MAU: Can't Take The Sky From Me! The Final Chapters!

And now the conclusion!

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. None of the characters, places, or anything else is meant to be represented by anything in reality. Duh! Fiction, get it? I the author reserve the rights, so please don't go posting this anyplace else without my permission. A very special thanks goes out to Cathy who spent the time to make this story readable. Another round of thanks goes out to all the others out there in BCTS land who have encouraged and inspired me to write and keep writing. Any remaining mistakes are all mine.

MAU: Can't Take The Sky From Me!
by
Grover
Chapter 15

Steven
Iron-Man

The Battle of the Glade

He was not happy, but this was now over. The Bitch was disarmed, and if he had to, he would peel her out of that damn shell. Steven would make things right. He reached for her helmet.

“Get your hands off of her you Son-of-a-Bitch!” A girl commanded.

Now what! He turned to see a lithe form walking along the top of development's privacy wall as lightly as any cat despite the wind and rain. The decorative spikes along it did not bother her in the slightest as she lightly stepped around them. Dressed in a long brown coat and leather knee high boots, she looked to be about 17 and seemed familiar, although he couldn't place her.

“Who the hell are you?” Steven demanded. He was losing patience.

“What's wrong, Big Daddy?” She sarcastically smirked, “You don't recognize me?”

“What the hell?” He choked in surprise, raising his face-shield, not believing his sensors. “Brian?”

“How do you like my makeover?” She hopped off the seven foot wall as if it was nothing. She did a little runner's dance showing off her body. “Nice huh?”

That was not the word he would use. What the hell did his lover do to himself?

“What the hell is wrong with you people?” Steven complained, waving his armored arms. “Why is everyone changing themselves into bitches?” Are you all insane?”

“Insane?” The teenaged girl primly stalked though the muddy battlefield, ignoring the 'B' word. “No.”

“Then why!” He demanded almost pleadingly.

“Try pissed off.” Her eyes blazed with anger. “You drugged, lied, and then plotted to transform me into some pedophile boy toy. I trusted you, and you betrayed me.

“Maybe our relationship didn't mean very much to you, but it did to me.” The woman never once faltered as she weaved a path towards him on the soft soggy ground. Her every step was sure and certain. “You treated me like dirt, and threw all we had together away, no more.”

“Please Brian.” He pleaded. “Let me fix this. Let me change you back.”

“Not happening, Steven.” She glared at him. “I know what your parents did to you after you came out, messed you up, but this? What you did to me, and tried to do to these kids didn't just cross lines, it broke them into little tiny bits. What the hell were 'you' thinking? Kidnapping? Sex slaves? Rape? What's next? A little murder on the side?”

He stood straight. Steven wasn't going to apologize. That was only a weakness. Like everything else in this world, it was only wrong if you got caught, and this didn't count. Griffin was down, and the other one in the woods had the same kind of armor, so he knew he could take it out too. All that stood in his way, was Brian.

“So, what now, Brian?” He locked his face-shield down, but left the vents open to hit her with his pheromones. Not that he expected them to work. He might've underestimated his 'Little Florist' once, but never twice. Precautions would've been taken.

“That really depends on you, Steven.” She stopped, standing a short distance away, loose and relaxed. “Just walk, fly away if you want. This is over.”

“It's not over till I say it's over, Brian.” He locked his targeting sensors on her.

“I don't go by that name anymore, Steven.” She cocked one hip, and smiled “You can call me River Guevara.”

<><><><><>

Bridget

The Battle of the Glade

The girl in the Brown Coat skipped cat-like to the side, Iron-Man's repulsor missing by fractions of an inch.

Bridget could only stare as the lithe teen danced though the barely missing beams to land a perfect, powerful martial arts punch square on his chest plate.

“River Guevara?” She muttered, putting two and two together; River Tam, the very agile psychic assassin from 'Firefly' and Max Guevara, the transgenetic feline super-solider from 'Dark Angel.'

