((aww, thanks you two. >.> . mebbe I can do this right! maybe. Anywho! On to the (probably) last-last post from me. <.< if people wanna do some kind of IC response to the content presented here, I'd certainly like to see it, but there's no pressure on that front. *muchhugs* Hope you enjoyed it, guys.))
The Master's carefully-constructed plan, in the making for longer than anyone had dreamed, has finally been put to its end. As the Alliance confronted him at the Seal of Shadow, they were faced with hordes of animated statues, but slow and clumsy as these were, they were little match for the heroes.
The truth of the scheme was not far off, however. Sealing himself off from the Alliance for a time, the Master spoke to them, revealing details of Jane's life that common sense dictated he had no knowledge of. As Jane herself realised quickly enough, he spoke truthfully. Her entire life had apparently been planned out to lead to this very moment. The Master had paid her assailants in London, had alerted the wounded Kheldian Aphelion to her presence and her situation, and had drawn her here, intending to use the energy being to transform the cumbersome statues into a new race of Immortals and conquer the Earth.
At the moment the dastard projected a spell designed to tear the symbiont away from her and bind it to his own will, however, Jane reacted in an entirely unexpected manner. Turning her own powers inward, she broke the bond herself, releasing Aphelion once more as a free being and decieving the Master into believing that he had achieved his goal as the statues were successfully transmuted into living, breathing beings.
This came at a cost, however, and a grave one. Deprived of the symbiotic relationship that had sustained her for so long, the young woman collapsed to the ground, the traumatic separation, as predicted after Sunstorm's initial analysis of the bond so long ago, dealing a mortal blow to her physiognomy and stopping her heart.
The Master's undoing was only revealed at the apparent moment of his victory, as his neo-Immortals refused to obey an order to execute the remaining heroes. The influence of the free Kheldian, still bearing the memory of its former host's good nature, had allowed the new race unpredicted free will and compassion.
Enraged, the Master turned on them only to be apparently struck down and vanish from the room, leaving behind the Lock of Ages, a powerful artefact containing the power of Kayn, which was retrieved by none other than the Watchman, who, after briefly consulting with Veskit, used the power of Lock and Key in conjunction with the remaining energies left by Aphelion to alter the path of the future, restoring the souls of those innocents unjustly slain by the Master.
This action, however, drove the energy being's life-force to perilously low levels, making it extremely unlikely that Jane could be restored as well. Veskit took the decision to favour the Master's victims, knowing that Jane had sacrificed herself to stop him and believing that she would want to do the most good possible.
Jane's body, infused with the energy of the weakened Kheldian Aphelion, has been returned to the Peacebringers in the distant hope that something can be done to restore her. 351, after careful analysis of the footage captured at the scene, has issued a short, unusually sombre debriefing message.
Audio message from 351 to all involved heroes and all Alliance members
The Master has been stopped, his plans halted and his machines wrecked. But in stopping him we have endured a great loss. Jane, at the moment when all seemed lost, sacrificed herself to save the others present and perhaps, indeed, the world.
Her body has been returned to the Peacebringers along with the Kheldian Aphelion in the hope that something can be done to revive her, but the foreseeable future at least we face without a true friend.
One hour ago, I received an encrypted series of holographic instruction lines, composed on April 25th and postdated to today. The full hologram, a message recorded by Jane apparently soon before the mission to the Seal, is stored in the main data banks for anyone who wishes to see it.
The following holographic message will be presented to anyone associated with or in the Alliance who requests to see it.
As the floating projector flickers into life, an image of Jane appears, dressed in her normal street clothes rather than her armour, and speaking softly, with an unusual serenity.
"If you're watching this, guys, then my gut feeling about that mission was right and the worst has happened.
I won't keep you for too long, I suspect you're all busy, but I will say this. Mourn for me if you need to, but don't linger on this, for your own sakes. I very much doubt that what happened was due to a mistake by any of you, and none of you are to blame.
