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12:45 PM.
April 4th


Judge Harold (call me Harry) Steinman, was walking amongst the throngs of people that were making their way across the street.  It was lunch, and currently he was without a security detail, while a lower circuit federal court judge, he dealt mostly with white collar crime.  Though a couple years ago he had been involved as an ADA out of Boston involved with investigations of several organized crime families.


As of right now that wasn't what he was working over, he was debating whether he should be trying to vy for a position further up the judicial latter.


However, those previous affairs were the things that were not forgotten, they cast a shadow over his way that he didn't know was there.   He stopped still in his step midway through the street.  And he started to say something, or tried to, words failed, they came out wrong, a hand reaching out and groping towards people.  Before he fell forward, his head hitting the broad white walk lane, as his body twisted and spasmed.  Before he lost coherence there was a small confirmation amidst the fading synapses as to why this was happening, and who was behind it.


Onlookers rushed towards him, assuming correctly that something was wrong.  When the ambulance arrived Judge Harold Steinman was dead.  It would be labelled a stroke.

1:37 AM
April 8th


The scream would wake them, four people across town, and immediately recognize it for what it was.  Either from an earlier scream, or weeks that bled to what felt like months of people inside other's heads.  It was a personal sound of pain that was still raw to Paige.  They all could identify it.


It gave a location.  A currently unused section of a high rise building in the city center.  Not terribly far from the Federal building.


The worst part was the sense of the presence of the mind trailing off into digitized incoherence like white noise and static when a signal goes out.  A feeling some might recognize as the sublimation of identity.  Possibly even the death of personality.

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It wasn't that Richard's connection to Errant was any stronger than Paige's - if anything, everything was being filtered through his mental contact with her and Will. He wasn't as smart as Paige, he lacked Will's deep connection with Errant, he wasn't really anything but fast. He heard the scream, felt the beginning of Paige's reaction - his eyes snapped open. Unpause. Fast-Forward. He was up, and dressed - and Paige had her costume as well. Snapping open an a paper city atlas he found in the closet gave them their location. He was about to run out there, hand-in-hand with Paige once she'd recovered from the psychic shock, when he realized what they'd forgotten. Or rather, who. Boy's gonna come anyway, he thought to Paige, might as well get him to do it while we're watching him instead of him following us around. 

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Of course, he didn't really have long to wait. It's not like Will could sleep through a psychic scream of agony like that, and while it had indeed stunned him for a moment, he was a bit less psychically sensitive than his mother, and the sheer rage he felt at knowing his friend was feeling that sort of pain proved ample motivation to quickly change.


So it was that when Fast-Forward turned around in the hall to go to his son's room, Thoughtspeed was already standing there, practically vibrating, motes of green energy leaking from his body as his hands flexed and unflexed. Richard couldn't see Will's face; that blasted helmet was in the way. But Paige could feel the expression through his emotions, and it wasn't exactly pretty. 


"We're going after these guys now, right? Not wasting time with cops or Leagues or anything, just going in there and wrecking their ****?"

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Paige screamed before she even woke, the psychic reverberation ripping her peaceful dreams to shreds and leaving her with the stabbing pain that would become a migraine later on. By the time she managed to gather her wits and open her eyes, her uniform was already on and Richard and Will were both waiting on her. "Yeah," she managed shakily, "there's really no time to waste. We'd better get going." Though her mind felt bruised and raw, Paige took a moment to reach out and check on Holly, safe in her psychically baffled room. The little girl was still asleep, though the twisted bedcovers around her suggested that her dreams were not entirely peaceful. "Somebody give me a ride." 

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It was a thunderstroke across the psychic landscape of Freedom City.  A brilliant flash, the other information came in the spaces that it illuminated while the noise would have distracted most.  A small bit of genius on his part, sneaking a message to people he felt he could trust while whatever it was that was happening to him.


The location was a normal high-rise building, with various offices and suites.  The location that was in their minds was specifically the one on the 47th and 48th floors.  Plastic was everywhere, sheets of it.  With crates and other supplies visible on the ground when they got there, looking like it had been vacated recently.

