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March 15, Wednesday, 11.33AM, 2017


ASTRO Labs West, Emerald City University, Emerald City, Oregon


"...Which brings us to one of Professor Zediker's running experiments, transmission and reception of ZPE radiation between dimensional points!" With a final, flourished tap of a button on the numberpad, the door beside Dr. Razko segmented and retreated into the wall, letting the small crowd of humans and the super-advanced super-powered android into an antechamber overlooking the experiment proper. The rented convention floor was crammed with setups like this, small mini-buildings holding this or that portion of revolutionary super-science too dangerous for the open air. Anyone walking into the converted Worlds Fair complex could feel the electricity humming in the floor.


The "Sponsored by REDSHIFT ENERGIES" logos were perhaps not in the best of taste, but they stood out for their graceful simplicity next to the clumsy programmer art in evidence elsewhere.


Behind walls thicker than most humans are broad, strategically-placed windows gleaming with frost allowed for a fairly clear view of a massive ring ten feet in diameter. Energy crackled in brief, brutal discharges from the central white void, while the black outer rim bent the bolts back inside. Ice clung to the walls and ceiling, radiating from the ring. A few technicians inside monitored control stations surrounding the apparatus while several more observed from the antechamber.


One of them, a robust and energetic white man with iron-grey hair and a silver goatee, white dress shirt, black tie and slacks watched the ring intently behind slim square glasses. Starting at the entrance of Razko and the visitors, the man recovered rapidly and glided majestically towards them, all smiles and crinkly-eyed grandfatherly charm. 


"Welcome, glad to have you! As you can see, me and my team have managed in a few weeks what took Doctor Atom and his descendants years. A stable interdimensional portal, looping a burst of radiation in and out of an endless array of realities! And, unlike last time, no risk of robot dinosaur attacks!"


That got a resounding chorus of laughter from the Emeraldites, a strained smile from Dr. Ann Razko and a polite stare from the ASTRO Labs representative at the back of the party. Stepping forward, the bespectacled blonde hurried to get things back on track


"Professor, we both work at the ECU's Parker Building, and your portal there is at least twice as powerful as this one, but both emit the same amount of energy. Would you explain why that's relevant?"


"Certainly! You see, Ann, the Parker Portal is less concentrated, there's more space for energy to escape but that space decompresses it as it leaves the portal. This one has a much tighter beam but is also less stable. It'll collapse in twelve hours. The one I made at Eeseeyou will last longer than I do! Plenty of time to refine it and start the next age of humanity." 


"Which you define-"


"By expansion!" Zediker's steely eyes caught those of Archetech West's rep and the most powerful hero on the Pacific seaboard "Citizen, what do you think? Colonizing other Earths by 2020 or 2025?"

Edited by Ari
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  • 2 weeks later...

"Colonialism went real well last time," A voice said from the crowd, deadpan. "Didn't it?" The girl who'd spoken stood easily and confident in the middle of a gaggle of out-of-place students near the back, with sharp gray eyes and red-brown hair.


Kat and most of her class from Freedom had been invited over for this weird emerald portal for extra credit. Kat had missed more bits of homeworks than she liked to admit and jumped on the chance to make up for it . . . But it had taken hours to get somewhere that she should have been able to reach in a whim to keep up her cover, and she was quietly seething at the world.


If I have to seal this thing up too, I swear. . . 

Edited by Curious Key
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Zediker snorted, regarding the younger woman critically with one cold grey eye. "We have learned enough from the past, young lady, that the old mistakes are all but impossible. We have met life from other worlds, other Earths and the concept of "sharing" has taken very significant hold. Instead of glorifying and enriching some state or crown it would be for the benefit of all. Expansion to other Earths will show everyone how arbitrary our nations and borders are, how trivial are the things that divide us!" 


The fire of a prophet had sparked in the professor and Dr. Razko quickly stepped in, smiling apologetically at Kat.


"Thank you, Professor Zed, we all dream of a more cosmopolitan future. Would you mind giving a brief overview of how you and your team invented this? Interdimensional travel of any kind is pretty rare, isn't it?"


