(excerpt continued from previous chapter)
28 – 40 – Lux Class Altered. This group represents the second highest percentage of the Altered population and is the range where several of the most famously identifiable abilities begin to manifest. Many Lux abilities are actually harmless, but several only seem that way. Treat any Altered ability as a potential threat. Lux contains the highest number of subtypes, so only the most directly threatening subtypes are listed here.
Telekinetic – Able to move objects mentally. Nowhere near as powerful as higher classification Altered with this ability, but still potentially VERY dangerous. Line of sight required in all documented cases.
Manipulator (Energy) – Altered capable of manipulating existing energy of a specific subtype (light, heat, and electricity are the most commonly encountered; colloquially Flashes [ultra-rare subtype: Illusionist], Pyros, and Sparks). This subtype cannot directly generate the energy they manipulate, but nothing prevents them from carrying an easy source with them (flashlights, flares, batteries, etc).
Manipulator (Material) – Altered capable of molding and reconstructing physical objects of a specific material (or subtype of material in stronger cases). Unlike higher classification Altered with this ability, Lux Material Manipulators cannot control their materials with enough speed to be a direct threat, however they can make continuous subtle changes and can be exceedingly dangerous if given time to prepare an area abundant with their material.
Generator (Energy) – Extremely rare in the Lux Classification, Energy Generators (colloquially; Blasters) can emit a type of energy and direct it. Some Generators can emit extremely exotic energy types and are considered extremely dangerous.
Healer – Generally considered a completely benign ability, Lux Classification Healers are, unfortunately, one of the most dangerous LC’s currently identified. Healers can radically alter bodily processes and functions in ways OTHER than to facilitate healing. LC Healers require physical contact in order to use their ability on someone else. WARNING: DO NOT ALLOW A LC HEALER TO ATTEMPT TO OPERATE ON ANYONE UNLESS YOU HAVE VERIFIED THEIR MEDICAL TRAINING. HEALING IS NOT AN AUTOMATIC PROCESS LIKE REGENERATION, AND REQUIRES EXHAUSTIVE TRAINING TO APPLY SAFELY.
Teleporter – Teleporters are Altered capable of traveling across varying distances (anywhere from a few feet to thousands of miles) instantly. There are no known LC Teleporters capable of carrying a living passenger with them, so abduction is not a concern. All known LC (and higher) Teleporters are NOT restricted to line of sight (or the myth that they require ‘familiarity’ with a place in order to travel there), though most do consciously limit themselves in these ways due to the potentially catastrophic consequences of teleporting into occupied space.
7 – 27 – Potent, Exemplar, or Paragon Class. DO NOT ENGAGE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. REQUEST IMMEDIATE DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY AND CONTACT THE US ARMY ALTERED CORPS TO DEAL WITH ALTERED IN THIS RANGE.
Doctor Elaine Osmand, ARCA – Excerpt from the master file of Training Law Enforcement for Altered Field Assessment, posted online anonymously September 10th, 1998.
Jessica blinked twice to clear the glare from her eyes as she stepped across the threshold of the brightly glowing portal. The single step transporting her from the headquarters of the First AAC in the Rockies to a small facility halfway across the country. The facility where she would finally get to meet her new command. I wonder what kind of reception they have pla-…
Jessica’s train of thought paused as several shouts of alarm suddenly echoed around her in the new location, then was fully derailed as something incredibly bright and painful blasted into her from above. Instinct kicked in while conscious thought was still trying to piece things together, and Jessica blinked out of the unexpected attack fast enough to save most of her uniform. Three more quick blinks gave her the data she needed to assemble the puzzle completely. Next time I see Locke…
A quick head-shake banished the pointless line of thought, and Jessica stopped blinking around the room to raise her hands and speak in the calmest tone she could manage. “Lieutenant Colonel Lawson, reporting to take command of Echo Company.” She couldn’t help the heavy sarcasm that crept into her followup question. “Am I in the wrong place or did someone just forget to mention that I’d be dropping by today?”
The three other visible figures froze as they got their first good look at the small woman who had invaded, what was apparently, a massive training room. A glance was exchanged between them before one of the males bolted for a clearly marked exit (quite literally as his body converted from corporeal to electricity in order to speed his race from the room) while the other two slowly approached Jessica.
“Colonel Lawson?” The very large man asked the redundant question in an almost comically quavering tone as nervous sweat began to bead on his bald pate.
“Yes, that is me, Lieutenant…Byrd?” Jessica made the last syllable a clear question, even though the man matched the photograph in his file perfectly.
