Dearest readers, I wanted to personally thank each and every one of you for investing your time, encouragement and enthusiasm in reading this fan fiction story. As some of you have discovered, Chapter 14-Brave New World, represents the series finale for Summer El Bridget-Aoi and her friends. After three years of fun, mixed with work, I feel that Summer's story has been told. However, as you complete this final chapter, you may be pleased to learn that I purposely left several intriguing and potential story lines open for future development - which means... I'll be returning with more adventures for you to enjoy!
Just give me some time please, since I'm very excited to start a new and different writing project that will take me in a new direction. So, as I bid you a temporary farewell, I leave you with the final Chapter of Sovereign: Accede Destiny. ~redlawyers
CHAPTER 14 - BRAVE NEW WORLD
The bright sunlight from the surface penetrated deep into the murky depths. The luminous blades of light touching her skin as she swam beneath the waves.
Her curvaceous body pitched and rolled; bubbles floating out of her nose and mouth as she strained against the underwater pressure. The surface was visible, but something was anchoring her to the sea floor.
Fierce hands pulled at the thick chain lashed to her ankle, every last ounce of strength focused on breaking free from the heavy iron burden. Then, something in the darkness caught her attention – something she had seen before.
The woman desperately yanked on the links as the ominous creature glided closer. Instantly, the orange glowing serpent reeled its head, showing rows of razor sharp teeth.
Her lungs burned. She released the chain, raising her fists and preparing to face her fate. Amazed by the woman's courage, the creature halted, floating motionless a meter away. It was studying her, perhaps contemplating how it would enjoy eating its tethered meal. Then in a slow deep sinister voice, it spoke.
"YOU'RE STILL A MONSTER!"
With lightning speed, it coiled its body and shot forward.
"No!" Replied the woman, raising her right hand to stop the writhing viper from tearing into her flesh. "I'm the Sovereign Pandora and it's you who's the monster!"
The serpent halted its attack, tilting its head and twitching its body for just one chance to sink its fangs into her deliciously smooth white skin. "Now get away from me!" She shouted, "You will serve me when I call for you."
"BRAVE WORDS GIRL, I WILL PATIENTLY WAIT FOR THAT MOMENT."
Next, the creature returned to the inky shadow from which it came, wriggling its body back and forth as it drove itself through the water. Rejoicing over her triumph, Summer El Bridget-Aoi stared into that blackness until the serpent was gone.
Looking down at her ankle, she found herself surprised that her bare leg was free; the painful shackle that represented her volatile N3 NOVA Form was broken.
"Father, now I understand." She said, as the murky underwater colors faded into a celestial plane of stars. Gazing into infinity, Summer thought about what her father said about the shimmering specs of light. "Summer, seek the stars that dot the cosmos, and you'll find the answers you seek."
Summer took a deep breath and focused her mind, searching for a part of herself that she had lost.
West Genetics Island, Japan
Hospital Room 22B
One week following the events of the Chimborazo NOVA Clash
Summer stirred in her hospital bed which brought Adriana's head up from her hands. The captain's swollen eyes were red from stress, lack of sleep and a general sadness for the well-being of her best friend.
"Hey, you're awake?"
Summer winced as she turned in her bed, pushing the sheet away as she felt the prick of the monitoring sensor stuck inside her arm.
"There were a few times that we didn't think you were going to make it."
"Make…it?" Summer whispered as she tried to remember where she was. "I was…?"
"Yeah, you were practically dead. You did some incredible shit on that battlefield. You saved all of us."
"No, I didn't." Then Summer looked away, "How am I alive?"
"The doctors stimulated your remaining tablets which restarted your regeneration process." Summer frowned from the dull pain as she looked at the neatly wrapped bandages tied around her right arm.
"Yeah, you somehow grew that back too."
"What…happened?" Summer breathed.
"You really don't remember all the amazing things you did?"
Summer shook her head.
Adriana pulled her chair closer. "You mean you can't remember when you saved all of us by fighting the NOVA Prime, and then opening a dimensional portal to send that alien bastard back where he belonged?"