This whole operation was a lot smaller when I joined up, but I've watched it grow with no small amount of pride. You gave a street punk lost in the big city the drive and the reason to do something with herself, and you should be proud of all that you've achieved, and indeed all that you'll go on to achieve after this. Thank you, all of you.
Ves, though he may well deny it, is the right man to lead the Alliance, and he'll do a good job of it. I'll miss you all, and who knows, maybe you'll miss me too, but if there is some kinda afterlife waiting for me, I'll be watching.
I love you all. Make me proud, guys."
Straightening slightly, Jane salutes the viewer smartly and the hologram fades with a sharp click.
Sam watched the message, her face fixed in stoney silence. When the 'click!' of the holorecorder sounded, she stared at the space for several long minutes, then rose to her feet. Closing her eyes, she cast her mind throughout the flat, checking that no one else was in, and flicked the concealed switch with her mind. The small teleport booth was revealed as a concealed panel slid aside in the wall, and she stepped inside.
"Eastern edge of Upper Fish Lake, Nevada, please, Helena." The familiar lurch of the teleport network left her dizzy for a moment, and when she recovered she found herself looking at a stunning mountain view from the side of a crisp expanse of water. She knew, without turning, that a similar view awaited her to the East, but she merely closed her eyes and searched for nearby minds. Nothing, yet.
A psychic scream ripped silently through the air. Birds scattered, and a curious mountain cat bounded away from the lone, unarmed woman who had appeared out of nowhere.
Raising her voice and her eyes to the heavens, Sam screamed at the top of her lungs, even as her body pulsed with brilliant light.
"This my testament to you, Jane! This is my remembrance, my thanks and my love! May God watch over his own!"
Moments later, a low THUMP! rocked the floor, sending loose stones clattering, and raising an inch of dust for hundreds of yards around. And a mushroom cloud rose into the sky.
Heard on a phone line: "If you would like to buy some marijuana, press the hash key..."
Secure Peacebringer Army Medical Facility Atlas Park 29th April 2008
"You. You got a lot of nerve coming here."
Looking up as a tall, dark-haired woman robed in purple swept into the room, the man on duty at the facility's front desk straightened slightly, fingers moving to an alarm button mounted under the edge of the wood as she came closer, gloved hands resting lightly across the surface as she leant close to him, her eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, even in the late evening darkness.
"Cut the crap, desk-jockey. You're holding something very important to me and I want access."
The man smirked defiantly at her.
"Should'a thought of that before you pissed us off, lady. Why should I open that door for ya, precisely? What do I get out of that deal?"
Standing straight again, the woman took a step back and raised a hand, dark energy streaming from it and wrapping around the desk man, pulling his fingers away from the switch and binding him to his chair. Leaning closer with something like a smile, she plucked the access card to the secure part of the facility from his breast pocket and examined it.
"I tried to be nice. Lord help me I tried."
The man cringed. "I'm just following orders! I don't wanna die!"
Pocketing the card, she stepped quickly around the desk and backhanded the man square in the face, knocking him out cold.
"Should've thought of that before you pissed me off."
Moving on , she quickly straightened her robes and marched down a long hallway towards a thick pair of metal doors clearly marked HIGH SECURITY-AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY in red letters beneath the familiar red cross. Pausing to glance around and make sure no-one was too close, she swiped the purloined card and ducked into the semi-dark labyrinth beyond, the sliding doors whooshing shut behind her.
A brief consultation at a touch-screen station to the right of the door directed her deeper into the facility. Keeping her head high, she strode briskly through the maze of corridors, nodding curtly to a passing medic.
All in the attitude. Act like you have every reason to be there, people won't confront you.
Finally reaching the promised door, she tapped in a code number taken from the back of the card and drew a deep breath as it opened, the lights in the room beyond flickering on in response.
It was a small chamber, barely big enough to contain all the equipment within it and allow space to move around at the same time. Near the entrance was another terminal, linked by bulky wires running under the metal floor to the steel table in the centre. Laid flat on her back upon that table was a familiar figure, dressed now in a simple grey gown and barefoot.