Zediker frowned and regarded the portal "Oh yes, extremely. There are a handful of working gates on Earth, including the Atom-made Tunnel in Freedom City and the two made by ASTRO Labs. As I recall..." The physicist was on the verge of launching into a lengthy diatribe when something, blessedly, happened.


The lights turned off. 


Along with the rest of the power. Without any fuss, the very delicate portal folded into itself and vanished with a final, desultory crackle. Zediker very loudly said a very rude word while the locals and visitors alike began to snap on their cellphone lights.


Then a voiced roared from every wall "Nobody move! You're with the Capture Crew now, kiddies!" Thundering footsteps followed the announcement and the door behind the party was flung off its mooring and into the hall outside, where lights glared from powerful rifles aimed right at the crowd!


Kat, from her place, very clearly heard somebody in that hall hiss "Don't use your powers, moron, we only get one shot!"

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  • 2 weeks later...

His hands folded behind his back, Citizen studied the portal, letting his eyes unfocus as he studied the IR signature of the device. "I think it's too dangerous," he told the Terran scientist, not unsympathetically. "I've seen the nearby multiverse - Terran totalitarians with access to superhumans, rampaging 'god'-entities - it's not a suitable area for colonization." He hmmed. "There are civilized alternatives, but they're advanced and have a dense population." Personally, Citizen thought that technology like this should be much more tightly restricted by the Terran government and possibly held under the direct supervision of the Freedom League, but he knew saying such things would be impolitic. Terrans value their freedoms too much to give them up - even when those freedoms only make their lives more dangerous. Focusing on Dr. Razko, he said politely, "Still, this is a remarkable achievement - you should be proud of what you've constructed here. I could certainly see adapting it for work in exploration and diplomacy-" 


When the criminals arrived, Sharl thought about the levels of energy coursing through the room, and in particular through its walls, even as he took in their numbers. "Are you lost?" he inquired, imposing himself between the scientists and the newly-arrived gang. He scanned them for devices even as they spoke, all the while silently signaling Emerald City's law enforcement. 

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Out in the hallway, the Capture Crew turned out to be five people in body armor with guns. None of them seemed to have anything more advanced than the 1990's.


One of the Crew, his head masked by a generic helmet that looked oddly like the Power Corps', jerked yards backwards when the android hove into view. "Hey-! Oh! Oh ****. It's Sojourner!"


"Citizen." one of the others corrected, lowering his gun on hands that pivoted too far for human wrists "At ease, he's bulletproof."


"Well now what?" 


"Hail the night!"


"Dark-I mean, Cap Five, shut up."


A fourth, whose armor didn't hide glowing shoulder bones, piped up hopefully "What if we set off the bomb?"


"Would that work?" 


"No idea, I'll ask." The apparent leader turned to Citizen "Hey, Steel Sentinelsman, we set up a bomb earlier, it's rated for 5 decaPhalanxes, that do anything to you? It was just for the building, so we stashed it in the basement's broom closet under the sink, but we can move it up here."


"...Should you have said any of that."


"Well I started the timer already and it's a long-ass ways from here. Besides what's he gonna do, not deal with it?"


Meanwhile, the South Emerald's police department was slowly warming to the idea of tips sent straight from superheroes, an affirmative message and rough ETA(10 minutes) arriving moments after Sharl's call.


A little less composed was the crowd stuck in the cramped metal box behind Citizen. Warp could feel the fear and fraying nerves around her. The fact that Citizen in his flowing coat was immune to bullets wouldn't make much difference if a stray shot got past him. The lights staying stubbornly off didn't help

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As the students bumbled and staggered into each other, it took her a while to remember that she could see better than they could. Seeing in the dark was weird, and Kat still hadn't gotten used to it yet.


It came in handy though. Between the sudden dark and the strobe lights, people were having trouble keeping focus. She ducked, closed her eyes and remembered what the roof of the building. In a flash of red easily missed, she was gone. 


