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June 27th, 2016

Freedom City, New Jersey

Late Afternoon


The 129 sat at the station, a humming silver bullet of sophistication and technology, energy gathering in its mighty electric engines as the passengers and luggage was loaded. In a car new the end of the train, Tona Baudin walked down one corridor, a bulky bag over her shoulder. For one she was glad that the world was built to a larger scale than she was. Otherwise, she would been walking down the hallway sideways, like so many other passengers who insisted on bringing bags with them, and that just looked uncomfortable.

She trailed her hand along the wall, checking each metal plate in turn and keeping an eye out for one in particular. Finally she found it, nearly at the end of the car; she used a key and let herself in, once again finding that her small size made maneuvering in the tiny room easy. The archer stowed her bag quickly and sat next to the bright, wide window. She smiled at the woman across from her, reaching over and taking Sam’s hand in her own. “Thank you,” she said. “For all of…” She trailed off, twirling her free hand in the air to indicate the entire locomotive. Tona had some issues traveling by plane, and neither of them wanted to drive all the way to Miami, and a ship would take even longer; which left only a few options. She was just grateful her girlfriend could afford it all, and that Sam had agreed to take the slow route. “I’m happy you’re not going out on your own, this time.”

Edited by Raveled
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The clack of luggage rolling from car to car follows the women, as Sam lets her dear train expert lead.  She so enjoys it when Tona takes the lead in something that isn't violent, and it's becoming more and more common every day in this world full of technology she's found herself in.  Whether Tona notices it or not, this world seems to be more and more a home by the moment.


They make their way into the private cabin.  This trip cost a pretty penny, and this cabin was no small part of it, but for a thirty hour train ride?  Worth it.  It seats four if you get cozy, facing each other, but she bought out the cabin for the occasion, wanting the alone time.  And all the little distractions she brought to keep herself entertained are buried at the very bottom of her bag; she'd much rather get lost in the vision riding with her.


As a familiar hand takes hers, a warmth creeps over the redhead and she smiles.  She'd missed those hands.  Without a word, she tosses her suitcase up on the seats across from Tona.  She knows where the most inviting seat in the place is.  "Someone's gotta save you from New Jersey," she jokes, brushing off the sharp jab of accusation in that last part.


She waits for a moment when her love gives the slightest tug, and lets herself get drawn in, landing lightly in her girlfriend's lap as if it were Tona's plan all along.  Sam has an entire language in the shades and nuances of her smile, most of the vocabulary about mischief.  This wry smirk is accusing Tona of being a naughty, naughty girl, before they kiss, soft and sweet and...


...Odd.  That doesn't quite seem to be the angle she remembers.  "Someone's grown," she notices.

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Tona let out a small "Oof" when Sam dropped into her lap, which left her in the perfect position to melt into the kiss. When they finally had to come up for air, she ran her hands up Sam's back and leg, feeling new muscles there. "I'm not the only one," she said, holding her girlfriend close. "I guess when we're not kids anymore, hm?" The truth wasn't just a matter of maturing, of course; Tona had spent two years on this Earth, eating more than the bare minimum required to live. That also meant she could put on muscle mass, enhancing other parts of her physique.


And Sam had grown up too, though not quite as much as Tona. The redhead had always needed heels to kiss the archer, but now she might need climbing gear. Or, as it seemed, trains. They kissed again, slow and tender, and even after they broke their faces were close together. "I still love you," Tona said quietly. "I still love this. A chance to be with you, just a few quiet days. Away from all the craziness for a little while. I think... I think maybe we need that more often."

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Oops!  Maybe that wasn't quite so lithe as she'd intended.  Oh well.


She hums at the touch, and in shorts and a lacy cami, there's plenty of chance for skin to meet skin.  Touch had always been very important to Sam, the connection so much more meaningful, more real than any words, and in the way she moves, in the weight of her breath against Tona's lips, then her neck, in the brush of skin as she tastes the nape of Tona's neck; it all speaks in yet another language only the two share, of how much she wants this, needs this.  About how much it means to simply be here, with her, right now in ways her voice could never express.  Words can lie, but this cannot.