Iron-Man went flying, but River didn't let up. She leaped in the air, bouncing off a tree to kick old Shell-Head right in the face.

The combination of feline genes and clairvoyance made Bridget's head spin just thinking of the possibilities. Unlike poor R. Tam or M. Guevara, who had dire problems because of their unique origins, Brian was a very knowledge geneticist. His shop made much of its profit from breeding flower's genetics. If anyone could avoid the problems those two fictional characters had and combine their advantages, it was him, or maybe 'she' was now the best pronoun.

River tumbled behind Iron-Man and swept his feet out from underneath him.

The teen recalled that jaguars, which weighed about the same as an adult human, had been known to drag 800 pound carcasses away. Felines were strong. And fast she added, watching River sidestep another repulsor.

“Here.” Danny offered her a active camouflaged blurred hand. “Let's get out of Dodge. Then she can break off and meet us somewhere safe.”

It was Bridget's time for more surprises when River turned and winked at her. That damn clairvoyance!

“Sure.” She said to her friend. “River can make a run for it after she knows we're safe.”

With a snap, Danny locked her damaged tri-barrel in place as he helped her up. It would not do to have that laying around to be found. With his help she stumbled forward, using her anti-grav to make it easier to move. Her auto-doc was saying she had some busted ribs. She doubted that, without her shaper-fu keeping those bones more or less where they were supposed to be, that she would be able to move at all.

They had almost made it to the wall, when a brighter than ordinary repulsor blast sent River flying, to bounce to a stop in the muddy rain.

“Crap!” Danny cursed. “He used his chest-beam like a shotgun.”

Bridget saw River moving weakly, but still alive. She'd must've mostly dodged out of the way, but getting clipped by any part of that beam was a bad thing.

They didn't have to say a thing as Danny took Bridget's damaged tri-barrel and handed her his weapon.

“You're better with guns than I.” He said. “This one has been upgraded to a larger caliber with armor-piercing shells. It still won't likely stop him, but it will get his attention.”

“Please, you can put your weapons down.” A hand landed on each of their shoulders causing them both to look up and stare in disbelief. “We have this.”

<><><><><>

501st Legion

Recon Detachment

The Battle of the Glade

Beth nodded as Danni and her drones moved to the assistance of the two camouflaged armored figures. They appeared to have been trying to leave before their female companion had been hurt.

With so many players it was hard to know who was in the wrong or right. However, the person in the Iron-Man armor, unsurprisingly did seem to be the aggressor. That was why her sergeant had his troopers closing in to give them their best chance with the relativity short ranged ion guns. It fell to her to be diplomatic and buy time.

Well, that was the traditional Jedi role, she strolled between Iron-Man and the fallen girl in the Brown Coat.

“What again!!” He growled, clearly annoyed. “Now, who are you?”

It was Iron-Man from right out of the movies. This was the one that was more gold than red and looked as if he had seen a war with all the gouges, scorch marks and dents.

“Be careful.” The girl on the ground warned as she slowly pulled herself up. “He has pheromones that can induce trances and suggestibility.”

“I'm a concerned citizen.” Beth smiled, as she inserted the breathing filters. “Who is well aware of what a MAU is and what it can do. My friend and I are here to offer advice and assistance.” She nodded to Danni whose face was still concealed by her cloak's hood.

“And if I tell you, I don't want your help and for you go mind your own business?” He snarled.

“Then I'll ask the other involved parties if they feel the same.” She could feel the Force flowing through her as her hand dropped to the light-saber at her side.

“Unacceptable.” He bristled, “This is none of your business. Clear out while you still can.”

“No.” Beth knew what was coming even as he bought up his gantlets to fire.

The trio of repulsor shots were neatly deflected into the swampy ground by her light-saber.

“Now!” Ordered her sergeant.

The squad lunged out from behind their cover, cutting loose with their ion guns. Unlike the stormtroopers from the movies, these shots were dead on target.

“Argh!” The Iron-Man wanna-be dropped to one knee as the storm of lightning washed over him.

