Photon 2

Watching from launch control as they inductees boarded the plane Paragon, Photon and Willow talked quietly about the proceedings. "The boy Warp seems the most sullen of the group. He doesn't really understand a great deal of what has happened to him and his place in it…" Turning her pale eyes to Jennifer, Willow spoke more consolingly. "He will come to understand that you did what you felt you had do to… as he has done. Still, I know it most be painful for you."

Paragon nodded. "Jennifer… if you'd like to reconsider being liaison, it's understandable… Lord knows its taken enough unexpected turns."

Jennifer nodded at Willow's comment. "I hope so. I thought I'd put what happened twelve years ago behind me…" A long pause. "I don't suppose I ever expected to see the rest of my family again, that's all. It's bringing back some memories that aren't pleasant."

Tentatively, Willow placed a consoling hand on the girl's shoulder. "If you wish to talk about it, ever, I'd be more than willing."

"Anyway, Paragon, I'm still in." She had an odd smile on her face. "I've never let my brother intimidate me before… I'm not about to start now."

Paragon smiled, looking somewhat relieved. "You're a strong woman, Jennifer, I saw that the day we met."

She chuckled. "Well, I don't know that 'strong' was the right word for me when I was seventeen, but…"

"Strength comes in many forms, Jennifer," Willow said, a smile in her voice.

Outside, final loading procedures were taking place. Two cryogenic pods were being loaded into the plane. "Hmm…" Paragon stepped closer to the viewport. The Project's "problem children." Just what do we do with them…

Willow stepped up beside him. "I sense something about them… the female in particular."

Jennifer was curious, but stayed politely back and tried to not obviously listen in as Willow continued. "Their minds are quite focused, almost linear. It all smacks of teleprogramming techniques… ones that I have not seen in… many a year. If possible I'd like to talk with them when they are revived."

"I don't know when that will be. Special Crimes has put them in our laps while tangling the matter up in so much bureaucracy that there's little we can actually do. In particular, until the DNA testing is returned. If they classify as synthetics…" He glanced meaningfully at Willow.

"Yes… not worthy of the rights all over living things are granted." Willow's voice held more bitterness than Jennifer had ever heard in her before. "I think they are not truly synthetic. Gene enhanced perhaps but… 'natural', whatever that means."

"Well, it will be settled soon in any case. I am going to speak with the minister later today." Paragon turned to Jennifer. "Would you mind escorting Willow and Engrid to the base?"

"Not at all. If you'll follow me?"

Willow nodded following Jennifer out after bidding Paragon farewell. She walked silently for time then glanced over at Jennifer. "What is your outlook for this project?"

"I think it's a good idea, and it may even work… provided it's allowed to. I've gotten the impression that Purgatory isn't widely liked in certain circles."

"No, it's not popular, for a number of reasons… many want to see those like Circe punished in a much more Biblical sense." Willow sighed slightly. "And there are those who would rather see all metas imprisoned or worse… and not all of them are in fringe groups like the Fellowship of Purity."

"Naturally… eye for an eye, and all that." The contemptuous note in Jennifer's voice made her feelings on the matter clear. She shook her head. "And I know all about groups like the Fellowship… being one of those metas who can't hide what she is, I'm occasionally a target."

"I can imagine it must be a burden… those with gifts such as mine are fortunate… it can be hidden for the most part." They took the lift to the launch platform.

"It has its benefits. I almost never have to show ID these days, I'm usually recognized. I even ran into one girl at the medcenter who thought the glow was pretty."

"It does have an almost soothing effect… and makes you look rather angelic." They entered the plane and took a seat, the entry ramp sliding up behind them. "Is it the source or a side effect of the light manipulation powers?" Willow asked, fastening her seat belt. She seemed quite intrigued and genuinely curious.

Jennifer reached across and fastened her own belt. "Actually, I'm not certain. I'm not even sure what triggered my powers in the first place–I fell asleep in an alley, then woke up five days later in a different place. I've been glowing ever since."

"Fascinating… the majority of meta abilities that are not present from birth have some catalyst… a traumatic mental or physical event the starts them… even if just the onset of puberty. Missing time… have you memory recovery therapy?"

"Well, I was thirteen, so puberty isn't totally out of the question. I kinda doubt it, though… the blackout is just a little convenient. I had a little bit of the therapy, but it didn't seem to help."

"Hmm… if you wish perhaps I could help you… I would…" She trailed off, a troubled look coming into her eyes.

"You would…?"

"There is something… a foreboding… just a moment." Willow settled into her seat, a distant look coming into her eyes. Jennifer sat quietly, patiently waiting.