A knock at the door stole Summer's attention.
She squinted, "Who's…that? Mom is that you?"
Satellizer couldn't hold back her tears as she rushed to the bed and embraced her daughter. "I was so worried for you when we read the After Battle Report. Your father and I waited hours for you to arrive by medical transport."
"How are you feeling?" Kazuya's voice was calm and clear.
"I've…been worse." She said, "Adriana mentioned that it was pretty bad."
Kazuya nodded, "Dr. Wakahisa directed your treatment via live stream while en-route to Genetics America. It wasn't until they brought you back here two days ago that your body was able to function without the aid of their support equipment."
Adriana looked at Summer, then her parents and then the open doorway. Getting to her feet, the Pandora excused herself. "I'm…going to check in with McGeady and the team; let them all know you're awake and talking, okay?"
"Thanks Adriana, for being here."
From the door, the captain turned and smiled. It pained Adriana to see her roommate so fragile and broken. After everything they went through on the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, Adriana figured that Summer needed to be with her family more than anything else.
"Of course, it's what best friends do."
"Okay, see you…later?"
Adriana smiled and nodded as she disappeared through the door.
Summer looked at her parents as they sat by her bed. The look on Satellizer's face was enough for her daughter to realize that something else was terribly wrong. "Say it, what else happened to me?"
A fresh tear rolled down Satellizer's cheek as Summer shook her head.
"Tell me, what's wrong?"
"You…lost two of your aunt's sacreds." Kazuya said in a low dry tone.
"During your battle with the NOVA Prime, you absorbed too much of its temporal power." Kazuya's interpretation of the events drew the waking Pandora to attention as she was visibly shocked by the facts. "Wakahisa believes that some of Kazuha's tablets fractured when the Prime displaced your mind from your body."
Summer looked at her bandaged right arm and the myriad of micro-sensors linked to the silent medical instrument mounted on the aluminum rack with wheels. "He also said that he found traces of a foreign wave pattern in your flow rates."
Summer scowled, "How foreign?"
"They don't know, but it appears to be NOVA in origin."
Clenching her fists, she tried summoning her strength, but something felt missing – Kazuha's recognizable presence was absent from Summer's ethereal connection. "She's really gone," Summer stated, "This isn't something they can fix correct?"
"What?" Satellizer asked as her lips quivered. "Your aunt's Stigmata?"
Summer turned her head on the pillow and stared out the window, letting her arms rest at her side. She kept her breathing shallow and slow as she took in the absolution of her defeat. "I'm…so sorry mother. I failed you, and your sacrifice to me was in vain."
Satellizer held her daughter's hand as Kazuya rose from his chair saying, "Summer, you'll always be able to contact her. Remember what I told you about the stars."
Summer wouldn't turn from the window as she asked them to leave. "I would like, um, I need some time to process all of this. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, so could you come back later?"
Kazuya brushed aside his wife's graying blonde hair and rubbed the base of her neck. "Satella, we should go. Let's leave Summer to herself for a little while, okay?" Nodding, Satellizer agreed and grabbed a hold of her husband's arm before rising and following him to the doorway.
Summer's parents exchanged a brief goodbye before exiting, gently closing the door behind them. As silence fell upon the room, Summer kept her eyes on the window, following the billowy white clouds as they crawled across the sky.
Mourning her loss, Summer quietly cried as she covered her face in shame. With her emotions crushed, the frustrated Sovereign debated if the tears she shed were for Kazuha, Alexandra or herself.
The Citadel, West Genetics Island, Japan
6 months after the events of the Chimborazo NOVA Clash
"Kallie, just tell me!" Pina pleaded as she briskly followed behind her friend as they traveled down the freshly renovated hallway. "You're usually more talkative than this; the commander must have given you one hell of an assignment." The tall Japanese woman pushed the exit door wide open as she didn't answer. "Hey wait! What's wrong? Kallie wait!"
