#xpressurself, Part 1



Scene Title #xpressurself, Part 1
Synopsis A pro-expressive rally outside of the Safe Zone turns deadly.
Date October 23, 2020

It started with a man made of fire.

Blue fire and eyes that blaze white survey the earth, descending from the skies to the campgrounds below. The campground looked deserted and he lands with a soft thud and his form reverts back to his human form, though he has no clothes on. As he looks around the sounds of a couple of cars can be seen and a pickup and vintage muscle car pull up to the scene.

Out pops a handful of people, one woman simply materializes into existence on the hood of the car when she was previously sitting in the backseat. A dark haired man slams the door and rounds on her with his fist raised, electricity crackles around his fist but the woman looks unphased, tossing a blanket to the man who was previously made up of fire.

It's hard to make out what they're saying, but Jeremiah Duke can tell that these people were a rowdy bunch. The child crouches, hidden in nearby bushes with wide eyes at the arc of lightning, but before any fights can properly break out, two women exit the muscle car. One a platinum blonde darker skinned woman and the other was as pale as a vampire, or a witch. The woman with wild dark hair places a hand on the man's shoulder and once her crack of laughter echoes over to Jeremiah, he gasps and begins to run back towards the direction of his house. Everyone's laughter follows the boy as he runs almost as if they are all taunting him, though they had no way of knowing he was there.

Jeremiah had learned how to be very quiet.

Midway, the child leaps into the air and flies above the trees, arms spread out like a bird, he flaps his wings and caws at the sky. It's only a few minutes before he angles downward and lands in a tuft of dust, "Boy, I just put the clothes out to hang! I told you about landing and causing such a mess!" Before the cloud of dust can blow over to a nearby full clothesline, a gust of wind blows it back and it surrounds the boy, who coughs and waves at his face.

The boy’s mother, Doris Duke, waves a finger at the boy with a small smile on her face. She's trying not to laugh. The wind changes and the dust slides off the boy and off into the trees around them. She's leaning against their battered trailer, having a cigarette which she puts out in a cup full of old finished ones. "What's got you flying in all crazy anyway?" Clearly amused as her son's enthusiasm about something.

"Momma, she—"

"What the hell is going on here?" A pair of feet can be heard touching down behind the mother and child. Bruce Duke stares at his family and then his gaze centers on their boy. He drops a brown sack onto the ground. It's bloody. Dinner.

"Jeremiah flew in like he's seen a ghost. I was just asking—"

"Momma. Daddy." The boy shouts over them both and they stop and turn back to look at their son with eyebrows raised, "That lady from the TV, from the news, she's here!"

Two Days Later…

Cheesequake State Park
Old Bridge Township
New Jersey Pine Barrens

October 23rd
6:12 pm

Cheesequake State Park — which is pronounced exactly like you’d think — lies on the northernmost edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens on the coast of Old Bridge Township. The region was once a tourist attraction, long before the civil war, but was one of many locations in New Jersey evacuated due to the radioactive fallout from the 2006 nuclear explosion in Midtown. As a community, Cheesequake laid abandoned for five years before the civil war had even begun and even though the radiation had cleared before the war started, the area was largely unpopulated until the flood of refugees from war-torn New York began to spill through New Jersey.

For a time, Cheesequake State Park was home to refugee camps, but as New York burned and the fighting intensified, refugees fled further inland, leaving little behind in their wake save for the emotional echoes of tragedy that haunt this small park. For the last few days, however, the ghosts of traumas past have stayed quiet.

Music throbs through the treeline. Tents flood the forested park and crowd the sandy beach around Hook Creek Lake at the park’s center where an enormous bonfire has blazed for two whole days. Cars are parked all around the campground, music blaring out of propped open doors. Festival goers with barbecues cook off the tailgates of trucks, cheers and howls echo into the night air, and it all has the energy of a drug-fueled Burning Man experience.

The party atmosphere fueled by Eve Mas’ celebrity is collected into three major hotspots. The makeshift stage atop a large white van that once belonged to a now defunct cable company, the bonfire roaring on the beach, and the sharing circle where a dozen or so people are gathered, sharing their respective abilities amid twice as many onlookers cheering and filming on their cell phones.

It’s a celebration, to be certain. One far away from the eyes of any organized law enforcement’s ability to break up the unlicensed party.

Far enough away where the screams of celebration are swallowed by the surrounding wood.

Like any noise would be.

Cheesequake State Park
The Stage

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The music had started last night and there didn't seem to be any stop coming to it anytime soon. A large van which was serving as the main sound system had arrived just after Eve, Poppy and the young woman's Expressive friends because there was always a van or three at functions like this.

There were so many cars parked haphazardly, no regard for any sort of parking enforcement which was easy to expect seeing as they were all in the middle of nature, Mother Earth some types around here could be here whispering or shouting while toking, drinking, singing, you name it. While there were no official stages like there were at Woodstock, the roofs of the cars become the place that the people gathered here express. The word has been thrown around all morning.

"Nice expressing!"

"Wow dude, heavy express in the building!"

"It was in that moment I just knew… I had to express myself. I had to be me!"

There's a smattering of applause for the young mousy woman that speaks from the car but she's aided by a man with abilities in the realm of sound allowing her voice to carry. "Thank you!" There's a wild amount of cheering from the crowd. Several hundred strong. A mix of Expressives and Non-Expressive are here, celebrating together.

Almost everyone.

Just beyond the thin tree line is a group of loud protesters. Signs like: Keep Americans Human! and Ghostnet gives you cancer! Can be seen as the angry group shouts and jeers at the people celebrating just feet away from them. The type of people who would take up their guns to defend their homes from "freaks" if necessary.

Just near the end of the crowd of people a young woman comes out of the trees. There's no sign of vehicle behind her so she must have hiked. She passes the gas generator that rattles in her wake, a head of shocking white hair tied into a loose ponytail. Hazel eyes take in the people gathered and she wraps an arm around her middle and shivers, "Chilly." Which was strange to hear her since she was walking pass a bonfire and a group of people surrounding it.

The van that's the loudest and "stage" of the event with Poppy manning a DJ booth on it has another black, nondescript van parked not too far behind it. There's a wall of sheets lined around the van and within that space the Agents of Boom and their friends are huddled. Eve smokes the end of a joint with her eyebrows up as she looks from her friends faces, "Well! It's more people than I thought!" She looks nervous in this moment, she had been back here for the last few hours. Pacing and talking, mostly pacing and then talking at the trees when her friends were busy. This was a very important day.

Her dark red dress falls to her knees in uneven lengths and her face is painted with dark eyeshadow and a dark lip, there's a line of deep red drawn down the middle of both her lips, the end of the joint was coated in lipstick. There were other joints around the area if anyone wanted their own. Eve plops down in the back of the van, her leg bumping into one of the open doors. "It'll be alright." She says to herself.

It would be alright.

Someone is making multicolored letters float in the air above everyone spelling out: Xpress Yourself <3

"It'll be alright."

Trying to keep a low profile, Chess has made a concentrated effort to make herself look distinctly different from either Lanhua’s familiar image or her own honey-haired look so many had seen in the footage from Detroit. The cold fall weather helps, so she wears a ski cap pulled over a black wig, her usually scant makeup done more heavily and more severely than she usually wears it.

Her leather jacket’s loaded with bits and bobs to throw should she need to. She really hopes she doesn’t need to. The protesters have her a little nervous, and she rolls a baseball in her palm while one booted foot bounces up and down, bouncing the “tailgate” of the van she’s perched on. “Eve, calm down. You’re making me nervous and I’m not even doing anything,” she says with a smirk.

The discretionary sheet parts to admit Luther in with a small carrying crate that holds drinks for the Boom group. He's made it out there and back without trouble, probably as he looks like he gives as good as he gets. The only portion of his outfit that might stand out is the beaten up, long black coat that has survived for years. His singed sleeves and bullet holes are genuine.

Luther's exhaled sigh comes off more bothered by the little things than he is about the whole concept of the Burning Man vibes plus superpowers (plus several factors that are sure to make alphabet government agencies itch). Little things like the littering. What to expect of the safety and hydration tents. "Yeah let's just," he says and pauses with the sounds of distant whooping, "chalk it up to already way better than a skirmish." For now, anyway.

Asi's wearing a jacket she's not worn out since the rave last year. It had taken a lot to doff her armor, metaphorically and otherwise, but she stands by Eve's side with a hand on her shoulder. Around her neck hangs a black mask, with currently-indistinct glow-in-the-dark paint visible in the pool of it around her collar.

She knows, some way or another, this all will go wrong. The government was on Eve's trail like they were paparazzi.

All this, it's going to be temporary. Ephemeral. But they'd make the best of it while it lasted.

"You've been building up to this for months," Asi encourages the former seer with a squeeze of her shoulder. "It's time to grab the moment before it passes you by, Eve." They'd watch over her in the meantime, support her how they could.

At least this party came with the expectation of things getting wild, of an eventual break and run away from the cops before they could pin ID. It made it, for all the nerves induced by the anticipation of it, an exciting experience.


Hailey’s shriek of pride as she throws her arms up in the air, full triumph. Expressing herself. The cacophony of wildlife in the woods, cheering along in their various voices, can only be heard by the protestors. Though a few of the braver ones venture out to join the young blond on the top of her van. Raptor birds swoop over the crowds, gliding over heads before landing back in trees over yonder. She’s sure the Jersey Devil himself would be there if he was near enough.

She’s 21 now, so the beer in the back is totally legal and she’s not sharing. Or driving any more. She’d tried to convince Juniper to come out as well but the older LHK had said something about bakeries, early mornings, and a crumpet or croissant… maybe a muffin. Hailey wasn’t really listening.

Besides Hailey, Lily snickers into her hand and holds what has to be a joint between two fingers, the ends smoking and she's grinning widely at her sister. Joining in on the shrieks with her own and jumping up and down. "Xpress yourself! Love yourself! Love one another!" After taking a puff of the joint and blowing the smoke up into the sky she cranes her neck around the people. "Do you think there's any kombucha?"

“Why would you want that crap?” a voice suddenly says from behind Lily. It’s a voice Hailey and Lily both recognize, even if it’s one they haven’t heard in a while. Paul hasn’t shown his face in the Safe Zone in well over a year, though apparently Chimo has seen him around a few times to verify that he wasn’t somewhere dead in a ditch or something. He looks much the same as he did the last time they’d seen him. He hasn’t grown that much. He’s still shorter than Lily, but taller than Hailey— though not by much. He’s always been a little on the short and stocky side.

“It’s super gross. Like yuck.” Kombucha. He makes a face. After a moment he grins, winking, “I shouldn’t be surprised to see the two of you. Anyone else come? Do we have a big family reunion in the middle of Eveapalooza?” Cause that’s what he’s calling it. “The years have been good to you two.”

When Warren was told about some sort of show, at least that's how he heard it, he wore a bitchin' red leather jacket with a pair of blue jeans and biker boots. For a shirt he wears a simple dark grey Megadeth shirt. "Are you having fun?" he asks Eve, having not used his ability in a while. He's seemed exceptionally sane lately, as it's nearing the end of the month.

He's holding a box of Godiva in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other, periodically holding one or the other out to Eve as she needs it.

Magnes is standing on thin air on the same level as the van roof, watching Hailey, Lily, and Paul. He's in some simple blue jeans, a skateboard pressed against his sneakers despite the lack of ground under it, with his white Flaming Lips t-shirt on. "You doing okay there, Hailey?" he asks, dadding and being uncool, but he's trying his best to relax even though he's defaulting to guardian instinctively.

Brynn is hovering near enough her siblings to be considered part of the group but out of the way of Lily's smoke and definitely not drinking. The fact that there are way more people here than she is comfortable with is making her wish she'd not let Hailey and Lily talk her into 'having fun!' out in the wilds of the park here. Doodlebug sticks close to her left leg, and the deaf young woman is watching the crowd ebb and flow in fascination.

There's an electricity, an energy, in the air of a crowd like this — she hasn't decided if she likes it or not. And when people are throwing music into the mix, she can feel that thumping through the soles of her feet at least. Gray eyes are watchful, though, and her attention on people's faces is sometimes more intent than it maybe ought to be in a place like this. The artist in her wants to sketch the people around her, but this is neither the time nor the place so she settles for trying to memorize what she's seeing. She waves at Paul — hasn't seen him in ages!

Cheesequake State Park
The Beach Bonfire

ava_icon.gif barbara_icon.gif castle_icon.gif emmie_icon.gif ignacio_icon.gif jen_icon.gif marlowe_icon.gif roxie_icon.gif zain_icon.gif

Out on the beach early-arrival festival goers erected a massive bonfire out of stacked timbers some twelve feet high arranged in a cone. The flames from the bonfire roar up some fifteen to twenty feet in the air. The whole ring is dug into the sand of the beach and surrounded by rocks pulled up from the woods. People lay out on blankets around the fire, others dance as black silhouettes against the lambent glow of the crackling flame.

It’s been a day since the bonfire started and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. There’s a primal — in the literal sense — energy about it. About dancing around the flames, about embracing a sense of camaraderie and community even as media and a handful of protesters linger on the other side of the festival to take verbal pot-shots at Eve.

A modest group of reporters and cameramen, mostly from independent networks from Albany New York stand on the far perimeter of the bonfire, ready to report anything of note which to be honest there's been a lot to report. Most of them have taken to interviewing attendees and filming people dancing.

Near the bonfire there’s a man? In a long white poncho with tassels on it that looks very much like he’s stepped out of a hippie movie, dancing a little with a pair of headphones hanging around his neck as he moves around the crowd. A woman stands nearby, standing out from many of the others by the way she’s wearing a nice pants suit and not partaking in any of the drinks or drugs and avoiding showing off any abilities at all. Sommerfield watches them with a quiet eye, but that isn’t one of distaste, but she’s definitely not pleased at the sight of her partner for the moment.

Moving closer, Castle dances near her, “You are standing out so much— why didn’t you wear something like what I’m wearing. It’s very comfortable. You should feel it. It’s soft, see, very soft.” An arm raises to present the soft fabric toward her, but she just looks at it with a raised eyebrow. “Come on, feel it~”

“Act your bloody age, Castle,” Sommerfield says in her posh British accent.

“I am acting my age,” the reveler feigns insult. “You should be blending in. Some secret agent you are.” With a swish of hips, Castle moves back toward the bonfire.

One woman stares into the bonfire, almost entranced as the flecks of flame rise and fall, dance to and fro in front of her. Hoodie pulled up over her head, her face is mostly hidden save for the red hair that spills out from one side of her hood. It's a familiar and almost nostalgic feeling for Barbara Zimmerman, only tempered by the presence of the growing event around her. She hadn't been planning on coming out to anything like this any time soon; in truth, she should be at home packing. Days away from finally leaving New York for good, and yet, she finds herself here.

Maybe it's that feeling of warm nostalgia that she revels in now as the orange glow frames her face against the dark. Finding something comfortable and familiar in the many months since the passing of her mother and sister had been hard. This? This was somehow easy, even if it means tuning out most of the world around her for a little bit.

Smoke, there’s smoke everywhere. Ridiculously, it’s around the bonfire where there’s the least of it. At the edge of the firelight is where Zain stands, shivering from the cold, in a bright red parka. It’s what he was wearing when he received the message to be here. His assistant had mentioned a rare piece of Americana from some Jersey hillbilly. Americana, code for a live missile. When he got here to collect it, he’d found all of these people, ruining his deal. At the moment, Zain is too… angry(?)… is a word. Not one that he uses too often.

