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Chapter 13: Deeper
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Warnings for this chapter - Foul language, plans to revolt against authority, descriptions of people in peril

As always, a big thanks to my fabulous, super powered editor gwoman for her work on this chapter! Also, a big happy birthday to this serial, which has now been posting for one year!

Back to Chapter 12

Lex's time settled quickly into a routine, despite the fact that she'd only had her job several weeks. She generally worked with Mr. Chen every day during the week, but she'd also been devoting a couple of afternoons a week as well as a number of hours on the weekends to working with Riss. Also, since she'd had the terrible migraine, the doctors had demanded a few hours a week to run tests on her. Additionally she’d continued work reviewing the strategy texts she’d been given, and had begun to pull together some ideas for her paper. On the weekends Lex could leave the building, she usually went out with Casey or with Casey and Serena at least once.

Everything seemed to be going well, but despite all of that, Lex felt uneasy and restless. Her dream world used to be something she could depend on for support and guidance, but now her dreams seemed inaccessible and frightening. She could remember one dream in particular where she stood in a grey mist and then started walking to try to find something, anything, only to see more mist everywhere. Lex had woken up that day with a sneeze, surrounded by the smell of dust, which seemed a constant in her room no matter what she tried to keep it at bay. She’d also felt oppressed by how infrequently she’d been able to get out into the natural world, one outing to Rock Creek Park every two weeks not being really enough. Lex had begun waking up early so she could get to the roof to watch the sunrise and at least see out over the river, but to her frustration she found the roof access inexplicably locked half the time.

After working together with Riss for over a month, the two of them had made it approximately halfway through their building inventory. Lex had pulled a document together outlining the computer security strategy Riss had planned, but since the inventory and the strategy needed to be presented together, she’d held onto it. She’d ordered and received the sniffing tools Riss wanted, and they’d found out as a consequence that a number of seemingly unauthorized outside machines had been accessing the network, which Lex duly noted. She found she liked working with Riss, the two of them comfortably silent for the most part, except when asking for or calling out information, but Lex had managed to draw Riss out a bit on a few occasions, and as a result worried that Riss spent too much time alone.

She thought about it for a while one day, coming up with several ideas that she dismissed, and finally one that she liked, but that she’d need cooperation for. Later that day, when she and Casey were eating dinner, sitting opposite one another at the kitchen island, Lex asked, “Casey, would you mind if I invited Riss to eat with us sometimes?”

Casey happened to be chewing some pasta salad at that moment, but Lex could almost see her friend considering the question, and Casey answered once she’d swallowed her bite of food. “No. I'd like to have a chance to get to know her. Do you think she'll go for it?”

Shrugging, Lex replied, “I don't know. I figure I might be able to get her to agree after a while, though, if I keep asking.”

“Sounds good. I'd look forward to talking with her,” Casey said with a nod.

So the next afternoon, after Riss and Lex had finished their work together for the day and were climbing the stairs from the lower levels, Lex asked Riss if she would like to join the two of them for dinner.

“It's Casey's turn to cook today, and she's much better at it than I am. She said she was going to make her vegan lasagna today. I've only had it once, but I'm dying to eat it again.”

Riss turned to her for a moment, the skepticism clear on her face. “How would you make vegan lasagna?”

Lex shrugged. “I don’t know what the recipe is, but I'm sure you could get it from Casey. All I know is that once I had it, it seemed like all of the other lasagna I'd ever tasted paled in comparison. You'll like it, trust me.”

Pausing for a moment on a landing, Riss looked down at her hands. Lex knew that Riss was thinking and waited, gripping the cold metal stair rail to ground herself as she waited for an answer. After a few moments, Riss looked back at Lex with an odd expression, and then almost immediately looked away.

“I don't think so, Lex. I've got a lot of other stuff to do.”

“OK. Another time, then.” Lex didn't state it as a question.

Riss nodded, and Lex felt inwardly celebratory, considering Riss had actually agreed to join them sometime later. Maybe I'll break her down yet, Lex thought, inwardly smiling and resolved to ask again the following week.

However, the following week, on the first day she and Riss usually worked together, Lex was awakened in the middle of her sleep cycle by a strange noise. As she sat up on her futon, Lex tried to place it. It sounded like some sort of alarm or siren, and seemed to be coming from outside her room. Slowly getting out of bed, since the clock had reached sometime after three in the morning, Lex stepped into her slippers and grabbed her robe from the closet.