“Those two are fine.' Danni stood with her watching the drawn out fight as the armor resisted the attack. “Besides being shaken up some. Both have greatly increased healing talents. They're utilizing a rather unsophisticated, but no less effective nanotechnology.”

With a large 'Crack!' the electrical show ended as the charge grounded out. Now, burned, streaked with marks from the battle, Iron-Man slowly stood, his armor hissing and popping from the heat in the falling rain.

“Was that your best shot, you Bitches?” He demanded, his voice hoarse with effort.

“He's sending for the rest of his suits!” The male teenager warned.

“I do not appreciate that term.” Danni replied, coldly extending her nano-probe knife-like into his armor.

He stumbled backwards trying to bring up his repulsors, but then slowed and froze, the blue lights of his armored helm fading to black although his chest 'on' light stayed lit.

“His access has been cut off.” She explained to Beth relieving her concerns that he'd been assimilated. “I'm flying the other Iron-Man suits to our van.”

“Thanks.” The woman in the Brown Coat smiled.”Let me introduce Danny and ...” She looked at the girl who'd been revealed when her armor had transformed.

“Bridget.” The teenager smiled.

“And I'm going by River now.” The Brown Coat nodded. “I think he went crazy with the power of that alien box.”

“It's not all bad.” Bridget pointed out. “It healed Danny and me.”

“There is much about it, that mankind as a whole is not ready for.” Danni nodded in agreement with the Brown Coat.

“I take it you're not really Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine?” Danny asked her.

“Like many who've encountered MAU's, I was foolish and made errors.” She shook her head, no.

A roar passed over them as the assembled Iron-Man suits flew over.

“There's one suit that appears inoperable.” Danni frowned, her eyes distant as she assimilated the Iron-Man networked computers.

“That's probably because of me.” River spoke, reaching into her jacket pocket. “I couldn't reach all the suits, but that one was made for the old me. I took this.”

She tossed the glowing, miniature blue arc reactor to the startled Borg.

“It likely won't matter too much if the government guys get it or not, without this.” She smiled. “Besides, I can't fit in the damn thing any more despite how much fun it was to fly. It's too damn flashy!”

“You probably don't have to worry about the MAU we have either.” River continued. “According to the web, its warranty is due to expire any time now. At the most it only has a few hours left. I think that was why he was pushing things so hard because of the time limit coming up.”

“Beth!” Warned her husband over their com-link. “MIBs are incoming. They just passed your team's van, but are taking the long way along the road.”

“We need to go.” Beth signaled her sergeant.

“Please don't mention our part in this.” Danni told the three. “If you need to get in contact with us ...”

“We can use the Collective's web site.” Danny grinned at her.

“Yes.” The Borg replied, making Beth smile. These kids were smart, otherwise they never would've been able to get the MAU to produce working nanotech.

“I think we can come up with a good story.” River added, “With just enough truth to make it sound convincing.”

“We're ready to move out, Ma'am.” The Sergeant reported. “There's not much time.”

“Perhaps we can help each other.” The younger teen girl's eyes sparkled. “I have a plan!”

<><><><><>
Chapter 16

Agency Operatives 'G' and 'M'

On location

Upton Heights Acres

Agent G felt like rubbing the bridge of his nose. From the moment, he and M found the three muddy teens fleeing down the road, hiding from a flight of Iron-Men, he'd a feeling. He'd done his share of BS'ing the Brass back in his military days, and this felt much the same. There was just enough of the truth to make things hang together, but it wasn't all of what happened.

The three sat on the sofa while the two boy's mothers watched silently. It was a compromise to avoid getting lawyers involved, since the agents had assured everyone that this wasn't a criminal investigation. They were only interested in the MAU's and how to help those who had greatly complicated their lives by using the alien machines.

“So when Mr. Steven DeWitt found you had used his machine without his permission he came after you?” Agent M asked, with professional politeness.

He could tell she was picking up on it too. However, it was much harder to nail them in a lie when it was mostly the truth.