It’ll be at least another 3 hours before his chauffeur comes back to fetch him.

The collector gazes longingly at the flame but dare not step closer to the fire. There’s a man wearing a white poncho monstrosity, gyrating about, and is sure to push someone in. Zain is not quite sure of his own lack of combustibility. Hair products, layers of fabric, those things keep him from enjoying the heat. So he suffers and shivers, folding his arms over his chest to hug himself a little tighter.

“Go. Away.” He warns a young woman dancing a little too close. She has one of those little cigarettes between her fingers. He’s fairly certain it’s the dope and he doesn’t want that scent on him.

Stupid party.

A young woman with shocking white hair stands not too far from the bonfire with arms wrapped around herself, hazel eyes stare into the flames and then occasionally flick to the flamboyant Castle. Maybe he's just loud and distracting. Dressed completely in black she wraps her arms around herself and shivers as if the fire isn't there. "Cold…" Whispering while standing near Barbara.

The woman does a slow turn to look at the other woman.

The bonfire space feels oddly enough like the most comfortable place to be. The woman with old boots bound together seemingly by the root growth they're encased in sits with her forearms folded against her knees, watching the fire. Ava Selinger had heard about this event and cautiously agreed to accompany a young Park Slope resident out here so she would not be alone.

Nevermind that she was having a great time, apparently, off elsewhere. Ava would remain, a base to touch back to, surrounded by more people than she ever thought she'd care to be.

But it's nice when they don't pry— when the only concern is having a good time. It's a strange vibe, and a good number of people here follow lifestyles vastly different to her own, or any she'd choose for herself— but there's something to be said for how refreshing this is.

Ava pushes herself to her feet to draw closer to the fire, hands lifting slightly to warm her gloved palms against the dancing flame. She eyes the hunger of it, of how much is left. They'll need to grab some more fuel for it soon.

Situated just outside of the bonfire light and AWAY from the fucking reporters and the stage, a young woman sits by herself…. Well, not entirely…. A dog lays next to her chewing on the edge of a stick he snagged from the pile of extra wood. There is a big ball of anxiety twisting at her stomach, making her a bit nauseous… which she tries to contain by hugging her knees to her chest. She watches the silhouettes dancing around the fire from the depths of her hoodie, which she gives a bit more of a tug down when someone passes her, as if saying ‘don’t look at me.’

“Why did I let Joaquin fucking talk me into this,” Roxie asks the dog miserably, “Knew I shoulda fucking forced him to come with me.”

Have fun. Many good smells. Many snacks. The dog’s thoughts are always so simple, not wrapped into the complexity of human emotions. Funny people. But beware the ones with fleas. he advises in reference to the people dancing around the fire. Fleas are not fun. Roxie has to smother a snorting laugh against her knees.

"You go away, with your sexy ass." Jen says as she dances around the bonfire with marijuana in one hand and a cigarette in the other, wearing a tanktop with beads that she's mysteriously acquired around her neck. She's got a satchel full of liquor and wine bottles against her neon rainbow skirt, and a simple pair of neon green party sandals.

She walks up closer to Zain as she stops dancing, choosing to rest the cigarette in her mouth to grab a bottle of Bacardi Bahama Mama. "You want a drink? You seem a little stick up your assy to be at a party. But I can fix that. You can't have my cigarettes but you can have a drink. You might get weed if you relax."

She crouches down, inhaling her cigarette as she gets a good look at Zain's eyes. "I love your hair."

Nacho is here. Somewhere. Well, it’s a party, right? It’s supposed to be fun! And he is currently having some fun, or at least doing a very good impression of it if he’s not. He’s on the beach near the bonfire, and there’s a bottle somewhere that he had been drinking, but it’s been given up in favor of dancing with a girl he may or may not have just met but is getting pretty close for a virtual stranger.

But that’s part of the fun, too.

He’s probably a little drunk, judging from his demeanor, but he’s not stumbling or falling over or anything like that. Judging from his current partner’s reaction to whatever he’s saying to her, too, he’s either articulate for a drunk, or she’s drunk enough not to care.

Let's settle for a bit of both, because the dance partner Nacho is dancing with is a bit of both. Marlowe has taken the message of the evening gathering to heart. She's out here, away from the confines of a high-responsibility position, busting a move that just shows how much of a partying mood she can get into. Plus, she wouldn't have missed this opportunity to be a part of Expressive Woodstock. They didn't have this at home. Imagine the conniptions the Japanese government would have!

"What was that?" Marlowe asks, leaning in closer the better to hear him, but whether or not she hears him, she's smiling, laughing, in a good mood in general. She came to party, and party she shall. All the better if there's a cute dance partner to do so with.

Cheesequake State Park
The “Sharing Circle”

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Many cars opted not to stop at the parking lot, having pulled up onto the grass between the parking lot and the beach. In the two days of the festival this area has become informally known as the Sharing Circle, owing to the ring of cars facing inward with their headlights on, creating a brightly lit makeshift performance area where people can show off their abilities to others. Outside the ring of cars, smaller conversations of newly manifested youths carry on into the night.

A pair of twins, boys with red hair dance on top of their van just outside the circle. One covered in ice and the other in fire. A few feet away a woman hovers in the air and grins as the people below her grin and clap. A short girl with curly hair sits in a circle of people with her back against a tree. She's waiting for something, her finger held up high. She sneezes loudly and as she does her whole body shakes and the ground around her does as well, a light tremor that makes the group oooo and aaaaa. The girl opens her eyes and looks impressed with herself. "You should see what happens when I burp!"

This is wild. That's all Robyn Roux can think as she watches one person after another step forward to show off exactly what they can do. Once upon a time, something like this had been mostly a pipe dream for her. Sure, rallies happened where people showed off what they could do - she had been to more than a few herself back in the day. More often than not, though, those would turn to violence at the slightest provocation.

To have these people gathered happily and freely, creating an impromptu evolved talent show with no violence or repercussions or tension readily waiting for them? This was what progress looked like.

And it felt good.

The SESA agent doesn't dare go near the stage, not quite yet. With Eve's public status it behooves her not to yet be seen so close to her friend so for the moment, she supports her from afar. And for right now, that means keeping an eye on the sharing circle.

She's not alone, of course. A more or less identical woman sits next to Robyn, though while she's dressed in a long skirt, leggings, and hoodie that's pulled up to help her remain undercover, the duplicate wears a rainbow striped shirt with leggings to match, shorts, and a similarly rainbow emblazoned hairband in her hair - clearly what Robyn may have intended on wearing originally. Also clearly a bit of an Intended distraction.

Unlike some, Cassandra is here because it was something different to do and is notably not drunk. Something out of the city, in the wilderness. Somewhere that wasn’t enclosed or ruined or filled with shrapnel and the screams of thousands of dead ghosts. This place, wild as it was, could be considered quiet for someone like her. Nature doesn’t leave echoes like people do on objects, and her ability, interesting as it is, isn’t nearly as flashy as some of the ones being shown off.

Sure, she has her blindfold and a couple of interesting objects to share if the mood strikes her, but for now, with her backpack, sidearm, and a bottle of water, Cassandra sits on the hood of a battered Chevy Caprice and just watches the show. If she had a cigarette, it might look more in place but, dressed warmly for the weather in long pants, hiking boots, and a long sleeved shirt with a jacket over it all, she feels, for the first time, in just the right place.

It was at Eve’s prompting that Cassandra made the trip. Badgering, really. Finally, her defenses buckled and she assented to come if she could get things tamped down and, you know what? She was able to. Her bakery was doing well, and the bags of bread that she brought up with her were quickly distributed, with a couple stuffed in her backpack for snacking and sharing as the night went on. After all, a woman does not live by bread alone - there are cookies for the kids according to the little sign propped against her foot..if they dare sneak close enough to ask.

The sound of the music in the distance creates enough of an ambient beat that Seren sways to it on the edge of the so-called Sharing Circle. They've got their arms folded tightly across their chest, watching with wide-eyed wonder what everyone else is doing.

They've never seen so many Expressives gathered together in their entire life. This— this is a once in a lifetime experience.

Alone, they stand uncertain of how to interject themself at all into it, knowing no one. But the music is nice, and they sway to that, charting the path of it mentally.

They're not sure when floating neon musical notes began to materialize near their head, but a girl standing nearby them takes note of it and grabs them by the shoulder. "Oh my god," she glees excitedly. "Is it you? Are you the one doing that?" Momentarily overwhelmed but quickly recovering, Seren nods sheepishly. The girl nudges them on toward the circle. "It's so pretty! You should show off, girl!"

They're a little too overwhelmed to fight her or correct her, taking a step forward into the ring of headlights. Their arms awkwardly come unstuck from their sides as they look to and fro, hesitation in the silver gleam of their eyes. An encouraging whoop rises from those on the sidelines, encouragement shown like it has for almost every other person who's gone as far as stepping into the circle directly. With a nervous huff and a distinct absence of glowing notes around them, Seren lowers their gaze down near their feet, eyes on their converse and the black jeans they're wearing.

"C'mon, Baird," they murmur at the split of their shadow. "Let's play."

It's not Baird who emerges from their shadow, but their eyes shine in delight anyway. A wolfish creature— a coyote parts from the darkness of them, black as night and dotted with gleaming, pastel starlight. "Coyotl!" Seren laughs. Of course it wasn't like him to miss a party, to miss a dance. "Oh my god, it's so good to see you!" There's nothing but joy in them as they excitedly circle around the coyote, and it in turn circles around them, jumping in excitement. Streams of light follow in his wake, like comet trails. The aura around Seren shifts, starry dots appearing in a field and pulsing different neon shades along with shifts in the music.

They dance and laugh and spin in circles, and the unreal phantom of their imaginary friend jumps and dances along with them, leaving behind glowing pawprints on the ground.

Cheesequake State Park
The Stage

"Right right! My nerves, nerves," While Warren has been seemingly sane Eve is hanging on as usual by a thread. It's the weight of her friends' support that makes her lift her head and toke from the joint.

This was a moment. Such an important moment. For all of them. They had already "come out" years ago but it felt like something new now, a resurgence. Renewing their vows to the world. Yes we are Expressive and yes we are proud, bitches. As if she's finally made up her mind Eve hops to her feet and looks around to her friends backstage, "Well, see ya in a few!" Kissing Warren on the cheek and steals a chocolate, popping it into her mouth with wide eyes and a wink. "Mmmm caramel."

The woman poofs out of existence and the red fog that hangs in the space that she was occupying, recedes into itself to stop from accidentally draining her friends with difficulty, as the crimson tendrils of smoke and fog contract and curl in on themselves in a recurring loop.

The music from the main van stops as Poppy notices Eve's arrival in motion, "People! Allies! Expressives! Family!" Each word is cheered upon by the crowd as whoever the Expressive with the audiokinetic abilities in the crowd continues to lend his talents to extend whoever is speaking on top of that van's voice across the gathering. "We are here because we were called together to celebrate to Xpress and baby that's what we're doing tonight am I right?"

"Hell yea!!"

"Where's Eve!?"

"Where's the Herald?"

Poppy's eyes narrow at the last title, a nickname she worries will do sillier things than usual to Eve's head but she smiles despite that look, "Yes yes, she is here. Totally her unnatural self. Ladies and Gents, the one and only Eveeeee Mas!"

The crowd of people erupts in cheers and claps while the blood red cloud that is Eve is noticed in the sky above them, a few people point and one woman screams and covers her face with hands covered in metal. Slowly the cloud sprinkles down to the van where Poppy stands though the younger woman toes the very edge of the roof weary of being caught in Eve. It spirals faster and faster, the tip of a crimson tendril touching the roof and it's as if that small point is the anchor that pulls the cloud down.

The shape of a woman fades into existence and at first it's just a mouth and row of pearly white teeth bared in a wide grin, her eyes and nose push through the fog next and the crowd goes wild. As the rest of Eve's form steps forward or punches forward into the air, she shrieks with laughter and waves at everyone. "Hellloooo my brothers and sisters, my family! Well!" Taking a look around at everyone gathered.

"We fucking did it!"

Another brief burst of applause before Eve waves her hands in the air. "Okay okay you rowdy ducks! Quack Quack! I know the people watching at home just think we're here to get high and potentially naked-"

"Damn right!"

"But, that is not the only reason we gather. Yes, celebration but the why is the best reason of all." A sly smile and her red eyes buzz in her sockets with excitement, "In recent days we have seen an influx of our kind born into this world. A woman who leaps and learns she can touch the clouds. The young man who moves his body and the very elements responds in kind," The way she speaks with not just her words but her body is as animated as ever. "While this world may not be perfect, nor any of the people who love here… let us commit to something today."

For some, Eve is a terrorist who got off with no consequences and is gearing up for a second run at tearing down all of society around her. For others, she is a mystic, a woman who is unafraid to go there. For many others, she was a fucking loony toon.

"The gifts that we have been given? Use them. Bury yourself in that which makes you who you are and use all of that to better this place. Correct a dangerous road, quell the storms, ease a weary mind, all of these things are within our grasps. Remember my darlings, we can only get through this thing called life together heh. So if you could also commit to no squabbling." This coming from Eve is highly ironic.

"Let us express our gifts in harmony, protect yourself but don't hunt the ones that hunt us. It is beneath us! We are one family! We are not savages, we are not the animals the people of the world claim us to be!"


"Enjoy yourselves, let loose, make noise…. make a ruckus so loud that any person can feel you in their bones and their teeth. We won't be silenced, we will live looudddddd and proud!!"

The music blares back in and Eve throws her hands up and does a twirl in place, the crowd claps and whistles, cheers and begins to dance and celebrate again. The dark haired woman is lost for a moment in it all, eyes to the sky and arms out reaching as if for a hug.


A trio of men enter the parking lot from a point of view occluded from view by several of the parked cars. One of them carries a cooler with a slouch of his shoulders that makes it look heavy, another carries a rolled up carpet over his shoulder and is smoking a cigarette, the third has a collapsible camp chair over each shoulder. They’re dressed casually, dressed to party — and that’s what this is. It’s a party.

They move through the parking lot with a brisk pace, headed down in the direction of the beach, keeping to the periphery of the larger crowds so as to not get slowed down. But they aren’t the only newcomers around. Coming up the trail from the road, Rhys Bluthner is in disguise, by which he’s wearing an outfit that was off the rack and involves a hood. Her slouches against his own drab style in a gray hoodie, hair matted down by the head-covering. It does well enough to cover his ear-piece though.

“She’s here.” Rhys says quietly, watching Eve from a distance amid the rest of the crowd, keeping her in his peripheral vision so she doesn’t get a good look at him amid the rest of the chaos.

“Let’s give it a minute before we move in.” Rhys says quietly into the concealed mic. “There’s a lot of powers moving around here.” And far too many people for him to engage his ability.

Once Eve begins to disperse, Asi looks up between Luther and Chess, issuing a stiff nod between them. She hoists the mask around her neck up over the bottom half of her face, displaying fully the cartoonist, stylised grin painted on the black of the fabric. Once it's secured, she tips her head to the side, glancing finally to Warren. She knows little of him, never is sure how to react to him.

"Let's go support her," she says anyway, and then heads beyond the hanging partition and into the crowd. On her way out, she checks into a younger man passing by on accident, shoulder colliding with his.

