Politics is... Pretty Close to Home, Too [2.3]

ASE.pngSpring Rolls.jpg

Screaming is healthy... well, sometimes at least?
Screaming in bad situations can help you resist much worse, politically unwise actions as well in the long run.

There's no shame in letting off a nice big girly scream or two while falling through the air at speed at least, no matter who you are.

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Plans being made and shared repeatedly,
Someone gets clingy for semi-valid reasons,
And Hannah uses John as a meat shield!


John’s still screaming, well, more like yelling really, but I’m the one saving his ass so I say he’s screaming and it’s a fact, no matter what he may say about it later. I’m still gaining on him as well obviously, but it’s hard to tell by how much though.

The ‘shield’ is about as ready as it’s going to get, I think, all that’s left is to deploy it. Powers’ help me, this better work! With a push followed closely by an expectant a flinch I forced the spell construct out of my lines. In seconds, a sparkling blue haze formed in front of my vision, much to my relief.

The shape wasn’t perfect by any means and I had to shift my body into a slight spin to counteract a problem where one side of the nosecone-shaped shield was slightly lopsided, but my velocity drastically improved to a point that within seconds I was practically passing John in the air.

When I had as big a lead ahead of him as I’d dare to get with the earth coming quickly upon us, while still being useful, I shattered the shield with a pulse of magic and twisted my body over so I was falling back-first.

My arms spread out as wide as I could and I gestured for John to come to me. It took him a moment or two to get it but with a visible gulp he pulled his arms in, no doubt in the same way he saw me do a moment ago, and dropped towards me harshly.

We smacked into each other at speed. The collision hurt, especially my ribs where his elbow slammed into me, but luckily one of my hands managed to slap down on his lower back as he almost drifted away and the ‘sticking’ spell Eris showed me to help get my hair to stay in place worked wonders in ensuring that he couldn’t just bounce off of me to go flying away once more.

I frantically pulled us together and he wrapped me up in his arms tightly in return. My legs twisted together with his to lock myself in place as best I could. With one last huff of breath I slapped my charged hand on his bicep to activate his wings.

The g-forces involved felt like they must have been staggering. I’m pretty sure only the inherent nature of the runes built into his newly fabricated Icarus wings stopped us both from passing out as we decelerated at a stupidly fast rate. I’m also pretty sure that, if I hadn’t tweaked the spells a little before translating them into a fabricating rune array, then the wing constructs jutting out from behind John at the moment would have probably snapped off like twigs by now, too.

As it is, though, I held on for dear life, mostly remaining tucked to John’s chest by the ‘sticking’ spell my hand has on his back and the amazingly tight hug he’s got around me at the same time. After a few seconds the sound of rushing wind finally died off at long last and I could hear some loud girly screaming surrounding us from seemingly everywhere at once.

I opened my eyes, ready to tease John about it, only to find him watching me with his mouth shut instead.
...Well, that’s embarrassing...

It took more force then I’d like to admit for me to slam my mouth shut and cut off the terrified little scream that had been unconsciously escaping me for however long it had been happening as we fell.

“Nice of you to drop in, Han. I thought you liked flying as long as it’s by magic?”

We just survived jumping out of a burning plane and he wants to be a smart-ass about it now?

“Don’t make me hurt you, John-Boy.”

Despite the situation and the very real fact that, because of my own negligence in forgetting to tell him how to activate the most important spell on these suits when we’re thirty-thousand feet up, I nearly let him die an— and—

Slowly I tucked my head tight against his chest and closed my eyes slightly as I clung on for dear life and we started to our controlled descent properly at last.

I didn’t think at the time, I got too distracted by the seemingly impossible magical plane we were in, and Eris’s cute reaction to getting her bowling ball back.

I didn’t listen. I got too caught up in the fun of finally getting to test out my new element and all my new toys properly, too. After months of half-dazed calculations I can barely remember, there was this burning need in my chest to prove, to myself more than anything, that it all wasn’t just wasted time!