Lex sleepily poked her head out of her door to see Joan in the hallway, hurrying towards the stairs. She cleared her throat before calling out to get the other woman's attention.

“Joan? What's going on?”

Joan stopped for a moment to stare at Lex. “Don't you know? They're sending us out on a job. That's what the alarm’s for. Get suited and get to the situation room as fast as you can.”

“Situation room? Where's that again?” Lex asked, trying to stifle a yawn.

“Three doors down, on your side of the hall,” Joan said, with a look that seemed to say “Don't you know anything?” before she disappeared down the stairs. Still staring at the spot where Joan had been standing, Lex broke her reverie when Casey's door opened shortly afterwards. Lex looked to her right to see Casey picking up a dark bundle off the floor. The taller woman smiled at her, and then gazed at the t-shirt Lex wore with a raised eyebrow.

“Who's that?”

Lex looked down at her shirt to remind herself what she’d worn to bed. She grinned as she saw the picture of a broad-shouldered shirtless man with a sword in one hand, back turned. The play of light and shadow in the picture seemed to highlight the man’s tribal tattoos, especially the two dark fangs that ran beside his spine. His blood red hair hung loose over well-muscled shoulders. “That's a character from one of the animes I follow. I have a terrible crush on him.”

“Well, at least you got to sleep with him all over you last night,” Casey said with a smirk. “Come on, we've got to get dressed and get going.”

“Do you know what's going on?” Lex asked, her eyes searching the floor and finding a bundle next to her door as well. She picked it up and the boots that stood beside it and looked back up at Casey expectantly.

Casey was shaking her head. “No, but we'll find out soon enough. See you down the hall in a few.”

Lex went back into her room and shook the bundle out. It turned out to be a jumpsuit of some sort of heavy, black material, the color only broken at the shoulders by a wide stripe of bright green. She washed quickly, then dressed and made her way to the situation room, still trying to clear out the sleepy fog in her mind.

Realizing she'd never been in that particular room before as her hand reached the knob, Lex pushed the door open and walked inside. Casey and Riss had already arrived, sitting in chairs around a large conference table, Riss with her head in her hand, looking as if she was trying to rub the sleep away. Lex waved hello to both of them as she crossed the room to a small table in the back. Rummaging through the items there, she found a tea bag (with pretty inferior tea), figured out which carafe held hot water, and carried the resulting cup and a donut with her to the table. She wondered how anyone could live on such a poor excuse for food, but didn't see any point in complaining since she knew she couldn’t function without tea or anything to eat.

As she found a place at the conference table, she looked around the room a little more. One wall had been lined with computers, and a couple of people she didn’t recognize worked at them. On the opposite wall, where the windows would normally be, someone had hung a huge flat screen monitor that took up most of the space. It currently showed a tall burning building against a dark sky, and Lex watched for a few minutes as she finished steeping her tea. She threw the tea bag away, the returned to the table to take a few bites of the cinnamon donut she’d chosen, disappointed that it tasted stale.

Turning to Riss a couple of seats away, she said mostly under her breath, “I wonder if I could get one of those for my room.”

“No. I asked,” Riss replied in a deadpan voice, but Lex thought that maybe she’d been hanging around the other woman too long, since she could swear she almost heard a smile in Riss’ tone.

A woman at one of the computers near the front of the room who had been looking at something over someone else's shoulder suddenly straightened up. When she turned towards the conference table, Lex realized why she’d looked familiar once she stood up. It was Clara, and she made her way over to the conference table to sit in a position that told Lex she’d be running the show. Clara seemed to count those at the table, then glared impatiently at the door, but stopped a moment later as Serena simply appeared near the table with the refreshments and silently began pouring herself coffee. Sighing with a tone that sounded slightly annoyed, Clara turned a glance towards the ceiling.

“Joan, can you hear me? Are you suited up yet?” she asked.

“I'm in the process. I can hear what you say and pick up what’s on the screen through my helmet feed, though, so please proceed.”

“All right, ladies, thank you all for joining us so early in the day,” Clara began, glaring at Serena's turned back. “I'll fill you in on what's going on. Someone called the fire department about this building,” she gestured to the burning one on the huge screen, “around two this morning. From what anyone can tell so far, it seems that at some point in the past few days, some electrical wires overheated and unfortunately seem to have ignited things inside the walls: parts of the structure and insulation. Also, several years ago, the windows in the place were replaced, and the new frames are made of flammable materials, so the fire has been running through the walls and catching everything around the windows on fire as well.