He whips around to look back at Asi with a bewildered expression, and she holds up a hand to indicate it was an accident, mundane brown eyes calm over the top of her mask. The thin-faced boy in the hoodie studies her for a moment in tension before he grins, nodding at her. "Yeah, no worries," he agrees, adjusting the strap of the backpack he carries with him.

"C'mon, Ev." Another boy with darker hair is waving an arm for his friend to join him, brow furrowed. "Let's check out a spot over there?" Because here wasn't the best one, apparently. The young man, Ev, just nods and turns away to twist through the crowd.

Asi watches them go with a lingering look, then turns her attention up to listen to Eve. The boy was right, here didn't provide the best view, even if listening were easier. So she presses to a position in the parking lot just slightly further back to both give her a better vantage of the 'stage' and of the crowd itself.

“Brynn!” Paul yells, even if he knows the girl can’t actually hear him. He’s gesturing as he does it, using the sign for her name as he moves closer and pulls her into a hug. “You got taller, when did that happen?” he asks, speaking outloud and signing at the same time for her, looking back and grinning at the other two ladies who were definitely not his sisters. Not really. Only sort of. They were all almost teenagers when they met so he doesn’t think it counts. “Puberty was nice to you too,” he signs at Brynn before winking at her, looking up at the stage and raising an eyebrow.

“Anyone else think Eve looks like a totally different person than we used to know when we were kids? Just me?” He keeps signing as he speaks, cause while he’s a flirty little shit, he’s still polite to his friend who can’t hear. He doesn’t seem to expect an answer, but he’s grateful to see his friends around. And Magnes. Who being alive isn’t really a surprise cause, well, Paul’s been living in Providence. He’s seen things. And Magnes.

He points up at the flying man, continuing to sign as he speaks. “He’s my ride.” Cause he was.

"I'm fine, Magnes," Hailey groans. "I'm an adult now. Twenty-one and okay to drink, remember?!" She might need Magnes to drive home though, she's got a whole six pack and isn't planning to populate the lanthorn fridge with any of them. She leans back in a catlike arch as she finishes guzzling brewsky numero uno. When she whips back up to a straight posture, the can is crushed in her mitt and tossed off the side.

"PAUL!!" Hailey whoops a greeting and jumps off the top of the van to join him and Brynn. Her strong arms (she has biceps) wrap around both their necks and wrestle them into a hug. "How's farm life?" Isn't that what Chimo said? He lived on a farm or something? “Lily!! Stop thinking about your dog penis water and get down here! It’s PAUL!!”

The hug bestowed on Paul by Brynn is actually quite a tight one. And then there's a Hailey leaping down on their heads, which brings a lot of squirming because she can't see a dang thing! When she comes up for air, all ruffled thanks to the kamikaze attack-hug, the deaf young woman is grinning. Definitely an improvement over the apprehension of a few moments ago. Paul, I didn't think I was ever going to see you! She is not going up to Providence anytime soon, after all. Chimo said you were somewhere up north of here or something. Do you like it? How come you haven't come visiting?!

"Paul!" Lily is just as surprised to see him as she is excited but her eyes roll as he does his Paul thing. She seems more present today; it could be the weed ironically. "Well you haven't changed at all. And I'll have you know, the probiotics are very very good for you. Might help your horrible farts." The young woman winks at the man and nudges Hailey and Brynn softly.

As Eve goes on her whole rant the retrocog cheers when appropriate and claps looking at her siblings with excited eyes afterwards.

"Wow! Aunt Eve has really um," she thinks on the word. "She's being so positive! Peace and love guys, that's the way." Lily clasps all their hands and hops up and down. While they had all had some sort of self defense training, some more than others. Lily didn't always seem to enjoy it as much as the others. This was more her jam.

“Showtime,” Chess murmurs to Luther as she plucks up one of the hot drinks he’s so thoughtfully brought for them all. “Knock ’em dead,” she adds to the red cloud as Eve goes off to make her impressive entrance. “Not literally,” she thinks to add. It’s not entirely off brand for the “murder imp” to kill, after all, but it does go against the message she knows the woman hopes to impart tonight.

Glancing at Luther, she tips her head in the direction Asi moves and goes to follow, if a little less eagerly than her oni friend. “You coming?” she asks over her shoulder to both men — she hasn’t said much to Warren, awkwardly recalling the near death at his hands in Detroit, but also the choice he made to spare her.

Once she finds the spot next to Asi in the parking lot, she sips the coffee, her dark eyes on the stage as Eve’s passionate speech is met with cheers and applause. “In hindsight, I probably could have done some hand thrown pyrotechnics for her, but starting a fire would probably be a bad idea,” she asides to Asi wryly.

Warren crouches down and very quickly runs behind Eve, pulling two tubes out to point at his sides. They explode with sparkler, well, sparks, of various calories. He's trying to enhance Eve's aura since she no longer needs snacks. He tries to keep himself hidden behind her actual form.

Really the opposite of Elon Musk in many ways.

"I know you can drink, just be careful." Magnes says as he watches them all hug. He was going to go talk to Brynn, but she seems rather occupied with the hug too, so he just smiles and stays perched on his floating skateboard while watching the stage.

"I can't believe Eve has such a stage presence. Well… I mean I can believe it, I've seen things." Namely, famous Eve in another world. "But it's still surprising."

Luther nods around a short sip of his coffee as well, having chosen to keep his sobriety for the time being. Not that he needs more stimulant. The energy of the crowd gathered only enhances that feel of the powers being let loose in their amazing displays, not to mention the hum of the generators brought along to power all the equipment. Still, it's coffee. He wants more than he needs. He sips.

And he nods slowly in agreement with Eve's pep-speech when it really fires up the people. Loud and proud, she says. He might not do the loud thing right now, but pride, that he already has. "Gotta admit, she really knows how to get the attention," he says to Chess and Asi. The murderimp has always been an expert in that regard, even in the days of the war. His gaze travels away from the Warren-induced pyrotechnics on stage to the dancing, undulating crowd. By force of habit, Luther scans for potential conflicts and unsafe behaviors.

Cheesequake State Park
The Beach Bonfire


Barbara Zimmerman thinks she recognizes one of the men crouched by the fire. He’s in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, dark hair and a five o’clock shadow. But she can’t quite place where she’d seen his face before. It’s good, because Zachary Becker sits somewhere in the middle of the 25 most-wanted fugitives in the United States.

Finishing his cigarette, Zach flicks it into the bonfire and slowly rises to stand. When he spots Roxie there’s a subtle incline of his head to the side, brows creased in consideration, but then his attention is drawn away by the noisy silhouettes of three young men carrying a cooler, a rug, and camping chairs toward the beach.

Zach looks around the bonfire, placing a hand at the small of Jen’s back to gently indicate he’s behind her as he walks through, and starts making his way from the beach in the direction of bright headlights at the sharing circle.

“Castle, where are you going?” the posh British sounding lady in the suit calls out as the poncho wearing one starts to glide away from her in another direction. Toward some of the other dancers, in fact, specifically two that seem to be having a much better time than Emmeline Sommerfield is. Nacho and Marlowe, who seem to have partaken in some of the refreshments.

“If you’re not going to dance with me, I’ll have to find someone who will, Emmie!” Castle jests, swinging his arms until the two revelers find the poncho wearing dancer nearby with the headphones and eye makeup and curly hair and everything. Was this person not even wearing shoes? “Mind if I join you two? My partner for the night is a total bore.”

A bore who looks very, very annoyed. And perhaps if she had been less annoyed at her partner, she might have noticed the most wanted fugitive making his way away from the bonfire.

Zain makes a sour face and visibly recoils from the young woman crouch dancing near him. He's confused about what this is, is she doing the twerk? Then he spots the man with the bottle getting a little too close as he tries to slur something to this female commenting on his hair. "Thank you, I wash it," is his snarky reply. They jostle into him and the dealer is not about to be a part of a three— no wait, they're not called that anymore. Thruple.

Damn it all. This is why one should never travel. Not even for a missile.

"I said go away." The grey haired man practically squeals in high kindergarten. Then he skirts to the left, veers to the right, and serpentines toward some of the people sitting on logs. He doesn't leave the bonfire area, the beachy breeze is at least blowing some of the smoke away.

“Don’t worry about it, mama,” Nacho replies a little bit louder to Marlowe, and with a laugh of his own. Not being heard at loud parties with dancing and general merriment is just another part of the fun. “Nothing I say’s that important. I got other talents.” This is accompanied by a grin, only half-serious. It would probably be a lot more obnoxious if he wasn’t actually a good dancer. As it is, maybe it’s just obnoxious enough to be kind of obnoxiously charming. Only Marlowe can say!

He might have said more, belying the statement that nothing he says is actually that important — or maybe he just likes to talk, who knows. However, before he can, they’re being approached by Castle. “Fine by me,” he replies after a moment with another laugh, “but I gotta defer to my partner.” This being Marlowe, of course. As he lets her answer, though, he looks around to find Emmeline. “Time goes faster when you’re enjoying yourself,” he calls over, very helpfully, but though it’s teasing, it sounds very good-natured. “Just letting you know!”

"Wooooow you're an asshole." Jen unscrews her Bahama Mama with her teeth, since her other hand has a cigarette occupying it, then takes a long shot. Her eyes scan the people present, then squarely focuses on Emmie, heading over to her.

She looks between Emmie and Castle, as if trying to make a decision, then holds her Bahama Mama out to Emmie. "Hey. That old guy's an asshole, so I wanted to come over here and join the sexy club with you and that guy. I've got my liquor sack and weed, so I've got the whole party with me."

She gently shakes her Bahama Mama with her out-stretched hand. "Drink."

Watching the nearby dancers, Ava poorly suppresses a smile on glancing to Marlowe and Nacho, but it's one that fades once the poncho-wearing third joins their two. Her brow lifts, wondering what in the world. Smile vanishing, she looks away quickly in attempt to seem busy with what she's doing.

It's a hard sell. She's here by herself, and in the dusk, it's that much harder to not look just like everyone else, for her well-worn, well-treaded outfit not to look like it should fit in. Her usual deterrence of looking and acting like a hermit is harder pressed to be respected currently.

The man sitting nearby her at the firepit's edge gets up and goes, and there goes Ava's attempt to potentially avoid the prancing reveler dancing with whoever will dance with them. If she knew who the parting man was, she'd likely call upon her ability to assist with skewering him forthwith, but instead she thinks the serious-looking Zachary might have made a decent conversation partner.

Lucky for her, Ava finds another loner, and begins to walk her way. "Mind if I avoid the crowd with you?" she asks Roxie in a raspy voice as she nears. Goober can tell she smells of plants and the outdoors, of fresh earth. In the dim light, Roxie can see the signs of wear on her that indicate a fellow person used to sleeping rough. The older woman with root-bound boots sits down regardless of the answer provided. "I'm not much for dancing," she offers as justification, knees tenting and her hands clapping together somewhere past them while her forearms rest on them.

There is a hint of amusement watching the guy in the poncho prance about or the drunk couple dancing together, but Roxie doesn’t look any closer to wanting to join in… nope. All color washes out of the young woman’s face as she spots a familiar face just beyond the dancers and he was looking right at her. Roxie’s breath catches in her throat as fear twists at her stomach, urging her to huddle further into her hoodie. “Shit shit shit,” she hisses out under her breath, suddenly glad Joaquin wasn't there. Zach wasn't anyone that should be at an event like this.

This meant trouble.

Whatever Roxie’s feeling Goober gets a whiff of it. His furry ginger head snaps up with a wuff’d growl and hackles slowly rise. Bad man?! Protect? He starts to get up to go after whoever it was, until his human snags his collar.

Wait, Roxie tries pushing that idea on him, but Goober just sneezes and tugs on the collar impatiently. “Come on, Goob, will you just….” The young woman is interrupted by the arrival of Ava, her whole body going very still as the other woman sits. Roxie flick a look back over towards Zachary, only to see his retreating back heading for the stage. Not good.

“Ah, fuck, me neither,” Roxie says somewhat distractedly, trying not to loose Zachary in the crowd. “Not much for socializing either… and I’m suddenly really fucking regretting coming. I think it’s about to get fucking rowdy.” Finally, pulling her attention back to the woman, at least she looks apologetic. “I… sorry. It ain’t you. It’s me. I gotta go.” She moves to push herself up off the sand, letting go of the dog's collar.

Goober takes advantage of it, bounding several feet away before stopping looking back at Roxie. The young woman gets up in a crouch and looks back at the woman who’d just sat by her. Twisting on the balls of her feet, Roxie leans closer so she can keep her voice down. “Hey, you seem like a really fucking nice lady. I have a bad feeling something is gonna happen, so you might want to get out of here.”

That quiet warning given, Roxie doesn’t say anything else, only surges the rest of the way to her feet and quickly follows her dog, like she has a flea biting her butt. If she was smart, the canine telepath would run away, but something nags at the back of her mind… Why was he here? So Roxie does the stupid thing and heads for the stage in search for an old colleague of her parents.

Barbara's gaze can't help but linger on the oddly familiar man, the trance of the bonfire finally broken by his presence. Seeing someone familiar and not knowing why is just an accepted part of her life now, and had been for many years. Still, something about him draws her attention longer than most.

And then it fades.

She doesn't make any effort to interact with anyone, not. It's not why she's here. She just wanted to see this madness for herself, see what the people she had fought so hard for would do with their ability to gather like this. A wide smile spreads across her face as she looks around from the fire for the first time in a while, and takes in the sights and sounds around her.

Though something about that face sticks in the back of her mind, gnawing.

Being told not to worry about something normally means Marlowe retreats to worry about it in some other fashion. But not today, not now. Even if it was nearly a year ago that she was an unwilling participant in a very different dance with the same man she's with currently, trapped in a drug-induced fight with Nacho. They might have remembered when they bumped into each other earlier, but that's practically ancient history now.

Now, Nacho's words draw out another crooked grin from the tipsy woman, and her brows lift in genuine curiosity. "Oh really, is that what we're going to call it, other talents?" With a laugh, she shakes her head in a sweep of natural curls twirling, and waves Castle in. Marlowe doesn't skip a beat looking to the newcomer, deciding the more the merrier. "Come on then," she encourages both Nacho and Castle, "show me what you got!" She means dancing.


Cheesequake State Park
The “Sharing Circle”

Zachary Becker’s arrival at the Sharing Circle goes largely unnoticed. He gives a few casual head nods to people not facing the glow of the headlights. He makes his way around the back of a pickup truck full of rowdy college-age kids and slaps the side of the truck to get the attention of one of them.

“Hey,” Zach says with a tip of his chin up, reaching inside the truck to grab a bottle of beer by the neck with two fingers, “you mind if I…”

“S’cool, we brought a shitload. Have a good one!” The man in the bed of the truck says with an enthusiastic thumbs up as Zach withdraws the bottle from the cooler, ice sliding down the side. He twists off the top and squats down beside the truck, taking a swig from the beer while resting his backpack down beside himself. Zach scans the crowd. Looks clear.

Here in the shadow of the truck with all eyes on the bright lights and activity of the sharing circle, Zach has a moment to work. Setting his beer on the ground, he quickly unzips his bag and removes something boxy covered in the black plastic of a household garbage bag, bound in duct-tape. The bundle is placed in the rear wheel well of the truck, and Zach is quick to retrieve his beer and bag and move away from the vehicle, scanning the area for another good place to hunker down for a moment.