I acted rashly, stupidly, in a way that we just can’t afford to do anymore. Xian, back in the plane, proved one simple fact which I tend to forget sometimes, I’m not the only one with enemies.

There isn’t time for me to relax. I shouldn’t be wasting my attentions on family drama, emotions, or allowing my own fears to control me! I should be working around those fears or just ploughing through them like a Powers-damned adult would!

If I’d been any slower, if Felix had given me a standard suit instead of my prototype one, if John hadn’t listened to me when I told him to get back or hadn’t caught me when the plane tipped forward so suddenly. Then we could have all died back there and it would have all been my fau—


“Less of the moping, Han. We all survived and you did the right thing. Enjoy the view while you can and stop beating yourself up with what-if’s like you just finished our third-grade math test all over again.”

My mouth opened to snap at him, either for reading my mind like he so often seems to do lately, or just because he’s trying to stop me from doing what needs to be done again, just like he did back in my realm—then, my brain registered that tacked on third-grade comment in his chastisement and I paused in surprise at the reference, a reference which caught me completely off guard for obvious reasons.

Without much warning I felt my cheeks flush a little at the embarrassing reminder and a string of barely suppressed giggles left my lips, even as I fought hard to pull them into an annoyed pout for his ego’s sake more than anything. After a few more seconds of hard struggle, I just gave up and sunk my head against his chest again to let the giggles come as they liked.

His chest was vibrating in amusement, too, thankfully, so I didn’t feel too stupid in letting them out at least. I haven’t thought about those days in ages!

He’s right. I was acting very ‘Al’-like for a minute there, going into a guilt-fueled rant to myself over my own failings, because I wasn’t good enough, just like I used to do in pretty much any exam we faced growing up.

Back then, it was a near panic attack when I thought I’d gotten less than one-hundred percent on that stupid little test, because I was a complete dork as a kid who didn’t know any better—Now it’s a lot more serious, with people’s lives in the balance and everything. But my reaction was the same still, and he’s right.

Panicking over what-if’s isn’t going to help us going forward, damn it!

I did everything I could realistically have done to protect us all before we got on that plane. Sure, I forgot a few things along the way and got extremely lucky at points too, but there are always going to be things like that for me to learn from in any situation.

Beating myself up over it all isn’t going to help anyone in the long run. It’s just going to upset me and make me even sloppier the next time I face a bad situation, which is completely the opposite of what I need right about now!

“...Thanks John...”

The smug bastard, with his smug, warm magic radiating happiness against my skin like a strobe-light set to ‘seizure mode’, only grunted in response to my words. At least I could feel from that same magic and the way his arms squeezed around me, that he was feeling relieved as well while also telling me quite plainly that he understood why I had to thank him, all the same.

With a heavy sigh, I turned my head sideways so my ear could rest against his chest comfortably and my eyes focused out across the fields stretching for miles around us, seemingly in all directions, as the sun hung low in the sky rather beautifully as well.
...He was right about the view...

Stupid bastard John— it really is worth looking at while I can...


“Keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle for landing. Thank you for flying Air John and I hope you had a good jour—oof!”
My elbow dug rather forcefully into John’s ribs to cut his joking spiel short, just because I could.

He obviously didn’t appreciate it at all, but he also didn’t complain or drop me, at least, as we swooped in surprisingly smoothly to the middle of a rather large, empty field among many that apparently make up whatever rural corner of the US we’ve landed in now.

I hesitated for a moment or two, only partly to get my footing properly as I’d pretended to do, I’m sorry to say. Eventually I pulled away from John’s nice warm arms to fix him with a thankful smile that seemed to light up his whole face in an almost worryingly similar reaction to the one Felix always has when I smile at him too, honestly.