“Because the fire wasn't discovered until the middle of the night, most everyone in the building was home. The firefighters evacuated people from the lower floors quickly, but during the evacuation discovered that the stairs had collapsed between the tenth and eleventh floors on one side of the building, and between the twelfth and thirteenth floors on the other. So, the people on the top eighteen stories of the building have become trapped. The heat was too intense for ladder rescues, so helicopters were called for, but because the flames and heat are greatest around the outer walls of the building, they couldn’t get very close, and the second person they tried to rescue got badly injured due to the unpredictable thermal winds surrounding the building. The helicopter itself nearly crashed during the incident. The building engineer declared it too risky to try landing a helicopter on the roof, since it wasn't designed for it and because she thought it might further weaken the structure. They’re already worried that if the heat of the fire in the walls gets too high, the structural steel beams may start to lose their original temper and be unable to hold up the floors and ceilings. The firefighters are doing their best to stop the blaze, but their efforts don’t seem to be working at the moment.”

Lex looked at Clara for a moment, then up at the building on the screen. Outlined in flames against the dark sky, Lex could almost see it collapsing in her mind's eye. She’d been about to ask what they planned to do when Clara started speaking again.

“The Alpha team specifically requested our help,” she said, then continued with her voice slightly raised. “They'll be in charge on the scene.”

Clara had been forced to speak up to compete with the sounds of annoyance and disgust Lex’s teammates had begun making as soon as Clara had mentioned the Alpha team. Riss had made a dismissive noise, rolled her eyes, and then continued paying attention to her coffee. Casey let out a cry of what sounded like dismay and had avoided Lex's eyes when she'd looked over in concern. Lex was felt a flutter of worry in her gut as she looked down to see Casey’s hand clutching her chair’s armrest hard enough to bend it.

“They’re assholes!” Serena shouted. “I don't want to work with them!”

“All right, that's enough!” something close to Joan's voice boomed out of the speakers overhead. “We will work with them, and you will finish listening to this briefing so that we can get going. Do you understand?”

A number of people exchanged looks denoting annoyance or disgust, but finally Serena rolled her eyes and shouted at the ceiling, “Yes, OK, whatever. Can we get this over with so we can get out of here?”

“That's all of the information I had to share with you at this point. Were there any questions?” Clara asked smoothly.

“Yes,” Lex piped up, “What are we supposed to do once we get there? How are we going to get everyone out of the building?”

Clara gave Lex a veiled glance before she answered. “I don't have any information about that yet. The Alpha team should fill you in on what they want you to do once we get there.”

“What about Lily?” Casey asked.

Lex turned towards her, almost surprised, since it had been the first thing she'd heard Casey say since she came into the situation room. Clara answered, however, which caused Lex to turn back in her direction.

“She called earlier. She said that she was closer to the scene than to headquarters, so she's going to meet us on site.”

After a moment of silence, Clara asked, “Any more questions? No? Please grab a folder, which contains everything we know about the building so far, and let's get going. The site is just across the Potomac in Rosslyn Virginia.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” Serena said. “What about something to eat? How are we supposed to do anything running out in the middle of the night before we can even drink a cup of coffee?”

Clara raised an eyebrow and looked at Serena. “We'll have some food brought out to the scene.” She paused a moment, looking around once at everyone in the room. “If there's nothing else, then let's go.”

She didn't look behind her as she headed out the door. The other four women exchanged looks before getting up to follow. Lex, still half-convinced she was dreaming, tossed the rest of her refreshments, grabbed a folder, and sleepily walked with the others down to the garage level. As they entered the main garage area, however, Lex jumped back as she saw something emerge from a doorway on the right hand wall.

“Holy crap, what is that?” she asked nervously, taking a step back from what looked like a cross between a robot and a weapon shaped like a person. It stood almost as tall as Casey, and broader. The thing's body had been painted mostly black and silver, topped off by what looked like a black glass faceplate intersected with crosshairs in silver; it appeared to have guns of some type on its arms, back, and shoulders, and what looked like some sort of sidearm on its right side. It turned in Lex's direction and spoke.