There's someone watching him, he realizes suddenly.

Someone alone, like himself, traveling in darker clothes, like himself. With a backpack, like himself. With eyes just as sharp as his, which gleam in the headlight as he looks over his shoulder to see if anyone else saw that, or if it was just him.

Then the young man in the hoodie begins walking Zach’s way.

The sound of static and a hissing noise can be heard among the Sharing Circle over the music and conversations as a young man raises his hand and shoots out bolts of electricity into the sky. A bunch of cheers ring out and he smiles, proud of himself.

The twin dancers of opposing elements move faster, their movements like a blur of red or blue. A young woman stands transfixed, staring upwards in the front of the crowd. Dark brown hair pulled into a tight ponytail while loose strands frame her face and doe brown eyes. She's done her best to ignore Poppy over at the main staging area, though she finds herself in that moment wanting to stand near someone who understood her, like her sister did.


Eyes lift from the spectacle before her and Celeste turns them towards the van a little bit away. Maybe she should go see her friend.

Being here, in the sharing circle, makes Cassandra think wistfully of where she came from. A world long gone and forever locked away that exists only in her memories. A world that will never be seen again, because the technology - the knowledge of how to do so - is so dangerous that even attempting it causes ripples that….

She shakes her head, lost in her own thoughts for a moment, sitting straighter and stretching, fingers linked, on the hood of someone’s battered Chevy Caprice. She takes a second to check to see if she has all of her stuff - she does - and then slings her backpack around front to rummage inside, withdrawing several cellophane-wrapped cookies in various flavors. “Hey, you!” Cassandra calls to the electric bolt-throwing man. “That’s an awesome show. Catch!” And, once she has his attention, she tosses a cookie, sending it sailing through the air to hopefully be caught by the young man. She would toss some to the Yin and Yang dancers, but sadly, they wouldn’t survive the trip, either melting en-route or freezing solid on impact. Better to get them /after/ their dance is done. Baird and Seren and their musical dance? That earns a cookie, too. Zach and his movements in the crowd? Unless they become erratic or violent or start requiring people to move out of the way, he might as well be invisible to the woman.

There's a long moment as Robyn's eyes follow Zachary, though not because she recognises him. Of all people, perhaps she should, but with everything going on around her it's hard for her to place a face she's only seen in a few documents and fugitive listings. Instead, she looks down at her watch and sighs, rising up from she sits and turning her attention towards the stage. It'll take her a minute to make her way to the stage, but hopefully she can be quick about it.

Her duplicate's gaze, however, linger on Zachery. The two may be the same person, but when not directly controlled by their much more solid counterpart, Robyn's light replications act mostly on subconscious and pattern. But while something may ping for her duplicate, there's little way for her to inform her primary self of the matter, looking up at Robyn as she rises from her seat. "You sure we need to go up there?" The voice still sounds artificial, but better than it did when she first began experimenting with this new ability of hers.

"Yeah," Robyn replies to her duplicate, voice as weary as the way she pulls herself to her feet. "Wish I could leave you here, but…" Well, that's not how it works, the light duplicate snapping into place next to Robyn as she turns and starts making her way towards the stage, though not without more than a few noticing the sudden displacement and retreat.

The sudden shot of electricity into the sky startles Seren away from the game they've begun to play with Coyotl and several others who've joined the ring of starlight. The crack distracts them from the series of fast-pace exchanges of ability display. It's thus far carried on like a strange game of show-and-tell hacky-sack, where one person calls, another answers and tosses it to someone else yet in the circle, all by performing some stunt using their gift.

"Look alive, Seren!" a young man across from Seren even calls out, trying to warn them they're getting ready to serve in their direction. He moves in a slow circle, arms hovering before him, palms flat. Purple discs of energy hover before his hands, and with some focus he draws a longer disk together in an s-shape, brow knitted in focus despite this all being in fun. The dark purple glows brighter as he carries the oddly-shaped shield of energy with him in a slow circle he makes, and then flinging it away from him the energy pops as soon as it gets more than an arms-length away from him, a bright spot of color in the dark.

Seren, though, is still looking up toward the sky, and then back behind them, trying to figure out if the crack was anything to be concerned about. But everyone was clapping… so it must be fine? The young man across from them tilts his head but he grins. "You broke the chain!" he calls out.

Blinking back to the moment, Seren lets out a self-conscious laugh, their grey eyes adorned with a thick ring silver and white. "Sorry— what's my penalty?" they offer up with more enthusiasm than they feel.

"Uh, I don't know, actually, I—"

"Catch!" One of the girls standing nearby calls out, tossing an unopened beer can Seren's direction. "Miss a catch, take a drink?" she offers up as a potential penalty system.

The ring of five laugh, sharing looks amongst each other. It's a drinking game now, and that's serious competition. "Can't do the same thing twice!" suggests a ribbon-wielding aerokinetic girl standing among them. The boy who creates the forcefields with his hands grins. "I'm gonna lose, and I don't even care!" he laughs.

Seren grins over the top of the beer can after snapping it open, taking a long drink that helps to settle their nerves. While setting it down beside them in the grass, they glance to starry Coyotl on becoming more level with him. "I dunno about you, friend, but I think we've got this in the bag," they confide with quiet confidence. But really, win or lose, they're just having a great time.

The aerokinetic girl calls out, "Okay, I'll start us back up!…"

All of that is lost of Zach as he laser-focuses in on the person heading to him. The posture change is an obvious one; feet planted shoulder-width apart, backpack strap held in a loose fist over his shoulder, hips twisted ever so slightly. He’s ready for a throw-down, or perhaps to run.

Zach just isn’t sure which.


Outside Cheesequake State Park

On the road outside of the festival a pair of vehicles pull up. The lead an armored truck belonging to the 91st Military Police Battalion driven by a member of the military police. The second vehicle is a glossy black Yamagato Lapis that rolls up a short distance behind the armored truck, then turns toward the road toward the lights of the parking lot at the outskirts of the Cheesequake Park and keeps on driving.

When the back hatch of the armored vehicle opens, it isn’t the 91st Military Police Battalion that emerge from within, but something far more dangerous.

“Alright, you heard the old man. Wide perimeter, stay mobile and stay alert.”

It’s Wolfhound.

debra2_icon.gif devon_icon.gif francis_icon.gif melody2_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Francis Harkness hasn’t had much field experience, but when Wolfhound was called to back up a response to this event, leadership thought this might be a good opportunity for him to cut his teeth on something a little less serious than the operation in San Francisco. His role is command support, out of the line of fire and back where he can see how leadership handles de-escalation situations.

Shoulders roll and stretch as Devon Clendaniel takes his first steps off the vehicle, getting himself familiar with the confines and mobility of his armor. It's been a while, but there's a strange and comfortable familiarity about it; like going home for the holidays. His wandering steps eventually bring him by Francis.

"You ready for this?" He asks Harkness, as he begins checking his weapons. And by this he could mean literally anything. Dev's not entirely sure what they're going to find. He gives the other man a look, then assures himself that the Banshee at his hip is easily accessible. The more lethal handgun for backup in case things go sideways is drawn and checked over — rounds in the magazine, free of anything that might cause a jam.

Francis gives Devon a side-eyed look that all but screams are you? But he’s been sworn not to talk about what happened below the ziggurat. So he bites back his comment and flashes an anxious smile instead.

Meanwhile, the only thing Devon isn’t inspecting are the trio of flash-bangs strapped to one side of his chest. Diversionary explosives, not his usual fare of destructive forces. Feeling comfortable with his choices of armaments, Devon looks in the direction of all the noise. "I hope this goes down without too many surprises. Think the odds are good Eve Mas'll go without raising the dead?"

"I'd be out of a job if she could do that." The next to figure to step out of the vehicle is a woman, her movements a bit stiffer than Devon's. Lisbeth Melody DiMico is still getting used to the high tech armor that the Hounds wear for their operations, but it was inevitable that she would have to get used to this in the field at some point. She may not have an ability as suited for field work as some of the others, but she has the firearms experience to make up for it

"I never met 'er, but if all that shit I saw online is any indication, I don't think anything here is going to happen without surprises. Like Devon, she is armed with a banshee and a sidearm; unlike him she carries a shotgun slung across her shoulders, loaded with beanbag rounds in case things get more out of hand than she's otherwise prepared for. She'd done a good look over of their armaments before they were given the go-ahead, but really? She hoped she wouldn't need them.

"So, uh. Where're we headed?"


Stepping up alongside the others, Debra Hadden eyes the festivities she can see… mostly lights while taking one last draw on her cigarette. “That one’s got quite the file back at my old job. The shit she’s done with her little friends over the years…” she says on the exhale with a shake of her head. The last of her cigarette is tossed down and snuffing it under a booted foot. “On top of that we’re going into shark infested waters while they're in a frenzy?”

Deb gives a bit of a tight-lipped and crooked smile, crows feet deepening at the corners of her blue eyes. “Gonna be fun, kids.”

The old woman gives a tug of her turtleneck and shifts her shoulders, settling the armor on her slighter form, before settling her helmet on her head. The feel of armor is new for her, even if she’s been working out with it. There is a rifle, in case she needs it, strapped on her back, a beanbag shotgun hanging on one shoulder and the Banshee she’s been familiarizing herself with lately. Add a few flashbangs of her own and a knife in her boot…. the old lady is ready to rock and roll.

“Maenad to Dahaka, echo echo,” Wright says as she hops from the truck, though not to anyone she rode in with. After a pause she adds, “Consolidate.” She wears her armor with practiced familiarity, checking her kit with her hands as she looks up.

“Mics hot, ping incoming,” She tells the team. There’s a ripple through her networked co-hosts, a brief feeling of pull on their attention like someone is waving to them on the street. An invitation to share the perspective of a man watching Eve twirl on stage before the press of revellers. The cold steel travel mug in his hand and the taste of hot coffee, black with honey and cinnamon. The sound of the music and cheers of the crowd as though they stood there with him. All of this in addition to the background feeling of anticipation from the others in the network.

Everyone was familiar by now with the push and pull of the network, they’d all spent time over the last few days in preparation for its use in the field. How to get the attention of a co-host or draw on their senses and experience. How to reach for the skills that could be shared across the network. Elliot’s keen knowledge of human behavior. Wright and Melody’s knowledge of first aid and field trauma. American Sign Language for anyone who needs to interact with the Lighthouse Kids the man in the crowd draws their attention to with his eyes. “Welcome to the show,” he says.

For the benefit of those on the team who aren't sharing, Wright says simply, “Target is on stage.”

Squinting one eye shut, Francis looks around the road, checks his watch and starts walking ahead. “Ok, let’s take it nice and easy. We’ve got a few hundred feet between us and where they can see us. We’ll approach from the uh…” a momentary hit to his confidence comes as the distant crowd swells in cheers, “from straight up the road. Hang back, we only move if SESA calls us.”

As he walks ahead, Francis turns around to walk backwards and waves the others on in, then turns back around with his sidearm holstered and posture casual.

The last thing he wants is to incite any violence.


Not Far Away

A black Yamagato Lapis crawls up the cracked asphalt road winding through the overgrown trees. The vehicle turns its headlights off as it approaches the distant glow of fire and parked cars. Inside the vehicle, a handful of SESA agents prepare to engage an unpredictable target. The operations leader anxiously checks his phone, no signal. It’s stowed in the glove compartment, it won’t do any good this far from civilization.

cesar_icon.gif geneva_icon.gif kenner_icon.gif lance_icon.gif

“Okay…” Slowly turning around in the passenger seat, Donald Kenner regards the agents piled into the back of the armor-plated vehicle. “Let’s go over this one more time.”

Kenner glances out the front window at the approaching car-filled parking lot, then turns back to focus on the agents. “Mas has been off the radar since whatever happened in Detroit. We want to avoid any hostilities here, no threats, no violence. We want her to come along willingly for questioning. If things get out of hand, we have to disengage and de-escalate.”

This whole ordeal is making Kenner nervous. “We only call in Wolfhound if there is direct violence against us or any of the civilians. We don’t come out of this vehicle visibly armed. We’re not here to make an arrest, we’re here to request that she comes in voluntarily for questioning. Optics.”

Kenner looks at the driver as the SUV slows down on reaching the edge of the parking lot. “We have two assets in play. We’ve got Agents Cooper, Roux, and Bluthner there and Wolfhound has an officer in the field — Elliot Hitchens. His ID is in your digital file. These are the only assets in play until we say otherwise, but everyone else is a friendly until proven otherwise no matter what they say or how they react.”

“Everyone get ready.” Kenner says as the SUV rolls to a stop beside the WNYT news van from Albany. “And remember — we come in peace.

“I’m sure she’ll listen to reason,” says Lance with a confidence that he doesn’t really feel, stretching his neck a bit and rolling his shoulders back, working out nervous energy as much as actually limbering up. “I don’t know what happened in Detroit, but— I mean, she’s crazy, but she’s never been ‘attack Detroit’ crazy before.”

Of course, people change.

He slants a look over to Geneva, flashing her a smile, “Let’s go get her to turn herself in.”

"I'm sure she'll listen to reason?" fires back Lance's fellow agent-in-training as she hops out of the SUV just behind him, both her brows heavily arched in scorn before her feet have even finished plopping onto the ground. "Bruh. She's almost killed me. I wouldn't put it past her to have gotten wacked out enough to have seen a bunch of, like, giant chickens in place of the people of Detroit, and that's how this all got started."

Clearly, one of the two has a lot less faith in Eve Mas.

A much more skeptical grimace slants back at Lance's smile from Geneva, and then she’s turning to face the space sprawling out past the rim of the parking lot.

"Let's just see how this fuckin' goes."

Emerging behind the junior agents, SESA Agent Cesar Diaz busies himself with a quick check of the gear on his duty belt. He otherwise remains dressed casually enough to fit in with the masses: jacket, shirt, jeans. The action gives him focus on the task and what lies ahead, with attention on Kenner's brief reminder who's in play. But it's Lance's and Geneva's exchange that catch his attention, and he turns. "Hey, no, we don't do that. Don't assume, don't disrespect, and don't underestimate. They are people. You earn the trust of your citizens and community, and they in turn respect your authority. You treat 'em bad, that'll come right back to bite your ass fast. And if not yours, someone else's. Then it'll still be your ass on the line for it." He angles a pointed look at Geneva, especially. "We aren't here to judge, we're just here to do our job, get Mas, and get out. Safely. She knows us. Now it's up to us to make sure she'll trust us."

Cesar adjusts his jacket next, flipping the hem over the belt. A quick rolling of his neck to loosen up the nerves, and his expression settles into a firmer gameface. He nods to Kenner, ready for the go.

“Please, God,” Kenner whispers as he steps out of the SUV.

The Stage

Cheesequake State Park

In the middle of Eve’s speech atop the van-come-stage, the arrival of an unmarked black SUV is enough to garner her immediate attention. The emergence of Lance Gerken, Geneva Stevenson, and Cesar Diaz from within tells Eve all she needs to know about who it belongs to. But it’s when she catches sight of Rhys Bluthner in the crowd that it starts to come together. Not far behind, Robyn.

This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a convergence.

But it’s the quiet ones you never suspect. So, perhaps that’s why most everyone suspects the loud youth hanging out around the stage.


Agent Thomas Cooper, master of disguise.

There's one familiar face, two… oh three… oh hey another friend. Wait a minute. Eve's eyes widen a fraction not in total surprise because that would be silly seeing as to how things have all played out to not expect the government to arrive in some capacity but this. "They've learned."