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"Like hell," said Fast-Forward without a moment's hesitation - not that his hesitations were generally visible to the casual observer. "Come on, boy," he called to Thoughtspeed as the two speedsters began searching the room, trusting in Hologram's psionic abilities to search the rest of the building and the area all around. The thing about their family's powers was that there really was no place to hide from the Clines if you made them angry enough - and they were all very angry. 

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Thoughtspeed was a whirl of motion around the room, green energy leaving a trail of sparking energy everywhere. 




His searching came to a screeching halt with that exclamation. Besides shoving a few pieces of random, not-old equipment into plain view, he suddenly stopped next to his mother and held up a business card. 


"Don't recognize who this is but it's gotta be important, right?"


The almost pleading hope in his voice was almost physically thick.

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The card that Thoughtspeed found read:




Paige felt the creeping sensation of being remotely watched, as they moved around in the office, seeing much the same things as everyone else did.  


Though as the information came in, they could piece together that this had been abandoned in a hurry, even if it was done by professionals



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  • 2 weeks later...

"We've been made," Paige said briskly, looking to the window and then back to Richard. "They've got a psychic on a rooftop about three-quarters of a mile away, and there are some annoyed-looking folks on the stairs below us, armed and armored. It's probably time for us to take our leave." She extended a hand to her husband with surprising equanimity for someone looking at a ride at a thousand miles per hour. "You drive, I'll navigate. We might be able to catch their pet psychic before they get too far away." 

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Richard took his wife's hand as the room slowed to a crawl around the three Clines, slow enough that the wings of a fly buzzing by seemed to freeze in amber. "Don't worry about them," he told Will, nodding his head towards the door. He caught a glimpse of the goons through his psychic connection to Hologram - enough to share her read on the situation. "They're used to dealing with sneaky kids who have to run and hide. They don't know how to handle people like us." Richard and Paige crossed the room and Richard smashed open the window, wrapping his hand around his jacket so he wouldn't cut the skin. He'd done this plenty of times before - he cleaned all the glass out of the frame, then shook his jacket so the fragments of glass came tumbling out. 


To anyone outside their bubble of time, of course, the process would have seemed instantaneous. He let time speed up inside their bubble too, the better to let the run itself go more quickly. "Let's go." When he had his jacket back on, he took Paige's hand and they ran - following his wife's lead as they bolted after the enemy psychic, crossing the distance almost faster than thought itself, running up and down the building walls themselves. 


It had always been hard to catch Hologram and Fast-Forward when they were together. 

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Thoughtspeed had turned toward the door, looking toward it longer than his parents, but finally he turned to face them again and nodded. 


"Yeah. Save my energy for the guys who really have it coming, I guess."


His body began  gathering green particles around it, a side effect of his speed ramping up as he prepared to run alongside his father. He'd actually manifested his swords to help clear the windo, but Fast-Forward had taken care of things, so the psychic blades were dismissed for the moment. Instead, he just zipped up next to his father. Then, at his parents' signal, he ran. 


'Run, Will, run!'


He thought it to himself, but his parents likely caught it in the communications bond they were sharing. At first, he simply ran alongside and slightly behind them. But once they were really underway, he ran up ahead. And then to one side. And then the other side. Thoughtspeed became a one-person perimeter patrol, his form nothing more than a blur of black and bright green as he raced a protective cordon around his parents, even as the three of them hunted a psychic by way of his mother's mental powers. 

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'I take exception to that.'


Came the telepathic broadcast to them in response to Fast-Forward's voiced words.  The place they had been disappeared in a flurry of building material as a large hole punched in the floor where they had been a moment before.


'As a professional courtesy would you kindly hold still?'


They were gone before the men were in the suite, bursting in with practiced motion.  The flashing light heralding their arrival, even if the Clines were gone, the leader of that group held up a hand to stop his team.  "Targets gone as expected.  Backing out."  With that, the armed men withdrew from their position.


The Clines could cover the distance, of course, easily.  To the gleaming building where a dark figure was, a hole cut out of the window where the gun that had impacted where they had been.

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  • 2 weeks later...