“It's me, Joan. Come on, all of you. Stop messing around and let's get going.”

Lex wilted a little and shook her head as Casey and Riss looked studiously in other directions, and Serena snorted with laughter.

“It would have been nice if someone could have mentioned that beforehand,” Lex muttered, mostly to herself, but didn’t feel too surprised when Serena answered.

“Sorry, sorry. I'm only laughing because my reaction was even worse.”

“What did you do?”

“Well, I wasn't really paying attention just before I saw her, so I got really surprised and did something horribly undignified like shriek and fall on my ass. I didn't think it was funny at the time, but...”

She chuckled softly to herself as they headed for a large white van. Joan got in through the back, and when she’d finally climbed inside, the van sank on its shocks.

“Looks like you need to lose a little weight there, Joan,” Serena said as she and Lex got into the van. Lex tried to choke back her laughter while Serena continued to laugh openly. When they’d both settled down, Lex noticed that Casey and Riss sat on opposite sides of the front bench, so she headed to the second one and sat by Serena. The rest of the open area in back had been taken up by Joan in her suit. Moments later they pulled away, and Lex could see the beginnings of the day starting to show in the sky as they left the garage.

Lex had wanted to ask Casey once they got underway why the team seemed to have a problem with the Alpha group, but after looking at the seating arrangements and failing to catch Casey's eye again, Lex decided to try something else. So she turned to Serena and began talking quietly.

“Serena, what's up with this Alpha team? Everyone seemed really upset when Clara mentioned them.”

Serena grumbled under her breath, and then answered in a murmur. “We've worked with them before. Or, should I say, they've requested us before. Every time we go out on a job with them, usually what happens is that they have something they want Casey to do and the rest of us end up sitting on our asses. And something else...Casey always acts really weird when we have to work with them. Sometimes she won't talk to anyone for days afterwards. The guy who I guess runs the team tries to boss all of us around, especially Casey, and is a real jerk. I just hate everything about these jobs.”

Lex nodded and then looked out the window as Serena quietly drank her coffee, gazing out the opposite window. Everyone in the van seemed tense, down to Clara and two support people up in the driver’s bench. Lex felt apprehensive and a little depressed. Sighing, she decided to rest her eyes for a little while and laid her head against the window, just until they arrived at their destination.

“Lex, wake up,” she heard a moment later. Opening her eyes, Lex sat up and looked over at Serena, a little confused. Serena smiled at her.

“You fell back asleep,” she continued. “We're here, by the way. Come on out with the rest of us.”

Lex followed her outside, yawning widely and then coughing at the acrid taste of smoke. The sky had lightened to the point that good outlines of things could now be seen, and Lex thought it would probably be a warm day but stay overcast. Blinking away the sleep, Lex began to look around. They’d parked on a street corner in front of an apartment building that spanned most of the block. It had two wings branching off a central tower, and Lex took a moment to absorb the gaping hole in the middle where the front doors had been, the smoke coming out of the front and from windows that had broken in the heat, and the gouts of fire coming from the occasional window or at various points around the edge of the roof. Lex and her team stood on a small lawn in front of the apartment block, watching. She sighed and looked back at the building, trying to figure out what to do until her attention got distracted by a large man who appeared in the doorway. He headed in their direction and stopped in front of Lex’s group, dropping a prone person in the grass and taking a mobile person off his shoulders to put them down rather roughly.

“So you finally bothered to show up,” the man said, his voice harsh. Lex studied him for a moment since he stood under a streetlight. Some people probably would have admired his blond hair, blue eyes, and athletic build, but something in his face, something petty and dangerous, prevented Lex from finding him attractive. On the contrary, she felt repelled by him, suddenly recalling her father's face for some reason. She turned to one side then as she heard Casey move, and frowned in concern as she saw her friend drop her head and shrink back from the man.

“All right,” he continued, “Casey, you come with me. We're going to use both sets of stairs to bring people out. I've been jumping over the broken stairs to get up to the next floor, and I think I'm done with the thirteenth. Come on, let's go.”

He tried to grab Casey's arm, but she shied away from him, a shudder running down her arm as she pulled it out of reach. She did follow him a moment later when he took off, although her movements seemed uncharacteristically slow.

Lex stood there for a moment, watching them disappear back into the building, feeling her stomach turn over nervously. After a moment, something occurred to her. “Wait a minute, what are we supposed to do?”