She's forgotten that there's enhancements thrown on her voice and it echoes outwardly through the crowd and Eve has to catch herself from saying much more out of turn. Quickly she shakes her shoulders and throws her arms upwards into the sky. "Are we going to tolerate a new racist regime hellbent on destroying all of our kind??"

The crowd answers: "NO!"

"Will we roll over and allow ourselves to be humiliated, brutalized and killed by these Pure Earth Nazi Wannabes?!"

Again: "NO!"

It's almost as if time slows down for Eve and she takes an involuntary step backwards as her red eyes catch her reflection in a nearby car's windshield. The hair wasn't as long anymore and not even in the style that recalled Jessica Sanders, no this was a more neat style. Eve gasps and her hand goes to cover her mouth, still her every word echoing out to the crowd.


"Oh no no no, I'm so sorry," The crowd seems to begin to pick up on something not being right with their host. "Don't look at me like that!" But Niki's blue eyes follow her every move. Wherever Eve turns as she spins, there in the glass. There. There. "I didn't kill you!" She screams and clutches the sides of her face, sinking to her knees as waves of red mist waft off of her body.

Eve is hit with the overwhelming feeling of sand.

It's everywhere.

But so is, passion.


Eve clutches her stomach and rocks back and forth shivering. A flash of a woman's hand, laid on top of another. The roar of the ocean and tide in the distance. A face, one Eve is intimately familiar with but not in this way.

Flabbergasted, "Gilly??"

Poppy looks confused and gestures to the audiokinetic in the crowd to 'cut the vocal stunts', the platinum blonde rushes over to Eve but doesn't touch her, afraid of the mist that seeps out of her. Leaking from her nose and ears, trailing upwards to form the beginnings of a blood red halo.

His daughter would die of embarrassment if she could see him right this moment, but Cooper wanted to blend in. Bright ass yellow hoodie, canted hat and all. Still under the hoodie was prepared just in case. He had danced at the bonfire, watched the sharing circle, but now he’d pushed his way to the edge of the stage, “Yo… comin’ through, homes…” That’s how all the kids talk right Ellen?

Cooper had used the skateboard he had snagged from deep in Ellen’s closet, in all it’s my little pony glory, as a wedge and shield. Now close to the stage he watches a woman he had once danced with and kinda liked with a bit of a smirk, it fades a bit as he realizes how awkward this was gonna be, especially with her shouting about something that makes his stomach curl with worry.

“«Hey guys… something is wrong. Hold up.»” says Captain Obvious into the com when she starts acting weird. Pushing along the edge of the van, to get closer to where she’s kneeling, watching Eve struggle with herself. Having them all coming in to crash the party, might go badly. “«Quinn double time it, I think the two of us will be better than one.»”

Reaching up, Cooper grips at the luggage rack rail with a hand, suddenly very concerned for the woman on top of the van. “Eve!” He calls out over the crowd. “Eve! It’s okay. Breathe.” But like Poppy the red mist — That’s new and scary — keeps him from trying to crawl up on the van.

If Paul had thought this would be a good time to catch up with his family, that seems to be over now. Hmm. “Eve’s really not all there, is she?” the short latino murmurs, with a small concerned look, but well, it’s obvious that she’s not all there cause, well, she never really was. But it felt less so now, really. Not that he cared if she were all there, really. But he had heard what happened in Detroit. “Hold on to me, ladies,” he signs as he speaks outloud to his not-quite-sisters who happen to be hot now. Because well, if all else fails he can phase and surely that will protect them all, right?

Well, probably not all of them, but he can do his best.

Hailey's arms free up from the hug only long enough to grab another Natty Boh from the six pack. On her way back up, she turns to Brynn and waggles her eyebrows. She gives a bit of a crooked grin and shifts her eyes to Paul and then gives her sister a quick wink. She mouths the word stacked, shaking her hand as though it's been burned. She doesn't risk signing in full, he knows too much.

Time to get secret girl signals.

But then… danger and she follows directions by gripping onto Paul tightly. "What what… Eve FOCUS!!" She looks up at Magnes, her eyes looking like a frightened horse. "Magnes! Help her please!!" He is the empath's hero, after all.

"And what does that mean?" Lily rounds on Paul, "It's not like she's been exposed to forces beyond her understanding since she was a kid, not like there's anyone you might know who relates with he-" She stops herself mid rant as Eve begins to have an episode on top of the van.

"Oh no…" Unsure just what is happening to their "Aunt" but knowing it doesn't look good, "What's that… mist?" Lily's nose wrinkles and she takes a step back while shaking her head.

"Something is wrong with Aunt Eve, we- guys! We have to help her!" Lily looks over at Brynn and signing as she speaks. Already ready to step away and run towards the stage.

Brynn laughs at Hailey's antics. She can't exactly contradict — holy hannah, Paul's a sturdy guy!! Hawwwwwt. She remains close to the young man as the attention starts visibly going to the stage, standing between him and Magnes's hovering form. Oh God, is Eve getting ready to make explosive farts again? she asks Lily as she cranes her neck. She looks quite disturbed by this, and more than a little uneasy. That will go very very badly. Maybe worse than she imagines, given that as her gray eyes skim the crowd she has this awful feeling of everything running together. And she really really dislikes the potential for violence that could fuel everything if Eve loses it up there.

She grabs Lily's arm briefly and shakes her head negatively!! Signing quickly for Magnes, out where it can be seen clearly, she urges, Aunt Eve could explode up there, and then it's going to go to crap. She could zap a bunch of people around her! Because that's the last she knew of Aunt Eve's powers! She has to calm down or get the heck out of there!

Roxie is on her tip-toes trying to see Zachary in this crowd, when Goober bolts in a certain direction. “H-h-hey! Wait!” A small stab of panic sets in. Last thing she wants to do is lose her dog with Humanis in the crowd. The quest is abandoned for the moment in favor of following her dog. It’s easier than she thought it would be to find him, reaching for him, she has a sense of where he is.

Broken up images of the legs he’s running through… until… he’s sitting among legs he recognizes. Found! Is the happy declaration from the ginger dog who paws at Brynn’s leg.

“That’s not who—” Then Roxie suddenly finds herself among the Lighthouse Kids and about runs into them. “Fuck…” the word is out of her mouth before she can stop it. There is an unease that sets in being among them, which gets her dog's attention. She can hear his confusion in her mind, because he found friends. Who needs to worry about bad guys when there are friends? “Dammit Goober, I don’t have time to fucking be social.” She looks at the group, before turning away to push back into the crowd… then she stops and gives a heavy sigh. She could see Joaquin’s disappointment if she didn’t at least warn them.

Turning back she looks especially at Brynn, moving close for the group to hear her. She has no idea Brynn is deaf… only time she saw her was in a nightmare. “Okay… I know we’ve gotten off the wrong fucking foot before, but you need to fucking listen to me… you need to get the fuck out of here. Right now. Trust me. Shits about to get really fucking real. Humanis - fucking - First is here. I saw one of them in the crowd. I’m trying to find him…. He… he,” Fuck it… rip the bandaid off, girl. " — worked with my asshole parents.”

Looking around, Roxie brushes her hood off her head, “Get a good fucking look at me, cause if you see someone that looks a shit-ton like me and doesn’t have him,” she point at the dog at their feet, “that’s not fucking me. It’s my twin.” Yes… her evil twin.

Still a bit behind Rhys in the crowd, Robyn frowns when Cooper's call out comes over the earbud she's managed to keep hidden beneath her hair. And for once, it's not because he called her Quinn. "Fuck," she breathes out, eyes alighting to the stage past a person in front of her. It's going to take her a moment to push through and get up there. Which means…

"Showtime, you're up." There's a bit of a sheen in her eyes as she turns them to look upon the stage, and electric snap barely audible as the less inconspicuously dressed duplicate of herself suddenly disappears.

Up on stage, Robyn's angling for line of sight pays off when just as suddenly her doppleganger snaps into existence a bit aways from the van but still in plain sight for all to see on the stage. "Well, this is a new fresh hell," her synthesised voice rings out, looking over the van and to Cooper. "Hey!" The duplicate, able to act freely while Robyn keeps her eyes on the stage, makes her way over to him. "Eve! Talk to me!" Head turns to look at a stage hand. "Someone call for medical assistance!" Because woof, this looks bad.

In the crowd, Robyn continues pushing her way through, moving as fast as gaps and pushing will allow, all while keeping her eyes on the stage. It's a strain to be sure, but there's a determination in her eyes that hasn't been there in some time.


Elliot is incognito in the way he makes himself ignorable. A beaten camo trucker hat and neutral toned clothing, dirty from pretending to spend a couple nights in the woods. He’s been back and forth across the festival for hours, spotting familiars, never butting in, always looking like he has somewhere to be. Now he stands up straight from his casual slouch, dropping his mug to pull back his hood. Watching Eve sublimate is just as disturbing now as it was when she ambushed him at the lake. “Meltdown,” he says for the benefit of the network. This went to shit already. “Jackalope, what are my orders?”

He’s not carrying a gun, and anyway doubts that shooting Eve, even in an emergency, would do anything to improve the situation. He presses forward, equidistant from the stage and where he sees Brynn signing to the man Marty McFlying by the stage above them. Spots Roux, thankful there’s a SESA presence already on scene. He judges the emotion of the crowd, and prays they have the sense to move away as the potential catastrophe unfolds.

He splits his attention, eyes losing focus momentarily as he pulls in Wright’s perspective to get a view of the Wolfhound team’s posture. As he completes the pull the two viewpoints overlap, disorienting for a moment but eventually falling into distinct sensations learned through years of practice. He holds, waiting for Harkness’s response to be carried to him through Wright’s eyes and ears. Waiting to sign Run into the woods behind me to any Lighthouse kid who might catch his eyes before he gets orders.

The strange murmurings from Eve draw a frown to Chess’ face, even as she too notices a familiar face she knows belongs to a SESA agent. “SESA’s here,” she murmurs to Luther and Asi, nodding in Robyn’s direction — just as Robyn shoots her duplicate up onto the van. “The hell?” she murmurs. Of course, she isn’t so familiar with the SESA agent that she knows what her abilities can and can’t do, nor any recent changes to the tricks up her sleeves.

“Shit,” she adds eloquently when it seems Eve is struggling with something, and she heaves a sigh, looking to Luther and Asi before starting to excuse me, pardon me her way back toward the van. Her eyes narrow on Cooper when she’s still several yards away. “Yo, Stranger Danger. Unless you’re a medic, give her some room,” Chess calls.

Asi is in the process of slowly unfolding her arms when Chess opts to move. She'd been hoping Eve would get it back together, but here they were. "Shit," she breathes, continuing to look up there like it might help somehow.

Of all the moments for Eve to break down. Asi's stomach sinks to know what this might do for the 'baby Expressives' who were looking to her as someone to look up to— looking past Detroit. The mist beginning to leak from her was going to be more than just bad optics, too, if they didn't act quickly.

"Poppy!" Asi calls out sharply, warning in her voice. The SESA agent on the roof is a concern, too, but she doesn't know Robyn's name. "Hey, you!" she shouts through her fanged facemask, waving an arm. "Get down from there!"

Warren stands up straight, starting to walk closer to help Eve, but then quickly stands back, remembering just how unpredictable her ability can be. "Eve, do you need any pills? What's happening?" Then, as if trying to think as a last resort, he goes. "Um, I love you?"

But then Hailey is looking to Magnes, and Magnes sees Eve possibly losing control. He isn't aware of any different ability necessarily, but he does remember something. "I'll be right back."

He floats over to the stage on his skateboard, which never leaves his feet, then stops directly in front of Eve, holding his hands out to her. "Eve! Do you remember how it felt to be in my gravity, a few years ago? Whatever is happening, hold my hands and take a deep breath." He says this while extending his gravitational field, trying to make everything feel a bit more stable.

That's the best he can do, as he remembers, at least, with her original ability, she felt more grounded in his gravity.

Luther isn't focused on Eve's speech. It's the crowd's energy whipping up that he scans over with an anticipatory eye, like a lifeguard finding something bobbing the wrong way just off the beach. He expects the ocean of people to roar and crash. The shift in Eve's tone, however, and the crash of the crowd's momentum in a different manner immediately causes his eyes to cut away to the misting woman huddled atop the van. A low swear escapes him. Warren gets a sharp, stern look from the former RayTech security head that says to stay put. Then Luther's on the move, shoving the yellow-hoodied youth aside (sorry Cooper) and climbing the van's siding and ladder to get up top with Eve.

"Ducky, grab on," Luther says under the calls of Eve's name from other concerned parties. But an assumed bodyguard's main priority is the safety of their charge, and this is what Luther takes on as he moves to bodily grab the woman and hoist her down to more solid ground. "Chess, Asi, clear a path backstage," he calls down as well to the pair of women. When Magnes floats closer and extends the gravitational field and his hands, Luther snaps out, "The fuck are you doing? Get back and help give us some room, Varlane!" That he recognizes the other man's help at all in the moment - that'll make his therapist proud. Or at least write a note for the file.

All of the people coming at Eve has her almost ready to shrink back as the crowd reacts:

"Leave the Herald alone!”

"I knew this lady was a fucking wacko!" Another screams.

"Tell us Eve! Who didn't you mean to kill?!"

"Xpress! Xpress!"

"Xpress! Xpress!"

Poppy leaps down from the "stage" with a horrified expression on her face. "No… Eve no.." A hand goes to land on the blonde's shoulder and Poppy wheels around to face Celeste, the look is apologetic with tears in her brown eyes and she hugs the other woman. "I'm sorry." A moment they've been needing to have for a year.

"Don't, it's not your fault." Poppy whispers in Celeste's ear.

On the top of the van, Eve's eyes widen as Luther and then Magnes leap to her defense, Warren is given a helpless expression but it's quickly replaced by fear as she sees the tendrils of her ability wafting towards the men. "No.. no no no." Flashes of what she did to Odessa and Zachery go through her mind. The other faces


Her voice rings out and the crowd subsides a bit, willing herself to not look into the window or any other reflective surface, Eve slowly places a hand on Luther's arm to steady herself. "There are questions, questions with answers I must give to the government agents assembled." Tone weak, labored but her eyes are on Cooper and then on Robyn? The blood red mist withdraws itself into the woman's body but not before sliding over Luther and Magnes' bodies.

"Do not fight them, we are here in peace. Remember my beauties, we are expressive. We are…" Eve trails off looking to the distance.

Cheesequake State Park
The Beach Bonfire

The proffered drink gets a sour look from the dressed up woman for a moment, but the commotion near the stage draws her attention away. The beach might be a decent distance away, but the ripples and sounds carry far enough that Emmie Sommerfield notices and looks in that direction sharply and frowns. “No thank you,” she says dismissively to Jen, moving toward Castle and the dancers. “Castle, the stage.”

At the sudden tone, Castle stops the revelry and raises up on tiptoes, feet bare, and looks toward the stage. There’s a thoughtful click of the tongue, and they turn back to the two dangers in apology. “Thank you for the dance. Sorry it was so short lived.” Lips press against finger-tips, Nacho and then Marlowe get a kiss blown in their direction, before Castle moves away to where they can see through the crowds better, the wispy fabric of their cloth tunic thing catching in the wind a little and showing unshaven legs.

Which makes Sommerfield note with sudden concern, “Castle, please tell me you are wearing something under that.”