Outside the building, the two girls avoided the last remaining sections of scaffolding that was about to be removed from the newly rebuilt façade of the Citadel.
"Kallie? What's wrong with you?"
Kallie Osuka pressed on, coldly focused as she marched to the center of the courtyard where three people were waiting. Pina kept pace until the little Pandora recognized the individuals Kallie was meeting.
"Hello mother." Kallie stated as she stood at attention.
"Kallie!" Willa Wagner exclaimed as she released the handles of Minato Osuka's wheelchair. "From that look on your face, you did accept the appointment after all?"
Pina looked across to Willa, then back at the complacent expression of Kallie.
"Yes mother, it's done."
"Brilliant!" Willa clapped as she whirled toward Minato. "Our daughter is braver than you thought! See, I told you!"
"Wait a minute here!" Pina felt the need to interrupt as Kallie held her head a little lower than usual. "What's going on Ms. Wagner?"
"Why, didn't she…tell you?" Willa hesitantly replied, acknowledging that Kallie wasn't one to talk at length about her personal life. "She's accepting an assignment at Genetics America to work with my team on improving the effects of phased plasma tablets."
Pina's mouth went slack as she turned to her roommate. Kallie raised her eyes to meet hers as she uttered her confirmation. "It's true, I'm transferring."
Stunned, Pina backed away as she remembered the conversation the two of them had weeks ago in regards to taking similar assignments at West Genetics. Feeling betrayed, Pina expected to hear the reason why.
"I thought…we talked about this, you know?"
Kallie forced a smile. "You're my best friend, but there was a chance for me to have my family together again and I," She paused, "I don't want to miss the chance." Pina held back her tears as she understood. "Don't worry, it's not like I'll be gone forever, part of my responsibilities at Genetics America is to rehabilitate my father."
"I can take care of myself you know!" Minato bellowed from his chair, "They had to twist my arm to go to America anyways!"
"I'm going to miss you Kallie."
"I know Pina, but you've grown very strong in this past year, you'll be fine on your own."
"Okay," Pina said at the finality of the situation, "I'm going to assume that you're leaving today?"
Kallie paused and then nodded. "1700 hours."
"Then let me spend some time with you and your family," Stealing a smile at the brown-haired pilot slouching to Willa's right. "So, you're Jimmy right?"
"Uh, yes that's me, James Hobbs." He said holding out his hand awkwardly, "Uh, pleased to meet you."
A devilish smile crossed Pina's face. "Please to meet you too," Gripping the man's hand tightly, "Kallie has told me so much about you."
Kallie's cheeks went red as Jimmy held in a squeal at the Pandora's solid grip. "Oww…oh yes! I'm sure…" He stared at Kallie in confusion, "Uh she has?"
"Jimmy?" Willa called as she handled Minato's wheelchair. "Do me a favor and get our bags stowed in the Learjet for the trip back?"
The pilot looked at his boss, then the two women standing in front of him. "Of course! Right away Ms. Wagner!" He said, hustling back to gather the four duffels sitting in a pile on the sidewalk.
Crouching down, he grabbed at each strap and hoisted the heavy bags onto his shoulder. Standing up, he clumsily stumbled into Kallie who was standing waiting for him.
"Oh I'm sorry!" Said Jimmy as the weight of the bags made him falter his step.
"I'll carry those bags, if you wish me too." Kallie said in a sultry tone that made the pilot's face flush a deep shade of red.
Suddenly, Pina was right there beside him too, jabbing an elbow sharply into his side. "If she wants to carry the bags Hobbs, I'd let her…you know?"
He loosed a quick sigh of relief. "Ah, umm, r…right! My mistake!" Kallie winked to Pina as she took the four bags from the puzzled pilot and effortlessly slung them all over her shoulder.
"Now I totally figured out why you requested the transfer." Whispered Pina as she shook her head in playful annoyance. "It's not just about reuniting with your parents huh?"
"Naturally," Kallie responded as the two trailed Jimmy on their walk back toward Willa and Minato.
"I never would have thought about that from you Kallie."