“I take back everything I said about these suits of yours, Han. Considering Xian was specifically hunting for me, it’s not like I can even say it saved us from a mess of your creation, for once, either.”
...Smug bastard...
“That doesn’t mean I’m not still going to complain because you could have told me how to activate the Icarus Wings at some point while you were busy flash-frying demons and my poor plane, after all.”
...Smug, kinda correct, bastard...

“I completely spaced John, I’m sorry. Trust me, I’ve already beaten myself up over that stupid mistake while I was trying to find a way to fall faster than gravity and wind shear should allow in order to save your ass. This whole trip’s just been one big rushed mess, and I’ve been pretty stressed and tired since we got home again, a—”

A finger came up to my lips, making me stall out mid-sentence as my eyes crossed to stare down at the offending appendage while fighting the somewhat unreasonable urge to bite it just on general principle alone.

“You were rambling.”
That damn smirk of his was back on his lips as he smiled down at me gently, annoying finger and all.
“I’m not blaming you, Han. This trip was rushed, at best, and honestly this one is totally on me. I suggested we use my jet—mostly because I wanted to show off after finding out just how bad you are with normal tech—”

…Ah, ha! I knew he was showing off!…

“From what I could get out of Xian, he’d been tracking my jet for months now, and had been staking it out ever since it landed, all so he could get a shot at killing me while my guard was down.”
Slowly his finger dropped away from my lips and he sighed to himself heavily, his head shaking from side-to-side slightly, as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was going to say next.
“Apparently someone in China really wants the U.S.M.P.A to fail and they wrongfully assumed that us traveling to Long Island was happening so that I could take my place as ‘Max’, to make up the vote at last, instead of you doing it in my place.”
...Well that’s, kind of, annoying...

What a stupid bloody reason to pick a fight with the current incarnation of Maxarimus, and the technically current incarnation of Arista!

It’s like this Xian guy had a death wish or something, especially when he got everyone I care about involved in the process too. John, on his own, would probably have been enough to take down that demon-summoning asshole, especially if I hadn’t jumped in like an overenthusiastic child instead of letting him handle it!

“You think he was working alone or...”

The grimace I received in answer to that question, followed shortly by a tentative shrug, was enough to make me sigh aloud in frustration. We’ve not even gotten into the hallowed-halls of American magical corruption yet, and already this politics junk is getting downright aggravating!

Anything John might have to hand should now be considered compromised, basically, because we have no idea who else could be staking out his car, his truck, his boat or any other stupid form of ‘Normal’ travel he might have tucked away somewhere, just on the off chance he uses it to get to Long Island!

Hell! The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if normal air travel would be dangerous, too.

Taking MPA Jeeps on a roadtrip across the country or using Waypoints in general, considering how compromised the MPA have turned out to be, thanks to Arista’s meddling and all, would probably be almost equally as dangerous.
...Not to mention far more time consuming...

We’ve got days, at best, before the United States as we know it falls apart. Without the stupid laws they need put in place again being signed off by the ‘Numbers’, Magical America will be torn to pieces by scavengers from every nation across the globe and there are no options left for us to safely get from one point to the other anymore, let alone as a group.

With the way this is all unfolding, maybe it would just be better if we all hid inside the Hub and demanded a—a?
Wait!—No, it couldn’t possibly work—

...Or could it?...

Felix said— But I can’t just—
...But maybe?...

“What’s that look about, Han? I know that look and it’s usually either very dangerous, or very fun, depending on where your little head has drifted off to.”
Oh, you have no idea, John-Boy!

I’ve just had an idea. A crazy, stupid, ‘couldn’t possibly work’, kind of idea that feels annoyingly like it could be the single greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life, if it actually works!

“I think I have a way we can travel across the country without anyone being ready to stop us at the other end...”
Two ways, come to that, a second one that could be a bit more awkward to set up, but should theoretically work just as well if the first option fails, so—

John moved forward slightly and planted a kiss on my forehead so suddenly that I froze in shock, staring up at him in disbelief. He quickly pulled back and there was a proud grin on his face that made my heart flutter just ever so faintly, in a way that was pretty hard to ignore, despite my best attempts to pretend such an annoyingly irrational biological reaction never happened in the slightest moments later.

