floor with no walls, seeing by light with no source. At some point their host had apparently taken in some bottled water and a couple children's toys, though, so there was that.


At top speed it didn't take Dragonfly long to hit Gina's, for drop-offs and extremely quick explanations, and soon after that touching down in the parking lot to quietly discharge her passengers. "Americana. Anything new?"

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Bombshell's gloved fingertips were light on Min's arm, the pressure light but reassuring. "We'll get them back home before midnight, mark my words. And he'll no doubt have some ridiculous story of daring do for his troubles," She offered with calm confidence. Bombshell, for her part, was concerned but not yet worried. She saved worry for when there was nothing to do and at the moment, they had a course of action. She gave Willow's arm one gentle squeeze before they were all disgorged from the pocket at the site. 

Bombshell took the odd transportation in stride, landing lightly on the balls of her booted feet. As she lacked any sense whatsover for such things the sad little strip mall looked exactly like that to her eyes, "We spoke on the phone. Bombshell," she provided to Miss Americana, the words short as she mostly wanted to hear if there had been any updates in the time it had take to drop off the girls.

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Miss A looked over at the new arrivals, but remained closely focused on the empty patch of parking lot she was busy analyzing. "Field team should be arriving any minute with better gear, and some caution tape so nobody gets too close on accident. There's not even a shred of Terminus energy, so I think we can rule out a portal to there, and it's not behaving like any dimensional portal I've seen before. There's some chroniton radiation mixed in with the radio interference, more than normal background levels. I think they were right when they called it a temporal portal, but something is blocking it." She nodded at Bombshell's introduction. "I've heard of you. Didn't realize you were with the Interceptors." 

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Sizing up the situation as she arrived along with the rest of the team, it took less than a minute for Jill O'Cure to start feeling the impatience as a prickling itch on the back of her neck. She wasn't particularly good at standing around and waiting on the best of days but running on near empty and having just having had to explain to her mother that her brother and their friends were missing, possibly abducted, she reached her tipping point in record time. "Blocking it, huh?" she mused tersely, raising both hands and forming a shimmering blue sphere of bioelectric field the size of a softball between her palms. "Let's see if we can't fast-track the trial-and-error process here." With a mote of applied concentration she launched the ball forward like it had been shot out of a cannon, hurling it toward the portal. The barrier it struck seemed to flex and ripple like a trampoline before bouncing the sphere back. The metamagi let the construct dissipate as it began to return. "So. Bigger wrecking ball?" She was aiming for sardonic but the hard edge in her voice was obvious.

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"Absolutely not!" snapped a voice from behind the group. A woman came out of the shadows in a knee-length black dress with ragged edges. Her black hair was cut in a bob that only served to emphasise the anger on her face. As she came closer through the darkness, her heavily pregnant stomach came into view. In spite of the additional heft, Liz Lawlett still managed to stalk towards the group.

"If you do that without knowing what you're doing, you don't know what'll happen. You could send a giant sized force bubble smashing through the rift and it'd explode all over the bunch of idiots." She turned to Dragonfly. "Have we tried a matter-based entrance rather than energy? Say, a drone with a cabled broadcasting system?"

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"Would if I could find a good enough cable," Dragonfly responded - she'd apparently had similar ideas, and already had one of her drones in hand. The football-sized flying contraptions did, apparently, have proper walking legs: the bottom half of its armor plating had split apart and rotated out into insect-like appendages, which wiggled impotently in the air as she cut through its rear housing to indelicately pull out some wires. "And a compatible video port. Drones aren't really designed for wired use. Could always just talk to them directly if I had to. Anyone have a bunch of cable and a laptop they don't care about? Would settle for an old tv if anyone can find one."

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"It's a rather new arrangement," Bombshell replied, seemingly taking the hurling of forces at the invisible field in stride behind her. She reached up to absently flick her hair back over one shoulder from where it had been disturbed and paused for the newest arrival's angry shout to die down to something that could be spoken over. "So what is it that you need most from our allotted skill sets to help facilitate fixing the current debacle?"