Moving silently to the edge of the bed as the door slid shut behind her, she carefully removed the sunglasses and looked down on the prone form of her younger sister, the normally shining blonde hair lank and lifeless, her skin pale and cold as stone to a fleeting touch, the ice-blue eyes glazed and dim, staring endlessly at the featureless ceiling. A series of metallic arches over the table bleeped and blooped quietly, funnelling data to the nearby terminal, an array of needles and tubes in the deathly-pale flesh carrying blood out, through the complex systems within the table below, and back into the vessels, primed with oxygen and a solution designed to preserve the body for as long as possible.
Tearing her gaze from the pitiful sight, she turned back to the terminal and began to manipulate the pages and pages of information, digging through the results of hundreds of tests and scans and checks. Carefully copying any information that seemed relevant into a new folder, she plugged a universal data-storage key into the terminal's port and shifted her collected bounty across to it, turning back to the slab once again as the download commenced..
A heroine to the very end, Jane, just as I thought. You knew, didn't you, that what you were doing would kill you, but you didn't waver for a second. I should be proud of that, but all I can think is that I failed you. Maybe I can make it up to you, though... if anyone outside the Peacebringers knows what to do, it'll be them.
A bleep from the terminal brought her back to reality, and she turned back once more, yanking the storage device from the computer and tucking it safely into a deep pocket just as a sound became apparent from the other side of the door.
Time to leave...
As he entered, the medic assigned to the room thought he detected something, a blur in the air. A quick glance around the space and under the table soon dispelled the worry however, and he moved quickly to the terminal, programming the system to test the latest remedy the thinkers upstairs had come up with. As he finished entering the data, the arches whirred into life, an automated syringe descending from one and pressing into the pale skin of the body's neck, injecting a bright-red fluid and withdrawing as green lights lanced from the other arches, scanning the prone form for any reaction, the screen updating and displaying the familiar list of attempted procedures.
Outside the facility, a cloud of darkness separated itself from a shadow and materialised into a human form, gloved hands pulling up a heavy hood and the woman vanishing quickly into the night. She had an appointment to keep.
"Jane is a con artist. A thief. A liar. A smooth-talking criminal genius with a penchant for the dramatic. I just tend to forget it thanks to the Kheldian." - Shadowe
((Been a while since I did any of this, and now seems a good a time as any to lay down some ownage))
A handwritten letter in Kat's usual near-illegible script rests on a desk in Kat and Jane's apartment, along with a dead-looking gold ring.
I'm not sure how to explain this in any other way, so I'll just write it down. I'm leaving. I have and am finding it difficult to deal with recent events; and... you're no longer the same girl I wanted to marry. I know it's selfish, so I ask only for forgiveness for what I'm about to do. I'm not going to start avoiding you, or refuse to talk to you, though I do not know if you'd want me to anyway.
Kat stopped at a familiar white and pink fronted club in Founders' Falls, and climbed up the back entrance.
The tall, white-clad figure blurred and dissipated before her eyes, the familiar ceiling reappearing as they opened. Rising slowly from the bed, several joints protested the very idea of movement. This return had been far more difficult than usual, and Jane suspected that whatever force protected her from the Final Death was growing ever weaker as time passed.
Something drew her attention to the table, and wandering over she found what had been left for her, the light within the diamond of the ring flaring back into life as she touched it, her eyes flicking rapidly across the paper.
Several minutes later, the only sound in the apartment was the ticking of the clock as her hand rested lightly on the door handle.
Several minutes after that, a slender figure weighed down by a heavy bag trudged slowly through the streets, a thick hood raised against a sudden shower, and vanished into the entrance of the Geneva Hotel, a single tear running down her cheek and mingling with the raindrops as she lowered the hood.
From her vantage point across the street, Kat spied a familiar form sat on the rooftop, glancing around themselves. In response, Kat launched herself into the air. Several seconds later a crunching sound next to Jane made her flinch, and the creator of the noise stepped about and sat next to her. Jane broke the silence.