Castle tells her no such thing, Castle is too busy trying to see what’s going on at the stage.

It all looks like a muddled mess of confusion. Lights, colors, shouting, chants. It’s hard to tell at a distance what’s theatrics and what’s not a part of the show, right up until feed from SESA’s ear pieces start making it to the undercover agents in the crowd. Suddenly words like meltdown and Eve Mas start folding over one another, creating an origami crane made out of bad choices cascading together into something new and unknown.

When Roxie takes off, Ava arches her brows high in light of the news she imparts. The young girl had seemed so intent, serious; her warning carried weight. She begins to frown.

"I knew this was a terrible idea," she mutters to herself, coming to her feet. Her head whips about, and she looks quickly for the young woman she came as an escort for. "Stacey!" she calls out over the roar of the fire and the distant clamor. She sees the girl on the other side of the bonfire by how she turns her head. "Let's pack it up and go, it's about time."

Time to go, before the rowdy party turned into… whatever it was Roxie feared.

Marlowe rhythmic swaying slows, missing the ongoing music's beat, once she hears the uproar of the crowd at the stage. She's a little too tipsy for any more than a paused, skewed lean in the direction of it. Castle's departure elicits a short "awww" of disappointment, and a wave of both her hands to wish them well. Yes, even Emmie. But as long as the party keeps going, so does she. "Come on," she turns back to remaining dance buddy Nacho, edging closer since the trio has once more dwindled to duo. "You'll stay and dance? Help me blow off some steam?" Because whatever is happening over there at the stage, she's not going to concern herself, not today.

Jen frowns at Emmie, but then suddenly smiles deviantly at Castle, even though her whole plan seems to be a bust. But things going a bit awry have her looking left to write, a tad uneasy. She starts looking around for some kind of safety net.

She's not sure how, but somehow she's sure she'll end up arrested if things get too heated.

And then her eyes light up, realizing just who else has been schmoozing right near her.

That's Marlowe.

Isn't she rich?


Jen heads over to more directly interact with the woman, suddenly opening her impressive sack of liquor bottles. "Hey, I'm a big fan of that stuff you do. I've got a liquor sack and I'm ready to party. Lot of wet noodles here, but you're pretty legendary in the circles of your profession, aren't you? I'd love to hear all about it!"

Every time those words reach him, Zain just shudders. Liquor sack. It doesn’t even sound inviting or refreshing. “Eugh..” he shivers, moving to a spot just at the edge of the firelight again. Then there’s a couple of other words that reach his ears, those pique his interest. Eve Mas and Meltdown.

His eyebrows climb high on his forehead and his chin raises in an effort to see over the crowd toward the stage. “Well well,” he says, mostly to himself because he has no friends in the immediate area. Not even in the immediate area code if he was honest with himself. “Perhaps there is a bit of Americana here for me after all….”

His hand moves to his pocket, feeling for the cold piece of metal therein.

The woman with the white hair looks around wildly as Eve begins to meltdown, hazel eyes widen and reflect the bonfire, the young woman clutches her head. "Hot, metal." She is near the fire so that makes sense.

Another pair of jock looking boys nearby chug beer after it seems Eve is in the clear of maybe not exploding like the rumor mill said she did. "Dude, I dropped that acid in hopes of seeing some Eve Yeetties."

"Dude, did you just combine yeet and titties?"


A stroke of genius.

The commotion smaps Barbara from the quiet introspection of the bonfire, sucking a deep breath as she looks up and around once more. A mumbled curse escapes her lips as the hands in her pockets ball up into fists, eyes turning towards the stage. In that moment, she feels like maybe coming out here tonight was a mistake. Maybe she should've left last week like she's always intended to do, before her sudden change of plans.

"Time to go," is uttered out quietly to no one in particular, shaking her head as she pulls back up her hoodie. "Stay crazy, Eve." She had never know the woman to not be, and while she aware of how much of a problem that is these days. A fond smile crosses her face, before finally she turns away from the bonfire and steels herself to head home, and away forever.

But it’s never that easy.

Cheesequake State Park
The “Sharing Circle”

Paranoia spurs Zachary into movement, pressing left when the young man in the hoodie advances toward him. He’s the only person in the crowd who sees Zachery retrieve something from inside his backpack, what looks like a walkie-talkie, but the back panel has been opened and a waferboard of circuitry duct taped to the side along with a pack of batteries and a four-toggle switchboard. He knows what a detonator looks like.

It’s the only warning anyone gets.

Once Zach is a few feet away from the vehicles he breaks into a jog, putting himself on the opposite side of the ring of parked cars than where he was. It’s here that he takes a knee, pretends to tie his shoe, and flips the first switch.

The explosion is immediate and horrifying.

Three cars in the Sharing Circle erupt in a ball of fire from ruptured gas tanks and a brick of detonated C4. The cars are thrown through the air along with the dismembered remains of the people standing on top of them. A cloud of dirt and rocks blasts into the sky, accompanied by screams. For the youths in the sharing circle the world feels like it was missing frames of animation. One moment they were standing, the next, they were dying.

By the time the exploded vehicles come crashing down to the ground, there is no sound. Ears are ringing with deafening report, the bombs that exploded weren’t just charges either. Those who weren’t instantly killed in the blast are perforated by shrapnel from ball bearings, nails, and lug-nuts that were pressed into the clay of the C4 bricks. Nearly everyone in the sharing circle was knocked prone, injured, unconscious, or dead. It’s impossible at times to tell which is which.

One second they were all laughing in the midst of their Expression— the aerokinetic girl weaving her red ribbon through the air with a flourish of her ability, and the next…

Seren's on the ground, and they're not quite sure how they got there. They miss the sound of the explosion entirely, they think, staring up at the sky which is belching red and black now. Over their thighs lays someone else's body. Unmoving dead weight pins them down from immediately scrambling back up when a vehicle lands nearby with a shake to the ground that startles them. After their hand slicks on the ground, they bring it up shaking to look at it, and see red staining their palm. "Oh, god…" they breathe out in a shudder.

"Coyotl," they call out, deafly, for their summon they can't even see anymore. "F-find Baird." Their eyes flicker closed in a gathering of will, and then they press their palm to the ground to begin pushing themself up. "We've got to—"

Abruptly aware of injuries they didn't realize they had, they make no progress, and let out an agonized cry of pain that mixes in with the surrounding screams in the night. Fear replaces shock. The blood on the ground includes their own.

A distance away, a hand comes to Zachary's shoulder abruptly, one that's firm rather than panicked as one might be from the chaos. Behind him is the boy in the hoodie from before, eyes gleaming and wide— but not in horror.

In adoration.


He pushes the hood back from his face, revealing a pale face and dark hair that frames his ice-blue eyes.

"That was amazing," Evran breathes out. "That was a fucking Kilimanjaro."

Zach’s expression is one leadened with impassivity. No joy, no anger, nothing. He shrugs off the hand, looking at the hooded young man, then the nearby fire, then back again. Breathing in sharply through his nose, Zach turns toward the stage.

“Then you’re gonna’ love this, kid.”

And he flips the second switch.

The Stage

Cheesequake State Park

Whatever Eve Mas had wanted this event to be, it wasn’t anymore. By the time she registers that there was a massive explosion at the sharing circle, by the time a tide of panic has rolled through the entire event like crashing waves, she has no moment to reorient herself before the world becomes nothing but abject chaos a second time.

Multiple vehicles through the parking lot explode with cacophonous report in simultaneous blasts that are at once deafening as they are surprising. The explosions are body-shaking, sending with them flying clouds of shrapnel debris both of shredded vehicle parts as well as packed ball bearings, nails, and bolts that were packed into the bricks of C4 used to cause the blasts.

The shock of the explosion is like cutting a few frames out of a film reel.

Eve’s van is rocked over by the blast. The van itself doesn’t explode but the shockwave flips the vehicle over, crashing end over end across the parking lot and crushing three reporters dead where they stand, their equipment likewise demolished. There’s no telling how many spectators were killed instantly in the blast, there’s blood, screams, scraps of clothing, metal, and glass everywhere.

For the children raised by the Lighthouse, this is a triggering traumatic event. This is the war they were raised in all over again. They can hear Brian’s voice in the back of their mind even as their ears are ringing, Find cover! Protect each other! Check for injuries! You can’t help if you can’t help yourself!

Most everyone is knocked prone by the blast, deafened and in some degree of injury. Geneva can feel blood on her face, on her chest and neck and hands when her senses come back to her. There’s dust caked to her face from the demolished asphalt and dirt. Laying next to her on the ground is a boy roughly her age, half his face missing and limbs twisted like pulled pork fresh off the bone. Worse, he’s still breathing.

There’s screams everywhere, cries of pain and confusion.

Cries of horror.

The van rolls and Eve tumbles down towards the ground reaching up as if to grab an offered hand, before the woman can smack hard into the ground though her body explodes into a blood red mist and she hangs a few feet off the ground. All around her the blazing lights of energy burn into her makeshift vision and she feels the desire, the hunger pulling her towards the lights that were dimming. Filled with a need to consume.

Poppy's eyes snap open, ears ringing as blood pours from her nose. "Celeste??" She can't hear herself but her eyes look around wildly. Sitting up from the ground, shoving a dead man's arm off of her chest she spots her friend.

Or what's left.

Celeste's broken body lies just a foot away but she's missing a leg and her brown eyes stare sightlessly into the sky, neck at an odd angle. "Celeste?!? Celeste!!!" Poppy scrambles over to the young woman's body with a look of total anguish on her face. Coming to lay besides the woman's corpse she lifts a shaking hand to press the palm against Celeste's cold, bloody cheek and lets out a moan of agony. "No, please God no. Not her too, please God. Oh God. Fuck! Fuck!! Celeste!!!"

The Wax Twins were reunited again with their mother.

Lily can only hear screams and she scrambles backwards on her hands as a woman missing half her face screams and claws towards the postcognitive, desperate for aid. "Ah!!" Her head whips around searching for her siblings as she climbs to her feet and sways.

Eve's mist-like form hurdles down towards the ground and begins to envelop a small group of people. The cloud contracts and jerks away as Eve hammers down on herself and tries to drag herself away from the innocent bystanders. No no no no. So many dead. This wasn't how this was supposed to go, she expected something but, not this. Not like this. With a cry that reverberates through the clearing, Eve slams back into her physical form in a crouch. Breathing ragged and eyes wide.

One teenage girl leaps into the air trying to clear the smoke and survey the damage, a determined expression on her bloody face.

"Run! Get to safety!" Eve hollers and slams into a terrified couple that shriek and run the opposite direction. "Oh goddess," A hand rising to her mouth in horror, "Offensive gifts! Protect your brothers and sisters—" Eve is thrown to the side by a small mob that charges into the trees with fear practically radiating off of them. She slams into a tree and clings to it for dear life. "No no no no no no no no."

There was only one spot that hadn't been hit by explosions. Eve looks towards the beach and runs.

Some distance from Eve when the explosion hits, it’s as if the second the blast can be felt or heard, a ten-foot perimeter around Chess protects herself and those around her from the debris and shrapnel thrown by the shockwave. The pieces of metal, plastic and other materials seem to hover, suspended in the air.

Chess’ eyes glow a fiery gold, as do her fingertips as her hands fling outward — at first to keep her balance, and then as she realizes she’s projecting a protective aura around herself and those near her.

Her mouth parts and she cries out — not in pain, but in grief and fear, with the realization that she’s somehow using Ivy’s power. One that had once nearly killed her. One that had saved her life.

After a long moment, Chess falls to her knees, the field dropped. The debris drops harmlessly to the ground in a loose circle of detritus. Tears run down her face and it takes another few breaths before she lifts her head to see the damage, to find her friends.

Paul had already been ready to phase and try to escape before the sounds of the first explosion, so when he heard it, he grabbed onto the girls around him and closed his eyes, concentrating as hard as he ever has. For a moment, to them all, everything is weightless. The world seems to pass through them.

The flying debris passes through them, the heat passes through them— and then seconds later, the gravity and force of everything in the world comes rushing back like a breath of air suddenly exhaling upon them. They feel their feet on the ground and Paul is no longer able to stand up, and suddenly isn’t cracking jokes for the moment. Just cursing. In Spanish.

Phasing that much— was definitely too much for him. Brynn, Lily, Hailey, Himself. All at the same time— it was too much. He shouldn’t have attempted it. His nose is bleeding, his head hurts, but for the moment, for this moment, they should all be unharmed. But it’s not a trick he’s going to be able to do again as he slumps and starts to go down toward his knees.

Near the van, a bloodied hand reaches from under bodies, clawing at the sticky asphalt coated in blood and viscera. There is a groan from Cooper when he makes a weak attempt to pull himself out from under one of the bodies of those that had been pressed around him, but he finds himself without the energy… preferring to just lay there with his cheek pressed against the ground.

That can’t be good.

Thankfully, he can’t see himself. The yellow hoodie he’s wearing is a mess, very little of the bright color remains, instead stained dark by the blood seeping from holes in the fabric where several pieces of shrapnel had impacted with the agent. That isn’t the worst of it. His legs are a bloody mess, one in particular looks like nothing more than hamburger.

“Anyone get the number of that freight train?”

Is what Cooper might have said before passing out, but with the ringing of his ears and chaos, the words are lost. Later he may remember the fact he had seen the split second of the blast, from where he had fallen from the shove… and feel the burning impact of shrapnel across his body, when he tried to turn away.

One moment, Robyn's eyes are locked on the stage, her double offering a chastising glare at Magnes, and then Luther, mouth opening to shout some sort of reprimand at the both of them.

The next, everything is black.

It's not the sort of darkness Robyn has grown so accustomed to over the years. It seems to swirl and dance about in her vision. An eternity passes in a moment, nothing to be felt in those lingering and cold beats. Her heart flutters and her chest grows tight, like a hundred tiny robins waking to the day, ready to burst forth and fly free.

The first thing she feels after is the ache rolling through her skull from the back, a sharp throbbing sort of stabbing. The next, the burning of her lungs as she gasps for a breath, eyes shooting open with full realisation, remembrance, of what has just happened around her.

To her.

Another body lays across her midsection, pinning her down - while also protecting her from the worst of the blast. The woman on top of her not so much. Her vision swims, rolling over and fighting back a wave of nausea as she pushes the surly dead form off her. Her hand reaches back to the back of her head. It's wet, and with clear hesitation she pulls her hand back into her vision. Though it feels like she sees doubles dancing delightfully in front of her, she can see the blood on her hand.

She is going to need a minute.

She feels the first explosion through her feet, but Brynn has no idea what she's feeling. One second, she's watching Eve, Magnes, and the van while staying close to Paul, Hailey, and Lily; the next second, the world — yet again — is a war zone of shrapnel, blood, and explosions around her. Eve's van rolls straight at them, crushing people, …. and then rolls right through them.

Shock renders the deaf brunette stock still because… they're not dead! They're actually … the calm in the eye of the hurricane. Whipping her head around to look at Paul, years of drills kicking muscle memory into gear, Brynn realizes what happened when he starts to list to the side. Throwing her arm around Paul's waist — because he looks about like he's going to pass out from the use of his power — she rapid-fire signs with one hand to Hailey, Get Lily and Doodle! Fall back, 5:00!! It's toward the trees, the straightest path.

One moment, Lance was working his way through the raucous crowd closer and closer to the stage in the hopes of talking his 'aunt' down from the stage without there being any conflict. The next moment, his optimism is proven wrong in a thunderclap of sound.