The trap had been laid as a counter for someone getting wise and charging in.  Heroes were a predictable lot.  They came barrelling in.  Fortunately they were able to identify who it was, and had hit the trigger before the Cline's got there, in the span of two, maybe three, blinks of an eye.  The person with the gun was ducking behind desk as it happened all at once.  The Clines coming in as the trap went off, and cords were shooting out, aiming to trip up the speedsters while they arrived.  Glass showered out of the window, as the height they were ate meant a rush of air.


While FastForward was able to avoid the cables, Thoughtspeed was not, as he was tripped up with one across the middle of his shin.

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Will was, of course, first through the door. Despite how protective his parents were of him, he was faster than his father, and he was more able to attack and defend on the fly. At least, against more "traditional" attacks he was. And even as his legs hit the cords, he thought to himself how obvious this sort of trap would be.


Nothing for it. He felt himself hit the cords, and instead of going stiff or fighting the fall, he worked with it. His body relaxed just long enough to start the roll forward. Then he tucked himself in so he could just keep rolling with it. After a moment of flipping through the air, he made a three-point landing as he skidded across the floor, ending up in a crouch at the ready for whatever came next.  

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  • 1 month later...


It happened in slow motion, at least for some people there.  With Fast-Forward artfully moving between the cables that were shooting out in an attempt to trip him and his son up.  Thoughtspeed, while not as lucky, even as he moved over the cables and brought himself up.


Who they were after were moving as if wading through molasses.  Three men in similar clothes, dressed in dark grays and black urban combat clothing, with guns, and visible armor on were responding to the explosion of movement from the window the Clines entered in.  The leader, wearing a white and black full body suit, outfitted similarly to the team , with mask was also trying to twist out of the way.  Armed with a visibly larger gun than the rest.  Likely the kind that would be able to shoot clearly where they were previously located.


The leader, and the rest, were ducking behind cover, while the guns were trained on roughly where the Clines were coming from.  They were, clearly organized and prepared for the fighting family.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Or so they thought. Fast-Forward could joke around when in combat with Paige, trusting her ability to fight and win better than he did any person on the planet.. But he didn't fool around when his son's life was in peril. He ran for the thugs on either side of the leader, striking among them like a man battering down a garden of statues. One he met with a punch to the face, then another, over and over again until he felt his knuckles ache. The second got sharp body blows, elbows and knees, to the midsection and belly, strikes to the solar plexus and abdomen that found the weak spots in body armor and ribs alike. 


The last man standing, Fast-Forward kicked directly in the crotch before winding up several dozen feet from where he started. "All right, you son of a bitch!" he called to the group's leader, "let's see how you like it!" 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dropped free of the hyperspeed bubble, Paige darted to cover behind the nearest wall, keeping one eye on the leader with the rifle. ~The one with the rifle is the psychic,~  she told Richard and Will. ~Keep him distracted and he's less likely to cause big trouble.~ For her own part, she sent a testing blast at his mental barriers, one that if successful would've stunned him and put an easy end to the situation. She wasn't particularly surprised when he was able to shrug it off. Psychic on psychic combat tended to be a complex and messy business, and she'd be much happier if one of the other Clines would just nail the guy in the head for a much easier denoument. 

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Even as Fast-Forward blurred past his son, his fists and feet flying to send the hired muscle groaning to the ground, Thoughtspeed was a blur of motion racing toward the man with the high-powered rifle. In a blur, the teenager raced past him, one of his short blades of kinetic energy slamming into the man's torso from the side.




The blur races in the opposite direction, and a second hit connects.




Blur, sword connect.




Blur, two strikes at once.


"At my!"


The blur begins racing around the man, the blades seemingly everywhere at once.




The blade-nado continued for a couple full seconds (an eternity to speedsters) before resolving into the figure of Thoughtspeed, crouched next to the psychic shooter, swords in both hands, his face hidden by that black helmet of his.

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The masked man was a lot of things, a speedster was not included in them, as Thoughtspeed just unloaded everything he had on him.  The man's gun was knocked away in the melee, as he held up his arms to try and fend off the blows.  Though they were just being smashed up by the repeated blows, before he was simply battered to the ground before Thoughtspeed  was done with it.  The ballistic material of his outfight cracked in several places, ablating the cutting of the swords, though it managed to made it more a high speed bludgeoning of baseball bats.