“Well, the idiot said he wanted us to help the medics, despite the fact that none of us have any medical training.”

Looking over at who'd spoken, Lex saw a woman who looked somewhat older than her and wore a jumpsuit similar to the one Lex had on. The woman stood with a group of people in front of a van parked on the corner of the street intersecting with the one Lex’s team had parked on, so that the two groups almost faced each other. She had a solid build with long, curly dark hair tied into a loose ponytail. Lex sucked her breath in as she spotted a short scar on the woman’s cheek that seemed to travel upwards until it disappeared underneath a black eye patch over her left eye. Lex looked at the woman for a moment, lost, as she shrugged, her arms crossed over her chest.

“You've got to be kidding,” Lex said, almost to herself. She looked down at the person who'd been deposited in front of her, an elderly gentleman. He stirred and began to cough weakly as she watched. Lex looked back at Serena and Clara, but neither of them seemed inclined to do anything, so she picked the man up in her arms, bridal style. He felt like mostly bones. Lex looked at the other person the blond man had been carrying. The teenage girl appeared to be in shock, just standing and staring off into space.

“Hey, come on, let's go,” said Lex to the girl, trying to get her attention. She just looked mutely over at Lex, who suggested, “Why don't you take my arm and we'll get you some help.”

Once the girl took hold of her, Lex turned to the woman who'd spoken before and asked, “Where are the medics?”

She pointed wordlessly to a park across the street, and Lex saw the ambulances parked on the grass there. Nodding, she began to make her way over to the park. Crossing the empty street, Lex stopped one of the medics rushing past her towards the burning building to ask, “Who’s in charge here?”

He pointed wordlessly to somewhere behind the first row of ambulances, and Lex steered herself and her charge in that direction. As Lex neared her destination, she saw a woman dressed in the same outfit she wore, but with no color on her shoulders. She stood a few inches shorter than Lex, and looked petite and slim. Her black hair seemed as if it would fall past her shoulders, but had been tied up in a neat ponytail high on her head. She had her hands on a figure lying on one of the stretchers lined up in the grass, and appeared to be concentrating. Lex hung back for a moment, almost feeling the hair on the back of her neck stand up as she felt something going on. After a few moments, the woman straightened and turned in Lex’s direction. When she did, Lex could see that the woman looked to be of Asian heritage, with flawless tan skin and dark brown eyes. Something about her face seemed familiar, but Lex couldn’t place it.

“Are you-“ Lex began, only to be cut off by the other woman’s reply.

“I’m Lily. Lily Chen. You must be Lex.”

“Chen. Are you related…“

Lex stopped speaking as Lily nodded. “Yes, your teacher is my grandfather. He told us a bit about you already.”

“I hope nothing too bad,” Lex said, trying not to wince.

Lily shrugged as she studied Lex curiously for a moment. “He sounds like he thinks you’re one of the best students he’s had, but I know he’d never say it. Anyway, you can put that man here,” she said, gesturing to an empty stretcher. Medics loaded the person that Lily had been working on previously into an ambulance and began to drive away.

“Do you mind if I ask what the situation is here? Things seem a little chaotic,” Lex said, her mind still unsettled by Lily’s earlier comment.

Sighing as she checked the elderly man over, Lily replied, “This is what this type of call is usually like, unfortunately.”

“What about the people coming out of the building? How have they been, generally?”

“Well, the later they come out, the sicker they’ll be. Of course, listening to the firefighters, it’s a race against time to get everyone out before the inner floors and ceilings start to collapse. One we’re not going to win, at this rate.” Lily shook her head then, glancing over at the burning building.

Lex suddenly felt angry at the lack of foresight involved in the operation, but she smiled as she felt her mind begin to run possible scenarios. “Let’s see what I can come up with,” she said almost to herself, then louder, “Lily, this young lady needs some help, too. And thanks.”

“Thank you for bringing these two over. I’ll see you later, Lex.”

Lex nodded, then moved at a fast trot back across the street to the van they’d come in. Serena leaned against it, still working on her coffee and looking around with interest. She perked up even further when she saw Lex.

“Lex,” Serena said excitedly, “I didn’t recognize this place when we first got here because it was too dark to really see it, but I’ve been here before! This is where Seth used to live, before he moved to LA. He was a naughty, naughty boy.” She grinned widely as she finished speaking.