“I love it when you have crazy ideas. They’re always fun if nothing else.”
That stupid grin of his didn’t dim at all as he spoke and I could practically feel waves of his happy magic rolling off of him, even when he carried on speaking in a more serious tone of voice a moment or two later.
“What do we need to do? For that matter, where did you send everyone else?... we should probably collect the rest of them before getting started on the fun, after all.”

I couldn’t help but grimace guiltily at that second question, one that I probably should have seen coming to some degree.

While I’d hesitate to call any form of shadow magic ‘instinctive’, I kind of ran on instinct while casting my wide-range shadow warp spell earlier. Some forms of magic, like with muscles, can often have an annoying amount of ‘memory’ to it, that can help make your reactions faster than should be strictly possible at times. Well, I was in a rush and a bit drowsy at the time too, in my defence, an—

“Han, jus—just tell me you didn’t trap them in some nightmarish hell dimension in your haste to get them clear?”

Oh please, as if I’d do that!
...I don’t even know the Waypoint code for Detroit, after all...

“Much, much worse than that one, John-Boy.”
I’m not sure if it was my words, or just the guilty tone of my voice I used while saying them, but some part of it made John blanch visibly in response as he stood there waiting for me to deal the final ‘blow’ and spill the bad news at last.
“Do you remember the Waypoint beacon taste for Medford, by any chance? We really should hurry before they all start worrying or something, an—”

Damn it, John-Boy, stop laughing! I wasn’t joking! Hell, give me a nice cosy demon-filled hell dimension over Medford. I’d even take Detroit over Medford, any day!

A physical shudder rolled through my body at the very thought of it all, which only seemed to amuse John even more for some reason.

Medford was the one place that anyone who knows even the slightest bit of information about me wouldn’t think to look for people I sent somewhere ‘for their own safety’. It was the first thought that came to me at the time, hiding them all in plain sight where no one would even consider looking for them any time soon.

It’s the one place that I’d gladly offer up for hosting Arista’s next big ‘Crater Lake’ event too, if it came to that someday—okay, maybe that one’s a bit of a stretch?...
...Only a little bit...

“Can you stop laughing John? We really should go find them all before something else goes wrong in the meantime.”
His laughter stalled out slightly and he stared at me with a look of almost confused wonder on his face for a moment or two, before going back to laughing all over again, annoyingly.

“Y-you’re serious?”

Apparently my glare and accompanying folded arms weren’t enough of an indication on that one because, once again, he went back to laughing. This time actually mumbling ‘Medford’, to himself in disbelief a few times under his breath, as if he wanted to rub it in even more. Damn it!

“I know, I’ll apologise to them all when we get there, okay? Now let’s GO!”

With an almost distracted dip into the outer reaches of my lines, I conjured a new red sweatshirt and pair of shorts for myself, struggling into them with a rather graceless, awkward hop and shimmy motion on the spot, before reaching up to my neck and reactivating the runes at the base of my skull that make my safety suit invisible and intangible once more.

I didn’t give him a chance to laugh at my choice of clothing, nor the rushed method I used to get into them. Instead, dropping furiously into my mage senses and quickly sending out a pulse toward the beacon at Medford.

In barely a second I received an ‘all clear’ response that I latched onto in order to disappear at last and leave the chuckling wonder behind to his own amusement, at my expense, naturally.


Powers’ damn it! I hate Medford...

“Ma’am, I’m getting another signal in, so I need you to step off the platform for your own sa—”
My eyes cut up to glare at the guard so sharply that he actually stuttered to a stop in surprise.