They both knew neither of them had ever really been kids.  They'd been forced to grow up too quickly.  But this isn't the time for something so somber, so she puts it out of her mind.  "Grew 'em just for you," she teases.  "You like?"  Unlike Tona, Sam wasn't short because she didn't eat well her entire life.  She was a short because she was short, and no amount of drinking her milk would fix that.  But the last few years had been kind to her, physically.  She was still a small, skinny thing, but not so scrawny or bony anymore, though she still has that prominent collar bone, making that long, slender, porcelain neck seem even more so.


"I will always love you," she whispers.  Honestly, it frightens her, but she can't deny it.  Everyone she cares about gets hurt, but giving up Tona would destroy her.  Worse, she'd started thinking about forever.  About starting a home.  A family.  Maybe after college?  She'd be starting up soon, herself, now that her 'hiatus' was done.  "Even if you are silly.  Trying to get away from the crazy, but bringing me?  I promise, I'm all the crazy you can handle," she beams, pressing her forehead against Tona's as she wraps her arms around her neck and gives a quick peck.

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There was a subaudible hum as the train sealed up and pulled away from the station, powerful electromagnets sending it on its way. Tona glanced out the window, noticed they were picking up speed, and feigned nonchalance even as she gripped Sam tighter. "So you want to go Miami," she said, keeping her eyes on Sam so she wouldn't have to notice the shifting lights that shone on the interior wall of their cabin. Even after all this time, moving so fast under someone else's power upset Tona. "Are you just taking me there so you have a reason to see me in a bikini?" Tona asked, trying to keep her tone light. "Because we have beaches here, you know."

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For a moment, Sam tries to get out of Tona's lap, thinking it's about to be too bumpy a ride to stay, but after the initial lurch, it's way smoother than in the movies.  Yay, modern science.


Which is good; she's needed in the best seat in the house.  As Tona tenses up, Sam cradles her face in her hands, presses her forehead against Tona's, and looks deep into those beautiful blue-green eyes, smiling, holding her until she relaxes, then gives her another kiss.  "Clever, clever.  You've figured out step one of my dastardly plan.  But steps two through twelve are the fun part," she grins devilishly and starts feeling up those obliques.  Tona's beach bod is always ready.


But Tona deserves a real answer, so she drops the teasing for the moment.  "I have some business in town.  I inherited a lot of old safehouses that I use sometimes.  Bolt holes, mostly, but given... the circumstances," she tries to keep a strong front at the topic, "I'll have to go around a lot to move safehouses to new locations.  I did Toronto last Tuesday, but there's not much to do there and everything I had squirreled away could fit in a duffel bag.  This one's bigger, and there's someone I want to talk to about getting myself an impenetrable little fortress."

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"So you are going to be the Phantom Fox, then," Tona said quietly. "I was wondering when you were going to start something like that." She paused and added, "I guess that's why you asked me to bring my bow along too, huhn? If you're making a bolthole, I'm going to have to find a place to hide down there, too." She held Sam for a long minute, listening to her girlfriend's breathing, to her own breathing, to the train gently clicking and clacking against the rails. "I'm glad you brought me along," she said finally. "I never, never, never want to see you disappear again like you did. If you do, I might just have to tie you down."

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Now there's a topic Sam doesn't want to touch with a ten foot pole.  She can't promise it won't happen again.  She didn't want it to happen the first time.  So, better to be distracting.


"Why wait?" she asks in a hot, wet whisper and pulls her in for a kiss that calls on her full mastery of the French tongue, long and deep.  The kind that melts minds and curls toes, while guiding one of the hands exploring her body between her thighs, to bare flesh and creeping upward.


She can be very distracting.


Eventually, she has to breath, and rests her head on Tona's shoulder as she thinks.  She's had to do a lot of that lately.  "I don't know about taking her name," she says, selecting which parts of that line of discussion she wants to continue.  "I mean, I have to eventually, but I don't think I've earned it, you know?  For now, I just want to worry about the safehouses.  Some of them will be harder to move, but I have a friend in Miami who can help make a couple major safehouses.  I'm thinking something undergorund, that I'd have to teleport to.  Just ventilation and power connected to the outside world, with enough supplies to last us a good, long while.  I looked into gardening supplies, too, but it doesn't seem as practical as using the same space for more canned food."