"Me neither, these feelings I have are quite bothersome." Kallie was then genuinely concerned as she observed Pina's saddened expression. "Hey don't worry, things will work out and we'll be together again soon."
"They better Kallie, for my sake at least. I wish you could stay, I'm so nervous about my assignment."
"I'm sure you're ready. Field Commander McGeady informed me that you requested the eight month instructor training course?"
Pina tried to smile as she walked alongside her friend. "Yeah, I think being a drill instructor is the perfect fit for me."
Kallie nodded, "Pina, you'll definitely make an excellent addition to the instructional staff and you'll make a serious first impression to all the incoming freshmen."
Pina laughed, "I suppose. Just like the garbage treatment we all got as First Years perhaps?"
"Definitely." Kallie replied with a grin, "Those were good times, when things were…simpler."
"Yeah, I guess they were."
Pina slowed her pace behind James and Kallie, her mind wandering back to that moment in her past when three Pandora hopefuls asked an insignificant weakling to join their ranks as a teammate – when things really were simpler, or so they all thought.
The Citadel, West Genetics Island, Japan
Office of the 2nd Field Commander
"Anything else Captain Tamm?" Maya McGeady inquired, "If you stand any straighter, you'll fall over."
Larisa quickly blinked and relaxed her posture. "Yes ma'am I have one additional request."
The Field Commander raised an eye from her glowing PAD as the tall Belarusian waited.
"And…what is it Captain?"
Larisa spent weeks memorizing her statement for her commanding officer; the repeating vision of her mother's death was too strong to ignore and she desperately wanted answers.
"I humbly request a two-week leave of absence to sort out some family responsibilities back home in Belarus."
Maya blinked, but didn't answer. The officer studied the young woman for a moment before settling on her response. "Granted. I trust that you'll get your father's company…back on track?"
"Ah, yes ma'am I will. Thank you ma'am."
"Oh, and Larisa?" Maya added, "Make sure to let Davina, Brittany and Corraine know that you're taking a leave of absence? I don't want to mistakenly reassign them because of some sort of misunderstanding." Maya placed the PAD on the table as she pondered her assignments. "It's bad enough I got Nii Akuro requesting Bella Mayberry's team, plus Lohman's unusual request for Summer El Bridget-Aoi and Pina Marigold."
"No ma'am, they won't be placed under anyone's command but mine. Thank you for your consideration."
"Just don't get yourself in any trouble Captain."
Larisa saluted, "Understood Field Commander."
Pinsk, Belarus – Third day of leave
Larisa slammed the door to the taxi, her deceased mother's voice a chilly echo as she gripped the strap of her messenger bag. She had followed the cryptic trail this far, now she wondered, what other surprises did Marta Maier have for her daughter?
The tall Pandora examined the red-roofed building, before confirming the sign out front. National Bank of the Republic of Belarus
The clack of her high-heels trapped the attention of the teller clerks and bank associates as she strutted through the front door. The lure of her short black skirt and ruby-red top drew unnecessary looks as she approached the information desk.
"Good afternoon." Purred the tall woman as she fumbled in her bag, finally presenting the desk clerk with her government issued ID, "My name is Larisa Maier-Tamm and I would like access to my safe deposit box."
Larisa's credentials were verified in minutes, which put some of the Pandora's anxiety at ease. Once the bank manager arrived, Larisa was escorted through the depository lobby and across the room to the barred entrance of the inner vault.
"This way please." The manager replied. "So, you're the daughter of the late Lukas and Marta Tamm?" Larisa observed him input the code before hearing the unlocking sounds of each heavy latch.
"Yes," She said, "I am."
"How very interesting."
As the vault door opened, Larisa followed the older man into the inner chamber where columns of safe deposit boxes lined the floor to the ceiling. "The number please?" The bank manager asked.
"Box…zero-five…zero-two…seven-five" Larisa closed her eyes as she wrestled the morbid image of her dying mother from her mind. Clearing her head, Larisa recited the box identification.