"Hey." "Um. You wanted to talk... think I know about what." "Probably... had what to say all worked out before I came up here, but that seems kinda pointless now." Kat tilted her head. "Why's that?" Jane responded with a shrug. "Not the sort of thing planning works for I guess, but hey, I can try." She focussed her attention on the square below. "I guess, if you boil it down, it comes back to one thing." Kat tensed. "Mm?" This was met by a look from Jane. "I understand." Kat made a face and blinked. "You do?" "Yeah. I do. I love you, and I always will, so I'm not gonna pretend this doesn't hurt, but what I want above all else is for you to be happy, and to feel safe. And if this is what has to be done for that to happen... so be it." Kat closed her eyes and looked down for a few moments before nodding. "Are you going to be OK?" "Been taking knocks one way or another my whole life. I can take another one, powerful though it may be." Jane took Kat's hand carefully and placed a pair of objects in it. "Yours, I think." "Mm...?" Investigation revealed these to be a key to the apartment and the solid diamond ring kat had made for Jane. Kat swallowed carefully and then nodded. "Thanks... wait, I thought you'd use the apartment." Jane merely stood up. "It wouldn't feel right. Besides, I have one more thing to do before I can settle down again." Kat forced herself to her feet aswell. "Beat me up?" This prompted Jane to crack her knuckles. "Would never lay a finger on you and you know it. No, what I have to do now is quite simple." "What?" Jane clenched and unclenched her fists. "Find the archmeddler who orchestrated all this and tell him that he's going to stay the hell away from me, and from you, for ever. I've been used enough." After a short silence and some hesitation, Kat spoke. "Do you want any backup?" "I've put you through more than enough." Kat sighed heavily and gazed down at the square. "That wasn't your fault. I just..." "Once I put an end to this bullshit, maybe I can start doing what I always should have been doing. Treating you like what you are. The most important person in my life. I'm sorry, Kat. For everything." Jane paused to kiss Kat on the cheek. "I -will- be back. I don't know if I can ever make up for all the crap, but that isn't about to stop me from trying." All this illicited a nod from Kat. "I'm sorry too. Thank you for understanding." "Least I could do, for you." Jane smiled. "Stay safe, alright?" "I will. You, aswell. Don't do anything brash." "I don't intend to get in any fights over this. The guy seems vaguely rational. He'll get the point. I hope." Jane gave Kat a quick firm hug, which was reciprocated. "I'll see you again, missy. Count on it." Kat smiled back. "See you then." Kat said as Jane trudged away.
Ducking her head, Jane darted through the quiet corridors and into the storage area, rummaging through the ever-present piles of boxes and random salvage. Hauling out a large crate, she forced it open and pulled out a large swathe of fabric wrapped around a small wooden staff topped with a glittering crystal.
Striding back through the base, , she slipped the small, round, white stone into the base of the teleporter. Concentrating hard on the flows of energy through the device, she reached out with one pale hand ,forcing her way into the thing's workings, and twisted, the purple streams flaring red. Scooping up the stone, she glanced back at the familiar room and stepped calmly into the portal.
Elsewhere The Master's Palace The Endless Red Desert
An echoing, crackling whirr broke the dusty silence, dust crumbling from the stone walls as a figure appeared in a long-abandoned arch. Stumbling slightly as she was shoved fully into Elsewhere, Jane straightened and pulled up the hood of the purloined cloak.
Stalking Silently through the abandoned halls, she clambered over the decaying outer walls and set off into the endless desert. The damaged silhouette of the palace behind her faded slowly from view as the whirling sands whipped into a tearing storm.
Time ceased to be important. There was only the shifting sand beneath her feet and the whipping, tearing grains searing through the already-hot air, the huge red sun blazing through the gloom directly overhead as she wrapped the cloak more tightly around herself and lowered her head, forcing her feet to keep moving.
The Hall of Doors
Frowning slightly, the Watchman looked up from the array of papers he had been studying as the air of the Hall of Doors shifted around him. Standing and checking the sword in its scabbard on his belt, he advanced towards the massive window behind the Precursor Throne. As he did, the amorphous form of the glass bulged and distorted, a cloaked figure caked in the red sand of the desert forcing its way through and stumbling across the raised platform to the left of the Throne.