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Tona gasped and fell into the kiss, curling her toes inside her boots. For a few minutes there was nothing but warn touch and sweet taste. When they finally pulled apart, she kept her cheek against Sam's. "I never learned much about gardening," she said quietly. "We moved around too much to plant anything and wait for it to grow. But I can learn; it would be a lot nicer to put something together that meant we had fresh vegetables rather than something smothered in salt. I can do that for you." She kissed Sam lightly on the lips. "I can do all sorts of things for you." She kissed again, smiling against her girlfriend's lip, moving her hands --


Her plan was interrupted by a knock at the door. Grudgingly, she set Sam back on her feet and stood up, opening the door a crack. Outside was a man in a crisp white uniform with the logo of the train line on his breast. "Dinner, miss!" He took a plate off a cart he was pushing, one of many identical plates. "Dinner for two, courtesy of the captain. Enjoy!"


Tona took it with a murmured thanks, and closed and locked the door again. She set the plate on the table next to the window and removed the corrugated paper cover, revealing a pair of bowls filled with soup. She picked one up and sniffed it, smelling cheese and salt and cream. "Yuck," she said, placing the bowl down again. "Too fatty, too salt. Not sweet enough." She put her arms around Sam again and pulled her girlfriend to the bed. "I've got a different meal in mind."


She pulled her girlfriend down and kissed her, and touched her. There was no more room for words or worry and the time passed in sweet ecstasy. When they came up for air again, hours later, Tona was sweaty and satisfied. "Now I'm ready to get some dinner," she said, whispering into Sam's ear. "They've got to have something better than fatty soup on board."

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Sam suppresses some unkind words at the interruption, but she crab soup can forgive many transgressions.  Almost.  She's even about to defend the soup, but Tona persuades her otherwise.


A couple hours later, Sam is ready to pass out.  Tona's 'winded' is Sam's 'exhausted.'  She lets Tona get up and dressed first, enjoying the show as she works up the energy to get up herself, unable to feel her legs, and her entire body tingling.


They're going to have to take more trains in the future.


Once the pair are dressed and decent, Sam takes Tona's hand, positively glowing, and leads the way.  "I'm sure they have something.  I think the bar's a couple cars back.  We can ask there."  Worst case, she does have some snacks in her bag, but she'd rather get a real meal.

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Tona stays close to Sam as the other woman got decent and opened the door -- or rather, tried to. After a few moments of furtive struggling, they switched places and the archer put her superior strength to the task. It dint help, through, since she couldn't get the lock to turn or fit or pull the door back far enough to fit her fingers around it. "It feels like the lock is jammed," she said. She glanced past Sam to the window, where the dark of night reflected her perplexed expression. "Did we sleep too late? Do they lock the doors at night, like Claremont?"

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"That doesn't sound right," Sam says, growing suspicious.  "I mean, if nothing else, people have to get to the bathroom."


She rummages in her bags and pulls out her tools.  "Let me get a better look."


The thief takes a knee in front of the lock and starts plying her trade, fiddling with the simple mechanism.  It shouldn't be hard to get open, but if they're having this much trouble, it might be broken.  Maybe better to just take it out entirely and let the crew know their lock broke.

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Poking and prodding at the lock was an increasingly frustrating experience. No matter what she tried, the lock would barely shiver. It was like the entire space was already occupied by something -- and when she finally pried off the plate to get a look at the innards, that was exactly what she saw. The locking mechanism was being held in place by some kind of plastic clip, which jammed the door in position. When she saw that, it was child's play to free the lock and step outside.


Out in the hallway, Tona checked the item hanging off their door's handle. It was circular and looked like gold, but on inspection it was just hard plastic; the outside was knurled, and the flat surface had a pair of snakes eating each others' tails. She looked up and down the corridor and noticed that each and every room had a similar lock on it. "We were supposed to be on vacation," she muttered, kneeling down next to another disk on another door. "This really looks like amateur hour, though," she said, prodding the lock. "The opening is pretty obvious from this side." She gripped the disk and twisted it, and the whole thing popped off the door. "So why'd they do it?"


She opened the door and was immediately bowled over. A man in a sensible suit, his neck bulging and literally frothing with rage, busted out of the room and into the corridor. He gripped Tona by the neck and lifted her into the air with both hands, screaming incoherently in her face. A woman in a gray sweater and pencil skirt stalked out of the room after him, her face fixed in a snarl. When she caught sight of Sam she shrieked in pain and anger and charged at her, manicured nails slashing at the air.

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Sam takes the plastic blocker and examines it, but doesn't have long to ponder or discuss before things get violent.