And then she was on the roof. She formed a thought. Her body was engulfed in flash of red, and when it was gone instead her school clothes she was dressed as Warp, this time with a commlink in her ear. Honestly, she couldn't think of a time in her life where it had ever come in handy. It'd seemed like a waste of money, really, but while she'd not been acquainted Citizen had been one of the big-name heroes at Claremont, and it wasn't exactly hard to figure out he was a robot. Maybe he could listen in? 


Well . . . Worth a try.


"Aaaaay down there," She adjusted the frequency a bit, feeling foolish for trying. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm gonna go take care of that bomb. Be right back."

Edited by Curious Key
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Citizen grinned at the thugs. "Someone is already disarming your bomb - you really shouldn't assume your technology is invulnerable in a city like the Emeralds." It was a bluff - but hopefully a bluff they wouldn't check. Speaking of checking, he didn't recognize the voice that replaced the police bandwith on his internal receiver.  


Hello? Who is this? asked Citizen, a touch crabbier by radio than he usually was when he addressed the general public. Are you sure you know how to disarm a bomb? He could always spin this if the person on the other end didn't turn out to be credible - but it didn't hurt to come on strong when dealing with thugs who already seemed intimidated by the most powerful hero in Emerald City. 


As he spoke, the robotic paragon began cracking his knuckles, a gesture he'd adopted from Miss Americana even though he didn't have the laser emitters in his fingers that she had. It was a gesture with a powerful meaning in Terran culture even so. "There are a lot of people here, and a lot of sensitive high technology. If you try and start a fight, innocent people are going to be hurt. That means that if you try and start a fight, I'm going to stop you - but that means _you_ might get hurt. We can do this in a way that doesn't end in violence for anybody. So what's it going to be?" 

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"Prickly, huh." Warp said out loud, but this really wasn't the time to tease. "I'm Warp, won't blame you if you haven't heard of me. I teleport. I don't know much about bombs, but it sounded like they could pick it up and move it. I can probably take it far enough away that it won't hurt anyone when it blows, and do it fast. If you really want to be careful, you probably know a lot more, and I can take us over real quick when those rubes are cleaned up. But . . . how much time do we have, anyway?


Maybe he knew, but Warp didn't. All she knew was what she'd heard, and what she'd heard was that there was a timer set and going down. "Need to pick fast either way, so what's it gonna be? Tick-tock."

Edited by Curious Key
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"One sec, gotta...confer" The apparent leader of the Crew with inhuman joints drew the other four into a loose circle, where they stood staring at each other, eyes flicking back and forth. Their mouths moved, but only a little, and only one word escaped the lips of the one who, in the gloom, had an impressively vast and thick shadow: "Refugee?"


Inside Zediker's expo room, Citizen could hear the professor having an increasingly strained whispered argument with their tour guide, Razko.


"...don't tell me to calm down, I am calm, young lady, and the backup power will get my portal running-!"


"What for? Why do you want to risk it? Do you not see the five people with guns right outside?"


"It's important! You wouldn't understand, none of you would!"


Meanwhile the Munchkins and Freedonians and sundry were getting increasingly restless, the cramped room thrumming with energy while the lights remained stubbornly off. Occasional mutters reached him through the hissing thread of Razko and Zediker. None of them dared make any move, and several of them were wondering what had happened to the other visitors, and come to think of it, what had happened to everyone else?

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Citizen thought hard before he made his choice. Okay, Warp, now's your chance. Go ahead and grab the bomb. He was gambling, but he'd learned in Claremont that part of being a hero was knowing you didn't have to do everything yourself. Mindful of the declining morale among the civilians behind him, he decided it was time to take action as quickly as possible. "I have an atomic clock as part of my brain," he lied to the thieves, "so I can keep time to the nanosecond. Did you know that?" He stared at the thugs. "I'm going to give you a countdown while my colleague disables your bomb. If you haven't surrendered by the time they're finished, I'm going to subdue you - and I can't guarantee I won't hurt you when you're wearing that stupid armor. Ten," he said, counting down in his head as he went. When two seconds had passed (the better to give Warp more time), he said "Nine." 

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