Having asked the question, she pivoted slightly to include Jill in her commentary, "I know that we all want to deal with things as quickly and as smoothly as possible but lets let the lovely ladies see what they can Science! before we resort to the tried and true method of percussive maintenance," Bombshell suggested, hoping to gentle the simmering tension, "What ever we do, it'll go smoothest if we're all working together. We all have the same goal and the same urgency to get it done."

Turning back towards Miss A and Liz, Bombshell added, "Do you want to just loop a rope around me? The worst thing that happens with temporal fluctuations is I have to take the slow way back." That was hardly the worst thing but with everyone on edge, Bombshell went for glib.

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Miss A pointed to the pair of ArcheTech vans just pulling in on the far side of the parking lot. "My team's just arrived, they'll have the cables and monitors you need. Every test I've run suggests that something is blocking the portal, but I haven't literally tried to throw anything through it, so it's worth a try. A carefully calibrated, scientific try," she added. "With no human volunteers! I'm going to get this area roped off and set up some sensors that might give us a better idea of what the portal looked like when it was open, and where and when it might have led to. I could use some help setting up barricades and caution tape, if anyone would like to lend a hand." She walked over to the vans and began conferring with one driver, while three other technicians in ArcheTech jumpsuits began unloading equipment. 

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"I am not human," Willow stated from beside Bombshell.  She opened her mouth to add more, specifically about the ArcheTech presence, but silently closed it without comment when she noticed Miss A's mannerisms.  Instead, she took a look around the parking lot--and the scant little plant life--but figured that there was enough of it present for the task at hand.  With a gesture the plants and shrubs that filled the small islands of greenery erupted, growing wildly and rapidly to surround the portal, the heroes and the ArcheTech vans.

Thorns sprouted from the thick barrier, sharp and dangerous looking.  Reflective of the dryads mood.

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"I reserve the right to maintain Plan B for Bludgeoning," Jill muttered darkly, respecting the concerns surrounding her demonstration but thinking that the more cautious members of their little group needed to respect her desire to smash something. She turned around say something no doubt bitingly clever to Spellbound only to instead come out with, "What the @#$% happened to you?!" Staring at the other woman's heavily pregnant belly she raised both arms in vaguely directed outrage, turning to look at her girlfriend and Liz's employer. "Did you know about this?" Admittedly, it had been a while since she'd seen Geckoman's partner; it wasn't unusual for Liz to beg off attending the 'family' events Chris was roped into and Ellie hadn't been spending as much time at HAX in the past months since it was a lot easier for the head of a technology company to take the afternoon off to visit a hospital than it was for a rookie EMT to get out of work early. Still, it seemed like something that should have come up in conversation!

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"No living mine canaries," Dragonfly muttered, still pulling at the wires in her poor, distressed-looking drone; she apparently found the ones she was looking for only when its less put-upon companions floated back to her hauling a monitor and some poor technician's laptop by little energy tethers. The former got set down a lot more gently than the latter, but she was apparently after parts anyway - and given the rush, she wasn't taking too much care to preserve the equipment.

Jill's question managed to burrow through her concentration, if only just, and she glanced up, fingers still patching wire together. "Notice...? Pregnancy?" She sounded...well, suitably confused. "....yes? Hard to miss at this point. It...I thought you already knew."

He tone was nothing if not apologetic as she set her little drone down, where it made a protesting beep at the cable it dragged behind it, marching its way toward the middle of the anomaly. "You spend more time with them than I do, in theory; didn't occur to me they hadn't told you. I...sorry. Never my intention to keep secrets. Never from you."