“Who’s Seth?” Lex asked, trying to remember if he was someone Serena had mentioned before.

Serena laughed. “Someone I met clubbing that I didn’t mind seeing more than once. He liked to try a lot of things, and he didn’t want to tie me down. I used to come over once or twice a month while he still lived here. Oh, the fun we had…”

“So, what happened?”

“Well, he moved out west for a job, and then ended up getting married. I shouldn’t complain. His wife is just as wild as he is, but I don’t get out there so much now that they have a kid…”

Serena trailed off, staring up at the building. Lex followed her friend’s gaze, but she found her mind going in other directions. “What floor did he live on, Serena?” she asked.

“On the 22nd! Had a nice view of the city, too, across the river, but I never spent much time looking at it.”

Lex, grinning now, left Serena to her thoughts, her own mind working furiously. She looked around to find Clara, but didn’t see her outside. Upon putting her head inside the van, Lex found her in the front bench seat, typing on a laptop, and also spotted Riss in the rear seat of the van. She’d taken two laptops from the backpack she’d been carrying and appeared to be busy with both. Riss and Lex nodded as their eyes met and then Lex moved to slide in next to Clara.

“I have a question for you,” Lex began, “I don’t remember anything in my contract that said I’d be violating it by not following someone’s orders. Is that right?”

Clara looked up from her laptop at that, straight into Lex’s eyes. She took a moment to answer, and seemed to do so reluctantly. “That’s correct.”

“In that case, I have a proposal for you. I’d like to scrap the idea of writing a strategy white paper and have a practical instead.”

“What do you mean?” Clara’s gaze had turned wary.

“I’d like to propose that I show you what I’ve learned about strategy right now by organizing the people currently sitting around waiting in order to actually save some of the residents of that building who are probably going to get burnt or crushed otherwise.”

“Casey and the Alpha captain are working on that right now.” Her tone sounded dismissive, as if she hoped Lex would drop the subject.

Lex sighed as she picked up one of the briefing folders left in the van and glanced through it. “I don’t propose to stop them. What I would like to point out, though, is the fact that there are 18 floors with 50 apartments each in them where people are trapped. Even if you use a conservative estimate of 2 people an apartment, that’s 1800 people. I’m sure Casey and that guy can’t carry more than two or three people a trip, what with the jumping required. So, even if it takes 15 minutes for each trip in and out, that sounds like several days of work, even if they’re somehow able to work without a break that whole time. So, I had some ideas I’d like to try out to assist what they’re doing, rather than just doing nothing.”

Clara gave her a hard look mixed with an expression that Lex couldn’t quite identify. “I can’t give you any authority to do so.”

“Fair enough. As far as all the people and equipment we brought, though, can you put them at my disposal, anyone that hasn’t been ordered to do something else or anything not requisitioned already?”

“OK, I can agree to that,” Clara responded grudgingly.

“Including the support people? What if we need something from headquarters, or some other equipment?”

“All right, within reason. I’ll be here watching and listening, so I’ll let you know if anything is out of the question.”

“I’m also going to try to get help from the people across the way and probably some equipment and help from the firefighters. Do you object to that?” Lex bit her lip, hoping Clara would continue to go along with her plan.

Clara smiled a little, as if she couldn’t quite help it. “No. Anything you can convince anyone to let you use or anyone you can convince to help you is fine.”

“Good, thanks. I’m going to go around and talk to everyone here, and then we’ll probably meet afterwards, if you want to be there.”

“I will. Don’t worry about me; I’ll determine what I need to observe, just do what you need to do.” Clara gave Lex a final penetrating glance before focusing on her laptop again.

Lex nodded, then moved to the back to stand by the rear bench seat. “Riss, I think you heard all of that. Could you help by seeing if there’s some way we could figure out if there are any security cameras in that building, and, if so, tap into them?”

Riss was nodding, but her eyes narrowed when she heard a sharp voice from the front of the van. “No, Lex.”

“No? Why not? That could help us locate where people are in the building so that they can be evacuated.”

“The reason is nothing you can be told. It’s just not going to happen.” Clara seemed to be almost glaring at Riss now, which just confused Lex.