“Yes,” The young boy answered. “We were out, trying out our symbionts in that glade where we wouldn't be seen. That's when he tried using that mind-control stuff on us, but I guess our symbionts mostly protected us.

“These 'symbionts' or yours are the only things you got from the alien machine?” Agent G questioned.

“Yes sir.” The boy answered. “Danny couldn't go over the fence with his wheelchair. So we needed something that would cure him and help him grow stronger. We figured they were our best choice. Once I got over the wall, I didn't have much time, having to mess around with the dog and all. I couldn't be sure how long that dog-treat bribe I'd thrown her would last.”

“At what point did you enter this?” M asked the teenage girl who'd formerly been a man in his late twenties.

“When these two sent me an anonymous message making sure I was aware of when the warranty really ran out on that thing.” She replied. “At that point, I realized that not only had Steven deliberately given me the wrong information, but the other things he'd done became clear too, such as drugging me.

“I was fixing what he did me, when I heard him come in and then go tearing back out.” The ex-man explained.

“Why not use the suit?” Agent G inquired. “It would seem the logical choice.”

He kept his own reservations about the sex changing thing to himself. One of the qualities the Agency looked for was tolerance and the ability to deal with all sorts of people.

“For one, it wouldn't fit any more.” She smiled. “And I've always had issues with my sexual and gender orientation. It helped that I've been so androgynous, but I'd honestly been using Steven's and my relationship as a crutch to help me cope.

“Once I accepted that it was truly over, I had no reason not to follow my heart.” The teen continued. “When he stormed out of the house, I feared he was off doing just what he did. I needed to be a very tough woman to deal with him. I'd learned that the more you know about a subject of the transformation, the more likely you are to get what you want. Steven had to make my suit for me since I know squat about electronics and robotics. However, genetics are a different matter. I spend my time now with botany, but I have Masters degrees in both biology and genetics.

“My choice of Jessica's Alba's Dark Angel character was perfect. She's fast, agile and strong.” The teen aged looking woman explained. “Since I was looking for something to complement my martial arts background, Dark Angel played to my strengths.”

“I see.” Agent M, dug a little harder. “So you fought off Mr. DeWitt, who was in the Iron-Man armor?”

“Fight is an exaggeration.” The girl ruefully replied. “He kicked my butt all over that glade. I kept trying to buy time for Griff and Danny to get away by dodging around the trees. He just blew them to splinters with his beams or shot them with his gun.

“He kept going on about changing me back.” The girl shrugged. “I guess he couldn't accept I'm not the way he thought I should be.”

“You mentioned he was firing a gun.” Agent G pushed some more. “Was he in the Iron-Man or the War-Machine armor?”

“Oh, is there a difference?” She gave them both a wide-eyed expression of innocence.

“War-Machine is the silver one with the big gun on its shoulder that played tag with the Air Force over the weekend.” He dryly explained, certain she knew exactly the difference between those armored suits.

“Oh, that one!” The teenage girl nodded. “Steven was in the gold one with red highlights. Then the silver one with the gun showed up. That's when I ran for it and and the boys found me. The other suits then showed up looking for us. I think he was running them all by remote control like out of the movie.”

“Why do you think he broke off his search?” M asked, obviously getting the same vibes he was. “It appears out of character for him to just give up.”

“I don't know.” The girl shrugged again. “It could be he saw you and recognized you were government or he realized that alien box thing's timer had run out. Since he wanted to use it on us, that would've ruined any plans he had.”

“There is that.” Agent G had to give her the point. It'd been hard keeping the sour look off his face as they found yet another 'dead' box. That'd been partially balanced by the Iron-Man suit, even if it was missing the power pack. At least he and Agent M had something to drag back to the office, which was more than most agents had.

“You've picked the rather unusual 'River' as your new first name.” M asked. “Is there any significance to that choice?”

“I like watching 'Doctor Who' on BBC America.” She smiled. “It's from the character River Song from that series.”