Two marks.  Insane.  Probably manipulated.  One coming at her, one going for Tona.  Only time to take care of one of them.


Easy decision.


Without hesitation, she reaches out with her power, into the large-necked man's mind, filling it with a blank, numbing presence that washes out everything else, as she does her best to elude the raking nails in the tight hallway, lest she find her eyes gouged out.

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The man's screams quieted and died as Sam's magic took hold. His expression became fogged, the homicidal rage hidden behind the calming effect of the Hell-girl's magic. Tona was still being held up by her neck, but now that she wasn't struggling for her life she could brace her feet on the wall and lift up, then aim a strike at the inside of the man's elbows. The simple mechanical action freed her, but she didn't have much time to recover.


Sam dodged left and right as the crazed woman clawed right and left at her, her movements large and predictable. It was simplicity itself for a graduate of Mr. Archer's classes to avoid a rage-fueled civilian, at least long enough for a survivalist archer to intervene. Tona came in from below, lifting the woman up and slamming her to the ground with quick, practiced ease. For all the woman had crazed strength, Tona was a practiced martial artist and was able to immobilize her without much trouble. "There's some zip ties in my bag," she said casually, almost sitting on the woman. "It'd be great if you could grab a couple of those, lover."

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Sam doesn't dodge out of the way so much as wobble.  It's looking like she's going to have to pull herself together right quick if they're going to get through... whatever this is.


Random civilians freaking out this violently doesn't seem like the work of drugs, so her first thought is magic, but she doesn't sense anything of the sort.


But right now, there's the immediate concern.  She nods at Tona's request, and goes to get a couple handfuls of zip ties.  Something tells her they'll need to tie up more than just these two, then heads back to hand half of them to Tona and pocket the rest.  "If that's what everyone's like, maybe we should keep the locks on the door.  Whatever did this, I can't sense it; maybe something psychic?"


While Tona takes care of the woman, Sam leads the temporarily docile man back to his seat to tie him up.  He may be safe now, but as soon as she drops her focus, he'll probably go back to the berserker rage.

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Tona took the zipties and effortlessly tied up the woman in the sweater, easily avoiding her jerky blows and chaining her feet and arms together. After a moment she bent the woman's legs back and fixed them to her wrists, leaving the woman in the sensible sweater effectively hog-tied on the floor. The man allowed himself to be led back into the compartment; it wasn't too different from Sam and Tona's, except that the pair of soup bowels in this room were empty.


With the immediate threat dealt with, Tona ducked back into their compartment and reappeared pulling on a pair of leather bracers. "We should go forward and check out the driver's seat." She paused and considered her words. "Cockpit. Joystick. Whatever. We should go and make sure that the driver isn't banging on the controls like a madman."

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Despite the prompting, Sam stops for a moment.  Just soup is a rather strange meal to offer.  She was never even asked about food; if she had, she certainly wouldn't have ordered Tona she crab soup.  Thinking about it, it isn't kosher, or halal, a lot of people are allergic to shellfish, and there's almost always a vegetarian option.  And she and Tona hadn't eaten it.


"They poisoned the soup," she says, and mutters a curse in that strange language she sometimes uses when frustrated that makes Tona's hair stand on end and sounds like it shouldn't come from a human throat.  Then she turns away from the cabin and nods, letting Tona lead the way.  As much as she doesn't like it, if there's a physical fight, Tona stands the better chance.

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Tona threw Sam a glance but led the way down the corridor. She glanced in each room as they passed; most had curtains drawn across the porthole, but the few that were clear showed men and women in all sorts of outfits, beating the fold-down beds or tapping their heads against the walls or possibly watching their reflection in the dark windows. It was eerie, to see so many people reduced to animalistic fever. Tona hoped the people could be helped once this was all over.


The pair passed through the car without a problem, and except for a moment of fumbling at door they slid smoothly over to the next car. It was another sleeper, with the cabins offset in the opposite direction from the last one; Tona prowled forward like a jungle cat, all coiled muscle and power, moving soundlessly on the carpeted floors. She peaked around the corner and saw a young man in the starched white uniform of the train company, with the matte black of a combat vest over it. He was marching in the other direction so she couldn't make out what he was holding, but it probably wasn't more soup.