With one hand wrapped around my now complaining stomach and another being used to push myself back up to my feet again, I staggered off the arrivals platform with a groan and practically flopped into a spare chair that I’m pretty sure is usually reserved for the guard to use during quite periods around here normally. Quiet periods that tend to be rather long and boring, judging by the chairs central placement in the room and the amount of junk he’s got stacked around it, not that I cared enough to comment on it all at this point in time, honestly.

After a few seconds pause there came a flash of blue light and John stumbled forward slightly, a barely supressed smile on his lips still, which only seemed to get brighter when he noticed my slumped form nearby.

The poor guard tried to give us some form of canned introduction after a few moments, as if he’d finally remembered what his actual job is supposed to be around here, but it didn’t take much for John to brush him off into silence as he made his way over to me and helped ease me back to my relatively unstable feet at last.

“We’ll go walk it off, Han. You know the way to wherever you sent them all, right?”

Rather than answer him properly, I just nodded and leaned heavily into his hold with more than a little relief painfully obvious on my face.

I swear my travel sickness never used to be this bad with warping, back when I was Al. Whether my awakenings—number one, two or ‘three’, for that matter—have changed something in my magic or biology to make it all worse, I have no idea. It’s got to be either that, or I’m just more sensitive to it all for some random reason lately.

...Honestly, I have no idea, but either way it really sucks at the very least!...

Before I could say anything more on the topic of our destination, or my sickness in general, John looped his arm tighter around my waist with a nod of his own and practically carried me out of the Waypoint room, as we made our way through the back halls of Medford’s stupid shopping center on our way to fresh air, which I think I desperately need at this point, unfortunately.

For once, I’m kind of glad Medford has their stupid Waypoint in the back of their stupid Sears store.

At least the walk out should give me a few minutes to get my head on straight if nothing else and, of almost equal importance, it will give me a chance to grab a new pair of shoes or sandals along the way, too.

I really suck at conjuring shoes for some reason. I can make them look right, at least, but they always feel awkward when I put them on to an eventually painful degree, especially anything with a heel on it. If we were anywhere else, I’d rather go barefoot than wear conjured shoes, honestly, but we’re in Medford, where the streets are paved with things I don’t want to step in, not even with my suit protecting me from actual contact with anything.

Given the choices on hand, buying a throwaway pair of shoes on the way out of here is the better option in the long run, even if it does mean tapping into the ‘Bank of John’ once more, much to my pride’s continuing despair.


“Take a left up here, by the garage on the corner. We’re almost there now.”

My stomach finally decided to settle at last, about the point where we passed the sweet, unhealthy smell of Red Robin a minute or so ago, but John’s arm is still wrapped tightly around my waist ‘for support’ and I really can’t be bothered to dissuade him from it at this point in time. Even if the position of his arm leaves us in probably look a bit suggestive from an outsiders perspective, the casual closeness adding to the whole ‘dating couple’ look we’ve got going on in general.

I can’t bring myself to shrug him or his nice warm magic off at the moment, after the day I’ve had so far.

“Is it just me, or is this stupid town full of fast food places that love pumping their smells out everywhere you go?”
...I knew it wasn’t just us!...

“I know, right?! It’s so weird! This is nothing, too. You can smell the Chinese place we’re heading to from across a massive car park and everything.”
…Mmm! Chinese food…

“I could go for some egg fried rice and chicken balls right about now...”
...Great minds think alike, John-Boy!...

“You’re buying, naturally, also we may have to pay them a little extra money as well. Now that I think about it, the last time I was here, I kind of ran off without paying in an attempt to escape Narcissus and Echo. If they recognise my face, you’ll have to be ready to crack out your credit card I’m afraid, John-Boy...”

I hesitated for a moment to let that half-joking, half-serious statement of fact sink in, but I needn’t have worried because John just laughed the whole thing off with his usual, casual dismissal when it comes to money and spending it in general.

I guess, when you’ve got uncountable-generations worth of built up wealth to fall back on, money really can be a bit of a moot point sometimes.