"There is a problem on the transport flight. One of the suspended ones has awakened and broken his confinement… I must communicate with him," she murmured, reaching out to the distant mind only to find herself rebuked. "It's as if he has focused himself utterly on one thing… hard to find anything to reach…"

"Should we try to intercept?" Jennifer leaned forward, toward the intercom switch.

"Perhaps we can assist on some physical level as well, yes," Willow nodded and switched her attentions to communicating with Circe.

Jennifer nodded in acknowledgment, then hit the switch. "Change of destination," she said tersely. "Intercept the transport headed for Penal Containment Facility Alpha, as quickly as possible."

She was pressed back in her seat as the plane accelerated. "We've received report from the transport, there's been a leak in the cryo suspension units," the pilot replied. "Somewhat under control now." Coming up to the transport, Photon could make it out through her window. Gas or steam of some sort was pouring out of… no, it was coming from slightly behind the plane itself… just seeping out of the sky… one of Warp's portals?

"Hmm… it seems my brother's been busy. It looks like he's venting the cryo gases outside the plane," Jennifer commented to Willow.

Willow leaned over to look out the window just as portal wavered out of existence. "Oh my…"

"Well, it'll buy them some time, anyway."

"Let's hope so," she whispered faintly.

"I hope so too… because physically, there's not much we can do until we land at PCF Alpha."

"Too true… I can try to help, but that might do more harm than good." Outside, another portal opened, this one larger, spewing more gas into the atmosphere. Jennifer could see the plane lurch violently.

She sat forward abruptly, leaning toward the window. "What the…? What are they doing?"

"Releasing the damaged cryo unit, as I understand it," Willow replied.

Even as she spoke, Jennifer saw something topple through the new portal, then had a brief glimpse through it seemingly right into the plane, then it snapped shut. Willow sighed. "One of the cryo prisoners is active… but the situation still seems to be in hand…" Willow still sounded distant. "I'll try to control the prisoner."

Control the prisoner? He's that dangerous, hmm? She was not happy. Why wasn't I at least informed about those two?

Willow sat back and looked over at her companion. "You seem troubled?"

"You might say that." Jennifer's voice was quiet. Most people who knew her would recognize it as the sign of an impending explosion. "Tell me… why was I not informed about the abilities of the two cryo prisoners?"

"Because next to nothing–not even their origins–is known, and they are not part of the Project officially. They are two apparently metahuman assassins, likely combat Replicants, and were to be kept in suspension under the auspice of the Project's research."

"There must have been a report made by whomever captured them." She paused, then continued in a more normal tone of voice, "Whatever. I'll just have to look it up when we land."

"The capture was done by Paragon and Velocity, acting on the direction of Metro Police. Then they were dumped into the Project's lap. The male was known to have enhanced physical resilience but no one has resisted cryosuspension before… fascinating."

"Hmm… I'll still want to have a look at that report. If those two wind up in the project, I need to know about them."

"That should not be a problem," Willow replied, then gave a tired sigh. "They have thrown us all for a loop, I must admit… one has to wonder if that was the intention."

"It wouldn't surprise me. Metro likes to keep us a little off-balance from time to time."

The plane settled down shortly and the two women disembarked. The landing platform was set just outside a cluster of neat plasticrete buildings set among the tropical flora of the island. Ivy stood at the edge of the platform, arms folded. She smiled slightly at the sight of Willow. "Greetings, Willow, and to you as well, Photon… I trust your trip was less eventful than the others'."

"Oh, my yes. We didn't have someone break out of cryostasis." Jennifer grinned. "Any serious injuries over there?"

"The escaped cryoprisoner suffered a relatively minor injury, but his regenerative factor should compensate for it in time. Circe suffered from some minor injury and is being treated. Warp seems to be suffering from some sort of mental shock."

"Mental shock?" Willow asked. "How so?"

Photon's thoughts raced. God, what the hell am I supposed to do now? He basically told me to go fuck myself the other day, but… well, he is my brother…

Ivy shrugged. "I'm not certain."

Willow sighed then frowned. "Ivy, we must talk… about Circe." Turning to Jennifer, she caught the troubled look on the girl's face. "Jennifer? Could you come with me… I think your brother needs us both."

Jennifer nodded absently in response.

"Are you adversely affected by mental contact, Jennifer?" Willow asked.

"I don't think so."

"Wonderful… take my hand… this will be faster than walking." She offered a hand.

Jennifer reached out and grabbed her hand. Here goes…

There was a slight tingling sensation when her flesh met Willow's, then she was somewhere else. It was a hall, a pleasant soft green in color. Warp stood in front of them, coming up short as he realized they were there.