“Ah, yes ma’am, that’s me. This is Lieutenant Guzman.” The massive bald man braced to attention as he completed the introduction with a still-shaky voice, and the black-haired woman beside him slowly followed suit. “Captain Malone left to get Captain Coleman… I’m so sorry I tried to burn you, ma’am!” The quavering voice suddenly jumped in pitch to nearly crack as the large lieutenant became more and more nervous. “We didn’t, I mean I didn’t, I mea-…”
“We were informed you would be arriving today, colonel.” Guzman interrupted her fellow lieutenant before his babbling could completely break down, her tone much more controlled and quite a bit colder. “We apologize for our hasty response, but it simply did not occur to ANY of us that you might choose to simply appear in the middle of our training facilities instead of using the front door.”
Jessica was briefly grateful to the taller woman for cutting in before Byrd could manage to completely break down, but she found no difficulty at all keeping that emotion out of her expression as she processed Guzman’s cold and condescending tone. “No harm done, lieutenants. Just make sure that if it happens again, more than ONE of you has the presence of mind to actually get an attack off.” It was quite a bit harder to keep her expression neutral at the open-mouthed shock her statement elicited. “Excellent reflexes, Lieutenant Byrd. Had this been a genuine ambush and not a simple case of mistaken destination, you would likely have the highest odds of surviving.”
The bald lieutenant’s shocked expression shifted almost instantly to a jubilant grin at Jessica’s words, while Guzman switched back to an angry glare.
“Lieutenant Colonel Lawson!”
Jessica turned to face the new voice shouting at her, and saw an angry blond man walking stiffly towards her, trailed by the returning Captain Malone.
“And you must be Captain Coleman.” Jessica looked up at the newly arrived officer, though not as far as she was used to since the man only had a few inches on her. “Apologies for the transportation mix-up, Captain Locke must have gotten the coordinates a bit muddled.”
Most of the anger bled out of Coleman’s posture as Jessica offered the not-quite-sincere apology and explanation. Now the blond man simply looked extremely annoyed as he braced momentarily to attention. “Yes, well, if you could follow me, colonel, so that we can get you properly checked into the facility?”
“Lead the way, captain.” Jessica struggled not to roll her eyes as she followed the, literally stomping, man out of the training facility.
Two pointless and aggravating hours later, Jessica found herself wistfully dreaming about the idea of foregoing the whole ‘retirement’ option and simply going AWOL indefinitely. It shouldn’t have taken long to officially verify her identity and get the paperwork transferred to Coleman’s office that put her formally in charge of Echo Company. Is he hoping that if he stalls this long enough… what? That I’ll just go away?
Whatever Coleman’s ultimate goal had been, unless it had been simply to aggravate his new commanding officer as much as possible, his use of every procedure possible to stall the process finally ran out.
“Welcome to Echo, Colonel Lawson.” The words were spoken grudgingly, and if the captain had any facial expressions other than variations of ‘angry glare,’ Jessica had not yet been blessed to see any of them. “I think you’ll find that we’ve already got a solid system in place, and it would be best if-…”
“Explain it to me, captain.” Jessica interrupted with a casual tone as she seated herself behind her new desk.
“Your system. Explain it to me. In detail.” Shock descended briefly over the blond man’s features as he groped for a reply. I knew he could do other facial expressions.
“It’s… very detailed, ma’am. And technical. I don’t think…”
“Obviously not, captain.” This time there was a definite edge to the small woman’s tone as she leaned forward over her desk. “You give me the runaround for as long as you can, even knowing there’s NOTHING you can do to stop me from assuming command. Trust me, I want to be here about as much as YOU want me here. But that doesn’t mean that I’m NOT going to do my job while I’m here. Now, your system. Take it from the top.”
“I…” Coleman had actually taken an involuntary step back in response to the angry speech from his new CO. “Please give me until tomorrow morning to get the full documentation together, colonel.”
“Denied.” Jessica smirked slightly as shock again, briefly, visited the expression of her subordinate. “Where do I look to pull up this ‘documentation?'” Jessica pointedly tapped the monitor sitting on her desk as she asked the question.
“Training files are only accessible from operatio-… Where are you going?” Coleman spun and interrupted himself as Jessica blinked out of her chair to appear in the doorway behind the blond man.
“Operations. I need to start meeting the civilian support staff as well, after all. Please make arrangements for a full company inspection at…” Jessica made a point of checking the wall clock over the flustered captain’s shoulder. “Let’s say 1600 hours. That should be plenty of time. Dismissed.”
Jessica could clearly see the stream of objections about to burst forth from Coleman’s lips at her last request, but she found herself truly not caring as she vanished again and began making her way quickly towards the facility’s operations center.
Edward Keyes sighed and scowled as the lights around him flashed briefly red before returning to normal; the result of the automated security starting an alert, then dropping it as the source was identified. An event that was rapidly giving the lanky man a pounding headache as it repeated so frequently it made the lighting in the operations center look more like something that belonged at a rave than a clandestine government facility. At least she’s stopping long enough to actually use the hand-scanners at the security doors. This would be getting REALLY loud if she started skipping those. Edward swiveled his chair to face the closest of said doors as the thought completed, and a moment later it swung open to reveal a petite woman in a slightly-singed dress uniform.