That being said, I really do need to sort my finances out at soon!

If it really comes down to it, maybe I should just get someone else to do it for me? I’m sure someone in the magical world must know how to fudge the system and retrieve a mages Normal-world money for them, after all.

At the rate I’m going, I’m never going to get around to doing it on my own. Getting an expert involved, even if that does mean involving the Hub as well, is probably the only way I’m actually going to get some financial freedom from John at the end of the day.

I’m not exactly struggling at the moment, obviously, but it’s still pretty awkward at times, having to rely on him in general. Let alone the whole traditional female role it kinda places me in as basically his ‘kept woman’— minus the sex or benefits for him, of course!
...Of course—for now...

My ears unhelpfully decided to flush bright red as my mind spun frantically in an attempt to distance itself away from further thoughts along that particular route for a few seconds and annoyingly John noticed my ‘odd’ reaction all of a sudden too, judging by the quiet chuckle he let off a few moments later.

I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face and check to make sure it was me he was laughing at, but I really doubt I need to, sadly.

“Shut up, John-Boy.”
...Stupid John...


“Ha! I called it, no-one can resist Chinese food of this quality!”

John’s, almost lazy, snort of reluctant agreement put a slight dampener on my joy at being right in the assumption that the others would not only camp out in the Chinese restaurant that my warp dropped them off next to, but also order food while they waited.

Before I could turn away from the street-facing window to properly give John a well-earned smirk of victory someone inside squealed loudly and I staggered back slightly in fear as a virtual stampede of bodies made their way towards the glass door in front of us, with one obvious goal in mind, namely, us!

By the time the first little body, one that’s pretty easy to see belongs to Eris, even through the slight distortion of the window glass between us, reached the door itself, I’d managed to twist myself around and practically dive behind John’s, now lightly laughing, form for shelter from the barrage to come.

Eris aside, we have a group that includes my often over-protective sister, my ‘therapist’ Trudy, the robust form of an often far-too-comforting-for-my-sanity’s-sake Rosemary and, more worrying than anything else, Pauly in all his paranoid old military glory!

It’s bad enough when just Sarah is having a go at me over every stupid little thing I do. I don’t want to even imagine what she’s going to have to say about me getting rid of all my potential backup, aside from John, while facing an unknown mage and his demon ‘friends’ and that’s without the others joining in, too.

“Han, John? You’re both okay!”

John’s grunt was about the only warning I got before Sarah came flying towards us and somehow managed to twist herself around my improvised meat-shield to snag, not just me, but him up in a tight pair of one-armed hugs as she buried her face in my neck harshly and shook slightly from barely suppressed emotions.

Slowly I turned in Sarah’s death-grip and slid both my arms protectively around her waist in return. She obviously needs the comfort at the moment if she’s not even yelling at me for sending her away from danger, yet again, like I’d normally have expected her to be doing right about now.

“Let’s head back inside, the streets aren’t safe or easily defendable.”
Despite his gruff tone and tight glare that seemed to flicker in every direction possible as he spoke, I could tell by his body language alone that Pauly was at least relieved to see us alive if nothing else.

I didn’t really feel like arguing with his pretty valid assessment of the situation, even if I hadn’t had Sarah clinging to me anyway. So without more than a glance between us, me and John set off for the doors in front of us with Sarah in tow, as best we could.

Eventually we got inside and were directed to a corner booth near the back, surrounded by the now all-business soldiers standing guard around it in that same annoying way they tend to do whenever I’m around.

Sarah reluctantly let John go with some prodding from him, but seemed more than content to use her now free arm to cling tighter to me as we slid awkwardly into the booth and settled in to get comfortable at last. After a few seconds, I took in a huff of air and watched on a bit dazedly as my entourage formed up around us, John taking up the free space on my left with Eris in his lap while Fena, Rose and Trudy took up the rest of the booth.