"Zero-Five, Zero-Two, Seven-Five."
The man immediately began scanning the rows and columns of boxes while Larisa impatiently waited.
The rectangular safe was found easily and was politely presented to the eager Pandora. Reading the identifying number again, Larisa gasped in surprise. Those numbers represent the month, day and year of my birth! Larisa struggled to hold the box as her mind raced, thoughts of dread and fear crushed the Pandora's nerve as she held something her deceased mother found extremely valuable.
"Open it." Larisa whispered as she shoved the box back toward the man.
"Miss, you do possess the key, yes?"
Larisa's shoulders drooped as she explained that her mother didn't provide a key for the depository box. "That's unfortunate," The manager quickly replied as he immediately walked the metal container back to its location. "Perhaps in the future, when you have found the key?"
Larisa frowned as she clenched her fists. She came all this way to find out what her mother had confessed about; something as simple as a locked box wasn't going to be an obstacle in her way. "The contents of that box, belong to me correct?"
"Technically, but Miss Tamm, without the key you can't simply just open the…"
"Place it on the table and then leave please."
"I don't understand, it's locked. I would encourage you to come back when you have found the…" Larisa's eyes burned with a seriousness that alarmed the man. Nodding in compliance, he returned the box to the table and moved to the door.
"As you wish Miss Tamm, clients have a complimentary time of five minutes in the vault."
Larisa watched the older man leave, following his steps passed the door as he silently shut her in. With the manager gone, Larisa stared down at the silver box sitting ominously in front of her.
With a gentle push, Larisa turned the container around until the key hole faced her. Pressing with a nudge of her strength, the Pandora creased the locking mechanism and popped open the safe deposit box.
Larisa quickly looked around, expecting a fire team of well-armed guards to rush through the lobby and arrest her. When nobody came, she slowly opened the lid and peered inside.
The contents of the box consisted of a freshly oiled hand pistol, four neatly stacked piles of currency and a rolled-up blue envelope.
Pulling the sealed folder from the box, she closed the lid and pushed it away. Splitting open the top, Larisa pulled seven Minsk Heavy Industries documents from the envelope and placed them across the table.
At first, the spreadsheets and data tables appeared benign, but upon closer inspection, Larisa noticed a pattern. One of the financial flow charts showed a significant revenue drop for several quarterly earning brackets. As she compared the data with some of the other charts, she realized what was happening.
"He was siphoning money from the company and depositing it in a dummy account for businesses in the country of Georgia? Why?"
Larisa examined the final document, appropriately titled, The Last Will and Testament of Lukas Tamm. Almost immediately, she slid the paper away, disturbed that she couldn't keep her eyes on the paper. For years she had pushed her father's memory to a dark place in her mind and this wasn't something she wanted to read.
Larisa's curiosity proved more difficult to defeat than she originally thought; forcing her shaking hand to carefully pull the paper in close.
Scanning the lines and paragraphs, Larisa swallowed at the request and terms described in her father's will. What made the young woman stumble was the paragraph toward the end of the testament, stating that every financial asset and share of the company were to be transferred to her.
"No, this can't be right." She shook her head, "I can't be the sole beneficiary? Mother wasn't even mentioned, and I don't remember anyone carrying out these final requests."
As she rummaged through the papers spread across the table, a folded square sheet presented itself. "Eh? What's this?"
Unfolding the paper, Larisa recognized her mother's handwriting; spelled out in thick red ink.
Marta described the siphoning of money and how she was excluded from her husband's will. In retaliation, she explained in detail her secret dealings with Flood Tide and Nightfall to corrupt and exploit the company. Further details of Marta's cruelty were exposed with a complete account of the hired gunmen sent to assassinate Lukas and Larisa.
"Holy shit this is my mother's complete confession! Why the hell would she have written all of this down? It's too incriminating to have..."
Larisa leapt to her feet as the bank manager appeared in the room, startled that she didn't hear him enter. "Your five minutes are up and…" He stopped in mid-sentence as he noticed the open container and papers strewn across the table. "You said you didn't have a key Miss Tamm."