“Thank you.” M used her people skills to make their exit. “We'll be in contact to conclude the rest of your legal issues. You're very fortunate that you can still pass as yourself.”

“It still won't be a lot of fun.” The new girl replied. “Guys who look like teens can have it tough, but they're not treated like they're helpless. However, all the years of martial arts that I've taken should help keep trouble away.”

“As for Danny and his miracle cure.” Agent M told the boy's mother. “We'll arrange for a change in doctors who won't ask too many questions.”

Agent G noticed that she didn't mention that being a feline hybrid super-solider would make that a painful lesson for any 'trouble' who tried. Even with that, neither he nor M thought the girl provided a threat. If anything, he thought the office should seriously consider recruiting her. Then again, the reason why she wasn't a threat would work against her in that role. For all of her abilities, she simply didn't give him the right vibes for the work. She was just what she presented herself as, a very intelligent introvert, happier working with her plants and flowers than people.

On the other hand, she, and the boys as well, were still keeping secrets.

Back in their replacement rent-a-car, he carefully watched the Air Force Security cops through the thumping windshield wipers as they moved the disguised suit of armor into a truck for transport back to MacDill and then headquarters.

“So how much of what they told us was nothing, but BS?” He asked, not taking his eyes off the operation for a second. The Agency wasn't going to be happy Iron-Pants was out running loose with a half dozen suits.

“Not so much in outright lies, but certainly not all the truth.” Agent M answered. “I think someone else was involved, if only because of that van we saw on the way in.”

“We made a mistake not getting ID'ing the plates.” He admitted. “But we needed to get to the scene fast.”

“We very well might've saved them.” M pointed out, gesturing to their conservative suits that was the government's unofficial uniform. “Those suits were out looking, and despite our rental, we have 'government' written all over us.”

“True.” He agreed. “However, the area is so drenched and battered from the rain and winds of this storm, just forget about getting any forensic data. I've passed on though official channels that all the damage was caused by a twister setting down.”

“It does help that the storm will wash away any evidence that it wasn't a natural phenomenon.” M nodded, agreeing with the cover story.

“That's very convenient for them.” He grunted, unhappy. “I think those symbionts weren't the only things the boys created with the MAU, but our scanner and search didn't turn up anything.”

“I didn't notice anything that seemed out of place when we were shown where those suits had been kept.” She admitted. “However, it should be noted that all three are extremely intelligent. It is very possible they planned and designed whatever they made to be undetectable. However, I'm still inclined to think they're not any kind of threat.”

“They have the potential.” He sighed. “But like you, I don't think they are. As smart as they are and with whatever advantages they got from that machine, I hate to think of the trouble they could cause, but I don't think they will. They just don't have that mindset. Of course it might happen anyway, but I don't believe they will go looking for it.”

She flicked the car's lights, acknowledging the Air Force Security policeman's wave that the cargo was loaded and the truck was ready to move out.

“They don't think he'll come looking for them since the MAU is inactive now.” M pulled away from the curb, following the truck full of guards. “However he might come after this last suit if he is as much a control freak as he appears.”

“That's why I think they know more than they're telling.” He checked their blind spots, keeping situational awareness. “They seemed strangely unconcerned about him reappearing and if he really was a threat, I think they would've been more concerned about his possible future actions. Instead they seemed to discount him being any kind of a problem.”

“So you think they know something that guarantees he won't be trouble?” She focused on possible driving hazards. The worst of the storm may be over, but the conditions were still bad because of the downed trees, power-lines, and the flooding.

“It fits what my gut is telling me.” G grunted, scanning for trouble. “However, I don't think they killed him, but I do believe that something happened that makes them think he won't be a difficulty in the future. Not that I'm going to take that for granted.”

There was no need for them to say anything else. They were a team.

<><><><><>

River's home

Upton Heights Acres.

There was a very unpleasant tension in the air as the Mothers stared at the teens.

“Hey, don't look at me that way!” River defended herself. “If I'd known they'd wanted to use the thing, I would've found a way for them to use the front door.”