Lex shook her head with annoyance and glanced at Riss, who seemed to be studying the floor. “Sorry,” Lex said under her breath, just loud enough for Riss to hear. Then, she said more loudly, “Is it all right if we at least dig up who’s supposed to be living in the apartments from the 13th floor up so that we can get some kind of idea of what we’re dealing with here?”

“That’s permissible,” said Clara, her expression flat and her eyes revealing nothing.

Lex shook her head again. She said more softly to Riss, “I’m going to be calling a meeting in probably fifteen minutes or so to talk about the overall plan. Can you be there?”

“Sure,” she said, looking up at Lex for a moment, and then looking back at her computers. Lex wanted to say something, to respond to the intense look in her eye, but ended up sighing as she said nothing and went back outside.

A quick look around showed her that Joan had moved out of the van to lean against a small tree nearby. Lex coughed as a small cloud of smoke drifted by but looked closely at the tree as she neared the other woman, noting that the tree had bent a little under the extra weight.

“Joan,” Lex asked, “Can you fly in that suit you’re wearing?”

“Yes. It can go as high as small planes, and as fast as some fighter jets.” Lex smiled as she noted the pride in Joan’s voice.

“Excellent. Are you stronger than you normally are when you’re wearing it?”

“It enhances my strength by a factor of ten.”

“How much can you bench press without it?”

“A maximum number? Maybe 100, 150.”

“Sounds like a really nice piece of equipment,” Lex said, grinning now. “Thanks for the info.” She gave Joan a sketchy wave and headed in the direction of the people standing in front of the other van, the gears in her brain still turning.

Forward to Chapter 14

Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!

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Dammit, I don't recognize the anime character. I... I haz failed. No cookie for me. *weeps*

So... Casey has super-strength and toughness. Serena teleports. Lily appears to be able to help injured people, although it isn't really clear with what little we have whether her power is healing or if her power has a healing application. Joan has a power suit. (And guns. Lots of guns.) Riss has m4d c0mpu7er 5ki11z. Lex herself appears to be a speedster. I'm kinda surprised by Serena's teleportation. All the others' powers are basically human+, while Serena's is clearly supernatural. Well, there's Lily.

Also, I have to say putting a cliffhanger just before Lex unleashes the awesome was really mean. :P

Oh! And congrats on the anniversary.

Yay! Thank you - it was hard to believe, when I looked at the calendar...

I was hoping you'd know, but it's OK...I can give you a hint...

Yes, and yes. Well said, and don't worry, we'll hear more about Lily later. Yes, best not to forget the guns. : ) Definitely, and it does seem that she has some capability in that direction, especially compared to the average person.

It's interesting that you should note that, because there's definitely going to be more discussion in the upcoming chapters about powers and their origins. I look forward to hearing what you think about it.

Lex has so much awesome to unleash that she needs a chapter or two to do it in. Don't worry, she's going to be shining like a star soon. :D

Oops! Poor Renji. I actually thought about Bleach but somehow failed to remember him. It's been too long since I watched it.

Heh, heh...I know what you mean. Bleach seemed to have gone off the deep end at some point, so I haven't been keeping up with it for a while either.

Finally caught up. XD Also the Renji cameo. =P

Quite like how the action's progressing in this chapter and the introduction of their 'rivals', the Alpha team. Also been loving how the story's been progressing since the last time I commented, which was ages ago, especially the various dreams she's had.

Really looking forward to the next chapter! ^^

Yay! From what I've seen on your other page, it looks like you've been really busy with school; I hope everything continues to go well with you. :D Hey, got to give our favorites some love whenever possible...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the chapter. This part was a lot of fun to write, and it's only just started. :D I'm happy to hear you like how the story's grown, and Lex's dreams. At first, I didn't really expect them to have the place of importance they've taken on, and I'm glad to hear you like them.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Next chapter coming soon...

good and bad things

Puuh been a long time so I had some chapters to read, there has been a lot of hinting and mysterious dreams which I am not sure how to feel about until the context resolves itself

Re: good and bad things

damn accidently posted before i was finished
... Atleast we know that additional to her speed she has some kind of prophetic ability. Hmm maybe her ability is not bodily speed but involves time manipulation?