Thinking fast, Larisa grabbed all the documents at once and stuffed them into the box, carefully wrapping up the handgun before gathering the money and documentation and stuffing everything into her messenger bag.
Presenting the empty depository box to the manager, Larisa moved quickly for the exit. "Thank you very much sir, have a nice day!"
"Wait, Miss Tamm?" The man sighed as the Pandora hurriedly left the room. Shaking his head, he turned his attention to the empty box left in his hands. Frowning at the blatant damage to the container, he stared back at the open doorway as he cursed himself for letting her go.
"I was really hoping she wasn't going to open it." Said the manager after pulling a handset from his blazer pocket. Swiping through the phone list, he found the number he needed to dial.
The number rang continuously before finally connecting. "Goshen? Yeah it's me, I know you never thought you'd hear from me, but I have some troubling news about Marta Maier's daughter. Her kid…she knows everything. What do you want me to do?"
HDC Room 2
West Genetics Island, Japan
Summer huffed through her fatigue as she braced herself against the wall. The training program was paused, allowing the Sovereign to catch her breath as she stared into the empty faces of a half-dozen immobile Humanoid N2 NOVA.
"I'm trying." She panted, worrying more about the drips of blood on the floor than the refocusing of her energy. "I've got to get it back!"
In frustration, she felt a strange tingling sensation before the injured warrior noticed the lights of the exercise room dim. Suddenly, Summer found herself floating in a place that wasn't anywhere near the main island of Japan.
"I've crossed dimensions?" Summer affirmed as she gazed out over the infinite astral field.
"So, you've healed yourself?" Said an eerie voice, "You surprise me more and more."
Stunned, Summer examined the endless array of stars, looking for where the sound was coming from.
"Who is this? Hello? Where are you?"
"I endure in an existence that you cannot see."
Summer wondered as she took in the wide horizon of sparkling stars. "Alexandra?"
"Hi, it's me."
"Is this a dream? Are you really here?"
"I'm all around, but mostly inside you."
Summer opened and closed her fists, sensing the slight tingle of energy. "I don't feel your presence, but yet there's something different. How is it that we're communicating?"
"You've been given a wondrous power."
Summer shook her head, "This isn't possible, I've shattered my heroic tablets. I can't do anything like this anymore."
"No Summer, I gifted to you a talent that can manipulate dimensional energy."
"Alexandra," Summer began to weep as she gripped her chest, "You died for us and I couldn't save you."
"Don't cry for me." The voice replied, "I'm trusting you with dark energy that only you can command. I'm sure you'll make good use of it as the Guardian of your people."
"Why? Why do that for me?"
"It's because I love you and the human race. Plus," She continued, "You're going to need everything for the troubling times ahead."
Worry came over the Sovereign, "The future?"
The voice suddenly went silent, "What do I do with this gift, this…dark power? Please! I've worked so hard to control my NOVA Form. Alexandra, don't do this to me!"
The voice was now a whisper, "In time, you'll learn to use it. Just promise to make your world a better place."
"Alexandra? Will I ever be able to seek your guidance? I'm afraid."
The echo thrummed one last time. "If you trust in yourself, then you'll be able to find me here."
Adriana chuckled to herself as she inspected the freshly painted and refurbished corridors of the Holo Discipline Center. The tall brunette tried to find some humor in walking through the hallways of the building she helped defend when Nightfall invaded over a year ago.
This time however, she was on assignment. Her orders were simple, put together an elite infiltration team for a new series of missions. Turning the last corner, she thought about the last candidate on her list – "I hope the Sovereign says yes!"
The Holo Training Room was sealed, but her newly earned clearance granted her access. As she punched in the override protocol, warning buzzers sounded as the door slid open.
Looking inside, she found her old roommate standing in the middle of a group of enemies that seemed paused in the middle of their offensive actions.
"The door is locked for a reason…Captain."