So it was a lateral improvement.  He held up his hands showing no weapons as he looked at them through his mask.

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"It's okay, Will," Paige murmured, automatically trying to soothe her agitated son. It was well-earned agitation, but old habits died hard. She cautiously approached the disarmed man, making sure to keep her mental shields firmly in place and her senses extended in case of any tricks. "Who are you?" she demanded. "What are you doing attacking us? Do you have anything to do with Errant's disappearance?" She'd pick his mind to pieces if she had to, get help if she needed it, but her head was already beginning to ache from the assault that had woken her earlier, and she was in no mood to be denied. 

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The man was still holding his hands up, and he shifted a bit to put them on the back of his head, as he moved to a kneeling position, wincing from the assault from Thoughtspeed, and he faced away from them.  "Lady, I am just here to take out people who show up there, it's nothing personal, but I accepted a large sum of money for it.  I don't know you from Adam.  Well... 'cept the TV show."

The shooter was clearly very mercenary and less believer in whoever was paying the bills, as he didn't try to pull a trick on the family of speedsters and psychics.  "I mean... I am pretty sure the kid broke a rib, so I can't really do much.  But I got a half mill to park up here with those three useless jerks, and watch, or silence people who show up.  Was told government types, wasn't expecting your kind.  If I had more info I'd give, I don't know the name, the ones used was fake, I can give you a face... I am thinking it right now."

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Paige plucked the image from the man's mind, sending it automatically to her family members. ~That's James Monaghan~ she informed them, puzzled disbelief in her mental tone. ~He's an accountant for the studio, he crunches numbers for the show. I think I kind of recognize the place he's in, that's the hotel the producers stay in when we go on location to Freedom City. What would he be doing talking to this guy?~ Out loud she remarked, "I hope you got paid up front. You'll need a good team of lawyers if you wind up a felony accessory to kidnapping and murder. Plus there's no reason this guy would have that kind of money to give you. He's nobody. How did he arrange to pay you?"  As she spoke, she extended her mind again, searching for Errant himself, or for any psychic dead spots where he might be hidden. 

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He snorted, and then he squirmed a bit in pain, from the previous attack by Thoughtspeed.  "Christ.... self-righteousness.  I am not lying."  He also wasn't challenging her, or her assertions.  He was confident that he wouldn't serve time, or he'd get killed.  That was his only fear, but he was clearly not someone who was surprised


And that was true, she knew it, the stuff that he was hiding felt personal.  Stuff about him.  The timeline from the meeting with Mr. Monaghan and now was fairly well straight line.  That he had received an anonymous contact, to go there.  That fifty grand was dropped into an account just for the meeting.  The details went from there, that it was a half-million a day to just look at the place.  Automatically put into that account.


He didn't know the other guy, just that he called himself Glen.  And that he didn't even really know the goons.

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Fast-Forward made a noise in the back of his throat. He didn't bother to ask if Paige was sure, or if she'd probed hard enough to make sure this wasn't a false memory they were dealing with. They'd been betrayed by people they trusted before - but never from inside the show, not like this. Using the psychic link the family shared, he told Thoughtspeed.  ~Boy, run and get the cops. Your mom and I'll handle this - and maybe call the LAPD too.~ While Paige went about doing a quick psychic interrogation of the others (the sort of thing that might have gotten them in trouble when they were on the wrong side of the law was now perfectly legal, Richard stared at the hitman thoughtfully. "C'mon, man, you're not dealing with Johnny Rocket and Chase Atom here." He was in fact dealing with the opposite of one of those but there was no point in dwelling on it. "We've been in the trade. Somebody hires you for a job, you're gonna want to know _something_ about it." 

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Thoughtspeed's faceless helmet swung around toward Fast-Forward. His mental voice all but snapped at his father.


'You're sending me along like an errand boy? You can't-'


The young hero cut himself off, his helmet swinging around toward the man who had shot at them. For several moments, he just stood there, clutching his swords, which faintly shook with his intense emotions. But then, the blades dispersed, and the young hero turned and left in a blur.


He sped through the streets, looking for a nearby police station. 

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