The monitor was tilted up so the others could watch from her cyclopean minion's point of view as it went to its potential doom - overlaid on its blue-tinted camera was a fair amount of data of dubious clarity, though it seemed to be tracking a number of ambient readings and the location of (and information on) its fellows. Dragonfly had some choice words to share when it got about as far as Ellie's ball had before being pushed back, legs scraping against the asphalt like it had run into rubber, but the run of impolite Russian trailed off when she cocked her head at, and enlarged, a few of the HUD displays. "...that...okay. Americana, verification? Barrier pushes back almost perfectly - momentum inversion, controlling for leg motors. Otherwise, no bad readings, no weird readings, no...nothing. Very quiet. No radio. From the other side, I mean; anomaly itself is putting out stupid amount of interference."

She tapped a finger against her leg, metal tik-tik-tikking as she thought. At the other end of the cable, her little robot futiley pushed against its invisible oppressor. "Not good at history, but radio is...pretty far back. Or pretty far forward; bad possible future to take out radio pollution. Probably safe enough, if we can remove or push through barrier."

Edited by Fox

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"If you don't have any radio waves, it means before the twentieth century, yes, most likely," Bombshell provided from where she was standing by Willow to watch the camera. Her batons were in hand as she absently tossed one from hand to hand as she waited for something that she could do to be of assistance. She was more than happy to provide anecdotal information if it could be at all helpful, "My family had a radio by the time I was old enough to remember which would be, oh, 1922? Somewhere in that ball park but they were commercial by then so invention would have been happening before that. So, before my time most likely, pre- turn of the century as if it were post-radio future, I imagine you'd be picking up other noise."

At least Bombshell certainly hoped so but science wasn't her bailiwick. She flipped the baton up in her hand as she looked to the scientists for their next plan, "Any thoughts on pushing through the barrier other than those that have been ruled out? My personal preference is human volunteer then explosions for the order in which we try the already acknowledged bad ideas."

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"Confirming those readings," Miss A agreed tersely. "It's a perfect inversion of momentum, so whatever we throw at it gets thrown back at us with equal force and speed. I don't think it's going to be a matter of finding something to break through the barrier, but rather of isolating the energy that makes up the barrier and draining it away without closing the portal." She adjusted the scanner set up on a portable table for her, then pointed a slender metal wand in the direction of the portal. "I think I can dial in the energy readings with a little bit of time," she told Dragonfly. "Can you get me an energy sink that will hold what we bleed off? I don't want to risk releasing that much energy anywhere near a temporal portal. Even opening the barrier might be dangerous, if the portal immediately becomes patent again." 

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Tak-tak-tak went Dragonfly's finger before she answered, the armored heroine casting her gaze around the area to ponder what she had to work with. "Might be a lot of energy," she muttered, mostly to herself. "Batteries do bad things when they overflow, not going to send it to drone storage, suit would probably take it but Jill would get mad...."

Her eyes landed on a utility box at the edge of the parking lot, and her helmet cocked to the side. "....okay," she said, one drone already zipping off to inspect it. "Will need some high-voltage cable. And a lot of capacitors. Think I already have the rest....need volunteers to run as much heavy cable as we have between here and that transformer? It's heavy," she apologized, audibly frowning, "and I've gotta build things."

Edited by Fox

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Liz looked at Ellie blankly. "What... um... aren't you a doctor? I mean, uh..." She cocked an eyebrow, before a look of realisation dawned on her face and she threw her head back, rolling her eyes. "Oh god. He's an idiot. He's a total idiot. We decided not to tell anyone for a few months, just in case, and apparently he needed to be clearly told that, yes, he was allowed to talk about it." She shook her head, before turning to her boss. "You, on the other hand, are not an idiot. You don't have that excuse."

The reformed supervillain pulled out a slim metal wand and clicked a button, extending it out to its full length. "In any case, I'll help shift the metal boxes. This'll be faster than you non-pregnant people walking objects back and forth anyway." An idea popped into her head. "Aaaaand... if there's no radio, is there any way we could broadcast through? I mean, they'd be the only people with a receiver.

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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