Adriana endured the biting comment as she sauntered into the room. "I wanted to know where you were and find out, how you're doing." Summer faced her visitor, displaying a tattered uniform that proved she successfully deactivated the safety protocols of the training scenario.
"My God Summer, what the hell?" Said Adriana as she stared at the clotting gashes of blood coating her friend's body. "What's up with all of this? Do you have a death wish or something? I thought Dr. Wakahisa needed more time to study your unusual healing?"
Breathing heavy, Summer massaged her arm and rib, which was still tender from the fierce simulation. "I'm trying to use extreme situations to stimulate my damaged Stigmata."
"With these old friends of ours?" Adriana seemed puzzled as she slid a finger down the maw of a frozen N2. "Didn't Wakahisa's specialists remove your two fractured tablets?"
"Computer, end session." Said Summer as the inactive creatures vanished from the Holo room. "No, they haven't performed the procedure yet." Adriana stepped closer as Summer rubbed her bruised right shoulder. "He told me to schedule the implant replacement at my discretion."
"I'm, so sorry it happened."
"Me too." Summer said as she inspected the deep lacerations and bloody abrasions covering her upper body.
"You still didn't tell me why you're busting yourself up."
Summer couldn't avoid Adriana's prying forever. Almost two years ago, the two of them promised to share every secret; a special bond the pair shared because of Summer's special hidden talents. Adriana then quickly moved to the door to block her friend's exit. "You're not going to tell me are you?"
"I assume you won't stop asking me if I don't." Said Summer dryly.
"We said we'd share everything."
Summer backed away, her arms and shoulders slack. Adriana could tell that her friend was troubled. As her captain, she had to figure out a way to coax the information out of her.
"Does it deal with your father?"
"No…well, sort of." Summer thought more about it, "No, I don't think so anymore."
"Okay, your mom?"
Summer rolled her eyes and tilted her head, showing contempt toward the tall brunette. "Seriously Adriana? Of course not."
She won't stop bothering you if you keep it a secret.
"Fine." Said Summer as she rubbed her hands. "I'll tell you the truth."
Adriana programmed the door to lock, before listening intently to Summer's description of the Chimborazo Clash and the severe damage done to Kazuha's Stigmata. Summer explained every detail, except for Alexandra's gift of dark energy.
"So, you can't communicate with Kazuha Aoi because the NOVA broke your tablets and you're completing these simulations in the hopes of re-igniting her essence?"
Summer nodded, "Yeah, I guess it's that simple," She lied.
Adriana smiled as she paced the room. "Time to put that on hold." Summer raised an eyebrow in confusion, "I need one more person for a team I'm assembling. The mission is to assist the Allied Nations with hunting down and arresting the remaining Nightfall thugs and terrorist sympathizers operating in parts of Eastern Europe and Asia."
Summer wiped the perspiration from her face. "So you're here to recruit a Ready Reservist?"
"I want to recruit Summer El Bridget-Aoi."
"Oh please…" Summer huffed, "I'm not the same anymore." She displayed her ravaged body, "Don't you see? I can't touch my power like I used to. I'd be a hindrance to your team."
Adriana extended a hand as she shook her head. "Summer, I want you, not the Sovereign. We'll worry about your damaged Stigmata later."
Summer glanced at Adriana's open hand before looking into her deep brown eyes. "You, want me huh?"
Adriana laughed out loud, "Yes! Of course I do! Now let's get you cleaned up, McGeady won't agree to my appointment if I present you to her all bloody and banged up."
Summer glared wide-eyed at her friend. "Wait a second, you didn't clear it with the Field Commander yet?"
"Nope, I forgot to mention it to her at my last briefing, Captain's prerogative I guess." The spunky brunette was already unlocking the door and walking down the hall while Summer was left behind in the Holo training room.
"Ah, stop a second Adriana! Wait up! Are you serious?" Summer tried to rush after her friend, but her injuries slowed her pace. "Oh God, here we go again!"