“Only after trying to talk them out of it. I never wanted to use it myself.” After some more hard stares at her, she clarified the statement. “When I did, it was only to heal things that there is no other way on Earth to fix. “

“I thought you were the responsible one.” Griff's Mother had her arms folded as she gave her son the 'look.'

“How could you risk using something like that?” Danny's Mom demanded of her own child

“Mom,” Danny interrupted Griff before he could answer. “It's was easy. I was dying. It was all over but the funeral.

“We know you would've let us in,” Danny said, turning to River. “We talked about doing it that way, but we knew that would put you in a difficult situation. We did the cat-burglar thing as the best of bad choices.”

“I see you standing and walking around?” His Mom asked, on the verge of tears. “Are you really healed?”

“Yes.” He nodded, hugging her tight. “And no. I am healed, but I guess you can say I'm in physical therapy. My symbiont is doing most of the work, but its making me work hard just the same. I have a long way to go before I'm all better, but it's a start.”

“Truthfully,” Her tears couldn't be held back. “If I'd known, I would've been on that roof breaking in too.”

“You know.” River smiled at the mother and son. “The front door really does work.”

“And what's your explanation?” Griff's Mother still had her arms folded.

“You mean why did I take such risks when I wasn't dying of a deadly disease?” He asked, with a sad smile. “Maybe it was because I've been slowly dying for years. It all began when everyone called me 'Little' Griff because of my father. As much as I loved him, I am not him! It doesn't matter how much I try, but I'm still judged on my appearance and not on who I really am.

“I can change the way I dress and behave, but I can't change the genes that make me look like a clone of my father. Showing my family heritage is one thing, but having expectations of being someone I'm not isn't possible. That is, until I saw that MAU land in their backyard.”

There was a moment of silence.

“May I see what you really look like?” She asked softly.

River held her breath wondering how much her friend was going to reveal. Even the government guys didn't ask exactly what Griff was doing with the suit he had. They assumed he simply made two symbionts for convenience's sake.

With a nod he began to, the best word, was deflate. Griff kept his height, but lost that unmistakable muscular masculine build. If anything, he looked like a sixteen year old boy instead of being able to pass for years older.

She was a little disappointed that Griff didn't reveal Bridget, but she did understand why. It was a little easier to come out as gay than it was as Tee. However, she also knew that all of it was a very personal decision.

Watching the mother unfold her arms and instead wrap them around her child, River smiled, acknowledging that sometimes there had to be baby steps before you could run free under the sun.

It was a start. A time for new beginnings not just for them, but for herself too. She'd truly loved Steven, despite how pissed she still was at him, it hurt … a lot. The Collective had assured her no harm would come to him, but had appreciated her suggestion of what to do with him.

“An elegant solution.” Danni had remarked.

“It's more than he deserves, and keeps him out of everyone's hair, as well as a relatively guiltless way of keeping him out of trouble until the time comes that he can be dealt with as needed. He really does need help, even if that doesn't make what he did and tried to do any less wrong.”

The woman who looked so much like Seven-of-Nine agreed.

River got shocked from her introspection when she got pulled into a group hug by the two mothers.

“You saved our boys from that lunatic!” Danny's Mom smiled. “We won't ever forget that!”

“You can count on it!” Griff's Mom agreed. “Besides, unless I miss my guess you'll need help and time to 'settle' in. I think know the perfect ladies to help you into 'our' world.”

“I think you do.” She hugged them back. “New beginnings.”

<><><><><>

Government flight

in route to CLASSIFIED

Agent G wasn't certain when it first began. Neither he nor Agent M had gotten very much rest on this mission. The flight would seem the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest and sleep.

Instead he found himself unable to look away from his partner. He'd long admitted she was easy on the eyes, but he wasn't about to jeopardize their partnership with any insinuations of an intimate relationship. Perhaps if someday in the future when their careers placed them in positions where they weren't partners and yet close enough to see each other, well, maybe.