Instinct driven into him by years of training had him on the ground in an instant, grabbing two people in the crowd to either side and dragging them with him. Down, barks the voice of Brian in his memory, and he stays down for a three count to make sure there aren't any secondary explosions.

But there are, louder and worse than the previous.

Three more moments counted down before he risks raising his head. His muscles tremble from the tension and the sudden rush of adrenaline through his system, taking stock of 'his' people nearby - Geneva first, then Cesar, Rhys, Kenner - before he looks quickly over the crowd and the stage, trying to make sense of the chaos.

Easier said than done.

In the moments between the percussive force of the blast and indistinct haze of smoke and screams of pure horror, Elliot is becalmed in a sea of scintillating black. When he is able to sense again it’s only the charnel house of the culvert. The ringing in his ears is the whine of drones. The pop and hiss of burning metal and flesh is the cannonade of gunfire.

A few blinks brings him back here, away from Cambridge. As he looks around he knows that this is now, though there are dead children all the same. But not the Lighthouse Kids, he thinks with relief. That’s when the pain registers, a wash of burning agony stemming from his arm, articulated at a new joint and blossoming red. There’s also blood in his eyes and mouth. Not his blood.

He inhales through the agony of ribs bruised or broken, feels the network flicker in the periphery of his mind. “Black box black box,” he says. Hears Wright reply, “Black box confirm.” Feels her retching from his pain as she clutches the door of the armored truck. Feels her drop the sensory link, leaving his pain behind for him alone. He slips his belt from his pants with his left hand and tourniquets his right.

Roxie already knows she’s too late when the first explosion goes off. “Goober!” She half shrieks, diving for the scared dog. She just manages to grab the small ginger dog and pull him to her chest when the second explosion rocks the area. Behind her, the bodies of the others phase out, leaving Roxie to take the brunt of it and sends her tumbling.

Even though Roxie hears Goober yelp in fear, she knows without looking that he’s okay… which makes up for the burn she feels of abrasions on her knees and the ache of pain in her shoulder. «I gotcha buddy.» she reassures the dog, afraid to move just yet, even though he squirms and fills her mind with memories of the day his family left him behind.

A firm mental «Stay!» is enough to get the dog to still, but not before he drags a wet tongue along the underside of Roxie’s chin in a sign of affection. ##FF69B4«It’s okay, Goob. I’m not leaving you.»##

When Roxie finally opens her eyes, she finds herself looking at the smoldering remnants of someone who had been much closer then she had to the blast. It takes everything in her not to lose what little she ate today, thought it tries with a dry *hurk* sound at the back of her throat.

The nearby explosion had come as such a shock, Asi could only turn her head and look in that direction. Moving by the time the second goes off proves impossible. With a shudder of a breath, she comes back to herself only a moment after the forcefield falls. The shrapnel being stopped by Chess' manifestation of her ability is a blessing she'll never be able to properly thank her for. The most she can do is reach down to hoist her up again, because while they might've survived, this was far from over. No time for shock; only action.

The force with which she reaches for parts of herself she can no longer communicate with gives her an immediate sense of vertigo, her steadying hand offered to Chess momentarily weak. It renews an ache she thought she had successfully buried, makes her feel small in the face of the unfolding chaos. It hurts even more, because she could have seen this— maybe even prevented it— if she could have just felt the out of place devices.

There are no drones near or far that she could reach out to with her senses, but there is one she'd used to surveil the grounds of the event— offline, but waiting. Asi struggles, torn between reaching for the pad stowed in her jacket to set the drone flying, scour the crowds for someone fleeing— potential culprits— or helping those in the immediate area. She breaks it down mentally, logically— the SESA agents that had come to apprehend Eve could serve as first responders here. The people from the first blast, though…

"I'm going to see how bad things are at the first blast site," she tells Chess, brow creased. "If you see anyone who looks like they did this, stop them. By any means necessary, Chess." She squeezes her friend's shoulder, knowing she knows surely, but maybe she needs the encouragement to get her back on track. "I'll be back!"

And then Asi takes off at a careful canter through the parking lot, avoiding tripping over injured and shrapnel. Once she's clear, she sprints for smoke in the trees, the path before her lit by her cellphone flashlight.

Atop the same van as Eve, Luther has a vantage point from where his attention snaps around to the too familiar sounds of explosions and panic first coming from the sharing circle area. Everything feels too sluggish, distant as he turns to shout a warning. Too late.

The second series of explosions knock Luther off his feet, off the van, sending him hurtling away. Bits and pieces of shrapnel and debris flung through the air spark and sputter as if striking an invisible barrier, either destroyed by superheated miniature lasers or sent ricocheting and splintering into further harmless pieces. He's thrown, but not nearly as far as he should have by the combination of his power and Chess' absorption. Still he crashes to the ground heavily, the wind nearly knocked out of him from the trajectory and rough landing.

Too familiar, the rise of bile churning into his throat as Luther struggles to rise. A throaty grunt escapes as he rolls himself up, shaking his head to try and clear the muted roar and high-pitched ringing. "Chess! Eve!" he calls out first as he regains his voice.

"Nice and easy," Agent Diaz says to Geneva and Lance. Cesar had been standing tall to appear confident for the sake of the trainees with him as they approached the stage. That changes instantly as he's knocked down by the shockwave of the stage area blast. Agent Diaz groans in his disoriented state, slowly coming back around to his senses and becoming aware of the portions of his clothes starting to dampen with blood.

The explosions cause a panic in Hailey that can most closely be described as PTSD. When Paul lets go of them, she crouches into a tight ball on the ground and concentrates on her breathing. Brynn can't, but Lily, Paul, and especially Roxie can hear Doodlebug's panicked barking from somewhere in the crowd. Even Goober is affected, though his panic doesn't override the link to Roxie.

Brian's words echo in her head but also Sameye's. Breathe. Don't panic. Breathe.

But she can't help panicking.

A small whine turns to a trembling hum as the empath's shaky breathing evolves into her coping mechanism. She begins to slowly recite some rap lyrics, the kind that Lance loathes, but ones she finds strength in. "Bitch, everything is your fault…" She rises to a stand. "Faults breakin' to pieces, earthquakes on every weekend…" Doodle races toward the group and leaps onto the Brynn-Paul mishmash, trying to lick Brynn's face for comfort as well as to offer comfort. "Because you shook as soon as you knew confinement was needed…"

She looks to the sky for Magnes.

Warren slams on the ground directly behind Eve before she explodes into a red mist, since he was right behind her. This isn't his first explosion, there is a reason he only has one arm after all, but he's physically very normal, and very much wasn't using his ability to calculate any impending doom.

For the time being, he mostly just kind of lays there in a semi-conscious state, groaning in complete and utter confusion.

Now he's using his ability, but given how rattled his head got, he's mostly tripping balls from it.

Magnes was using his ability to try and calm Eve, but he was trying to make things lighter, or at least more stable in a weird way. But either way, the explosion sends him flying up into the sky. Not on purpose, but just the sheer force of it and the weirdness of his gravity at the moment, he loses consciousness like fifty feet up in the air when he finally stops spinning.

It takes him a moment when he comes to, shrapnel littering his legs but not so much that he can't walk, it's mostly from his exploded skateboard that took the initial hit of force directly under his feet.

But then panic sets in, and he tries to take a deep breath. His normal panic response now is to breathe, because if he doesn't, someone might die, and the kids are down there. So he immediately goes flying back down, despite his bleeding legs full of skateboard, and lands directly next to Hailey, grabbing her wrist without saying a word.

He doesn't use any finesse here, Magnes was never one for finesse, unlike certain versions of himself. He immediately just grabs everything in his immediate vicinity that isn't a vehicle. Hailey, Brynn, Doodle, Paul, a few extra people he isn't even trying to grab, and then goes flying towards the trees while pulling them into the air inside his gravitational field. "Hailey! Brynn, Paul, are you okay?" he finally asks.

He doesn't really ask whatever extra people got caught in his field, he's not even really checking to see who's getting dragged along.

One of those people is just a lawn chair.

Alas, at the end of all things, not even lawn chairs can avoid the clarion call of fate.

As it goes flapping along everything else Magnes had pulled in, the piece of furniture is met by a glowing bullet of heat blasting from somewhere down on the ground, as though someone had just clobbered the thing with an invisible baseball. Moments later, it has evolved into an airborne inferno of burning wicker and plastic, spiraling bright, dripping embers outwards in every direction as it sails on.

Standing right behind the miserable sight as it shrivels out of view is Geneva, her breathing heavy, her blue eyes wild behind the layers of dusty gore hiding her face. One of her hands is clenched into a claw so tight she is probably drawing more blood from herself through her fingernails. Bone-shriveling heat still radiates off of her in irregular convulsions, though she's fighting desperately to control the act — perhaps a reason for that clawed hand.

The other had found pulled-pork boy, with his limbs askew and half his face missing, whom she promptly kicks away from herself not a second later with an instinctual cry of horror. "Cesar," she calls, the hoarseness of her voice causing the sound to be lost even to her own ears. "Lance—"

Cesar is the first of these her vision sharpens on, and she works on scrabbling towards him, nearly falling once or twice as she does. "Fuck. Fuck. Are you okay?"

Fuck,” is all Kenner can rasp out as he rolls onto his side. His suit jacket is perforated by shrapnel. When he moves a shooting pain lances up his right arm and as he presses his palm to the ground it is wet with blood. Breathing through a grimace, Kenner looks around at embers of fire and ash drifting through the air, frantically trying to find friendlies among the carnage.

When Kenner sits up he feels his right arm limp at his side, several long pieces of twisted metal embedded in his bicep and forearm. There are slash marks across his chest opening unwanted vents into his suit that weep with fresh blood. Kenner is struck by a wall of pain and falls onto his back, gasping for breath. “Fuck!

Rhys Bluthner is covered nearly head to toe in blood. In order to move he is forced to roll the body of a teenager that was nearly torn completely in half by the blast. Pockmarks of gravel are embedded in Rhys’ brow, weeping red into his right eye that he keeps squinted shut. Rhys is gasping for breath, horrified and shaking from shock. He can make out Cesar’s voice, and Cesar can see him, but Rhys can’t find words.

He can’t find anything other than the adrenaline shakes of panic.

Cheesequake State Park
The Beach Bonfire

Shuddering explosions had shaken the park with the bass-deep reverberation of Fourth of July fireworks. Except the screams of panic, horror, and dismay that heighten the scene are in no way mistaken for joy. There are fires burning at what was once the stage and the sharing circle, inky-black plumes of smoke twisting up like grasping fingers from the blast sites.

Some people have already started to scatter, running southward along the beach without so much as looking back. Others are frozen in place, staring in wide-eyed bewilderment at the shocking levels of carnage and violence on display. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that those frozen closest to the bonfire are where they are. The choice they could have made to run, rather than stay, would have made all the difference.

There is a blue and white cooler nearby to the bonfire, set crooked in the sand. One of a half dozen by the lake beach. But this one is not full of ice and cheap beer. It is packed with C4, nails, rusty scrap metal, and ball bearings. Barbara Zimmerman notices it at the last minute, the one cooler that isn’t open.

She’s two feet from it when it goes off.

Eve stops and screams, "No!!" Bursting into mist and taking to the air.

The next explosion is deafening, more explosives packed into the cooler than the other blasts. This singular explosion kicks up a plume of sand and fire into the air as the bonfire is blown apart by the blast. Logs, timber, scraps of cardboard, all launched away from the violent explosion.

Zain Syan was on the opposite side of the fire when the blast occurred. He didn’t see the explosion, just a gust of flame wash over him as shrapnel tore through the fire and him in a single movement. Ball bearings, screws, nails, and pieces of twisted scrap metal perforate Zain’s body. He doesn’t feel it at first, not with the air knocked out of his lungs and the concussive force of the blast nearly knocking him completely unconscious.

My tailor is going to have a fit, this coat was brand new. I wonder if she can even repair this many holes or if it’s completely scrap.

I forgot to mention to Rex that I have a dandy of a product for him at the next auction.

What he does see is his view down his body, twisted in the sand, sopping red beneath his clothes. He is numb, cold, and in those final moments panicked of both thought and breath. What of it isn’t blood in the back of his throat.

So cold. Maybe if I just took a little rest, she’ll be there when I wake. Perhaps she’ll finally let me meet her mother.

The black, scorched earth surrounding the now vaporized cooler smokes in the immediate aftermath, scarred with superheated metal and pockets of flame and heat. Those who weren't immediately killed by the explosion are still thrust to the ground with the force of a jackhammer, forming a messy and bloody pile of twisted bodies and limbs. One such form has the conspicuous honor of topping the macabre mountain of the moment's mayhem, hood blown back and torn by an errant piece of shrapnel.

It had been one last day before Barbara Zimmerman would leave New York. Now her empty, dark eyes stare into nothing, glassy and lifeless as fire licks at her cheeks.

While Castle’s attention was toward the stage, Emmie’s was immediately pulled toward the first explosion. She grabbed onto the sleeve of the tunic and pulled them around and said something that wasn’t quite loud enough to carry that seemed to include their name. The second explosion near the stage led to a louder order. This one might have been heard by those at the beach. “Raise the Castle.” It didn’t sound like their name this time.

Even as it was said, Castle had already started to pull the headphones up off their neck and over their ears, dropping down toward the sand of the beach until they are on their knees. They will likely be grateful for the meager protection of the headphones in a moment, when the much closer explosion rings out, deafening Agent Sommerfield.

One. Two. Three.

The closer explosion has thrown people into a panic. Many not close enough to get thrown to the ground or stunned by it, opted to run away, panicked, blindly running in whatever direction they could see. Or not see. Toward warnings they could not hear.

Castle’s arms go up over their head, eyes closing. Four. Emmie, rather than being stunned, or panicked, is determined and holding a ground in a protective stance before the other Agent, catching those people who get too close from running over them. One woman, fleeing and screaming, bleeding from a piece of burning shrapnel in the arm, gets flipped over onto the sand on her back beside Castle. Five. A teen that would have ran right over them gets tripped and knocked down onto their knees. Six. A third, much bigger man than Emmie, with glowing eyes and some kind of ability that seemed to be going off, gets grabbed by the hand and twisted into some kind of hold. His eyes stop glowing as she holds him and he stops in his tracks, standing up on his toes.

Hurry.” she yells, even if Castle isn’t listening to anything other than a voice singing softly in the back of their mind.

A green light starts to build inside their prone form. Seven. Growing. Eight. Growing. Nine. Growing—


The light that reaches a crescendo, a flash not unlike another bomb that expands outwards from them, rushing over the area. Unlike the explosions, though, it doesn’t harm anything, brushing over everything and everyone in its path with a gentle touch like a gust of wind, or the softest of touches. Growing over most of the park, to the sharing circle, to the stage, to the lake, to the forest, to the beginnings of the road. Until it stops. The sky seems to have turned a shimmery greenish color to those inside…

And to those outside—

It’s like the park has suddenly been draped in green fog, mist. And despite the explosions of moments before, it is now—


When Castle moves away, Nacho looks after him briefly, then shrugs, turning back to Marlowe. He’s clearly a little too drunk to worry too much about it. He refocuses on his dance partner, and when she gets a little closer he puts a hand around her waist to help the process. “Hell yeah,” he replies. “I’m not going nowhere.”

Famous last words.