The hood was thrown back, reddened blue eyes glaring out at him from beneath a shock of unruly blonde hair and erupting with a brilliant blue-white flame as the robe was discarded and the Phoenix rose again.
"Watchman..." she growled, her voice echoing faintly. "I have something to tell you."
Raising an eyebrow slightly, the Watchman nonetheless removed his hand from his sword. Her anger was obvious, but he sensed nothing malicious in her intent. He knew, and he suspected that she knew too, that she was at somewhat less than full strength, and that the towering Immortal would be able to easily overpower her in combat.
Returning to his seat, he lowered himself back into it and gestured to the other, across the table from him. "Sit, then. And speak."
Giving him a somewhat suspicious look, Jane nonetheless complied, the fire fading from her eyes as she slumped into the hard wooden chair and fixed her tired gaze on him, her voice weary and ragged.
"Leave me alone... and leave Kat alone too... I've had enough of this grand destiny bullshit."
The Watchman leaned back slightly in his own seat, considering his words as carefully as ever. "Destiny is not something I have any hand in, young one."
"You know what I mean!" Jane spat back. "If it wasn't for you, none of this crap would have happened! You could have stopped the Master yourself! Why did I have to do it? Why is it always ME?"
Jane paused for a moment and hauled in a breath before continuing. "Without you things would be different... without you...", she slumped slightly "I would still have some chance to be happy..."
The sound of the Watchman's voice snapped her gaze back to him. "Kathryn."
"Damn right! Maybe I'm not blameless there, maybe I made the wrong decisions in some of the situations... but without you none of those situations would ever have happened! I wouldn't have had to be blameless or perfect!" Turning away slightly, her voice dropped again, tears brimming at the corners of her eyes. "If it wasn't for all the shit you caused me, I might still have the only person I've ever really loved... your petty machinations have destroyed any reason I have to keep going."
Jane's fist slammed hard into the table, the sound echoing loudly off the high stone walls. " I don't hate her for what she did, but I'll be damned before I see you ruin her life too! Butt the hell out and leave both of us the hell alone!"
His preternatural calm entirely undisturbed, the ancient Immortal leant forward again, long fingers intertwining with surprising grace for a man of his impressive size as he spoke, dark eyes unreadable.
"There are things you were never informed of, but perhaps they were not adequate reasons for directing you as we did. Some things, however, must remain secrets, and these are such things."
Pausing for a moment, the Watchman stood, his gaze sweeping the cavernous Hall before returning to Jane. "Your request, however, is valid."
Jane blinked at this and tilted her head curiously, evidently somewhat surprised.
"I release you, then, from the Duty of the Immortals which was so rudely forced upon you. I release you from the protections that the Duty affords and the weights that it incurs. I release you to live your life as you wish, the way it should always have been if not for the dastardly ambition of the Master."
Moving silently around the table, he extended a hand to Jane. "To reach this place, you crossed the Desert unaided, a feat no-one has achieved since time immemorial. Your road home, however, I can aid."
After a moment's hesitation, Jane nodded and took the hand, allowing him to guide her along the metal stairs and walkways, stopping before the door to Primal Earth.
"If it aids your conscience, I do not believe that your relationship with Kathryn is irrevocably damaged. It will take time, it will take effort, but I believe that she might be won over once more. You have my apologies for dragging you into these events, and you have this, to represent the covenant that I will not do so again."
Reaching into a deep pocket, the Watchman withdrew another stone, this one two-coloured, black with the engraved red wings on one side, and white with the blue phoenix engraved on the other. Jane glanced over it and pocketed it as the door swung open, stepping into the glaring blue tunnel beyond as the Watchman's final words echoed around her.
"Should you require my aid, however, young Phoenix, you need only ask."
The door slammed behind her and Jane stumbled into her hotel room, collapsing onto the bed and instantly falling into an exhausted sleep.
"Jane is a con artist. A thief. A liar. A smooth-talking criminal genius with a penchant for the dramatic. I just tend to forget it thanks to the Kheldian." - Shadowe