“You must be the new boss.” Edward offered a wave with his somewhat lackluster greeting.
“Lieutenant Colonel Jessica Lawson.” The woman vanished to appear a few feet in front of the seated man, and offered a handshake. “You must be part of the civilian staff, Mr…?”
“Edward Keyes.” Edward stood and shook the proffered hand, his lanky frame absolutely towering over the tiny woman in front of him. A brief flash of surprise passed through Edward as his new boss completed the handshake almost gingerly; without any of the dominance games he’d grown accustomed to from most of the other officers.
“And what do you do for us in operations, Mr Keyes?” The cheerful tone took the tall man even further by surprise.
And she can ask questions politely. Is she really a lieutenant colonel? “Computer stuff.” Edward answered casually and dropped back into the chair, but Lawson didn’t move away or break eye contact.
“Some specifics would be preferred, Mr Keyes.” The tone was still polite, but Edward noted a look in the woman’s eyes that indicated things would go rapidly downhill from here if he kept to his usual, flippant, responses.
“I compile, sort, and disseminate intelligence for Echo Company as my primary position. I also take care of most of the logistics and communications, and I monitor all the security feeds.” A brief pause of consideration before he added. “And I’m also the best and fastest guy to go to if you need any kind of technical work done regarding the facility’s equipment.”
“All that is just you?” The note of genuine surprise drew another smile from Edward.
“And then some, those are just my official responsibilities.” Before another, less polite, question could be asked; Edward tapped twice against his temple. “I’m a 61. Technopath.”
“Ah, that explai-…”
“Colonel Lawson! We nee-” Edward winced at the sudden shout from the just-reopened entrance the colonel had come in through a few moments ago.
“CAPTAIN COLEMAN!” The responding, and much louder, response almost startled Edward out of his chair.
It seemed to startle the blond captain even moreso, and Edward worked hard to stifle a chuckle at the nonplussed expression on Coleman’s face as the new CO suddenly appeared a few inches in front of him.
“Something I can do for you, captain?” Lawson was back to speaking at a much more normal volume, but Edward could clearly hear the underlying threat in her tone.
I wonder if Coleman can hear it too?
“Our discussion was NOT finished, Colonel L-…”
“That’s funny, captain.” This time the threatening tone was obvious enough that Edward found himself rolling his chair away from the two powerful Altereds, and even Coleman went a little pale as he finally seemed to catch it. “I could have sworn I told you that you were dismissed, immediately after giving you a very reasonable order even.”
It took Coleman a few tries to get more words out, and when he did it was in a tone far more polite than Edward could ever recall hearing from the man. “I apologize, colonel. I didn’t mean to come off as insubordinate.”
“But I’m afraid a full company inspection at 1600 today would be impossible. All of Echo’s squads are currently deployed trying to track down leads on that mystery Paragon criminal that has the general throwing fits.”
“Uh-huh. And under whose authority was my entire company deployed?”
“I was the interim commander, colonel, and the general issued standing orders that this was a top priority-…”
“Mr Keyes!” Edward flinched as the new boss suddenly spun away from the half-assed excuse Coleman was trying to form.
“How long would it take to contact all of Echo’s squads and arrange transport to get them back here?”
“Five minutes?” Lawson’s eyes widened briefly in surprise, and Coleman’s narrowed in anger at the quick response from the lanky technopath. Edward considered his options for a moment, then opted to press on before Coleman could say something that would get both of them in trouble with the new boss. “Lieutenant Wagner has her phone on her and she’s on call, should I send her a message to start rounding up the company?”
“Wagner…” The lieutenant colonel’s eyes flicked back and forth a couple of times as if she were reading something. “Long-range teleporter? I didn’t realize she was attached to Echo. Please inform her and all the squads that there will be an inspection at 1600 hours and make arrangements for her to start making pickups.”
“They’re all officially civilians. They don’t HAVE inspections.” Coleman’s final objection barely had any conviction left behind it, as even he seemed to accept he was grasping at straws at this point.
“Of course not.” Lawson didn’t bother hiding the over-dramatic eyeroll before turning her full attention back to Edward. “Mr Keyes, please inform Lieutenant Wagner and all of our CIVILIAN squad members that there is a MEETING at four pm. Mandatory if they want to continue with their current… employment and work-release program.”
“Messages sent, boss.” Edward smiled as Lawson offered a surprised, and somewhat disbelieving, look before he tapped his head again in explanation. “Faster than typing.”
“I imagine it is.” This time the short officer gave a smile of her own, then moved to drop into a chair near the technopath. “And since we have some time to kill, please pull up all the files related to Echo’s training programs and toss them on the big screen, Mr Keyes.”
And she still says please. I think I like the new boss a LOT better than the old boss. “Coming right up!”