That’s right about when the explosion rocks the area, and though they aren’t close to ground zero, it’s still definitely enough to have him stumbling and almost falling. Or maybe actually falling, considering he’s right up against another person, too. “What the fuck??” An understatement if ever there was one. “Let’s get out of here,” he manages to get out as he pushes to his feet, his hand moving to Marlowe’s instead to pull her in an away direction. Especially when that green stuff starts moving toward them.

The blood red mist that is Eve flies into the space, surveying the flickering white lights below her that snap out of existence as more and more people succumb to their injuries. No no no no. She thinks and a broken body with a familiar face that holds no more light has her mist form wavering in the air as it pierces through her multitated vision.


The thought is blinding, a cascade of memories wash over Eve: a first time meeting, nerves, their mother and them together, hands, the other sister, betrayer.


Eve's form slams into the sand and curls upwards as the woman can be seen crouching and breathing heavy while crawling towards Barbara's body. "Barb! Barbara!! Sis-Sister." Eve wails towards the sky as she cradles Barbara and rocks back and forth. Overcome with an emotion that overlays her own grief for the former Ferrymen council member's death.

A thick pool of blood mixes with spilled water and booze and the reflection staring back is of Niki Sander's face, blue eyes bloodshot and tears rolling down her cheek. Eve rubs at her cheek and looks away from the puddle. "It is done." She whispers and closes her eyes, bowing her head on Barbara's forehead. "Reunion."

The sudden deafening silence is what makes Eve's head pop up missing the flash of light by seconds, looking around as her gaze widens taking in the green mist. "By the Goddess below…" Slowly Eve sets Barbara's down but clings to her hand as she tries to discern the source of the ability.

One of the festival goers using their ability to help the fallen? Or…

Something else.

The first blast— then the second— bring Ava to begin running for her ward. She sprints the rest of the way to the girl she'd called Stacey, ears ringing with the sounds of a war brought back to her; a war she'd fought hard to escape but had come back for them all anyway.

Because what else was this but not an act of war?

It's certainly not the one Roman Santos was expecting. It wasn't the one he had planned on. The bombs going off aren't the ones they'd brought with them. Someone had their idea, and it looks like they'd had it better.


The bomb that goes off behind him feels like an insult. At least the fucking shrapnel from it had clipped his leg instead of his backpack. That's some fucking luck, at least. He turns back to look through the charging rush of people with a scowl, then limps in the direction of the Sharing Circle.

Needed to find Evran, after all.

Ears still ringing now from the latest, nearest blast, Ava remains down on the ground, crouched with her arms around her neighbor. A shock of roots are emerged from the sand near the bonfire, an aegis meant to ward off danger from behind. It… mostly worked. "I've got you," Ava tells the young woman shakily, not letting go of her. The pulse outward of green energy brings her to look up, taking in a sharp breath of surprise.

One that sends her wheezing.

Marlowe's tipsy smile edges towards sly at Nacho's touch and she's dancing mere brushes away from him when they're joined again by an unfamiliar face. Jen's approach earns the stranger bearing bottled alcohol a curious, if naturally wary, once over. It throws Marlowe's groove by a half beat. But she nods to Jen, inviting casual conversation when she starts, "Sure, what's your na—"

The explosion from Sharing Circle screeches the dancing and name-asking to a halt as Marlowe's eyes go wide, her head whipping around to look worriedly in the direction of the boom. Her body tenses, stiff with alarm beside Nacho's but mind too slurred, unable to formulate any sort of verbal alert to those around her. The second round of explosions further away at the stage confirm a nightmare come back to haunt her. She knows the difference between fireworks and gunfire, between deliberately set demolition charges and IEDs. She knows the dangers enough to dredge up the urge to warn. And that's all she manages before the bonfire erupts in chaos, blood, and fire.

Like her dance partner, Marlowe stumbles and falls to her knees with the shockwave from the cooler bomb. A cry of pain and shock is lost to the chaos and screams. Adrenaline pushes her up, aided by Nacho's grab. Her grip is tight. Her movements start sluggish but build in frantic scrambling as they run. After several steps over the soft sand she stumbles again and looks down. Her leg leaves a dotted trail of red where shrapnel punctures the skin, and it's more the sight than the pain of it that brings tears to her eyes. And anger to her heart. Marlowe takes a firmer grip on Nacho's arm, forcing herself back up to her feet. "Go, go," she urges.

"Jennifer Tiffany. Jen, if you're nas—" And then the explosion pushes her away and crashing into the ground. The force of the explosion itself, from what she's standing, threw her away from the actual debris. But she unfortunately landed on her bag full of liquor, which smashed quite dramatically.

She finds herself with some glass stuck in her side, as well as her arm. "Fuck… the fuck…" she groans, rolling over to stare at the sky.

Many thoughts run through her mind, as she isn't particularly war-seasoned, despite seeing and experiencing some stuff.

This is where I die. At a bonfire where I wasn't even that drunk, couldn't get a guy high, and… fuck. This night was going to be a success, in that I'd have entirely forgotten it and earned my memory loss, waking up with the rich girl and two possible cops in my pocket. I'd have said to myself, 'wow, Jen, you finally did it, this is your life now, that girl is going to buy you a polar bear coat, because you're rich enough not to have to think about endangered animals anymore'. But no, Jen, here you are, dying…

Anyway, Jen has some non-fatal chunks of glass sticking out of her.


Outside Cheesequake State Park

“Fuck— fuck!”

It’s all Francis Harkness can muster as a chain reaction of explosions all go off within seconds of each other. He’s momentarily frozen in shock, staring up at the plumes of smoke rising up amid a chorus of screams. He and the other Hounds start moving even as Elliot’s voice is coming over their comms and more painfully through the psychic network.

But three steps is as far as Francis gets before some impossible geometric shape begins rising up over the festival grounds. It is sleek and dark, like a black emerald plane twisting into a towering five-sided shape. A pentagon. This tower expands outwards, pushing through vehicles, people, and trees as if it had no matter or mass behind it. Yet when it washes over Francis, Devon, and Debra it feels like a strong wind, soon replaced by a haunting silence before the noise of the chaos comes back again. But within this tower, they can no longer see the stars, just a faintly iridescent green sheen. It’s like they’re contained in some kind of prism or forcefield.

Francis pivots, turning to look back over his shoulder. The tower — whatever it is — stopped just past Debra’s back, forming a flat, stationary plane that looks like a semi-opaque smoky green glass wall beyond which the landscape of New Jersey can be seen only in dark, blurry shapes that lack definition.

“What the fuck!?” Francis turns around, slamming against the barrier. It is a solid, impermeable force.

The first of the world-shattering blasts spurs Devon forward, his step falling in sync with the second. By the third he’s twisting to get a visual on the other Hounds, while reaching through the telepathic networking to check on Elliot’s status. It’s quicker, he knows, than forming the words and trying to get them heard across the chatter on the comms and over the chaos that’s ensuing. He turns again, his next step intending to propel him into a run.

Pain slams into him instead, when his foot finds the ground. Unprepared for the shared sensation of agony, it rips the wind from him and sends him stumbling to his knees. Gloves fingers curl into the ground. Behind his visor, his eyes squeeze shut.

Dev’s mind violently jerks and drops from the connection in the same abrupt way he’d recoil from a burning furnace. As quickly as it hit him, it's gone. A boot scrapes on the gravel as it's pulled beneath him, the other scuffs similarly as he stands.

His head comes up just in time to witness the wave of translucent darkness push up from the ground and roll over him and half of the remaining hounds. Devon turns with the passage of the angled wall. The eerie calm and quiet of it both a balm to his error and a bad omen. One hand pushes back the visor on his helmet when his eyes land on Francis and Debra, an uncertainty rolling from him as readily as sweat drips from his brow; his other hand goes to the handgun at his hip.

The explosions sure have Debra’s attention, jaw clenching as smoke rolls up above the treeline. “Son of a….”

Debra witnesses Devon stumble and fall, lips pursing together. Didn’t take a scientist to know what happened. “You know… I was starting to kinda regret not getting in on that whole… hive mind shit. But, I gotta say, it kinda looks like I dodged a bullet on that one.”

A hand lands on Harkness’ shoulder to steady him after his nasty impact with the wall. Debra is quick to push her visor up, since the coms were mostly dead. “Steady there, Jackie.” She was still getting used to the names and that was all she could remember of his callsign at the moment. Sorry guys…. She’s new-ish.

Twisting to get away from the green glow, her head tilts back to follow it upward, but then shifts her attention back over her shoulder to the plumes of smoke boiling upward. “Looks like we got the fun side, kids,” Yeah that was sarcasm, “so suck it up… the answers are down there.” She doesn’t move however, first looking at Devon and then Francis, arching a brow at their leader waiting for his orders. If the Wolfhound brass trust him to lead, she’s gonna let the kid lead.

Francis slams his hands on the glass-like barrier again without so much as an echo of a hollow feeling. “Hello!? Hello!?” It feels as though the barrier is a dozen feet thick, unrelenting and unmoving.

But what Francis doesn’t realize, is that it is but a molecule thick.

On the other side of the barrier, there is now a faintly greenish tower of flat planes rising up over the park. It has swallowed up the lights from the event — both floodlights and fires — and cast the surrounding wilderness into darkness, save for the faint emerald glow radiating from the massive panes of this hundreds of feet tall monolith. There is no sound coming from inside the anomaly, either. The only noise is the idling of the military police transport, crickets and cicadas in the woods, and a distant call of an owl.

When the wall goes up, Wright gasps like she’s just been thrown into a freezing lake. The loss of the telepathic link to Elliot and the other Wolfhound officers is a sensation like a guitar string snapping under tension. She’s cut off even from Melody, who stands on this side of the obstacle with her. To Melody it would feel no different than a pressure change in her ears. Like a candle suddenly blowing out.

Wright moans wordlessly in sudden panic, rushing forward to slam against the emerald spire. She strikes it with her hands and then the butt of her rifle, hyperventilating. “No, no NO!” she screams at the wall. “I can’t,” she starts, but doesn’t seem to know how to finish the sentence. Just repeats it over and over as she leans against the wall, clutching her head, her breathing ragged. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”

With shaking hands she fishes into her belt for a small metal case. She has to slump against the wall to control her movement enough to remove a pill from inside and throw it into her mouth, chewing it. She raises her hand, still shaking, and presses her fingers into her neck to feel her pulse. She looks down to her wrist watch as she struggles to control her breathing and heart rate. Glances up to Melody with a pleading expression on her face.

“P-please,” she stutters from between clenched teeth, “Please d-don’t tell anyone.”

The pop comes on an existential level, almost. It's just noticeable enough to make Melody's eyes widen, swallowing audibly as she stumbles back from the sudden green wall that's been erected between her, Wright, and the rest of the team. Her breathing quickens, teetering on the edge of hyperventilating her way into a panic attack when Wright starts to have one of her own. It forces Melody to swallow down anxiety in a way she's not used to, reaching over to put a hand on Wright's shoulder.

"Francis, we're going to, uh- see if we can meet up with the MPs and SESA. See if we can find a way in?" Despite the uncertainty in her voice, she seems resolute in this, squeezing Wright's shoulder. Sucking in a breath, she still waits - just in case other commands are forthcoming.

All she is met with is silence.

Cheesequake State Park
The “Sharing Circle”

It is carnage in what was once the Sharing Circle. Vehicles are upended, many are on fire, people are screaming and moaning in the dark. What feels like a hallucination is the greenish cast the sky has taken on, eliciting more panicked cries of confusion from those under the field of that strange, emerald tower.

Seren Evans stares up at that shimmering, greenish hue, blood weeping from their body into the ground. There are four people who had come to Seren’s side, one of them trying to stop their bleeding with an increasingly red sweater, another kneeling beside them — a teenager, no older than fifteen or sixteen — taking Seren’s hand and saying something. Maybe about how it’s going to be okay. It’s hard for Seren to be sure. The world feels like they’re missing bits and pieces of it. People come and go, fire rises and wanes, but the interstitial moments aren’t there. It might be a concussion…

Maybe they’re dying.

They're not sure if they are, but the sudden realization they might be rocks them out of any shock they slipped into. Fear takes its place.

"Baird, where are you?" Seren croaks in a whisper. They didn't want to be alone. They weren't, but the people trying to help weren't the comfort they were looking for— they weren't the strength Seren needed to get through this without panicking.

They can't see him, but a warmth presses against their cheek and the side of their head, sleek and inhuman. Seren can't see Baird, but they feel his presence, and that'll have to be enough.

Tear-filled eyes drift shut, taking solace in that warmth.

Asi's steps had faltered with the wall of green pulsing out, but on seeing she'd not died when it shot past her, she renews her pace to a double-time toward the fires. Seeing the flames rising from vehicles makes her stomach sink, realizing the area can't still be safe.

She's also glad, suddenly, she's already wearing a mask, no matter how thin it is.

She looks like a demon in the dark with the way the fanged mouth of the mask glows, eyes drinking in the area and its injuries in an assessment. Her eyes go to the unexploded vehicles next, wondering for damage they should be mindful of. Pierced tanks leaking fluids…

"If you're not injured, help someone who is!" Asi shouts over the scrawling din of human and burning, looking to those other vehicles. "We need to move everyone we can away from the blast site."

One of the people kneeling next to Seren leans forward and presses the palm of her hand to Seren's forehead. "You have lived," Dark brown eyes are filled with emotion but there's something else that lies underneath that gaze. Strands of white hair cling to thin lips. "You've loved."

It's as if Seren, their body broken and bleeding life was all the woman could focus on. A single tear rolls down her cheek and she closes her eyes, bowing her head forward.

"You've sacrificed." Sharing Circle, heading south toward the beach, that Evran launches into excited bursts of questions.

Zachary takes one look behind them in the process, sees a light that winks out but was definitely not in the vicinity of the circle directly. When he turns back forward again, he finally turns his attention to Evran. "Tell you what, kid, you want to stick around? Why don't you get a taste of what power feels like."

The detonator is thrust into his hands, pace between them slowing. Evran lets out a shaky, reverent exhale as he looks down at the device. "Ev!" The sound of a familiar voice brings his head to snap back up, for Zach to tense. Roman is limping when he approaches. "Dude, what the fuck?"

Well out of earshot, back at the tossed remains of the Sharing Circle, Asi heads for the sound of the young woman's voice, looking over each face seen through the half-light with knifelike precision. She can smell that something is seconds from going wrong here. "'Ella!" she calls out, hoping for a response. She recoils back when one of the vehicles lets out a sudden spume of sparks.


They spew out onto the grass and dirt, catching hold of something spilled from a vehicle. Her eyes widen and she backpedals away from it, even as she can't help but watch the spark ignite the gas, bright and hungrily chasing it back to its source. A cluster of four people trying to attend to a fifth's injuries barely have time to react. The abrupt bright brings Seren to open their eyes and turn their head toward the light.

Suddenly, the Sharing Circle explodes again with even more fire, the sounds of crunching metal carrying from where a vehicle has ripped itself apart from the inside out.

The last switch on the detonator in Evran's hand hadn't moved to an activated position, either. Roman's eyes go wide as he looks back toward the latest explosion, but if anything, the renewed carnage fuels Evran.

"Hey, Rome," he says with a grin, holding up the detonator by his side. "Get a load of this."

And then looking back in the direction of the parking lot and Stage, he flips the switch.

To Be Concluded

#xpressurself, Part 2

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