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If Tona moves like a panther, Sam moves like a housecat, light and sly, if not so much a physical threat.  It also helps that she reaches out with her magic an wills all who are not Tona to ignore her.  Some might say it renders the skulking redundant, but she's run into things that can ignore her mental manipulations many times before.  When they come by the train staff- probably some sort of mercenary, and probably armed.


She places a hand on Tona's arm to stop her, so she can do her work.


It's an odd thing, reaching into someone's head.  Not a psychic, Sam can't really read anything in there, but she can tell what things are.  Whatever this goon is doing, he has purpose, so she buries that deep, and starts pulling up every doubt she can find, running into little resistance on the way.


Hopefully, he isn't a crier.

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They both watched as the man continued patrolling, then paused and turned to look out the window. As Tona and Sam watched, he went though a full range of emotions, letting his MP5 hang off the sling as he stared out into the darkness. His expression shifted from introspective to pensive to crestfallen over minutes, until he was merely blank and trembling with emotion. Tona glanced back at Sam and was about to move up when the man turned around and sank to the carpeted floor, drawing his knees up to his chest. He dug into his pockets and pulled out his smartphone, unlocking it and scrolling through something on the screen. In minutes, he was openly and quietly sobbing, tears rolling down his cheeks as Tona gave Sam a bug-eyed look. She knew how to handle armed enemies, not enemies having an emotional breakdown next to an automatic weapon!

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Sam gestures for Tona to stay put as she advances, taking his machine gun, then his pistol.  This guard is far too long gone to even notice, and she hides the weapons quickly, but as she goes back for one more check, and she's almost ready to call Tona over to hogtie him when she sees his phone, and stops.


The spell fades.  Feelings like that don't just instantly go away, but he's no longer forced to tears.


A small hand finds its way onto the sobbing guard's shoulder.  "Go," she says softly.  "Forget about all this, and tell her how you really feel."

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The terrorist smiled at Sam through his tears. “I can't,” he said. “She left more for some jerk that made six figures. Said that I would never accomplish anything. So when I saw Dr. Rex’s wants ad I thought, this is a way to impress Sandy. She'll see I'm not just some bum, she'll see that I can really achieve. But now… You're a superhero, aren't you? You're going to break it all up, and we're all going to end up in jail.”

“Kit!” Tona had crept forward from her hidden position and was within striking distance of the man. “Why are you trying to talk to the crazy cultist? Just punch him!”

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Tona's suggestion earns her a glare filled with disbelief.  This man obviously needs a shoulder to cry on more than he needs a fist to the jaw.


But she quickly returns her attention to the now-unarmed man, rubbing his back and .  "If you really care about her, isn't it more important that she's happy than if she's with you?  To respect her, and her choice?  I know it hurts, but crazy stuff like this?  This isn't the way.  This isn't going to help anybody.  The first step to healing is to talk to her, to get it out there so you're not just bottling it up inside until it destroys you.  I'm not gonna lie; it'll probably be a clean break, and it'll suck.  But you'll wake up tomorrow, and it won't be as bad, and the next day it will be a little better, until eventually, you learn to live with it and move on, ya know?"


She considers how to deal with the cape talk for a moment.  "I wouldn't worry about jail.  All I've seen from you so far is the illegal gun.  Cooperate with the police and it will probably just be a couple months in minimum security.  I know I don't look it, but I've been in places like that before; it's really just some time to think.  To get your head in order.  And there are people there who can help with that.  What you need is some time to cool down, find your center, and learn to love yourself before..." she trails off, not sure how to finish that sentence, so she lets him do it for her.  Too many touchy subjects she could hint at if she finished it herself.

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"I don't know if I could take going to jail," the man said slowly, "but if you can stop Dr. Rex I won't fight the police. You better hurry, though. I don't know how to stop the train, and if the Doctor gets to the engineer... well, who knows what he'd do under the influence of the serum?"


"The serum?" Tona asked, curious despite herself.


The man glanced at her and nodded. "In the soup. We were supposed to make sure it got to everyone. It makes people strong, and angry. Like really powerful steroids, I guess."


"Is it permanent?"


"Um." The man rubbed at the back of his head. "I'm not really sure. I don't think the Doctor got it exactly right this time, because he had us on the look-out for a certain boy. He said that if we could find him, his family would have the chemicals the Doctor needed to stabilize the serum -- so maybe it'll wear off with time? I don't think it'll matter, because once the Doctor has what he needs he's just going to release the dinosaurs."

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