They were too good working together to ruin a good thing.

However, he just couldn't look away. G hadn't felt this way since high school when he'd first discovered girls and had a crush on Libby Gunn.

Then M looked up at him, their eyes meeting.

They both blushed red, but neither could look away.

The next thing he knew they were kissing and the clothes were flying.

Neither one knew that the seals on Brian's Iron-Man suit had never been closed and that the residual pheromones were still in concentrations high enough to effect the main cabin. Rather fortunately, while the crew were 'discomforted,' it was not sufficient to affect their job performance.

It was enough that, when they observed how 'enthusiastic' their normally very self-controlled passengers were indulging in intimate activities, certain protocols went into effect. The crew immediately went to non-circulated air and the Agency was notified.

The rather exhausted couple were surprised by the haz-mat team that greeted them upon landing. Even less welcome was the very invasive examination and quarantine that followed.

Weeks later, the administrator reluctantly signed the order for item 74656 to be sealed away. It was obvious that it was still contaminated even after cautious attempts to decon it without damaging the interior. That contamination had proved to be powerful, and made studying the recovered piece of technology hazardous.

However, she had to admit that G and M made a lovely couple at their wedding, for all that she loathed losing such an effective partnership of Agents. The medical reports suggested they had imprinted on each other since they already had enjoyed a friendship and mutual respect.

The decision to keep them as agents or move them to desk jobs was still pending. No matter... they would no longer be partners. Since they were like a pair of love-sick teenagers, that would be awkward given the professional impersonal image the Agency tried to portray.

However, while G and M were off on their honeymoon to magical Tahiti, there was still the matter of Mr. DeWitt. In spite of the problems the contaminated suit had caused, the Administrator recognized they had also been lucky. Both parties liked and respected each other beforehand, which meant, despite their intense sexual reaction to each other, they still saw their relationship as a partnership.

It was a sign of how dangerous this Iron-Man wanna-be could be. Someone who didn't respect the others who'd been exposed to that pheromone, could twist the other so very easily. She rather hoped that her agents were correct and he wasn't a threat. However, that didn't keep her from signing the orders that mandated him to be treated as armed and dangerous regardless of the circumstances.

<><><><><>

Bridget

A few months later

Major SF and Gaming Convention

River and Bridget giggled like crazy as Danny couldn't decide if to strut with them on his arms or blush madly.

“You were the one who wanted to come as 'Captain Tighty Pants.” River teased strutting beside him. She was dressed in a similar fashion as Zoe Washburn if not as that character. “If you're going to talk the talk you have to walk the walk.”

The months following their new beginnings had seen Danny fill out dramatically as his body healed and put on much needed weight. She and River too, had become more comfortable in their new selves.

Bridget smiled, content to just do the walk. The Con was full of other costumed Cosplayers including one of the most amazing Autobots she'd ever seen. The 501st Legion was out in force, showing off their costumes and marching skills. A couple of Klingons stood nearby, clearly unimpressed with the stormtroopers' martial skills. Giggling, a clutch of gaily dressed Magical Girls were staring at Captain Tighty Pants, err, breeches.

She gave them a wink which caused them to break out into outright laughter. Oblivious, Danny glanced around wondering what had caused the sudden laughter, which only made them laugh harder.

Joining the laughter, she and River pulled their befuddled friend along. Weaving about and gawking at the happy Con-goers, they reached the 501st's bivouac area.

“So that's him?” Danny asked, looking at the large silvery slab.

“Yeah.” Bridget nodded. “If you look you can tell its not Harrison Ford at all.”

“Well,” River gave a sad smile. “He always did enjoy showing the world his perfection. This does keep him from harming anyone and allows for times to change until he can be dealt with appropriately.”

They all nodded remembering the arguments. 'The Perv' would need to be stripped of his 'changes' at the very least. Apparently the Collective had crossed over a line once when dealing with an outsider, and there were things they would not do again. However, Steven had done his best to do one of those same kind of 'things' to Danny, Bridget and River. That, they could not ignore. On the other hand, he had days of memories which would have to be potentially wiped which was problematic. A few minutes were one thing, but that long was another. The memories would've already moved into long term, making them all the more difficult to alter.