A suburb in Seattle, Washington, United States of America
Ten months after the Chimborazo NOVA Clash
Addison Ellsworth, fifteen and the oldest of her three siblings reclined across the leather couch reading her favorite graphic novel, while her younger sister Avery was busily tapping away on her own translucent PAD. Up in his bedroom, their 9-year-old brother Anthony kept to himself as he immersed himself in an online video game.
"When did Dad say they'd be home?" Avery asked as the twelve-year old looked out the window from her seat. Addison ignored her sister as she swiped the tablet to the next page, twirling strands of auburn hair in her fingers.
"Don't know, why?"
Avery kept her attention on the window. "Well, there's someone in the driveway."
Addison raised her eyes from her device and stared out the window, still not moving from her comfortable seating position.
With all the events, tributes and services finally calming down from the past several months, no one else would have had any reason to stop by and visit the Ellsworth residence anymore.
With the tragic loss of their Aunt Amelia to an accidental military exercise overseas, several Genetics Officers and Pandora had come over the days and weeks to pay their respects to the family. Addison still remembers her aunt's assistant Nana Hayashi, who visited for the day and left behind the late Headmistress's personal affects.
"Who do you think this person is?" Avery wondered as she kept her hazel colored eyes on the running vehicle at the end of their driveway.
"It's probably another anti-Genetics protester or someone wanting to tell us how sorry they were that Aunt Amy is dead." Addison sighed as she returned to her digital book, "Just don't answer it."
Watching Avery move from her chair and pull back the shade, Addison grew curious. Avery had a surprised look on her face as she turned to her older sister. "She sort of looks old, like maybe in her forties."
"Avery, forty isn't old."
"No, but this woman definitely is old like mom and dad."
The doorbell rang, making both girls jump.
"Who do you think she is?"
"I don't know Avery, just don't answer it."
"She looks, really beautiful. Her hair is dark and it's almost perfectly placed and pinned up."
The bell rang a second time.
"Don't answer it." Addison grumbled.
Avery stepped away from the window when suddenly the door knocked rather loud. What surprised the two sisters more than anything was when the visitor outside called in to them.
"Hello? Hi, uh I can hear the two of you inside there talking, do you mind?"
"Oh my God she heard us?"
Addison leapt from the couch and charged toward the door, "Shh! Let me handle this…saleswoman."
Addison flung the door open and stepped to the screen door that separated the teen from the tall raven-haired woman standing on the front stoop. "Do you mind telling me how you were able to…"
Addison paused as she realized whom the person was that stood before her. "You're a…you served with my aunt didn't you?"
The woman smiled and nodded.
Addison became curious. "Why…are you here? The services and tribute celebrations happened months ago. We didn't expect any more guests."
The woman brushed some stray strands of black hair behind her ear as she humbly looked away. "It took me a long time to find this place."
"Well, my mom and dad aren't home so if you were going to speak to them about Aunt Amy, I'm sorry. You'll have to come back another time."
The tall woman shook her head as she stepped closer. "Actually I'm here to speak with you and your sister if you'd permit me."
Avery stuck her head between her older sister and the open door. "Talk with us about what ma'am?"
"Talk to you about applying to be a Pandora and what really happened to your aunt."
Addison frowned, "Become a Pandora? What do you mean?"
"Are we old enough?" Said Avery with delight.
"Be quiet!" Addison pushed her sister back. "Listen ma'am, the military representatives told my dad that my aunt died in some weird training exercise. They also said that we weren't eligible for the program because of her death."
The woman shook her head, "Of course they would tell you that." A devious smile crossed the stranger's face. "What if I told you that your aunt died a hero, one of several brave Pandora who saved the world almost a year ago?"
"Who…are you?" Avery asked.
"Me? My name is Evangeline Petran and I served with your Aunt Amelia for several years battling many different types of enemies."
"She never mentioned you in any of her stories." Avery said, still very intrigued by the strange visitor.
The woman sighed, "I'm…sure she didn't."
"So," Addison cut in, "Explain again why you're here and why you want to talk with us?"
"If you invite me in, I can start at the beginning."
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