To finish the set off, Pauly dragged a spare chair over, positioning himself at an angle from the table which I have no doubt was chosen specifically because it broke line-of-sight between me and the window-covered walls behind him, like the paranoid old buzzard he can be at times.

“What happened? We grabbed everything we could, some of the soldiers got your bags by the way, and we’d just gotten into a huddle when the world suddenly went horribly dark. One moment we were falling and the next we were spinning through a lot of flashing red lights until the world suddenly turned back on again, leaving us here, of all places.”

My hand came up to run through my hair, as best I could with Sarah perched possessively on my shoulder, and I sighed heavily to myself at the awkward conversation to come.

“I kinda... shadow-warped you all to safety, then blew up the plane and almost got John killed by going base jumping without a parachute...”
The expected, long awkward silence that I received from that, admittedly brief, summary of events made me cringe almost as much as the sudden tightening of Sarah’s arms around my shoulders and the indignant glare on Pauly’s face did, in pretty much equal measure.
“John, it’s your turn to do the explaining!”

With my desperate command given, I rolled my neck back to rest on the booth seat’s headrest and closed my eyes tightly to stave off the headache I can already feel trying to start up a mini-revolt against my brain cells at any moment.

“Great! Thanks, Han.”
His eyes scanned around us before he let off an amused little huff and started explaining what happened after I warped them all away in detail for his captive audience.
“Well, it all happened because this guy called Xia—”


“Spring rolls, extra dip?”

I kept my eyes closed but shot a hand up for the waitress’s sake, much to the amusement of the others around us at this point. John was rather... extravagant?... in his explanation of everything that the others missed, unfortunately.

At this point, even Sarah’s let go of me in order to stare incredulously between us, an action I can’t blame her for, considering I apparently ‘pulled a super-powered suit out of my ass’ and ‘punched myself to turn my suit into some fantasy, role-playing game nerd’s idea of female warrior armor’.

Armor that I then proceeded to ‘light up like a Christmas tree mixed with a Tesla coil’ just to show off, according to my utter bastard of a best friend in all his smug glory.

The fact that his version of events has those tantalising grains of truth inside them makes it all so much worse, because my glares and blushes as he continued on were pretty hard to hide, while apparently also being far too easy to read incorrectly for most people as well!

...At least the food is here now...

Maybe we can all focus on something other than John’s stupid version of ‘what happened’ at last, or my own stupid reaction to him saying I looked like ‘some kind of lightning-goddess of hot asses and spandex’ at the very least. A reaction which may or may not have included a blush, an indignant squeal, and a failed attempt to either hit or zap him at the same time, I might add!

“So what’s the plan now, then? No plane, and if we take the Jeeps across country at this point we will be cutting our deadline pretty close, I’m afraid.”

I froze with a spring roll halfway to my mouth as John grinned at Pauly’s question and turned his attention over to me instead, making everyone else copy him with mild amounts of confusion or amusement obvious on their faces at the same time.

Rather than give in to peer pressure, I let off a huff to show them all I didn’t care what they thought before shoving the spring roll in my mouth as an excuse to not speak for a few more precious seconds.

I used those well-earned seconds mostly to cuss out John in my head, while also putting my plan together verbally for public consumption.

More importantly, they also allowed me the time to enjoy my first bite of Chinese food so far today, unhindered by the barrage of questions that are about to assault me when I try to explain the loose collection of theories that technically could be described as my plan in general.

It’s a terrible, half-formed and hope-filled plan that still seems to be more than a little bit insane, even to me at this point, sadly.

“Well, okay, so you all know that weird golden effect that’s been spreading through the Hubs, right?”
Damn it, John! Stop smirking at me with that childlike wonder sparkling so obviously in your eyes! It’s bloody distracting and it’ll be pointless if I’m wrong about even one part of this mess anyway, so shut up already, you incorrigible idiot asshole!

...Stupid John-Boy!...

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