The psychological building is solid, though sometimes the other characters feel a bit stereotypical.
What disturbes me a little is how nonchalant they behave: oh there is a burning building people are dying, where were the donuts again?
h yes the burning building one of my sexpartners lived there, what me beeing glad that he does not live there anymore? No No I just wanted to chat how great the guy was as sleeping buddy.
Seems a little harsh to me even if most of them are used to those situations

Re: good and bad things

So glad you stopped by again, and happy that I had something good to offer to you. I kind of picture Lex as coming from a long line of people who have these types of dreams, but not knowing about it since this was the sort of thing that others might look upon as more of a curse than a blessing. Good question about her abilities...

I'm glad you like the way the story is building, and do please let me know if any of the characters is getting archetypical enough to be annoying. I know they're not all going to be fully developed, but I want to keep everyone with me, as well.

I see what you're saying about how some of the characters are coming off as nonchalant towards the end of the chapter. I have to admit I didn't see it before you mentioned it, so thanks for that. I think what you're seeing is coming from a few different sources...first, being woken up in the middle of the night and sent off to do a job with little to eat or drink is enough to make anyone grumpy, I think, so I'd definitely have to excuse any mental grumbling about the food. Besides, for someone with abilities like they have, no food = nothing super going on, so I can see why they're concerned.

As for the rest of it, part of it is just the way Serena is, but part of it is also due to frustration. Not only did the team get yanked out of bed at an early hour, but they had to show up and have the majority of them wait around for nothing much to happen, having their talents, which could be put to good use, ignored. If you've ever spent any time around the scene of emergencies, you might see some of the personnel who have to wait talking like this...I think it's due to the frustration of having to wait your turn when you'd rather do something, so people will try to think of anything else rather than the urgent feeling that they should be doing something (especially when others are busy) at a time when there's nothing much they can do. I imagine the firefighters at this scene might be having similar conversations, trying to keep their minds off the fact that there's a fire, but that everything they've tried to do to fight it so far has been a failure.

At any rate, thanks very much for coming by again to read, and I really appreciate your comments! More excitement is coming in the next chapter, I promise. :D

Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

Greetings! It is I, Psycho Gecko! (I mostly tend to hang out at Worm or Legion of Nothing)

So, nice to see they've actually been deployed to do something for once, but I can't wait until we actually get to the real meat of the story. There's a lot more going on that we haven't been made aware of. It's becoming more blatant, but the sudden panic attack that conveniently gave them an excuse to give Lex close medical exams is another indication.

All that secrecy just to be glorified firefighters? Then I saw little Tiffany. I'm thinking, you know, eight year old white girl, middle of the ghetto, bunch of monsters, this time of night with quantum physics books? She's about to start some shit, Zed. She's about eight years old, those books are WAY too advanced for her. If you ask me, I'd say she's up to something.

Plus, the Alpha guys are some major idiots. Or just egotistical. "Hey, these people are trapped in a building."

"I got it, get me the team with the teleporter! That way, we can tell her to give someone CPR while we manually carry people out traveling through the building."


Re: Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

No matter how far you run, no matter which fiction you read, the Gecko will find you. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Or, alternately, use robotic foxes. They should intercept the chicken grenades adequately.

Re: Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

Yay! I’m very glad Psycho Gecko is here; I feel famous now. :D

Although I don’t think you could go wrong with some robotic foxes…

Re: Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

As most of the stories where I encounter Geckos name in the commentary are stories I like, I started to see him as a kind of quality tag that indicates the author is doing something right :)

Re: Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

Glad to hear it…it’s always nice to get a little outside confirmation you’re doing something right. : )

Re: Psycho Gecko comments here for the 1st Time! Throw a parade!

Hi, Psycho Gecko! Welcome! :D I think I've seen some of your comments over on Worm...

I’m happy you like the deployment, and as for the rest, well, we've started to get there, but you're right, the full story of what's really going on hasn't really been uncovered yet. Good eye - pay attention to those weird exams, and to Tiffany. We'll see if we can't scare Cthulhu up out of the darkness yet...

Yes, the Alpha team has a major problem, and it's the guy who's supposed to be leading it. Lots more about him in the next couple of chapters...yeah, it seems like if you scared up some good tools you'd be using them, right? Well, at least someone's going to pick them up. Thanks for reading, and for brightening my day and commenting!

Benchpress weight a little low?

Is the weight in pounds because 100 seems kinda low I can benchpress 120 and I'm not exactly strong. Just wondering.

Re: Benchpress weight a little low?

Yes, good question, it's in pounds. : ) Not sure why we're not on the metric system in America yet, but I guess old ways die hard sometimes...

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