Added to that was Brian's change into River and her flat refusal to put up with him anymore. Maybe he would forget, but she most certainly could not put aside how the power went to his head as well as the abuse.

He couldn't be trusted to stay silent if they chose to just take away his enhancements. It was a no brainer that the government would freak if they knew that the Collective and the Legion had unlocked MAU's.

“Now, his body is displayed for all us lesser mortals to worship.” River finished with perhaps just a little of the hurt of their failed love in her voice.

“In perfect Carbon-Freeze hibernation.” Bridget remarked, with no little animosity. She'd never cared for him, and his attack on her and Danny had done nothing to change her opinion.

Danny kept silent, although Bridget knew he didn't have a high opinion of their would be enslaver either.

“Steven.” River sighed. “I'd like to say I miss you, but honestly I don't. The part of me that needed you has been fulfilled by being what you've always despised, a girl. I'm not really a woman yet, but I'm growing and learning all the things I missed out on while pretending to be a gay boy.

“My florist business has expanded into the space program, with me breeding air plants which really live up to the name.” She smiled. “Several large investors have been interested, given how much such living air scrubbers could cut costs, but also actually help prevent the mildew and other problems the International Space Station is experiencing. Not bad for a florist, huh?” She smirked.

“These two knocked the socks off the judges of the Science Fair and that's only the start.” She took a deep breath. “When I think of what you had in mind for them, I still get mad. With you and your ego, there was room for nobody else's ideas. It was all about you. I don't think you could ever accept that they could and have surpassed anything you could've developed.

“Perhaps the best punishment of all will be when you are at last awakened and find out just how all of us have moved on.” She sighed. “The best revenge is living well, and not a cold dish at all. I cared for you and want you to get the help you need, but you'll get no more from me.

“Bye Steven,” She turned and walked away with her friends arm in arm.

<><><><><>

Agent Q

Major SF and Gaming Convention

He walked up to the quite realistic looking Han Solo encased in Carbonite display. As a major Science-Fiction and Fandom fan, he gave the sculpture a professional appraisal. The design was very well done, but he could see that the face really didn't look much like Han Solo's.

Officially he was one of the Agency's Lab rats, and not a field agent, but he'd argued he would have attended anyway. What was the harm of him keeping an eye on a few subjects of interest since he was here?

He was very carefully briefed to observe only and take no actions. Cheerfully, he agreed. Who was he to complain when the Agency was picking up his expenses!

Besides it'd been easy to follow the three Brown-Coats which identified them as fans of Joss Whedon's FireFly series. One had been in drag, but that wasn't too uncommon for a Con. He was more curious why they had spent so much time in front of the Han Solo sculpture, but nothing really stood out. For just a second he wondered if it could be the real thing. Certainly stranger things had happened when MAU's were involved.

However, checking the readout display revealed a concealed, but standard plastic cover used to hide good old fashioned D-cell batteries.

“These are not the power-cells you're looking for.” Q chuckled and quoted. “No trouble here. Everything is fine. Move along.”

“Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me.”

He turned to see who was singing. It was, of course, the three Brown-Coats.

“Take me out to the Black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me.”

They were actually pretty good, if not quite ready for American Idol yet. Other Con-goers were stopping to listen.

“Leave the men where they lay
They'll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can't take the sky from me.”

A few had their phones out to record the impromptu rendition of the Firefly theme song. Q made a point of reminding himself to try and get a copy. What they lacked in polish, was made up by their passion.

I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can't take the sky from me.”

A few others from the crowd joined in with more enthusiasm than talent, but that just added to the raw emotion of the occasion. This was one of the reasons why he loved the Fandom so much.

Lost my love, lost my land
lost the last place where I could stand
There's no place I can be
Since I've found Serenity!”

The End



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